How is Your Pet’s Dental Health?

Do you think “Ew, ick!” when your tabby exhales as he comes close to your face to look in your eyes?  Does your schnauzer-mix have “dog breath”?  Both are good indicators that a dental check-up and cleaning for your pet is a wise idea.

Tasha

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  We’ve talked about ways you can keep your dog’s teeth as clean as possible at home in our post on Dry Food and Dog Teeth.  Today, Dr. Frank and one of our veterinary technicians answer questions about having a professional dental cleaning for your cat or dog done at your veterinarian’s clinic or hospital – the benefits, how it is done and other questions about dentals.

We love to go to the dentist ourselves, don’t we?  Yep, one of our favorite things to do.  But, admit it – Doesn’t your mouth feel SO much better after the hygienist cleans your teeth?  Exceedingly better than after you brush your teeth, no matter how fancy a toothbrush you have.

Consider giving your pet the gift of fresh breath and super-clean teeth by taking him to your vet for a dental cleaning in February.

Q: What are the benefits of a dental cleaning?

Dr. Frank:  I’d say the top three benefits of a clinic dental cleaning are:

  • Fresher breath!
  • Healthier body by preventing serious disease or illness that can start in the mouth
  • The opportunity for your vet to thoroughly check all of your pet’s teeth, which can save teeth.  This is difficult to do when the pet is awake and can be particularly hard to do with wide-awake cats.

    Melo

Q: What are the risks of not getting a dental cleaning?

Dr. Frank:  Infections in the gums such as gingivitis and periodontal disease (disease affecting the tooth or jaw) can lead to a variety of seemingly unrelated health issues such as liver disease, diabetes, kidney disease or other life-threatening conditions.  And let’s not forget the obvious – undetected problems with the teeth or gums can lead to tooth loss.

Q: What does a dental cleaning entail?

Dr. Frank:  In our clinic, as in most veterinary practices, our veterinary technicians perform dental cleaning procedures.  So we decided to ask Kelsey Pritchett*, one of our technicians, to answer this question.  Any problems the technician finds during the cleaning is brought to my attention.

Kelsey:  Ideally dental cleanings on dogs and cats are preventative maintenance just as with people.  The mouth is the doorway to our internal organs and if it is unhealthy it sets the stage for the rest of the body to follow suit.  A thorough dental cleaning is one way to prevent oral disease that could contribute to other diseases down the road.

A meticulous dental cleaning is done in our practice under general anesthesia. That way we are able to really see all surfaces of the teeth and inspect them well for any signs of disease.

We remove the large bulks of tartar and then, with an ultrasonic scaler and a hand scaler, we clean the crown of the tooth.  We then measure the sulcus depth, where the gums meet the tooth, to check for any pockets that can house bacteria.  We make a note of the general condition of the gums and if there are any abnormal teeth.

If there are deep pockets that cannot be remedied or if a tooth is loose which means that the disease process has gone too far for us to save the tooth, we, with the owner’s permission, remove the diseased tooth.

We finish our cleaning by polishing all surfaces of all of the teeth.  This is a very important step in the process as it allows us to smooth out any grooves in the enamel of the teeth to prevent bacteria and tartar build up in those areas.

We make a detailed report of any teeth that were abnormal and what was done about them so that next time we go in to clean the pet’s mouth, we can monitor areas we were previously concerned about.

For additional details, read the full article written by Kelsey.

*Note: You can find information about Kelsey’s training and background on Our Exceptional Staff page.

Dr. Frank:  We put the pet on IV fluids during the procedure to help flush anesthetic out of their system and we give the pet a supportive vitamin cocktail.  We also suggest to our clients the use of plant botanicals after the cleaning to help decrease plaque and tartar buildup.

Q: Some holistic vet clinics advertise they do teeth cleanings with no anesthetic?  Do you do that in your clinic?  If not, why not?

Dr. Frank:  No, we do not.  In our area, this is a 3rd party service which only offers the service at one location per zip code.  It is important to realize that the cleaning is not performed by the your pet’s regular doctor or the doctor’s staff, it is performed by people who may not have seen your pet before.

Although dental cleaning without anesthetic can have some benefits compared to nothing at all, without anesthetic, meticulous checking of each tooth and the gums can be extremely difficult, as mentioned above.

In our practice we have seen a few cases of pets needing teeth extracted within months of having the dental service without anesthetic performed.  In our clinic, if the dog or cat has gingivitis that is not too severe, we can even apply a time-release antibiotic in the gumline, eliminating the need for the owner to give follow-up medication at home.

Q: How often should my pet get his teeth cleaned?

Dr. Frank:  It is important to have your pet’s teeth checked by your vet at least annually, every 6 months for older pets.  I do this (as do most vets) as part of the annual or 6 month wellness exam we encourage our clients to schedule for each pet.  At that exam your vet will recommend a dental cleaning if he or she sees a need.

Whether or not your dog or cat will need a dental annually, semi-annually or not at all depends on a number of factors including breed, diet and genetics.

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Click Here for an AVMA video with instructions on teaching a dog or cat to accept tooth brushing.  The vet also explains the risks of periodontal disease in pets.

9/11 Canine Heroes (today)

This week a couple of us with the clinic received an email from one of our regular blog readers.  It was so touching that Dr. Frank and Kris decided to copy the email for our post on this weekend of remembrance ceremonies and events. 

