How Much Do Dog Dental Cleanings Really Cost?

Photo by PoPville flickr user laurabl

“Dear PoPville,

I just adopted a beautiful, five-year-old german shepherd from a rescue this weekend, and she is already has me wrapped around her paw. We don’t know too much about her past, but she was malnourished and came to her foster mom with horrible (and I mean horrible) teeth. We want to get them cleaned, but the all of the baseline quotes have been between $450 and $700, not including extractions (which can be up to $70 a tooth!).

I realize that vet care in DC is very expensive, but I was wondering if any readers had recommendations for affordable dental care. Though I am prepared to pay the higher price, I want to make sure that my dog gets quality care, not a rip-off.


51 Comment

  • epric002

    i don’t know what just a dental cleaning costs, but it involves anesthesia, which is part of why it’s so expensive. have you looked to see whether any pet health insurance programs cover dental care? may be worth it initially to get everything taken care of. our corgi-mix also required a ton of dental work and aspca pet health insurance covered 1/3 of it.

    • Great point. I posted a reply, that will likely be at the end of the thread, that might be helpful for people.


    • I’m late to this thread, but I know a lot about this topic.

      Pet insurance (at least VPI, which we use) will cover (and/or apply to your deductible) some allowable cost for the anesthesia+cleaning+extraction if there’s an extraction necessary (as in, an actual medical problem).

      From the sounds of it, OP’s dog is likely to need an extraction. Frequently, the vet/vet dentist will find at least one tooth that can go either way and opt for the extraction, maybe knowing about the insurance implications.

      That said, since those plans tend to have a high deductible and there may be no extractions necessary, I’d be prepared to pay about $1k or so. We had a good experience at Atlas Vet with our recent rescue. Previously, we took our older dog to a vet specialist out in Gaithersburg (there are only a couple of these in the area, all out in the burbs) and they were fine, but prob not worth the trip.

      Hope that helps!

  • I took my dog to Helping Hands in Richmond for surgery and they did a dental cleaning at the same time. Helping Hands is a unique place – they only offer dental care and surgery and Dr. Pasternak’s model (no consults/referral only) means they can provide low-cost care to pets. We had an outstanding experience, and you’ll see online that review of the place are stellar. A cleaning is $175 and includes all extractions. We stayed overnight at a dog-friendly hotel in Richmond and including the trip, it was cheaper than anything else in DC would have been.

    • I second Helping Hands! I took my cat there for dental cleaning and it was great. You can rent a car for the day and still come in under the price of dental work in DC. It’s a flat rate including any number of extractions needed.

      • emvee

        Guys. Thank you for this recommendation. I’m seriously considering cancelling my dog’s $400-$500 estimated cleaning at City Paws for this + a Zipcar.

        • GiantSquid

          I go to City Paws as well and just was quoted between $350 and $800+ for my dog’s dental cleaning. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to deal with having a pet’s teeth cleaned. I know it can be costly because of the anesthesia and possible extractions while they’re under, but after dropping over $400 recently for the dog’s exam and vaccinations, I can’t help thinking City Paws is a bit steep in the pricing. Thank you so much to my fellow pet owners for sharing your experiences! I love my dog and want to keep it in good health but I also don’t want to break the bank!

          • Hi there, as I said below, I just had my dog’s teeth done at CityPaws (no extractions) and it was much closer to the low end of that range–I think the total was $375. This included the tests beforehand and IV fluids and other precautions. I don’t know if these precautions are standard at other vets–I feel like they were optional add ons at another vet for his neutering surgery. The vet at CityPaws took time to explain the precautions they take, called me when the cleaning was complete to give me an update (really nice for a vet to call personally), and then met with me again when I picked my dog up. CityPaws then followed up a few days later to make sure my dog was recovering OK and offered to have the vet call me if I had any concerns. I have had top-notch service with CityPaws. I should also mention that CityPaws provided a free consultation to determine whether he needed a cleaning and what that would likely involve, and they provided us with a little “goody bag” of teeth cleaning treats. I understand the cost does get much higher with extractions. I presume that adds several medical wrinkles–stitches, added preventative measures re: infection, etc.

        • Been trying to find an affordable doggy dentist forever – THANK YOU.

    • Hi Sarah, this is the OP.

      Thank you SO much for this recommendation…we just booked an appointment at Helping Hands! Well worth the drive, especially since I know she is going to need extensive work. Can’t wait to have my baby taken care of!

      Also, a HUGE thanks to the PoPville community…I wouldn’t have found this out without your help.

      • This makes me so happy! My dog had her front leg amputated and I am forever grateful to Helping Hands for making the surgery possible and taking such great care of both of us. Good luck! And make sure to meet the office’s resident dogs – they are adorable.

    • I took our cats to Helping Hands as well and paid a todal of $450 for both with blood work and extractions. I drove up early in the morning, dropped them off around 8 and they were ready to go home by 1. The cats were still a little loopy for the ride home which made for a quiet ride. It was a long day for me but I just ran errands and saved about a grand. Here is their website:

    • +1 for Helping Hands. Well worth the trip to Richmond. My doxie had to have 4 teeth pulled and they were great. Their flat fee can’ be beat, and knowing that all they do is dental work makes it even better. We did the trip in one day.

  • jim_ed

    We’ve had our dog’s teeth cleaned twice, both under anesthesia, and I think it was about $300 each time. We use Town & Country Vet Hospital in Fairfax, and they’re WELL worth the drive out to the burbs on a Saturday. I’d recommend giving them a call and asking the price.

  • Dupont Vet Clinic has dental month in October (and I want to say one other month but I’m not for certain on that). You get a discount when booking cleaning during dental month and the vets there are awesome. I’ve been taking my cats there for year. You may also want to look into pet dental insurance if her mouth is really bad.

    • Dupont charged us $800 for my dog’s anesthesia and cleaning last October, but they refunded it later after it came to light that my dog suffered a terrible burn while under anesthesia for around 45 minutes. Dr. Hollis supposedly could never nail down the cause of the burn, though she claimed to think it was somehow related to the EKG equipment. It was an awful, frightening experience with a stressful five-week recovery. I would never let my dog go under anesthesia at Dupont again.

      • The exact same thing happend to my dog (Dr. Hollis told me that three dogs were burned in surgery that day). But, while Dupont vet covered the cost of treatment of his burn they didn’t refund me for the cost of the surgery!

        • Yes, I did hear that other dogs were burned that day. I think ours may have been the worst of the injuries, but you should ask them to refund your cost. That was such a scary situation, and people need to ask lots of questions about safety standards at Dupont. I’m very sorry your dog was hurt, too.

  • We were quoted $1500 for extracting two teeth and dental cleaning at Dupont Vet a few years ago. The prices you’re quoting sound a lot better than that.

  • Try getting a quote from Petworth Animal Hospital. I had a dental cleaning done there for my cat for $165; other places were quoting in the high $200s and up.
    It’s a no-frills kind of place, which I guess is why their rates are so low.

  • Just went through this with one of my cats, who apparently has a genetic propensity for bad teeth. And she is relatively young- 5 years old. My other five year-old cat (not related) has great teeth. I paid about $670 for a dental with (I think) about five extractions at Union Vet. I was very pleased with the results and think it was more than worth it. The cat had very bad breath (a sign of all the bad things going on with her teeth), and she was in pain due to severe teeth decay issues. I wasn’t aware of the extent of it until they put her under and did a really complete exam before cleaning, etc. She is so much happier now.

    • Forgot to mention: Union Vet has a discount on dentals during October and February. However, if your dog’s teeth really are bad- and he is in pain- don’t wait for a discount month. Waiting could result in a larger bill, pain for the animal, and worse problems down the road.

  • I take my cat out of town to my mom’s vet for dentals bc they are so expensive here. Another option to check out, though, is Hyattsville Animal Hospital. The vet I saw most recently at Union Vet came from that practice and he unabashedly told me their prices are much lower than in the city.

  • A colleague recommended to me Ann’s Quality Grooming in Rockville for teeth cleaning. They don’t use anesthesia but gently hold the animals. Not sure it would work if there are serious dental problems, though. He told me it was about $300 and generally a good experience. I just checked the website and it says 75-250 depending. There is also a coupon on the website. Reminds me I need to start thinking about this for my pup!

  • Just under $500 for a cleaning – no extractions – at Atlas Vet a few months ago. Right in the ballpark of what you were quoted. If it’s necessary on a “right now or very soon” basis and you’re strapped for cash, then the lower-cost options might be the best way to go. I just felt better taking my dog to the vets who know his complete medical history. They told me that it would likely be necessary “in about a year” at his annual a while back, so I had some time to save up for it, which really helped. (He WILL NOT chew…on anything (even Greenies…I find them in the corner of the couch, under my blanket, etc.)…we’re now brushing, but he is not very compliant, so I assume I’ll be doing it again in another 3-5 years…sigh)

  • Sunshine animal clinic in Annandale isn’t too expensive. They also have specials but I thonk that was in Feb.

