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Frequently Asked Questions: Dentistry and Oral Surgery

Dentistry and Oral Surgery


What is Dental Radiography and is it necessary?

Dental radiographs, more commonly referred to as x-rays, are necessary to see what lies under the gums and within the teeth and bone. Obtaining good quality dental radiographs and properly interpreting them requires advanced training. Clinical examination of each tooth with dental instruments is also essential, since not all dental lesions are visible radiographically. With dental radiographs, we are able to get a comprehensive look at everything in your pet’s mouth, and address any issues accordingly.

What kinds of oral diseases and injuries can be detected and treated by a specialist at VRC?

  • Malocclusion
  • Tooth-to-soft tissue trauma
  • Ulcers/ excessive redness
  • Missing teeth
  • Crowded or extra teeth
  • Growths or swellings
  • Discolored, non-vital teeth
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Open pulp chambers
  • Draining tracts
  • Caries (“cavities”)
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Deep periodontal pockets
  • Hair entrapment
  • Calculus

Why is anesthesia necessary for my pet’s dental evaluation?

It is impossible to see the entire mouth while your pet is awake as many pets are uncooperative during an oral examination, especially if they are experiencing pain. A thorough evaluation requires dental radiography, a trained eye, and plenty of examination time spent with complete visibility of the entire mouth to spot hidden problems. Our dental specialty service can offer the same thorough evaluation for your pet that you expect from your own dentist.

What are the some consequences and side effects of oral disease?


Pets will suffer silently with tooth infections rather than appear weak. Dogs or cats that have fractured teeth with exposed pulp will develop pain, even if their behavior does not reflect this. Periodontal disease can also lead to painful abscesses. Studies show that 27% of dogs have fractured teeth, and 9% of these teeth have pulp exposure. Early infections can only be prevented or identified early with a thorough evaluation of the mouth and dental radiographs.

Unhealthy chewing habits are a common cause of broken teeth. Never provide chew toys that you cannot break with your hands, or that you cannot dent with your finger nail. If your dog is prone to aggressive chewing, check frequently for broken teeth.

Systemic Disease Associations

In humans, periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and low birth weight babies. Similar links between poor oral health and more serious diseases also exist for our pets. Gum infection and inflammation by-products seep into the blood stream where it negatively affects the liver, kidneys, and heart muscle. The more oral infection is present, the worse the effects.  This is why it is so important to have your pet’s mouth regularly evaluated.


Oral growths in pets are not uncommon. If seen in time, the treatment prognosis is good. The longer they persist and the larger they become, the more difficult they are to treat.

Bone Loss

In small dogs, the teeth are disproportionately larger for their mouths compared to big dogs. The resulting dental crowding leads to tooth overlap, rotations, and the creation of havens for trapped infection that fosters periodontal disease (the loss of tooth-supporting bone). This bone loss can cause problems such as spontaneous jaw fractures in pets of any age. Simply looking at the front teeth in an awake pet will give very few clues as to the advanced periodontal disease developing under the gums in the back of the mouth. The dental x-rays  that we use can give us insight into the areas of the mouth that we cannot see.

Behavior Changes

Owners frequently remark how playfulness returned to their older pets after the treatment of painful dental disease. If just one bad tooth can ruin your mood, just imagine having numerous painful teeth!

What signs might my pet show if they are having a problem with his/her teeth/mouth that requires medical attention?

Pets will conceal oral pain as much as possible, so their dental disease may be very advanced before it is noticeable. Eventually, signs such as bad breath, dropping food, jaw or face swelling, loose teeth, pus, gum recession, very red and inflamed tissues, and bleeding can be a clue that they are experiencing pain in their mouth.

Are dental procedures painful? Safe?

It is impossible to perform necessary gingival probing and dental radiographs without anesthesia. Anesthesia, local nerve blocks, pain medication, and meticulous surgery all are part of minimizing discomfort. Properly performed and monitored anesthesia with intravenous fluids and body temperature support is extremely safe. At VRC, we have extensive experience performing dental procedures with anesthesia on pets from all walks of life. Ultimately, your pet’s long term health and comfort is greatly enhanced by eliminating dental disease.

How long do these procedures last?

