Interview with Dr. Martinez from Little Paws Animal Clinic

Owner of K9 Gentle Dental, Robin Canuel, recently sat down with one of our host clinic vets, Dr. Martinez of Little Paws Animal Clinic to discuss pet dental health.

Your vet clinic is a holistic clinic, not just conventional, what are the benefits of providing holistic care?

Dr. Martinez: The public is requesting it. Society is getting more holistic, and people are asking for it. Bottom line is, we are at the stage where we understand that medicine is not just giving drugs. It is more than that. That’s why we have the water fountain and relax in our waiting room, when a cat comes with urinary issues, we don’t give medicine and send the cat home, without approaching the holistic aspect of it. And by the way, we can solve a lot of problems holistically even without giving drugs at all.

The teeth are one of the issues. When you teach the owner to brush the teeth in a puppy, and you explain to them why brushing is important, then you will have an owner who will prevent problems in the future including heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, etc. This is beneficial for the owner and the pet.

So it reduces diseases. Fewer drugs or no drugs by using the holistic approach. I’m not saying any drugs, some pets need drugs, I’m not against drugs, I’m holistic, and I use everything. By using fewer drugs, you have fewer reactions and side effects. They aren’t always the right answer.

You offer both anesthesia and anesthesia-free dental cleaning. What are the benefits of being anesthesia-free?

Dr. Martinez: Many vets think there are more problems with cleaning teeth with anesthesia-free methods. But overall, I believe there is more owner compliance with anesthesia-free, people are more open to it rather than anesthesia dental. Obviously, there is always a risk with anesthesia, or that is what people think. It is more costly because you pay for the anesthesia, the vet, the assistant, the blood work, and so on. So it is more expensive. I do feel that it (anesthesia-free) can be effective because you see the dog twice a year, rather than once every 5 years. More cleaning is more beneficial.

Why do you think many vets are against being anesthesia-free?

Dr. Martinez: It is not under the supervision of a vet, don’t have anyone there to consult, no control over who is working with you, no control of instruction or education. And, lack of standards. There are a lot of issues, there is no umbrella, no one standard.

Robin: These are definitely problems in the industry. At K9 Gentle Dental, when we aren’t in a clinic with a vet like we are at your clinics, we always refer clients out to vets when there are problems we cannot help with, like dental disease or loose teeth. The lack of standards is also an issue. We trained with a vet-run institution and with a local holistic vet to increase our knowledge of canine dental hygiene and many vets are very impressed with the level of cleaning we are able to accomplish.

In what circumstances would you recommend cleaning under anesthesia?

Dr. Martinez: When there is a severe dental disease, severe gum disease, and conditions requiring extractions or surgery.  Obviously different dogs have different issues. Dogs with conditions where the risks of handling the dogs could cause a heart attack or something. Difficult dogs are like aggressive dogs.  In some cases, it is best to have antibiotics before touching the mouth, like with severe dental disease, so in those cases, we would want to have the dog in to see us at the vet clinic before referring them to you for anesthesia-free.

Robin: We are very much into vet integration. We encourage people to go see the vet after the cleaning, or if you have an old dog or a dog with a problem, we ask you to see the vet first. We do our best to screen appointments and make sure to encourage people to visit their vets regularly as well.

When would you refer a dog to anesthesia-free cleanings?

Dr. Martinez: When you see tartar, healthy gums, even some gingivitis.  If they have more problems we would put them on antibiotics before referring them to you. If they have more severe problems, we could refer them to be put under anesthesia for cleaning. If there is a tiny bit of tartar, we refer to you. All dogs are risky to put under anesthesia. Routine cleanings, or owners who don’t brush or do not properly brush. Many people say they won’t brush but would prefer to come to the dental hygienist every three months. That’s fine! If they would prefer to see you every 3 to 4 months instead of brushing, that is fine.

Robin: We find that it’s really important to brush anyways because of the gum health. Even though the teeth still get dirty in a few months, the gums get healthier.

Offering both methods in your vet clinic is great. Do you think it’s something that will become more popular in the future?

Dr. Martinez: I suspect it will. But, it will be very hard to change the mentality of the vets. Canadians are refusing to even try different methods. But what changes society is not the vets, not the physicians, it’s the public. You and me. So if you convince the public that this is the way to go, there will be more pressure on the health system. When I came to BC, they just started changing something. Acupuncture was not allowed. 20 years ago they could put you in jail. Now it’s all over. It’s up to us, the public, to request it.

Do you see an increase in dental procedures performed here at the clinic now that you offer both methods?

 Dr. Martinez: Definitely yes. I think it has increased by at least 50%.

Do you receive any negative feedback for offering this or other holistic services?

Dr. Martinez: Absolutely not. Everyone is very happy.

We would like to thank Dr. Martinez and his staff for taking the time to answer our questions. And especially thanks for being part of our team as a host clinic and for taking on so many of the client referrals that we recommend seeing a vet. If you are in the area and are looking for a holistic vet who supports anesthesia-free cleanings, please visit Little Paws Animal Clinic.

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