Pet Talk: Dental Hygiene In Dogs And Cats

Most of us know oral hygiene can play a critical role in a person’s overall health, but did you know the same applies for your furry friends? Humans schedule regular dental cleanings to keep their gums and teeth healthy, but dental health in dogs and cats may be overlooked by pet owners.

Dr. J.R. “Bert” Dodd, clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained some common dental hygiene issues in dogs and cats. “Poor oral hygiene in dogs and cats can lead to excess tartar, swellings in the mouth, and severe wear of the teeth (or broken teeth), from chewing on inappropriate objects,” he said. “In addition, periodontal—or gum—disease can arise from neglected oral health. If preventative dental health is not practiced and periodontal therapy—which includes the scaling, root planning, curettage, and extraction of teeth—is ignored, your pet may become more susceptible to other health complications.”

In fact, an animal’s teeth may be more important to its overall health than most pet owners realize. For example, bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body and cause infections, so keeping the mouth healthy can help keep your pet’s body healthier. Dodd also explained that good dental hygiene can lead to a longer, healthier life for your pet. “Taking care of your pet’s mouth and keeping it nice and healthy can help the animal live longer,” Dodd explained. “Good oral hygiene can help prevent diseases or secondary infections, such as liver, heart, kidney, and joint disease from bacteria originating in the mouth and spreading through the body via the bloodstream. A dog or cat’s teeth need to be well taken care of and treated with respect.”

Although your veterinarian can help in routine dental check-ups and treatments, dog and cat owners can reduce the risk of dental hygiene issues at home. “It is best to begin home care when your puppy or kitten is between eight and 12 weeks old; however, it is never too late to start,” Dodd noted. “The first step is to train your pet to accept the brushing of their teeth. The best approach is to establish a routine of brushing your pet’s teeth with gauze around your finger. It may be helpful to use beef or chicken broth with dogs or tuna water with cats to get them accustomed to the routine instead of using cleaning agents. Once your pet is familiar with the daily routine, you can switch out the gauze for a finger brush or a very soft toothbrush. Then you can incorporate using veterinarian-approved pet toothpaste.”

In addition to homecare, pet owners can arrange for their pet to have an annual teeth cleaning under anesthesia at their local veterinary clinic. Veterinarian prescribed dental diets, proper dental chew toys, and drinking water additives—products that can be mixed into pet drinking water to help control bacteria level and plaque in the mouth—may also assist in preventing dental hygiene issues. However, if your pet has persistent bad breath, experiences bleeding from the mouth or tooth, a change in eating behavior, and sensitivity to touch around the mouth, it may be a sign of a more serious dental health condition.

Dental therapy for more serious health conditions include many of the same procedures that help humans maintain healthy teeth, gums, and mouths. Available treatments include oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, restorations, and even orthodontics. Some of these procedures may be offered by your family veterinarian or you may be referred to a board certified veterinary dentist.

It is important for pet owners to recognize the connection between healthy teeth and their animal’s overall health. When you make a dental appointment for yourself, it might be a good idea to make a veterinary appointment to have your pet’s teeth cleaned as well. Proper dental hygiene help promote a longer, healthier life for your pet.

SLIPS OF THE LIP STAY ALL IN THE FAMILY

DURHAM, N.C. — It’s happened to many of us: While looking right at someone you know very well, you open your mouth and blurt out the wrong name. The name you blurt is not just any old name, though, says new research from Duke University that finds “misnaming” follows predictable patterns.

Among people who know each other well, the wrong name is usually plucked from the same relationship category, the study finds. Friends call each other by other friends’ names, and family members by other family members’ names. And that includes the family dog.

“It’s a cognitive mistake we make, which reveals something about who we consider to be in our group,” said Duke psychology and neuroscience professor David Rubin, one of the study authors. “It’s not just random.”

The new paper, based on five separate surveys of more than 1,700 respondents, appears online this week in the journal Memory and Cognition.

