All posts in Feline

Healthy Pets & Healthy Teeth Go Paw in Paw

February was National Pet Dental Health Month, but your furry friend’s oral health should be a priority all year long! According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have oral disease by 3 years of age.

Springfield MO veterinarian Dr. Denise Roche provides pet dental care at Deerfield.

Merle Waggard here knows smart puppies start brushing early to guard against dental disease.

Dr. Denise Roche, a Springfield, Mo veterinarian, and the Deerfield staff want to remind you good oral hygiene is crucial for the overall health of your lovable four-legged companion. In fact, periodontal infections in dogs or cats cause far worse than bad breath. Such infections can spread harmful bacteria to the heart, liver, and kidneys. To avoid those life-threatening consequences, pet owners can take precautions against two especially common issues that will eventually leave pets at risk for dental disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis in dogs and cats occurs when plaque along the gum causes inflammation. Without regular cleaning, the teeth and gums develop a thin film of protein—from food, saliva, and dead cells—that leads to bacterial plaque build-up. Left untreated, gingivitis will escalate to periodontitis, an irreversible but controllable infection. Periodontitis develops when deposits of calcium salts react with bacterial plaque, forming a hard brown or yellow tartar, which leads to inflammation, infection of the deeper tissues, bleeding gums, and eventual tooth loss if not treated by your veterinarian.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Dental Disease?

Let’s hope your pet’s teeth and gums are tip-top. Better yet, let’s help you guard against the dreaded dental disease. This handy checklist should make it nice and easy to knowledgeably check your pet’s teeth at least once a week:

  • Bad breath is bad news for more than just your own nose, especially if it returns within one or two months of a professional cleaning.
  • Broken or discolored teeth should sound the alarm.
  • Red or swollen gums is a sure sign of irritation.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for bleeding in your pal’s dishes or on chew toys.
  • Lumps or bumps in or around the mouth, especially swelling on one side, are cause for concern.
  • Listen for chattering jaws when eating.

Changes in feeding and chewing behavior can also indicate a problem. If your pet turns away from food, paws at the mouth, drools excessively, or resists having its teeth brushed, it’s time to see your Deerfield vet.

How Is Dental Disease Treated?

A professional cleaning can help reverse, or stop the progression of, oral disease. Should your pet require gingival surgery or tooth extractions, we’ll perform the procedure during the dental cleaning to avoid multiple uses of anesthetics. Feline or canine tooth extraction is not fun for you nor your pet, but sometimes it’s the best option for avoiding further damage from periodontal disease.

How Can I Protect My Pet from Dental Disease?

Proactive care, including regular preventive cleanings and good hygiene at home, can help prevent oral disease in your dog or cat.

Pet Dental Care at Deerfield

Your Deerfield vet can remove bacteria that attack your pet’s gum line. General anesthesia is required for both dog and cat dental cleanings, and safety precautions include pre-surgical blood work on older pets as well as monitoring EKGs and oxygen levels. After polishing your friend’s teeth, we’ll walk you through all you need to know for excellent at-home care.

Pet Dental Care at Home

Good oral hygiene at home is as important for your cat or dog as it is for you, and it begins with a consistent brushing routine. You can remove harmful plaque by brushing your pet’s teeth either daily or every other day. Here’s how:

  • First of all, be both gentle and persistent. Chances are you know from experience that brushing your pet’s teeth can prove challenging, but your patient determination is an act of love.
  • Never use human toothpaste on animals, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your Deerfield vet can help you choose a toothpaste your pet will enjoy—yes, actually enjoy. A good pet toothpaste is non-foaming and comes in flavors that are appealing to dogs and cats. Introduce the toothpaste by using it as a treat, placing it on your finger as a reward.
  • Ask us about toothbrushes designed especially for dogs and cats. Once your furry friend accepts brushing movements with your finger, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Pointing the bristles at about a 45-degree angle to your pet’s teeth, use small circular strokes and focus on the outside of the teeth.

If your pet resists the at-home dental cleaning at any point, never outmuscle it to force the brushing. The animal may not recognize your concern and could instinctively bite due to fear of the toothbrush. You may also use a soft, clean piece of gauze. If your pet is unable to accept toothbrushing, which does happen sometimes, your Deerfield vet can recommend effective toys, treats, chews, and pet foods that aid your dental cleaning efforts at home. Another option is to choose gels, rinses, or sprays that promote oral health in both cats and dogs.

Tartar removers should always bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, so you can be confident they’re safe for your pet. Visit the VOHC website for a list of approved products like the popular Greenie chew. Finally, ask your Deerfield veterinarian about nutritional options we recommend to promote healthy teeth, such as Hills Prescription Diet T/D.

