Your pet's oral health is about more than fresh breath! Advanced dental disease can cause illness elsewhere in the body as bacteria enters the bloodstream through inflamed gums. This can cause infection in the kidneys, liver - even the heart!
Dental disease is also painful. As tartar builds up, the gums become red and irritated. Tartar buildup creeps below the gumline, eventually eating away at the structures that secure the teeth. A loose tooth is a painful tooth!
What is a "dental" exactly?
A dental prophylaxis (or dental cleaning) is the only way to thoroughly remove tartar buildup from all of your pet's teeth and allow for a "clean slate" to provide at-home oral care & maintenance (and hopefully prevent the need for future anesthetic procedures).
For your pet's safety and to ensure a thorough cleaning, this procedure must be performed under general anesthesia. Precautions are taken to optimize safety, such as pre-anesthetic bloodwork, EKG & radiographs of the chest to detect abnormalities that may affect your pet's ability to handle anesthesia. All pets are monitored both manually and with electronic biometric equipment throughout anesthesia.
Once under sedation, we use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove all traces of tartar that has accumulated on the surfaces of the teeth, as well as the calculus that we cannot see below the gumline.
We use a special probing instrument to measure the gingival depth surrounding each tooth. This helps us locate pockets of bone loss that may identify a diseased tooth that otherwise appears healthy to the naked eye.
In addition to physical measurement, we use dental radiography to locate signs of disease.
Look at tooth #105 in this photo. To view it from the outside, it looks perfectly normal - but the dark shadows around the root in the dental x-ray reveal bone loss all around. This is a diseased tooth that will cause pain and discomfort very soon if not extracted.
We ask for pre-authorization for extractions when you drop your pet off for his procedure. Our goal is to minimize anesthetic time, and don't want to extend it if we're unable to reach you by phone.
Know that we only perform extractions if absolutely necessary (i.e. the tooth is or will soon be causing pain to your pet). The veterinarian will use local anesthetic injections prior to extracting diseased teeth, and post-operative laser therapy is performed afterwards to minimize inflammation and jump-start the healing process.
Can't I just brush my pet's teeth?
YES, we strongly encourage everyone to include daily toothbrushing in their pet's routine. However, brushing alone is not enough to remove tartar that has already hardened on the teeth. It's as tough as cement, and adheres so strongly to the surface of the tooth that it must be removed manually with an ultrasonic cleaner.
After we've removed all the calculus, we polish your pet's teeth with a fluoride toothpaste (using a prophy cup just like at your dentist). This smooths out any microscopic scratches from the cleaning and provides a clean surface for you to start at-home oral maintenance.
How much does it cost?
Because every case is unique, we will provide a written treatment plan with an estimated range at the time of recommendation. The size of your pet and the severity of dental disease are the primary reasons for variation.
February is National Dental Health Month - check out our special offers here!
Pain management is a major part of our duty to the pets that come through our doors, and we are always on the lookout to find the latest research and therapies available to keep our patients comfortable and healthy.
As part of our mission to provide the best medical care to your pets, our veterinarians regularly attend lectures to stay current with the most current developments in veterinary medicine. One of these recent lectures addressed the efficacy of Tramadol (an opioid often used to treat pain) in dogs.
Here's what we've learned:
In light of this new information, the veterinarians at Allegheny North Veterinary Hospital are recommending a different medication for patients that need long-term pain management for chronic conditions:
If your pet is currently on Tramadol for chronic pain, please contact us to discuss changing to Amantadine.
3. Offer an Alternative
Cats are attracted to trees - it's in their nature to want to climb and observe their surroundings from up high! Ask Santa if he might bring your kitty a early gift: A CAT TREE! There are some very reasonably priced cat trees online, with options to fit any style and budget.
Be sure to reward your cat with praise for choosing her kitty condo over the forbidden Christmas tree!
Other Important Safety Tips
Vaccine reactions are uncommon, but can be very serious, and in some cases, life-threatening. Know what's normal, and when to be concerned about your pet following a vaccination. Of course, if you're ever concerned about your pet's health, we encourage you to call us! Better to be safe than sorry. :)
Is your pet microchipped? Great! This permanent ID has proven time and time again to be an effective backup for lost collars and tags. But it doesn't stop at just having a microchip implanted!
