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Dental Health

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Do wish you had a gas mask on when your dog gets too close or your cat climbs up for some loving. Bad breath is a frequent complaint of many pet owners. Halitosis is a sign of significant dental disease in pets. Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in our pets. It is reported by the American Veterinary Dental Society that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have dental disease by the age of 3 years. The signs of dental disease include bad breath, yellowish discoloration of the teeth, redness at the gum edges and broken teeth.

Oral disease begins with the buildup of bacteria in your pet’s mouth. Bacteria combine with food debris and saliva to form plaque on teeth. The bacteria grow in the plaque and calcium salts are deposited to form plaque or tartar, which is what is seen as the yellowish discoloration on your pet’s teeth. The tartar attracts more bacteria and its rough surface enhances the attachment of bacteria. The bacteria are the real offenders in this process. The inflammation and destruction that accompanies periodontal disease results from the direct action of these bacteria and their by-products. Left untreated, dental diseased can lead to oral pain tooth, loss and disease in other parts of the body.

The bacteria that have accumulated in your pet’s mouth are also absorbed into the blood stream. Organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart and brain, which filter the blood, can develop small infections, which can lead to permanent organ damage.

The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable and treatable. If your pet has signs of dental disease a trip to see us is in order. The veterinarians at our clinic can examine your pet and determine a treatment plan for your furry friend. If significant disease is present your pet will require an in clinic treatment to remove built up tartar and plaque and to further treat the periodontal disease. Once your pet’s oral health has been restored preventative care can begin.

The best preventative care starts early before disease is present. The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. If you are unable to brush your pet’s teeth everyday adding in a dental diet like Hill’s T/D will provide the dental care needed to keep your pet healthy. We are more than happy to talk to you about the options that exist and the right ones for your pet.

Winter Needs Outdoors for Pets

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Provide proper shelter, warmth, food, water, and exercise for dogs and cats during the winter months. While some dog breeds are better equipped to survive the winter outside, all dogs have basic needs to meet in order for them to survive the cold winter months. With the winter season quickly approaching it is time to think about pets that spend a majority of their time outside. Dogs are pack animals and should be considered a part of the family. It is my opinion that if the dog is going to spend it’s life in the back yard or in a pen or worse yet at the end of a chain, then what is the purpose in owning the dog? That being said, there are always going to be outside dogs and these dogs need special care during the winter months.

Temperature – If the temperature drops below freezing, please bring the animals inside, whether they are cats, dogs, rabbits, whatever. If its below freezing and the animals do not have proper shelter they could freeze to death. (I’ve seen it and it’s not pretty). If the animals are absolutely not allowed in the house then consider setting aside a special place for them to winter in the garage or a barn. If they are in the garage keep in mind that animals are also susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Arctic breeds – Many breeds of dogs can be traced back to the arctic, in some ways these breeds are going to be better equipped to handle the cold weather because they will have a thick undercoat to act as insulation. I can not possibly name all the breeds that can be considered arctic but some include: Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Husky, Alaskan Malamute, American Eskimo Dog, Akita, Finnish Spitz, Norwegian Elkhound, Shiba Inu, Chow Chow, and Black Russian Terrier. Owning an arctic dog does not mean you do not have to provide a warm shelter. These dogs need shelter during the winter too.

Shelter – If you own an arctic breed of dog it will still need a warm shelter to retire to. This shelter should be sturdy, with a floor. The floor should be 1 – 2″ off the ground. The cold ground can literally suck the warmth out of your dog’s body. By elevating the floor of the shelter and building the walls so that they touch the ground, you leave a pocket of air under the doghouse that can act as insulation. The roof can be peaked and shingled. Size matters,. Your doghouse walls should be 1 ½ times longer then the dog and 1 ½ times taller then the dog, measuring from the ground to the shoulders. If the doghouse is made too big, the air inside will not fully warm and the dog will use a lot of energy trying to stay warm.

Warmth – All animals that are going to spend the winter outside need warmth. I know some dog owners who keep their dogs outside and provide wonderfully for them. Most of these people own hunting dogs or are very active and spend a lot of time with their dogs. These dog owners are over achievers and have heated doghouses Heated doghouses are definitely the way to go for outside dogs but take care not to use portable heaters as a heat source. They can burn your pet or start a fire. Bedding will also be needed. Straw and cedar can lead to allergy problems so I would stick with rugs and blankets that can be laundered. If the temperature drops and your pet is shivering then it is time to come inside. Older pets of any breed are more at risk for freezing then younger pets. Older dogs also suffer with arthritis which can be more troubling during the winter. Watch for frostbite, usually on ear tips, tail, and foot pads. Symptoms to look for include: ice on the body, shivering, affected tissues become red, then pale, then black. Seek help from a veterinarian if you suspect frostbite. Some short haired breeds or companion dog breeds lack an undercoat and will need a doggy sweater if they are going outside for any length of time. Longer haired dogs should have the coat trimmed around their paws so ice and snow does not collect around the toes and pads. The coat should be brushed daily and checked for mats; a matted coat does not insulate as well as a healthy coat.

