A Pet-Friendly Home for the Holidays

As you prepare for the holidays, don’t forget to include your furry companions in your plans, or that decorations, toxic plants, unhealthy treats, and increased activities can pose risks to your pets. Here are some tips and resources from the Harbor Pines Veterinary Center to help ensure a safe, enjoyable holiday season for all family members.

Oh, Christmas tree!

Gazing at a beautifully decorated tree can be a peaceful experience—unless your pet decides your lovely tree is a new play toy. The following pet-proofing ideas can help keep your pet safe and your tree intact:

  • Restrict access — Consider keeping your tree in an area inaccessible to your pet, or surrounded by a dog pen. 
  • Secure your tree — Use an appropriate-sized, secure tree stand to ensure your tree cannot topple over easily. Also, consider securing the tree to the ceiling with fishing line.
  • Preservatives — Cover your tree water to prevent your pet from drinking chemical preservatives added to commercial trees, and use fresh water without additives.
  • Artificial or real — Shedding needles or flocking from real trees can be ingested and cause intestinal obstruction. An artificial tree may not be as enticing for your pet to chew, and will prevent mouth irritation from tree oils. 
  • Decorative lights and cords — Strategically place lights higher up your tree. Also, a chewed electrical wire can cause mouth damage, breathing problems, or deliver a potentially lethal shock.
  • Tinsel and ribbon — Avoid glittery tinsel and ribbons that can be irresistible to your pet, especially cats, because ingestion can cause a linear foreign body intestinal obstruction.
  • Ornaments — Display your delicate glass ornaments out of your pet’s reach, and use unbreakable ornaments on your tree, especially toward the bottom. Consider using ornament anchors to keep your ornaments on your tree.
  • Ornament hooks — Use soft hooks rather than metal hooks, to prevent damage to your pet’s mouth, esophagus, stomach, or intestines if ingested.
  • Something different — Try hanging your tree upside-down from your ceiling or mounted on your wall for a change of pace, and provide the ultimate in pet-proofing.

Deck the halls!

What is a holiday without decorative plants and candles? However, look around your home from your pet’s perspective, and keep these dangerous items well out of paws’ reach: 

  • Candles — Curious cats and dogs’ wagging tails can knock over candles and result in burns, or possibly start a fire. Consider battery-operated candles as a safe alternative.
  • Plants Mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal upset and mouth irritation. Mistletoe ingestion can also affect the heart. Any parts of a lily, including pollen, are extremely toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure. 
  • Potpourri — Many essential oils in potpourri are toxic to cats and can cause vomiting, drooling, difficulty breathing, seizures, and possible death. 
  • Pine cones — Dogs may see these decorations as delightful chew toys, but they can cause intestinal obstruction if ingested.

Eat, drink, and be merry!

A delicious feast is the highlight of any holiday, but keep your pets out of the kitchen to reduce temptation, and put your scraps and leftovers in a tightly sealed garbage container. Many high-fat holiday foods, such as turkey skin, stuffing, and ham, can cause an upset stomach and pancreatitis. In addition to fatty foods, the following are dangerous to pets:

  • Onions, garlic, and chives — Cats can develop life-threatening anemia from eating only a small amount, and dogs can be affected by eating larger quantities. 
  • Raisins and grapes — Consumption of only a few raisins or grapes can damage some dogs’ kidneys. 
  • Bread dough — Pets who consume yeasty bread dough can develop painful gas, intestinal bloating, and alcohol poisoning from yeast fermentation.
  • Chocolate — Vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, and seizures can occur in dogs who consume a toxic chocolate dose. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic to pets.
  • Sugar-free treats Xylitol-containing products can cause precipitous drops in blood glucose, liver failure, and seizures in pets.
  • Alcohol — Pets and adult beverages don’t mix, and consumption can cause weakness, respiratory problems, or collapse.

Peace on Earth, good will toward all!

Create a “safe space” for your pet, such as a gated-off area, spare room, or crate, to help them stay calm amidst new people and noises, and prevent them from scooting out the door or getting into trouble. Make your pet’s safe space a relaxing environment by playing music or TV, with treats, toys, water, a comfortable bed, a litter box for the cat, and perhaps a food puzzle. More pets escape during holiday distractions, so now is the time to get them a nametag and a microchip, and ensure that your contact information is current.

Make a pet safety checklist, and check it twice to ensure you avoid holiday pet hazards. Let all your family members and guests know your holiday “pet rules,” and keep the phone numbers of the Pet Poison Helpline, ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, and Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, as well as the local pet emergency clinic, in a visible, easily accessible location.

Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wishes you and your family a safe, happy holiday season. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about helping your pet get safely through the holidays, or suspect they got into mischief and need veterinary care.

