Why is dental care important for pets?
Teeth are important and invaluable to healthy dogs and cats. Surveys have shown that nearly 75% of dogs and cats have gum disease, tartar or loose teeth. Pets don’t show signs of sore teeth and gums in the same way that humans do, so most times dental decay goes unnoticed. Any brown deposits you notice on your pet’s teeth are only the tip of the iceberg! Poor oral health also causes organ dysfunction and a shortened lifespan.
How do I examine my pet for dental problems?
Dogs’ and cats’ healthy teeth are white and shiny all the way to the gum-line. There should be no yellow or brown discolouration, especially near the gums. Lift the lip and take a peek and a good sniff. Bad breath is an early warning sign that bacteria have colonised the mouth. It is very rare to ever see plaque on the tips of the teeth, but since the cone-shape of the tooth breaks the food they are chewing, the abrasive action never reaches the gum-line. Plaque builds up and the bacteria damage the gums.
The gums should be pale pink in colour. A bright red line where the gum meets the tooth or a rounded raised gum next to the tooth is the early sign of gum disease. This begins a cycle that will end in gum abscesses and tooth loss. Food builds up in the gap and bacteria grow and produce tartar which fixes to the teeth and makes the pocket between the tooth and gum deeper. With time this hardens and keeps the vicious cycle going.
The tartar and bacteria will damage the tough tissue (periodontal ligament) that keeps the tooth anchored in the bony socket. Damage to this is called periodontal disease and precedes tooth loosening and loss as the infection goes to the root of the tooth. Damage to this ligament is irreversible, even with cleaning. It’s not just teeth are affected. Bacteria can enter the blood system and travel all over the body. These bacteria can form small cauliflower-like growths on tissues such as heart valves. They can also cause damage to the kidneys due to the production of antibodies that prevent the kidneys from filtering the blood properly. The patient eventually dies of chronic kidney disease.
Treating a problem case
The only way to remove tartar and plaque and treat diseased gums is under general anaesthetic using both ultrasonic and hand operated dental cleaners. Once cleaned, we polish the teeth with a rotary polisher. This makes the teeth shiny, but more importantly makes them smooth and so less likely to accumulate more tartar. Decayed teeth and any with deep pockets, abscesses, and exposed roots are usually extracted at this time also.
One way to slow the formation of tartar on your pet’s teeth is by brushing them with a soft brush and pet toothpaste. However, most pets won’t tolerate this.
The best way is with a unique veterinary pet food
We can now use a special light source to diagnose plaque on your pet’s teeth. It is essential to have this plaque or tartar removed, and the teeth polished under general anaesthetic. We will then start your pet on suitable veterinary pet food to help minimise any further plaque/tartar problems.
How do I know if my pet has ear mites?
Have you noticed your pet shaking his/her head excessively? Are they constantly itching the outer ear with a hind-leg, or rubbing an ear along the ground? Has your pet become ‘head shy’, meaning they don’t like to be touched around the ears and face?
Your pet may be suffering from Ear Mites, one of the most common parasites in pets. Ear mites are common parasitic spiders that live in the ear canals of more than 50% of dogs, cats and foxes. It all starts when the mites irritate the lining of the ear canal while crawling around inside the ear. This irritation causes the lining to excrete serum from the blood stream. This mixes with the ear wax and forms a hard black material that blocks the canal. The stopping of the normal airflow in the ear provides the perfect opportunity for fungi and bacteria to attack the ear canal lining.
Most animals don’t show signs of simple mite infestation on its own, while some animals are hypersensitive to them. Often, one pet in a household may be severely affected while another might show no signs but act as a ‘reservoir’. Then bacteria and fungi invade as secondary agents and will cause a severe external ear canal infection and much irritation and discomfort for your pet, when you will notice the behaviour described above.
We use an otoscope to examine the ears and may see the little, white mites scurrying about. Sometimes the black, crusty wax in the ear canals and on the ear flaps hides the mites.
Treatment begins with the removal of the earwax in conjunction with a ‘spot-on’ treatment to kill the mites. Pouring medication into a waxy ear will not kill the mites or the bacteria and fungi that are irritating the canal lining. We use special ear cleaning solutions for this, and make sure the ear is dry after cleaning. It is also critical that no waxy discharge is pushed deeper into the ear during this stage. Please don’t use Q tips at home to clean your pet’s ears! Every bit of the black, crusty exudate must be removed from the ear canal before any medication will work. This is best accomplished by gently flushing the ear canal. Some pets will allow their owners to do this at home while others may need to be done in the veterinary hospital under sedation. If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from ear mites, have your vet do a check up and we will advise you on how to carrying on the treatment at home.