The #1 reason for microchipped pets NOT reuniting with their owners is that the contact information in the database is incomplete or incorrect.
August 15 is "Check the Chip" Day, so take a few minutes to log in and make sure the info linked to your pet's microchip is up-to-date.
Not sure where to go? Visit www.petmicrochiplookup.org and enter your pet's microchip number to find out where the chip is registered. If you're having trouble finding your pet's microchip number, call us - we can help!
How vaccines work:
Legend has it that Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it well enough."
We could certainly get in-depth into the science of immunizations, but for simplicity's sake, here's an anyone-can-understand version:
How your pet's vaccines help protect your family:
Some diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans.
In dogs and cats, the most common zoonotic concern is the Rabies virus. Rabies is a fatal disease, most often transmitted via bite wounds from an infected animal.
It is a problem in Pennsylvania.
According to data from the PA Dept. of Health, there were 405 Rabies positive animals submitted in 2016 (21 in Allegheny County).
The most recently released data from June 2017 reports 154 Rabies positive animals statewide - in just one month.
Keep in mind that the PADOH is only able to report these numbers based on animals that were submitted for testing. This does not include many more that die from the disease, undetected in the woods.
The Rabies vaccine for dogs and cats is extremely effective, and is required for all domestic animals by PA state law (yes, they do go door-to-door and check).
A common question from cat owners: "Pumpkin never goes outside; why does she still need a Rabies vaccine?"
State law aside, indoor cats still need to be protected. Though their risk for exposure is much less than a free-roaming outdoor cat, take a look at the map above: bats are the second most common Rabies positive animals in PA. Most often, these are bats that have made their way into homes through chimneys or by other means.
Cats are prey animals, and Pumpkin would be thrilled to finally get a chance to nab that "hairy bird" that just flew into her house. Not good if the "hairy bird" is actually a rabid animal.
There is no "one-size-fits-all" vaccine regimen.
There are many vaccines available for dogs and cats, but not every pet needs every vaccine. Our veterinarians recommend immunizations based upon your pet's lifestyle and environmental risk - this is one reason we spend extra time to ask important questions during your appointment.
Vaccinations can be divided into "core" and "non-core" vaccines:
There are no silly questions!
As your pet's medical providers, part of our job is to help you be a well-informed pet owner.
If you have questions about your pet's vaccines, the diseases they prevent, or anything else, please ask us!
Are your pets disaster-ready?
June is National Pet Preparedness Month, and as advocates for your pets' health and safety, we're sharing important resources and helpful tips to make sure you and your furry family are ready for just about anything!
Link: Get a free pet rescue window decal from the ASPCA here to alert first responders about how many pets are in your home.
With Easter just around the corner, we thought it'd be a good time to remind pet owners with kids to keep the Easter baskets and candy stash up and away from your pets!
Curious noses are attracted to these sweet treats, and most pet owners know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but do you know why?
Chocolate contains Theobromine, a compound that humans can easily metabolize. Dogs' bodies do not process Theobromine well, causing it to build up in their bodies and produce serious side effects.
Severe cases of chocolate toxicity can lead to muscle tremors, seizures, heart arrhythmia, or even death.
If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, here's what we'll want to know:
Call us right away. Do not wait to look for side effects!
After hours, contact a 24-hour emergency veterinarian or call the ASPCA Pet Poison Helpline.
If a toxic dose of chocolate was ingested, early treatment is critical. At the hospital, we are able to safely induce vomiting and administer fluid therapy, if needed. The type of treatment needed will depend on your dog's specific situation.
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Lyme disease wasn't much of a problem in Pittsburgh just 10 years ago. In fact, the CDC had zero reported cases for Allegheny County in 2007 (see map). Unfortunately, that's not the case today. Southwestern Pennsylvania is plagued with Lyme, thanks in part to our recent shorter, milder winters.
In 2012, we started seeing dogs show Lyme positive results when performing their annual heartworm test (it also screens for three tick-borne diseases: Lyme, Ehrlichia, & Anaplasma). The numbers of affected dogs have continued to grow, and it's now typical to see several patients per week that have been exposed to Lyme.
Our dogs are at risk, and so are we. Many clients have offered stories about their own experiences with Lyme. People often don't realize that they've been bitten by a tick until their doctor diagnoses an infection. Similarly, we frequently see dogs that test positive, and their owners had no knowledge of a tick attachment.
