Dental Care for Dogs
When it comes to dental care for your dog, it’s best to partner with a mobile vet service for the most thorough and least stressful experience. But, why does a dog need teeth cleaning? Isn’t this an unnecessary expense, especially light of other vet bills, medications, food, and treats? The fact is, skipping dental care for your dog could prove more costly in the long run.
Defining Dental Care for Dogs
Dogs develop dental issues for a variety of reasons, the main one being their genetics or breed. Professional dental care is often required because there is a buildup of tartar that happened over time, just like in humans. Eventually, that tartar will cause gum disease, which in turn will cause painful issues like abscesses. The dog’s teeth will begin to rot, resulting in pain and lost teeth. Obviously, these conditions are just as difficult for dogs as humans. Committing to consistent, professional dental care ensures your dog won’t suffer this kind of infection or injury.
Of course, we don’t suggest that pet owners attempt to master the art of professional teeth cleaning for their dogs; however, there are some at-home habits that can help support your dog’s dental health between visits.
Home care is a wonderful thing if pets will tolerate it and if owners can keep up with it. For example, brushing your dog’s teeth can help keep sweep disease causing bacteria and plaque aside, before it becomes tarter, and keep their teeth and gums healthier. Think of it this way, humans are advised to brush their teeth at least twice a day, with professional dental cleanings best scheduled every six months. Pets need their teeth cleaned just like humans do.
The difference, however, is that dogs really need an anesthetic procedure in order to clean all of the surfaces of their teeth to prevent periodontal disease in the first place. With non-anesthetic dentals the teeth are cleaned and certainly may look cleaner from the outside. But, it’s important to recognize that there are two portions of a tooth. There’s the part that you can see, which is the crown, and the part underneath the gum. The disease occurs beneath the gum, not on the part that you can see. Dogs will not tolerate a thorough cleaning beneath the gum on both the inside and outside portions of the teeth while awake. In addition, access to the molars in back of the mouth is severely limited in an awake animal, and this is often where some of the worst disease hides.
At Vet’s Here, our goal is to educate clients about how important dog dental care is to overall health and longevity. Our animals are living much longer than they were even 20 years ago, which means their teeth have become more of an issue. If you keep up with your dog’s dental care throughout their lives, then you’ll have a much happier pet who is healthier and more comfortable, regardless of age.
Symptoms that Demand Dental Care
The biggest one that people will notice is that breath. If your dog comes and gives you a kiss on the face or gets close to your face and you are confronted by a rotten odor, that’s a really good indicator there’s an issue. Unfortunately, rancid breath usually means that things have gone pretty far.
If you are doing home care and noticed bleeding after or during brushing, just like in a human, that means that your dog has developed gingivitis. Some owners will see the blood show up on a favorite toy a dog is chewing on, even if they aren’t brushing.
Sometimes, a dog’s teeth are in good shape, but a tooth is broken. Likely, it broke when the dog was chewing on something or playing with a toy. No matter the reason, a broken tooth means the the pulp cavity is exposed. Obviously, an exposed nerve is an uncomfortable situation that can also lead to infection and warrants a call for evaluation.
Appreciating Advances in Anesthesia
Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds with respect to dental care for dogs. Anesthesia is much safer than it was even 20 years ago and we now have extraordinary monitoring equipment, which allows us to strictly concentrate on the dog while under anesthesia.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) explains, When Your Pet Needs Anesthesia, “Anesthesia for animals has come a long way and is safer than it ever was before, and a well-trained veterinary team further reduces your pet’s risk.”
Another perk of our mobile vet team is that we’re not distracted by common clinic chaos, which also reduces your dog’s risk of complication during or following anesthesia. With Vet’s Here, you’ve got a doctor monitoring anesthesia while the technician is cleaning, and then the technician monitors anesthesia while the doctor performs any necessary surgical procedures, like extractions.
It’s a very focused process, which allows your dog to actually recover in their own bed. Which is good, since they will wake up feeling a bit sleepy, but rather than being in a kennel or cage at a clinic, they can rest and recuperate at home. Naturally, this makes the whole process less stressful for both dogs and their owners
Another technological advancement comes from the diagnostic value of full mouth x-rays, which provide us with a lot more information while the animal is under anesthesia. For instance, we can diagnose if there’s a tooth at risk of abscessing and treat it right then and there.
Face Your Fears for Your Four-Legged Friend
Despite these impressive advances, some people remain reluctant to put their animals under anesthesia.
We do not diminish the fact that anesthesia is an event for an animal. But, especially with our mobile practice, we use short-acting anesthetics with quick wake up times that result in very little sedation post-procedure.
Our mobile service also includes pre-anesthetic blood work to mitigate any surprises during anesthesia. This involves a thorough exam during which we listen to your dog’s heart and check the health of his/her liver and kidneys to ensure sound health before the procedure. In other words, we do everything we possibly can to make this the safest possible scenario for your pet. We truly specialize in delivering the most dedicated and individualized care, which is one of the reasons to pick a mobile vet.
Strategies to Start for Preventive Dental Care
Get an Early Start
If you can start healthy dental habits at home while your dog is a puppy, that’s ideal. Eight to 16 weeks is the perfect period to be introducing fingers in mouths and toothpastes; however, if you miss that window for some reason — maybe you’ve recently rescued a senior dog — you can start easy by having your dog lick the toothpaste off your hand.
Choose Tasty Toothpastes and Treats
Caring for your dog’s dental needs at home doesn’t have to be a drag; in fact, “Armed with beef-, poultry- or seafood-flavored toothpaste, a pet-appropriate toothbrush, and patience, 8 out of 10 pets (cats and senior pets included) will ultimately allow you to brush their teeth.”
At Vet’s Here, we offer toothpastes that taste like chicken, beef, and fish. Dogs like these flavors, which gives you the opportunity to slowly attempt putting something in their mouth, whether a finger or a finger with a brush, or a baby washcloth. From there, you can start to move up to a toothbrush. Just be sure to take it slow, ensuring your dog feels safe and comfortable.
The toothpastes we use are enzymatic in nature. Even if you just can’t get your finger or toothbrush in
your dog’s mouth, you can put that toothpaste on a chew toy and let them get the toothpaste that way.
If you are able to use a toothbrush, feel free to use a regular one or a smaller sized, baby version. There
are also types that fit over your finger — we call these finger brushes. You just put the toothpaste on and
run your finger along their teeth.
Sometimes, dogs are more amenable to that than they are to this weird toothbrush thing coming at them. So the finger brushes work really well, as long as you trust your animal not to bite.
Understanding and Offsetting the Expense of Dental Cleanings
The main cost for a dental cleaning in our industry is the anesthetic protocol. We’re using the same anesthetic protocols we would for any kind of surgical procedure to ensure ultimate safety. This is why dentals are so expensive; the actual cleaning is often much less expensive than even your own dentist would charge. A full anesthetic procedure is really an investment in your dog’s safety.
While some people assume that non-anesthetic dental cleanings are more affordable, they aren’t as thorough and therefore must be done more often. Ultimately, in trying to save some money on non-anesthetic dental cleanings, you end up coming close to what a single anesthetic cleaning would cost. Often, dogs don’t even need these done on a yearly basis. So, what appears to be a cheaper option, in most cases really isn’t.
Build a Budget — Save Strategically
Embracing routine dental care and factoring it into your pet’s budget is a smart long term safeguard against costly dental disease.
During your dog’s annual wellness exam, we grade the tartar on the teeth, using a scale of 1-4, to determine the level of dental disease. The lower the number the better. Keep in mind, when it comes to common dog tooth problems, an average “85 percent of canines over age 4 have some form of gum disease.” Based on your dog’s grade, with four representing the most severe periodontal disease, a recommendation is made regarding professional dental care.
This is your opportunity to discuss an ideal timeline, depending on whether you need to save up for the service. We advise our clients that this is another reason to pursue routine preventive dental care — it’s more cost-effective. If, for instance, you wait until your dog has a score of 4, the associated expense will be considerably higher because your dog will likely require extractions and antibiotics.
Payment Plans and Insurance Options
Budgeting isn’t always an option, especially if your dog needs a dental cleaning right away.
One method to offset the expense is to invest in pet insurance. The right pet insurance will cover some of the costs of dentals, which can be a really smart strategy for taking small bites out of the overall fee.
Another method is to look into various financing options, like Care Credit or Scratch Pay. These programs allow for support like six month, zero-interest financing, which provides some cushion when footing the bill for your dog’s teeth cleaning.
To find out more about how Vet’s Here can help you keep your dog happy and healthy, give us a call at 1-888-838-2738 or contact us online today!