Tips for Bringing Your Feline Friend to the Vet

It’s that time of the year again, bringing in your beloved feline companion for his or her annual wellness exam. Many cats dislike going to the veterinarian’s office, and their dislike starts with the difficulty of getting them into the carrier at home. For many owners, this elicits a feeling of stress and can be more stressful than the actual appointment! Many of us are all too familiar with this routine. You’ll bring out the carrier and your furry friend will turn around and run in the opposite direction. Soon you find yourself chasing them around the house trying to catch your cat to put them into their carrier. This ordeal can be very stressful for both yourself and the cat. If this step can be made easier, the entire veterinary visit can be less stressful.

Understanding Cat Behavior

    Cats prefer a consistent daily routine and going to the veterinary office disrupts this routine. They are most comfortable with the familiar and need time to adjust to things that are unfamiliar. Cats do not learn from punishment or force, and they can sense our anxiety and frustrations. It is important to remain calm and patient with them.

Choosing The Right Carrier

     Of additional importance is your cat being safely transported to the veterinary office. A carrier facilitates this process. A carrier also helps the veterinarian team work safely with the cat during the appointment. Remember to choose one that will be easy for you to carry.

An ideal carrier should have:

  • Hard-sides that are sturdy and stable
  • Open from both the top and front
  • Can be taken apart in the middle.  

An easily removable top allows a fearful or anxious cat to say in the bottom half of the carrier for exams.



Acclimating Your Cat to the Carrier

    Usually cats only see the carrier once or twice a year when they go the veterinarian’s office, so they learn to associate the carrier with stressful situations. It is important to change this association by creating positive experiences with the carrier. Remember, it will take time for them to trust and become comfortable, so it is important to remain patient during this period.

     Here are a few steps you can take at home to help:

  • Leave the carrier in a familiar place at home by having it where your cat spends a majority of their time
  • Keep the carrier out at all times
  • Put his or her favorite toys, soft bedding, and treats inside the carrier
  • Reward your kitty for sitting calmly near or in its carrier with treats, play, or affection.

Getting Your Cat Ready to Go to the Vet’s Office

    If your cat is already in the carrier – great!

If not, move the carrier into a small room with few hiding places. Spray some Feliway (a synthetic feline pheromone) inside the carrier 30mins prior to transport to help calm the cat. Move the cat into the room and close the door. If the cat does not walk into the carrier, do not chase them into the carrier. Instead, open the top of the carrier and place your kitty in the bottom.

 

We look forward to seeing your kitty during the month of November for our feline wellness month! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office!

What Causes Dental Disease in Pets?

          Have you ever been relaxing on the couch with your pet and noticed a foul smell coming from their mouth? Upon looking in their mouth, you find thick, brown material stuck to their teeth? This is dental tartar. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in both dogs and cats, but it is entirely preventable. By three years of age, over 80% of dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. Dental disease differs in humans and pets. In people, the most common problem is tooth decay, caused by loss of calcium from the tooth enamel that results in painful, infected cavities. In animals, tooth decay is rare. The most common dental problems seen in dogs and cats are periodontal disease and fractured teeth.

Periodontal disease begins when the bacteria of the mouth forms a substance called plaque. Plaque sticks to the surface of the teeth followed by minerals in the salvia hardening the plaque into dental calculus (tartar) and firmly attaches it to the teeth. The tartar that you are able to see above the gum line is not necessarily the cause of disease. The real problem develops when this plaque and dental calculus spreads under the gum line. The bacteria in this “sub-gingival” space secretes toxins that damage the supporting tissue around the tooth, eventually leading to the loss of the tooth. When left untreated, the infection can spread from the oral cavity into the nasal passages weakening the jaw bone which results in a bone infection (osteomyelitis) that causes jaw fractures. This bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and be carried throughout the body. Studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Four stages of periodontal disease (see image):  

 Our pets cannot tell us, as owners, when they are suffering from a toothache; however, there are some signs you can look for in your pet. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact a veterinarian. 1) bad breath – this is a byproduct of the bacterial metabolic process. “Doggy breath” or “tuna breath” is not normal; 2) altered behavior – chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food, crying when yawning, acting “grumpy”, or not eating anymore; 3) bleeding from the mouth – look for thick, ropey saliva or blood coming from the mouth; 4) a swelling on your pet’s face that may indicate a possible abscess. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a veterinarian for a physical examination.

