Caring For Your Pet’s Teeth At Home

This is the third article in our series of dental health articles, and arrives just in time for February, which is National Pet Dental Health Month!

In case you haven’t heard, our February Dental Health Month special is 10% off all dental procedures (see our article on the “COHAT” and what this includes!) as well as FREE dental goody bags for pets after their procedure. Read on for more information about what to do with the great home care samples you’ll find in that goody bag!

Home Dental Care – The Most Important Part of Your Pet’s Dental Health!

What would your breath smell like if you NEVER brushed your teeth? Like your dog’s breath, maybe? Our pets’ mouths have bacteria and plaque just like our mouths (and often theirs have more, especially depending on what your dog likes to chew…).

There are many things that you can do at home to support your pet’s dental health, to reduce buildup of plaque and tartar, and to prevent periodontal disease. None of these options require advanced or special skills, and any or all of them could make a difference for your pet. Your bottom line could benefit as well, as home care may be able to reduce the frequency of professional dental cleanings for some pets, and often, can prevent expensive tooth extractions or restorations later.

Brushing – The Gold Standard

Dog owner brushing an Australian Shepherd puppys teeth. Educational showing the proper method of handeling the puppy.

Brushing your cat or dog’s teeth is the absolute best way to prevent tartar and gum disease.

Ideally, we would brush our pets’ teeth daily, but the truth is even occasional brushing can still make a difference. The brushing action is the best way to remove the bacterial film that builds up on the surfaces of teeth, which would otherwise develop into plaque and eventually dentaltoothpastetartar. Pet-safe toothpastes in flavors like poultry, seafood, malt and vanilla-mint are available to help make the process more enjoyable for your pet, and may contribute a little to cleaning the teeth as well. You should not use human toothpastes with pets, as they frequently end up swallowing a good deal of toothpaste in the process.

Brush options vary from traditional pet bristle brushes to smaller rubber finger brushes. Human baby toothbrushes with SOFT bristles can be used as well, and sometimes work well for cat mouths or very small dogs. Experiment to find what is most comfortable for you and your pet!dentalbrushes

Introducing your pet to brushing could be a whole article itself, but the basic principles are: start young if you can, start with only brief sessions and work up, and make the experience fun and rewarding for your pet! Almost any pet can learn to have their teeth brushed and all will benefit from this special care you give them!

Here is a great video about dental disease that gives specific demonstrations of brushing and introducing your dog or cat to brushing!

Dental Chews, Treats, & Toys

dentalchewsThe chewing action dogs (and some cats!) enjoy can help them keep their teeth clean by physically rubbing off the bacterial film on the teeth, just like brushing can do. Some dental chews and treats may also contain other ingredients to help combat bacterial buildup. Brushing helps us address all the surfaces of the teeth – it has an advantage over products that clean the teeth by the chewing action because pets may chew using some areas of their mouth preferentially. They may be cleaning only those areas. Still, some cleaning of the teeth is better than none. Therefore, products that clean the teeth as the animal chews are still useful.

Dental chews and treats vary in how effective they may be – there is no regulation to prevent a company from claiming their product is good for teeth even if they have never tested it. Treats that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal have standards for their product with trials and are an excellent products with which to start. Other treats may also be effective, but one rule of thumb is if your pet is not actually chewing on the treat, they are likely not getting a lot of benefit from it!

Water Additives, Rinses, & Sprays

dentalrinsesWater additives and rinses are used to try to decrease bacteria in the mouth of our pets. Water additives like Oratene or AquaDent are put in the pets’ drinking water in small amounts, and act as a safe-to-swallow “mouthwash” each time the pet drinks. Oral rinses like DentaHex can dentallebaiiibe squirted over the pets’ teeth daily to help kill bacteria in the mouth.

Leba-III is a spray we offer that helps to promote a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth – it can be spritzed in the mouth twice daily to help keep teeth healthy.

Food – The Other Daily Dental Care Option!

td foodYou make an important health decision for your dog or cat every day – what to put in the food bowl! We carry not one but TWO food options that are clinically proven to help cats and dogs maintain healthy mouths. Both Hill’s t/d diet and Purina DH have the VOHC seal and are available for long term feeding that daily helps remove plaque and bacteria. They are suitable for almost every pet, and can be fed lifelong. They may be an especially good idea to start early in pets prone to dental disease.

