Road trip! Traveling safely with your pet. ( Dr. Zach Weiner)

The weather is getting hotter and hotter by the day, folks.  Summer is the time for barbeques, beach days and for some of us lucky ones, a vacation trip.  What about Fido or Fluffy though?  Do you have plans for your pets while you travel?  Of course, we would love to see them at our lovely boarding facility where they will be kept safe and happy while you enjoy your vacation.  Our friendly animal care staff will see to your little buddy’s every desire during his or her stay and can even notify a compassionate veterinarian if a medical need arises.  That way you can enjoy yourself with the peace of mind that your companion is safe and sound at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital.

That being said, some owners are able to take their pets when traveling.  If your buddy is a good copilot, a vacation can be a great bonding experience.  Just like everything in life though, there are measures that should be taken to make the adventure as safe as possible.

Anything can happen on a trip.  Your dog could decide that he really needs to explore something really curious at a rest stop, your cat may find a way to break out of her carrier at just the wrong moment in a parking lot, or a loud trucker’s horn can scare your ferret out of your daughter’s hands during a picnic lunch.  These are just a few examples of how your pet can be lost far away from home.  Like it or not accidents happen, and the easiest way to ruin a vacation is to lose your pet in a strange place.  New sounds, smells, people, and events can all cause even the most stalwart companion to act uncharacteristically.  As good custodians of their welfare, we need to protect them from themselves as much as anything else.

Pets should be properly restrained during car travel in an approved carrier or seatbelt. It is a state law in New Jersey that all pets must be properly secured during travel, not just for their safety but for yours as well.  So be sure when you buckle up that they do too.  In addition, be sure that your pets have at least two forms of identification.  No, good readers, I am not joking and I do not expect that you will be taking them to any adult drinking establishments.  However, if they get lost you will be happy your pet has a microchip and identification tag so that he or she will not need to make an Incredible Journey to get back to you. Having your pet micro chipped by one of our doctors is the easy, affordable and permanent way to identify it as belonging to you. It is also a good idea to have a few pictures, possibly on your smart phone, of your buddy with you just in case.   You will be glad you have all of these tools if your pet gets lost or just to brag about how awesome your little one is to others.

 

Before you hit the open road or airways please make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, you have proper travel documentation and that you have copies of all of his or her medical records.  No one expects a midnight visit to the emergency room on vacation, but if it should be necessary, the vet will have a lot easier time if they have your records handy.  In addition, some states or countries require health certificates and proof of vaccinations for travel.

International and flight travel require very specific documentation with stringent requirements and time frames.  Some airlines require health certificates to be issued within a week of the trip and have specific vaccine requirements.  International travel is even more stringent and the approval process can sometimes take up to six months depending on which country you wish to travel too.  All in all it can be a lot to remember, but is very important to assure that your vacation goes smoothly.  You do not want to be shocked and disappointed when your pet is denied access to your flight. Luckily, we are here to help and assist you in navigating travel regulations.  Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you need records, a health certificate, or must booster any vaccines before traveling.  As with everything, you do not want to wait until the last minute. Plan ahead to assure that you have everything you need to legally and safely travel with your little one.

 

I always recommend bringing your own supply of food for your pet.  This is important for two reasons: 1) it gives them a source of comfort and a feeling of home and 2) they are less likely to get an upset stomach if you cannot find their regular food and need to switch brands.  Don’t forget any medications that he or she is regularly taking, including heartworm and flea/tick preventatives! A familiar toy or treats are also recommended.  My dogs used to love to travel within their beds.  They curled up and were happy as could be during even the most epic drives.  However, if your little one is nervous or nauseous, we can help with that.  While we do not routinely prescribe sedatives for travel, in certain cases they are indicated.  If you think your little one will need one, please call well in advance of your trip, so that an appropriate medication plan can be discussed with your doctor.  We also have a safe and effective once a day car sickness medication called Cerenia, which can be very helpful if your buddy is queasy during long or short car rides.

 

Lastly friends, be sure that you are mindful of your furry friend’s needs during your adventure.  Especially with good travel companions, it can be easy to forget that they need time to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and get some food and drink in the middle of long car trips just like the rest of us.  Many travel stops have designated pet walking areas to safely do this.  Even if they do not, I have found as long as you clean up after your little one there is most always a small patch of green for a little break at most rest stops.  Never leave your little one in a hot car while you stop to eat lunch.  Studies show that cracking the windows is useless on hot or sunny days and opening the windows too far is asking for trouble as we previously discussed.  Even a few minutes can be gravely dangerous, especially during these hot summer months.  It’s best to skip the long lunch or shopping detour until your pet is safely set up at your destination.

 

Alright, that’s it for now folks.  Have safe and fun travels this summer!

 

 

 

Zachary Weiner DVM

BEAT THE HEAT: How to keep your pet safe this summer ( Dr. Lorri Mitchell)

Help Your Pet Avoid Heatstroke!

Ahh, summertime. We have already weathered one heat wave and we can be sure there are more to come. This time of the year there are always warnings about heat stroke, and keeping pets inside on those hot days. We have all heard the precautions about leaving pets in cars but what is the real risk?

Heat Stroke occurs when a warm blooded animal is no longer able to self-regulate their body temperature due to environmental conditions. For our furry pets that are not able to sweat, this means the outside world is too hot for them to cool themselves down by panting. It cause hyperthermia (their body temperature gets too hot like a super fever!). What quickly follows is internal organ damage and that can lead to death or long term health problems if not immediately and aggressively treated.

