Pet Care Advice 》 Pet Dentistry and Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia in Dental Procedures

Looking after your pet’s dental health is really important as it reduces the chances of secondary problems such as heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease, as well as stopping the pain and suffering that can be caused by loose and infected teeth.

Many people worry about using anaesthesia for their pets, but modern drugs and techniques for administering anaesthesia is very safe. The risk of death is extremely low- about 1 in 1000 and even then, this is normally associated with animals that are already very unwell and/or are being subject to emergency procedures.

  • Each anaesthetic begins with a physical and laboratory examination appropriate for each pet
  • All animals are intubated during the anaesthesia (breathing tube inserted through the mouth into the wind pipe) to protect their lungs from blood and fluids present in the mouth and also for delivery of anaesthetics and oxygen
  • Intravenous fluids are usually given if the procedure is at all prolonged, so we can ensure that the kidneys are being adequately perfused with blood 
  • Heart and lung functions are monitored frequently and regularly by a trained and experienced person familiar with the effects and side effects of the anaesthetic drugs used, and using modern anesthetic monitoring equipment
  • Emergency drugs in doses appropriate for all pets are readily available, should they ever be needed
  • Post procedure pain is treated with centrally acting pain killers, anti-inflammatories and local anaesthetics injected in the gums after teeth have been extracted. 
  • On recovery animals are watched over closely until they are fully conscious and are able to sit upright

 Why do we use anaesthesia for dental procedures?

Unlike humans, dogs and cats can’t control their impulse to move while being examined. Anaesthesia therefore allows the vet to perform the examination or procedure without risking harm to the animal and themselves.

 Is pre-anaesthetic blood work performed beforehand?

We recommend that all patients should have basic pre-anaesthetic blood tests performed to check the blood sugar, kidney values, liver values, and red blood cell count, as well as detect abnormalities that could affect the anaesthesia. Sometimes, more extensive blood work will be required, and even for pets younger than one year.

 Are intravenous fluids administered during anaesthesia?

Yes. Many drugs used for general anesthesia tend to cause blood pressure to decrease and therefore intravenous fluids are used to combat this. If there are any adverse reactions whilst under anaesthesia, an intravenous catheter is used to administer emergency medication.

 How will my pet’s body temperature be maintained during and after anaesthesia?

All animals, especially cats and small dogs, lose a lot of body heat under anaesthesia. The resulting hypothermia can slow the anaesthetic recovery. Where needed, and indeed in most cases, anaesthetized pets should be placed on a recirculating warm water pad and/or under a warm air blanket. 

 Will my pet be intubated and what anaesthetic gas is used?

The modern gas anaesthetics we use are Isoflurane and Sevoflurane. Methoxyflurane are no longer used and are considered out-of-date.

 What monitoring techniques are used?

We monitor your pet’s physiological parameters while they are under anaesthesia so we cam ensure that the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are functioning well. A nurse will work beside the vet to monitor the heart rate, respiratory rate, and anaesthetic depth.

 Are animals ever too old for an anaesthetic?

No. Animals that are unwell may be more at risk under an anaesthetic, but there is no 'cut off' age for anaesthetics.  Age is not an illness in itself, it's just that it means there is more likely to be problems in a sixteen-year-old pet than in a two-year-old.  We can check for these and take steps to reduce their impact during the anaesthesia.

Find out more about COHAT (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment)!