Both foods use special kibble technology to help clean the teeth as the pet crunches their daily meal. These work best after a thorough cleaning, as they prevent buildup on clean teeth, but both are beneficial in ALL pets to slow down plaque and tartar accumulation.

YOU Can Do It – And We’re Here to Help!

brushcatteethThese are all wonderful ways for you to take an active role in protecting your pet’s health! Dental disease is such a common condition, and with just a little effort on the home front, pet parents can make a BIG difference in their pet’s oral health!

Please contact us with any questions about getting started with home dental care for your pet! Our doctors and staff would love to help find the right match for you and your pet.

Holiday Safety Tips! Xylitol, Salt Dough, & Poinsettias, oh my?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As you’re celebrating, are you aware of what you can do to keep your pets safe and happy, along with all the other family members?

We’re resharing our list of Winter & Holiday Safety links to help you and your pets have a great Holiday season! Click through for great info on avoiding common holiday dangers like tinsel & ribbons, pancreatitis from fatty treats, and more!

 

Please visit (and bookmark) our main Holiday & Winter Safety Links post!

 

Additionally, here are some specific things we’d like to feature for you this year:

Xylitol

There has been an increase in products that use the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can be incredibly toxic to dogs. (and real bad for cats too!) Even tiny amounts can cause poisoning, especially in small dogs. For something like sugar-free gums, depending on the xylitol content of the particular product, we are talking 3-4 pieces of gum in a small or medium sized dog! More peanut butters and diet foods are being made with this, so make sure to check the label before you “treat” your pets to any special holiday snacks!

This link has a large list of xylitol containing products!

Salt Dough Toxicity

Salt dough toxicity has also been in the news recently, and while this is an infrequently reported home poisoning risk, salt dough Christmas ornaments are certainly popular and prevalent! The amount of salt in these homemade doughs can cause severe toxicity, neurologic issues, and even death in some cases. If your dog or cat is an “unpicky” eater, and eats things he or she shouldn’t, make sure that these decorations are kept up high!

Poinsettias – good news!

This falls in the category of good news! Poinsettias are one of the most commonly cited holiday hazards, and while your pets certainly shouldn’t go around chomping on them, the good news is that they are much less dangerous than other things on our watch list. Chewing a poinsettia is likely to result in some mouth and stomach irritation, but usually doesn’t cause lasting damage for your pet. All the same, it’s best to avoid letting your pets chew on these living decorations.

 

We hope you have a very  happy and safe holiday season 2015-2016!

November Microchip Special!

We believe in microchip identification for all pets! Getting lost pets home is our health focus for November, and we are offering 10% off our microchip placement and lifetime registration!

WHY MICROCHIP?

As many as one third of all pets may find themselves lost or separated from their owners at one point in their lifetimes. Dogs get excited and run off to explore; fences are damaged in storms; delivery people or family friends accidentally leave a door open and a pet who normally stays indoors is suddenly out, scared, and lost – all of these can happen, and create a very scary situation!

Pets should wear collars and tags with contact information as well, but collars and tags can come off or can be removed, while a microchip stays with your pet for a lifetime. Tattoos sometimes fade, and sometimes they could be altered. A microchip is programmed with one unique number, and are in place for life.

Microchip implantation is a reliable way to ensure your pet’s identity is known wherever they may turn up – when a lost pet visits a shelter, animal control,or a good Samaritans who bring a found animal to a vet, the animal can be scanned for the microchip and its unique identification number that can set him/her on the path to getting back home.

HOW IS IT DONE?

The microchip is inserted with a quick and simple injection in the loose skin between the shoulder blades of cats and dogs. (Other species may have different locations) After that simple process, your pet’s ID is in place for life. A physical exam is not required for microchip placement!

Once the chip is placed, a scan is done right away to be sure everything is functional! Microchip scanners are made to be universal now, and able to pick up chips from any manufacturer. Having your pet’s chip scanned every year is also a great idea, to make sure no changes have occurred and help ensure your peace of mind.

MicrochipScanner

 

HOW DOES MY PET GET BACK TO ME?

Once a lost pet’s chip is scanned, the person or organization will use the number from the chip to help get the pet back home. Through phone numbers and websites, the microchip number allows the pet’s rescuer to find the contact information for the pet’s owner. The American Animal Hospital Association manages the http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ which is a universal search site anyone can use, and one of the easiest ways to look up information on a scanned microchip number.

Each microchip contains a unique ID number – but no other information. Your personal information is NOT stored in your pet’s chip! ID numbers will need to be registered and kept up to date so that the number leads back to the pet’s human family members.

