Dr. D’s Tips: Keeping Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy

 

Okay, I know you get tired of hearing it.  Every time you see the veterinarian she tells you that you should be brushing your pet’s teeth.  But, seriously.  Doesn’t the vet know that I find it difficult to follow my own dentist’s recommendations for MY teeth every day, let alone my pet’s teeth?

I get it.  Truly I do.

I still have to tell you how to care for your pet’s teeth… because if I don’t tell you how to prevent dental disease, you’re going to be upset with me when you have a very expensive bill for tooth extractions later in your pet’s life.  Not to mention the possibility of heart, liver, and kidney disease that is associated with severe dental disease.

So, humor me, just one more time.  I’m going to try to make this easy!

 

The GOOD, BETTER, and BEST of pet dental health goes like this:

 

Dog::Essential Healthymouth water additive

GOOD:  Water additives and dental gels

 

These products are relatively new to the pet-product scene, and so there aren’t many that get the veterinary seal of approval.  One water additive, Dog::Essential Healthymouth, is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) which is a group of leading board certified veterinary dentists from around the world.

It works just like you’d think it does – you add the liquid to your pet’s water daily, and it helps slow the accumulation of dental plaque.  It helps a bit in pets with otherwise healthy mouths, but isn’t going to do much if your pet already has significant dental disease.

 

 

Greenies Products

 

BETTER:  Dental chews and treats

 

You’ve seen them in the pet store.  It seems like every treat, toy, and food is screaming at you that it’s Great For Your Pet’s TeethFreshens breathEliminates Dental Tartar!

The marketing is fabulous.  I would love to believe it, too!

Unfortunately, no treat or toy is going to magically make your pet’s dental disease disappear.  Certain chews and treats, however, can minimize the build-up of dental plaque, thereby slowing the progression of dental disease.

Not all treats and chews are created equal.  Look again for the VOHC seal of approval!  I personally prefer Greenies and C.E.T. chews for this category.  One per day is enough, and make sure to purchase the right size for your pet.

(By the way, be on the lookout for a future blog post about “dental health” products your dog shouldn’t chew on!)

 

 

Dog Toothbrush

 

BEST:  Brush your pet’s teeth!

 

If you really want to earn a chocolate chip cookie from your veterinarian, brush your pet’s teeth a minimum of 3 times a week.  No really.  You’ll be my favorite client EVER.

Brushing your pet’s teeth (I like this kit) is the only surefire way to keep your pet from developing serious dental disease. Use a pet-specific toothpaste (they have fun flavors!), a soft-bristled toothbrush, and lots of positive reinforcement!

I’m sorry to say that once a month isn’t going to do the trick.  The veterinary dental specialists have spoken, and they say that brushing every day is the gold standard.

But 3 times a week is acceptable.

Once a week or less?  You might as well start saving for that dental cleaning next year.  🙂

 

Added bonus:  Here’s the video I made, just for you, to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth.

 

 

 

Does my pet need insurance?

Q&A: Does my pet need insurance?

Is pet insurance a scam?  Or is it worth every penny?  How can a pet owner decide if insurance is worth the cost for their cat or dog?

 

I was going to write a blog post answering this question, and then someone else beat me to it.  And to be honest, she does a fabulous job of addressing this controversial topic – better than I could have!

 

So, if you are questioning the idea of pet insurance, I wholeheartedly recommend this article.

 

I used to think pet insurance was a ripoff.

 

Go check it out, and then let me know if you have any questions about pet insurance!

How to Win With Pets, If You’re A Veterinarian (Part 1)

 

Veterinarians become veterinarians because we love pets.  And we want to snuggle and squish them all day long.  The rude awakening occurs when we start practicing, and realize that our patients want nothing to do with us!  We poke them, prod them, stick weird things in their face and ears… why would they want to be near us?

Well, have I got the blog post for you!  In this 2-part series, I am going to share my tried-and-true strategies for fear-free veterinary exams!

Here are the first 5 guaranteed* ways to get your patients to love you again.

 

 

Giraffe Treats

1.  Peanut butter and hot dogs (tuna or liver paste, if you’re a cat)

There’s nothing better, or more distracting, to a dog than peanut butter and hot dogs.  Really, high-value treats of any kind will usually work.  And when I say high-value, I mean HIGH-VALUE.  It’s got to be something that they aren’t normally getting at home.  Something that makes them sit up and say “WHOA, whatcha got there? Can I has it?  Can I?”

Forget the cardboard biscuits that have been sitting in that jar on the counter for the past 6 months.  Not.  Gonna.  Work.

2. Don’t look or smell like a Veterinarian.

Okay, I know you’re at work and you need clothes that clean easily and look professional.  But, consider that your patients know that white coat a mile away.  And the stethoscope.  And maybe even your shoes, if they’ve met you before.  Sometimes, trying a new “uniform” with existing patients will help them reset their behavior.