Pancreatitis: Avoid the Risk

This Thanksgiving will be tempting to allow your pets to share in the family feast. You may be strong-willed and resist, but not your pets, who may jump up onto counters or get into the trash. Most people know that turkey bones are dangerous for dogs, but any unusual food, especially in large volumes, poses a serious threat—pancreatitis—to your pet’s digestive system. Read on to learn about normal pancreas function, and diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of pancreatitis in dogs and cats.

A pet’s normal pancreas

The pancreas is a digestive organ in your pet’s abdomen between the stomach and the small intestine. Normally, the pancreas secretes enzymes into the intestine that help digest food and regulate blood sugar. The pancreas has several mechanisms in place to keep the digestive enzymes from damaging the organ itself. For the pancreas to function normally, our pets must eat the same amount of the same food every day, which may sound boring to us, but is best for our pets. 

The diseased pancreas in pets

If your pet suddenly ingests a large amount of unusual food, especially high-fat food, the pancreas tries to compensate for the food overload by secreting more enzymes, and the sudden excess can begin to damage or digest the pancreas itself. The resulting inflammation is known as pancreatitis. Any pet can get pancreatitis, but miniature schnauzers are at higher risk due to their altered fat metabolism. Pancreatitis causes abdominal pain, and complications can be severe and life-threatening. 

Pancreatitis complications in dogs

Inflammation and damage from pancreatitis is usually confined to the area around the pancreas and liver, and the most common sign in dogs is nausea. In severe cases, the disease can progress to formation of a pancreatic abscess. When the disease process extends beyond the pancreas, the consequences can be disastrous. Inflammation can spread throughout the abdominal cavity and cause peritonitis. The inflammation can release toxins into the bloodstream, causing disease throughout the body. Weber-Christian syndrome, an inflammatory disease of the fatty tissues, may develop, or pancreatic encephalopathy, in which the brain is damaged when fats surrounding the central nervous system are destroyed. Also, pancreatitis can progress to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which simultaneous abnormal clotting and bleeding occur throughout the body. These painful, life-threatening complications often require referral to a veterinary specialty center or a veterinary school hospital, and carry a guarded to poor prognosis.

Pancreatitis complications in cats

Cats often develop pancreatitis from other causes rather than eating a sudden fatty meal. Problems associated with pancreatitis in cats include inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, certain infections, pesticides, medications, and trauma to the pancreas. Cats can develop chronic (i.e., long-term) pancreatitis. Cats and dogs can become diabetic following pancreatitis because damage from the disease can affect blood sugar regulation. Pancreatitis signs in cats include decreased appetite and weight loss.

Diagnosing pancreatitis in pets

Pets with gastroenteritis and a gastrointestinal foreign body, among other problems, show the same signs as those with pancreatitis, but diagnosing pancreatitis in pets as soon as possible is crucial, so the disease can be treated aggressively to reduce the chance of life-threatening complications. Fortunately, at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, we can perform a pancreatic test—the specific canine pancreatic lipase test—as well as a cat-specific pancreatitis blood test. These tests, along with in-house blood work and X-rays, allow our team to diagnose pancreatitis quickly in any pet who has inappetance, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, or a history that fits pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis treatment in pets

Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, which helps remove toxins and aids in pancreas healing, is the most important component of pancreatitis treatment. Pets need to be hospitalized until the crisis resolves—often five to seven days—with pain and nausea medications to help relieve their discomfort. Pets are fed a controlled diet of low-fat, low-residue food, and cats are often given vitamin B12 by injection, as pancreatitis interferes with normal absorption. Vigilant monitoring for complication signs is vital.

Call Harbor Pines Veterinary Center if questions or concerns arise about your pet and pancreatitis. During your Thanksgiving celebration this year, remember that rich table food is not a treat for your pet. Keep your pet’s diet consistent, and give thanks that you have helped them avoid risking pancreatitis. 

The Benefits of Being Active with Your Pets

At Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, we believe in staying active with your pet, because of the benefits for people as well as pets. People with pets tend to be generally healthier, and they enjoy the “pet effect,”which includes lower blood pressure and heart rate and an increased sense of well-being. In this blog post, Benny the terrier and Berry the Bengal make strong arguments for why they and their humans should be active together. They may fight like cats and dogs about other things, but Benny and Berry agree that staying active is important. They also agree that our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team is the best source of support and information on safely getting active with your pets.

Benny’s tips for staying active with your dog

Benny the terrier: “I wasn’t meant for a life of couch-surfing. I like to investigate the surroundings, looking for ways to help our family. Mental and physical work are necessary for my well-being. My brother Bobby didn’t get enough activity, and he developed several behavior problems, gained a lot of weight, and began nipping at people. My other brother, Bubba, does agility competitions with his person, and they really enjoy it. But we can do lots of things together that are helpful and fun, and require less time commitment.

