Dental Awareness Month

Maintaining Good Dental Health

 

Whenever you schedule your next dental appointment for a cleaning, schedule your pet’s dental exam, too. As with humans, dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health because dental problems can be a sign of other health problems, or cause them.

What is veterinary dentistry?

Veterinary dentistry covers the full range of a pet’s dental health needs, such as cleaning, repair, filing, adjustment, and extraction of your pet’s teeth, among other oral health needs.

Typically, your office visit begins with a veterinarian conducting an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. Sometimes x-rays may be needed to enable the veterinarian to “see“ the jaw and the tooth roots below the gum line because most dental disease occurs below the gum line. A thorough dental cleaning and evaluation requires anesthesia for your pet’s comfort. Dental cleaning is similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings and includes scaling to remove plaque and tartar, as well as polishing.

Who should do it?
Veterinary dental procedures usually can and should be performed by your veterinarian. Depending on state regulations, veterinary technicians may be permitted to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

When should teeth be checked?

Have your pet’s teeth checked at least annually by your veterinarian to maintain good dental health and to spot any early signs of a problem.

You should take your pet in a for a dental exam sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

• refusal to eat or poor appetite
• obvious pain or swelling in the mouth or jaw area
• bad breath
• teeth that are broken or loose
• unusual chewing, dropping food or drooling
• teeth covered in tartar or that are discolored, or
• bleeding from the mouth.

If your pet becomes irritable, this could signal dental problems. So, any changes in your pet’s behavior that are not otherwise explainable should be explored in a visit with your veterinarian. Animals in pain can feel threatened and want to protect a painful or vulnerable area, so be especially careful if you look into your pet’s mouth.

What are the most common dental problems?

Pets have many of the same dental problems that people do, though cavities are less common in pets than in people. Some common problems include:

• infections or abscesses
• periodontal disease
• broken teeth
• mouth cysts or tumors
• misalignment of the teeth and bite
• palate defects, or
• fractured jaw.

How can I support my pet’s dental health?
The most important and effective thing you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings is regular brushing. That helps reduce the frequency for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Brush your pet’s teeth daily, if possible, or at least several times a week. Most dogs usually tolerate brushing well, but cats may require more patience and training.

Many pet products claim to improve dental health, but their effectiveness varies. Consult your veterinarian about recommending the most safe and effective dental products, healthy treats, or dental-supportive diets you’re considering for your pet.

Happy Howling with Healthy Holiday Treats

Savoring sweets and treats are holiday traditions, but make sure you share only dog-safe goodies with furry family members. You should avoid treats with these three ingredients to keep your dog in good cheer over the holidays.

Chocolate

Most dog owners know that chocolate can be deadly. But not all chocolate is lethally dangerous for all dogs. So, if fluffy inadvertently finds piece on the floor, a quick trip to the animal hospital may not be necessary.

–  Quantity counts. Chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine, which dogs metabolize much more slowly than humans, allowing it to build up more quickly in a dog’s system. Small amounts are safer.

–  Darker is more dangerous. Dark chocolate is worse than milk chocolate, but even white chocolate is unsafe.

–  Dog size matters. A large dog can more easily tolerate a small piece of dark chocolate. Dangers, especially for smaller dogs, include seizures, heart problems, tremors and even death.

Symptoms to watch for include vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog eats any chocolate, you should call us at Block House Creek just to be safe.

Artificial Sweeteners

While you may think that artificial sweeteners are a healthier choice than sugar, sugar-substitutes with the ingredient xylitol can be fatal for dogs. It is more dangerous than chocolate. Xylitol is used in candies, gums, breath mints, human toothpaste and sweet diet snacks. Even as much as a gram can kill a 10-pound dog. This sweetener can cause seizures and liver failure, which can happen within a few days.

Symptoms may include lethargy, vomiting and motor/coordination problems. You should call us immediately if your dog has consumed anything you think may contain artificial sweetener.

Sugar

Sugar is a holiday staple. But cookies, candies and cakes with sugar will contribute to your dog’s dental problems, hyperactivity, obesity and eventually even diabetes. Limit sugary snacks to a few bites for special occasions. Instead, choose the natural sugars in dog-safe fruits, yogurt and veterinarian-approved treats.

Keep your dog’s holidays healthy and happy with ho-ho-wholesome pet-safe goodies. Check with one of our veterinarians for suitable recommendations for your precious pup. When in doubt, give us a shout!

Happy healthy holidays from all of us at Block House Creek Animal Hospital!

West Nile in Horses and Birds

West Nile virus is an insect-borne disease most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. A recent sampling of mosquitos in Cedar Park tested positive for West Nile, and 958 mosquito pools in Texas have tested positive this year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

In humans, West Nile can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord linings (meningitis), brain inflammation (encephalitis) or fever. Approximately 20 percent of those infected develop a fever, but only about 1 in 150 show more serious symptoms, according to the CDC.

Among pets and other animals, West Nile most seriously affects birds and horses, primarily in their brains and nervous systems. In horses, symptoms can include muscle tremors and twitching, hypersensitivity to touch or sound, walking in circles, falling or stumbling. If the disease progresses, more serious symptoms can develop, like seizures, trouble standing, or even death. Birds rarely display any symptoms, though the virus can make them more susceptible to other illnesses.

Fortunately, although dogs and cats can be infected with the West Nile virus from a mosquito bite, they are very resistant to developing West Nile disease. However, in an abundance of caution, if your dog or cat starts to show symptoms of a neurological problem — seizures, tremors, spasms, confusion, or paralysis, etc., Block House Creek encourages you to have one of our veterinarians evaluate your precious pet as soon as possible. Such symptoms most likely are the result of other diseases or issues that may need treatment.

No vaccine exists for West Nile, itself. However, two vaccines have shown to be effective in lowering a horse’s risk of developing encephalitis from West Nile. Initially, the horse is given two doses three to six weeks apart followed by a booster. Talk to one of our vets for recommendations about what might be most effective and appropriate for your animal.

Prevention by avoiding exposure to mosquitos is the first line of defense against equine encephalitis. Stable horses indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most active. Using fans can be helpful in keeping mosquitos from landing on your horse. If your horse does become infected, quarantine or isolation is not necessary because West Nile cannot be transmitted from a horse to another animal or person.

As always, eliminate any sources of standing water where mosquitos breed, including troughs, pet water bowls, large puddles, birdbaths, etc. If you have any questions or concerns about possible West Nile in your horse or bird, we will be glad to help.

Keep Your Felines Free of Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), often called Cat Scratch Fever, is an infection caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. Typically, infected cats transmit the bacteria to humans in a bite or scratch. The Bartonella bacteria are found in fleas and wind up in the cat’s mouth or claws when cats scratch or groom themselves.

Most CSD cases occur in the fall and winter and more often are seen in children under 15 years old. If an infected cat scratches or bites you or a member of your family, then you might notice symptoms including fever, swelling in the lymph nodes, and blisters or scabs at the wound sites. The swelling could last from weeks to months along with other symptoms such as poor appetite, headache, fever, and muscle soreness.

Although most people recover from CSD pretty quickly (a few weeks), more serious symptoms can develop in about 5-15% of those infected, with autoimmune-compromised people more at risk. Serious complications can involve the heart, brain, eyes and intestinal tract. Treatment may include antibiotics.

Cats carrying the Bartonella henselae bacteria, however, often show no CSD symptoms. However, if you notice symptoms like fever, swollen lymphs, vomiting, red eyes, and loss of appetite, Block House Creek suggests making a veterinary appointment.

Some studies suggest that, in the U.S., the blood of up to one-third of otherwise healthy cats may be infected. And recent study data suggests a possible connection between CSD and certain chronic inflammatory conditions in cats, such as inflammatory bowel disease, gingivitis, mouth sores, and certain urinary tract and eye problems.

To minimize the risk of your furry feline friend or family member becoming infected, we recommend the following:

1. Keep cats free of fleas. Ask one of our veterinarians about an appropriate flea control product.

2. Clean and trim your cat’s claws.

3. Avoid rough play with your cat, especially kittens, which could result in scratches or bites.

4. Prevent the cat from licking any open wound.

5. Make sure to wash any scratch or bite with soap and lots of warm water, and perhaps use an antiseptic/antimicrobial skin cleanser like Hibicleanse®.

