Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Month? It’s not just about bad breath. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is one of the most important aspects of wellness care. Infection of the teeth and gums can make a pet feel sick. On a regular basis pet owners tell us that their dog or cat is feeling better and acting years younger after a dental cleaning. And it’s not just the mouth that is affected. When an animal, or person for that matter, has gingivitis there is a bacterial infection of the gums. And bacteria can get into the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body and cause infection. The heart and kidneys are two of the more commonly affected organs.
How do I know if my pet has dental disease? The following are symptoms of dental disease: bad breath, a visible buildup of calculi on the teeth, red gums, bleeding gums, trouble eating, pawing at the mouth and swelling under the eyes sometimes with bloody discharge. When your pet comes in for her annual exam your veterinarian will let you know if she has dental disease that needs treatment.
What is involved with a dental cleaning? When a pet comes in for a dental cleaning they are put under a light general anesthetic and the teeth are scaled ultrasonically and polished. An important step of the cleaning is the subgingival cleaning. This involves removing the plaque from the surface of the tooth that is under the gums.
Is there anything I can do at home to keep my pets teeth clean? There are so many things you can do at home for your cat or dog. The best thing to do is brush. Ideally this should be done nightly after the pet is done eating for the day. Even if you only do it a few times a week it will make a difference. If you are unable to brush your pet’s teeth there are gels and rinses that you can apply to the gums. For pets that won’t let you come near their mouth there are dental treats and treatments that can be added to their water to help dissolve plaque.
In recognition of National Pet Dental Month Countryside will be giving a 10% discount on all dental services performed during the month of February.
For a great video on home dental care check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB3GIAgrTPE
This week we are going to talk about coprophagia or stool eating. It’s more of a dog problem than a cat problem and unfortunately is pretty common. So why do pets do it? No one really knows for sure but there are many theories. Many people think dogs do it due to a dietary deficiency. This is rarely the case as the majority of commercial dog foods are complete and balanced. In some cases it can be due to medical causes. Diseases that cause increased appetite like diabetes or Cushing’s disease can cause animals to be so hungry that they will eat stool.
Wild canines will often eat their prey and regurgitate it up for their pups to eat. That serves as the basis for the theory that some dogs will eat anything that isn’t completely digested. Often stool contains some nutrients that haven’t been digested.
Another theory is that this behavior developed as part of the evolution of the symbiotic relationship between people and dogs. In the early years of domestication dogs had to earn their keep. One of their jobs was to scavenge. By consuming anything even remotely edible off the ground they kept vermin levels to a minimum. Because vermin spread disease this helped the overall health of their human owners.
Regardless of why they do it, it needs to be stopped. Some advocate putting something on the stool like Tabasco sauce to teach the dog not to do it. In my opinion this is not a great option. First of all it’s too much work. And second of all many dogs will learn to sniff the feces before they eat it and look for stool that hasn’t been treated.
Another method is to use negative reinforcement like you would for any other undesirable behavior such as barking or jumping. I don’t love this idea either because often the lesson that the dog learns is to only eat stool when you are not around and able to give a reprimand.
Some diets are more digestible than others so you can always try a different diet. This may take some trial and error. Contact your veterinarian for suggestions. There are also products that you can put in the food that will make the stool unappealing to the dog. Two of the products that I like for this are Forbid (http://www.for-bid.com/) and Distaste Tabs (http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=19133&cmpid=01cseaz&ref=4144&subref=AA) .
If your pet has developed this behavior and you would like to rule out a medical cause or discuss more treatment options please contact your veterinarian.
Do you ever wonder why your pet is such a beggar? There is an old saying that goes “Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated”. As much as we hate to admit it most of the time we have actually encouraged the behavior by giving in. Not to fret. It’s not too late. Here are some suggestions to curb the habit.
1) Yes, I know it’s obvious but don’t give in. Even if you only give in 1 out of 10 times it is enough to keep them coming back. And make sure everyone is one the same page. It only takes one family member to maintain the behavior.
2) Segregate your pet. Some pets can be so obnoxious during meal times that it may be best to put them in another room until meal time is over.
3) Distract the pet by replacing the table food with a more appropriate pet food. An example for dogs is to give treats or even a meal in a twist and treat type toy. This is essentially a toy that slowly dispenses treats or kibble. Not only does this enable a dog to eat an appropriate type and amount of food but it keeps them busy during the meal. For more information check out: http://www.premier.com/View.aspx?page=dogs/products/behavior/busybuddy/twistntreat/description . Cat’s can be a little more challenging. Something you can do with cats is feed them their dinner while the family is eating. Instead of putting their food in their regular bowl you can spread it out in the bottom of an empty egg carton. This enables them to work a little for their food and can also keep them busy during the dinner meal.
