Letter to the Editor: State Bill Threatens Pet Health

New legislation could put pet’s dental health at risk, says an area veterinarian.

The term “gentle dental” may sound harmless, but this common veterinary procedure—a non-anesthetic cosmetic dental cleaning often offered at boutique pet stores—is actually more dangerous than you might think. And the stakes may be getting higher.

AB 2304, a bill introduced in the state legislature by Assemblyman Martin Garrick, would allow individuals who are not licensed or regulated to use dental instruments on pets to clean their teeth without any veterinary supervision.

This bill would eliminate the current law that protects pets during veterinary dental procedures. If passed, veterinary dental cleanings would not require supervision by a licensed veterinarian or any minimum standards of cleanliness, sanitation or facilities. In addition, it would not be necessary to keep medical records on the pet when the procedures are performed.

Any individual would be allowed to perform veterinary dental procedures without any specific education, training or licensing requirements. What’s more, if an animal is injured by an unlicensed practitioner, the pet owner would not be able to file a complaint through a state agency if the pet is injured or dies.

I have been in practice for 20 years in Encinitas as a licensed companion animal veterinarian. While this bill does state that the scraping of a dog or cat’s teeth is a cosmetic procedure, I can confirm that it is also the practice of veterinary medicine and it would negate the regulations currently pending at the Veterinary Medical Board and Department of Consumer Affairs.

Would you trust your hairdresser to give you proper dental care? How about taking your kids to Whole Foods for a cleaning? Of course not. So why leave your pet’s teeth in the hands of anyone but a veterinarian?

I often see pets that receive regular non-anesthetic dental cleanings and still have significant dental and periodontal disease, such as loose or abscessed teeth. The problem is that pet owners think these issues are being addressed with a cosmetic cleaning. They are not.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that cleaning only the visible surface of the teeth does not cure or prevent oral disease. Pet owners may not understand that the procedures offered by unlicensed or unregulated individuals are purely cosmetic and may believe that the pet is healthy after the completion of a “gentle dental.” Without an examination by a licensed veterinarian, tooth and gum disease may go undiagnosed, resulting in pain, poor general health and serious health risks.

In my practice, all comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment dental procedures require anesthesia. Although the idea sounds wonderful, non-anesthetic dental procedures do not address the concerns of dental and periodontal disease, which affects nearly 85 percent of all cats and dogs older than 3.

The dental services offered at my practice include a visual examination of each tooth (which can only effectively be done while the pet is under anesthesia) as well as full-mouth X-rays. These images are critical to assess the entire tooth, both above and below the gum line. In fact, studies have shown that less than 50 percent of all dental problems in cats and dogs can be diagnosed without them.

In addition, all veterinarians at my practice are also required to meet minimum standards regulated by the Veterinary Medical Board.

The California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act regulates the practice of veterinary medicine in California. It is enforced to protect consumer rights as well as the life and health of animals and the integrity of veterinary medicine. AB 2304 would be a major step backward for all involved.

I would like to invite Assemblyman Garrick to The Drake Center to view a full-anesthetized dental procedure and see the difference for himself.

I also respectfully urge you to oppose this measure, which will diminish the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act and significantly impact the quality of care for our pets.


Dr. Michele Drake

Editor’s Note: Patch has submitted a copy of this letter to office of Assemblyman Martin Garrick, and will publish any response.


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