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Dental work on pets without anesthetic?

By Ed Yeates  |  Posted Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:45pm


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SALT LAKE CITY -- At Sugar House Veterinary Hospital, technician Rick Dobson delivers a dog named Sky to Ken Kurtz, another technician from California who is sitting on the floor in one of the clinic rooms.

He's on the same level as Sky and pulls her into his lap. His legs are in a gentle scissor position around the animal's body.

He begins to soothe the dog, gaining its full confidence through soft spoken words and touch. "Are you ready to get your teeth cleaned," he whispers in her ear.

Sky really doesn't understand what he's saying but the sound of his voice and the technique - the way she's being handled - triggers complete trust.

"To gain the animal's confidence, you've got to be nice to them," he says. "You've got to be gentle with the way you handle them. You can't be rough. Let them know it's a safe procedure."

Though the instruments grind and whine and the mouth is partially stuffed with tissue to keep debris from entering the throat, the animal doesn't jolt or pull away and is not under any anesthetic.


You've got to be gentle with the way you handle them. You can't be rough. Let them know it's a safe procedure.

–Ken Kurtz


"Very good girl, very good girl," he tells her.

In the beginning Kurtz's California company called Animal Dental Care serviced only twenty veterinarians. Now it visits two hundred clinics twice a month.

Technicians not only clean and polish, but probe and chart every single tooth or any other troubles in the mouth should the animal need surgery by a veterinarian.

Those at Sugar House Veterinary Hospital admit they were skeptical at first. Dobson, who is lead veterinary technician, said they "didn't think they could do it and (were) surprised at how calm the animals were with these people. They have a way with them. Their psychological restraint is masterful."

Within thirty minutes, Sky is ready to go home. The teeth are cleaned. There's no recovery time waiting for anesthetic to wear off because no anesthetic was needed.

On the day of our visit, Kurtz also worked on a Chihuahua. These small dogs are sometimes called "land sharks" because they tend to nip at strangers.

But in this case, little Lillie was mesmerized.

Veterinarians warn the procedure is risky in the hands of a non-professional. Legally, it's a medical procedure and should only be performed in an animal hospital.

Kurtz says about one in one hundred dogs and cats will reject the technique. That's a pretty good track record, he claims, considering he's even done a few Pit Bulls.

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