What can I do about my pet’s allergies?


Allergies are abnormal reactions in which an animal’s immune systems over reacts to everyday environmental substances. These substances, called allergens or antigens, cause allergic reactions upon exposure by inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. There are many kinds of allergens such as tree, grass or weed pollens, molds, house dust, house dust mites, animal dander, human dander, feathers, fleas, certain bacteria, various chemicals and even ordinary foods.


The root cause of allergies is unknown, although there is clearly a heritable, genetic basis to the problem. Whatever the cause, it is known that for some reason, allergic individuals become sensitized to allergens by producing allergen-specific antibodies against ordinary environmental substances such as pollens and dust. These antibodies attach themselves to Mast Cells in the skin and elsewhere in the body. Subsequent exposure of the allergic individual to the offending antigens, by inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact, leads to cross-linking of the Mast Cell surface antibodies by the offending antigens. Surface antibody cross-linking causes Mast Cells to release histamine, enzymes, and many other biologically active chemicals. These chemicals interact with each other and body tissues to produce the symptoms we recognize as allergies.


Allergic pets manifest symptoms in one of several ways:

  • Itchiness and Scratching. The most common manifestation of allergies among dogs and cats is excessive scratching. This excessive scratching can be localized – affecting just the feet, for example – or it may be generalized.
  • Respiratory problems. Less commonly, affected pets may show some combination of coughing, sneezing, reverse sneezing and wheezing. Red, itchy ears, runny nose, red eyes, and watery eyes can also be seen.
  • Upset Stomach.
  • Rarely, allergic pets may experience vomiting or diarrhea.


The diagnosis of pet allergies depends on the type of allergy present. There are five known types of allergies in the dog and cat. Each of these requires specific diagnostic methods and is briefly discussed below.

Inhalant allergies. This is the most common form of pet allergies. It is also referred to as allergic dermatitis or atopy. Affected pets typically lick, scratch and chew to excess at the face, paws, arm pits, and groin. In the early stages at least, the excessive scratching usually follows a seasonal pattern and responds well to cortisone type medications.

Inhalant allergies can be diagnosed by a veterinarian by noting the persistence of compatible clinical symptoms, after ruling out other diseases which can cause similar symptoms. If the allergy symptoms are mild and the pet responds well to treatment for inhalant allergies, no further tests may be needed. If the problem is more severe and does not respond well to simple measures, then allergy testing should be considered.

The ideal method of testing for inhalant allergies or atopy is Intradermal Skin Testing. This procedure is also the most accurate method of identifying offending allergens for possible avoidance or inclusion in an allergy desensitization treatment program. Serum allergy testing is an easier option, but the costs are not much different and we prefer the superior accuracy of Intradermal Skin Testing.

Many veterinarians and veterinary allergy specialists have achieved good Intradermal Skin Test results by taking advantage of allergen cross reactivity and testing for reactions to as few as 25-35 allergens. At the Chastain Veterinary Medical Group we test for reactions to 52 of the most common allergens in this area. This procedure takes longer, but for us, we feel it provides a clearer picture of the pet’s true allergy status.

Flea allergies. This is a common form of allergies among dogs and cats. Affected pets typically scratch at the rump or tail head area (dogs), or the head and neck area (cats), leading to hair loss, scabs and open sores. Flea allergies can be diagnosed by a veterinarian by noting the presence of fleas or “flea dirt” in the coat, along with persistence of compatible clinical symptoms after ruling out other diseases which can cause similar symptoms. The diagnosis can be confirmed by Intradermal Skin Testing, serum allergy testing, or by observing the disappearance of symptoms once flea exposure is eliminated.

Food allergies. This is an uncommon form of allergies among dogs and cats. Typical offending food constituents are proteins from chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, and most especially, beef. Food allergic pets usually experience a non-seasonal excessive scratching that responds poorly to cortisone type medications. Food allergies can be diagnosed by your veterinarian by noting the persistence of compatible clinical symptoms after ruling out other diseases which can cause similar symptoms. Confirmation of the diagnosis requires demonstrating that symptoms resolve when the offending foods are removed from the diet and reappear when the offending foods are re-introduced.

