February is Dental Month at Aldie Veterinary Hospital! Did you know that our dogs and cats need dental care too? Daily teeth-brushing is the best way to cut down on the plaque and tartar build up. While your puppy is young, practice brushing his teeth a few times a week to get him used to the process. Start by just rubbing your finger across his teeth on each side, and then graduate to using a finger brush or toothbrush for dogs, adding flavored toothpaste makes this activity way more fun. While it sounds absolutely repulsive to us, there are chicken, beef, and even peanut butter flavored toothpastes for dogs!
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, I’m never doing that.” I encourage you to try because some dogs LOVE this activity and it only takes 1-2 minutes of your day! And, it can save you hundreds to thousands in dental costs later. Remember, you and I brush our teeth twice a day, and still go to the dentist twice a year. Imagine years of plaque buildup without a single brushing or dentist visit, and how gunky those teeth would feel.
Personally, I don’t remember canine oral health being a concern for our family dogs as a child. It just wasn’t a popular topic in veterinary medicine even 10-15 years ago. Many of those pets were silently suffering from dental disease, rotten/wiggly teeth, tooth root abscesses, broken teeth with exposed pulp cavities, or undetected oral masses. If you’ve ever experienced tooth sensitivity, had a loose/diseased tooth, or felt the sting of an exposed dental nerve, I’m sure you can sympathize with those dogs and cats. The difference is, most of our cats and dogs continue eating without showing any signs of discomfort. They just don’t know any better, and can’t say, “Hey Mom, lately that cold water and hard food really hurts!”
So why is all this “old dog” information on Skipper’s puppy blog? Because oral healthcare starts now! Work on getting your pup used to teeth brushing so that we can delay the timing of his first dental cleaning, and increase the intervals between them. If you have a toy breed dog, like a fluffy little Maltese or sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this becomes even more important; those guys LOVE to build nasty tartar on their teeth even at a young age.
There are also some dental concerns for young puppies. Skipper is still in the process of losing his teeth, and he’s apparently not read the book on a “typical puppy,” yet again! Most puppies will lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth come in. Well, as you read this, Skipper has 7 canine teeth. 4 adult canines (the big pointy teeth) have come in, but 3 of his baby canines refuse to be evicted. He’s a little too young to get too worried just yet, and these teeth are wiggly, so I’m keeping an eye on them. If these “persistent deciduous teeth,” aka stubborn baby teeth, are still around at the time we decide to neuter him (or maybe even before!), I’ll need to extract them.
Persistent deciduous teeth can cause numerous problems for that adult tooth which needs to last him for the next decade or so. Abnormal tartar accumulation and food bits can get stuck between the two teeth sharing the same slot, and damage that adult tooth. They can also detour the normal path for the adult tooth to come in and can change the way the upper and lower teeth meet when he takes a bite/chews. If you notice your dog looks like they have two sets of teeth after about 5-6 months of age, ask your veterinarian if they are a concern. Often times we find extra teeth at the time of a young dog’s spay/neuter surgery and can easily remove them to prevent problems from developing later on.
Much love from Skipper, Dr. Conroy, and the Tooth Fairy
February is National Dental month in the Veterinary world. We wanted to take just a minute to let you know why regular dental cleanings on your fur baby are important.
Each day plaque, the soft white material, accumulates on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, it becomes tartar. Tartar is the “cement-like” yellow material you may see on your pet’s teeth.
Plaque and tartar contain bacteria that circulates through the bloodstream, therefore going through each and every organ in the body. These bacteria can “stick” to organs, including the valves of the heart. Over time, even healthy animals can be affected. This bacteria and tartar also cause halitosis or bad breath.
When the tartar accumulates, it makes a heavy coating over the teeth. If left untreated, this tartar will push on the gingival above/below the teeth, causing gingival recession and gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as inflammation of the tissue and boney structures supporting the tooth. If left untreated, the tooth will have no structure holding it in place, therefore requiring surgical extraction.
During a dental cleaning, also known as a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment, our licensed veterinary technicians clean the teeth, examine the entire oral cavity, and take radiographs. Once the cleaning and oral examination are complete, our veterinarian also does an oral exam and reviews radiographs for any signs of periodontal disease. Once they have completed their exams, a treatment plan is recommended.
What can be done to help? Starting a routine home dental program! There are multiple options available including brushing, adding a water supplement, sprinkling powder on food, or using chews impregnated with an antimicrobial enzyme. Brushing daily is the best option but we are aware not every dog or cat will tolerate this immediately! Like anything else we want our pet to do, it takes time and training!
As with anything, do not hesitate to call and speak with one of our staff members about products, cleanings, or training tips!
Puppy teething is upon us. From about 4-6 months of age, a puppy’s baby teeth will fall out and permanent teeth come in. You may not see this happen, since puppies often swallow baby teeth during eating/playing, but during this time it’s pretty common for chewing and biting behaviors to worsen. Keep up the remove and replace techniques, and stock up on some good chew toys!