How safe is anaesthesia for my pet?
Veterinary anaesthesia is very safe and the benefits outweigh the risks. You are welcome to talk through any specific concerns you have with us, to ensure that you have peace of mind prior to signing the consent form. As in human medicine, anaesthetic risk is quite low. We monitor all patients throughout anasethesia manually and with pulse oximetry. For the very young pets and for older pets that have pre-existing conditions, the risk is slightly higher. We minimise the risks prior to an anaesthetic by discussing the procedure and possible pre-anaesthetic blood tests with you prior to signing the consent form.
Why types of anaesthetic are there?
The term ‘anaesthesia’ literally means ‘without feeling’. There are two broad types. One is local, where the nerves supplying a specific part of the body are prevented from carrying the pain sensation to the brain. The other is general anaesthesia, which causes varying degrees of unconsciousness, and prevents the brain from registering the pain impulses it receives from the stimulated area. General anaesthesia is often used in the broadest sense to describe levels of anaesthesia ranging from mild sedation, to unconsciousness and full surgical anaesthesia.
The aim of general anaesthesia is to keep the animal asleep, free from feeling pain during surgery and no memory of the procedure when they wake up. Some procedures only require a level of anaesthesia between sedation and unconsciousness, while neutering or orthopaedics require deep anaesthesia. At our Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital we use gas and injectable anaesthesia depending on the patient and the procedure.
Gas anaesthetics are more controllable than injectable ones. With gas, the windpipe is intubated with a tracheal tube which is connected to the anesthesia machine. On the end of the tube is a little balloon which is inflated once the tube is placed inside the windpipe. This seals off the windpipe so that we know just how much oxygen and gas the patient is getting. Intubation also creates a safety factor. If the pet should slow down on breathing, we can very easily assist until the patient is stabilised. We use a gas called Isoflurane mixed with oxygen.
When we turn off the gas our patients recover and are sitting upright in less than 20 minutes. When using gas anaesthesia if the patient gets a little too deep, you can very easily back down on the quantity of anaesthetic being administered. It costs a little more, but our patients are safer and they go home wagging tails rather than staggering like a drunk. Injectable anaesthetics are useful for short procedures. Many of the modern ones can be reversed with an ‘antidote’ and the recovery is rapid. The most important thing during anaesthesia is pain relief. All our patients are monitored for pain even though we use painkillers preventatively in all surgical procedures.
Why might my pet need blood tests before surgery?
Blood tests give us useful information about your pets overall health. We use pre-anaesthetic blood tests as the results allow us to change the anaesthetic or fluids protocol and even the type of surgical technique. The more information we can have on the health of your pet the better.
For routine tests we use our in house blood analysers, while more detailed investigations may be sent to a specialist laboratory by courier. Higher risk animals need to have their liver and kidney functions assessed to see if they can cope with the lowered blood pressure of anaesthesia, as well as oxygen carrying ability.
We would always advise and prefer a pre-anaesthetic blood screen for every patient but it is a fact that for low risk patients, it is not routinely used and most owners are happy that the risk is minimal in a healthy animal.
However, we do recommend blood tests for the older patient, high-risk cases, and patients whose wellness check showed any abnormality during his/her last visit. These tests are stored in the clinical file and, even if normal will be used to compare to any future results should it be needed.
What is typical cat ‘behaviour’?
Cats are different to dogs. Your cat has unique characteristics that have evolved over the centuries to make them the unique species that they are today. How many of these traits do you recognize in your feline friend?
Inertia: A cat at rest will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by some outside force – such as the opening of cat food, or a nearby scurrying mouse!
Motion: A cat will move in a straight line, unless there is a really good reason to change direction.
Magnetism: Cats are drawn to dark colours. A dark fabric, such as a blue blazer or black sweater, will attract cat hair in direct proportion to the darkness of the fabric
Stretching: A cat will stretch to a distance proportional to the length of the nap just taken.
Sleeping: All cats must sleep with people whenever possible.
Thermodynamics: Heat flows from a warmer to a cooler body, except in the case of a cat, where all heat flows to the cat.
Acceleration: A cat will accelerate at a constant rate, until he gets good and ready to stop.
Elongation: A cat can make her body long enough to reach just about any counter top that has anything remotely interesting on it.
Rugs & Furniture: A cat’s desire is to scratch furniture, they don’t know how much it cost!: No rug will remain flat for very long.