At our hospitals we usually see several cases of heat stroke per season that range from a pet being forgotten in the car to a pet exercising in the heat when they were not used to it. Sometimes, just lying outside in the heat and humidity can lead to heat stroke.

Risk Factors for Heat Stroke

Pet Risk Factors:

–  The very old and the very young (just like us!)

–  Overweight pets

–  Sudden exercise of pets not conditioned for physical activity (even at moderate   temperatures)

–  Underlying medical issues such as heart or respiratory disease

–  Short nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, pekes or mixes of these) whose respiratory systems are less able to cope with extreme temperatures

Environmental Risk Factors:

–  High temperatures especially when coupled with high humidity

–   Lack of shade, water or ventilation

And of course, the CAR!

Leaving your pet in the car in the warm months is never a good idea. Even at moderate outside temperatures the inside of a car is much hotter. We posted this chart on Facebook recently but here is another look.

How do I recognize that my pet is overheated?

Signs that you need to take action, including calling us right away are:

–  Excessive panting even at rest

–  Dark or bright red tongue and gum color instead of salmon pink

–  Sticky or dry gums

–  Extreme lethargy, staggering or appearing unaware of surroundings

–  Bloody diarrhea or vomit

–  Seizures

What do I do?

–  Call us right away to let us know you are coming with an emergency

–  If you are delayed in transport move the pet to a cooler environment or at least shade. Use COOL water (NOT ICE WATER) to cool your pet. Using towels or cloths soaked in COOL water are best. Wrap around feet and head.

–  Offer ice cubes or small amounts of water but do not force drinking

 It is important to remember that even if your pet seems to recover from an over-heating episode you cannot assume that all is well. Their organ systems may have been affected and will need blood tests to evaluate their health. They may require a hospital stay for intravenous fluids and other medical support. With immediate treatment, heat stroke patients can be saved and live normally. Unfortunately, some do experience terminal changes to their brain or other organs causing them to lapse into coma and death despite the best efforts. The outcome is affected by factors such as how high and how long the pet’s internal temperature was elevated and how quickly aggressive medical treatment is started.

So how do we enjoy summer with our pets then?

–  Avoid activity at the hottest part of the day

–  On hot/humid days play indoors

–  If pets will be outside ensure they have shade and lots of water

–  Leave your pet at home when you go shopping or try to shop at pet friendly stores. If your pet must run errands with you, do not leave them in the car alone for more than a minute. Use solar shield blankets and shades for windows or kennels with portable fans and keep the air conditioning running. If you don’t have AC in the car, park in the shade, open all (not just one) windows at a safe level to allow a cross breeze. When you arrive home bring the pet in first before unloading the car.

–  For the techie, there are thermometers you can mount in the car with a radio transmitter to your central locking/alarm key fob and will trigger an alarm when temperatures rise in the car. But, you must be close by to rescue the pet before the temperature becomes excessive.

–  Some pets love to swim and even kiddie pools will help keep them wet and cool.

–  Dog friendly beaches can be a fun way to stay cool and there are some in NJ. Check out www.bringfido.com to find some!

Have a great summer and stay cool!

Care of Orphaned or Injured Wildlife (Dr. Kara Ruthberg)

Spring is a common time for people to encounter an injured or orphaned wild animal. The first question most would-be rescuers ask is, “What should I do?” Understanding the basics can provide vital guidance when there’s wildlife in need.

Most importantly – if you see what you think may be sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, don’t immediately remove it from its natural habitat. The bird or animal may not need assistance and you could actually do more harm in your attempt to help. Some species leave their offspring alone temporarily, especially during the day. For example, deer and cottontail rabbits spend much of the day away from their well-camouflaged offspring to minimize the chance of predators finding them.

To determine if young wildlife is truly orphaned, check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still around. Are parents nearby?  Do you see other babies? Do you see a nesting site? Can they be returned to the nest? Keep your distance. Keep cats and dogs away from the area inhabited by the young animal; the adult may not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are close by.

If you find an abandoned or injured animal the best thing you can do is to call your local Animal Control Officer. They are familiar with handling and equipped to care for these animals. The Officers are knowledgeable about the location and hours of operation of wildlife rehabilitators. Do not handle the animal unless advised to do so. REMEMBER these are wild animals and they can bite or injure you. Some animals in this area (who may appear healthy) are carrying Rabies, a fatal disease that can be passed to humans or pets with a tiny bite or scratch. If you cannot safely capture the animal, keep a close eye on it and its location. If you must handle the animal, take care to minimize the risk of injury to yourself and to the animal. Wear protective clothing and equipment, such as very thick leather gloves, to avoid bites or scratches; wash your hands well after handling the animal. If you or one of your pets does get injured by the animal you must call the Health Department of Animal Control Officer immediately to report the injury and have the animal tested for Rabies.

If you decide to help a wild orphan or injured animal, contacting a wildlife rehabilitation facility is the first priority, as many of these are in need of veterinary attention and specialized care if they are to survive. If no rehabilitators are available in your area, contact a veterinarian to seek assistance for the animal.

Safely capture the animal with a towel or blanket. Then place the animal in a cardboard box with small holes poked in it for air or a pet carrier. Place paper towels or newspapers in the bottom. With baby mammals, you can put a piece of fleece material but do not use terry cloth, wash clothes, or towels; as the loops can come loose and strangle the animal. NEVER GIVE FOOD OR WATER! Improperly feeding a baby animal may cause them to inhale water or food which can be deadly. Also, do not try to bandage any injuries!

