The Root of the Issue, the questions and concerns with pet dental care…
It’s that time of year again! February was Pet Dental Health Month. I often wonder why the powers that be chose the shortest month of the year when the topic and information is so vast and important, but they didn’t ask me! While I recognize that February has not-so-quietly turned into the strange weather of early Spring in March, the purpose of this blog post is to touch on the importance of year-round dental care.
You may see the advertisements on Facebook or at the clinic. Perhaps you hear ads on the radio or even the television. Maybe you didn’t even know that Pet Dental Health Month was a thing until you started to read this. Either way, this quarter’s blog aims to focus on why this became an official month in the first place, and what to expect when we talk about ‘dental prophylactic evaluation,’ a ‘teeth cleaning’ or for short, ‘a dental.’
So why the big hype, and where was it before? 10 years ago, you may not have had your veterinarian focus on dental health or discuss at every
visit. The progression of dental care in the veterinary industry may have been a bit behind the human world, but as our pets spend more time in our beds and kissing our children, we have become aware of the effects of dental disease not just on us with bad breath, but on our beloved pets as well.
In the exam room, we talk about dental health and every visit we give your pet a ‘Dental Scores.’ These are an objective way to measure how much tartar and dental disease is present in a pet’s mouth and teeth. The scale is 0-4 where 1 is mild tartar, (let’s get some work going at home!), and 4 is basically teeth are in danger of rotting out of the mouth and need immediate care. These Grade 4 Disease mouths are PAINFUL, and they are causing harm to your pet EVERY DAY. Just imagine if you had an abscess the size of your hand somewhere else on your body that oozed every time you ate or drank. This may sound graphic, but this is the equivalent of severe dental disease for your pet. The honest truth is that best chance we have at saving teeth and not having to extract (remove them) is when your pet is at Stage 2 or 3. By the time you are noticing the gum erode away, we’ve already lost valuable time.
Most parents of pets ask very similar questions. I’ll try and answer some of them here:
Do we have to brush every day? Or rather, is home care very important?
Simply put, YES!. You as caretakers have the biggest effect on your pet’s dental health and prevention of long-term dental disease.
I know this isn’t something anyone wants to hear because, let’s be honest, we get it! Teeth-brushing is one more thing to add to your to-do at the end of the day with an already busy schedule. Not only that, but we hear MANY times that Fido or Fluffy simply HATES to have her teeth brushed. We do understand, but unfortunately, we also see the drastic benefit between pets that receive home dental care and those that don’t.
Some helpful tips and tricks are:
- Start brushing teeth when your kids are young. Get them used to and have them start enjoying the process!
- Use dental diet as part of your feeding program
- If you can’t use toothbrushes, use dental wipes. These are great, and you don’t have to worry about getting out a toothbrush. All we are really doing is reducing the amount of bacteria, plaque, and tartar on the surface of the tooth.
- For more detailed options, take a look at our previous blog that addresses options: https://www.blueridgeanimalhospital.com/blog/tooth-behind-dental-month/
Why do we have to do dental cleanings every year? Or even more astounding, why would you recommend it every 6 months?!
Many of the responses I get when I recommend a dental cleaning is usually along the lines of ‘but they just had one last year (or 2 years ago, 3 years ago, fill in the blank!).’ We get it! Dental cleaning can be stressful to you and even your pet. Also, when something is done, who wouldn’t want it to stay that way for the long-term?
The best response I have to this is taken from the human world. Most of us brush our teeth twice daily. We are told to floss at least once daily. We buy rinses and special gum to help with it. Even with that, and 2 minutes of brushing daily, the ADA still recommends twice a year cleaning (and for the most part, we don’t eat poop off the ground!). You can only imagine how our pet’s mouths can be impacted! We cannot get every area of the tooth. We may not be able to brush every day. Not to mention what they are eating whether we want them to or not. Even if you have fed hard kibble and give bones or dental treats, this is the equivalent of us brushing once a week and chewing Trident gum. It probably helps, but it isn’t addressing the issue.
Yearly dental cleanings are recommended, even if you don’t see severe dental disease. Remember what we mentioned above? If we can save these teeth in grade 1 and 2, we make the tooth, the mouth, and the pet MUCH happier.
Okay, but WHY do we have to get it done? My pet doesn’t seem in pain.
This is another common response we get. Your pet is eating, still seems happy, wagging his tail, and does not seem to slow down one bit. So why should we ask you to put him under anesthesia (which does have risks), clean his teeth, and potentially cause more pain by removing some?
The best answer I have to this depends on if you’ve ever had a cavity or dental disease yourself. Dental disease hurts. There is no way around it. The nerves in the teeth and mouth are sensitive, which is good for tasting, but can cause constant low-grade pain. You may then inquire, “How come he doesn’t seem like he’s in pain? Why is he still eating?” Remember the old parable about the frog in boiling water. Most of your pets dental pain has built up over time. They gradually get used to the tooth that is being destroyed by tartar, and then the pus, and then the infection. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. Often what I hear after addressing a mouth that has any dental disease is: “She’s just like a puppy again! We didn’t know she was in so much pain. She feel so much better!” It is true that often the signs of slowing down, aging, or lethargy may be associated with chronic pain or disease.
What about the ANESTHESIA?!
If this is your main fear, you are not alone. A large number of pet owners consider anesthesia as their biggest deterrent from pursuing dental prophylaxis and x-rays.
