Dog Teeth Cleaning Anesthesia-Free: Buyer Beware!

Written by Jan on July 6, 2008 – 2:42 pm

Anesthesia-Free, or Non-Anesthetic, teeth cleaning for dogs (and even cats) is becoming more and more commonplace. As people grow fearful of “putting their dog under” just to have teeth cleaned, and ever more fearful of vet bills sometimes topping $1000, these services offer an attractive alternative. Even veterinarians who have called these procedures “animal cruelty” and “unsafe” (which they sometimes are), are adding anesthesia-free dental care to services offered. Whether any service is humane, safe and effective depends exclusively on practitioner skill and kindness towards animals.

Any health service provided by practitioners without specific training or experience requirements, and with no certification, can be risky. Is the practitioner safe? Is he/she knowledgeable and experienced? Can he safely handle dogs? Is he insured for damage to himself and your dog? All these are questions you must ask. This video, and all the additional information at Dogs4Dogs.com/doggydental2, will answer your questions. Help your dog have a safer teeth cleaning procedure, whether at your veterinarian’s office or at your groomer’s or pet shop. Want even more info? Check out my 15-page chapter, “Death by Teeth,” in my book, Scared Poopless. To learn more about what you can do about anesthesia risks, see our chapter, “Anesthesia Anxiety.”

Remember, there is no completely safe or stress-free way, inside or out of a vet’s office, to have your dog’s teeth cleaned. But because periodic scaling, ultrasonic cleaning and polishing, along with a thorough check for broken teeth, infections, tumors and lesions, is essential to your dog’s health, I hope you’ll read up and ask questions.

Please do not trust your dog with anyone without checking them out first. And don’t presume that your groomer or shop owner has. Chances are, he/she doesn’t know any more about dental care, or safety, than you do — especially if she hasn’t studied the subject. Your dog’s health and safety are in your hands alone.

Wishing you and your dog all the best in life,

Jan Rasmusen
www.Dogs4Dogs.com

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Tags: anesthesia risk, anesthesia-free, cat, dental, dog dental care, dog teeth cleaning, non-anesthetic
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38 Comments to “Dog Teeth Cleaning Anesthesia-Free: Buyer Beware!”


  1. lori Says:

    excellent video & great info! recently i was told that rupert needed his [first] cleaning by my regular vet who does it under general anesthesia. because rupert has severe allergies, i also take him to an allergy specialist who had told me she will never put a dog under anesthesia unless absolutely necessary. i had her do the cleaning. she asked me to be present & i too was only a few feet away from him during the procedure. it was quick & painless & rupert was absolutely fine throughout.

  2. Dr. Lisa Says:

    Although anesthesia has some risk (although very little in a healthy pet when done correctly), don’t forget that there is risk involved with anesthesia-free dental procedures, even when done by a talented, experienced practitioner.

    In my mind, the largest risk comes from potential aspiration of bacteria-laden water into the lungs from the sonic scaler. That water has plaque and chunks of tartar in it, and a pet can inhale it in a flash if they wiggle at an inopportune moment, potentially leading to pneumonia. This could happen even with an experienced dog handler like myself, even if I am prepared for this and am trying to prevent it.
    When a pet is anesthetized for dental procedures, they have an endotracheal tube with an inflated cuff that prevents this. And, of course, there is no wiggling.

    I believe there are some skilled practitioners of anesthesia-free dental care out there (and some appallingly unskilled ones as well), but I’m not convinced it is safer than skilled anesthetized dental care.

  3. Lauren Summerhill Says:

    I appreciate your position, however, for the last five years of my Bichon’s life I have had a gal come to my home to provide non anesth dental cleaning. She is very good and concientious. I have been happy with the service she provides. She charges $100 for the cleaning. A fraction of the cost of the dog going under anesth.

    I am not able to afford the high price for anesthet dental cleaning. I had my vet do it at one time and was very disappointed in the results. It cost 500 to have it done. She was at the vets all day with no food and I wasn’t able to pick her up until 4 p.m. that day. At 9 pm that day she was still stumbling around drugged. I found this very upsetting. After 9 p.m. that day she threw up. I am sure from the anesth and an empty stomach all day not to mention the stress of being caged for the day.

