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!
While Skipper is young (and highly accident prone!), I’ve been looking into pet insurance. Often the rates are lower when applying for coverage for a young/healthy dog, as compared to an older dog with chronic conditions. These policies are becoming more and more common and can offer peace of mind in an emergency setting. There are several different types of insurance and many companies from which to choose.
There are two main categories on the market right now: all-inclusive/complete insurance and accident/illness insurance. All-inclusive/complete insurance will help cover part or all costs of your dog’s annual examinations, routine vaccines, as well as assist with covering any sort of emergency care. Accident/illness coverage will not help with annual examination and vaccine costs and is geared more towards unexpected, emergent issues, or chronic conditions requiring extended care.
For most pets, their annual examination is planned ahead of time, and the vaccine recommendations are fairly stable from year to year. Typically, these costs can be anticipated and planned for in advance. Conversely, Skipper doesn’t particularly care if it’s Christmas time or just a random Tuesday when he starts eyeballing socks to eat. In sudden, emergency situations, it can be helpful to have an accident/illness policy to alleviate some of the unanticipated financial burdens. Owners often feel much less stress and pressure making health decisions for their fur-baby during emergencies when they know they can count on some assistance from a pet insurance company.
There are many options out there, depending on your goals for the pet insurance policy, budget, and risk aversion. Please be sure that you read all the fine print and speak with the insurance companies directly to fully understand your policy.
Pet insurance is a bit different from human insurance, in that your veterinarian’s office doesn’t typically work directly with the insurance company. The veterinarian is typically responsible for signing a paper verifying diagnoses and invoices for the insurance company. But, in most cases, the pet owner is responsible for covering the costs initially, filing the claim/receipt with the insurance company, and ensuring that the company reimburses them in a timely manner. From my experience, most companies will reimburse within a 30-60 day period.
ASPCA, Embrace, and Trupanion are all very reputable companies, with a few different options. Your own insurance company, such as Nationwide, may also offer a policy which could be bundled with your existing insurance policies. The policies often have waiting periods of 2-4 weeks, so you’ll want to have it ready to go before your puppy decides to eat that chocolate or sock. We hope that you’ll never need it, but it’s always nice to have a little extra security if there is an incident.
There are so many different companies out there that it can be overwhelming on where to start and how to begin comparing the many available policies. This article provides a great chart comparing many of the well-known insurance companies out there. In addition, this is a great questionnaire to help make sure you are asking all the right questions.
The first few months of your puppy’s life are filled with many important responsibilities. For you at home, that means lots of love, training, and teaching him to be a good pet. For us at Aldie Veterinary Hospital, that includes making sure we’re working together to make sure he’s healthy and protected against diseases and parasites. Your first vet visit can be overwhelming, and information from Dr. Google can be confusing and scary. Please feel free to ask any questions about diseases, vaccines, and preventive measures you may have. We are here to help and provide you with evidence-based information.
There are two main groups of vaccines for your puppy: core and non-core. Core vaccines are essential vaccines for all dogs to receive throughout their lives. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) lists the rabies vaccine and the combination distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus vaccine in this category. These are dangerous, contagious diseases which are typically preventable with appropriate immunization.
The need for a “noncore” vaccine is based on each individual dog’s lifestyle. There are four main vaccines listed by AAHA for this category. Your veterinarian is the absolute best resource to help you determine if your dog should have these vaccines; be sure to tell them about where your dog will live, if he will travel, and if he will be around other dogs often, so that you can work together to create a tailored, individual vaccine plan to protect him.
Let’s start by discussing the core vaccines: rabies and distemper.
Rabies, of important note, is 100% fatal and can be transmitted to humans via contact with saliva from infected animals. Because of this risk, all dogs over the age of 16 weeks are required by Virginia law to be up to date on their rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccine is given once as a puppy, then boostered once at 1 year of age, followed by once every 3 years from then on. In the event of an altercation with a wild animal outside, the vaccine is often boostered again as a precaution.
Virginia State Law has very strict protocols for unvaccinated dogs who are exposed to possibly infected wildlife, or if there is a dog-human bite incident. Depending on the scenario, these protocols range from strict quarantine to euthanasia, so it’s important for your dog to stay current on this vaccine. In our area, raccoons are the number one source of rabies, though other animals like foxes, skunks, and bats could also be carriers. You can help decrease your pet’s risk of encountering one of these animals by securing trash cans and other food sources outside, and always being vigilant about watching your pet outside.