While we cannot eliminate the risks of anesthesia, we can mitigate it as much as possible. Here at our AAHA facility, we have a nurse present for your pet’s entire dental procedure and provide your pet with an ASA score to recognize their risk. They are monitored with EKG, SPO2, capnography (CO2), esophageal stethoscope, blood pressure, and direct monitoring. A specialized heating unit is used to maintain body temperature. They also receive a catheter for direct IV access during the procedure, and it also allows us to utilize IV fluid therapy during the procedure to reduce the risk of dehydration and low blood pressure during the procedure. Patients receive pain medication before and after painful procedures, as well as a local block prior to surgical extractions. The doctor is the only individual who performs any dental extractions, and we have purchased the best dental equipment for cleaning and extractions that is available. If you are thinking this should be standard at every practice that has patient is under anesthesia, it is not . Ask your facility exactly what they provide during the procedure and what they do not. These procedures allow us to ensure the best possible outcomes and safety for our fur babies. If the cost does not reflect this care, then they are most likely not receiving it.
Yes, anesthesia can be scary, but if we do our best to eliminate major concerns, then the risk of an anesthetic complication is still present, but minimal.
A lot to chew on….
Hopefully we answered some of your questions about dental health, dental evaluations, and the reasons the recommendations exist. Our desire is that we made it a little bit easier to digest. Please let us know how we can help keep your pet’s dental health up to par, and if you have any further questions. Now let’s get to brushing those teeth because puppy kisses are a must!
Getting the ‘inside scoop’ of our recommendations
For your pet’s nutrition….
I realize we briefly touched on the nutrition topic during our obesity discussion in our previous November blog. However, when you realize that despite the difference in households, living quarters, families, breeds, gender, neutered vs not neutered, and all the other factors, there are a few things that all these pets have in common. They all need to eat, they tend to eat everyday, and their nutrition plays a huge role in their overall health and wellness. That is why we will continue to focus on nutrition and recommendations, especially since what we know this day and age is that this information changes rapidly. Also, we are about to start a NEW year with NEW resolutions. Perhaps one of them may be to adjust the way your pet eats in 2019. We’d like to help with that.
PAWS for the FAQs:
Let’s focus on the MOST asked questions or statements that we hear on a routine basis. Keep in mind that the ideal blog post is limited to 1600 words or less, I will never be able to answer all the looming concerns in that short a span. Also realize that my opinion may differ from other people (breeders, owners, groomers, Google), and that is okay. I am offering you my scientific opinion based on the information I have gathered and collected and my education. My job is to help keep you informed as much as possible as you navigate the hugely overwhelming pet food
aisle. The biggest take-away at the end of this? You love your fur kids (that’s why you’re reading this), do the best you can with their specific nutrition needs, and make decisions based on conversations with your veterinarian and what you feel most comfortable. Please also note that every patient is unique in and of themselves. That means what I write here may or may not apply to your individual pet. The great news is, you can always ask.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they require a higher amount of protein from their diet than humans or dogs. New research is being conducted to what the ideal amount of protein in food should be percentage wise for cats. A recent study showed that cats may actually prefer food with slightly higher carbohydrates than previously thought.
This just shows us that research is always ongoing to find the most beneficial diet for our furry friends since we plucked them out of the wild. However, a good rule-of-thumb for HEALTHY cats seems to remain that their protein levels should be roughly 23-30% of their diet calories as a whole. Recognize also that this will change based on certain medical conditions such as kidney and liver disease, where your veterinary team will discuss with you the reason and need for less protein in these cases.
Continuing with cats, remember when your veterinarian used to tell you to feed dry food and only one kind of dry food for their entire lives? Yeah, we may have been a bit wrong. Thanks to that ongoing research into these guys and how they work, their need for moisture from food is much higher than we originally suspected
This is a huge hot-button topic for veterinary medicine. What I will do here is present the information and studies we have currently with the recognition that this will most likely change with time and further research. This topic will be exclusively focused on grain free in dogs since we have already addressed cats and their need for protein.
December 2018 JAVMA (Journal of Veterinary Medicine) has two studies associated with the grain-free trend, which speaks to its current strength as a topic in veterinary medicine, not just for us as pet owners but for veterinarians as well. The good news is that the veterinary industry as a whole does an excellent job attempting to stay abreast of most current FAQs, but it often remains behind the media trends.
The grain-free diet apparently started with the correlation of the genetic history of dogs with wolves. While this is correct, it takes some major liberty with this connection. The other reason this may have started is the current focus on gluten free and gluten intolerance in the human world. Since I don’t currently have my MD, I will not be addressing this topic. However, as a veterinarian, I can state that genetically we have more in common with pigs and cats than dogs. Just something to think about.
WOLVES vs DOGS, the EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATIONS:
The December 1, 2018 JAVMA summarizes the dangers of assuming that the needs of wolves and dogs are the same nutritionally. It was also pointed out that the actual truth is the diet of wolves vary significantly by geographically location, and most of them are truly omniverious or ‘facultative carnivores,’ and not strictly carnivorous (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Furthermore, dogs are not wolves. If you question this, take a pug or a chihuahua outside in the cold and tell them to survive and hunt. NOTE: this is not recommended by the author in any shape or form, it is merely an analogy to signify the drastic difference between wolves and their now dog descendants. Dogs became domesticated by living among and with people. This created a change in their nutritional needs as they adapted to eating food more consistent, increasing the plant matter in their diet even more so to sometimes greater than 50% (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Grain can and does provide nutritionally necessary component in many diet, and removing them can possible create concerns with future health. In the same journal, there is an investigated link with certain diets and a condition known as DCM, or dilated cardiomyopathy. However, I need to quote them by saying “although there appears to be an association between DCM and feeding BEG (raw) vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diets in dogs, a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be confirmed (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). This means while we seem to see a higher number of dogs being fed this diet affected with DCM, we cannot definitively state this is the only or sole cause. The research article further does a good job stating that “pet food marketing has outpaced the science, and owners are now always making healthy, science-based decisions even though they want to do what is best for their pets” (JAVMA Vol 253, #11). Ultimately, there’s a lot of noise and information out there, and we as owners are caught in the middle of trying to find out the best choice for our babies. You’re not alone!
