Dental Q & A With El Segundo Animal Hospital

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El Segundo Animal Hospital has grown to be a new gem among South Bay pet owners, after opening their doors just a little over two and a half years ago in the community based town. What makes this hospital so unique is the staff’s compassion for pets, as well as every client that walks through their door. When it came time for Dental Month, I knew to ask the owner and head Veterinarian, Dr. Streiber, for his expertise on dental hygiene and cleanings.

 

Q. How often does my dog/ cat need his/her teeth cleaned?

A. Generally speaking, a dog or cat should have a dental prophylaxis (routine scaling & polishing) performed on an annual basis.  In some cases, however, some animals may require them more frequently, while the opposite (required less frequently) may also be true.

Q. Does my pet really need anesthesia when getting a cleaning? I have
heard of Non-Anesthetic dental cleaning, are those just as good?

A. To state that your pet “needs” anesthesia for his/her dental prophylaxis is certainly debatable.  However, and with that said, I ALWAYS recommend to ALL of my clients that a dental prophylaxis for their pet is best performed under general anesthesia for the following reasons: 1. An animal / pet / patient does not become stressed with chemical restraint as they might with manual restraint, AND 2. It allows us to better assess individual tooth / gum / gingiva health MUCH more accurately.

Q. What is the proper way to brush my pet’s teeth? What can I do if
they do not let me brush them? How often should I be brushing my pet’s
teeth?

A. The proper way to brush your pet’s teeth is the very same technique that we use on us; just as we were taught as children.  If for some reason your pet resists your attempts to brush his or her teeth, then, at the very least, spreading the paste over the flat surfaces of their teeth is better than nothing at all.  And, ideally, as with your own teeth, your pet’s teeth should be brushed on a daily basis

Q. My pet is young and healthy why does he/she need blood work prior to
their cleaning?

A. Blood work is recommend for ANY animal of ANY age prior to ANY procedure to be performed under general anesthesia, so that we may check the pet’s liver and kidney function specifically, and the rest of the body’s blood parameters generally.  As veterinarians, we strive to make certain that every animal, regardless of their age, is as healthy as possible prior to being placed under general anesthesia.

Q. Why does my pet need to fast before undergoing anesthesia?

A. Fasting is REQUIRED because we do not want ANY food or ingest (digested food) in an animal’s stomach at the time of the scheduled dental procedure.  The risk is that any of the pre-medications, the anesthesia induction agent or the inhaled anesthesia may cause an animal to vomit.  If an animal vomits after any of these medications has been given, the animal is no longer in a position to protect itself from inhaling any of the vomitus.  If an animal vomits, and they inhale some of it down their trachea, the animal will likely develop aspiration pneumonia as a result of the inhalation.  Therefore, we do not want ANY type of food or treat in an animal’s stomach at the time of the dental prophylaxis.

Q. Can dental disease be reversed?

A. Excellent question!  Like in human dentistry, we are NOT able to reverse dental disease in animals.  However, with routine scaling, polishing, gingival treatment and on-going maintenance, dental disease can be slowed dramatically, then managed.

Q. Do oral conditions of my pet influence overall health?

A. Yes.  Absolutely.  A healthy oral cavity contributes to an animal’s overall feeling of well being, energy level, playfulness and interaction with its family.  Quite often I have found that an owner is unaware of the extent of their animal’s dental disease, until after their pet has undergone a dental prophylaxis.  Once the pet is home, the anesthesia metabolized and the pet is back into it’s routine, an owner will notice that their pet has a better appetite, has more energy to play and is much more involved with the family.  All of this is anecdotal of course, but it has been reported to me quite often after an animal has had a cleaning and polishing!

Q. Why does my dog need antibiotics after dentals?

A. Post-dental antibiotics are usually recommend for the very worst of the mouths we see for the following reason: tartar built-up on teeth contains bacteria, gingivitis is usually attendant with the presence of moderate to heavy tartar, and when an animal’s teeth are scaled and polished, as with human gums, pet’s gums may bleed from simply being cleaned.  Blood is an important food source for bacteria, and the bleeding gums are an excellent entry point for bacteria into an animal’s blood stream and body.  Post-op antibiotics are prescribed to stop this very process before it can occur.  It’s all about prevention, and preventative medicine.

Q. Can dry food and bones be feed to clean their teeth?

A. While there are many diets and treats that promote dental health available in the market place, I am not entirely convinced that either of these products is very effective.  Tartar collects on the flat, vertical surfaces of teeth.  Food and treats tend to be chewed up, ground down, on the uneven, horizontal surfaces of animal’s teeth.  As a result, I am simply not sure of the efficacy of veterinary diets or treats to promote an animal’s dental health.

Q. What is gingivitis and periodontal disease? What are signs that my pet
has either of these?

A. Gingivitis is the term used to describe the inflammation of the gums (A medical condition in which the gums become inflamed), while periodontal disease is the term used to describe the actual condition of the gums being inflamed (The medical condition in which the tissues around the teeth are inflamed).  Some of the signs or symptoms usually indicating that a pet may be suffering from these are the following: decreased appetite, decreased energy, decreased interaction with the pet’s family, halitosis (bad breath) or a general overall feeling of malaise.

Q. Why does my dog/cat always have bad breath? Can I do something about
this?

A. You pet’s bad breath (halitosis) may be due to one of three possible scenarios: the protein source used in your pet’s food (e.g. fish vs. turkey), dental disease or some other, as yet undiagnosed internal disease process that may have halitosis as a component, for whatever the reason.

Q. What is your process for a dental cleaning?

A.  1. Physical exam by the attending DVM / 2. IV catheter placement / 3. Pre-medications /  4. Anesthetic induction /  5. endotracheal tube placement /  6. maintenance on gas anesthesia / 7. close monitoring of patient parameters (heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation) / 8. scaling & polishing / 9. Extractions as recommended / necessary / 10. ending of procedure / 11. recovery of patient to point of extubation (removal of endotracheal tube when patient is breathing on his/her own) and sitting sternly (a normal sit position).

Q. What steps does your staff take to make pets feel more at ease when
they are dropped off for their procedures?

A. My staff is fantastic in that, because they are all animal lovers, and all pet owners, will, without having to be asked or directed, walk or cradle pets, will sit with the pets, will interact with pets, will comfort the pets prior to their procedure and will aide in their recovery by sitting with them, talking with them and gently stroking them as they recover from their inhaled general anesthesia.  My staff is truly one of a kind!

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Interested in learning more about Dr. Streiber and his amazing staff? Check out their website or bring your pet in for their dental cleaning and receive 20% off  Dental Prophylaxis (scaling & polishing only, no extractions) and 20% off blood work (as a precursor to a procedure)!