February is National Pet Dental Health Month

dental

Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

What is veterinary dentistry, and who should perform it?

Veterinary dentistry includes the cleaning, adjustment, filing, extraction, or repair of your pets’ teeth and all other aspects of oral health care. These procedures should be performed by a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist. Subject to state or provincial regulation, veterinary technicians are allowed to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

The process begins with an oral exam of your pet’s mouth by a veterinarian. Radiographs (x-rays) may be needed to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. Because most dental disease occurs below the gumline, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. Dental cleaning includes scaling (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and polishing, similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings.

Oral health in dogs and cats

Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:
• bad breath
• broken or loose teeth
• extra teeth or retained baby teeth
• teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
• abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
• reduced appetite or refusal to eat
• pain in or around the mouth
• bleeding from the mouth
• swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

Causes of pet dental problems

Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, they can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:
• broken teeth and roots
• periodontal disease
• abscesses or infected teeth
• cysts or tumors in the mouth
• malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
• broken (fractured) jaw
• palate defects (such as cleft palate)

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

It starts with plaque that hardens into tartar. Tartar above the gumline can often easily be seen and removed, but plaque and tartar below the gumline is damaging and sets the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jaw bone. Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).

The treatment of periodontal disease involves a thorough dental cleaning and x-rays may be needed to determine the severity of the disease. Your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist will make recommendations based on your pet’s overall health and the health of your pet’s teeth, and provide you with options to consider.

Why does dentistry require anesthesia?

When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still. Your pet does not understand the benefit of dental procedures, and he or she reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting.

Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. If radiographs (x-rays) are needed, your pet needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia.

Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most pets can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.

What can I do at home for my pet’s oral health?

Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important.

There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

photo source: Pixabay
source: AVMA.

Signs of Gum Disease in Dogs

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Bacteria are everywhere on human and canine bodies, but when they get under your dog’s gums in the form of plaque, they can lead to gum disease, the most common dental condition that occurs in adult dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

“Most of what many people think they know about gum disease in dogs is wrong,” says Brook Niemiec, a veterinarian in San Diego. While many pet parents believe that tartar, a brown-colored coating on the teeth, causes gum disease, it actually does not, by itself. “People will lift up [a dog’s] lip and look for tartar, [but] it is actually bacterial plaque that causes gum disease,” he says. Tartar, which is just calcified, hardened plaque, does provide more “hiding places” for bacteria to thrive, however.

Learn more about the most common signs of gum disease and how to prevent this condition in your dog, below.

Signs of Gum Disease in Dogs

These are the top five signs of gum disease in dogs:

Gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness and swelling of the gums, says Jenna Winer, DVM and dentistry and oral surgery resident at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Bad breath. Maybe even before you notice gingivitis, pet parents may notice that their dog has bad breath, Niemiec says. “Many people think that doggy breath is normal, but it’s not,” he says. “It’s common because so many dogs have gum disease, but it isn’t normal.” The most frequent cause of bad breath in dogs is dental disease.

Receding gums. A separation of the gums away from the teeth is a signal of gum disease. In the most advanced stage of the disease, the gum tissue will recede and expose the roots of the teeth.

Bleeding. If your dog’s gums bleed when he chews, when you’re probing his mouth or brushing his teeth, it could be a sign of advancing periodontal disease, says Niemiec.

Loose teeth. This is a sign of later stages of periodontal disease, Niemiec says.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gum Disease in Dogs

If a dog’s gingivitis is diagnosed and treated before it advances to full-scale periodontal disease, it is reversible, says Winer. “If the bacteria are cleaned out before it advances, it can be reversed.”

If gingivitis continues to advance, however, it could mean serious health consequences for your dog. Niemiec says that most dogs, especially those under 20 pounds, develop various stages of gum disease and, depending on their genetics, this can develop in dogs as early as 18 months old.

As gingivitis advances into more serious periodontal disease, your dog will begin to lose bone and tissue surrounding the teeth and your veterinarian may be forced to extract teeth. “There is no reversal when it gets to that point,” says Niemiec.