“Let’s plan to walk together after supper. It will be awesome. We’ll shoot for twice a week at first. Then, as we get into the habit, I bet we will be walking every evening in no time. I know you have long days at work, but we could still take a long walk twice a day, and I’ll tell you how— delegate! Terriers are pretty good at teamwork and, believe me, delegating is the key. The kids in our family can take turns walking me. They will get exercise, and learn responsibility, as well. 

“Speaking of delegating, don’t forget Grandpa. As an active terrier, I could never sit at a desk long enough to read a scientific report, let alone write one. But I heard someone say that scientific research has shown that the human-animal bond promotes healthy aging. If Grandpa is not up for a long walk or a game of fetch, he can take me to the dog park. The social interaction we’ll both get will be as helpful as the physical exercise.”

Berry’s tips for staying active with your cat

Berry the Bengal: “I love my spring toy. I will chase the laser light every night before you go to bed. But, I really love it when you pull the feather toy around the house or yard. I can’t help but chase that crazy thing. And when the kids pull it, we get really fast. Sometimes the kids’ faces get red and they sweat. I’m not that familiar with sweating, as I only sweat from my paw pads, but I know that sweaty red faces in humans means they are getting good exercise.

“I now have an important announcement for the family—I will consider trying the harness. If it means we can walk together downtown with the cool cats, I might be willing to wear it. Luckily, I am still a kitten, and harness training has a better success rate in cats when started at an early age. Taking walks together will be the best. Don’t forget to check in with the Harbor Pines team for tips on harness training cats.

“Now for my favorite tip for being active together—treat puzzles. We will exercise our minds and bodies with this one. You will load the treats into the toys and hide them around the house—you’ll have to get more creative than under the bed, or the cat tree top tier. I will spend the day hunting them down while you’re at work. What could be better?”

Benny the terrier doesn’t climb cat trees, and Berry the Bengal doesn’t play fetch, but this dog and cat agreeyour veterinarian is the best source of help for staying active with your pets. 

Benny (and Berry agrees): “When planning exercise with your pet, you must consider many factors, such as age, breed, health, and temperament. Harbor Pines Veterinary Center professionals are the experts you need. They know your pet’s medical history, and they are up-to-date on the latest information. They are AAHA-certified, and Berry and I trust them to know what’s best for us. You can, too.”

Benny and Berry are fictional characters, but they represent what we believe our patients feel about us, and about being active with their families. Contact us at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for the best ideas about keeping your pets active and healthyand your humans, too.

Hippo Takes a Nap: An Anesthetic Experience

Hippo the wiggle-butt weimaraner puppy is being spayed today at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, and her owners, especially the hippo-obsessed toddler who gave Hippo her name, are understandably worried about the anesthesia and surgery. To help ease their fears, Erica, one of our veterinary technicians, talks them through what will happen, from the moment she takes Hippo’s leash, to the time when Hippo will be joyfully reunited with her family. Feeling much better, Hippo’s toddler gives her a huge hug, sweetly tells her to have a good nap, and then leads her equally relieved parents out the door, all the while talking a mile a minute about the hippo facts she learned yesterday.

Hippo’s preanesthetic exam

Erica lets Hippo say an enthusiastic hello to the other team members before asking her to step up on the scale. The dose of all the drugs administered to Hippo today will be based on this weight, so Erica ensures that Hippo stands as still as possible for an accurate reading. When they reach the treatment area, Erica informs Dr. White that Hippo’s family did a great job sticking to fasting instructions. This is another important safety step, because Hippo’s empty stomach helps decrease the risk that she will vomit or regurgitate during anesthesia, and subsequently inhale stomach contents. Next, Dr. White and Erica review Hippo’s medical history, proceed with a thorough nose-to-tail physical exam, and obtain a blood sample for pre-anesthetic testing. These steps help ensure she can be anesthetized safely by verifying that she appears outwardly healthy, her liver and kidneys are functioning well to break down and eliminate the anesthetic drugs, and she has sufficient red cells to carry oxygen, white cells to fight infection, and platelets to allow blood clotting. Hippo passes with flying colors, and manages to plant a couple of slobbery kisses on Erica during the exam. 

Preparing for Hippo’s anesthesia

Dr. White and Erica work together to create an anesthetic plan for Hippo, carefully calculating the doses of all necessary drugs, and then administer preanesthetic medications. This drug combination will help ensure that Hippo is calm and relaxed when she undergoes general anesthesia, decrease the amount of general anesthetic drugs needed to keep her asleep, and help ensure she wakes up calmly with minimal postoperative pain. While Hippo is relaxing, Erica double checks that the anesthetic equipment she safety tested earlier is still working correctly. She then places an IV catheter in a sleepy Hippo’s right foreleg. This catheter will be used to give anesthetic drugs and fluids during the surgery, and also allows rapid IV access should Hippo need emergency drugs, further ensuring her safety. 

