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Pet Care Awareness

March is Thyroid Month


Thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone
The thyroid glands play an important role in the normal metabolism of all body cells. Hypothyroidism is the most common hormonal disorder of dogs and typically affects dogs between 4 to 10 years of age. Common signs of this illness include:

    • Lethargy, reluctance to play or go on walks
    • Tires easily after exercise
    • Not as bright and alert or aware of surroundings as before
    • Weight gain
    • Heat seeking behavior – tends to seek sunlight, next to the refrigerator or heating vents to lie because these areas are warm
    • Intestinal problems that may come and go such as diarrhea or vomiting
    • Skin problems including hair loss that is symmetrical on both sides of your pet, dull dry coat, increased pigment to the skin, bacterial skin infections are also more common
    • Some pets with hypothyroidism also have a slower than normal heart rate

Treatment involves daily thyroid hormone supplementation.


Thyroid gland produces too much hormone

The thyroid glands play an important role in the normal metabolism of all body cells. Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal disorder of cats and typically affects cats over 8 years of age. Common signs in cats include:

    • Voracious appetite
    • Weight Loss
    • Vocalization
    • Heart murmurs due to cardiomyopathy
    • Rough hair coat
    • Blindness

Various treatment options exist including medications and surgery depending on the needs of the individual patient.

September is Parasite Awareness Month

What every owner should know about Parasites.

Dogs and cats of any age get roundworms and hookworms, but they are most vulnerable when they are very young.

You may already have heard that worms often infect puppies and kittens as well as older pets. The most common types of these parasitic worms are ROUNDWORMS and HOOKWORMS. They are both Intestinal parasites. They live and grow inside the intestine of your pet. Roundworms and hookworms develop from eggs into larvae (immature worms) The larvae later mature into adult worms.

ANCYLOSTOMIASIS ( hookworm infection)
Hookworms are relatively common intestinal parasites of dogs, cats, and other animals. Adult worms live in the small intestine, and their eggs pass out with the stool. Diagnosis is by identifying the eggs during microscopic examination of the stool.

Animals become infected with worms by eating infective eggs or larvae, penetration of the skin or footpads by larvae, or transmission of larvae from the mother while the fetus is still in the uterus.
HOOKWORMS are one of the most serious intestinal parasites, as they feed on the blood of their host animal and can cause severe anemia.

Hookworms larvae can penetrate human skin and cause a skin disorder known as cutaneous larval migrans or creeping eruption. This infection is not common, but anyone who develops a skin rash after being in contact with a pet with hookworms should consult a physician.


Coccidiosis is a parasite disease of the intestinal tract caused by microscopic organisms call COCCIDIA. The disease spreads from one animal to another by contact with infected feces. It is most severe in young or weak animals and often causes bloody diarrhea. The disease is not a threat to humans.

Strongyloides stercoralis is a small roundworm found in cats, dogs, foxes, and occasionally people. The worms are about 1/16 of an inch long and live in the intestinal lining. Eggs hatch while still in the intestine. Larvae are passed in the feces and can reinfect the host animal or others by being eaten or by skin penetration.

Loss of appetite, cough, discharge from eyes, and later development of diarrhea are signs of infection. The disease lowers resistance to other infections and may resemble or occur with canine distemper.
People are usually infected by larvae that penetrate the bare feet as a person walks through contaminated soil. The larvae travel to the lungs via the bloodstream and then are passed into the feces within 2 to 3 weeks.

ASCARIASIS ( Roundworms)
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs and cats. Pets become infected by swallowing roundworm eggs or larvae found in the contaminated soil or feces or by eating infected rodents, birds and certain insects.

Human infection with roundworm larvae is possible but does not occur frequently if good hygiene is practiced.

August – Watch for Heat Stroke

General Information
The combination of high temperature, high humidity, and poor ventilation can be fatal to dogs and cats- Dogs and cats do not sweat as people do. Thus the cooling benefits of water evaporation from the skin are not available to them. Panting and radiation of heat from the skin surface are their main means of controlling body temperature. If the air temperature and humidity are high and air circulation is reduced, these protective mechanisms are inadequate. Body temperature can then increase dramatically, resulting in collapse and severe shock. Animals not treated promptly may die.

