I recently spent more on a single dental cleaning than I've spent on my oral health for at least a decade.
The teeth that got professionally scrubbed belong to my dog.
Frankie's teeth looked great to me, but he'd never had them cleaned by the vet. He's approaching 5 years old, so I figured it was wise to get them checked out.
Given that I am a first-time dog owner, I based this decision on the poster in our vet's examination room that showed the various stages of periodontal disease and its effect on a dog's health. The vet agreed that it was a good idea.
I was a little apprehensive that the cleaning required general anesthesia, but Frankie is 16 pounds of fluffy stubbornness, and I'm sure sedation was necessary. The receptionist asked if I wanted the optional IV fluids during the procedure. It can prevent dehydration, which is more of a risk in older dogs, she said. I decided to spring for the fluids, even though Frankie is still fairly young.
I gave him a pep talk before I dropped him off: Be good and be brave, I said.
Maybe I was talking more to myself than him.
Four hours later, I called to see how Frankie was doing. The receptionist said that he had done great, and casually added that the vet had to do two simple extractions during the cleaning.
This did not seem like casual information to me. Apparently, two of his bottom front teeth were loose, so the vet removed them. I remember feeling the same way when my kids were small and the dentist reported that one of them had a cavity. It's a combination of guilt and shame: How did I cause this and why hadn't I noticed a problem?
Other than a less-toothy grin, Frankie seemed to be doing fine when I picked him up. They had shaved the lower part of his front right leg where the IV was inserted. The cleaning -- including fluids, two extractions and preventative antibiotics -- came to $517. At home, I noticed Frankie licking his shaved leg quite a bit. The next day the area looked red and a little raw. It was the weekend, so we went to our neighborhood pet store. I shelled out $18 for a bandage wrap and an antibiotic spray.
By Monday, his skin looked worse, so we went back to the vet. She prescribed a different spray, plus gabapentin (to make him drowsy and less interested in licking) and an anti-inflammatory medicine. Total: another $50.
She reapplied a bandage and suggested he might need a cone. By the time we got home, Frankie had ripped off the bandage. We went back to the pet store, where I dropped $23 on an inflatable neck pillow.
Frankie has never acted very bright when I've tried to train him to follow commands. It turns out he's not as dumb as he acts. He propped up his leg on his bed so he could continue licking it despite the neck pillow. The medicine finally kicked in enough to make him drowsy, and he only wanted to sleep in my lap.
This is when I turned to the internet for help. I checked the Facebook page for owners of this same breed and searched for dental cleanings. Several hours later, I was more confused than ever.
Frankie refused to tolerate the wrap on his leg. That night, I woke up a few times to the sound of him licking it despite the neck pillow. At 5 a.m., he came over and sat right next to my bed, staring at my face and whimpering until I took his neck pillow off.
I tried wrapping his leg again, using a larger nonstick gauze pad underneath. Within 15 minutes, he'd pulled the gauze out and torn it to bits. I decided to try a CBD "all day" calming bone (another $18) to take his mind off the obsessive licking. He finished it in 10 minutes. For those keeping track, the cleaning and subsequent issues have cost $626 to this point, plus six nights of sleep.
His skin is looking better, but he still starts licking when I take the neck pillow off.
The constant caretaking, coddling and worrying this past week took me back to when the kids would get sick as toddlers. They are on the cusp of young adulthood now. They don't let me fuss over them anymore.
Over the years, their perfect smiles also cost a small fortune.
At least Frankie will never get braces.