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Say “Ahhh”

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Welcome to the beloved month of February, where the weather is unpredictable, the length of the month changes every 4 years, and the month that veterinary clinics around the world refer to as “Dental Month”!

Now personally, for me every month should be dental month, but once a year we decide to highlight our pet’s oral care. I’m sure most of you have been told at some point that your pet has some tartar build up on their teeth, and would benefit from a dental cleaning. Now I’m sure you’ve also wondered exactly what a dental entails. Well I’m here to tell you, that it involves a lot more than the name suggests, and that is why the price is more than what you may expect.

For starters, in order to be able to perform a thorough dental, the patient needs to be anesthetized. The reasons for this are many. For one, most animals are a bit nervous about having their teeth looked at, and thus in order to safely look at their teeth (for us and them), they need to be under anesthesia. As well, a lot of poking and prodding and picture taking and potential extractions occur during a dental; procedures which can be uncomfortable. Thus anesthesia is required so that the pet is not aware of what is going on, and so that we can provide adequate pain control. Lastly, as water and other materials are being sprayed in the mouth, anesthesia allows us to place a tube in the pets’ airway, preventing them from potentially “swallowing” these fluids into their lungs and causing pneumonia.

So now that we understand that part, what exactly happens once the pet is under anesthesia. First off, the tartar or plaque on the teeth is removed by one of our highly trained technicians. The teeth are then cleaned, so that the full tooth can be adequately visualized. Following this, each individual tooth is examined one by one, and we mark down how much tartar is present, if the surrounding gums are inflamed, how loose the tooth is, if there is any bone loss surrounding the tooth, and if the attached gums have become loose. This step is called charting.

Following tooth charting, the teeth are then x-rayed. X-rays are amazing because they show us everything below the gum line that we cannot see with the naked eye. Full mouth x-rays are the best, because even the most beautiful tooth above the gum line may have significant disease at the level of the root, indicating it needs to be removed. These are all things that we could never tell from an awake oral exam, or from a non-anesthetic cleaning. This also indicates why it can be hard to create an estimate for a dental, as we don’t really know what teeth need to be removed until the x-ray and charting portions of the procedure have been completed.

Once the charting and x-rays have been completed, the veterinarian then takes all of that information under consideration to determine which teeth should stay and which should go. If no teeth need to be removed, then the teeth are polished and the patient is awoken. If teeth do need to be removed, then they are extracted. Extractions are the most time consuming, and thus most costly part of a dental. The earlier in the progression of dental disease a dental procedure is completed, the less extractions that will be needed, and thus the less expensive the procedure will be.  So when a veterinarian recommends the procedure, it really will be more cost effective to have it done sooner rather than later.

Now a lot of owners have reservations about having their pets teeth extracted, but the truth is dogs and cats do exceptionally well without all of their teeth and even do well with no teeth at all! Most owners report a huge improvement in their pets’ energy, demeanor and youthful personality after a dental, even if extractions are performed.

Hopefully this has helped clear up some of the misconceptions you may have had regarding dental procedures, and hopefully demonstrates just how much is done in this procedure, and thus how valuable they are, despite the cost of them. If you have any further questions regarding dental procedures, or would like to know if your pet would benefit from a dental, please feel free to call the clinic to book an oral examination. We love keeping our patients smiles happy and healthy!

Does My Pet Have a Drinking Problem?

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Have you noticed your pet is spending more time at the water bowl than usual?  Increased drinking habits can be a normal response to diet or environment, but they can also be a sign of a serious medical condition.

Normal, non life-threatening reasons for increased water consumption can include exercise, high temperatures, and changes in diet. After exercise or on hot days pets will often pant to try to cool down and this results in increased evaporation of water from their tongues.    Switching from a canned food to a dry food may mean your pet needs to drink more water to make up for the water they previously got from their diet.  Conversely, if you switch from a dry food to a wet food you may notice your pet is not drinking as much as they used too.

Serious medical conditions that can cause an increase in drinking habits include diabetes, kidney disease, bladder infections, thyroid disease and Cushings disease.

If you suspect your pet is drinking more than normal, consult your veterinarian.  Blood work and a urine sample will help to determine if their increased thirst is something to be concerned about.

Skating on Thin Ice

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Now that we are officially in the throws of winter, you may have noticed that the rivers and ponds have frozen over. These frozen bodies of water may seem like fun new areas to explore, or a short cut to get from one destination to another. However, no matter how strong these ice fields may seem, we can never predict how they will react to extra weight.

