Anesthesia Free Dental Cleanings

    Dental care is extremely important for our pets. As one of the ICU technicians at Encina Veterinary Hospital, I have personally seen the painful aftereffects of non-anesthetic dental cleanings performed by individuals (feed or pet stores, groomers) and I felt compelled to write about it (as well as some pushing and shoving [read: strong encouragement] from our blogger, Christina!) Although I am not one of the dental technicians, my heart breaks when someone brings in their pet with a tooth root abscess, or some other damage inflicted by an individual who “cleaned” their beloved pet’s teeth.

    Here at Encina Veterinary Hospital we recommend dental cleanings to our patients which require full anesthesia so that our Doctors and Technicians can do a safe and thorough job of fully examining, evaluating, cleaning and polishing your pet’s teeth. There are many places out there now that advertise non-anesthetic dental cleanings for very little money, who also convince/put the fear in pet owners that this is a safer technique than general anesthesia cleanings performed by licensed professionals like registered veterinary assistants and veterinarians. The problem lies in the fact that they may not be cleaning and polishing all the teeth properly. If teeth aren’t polished after scaling, bacteria can work its way deeper into the tooth cavity and create abscesses and many more (expensive) problems. It may seem like an easy and inexpensive alternative, but if not done correctly can be both expensive to your wallet, painful to your pet and even deadly.

    I know I have enough trouble trying to brush my dog’s teeth on the outside, never mind getting in all those nooks and crannies on the inside! And she certainly wouldn’t allow me to spend time scraping tartar off any of her back teeth and then polishing out the microscratches that the scraping leaves behind. The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposed a bill (AB 2304) recently which would allow unlicensed individuals to scale pet’s teeth as long as it is with an unmotorized instrument without veterinary supervision. There are companies and websites out there touting the benefits of non-anesthetic cleaning, which are ill informed and send the wrong message to owners. They leave owners scared of veterinarians and general anesthesia, while subjecting your pets to harmful and scary improper dental cleanings. While cleanings here Encina Vet Hospital may be more expensive than the “cleanings” at your groomers, we have your pet’s best health and care in mind; we always treat your pets as if they are our own and we don’t lie to our clients to make a buck. Aren’t your pets worth doing what is right for them?

– Meg Davies, RVT

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Jill Christofferson’s advice article in the Contra Costa Times regarding anesthesia free dental cleanings:

When an animal is anesthetized, the area under the gum line can be properly cleaned using ultrasonic or sonic instruments and any pockets can be assessed and treated properly. The teeth are then polished. Dental X-rays and oral surgery can also be performed when needed. Many pet owners are frightened by anesthesia and think that having the teeth cleaned without it will be safer for their pet.

Anesthetic deaths do occur, and almost every veterinarian can tell of a death that occurred under their care. These deaths are rare, however, and the anesthetic agents currently used in veterinary medicine are considered very safe.

Animals who have had their teeth scaled without anesthesia can suffer from cuts to the gums, bruising of the skin due to excessive restraint, neck injuries, and even jaw fractures. I have known a few dogs who have had expensive and even life-threatening illnesses as a result of having their teeth cleaned in this manner.

The law in California states that performing dentistry on an animal constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine and needs to be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. The people performing anesthesia-free dental cleanings are not state-licensed or regulated and rarely work under a veterinarian’s supervision.

– Dr. Jill Christofferson

The Everyday Kennel Staffer and the Extraordinary Ordinary Work

Encina Veterinary Hospital is composed of over 70 employees among multiple teams; Doctors, Interns, Administration, Client Services, Doctor Assistants, Patient Care and Kennel Assistants. Alicia Pickard is one of the team members on the Kennel Assistant team and her wide range of skills and duties are priceless to Encina. Below you will find a piece co-written by Alicia, giving you an insider’s look into the team that is always ready to help in one way or another.

Alicia, a Kennel Assistant at Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek, helps keep a patient calm and still during a bandage change

    As the first kennel assistant to appear each morning at Encina, I’m right on top of my game. I always like to see what’s up for the day first before I begin any task. Once I’ve looked at what the day holds for EVH, I look to the boarders (pets who stay with us for medical boarding while their human is out of town or unable to care for them at the moment) as they are usually the most enthusiastic when asking for some attention and love. First, I feed our medical boarders, supply them with fresh water, clean their kennels and give them clean fresh bedding, dispense and give them their appropriate medications , walk the dogs and spend some time snuggling each of them. Then I make my way to our in house blood donor cats (we have two cats each year who live with us to provide blood to cat patients who may need it and once that year is up, we work VERY hard to find them loving homes that will spoil them silly!). As I take care of one, the other will start talking and purring because I’m the ‘lady who feeds them’ in their eyes. It’s rewarding to be greeted so nicely, even if you know that they’re just in it for the food. Depending on the situation, some boarders may take some extra time if I have to coax or encourage them to either eat or take their medications. This takes patience, a gentle touch and dedication as some pets may be out of their comfort zone while staying with us.

