Dental Care For Dogs

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Many of us underestimate the importance of dental health in our pets.
Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean is a crucial part of your pet’s overall health and wellness. Taking good care of your dog’s teeth at home, and maintaining dental care with frequent veterinary dental cleanings is essential for all dogs.

Preventative Measures

To maintain good dental health, a dog’s teeth needs to be brushed every day by using a special canine toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for your pooch. This regimen is best started from a young age when your puppy is between six to eight months of age, once his adult teeth have come in. With dogs that have begun brushing at a later stage of their lives, rapid tartar buildup may pose a problem. Many veterinarians recommend dry foods and special dental biscuits that will aid in the break up of tartar. Special dental diets that have been especially designed to polish canine teeth all the way down to the gum line are also recommended. Rubber chew toys, sheepskin and rope toys also help keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Dental Cleaning

Dental cleaning is often referred to as“dental prophylaxis” and falls under a preventative procedure. Nonetheless, when there is severe dental disease, dental cleaning is often termed “periodontal treatment.” This is simply called a “dental.” Before dogs undergo any dental treatment, they will need to have blood work done to determine if they are healthy enough to be anesthetized. Anesthesia is necessary for all dogs undergoing dental work.

Periodontal Disease

The most common dental condition affecting dogs today is periodontal disease. This disease causes the inflammation and infection of your dog’s gums and the supporting tissues of his teeth. Bacteria filled plaque and tartar (calculus) build up on his teeth, most especially beneath the gum line. Pockets then form beneath your dog’s gum line, resulting in food lodging in the pockets. The tiny bits of food that do remain on your dog’s teeth then become breeding grounds for bacteria. Your furry best friend then suffers from bad breath, bleeding and inflammation of the gums, gums that start to recede, and teeth that become loose with eventual tooth loss.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs that are over the age of three will develop gum or periodontal disease from lack of preventative measures.This can affect any dog breed; nonetheless periodontal disease is most common in Toy breeds. Although small dogs have the same number of teeth (42), identical to larger dogs, their teeth are crowded into a smaller area. Veterinarians recommend regular brushing as the best way to eliminate unwanted food residue, before it hardens to form the unsightly brown deposits commonly known as tartar.

Periodontal Treatment

Periodontal treatments include ultrasonic scaling, subgingival manual scaling, and polishing. For more severe cases of periodontal disease, the use of a canine dental specialist may be called for. In this case antibiotics are used, which entails cleaning your dog’s teeth, frequent brushing at home, as well as administering antibiotics for the first five days of every month. This dental regimen prescribed for your furry best friend, will decrease the progression of periodontal disease.

New Periodontal Treatments

A new treatment called Doxyrobe is also used today to treat periodontal disease. This comes in a gel form and is placed inside the socket to increase attachment. Doxyrobe comes in the form of a sustained –release form of doxycycline.

A new dental treatment, OraVet, is a gel that can be applied weekly in order to prevent the formation of plaque and unsightly tartar. Nonetheless, if your furry best friend’s teeth are in very bad shape, dental specialists may recommend bone grafting and guided tissue regeneration. Sometimes, for more severe cases, extraction is favored. In this case, your furry best friend will still be able to chew on his chew toys and eat normally. His mouth will be much healthier after the extraction.

Orthodontics

Orthodontia plays an important part in veterinary medicine today. Braces are used to fix misaligned teeth, so that dogs can chew normally and without pain. Orthodontics is the best way of dealing with a malocclusion. Instead of removing your dog’s teeth surgically, veterinarians carefully coax the teeth into position with braces. Your dog’s lower canines consist of a good part of his chin. They also help hold his tongue in place, and are used for grasping. Braces for canines look similar to human braces, nonetheless they require anesthesia to install, adjust, and to remove after a couple of months. Many pet parents think that orthodontic techniques are performed solely for cosmetic reasons. Canine orthodontics help to improve comfort, eliminate traumatic damage to the mouth, and also to improve function of the canine mouth if your pooch has a malocclusion.

Crown Reduction

The dental specialist will cut the crown, and expose the tooth’s pulp. A small portion of your dog’s pulp is removed, and the top of his tooth is then shortened and reformed. This is called a vital pulpotomy, yet can carry some complications.

This type of procedure needs to be carefully monitored with dental X-rays every year.

Ball Therapy

Sometimes your dog’s teeth can be moved into place in response to pressure being generated on his teeth. This is done as he chews a rubber ball for fifteen minutes, three times a day. Nonetheless, if your pooch does not enjoy chewing rubber balls, then this approach will be hard to use.

Endodontic Problems

Teeth that are broken or abscessed will most likely require root canal or extractions. These problems tend to be more common in larger dog breeds, and occur most frequently in breeds like the Shepherd and Retriever breeds. These larger breeds enjoy chewing on fences, furniture and outdoor objects, grinding their teeth down, and sometimes even chipping or breaking them. Ice cubes often contribute to teeth chipping or fracturing.