At Compassion Animal Hospital, we take care of this lifetime registration when your pet gets the microchip. Your pet’s number will initially be linked to us, and then to you. Make sure to keep your registration information up to date with us and with the microchip company!

 

Again, in November we are offering a 10% discount off all our microchip services! And every new microchip implanted includes lifetime registration! Please call us with any questions or to schedule to have your pet microchipped today!  540-439-9016

 

Demystifying the COHAT – The Dental Procedure

October is a Dental Health Awareness Month at Compassion Animal Hospital!

As part of our ongoing effort to help your pets live long and happy, healthy lives we offer occasional monthly specials to address specific health concerns. Oral disease is a particularly prevalent but under treated condition.

In October we offer 10% off all dental procedures! We also provide free dental goody bags for your pet after his/her procedure, so you can continue with good oral health care at home. Feel free to call us for more information!

540-439-9016

This year we are also releasing some articles addressing dental health on a more in-depth level. Please enjoy our article below!

COHAT: Complete Oral Health Assessment & Treatment – What Happens During My Pet’s Procedure?

When you, the pet parent, and our doctors decide a professional dental cleaning or other dental health treatments are beneficial for your pet, there are often questions about what actually happens during the procedure. We prepared this article to help answer some of those questions and help explain the benefits to your pet.

First things first – why do we call it a “COHAT” and not a “dental”?

Many people used to refer to a veterinary oral exam and professional dental cleaning as simply “a dental”. However, we have shifted to calling the process a Complete Oral Health Assessment & Treatment, because that is a much better description of what actually occurs! The procedure is NOT just about cleaning teeth, but about a complete oral health and cancer screening, as well as treating and preventing oral disease for your pet.

Examination

During the COHAT, the veterinarian will first do a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth, including inspecting the teeth and recording any that are missing, broken, or diseased, measuring gingival (gum) pockets (an indicator of periodontal disease), evaluating the gums, cheeks, and tongue for any signs of cancer or other disease, and looking deep into the back of the throat. Since yourProbeChartDental pet is under anesthesia, this exam is far more complete and detailed than anything that can be accomplished in the normal exam room. Subtle changes, masses hidden under the tongue, and other crucial findings can be made on this exam which could be missed on a regular, awake exam.

Treatments & Cleaning

After the examination, the veterinarian can proceed to treatment of any disease found in your pet’s mouth. This may mean scaling and cleaning away tartar deposits (very common) on healthy teeth, and following with a polishing to smooth the enamel and make it more difficult for bacteria to adhere in the future. The equipment we use to clean your pet’s teeth is similar to, or sometimes exactly the same, as what is used for people in a dental office. The ultrasonic tool for removing tartar that we use has different tips and settings for cleaning above or below the gum line; this is one of the most critical parts of the COHAT, as so much of our pets’ dental disease is actually below the gum line. Without cleaning this crucial area, your pet’s plaque and tartar will come right BeforeAfterDentalback above the gum line, and the disease will continue deeper below the gum line to cause jaw bone disease.

Sometimes teeth are so diseased that th
ey may be loose and wiggly, or the bone around them may be infected or decaying. These teeth are sources of disease and pain, and thus, we often need to extract them to provide relief. Other teeth may have less severe disease and be repairable with a root canal and restoration, for which we can refer you to veterinary dental specialists.

What About The Anesthesia?

We wish our pets would all “open wide” for our dental procedures, but even people have trouble with this request! Anesthesia is the only way we can safely do the deep cleaning required for your pet’s oral health. For routine cleanings, your pet’s total anesthesia time is often less than 20-30 minutes, althoughMonitoringDental if there are more advanced procedures or necessary extractions, it may take a longer. (Another reason to be proactive about dental care!) The dentistry patient receives intubation to ensure a clear airway for breathing, inhalant anesthesia, and supplementary oxygen; warming, and close monitoring including ECG, blood pressure, oxygenation, temperature, and an assistant to watch over them before, during, and after the procedure are also provided. While no anesthesia is without risk, every patient gets our best care during their dental procedure. Preanesthetic bloodwork, IV catheters, and fluids are always recommended and sometimes required depending on the health and age of your pet. Our goal is always the best and safest treatment.

 

Please always feel free to discuss options for dental care for your pets with our doctors! We want you to be comfortable that your pet is getting the best preventive or corrective oral care possible for their health and wellbeing!

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