Pet Dentistry No Anaesthetic

Anaesthesia Free Dentistry vs Professional Veterinary Dental

Is Anaesthesia – Free Dentistry the Right choice for Your Pet?

Since being introduced in Australia – Anaesthesia Free Dentals are becoming a popular option for people who don’t want their pet going under Anaesthesia.

That being said – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there comparing AFD’s with Professional Veterinary Dentistry performed under General Anaesthesia other than AFD’s sounding so much more appealing than their Veterinary equivalent.

Is there a difference?

Yes there is. These are two entirely different procedures approached in entirely different ways.

AFD’s are approached from the Cosmetic angle. Ugly brown tartar which leads to periodontal disease is scraped off pet’s teeth to clean and restore the “above the gum line” parts of the teeth surface to make them nice and white again.

  • During an Anaesthesia Free Dental procedure the surface of your pet’s teeth are scaled using a hand instrument that scrapes away the accumulated tartar. This leaves grooves on the tooth surface making it easy for more food and bacteria to stick to after the procedure.
  • Your pet is likely to feel uncomfortable during the procedure. Think of your pet as a young child having it’s mouth held open while a sharp instrument scrapes and pokes along the teeth. And then – what if your pet reacts to a painful sensation and moves its head? There is a risk of doing some serious damage to the mouth and gums with that sharp instrument.
  • It is impossible to clean beneath the gumline where periodontal disease starts. Gently probing below the gum line looking for pockets of disease and cleaning these areas is painful. No AWAKE human or pet will tolerate this. For this reason – Anaesthesia Free Dental procedures do NOT address issues that may be hidden under the gumline.
  • This means Anaesthesia Free Dentals’s are superficial only and create a false sense of security. Just because your pet’s teeth are nice and white again does not mean there’s no serious dental disease lurking below the surface.
  • It is impossible to do a complete oral exam which includes looking at all surfaces of your pet’s teeth inside and out – front and back – in an awake pet.
  • It is impossible to see what’s happening to the parts of teeth that sit below the gumline without Dental X-rays. For all you know – with AFD’s – damaged teeth that should be pulled are being cleaned instead.
  • You can’t extract damaged, misaligned teeth without General Anaesthesia!Pet Dentistry No Anaesthetic

Summing up AFD’s

Your pet’s teeth are nice and white and that doggy breath is gone – for now!

As for any below the gumline tooth and jaw damage – that’s ignored and left until further symptoms develop and you’ll be referred back to your vet for the expensive treatment.

Veterinary Dentals

Are performed under full general Anaesthesia so we can properly examine ALL parts of your pet’s oral cavity including all parts of all teeth while your pet sleeps peacefully throughout.

Where we suspect any below the gumline issues – we take full dental X-Rays just like your Dentist would. Dental X-Rays give us valuable information about all the structures we can’t see. This allows us to identify bone loss – teeth that look normal on the surface but are damaged at the roots and need removing, impacted or resorbed teeth and any other bone pathology that might indicate developing disease.

Preventative Dentals (Scale & Polish)

Veterinary Dentals falls into two categories:

  1. Preventative Dentals – This is like visiting your Dentist on a regular basis to have your teeth professionally cleaned with modern Ultrasonic equipment. While your Dentist does this – he or she will be looking out for any developing problems and make recommendations based on what they see while examining and cleaning all your pearly whites. Regular dentals throughout your pet’s lifetime will slow down the progression of Dental Disease and keep them healthier for longer. In terms of costs – these are hardly more expensive than AFD’s.
  2. Treatment Dentals – where dental disease is already present. This is you visiting your dentist because you are experiencing Dental pain or discomfort. Usually this will mean a filling or some other form of dental treatment. Your Dentist will take X-rays to reveal the real cause of the problem so the right treatment can be prescribed.

