News and updates
Pet Dental Care
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and in participation Companion Animal Hospital is giving a 15% discount on the entire dental package (pre-anesthesia blood work, anesthesia, clean and polish teeth, and any extractions), an average savings of about $30, throughout the month of February.
Dental disease in dogs and cats is one of the most frequent problems encountered in our pets. It usually manifests as bad breath, but can also show up as swelling of the gums and face, and reluctance to chew. The accumulation of tartar, which is calcified bacteria and sticks like cement to the teeth, leads to gingivitis and subsequent periodontal disease. Gingivitis refers swelling of the gums with redness and sensitivity. Periodontal disease means that the deep structures of the tooth like the roots are infected. Recent research suggests a link between periodontal disease and liver, kidney, and heart disease. The thought is that the chronic infections associated with periodontal disease serves as a source for continual bacterial shedding that affect the liver, kidney, and heart. The best way to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease are with removal of accumulated tartar under anesthesia and regular brushing or cleansing of the teeth at home.
Tartar that is adhering to the teeth extends below the gum-line and potentially into deep pockets along the roots. It is too painful for an animal to remove the tartar below the gum-line and to clean and probe the pockets while the animal is awake. If you do not fully remove the tartar then the animal is still at risk for developing gingivitis and periodontal disease. The general procedure for cleaning teeth is to remove all the tartar above and below the gum-line using an ultrasonic scaler and hand instruments. Then all the teeth are examined looking for fractures, exposed roots and loose teeth. Once the teeth are cleaned and evaluated they are polished to remove rough spots and reduce the surface area on the tooth where future tartar can accumulate.
After the cleaning is when the real work begins. In order to prevent tartar accumulation on your pets teeth daily cleansing of the teeth is recommended. The gold standard for cleaning is daily tooth brushing with an enzymatic paste. Not all pets are amenable to brushing. Alternatives to brushing are mouth washes and dental wipes that can also help prevent tartar, and prescription diets that act to mechanically clean the teeth. With regular at home dental care the oral health of your pet can be greatly improved, which can help to reduce the need for dental cleanings over the lifetime of your companion.
The Geriatric Pet and Common Diseases
Most dogs and cats are considered geriatric by the time they are 8-10 years old. It is at this time that many pets will begin to develop diseases similar to what is seen in senior humans, such as: kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, arthritis, hormonal imbalances that include too much cortisone (Cushing's disease), not enough Insulin (Diabetes Mellitus), not enough thyroid hormone in dogs, and too much thyroid hormone in cats, glaucoma, cataracts, dental disease, and cancer. Many of these diseases can be detected early with regular annual to semi-annual visits to the veterinarian that include routine urinalysis, fecal analysis, blood work, and blood pressure monitoring. Sometimes additional diagnostics will be suggested if these screening samples turn up positive.
Clinical Signs: Both your dog and cat will often times demonstrate changes in their behavior and activity which may indicate the onset of disease. If your pet is drinking and urinating more than they have in the past, it could indicate kidney disease or endocrine disease, such as diabetes or Cushings. A decrease in your pets activity, not wanting to go on walks, reluctance to go up stairs, could be signs of arthritis or heart disease, and if these symptoms are paired with coughing, heart disease should be considered. Cats with a voracious appetite that seem to be losing weight should be tested for hyperthyroidism. Animals that develop painful red eyes should be examined for glaucoma.
Laboratory tests: During the annual exam for all pets, we recommend bringing in a fresh stool sample to screen for intestinal parasites. In dogs, we also recommend screening for heartworm disease on a yearly basis, even if the dog is on year round heartworm prevention. There is new evidence that some heartworm lines are becoming resistant to our preventive medications, which makes it very important to screen for heartworm disease. In the geriatric pets, we also recommend a urine sample to screen for kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and Cushing's disease. A blood sample can be used to confirm abnormalities detected in the urine sample, and to screen for liver disease, alterations in thyroid hormone levels, anemia and leukemia, and even heart disease if that is suspected from the history and clinical signs of the animal. Blood pressure can be readily monitored, and high blood pressure is common in animals with kidney disease and cats with high levels of thyroid hormone. The typical screen for most geriatric patients, in addition to the stool sample and heartworm test in dogs, consists of a urine sample (we can do this for a fee, or you can collect your own) and blood to assess the kidney, liver and thyroid. Additional tests can be run based upon the animal's history and physical exam. Please don't hesitate to ask any of our staff if you have any questions about screening your elderly pet.
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