National Pet Dental Health Month makes February a busy time at Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, and it was great to see so many pets for their dental checkups. Now that the month has past, we want to remind pet owners to keep that loving attention to dental care going strong throughout the year. With consistent hygiene at home and regular cleanings, your pet will enjoy clean teeth and better overall health for years to come!

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Safe & Happy Holidays for Your Pets: Tips from a Concerned Veterinarian in Springfield, MO

To help protect your loyal companions, let’s revisit safety tips on common risks that arise for pets during the holiday season.

A favorite of our veterinary hospital in Springfield, MO, Keira loved snow.

Many dogs love to play in the snow, like Keira here,
but even the biggest, wooliest pets are at risk when left outside unsupervised.


 
Chances are your beloved pets land right near the top of your 2014 Reasons to be Thankful list. We know our staff’s pets leave us all endlessly thankful. With a total of 11 dogs, nine cats, two fish, and one rabbit (among our many families, of course!), we have a bunch of cuddle buddies to keep us grateful. Along with all the smiles, pets come with a heap of responsibilities. That’s especially important to remember during the revelry and hustle and bustle of the holidays.

So you can give your pets the gift of Safe & Happy Holidays, we’ve put together the following set of useful pet safety tips.

Pet Stress

All those family get-togethers in November and December can, at times, be downright overwhelming for people — and humans at least know when and why our daily routines will be tossed aside. Just imagine the stress pets feel with all that chaos invading their homes without warning! To help your dogs or cats cope, designate a cozy, peaceful place they can escape to for some much-needed quiet time. Keep that spot stocked with food, water, and their favorite toys. We also recommend spending snuggle time together there in advance, so your pet knows the safe zone is a reward, not a punishment.

As your trusted veterinarian in Springfield, MO, we have one last important Pet Stress tip for you: Remember to join your buddy for a quick visit to the safe zone when you need it! Sneaking away to pet your pet for a few minutes will trigger endorphins for you both, helping your pet relax and helping you find your inner happy place. We find that helps people remember how thankful they are to be hosting the big family dinner.

People Food

Special treats are terrific rewards for pets, and we’re all for including every member of the family in the feasting — if done safely. It’s easy to indulge your pleading pet without risking harm or even death. Simply reserve the people food for people and stock up on safe yet tasty treats for the four-legged folk.

“Yeah, but what’s the big harm in sharing leftovers with pets?,” you ask. The risks are very real. Older pets are at particular risk with any uninformed guests around. Conditions like diabetes and chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats require crucial diet restrictions that many people don’t know about. If your pet has similar health issues, be sure to let guests know it’s just plain dangerous to share people food.

Here are just a few foods, as listed on the American Humane Association (AHA) website, that pose a threat to animals if not disposed of properly:

  • Chocolate can be deadly; it can also damage the heart as well as the central nervous system and urinary system. Like Dr. Ned warned last year, don’t forget pets can easily sniff out and unwrap gifts of chocolate, so keep those and other edible gifts put away.
  • Bones can cause deadly damage by tearing your pet’s intestines.
  • Onions from turkey stuffing can cause anemia in dogs.
  • Grapes can cause kidney failure.

Cocktails, beer, and wine are dangerous for pets too, so be mindful to keep an eye on your glass when sipping a drink.

All That Glitters

Among those who celebrate Christmas, who doesn’t enjoy the shimmer and sparkle of a beautifully adorned tree? Not many. You know who really finds your Christmas tree irresistible? The cat and the dog. With all that shiny tinsel and the glittery ornaments, not to mention the pretty ribbons on gifts, the towering tree is downright taunting your pets. And they may very well retaliate if you’re not watching. It may seem like such a scene would be comical to see, like in the classic Christmas Vacation flick. In the real world, though, the outcome can be far from funny if a pet tangles with the tree or other decorations.

Here are a few important precautions — again, as noted on the AHA site—to take when decorating:

  • Keep pets away from the tree water, which is often full of bacteria and/or poisons from preservatives used on the tree.
  • Ensure the tree is stable, so it won’t fall if a pet jumps on it.
  • Place any tinsel, ribbon, or breakable ornaments toward the top of the tree or on tall shelves, so pets can’t reach the would-be “toys” and risk swallowing them. Many pets have choked on these decorations or have needed surgery to remove obstructions once swallowed.
  • Sweep, sweep, sweep those pine needles and any leaves from other holiday plants. Curious pets don’t know that pine needles and many leaves are full of toxins.

