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Home Dental Care

Home dental care for your cat or dog has the same goal as home dental care for yourself, to remove dental plaque. Plaque is the sticky, whitish film with the bad taste and offensive odor that accumulates inside the mouth. Plaque is about 85% bacteria and will mineralize to form tartar. Plaque accumulation causes infection in the gums (gingivitis) and of the bone around the teeth (periodontitis). Your cat or dog depends on you to provide home dental care and regular professional examinations. Use one or more of the following methods, as recommended by your veterinarian.

Daily Tooth Brushing

This is the very best home dental care you can provide for your pet. Tooth brushing removes plaque above and below the gum line. Daily removal of plaque slows the accumulation of tartar and helps prevent gum and bone infections. Use a soft toothbrush and cat or dog toothpaste. The ProCleanâ„¢ toothbrush has end-rounded, very thin bristles that create a flexible, gentle brush and come is a small size to fit your pet’s mouth and teeth. For small and medium sized dogs and cats, an electric toothbrush called Rotodentâ„¢ is very effective. Cat and dog toothpastes are made to be swallowed, unlike toothpastes for people. This is important because your pet cannot “rinse and spit”. Cat toothpastes come in flavors such as chicken or seafood, and dog toothpaste comes in flavors that appeal to them, such as peanut butter, poultry, and malt.

Take your time, be patient, and be generous with praise and rewards. From your pet’s perspective, tooth brushing means attention from you, tasty toothpaste on a soft brush, and a reward afterwards. Your veterinarian or veterinary dental technician can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth.

Antibacterial Rinse

An antibacterial rinse made for cats and dogs is another option. When brushing is not possible, daily use of CET Oral Hygiene Rinseâ„¢ will help slow accumulation of dental plaque. For some pets, CET Rinse should be used instead of toothpaste. The malt-flavored rinse is usually well accepted. Ask your veterinarian or veterinary dental technician to demonstrate how to apply the rinse.

Chew Toys

Chew toys partially remove plaque and tartar about the gum line, exercise the jaw muscles, and satisfy your cat or dog’s natural urge to chew. Different pets have different chewing behaviors, so choose toys based on your pet’s chewing activity. Your veterinarian can help you find the right type and size of toy. Any chew toy can lodge in the throat or stomach and cause problems, so supervise your pet when he or she has a chew toy. The CET Forte Cat Chewâ„¢ is an abrasive, resilient chew treat for cats that removes a significant amount of plaque. The Cat Chew is treated with enzymes that generate antibacterial activity. In order of increasing durability in dog’s teeth, toys worth trying include Gumabonesâ„¢, Rhinosâ„¢, and Plaque Attackersâ„¢. Many dogs also enjoy crunchy treats such as rice cakes and carrots. Never give your dog hard chew toys such as cow hooves or bones. Hard chew toys will break your dog’s teeth.

Dental Checkups

Home dental care and regular professional examinations help protect your cat or dog’s health. Most cats and dogs need a dental exam every six to twelve months. Ask your veterinarian how often your cat or dog needs a dental exam. Even if your pet appears normal, regular professional examinations should be done because cats and dogs can hide severe dental problems.

How to Take Care of Your Pet’s Nails

Many pets dislike having their feet touched and their nails trimmed. Owners worry that they may hurt their pets especially if the pet struggles when having their nails cut. This is probably why many owners take their pets to their veterinarians or groomers to have this done. If you are thinking of trimming your pet’s nails at home, there are a few steps that might help you.

Start by touching your pet’s feet gently when you and your pet are in a relaxed mood, perhaps when both of you are on the sofa watching television. Get your pet used to your touch: handle their feet, spread their toes and extend their claws. Start with very short sessions, perhaps just a few seconds and then give them a treat or play with them.

There are many types of nail trimmers. Your veterinarian or groomer can help you select the trimmer that is right for you and your pet. Avoid nail grinders: they tend to over heat and many pets dislike the vibrating sensation on their toenails.

Don’t try cutting off large parts of the nail. Start with small short cuts. Nails that have not been trimmed recently will often have an extended quick. The quick is the part of the nail that supplies blood to the growing part of the nail. Cutting through the quick is painful for the pet and the site can bleed profusely. It is easy to actually see the quick in light colored nails: it is a darker color (often appears to be pink), in the center part of the nail towards the nail bed.

Always have supplies on hand in case the nail does bleed. Kwik Stopâ„¢ is a yellow powder available at pet stores that helps to stop the blood flow. Take a good amount on a cotton ball and press into the end of the nail and hold for a minute or two. Once the blood stops, don’t disturb the clot at the end of the nail for at least 24 hours.