Any treatment your Dentist does will likely involve some pain control. While humans don’t need a General Anaesthetic for most procedures – we do have the benefit of local anaesthesia for the uncomfortable or more painful procedures. Local anesthesia works just fine for us because as long as we don’t feel the pain – we’re happy to keep our mouth wide open and still to allow the dentist to do the work.

Animals aren’t so compliant which is why they need Full Anaesthesia.

Fear of Anaesthesia

There seems to be an unhealthy fear of Anaesthesia which is what makes AFD’s so appealing despite their clear limitations.

“But I don’t want my pet to have a General Anaesthetic” is a common reason for declining a Dental procedure.

In terms of risk – let’s put it this way. The risk of your Pet becoming very sick and being in a lot of pain due to Dental Disease is much much greater than the risk of Modern Day Anaesthesia.

This should never be the reason for withholding proper dental care from your pet.

In our Practice – we take a great deal of care to ensure ALL anaesthetics we deliver are done with your pet’s utmost safety in mind.Dog Anaesthesia Free Dentistry

This is why we do pre- anaesthetic screening blood tests as well as put your pet on fluids before or throughout the procedure as necessary.

Here’s a picture showing a patient sleeping peacefully through what would be considered a painful procedure.

Please note the Breathing tube inserted. This means we can administer Oxygen at any any time should there be complications.

It also prevents all that bacteria ridden tartar from being swallowed or worst still being inhaled into the lungs!

(Keep in mind – anaesthesia protocols vary between clinics. Here we’ve described what we do in our practice)

Home Visit Dental Check limitations

During a home visit (mobile vet services) we can perform basic dental checks however this cannot replace the full oral examination required for a professional diagnosis and treatment of Dental Disease. All pets that need dental treatment will be referred back to our Hospital.

Dental Disease is Serious Disease

Many people think that Dental Disease only ever affects the mouth so it’s O.K to ignore. Actually – it’s no less serious than any other medical condition you are prepared to visit your vet for. If left untreated – Dental Disease eventually affects other organs – mainly kidneys and heart as the infectious bacteria from the mouth circulate around the bloodstream.

But my Dog / Cat is still eating. It Can’t be that bad

Animal have strong survival instincts. They will continue to eat despite pain in preference to starvation. Once an animal has stopped eating – it’s a sign that death by starvation is now preferable to dealing with the pain associated with eating.

Breed Awareness

Some breeds of cats and dogs are more prone to developing dental disease. e.g Dogs with short faces like French Bulldogs, Shih-tzus, Pugs and their mixes often have overcrowded teeth making it more difficult to keep teeth and gums clean – even with preventative care.

These breeds of animals will need regular professional dentals on top of daily home dental care.


Why Dental Checks in Consultations Can’t Give us the Full Picture

Our Patients are Reluctant

Have you ever tried opening your cat or dog’s mouth and being able to examine every single tooth without them squirming, pulling away or taking a swipe at you?

We’re guessing you can’t. And neither can we.

Unfortunately – pets just aren’t co-operative when it comes to looking inside their mouths – particularly if their mouth is sore.

That’s why we can only ever give you limited information about the true state of your pet’s oral health when we examine them in a consultation. We might be able to partially evaluate some of the front teeth but rarely can we see deep into their mouths at the teeth and gums down the back without stressing them out.

Cat and Dog DentalsWe can’t  just say “Open wide – sit still” – while we probe each tooth and look at them with the mirror like Human Dentists can.

All we can do in this situation is give you an idea of your pet’s oral health status which generally means applying special numbers called Dental Grades.

Dental Disease Grading

Dental Disease is a progressive disease which is classified according to severity. These stages are based on what we can see while examining your pet’s mouth in a consultation and are simplistically explained as follows:

Grade 0-1 – No Evidence of Dental Disease

No visible signs of dental disease. Generally found only in young pets or those having regular preventative dentals to keep them this way. To keep your pets oral health at this stage – regular Preventative “Scale and Polish” dentals are recommended.