 

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful

Of course you love your pets too much to ever leave them out in the cold on purpose. But with all the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, visiting, peacekeeping, and general preparing you have to do this time of year, the ol’ short-term memory can be taxed to capacity. That can lead to absent-minded accidents that put your pets at risk. To take proactive steps against that, you can use handy little tricks that remind you to check on your pet before leaving the house. Here are two tricks we suggest: Keep your keys next to a picture of your pet or leave a note on the door you regularly exit. Those reminders are simple but effective.

For additional tips on keeping your pets safe during the holidays, brush up on Dr. Ned’s 2013 Holiday Safety Tips, which still hold true. If your pet should fall victim to any risks that arise during the holidays, immediately contact your veterinarian or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435.

Finally, on behalf of everyone at Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, here’s wishing you and yours love, laughter, and lots of snuggle time throughout the season.

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Springfield MO Vet Aquires New Digtial X-Ray Technology

vetray

Deerfield Veterinary Hospital in Springfield Mo. purchased a Vet Ray Digital radiography machine. How does this machine differ from our previous veterinary digital radiography machine?

Our new veterinary digital x-ray emits 8 times less radiation than our previous machine.  This makes our machine more environmentally friendly by decreasing its carbon footprint. This also means that your pet and our veterinary team are being exposed to less radiation with each radiograph performed which significantly decreases our chances of obtaining radiation exposure from repeated contact with the x-ray beam.

The Vet Ray produces a clearer, more detailed image which allows us to appreciate the finer details of our patients organ shape, size, and overall organ health. For instance,  we are able to appreciate the thickness of the intestinal bowel loop walls and determine if inflammation, infection, or possible neoplasia may be present; whereas with our previous machine we were only able to see the loops of bowel and not appreciate the wall thickness. This allows us to diagnose abnormalities sooner and provide intervention to hopefully reverse or prevent further progression of diseases and to improve the quality of life for your pet.

Additional patient friendly features include a 4 Way Float Top Table! This means that the table glides gently left, right, forward, or backwards as needed to properly position your pet to obtain the best image possible. We no longer have to physically slide the animal on the table to be directly under the beam, but instead move the table while the patient rests comfortably for appropriate positioning. This reduces stress and anxiety for our patients allowing them to spend more time in your arms, and less time on our table.

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Veterinary Technician Specialists – Extraordinary Partners in Your Pet’s Care!

tech

Like human medicine, veterinary care has made some fantastic strides in both knowledge and technology in the last few decades.  Pet owners and general practice veterinarians increasingly look to specialists, such as veterinary oncologists or veterinary dentists, to help resolve complicated problems.

Veterinarians who specialize undergo a multi-year process of work ending in a board exam and what is known as “board certification”. In many cases, it is the equivalent to another doctor’s degree.  Working alongside these specialists are growing numbers of Veterinary Technician Specialists who carry the designation: VTS.

Most people are aware that veterinarians need a knowledgeable and helpful staff for the day to day running of the hospital, but many don’t know that some team members are actually credentialed professionals – usually identified as a CVT, or certified veterinary technician.   Beyond that, some techs have taken additional time to advance their knowledge and skills and have been awarded certification in one of several areas of technician specialization.

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) granted their first provisional specialty to the newly formed Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians.  In this case, the term “academy” designates an organization that administers a formal process of education, training and testing prior to awarding recognition to individuals as “specialists”.   Only registered, licensed or certified veterinary technicians can be part of any academy.

Credentialed technicians can now choose from 11 different academies of specialization.  These range from anesthesia to dentistry and internal medicine to behavior, equine care and even zoo animal medicine.   A complete list of approved academies can be found at the NAVTA website (www.navta.net).

Technician monitoring patient Veterinary News NetworkTo accomplish this, veterinary technicians will need to work thousands of hours in their chosen area and log dozens of cases for review.  In the case of Veterinary Technician Specialists in Anesthesia (VTSA), these individuals must work at least three years as a veterinary technician and submit more than 4500 hours of work with anesthesia.  During the calendar year of application, the technician must also submit 50-75 case logs, including at least four cases submitted in full detail to highlight the applicant’s knowledge and skills.

Even after all of this, extensive continuing education credits must be proven along with two letters of recommendation and the completion of the certification exam.  Some academies also call for annual examinations to insure that their specialist technicians are staying up to date with the changes in veterinary medicine.  Although each academy has slightly differing requirements for their applicants, the Anesthesia Academy’s example details just how challenging this career path can be!

