GREYHOUND TEETH CLEANING
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so it seems like a good time to take a closer look at teeth cleaning. As we wrote before, dental problems are the most prevalent health issue for Greyhounds. No matter how much at-home dental care you provide for your Greyhound, tartar will still build up over time on your dog’s teeth, just like with our teeth. We may be diligent in brushing our teeth, but we still need a dentist to clean our teeth periodically. The same is true for dogs.
WHY DOES MY GREYHOUND NEED A DENTAL CLEANING?
By the age of 3, most dogs will already be showing signs of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. During your dog’s annual health check, ensure they also get an oral exam. Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect their mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.
Some dogs need dental cleanings yearly, and others every few years; it depends on the dog and the dental care that they receive at home. In between checkups, monitor your Greyhound’s mouth for signs of oral decay. A few of the signs you should keep an eye out for include:
- Bad breath
- Crusted yellow-brown tartar build-up
- Weight loss
- Inability to eat comfortably
- Discolored, missing, or fractured teeth
- A misshapen or swollen jawline or face
When enough tartar and gingivitis (gum inflammation) are present in your dog’s mouth, your veterinarian will recommend a dental cleaning (called dental prophylaxis). Your dog will need to go under general anesthesia in order to allow a veterinarian to properly clean off all the tartar on their teeth as well as the layer of tartar under the gumline. Here is where a Greyhound-savvy vet will be invaluable.
Greyhound owners need to be careful with the medicine they give their hounds and what veterinarians prescribe because Greyhounds are sensitive to drugs that other dogs take in stride. Greyhounds are known to have a low body fat ratio, and their livers process drugs slower than other dogs. They tend to recover slower as well and are susceptible to an overdose.
I HEARD ANESTHESIA IS DANGEROUS FOR GREYHOUNDS
Some Greyhounds have a rare condition known as malignant hypothermia (MH), which is associated with an allergic reaction to some anesthetics. MH is a result of a genetic abnormality in the muscles. An adverse reaction to certain anesthetics causes abnormally high muscle activity, resulting in a significant rise in temperature that can be fatal. As soon as malignant hyperthermia is suspected, veterinarians can immediately stop giving the triggering medication and treat the condition with drugs that relax the muscles and stop the dangerous increase in muscle metabolism. If treated immediately, recovery can occur within 12-24 hours.
Even if a dog has this genetic abnormality, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will have a bad reaction to the anesthetic used, and so it should not be a reason not to do dental prophylaxis. Vet awareness and preparation will assure that your dog comes out OK.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Dog teeth cleaning costs vary across the board and are influenced by many different factors, such as what part of the country you are in, what services are included in the price and what is the dog’s degree of dental disease. In general, you will most likely find costs for dental cleaning in the $500 - $1,000 range.
Some veterinary practices bill for dental work by the type of procedure performed or by the time it takes to complete the procedure. If a clinic bills by procedures, a cleaning might only cost a few hundred dollars, but you might end up paying a few thousand dollars if your pet is having oral surgery like an extraction involving a large tooth. The main reason a dog dental cleaning is an expensive procedure is because of the X-rays and anesthesia required for the procedure.
It's difficult to compare pricing because someone with a lower cost may not be providing pre-op screening, X-rays, IV fluids or certified technicians, all of which are important to providing dogs with high-quality and thorough dental care. Tooth extractions and root canals are generally additional costs and require anesthesia.
Talk with your veterinarian to find out how they charge for dental cleanings and what is included in the rate. Then shop around if you feel it’s too much.
WHAT ABOUT ANESTHESIA-FREE CLEANING?
If you have looked into having your dog’s teeth cleaned, you probably have heard of anesthesia free dental cleanings (AFD). This simply means that your pup will not go under general anesthesia in order to have their teeth cleaned. At first glance, it seems less risky and less expensive- so why not?
Restraint - AFD
First, because your dog is not under general anesthesia, they must be physically restrained for 30 to 45 minutes. Because your hound does not understand what is happening to them, this can be a traumatic experience for them. Even beyond the cleaning, it can cause heightened anxiety during your at home dental hygiene routine.
Pain - AFD
Even with high levels of restraint, your Greyhound may move his or her head during the process. The individual who is doing the scaling to remove the plaque is using extremely sharp tools and could unintentionally cause damage to the oral tissue. In addition, your dog could be experiencing pain and discomfort while having years of plaque buildup scraped off their teeth. If there is a loose or diseased tooth, it will be painful to have this tooth cleaned.
Effectiveness - AFD
Unfortunately, the appearance of white shiny teeth may give the impression of a healthy mouth, but the truth is, it is purely cosmetic, and the dog may have benefitted very little. Without anesthesia, there is no possible way to clean the inside surfaces of the teeth or below the gumline. Plaque accumulation below the gumline is what can actually cause serious overall health problems.
This type of minimal dental was developed for animals that are geriatric or those which have a chronic disease or condition where general anesthesia is too risky.
The price range for anesthesia-free dentals runs from around $150 - $350. This type of teeth cleaning has no downtime, and your dog can go home after the procedure. This cleaning procedure should be done every six months to one year.
The bottom line is that the best dental care for your Greyhound is a regular veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia. Check out the following resources, and you will find that they all agree that dental cleaning with anesthesia is the way to go for almost all companion animals.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats,
American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Learn more about veterinary dental cleanings and the benefits for your pet.
AVDC also has a website devoted to anesthesia-free dental procedures FAQ: https://afd.avdc.org/