4) Redirect or replace the undesirable behavior with a desirable behavior. This is more of a dog thing and can take a lot of work. An example of this would be to teach the dog to lay down on a matt in a down/stay while the family is eating dinner. When the dinner is over the dog can be released with a command such as free and given an acceptable treat like a rawhide bone or dental chew. This type of thing doesn’t happen overnight. You need to brush up on your basic obedience and build on that. Start with a very short down/stay and gradually increase it.
The thing to keep in mind is that your pet may rebel at first. Often when implementing a behavior modification program things get worse before they get better. If your pet is very difficult you may want to contact a veterinary behaviorist (http://www.chicagovetbehavior.com/ ). Another thing to keep in mind is that there may be an underlying medical condition. Dogs and cats with certain medical conditions such as diabetes will often have an acute increase in appetite. If your pet has developed this problem out of the blue or you would like to rule out medical causes contact your veterinarian for an exam and consultation.
Rodenticides are products used to kill rodents. They are anitcoagulants which means that they inhibit the body’s ability to clot, causing death by internal bleeding. There are many different brands with D Con being the most recognized. You can purchase the products in most hardware or bog box stores. Exterminators also utilize the products. The main reason that they are so effective is that rodents love the taste. Unfortunately dogs and cats do also. Anticoagulant Rodenticide Toxicosis is one of the more common toxicities that veterinarians see. If a dog or cat ingests a sufficient quantity symptoms will usually show up 3-5 days later. The symptoms are usually non specific such as decreased appetite, lethargy and rapid shallow breathing. Bleeding can occur anywhere in the body and can be fatal if not treated.
If there is any chance the pet ingested rat or mouse bait it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Food usually sits in the stomach for 4-6 hours so if the pet is presented during this window vomiting can be induced. After that a liquid called activated charcoal is administered. Activated Charcoal passes through the GI tract and prevents toxicants from being absorbed. For animals that aren’t made to vomit the liquid is administered. After that the antidote, vitamin K, is given. If the pet is presented before symptoms occur the prognosis is usually very good. The more time has elapsed since ingestion the worse the prognosis. Some patients need to be hospitalized and receive blood transfusions.
So the obvious solution is that if you have pets don’t use rat or mouse bait. There are other ways to stop a rodent infestation. Some people will put the poison in an area that is not accessible to pets. Unfortunately, this is not a good solution for 2 reasons. The first is that some rodents will drag the bait to other parts of the house where the pets can get into it. The second is that rodents that ingest the bait can die out in the open and get eaten by the pet. If enough poison is in the rodent it can affect the pet. For more information on Anticoagulant Rodenticide Toxicosis go to http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1765
You’ve probably noticed that your veterinarian always requests that you bring in a fresh stool sample for your pet’s annual exam. For dogs and cats that go outside on a regular basis this makes perfectly good sense. But what about dogs and cats that rarely go outside? Is it really necessary to check their stools for parasites? The answer is yes. While they are at low risk for parasites they are not at no risk. But how would they get parasites if they don’t go outside? If they don’t go outside to get parasites then that means the parasites have to come inside to infect the pet. Dogs and cats can get intestinal parasites either by ingesting fecal material or by ingesting the tissues of what is known as an intermediate host. An intermediate host is an animal or insect that carries the intestinal parasite. Rodents can serve as intermediate hosts. So can fleas. Fleas are a common mode of tapeworm transmission in cats due to their grooming behavior. And rodents can carry fleas so they present a double threat. So if you’ve had a rodent infestation in your house then your pets may be at risk for parasites.
As I mentioned before fecal matter transmits parasites. Have you ever stepped in dog poop and tracked it into your house? It only takes a small amount of feces to transmit parasites.
So why do we care? First of all there’s the obvious. Intestinal parasites can make your pet sick. They cause inflammation of the GI tract leading to vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Second of all, certain parasites can be spread to people. Transmission occurs either by ingestion of feces or through the skin. Young children are most susceptible due to their tendency to put everything in their mouth. Roundworms, which are a common parasite of cats and dogs, can cause damage to the eyes in people leading to vision loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control over 700 people a year experience vision loss due to this parasite. Another parasite of dogs can cats that can infect people is the hookworm. Infection with this parasite can cause skin inflammation and abdominal pain.
The list goes on but I think I’ve made my point. In addition to being responsible for your pet’s health your veterinarian has an obligation to protect the public’s health. So as I alluded to before whether your pet goes outside on a regular basis or never leaves the house, you can’t be too careful. For more information check out the Center for Disease Control’s page on parasites at: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/