Tailored care ensures dental cleanings are as safe as possible

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, but pets’ oral health should be a year-round priority because dental disease can lead to systemic problems involving the liver, kidneys and heart, writes veterinarian Karen Dye. Fear of anesthesia is not a reason to forgo veterinary dental cleanings, Dr. Dye notes, because thorough lab tests before the procedure, appropriate anesthetic choices and monitoring during anesthesia all tailored to a specific breed and animal help ensure a pet’s safety. The Culpeper Star-Exponent (Va.)

Q:  I know February is National Pet Dental Health Month, but I am worried about the risk of anesthesia.

A:  Anesthesia always involves some risk, but there are many precautions that can make anesthesia as safe as possible.  The risks of dental disease usually outweigh the risks of anesthesia.  Bacteria from dental disease can affect the whole body including the heart, liver and kidneys.

Prior to any patient being anesthetized, a complete physical exam should be performed to ensure the safest anesthetic experience.  Pre-anesthetic blood tests should also be completed in order to detect anemia or problems with liver health, kidney function, blood sugar, or serum proteins that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Having the complete picture of your pet’s health, veterinarians can individually tailor the choice of anesthetic drugs, keeping your pet as safe as possible.

At my practice, we use only uses the safest, most modern anesthetic medications for any procedure.  Most of these drugs are used every day in human hospitals.  Your pet will benefit from the advanced safety of modern anesthesia.  State of the art computerized monitoring equipment is also used to keep every patient as safe as possible.  Your pet’s heart rate, EKG, respiration, blood oxygen saturation, and core body temperature will be constantly monitored during the procedure using the latest VetSpecs PC-VSM3 multi-parameter digital anesthetic monitor.

Tracheal intubation during general anesthesia maintains adequate ventilation.  The simple act of placing a tracheal tube will ensure your pet receives enough oxygen throughout the procedure, a key component in anesthesia safety.

Intravenous fluid therapy will help protect your pet’s kidneys from damage during anesthesia.  Healthy kidneys are vital to a long, happy life.  No human hospital would ever perform general anesthesia without IV fluids, yet many veterinary hospitals skip this important step.  The IV catheter placed to administer fluids can also be life-saving.  If minor abnormalities occur during the procedure, appropriate medications can be rapidly administered intravenously when a catheter is present.  With early detection from a computerized monitor, and speedy treatment through a catheter, our medical team can often keep small problems from turning into larger ones.

To protect against dangerously low body temperature, we use a high tech water circulating heating pad system.  This system will not burn the patient.  When we say as safe as possible, we mean it.

From the moment your pet is anesthetized until after he or she wakes up, a highly educated member of our medical team is by his or her side.  No anesthetized patient is ever left alone, not even for a second.  Our professional staff regularly attends continuing education courses on the newest, safest anesthetic techniques.  We will be there to hold your pet’s paw.

We use breed-specific profiling as well.  Certain breeds carry specific predispositions that should be addressed prior to anesthesia.  Examples include clotting disorders in Dobermans, heart murmurs in Maine Coon cats, and drug sensitivities in Greyhounds.  Brachycephalic breeds (bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Pekingese) can have brachycephalic syndrome with increased respiratory effort with the potential for upper airway obstruction.  We avoid excessive sedation with brachycephalic breeds, administering pre-medications at half-dose.  We also pre-oxygenate brachycephalic breeds and use short-acting induction agents.  Appropriate sized tracheal tubes are selected and extubation does not occur until your pet is sitting up, vigorous, bright and alert.  Sighthounds (greyhounds, whippets, Borzoi, Salukis) have delayed metabolism, lower body fat percentage and are at risk for hypothermia.  These risks are kept very low since we use high tech monitoring equipment and warm water circulating heating pads.  Herding breeds (collies, shelties, Australian shepherds and border collies) can have a mutation resulting in accumulation of certain drugs in the cerebral spinal fluid, followed by excessive sedation and respiratory depression.  For these patients, we reduce certain medications by 25% and monitor carefully.

In conclusion, it is important to keep your pet healthy and dental health is a critical component of overall health and well being.  Modern protocols, like the ones at Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care, minimize anesthetic risk and maximize the benefit of a clean, healthy mouth.

Dr. Dye practices companion animal medicine and surgery at Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care.  She and Dr. Watts can be reached at (540)428-1000 or through ClevengersCorner.com.

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