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.
Watch this helpful video produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association regarding dental cleaning.
Both cats and dogs need exercise to stay healthy, both for physical and mental health. Dogs enjoy walks just as much for the mental stimulation of smelling and investigating new things as they do for the actual exercise. They are naturally social creatures that benefit from getting out of the back yard and experiencing new environments. Walking is a great bonding time for you and you dog! And while some cats can be trained to a leash, they can provide more of a challenge when it comes to encouraging exercise. Using interactive toys in the house, such as a laser pointer or wind up toys, can help get your cat moving. Or check out this video of a cat running wheel:
When you’re not feeling well you know it and you seek medical attention. But our pets can’t talk, and they can’t tell us how they feel. That’s why it’s often so difficult to know when something is wrong.
In addition to the communication issue, pets are also very good at hiding their illness and injury. They know that slower, weaker, less hardy prey will find themselves at the mercy of stronger predators. So they instinctively do their best to hide their symptoms and appear strong and healthy. By the time pets actually begins to show symptoms of an illness, it has usually progressed to the point where they are so ill they simply can’t hide it any more.
Yearly exams help pets live longerAn annual examination is your pet’s best opportunity for a long healthy life.
Just because your pet appears to be in good health doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong. Sometimes a thorough annual physical examination will uncover important health issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Cats often receive less care than dogs. They are very independent animals and they’re easier to care for than dogs. Unfortunately, that often means they get less routine veterinary care. Cats visit the vet about half as often as dogs.
Both dogs and cats need annual physical exams to monitor their health, and to identify dangerous health issues before they become more serious. With proper care and routine veterinary supervision, your pet can lead a longer, healthier life.
Pets age faster than humansA year may not seem like such a long time to you, but in “pet years” that one year is comparable to 5 – 10 years of aging for a human.
Your pet’s health can change a lot in just a few months. That’s why pets need routine preventive care. Your pet should be examined at least once a year. As adult pets age, these annual veterinary visits become even more important. Hence, seniors should be examined every 6 months.
The importance of annual screeningsHere are some of the reasons that routine physicals are so important:
Your veterinarian is your partner in providing the best possible care for your pet. By working together, you can give your pet a longer, happier, healthier life… and isn’t that really what it’s all about?
Time really does fly, doesn't it? One minute your puppy or kitten is getting into everything, and the next thing you know your vet is saying Fluffy or Milo is now "over the hill". Our older pets deserve some special care and consideration. Even though things might look good on the surface, it is possible that they are developing some early disease. If detected early enough, many issues can be treated or at least slowed down enough to give our pets a longer, better quality life.
We recommend yearly wellness bloodwork for all of our geriatric pets to help us screen for many different diseases. Have you ever wondering what all those "things" are that we are investigating we recommend bloodwork? Keep reading, and hopefully by the end you will have a better understanding of the bloodwork we are requesting for your geriatric pets.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)This is the most common blood test performed on pets and people. A CBC gives information on hydration status, anaemia, infection, the blood's clotting ability, and the ability of the immune system to respond.
Red Cell Count measures the total number of red blood cells per volume of blood. It is used in detecting anaemia and other disorders of red blood cells. MCV (Mean Cell Volume) measures the volume of the individual red blood cell.
Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells. High levels indicate rebuilding of red blood cell numbers.
Blood chemistriesThese common blood serum tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more.
What do you have to worry about as your pet ages? Our senior pets have increased risk for developing certain conditions and we have put together a list of the top 9 concerns.
This painful, degenerative joint disease affects most pets at some point during their senior years. If your dog or cat seems reluctant to go up and down stairs, is no longer willing to jump into and out of the car or onto and off of furniture or if they seems stiff after standing up, talk to your veterinarian. Your vet may be able to prescribe medicine that can help with arthritis pain, and may also recommend other management strategies, like weight loss (if your pet is overweight), acupuncture or massage.
2. Deafness - Cats can experience hearing loss. The loss may be barely noticeable, or, as in the case of some cats, the hearing loss can be total. As dogs age, the sense of hearing tends to go. While you can’t purchase hearing aids for a deaf dog, you can still communicate with him. Teach him hand signals, and consider stomping your foot so he feels the vibrations and knows you’re still nearby or use the time-honored method of going to him to alert him that it’s dinnertime. He’ll appreciate it.
3. Blindness - Both dogs and cats can show a bluish transparent "haze" in the pupil area. This is a normal effect of aging, and the medical term for this is lenticular sclerosis. Vision does not appear to be affected. This is NOT the same as cataracts. Cataracts are white and opaque. Vision can be affected by cataracts, and your vet needs to be consulted.
Check out this cat and dog pair: http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2014/10/blind-and-deaf-dog-has-guide-cat-best-friend/
4. Metabolic disease - The "big 4" are kidney, liver, thyroid and diabetes. We recommend yearly bloodwork to screen for these diseases. Next week we will go more in depth about the bloodwork that we recommend.