Bacterial Allergies. Bacterial allergies appear to be a unique disorder of dogs. Cats appear to be unaffected. Bacterial allergies are an abnormal response to the presence of normal skin bacteria of the genus Staphylococcus. Staph-allergic dogs develop areas of hair loss and skin crusting that look much like ringworm. Classically, the skin lesions resolve when treated with antibiotics, only to recur when the antibiotics are discontinued. This should be an important clue to the veterinarian that there is more going on than just a simple skin infection. Bacterial allergies can be diagnosed by a veterinarian on the basis of patient history and the recurrent symptoms, after ruling out other diseases which can cause similar findings. The diagnosis should ideally be confirmed by Intradermal Skin Testing.

Contact allergies. Contact allergy is the least common type of allergy. Contact allergies generally produce localized skin reactions – redness, swelling, itching, and hair loss. Examples of contact allergy include skin reactions to flea collars, plastic pet food bowls, pet sweaters, or wool bedding. Contact allergies can be diagnosed by your veterinarian by noting the persistence of compatible clinical symptoms after ruling out other diseases which can cause similar symptoms. Confirmation of the diagnosis requires demonstrating that symptoms resolve once the contact irritant is removed, and re-appear when the pet is re-exposed to the offending material.


The protocols for treatment of allergies in dogs and cats vary somewhat with the type of allergy present. These are discussed below.

Inhalant allergies. Treatment of inhalant allergies depends largely on how much the condition is bothering the pet and the pet owner. Treatment options for inhalant allergic pets include the following:

•Avoidance / Environmental Control – If the offending allergens are known, then avoidance is the best method of treatment, if feasible. Even if the pet is being desensitized with allergy shots (see below), it still makes sense to avoid the offending allergens altogether, if possible. For example, indoor mold allergies can be reduced by using a dehumidifier or placing activated charcoal on top of the exposed dirt in potted house plants. Dusts and pollens are best controlled by using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Air conditioning can also reduce circulating amounts of airborne allergens because windows are then kept closed.

•Topical Therapy – This may involve nothing more than cool water baths with or without colloidal oatmeal shampoos or other medicated shampoos. This is easy, inexpensive and can be repeated frequently, but it is labor intensive and provides only temporary relief.

•Dietary Supplementation – Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Diets and dietary supplements that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce allergy symptoms. Examples of omega fatty acid supplements include Derm Caps, and EFA-Z Plus.

•Diet Change – Certain therapeutic pet foods, such as Eukanuba’s Response KO/Canine Dry Formula and Response FP/Canine Dry Formula are specifically formulated to soothe allergies and contain both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These food, alone or in combination with addition fatty acid supplementation from Derm Caps or EFA-Z Plus, have brought significant relief to many pets.

•Antihistamines – Antihistamines prescribed by a veterinarian are relatively safe and effective in dogs and cats. Studies indicate that ten to thirty percent of dog owners see favorable results with antihistamines alone. They appear to be even more effective in cats. The major drawback to antihistamines, as with people, is sedation. Antihistamines commonly used in dogs and cats include: chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, and clemastine.

•Corticosteroids – These compounds reduce itching by reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, they also affect every organ in the body. They are perhaps best used when the allergy season is short; the amount of drug required is small, or as a last resort to relieve a pet in extreme discomfort. Side effects can include increased thirst and appetite, increased need to urinate and behavioral changes. Long term use has been associated, in some cases, with diabetes, pancreatitis, decreased resistance to infection and increased susceptibility to seizures. Corticosteroids can be recognized by the suffix “-one”, such as cortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone, etc.

•Immunotherapy or “Allergy Shots” – The ideal method of treatment for inhalant allergies or atopy is desensitization of the patient with multiple antigen injections. These are often called “allergy shots”.

Allergy shots are generally safe, effective, and many people have had great success with them – either personally or in their pets. The allergen mix in the allergy shots is customized for each pet, based on the results of allergy testing; usually intradermal skin testing. Once the specific allergens have been identified, very small amounts of the offending antigen are injected into the pet every 20-40 days or so in the Allergy Shots.

The purpose of this therapy is to reprogram the pet’s immune system. It is hoped that as time passes, the immune system will become less reactive to the problem-causing allergens.

