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3 Common Myths about Bad Breath in Pets

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Your cat or dog has that certain odour when he gives you a kiss or when he just walks in the room.  Is this something to be concerned about? There are three common myths about halitosis.

Three Common Myths about halitosis in your pet:

  1. “It’s just doggie breath!”

Many dogs or cats do have a certain breath odour that is normal. But it shouldn’t be very unpleasant and it shouldn’t be the first thing you notice when your pet walks in the room.

  1. “My cat always smells like that”. One caution here: you’ve heard of going nose blind? Well that often happens with owners and pets.  Maybe ask a friend or neighbour what they think about your pet’s breath.

Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to that smell, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something to be concerned about.

  1. “Your breath would smell too if you ate pooh!”  Yes, what is it with dogs and eating feces?  No respectable cat would ever do such a thing. In any case, I digress from the topic here:  no matter what your dog eats, it shouldn’t be the cause of a lingering bad smell in his mouth. If the smell is there, there’s a cause.

A really bad mouth odour can be a sign of one of several things: dental disease such as gingivitis or the more serious periodontitis, an infection in another part of the mouth, like the tongue or the soft palate, something stuck in his mouth for a long time, or a disease affecting the whole body that is causing odours to come up from the stomach.

You can start by just lifting up the lips and looking. The gums shouldn’t be red: that’s not normal. The teeth should not be covered with tartar, plaque, or worse. You shouldn’t be bowled over by a bad smell.

80-85% of the patients that veterinarians see have some form of dental disease. Gingivitis is very common. That’s when the gums are swollen and red and there’s a coating of slime, called plaque, on the teeth and some tartar or calculus as well.

Gingivitis is dental disease in the early stage and it can be cured with dental cleaning and good home care. When gingivitis is long-standing it becomes periodontitis, and that’s bad news. The periodontal ligament holds the tooth in place in the socket. When it becomes infected, that signifies a deep-seated infection and eventually a loose tooth. An infection is an infection, no matter where it is. It is painful. It is a focus of bacteria that can make things worse and worse around the tooth and may have a bigger effect on the whole body.

Why ignore bad breath?  Have a look in his mouth for yourself first, then take your cat or your dog in to see your veterinarian.

The doctor will go on a search for the cause. He or she will assess the level of gum disease. They will look for other causes of bad breath.  Sometimes there’s a stick or a bone stuck in the mouth that you may not have noticed, sometimes there’s a serious problem, usually it’s dental disease.  Your veterinarian will get to the root of the problem and make recommendations to fix it.

Don’t let bad breath in your pet be acceptable. Get it checked!

February is Dental Month at Steeples Veterinary Clinic.

Well, really, it’s always dental month …all year long! But in February we want to have a special focus on your pet’s smile.

Ask one of our team members about Dental Month!

 

Beware the Dangers of “Anaesthetic Free Dentistry”

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You know by now the importance of dental health in our pets. Periodontal disease is common and 85% of pets have some form of gum disease at any given time.

The goal of dental cleaning is to remove plaque and calculus or tartar that harbour bacteria. These bacteria are the cause of the infection in the gingiva and the periodontal ligament. The treatment involves using water and sharp instruments beneath below the gum line in the little groove called the sulcus, or in some cases in a periodontal pocket. It is a precise technique. It is exactly the same as what you have done yourself when you go to your dental hygienist.

In veterinary dentistry, we need to use general anaesthetic. We must provide restraint and take precautions that the instruments and the pressurized water is not causing harm. There is no way to do a thorough sub-gingival scaling and polishing and careful exam with dental charting in an awake pet. If anyone tells you otherwise, then be careful.

Many people have concerns about anaesthetic. Today, with proper examination, blood tests, and other screening, we can know what to expect ahead of time and we can be very safe with general anaesthetic. Please talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.

To really treat gum disease and manage plaque and tartar in cats and dogs, there must be thorough cleaning above AND below the gum line. This treatment is specialized and should only be done by your veterinarian. Why? Veterinary dentistry is a branch of veterinary medicine and can only be legally performed by a licensed veterinarian and his or her representatives. These are highly trained professionals.

My main concern for anaesthetic free dental cleanings? I don’t want you to think that you can go and have a quick scraping done while your cat or dog is awake and that you are making a good health decision for your pet. Very little is being done for your pet’s dental health. And most important of all is that some harm may be done.
Come and talk to us about dental care. It’s a big part of what we do.

Winter Safety for Cats and Dogs

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It’s winter! Whether we have a lot of snow or not, it’s a beautiful time of year that brings with it some potential health concerns for pets.

• Antifreeze toxicity. Antifreeze solution from vehicles is poisonous to your dog or cat. It’s sweet and tasty and VERY dangerous if ingested; life-threatening in fact.
If you have antifreeze spills of your own, be sure to clean them up very well and don’t leave open containers laying around. If you’re on a walk, don’t let your dog off the leash to run around and sniff and eat things. If you think your pet has drank or licked some antifreeze, call your veterinarian immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are initially vomiting, acting drunk, urinating and drinking more, and later on extreme fatigue and a painful abdomen. Please be very careful to keep your pet from this toxin.