  • I think we pay about 350 at suburban animal hospital – we have a 100lb dog (matter for anesthesia)

  • Am I the only one who finds the thought of a discounted anesthetic procedure a little terrifying?

    • Agreed! We go to Friendship, which can be pricey, but if the cost goes beyond what’s in our bank account at that moment, we use a no interest Care Credit card to make it happen. They saved our cat’s life (and gave him a fantastic quality of life, which he’s still enjoying 5+ years later), which I will never forget!

      • Friendship saved our cat’s life too – she had some sort of reaction to a change in food and just quit eating, lost half her weight, Friendship put in a neck tube and taught us to feed her concentrated cat food through the tube, which we did 4 times a day for about two months. She gained weight and suddenly started eating on her own again, which was miraculous. Throughout this process, the Friendship staff was unfailingly compassionate and professional. Three years later she’s doing great. It was miraculous. We gave a big donation to WARL on their behalf out of gratitude.

  • That One Guy

    Uh…my dog lets me scale his teeth albeit gruntingly.

  • WARL on Oglethorpe St. does cat & dog dental at reasonable, and sliding fees depending on income. I just had my two cats done – $156.00 each. Though the vet did call about possible extractions of un-erupted baby teeth that would have made it $450.00. (She was however, very good about explaining the options, potential difficulties etc. and was perfectly fine whichever way I decided.)

    Turned out the teeth couldn’t be extracted because they were too close to other good teeth. I have my dog scheduled next.

    • I second WARL. My friend just had her dog’s cleaned at WARL for about $200 and is thrilled with the results. Plus, when you use the WARL vet you help subsidize folks that can’t pay for vet care.

    • Wow — sounds like WARL’s price for a cat dental is even cheaper than Petworth Animal Hospital’s! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.

  • UstBear

    our 90 lbs Lab was $375 for just cleaning at Friendship.. we have been going there for 8 years they are expensive but it is quality care.

  • I just looked back at my cat’s dental work from June 2010: it came to about $750 including the exam, the sedation, x-rays, several extractions, and prescriptions. So either I got ripped off or you aren’t. I went to Union Vet and was satisfied with them. We have a vet that makes home visits for most things, but we use Union Vet for stuff she can’t do, like dental work.

    • I should add that I had VPI pet insurance during that time, and Union Vet worked with me to get some of their work covered. Most dental work wouldn’t be, but my cat had feline oral resorptive lesions (I don’t really know what that means) and thus it qualified. So it might be worth comparing not only the overall price, but how willing they’ll be to submit to pet insurance and whether that can save you any money.

  • The costs sound about right for a city vet practice. Like several other posters, I go to Union Vet on Capitol Hill for my cats’ health needs. I try to schedule cleanings for one of the two months when they give a 20% discount on cleanings. Even so, it still costs $500 without any extractions. Some of the cost is anesthesia, but some of it is mandatory blood work. Union Vet requires pre-op blood work which is the right thing to do. Anesthesia is tricky in animals so the vet needs to know about any underlying issues.

  • My dog just had his teeth cleaned (no extractions, but tests and IV fluids and the whole nine yards in terms of precautions). Total was about $375 at CityPaws on 14th. I was very pleased with their service–very reassuring about the procedure and took the time to followup with me.

  • I wanted to offer another position for everyone considering a dental cleaning (or any veterinary care) for their animal.
    There are many things that can increase the costs of appropriate, safe veterinary dental care. I wanted to list a few of these so that everyone might better understand the value that local hospitals such as city paws, union, and friendship hospital for animals (where I work) provide to DC pets and their owners. I cannot speak directly to the dental practices of Union, city paws, and the other well run, primary care practices in the area (as I have not evaluated there dental practices directly), other than to say that I know the hospitals, and they are staffed by conscientious, progressive, caring doctors and staff, and that there practices are likely very similar to ours at Friendship… Also, you should know I do not do dentistry here at Friendship (I am the surgical specialist here), but I have worked closely with the dental doctors and our anesthesiologist to improve the dental experience, value provided, and safety of the service.

    1. As epric002 pointed out, the biggest difference between human dentistry and veterinary dentistry is the need for general anesthesia. There are some options for sedated or non-anesthetic dentals (there is a link to an article below regarding some concerns with these practices) however I will sum up the controversy by saying that as one can imagine the cleaning that can be achieved when an animal is not asleep is not as complete as is necessary to prevent gingivitis and tooth loss (see the article). There are many different components to safe anesthesia (see article below).
    a. Drugs
    i. There are the number and volumes drugs used (multiple low dose is generally safer than high doses of one drug)
    ii. There is the type of drugs used (ones that address pain, in addition to making them sleep)
    iii. There are drugs that are more or less dangerous with various conditions (kidney disease and heart disease).
    b. Pre-anesthetic testing and examination – Before putting a human or animal under anesthesia, making sure that everything is working properly is a must (and a no brainer). If there is an organ system that is not functioning well, causing a drop in blood pressure, or a change in oxygenation or lung functioning can be life threatening or speed along the decline of that system… so I think not doing an examination before a dental or blood work, should not be heralded as a good thing as someone suggested.
    c. Monitoring- Most importantly you can monitor anesthesia very well, poorly, or not at all- monitoring parameters like EKG (heart electrical activity), blood oxygenation (make sure oxygen is in the blood), blood pressure (make certain that blood with the oxygen is getting to tissue), temperature (make sure all systems will operate in the appropriate manner), CO2 production (make sure that the body’s cells are converting oxygen to carbon dioxide). At our hospital, we monitor all of these parameters. I could go on and on about this, however the long and short of it is that some places do not monitor ANY of these parameters, or one or two of these parameters, so it is impossible to know if an animal is doing poorly under anesthesia and correct and small problems (like reducing the amount of gas anesthesia or reversing injectable anesthesia) before they become big problems (like cardiac arrest). So when investigating places, ask if they do all of these, some of these, or none of these, because it makes a difference. (It makes an enormous difference in smaller and older animals, or animals with heart, liver or kidney disease). The worst part is that significant damage to organs like the kidney can be done with prolonged low blood pressure and one would have no idea until kidneys begin to fail early, years later.
    d. Intubation – intubating an animal for a dental is crucial as the tube delivers 100% oxygen and protects the airway from bacteria, dental calculus, bacteria, and even teeth reportedly from going down into the lungs (this is very bad). During a dental there is a lot of air and water that is used under pressure to help remove the calculus from the teeth (and rinse the mouth). It is extremely dangerous to have an unprotected airway during a dental.
    e. Recovery – Monitoring by trained people during the anesthesia and recovery is important. If you don’t hook things up well, understand what the readings mean, or are able to monitor animals as they wake up (without those machines attached), problems can occur.

    2. Quality – There is much more to a veterinary dental than cleaning the part of the tooth that you can see. This is important, but really, only affects us as owners (improves breath and looks nice). I have yet to meet a dog that is self-conscious about his breath or crude on his teeth. The real important part of a dental is cleaning the calculus below the gum line (what sedated dentals are unable to do for obvious reasons). Also probing teeth to find areas where the bone has been absorbed around the tooth due to infections is huge. Charting and comparing bone loss and other problems to the last dental can help direct treatment to save the tooth, or tell you when a serious problem is emerging, and you need to remove the tooth. Dental X-rays – just like in people, dental x-rays help you to identify bone loss and other problems that will affect treatment, and amazingly may be completely hidden from everyone if you were to go by the tooth that is showing in the mouth. Dental x-rays is now recommended as the gold standard for every dental by the American college of veterinary dentists (see link below). It would be one thing if your dog/cat could tell you I have terrible pain in “this or that” tooth, like we can when we go to the dentist, but when they can’t one needs to be as thorough as possible.

    3. Options – There are also many options between leaving a tooth in place versus pulling it… so having trained personnel and the treatments at the ready is important if you are someone that is interested in those options. Also, there are times during a dental (especially in animals that do not like vets to look in their mouth) that we can identify early life threatening problems, and treat them well before they progress to the level where there are no treatment options available.

    4. What if there is a problem – Just like anything else in life, if there are no problems, then you don’t need highly trained people or equipment to do them… If there is a problem, there need be systems, personnel, equipment and sensitivity in place to help manage those issues. Having a hospital with the capability to manage an emergency complication overnight or having a hospital with a good relationship with an emergency hospital with advanced diagnostics and support systems provides a level of security that many people want and sometimes is severely needed. Places like city paws and union and many of the other local DC hospitals have very good relationships with the internal medicine specialists and critical care specialists that are here at Friendship. This provides another option for monitoring and care should there be any problems that need to be watched or addressed after hours.

    Honestly, I could probably continue, however I have probably lost most of you by now 🙂 . I will end by asking – do you think that that level of care can be provided for $175?

    That level of care may not be for everyone and every animal, and I do not think that anything less than that is wrong… however I wanted to write this response, because I had the impression that people in the blog were discussing anesthetized dentals as they would the purchase of a folding chair… Which is truly not the case. There is a lot that goes into the process of a dental to produce a safe, high quality, consistent outcome.

    For me, I truly believe that there is a time and place for low cost medical procedures when there is a life threatening condition that needs to be addressed, as long as every option is taken to manage the patient for perioperative pain and suffering. The difference is the decision to proceed with a dental is typically not secondary to a life threatening problem. It is one that is made, because it is an important part of health maintenance and animal comfort. The fact that you are reading this (especially this far) suggests that you truly love your pet and would likely want to minimize the risk of problems associated with this procedure- so thank you for being those people.

    Resources to check out–
    American college of veterinary dentists guidelines–

    Info about anesthesia free dentals–

    Info about safe anesthesia in companion animals–

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment and providing this information! I had no idea there was so much involved with anesthesia and dental care in pets. I will definitely keep this is mind when it’s time for my cat to have her teeth cleaned. It is great to have questions I can ask my vet to make sure we are getting the best and safest care out there. The info on anesthesia free dentistry is especially scary, I will not be going that route for sure.

    • Thank you for this! Our pup hasn’t needed a dental yet, as he’s still fairly young and LOVES to chew on anything we give him, but I’m sure that we’ll want to do one in the next couple of years. I have zero problems paying more for quality care, but I’m also always wary of being ripped off. This is great information to have for asking our vet about it in the future! Thanks again, I really do appreciate it, and I’m sure others do too!

    • Helping Hands must be quite the challenge to Friendship’s economic model.

  • Another option to consider. Silver Spring Animal Hospital and Dr. Ghouri. She is an excellent vet and the office is about a block from where 16th Street intersects with Georgia near 495. Really not far at all. She cleaned my senior dog’s teeth for $300 – no extractions. Also she was thorough with checking her blood before and after to make sure no infections were present. I wouldn’t take my dogs anywhere else.

  • I drive 2.5 hrs into wv for vet care. Sure its a long drive and takes pretty much a full day roundtrip, but the prices are quite literally 1/4 of a vet visit in DC. Even with a full tank of gas its cheaper. They are also a great vet and have been more than accommodating.
    South Branch Animal Hospital
    5201 us route 220 South
    Moorefield, wv 26836

  • Get pet insurance. It won’t cover the cleaning (preventative) but since she has such bad teeth, there’s bound to be at least one extraction. They’ll cover the extraction, anesthesia, etc… the cleaning fee alone is usually only about $100 out of the $2000 bill.


    VetweRx – Arlington 2301 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

    They have an ongoing groupong for $149. I inquired at City Paws for pricing and it was anywhere from $400-$1000 because of a teeth extraction possibility. I went to VetweRx… no extraction $169 (at the time). All you have to do is mention the Groupon Deal or event print it out. You dont even have to purchase it via Groupon, they will honor it.

    There are two sessions. First is the consultation and the second is the procedure. I can say that I basically messaged every person who reviewed this place in Yelp and since I am a customer, I will say that this place is great! They can usually get you in the office in about a week.

    Give them a call, mention the Groupon deal, and good luck!

    • A second to the groupon price at VetweRx. I used this and my dog had a wonderful experience. It’s a great deal at a very reputable vet. I hear what some commenters are saying about the price, but I think this place is just using the groupon to get new business as they’re new in town. Also, just because something is more expensive doesn’t always make it better.

    • +1 on VetweRx! My 11 yr old lab had a cleaning and extraction of 4 teeth a few months ago and it was a truly a great experience. I also bought the Groupon and even with the extraction (which was not included in the Groupon price) I paid less than $250. The facilities were clean and new and the staff was very knowledgeable and friendly. They were flexible with my work schedule and it was definitely worth the trip to Northern VA from the city.

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