Other consequences may include fractures of the jaw as a result of a weakened jaw bone, bone infection and development of a hole (or fistula) into the naval cavity, causing nasal discharge. Periodontitis can also have systemic effects on the heart, liver and kidneys, according to the AVMA.

How to Prevent Gum Disease in Dogs

The number one way to prevent gum disease in dogs is to brush your dog’s teeth. “I would recommend brushing be done once per day, but at the minimum, it should be done at least two times per week,” Niemiec says.

There are many other products, such as chews and water additives, that can help you maintain your dog’s gum health, but he recommends using only those with the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval and using them to assist in maintaining oral health, not as a substitute for brushing.

The next step in maintaining your dog’s oral health is scheduling a professional dental cleaning with a veterinarian. This includes a cleaning under general anesthesia with scaling and polishing, Winer says.

Small dogs (under 20 pounds) should undergo a cleaning at least annually, in addition to brushing at home, while large breed dogs can generally have their teeth cleaned every two to three years, Niemiec says.

photo source: Pexels

source: Pet MD

The Benefits of Walking Your Pet

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What’s better than starting off a new year by helping not only yourself, but your furry friend as well? We couldn’t think of a better way to get off on the right foot, and there’s an easy way to do just that—walking. There are many benefits that come from walking your pet—so many, in fact, that we can’t list them all—so the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to share just a few of our favorite facts about walking.

1. Great for your health, and theirs.

Walking is good for your heart, muscles, joints, waistline and even your mental health. Plus, there’s no better stress relief than watching your pet’s eager interest and wagging tail. Walking is good for their health, too. Just like you, it helps with their waistline, joints and muscles. Healthy pet parents make for healthy pets.

2. Get social without your phone.

Getting out will help you meet people, maybe even some potential animal lovers like you. Before long, you may have a new friend to join your daily walks. If you love animals, walking is also a great time for bird (or other wildlife) watching. You can also learn more about the plants in your neighborhood or local parks.

3. Stay out of trouble!

Many dogs and cats tend to start looking for trouble when they get bored (the APCC knows this better than anyone!). Bored pets are more likely to get into cabinets or closets, or up onto tables, and eat things that can be dangerous for them. Regular walks not only give pets exercise—the mental stimulation is great for keeping them out of trouble when they’re back home.

Get Out and Go

If you are like most people, finding the time or energy to take your pet outside can sometimes be a challenge. With a little planning, however, your days of sitting on the couch will be long gone.

While it would be ideal to walk your pup for 30 minutes, five times a week, starting small may work better for you. Start with 10 minutes, three times a week. You may find that you and your furry friend enjoy it so much, you’ll want to walk longer and go more often.

A local park may be a nice place destination, but if you have to jump in the car to get there, you may be less inclined to go. Consider starting closer to home. Start your walk by just walking out your door. And if you find you are still struggling to make these walks a part of your daily routine, consider inviting a friend along or setting a reminder on your phone. You may also find that your four-legged friend will become a better reminder than your phone, once they get into the habit.

A Few Tips

The nice part about walking is that it doesn’t take a lot of planning or equipment, but there are still a few things to keep in mind:

• Make sure to keep your pet leashed in unfamiliar or public areas.

• Always have proper identification on your pet.

• Avoid walking in extreme weather conditions.

• Remember to bring plastic bags to clean up after your pet.

• If you are going for a longer walk, remember to bring some fresh water for you and your pet.

photo source: ASPCA

source: ASPCA

 

United Airlines Changes Policy For Support Animals

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United Airlines is updating its policy concerning emotional support animals allowed on its flights.

The carrier announced Thursday that it will no longer allow flyers to bring emotional support animals other than dogs or cats, and that the animals must be at least 4 months old or older to qualify, as younger pets “typically have not received the necessary vaccinations that help ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”

United further said that it would not be allowing emotional support animals of any kind on flights scheduled to take longer than eight hours.

