What Causes Dental Disease in Pets?

        Have you ever been relaxing on the couch with your pet and noticed a foul smell coming from their mouth? Upon looking in their mouth, you find thick, brown material stuck to their teeth? This is dental tartar. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in both dogs and cats, but it is entirely preventable. By three years of age, over 80% of dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. Dental disease differs in humans and pets. In people, the most common problem is tooth decay, caused by loss of calcium from the tooth enamel that results in painful, infected cavities. In animals, tooth decay is rare. The most common dental problems seen in dogs and cats are periodontal disease and fractured teeth.

Periodontal disease begins when the bacteria of the mouth forms a substance called plaque. Plaque sticks to the surface of the teeth followed by minerals in the salvia hardening the plaque into dental calculus (tartar) and firmly attaches it to the teeth. The tartar that you are able to see above the gum line is not necessarily the cause of disease. The real problem develops when this plaque and dental calculus spreads under the gum line. The bacteria in this “sub-gingival” space secretes toxins that damage the supporting tissue around the tooth, eventually leading to the loss of the tooth. When left untreated, the infection can spread from the oral cavity into the nasal passages weakening the jaw bone which results in a bone infection (osteomyelitis) that causes jaw fractures. This bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and be carried throughout the body. Studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Four stages of periodontal disease (see image):  

 Our pets cannot tell us, as owners, when they are suffering from a toothache; however, there are some signs you can look for in your pet. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact a veterinarian. 1) bad breath – this is a byproduct of the bacterial metabolic process. “Doggy breath” or “tuna breath” is not normal; 2) altered behavior – chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food, crying when yawning, acting “grumpy”, or not eating anymore; 3) bleeding from the mouth – look for thick, ropey saliva or blood coming from the mouth; 4) a swelling on your pet’s face that may indicate a possible abscess. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a veterinarian for a physical examination.

If your pet has tartar and/or large amounts of plaque present, a professional dental cleaning is required. This includes a thorough oral examination, scaling, polishing, and possible extractions. The veterinarian will record any abnormalities, extractions, and/or missing teeth on a dental chart. After the procedure, most patients are back to normal the next day. This is when home oral hygiene will help prevent the tartar from coming back. Home oral hygiene can improve the periodontal health of your pet, decrease the progression of the disease, and decrease the frequency of professional dental cleanings. There are many options for home oral care – come in today to discuss the options with a veterinarian!

 
October is dental month at our clinics (Compassion Animal Hospital, Catlett Animal Hospital, and Elkwood Animal Hospital) in which you will receive 10% off dental cleanings, all extractions, and medications to go home. Come in today to have your pet receive a FREE dental examination to see if your pet could use a professional cleaning!

Congratulations!!

Congratulations to the winner of our Gutworm/Flea and Tick Prevention basket!! Bolo is going to love that his mom not only protects him from gutworms, fleas, and ticks, but he also gets a free basket of goodies!! Enjoy your new toys, Bolo!!

Stop by one of our offices in October to hear how you can win our coveted Dental Care basket!!

Heat Stroke: How It Happens, What to Do

Summertime is so much fun for all of us and our four legged friends. Unfortunately, there is an increased risk when it comes to dehydration and getting overheated. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and they do not have many sweat glands on their body. Their body is also covered in a layer of hair that is insulating in the winter but can trap heat in the summer. Here are some important facts to consider as you and your dog enjoy all that the summer has to offer:

Breeds that are at high risk for developing heat stroke:

  • Breeds with thick coats: great pyrenees, huskies, etc
  • Breeds with shortened faces: bulldogs, shitzus, etc

These high risk breeds should be monitored closely in the summer. They have a lot of trouble cooling off in very humid and hot environments. Those situations should be avoided if you have one of these breeds.

High risk situations for dogs developing heat stroke:

  • Leaving dogs outside without shade or water: Shade will most of the time provide adequate shelter from the sun, but remember if the ambient temperature is high, dogs can only cool through panting. Therefore, they can overheat in the shade if is really hot and humid outside.
  • Leaving dogs in the car: Sometimes even with cracked windows and water, the car gets too hot for dogs. Please leave your AC on if you leave your dog in the car.
  • Walking on pavement: Pavement radiates heat. It is not uncommon for dogs to get overheated on pavement. Also, their foot pads can get burned. Be sure to purchase little booties if the dog is going to be on gravel or hot pavement.

Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Rectal Temperature at or above 103*F
  • Dehydration
  • Non-responsive and laying on his or her side

 

What to do if your dog appears to be suffering from heat stroke:

  • Wet down body in bathtub or with a garden hose
  • Apply cold packs or frozen vegetables to the dogs head
  • Massage legs to encourage circulation
  • Give the dog cool water if it is able to drink
  • Check temperature every five minutes (Make sure it is decreasing)
  • Call a veterinarian. Heat stroke can cause swelling of the brain, kidney issues, and abnormal blood clotting. A veterinarian is needed to assess your dog and administer the appropriate treatments.

Heat stroke is one of the most serious emergency diagnoses that veterinarians make in the summer. Dogs suffering from heat stroke oftentimes have to stay in the hospital and receive IV fluids and other treatments. It is so tragic because it is a preventable problem. Please be mindful of your dogs when hiking, doing errands, playing outside, or leaving for work. Make sure that they are safe and having a good time too. If you have any questions about your pets safety in a situation, please call one of our offices. We would be happy to help!

