Guide to Dental Health for your Pets

dog-dental

Just as people need to take care of their teeth, pets also have important dental health needs. If issues arise with a pet’s teeth or gums, these infections can cause serious health issues. Plaque will accumulate on a dog or cat’s teeth just as it does on humans’ teeth. Left to fester, this plaque will become tartar, which breaks down the gums. A gum infection could spread to other areas of the body, causing serious illness. A veterinary dentist can assist pet owners with dental care for a beloved animal, which can help ensure a healthy and long lifespan.

Professional Dental Care for Pets

Preventing dental problems for a pet is crucial for overall health. An adult dog or cat needs regular visits with a veterinarian or veterinary dentist to examine the mouth and teeth. The examination should occur every year for cats and small dogs and every two years for large dogs. This oral examination can also involve a dental cleaning when necessary. Usually, a professional will perform a dental cleaning with the pet under general anesthesia.

Daily Dental Care for Pets

Pet owners can also assist with tooth care to keep a pet’s mouth healthy. Feeding a dog or a cat dry, crunchy food is one line of defense, but this is not the only task needed to keep teeth healthy. To prevent periodontal disease in a dog or a cat, an owner should perform daily tooth-brushing on the animal. Special pet toothpastes are available, often in flavors that will appeal to the pet. A soft-bristled tooth brush is ideal. Pet owners can use a toothbrush designed for animals, or they can use a soft-bristled brush designed for children. While it may seem excessive to brush a pet’s teeth every day, veterinarians liken pet tooth care to the care of human teeth. Just as people brush their teeth several times a day, pets also need to have the plaque removed from their teeth daily.

General Health Care for Pets

Because pets are an integral part of the family, it’s important to monitor their general well-being to make sure they stay healthy. Sometimes symptoms might appear that could indicate illness. The amount of food and water a pet takes in throughout the day is an important indicator of well-being. If a pet suddenly stops eating or drinking the typical amount or begins consuming more than usual, this could suggest a health problem. Sudden weight loss or weight gain could also indicate a health issue. Unusual behavior, sluggishness, difficulty moving, and unusual lumps could also be symptoms of an underlying health problem.

Importance of Diet

Pets’ diets are important for ongoing health. Just as people need to eat nutritious foods every day, pets also have nutritional needs. While the ingredients of pet foods will vary, choose foods with high-quality ingredients that will enhance pet health. Pet owners must store pet food correctly, depending on the type of food. Moist food must be covered and kept cold until consumed. Dry food should be stored in the original packaging or a sealed container. Keep dry food in a dry location with temperatures below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Pet food and water dishes should be washed daily to keep them clean.

Getting Professional Care for Pets

Annual visits to the veterinarian will help ensure ongoing pet health. As a veterinarian examines a cat or a dog, the professional will assess health, watch for symptoms that could indicate a disease, and check for parasites that could cause illness. The veterinarian will also perform vital health services that include heartworm prevention and vaccinations. Having a pet spayed or neutered helps maintain pet health, and it often reduces behavioral problems. Keeping a pet well-groomed has a number of benefits as well. Brushing the pet’s fur keeps it healthy and neat. The process of grooming also ensures that you catch any infestations of mites, fleas, and ticks to resolve them before they become serious.

Guess Who Was in July’s Chicago Magazine?!

The Welcome Waggin’ Makes House Calls for Pets

ILLUSTRATION: CHRIS GASH

“Cats have a habit of disappearing,” says veterinarian Lisa McIntyre as we pull up to a house in Aurora for her first appointment of the day, with a one-eyed, formerly feral feline named Gabriel. “They go boneless and can squeeze into really small spaces. That’s why I tell clients to have them somewhere they can’t hide.”

McIntyre, who runs the mobile veterinary practice the Welcome Waggin’, believes that treating pets in the comfort of their own homes fosters trust—much more than when an animal is shoved in a cage for a traumatic trip to the clinic. (“Curiosity doesn’t kill cats,” she tells me. “Stress does.”) But Gabriel isn’t the trusting type. The second we walk through the door, he scampers under a recliner. Nice try, Gabe. McIntyre is unfazed. Over the years, she’s tracked down patients hiding behind dryers, in bathtubs, even inside a bed’s box spring.

“Come on out, handsome,” says his owner, Lynne Roberts, whose home features more framed photos of critters than of humans: kittens, dogs, even some snapshots of bears. Within a few minutes, Gabriel darts up to the bedroom he shares with Shadow, a cocker spaniel mix, and another cat, James. McIntyre and her technician, Sarah Salazar, lug their medical bags upstairs and find Gabriel panting on the floor.

McIntyre, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, crouches and gently separates the fur on the cat’s front leg in search of a tiny hair-size vein. (She’s wearing Crocs because they’re easy to hose off when nature calls and a patient answers.) Five months ago, she diagnosed Gabriel with hypothyroidism and started him on meds. Now she needs a blood sample to check his hormone levels.

Once the prodding is over, Roberts swaddles him in a blanket. “He requires special handling,” she says. No kidding: The first time she tried to lure Gabriel into a carrier, he bit into her as if she were made out of Fancy Feast. “If it wasn’t for these two,” she says of McIntyre and Salazar, “I would not have been able to keep him.”

Although I secretly hoped the Welcome Waggin’ would resemble the sheepdog on wheels from Dumb and Dumber, it’s actually a soccer-mom gray minivan. But there are some cool features: a centrifuge, for spinning vials of pet blood, plugged into the car’s dashboard and, in back, a stash of pharmaceuticals that would make Walter White drool like a Saint Bernard. McIntyre, who has three sons, looks the Everymom part, too. But to the roughly 500 pet owners she serves in the suburbs, she’s like a superhero in scrubs, skipping among subdivisions to diagnose and treat everything from allergies to heartworm to kidney disease.

When McIntyre launched the Welcome Waggin’ nine years ago, she wanted to provide the same services as freestanding clinics. She briefly leased space to perform surgeries. “But I learned pretty quickly you can’t do everything and do it well,” she says. So she built what she calls a “fear-free practice” that concentrates on basic internal medicine, dermatology, and preventive care, adding a $25 to $75 travel fee to come to patients’ homes. When pets need specialized treatments, her three-person team takes them to an animal hospital.

Her patients are almost exclusively dogs and cats, but on occasion the Welcome Waggin’ caters to other creatures. Like the time the team bandaged a bitten bunny at a Plainfield petting zoo that came this closeto becoming dinner for an escaped hawk. Oh, and when McIntyre’s other vet on staff, Lauri Safford, rushed to a farm in Plano to perform an emergency C-section on a goat. (She was paid in eggs.)

McIntyre has attracted a specific clientele: elderly folks who can no longer drive and owners who crave the friendly vibes of a small practice. “It’s more individualized care than you are going to get in most clinics—especially big corporate clinics,” she says after we stop by Downers Grove to check on a seizure-prone Westie mix named Coconut. “We know where our clients work and what their schedule is like; we know their [pets’] quirks and what parks they go to.”

These personal details make all the difference when the inevitable comes. Pet or human, it sucks getting old. But McIntyre, who specializes in treating geriatric animals, tries to make the end suck less by performing in-home euthanasia and serving as an intermediary with the cemetery or crematorium. During my visit, I spotted a pristine white box filled with the ashes of a dog named Barry Lawrence in her garage. It was sitting on a dedicated deep freezer/short-term pet morgue.

Glen Ellyn resident Susan Andrews first encountered the Welcome Waggin’ in March when she faced one of those circle-of-life situations with her elderly poodle, Coco. Now she must deal with the sudden gastrointestinal distress of one of her two remaining pooches: sweater-wearing 16-year-old Buddy, who has begun losing control of his bowels.

McIntyre listens patiently as Andrews lists the litany of treatments she’s tried, including energy healing, Chinese herbs, and chiropractic care, stopping just short of a full-time shaman. (“We are a judgment-free zone,” says McIntyre.)

“You have a good-sounding heart for an old guy,” McIntyre tells Buddy as she prepares a needle for a blood sample. In a few days, she’ll report that Buddy’s stool and urine tests were normal—and chalk up the digestive issues to stress from the loss of his pal.

The last patients of the day are a trio of cats who live near downtown Naperville. McIntyre met Kim Reher, the Lululemon-wearing mother of the house, in an exercise class. The pair struck up a friendship and agreed it was a good idea for McIntyre to take a gander at Disney, the Reher family’s nine-month-old Maine coon; Callie, a 15-year-old dark-haired tabby; and Bailey, at 18, the elder Maine coon statesman.

In just under an hour, the Welcome Waggin’ crew administers three sets of rabies shots, checks Bailey’s bloodwork for possible hyperthyroidism, suggests a solution for Callie’s allergies, and diagnoses Disney with a pesky case of ear mites.

When Reher casually mentions that Disney’s poop had been extra smelly lately, Salazar enthusiastically offers to swing by later in the week for a sample. A few days later, the lab results come in: intestinal parasite.

A quick prescription and Disney’s waste is no longer nuclear grade. And just like that, another pet-loving household can breathe a little easier.

 

BY ROD O’CONNOR- Chicago Magazine

Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Dog Bite Prevention Tips for Parents, Kids and Dog Owners

Tips for parents and dog owners to help keep kids safe:

 The 3 Most Important Things to Teach Your Kids

  1. Dogs Don’t Like Hugs and Kisses – Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face.  Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face.  Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  2. Be a Tree if a Strange Dog Approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away.  This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
  3. Never Tease a Dog – and never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or protecting something. 

The 2 Most Important Things Parents Can Do

  1. Supervise – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids.  If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too.  Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?
  2. Train the dog – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used.  Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson.  Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members.  Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising.  Don’t allow children to punish the dog.  Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The 3 Most Important Things Dog Owners Can Do

  1. Spay or Neuter Your Dog – Neutered pets can be calmer, healthier and less likely to be aggressive in some situations.  Neutering prevents unwanted dogs that may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialized or aggressive.
  2. Condition Your Dog for the World – Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences.  Train using positive methods e.g., clicker training.
  3. Supervise Your Dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children.  Do not allow children to hug and kiss any dog.  If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.