Angie’s List: Keeping Your Pet’s Teeth Clean And Healthy

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When is the last time you went several days without brushing your teeth, or years without a dental checkup? Now, what about your furry friends? In this week’s Angie’s List report, Jim Donovan explains why it’s important to care for your pet’s pearly whites too.

Sandy Lehr makes sure her nine-year-old dog Harvey gets his teeth cleaned every year.

“Since he’s a senior dog, he really needs to have his teeth cleaned every year because there will be a little tartar on his teeth,” Lehr says.

Every pet builds up plaque at different rates, and left untreated, it can cause problems.

“If pets develop painful dental conditions or inflammatory conditions like periodontal disease, it can affect their internal organ function. It definitely affects their kidneys and potentially their heart and liver as well,” says veterinarian Dr. Matthew Lemmons.

A professional cleaning involves scraping plaque and tartar along the gum line and it can be costly.

“It can be anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on the extensive nature of the work that needs to be done,” says Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks. “The best way to keep the cost down for a professional teeth cleaning is an ounce of prevention. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth yourself can help avoid the buildup and any additional problems that may lead you to having the professional cleaning done.”

Small breed dogs are more prone to periodontal disease. If you notice your pet has excessively bad breath, is missing teeth, or has red gums, call your vet for an appointment.

More from Angie:

• Teeth check during annual visit: Your vet should check your pet’s teeth during the annual checkup. Between visits, check regularly for redness, missing or broken teeth or exceedingly bad breath.

• Dental cleaning may be needed: A dental cleaning is a medical procedure where the vet will remove tartar and teeth will be evaluated. Once under general anesthesia, the pet’s teeth will be x-rayed and cleaned and polished.

• What does a cleaning cost? Pet dental cleanings range from $200 to $800. It can cost more if your pet’s dental disease is extensive. Pets must be asleep during this procedure, so check that your cleaning estimate covers the price of anesthesia. Money saving tip: Bundle teeth cleanings with other procedures that require anesthesia.

• Who is at risk? Certain breeds of dogs and cats develop more extensive dental problems than others, making dental care even more important, so check with your vet.

• Look for warning signs: Bad breath is often an indicator. Also look for excessive tartar, redness of the gums and teeth that appear damaged, broken or chipped. Other signs you may notice: your pet doesn’t play with their toys anymore or they may drop food or only chew with one side of their mouth.

How to save money on dental care:

• Dental cleanings are expensive: It always pays to shop around. Hiring tip: Do your research – call at least three veterinarians and ask what they charge for this procedure and what is included.

• Consider your options: Some pet owners have found it helpful to open a pet savings account to prepare for these costs, or you can ask your veterinarian if they offer a payment plan. If you are considering pet insurance, be sure to ask about deductibles, exclusions, co-pays and caps.

• Remember that old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Brushing your pet’s teeth can lessen the number of times they need a professional cleaning, and you’ll be able to detect problems at the outset when they’re easier and cheaper to treat. If it’s difficult to brush your pet’s teeth, ask your vet for any alternatives to help keep your pet’s teeth clean.

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