Pet Times

Jan 2016

In this issue we:

  • Discuss pet obesity
  • Discover benefits of clean teeth
  • Examine dangers of anesthesia-free dentistry
Tidmore Veterinary Hospital
2914 Lurleen B. Wallace Blvd
Northport, AL 35476
(205) 339-5555 

Pet obesity

Obesity in pets is a growing problem (pardon the pun), in the pet population, just as it is in our human population.

Decreased exercise is certainly part of the problem. The human family members are busy, and don’t always have time to take our dogs for a walk (and walking the cat can be difficult at the best of times).

The other factor to consider in weight management is caloric intake. Even if you are feeding a “light” or “low-fat” food, it is important that the amount is actually measured, and fed once or twice daily. Leaving food out all the time is kind of like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet of diet ice cream – it’s diet, but all-you-can-eat defeats the purpose.

Obesity can result in increased wear-and-tear on the heart and lungs, and can also cause changes in the liver and pancreas (diabetes can result from obesity in our pets, just like in people). It also really makes life hard on arthritic joints!

In cats and in dogs, there should be a definite narrowing between the ribcage and the pelvis/hips – your pet should look like “)(“ and not like “( )”. That little dimple over the base of the tail? Shouldn’t be there if the weight is appropriate. In almost all cases, ribs should be palpable (and, in some dog breeds, visible).

Do your pets a favor, and keep (or get) their weight appropriate! If you don’t regularly walk your dog, you might not appreciate how peaceful it can be, and how much you enjoy a little exercise for yourself (and I promise, the extra one-on-one time with your pet will do you both some good)!

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Prolonging life with… dentistry?

We’ve come a long way in past couple of decades. Our pets are living longer, happier lives than ever before.

Two of the most important factors affecting not only the length, but also the quality, of our pets lives are obesity/fitness level and dental health.

Dental tartar is made up largely of bacteria and their by-products (waste). The presence of this tartar causes inflammation of the gum tissue (gingivitis), and the increased blood supply that results gives these bacteria free access to the rest of the body. Bacteria end up in the blood supply, “seeding” organs with large capillary beds (like the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain). These same bacteria also have a particular liking for the valves of the heart, and when their numbers get big enough, they actually distort the shape of the valves, decreasing their function. Yes, dental tartar can lead to (potentially serious) heart disease (this is also true for people)!

How often does your pet need his/her teeth cleaned? That depends on your pet. Sometimes it is once every 2-3 years, and sometimes it is 2-3 times per year, depending on several factors, including diet, home dental hygiene, and genetics.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is an excellent way to stretch the time between professional cleanings (just like people, imagine that), but this only works if you start with clean teeth.

February is National Pet Dental Health month. Watch this space next month, and our Facebook page or the website, for important information about dentistry specials.

Dangers of “Anesthesia-free Dentistry”

It’s interesting that “anesthesia-free” dentistry is becoming more popular for pets at the same time that “sedation dentistry” is becoming more popular for people. This dubious procedure is now a popular offering of grooming salons and even some veterinary hospitals, because it is supposedly “safer than anesthesia.”

But is it? Not necessarily.

Yes, older pets are at increased risk for problems under anesthesia, but age itself is not a disease.  Did you realize that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had her right hip replaced at the age of 95, and her left hip replaced at age 98? We use essentially the same anesthetic drugs in your pets as the drugs used in this very old, much-beloved monarch.

We take precautions to make this anesthetic event as safe as possible. We evaluate bloodwork to check for underlying disease (and these results may change the anesthetic drugs, or change the IV fluid rate we use under anesthesia, and does not always mean that the benefits of the procedure are outweighed by the risks).

A thorough dental cleaning requires cleaning under the gumline. Trying to do this on the inside surface of the teeth in a dog or a cat carries some very serious potential problems/dangers:

  • Failure to clean adequately
  • Leaving grooves in the enamel (causing the dental disease to get progressively worse over time)
  • Trauma to the soft palate or the gums
  • Jaw fracture
  • Death (see from California)

Seriously – it doesn’t always make sense to put sharp objects in the mouths of awake people, fully capable of understanding the need to hold still. It never makes sense to attempt this in a pet – the risks of anesthesia-free dentistry are far greater than the risk of anesthesia.