If Allergy Shots appear to help the pet, injections will need to continue for several years at a minimum. For most pets, a realistic goal is for the itching to be significantly reduced in severity; in a few lucky pets, the itching may completely resolve.

The biggest drawbacks to immunotherapy are that allergy testing is expensive (several hundred dollars), allergy shots are very slow to work (months), and administering the Allergy Shots is somewhat labor intensive. Still, the success rate of immunotherapy based on allergy testing is said to be about 60 – 80% – which is better than any other form of allergy treatment.

Flea allergies. The most effective way to control flea allergies is to separate the pet from the fleas. Therefore, strict flea control is essential. This has been made ever so much easier in the last few years, thanks to the advent of modern flea control products such as Frontline Top Spot, Revolution, Advantage, Advantix, and Capstar.

When strict flea control is not possible or practical, corticosteroids can be administered, by injection or by pill, to block the allergic reaction and give a pet some relief. This is often a necessary part of dealing with flea allergies. As with any effective and useful medication, there are side effects to corticosteroid use. Fortunately, dogs and especially cats are more resistant to the side-effects of steroids than humans; so much of what you may have heard about the side-effects of corticosteroids in people does not necessarily apply to dogs and cats.

Food allergies. Treatment for food allergies involves avoidance of the offending food ingredient(s). This is often more difficult than it sounds. Generally, affected pets will need to be switched to a pet food containing so-called novel proteins to which their immune system has not been exposed before. We have seen good results after food allergic pets have been switched to one of three special therapeutic foods: Purina HA, Eukanuba Response KO/Canine Dry Formula, or Eukanuba Response FP/Canine Dry Formula.

Bacterial Allergies. Treatment of Staph allergy involves antibiotics to control the immediate problem and establishment of a desensitization program, using killed Staph bacteria, for long-term relief.

Contact allergies. The treatment of Contact Allergies is simple: just eliminate exposure of the pet to the offending substance(s). This can be accomplished as follows:

•Get rid of irritating plastic food bowls, collars, or bedding.

•Bathe the pet with hypoallergenic shampoos to remove antigen from the skin.

•Create mechanical barriers against further exposure, if possible. For example, socks, T-shirts, or fencing to restrict access to the irritating environment might all prove helpful.

•Corticosteroids are sometimes needed to help control symptoms.


The only really effective long term solution to allergies is to remove the offending substances from the pet’s environment – or remove the pet from any possible exposure to those environmental irritants. Sometimes this is easy to do, as in the case of contact allergies, food allergies or flea allergies. Most of the time, however, avoidance is not a realistic alternative. Therefore, once a pet becomes symptomatic, some form of treatment will usually need to be initiated and continued for the rest of the pet’s life.

Remember, allergies are rarely cured. The goal is comfort and control. An allergic pet that is comfortably excessively itchy is a success.

Do you work with any animal rescue groups?

Animal rescue groups are always welcome! The following is a statement of our animal rescue group policies:

Participation: Participation at the discounted rate shown below is open to federally registered, non-profit organizations whose mission is to rescue abandoned and stray small animals from shelters and pounds.

Fees: All new pets are eligible to receive one physical examination and veterinary consultation at no charge. Beyond that, approved animal rescue groups will be billed only 58% of the total of our regular professional services fees. The only exception is pet foods, which are provided at cost.

Locations: Animals from approved animal rescue groups can be admitted and treated at either location; Meadow Brook or Preston Road.

Hours: Animals from approved animal rescue groups can be admitted and treated only during regular business hours.

Emergencies: If an emergency occurs during regular business hours, come on in. For after hours emergencies please telephone us for advice or for treatment contact the Dallas Emergency Animal Clinic (972 994-9110) or the Emergency Animal Clinic of Collin County (972 517-7155).

Non-Emergency cases: Please telephone for an appointment OR drop the pet off for examination, telephone consultation, and treatment.

In-patient & Boarding Capacity: To be fair to all of our patients and their “people”, we will need to limit the number of hospitalized / boarding patients to no more than 3 pets per rescue organization, per facility, at any one time. In this way we will be able to give each pet the time, attention, and space that he or she needs and deserves.

If you operate a genuine, federally registered, non-profit animal rescue group and would like to make arrangements for consultancy or veterinary care with us, please contact Jana Webb, RVT, Group Administrator, at 972 239-1309.

