Danville Express

Living - May 4, 2007

The Pet Vet saysÍ Pet dentistry can be costly

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q. I just had a quote of $550 to $700 to clean my dog's teeth. She is 8, and has tarter buildup. Can I brush her teeth daily from now on to avoid this, or must she go into surgery for a teeth-cleaning? How critical are tooth related health problems?

A. If your veterinarian has recommended the teeth cleaning, then it is probably necessary, particularly if she has never had her teeth cleaned. The cost reflects the fact that the dental cleaning, or prophylaxis, involves general anesthesia in addition to professional skill. The veterinarian has to anesthetize the dog, scale the teeth on all sides, check for gum disease or infection, and polish the teeth. Often X-rays are taken. Sometimes periodontal procedures need to be done on problem teeth, and teeth extracted as a last resort.

The price probably also includes preoperative blood tests to check for problems that could affect her reaction to the anesthesia, because of your dog's age. She may also be getting antibiotics, because the cleaning can release bacteria into the bloodstream. Antibiotics keep the bacteria from causing serious problems in the heart and other organs. She will probably get intravenous fluids to maintain her blood pressure and prevent complications. So you can see that it is much more involved than when we get our own teeth cleaned. But it is very important for the overall health of our pets - dogs and cats alike.

The price you were quoted is average. I don't recommend people "bargain shop" when it comes to anesthetic procedures for their pets. If you are not comfortable with the price quote you were given, ask the veterinarian or practice manager to explain the quote. Sometimes pet owners don't feel comfortable asking about details on pricing. But you need to feel comfortable with what's being done and why.

Brushing is a great idea if you start with clean teeth. Brushing teeth that are covered in plaque is not going to be effective. When your dog comes home with a clean and healthy mouth, you should try to brush regularly to prevent tartar buildup. Many different products are available for brushing - ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. (This is sometimes a fun thing for older kids in the family to do.)

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org.

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