Grade 2 – Mild Gingivitis – Early Stage Periodontal Disease

Here we see evidence of the beginning signs of developing disease. Slightly inflamed gums, plaque and some hardened plaque. (Tartar) A Dental will be recommended to remove this dangerous build up thereby halting further progression of dental disease.

This is the Good Stage – no permanent damage to teeth and gums seems to be present. We call this the “reversible” stage – You can still do something to return your pet’s mouth to good health.

Book your pet in for a Dental as soon as possible – otherwise you’ll risk progressing to the irreversible stages.

Grade 3 Dental Disease -Mild Gingivitis, Established Periodontal Disease

Ouch! This is already getting more serious and will be causing your pet pain. Gums are red, inflamed and swollen. Your pet’s mouth is smelly (due to bacteria build up) Moderate amounts of hard brown tartar is present. Some teeth may already be damaged and need to be removed. A professional dental is urgently needed if your pet has reached this stage.

Grade 4+ Severe Gingivitis – Advanced Periodontal Disease

Your pet’s gums are damaged by dangerous bacteria and Tartar. Your pet’s mouth is incredibly sore and her breath smells badly. Chronic infection is destroying the gums, teeth and bone. Severe Dental Disease in Pets

Bacteria are circulating in the bloodstream threatening the liver, kidneys and heart. Teeth will have to be removed and the gums stitched. A dental procedure is needed urgently – with no exceptions or alternative options possible.

Fee Estimations for Dental Procedures

Given the difficulty in making accurate assessment of your pet’s mouth while awake – the best we can do is provide a fee estimation that ranges between best case scenario and worst case scenario for any stage greater than Grade 1 Preventative Dental Scale and Polish.

Your pet’s dental health best assessed while fast asleep under General Anaesthesia where we have the opportunity to examine each tooth individually as well as visualise the whole oral cavity.

This is why we provide free dental assessments for all patients undergoing general anaesthesia in our practice.

We can contact you if we feel your pet would benefit from a dental at the same time as their other procedure.

By combining the dental procedure with the existing procedure saves you money in the long term because you are not paying for each procedure individually.

Please be aware -the longer you ignore developing dental disease – the more costly it will be treat in the latter stages – not to mention the pain this causes to your pet.

Admitting Your Pet for Surgery

Be prepared for our staff to inform you that we will be performing a free dental examination while your pet is under anaesthesia. We will contact you if we find that your pet would benefit from having a dental performed with the procedure and you can then decide from there.

Pet Dentals

Is Fear of Anaesthesia Causing Your Pet Dental Pain?

Why Dental Disease is more Dangerous to Your Pet’s Health than Anaesthesia

As vets we get really concerned when people deny their pets necessary dental care. Especially when it’s obvious by the state of their teeth and gums that it’s causing them a great deal of pain.

But pain or no pain, the preferred option is to do anything but subject their pet to the perceived dangers of anaesthesia. Yes we agree that no anaestheisa is risk free regardless of whether you’re a human or an animal.

However – today’s modern anaesthesia is extremely safe.

We now have a variety of proven and safe drugs to choose from which allow us to tailor an anaesthetic protocol to your pet’s individual health status.

So regardless of whether your pet is old, very young or has an existing health problem, there are steps we can take to make anaesthesia as safe as possible.

Compare this with …

Normal healthy gums provide a tight seal around the teeth to prevent any food or debris from getting stuck between the teeth and gums. As plaque and bacteria build up Calcium salts accumulate which then develop into the ugly brown and gritty “Tartar”. If left untreated infection will set in causing a conditon called Gingivitis. This is where the gums become red and inflamed and painful.Pet Dental Procedure

At this stage – the condition is reversible however if left untreated further swelling of the gums allows dangerous bacteria to enter the normally unexposed base of the teeth ultimately causing tooth loss. This is called Periodontitis and it is not reversible.

Bad Teeth Can Cause Organ Damage

Having made an entry into the delicate structures of the base of the teeth, dangerous bacteria can now enter the bloodstream and circulate to vital organs such as the heart, liver, lungs and kidney where they can cause irreversible and even fatal damage.

This includes – kidney disease – infections of the heart and other organs.

Weigh this tragedy up against relatively safe anaesthesia and the choice should become very clear.

Risk of anaesthesia < Risk of serious disease

So please – don’t let the fear of anaesthesia stop you from booking in for a dental procedure. However if you still have concerns, ask your vet to explain their anaesthesia protocols to you and how they minimise the risk for your pet.

Steps we take to ensure Safe Anaesthesia for Your Pet

  1. Pre- Anaesthetic Blood Tests – to ensure that the organs responsible for metabolising the anaesthetic drugs are healthy enough to do so.
  2. Provision of Fluid Therapy throughout the procedure to maintain blood pressure and hydration as well as assist in helping the kidneys to flush out the toxic by – products of the anaesthesia drugs as quickly as possible
  3. Use Gold standard techniques for the provision of anaesthesia in Veterinary Practice

The Gold Standard for anaesthesia is gaseous anaesthesia (isofluorane) with a trained assistant and special equipment monitoring your pet for the duration of the procedure. Pain relief is also provided as part of Best Practice medicine so your pet won’t feel a thing.

How Often should my pet’s teeth be checked?

Your pet’s teeth should be checked at each veterinary visit. At a minimum – this should be once a year during their annual check up.

Avoiding Dental Disease

Your pet needs to have regular professional dentals throughout their lifetime. Find out more about our Preventative Dentistry for Dogs and Cats.

Bones for Dogs

Can I Give my Dog a Bone?

Oh Yes – Your Dog is a Carnivore

This means that back in the days before domestication – a dog’s dinner consisted of whatever animal they managed to hunt down and kill. So – dinner was made up of raw meat, raw bones, skin, organs, intestines and whatever was inside the stomach at the time.

Can I feed my Dog Bones?

Now, while our pet dogs no longer have to hunt for their food each day, it doesn’t mean their dietary needs or digestive processes have changed in any significant way.

Dogs still thrive on a meat based diet which of course does include the occasional meaty raw bone. Tearing the fresh meat off a bone bit by bit still gives your dogs enormous pleasure and can keep them happily occupied for hours.

Basic Dog feeding Guide

  • Provide variety in your dog’s diet to include the staple of a good quality dry kibble, fresh (human grade) raw meats and vegetables.
  • Avoid pet mince as this may contain dangerous preservatives
  • Feed the occasional raw, meaty bone

Choosing the right bones for your dogBone for Dogs

The purpose of giving your dog a bone is to provide these specific benefits:

  1. Nutrition – i.e. fresh meat
  2. Dental care – it’s the action of tearing the meat from the bone which provides the dental benefits. Not the chewing on the bone itself.

Feed raw, meaty bones only and choose a size that’s appropriate for your dog. Bones should be large enough so that they’re not swallowed whole to provide their full benefits. Lamb flaps, necks, shanks, ribs, chicken wings and frames and soft beef ribs are all good choices. Avoid chop bones as they have pointy ends and can be swallowed whole.

Too many bones can lead to constipation so offer raw meaty bones to your dog only 2 – 3 times a week.

Never feed your dog cooked bones as these can splinter and cause internal damage.

Don’t buy the large beef marrow bones. A bare, hard bone provides no nutritional benefits and their hard surface can actually do more harm than good to your dog’s teeth.

Sadly many people fear giving their dogs bones of any kind in the misbelief that all bones are bad for dogs.

Instead they choose commercially produced “substitute treats” such as rawhide chews and the like. Apart from providing no nutritional value, many of these are preserved with dangerous chemicals which again do more harm than good.

And as far as the risk of bones causing problems from our point of view, we’re seen very little evidence from over 23 years in practice. Those bones which have caused problems are most often those which have been cooked – or they were fed too often thereby causing impaction.

So yes, by choosing your dog’s bones sensibly, they are a valuable and natural addition to your dog’s diet.