Hippo’s anesthesia nap

Once the anesthetic drugs are injected and Hippo is asleep, Erica places the breathing tube, and then attaches the tube to the machine that supplies oxygen and anesthetic gases to Hippo’s lungs. Hippo’s abdomen is shaved and sterilely prepared for surgery, and Erica attaches the anesthetic monitoring equipment. The entire time Hippo is under general anesthesia Erica monitors Hippo’s heart rate, respiratory rate, mucous membrane color, blood oxygen saturation, heart rhythm, and temperature, while also ensuring she receives the appropriate amount of anesthetic gas and oxygen. This continuous monitoring allows Erica to quickly detect any potential problems, and work with Dr. White to fix any that arise. 

Hippo recovers from anesthesia and goes home

After Dr. White performs Hippo’s spay, the anesthetic gas is turned off to allow Hippo to wake up. Erica stays with Hippo while she is recovering to ensure her vital signs remain normal, and she does not wake up agitated or painful. Once Hippo is more alert and swallowing, demonstrating she can protect her airway, Erica removes the breathing tube. Hippo is then moved to a comfortable recovery cage, where Erica and the other team members can continue to keep an eye on her throughout the day.

Later that afternoon, Hippo’s owners come to pick her up, and Erica goes over the postoperative instructions. Hippo’s owners thank Erica, Dr. White, and the rest of the team for keeping their sweet dog safe during her anesthesia and spay, and Hippo listens intently while her toddler tells her that since Hippo needs to rest for a few days, they will have to snuggle and read lots of hippo books together. 

If, like Hippo, your beloved pet needs to undergo anesthesia, rest assured that our team is committed to ensuring your pet’s safety using the latest anesthetic protocols, excellent monitoring, and attention to detail. If you are ready to schedule your pet’s procedure, or have some anesthesia-related questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Mythbusters: Pet Wellness Visit Edition

Well-meaning but misinformed myths abound regarding wellness care for your furry friends. Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team would like to explain the facts, and bust four of those myths, to ensure your pets get the best possible care.

Myth #1: My pets rarely go outside, so they don’t need parasite preventives

It would be handy if a forcefield that could repel fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pesky parasites, surrounded your house, but so far, that technology exists only in the movies. Princess may rarely set a pampered paw outside the door, but you, or a visitor, can bring fleas and ticks inside on your clothing, and mosquitoes can fly in open windows or doors. Your shoes can become an intestinal parasite egg dispenser if you stepped on a fecally contaminated surface outside, and then walked around in your house, so indoor-only pets can and do acquire parasites. Regardless of how much time they spend outdoors, protect your pet against these parasites:

  • Mosquitoes — Mosquito bites are a mere annoyance to us, but can be deadly for pets, if that mosquito is carrying heartworm larvae that make their way to your pet’s heart, and cause significant damage and eventual death, if not treated. The American Heartworm Society reports that one in four cats diagnosed with heartworm disease were indoor-only, further proving that indoor pets need parasite preventives, too.
  • Fleas — In addition to making your skin crawl, and turning your pet into an itchy mess, fleas can suck enough blood to make your pet anemic, and can also carry tapeworms, Bartonella (i.e., the organism responsible for cat scratch disease in humans), and Mycoplasma ( i.e., a blood parasite that causes anemia in cats).
  • Ticks — A tick bite can transmit a myriad of dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Intestinal parasites — Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms can cause malnutrition, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and occasionally death, if left untreated.

The bottom line is that all pets should be on a safe, effective parasite prevention plan tailored to their lifestyle and risk factors. Contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team for help in choosing the right products for your pet.

Myth #2: I don’t need vaccinations or preventives from my veterinarian when I can buy them from the pet store

While vaccinations are available from the pet store, this is a risky route, because you don’t know if the vaccinations were stored, handled, and administered properly to preserve their efficacy, and you may not select the correct vaccinations that will best protect your pet.

When you bring your pet to Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for a wellness exam, our team will discuss your pet’s lifestyle, risk factors, and prior history before making vaccination recommendations. For example, the social-butterfly dog who goes to doggie daycare, the groomer, the dog park, and the boarding kennel may need the core vaccinations recommended for every dog, as well as Bordetella and canine influenza vaccines, two risk-based immunizations administered to dogs who frequently mingle with other dogs. During a wellness visit, our veterinary team can also recommend an effective and safe internal and external parasite prevention program using veterinarian-approved products selected specifically for your pet. This level of protection is far superior to a potentially counterfeit, ineffective, or possibly dangerous parasite preventive bought at your local pet store.

Myth #3: I don’t need to schedule a wellness visit if my pet isn’t due for vaccinations

This goes hand in hand with Myth No. 2. At any wellness visit, whether or not your pet needs vaccinations, our veterinarians perform a thorough nose-to-tail physical exam to ensure your pet is healthy, and any potential problems are addressed promptly. Your pet may seem completely healthy when our veterinarian finds a new heart murmur, abdominal mass, or other change that would have remained undetected until it caused problems. A wellness visit also allows our team to perform blood, urine, and fecal tests in our state-of-the-art laboratory, to detect intestinal parasites, heartworms, organ failure, blood cell abnormalities, or other disease states before your pet shows any signs. Thus, scheduling wellness visits for your pets to ensure they are healthy inside and out, and to promote early detection of health concerns, is critical.