    All I know is that it has worked well for me. I am a groomer and constantly tell my clients that non anesthetic teeth cleaning is the way to go (unless of course there is a concern which must be addressed by a vet).

    Affordable teeth cleaning is a better alternative for the pet and can be done more often. Especially now with the economy as it is people are trying to make ends meet…this way there pets won’t suffer in the meantime. I think it is a positive alternative.

    These are just my thoughts. All the best!

  4. Erica Says:

    In September of 2008 we lost our dear Tinka, a darling black pekingese who was just 5 years old, to the non-aesthetic dental procedure. I don’t know that I blame the service that did it as Tinka had some breathing issues. Yet none of us, including our vet, knew how serious any procedure might be to her. Looking back on it I have no doubt that Tinky had some serious issues, more serious than we nor her vet even knew.

    It was an awful, painful experience for all of us. I have no doubt the 2 girls who did the procedure are tortured by it. And I have no doubt that some other stressful procedure was likely to claim her. After all, she had had this very same procedure done by the same people just 7 months before, and she was fine. Yet as the girls have never really spoken with me since losing her it leaves me with questions. Questions at this time I most likely cannot face.

    Someone asked me recently in light of what happened if I would not recommend aesthetic-free dental treatment for dogs and cats. I don’t know that I can answer that question. I can say that I fear anesthetic dental cleaning at the vet. I’m sure what you say above is so true, Dr. Lisa, that there is risk with the non-anesthetic type as well.

    I don’t know if this information helps anyone. Maybe it is only self-serving, to get over the pain of losing Tink. If it is the latter, I apologize to anyone reading this.

    E.

  5. Jan Says:

    Erica, your story is so sad and so touching. Non-anesthetic cleaning can be stressful. So can cleaning with anesthesia. So can foregoing dental cleanings. There are no completely safe medical practices, just as there are no completely safe drugs. Everything has risks. We can only evaluate beforehand the people with whom we entrust our beloved pets. Sometimes trust is justified; sometimes, not. I wish the field of non-anesthetic dental cleaning would become certified, with special training required. Dental care is a dilemma. I’m so sorry for your loss. –Jan

  6. Erica Says:

    Jan,

    Thank you so much for your kind words and for your comments about risks with any medical procedures for our dogs. For quite a while I blamed myself for even taking Tink in, yet knowing that I was thinking of the best thing for her. Educating ourselves on our pets’ care seems the wisest thing to do as, as you say, finding the best people to care for them.

    If you like and have time, we have a website in honor of all of our pups. It is: TinknZu.net

    Always,

    Erica

  7. Keith Roland Says:

    What tools do you need to properly clean the plaque off your dog’s teeth? We have an English Setter and his teeth have plaque. Brushing doesn’t do the job nor do the Greenies dog treats. I was reading that after scraping you need to polish the dogs teeth to remove any scratches or lines. I wasn’t sure what type of equipment is needed and where to get it.

    Thanks for any help or assistance you can provide,
    Keith

  8. Jan Says:

    Sorry, Keith. I’m not in the teeth cleaning business. It takes 2 years of school to learn how to clean human teeth. Canine teeth are no less complicated. You can’t just get a scraper and start scraping. You’ll have to seek out an experienced pro — if you can find one. Good luck.

  9. trish Says:

    Hi, since I didn’t want to or have the money for dental cleaning on my 3 dogs, my vet suggested science diet td. I don’t like SD, but I do have to say it seems to work. I use it as treats.It’s not doing too much on my 11 yr old dog, but the 6 and 7 year olds teeth really look better. Even the vet commented on the difference. I’m still looking for a good dental cleaner, if you know of one. Would like to get away from SD even if my dogs like the stuff.

  10. Buford Dentist Says:

    My sister should try this with her dogs,since this looks healthy for them…I’ll let her check your site as well.