Making Sure They Always Come Home- Microchipping

It is every pet owner’s worst fear – finding out that your beloved pet is lost and nowhere to be found. You spend countless hours looking through the woods, searching the neighborhood, and putting up “Lost” posters in hopes that someone may have seen your pet. Conscientious pet owners protect their pets with collars and ID tags; however, these are not foolproof. The collars can break or fall off, leaving your beloved pet as one of the countless, unidentified lost strays at the animal shelters/rescues. Fortunately, there is a small device that can aid in identification and increase the chances that your beloved pet will be returned home – it is called microchipping.

 

What are microchips?

Microchips are small, size of a grain of rice, implantable computer chips that encodes a unique identification number for your pet. The device is placed just under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades with a needle and syringe, similar to when your pet receives his/her yearly vaccinations. These chips are designed to last the life of your pet unlike collar tags that may wear down, fall off, or scratch into illegibility. Most veterinary offices and shelters/rescues have compatible scanners that receive a radio signal to transmit the unique identification number back to the scanner. This number is used to find vital contact information (phone number and addresses) that the pet’s owner provided in the pet recovery database.

The Statistics

According to the American Humane Association it is estimated that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. One in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. A recent study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association confirmed the importance of microchipping dogs and cats and having them registered. The study revealed approximately 22% of dogs that entered the shelter were returned to their owners. However, the return rate for microchipped dogs was over 52% – that is a 238% increase! Cats had an even better return percentage with microchipping. Less than 2% of cats were reunited with their owners, while the return-to-owner rate for microchipped cats was over 38%. That is more than 2000% better! These studies help to demonstrate the importance of microchipping your pets.

The Process

Schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian to have this life-saving, low cost chip implanted into your pet. No anesthesia is required as it is a fairly non-painful procedure. Once the veterinarian has implanted the chip, make sure to register the chip in the database and keep it updated with your correct contact information. If you do not register the chip with your information in the database then your information will not be available for your pet to be reunited with you.

 

Come in today to discuss microchipping your beloved pet with one of our veterinarians or veterinary technicians.



June 2018: Anxiety Management

June Highlights Separation Anxiety in Dogs!

Separation anxiety is a very common behavioral problem seen in dogs. It is estimated that this affects somewhere between 14-29% of the general dog population. It may also become more common as dogs age and become seniors. This may be due to cognitive changes related to aging, or may be because of medical conditions that can develop as dogs become older. It is very important that all dogs with anxiety have an exam done to rule out medical problems that may contribute to these behaviors (such as arthritis or urinary tract infections).

The most common signs of separation anxiety are vocalization, destructiveness, and possibly house soiling. This behavior happens only when the owner is gone, and generally starts within 30 minutes of owner’s departure. Destructive activity often is focused on doors/entryways or owner’s possessions.

Dogs who have separation anxiety often display extreme attachment behaviors when owners are home. They will follow their owners everywhere, greet excessively, show anxiety when owners prepare to leave the house. These dogs rarely spend time on their own.

Separation anxiety can develop in young puppies during their sensitization period (between 3-12 weeks of age). Introducing young puppies to temporary separation from humans may help them learn to cope with being alone. Other times, separation anxiety can develop after moving to a new home, losing a housemate pet, or by a change in owner’s schedule. There may also be a genetic component to this behavior pattern, although there has been no determined breed or sex correlation.

Studies have shown a lower rate of separation anxiety and other behavioral problems in dogs who have been through obedience training. Shelter dogs may be more likely to have separation anxiety than the general population. This may be because owners are more likely to relinquish a dog with anxiety behaviors. Importantly, presence of another pet in the home does not consistently prevent separation anxiety.

Treatment of separation anxiety is possible, and most dogs do show at least partial response to therapy. Therapy must consist of both a training plan and drug/pheromone therapy to have the best chance of being effective.

Multiple studies have showed a decrease in severity of separation anxiety in dogs treated with fluoxetine (or prozac) in comparison to placebo medication. Often, studies will combine fluoxetine with DAP, which is a synthetic version of the pheromone created by mother dogs. This pheromone is another way to help dogs with anxiety problems, and works well in addition to medication.

Besides medications, a behavior plan is needed to treat a dog with separation anxiety. This behavior plan must teach the dog some independence. It is important to make it a positive experience for the dog to be alone. This can be done by providing a food-filled toy when owner is away from home, and taking it up as soon as owners return. Leaving the TV or radio on can also help dogs to cope with being alone. There is even a CD of music, called Through a Dog’s Ear, that was developed specifically to calm anxious dogs.

Upon return, owners should ignore the dog for 5-10 minutes to avoid creating excitement. Avoid excessive greetings! These only teach the dog to wait anxiously for his owner’s return. Do not pay attention to the dog until he is settled quietly.

Another important step is to remove the negative association the dog has with departure cues (such as putting on a jacket, picking up keys, etc). The owner should do these activities randomly throughout the day when not planning on leaving, so the dog learns that these events are not always a negative.

When the owner is home with the dog, the dog should still learn to be independent. Encourage the dog to lay further from the owner, even by creating obstacles (baby gates, etc). The dog should be positively rewarded for laying quietly by himself. If there are multiple people in the home, caretaking should be split between the people to avoid excessive attachment to one person.

Studies have shown that following this behavior plan, in addition to medications and supplements as needed, has been very successful in rehabilitating patients with separation anxiety. Please ask your veterinarian for help if you are having difficulties with your dog when you are away from the home, as there is a lot that can be done for these pets!

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