In a recent blog post (okay, maybe not super recent…), I discussed pet dental health, why it’s important and gave you some key pieces of information about how to prevent dental disease, which can lead to other, more serious problems. In continuation of my effort to shed some light on the issue, I will chronicle my own dog’s recent teeth cleaning adventure at Westlake Animal Hospital. Our experience is a direct example of the importance of regular dental cleanings with anesthesia and x-rays. Read on to find out what the procedure entails (get it?) and what surprises we found along the way.
(BONUS: February is Pet Dental Health month and Westlake Animal Hospital is offering some great deals! Check them out here.)
So, there we were. Just a regular snoozy morning in the life of Fiona, the dog, when she was abruptly awakened before dawn to be driven to the vet for her yearly dental cleaning. Sorry, girl.
Here’s what we expected: A fair bit of tartar build-up and some gingivitis. Admittedly, I stopped brushing her teeth a few years ago. Forgetfulness and downright laziness are mostly to blame. Still, at eleven years old, she usually cleans up quite well at her yearly cleaning. This is her before picture:
Here’s what we DID NOT expect: A fractured molar and exposed root, needing to be extracted. For those of you who don’t know which one the molar is (#309). Here’s a chart. Bottom line, it’s a big one and pulling it requires pretty significant oral surgery, plus a longer recovery period. But dogs will be dogs, and apparently chewing on hard rock-like objects is her new thing, even though I’ve literally NEVER seen her do it. Whatever, Fiona.
So, this is how it goes when you hand your dog (or cat) over to the staff at Westlake Animal Hospital for a dental. Most reputable and AHAA accredited vets will do it more or less the same way so it should be a good indication of what you’re in for.
After check-in proceedings are complete, they draw a blood sample and run a lab test indicating whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. Fiona passed!
They place a catheter in the pet’s foreleg, allowing access to the bloodstream for medication and fluids, followed by a party hat to keep them from chewing it off.
After the doctor examines Fiona, she’s cleared for surgery. Chris administers the anesthetic, intubates and hooks her up to the monitoring equipment. All patients are monitored during the procedure for changes in: heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygenation. If a change occurs, there are simple measures that can be used to prevent a crisis, making the entire process very safe. I mention this because some vets do not monitor animals while under anesthesia, so always be sure your doctor does.
Now that she’s fully anesthetized and hooked up with all the fluids and monitoring she needs, Chris, begins by taking x-rays. Then, she will clean the teeth using fully sterilized tools.
After pulling the tooth, they take another x-ray to make sure that they have removed all parts of the tooth and its roots.
So, as it turned out, my sweet little fur baby was in pain for an undermined amount of time due to a broken tooth and I don’t know if I ever would have found out about it or been able to help her if not for the thoroughness and professionalism of the doctors and staff at Westlake Animal Hospital. And after all that thoroughness, they even had time to put the beer goggles on Fiona as she was recovering from anesthesia.
There is a technician specifically assigned to assist and tent to pets who are waking up. They keep their temperature normalized with warm air and blankets and check their vitals every few minutes until they are completely recovered. Talk about full service!
Fourteen days or so later, Fiona was back on regular dry kibble and happy as a clam with a mouthful (minus one) of clean, healthy teeth. Now it’s up to me to keep them that way with regular brushing and cleanings.
So, if you had any doubts or questions about getting your pet’s teeth cleaned, I hope I was able to shed some light on the subject. All pets and their owners are different and I’m sure many of you had had your share of experiences with not only dental care, but veterinary care in general. I would love to hear about your own critters and how you take care of their teeth so leave comments or questions below! Happy brushing!