Cats have different nails than dogs, but may need their claws trimmed too, especially as they age. They don’t really sharpen their claws, they shed their nail like a reptile sheds its skin. They scratch to remove this outer layer of the nail and this reveals a new sharp tip. Older cats sometimes stop scratching and their nails can become so long that they curl around and pierce their foot pads.

Dog nails can also become so long that they interfere with their ability to walk and can pierce their footpads. This is often missed until the pet is limping, especially with the dewclaws on long-haired dogs. Therefore, you should regularly monitor the nails of all your pets.

Natural Stress Relief for Pets

One of the most common complaints from pet owners is that their pets are destructive or disruptive when they are left alone. Dogs may bark, howl, chew, dig, defecate or urinate. Although these behaviors are often a sign that dogs need to be housebroken or crate trained, they can also indicate that a dog is suffering from stress and anxiety.

Cats can also suffer from anxiety; they may hide, appear withdrawn, or excessively lick or bite their fur. Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined events. Anxiety is most frequently associated with urine/feces elimination, destruction and excessive vocalization in the form of barking or crying.

Understanding the causes for anxiety in pets is essential to relieving this stress and helping pets live a happy and calm life.

Separation anxiety is a leading cause for anxiety and stress in dogs. Separation anxiety typically occurs right after the primary guardian leaves. While there is no clear evidence as to exactly why separation anxiety may develop, a sudden change in guardians or family membership, a change in schedule, or a change in residence are all common triggers for separation anxiety.
For dogs with a mild case of separation anxiety, counter conditioning may help reduce or resolve these problems. Counter conditioning is a process that changes an animal’s fearful, aggressive or anxious reaction to a pleasant and relaxed one. This is achieved by associating the presence or sight of a fearful situation with a liked person or object.

For separation anxiety, one effective option for counter conditioning is to develop an association between being alone and something your pet loves, such as a favorite treat. Be sure to only allow your pet to interact with this treat when he or she is alone. Keep in mind, however, that counter conditioning is typically most successful with mild cases of anxiety; in more severe cases, pets may refuse to eat if a guardian is not home.

Moderate to severe cases of anxiety require a more complex approach to stress relief, according to veterinarians. In addition to counter conditioning, desensitization is also helpful.

Consult with your veterinarian to learn more about the best ways to carry out counter conditioning and desensitization training, and also discuss the possibility of using psychotropic drugs. In some cases, your pet may benefit from working with a board -certified veterinary behaviorist.

Sources:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

ASPCA, “Separation Anxiety.” 2014

Orthopedic Care for Dogs

Joint problems plague dogs just as commonly as they do humans. That’s why orthopedic care can improve your beloved friend’s quality of life.

Common Orthopedic Issues

A dog’s joint problems may result from a variety of orthopedic injuries and illnesses. In some cases, these vulnerabilities are partly inherited. For instance, certain small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers and Pomeranians are especially prone to luxating patella, a dislocation of the kneecap that can be painful (although even giant breeds can develop this problem). Hip dysplasia, an abnormality of the hip joints that causes pain and loss of mobility, is another common issue that seems to target certain breeds; the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has found that 61 percent of Bulldogs and 80 percent of Pugs are troubled by it, although in general, large breeds have worse rates of hip problems than small breeds. Age plays a role in orthopedic problems as well. If your senior dog has trouble getting up, climbing stairs, or running, for instance, he may have developed arthritis in his elbows, knees or hips. Last but not least, traumatic injuries may include a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or one of the other ligaments in the knee.

Orthopedic Treatment Options

Fortunately, many of these conditions can be treated successfully by your veterinarian. Mild disorders may respond well to anti-inflammatory medications or glucosamine. Your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy to help your dog’s joints. Surgery may help pets whose dysplasia, arthritis, or other degenerative condition has progressed to where it is painful or disabling. A luxating patella, for example, can be repaired by surgically reshaping the end of the femur and modifying the surrounding tissues.

If your pet suffers from an acute orthopedic problem like an ACL tear, modern veterinary surgical techniques can provide relief. There is more than one method of repair for an ACL, which one is used depends on your pet’s size. For small dogs, surgeons choose an extra – capsular repair, where a tough filament is placed that simulates the action of the cruciate ligament connecting the femur with the lower leg bone bone. For large dogs, board-certified surgeons usually recommend a TPLO (triple plateau leveling osteotomy) where the surgeon alters the angle of the tibia by cutting the bone and applying a metal plate to keep the femur from sliding painfully against it. A TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement) involves reattaching the patella tendon at a different point so that it can assume the weight-bearing job of the ACL.

Your veterinarian can advise you how to try to prevent joint problems, or give you options on how to treat arthritis, whether it is medical or surgical, or a combination.

Sources:

AKC Canine Health Foundation, “Managing Canine Arthritis.”

American College of Veterinary Surgeons, “Patellar Luxations.”

Maro, Robert “Jeff,” DVM, “FAQ About Knee Surgery in Dogs,” Mayo Veterinary Services.

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, “Hip Dysplasia Statistics.”

Ringworm in Cats and Dogs

Ringworm is not actually caused by a worm, but rather by a fungus that infects the outer layer of skin and hair. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from pets to humans, or people to pets. There are numerous species of ringworm. It is most commonly recognized in cats (often kittens) and dogs, although rabbits and rodents can also become infected. Ringworm can be very contagious.

Can I Get Ringworm from My Pet?

Yes. Anyone that has come into contact with the infected animal or its environment has the chance of contracting ringworm. In people, the infection may appear on the skin as a ring with reddish borders and is usually itchy. If you have any concerns about ringworm in family members, please seek advice from your physician.

How is Ringworm Treated?

Ringworm is easily treatable in humans with only topical medication. However, this is not the case with pets. In order to eliminate ringworm from animals, topical and oral anti-fungal medications are required, and it often takes months for complete resolution. Oral medication is either itraconazole or fluconazole. Topical medications are daily miconazole or clotrimazole creams plus weekly lime sulfur dips. Once the skin starts to improve, a fungal culture will be obtained and sent out to monitor the status. As soon as there is one negative culture, a second culture will be sent to the lab. Dermatologists recommend that treatment be continued for one month beyond the second negative culture. It is important that your pet receive their medication and treatment regularly.

How Do I Clean My House?

  • Ringworm spores can survive in the environment for two years. Pets and people can become re-infected if the house isn’t properly cleaned.
  • The best product to kill ringworm is bleach (1:10 dilution with hot water). You can also use Lysol with Bleach or 409. Make sure to use any product liberally and repeat cleaning daily.
  • Vacuum carpets, floors, and furniture frequently and dispose of the vacuum bag immediately.
  • All curtains, comforters, etc. should be dry cleaned at a professional cleaner.
  • Clean all air vents and change filters often.
  • It is also recommended that items that cannot be bleached (e.g. floor rug, couch, etc.) be placed outside in the sun on a hot day.
  • Wash all sheets, blankets, towels, pet beds, plush toys, pet brushes, etc., bleaching items when possible.
  • Throw away anything that cannot be fully cleaned.

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or if your pet does not appear to be improving.

Sources:

University of Guelph, Worms and Germs Blog

WebMD, Ringworm of the Skin

The Myth of Natural

Pet owners occasionally tell veterinarians they are reluctant to use prescription medicine, spot-on flea products, heartworm preventatives, etc, because they would rather use something that is “natural.” They are afraid of chemicals, and would rather use something that is organic or natural. But what is natural? By definition, natural products are those that come from nature. But not all items that come from nature are safe or harmless. Arsenic and cyanide are natural. Arsenic is mined from the earth along with other metals. Cyanide is found in a number of plants. Cocaine and heroin come from nature, but they are certainly not good for you.

In contrast, many of our prescription medicines originated from plants. It has been estimated that anywhere from 25% to 70% of our medicines contain at least some compounds obtained from plants. Aspirin, quinine, syrup of Ipecac, morphine, and theophylline (a prescription medicine used as a bronchodilator for respiratory diseases) all come from plants. The potent and life saving cancer drugs, vincristine and vinblastine, were derived from plants. Taxol, which was derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree, is a chemotherapy drug that has saved many breast, ovarian, and lung cancer patients.

Many people assume that herbal medicines are safe because they come from plants and are over-the-counter. Unfortunately, this is not true, in fact, some can cause life threatening reactions. An example is ma huang, which contains ephedra and has been used as a weight loss product in people. In people it can cause a rapid heart rate, dilated eyes, tremors, seizures, and increased blood pressure. Symptoms in dogs are the same; death can occur from cardiovascular collapse. People who are afraid of chemicals should realize that everything in life is a chemical. Water is a chemical: H-2-O. Our own bodies are a collection of a large number of chemicals. Herbal or “natural” products are chemicals. From this we can deduce that the “natural versus chemical” argument is not valid. Everything in nature is a chemical. What is behind the desire to use natural products and the fear of chemicals? It is the wish to use the SAFEST product.

Now we know that herbal and natural products are not necessarily safe. In fact, their industry got Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act in 1994 which states that supplement manufacturers are NOT required to prove efficacy or safety, and there is no requirement for quality control.

What is the safest product? Medical professionals would argue it is a product that has been scientifically studied. All prescription drugs go through rigorous testing before they are approved. This testing is to both prove that it does the job and that it is safe. There are non-prescription drugs that have been tested and proved effective. An example is glucosamine which has helped many people and dogs with arthritis.
Now when you see a product labeled ” natural” you will know it is just a marketing strategy. The question to ask is “What kind of research studies have been done?”