The Unwanted “Kiss” of Canine Chagas

Chagas is a serious disease caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi or “T. cruzi.” Though chagas afflicts both humans and animals, dogs are especially susceptible to infection.

The t-cruzi parasite is transmitted by the bite and feces of “kissing bugs.” Also known as chinches or cone-nose bugs, they feed on blood during the night. The nickname “kissing bugs” comes from their preference to bite humans around the mouth or eyes. These bugs have migrated into Texas and other border states from Mexico, Central America and South America.

Adult kissing bugs are about ¾ to1¼ inches long, and most species have a very characteristic striped band with orange or red markings around the edge of the body.

According to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, chagas symptoms can be acute or chronic. Among the acute symptoms (mostly in younger dogs – under two years old) are lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes and seizures, as well as an increased heart rate. Chronic symptoms may include fatigue and weakness, fainting, and an elevated heart rate.

Some dogs may not show any symptoms of chagas. However, if present, the unnoticed parasitic infection may cause significant inflammation and heart damage over months or years. A heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy can develop and result in congestive heart failure. Sometimes, infected dogs may die suddenly without ever developing symptoms of heart disease.

A blood test for chagas is available, and a positive result indicates that the dog has been exposed. Unfortunately, no vaccines yet are available to prevent chagas and no medications have been found to treat chagas itself effectively, but researchers are working to develop new treatment approaches.

Make an appointment with us at Block House Creek if your cuddly canine shows any symptoms, especially if you think it came into contact with a kissing bug or an infected animal like a rat or mouse. In addition to a blood test, our veterinarians can provide medication to relieve symptoms, help dogs feel better and extend their life.

For now, the only real prevention is avoidance. The best thing you can do for your precious pup is prevent it from eating bugs or potentially infected animals, and keep it indoors after dark.

If you have any questions or concerns about possible chagas symptoms, speak with one of our veterinarians.

Learn About Leptospirosis – After the Flood, Dogs Risk Infection

The flooding from Hurricane Harvey put many pets at risk. As animal lovers, we empathize with concerned pet owners who go to often-heroic lengths to evacuate and rescue their animals from rushing and rising waters. But the dangers posed to pets from floodwaters do not end once our furry companions are back on dry land.

Floodwaters tend to infiltrate and lift up whatever is underneath. That includes anything in the soil — pesticides, fertilizer/feces, and bacteria. One of those bacteria (Leptospira) can cause a disease called Leptospirosis, or “lepto” for short.

The bacteria like wet and warm climates and stagnant or slow moving water. Commonly found wildlife in Texas, such as mice, rats, raccoons and opossums, can pass the bacterial organism in their urine. That bacteria can survive for extended periods in the soil or water. Animals, and particularly dogs, can become exposed through contact with that water and soil. That potential exposure increases where floodwaters linger and with the heightened risk of direct contact with the urine of infected critters fleeing the flooded areas.

Symptoms range from increased thirst and urination (for dogs that are carriers) to a severe infection with vomiting, diarrhea, fever and yellowing of the skin. Left untreated, lepto can lead to sometimes-fatal kidney and liver infection.

Cases of canine leptospirosis have been reported in the U.S. for more than 100 years, and its prevalence appears to be increasing. From 1983 to 1998, the rate increased by 1.2 cases/100,000 dogs annually. While veterinarians would expect to see increased leptospirosis in the coastal and low-lying areas flooded by Hurricane Harvey, cases are not uncommon in greater Austin’s urban areas.

For dogs, prevention through vaccination is the key. Here in the Hill Country and Central Texas, where we live with the risk of flash flooding and hurricanes, Block House Creek urges you to consider vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis, particularly if it has not been vaccinated previously. Dogs older than 12 weeks that live in an area close to wildlife — woods, farms, creeks, ponds, and lakes — probably should be vaccinated. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with one of our veterinarians.

Protecting Your Pet from Snakebites

Venomous snakebites can injure or kill a pet. A bite can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidney, nervous system and joints, and destroy muscles and skin. You need to know the risks and what steps you can take to protect your animals.

Four venomous snakes in Central Texas pose a potential risk to your dog or cat: rattlesnake, cotton mouth/water moccasin, copperhead and coral. To put in perspective the risk of your pet getting bitten by a snake, venomous snakes bite approximately 150,000 dogs and cats annually in the U.S. In fact, dogs are 500 times more likely to suffer a venomous snakebite than to get rabies.