  11. Chandra Says:

    Right now I am trying PetzLife, I got it at the office of the Holistic vet I am now using. It’s a gel you rub on, it softens the plaque and makes it easier to wipe the plaque off (with a soft, babies washcloth or pet toothbrush). I have a 15 yr. old chihuahua whose lower jaw was snapped in half by a puppymiller (I rescued her from the mll when she was 10). If she loses her last few lower teeth, her jaw will crumble. However, she will not let me brush them. I have taken her to a nonanesthesia cleaner who finally gave up after only being able to clean 3 teeth in close to an hour. I don’t like using anesthesia on her. Hopefully PetzLife will work, it has great reviews on Amazon. Another holistic vet said that letting dogs chew on raw chicken necks cleans the teeth as good as anything. But, I don’t do this too often as I have 5 dogs and watching them all while they chew, to make sure none of them chokes on the necks is rather difficult!

  12. Jan Says:

    Another good product to try is Biotene. It’s a gel you apply, like PetzLife. They also have a mouthwash and water additive. http://www.petkingbrands.com/products/bioteneMouthwash.asp I wrote about them in my new e-newsletter. Do you subscribe? You’ll find lots of good info there. You can read it at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/JR_Articles/Fall%202009

    Chicken necks are great, and help with dogs’ high calcium requirements as well, but they’re messy and you have to really watch dogs so they don’t choke. Have you tried using frozen chicken necks? Lots of people think dogs still chew them but don’t gobble them down. It’s worth a try.

    If all your dogs are smallish, I hope you’ll read my article on the risks of vaccinating small and medium-sized dogs. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/09/30/vaccinating-small-dogs-risks-vets-arent-revealing/

  13. Fabienne Says:

    I found a site: http://www.wellanimalinstitute.com that offers a certificate in anesthetic free pet teeth cleaning. Is this a scam? Please email us.

  14. Jan Says:

    Fabienne, I have never heard of it. As far as I know, there is no place that offers certification that is recognized by a state, but this isn’t my field. I could be just a certificate of completion. I have no idea who is teaching it. Buyer beware. Look for a vet on the teaching staff. And vet techs. You might email the people at HoundstoothDental.com and see if they know the company.

  15. Robin Hardy Says:

    Hi Jan,
    What a pleasure to have found your site. I was looking for info on reasons not to vaccinate to send my niece, and there you were. I now remember I’ve seen your book at Keith Weingardt’s office, here in San Diego. So, here’s my story on this topic, and I would be so grateful if you found time to provide me with some feedback.

    Back in June ’08, I took my dear Oreo (a Maine Coon mix, love of my life, kitty) in for an anesthesia-free teeth cleaning. the “cleaner” worked in the back room of a natural food pet store here in Pt. Loma. Although I shouldn’t have, I let her convince me that I should wait outside the room because she said she could handle him better if I wasn’t there. When I came back a 1/2 hour later, he had had a major b.m. on the floor where she had him held for the cleaning (scissored between her legs!).

    He was close to 24 pounds. She said his gums were reddish (and she showed me his gums along w/ his perfectly cleaned teeth) because she had to scrape so much tartar off. He seemed a little wild-eyed when I got into the room, but then fine, and fine when I got him home, and he ate fine. I felt terrible that I’d been irresponsible by leaving the room, and I felt I’d failed him big time.

    Just two weeks later, Oreo developed a bump under his chin. I took him to my vet, who referred me to a surgeon. The surgeon felt it was oral cancer and wanted to do a tissue biopsy with a possible partial jaw removal if it was cancer. I declined. He set a “prognosis of 2 months w/o treatment if it was cancer. Oreo was 17. In the room w/the surgeon he threw up, pee’d and pooped. I felt he was telling me NO in his own way, crazy as that sounds.

    I went to a holistic vet (Keith Weingardt) and we tried Chinese herbs. I tried homeopathy from Dr. Loops, and Dr. Steven Blake. I ended up getting an x-ray to try to be sure we knew what we were up against, and the radiologist deemed the lump osteosarcoma. I have the x-ray, if you wanted to check it out. The lump grew very fast. I read every possible online listing about oral cancer in cats, and recurrence rates after surgery which is what made me decide against it.

