Category: Dogs

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

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IBD is an inflammatory condition of the stomach, small intestines, or large intestines (the gastrointestinal (GI) tract).  It is sometimes called Idiopathic IDB. The Idiopathic part means that the cause of the condition is unknown.

IBD tends to be chronic in nature.  It is one of the most common conditions of the gastrointestinal tract diagnosed in pets, especially in cats. Despite its prevalence, it is one of the least understood conditions, especially regarding cause. Some pets respond well to treatment, others do not.

Some cases of IBD involve the liver and pancreas. In this case there are 3 diseases occurring, and we refer to it as Triaditis. This is more difficult to treat than IBD alone.

The usual symptoms of IBD are poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.  Cats tend more  towards vomiting, dogs tend towards diarrhea. These symptoms appear in many other diseases, so you cannot assume your pet has IBD from symptoms alone. To learn the process of how we make a diagnosis of a disease when the symptoms are the same as so many other diseases, we have a methodical and detailed approach. It is called the Diagnostic Process.

We discuss the importance of worms (internal parasites) many times in this page in regards to IBD. With the modern medications we have, including flea products that contain medication to kill worms, it behooves you to treat your pets for worms monthly. Not only might it help prevent IBD from appearing at some time in your pet’s life, it will protect you and your children. Our Internal Parasites page has the scoop on all of this.

In spite of its prevalence, many pets are diagnosed with Idiopathic IBD when they do not have it. To standardize what IBD is, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association has listed the following criteria to help make this diagnosis:

The GI symptoms must be present for at least three weeks

Diet change, worming, and medication do not give a significant reduction in symptoms

No other explanations can be found for the symptoms

Biopsies of the intestines show significant inflammation of the interior lining

The resolution of symptoms when put on mediations that modulate the immune system (immunosuppressive).

This criteria means that a pet that responds to just a diet change technically has a Food Responsive Enteropathy. If a pet responds just to antibiotics then it technically has an Antibiotic Responsive Enteropathy.

Graphic photos of surgeries are on this page

Anatomy and Physiology of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract

When your pet eats, food from the stomach passes into the small intestine, which is composed of three different sections called the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

The majority of nutrient (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) digestion occurs within the small intestines.  The inner lining of the intestines is called the mucosa, and that’s where all the action occurs when it comes to absorbing nutrients. The mucosa has a large surface area because there are microscopic folds called villa.

Ilium-NormalMucosa

This is the lining of the small intestines. The villa are microscopic, so you cannot see them without a microscope.

There are many different types of specialized cells in the lining of the mucosa. Some of these cells specialize in aiding digestion, some are for absorption of these nutrients into the bloodstream, and some are part of the immunes system and defend the body from foreign invaders.

These immune system cells are important for protection due to the constant exposure the GI tract has to outside invaders in the form of oral ingestion of food and its many contaminants. It is these cells that can overreact and cause IBD symptoms.

Surgery-SmallIntestines

These are the small intestines during a routine abdominal surgery. Notice the extensive blood supply, necessary to get those nutrients from the lining of the intestines into the bloodstream, and then off to every cell in the body- amazing!

Ilium-Ingesta

This is what the ingesta looks like as it passes through the small intestines

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestines as the food passes through the duodenum. These enzymes are crucial for digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. As the food continues down the small intestines the enzymes from the pancreas continue their breakdown of nutrients, which are then absorbed by the mucosa of the jejunum and ileum and make it into the bloodstream.

Pancreas-labeled

This is the pancreas, a small but mighty organ. Our surgeon is holding the duodenum (D), with the pancreas in the center (D).

Pancreas-Normal

Close up view of the architecture on the outside of the pancreas

The gall bladder secretes bile into the duodenum to help in digesting fats. When the liver is a part of IBD the bile can build up in the liver and cause a problem. This is a part of the Triaditis that complicates IBD.

The large intestine is composed of the cecum (our appendix), colon, rectum, and anus. Water, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), sugars, and vitamins are the main nutrients absorbed by the large intestine. Some vitamins are produced in the large intestine also. Nutrients that were not broken down or absorbed well enough within the small intestine are further digested in the large intestine due to microbial fermentation. The large numbers of these good bacteria that are present in the intestines are crucial to normal health.

The human cecum (appendix) has atrophied to the point that it is no longer needed. Our diet does not have the fiber of our ancestors, so this organ is not needed for normal digestion, which is why it can be removed if appendicitis occurs. As a fun anatomical comparison, the cecum of a rabbit is enormous in relation to the rest of its body. That is because it is a hind-gut fermenter, and contains large numbers of bacteria to help digest food that is high in fiber. Our rabbit GI stasis page has radiographs of the cecum along with actual pictures to give you an idea of just how large it is.

Pathophysiology

Allergens cause inflammation of the mucosa, leading to the symptoms associated with IBD. The allergens that cause this inflammation can be anything, with food (especially protein) as the main culprit.  Bacteria and parasites are also allergens that cause inflammation of the mucosa. It is the immune system that over reacts to these antigens that causes the symptoms of IBD. This immune system over reaction is why pets that truly have IBD need medication to suppress the immune system, in addition to dietary changes and antibiotics.

Intesinte-normal lumen

The size of the lumen thorough with the food passes and intestinal wall thickness of a normal small intestine

ThickenedSmallIntestine

You can easily see the smaller lumen and thickened intestinal wall in this pet with IBD

Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. In pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes that would normally be secreted into the duodenum to digest food are now leaking out of the pancreas into the abdomen, causing tremendous inflammation and pain to surrounding organs. Pancreatitis is a serious disease, and usually requires hospitalization, intravenous fluids, and medication. It can be hard to diagnose in cats because they usually become quiet and sit as if content, when in reality they are in pain. A clue is the fact that are not eating well.

Inflammation of the liver in some cases may be associated with IBD, permitting an infection to creep up the bile duct and into the liver. There are many different sources to this infection, ascending from the GI tract or urinary tract.

The pancreas, liver, and intestines are closely associated, and when one has a problem it causes inflammation in one of the other ones. When all three have a problem it is called Triaditis. As you can see, it all gets quite complicated.

Cause

IBD is one of those conditions where the exact cause might never be identified. The most common causes are dietary allergies, infections, and environmental stress. Stress can happen in multiple pet households, during holidays, and in extreme weather.

Dietary allergies are involved with sensitivity to protein in the diet. Sometimes, an inability to absorb nutrients, called a malabsorption syndrome, is involved. Some pets generate an excessive amount of a specific white blood cell called an eosinophil (eosinophil gastroenteritis) in the lining of the GI tract.

Other dietary causes might include artificial coloring, preservatives, and food additives. Differentiation between the above-mentioned causes is difficult, especially since many IBD cases are associated with several concurrent factors.

It is suspected that puppies with a large amount of internal parasites (worms) are setting the stage for IBD later in life. This is another good reason to have your pet checked for internal parasites at least yearly, and wormed frequently when young.

Pancreatitis is highly associated with pets that are overweight, particularly spayed female dogs. Fatty meals are important components of the clinical history for cases involving pancreatitis. As a result, we tend to see this cause of pancreatitis around the holidays when people are celebrating with turkey (and gravy) and other similar foods that their pets’ eat also.

Inflammation of the pancreas can spread to the liver  due to its proximity.  This can inflame the gall bladder, causing bile to backup into the liver. This can lead to Triaditis mentioned earlier.

Inflammation of the liver and biliary system, known as cholangiohepatitis, is most commonly associated with a bacterial infection.  In cases of Triaditis, it is unknown as to whether the liver is the first organ affected, resulting in secondary inflammation of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract, or if it is the other way around.  It has been hypothesized that bacterial infections may be the initiating cause of cholangiohepatitis, with IBD and pancreatitis following thereafter.

Dietary Induced

Proteins and grains in the food contribute to dietary intolerance. Intolerance occurs when there is an abrupt change in the diet, resulting in an inability for the gastrointestinal tract mucosa and associated cells to adapt accordingly.  When this happens foods are often not digested or absorbed properly.

Maldigestion is a separate condition of the gastrointestinal tract that generally occurs secondary to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The endocrine pancreas secretes insulin to regulate the blood glucose level. The exocrine pancreas secretes the digestive enzymes needed to digest food in the intestines. If the pancreas is not secreting enzymes into the small intestines as the food passes, the nutrients will not be broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. This leads to weight loss and diarrhea, even in a pet that is eating.

Malabsorption is secondary to numerous disease processes such as food allergies and/or intolerance, protein losing diseases of the gastrointestinal mucosal layer, intestinal parasites, antibiotic responsive disease, cancer, IBD, and immune-mediated disease. The exocrine pancreas is secreting the proper digestive enzymes in this cause. It is an inflammation of the inner lining of the intestines (the mucosa) that prevents absorption of the nutrients into the bloodstream.

Intestinal parasites (worms)

There are numerous intestinal parasites known to cause the same symptoms as IBD. They include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms (dogs only), cryptosporidia (protozoa), toxoplasma (protozoa; cats only), coccidia, and giardia.

Some intestinal parasites are known to affect humans as well (zoonotic potential). These include the larvae of roundworms causing organ involvement (visceral larval migrans), or eye involvement (ocular larval migrans), hookworms (skin involvement), giardia (gastrointestinal disorders), coccidia (gastrointestinal disorders especially in immune suppressed individuals), toxoplasma (congenital defects in babies), and cryptosporidia (gastrointestinal disorders).

A fecal examination is often one of the first steps when diagnostics are being evaluated in a pet with a gastrointestinal disease. Our intestinal parasites page has detailed information on these parasites (worms). We sometimes do  a fecal Giardia test since this parasite can be hard to detect.

Cancer – Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma)

In cats, lymphosarcoma is the most common type of cancer known to affect the gastrointestinal tract. This is not easy to diagnose, since the changes present in IBD are very similar to those in Lymphosarcoma when the pathologist analyzes them under the microscope.

Depending on the type of lymphoma (small, medium or large cell lymphoma), tissue samples must be sent in for further diagnostics in order to definitively differentiate between early cancer and IBD. Proper treatment depends upon a proper diagnosis.

