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Guide to Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Our animal companions are an important part of our lives for many years and dental care is crucial to maintaining their good health. Dental disease is the most common problem seen in our pet population today. More than 85% of all dogs and cats over 3 years of age presented to veterinarians are affected by dental problems. Periodontal disease is the cause of your pet’s bad breath and painful mouth, and may cause infections of the kidneys, liver, and heart.
We recommend daily dental care at home for your companion animals just like the rest of the family. It is best to begin home care at an early age (8-12 weeks), but visible tartar should be removed during a thorough dental cleaning. This makes your home care easier and more effective.
- pet toothpaste (never human toothpaste)
Week 1: slowly acquainting your pet with mouth care:
Using your hand, gently open your animal companion’s mouth and run your finger around the lips. Rub the outside of the mouth and massage the cheeks. This gets her used to having her mouth touched. Begin for thirty seconds on day one and progress to a couple of minutes by the end of the week. Reward your pet with a small treat at the end of each session.
Week 2: introducing toothbrush or washcloth (without toothpaste):
This week, use either a wet washcloth wrapped around your index finger or wet toothbrush on
the teeth. Lift the lips and massage the outer surfaces of the upper and lower teeth using a back
and forth motion. Do this for thirty seconds on day one and progress to three minutes by the end of the week.
Week 3: add toothpaste and extend brushing time:
This week, use your dental cleaning instrument and now add ¾ inch of toothpaste to brush the outer surfaces of the upper and lower teeth using a back and forth motion. If possible, try to brush the inner surfaces of the teeth. The inner surfaces are harder to get at but the tartar builds up more quickly on the outer surfaces. Always give a small treat at the end of each session…make it rewarding.
If you find brushing impossible there are other products you can use to maintain good oral health, but eventually we will recommend a professional dental cleaning.
- CET chews, Greenies, and other dental treats are available for dogs and cats. These are enzymatically treated to help remove bacteria before it builds up and turns to tartar that cannot be removed with simple brushing.
- Especially formulated dental diets are available for dogs and cats. These foods can be used as a regular complete diet or as a treat and we can write a prescription for you to pick these up at another clinic. If we think this is necessary for your pet we will discuss it with you.
- Some dogs may benefit from chewing on bones, however, you should realize this will increase their risk of tooth fractures and excessive wearing of the teeth.
Choosing a Pet Food for Your Healthy Pet
The dizzying array of pet foods available today can be overwhelming when trying to decide what food is best for your pet. We’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when choosing what to feed. Please keep in mind that these factors may change when there are health concerns, such as skin allergies, chronic GI disease, or kidney disease.
- Does this diet fit with your own personal nutrition philosophies?
Everyone has different considerations and priorities when deciding what to feed themselves and their families. Some of these factors include where and how the ingredients are sourced (local, organic, fair trade, etc.), inclusion or exclusion of specific nutrients, availability, and cost. Fortunately, the wide variety of options at the store means there are commercial diets to fit nearly any feeding philosophy. There is one critical point that we insist on, however: you should always feed a species-appropriate diet for your pet. This means that even if you are vegan, we cannot condone the same diet for an obligate carnivore, such as a cat.
- Is the diet appropriate for the species and life stage of your pet?
Pet foods are either available for specific life stages (i.e., puppy, adult, lactating mothers) or for all life stages. Check to be sure the label indicates the diet is appropriate for the age and species of your pet.
- Does your pet have well-formed stools and a healthy coat?
Chronic soft stools or a dry, flaky skin and coat are potential indicators that a pet isn’t absorbing or utilizing nutrients well from their diet. Each animal is an individual: one pet may thrive on a grain-free food, while another may struggle with chronic diarrhea on a grain-free diet. If your pet’s stools and coat are not healthy-looking, consider trying a different type of food.
- Does your pet enjoy eating its food?
Mealtime should be enjoyable for everyone! Your pet should find his diet palatable, without the need for top-dressing with extra goodies.
- Is your pet able to maintain a healthy body weight on the food?
Dry pet foods can range widely, from 250 calories to over 500 calories per cup. If your pet tends to be overweight and you find it difficult to feed him smaller meals, it may be necessary to find a food that is lower in calories to help him maintain a healthy weight.
Good nutrition can make a world of difference for your pet’s health—just like it can for us, humans! If you’d like more help with choosing the right foods for your pet, please make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the subject.
Tips for Less Stressful Vet Visits ~ Cat Edition
A widespread canine vaccination program has played a crucial role in the prevention of infectious diseases in veterinary medicine. As pets have assumed a different role in the modern family and risk factors have changed the vaccination schedule has changed accordingly. As a holistically focused practice we seek a compromise between maximizing immunity to diseases and minimizing possible short and long-term side effects from vaccines. The risks versus benefits of using certain vaccines or of administering multiple vaccines at the same visit need to be strongly reconsidered. It is now known that some vaccines may be unnecessary and that their use may increase the risk of adverse reactions. In addition, there are studies that now show the duration of immunity from many vaccines is much longer than one year. When we consider if and when a dog needs to be vaccinated its health, age, risk of exposure, lifestyle, and past medical and vaccination history are important variables to assess.