Veterinarians often refer to this vaccine as just the “distemper vaccine,” but, it is actually a power-packed combination vaccine that offers protection against distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus. These are all viruses which are transmitted amongst dogs through sneezing, coughing, or sharing bowls. Some viruses can also be passed directly from a mom to her pups.
Distemper virus starts with respiratory/eye symptoms before progressing to neurologic disease. It can be fatal, and some pups that survive will have lifelong deficits. Parvovirus causes severe gastrointestinal disease with profuse vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Affected puppies require intensive care in a hospital for many days at best, but unfortunately many do not survive. Adenovirus affects the lining of blood vessels and can damage many important organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. Infected dogs may require blood transfusions, or may not survive the disease. Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus which causes signs such as nasal discharge, coughing, and fever. Young puppies are at the highest risk for contracting all four of these diseases and suffering from complications associated with them.
Fortunately, we can keep your puppy safe from these diseases with appropriate vaccination. This starts with a vaccine once around 8 weeks of age, then a repeated booster every 3-4 weeks until he/she is over 16 weeks of age. Puppies younger than 4-5 months of age are most susceptible to these diseases, so it’s important to stay on schedule with frequent boosters. He likely has some immunity to these diseases from his mom, but over the first few months of life, her immunity will wear off, and we need to be there with our vaccine to take over protection duties. Your dog will receive another booster at 1 year of age, and then every 3 years from then on, similar to the rabies vaccine.
Bordetella bronchiseptica is more commonly known as kennel cough. This is a respiratory disease that’s easily shared amongst dogs at parks, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, doggie daycare, etc. This vaccine is a liquid absorbed across the lining of the nose or mouth. No shot needed, and most dogs just think we’ve given them a weird tasting bit of squeeze cheese. At Aldie Veterinary Hospital, we consider this a core vaccine for all our patients, to ensure the safety of all our patients when they come into the clinic for exams, boarding, or treatments.
Making It Fun
Aldie Veterinary Hospital staff members are trained in how to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for your pet. Squeeze cheese, peanut butter, baby food, or other yummy snacks are great distractors and often the puppies don’t even notice the small needle used to give their vaccinations because they are so excited about the treats!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog which covers the three non-core, or lifestyle based, vaccines!
Much love from a happy, healthy, and vaccinated Skipper!
Now that you’ve got the puppy home and you’re laying down some ground rules, let’s talk potty training, as this tends to be pretty high on the priority list. Crate training goes hand-in-hand with potty training, and is your best friend with a new puppy! A puppy typically will not soil his sleeping place. He doesn’t need a Taj Mahal crate right now, just enough space to be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably. The crate shouldn’t be big enough that he can urinate in the back half and lounge up front in the foyer. The crate is for sleep and safety.
It’s important that your puppy understands his crate is his safe place, a place where he gets treats and pets! Avoid using the crate as a place for punishment. I started off by feeding Skipper treats in the kennel and shutting the door for brief periods, and then re-opening it, before leaving him in it for the night. He definitely still cried for a few minutes when we shut the door for the night; this was expected. When this happens, wait it out. The crying stops, I promise; usually before your heart completely breaks in half. If the puppy is removed from the crate or given any attention while he is crying, he’ll learn that making noise means breaking out! We play with Skipper to tire him out shortly before bedtime, and this definitely cut down the wait time as he was learning to sleep alone in the crate.
Remember a puppy can only hold his bladder a few hours, however. Plan to keep the crate close so you’ll wake when he does, or consider setting an alarm for 4-6 hours into the night for a potty break. Every puppy is different; some can sleep longer than others without an issue. Now, we don’t want to reward the puppy for crying and make that his ticket out of the crate, but we also can’t have him soiling the crate. Oh no… what to do? Wait for that ever-so-brief 0.25 seconds of quiet and open the door nonchalantly, with no big fuss. We discovered that picking Skipper up, putting the leash on, and escorting him outside before putting him down decreases the risk of a premature pee accident. For the first week or so, Skipper would pee the millisecond his toes hit the ground first thing in the morning, so we had to be dressed in a coat and shoes and ready to run! Remember, when your puppy pees outside, it is the very best thing you’ve ever seen in your whole life! “Good boys!” all around with pets and treats and love!
