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November 1, 2012

Is anesthesia worth the risk for pets?

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: I have three cats — ages 1, 2 and 3 years old. They have never had their teeth cleaned. I took my previous cats to a veterinarian who would clean their teeth while he gave them their annual shots — without putting them under. I no longer have that veterinarian. I am concerned that the new vet wants to put my cats under general anesthesia. I’m worried about the cost and the danger.

What do you think about cats and teeth cleaning?

— S.F., St. Louis

Dear S.F.: I am receiving more and more letters like yours, and it does concern me that veterinarians are putting cats and dogs through the risks of general anesthesia. In many instances, putting the cat under is not warranted when the teeth cleaning needed is minor and the animal is amenable to gentle and effective restraint in a blanket wrap. In some instances, a mild sedative must be administered.

It is true that the older veterinarians did not routinely put cats and dogs under for minor dental work.

With new equipment, rising practice costs and a new generation of graduates more aware of the high incidence of dental diseases in cats and dogs — in part due to the kinds of manufactured pet foods these animals are consuming — giving a general anesthetic for any and all dental procedures is becoming a standard practice. But it needs to be questioned, especially when animals die as a consequence.

Very often only some tartar and scale on the back molars need to be removed, and this can be done with a fingernail.

Applying PetzLife Oral Care spray or gel formulated for cats can help loosen scale, fight any gum inflammation and reduce infection (oral dysbiosis).

It should be used, in my opinion, for three to five days (closely following the manufacturer’s instructions) before any dental procedure is done on cats and dogs. This may help reduce post-anesthetic complications associated with oral dysbiosis by reducing the inflammation and bacterial infection prior to dental surgery.

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