The following vaccine protocol is our recommendation but it may be modified. It includes the “core” vaccines and should not be interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended are not valid. It is a matter of professional judgment and choice.
- 8 weeks of age Distemper, Parvo, Parainfluenza, Adeno (DAPP)
- 12 wks DAPP
- 16 wks (if needed) DAPP
- 16 wks or older Rabies
- 1 year DAPP (3 yr duration)
- 1 year Rabies (3 yr duration)
There are two options for adult dogs that need the DAPP vaccine. We recommend performing antibody titers for DAPP on an annual basis to assess a dog’s immune memory status to determine when the next DAPP vaccine should be given. This test helps us to know how susceptible a dog may be to diseases to which it may be exposed. Alternatively, your dog should receive the DAPP vaccine every 3 years to stay “current.” Rabies should be given only once every 3 years as required by law. Other non-core vaccines such as those to protect against Lyme disease, kennel cough, Coronavirus, Giardia and Leptospirosis are not recommended unless your dog is determined to be at risk. This may include dogs that board at kenneling facilities, hunting or field dogs, or those that travel to areas where some diseases are more prevalent. Always tell us about your dog’s vaccine, travel, and medical history so that we can make an informed decision about future vaccines.
What’s Integrative Medicine?
Integrative veterinary medicine utilizes a comprehensive approach to your animal’s health care, and combines alternative and conventional diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. The whole animal is assessed along with its environment, and an attempt is made to treat the entire animal rather than the individual disease at hand. The basic modalities of integrative veterinary medicine that we offer are nutritional counseling, botanical medicine (herbal therapy), acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, therapeutic Class IV laser, and basic physical rehabilitation recommendations. We can refer you to veterinarians that utilize muscle testing, NAET, aromatherapy, and more advanced physical rehabilitation as we are not well versed in those areas.
Veterinarians that practice integrative medicine have more specialized training and education in the non-traditional therapies they employ, but should be well grounded in conventional therapy, surgery, and dentistry. At Lake Harriet Veterinary we combine the above modalities with conventional medicine to best meet your (and your pet’s) needs. This may mean recommending additional conventional diagnostics (blood and urine tests, radiographs, ultrasound, etc) so that we can form a treatment plan, or discussing options that have not been offered by your regular veterinarian.
Veterinary acupuncture is the application of very fine needles to specific anatomic points on an animal’s body. The needle placement elicits a physiologic response and can be used as part of the treatment plan of almost any disease or body condition. More broadly, acupuncture is a treatment modality used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that affects the regulation and movement of qi (energy) along meridians. Acupuncture attempts to rebalance the body by regulating the flow and production of the body’s energy (qi).
Acupuncture needles are very thin and flexible and much smaller than hypodermic needles used to take blood or give vaccines. Needle placement is very well tolerated by pets. Some people experience numbness, tingling or heat when receiving acupuncture and it is likely that some veterinary patients experience this as well. Electricity, heat and manual needle stimulation may be applied to the acupuncture needles for certain conditions.
Acupuncture is used in veterinary medicine for a variety of maladies. It is non-invasive, generally without side effects, and is a great treatment tool for those animals that cannot tolerate medications. A common example is using acupuncture instead of, or in addition to, conventional medications for arthritis relief. In addition, acupuncture is commonly used when other treatment options are too risky, are unsuccessful, or when no other conventional options are available. It can be used in veterinary medicine for arthritis or musculoskeletal support, neurological problems, geriatric well being, gastrointestinal disease, organ disease, urinary problems, post-operative pain and recovery, and some types of allergies. The number, frequency and duration of acupuncture treatments will depend on the medical condition, patient’s response, and owner goals. It may take 4 to 8 sessions to know if acupuncture will be effective although a response may be seen after the first treatment. Treatments may last from 10 seconds to 20 minutes and may be recommended once or twice weekly or less. The long-term goal is to adjust the number of treatments to the minimum required for optimal health.
The decision to treat your pet with acupuncture depends on the animal itself and the condition affecting it. In our practice we look at the best comprehensive, integrative approach and develop a therapeutic plan that may utilize acupuncture as the only treatment or a portion of the overall treatment plan. Please feel free to ask us if your pet might benefit from acupuncture.
Local Dog Resources
What’s Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
What’s Degenerative Joint Disease/Osteoarthritis (DJD/OA)?
Poisonous Plant List (Source: ASPCA)
Please click here for an extensive list by the ASPCA.