Another way to clean those chops |

Another way to clean those chops

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyTricia Doran performs what she calls "gentle teeth cleaning" " instead of putting a pet under anesthesia, she just uses a dentists pick and "scales" the tartar off.

AVON, Colorado ” The white poofball named Phinney barely moves as pet groomer Tricia Doran puts a dental pick to the dog’s teeth.

She moves her hands expertly around the dog’s mouth, checking for any infection or major dental problems. Then she uses the pick, scaling off some slight tartar buildup along the gum line. Phinney doesn’t flinch, but sits still and casts calm glances around the room.

Doran brushes Phinney’s teeth with a gritty, fruit-flavored “prophy paste,” and the whole procedure, which took less than 15 minutes, is done.

“Believe it or not, clipping their toenails is more difficult,” Doran said.

Doran, owner of Foxy Hound pet grooming in Avon, said she offers pet owners a safer and cheaper method of teeth cleaning for their dogs and cats. The typical procedure at a veterinarian’s office can cost hundred of dollars and requires putting the animal under anesthesia, something that Doran says is unnecessary and risky. She charges $85 for the service, she said.

“When I first started working here, I saw that all the dogs’ teeth were beautiful,” she said. “But then I was astonished to find out these dogs were going under every six months for teeth cleaning,”

The dangers aren’t in veterinary care, she said, but any sort of anesthesia has inherent risk. Also, the procedure and recovery will take at least a full day, and the blood work and anesthesia are the bulk of teeth cleaning costs, she said.

With her “gentle dental” procedure and regular teeth brushing, dogs might be able to visit the veterinarian for a major teeth cleaning procedure, or avoid it altogether, Doran said.

However, she cautions that it is a maintenance procedure, and she doesn’t treat any dogs who have gum infection or loose teeth.

“If it appears a dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian, I won’t take them on,” she said.

She said she can’t think of a single dog in her 25 years of doing the procedure who wouldn’t let her work on it’s teeth.

Dogs tend to be most uncooperative with and around their owners, she said, so many people are surprised when she tells them their dogs were well-behaved and compliant.

Some pet owners are increasingly leery of the costs and dangers of anesthesia, as shown by the increasing numbers of appointments Doran is getting for “gentle dental.”

What began as a check-up and routine dental procedure ended with Eagle resident Paul Sells staring at the body of his Bichon Frise, Snowman, on the veterinarian’s table.

Sells brought his 7-year-old dog in after the dog seemed to be drinking too much water. The veterinarian ended up pulling several of Snowman’s teeth and giving him a teeth cleaning, a procedure that requires putting the dog under anesthesia ” and Snowman never recovered, Sells said.

Snowman began having breathing difficulties, and eventually died.

“When I saw him on the table, I was just so distraught,” Sells said. “I started yelling that I had brought in a perfectly healthy dog and that he’d killed him.”

Now Sells said that the family’s new puppy, a shih tzu-bichon mix named Bubba, gets his teeth brushed at home, but that he would consider the non-anesthetic process when the dog gets older.

It’s a story that Doran has heard before ” she can list off several clients and friends whose pets have died or had close calls after undergoing anesthesia during dental treatment.

“I was appalled to find that these poor animals were undergoing tremendous risk once and twice a year for basic routine cleanings,” she said. “Anesthesia is a wonderful drug and saves lives of both people and pets, but it is only our pets that under go this drug for absolutely no reason.”

She said that while in most places, including the valley, putting a pet under for teeth cleaning is standard procedure, she hopes that more veterinarians will start offering the non-anesthetic option instead.

Veterinarian Debra McGrath of the Avon Pet Centre said Doran’s technique is a good maintenance procedure, but shouldn’t replace the cleaning done at a vet’s office.

“I would say it’s a little beyond brushing,” McGrath said of the scaling procedure. “It can help prevent too much tartar buildup, but you can’t get inside or up and under the gumline.”

Veterinarians use a device that cleans the teeth with ultrasonic waves, and then they polish the teeth, which helps prevent future tartar buildup, said veterinary nurse and dentistry specialist Jeff Franzyscen.

It’s good for groomers to offer the scaling service for dogs with pretty healthy teeth, but any major build up or dental problems should be seen by a vet, he said.

McGrath also said the that the risks of anesthesia are low, and it is rare that dogs and cats die from complications of being put under.

“The anesthetics we use now are much better,” she said. “It’s a light level that we use unless it’s for extractions and root canals.”

Veterinarians also monitor a pet’s heart rate, carbon dioxide and oxygen consumption and blood pressure while the dog or cat is under anesthesia, she said.

Doran’s method has also gotten a nod from this month’s Colorado Dog Magazine ” it recommends that if your pet has to undergo anesthesia for any reason, have the vet clean their teeth while they are under. Otherwise, anesthesia-free teeth cleaning is a lower-risk option, it said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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