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!
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!
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!