    Though I found it afterward, I always wondered if ES-Clear might have been a possible cure. It was the hardest two months of my life. We finally had a vet come to our home and I held Oreo as she administered the meds. It was completely heart wrenching and it haunts me to this day. I’ve pretty much made peace with myself but my question is: did the teeth cleaning cause the tumor? Did that unnecessary trauma cause cells to mutate? Could it have been one of those epulides (unsure of spelling) or benign lump and if I’d had an actual biopsy (not just an x-ray) would I have found that out and been able to save him with surgery to remove it? Was it just a nasty infection? Keith, the holistic vet, seemed sure it was cancer. I even called an animal communicator in desperation after Oreo passed!! She said she felt it was cancer, for whatever that is worth. I called the “teeth cleaner” right after the bump formed. She felt certain it was unrelated. What else could she say?

    Anyway, after writing my novel here, I would like to add that I never vaccinated Oreo – just one round when I first found him as a stray when he was 2. Always fed him great food. Loved him like there was no tomorrow. It seemed such a cruel end to a full, robust life. He did have a history of bad teeth and even had his two front canines removed by the vet during a regular cleaning, where he was put under.

    If you have any words of wisdom to shed on my story, it would be deeply appreciated. As I have noted, this is something that I will always wonder about, and it all began with that anesthesia-free teeth cleaning episode.

    Thank you in advance,
    Robin

  16. Jan Says:

    Hi Robin. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m not a vet and am certainly not a cancer specialist. I, would, however, doubt that teeth cleaning caused the cancer. It could cause stress, an infection and a lump, but not cancer. If teeth cleaning caused cancer, you’d have to sign a release to get your own teeth cleaned. It’s probably just a coincidence.

    You did everything you could to give Oreo a great life. Feel good about that. You did nothing wrong. Cancer happens.

    PS You said you were looking for info about vaccinaton for your niece. I presume you found the articles at http://www.truth4dogs.com. Also, since you’re in San Diego, check out our safer vaccination seminar. Two world-renowned pet vaccination experts are speaking. http://www.petseminar.org

  17. Thomas Says:

    Wouldn’t it be the ethical and morally correct thing to do to let your readers know that your website broadcasts a video PROMOTING anesthesia-free pet dental services, as opposed to pretending that you’re neutral on the issue. Good grief, you even refer to them as “experienced pro”(s) in your July 9th comment to Keith !

  18. Jan Says:

    Thomas, this post sounds very much like two posts I got from Frank yesterday. At least yours is slightly polite.

    If you bothered to actually listen to and read the video, you’d see that I am not promoting this service. In fact, I find most practitioners to be untrained and even cruel and wouldn’t let them near my dogs. The few people I recommend work mostly with vets.

    My dogs get both vet and non-vet teeth cleaning. They are very small and both are at risk for anesthetic reactions. Chiclet was in the emergency room twice with collapsing trachea after her last cleaning by a very skilled veterinary dentist.

    I make no money off these services. In fact, it’s mostly a problem for me as I am continually attached by people like you who don’t identify yourself or reveal your motives. I will not respond to you or your friend or alter ego Frank again.

  19. Patricia Doran Says:

    Hi All,

    I will try and sum this up as simply as I can. I am 46 years old. I have been grooming since I was 15yrs and non anesthetic teeth cleaning since I was 20yrs. When I was growing up, my parents raised and showed Yorkies. There teeth got cleaned under anesthesia every 3 years.

    There was never any discution about home care and keeping their oral condition under control, If so, we would have avoided the expensive cleanings (financially and physically).

    I clean teeth every day and address only levels 1 and 2 (there are only 4) Non anesthetic tartar removal does not hurt and is the most effective way to stay on top of your pets oral care.

    I would suggest, that if you have any questions, ask your vet if you pet is within the first 2 stages of periodontal disease, if your pet is.. then non anesthetic is the way to go and hopefully your vet will offer it to you (but most dont because they are better financially enriched if your pet is put under.) If your vet doesnt offer it, then seek out a skilled cleaner to do the job. Personally, at my salon, I will show you how to hand scale your pets teeth yourself.. the problem is that your pet usually wont let you do it because he knows he can make you stop! Just like when you attempt to brush his coat!