 

If your pet has tartar and/or large amounts of plaque present, a professional dental cleaning is required. This includes a thorough oral examination, scaling, polishing, and possible extractions. The veterinarian will record any abnormalities, extractions, and/or missing teeth on a dental chart. After the procedure, most patients are back to normal the next day. This is when home oral hygiene will help prevent the tartar from coming back. Home oral hygiene can improve the periodontal health of your pet, decrease the progression of the disease, and decrease the frequency of professional dental cleanings. There are many options for home oral care – come in today to discuss the options with a veterinarian!

 
October is dental month at our clinics (Compassion Animal Hospital, Catlett Animal Hospital, and Elkwood Animal Hospital) in which you will receive 10 % off dental cleanings, all extractions, and medications to go home. Come in today to have your pet receive a FREE dental examination to see if your pet could use a professional cleaning!

 

Congratulations!!

Congratulations to the winner of our Gutworm/Flea and Tick Prevention basket!! Bolo is going to love that his mom not only protects him from gutworms, fleas, and ticks, but he also gets a free basket of goodies!! Enjoy your new toys, Bolo!!

Stop by one of our offices in October to hear how you can win our coveted Dental Care basket!!

Heat Stroke: How It Happens, What to Do

Summertime is so much fun for all of us and our four legged friends. Unfortunately, there is an increased risk when it comes to dehydration and getting overheated. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and they do not have many sweat glands on their body. Their body is also covered in a layer of hair that is insulating in the winter but can trap heat in the summer. Here are some important facts to consider as you and your dog enjoy all that the summer has to offer:

Breeds that are at high risk for developing heat stroke:

  • Breeds with thick coats: great pyrenees, huskies, etc
  • Breeds with shortened faces: bulldogs, shitzus, etc

These high risk breeds should be monitored closely in the summer. They have a lot of trouble cooling off in very humid and hot environments. Those situations should be avoided if you have one of these breeds.

High risk situations for dogs developing heat stroke:

  • Leaving dogs outside without shade or water: Shade will most of the time provide adequate shelter from the sun, but remember if the ambient temperature is high, dogs can only cool through panting. Therefore, they can overheat in the shade if is really hot and humid outside.
  • Leaving dogs in the car: Sometimes even with cracked windows and water, the car gets too hot for dogs. Please leave your AC on if you leave your dog in the car.
  • Walking on pavement: Pavement radiates heat. It is not uncommon for dogs to get overheated on pavement. Also, their foot pads can get burned. Be sure to purchase little booties if the dog is going to be on gravel or hot pavement.

Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Rectal Temperature at or above 103*F
  • Dehydration
  • Non-responsive and laying on his or her side

 

What to do if your dog appears to be suffering from heat stroke:

  • Wet down body in bathtub or with a garden hose
  • Apply cold packs or frozen vegetables to the dogs head
  • Massage legs to encourage circulation
  • Give the dog cool water if it is able to drink
  • Check temperature every five minutes (Make sure it is decreasing)
  • Call a veterinarian. Heat stroke can cause swelling of the brain, kidney issues, and abnormal blood clotting. A veterinarian is needed to assess your dog and administer the appropriate treatments.

Heat stroke is one of the most serious emergency diagnoses that veterinarians make in the summer. Dogs suffering from heat stroke oftentimes have to stay in the hospital and receive IV fluids and other treatments. It is so tragic because it is a preventable problem. Please be mindful of your dogs when hiking, doing errands, playing outside, or leaving for work. Make sure that they are safe and having a good time too. If you have any questions about your pets safety in a situation, please call one of our offices. We would be happy to help!

