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Matt Young's blog

Pulp Fiction: The Truth about Dental Disease

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probing a dental pocket

Say you come in for your bi-annual dental examination, and we pick up dental disease.
The invariable response is couldn’t we just brush?  Should I give more bones? And does my pet really need a dental? 
In short, no, no and yes.

All the best home care in the world (see Cliff Notes: The Whole Tooth) can’t cure dental disease. To understand why, it’s really important to understand how bacteria undermine teeth, and the difference between plaque and dental disease.

Plaque

Plaque is a thin, slimy film of bacteria that coats teeth, happily living on scraps that slosh around the mouth.  Brushing, friction, chewing and diet can wipe them away, and slow the damage they do by controlling the bacterial numbers.

Dental disease is destruction the plaque bacteria cause to the mouth.  They eat away at the base of teeth, making them loose, killing the living pulp and making them painful centres of infection in your dog or cat’s mouth.  They cause reddening, soreness, bleeding and inflammation of the gums, both by themselves and with their by-products. 

Calculus

When the minerals in the saliva mingle with the plaque bacteria, they form solid, rock-like deposits on the teeth, called calculus. The teeth become rough, and without their smooth veneer, are even more hospitable to bacteria, which would be sloughed of a healthy, glossy enamel.

Once bacteria get under the gum line and go to town on the tooth root, they are lost to home dental care forever.  A toothbrush, even with the best, and most assiduous technique, is only going to reach a maximum of 3-5mm under the gum.  The tooth root extends centimeters.

Brushing will remove plaque but it can't remove Calculus.

Cliff Notes: The Whole Tooth

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Golden Retriever having his teeth brushed.

 

What you need to know about your dog and home dental care

Sniff your dog’s breath.  Go on, I dare you.

Odds on, the odor is hardly enticing.

And that’s okay, within reason. Your average, healthy, happy dog, as a rule, get their jollies chowing down on a veritable shopping list of things too unspeakably revolting to contemplate printing, including, but not limited to: refuse, dead things, cat poop, horse poop and their own poop.  Or maybe that’s just mine. 

Any way you slice it, most dog’s breath is less than minty fresh.  But there is a definite line between a regular, doggy smell, and a distinctly unpleasant bouquet that tends to go hand in hand with tooth issues.

Dental disease is far and away the most common affliction of dogs, cats and people.  But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can, or should, do about it.

Unhealthy teeth and infected gums are constantly, chronically painful, and sap the joy from chewing, eating, scrapping, playing, fetching, tugging, and hanging off things with you teeth, which is roughly 80% of what gives a canine life savor.

The other 20% would probably be cuddles and pillow hogging, both of which take a serious back seat in the day-to-day dealings of even the most beloved pooch when a certain stink threshold is reached.

So we owe it to them to help them make the most of life with a blissful abandon that would be the envy of the most hardened hedonist.

ALL dogs can get dental disease, but some are more predisposed than others.  So if you’re the proud parent of anything small and fluffy with a short face and a crowded jaw, I AM TALKING TO YOU.

The shorter the face, the more jumbled together the teeth, and the higher the likelihood of scraps getting stuck and encouraging bacteria.  The more squished the nose and airways, the more chance there will be of some degree of mouth breathing, which dries up bacteria fighting saliva.

Pugs, spaniels, malteses, poodles, shih tzus, yorkies,  Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, papillions, dachshunds, and, perversely, greyhounds, are massively at risk of developing crippling dental disease.  So part of sharing your life and your heart with one is budgeting your time and your finances to keep it from getting out of hand.

So what can we do?

Expanded Parking

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Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital Car Park

Great News!!! Parking at Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital has become even more convenient. 

Getting to the parkingWe have just expanded our off-street parking at the rear of our building and now have capacity for 8 client cars.

Getting there

Getting there is easy: Just turn south off Baan Baan Street into Dapto Mall Lane.

We are just down the lane on the right.

Entering the building

Once you have parked you can either walk down the walkway to the highway and enter our reception area or feel free to ring the doorbell at the back door and we'll guide you through.  

 

We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

 

Cliff Notes: What not to feed your dog

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hamburger with grapes

Okay, so let’s say I have a dog.  Let’s say that, through no fault of either party, she came to me a lot earlier that would be ideal.  Like, a lot.

The first lesson this has taught me is never, never adopt a puppy younger than eight weeks old.  (You try crawling out of bed every two hours to soak kibble in lukewarm puppy milk, and begging a tiny but impassive canine to eat, eat, because some of us have to go to work tomorrow.  The powers that be only know what fall out her crippling curtailed socialisation with her mother and litter will have on her development, but I digress.  No use crying over spilt formula.)

The second is never, ever to parent from guilt.  Once, when Cliff was very small (five and a half weeks, and 1.7 kilos, if anyone is asking), she took it into her head that premium junior biscuits were boring.  Like any new parent, I panicked.  She would eat them soaked in puppy milk, but she was really starting to outgrow that so… I switched to regular.  Um, most dogs are lactose intolerant.  Mine sure is.

The diarrhoea was spectacular.  No one at the clinic is going to let me live that down in a hurry, but no permanent damage was done, except to the odd couch and carpet.  And curtain.  Like I said, spectacular.

But it got me thinking…  what if it had been worse?  I’m not talking about what to feed your puppy, because that’s easy.  Greater than 80% of the diet should be a premium, high quality diet; Royal Canin, Eukanuba or Hills, tailored to their size, and measured out to age, especially important for the first year, and really, really important for large breed pups.  But the tricky thing is what not to feed.

It’s that pesky 20%.

We all feed treats.  If you want to hear some embarrassing stories, ask anyone else at the practice when I’m out of ear shot what my dog is guilty of scrounging.  But what is right out?  To the point of being definitely non-negotiable?

 

Living with Arthritis: your Vet, your Pet and You.

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Old dog on bed

 

It’s winter, and that’s the worst time for aches, pains and twinges.

Think of arthritis as an incurable, chronic disease.   But, rather than accepting nothing can be done, it means that it’s up to you to make your friend as healthy, happy, and comfortable as possible with the joints that nature, nurture and time have dealt them.

It basically breaks down to a three pronged attack:

  1. how you can make your pet better equipped to live with arthritis
  2. what you, directly, can do to make the disease easier, and
  3. how we, the vets, can help support you both in making life better.

Home Grooming

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dog having fringe combed

Aside from your dog looking great from regular grooming, spending the time with your dog brushing and combing has many other advantages:

  • šIt’s a fantastic way to feel all around to check for ticks and fleas
  • šKeeps your dogs coat healthy and knot free
  • šEncourages healthy skin.

Home grooming should be done on a regular basis.

Puppies, Puddles and Patience

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cliff  resting in a cage

The following article was written by Dr Sarah Pilbeam:

Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine.....

Blissfully dozing one Monday morning at 6:58, she was snatched from the arms of Morpheus by a shivering and a whimpering and a nosing and a restless pawing at her face.

“Mmmph, two more minutes puppy. Just hold it, okay? Just two.”

With eyes like deep, blue-brown pools of limpid contrition, she cocked her head, blinked, squatted, and voided approximately a quarter gallon of urine.  It spread with astonishing speed and within seconds struck through the blanket, counterpane, doona and both sheets to leave a matching stain of considerable size on the mattress.

The puppy, that was, not the friend.

Now, whose fault was that?  Someone who should’ve known better ignored some of the most central precepts of toilet training, and was justly chastised.

Keep your temper.  Cling to it.  Grit your teeth, and smile and smile.

    1. Remember: these are accidents, generally not unmitigated spite.  However it might feel.
    2. Puppies don’t understand.   Not "I pee inside, I get in trouble", but "you saw pee/me pee, and I got shouted at".    A subtle, but important difference.
      • In their minds, all they are learning is that a perfectly natural bodily function throws their erstwhile loving parent figure into a violent and uncontrollable rage.  That they are clearly dangerous, mad and slightly unbalanced.
      • Obviously, if you don’t find out they pee inside, they don’t get in trouble.  Please, don’t think they aren’t smart enough to work this out.  They can apply this simple deduction in two ways:
        1. Go outside
        2. Not get caught.  This means presents in your shoes, behind doors, under the television, just about anywhere you don’t expect them.  And trust me, they can get quite creative.  Or… take a more, um, direct hand in disposing of the evidence.  This is a particularly unsavoury habit, and really, really hard to break once properly routed.
  1. Puppies pee.  A lot. However often you think a small dog needs to go the bathroom, triple it.  Now you’re somewhere close.

When you first bring your new little bundle of joy home, you’re probably going to need to set a timer to go off every hour.  Twenty-four times a day.  In rain, wind, sleet and any weather, you’re going to find yourself outside five minutes out of every sixty, raving in sheer delight at a pathetic dribbling tinkle.

You may want to work in shifts.

As they get older, you can gradually reduce the frequency.  At 11 weeks old, Cliff can make it through the night if I take her out at before bed, then at twelve and four, and on the stroke of seven.  But you’ll have to play it by ear.

 

The Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats

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dog retrieving ball

The following article was written by Sarah Pilbeam. It is the first in a 2 part series on osteoarthritis in pets. This article discusses what arthritis is and next month we will have another article on what we can do about treating and preventing arthritis. At Companion Animal Vets we offer complimentary joint health checks in which we can check if your pet is predisposed to osteoarthritis and develop a joint health program to help maintain their joints in a healthy state. 

As we move into the cooler months, many cats and dogs living with arthritis, (degenerative joint disease), may start slowing down or pulling up sore. 

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is change to a joint that indicates it is not coping with it's load.  These include:

  • wearing away protective cartilage
  • thickening of the joint
  • laying down bone in abnormal places

Often these are only confirmed on xray, but may be suspected on palpation (feeling the joints by the vet).

Signs of arthritis can range from a formerly beloved daily romp losing its savour, or getting out of bed slow and stiff, all the way through to limping or guarding a particular joint. 

Cats tend to be more subtle (I certainly wouldn’t notice if mine got any lazier).  But you may notice a reluctance to jump on and off furniture or lower themselves over the litter box. In others grooming grows difficult and painful, and their coat becomes unkempt. 

Cats’ elbows are a commonly affected joint. With dogs hips, knees, elbows and sometimes backs are particularly prone.

Snake Bites in Dogs and Cats

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red belly black snake

Red Bellied Black SnakeAs the weather warms up, so do reptiles. Snakes are now on the move and slithering into our backyards. In our area the most common snake seen is the red-bellied black snake. There are also smaller numbers of brown snakes and tiger snakes. 

If your dog or cat does encounter a snake and are bitten it is very important to seek assistance straight away, even if your pet is not showing any signs of envenomation. If they have been bitten on a limb a compression bandage can be applied to reduce the absorption and circulation of the venom. Do not try and remove the venom or apply a tornique. 

The signs of snake bite vary according to the type of snake and the amount of venom injected. Brown Snakes and Tiger Snakes have a very potent neurotoxin in their venom which causes a rapid paralysis which will quickly lead to paralysis or the respiratory muscles and death. It is really important to get immediate veterinary help. 

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