Q: How often should I clean my dog’s teeth?
TO: February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so this is an appropriate time to think about your pet’s dental health.
The frequency of dental cleanings depends on the individual pet’s oral health, as some need more frequent cleanings than others.
Dental disease can cause significant pain and discomfort, which can lead to difficulty eating and weight loss as a pet ages. Oral pain and infection can also affect their eating patterns, so evaluating dental health every year is essential for their health, especially for older animals.
Dental disease starts with the build-up of tartar on the teeth, which then moves up under the gum line and leads to tooth root abscesses and infection. Severe dental disease can significantly affect an animal’s quality of life as they age, so it is essential to address it early.
Preventative care is the best way to keep teeth healthy over time and reduce the number of necessary dental cleanings. Brushing your pet’s teeth with pet-appropriate toothpaste is the best way to keep the teeth healthy over the long term. However, not all pets tolerate brushing, especially cats, so other options to consider are feeding dental treats or chews daily, applying gels or wipes to the teeth, or using dental care water additives.
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Once the dental disease becomes more severe, performing a thorough dental cleaning is the only way to address all the issues. In a thorough dental cleaning, every tooth gets examined and evaluated. Full mouth x-rays should also be performed as a significant amount of dental disease is under the gums and cannot be identified without x-rays.
Dental cleanings done without anesthesia and involve just scaling the teeth may remove the visible tartar off the teeth, but this type of cleaning does not properly evaluate the underlying dental health that can only be assessed with x-rays.
Anything you can do to support your pet’s dental health will improve its quality of life as they age. Yearly healthy pet exams with your veterinarian will help assess your pet’s oral health and assess the need for a thorough dental cleaning.
Q: What is the difference between a three-year vaccine and a one-year vaccine?
A: Technically, a one-year vaccine and a three-year vaccine are the same vaccines but the time between boosters varies based on several factors. The younger the animal, the more frequent the boosters as you are trying to get the best immunity for the animal when it is young. The area where you live will also determine the recommended types of vaccines and the frequency of the boosters. In Flagstaff, there is a high prevalence of the Parvo-enteritis virus, so we might booster that vaccine yearly until a certain age and then every three years after that to ensure immunity.
The last factor is based on how the manufacturer labels the vaccine. Most vaccines are not labeled beyond three years. Although your pet might still have immunity beyond three years, legally, the vaccine is not labeled effective beyond a specific date and needs to be re-administered every three years. Your veterinarian can guide you as to what vaccines are best for your area and your pet.
Q: My cat was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and I feel overwhelmed. What should I do first?
TO. Follow your vet’s advice. If you haven’t already, talk with him or her about the proper diet for your cat, keeping any carbohydrates in her food to a minimum. If you feel unsure about injecting the insulin or are afraid of hurting your cat, schedule some time with one of the vet techs to practice injecting. Open communication is vital, so don’t be afraid to express your concerns.
Although diabetes is a serious disease and there is no cure, it is not a death sentence. It can be managed successfully with insulin therapy, the correct diet, a consistent exercise routine, and regular check-ups. So don’t panic! With patience and diligence, you and your vet can get your pet’s diabetes under control and keep her healthy for years to come.
Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at [email protected]