VeryThickenedSmallIntestine

These severely thickened intestines are from cancer

We have a page that shows an exploratory surgery on a cat with intestinal cancer.

Bacterial infection

Although there are no definitive infectious agents that consistently result in IBD, some organisms such as Giardia, Salmonella, Clostridium, and Campylobacter could be a cause. Some of the “good” bacteria, those that are necessary for life, can become imbalanced and cause the symptoms seen in IBD.

Medications

Any medication can disrupt the lining of the intestines. The most common one is antibiotics, since they disrupt the normal GI bacteria (referred to sometimes as flora).

Other causes

Toxicities (plants, chemicals), hyperthyroidism, FIP, FeLV, FIV .

Diagnosis

Signalment

Both dogs and cats are commonly affected by IBD, although it is much more of a problem in cats. IBD can occur at most any age due to the numerous causes of the condition; however, it is usually observed in pets over the age of two .

Triaditis is more commonly diagnosed in middle to older aged cats.  If it is associated with a food allergy, they tend to be young adults to middle aged. Males and females get IBD in equal frequencies.

Addison’s disease, which is common in Standard Poodles, can cause symptoms similar to IBD.

History

Sometimes pets are affected by IBD for many years while appearing apparently healthy in all other aspects. Typical symptoms are  lethargy, poor appetite (anorexia), weight loss, diarrhea and vomiting.

Depending on the inciting cause, the clinical signs may occur intermittently over a long period of time (i.e. dietary allergy) or abruptly and progressively (immune-mediated, infectious, dietary allergy, cancer). If Triaditis is present clinical signs may range from lethargy and decreased appetite to severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and icterus (jaundice) due to liver compromise).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This pet has severe icterus (also known as jaundice)

Cats can have variable symptoms compared to dog. Cats that have pancreatitis might sit quietly and appear to have no problems. In reality, these cats are painful, which is why they sit like this.

Physical Exam

In both dogs and cats, palpation of the abdomen might reveal painful and thickened bowel loops. This is not a consistent sign, and just because bowel loops are thickened, does not mean there is a problem. Pain may also be associated with palpation of the pancreas or liver in cases of Triaditis.

Lymph nodes deep within the abdomen may be enlarged and palpable as well as painful. Excessive intestinal sounds (called borborygmus ) might be heard on auscultation of the abdomen. In more chronic cases, other subtle signs may be present such as a dull hair coat, mild to moderate dehydration, fever, and overall poor body condition. None of these are consistent findings, and cannot be relied upon for a diagnosis of IBD.

XRays-LymphNode

These lymph nodes, call the sub lumbar, are enlarged on this dog. They are the whitish circles within the red circle. They are due to cancer, but they cannot be palpated.

Diagnostic Tests

Complete blood count, biochemistry panel, and urinalysis, are a starting point for diagnosis. Certain blood values might suggest IBD if in combination with clinical signs. Even “normal values” are clinically diagnostic, as they help to rule out another disease that can cause the same symptoms as IBD. A pet with a perfectly normal blood panel can still have IBD.

Some pets will have a chronic anemia (low red blood cells). Sometimes the white blood cells will be elevated, in other cases the protein will be low (hypoproteinemia). There might also be a low cobalamin level.  Cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver) in cats, when Triaditis is present, may be further suspected if bilirubin (hyprebilirubinemia) or liver enzymes are increased. A bile acids test helps assess the liver in these cases.

LiverTests

The blood panel is very thorough and checks many different organs and systems. This is a few of the many tests, the elevated liver tests are circled, and could be a sign of Triaditis in this case.

A resting cortisol test might also be used to eliminate Addison’s (hypoadrenocortocism) disease

Fecal examination is an important and inexpensive test to rule out internal parasites (worms). We sometimes give worm medication (called anthelmintics) to pets with a negative fecal if they have and GI symptoms. This is because a pet can have internal parasites that do not show up on a fecal exam. Our intestinal parasites page has much more information explaining this.

A fecal exam, checking for internal parasites (worms) is important in every pet with any signs of illness. In this exam, we are checking for eggs (ova) of the parasite. A special test for Giardia is also used. 

Bacterial cultures are also utilized in some cases. The bacteria we are checking for include:

Campylobacter

Salmonella

Cryptosporidium

This is what we want to see when we do a urine culture- no bacterial growth in 48 hours

Abdominal radiographs are often normal in cases of IBD, but are a necessary tool to rule out other causes of similar clinical signs. Survey abdominal radiographs are also indicated prior to ultrasound  as well.

Xray-PenniesInRectum

This dog had chronic diarrhea.  Nobody took a radiograph prior to treatment. The cause was not IBD, it was the pennies stuck in the rectum.

IBDRadiograph-thickened intestines

This cat has IBD, as evidenced in this case by the thickened small intestines at the arrow. This can also be a normal finding, and it can also be a sign of intestinal cancer. The more common intestinal cancers are lymphoma, adenocarcinoma, and mast cell tumors.

Prior to the common use of ultrasonography, barium contrast studies were performed in order to reveal disruptions of the mucosal surface along the gastrointestinal tract.  We are looking for filling defects and ulcers of the mucosa and thickening. Barium has lost some of its significance since ultrasonography tends to be much more sensitive. One very nice “side effect” of giving barium to a pet that might be vomiting is its soothing affect on the lining of the intestines (mucosa) to stop the vomiting.

TLI type tests- serum fPLI (pancreatitis), fasting serum TLI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), fasting serum cobalamin and folate (small intestinal function and bacterial overgrowth). These are specialized tests and take several days for the results to come back.

Endoscopy is a useful tool since we can observe the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum for ulcers, lesions, and foreign bodies, that might not show up on a radiograph. Biopsy samples can be taken, although they are not full thickness, and only take the lining of the small intestines. This can lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.

This is a report from a stomach and intestinal biopsy with the endoscope

The most accurate way to diagnose IBD is to perform an exploratory surgery and take full thickness intestinal biopsy samples. If the blood protein level is low (hypoproteinemia) care must be taken because healing can be delayed.

Samples obtained during surgery are analyzed by a pathologist to help confirm a diagnosis of IBD, and also rule in or rule out the possibility of  intestinal cancer. Sometimes  the pathologist cannot tell the difference between IBD and cancer due to the abundance of inflammatory cells. During surgery, samples of other important organs like the liver and lymph nodes can also be obtained. These samples are very informative, and are taken in many cases.

IntestineBiopsy

Surgery has the major advantage of being able to see and palpate the intestines, along with taking a complete (called full thickness) sample of the intestines. This surgeon is using a scalpel blade to take the sample.

These samples are analyzed by a histopathologist. The report might come back with several different terms describing the IBD in specific medical terms, depending on the cell type:

  • Lymphocytic-plasmacyltic (the most common one)- respond best to diet change, antibiotics, and immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Eosinophilic (2nd most common)- respond best to worming medication, diet change, and sometimes immunosuppressive drugs
  •         Neutrophilic- bacteria is a possible cause, so culture and antibiotics, with no immunosuppressive works best
  • Granulomatous- least common, suggests fungal or intra-cellular pathogen

Ultrasonography of the abdomen is an invaluable diagnostic tool. Prior to the advent of ultrasound, exploratory surgery was needed to make an accurate diagnosis, and that was only after biopsy samples were obtained. Ultrasound is dramatically less invasive and expensive compared to surgery, and the results are obtained immediately in many cases. In the case of IBD it can tell us of thickening of the intestines and gives us a suspicion that IBD is indeed present, but it cannot confirm the diagnosis.

Ultrasound is a big aid in the diagnosis of IBD in its ability to to rule out cancer and foreign bodies as a cause of vomiting. It also gives us an accurate way to biopsy internal organs like lymph nodes.

Ultrasound-Machine

Ultrasound is rapid and painless, and the only invasive part is shaving your pet’s abdomen

UltrasoundReport-IBD

This is a typical report of a pet with IBD. Note how detailed it is, and how organ size is measured. 

Ultrasound can be used to measure wall thickness of various segments of the intestinal tract, which yields supportive evidence in the face of clinical signs. However, it cannot be used to differentiate between IBD and other disease processes that result in significant inflammation of the intestinal wall (i.e. lymphoma). This is where surgery has an advantage since full thickness biopsy samples can be taken for analysis

Ultrasound-SmallIntestine

This is what the small intestines look like during ultrasound while they are being measure for size

Ultrasound-Pancreas1

This is what the pancreas looks like, also being measured

Ultrasound-MesLymphNode

All of the abdominal organs are assessed during an ultrasound. This is what an enlarged abdominal lymph node looks like.

Fine needle aspirate samples may be obtained with the guidance of ultrasonography.  Sometimes this test is diagnostic, sometimes it is not. Even though it is not a perfect test, we sometimes recommend it due to the simplicity in obtaining it.

A hypoallergenic diet trial may be issued for cases of highly suspected dietary allergies or intolerance. In such cases, some pets respond when the diet is altered and no further diagnostics are necessary. You must feed this food, and only this food, to see if this works. Sometimes results are immediate, other times it might take several months to know for sure.

This can be a risk if the diet trial is attempted before numerous other disease processes are not first ruled out, especially cancer and internal organ diseases like Feline Hyperthyroidism.  This delay in diagnosis can affect outcome. If clinical signs do not improve or resolve within the first two weeks of the diet trial, then further diagnostic work-up is indicated.

Treatment

Depending on the severity of disease at presentation, treatment must first begin with stabilizing the pet. What we do to stabilize depends on the severity and duration of symptoms.

Symptomatic

Stabilization generally includes intravenous  fluids to correct dehydration, correct electrolyte imbalance, and improve kidney function. If the protein level is low we might use a fluid called Hetastarch.

Pets that are not eating are assist fed a special diet called A/D to maintain appropriate caloric intake and to prevent further disruption of internal organ function and get the GI tract back to normal. Probiotics to help stimulate the normal bacterial flora might be beneficial.