It's important to remember that even if your dog is a white fluffy couch potato, she still goes outside to "do her business," and the ticks are waiting. We can bring them in on our clothes, too!
What can I do to protect my dog from Lyme disease?
We recommend a three-point prevention method for our patients:
A few important points about choosing flea & tick products:
(Click the infographic at left to view full size image.)
What are common signs of Lyme disease?
Many people are familiar with symptoms of Lyme in humans: the telltale "bullseye rash," fatigue, & joint pain. Dogs don't present with the rash (and even if they did, it'd be hard to see under all that fur!).
Signs of Lyme disease in dogs are subtle at first, and usually develop several months after the tick bite. Early signs can include fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Clients commonly come in for an exam when their dog starts showing signs of joint pain and swelling.
Often, a dog with an active Lyme infection will present with what we call "shifting leg lameness." In other words, he'll favor one leg for awhile, then shortly after will limp on a different leg.
Although less common, Lyme disease also has the potential of causing disease in the kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
If you're concerned that your dog is showing signs of Lyme disease, please call to make an appointment, or request one online.
What do I do if I find a tick attached to my dog?
Sometimes ticks will attach despite our efforts to keep them off. If you find one, you want to safely remove it.
We carry tick tools that can help making removing ticks from your pets easier, and if you're nervous about taking it out yourself, we can safely do it for you!
Note that it is impossible to tell by looking at a tick whether or not it carries Lyme disease.
It takes several weeks after exposure before antibodies will be detectable in the blood, so if you'd like your dog to be tested, note the date of the tick attachment and call to set up an appointment for at least 6 weeks later.
How do I keep ticks out of my yard?
The CDC recommends creating "tick-free zones" by designing your landscaping to be unattractive to ticks.
What can I do to protect myself from tick bites?
Have more questions about ticks or Lyme disease? We're only a phone call away!
What does the vet see when looking in your pet's mouth?
Oral exams are an important part of evaluating your dog or cat's health, because disease in the mouth can have far-reaching impact on other parts of the body.
The vet is looking at more than teeth when lifting those lips!
What is the veterinarian looking for during an oral exam?
Halitosis is most often caused by periodontal disease, but can also be a sign of a bigger problem, such as kidney disease or diabetes.
Gingival hyperplasia (pictured right) is a condition in which the gum tissue grows excessively, often causing it to overlap the dog's teeth.. This disease can affect any breed, but we see it often in Boxers, Bulldogs, and Great Danes.
Gingival hyperplasia is not usually a problem in itself, but it can cause periodontal disease to advance by trapping debris and bacteria between the gums and teeth.
Some cats develop Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs) or "neck lesions." FORLs cause the cat's tooth to resorb into the body, exposing the sensitive nerve within. Experts are still seeking the source of this painful condition, but extraction of affected teeth is typically recommended to alleviate discomfort and further progression.
Pictured right is a dog whose lower left canine tooth makes contact with an upper incisor.
Sometimes the root of the deciduous tooth does not resorb properly, leaving it in the way of the permanent tooth as it erupts. We call these retained deciduous teeth.
If not extracted, a retained baby tooth can cause the adult tooth to erupt abnormally. It can also cause chronic problems with dental disease as debris and bacteria become lodged between the deciduous and permanent teeth.
When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar. This mineralization (also called calculus) process forms a cement-like buildup on the teeth and below the gumline. Unlike plaque, tartar can only be removed by professional dental cleaning.
What can you do to improve your pet's oral health?
We understand that some pets may not tolerate toothbrushing. Not to worry! There are other options, like OraVet Chews, Oratene Maintenance Gel, and Hill's Prescription Diet t/d. Not sure what's best? Ask us - we're always happy to help!
Think your dog or cat needs a dental cleaning?
February is Pet Dental Health Month, and Allegheny North Veterinary Hospital is offering a special discount on dental cleanings through the end of March.
In addition to saving $30, you'll also get free samples of pet dental care products to keep your companion healthy with a sparkling smile! Click here for details about our Dental Health Offer.
Call us at 412-364-5511 to schedule a pre-anesthetic exam, or request an appointment online now.
Thank you for playing an active role in your pet's health!
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