At about 15 weeks of age, Skipper starting teething more than ever, even reaching for our coffee table legs for the first time! So like all good parents, we took him on a socialization outing to Petco and let him pick out some new things. Adorably, he lost his two front teeth over Christmas! He’s currently completely snaggle-toothed and the baby canine teeth are next to go! Below is a list of some of our favorite toys and chew items. Keep in mind that NO toy is indestructible, so always monitor your puppy closely and inspect toys for tears/damage often to avoid swallowing hazards.
Dr. Conroy’s Favorites
Playology Scent Infused Chew Toys
– These smell faintly like bacon or peanut butter, and supposedly smell more strongly as the dog chews
– They seem pretty sturdy, and are firm enough for gnawing without breaking pieces off, but squishy enough I’m not worried about him breaking his teeth
– Cost: $9-15ish
– Tropicana OJ and soda bottles are my top choices. They’re so crunchy and crackly!
– Mom always takes all the tasty labels, caps, and rings away so I can’t eat them
– I love trying to get kibbles and peanut butter out of the bottle! And all the loud noise it makes clunking across the floor!
– Cost: free, PLUS it’s recycling!
– Tightly bound rope toys and knots: watch these for stray strings that can be swallowed
– Plubber toys are a bit more durable than plush toys, though they are NOT indestructible, especially for terrier teeth!
– Rubber squeak toys: no fluff to swallow, but watch for disembowelment and squeaker removal
– Cost: $5-10
Literally Anything I Can Destuff and Destroy
– Fluff is SO FUN.
– It’s a little dry but I still try to swallow it as mom and dad untangle it from my teethies
– I’m allowed to play with nonpunctured fluff toys under supervision, the nylon ones get to stay on the floor longer!
– Grandma comes over sometimes to replace squeakers and sew them back together! It’s like Christmas all over again!
– Cost: $1-$10
– These are great for tossing in a kennel at bedtime or while you’re away for a bit
– Line the inside with a bit of peanut butter, or toss some kibbles in!
– Not 100% chew-proof, but pretty durable
– Freeze low sodium chicken broth, water, and vegetable mixes for an outdoor summer treat!
– Cost: $5-20
Socks and Shoes:
– My humans’ feet smell ah-mazing.
– These are soft and fun to nom on, especially Dad’s thick winter socks and Mom’s slippers!
– For some reason these vanish and another fun toy appears real fast, but I love to shop for them in the closet!
– Cost: $2- $5000 for foreign body surgery
– Any sort of rubber bone or ring can be helpful in the peak teething.
– Less likely to be destroyed, but Lily once ate a good chunk of one as a puppy.
– Many different textures/flavors available
– Toss them in the freezer when the puppy’s teeth seem particularly uncomfortable!
– Cost: $5-20
– The purrfect size for my tiny puppy mouth
– She has toys that squeak like REAL mice!
– They have this weird scent that my booply snoot likes to snuffle… some sort of catnip? We have a bush of it outside, too!
– These apparently live on the coffee table now after I tried to eat one.
Have you heard about non-anesthetic dental cleanings for your pets? In this blog post Dr. Pattie will discuss the risks of such dental practices as well as the benefits to traditional dental care at the vet’s office. If you have any questions about your pets oral health, the safety of anesthesia, or what you can do at home, please don’t hesitate to contact us, or to schedule time with a licensed veterinary technician to answer your questions.
ANESTHESIA-FREE DENTAL CLEANINGS : FACT VS. FICTION
Veterinarians, including those at Aldie Veterinary Hospital, are more frequently encountering cats and dogs that have had “Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleanings” (AFDC) or what has been termed “Non-professional Dental Scaling” (NPDS). The alternative is professional dental scaling & polishing with a licensed veterinarian, which is exactly the same procedure you do at your dentist checkups. The only difference is that animals don’t “open up and say ahhh”, therefore a professional veterinary dental cleaning requires general anesthesia.
There are a few reasons for this notable increase of AFDC/NPDS. Fortunately, this is primarily the result of more owners being aware of the importance of oral health care for their pets. These owners also have natural concerns about the risks of anesthesia and the associated costs. Unfortunately, AFDC/NPDS has been marketed as an attractive alternative that touts the same benefits as professional scaling without the cost and risks. By definition, a complete and comprehensive oral exam includes a complete visualization of all dental/oral structures, probing the gum-line, and may include taking dental X-Rays. In spite of the claims, it is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to perform a “complete, comprehensive and thorough” oral assessment on companion animal patients without the assistance of general anesthesia.