Scents are important too!  We know dogs and cats are highly sensitive to odors, so forget the perfume, scented lotion, and Lysol spray (or whatever you spray yourself with after getting squirted with anal glands…).  Try Feliway instead; and/or put some really stinky treats in your pockets.  Bacon works.

 

 

ClaireParker2014

3. Play

 

Here’s your new M.O. when you enter an exam room:

  • Say hello.
  • Get down low (sit on the floor, if it’s safe from bouncy Labradors).
  • Play with pet, offer high-value treats.
  • Occasionally examine a body part.
  • Offer more treats.
  • Play again.

Playing with your patients can really take their minds off the weirdness of being in the vet clinic.  You can even have your clients bring their pet’s favorite toys with them, or just have some fun toys stashed in the exam room.  This goes for both dogs and cats!

If play doesn’t work, try #4…

 

4. Find the petting “sweet spot”

 

Ask the clients where their pet LOVES to be scratched or stroked.  Don’t just absentmindedly pat them on the head and hope they like it.  Every pet has a spot that makes them go “aaaahhhhhhhh, yeeeaahhhhhh…”.  Find it, then use it.

 

DrDandBandit

5. Talk quietly

 

Not all pets like the high-pitched baby talk.  In fact, if they’re not a Labrador, they probably don’t.  And it certainly won’t calm them down.  This is especially true for cats.  Talk quietly and don’t make direct eye contact with kitty patients.  With dogs, you can be happy, but keep that tone and volume at a normal level!  Unless you want a super bouncy, excited, or nervous dog to examine…

 

Take these 5 tips with you to your next exam room, and try them out!  I can personally vouch for each one of these tips; Now my patients LOVE me, even after I’ve poked them with needles.  You, too, can have the love of your patients again!

 

Win Pet's Love

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series!

 

*results are not really guaranteed… but I know you and your patients will be much better off if you try these tips.

 

Are you a pet owner who would love to give your pet a fear-free veterinary experience?  If you’re in the Broomfield area, Call Dr. D to set up an appointment!

Things You Should Know: Easter Hazards For Pets

It’s that wonderful time of year again – pet hazard time!  It only rolls around once a …. I mean 4 or 5 times a year…  Oh, holidays.

 

Easter-Dog

 

Yes, holidays are the most common times of the year for your pets to be exposed to poisons and hazardous items in your home.   Veterinarians like to use these magical times of year to remind you of all the ways your pet could potentially die.  So morbid.  Ah, well, you DO need to know!

 

Here are the most common hazards for your pets during EASTER:

 

Flowers of the Lily family

 

1.  Lilies, and any flower in the Lily family.  Also daffodils.

If you’ve been around me for very long, you know that I remind you often about the dangers of lilies for cats.  They are extremely toxic.  Only one or two leaves or petals can send your cat into kidney failure.  If you have cats, it’s better to not buy any lilies at Easter.  Seriously.  Don’t buy any.

 

EasterGrass

 

2.  Easter Grass

It’s that pastel colored stringy stuff that lines the bottom of your Easter basket.  And it’s irresistible to your pets.  If they ingest it, it can cause severe problems in the intestines and may require surgery to remove it.  Not a happy ending.

 

Chocolate-Easter-bunnies

 

3.  Chocolate.  Duh.

You all know this one, right?  Chocolate is toxic to your pets.  The darker it is, the worse off your pet will be.  I suggest putting any Easter candy, baked goods, or other treats under lock and key, far away from your curious pets.

 

xylitol

 

4.  Xylitol

Xylitol is that artificial sweetener that’s used in candy, gum, and even mouth wash.  It’s extremely toxic to your pets.  Ingesting as little as 1 or 2 pieces of gum containing xylitol can put your doggie in the hospital for days.

 

Now that you know the hazards, take the time to keep your pet safe!  And have a Happy Easter!!

 

If your pet ingests any of these hazardous substances, get thee to an emergency clinic!

 

Dr. D’s List: The Best Veterinary Websites You Should Bookmark Right Now

I get it.  It’s almost midnight on a Saturday, and you have a question about your pet.  You can’t get a hold of Dr. D or your veterinarian, but you need answers!

 

If you absolutely have to look up some information regarding your pet on the internet, here are some of my favorite (and reliable) resources:

1.  Veterinary Partner

Why I love it:  Veterinary Partner is the place I send my clients when they need more information about their pet’s diagnosis or illness.  The content is written by Veterinarians specifically to educate their clients.  If your pet has recently been diagnosed with an illness, go here first.

P.S.  Also great for questions about small mammals, nutrition, or the meds your vet prescribed.

2.  Vetstreet

Why I love it:  The content is user friendly and often fun.  It’s a great place to go not only for medical questions, but also those weird questions you might have (like, why does my dog turn around 3 times before they lie down?).

P.S.  One of my favorite humorous veterinarians, Dr. Andy Roark, writes for Vetstreet.  His “Conversations With My Cat” video series is hilarious.

3.  Pet Poison Helpline

Why I love it:  This is the go-to place (second only to the emergency clinic) if your pet ingested something and you want to know if it will hurt them.  But please, if they did eat something, just call the emergency clinic first.

P.S.  Also great for planning your spring planting or indoor plants, since you want to make sure you aren’t bringing anything toxic into your pet’s environment.

4.  The Indoor Pet Initiative

Why I love it:  CAT OWNERS, PAY ATTENTION!  This website is an excellent resource for all things kitty – behaviors, proper environment, providing enrichment for your indoor cats, cat-to-cat interactions, and so much more.  Bookmark it, read it, love it.  It is your new best friend.

P.S.  If you are a dog person, you’re not left out of this one.  There is an equally wonderful section just for you.

5.  The Pet Food Institute

Why I love it:  Some of the most common questions I get from clients are regarding what their pets eat.  After I give them my advice, I trust sending them here so they can get all the information they need about proper nutrition and choosing the right diet for their pets.

P.S.  Especially the “Myth Buster” section.

7.  For dog behavior and training, I like these two:

Dr. Sophia Yin – Her work regarding low-stress handling of pets has been instrumental in the Small Things philosophy of veterinary care.

Victoria Stilwell – You know her from TV, but her positive dog training methods are really effective.

 

So there you have it!  These links are Dr. D-tested-and-approved.  Search them to your heart’s content!

But hey, don’t hesitate to call me in the morning.

Things You Should Know: The Signs of Anxiety and Stress in Your Dog

Do you know how to tell if your dog is under stress or feeling anxious?

 

When I ask this question, most pet owners will tell me that they see their dog:

Cower or hide under a chair

Pee or poop on the floor

Growl when afraid, but he would never bite!

These are certainly signs of fear, make no mistake.  However, the signs that the typical pet owner notices are usually the last in a series of attempts by your dog to avoid whatever is causing them fear or anxiety.  The signs leading up to these are much more subtle, but once you know what to look for, they will become apparent.

If you can recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress in your dog, not only can you help your pet relax before they go to the “dark side”, but you might just avoid a dangerous situation.  Dogs who are allowed to progress to the fear stages listed above are the ones who will either be permanently mentally damaged by that situation (leading to behavior problems), or they will bite. 

Allow me to tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who had never been to the big doggie park.  Her loving owners decided, when she was about 4 months old, to take her there so she could play and have fun!  When she arrived, there were so many smells and so much noise!  She stopped and sat down on the sidewalk, but her loving owners tugged on her leash and encouraged her to keep walking toward the park.

When they arrived at the gate, it made a really loud squeaking sound that hurt her ears! Her eyes widened, and she laid her ears back; she tried to avoid the big gate, but her loving owner picked her up and carried her through.  When they set her down in the grass, she was suddenly surrounded by big dogs!  They were sniffing her and running around in circles, panting and barking.  The puppy tried to find shelter between her loving owner’s feet, but her loving owner walked a few steps away.

The little puppy didn’t like the big doggie park after all.  And so she growled and snapped at the big doggies who wanted to meet her.  Her loving owner scooped her up – she was safe!  But then her loving owner scolded her, telling her she was a bad dog.  The little puppy was confused and scared, and from that day forward she hated the big doggie park.

Did you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress in the story?  The puppy in the story is a real dog, now an adult; she continues to have problems greeting other dogs, and she NEVER goes to the dog park.  Had her loving owner recognized her initial signs of stress, these permanent behavior problems might have been avoided.

Here are the signs of anxiety that you NEED to recognize in your dog:

  1.  Ears laid back
  2.  Wide eyes (“fish eyes”)
  3.  Brows furrowed
  4.  Panting (without being hot or thirsty)
  5.  Licking lips
  6.  Acting sleepy or yawning
  7.  Moving in slow motion
  8.  Hypervigilant (looking in many directions)
  9.  Moving away
  10.  Pacing
  11.  Suddenly won’t eat, even if they were hungry earlier

Start watching your dog for these signs.  I guarantee that you will begin to see them, and maybe even in situations that you didn’t know were causing your pet stress.  Once you become attuned to your pet’s body language, you can intervene early to help your pet relax!  If your pet experiences the signs of fear listed at the top, the damage is already done.  It’s up to you to be your pet’s advocate!

And here’s a handy-dandy handout for you:

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

Thank you to Dr. Sophia Yin for all her work in this field!