Where’s the nearest emergency clinic?

Here is a list of animal Emergency Clinics and 24-hour hospitals in North Texas area. When possible, please call the emergency clinic before bringing your pet in for treatment. This allows the veterinarians and clinic staff to better prepare for your pet’s treatment.

Airport Freeway Animal Emergency Clinic, P.C.
411 N. Main Street
Euless, Texas 76039
817 571-2088
Watch for new location after December 2011

Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas
2700 W. State Hwy 114
Grapevine, Texas 76051
Offers care for Dogs, Cats and non-traditional pets such as Birds, Reptiles, Ferrets, etc.

Denton County Animal Emergency Clinic
4145 S. I-35E. Suite 101
Denton, Texas 76210

Emergency Animal Clinic – Dallas
12101 Greenville Avenue, Suite 118
Dallas, Texas 75243

Emergency Animal Clinic – Richardson
401 West George Bush Tpke Suite 113
Richardson, Texas 75080

Emergency Animal Clinic – uptown
3337 N. Fitzhugh Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75201

Emergency Animal Hospital of Collin County
10225 Custer Rd.
Plano, Texas 75025

I-20 Animal Medical Center
5820 W. I-20
Arlington, TX 76017
817 478-9238

Lake Ray Hubbard Emergency Pet Care Center
& Veterinary Referral Center of East Dallas
4651 N. Belt Line
Mesquite, Texas 75058

North Texas Emergency Pet Clinic
1712 W. Frankford Rd. #108
Carrollton, Texas 75007

VCA Benbrook Animal Hospital
9009 Hwy 377 S.
Benbrook, Texas 76126

VCA Metroplex Veterinary Centre And Pet Lodge
700 West Airport Freeway
Irving, Texas 75062
(972) 438-7113

What are some local dog training facilities?

Here, in roughly alphabetical order, are a number of dog training facilities that are either located near our clinics or that some of our clients have used with good results. You may wish to use this list as a starting place in your search for a dog trainer in the North Dallas area

Adventures In Canine Training-

  • Locations for Outdoor Classes in Arlington, Dallas, Euless, and Irving
  • In-home Custom Training, Group classes, Seminars and Workshops, Behavior Evaluations, and Modification programs.
  • Three dog trainers.
  • All breeds and all ages welcome.


All Breed Obedience Training Club

  • Located at Flagpole Hill, Dallas
  • Group Classes every Wednesday Night
  • 5-10 trainers
  • Classes can range from 5-20 dogs at a time
All Dogs Unleashed

  • Located in Flower Mound
  • In Home Dog Training, or,
  • Two-week board and training program.
  • All breeds, All ages.
  • Will do complimentary pickup of animal from home for no charge for all of North Texas and Southern OK.
  • Five dog trainers
Canine Dimensions

  • In-Home Dog Training
  • Dog Training for dogs of any age, breed or size.
  • Personalized in-home Dog training
  • Includes establishing good communication, proper pack structure, basic dog, obedience, commands, leash walking, eliminating behavior problems, and more.
Canine Workshop

  • Located in Dallas, TX
  • Two dog trainers
  • Private and group classes
  • Household obedience for dogs of ALL AGES
  • Group classes can have 5-10 dogs in them
Man’s Best Friend

  • Several Locations in and around North DFW
  • Private one-on-one classes
  • Group classes: Large Group up to 10 dogs, Small Group 2-5 dogs
  • All ages including Adult dogs
  • Most locations have 2-4 trainers on staff
Carrollton – 888-599-1764
North Richland Hills- 888-598-7692
Grand Prairie – 888-600-9175

  • Numerous Locations in and around the DFW Metroplex
  • Accredited Instructors
  • 2-5 at each facility
  • Group classes
  • Private classes
  • Classes can have up to 15 dogs per class
  • Classes for all ages
Specialty Pet Training

  • In Home Training or Group classes
  • Group Classes held at a hosted park or indoor facility
  • Semi-Private classes having between 5-10 dogs per class
  • Behavior Focused Workshops
  • All ages and breeds
  • Two to three trainers on staff at time
  • 3-6 week classes, for 1 hour long each week
The Dallas Dog Trainer

