Monthly Archives

January 2020

Dental Health For your Dogs and Cats

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February is Dental Health Month in the Veterinary World;  we believe that dental health is important year round!

We believe that dental care is an important part of an animal’s overall well being, for that reason we offer free dental examinations with one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians year around, not just one month of the year.

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

It starts with plaque that hardens into tartar. Tartar above the gumline can often easily be seen and removed, but plaque and tartar below the gumline is damaging and sets the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jaw bone. Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).

Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important.

Veterinary dentistry includes the cleaning, adjustment, filing, extraction, or repair of your pets’ teeth and all other aspects of oral health care. These procedures should be performed by a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist. 

The process begins with an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. Radiographs (x-rays) may be needed to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. Because most dental disease occurs below the gumline, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. Dental cleaning includes scaling (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and polishing, similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings.

The treatment of periodontal disease involves a thorough dental cleaning and x-rays may be needed to determine the severity of the disease. Your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist will make recommendations based on your pet’s overall health and the health of your pet’s teeth, and provide you with options to consider.

Oral health in dogs and cats
Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:
bad breath
broken or loose teeth
extra teeth or retained baby teeth
teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
reduced appetite or refusal to eat
pain in or around the mouth
bleeding from the mouth
swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

Causes of pet dental problems:

broken teeth and roots
periodontal disease
abscesses or infected teeth
cysts or tumors in the mouth
malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
broken (fractured) jaw
palate defects (such as cleft palate)


Why does dentistry require anesthesia?
When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still. Your pet does not understand the benefit of dental procedures, and he or she reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting.
Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. If radiographs (x-rays) are needed, your pet needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia.
Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most pets can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day. We follow strict protocols to ensure the safest anesthesia for you pet.

There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.


Related resources:
Veterinary toolkit: Pet dental health – Available exclusively to AVMA members

Obesity Awareness: Is Your Pet at a Healthy Weight?

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Although it may seem like a few extra pounds is no big deal for our pets, being overweight is unfortunately a serious problem. And in fact, as many as 50% to 60% of cats and dogs in Canada may be overweight or obese.*

The reason this is concerning is because carrying extra weight can cause many health issues for both dogs and cats. Overweight pets are at increased risk of developing:
• Arthritis and other joint issues
• Cancer
• Constipation
• Decreased immune function
• Diabetes
• Gastrointestinal issues
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Respiratory problems
• Skin issues

Even scarier, cats and dogs carrying extra weight may not live as long as those at a healthy weight.

The good news is that if your pet is at a healthy weight or gets back to an ideal BCS, you’ll be giving your pet the gift of a better quality of life, less risk for certain diseases, and quite possibly a better chance of living longer.

So how do I know if my pet is overweight or just right?
Take a moment to do this quick check:
• You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs if you run your fingers across your pet’s abdomen.
• From the side, you should also be able to see a “tuck-in” or upward slope from the belly toward your pet’s hind end.
• From the top view, your pet should have a visible waist behind the ribs.
• If you can see your pet’s ribs, though, then your pet may be too thin.

Body condition score (or BCS) is another way we determine your pet’s ideal size and shape. We assign a score of 1 to 9, with 1 being too thin and 9 being obese. The ideal weight we’re aiming for is in the middle, at a 4 or 5.

Check out these charts from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association that show ideal body condition for healthy dogs and cats. Ideal weight varies, even among similarly sized dogs or cats. When you bring your pet in to Westmount Animal Hospital for a visit, we’ll show you how to gauge your pet’s weight and BCS.

Could my pet just have an underactive thyroid or some other medical condition?
It is possible, which is why your Westmount veterinarian will check your pet to rule out any medical causes that could be contributing to weight gain. However, most pets who are overweight have simply been eating more calories than they’ve burned.

How can we help your pet lose weight or keep weight off?
After we confirm that your pet doesn’t have any underlying medical conditions, together we’ll come up with a weight management plan that includes practical and achievable nutrition and exercise goals for your pet. We can also give you advice on helping to keep your pet feeling full while shedding pounds.

If your pet is carrying extra weight, you’re not on your own. We’ll work with you to help get your pet trimmed down and healthier.

We’ll focus on creating specific steps to decrease your pet’s caloric intake and increase his or her energy expenditure through activity and exercise. This may mean:
• Switching your dog or cat to a weight loss diet that will provide your pet with complete and balanced nutrition but fewer calories.
• Reducing the number of treats your pet gets (while making sure your pet doesn’t feel deprived).
• Having regular weigh-ins to ensure that your pet is losing an appropriate amount of weight (we don’t want pets to lose weight too quickly).
• Making sure your pet is getting enough exercise, either through walks or playtime. Combined with a diet change, many dogs can start losing weight by walking twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes, and cats can successfully shed pounds by playing actively for 5 or 10 minutes two or three times a day. Of course, every pet is unique, and we’ll give you personalized recommendations just for your pet.

When your pet comes into Westmount for a check-in, we’ll make sure your pet is staying on track and help keep you motivated. Together, we can get your pet back on track.

Call or schedule an appointment today to start your pet on a healthier path!

*According to an estimate from Dr. Jim Berry, past president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. From Korducki K. Weight watchers: Canada’s pet obesity problem. Readers Digest Canada. Accessed January 19, 2020.