Tag Archives: Feline Health

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?

 

 

What Not to Eat – Holiday Dog Edition (Dr. Jenna Koenigstein)

First things first…This is a slightly outdated photo because Dr. Gatsch is now Dr. Koenigstein. Congratulations! Onto her blog.

Now that we are all stuffed to the gills from our Thanksgiving feasts and looking forward to more gluttony next month, I’m going to take a moment to refresh you on those foods to avoid giving to your pup.  In addition to those listed below, it is also important to remember that giving table food to your canine companion can cause gastrointestinal upset and obesity, which can predispose them to other health issues.  Yummy human food can also cause them to become more finicky about eating their usual dog food.

Also beware of leaving food on the counters, especially if you have an experienced counter-surfer at home.

Alcohol – While it may seem funny to some to give Fluffy some beer and watch him act silly, don’t do it. Alcohol can cause not only intoxication, lack of coordination, and slowed breathing, but potentially even coma or death.

This is what NOT to do.

Avocado – Avocados contain persin, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Baby food – Some varieties contain onion powder, which is harmful to dogs (see below under Onion).  Otherwise not harmful for dogs, but does not provide a balanced diet.

Bones – Intact bones can cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction.  Splintered bones can cause damage to the lining of the GI tract and even possible perforation.

Cat food – Too high in protein and fat to be a primary diet for dogs.  Occasional consumption is not harmful and is often unavoidable 🙂

Chocolate, coffee, tea – This is probably not new information for you, but be sure to avoid chocolate for your pup.  It contains caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and, in more severe cases, is toxic to the heart and nervous system.  The darker the chocolate, the worse for your pet.

Corn on the cob – A common cause of intestinal obstructions every summer.  Make sure to dispose of garbage well so that your pup can’t go dumpster diving to find a prize.

Corn cob visible in the intestine causing obstruction.  The only treatment is surgery to remove the cob.

Fat trimmings – Can cause GI upset and occasionally pancreatitis.

Grapes and raisins – Grapes contain a toxin that can cause acute kidney failure. Some dogs seem more sensitive to the toxin than others, but best to avoid altogether.

Hops – One of the main components of beer, hop consumption by your dog can cause panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and even death.

Macadamia nuts – These contain a toxin that can cause weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting, and hyperthermia.

Milk and dairy products – Dogs are naturally lactose intolerant, so large amount of dairy products can cause diarrhea.

Moldy food – If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your pup.

Mushrooms – Just as the wrong mushroom can be fatal to humans, the same applies to dogs. If your pup eats an unknown mushroom outside, seek veterinary care immediately.

Onions and garlic – In all their forms (raw, cooked, powder, etc), they contain disulfides and sulfoxides, both of which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.

Persimmons, peaches, and plums – Persimmon seeds and peach and plum pits can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.

Raw eggs – The most obvious concern is salmonella, which is why mom always said not to eat the cookie dough. But raw eggs also contain the enzyme avidin, which inhibits the absorption of Biotin (a B vitamin) that your dog uses to keep a healthy coat and skin.

Salt – Excessive intake can lead to electrolyte imbalances.

Sugar – Avoid sweet snacks in your pet.  Just as with people, sugar can lead to obesity, which may predispose your pet to diabetes.

Tobacco – The nicotine in tobacco can damage your pup’s digestive and nervous systems, increase their heart rate, lead to coma, and ultimately result in death.

Xylitol – An artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum which causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).  Symptoms include vomiting, weakness, and collapse.

Yeast dough – Yeast can expand and produce gas in the GI system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.

These by no means are the only things to avoid in your dog, but keeping these in mind can help your pup to have a happy and healthy holiday season.  If you ever have any question as to the safety of something your pet has eaten, call us anytime.

Happy Holidays!

 

Holiday Safety for Your Pets (Dr. Laurie Pearlman)

As the holiday season approaches and you prepare for the festivities please remember to keep pet safety in mind.  Pets are part of our family and they too will be in the midst of all the celebrations.  Here are some simple safety tips to consider during this holiday season:

 

 

 

Holiday decor

Keep all ornaments, ribbons, garlands, tacks and potpourri out of reach. Avoid using tinsel.  Cats love to play with tinsel and often ingest it.  Don’t leave your pet alone in a room where they have access to decorations.  Anything ingested can potentially cause an intestinal obstruction or may be toxic.  

 

Yummy foods

Don’t change your pet’s diet.  Any change in diet can result in diarrhea.  Foods high in fat can trigger pancreatitis so avoid those fatty meat scraps.  Do not feed bones to pets, this can result in some serious gastrointestinal emergencies.  Feed only the safe foods and treats that your pets are used to eating.  Secure the garbage can.  Move foods out of reach on counter tops and tables. Make sure your pet does not have access to foods intended for people.  Many things are toxic to pets that may seem harmless such as : chocolate, any food containing xylitol (artificial sweetener), macadamia nuts, grapes or raisins, onions, alcoholic beverages.  

Plants

Plants can add beauty to our homes and are very decorative but many plants are toxic if ingested.  Keep all plants out of reach.  Check out the ASPCA toxic and non toxic plant list at www.aspca.org

 

 

 

Warmth and light

All of the things used to keep our gathering spaces warm can pose a danger to pets and people.  Block off fireplaces with appropriate safety barriers.  Avoid using candles where pets can reach them.  Keep all electric cords out of reach or secured to prevent access by curious pets.  They may try to chew on the cords resulting in electric shock or burns and if ingested may require surgical care.

 

 

Safe haven

All the noise and activity may be stressful for pets.  Consider setting up a safe, quiet area in your home away from the holiday bustle.  With visitors coming and going pets are more likely to slip out.  Guests often can not resist sharing holiday foods with cute little critters. Remind them not to share anything except safe treats that you provide.

 

 

Identification and vaccinations

Collars and identification tags should have current contact information.  Because collars can be lost if your pet escapes or more commonly not put back on a pet especially after a bath, microchips are very important.  Microchips are a permanent form of identification.  All veterinarians, animal control officers and animal shelters have microchip scanners and will scan found pets in hopes of reuniting a lost pet with an owner.  Microchips are an inexpensive ticket home for a lost pet. If you haven’t already gotten one for your pet please consider calling us to get one for your furry friend today! Guests will often bring visiting pets as well.  Make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations.  Never leave pets alone that are not accustomed to being together.

We wish your family and pets a safe and happy holiday season!