Vomiting pets are continued on fluids to maintain normal hydration, and given a specific medication called Cerenia (maropitant) to stop the vomiting. This drug has been a tremendous help in alleviating vomiting in pets due to many different causes. We use it for IBD and also for other GI problems like parvo virus and pancreatitis without IBD. Cerenia works on the emetic (vomiting) center of the brain.

Cerenia

We use the injectable version in the hospital, and send home an oral version if needed

Diet

It must be understood that if one of our doctors recommends a dietary change to treat your pet’s IBD that the only food or treat that can be fed to your pet is this new diet. Nothing else can be used as a food source. Feeding other foods is a reason why this dietary change does not work in some cases. When multiple people feed a pet this needs to be communicated to everyone.

Dietary intervention is considered a mainstay for many gastrointestinal cases because a large proportion of cats and dogs with gastrointestinal disease are associated with food-sensitivity. We need to get these pets eating again for the intestines to return to normal function.

Dogs and cats with pancreatitis, which is painful and causes severe illness,  do well initially with a low fat diet in the early stages to get them stronger and get the intestines used to digesting food again.  I/D (Intestinal Diet) has been used by our doctors for well over 35 years, and is the gold standard for pets with GI problems. After the pet is stable we look for a long term food.

PrescriptionDiet-ID

I/D comes in many variations, and our doctors will tell you which one is appropriate for your pet’s specific problem

Hydrolyzed Protein Diet

 It is the protein component of the food that causes the problem in IBD. Hill’s has solved this problem by making a food with a hydrolyzed protein that does not cause a reaction. It is unconditionally guaranteed, and is worth using in every case because it works often, and you can get your money back if it does not work. This is a complete diet and can be fed for the rest of your pet’s life. It is very rewarding when a dog or cat with the signs of IBD improves on only food and does not need medication.

PrescriptionDiet-ZD

The best food we have found overall for dogs and cats with food allergy is called Z/D

Novel Protein Diets

Novel proteins are not manipulated protein sources (as compared to hydrolyzed proteins like Z/D), but are simply new proteins that the pet has never ingested before. Many dogs and cats immune systems have not been exposed to venison, duck, or rabbit. Due to the fact that it takes long-term exposure to a protein before the immune system will react against it, then these novel protein diets are often attempted when the protein source is suspected to be the cause of IBD. The new diet will take at least 2 weeks, and up to 4 weeks, for the symptoms to diminish or resolve.

These foods might contain:

Potato

Duck

Sweet potato

Venison

Salmon

Vitamin supplementation is a critical component of treatment for some individual pets whose IBD stems from a deficiency in cobalamin (vitamin B12), specifically in cats.  Pets that are sick enough to have a low cobalamin level are generally in need of more than just vitamin supplementation, requiring a combination of other medications and dietary alterations.

Immune Modulators

Steroids (corticosteroids) are used in many cases in order to decrease the inflammation. The most common ones include prednisolone or prednisone. Budesonide, is a weaker steroid, that is also used. If the root of IBD or Triaditis is due to an immune-mediated process, then more potent immune system suppressants than steroids are required, such as cyclosporine, chlorambucil, or azathioprine.

Cyclosporine is an immune modulation drug that can suppress the inflammation from IBD.

Chlorambucil (Leukeran) is a chemotherapy drug for treatment of resistant IBD or some forms of cancer

Antibiotics

Antibiotics should be chosen based on bacterial culture and susceptibility when possible, especially in cases of Triaditis. Antibiotics such as Flagyl (metronidazole) are very commonly used for their ability to treat patients with chronic diarrhea. Some pets respond well to this medication only (they have Antibiotic Responsive Enteropathies). Flagyl suppresses the bacteria that are involved with IBD, and also mildly decreases the immune response that is an important component of IBD. Other antibiotics include Tylosin, Amoxicillin, and Fluoroquinolones. Tylosin must be compounded.

Probiotics and Probiotics

These are commonly used to help with the trillions of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. IBD disrupts these “good” bacteria, and even the antibiotics we use to treat IBD can disrupt the normal GI flora. Make sure there is not a chicken or beef base.

Probiotics have bacteria that are considered to be beneficial to the GI tract. Probiotics have fiber that is fermented for good bacteria.

Liver Support Medication

When the liver is involved (Triaditis) we might also use Actigall (ursodiol) or Denamarin (s-adenosyl methionine)

Denamarin

IBD can be painful, and it is important to keep the pet as comfortable as possible during an acute episode of IBD or severe case of Triaditis. Prednisone, prednisone, and Flagyl decrease inflammation, which helps minimze pain. Specific pain medications are also used.

Stem Cells

Limited studies show promising results

Fecal Transplant

A last resort that can be effective. The feces must be negative for pathogens.

Prognosis

The prognosis depends on many factors. This disease is usually not cured, unless there is a food allergy and we find the right diet for your pet. Most cases are controlled with diet and medication. IBD and it’s associated diseases tend to be a long-term problem that is usually managed successfully. You increase your chance of success by giving medication consistently and bringing your pet to us for exams and diagnostic tests to look for changes that require a change in treatment.

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C-Section

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A  Caesarean Section (abbreviated as C-Section) is derived from the latin word “caedare”, which means to cut. It is believed that Julius Caesar was the first to be born this way when his mother died during childbirth. Most scholars of ancient history believe this was done long before Julius Caesar was born. Either way, the name sticks.

Our patient is a female dog that was able to deliver 2 pups normally. When we examined her and palpated her abdomen we could feel another puppy. She is exhausted, and has what is called uterine inertia. Her uterus does not have the strength to deliver the last pup.

Her 3rd one was stubborn though and did not want to come out, so we had to go in and convince him the time had come to meet his siblings. We routinely perform a spay (OVH) on these dogs after we remove the pup.

Graphic photos of an actual surgery are on this page. 

Radiograph-pregnant dog lateral

We took a radiograph to confirm the size of the pup and look for any problems

Pup-nursing help

The two that were born naturally had one last meal from their mother before we brought her into surgery

Pups-sleeping in carrier

After their meal they were cozied up with blankets and a hot water bottle (at the bottom of the photo) since they cannot regulate their temperature at this stage

Pups-sleeping

We know they were content because they fell asleep. Now we could concentrate on their mother and the remaining pup

It was time for the C-section. After we gave the mother a thorough pre-anesthetic exam, and administered intravenous fluids, she was ready for surgery. In this procedure we move fast, real fast, so the remaining pup is not depressed by the anesthesia we give the mother for the C-section. While the surgeons are scrubbing in and preparing their instruments we are preparing the mother for surgery.

Joel-mother

After she was clipped Joel brought her in to start the anesthesia

Mother-onside

She is getting sleepy as we administer her anesthetic. As soon as she is out we move her into surgery. Her abdomen has alreadly been clipped, and a local anesthetic has been infused into her abdomen where we will make our incision. This allows us to give her less general anesthetic and not depress the remaining puppy.

Hands

While our patient is being anesthetized our surgeons are scrubbing up

Instruments

As soon as the surgeon’s are gloved and gowned they go right into the surgery suite to get the instruments ready. We do not want our patient waiting for the surgeons, we want the surgeons waiting for the patient.

Surgivet

Our patient is immediately hooked up to our anesthetic machine when brought into the surgery suite. When stable we can start the surgery.

Surgeon-draping

Dr. Wood, our first surgeon, wastes no time draping our patient for the procedure once our anesthetist confirms our patient is stable

Doctor-draping

At this point, our 2nd surgeon, Dr. ridgeway, is scrubbing in and will be in the surgery suite in a few seconds

Doctor-surgery team

We don’t technically need 2 surgeons for this procedure. We do it because we can get the puppy out of the uterus faster this way, which is of utmost importance to us for a pup that has been in the uterus longer than it should be and could be struggling.

Pup- in uterus

This is what the pup looks like in the uterus

Uterus-incision

A quick incision in the uterus, taking care not to cut the puppy

Uterus-pup out

Out he (it’s a boy!) comes covered in a protective membrane

Pup-umbilicus clamp

Once we remove the membrane the first thing we do is clamp and cut his umbilical cord

Pup-suction

We immediately suction out any fluid from his mouth so he can get some air into his lungs

Pup-nurse suction

Then it’s a quick hand-off to our nurses who are eagerly waiting for him with a warm towel and more suctioning

Over several minutes we gently suction out mucous from the nose and mouth

After we are sure the breathing passages are clear we stimulate him to breathe by gently rubbing him

Pup-eating

His mom is still in surgery, so we give him a quick meal until he can nurse. Nursing is important because the milk the mother produces contains antibodies he needs to prevent common diseases like Distemper. He cannot produce these antibodies just yet.

Pups-feeding

While our doctors are finishing the surgery our nursings staff goes to work making sure these puppies are fed and kept warm until the mother is fully recovered and able to nurse all of them


Whitepup-feeding

The nursing instinct is strong and the puppies greedily suck down the milk

Nurse assist feeeding puppy

Pups-resting

After nice meal all 3 of them take a well deserved nap


Mother-recovering

We let the mother recover completely before we let the pups nurse. She is exhausted from trying to get this last puppy out and needs some time to rest.


CSection-surgeons

Once mom was out of surgery and stable our surgeons could not resist, and had to hold the puppies

This was Dr. Wood’s first C-section, and she did a wonderful job! Next time she has to do one in the middle of the night she won’t need to call Dr. P or Dr. R to help her!

Here is a C-Section we did many years ago:

One of the most rewarding surgeries we perform is a Cesarean Section. Usually it is performed on small breed dogs because their pelvic canals are just too small to handle the size of the pups for a natural birth. This is the story of Margarita, a Chihuahua that had 4 large pups in her tank.

The gestation length in most domestic dogs is 63-65 days. When Margarita first came to us one week before she was due we knew a C-Section would be needed from her size and her radiograph.

How many pups do you see in Margarita’s abdomen? The answer to this question will become apparent later on.

On the appointed day Margarita was brought to our hospital for a C-Section by Dr. Palazzolo. On a dog that is this small, and has this many large puppies in its uterus, preanesthetic preparation is important. This consisted of a preanesthetic blood paneland intravenous fluids prior to and during surgery.