Dogs with a short, flattened nose, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Boxers, are especially susceptible to heat stroke, because their restricted breathing does not allow enough air exchange for rapid heat loss.

Important Points in Treatment
1. Treatment for heat stroke consists of rapid reduction of body temperature and medication for shock. Frequently, hospitalization is necessary.
2. Water: Provide clean, fresh water at all times.
3. Activity: Restrict exercise for__ days.
4. Environment: Keep your pet protected from the sun and in a cool place for ___ days. Avoid high temperatures and humidity and poor ventilation.


During hot, humid weather provide your pet with adequate ventilation, protection from the sun, and cool, fresh water. In addition, limit your pet’s exercise during these periods. If your pet is nervous, consult the doctor concerning the advisability of tranquilizers- Do not leave your pet in a closed automobile. This is an invitation to tragedy.

Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur
• Your pet seems weak.
• Your pet has difficulty breathing.
• Your pet’s general health changes.

Month of June – July (Fleas, Ticks and Heartworms)

 What are fleas and ticks ?
They are parasites that bite or attach to animals and cause irritation and can spread disease.

  • Some of the diseases fleas can spread
  • Tapeworms
  • Bartonella
  • Plague
  • Some of the diseases ticks can spread
  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichia
  • Babesia
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Hepatozoonosis – dogs
  • Cytauxzonosis – cats
  • Heamobartonella
  • They both can cause anemia, especially in very young puppies or kittens and itching that could lead to secondary bacterial infection from scratching
  • They can cause hair loss and allergy flair-ups
  • We recommend prevention all year round
  • We carry Frontline and Revolution

Once again it is the flea and tick season. It’s time for the monthly application of some form of protection. The importance of monthly protection is great. Just a reminder, fleas and ticks are parasites that bite or attach to animal and cause irritation or can spread disease. Some of the diseases fleas can spread are tapeworms and Bartonella. Ticks can spread Lyme Disease or Ehrlichia. Not only can they spread diseases, they can also cause anemia in puppies and kittens. They can also cause secondary infections from itching and cause hair loss. Argyle Veterinary Hospital recommends protection year-round due to the Texas “winters” and we carry Frontline and Revolution.

Heartworms are another disease that needs yearly protection. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and inside animals ARE NOT excluded from possible infection. The adult worms live in the pulmonary artery of the heart and if the disease gets severe enough it can cause coughing and lethargy/exercise intolerance. Argyle Veterinary Hospital recommends pets to be on prevention year-round due to the Texas “winters” and to be tested yearly to make sure the prevention is working. Just a quick cost fact, monthly protection is about $3-6 a month versus $695 or more for treatment. Argyle Veterinary Hospital carries heartgard and Revolution.

Month of May is Osteoarthritis/ Joint Awareness Month


What is it?

A non-inflammatory degenerative joint disease causing progressive degeneration of the cartilage that covers the bones in joints.


    • Behavior changes – cannot go up stairs very well, moving from a sitting to a standing position very well, weekend warrior syndrome, cannot lift leg to urinate anymore, lose balance, etc.
    • Pain – the resulting discomfort from the bony changes in the joints and destruction of the cartilage
    • Crepitation – grating or cracking sensation or sound from severe arthritic changes in a joint
    • Hip Pain – pain that is present in the hips or lower back and can present as a hind limb limp or “bunny hop”
    • Joint Pain – pain present in the other joints that can present as a limp or walking on three legs (elevating 1 leg off the ground)
    • Atrophy – loss of muscle mass due to disuse of a limb from chronic pain


    • Plenty of exercise (swimming) and decrease weight if obese
    • Diets : Purina JM or Hill’s Science Diet J/D
    • Joint Supplements – (helps repair cartilage and increase synovial production(joint fluid)): glucosamine, chondriotin, Adequan

Pain medication : Rimadyl, Metacam, Previcox, Etogesic, etc.

