Why does it cost so **!?** much to clean my pet’s teeth?  That’s more than I pay for my own teeth!”

 This is a very common question asked by pet owners– if not aloud, certainly in their own minds.  Many people, when presented with an estimate from their veterinarian, are certain that their vet is trying to “rip them off”.  It is not uncommon to get estimates anywhere from $250- $400 for an uncomplicated “Dental” for a middle-aged, healthy dog or cat from a good quality veterinary clinic.  Caution to you and your pet if you get a Dental procedure estimate for less than that– your pet will probably get exactly what you pay for– not much.

So, what DO you pay for?

The Cleaning:

First there is the Dental Cleaning, the actual processes of ultrasonic scaling and polishing the teeth just like a human dentist does.  This is the best, fastest way to clean a pet’s teeth.  Hand scaling would take too long and is usually not very effective for the degree of dental disease that most pets have by the time they present for treatment — anywhere from stage 1 gingivitis to severe periodontal disease with tooth loss. (see  https://cimarronah.com/dental-care/ for more on dental disease) The cost for the actual Cleaning is about the same for cats and small dogs as we humans pay our dentist.  The cost for large dogs tends to be a little more because they have 42 teeth (compared to humans’ 32 and cats’ 30) to clean.


Unfortunately, our pets don’t just sit on the table and let us spray water with a high pitched machine into their mouths, so they have to be anesthetized to do the Cleaning.  This is where it starts to get pricey.  Anesthetizing a pet involves, at the most basicclinics, administering a couple of preanesthetic sedative injections, an anesthetic induction injection, placing an endotracheal tube and administering general anesthesia for 30- 45 minutes (longer if there are other procedures done).  At  higher quality veterinary facilities, the patient will also receive an IV catheter to allow administration of intravenous fluids to keep internal organs safe from the depressive effects of the anesthesia. Furthermore, there will be an anesthesia technician dedicated to doing nothing but monitoring the pet during anesthesia and recovery, while someone else does the dental procedure. (Many lower cost vet clinics do not have an anesthesia tech.  The person doing the procedure also monitors the patient’s anesthesia.)  Higher quality clinics will also monitor the patient’s vitals with various safety equipment: EKG, Blood Pressure monitor, Pulse Oximeter, Core thermometer, Respiratory monitor, etc. (Minimal, if any, anesthetic monitoring equipment is used in lower cost clinics– trusting solely to the attentiveness of the human who is concentrating on cleaning the teeth.)    There is also nursing care such as keeping the patient warm (just like humans who undergo general anesthesia, pets’ body temperatures fall under anesthesia), monitoring during recovery, and often some bathing or clean up when elimination “accidents” happen.

Pre-Anesthetic Exam and Bloodwork:

 But, before we even get to anesthetizing the patient…  We need to ensure the pet’s health as best as possible throughout the anesthetic procedure.  So,  every pet, even those that are apparently healthy on the outside, should have a Pre-Anesthetic Exam and  Blood Screen. Here’s another $65- $150, depending on the age of the pet and any preexisting health conditions.  

Other Procedures due to Disease Present:

Consider that 80% of pets over  3 years of age have some degree of dental disease, much of which may not be apparent in the awake, licking, panting, moving patient.  Most dental disease can not be determined until the animal is under anesthesia and the veterinarian or dental technician can probe under the gums, take dental radiographs, or remove enough hard, calcified tartar to actually SEE the teeth.  We are often “going in blind” with regard to what is going to need to be done to treat the dental disease.  This is where the cost of a “Dental Cleaning” can really vary and escalate, without a good way to predict.  Pets may need subgingival curettage, root planing, periodontal antibiotic infusion or tooth extractions, which can range from simple to surgical, in order to relieve pain and persistent infection. And, since we’ve already gone to the trouble and expense of anesthetizing the pet, it’s better to just do the needed treatments while we are there, rather than going through it all again in a month or two.

In Summary, then

the cost of the Dental Cleaning in every pet’s Dental Treatment plan DOES cost about the same as yours.  It’s all the other stuff that has to go along with it that adds to the bottom line.  And, unlike human dentistry, where we have to schedule additional appointments for our root scaling or  extractions, often with different doctors (ultimately costing us hundreds to Thousands of dollars), animals need to have it all done at once because of the need for anesthesia. 

When veterinary bills and the human dental bills to treat the same degree of dental disease are compared, the cumulative human bills will be much higher. Dogs’ and Cats’ Dental treatments ultimately cost a lot LESS for the same amount of work, given the same degree of dental disease. Even the worst veterinary dental cases of periodontal disease usually can be managed for under $1000.

“OK.  But I get to pay my dentist over the course of time, as I have portions of the treatment done.  I just can’t pay $500 – $1000 to my Vet all at once!”

Medical Expense Savings Accounts available at Cimarron

We recognize that Pet Dental Treatments are financially challenging.  So, Cimarron Animal Hospital offers Medical Expense Savings Accounts to help you save toward your pet’s needs– whether it’s dental treatment or other medical needs or just to have an emergency cushion.  Our Client Service Representatives can set you up with a plan that you can manage, given your life circumstances.  Together, we can help you do the best you can for your pet.