Many of the patterns didn’t surprise lead author Samantha Deffler, a Ph.D. student at Duke. One did, though.

In addition to mixing up sibling for sibling and daughter for son, study participants frequently called other family members by the name of the family pet — but only when the pet was a dog. Owners of cats or other pets didn’t commit such slips of the tongue.

Deffler says she was surprised how consistent that finding was, and how often it happened.

“I’ll preface this by saying I have cats and I love them,” Deffler says. “But our study does seem to add to evidence about the special relationship between people and dogs.

“Also, dogs will respond to their names much more than cats, so those names are used more often. Perhaps because of that, the dog’s name seems to become more integrated with people’s conceptions of their families.”

Phonetic similarity between names helps fuel mix-ups too, the authors found. Names with the same beginning or ending sounds, such as Michael and Mitchell or Joey and Mikey, were more likely to be swapped. So were names that shared phonemes, or sounds, such as John and Bob, which share the same vowel sound.

Physical similarities between people, on the other hand, played little to no role. For instance, parents were inclined to swap their children’s names even when the children looked nothing alike and were different genders. It’s not a question of aging, either: The authors found plenty of instances of misnaming among college undergraduates.

Although misnaming is a common theme in popular culture, Deffler said the new study is one of few describing how the phenomenon works.

Deffler is no stranger to the experience in her own life. Her graduate supervisor frequently swaps the names of his two graduate assistants. And growing up, she said, her mom often called her Rebecca, Jesse or Molly — the names of her sister, brother and the family pit bull.

“I’m graduating in two weeks and my siblings will all be there,” Deffler said. “I know my mom will make mistakes.”

Now she knows why.

In addition to Deffler and Rubin, the authors included Duke postdoctoral researcher Christin Ogle and Cassidy Fox, a 2013 Duke graduate. Fox helped lead the research project while studying at Duke as an undergraduate and devoted her senior thesis to the topic.

National Pet Month: The Power of Pets and Comfort Animals

By JoAnn Bacon

Our family has always had pets and each is a valued member of the family. Our painted turtle, Myrtle, is over 30 years old. She was my husband, Joel’s, birthday gift when he was 15 years old and has made multiple moves over state lines with him, and eventually with both of us and our twochildren. We also have given a home to three gerbils, a dozen Koi fish, and two dogs.

But it wasn’t until after our daughter, Charlotte, died at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, that we realized the full impact dogs can have on our well being.

Charlotte & LilyCharlotte was an avid dog lover. When we rescued our yellow Labrador, Lily, Charlotte was three years old. Charlotte accompanied Lily on her first veterinary visit, and quickly decided that she would be a doggy doctor when she grew up. Charlotte spent her playtime with Lily or playing with her stuffed dogs. Loving dogs was one of her defining characteristics.

In the months following her death, Joel and I searched for the perfect way to honor Charlotte. We settled on focusing on the thing she loved second to only her family, dogs. With the help of award-winning author Renata Bowers, we wrote the children’s book Good Dogs, Great Listeners: The Story of Charlotte, Lily and the Litter. The book focuses on Charlotte’s relationship with her constant companions, Lily and her litter of stuffed dogs. The details and adventures are authentically Charlotte and beautifully illustrate the strong bond between Charlotte and Lily. As we were working on publishing Charlotte’s story, another story was beginning to write itself and it involved our son, Guy. This story also included dogs.

Guy attended the Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, and in the winter and spring of 2013 the school administration brought in dozens of therapy dogs to comfort Newtown students. Initially, Guy was anxious about returning to school, but the therapy dogs were highly effective in helping Guy acclimate. They provided a sense of calm, eased anxiety, and provided a perceived layer of security that had been stripped away on December 14th. During many school days, Guy interviewed the therapy dogs and took notes that he kept in a notebook. Months later, he decided he wanted to write a book just as Joel and I were working on Good Dogs, Great Listeners. Guy thought everyone should learn about the therapy dogs that visited his school. He wanted his book to be a tribute to the dogs and to highlight their different personalities. Guy worked on this project for two and half years, and in September 2015, The Dogs of Newtown was released. For Guy, it was his way of saying “thank you.”

