(Pet) Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning

[Okay, Discourse. I guess “Freezing fish before cleaning?” is maybe tangentially related, but I think I’ll start a new topic if that’s okay with you :wink: ]

We had Sam’s teeth cleaned the old-fashioned way – general anesthesia – once.

After that, I decided that 1/500 death from general anesthesia was a bad bet, and began brushing his teeth myself every other evening.

Which is working pretty well, but at his last exam, mild tartar was noticed on his lower teeth (I focus my attention on the uppers based on reading that this is the area least well cared for by the dog’s own saliva/tongue interaction).

But we’re not doing general anesthesia – not for routine maintenance. Nuh-uh.

So I looked into the ‘anesthesia-free’ dental cleaning for cats and dogs. It’s really hard to tell whose agenda is dictating their strongly pro- or strongly anti- position.

I did find this study which looks pretty clean and seems to militate toward this being a safe and effective (and half the price) option:

Anybody know the straight dope ? Personal or professional experience ?

Sam did really well at his last exam, including updated vaccines, a fine needle aspiration (lipoma), and blood draw, but it definitely stressed him. I’m considering hitting him with a relatively low (mg/kg) dose of Benadryl an hour before the cleaning … just to make everybody’s life easier.

He’s 10. He’s fit, active, and healthy.

Philosophically, I err toward “less is more” with medical interventions in his case, but this seems like an ounce of prevention worth doing. And – since he just had a ‘proper’ physical – I’m not worried that we’ll miss something dental by taking this route.

Thoughts ?

Veterinarian here: It’s worth talking to the practice to see what they are doing. I am guessing they are giving their patients a little something something, just not full general anesthesia. From my experience looking into dogs’ mouths, I’d say it is very individual. There are dogs with horrible mouths that need to lose teeth and require major work. That would entail general anesthesia. There are dogs with very painful mouths, and you can’t get near them either. A mellow dog without major issues who is used to people monkeying around with their teeth (which appears to be the case with you) could probably be cleaned with sedation. I would strongly recommend not using benedryl or anything else without telling the vet.s because they are probably using something to mellow out their patients and you’d hate to have a reaction with that and over the counter medications.

Thanks for that.

Their website says they use Bach Flower essences as a chill pill.

Your caveat about the Benadryl is much appreciated. Does this flower essences thing speak adequately to the possible interaction issue, or would you still (NB: you’re not Sam’s doctor. He’s not your patient, nothing will be construed as medical advice, etc., etc.) avoid the Benadryl ?

Yeah. His mouth got the thumbs up from the students and the faculty at the teaching hospital, and – as you said – he’s used to me setting up shop in there. He just finds these things particularly stressful when it’s done away from home and by others.

At some point, I start to wonder if the stress inherently tips the risk/reward equation on some of the routine maintenance, but we’re generally committed to having him examined regularly.

There’s a classic information asymmetry dynamic here that I don’t relish. You could ask these people good questions, and judge the answers they give. I really can’t. Not my very favorite place to be :wink:

Thanks again.

The very thought of trying to brush my cats teeth without him being doped up makes me shiver. Good lord he’d claw me to shreads!

I’m not constitutionally a cat person. I have two nephew kitties that I love dearly.

But I’ve always just assumed that most cats were simply waiting for the right opportunity to claw their owners to shreds, anyway :wink:

I messaged the providers of this anesthesia-free dental cleaning. They have absolutely zero concerns about Sam having Benadryl on board for their work.

My thanks, again, to @Long_Time_First_Time for raising the very important issue.

I’ll report back after the deed is done.

If it’s just a cleaning, it might work out if he’s just given a bit to relax him. Keep in mind that when you go to the dentist for a cleaning, it’s a fair bit more involved than just brushing your teeth. There are some people out there that are terrified of the dentist, even just for a cleaning, and need to be put under just for that.

What I’d worry about, and I am not saying that they will as I don’t know them, but that they may give something like Acepromazine. This doesn’t put the dog under, it just paralyzes them. They are fully aware of what is going on, they just can’t move. I would verify that they will not do this, as it could be quite mentally traumatizing to your dog.

If they are getting anything more than a cleaning, they really do need to be put under anesthetically. There’s no way that they will tolerate having teeth drilled or removed, even with a local.

Well …

That’s just about terrifying as a prospect.

Since they advertise that it’s this “Bach Flower essence” that they use to calm the dog/cat, I may very well ask them if I can dab a bit on my finger and rub it on my own gums.

While they may say no on general principles (leaving me no better informed as to how/whether to proceed), my guess is that they wouldn’t say yes if they were surreptitiously giving pets a paralytic instead of something really benign.

Agreed. That’s why I made a point of mentioning that the veterinary teaching hospital had just given him a good going over, and noted nothing but a wee bit of tartar on some of his lower teeth.