Cooking for your Pet:
Cooking for your pet and adding healthy alternatives to their diet is actually recommended. This may surprise you since we have previously told you before that beyond a doubt ‘never feed people food.’ We were wrong…again.
The addition of HEALTHY human foods and varieties especially at a younger age may help strengthen their gut immune system, make them less predisposed to GI irritation and possibly some food aversions. Please read this part carefully though, and please do NOT stop reading right now and go raid the fridge for all the goodies you’ve always wanted to share with Fido or Fluffy. You have to add the food in the RIGHT way, meaning the right amounts, slowly, and over time. You also need to ensure that first and foremost their proper nutritional needs are being met.
When you find out what your pet’s ideal calorie range would be for his/her weight, then the suggested addition to healthy human food addition is roughly 20%. Calculating calories and then adjusting what you feed with the newly added healthy foods is imperative. Obesity can reduce your pet’s life expectancy by 1-3 years, and it is currently affecting over 50% of our pets. While we love our babies, we do not wish to love them to death.
The RAW, BEG or BARF Diet
There are two things to consider if even evaluating this diet. Firstly, I will state that I personally do not support this diet in general because of these 2 major concerns. However, I do have clients that pursue this route, and we have conversations about what to consider, proper hygiene, and whether their particular pet is at risk for any other concerns. What I will say is that if you are not 100% committed to strict sanitary conditions, monitoring nutritional needs, and avidly staying on top of multiple recalls, please for your safety and your pet’s health, do not pursue this diet choice. The first concern is as stated previously. It is often very difficult to get all the appropriate nutritional needs met for your pet. The second is YOUR SAFETY. This diet can put you as a human at risk if you do not follow extremely rigorous protocols to keep yourself and your other animals protected.
Getting down to the MEAT of it…
To summarize the previous roughly 1400 words, here is my recommendations.
- Discuss with your veterinarian your desires, concerns, and ultimate lifestyle of your pet. Come to a decision together that you can both be happy with and both of you feel the concerns are heard.
- Use caution with fad diets, including grain-free. Research is still being conducted in this area, and we don’t know all that we need to know with potential for concerning side-effects.
- Feed a high quality, nutritious food…the best you can afford comfortably. This will vary for different people and households, and that is okay too. You take the best care of your pet that you can, and they will be incredibly lucky and blessed.
- Add nutrition! Healthy foods such as cooked egg, chicken, green beans, carrots, spinach, apples. These are fresh and can improve interest in food, intestinal health, and overall well-being. If you’re not sure if it’s toxic, check it out! https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets
- Love them and do your best. We are all making a difference for them, wanting what is best for them, and taking it a day at a time. That’s all we can really do anyway! Wishing you a wonderful, safe, and nutritious 2019!!
If you’re curious, I didn’t make the 1600 mark, but thanks for being willing to stick around for the extra 100 words. 🙂
What’s going on with the new information regarding the Isoxazoline Flea and Tick Products
We are always looking for ideas for our blog articles from all of you, but sometimes a great opportunity for an educational moment presents itself at a perfect time. We have gotten a number of calls and questions about what might be ‘bugging’ you this week.
Recently, the news aired about a particular class of flea and tick medication and some of the potential side effects. As we would expect worried parents to do, many of you have reached out to us for more information and with concerns. We would like to address some of the most common concerns here as best we can, but PLEASE call us with more information.
I’m going to start out with a brash statement, but I’ll say it. There is no perfect flea and tick medication. That may seem strange for a veterinarian to say, but if there were, you would not have all those options at multiple vets’ office and the store. The best flea and tick prevention is what works best for your pet, in multiple forms: lifestyle of pet, reactions or potential reactions, lifestye of us as Mom’s and Dad’s, cost, and accessibility. We are aware that all these things factor into choosing the best possible flea and tick medication for your pet. The one option I do not recommend unless discussed with your veterinarian is electing no protection at all, especially for those high risk patients.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are on the rise. We also know that animals don’t need to go outside to get fleas and ticks. Because of the dog’s ambient body temperature being much higher than ours, they are the preferred tasty morsel to many of these blood-sucking creatures. Fleas can spread a myriad of other diseases as well, including cat scratch fever and (scarily enough) the bubonic plague (ugh!). Prior to stopping your pet’s preventative, please contact your veterinarian or your veterinary team who best knows your pet!
Now to address the more specific concern that has many pet owners frantic since September 20, 2018. What about these flea and tick preventions that can cause seizures, tremors, and mass chaos in the pet owning industry?
I’ll first address why we have these products. Simparica, a name brand drug from this product line, is what I personally use in my own dogs (Jada is a 13 year old proud heeler and Kodak is a 10 year old ball of adorableness). The reason I chose this medication for my personal fur-children is because of the above mentioned reasons: life-style, ease of administration, and n
o reaction to the medication
This medication can have side-effects, and we do not want to discount that by any means. These medications can have abnormal reactions in 1 in 10,000 dogs. If your pet is one of these affected, it can be very scary and very real. Therefore, give these medications on a full stomach, monitor for reactions, and use with caution in pets that have a history of neurological concerns or seizures.
This class of drugs is given by mouth, so it does have to go through the body to get ingested by the flea and tick. The side-effects can sometimes be seen depending on how sensitive your dog is to this type of medication. While for the majority of dogs it is safe, each pet is different, and this should be considered.
