Pet Dental Care for Cats and Dogs

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Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

  • bad breath
  • broken or loose teeth
  • extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • pain in or around the mouth
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

 

Causes of pet dental problems

Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, they can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:

  • broken teeth and roots

  • periodontal disease

  • abscesses or infected teeth

  • cysts or tumors in the mouth

  • malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite

  • broken (fractured) jaw

  • palate defects (such as cleft palate)

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition found in cats and dogs. Early evidence of periodontal disease begin by the pet is around 3 years old. If effective preventive measures aren't taken, the disease will worsen. Early detection and treatment are critical. Advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain that extend beyond your pet's mouth—including in association with the kidneys, liver, and heart muscle changes.

 

Why does animal dentistry require anesthesia?

When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still. Your pet does not understand the benefit of dental procedures, and he or she reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting.

Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. If radiographs (x-rays) are needed, your pet needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia.

Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most pets can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.

 

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Test yourself.

How much do you know about your pet's dental health?

Take this quiz to find out.

 

What can I do at home for my pet’s oral health?

Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important.

There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.


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Save on your next flea + tick prevention with Simparica!

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New In Stock Alert! We are now carrying a new flea and tick protection option proven to last. Read to the ending for tips on how you will save when you switch to Simparica at River Landings Animal Clinic.

What is Simparica?

Simparica® (sarolaner) Chewables are a safe, monthly flea and tick protection for dogs that start working fast and remain effective all month long.

Simparica starts killing fleas within 3 hours and ticks within 8 hours, and it keeps going strong for 35 days without losing effectiveness at the end of the month.

 

How does Simparica work?

Simparica is a great tasting chewable tablet given orally once a month. It travels in your dog's blood to safely deliver persistent continuous protection against fleas and ticks from day 1 to day 35*.

*Studies show that Simparica starts killing ticks in 8 hours and is ≥96.9% effective for 35 days against weekly reinfestations of Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star tick), Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf Coast tick), Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), and Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick).

 

Why protect against fleas and ticks?

Tick-borne diseases represent a widespread and growing public health hazard to dogs (and their human companions), causing debilitating illness and even death. It only takes one tick to spread disease, so continuous protection is critical to help reduce the risk of infection.


Likewise, it only takes a single "pregnant" flea to start an infestation on a dog or in a home. And although fleas are largely perceived as a mere nuisance, they too can pose health risks to pets and humans.

 

Why switch to Simparica?

Simparica provides peak protection all month long with no decrease in effectiveness toward the end of the month like some other brands. Comparison charts provided by Simparica on their website.

 

Save on Simparica!

Purchase 12 doses of Simparica and receive $35 in money-back savings. Purchase 6 doses and get $15 savings. Simply download a special offer voucher and bring it with you to the veterinarian when you purchase Simparica. Then log on to Simparica's website (here) to request your rebate. Your check will be mailed directly to you. It's that simple!

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White Cats and Deafness

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Hereditary deafness is a major concern found in white cats, and especially so if one or both eyes are blue.

Research has found that only 17-22% of white cats with non-blue eyes are born deaf. The percentages rise to nearly half (40%) if the cat has one blue eye. An upwards of 65-85% of all white cats with two blue eyes are deaf. Some of these cats are deaf in a just one ear. Interestingly enough, if a white cat has one blue eye, the ear that is deaf tends to fall on the same side as the blue eye.

Cats with only one deaf ear out of the two tend to appear normal and their issue may never be known to their humans. Even if born completely deaf, cats can live perfectly fine lives as long as you take heed to not put them in situations where they must rely on audible cues (i.e. the outdoors). There is no treatment for hereditary deafness.


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Does my dog have ear mites?

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If your dog is scratching at or shaking his head, the culprit might be Otodectes cynotis hiding out in their ear canal. Otodectes cynotis, also known as “ear beggar of the dog” is a tiny arachnid, among the family of spiders and ticks.

What these tiny critters do is squirrel away in the ear canals, feeding on the wax and oils in your dog’s ears. Their presence causes itching, thus the scratching done by your pup. While the parasites themselves don’t bite the skin, the secondary damage done by your dog’s claws can be far more serious.

It is important to clear up an ear mite infestation as soon as you suspect one.

 

What are the symptoms of dog ear mites?

Itching: The first sign of an ear mite infestation is your pup scratching his head.

Dark, crumbly reddish-brown discharge: This is often composed of dried blood, similar in appearance to coffee grounds.

Wounds, inflammation, and infections: The dog scratching may lead to cuts and infections in the ear(s). The most common sign of a mite infestation is a scab or abrasion at the base of the ear, which is the result of the dog scratching with his hind limb claws. If bacteria has infected the open wound(s), you may find an infection.

In heavy ear mite infestations, the ear mites might start to invade other parts of the dog’s body.