We keep a close tab on important physiologic parameters for all of our surgeries. Monitors like this give us an early warning of an impending problem.

Surgery-Monitor

Once our surgeon has scrubbed up and is  in sterile gown, gloves, and mask, the surgery begins

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Here she is on the surgery table. You can see the green tape covering her IV catheter and if you look closely you might be able to tell that her abdomen has already been shaved. She has also been given a local anesthetic where her incision will be. All of these things are done prior to any anesthesia. They will allow us to use less anesthesia for the actual procedure which is important to minimize any anesthesia that depresses the pups.

At this point things start moving fast. Margarita has been given an IV sedative to relax her, the final surgical prep has been applied, and a breathing tube (called an endotracheal tube) is in her windpipe giving her 100% oxygen. Once she is intubated we move fast, and in the next 5 minutes all of the pups will be out of her uterus. While her anesthesia is being monitored the rest of the team is preparing to receive the pups.

She is draped and a rapid incision is made in her skin. By giving her the local anesthetic earlier she does not feel the skin incision and we can keep the anesthetic level to a minimum.

The uterus is rapidly located and gently squeezed out of her incision. We make the incision in her abdomen just big enough to gently exteriorize the uterus because she will heal faster and nurse her pups better with a smaller incision. This is where the experience of our surgeon, Dr. Palazzolo, comes into play.

This is one horn of the uterus and contains 2 of the pups. The other horn of the uterus can be visualized running horizontally at the bottom of the picture.

A scissors is used to cut into the uterus. Special care is taken not to cut the pups,which could be moving in the uterus.

The first pup is gently removed with his umbilical cord still attached.

You can get a better idea of the amniotic sac that completely covers the pups.

The first things our nurses do upon receiving the pups is to rub them gently yet vigorously in a towel. This stimulates them to breathe. They also gently shake them to remove fluid from their lungs.

The nurses use a special bulb syringe to suction fluids from pups that aren’t eliminating fluid from shaking and rubbing.

Any pup that is still not breathing well at this point is giving a drop of respiratory stimulant on the top of its tongue.

Once our nurses feel the pup is breathing on its own they tie its umbilical cord.

After all 4 pups are stable they are put under a heat lamp since at this early stage in their lives they do not have a very strong ability to regulate their body temperature.

Meanwhile back in surgery Dr. P is checking the abdomen to make sure there is no bleeding prior to suturing the abdomen. In Margarita’s case she was also spayed.

Her muscle layer is carefully sewn back together. These sutures are critical to prevent a hernia from occurring, especially when pups vigorously nurse.

With her skin sutures complete Margarita is now taken off the anesthetic machine and a pain injection is given to her.

Our nurses take care of the feeding while Margarita rests and recuperates. We won’t let 4 hungry pups nurse until she is strong enough.

Here are our 4 little piggies all in a row sleeping after their ordeal and their first meal. Their tummies are full and they are keeping each other warm.

In a surgery like this there needs to be close coordination between the surgeon, anesthetist, and nursing staff. You can see how much time and attention our nurses put into doting over these puppies.

Time for a little shut eye, we had a big day!

This is one of those pups several months later with her proud mom! Can you guess which of the above 4 puppies this one is? (Hint-look at the white spot on the forehead).

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Geriatric Medicine

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In the past, we may have accepted a declining quality of life for our aging pets as a fact of life beyond our control. Like humans, older dogs and cats are more likely to encounter health problems than younger pets. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever before. A 7 year old dog or cat is equivalent to a 50 year old person.

Most humanoids are practicing preventive medicine at this age- routine physical exams, breast exams, prostate exams, blood pressure checkups, blood panels and dietary changes. Dogs and cats need similar preventive medicine at this age. Since they age approximately 7 years for every 1 year of human life, an 8 year old dog or cat is equivalent to a 56 year old person, and a 9 year old dog or cat is equivalent ot a 63 year old person. This rapid yearly increase in equivalent age emphasizes the fact that we need to pay close attention to all dogs and cats as they move beyond 7 years of life.

Just as older people experience a progressive decline in physical condition, so do senior pets. Studies indicate that 36% of senior dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, 18% show signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, and the number one diagnosed disease of dogs in all age groups is dental disease.

Compared to humans, old age problems may progress up to 7 times faster in senior pets. Having your senior pet examined only once a year is like a senior person visiting the doctor only once every seven years. That is why, as your pet nears 7 years of age (5 years of age in Giant Breeds), preventive senior exams every 6 months can help assess your pet’s current health, provide a baseline for monitoring changes in the years ahead, and help detect health problems in the early stages, when diseases can be treated more effectively.

Senior Care is “geriatric” medicine for pets. Senior health care implies both preventive and therapeutic approaches to medicine, including nutrition, dental care, and exercise as well as therapy for diseases.

Age Chart

Relative age of Your Dog in “Human Years”
Age Dog’s size in pounds
years 0-20 21-50 51-90 90 +
5 36 37 40 42
6 40 42 45 49
7 44 47 50 56
8 48 51 55 64
9 52 56 61 71
10 56 60 66 78
11 60 65 72 86
12 64 69 77 93
13 68 74 82 101
14 72 78 88 108
15 76 83 93 115
16 80 87 99 123
17 84 92 104
18 88 96 109
19 92 101 115
20 96 105 120
= Senior
= Geriatric

 


Symptoms

Changes in behavior or appearance may be the first indication of a problem. However, these signs may not be apparent in the exam room during your veterinary visit. It is important for you to watch for subtle changes, especially in stoic older pets.

Signs of aging:

Difficulty climbing stairs

Difficulty jumping up

Increased stiffness or limping

Loss of housetraining

Increased thirst

Increased urination

Changes in activity level

Excessive panting

Circling/Repetitive movements

Confusion or disorientation

Excessive barking

Less interaction with family

Decreased responsiveness

Tremors or shaking

Skin and haircoat changes

Changes in sleeping patterns

Less enthusiastic greeting or behavior

Altered appetite

Weight change

Common Health Conditions of Senior Pets

Obesity- As their metabolism slows down it is easy to overfeed. This leads to arthritis, sugar diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.

Dental– Inflammation of the teeth and gums may lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, bad breath, kidney and heart disease, and, as a result, decrease your pet’s life expectancy.

Hormone (endocrine)- cause a vast array of symptoms that are treatable and sometimes curable.

Cushing’s– Excess production of cortisol (cortisone) by the adrenal glands

Addison’s– The opposite of Cushing’s

Diabetes (sugar) – Excess glucose in the bloodstream due to a lack of insulin

Hyperthyroid– Excess production of thyroid hormone

Hypothyroid– Inadequate amount of thyroid production

Kidney– Failure of this organ can lead to chemical imbalances, anemia, compromised immune function, and blood clotting defects as well as altered mental capacity. Kidney disease is a leading cause of death in geriatric cats.Chronic Urinary Tract Infections can easily occur without you being aware. These are painful, and can predispose your pet to bladder stones.

Liver– Failure can lead to serious disease with chemical imbalances, anemia, compromised immune function, and blood clotting defects as well as altered mental capacity.

Heart– Pets with heart disease can experience difficulty breathing, fatigue, exercise intolerance, and lethargy.

Cancer– Can occur in many different organs. Early detection may improve the prognosis. Many treatments are available and most have few side effects.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome– Similar to senility or Alzheimers in people.

Skin conditions-Hair loss, itching, and skin infections are common

Arthritis-This is painful and debilitating, and can easily sneak up on a pet without you being aware of it.

High Blood Pressure– Usually secondary to a heart problem, kidney problem, or high thyroid problem.

Inflammatory Bowe Disease (IBD)- A common problem in cats as they age.

Epilepsy– These seizures have an unknown origin, and occur in older pets.

Senior Exam

With frequent checkups, at least twice a year, we can screen for common senior diseases. By diagnosing and treating problems earlier, we may be able to slow the disease process and prevent pain and discomfort.

In addition to a complete physical examinationdiagnostic tests can help detect many diseases before your pet displays signs of a condition. Even if results are normal, the findings give you veterinarian a good baseline to identify and monitor changes in your pet’s health as the years progress.

You can do an in-home exam to help catch problems before they become entrenched.

Physical Examination We can check for physical signs of cancer, arthritis, heart and lung disease, dental disease, or cataracts.
Complete Blood Count
(CBC)
This test helps identify infections, anemia, and certain types of cancer as well as problems with bleeding and the immune system.
Serum Chemistry Profile This blood test can help identify diseases of the liver and kidney, and endocrine disorders such as Diabetes or Cushing’s.
Complete Urinalysis A urine sample can help test for kidney diseasediabetes, urinary tract infections, and bladder stones.
Fecal Exam A fecal sample can be checked for internal parasites and bacterial overgrowth.
Other Tests Depending on your pet’s overall health, we may recommend additional tests such as blood pressure measurementradiographselectrocardiography (ECG or EKG),ultrasound, thyroid (hyperthyroid or hypothyroid) or adrenal gland (Cushing’s or addison’s) testing, as well as liver, pancreas, and small intestine function tests.

Here are examples of blood panels and urine samples that caught problems early, and before they became so well entrenched we would have a difficult time treating them.

This pet is anemic

This one has kidney failure

This low Specific Gravity is a sign of a kidney problem 

Senior Nutritional Needs

Nutritional needs of pets change as they get older. Senior dogs should consume fewer calories due to decreased activity and reduced daily energy needs. This is very important because obesity increases the risk of serious diseases, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and musculoskeletal disorders in older dogs.

Pet foods, specifically for seniors, are now available with fewer calories, limited phosphorous, more protein, balanced fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to meet the specific nutritional needs of senior pets. These foods have optimum amounts of nutrition, and can help in the progression of common diseases like kidney disease.

All cats that are 7 years of age and older should be on Hill’s K/D due to the significant prevalence of this problem.

Many older dogs are obese and arthritic, and the Hill’s food Metabolic and Mobility is a major help for them.

We have much more information about nutrition in animals, and why you should never take the advice of a pet store or groomer on nutrition. It is an interesting read.