Surgical : joint specific surgical alteration, for example total hip replacement

April is Diabetes and Weight Management Month

Diabetes Mellitus

What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused by a deficiency of insulin. The cells in the body require energy to function; energy which is typically supplied by glucose. Glucose (a type of sugar) is absorbed from the digestive tract into the blood after eating. The glucose then normally passes into the cells, supplying them with the energy they need to function. Insulin is the key that opens the door for the glucose to go through into the cells. Without insulin, three things happen:

1) The cells are starving for energy – resulting in increased appetite
2) The blood glucose levels are high – causing increased urine production
3) The cells use internal fats to make their own energy which results in toxic ketones being formed

What are the signs of diabetes?
Many patients with diabetes exhibit the following signs:

1) Increased appetite
2) Increased drinking and urination
3) Weight loss

How is it diagnosed?
A combination of an elevated blood glucose level and glucose in the urine are used to diagnose it.

How is it managed?
Patients with diabetes are managed with insulin injections and changes in their diet. Glucose curves, involving multiple glucose blood checks in a day, are performed to see how the glucose levels change after injection with insulin. This is a very effective method used to insure proper glucose regulation.  

Christmas Hazards for Pets

Holiday Plants:

Many holiday plants are toxic to dogs and cats, including poinsettia, mistletoe, and holly.

Holly: Toxic parts include leaves and berries. Can cause intestinal distress, including vomiting and diarrhea, and even depression.

Mistletoe: All parts of this plant are toxic, especially the berries. Toxicity signs include vomiting, diarrhea, low body temperature (a normal temperature in a dog is from 99.9 to 102.5), and some neurologic signs including seizures.

Poinsettias: Toxic parts are leaves, stems, and sap from flowers. Toxicity signs include severe irritation and blistering of mouth and intestinal tract, with vomiting, diarrhea, and temporary blindness.

Deck The Halls:

Lights: Most lights can cause electrical sock and possible death if chewed on, and shattered glass can cause intestinal perforation.

Decoration Hooks: These can cause a blockage and or trauma to gastrointestinal tract if swallowed.

Bulbs & Ornaments: These items may look like little toys to your cat or dog, so try to keep them out of your pet’s reach as to avoid the temptation of chewing on them.

Tinsel & Ribbons: These are especially tempting to cats and kittens. These are a choking hazard, and can severely damage the intestines. It is best to not use these items if you have an indoor cat.

Is that for me?

Chocolate: Though very tasty to pets and humans, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, and death even when it is eaten small amounts. Be sure to keep all chocolate out of reach and off of tables where pets may have access.

Ham: This meat is very high in fat and will cause severe gastrointestinal distress if eaten in even small amounts.

Overall, to make your holidays more safe and enjoyable, use good common sense. If it seems that an item would be a temptation for a small child, consider keeping it put away from your pets as well. Reading about these hazards and taking a few simple precautions will keep your pet happy, healthy, and safe this holiday season.

November – Osteoarthritis Awareness Month

“It’s hell getting old!” How many times have you heard this expression?? Too often this thought is elicited by the aches and pains of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that affects the bones and soft tissue of the joints, causing pain and decreased flexibility. While there is no cure for this degenerative disease, it can be treated and effectively managed if early detection and a accurate diagnosis is made.

Osteoarthritis is usually a consequence of other conditions such as an injury, inflammation, age or obesity. Clinical symptoms range from stiffness, and decreased activity to limping, difficulty rising and in more severe cases decreased range of motion and unprovoked barking or yelping in the case of a dog.

In order to effectively treat osteoarthritis a veterinarian must first properly diagnose the disease. One of the most exciting new tools in the armor of progressive medicine is digital radiography. Just as digital cameras have revolutionized photography, digital radiography is changing the face of x-ray technology. Now, in less than four seconds, we can take a digital x-ray of a patient’s injury or area of concern. We know instantly whether we have a good view of the target area or if we need to get another angle of it. Additionally, a digital radiograph can be manipulated after it is taken. This allows us to vary the contrast or magnify areas of concern. Because of this advantage, we can see things on the digital image which a film x-ray just wouldn’t allow us to before. We have actually improved our abilities to diagnose due to this ability. Digital technology allows veterinarians to make a more rapid and confident diagnosis. In turn we can start treating sooner. Quicker treatment generally results in a faster and more positive outcome.

With a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, a veterinarian will recommend a combination of: weight control, proper diet, controlled exercise and physical therapy, anti-flammatory and analgesic drugs and disease modifying agents to effectively manage the pain and discomfort of this disease.

