Dental and oral care for pets - what you should know

Dental and oral care for pets – what you should know

February is celebrated as pet dental month across North America. Every year, veterinary clinics offer free oral exams as well as freebies related to oral care for pets, in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of oral care for companion pets. Dental disease is a very common problem for pets; we all have said to our pooch at one time or another, “Oh, you have stinky breath”. Halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis should be hard to ignore in dog as they love giving kisses and being in our faces a lot!

The obvious benefits of keeping up with oral care include good teeth and good breath. It should be remembered that good oral health also helps keep the roots of the teeth healthy and prevents cavities. Infected teeth can be a source of infection going to the heart or kidneys, leading to other illness.

The gold standard of dental care for pets is the same as it is for humans – daily teeth brushing, even twice a day brushing. Flossing teeth for pets hasn’t quite made it yet, for obvious reasons. Brushing should be supplemented by dental chews and treats that help with minimizing plaque buildup. To round up a complete dental care plan for your pet, it is important for them to receive an annual oral examination performed by your veterinarian. This is where veterinarians help cut costs by offering the free oral exams during February. An exclusive canned diet can lead to progressive dental plaque build up; it is even more important for animals on exclusive soft diets to receive ongoing teeth brushing and dental evaluations.

Recently, it has become very fashionable to pursue “non-sedation dentistry”. I should point out that such a form of teeth cleaning is not recommended or approved. In fact, in provinces like Ontario, it is regarded malpractice. Such a service is of cosmetic benefit to the teeth only, and offers no additional health benefits to pets. Dental care for pets is not an art, it is science.

An authentic dental cleaning and prophylaxis for pets is exactly the same as would be performed for humans, except all pets need some form of sedation. All pets need sedation because you cannot explain the process away to pets, as you would to a human. A dental procedure includes scaling the tartar off the teeth, probing under the gum line to assess for cavities, polishing, dental x-rays and extractions where indicated. Decades back veterinarians used to scale teeth on awake animals as part of dental care; but this practice was learnt to be of no benefit. In fact “non-sedation dentistry” for pets can be harmful as it may help mask or hide gum infections which can lead to bad breath, cavities, loose teeth, kidney & heart infections etc. If your pet hasn’t had an oral exam for longer than a year, it is time to book a vet appointment.

Please note: Out veterinary team at Hastings Veterinary Hospital provides FREE dental & oral health evaluations during January-February every year. Dental prophylaxis and cleaning is also provided for cats and dogs at discounted prices during this period, each year.

By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.

Workouts and exercises for dogs

Workouts and exercise for dogs

Dog is man’s best friend! Living with a dog brings a lot of enjoyment in our lives – the unquestioned love, the loyalty, the energetic companionship, the child-like exuberance are just some of the many qualities dogs possess in loads. They make us smile, they wait for us by the door, they cuddle and they remind us that life is to be enjoyed at every given opportunity. They also give us a reason to exercise and get out, even during these cold days!

Dog parenting is a full time, long-term commitment. Regular exercise is one of the many commitments dog parents undertake as they welcome a puppy into their home. The duration and intensity of a routine workout for a pet depends on various factors such as their age, breed, health status and fitness levels. While sighthounds (like greyhounds), retriever breeds and herding breeds need a fair amount of activity on a daily basis; the brachycephalics (flat-nosed breeds) better handle short spurts of activity to prevent overexertion.

Just like for humans, puppies should be gradually initiated before undertaking strenuous workouts such as long runs or sporting activities. Short runs or playing with a Frisbee or ball at the park are generally a good exercise option as the pet can take breaks, or drink some water in between if the body so demands. The prime fitness levels in a well trained, active dog should be expected in young adults although there will be individual variation. Older dogs can develop arthritis or some muscle atrophy with age, and need less intense workouts – a slow leisurely leash-walk is ideal for pets getting up in years. Certain medical conditions may require pets to have specific activity schedules and programs. Over-exercising can in fact lead to flareups in chronic medical conditions.

While running, hiking and playing ball are very good workouts; swimming is by far the most complete workout and is the least demanding on the joints. Of course, the nature and frequency of workouts would also be dictated by the pet parent’s age, physical status, work schedule etc. Doggy daycare or using the services of a dog walking service are additional ways to get dogs appropriate levels of activity to keep them healthy. But if man’s best friend had his way, he would much rather exercise with you, leading to quality together time.

By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.

Tips for an enjoyable Easter weekend for your pet

It is a great time to be in beautiful British Columbia. A long weekend is approaching. If you have taken some of the springtime pet care precautions, presumably your pet is enjoying good health as well. And because we want to continue the positivity and well-being, let us enjoy the Easter festivities while staying on top of our pets’ health.

With all good things that we enjoy, moderation is the key. We will be enjoying chocolates, Easter eggs, gift baskets, flowers, parties, and most of all Easter dinner. At the same time, we need to be mindful that our furry friends do not indulge as we would. The following suggestions will help ensure a healthy, happy Easter for your pet:

  1. If you are expecting a lot of people (and kids) at your home, it is likely that your pets’ food and treat consumption may be unmonitored. Consider boarding your pet for the day of the party.
  2. Easter lilies are especially toxic to cats. They may also be potentially dangerous to dogs. If you are sending flowers to a friend that has a pet (especially a cat), select a bouquet without lilies.
  3. Chocolate can be especially toxic to pets as it may contain very high concentrations of theobromine and caffeine. Keep gift baskets and chocolates at a high place where dogs and cats cannot reach. A locked cabinet would be an even safer option.
  4. Candies and gum contain the artificial sugar Xylitol. Ingestion of Xylitol in toxic amounts can lead to ill health in pets. This is a good time to educate children on why not to share their candies and chocolates with pets.
  5. Human food can lead to an upset tummy in a large number of pets. While you may treat your pet to special pet-friendly treats or give them their favourite flavoured food, remember to keep your pet away from Easter feast and dessert.
  6. Indoor cats can be prone to getting stressed during parties and may sneak out with many guests visiting and doors being left open. If you are expecting many guests, make sure your cat is confined in a small, secure room where it feels safe.

For all the precautions and restrictions that you put in place, reward yourself and your dog with a long walk or a run on the day after the big dinner. This will likely be great for your health as well and will help you burn some of the extra calories you feasted on. Your cat will probably just be happy to have things getting back to normal and having your sole attention. Asking the kitty to help you with tidying up may be too much to ask though!

By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby