February is Dental Health Month

February is the month that we focus on education about dental disease and the need for pets to have professional cleanings to remove tarter and decay that has built up on their teeth over the years.  Many pet owners do not know that this is an important part of care!  Most pets have some form of dental decay as early as 3 years of age since most owners chose not to brush their pets’ teeth daily. Brushing a pets teeth is the best way to keep them healthy. There are chews and special treats and diets that are helpful when attempting to freshen your pets’ breath or reduce tarter. Yet, nothing seems to work as good as regular brushing.  It is important to prevent your pets from chewing on items that are harder than the surface of their teeth. These items, such as bones, antlers, rocks, and hooves, will often cause fractures or flattening of the tooth surface. It is best to avoid these and keep your pets’ teeth healthier through the years.

Many studies have shown that poor oral health can have significant effects on other organs within the body. The biggest concern is with the heart, liver, and kidneys as bacteria becomes systemic and deposits within these organs. When pets have bad teeth, they often will not chew their food and that leads to more tooth decay. In recent years veterinary dentist have surfaced to help fix fractured teeth to prevent pain associated with the exposed pulp cavity. They have improved the bite of young dogs that were born with congenital defects of the jaw. Veterinary Dentists have repaired cavities to preserve the tooth that has been damaged. Advanced veterinary care has continued to improve the quality of our pets’ lives. These procedures are not for every pet but it is important that pet owners know their options. If you are interested in learning more about Veterinary Dentistry, we can refer you to the specialists.

If you have noticed odor from your pets’ mouth, I would encourage you to flip up their lips on each side and look at the teeth and gums. If you see more brown than white on the surface of the tooth or notice extremely red gums above the tooth surface, your pet is in need of a professional cleaning.  I wish we could clean a pets’ teeth without anesthesia, but pets could not remain still during the cleaning/polishing procedure. The biannual exams and cleanings humans receive are difficult for some of us so image how a cat or dog would react. I know anesthesia is a concern but ignoring a pets’ oral health is a huge risk as well. Once a professional cleaning has been done it would be wonderful if you began home care to reduce the build-up in the future. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the most effective way to prevent tarter build up. Other options include special prescription diets that will reduce tarter when the pets chew the kibble. A new product called “Oravet” can protect a dog’s teeth and offer fresher breath if offered once a day. Finding a healthy chew or toy that your pet will chew on at least 15 minutes a day can promote healthier teeth and gums. Avoiding soft foods and treats that stick to the teeth is helpful. There are any number of items that can help reduce tarter build up but nothing is more effective than brushing your pet’s teeth.

Teaching a pet to allow brushing of their teeth is much easier to do when they are a young puppy or kitten. At an early age we see more success in getting acceptance of handling their mouth and introducing the toothpaste/toothbrush. Starting this routine early, many pets will find it a fun daily event and look forward to it. The following video was created by a client of ours that has been brushing her pet’s teeth for a number of years. The teeth look amazing and she has yet to do a dental procedure on any of her pets. It really does make a difference if you are willing to take the time to brush daily. It is possible to teach an old pet to allow you to brush their teeth. It requires more patience and persistence but the rewards are worth the time and effort.

Click to view video of brushing pet’s teeth:

With the cold winter days, it makes getting outdoors with your pets next to impossible. Why not start working with them to allow you to brush their teeth? Why not schedule a professional dental scaling to improve your pets’ oral health and reduce risk to other internal organs? Your pet will thank you and those kisses will be more enjoyable.

Bring in a Stool Sample?

If your veterinarian staff request a stool sample…please do not bring them one of these! I got a good laugh when one of my clients presented me with this “stool” sample a few years ago. I keep it around as a reminder to be more specific when talking with clients about their pets. It is a great conversation piece as well. Why are stool samples, or more appropriately called fecal samples, important?

I have mentioned parasites such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms, but have yet to share important information about the “other parasites” that can be just as deadly if not treated. To start the new year off right for your furry friends I hope to enlighten my readers with some common knowledge about the “other parasites.”

Kittens and puppies are commonly infected with intestinal worms at the time of birth. The mother can infect her babies while still in the uterus and the parasites can be spread through nursing. The most common intestinal parasite is the roundworms that can be found in all pets but especially in kittens and puppies. These parasites can appear like a piece of spaghetti and can be seen in vomit or stools. When seen in stools or vomit you know that this pet is loaded with roundworms. The belly is usually more rounded and bloated. The scary part is that these roundworms can be present and no symptoms noted except microscopic eggs being found in a stool specimen. We encourage every owner of a puppy or kitten to have a stool sample check. These parasites are a stress to the immune system and need to be treated. Humans can contact this parasite and it will lead to infection within the liver, eyes, and or Central Nervous System. There must be direct stool to mouth contact with the parasite eggs. The most common place for this to occur is with sand boxes and children.  Cats love to use sand boxes as litter boxes and many children have been known to put sand into their mouths. We encourage people to cover sandboxes if possible and watch children when playing in them.

Hookworms are another intestinal parasite that can infect our pets. This parasite can cause anemia in any pet but especially the young. We also have seen skin lesions in heavily parasitized pets. Diarrhea is commonly associated with this parasite and can be difficult to find in a runny stool. The hookworm can be transmitted to people. It will cause a rash that can be itchy. Humans can be exposed through contact with the skin when walking barefoot or sitting in areas where hookworm larvae are present.

Whipworms are another parasite that can infect dogs more than cats. When present they shed microscopic eggs in small numbers making it difficult to find them in a stool specimen. They cause dogs to lose weight, have diarrhea, and sometimes cause anal itching. Anal gland impaction and allergies can cause anal itching also. Therefore it is important to consider all causes for anal itching. This parasite is less common than the roundworms or hookworms, but just as important to prevent.

Tapeworms are common in both dogs and cats. This parasite is the most common worm that owners are aware of.  When asking people if they have dewormed their furry friend, I often hear, “I do not see any worms in the stool.”  This is the only worm that 100% of the time will eventually be seen in the stool or even attached to the hair around the tail. This worm can be up to 6 inches in length and will break off in tiny white segments and eventually work its way out of the rectum and onto the stool or the area around the rectum. When it dries up on the hair or stool it almost appears to be like a sesame seed. If a pet licks or swallows one of these segments the infection will begin again. Fleas can transmit tapeworms and therefore infect pets when they swallow a flea. Rabbits and mice are common carriers of tapeworms. Guess who likes to eat mice? Our hunting cats are commonly infected by these parasites and therefore we recommend routine deworming. This parasite is more difficult to find in our fecal floatation, but owners usually do not miss this parasite when present.

What options are available to treat these “other parasites”? In the last many years our heartworm preventions have added intestinal parasite preventatives to their formula. At Winterset Veterinary Center we encourage owners to use Interceptor Plus monthly as a heartworm prevention and an intestinal parasite preventative for roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. As of today this is the only heartworm prevention that prevents all 4 of the most common intestinal parasites for dogs. Over the counter intestinal dewormers may treat certain parasites but often not all of them.

For our cats we recommend Profender which is a topical intestinal dewormer that can be placed on the skin and done 3-4 times a year. It will treat roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. With both of these products the parasites are removed within a few days after the product is given. If the pet is exposed again soon after the treatment, they can get the infection right back. There is no product on the market that will continue to prevent or treat our furry friends after administration.

If your pet has been diagnosed with intestinal parasites, every stool that pet has deposited in your yard or litter box has those parasite eggs in it.  The stool disappears as it is being decomposed.  When the stool is gone the microscopic egg will remain in the environment. This is an opportunity for your pet to pick the infection back up. If your pet stays strictly indoors and is not a hunter and does not have fleas, then it would be unlikely they would become exposed. The one common cause that many people do not think about is bringing home that new puppy or kitten. Every new pet brought into the home is a potential source of infection for your current pets. Do yourself a favor and keep new pets away from your furry family members until they have been checked by your veterinarian. Definitely bring in the “stool” sample to make certain your pet is intestinal parasite free!

As we close out 2018, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for following my blog. If you have found a topic interesting or have a topic that you would like to suggest, please visit with me about it.  Winterset Veterinary Center hopes everyone has a happy and healthy 2019. See you next year!

Senior Feline Concerns

Often, I hear owners of elderly cats express during an exam that their cat is doing great since it eats and drinks all the time. When I ask why they believe their cat is losing weight, they want to blame that on age, they do not like the new food, they vomit hair a lot, or are surprised that they lost weight at all. Once a cat reaches 8-10 years of age, we consider them to be seniors. Cats can live 15-20 years so some believe they are still young at 8. Yet we often discover early symptoms of health conditions at this time. Senior Wellness exams are extremely important to help address issues hoping to avoid life threatening symptoms later.

Three key questionsto ask yourself about your furry feline friend are:

  1. Does my cat drink an excessive amount of water?
  2. Does my cat have larger clumps of litter in the box?
  3. Does my cat have changes to its eating habits?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would encourage you to speak to your veterinarian.

Cats that drink excessively usually will have a litter box that has larger clumps in it or the box is wetter than usual. The challenge is determining who is doing what when you have multiple cats in your household. Sometimes the issue is a cat not using the box and it is assumed a bladder infection when it could be a problem with needing the box cleaned more often because a cat is peeing more.

Changes in eating habits can come in many forms. Some cats will eat large amounts every day and continue to lose weight. Some cats will eat one day and then seem uninterested in food the next day, so people go out and buy a new food to try and low and behold the cat eats it, so they feel they got it figured out. Then a few days later the cat stops eating that food as well, so they do buy another diet and the cat eats again. We call this cyclic eating. It has nothing to do with you buying a new food and everything to do with the health issue lurking within the cat’s body. Some cats eat but seem to vomit often. This one causes most owners to clean up the vomit and relate the vomit to hairballs. Hairballs can be a cause of vomit in cats but in elderly cats you must also consider other health conditions. With all these scenarios, most of the cats will have gradual weight loss. Sometimes the weight will come off quickly in the case of an obese cat. Whenever a cat has weight loss and you are not actively trying to have your cat lose weight, this should be a red flag that something may be wrong.

The three most common age related conditions with these symptoms are:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Kidney Disease
  3. Hyperthyroidism

It is extremely difficult to diagnose any of these without doing blood work and checking a urinalysis. A cat can look completely fine on the outside but have one of these conditions if you are noting any of the above symptoms.  All 3 of these can be treated by diet and/or medications. The sooner we discover what is happening the better the outcome will be. Please schedule a Feline Senior Wellness Exam so we can monitor these different values as they age and make recommendations as needed for a long and healthy senior life.

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