John F. Bitter DVM
Argyle Veterinary Hospital    

October is Dental Awareness Month

Over 70% of all dogs and cats over five years of age suffer from periodontal disease, which means that they have loss of the supporting structures of the teeth. In most cases this process is uncomfortable, and it will eventually lead to problems such as loose teeth, bacteria in the blood stream, and damage to the kidneys, heart and liver. The majority of dogs and cats seen at this practice over the age of 5 have one or more painful teeth in their mouth.

Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show obvious signs of any problems. This does not mean that they are not feeling pain, but rather are not acting in a manner that we recognize as “painful”. Studies have shown that dogs and cats have the same basic anatomy and sense pain much as we do. You know how you feel when you have a painful dental problem. Why should a dog or cat feel any different?
In the wild, if an animal shows weakness, they can become singled out to be eaten by predators, or be moved down the chain of authority within their group. Wild animals tend to hide any sign of illness. I believe that dogs and cats both posses this innate instinct to not show any sign of “weakness”. Because the painful condition comes on gradually, most owners of pets with painful mouths think that their pet is just” acting a little older”, or is a “little grumpy due to age. When the painful condition is removed, the improvement is usually very noticeable and rapid. Many owners tell us that their pet is acting “years younger” following treatment. In my opinion, the most common reason for a dog or cat to act older is because of painful dental disease. This usually goes unnoticed by the owner, and in many cases by the general practitioner.

In fact, dental problems occur with great regularity in wild animals. Studies on African Wild Dog skulls around 100 years old showed that very similar numbers and types of dental problems occurred with the skull specimens as occur with pet dogs and cats. Keep in mind that these wild animals only live to be a few years old, while many domestic dogs and cats are living well into their teens. The wild animals do not have as much chance to “outlive their teeth”, while domestic pets, like man, are now living long enough to show significant dental problems.

Indications that your pet might be in need of a dental care would include the presence of a red stripe along the gum line, unpleasant odor from the mouth, reluctance to chew, change in chewing behaviors, inability to see the teeth due to calculus accumulation, reluctance to allow home care, broken teeth, discolored teeth, loose teeth, draining or swelling around the face or jaw, decreased appetite, swellings or enlargements of the oral tissues, difficulty swallowing, rubbing the face with a paw (sometimes resulting in eye irritation), rubbing the face on the carpet, and other signs as well. Consult a veterinarian knowledgeable about dental care in your area to see about the possibility of dental problems in your pet.

This varies tremendously from individual to individual. Factors affecting the frequency of professional care include the presence of pre-existing disease, individual physiology, the degree of homecare that is provided, diet, and individual habits. In general, most pets need their teeth cleaned between every 6 months to every four years. The safest thing is to have a veterinarian knowledgeable about dental care examine your pet and give you their recommendations.

Unfortunately, some lay people have tried to make a business out of cleaning pet’s teeth without anesthesia, playing on the owner’s fear of anesthesia. In my opinion, this is worse for the pet than doing nothing at all. Removing the visible tartar from above the gum line is only one of the twelve steps involved in a proper dental cleaning, and is not even the most important part. This is the only part of the cleaning that can be done in an “awake” animal, and it cannot be done very well.
Think of the degree of cooperation that you give the hygienist when you have your teeth cleaned. For 45 minutes you remain reasonably still while they scrape away at your teeth, having you spit out periodically. Imagine if someone tried to do this to you without explaining the process? Imagine if you had a painful area in your mouth as most dogs and cats do? Imagine how involved the cleaning would be if you did not ever brush your teeth, like most pets? How complete could the job possibly be? These people have no training in identifying or treating dental problems in pets. All they can do is remove, painfully, some of the tartar in your pet’s mouth. They cannot clean under the gum line (the most important part of the cleaning) or obtain any dental radiographs of problem areas. The reason it is worse than doing nothing is that it gives an owner a sense that their pet has been well cared for, in addition to leaving a very rough surface that actually promotes future dental disease.
Proper dental care in animals requires general anesthesia, period!

