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Hello readers, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Now that the season has passed and we have bid farewell to 2014, it is time to set our sights on 2015. While I am sure all of you have been faithfully following your personal resolutions, might I suggest that you make a few for your pets as well. Here is a list of suggestions sure to make this a happy and healthy year for your pet as well.
1) Have a consistent diet plan
Over 50% of U.S. pets are considered overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Carrying this extra weight around has more consequences than just affecting how your little ones look in a swimsuit. Overweight pets are more prone to diseases like arthritis, diabetes, breathing difficulties and even cancer. In addition, a fit pet is a happy pet, who can keep up with you and all your activities. What better time to start a weight loss plan than early in the New Year? Try to exercise with your pet each day. You can always start slowly with a steady walk for a short period of time and later adjust to an intensity or time that fits you and your pet best. Also, try to actually measure your pet’s food for each meal. It is hard to lose weight when foods are freely available all day or “eyeballing” the portion poured into a bowl. Start with an 8-ounce cup and measure how much your pet is currently eating on a daily basis. Based on that information and your pet’s current weight, your veterinarian can help you establish the proper ration. Weight loss is never easy, but I have faith that you can do it. After all, the rewards for you and your companion include a longer and happier time together.
2) Find a fun activity to do with your pet
I am a runner and have always dreamed of having a dog that could run with me on those lonely early morning jogs. Conveniently, I live near a dog-friendly beach that allows access to leashed pets. I have two dogs so what could be better? Except dear readers, while my two canine companions are quite athletic, they are also pint-sized. Thus, they are not really cut out for the long distance jogs that I like to take. Does this mean that we can’t play? In the words of my toddler, “Goodness No!” It just means that we need to find a fun activity that suits us both. For some dogs it may be daily walks to the park or coffee shop. Others may enjoy cuddling while you read a book by the fireplace. Or perhaps, you could enjoy a game of frisbee every so often. However you spend time with your pet, it is important to reinforce the bond you share, as this will yield many long-term advantages. Several medical studies that have proven the health benefits attained by people who spend time interacting with their pets. These include reduced stress, lower blood pressure and decreases in anxiety or depression. And, in my experience pets who receive increased levels of exercise and attention tend to exhibit far less undesirable behaviors. There is an old adage that most often rings true, especially in this busy world, “a tired pet is a happy owner.” So be sure to get out there and spend some quality time with your little one!
3) Don’t forget those pearly whites!
Bad breath is the worst! Not only can be it be an unpleasant surprise when your little one wants to give you a kiss, but it can be an indication of infection deep inside the gums. This type of infection causes a great deal of pain and can even damage critical organs like the heart, kidneys or liver. Even though many dogs and cats may seem to have adapted to the discomfort of having dental disease, they will be much happier and healthier if we are able to resolve the infection completely. Countless clients have told me how much better their little ones feel and act after a dental procedure. Most say that their pets start acting like puppies or kittens again shortly after the procedure. How cool is that? I am talking about a literal fountain of youth, fresh breath, and increased comfort and happiness. “What could be better?” you may ask. Well, February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and Ocean County Veterinary Hospital is offering a promotion to help you celebrate and save money on dental services and products. So let’s keep those whites pearly, guys!
4) Update your pet’s ID information
The statistics on pet loss in this country are quite sobering. The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year in the United States. In addition, they estimate that one in three pets will become lost at some point in its life. That’s a huge number! I personally have six pets (two dogs and four cats) that could potentially wander from the house which means that, statistically, two of them could become lost at any time. This is unacceptably high for my family, and I am sure for many of you as well. It is important to take precautions to avoid loss of your pet, but accidents happen to everyone. As such, it is prudent to increase the chances of recovering your companion if he or she becomes lost. The ASPCA reports that for dogs entering shelters, 26% are returned to previous owners, while 31% are euthanized. The numbers are even dire for cats where less than 5% are returned to previous owners and 41% are euthanized. There are a few things that you can do to increase the odds of recovery should your pet become lost. Microchipped and properly registered pets are much more likely to be returned to their homes. Statistics show that 52% of lost dogs and 38% of lost cats that have been microchipped are reunited with their owners. Now you may be wondering why these numbers aren’t closer to 100%. The reason is that many owners forget to register or update their contact information with the company that hosts the microchip database! You do know what this means, right? First, get all of your pets microchipped. Second, make sure you register your contact information for each pet that you own. Lastly, to be extra safe, make sure your pets have an additional form of identification such as a tags and a collar which would be visible if anyone finds your pet. The shelters cannot help you find your pet if no one brings them there. Without external identification, some well-meaning Good Samaritan may think your little one does not have a responsible owner and take them in as his own. Once you have followed these steps, I recommend having your pet’s microchip verified yearly by your vet (this is a quick and easy process). Be sure that your most recent address and contact information is registered in the microchip database. As my grandma used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.” Not to mention the pain it saves!
5) Make a well-check appointment for all your pets
Except for some parrots and tortoises, our pets age more quickly than we do. They pack a lot of life into a shorter time span. So, it is important that you bring your little one in for regular wellness examinations at least once a year. As they become more advanced in age, we recommend twice-yearly visits. Regular check-ups can help us detect certain abnormalities before they become major problems. Medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, dental problems, kidney disease, arthritis and even some types of blindness, can be more properly treated or reversed if detected early. In addition, these regular visits allow our healthcare team to record even slight changes, which may become important later on. Make a resolution to schedule your pet’s wellness exam in a timely manner.
I hope these New Year’s recommendations have been a helpful inspiration. From all of us here at the family of Ocean County Veterinary Hospitals, we wish you a blessed and fruitful 2015.
Dr. Zach Weiner
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.
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.
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
Let’s keep those pearly whites happy and healthy.
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.