Cognitive Dysfunction - Yes, pets can go a bit senile as they age. Stay tuned for more info later in the month.
Cancer - A scary one for most of us to consider, but as our pets live longer they are at greater risk for developing cancer. Take your pet to the vet if you notice weight loss or loss of appetite; lumps or bumps that increase in size; sores that don’t heal; bleeding or other discharge from the mouth, nose or anus; or unusual body odor. These can all be warning signs of cancer. A pet with cancer may have difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating and he also may exhibit a noticeable lack of energy, difficulty eating or swallowing or unexplained lameness.
Bumps and Lumps - Not all lumps are scary. A lot of animals just old age skin tags and lumps, just like us. But see you veterinarian, just to be on the safe side.
Urinary Incontinence - There are many underlying medical conditions that can cause our older pets to become incontinent. However, sometimes as they get older things can simply get a bit....leaky. The good news is that if it is true urinary incontinence, there are treatments that are effective in most cases.
Obesity - This can be a health issue for all ages. But older pets have a harder time carrying around that extra weight, especially if they also have arthritis or other joint issues. Talk with your vet about how to best help your pet lose weight.
Many dogs and cats (and their owners!) get into a routine for a treat at a specific time of day – sometimes a mid-morning or late-night snack! It can be hard to break this routine and completely cut out the snack. Instead of cutting out the snack, here are a few tips on making the snack healthier:
1. Use vegetables as low calorie snacks. There are many healthy vegetables that your dog will find a tasty treat! Many people are surprised when their dog loves cucumber. You can also try beans, broccoli, and carrots too. For a dog who likes a good chew, a broccoli stem is often a good replacement.
2. Give a lesser amount of the snack they get. Sometimes the entire treat may be too many calories, so try breaking it into smaller pieces and feeding a smaller total quantity. Instead of 2 large biscuits, they may get ½ of a biscuit broken into 4 pieces.
3. Save a small portion of your pet’s daily portion of kibble for a snack at another time in the day. If your pet normally gets 1 cup total of kibble per day split into 2 meals of ½ cup each, you may try splitting this into 3 meals of 1/3 cup. Your pet will be just as excited for their third portion of kibble at snack time. Some dogs, and even some cats, may prefer that this snack be interactive – use it to do a bit of obedience training, or hide and seek for their snacks. This is an added source of mental stimulation and environmental enrichment for your pet when you are busy.
Other snack options:
You can also use fruits as snacks or training treats. Blueberries, slices of apple, and melon all make good treats. You can even mix small chunks of fruit with water and freeze them for a refreshing ice cube snack in the summer.
Snacks to avoid:
Avoid high fat foods, especially fatty pieces of meat. These can make dogs and cats very sick.
Avoid onions and grapes - these can both cause toxicities.
Avoid large quantities of carbs – bread, donuts, spaghetti. These higher calorie snacks are of no added nutritional value for your pet and they will push them over the amount of calories they require in a day.
Ask your vet for more recommendations for your pet if they have a special diet or medical condition.
More and more dogs and cat are rated as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. These animals are being put at risk of developing serious diseases earlier in life, and they are also more likely to have a shortened life span.
Carrying extra weight can predispose your pet to early arthritic changes. The more weight they carry, the more pressure is applied to their joints. Arthritis can start earlier, and as they become more painful, they have less ability to exercise. This becomes a vicious cycle of inactivity leading to weight gain leading to further mobility concerns and weight gain. Some of these obese dogs and cats are euthanized early for an inability to get around, an inability to get in the car, or the inability to keep themselves clean.
Ligament tears are also more common in obese dogs – these are usually seen as an acute lameness. These tears can be surgically repaired, but once again, obesity will make recovery more difficult.
Obese cats that decide not to eat are more at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver. By not eating (for any reason – stress, other illness, or because they are unhappy with what you are offering) they develop hepatic lipidosis that makes them feel ill and less likely to eat. These cats get sick faster and need intensive care to start eating again.
Obese dogs and cats are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Just like people, animals can get diabetes. And just like people, diabetic cats and dogs may require twice daily insulin injections, special diabetic food, and regular blood glucose monitoring. Not only can this be stressful on the pet, as well as their caretaker, but it can also be expensive.
Animals that are overweight or obese may also have a more difficult time breathing and may develop exercise and heat intolerance. This can make weight loss difficult for these animals.
What diseases are obese pets predisposed to?
Is my PET fat?
Your pet’s body condition score is evaluated regularly at their annual exam. Here is a scale that is commonly used. An easy way to monitor your pet is to make sure that from above they have a slight indent at their abdomen, behind their rib cage, and from the side they should have a tuck up at their abdomen.
