Dental disease is one of the most common disease processes in pets. It is estimated that by the age of 2 years old 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease includes gum inflammation and bone and tissue damage around the teeth. If untreated this damage can progress to tooth loss, systemic infection, and organ damage.
A common concern when it comes to dental care is the concern of anesthesia. Due to this concern some people elect to use “anesthesia-free” dental procedures. The American Veterinary Dental College discourages this practice. One of several reasons is that it is impossible to perform a proper teeth cleaning under the gum line while the animal is awake. Unfortunately, I am, far too often, forced to remove teeth in many dogs that had routinely received anesthesia-free dental procedures.
Due to the significant improvement of anesthetic agents, pre-operative evaluative equipment, and monitoring equipment the risk of anesthesia is far out-weighed by the risks of chronic oral infection and systemic disease. I frequently have older patients with oral disease that are otherwise healthy. I am frequently asked if the pet is “too old for anesthesia”. In an otherwise healthy pet, anesthesia is quite safe. It is always better to correct the disease in an older healthy pet than to wait until you have an even older sick animal. The anesthesia is still necessary but now the pet is truly compromised.
Please don’t allow your fear to compromise the health of your beloved pet. If you have concerns about anesthesia and dental care, talk to your vet. They only want the best for your pet.
“Ask the Vet” is a monthly feature of the Times-Advocate brought to you by Dr. David Knox of Companion Animal Clinic. If you have a question for the Vet, please submit it to email@example.com.