SRVH News

26 Jan 2014
Dr. Bieber's Old Black Lab Karli

(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) January 21, 2014—Is the worst part of cuddling with your pet its bad breath? This could be a sign of looming dental problems. Preventive veterinary dental care can save you money in the long run. Pet Dental Health Month, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) every February, reminds pet owners that brushing their pet’s teeth is good for both your pet’s health and your budget.

“It’s something you do every morning, part of your daily routine—brush your teeth. While most people take care of their own mouths, they often forget that they also should take care of their pet’s teeth through a regular dental health care regimen,” explains Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. “One of the most common problems veterinarians see in pets is dental disease, and, unfortunately, these issues can get serious if untreated. I remind pet owners that an untreated dental infection can spread to the heart, kidneys and other organs, and suddenly become life threatening. Practicing good dental hygiene at home, in addition to regular dental cleanings by your veterinarian, is the most efficient and cost-effective way to keep your pets healthy, comfortable and pain-free.”

According to a 2013 analysis conducted by VPI Pet Insurance, the average cost to prevent dental disease in pets is $171.82, but it costs $531.71 to treat dental disease.

Resources and information for Pet Dental Health Month:

 “We brush our teeth each day, and daily oral hygiene is recommended for dogs and cats from the time the permanent teeth erupt,” explains Dr. Jan Bellows, president of the American Veterinary Dental College. “Brushing is the gold standard, and many dogs and some cats will tolerate having their teeth brushed if the introduction to brushing is managed gently and gradually. In addition, several companion animal nutrition companies offer dental diets.  The texture of those foods generates a mechanical cleansing effect on the surface of the tooth as the pet is eating. Dental treats such as chews can also be effective, either mechanically by scraping the tooth surface or by chemically removing excess calcium in saliva that could otherwise be deposited on the teeth as calculus. There are also plaque-retardant products available in the form of a water additive, spray, gel or dentifrice, and products that are used to seal the surface of the teeth to prolong the beneficial effect of professional dental scaling. Talk to your veterinarian for more advice about preventing dental disease in your pets.”

While regular dental checkups are essential to help maintain your pet’s dental health, there are a number of signs that dental disease has already started. If you notice any of the symptoms below, take your pet into your veterinarian immediately:

  • Red swollen gums and brownish teeth.
  • Bad breath—Most pets have breath that is less than fresh, but if it becomes truly repugnant, similar to the smell of a rotten egg, it’s a sign that periodontal disease has already started.
  • Bleeding from the mouth.
  • requent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth.
  • Reluctance to eat hard foods—for example, picking it up and then spitting it out.

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The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 85,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities and dedicated to the art and science of veterinary medicine.
8 Jan 2014

Cold Weather Pet Safety

Submitted by Dr. Lori Bieber

You’re probably already aware of the risks posed by warm weather and leaving pets in hot cars, but did you know that cold weather also poses serious threats to your pets’ health?

Here are some tips to keep your pets safe during cold weather:

Winter wellness: Has your pet had his/her preventive care exam (wellness exam) yet?  Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get him/her checked out to make sure (s)he is ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.

Know the limits:  Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.

Provide choices: Just like you, pets prefer comfortable sleeping places and may change their location based on their need for more or less warmth. Give them some safe options to allow them to vary their sleeping place to adjust to their needs.

Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.

Make some noise: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.

Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

Play dress-up: If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a sweater or dog coat. Have several on hand, so you can use a dry sweater or coat each time your dog goes outside. Wet sweaters or coats can actually make your dog colder. Some pet owners also use booties to protect their dog’s feet; if you choose to use them, make sure they fit properly.

Wipe down: During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.

Collar and chip: Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip is a more permanent means of identification, but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date.

Stay home: Hot cars are a known threat to pets, but cold cars also pose significant risk to your pet’s health. You’re already familiar with how a car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.

Prevent poisoning: Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. Make sure your pets don’t have access to medication bottles, household chemicals, potentially toxic foods such as onions, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate.

Protect family: Odds are your pet will be spending more time inside during the winter, so it’s a good time to make sure your house is properly pet-proofed. Use space heaters with caution around pets, because they can burn or they can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire. Check your furnace before the cold weather sets in to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install carbon monoxide detectors to keep your entire family safe from harm. If you have a pet bird, make sure its cage is away from drafts.

Avoid ice: When walking your dog, stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don’t know if the ice will support your dog’s weight, and if your dog breaks through the ice it could be deadly. And if this happens and you instinctively try to save your dog, both of your lives could be in jeopardy.

Provide shelter: We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Recognize problems: If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe winter weather, blizzards and power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine (including any prescription medications as well as heartworm and flea/tick preventives) on hand to get through at least 5 days.

Feed well: Keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout the winter. Some pet owners feel that a little extra weight gives their pet some extra protection from cold, but the health risks associated with that extra weight don’t make it worth doing. Watch your pet’s body condition and keep them in the healthy range. Outdoor pets will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm – talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s nutritional needs during cold weather.

8 Jan 2014

It’s estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of dogs and cats and 31 percent of people in this country are overweight. Studies have found that other domesticated animals, including horses, are also prone to obesity.

 “Taking a dog for a walk is healthy for both the dog and the dog’s owner. The companionship of a pet provides us with an extra incentive, and inspiration, to get out and work out,” says Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. “Just like humans, overweight dogs and cats are more likely to get a number of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions, liver disease, and joint problems. So putting yourself and your pet on a diet and exercise regimen will result in improved health for 2014 and perhaps a longer life for both you and your pet. On a personal note, that will be my New Year’s resolution for 2014 as well.” 

AVMA’s pet weight-loss tips: 

  • A visit to your veterinarian is the best way to determine if your pet is overweight, but there are things to look for to determine if you should make an immediate appointment for a puppy or kitty weigh in. A dog should have a discernible waist without fat deposits, and ribs should be easy to feel while stroking a dog. In cats, if there is any rounding of the abdomen or bulging in the back, limbs, neck or face, you’ve got a fat cat.
  • Feed your pets at least twice a day, and keep track of how much they eat (your veterinarian may ask). If the pet hasn’t finished their food after about 20 minutes, take the bowl away to discourage overeating.
  • Monitor the number and size of the treats you give. A large dog treat can be over 100 calories, while a small treat has as little as 10 calories. If you can’t help but repeatedly treat your beloved pet (because they’re so incredibly good), break the snacks in half or even thirds to cut the calories.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best weight reduction plan for your overweight pet.
  • To exercise a cat, engage them with a feather, string or laser pointer, and try to get them running after a toy as they swat at it. To exercise a dog, consider agility training, play time with other dogs, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. There is no better exercise for dogs, horses and humans than a brisk walk.
  • Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity in humans, dogs and cats, but it’s much easier to diagnose in humans. If your dog or cat is obese without a clear cause, make a veterinary appointment.
  • Finally, if your pet is a little on the pudgy side, and you think it might benefit from an increased exercise regimen, see a veterinarian first. No exercise program should begin without a veterinary checkup.

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