If your dog or cat’s body shape has become boxy or overly rounded, they are in need of a diet and exercise plan!
What do I do to help my pet lose weight?
If you acknowledge that your pet is in need of weight loss, that is the first step to making a change!
Next step is to determine where the unhealthy habits lie – it is either lack of exercise or over indulgence of food and treats.
It is important that your pet doesn’t lose weight too quickly! We want slow, steady, but consistent weight loss. Please contact your veterinarian to help develop a plan for safe weight loss for your pet.
We will have further tips later this month on healthy snacks.
Having difficulty achieving weight loss for your pet?
Some pets will need special diet food to help achieve weight loss success! These diets have a number of ways that they are effective in weight loss. They often help your pet to feel full, this means they won’t eat as much. They may have fewer calories per cup so they can eat more but not be taking in as many calories. If your pet needs a diet food, ask your veterinarian for assistance choosing the right one.
There are many possible toxins to pets outdoors, but here are a few you can avoid using to prevent health risks to your pet.
Most people know that chocolate can be toxic to dogs. This is because of theobromine in chocolate which, depending on how much is eaten, the type of chocolate ingested, and the size of the dog, can cause symptoms from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and death.
Theobromine and caffeine are also present in cocoa bean mulch. The quantities of each varies in different brands of mulch, but with the same sweet smell as chocolate, your dog may be enticed to eat the mulch causing them to have the same toxicity symptoms as when a dog ingests chocolate.
To avoid this toxin it is recommended to pick a different kind of mulch for your garden.
Cocoa bean mulch
Many lawn fertlizers are now child and pet friendly. Be aware of what you are putting on your lawn and what plant fertilizer you are using around certain plants. Some of the specific plant fertilizers contain bone or blood meal which is very palatable to dogs, but can cause stomach upsets. Other fertilizers may contain organophosphates that can have more severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, seizures, and possibly death. These symptoms can be seen in either dogs or cats that ingest organophosphate type fertilizers.
Remember to store your undiluted pool chemicals in a safe place away from where your pets (and children) can access them. When diluted in the pool, these chemicals should have minimal, if any, side effects on your pet. It is always recommended to rinse your dog after they have been swimming to remove excess chemicals from their coat that they may later groom off.
Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can be a problem in our nearby lakes, as well as in ponds and streams. These bacteria can produce toxins that can be fatal within hours if pets ingest them. If your dog likes to swim, make sure they are swimming in clean water, and avoid beaches that are closed due to high algal blooms!
There are many potential toxins that pets can be exposed to. Make sure you know what is in your backyard where your pets play, and also be aware of your surroundings when you visit family and friends for barbecues or picnics. Have fun and keep your pets safe this summer!
Taking your dog camping is a great adventure for both of you, but don’t forget to be prepared! Just like you would take a first aid kit for yourself and your kids, you should have a similar first aid kit for your dog.
Items to include in a pet first aid kit:
There are many commercially available first aid kits for dogs – you can take a look at a local pet store, or you can make your own.
You should include:
If you plan to go hiking, you can make this first aid kit portable by putting it in a knapsack for your dog to carry. Make sure you get your dog accustomed to wearing their own pack before a long hike. You can also add water, pet-safe bug spray, and a snack if needed for a long hike.
Be sure to stay safe and have fun!
Here are some extra safety travel tips no matter how you are travelling with your dog:
Although many animals get itchy when they are bitten by a flea, some animals get extremely itchy, to the point where they have bleeding wounds on their backs. These animals have a flea allergy dermatitis – they react to flea bites more severely than other animals.
What does it look like?
Flea allergy dermatitis often looks like either a lot of little scabs, or a few larger scabs over the back of your pet. Usually they are right at the base of the tail. There is often a fair amount of hair loss in this area, and the skin is usually very red and inflamed.
How is flea allergy dermatitis identified?
Flea allergy dermatitis also includes fleas. Finding fleas themselves on your pet or flea dirt helps to confirm the diagnosis. Flea dirt is small black dandruff that you are able to see if you part the fur and look close to the skin. When this black dirt is removed from the animal, you can put it on white paper towel and add water. If it dissolves leaving red-brown marks then it is flea dirt. If it doesn’t leave a mark then it is regular ground dirt.
How is flea allergy dermatitis treated?
Flea allergy dermatitis often requires a multi-modal approach including antibiotics, anti-itch medications, as well as flea products. One of the most important things to remember is to treat the animal with a flea preventive product for at least 3 months to kill all the fleas that may hatch over that time.
How can I prevent flea allergy dermatitis?
It is often recommended to keep your pet on year round flea prevention if they have a flea allergy. It is much more comfortable for your pet and more cost effective for you to keep your pet on flea prevention than to need to see your vet multiple times a year to treat flea allergy dermatitis.
Don’t forget, flea season has started! If your pet still needs their prevention make sure to give us a call!