“We have seen increases in onboard incidents on longer flights involving these animals, many of which are unaccustomed to spending an extended amount of time in the cabin of an aircraft,” the airline wrote on its website.

United added that it is restricting support animals ─ in general ─ to only dogs, cats and mini horses older than 4 months.

Changes are set to take effect Jan. 7, though United says any travelers who booked their flights before the day of the announcement (Jan. 3) and have the appropriate paperwork will be allowed to board with their pets under the previous guidelines.

The decision comes less than a month after Delta announced plans to tighten restrictions and ban emotional support animals from flights longer than 8 hours. The airline also stipulated that support and trained service animals need to be at least 4 months old, saying the policy “follows an 84 percent increase” in urination, defecation and attack incidents.

 

photo source: Pexels

Source: Fox News

Things to Consider Before Bringing a New Pet Home

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Some of the greatest moments in life include the day we met our pets for the first time, and the day we adopted them and they came home with us. Here are 10 things to consider before bringing a new dog or cat home.

1. Can You Commit?

Will you have the time to walk your dog three times a day? Will you remember to exercise your cat every evening? If the answer is no, and you have no one who can perform those essential tasks, you should stop right here and consider a fish or a parakeet as a low-demand animal companion.

2. Will Your Pet Fit Your Lifestyle?

Choosing a pet based on how popular or cute it is, is probably one of the worst decisions people make. Too often these pets are unceremoniously dropped at an animal shelter when they show themselves to be too high energy, too needy, too intolerant … the list is endless.
Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from the people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed specific group to ask questions of some of the members. A great example is the recent Chihuahua craze. Sure, they’re adorable and can live in any size home, and they’re very low maintenance. The catch is that they are not usually very tolerant of children and are one of the breeds that are known for biting children without much provocation. A pet cat should also match your personality. Some cats, for instance, require a lot of attention and interaction while others are mostly independent. Do your research and choose wisely.

3. Interview Veterinarians Before the Adoption

Before you have settled on the type of pet that will suit you, ask your friends for their veterinary recommendations. A veterinarian can be an excellent source of information to help you choose the best pet to suit your lifestyle and needs. Not all vets are the same, and you want a veterinarian that best matches your needs. This will be a lifelong relationship and as such, the choice is very important. Again, do your research. Read online reviews of the vets in your community (with a grain of salt), ask groomers in your area who they recommend, and make interview appointments with them.
Our tip: Don’t rely entirely on a vet’s friendliness toward humans (i.e., you). A good veterinarian often has better skills relating to animals than to people. It is also your prerogative to ask the vet if she/he can provide a few references.

4. Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

Did you know that something as simple as chewing gum can be deadly for dogs, or that ibuprofen is toxic to cats? It is highly important to go through your home now, before you bring a new pet home, to search out hazards and get them out of the way or out of the house. This includes cabinets at pet level, counter tops, bottles of chemical on the floor, small toys, electric cords and curtain cords. And it doesn’t stop there. You will also need to check your home and yard for toxic plants for dogs or cats, and if you carry a purse or bag, you will need to find and discard any potential dangers – like sugar-free gum, which often contains xylitol.

5. Choose an Age and Breed Appropriate Food

Not all pet foods are alike. Some are better than others, and some make claims that are not always backed by facts. It would be easy to just grab the pet food bag or can with the nicest design on the cover, but that is not what is going to guarantee our pets’ long term health. Choose the best food for your dog or cat and always look for a diet labeled complete and balanced. From the time they are young until the time they are seniors, your pet food choices should be guided by the pet’s specific needs, life stage, and lifestyle. You can do some cursory research to get a good idea of why it is important and what to look for, but for the best advice, consult your veterinarian.