• Cold temperatures. It seems we haven’t been getting the brutally cold temperatures anymore, (think minus forty on the prairies), but hypothermia and frostbite can still occur. Warm sweaters or jackets and boots will help dogs with thin/sparse hair coats.
Make sure pets that live outdoors year round have shelter and bedding. Many heavy-coated winter breeds love the cold winters and the snow and would be worse off if they were inside, but they still need shelter.
It’s also important to feed enough to outdoor pets, as keeping warm burns up a lot of calories.

• Snowballs between toes! If your dog or cat has very hairy feet, he or she may have a problem with snow building up between the toes. While not serious, it can be uncomfortable and lead to red, cracked skin or pads. This snow accumulation can be prevented by having your pet wear boots or by helping to melt and remove the snow as soon as the pet comes indoors. Using petrolatum jelly on the skin and hair before an outdoor walk on a snowy day will also help to prevent the problem.

• Toxic indoor plants. Maybe your cat is bored being cooped up indoors and maybe he really wants to eat grass. More cases of plant toxicity happen in the winter. Supply cat grass for indoor cats, and make sure house plants are non-toxic. To name a few (but there are many more): Poinsettias, Dracaena, and many types of lilies are poisonous plants for your pet.

• Getting enough exercise and not overeating. It happens to all of us. It’s not as easy to move around or go out for a walk with the snow, the cold, the ice, the busy times in winter. Eating comfort food makes us warm and comfortable. So we gain weight. Remember to make time to take your dog for a walk or play with your cat. And unless your pet is living outside in the cold or working hard every day, if you cut back on his daily calories by 25%, he will come through the winter in a sleeker condition. Good advice for pets and their people!

• Winter accidents. Be careful when skiing and snowshoeing that you always know where your dog is beside you. Skiis can be very sharp.
Be extra careful when driving at night, as it may be more difficult to see animals on the streets if there are a lot of bright lights, exhaust from vehicles, and snowbanks.

Have winter fun and be safe!

 

Senior Pets

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We’re celebrating senior pets in November.

Our senior pets are special. They are experienced, devoted, and well grooved in – they know you and you know them. You feel as if they’ve always been there. You know what each other is thinking and it’s a comfortable relationship. The senior years can be a fine time of life!

There can be changes in the senior years that are common but sometimes overlooked. Some of these changes are normal and predictable, others are warning signs and should not be ignored.  It’s been said many times that “old age is not a disease”, but it certainly is a time of life when many diseases make an appearance.

What are some expected Senior Cat and Dog issues?

Changes in senses: changes in vision, hearing and taste. Sometimes these cannot be fixed, but sometimes they are a sign to go looking for an issue that can be treated.

 

Behaviour: Your old dog or old cat may become mellow, which is often a welcome change. But what if he or she is grumpy, forgetful, fearful, and experiencing an increase in anxiety and phobias? Talk to the veterinarian about behaviour issues, as many of these are related to anxiety and can be controlled very well with supplements or medications.

Health issues: Kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, dental health issues, pancreas and thyroid gland issues. Cancer, unfortunately, is common in our senior pets. Your veterinary team is your friend.  Take your senior pet in for check-ups every 6 months.

 

Diet: Many cats and dogs become less active and have a decreasing metabolism, so they will tend to put on weight. Others will have problems that prevent the food from being utilized properly and will lose weight. The veterinary team can show you diets and supplements that are tailor made for seniors and for the nutritional or caloric problems your senior may be having.

Comfort: Arthritis pain and pain from muscle tone loss are way more common in cats and dogs than we realize. Yes, talk to your vet about recognizing pain and then about managing it with medications or supplements.

Provide soft padded beds for tired old bones to sleep on.  Provide warm clothing for your skinnier friend who has trouble maintaining body heat. A make-shift or permanent ramp for getting up onto the couch or into the vehicle will make getting around so much easier. A low-sided litter box that is on the main living level will make a senior cat much happier.

 

We can’t slow down the hands of time and we can’t lengthen the too-short life-span of our pets, but we CAN make the most of the time they have with us, and we should always try to make it the best time.

Let’s Make Senior Years Great Years!

Obesity in Pets

By Freddie's BlogNo Comments

“Is my cat fat? Or is he just fluffy?”  “My dog is not fat, it’s her big-boned breed!” “My pet LOVES his treats and he would suffer greatly if I stopped giving them”.  “She’s so fat and cute!”

As a veterinarian, I see fat pets every day.  Sometimes it’s hard to let people know.  Some people don’t want to hear the word “fat” or “obese”. If my priority is the health of your pet, then I am obliged to let you know.

I can try to say it in the kindest way possible, but it’s time to face the hard truth.  Our pets are too fat.  Recent studies suggest that up to 35 percent of dogs and cats in this country are just plain obese.

