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Freddie’s Blog

The Importance of Dental Home Care

By Freddie's BlogNo Comments

Hello. The word from last time is gingiva, of course. Perhaps you’re thinking, “What’s all this talk about teeth and gums?”

My veterinarians want you to know that healthy teeth and gums are very important and that there are things you can do at home to help.

The Importance of Dental Home Care

As always I want to tell you about what I know for sure: what I’ve learned by listening to my veterinarians.

Home dental care can make a tremendous difference in your dog or cat’s comfort and health. It can also help keep the veterinary dentist away for as long as possible, or at least to decrease the severity of the dental condition when it does have to be treated. The more you can attack plaque and keep it from clinging and staying until it forms calculus or tartar, then fewer veterinary visits may be needed.

Plaque is really the bad guy here. What is plaque? It’s that slimy, almost invisible coating on and between the teeth. It’s made up of bacteria and saliva and debris. We all get it. Plaque is like a happy, moist, warm home for certain types of bacteria that live in the mouth. It clings to the teeth and then to the gingiva, or gums. Bacteria then cause inflammation of the gums, also called gingivitis. Gingivitis gets worse and worse until we get periodontitis. It’s a pathway to destruction!

So if plaque is the villain, what can we do about it? How can we make it go away or at least keep it scarce as long as possible?

There are several forms of dental home care. Some may be more suited to your own cat or dog than others.

1. Brush those teeth.

The most effective way to keep plaque away is to brush it away. People brush their teeth 2-3 times per day to keep plaque away. The motion of the brush sweeps the slime away before it has a chance to be mineralized into tartar. Brushing should be done once a day, but even if you could manage to get it done 3 times per week it would be very effective.

Most dogs and cats will let you brush their teeth, but you have to be persistent, gentle, and make it fun or tasty with flavoured toothpaste or other rewards. It should only take a couple of minutes. Of course the best time to start is when one is a kitten or a puppy: then they adjust and get used to it as part of daily life. Plus, then the gums are healthy and not inflamed or painful yet. It’s important to be careful of forcing a bristly brush onto sore gums. And be sure to always use a very soft-bristled brush, such as a child’s toothbrush or one made especially for dogs or cats.

2. Treats and Chews.

Dogs like to chew. Cats … not so much. Treats that have a coarse texture and the right size and shape can act as an aid to the toothbrush for your dog. Chewing on them will mechanically remove the plaque. These include many treats that are available from your veterinarian and that are labelled as dental treats. It also includes soft rawhides and firm rubber chew toys that have something hidden in them so that the dog chews.

I must include a little warning here. Many things that dogs chew on are WAY too hard for their teeth. The doctors here see a lot of dogs (and cats, I must admit) with broken teeth because they chewed on bones or rocks or sticks or other hard things. And tennis balls are bad news too! They are coarse and full of sand and grit and they actually wear the teeth right down like sandpaper! As fun as they are, don’t let your dog chew or carry tennis balls!

3. Dental Diets.

There are special diets that do wonders for keeping plaque away. For example, Royal Canin Veterinary Dental Formula Diets for dogs and cats are the right size, shape, and consistency to act as a brush every time your pet eats! The diet also helps to prevent plaque from becoming tartar. Best of all, it tastes really good. I know that from experience: many of us cats love it.

So don’t be discouraged about dental care. It’s a little bit of learning and adjusting and finding the right things, but it’s so important. Don’t neglect the teeth and the gums. A little attention at home will help lengthen the time between dental cleanings.

That is something that I know.

3 Common Myths about Bad Breath in Pets

By Freddie's BlogNo Comments

Hello again. It’s Freddie here. The word from last time is HALITOSIS.

As you know, I check out a lot of dogs and cats every day when they come in to see the veterinarians. I smell a lot of bad breath. This is what I know about it.

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.

2. “My cat always smells like that”.

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

3. “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.

70-80% 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, although the jury is still out on that.

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!

What’s a 7-letter word for gums?

See you next time!

Annual Wellness Exams

By Freddie's BlogNo Comments

They say to write about what you know-

“Come on”, you say, “there’s nothing wrong with my dog, and my cat is glowing with good health!”

Yes. Maybe. But you know already that cat years and dog years are different than people years. We pets age much faster! Our lives are short. Our bodies make up for the time crunch and do a lot of aging and changing in a relatively short period of time.

Cats are notorious for hiding health issues until they can no longer be hidden. We’re too busy playing with the water drips and lazing in the sun: no way are we going to admit to being under the weather! The same goes with birds and rabbits. No wimpy whiners there. If we animals seem sick, we are sick.

Veterinarians have been trained to look for hidden problems, to seek them out, to know what is hiding and lurking beneath the surface. The best and only way for them to do this is to do a physical exam on your pet, also known as an annual wellness exam.

An annual physical exam allows the vet to assess how things are going at different stages of your dog or cat’s life. The doctor will discuss concerns and answer any questions you may have about diet, exercise, dental care, behavioural problems, and vaccinations.

After the talking, they start using the other four senses to check that all body systems are within normal limits.

A good place to start is with vital signs: the temperature, pulse or heart rate, and respiratory rate. These should all be normal.

Then the doctor will check all the parts of the body.

The nose: Looking for abnormal discharge or swelling.

The eyes: Looking into the eyes and around them for internal eye problems, discharges, abnormal colour, redness, and lumps on the lids.

The mouth: (this is a big one!) The doctor looks inside at the tongue and roof of the mouth, but most importantly at the gums and teeth. Do you know that 85% of pets have some form of dental disease? Gingivitis, periodontitis, broken teeth, BAD breath. I see this all the time! Sometimes you may not have even thought to look into your dog’s mouth to see what’s going on in there.

The ears: Itchy, smelly, red? Painful or causing head shaking? Ear infections are also pretty common.

