All Posts by Harbor Pines Team

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Taking Care of Your Pet’s Teeth – Easy Tips for a Longer Life

Taking Care of Your Pet’s Teeth – Easy Tips for a Longer Life

One of the most important things you can do for your pet’s short term comfort and long term life expectancy is to give them proper dental care. In this article you’ll learn the basics of why dental care is important. We will also teach you easy tips to keep your pet’s teeth healthy. And we will reveal an exciting promotion we are only running for February, which is National Pet Dental Health Month!

 

Why it’s important

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As your dog or cat eats, plaque accumulates on their teeth. If the plaque isn’t soon removed, it hardens and turns into tartar. The accumulation of tartar promotes the growth of unhealthy bacteria, which erodes the supporting structures around your pet’s tooth. This is very painful for your pet, and can cause tooth decay and loss. Worst of all, the unhealthy bacteria can spread into your pet’s bloodstream and make its way into your pet’s vital organs. Alarmingly, this can cause heart, kidney and liver disease, which are very dangerous health conditions.

Home Care

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Daily brushing keeps plaque from hardening into tartar. In this section, we’ll teach you how to turn this into an easy, fun and fast routine for your dog or cat!

Important Tip: NEVER use toothpaste designed for humans. It can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Always use toothpaste designed specifically for pets. You should also use toothbrushes designed for your dog or cat too.

Dogs

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Step 1: In order to make this process easy, you want to positively condition your dog to enjoy getting their teeth brushed. Find a flavor of dog-specific toothpaste that your dog likes. Give it to them periodically as a treat for 3-4 days, offering a lot of praise when you do.

Step 2: Find a dog-specific toothbrush suitable for your dog’s mouth size. Put some toothpaste on the brush and allow your dog to lick the brush. This lets your dog get used to the bristles.

Step 3: Brushing time! Gently hold back your dog’s lips and place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. You only need to brush the outside of your dog’s teeth. Move the brush gently back and forth a few times for each tooth. Brush only a few teeth the first time, and gradually lengthen your sessions until you brush the outside of each tooth! And remember to give your dog a lot of praise when you are done!

Cats

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Step 1: The first step is to get your cat used to putting something in their mouth. Dip your finger in your cat’s favorite liquid treat (like tuna water). Call your cat with your “who wants a treat” voice, and allow them to lick it off your finger. Then gently rub your soaked finger over your cat’s teeth and gums. Do this once a day for a few days.

Step 2: Find some toothpaste that your cat enjoys – many feline toothpastes are poultry or fish flavored. Present the toothpaste as you would a treat to your cat, and let your cat lick some off your finger. Then gently rub the toothpaste over your cat’s teeth and gums. Remember to be encouraging and positive throughout your efforts. Do this once a day for a few days.

Step 3: Brushing time! Use a cat toothbrush or a dental sponge and put a drop of toothpaste on it. Gently lift your cat’s lips and brush back and forth on the outside of your cat’s upper canine teeth (the large ones in front). After you do this for a couple days, you can brush the outside of all the rest of your cat’s teeth.

 

Veterinary Care

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Your dog or cat needs to have a dental exam at least once a year to monitor for any oral health issues. If your dog hasn’t had a dental exam with us in this last year, please call us right away. Dental exams are important in preventing your dog or cat from forming periodontal disease, which causes the erosion of your pet’s tooth structures and the spread of bacteria to your pet’s vital organs.

Important tip: Please call us right away if you notice that your pet has bad breath, red or inflamed gums, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, or bleeding from the gums.

If your dog or cat has inflamed gums along with a buildup of tartar on their teeth, it is very important to schedule a professional dental cleaning in order to reverse the damage. Your pet will be very carefully anesthetized in order to remove any stress from the procedure. Then we will meticulously scale and polish your pet’s teeth in order to remove all tartar from your pet’s mouth – including below the gum line (where periodontal disease typically lurks).

 

Promotion

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In order to raise awareness about the importance of oral health for pets, we are offering you an exclusive promotion!

Only during the month of February, we will be providing dental cleanings for $150 off! Please click “redeem” below or call our team in order to claim your special discount!

Redeem

German Longhaired on grass

Arthritis in Pets – The Pet Owner’s Guide

Arthritis in Pets – The Pet Owner’s Guide

Arthritis is the most common source of chronic pain in older dogs. It affects many younger dogs and cats too. In this article, you’ll learn if your pet is at increased risk, the basics of arthritis, signs and symptoms to watch out for, and easy steps that can be taken right now to treat arthritis in your dog or cat!

Extra: As a bonus, you’ll learn about special promotions we are running (right now!) to treat your pet!