There is always some risk of complications when anesthesia is used. The safety of anesthesia depends primarily on the skill and training of the person responsible for the procedure. In veterinary medicine, this varies a great deal from practice to practice. In some practices, the nurses are responsible for anesthesia, while in others the doctors are directly involved. At animal Dental Care, the doctor administers and constantly monitors the anesthetic episode.
There are newer injectable and inhalation (gas) anesthetic agents that can significantly decrease the effects of the anesthetic episode. These newer agents tend to be more expensive, but the patients “wake up” much faster. Other factors that make a big difference are the use of pre-anesthetic blood work to identify problems with your pet’s internal chemistry, the use of IV fluids during the procedure (can you imagine a person being anesthetized without an IV), anesthetic monitoring that includes blood pressure and blood oxygenation, general patient care, and attention to individual needs.
Many of our patients are 10-15 years of age, and are ready to go home, acting normally, less than one hour after completion of a procedure lasting several hours. If managed properly, the anesthetic risks are very minimal. Ask questions about the type of anesthesia that will be used on your pet, how they will be monitored, and who will be administering the anesthesia.

The Twelve Basic steps for dental care are as follows:
. Step 1. General Physical exam
. Step 2. Initial oral survey
. Step 3. Remove calculus above the gum line
. Least important part
. Most visible part of the cleaning to owners
. This is all a you can perform without anesthesia
. Step 4. Remove calculus below the gum line
. This is the least part of the cleaning visible to owners
. This is the most important part of the procedure for the patient
. Three possible steps may be involved
. Subgingival scaling (calculus removal)
. Root planing (smoothing rough surfaces)
. Subgingival curettage (soft tissue debridement of the inside of the gingival pocket)
. Step 5. Polishing
. Removes defects and irregularities
. Step 6. Irrigate all debris from under the gum line.
. Step 7. Flouride application
. Strengthens enamel
. Desensitizes exposed dentin and/or cementum
. Decreases the incidence of caries
. Step 8. Complete charting
. Almost all patients will have problem areas
. Note all abnormalities on the chart
. Pockets over 3mm in dogs and 1 mm in cats
. Furcation exposures
. Fractures/ exposed dentin
. Loose teeth
. Root exposure
. Step 9. Dental radiographs
. All suspicious areas should be radiographed
. 80% of dental anatomy is not visible to the eye
. Step 10. Treatment Plan
. Decide what treatment is needed
. Decide what medications are needed
. Step 11. Home care
. Give owners their options
. Demonstrate products on the owner’s pet
. Step 12. Schedule the next appointment
. Re-check Exam
. Time for the next professional care appointment!

Spending 2-3 minutes a day caring for your pet’s teeth can save you money, improve your pet’s health, improve their breath, and make them more comfortable. Studies have shown that pets with periodontal disease have damage to their liver, kidneys, and heart. Studies in humans have shown an association between periodontal disease and a variety of illnesses.
Most pets readily accept home care once they are trained. Please see the section on home care.

Brushing a pet’s teeth removes only the soft plaque. Once the plaque is mineralized, forming calculus (“tartar”) it cannot be removed by brushing. The calculus then serves as a rough surface upon which more plaque can readily form. Brushing is not very effective below the gum line, where most problems occur. Brushing along with periodic professional care is the best bet for maintaining your pet’s mouth in a comfortable condition.10. Are broken teeth a problem?
Broken or fractured teeth occur commonly, especially in dogs that are very aggressive chewers or in those that have access to hard chew toys. Cats frequently have fractures of the tips of their fangs.
At the very least fractured teeth expose the dentin located under the enamel, which is painful for the animal (have you ever had a painful chipped tooth?). Frequently, bacteria migrate along the exposed dentin via microscopic tubules, and invade and destroy the inside if the tooth. This leads to an abscessed tooth, which may “last” uncomfortably for years before it becomes loose and falls out. The infection inside the tooth may not occur for months after the initial fracture, so an owner may not make the connection between a broken tooth and altered behavior in their pet.
Fractures that result in exposure of the inside of the tooth (the area with the nerves and blood vessels) always result in the death and infection of the inside of the tooth. Frequently an owner will notice a small amount of bleeding from the fracture site, or a pink spot in the middle of the fractured area. These require immediate attention, and can also take years to loosen and fall out, causing discomfort the entire time.
Even when teeth are painful, most owners will not be aware that there is any problem.
Fractured teeth should be examined and radiographed. Smoothing the fracture and applying a sealant can decrease the chances of eventual infection and make your pet more comfortable. Dead or infected teeth should be treated or extracted. Do not depend on your pet to let you know if their mouth is painful.