The lymph nodes: there are many of these all over the body. Some at the neck, shoulders and hind legs are palpated.

No, it’s not a massage! Even though sometimes it seems your dog is just getting a good rub down, a big part of the physical exam includes palpation. This just means feeling for lumps, swellings, pain, hard areas that shouldn’t be hard and soft areas that shouldn’t be soft. The sense of touch is very important. It’s a real hands-on exam!

The abdomen, chest and muscles will also be palpated, checking for abnormal masses or pain.

The heart: The doctor will listen to the dog or cat’s heart with a stethoscope. They are listening for the rate (not too fast, not too slow), and for rhythm or abnormal sounds, like heart murmur, for instance.

The lungs: Using the stethoscope as eel, the vet is listening of congestion and abnormal sounds.

The coat, skin, overall body condition are assessed. We want a shiny coat and not flaky, dry, itchy skin. We don’t want any parasites! And of course we don’t want to be too, ahem … fat and not too thin either.

The back, legs, and tail: The veterinarian is checking for pain, swelling, lumps, signs of arthritis, and any abnormalities in movement.

Are vaccinations needed?

The veterinarian will recommend vaccinations based on your pet’s age, species, lifestyle, and what sort of diseases exist around this area.

dogWhat do you think?

You might not realize how important this regular physical check-up is to your pet’s health. I walk around this veterinary hospital and I see and hear a lot. The veterinarians commonly find signs of disease, and when found early, something can be done: more diagnostic tests might be needed and then medical treatment or surgery can be done in a timely fashion.

 

 

dog-and-owner

That’s what I know about the annual wellness exam and why I know it is one of the most important things you can do. I want to live a long, healthy and happy life. I know that’s what you want for your dog or cat as well!

That’s my first blog. I am very excited! Whew.

PS. What’s a nine-letter word for BAD BREATH? See you next week!

Winter Safety

By Freddie's BlogNo Comments

The Joys and Woes of Winter: Take Care to Prevent These Animal Emergencies

Wintertime can be lots of fun. But there are winter dangers for pets that you need to know about.

Hello. It’s Freddie here.

There are a lot of dogs and cats that love winter and love the snow and love being outside. (I’m not one of those cats, however. I’m kind of a cold-weather wimp who prefers to lie in the winter sun shining through the window of the veterinary clinic!)

Winter is beautiful and fun for many, but you need to be aware of some dangers for cats and dogs both indoors and out at this time of year.

First let’s talk about some toxins that may be more accessible in winter. Toxins are poisonous substances that pets shouldn’t eat, but too often do.

Antifreeze: This substance is a colourful liquid used in vehicles and often left in a puddle where a car or truck was parked in the driveway or the garage. Antifreeze has a pleasant taste, especially for dogs, and just a few slurps can be lethal.

Clean up all spills around your property. Don’t let your pet drink out of puddles in winter. Use “pet-friendly” antifreeze if at all possible.

If you notice your pet drinking antifreeze, call your veterinarian right away. If your dog or cat is acting “drunk”, or drinking a lot of water and vomiting, and there is even a small risk of antifreeze poisoning, call your veterinarian. This is definitely a matter of life and death and should not be taken lightly.

Rat and mouse poisons, also known as rodenticides: Rodents move indoors in the winter and you may find evidence of their presence in your house, garage, or outbuildings. Some people chose to use rodenticides to deal with these pests. If you use it, you MUST keep it where dogs and cats cannot access it. If you see it around, don’t let your dog go near it.

The mouse poison is often quite tasty to dogs because it looks (and tastes?) like colourful granola. Pets can also be exposed if they eat a mouse or rat that ate the poison in the first place.

Rodenticide poisoning can be difficult to notice, as there is a 3-10 day lag time before the signs show up. The issue is bleeding: the animal that ingests this substance soon can no longer make important blood-clotting factors in his body. Any unusual bleeding such as from the nose, in the urine, in the feces, unexplained bruising, or from the gums should be suspect.

The rule here- best offence is a good defense. If you see your pet eat the mouse poison, call the veterinarian and learn how you can induce vomiting right away. Even better, just take your pet to your veterinarian without delay.

Lilies: A lot of cats are getting stir crazy from being indoors all winter. Cats like to eat green things, especially plants. Many types of lilies are very poisonous and even lethal to cats. It’s best to not have these plants in your house if you share it with a feline companion, but if your cat does eat part of a lily plant, you know the drill … call the veterinarian!

Besides known toxins, there are foods and items around the house that can make your cat or dog ill.

Keep your pet away from alcoholic beverages, dark chocolate, coffee beans, moldy or spoiled foods, onions, and yeast dough.

If your dog is hanging out indoors and maybe a little bored, be careful of your own pills and prescriptions or of his prescription medications. You know dogs: they might just decide it’s fun to eat an entire bottle of pills including the plastic container.

If you think your pet needs something for pain, don’t just pop him one of your pills. This can be deadly. Cats and dogs are not people. Call your veterinarian first.

If your cat or dog lives outdoors in the winter, there are some things you can do to make life more comfortable when it gets really cold:

Feed outdoor pets a little more in winter. It takes more calories to keep the body temperature up, especially when temperature reach -15 degrees Celsius or colder.

Provide shelter. Small enclosures where dogs or cats can get away from the wind and the elements and snuggle into some blankets or straw bedding make outdoor life bearable. Sometimes the big winter hair coat is just not enough.
Speaking of that big fluffy winter coat: it can hide things that you might otherwise notice. Do a weekly coat and skin check to look for hidden cuts, wounds, lumps, weight loss, and lice or fleas.

We live in Canada and winter is part of life. Just remember to take special caution with your dogs and cats at this time of year. Be careful, have fun, stay warm!