Place the animal in a quiet environment. It will need a mild heat source. You can make a “sock buddy” by taking an old gym sock, putting rice in it, and microwaving the sock for 30 second intervals until warm. Place the sock buddy next to the baby. Take the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator or a veterinarian within 24 hours of capture.

If you’re the type of person who would be compelled to help injured or orphaned wildlife, investigate your local resources before an emergency arises. Find out who can help you to perform a rescue out in the field and find out where you can take the animal for veterinary care and rehabilitation and keep those agencies’ contact information handy – you never know when you’re going to come across an animal in need!

 

Kara Ruthberg DVM

The Facts About Heartworm (Dr. Zach Weiner)

It is that time of year again folks.  The sun is making itself known, the flowers are coming into bloom, and the birds are starting to sing.   Yes, spring is every so slowly returning to our neck of the woods.   For many of us this is a time of renewal.  It is a time to make a fresh start and enjoy the outdoors again.

I always look forward to getting outside and enjoying Mother Nature more, as the days get longer and the air gets warmer.  The outdoors man in me loves the thought of hiking at our many parks, fishing by the sea or at a pond, or just lying in a hammock out back and listening to the neighborhood song birds.  So don’t worry readers, I am sure to be out there with you all spring, enjoying the beauty that this great state offers.

Right beside me will be my faithful companion, Frisby.  My dear dog loves to sun herself outside and, even at her advanced age, enjoys the occasional jaunt to the beach or through the woods.  Since she is my best friend, I have made a commitment to keep her as safe as possible.  I know that I have to protect her from the dangers outside while allowing her to enjoy herself.  Yes, the dangers! While dogs in New Jersey are at risk of contracting Heartworm disease all year round, the warmer, wetter weather brings even more mosquitoes which increases the risk of infection.  Therefore, proper protection is even more important this time of year.  Hence, we come to the topic of today’s discussion, Heartworm disease.

I find the best way to discuss this issue is to address questions my clients have posed to me in the past.  As such, this blog will be structured in a question and answer format.

What are Heartworms and how do dogs get them?  Can other animals or people get them?

A Heartworm is a tiny worm that spends most of it lifecycle in dogs’ blood vessels and heart.  These parasites are different than intestinal worms and are spread by contact with mosquitoes.  Dogs can not directly infect you or pass these to other animals.  However, a mosquito that fed on an infected dog can spread the disease to another unprotected dog or cat. By being consistent with your Heartworm preventative (Trifexis, Revolution, Heartgard Plus, etc.) will protect your pet and will actually protect many surrounding dogs by minimizing the parasite’s ability to spread.   A good flea and tick control product with repellent activity, such as Vectra 3D, can help to add extra protection to your pet.  Dogs are the intended hosts for Heartworms but other animals, and rarely even people, have been known to contract Heartworms. So your kitty is not safe without protection either.  In dogs, the worms can cause asthma like reactions, heart disease, embolus of the lungs and even congestive heart failure.  Left untreated, Heartworms are fatal to most infested dogs.  Typically, Heartworms cause asthma like symptoms in cats and people.  Amazingly, there are still many dogs in this area that are not on year round Heartworm prevention. This unprotected population keeps the disease a constant threat to all dogs and cats that may miss a dose or two of their medicine.

 

How do you test for this disease?

The easiest method for determining whether your pet has contracted Heartworm disease is to perform a blood test.  In dogs, we recommend a test called “Accuplex,” It shows if your dog has been exposed to Heartworms and has produced antibodies against them.  It also tests to see if he or she has been exposed to several tick-borne diseases.  This is an important and necessary screening procedure to assure that the medication is continuing to keep your pet safe from the diseases that are prevalent in our area.  In short, it is an essential part of your pet’s preventative care regimen.  We recommend that your dog be routinely tested at his or her yearly physical exam or if there has been a lapse in treatment.

If your pet is showing signs that alert your veterinarian to the possibility that he or she may have contracted Heartworm disease, he or she may recommend some more specific tests in addition to the Accuplex to confirm the presence of the parasite and the extent of the damage that is causing (including directly looking for the worms in blood smears and chest x-rays).

Isn’t there a treatment for this disease?

If caught early enough there are treatment options to address Heartworm disease.  However, the treatment course is neither without risk nor inexpensive.  Additionally, there is frequently no way to reverse damage that has already occurred to the heart and lungs.  The treatment includes injections with a medication that is currently in short supply due to rarity of manufacturers.  The delicate location of these parasites additionally requires post-treatment precautions, including at several MONTHS of strict cage rest.  If these precautions are not followed, life threatening clots can seed the lungs, further complicating an already damaged essential organ.  This is why we strongly recommend prevention with a safe and easy monthly chew treat or pill. By regularly using preventative you will never know how many times it has protected your furry friend.  As my mother used to say “I’ve never been hit by a car, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look both ways before I cross the street.”  Prevention is always better than having to put your pal through the effects of the disease and the treatment.

So what can I do about this problem?

The best news about all of this is that prevention of Heartworm is very easy.  Your pet does not need advanced treatments or even messy baths or dips.  He or she does not need to take a daily pill to keep these worms at bay.  All that is needed is medicine given once-a-month which is safer for them than taking an aspirin is for you and me.   The preventative is not toxic to warm-blooded animals and does not have bad side effects. Currently, there are several products available which are both safe and effective in preventing the Heartworms from infesting your furry friend.  For dogs, we now recommend a product called “Trifexis” due to the fact that it prevents not only Heartworm, but also fleas and intestinal parasites.  For cats, “Revolution” is our product of choice. We also dispense Heartgard Plus for prevention of Heartworms in dogs and cats. Remember, the best way to treat Heartworm disease is to never get it.  Regular use of a veterinary approved preventative is the best way to achieve this.

