Pet dental experts volunteer to help animals

Volunteer pet dental experts put Sanctuary animals, including a dog with mouth ulcers, on the path to lifelong dental health.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Yogi the dog who received dental care and now has a great smileYogi survived Hurricane Katrina and has been safe and loved at Best Friends for some time, but lately, his happy face needed a bit of extra attention. More specifically, his big smile — he’d developed a mouth full of painful ulcers due to an immune reaction. It was time to help him feel better once and for all. So he was one of the first animals on the list to see some very special visitors. While Sanctuary animals were ringing in the new year, the pet tooth fairy arrived to put fresh, new smiles on many of their faces.

Healthy mouths mean more adoptions

Board-certified specialist Brook A. Niemiec, DVM, of Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialists & Oral Surgery, is working to promote good dental health in shelter and sanctuary animals as well as personal pets. When rescued pets have healthy mouths, it is less costly for adopters to add these animals to their families, and that means more adoptions.

That’s why Brook and five colleagues donated three full days of their time and services to give nearly 70 Sanctuary animals clean, sparkling teeth. The Best Friends Animal Clinic performs about 400 dentals a year on Sanctuary animals. But, according to Best Friends’ medical director, Dr. Michael Dix: “A lot of animals have not had dental work before coming to the Sanctuary, and their dental problems tend to be very extensive, so it’s difficult to stay on top of their dental needs. This is incredibly generous of Dr. Niemiec and his associates.”

Grateful animals

No one is more thankful than the animals themselves. Yogi benefited from a different kind of dental care — the treatment for his painful mouth ulcers was to remove his teeth, so while he may no longer have pearly whites to flash, he’ll enjoy a pain-free mouth (and soft food and treats). With his major dental surgery behind him, he’s already back to his silly self.

Dr. Robert Furman with Rogan the cat who just had a dentalMeanwhile, Rogan, a four-year-old, otherwise healthy cat, had two holes in his soft palate, the layer of tissue between his oral and nasal cavity. The damage, likely caused from him chewing on an electrical cord before he came to the Sanctuary this past December, allowed food and water to enter his nose. Rogan sneezed constantly and suffered chronic nasal infections. Because eating was so uncomfortable for him, he was underweight and often hungry. By closing up the holes in Rogan’s mouth, Dr. Robert Furman gave him the chance to eat (and live) like a normal cat.

Though Yogi and Rogan would have received the care they needed at the clinic, the dental extravaganza helped them (plus 64 other dogs and cats, a potbellied pig and a rabbit) get treatment more quickly. In addition, with their advanced training and equipment, the experts were able to save teeth that may have otherwise been extracted.

“A big difference”

Helping animals recover healthy smiles is fun for Brook and his team. “I love being able to come out and do this,” Dr. Erin Ribka says. “I’m honored to be able to give (these animals) disease-free, happy mouths,” Robert adds. And they all love helping the animals be as healthy and happy as possible.

“Good dental health can really help the animals feel good and improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Mike. “Thanks to Dr. Niemiec and his team, many of our Sanctuary animals got a lot of benefit. Specialists like Dr. Niemiec, who volunteer their time and talents to come to the Sanctuary and help out, really make a big difference to the animals.”

After all, while the dental extravaganza may have been a special event for the Sanctuary animals, good oral health and ongoing dental care — for them and for every pet — is truly a lifelong gift.

See the dental volunteers at work in the video below.

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