 

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is characterized by damage to the cartilage between your pet’s joints. In healthy joints, cartilage acts as a shock absorber to cushion the bones that form the joint. However, as the damage worsens and the cartilage thins, the bones begin to contact each other when the joint is moved. This causes inflammation and damage to the bones, which is usually very painful. There are actually a few underlying causes of arthritis with unique risk factors. We’ll outline what you need to know below!

The common kind:

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Degenerative Joint Disease (or “osteoarthritis”) is the most common form of arthritis in pets. It typically occurs from prolonged wear and tear on a joint. In general, the more strain that is put on a pet’s joint, the higher the probability that the dog or cat will develop osteoarthritis. This is why osteoarthritis is so common in large breeds of dogs or overweight dogs and cats – weight and age are the largest risk factors.

Degenerative joint disease can also be triggered by joint injury (such as joint fractures and cruciate ligament tears) or developmental conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or osteochondrosis.

Immune-Mediated Arthritis

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At risk: Immune-mediated (or “rheumatoid”) arthritis is most common in small or “toy” breeds of dogs, typically around the age of 5 or 6. It is very uncommon in cats.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overreaction of the pet’s own immune system. Normally, an immune system reacts when it detects a foreign protein (an “antigen”) inside the body and creates antibodies in order to fight it. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakes its own protein for an antigen, and begins fighting its own body. The antibody and protein form an “immune complex” which is deposited in the joint. This causes inflammation – the body’s normal reaction to injury. The immune system will then seek to destroy the cause of injury, which usually only leads to further damage to the joint(s). In this way, rheumatoid arthritis is self-perpetuating, and can become debilitating as the cartilage and bone are worn away.

Septic Arthritis

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At risk: Septic arthritis is most common in male dogs between the age of 4 and 7. It is also more common in pets with weakened immune systems or diabetes. It is fairly rare in cats.

Septic arthritis is typically caused by bacteria that spreads through the bloodstream because of a wound from a penetrating foreign object. As the infecting microorganism spreads through the bloodstream, it makes its way into a joint (usually only one or two joints are affected) and causes inflammation.

 

Signs and Symptoms

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Arthritis is notoriously difficult to spot at its onset. Cats are especially good at hiding health conditions. But because arthritis is a progressive disease, the sooner we catch and treat it, the better for your pet’s well-being and happiness!

In most cases of arthritis in dogs or cats, you will notice your pet generally “slowing down.” Regrettably, this means that often times the onset of arthritis is confused with old age, when it is actually a treatable medical condition!

Typically, the first sign of arthritis is an altered gait, as your dog or cat attempts to put less weight on the affected joint. Your dog or cat may begin to take a longer amount of time rising after lying down. Arthritic dogs may stop jumping into your car, and arthritic cats may stop jumping on counter tops. Many pets with arthritis find it difficult to go up or down stairs. Arthritic pets usually begin sleeping much more, can become irritable because of the pain, can experience muscle atrophy, and some lick or chew at the affected joint(s).

It is crucially important that a veterinarian diagnoses the type and severity of arthritis in your pet. That way we can form a thoughtful and effective treatment plan to enhance your dog or cat’s quality of life!

 

How to treat arthritis

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If you suspect your pet may have arthritis, the first step is to call us right away. Arthritis cannot be cured, but there are a number of ways to slow its progression and alleviate the pain felt by your loving dog or cat. Below, you’ll learn about commonly effective methods, along with things you can do at home right now!

Laser Therapy

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Many pets afflicted with arthritis benefit immensely from laser therapy. Laser therapy is a modern, non-invasive and totally painless procedure that harnesses light to stimulate blood flow, improve cell health, reduce inflammation, and release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller). This can greatly improve arthritic conditions. Laser therapy is a very exciting advancement in veterinary medicine!

Promotion: If your pet is a good candidate for laser therapy, you’ll receive your first laser treatment session free! Just click “redeem” or call us to schedule an appointment!

Redeem

 

Supplements

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Some dogs and cats experience beneficial effects from nutritional supplementation. One of the most effective supplements is glucosamine. Glucosamine is a natural substance found in your pet’s body that helps repair tissues like cartilage. As your pet ages, their body’s production level of glucosamine slows. When we supplement your pet’s diet with glucosamine, we are using your pet’s natural healing mechanisms to repair damaged joint cartilage. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which reduces pain! Side effects are very rare, but consult with us before starting a regimen.

Promotion: If your pet is a good candidate, get a free sample of glucosamine by clicking “redeem” or calling us!

