Ask a vet about your dog dental health questions

Question:  My vet wants to do a dental on my yorkie, and thinks he will need teeth pulled.  They gave me an estimate of around $500-600 for the dental, bloodwork beforehand, extractions, and antibiotics. Is all this necessary for her?  I am also worried about her having fewer teeth.  They said 3-4 may need to go but they won’t know until they are actually doing the dental.  Does this sound right?

Example dental calculus in a dog

Example dental calculus in a dog

Answer:  If your dog does indeed have dental disease, and if the vet thinks teeth will need to be pulled, then this sounds like an all too familiar story.  Unfortunately, dogs get periodontal disease much more quickly then we do, primarily because they don’t brush and floss daily.

If you the money for a dental cleaning, and she is a good candidate for anesthesia, your pup will likely greatly benefit from a good dental cleaning with extractions as needed.  One thing you don’t want to skip on is the bloodwork beforehand.  A pet should never ben anesthetized without bloodwork unless it is an emergency situation.  This helps your vet know if your dog is a safe candidate for surgery.  For instance, there have been countless times I have cancelled electives surgeries, such as dental cleanings, after getting dangerous liver values back for instance.  If your vet requires bloodwork before surgery, this is a good sign.  That means they don’t want to take the chance of operating on your pet without knowing it’s as safe as possible.  In other words, that don’t want to risk your pet’s life just for the money the procedure would generate–they only will do it if they know your pet is as healthy as possible.

Your vet is also right on track in saying he or she can’t know which, if any, teeth will need to be extracted until your pet is unconscious and your vet can probe and fully examine each tooth.  After years of practice, we can make pretty good guesses, but still sometimes far more or even no teeth will need to be extracted despite the appearance.  Your vet should have a technician call you when your pet is having the dental to keep you updated regarding the recommending extracted teeth.  Most clinics do this and I bet yours will too.

As far as the antibiotics, this is one place you can save money.  You can have the vet write you a prescription for antibiotics to a human pharmacy such as Walmart or Target.  This won’t save you hundreds, but it will save you probably around $40, as the generic antibiotics you can purchase at human pharmacies are significantly less costly, and are usually the same drug, just generic versus branded as a doggy designer antibiotic.

I am not sure what part of the world you are living in, and costs of procedures do vary greatly within region, but the estimate your vet provided sounds reasonable.  Most vets also have different extraction fees based upon which teeth need to be removed.  There are teeth that have three roots and require splitting with a special dental drill and significant time for instance, and then teeth that are removed simply and quickly.  This is provide an assessment of the estimate without more details.  Pain medication should also be included.  This can again be scripted out, but it’s usually not very expensive (usually around $20).  Still if money is tight, this is another place you can save a few dollars.

Now, after you get your dog’s mouth cleaned up and healed up after the extractions, if you will start a routine of brushing her teeth daily, it will help tremendously.  No, it is not easy, and I will include a handout on how to proceed, but it is better for her health, and will greatly reduce if not eliminate her need to have a cleaning again in the future.

Remember, yorkies have 42 teeth in her tiny little mouth.  The only difference she will notice from having 3-4 teeth extracted is no longer having those teeth cause her pain.  Many pet owners are surprised how much more active and happy their dog seems after having painful teeth removed.  Best of luck to you and her.  If you have any further questions, please let me know.