I also like that the paper I linked seemed to point to a fair number of referrals for dental x-rays that resulted from this (AF) procedure. I’m pretty sure it isn’t a veterinarian who does the cleaning, but they promise that a DVM will be present during the cleaning.

I’ll be interested to see if that ‘presence’ is ceremonial or participatory.

Isn’t that a homeopathic preparation?

If so, I doubt that it does anything at all.

Yeah. It’s one of those.

I was kind of counting on Sam being really suggestible to the placebo effect, and … giving him the Benadryl to cover my bets :wink:

I don’t see how a cat’s [ETA: whoops, dog’s] going to get any placebo effect at all.

And I’d be suspicious of the whole place, if they think that’s medicine.

That part was a feeble attempt at humor :wink:

Many things about this ‘alternative’ have my Spidey-Sense tingling, so … I hear ya’.

My effort to assuage my own concerns involves deciding that pet owners who are really uncomfortable with elective general anesthesia for their fur babies may have a fair amount of crossover with people who believe that crystals will reprogram their car’s key fob and that essential oils are better than insulin for diabetics.

In other words, much about how they do business may be a market driven effort at segmentation – serving what they perceive as their target audience.

And we have plenty of that audience around here.

I try to remind myself that I’ve had amazing massages from some bona fide five-alarm hippies.

Thus … the Benadryl :slight_smile:

Believe it or not, I’ve had people claim that the placebo effect worked on their livestock.

I mean – their familiar human fussing with them might make them feel better because it’s their familiar human fussing with them. But a strange vet. shoving something in their mouth seems unlikely to do that.

I’ve found some startling overlaps in otherwise entirely sensible people myself. Makes one look a bit askance at the inside of one’s own head sometimes (or ought to, anyway.)

Here’s from their website….I’d probably feel better if my ‘medicine’ was suspended in grape-based brandy too. In fact, forget the flowers, just hand over the brandy!

…… original Bach Flower Remedies is a safe and natural method of healing discovered by Dr. Bach from 1920 – 1930’s in England. They gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions such as fear, worry, hatred and indecision which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole. The Bach Flower Remedies allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself.
The Bach Flower Remedies are made from wild flowers and are safe for the whole family including pets.
The remedies are preserved in grape based brandy and are gluten free.

Wow. I totally missed that.

From an archived version of Bach’s web page:

In addition, we sell ready-mixed essences (Bach flower formulas). These essences are intended for common situations such as insomnia, tension, and smoking cessation. These essences are sold in 20 ml bottles. We preserve these essences with Brandy at an alcohol level of 40% per volume, and they retain their potency for 10 years.

[bolding mine]

That settles that: Sam is definitely not driving home. The challenge will be to keep him from ordering a pizza and drunk-texting old flames :wink:

If you give him a Benadryl to calm him before the vet visit, would that calm him enough for you to clean his lower teeth yourself? Brush them well and possibly floss or scrape the tartar loose?

I wonder whether alcohol plays well with benadryl in cats; and how much alcohol (considering the size of the cat) he’d be getting. – apparently humans aren’t supposed to mix them. Whether cats are more or less sensitive to this combination than humans I don’t know (some drugs go one way, some the other.)

– have you discussed the benadryl with his regular vet? Apparently formulations vary, and it’s a ‘use with caution’ for cats.

Thanks for that thought.

My wife and I talked about it. Neither of us feels comfortable enough doing this at home. We figure it’s fairly likely that we either won’t do a very good job (including not being willing/able to clean below the gum line) or we’d be aggressive enough to cause worrisome bleeding.

We’re also concerned that we really can’t ‘polish’ afterward. It’s our understanding that proper scraping causes microscopic damage that really should be polished in order to ‘seal’ and protect the teeth (in humans and in animals).

In this case, dog.

When I asked the veterinary teaching hospital, they simply didn’t recommend anesthesia-free cleanings, so – unless I lied and asked about Benadryl for a car trip, for example, I don’t think I’d get a good answer from them.

But (and this may be for the knowledge base as much as anything else), the American Kennel Club implies that Benadryl is generally considered safe, and that you should ask your veterinarian about its use if your dog has any of the following:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Seizure disorders
  • Hypertension
  • Allergic lung disease
  • Pregnancy

Since he recently got a full physical and a clean bill of health, we’re comfortable with Benadryl. The usual dosage is about a milligram per pound, but – particularly considering the booze – I may just cut that in half.

It’s the same formulation of Benadryl that my wife and I have taken for sleep for years. That doesn’t guarantee that Sam won’t react differently to it, but it’s probably pretty unlikely.

Whoops, sorry. Don’t know why I keep forgetting that.

No worries. There won’t be a quiz, and I’m grateful for your thoughts.