This warning has been on the label of the medication since its initial launch. The reason this made the news is not having to do with massive outbreaks of reactions, but because the FDA is required to evaluate new products every 5 years. Since this class of drugs was up for this, the FDA made public the possible side-effects. Ideally, the news story would have also included this information along with discussion by the FDA or a veterinarian for the public to have a clearer picture of what could occur.
My 2 critters are still safely receiving this medication as their monthly flea and tick along with most of the other Blue Ridge staff and thousands of other pet owners in the United States and Europe.
Remember, always give with food to decrease possible side-effects. Monitor for any strange behavior within 24 hours of administration. Wait at least 24 hours between vaccines or other injectable medication prior to giving the medication.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please let us know if there are any other concerns you would like us to blog about or any other questions you would like us to answer! We won’t know what’s ‘bugging’ you unless you (or the news) lets us know!
Thanks again for stopping by,
Dr. Jessica Tracy
Blue Ridge Animal Hospital
Most Frequently Asked Questions about Surgery and Your Pets
“Surgery” can be a scary word. It’s understandable. The body’s ‘natural state’ does not involve elected trauma to tissue and anesthesia. However, these procedures are often unavoidable for the overall health of our fur-kiddos, whether it be a spay, neuter, mass removal, broken bone, torn cruciate, or any number of other procedures.
The purpose of this blog is to ideally minimize fears about your pet undergoing the necessary surgery, and to answer any commonly asked questions you might have. While it can be a scary thought, at Blue Ridge we take your pets’ well-being, health, and pain control seriously. So let us know how we can help at any time, or if you have any concerns before, during or after the procedure.
Do we have to do this surgery?
- If this is a concern, ask us. We are happy to explain why we recommend each individual procedure. For instance, in the case of spaying a female dog, we are able to eliminate unwanted pregnancy and prevent pyometra. For neutering male dogs, this could actually increase their life expectancy! Intact male dogs have a lower life expectancy not because of medical complications, but because of their tendency to roam to find female dogs. This leads to a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents and other concerns. Obviously each surgery and each patient is different, so let us address that with you if there is a concern.
How long will (s)he be under anesthesia?
- This also depends on the procedure. Neutering a male (that does not have a testicle in the belly) dog takes less time than a spay because we do not have to enter the abdominal cavity, or the belly. With this, recovery time for any procedure entering the belly will take longer than one that is not. Bleeding would be more likely in these dogs as well.
- More involved surgeries such as an orthopedic procedure or an exploratory of the belly often takes much more time! The skill necessary as well as the risks warrant extra caution by the surgeon and the surgical team.
- Mass removals will depend on the size of the mass, the location, and what the mass might be. For example, mast cell tumors, even if they are small, would suggest to take 2cm around that particular mass. That means that a 1cm mass would have at least 5cm removed from that area. That’s a BIG area! Your treatment plan will often estimate the amount of time necessary.
What is the recovery time?
- Scar tissue takes AT least 10-14 days to form. This means that you pet should be leashed walked during this time. Avoid letting him or her run free. This is VERY important for
any incision that goes into the abdominal cavity.
- Orthopedic or abdominal surgeries may have longer recovery times. While the incision will heal, the importance of the bone healing or the inside incision is of the utmost concern.
- Scar tissue takes AT least 10-14 days to form. This means that you pet should be leashed walked during this time. Avoid letting him or her run free. This is VERY important for
Will there be sutures?
- There will be sutures of some kind. Sometimes these sutures are buried and you don’t see them. Here at Blue Ridge, we usually do both. Outside sutures allow us to recheck their incision in 10-14 days. They also give us an ‘extra layer’ of protection for the incision.
Will (s)he need a ‘cone of shame?’
- For any of our procedures, we recommend using the elizabethan cone or similar devices to ensure there are no complications with the surgery site. When a human gets surgery, the lucky surgeon generally does not have to worry about them licking or chewing the incision. However, they still use dressing and emphasize caution about getting the area wet or dirty. The same holds true for our furry pets and their surgeries. Let’s help them as much as possible prevent complications!
- Keep in mind there are now other options besides the cone! There are special surgery shirts, different types of cones (the zen cone is an option), and surgical wraps. If you know that your kiddo would be a chewer, licker, or incision-irritator, look into getting these BEFORE the surgical procedure takes place!
What other questions would you have before a surgery? Ask us or let us know and we can update our blog!
In the end (‘cutting’ to the chase), we know that surgery can be scary – we are pet parents too! So help us eliminate whatever concerns you might have by asking questions. Also, recognize that not all hospitals ‘do surgery’ the same. If you are at a hospital with which you are unfamiliar, ask questions you may not think to ask such as: are you AAHA accredited? Will my pet have a catheter in place? Will a nurse be dedicated to do the monitoring? Do you have strict pain control guidelines? Do you send pain medications home? Does my pet receive IV fluids during the procedure to help prevent dehydration and low blood pressure? Does my pet have EKG, SPO2, and blood pressure monitored during the procedure? Will their temperature be monitored until discharge? Will blood work be performed prior to the procedure? All these questions and following these guidelines reduce risk associated with any anesthetic procedure.
Thank you as always for allowing us to serve you and your beloved pets! Our goal is to help your pets Live Long and Live Well! We could not do that without you.
The holidays are over, the cold is setting in, and it’s time for some much needed rest from the craziness! So why not stop by the Blue Ridge Animal Hospital blog for some exciting entertainment and knowledge?!
This month’s blog will be bloody! We are going to discuss a general overview of blood work. While this may not sound exciting, it is one of the major questions we get asked about routinely and perform on a daily basis. So here are some FAQs:
Why do blood work?
Great question since most of us aren’t always aware what those numbers and letters represent. It can be confusing! We also talk about blood work when your pet is feeling healthy and normal. Why would we do that?!
