Pets Need Dental Care Too
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
Timmy, a sweet little 6 -year-old Papillon rescued from a breeding kennel, came to the clinic for an exam in 2011. He had a high grade heart murmur and severe dental disease. On blood tests, he was positive for heartworm disease and he was very anemic. He was also carrying the intestinal parasite, whipworms. He went through very expensive treatment for heartworm and whipworms and came back to us in four months for his dental cleaning. He had a mouth full of infected, abscessing teeth and recessed inflamed gums. He had over 20 rotting teeth extracted from his mouth. A week later he had already gained over a pound of weight back and his heart murmur had disappeared! He has had other dental cleanings since and is happy to have been rescued into a loving home and be given a much better quality of life!
As a veterinarian, one of the best things I can do for a pet is to help the owner maintain his or her pet’s dental health. Performing the necessary dental cleanings, dental extractions, and sending that pet home comfortable and free from painful and infected teeth brings much satisfaction; I have done what is best for the pet. I have seen pets with periodontal disease across the spectrum: from mild tartar buildup, to loose abscessed teeth. These abscessed teeth can be so severe that the infection has eaten into the pet’s jawbone or sinuses. Many times the owner does not know what is happening to the pet’s teeth, because some pets hide the pain well. You may see your pet chewing on one side of their mouth, swallowing food whole, pawing at their mouth, or crying when eating. In all cases of dental disease, the pet will have bad breath. This is usually the first clue to let you know your pet needs its teeth cleaned! Dental disease can also lead to a showering of bacteria into the body, affecting the internal organs. An area to which the bacteria may attach is the heart valves. This can cause a dangerous condition called bacterial endocarditis, and will eventually lead to permanent damage to the pet’s heart. Many times we can not hear a heart murmur with this condition and it may go unnoticed initially!
We recommend having your pet’s teeth checked on a regular basis. Your cat can develop severe gum disease or cavitations in their teeth called resorptive lesions. Resorptive lesions are similar to our cavities and can cause loss of the protective enamel of the tooth. When the sensitive dentin underneath is exposed, it can be very painful and these teeth should be removed. Dogs are more predisposed to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the buildup of tartar along the gum line of the teeth. This tartar can cause painful recession and inflammation of the gums, loosening of the teeth, and abscesses. Once the heavy tartar builds up, it should be scaled off while the animal is under a general anesthetic.
Just as it is important for us humans to have teeth cleaned every 6 months, it is important to have a pet’s teeth cleaned on a regular basis. A dental cleaning at our clinic includes first a thorough dental examination prior to the surgery. The pet is started on an antibiotic five days prior to the dental. The pet is admitted the morning of surgery and examined again to assure that it is safe to undergo an anesthetic procedure. Blood work is drawn to check the pet’s blood cells, kidney levels, liver values, and blood sugar. When the blood work is determined to be OK, the pet is sedated for the procedure. The sedation includes a pain injection like Morphine to keep it comfortable during the procedure and on wakeup. An intravenous catheter is placed for fluid administration and an intravenous induction drug, tailored specifically for your pet, is administered putting your pet completely asleep. A tube is then placed directly into your pet’s windpipe and anesthetic gases and oxygen are administered during the rest of the procedure. During the procedure, your pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide status, and temperature are all monitored. Each pet receives its own dental pack and a thorough dental scaling is performed using an ultrasonic scaler. Each surface of the tooth is scaled for 2 minutes and scaling is also performed under the gum line. Each tooth is probed thoroughly looking for any pockets or cavities. At this point we may choose to take dental radiographs of any questionable teeth and extractions of bad teeth are done by the doctor. Any open sockets are sutured closed, we may do an antibiotic infusion on any small pockets, and the remaining teeth are all polished thoroughly. Finally, the mouth is cleaned and a fluoride treatment is placed on all tooth surfaces. Your pet is sent home with pain medications and a home dental plan. We then recheck your pet in 7-10 days to check how the gums are healing. Many times I’ve rechecked pets after dental cleanings to have the owner tell me how he or she never really realized the pet was suffering until the procedure was done. I hear comments like “She’s acting like a puppy again!” or “He has so much more energy and I never knew his teeth were the problem!”
