I've been reading some of the threads on this page and while I have learned a lot I am also very nervous about my 6-year old indoor male cat getting a dental cleaning + extractions under anesthesia. I was hoping for some advice from this community. I apologize in advance for the length but I make decisions based on a holistic assessment of a situation, so I've tried to include relevant information here.
1. 2011 annual appointment: vet noted "very clean teeth". I asked if I should be brushing his teeth - they said no. Exam not particularly thorough. I remember thinking they were talking more to each other than to me or my kitty, which is why I tried a new vet out this year (#2 below).
2. Took my cat for this year's appointment last week (Dec 2012). Vet recommended full blood panel ($189) including urinalysis. Justification: at this age, good to get a baseline on all measures so if he becomes sick at a later date, have something to compare. Also recommended dental cleaning ($200) and extractions (1 loose tooth definitely needs to be removed. Another is a 'maybe'. Was vague about price, but I think it was going to be $50-100 for the extraction of two teeth - said he would give me a minimal charge for the loose tooth which would probably come out easily). Vet was good until it came time for a simple administrative request - letter stating cat is healthy enough to fly in-cabin on upcoming trip. Insisted that he is not a "secretary" and does not write letters because then he would not have time to treat any patients, would spend all his time doing secretarial work. (? seriously?) BUT he was willing to answer my many questions and thorough with my cat (...or so I thought). Got the letter and the cat is on the trip with me now for 2 weeks. Vet said cat is probably experiencing some discomfort, but not to worry. This vet also told me that brushing teeth is unnecessary and Greenies are sufficient for future dental care. No medications given or recommended.
3. Took my cat for a second opinion. This vet found another two teeth to be extracted (root heavily exposed), as well as 2-3 more that might need extraction. Also noted an infection of the gums and recommended administration of antibiotics. Recommended basic blood panel ($90), but not the full blood panel unless indicated. Vet was very patient, willing to answer questions. Charged me for an annual exam in order to provide the consultation, but I don't think he did the part of the exam in which they manually feel the cat's abdominal area and glands throughout the body. Provided a detailed estimate of the costs. However, the cost is significantly higher than the previous vet (#2 above - around $200-300 for 2 teeth, not including blood panel), even if I take into account the different # of extractions (estimate was $580-$720, depending on whether he takes out 3 or 7 teeth, not including blood panel). I looked into the costs of some of the itemized supplies, and on the two I checked, the markup was 4x and 11x. (ex: Lactated Ringers Solution 1L = $22 on the estimate, but I found it for $2 on an online pet med supplies store). My "gut" feeling about the vet in #3 was more positive than about #2, but I am concerned about price gouging. Also, If I get the extractions done with this vet, my kitty will have 10 days to heal before the airline flight back home (which vet said is plenty) - if there are any complications I will have to delay travel. I am staying with my parents for the holidays, so this wouldn't be impossible, but changing my flight would be another expense on top of the already-higher estimate and I can't be gone too much longer. However, if I didn't take into account the much higher cost and the travel issue, I would probably choose #3.
I am a grad student (on financial aid), but will sacrifice other things to keep my cat healthy. However, I'm really torn about whether to do this procedure here (and pay about 2 - 2.5 times more, it seems) while visiting family, or wait another couple of weeks and go with #2. Both vets were kind to my cat. However, I don't know if I can fully trust either...
Please be positive or don't reply (I noticed some responses were very snarky and mainly focused on berating the guardian). I am open to constructive criticism and opinions/information. But I noticed some replies simply lecture or imply the owner is not committed enough. I ask my vet every year what more I can do to keep my kitty healthy. And to be clear, while I've listed prices above, I am in no way implying that price is the main/only factor in this decision.
I am trying to weigh several factors:
-trust in the doctor
-practical issues (I'm not in my own home right now and will need to travel soon. If there are complications like what I've read about, I would have a hard time extending my trip by more than a week or so)
-financial limitations (I will pay interest on this later when I start repayment on my loans, and while I am not 'cheap' when it comes to the important stuff, I strongly resent being 'taken for a ride' to pad the pockets of doctors)
-quality of medical care
Thanks so much in advance. If anyone with a similar question wants more info on the itemized costs (for comparison) send me a private message.