WISCONSIN (WKOW/ANGIE'S LIST) -- You wouldn't go days without brushing your teeth, or years without getting a dental checkup. Well, your pet shouldn't either.
In this week's Angie's List report, veterinarians explain why dental care is the most cost effective way to increase your pet's life span.
Pet owner Sandi Lehr learned it first hand. Earlier this year, she took her 9-year-old dog, Harvey, in for an annual pet cleaning.
"Since he's a senior dog he really needs to have his teeth cleaned every year because there will be a little tartar on his teeth," Lehr said.
Every pet builds up plaque and gingivitis at different rates. Left untreated, vets say it could cause problems.
"If pets develop painful dental conditions or inflammatory conditions like periodontal disease it can affect their internal organ function," veterinarian Dr. Matthew Lemmons. "It definitely affects their kidneys and potentially their heart and liver as well."
A professional cleaning involves scraping plaque and tartar along the gum line. It also involves anesthesia and x-rays, and that means it can be pricey.
Professional cleanings run between $200-$800 depending on the amount of work that must be done.
"The best way to keep the cost down for a professional teeth cleaning is an ounce of prevention," Angie Hicks with Angie's List said. "Regularly brushing your pet's teeth yourself can help avoid the buildup and any additional problems that may lead you to having the professional cleaning done."
Lehr says Harvey's not exactly fond of brushings. So, she keeps a close eye and includes a dental supplement with his food.
"I've been told to do it, but I don't do it all the time," Lehr said.
Small breed dogs are the most prone to periodontal disease. Veterinarians say excessive bad breath is the first sign your pet may have a problem. Also, watch for not eating, red gums, drooling and lack of interest in toys they usually enjoy.