The point of blood work is to get a clearer picture in general of your pet. It allows us to investigate underlying functions that we may not be able to see in the general exam. And if your pet is feeling well? These values can give us a baseline of normal for you pet, or often times it can alert us to potential problems early so they can be addressed! Prevention has been shown to be one of the major ways to increase your fur-baby’s life expectancy and even quality of life, which I think is something we would all like to do
What does it show?
There are MANY types of blood panels and testing that can be done. Specialized testing is pursued based on your particular pet and concerns. However, general testing is just that, a general overview of how the body is functioning overall.
The parts of the general blood test generally includes the following. Please keep in mind these are generalized descriptions, and do not cover all the components of these panels.
This test allows us to look at the components of the blood itself, namely the white blood cells, red blood cells, the distribution and shape of these cells, and the platelets. These become important when looking for things like anemia (red blood cells) or infection/inflammation (white blood cells).
These look at how well the organs are functioning in general. They specifically look at liver, gallbladder, kidney, and often electrolytes. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot tell us if cancer is present. They do however give us an idea of the health of these individual organs at that specific time.
Thyroid: High thyroid in cats and low thyroid in dogs can be surprisingly common conditions. This test is included in many pet’s normal blood work over 7 years of age, or if symptoms are noted.
Urine – While we realize this isn’t blood, it is often included in blood panels to give a more complete picture.
4DX or FIV/FeLV: 4dx stands for the 4 things being tested: heartworm, lyme, ehrlichia, and anaplasma. These are the 3 major tick-borne diseases along with heartworm disease. FIV/FeLV and even heartworm in cats stands for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.
What if I don’t want to know? I can’t do anything about it, right?
This is an incredibly common question, and we really do understand it. If you can’t fix a problem, why know about it? The good news is that many of these ‘problems’ can be addressed or even improved upon. The benefits of routine screening is to find these concerns early so that we can make a bigger difference earlier. For instance, animals found to have kidney disease are known to live at least 3 times longer if started on a specific diet early in their condition rather than later. For some, that’s the difference between 1 year and 3 years. For cats with thyroid concerns, addressing their thyroid can prevent such issues as heart disease and high blood pressure before they become a problem. Diabetes is on the rise in our fur-kids too. Starting insulin early can prevent worsening of all signs of diabetes.
These are just some examples of what we find or what we are looking for when performing this blood work. Not all the time do we expect to find major conditions, but we can often see things we can start monitoring early as well.
The benefit of this knowledge can increase your pet’s life expectancy and overall understanding of their health. That sounds like some pretty good odds to us, right?!
Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share this with us. Sometimes trying to find the best topic to address can be a little difficult. Sometimes we don’t always know what you are interested in knowing! So if you have something you want addressed, ask so we can tailor these to your questions!
The Thought behind the Needles, the Herbs, and Alternatives
What does it all mean?
Where does it fit my life and in my pet’s life?
I can’t even read the back of a food label anymore without mispronouncing ingredients!!
This blog was created in order to answer some questions you may have regarding these types of treatment modalities. With all the different strong beliefs out there, confusion with words, and uncertainty, it’s no wonder we can get so easily disoriented.
Let’s start by defining these different phrases for you as best we know how.
According to NIH (the national center for integrative health), the definitions are pretty simple. Complementary medicine is when alternative medicine is used along with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is when non-mainstream practices are used in place of Western or conventional medicine. Integrative medicine is a little bit of a gray zone between these, and mostly means “bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.” Natural medicine or natural healing can be grouped to
gether with alternative therapy using natural and organic home remedies. An example of this would
be my mother, who felt that apple cider vinegar was the cure for everything that ails you!
While some people may already be very interested in complementary and integrative medicine, some may not feel very comfortable with it as a modality. How can some random laser fix a skin issue when I can’t see anything happening? You want to stick needles in my cat and expect it to help back pain? You think these herbs that smell a bit like grass can help my dog’s neck issue? A change in diet really doesn’t make that big of a difference…does it?
No, I get it. I was conventionally trained in veterinary school. While trying to cram all things in regarding the body system of all animals, the disease processes and how they worked, all treatment options, there wasn’t much time to focus on ‘alternative medicine.’ At the time of my schooling, I also didn’t understand how alternative treatments could work. Is there science behind it? People still joke by saying I am practicing ‘voo-doo’ medicine!
After some years out of school, I realized that sometimes we don’t have all the answers or the ability to manage pain even with all our conventional advancements. I started to become frustrated when I couldn’t give other options to alleviate pain, couldn’t always address animals that wouldn’t take pills, and was interested in seeing each patient, each animal, more as a whole being rather than just a presenting problem such as ‘back pain,’ ‘diabetes,’ or ‘lick granuloma.’
The purpose of integrative medicine, for all intents and purposes, is choice and options. We have scientific evidence that these modalities work in certain situations. We have seen the proof with the application in our hospital. The purpose is to help your animal, your pet, your furbaby, any safe way we can to alleviate any pain or discomfort that may be present and to promote overall balance, whether that be a mental or physical condition.
That depends on you and your animal! I can, however, go over some of the types of complementary medicine we are currently offering, and expand on where we want to go as well! Because these can be very detailed for each specific modality, we plan on being more informative in subsequent blog articles! Keep watching to learn more.
What we do now:
- Acupuncture – Dr. Tracy is currently certified in Veterinary Acupuncture from the Chi Institute. This means that she has not only pursued the training, she has also gone through the process to achieve her certification by pursuing multiple case studies and additional training.
- Cold Laser – cold laser therapy utilizes photons of light to bring in healing cells and reduce inflammation. It can be used in a number of acute and chronic conditions such as skin issues, arthritis, chronic ear infections, and joint issues. Once again, we will address some of the myths/truths about this therapy and how it works along with testimonials in a later blog post.
