National Pet Dental Health Month is Coming!

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February is dental month, and it is just around the corner!  Dental health is just as important in your furry pets as it is in you, and we do not tend to think of it nearly as often.    During dental month we try to promote and educate owners regarding dental disease.  We also have an incentive this month only for a discount off of your final bill if your pet receives a dental prophylactic cleaning.

Periodontal disease is the most common type of dental disease that effects dogs and cats.  It starts with plaque formation, which is noticed most obviously during an examination.  This then progresses to tartar build-up.  It can appear as a thick, tan to brown plaque on your pet’s teeth, and is created by the bacteria in your mouth.  This tartar is unsightly, but more importantly it can get underneath your pets gums and cause gingivitis.  This appears as red, swollen gums and can be uncomfortable for your pet.  If there is disease under your pet’s gums, this can eventually affect the support structures, the roots, and the bone surrounding the teeth which can cause tooth root abscesses and loss of the tooth.  These abscesses can be very painful, and can generally only be cured by extraction of the tooth.  The goal of routine dentals is to do them preventatively, so that we never get so far as to have tooth root abscesses in our pets!

Cats also have a unique form of dental disease called resorptive lesions.  This can affect up to 60% of cats.  At this point we do not know exactly what causes it, though there are many theories.  However, we do know that these lesions cause the teeth to be eaten away and can be very painful.  The typical treatment for these teeth is extraction.  We do know that preventative care can help prevent development of these lesions in some cases.

The good thing about periodontal disease in our pets is that it can be almost entirely preventable with at home care!  There are many options for at home care including dental treats, dental diets, chews, rinses, wipes, and brushing.  Brushing is by far the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease and tartar build up in your pet.  A pet specific toothpaste should be obtained, and your pet’s teeth should be brushed THREE to FIVE times per week in order for it to help!

However, we do understand that it can be difficult to commit to brushing your pet’s teeth frequently, and some pets do not tolerate it.  I have had some cases where owners are very devoted to brushing daily and their pet still develops dental disease.  Routine prophylactic dentals are indicated in all pets.  Again, the goal of these dentals is to save the teeth so that hopefully we never need extractions!  But, we also want to find those problem teeth before they cause your pet discomfort or start to affect the surrounding teeth and bones.  In this case, dental radiographs (xrays) are often performed and we may discuss removing the problem tooth.

A dental cleaning requires general anesthesia, so your pet is asleep while his teeth are cleaned.  This allows us to adequately clean beneath the gumline and assess for diseased teeth.  Anesthesia free dentals exist, but are actually illegal in some states as they do not appropriately clean and address the teeth, and sometimes even harm the teeth.  Without anesthesia, dentals are painful for the pet and cannot address disease underneath the gums.  Anesthesia is always taken very seriously, and a full physical exam and appropriate bloodwork is performed before the dental cleaning.  Your pet is monitored closely by a certified veterinary technician, which includes an electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and oxygenation status.

Also, a quick note on our smaller furry friends.  Some of the exotics critters get dental disease as well!  I most commonly see ferrets with dental disease, which get similar issues as dogs and cats do.  Occasionally I see dental tartar in hedgehogs as well, and gingivitis is common in bearded dragons!  Our hindgut fermenters (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas) can get overgrown teeth which can cause ulcerations and pain.  During every visit, your pet’s teeth are always assessed!

Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding your pet’s dental health, or call to schedule your pets dental cleaning and health assessment next month!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

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Bearded Dragons!

10783575895_02f66e09fe_nAs we’re moving inside and avoiding the sub-freezing temperatures, I thought I would write about a scaled friend who enjoys the winter way less than we do!

Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets these days, with good reason!  If well-handled and used to people, they can be very friendly and interactive.  They are entertaining to watch and fun to take care of.  However, they have some vital care requirements that I would like to discuss.

Bearded dragons should be housed in large aquariums with a screen top.  Remember, the tiny dragon that you purchased may end up being a foot in length and you should get a cage big enough for that.  They can also be very active and will use this space.  An ideal size would be 72” long, 28” wide, and 18” tall.  The more dragons you have, the bigger the cage should be!  Very importantly is what type of substrate (what is at the bottom of the cage) should be used.  We do see dragons accidentally ingest their substrate when they’re eating!  Therefore, I tend to stay away from particulate substrate (sand, shavings) and use something that they cannot accidentally eat.  I really like the turf substrate, as it is very easy to clean and replace.  Plain newspaper can be used as well.  Always give your dragon an area to hide out as well, in case he does not want to be seen.

A bearded dragon’s tank also needs to be adequately heated.  You can use a ceramic heat lamp (no hot rocks or heating pads) which should give a basking area temperature of 90-95°F.  At the cool end of the tank the temperature should go down to approximately 80°F.  Ideally there are two thermometers in the tank, one on each end.  Make sure that the light turns off at night, and the temperature can decrease to the 70s.  A red heat lamp can be used at night if needed.  A UVB light is a must have!  These lights provide Vitamin D for your reptile so that he can metabolize calcium.  Putting your dragon’s tank in front of a window is not enough, as UVB light can NOT go through glass or plastic!  The light should be within 18 inches of your reptile and should be placed in his basking area.  Read the box when you purchase your light, as most lights expire in approximately 6 months and this date should be noted so it is replaced when needed.

A large dish should be placed in your dragon’s tank, large enough for him to get into it and soak if he chooses.  The water should be replaced daily.  A beardie’s diet is very unique, as they are mostly insectivores when they are young, and turn into mostly herbivores as they reach approximately a year of age.  When they are young, they should be fed about 75% insects including crickets, wild caught insects, mealworms, and others.  A variety is best!  They should be no larger than the dragon’s head so that they can be easily swallowed.  The insects should be gut-loaded, meaning that you feed the insects something healthy (including Calcium and other vitamins and minerals), and then the dragon will get this food as well.  My favorite brand is Fluker’s to be used for gut loading.   The remaining 25% of the dragon’s diet should be dark leafy vegetables including red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine, collard, mustard greens, kale, endive, and others.  Some fruits can be offered as well.  As your dragon reaches a year of age, they should eat approximately 25% insects and 75% vegetables.

We recommend that your bearded dragon be examined yearly.  A fecal examination should be performed for all new dragons.  An exam helps to catch infections, organ diseases, behavioral problems, and most importantly husbandry issues.  Call to schedule your appointment today!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM