Pet Anesthesia

Bad breath, plaque, tartar build-up and worse—according to the American Veterinary Dental College, cat or dog periodontal disease is the most common medical ailment of adult pets. Because they cannot brush their teeth, bacteria in their mouths form plaque. Minerals occurring naturally in their saliva harden this plaque into tartar, or dental calculus, on their teeth. The AVDC states that most dogs and cats have at least mild periodontal disease by the time they are three years old.

Fortunately, the painful inflammation, damage to gum tissues, and eventual loss of teeth associated with this disease is entirely preventable—or treatable if caught early. A professional pet dental cleaning by your veterinarian will remove plaque and tartar. Subsequent home oral hygiene (i.e. you brushing your pet’s teeth) can then keep the disease from progressing.

Unfortunately, many pet owners fear the anesthesia required for most veterinary dental procedures. This fear can prevent them from getting their pet the help he or she needs. Not only can periodontal disease eventually compromise the health of a pet’s kidneys, liver and heart, it can also cause chronic pain. While all anesthetic procedures present some risk, they can be significantly minimized with the proper precautions.

If your furry friend needs a dental cleaning, ask your vet the following questions:

1. Is a pre-dental procedure exam and blood work required? The answer should be yes. Your vet should perform a complete blood cell count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel to ensure your pet doesn’t have any hidden medical problems that could make anesthesia dangerous.
2. Will my pet’s vital signs be monitored throughout the procedure? Ensure your vet uses equipment to monitor your pet’s blood oxygenation, carbon dioxide levels, blood pressure, and body temperature as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG). This will enable him to identify small abnormalities before they become catastrophic.
3. Who will monitor my pet? Your vet will be busy with the exam and cleaning. He should have other team members on hand (such as surgical nurses and certified veterinary technicians) to watch the monitors and make appropriate adjustments as they are needed.
4. Who will administer the anesthetic? Make sure a certified veterinarian or veterinary technician will be administering the drugs during your pet’s dental cleaning. While the dosage may be calculated based on weight to start, it should be adjusted based on your pet’s response.
5. Who will be with my pet as he wakes up? Your pet should never be left alone to recover, and the tracheal tube should not be removed until he is alert and swallows. This will minimize the chances that he will vomit. The technician should also monitor and respond to any pain or anxiety displayed by your pet.  

When has your pet been anesthetized? Were you fearful of the procedure? How did your veterinarian address those fears? Please share your stories in the comments.

Julie Perkins

About Julie Perkins

A self-professed "crazy cat lady" and slave to three furry masters, Julie loves all things fuzzy. Throughout her life, she has been owned by cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish and even a hermit crab. A freelance writer who has perfected the fine art of typing with one hand (because there is a cat on top of the other one), she lives in Colorado with her husband and a menagerie of critters.

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