When a dog walks on these frozen rivers, there is always the chance that their weight will be too much, and the ice will crack beneath them, and they will fall into the freezing cold water below. This puts them at a high risk of drowning. Even dogs who are very good swimmers, can be pulled under the ice by the currents of the river, preventing them from being able to resurface. If a dog can be rescued from the water, they will still need considerable medical care for hypothermia.  As well, often times they will have inhaled water into their lungs, meaning they can still “drown” on land, even days later.

If your dog is naturally attracted to the water, you may want to consider putting them on leash whenever you are passing by those areas in the winter.

No matter how frozen those lakes or ponds seem, do not walk on the ice, it is just never worth the risk.

Don’t Eat That! Foreign Body Ingestion

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Foreign body ingestion refers to eating anything that is not food. Pets can be curious creatures with curious appetites.   Some of the common foreign body ingestions we encounter include rocks, socks, shoes, toys, sticks, clothing, bones and personal hygiene products.  Sometimes objects move through the digestive tract without incident and are passed within 10-24 hours.  However, many of these objects can become “stuck” in the digestive tract and quickly become life threatening.

Symptoms

If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t have, monitor them closely for the following signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Straining to pass feces
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy/dullness
  • Behavioural changes (for example, growling when being picked up)

If any of the above symptoms are noticed, have then examined by a veterinarian immediately.   

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood work may be performed to assess your pets’ overall health.  Radiographs may be required to visualize the object.  Treatment depends of the size and shape of the object, the time when it was ingested, and location in the digestive tract.    Treatment may include inducing vomiting, IV fluid therapy, pain management, and potentially surgery to remove the object.

Prevention

Prevention is key!  If your pet is prone to eating things they shouldn’t, limit their access to tempting items.  Insure all food scraps are out of reach, keep a clean house, supervise your pets with toys and remove any toys that have become damaged.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Cold

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Winter weather is here.  As we bundle up in jackets and gloves to stay warm outside it is important to remember that our furry companions get cold too.

Not all pets respond to cold the same way. For example, dog breeds such as Malamutes, Huskies and Saint Bernards with thicker fur and larger body size are more likely to enjoy cooler weather.  In contrast, those with thinner coats, smaller stature or less body fat, such as Chihuahuas, Terriers, Great Danes and cats, may be more sensitive to lower temperatures.

There is no single rule for determining what temperature is too cold for every pet.  As a rule, any temperature below – 10 degrees Celsius can become potentially life threatening to most pets.

Signs that your pet may be too cold include:

  • shivering
  • tucking their legs, tail or head closer to their torso
  • keeping their ears pinned back against their head
  • lifting their paws constantly
  • moving slowly

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it time to warm up!  Always make sure your pet has access to a nice warm place, either inside your house or an appropriately insulated shelter.

Christmas with the Pets

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Christmas is fast approaching, and along with it comes many parties and great feasts. While our bodies may be able to handle all of these different types of foods, a lot of them can cause harm to our furry friends.

Chocolate: This one is something to be aware of at all times, but during the Holidays we normally see an increase in the number of calls about chocolate toxicity. The degree of toxicity depends on the type of chocolate that the animal ingests. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is, as it contains a larger number of methylxanthines. Methylxanthine is the same chemical that is in coffee that makes our heart race and our hands tremor when we have too much. The same signs are seen in dogs that ingest chocolate, as their heart rate increases, they can develop tremors or seizures, and they often develop intestinal upset.

Turkey: We may be tempted to give our friends Turkey as a special holiday treat; however, this tasty gift may backfire on us. Often times the turkey can cause diarrhea in our pets, which is not only uncomfortable for them, but leaves us with a big mess to clean up. If the turkey pieces have a lot of skin or fat on them, they can also upset the pancreas, and cause pancreatitis. The pancreas is a very sensitive organ, and when it gets angry, it can cause everything from vomiting to diarrhea to very bloody stools, and in severe cases even death.

Teflon Pans: This one is not a risk for our dogs and cats, but is a risk for those of us who have friends who love to fly…birds! When Teflon, or other non-stick, pans are heated to high temperatures, they release a scentless chemical into the air, which affects the respiratory system of birds, and causes them to die suddenly.

Don’t forget that your local veterinarians are always here to answer any questions you may have about the safety of your pets over the holidays!