I’m not sure I can afford preventative.

Ok, so this is not a question, but something that comes up in these difficult times.  I would argue that you cannot afford NOT to use preventatives.  At our hospitals, we try to make Heartworm prevention as affordable as possible. When used correctly it is guaranteed to prevent infestation.  However, if not used and you pet contracts Heartworm disease, the cost of treatment, the emotional toll and the risk to your dog would pay for several lifetimes of prevention.  When you add in the fact that the major Heartworm preventatives also eliminate intestinal parasites that can spread to people, you are getting a great deal of value in a small package.  Certainly, your pooch or kitty will appreciate the safety to run outside free of risk over a new collar, toy or bed.  For that much cost you can truly show your pet how much you love him or her.

Ok, now go enjoy the good weather.  If you’d like to review more information please review the American Heartworm society’s website

http://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/faqs.html

Zachary Weiner DVM

Lily Toxicity in Cats (Dr. Jenna Koenigstein)

 

Lilies can be fatal in your cat

Beautiful flower, right?  But did you know this pretty and seemingly harmless plant could actually kill your feline companions with a single nibble?  It’s true!  Certain types of lilies are among the most dangerous types of flowers for felines, and far too people are aware of this until it may be too late.  With Spring slowly starting to make its reappearance and stores full of flowers waiting to make their way into your home, we need to take a moment to discuss this potentially deadly toxicity.

The types of lilies that you need to worry about include:

  • Easter
  • Tiger
  • Stargazer
  • Japanese Show
  • Rubrum
  • Any other members of the genus Lilum (“true lilies”)

The toxic compound in lilies is extremely destructive to a cat’s kidneys.  It only takes a nibble on a single leaf or stem, drinking the vase water, or ingesting a small amount of pollen from these flowers (as with grooming) to send your cat into acute (sudden and often irreversible) kidney failure and have you rushing them to the nearest emergency room.

The prognosis for acute kidney failure from lily ingestion may be good as long as it is caught early so that aggressive treatment can be started.  However, if too much time elapses between ingestion and the start of treatment, the prognosis becomes significantly worse and death from disease or euthanasia is much more likely.  Without treatment, acute kidney failure is fatal.

Treatment for lily-induced acute kidney failure involves aggressive IV fluid diuresis, injectable medications, nutritional support, and very close monitoring.  If these fail, advanced procedures could be attempted, such as different types of dialysis, however these are quite expensive and are not readily available even at most specialty veterinary hospitals.

Hopefully it is clear based on all of this information that the best thing you can do is to PREVENT their exposure to lilies.  Here are some suggestions for doing this.

  • If you have cats in your household, do not have lilies!  There is no such thing as “out of reach” for most cats, and even a fallen dead leaf or airborne pollen could be enough to cause toxicity.
  • Keep your cats indoors as many people have lilies in their garden.
  • If you are buying or sending a bouquet to friends or family members with cats, ensure there are no lilies present.
  • Share the knowledge of lily toxicity with family, friends, and florists to try to prevent feline exposure.  From personal experience, it crucial to share knowledge of toxins with those who may inadvertently bring these plants into the house without realizing the danger.  I suggest making a list of toxins for whatever types of animals you have in your home and placing it somewhere important such as on the refrigerator so everyone is aware.  You can ask your veterinarian to help with the making of such a list.

 

Hopefully this entry has helped provide some information to you regarding a dangerous toxicity we see far too often.  Happy Spring!

 

Dr. Jenna Koenigstein

 

 

 

 

Is it too late for New Year’s Resolutions? (Dr. Lorri Mitchell)

We are well into 2013 now and one may wonder, how well are the New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Some of us may be doing well while others may have let them slide. So, instead of fretting about our own personal resolutions, how about making a few to benefit your pet?

 

 

Recently I have been reading some articles about resolutions for our pets and I wonder if any of our readers have made resolutions aimed at making our companions happier and healthier?

I would like to take a moment to share a few resolutions that maybe you can work into your family.

1. Protection. We all protect our pets. Keep them in fenced yards, on leashes or prevent them from escaping outside but is there anything else we can do? Keeping identifying tags on them is another step. Make sure they have current contact information on them too. For those pets (or owners) who don’t like dangling tags there are always the embroidered collars where your info is directly sewn onto it. Microchipping is another way to get extra protection in case your pet goes missing. If your pet is picked up by animal control, brought to a veterinary hospital or a shelter they will be scanned and if chipped they will contact the owner. Already have a chip? Make sure your current contact info is registered with the manufacturer. It is so disappointing to us when we are lucky enough to find a chip in a lost animal only to call the company and find out it has never been linked to an owner. (The Res-Q chips we use have a back-up registry to our hospital.) Since their invention, microchip companies have reunited more than 100,000,000 pets and owners! Keep current copies of vaccine records, documents of any chronic diseases your pet has and medications they are taking in case of emergency.

 

2. Prevention. Resolve to keep up on preventative care. Yearly physicals (twice yearly for those with chronic conditions or senior pets). Start brushing teeth! We can help you develop a home care program for your pet. Do some early detection blood work. Keep up with monthly Heartworm prevention and flea and tick control. The maker of Heartgard has created a free app to help you remember when it is time to give the monthly tablet. Go to www.heartgard.com to download. Use the reminder to do your flea and tick medicine the same day!

 

3. Diet and exercise. The category we all hate! Vow to feed well and use portion control. We can get your pet set up with a weight reduction plan if you need one. Hills has just introduced a new prescription diet, “Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution,” for obese dogs and cats that promises easier weight loss with lasting results. Do homework on the foods you feed including treats as there have been too many recalls in the last few years. Resolve to do more walks or play more laser light chasing or whatever gets your pal going.

 

4. Spend more time with our pets. If given the chance, this is the one I think our pets would choose.  Pledge 10 minutes a day to: brush them if they enjoy it, belly rubs, road trips and lots of cuddles in the lap – it’s been shown to reduce people’s heart rate and blood pressure so we can benefit too. Win Win!

 

5. Get a New Look!
In 2013, give your pet the gift of glam! A regular grooming regimen will make your pet feel proud, pampered and healthy.

 

Now that we know what we need to do in 2013 for our pets, let’s see what it would look like if our pets wrote their own New Years Resolutions…

 

It might look like…..

–          Don’t get in the trash

–          Drink from my bowl not the toilet

–          Play more ball, chase more mice/squirrels

–          I will go willingly to the vet as they tell me it is in my own best interest

–          Let them brush my teeth                                                 

–          Perfect  my begging eyes

–          Improve my manners

–          I will come when I am called

–          Try to stay off the furniture

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Pets

Some celebrity pet owners were asked what their resolutions were for their pets. Actress Hilary Swank responded that her two dogs are so great that she vows to take them everywhere she goes including interviews. Bob Barker wishes his rabbit would use his litter box every time not just when it’s convenient! Glee actress Lea Michele says her cat Sheila needs to resolve to stop going into the bathroom and taking all the cotton balls out of the jar and scattering them all over.

I hope this New Year finds all of you and your pets well and happy. Again, if you wish to speak with our staff about teeth brushing, wellness programs, weight loss or micro chipping contact us anytime. Happy Belated New Year!

Part II. Pet Dental Awareness (Dr. Kara Ruthberg)


What happens during a “veterinary dental”?

No other procedure performed on small animals does more to help patients than professional dental cleaning and after care. Preventative dental care or “dental prophylaxis” is performed not only to clean the teeth, but also to evaluate the mouth for any other problems that might be present. One important concept to understand is the difference between a preventative (or “prophylactic”) dental versus a dental procedure involving extractions.  Periodontal disease is a hidden disease and unless you go looking for it you will not find it until it is advanced. Our procedures are far more than “scraping tartar off teeth.”So what exactly happens when your pet comes to us for dental care?

 1)    General anesthesia

 Before the dental procedure can begin, the patient must be placed under general anesthetic. This will greatly increase patient comfort and effectiveness of cleaning. In addition, it allows us to place an endotracheal tube in the patient’s wind-pipe. This will protect the lungs from the bacteria that are being removed from the teeth. Sedation and anesthesia are essential for an adequate evaluation and a thorough cleaning. We examine individual teeth for mobility, fractures, and also the area under the gum line, which is the most important part. For this reason, “non-anesthetic” cleaning is not a worthwhile option. Modern veterinary medicine takes into account the health status of your pet and we require a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a chemistry panel that includes liver and kidney values prior to any anesthetic. We use a variety of safe anesthetics in addition to modern equipment and trained technicians who monitor your pet throughout their dental procedure.

2)    Dental X-rays

We take X-rays of the entire mouth using the most modern digital radiographic systems. Did you know that up to 70% of the tooth can lie below the gum line unseen? Dental X-rays show us the inside of the tooth and its root under the gums. Many decisions are based on X-ray findings. Sometimes a tooth may look normal but on X-ray we may see irreparable damage to the root that necessitates removal of the tooth and oral surgery. Trying to practice dentistry without using dental radiographs is like trying to treat ear disease without an otoscope, or diabetes without blood sugar measurements.

 

 

3)    Therapy to treat any disease found by exam and x-rays

Sometimes it is necessary to extract teeth that are too damaged by disease. These teeth are nonfunctional and can harbor bacteria that may be harmful to your pet’s liver, kidneys, or heart. Removing the diseased tooth eliminates the source of pain and dental surgery is an important and beneficial dental procedure when performed correctly. A dental radiograph is taken to confirm that the entire tooth has been extracted and the remaining alveolus (socket) is free of bone, root remnants or debris.

4)    Supragingival (above the gum line) plaque and tartar removal

This is when we clean the portion of the tooth that you can see using an ultrasonic scaler. It is the most visible part of the procedure and gives that “white” appearance to the teeth once the tartar build up is removed. It is important to know that this step is the ONLY step that can be performed (although very poorly) during a “non-anesthetic dental”. The teeth may look cleaner, but the most important parts of the procedure have yet to be done.

5)    Subgingival (below the gum line) cleaning

This is cleaning the area under the gum line. In our animal patients, this is one of the most important steps because subgingival plaque and calculus is what causes periodontal disease which in turn leads to pain, tooth loss and loss of bone that holds the teeth. This is the most common ailment diagnosed in ALL our animal patients.

 

6) Polishing

Polishing smoothes out the defects and removes plaque (bacteria) that could not be removed during the previous steps. Pumice or polishing paste is used on a polishing cup for the procedure. Polishing makes it more difficult for plaque to stick to the teeth so it can delay the onset of future dental problems.

7) Irrigation

Water spray plus an added antimicrobial rinse are used to gently flush and remove debris and diseased tissue from the gingival pocket or sulcus.

