The issue of sedation dentistry for dogs has created heated debates over the last couple of years with some pet owners questioning the safety of anesthesia for dental procedures on pets. However, top vets across the globe have affirmed that the risks associated with anesthesia are far less than the risk of systemic effects of unaddressed periodontal disease in dogs.
The fact is, it’s difficult to accomplish a thorough oral examination on a fully-awake adult pet. They’ll try to jerk away, squirm, or wiggle, which makes the use of pointed or sharp instrument dangerous for your furry friend. Oral procedures are often more sensitive than getting rid of dog warts or eliminating scabs. Sedation dentistry for dogs can help in the following ways:
- Immobilizing your dog or cat to ensure safety and cooperation during a dental procedure – in most cases, they don’t understand your good intentions.
- Allows for a thorough examination of all the surfaces of your dog’s teeth and mouth.
- Enables pain management
- Allows for scaling under the gum line where periodontal disease is more prevalent.
You should never attempt to clean below the gum line of a fully alert dog, especially agile breeds such as Huskies. Your pup won’t tolerate it since the procedure is painful and causes significant stress. Tooth extraction is especially painful and should only be done on anesthetized pets.
How Sedation Dentistry for Dogs Work
Sedation dentistry is applicable in any dental procedure, from simple tooth cleaning to invasive tooth extraction on pets. How it’s used will depend on the severity of your dog’s dental issue and any preexisting health conditions.
In fact, many vets today use painless laser beams as opposed to the traditional noisy drills. Additionally, there are multiple safe anesthetics available to eliminate pain and reduce your pet’s anxiety during dental procedures.
Here is a list of some common triggers of stress and anxiety when dealing with dental issues on dogs:
- Fear of injections
- Fear of gagging
- Fear of loss of control
- Fear of pain
- Fear of the drill
Types of Sedation Dentistry for Dogs
Basically, sedation dentistry uses various medications to help your dog relax during a dental procedure. Some people refer to it as “sleep” dentistry, which may not be entirely accurate. Your pet may be awake during the procedure unless they’re put under general anesthesia. However, sedation dentistry effectively manages any feelings that could make your pet uncomfortable.
Various levels of sedation used are:
- Minimal sedation – the pet is awake but relaxed.
- Moderate sedation – the pet may feel sleepy and relaxed
- Deep sedation – puts your dog at the edge of consciousness
- General anesthesia – your pet is totally unconscious.
There are three common types of sedation for dental procedures on pets. They include:
1. Oral Sedation
Oral sedation is administered by mouth and is the most popular option for many vets – there is no use of needles. It can be either administered as pills or dissolved in dog food. In a matter of minutes, your pet will feel relaxed and comfortable to undergo the dental procedure.
2. Inhalation Conscious Sedation
Next, Nitrous oxide is an inhalable sedative that has been used in dental and vet offices for almost 100 years. It is pretty poor in pain relief, but it’s amazingly great as an anti-anxiety medication. The sedative is administered using a nasal hood – a tiny cup that is placed over your pet’s nose. The oxygen/nitrous oxide mixture gives your pet a lightheaded or euphoric feeling. It’s also quick to wear off, so you won’t worry about any hangover effect on your pet after the procedure. All the bodily functions will remain essentially normal under this sedative, making it relatively safe.
3. IV Conscious Sedation
Sedatives can also be delivered directly into your pet’s bloodstream through the vein. IV sedatives are more potent than oral or inhaled sedatives, and the amnesic effect can be more profound. Since IV sedation almost has an immediate effect on your pet’s body and its functions, you should only go for this after the vet has carefully screened your pet for any underlying health conditions.
One benefit of IV sedation is that the effect is immediate and the level of sedation can be adjusted easily and quickly. Like with most sedatives, your dog will be totally asleep during the procedure.
If your dog is nervous about getting a dental exam or cleaning done, sedation dentistry could be your best solution. Don’t let a minor dental issue escalate into a painful periodontal disease. Discuss with your vet and choose the most appropriate sedation for your pet. If you have any questions about oral health for dogs, feel free to reach us through the “contact us” page or drop a comment below.
Dr. Belinda Hawks earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 2006 and has been practicing veterinary medicine since then. Dr. Belinda currently works as a passionate rancher and mixed animal veterinarian in a rural town in South Carolina. When not practicing veterinary medicine or writing, she spends her free time with her lovely husband and three kids (2 boys and a lovely girl) in South Carolina.