  • Private lessons only
  • All ages
  • At facility or at home training
  • Free group seminar every Sat. at 2pm to meet owner/trainer, tour facility, etc…
  • One trainer/owner
The Educated Dog

  • All breeds, sizes, ages
  • Beginner to Advanced training
  • One on One at home training
  • Consultations, Obedience Training, Behavior modification Classes


Top Class K-9 LLC- Dog Training

  • Group and Private classes
  • Classes from Beginner to Advanced Obedience, Off Leash
  • Obediance, AKC Canine Good Citizen Testing.
  • Indoor Climate Controlled Training Facility, outdoor off-leash fields, outdoor fenced agility field
  • Located on 12 acres south of Burleson, Texas.
  • Behavior Rehabilitation programs
  • One Trainer/Owner
  • All ages and breeds


Park Cities Dog Training    

  • One on one training
  • Doggy Boot Camp (Boarding/Training Package)
  • Group classes which include 12 dogs per group.
  • four trainers


What A Great Dog

  • Location: Prosper, TX
  • Group and Private Classes
  • Classes from Beginner to Advanced Obedience
  • Climate controlled, rubber floored Indoor training facility
  • Outdoor Agility Field


Wolfsblut Companion K9  

  •  Located in McKinney, Texas
  • Group classes
  • 5-10 dogs per class
  • Basic Dog Obedience commands, dog training exercises, address problems such as jumping, digging, chewing, or barking
  • 6 week class, 1 hour per week.
  • Two trainers


Note: This list was compiled by Chastain Vet Med Group staff in July, 2011. This list is not intended to be an exhaustive list of dog trainers – Google and the Yellow Pages already have that covered. These are simply facilities near us or that our staff have heard about in the course of chatting with clients. Inclusion of a facility or person on this list does not imply endorsement or recommendation by The Chastain Vet Med Group. Likewise, absence of a dog training facility or person from this list does not imply that there is anything wrong with them. To have your facility added to or removed from this list, please drop an e-mail to the webmaster.

What is your financial policy?

Money: The Only Part of Your Pet’s Health Care That Might Hurt a Little!

The veterinary practices of Chastain Veterinary Medical Group are committed to providing the finest primary veterinary care available anywhere, for all of our patients. We are dedicated to making your pet’s treatment and overall experience in our offices a success. Please understand that payment of your bill is considered a part of your pet’s treatment.

The following is a statement of our Financial Policies.

Veterinary Fees

Our fees are fixed at the lowest possible level which still enables us to pay rent, buy medications and supplies, cover the cost of running and maintaining the veterinary hospital, provide for medical equipment upkeep and acquisition, and pay the hospital staff members a reasonable, living wage.

Please keep in mind that the original cost of your pet has little to do with the costs of its medical care. Medicines, laboratory tests, building rent and staff labor costs are all the same, whether they are applied to an inexpensive pet or a highly prized breed champion.

Why We Can’t Cut Corners

We at Chastain Veterinary Medical Group are committed to promoting the Health and Happiness of Pets and their Families.

This is a commitment which we take seriously, but as much as we’d love to, we can’t do it on a shoestring budget.

So to make it as easy as we can on everyone, we’ve developed a system of payment policies that work. Here are the details:

How Do We Charge?

Cash, Check, Credit Card, or Pet Health Insurance? Not a problem – You tell us which.

Whether you’re an established client or a new client, if you have a new pet of any species, that pet’s first exam is free. You will only be responsible for any tests, treatments, procedures, or medicines.

Follow Up Exams

This is not just for fun; it is very, very important that we re-evaluate some pets after certain illnesses, surgeries, treatments or hospitalization. This is especially true for very sick pets and pets requiring orthopedic surgery or repair of broken bones with splints or casts.

Outpatient recheck appointments are only about $34 or so.

Generally, there are no additional office-call or examination fees charged for the first two (2) recheck appointments for pets that have had surgery with us. Any tests, treatments or medications dispensed during those first two re-check appointments will be charged at regular price. Please be aware that some pets may require more than two follow up visits after their original surgery, treatment, or hospitalization. In these cases, the costs of any further or additional recheck appointments and the costs associated with any tests, treatments, or medications are also charged at regular price.

When Do We Charge?

