Cardiff vet heads volunteer day for shelter cats and dogs

Thanks to Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery, nearly two-dozen shelter animals will hopefully find a home for the holidays.

Headed by Cardiff’s Dr. Brook Niemiec, a team of veterinarians and specialists recently donated a full day of complete dental work on shelter cats and dogs from the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services and San Diego Humane Society.

“The goal was to get them happy and healthy, and home for the holidays,” said Niemiec, owner of the Kearny Mesa-based Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery and its other locations in Southern California, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

The roughly 25-member volunteer team included veterinarians who are board certified in dentistry, surgery, internal medicine and ophthalmology, as well as veterinarians trained in holistic and integrative care. Veterinarians, specialists and support staff came from Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery, Animal Energetics, California Veterinary Specialists, Coast to Coast Cardiology, Eye Clinic for Animals, Integrative Veterinary Services and Western University of Health Sciences.

Together, they helped improve the oral and overall health of 22 shelter cats and dogs, with cases ranging from cleanings to root canals during the 15-hour volunteer day on Dec. 13.

“It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it,” said Niemiec, who has been a veterinarian for more than 20 years and has concentrated on dentistry since 2000. He has performed close to 50,000 dental procedures. “These animals are suffering because of their mouths and they’re not getting adopted because of their mouths. It’s something that we can fix.”

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is the most common health problem that veterinarians find in pets. Niemiec said it is estimated that by the age of 3, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease.

Due to neglect, it is very common for cats and dogs to come into shelters with dental disease, Niemiec said.

“Gum disease and teeth problems are serious,” Niemiec said. “You need to take care of your pet’s teeth on a daily basis.”

Although this was the first time Niemiec and his colleagues collaborated for the San Diego event, veterinarians at Niemiec’s practice routinely give back to the community.

Dr. Beth Romig, a resident veterinarian, works closely with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, offering discount services on shelter animals.

Niemiec and some of his team members also held a similar volunteer event last January for Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. Niemiec connected with the animal sanctuary after caring for some of its animals at his Las Vegas practice.

“It was so rewarding,” Niemiec recalled.

Over three days, he and other volunteers worked on 66 animals, including dozens of cats and dogs and a pot-bellied pig. The experience inspired similar efforts in San Diego after Niemiec’s girlfriend, Dr. Katie Kangas of Integrative Veterinary Services, said, “There’s animals that need us there, too.”

Not long after Niemiec and his team returned home, they started planning the San Diego shelter event.

Niemiec hopes to hold future events for shelter animals, and funds raised through his foundation, Pet’s Tooth Fairy Fund, could help. The recently established foundation helps fund care for pets in need of oral surgery.

“We’re saving lives, and hopefully, educating people,” Niemiec said.

For more information or to donate to the Pet’s Tooth Fairy Fund, visit www.dogbeachvet.com/tooth-fairy.

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