Myth #4: My pet is scared of the vet, so I should skip wellness visits

One of Harbor Pines Veterinary Center’s special services is making house calls for pets who would not be seen at a veterinary clinic without considerable anguish for the pet and their owner. During a housecall, our dedicated veterinary team can perform a complete physical exam, recommend and administer vaccinations, obtain blood, urine, or fecal samples, and discuss parasite preventives, much like we would at our physical location. If your pet needs any medications, they can be prescribed or ordered from our online store, again offering you first-class medical care without leaving home. If your pet is a nervous Nellie, and needs to come to our clinic for a procedure or test that cannot be done at home, our team can also prescribe medications to ensure they are as calm and relaxed as possible for the visit. Fear is no excuse to skimp on critical wellness care when you have these options available. 

Whether you need to schedule a house call, or an in-house wellness visit for your furry friend, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team is here to help. Contact us, to start your pet on the path to good health.

COVID-19 and Pets: What Do We Know?

COVID-19 has surprised scientists at every turn. When they seem to have it figured out, a new syndrome develops, or another group of people become affected. Despite being originally transmitted from a bat to a human, COVID-19 did not seem to affect animals—until recently. Now, several pets across the globe have tested positive, some with respiratory illness, which may cause you concern for your furry friend. Although we are still learning about the novel coronavirus and our uncertain future, we want to share the facts regarding what we currently know about animals, COVID-19, and your pet’s risk.

#1: A small number of pets have tested positive for COVID-19

The first pets to test positive for COVID-19 were two dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, who were being held in quarantine because their owners had tested positive. None of these pets developed illness, and subsequently tested negative. Since then, several other pets have tested positive, with the results confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), including:

  • Two New York cats — Two cats living in different households in New York tested positive after developing mild respiratory illness. One cat lived with several family members who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The other cat was an indoor-outdoor cat whose owner did not develop symptoms, and was never tested; however, they lived in an area with a high number of cases. Both cats are expected to make a full recovery.
  • Eight large cats at the Bronx zoo — Five tigers and three lions at the Bronx zoo also tested positive after developing mild respiratory illness. One zookeeper subsequently tested positive, but was asymptomatic at the time of exposure.
  • Mink at Netherlands farms — Mink on four Netherlands farms tested positive after farmers noticed an increase in gastrointestinal and respiratory illness, and overall mortality. Several caretakers at each farm had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and are believed to have passed the virus to the animals. Mink are not kept as pets, but they are closely related to ferrets, who have been shown through scientific investigation to be susceptible to the virus.

#2: Your pet’s risk of infection is extremely low

What does all this mean for your pet? Although pets apparently can become infected, the likelihood of your pet developing COVID-19 is minimal. To date, almost 1.5 million U.S. human COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with only a handful of pet cases. At this point, pet infections are not likely to dramatically increase, so your pet’s risk of infection will  probably remain low.

#3: To be safe, you should take precautions to prevent infection in your pet

Although your pet will probably not become infected, the CDC recommends that you take precautions to ensure their safety, including:

  • Practicing social distancing — Prevent your pet from interacting with people outside your household by keeping cats indoors, walking your dog on a leash while maintaining a six-foot distance from others, and avoiding dog parks and pet stores.
  • Restricting contact if you become sick — If you develop COVID-19, or respiratory signs, have another family member care for your pet to prevent unnecessary contact. If you live alone, having someone outside your home care for your pet is not necessary, or recommended, unless you are too sick. While sick, you should have minimal contact with your pet, wear a face covering, and wash your hands before and after handling them, or their food.
  • Practicing good hygiene — Avoid close contact with your pet, such as snuggling, petting, and sharing bedding or food.

#4: No cases of pet-to-human transmission have been reported

Despite possible human-to-pet transmission, the reverse does not seem to hold true, with no cases of pet-to-human transmission reported to date. Although this seems unlikely to change, we will continue to monitor this situation. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend following the above guidelines to keep yourself, and your pet, healthy.

#5: Your pet likely does not need to be tested for COVID-19

If your pet is not sick, it is not recommended they be tested for COVID-19. If your pet develops respiratory signs, call us to schedule an appointment, so we can thoroughly evaluate your pet’s condition. We can test for COVID-19, although pets can develop a number of respiratory illnesses that are more likely the culprit. Let us know if your pet has had contact with anyone known to be infected with the virus, as this will guide our diagnostic testing, and our safety practices.

We are still open for your pet’s health care needs.