Food and Water – During the winter an outside pet may require more calories in order to maintain a healthy weight. It takes more calories to stay warm so watch carefully, take your pet to the veterinarian for weight checks if necessary. An older dog or cat will not be able to withstand the cold as well as a younger animal so especially watch for weight loss in senior pets. Water should be provided in plastic bowls and kept ice free. If your water dish is metal the animals tongue could get stuck to the side. Remember being told not to stick your tongue to the flag pole? Heated water bowls can be purchased at pet stores and on the web, try

Play and Exercise – Outside pets need to play and exercise during the winter as well as when it is warm outside. Many times owners become fair weathered and stop exercising their pets during the winter months. Don’t forget your furry friends during the winter, many health concerns can be found during play and exercise – watch how your pet moves, is it limping? Limping and slow to move from a down position to a standing position and vice versa, and a hesitancy to go up and down stairs could indicate joint problems. Many times joint problems can be helped with medications prescribed by a veterinarian, don’t let your pet suffer in silence. Also watch your pet for weight loss. Outside pets need a fat covering to act as insulation against the cold. Spending more time with your pet will allow you to notice changes in your pets appearance and the way it moves and catch health problems sooner rather than later.

Additional Information – Keep pets away from rock salt as it can burn their paws. If your pet does walk through rock salt, wash its feet with warm soapy water immediately. Keep pets away from antifreeze; a very small amount will kill dogs and cats. If you see your pet swallow antifreeze get it to your veterinarian immediately. The sooner treatment is started the less damage is done to your pet’s kidneys. If treatment is not provided your pet will die. Cats like to find warm places to curl up and nap. Unfortunately during the winter many cats find their way into the hood of automobiles. During the winter, hit the hood of your vehicle several times to wake and scare the animal from the engine. Let’s face it, cats live longer as inside pets. © Charla Dawson

Seasonal Concerns

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Winter edition

Winter can be as much fun for your pet as it is for you. Pet owners need to take some precautions to keep their animal companions safe during this season.

Holiday Hazards


Alcohols can be found in many forms in addition to the obvious beverage sources. Other sources of toxicity can include raw dough containing baker’s or brewer’s yeast and antifreeze. Cats and dogs seem to be attracted to the smell and taste of alcohol. Again, cats are more sensitive to toxicity, but dogs are more likely to ingest the compound. Alcohol is metabolized in the body to compounds that can change the animal’s acid/base balance, resulting in symptoms ranging from depression, vomiting and dehydration to kidney failure, coma, and death. The prognosis for recovery is highly dependent on the rapidity of treatment, so if you suspect alcohol toxicity in your pet, it should be brought to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Onion, Garlic and Chives

A popular ingredient in recipes, all members of this plant family (Allium) are potentially toxic to pets. Both fresh plants and dried powders can be dangerous. Cats are much more susceptible than dogs, where even a small amount of onion powder in baby food can make a cat ill. The toxic compound causes destruction of red blood cells, resulting in the most common symptoms of weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and pale or blue mucous membranes.

Grapes and Raisins

Although grapes and raisins are not commonly encountered during the holidays, the severity of their potential toxicity warrants mention. They are a controversial topic, but all forms of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause acute kidney failure in some dogs, cats, and ferrets. For this reason, the ingestion of grapes and raisins by pets should be avoided.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

For those holiday headaches, we often reach for those pain killers. However, what is safe for humans is not necessarily safe for animals. Acetaminophen is especially toxic to cats, as they do possess the capability to eliminate the compound effectively. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, no interest in food, and depression. Swelling of the face also occurs in cats. Severe cases can result in liver failure, and medical treatment should be sought in cases of ingestion of any amount acetaminophen.

In addition, other pain killers (such as ibuprofen) can also be dangerous to pets. These should not be given to your animal under any circumstance, and consultation with your veterinarian is advised if any is ingested.

Poinsettia and Mistletoe

A common decorative piece during the holidays, poinsettia leaves, stems, and sap are poisonous to animals. The most common symptoms observed are vomiting and diarrhea (with or without blood), drooling, pawing at mouth, and swelling of the lips and tongue. Mistletoe berries are the most toxic, but the entire plant can be dangerous as well. Signs can be similar to poinsettia toxicity, but can also include heart and brain abnormalities, collapse, and death. Poinsettia and mistletoe plants, if a necessary addition to the household, should be kept well out of your pets’ reach.
Other common toxic household plants include aloe, amaryllis, lily, and daffodil.

Ribbon and Tinsel

Everyone knows that cats love playing with string. For some unknown reason, they love to chase it, catch it, and chew it. Unfortunately, “linear foreign objects” of all types – ribbon, yarn, thread, tinsel – can create life-threatening problems for animals if they are eaten. Although cats are more likely to ingest string, dogs are equally as susceptible. The issue arises when the string lodges somewhere in the intestinal tract, such as at the base of the tongue or while exiting the stomach, and the intestines continually try to move the string through. This is often a surgical emergency and prevention is the best way to deal with these situations.

Electrical Cords

In comes the holiday season and out come the twinkle lights. While the lights are beautiful, often electrical cords are to some animals the equivalent of licorice to children. They are fun to chew on, and are especially attractive to chew-happy puppies and rabbits. Electrical burns are painful and often life-threatening, so wires should be removed, hidden, buried, or out of reach from potential chewers.


Rich food can also take its toll, causing rebellion of the stomach and intestines, and inducing pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease. Any dog can develop pancreatitis if given food it’s not used to. High-fat meals are especially bad. Pancreatitis is easy to avoid – don’t feed extras (or at least not in substantial amounts) and don’t give your dog access to a kitchen filled with food.

The Bottom Line

Enjoy the festivities, but at the same time be conscientious of what is in and around your household. If you know your pet is likely to get him or herself in to trouble, make sure you are one step ahead.

Happy Holidays from the staff at Highway 24 Veterinary Clinic!