February 26, 2013

Canine gets canines cleaned


---- — PLATTSBURGH — A dog named Katie got her teeth cleaned with a live audience looking on.

But first, Palmer Veterinary Clinic served lunch to the small group, then associate veterinarian Dr. Sarah McCarter gave a presentation on dental health for dogs and cats.

“Our goal is to show you what we mean when we say your pet needs a dental cleaning,” she told the seven clients invited by the clinic to the Dine and Dental seminar at the Route 22 facility.


During a standard procedure, the vet said, they remove as much of the buildup of tartar and stains on the animal’s teeth as possible and also polish them. The pet is put under anesthesia first, which also includes some pain relief.

The vet checks for any damaged teeth or infection and removes teeth that are no longer healthy.

When dogs’ teeth are worn down to the gum — from chewing on tennis balls, sticks and other toys — it’s time to remove them, McCarter said.

She said that when animals undergo extractions, they’re sent home with antibiotics. 

Even with the removal of several teeth, she said, the animal still has no problem eating. In fact, she said, they will eat better because they are no longer in discomfort from infection or damaged teeth.

“That mouth is much happier,” she said, while showing an image of a pet’s mouth that had just undergone dental cleaning and extraction.


Katie, a black Labrador retriever mix, lay on a wet-procedure table in the clinic’s treatment room, oblivious to the little crowd around her and to the hands in her mouth.

As the tartar was chipped off her teeth, everyone’s reaction was, “Wow.” 

The small audience was amazed at how much of the plaque and stains could be removed. 

Some people even leaned in to smell Katie’s breath, to use as a comparison to their own pet’s.

McCarter said a change in the smell of an animal’s breath could be a sign that their teeth need to be cleaned or that an infection may be present.

She said the typical time to start dental cleaning is when the animal is 4 or 5 years old. 

For a dog, the cost ranges between $225 and $245 at the Plattsburgh clinic and between $180 and $200 for cats. Extractions, based on how difficult they are, are priced at $5 for teeth with single roots, $15 to $20 for double roots and $50 for canines and other more deeply rooted teeth.


Because of advancing technology and awareness of animal health, McCarter said, the life expectancy of pets has increased dramatically over the years. 

Depending on the animal and breed, she said, lives have been extended by three to six years.

But dental issues can lead to even more severe problems, such has heart, lung and liver disease, she said. 

Pet owners can help avoid them by brushing their animals’ teeth at home, as well as having cleanings at the vet’s.

McCarter said she would like to hold a similar event on a different topic, perhaps weight-loss management and how it plays an overall role in an animal’s general health.

Two technicians at the clinic are weight-loss coaches, with efforts coordinated with pet-food company Purina, which sponsored the Dine and Dental seminar.

“Our goal is to be able to provide these for general patient health and well-being,” McCarter said, “to be able to make it a broad-based approach for something our clients are able to do at home to help promote their animal’s health.”


Cheryl Holloway, a rep for Purina, said she chose Palmer Vet to host Dine and Dental because they came to her wanting to do something out-of-the-box for Dental Health month.  

“This (seminar) is the opportunity to talk to the experts, to steer them (pet owners) in the right direction,” she said.

Sometimes people look on the Internet for advice about pet care, she said, and she urged caution about that.

She said to use .edu or FDA websites and to stay away from “Dr. Google,” as she refers to the Internet because a lot of the information can be false.

Mark Webster, owner of six cats and one dog, said he got a lot out of the presentation at Palmer Vet, including how dental health can affect other organs.

“If it can happen in people, it can happen in animals,” he said.

Maureen Triller, who runs a sheep farm in Champlain, said Dr. McCarter has even given her advice on alpaca dental health.

Triller said she learned a lot about cat health and plans to take action at home. Furthermore, she said she would spread the word around to other pet owners.

“The more people that know, the better health for all the pets.”


Through February, Palmer Vet has offered free dental exams by its technicians, and reduced rates for cleanings that will be extended through March if scheduling isn’t available before the month’s end. 

Katie, who is 7, was a little groggy but awake before her audience left; she enjoyed meeting the people who had watched her teeth get cleaned.

“She’s just such a happy girl,” said her owner, Laurie Kimbler, a technician at the vet clinic. 

As well, she said, laughing, “she’s a Lab, so she tried to grab a sandwich off the table.”

For more information, call Palmer Vet at 561-1893.

— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.