Your pet’s health care is important to our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team, and we have remained open to provide essential services to our pets and pet owners. If your pet needs veterinary care, whether for vaccines or illness signs, call us to make an appointment with Dr. White.

We are here for your family members—two- and four-legged—during this uncertain time. Contact us if you have questions about your pet and COVID-19, or other healthcare concerns.

Let’s Talk Teeth

Let’s Talk Teeth

Or rather, more specifically, periodontal disease. The best kind of care for your pet is preventative care, and that often starts with taking care of their teeth. Have you ever had your dentist drill into you the importance of taking care of your teeth and your gums because it helps to take care of the rest of you too? A healthy mouth is the first step to a healthy pet. Periodontal disease is the most prevalent health disorder in both felines and canines, with most canines showing signs of this disease by the age of three. Periodontal disease can be very detrimental to your pet’s health and as you are their best defense against it, it’s important to know just what it is, where it comes from, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

What exactly is periodontal disease?

Any time you eat, your teeth naturally retain bits of food particles and bacteria that then turn into plaque. The more your pets eat without their teeth being cleaned in between, the plaque will continue to build up and over time will mineralize and harden to form calculus. As humans do, this is where we’d take a toothbrush and some floss to our teeth and gums, ridding them of any lingering plaque or calculus. Our pets, however, depend on us to take care of this part of the equation and can suffer if it’s left untreated. Bacteria will make its way into the bloodstream by way of the teeth and gums, feeding the body infectious organisms. That bacteria can then overwhelm the body’s immune system and take residence in the heart. This can lead to heart murmurs and eventual heart failure. That same bacteria can also be lodged in the kidneys, causing infection, inflammation, and acute damage. Over time, this can result in kidney failure.

How do I know if my pet is showing signs of periodontal disease and what do I do?

Because this disease progresses over time, any symptoms your pets show will also progress. Early signs of periodontal disease can be decreased appetite due to swollen and painful gums, which can materialize with them favoring their mouths. The most common sign, and perhaps the most overlooked as something inevitable but actually isn’t, is bad breath. Bad breath is a sign that something is amiss inside their mouths and needs attention. As the disease progresses, so do the signs. Other things to keep an eye on are gum recession, bleeding of the gums, tooth loss, and infected teeth. Teeth that are infected but don’t fall out can cause abscesses, which are marked by sinus infections and nasal discharge. Keep an eye, too, on the outer surface of the upper premolars and the inner surface of the lower incisors and premolars as ducts empty into the mouth and saliva is conducive to calculus formation. A good rule of thumb when watching for and identifying symptoms of periodontal disease is to know that you know your pets the best, and you know when something isn’t right, or they’re acting differently, or they’re in pain. If you think they’re showing symptoms or you’re just not sure, give us a call and we will always be happy to take a look. If they are showing symptoms, we can treat this disease in its early stages with scaling and polishing to remove calculus. This must be done by a veterinarian only.

Now that I know what it is and what to look for, how do I prevent it?

We humans go to the dentist generally a couple times a year – once for a checkup and at least once for a cleaning. You go because you know it’s important to take care of your teeth and your gums beyond just what your toothbrush and your floss can do. A solid foundation of good oral care is also the foundation for a healthy body and life. Your pets need the same kind of care for their teeth and gums, they just cannot drive themselves. It is crucial for your pet, just as it is for you, for them to have yearly dental exams with their veterinarians. Beyond that, it is extremely important for you to develop an at-home care regimen. Being able to brush your pet’s teeth is the goal, but start by first using your finger to help get them acclimated to and comfortable with having a strange object in their mouths. Make sure to only use toothpastes specifically for pets. A popular trick is to give your pets dental treats for them to chew on and work some of that plaque off on their own, but they shouldn’t be relied on as the only dental care.

If you think that your pet might be showing signs of periodontal disease, please give us a call and make an appointment.

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese

The holidays are nearing and it’s time for family pictures. You gather everyone and park them in front of a festive backdrop to orchestrate the cutest photo possible. The dog goes in front because who doesn’t love a big happy grin? “Say Cheese!” you yell as you dart back into your spot and let the camera’s timer do its thing. You sort through the pictures later that night, hot cocoa in hand and pup at your feet. You stop mid swipe as you notice that someone very important has yellow teeth.

Let’s talk dental health. The first thing that comes to mind in regards to poor dental health is generally yellow teeth. But that’s merely a symptom of something else, and a sign that your pet needs some attention from your vet. There are a few different areas that have potential cause for concern when it comes to inside your pet’s mouth, including periodontal disease, feline stomatitis, dental caries, broken teeth, enamel hypoplasia, supernumerary teeth, malocclusion, and those discolored teeth from your family photo. As always, the best care is preventative care which is why it is highly recommended that your pet have an annual dental check up. If you can’t remember your pet’s last visit, it’s probably time. Give us a call and we’ll schedule one at your earliest convenience. Now let’s get down to business.

Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease is arguably one of the worst and most prevalent of all potential issues. In fact, most dogs and cats will show some sign of this disease by the age of three. Just like humans, when dogs and cats eat, the particles of food build up on their teeth to form plaque. Humans take a toothbrush and some floss to their teeth and call it a day, but your pet needs a little assistance in that department. If the plaque builds up enough, it will mineralize and harden to form calculus. From there, bacteria can make its way into the bloodstream, kidneys, or even the heart. The most common sign of periodontal disease also happens to be the one most frequently overlooked. Bad breath is a sign of something more going on in the mouth. Beyond that stinky dog breath, other signs include gum recession, bleeding in the gums, tooth loss, and infected teeth. Along with these, your pet can be experiencing significant pain. If you think your animal is showing any of these signs, call and make an appointment today. Prevention here is key. That includes annual dental exams with cleanings to ensure your pet’s teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible, as well as to identify any potential issues. Equally important is establishing a solid foundation of at-home care. Brush your dog’s teeth with canine specific toothpaste. A popular idea is the use of dental treats, but make sure they supplement both the brushings and exams instead of replacing them.

Feline Stomatitis

Cats want to be camera ready too! Well… they at least want happy and healthy teeth! Feline stomatitis is a condition of the oral cavity in which the gums become inflamed and grow over the teeth. Difficulty chewing, bad breath, profuse salivation, and inflamed lips are all symptoms. If not treated, this can spread to the back of the throat, making swallowing difficult and uncomfortable. The exact cause of this is unknown, but having a solid groundwork of dental care can slow any recurrence.

Dental Caries

Every human’s least favorite thing to hear when they go to the dentist. You guessed it! Cavities. Your pets get them too, though rarely. Dogs and cats carry a uniquely high pH of saliva, which seldom results in cavities. However, when they do occur, they too must go to their veterinarian dental specialist and get a filling. One of the things we look for in the annual dental exams are signs for any potential cavities.

Enamel Hypoplasia

Severe malnutrition and fluorine toxicity, as well as the distemper virus can cause something called enamel hypoplasia, which is the incomplete development of the outer layer of enamel that surrounds the crown of the tooth. Teeth that have a coarse texture and a stained brown color are indicative of this. The absence of the enamel makes the teeth especially vulnerable to decay and fractures. Puppies and kittens that are suffering from enamel hypoplasia can have an enamel restoration by a veterinary dental specialist.

Malocclusion

When the teeth don’t properly line up between the upper and lower jaws, your pet has either a brachygnathism or a prognathism. Or simply, they have an overbite or an underbite, respectively. These traits are inheritable and can lead to dental and jaw problems if their normal biting action is interrupted. This can be detected as being a potential issue as early as eight weeks at their annual dental exam.

Broken teeth, yellow teeth, and extra teeth… oh my!

Let’s talk teeth. Like people, the mouth is a focal point of health in your pet’s body. Having a healthy mouth starts with having healthy teeth. Some dogs and cats are born with supernumerary teeth, or extra teeth. These teeth are either retained deciduous teeth or permanent ones that are crowding the others, potentially causing abnormal eruption pathways. Because of their close proximity to the other permanent teeth, they serve as additional hosts for calculus and bacteria to build. In most cases, the teeth are deciduous and no action needs to be taken. If normal biting action is interrupted however, removal is recommended. Another thing that can happen is the breaking or fracturing of a tooth. This can be because of trauma or disease, but if the pulp cavity of the tooth is exposed, inflammation, infection, or pain can result. This can be fixed with a visit to your veterinarian dental specialist and a root canal. Aside from extra teeth and broken teeth, teeth can become discolored. Teeth could be yellow, brown, or even bluish-gray. Brownish discoloration could be the result of enamel hypoplasia, whereas bluish-gray could be a sign of inflammation within the pulp cavity.

Now let’s get back to those family photos. Your dog has yellow teeth! All the possibilities of what this could mean run through your head as you simultaneously reach for your phone to make an appointment for a dental exam. You can retake those family photos once you know your pet is as happy and healthy as can be.

golden cat feeling air

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

Picture this: summer has arrived and it’s getting hotter and hotter. You don’t want to run up your energy bill so you’re trying to avoid turning on the air conditioner… but we all know that only works for so long. You need an escape so you decide to go for a walk and hope the air outside is cooler than in. You grab the leash and whistle for your boy. Together you make your way up the street and down your usual shortcut through the tall grass and weeds to your favorite park. You feel an itch begin to make its way through to your nose. Spoiler alert! Your dog sneezes first. Guess I’m not the only one, you think to yourself.

Let’s talk allergies. Or more specifically - seasonal allergies. The ones that make your throat scratchy and make you sneeze all day long during those hot summer months. You pop an allergy pill and you’re more or less ready to go. Easy enough. But here’s the thing - you’re not the only one in your household that’s likely to suffer from allergies and your furry friend can’t drive to the store for quick relief. They need you. So let’s get down to business.