What’s wrong with being fat anyway?

  • Obesity in dogs and cats is linked with arthritis and other painful joint problems.
  • Obesity can lead to restrictive breathing disorders.  It’s hard to breathe with a big layer of fat compressing around your lungs.
  • Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes mellitus and a severe liver condition called hepatic lipidosis.
  • Fat pets have an increased surgical and anaesthetic risk.
  • Fat pets have a decreased life span.

Do you need any other reasons?

How did this happen?

As people become more sedentary in society in general, so do their pets. Animals, just like people, need to take in fewer calories than they burn off, or weight gain happens. Exercise is key to weight loss and weight control.

Some breeds have a genetic tendency toward obesity. This kind of obesity management takes special dedication and hard work.

Most pet food packages recommend feeding too much. We need to treat our cats and dogs as individuals, because one size does not fit all!

It’s so hard to say no to those big, sad eyes.  We’ve created a habit with treats and over-feeding, and habits are hard to break.

“But she’s really hungry!” Sometimes it’s very difficult for you as a pet owner to accept that your dog or cat isn’t suffering from hunger when they beg for food.

We believe that loving our pets means feeding them or giving them a yummy high calorie treat. A greater expression of love would be to just pet them and give verbal praise, or to go for a walk or have play time for an hour.

Neutering or spaying your cat or dog can decrease his or her metabolism by up to 40%.  You need to be aware of this and adjust calorie intake and exercise levels accordingly.

What’s the answer?

I think we’ve all heard it before many times for ourselves and the same goes for pets:  A careful diet and enough exercise. Burn off more than you take in.  Make it a habit and a lifestyle.  Sorry for the boring repetition, but it’s true!

Understand body condition score. I sometimes think our society has come to accept too fat as the norm and the lean, ideal body weight as too “skinny”, “you can feel his ribs – that’s not right”.

To evaluate your pet, feel for a small amount of padding over the ribs. It should be possible to feel the ribs and there should be a small tuck in the belly where the hind legs meet the body. Sometimes it is hard to recognize that your pet is overweight as the weight gain has come on gradually or it is hard to actually accept that your pet is more than just a little chubby and is now fully obese.

Start with good health. Book your pet in for a veterinary check up and make sure there isn’t a health issue to blame for weight gain or reluctance to exercise.

Make exercise a habit.  Pets love this. Dogs need to go for walks and runs.  Cats love to play and chase toys.  There are many programs and interactive toys available. Be creative and let exercise become a part of your pet’s day.

Feed meals at set times. Take control over what your cat or dog eats.

Feed puppies three times a day and adults two times a day; cats can graze, but make sure you know how much they’re eating each day: set out a daily amount and that’s it.

Be aware of what is being eaten and how much.

Weigh-in regularly: this can be motivating, and it also allows you to make sure the weight loss is not too fast.  Pets should lose no more than 2% of their body weight per week.

 
Chose the right diet.

  • Talk to your veterinarian!   Therapeutic diets are carefully designed to work toward weight loss in a controlled manner, and not just to prevent wt. gain. Some of these foods are specifically engineered for that cat or dog who thinks she’s starving all day long – the diet provides a feeling of fullness and satisfaction.
  • Talk to the support staff at your veterinary hospital about a weight loss program available that provides coaching and help.
  • There are low calorie treats available, and you can also offer limited amounts of watery vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and lettuce. Be careful of many treats off the table as they are full of carbohydrates and fat.  Remember that ALL treats add up and contribute to the daily caloric intake.

I know it’s hard.  I know it’s not fun.  But don’t give in to discouragement.  Your pet can reach a healthy weight!

It’s Dental Health Month! | Freddie’s Blog

By Freddie's Blog

Hi! It’s Freddie. Yes, I’ve been away, but now I’m back and ready to tell you about all the things I know.

Well, of course you know that February is dental month at Steeples Veterinary Clinic, but what does that really mean? Read more …

It means that the doctors and staff here are focusing on dental care for all cats and dogs. It means that dental disease is so common that we want to bring it to your attention this month.

The best thing I know about dental care is that you have to be aware of what’s going on inside your pet’s mouth. Have you ever had a good look?

Flip the lip along the side or at the front of the mouth and just look at the teeth and gums. Are they red and swollen? Is there a lot of tartar build up? Do you notice pain or discomfort? How about the breath? Not so good?

These are all signs of significant dental disease and can cause pain and ill health for your cat or dog.

But maybe your dog’s mouth isn’t so bad; maybe your cat has only mild gingivitis. Mild dental disease is the first step toward more severe dental disease, but it’s much easier to treat.

Everyone should have a good check-up once a year, and this includes an oral health exam. If you have any concerns about your pet’s mouth, then take him to your veterinarian.

Either the veterinary nurses or doctors can have a good look, answer your questions, and give you direction on how to help, prevent, or treat dental disease.

That’s what I know about that!

See you next time,

Freddie