Archive for February, 2012

The eyes may be the window to the soul but the mouth is the window to overall health!

Here are some interesting facts about your pet’s oral health that you may not have known

1. Dogs have 42 adult teeth; Cats have 30 adult teeth

2. Dogs and cats can begin to lose their baby (deciduous) teeth at 3-4 months of age and should lose all remaining baby teeth by 6-8 months of age (although certain breeds are known to take longer).

3. Retained deciduous (baby) teeth are more common in pets with overbites, under bites and poor teeth alignment in which the baby teeth are not in a normal position to be pushed out when the adult teeth erupt.

4. If retained baby teeth are not removed at a young age they can cause dental pain, irritation of the gums, and accelerate the formation of tartar on surrounding teeth.

5.  Plaque is the soft, “slimy” layer of material found on the tooth surface and is composed of salivary proteins, decayed food materials and bacteria.

6.  Gingiva is the technical term for ‘gums’

7. Chronic infection of the teeth, related to increased calculus formation, causes an increase in the body’s bacterial load which can cause damage in other body systems such as the sinuses, heart, liver and kidneys.

8. A common site for bacterial buildup in the heart is on the mitral valve or left atrial/ventricular valve between the left atrium and left ventricle.

9. Increased bacterial load from decaying oral health can infect the filtering devices of the outer kidney (the glomeruli) and produce a chronic underlying infection with can lead to chronic kidney disease or even kidney failure.

10. Signs of deteriorating oral health include: anorexia (refusal to eat, usually due to pain), halitosis (bad breath), weight loss, vomiting (due to not chewing food properly), excessive drooling, nasal discharge, nose bleeds and/or facial swelling

11. Pets with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for developing secondary problems/infections related to poor oral hygiene.  Strengthening the immune system and providing good oral care may help reduce this risk

12. Inflammation associated with periodontal disease and gingivitis are not necessarily limited to the mouth and can spread to other parts of the body such as the liver and kidneys.



Rosenfeld, Andrew J., The Veterinary Medical Team Handbook, Blackwell Publishing 2007

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Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed your teeth

Not a pleasant thought, is it?

Now imagine how your pet’s mouth must feel…


Did you know that dental care in dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care?  Statistics show that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three.

Without regular dental care, tartar and plaque can build up quickly leaving your pet with foul breath odour and discoloured teeth.

But poor dental hygiene is more than just a cosmetic problem.

As the plaque builds up it creates the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria which, if left untreated, can damage your pet’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver.

As your pet chews and swallows, a ‘shower’ of bacteria is released into the blood stream and can travel throughout your pet’s body, slowly eroding the delicate organs it encounters and causing irreversible damage.

Once plaque and tartar adhere to the tooth surface the only way it can be removed is through a professional dental cleaning which can only be done under a general anesthetic.


“Doggy breath” isn’t just a minor annoyance – it could be indicative of a serious underlying oral health problem such as periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a progressive infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth which starts out as a bacterial film, called plaque.  As the bacteria attach to the tooth surface and die they become calcified by calcium found naturally in your pet’s saliva.  These calcified deposits form a rough, hard substance known as tartar or calculus.

In the early stages of periodontal disease the plaque is soft and brushing the teeth or chewing hard food and toys may be enough to dislodge it.

As the disease progresses, however, the accumulation of plaque can lead to gingivitis, a painful inflammation of the gums which can cause them to become red, swollen and easily injured (bleed easily).

Without intervention the plaque and calculus will continue to develop below the gum line.  If the plaque and tartar buildup are allowed to continue unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth.

In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your pet, but good oral health care at home and by your veterinarian can stop periodontal disease before it even begins.


Stage I Gingivitis
Gums become inflamed and swollen (gingivitis). Plaque covers the tooth surface but treatment at this stage can reverse the inflammation.
Stage II Early Periodontitis
The entire gum is inflamed and swollen leading to pain and foul breath. Professional veterinary treatment and home dental care can prevent this disease process from becoming irreversible.
Stage III Moderate Periodontitis
Gum tissue is destroyed by infection and calculus (tartar) and it can become very painful for your pet to chew leading to changes in eating and behaviour.  The damage caused at this point may be irreversible.
Stage IV Advanced Periodontitis
Chronic bacterial infection begins destroying the gum, tooth and bone and bacteria can be spread throughout the entire body via the bloodstream damaging the kidneys, liver and heart

You sure can!