FAQs

What are allergies and why do they affect my pet?

How can I tell if my pet is suffering from allergies?

Let’s talk treatment and prevention

The best care is always preventative care, so preventing allergies before they occur is key. Sometimes that’s unavoidable for a few reasons. Some pets are genetically predisposed to having allergies and some allergens are airborne or saturated in the environment. But there are ways to ease the pain of allergic reactions both present and impending. The best thing you can do is avoid the allergens altogether, but as we’ve learned, that’s not always feasible. So the next best thing is to provide your pet with the best defense system possible. For dust and dander allergies, clean their environment on a regular basis. Think spring cleaning, but summer based. Wash their bedding weekly and vacuum floors and curtains biweekly. For environmental and airborne allergies, bathe them once a week. Frequent baths can dry out their skin, so make sure to ask for a shampoo recommendation at your next appointment. Remember that walk to the park you took? Go the long way and avoid the tall grass as much as possible. Wash his paws when you get back, before he goes inside to limit tracking the allergens into the house.

There are a couple of things we can do to treat allergies. Among them are antihistamines, supplements, shampoos, sprays, immune-modulating medications, and sometimes steroids in extreme cases. Make sure you don’t administer anything before making an appointment to discuss the different options and figure out the best plan for your pet. As always, our first priority is the health and happiness of your furry friend. 

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?


Let’s talk spaying and neutering. First of all, what’s the difference? Both terms refer to the sterilization of pets, but spaying is mostly used when talking about females as it is the ovariohysterectomy - or the removal of the ovaries, and neutering is used when talking about males, as it is the orchiectomy - or the removal of the testicles.


Now that we’ve settled the verbiage, let’s get down to business.


So should I spay or neuter my pet?  The short answer is yes.
But let’s get a little deeper. There are a handful of reasons as to why you should spay/neuter your pet. Overall health, behavior, longevity of life, and population control.

Overall Health


The act of spaying/neutering your pets can greatly reduce the risk of major illness later in life. Female dogs that are spayed very rarely develop mammary cancer. Plus, unspayed dogs have a 200x greater chance for breast cancer than those that have been spayed before their first heat. Even dogs that are spayed after their first heat are 10x less likely to get cancer than those who haven’t been spayed at all. On the male side, neutering completely eliminates the possibility of developing testicular cancer, and is purported to reduce the risk of prostate cancer as well.

Behavior


Now let’s talk behavior. Male dogs who have yet to be neutered tend to be more territorial and will mark (and yes, I do mean pee!) indiscriminately, even all over the house. Intact males will also go to great lengths to find a mate, and are more likely to roam away from home, putting them in danger of being hit by a car or getting into fights with other, unknown dogs. In their journey to find a mate, they’ll also be far more inclined to hump… everything. Other dogs, the couch, your leg. Having your male dog neutered reduces the amount of testosterone in their body and can be used as a behavioral modification mechanism to calm overly excited dogs. It’s not a guarantee, however, as it doesn’t eliminate all the testosterone in their body, so be sure to give us a call if you have any behavior concerns and we’ll help figure out a solution that best suits you and your pet. Unspayed females will go into heat for four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. It’s as messy as it sounds, doggy diapers and all.

Longevity of Life


Our primary concern is always the health and happiness of your pet. What we can do, together, to ensure you share a long life - filled with walks at the park, a million games of catch, and countless belly rubs. The main reason you’re reading this right now is because you love your furry best friend and you want to make sure they stick around for as long as possible. Spaying/neutering gives you the best chance to make that happen. Pets that are fixed tend to live longer - they’re less likely to roam, which can put them in harm’s way. They’re less likely to develop mammary/testicular cancer. They’re more likely to be there, tail wagging, when you walk through the door. They’re more likely to spend their lives as your loyal companion, happy and healthy.

Population Control


Nationwide, upwards of 1.5 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized each year simply because there just aren’t enough homes to go around. 6.5 million companion pets enter US animal shelters every year. These are unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, they are family pets who lost their homes, they are dogs and cats just like your furry best friend. And that’s just the shelters. It’s estimated that the feral cat population in the United States is over 50 million. Spaying/neutering your pets is the only form of birth control that is one hundred percent successful. Those intact dogs that are roaming to find a mate? Imagine they hump an unspayed female and that results in a litter of puppies, puppies you may never even know exist. Imagine your female is in heat and your friend brings their new dog over to socialize but they forget to tell you they have yet to be fixed. Surprise! Puppies! To ensure there are no surprises, getting your pets spayed/neutered is important.

I want to spay/neuter my pet, now what?

The first step when you acquire a new friend is to make an appointment for a physical examination. There we can structure a plan for the happiest, healthiest life for you and your pet.

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