Prevention Specials for Summer!!

NexGard and Heartgard Summer Special

 

We love summer!! The weather is nice which gives you the opportunity to explore the outdoors with your furry friends. Unfortunately, the warm weather also brings out pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. They hitch a ride on your furry companion and cause conditions like lyme disease, irritated skin, and heartworm disease to name a few.

Thankfully, there is an easy solution to preventing these harmful diseases! Giving a regular, monthly dose of prevention will keep these pests at bay. In addition, both NexGard and HeartGard come in a chewable form that makes it more enjoyable for your pet.

NexGard

NexGard kills fleas and ticks all month long in dogs; however, it is not safe for cats. Here are some fast facts from the maker of NexGard, Merial:

  • Effective against 4 tick species- Lone star ticks, blacklegged (deer) ticks, brown dog ticks, and American dog ticks
  • Kills fleas fast!  In a study, NexGard killed >99% of existing fleas within 8 hours after treatment.
  • Safe and effective for puppies as young as 8 weeks of age weighing 4 pounds or more
  • Dogs love the beef-flavored NexGard soft chew making it easy to give

https://nexgardclinic.com/ticks

HeartGard

There are three intestinal parasites that HeartGard prevents: Heartworms, Roundworms and Hookworms. Here is a description of the three parasites from Heartgard’s creator:

Heartworms can lead to severe problems with the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Heartworm larvae are transmitted through infected mosquitoes. They can be deposited in a dog with asingle mosquito bite. Heartworm disease can lead to death. It is costly and painful to treat. Heartworm disease is preventable.

Roundworms are the most common internal parasite among dogs. Adult roundworms live in the intestine. A large population of adult roundworms can block the intestinal tract. Dogs become infected with roundworms through the placenta, from nursing, or through contact with feces from an infected animal. Roundworms can be treated and controlled.

Hookworms feed on the intestinal lining of infected dogs, resulting in blood loss and inflammation. This can lead to anemia, debilitation and death, particularly in puppies. Hookworms can be spread through the ingestion of contaminated soil or feces, directly through the skin, or from nursing. Hookworms can be treated and controlled.”

https://www.heartgardclinic.com/sites/default/files/edu_media/HG-15000_ExamRoomMerch_CoachingCard_v6.pdf

 

Now until August, Nexgard and Heartgard are $40 off a six month supply and $80 off plus a $50 rebate for a twelve month supply. Call our office today to start your pet on life-saving prevention!!

June 2018: Anxiety Management

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is a very common behavioral problem seen in dogs. It is estimated that this affects somewhere between 14-29% of the general dog population. It may also become more common as dogs age and become seniors. This may be due to cognitive changes related to aging, or may be because of medical conditions that can develop as dogs become older. It is very important that all dogs with anxiety have an exam done to rule out medical problems that may contribute to these behaviors (such as arthritis or urinary tract infections).

The most common signs of separation anxiety are vocalization, destructiveness, and possibly house soiling. This behavior happens only when the owner is gone, and generally starts within 30 minutes of owner’s departure. Destructive activity often is focused on doors/entryways or owner’s possessions.

Dogs who have separation anxiety often display extreme attachment behaviors when owners are home. They will follow their owners everywhere, greet excessively, show anxiety when owners prepare to leave the house. These dogs rarely spend time on their own.

Separation anxiety can develop in young puppies during their sensitization period (between 3-12 weeks of age). Introducing young puppies to temporary separation from humans may help them learn to cope with being alone. Other times, separation anxiety can develop after moving to a new home, losing a housemate pet, or by a change in owner’s schedule. There may also be a genetic component to this behavior pattern, although there has been no determined breed or sex correlation.

