Halloween is gone and all the candy it brought. Thanksgiving has left it’s mark as well with fabulous food and desserts, then comes December with festivities at home, work, and elsewhere. All of it brings extra goodies that we may or may not be able to resist.
Fortunately, we can brush our teeth every day and stave off things like cavities and gum disease. We can make an appointment with the dentist if we chip a tooth, knock one loose, or have pain. Your pet doesn’t have that luxury. Your pet can have all of these things, too (and some you may not know about.)
Imagine going for years without brushing your teeth. Imagine needing a root canal, but putting up with the pain instead. Imagine having a broken tooth or molar spur jabbing into your tongue or cheek or gum every time you chew.
But that’s nature, you think. In the wild no one gets a dental. True, but dental disease and teeth issues normally cause early death in a wild animal. It’s part of nature’s design to control the population. In a domestic environment where the pet is fed every day it takes longer for the issue to become life threatening, but life threatening it does become and prior to that your pet is suffering.
When you bring your pet in for a regular health check, your pet’s teeth are thoroughly examined as well. We’re here to help you with all aspects of your pet’s well-being and that includes the teeth. It’s a great when your veterinarian says, “Looking good!” What happens when it’s not so good?
When dental problems arise your veterinarian will point out the exact problems and her recommendations along with providing a proposed treatment plan for you to review and consider. Either she or the veterinary technician will also be happy to answer your questions or address any of your concerns.
So what does a dental entail?
Well, your dog, cat, ferret, bunny, guinea pig, chinchilla, or other small pet won’t keep his mouth open for dental work so the first thing is anesthesia. When it comes to these smaller pets it also means the right equipment for a tiny mouth, a steady hand and lots of experience because the doctor is trying to work inside the space of a quarter down to a less than a dime. This requires a great deal of skill.
Anesthesia also means pre-anesthetic blood testing to be sure your pet can handle eliminating the anesthesia from his system. The largest concern for many people is the anesthesia. However, even elderly pets can usually handle anesthesia. With the efficacy of current anesthetic products and procedures plus pre-anesthetic blood work, it’s much safer than in the past and can be a far better risk than having your pet suffer with infection, constant pain, and some types of heart disease or kidney disease as a result of their dental issues or a full gastro-intestinal stasis from being unable to eat. We sometimes hear people say their pet died from “natural causes” yet often it was a fully treatable dental issue.
Your pet relies entirely upon you for his care and you rely upon us to do the best for your pet. Below are listed the extra steps we take to provide a safe and comfortable anesthetic experience for your pet.
- Pre-anesthetic blood testing
We have equipment in house to test for most pets the morning of surgery for any abnormalities that might cause problems with surgery or anesthesia, but for pets like rabbits or rodents and other small mammals it’s preferable to draw blood the day before and obtain a full comprehensive blood profile from a laboratory. Even dogs and cats are urged to have this done the day before so you know the results ahead of time and can schedule accordingly.
- IV catheter
A catheter allows us to give injections and fluids comfortably in the vein. It becomes a vital life line if there are any complications. Precious minutes can be lost trying to place an IV catheter after a problem occurs.
- IV fluids
IV fluids support circulation and blood pressure during anesthesia.
- Pre-anesthetic pain medications
Pain medications used early on allows us to use lower doses of anesthetics and prevents pain ‘wind up’. Treating pain before it occurs is vital to controlling pain.
- Pre-anesthetic sedative
Just as humans get in the hospital prior to anesthesia, a pre-operative sedative allows the patient to be more relaxed and less concerned with the anesthesia procedure. It’s hard to explain to them what we’re trying to do and to reassure them that even though they may be scared, no harm will come to them.
- Oxygen supplied by intubation for dogs, cats, and ferrets
Intubation is placing a tube in the airway to prevent closure of the airway during surgery. Oxygen and gas anesthesia are given this way.
- Oxygen supplied with a mask for other small mammals and nasal obligate breathers
Oxygen and gas anesthesia are both given via appropriately sized masks for these smaller pets and allow better access to the mouth.
- Circulating water heating pad
Maintaining body temperature helps a patient feel more comfortable and supports normal metabolism during anesthesia.
- Monitoring of patient temperature, heart rate, respiration, ECG, and oxygenation of the patient’s blood
Monitoring these vital signs lets us know if a problem is occurring early on and we can respond to it quickly and appropriately.
- Trained assistant providing hands on monitoring of each patient
Machines cannot replace having an assistant available and watching at all times to monitor the well being of a patient.
- Sterile instruments for dental procedures
Instruments are sterilized between each patient. We believe every step in the procedure is important for your pet.
- Postoperative warm water heating pad or heating disk
Providing heat postoperatively is important for patient comfort and recovery but it must be done safely. A normal heating pad is dangerous. We have invested in special heated surfaces for the safety and comfort of our patients.