    In a nut shell, get your pet used to you invading his mouth by brushing with a childs soft tooth brush with a wee bit of baking soda, every day. Assosiate the experience with a treat like turkey breast. Within 2 weeks it will become a game and secretly beneficial to his health.

    If any one wants tips or has questions, you are invited to email me at k9dentist@aol.com

    I will answer your questions and certainly put you in the right direction of better oral health for your pet. Note: Over vaccinating is also over rated. I found a good book by Dr. Martin Goldstien and is called “The Nature of Animal Healing” .. pick it up, you and your pet will be glad you did!

    With total sincerety, Patricia Doran

  20. Vic the Dentist Says:

    -If you only cleaned your teeth every six months, imagine what your mouth would feel like! Yuk-Oh! You’d probably need general anesthesia, too, and you sure wouldn’t want somebody poking around in YOUR mouth, that’s for sure.

    -So … you should clean your dog’s teeth at least every week, and each day you should put your dog into a “stay” and manipulate those lips (theirs, not yours). Use a doggie toothpaste — more manufacturers are putting Xylitol into human toothpaste, and although xylitol tastes good and is easily tolerated by humans, it is about as toxic to dogs as antifreeze (so keep candies, toothpaste, chewing gum, etc.) out of their reach.

  21. Susan Says:

    I’m so glad you gave us the name of the service you use, I was beginning to despair that I wouldn’t find one that did sub-gingival cleaning!

    Just wanted to give some insight from the field. In my 2 year vet tech program, I received 3 hours of training on dental cleaning and spent a total of 30 minutes practicing hands-on. According to our local dental specialist, 10% (or less) of vet practices perform cleanings properly, mostly due to pressure from the vets for the techs to be fast and do as many animals each day as possible (quality optional). For example, most clinincs only x-ray the teeth that look “bad,” even in cats. But, resorptive lesions – a common problem in cats that causes the tooth to be reabsorbed by the body and are EXTREMELY painful – start under the gum line and can only be caught early with x-rays. So, cleanings performed at your vet clinic under anesthesia are just as “buyer beware” as anesthesia-free. You are most likely not getting what you pay for, so do your research and get a recommendation from a specialist or go to one, if you can. As a vet tech, I’m in favor of anesthesia-free for dogs, provided the tech is experienced and does sub-gingival cleaning. There is a risk of aspiration pneumonia, but contrary to what the vet above posted, it’s not actually eliminated with an endotracheal tube – it’s just reduced.

  22. Debbie G Says:

    Hi Jan,
    I brush my dog’s teeth every day with C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste. Is it safe to use? And every two months I do a deep cleaning with a scraper just like in your video. My maltese is a good boy he lets me do all his teeth. Do you have any videos on how to groom a maltese dog? I need some help with that. Thanks.

  23. Andrew Says:

    I hope people realize the Anesthesia free dentistry is also illegal by anyone who is not licensed. Only RVTs and DVMs are allowed to practice dentistry legally

  24. David Begum Says:

    chinese herbs can actually treat a lot of ilness and have fewer side-effects too.;,

  25. Jan Says:

    Anesthesia-free dental cleaning is permitted in veterinary offices by non-licensed practitioners. Some are skilled. Many are not.

  26. Michelle Says:

    Does Chiclet still have her upper central incisors? They are really loose in the video, and obviously painful….flinching every time the tech touches them.

  27. Dr. T. Says:

    Please let me start off by stating that I am a licensed veterinarian, and have been considering on the issue of dental care in pets with or without anesthesia for quite some time….

    I really have to express my concerns regarding this page. As the video easily demonstrates, anesthesia-free dental cleanings are often performed by individual who, although caring and gentle, are unable to recognize signs of dental and oral pathology (severe tooth mobility, gingival recession and excessive gingival pocket depths– these are all measures of significant periodontal disease). As Jan mentioned in the video, just because the teeth look clean does not mean that they are healthy– just a bit prettier! We should not be fooled by white, shiny teeth… It is true that most dental pathology (disease) resides BELOW THE GUMLINE and along the roots of the teeth, where we just can’t see it happening.

