- Plaque (a transparent film of bacteria, cells and food particles) forms and sticks on tooth surfaces
- Plaque build up causes bad breath and redness or inflammation of the gum line (gingivitis)
- Plaque can begin to calcify within 72 hours and form tartar (a visible shell on the outer surface of the tooth)
- Increased inflammation of the gums becomes evident and may cause bleeding at the gum line
- Tartar stuck on the tooth surfaces is covered with newly formed plaque
- The bacteria in plaque secretes toxins and enzymes which cause further inflammation of surrounding periodontal tissues
- With continued gingivitis, some loss of tissue attachment begins at the gum line and leads to the beginning stages of bone loss around tooth roots
- The mouth can be quite painful and uncomfortable when eating
- Recession of the gums due to tartar buildup
- Gingivitis may progress to infection of the tissues and bone around the tooth roots and the tooth (or often a few teeth!) may need to be extracted
- A change in eating habits may be noticed – either not wanting to eat at all or swallowing food without chewing
Throughout all stages of periodontal disease, bacteria can be picked up and carried by the bloodstream to the liver, kidneys and heart. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and feeding them an appropriate dental diet can help decrease oral bacteria and stop dental disease in its tracks.
**Thank you to our wonderful mouth model, Daisy, a 4 year old Maltipoo.
A healthy body begins with a healthy mouth. Brushing, regular dental exams and oral health nutrition is the combination for a long, healthy life.
There is a strong link between good oral health and heart and kidney health. Plaque full of bacteria builds up on the teeth daily and causes the gums to become irritated. The irritated gums eventually begin to bleed and allow the active bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream then travel throughout the body and can negatively impact vital organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Follow these steps to improve your pet’s oral health:
Daily brushing is the foundation of oral care. Life gets very busy at times, but squeezing in this extra daily task is well worth it. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily, you can make a big impact in their oral health. Brushing helps remove plaque (a colourless film containing harmful bacteria) before it has a chance to mineralize into tartar on your pet’s teeth (the yellowish-brown debris visible on your pet’s teeth).
To maintain your pet’s optimal oral health, annual or semi-annual dental checkups should be done. Some animals form tartar in their mouths more quickly than others. For those pets with a history of oral health problems, more frequent exams are a great idea and regular professional cleanings may be advised.
As well as brushing and regular dental checkups, there is also specially formulated food available to aid in removing plaque and bacteria and help reduce gingivitis. The pieces of food work like a toothbrush as they are crunched by your pet.
Foreign body ingestion is a favourite pastime for many of our pets. Dogs and cats often ingest things they shouldn’t. We will never know what drives them to do this but they sometimes seem to think it is ok to ingest rocks, toys, tennis balls, socks, underwear, bones, needles and thread, string, fishing hooks, Nerf gun darts, pieces of carpet, rope, garbage, etc. Sometimes the object will pass through their intestines without complication. Sometimes the object will pass through only causing a mild upset stomach or diarrhea. Other times, the object will become stuck in the stomach or intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage.
The following is a story about a dog that seems to have a different palate for flavor than most other dogs:
Snoopy is a 2 year old Havanese mix weighing 12 pounds. He had been vomiting intermittently for one week and had minimal interest in food. He hadn’t had a bowel movement in quite a few days. He is normally very energetic but was feeling quite depressed when he came to see us.
Upon exam, it was found that Snoopy had a mild fever. His blood work showed no abnormalities. His abdomen was quite painful on palpation. We suspected that he had a foreign body stuck in his intestines or stomach that was preventing food from passing through. A firm “object” was palpated in his intestines and he cried when this area was touched. We proceeded to take radiographs of Snoopy’s abdomen, which led us to take him directly into surgery.
From Snoopy’s small intestine we removed a hard, rolled up piece of carpet. From his stomach, we removed this:
An extremely long, long, long piece of rope?! How?! Why?!
Snoopy made a full recovery and is now back to bouncing and running around like he used to. He was up and eating 12 hours after surgery. We all hope he has learned his lesson about ingesting anything but dog food.
Some of us resolve to learn new skills in the New Year. Some of us resolve to improve on skills we already have. Many of us resolve to eat healthier, exercise more and lose a bit of weight. Your pet’s resolutions may also follow the same guidelines – new tricks, old tricks and a healthy body.
Obesity in pets can cause many of the same problems as it can in people. An overweight pet is prone to many problems such as: diabetes, joint/ligament/tendon problems, breathing problems and heart problems. Being overweight can also cause dogs and cats to develop skin and hygiene issues from not being able to reach areas and groom themselves properly.
Healthy pets do have some padding over their bodies, but a little padding goes a long way. To assess your pet’s body condition, first rub your hands over their ribs. The skin should move back and forth easily and you should be able to feel the ribs without having to press down too hard. Look at your pet’s waistline. Your pet should have a definable “waist” beginning at the bottom of their rib cage. You will notice the abdomen should tuck in slightly between the rib cage and hip area.
Crash diets are not safe for pets (especially overweight cats since they are prone to developing fatal liver problems if they stop eating or are forced to reduce their food intake amounts to quickly). A pet doesn’t become obese overnight and shouldn’t be expected to lose weight rapidly. It may take 4-6 weeks before you notice any change in their weight once they are started on a new diet and exercise plan. Slow and steady wins the race! You may bring your pet in and weigh them on our scales at any time to track their weight loss progress.
To help your pet lose weight, follow these tips:
- Consider a diet change. There are many low calorie diets available that can help your pet feel full after each meal.
- Maintain portion control (treats must be accounted for in these portions!) and invest in an accurate measuring cup.
- Try splitting meal portions. Sometimes your pet may be happier with two or three feedings per day, rather than just one. Just remember to divide the total portion for the day without any extras (including those tasty treats!).
- Walk or play away the weight. A combination of diet and exercise will help any pet lose weight.
- About those pesky treats again – feed healthier, low calorie treats. Many treats on the market are very high in fat, salt and calories.
Playing new games with your pets, teaching them new tricks and practicing old tricks is great to keep their brains sharp and healthy for 2014. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment and can be very stimulating and rewarding for everyone. Good spirits and a healthy brain and body lead to a long, fulfilling life. Cheers to 2014!
The holiday season is upon us and with it comes a variety of holiday hazards for your pets. With all the gifts circulating, visitors to your home, holiday baking and decorations, we never know what kind of trouble our pets will get into! Below are a few hazards to be aware of:
Any gifts that include any kind of food, chocolate, dog treats or dog toys should be kept in a safe place out of your pet’s reach until Christmas day when they are ready to be opened. Pets have powerful senses of smell and may sometimes unwrap the presents and eat all the contents. Avoid purchasing pet toys with small or soft pieces that can be chewed and swallowed. Be sure to inspect your pet’s toys regularly and discard any deteriorating ones.
Some snow globes contain ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to all pets. If a snow globe is broken, it can lead to a potentially fatal intoxication. Keep all breakable ornaments in a safe place away from your pet’s reach!
If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.
Over the holidays there is always an abundance of food spread out throughout the house. Many pets are not shy about helping themselves to food left out on counters and tables. It is especially dangerous if they get into food such as chocolate, bread dough, alcohol, etc. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is harmful to pets. Although we often stray on our diets over the holidays, the best thing you can do for your pets over the holidays is to keep them on their regular diet.
Avoid giving bones to your pets, especially turkey bones. Poultry bones easily splinter and can cause serious problems such as intestinal blockages or lacerations.
Many visitors come over for Christmas and often bring their overnight bags. In these bags they may have medication that is not safe for animal consumption. Your pet(s) may often be quite curious about new things in the house and may go into the bags and get into pill vials. Have your guests place their medication in a secure bathroom cupboard.