 


References:

1. Survey of Veterinarians, 1998. Sponsored by The Iams Company and Pfizer Animal Health.

Developed for Long Beach animal Hospital, by Glenna M Gobar DVM, MPVM, MS, courtesy of Pfizer animal Health; Sept 2001

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Skin Conditions

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Some of the more common skin conditions we see in dogs and cats at the Long Beach Animal Hospital.

Allergic Dermatitis

Cushings (Hyperadrenocorticism)

Demodectic Mange

Hypothyroidism

Lick Granuloma

Ringworm

Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies)

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Dental Disease

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Dental disease is prevalent in almost every dog and cat we examine. This page has a large amount of information that will inform you of this serious and overlooked problem. Please set aside the time to fully understand it due to its importance regarding your pet’s quality of life.

Oral hygiene is one of the most overlooked areas of medical care for animals. Far too many pets come to us with advanced dental disease, requiring anesthesia, x-rays, and the removal of rotten and painful teeth. Some of these pets are systemically ill as the billions (yes billions) of bacteria in their mouths enter the bloodstream through diseased gums and serious infect important organs like the liver, kidney, and heart. As we increase our knowledge of animal health we realize that proper dental care does not just make your pet’s breath smell better; it is mandatory for your pet’s long term quality of life.

pddz5

We see too many pets presented in a state similar to this. The periodontal disease in this dog has progressed so far that it is systemically ill, and in danger of a spontaneous jaw fracture. Imagine how this dog feels!

Dental disease is a treatable and preventable problem, and since your pet cannot tell you how it feels, it is up to all of us, as members of your pet’s health care team, to address this problem. Most people wait too long to get their pets teeth cleaned professionally. Teeth cleaning should be considered a preventive measure, not a way to treat an infected tooth or gingivitis that is already present. Good dental care revolves around the control of bacteria under the gumline where it is not visible. We will teach you how to prevent it and how to treat it.

Prevention is the key, so learn how to brush your pet’s teeth. If started at an early age this “bonding time” is an enjoyable time for all. When your pet is young, get it used to your hands around its mouth by petting it on the head and face gently, telling your pet how good he is in a soothing tone. Eventually get him used to your fingers being gently placed in his mouth and rubbing his gums. If you do it slowly and follow your pet’s reaction, you can make this a fun game for all. At the end of this page on dental disease there is more information on prevention.

When your puppy or kitten still has its baby teeth use our dental wipes to get your pet used to the procedure. By going slowly most puppies and kittens respond positively to the attention. You can dip a cotton-tipped applicator in tuna juice and use this to rub kitten gums.

Start brushing the teeth when the adult teeth are in, which is around 5 months of age. We can tell you when to start if you are not sure, and show you how to do it.

taliabrushteeth

Yes, you can brush your pet’s teeth, and yes, you can make it an enjoyable experience for both of you! Bring your pet in and we will show you how. If you start when your pet is young it will be much easier. This can be started when you do your puppy behavior training.

CET-pets

We have special dental kits for dogs and cats that make the process easier and more effective. They do not like the feel and taste of the toothpaste we use in our mouths, so do not use that. 

If brushing your pet’s teeth is not an option, we have a multitude of products to help replace brushing.  They are designed to aid in slowing down plaque buildup, which is the start of dental disease. They are not as effective as brushing, but are better than doing nothing.

CET-VeggieDent

Dentees-stars

Hills-dental-care-chews

There is also a food called T/D (tartar diet) made by Hill’s which is a significant help in preventing dental disease. It comes in many different kibble sizes for different sized pets.We highly recommend it, especially for the small breed dogs that might be fussy about getting their teeth brushed.

Hills-T:D

This food is unconditionally guaranteed, and can be returned for any reason

If you use some of these products, and have your pet’s teeth cleaned by us without anesthesia (it’s called non-anesthetic dental (NAD)), you will not encounter the serious and painful dental disease you will learn about later in this page. All of this needs to be started early in your pet’s life, and long before dental disease sets in.

Non-anesthetic-dental

Having your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally without anesthesia, when it is young and dental disease has not set in, is the best way to prevent dental disease. After they are cleaned this way you need to brush their teeth, until their next cleaning in 6 months. The effort is worth it, especially later in this page when you see  how bad dental disease can become. 

dental-non-anesthetic-form

The non-anesthetic professional teeth cleaning by Pet Dental Services is thorough, and the person that cleans your pet’s teeth will go over a report like this for your pet. 

The licensed technicians from Pet Dental Services will perform non anesthetic teeth cleaning at our hospital on the 4th Monday and Wednesday of every month. You can make an appointment and wait while it is being performed, or you can drop your pet off and pick it up later. If you wait it takes about 30 minutes.

All legitimate non anesthetic dental people are licensed by the state of California to perform this procedure. This can only be performed legally in the state of California under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian, which is why our doctors are present, and review any important dental findings with you after they professionally clean your pet’s teeth. This law is obvious for your pet’s protection.

Many unscrupulous people perform this procedure because they tell you they are saving you money and fooling you into thinking they are actuallly doing something medical for your pet, when they clean your pet’s teeth without the supervision of a veterinarian. This commonly happens at grooming shops and pet stores. They prey upon the irrational fear people have of anesthesia. In reality, since they are not making a correct diagnosis, or doing a thorough job, all they are doing is setting up the stage for the bacteria that is under your pets gumline to to wreak havoc later on, necessitating an anesthetic dental.

People sometimes wonder why pet’s need their teeth professionally cleaned by us, and then brushed by you, when they have memories of growing up with dogs and cats and never doing this. It doesn’t take much to answer this question. Pets nowadays eat diets that makes them prone to plaque. They also live longer, and just like in people, are more prone to disease as time goes on.

More importantly, we did not have the knowledge decades ago to understand how dogs and cats lived lives of chronic pain because we did not know, or could not diagnose, the periodontal disease that is occurring below the gum line. With the advent of digital radiography, and our current body of knowledge, we realize that we did not treat dental disease anywhere near as thoroughly as needed. This ignorance lead to poor quality (painful) and shortened lives for our pets.

dental-rotten-tooth

This is the crux of the problem. When you look at the teeth, and see some tartar, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem. Just scrape the tartar off and the teeth will look and feel better, and your pet’s breath will smell better. Job done right?

dental-rotten-root

Here is the same tooth as it is being removed while this pet is under anesthesia. The root on the right is rotten, compare it to the normal root on the left. We did not know this pet had a rotten and painful root until we probed it and took radiographs. If  this tooth had only been cleaned of tartar and not removed, this pet would have had a painful tooth indefinitely. 

We were able to detect this rotten root only because it showed up on our digital dental X-rays

This is a video of a different dog having its teeth cleaned under anesthesia. When our doctor examined the canine tooth it was found to be infected, with pus coming out of the gums. This would never had been found if we were not thorough and checking for this, and this dog would have had a painful mouth long term. Just as importantly, the large amount of bacteria that is entering the bloodstream on a chronic basis causes damage to the internal organs.

You can see the pus on the probe as it is moved around the base of the canine tooth

Cats get a unique dental problem, called neck lesions (also called FORL- Feline Odontoclastic Resportive Lesions), that are painful. When we encounter these problems we need to remove the bad tooth.

Dentistry-FelineNeck

What seems like just a red gum is actually the painful condition of the root called FORL

dental-disease-inflamed-gum

Here is another example of a potential FORL lesion

The short video below is an example of how painful this is. This cat is completely anesthetized, yet when we gently touch  its premolar teeth with a probe, it moves its jaw in obvious pain.

It is the periodontal disease that is occurring out of sight and below the gum line that causes the most problem. This is the area we thoroughly need to address when we clean a pets teeth under anesthesia.

We take this problem seriously, and spend considerable time caring for pets with dental disease. Many dogs and cats are brought to us in advanced states of dental disease. Their teeth are infected and rotting out, and they have tremendous odor (severe halitosis) from the infection.  For animals that have such keen senses of smell, this chronic odor is very irritating. The stress on their internal organs due to the tremendous infections in their mouths can cause problems with the liver, kidneys, and heart valves.

canine-dental-radiographs

Dogs and cats with advanced dental disease need to be anesthetized, given a thorough oral exam, and have dental radiographs. They are closely monitored during the procedure, and all their dental problems are taken care of. This takes considerable time and effort on our staff as we carefully assess every tooth.

The following information on dental disease is very thorough. We have a summary page on dental disease if that suits your needs better.

Normal Tooth Anatomy & Development

The diagram above illustrates some of the structures of the normal tooth. It also shows Stage III periodontal disease, which you will learn more about later. On the left side you can see the bone of the jaw and the blue periodontal ligament. It is this ligament that keeps the tooth attached to the bone in the socket. You can also see the blood supply and nerves to the tooth. They are the vertical finger-like projections in the center of the tooth.

On the right side we have illustrated what happens in gum disease. The brown area between the tooth and gum is tartar and its associated bacteria. Tartar by itself is inert, and does not cause dental disease. Removing it makes the teeth look better, but it does not address the primary problem. It is the bacteria surrounding and within this tartar that we are after. Notice how a significant amount of tartar is below the gumline, and thus cannot be seen. Also, notice how the gum is pulled away from the tooth leaving a pocket.

As the bacteria progresses further down the tooth, the gum is pulled further and further away, the jawbone literally erodes away, and the periodontal ligament can no longer hold the tooth in the socket. The tooth is painful, rots out, or is removed when we professionally clean the teeth. The bacteria that eventually causes this erosion enters the bloodstream and can cause disease in other organs. It is this bacteria below the gumline that is causing all the trouble, and is the bacteria we remove when we professionally clean the teeth.

After the teeth have been professionally cleaned we can use non anesthetic dental from Pet Dental Services to prevent the problem from recurring. You are fooling yourself if you think you can take your pet to a groomer to have them scrape the tartar off once gingivitis is present. The teeth look nice, which means you have done something cosmetically nice for your pet, but you haven’t touched the medical problem.The teeth need to be cleaned by trained professionals from our hospital or Pet Dental Services, depending on the severity of the problem.

