Archive for November, 2011

Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning

November 27, 2011

It’s natural to have concerns about general anesthesia, whether for ourselves or for our beloved pets. After all, no matter how young and healthy the patient, there is always some associated risk. For this reason, anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets has become more and more popular. And with no anesthesia, the cost of cleaning Fido’s or Fluffy’s teeth is significantly reduced- clearly another attractive feature. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning for your pet sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? Before you jump on this bandwagon I encourage you to consider whether or not this option truly serves your dog’s or your cat’s best health interest.

I’m a big believer in regularly brushing your pet’s teeth at home. Thoroughly removing dental tartar on an awake animal, however, is a whole nother ball game! Even with highly skilled hands and a super-cooperative animal, it is impossible to successfully and painlessly remove tartar from underneath the gum lines and along the inner surfaces of the teeth (the surfaces in closest proximity to the tongue). And, if the end result of cleaning is anything other than polished, super smooth, dental surfaces, tartar will quickly reaccumulate. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning definitely gives the outer surfaces of the teeth a cleaner look. While this may be pleasing to your eye, there is no significant benefit to your pet’s health. For all of these reasons, if and when dental cleaning is warranted for your dog or cat, I strongly encourage that it be performed with the aid of general anesthesia.

Now, there are some caveats that accompany my recommendation. For some animals, the risks associated with general anesthesia clearly outweigh the benefits, for example a dog or cat with advanced heart disease or kidney failure. Even for the healthiest animals, general anesthesia should be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient’s status at all times. A list of important questions to ask your veterinarian about general anesthesia can be found in Speaking for Spot within the chapter called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet…and How to Ask Them.”

The American Veterinary Dental College also advises against anesthesia-free dental cleaning. Here is an excerpt from their recently drafted position statement:

“Owners of pets naturally are concerned when anesthesia is required for their pet. However, performing nonprofessional dental scaling on an unanesthetized pet is inappropriate for the following reasons:

  1. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using ultrasonic and sonic power scalers, plus hand instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.
  2. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gingival margin (gum line), followed by dental polishing. The most critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the gingival pocket (the subgingival space between the gum and the root), where periodontal disease is active. Because the patient cooperates, dental scaling of human teeth performed by a professional trained in the procedures can be completed successfully without anesthesia. However, access to the subgingival area of every tooth is impossible in an unanesthetized canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet’s health and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.
  3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotracheal tube provides three important advantages- the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.
  4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible in an unanesthetized patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease and discomfort are likely to be missed.”

How do you feel about anesthesia-free versus anesthetized dental cleaning? Keep in mind, for some folks this is a rather heated topic. Let’s keep the conversation civilized!

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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We Made It!

November 20, 2011

Quinn and yours truly in travel mode

I’m pleased to report that our menagerie (my hubby and I included) have arrived, safe and sound in North Carolina! Thankfully, our trip was mostly uneventful. We had only one hiccup along the way and that occurred in our very own driveway in California. We had packed the bed of the pickup truck with oodles of stuff including a wooden table. With the very first turn out of our driveway, the gooseneck of the horse trailer pushed the corner of that table right through the rear window of our pick up truck. The result was an explosive noise and flying glass. Fortunately, no one was injured, but I’ve never witnessed two dogs fly from the back seat of a vehicle into the front so quickly! We cleaned up the shattered glass, used cardboard and “gorilla tape” to replace the missing window, took a really deep breath, and headed east. The remainder of the trip was smooth sailing.

Our overnights were spent in Bakersfield, California (where our younger dog Quinn was rescued from a “kill shelter”), Flagstaff, Arizona (a gorgeous place), Tucumcari, New Mexico (I love the way the name of this town rolls off my tongue, but never have our dog’s feet encountered such nasty stickers), Cromwell, Oklahoma (this year a tornado, an earthquake, and a severe drought have ravaged the area), and Jackson, Tennessee where we truly felt like we were in the “east” for the first time.

Part of the gang right after arriving in North Carolina

We encountered fabulous people at every overnight stop along the way. All had fascinating stories to share about their lives and why they ended up where they have. The common thread for all of our hosts was a profound love for animals as evidenced by properties filled with horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. Michelle, our host in Cromwell, Oklahoma has several adorable rescue dogs desperately in need of homes. If you live anywhere near Cromwell and are ready to add a new member to your own menagerie, please let me know and I will put you in touch with Michelle. By the way, she also has a rescue horse she is hoping to rehome.

We arrived at our North Carolina home in lovely 70-degree weather and some remaining fall color. Some of the leaves are such brilliant shades of red and orange, that trees appear as if they are on fire. After six days on the road, we all thoroughly enjoyed stretching our legs. My husband’s horse galloped around his new pasture (I am currently horseless, but hopefully not for too much longer), our kitty enjoyed inspecting her new surroundings, and my husband, the dogs, and I took a long hike through a six inch carpet of crisp leaves. The dogs must have run a good five miles on our one-mile hike. It feels great for all of us to be in our new home and we are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here.

Have you ever moved cross-country with animals in tow? If so, would you ever consider doing it again?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Black Friday Special – 2 for 1

November 19, 2011

 

Click on the picture to access the special 2 for 1 purchase link – http://www.speakingforspot.com/holiday2for1.html.

You can purchase single copies of Speaking for Spot via http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html and designate your favorite participating non-profit group to receive $6 per copy.

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Goin’ to Carolina

November 5, 2011

While you are reading this, my husband and I are in the process of driving cross-country with our animals in tow. We’ve decided to follow our hearts on a new adventure and are leaving the warm slopes of northern California for the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The decision to move 3,000 miles certainly wasn’t made on the fly. My husband and I are big thinkers and planners, carefully weighing in on all the pros and cons over and over again. But, boy oh boy, this is a biggee and I vacillate between feeling super excited and scared to death!

Our friends, relatives, and colleagues (particularly those who have never been to western North Carolina) have all asked, “Why are you doing this?” The answer is really quite simple- our response is “Because we can.” Our three little chicks have left the nest and are doing their thing out in the world (Wyoming, Ohio and Germany). My hubby and I like to think of this major life change as our attempt to make our “third trimester” all that we want it to be. We are both avid horseback riders and we’ve longed to live on property abutting an extensive trail system. This means saddling and up and riding out with no horse trailering involved! Our new property abuts Dupont State Forest, a veritable mecca for horseback riding.

After figuring out where we wanted to live I checked out job prospects. The closest specialty hospital is Upstate Veterinary Specialists.  Now this part is too good to be true- not only did this hospital win the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Specialty Hospital of the Year Award, the hospital owners want me to work with them! I will begin my new job in early December.

You won’t hear from me for another week or two. Not to worry, once settled I will resume my regular blogging habits, although you may begin to detect a bit of a southern accent!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.