    So, it is VERY important to realize that even with a gentle hand that may be talented in getting the teeth squeaky-clean, the dogs featured in the video were subjected to discomfort and pain during the procedure… it’s sad, but true. We need to remember that our dogs and cats are not able to say “Ouch, Mom! That hurts, and my tooth is loose because I have severe periodontal disease!”. They are exceptionally good at hiding many instances when they are in pain. We therefore need to be on the defensive with our pets and protect them to the best of our abilities from experiencing unnecessarily painful procedures…. And I can assure everyone that scaling on a tooth as loose as those Chicklet has in the video hurt- Ouch!

    Many years experience in grooming pets or cleaning their teeth is not satisfactory replacement for proper training in veterinary dentistry. Knowledgeable veterinarians are aware of the mechanisms of disease, recognition of pathology and current therapies that offer optimal results—- I often explain to my clients that although I groomed and bred dogs for many years, I still needed to study veterinary medicine and become a licensed practitioner before I could ethically offer my services in dentistry to a patient- a lay “tooth-cleaning” serviceperson is simply not entirely trained to perform this procedure properly.

    In light of this issue, I highly recommend a consultation with a knowledgeable veterinarian about your pet’s teeth/gums/tongue/lips and whether there is evidence of disease prior to visiting an anesthesia-free tooth-cleaner. It is very important to have the whole picture in mind regarding your pet’s health prior to making your decision on health care. I would also recommend visiting a number of veterinarians in your area until you find the right one for you. It will cost you more in initial consultation visits, but you will likely be much happier with your veterinarian if you know you can trust their knowledge and skills. My suggestion is to ask your vet if they actually ENJOY veterinary dentistry… in my experience, vets that love a particular field go the extra mile to be as current and skilled in that area as they possibly can be. There are vets out there who love dentistry because it is a challenging and fascinating field- you’ll be happy when you find one.

    Another tip when finding the right dentistry vet for you is to listen to the type of advice they are giving. If your vet performs a thorough oral exam and openly discusses with you any signs of disease, pain, or conformational abnormalities and what they mean to your pet before talking about an anesthetic/dental/surgery quote, then this is likely a vet that enjoys dentistry and wants to do what’s best for your dog. The first piece of advice that I lend to my patients and their families is that daily brushing of teeth is the absolute best means of preventing dental disease.

    However, the primary reason I am commenting on this video is in regards to anesthesia-free cleaning and it’s potential risks to the patient that I wish to make everyone aware of. Yes, there are risks of aspiration (inhalation) of contaminated water, and risks of unnecessary pain endured by the pet during the procedure. And yes, there are absolutely risks associated with putting a patient under anesthetic, so we need to aware of potential risks with all approaches.

    The VERY big problem with anesthesia-free dental procedures lies in the issue of subgingival (below the gumline) scaling of the teeth. Subgingival scaling on an awake dog is assuredly going to result in unnecessary trauma to subgingival structures (such as the periodontal ligament, which is vital to dental health). When a pet flinches, moves their tongue in response to water spray in the mouth, or if the tooth being scaled has any degree of mobility during scaling, then damage is being done to the subgingival structures. A cleaning that damages these structures is not actually helping our pet, but HURTING… we will see this result either in the short or long term as progression of periodontal disease occurs as a direct result of this damaging procedure. It is for this reason above any other that I typically condemn the practice of anesthesia-free cleanings— why do it if we are in actuality making things worse????

    First, do no harm. Right?

    So, the safest advice I can offer in conclusion is 1) it is in the best interests of your pet to do the extra legwork and find the best vet for your needs. 2) The old saying that ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true in most instances… cheap dental procedures mean only one thing: that shortcuts are being taken, or the wrong procedure was being performed.

    and 3) The absolute best thing that you can do your pet’s dental health is to BRUSH THEIR TEETH (using pet-safe toothpaste). The best results are found with brushing every 24 hours to prevent disease. However, just as Jan mentioned, significant benefit (not requiring special scalings and cleanings) can be seen in many dogs when teeth are brushed every 48 hours (3-4 times per week)! This is an excellent (and very inexpensive) solution to this debate!!!! Hooray!