Training: A cat’s resistance varies in proportion to a human’s desire for her to do something.
Energy Conservation: Cats use as little energy as possible and replenish stores by a lot of napping
Patience: A cat can watch a refrigerator for as long as it takes for someone to come along and take out something good to eat.
Readiness to act: Turn on an electric blanket and a cat will jump into bed at the speed of light.
How do you give a cat a pill?
Cats are notorious for their ability to stay drug free in spite of the best efforts of vets, nurses and owners. The following instructions are the results of years practical experience of experts in the field!
You might be lucky and succeed at step one, but for most people, it takes a few attempts and a large dose of patience and sanity. Good luck! Remember, you’re the boss!
1. Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding the pill in your right hand. As your cat opens his/her mouth, pop in the pill. Allow your cat to close its mouth and swallow before letting go.
2. If that has failed: Retrieve the pill from the floor and your cat from behind sofa. Cradle your cat in your left arm and repeat step 1.
3. If steps one and two have failed, retrieve your cat from the bedroom and throw the soggy pill away. Take a new pill from the foil wrap, cradle your cat in your left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force the jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with your right forefinger. Hold your cat’s mouth shut for a count of 10.
4. Still no good? Retrieve the pill from your cup of tea and your cat from the top of the cabinets. Get a family member to help. Kneel on the floor with your cat wedged firmly between your knees. Hold its front and rear paws firmly. Ignore any low growls emitted by your cat. Get the other person to hold your cat’s head firmly with one hand while forcing a wooden ruler into its mouth. Drop the pill down the ruler and rub your cat’s throat vigorously.
5. Still not swallowed it? Retrieve your cat from the curtain rail. Bin the soggy tablet and get another pill from the foil wrap. Carefully sweep up any shattered ornaments. Wrap your cat in a large towel and get your friend to stretch out flat on top of your cat with its head just visible from below their armpit. Put the pill in the end of a drinking straw. Force your cat’s mouth open with a pencil and blow down the drinking straw. Drink a glass of water and make sure your friend is not scratched.
6. No luck still? Retrieve your cat from your neighbour’s shed or ring the fire brigade to retrieve your cat from a tree across the road. Don’t take the last pill from the foil-wrap. Bring your cat into us to do the job. We promise a hot cup of tea or coffee to restore your sanity!
How can I tell if my cat is spraying/ marking?
Urine spraying constitutes 44% of all cat owners’ house soiling complaints. You have to decide if it is normal urination outside of the litter box or is it spraying? Which cat is doing it? Many times in multi-cat households the owners can’t tell which cat is the culprit. How long it has been occurring?
A one-time occurrence you will probably ignore. If it has been going on for a long time, such as, up to five years, it may be near to impossible to stop. Just because you bought a new carpet or home doesn’t mean much to a Kitty who is not trained to use the litter box. If the cat is avoiding or missing the litter box, this is not marking. Normally, a cat almost assumes a sitting position. The rear legs are bowed out slightly and the tail is held rigidly – usually in a rearward position. This is normal urination and is not spraying or marking.
On the other hand, when marking, short spurts of urine are forcefully ejected on vertical surfaces like chair or table legs, walls, windows and curtains. On occasion, specific items like pillows, a person’s dirty clothes or favourite chair is singled out. The cat is standing and twitches the near vertical tail and sometimes paws at the floor with the back paws. THIS IS URINE MARKING OR SPRAYING.
It also helps to determine where it is occurring. Urine spraying occurs near doors or windows where cats can see outdoors, especially when strange cats are hanging around outside. On other occasions, items belonging to a certain individual are singled out and sprayed. These objects are associated with a less than pleasurable experience for the cat. Marking can be an expression of anger, stress or frustration! Looking at this information, we should be able to tell whether the Kitty is simply urinating outside of the litter box or if it is truly marking/spraying.
Some facts and reasons for urine spraying
Urine spraying is often sexually related. Tomcats spray during mating season or some queens do so to attract males during oestrus. Resident cats may scent mark or spray when:
Uncomfortable with the surroundings
Getting less than normal attention
There has been a change in routine
There is overcrowding
A new animal or human has been introduced.
Urine marking and stress
Cats do not like change. Change causes severe stress in cats. If cats feel stressed or insecure they spray!
What is the remedy?
