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Make Your Pet’s Dental Health a Reason to Smile

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month? We love that this month is devoted to your canine’s canines, your kitty’s chompers, and your pet’s pearly whites. While your companion’s mouth may be a source of kisses and smiles, pet parents may overlook how much their pet’s dental health affects their overall well-being.

Dental disease is more common than many pet parents realize. 70% of cats and 80% of dogs suffer from some form of oral disease, and by the time they’re three, most dogs and cats will have signs of dental disease.

This Problem is More than Just Bad Breath

The latest studies link periodontal (or gum) disease in dogs and cats to shortened life spans as well as heart, lung, and kidney disease, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Dogs with good dental hygiene tend to live 2-5 years longer than those without. And cat-specific dental issues like tooth resorption are both painful and can cause long-term issues for some cats.

So, what do you need to know to keep those kitty and canine kisses fresh for years to come? Here are our top tips for keeping your pet’s teeth and mouth healthy:

1. Don’t Skip Regular Vet Visits

Early detection can make a major difference in your pet’s dental health. When gum disease and other dental issues go undetected they can cause severe pain and evolve into more serious problems.

When we examine your pet, we check their teeth to make sure they don’t have any chips, cracks, or gum issues that could lead to infection and pain. When we spot a problem before it becomes worse, it can improve your pet’s mood and quality of life. It also can save you money since treating problems once they’ve progressed tends to be more costly.

2. Recognize Signs of Gum Disease

Do you know what to look for to see if your dog or cat is developing dental issues? The most obvious and common sign of periodontal disease is bad breath. Other warning signs that your pet’s dental health could be improved include:

  • Discoloration
  • Plaque and tartar
  • Red and sore gums
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Shaking the head or side-to-side head nodding while eating (for cats)
  • Cracks or chips

If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see us.

3. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

We know… we know… this can feel like a serious chore, if not outright battle, with your pet. And you’re not alone if you skip this step. Only 1% of pet parents brush their pets’ teeth.

But brushing your dog or cat’s teeth can make a world of difference.

It takes 24 hours for plaque to harden, which means daily brushing gives you the opportunity to brush away plaque and tartar before it has the opportunity to stick around and cause damage.

Make brushing your pet’s teeth a habit by:

  • Creating a routine where you brush their teeth daily at a certain time
  • Start slow and desensitize your pet to having their teeth brushed
  • Find a pet-friendly toothpaste that your pet likes
  • Combine brushing with dental treats as a reward for a job well done

4. Assess Your Pet’s Diet

This one often comes as a surprise for many pet owners, but your pet’s diet has a direct effect on their dental health. It’s all about nutrition. Proper nutrition helps keep bones, teeth, and gums healthy.

If you have questions about your pet’s diet, we have answers.

5. Professional Cleanings Keep Your Pet Healthy

Getting your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned can make a world of difference. Not only will your pet’s mouth be healthier, but professional cleanings help us assess your pet’s oral health.

The mouth can be a source of lumps and bumps that can go hidden and develop into cysts and tumors. When your pet comes in for a cleaning, we can check their mouth more easily for these and other issues.

A Clean Mouth is a Healthy Mouth

We hope this post gave you ideas for keeping your pet’s mouth sparkling clean, and most importantly, how to keep your pet healthy from teeth to tail. If you have questions about your pet’s health or you want to schedule an exam or cleaning, contact us today.

 

 

Image credit: BilevichOlga | iStock | Getty Images Plus

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Sit, Stay, Read On for Tips and Tricks to Teach Your Pet

Pet Training

Are you ready to ring in the New Year with some new tricks to teach your dog or cat? Yes--cats can learn tricks, and they’re rather good at it! January is “Train Your Pet Month”. You can celebrate with your best friend by teaching them a few new moves to impress the neighbors. It’s also a great time to make an appointment with our clinic to work on breaking some bad habits if you’re concerned about new or recurring behaviors that are getting in the way of the bond you share.

Why Train Your Pet?

While performing tricks may seem like fun and games, the training that goes into your pet’s learning has value beyond itself. What are the hidden benefits of training your pet?

  • Establishing a reward-based system is foundational for training your dog or cat to come when called, which can keep them safe or help you find them when needed.
  • Training can help diminish unwanted or destructive behaviors by redirecting your pet’s energy.
  • Training strengthens your bond with your pet through trust and communication.
  • The mental stimulation and challenge of training increase your dog or cat’s mental dexterity while staving off signs of aging on the mind.
  • Your pet will enjoy more restful sleep after spending some time training.
  • Your pet will respond more compliantly when it’s time to visit us for an exam or in case of an emergency.
  • Leash training your dog will make walks more enjoyable and reduce strain on her body caused by pulling.
  • Your pet will enjoy a boost in self-confidence after learning a new trick as you shower her with praise.

Some Simple Tricks to Train Your Dog

Positive reinforcement training or reward-based training is the best method to encourage your pet’s healthy learning and encourage the desire to train more often. We recommend low-calorie treats when learning a new command since it can often take quite a few to achieve the desired outcome.

If your pet isn’t as food motivated as you wish she could be, try high-value treats like those with fish or peanut butter.

1. “Come”

Recall or teaching your dog to come when you call her helps keep her safe. The last thing you want is your dog to ignore you and continue running head-on into a dangerous situation. If your dog or puppy doesn’t know this trick, it should be a priority for you.

  • With your dog on her normal leash (4-foot or 6-foot), let her become distracted or interested in something that she can walk toward.
  • Once her attention is focused away from you, call her by saying “Come” and her name while you jog backward. Keep your tone positive and excited. As she’s walking toward you, slow down, and when she reaches you give her a treat.
  • Repeat this and after she has it down pat, ask her to come then sit, then give her the treat.
  • After you’ve practiced this for a few sessions, you can begin using a longer rope or line. Try a 15 or 20-foot rope.
  • Let your dog gain more and more distance as you call her to come and give her a treat. You can even get one of your kids to walk across her line of vision. Remember to only treat her after she’s come all the way to you and sat down.
  • Eventually, continue working on this trick but in a fenced-in yard.

Coming when called will be one of the most useful behaviors your dog learns. It can also lose its appeal and your dog’s compliance if your dog always receives a response she perceives as negative. For example, if she knows she’s going to get leashed and brought home from the oh-so-fun park, it becomes much easier to ignore her name being called and keeping playing. So, continue to practice this one with treats from time to time even after she comes without a reward to prevent desensitization to “come” over time.

2. Shake Hands

This one comes in handy when we need to trim your pup’s nails or check her paws for cracks or burrs. It’s also pretty easy.

  • Let your pup smell the treat. Then, while your dog is seated, lightly touch or tap your dog’s paw. Be soft and gentle.
  • If your dog picks up her paw, put your hand beneath and lift slightly. Immediately say “shake” and give her praise and the treat.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Move your hand a little further away and try saying “shake” with your hand outstretched, waiting for hers. When she places her paw on your palm, praise and treat her like the rock star she is.

3. Give Me a Smooch or “Kiss”

This one may seem cutesy, and it is, but it’s super simple. All it takes is a few treats and the desire to receive a sweet smooch from your pooch.

  • Start by letting your dog smell the treat. If she already knows how to sit, give her this command followed by the treat.
  • After she smells the treat, place the treat on your cheek and when your pup leans in to lap it up, say “kiss” and let her take the treat.
  • After a few rounds of this, try pointing to your cheek while saying “kiss,” and if she gives you a lick, give her a treat. And don’t forget to blush.

4. Spin

People find this one quite impressive, and your pup can enjoy a bit of the dizzy-spins. To teach your dog to spin:

  • Let her smell the treat and continue to hold it near her nose.
  • When she begins to move forward to take the treat, move your hand away from her nose and toward her tail, this will cause her to spin in a tight circle.
  • Once she’s made a complete circle, say “spin,” praise and reward her.

Two Simple Tricks to Teach Your Cat

Cats also benefit from learning tricks. And they tend to learn really quickly. When preparing to train your cat, choose a calm, quiet area of your home and place your kitty on the edge of a surface like a sofa or bed, facing you.

If you haven’t trained your kitty, here are two tricks to get you started (spoiler: they’ll sound familiar):

1. Sit, Kitty

  • Let your kitty smell her treat. The stinkier the better, usually! Then slowly move the treat above her nose and backward toward her ears and shoulders.
  • Your cat should naturally lower her bottom while keeping her nose pointed at the treat.
  • As soon as her bottom is down, reward her with the treat.
  • After repeating this a few times, begin saying “sit” simultaneously while treating her.
  • After a few training sessions of 5-10 minutes, she will begin sitting on command.

2. Shake

After your cat learns “sit,”’ move onto teaching her this classic trick.

  • Gently touch your kitty’s paw to encourage her to lift it up. If she doesn’t lift her paw, gently lift it yourself.
  • When she does lift her paw, slip your hand underneath and give her a treat.
  • After a few repetitions, begin saying “shake” to build the connection with the command.

Have Fun and Train On!

For better success in your training sessions, give your pet breaks every 10-15 minutes, keep training sessions short, and be consistent. You’ll find these commands can help you with some of your pet parent duties and give your pet the challenge she needs to rest well and feel accomplished.

For any questions you may have, whether what type of treats to use, questions about weight gain during training, or appropriate training for your pet’s life stage, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

 

 

Image credit: ChristinLola / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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5 Unbeatable Gifts to Give Your Pet This Year

As the holidays approach, you’ve probably switched into Santa-mode and started making a gift list and checking it twice. And like most pet parents, you probably buy your pets something extra special to thank your best friends for being oh-so-amazing! If you’re still deciding on the perfect present for your pets this year, we have some unbeatable ideas that your pets are sure to appreciate!

1. Dental Health

Pet kisses make the world go round. Nothing beats fresh breath and enjoying those puppy smooches and kitty kisses. To keep those kisses coming for years and years, give your pet the gift of dental health.

Your pet’s mouth is a window to their health and happiness. From broken teeth and tartar to bad breath, regular cleanings and a dental exam can help your pet feel their best. Dental cleanings also prevent pain and cavities.

2. Mental Stimulation

Bust that boredom and provide your pet with plenty of play and mental stimulation. This can improve your pet’s memory, mood, and mental health. Mental stimulation can increase happiness, reduce hyperactivity and stress (and the destruction associated with them), and prevent mental deterioration.

If you’re looking for some ways to engage your pet in more play, try hiding treats around the house, purchase a treat toy, or teach your cat or dog new tricks.

You can also brighten your dog’s day with a surprise walk or outing. Open the blinds and let your curious kitty take in all that winter has to offer.

3. Preventive Care & Vaccinations

The greatest gift your pet could ask for if they just knew how, is preventative care. Preventative care can lengthen and improve your pet’s life. It can keep them running, jumping, and living their best life longer.

Consider treating your pet to

  • A wellness checkup
  • Annual vaccinations: rabies, bordetella, leptospirosis, Lyme
  • Heartworm, flea, and tick prevention

4. Microchipping & an Updated ID

Peace of mind and peace on Earth: give your pet the gift of a safe return home. If your pet wanders off or slips out, they’re much more likely to make it home if they are microchipped. This simple procedure can make a life-changing impact.

And if your pet is already microchipped, use this as an opportunity to update your contact information connected to their chip.

If you’re planning on getting your cat or dog a new collar, don’t skip the ID tag. This is a simple way to ensure whoever finds your pet can give you a call to help them find their way home.

5. Time

Of all the presents you can gift your pet this year, time is by far the most precious. Spending quality time with your pet helps strengthen your bond and helps your pet feel loved and cared for. And best of all, you don’t have to dip into your Christmas savings to give this gift.

Make time to play with your pet or curl up on a blanket while watching your favorite Christmas movie. Take some time to pet your dog or cat and tell them how awesome they are. Or just spend a bit more time petting your best friend near your Christmas tree.

‘Tis the Season to Give Your Pet the Gifts that Matter

Our pets are family, and the holidays just aren’t the same without seeing their bright eyes and beautiful faces. As you’re preparing your gift list this year, don’t skip those presents that really matter: the gift of health, time, and compassion.

Cross these off the list and give us a call to schedule your pet’s dental exam and wellness check. Need some advice on preventative care for your pet? We can help from diet to a healthy exercise routine. We’re here for you and your pet.

 

 

Image credit: Anna Hirna / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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Holiday Considerations for Your Pet: Seeing The Holiday Through Your Pet’s Eyes

When you see the holiday through your pet’s eyes, the big guy in the red suit may seem kind of frightening. And that’s not all - the home filled with scents of tasty but possibly unhealthy and dangerous foods, the noise of the door opening and closing as guests arrive makes their hearts race, strangers scare them, and ornaments look an awful lot like toys. Plus there’s the tree - which looks like an indoor bathroom to your dog.

The holidays bring cheers, friends, family, and our favorite holiday dishes! If you’re beginning to plan for the upcoming holiday season, keep your pet friends in mind as the excitement approaches. We’re not suggesting you add your cat or dog to Santa’s Good Boys and Good Girls list, but to make sure their holidays are happy, healthy, safe and as stress free as possible.

You don’t need to wind up with the long side of a wishbone to help keep the holiday season safe for your pet. Just consider the world through your pet’s eyes.

The Holiday Through Your Pet’s Eyes: Tips for a Festive and Safe Holiday Season

1. Who Are All These People? Guests, Noise, and a Change in Routine

When we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or another holiday event, it’s natural to get a little stressed out, but don’t forget that our pets don’t really understand the occasion. They do know that there’s a lot more hustle, bustle, noise, and strangers - and that you’re stressed and anxious.

To top it off, most pets feel a bit off when their routines change.

To help ease your nervous pet’s anxiety:

  • Use a pheromone spray or diffuser to help keep her calm. Feliway works well for cats and Adaptil for dogs.
  • Create a little holiday sanctuary in a quiet room away from the chaos. Include comfy blankets, calming music, and dim lighting.
  • Board pets that would be better off avoiding the stress.
  • Help your dog or cat get plenty of attention, mental stimulation, and exercise before the festivities begin.
  • Keep your schedule as normal as possible.

2. Turkey, Ham, Cranberries, and Yams! Yum: How to Handle Table Scraps

Very few pets politely decline table scraps. Additionally, those adorable puppy eyes and kitty whiskers combined with the delight of the holidays tend to convince guests that our pets need a nibble of their dinners. As you probably guessed, this isn’t the best.

Politely ask guests to gift your pet with an approved treat or just some extra lovin’. You can even cut down larger treats to help ‘cut back’ on the calories if your pet is on the portly side.

When it comes to table scraps and handouts, it’s best to just say “no.” These tasty treats can cause your pet to get sick, and the last thing you want is to clean up diarrhea, vomit, or rush your pet to the emergency vet.

3. It’s So Much Fun to Explore Guests’ Belongings! Keep Nosy Pets Out of Baggage and Other Belongings

From purses flung over chairs to toiletry bags, it’s best to have a plan for your friends’ and family’s belongings. Medication, dental products, and gum often contain xylitol (or alcohol sugar) which is toxic to pets. Just a small amount of xylitol can send your pet into diabetic shock or coma.

If you can keep purses and coats in a closet, you can keep nosy and curious pets out of trouble. Make sure to remind houseguests to keep their door closed and suitcases out of reach of your pet.

4. Fire, Fire Burning Bright! Flames Aren’t Fun for Pets

Most pets are naturally very curious about the warm glow of candles and fire. During the holidays, we see kitties with scorched noses and puppers with burnt paws.

Keep your pet safe by keeping the fireplace screen up, and make sure to keep an eye on her when your fireplace is lit. If you want to fill your home with the warm glow of candlelight, keep candles on high shelves and extinguish the flame when you leave the room. Non-flame candles make a wonderful alternative.

5. Shiny Décor and More! Don’t Let Your Pet Get Tangled in Tinsel

They’re shiny, fuzzy, and make fun noises! As you hand out the (toxic!) mistletoe, jingle bells, and ornaments, notice how similar they look to toys through the eyes of your pet.

Don’t let your pet get wrapped up in trouble.

  • Avoid edible garland like popcorn strings.
  • Pickup any ornament hangers that you don’t use.
  • Don’t allow your pet to play around the tree, especially unsupervised.
  • Keep toxic plants like mistletoe and poinsettias away from your pets.

Happy Howlidays from Us to You and Your Family!

We hope this holiday season is filled with warmth, love, and relaxation. From turkey to New Years’, peace on Earth for your pets is possible if you see the world through their eyes, plan, and prepare with plenty of time to spare.

Share the gift of good health with your pet and bring her in for an appointment. We can help her manage holiday stress if she suffers from anxiety, and help you determine if your decor is dangerous or even toxic to your pet.

 

 

Image credit: AnatolyTiplyashin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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