After watching the powerful impact these dogs had on Guy and to honor Charlotte’s biggest passion, Joel and I decided to advocate for the use of therapy dogs in all schools. We founded the Charlotte’s Litter program to bring awareness to benefits of therapy dogs in schools with the hopes that more schools and districts will adopt a therapy dog program of their own. We have seen steady interest from schools that would like to introduce therapy dogs, and our next concern is advocating for and supporting the training of more therapy dogs teams to meet the demand.

Our family has suffered a tremendous loss and we continue to grieve each day. We were fully aware of the joy and comfort a family dog brings to a home, but had never considered the impact that working therapy dogs would have on our family. Most of these therapy dogs are just regular pets who like to sleep, cuddle, play catch, and perform tricks for treats in their leisure time, but when it is time to work they commit to giving fully to the human they are helping. It is a demanding job, but these dogs demand nothing in return. That is dedication to the highest degree.

To learn more about Charlotte, therapy dogs, and our books, visit our websites:

www.gooddogsgreatlisteners.com and http://charlotteslitter.org

Pet Talk: Protecting Your Dog’s Paws

As humans, we know the important role our hands and feet play in completing normal, daily activities. When any kind of injury affects the use of our hands and feet, we may find it very difficult to go about our regular routine. Just as humans depend on their limbs to complete daily activities, Fido’s paws are just as important to him. Running in the backyard, digging a hole for his bone and going for a walk in the park are all endeavors Fido would struggle with if he did not have healthy paws. To promote a healthy and active lifestyle, all dog owners should learn how to keep their pet’s paws free of injury.

One of the most common ways to injure your dog’s paws is by allowing them to step on an extremely hot or cold surface. In the Texas summer heat, concrete and wood pavements can become especially hot. If your dog is exposed to a hot surface for too long, it can potentially cause sores or blisters to develop on your dog’s paw pads. In extreme winter conditions, doggie booties might be necessary to avoid chapped pads or an infection from chemical ice melters.

Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains the most common summer and winter paw injuries. “The worst problems are that the pavement or other hard surfaces are extremely hot or cold.  If the pet does not have a lot of protection on the feet or has a gait abnormality that causes it to walk strangely, then the unprotected areas can be hurt by the extreme temperatures,” he said. “Most of the damage is rubbing the surface off or actually burning the footpads. This can be very painful.”

Trimming the hair in between the paw pads can also reduce the risk of injury. Excess hair is more prone to painful matting and can also attract stickers or thorns. Sometimes foreign objects like pebbles can become lodged between a dog’s pads, so it is important to check and clean this area regularly with a pair of tweezers to avoid pain and infection. Owners should also keep their yard free of sharp or pointy objects to further reduce the risk of a paw injury. If the area doesn’t seem safe to walk in barefoot, then pets should be protected from the area until it is properly cleaned of debris. Should your dog’s paw become injured, Barr recommends obtaining a towel to wrap around the paw and to apply pressure until veterinary care arrives.

One of the most important parts of maintaining healthy paws is to regularly trim your dog’s nails. Nail trimmers are available at pet stores, but sometimes it may be easier and safer to have a professional grind down and round off the nail. If the nails are left to grow excessively, there can be serious consequences that can harm your dog. “The quick of the nail will grow as the nails get longer. This means that when the nails are cut, they can be damaged,” explained Barr. “The longer the nails are, the harder it is for your pet to walk on hard surfaces. Also, they are more likely to be caught on something and be torn off.”

