By Dr.Tim Julien, PAZ Veterinary
I’ll give you 42 guesses to name the most common disease affecting the health of dogs (and 30 guesses for cats).
Periodontal disease affects 85% of pets over the age of four.
Put another way, most pets have permanent degenerative changes to the structures that support their teeth (gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone) when they are still young adults.
Adult dogs have 42 individual sites for potential periodontal disease and adult cats have 30.
Within hours of eating, a sticky film called plaque (a combination of glycoproteins, loads of bacteria, and sugar) forms on the surface of the teeth. Over time, calcium salts found in saliva combine with the plaque to form an exceptionally hard substance called tartar. The millions of bacteria living in plaque and tartar excrete toxins that cause inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis.
Yeah, pretty gross. There is a reason we brush our teeth so often; more on that later.
The good news is that everything that I have described thus far (plaque, tartar, and gingivitis) is 100% reversible with a professional dental cleaning which generally includes anesthesia, dental radiographs, ultrasonic scaling, and polishing.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned at the beginning, most pets’ mouths have irreversible damage prior to their first dental cleaning. When tartar and gingivitis are left too long, the inflammation worsens and eventually destroys the ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in place, a.k.a. periodontal disease. This damage is not reversible. This leads to bad breath, chronic tooth pain, and tooth loss. Additionally, periodontal disease (which can also correctly be thought of as a chronic infection located under the gum line) can negatively affect the long-term health of the heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver, and immune system.
Dogs and cats typically suffer in silence until the damage is advanced. Some pets will let you know their mouth hurts, but most will just chew with the teeth that hurt the least or, if able to, swallow their food whole. As a result, periodontal disease is woefully undertreated.
Despite its shockingly high prevalence, periodontal disease is very preventable. It takes a little effort and dedication, but few areas of preventive medicine will have a bigger impact on your pet’s health than keeping their gums and teeth healthy. Dental health is as important as good nutrition and regular exercise. There are two critical elements to achieving this: regular home dental hygiene and annual veterinary dental care.
The most effective home dental care is also the least performed: daily brushing. Honestly, most pets will not only allow daily brushing but also enjoy it; the hardest part is getting in the habit of doing it. If you are willing to try, I recommend establishing a routine. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit. First, spend a week messing with the mouth using just your finger (as long as you can do this safely!) at the same time every day. Typically, pets get used to this quickly. The following week, apply pet toothpaste with your finger at the same time every day. It is important that it isn’t human toothpaste; pet toothpaste is food flavored and lacks fluoride, so they don’t have to learn to spit in the sink. Often, if you are doing this at 8 pm, they will start finding you at 7:55 pm ready for that new chicken flavored paste you’ve been offering. After this, it’s not such a big deal you are using a “stick” to apply the toothpaste. You can absolutely use a toothbrush designed for animals, but any soft bristled brush will do just fine. Since plaque forms so quickly, it really is important to brush every day. It shouldn’t, however, take very long. Don’t worry about brushing the inside of the teeth. The whole process can be done effectively in 10-15 seconds.
The next best thing to brushing is to offer daily dental treats. These treats are designed to scrape the plaque off the surface of the teeth as they are chewed. The benefit is that you do less work, however, the treats are only effective on the teeth used to chew which means that they don’t help the incisors or the large canine teeth at all.
There are tons of products marketed to help keep your pet's teeth clean. If you find something you are interested in trying for your pet let us know next time you are at PAZ Veterinary. We are more than happy to spend some time explaining whether or not the product will achieve the goal of keeping those teeth healthy. In general, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance on any dental product you are considering.
The second element in keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia. The damage that occurs to the tooth attachment structures happens under the gum line and is not always apparent on normal examination. Dental radiographs and careful probing of gingival pockets are of paramount importance in identifying and rectifying periodontal disease in pets. Both require anesthesia. Anxiety regarding anesthesia is a common thing, and at PAZ we get that. We’d be happy to explain how seriously we take pre-anesthetic testing, anesthetic drug selection, and anesthetic monitoring.
I often get asked my opinion regarding “anesthesia-free dental cleanings.” In theory, the idea is very attractive. Unfortunately, in practice, these procedures are pretty worthless. Without anesthesia, it is impossible to thoroughly clean under the gum line, properly polish the teeth, or take dental radiographs. Periodontal disease happens entirely under the gum line. If you are simply chipping or scraping off the tartar above the gum line you are doing nothing to slow down, much less reverse, the dental disease process. In fact, without polish, scraping the surface of the teeth can actually make it easier for bacteria to stick.
The cost of appropriate dental care can also be a cause for anxiety and stress. Since periodontal disease is often hidden beneath the gum line, it can be very difficult to accurately estimate the final cost of a dental procedure. I often recommend starting with dental radiographs under sedation prior to scheduling a full dental procedure. Very similarly to human dentistry, obtaining radiographs first allows the identification of any irrevocably diseased teeth prior to full anesthesia. These radiographs allow me to plan for any needed extractions prior to initiating anesthesia. It also allows me the opportunity to share the images with you, allowing you to be confident in the knowledge of why (if any) teeth need to be removed. Additionally, because I know exactly what’s going on under the gum line, I can give you an accurate estimate of costs and avoid any surprises on the day of the procedure.
I hope this has given you a better understanding of the importance of dental health in our beloved furry companions. This is an aspect of preventive medicine that can’t be discussed enough. There are very few issues of greater consequence than dental care in maintaining your pet’s holistic health. Your pets are not going to complain about dental disease until it is really bad, so let’s work together to ensure they never have a reason to.