Ices melting salt, homemade play dough and salt-dough ornaments can all be tempting treats for pets. Too much salt can be dangerous for your pet and cause life threatening imbalances in their electrolytes as well as an upset stomach. The salt used to melt the snow on the roads can also irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. After walking outside, be sure to gently wipe off your pet’s feet with a warm cloth.
Many popular holiday plants are poisonous to pets such as mistletoe, holly, ornamental pepper and Christmas rose. Poinsettias are very irritating to their digestive tracts and can cause vomiting or diarrhea if ingested.
If you have a Christmas tree and pets, you have a recipe for trouble. Be sure your tree is well secured. Many cats enjoy climbing up trees and may knock it over. Try to place decorations above paw reach and use string to hang bulbs rather than metal hooks (which are easily dislodged and played with or eaten). Avoid using tinsel to decorate your tree. Cats and dogs often feel a need to ingest the tinsel (especially cats!), which can cause intestinal irritation or blockages. Cords for lights should be made inaccessible to pets. Chemicals added to the water reservoir of your Christmas tree to keep your tree living longer won’t do the same for your pet. The chemicals are toxic to pets, so keep the reservoir covered.
Dogs in Pick-Up Trucks
It is never appropriate to transport a dog in the back of an open pick-up truck, but it is especially dangerous in the winter. Wind chill plus slippery road conditions result in higher accident rates, which puts your dog at greater risk of injury or death. Bring your best friend along for the ride up front in the cab or leave them at home where it is warm.
Many animals enjoy the taste of antifreeze and will readily consume it when given the opportunity. Antifreeze, even in the smallest amounts, can have a very harmful and often fatal effect on your pet. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet has ingested antifreeze.
Cats and wildlife gravitate to warm engines during cold winters. Bang on the hood of your vehicle before starting the engine to avoid injuring an animal warming up inside of it.
We wish you and your pets a safe and happy holiday season! Please leave any comments with additional pet hazards you can think of.
It could be freezing cold outside with five feet of snow and our pets will still want to go outside to play and explore. Even the smallest of our 4-legged family members (both cats and dogs) enjoy a good outdoor winter adventure now and then. Pets with a healthy hair coat and undercoat usually don’t have a problem with maintaining their core body temperature in cold weather as long as they keep active and continually moving. If your pet doesn’t have a very thick hair coat, putting a doggy coat or vest on them can help keep their core warm.
Your pet’s body responds to cold temperatures by keeping its blood supply focused on the main organs in the body so they don’t become damaged from hypothermia. Tiny blood vessels in the ears, tail and paws constrict in attempt to preserve core body heat and keep blood moving toward the vital organs. If this shift in the blood supply away from extremities goes on for too long, frostbite can occur. Freezing temperatures allow tiny ice crystals to form within the exposed tissues while the blood is not fully circulating to them. These ice crystals injure and can destroy healthy skin cells. If your pet is wet or damp, their tissue is even more vulnerable to frostbite.
Frostbitten tissue is usually noticeable within a few hours of warming up. It may cause the tissue in the area to initially appear pale or gray. It may also still feel hard and cold once your pet’s body has warmed up. As the tissue begins to thaw, it may appear red and can be very painful. In severe cases, the damaged tissue may eventually turn black and slough off.
Dogs and cats with extra hair between their toes can sometimes build up little ice balls between the toes, which can be very uncomfortable. Salt used on the roads can be quite irritating to your pet’s paws. Be sure to clean their paws once you arrive back home. You can also get little booties for them to wear when walking outside in winter conditions (although it may affect their “cool” look!) to keep their paws clean and comfortable.
If you think your pet has been exposed to extreme cold temperatures, move them into a warm and dry indoor area (or even into a warm vehicle) as soon as possible. Wrap your pet in warm, dry towels or blankets to improve their circulation and increase their core body temperature. If you think there are areas of frostbite, do not rub or massage the affected areas. Allow the circulation to return naturally as your pet’s body warms up. Your veterinarian may need to prescribe your pet pain medication and antibiotics (to prevent secondary bacterial infection in cases of tissue death and sloughing) in severe frostbite situations.