The one bad tooth you’ve noticed in your pet’s mouth is often the tip of the iceberg in terms of what dental disease is present. After the oral assessment and dental x-rays, the findings are discussed with you (while your pet is under anesthesia) before any surgery. Please keep in mind that it may require several hours to correct a lifetime of progressing disease. That is why safe anesthesia is our highest and first priority, and why we are so often entrusted by referring veterinarians to handle their older, smaller, and medically frail patients.

Frequently Asked Questions: Emergency Services

Emergency Services


Do you close on holidays?

VRC is open 24/7, 365 days a year; rain or shine. Our doors never close and you can always count on us to be available for your pet’s needs at all times!

Does it cost more to bring my pet through the ER?

The ER consultation fee is no more expensive than consultation fees of other departments within VRC. Fees associated with a given category are equal across all departments (e.g. hospitalization, medications, and diagnostics).

How does the process work when I arrive?

When you arrive you will be directed to speak with one of our emergency nurses. They will first ask you a few questions about your pet and will later bring him/her to the back for our doctors to perform a physical exam.

Will there be a long wait in the ER?

When the ER is busy, your pet will be seen on the basis of need. A triage nurse and ER doctor will make an initial assessment of your pet’s needs within minutes of your arrival. Pets that are experiencing emergencies and need immediate attention will take priority.  If all of our current patients are equally stable, they are seen in order of arrival. If other pets are being seen before yours, this is good news as it means your pet is not as sick as some of our other patients.

Who will be seeing my pet?

Our excellent and experienced emergency doctors or critical care specialists will personally perform a physical exam on your pet. They will also be sure to come out and speak with you afterwards with an initial diagnosis.

Is anyone caring for my pet during the night?

We have veterinarians and nurses available in the hospital 24/7, 365 days a year. Your pets are always being looked after and cared for while they are in our care.

How often will my dog get walked while (s)he is in the hospital?

Our patients are walked regularly. We have areas surrounding the hospital that allow for seamless transition from inside care to bathroom breaks and appropriate exercise outside. Typically, our patients on IV fluids are walked at least every 4 hours.

Can I visit my pet if he/she has to stay in the hospital?

We encourage visiting with your pet while (s)he is in the hospital and always do our best to accommodate those who wish to do so. Your pet misses you as much as you miss him/her! We do ask that you discuss a visit with your doctor or call ahead to arrange a time so that we can best accommodate you.

Should I bring my pet’s own food, medicine or blankets/personal items?

It is helpful to bring your pet’s food and medicine while (s)he is in the hospital.  If you do choose to bring personal items, we recommend not bringing anything of sentimental value.  We have plenty of comfortable bedding here, so there is no need to bring your own.  Please understand that if any items become soiled, they will go into our laundry and we cannot guarantee their return to you. We also suggest asking your veterinarian prior to bringing any toys to make sure that they won’t interfere with your pet’s treatment.

Will my veterinarian be kept updated on my pet’s care?

Your veterinarian receives regular updates from our emergency/critical care doctors during hospitalization. Our goal is to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure seamless care for your pets while they are at VRC. Your primary veterinarian will receive the details regarding our physical exam, any diagnostic tests performed with the results, and the recommended treatment plan. If your pet is admitted to stay overnight, then your primary veterinarian will receive twice daily updates.

What if I cannot afford my pet’s care?

Here at VRC, we understand that medical costs can be extremely difficult, especially when they are unexpected. Should you choose to do so, you may apply for CareCredit. This is a healthcare credit card designed for payment of your veterinary needs. It’s a way to pay for the costs of treatments and procedures in manageable monthly increments. Please talk to your doctor or a member of our client services team at reception to learn more.

The 9 Most Common and Serious Canine Diseases and Ailments

A large part of being a good dog owner means taking care of your pet’s health. That means making sure your dog’s food is healthful and nutritious, going for long walks every day, playing at the dog park, and of course giving your pup plenty of love and attention. It also means taking care of his or her health by scheduling regular visits to the vet for checkups, and monitoring them for signs of disease or ailments.VRC.5.15_0805

No one knows your dog better than you do. You know how he or she walks, sleeps, and eats. That means you are your pet’s first line of defense. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s sleeping, eating, and exercise habits. Sudden changes may indicate a medical issue that ought to be checked out by VRC, your local veterinary specialist in Philadelphia. Here are ten of the most common dog health issues we see, and some of the early symptoms:

