Anesthesia is always a concern for our clients and for our doctors. We practice the safest anesthetic procedures possible. Our doctors and technicians have had advanced training. We have two board-certified anesthesiologists available, by appointment, for high risk patients.
Pet Anesthesia Safety
Fear of general anesthesia for pets is a natural concern voiced by many owners when a veterinary dental procedure is recommended. However, the risk of chronic oral infection to your dog or cat, is far greater than the risk of an anesthetic complication. Some points to keep in mind when thinking about pet anesthesia are:
- Our own teeth are scaled by a dentist or hygienist - we sit in the chair and open our mouth when requested, letting the professional do their work. While the principles of good oral hygiene and dental health are the same for dogs and cats as for people, there are some significant differences. We understand why the procedure is important, and we typically do not need sedation or restraint. An important difference between human and veterinary dental practice is that we tell the dentist when there is discomfort; to ensure that nothing is missed in dogs or cats, our patients require a thorough oral examination including digital dental radiographs under general anesthesia as part of a professional dental cleaning.
- Anesthesia is essential for veterinary dental procedures, to ensure that the procedure can be completed successfully.
- Appropriately administered general anesthesia entails extremely low risk for the pet patient, as a result of a combination of pre-anesthetic assessment of the patient (including blood tests or other tests as indicated), use of modern anesthetic agents and local anesthetic blocks (which minimizes the depth of general anesthesia required), plus modern anesthetic monitoring equipment. Many patients are awake and standing within 15-20 minutes of completion of the procedure and go home the same day.
- While no one can guarantee the outcome of anesthesia, we are trained to provide safe anesthesia and to minimize pain for your pet.
- Some dental treatment and oral surgery procedures such as extraction, or even deep scaling of teeth may cause pain. We are trained to treat and prevent discomfort your pet could experience as a result of treatment. These steps include use of general anesthesia and local anesthetic blocks during the procedure, and post-operative medications when indicated. A pain-free mouth encourages prompt recovery of appetite and other activities following treatment.
Anesthesia for Older Pets
Age is not a disease and does not directly reflect health status. We all know of healthy older people (or pets) and young people with poor health. Our doctors prefer to evaluate each pet individually to accurately assess health status. Anesthesia is individualized for each pet patient based on their health.
- Health problems are addressed with well planned anesthesia protocols. Our doctors choose anesthetic drugs based on the pet's health status to help avoid problems with anesthesia. Fortunately patients with health problems can have safe anesthesia and receive excellent dental care!
- The risks of pet anesthesia are substantially reduced by the people providing care. Anesthetic related death in pets is estimated to be less than one percent. The likelihood of pain and suffering from untreated dental disease approaches 100 percent. Our doctors prefer to treat dental disease to avoid unnecessary suffering for your dog or cat.
- Dr. Victoria Lukasik is a board certified veterinary anesthesiologist who is available at our practice to assist us with our high-risk pet anesthesia cases. If you have any high-risk patients, in need of dental care, please let schedule a consult to learn more about options for your pet.
Why Not Anesthesia Free?
We do NOT condone anesthesia free pet dental cleanings.
Anesthesia-free pet dental cleanings, or as we refer to it Non Anesthesia Dental (NAD), is gaining popularity with an increasing number of dog and cat owners. These are well-meaning pet guardians who may be fearful of anesthesia or may not be able to afford professional veterinary dental care so they opt for anesthesia-free dentistry, but it is really just a cosmetic procedure that addresses only the parts of your pet's teeth you can see.
Why Anesthesia is needed for Dental Procedures?
A thorough oral exam and cleaning can't be accomplished on a pet that is awake. Anesthesia immobilizes your dog or cat to insure their safety and cooperation during a procedure. It allows for a thorough exam of all the surfaces inside the mouth and the taking of x-rays. Anesthesia is needed for scaling below the gum line where periodontal disease is most active. Anesthesia also provides pain control.
Non-professional dental scaling can potentially give pet owners a false sense of security about the state of their dog's or cat’s oral health. Even though your pet's teeth – what you can see of them – may look clean and fresh after an anesthesia-free dental procedure, what you can't see is actually more important. Problems like plaque build-up below the gum line and gingivitis aren't addressed during a procedure that only scrapes and polishes the teeth. Most oral disease happens below the visible surfaces of your dog's or cat's mouth.
Many older dogs and cats that have undergone anesthesia-free dental procedures for years develop significant dental disease requiring multiple extractions as they age.
Photograph from Dr. Tony Woodward, DVM, DAVDC
More resources about Anesthesia Free Pet Dental Cleanings
- Case demonstrating consequences of anesthesia free pet dental cleanings from Colorado Board Certified Veterinary Dentist & Colleague Dr. Tony Woodward.
- Read the American Veterinary Dental College's (AVDC) position statement on dental scaling without anesthesia.
- Learn more about our anesthesia safety, experience and protocols at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists.