10News Examines Anesthesia-Free Pet Dental Care

State Veterinary Medical Board Claims Anesthesia-Free Dental Care Could Be Harmful To Pets, Is Illegal

A 10News I-Team investigation found that unlicensed and what critics call "poorly trained" veterinary dentists are practicing throughout California, including in San Diego.

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They clean animals' teeth without anesthesia at a fraction of the cost of a veterinary dental cleaning.

The California Veterinary Medical Board claims pets undergoing the anesthesia-free dental procedure could be hurt. They say the practice is also illegal. (Click here to view the County Veterinary Medical Board's recommendations regarding pet dental care)

"Disgusts isn't a bad word," said board certified veterinary dentist Brook Niemiec regarding anesthesia-free pet dental care.

A 10News I-Team undercover investigation found several San Diego pet stores advertising the service and readily admitting that the procedure is not performed by a veterinarian.

One anesthesia-free dental technician said, "I use my legs to go over top of them so that they can't get up and then I use a hand scaler to go in and hand scale all the tartar off."

The technician said she worked for a company called Canine Care which offers the anesthesia-free dental cleanings at more than 650 pet stores across California.

"The state has made it illegal," Niemiec said. "The people that are out there doing this service have either had zero training or maybe -- and this is what disgusts me -- a weekend course: this is how you do it."

The anesthesia-free pet dental care providers 10News spoke with claimed to have had training "through the company."

Canine Care owner Cindy Collins said she has been operating for 33 years uninterrupted. She said her pet dental service is legal.

"What we do is a cosmetic teeth cleaning," Collins said. "It's been a turf battle for decades. They feel that we're competition." (Click here to see a poster touting anesthesia-free pet dental care)

Niemiec and the California Veterinary Medical Board say their concerns are only related to animal health and safety.

The veterinary medical board claims scraping tartar off the tooth in an animal that is awake provides no health benefit and can damage the enamel on the surface of the tooth.

According to California state law, people must also be licensed to practice "veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry."

Carlsbad Assemblyman Martin Garrick was trying to change that. He sponsored a bill to make anesthesia-free pet dental care legal. The bill failed to get out of committee. (To read the details of Garrick's bill, click here)

"Why do I support it?" Garrick said. "Because I don't believe it is bad for animals."

Niemiec disagrees.

"It gives clients the false sense that they're doing something good for their pet when in actuality it just allows the disease to fester," he said.

Many of those in favor of anesthesia-free pet dental work, including Garrick, say they do not think anesthesia is safe.

The veterinary medical board claims anesthesia for pets is just as safe as it is for people.

To read the American Veterinary Dental College's statement on the matter, click here.

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