Rattlesnakes are fairly common here. In fact, nine different kinds of rattlesnakes live in Texas. They don’t always “rattle” before striking, and they tend to be most active at night while hunting rats, mice, rabbits and other small animals. And with a dwindling natural habitat from development and construction, rattlesnakes increasingly appear in suburban areas.

To reduce the risk of snakebite to your dog, keep it on a leash, preferably a short leash at night. Most bites occur when dogs stray from their owner. Also, maintain yards free of brush, wood and rock piles, tools, toys and long weeds and grass. Remove any food, fruit and birdseed from your yard that can attract rodents (snake prey). If you see a snake, slowly move you and your pet away to a distance at least the length of the snake.

To protect against severe and potentially fatal injury to your dog in the event of a rattlesnake bite, get it vaccinated by your veterinarian. The vaccine generates a protective antibody against snake venom. A vaccinated dog suffers less pain, with a reduced risk of permanent injury, as well as a faster recovery time.

Block House Creek Animal Hospital offers rattlesnake vaccines at a cost of less than $40 each for the first booster and the second booster (four weeks after the initial one). Follow-up boosters are given every six-months to one year. Anti-venom treatment also is available.

Watch for the following signs and symptoms to determine whether your dog may have suffered a snakebite:

– puncture wounds
– swelling
– severe pain
– breathing difficulty, and
– panting, drooling or restlessness.

A snakebite is always considered an emergency. Even a non-venomous bite can be dangerous. Minutes count. If you suspect a snakebite, get your pet to a veterinary hospital immediately. Don’t let your dog walk to the car or into the hospital. Keep yourself and your pet calm. If possible, call ahead to the hospital to get suggestions and advice prior to your arrival.

Animal Pain Awareness Month

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has proclaimed September to be Animal Pain Awareness Month. All animals, like all people, suffer pain at various points in their lives. The IVAPM both educates and informs pet owners about the health and well-being of their pets in terms of managing acute or chronic pain.

Like humans, animals suffer pain from both injury and illness. Sources of acute pain (pain of shorter duration that usually resolves with healing the underlying cause) include being hit by a car, falling and breaking a bone or damaging an organ, surgical recovery, poisoning, animal and insect bites, and eye trauma, among many others.

Chronic pain usually lasts longer than six months and often results from an ongoing cause like arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer and other diseases or unresolved conditions following injury.

Animals don’t exhibit pain symptoms the way humans do. Nature has wired them to hide or mask their pain lest predators might perceive any weakness, making a sick or injured pet more attractive prey. If we see our beloved companion moving more slowly, or being more submissive and less active, we might tend to think that perhaps our furry friend is just getting older and slowing down. But sometimes those could be signs of pain. So, how can you tell if your dog or cat is in pain? According to the IVAPM, here are some symptoms to look for:

Dogs
– Decreased social interaction
– Anxious expression
– Submissive behavior
– Refusal to move
– Whimpering
– Howling
– Growling
– Guarding behavior
– Aggression, biting
– Decreased appetite
– Self-mutilation (chewing)
– Changes in posture

 

Cats
– Reduced activity
– Loss of appetite
– Quiet/loss of curiosity
– Changes in urinary/defecation habits
– Hiding
– Hissing or spitting
– Lack of agility/jumping
– Excessive licking/grooming
– Stiff posture/gait
– Guarding behavior
– Stops grooming/matted fur
– Tail flicking
– Weight loss

Many treatment options exist for the various causes of pain in animals such as pain medications, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, therapeutic massage, and laser therapy. At Block House Creek Animal Hospital, our staff is trained to observe the symptoms of pain, diagnose its underlying causes, and discuss with you the best treatment options to ease your pet’s pain and restore your pet to good health and well-being as soon as possible.

Chip Your Pet.. It’s Safe and Easy!

How often do you stop at an intersection or walk into a coffee shop or supermarket and see the missing pet flyer with the photo of that cute face? As animal lovers and owners, we empathize. We also feel that twinge reminding us, “That could be MY pet.” But it doesn’t have to be.

