Earlier this week Shiva was booked at the vet for his teeth. His vet has been trying to get me to do this for about two years perhaps, but I’ve always been too afraid.
As with many pet parents, Shiva is my heart, my everything. I can’t imagine what I would do if anything were to happen to him, hence the hesitance in taking him for a dental procedure.
If you’re anything like me, this article is for you.
The Fear of “Going Under”
Unlike humans, dogs need to be put under anaesthesia to have their teeth properly cleaned.
A teeth cleaning involves the vet using tools you would normally find in your dentists office including scaling and polishing. They typically also have to get under the gum line to clean off any plaque that may have gathered there (which is necessary to reduce gum inflammation (gingivitis)). No dog, no matter how good, will sit still to have all of that done.
Gosh – I can barely tolerate it for myself! :p
As with humans, there is a risk anytime dogs have anaesthetic no matter their age. Because of this reason many pet parents, myself included, don’t opt for the treatment.
Before making the appointment I did a lot of research, and that was eventually the reason I decided to book him.
I Googled everything from “do I really have to get my dogs teeth cleaned?” to “home remedies”, but most articles typically ended by listing all the things that could go wrong if you don’t opt for the cleaning. The repercussions of bad teeth on dog health far outweighed my fear of the procedure.
It did also help that I discovered you can ask for pre-tests to check the overall health of your animal prior to going under. Most vets say that complications arise when there are underlying health issues they were not aware of. That kind of set my mind at ease.
When I spoke with my vet she also said she would never put a dog under if she had any reservation whatsoever.
The pre-tests include:
- Temperature – Shiva always runs a little hot, and has regular tummy issues. (Diomec is always at hand in our house.) He had just had a bout of tummy troubles again so I was being overly cautious. The vet mentioned that unless the health tests showed otherwise, or unless he was over 40 degrees, the procedure would be able to take place.
- Blood tests – There are typically two tests. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a basic Blood Chemistry. The CBC examines red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen, and white blood cells that indicate possible infections, cancers and stress. Platelets play a vital role in stopping bleeding at surgical sites so vets ensure that these are present in normal amounts. The basic chemistry test evaluates liver and kidney values and the blood glucose, or blood sugar level. The liver and kidneys are the organs that play a major role in detoxifying and expelling substances such as anaesthetic agents. The testing tells the vet about the health of these organs.
- Weigh-in – Obese patients are considered at higher risk for anaesthetic complications. Some research articles suggest that obese dogs require a lower dose of propofol per kg of total body mass than those at a healthier weight, however studies have not been conclusive. As some of you have seen, both my dogs have been on a bit of diet since my rose-coloured lenses lifted a while back. So this is always something that I’m mindful of.
- Overall health examination – This is the normal physical examination to feel if anything feels or looks unnatural. (lumps, bumps, dehydration, etc)
Now I must add that the pre-tests do not preclude any complications from happening. There is always a risk, but they do help identify anything that could jeopardise the procedure.
The Tell Tale Signs Of Needing Dog’s Teeth Cleaned
As with human dentistry doggy dental has come a long way, but unlike human dentistry, it is not always elective.
Bad teeth can be caused by so many things including genetics (or predisposition for certain ailments such as gum disease), or malnutrition at a young age.
Plaque build-up can lead to further complications such as bleeding gums, rotting teeth and bad breath – but these are not where the disease draws the line. Gum disease and the bacteria from plaque can enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart, kidneys and liver. This spread of bacteria, called bacteremia, can damage organs and make dogs quite sick.
As my vet says “..dogs aren’t actually meant to have bad breath…” so that could be a good first indication to start a home treatment, or consider the dental procedure.
Thankfully it seems that in Shiva’s case we caught it early and he may not need any further follow treatments for 4 years or so. Hopefully with better oral hygiene we may even extend that further.
These are 5 easy things you can do to improve your dog’s dental hygiene:
- Brush their teeth – I’ve previously used a product called Pet Dent Toothpaste. You can buy cute doggy toothbrushes that slip on your finger to help making brushier a little easier.
- Dental Gel – In the same brand there is also a gel – Pet Dent Gel. I use this currently as you don’t have to struggle getting the toothbrush in their mouth. You just put a little gel on your finger and massage (or just wipe) on gum line & upper teeth. Do this at night before bed, or in the morning at least an hour prior to food – just so it has a longer time to take effect before they eat.
- Oral rinse – It kind of looks like Listerine, but thankfully they can swallow this. It is meant to reduce plaque and freshen breath. The product the vet recommended was called Aquadent.
- Give them hooves – Cow hooves are really hard and the rubbing when they chew it helps to reduce any plaque build-up. Just keep an eye on them while they are eating this as it could splinter and get stuck in their throats. Throw it away when there is excessive bleeding of the gums. Also throw away the tip of the hoof as some dogs have trouble biting that and just swallow it whole!
- Give them Dentastix – One of my pups favourite treats is Pedigree Dentastix. I usually give them one each per day. They come nicely prepackaged per weight class, so you know you won’t be overfeeding them. My dogs LOVE them.
It was a tough 4 hours wait between dropping Shiva at the vet to getting the call from the vet. And even when she called, my heart jumped to my stomach. Thankfully everything went really well. He had to stay the full day for observation and recovery – this is normal. He was still quite woozy and not himself when I collected him. Ravenous – as he had to go in ‘starved’ – ie no food since dinner the previous night – and my boy – like his mom – loves to eat. He got a little better after eating – apparently coloured veggies helps a lot to rid the body of any substances that remain. After a good night’s sleep he was right as rain again the following day.
If you’ve been told that your doggy needs a dental procedure I hope that this has somewhat set your mind at ease, and also given you the motivation to send them sooner rather than later.
I wish I had a before photo, but this is Shiva’s mouth after:
*This article was not sponsored and we are not receiving any compensation for any products mentioned.