I wrote an article for SFGate.com on one of my pet peeves, so-called "anesthesia-free dental cleanings" for pets. I interviewed Dr. Stephen Holmstrom, one of the few board certified veterinary dental specialists in the country, and Nancy Campbell RVT, DVT, a Washington state veterinary technician with special training in both veterinary dentistry and anesthesia.
One of the things that kind of half-amuses and half-irritates me is that a few people, having read the article, have emailed me, sharing with me the wonders of feeding a raw diet or a diet with bones, and how that will negate the entire need for veterinary dental care. A few have offered to put me in touch with some raw feeders so I'll be able to learn about it.
I shouldn't be irritated, since I don't state in the article that I have fed a raw diet to my dogs and cats for over 21 years. But I do mention natural diets, albeit only in passing, in a "food for thought" way. And of course, my very first article for SFGate.com was about homemade diets, including raw diets.
Mostly, though, is another one of my pet peeves: The idea that raw feeding solves all problems. It doesn't. I've had lifelong raw, BARF-fed dogs who still needed dental care.
In addition, most dogs eat kibble. While I'm happy to try to change their owners' minds about that, the reality is, I'll be successful with very few of them. For the vast majority, information about how to safely get good care for their pets' dental needs is much more useful and potentially lifesaving to their pets than a thousand unheeded suggestions to give the dog a bone.
Whatever your opinion on that, here's a sample and a link to the complete piece:
Remember that the real culprit in dental disease is not the tartar you can see but the bacterial growth you can't see: under the gums, in gingival pockets and in the bone. It's not possible to properly examine a pet's mouth while he or she is awake, let alone actually probe gingival pockets and detect infection in the bone. Scraping off the visible tartar may make the teeth prettier, but it does nothing for the pet's health. And if it stops an owner from getting proper dental care for a pet who needs it, masks a serious dental problem, causes aspiration pneumonia or seeds the bloodstream with oral bacteria, how is this a good thing? How is this safer than anesthesia in the hands of an expert?
So while your fear of anesthetizing your dog or cat for a dental cleaning is natural and understandable, the solution to that fear isn't to seek out less qualified individuals who tell you what you want to hear, but to work with more qualified practitioners who really know what they're talking about.