 

If you need help understanding your pet’s body language, or realize that your pet already has some fear issues, give Dr. D a call!

 

Dr. D's winter safety tips

Q&A: How do I walk my pet safely in the winter?

In Colorado, we don’t let a little winter get in the way of our outdoorsy-ness  (is that a word?).

 

Our dogs go with us, most of the time.  How can you keep your furry friend safe while they are participating in winter activities?

Here are Dr. D’s top tips for keeping your woof safe and happy while you’re out in the fresh winter air:

1.  Make sure your pet is properly dressed.

Just as you wouldn’t go out in the elements without the right clothing, your dog may need a jacket or sweater to wear, too!  Just because they come equipped with a fur coat, doesn’t mean they’re warm enough to be outside for long periods of time.  Unless they are a Husky or other thick-coated breed of dog, they need to wear some extra protection.

2.  Protect those paws!

You wear shoes outside in the winter, right?  Let your dog wear some fancy kicks, too.  Most dogs don’t have a protective layer of fur over their paws, so they need some protection from the, literally, freezing sidewalks, snow, and ice.  A set of booties won’t set you back too much, and it’s certainly cheaper than treating your dog’s paws for frostbite.

3.  Use a solid leash, not the retractable leash-of-death.

Seriously, I would outlaw those retractable leashes if I could.  A jogger’s leash, which attaches around your waist and is hands-free, could be a great alternative for you and your pet.

4.  Use a front-clip harness or Gentle Leader to reduce pulling.

If your pup hasn’t quite mastered the idea of walking gently while on the leash, these are fantastic tools to help keep you safe from a slip and fall on the ice when Rufus tries to pull like a sled dog.  You also might consider taking this opportunity to teach Rufus to walk nicely.  Just sayin’.

5.  Make sure your pet stays dry.

We Coloradans know there’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than a wet and cold base layer.  It’s no different for Fido.  If he gets wet, head home.

6.  Stay away from frozen lakes and ponds.

Your dog can easily fall through thin ice.  Then you’d have to jump in after him to save his dog-gone life.  And that would be unpleasant.

7.  Towel off those tootsies!

When you get home or back to your car, dry off your pet’s paws (all four, now).  Be sure to get between the toes.  This is done in order to get the ice melt and/or ice off your pet’s feet.  Ice melt can cause major irritation to the paws, and if they lick it off… well, that causes a whole other problem (can you say toxin?).

As always after exercise, be sure to give your doggie some fresh water!

And one more Bonus Tip:

If your pooch is shaking, trembling, or pulling toward home… take that little warm-blooded creature home!  It’s just too cold for them outside.  There are some other great indoor games you can play until it warms up a bit.

 

Did you enjoy this article?  Fantastic!  Now see those little buttons down there?  Click Like or Share!  It only takes a second.
Also remember, Dr. D is always here for you and your pets!  Go HERE to find all the ways to contact her, including booking an appointment!

 

The Top 10 Reasons Why Microchipping Your Pet Is Awesome

10.  1 in 3 pets goes missing, including those with responsible, vigilant owners.

Your indoor cat slips out through the door left open by accident.  Your dog’s leash breaks and he takes off after a rabbit, getting lost in the neighborhood.  It can happen to you.

9.  90% of lost pets without proper identification (like a microchip) never find their way home.

Like this dog who found himself over 1,000 miles away from his owners four days after he escaped from the back yard – he would not have made it home without his microchip.

8.   Getting your pet microchipped is fast.

As fast as giving a vaccination.  Super fast.

7.  It’s relatively painless – no worse than a vaccine injection.

Most dogs and cats barely flinch when I place their microchips.  It is implanted through a needle, just under the skin between the shoulder blades.  The microchips I use are even smaller than the majority of chips on the market!  Easy, peasy.

6.  It’s inexpensive!  

It costs less than $50 to microchip your pet.  But the peace of mind is priceless.

5.  It’s permanent.  

Like that tattoo you got on your 21st birthday after too many shots of tequila.  It cannot be removed, unlike a collar and tags.

4.  No maintenance required!

When your pet loses its collar, you have to replace the tags.  You won’t have to replace a microchip.  Just be sure that you keep your current address and phone number on file with your microchip company!

3.  It proves you are the pet’s owner.  

Unfortunately we live in a world where someone might take your pet, claiming they are the rightful owner.  Microchips provide the evidence that is irrefutable.  

2.  It could keep your lost pet alive.

Heartbreaking, but true:  Most of the pets who enter animal shelters are euthanized.  If your pet doesn’t have proper identification and is in the shelter for very long, you could lose them forever.   

 

And the Number 1 reason why microchipping your pet is awesome:

It works.  

If you don’t believe me, you only need to see these stories to be convinced:

Microchip Reunites Dog Missing For 2 Years

Cat Reunited With Owner