Studies have shown a lower rate of separation anxiety and other behavioral problems in dogs who have been through obedience training. Shelter dogs may be more likely to have separation anxiety than the general population. This may be because owners are more likely to relinquish a dog with anxiety behaviors. Importantly, presence of another pet in the home does not consistently prevent separation anxiety.

Treatment of separation anxiety is possible, and most dogs do show at least partial response to therapy. Therapy must consist of both a training plan and drug/pheromone therapy to have the best chance of being effective.

Multiple studies have showed a decrease in severity of separation anxiety in dogs treated with fluoxetine (or prozac) in comparison to placebo medication. Often, studies will combine fluoxetine with DAP, which is a synthetic version of the pheromone created by mother dogs. This pheromone is another way to help dogs with anxiety problems, and works well in addition to medication.

Besides medications, a behavior plan is needed to treat a dog with separation anxiety. This behavior plan must teach the dog some independence. It is important to make it a positive experience for the dog to be alone. This can be done by providing a food-filled toy when owner is away from home, and taking it up as soon as owners return. Leaving the TV or radio on can also help dogs to cope with being alone. There is even a CD of music, called Through a Dog’s Ear, that was developed specifically to calm anxious dogs.

Upon return, owners should ignore the dog for 5-10 minutes to avoid creating excitement. Avoid excessive greetings! These only teach the dog to wait anxiously for his owner’s return. Do not pay attention to the dog until he is settled quietly.

Another important step is to remove the negative association the dog has with departure cues (such as putting on a jacket, picking up keys, etc). The owner should do these activities randomly throughout the day when not planning on leaving, so the dog learns that these events are not always a negative.

When the owner is home with the dog, the dog should still learn to be independent. Encourage the dog to lay further from the owner, even by creating obstacles (baby gates, etc). The dog should be positively rewarded for laying quietly by himself. If there are multiple people in the home, caretaking should be split between the people to avoid excessive attachment to one person.

Studies have shown that following this behavior plan, in addition to medications and supplements as needed, has been very successful in rehabilitating patients with separation anxiety. Please ask your veterinarian for help if you are having difficulties with your dog when you are away from the home, as there is a lot that can be done for these pets!

May is Alleviating Allergies Month!!

Do you see your pet scratching and licking a lot more than normal this time of year? Experiencing hair loss, inflamed skin, or recurrent ear infections? Did you know that up to 50% of dog are affected by allergies?! Don’t worry. We can help! We have so many products to help your pet overcome their allergy. This month we are offering 25% off Heska Blood Allergy Testing. Call one of our offices today to schedule an appointment to discuss specific options to relieve you pet’s itchiness, inflammation, and discomfort!

March 2018-Lyme Awareness Month

Lymes Disease in Pets

What is Lymes Disease?

We live in a beautiful Virginia with beautiful forests, grasslands, marshes, river, and mountain terrain. Unfortunately we and our pets are also living amongst deer ticks that are able to transmit Lymes disease to us. Lymes disease is caused by a tiny spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria lives in mice, deer, and other small mammals. Deer ticks serve as the vector that transmit Borrelia burgdorferi from wildlife to you or your pet. Both humans and pets can be bitten by the deer tick and contract Lymes disease.

What are the signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can go unnoticed for several months (~2-5 months) post tick bite exposure. After this period of time, symptoms can include a fever (>102.5 F), loss of appetite, lameness, joint discomfort and/or swelling, and reduced interest in walking and exercising. In addition, your pet may have swollen lymph nodes, become dehydrated, and severe chronic cases can cause kidney damage. If there is concern that your pet may be suffering from kidney damage, then your veterinarian may choose to check your pets kidney function through bloodwork and urine testing.

How is Lymes Disease diagnosed?

Being in an endemic region (where Lymes disease is common) like Virginia, clinical signs such as arthritis raise our concern that we may be dealing with a Lymes infection. There are multiple tick-borne diseases that can sometimes look alike, including Anaplasma, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Therefore, a snap 4DX is a great test to rule in and out Lymes disease. This test just requires three drops of blood and is able to identify Heartworm disease in addition to the three major tick borne diseases we look for (Anaplasma, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Sometimes your pet may come back with a positive response that shows he/she was exposed to Lymes disease at some point, but it may not be an active infection that requires treatment. Fortunately, the Lymes Disease vaccine will not cause a snap 4DX to be positive. We like to follow up a positive snap 4DX with what’s called a Lyme Quantitative C6 Antibody Test that looks for a special protein. This test helps to distinguish between just an exposure to Lymes versus an active infection.

Lymes disease is not transmissible between animals, between animal to human, or human to human. It is important to keep in mind, however, that if one member of your family (pet or human) is diagnosed with Lymes Disease, it is a likely indicator that all individuals were exposed to deer ticks. The best next step is to have each family member visit the veterinarian or human doctor to be tested and set up a plan to monitor everyone should signs arise later on.

How is Lymes Disease treated?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics that are able to kill Borrelia burgdorferi inside cells, in which it likes to hide. Your pet is often placed on a course of Doxycycline antibiotics for a month.

Following the antibiotic treatment course, we recommend vaccinating against Lyme disease.

How Can Lymes Disease be prevented?

Regular use of flea/tick prevention supplied by your veterinarian. We have a mild climate here in Virginia, so using flea/tick preventative every month of the year is best. Stay vigilant checking your pet and yourself for ticks. A deer tick has to be attached to and feed off the blood of your pet for 24 hours in order to transmit Lymes Disease. Therefore, your speedy removal of ticks from your pet will help to reduce the risk of your pet becoming infected. To safely remove a tick, grasp it with tweezers close to where it is attached to the skin. Talk to your veterinarian about also considering the Lyme vaccine for your pet. This vaccine is a two shot series initially (first vaccine then a booster vaccine about three weeks later) followed by annual boosters. If you’re able to, try to avoid tall grasses, marshes, and wooded areas.

What does Lyme Disease look like in humans?

The classic first sign seen in people that have been infected with Lymes disease is the “bullseye rash” (erythema migrans) that looks like a target symbol. Pets don’t typically show the target lesion like humans. Similar to pets, people also will show fever, headache, fatigue, muscle, and joint pain. Chronic Lymes Disease in people can also cause chronic joint pain, heart, and neurological problems. If you find a tick on yourself, or someone in your family, it is best that you see your doctor to be safe.

Resources:

https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/lyme-disease.aspx

https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/diseases/your-pet-and-lyme-disease

Lymes Disease in Horses

Similar to dogs and cats, horses infected with Lyme disease can have fever and lameness. In addition, equine cases of Lymes disease can cause neurologic problems, dermatitis, and uveitis (moon blindness). Spirochetes are attracted to cells of the collagen in the joints, the aqueous humor of the eye, the meninges of the brain, and the meninges of the heart. Frequently, fatigue, irritability, and reluctance to work and be ridden are seen.

With the presence of clinical signs including swollen joints and lameness, a snap 4DX can be performed stallside to find out whether your horse may have been exposed to Lyme disease. While sending a blood sample to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab to perform a Lyme Multiplex Assay is best to determine infection status, some owners may choose to do a course of Doxycline. Cornell’s Lyme Multiplex Assay test for Equine Lymes disease is able to distinguish between early and chronic infection. The test is able to measure for antibodies formed by the horse’s body in response to Borrelia burgdorferi outer surface proteins (osp proteins). For example, antibodies to ospF correlate to more chronic infections.

The best prevention of future Lyme disease cases is tick control and a Lymes vaccine. Currently, we have to use canine Lyme disease vaccines off label in horses. A study done by Cornell found that horses vaccinated with Novibac Lyme Vaccine had the best antibody response. Recombitek Lyme Vaccine had higher ospA antibody levels than Duramune Lyme vaccine. The researchers illustrate that it is critical for the efficacy of the vaccine to give a 2 mL, instead of a 1 mL dose. This boosts the amount of osp antibodies produced, as well as the duration.