8) Fluoride application

Fluoride application serves the strengthen the enamel and helps decrease sensitivity of the teeth

9) Dental Charting

All of the relevant oral findings are recorded on your pet’s record including missing, loose, or fractured teeth as well as any treatment rendered. This will allow the veterinarian to more accurately follow your pet’s progress through the years.

10) Home care

Home care is the single most important procedure the owner can do to maintain oral health.

The pet owner is an integral part of our dental team. The dental visit is not complete until discussion is held on maintaining and improving oral health.  This will include a talk on how to brush your pet’s teeth and diets that can actually remove or reduce the buildup of plaque! Once we get your pet’s mouth clean and problem areas addressed, daily brushing should help reduce development of periodontal disease. If you can maintain home care, future procedures should be quicker, require less anesthesia and surgery, and be less expensive.

Dr. Kara Ruthberg

February is National Veterinary Dental Awareness Month ( Dr. Zach Weiner)

 

PART I.

Let’s keep those pearly whites happy and healthy.

My boy Milo is all ready to get his teeth cleaned!

Hello readers.  I hope everyone had a great holiday season.  This is a great time to focus on our pets’ health as well as our own.  After all, I know that you all want to keep Fido and Fluffy happy, healthy, and comfortable for as long as possible.  That is the reason that you come to see us regularly and read these informative blogs.  Preventative and interventional medicine can both do great things to not only lengthen but strengthen your dear friends’ life.  So why not make a resolution for your little one as well as for yourself?  Of course, I don’t mean that they should work harder to reconnect with distant friends or lay off the extra cake (although that last one is surely recommended).  Rather, the veterinary team, you, and your pet need to take another look at something that we may have been putting off for too long now.  Yes gentle readers, it is time to address the pink elephant in the room which in this case is your fuzzy one’s mouth.

Its not just about bad breath or aesthetics anymore.

Combating dental disease is not just about fighting bad breath or making them look pure white.  Certainly, these are desirable effects of a healthy mouth and important to consider.   After all, who would not prefer to be licked by a pleasant smelling dog mouth? Also, who does not want their little one to look as brilliant as possible?  That being said, if it was just about looks and smell, I could understand how one could see the procedure as an elective or cosmetic procedure.  The thing is, though, that maintaining oral health is so much more important than that.  In dogs and cats, halitosis can not simply be attributed to dietary habits.  Rather, when your pet’s breath smells bad it is almost always due to significant oral infection.  First and foremost, this infection eats away at the bone around the teeth and causes a great deal of pain.  Keep in mind that all dogs and cats will eat even if they are in pain.   In the wild, hiding pain kept them alive, but in our homes it can make the disease harder to recognize.  For this reason, it is important to have your friendly veterinarian evaluate your pet’s teeth at least once a year even if you have not noticed any problems.  Our pets can try to hide their discomfort until the dental disease becomes irreversible.  However, if we are vigilant your pet will enjoy a pain free and healthy mouth for all of his or her days.  Since bacteria from the mouth can infect the kidneys and heart, removing the infection will keep the rest of the body healthy as well.

In her companion blog article, Dr. Ruthberg will elaborate on the benefits and proper method of a full oral evaluation and treatment.    For the purpose of this article though, keep in mind that “cosmetic” cleanings without anesthesia are dangerous and do not address the true source of dental disease. For more information, please refer position statement by the American college of Veterinary Dentists: http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html.  Just as in human dental care, there are no shortcuts to good oral health.   Proper home care, regular prophylactic cleanings, and surgical intervention are all critical to keep those mouths happy and healthy.

Consider the following facts:

Subtle signs like decreased self-grooming in longhaired cats can be early indications of oral pain and infection.

 

1) At the tender age of 3 years old, 80% (Yes that’s 8 out of 10) dogs have gingival disease.  If left untreated, this will lead to irreversible bone destruction leading to tooth loss.  The moral of this story is it’s never too early to get on top of your dog’s oral care.  Cats are not much better off with 70% having clinically significant gingival disease by the same age.

2) There are several diseases that can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained veterinary professional.  In cats, these include inflammatory swelling of the gums and mouth, irreversible bone loss and gingival infections, and cavity-like resorptive lesions.  Dogs can also develop bone loss and gingival infections as well as tooth fractures.

3) Our teeth have a full 3 millimeters of enamel for protection but dogs only have 1.5 millimeters, one half the amount.  This lack of protection puts them at higher risk for external damage.  Additionally, for many breeds their jaws can produce an enormous amount of force while chewing (250-350 pounds per square inch compared to 150 for a human).   It is not hard to see why so many dogs fracture their teeth when chewing on bones, rocks, ice cubes and hard toys.

4) Sneezing and nasal discharge may be due to an infection of the upper tooth roots. The infection may lead to an opening between the mouth and the nasal cavity. This is called an oronasal fistula, and treatment requires surgical repair.  This is especially common in dachshunds, greyhounds, and cats.

5) Facial swelling below the eye is usually due an infection of the fourth upper premolar.  This is the main chewing tooth in a dog’s mouth, which makes it susceptible to fracture.  Its position in the back of the mouth also makes it difficult to keep this tooth clean with home care alone.  The treatment for this abscess is oral surgery.

6) Small dog breeds are more likely to develop gingivitis and periodontal disease than large dogs because the teeth of small dogs are often too large for their mouths, according to veterinary dentistry experts.

 

Keeping all that in mind, let us help you keep your pets’ teeth healthy for years to come.

Dangerous Foods for Dogs: CHLOE AND SUGAR-FREE GUM (Dr. Danowitz)

                                                    True Tails : Dogs and Xylitol

I want to share with you the story of Chloe, a 2 year-old, spayed, female Swiss Mountain Dog, who was rather mischievous one afternoon while her owners were out of the house.

