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Dental Care--"Clean As a Hound's Tooth"

Clean as a Hound's Tooth

By Rodger Barr, DVM
Fall 1998

If given the opportunity to alter this ‘nearly perfect’ breed of dog, the greyhound, what would you change? Perhaps you would wish for an abundance of fur on the thighs and chest, and no chance of becoming hypothyroid. Not a bad idea. What else? How about flexible bones that bend, but never break? Now we’re cooking! That would be great at the track as well as in adoptive homes. What would you think about the non-existence of separation anxiety? Just think about all the drool you’d be missing, not to mention other body by-products. All these improvements would be fine and dandy, but if given this rare opportunity, there is only one thing I would change: I would give this fabulous breed a perfect low maintenance set of teeth.

The reality of the situation is quite the opposite. This wonderful breed is eminently prone to a lifetime of dental disease. There are many hypotheses to explain the huge amount of painful, putrid, decaying plaque, which these mouths harbor (not to mention the gingivitis and pyorrhea). Suffice it to say that the combination of limited gnawing and chewing opportunities, combined with a high quality but stew-like diet, lends itself well to plaque formation at a very early age. Once the plaque has a chance to take hold, it can result in gum recession and concomitant gingivitis, infection, and ultimately, the untimely loss of teeth, often a large number of teeth.

Assuming that when your newly adopted family member arrives his or her oral cavity has been properly managed, the burden of care now lies squarely on your shoulders. If either you or your pet is reluctant to brush or be brushed, the inevitable will be halitosis and the need for regular dental prophylaxis, expensive veterinary bills, anesthesia risks, and the loss of non-replaceable teeth. All these are avoidable, but require unwavering commitment and dedication.

There are no shortcuts! Many gimmicks are available. Rawhides have value but can cause gastrointestinal upsets. Bones are good if your dog will chew them, but they can easily break or crack teeth. Milkbones, bones, t/d, etc. are helpful but cannot stand alone to win this battle. There is only one way to maintain a greyhound’s mouth and that is with a minimum of daily brushing. Twice daily is twice as good. Once a week is useless. Twice weekly is half as useless. A commonly used adage by your own dentist states: “Only brush the teeth you want to keep.” This is true for greyhounds also. Everyone has their own style of brushing and their own preference of brushes. It is best to use what you feel the most comfortable with. Make dental care a routine. Do it at the same time every day and DO IT WITHOUT FAIL. This is a very small price to pay for unconditional love, don’t you think?

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A Stitch in Time

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

By Rodger Barr, DVM
Spring 1999

Preventive Medicine is the order of the day when dealing with greyhound medicine and surgery. From the time greyhounds are puppies, the emphasis is on prevention. Regular worming programs, which can be as often as every two to three weeks, are aimed at preventing intestinal parasites. Vaccination programs, again, starting as early as three weeks of age, are aimed at preventing viral infections. Until they reach three to four months of age, these are the major issues young developing greyhounds face.

At three to four months the pups start to hurt each other. They have always been competitive, but now their teeth and strength are capable of doing damage. Some kennels being to separate litters at this point, and animals may begin to wear muzzles, not because these animals are mean, but because they are highly competitive. The only devices greyhound pups have to interact effectively with each other are their mouths and teeth. Major lacerations can occur at this time. As these young greyhounds begin to exceed their bodies’ tolerance levels, they can break bones by sheer speed alone. At this age, some fractures can be repaired and a racing career still salvaged – but not all.

Toe injuries are totally dependent on the type of surface used in the runs. Clay surfaces can provide enough resistance to break and dislocate toes. Sand surfaces generally discourage this kind of injury but, by its lack of impact, it tends to allow for more major hock fractures later in life. Such fractures occur from the lack of bone density, which is directly related to the amount of impact a bone receives over the course of time.

Life is pretty happy-go-lucky at this stage. Play is the order of the day, and the major activity, in good weather, is challenging adjacent runs to a race to the end of the fence line and back. (Words of advice, though, whatever you do, keep your tail and ears on your own side of the fence!) Training is a pretty innocuous time. There may be an occasional fractured quarter bone (metatarsal or metacarpal), but for the most part, injuries are not common.

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The Stink Starts at the Pink

The Stink Starts at the Pink

By Rodger Barr DVM

Strange title? Not really, it refers to the source of mouth odor beginning with the first stage of oral disease gingivitis. Gingivitis refers to the pinkish red inflammation around the teeth often caused by the presence of plaque and bacteria. If allowed to persist, Stage 1 gingivitis will progress to Stage 4 Severe Periodontitis. Periodontitis refers to extensive infection and deterioration of the oral tissue often resulting in unbelievable mouth odor and ultimately tooth lose, not to mention potential heart, kidney and or liver disease. Periodontal disease is the most common disease among dogs. It affects more than 9 out of 10 greyhounds over the age of 3 years old.

Nothing takes the place of daily effective tooth brushing, but as so often is the case, when a problem is complex and difficult to manage, new weapons are always being developed to fight the battle, with the goal being ultimate eradication of oral disease. Until the condition is totally managed, new ways of combating the problem are always being developed. You may currently be using daily brushing in addition to weekly Oravet in combination with Breathalyzer in the water. All of these methods have value, but they do not, by themselves, permanently resolve dental disease. The newest weapon available is Pfizer’s new Porphyromonas Bacterin. This is a two shot series vaccine followed by yearly boosters designed to combat the three most common oral bacteria responsible for periodontitis.

The ideal use of the vaccine is to start with a clean mouth, although if you dog is unable to have an appropriate dental under anesthesia it still does have value. This vaccine does not allow us to reduce frequency of brushing; it is merely another option to add to the arsenal in our total dental care package. Side effects can be similar to any vaccine, soreness at the vaccination site, listlessness, swollen face, reduced appetite, etc. It remains to be seen how useful this vaccine will be, but it appears to have the potential to represent a major contributor to improved oral health.

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Bottom Line on Heartworm and Flea Prevention Products


By Rodger Barr DVM

Heartworm preventative medication has evolved over the years to be classified as Parasite Control Medication due to the fact that it manages to prevent not only heartworm disease, but also intestinal parasites. The very popular monthly preventative has effectively replaced the daily preventatives of old. It’s always wise to do a preliminary heartworm test to confirm the absence of heartworm infestation prior to initiating the monthly preventative measure. The specific preventative will be discussed along with their primary benefits and disadvantages. Lastly, dogs that have had a history of parasite exposure in kennel situations such as Greyhounds benefit from a year around parasite management program.

Heartgard Plus
- A monthly preventative, comes in both tablet and chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworms, Hookworms
- Very safe
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure, or year around if intestinal parasite control is a major concern.

- A monthly preventative, comes in chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworm. Hookworms and Whipworms.
- Very safe
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure or year round if intestinal parasite control is a major concern.
- Highly recommended option due to whipworm control

- A monthly preventative, comes in chewable
- Effective against Heartworm, Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworms and Fleas.
- Flea prevention is in the form of the product Program, which specifically works to break the flea life cycle but does not kill the adult flea.
- Combines Interceptor and Program.
- Very safe.
- To be initiated one month following the first potential heartworm exposure, but if flea management along with intestinal parasite control is paramount than year round should be considered
- Highly recommended option because of whipworm control.

- Topically applied heartworm, flea, tick, roundworm management and ear mites.
- History of being a jack of all trades and master of none.
- History of adverse reactions in Greyhounds.
- Not recommended for Greyhounds.

Program - Oral monthly product for flea control.
- Works by breaking the flea life cycle, prevents the eggs from hatching. Does not kill adult fleas. Year around use is recommended if you have a chronic flea problem or frequent new dogs arriving.

- Topical monthly adult flea control.
- Kills adult fleas, also useful for killing fleas in environment that treated animals frequent
- Applied topically, does not wash off with bathing.
- Occasionally can cause local irritation at administration site. Year around use recommended if the likelihood of infected animals is high.

Worms that infect pets…can infect people, too.

Ask how you can protect your family and pets!

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