You feed raw, refrain from unnecessary vaccinations and keep chemicals as far away as possible from your beloved dog. You’re doing good.
But then, there’s his teeth. He’s getting to that age when even your holistic vet is recommending a cleaning.
Because of the anesthetics, sedatives and X-rays involved, you are very, very uncomfortable with the idea. And, with good reason …
Read more about the effects of anesthesia in dogs, here.
So what are your options?
Dental cleanings without anesthesia for dogs and cats are performed in much the same way they’re performed in humans, according to holistic veterinarian Annette Richmond in an article for Dogs Naturally Magazine. She describes it as a four-step process:
- An ultrasonic cleaner or dental hygiene scaling instrument is used to clean the teeth and the area under the gum line.
- A probe is used to check for problems below the gum line.
- The teeth are polished to remove any tartar and staining.
- The mouth is rinsed with a natural antiseptic to help clean out debris from the procedure.
At this point, you might be thinking: “My dog would never sit still for that!”
But, you might be surprised! Though there are certainly cases when dogs are too skittish for the procedure, Richmond says many dogs do just fine.
“Several different natural calming remedies can be used to help relax the patient if needed. Herbal mixtures of tryptophan and valerian, or Bach flower essences, are commonly used and effective,” according to Richmond. “Even nervous animals can respond well to the gentle techniques of the technician, and with the help of a calming supplement, are able to relax enough to allow completion of the procedure.”
Of course, if your dog is aggressive or just too nervous, or has severe periodontal disease, then anesthesia-free dental just might not be for him – which is why a veterinary exam is vital to assessing eligibility.
But as with most natural solutions to health problems, there is controversy.
Conventional Dentistry Opposition
In fact, the American Veterinary Dental College has taken a strong stance against anesthesia-free dentistry, preferring to call it non-professional dental scaling. In 2013, the American Animal Hospital Association decided to stop accrediting veterinary practices if they offered anesthesia-free dentistry, mandating anesthesia and intubation for dental procedures like cleanings.
There are vets on both sides of the controversy. Opponents say sharp instruments used to clean teeth pose a threat to human and animal alike because of unwanted movement by the pet. And because the animal is awake, techs are not as thorough and so the cleanings are much less effective. On the other hand, proponents say anesthesia-free dentistry is much more affordable and a much safer option to the anesthesia used in traditional dentistry – especially for pets that can’t go under anesthesia because of existing health conditions. And as mentioned above, they cite techniques that help the animal relax enough to accomplish an effective cleaning.
Dr Turie Norman, DVM
“Our company has elevated the practice,” she says. “We are cleaning the teeth and under the gum line, we are probing the gum line looking for “pockets,” we are identifying disease, charting the mouth and informing the customer to follow up with their veterinarians. If we find pockets, loose teeth, excessive recession or broken teeth with pulp exposure, we recommend that they see their veterinarian for treatment. Almost every mouth cleaned is directly supervised by a veterinarian, so the technicians are held to a high standard.”
Norman says Well Animal Institute is working on creating a scientific acceptance of anesthesia-free dentistry within the veterinary community.
“The obvious danger of a traditional dental cleaning is the risk of anesthesia,” she says. “Only a small percent die under anesthesia, although I hear far too many stories from my clients about losing their beloved pets under anesthesia for a routine dental. More often I hear that the dog or cat took a long time to recover from the anesthesia. Anesthesia is a poison the body has to process and expel. Why put an animal under anesthesia if it is not necessary?”
What You Can Do At Home
It should be no big surprise that nutrition plays a big role in the health of an animal’s teeth. More specifically, food. The closer the animal’s diet resembles what his wolfy counterparts eat in the wild – raw meat, organs and bones – the better his teeth. The more processed and sugary his food is – aka kibble – the greater the likelihood his teeth will suffer.
Learn more about raw feeding, here.
You might be thinking: “Well, I had a dog who ate kibble all his life and had great teeth!”
While nutrition certainly plays a role, there are other factors …
Brushing your dog’s teeth – preferably with a natural pet toothpaste, gel or spray – is helpful, as well as giving him plenty of raw, consumable bones – or natural chews like deer antlers … And sometimes a dog can simply be blessed with attributes that make his teeth healthier – but who wants to chance that?
Here’s some reading to help you build a proper home dental care routine for your dog:
And for those of you really wanting to do things the natural way, here’s a quick guide on using homeopathy to help with some common dental problems: