Monthly Archives: November 2014

Caring for your pets’ teeth and why it matters. Part 1

25th November 2014

Do you know what’s lurking beneath those whiskers? Get your furry friend into the vet to find out and make a lasting change in their quality of life.

How much time have you spent lifting up your dog’s lip and examining what’s underneath ?  Your cat’s?  Yeah, me either.  Yet, we all complain about the awful breath that hits us like a slap in the face when they share those sweet licks with us.  But caring for your pet’s mouth is not just about fresh breath.  Understanding your pet’s dental health and investing in routine preventative home care may be the key to giving them a long and healthy life.

Many of us hear differing advice on the matter and with no shortage of pet care products out there, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know what steps to take to give your pet’s the healthiest mouth possible.  That’s why I’ve enlisted the expert advice of Christine Walker, Patient Supervisor and Veterinary Technician of over 25 years, who has kindly shared some important knowledge.  Along with veterinarians at Westlake Animal Hospital, Chris tackles some of the toughest mouths in Austin and gets them on track to fuller, healthier lives.

So, why should you care?

Eighty percent of dogs have some form of dental disease by the age of three.  Usually, this appears in the form of tartar buildup and/or gingivitis, both of which can affect and in some cases damage major organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and brain.  Some breeds are more prone to dental issues.  Take smushy-faced ones like pugs, for example.  These little guys sometimes show NO outward signs of dental disease, but once x-rays are reviewed, they are commonly found to have embedded teeth beneath their gums.  Left untreated, these can result in dentigerous cysts (the body attacking the “foreign” tooth) and cause pain, inflammation and infection.

That leads me to the #1 piece of advice  to remember, folks.  Do not judge your pet’s oral health by the looks of his teeth.  Unless you’re Clark Kent, you are missing the whole picture.  X-RAYS ARE THE KEY TO IDENTIFYING DENTAL PROBLEMS.  Read more about this here.

Furthermore, this step should only be taken under full and monitored anesthesia.  So, if your groomer, veterinarian or pet sitter tells you that they can clean your pet’s teeth while they are awake or lightly sedated (i.e. twilight cleanings), please DO NOT ALLOW IT. The veterinary community has found that attempting dental scaling and oral radiographs under anything but total anesthesia is actually very dangerous and detrimental to the health of animals. Learn about that here.  Unfortunately, many businesses offer these services and claim to provide the same results as those who may charge more but follow the correct and thorough protocols for this procedure.  Thus, endangering your pet’s life.  Rude, huh?  

What should you do at home and at the vet?

First, take your dog or cat in to a reputable (preferably accredited by the Animal Hospital Association or AHAA) veterinarian for regular health screenings.  The recommendation is every six months, especially in senior pets (age 7+).  During the exam, your doctor should take a close look at the teeth and gums and grade the tartar index to determine the appropriate dental care for your pet.  Home care will always be encouraged as it is the best tool in preventing health problems that can arise as a result of an unhealthy mouth.  Not sure how?  Here’s a fabulous instructional video. 

But, even with excellent home care, at some point, your vet will likely recommend that you schedule a teeth cleaning.  They should provide you with a detailed treatment plan explaining what is involved and a price range for the procedure.  Because many problems cannot be seen until x-rays are evaluated, you will not know the exact cost until the day of the procedure but the treatment plan should help you plan and budget accordingly.

Important items to look for in these services include:

  • Pre-operative blood work (to make sure your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia)
  • IV catheterization (provides an open line into the blood stream in case medication needs to be administered)
  • Administration of IV fluids during the procedure (to keep organs happy and functioning while your pet is asleep)
  • Monitoring of respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature during procedure (if problems with any of these arise, there are simple measures that can be taken to correct them)
  • Dental Radiographs

If extractions are expected due to obvious tooth decay or infection, make sure that the doctor, and not the technician, will be performing the surgical part of the procedure.  While dental technicians like Chris are well skilled in many ways, you want to make sure you have a surgeon there to handle any unforeseen or complicated issues.

If you live in Austin and you want to schedule your cat or dog for a dental evaluation or cleaning, the experts at Westlake Animal Hospital have decades of combined expertise and innovation in the veterinary field.  

Stay tuned…

In part two of covering this important topic, I will chronicle my own dog, Fiona’s experience as she goes in for a cleaning later this month.  My hope is that, through sharing my experience, I will motivate others to take a deeper interest in their animal’s dental health and give them the best chance for a happy, healthy life… plus fresher breath!  

Let's Brush!

In the meantime, grab a doggie or kitty toothbrush and toothpaste and give brushing a go! It only takes three minutes a day to make a big change.  Even if you can only manage it once or twice a week, it’s better than nothing and will not only prevent disease, but can keep overall health care costs down in the long haul.  Check out some amazing pet dental products recommended by veterinarians here.   Fiona loves the poultry flavored toothpaste! 

Have questions?  Leave them here!  We will get you the answers you need from professionals in the field. 

A Thanksgiving Rescue Mission!

17th November 2014

I’d like to think that because Thanksgiving only comes once a year, I should have plenty of time to prepare and that it will go off without a hitch.  More realistically, I will forget some crucial item at the store, misjudge the cooking time of a dish and run out of counter space before I even start.  Yes, I have my hands full and I still volunteer to host Thanksgiving for my family every year.  Yes, it’s totally worth it.  My kids play with their cousins, my sister in-law and I spend valuable catch-up time over biscuit dough and boiling potatoes and however chaotic, the day becomes a fun, warm reminder of everything we have to be thankful for.

Over the years, I have explored different methods for prepping and cooking that can streamline and simplify the process and this year, I’m excited to follow the guidelines set forth by the talented writers at The Kitchn.  As cooking blogs go, this is my top pick.  You always get quality content and helpful tips that make life easier and more delicious.  So here you have it.  A 10-day timeline.

Pull off the perfect Thanksgiving with these amazing planning tips!

Pull off the perfect Thanksgiving with these amazing planning tips!

Will it solve all your problems and cook the turkey for you?  Not quite but my bet is that if you follow this advice, your Thanksgiving will be much more relaxing!

If you’re also hosting Thanksgiving and you have tips on how to reduce stress and simplify the process, please comment below!  I could use all the help I can get.


November Book Selection: And the Mountains Echoed

2nd November 2014

And the Mountains Echoed

This year I am particularly looking forward to Thanksgiving and quality time with friends and family.  With the world we live in ever growing in conflict and fear, we sometimes need to be reminded that we all possess the ability to learn from mistakes and live with respect and compassion for others.  We get to wake up each day and become a braver, better version of ourselves; to forgive and be forgiven.  To be redeemed in whatever way speaks to us. So, if Hosseini’s latest novel is anything like his previous ones, this is what we can expect.  If you have read The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, you know you are in for an emotional ride but one that is worth taking because, in the end, those who suffer most find that magical and unique redemption.  Isn’t that a sentiment we all could explore?

Grab a copy and join me for an online discussion about the novel on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 (so as not to interfere with Thanksgiving week).