Arthritis episodes tend to come and go.

Resources:

http://vet.cornell.edu/research/zweig/projects/changlyme01.cfm

https://www.ahvma.org/wp-content/uploads/AHVMA-2017-V47-Lyme-Disease-Equine.pdf

https://ahdc.vet.cornell.edu/docs/Guarino_Vaccine_Online.pdf

Got questions about lyme disease in dogs? We have answers…

Answers to Your Questions About Lyme Disease:

What causes lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdoferi, which is transmitted by a tick bite. A young tick picks up the bacteria by drinking the blood of a small host, usually a mouse, that is carrying the infection. As the tick matures, it begins to search for a larger host, such as a deer, human or dog. When it bites, the tick regurgitates into the animal’s blood to keep it from clotting. This regurgitation process is what transmits the bacteria to the animal. The tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours before this transmission process is completed. If the tick is removed before it has been attached for 24 hours, the lyme disease bacteria cannot be transmitted.

How is lyme disease in dogs different from lyme disease in humans?

Lyme disease affects our canine companions in a much different manner than it affects humans. Humans who are infected by the lyme disease bacteria due to a tick bite tend to quickly develop flu-like symptoms, a rash around the tick bite site, and potentially neurological or cardiac abnormalities. Dogs, on the other hand, do not tend to show signs of this disease right away. If they do develop signs of infection, it is weeks to months after exposure and tends to manifest as arthritis or joint pain.

Some dogs never show any clinical signs of the disease at all. However, lack of clinical signs does not mean that lyme disease is not harming your pet. Sub-clinical lyme disease can cause damage to the dog’s cartilage due to chronic low-level inflammation and the kidneys due to chronic stimulation of the immune system.

Do we have lyme disease in this area?

Yes! Lyme disease is unfortunately very common in this area, and this is a disease that our doctors are faced with on a daily basis. Even dogs in our area,  that stay inside the majority of the time contract this disease.

How do we treat lyme disease once it is present?

Veterinarians will often prescribe a 28-day course of doxycycline, which is the same antibiotic used in humans. This treatment simply lowers the levels of lyme bacteria so there is no longer an active infection, but some bacteria remain hidden in the body long-term.

We have never been able to completely cure Lyme disease. This is because it has one appearance (OspA) when it enters the body. Then, after entering the body, it changes the proteins on the outside of the bacteria to hide from the immune system (OspC). In the past, lyme vaccines only provided immunity to Osp A. A new vaccine from Zoetis teaches the body to be immune to both appearances of the lyme disease bacteria. It is the veterinary community’s hope that this vaccine will help your dog’s immune system rid itself of the OspA and OspC lyme infection completely. Thereby, curing the dog of lyme disease. Time will tell us if this is truly possible.

Chronic lyme infections require an antibody level test (called a “Quantitative C6 Test”). A dog with a higher C6 antibody level likely has an active infection and should be treated with doxycycline. This is the only way to determine the severity of your dog’s current lyme infection.

How do we protect our dogs from lyme disease?

Regular monthly flea and tick prevention is the absolute best way to prevent lyme disease in dogs. As stated above, the tick needs to be attached to the dogs for 24 to 48 hours to transmit lyme disease. Both oral (Nexgard) and topical (Frontline plus and Frontline Gold) flea/tick preventatives will cause the biting tick to die before this point of transference.

Sometimes we forget to give our dogs their flea/tick prevention on time. In that case, vaccination against lyme provides a second level of defense against the disease. Vaccination will cause the dog’s immune system to be prepared to kill the lyme bacteria.