    Once the boarders and blood donor kitties have been taken care of, it’s time to turn on my talents (my favorite part of the day!). For a day, I could be a chef – we make a bland diet of chicken and rice when animals have had medical issues and need to revert to eating something light and easy on the stomach. Chicken is also used to encourage patients to eat their meals and tends to work great. I could be a dog walker; dogs have their own personal needs and sometimes they just need to stretch their legs, enjoy the outdoors, sniff around and have some time to themselves. I’m the person who keeps the treatment room clean; laundry, dirty patient food bowls, tables to floors to the kennels, anything I can reach I can clean. I’m the additional hands for technicians and doctors; count on me for holding a patient during a blood draw, chemotherapy treatment, echocardiograms and ultrasounds, x-rays, nail trims and everything in between. I am also often the person who comforts a pet while getting an injection or any other type of uncomfortable procedure. When I’m not cleaning, cooking, or being an extra set of hands, I help sterilize tools and put together surgical packs for upcoming surgeries. Throughout the day, I find myself utilizing many of my talents to better serve my team and the patients.

    Each day is a little different from the last which keeps me on my toes and ready for anything that the next day brings. The role of the kennel staffer is a broad spectrum of efforts that collected together makes us a strong part of the work force at EVH. I’m happy to be able to always say “yes” when it comes to helping my team!

Introducing … Hospice & In-Home Care!

Today being National Pet Hospice Day, we felt it would be appropriate to announce Encina’s newest service: Hospice and In Home Care!

The focus of our pet hospice program is to make a pet’s last stage of life more pleasant with the proper use of pain medications, dietary strategies and veterinary care provided by our registered veterinary technician, Barbara. The goal of pet hospice is not to cure your pet’s illness but rather to ensure a peaceful end-of-life experience. Alongside your veterinarian here at Encina, Barbara will work closely with you and your pet to decide what is best for your beloved pet in the comfort of your own home.

Our in-home care is geared towards pets who aren’t terminal, but need some assistance at home. Your pet may be recuperating from surgery, recently paralyzed or need at home fluids/injections; these are a few of the reasons why one might elect in-home care.

You can read more about our hospice program by clicking here.

Welcome to Chez Encina!

The Unique Structure of Encina Veterinary Hospital

When describing my workplace to friends, the easiest metaphor I have found to liken our hospital structure is to that of a restaurant. Encina boasts four teams, Client Services, Doctor’s Assistants, Patient Care, and Doctors. Read on for a break down of each team’s description and duties.

Client Services: These are the faces you see when walking through our over-sized wooden front door. Also known as receptionists, it is the duty of the client services team to field phone calls, and also to check clients in when they arrive and charge them out upon their departure. They also give hospital tours, so if you are interested in venturing beyond the exam rooms please feel free to ask for a tour. Barb E. is the leader of this cheery pack. In my restaurant metaphor, they are the hostesses of Chez Encina.

Doctor’s Assistants: Each daytime doctor has their own personal assistant, and emergency doctors have rotating assistants. It is the responsibility of the assistants to put clients in the exam room, and to expedite all aspects of the visit (filling prescriptions, scheduling appointments, preparing vaccines, filling out paperwork, etc.). Doctor’s assistants also help to answer phones. When you call Encina and you are transferred by client services to another person, it is typically a doctor’s assistant that fields the more involved questions. Kathy is the team leader for this diverse group of ladies. Basically, the doctor’s assistants can be likened to the waitress position in a restaurant.

Patient Care: The most varied of the teams, patient care handles all aspects of carrying out medical procedures and treatments on pets, under doctor supervision. This team encompasses kennel staff (that handle boarders and hospital duties such as stocking and sterilizing), surgical technicians, inpatient technicians (who care for hospitalized patients) and outpatient technicians (they perform services for pets that are only here for a short time). The team is so large, that both Amanda and Rebecca are needed to lead the pack. They are the line cooks of our Encina restaurant.

Doctors: The chefs at Chez Encina oversee all medical cases, see patients, perform surgeries, and are in a leadership role in nearly every aspect of what we do.

National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week!

This week is the National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to say “thank you” to the hard working members of our patient care team! Without the dedication, expertise, and hard-work of our technicians and kennel assistants, Encina Veterinary Hospital would not be able to provide the high level of patient care that we boast about! If you happen to stop by the practice this week, please take a moment to say “thank you” to the registered veterinary technicians, technician assistants, and kennel assistants who excel at keeping our patients happy and healthy.

Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan, Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.


Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan,Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.

Don't Let the Rain Get You Down

A little bit of cuteness to brighten up a dreary day. The photo above was taken by our technician Julia, who moonlights as our hospital photographer. Julia has a passion for taking pictures of animals, and as you can see, is very skilled at doing so. To see more of Julia’s work, please see our Facebook page at, she took all of the picture for our Staff Halloween Costume Contest!