Discolored teeth can occur from many causes. A recent study showed that 92.8% of all discolored teeth have dead tissue in the pulp chamber. Usually teeth that are discolored tan, gray, or pink have dead tissue inside them, which serves as an area for bacteria to grow. These teeth can have inflammation around the roots and destruction of part of the root. Discolored teeth should be evaluated and treated as indicated.
Even when painful, most owners will not be aware that there is any problem.
When multiple teeth have a roughened surface and brownish discoloration, the cause is frequently improper development of the enamel. These teeth will benefit from smoothing, sealants, and occasionally from restoring the lost surfaces with a composite restorative material.

Bad breath is usually associated with bacteria in the mouth that produce sulphur containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfides and methyl mercapatans. These compounds not only smell bad, but they also are damaging to the oral tissues. Professional cleaning along with home plaque control (see home care) gives the best results. Bad breath that returns very shortly after a cleaning indicates that there may be some deep-seated problems that may have been overlooked.
Bad breath is occasionally seen with medical conditions such as kidney failure and diabetes.

Anything that increases abrasive action in the mouth is of some benefit, but feeding dry food exclusively has a minimal effect in preventing dental problems. Imagine if you only ate dry food, but never brushed your teeth or had your teeth cleaned. Most people would agree that you would still develop problems.
Certain dry foods are formulated to have a significant effect on the prevention of dental problems. See the “home care” section.

“Double teeth” usually occur as a result of the baby teeth not being shed normally when the permanent teeth erupt. The permanent teeth usually come in between 3 and 7 months of age. If the baby tooth is not shed in an orderly fashion, this can lead to displacement of a permanent tooth into a painful position, or formation of pockets of infection at an early age. Usually the retained baby teeth can be extracted, making sure to remove the entire root.
There should never be two teeth of the same type in the same place at the same time. If you suspect that your pet has any double teeth they should be evaluated for possible problems.

In my opinion, it is not possible to perform proper dental treatment without dental radiographs. Most of the important dental anatomy is under the gum line and cannot be seen or accurately evaluated without radiographs. Without radiographs, you will miss the majority of painful dental conditions present in an animal. Anatomy of the dental structures varies a great deal from patient to patient. With radiographs, you can modify your treatments to meet these anatomic differences. Radiographs also allow us to identify problems much earlier and treat them while they are easier to treat, there is no evidence that the amount of radiation from dental radiographs causes any problems in veterinary patients.

This can be due to improper training, individual resistance, or because there is a painful area in the mouth that was missed. See the section on home care on the home page for tips on introducing your pet to regular home care.

Swollen areas in the oral cavity can have a number of causes. A variety of benign and malignant tumors occur in the oral cavity. Gums may become overgrown for a variety of reasons. A person familiar with oral disease should critically evaluate any oral enlargement. Enlarged areas that continue to grow, are ulcerated, painful, or bleeding deserve special attention.

If dental problems are found early enough, teeth can be saved with minimal treatment. Certain teeth are very critical for chewing function or for working animals, and so are more important to maintain. Additionally, extractions of certain teeth require aggressive removal of bone that can weaken the jawbone, or cause discomfort for some time afterward. Each patient and each tooth should be evaluated individually, and the owner made aware of the options for treatment.
Veterinary dentistry deals mainly with discomfort. Aesthetic considerations are important, but the focus of veterinary dental care is on making our patients comfortable, so they can enjoy life. Frequently, saving a tooth is less painful for the patient, and adds to their function and enjoyment of life.

Anything that increases chewing can be of some benefit in improving dental health. “Natural type diets” of bones, raw meats, and vegetables are not generally effective in preventing dental disease. I think that any benefit gained by feeding of bones and pieces of meat with bones in them is offset by an increase in the number of fractured teeth. Wild animals, consuming a “natural-type diet”, have similar numbers of dental problems when compared to domestic animals.
In Europe, zoo cats such as lions and tigers have a lower incidence of the cavities that occur at the gum line in most feline species. It has been suggested that this may be due to the fact that they tend to be fed more raw food and fewer prepared foods. This has not been proven.
In my opinion, natural diets are nutritionally adequate as long as they are well formulated, but do not provide substantial long-term benefits for oral health.