Chloe’s owners had left for the afternoon, and she was allowed to roam the lower level of the house (as is usual for her). On this particular day Chloe went “counter-surfing” and was able to locate a large pack of Ice Breakers gum pushed to the back of the countertop. With her long reach she was able to capture the pack of gum, and ingested all the pieces (including wrappers!).

When Chloe’s family arrived home several hours later they were alarmed to find that their 109-pound family member could not walk straight, almost as if intoxicated. Panicked, they searched the house for any toxic chemicals that Chloe could have gotten access to, but found only the outer wrapper to the aforementioned pack of Ice Breakers gum. They called Ocean County Veterinary Hospital (OCVH) , and we immediately advised bringing Chloe down right away, as this emergency can become a life-threatening situation.

Some flavors of Ice Breakers Gum (along with many other brands of sugar-free gum) contain the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. Xylitol is used worldwide, mainly as a sweetener in chewing gums and pastilles, but is also found in pharmaceuticals and mouthwash. The fluoride supplement that my children take each day contains Xylitol as a flavoring agent. In human literature, Xylitol is praised for being a “dental-friendly” sugar substitute, and is a far superior option for diabetic people than table sugar. Although very safe for humans, Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.

Dogs that ingest products containing Xylitol can show signs of toxicity within 30 minutes. Once ingested Xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, which can produce to the following clinical signs:

● Vomiting

● Weakness

● Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)

● Depression

● Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)

● Coma

● Liver Problems

● and, if a large enough amount is consumed, and untreated, death

Dogs that present to our hospital with Xylitol ingestion / toxicity are treated as very serious, life-threatening emergencies. If the ingestion was thought to have been within 2 hours, vomiting can be induced to remove any yet-undigested material. As with many poisonous substances, inducing vomiting before complete digestion has occurred greatly increases the chances for a dog’s survival. Therefore, going to the veterinarian as soon as possible after suspected ingestion of any toxic substance is very important! If more of the Xylitol-containing product is suspected to be further along in the digestive tract of the dog then a product called activated charcoal (or Toxiban) is sometimes administered. Activated charcoal is a thick, black tarry substance that when ingested coats the stomach and intestines, effectively blocking any further absorption of the toxic material (in this case Xylitol) into the bloodstream.

 

Now getting a dog to EAT activated charcoal can be a very tricky, and very messy, process – as any veterinary technician will tell you! Frequently, the use of a stomach tube is required.

Any dog that is suspected to have ingested Xylitol must have their blood sugar (glucose) level checked immediately upon admission to the hospital. If hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is present, treatment is immediately initiated to raise the blood sugar with intravenous and oral medications in order to avoid the toxic symptoms listed above. Depending on the amount of Xylitol ingested, when it was ingested, and the success of clearing the digestive track after inducing vomiting and / or using activated charcoal, some dogs require referral to a 24-hour care facility to receive treatment for hypoglycemia for an additional 24-48 hours.

The second dangerous effect of Xylitol toxicity in dogs is a delayed liver failure. Sometimes liver values in a dog’s blood work do not start to rise until days after the Xylitol ingestion, so daily monitoring of a dogs blood work for 3-14 days may be recommended by the veterinarian.

Back to Chloe, our 109-pound Swiss Mountain Dog: Chloe’s blood sugar was already dangerously low at the time of admission to our hospital, and treatment to raise the blood sugar was started immediately. Activated charcoal was administered to her. After she was stabilized, Chloe was referred to a specialty hospital in our area where she remained for 3 days, to monitor and control her blood sugar. Even after discharge from the hospital, Chloe returned to our hospital twice over the next 2 weeks to recheck her liver values. I am happy to report that she has achieved a full recovery and is back to her normal self! Chloe is grateful that her owners were observant and acted so quickly when they discovered she was not feeling well.

 

Most people know about many of things that are toxic to dogs, including chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions… but so many people are unaware of the dangers that sugar-free gums containing Xylitol present to their dogs. How many of you have a pack of gum in a purse or on a counter in your house?

 

 

A New Addition To The Family (Dr. Zach Weiner)

When it’s time to introduce your baby to your pets

First of all, I hope that all of you have had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday season.  As we start this brand new year, I can’t help but reflect back on the events of this past one.  Personally, there is no doubt that the most important event for me was the birth of our first child, a son.  As you can probably imagine, there is no shortage of animal companions at my house.   For us, it was not just when two become three but rather when nine become ten.  Yes, dear readers there were several different personalities that would need to adjust to our new noisy, bossy, little friend.  Luckily, in this small area of new parenthood at least, we were well educated in making this introduction as smooth as possible.  It only seems fitting that I pass on some of this wisdom to you in this blog entry.

The main concern of course should be for the safety of your new baby and your pets.  We are lucky in that our animals tend to be pretty accepting of any new rescues that tend to come through the door.  That being said, some pets can be fearful, unpredictable, anxious or even aggressive when a new baby is brought into their home.  It is important to be honest and aware of your pets’ personality.  Is your dog fearful around new people or reactive to loud noises?  Does your cat soil outside the box when stressed?  Do you have a curious critter that may be a little destructive with new household objects?  Do you have an older pet that may be less patient with having their ear or tail pulled?  Knowing how your pet may react will help you to prepare.  There is no way to predict every outcome perfectly, but the more prepared you are, the better.   If you have any concerns that your pet may act out in an aggressive or destructive manner, please bring up your concerns with your veterinarian.   Your vet may be able to discuss specific training techniques, medications or even refer you to a certified behavioral specialist if necessary.