The following are some tips to help lengthen your senior dog’s life:
Regular exercise is great for the body and brain. Physical fitness can help keep your dog’s heart and lungs in good working order, help keep their joints and muscles in check, prevent boredom to help stop any destructive behavior and give them a sense of purpose.
Exercising your senior pet doesn’t mean that they have to tear up an agility course for hours on end or hike up the Squamish Chief in under an hour twice a day. Only exercise your dog at a level their aging body can handle. Swimming is always a great workout for weak joints and muscles. A couple moderately paced 20-minute walks every day can also work wonders for keeping your senior dog in shape. Being outside is also great for your senior dog’s mind. There are many stimuli to keep their brains sharp and fresh air will always brighten spirits.
When indoors with your dog, play games such as hide-and-seek or practice tricks (yes, you really can teach an old dog new tricks!) for low calorie treats. Keeping busy with different activities and games throughout the day will give their senior brains a new lease on life.
Keeping your senior dog’s body nice and lean will help prolong their life. Extra weight visible on the outside of their bodies also means there is extra fatty tissue around their organs, which could cause them to have a hard time working efficiently. Having to carry all that extra weight around means more strain and stress on their joints. Be careful not to feed your senior pet too many treats. It is always a great idea to meal feel them set amounts of food twice daily. Your veterinary team can help you to determine what their ideal weight should be and how much food you need to feed to reach the target weight goal.
Brushing your dog’s teeth provides much more benefit than fresh breath. It helps eliminate plaque and tartar buildup, which help prevent gingivitis. Decreasing the amount of bacteria lurking in your dog’s mouth will help keep their internal organs working in tip-top shape. When their gums are swollen and irritated, the blood vessels become enlarged and are able to pick up bacteria to transfer around the entire body. Brushing your dog’s teeth once a day is ideal. Be sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste designed especially for dogs.
*Warning* Below are before dental prophylaxis and after dental prophylaxis photos of a dog’s mouth:
Daily petting fests can often help you find lumps and bumps on your dog in their early stages of development. Your veterinarian can take a fine needle aspirate sample from the lump and determine what kind of cells it is made up of. Some lumps should be removed immediately; some lumps are ok to be left alone and just monitored. Hands-on attention to your dog could also help you find any skin irritations hiding under their hair or you may notice they have dry, flaky skin. A flinch or cry when petting in a certain area may alert you to take your senior dog to their veterinarian to have the cause of pain investigated further. Being petted and massaged makes your dog happy and helps lower their blood pressure and stress level, as well as yours.
As your pet begins to age, their organ systems are often affected. Having annual exams and bloodwork performed on them will help your veterinarian to proper evaluate your pet’s health status, internal organs and catch any disease processes early. Some common disease processes that occur in senior pets include:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Dental disease
- Intestinal disease (irritable bowel disease, colitis)
- Endocrine disease (thyroid issues, diabetes, adrenal gland disease)
What are some benefits of senior pet wellness bloodwork?
Comparing Baseline Values
Comparing current bloodwork results to baseline results from previous years will help identify subtle changes to your pet’s health. If all test results are normal, then you have piece of mind that your pet is healthy, inside and out.
Identify Unseen Disease at an Early Age
Not all disease processes show signs on the outside before making changes on the inside of your pet. Identifying disease before clinical signs appear allows for a better chance of a successful outcome and can often lessen the cost of treatment.
There are many common age-related illnesses, which require medication. Bloodwork can help determine whether or not a medication will be safe for your pet.
Senior pets often require anesthesia more frequently than younger pets for common procedures such as dental surgery or skin growth removal. Bloodwork is a vital part of pre-anesthetic evaluation of all pets.