It is advisable to alter your response and to modify the stimulus for spraying. For example, after scolding or the introduction of a new person/animal, the cat may go jump up on your bed or favourite chair and urinate. Often, cats spray a specific object indicating a less than desirable relationship with the object or the person who is associated with the object. If it is associated with a person, many times the spraying can be stopped by having that person feed the cat twice a day with a desirable food while all others in the household stay clear. This establishes a ‘desirable relationship’ with that person and alters the stimulus to spray.
Castration: 87% of all tomcats stop spraying after castration, 78% stop immediately, 9% stop in a few months, 13% keep on spraying. Male cats are more likely to spray if a female cat is in the house or neighbourhood.
Behaviour: It is important that the cat be carefully observed as timing is very important for corrections, as unfortunately correction doesn’t work after the incident.
Treatment Spray: Feliway Pheromone Spray is a spray that mimics the facial pheromones of cats. A pheromone is a chemical substance secreted by animals to confirm territory and communicate with others. Feline ‘facial pheromones’ are produced by glands located in the cheeks of the cat. When the cat applies these pheromones to surfaces it makes those areas familiar and comforting. Facial pheromones are happy, secure odours for cats! Have you ever noticed a cat rubbing its face on an object? How about your legs? He/she was marking you with contentment and happiness. Those so marked are loved and the cat has marked that they belong to them!
Facial pheromones are known to inhibit urine marking when applied to an area previously marked, which means the spray can help to stop repeat marking. If you are having trouble with marking or spraying and would like to discuss how to solve the problem for your household, make an appointment with us and we will guide you through this problem.
Feline Leukaemia Disease
Feline Leukaemia is caused by a virus called the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). Infected cats shed the virus in saliva, nasal secretions, tears, urine and faeces. The virus may also cross the placenta of infected queens infecting unborn kittens. FeLV has also been found in the milk of infected queens. Most commonly we see FeLV infection occurring in the fighting outdoor male cats.
How common is Feline Leukaemia Disease?
Feline Leukaemia Disease is one of the top killers of cats. Statistics from the UK show that 1-10% of cat deaths are due to FeLV. There are no statistics in Ireland to contradict this.
Why do many call the disease ‘Cat AIDS’?
Feline Leukaemia Disease may take many forms. One of the most common manifestations is when the virus causes immune suppression. The virus holds down the infected cats’ natural immunity to disease. At all times a normal cats’ mouth, nose, lungs, skin, intestine, etc. are covered with bacteria and viruses. The normal immune system keeps these bacteria in check and prevents disease. In human AIDS and Feline Leukaemia Disease, that natural immunity is reduced to the level that any bacteria or virus can multiply unchecked and cause disease. This is the only similarity in the two diseases, and there is NO link between the two: there is no way that the Human AIDS virus can cause Feline Leukaemia nor can FeLV cause Human AIDS.
What are the symptoms of Feline Leukaemia infection?
The answer is anything! Any disease that you treat over and over again and it doesn’t get better may be caused by the immune suppression of Feline Leukaemia. One of the first things we do in any chronic disease condition affecting our feline patients is test for FeLV. Remember – if you have any disease condition in your cat that doesn’t improve with conventional therapy, have it tested for FeLV.
How do you treat Feline Leukaemia Disease?
When a cat is exposed to FeLV several things may occur. The immune system of the exposed cat may kill the virus and recover with immunity to FeLV. The virus may enter the cat’s body and lodge in bone marrow and lymphoid tissue where it can lie latent for years. A stress may cause it to become clinical at any time. Or lastly the virus may multiply and cause clinical illness and the death of the cat. There is no treatment to eliminate the virus from an infected cat. To prevent spread of the infection to other non-infected cats, often the best course of action is the humane euthanasia of the infected pet. The only hope we have with Feline Leukaemia Disease is in testing and preventative vaccination BEFORE your cat becomes infected.
Feline Leukaemia Testing
Testing for FeLV has come a long way in the past ten years. Testing involves a blood test. Some cats tolerate this blood test very well, while others need sedation. These in-house tests determine if antibodies to the FeLV are present. If the test is positive this means that there has been an exposure to FeLV and antibodies were produced by the cat’s body. If negative then no exposure has ever occurred.
Vaccination for Feline Leukaemia
Vaccinations are available to protect your cat against FeLV. After two doses are administered three weeks apart, your cat will have fairly good immunity against infection. Most FeLV vaccines are about 95% effective in cats that have initially received the two doses three weeks apart and maintained with annual boosters. If your cat is an infected carrier of FeLV, vaccination will not help clear the condition and your cat may spread the disease to other cats that are not effectively protected. Blood testing will determine this. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, please come and speak to one of our vets and we will discuss your cats health in detail.