Regular home dental care is an important part of your pet’s oral health and with a bit of practice it can be a positive experience for both of you.

Be sure to use a toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs and cats – human toothpastes should never be used on pets!

It is important to consult your veterinarian prior to commencing tooth brushing as if your pet’s dental disease is advanced brushing may cause pain and discomfort. 


When you first start out, brushing your pet’s teeth can be a bit tricky.  Try following these steps to help make the experience more enjoyable for both you and your pet.

STEP ONE: For the first few days, simply hold your pet as you normally do when petting him/her. Gently stroke the outside of your pet’s cheeks with your finger for a minute or two.
STEP TWO: Once your pet is comfortable with being held and having his/her cheeks touched it’s time to add in the toothpaste.  Place a small amount of  toothpaste on your finger (no toothbrush yet!) and let your pet lick it off. Many pet toothpastes come in pet-friendly flavours such as chicken or beef so your dog or cat may see it as a treat!
STEP THREE: It’s time to gradually introduce your pet to a toothbrush or fingerbrush. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush and gently brush one tooth with a slow circular motion. Gradually increase the number of teeth brushed until you’ve built up to 30 seconds of brushing per side.

HELPFUL TIP:  It is important to reward your pet with a healthy treat and plenty of praise after every step of this process. Soon, both you and your pet will look forward to the time you spend together during this important health care procedure.


In a perfect world, all pets would have their teeth brushed at least three times a week.

But what happens when tooth brushing is simply out of the question?  Not to worry – there are several alternatives that can help you manage your pet’s oral health needs:

Dental Chews

There are a wide variety of dental chews on the market that can assist you in your quest to keep your pet’s teeth clean.

Remember: not all chews are created equally.

Some rely only on the mechanical action of chewing while others have special added ingredients that are designed to break down tartar and help prevent plaque from adhering to the tooth’s surface.  Be sure to check with your veterinarian as some chews (such as raw hide) can remain undigested leading to gastrointestinal problems.

Oral Rinses

There are many dental rinses that exist in the market that are designed to help break down plaque and prevent tartar from sticking to the tooth’s surface.  Some of these rinses are better than others so speak to your veterinarian to find out which ones are recommended for your pet.

Special diets:

Diets such as Prescription-Hills T/D and Royal Canin’s Dental Diet are specially formulated diets designed to help break down plaque and tartar.

Unlike regular hard kibble, these dental diets contain special enzymes and have a specific texture to continutally scrape the tooth’s surface as your pet chews.


Your veterinarian is a great resource for your pet’s oral health.  Don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about developing a dental care plan for your furry friend!

Remember… pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives. 

AAHA Dental Care Guidelines (http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=AAHA_Dental_Care_Guidelines)

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1.    Plenty of exercise

A stimulated, well-exercised (and tired) dog is a happy dog. It is a well-documented fact that dogs that get regular daily exercise have fewer behavioral problems and are healthier in general.  Pick a time of day and commit to going for a walk or head to your local park for a game of fetch.  The health benefits both you and your dog will enjoy are endless!

2.    Cuddles and attention

This is the easiest and most enjoyable way to let your dog know you love him/her.  Don’t hold back! Lavishing your dog with attention is good for the soul and makes them feel truly special.

3.    Invest in pet insurance

One of the questions I used to get most often when I worked in veterinary hospitals was “Should I get pet insurance or is it just a waste of money?”  To which my response was always the same: “If you’re lucky then yes, pet insurance IS a waste of money because then that means that your pet was healthy”. You get fire insurance hoping it will be a waste of money because you never want to lose everything in a fire and have to make a claim.  You get theft insurance for the same reason.  Pet insurance is no different.  It offers a Plan B and allows you to give your pet the best treatment possible should they need it.  But at the end of the day we all hope our pets stay healthy and we hope that we never need to cash in on the insurance policy we are paying into.