Do not be enticed by dental cleanings that are advertised by someone other than a veterinarian. The person is performing a medical procedure on your family pet without a license; it is illegal! Such people are not trained properly to do a procedure like this and may not have the proper equipment. It is important to have a dental procedure done under general anesthesia to thoroughly exam all the teeth in the pet’s mouth. General anesthesia is extremely safe as long as it is done properly and the animal is monitored correctly.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian about how they monitor the pet while it is under anesthesia. There can be wide variations in the care that is provided for your pet. Without full anesthesia and a full exam by a trained professional, many conditions can go unnoticed. Scaling, polishing, and probing your pet’s teeth can be painful for the pet if it is awake.
For the month of February the clinic is offering $25 off a dental cleaning and a free dental kit to help start dental home care for your pet. Home care is important as well and might include daily brushing with pet safe toothpaste, mouth rinses, dental chews and treats, and even a dental diet! Call to set up your appointment today and ask about what dental products we offer. Also stop down to try some free samples of some dental products.
New Year’s resolutions for you and your pet
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
Happy New Year! January has arrived not only with new snow, but also with the hope of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions. Every year I make the resolution to eat better and exercise more. Some of the best exercise this time of year includes my pets. My dogs and I enjoy snowshoeing or hiking in our back woods depending on how deep the snow is. You too can include your pets in your New Year’s resolutions! Some of the areas for improvement follow:
1. Diet: Everyone, including our pets, seems to put on a few pounds from the holidays and the long winter days. What better way to improve our health than by watching both our own calorie intake and that of our pets. A place to start with our pets is cutting out unhealthy snacks and table treats. January is Obesity Prevention Month at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. We promote healthy weight loss by assessing your pet’s body condition score and recommending a diet to help maintain a healthy weight and to give your pet a better quality of life. We also offer a discount on our diet foods for the month of January. Call us for more details.
2. Exercise: Including your pets in your exercise routine is not only good for you and your pets’ physical health but also for your mental health, creating an even closer bond between you and your pets. There are all kinds of great exercises you can do with your pet from just a simple daily walk to crazy new exercises like skijoring or doggie yoga. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are my favorite winter activities with my dogs Jake, Chili, and Maizy. My favorite summer activities with my dogs include hiking and kayaking.
3. Staying healthy: It is important for us to have yearly physicals, dental cleanings, and other tests as we age; it is important for our pets as well. Consider scheduling your elderly pet for senior testing. This might include routine blood tests, a thyroid test, a chest x-ray and EKG, and an abdominal ultrasound. Underlying conditions can be caught early and managed effectively with this routine testing. It is important for many pets to have yearly dental cleanings. I recommend scheduling pets for a thorough dental exam and estimate for a dental cleaning. I can also discuss ways to improve your pet’s dental health at home.
4. Time with family: Another one of my New Year’s resolutions includes spending more time with my family. Pets are family and it is important to include them in many of our daily activities and give them the time they deserve. This might just be taking them for a ride to run an errand, taking them on a trip with you, or just taking a few minutes each day to play together.
5. Saving money: A big New Year’s resolution many people make is to try to manage expenses and create a budget. I recommend cutting back on unnecessary expenses for your pet like expensive toys, treats, or clothing. Some of the extra money spent on these things could be put into a savings account or an emergency fund for your pet if you are faced with a costly emergency.
6. Giving of yourself: A great resolution for the New Year would be to give of your time and your pet’s time for those in need. Examples would be visiting a nursing home or an assisted living home with your pet. Another great way to give of your time to help pets in need would be to volunteer at one of the local humane shelters, animal rescues, or SPCA. Also consider helping these organizations by fostering a pet or adopting a pet.
Whatever your New Year’s resolution might be, consider how you can include your family pets! Have a safe and happy new year from the doctors and staff at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic.
It was a close race! When all the dust settled, it was Bailey who was chosen the winner of our contest! Congratulations Bailey! And cute, cute, cute! – that’s what we say about all of the participants, and thank you! You are all winners in our eyes!
…and we have some exciting things going on!
Stop by and enter our FREE RAFFLE to win a bag of Hills Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution food! While your here, schedule your pet for a FREE tech exam that includes a weigh-in with a Body Condition Score so your pet can get started on a weight loss plan! You can also call us to schedule a time at 716-366-7440.
A Christmas Journey: Understanding how the Holy Family felt
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
The semester had just ended. There was an air of excitement and exhilaration in the student body at the University of Illinois, School of Veterinary Medicine as we all packed up to head home for Christmas. Finals were done, and we wouldn’t be back for classes until January. Although it was a long and monotonous trip, I was excited to make the 10-hour drive home across the corn fields of Illinois and Indiana, up through Ohio, and Pennsylvania and finally the last stretch through New York to home. There on our little hobby farm I would see my fiance Daryl, my family, and my pets I had left behind.
