Pet dental cleaning should be under general anesthesia

While many procedures can be performed with the patient sedated, veterinary technician Christina Holland emphasizes the importance of general anesthesia for dental cleanings. Holland writes that animals under anesthesia are intubated and have a peripheral intravenous catheter, and these measures allow for a thorough, comfortable cleaning and exam while keeping the patient safe by allowing the veterinarian to respond quickly if an emergency arises. The Airdrie City View (Alberta) (12/21)


General anesthesia (GA) is something to be respected, but not feared. If your pet is being monitored by a qualified person, either a veterinarian or a technician, then issues can be addressed immediately. For most procedures, I would feel more comfortable monitoring a patient who is under a GA rather than one who is merely sedated. A sedated patient cannot be intubated (have a tube put down the airway) and this means that if the patient stops breathing, I first have to place that tube, and then breathe for the pet.

Also in many sedated pets, an IV catheter is not placed, meaning that if I need to give emergency drugs, I first have to place the catheter, which uses precious time. In order to have a better idea of how your pet will do under GA, you should have a physical exam performed by a veterinarian, as well as some bloodwork run. Bloodwork tells us how the internal organs are performing.

If organs are not working as well as they should, different drugs can be chosen that will not be as hard on the animal’s system.

The bottom line is that there are some procedures that definitely can be done with only sedation, such as removing small skin lumps, but a dental procedure really should be done under a general anesthetic. If your pet is only sedated, your vet may not be able to do a thorough job.

I understand your anxiety, and encourage you to speak with your veterinarian about your concerns. Just like you, they only want the best outcome for your pet.

Christina Holland is an animal health technologist in Airdrie. To have your pet questions answered, contact

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