That One Time Our Dog’s Tooth Almost Cost Us $2k

August 14, 2017 in Stories

To say today has been the Monday of all Monday’s would be quite accurate. I debated on whether or not to blog about this because honestly I feel super sensitive about it – as a dog mom and since it deals with finances. But after struggling to find resources today I figured if this post helps at least one person in my situation then it was worth it. And I just kind of needed to vent…

The last photo of our non-hillbilly pup.

So we went to a friend’s lake house this weekend. We had a blast and it was so unbelievably nice of them to let us bring Camp along. Seriously, not a lot of people would do that. He behaved really well, played with the other dogs, and for the most part stayed nearby. I took a few photos of him and JR when we were hanging out on the dock and then we penned him up inside the homeowner’s wire kennel and went out on the boat for a few hours. When we got back we let him out and noticed a huge chunk of his lower canine tooth was chipped off. I went into full on dog mom mode. First I looked at the photos I took on the dock earlier and sure enough both his pearly whites were intact so it for sure happened while he was in the kennel. Probably gnawing on it to get out. Then I started googling, panicking, and making every attempt to not start crying. What was left of the tooth was completely cracked in half and it was sort of bleeding – it looked like it HURT! I researched a few options but figured there wasn’t much we could do about it immediately and tried to just make sure he wasn’t in pain. It didn’t ruin our weekend – he kept playing and running around fine and we had fun and enjoyed the rest of the time there.

What is left is cracked in half. The front portion is mobile.

Today, however, was a different story. First thing this morning I took him to the vet. We get in to see our new vet – whom we love, way more than our vet in Lincoln – and he informs me that since it is a lower canine tooth that he is unable to do the extraction. General practitioner vets are able to do all other tooth extractions except lower canines. Yikes! He said we had the option to do an extraction (remove the tooth) or a root canal (save as much of the tooth as possible and seal it so it doesn’t get infected). We also could get a metal crown put on to completely replace the top of the tooth. Either way we would need to see an animal dentist – yes, an animal dentist – to do the procedure. He gave us some anti-inflammatory meds to help keep the swelling down and then gave me the card for the dentist he recommended. So for this initial visit we already had to pay $100 ($50 to see the vet, $50 for the meds). JR called the animal dentist and thankfully they could get us in right away so we headed there next. (JR was at work during all of this so Camp and I were on our own.)

We get to the animal dentist and they get us in right away. We fill out all the initial forms with the vet tech and the veterinarian/animal dentist comes and checks out his tooth. She shows me what the tooth looks like (the lower canines are huge and go all the way down to the jaw) and then photos of our different options: extraction, root canal, root canal with a crown. She even informs me that if he is subject to this behavior (chewing on his kennel) frequently that I can get all four canines crowned – talk about a grill! She heads out and the vet tech comes back in with the quotes – $1900+ for a root canal and crown, $1300+ for an extraction. The quote for 4 crowns (a full Lil’Wayne grill) was $2999+. Uhhhh….

This is where I needed help. The vet tech was super nice and honestly that job of explaining the costs has to SUCK. Your pet is in pain. If you are like us you don’t have that money just lying around. And you have to make a decision on a super invasive procedure that involves putting your pet under. I felt like I was going to bawl. I asked a few more questions, took the quotes and information, paid $90 for the consult (so we are at $190 now) and headed back home.

As luck would have it, JR plays basketball on Wednesdays with another animal dentist. This guy and his connections. He texted him to see about a second opinion. He works for another animal hospital where they do have animal dental specialists and he happened to be one. I called for a quote and they informed me they only do extractions, not root canals, and it would cost anywhere between $545-640. That sounds a bit better! The earliest he could fit Camp in is Wednesday.

So this is where I struggled. I googled and researched to find anything that would give me some more insight. On one hand the dentist is telling me the root canal is the way to go – it’s way less invasive, will help save the tooth, and have a quicker recovery time. Con: it costs over $1900!

JR’s friend offers the extraction route at a much more affordable cost ($640), says the extraction will only have a 1-2 day recovery time and him losing the tooth won’t affect him at all. But like, HE WILL BE MISSING A HUGE TOOTH. (This is where I turn into a crazy dog mom.)

I couldn’t find anything thing to put me at ease. Also, did I mention we are Dave Ramsey obsessed? Well we definitely don’t have extra money laying around and Dave’s take on vet bills is to not get too emotional and to call around and get a few quotes. But I AM EMOTIONAL and the quotes – THEY ARE REALLY HIGH. For a CHIPPED TOOTH. When Camp ate the sugar free gum (which was probably the most traumatic experience of my life) it cost us $563. He chips a tooth – $750 at minimum.

So this is where we are at. We ended up scheduling the extraction with JR’s friend for Wednesday because honestly, it’s the cheapest route. I can tell Camp is in a lot of pain and I just want to get him taken care of and not overreact and spend a bajillion dollars. It just sucks – a lot. So here is my best info if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

If your pet is in a veterinary emergency situation…

DO act quickly and get as many opinions and quotes as you can. Your pet is probably in way more pain then he/she let’s on.

DON’T go to each place and get an opinion. Call first and see if your regular vet does these extractions. If they don’t, don’t bother taking him there because you will pay $50 for them to tell you to go somewhere else. Go in for one consult so a specialist can evaluate the tooth and then use that quote to call and get quotes from other places.

DO ask as many questions as you can. If you are nervous about something don’t be afraid of looking stupid. I was honestly wondering if pulling that tooth would make his tongue hang out the side of his mouth. Turns out it won’t but it was way worth it to ask.

DON’T only worry about the short term. It felt like when I asked how the procedure would affect him they would give me answers specific to his recovery time. But I was more concerned about the rest of his life. I sort of had to specify about wanting information on long term side effects. (Which they said will be none. Still on the fence about this since he is a dog blogger.)

DO get lots of different quotes. We got three different quotes involving different procedures and understood the range of costs and what we were paying for. Don’t be afraid to have someone explain the breakdown of the bill to you.

DON’T negotiate too much if at all. (Not Dave Ramsey’s recommendation.) I was seriously so emotional during all of this the last thing I wanted to do was negotiate. And it also felt pretty icky. These are people’s businesses and livelihoods and I don’t want some wack job cutting into my dog. I would honestly rather have a vet who is the bomb, knows it and stands behind their prices because they know they are worth it. Also note that a specialist (a practice where they only do animal dental procedures or any other specific procedure) is going to cost more then a general vet office that has a specialist on staff. They are way less busy and don’t make additional income from routine checkups like other vets do. They also had additional education (11 years total for an animal dentist!) and know procedures (like a root canal) which means they have a different set of tools and equipment.

DO know that it is ok to be upset and overwhelmed. It is OK to spend this kind of money on your pet. Stuff like this happens and that is life and you just have to deal. If you are reaching upwards of $5k-$10k for a procedure I would definitely stop and really evaluate your decision to move forward because those are giant numbers. But if you are in the $100-$2,500 range you need to understand that vet bills are part of owning a pet and sometimes you just have to suck it up.

DON’T be afraid to offer cash. We haven’t tried this option but I read about it after the office closed. I will definitely give an update if we can get some sort of a discount.

DO call your crazy dog mom/cat lady friend. Thankfully I have a gal pal that is equally obsessed with her pups as I am. It helped having someone who understands our relationship with our dog and let me know that I’m not crazy for paying $700 for a chipped tooth.

DON’T be insensitive. This is more for people who have friends/family that are going through a similar situation and is kind of the reason I wrote this post. No one said anything in particular but I just felt like I was overreacting and being too sensitive all day long. Saying “you can pull it out with pliers” or referencing putting the dog down is the worst thing you could do in this situation. Or even noting that “you would never spend that kind of money on a pet.” The pain Camp is in sucks. The bills suck. Making decisions sucks. The last thing I want to hear is that I’m crazy for having to deal with the situation I’m in.

Fingers crossed we can get a cash discount tomorrow and the procedure goes well on Wednesday. Any prayers are appreciated – he will have to be put under which is always scary! I will also be sure to post an update so check back if you find yourself in a similar situation!

UPDATE: Camp’s procedure went great and he is back home resting up. We ended up going to JR’s vet friend who actually did the procedure himself. He was so great at answering all my questions and taking care of our pup! The tooth ended up being fractured in two places so I’m not even sure if a root canal would have been an option. I am still super sad he is now missing a tooth (I almost started crying on the way home about it!) but we are glad it’s all done with! If you are in the Kansas City area and need vet recommendations feel free to message me – I left the clinic and vet names off the post since I had a lot of info about pricing! 

The overall costs ended up totaling a little under $800. We paid $50 for our regular vet visit, $50 for anti-inflammatory meds, $90 for the specialized dental clinic consult, a little under $570 for the extraction and teeth cleaning, $20 for pain meds, and $15 for antibiotics. (We did get to keep the tooth! HA!) We also got a few new client discounts totaling around $40 which helped (none were requested and just ended up on our bill!) I never asked about a cash discount so if you have ever been successful with that let me know. We could have saved about $150 if we had skipped the consults – you live and you learn! 

He is pretty zonked right now but I think everything will heal up fine! If anything else happens I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Thank you everyone for your prayers! I am a crazy dog mom so even though it might have seemed minor it was an ordeal for us! 

 

 

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