It was December 23, the day before Christmas Eve as I packed my clothes, my two bearded dragons Hydra and Drake that I had hand raised from babies, my elderly Siamese cat Angel, and my loyal Papillon Foxy. Foxy sat in the passenger seat while Angel rode in my lap. Hydra and Drake enjoyed sitting on the dashboard right on the heat vents of my 1991 Honda Accord.
My Honda was the most reliable car I had ever owned. Handed down to me from my Grandma, it made many 600-mile trips back and forth to school. It never gave me any problems and it would prove to me this day its reliability. I had gotten a bit of a late start that morning as my roommate and I closed up our apartment for the break. The first stretch was across Illinois, crossing into Indiana. It was a cool and crisp but sunny day. They were calling for snow in Indiana and Ohio, but a little snow never deterred me after living in the great snow belt of Chautauqua County. It would be about 5 hours to my halfway point, Columbus, Ohio.
The pets were all resting comfortably in their places as we headed through Indiana. It had started to snow as we drove through Indianapolis. After leaving the city, the snow was picking up a bit and the roads were not plowed very well. The whole last half of Indiana, I saw one snow plow and there was no salt on the roads. It was quite dark already due to the snow clouds ahead. As I continued to drive in my sturdy old car, I came upon a truck off the side of the road. Eventually there would be more vehicles off the road as I crossed into Ohio. The snow was coming down harder the farther I drove and the traffic was backing up. It seemed like the Midwest was overwhelmed by the storm and did not have the means to handle the heavy snow that night.
Now this was before cell phones had become a permanent attachment and a necessity. I had yet to acquire and embrace one of these new technological advancements. I pulled off the road to get some gas and called my parents from a pay phone to let them know I wasn’t sure if I’d be making it home that night. I was anxious as it was getting dark and I didn’t know if I should keep driving or make a stop for a few hours. I decided to keep driving. At this point I was somewhere near Dayton, Ohio.
I had put the two Beardies back in their cage, and was grateful I had my faithful Foxy and sweet Angel to help calm me and keep me company as I continued to drive. The snow and the traffic continued to get worse. I looked at my road map and decided to get off the interstate to attempt driving on a road that ran parallel to the poorly plowed highway.
It seems other people had the same idea and soon I came across backed up traffic again. Up ahead of me there was a bridge and a sharp curve in the road. Two cars that had gotten in an accident were blocking the way and a large semi was stuck in the snow right behind the accident. I had no other choice but to turn around and head back to the interstate. I continued to drive going about 30 miles per hour until I was somewhere outside of Columbus, Ohio. By this time it had been about 8 and hours since I had left my apartment in Illinois.
I finally decided to pull off the road and find a place to stay for the night. As I stopped at the well known hotels I was turned down immediately, as there were no rooms available. I continued to drive and see signs that said “No vacancy” I now understood what it felt like for Joseph and a very pregnant Mary those many years ago as they traveled to Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. They were turned down time and time again until the only place left was the stable with the animals. I could just feel their desperation. Weary with traveling the many miles, Mary burdened with aches and pains from pregnancy and possibly the start of contractions as she was to give birth to God’s son that night. I asked one of the hotel staff why there were no rooms. The whole city of Columbus had been without electricity from the storm and people were coming in droves to stay in the nearby hotels and motels.
I was desperate and finally came to the last hotel on that road. It was called the “Best Inn” and looked like a small run-down privately owned hotel. It was my last chance. There was a drive through window to check for vacancy. I drove up trying to hide my pets from their view. I had a pleading look on my face as I asked for a room.
“Yes, we happen to have only a couple of rooms available!” Thank God! I pulled around to my room with my family of pets in tow and had the best sleep that night. The next morning I woke up early and left for home. It took me approximately 3 hours to get north to where the roads would be clear. Coming close to Cleveland, the snow was deeper, but the roads were clear! We made that last stretch home in a breeze. As I pulled into my driveway that Christmas Eve, I couldn’t help but be grateful and thankful for safe travels, for a place to stay, and for a house and family to go home to. I was grateful for the opportunity that God had given me to be accepted to veterinary school and for my wonderful pets that night that helped me through a very difficult trip home even the bearded dragons.
As you create your own Christmas memories this year, consider how much we are blessed with. Be thankful that God has given us the job as caretakers of His creatures and that in return for our care, they give us never-ending love and companionship. Please consider including your pets in your celebration of the holidays this year and also remember what the holidays are about. May God bless you and your family and safe travels from the doctors and staff of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic.