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Ask Dr. Henry: Chew on This!

Ask Dr. Henry: Chew on This!

Q: How do you do teeth cleaning on dogs? I’m going to make an appointment for my dog but want to understand how it’s done. — Eva Palikij 

Dr. Henry: I’m glad you asked about this because we believe taking care of your pet’s teeth is one of the most important things you can do for their long-term health!

Dental care starts with an oral exam while your pet is still awake. This will help us determine the condition of your dog’s teeth and the level of cleaning that needs to be done. If your pet doesn’t have recent blood work on file, we’ll also take a sample so we can run a screening to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.

Your pet will then be anesthetized, and at Kimberling Animal Hospital, we use only the highest quality anesthesia. While your pet is “under”, we’ll do a more comprehensive exam and take X-rays. Most periodontal (dental) disease occurs under the gum line, and X-rays are the only way for us to see this as well as broken teeth, roots, abscesses and dead teeth.

Next is a full cleaning that includes scaling (scraping) away plaque and tartar on the visible part of the teeth (the “crown”) as well as below the gum line. Finally, the teeth are polished to leave a smooth surface that makes it harder for tartar to build up. The amount of cleaning or oral surgery required depends on the grade of build-up and dental disease as determined by the vet during the examination.

At Kimberling Animal Hospital, we provide pets with antibiotics because during this procedure, bacteria may enter the bloodstream. We also offer pain medication to help with mouth soreness and comfort level during recovery.

Q: What type of bone or rawhide do you recommend for dogs to chew on to help keep their teeth clean? — Tracy Halford

Dr. Henry:  There are a lot of chew options out there and not all of them are good. Generally speaking, I tell my clients that any bone or toy that would hurt if you whacked it against your knee is too hard for your pets and could harm their teeth and gums. If you can put an indent into the chew toy with your fingernail, it’s probably safe. As far as rawhides go, I only recommend the ones that are labeled “enzymatic”. This means that they’re specifically formulated to quickly and easily break down in your pet’s digestive system. Other rawhide chews that aren’t enzymatic could cause blockages and other problems for your pet. At Kimberling Animal Hospital, we sell Clenz-A-Dent Rawhide Chews that also help clean your pet’s teeth.

Have a pet health question for Dr. Henry? Send it to hello@kimberlingvet.com and we’ll pass it along to him—then watch for our newsletter to see if he answers your question!