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Non-Anesthetic Dental Care for Dogs – Worth It or a Waste?

As time goes on, pet owners are becoming more and more aware of how to maintain their pet’s optimal health. Dental health awareness has increased greatly, and rightfully so. Keeping your pet’s mouth clean can decrease a huge number of ailments, including cancers. But not everyone wants to put their pets under anesthesia every year to keep their teeth in good shape – not only because of the risks associated with surgery, but because of the rising cost as well.

Many animal hospitals and groomers now offer non-anesthetic dental cleanings for both cats and dogs. In these cases, technicians are able to keep pets calm while they clean their teeth by carefully restraining them and keeping them comfortable. Some animals will still need to go under no matter what, but the majority are able to sit through a dental cleaning surprisingly well. Not only are they seemingly safer, without the risk of anesthesia, they’re considerably cheaper, too.

shutterstock_43428298But is it really worth the money? Are non-anesthetic dentals really as good as a full anesthetic dental? Most veterinary professionals don’t think so. In fact, many feel that they’re actually detrimental to the overall health of our pets. This is for a number of reasons, but the main one being that they simply do not provide the full cleaning that is necessary for our pets; yet they leave pet owners thinking that they’ve done a full dental that’s taken care of any possible problem.

When you have your pet go under anesthesia for a dental, your veterinarian and veterinary technicians are able to clean inside the mouth and underneath the gums better than they can when your pet is awake. Think about when you go to the dentist…that hour with your dental assistant can be pretty painful! Even if you go once a year, it can be fairly uncomfortable. But you and the dental assistant are able to communicate effectively, and you probably won’t become overly stressed and try to bite her. But your dog doesn’t have the same understanding. When things become too painful, the non-anesthetic technicians can’t push it the way your dental assistant can push you. Our dogs don’t understand this pain and why it’s happening.

Another thing your veterinarian might do while your pet is anesthetized is take dental radiographs. Just like for your dentist, dental x-rays can help your veterinarian find any dental fractures, tumors, or other ailments that are hidden from plain view. In fact, the tartar accumulation that we can see is the least of your pet’s worries when it comes to his dental health. This can easily be scraped off in non-anesthetic dentals (or by the correct chew toys, knuckle bones, etc.) It’s what is under the gum line that’s important, and that’s exactly what non-anesthetic dentals don’t address. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, will still thrive if the sub-gingival area is not treated. Most fractures, tumors, gingival hyperplasia, and tooth resorption are diagnosed only by dental radiographs.

The risk of anesthesia is very real, and many veterinarians understand owners’ concerns. However, veterinary medicine has come a long way, and general anesthesia is considered very safe. Assuming your pet has gone through all of the necessary pre-surgical screening to make sure there are no underlying problems that could jeopardize him while in surgery; your pet will get better care and results. Remember, the full anesthetic dental is more expensive, but you sometimes get what you pay for. In this case, it’s probably the better option to spend the extra buck and make sure your dog is really getting the care and treatment he needs. After all, even if they do get dentals once a year, they probably have a lot more tartar built up than your average human. Keep in mind that each pet is different, and it’s also important to talk with your veterinarian about the options best suited for your dog. In the end, that’s what we want most; healthy, happy pets.

About the Author

Katie is a professional dog trainer located in Southern California, with a background of experience as a veterinary assistant as well. She has trained and competed with multiple breeds in AKC Obedience and Rally, agility, herding, Schutzhund/IPO, French Ring and conformation. She has been involved in dogs since she was a child, and specializes in protection dogs, working dogs, and aggression issues. You can visit her website, Katie’s Dog Training, to find out more information about her training and accomplishments. When she’s not helping others and writing, she’s out on the field with her Belgian Malinois and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

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Written by Katie Finlay
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