The rest of the day, you’ll need to be very diligent about taking the little pupper outside regularly. Once an hour is a good starting rule, whenever he’s awake and not in the kennel. Additionally, take him out immediately after any naps, and within 5-10 minutes after a meal. Watch for signs of sniffing/posturing and scoop him up quickly to go out. Minimizing accidents will maximize your success. At this stage, any “accidents” in the house, are technically on us, because he doesn’t know the rules. During puppy training, keep in mind that we’re working on substrates. Meaning, he needs to learn that when his toes touch hardwood, he cannot go; but when his toes touch grass, he can go. For those of you raising a puppy on snow, you may want to clear a particular area to make this concept clearer, since (hopefully) you won’t always have snow on the ground.
When there is an accident, startle the puppy with a clap, scoop him up, and immediately go outside. Hopefully, he’ll still have a little left, and again, when he goes, it’s a party! Make sure to clean up any accidents right when you come in, preferably with an enzymatic cleaner for carpets. Scents left behind in the house can be confusing and derail your efforts. The old adages of putting the puppy’s nose into the accident only confuse them into thinking that pee/poop, in general, is a bad thing; therefore this is not recommended. Potty training doesn’t happen overnight, so be consistent and positive, with time things will improve!
May all the paper towels and patience be with you,
Some people believe that veterinary visits are too stressful or unnecessary for their cat. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cats are secretive and masters of hiding disease. It takes a trained eye, a thorough history, and maybe some lab tests to know for sure. Nature teaches cats that the sick and the weak fall, for this reason, they will hide sickness until they are no longer physically able to do so.
Frequently, when owners are concerned about their cats because they’re acting ill, they have a very advanced disease process. These cats were often acting perfectly normal even up to the day before they started acting sick. Routine examination and blood work can detect minor changes in organ function. Therefore, treatment can be started early and prolong the life of the patient.
An annual examination allows the veterinarian to have a good baseline for your pet. This will help them detect abnormalities or changes over time. A good annual exam will cover all body parts of your cat from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
Eyes and Nose The vet will check for clarity, basic vision, and signs of infection or inflammation. They may also ask you about your cats’ behavior at home. Oral Cavity The vet will examine the oral cavity for gum inflammation, oral masses, signs of excess tartar on the teeth, and tooth abnormalities or breakage. Ears The vet will examine your cat’s ears for signs of infection, debris, inflammation, redness, drainage around the ear canal, and mites. Heart and Lungs Your vet will listen to your kitty’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope, listening for any heart murmurs or any other abnormal sounds, such as respiratory congestion. Fur Your vet will examine your cat’s skin and hair coat, these can be indicative of certain disease processes, allergies, or flea infestation. Paws and Legs The vet will examine the legs and feet. They will palpate to make sure your cat has a full range of motion and is not painful. Abdomen Your vet will palpate your kitty’s abdomen. This is to feel for any apparent masses or any pain in the digestive tract. Rectum The anus will be checked for visual evidence of worms, and the anal glands for potential signs of infection or impaction.
All of these things will give your vet an idea of your cats’ health. Additionally, your vet may request lab work. This could include blood work, urinalysis, and potentially radiographs or an ultrasound. Certain values in the blood or urine will change as organ function begins to decline. These blood values may remain the only symptom for an extended period of time. Early detection will make treatment much more possible and manageable.
Your vet will use all of these clues to determine the health of your pet. Continued care and monitoring are the only way to detect changes. This is the reason that an annual examination is the standard of practice. As your cat gets older your vet may opt to do twice yearly examinations. Waiting until your cat shows signs of illness may be too late.
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:
Fear, anxiety, and stress lead to undesired behavior conditions which make it more difficult to diagnose potential problems your pet may be experiencing. This is the reason our team is committed to providing a Whole Pet veterinary care approach. We don’t just treat your pet’s physical conditions, but ALL conditions, which include emotional.
Preparing for you and your pet’s visit starts well before you arrive. We take into account what we know to be the contributing factors that lead to some pets fear, anxiety and stress and create a plan that will persuade pets to enjoy their veterinary visit for years to come.