This radiograph of a tooth shows the same anatomy as above. We will show it again later when we show radiographs of diseased teeth. Notice how tightly the roots of the tooth fit into the healthy jaw bone. When we show you radiographs of diseased teeth later this jaw bone will be partially gone.

Dogs have 28 deciduous (temporary or baby) teeth and 42 permanent teeth. Anatomically they have 4 different types of teeth: Incisors (I), canines (C), premolars (Pm), and molars (M)

This is an x-ray of the lower jaw (mandible) of a dog. You can see how deep the roots go.

In comparison to dogs, cats have 26 deciduous teeth and 30 permanent teeth. They have the same types of teeth that dogs do, but in different proportions. They lack premolar #1 found in dogs due to a different evolutionary path.

The deciduous teeth start being replaced by the permanent teeth (in this picture they are the 2 large central incisors marked by the arrows) at 4 months of age. The puppy teeth that were there were probably swallowed.

Dogs seldom have problems with teething, although they do tend to chew things during this period. It is advisable to supply them with synthetic bones for this purpose, or else some of your personal items might get recycled! By 8 months of age all the permanent teeth have appeared.

Biofilms

Dental disease is all about bacteria. Due to the unique environment of the mouth, we measure mouth bacteria counts in the billions! Bacteria that adhere to the enamel of teeth colonize and begin synthesizing molecules, the most important of which are carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are sticky and act as a glue to attract more molecules on the teeth, eventually forming plaque. As time goes on calcium carbonate deposits on the plaque, hardens, and then becomes calculus. This is the hard material deposited on teeth people sometimes call tartar.

Cat-gingivitis

This is tartar (plaque) on the teeth of a cat. If we get on top of this plaque now, by cleaning this tooth professionally with non-anesthetic dentistry, and use the prevention measure discussed earlier, we can prevent it from getting gingivitis, and all its associated problems. 

Tartar is made up of calcium salts, food debris, bacteria and other organic matter. It is orange to brownish in color and although soft when deposited, it quickly hardens. It collects primarily on the cheek (buccal) side of the premolars and molars, although it can occur in any tooth.

Periodontal disease results when the bacteria at the center of this plaque move under the gumline. There are many different bacteria in the mouth that start the process of plaque development. Some are aerobic, and live off the rich oxygen supply in the mouth (can you guess why the mouth has a rich oxygen supply?). As mentioned above, some of the bacteria in the plaque that migrate under the gumline go to an area of no oxygen, and are called anaerobic. The anaerobic ones tend to cause the most problem. Here is a list of some of their scientific names (warning-they are tongue twisters, so you better brush up on your Latin):

Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans

Bacteroides asaccharolyticus

Fusobacterium nucleatum

Eikenella corrodans

Porphyromonas gingivalis

Actinomyces viscous

These anaerobic bacteria cause an inflammatory reaction, and break down the periodontal ligament. The end result; the tooth rots out. Also, as these bacteria invade deeper into the tooth cavity they reach the blood supply to the tooth, and can enter the bloodstream where they cause significant damage to the liver, kidney, and heart. It can even predispose pets to diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). The problem does not end there when it comes to periodontal disease. It can also lead to spontaneous jaw fractures, deep seated bone infection, and cancer (neoplasia) at the affected tooth.

Since bacteria are the main culprit in periodontal disease, it makes sense that antibiotics will be used to treat the problem. The two main ones we use are Clavamox and Antirobe. In select cases, where it is impossible to clean the teeth professionally, we will sometimes use one of these antibiotics in what is called pulse therapy. They are given for one week each month indefinitely. They are reserved for cases where the heart or other internal organs are seriously diseased and unable to withstand the sedation needed for professional teeth cleaning. Antibiotics are certainly no replacement for professional cleaning, but have a place in some select cases to help minimize the bacterial load and the halitosis.

How do you prevent these bacteria from starting the problem all over again after the teeth are professionally cleaned? Use the preventive care products mentioned at the beginning of this page, and get your pet’s cleaned professionally without anesthesia (non-anesthetic dental) every 6 months.

Symptoms

Symptoms of dental disease can range from subtle to extreme. One of the most common symptoms is bad breath (halitosis). Sometimes a pet with dental disease will cry in pain when you touch it anywhere near its muzzle. Another symptom is a partial or complete inability to eat (anorexia). A pet that has this problem may eagerly go to the food bowl, and either just look at the food or drop the food out of its mouth after only a few bites. Other pets might drool from one or both sides of the mouth, or paw at the mouth. Unfortunately, many pets are stoic (do not show outwards signs of pain when it exists on the inside), and do not show any symptoms until the problem is well entrenched, and the roots are rotting and painful.

The important point to remember is the fact that once you notice any of these symptoms, your pet’s dental disease is already causing discomfort or pain, and even affecting other body organs. Therefore, it is important for you to be aware of the existence of this problem, to learn how to perform a basic oral exam at home, learn how to brush its teeth,  and to bring your pet in for regular (every 6 months) dental exams by one of our veterinarians. An exam every 6 months might seem like a lot to some people. Compared to the typical lifespan of a dog or cat, it is not very frequent. Your pet cannot tell you its mouth hurts, it is up to us, as a team, to ensure that this inevitable problem is properly monitored and treated before it causes discomfort and pain, and sometimes premature organ failure.

Stages of Gum Disease

Nature has a beautiful design with our teeth. The enamel on teeth is the hardest organ in the body, and it adheres to one of the most sensitive parts of the body, the gums.

caninenormalgingiva2

The close up shot of the gums of this normal dog are how healthy gums should look. Look at the detail of the gingiva (where the gums meet the tooth), and how adhered the gingiva is to the tooth.

caninenormalgingiva1

This is a healthy canine tooth with healthy gums

Stages of Periodontal Disease

There are 4 stages of periodontal disease. The first stage occurs when bacteria cause an invisible film of plaque to form on the teeth. The bacteria react with minerals and other debris that accumulate in the oral cavity, eventually causing tartar. You learned about his already in the biofilms section.

Dentistry-CanineToothTartar

This lower canine tooth has tartar and gingivitis, as evidenced by the inflamed gum at the base of the tooth. This means bacteria are already causing trouble below the gum line

periodontal-disease-stage-3

As the gingivitis and periodontal disease continues,  the underlying gum is pulled further away from the tooth.  The pocket of bacteria under the gumline in this tooth is significantly weakening the periodontal ligament and weakening the bone of the jaw.

Left untreated, the teeth eventually progresse to Stage IV periodontal disease. This tooth shows advanced periodontal disease as evidenced by the ulcerated gums (blue arrow), pus along the gum line, and severe tartar. When this happens your pet will experience pain and might be internally ill from the bacteria spreading to internal organs via the bloodstream. Pet’s with this problem are in jeopardy of internal organ failure.

Here is another dog with a similar problem. The tartar is so thick that it is literally holding the teeth in place! Notice how far up the inflamed gums are. In Stage IV periodontal disease the tartar can be so extensive that it is the only thing holding the teeth in the socket in some cases. When we remove the tartar the teeth literally fall out.  Its hard to believe that someone would let their dogs teeth progress this far. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation.

haironteeth1

Some dogs that chew on their skin due to allergies will get the hair wrapped around their teeth and erode the gums

haironteeth2

When we remove the hair the roots of the teeth are exposed due to the erosive nature of the hair on the gums.

haironteeth3

The arrows point to the exposed roots. This is painful, and the teeth need to be removed.

In some cases the infection under the gumline has eroded away the gum tissue that normally covers the root. If the tooth has 2 roots it will cause a hole to appear between the roots where the gum has eroded- this is called a furcation lesion.

This is one potential outcome when pets with periodontal disease are not treated. The teeth in this cat literally rotted out of its mouth. This situation is completely preventable. Fortunately, pets that have no teeth can still eat well, but that is small consolation for this cat. The years of chronic bacteria that were released into this cats bloodstream when the periodontal disease progressed from Stage I to Stage IV can seriously affect the internal organs and cause this cat to have premature organ failure.

This is another potential outcome for a pet that has periodontal disease. This dog’s lower jaw (mandible) is fractured at the chin because of long term periodontal disease. There are only two incisor teeth left. A wire needs to be put in to hold this jaw together. 

This is what the jaw looks like on a dog with healthy teeth

This is how we wire a jaw together so a pet has no pain and can eat. It is wrapped all the way around the jaw and anchored under the chin. It will need to stay in place at least one month.

The left arrow points to the wire on this radiograph . The large right arrow points to the diseased mandible where we removed rotten teeth. 

There are other serious complications that can occur when proper oral hygiene is neglected. This dog had a seriously infected tooth that created a fistula (arrow) into its upper jaw. Food will go into the passage and end up in the nasal cavity, which is not a place where food belongs. This dog will have chronic infections because of this, which can even lead to life-threatening pneumonia.

Heart Problems Secondary to Periodontal Disease

The heart is one of the internal organs that can be affected in advanced dental disease, because bacteria from the mouth infection can readily deposit on the heart valves (especially the mitral valve). Our heart page has extensive information if you would like to learn more.

This picture is from our heart page. The top arrow points to a normal valve leaflet. The bottom arrow points to a thickened valve leaflet, which could be the result of chronic bacteria from the mouth. The thickened and rounded lower leaflet causes the problem.

The thickened valve can malfunction and leak blood backwards through one of the chambers of the heart, instead of forward like intended. This turbulence of blood as it flows through this leaky valve can often be heard as a heart murmur. The potential result of this back pressure is congestive heart failure- a buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Fluid in the lungs will cause your pet to start coughing and feel very ill- it is a serious sign that requires immediate veterinary care.

In addition to heart (cardiac) problems, dental disease can affect the kidneys and the liver. These are both vital organs, and require a pet free from dental problems if they are to function properly. Some pets do not live a full life due to the chronic affect the bacteria has on their internal organs, leading to premature organ disease.

Diagnosis

As with any illness, the diagnostic process is carefully followed so that a correct diagnosis is made, and other problems that are a result of the dental disease (ex-heart murmur), or are occurring simultaneously (ex-kidney disease), are not overlooked. Since there are numerous diseases and conditions that can mimic dental disease, the diagnosis of dental disease must be performed by a veterinarian.