- Herbal Medication – during her acupuncture training, Dr. Tracy studied traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, which also included Herbal Medication. This has been integrated into the therapeutic protocol for many of her patients, and she plans on continuing broaden this offering over the next several months.
- Fear Free Certification/Cat Friendly Practice – this may not seem alternative or that is has anything to do with integrative medicine, but we believe that mental health and wellness play a huge role in how comfortable you and your pet are. By attempting to apply Fear Free protocols to our exams and procedures, we are able to ideally help your pets respond better overall by making wellness and sick visits less stressful.
Where we’d like to go:
- Herbal Medication Certification – while this may take a few years, Dr. Tracy is planning to achieve her CVCH, or Certification of Veterinary Chinese Herbs
- Physical therapy certification – this is also on the horizon to integrate physical therapy into our protocols for overall health of your patient and to aid with pain and inflammation.
We look forward to writing more about this topic, and answering any questions you may have. Please let us know if you have any questions, or anything you are interested in we have yet to address!
Have a great end of your summer!
Dr. Tracy and Blue Ridge Animal Hospital
THUNDER, LIGHTENING, AND FIREWORKS!
Summer is once again upon us!! With warm weather we have all kinds of fun things to do. There are things to do outside, traveling on vacation, holidays to celebrate and unfortunately bad weather in the form of thunderstorms. We all know of or have lived with dogs that become anxious or even terrified during many of these events. Car ride anxieties, firework fears, and thunderstorm phobias. All of these things can cause potentially dangerous responses in our canine family members who simply cannot rationalize that there is nothing to fear from any of this. These responses can range from simple hiding to destruction of property to running away.
WHAT IS NOISE PHOBIA?
We have all been able to recognize fear in ourselves and our pets. Fear is a normal response. It is retained in our ‘reptilian brain.’ It was created in order to help us avoid potentially dangerous situations, keep us out of trouble, and basically, keep us alive (just doesn’t explain the dinosaurs!)
A problem arises when that system is over-active or ‘up-regulated’ to a stimulus, such as a sound, sight, or event. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, is a clinical instructor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University where she also studies behavior. She states that “Noise phobia is an extreme, persistent fear of auditory stimuli that is out of proportion to the real danger, if any, associated with the noise. There is no survival advantage conferred on an animal that panics in response to things that are not truly threatening or dangerous.”
So basically what this means is that the sound of thunder isn’t just a single ‘boom’ to your noise phobic dog. It’s a boom that signifies the end of the world is coming soon, and there’s no way to convince him or her otherwise until it’s over. That’s a pretty scary thing!!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
First of all, know you’re not alone in this! Concerns from pet parents involving noise anxiety and separation anxiety account for a large percentage of veterinary visits. Even more sobering, it is one of the top reasons animals are surrendered to shelters.
FIRST, KNOW THE SIGNS
Most of us know our pets very well! After we have known our pets long enough, we being to know the signs they exhibit when a thunderstorm is approaching. Starting treatment early and prior to any events can help reduce overall reactions and stress.
REALIZE IT WILL TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF TIME, A LITTLE BIT OF WORK, AND SOME ADJUSTMENTS:
Often, it is not a ‘one-step’ approach to this anxiety. This makes sense because of how deeply rooted the response can be. Here are some simple things you can try prior to or along with medications, depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
a.) There are natural anti-anxiety medications that can be used long-term or during the periods that we know there will be more anxiety, such as spring with thunderstorms, 4th of July fireworks, and New Year’s Eve. Solloquin and Composure are both recommended.
b.) ThunderShirt – You may read mixed reviews on this, which is true! The ThunderShirt can be the answer for some pets. However, the ThunderShirt is often an excellent addition to other types of treatment methods. Keep in mind that just because the ThunderShirt or these other medications don’t work like a ‘miracle cure,’ it does not mean that are ineffective. The idea is to reduce the doses of other drugs and medications, as well as reduce overall anxiety.
Acepromazine has previously been the ‘go-to’ medication for these phobias. The problem with this medication is how it works, which is important for us to understand. Ace does NOT dampen down the response center. It does not calm anxiety. Mostly it acts to slow the response system of the animal down. What this means is that your pet is still sitting there, feeling all of his/her anxiety, recognizing it’s there, but not being able to do anything about it. For that reason, some behaviorists are worried it may do more harm with the anxiety than good in the long-term, although it does make a difference in the signs they show.
We are excited to be able to offer a new product specifically formulated for this very problem. It is called Sileo and is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for canine noise aversion. It works by calming the dog, not sedating it, and this then allows your dog to continue to interact with and enjoy your family’s company, despite the triggers that would previously have made the dog miserable. It is very safe and has already proven effective in those we have tried on it. As with all medications, no matter what the species, some individuals won’t respond quite as well as others but with no side effects, it is worth considering. If you are interested in learning more about whether this might work for your canine best friend, please give us a call and we can talk about it. You can also look it up online at sileodogus.com.
As with all things, contact your local veterinarian first. Each patient is different, and all dogs may not respond the same. Realizing that all team members want to work together for the comfort of your baby will help greatly improve, no matter what ‘thunderstorms’ come your way!
Have a fantastic summer and enjoy life with your family, including the four legged members!
(Thank you to June Holden for your writing expertise and great help on this!)
Leptospirosis…sounds like something from a horror movie, doesn’t it?
Well, in a way, it kind of is.
So, what is it?
Leptospirosis is a bacteria, a spirochete to be exact. This is the same ‘type’ of bacteria as lyme disease. Why are these types of diseases and bacteria sometimes more dangerous to our body than the rest of the bacteria we are surrounded by everyday? The answer lies in the body’s response, or lack of response, to the bacteria as a whole.