4.    Don’t skimp on checkups and blood work

With the revision of current vaccine protocols and an economy that keeps dipping lower and lower we are seeing more pet parents forgo their pet’s annual examinations.  While it is great that your pet appears healthy and is still eating, drinking and behaving normally the point of the annual checkup is to catch problems before they become noticeable. For instance, did you know that by the time your pet shows signs of kidney disease the kidneys have already suffered a 75% loss of function?  Wouldn’t it be better to identify these problems while there is still time to slow down or prevent disease? Whether you choose to have your dog vaccinated annually or not, it remains important to take them in for their annual checkups and routine blood work.

5.    Provide rules and boundaries

Dogs, like children, thrive in an environment based on structure.  When your dog knows what to expect under different circumstance he/she can more easily predict how to behave appropriately.  Praising behaviour one moment and then punishing it the next causes confusion and will ultimately lead to an anxious and unhappy pooch.

6.    Watch the scale

Chubby puppies might be adorable but they are not healthy.  The more we learn about fat the more we understand that it is not the inert substance we once thought it was.  Fat is considered to be part of the endocrine system and the effects it has on hormone secretion and gene expression is profound.  Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces the chance of them developing life threatening diseases such as diabetes and thyroid problems.  Excess weight also puts unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints which can lead to bone and muscle degradation, inflammation and arthritis.

7.    Keep him busy

You know what they say: Idle hands are the devil’s playground.  What does that mean? It means that a busy dog is less likely to get into trouble!  Challenge your dog with a range of toys that stimulate his/her intellect.  Toys such as Kongs filled with treats or puzzle games are a great way to keep your dog’s mind active.

8.    Give him space

Even the cuddliest of dogs still needs their quiet time.  Be respectful of this and create an area in your home that your dog can retreat to in times of excitement or stress.  It could be their crate or just a special room in the house.

9.    Groom him

Grooming your dog is a wonderful bonding experience for both of you and helps you discover problems with the skin/coat (i.e., lumps and bumps) before they become larger problems.

10.  Proper nutrition

What to feed your dog and how often to feed them is the subject of major debate these days.  And while there are a number of different opinions on the subject, the bottom line is that there is no one “right” answer.  Every dog has his or her own specific nutritional requirements based on age, breed, lifestyle and health status.  There are pros and cons to each diet choice – from veterinary diets to home cooked diets to raw food.   Regardless of what type of diet you choose be sure that it is balanced and contains the appropriate ratio of nutrients and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. Steer clear of diets that are labeled for “All Life Stages” as these are often formulated to meet the requirements of growing puppies and may contain a high level of protein and calories that may not be appropriate for adult and senior dogs.  When trying to determine what to feed your dog your best bet is to seek advice from a professional such as your veterinarian. At the end of the day you need to find a diet that best suits both your and your dog’s lifestyle, needs and budget.



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Why pets need kids

I got this email yesterday that just made me smile and I had to share it.

Happy Friday – hope you have a wonderful weekend!


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It’s Superbowl time!  

Whether you’re staying in or heading to a bar to catch the game it’s sure to be a great day filled with football, food and fun.

Our pets can also get involved in the celebrations but remember: junk food and beer are NOT pet treats and can cause some serious health problems.  

If you’re hosting a Superbowl party at your house be sure to keep your four-legged friends in mind.   All the yelling and excitement that goes along with football can frighten some pets so if you plan to get a little rowdy then you might want to consider keeping your pets safe and out of harms way in another part of the house.  Cats are especially sensitive to changes in their home environment so isolating them away from all the noise can help keep them calm.

If your friends like to go in and out of the house throughout the day be sure to let them know to keep an eye out for any critters.  The last thing you want on game day is to have to scour the neighborhood looking for an escaped and frightened pet.

Let the countdown to kick off begin!

Get in the football spirit with a little Puppy Bowl VIII action from Animal Planet:  Puppy Bowl VIII

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