The reason for this impossibility is because not all surfaces of a pet’s teeth are even visible in an awake patient. Periodontal disease affects the surfaces 360 degrees around the teeth (just like humans). Most periodontal infections start in locations BETWEEN teeth where the toothbrush does not reach. The hidden bacteria that cause periodontal disease and infection is NOT addressed with AFDC/NPDS, and a false sense of accomplishment is conveyed. These pets may continue to be affected for years with chronic oral infection which progresses to the point of pain, gum recession, and eventually tooth loss. When infections are finally recognized, the patients are usually older, and often have additional health related problems that increase the risks of anesthesia. Instead of treatment being an elective, preventive procedure on a relatively healthy patient, there is often urgency to treating the problem on a less healthy patient. Additionally, the problems become not only more urgent to treat, but treatment costs are then often greater.
As for general anesthesia, no one should ever say it is without risk; however, it can absolutely be approached safely with appropriate pre-sedation screening and trained professionals. Most major anesthetic risks are associated with two things: 1) the general health of the patient (young & healthy vs. older & existing problems), and 2) the level of training, knowledge, caring and skills of those individuals administering and monitoring the anesthesia itself. Highly trained and experienced veterinarians and technicians are found here at Aldie Veterinary Hospital. Bottom line: risk of sedation must be outweighed by the potential benefit (pain relief, etc.). The more we know the details of your pet’s health, the safer we can deliver anesthesia and effective oral health care.
Furthermore, with AFDC/NPDS, proper treatment of any oral problem is even less possible to perform and can even be dangerous. In California, a recent (2012) case of a patient’s fractured jaw led to a ruling against the party as practicing veterinary medicine without a license. The reason this accident happened was due to the non-sedated animal struggling against attempts to perform oral work.
It is acceptable for well-meaning clients to decline professional treatment because of their fear of anesthesia or if they cannot afford it. However, it is another thing to be fooled by the marketing of untrained individuals that target this fear and offer an alternative that is “just as good”. AFDC/NPDS is a service whose marketing sounds appealing and logical on the surface, however, it promises a lot more than can be delivered. It is essentially a cosmetic procedure that addresses only the visible surfaces of only some of the pet’s teeth. Unfortunately, without the benefit of general anesthesia, pets most often do not receive the proper and timely preventative care, diagnosis and treatment of oral problems. What results are pets that are not receiving thorough preventative care, and some have serious dental problems that go undiagnosed and/or are improperly treated.
For general information on performance of dental procedures on veterinary patients, please read the AVDC Position Statement on Veterinary Dental Healthcare Providers, which is available on the AVDC web site (www.AVDC.org). For information on effective oral hygiene products for dogs and cats, visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council web site (www.VOHC.org). or ask any of our trained and knowledgeable professionals at Aldie Vet.
We believe preventative medicine is the key to provide lifelong health through annual exams, immunizations, spaying and neutering, dental cleanings, as well as geriatric profile. We will provide you with recommendations and information needed so you may make educated decisions for the best care.
Adult Care – Your adult pets need to be examined at least annually in order to prevent/detect any medical issues. Pets age faster than we do and as a result, health problems can progress much more rapidly. Regular wellness exams will confirm that your pet is healthy or help catch problems before they can become more serious. During the annual veterinary visit, we will do a complete health consultation and physical exam. In addition, your pet may need blood work, vaccinations, and an intestinal parasite screening.
Vaccinations – Our goal is to provide the safest immunization schedule possible. Therefore, each vaccination schedule is tailored especially for your pet, based on the specific lifestyle and potential exposure to diseases.
Dental Care – Routine teeth cleanings and polishing is an important and necessary part of preventative medicine. Studies show that approximately 80% of dogs and cats over three years of age are affected by some type of dental disease. Left untreated, pet dental problems will result in discomfort, pain, and possible loss of teeth. Infected gums and tartar buildup play host to a large number of bacteria, which can find their way to other parts of your pet’s body, which can lead to major health problems. Signs your pet has dental disease include:
Missing or eroded teeth
Reluctant to play with toys or eat
A typical routine dental cleaning includes:
Complete blood work to ensure your pet can safely undergo anesthesia
Custom anesthesia plan (based on your pet’s age, risk factors, lab results, and level of dental disease)
Digital dental radiography & x-rays of the chest and abdomen (depending on your pet’s age)
Teeth cleaning & polishing utilizing our ultrasonic and air driven equipment
Full oral examination
Fluids administered to prevent dehydration
Continuous monitoring by our veterinary team after the procedure to ensure a pain-free, low-stress, safe recovery
A home dental care plan, including before and after pictures
Senior Care – As part of our preventative medicine, we recommend doing an annual geriatric profile on your pet. This profile includes blood work to look at organ function, as well as white and red blood cells. We also look at a urine sample to ensure the kidneys are functioning properly. We do recommend taking radiographs to ensure the heart, lungs, kidney, spleen, liver, as well as other internal organs, appear normal.