- Postoperative hands-on monitoring during recovery
For postoperative care to make sure our patients recover well and to provide for their comfort, a trained staff member stays with the pet until we know they are conscious. Because rabbits can actually snap their back in a sudden hyperextension when coming out of anesthesia we actually wrap them in a towel for warmth and the postoperative assistant holds them against her body for constant monitoring and warmth until that initial phase is completed to prevent the rabbit from injuring itself. Continuous monitoring occurs for all pets throughout the time it takes for your pet to eliminate the anesthesia enough to be steady on his feet before going home.
- Postoperative Pain Medication
Omitting pain medication is not an option at Hope Animal Hospital. We have seen over the years how much better pets do with pain medication and we will not deny them this important part of their recovery.
- Follow up pain medication
We will dispense pain medication to help your pet heal well. Experience and scientific studies on people and pets overwhelmingly point to the importance of pain relief to a rapid healing time.
Once under anesthesia the following are steps we take to provide for your pet’s dental health.
- Oral Examination
You may think this was already done on your initial visit, and it was, but nothing replaces the veterinarian examining the oral cavity when your pet is under anesthesia. In some clinics this important step is often left to an assistant or technician who then alerts the veterinarian to any abnormality. However, at Hope Animal Hospital we believe that a veterinarian should give a complete oral examination before any procedures are performed.
- Dental Scaling
This is the removal of the tartar (a yellowish-brown crust) and calculus (off-white mineralized crust) from the teeth in dogs, cats, and ferrets. The visible tooth is scaled as well as under the gum where the most dangerous disease hides. According to where you are working on the tooth, scaling is done with an ultrasonic scaler or hand instruments.
Using a low speed handpiece and dental paste the teeth of dogs, cats, and ferrets are polished to remove microscopic irregularities in the tooth surface to prevent even faster build up of tartar than occurred before the dental scaling. Small mammals do not require this procedure.
The above constitutes a ‘routine dental’ but a majority of patients need more than the above care. Below is listed additional care that may be recommended to provide your pet with the best care.
- Dental Radiographs (X-Rays)
Dental disease occurs under the gum line. That is why your dentist does radiographs and that is why your pet needs them. It can help us tell when your pet needs an extraction or when the tooth can be saved. A tooth that needs extraction due to a root abscess that is not visible to the naked eye could be left behind to cause your pet unnecessary pain and discomfort. Dental radiographs can also find early disease that would allow treatment other than extraction.
- Skull Series
For small mammals where there is concern about dental issues below the gum line a series of skull radiographs (x-rays) may be needed.
Extractions are an unfortunate reality when periodontal disease has gone beyond a certain point. Extractions can be traumatic if good technique and instrumentation is not used. At Hope Animal Hospital we have invested in high speed drills and advanced hand tools in order to make extractions easier on your pet.
- Suturing Extraction sites
Many places leave extraction sites open to ‘drain’. Good healing is dependent on suturing an extraction site closed.
- Barrier sealant
For clients with dogs, cats, and ferrets interested in home care to reduce plaque build up we can apply Oravet at the time of the dental. Pet parents can then take with them the home care kit and reapply it at home once a week.
- Daily Dental Hygiene
A good dental product for dogs, cats and ferrets is C.E.T. to help prevent tartar buildup and periodontal diseases. Ask us about it and how to use it. For rabbits and guinea pigs hay is essential for wearing down the molars. For any small mammal some items for them to chew for front teeth wear include wooden toys, wicker and straw toys, sea-grass mats, and cardboard boxes sized appropriately for hiding in, lounging upon, and chewing on. Your pet will love you for it.
This information is also available on our website so that it is accessible to you at all times. Just click on the ‘Dental’ heading on the homepage!
We know you love your pet and always do your best under your own personal circumstances. We are here for you and your pet. If you have concerns about your pet’s teeth, please call us to set up an appointment for an examination.
Tip of the Month
It’s the time of year when we’re preparing for cold weather. If you’re winterizing your vehicle at home, be sure none of the drainage or products used are accessible to your pet. Antifreeze, made from ethylene glycol, is a sweet tasting liquid that pets are quick to lap either from the product container or licking the driveway where any may have dropped. Even an amount as small as a teaspoon or less can be deadly. There are safer alternatives such as propylene glycol, but, regardless, be sure to clean up any spills immediately and thoroughly and keep any stored product in leak-proof containers in a place inaccessible to pets. Although we’d prefer to see you under better circumstances, please call us at once if your pet does ingest any coolant. Your pet’s only chance at survival is immediate treatment. Remember, just a tiny drop can kill.
Read the November 2011 Newsletter