During a routine physical exam we will be be performing a complete examination, including the oral cavity. If dental disease is present, it is during this exam that we determine if your pet needs an anesthetic professional cleaning or a non-anesthetic professional cleaning. We can only perform a complete oral exam, looking at the tonsils, tongue, and back of the mouth, when your pet is anesthetized. This allows us to find oral foreign bodies, stomatitis, and cancers of the mouth, that we cannot see when your pet is awake.

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We never would have diagnosed the severe stomatitis in the back of this cat’s mouth without an oral exam under anesthesia. This is a painful condition and not a diagnosis that should be delayed. 

A complete oral exam is also performed during non-anesthetic dentals.  Due to the thorough nature of the non-anesthetic professional cleaning, we sometimes find problems that require an anesthetic professional cleaning.

We will also show you how to perform a basic oral exam so that you can monitor your pet’s progress at home. The oral exam is not complete until we exam your pets mouth (the medical term for the mouth is oropharynx) under anesthesia. Only then can we check for tumors, ulcers, gum disease, foreign bodies, and infections, and enlarged tonsils.

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A basic oral exam, which you can do at home, would have found this tumor on the gums long before it got this large

Pre-anesthetic Preparation

The first step in the process is yearly exams by one of our doctors, and more often if there is a medical problem of any kind or you pet is on chronic medication. Many people will have this yearly exam performed when their pet comes in for yearly vaccines. We will look inside the mouth and determine if any oral disease is present. If there is enough gum disease to warrant professional cleaning, pre-anesthetic tests will be ordered. We will also try to identify teeth that might need removal if there is an obvious problem.

For pets under 5 years of age a routine in-house blood panel will suffice in most cases. For older pets, or those with other problems, a more thorough blood panel will be ordered. These blood panels will let us know if your pet is ready for anesthesia, will check your pets health in general, and will allow us to assess any damage to the liver or kidneys from the chronic bacteria in the bloodstream. In addition, our doctors will sometimes recommend other tests prior to anesthesia. These tests commonly include radiographs of the lungs or abdomen, along with an electrocardiogram to assess the heart.

Our pre anesthetic diagnostic tests page covers these tests in more detail. Our doctor will analyze the results of the pre-anesthetic diagnostics tests and customize an anesthetic protocol for your pet. In many cases Intravenous fluids will be given prior to and during the professional cleaning. These fluids, when used in combination with pre-anesthetic tests, dramatically minimize the risk of anesthesia. as a final preparation prior to professional teeth cleaning one of our doctors might put your pet on antibiotics.

Anesthesia

When significant gingivitis is present proper dental care involves more than just scraping tartar off the teeth. Just scraping the tartar may temporarily make the teeth look better, but it is not addressing the real problem that occurs under the gumline. Thorough dental care involves scaling, probing, radiographing, flushing, measuring, fluoride and polishing. You will learn more about these in the next section. These treatments can only be accomplished on an anesthetized pet. It is not realistic to think that all of this can be accomplished on an awake pet, and be as thorough as we can on an anesthetized pet.

When these procedures are performed properly we can reverse the periodontal disease in some cases, and keep the teeth and gums healthier for a longer period of time. Since the risk of anesthesia is negligible with the precautions we take and the precise method available to administer and monitor anesthetic, it is well worth the negligible risk in order to clean the teeth and gums properly. In reality, the risk of disease occurring by not cleaning your pet’s teeth professionally is greater than the risk of anesthesia.

We have extensive experience in anesthetizing pets, especially the geriatric pets that so commonly have advanced dental disease. To minimize any anxiety you have over anesthetizing your pet, one of our doctors will personally discuss our anesthetic protocol with you and set up an anesthetic plan that is specific for your pet’s condition. Our anesthesia page has extensive detail on how we anesthetize animals.

Surgery-Monitor

We keep a close tab on important physiologic parameters for all of our surgeries. Monitors like this give us an early warning of an impending problem.

Professional Cleaning

This cleaning has four main components:

  1. Cleaning above the gum line with the ultrasonic scaler
  2. Cleaning under the gum line with special instruments
  3. Probing and examining of each tooth, with dental radiographs, to look for root decay and loss of bone
  4. Removal of rotten teeth
  5. Deep cleaning under the gum line with a curette, called root planing, to get at the bacteria and plaque in deep pockets
  6. Placing antibiotics on teeth with deep pockets in order to save them
  7. Antimicrobial medication to control the periodontal disease
  8. Oral sealants to prevent plaque buildup and the recurrence of the problem

Every pet is different, and we might do some or all of these procedures.

Oral Exam and Charting

The first aspect of the cleaning process is an examination of the complete oral cavity. It is only when a pet is sedated can this be completed thoroughly.

The arrow is pointing to a cyst in the mouth of this dog that was not seen until it was sedated. The owner did not know it was present, nor did this dog show any symptoms. We were able to remove it before it became a problem.

After our thorough oral exam we chart the problems encountered

Dental Unit

The equipment you will find in our hospital is the most advanced available. It allows us to provide a wide array of dental services.

We use a specialized ultrasonic scaler that is made for animal teeth

Radiology

Radiography is an important part of dental care and is commonly performed as the next step after the oral exam. During your pet’s oral exam under anesthesia our staff will measure the depth of the pocket on the teeth that have disease. If the depth is 4 mm or greater we might take a radiograph of the tooth to make sure the underlying jawbone and root are healthy. If the root or jawbone are not healthy the tooth needs to be removed or a root canal at a specialist needs to be performed.

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If there is a large pocket or bleeding occurs when we probe the tooth, we will radiograph it to see the roots

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Our dental x-ray machine is made specifically to radiograph animals

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The machine is automated, allowing us to rapidly take high quality radiographs

The high definition of these radiographs allows us to see problems that are not apparent during the oral exam. Here is the normal tooth radiograph you saw at the beginning of this page.

This radiograph shows a problem around the root. Do you see the dark, semicircular area around the root of the tooth in the very center of the picture? Compare it to the other root of this same tooth just to its right. This dark semicircular area radiographically is called lucency, and is an indication of deep seated infection in the tooth. It is painful and needs removing.

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In this radiograph the jaw bone has been eroded down to expose parts of the roots on both teeth. This is the furcation lesion shown earlier.

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Do you see the damage to the two teeth at the top right of this radiograph ?

Calculus Removal above and Below the Gumline

If the tartar is extensive, as it is with this dog, a special dental instrument is used to crack off large pieces of tartar before we use the scaler.

This enables us to clean the teeth faster, another method to minimize anesthetic time. It also reduces wear on the ultrasonic scaler tip.

Scaling teeth is greatly facilitated by a special instrument called an ultrasonic scaler, which you learned about earlier in this page. By vibrating tartar off the teeth with the scaler we cause minimal trauma to the tooth enamel. In addition, the rapid manner in which it removes the tartar minimizes anesthetic time. The gentle nature of the scaler allows us to clean under the gumline and not irritate the gums.

dental-scaler-water

The tip vibrates 18,000 times per second, and literally vibrates tartar off the teeth. It does not harm the enamel, and lets us clean the teeth faster than doing it by hand. It continually sprays water to minimize heat buildup which could irritate the gums.

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It has a special light to give us good visualization so we do not miss anything or harm the gums

Probing and Measuring

Here is a close-up of the probe. Each of the notches is 1 mm, the total length being 10 mm. Anything more than a 3 mm pocket under the gums in dogs, and 0.5 mm in cats, is significant.

Lets have a little fun and show you just how small 10 mm is, courtesy of Uncle Abe

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When we measured the depth of the pocket on this tooth it was obvious from the bleeding and the depth of the probe that periodontal disease is present and a radiograph is needed

If we think the bone loss seen on the radiograph is manageable, and the gum pocket is not too large, we can place a long acting local antibiotic, called Clindoral®, under the gumline. This will continually kill the bacteria causing the gingivitis. The ultimate goal is to save the tooth from advanced periodontal disease and the need to remove a rotten tooth. If the problem is too advanced for this treatment, we will remove the tooth.

Clincoral-periodontal-filler

It contains an antibiotic called Clindamycin

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It comes in a prepackaged syringe

Dentistry-Gel

It allows for precision placement of this antibiotic under the gums, with the long term goal of saving the tooth

In some pets the tooth problem is so severe that removal of the tooth is necessary. We make this determination only after probing, taking a radiograph, and exploring the option of using Doxirobe or Clindoral

Dentistry-NerveBlock

Before we extract a tooth we use a short acting and long acting local anesthetic, in addition to the general anesthetic currently being used. 

After removal of a tooth we suture the gums over the opening for faster healing, and to prevent food particles from going in the socket.

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This is the opening that remained after removing a severely infected canine tooth in this cat. The gums are hardened and the opening cannot be sutured closed. 

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If the opening cannot be sutured, we pack the opening with a special bone graft

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This is the opening with the bone graft in place

Root Planing

For the remaining teeth, root planing is probably the most critical step in the professional cleaning proces. By scraping the bacteria under the gumline with this special instrument we take care of the problem at its core. This can only be done on your pet when it is under anesthesia.

We use a specially designed instrument that is gentle yet thorough

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Root planing allows us to get at those bacteria under the gum line

Flushing the Gums

After the teeth are scaled and probed, and the roots have been planed to remove the originating bacterial cause, we spray them with chlorhexidine to further help eliminate the bacteria that are causing gingivitis. It is only after this point in the professional cleaning process that we have significantly decreased those billions of bacteria.

This special antibacterial reduces the bacteria burden in the mouth

Polishing

Polishing the teeth makes them look whiter. It also smoothes off the enamel surface and makes it more difficult for bacteria to adhere. Once bacteria get reestablished, the cycle of plaque leading to tartar and eventually gingivitis gets started all over again.

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The teeth are polished with the same instruments dentists use on us

Fluoride Treatment

One of the final steps in the cleaning process is the application of fluoride to prevent cavities. We bathe the teeth in fluoride for a few minutes, then rinse it off. It has a very nice smell, too bad we can’t transmit smells over the Internet. We even put fluoride on the teeth of pets when they are spayed or neutered to help protect their teeth when they get older.

