Risks of anesthesia free pet dental cleanings

“Anesthesia free” may seem to most like a less risky procedure for your dog or cat than a veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia. Of course we all love our pets and are nervous about the idea of them going under anesthesia. However, when it comes to pet dental health, the risks of periodontal disease and oral health problems due to lack of proper dental care far outweigh the risk of anesthesia.

* The teeth on the visible surface may appear to be clean and healthy however, below the gum line is where periodontal disease is of concern. Anesthesia free dentals are strictly cosmetic meant to make the teeth look better when in fact it is very harmful to the teeth.  

Consider the following about anesthesia free pet dental cleanings and periodontal disease:

  • Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition among adult dogs and cats. Unfortunately, there are often no visible signs of periodontal disease until there is so much damage beneath the gum-line that the pet often has bone loss and loses teeth. Anesthesia free dental procedures have no way of cleaning beneath the gum line to prevent periodontal disease, nor are they able to look beneath the gum-line to identify problems before they become painful and expensive to treat. 

  • During an anesthesia free dental procedure, the surface of your pet’s teeth are scaled with an instrument leaving grooves in the pet’s teeth and a rough surface primed for the adherence of more bacteria. This process occurs rapidly and is usually worse than before the cleaning was done. This makes it necessary to repeat the procedure.

  • Your pet is very likely uncomfortable and in pain during an anesthesia free dental procedure and is required to be restrained for long periods of time while a sharp instrument is used in the mouth. This is very dangerous and can result in damage to the gums or cheeks. A veterinary cleaning allows them to undergo a proper cleaning without any pain or discomfort.

  • Painful conditions can’t be identified during an anesthesia free pet dental procedure. It is impossible to do x-rays and adequately examine all surfaces of your pet’s oral cavity while awake. Radiographs and a veterinary oral health evaluation are vital in detecting problems early while they are relatively easy and much less expensive to treat.

  • Anesthesia free dental cleanings give pet owners a false sense of security. Unfortunately, just because their pet’s teeth appear whiter doesn’t mean they are free from oral disease.

  • The cost of an anesthesia free dental procedure is cheaper in the short run. However, pet owners are risking the need for much higher costs to care for severe dental problems that have gone unidentified for a number of years.

  • For the above reasons, we feel that while it may be aesthetically pleasing for people to have their dog's teeth cleaned in this manner and undoubtedly financially appealing, it will most likely cost more in the long run, provides no health benefits, and may be harmful to your pet.



H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus

Canine influenza virus (CIV) is a type of influenza A that is adapted to dogs. There are two different CIVs in North America.

H3N8 CIV was first identified in Florida in the early 2000s and was the result of adaptation of an equine influenza strain to dogs. This virus is still present in the US but the incidence of disease appears to be relatively low.

H3N2 CIV is a more recently encountered strain in North America. It is believed to have originated in Asia as a result of direct transmission of an avian H3N2 virus to dogs. It has spread widely in the US, causing outbreaks in many regions. H3N2 CIV was first identified in Canada in southwestern Ontario in late December 2017.


  • Transmission of CIV, involves direct contact between animals, short-distance aerosol transmission and indirect transmission from contaminated objects. Direct contact poses the highest risk. Owners can potentially spread the virus through short-term carriage of CIV on their bodies or clothing. Infected dogs can start shedding CIV before the onset of disease (usually ~24h before), so  dogs showing no symptoms can be a source of infection.

  • H3N2 influenza causes symptoms that are indistinguishable from other upper respiratory infections such as "Kennel Cough". Dogs of any age can be affected, although disease is more likely to be severe in very young and old dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds. Coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, decreased appetite and fever are the main signs. Most dogs fully recover within 2-3 weeks. Complications are uncommon but the true incidence of severe disease associated with H3N2 CIV is not well understood. Secondary bacterial pneumonia is the main concern. Fatal infections are rare but can occur.

  • There are no specific treatments. Supportive care (e.g. cough suppressants) should be provided, as needed. Antibiotics are not indicated for CIV infection, but occasionally may be needed if a secondary bacterial component develops.

  • Commercial vaccines are available. These may be against H3N8 or both H3N8 and H3N2. Vaccination is not 100% effective but can reduce the risk and potentially severity of infection. A minimum of 2 doses is required, 2-4 weeks apart. CIV vaccination is a non-core vaccine that should be considered based on the risk of exposure and the risk of complications of infection.