Whatever specialty they choose, VTSs are crucial in helping the veterinarian specialist provide the highest level of care to patients.  As a case in point, veterinary emergency and critical care technicians (VECCT) will function to triage animals coming into the hospital as well as manage the patients present in the ICU ward.  These highly organized individuals function well under the pressure of a chaotic emergency room atmosphere and can be an island of calm when owners are frantic and worried about their pets.

Technician explaining heartworm prevention to client Veterinary News NetworkClient interaction and education is another important task for veterinary technician specialists.  Often, the patient’s condition is complex and serious and worried owners may not remember all of their questions or concerns while speaking with the veterinarian.  By being available and knowledgeable enough to handle these situations, technician specialists will help lessen client’s fears, provide a higher level of patient care and increase their veterinarian’s efficiency.

Beyond specialty hospitals, veterinary technician specialists can also be found at general practice veterinary clinics, helping to educate staff members and increase the hospital’s expertise.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in any veterinary practice, from the smallest country clinic to the largest specialty hospital, has a passion for helping pets.  But, when your regular veterinarian talks about the need for a beloved fur-friend to see a specialist, it can be unnerving and stressful.  Rest easy and know that dedicated doctors, along with compassionate and knowledgeable technician specialists, will do all that they can to ease your pet’s ills and send him back home to you.

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Are Our Cats Plotting Against Us?

Some people and societies throughout history have simply not appreciated cats.  Black cats are considered unlucky or linked to evil witches.  Other people look at cats as sneaky or as serial killers of defenseless wildlife.  But, if you read some current headlines, you might think that our feline friends are a real serious threat!

The main threat in these news articles is not our cats, but rather, an extremely small protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.  The threat occurs because this particular intestinal bug only reproduces in domestic and wild cats.  So, when the sensational headline reads “Study Links Cat Litter Box to Increased Suicide Risk”, many readers frankly scared and soon began to worry about the risks of owning a cat.

So here are the real facts you can count on.  The uproar can be traced back to a pair of scientific articles.  As far back as 2000, scientists have understood that this particular parasite has a peculiar effect on some rodents, actually making rats less fearful of their natural predators, the cats.  More recently, a study of 45,000 women in Denmark concluded that infection with Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo, for short) increased the risk of suicide attempts.  So, it appears that this parasite may alter something in brain chemistries or behavior. But, does that mean our cats are to blame?

The emphatic answer: absolutely not. The key here lies in understanding the life cycle of the parasite, the cat’s role in that life cycle and the simple, easy steps to minimize your potential risk.  All cats, domestic and wild, are a natural host for Toxo.  Our feline friends pick up the parasite from hunting rodents and birds or eating raw meat.  Once in the cat’s intestine, the organism starts reproducing, creating millions of oocytes (essentially eggs) that will pass o into the environment.  Interestingly, cats will shed the parasite for about two or three weeks and then rarely ever pass any more after that.

Once outside, these eggs will mature over one to five days and become infective parasites.  It is at this time that any warm blooded animal can become infected by ingesting contaminated soil, water or plant material.  Since most animals aren’t the natural host for Toxo, the parasite localizes in various muscle or nervous tissue and becomes a cyst.  The cycle completes (as most parasite life cycles do) allowing the parasite to once again start to multiply and spread.

For most animals, and people, the parasite is not a problem – remember that.  Some people will experience flu like symptoms but then recover without a problem.  However, immunosuppressed individuals can experience much more severe symptoms, including fevers, confusion, headaches, seizures and poor coordination.  Pregnant woman who have no immunity to Toxo can actually pass the infection to the unborn child causing a miscarriage, stillbirth or serious mental disabilities in the newborn.  So it is true, this parasite is not without it dangers.

The CDC estimates show that about 20% of the US population has antibodies to this parasite.  In addition, the CDC’s website shows that Toxoplasma infections occur by eating undercooked, contaminated meats (especially pork and lamb), accidental ingestion of contaminated meats after handling and failure to wash hands, contamination of foods from utensils used to work with other contaminated foods, drinking water tainted with the parasite and, as mentioned above, accidental ingestion of the parasite through contact with cat feces.

Keeping yourself safe from Toxo is actually pretty easy.  Fully cook all meats, wash your hands and cooking utensils after contact with raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables and wear gloves while gardening.   Cat litter boxes should be scooped daily as the parasite does not become infectious for at least 24 hours.  Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should completely avoid changing the litter.

Ask your veterinarian about specific recommendations for lowering your risk for toxoplasmosis.  He or she is well schooled in understanding this parasite.

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