Traditionally, the lyme vaccine had only worked for dogs that had not already been exposed to the disease. This is because the protein (OspA) that the vaccine created immunity against was the protein the bacteria wore inside the tick. The dog’s antibodies would kill the lyme bacteria before it even entered their bodies. This was great for lyme negative dogs but did not help dogs who were already infected. There is a new Zoetis lyme vaccine that creates immunity against a second protein (OspC) as well, this one that is expressed by the bacteria in the dog’s body. Immunity to this second protein will your dog’s immunity against an infection that is already present in his or her boy. This is why we will recommend vaccination with the Zoetis lyme vaccine after doxycycline treatment to help boost the dog’s ability to fight off the chronic infection.

Do you have more questions about lyme disease in dogs? Feel free to ask one of our doctors!

How to train your pet to love tooth brushing time

How to train your pet to love tooth brushing

 

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions that veterinarians diagnose in our canine and feline patients. Besides contributing to bad breath, dental disease can also result in pain and infection, which can cause a pet to become inappetant or ill. The most successful way to prevent dental disease in our pets is the same way we prevent dental disease in ourselves: daily tooth brushing. Although this can sound intimidating, most pets will learn to love tooth brushing with the appropriate training schedule. Even cats can be taught to participate in their own dental care when the training is slow, consistent, and full of positive reinforcement.

Step #1: Start brushing your pet’s teeth as early as possible! Although puppies and kittens may be taught to accept tooth brushing more easily, it is never too late for an animal to learn.

Step #2: Collect the supplies needed. There are many different kits used for pet dental care- some include finger brushes, others include more traditional toothbrushes with soft bristles. Either type of brush can work, depending on the pet. Pet toothpaste often comes in flavors such as poultry (the most popular flavor for both dogs and cats), beef, tuna and vanilla mint. Try out these flavors to see which your pet prefers. These toothpastes are enzymatic, meaning that they will continue to break down plaque on the teeth even after brushing is completed.

Note- do not use human toothpastes in dogs and cats. Animals end up swallowing a significant amount of toothpaste during brushing, and human toothpastes can cause an upset gastrointestinal tract. Also, it is much easier to train pets to love tooth brushing when the toothpaste is flavored like a treat!

Step #3: Determine the best time and location for daily toothbrushing. Animals do much better when there is a routine associated with the task they are learning (this also helps us  remember to brush the teeth daily!).

Step #4: At the chosen time and in the chosen location, call your pet to you. Reward them with a small amount of toothpaste on your finger. This will teach them to see the toothpaste as a treat. Repeat this step once daily until your pet readily arrives for the toothpaste. This may require just a couple days for some dogs, but other dogs and most cats may need a couple weeks of training before they are consistent.

Step #5: When the pet arrives for toothpaste, provide it for them on the toothbrush instead of your Image result for dental pictures dogsfinger. Allow them to lick it off the toothbrush. Repeat this daily until the pet shows no concerns about the toothbrush. Again, this can take days to weeks, depending on the animal.

Step #6: The next step is to get the pet to accept you touching his/her face while licking the toothpaste. Once this does not surprise the pet anymore, you can lift the upper lip on one side of the mouth to visualize the teeth.

Step #7: When lifting the upper lip on one side of the mouth, you can do a small stroke with the toothbrush and toothpaste. On the next day, do the other side. Continue to increase the time spent brushing, while paying attention to the comfort level of your pet. Make this process positive by praising your animal for good behavior.

Note- it is most important to contact the outer (cheek) side of the upper teeth when brushing an animal’s teeth, as this is where they build up most tartar. This is also the area that is most comfortable for animals to have brushed. You should also be able to brush the outer side of the lower teeth. Do not worry about the insides of the teeth near the tongue and palate. These areas do not build up as much plaque and can be addressed when the animal is under anesthesia for dental cleanings in the future.

Regular toothbrushing is easier to do when your pet enjoys and participates in the process! If your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing, please talk to us about other options to preserve dental health, such as dental diets, chews, and sprays. As always, even with regular toothbrushing, our pets will likely require regular dental cleanings under anesthesia over the course of their lives. The goal with toothbrushing is to decrease the need for these, resulting in less anesthesia time and better overall oral health for your pet.

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