Symptoms of Dental Problems

Doggie Breath: If your furry best friend’s breath smells bad, have his teeth examined by your veterinarian and professionally cleaned. Nonetheless, this is not a substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth regularly.

Loss of Appetite: Dogs that have pain chewing, will have problems when eating. They may pick at food, andthen cease eating altogether. This may be indicative of periodontal disease.

Drooling: Your dog’s excessive drooling may be indicative of a painful dental condition, or something that is stuck inside a tooth. In this case, it is necessary to take your pooch to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Feeling Sickly: Oral bacteria from dental problems can enter Fido’s bloodstream, and can cause multiple health problems, some of them severe. Damage to the kidneys, heart, liver and lungs can also occur if dental treatment is not sought immediately.

Mouth & Cheek Pawing:

Check the inside of your dog’s mouth for ulcers and for inflamed, red gums. Be quick –dogs have limited patience when it comes to their teeth. Visit your veterinarian if the problem continues. Never ignore a dental problem, even if it seems minor. Most dogs tend to regain their appetite and zest after a tooth repair is made.

Oral Surgery

Oral surgery tends to be favored in cases where the removal of one or more teeth is necessary. It is also done to repair fractured jaws in dogs. There are many new pain relief drugs and techniques used by veterinarians today. Your furry best friend can undergo dental surgery with the minimal amount of pain and discomfort. Oral surgery is also required for dogs that have been diagnosed with oral tumors of the mouth and throat. This tends to occur frequently in alldogs. Radiotherapy and new surgical dental techniques are used for removing tumors, resulting in excellent results both cosmetically, and in prognosis. Nonetheless, oral surgery needs to be performed at an early stage of oral disease for best results. Have your veterinarian examine your furry best friend for non- cancerous masses that may be gingival hyperplasia, an overgrowth of your dog’s gums.

When all is said and done, regular brushing will pay off in the end, ensuring pearly whites, and a healthier dog.

Cost

Every pet will present with unique circumstances, and each pet parent will be faced with their pet’s unique dental needs. Dental treatment planning involves careful consideration of what dental treatment your dog needs, the use of diagnostic dental radiographs, and a complete understanding of your dog’s needs.

The cost of a professional veterinary dental cleaning will vary from one dental veterinary specialist to another. Costs will also vary depending on how much dental work your pooch is going to need. Canine dental cleanings generally tend to fall between $300-$750, depending on each individual case of dental disease and the age of your pooch. Additional costs will include extractions, special treatments like root canals and braces. Root canals can often cost the same as an extraction, because of the size of a dog’s tooth.

Prevent dental disease in your furry best friend. These diseases can lead to many health problems in dogs. Look after your dog’s pearly whites like your own. Every pooch deserves a comfortable and healthy “bite.”

What Should Fido Eat?: The Basics of Dog Food Selection

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Just standing in the dog food aisle of your local pet supply store can be overwhelming.  The options seem endless.  But there’s a hungry pooch waiting next to her food bowl at home, so you’ll have to choose at least one of them.  Where to start?

First Considerations

Begin by thinking about your companion animal’s specific needs.  No one knows your pet better than you and your veterinarian.  Your vet should always be consulted in important health matters, including food choice.  And you’re the only one who knows if certain products make Fido’s tummy rumble or how picky Spot is about particular ingredients.  Together, you and your vet can form a complete picture of your pooch’s dietary needs based on:

  •  Age:  Manufacturers have options for every stage of a dog’s life from puppyhood through their golden years.
  • Size:  A 7-lb chihuahua will have different nutritional needs than a 100-lb German Shepherd.
  • Activity Level: From couch potatoes to all-star athletes, there’s an option for everyone.
  • Overall Health: Food allergies, reproductive status, weight issues, and dental problems are among the many issues that may cause dietary restrictions or necessities.

Ingredients

Once you have a good idea of what your dog’s needs are, it’s time to start reading labels.  One of the quickest ways to identify a high quality dog food is to read the ingredient list.  Manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order by weight.  A specific, identifiable protein, such as chicken, beef, venison or lamb, should be among the very first ingredients.  Generally speaking, “meal” is an acceptable form so long as it specifies the animal source.  Avoid vaguely listed ingredients like “blood meal” or “chicken byproducts.”

Another ingredient that will likely be towards the top of the list is a form of carbohydrates, which supplies your pet with a ready supply of energy.  Whole grains are the preferred source.  Many of them are common staples of your own pantry like rice, barley, and rolled oats.  A source of quality fat or oil should be present as well as vitamins and minerals to balance out the remainder of the list.

Guaranteed Analysis

Think of the panel labeled “Guaranteed Analysis” as your dog’s version of the “Nutrition Facts” that’s printed on boxes of human food.  This section will give you the minimum percentage of protein and fat as well as the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture.

These numbers can be used for side-by-side comparisons of different kibbles or different wet foods but keep in mind that some mathematical tweaking is required if you want to pit a dry food against a wet one.  Guaranteed analysis percentages are based on the total contents of the food including moisture, and not just the solids, or “dry matter” that they contain.  The moisture content for kibble is under 10% while wet food is usually well over 60%.  What you want to compare is the nutritional content of just the dry matter.  To do so, you need to mathematically remove the moisture.  Here’s an example of how it’s done:

 

Step

Example

Find the moisture percentage

80% moisture

Subtract that percentage from the total in the can (always 100%) to get the percentage of dry matter

100% total – 80% moisture = 20% dry matter

Find the percentage of the nutrient you want to compare

10% protein

Divide that nutrient by the percent of dry matter.

10% protein / 20% dry matter = 0.5

Multiply that number by 100 to determine how much of that nutrient is in just the dry matter

0.5 x 100 = 50% of the dry matter is protein

Once you’ve followed those steps, you can compare the new figure to the ones listed on a bag of kibble.

Kibble vs. Wet

Though there are a myriad of alternative options available, the most popular types of dog food remain dry kibble and canned wet food.  Both have their pros and cons:

 

Type

Pro

Con

Dry Budget friendly Not always a dog’s first choice
Less volume needed per serving due to lower moisture content Can be hard to chew for aging dogs or those with missing teeth
Gives jaws a work out
Wet Often more palatable to dogs (good for picky eaters) More expensive option
High moisture content can help keep dogs hydrated Serving size will need to be larger due to high moisture content
Usually higher in protein, lower in carbs than dry

As you can see, neither is necessarily better. Use the ingredient list and the dry matter basis of comparing Guaranteed Analysis labels to evaluate different brands. In the end, your dog’s needs and your personal preferences should provide the deciding factors.

Image courtesy of BuzzFarmers on Flickr

Animal Chiropractic Care

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Just like human patients, pet owners have many options when seeking care for their dogs. There is traditional veterinary care, homeopathic veterinarians, and treatments like chiropractic, acupuncture, and aromatherapy treatments to help improve or alleviate symptoms being experienced by your dog. Many veterinary clinics now offer a combination of therapeutic approaches to treat the whole animal.

Chiropractic treatments in particular have become a popular way to handle muscle, joint, and alignment issues in all types of animals including dogs, cats, horses, and exotic animals found at zoos. While running and playing, it is easy for an animal to move something out of alignment leading to pain and discomfort which many go undiagnosed or remain difficult to diagnose, leading to costly vet bills and tests. Chiropractic is defined as a “short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations” by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (ACVA).

Who Can Offer Examinations and Treatments?

There are now a number of national organizations that offer training in animal chiropractic. The American Association offers courses for certified human chiropractors who wish to work on animals and for veterinarians who wish to offer another type of treatment to their patients. Animal chiropractors go through extensive studies building on the knowledge they have as a veterinarian or human chiropractor. They write exams and are board certified in the same way that specialists in other field of veterinary medicine are.

Your own veterinarian may be able to direct you to a local animal chiropractor or you may need to consult a national association to find a list of practitioners in your area. Some chiropractors require a veterinary referral while others do not. Since x-rays may be necessary to rule out certain conditions and come up with a treatment plan, most chiropractors do assessments at a veterinary clinic.

How Do I Know If My Dog Needs Chiropractic Care?

Common indicators that your dog may be in need of an adjustment include pain for unknown reasons after a fall, injury, or play session that included lots of running, jumping and bumping into other objects and animals. Watch your dog standing and moving – do they seem to favor one side of the body over another or be compensating by moving weight to a different leg for support? Muscles will over time develop ways to compensate for injuries and weaknesses but by looking at the muscle definition on both sides of the body, the compensation can be identified.

Sometimes, your vet will examine your pet and run tests and still be unable to identify what is causing the pain or discomfort. In cases like this, a chiropractic assessment may be able to shed some light on the problem. Any time your pet experiences an obvious change in comfort level, you should be investigating further.

What Is Involved in an Assessment?

The chiropractor will examine your dog in static positions including standing as well as in motion at various speeds. They may physically manipulate limbs and joints to check for pain, inflammation and injury.They will take a detailed history of your dog’s health and when the problems began. It is important to give the chiropractor as much information as possible so they can make an accurate assessment and help your dog feel better.

Should they determine that your pet needs an adjustment it will be performed in a manner that is designed to cause your pet as little discomfort as possible. In cases of extreme inflammation, it may be recommended that adjustment be delayed until the inflammation has subsided a bit.

One treatment is often not enough to cure a problem but it can make a noticeable difference in how a pet is moving and acting. A series of treatments may be needed. For cases of degenerative joint disease, like arthritis, ongoing treatment may be necessary to maintain comfort levels. Chiropractic treatments can make a big difference in the quality of life experienced by older arthritic pets.

Who Can Benefit From Chiropractic Treatments?

Any animal that is made more comfortable and experiences an improvement in quality of life is benefitting from the treatment. For performance dogs that compete in various sports, an injury that seems minor can have serious consequences to competitive ability. Treatment can lead to a vast improvement in scores and times for performance dogs.

Older pets can receive relief from chiropractic treatments that allow lower doses of painkillers and other arthritis medications, reducing side effects experienced and long term risks of medication use. This is also true of any animal that has an injury at any age. By restoring mobility and reducing pain and discomfort as quickly as possible, not only are you providing more humane care for your family member but you are also allowing him to return to his normal routine sooner.

Although chiropractic care cannot cure all dogs or even help all of them, it is a great option for those it can help. After all, we want the best for our pets.

Puppy Vaccinations

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Puppies are not born with a fully-developed immune system so a variety of vaccinations are recommended in order to protect them from harmful diseases and infections. Vaccines are designed to encourage your puppy’s body to produce antibodies that will begin killing off dangerous germs as soon as they enter the bloodstream. After having been exposed to a certain disease through the administration of its vaccine, your puppy’s body will be equipped to defend itself against the real disease in the future.

What Vaccinations Does my Puppy Need?
Your dog is considered to be a puppy until it reaches 2 years of age. The chart below will explain what vaccinations your puppy needs during those first two years of life and when it should get them.

Age/Time Frame

Vaccine

Explanation

5 weeks Parvovirus For puppies at high risk. High-risk puppies may need an additional vaccine at 15 weeks. Parvovirus is a highly contagious, viral disease that is often characterized by bloody diarrhea and can cause death in as little as two days after the onset of the disease.
6 to 9 weeks 5-way combination vaccine (includes Canine Distemper, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus, Hepatitis and Parvovirus) Canine Distemper is a paramyxovirus which affects the organs, often causing respiratory problems, diarrhea and vomiting.

The Parainfluenza virus is one of the most common agents causing tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough. The parainfluenza vaccine is designed to protect your puppy from this virus.Canine Adenovirus is also thought to contribute to the contraction of kennel cough and the adenovirus vaccine is administered to puppies to help prevent the disease.

The Hepatitis vaccine is designed to protect your puppy from canine hepatitis, a disease which often affects the liver and can be fatal if untreated.

12 weeks Lyme7-way combination vaccine (includes Canine Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis and Coronavirus) Recommended for areas where Lyme disease is a concern or for puppies traveling to affected areas.

The Leptospirosis vaccine helps to prevent some of the more common strains of Leptospirosis called canicola and icterohaemorrhagiae. This disease enters the blood stream and spreads to the organs, often causing liver and kidney infections.

The Coronavirus vaccine is designed to prevent the second most common viral cause of diarrhea in puppies, Canine Coronavirus (CCV). The symptoms of this disease are similar to but often less severe than Parvovirus and the mortality rate is much lower.

12 weeks or older Rabies The Rabies vaccine is designed to protect your puppy against rabies, a viral infection which spreads through the nerves into the brain. In the early stages of the infection dogs may exhibit nervousness and anxiety, after which they may develop irritable and aggressive behavior. The final stage of the disease is often characterized by a paralytic phase in which the dog will eventually go into respiratory failure and die.
15 weeks Lyme7-way combination vaccine (includes Canine Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis and Coronavirus) Recommended for areas where Lyme disease is a concern or for puppies traveling to affected areas. See above for descriptions of other vaccines.
6 months Bordatella Recommended for dogs that are shown or boarded, this vaccine helps to prevent “kennel cough”. Repeat vaccine every 6 to 9 months.
Adult boosters (12 to 24 months) Lyme7-way combination vaccine (includes Canine Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis and Coronavirus) Recommended for areas where Lyme disease is a concern or for puppies travelling to affected areas. See above for descriptions of other vaccines.

Things to Keep in Mind
Just because your puppy has been vaccinated does not mean that it is immediately protected. After the vaccine has been administered, your puppy’s immune system will need time to recognize the disease’s antigens and to produce the antibodies to fight them. In most cases, your puppy will not be protected from disease until five days after the vaccination, though full protection can take up to two weeks. In some cases, puppies that have been vaccinated still contract the disease. This occurs when the puppy’s immune system fails to respond properly to the vaccine which is often a result of interference by maternal antibodies. It is also wise to keep in mind that while some vaccines are recommended for all dogs, your puppy may have specific needs. It is best to consult a veterinarian before beginning a vaccination schedule.


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