With National Pet Dental Month beginning in February, the dental health of our patients is a main focus of our practice right now. While having dental procedures performed is key to help maintain dental health, home dental care is also an extremely important aspect of maintaining dental health in dogs and cats.
The goal of practicing home dental care is to prevent or control periodontal disease by reducing plaque and tartar buildup. In order to be most beneficial, this must be practiced long term. There are various home dental care options available and the combination of different methods is ideal.
The following are examples of home dental care options:
Brushing the Teeth
This is the most effective way to slow the progression of dental disease between dental cleanings. By brushing the teeth, formation of the film of bacteria on the teeth (known as plaque) is disrupted. Ideally the teeth should be brushed daily for the best results. Introducing your pet to brushing when they are younger is easiest for both you and your pet. Your pet will likely resist having the teeth brushed at first. Please remain patient and persistent, as it will take some time for them to get used to it.
Be sure to use a pet-safe toothpaste and avoid using human products. Toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, so hopefully you can find one that your pet will enjoy. You can also try a variety of pet toothbrushes styles until you find one that works best for your pet.
As with brushing, it may take time for your pet to adjust to the taste and having dental rinse applied. Some rinses taste better than others. Find one your pet likes. We recommend finding a rinse that contains chlorhexidine, which is one of the most effective antiseptics and helps prevent plaque formation on the teeth.
Dental Diets and Treats
Diets and treats formulated to address pets’ dental health rely on the shape or size of the kibble and the ingredients of the food to effective. The diets can be fed as the main diet and also as treats. Examples of prescription diets include Hill’s Prescription Dental t/d Dental Care, Royal Canin Dental Care, and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health. There are also over-the-counter diets and treats available without a prescription.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance is awarded to home oral hygiene products that meet or exceed the VOHC standard for slowing down the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar. Check out these links to learn which products have the VOHC Seal of Acceptance:
Dogs – http://www.vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Dogs.pdf
Cats – http://www.vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Cats.pdf
Taking an active role in your pet’s dental care will help reduce dental disease and potentially life-threatening heart and kidney disease, which is why it is so important! Please contact us if you have any questions regarding home dental care for your pet.
Amber Slaughter, DVM
You bring your dog to the vet every year for a physical examination and vaccinations. But do you recall why your dog is receiving her shots and how her doctor has decided which ones she needs? The following is a summary of the vaccinations we offer and the diseases they prevent.
Rabies is a virus that is contracted through the saliva (usually a bite) from an infected animal. Because rabies is always fatal and can be transmitted to humans, it is required by law that pet dogs be vaccinated. The first rabies vaccine your pet receives can be given as young as 12 weeks of age and must be re-administered one year later. Subsequent vaccines are given at either one- or three-year intervals.
DAPP, aka Distemper
This combination vaccine protects your dog from four respiratory, neurologic, and gastrointestinal viruses (distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) that are in the environment and easy to contract through contact with an affected dog or contaminated feces. It is especially important that puppies receive this inoculation at appropriate intervals. The immune system of puppies is immature and not ready to battle these diseases. We administer this vaccine starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and continue every 2 to 4 weeks until your dog is at least 16 weeks of age. As your dog gets older, this vaccine will be given less frequently since his immune system is armed with antibodies to fight illness.
A bacteria found in standing water, leptospirosis is transmitted through the urine of infected rodents. A dog can contract the bacteria by drinking out of, or even walking through, a contaminated puddle. Symptoms range from mild gastrointestinal signs to liver and/or kidney failure. This potentially fatal disease is communicable to humans, so we strongly recommend all dogs receive the vaccine once a year.
There are several vaccines we give to dogs based on their lifestyles, which determines their risks.
Bordetella is the bacteria implicated in “kennel cough,” a respiratory illness that is easy to transmit through contact with an infected dog or through nasal or oral secretions. If your dog has contact with dogs you don’t know at a park or kennel, she should receive this vaccine. Puppies can get this vaccine as young as 6 weeks of age. It requires annual boosters.
The Lyme disease vaccine protects dogs against the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease is characterized by arthritis, lameness, fever, and rarely, a serious kidney disease. If your dog spends any time in the woods and has exposure to ticks, this vaccine is recommended. It’s worth noting that protection against ticks is an essential part of disease prevention, since Lyme is not the only disease ticks can transmit.
Canine Influenza virus
Canine flu causes fever, cough, and fatigue and can lead to life-threatening pneumonia. It’s transmitted through oral or nasal secretions or through contact with a contaminated surface. If your dog spends time around dogs you don’t know at a park or a kennel, this vaccine is an important part of disease prevention.
Vaccinations can protect your dog from contagious diseases, some of which are fatal. As your pet’s caregiver, you should understand the preventable diseases your dog is at risk for contracting. Please call our office if you have any questions about these vaccines.
Barrie Yallof, DVM