    I hope that these comments have been informative and have not sounded heavy-handed… as a veterinarian, I myself would be pleased if my patients did not ever require cleanings in my clinic because their teeth were being brushed at home! And sometimes, yes, our pets do develop dental disease in spite of all of our efforts— and this is of course when it is time for an experienced and knowledgeable veterinarian examination and treatment is warranted.

  28. Jan Says:

    Dr. T., thanks for your concern and for taking the time to post your excellent reply to Truth4Dogs.com.

    However … I am not advocating for anesthesia free dentistry. My video is merely to help people separate the better practitioners from the many bad and dangerous ones. In my book, I describe anesthesia free teeth cleaning and practitioners in detail. I also detail what a better job a highly-skilled veterinary dentist can do.

    Not long after the video on my website, my very small dogs, Chiclet and Jiggy, underwent cleaning with a board-certified veterinary dentist. (I had interviewed him for my book, Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care.) He had two other vets in the room at all times. X-rays were taken and evaluated and extractions made. Because he knows me and my work, I was allowed to observe every step of the way and take photos.

    Unfortunately, even a $5000 procedure with three excellent vets and vital signs being monitoring as completely as they are in surgery on humans, both dogs had to be monitored all night at an emergency facility. Chiclet (my 4-pounder who has a collapsing trachea) ended up in emergency rooms twice during the following week and has never fully recovered. Jiggy, who has liver disease, was also at risk under anesthesia.

    There is no good dental care solution, especially for “senior” pets, and especially those with respiratory problems. Most people can’t afford to give their dogs the kind of care my dogs had (I couldn’t really afford it either) and even with Gold Standard care, there were problems. Also, I get countless emails from people telling horror stories about their own dogs dental experiences at their primary vet’s office. The veterinary dentist who treated my dog trains other local vets and their staffs free of charge because he feels the standard of care is lacking.

    Thanks again for writing. I don’t disagree with what you said, but I will be very reluctant to put my dogs under anesthesia again — except to save their lives.

  29. Dr. T. Says:

    Yes, Jan, I most certainly agree that anesthetic procedures carry their fair share of risks… just like with human patients, we need to be mindful that anesthesia is a very serious issue for our pets.

    The point of my post was not to promote anesthesia for all dental cleaning procedures… or that all pet owners should be able to provide top-of-the-line veterinary dental care—- this is not a reasonable thing to ask of every pet-owner. The important thing to remember is that the most effective- and least expensive means of providing our pets with optimal dental care is to brush their teeth (as you have mentioned on your site in a few areas). Granted, there is the occasional pet that will under no circumstances allow Mom or Dad to brush their teeth… but most will sit for the procedure with dedication and training.

    This is the most important message, isn’t it? Homecare (brushing, optimizing diet, paying attention to our pet’s health) is the most important step in providing dental care—- and if done with regularity will eliminate the need for petowners to consider cleanings- whether provided by certified veterinary teams or (hopefully not) a self-appointed doggie dentist who may be lacking in necessary skill. (I certainly wouldn’t hire a hairdresser to scale and assess my kids’ teeth… see where I’m going here?)

    My second point was that dental cleanings on awake pets is not as safe as it is often percieved… why bother with an anesthesia-free cleaning if it is causing damage??? Since the majority of damaging effects are seldom visible to the untrained eye, it is important that people are informed about it’s occurrence.

    This is why I felt compelled to post this information— petowners need to know that they can help their pets more with dedicated at-home brushing of teeth than can any yearly (or twice-yearly) cleaning. This is a great fact to be made aware of.

    Moral of the story: We can spare our pets dental disease, the potential stress of cleanings with electronic devices, and the potentially severe risks of anesthesia if we just get off our duffs and start brushing.

    Best of luck with your two little doggies, Jan… they seem like such a sweet little pair!