Puppy/Kitten Care – If you have recently adopted a puppy or kitten, you should visit Aldie Vet for a complete physical exam as soon as possible. Our goal is to screen your pet for any health problems, fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites, as well as discuss the nutritional needs that your puppy or kitten will need as they are in a high growth stage. This will help to ensure that your new family member is healthy and that disease is not transmitted to other pets in your home. Puppies and kittens are especially vulnerable to parasitic infections that can threaten their health. Proper screening and preventative products can help protect them against intestinal worms, fleas, and heartworm disease. Puppies and kittens also have immature immune systems which make it difficult to fight off disease. Therefore, if you notice any of the following, please give us a call immediately:
Many animal owners suffer from the problem of tartar buildup on their pet’s teeth. Some animals of the same species develop tartar much more quickly than others. This may mean that one dog needs a professional anesthetic dental cleaning every 2-3 years and another dog may need one every 6-8 months! Some animals develop periodontal disease at a faster rate than others as well, meaning that the gums pull away from the teeth that become loosened from their boney attachments. This can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection or abscess.
Unfortunately, I can find no hard evidence to validate the claim that eating cheese will help reduce tartar levels in the mouth. So my fondness for cheese has not kept the dentist at bay. There are, however, lots of things you as a pet owner can do at home to prolong the period of time before Fluffy needs to be fully sedated for thorough teeth cleaning.
To start lets review some terms and concepts. Plaque is a film of bacteria that accumulates on your teeth – which is the wooly feeling your teeth get after you’ve eaten a lot of sweets and haven’t brushed your teeth in a while. Gross right? Well if that bacteria isn’t removed it hardens (calcifies) and turns into tartar, which is the yellowish brown coating on your pet’s teeth that tips your veterinarian off that it is time for a cleaning. If left in place over time that tartar and bacteria party leads to bad breath, gum disease (gingivitis), tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth root abscesses and the potential for that bacteria to get into the blood stream and cause problems in other organs like the heart, kidney, and liver. The hardened tartar is difficult to remove and often requires specialized equipment to scrape it off like dental picks and the ultrasonic scaler. We use the same equipment as your dentist to clean your pet’s teeth. Full anesthesia is required to complete a dental cleaning because once we clean off the tartar we polish the teeth smooth to remove tiny microscopic crevices for the plaque to grab a hold of. Pets do not tolerate having this done awake.
At home dental care is a huge part of prolonging the period between dental cleanings at the vet’s office. Often in older animals, we need to get the heavy tartar off to get a clean slate for you, the owner, to maintain. Young dogs should be introduced early to home dental hygiene to keep their teeth as healthy as possible and stave off the need for the full dental cleanings as long as possible. The plaque on teeth is very easily disrupted by mechanical action. This is best accomplished by a soft toothbrush and daily brushing of all teeth. Think about wooly teeth and how much fresher you feel after good teeth scrubbing. All dogs will eventually tolerate teeth brushing, but slowly introducing it over weeks in a very positive way is key to the fastest acceptance. Make sure to get primarily the outside of the teeth as that is where the majority of the plaque accumulates. Get all of the teeth from the little incisors up front, the long sharp canine teeth, to the all the premolars and molars that go way back in the cheeks. Repetition and patience, as with any training, is key to getting your pet’s acceptance.
Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard of home dental health. However, knowing that we don’t live in an ideal world where everyone brushes their dog’s and cat’s teeth nightly. Luckily, there are other products you can use to help. There are antiseptic rinses and gels and water additives the goal of these products is to reduce the amount of bacteria from your pet’s mouth. Safe chews, treats, and pet foods are available that contain both enzymes to break down bacteria and/or a mechanical action against the tooth as the pet chews to shear off plaque. Check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of acceptance to find products proven to decrease plaque and tartar accumulation by going to www.VOHC.org and clicking on “Products awarded the VOHC Seal” link. Your veterinarian will also have a lot of good advice, ideas and references.
The American Veterinary Dental Council (AVDC) does not recommend cow hooves, dried natural bones or antlers, or hard nylon products because they are too hard. Instead of helping to shear off tartar like a wild animal would get from a fresh carcass, these products often damage the pet’s teeth. The result is often a fractured and very painful tooth that requires surgical removal. Rawhide and other “edible” dental product should be used with care. Give these products when you are around to ensure that a big piece isn’t swallowed or choked on. It may be necessary to remove a large chunk from an exuberant eater’s throat. It is also possible for large chunks to get stuck in dog’s esophagus or intestines that may require endoscopic or surgical removal, so make sure you pick a sized product appropriate for your pet. Reasons that you should have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian include: particularly foul breath, excessive drooling, swelling or oozing, pawing at or rubbing the face, difficulty eating, discolored, painful or broken teeth. Your vet is your ally and a great resource for your war on plaque and tartar. Pleasant teeth brushing! May yours and your pet’s smile be bright!