6. Be Prepared for an Adjustment Period

If it’s a puppy you’ll be adopting into your home, be prepared for crying. Yes, just as with human babies, baby dogs cry during the night in their first days in their new home. But unlike human babies, it is not a good idea to take your puppy to your bed to soothe him. The best thing you can do before bringing the puppy home is set up a quiet, enclosed space with a comfortable bed, or a kennel that can be closed, keeping your puppy secure from wandering. Choose the spot that will be your dog’s permanent spot. During the day, let your puppy have free, supervised privileges to roam around the house to smell everything. This will also be a good way to spot any hazards you might have missed on the first go ‘round.
Bedtime for cats is a bit easier. Arrange the kitten’s sleeping area in a secure area close to his litter box so that he doesn’t get lost looking for it, and then leave him to romp around in his area until he drops off to sleep.
Things get a little bit trickier when you are bringing a new pet into a home with pets. You will need to make sure that your resident pet does not feel threatened enough to strike out at the newcomer.

7. Train Your Pet

If your happy home is going to remain a happy home, the housetraining will need to start immediately after bringing your pet home. If you are adopting a kitten, introduce him to his litterbox as soon as you get him inside. If it is a puppy, leash him up and take him outside to start getting to know his neighborhood. Most puppies will be intimidated by their new surrounding, and you don’t want to put a fright into your puppy. A very short walk on the first outing is all that is needed. Begin training on that first outing. When the puppy relieves himself outside, while he is doing it say, “Go now.” Repetition of this command will eventually make it so that you will be able to take your dog out in any kind of weather without worrying about how long your dog will take to relieve himself.

8. Select Appropriate Pet Treats and Toys

The right treats are essential, especially for puppies. Treats are one of the best tools for behavior training when used sensibly. Experiment with a few different dog treats and stick with the one that has the highest value for your puppy. That will be the treat he will do anything for, including staying by your side even when a clowder of cats goes by. Stay practical when giving treats. It is tempting to be liberal when it comes to treating our “little babies,” and just like giving candy to a human child, too many snacks can lead to an unhealthy body; even healthy snacks can add up in excess weight. Do always keep a back of treats in your pocket for training opportunities. Be careful with rawhide; it can be torn into pieces and swallowed in large chunks, potentially leading to choking or intestinal blockages. Toys should be free of buttons, strings, and anything that can be bitten off and swallowed. Stick with rubber balls made for dogs (the harder to tear apart), nylon-bones, non-toxic stuffed toys, and ask other dog “parents” for advice on toys that hold up under puppy pressure.
For cats, feather wands are always popular, and a lot of cats are responsive to laser light devices. And don’t forget the old standbys: the catnip stuffed mouse toy and the old boxes. Cats love treats too, so go with the same advices as above and treat sensibly.

9. Consider Spaying and Neutering

Neutering, a term that can refer to spay or castration surgery, can typically be done as early as eight weeks. Generally, the neutering procedure is performed around four to six months, plenty of time before the animal has reached the age of reproduction. Some people choose not to based on the feeling that the animal will lose its sense of identity (male), that the animal will be missing out on the life milestone of giving birth (female), or that the animal will lose its ability to be protective. None of these reasons are based in fact.
The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is to have him or her neutered. Yes, neutering does decrease aggression in most instances, but it does not make a dog any less protective of his or her human family. And your female animal will not feel less-than for not giving birth. It would be worse for her to have her babies taken from her than to have never given birth at all. She will not know the difference. She will also be less prone to cancer of the mammaries and ovaries. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

10. Outfit Your Pet with Proper ID

Finally, ensure that your puppy or kitten is properly outfitted with ID so that if he should ever get loose — and it does happen to most everyone eventually — you will have him returned safely to you. Have your contact information on your pet’s collar, either on a tag or printed directly onto the collar (the latter can be custom ordered or made by you). Also, keep photos on hand. This is a good reason to track your pet’s growth, but you may need those images when it comes time to post them around town or to leave with the local shelter in case your pet is delivered to them. A GPS device that attaches to the collar is a clever way to track your pet, but it loses its efficacy when the collar gets lost.
Microchips are the best assurance for identification and need to be used in combination with a collar for the best chance of finding a lost pet. Make a point now of remembering to update your contact information with the company that keeps records for the microchip every time there is a change in your contact information. It can make the difference between your pet being returned to you or staying lost to you forever.

photo source: Pexels
source: Pet MD