The Halloween Survival Guide for Pets

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Hi all,
I cannot believe it is already the end of October. This year has flown by and soon it will be cold, snowy, and blowy. I don’t know about you, but I love the nice Fall weather and I am not ready for it to be over. That said, now is a good time to start to strategize about ways to keep our fur babies out of trouble and happy and healthy.

Cat in a bee costume

Here is one of our Halloween costume contestants from last year. Oh so cute!

Halloween is always a fun holiday for kids and pets alike, but there are a few things to watch out for. First, remember that even the cutest of costumes can scare your pets. If they cannot see your face or recognize you in some way they may react inappropriately. I remember one year I wore a costume with a cape. The cape frightened my dog and she ran at me barking! Once she quieted enough to hear me she calmed down, but neither one of was having fun at that point!

Dressing up your pet for Halloween can be a fun activity, but be sure your pet is ok with the idea. Many places sell costumes specifically for dogs and cats. Conversely you can create a costume, but be sure not to use tight ties or bad to hold it on. Sadly, we do see an occasional pet who was injured by a hair band left on too long. Be sure your pet can move freely in the costume and can see easily. After that have fun and remember the puppy or kitty treats!

When trick or treaters are coming to the door, be sure your pets are confined so they don’t become stressed or escape out the door when you answer. If they dash out, they could be injured or give a small person a real Halloween thrill! Better that they are away from all this action. Consider giving your dog a special treat in a quiet place until Trick or Treat is over and the lights are out on the porch. A Kong toy stuffed with their food moistened with some peanut butter or cream cheese and then frozen can give your dog something to do for a while that will be more interesting than barking at the door.

Schnauzer in costume.

We love you too Walt!

Speaking of treats, a plan for handling the sweets and keeping them away from your pets is important. Most people are well informed about the toxicity of chocolate, but other dangers exist. Small boxes of raisins for example can be toxic to dogs and cause kidney failure if ingested. Another hidden danger is the sugar free candy. Many of these contain xylitol, the sweetener that is sugar free. Xylitol is extremely dangerous in even small amounts. Ingestion causes low blood sugar and liver failure. Sugar free gum can poison a dog even if only one piece is eaten. Since candy can be a mine field of danger, be sure the candy is out of reach and in a container that can’t be chewed up or opened by your pets.

Halloween is lots of fun for most. Hopefully these tips will help your pets enjoy it as well. Stay tuned for more Holiday survival information coming for the Thanksgiving holiday. Until then, Happy Halloween!

Dr. Nancy

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Hello again!

Who’s at risk for bad teeth?

So glad you all could join me today for our discussion of pet dental health.  For a while now we have known that pet dental health is important, but now more than ever we recognize the impact good dental care can have on your dog or cat’s overall health.  Just like for human teeth, not all teeth are created equal.  Some pet’s will have more dental care issues than others.  For example, small dogs and dogs that have short noses will likely have more dental issues than their large counterparts. Some breeds of dogs and cats are at increased risk of dental problems genetically speaking.  For example the Siamese cats have more issues with FORL (cavities) lesions than some other pets.  Regardless of your breed of pet,  dental care is very important.

You want me to brush my pet’s teeth?

Good dental care starts at home form as early an age as possible.  Teaching our furry kids that dental care is easy and not painful and uncomfortable is key.  Think of it like we do our human kids:  we help brush and show them it is good.  The same goes for pets.  The less stressful and more fun it is, the better it will go.  If you have a puppy or kitten, now is the time to get them used to you looking at their teeth and rubbing their gums.  Gently lift the lip and rub the teeth and gums.  You don’t need the mouth open and in fact it is easier if they keep their mouth closed.  Once they accept that (use treats for increased cooperation), then add in the tooth paste. Check out this video for a demonstration of brushing a dog’s teeth.  Got a cat: Same idea, but consider a finger brush.

