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Brush like a Dog Dentist!

Guest Post by Dr. Jennifer Weeks-Llera

Before dental cleaning

Dental disease is one of the most common things I see during annual physical examinations of dogs.  Many people are surprised at the amount of tartar and gingivitis that has developed in their dogs mouth since their last visit and they are not familiar with the importance of home care that can be done to prevent this dental disease.  Daily control of plaque before it becomes mineralized to form tartar is the most important factor for a healthy mouth.  As plaque builds up, periodontal disease will develop which can lead to pain and loss of teeth.  Bad teeth will cause chronic infection and inflammation that can have negative effects on a pet’s overall health.  So what steps can you take to keep your dog’s mouth healthy?  The key to prevention of plaque and tartar is home care.

Just as for our own teeth, daily brushing is one of the best things that can be done to prevent plaque development on your dog’s teeth.  Frequently, I hear clients comment that their dog gets his/her teeth brushed every 6 weeks or so by the groomer and they can’t believe how the teeth could be so dirty.  If we think about this in comparison to our own dental health, this would be the equivalent of you only getting your teeth brushed when you go for a haircut.  So how frequently should you brush your dogs teeth?  Brushing three times a week can be adequate to maintain teeth and gums that are healthy, however daily brushing is needed if gingivitis is already present.

When should you start brushing your dogs teeth?

Start early!  As young as 8-12 weeks of age is a great time to start brushing your puppy’s teeth.  Even though the puppy will eventually loose the deciduous, or baby, teeth as their permanent teeth erupt, getting them used to having their teeth brushed is an important first step in dental home care.  When you notice that your puppy is beginning to loose their baby teeth (usually around 14 weeks of age), it is a good idea to stop brushing the teeth brushing for a little while until their permanent teeth have erupted as their mouth may be a bit sore as they are teething.

A soft bristled tooth brush is best used when brushing your dog’s teeth.  It is important never to use human toothpastes as these are not intended to be swallowed.  Pet toothpastes are safe if swallowed and are available in a number of flavours, such as poultry and beef, to increase your pet’s acceptance of them.

pet dental health tooth brushingIt is good to make a daily routine of brushing your dog’s teeth.  Remember to make it fun and rewarding!  As you first introduce your dog to teeth brushing, coat the toothbrush with pet safe toothpaste and allow your pet to simply lick the brush a 4-5 times per day for the first couple of days.  As your pet becomes comfortable with the toothbrush near their mouth, you can gently begin to handle the muzzle and lips and then begin to lift the dog’s lip and rub your finger along the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums.  Once your pet is comfortable with you doing this, you can gradually introduce them to using the toothbrush to brush along these surfaces of the top and bottom teeth.  Brushing the inner, tongue side, of the teeth is less important than the outer surfaces.  Brush the teeth in small, circular motions.  A slight amount of bleeding from the gum line may sometimes occur, but if you notice ongoing or heavy bleeding this may indicate the presence of gum disease.  If this is noticed, it is best to speak with your veterinarian for further recommendations.

Dental Foods & Chews

Although not a substitute for daily teeth brushing, dental diets (such as Hill’s T/D, Royal Canin Dental, Science Diet Dental Care, and Purina DH) have been shown to effectively decrease the plaque and tartar build up on dog’s teeth.  These diets are designed to be fed as an entire meal on a daily basis and, when you are ready to switch your dog from a puppy food onto an adult food, are an excellent adult maintenance diet option.

pet dental health

Another common misconception is that chewing on bones, cow hooves, or antlers can help keep a dog’s teeth clean.  These chew toys are not considered appropriate for dogs as they are very hard and can easily break teeth.  Broken teeth can, in turn, cause the dog pain and lead to the development of tooth root abscesses.  The “knee-cap test” is a good way to help decide if a toy is safe for your dogs teeth.  If a toy is so hard that you wouldn’t want to hit your knee with it, then your dog shouldn’t be chewing on it.  Additionally, softer chew toys are better for puppies as their baby teeth are more fragile than adult dog teeth and they can very easily be fractured.

from VOHC.org

There are many products on the market with claims to improve pet’s dental health that have no research to support these claims.  The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), which consists of veterinary dentists and dental scientists, was formed to recognize cat and dog products that meet standards to decrease the formation of plaque and tartar.  Products that meet these standards are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance.  A list of these products can be found on the VOHC website.  Some examples of the products that are listed include several dental diets, Greenies, and Healthy Mouth Water Additive.

It is very important to remember that the home care tips discussed in this article are recommended for the PREVENTION of plaque and tartar and are not a treatment for established dental disease.  An essential component of your dog’s dental care includes yearly or semiannual examination by a veterinarian who can identify dental disease early on and provide recommendations on treatment options that are available.  By providing dental home care for your dog, along with guidance from your veterinarian, you can help keep your dog’s breath fresh and their teeth healthy.

 

Dr. Jennifer Weeks-Llera is an associate small animal veterinarian at Richmond Veterinary Clinic in Napanee, Ontario.  She is married to fellow veterinarian, Dr. Ryan Llera.  Together, they own and love 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and a rabbit.

4 Pet Apps You Should Try

Technology is a fascinating thing in today’s world!  And you & your pets can benefit from some great apps along the way.  Here’s 4 apps that are just waiting for you to download and they’re all free!

APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) – by the ASPCA

Your pet has just eaten something and you’re not sure what it will do to them.  You also wonder if you really need to get to the vet.  This app lets you search by the eaten thing (plants, medications, other household items) then show you the signs you could see and let you know the severity of the poisoning. If it says you should contact your vet, I would listen.  A call to your vet is never a bad idea in these cases anyway.  There’s also the number to the Animal Poison Control Center to help your vet manage the case should it be necessary

BarkCam – by BarkBox, Inc

Do you struggle with getting your pet to focus on the camera for pictures?  Are you tired of making strange noises to get their attention (if you can’t find their favorite squeaky toy)?  Give this app a try to get your pet’s attention with sounds of a doorbell, a squeaking mouse, fire engine, or mooing cow.

ResQwalk – by ResQthreads LLC

Your dog needs a walk!  And this app comes with a bonus.  Aside from tracking how far you’ve walked, each month a pool of money is donated to the charity you choose to walk for based on the proportion of kilometers walked.  Exercise for you & your dog plus helping out animals in need!  Winning!  As bonus features, it will let you know where local vet clinics are and pet friendly shopping, lodging, & restaurants.

Your own veterinary hospital

Yes, more and more clinics are getting their own apps.  Many of these apps are able to let your vet share your pet’s records including vaccine history, medications, and current conditions in case you need to ever visit the emergency clinic or need to share info with your groomer or boarding kennel.  Some of the apps also let you schedule appointments, request medication refills, and make reminders for monthly preventative meds all with the touch of your screen.  Check with your clinic to see what they’ve got!

pet apps

Louie trying out Cat Fishing 2 from Nestle Purina

When all else fails, you can always download Cat Fishing 2 for the kitties to play with!  Try these out and let me know which other apps you think are must haves in the comments below!

Note: I did not receive any compensation from these companies.  These are apps I have used and feel would be of value to you.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are my own opinion and do not reflect those of any current or former employers.

You can also find me on Instagram @drryanllera and as always on Facebook & Twitter!

Be Kind, Rewind

It’s that time of year where we all resolve to do something new or better next year.  One thing we all should strive for is to be kind.  Yes, we can each do our part to make our home, our workplace, our community, and our world a better place just by being nicer to each other.  Though this post discusses veterinary medicine, it applies across all of life.  I wish you all a happy New Year and hope that you will take these words to heart – BeKind, Rewind.

from alice-in-wonderland.net

“Hello?  It’s me.  I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.”  Okay, so maybe it sounds better coming from Adele.  But you know who else wants to meet?  Your younger carefree self.  For many of us in the veterinary field, that version of ourselves is lost.  We find ourselves in a worsening spiral of stress, depression, and apathy.  Maybe it sounds like a trip down the rabbit hole but maybe it’s better described as a “swirling vortex of terror.”

It wasn’t always like this.  I’m an assistant instructor for my taekwondo club and our students range anywhere from 4 years old to 50-plus.  For the little kids, we’re not majorly teaching them to be the next Bruce Lee but rather encouraging listening, respect, and being active as part of a healthy lifestyle.  But those kids grow up and some of them choose to help the younger kids.  One student-assistant in particular I’ve noted is very attentive to those newer students who need a little extra help and it warms my heart to see him pass on the knowledge.  Something else I noted is a mutual respect between the students and the younger assistants.  And none of these kids I’m speaking of is even a teenager yet!  I remember it being like this when I was a kid.  Couldn’t our politicians learn something from this?

Now we’re grown up and many people have joined the veterinary field.  Veterinary medicine is tough.  It’s a hard job but somebody has got to do it.  That special someone is you!  It can be very easy to get lost in the day to day shuffle of sick patients, angry clients, and clinic dynamics.  You may want to give up; maybe you change jobs, maybe you change professions, or maybe you decide there’s only one way out of this mess.

be kind kindergarten

from goodreads.com

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Don’t lose hope – those kids I was talking about earlier are wiser than we give them credit for.  As kids, we are innocent.  We don’t know hatred, bullying, or anger.  I like to call this the Kindergarten Complex.  Think back to that time….we wanted to be friends with everyone.  We shared and we were kind.  We were apologetic to each other.  This is what we need to get back to.  Let’s find our younger selves.  Your 5-year old self is out there and along the way, your friends will help you out.  Yes, everyone should have a Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and wise caterpillar – just like Alice.  Where will you find your own collection of varied sages?  Right in your own clinic or family!  Who knows you better and is concerned about your well being?

If you work in the veterinary field: veterinarian, technician, client services, management, kennel staff…be respectful and friendly to your co-workers.  Treat them courteously.  Try to be helpful at work and don’t put anyone down because of their position.  Be loyal and don’t gossip behind their backs.  If you think they are having trouble or seem distressed, reach out to them.  Let them know you are there to talk.  If you are the one being affected, know that there are people that care about you and places you can get help.  Chances are one of your co-workers may be experiencing the same feelings.

For those of you who are not in the veterinary field (friends, family, clients), know that we are trying our best for you.  Don’t participate in online gossip or internet shaming of anyone in the veterinary field.  Once in awhile, let us know that we are appreciated.  Anybody can ask how another person is doing; listen to them, empathize with them.  Nobody has to be alone in this.  Just being nice can make a huge impact in someone’s day and life.  And that might make all the difference.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are my own opinion and do not reflect those of any current or former employers.

This post previously appeared on Dr. Andy Roark’s blog as a guest post.   You can also find me on Instagram @drryanllera and as always on Facebook & Twitter!

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