General anaesthesia is needed for all dental procedures in dogs and cats

Text: Jerneja Sredenšek

To properly diagnose and treat oral and dental diseases in dogs and cats with the goal to improve their quality of life, the animals need to be under general anaesthesia. Significant developments in the field of veterinary anaesthesia in the recent decade enable for a safe anaesthesia, also in animals with other (systemic) diseases. However, there is still no 100% guarantee, that no complications will occur during the procedure, even in young and healthy animals, but with proper approaches, the chances of complications can be minimized.

Do not fast your animal for too long before anaesthesia

Animals should not be fasted for more than 4 to 6 hours before anaesthesia and water can be offered up until the procedure. If your appointment is scheduled in the morning, you can feed your animal his/her normal meal in the evening and withdraw the food overnight. If your appointment is scheduled in the afternoon then your animal should be fed a small meal in the morning. If you have a puppy or a kitten, if your animal has a special feeding regime or suffers from any disease such as diabetes, always consult your veterinarian before fasting the animal.

Preanaesthetic work-up is needed to adjust the anaesthesia protocol to the animal’s needs

A few days before anaesthesia a thorough physical exam and bloodwork is needed. If any abnormalities are noted, these should be addressed and the animal appropriately treated before the procedure under general anaesthesia, unless it is an emergency procedure. If your animal has been diagnosed with any chronic disease (e.g., kidney or liver disease, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, epilepsy), consult your veterinarian before the procedure under general anaesthesia to ensure that the disease is under control as this will reduce the risks of general anaesthesia.

Airway protection during anaesthesia is important

During anaesthesia an endotracheal tube is placed to provide access for oxygen (and anaesthetic gases with inhalational anaesthesia) and to prevent any aspiration of the water and debris from the oral cavity during dental procedures. If airways remain unprotected, the animal may aspirate the contents from the oral cavity, which can result in aspiration pneumonia, a life-threatening complication.

Constant monitoring of the patient is the key to safe anaesthesia

All animals that undergo general anaesthesia at the Small Animal Clinic of the Veterinary Faculty in Ljubljana are constantly monitored by an experienced veterinary anaesthesiologist. He or she will monitor e.g., breathing, cardiac function and blood pressure, body temperature, certain expired and inspired as well as blood gases and reflexes to assure all vital functions are normal and will act promptly and accordingly if any abnormalities are noted to prevent or treat complications.

We strive to provide the best possible care for your animalin knowledge and equipment. Our dental operatory is equipped with all necessary anaesthesia machines and monitors to assure the safest anaesthesia possible, perfusion pumps for precise intravenous application of fluids and medications and a safe and efficient system for active thermal support.

Your animal will be discharged from the hospital as soon as possible, but not too early

Animals are discharged from the hospital when they are completely awake. You may give them water and small amount of food when you get home. If they tolerate food well (no vomiting, salivating), you may continue with the regular feeding schedule. If any gastrointestinal upset is noted, consult with your veterinarian. In (the exceptional!) case of discharging your animal while still sedated, we will discuss the feeding regime in detail. We also always prepare discharge instructions for you regarding post-procedural expectations, possible complications, medications and any other details relevant to recovery of your animal, so, please, read these instructions carefully.

General anaesthesia interferes with the centrum for thermoregulation and it is therefore very important to keep your animal away from the sun and heat in summer months and indoors in colder months for at least a day after the procedure. If you will be using any heating devices in cold winter months, ensure that the animal can avoid them if they feel too hot.

Jerneja Sredenšek, dr. vet. med., continued to work and learn at different hospitals across the Europe upon her graduation from the Veterinary Faculty in Ljubljana. She has also enrolled in the alternative residency program, an international specialisation program in veterinary anaesthesia, that she is about to complete soon. I am more than happy to have Jerneja joined our team at the Small Animal Clinic of Veterinary Faculty in Ljubljana – I know how difficult it can be to return home, but people like Jerneja are needed to ensure further progress of a specialty field (and to shoot a photo for me if there are any free 5 minutes when all goes as planned 😊).