How Does My Pet Become Infected?
Leptospirosis sneaks into the body through the mucous membranes or the intestinal tract. Because of the special shape and size of the bacteria, the body often cannot ‘clear it’ like it can other types of bacteria with which we come in contact. When an animal becomes infected, this bacteria can nestle in the kidneys, liver, and reproductive tract. Younger or immune compromised animals are at a higher risk for developing complications to this disease.
Exposure risks are increased to animals and people who live in wet and warm environments with high access to wildlife. Does this sound familiar Bedford?! It should! A recent article put Bedford County in the Top 10 Counties that have the highest risk of dogs contracting leptospirosis, which is estimated to be in in every 3.6 dogs!
Another problem with leptospirosis is that the signs can be vague. Unexplained pain throughout the body, increase in urinating, yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin, swelling of the lymph nodes, increased breathing. weakness…sounds like it covers the whole array of possibilities, doesn’t it? A recent study has suggested that the most common sign of an early leptospirosis infection is vomiting and diarrhea.
Liver and kidney failure are some known concerns that cause veterinarians to look and test for this bacteria, but a number of signs may be arise before this. If you are noticing any of these signs in your pet, ensure that you keep a well-documented journal to convey to your veterinary team. This may aid them in the diagnosis, and get your pet the treatment it needs faster!
Why Have I Never Heard of It?
Leptospirosis IS a zoonotic disease. This means that it can be spread from your pet to you and other humans. Leptospirosis is believed to be under-diagnosed. This is because just like the bacteria can hide in the body in the immune system, it can hide from current conventional testing methods. While there is research being done to make this testing easier, it is often not a ‘simple’ diagnosis.
This Sounds Terrible!
Leptospirosis can make your dog and you VERY sick, and can even lead to kidney and liver failure. There is a treatment for leptospirosis the bacteria, and if caught early enough, can prevent major organ failure. A long-term course of this antibiotic can generally address the infection, but you animal may run the risk of re-exposure or his/her infection not being cleared entirely!
So what else can you do about it? There is a vaccine for leptospirosis! Many dogs in highly at-risk areas may already be receiving this without even knowing it. However, talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s risk for exposure, the benefits and concerns for the vaccine, and other questions you might have.
In the mean time, have a wonderful and safe start of Spring!
Matters of the Heart
The heart is an amazing thing. As a metaphor, it represents our feelings, our emotions, our joys, and our struggles. As an organ, it represents the body’s amazing ability to adapt. A little bit of the same thing, right?
Fish have a two chambered heart. Some call this rudimentary as it allows some oxygenated blood to mix with unoxygenated blood, but it works just fine for the fish! Reptiles progressed to a 3 chambered heart, realizing the need for better oxygen exchange on land. Then came the mammals, which most of us know have 4 chambered hearts. Amazing the adaptations our bodies make! Even though the mammalian heart is an incredible and amazing biological entity, it can be faulty at times (especially for some of us with our dating picks in high school!)
Why are we focusing on hearts for this issue? Good question.
One reason is February has just finished up. Who can ignore the pull on the heart strings for Valentine’s Day?! Another reason is a bit more somber. According to the Drake Center for Veterinary Care, 10% of dogs seen in primary care facilities have some form of heart concerns. As our canine companions age, they state that the number of heart related concerns and diagnosis can reach up to 75% in senior pets. That is a scary number. Cats are said to be affected slightly less than their dog partners, although I was unable to find an exact percentage. This may be, like most things in cats, because it is often more difficult to see the signs of heart disease in our feline masters, and is sometimes more difficult to diagnose.
Dogs and Cats are different…
Heart disease is different for the 2 species as well. In dogs, a condition known as mitral valve deficiency is what causes the majority of conversation (Duke says 75% again), while cats most commonly experience hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (85 to 90% of cats, per Mercola). These terms are put here because odds are, us as pet owners will hear them one day even if we don’t understand everything about the disease itself.
What to do with this information…
Yet, take heart. The advancements in veterinary medicine have been astounding when it comes to cardiac care. Yet for all the advancements in the world of medicine, the most important diagnostic tool remains to be…you. Yes, you! The pet owner, mother/father, lover of the pet. How so? That’s why we are blogging, so let’s answer that!
You know your pet.
Have you noticed any signs related to heart disease or other symptoms. These include but aren’t limited to: coughing, shortness of breath, weakness after exercise, collapse, and increased breathing rates.
Has there been other dogs in your pets known family diagnosed with heart issues?
What breed is your dog or cat? Certain breeds may be more predisposed than others.
Do you give monthly heartworm prevention to your dog AND cat? Heartworm disease is a form of heart disease don’t forget!
Wellness care and exams
Even though you’re our best tool at home, veterinarians need to play a major role in evaluating your pets specific risks for heart disease.
As your pet ages, their risks increase just like in humans. Pets over the age of 7 should be seen by their regular vet at least twice a year
Often, a murmur (which is a change in the sound of blood flow in the heart) can be detected long before heart failure ever begins. Also, it is important to note that just because your pet may have been diagnosed with a murmur, does NOT mean he or she had heart failure.
Blood work and x-rays
Yearly or even twice a year exams are essential to evaluate for underlying things that you may not know to look for as your pet ages. This is why allowing a veterinarian to look for these things can be life-saving!
Blood work cannot diagnose heart disease directly, but it can help! For cats,there is a blood test called ProBNP that can help evaluate for heart concerns directly. For dogs, there is a value called CK that can be elevated in heart values. Other diseases such as thyroid disease and high blood pressure can greatly cause the heart to work harder.
