Category: Preventative Health (page 2 of 13)

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.

Pets and Ibuprofen Don’t Mix

Otis ibuprofen toxicityThe following is a true story (used with permission) of how easily accessible medications, like ibuprofen, can be harmful to your pet.

Meet Otis.  His story is one that challenges the old adage about curiosity and cats, but he is a curious dog.  Don’t worry, he’s fine now; but he almost wasn’t.  While his person was sleeping one day, Otis took the opportunity to sample some medications that were accidentally within his reach.  Nobody knows his motivation but it’s a good thing his family noticed.  The culprit in this case was ibuprofen.  Yes, many people’s favorite, useful, pain relieving medication really is bad for your pets.

The first sign of trouble was the medication actually being found.  The liquid filled capsules were strewn about on the floor and with no one home other than Otis and his person, it was easy to figure out who the chew marks belonged to.  At this point, many people might be thinking “okay, no big deal.”  And then the vomiting started, which is the first sign of a toxicity issue.  Otis couldn’t hold anything down and the more he threw up, the worse his dehydration got.

otis-blood-resultsBecause ibuprofen toxicity can actually cause kidney failure along with the intestinal upset, his owner brought him to me to check some blood tests and what we found was consistent with ibuprofen ingestion as his kidney values were mildly elevated above normal.  Otis was admitted to the hospital and we started him on intravenous fluids to essentially help dilute the drug in his blood stream and preserve blood flow and pressure supplying the kidneys.  Without this treatment, Otis would surely become more ill.  In addition to the IV fluids, I started him on some medications to help gastrointestinal tract due to the ulcerations that can develop.

During his first couple of days, Otis started to show improvement.  He was happy, eating well, and most importantly – not vomiting!  But when we checked his kidney values, they had gotten slightly worse.  After talking with his family and agreeing that he was clinically stable, we felt it was best that he stay on his IV fluids for a couple more days.  Checking Otis’ kidney values daily for the next few days we noted that they returned to normal with the additional treatment.  After five days in hospital, Otis finally got to go home!

Otis taught us all a valuable lesson; one that he was fortunate to recover from.  While he got into ibuprofen accidentally, many people will try to self medicate their pets with over the counter medications that may not be safe.  This can inadvertently lead to permanent damage, or worse.  Please, for the safety of your pets, don’t rely on Dr. Google or your neighbor to prescribe something for your pets if they become ill; talk to your veterinarian.  Has your pet ever gotten into over the counter medications??

Otis ibuprofen going home

Otis got to go home!

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.

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Adding a New Pet – 5 Things You Should Know

Adding a New Pet to the Home

Something funny happened last week.  In talking with a client after finishing her pet’s exam, we got to talking about my family of pets…currently numbered at 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and 1 rat.  She asked if we were starting a farm and if we were planning on adding another pet to the house.  I told her not now but boy was I wrong!  That night on my deck, I saw the domestic rabbit that had been loose in our yard or the neighbor’s for the past 2 weeks.  We suspected this bunny had gotten loose or dumped and had been trying to catch it.  Long story short, we caught this scared rabbit and took her (yes, we checked!) into our home for the night.  We had checked with our neighbors and the Kingston Community Lost Pets forum but nobody has yet to claim her as their own.  Even after the first hour of her being in my home, my wife was convinced that we should add her to our family.

adding a new petHenrietta is the third animal to join our family in 7 months after Sherman the rat and Rudy, our younger dog.  Not surprisingly, adding all these pets wasn’t an easy transition for the people or the pets.  There are pitfalls that can occur and other aspects that need to be considered when deciding to bring a new pet into the family.

How will the pets get along (if there are others)?

I think this is probably a larger issue for the already established residents in the home.  They have a routine and a new pet might mess that up.  Cats & dogs may become destructive eating furniture, soiling in the house, or act out of sorts (changes in appetite, less social behavior).  When we adopted Rudy, we had some concerns over whether or not Rudy was going to eat our cat Louie.  As he was a rescue dog, we didn’t know how he would be with cats and those kitties are fast!!  So naturally, Rudy took chase.  Fortunately, we did not experience any other issues.  I suggest a slow introduction of the pets.  New cats can be kept in the bathroom for a few days to allow scents to be traded but it’s also good to monitor for any signs of infectious disease.  New dogs can be kept on leash and sit with you.  It’s helpful to have one person per dog for introductions so that fights can be avoided.  For dogs, consider meeting at a neutral site so that you can minimize territorial issues.  It’s best to not leave pets alone with the new pet as you won’t be able to monitor or control any scuffles that take place.

adding a new pet

True meets Floyd

How will your new pet fit in to the routine?

Even if your pet is the first pet at home, there are some challenges that can be faced; maybe even more so if they are older or from a rescue situation.  Younger pets may experience some separation anxiety when you leave home.  Others will find their way into your bed instead of their own.  Rescue pets may have some habits that you find endearing but others that are frustrating to home life.  Crate training is highly recommended to give your new pet a safe place to stay when you’re not home and a place of their own.  This ensures they have a space where they can have time away from the other pets.  It’s important to spend time with a new pet in order to bond but it’s just as important to let them have some alone time to establish independence.  This is key time to re-bond with your other pets so they do not feel forgotten.  Feeding time can be another issue.  Are your current pet(s) meal fed or free fed?  Free feeding can not only lead to obesity but in an environment with multiple pets can lead to potential fights or food aggression if they feel resources are limited.  For this reason (and many others), I always recommend meal feeding in separate locations.

Who is caring for the new pet?

cat litter memeIf you live on your own, this is a no-brainer.  It’s when you have a family involved that things get more complicated.  Are your kids begging for a pet?  But are they truly old enough and are they going to be the ones responsible for walking or cleaning the litterbox?  Setting guidelines before you add a new pet is important as no matter what happens, that animal is dependent on others for it’s care.  Deciding on socialization or training classes is also important to help avoid unwanted behaviors.  Back to the feeding point; let’s make sure that multiple people aren’t feeding pets and over doing it…your pets most likely won’t admit they’ve already had dinner!

Are costs being considered?

Admit it…aside from giving a cute animal a loving home, you want to spoil them.  Aside from the typical care costs of food, collar, or litterbox, there are toys, beds, treats, etc.  Another aspect when considering care is preparing for veterinary costs.  For kittens & puppies, this can include their initial vaccine series and spaying/neutering.  For senior pets, this might involve semi-annual exams, wellness blood tests, or special needs medications.  It’s also important to prepare for emergencies.  Animals eat strange things.  Sometimes they fight with each other and sometimes injuries happen during playtime.  Nobody wants accidents to happen but they do.  I implore you, be ready to care for your pets and if this will be immensely difficult financially then consider waiting until the time is better.

What about non-traditional pets?

Guida, 24 years old and retired in Florida

Guida, 24 years old

For some people, cats and dogs just don’t do it.  Many other types of animals have become pets over the years including snakes, various lizards, birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats to name a few.  All of these animals are quite different not just in appearance but also in terms of body systems and the care required to keep them healthy.  Many of these exotic pets who present to the veterinary clinic have problems that can be avoided with proper husbandry or care.  Too often, these pets are bought or adopted without proper research beforehand with regards to diet, housing, and environmental enrichment.

It’s a big commitment to expand your family.  Take some time to prepare beforehand and it can make life that much better for everyone involved.  Are you growing your pet family soon?  Do you have anything to add from past experience?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer:  All blog posts may contain opinions which do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.

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