MARTINEZ (KPIX) — At the Contra Costa Animal Shelter, veterinary technician Diane Huffman has spent the last ten years nursing homeless animals back to health and the health concern she and the veterinarians at the shelter often see is tooth decay.
“We generally see the animals first,” said Huffman. “And things we have concerns with, [like tooth decay] we will bring to the attention of a veterinarian.”
Now Huffman and other shelter workers will have a more direct way to treat the animals in their care. That’s because all the workers at the shelter are taking part in a first-of-its-kind program sponsored by the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry. The non-profit group has donated dental equipment and instruction time to the Contra Costa Animal Shelter.
Staffers here have been trained by foundation volunteers how to identify and treat dental issues for the many cats and dogs they rescue each year. The goal is to make shelter animals more attractive to adopt and less of a financial burden to prospective pet parents. It’s a critical step, since a typical teeth-cleaning session for a dog or cat can cost as much as $1000 or more.
“This helps make those animals more adoptable,” said Dr. Clarence Sitzman from Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry.
“Instead of sending them out with a really dirty mouth, [so] when people get them home, they say ‘yuck we shouldn’t have adopted this one.'”
During the training, Shadow — a six-year-old black cat, and Chloe, a 2-year-old terrier mix, received full dental workups and will be ready for new homes soon. It’s the outcome Huffman has been praying for.
“Make them more adoptable, save a little money in the beginning so somebody is not going ‘well, I went to the shelter and I got this dog, it’s got this huge problem and I am not ready to take this on yet,'” said Huffman.
The equipment donated to the shelter is valued at nearly $20,000 and the foundation is looking for more shelters to donate to in the future.
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