That being said, I promised specific words of advice so here we go.

1) Use your pets’ curiosity to your advantage: Cats tend to be curious about everything new in their environment.  Even if it scares them at first, they want to explore, smell, and generally check out any new thing that may alter their life.  Many dogs feel the same way.  In general, the more time you give a pet to adjust, the better that transition will go.  As such, I recommend allowing your pets to explore the nursery once it is set up.   In addition, ask for an extra set of hospital clothes that was worn by your newborn during his or her stay (or just an extra hat).  Have a family member or friend leave the clothing in a conspicuous area of the house before you bring your bundle of joy home.  Your pets are sure to smell the clothing and thus be more familiar with you baby before the big day.

 I would also recommend, if possible, allowing the pets to greet your child during a quiet time on their terms.  Do not put the baby in their face or corner them while holding the baby.

 

If your pet gets anxious, keep an eye out for worsening of symptoms when your baby gets fussy.  If this really upsets your furry companion, you may be able to distract him or her with a treat during loud times or perform a temporary separation until things quiet down.  Never leave your child unsupervised with your dog no matter the size or your level of trust.   This is as much for you dogs’ protection as your baby’s (especially during the toddler years).   Mother’s should also be sure to pay close attention to how your pets react when you are alone with the baby whether you are nursing, soothing or simply sitting with him or her.  Some pets will get protective of mother and baby.  This needs to be taken into consideration especially by a well meaning father bringing in coffee or tea late at night.  Others may elicit social confusion symptoms towards the baby (often mistaken for jealousy), which will need to be recognized and addressed as soon as possible.  As time goes by, you will learn how comfortable your pets are with the baby and which areas still need work.

2) Have methods to separate your pet and baby safely:  As I mentioned previously, we had MANY cats and two dogs who would be sharing space with our little man.  Even though I wanted them to know he was coming and be comfortable with that, I also wanted a safe and clean space just for my son.  As such, we installed iron safety gates at the doors and a monitor so we could shut the door at night to keep the cats out of the room.

While I am a firm believer that the fear of cats smothering sleeping babies is nothing more than an urban legend, it is better if they find other areas of the house to sleep.  Alternatively, there are some owners will install screen doors at the nursery entrance to allow their pets to see and smell the newborn but still maintain a barrier.

This is pretty cool if you have the resources for such a thing.  Since our cats, like many feline friends, will try to make a bed out of anything, we did strategically cover certain objects like the bassinet and changing table with towels or blankets to minimize cat hair and debris on the furniture.  Our personal choice in the household is to not worry too much about hair on the furniture (“denial” is not just a river in Egypt 🙂 ), but we try to be a little stricter for the baby.  If members of your family are especially sensitive to pet hair or dander, the use of a HEPA air filter may also be helpful.

 3) Do not try to “make it up” to your pets:  One of the most common mistakes that owners make during this transition time is to try to shower their pets with extra love and affection when the baby is not around.  It is easy to see how this happens.  A new mom or dad feels guilty that Fido is not getting as much attention.  To counteract this, the well-meaning owner gives extra treats or pats/hugs after the baby is asleep or away.  The goal is to reinforce to the pet that he or she is still very much loved, which is noble.  Unfortunately, that is not how your dog (or less often cat) sees it.  From his or her
perspective it is very simple.  When this new loud creature is gone I get treats, love and life is amazing.  When the crying new addition is around I get nothing.  This leads to a very real and sometimes dangerous conclusion in your pet’s mind; when baby is around life is bad.  I am certainly not recommending that you ignore your pets when your baby is asleep.  Rather be sure to reward them and praise them when the baby is around ESPECIALLY if they are being friendly or quiet.  This will lead to a conclusion that the little addition means rewards, which make him or her great!

4) Parasite control and zoonotic risks:

Close-up of a hookworm’s mouth

Parasite control is also very important.  Dogs and cats (even if indoor only) can acquire intestinal parasites, fleas, and heartworms. Did you know that about 15% of all potting soil used for indoor plants contains eggs for roundworms?  My cats love to dig around our plants constantly, how about yours? Intestinal worms such as roundworm and hookworm are zoonotic (which means they can be passed to people) and fleas can bite people or carry diseases that your baby may have trouble fighting off.  Therefore, all of our cats are given a medication on their skin called Revolution every month to prevent the infestations mentioned above. Similarly, our dogs are given a heartworm pill (to prevent intestinal worms, flea eggs, and heartworm) and a topical solution to kill ticks and adult fleas every month.  I have heard many owners voice concerns about applying chemicals to their pets, especially in the presence of children.  I understand this concern now more than ever.  The medications that we are using, however, are extremely safe and they are not harmful to people when applied to the pet correctly.  There are many over-the-counter flea/tick medications that are dangerous, though, so I recommend sticking with what is recommended by your veterinarian.  There are real risks for a child to acquire roundworm, hookworm, tick-borne diseases or flea-borne diseases.  These diseases are easily prevented, however, with proper medication and hygiene.  So do not surrender your beloved furry companion just because you will have a little one crawling around, just be sure that everyone in your house is protected.

In summary, bringing a new baby can be a busy time with a lot of new worries and concerns.  Hopefully, by planning ahead and considering the advice provided, some of these can be alleviated.  Of course, if anything comes up or you have specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at the hospital.  As your veterinarians, we are dedicated to ensuring that the bond you share with your pets strengthens in the new phase of your family’s life and that your children get to enjoy your pets as well.

Zachary Weiner, DVM