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March 6, 2009

Health: Dental Health

Filed under: Health Care — myminizoo @ 9:38 pm

When was the last time you took a good look inside your dog or cats mouth? If you are like the majority of the population it’s probably been a while. Regular dental care is probably the most overlooked area of pet health. According to the American Veterinary Dental Association 70-80 % of dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease by only age 3!  Periodontal disease can not only be a cosmetic problem causing yellow teeth and bad breath but it can be the cause of deeper problems such as heart murmurs or kidney disease. This article will attempt to demystify pet dental care.

Does your pets mouth look like this?

Or like this?

What is Periodontal Disease?

Peridontal disease starts with the accumulation of plaque that forms on the teeth after eating. If not cleaned the plaque accumulates and hardens into tartar on the teeth. The buildup of plaque also cause bad breath or halotosis . In time the gums react to the build up of tartar causing redness and inflammation; a condition called gingivitis. If not treated the gums will continue to become more inflamed due to the increase of plaque and will eventually be damaged and recede. This loss of gum tissue will cause the teeth to become unstable. Tooth loss,  abscess formation, and even bone infection can then occur.

Why is Periodontal Disease bad for my pet?

 Has your dog  or cat ever come over to you to give you a kiss and the moment he opened his mouth you were struck with a wall of stench? Many people think that bad breath or “doggy or kitty breath”  in pets is normal. It’s not. Bad breath is usually the first sign that a dog or cat is in the early stages of periodontal disease. But periodontal disease does not only cause cosmetically undesirable things such as bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth loss it can also affect your pets internal organs.

The buildup of plaque in dogs or cats mouth is full of bacteria. Once the gums become inflamed the bacteria is then able to freely access the blood stream. The bacteria can then spread to other areas of the body and can cause heart, liver or kidney disease as these are the organs that blood flows through. These disease are often fatal.

So, How can I tell if my dog or cat has periodontal disease?

Look for these signs: The first three signs are early signs of the disease while the remaining are more severe.

1) Smelly Breath

2) Red inflamed gums

3) Yellow hard calculus build up on teeth

4) Reluctance to eat

5) Drooling or pawing at the mouth

6) Facial sensitivity

7) Bleeding gums or tooth loss

If your pet has any of these common symptoms its important to start dental care. The early stages of periodontal disease can sometimes be reversed, but if the condition progresses your pet will have to have a professional cleaning and may have to have teeth removed.

How can I prevent dental problems?

There are two schools of thought on dental care. Conventional vets will usually recommend that you brush your pets teeth daily and use dental chews. While more holistically oriented vets will usually recommend giving your dog fresh raw bone to chew on to clean the teeth. I will discuss the pros and cons of both.

Dental disease can be prevented by brushing your dogs teeth every day and providing him with dental chews. There are also dental rinses, and water additives that have antimicrobial properties.


  • Will prevent tartar and plaque formation if used properly


  • Requires getting your pet used to having his mouth manipulated
  • Must be done everyday to be effective
  • Products can be expensive
  • Will only clean the outside surface of the teeth and tartar can still accumulate on the inside

Dental disease can also be prevented by providing your pet with the opportunity to chew on raw bones. Raw bones have been dubbed natures toothbrush as they effectively clean both sides of the teeth and the gums. Large dogs can chew on marrow bones, beef rib bones or turkey necks; while smaller dogs and cats would be more comfortable with small bones such as chicken necks.


  • Clean all the teeth and the gums while exercising the jaw muscles
  • Provide mental stimulation and keep your dog busy
  • Are inexpensive
  • Less time consuming

Below- Picture of a 4 year old raw fed dog- teeth are perfectly white- most dogs and cats have dental problems by 4


  • Have to be careful of what kind of bones you give. Some bones such as beef knuckle are easily broken off into large chunks and can be swallowed.
  • Have to monitor your pet while he is eating as there is a slight risk of choking

 No more smelly doggy kisses! Having a pet with a clean mouth is so pleasant and is better for their health and longevity.

Go hug your pet and start regular dental care today!


March 4, 2009

Exercise- The Missing Link

Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized — myminizoo @ 4:59 am

One of the most important things you can do for your dog is to provide it with enough exercise.  Exercise combats obesity, and keeps your dog is tip top shape. Unfortunately, obesity is one of the most common health problems in both dogs and cats. Obese pets live shorter lives and suffer many of the same problems obese people do, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. This is an important thing to consider as the average dog lives just 12 years and health problems catch up to them quite fast. It’s up to you to make sure your dog stays fit. After all I have yet to see a dog take itself for a walk!

 An added benefit is that exercise drastically reduces behaviour problems.  Almost every “problem” dog behaviour is just a natual dog behavior that has gotten out of control due to pent up energy and frustration. Take chewing for instance, dogs do it. Period. The problem comes in when dogs start to chew excessively. This problem directly stems from boredom, and of course lack of supervision. Many other behaviors such as barking, digging, hyperactivity, and food stealing can all be linked to lack of exercise.


Most people get dogs and don’t fully realize the level of energy the dog will have.  They expect the dog to be content to run around the backyard and go on a 20 minute walk. This just doesn’t cut it! If you think of what your dog was bred to do it starts to make sense. The retrievers were ment to run all day in the field, either pointing, flushing or retrieving game, the terriers were ratters, ment to race around chasing vermin, the hounds were bred to hunt prey by sight or scent, the herding were ment to heard animals all day,and the working group performed a variety of jobs from guarding to carting. You can see that there are no couch potatoes amoung these dogs! They can go all day, and need frequent regular exercise. There are of course some exceptions, some breeds require less exercise such as the Mastiff, Great Dane, Newfondland, and some of the toy breeds, but even these can benefit from a good daily walk.