What can you look for as some signs of aging in your pets?
While some signs of aging in your pets are obvious (such as graying of hair or decreasing energy levels), there are other changes that may go unnoticed. Senior pets may look and act normally while coping with the following:
- Aching joints
- Tooth pain
- Loss of awareness for surrounding hazards
- Cloudy vision
These are common conditions that are associated with osteoarthritis, dental disease, cognitive dysfunction and the loss of hearing or vision.
What can you do for your senior pets?
Watch for subtle changes in your pet’s behavior or less interaction with your family, as this may signal an underlying discomfort in your pet.
It is a good idea to schedule annual physical exams that include complete geriatric bloodwork and a urinalysis. Early detection and prompt treatment of disease can significantly prolong and impact the quality of life for your senior pet.
What is the importance of a full geriatric blood panel?
Dogs and cats can often “hide” clinical signs of underlying disease and may not show signs of illness until the disease or disorder is well advanced. Testing blood and urine allows us to:
- Detect disease early
- Adjust treatment where there is underlying organ dysfunction
- Obtain baseline data
Fireworks, thunder and other out-of-nowhere sounds often leave dogs frightened and wanting to escape to a safer place. Many fear related issues can be successfully resolved. If left untreated though, the issues will often get worse.
Many dogs try and deal with their fear by acting out in such ways as running away or destroying something. Escaping to get further away from the noise can result in danger for your dog if they are outside of the house– they could run into traffic or run into an area they are unfamiliar with and become lost. If your dog is in the house and trying to escape from the startling noises, they may go into a room and destroy furniture or other household items to try and lessen their sense of fear. Many dogs will try digging, barking, jumping, scratching, chewing or howling to try and make themselves feel better. Both escape and destructive behavior can be a problem for you and could also result in injury to your dog.
How can you help your dog overcome these fearful reactions?
- Create a safe place for your dog. When your dog hears a noise that frightens them, where do they run to in the house to feel safe? Can you create a cozy bed in this area? Are they able to gain access to this area at all times? Try feeding them meals and treats in this area to allow them to associate it with a place where “good things” happen. The “safe place” approach may not work with all dogs as some feel the need to continue moving, pacing and being active when scared.
- Distract your dog. If you notice your dog is just beginning to get anxious, encourage them to engage in an activity that will take their mind off things. Try enticing them with a ball or toy or practice tricks for treats. However, if the distraction technique is not working and you can see that fear and anxiety is building, stop the process of rewarding them or else they may begin to associate fearful behavior with treats and rewards.
- Modify their behavior. This approach can often be successful in reducing fearful responses and phobias in most dogs. It is also known as “counter-conditioning” or “desensitization” and teaches your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds and other things that scare them. This technique is often done with a cd or recording with noises such as firecrackers, thunder, vacuums, etc. Start by playing games with your dog using toys or treats and playing the sounds at a low volume so as not to scare your dog right away. As your sessions continue, gradually increase the volume of the recording. Eventually your dog will associate the noises with happy toy and treat feelings and not a fearful response. Be careful with behavior modification though – if not performed correctly, the fearful reactions could become worse.
- Work with a professional. Consult with your veterinarian to see if medication is recommended to help reduce your dog’s anxiety level for short time periods. Work with a dog trainer to learn different training techniques for fear related issues.
What shouldn’t be done when your dog is having a reaction from fear and anxiety?
- Don’t feed treats to try and comfort them when they are already in a fearful state. This will only reinforce their fearful behavior in the end.
- Don’t just put your dog in a crate. If a crate is not their “safe place” then they will still be fearful and could end up injuring themselves attempting to escape from the crate.
- Don’t punish your dog for being afraid. It’s not fair to them and would only create even more fearful behavior in the end.
- Don’t try and force your dog to remain in a situation that frightens them. It will only make them more afraid and could even cause them to become aggressive in attempt to flee the situation.