Dear Dr. Forsythe: Do you recommend hand scaling teeth when a pet needs a dental but shouldn’t go under anesthesia because it is a high-risk patient? I found out that my little Chihuahua has a heart murmur, so I wanted the vet to hand scale her teeth while she is awake rather than use anesthesia. Could you please weigh in? Thanks.
Dear JG: I do not believe that hand scaling is best medicine for your pet. It may help to cosmetically remove some of the plaque and staining on the teeth, but it does not remove the debris from up under the gum line where it can do the most harm. The fact is that a thorough dental scaling is painful and causes some bleeding. Also, when a pet is receiving a hand scale, how would the veterinarian obtain the essential X-ray of a chipped tooth or remove a tooth that had a fracture or needed another treatment?
Pets, even friendly, nice ones, would not hold still for that type of discomfort, so they do need to be under anesthesia in order to receive a thorough dental prophy as well as any adjunctive procedures that could become necessary.
What’s more, scaling teeth and causing bleeding in a pet that has a heart murmur could be causing potential danger—because the “hand scaler” could be seeding the bloodstream with dangerous bacteria that could get into the heart, kidneys and other organs, and cause severe damage if the pet does not also receive antibiotics at the same time.
It would be best medicine for your veterinarian to diagnose the heart murmur and get the heart condition under control, and then perform a dental cleaning properly with the safest anesthesia possible. In my opinion, this would minimize the risk of infection and complications to your precious little pet and prevent other problems down the road.
Thanks for your excellent question.
Dear Dr. Forsythe: I need some advice following a terrible thing that happened to the cat I was house-sitting last weekend. I was feeding and looking in on a friend’s cat for the weekend, and on the evening when they were to come home, “Toby” got out between my feet and disappeared.
Sadly, he was attacked and died that night not far from the house. As you can imagine, my friends are very upset and I feel terrible about the fact that the cat slipped out while I was caring for him. I was wondering what the “etiquette” was for handling this situation. I know that they need some space, but I want to do something to show them how badly I feel about this loss. Your advice will be appreciated.
Dear GA: I give my sympathy to you and your friends for this sad loss. Please remember that some times terrible things happen to good people and sweet, innocent pets. It sounds like this was an innocent mistake and you must explain this to your friends and let them know how badly you feel. While they will be hurting and be angry and sad, a nice card from you and some flowers will be a kind gesture from you that shows how much you care. Other gestures of kindness could include offering to pay for a private cremation of the body or planting a tree or shrub in the pet’s honor.
You could also make a donation in the pet’s honor to Pets Lifeline. Aside from these, a tincture of time and warm hug and heartfelt apology in person will provide the most healing and warmth. My kind wishes and prayers to all of you.
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