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Am I a bad dog owner? Teeth cleaning question.

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  • Am I a bad dog owner? Teeth cleaning question.

    My dog is a 10 year old pit mix. She's overall pretty healthy, although she did have an accident in November 2011 that required hip surgery and about 3 weeks in an emergency vet clinic, and a 6 month recovery. Luckily, she's back to her normal, happy, sound self.

    I feed her frozen raw bones about once every 2 weeks, and she eats a good (expensive) diet (I used to work at a fancy pet store, so none of that grocery store nonsense).

    Took her to the vet for her usual shots and check-up and the vet said "she could use a dental cleaning someday soon." He said it's not urgent, but we should think about scheduling one in the next year. In all my life of growing up with dogs, we've never done a dental cleaning, and I know none of our dogs passed away from anything mouth related.

    Honestly, I really don't want to do it. She seems healthy, her teeth don't look too bad (some buildup in back, but almost none in front), and I'm really hesitant about putting her under for something like this. I know she doesn't remember her accident, but I feel like she's been through enough already! And she seems healthy, eating fine, doin' her chasing squirrels thang...

    Am I a horrible pet owner if I opt not to do the cleaning?
    "I'd rather have a horse. A horse is at least human, for god's sake." - J.D. Salinger

  • #2
    I'll not comment on good or bad owner.

    I will comment on teeth cleaning.

    It is not about tartar build up, it is about examining the soft and hard tissue of the mouth that you cannot see well, without sedation. It is about noting teeth that are worn and/or likely to crack or break, any that need removed. It is about noting any small infection in the gums or other soft tissue in the mouth. It is about seeing any small growths or abnormalities.

    I found this out with an older dog who came to me with a stench you could smell across the room. It was his mouth and in the first dental, he lost 15 teeth. He was an entirely different dog a few days after he came home. He smelled better, he ate better, he was a much happier dog. A few years later his mouth began to stink again and he had to have a small surgery so while he was under, I had the vet look at his mouth. He lost 12 (?) teeth that time and again, came home a much nicer smelling dog and was eating better.

    Small infections in the gums/soft tissue can ooze bacteria and that bacteria can cause other health issues.

    Vets look at things other just tartar build up and what they find can be important. Obviously your vet is not tremendously concerned, but may be aware of some pending issues.


    • Original Poster

      Okay, thank you. That's helpful to know. How often do dogs typically get them? Does this become a yearly thing?
      "I'd rather have a horse. A horse is at least human, for god's sake." - J.D. Salinger


      • #4
        I agree exactly with what Threedogpack said.

        Our little daschie had a foul mouth and had his teeth cleaned on a periodic, but not regular basis. He lost a few teeth, until eventually they were all gone. Each time he came home nice and fresh, until he went putrid again. At sixteen he needed to be done but I asked the vet about putting him out with full anaesthesia and he told me the numbers were quite good at that age. That was when he lost the last of his teeth. He came home a new dog, ate all his old food, even kibble just fine, and lived a good, healthy few years after that.
        The bacteria in the mouth that the dog is swallowing must put his immune system at risk.

        However - that being said, there is only so much of our financial pie we can spend on our pets. We do the best we can with them with what we have got and it seems yours has cost you plenty.

        I would think about getting them cleaned eventually, but perhaps not right now - and not to worry too much about being a bad Mom! It is about quality of life.

        Meanwhile, my horse is about due for shots, shoeing, teeth, etc. ... and so it goes.
        Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


        • #5
          Originally posted by starhorse View Post
          Okay, thank you. That's helpful to know. How often do dogs typically get them? Does this become a yearly thing?
          it's something to discuss with your vet. Some dogs have horrible teeth that plaque up and cause trouble frequently, other dogs need only one or two in their whole life. It really depends on the dog, so talk it over with your vet.


          • #6
            Dog dentals seem to be relatively new, but I think they're an evolution of people treating their dogs more like family. Dental health is important for eating/digestion (keeping teeth) as the animal gets older, and important because an infection in the mouth is very apt to go traveling and cause problems elsewhere.

            My dog had a dental at 10, and while I was a nervous wreck the whole time, she came through fine and I spent the next few weeks admiring her shiny whites. Bottom line? It's another proactive thing. Will there be a dramatic "OMG, Boots would have died if I didn't do this!" denoument? Probably not. Are you a horrible person/owner if you don't? No. It's kind of erring on the side of caution.


            • #7
              Dog dentals are nothing new. It's one of the first procedures I learned to do when I worked at a vet office. 25 years ago! I have found that feeding dry food and hard treats (instead of chewy treats) helps kept them cleaner longer. My last old dogs didn't have their first cleanings until they were around 10-12 years old. My collies seemed to need them every 6 months. And pugs? OMG!!! It has a lot to do with the conformation of the mouth!!
              Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

              Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


              • #8
                I just adopted a 6 year old Corgi in Jan and during her exam, vet noticed a black canine. We scheduled for removal and while under, found another tooth cracked in two and one with a hole from the inside almost all the way through. All were removed and she is a very happy camper now. Her teeth didn't look that bad, but I did think she needed a cleaning when I checked her out. My vets office can now do dental xrays! They check for abscesses that might need to be treated before surgery. Luckily, we weren't dealing with those!


                • #9
                  I'm opposed to "routine cleanings" done just because. Many dogs maintain lovely white teeth their entire lives and don't really need anything done, so why risk their lives putting them under general anesthesia? yes, dogs die. Older dogs are more likely to die. It's rare, but it happens. So I'd only do it if there was something wrong- the teeth are obviously very dirty, or cracked, or there's a smell, or some other indication.

                  If your dog just seems to have bit on the back teeth, you could try brushing them and see if it comes off.
                  Or increase the frequency of feeding raw bones to twice a week. What kind of bones are you feeding- marrow bones? Marrow bones don't do much for cleaning teeth, dogs mostly just lick the marrow out with their tongues.
                  Soft meaty edible bones like raw chicken wings or pork ribs are the best for cleaning teeth, especially the rear molars- they shear through the meat with the rear molars and it cleans them right up.


                  • #10
                    They're pretty common. I've worked at one vet clinic that wasn't a big proponent of doing them routinely and one that recommended them every year. It depends on how the dog's mouth looks and how they're doing. They also can help prevent infections from spreading. Bacteria from the mouth can seed to the kidneys and other organs, causing other issues.

                    Anesthesia can be an issue for some dogs. Doing bloodwork and having good monitoring equipment can help to decrease the risks associated with it. A dental cleaning that does not include extractions has a minimal amount of time under anesthesia (as a tech it took me approximately 20-30 minutes from induction to recovery using propofol and isoflurane).

                    Dental disease can be one of those things that you may not seem to be affecting the animal but once you do the cleaning and find any problems they are much happier. Not always but occasionally.

                    My cat has had both upper canines, all but 1 upper incisor, 1 lower premolar, and some lower incisors taken out. He didn't seem very effected by them before but had obvious redness and swelling associated. He recovered very quickly and was back playing with the dog two days later.

                    If you are worried about the process and the anesthesia ask the vet to watch a procedure or get pictures of one before you decide. Ask them about complications and their protocols for anesthesia if that will help you be informed.


                    • #11
                      Just like with humans, it's not about being pretty and white, it's about gum disease being a great way for infections to get into the bloodstream. And if there's a tooth that needs to come out, it can make a huge difference in the dog's comfort and health. Not to mention since Tucker (who probably was never taken for a cleaning wherever she came from) had hers done and had multiple extractions, the stinky dog breath issue has been resolved.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kmwines01 View Post
                        They're pretty common. I've worked at one vet clinic that wasn't a big proponent of doing them routinely and one that recommended them every year. It depends on how the dog's mouth looks and how they're doing. They also can help prevent infections from spreading. Bacteria from the mouth can seed to the kidneys and other organs, causing other issues.
                        ^ yep.


                        • #13
                          It depends on the dog. My last collie and the current cocker needed/needs one every year. The others...5 yr old lab and 4 yr old hound haven't needed one. So far, the 2 1/2 year old collie is good to go too.