To ensure the system works for all, it is important that all services are paid for in full at the time the service is rendered. A receipt will be issued detailing these services.

If your pet is admitted for treatment due to an accident, illness or injury, or, if your pet is boarding with us for more than two weeks we do ask for a deposit of at least 33% or $200 whichever is the greater.

Deposits will be collected at the time of patient admission.

Available Payment options include Cash, Check, Credit Card, and Pet Health Insurance.

OK. What’s a “Hold Check”?

If your bill is over $200, we can “hold” a personal check for part of the payment for up to 60 days. This is subject to a fee of $7.50 and certain conditions as set out in the Hold Check Agreement.

Please ask a Client Service Assistant for this information and read the conditions carefully.

We’re sorry: Hold check privileges are not available to clients who have had checks returned three or more times within the past year.

What’s Pet Health Insurance?

Several independent companies, such Pets Best Insurance Company, for example, now offer health insurance for pets. Please speak with a Client Services representative for a brochure or more information.

In general, these insurance policies work much like automobile insurance does: If your pet is sick or injured, you take him or her to the veterinarian of your choice and have the problem “fixed.” You submit an insurance claim and then the insurance company reimburses you for covered losses.


If you have any questions about fees and billing, the place to start is with a Client Service Assistant.

They will answer your questions, or find the right answers for you, or refer your questions to the Group Administrator or Hospital Administrator.

Please do not discuss fees and billing with your Vet. Yes! Your veterinarian knows your pet better than anybody else (except you of course!). However, your Veterinarian is there to service the needs of your pet and others. Veterinarians are not authorized to make billing or credit arrangements. Fees and billing are handled by others in a different department.


We’re “Vets with Pets” and we understand, more than you might imagine, what you may be feeling right now.

We understand that many of us put the well-being of our pets ahead of our own and we understand the concerns caused by the financial burdens of pet health care.

But like you, we have responsibilities and obligations to others. Failure to meet those responsibilities and obligations would seriously hamper our ability to provide the quality pet health care that we all want for our loved ones.

We have streamlined our payment policy to make it as easy on you as we possibly can, while avoiding costly financial arrangements. This way we can give your pet the ultimate in care and personal attention, and keep it as affordable as possible.

And we will!

What are your prices and fees?

True, cost is the one part of your pet’s health care the might hurt a little. But just a little. In all seriousness, we do work to keep our fees as low as we can.

Our fees are fixed at the lowest possible level which still enables us to pay rent, buy medications and supplies, cover the cost of running and maintaining the veterinary hospital, provide for medical equipment upkeep and acquisition, and pay the hospital staff members a reasonable, competitive wage.

Please keep in mind that the original cost of your pet has little to do with the costs of its medical care. Medicines, laboratory tests, building rent and staff labor costs are all the same, whether they are applied to an inexpensive pet or a highly prized breed champion.

Pet Boarding

Boarding Prices vary by species of pet (dog, cat, bird, etc.), type of accommodation (small enclosure, run, etc.), location (McKinney or Dallas) and extra services desired (grooming, vaccination and so on).
For the most accurate information, please call for a customized boarding cost estimate. North Dallas: 972 239-1309; McKinney/Frisco: 972 529-5033

What is a mid-year wellness exam?

At the Chastain Veterinary Medical Group our principle objective is to eliminate avoidable illnesses so that we can concentrate on what we love doing – making pets happier and healthier and enjoying our time with them.

That’s why we have created the optional, free Mid-Year Wellness Exam. And that’s why we’ve made it available, at no additional charge, for our dog and cat owning clients whose pets received their most recent Annual Physical Exam with us.

At the optional Mid-Year Wellness Exam, pets receive a no-charge physical exam from the doctor, a weigh-in, body condition scoring, and dietary review and discussion. During this same visit, any screening diagnostic tests that the doctor feels may be of value to the pet are also discussed. These may include such things as the Heska ERD HealthScreen Test, a screening ECG for the heart, or a Tonometry test to help detect glaucoma early. Each of these screening tests is optional, simple, painless, and economically priced.

What’s involved in a typical dental cleaning?

This is a great question because teeth cleaning for a pet is a little bit more involved than what we as humans experience.

Since all our dental work is customized for each pet and their specific oral hygiene issues, there really is no “typical pet teeth cleaning.” Still, some general comments can be made and the following description outlines how things typically unfold.

Most pet dentals are day admissions. This means the pets are admitted early in the morning and then free to go home in the late afternoon.

All patients admitted for surgery or dentistry receives an initial physical examination by the veterinarian with careful attention paid to the mouth, teeth, heart and lungs. The veterinarian reviews any pertinent historical facts, and also performs a screening electrocardiogram – also called an ECG or EKG. Any unexpected abnormalities are either resolved or brought to the family’s attention for further investigation or treatment. Pre-anesthetic blood testing is also often performed to help assess the degree of internal damage already wrought by the pet’s dental disease.

Most pets undergoing teeth cleaning at the Chastain Veterinary Medical Group (CVMG) facilities receive an intravenous catheter – or IV – for intravenous fluid therapy during the procedure. This may sound a little over the top, but in fact, intravenous fluid therapy is simple and greatly improves the safety of general anesthesia. It helps maintain normal blood pressure, normal kidney function, and normal electrolyte balance and it prevents post-op dehydration. In addition, if a serious problem were to develop during the procedure, the presence of an IV line permits immediate emergency treatment.

As soon as anesthesia is induced, a breathing tube is gently placed in the pet’s throat to supply oxygen and anesthetic gas. At all CVMG facilities we use only isoflurane and sevoflurane for gas anesthesia. These are the two safest gas anesthetics available. Once anesthesia is underway, fluid therapy is adjusted as needed. Electronic monitoring sensors, including ECG, pulse oximetry (a blood oxygen monitor) and often blood pressure sensors are then fitted to the patient. The pet’s eyes are lubricated with ophthalmic ointment to prevent corneal damage and a warm water recirculating blanket is placed. The patient’s eyes, ears, and face are covered with a towel to prevent contamination. Packing material is temporarily placed in the back of the pet’s mouth to prevent accidental inhalation of contaminated water or dental debris. All patients rest on or are covered by their own clean, dry, sanitized towel.

Anesthetic monitoring, both by electronic equipment and human beings is constant through out the procedure. The veterinarian and veterinary nurse are never more than a few feet from the patient at any time.

Once the pet is anesthetized, comfortable, and squared away, the veterinary nurse acts as the dental hygienist. He or she proceeds to clean the patient’s teeth under the close observation of the veterinarian.

After the teeth are thoroughly cleaned, rinsed, polished, and treated with fluoride, the veterinarian examines every part of the patient’s mouth and makes note of any abnormalities. Dental x-rays of any abnormal areas may also be taken. Only at this point – once the teeth have been cleaned, polished and inspected and any dental radiographs taken and interpreted – can the true extent of the pet’s dental disease be fully appreciated.

The veterinarian next formulates a customized additional treatment plan, if necessary, always taking into account the family’s love, insights and preferences. The veterinarian will then telephone the pet owner with his or her findings and suggestions for any additional treatments which may be warranted. Any suggested additional treatments are explained to the pet owner along with the costs involved. We strive to be informative without putting any pressure on the pet owner. Our job at this point is make sure that the family is aware of all of the problems that we have uncovered, if any. This allows the pet owner to make an informed decision as to what to do next.

If agreed, any needed additional treatments – such as oral antibiotic therapy or surgical extractions can be completed. In most cases, any required additional treatments can be performed at the same time as the basic teeth cleaning.

When all the dental work is done, the patient is recovered under the watchful eye of the veterinarian and the veterinary nurse. Most pets are up and about within just a few minutes.

Bad teeth and infected gums can be very painful. That’s why we place special emphasis on pain relief. This may take the form of medications administered before, during, or after the procedure, as well as special dental nerve blocks as needed.

When it is time for the pet to go home, all home care and follow-up instructions are fully explained to the family and presented in written form as well. In some cases, we may even have before and after pictures of the pet’s dental problems & procedures for you. We will also demonstrate some of the various options for home pet dental care. We try to do this using your own pet when ever possible. The more you can do at home, the less we have to do at the veterinary clinic!

Lastly, experience has shown that most patients leaving after dental will need to return in a few days or few weeks for a follow-up visit. Most dentistry follow-ups are complimentary.