Redeem

 

Around the house

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Make sure your dog or cat has access to well-padded and warm bedding. Hard and cold surfaces exacerbate arthritic symptoms and can be painful for your pet, so make sure your dog or cat has carpets or rugs to walk on. If your pet is overweight, consult with us on how to use diet and exercise to shed the pounds so that your pet’s quality of life improves!

Always remember, we’re here to help! Call us right away whenever you need us!

Dog Beagle on grass

Caring for Senior Dogs – What to Know

Older dogs are a constant sources of affection, love and fulfillment. However, as your dog ages, they become susceptible to common health conditions and require a different pattern of care. In this article, you will learn when your dog is considered a “senior,” the common health conditions that older dogs face, and steps you can take right now to enhance your senior dog’s quality of life and longevity!

When do dogs become senior?

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It’s actually a complicated question. In general though, the larger the breed, the faster the process. A Great Dane might be considered a senior at 5-6 years old, while a Chihuahua probably won’t be a senior until 10-11 years old. Most dogs usually become senior between the 7-10 year range. Genetics, nutrition and environment all contribute to how fast your dog ages.

 

Common health issues for senior dogs

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Senior (or “geriatric”) dogs are prone to common health conditions. Here, we’ll briefly describe what you should know about some of the most common ailments. As your dog’s owner, you’re in the best position to notice and report any of these symptoms to us. The earlier we catch the disease, the better the prognosis for your beloved companion.

 

Arthritis

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Arthritis is a very common condition in older dogs. It is especially frequent in large breeds or overweight senior dogs. Your dog’s joint cartilage thins as they age, and cartilage cells die. When the cells die, they release an enzyme that causes joint inflammation and fluid buildup. This creates joint pain, which is why arthritic dogs tend to decrease their joint movement.

If your dog is arthritic, you’ll probably notice them shying away from once loved physical activities – like going for runs, bounding up the stairs, and jumping on the couch. Your dog might have difficulty sitting or standing, they may favor a limb, sleep more, gain weight, or just generally slow down.

 

Cancer

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Cancer is responsible for about half the deaths in dogs over the age of 10. Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. Some –like breast and testicular- are mostly preventable by spaying or neutering. Cancer is essentially an uncontrolled division of cells which then spread into surrounding tissues. As the cancerous cells spread, they can impede normal functioning in different bodily systems. This can cause devastating and fatal effects.

There are many different symptoms for cancer in pets, but a veterinarian is always required to accurately diagnose cancer. Often times when a dog has cancer you’ll notice abnormal swellings that persist and continue to grow. You may notice sores that heal slowly. Your dog may unexpectedly lose weight, have a decreased appetite, or have difficulty eating or swallowing. Some dogs change their urination patterns, bleed or discharge from a bodily opening (like the eyes or ears), and become less active. If you notice any of these symptoms in your older dogs, please know that it’s not necessarily being caused by cancer, but schedule a health exam with us right away.

 

Dementia

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Signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (or “dog dementia”) are found in 50% of dogs over age 11. Dementia is a condition related to the aging of your dog’s brain and it inhibits normal mental abilities (such as memory, awareness and responsiveness). Dementia is a progressive disease; symptoms are usually mild and almost unnoticeable in the beginning. But as the disease progresses, the symptoms start to severely impact your dog’s quality of life.

Dogs suffering from dementia will usually exhibit changes in behavior. They may become easily confused, incessantly anxious, or overly irritable. Many dogs change their sleep cycle to be active at night and asleep during the day. Dogs with dementia might also forget past training, and will have difficulty learning new tasks.

 

Kidney Failure

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Kidney failure is one of the most common causes of death in geriatric dogs. In healthy dogs, the kidneys filter the blood to remove potentially harmful toxins through urination. During kidney (or “renal”) failure, the kidneys lose their ability to remove these toxins. When this happens, dangerous toxins begin to accumulate in the bloodstream. Renal failure usually progresses over the course of months or years.

As a dog’s kidney fails, the dog requires more and more water to excrete the toxins through urination. That’s why sharply increased water consumption is a usual symptom of kidney failure in older dogs. You may also notice a chemical (or ammonia like) odor to your dog’s breath. Other common symptoms include pale gums, vomiting, blood in the urine, changes in urination patterns, or sudden weight loss. Some dogs begin to seem depressed or listless, and some even lose coordination which causes them to stumble around.

 

How to help your dog right now

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Here we’ll walk you through steps you can take right now to enhance your senior dog’s lifespan and quality of life!

Biannual Health Exams

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For your senior dog, the most important thing for you to do is to schedule veterinary health exams once every 6 months. This is very important for multiple reasons. First, it allows us to establish a baseline for your dog. This makes it much easier for us to spot when something becomes irregular. Another important factor is that it is crucial to catch diseases in geriatric dogs as early as possible. If we catch something early, we are much more effectively (and less expensively) able to treat it. This greatly enhances your dog’s quality of life and longevity!

