QC dentistry practice caters to dogs, cats

Carrie Winckler and veterinarian Graham Heuchert brush Ruby’s teeth during an open house at The Pet Dental Clinic in Queen Creek, Arizona. (David Minton/Tribune Staff Photographer)

A new dentist office ensures its customers don’t have a “ruff” time.

The Pet Dental Clinic at 18521 E. Queen Creek Road opened in May but held a open house for the general public recently to tout the “new concept” it’s bringing to the town: A practice catering to dogs and cats.

Dr. Curt Coffman, specialty director of dentistry for Thrive Pet Healthcare, said the dental-only, general practice veterinary clinic will focus on high-quality preventative dental care.

“Although general practice veterinarians provide routine dental care for dogs and cats, they often spend a majority of their time dealing with other general health issues,” Coffman said.

Carrie Winckler, clinic vet technician and staff manager, said the practice is seeing a steady rise in patients over their first couple months.

“We’ve been a lot busier this month than we were last month,” she said. “So I feel like things are going good that way.”

Their “fear-free” methods help to get the animals to volunteer for what the staff needs them to do rather than fight with them.

“Fear-free tactics are using more like positive reinforcement and just recognizing when an animal is nervous to come into the veterinary clinic,” she said.

While oral hygiene is critical to a pet’s overall health, signs of dental disease often go overlooked especially when they appear healthy.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, veterinarians found that 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats had diseased teeth. In cats and dogs with abnormal-looking teeth, those percentages increased to more than 50%.

Coffman said the practice focuses on preventive dental care.

“It’s our mission to assist other practices and help pet parents understand that prevention is less traumatic and less costly for their pet than delaying care until severe dental problems develop and lead to tooth loss.”

The clinic is a dentistry-only practice whose five-person staff are focused solely on pets’ oral health.

The clinic provides comprehensive general veterinary dental care, supporting diagnostics and therapeutic services, including anesthesia, laboratory diagnostics and surgical treatments.

Prices can run a little steep with an annual cleaning starting at $540 for cats and $600 for dogs, but the clinic accepts pet insurance to alleviate some costs.

Those prices include the exam, teeth cleaning, full mouth x-ray, anesthesia, and IV fluids throughout the procedure.

Winckler said pet dental care has become ever more important because life expectancies have grown and crossbreeding has changed some breeds’ bone structure.

“We’ve kind of messed with their anatomy a little bit to make them be the cute pets that we want,” she said.

Much like humans, cats and dogs become prone to the same dental problems as humans. Some suffer crowded teeth, which causes periodontal disease especially in smaller dogs.

She said these dental hygiene problems are something to bark about because animals can develop serious conditions without showing symptoms, and this is where prevention becomes paramount.

“Our ultimate goal and message is that they need it pretty much as frequently as you and I,” she said. “And they need it kind of starting at age one for a lot of these little dogs, or at least be evaluated to see if they need it.”

Clinic veterinarian Dr. Graham Heuchert is a Canadian native who earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Calgary in 1996 and graduated in 2001 from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. He had been chief of staff and lead veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital before joining The Pet Dental Clinic.

Heuchert and his wife, who also is a veterinarian, moved to Arizona in 2011 and have two children, four rescued pets – two dogs and two cats.

Information: 480-281-0076 or thepetdentalclinic.com.