Dental Care

Dental Health in Companion Animals

Up to 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years have started to develop dental disease. Dental disease is not “normal” in pets and dental tartar and halitosis (bad Breath) is a source of infection, is painful, will progress to tooth loss and has systemic effects on organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. In order to do a proper dental cleaning, pets are required to be under general anesthesia so that we can ultrasonically scale the inside and outside of the teeth as well as beneath the gum line. Simply removing the tartar on the outside of the teeth does not slow the course of dental disease and does not help your pet.

When should your pet have a dental cleaning? If there is visible tartar on the teeth then you should schedule a dental appointment for your pet. Brushing the teeth when tartar is present does not help the pet and is often painful.


Why does your pet have dental disease? Pets acquire dental disease from not brushing the teeth and not having the teeth professionally cleaned when required. We brush our own teeth every day and see a dentist regularly to prevent dental diseae and the same steps are needed in pets as well. Some breeds of dogs (particularly small breeds) are especially prone to dental disease.

How do I prevent dental disease in my pet? Brushing the teeth EVERY DAY is the only way to prevent dental disease in pets as well as having the teeth cleaned by a veterinarian on a regular basis. Using dental diets, sprays, sealers, water additives and dental chews will help.

What does a comprehensive oral health treatment procedure involve? When your pet requires dental care, an appointment is scheduled with a veterinarian for a dental scaling, cleaning and polishing . The following is an outline of what to expect at Sackville Animal Hospital

-food is witheld for 8 hours prior to anesthesia; water is withheld the morning of surgery.

-your pet is dropped off the morning of surgery and a surgical intake is performed with an animal health technologist or veterinary assistant. A veterinarian is available to discuss any questions you may have.

-A veterinarian will perform a full pre-surgical physical exam and collect a blood sample to perform a pre-anesthetic blood test on your pet. The pre-anesthetic blood test allows your veterinarian to screen for any underlying issues that could affect the safety of the anesthetic, such as blood clotting problems, kidney and liver issues, blood sugar abnormalities and electrolyte disturbances.

-based on the veterinarians physcial exam, the patients history and the pre-anesthetic blood test results, the veterinarian will tailor an anesthetic plan specific to your pet.

-the patient will be sedated, an intravenous catheter placed, started on intravenous fluids to provide support before, during and after the procedure and will then be placed under general anesthesia.

-while the pet is under general anesthesia, an Animal Health Technologist will continuously monitor their vital parameters; such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygenation, ECG, temperature, respiration and depth of anesthetic.

-the veterinarian will perform a full oral examination and oral radiographs will be taken as appropriate. The teeth will be scaled with an ultrasonic scaler, all surfaces of all teeth will be checked for gingival pockets and the teeth will then be polished. This procedure is very similar to our own oral heath care at our dentist.

-if your pet requires further oral care such as a tooth extraction or an oral mass removal, additional steps will be taken. These patients will receive a constant rate infusion (CRI) of several pain medications during and after surgery for comfort, the section of the oral cavity being worked on will be numbed with local anesthetic freezing and surgical sites will be closed with absorbable oral suture material. Oral x-rays will also be performed as appropriate.

-Following the procedure, your pet will be cared for by an Animal Health Technologist and their veterinarian. Patient discharge occurs several hours after surgery is finished to allow the veterinarian time to observe your pets full anesthetic recovery in the hosptial. If dental surgery has occurred, your pet will also be discharged with pain medicine and possibly antibiotics.

Your pets comprehensive oral health treatment procedure will be performed by their veterinarian and their vets team, consisting of 2 Animal health Technologists or 1 Animal Health Technologist and 1 veterinary assistant.

What are dental x-rays and are they necessary? Dental x-rays for pets are the same as for people…we use the same type of equipment! Dental x-rays allow us to evaluate the tooth below the gumline as well as evaluate the enamel of the teeth. Every effort is made to save the teeth in your pet, however if the tooth is unhealthy, it will be surgically extracted. Sackville Animal Hospital has invested in digital dental x-ray equipment which is much faster than traditional x-ray equipment, reducing your pets time under anesthetic.

How will my pet eat if several teeth are extracted?  This is a concern for many pet owners, however removing diseased teeth is actually better for your pet. No teeth, is better than infected teeth! In many cases, once the diseased teeth are removed, the pet actually eats better because the pain and infection is gone.

My cat/dog still eats fine and the teeth are bad….are they in pain? Animals have a strong natural instinct to hide pain. By the time they quit eating, the pain is more severe than the will to survive and eat. Normal eating is not a reliable indicator of pain.

Is my pet “too old” for a dental procedure? Pets are never too old to have pain and infection treated. Most pet owners state a major change in their pets behaviour after dental disease is appropriately treated. It is important to try and prevent dental disease from developing in your pet. Brushing the teeth at home and having dental cleanings performed when minimal tartar is present will prevent major dental surgery.

Please feel free to discuss your pets dental condition with one of our veterinarians so we can develop a treatment and prevention plan to allow your pet to have a pain and infection free mouth. A healthy mouth is a healthy body!