Microchipping your pet is one of the easiest and most-effective ways to increase the odds that you and your pet, if it becomes lost or stolen, will be reunited.

What you need to KNOW —

What IS a microchip?
The chip itself is a very small electronic part enclosed in a bioglass cylinder no bigger than a grain of rice. The chip has no battery but is activated by a special scanner passed over the area. The scanner reads an ID number that displays on a screen. That number corresponds to the pet owner’s contact information in the chip manufacturer’s registration database.

What information is on the chip?

Only an identification number unique to your pet. The chip is not a tracking device (though such devices are available, such as Tractive® GPS products). Current microchip technology does not provide medical information on the chip itself, but some microchip registration databases allow you to store that information for quick reference.

How does it work?

When someone finds your pet and takes it to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If the scanner finds the chip, and if your information in the microchip registry is current, they can quickly find you.

What is the procedure for inserting the chip?

Your veterinarian injects the chip under the skin with a hypodermic needle only slightly larger than those used for vaccines. The process involves no more discomfort than a normal injection, and no anesthesia is required. Chip implantation can be performed either during a routine veterinary office visit or sometimes while your pet is already under anesthesia for another procedure, like as neutering or spaying.

What you need to DO —

First, if your pet isn’t already microchipped, then make an appointment with your veterinarian for microchipping. Then make sure that your pet’s chip is immediately registered.

Second, verify that your previously microchipped pet’s registration information in the chip manufacturer’s database is up-to-date. You’ll need your pet’s microchip number for the registration update. Make sure that all information is correct, particularly your phone numbers and address.

Please be sure you register your pet’s microchip with the database that animal shelters and veterinarians will search: the one maintained by the manufacturer of your pet’s chip. AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool links to most microchip manufacturers’ databases, offering a quick search of any microchip made by these manufacturers. Some public microchip registries also are linked to the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Remember, in case your pet gets lost, you won’t fret (as much) if you chipped your pet!

Maintaining Good Dental Health

Whenever you schedule your next dental appointment for a cleaning, schedule your pet’s dental exam, too. As with humans, dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health because dental problems can be a sign of other health problems, or cause them.

What is veterinary dentistry?

Veterinary dentistry covers the full range of a pet’s dental health needs, such as cleaning, repair, filing, adjustment, and extraction of your pet’s teeth, among other oral health needs.

Typically, your office visit begins with a veterinarian conducting an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. Sometimes x-rays may be needed to enable the veterinarian to “see“ the jaw and the tooth roots below the gum line because most dental disease occurs below the gum line. A thorough dental cleaning and evaluation requires anesthesia for your pet’s comfort. Dental cleaning is similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings and includes scaling to remove plaque and tartar, as well as polishing.

Who should do it?
Veterinary dental procedures usually can and should be performed by your veterinarian. Depending on state regulations, veterinary technicians may be permitted to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

When should teeth be checked?

Have your pet’s teeth checked at least annually by your veterinarian to maintain good dental health and to spot any early signs of a problem.

You should take your pet in a for a dental exam sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

• refusal to eat or poor appetite
• obvious pain or swelling in the mouth or jaw area
• bad breath
• teeth that are broken or loose
• unusual chewing, dropping food or drooling
• teeth covered in tartar or that are discolored, or
• bleeding from the mouth.

If your pet becomes irritable, this could signal dental problems. So, any changes in your pet’s behavior that are not otherwise explainable should be explored in a visit with your veterinarian. Animals in pain can feel threatened and want to protect a painful or vulnerable area, so be especially careful if you look into your pet’s mouth.

What are the most common dental problems?

Pets have many of the same dental problems that people do, though cavities are less common in pets than in people. Some common problems include:

• infections or abscesses
• periodontal disease
• broken teeth
• mouth cysts or tumors
• misalignment of the teeth and bite
• palate defects, or
• fractured jaw.

How can I support my pet’s dental health?
The most important and effective thing you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings is regular brushing. That helps reduce the frequency for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Brush your pet’s teeth daily, if possible, or at least several times a week. Most dogs usually tolerate brushing well, but cats may require more patience and training.

Many pet products claim to improve dental health, but their effectiveness varies. Consult your veterinarian about recommending the most safe and effective dental products, healthy treats, or dental-supportive diets you’re considering for your pet.