So what’s going on inside your pet’s mouth?
Dental decay or cavities are not typically a problem for cats and dogs. However, a build up of plaque that turns into hardened tartar does present health risks. Plaque buildup results in an increase of bacteria at the gums. The danger with a significant rise in bad bacteria at the gums is that the bacterial toxins congregate in the oral tissue and can create pockets where more bacteria can collect. If this process persists, it is quite possible that the harmful bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and affect the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart and ultimately the entire immune system.
Periodontal disease is a major health issue for our pets. More than 85% of dogs have problems with their teeth and gums by the time they reach 4 years of age. There are a number of reasons behind this including the type of bacteria in the mouth of the animal, the type of breed and most definitely, the kind of food the animal consumes.
Prevention is far better than the cure. Regular at-home cleaning can help delay or completely avoid the need for professional dental cleanings. Cats and dogs who eat a minimally processed, raw or homemade diet tend to suffer fewer dental problems than pets who eat processed food. For dogs, the gnawing enjoyment and abrasive action of good old fashioned raw bones against the teeth while pulling off pieces of meat scrapes off developing tartar. For cats and dogs, whole chicken necks help lessen plaque buildup as well. Big hunks of cooked or raw organ or muscle meat can actually act like dental floss. For pets eating processed food, the fresh meat is a healthy addition to your pet’s diet!
Unfortunately, for many pet guardians, at-home cleaning is always dependent on the pet’s willingness to have their teeth cleaned with a toothbrush. For those who deliberately make this ritual a bonding process, the results are rewarding for both pet and guardian! A number of dental pastes include enzymes to dissolve the plaque. These are often flavoured with poultry, beef or malt to make them more attractive. A natural dentifrice is a paste made from baking soda, a 50:50 dilution of 3% hydrogen peroxide with water and a drop of essential oil such as lavender, eucalyptus or rosemary or concentrated beef stock or water from a can of fish. Avoid human toothpaste which can include xylitol that can be toxic to dogs and too much fluoride – a toxic halogen.
There are alternatives to brushing, bones and chicken necks. There are dental products such as PetzLife (petzlife.com), an enzyme gel or spray, enzymic powder products such as ARK Naturals that are added to the water or specialized toys and chews. Animal Wellness (February/March 2010 issue) reports that a concentrated solution of green tea used as a mouthwash has been shown to reduce bacteria. It also contains catechins and polyphenols, antioxidants that improve gum health. Herbal remedies can also be used but may require several applications per day to be effective.
Whichever way you go, choose only quality products and read labels carefully to avoid hidden sugars and chemicals.
Be wary of pet food claims that dry food kibble is a method of cleaning teeth. Reliance on dry food is not ideal for cats. And aside from the residue that dry food leaves on the teeth, most dog guardians will tell you that their pup tends to swallow the kibble whole. Don’t forget that most dry food is laden with processed simple carbohydrates which means that any kibble actually chewed runs the risk of impacting starches and sugars into the gum line, increasing the likelihood of periodontal disease over the long term.
Finally, a footnote about raw fresh bones: dogs who grow up chewing on bones tend to handle them more casually and adeptly than dogs who get them only as a rare treat so starting bones young is always a good idea. Some dogs are truly aggressive chewers; some dogs are poorly bred and have softer teeth and might be at risk of a tooth fracture. Because of that, it is important to be familiar with your dog’s chewing style so monitor your dog closely to establish how voraciously he or she chews, or alternatively, offer softer bones such as knuckle. Also be aware that as bones dry out, they become harder. In the spring, I often find old bones in my backyard that, if chewed on, would be the equivalent of chewing on rocks!
DID YOU KNOW?
Cats CAN see in colour! Cats are only partially colour blind. They have the equivalency of human red/green colour blindness (reds appear green and greens appear red or shades thereof).
Touch is the first sense the dog develops. The entire body, including the paws, is covered with touch-sensitive nerve endings.
Inside, find articles on:
Cardiac disease in dogs
Apps for animals
Veterinary dental cleanings – what the procedure is all about
Titer tests to avoid over-vaccinating your cat
A home health check list for your cat
Myths about anesthesia
$5.95 at the check-out counter!
DID YOU KNOW?
Animals can “talk” to you if you know how to read their subtle body language. Pain is universal and one of the most common feelings animals will convey. Obviously, most owners can detect a limp or a painful cry, but pain that’s chronic, or moderate enough to withstand, takes more scrutiny to recognize. Dogs and cats generally show a change in behaviour or temperament when they’re uncomfortable.
A normally happy and affectionate pet may become irritable and refuse to be held or petted. A pet that is usually rambunctious may prefer to sit or lie quietly and be left alone. Additionally, if a dog or cat can reach the painful area, such as a paw, they may lick, scratch, or bite it in an attempt to make it feel better. Unfortunately, they may inadvertently inflect self-injury by repeatedly rubbing or scratching the area. This is seen frequently in animals with ear infections who dig at the skin behind the ear with their rear claws.
Everyone has experienced pain and knows how debilitating it can be. Your pet’s pain is no different, and they have a limited language to convey their discomfort. Take the time to “listen” because the only good thing about any pain, is the moment it goes away.
THE ORIGIN OF PETS
It is reported that the following edition of the Book of Genesis was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
And Adam said “Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me.”
And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, and so that you will know I love you, even when you cannot see me.
Regardless of how selfish and childish and unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.”
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased.
And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and wagged his tail. And Adam said, “but Lord, I have already named all the animals in the kingdom and all the good names are taken and I cannot think of a name for this new animals.”
And God said, “No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.”
And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.
After a while, it came to pass that Adam’s guardian angel came to the Lord and said, “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one has taught him humility.”
And the Lord said, “No problem! I will create for him a companion to remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he is not worthy of adoration.”
And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat would not obey Adam.
And when Adam glazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility.
And God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved.
And Cat did not care one way or the other.
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When you take your dog for a walk, both of you should dress for today’s weather: