Deerfield Blog

What’s Wrong With My Cat’s Mouth?

101 201 missing

Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”.  While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth.  These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues.  One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.

Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.

In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”.  Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal.  The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal.  This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.

Feline premolars 2 resorbtion 352 264

Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet.  Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes.  According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing.  Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!

Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming.  They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth.   As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!

Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth.  At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful.  Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!

Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR.  When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth.  All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw.  Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth.  A normal cleaning and polishing will not work!  Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis.  A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted.  Some cats will need full mouth extractions.  All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.

The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable.  Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks.  It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.

resorptive disease 343 211

Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort.  But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better.  Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.

More

Why is Your Veterinarian Fascinated with Pets Feces?

roundworms

It might be the look on the person’s face or maybe the way they are carrying the bag, but staff at a veterinary office can always tell when their clients arrive with a stool sample for testing.  Dozens of specimens arrive each day, some in Ziploc baggies, others triple wrapped in aluminum foil and some are tucked neatly in plastic containers.  The clients may not realize it, but that smelly sample brought in for testing may help prevent an illness in their pet…or in them!

Why does your veterinarian have such an interest in your pet’s stool?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that 3,000 to 4,000 human serum samples are sent to their labs every year with a presumptive diagnosis of toxocariasis, or, infection with roundworms or hookworms. The illnesses caused by these parasites are not reportable in the United States, so true numbers of human cases are not known.  What is known is that 36% of dogs across the country and 52% in the southeastern states carry these zoonotic worms.  Many pet owners are unaware that their furry family members are capable of harboring these parasites.

Some clients don’t believe that their pet could have worms.  But, pets can come into contact with these parasites in the yard, in potting soil, at the dog park or even on our hands or feet after we come inside from working in the garden or after taking a walk.  The larva and eggs of these parasites are simply abundant in many places.

In fact, a single female worm can shed more than 100,000 eggs per day and most puppies and kittens are infected with more than just one worm!   That’s millions of eggs spreading through areas where dogs and cats go to defecate.   Pets infected with a protozoan parasite, like coccidia or giardia, can shed over a billion cysts each and every day!

So, what does your veterinarian do with the sample you brought Most people understand that veterinarians are checking fecals as a means to find intestinal parasites, more commonly known as “worms”.  What is less well known is that the veterinarian is not looking for whole adult parasites.  They are looking for microscopic eggs and protozoans that may inhabit your pet.

First, the feces are mixed with a sugar or salt solution, a liquid that is slightly denser than regular tap water.  Breaking up the stool allows any infective eggs to enter the solution.  Next, the mixture is carefully poured into conical tubes that are placed in a centrifuge.   The spinning action helps separate the organic debris of the feces from the parasites and the parasite eggs.

After about 10 minutes, the suspension is then allowed to sit with a microscope coverslip placed on top.  The eggs and most parasites will float to the top and adhere to the coverslip.   A veterinary technician or assistant can then take this sample and review it under a microscope.  Any positive specimens are discussed with the veterinarian and an appropriate deworming medication can be prescribed.

This process may not sound appetizing to most readers, but these tests are an important part of a veterinarian’s dedication to your pets, but also to public health as a whole.  The CDC, the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Animal Hospital Association all recommend regular fecal testing for all pets.  This means you can expect to package up a stool sample once or twice each year per pet.  If your pets aren’t on monthly heartworm prevention, your veterinarian may ask for a sample every 1-2 months!

More

Is a Grain Free Food Right for Your Pet?

As a society, we have become very concerned about our diet and a number of health issues related to our consumption of various foods.  Gluten sensitivity in people is just one example and it has lead to many looking at “whole food” diets or even eating only foods that our Paleolithic ancestors consumed.  Naturally, pet owners will translate these concerns to their cats and dogs and look for more natural diets for their four legged friends.

Pet food marketers have been quick to respond to the public’s desire for grain free options in their lines of food.  Catchy brand names like “Taste of the Wild”, “Natural Balance” or “Earthborn” tempt the human shoppers.  But, are these pet owners choosing a diet simply based on marketing hype and the sales pitch in the store?

Many believe that the gluten sensitivities common in people are also a widespread problem in pets and chose a diet based on a lack of specific ingredients, such as wheat.  Unfortunately, there is no evidence that these particular problems occur regularly in dogs or cats.  Gluten-sensitive intolerances are documented in Irish Setters, but, to date, we simply don’t know if other breeds are affected and the problem has not proven to be widespread.

Jack Russel pups eating from bowl - Veterinary News NetworkAnother frequent reason for choosing a grain free pet food is that the owner believes that wheat, corn or some other grain is highly allergenic and causes food allergies for their pets.  The fallacy here is that many dogs are actually allergic to the proteins in the food.  In a review of 267 cases, wheat actually was responsible for fewer canine allergy cases than beef and dairy and corn comes in at a distant 8th, behind chicken, egg and lamb.

Some owners mistakenly believe that “grain-free” equates to low, or even no, carbohydrates.  Dr. Susan Wynn, a well-known speaker on clinical nutrition and integrative medicine, remarks that “if the pet food is a dry kibble, it contains carbohydrates.”  The manufacturing process to produce the dry diets (known as extrusion) won’t work unless a minimal level of starch is present.

Dr. Lori Huston, a Certified Veterinary Journalist and author of the Pet Health Care Gazette blog concurs.   She even mentions that many of the popular replacements for grains, like potatoes, can actually increase the carbohydrate content of the food.

Finally, a common myth is that our pets are unable to effectively digest the grains present in commercial diets.  The reality is that dogs do quite well digesting grains and starches.  Not only has decades of research proven this, but new genetic information shows our domesticated canine friends have many more copies of a gene for amylase than their wolf cousins.  This important enzyme helps cut starch molecules and enables dogs to effectively use grains as an energy source.

All of the above reasons aside, is there a downside to feeding grain free foods?  Overall, the consensus from veterinary experts is that these foods are generally safe and will also provide a complete and balanced diet for your pet.  In some cases, the levels of fat or protein may be higher than necessary for some pets and that could cause health issues.  To quote Dr. Wynn, since “excess protein is not stored by the body, high protein diets are often simply good for producing expensive urine.”

If grain free is an option that interests you for your pet’s diet, talk with your veterinarian.  We can help you sort through the myths and misconceptions that so often abound when it comes to pet foods.  This is especially important when it comes to food allergies.  Over the counter (OTC) “hypoallergenic” foods can often confound a food allergy diagnosis.  Studies have shown that these OTC foods may often contain the very allergens the owner is trying to avoid and cross contamination in the manufacturing process is a common occurrence.  In addition, one well known OTC pet food manufacturer was reprimanded by the FDA after lab analysis showed their lamb diet contained no lamb, but beef instead!

More

Modern Veterinary Anesthesia

It’s a common discussion thread on any pet-related website…someone mentions that they have a friend whose aunt lost a pet under anesthetic and all of a sudden, stories of dogs and cats dying under anesthesia are flying back and forth.  Some businesses even play upon these fears and misinformation by incorporating scary statistics of anesthesia related deaths into their marketing.

So, what’s the real story?  How dangerous is veterinary anesthesia and how does your veterinarian make sure her patients have an uneventful surgery?

First, it’s important to realize that any two pets undergoing the exact same procedure may be at different risk levels for anesthesia.  The animal’s age, weight and physical condition, as well as any concurrent disease, will determine anesthetic risk.  There is no “one size fits all” type of anesthesia.

Next, consider the source of the information.  As an example, companies and information sites that advocate “non-anesthetic” dental cleanings for pets, will often quote a small study showing 1 in every 256 animals had an adverse event under anesthesia.  What they fail to tell you is that particular study was done at a veterinary teaching hospital whose caseload included many patients with significant risk factors for anesthesia.  More comprehensive research has shown that problems with anesthetics occur in less than 1 in every 10,000 pets.

Starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, veterinarians, working alongside human anesthesiology counterparts, began developing standards and guidelines designed to provide better comfort and analgesia for animals undergoing surgery.  This eventually led to the development of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia and approximately 220 board certified veterinary anesthesiologists around the world.

Their work has helped provide veterinarians in general practice better strategies in key areas, such as proper patient monitoring, prevention of drops in body temperature and how to best use the latest anesthetic drugs.

In any anesthetic event, knowing what’s happening on the inside of the patient is crucial.  Modern monitoring devices, such as Welch Allyn’s ® Propaq monitor, allow veterinarians and surgical technicians to quickly spot trends in patient vital signs.  By closely watching blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respirations and carbon dioxide levels, veterinarians can address and even prevent adverse events.

Likewise, safety precautions for the patient are highly important.  Circulating warm water blankets or forced air warming blankets (Bair Hugger®) can prevent hypothermia in anesthetized patients while state of the art calibrated fluid pumps can deliver precise levels of medications or vital fluids.  Many veterinary hospitals now require patients have an IV catheter for all but the shortest of procedures.

Even anesthetic drugs have improved.  Veterinary science now has safe anesthetic gases that quickly leave the pet’s system once the drug is removed from the breathing circuit. Reversible injections, such as Dexdormitor®, provide ways for veterinarians to wake up your pet more smoothly and get him back home to you sooner.

Finally, trained and highly skilled veterinary technicians and assistants are on hand to monitor your four legged friend.  Along with the high-tech equipment, these surgical assistants watch all vital signs so that the patient is kept at just the right level of anesthesia…deep even to prevent pain, but not deep enough to depress vital functions.  Many of these technicians will also further their own education by specializing in anesthesiology and becoming part of the Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists.

Your veterinarian understands your concerns about anesthesia…it can be very scary.  But, before you believe all of the Internet rumors about rampant dangers of pet surgeries or dental cleanings, consider talking with your veterinarian and asking him about the hospital’s surgical and anesthesia protocols.  You might be surprised how far advanced animal clinics will go to keep your pet safe and secure during surgery.

More

Summer Car Trips with Your Pet Can Turn Deadly!

Many pets, especially our dogs, love to go for car rides.  Whether it’s a quick trip to the local market or even a cross country excursion, hearing their owners say “go for a ride” or “go bye-bye” will set many dogs’ tails wagging.

Unfortunately, this favored activity can turn deadly when warmer temperatures arrive and when owners misjudge the amount of time they will be away from the car.  Each year, dozens, if not hundreds, of stories of dogs dying in hot cars are reported by local media.

When confronted with the fact that their pet’s death was likely preventable, most owners will respond with statements like “I didn’t think I would be gone that long” or that they “didn’t know it was THAT warm outside”.   When looking at the facts, the reality of just how quickly the inside of a car can heat up, even in mild temperatures, can produce some startling revelations for pet lovers.

It’s probably common sense to most people that hotter days cause the inside of a car to heat up faster, but few people realize that even with outside temperatures as low as 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of the vehicle will warm uncomfortably in just 30 minutes.  In fact, on a 75 degree day, your car’s interior will be at 100 degrees in just about 10 minutes and a blistering 120 degrees in a half hour!  Despite urban myths, cracking the windows has little effect on the rate of heating inside the car.

An excellent demonstration of the effect a warm day can have on the interior of a car can be found in this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbOcCQ-y3OY.

But, it’s not just the heat of the day that is an issue.  Your pet’s overall health status and behavior can also contribute to how quickly he will overheat in the car.  Veterinarians across the country have posted stories online about cases in which dogs have died when left in cars on days where the temperature never exceeded 60 degrees.  Short faced breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs, as well as obese pets, heavy coated breeds and senior animals will have less tolerance for extreme temperatures.  In addition, excitable animals and those with separation anxiety issues may work themselves into frenzy, raising their body temperature to dangerous levels.

When in doubt, it’s probably best to leave your pet at home.  It’s far too easy for a quick trip to become complicated and take more time than you intended.

Across the Internet, many well-intentioned people and groups will post pictures and posters that highlight the dangers of leaving pets in cars and education is a great thing.  Sadly, though, the discussions on these sites about what individuals will do if they find a pet locked in a car can often turn into dangerous arenas of mis-information.  People will recommend breaking into cars to save the dogs or even taking the pets away from the owner.

Currently, 14 states specifically have laws that prohibit leaving animals “unattended and confined” in a motor vehicle when physical injury or death is likely to result.  While that is a great thing, it does NOT give ordinary citizens the right to smash windshields or take the pet from the car.  Most of these states have included rescue provisions that empower police, peace officers, fire and rescue workers or animal control officers to use reasonable force to remove an animal in distress.

So, what should you, as an animal lover and Good Samaritan do if you come across a pet confined in a car?

First, if you are in a store parking lot, consider contacting the management of the store or even security.  It may be possible to page the pet’s owner and have them return to the vehicle.

Next, call 911 and try to get the local authorities involved.  This action will help lessen your liability if the pet is injured during the rescue attempt or happens to escape.  Allow the police or legally designated person open the vehicle.

Finally, realize that not every animal in a car is actually in distress.  As mentioned above, some pets may appear frantic, but others will lie quietly while waiting for their owners.  It’s important to stay calm and not over-react – in some cases, the pet is not in danger!

More