Still confused about dental disease or have more questions? That’s a great reason to come see us at PAZ Veterinary. At PAZ, we spend time and work hard to understand you and your loved one. You’ll never feel pressured, intimidated, confused, or guilty. We’re on your team, and you’ll feel it.
I hope to see you soon at Paz Veterinary.
Starting next week, we're running our 12 Days of Deals! Every day December 26 through January 7 we will have an awesome deal or giveaway for y'all. Check out what each deal will be below:
December 26: 20% off Kurgo travel gear.
December 29: 20% off Nature's Logic products.
December 30: Receive a free Healthy Pet ice cube tray when you purchase any product from The Honest Kitchen.
December 31: When you buy a 25 lb bag of Earthborn Holistic Venture dog food, you'll be entered to win a $200 Southwest Airlines gift card.
January 1: Healthy Pet is closed today so no deal!
January 2: $3 off Boxiecat litter.
January 3: $10 off all large bags (26 lbs) of Farmina dog food.
January 4: $5 off a bath & blowout or deshed from Austin Pet Stylist. Offer is good through January 31.
January 5: $6 off a 6 lb bag of The Bones & Co. raw food.
January 7: 25% off all beds.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, everyone will be enjoying delicious food. Shouldn't your dogs get something extra special as well? We're sharing a recipe brought to you by The Honest Kitchen for Peanut Butter Buckwheat Dog Treats. Made with gluten-free flour, these are great for any pooch, but especially for those with diabetes or digestive issues.
1 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of The Honest Kitchen Spruce Formula (available at all three Healthy Pet locations)
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup of water
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix buckwheat flour and dry spruce formula together
3. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and honey.
4. Pour olive oil and honey mixture into the flour and stir. Add egg and peanut butter and stir until well combined.
5. Knead dough with hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients together. Slowly add the water to help the dough come together.
6. Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. *The dough will be moist so spray the rolling pin with oil to prevent sticking.
7. Cut treats out with cookie cutter and place on baking sheet.
8. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
9. Remove from oven when done and let cool on racks.
10. Let your pups enjoy!
Store in fridge or freezer in airtight container.
Santa Claus is coming to Healthy Pet! He'll be visiting all three locations for $10 photos. Proceeds from each location's pictures will benefit a different local animal rescue. We'll also have samples from your favorite vendors!
Dates and times:
Seaholm, Saturday, November 24, from 12-4 pm
South, Saturday, December 1, from 12-4 pm
North, Sunday, December 2, from 12-4 pm
We can't to kick the holidays off with y'all!
The holidays are a time for everyone to get together and to enjoy everyone's company. However, a lot of popular holiday items are harmful to your best friends. Here are some tips to make sure everyone stays safe!
Avoid seasonal plants and decor: Mistletoe, holly and poinsettias should be completely avoided or kept out of reach from animals since they can cause many issues when ingested. Wires and tinsel should be out of reach to prevent cats from tearing them down. Christmas trees need to be secure so they won't fall down and cause injuries.
Holiday food dangers: Pets should be kept away from the dinner table, but since we all know they love trouble, keep everything secure and out of reach, including sweets, alcohol, bones, and fatty and spicy foods.
Presents: Your pets deserve presents too! We have a variety of fun and safe toys for cats and dogs, as well as healthy treats that they'll love.
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!
Meet sweet Delilah! She's a 10-year-old mix who is currently in a foster program with Austin Animal Center. Right now she is staying with the inmates of the Travis County Correctional Center. They provide her with daily care and give her lots of love. As much as they help, she's helping them by bolstering their spirits with never ending smiles and kisses. The inmates say she is very loving and is always there to comfort them. They even recently celebrated her 10th birthday by throwing her a party!
Delilah's time in the foster program is coming to an end and she will be headed back to the shelter soon, which is why we're trying to find her a furever home! She loves early morning walks and enjoys watching the sunrise. She loves to be rubbed and is a huge treat lover! She will always be there to comfort you and give lots of kisses.
If you or anyone you know might be interested in adopting Delilah, you can email email@example.com.
Come out to the Lakeline store on September 29 to celebrate with us!
Come out to the Seaholm store on August 25 to celebrate with us!
Summer is in full swing, which means temperatures are sweltering. If it’s too hot for us, imagine how your pets feel in their fur coats. Even though we want to enjoy the sunshine with our best friends, it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion.
Some of the signs include:
Collapse or convulsions
Vomiting or diarrhea
Gums or tongue turning blue or bright red
Rapid heart rate
Dizziness or lack of coordination
If your dog exhibits any of these signs, here’s what you can do:
Immediately move him to a cooler area, either indoors with air conditioning or in the shade
Check his temperature. If his temperature is above 106, he’s at risk for heat stroke, and you should call your vet immediately.
Cool your dog down with cool, wet cloths, or let him go into a pool or lake.
Give your dog cool water but don't force it. If he can’t or won’t drink, wet his tongue with water.
Get him to the vet. Call ahead so they can provide immediate assistance.
It is important to note that certain dog breeds are more prone to heat exhaustion than others, though all dogs can suffer from it if the conditions are right. In high heats, pay special attention to brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short noses and flat faces: shih tzus, pugs, boxers and bulldogs), working and hunting breeds (shepherds, retrievers and spaniels), dogs with thick coats or long hair, very young or very old dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with medical conditions.