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Dental Cleanings

Calming Techniques Used During Non-Anesthetic Dentals

The calmer a dog is during a non-anesthetic dental cleaning, the safer the procedure will be.

Dogs that show signs of mild anxiety and stress under certain circumstances need help relaxing during dental cleanings. We have a number of ways to comfort pets so they aren’t anxious throughout the procedure.

  1. We give dogs breaks every 10 to 15-minutes during the dental so we don’t exhaust them, and it remains a positive experience.
  2. Our staff uses the swaddling technique with smaller dogs, where the tight swaddle gives the dog a sense of relaxation.
  3. For larger dogs, we often use an orthopedic mat and neck pillow to keep them comfortable.
  4. Cats are typically swaddled but not as tightly as we do with small dogs.

Your pet’s medical history is the first step

Breed, age, the pet’s preferences, and any medical conditions are key to determine the best technique for your pet’s comfort during the dental.

Before we schedule a dental appointment every pet owner needs to complete our medical record form which will provide the information we need to assess their pets.

Anxiety signs to look for before the dental

These signs are typical for many pets when they’re at the vet clinic or when we visit your home.

In addition to the above tail positions that show an anxious pet, these four are also signs of anxiety in pets that our dental experts may see during an initial consultation:

  • Pacing
  • Shaking
  • Frequent yawning

A stressed-out pet is not a good candidate for a non-anesthetic dental cleaning. The pet mustn’t have a negative experience during their dental cleaning, and an anxious animal may thrash or refuse to be safely restrained.

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If the pet cannot be still for the exam, then they may be declined.

Calming techniques for small dogs

For smaller dogs, we swaddle them in a blanket or towel. This swaddling technique has a similar effect as the “ThunderShirt,” where the tight swaddle gives the dog a sense of relaxation.

We also have better control over the front legs to prevent the dogs from pawing through the position while keeping their front limbs safe.

  • Dogs are generally lying on their back on an orthopedic mat, between the technician’s legs.
  • If back issues are noted on the consent form, the small dog will be lying on their side (Dachshunds are a good example of this position).

Some small older dogs with heart conditions and respiratory issues like collapsing tracheas will be sitting down instead of lying on their back or side, so we don’t put pressure on their lungs, allowing airflow to go in and out without any issues easily.

Calming techniques for large dogs

Generally, we do the procedure sitting down, working around the dog to ensure the pet’s position is comfortable.

  • Some breeds like Greyhounds and Great Danes do better standing.
  • Senior dogs with arthritis, hip issues, and mobility issues will be lying down on a special orthopedic mat either on their back or side as long as they are comfortable in that position.
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Sometimes we use an orthopedic neck pillow for large dogs to place their head-on.

Calming techniques used for cats

For cats, we use a similar technique to the baby swaddling technique we use with small dogs, but it’s not tight.

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Our goal is to keep the wrapping a little loose while controlling the front legs and preventing cats from scratching during the dental cleaning.

  • Cats are kept either on their backs on the orthopedic mat or sitting facing away from the technician to ensure safety at all times. These two positions are a good choice for cats of all ages and medical conditions.
  • Senior cats require small breaks, extending the procedure’s time but allowing the pet to relax.

Christy Caplan

Christy Caplan has over 10 years of experience covering the pet industry. As a certified veterinary technician, she uses her knowledge to inform stories on health and wellness topics.

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