Dental Hygiene In Dogs And Cats

Most of us know oral hygiene can play a critical role in a person’s overall health, but did you know the same applies for your furry friends? Humans schedule regular dental cleanings to keep their gums and teeth healthy, but dental health in dogs and cats may be overlooked by pet owners.

Dr. J.R. “Bert” Dodd, clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained some common dental hygiene issues in dogs and cats. “Poor oral hygiene in dogs and cats can lead to excess tartar, swellings in the mouth and severe wear of the teeth (or broken teeth) from chewing on inappropriate objects,” he said. “In addition, periodontal — or gum — disease can arise from neglected oral health. If preventative dental health is not practiced and periodontal therapy — which includes the scaling, root planning, curettage, and extraction of teeth — is ignored, your pet may become more susceptible to other health complications.”

In fact, an animal’s teeth may be more important to its overall health than most pet owners realize. For example, bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body and cause infections, so keeping the mouth healthy can help keep your pet’s body healthier. Dodd also explained that good dental hygiene can lead to a longer, healthier life for your pet. “Taking care of your pet’s mouth and keeping it nice and healthy can help the animal live longer,” Dodd explained. “Good oral hygiene can help prevent diseases or secondary infections, such as liver, heart, kidney and joint disease from bacteria originating in the mouth and spreading through the body via the bloodstream. A dog or cat’s teeth need to be well taken care of and treated with respect.”

Although your veterinarian can help in routine dental check-ups and treatments, dog and cat owners can reduce the risk of dental hygiene issues at home. “It is best to begin home care when your puppy or kitten is between eight and 12 weeks old; however, it is never too late to start,” Dodd noted. “The first step is to train your pet to accept the brushing of their teeth. The best approach is to establish a routine of brushing your pet’s teeth with gauze around your finger. It may be helpful to use beef or chicken broth with dogs or tuna water with cats to get them accustomed to the routine instead of using cleaning agents. Once your pet is familiar with the daily routine, you can switch out the gauze for a finger brush or a very soft toothbrush. Then you can incorporate using veterinarian-approved pet toothpaste.”

In addition to homecare, pet owners can arrange for their pet to have an annual teeth cleaning under anesthesia at their local veterinary clinic. Veterinarian prescribed dental diets, proper dental chew toys and drinking water additives — products that can be mixed into pet drinking water to help control bacteria level and plaque in the mouth — may also assist in preventing dental hygiene issues. However, if your pet has persistent bad breath, experiences bleeding from the mouth or tooth, a change in eating behaviour and sensitivity to touch around the mouth, it may be a sign of a more serious dental health condition.

Dental therapy for more serious health conditions include many of the same procedures that help humans maintain healthy teeth, gums and mouths. Available treatments include oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, restorations and even orthodontics. Some of these procedures may be offered by your family veterinarian or you may be referred to a board-certified veterinary dentist.

It is important for pet owners to recognize the connection between healthy teeth and their animal’s overall health. When you make a dental appointment for yourself, it might be a good idea to make a veterinary appointment to have your pet’s teeth cleaned as well. Proper dental hygiene helps promote a longer, healthier life for your pet.

From the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University: vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.

Dog Park Etiquette

Does your dog need a change of scenery? Consider taking Fido to the dog park, where he or she can play, exercise and socialize with other dogs and people. These activities can benefit your dog both physically and mentally

But that doesn’t mean Fido should be free to roam the park without your supervision.

supervision. Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered a few tips to keep your pet safe at the dog park.

“You should watch your dog at the park, and don’t be distracted,” Darling said. “Pay close attention to the dogs and their body language. Interrupt play if necessary to calm their behaviour, and remove your dog if it is afraid or being bullied by others. In addition, it can be helpful to leave toys at home to avoid your pet from guarding their toys.”

How do you know when to break up a play-date? Darling said any play that seems questionable should be stopped because it could lead to a fight. Questionable behaviours include stalking, possessiveness over a toy (such as aggressive tug-of-war) and wrestling, if more than two dogs are involved or if one dog is always on the bottom. Aggressive behaviour, such as neck biting, excessive barking, pinning another dog down and snapping at other dogs are inappropriate for the dog park and should be stopped immediately.

Other safety concerns for the dog park include the spread of infectious disease and parasites. Darling said it is important for dogs going to parks to be on medications that prevent heartworms, fleas and intestinal parasites. Dogs should also be up-to-date on their vaccinations, so it is best to leave puppies at home until they have all their shots. If you plan on visiting the dog park often, ask your veterinarian about Bordetella and leptospirosis vaccines.

“It is advisable for dogs that have contact with other dogs to be vaccinated for Bordetella, commonly known as kennel cough, a contagious respiratory disease,” Darling said. “In addition, consider vaccinating for the leptospira bacteria, which can be exposed to your dog in ponds with stagnant water or by contaminated urine from wildlife.”

adventure, you may find one at the dog park. But before you grab your leash and head out the door, make sure your pet’s health is protected and you are ready to supervise your pet.


Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science. etmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.

 

Cataracts

I f you’ve noticed your pet’s eye lenses becoming cloudy or opaque, your pet could be developing cataracts. Though cataracts can decrease vision, or even cause complete blindness, not every companion animal that develops cataracts requires surgery. Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how cataracts can affect pets.

“A cataract is an opacity of the lens,” Vallone said. “A clear lens is necessary for good vision; thus, any opacification can cause decreased vision. However, not all cataracts are the same. Some cases of cataracts are so severe they can cause blindness and inflammation in the eye, which may cause significant discomfort. Some cases are small enough they don’t interfere with vision at all and should be monitored.”

All companion animals can develop cataracts, but Vallone said cataracts are common in dogs. Several breeds of dogs may be predisposed to cataracts, though not every dog within these breeds are affected.

“Veterinarians encourage dog breeders to participate in breed-soundness examinations,” Vallone said. “These examinations screen dogs for any evidence of heritable disease. Specifically, veterinary ophthalmologists will usually recommend prospective pet owners to ask dog breeders if their dogs have undergone yearly Eye Certification Registry (ECR) examinations. These examinations are performed by board-certified ophthalmologists and help breeders to eliminate cataracts that are potentially inherited.”

Vallone added that cataracts in companion animals — especially dogs — could be a sign of another health concern, such as diabetes mellitus.

“In addition to cloudiness of the eyes, diabetic animals often display fluctuations in appetite, weight, thirst and urination,” Vallone said.

Currently, cataract surgery is the only treatment for companion animals to restore clarity to the lens. Vallone said the procedure is similar to cataract surgery in humans but requires general anesthesia. Topical therapies often can prevent the common and painful complications of cataracts but cannot restore vision.

If you think your pet may be developing cataracts, consult your veterinarian. All animals with any form of cataracts should be evaluated by a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist to help preserve vision and health.

 

From the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University: vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.