By Dorothy Tucker

CHICAGO (CBS) — Cats and dogs get their teeth cleaned just like us humans, but the procedure itself has become a controversial issue.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker explains in this Original Report.

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Norman’s teeth weren’t always so clean. Due to his age, his owner was afraid to put her beloved Basset hound under general anesthesia, as required for a typical teeth cleaning.

So she opted for an anesthesia-free dental cleaning instead.

However, because animals are awake for such procedures, some veterinarians have said it isn’t without its potential problems.

It can be difficult to keep a dog or cat still so that various instruments can be used to scale the teeth without putting them under.

“For some of these pets, it’s really scary, so the stress levels are quite high. If they move, the scrapers can potentially injure their pet’s gums, or worse,” said veterinarian Taylor Truitt.

Wendy Hand, a registered veterinary nurse, treated Carolyn Lyons’ cat Monkey Face after she was harmed during an anesthesia-free cleaning at a different location.

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“Monkey Face’s tongue was almost completely severed,” Hand said.

The injury was so severe, Lyons eventually had to euthanize her pet of 15 years.

“I can’t imagine the pain she must have been in,” Lyons said.

Veterinarians said proper teeth cleaning is essential for pets.

“Pets oral health is a huge reflection on the rest of their health,” Truitt said.

Truitt said she understands the hesitation to anesthetize a pet for a teeth cleaning, but she said it can be necessary to completely clean the teeth.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association recently stated dental cleanings for pets should be done under anesthesia, but some veterinarians said, for certain pets who can’t handle anesthesia, cleaning without it might be the only option.

Dorothy Tucker