X-rays are always a good idea if there is every a murmur noted. Even if the heart looks normal on x-rays, we have a base-line size to look at, are able to look at other things such as the chest/lungs, the intestines, and other organs.
What if my pet has already been diagnosed with a heart murmur or heart disease?
If your pet had been diagnosed with a heart issue, you are still considered the first line of defense for their treatment, care, and potential progression. What can you do at home if your pet has had the diagnosis of a ‘heart murmur,’ ‘cardiac insufficency,’ or ‘heart failure?’
Routine check ups
There are a number of factors and stages to heart disease. Once your pet has been diagnosed with a heart murmur, routine check-ups are essential! In dogs with progressive disease, plan on seeing your veterinarian at least every 3 months.
Veterinarians can discuss changes in medication, evaluating blood pressure, adjusting food, herbal treatments, acupuncture, and other things to keep your pet healthier over time.
Resting respiratory rate
This is the number one indicator of progression of heart disease and is absolutely free! Counting the number of breaths per minute your pet takes while he or she is sleeping is a key diagnostic tool. What we are looking for is increased rate over time.
Monitor for signs
Familiarize yourself with the signs of the progression of heart disease. You know your pet better than anyone else. If you see any signs that are concerning, contact your veterinarian.
Do NOT adjust any medications without discussing with your veterinarian
Even though you will become the expert with your pet and often know how they respond, please contact your veteriarian prior to adjusting any medications.
Discuss openly concerns about costs and treatment if they exist.
Sometimes heart disease isn’t always easy to treat, both for you and for your beloved pet.
Your veterinarian should offer you the best level of care, including an echocardiogram. Do not feel guilty or upset if you cannot do all the testing that is discussed. This is common, but feel comfortable having that conversation with your veterinarian.
All in all, I think that the best part about these matters of the heart is that few of us can argue that our pets have the biggest heart of all. With proper monitoring, we can often prevent problems before they start. With proper care, we can help even the biggest hearts prosper on.
Dr. Jessica Tracy of Blue Ridge Animal Hospital
It’s almost that time again! February is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month!
Many of you may be wondering what all the hype is about Pet Dental Month. Some of you may even be surprised there is a whole month dedicated to the health of our animals’ teeth. Blue Ridge is here to help you understand your pet’s dental health and what you can do to take charge of it.
42. That’s how many teeth are normally found in an adult dog’s mouth. That’s 10 more than the average human! A cat has even less at 30. As you can imagine, each of those little teeth provide their own microenvironment and are a haven for bacteria, plaque, tartar, and even food particles. The size and surface area of the teeth, if taken together, would be about the size of your hand. Take a look at your dog’s or cat’s mouth. How do those teeth look? If you see signs of infection and tartar, it is the same idea as a terrible skin infection or eye infection on the outside of your pet!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
– Preventative measures
a.) Brushing teeth. Yes, we know it’s tedious and often difficult. Many dogs and especially cats are not very willing for us to come at them with a foreign object that is expected to scratch all surface areas of their mouth. The good news? Training can help! The bad news? It may take some time, and brushing is still considered the best way to prevent dental disease long-term. Make sure you use ONLY doggie specific toothpaste. Human toothpaste has too much fluoride in it!
b.) Dental Diet. There are special diets specifically made for healthy teeth and gums.. The most effective diets are ones specifically formulated for this purpose and have research behind them, such as t/d by Hill’s and Royal Canin Dental Diet. My pets all have Royal Canin Dental Diet incorporated into their meals, and they absolutely love it!
c.) Rinses and water additives: Do rinses work? They can help. These rinses and additives can help reduce the number of bugs (bacteria) in the mouth. While this doesn’t address the plaque and tartar that’s already present, it can help cut down on bad breath and further infections. These rinses and additives can greatly benefit pets that have gingivitis with very little tartar present. Watch labels though! Most of these rinses contain fake sugars which certain pets may have more difficulty with than others. [Example of brand(s) you approve of?
d.) OraVet Chews: These chews have a special ingredient that can help reduce tartar from sticking to your pet’s teeth. Even though there are options when it comes to dental health chews these days, this is the only one on the market formulated with this special ingredient. It also makes their breath smell like vanilla cupcakes, so there is that!
– Yearly to biyearly dental cleaning
The hardest part about this for most people is the anesthesia and having to do it so routinely. The good news is that at Blue Ridge, we do anesthesia the same way you would expect at a human hospital. Your pet will receive an anesthetic protocol tailored to their needs. Blood work is done prior to the procedure. An IV catheter is placed, through which they receive IV fluids during the procedure.Their blood pressure, oxygen, EKG, and temperature, are monitored throughout the procedure. Blue Ridge uses a specialized warming blanket to keep them warm during their procedure. A nurse is present at all time monitoring and taking vitals. We even offer dental radiographs! This becomes very important in dogs and cats because the majority of their disease happens UNDER the gumline. Only certified personnel can perform any surgical removals of teeth or specialized cleaning. Keeping your pets’ safe and healthy during any procedure is our number one priority.
Know your pet!
– Most of the time, dogs and cats are great at hiding tooth pain. Watch them closely for any signs of a problem such as bad breath, cocking head to the same side while eating, slowing down when eating, bleeding gums, pawing at the mouth, or excessive drooling. If you’re seeing any of that, we want to know!
– Other Fun Facts
a.) Dental disease has been shown have effects on the heart and kidney. Severe dental disease has been linked to animals being more likely to promote heart issues and kidney failure.
b.) Veterinary Dentists do exist! For more extensive procedures such as root canals, a referral can be made by your regular veterinarian.
c.) Up to 80% of dog have dental disease by the age of 3!
As always, thanks for sinking your teeth into our blog! Look forward to hearing from you with any questions, and seeing your babies for their yearly dental cleanings soon.