  30. Jeanine Horowitz Says:

    Hello,

    i enjoyed your You tube vide on pet teeth cleaning. I need to locate a hygienist in Pasadena, CAlifornia that cleans dogs’ teeth but does not use anesthesia

  31. Jan Says:

    Jenn, try HoundstoothPetDental.com

  32. Gucci Scarpe Says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So good to find any individual with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, somebody with a bit originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  33. Michael Says:

    A groomer we used a while back advertised “teeth cleaning” as part of her services. Really , what it all entailed was nothing more than a light, worthless tooth brushing that hardly should have been termed “teeth cleaning”. What happened days later, is our dog got very sick and had to go to the vet for treatment. As would turn out, the tooth brushing had (according to our vet) dislodged some tarter, but also failed to uncover some abcessed teeth we were not aware of.

    The groomer, based in Gresham under the name [ ] turned out to be a nightmare experience causing our dog a great deal of pain from her “dental procedure”.

    Definitely be careful of paying for professional services by people who are not qualified to perform them. Had we known what we know now, we would have only had our veterinarian perform any oral care on our dear dog.

  34. Jan Says:

    Michael, I made the video on nonanesthetic cleaning to show how it should be done, but rarely is. Many of the practitioners haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

    That said, vets don’t have much training either. Usually the techs, who may or may not be well trained, do the cleaning.

  35. Judith Says:

    I have been following the political fiasco in regard to The American Vets Association and the teeth cleaning situation. It is quite evident that the revenue lost having a competent individual clean your dog’s teeth was enough to warrant the launching of a prerequisite that a vet be present at every teeth cleaning scenario. Are you kidding. So, instead of it costing $100.00 like I have always paid, it is now costing $180.00 so that some vet can stand there and pick his nose. When I get my teeth cleaned, by a tech, there is NO dentist standing by to watch her. Additionally, I have always paid $100.00 to have my teeth cleaned and it is even by a holistic dentist. So, they are telling me that someone who does teeth cleaning for dogs, and that is all she does, can’t do a better job unless some idiot is standing there, right? I would rather have my dog’s teeth cleaned without anesthesia then with. I have researched the risks extensively, and I opt to go the natural route. What I dislike immensely is the Vets Association telling me I have to have one of them standing there watching. What a joke. When you have your dog’s teeth cleaned at a vet’s office, a tech does it there, too, not the vet. I asked!
    Just another way to make money, as far as I am concerned and has nothing to do with the dogs and their safety.

  36. Jan Says:

    Judith, it gets worse. The vet doesn’t have to watch. At least, they won’t. They just want it done in their office.

    The AVMA doesn’t want our pets to eat raw food either. Have you read this: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2012/07/26/the-avmas-war-against-raw-diets-for-pets-action-alert/

    If over-vaccination bothers you, please join our campaign. Please sign our petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/veterinarians-fully-inform-us-before-vaccinating-our-dogs-and-cats

    And please watch, share, like, rate and post on Facebook our new video on vaccine reactions. It’s less than 3 minutes long but I think it’s very powerful. I just posted it today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nZ5m5uzzac

  37. Billie Says:

    Since I live in Boonies and can’t get enough together for the lady that does non anesthetic teeth cleaning. ALWAYS GET PANEL DONE, AND ALWAYS INSIST ON NO INJECTABLES!!!!!!! Jan u are wonderful!

  38. DrCanuck Says:

    Anesthesia free “dental cleanings” are not the same as a cleaning under general anesthesia by a veterianarian. It’s basically tooth grooming. The crowns of the teeth look better, but it does nothing for what’s happening under the gum line where disease happens.

    You’re kidding yourselves if you think you are doing anything for your pets health. I have done almost full mouth extractions on a poor dog whose owner thought they were doing the right thing by having an anesthetic free cleaning.

    You also cannot do intra-oral x-rays to find hidden pathology. I do this on every patient and the number of hidden problems we find is staggering.

    Proper assessement of anesthetic risk beforehand, pre-op testing, IV fluids, well trained assistance and a balanced anesthetic protocol allows for a smooth procedure in the vast majority of times.

    Is anesthesia risk free? Of course not, and you always have to balance the risk of a procedure against the benefits gained.

    There are no benefits to the type of cleaning shown in the video. Luckily where I live, this type of “cleaning” is banned, neither vets nor well meaning lay people are allowed to do it. In other municipalities it is allowed, but is considered practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

    Don’t get fooled by snake oil salesmen! Have an honest talk with your vet about your concerns with anesthesia.

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