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Ask the Veterinarian/dogs dental health


Regarding dental plaque in dogs - I know that this can be avoided if a dogs teeth are kept clean from the time they are puppies however We have a rescue dog and She has some plaque that needs to be removed. ten years ago I owned a toy poodle and even though I brushed His teeth he still needed a cleaning from the vets office. I found out later in years that each time a dog is put under it is detrimental to their nervous system especially their brain in older dogs.One day My vet removed a piece of plaque from My dogs tooth with her finger nail. I could not believe how it just snapped off. Is it safe to try to remove this plaque this way with a dental scraping tool if its done gently in a downward motion ? We rescued an older Minn Pinn and I dont want to put her through the anesthia. What about these products that are sprayed on the plaque, does that stuff work or is it a scam. Peanut does not need heart disease so I want to get her teeth clean. thanks

I understand the concern about anesthesia, especially in older animals, but I know from experience that they do not suffer from CNS problems from being given anesthesia drugs. Most pets are put under with a mild sedative then are given a gas anesthetic that is very safe- its' the same drug used on humans, including babies.

Anesthesia in older pets is monitored and very carefully given by the veterinarian themselves. Many of the concerns are addressed by doing pre-op blood work to determine the state of the kidneys and liver, which are both instrumental in filtering out the drugs later. Most hospitals use monitoring equipment for their heart rates, oxygen levels and sometimes even blood pressure while they are under.

Deep dental cleanings require this level of anesthesia because the technician must go under the gum line to clean out the accumulated debris and tartar.

Without going under the gum line the bacteria and plaque that cause periodontal disease are not removed and then the dog starts having gingivitis then really bad gum disease. This is what seeds the body with that constant bacteria that causes the heart, kidney and even liver disease.

Now there is a product called Leba that supposedly works pretty well but remember it does not remove the plaque below the gum line.

It is really hard to remove most plaque with a fingernail on a dog. You can do it easier with cats because their teeth are so much smaller and the plaque builds up a shelf that breaks off.

With dogs it really sticks. If you are able to chunk it off then the tooth underneath is going to be very diseased. Using a dental tool without a sedative or under anesthesia can not only be dangerous for both of you, but if you scrape the teeth with it and don't polish them, then you set up a stage for the bacteria to build more plaque twice as fast. With every dental prophylaxis we do there is a total polishing done as well as a rinse to kill more bacteria in the mouth. Some vets use washes that help seal the teeth for a time.

I hope that answers some of your concerns. Please let me know if I can help further.

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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