Does your dog’s breath stink? Does your cat’s teeth have a brown coating? These and other signs should trigger you to consider what might be going on with your pet’s dental health.
The majority of dogs and cats will develop dental issues sometime in their lives, oftentimes before the age of three. Periodontal disease affects both canines and felines and starts out as plaque, just like with humans. Not dealt with, plaque can lead to gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Dental health issues can lead to other medical issues. However, also like humans, such conditions can be abated.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Did you know you can brush your dog or cat’s teeth? Again like humans, consistent brushing can ward off dental disease.
Specialty toothbrushes, including finger brushes, and flavored toothpastes are created for pets. You can find these at many pet supply stores or your veterinarian. Don’t use people-oriented brushes or pastes – they can harm your pet.
Gradually introduce brushing to your animal, over the course of several days, even weeks. Cats especially dislike new things, like toothbrushes! Therefore, be patient but persistent – and gentle.
Brush your dog or cat’s teeth a few times a week and brush on the outside only. Praise your pet throughout the endeavor.
Why is Pet Dental Health Important?
A pet’s dental health isn’t just about teeth and gums; periodontal disease can affect your pet’s overall health. Kidney and liver disease can result from bacteria flowing from the mouth through the animal’s bloodstream. Sepsis can set in from blood infections. Your pet’s heart can also be negatively impacted from poor dental health, and in particular in small dogs, bone infections can develop.
With cats, an erosion in the tooth called feline resorptive lesions (FRLs) is fairly common, in both young and old kitties. According to International Cat Care, more than 70% of cats five years and older have at least one FRL. “The cause of FRLs is unknown but cells called odontoclasts (which break down the substance of the tooth) are found in the erosions,” according to the website.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Keep your pet’s mouth and teeth healthy and you’ll also keep him/her healthier overall!
Access a PDF Guide on How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth, from Petfinder.com, here: https://d17fnq9dkz9hgj.cloudfront.net/uploads/2018/08/brushing-your-pets-teeth.pdf
Click here to watch a veterinarian brush an animal's teeth and learn more about why dental health is so important:
Does the quality of your pet’s food matter to you? It should. Just like what we put into our mouths and stomachs determine our overall health, the same is true of our pets. What we feed them matters. If people tried to live on potato chips, cookies, and cupcakes, our health would be negatively affected in many ways. What our pets digest can also negatively, or positively, impact their health.
Obesity and cancer are two major health concerns in both humans and pets. Therefore, both species need proper nutrition to combat these, and other, health issues. According to the Pet Nutrition Alliance, our pets “need over 30 essential nutrients including protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.” Even though their needs are the same, dogs and cats have different nutrient requirements.
There are many and varied pet foods on the market. Some are less expensive but also possess the least amount of quality nutrition. Ingredients such as corn and wheat have become less acceptable due to several factors, including that, in the wild, canines and felines don’t eat such products. Coyotes, wolves, bobcats and cougars and carnivores; therefore, our dogs and cats require protein. Reading labels is an important way to know what’s in your pets’ food. For example, is the food comprised of meat or meat by-product? There’s a difference. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, meat is “the muscle tissue of the animal, but may include fat, gristle and other tissues normally accompanying the muscle, similar to what is sometimes seen in raw meat sold for human consumption,” and meat by-product is “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents.”
How do you choose your pet’s food? If you don’t want to read hundreds of labels, or if you want a place to start, there are many online reviewing sites. One such site, PetFoodReviewer.com, started last year and doesn’t contain information on all dog and cat foods, but could be a good resource starting point. DogFoodAdvisor.com and DogFoodGuru.com are two other good sites to research. These sites also provide a listing of recalls. For cat food, check out Reviews.com, We’re All About Cats, and Catological. The American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also maintains a list of pet food and treat recalls. Check their website to find out about any recalls: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/RecallsWithdrawals/default.htm.
Nearly all experts tell us to not feed human food/table scraps to our pets. However, some people prefer to make their own pet food at home. Although that’s a subject for another newsletter, with Christmas on the horizon, there may be plenty of leftovers you’re not sure what to do with. The folks at Personal Creations, who shared a post last month, created a guide on using leftovers to create pet treats; in that guide, they also have a list of foods that are good for pets (such as pumpkin and turkey) and foods to avoid giving to pets (mushrooms, turkey skin, and onions). If you didn't see that publication previously, you can find it by clicking here: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/thanksgiving-pets.
As you shop for your pets and for pet lovers on your Christmas list, look for nutritious foods and treats to keep your beloved animals healthy!
In related news, PetCo recently announced it will stop selling pet food and treats which contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Read more here: http://www.petproductnews.com/News/Petco-Plans-to-Stop-Selling-Food-and-Treats-with-Artificial-Ingredients/
Most of us have experienced cancer in our lives, whether in ourselves, a friend, a family member, or a pet. I’ve lost two dogs to cancer during the past 20 years. The disease came on suddenly in both dogs, and one of them, Sage (our blind springer spaniel) died less than two weeks of the diagnosis.
Experts estimate nearly 12 million dogs and cats are diagnosed with cancer every year. Nearly 50 percent of pet disease-related deaths are due to cancer. According to PetPlan’s Guide to Pet Cancer website, one in four dogs will develop a tumor at some point in their lives,
Cats don’t seem to get cancer as often as dogs, but cats also mask pain and disease well, so it’s often more difficult to detect feline cancer by cat owners. Lumps and bumps are ways to notice potential cancer as well as vomiting and diarrhea. One of the most common cat cancers is lymphoma, which oftentimes shows few symptoms.
A seven-part docu-series is set to begin this week to help pet parents learn and understand more about this deadly disease. Starting Wednesday, April 4, you can watch the free series, which features 30 pet health experts. Ty Bollinger, the founder of The Truth About Cancer, has created this program, The Truth About Pet Cancer. Learn more and watch the documentary trailer here; you can also sign up to receive emails with links to the free seven-part series at this same website: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), nearly half of dogs over 10 years of age will develop cancer. Many different breeds are susceptible to cancer, including Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, basset hounds, boxers, and Boston terriers. Dogs suffer from many of the same cancers as humans, including prostrate, bladder, mouth, lymph nodes, and brain tumors. Some cancers develop in the nose, causing nose bleeds. A cocker spaniel I adopted in 1989 died ten years later, at age 12 ½ from cancer that began in his nasal cavity.
Although there is no sure-way to prevent cancer claiming our pets, there are some things we as pet parents can do to help off-set the chances of the disease. Here are a few ideas:
Cancer is a terrible disease, and though cures still allude scientists, doctors, and veterinarians, we can all do something to lessen this deadly pestilence in ourselves and our pets, that includes greater knowledge through the upcoming docu-series. Sign up here: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/.
For many people, January brings thoughts of better health – new year, new you. We can also resolve to get (or keep) our pets healthier, even if we haven’t started yet. One of the easiest ways for people, and pets, to become (or stay) healthier is by walking.
January is Walk Your Pet Month. Here are five good reasons to walk your pet:
If your dog is one of those that doesn’t walk well on a leash, and therefore, you avoid walks with your canine friend, there are many avenues you can take to train him/her. One includes visiting PetCo or PetSmart and enrolling in a training program offered at the store or enrolling in a class offered by your local Kennel Club chapter. Another is to hire a trainer. Or, you can do it yourself by reviewing instructions on sites like YouTube. There are also many great articles online about training your dog, including ones by Cesar Milan and the American Kennel Club, which you’ll find below:
Dogs aren’t the only pets that can be trained to walk on a leash – ferrets can as well and so can cats. Both my mother and I have had cats that were leash-trained, and when I visited and volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah, I took one cat for a walk on a leash and took another for a stroll in a baby buggy. Walking on a harness and leash allows kitties to explore the outdoors and breath fresh air safely. Learn how to train your cat to walk well on a leash by visiting this Best Friends’ site: https://bestfriends.org/resources/walking-cat.
Even though winter is upon us, walking with your pet outdoors can still be done. See the infographic below, created by NorthStar VETS of New Jersey, on how to walk safely outdoors with your pet during the cold and snowy months.
Keep your New Year’s resolution to get and stay healthy – and resolve to keep your pet healthy, too, – by sharing quality walks with your furry friend.
Your pet is your best friend, always giving you endless love and (sometimes slobbery) kisses. While your furry friend enjoys playing with toys and sleeping on a soft bed, there is one thing your pet loves as much as you: food! Although kibble is acceptable, it’s time to treat your best friend to something yummy and delicious.
With so many pet food and treat recalls during the past few years, many people are turning to, or considering using, homemade dog and cat food and treats. There are pluses and minuses: the major plus is that you know for sure what you’re feeding your pets; the minuses include time to prepare/cook and ensuring your furry one is receiving the proper nutrition it needs.
Barbara Laino, the author of "The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook" and owner of an organic farm in New York, teaches people how to make quality dog and cat food (she also teaches how to make better people food as well). She says the foundation for a good pet food diet is variety.
“I believe much of the recent food allergy problem has developed from feeding the same thing every day,” says Laino. “Yet, this is probably one of the most controversial parts of the homemade diet. Somehow it has reached the point that people are scared they can’t balance their dog’s food properly.”
Raw diet vs. cooked food is another debated concept. To this thought, Laino says, “I think people get hooked on the raw concept, but it’s not all about raw. Whatever you feel comfortable with, whether it’s boiling chicken breasts or grinding raw chicken necks … any time you’re preparing food using fresh ingredients, it’s going to be a thousand times better than what you’re getting from kibble.”
Budget and time can be a constraint for pet owners. Laino says there is a way to improve your pet’s health without going totally to homemade food.
“You can take a scoop of good kibble and combine it with carrots, honey or a whole egg,” she explains. “Another one is canned salmon, which is super-easy and convenient. If you do nothing else, add a little canned salmon to your dog’s kibble every day. It’s one of the healthiest things you can do.”
Keep in mind, however, that changing your pet’s diet shouldn’t be done abruptly. Introduce new foods slowly, whether that be raw, homemade cooked, or even a new brand of commercial bagged or wet food.
Learn more about creating homemade pet food at these websites:
Treats for pets are often seen on a recall list. The latest are rawhide chews for dogs. You can make pet treats at home, once again being sure of the ingredients in the goodies. Here are three websites to visit for homemade treat recipes:
For Dogs: http://www.personalcreations.com/blog/dog-treat-recipes
For Cats: https://iheartcats.com/5-easy-diy-cat-treat-recipes/
Ensure your pet isn’t eating the wrong things by cooking for your pet and controlling what ingredients go into your furry friend’s food and treats.
Additionally, keep track of recent pet food recalls by visiting this website periodically if you do continue to feed commercial kibble and wet food to your pet: https://www.avma.org/news/issues/recalls-alerts/pages/pet-food-safety-recalls-alerts.aspx
This site shows dog food and treat recalls: https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-recalls/
This web page shows the cat food recalls as well as dog food recalls: http://www.petful.com/recall-lists/cat-food-recalls/
Our pets depend on us for nutrition, fun, and safety, so let us pet parents do our best to safeguard their health.
I wrote a blog post earlier this year regarding keeping our pets healthy by feeding them quality food. Whether you’re just adopting a new pet or you have lived with your furry friend for many years, proper nutrition is a good way to ensure a healthy pet. Since that post back in January, I’ve been approached by a few pet food reviewing sites with added information; therefore, I’m re-posting part of that article and adding some information they provided.
Obesity in pets, like humans, is on the rise. Activity, or lack thereof, plays a role; so does food. Additionally, pet food and treat recalls are, sadly, very common. The ingredients in pet food has become more and more questionable, especially for products made outside of the United States; however, even pet food and treats made in the USA have problems. Purina, a well-known company based in St. Louis, Missouri, had a large class-action lawsuit brought against it in 2015, and Diamond, which has incorporated many small brands, experienced many recalls, including a large one in 2012. How can we as pet owners ensure our beloved animals are receiving quality nutrition? By reading research.
The website HerePup recently posted a review of dog food brands. The article includes other important, relevant information, such as what foods dogs should and should not eat, best types of foods for specific diets and health issues, and dog foods for specific dog breeds. You may find this information very helpful since the post is from earlier this month: https://herepup.com/dog-food/
In March 2017, Reviews.com updated a report from the previous year regarding dog food brands, interviewing pet owners and food researchers. In that report, they listed dog food brands that they believe provide the best nutrition and have the safest ingredients. Although lengthy, the report is filled with important information for dog owners. I discovered that a brand recommended by my veterinarian for my allergy-afflicted dog is NOT on the list; in fact, that brand, Royal Canin, was cut from the “good quality” list because of the ingredients. Other often vet-recommended foods, such as Hills Science Diet, was also on the “naughty list.” Two foods which are sold at one of my local pet supply stores, one at which I worked part-time several years ago, is on the “nice list;” those foods are Fromm and Nature’s Logic. I will likely explore these brands as options for my dog. Read the entire report at this website: http://www.reviews.com/dog-food/.
Reviews.com also produced an updated report regarding top-quality cat food. The researchers analyzed the ingredients of 1,700 cat food formulas and examined more than 100 brands. They came up with a list of top 10 cat foods, all from different companies. They eliminated foods with artificial ingredients, preservatives, and dyes. Once again, Royal Canin made the “naughty list” as did many others, including Natural Balance, Purina, Meow Mix, and Iams. Read this important report and learn what brands were given top ratings and why at this website: http://www.reviews.com/cat-food/.
Although many of the top brands of dog and cat food are higher priced than Purina or other grocery store-type foods, if your pet experiences health issues, such as kidney failure, due to ingredients in its food, what savings are you gaining should you incur high veterinary bills? Or worse, your pet dies?
Giving our pets quality nutrition is as important for their health as us eating good food is for our own health. Consider these reports and reviews to help you select the best food for your best furry friend!
Summer is approaching, and in many parts of the U.S. the season has already arrived, with highs in the 90s and above. Spring and summer warmth can impact our pets, in big and small ways, including tiny, pesky pests.
Fleas and ticks can cause significant irritation and great harm to our dogs and cats. According to Web MD, fleas, though tiny, can eat 15 times their own weight in blood, causing anemia in a dog or cat. Fleas cause itching and are known to be the most common cause of skin disease in dogs and cats. Ticks can bring Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever not only to humans, but to our pets as well.
During the nicer weather of spring and summer, many of our animals spend more time outside. Running through grass, exploring woodlands, and encountering other pets while outdoors can bring your dog or cat into contact with fleas and ticks. And your pets can bring these pesky critters into your home. But, you can restrain that exposure.
A myriad of preventive programs can curb these pests, and therefore, decrease a pet parent's worry. Talk with your veterinarian about how to prevent fleas and ticks from infecting and affecting your dog or cat. You can purchase preventive measures from your vet directly or from a local pet supply store and even online. You may also want to consult the Pet MD website for more information on fleas and ticks, which includes a Flea and Tick Survival Guide: http://www.petmd.com/flea-tick-survival-guide#.
Learn more about fleas and ticks and their impact on pets at http://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-flea-and-tick-overview.
These aren’t the only minute pests to be concerned about. Biting flies and gnats can be obnoxious to humans and their animals and may sometimes carry disease. Mosquitoes also pester people and animals. Fur provides some protection, but ears and noses are vulnerable. Living and spending time near a water source makes you and your furry friend more susceptible to swarms of mosquitoes; therefore, protect yourself and your pets from these blood-suckers. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus as well as heartworm, a major disease affecting dogs; cats can get heartworm, too. This disease is now in every state, not just the southern part of the U.S. as it once was. View heartworm incident maps at https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/incidence-maps, and learn more about heartworm prevention at this website: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?articleid=580.
Dogs and cats can be allergic to tiny problematic creatures like ticks and mosquitoes. My springer/cocker mix, Mary, for example is allergic to many environmental objects, including grass, some trees, and mosquitoes. The only way my husband and I knew what allergies she has was to get her tested. Yes, it's an outlay of money, but we now know how best to help her and we know to protect her from mosquitoes. So, when we plan to travel to a lake or river, my husband and I make sure Mary is protected from mosquitoes, biting flies, and other tiny, potential disease-carrying pests.
Being outdoors is fun for us and for our pets, particularly our dogs. But remember there are tiny creatures out there just waiting for a warm body, ours and our animals, on which to inhabit. Therefore, take the needed precautions and purchase those preventative remedies to keep your pet from being infected by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Talk with your veterinarian about how to keep your furry friend safe and healthy.
Just like human medicine, the cost of medical care for our beloved pets can be high. For example, my dog Mary suffers from allergies; her injections cost nearly $300 a year plus she takes daily medication that costs nearly $70 per month. Vaccinations can run $20 to $30 and annual exams nearly $50. Health care for a person’s pet is oftentimes a reason someone will give up that pet (i.e., medication costs) or will ask a vet to euthanize the animal. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yet, what is a pet owner, who lives on minimum wage or is working two or more jobs and caring for a family, to do, especially with unplanned, emergency veterinary bills? There are several options.
First, explore low-cost vaccination clinics and spay/neuter clinics. Oftentimes various animal welfare organizations will team up with veterinarians to offer such services. For example, my community’s Humane Society pairs with a local vet to offer monthly low-cost vaccination clinics, and occasionally the local city/county animal shelter teams up with a vet to provide low-cost microchip clinics. Learn what’s available in your community for such services.
Second, talk with your veterinarian about a payment plans. Some vets will take monthly or twice-a-month payments; however, many do not. It does not hurt to ask. If your vet is one of those who doesn’t accept payment plans, here are a few other choices for you to consider to help with the financial aspects of your pet’s health care:
We all want to keep our furry friends as healthy as possible, but sometimes the expense can be challenging. Investigate these options and see if one if right for you. Additionally, here is a website that gives more information on how people can find help to pay their veterinary bills: https://www.paws.org/cats-and-dogs/other-services/help-with-veterinary-bills/.
My dog Mary turned 11 recently, and during the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a bit of a “hitch in her get-along.” She’s missed the bed at least twice when she’s attempted to jump up on it, and after a night of sleep, she’s appeared a bit stiff. What do dog owners do when their canine companions begin to experience stiffness, soreness, and arthritis?
I wrote a similar article regarding cats and arthritis last year. Unlike with cats, pet parents can usually tell when their dogs are experiencing trouble with joints. Cats can tolerate a great deal of pain without showing signs; that’s been the case with my two cats, who will be 12 years old in August. However, with my current dog, Mary, and dogs I’ve previously owned that turned 11, 12, or 13 years old, the stiffness and pain they experienced was evident: when they rose from sleeping on a dog bed (or in my bed), when they attempted to jump on furniture and either seemed hesitant or when they missed the mark, and as the temperature went down during winter months.
So, what can we as dog owners do to help our furry friends? There are many products on the market; here’s a short list:
A list of helpful products is available on the Drs. Foster & Smith website:
and also at PetCareRX:
DogsNaturally provided information on holistic treatment; read that article here:
Management of arthritis in dogs comes down to three primary things: slowing the progression of the dog's joint condition; improving your dog's comfort; and encouraging your dog to move with moderate activity like walks or swimming. Experts also recommend keeping your dog at a healthy weight, which includes feeding proper food and low-calorie treats as well as providing exercise.
Keeping our senior dogs comfortable and healthy is a significant part of our job as pet guardians. Help your dog age more gracefully and more healthy by alleviating its joint discomfort using some of the tips given – by doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy life together longer and with less pain.
People love their pets, but admittedly, they can cost pet parents a lot of money. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), people in the United States spent more than $60 billion dollars on their furry friends in 2015, up $2 billion from the previous year. About 80 million households have pets, with dogs making up the majority of furry friends: more than 54 million. The APPA estimates the average American family spends more than $1,600 on a dog’s vet bills and more than $1,100 on kitty health.
According to an article on TheSimpleDollar.com, which references the APPA report, “the costs of veterinary care have risen faster than inflation.” Between medical exams/wellness care, vaccinations, dental procedures, and operations (including spay/neuter), pet health care, like people health care, is a significant expense. Pet insurance may help.
There are several national pet insurance carriers, including the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Nationwide, Trupanion, PetFirst, HealthyPaws, and PetsBest. Deductibles vary, and some plans reimburse 70 to 90 percent of a veterinary bill. Plan costs vary, depending upon the deductible, coverage, type and age of pet.
But, how does one choose a plan and a company? Luckily for pet parents, some of the research has already been done. Consumer Advocate, for example, ranks companies based on reviews. A person can select their state to see if coverage is available.The Canine Journal has also reviewed and ranked pet insurance companies.
Additionally, The Simple Dollar recently released a guide on pet insurance companies. The author of the report used his own pets as examples in comparing companies and plans.
Another guide to pet health insurance can be found here:
I’ve never carried health insurance on my pets, but I’ve often considered it. A friend of mine, however, does pay for pet insurance, and she believes having such coverage is a great benefit. She is an individual on a fixed income due to a disability. My friend had a cat who lived to be nearly 17 years of age; that cat became diabetic at about age 12. The added expense of insulin was covered on her pet insurance plan, and as the cat grew older and more health problems developed, she found having pet health insurance a wonderful asset. So, for those of us who don’t carry pet insurance, it may be something to consider. Having resources such as that provided by The Simple Dollar, The Canine Journal, and Consumer Advocate can help pet parents review plans and premiums and decide if pet insurance is something to expend money on.
To insure or not insure is a question to consider no matter what type or age of pet you have.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.