Reddened gums, or “gingivitis”, is not a problem by itself, but frequently is associated with periodontal disease. Since we cannot tell which cases of gingivitis will progress to periodontal disease, we consider a “red stripe” along the gum line to be an indication for a dental cleaning procedure. If periodontal disease exists, causing damage to the supporting structures of the teeth, this can be identified and treated appropriately while the patient is anesthetized.

Although the trend is slowly changing, most veterinarians receive very little dental training while in veterinary school. You need to ask questions to find out their level of dental expertise. Ask what additional training they have obtained, and what courses or wet labs they have attended. Have they attended the Veterinary Dental Forum that is held annually? Are they a member of the American Veterinary Dental Society? Do they read the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry? Do they have and use a dental X-ray machine? Most veterinarians will welcome your questions and concern, and will let you know if they are comfortable treating your pet’s dental problems.

Although some pain may occur, we take steps to minimize any discomfort your pet might experience. We regularly use local anesthetic blocks (“Novacaine”) like a human dentist. We also will typically give pain medication as part of the anesthetic protocol, administer an injection of a long acting anti-inflammatory at the end of the procedure, and send home pain medication as indicated for each patient. Most patients eat as soon as they get home. If you feel your pet is experiencing discomfort after a procedure, call and let us know. We want our patients to be comfortable as soon as possible.

How common are dental problems in pets?

2. My pet does not act painful so how can there be any problems in the mouth?

3. If dental problems are so common, why are they not seen in wild animals?

4. How do I know if my pet needs dental care?

5. How often should my pet have their teeth cleaned?

6. Why does my pet need to be anesthetized to have their teeth cleaned?

7. How safe is anesthesia for my pet?

8. What are the steps involved with a proper dental cleaning procedure?

9. Why even bother with home care for my pet?

10 . Can I just brush the teeth to fix all the problems in my pet’s mouth?

11. Are discolored teeth a problem?

12. Why is my pet’s breath so horrible?

13. Since I only feed dry food, why does my pet still have dental problems?

14. My pet seems to have some “double teeth”. Is this a problem?

15. Why do you need to take dental radiographs on some patients?

16. Why will my pet not let me brush their teeth, even after they were cleaned?

17. My pet has a swollen area in their mouth. Is this a problem?

18. Why bother trying to save teeth? Why not just extract them?

19. Is a “natural diet” effective in preventing dental problems?

20. Are reddened gums an indication of dental problems?

21. How do I know if my Veterinarian is knowledgeable about dental problems?

22. Is dental treatment painful? I am worried that my pet will hurt afterward.

September – Senior Awareness Month

AGING and YOUR PET – Click here to read more.


1. POOR: Emaciated. Prominent vertebrae, ribs, tailhead and hooks (the bony structures on each side below the tail) and pins (the point of the hip).

2. VERY THIN: Emaciated. Slight fat covering over the base of the vertebrae. Prominent vertebrae, ribs, tailhead and hooks and pins. Withers, shoulders and neck structures faintly noticeable.

3. THIN: Fat build up about halfway on vertebrae. Slight fat cover over ribs. Vertebrae and ribs easily noticeable. Tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. Hook bones appear rounded, but easily noticeable. Pin bones not distinguishable. Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.

4. MODERATELY THIN: Negative crease along back. Faint outline of ribs noticeable. Tailhead prominence depends on conformation; fat can be felt around it. Hook bones not noticeable. Withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin.

5. MODERATE: Back is level. Ribs cannot be visually distinguished but can be easily palpated. Fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy. Withers appear rounded, shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.

6. MODERATE TO FLESHY: May have slight crease down back. Fat over ribs feels spongy. Fat around tailhead feels soft. Fat beginning to deposit along the sides of the withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of the neck.

7. FLESHY: May have crease down back. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat. Fat around tailhead is soft. Fat deposits along withers, behind shoulders and along sides of the neck.

8. FAT: Crease down back. Difficult to palpate ribs. Fat around tailhead very soft. Area around withers filled with fat. Area behind shoulder filled in flush. Noticeable thickening of neck. Fat deposits along inner buttocks.

9. EXTREMELY FAT: Obvious crease down back. Patchy fat appearing over ribs. Bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders and along neck. Flank filled in flush.  

Thank you guys so much for coming out on such short notice when I was panicked about one of my horses. He turned out to be ok, but I may have had a melt... Read More

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