During these biannual geriatric health exams, we will perform a thorough examination for your senior dog. We will check for signs and symptoms of possible health conditions. Depending on your dog’s individual needs, we may even perform diagnostic tests – such as urinalysis or a blood panel.

 

Keeping a healthy weight

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Overweight geriatric dogs have higher rates of cancer, organ disease, arthritis, diabetes, and other health conditions. It’s important to keep your senior dog at a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Our veterinary team will educate you on your pet’s unique dietary and exercise needs. Overweight dogs must have a nutrition plan so that they still get vital nutrients while losing weight. Exercise will help keep your dog lean and maintain healthy joints and muscles. Every dog is different though – we can give you specific exercise recommendations based on your dog’s overall health.

 

Comfort at home

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Older dogs are happiest when they’re mentally stimulated and physically comfortable. To keep your pet stimulated, make sure to have an abundance of safe and fun toys around their living area. Food puzzles can be a great way to accomplish this while cutting down on weight. Older dogs with joint problems find hard surfaces very uncomfortable, so make sure their bed has extra padding, and do your best to offer soft surfaces (like carpets and rugs) to walk on instead of hard floors.

And remember, you’re never alone. We care very deeply for you and your dog. We will be there for every stage of your dog’s life, and together we can make sure that your dog lives a wonderful, happy life by your side.

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Periodontal Disease – What You Need to Know

Periodontal disease is the most common medical condition in adult dogs and cats. In this article, you’re going to learn what it is, how it impacts your pet’s health, signs and symptoms, and steps that you can take right now to make sure that your dog or cat isn’t a victim of periodontal disease!

 

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is the inflammation (and reddening) of your pet’s gums, as well as the damage and loss of the bone and soft tissue that supports your dog or cat’s teeth. It is caused by the accumulation of dental plaque, which hardens and forms tartar (or “calculus”). It is unfortunately a very common condition – the majority of pets will have periodontal disease by age three!

 

How does it affect my pet’s health?

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The short answer is that there are several ways it can affect your pet’s health – from mild discomfort to organ damage. It really depends on the severity and stage of the disease. This is because as the tartar accumulates below your pet’s gum line, the growth of unhealthy bacteria is promoted. This bacteria damages the oral structures that support your pet’s teeth. This damage causes oral pain for your pet, and can lead to permanent dental damage, such as tooth loss. Even more alarmingly, the accumulated bacteria can enter your pet’s bloodstream and cause permanent damage to your dog or cat’s heart, liver and kidneys. This can actually shorten your pet’s lifespan.

 

Signs and Symptoms

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Often times people laugh about “dog breath.” However, bad breath can actually be a sign of periodontal disease. Halitosis (bad breath) is caused by build up of bacteria in your pet’s mouth. So that foul odor that you’re smelling might actually be harmful bacteria!

Another common (though more subtle) symptom of periodontal disease is the refusal of crunchy food or treats. Pets with this condition will often opt for softer foods due to mouth soreness. You may also find them playing with chew toys less, chewing food on the sides of their mouths, or pawing and rubbing their face.

 

Treatment

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The good news is that periodontal disease is actually very treatable! If you (or your veterinarian) suspects that your pet may have issues related to periodontal disease, the first step is to schedule a dental examination. During the examination, our veterinary professionals will thoroughly examine your pet for symptoms of periodontal disease, and may even use advanced equipment (such as dental radiographs) in order to see its spread in ways that a visual check can’t!

If periodontal disease is present, the next step is for your pet to have a professional veterinary dental cleaning. During this procedure, your pet is carefully anesthetized, and we clean your pet’s teeth to get rid of any accumulated plaque and tartar. Importantly, we will also thoroughly clean below your pet’s gum line, where periodontal disease typically lurks. After this painless dental procedure, your pet will be much happier and healthier!

As in all of animal medicine, the best investment is in regular preventative care for your dog or cat. Your dog or cat should have at least one dental exam every year. It is also important to develop a routine with your pet where you brush their teeth. Doing this prevents the accumulation of plaque, which can harden into tartar within just a few days. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most important factor in protecting your pet from periodontal disease between professional veterinary dental cleanings. It’s best to brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily – and make sure to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that are both made specifically for your dog or cat.

For more information on your pet’s oral hygiene and health care, please contact our veterinary staff at (310) 517-1832. And if you suspect your pet may be exhibiting symptoms of periodontal disease, please let us know right away so we can help!

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