We’ve all felt the slimy, sticky plaque layer that forms on our teeth after a sugary meal, or when we forget to brush our teeth before bed. If you never brushed at all, things would get quickly out of hand. Pets are prone to dental disease as well, and most will develop disease signs by age 3. Left unchecked, dental disease will progress and lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, and, ultimately, may permanently damage the liver, kidneys, or heart. At Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care, we offer comprehensive oral care solutions that can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy, the mainstay being a professional dental cleaning, also known as the COHAT. 

What is a COHAT and why does my pet need it?

COHAT stands for comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment, which describes the process used for your pet’s anesthetized dental care. COHAT is more than a simple dental cleaning—the entire mouth is thoroughly assessed and treated, so dental disease progression can be slowed or stopped. Your pet may be hiding painful conditions that your veterinarian can detect only on sedated examination, and other conditions may be seen only on X-rays. The longer your pet lives with untreated dental disease, the more likely they are to develop chronic pain and have the potential for organ damage. We recommend that your pet undergo their first COHAT prior to age 2, to prevent your pet’s dental disease from starting. 

What does a COHAT include?

When your pet comes into our hospital for a COHAT, they will be dropped off in the morning and stay with us for the day, because they will require anesthesia for their procedure. A COHAT includes:

  • Pre-anesthetic exam and bloodwork — Your veterinarian will perform a complete head-to-toe examination, along with blood work, to ensure your pet is healthy for anesthesia. We can adjust our protocol if your pet is older and has liver or kidney problems, which blood work will reveal.
  • Sedation and anesthesia — We will place an IV catheter in your pet’s leg vein, and then give them medications to calm them and induce anesthesia. The anesthetic is delivered via gas, along with oxygen, through a tube in your pet’s airway.
  • Dental X-rays — Once your pet is “out,” we will take X-rays of all their teeth, some from multiple angles to ensure all roots are visible. Most dental problems start below the gum line, and some diseased teeth clearly diagnosed on X-ray may look normal to the naked eye. Common X-ray findings include bone loss, root abscesses, and fractures.
  • Scaling — After X-rays, we use ultrasonic and hand instruments to remove tartar and plaque from all tooth surfaces, taking care to ensure that tartar below the gum line is also removed.
  • Polishing — Next, we use a high-speed polisher and gritty paste to buff out microscopic scratches created during the scaling process, leaving teeth smooth and less likely to accumulate plaque.
  • Oral exam and charting — With X-rays for comparison, your veterinarian then performs a complete oral health assessment, examining each tooth for fractures, abscesses, bone loss, mobility, gum tissue pockets, and other lesions. The depth of the gingival sulcus (i.e., the pocket of gum tissue surrounding the tooth) can indicate local gum and tooth health, so this depth is recorded for each tooth.
  • Treatments — Deep gum pockets are treated with local antibiotic gels or a deep cleaning called root planing. We extract loose, broken, infected, or otherwise diseased teeth to alleviate the pet’s pain, help save the surrounding teeth, and slow further disease progression by removing the infection source and allowing the gum tissue to heal.
  • Fluoride or sealant — Once we have completed all treatments, we may apply a fluoride or temporary plaque-repellent sealant.

What happens after my pet’s COHAT?

When your pet’s COHAT is complete, we’ll help them recover from anesthesia in a warm, comfortable hospital area. When your pet is ready, we’ll send them home, and give you instructions for their post-operative care, and medications to increase their comfort and prevent infection after the procedure. We’ll also discuss, based on their gum disease stage (i.e., periodontal disease), when your pet should return for their next COHAT. Some pets may need the procedure once or twice per year, while others can go several years between cleanings. After hospital discharge or during your recheck visit, we’ll discuss your pet’s dental home care options. Daily toothbrushing is best, but your veterinarian may also recommend products such as chews, rinses, water additives, dental diets, or mouth wipes, based on your pet’s needs. Visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website for more dental product recommendations.

Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is important to their overall health and wellbeing. Is your pet due for their next COHAT? Call us to schedule a visit with your Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care team.