Dental products come in all types for pets.  A simple soft child’s toothbrush is fine to start.  Use water at first, but flavored toothpaste will help.  Do not use people toothpaste as most contain fluoride which can be harmful if swallowed.  It is very difficult to teach your dog or cat to spit out the paste, so instead go for one designed for pets. If your pet is not a fan of toothbrushes, try the finger brush (available at most pet stores) or even just a washcloth.  Many times this is much easier and better tolerated in smaller pets. How often do we recommend brushing or tending to the teeth?  At least once a day is ideal.  Just like us, their teeth get plaque and tartar quickly.  More is always better.  My groomer does the teeth you say?  Well that is great, but again the teeth need daily care, so once every 4-6 weeks is definitely not enough.

He won’t let me brush, Now what?

If Fido or Fluffy aren’t feeling co-operative with brushing, there are other options.  Generally brushing is best, but any dental care is better than none.  So dental rinses designed to prevent plaque from sticking can be helpful.   Can’t do that?  Try a drinking water additive.  If using the additive, you must also have a second water source that is plain without additive. Dental treats can help, but they all of these options are less effective than brushing.

Wow, is her breath bad! And those teeth are yucky!

Ok,  so the teeth got away form us.  It happens.  Or maybe, we are ready to turn over a new leaf and step up the dental care.  What do we do now?  Each year at your pet’s check up, the doctors will check the teeth.  They will grade them on a scale of 1 to 5 with a one being good and 5 being really bad.  Below you will find some examples of each grade.  Go ahead- check your kid’s teeth.  What do you think the grade is?  If you aren’t sure an appointment might be in order to find out!

Dental grades:

  1. Grade 1 is a set of pretty teeth.  White or stained, as long as there is no tartar or gum redness, we are in good shape!
  2. Grade 2 is early dental disease.  Tartar on the teeth and redness of the gums are noticeable and the breath, well yucky!  Now is the time to clean the teeth before it worsens.  This is when cleaning can prevent tooth loss and bone loss which will result in tooth loss! Besides, cleaning will improve your furry friends breath so those kisses are welcomed again!
  3. Grade 3 is when things are starting to get bad.  There is heavy tartar, inflamed and painful gums, ad probably loose teeth too.  Now our BFF has pain when he chews and the breath: yikes! Cleaning now is extremely important.  At this point we may be able to reverse some of the gum disease and prevent further tooth loss.  For sure, cleaning now will make your dog or cat more comfortable and healthier.
  4. Grade 4 dental disease will be when loose teeth and severe periodontal (gum disease) is present.  There will be lots of tartar, loose teeth, bleeding gums and severely stinky breath.  When we clean the teeth, surgical extractions of the teeth will happen for certain. The extractions will help reduce your pet’s pain (Teeth that are infected hurt!) and reduce the dangerous bacteria in the mouth that can attack the heart, liver and kidneys. Once we have teeth this bad, extraction is the only way out.
  5. Grade 5 is the end of the teeth.  Bone is lost as the teeth get bad an the teeth will be loose or even already missing.  this is when dental care is an absolute must.  These teeth are painful, bone is being lost and jaws can break.  At this point, your pet will be better off without these teeth.  Many times people remark after the dental that they hadn’t realized that their buddy felt so crumby.

Each grade of dental disease means something different, but since we cannot fit pets for dentures, it is best to get care before grade 3, 4, and 5.  By the time those grades are found, extractions are likely.  The earlier the teeth are cleaned the better it is for your pet and your wallet. Removal of diseased teeth is actually dental surgery.  This is performed by a veterinarian only.  Before removing any teeth, full mouth dental radiographs (x-rays) are taken to determine which teeth have an issue. The bad tooth is extracted  and then sutures (stitches) are used to close the gum tissue to reduce pain and speed healing.  Nerve blocks are used to control discomfort as well.  If you or a loved one has had wisdom teeth removed, then you know what I am talking about. Cat’s have the added problem of having teeth that resorb and get cavities below the gums.  These are very painful and extraction of the tooth is the only way to relieve the pain. Just like the dogs, pain management is key.  Nerve blocks and at home meds may be required regardless of species. No matter what the dental grade, once the teeth have been cleaned, it is important to institute a home care plan.  The more that is done at home, the less likely your beloved friend will need extensive care down the road.

It is never too late to start and never too early either. 

If you need help, do not hesitate to call or come in.  Our excellent staff and doctors would be pleased to get you and your buddy on the road to great dental hygiene.

See you soon with another update on our new building and other health topics to help you care for your best friend(s).