On Saturday, November 22nd, 20/20 Investigative Journalism aired their piece entitled “Is Your Veterinarian Honest With You?” We wanted to address this piece due to the large amount of misinformation regarding dental disease that it contained, particularly the quote by Dr. Marty Becker.
Dr. Becker, who is known as “America’s Veterinarian” and is considered one of the country’s leading experts in veterinary care says, “I wouldn’t recommend the cleaning unless the pet needed it. If the pet does not have periodontal disease, there’s no use putting it through the risk of anesthesia.”
According to Dr. Stacey Kilcullen, this is a false statement. Periodontal disease starts below the gum line, so how would your veterinarian know that periodontal disease is present without putting your pet under anesthesia, performing dental X-Rays and examining under the gum line? Periodontal disease is not reversible; therefore, waiting for it to happen instead of administering proper preventive care can be considered negligence.
We would like our clients and readers to be aware that the statements made not only are false, but appear to have been altered to appease the angle that 20/20 Investigative News chose to spin. Dr. Kilcullen emailed Dr. Marty Becker, informing him how his words could negatively affect the public’s view of the veterinary profession, and here is what he had to say in response:
I want you to know what happened on the 20/20 segment that aired Friday.
After being shell-shocked from watching the show, I had a chance to reflect back on the 20/20 interview. They asked me “If you had a young dog that had been examined by a respected veterinarian and found to be perfectly healthy, would you recommend yearly teeth cleaning under anesthesia?” I replied to that question set up that way, “No, I would anesthetize them only if they needed it. There’s no use putting it (a healthy dog they described having been examined by a vet and found perfectly normal) under anesthesia unless it had periodontal disease. Note: After seeing the segment you see why they asked it “that” way.
Just before this I had described:
- How about 85% of pets have periodontal disease by the age of four
- How we have new tests (OraStrip) that are allowing us to detect periodontal disease hidden under the gums of pets as early as 3-4 months of age.
- How new AAHA guidelines require anesthesia for dental cleanings.
I agreed to so the 20/20 interview because I was going to be talking about:
- How to choose a great veterinarian.
- The importance of preventive care.
- How to save money on pet care without shortchanging your pets (daily oral care, weekly baths, lifetime parasite control, vaccinations as needed, keep pet near ideal body weight).
By the time I got to NYC the tone of the piece has changed. When I got to the interview, I literally spent 90 minutes on camera talking about the great things we veterinarians do to keep pets healthy, happy and living full lives. When asked a bunch of leading questions about veterinary care, I felt my job was to stand up proudly for and defend a profession that I’m proud beyond measure to be part of. Honestly, I left the interview feeling I’d done a really good job for “us!” Note: I didn’t know details of the show such as the Canadian vet they featured, that it was going to be a “gotcha” kind of show, that the show was going to have other segments such as bartenders that shortchange you on drinks, even the name of the show.
To see my enthusiastic, honest and proud efforts to promote veterinary medicine and optimal healthcare tarnish the profession in the eyes of some makes me sad. To think that the segment might cause some pet owners to delay or neglect pet healthcare and that the pet would suffer as a result of that makes me sick.
Dr. Marty Becker”
We at Little Silver Animal Hospital hope that our clients will keep themselves informed about the best veterinary guidelines for their pets. Please don’t believe everything you may hear on television!