What to do if you think your dog has ear mites

It is important to eradicate ear mites as soon as you possibly can, both for the good of the infected dog, your other pets, and stranger’s pets your dog may interact with. Ear mites can easily spread to cats and ferrets, as well. If one animal in the household is diagnosed with ear mites, all pets should be treated at the same time. Although rare, these mites can also spread to humans.

Although Googling recipes for home remedies is an option you may feel compelled to try, it is wiser to visit your veterinarian for a proper, definitive diagnosis and treatment. There are several other ear conditions that mimic mite infestations, so you want to make sure your treatment is right for your pup to clear up the issue the first time.

 

How are ear mites treated?

The first step in ear mite treatment is a vet’s examination of the ear canal and the discharges from the ear for the possible presence of mites. They are easily spotted with the aid of an otoscope.

The next step would be a thorough ear cleaning, followed by application of products approved for treatment of ear mites in dogs, such as selamectin, moxidectin/imidacloprid, all of which is often used against a range of parasites.

Bacterial or fungal infections should also be treated.

Prevention is a matter of monthly topical anti-parasite application and keep your dog’s ears clean.


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What is Hip Dysplasia?

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Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint. However, hip dysplasia can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture. With such damage or a malformed hip joint, over the time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. The breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement.

No one can predict when or if a dog will start showing signs of lameness due to pain. The severity of the disease may be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. It is not abnormal for certain dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as though nothing is wrong. There are also some dogs with very little arthritic x-ray evidence that are severely lame.

Screenings for hip dysplasia are done by a veterinarian with x-rays that are then sent to OFA for grading and certification.


 

Hip Screening: Grade Classifications

The OFA classifies hips into seven different categories: Excellent, Good, Fair (all within Normal limits), Borderline, and then Mild, Moderate, or Severe (the last three are considered Dysplastic).

 

Excellent Classification

Superior conformation; there is a deep-seated ball (femoral head) which fits tightly into a well-formed socket (acetabulum) with minimal joint space.

Good Classification

Slightly less than superior but a well-formed congruent hip joint is visible. The ball fits well into the socket and good coverage is present.

Fair Classification

Minor irregularities; the hip joint is wider than a good hip. The ball slips slightly out of the socket. The socket may also appear to be slightly shallow.

Borderline Classification

Not clear. Usually, more incongruency then what occurs in a ‘Fair’ classification, but there are no arthritic changes present that definitively diagnose the hip joint being dysplastic.

Mild Classification

It is significant yet partial dislocation is present where the ball is partially out of the socket, causing an increased joint space. The socket is typically shallow only partially covering the ball.

Moderate Classification

The ball is barely positioned into a shallow socket. There are secondary arthritic bone changes usually along the femoral neck and head (aka remodeling), acetabular rim changes (osteophytes or bone spurs) and various degrees of trabecular bone pattern changes (sclerosis).

Severe Classification

Marked evidence of dysplasia exists. The ball is partially or completely out of the shallow socket. Significant arthritic bone changes along the femoral neck and head and acetabular rim changes.

 

Treatment Options

Once osteoarthritis is present on a radiograph, dysplastic changes are irreversible and typically continue to progress over time. If a dog with hip dysplasia has secondary arthritis and pain, most owners opt to first treat their dog with medical management. The key is weight control and exercise. Studies have shown that up to 76% of dogs with severe dysplasia and secondary arthritis are able to function and live comfortable, quality lives with conservative management. With weight control, the goal is to prevent the dog from becoming overweight to reduce stresses applied to the joints. In general terms, ribs should be easily palpated and there should be an indentation in front of the pelvic wings (waistline).

Controlled exercise is to prevent or relieve the inflammatory process that leads to the pain associated with arthritis. The amount and difficulty of the activity is determined on a trial and error basis. Exercise should begin on short-leash walks and increase level of activity over time. If clinical signs begin to reappear, scale back the level of exercise to a point where the clinical signs do not reappear. Exercise should fit to each individual dog’s maximum intensity level with the goal to maintain muscle tone and cardiovascular function without causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation to the affected joint(s). Exercise helps maintain muscle tone, strengthens & stabilizes the unstable dysplastic joint, and improves joint range of motion (which in turn keeps the dog comfortable). Another useful activity is swimming, as it is a non-weight bearing exercise.

Keep the dog in a warm environment. Warmth tends to help control the pain of arthritis. As in people, arthritis pain in dogs tends to worsen in damp and cold weather. Provide a well-padded and warm bed will help alleviate some of the pain associated with osteoarthritis. An egg-crate foam bed for dogs is commercially available. Applying superficial heat in the form of heating pads may also alleviate pain, but do heed caution as not to burn the skin with electric heating pads. Heat works best for chronically inflamed joints while cold works better to treat acute (sudden) types of joint injuries.

There are drug treatments and surgical interventions that may help, but prior to initiating any therapy, the attending veterinarian should be consulted with a complete medical history and physical examination.


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