When your dog approaches you for kisses, do you get turned off by his rancid breath? Does he have issues picking up food, or are his gums bleeding, red or inflamed? These are all signs that something might be wrong with your furkid’s dental health. Think about it: Fido’s warm and wet mouth is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow and multiply. And while a visit to the vet might soon be in store for Fido, there’re actually several ways you can take care of your furry friend’s dental health. To help you decide what’s best for your pooch, we take a closer look at a few of these methods.

SCALING AND POLISHING (WITH ANAESTHESIA)

How it works: Professional dental scaling and polishing, performed under general anesthesia, can only be done by a veterinarian. How often though, is best left to your vet, says Dr Kenneth Tong from the Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic. A sensible estimation would be once a year, although once every four months is acceptable as well.

 Furkids are first assessed by the vet and then put under general anaesthesia. When Fido is completely asleep and does not feel any pain, drips are placed to maintain blood pressure, while tubes are inserted in his windpipe to help him breathe. After this prep, the actual cleaning process begins. 

“Scaling involves a metal tip that vibrates and breaks the plaque and tartar from the teeth,” says Dr Tong, adding that the metal tip is used to clean both teeth and under the gum margins, where most bacteria is trapped. While this is happening, the vet also checks the integrity of the gum and teeth, removes any decayed teeth, and stitches up any exposed gums if necessary. Polishing is done after scaling—it involves a rotating cup and a special paste that helps remove any minor stains and plaque still left on the teeth; it also smoothens the surface of the teeth.

Pros: The procedure is performed in a pain-free setting, thanks to the anaesthesia. Plus, some of the procedures such as tooth extraction, can only be completed under general anaesthesia. With this method, you can be certain that all the plaque, tartar and bacteria are thoroughly removed.

Cons: As with all anaesthesia, there is a certain risk involved. “The risk of death is plausible even though it’s less than 0.5 percent in most cases,” says Dr Tong. He acknowledges, however, that it’s still a danger no matter how low the odds. If you’re worried about putting your pet under anaesthesia, consult your vet first.

Tip: Some doggies such as Malteses and Chihuahuas are predisposed to close teeth, and they may need their teeth professionally cleaned more often than other breeds. 

EXPERT OPINION: “The pros outweigh the cons,” says Dr Tong, adding that the risks involved with anaesthesia are negligible. Plus, if left unchecked, poor dental hygiene could lead to health complications. Plaque build-up allows large amounts of bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where they become stuck in capillary beds—especially where blood supply is rich. “This means the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart are most affected,” says Dr Paul Mitchell from Animal Recovery Veterinary Referral Centre. “The bacteria that settle in these places are thought to cause chronic illness, and are the root cause of leaking heart valves, chronic liver disease, respiratory infections, and kidney failure in older animals.”

To find out how to better take care of Fido's dental health, flip to Body & Soul (pg 58) of our Feb/Mar 2017 issue!