Now that we have established that exercise is important I need to clarify what kind of exercise I’m talking about. I believe every dog should have mental and physical exercise everyday. Its important to exercise the mind and the body as it this will result in a fully tired out dog. If you only exercise the body you will only end up with a really really fit totally out of control dog!

Miranda’s Daily Doggy Exercise Schedule

1) Walking– Walking is great as it exercises you at the same time! It also give the dog an oportunity to smell out the neighborhood and have a change of scenery. Walking is also important as the act of having your dog walk with you reinforces your leadership. Walk with your dog beside you and have him stop and sit beside you at cross walks. This will teach the dog to be more in sync with you and will improve your relationship. If you prefer biking, running, or roller blading these are all GREAT alternatives to walking!

2) Free Play– Free dog playtime is essential as it allows the dog time to just be a dog and interact with others of his kind. This helps him work on his social skills. VIP: Do not think that because you took your dog to the dog park you do not need to walk him! Walking is just as important in order to achieve a well balanced dog!

3) Obedience or Trick Training– This is the part that will work your dogs brain. Teach him a new trick such as sit up, roll over, play dead… get creative! Or simply work on your obedience training together.

4)Play with toys– Playing fetch or tug of war is an excellent energy burner provided you are always in control of the game. You have to teach your dog a “drop” as well as a “take” command so that the game progresses at your pace not his.

Increasing exercise not only helps keep your dog in shape and prevents behavioural problems but it also really builds a strong bond with your dog. Some days I don’t feel like going out in the cold with the dogs, but when I do it always makes me feel better. There’s something about watching dogs run at top speed with blissful abandon that’s good for the soul.

Thats all for now… What are you waiting for?

Go Walk Your Dog!

February 11, 2009

Health : Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized — myminizoo @ 6:25 pm

This week has been a tough one for my sister’s cat Cassis. He was hospitalized last thursday as he had a blocked urinary tract. He was put under anesthetic , deblocked and flushed out. They kept him for a few days with a catheter in to monitor him. But, when they brought him home he was still peeing blood and in very small amounts. So, he went to my school on Tuesday to continue treatment. ( I’m currently studying to be a vet tech) We’re all hoping he’ll pull through!

This prompted me to write a post on urinary tract problems. I will discuss symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment. I think its important that people realize that this is a very common and sometimes preventable problem.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is a broad term that covers a wide range of problems. Most cases involve bladder inflamation ( cystitis) , with or without bacterial infection, and with or without either struvite or oxalate crystals.

The symptoms of FLUTD vary but usually include one or more of the following:

  • Innapropriate elimination ( ie peeing all over the house) or frequent litter box trips that only produce droplets of pee
  • Painful or difficult urination ( dysuria)
  • Crying or yowling while trying to pee
  • Blood in urine  (hematuria)
  • obsessive licking of the genital area

If you notice any of the above symtoms you need to get your cat to the vet right away! This ia a critical condition as if the cat is blocked the urine cannot exit the bladder and can cause swelling to the point of bursting.

At the vet they will take blood tests to see if the cats kidney’s are functioning well. They will also do a urinanalysis to check if there is infection, and also examine the urine under the microscope to check for crystals.

If the cat is not blocked the treatment will vary due to the type of crystals found and the presence or absense of a secondary infection.

If the the cat is critically blocked the vet will put the cat under anesthetic, insert a catheter and  flush out the bladder. They will usually hospitalize the cat for a few days and keep the catheter in to give the bladder a chance to flush out and heal.

There are serval things that predispose your cat to getting urinary tract problems.

First of all there are two types of crystals that commonly occur in cats. They are struvite and calcium oxalate. Struvite tend to form in an alkaline urine PH( >7.0), while oxalate tend to form in very acidic urine PH(< 6.0). Struvite crystals are far more common in cats than oxalate.

  • Male cats > Female cats-This is because the male cats urethra is much smaller and shorter than the females, so if crystals form they are more likely to block.
  • Stress- usually due to sudden changes in the cats life
  • Obesity- Yet another problem that caused by letting your cat get fat!
  • Genetics- Vets think that genetics may play a role as well
  • Diet-  Cats fed a dry diet versus a wet one are much more likely to develop problems with struvite crystals.   This is because a dry diet causes the cat to produce a concentrated urine. Cats tend to not drink a lot and rely on thier diet to provide them with the water they need. When the cat is on dry food his bladder empties much less and this allows the mineral that form the crsystals to be able to get together easier, and it is also an ideal environment for bacteria.
  • Dry food is also high in carbohydrates which promotes an alkaline PH which is the enviroment that struvite crystals prefer.

Since you can’t do much about your cats genetics I think its important to focus on what you can control in your cat’s life namely diet and stress.

In my opinion all cats should be few either a canned food or raw food diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, they are not designed to eat cereal based dry food which is usually 40% grains. This causes a whole host of problems such as obesity, diabetes and of course FLUTD.

Raw food is the ideal diet as this will manage the PH so crystals don’t form and also be high enough in water content so that the cat is not dehydrated. This diet will also prevent obesity, as it is low in carbs which cause cats to gain weight as they can’t digest them properly. In addition it will promote good dental health.

If you don’t feel you can go to raw then at least feed a good quality canned diet. The canned diet will also prevent crystals as it is low in carbs and high in moisture. The only thing it doesn’t do is clean the teeth, so they will still have to be cleaned professionally.

Remember you have control over what your cat eats, so feed him a healthy diet and you’ll have many more years together!

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