This morning as I watched the ceremonies on TV hosted by Brian Williams, he talked to the last survivor pulled from Ground Zero, Genelle Guzman-McMillan.  Brian Williams mentioned the dog who found her scent and Genelle said his name was Tracker.  I’m assuming he is not with us anymore and I know nothing else about him, but the pictures below are search and rescue dogs who also worked on “The Pile” and at the Pentagon who are still alive today.

We don’t know where this email originated, but we are honored to spread these photos to our little piece of the canine-lovers world.

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During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors.

Now, ten years on, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled ‘Retrieved’.  The dogs worked tirelessly to search for anyone trapped alive in the rubble, along with countless emergency service workers and members of the public.

9/11 search dogs who are still alive.  True heroes of 9/11 still with us today…

Their eyes say everything you need to know about them.  Just amazing creatures.

Moxie

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop, Massachusetts, arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti, at the World Trade Center on the evening of September 11 and searched the site for eight days.

Tara

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the World Trade Center on the night of the 11th. The dog and her handler, Lee Prentiss, were there for eight days.

Kaiser

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana, was deployed to the World Trade Center on September 11 and searched tirelessly for people in the rubble.

Bretagne

Bretagne and Denise Corliss

Bretagne and his owner Denise Corliss from Cypress,Texas, arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days.

Guinness

Guinness, 15, from Highland, California, started work at the site with Sheila McKee on the morning of September 13 and was deployed at the site for 11 days.

Merlyn

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to Ground Zero on September 24, working the night shift for five days.

Red

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 until the 27 as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines.

Abigail

Tuff

Abigail, above, was deployed on the evening of September 17, searching for 10 days, while Tuff arrived in New York at 11:00 pm on the day of attack to start working early the next day.

Hoke

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Center from their home in Denver on September 24 and searched for five days.

Scout and Unknown Dog

Scout and another unknown dog lie among the rubble at Ground Zero, just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors

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Traveling across nine states in the U.S.from Texasto Maryland, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas, 34, captured the remaining dogs in their twilight years in their homes where they still live with their handlers, a full decade on from 9/11.

Their stories have now been compiled in a book, called Retrieved, which is published on the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

Charlotte Dumas' book - Retrieved

Noted for her touching portraits of animals, especially dogs, Charlotte wanted Retrieved to mark not only the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, but also as recognition for some of the first responders and their dogs.

“I felt this was a turning point, especially for the dogs, who although are not forgotten, are not as prominent as the human stories involved,” explained Charlotte, who splits her time between New York and Amsterdam.

“They speak to us as a different species and animals are greatly important for our sense of empathy and to put things into perspective.”

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We at Harmony Animal Wellness Center couldn’t agree more, and we thank Charlotte Dumas for commemorating these dogs’ selfless work and lives.

Your Pet’s Weight – Healthy or Tubby?

Sunday’s unexpectedly warm afternoon in an otherwise much cooler than normal summer here in the Seattle area was a little much for Tucker below, though it doesn’t seem to have bothered Abbey at all. 

Tucker and Abbey

Unlike other parts of the country this summer, our days of very warm weather have been few so far this year.  Hot summer weather can be even more stressful on our cats and dogs if they are overwieght.  Since we control what our pets eat, you’d think it would be simple to keep our pets at a healthy weight. 

But for many people it’s not easy, nor does it feel simple at all.  Continue reading

Food and your pet – Food Energetics

My apologies for the gap since our last info-rich post.  As the clinic gets busier during the summer months, we’ve needed to adjust timing a bit.  The good news is, this post has a boatload of great information for you.  And we’ll be working very hard to post more frequently going forward – Yea!

Two of three cuties at their appointment

Most of us know our pets can have mild or severe food allergies.  Your new kitten gets diarrhea every time you feed him a canned food with salmon in it, though that doesn’t happen with the same brand that contains only chicken.  Or your Saint Bernard has the same problem every time you feed her a dry food or treat with corn in it. 

And many of us know how we personally feel different when we eat different foods – eating a salad gives you more energy, while eating a salad calms your best friend down.  But few of us know how to determine what foods may affect our pets in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. 

Today Dr. Frank answers questions on Food Energetics, a fascinating topic he is passionate about.  Continue reading

Lawn and Garden Care with Pets in Mind

Though chillier than normal, it’s that time of year again.  The time of year we in the Pacific Northwest start mowing, thatching, aerating and

Freestyle Demo at 2010 Open House

fertilizing our lawns.  We’re deciding what flowers and veggies to plant and we’re getting containers and garden plots ready for the seeds and starters we plan to put in as soon as weather permits. 

We all want to make sure our lawn and garden is safe for our pets and kids.

Continue reading

Vaccinations – Part II – Dogs

Marty with his person in reception

A happy, healthy dog is joy personified.  As with cats, vaccinations are an important and occasionally controversial part of our dogs’ lives, as more and more vaccines are available to our vets.

When is the best time to vaccinate?  Which ones are most important?  What about stories we’ve heard about adverse reactions?  These are just a few of the many questions that come up.  And we find in all forms of media (the web, magazines, newspaper, TV) almost as many differing opinions to each of our questions, as we have questions.  

Continue reading