  • Gum Disease: Just like you and your children, dogs can get gum disease. If you notice that your dog’s gums are bleeding, red, or swollen, or that they’re eating in a way that indicates gum tenderness, it’s time for a checkup.
  • Flea- and Tick-Borne Diseases: Dogs go outside, which means they’re susceptible to painful bites from fleas and ticks. But fleas and ticks also carry disease. Dogs that have sudden fevers, or diarrhea, vomiting, and reduced appetite, may have caught something from a pest.
  • Obesity: Overweight and overfat pets are at risk for many types of illnesses.
  • Arthritis: Dogs may show signs of arthritis by exhibiting a change in gait, an aversion to going up stairs, or difficulty walking or standing, making sounds of pain when being picked up, or demonstrating a general reluctance to move.
  • Diabetes: In dogs, the first signs of diabetes can include increased or frequent thirst, weight loss, increased urination or urge to urinate, and fatigue.
  • Blindness: Cataracts aren’t just something that affect humans. If your dog seems disoriented, or can’t find their way around, it may be time for an eye exam.
  • Kidney Disease: Kidney diseases in dogs may manifest as an urge to urinate more, having accidents in the house, and drinking more water.
  • Heartworms: If your dog is reluctant to move, seems fatigued, and is plagued by a persistent cough, it’s time to call the vet.
  • Cancer: Early signs of cancer include lumps or bumps on a dog’s body, sudden changes in weight, and tiredness.


If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, the experienced oncology team at VRC in Malvern, PA will stage your pet’s cancer and treat their disease. When you bring in your pet for oncology at VRC your dog will receive comprehensive diagnostics and care so that they receive the most effective medical care available. We take a multidisciplinary approach to treating your dog’s cancer, and will recommend a host of treatments that improve your pet’s quality of life while supporting the healing process.

The oncology department at VRC in Malvern, PA specializes in cancer care for your pet. We take your pet’s health seriously. If you see an early sign of disease, give us a call at (610) 647-2950.

What to do When your Cat or Dog is Vomiting

home_2If there’s one single universal fact of pet ownership, it’s that no pet owner ever wants to hear the sound of a dog or cat vomiting. And it’s not just because it’s a drag to clean the carpet—it’s because it’s not always easy for pet owners to tell if a dog or cat is simply expelling something undesirable, or is more seriously ill. Of course, cats and dogs will occasionally vomit to clear their stomach or esophagus of something like a hairball, shoelace, or other object or food item they have consumed on a whim, but constant vomiting might well be a sign of a more serious condition. And, of course, if vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, blood in the stool, or fever, it’s time to call VRC, your local veterinary specialist in the Philadelphia area.


Cats, as cat owners know, will vomit for a variety of reasons. Hairballs are a common complaint, especially during the spring and winter shedding seasons. Cats will also vomit from consuming their meal too quickly, or playing too soon after eating, which (if it happens occasionally) is not necessarily cause for concern. But, vomiting may also be an indicator that your cat is seriously unwell. Vomiting is associated with gastrointestinal and whole-body complaints such as parasites, ingested toxins or chemicals, viral or bacterial infections, pancreatitis, failure of the kidney, liver, or gall bladder, and foreign bodies such as toys or a too-large hairball. If your cat is vomiting on a regular basis, and is not helped by a bland diet or withholding of fluids or food, it’s time to seek medical care.


Just about all dog owners will also be familiar with vomiting. Dogs love to follow their noses, which leads them to get into garbage and other stinky situations. If your dog vomits after getting into trash, animal waste, or yard clippings, it may not be time for an emergency vet visit, but if your dog cannot stop vomiting, seems listless or in pain, or has glazed eyes or is salivating more than normal, they may have gotten into something more dangerous than leaves or food remains. Also, keep a look out for shivering, swallowing, hiding, lip-smacking, and signs of dehydration including sunken eyes and tacky mouth and gums.


At the end of the day, however, it’s your call as a pet owner whether you think your dog or cat needs emergency medical attention. If your dog or cat is vomiting, you’re concerned about his or her health, and your primary veterinarian is not available, the best thing to do is call your local 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital. VRC Specialty Hospital in Malvern, PA is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means we’re around even for those inevitable 3 AM sicknesses. We take your pet’s health seriously, and we know what a worry it can be when your companion isn’t feeling well.


VRC in Malvern, PA is a specialty veterinary health care clinic that provides emergency medicine and critical care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Give us a call at (610) 647-2950.