Old age is not a disease.  There are a lot of options to help improve your senior pet's quality of life

Aging is a natural process. Although many complex physical changes occur in advancing years, age in itself is not a disease. Even though many conditions that affect older pets are not curable, they can often be controlled. The key to making sure your senior pet has the healthiest and highest quality of life possible is to recognize and reduce factors that may be health risks, detect disease as early as possible, correct or delay the progression of disease, and improve or maintain the health of your furry friend. 

  • Wellness testing is a program tailored around senior pets. Cats over the age of 8 and dogs over the age of 7 are considered seniors. Regular physical exams and blood work are recommended to detect early or hidden diseases in pets that appear to be healthy. In older cats and dogs , Wellness Testing is also used to monitor stable but ongoing health problems.


  • Our pets are very good at hiding illness. If your veterinarian can detect early changes in blood work we can slow the progression of the disease or in some cases correct the problem before permanent damage occurs.


  • Wellness testing  is recommended at least once a year combined with a full physical exam. One year of your pets life is equivalent to 4 human years! Your veterinarian may recommend more frequent testing depending on age, life style of your pet or if signs of disease are present.  Minor changes in the blood work may signal the onset of a disease or the deterioration of an existing condition before there are any visible signs.


  • Wellness testing usually consists of a full CBC (Complete blood count) which checks the different cells in your pets blood. Red blood cells (RBC) are assessed for signs of anemia, any abnormal cells, and check their oxygen carrying capabilities.  The white blood cells (WBC) fight off infections in the body and respond to inflammation. Platelet levels are assessed to make sure your pets blood can clot properly. A microscopic exam of the blood is performed to look at detailed changes in the cells. It can show evidence of parasites, infection, deficiencies and even cancer.


  • A Comprehensive profile is performed to assess the internal organ function. This panel will check liver, kidney, and pancreatic function. It also checks sugar levels and electrolytes that circulate in the bloodstream. Early detection of any changes to these values is key to slowing the progression of disease.


  • Analysis of urine can tell us a lot about the health of your pet. It provides information about how well the kidneys are working and identifies inflammation and infection in the urinary system; it also helps to detect diabetes and can be useful in the diagnosis of cancer within the urinary system.


  • Thyroid testing is recommended for senior pets especially cats. Dogs are prone to hypothyroidism (low hormone production)  where cats are prone to an over production of  hormone. Hyperthyroidism in senior cats is a very common condition. Common signs of hyperthyroidism in cats are unexplained weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, increased activity, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea.


  • Routine wellness testing can help us detect early signs of disease and allow us to correct or control medical problems which help to ensure that your pet will be healthy and happy for as long as possible!


Echinococcus Multilocularis, a small tapeworm with a big name is causing big concerns in Ontario. This tapeworm is normally found in wild canids (Coyotes, foxes) and can infect dogs. The intestinal form of the worm does not make these animals sick. The concern arises when something or someone ingests tapeworm eggs from the feces of an infected animal, potentially leading to a different form of infection. In this form the parasite causes tumor like cysts to develop in various parts of the body, particularly the liver.  The condition can be very difficult to treat by the time it is diagnosed.

A study published by Emerging Infectious Diseases (2019) collected fecal samples from 460 wild canids in Ontario and found that 23% of them were positive for Echinococcus Multilocularis, infection was heavily concentrated in western-central Ontario.

These results show that this parasite is by now well established, at least in parts of Ontario. There is exposure risk through direct or indirect contact with wild canid feces. Dogs that are prone to eating feces or small rodents (dead or alive) are at highest risk for exposure. Exposed dogs may show signs of infection or be healthy carriers of Echinococcus shedding eggs in their feces. People are also at risk of exposure from their pets or coming into contact with fecal contaminated outdoor areas.

The incubation period (the time from ingesting eggs to the time you get sick) is very long, typically 5-15 years. That means we may not know what is truly happening in people for quite some time.

What can we do to prevent exposure? Avoid contact with wild canids and wild canid feces as much as possible.  Prevent and treat intestinal infections in our pets. We can treat dogs for tapeworm but it is not usually part of routine deworming, ask your veterinarian about adding a tapeworm prevention!