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It smells good and is fun to watch as it foams up and covers the teeth

If the enamel on your pet needs a sealant, we use Oravet. It significantly reduces plaque and tartar formation by creating an invisible barrier that helps prevent bacteria from attaching to your pet’s teeth.

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Prevention

Just like in people, routine preventive care is critical to proper dental hygiene. This was discussed at the very beginning of this page. This saves your pet from extended periods of pain and unnecessary tooth loss, and can save you the expense of the veterinary care needed to treat advanced dental disease. Your pet’s teeth should be checked every 6-12 months by one of our doctors, especially if it has already had gingivitis and had its teeth cleaned. Any pet that has had periodontal disease should be checked every 3 months. One of these check ups can be accomplished when your pet is brought to our hospital for yearly booster vaccinations.

One of the most important things you can do to slow down the recurrence of dental disease is to brush your pets teeth. This will help keep the gums healthy and prevent tartar buildup on the teeth on the cheek side (buccal) of the mouth, although it does not work as well on the teeth on the tongue (lingual) side of the mouth. Even though this may sound like an impossible feat for an uncooperative pet, it is one of the best ways to prevent dental disease. Even though the teeth will eventually need professional cleaning again in the future (most people get their teeth cleaned several times per year), proper brushing will decrease the amount of dental disease that occurs and the number of times we will have to clean your pet’s teeth over its lifetime.

Due to the short life span of pets in relation to people, proper home care of your pet’s teeth becomes an important health measure. When brushing the teeth there are some common sense things to do to make the process go smoother. One of our technicians will demonstrate some of these techniques with one of our hospital cats (they love the attention). It is important to remain calm and patient, since for most pets having something put into their mouths is a new experience. With a little tincture of time, the procedure progresses smoothly. also, it is highly advantageous to start the brushing process at an early age.

Patience is the key! Try to do something positive (feeding it, playing or walking)  with your pet just after brushing to condition the behavior for the future. Try to make the whole process fun, and don’t ever let on that you are doing something good for your pet (kinda like child psychology- if its good for them they won’t do it). With your pet near you or on your lap, maybe while watching TV, let your pet get used to your finger near its mouth. Dipping your finger into a food or liquid your pet has acquired a taste for helps start the process smoothly. When it is comfortable with your finger, use a soft gauze to massage the gums and gently rub the teeth. a cotton tipped applicator can also be used. Eventually you want to progress to a toothbrush.

In smaller pets, especially cats, proper restraint is important. There needs to be a proper balance between too little and too much restraint, a balance that varies with each pet. This is especially true with cats. For smaller pets, placing them on a table will make the process go smoother. Larger pets can also be placed on a table, if feasible, or can be restrained on the ground. Only one or two people should be involved in the cleaning process, usually without children present. We have a complete page demonstrating this restraint technique.

Eventually, introduce a soft bristled toothbrush. These toothbrushes are available in our dental kits. A rubber finger brush can be used but a toothbrush is preferred. You should not use your personal toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth because the taste can upset their stomachs. Our dental kit has toothpaste that is specially made to be palatable to animals. These kits also have suggestions to make it easier to brush your pets teeth.

If you consider daily tooth brushing a chance to enhance your bond with your pet, you and your pet will find it more enjoyable. Brush the teeth in a slow and circular motion with a small amount of toothpaste. Its important to brush the outside of the teeth (the teeth up  against the lips and not the teeth up against the tongue) since that is where the plaque is most prevalent. If your pet is cooperative brush the insides next. Your goal is to brush at least 3 times per week. This will decrease plaque by 90%.

If you encounter resistance on a pet that normally lets you brush, or see blood or there are blood tinges on the toothbrush, smell any odor, see any inflamed area or swelling, or a buildup of tartar or inflamed gums, you should bring your pet in for an exam. If the tartar is significant it is time for a professional cleaning.

In some cases brushing is just not feasible. In these situations you can use the dental treatments recommended at the beginning of this page.

Congenital Abnormalities

Small breed dogs tend to have dental problems more often than large breed dogs. This may be due to the fact that they have smaller oral cavities and the teeth are forced closer together. Cats get comparatively few congenital problems regarding their teeth. Any condition where the teeth are not normally positioned is called a malocclusion.

Malocclusions are corrected only if there is a problem with mastication (chewing). Undershot jaw (lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw) is seen on occasion, and is prevalent in small dogs and in breeds like Bulldogs, Shih Tzu’s, and Lhasa apso’s. Overshot jaw (upper jaw protrudes beyond lower jaw) is similar to buck teeth in people.

Occasionally, a dog will not shed a deciduous tooth when a permanent tooth starts to come through the gums in the same location. These retained deciduous teeth, along with any extra teeth, should be removed because they will result in displacement of the permanent teeth. Problems of this nature are discovered by our doctors on routine exams. This enforces the importance of bringing in young pets for vaccines and exams at an early age.

Miscellaneous Dental Problems

Carnaissal Tooth abscess

The carnaissal tooth (upper 4th premolar) may become infected and result in the formation of an abscess around the root. This is a very painful condition and is often accompanied by fever, loss of appetite and depression. a classic symptom of the problem is discharge through the face below the eye. This tooth needs to be removedfor the problem to be corrected. It has a deep root and needs careful extraction to correct the problem.

Lymphoplasmocytic Gingivitis

This disease, seen almost exclusively in cats, is a specific inflammation of the the gum tissue. It is a painful and debilitating condition that is controlled but not cured. It is treated in various ways, including surgery with a laser.

Cracked Teeth

It is very common for pets, especially dogs, to break or loosen their teeth while playing or chewing. This can cause significant discomfort and predispose your pet to dental problems later on in life. Injured teeth are usually removed, under general anesthesia, to ensure that the whole tooth is removed, including the root. If the root is not removed there will be a continual problem. In some cases we will refer you to a specialist that will determine if the tooth can be saved.

This dog fractured its tooth by chewing rocks

It was so badly traumatized it had to be removed to prevent pain and infection going into the root of this tooth. This tooth has 2 deep and strong roots, so it has to be split in half with a high speed drill.

The tooth just after removal

Cavities (caries)

Due to the nature of their enamel, dogs and cats do not routinely develop cavities. If they do, the cavity looks like a black area on the tooth, usually seen at the gum line or on top of the molars. Cavities can lead to pain and difficulty in chewing. The usual treatment is extraction of the tooth, although we can refer you and your pet to a specialist in veterinary dentistry to fill the cavity and save the tooth.

Discolored Teeth

Discolored teeth are seen in some pets. This can be caused by diseases like Distemper, the administration of certain antibiotics during the first few months of life, or trauma. If you notice discolored teeth please bring your pet in for an exam to determine the cause of the problem and if treatment should be instituted. Teeth that are red stained or red tinged have internal bleeding and need dental care.Antibiotics like tetracycline, if used when your pet is young, can stain the teeth permanently

Worn Down Teeth

Worn down teeth are usually caused be chewing rocks, chains, and fences. This is a behavioral problem that should be corrected to prevent long term problems. also, dogs that continually chew or bite at the skin due to allergies or fleas will cause the incisor teeth to be worn down, sometimes all the way to the gum line.

This problem can be detected during a routine exam and corrected by prevention of chewing on itchy skin before the teeth get worn down too far

At this stage there is no way to correct the problem without extensive dental work with a specialist

Growths

Pets can get growths in the oral cavity, some of them can be benign, some malignant. Any growth or inflamed area in the mouth should be biopsied.

A benign gum growth that occurs usually in older dogs is called an epulis. The growth of the gum sometimes become so large that it covers a tooth almost completely.

This is the same growth as above 1 week after removal using the laser

What is the next step?

If one of our doctors feels your pet needs to have its teeth professionally cleaned there are several steps you should take:

  1. Make an appointment to have the teeth cleaned before you leave our office. This will give you greater flexibility in your scheduling and allow us to accommodate you as much as possible. One of our receptionist’s will give you a written price estimate based on the doctor’s written instructions.  An estimate will be given that covers all anticipated costs. Even though our estimates are very accurate, there may be slightly greater, and more often lesser, charges on the final bill. This might be because some teeth need removal or medication needs to be sent home, or even finding something on the oral exam while under anesthesia that was not readily visualized during the initial exam. If there is any significant change in the price we will call you before proceeding. Please leave a phone number where you can be reached.
  2. If one of our doctors feels your pet needs pre anesthetic diagnostic tests, have them obtained while you are here, or drop your pet off and return to pick it up later when the tests are complete. Any test samples sent out to our outside laboratory will be available the following morning. Please call our office after 10 AM the next day for these test results.
  3. The night before the teeth cleaning take away all food before you go to bed. It is OK for your pet to drink water in the morning. Our office opens up at 7:30 AM for drop offs. We appreciate having your pet in for its teeth cleaning by 8 AM.
  4. We will anesthetize your pet and clean its teeth sometime in the morning or early afternoon. One of our doctors will call you as soon as the procedure is complete.  It is very rare for a pet not to go home on the same day its teeth are cleaned. Your doctor will let you know if he plans on keeping your pet overnight. This might be because your pet is older or has a medical problem that requires us to monitor its progress in the hospital for an additional night. The best time to pick up your pet is in the late afternoon or early evening.  We are open until midnight every night for your convenience.You will be given written post dental instructions when you pick up your pet. If you have any questions after reading these instructions please let us know. Your pet may be groggy the first night. This is not because of the anesthesia, it is because of the pain injection many pets are given after their professional cleaning.
  5. Contact with children and other pets should be supervised by an adult the first night. Give it a small amount of water and soft food an hour after getting home. If it eats and there is no vomiting, give it some more food and water. It might experience some grogginess that evening because of the pain shot we give (some people welcome this, especially with young and active pets), but should be back to normal by the next morning. Please call us the next morning if you have any questions or you feel there is a problem (ex.-not eating, very lethargic).
  6. If we send your pet home with pain medication or antibiotics use them exactly as prescribed.
  7. Call us if your pet does not resume its normal activity and eating habits within 24 hours.
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