While observing your dog’s nails you might also notice a dew claw, which grows higher up on the leg. A dew claw is similar to a thumb and can appear on both the front and back legs. Sometimes it is recommended to remove dew claws if they are deformed or get in the way of the dog’s daily activities. “Dew claws are analogous to our thumbs. They are a normal part of dogs’ feet, but they are not needed anymore in the normal walking of a dog,” explained Barr. “They are often recommended to be removed if they are misshapen or for cosmetic reasons. They can also be caught on things in the environment and can cause a painful injury.” If your veterinarian does not recommend removing Fido’s dew claws, it is still important to keep the nail properly trimmed to avoid the consequences of excessive nail growth.

Everybody loves a little extra TLC, including your pooch. Try going the extra mile and give Fido a relaxing paw massage by gently rubbing between the pads of his feet in a circular motion. You can even purchase a special pet-friendly moisturizer from your veterinarian to help relax your dog and prevent dry and chapped paw pads.

When you’re not pampering your pooch with special treatment, remember the essentials of maintaining healthy paws. Avoid surfaces that may expose your dog’s paws to extreme temperatures and keep your yard free of hazardous items. Trim Fido’s nails regularly as well as the hair between his paws. By keeping your dog’s paws healthy, your dog will be on the right track to living a happy and active lifestyle.

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed toeditor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Pet Talk: 4th of July Safety for Your Pets

Many of us celebrate our nation’s Independence Day barbequing and relaxing with loved ones. When the sun goes down, it is a tradition to gather together to admire and enjoy the bright-colored flashes of fireworks that light up our night sky. You might not think twice about taking the necessary precautions to have a safe and fun-filled holiday with your family and friends, but have you ever thought about the proper safety measures to ensure your pet has a safe holiday, too?

The 4th of July might be a day of celebration for people, but for pets it is a day of potentially hazardous situations. Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained that pets are at an increased risk for several dangerous scenarios during our holiday celebration.

“Most of the injuries or sicknesses that happen around the 4th of July in dogs have to do with an increased amount of outdoor activity,” Barr said. “There are more dogfights, car accidents involving dogs and heat- related illnesses than any other time of the year.”

Barr also discourages owners from feeding table scraps to their pets. “Because dogs and cats have exposure to a lot more food from barbecues and parties, they tend to get upset stomachs from eating things they shouldn’t,” he said. Sometimes it is seen as humorous for owners to share an alcoholic beverage with their pet, but Barr includes alcohol on his list of dangers for pets on Independence Day. “Pets have much smaller bodies than we do and it can be quite dangerous to have them drink alcohol. It can even be fatal in severe circumstances,” he said.

If you plan on bringing Fido to an outdoor party, be cautious of the dangers of mosquitos, fleas and ticks. Spraying your pet with insect repellant may seem like a reasonable solution to the bug problem, but some sprays are not safe for animals. Instead, Barr recommends using an effective flea and tick repellant prescribed by your veterinarian. Since heartworms are transmitted to pets through mosquitos, a common summer nuisance, Barr also reminds owners to make sure their pet is taking heartworm preventative before they enjoy the holiday outdoors.

One of the most exciting traditions of the 4th of July holiday is fireworks. Although we might fall into a trance of admiration at the loud popping noises and flashing of colors in the sky, our pets might not enjoy the show so much. If your dog typically becomes frightened during thunderstorms, chances are it will react the same way to fireworks. “If your dog is frightened by the fireworks, you need to minimize the exposure that they have to the loud noise of the fireworks,” Barr said. This can be done by finding a safe and quiet room in your home where your dog can stay relaxed. If Fido is in attendance at your outdoor firework show, keep him or her on a leash to prevent it from running away or jumping a fence in an attempt to find safety. Remember, it is always important to properly identify your pet just in case it becomes lost.

Although Independence Day is a fun-filled holiday for people, it might not be the same case for our pets. As a pet owner, it is important to consider all dangerous situations your pet may experience during the holiday. If you are concerned about the dangers your pet may face and want to fully protect them, the simple solution is for Fido to sit this party out in the safety of your home.