Fall 2008

posted: by: GAH Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

We would like to welcome you to our quarterly newsletter. Our goal is to provide you with helpful information that is both practical and educational.

First, we would like to refer you to our website www.goosepondvet.com where we now offer on line prescription refills, and general information about our hospital, staff and medical procedures. Please read our hospital philosophy as it reflects how much we care about the pets we treat at Goosepond Animal Hospital.

We are now recommending twice yearly examinations and yearly health blood and urine screening for animals over the age of eight years. Each year of a dog and cats life is equivalent to at least four of our own. Early detection of diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease in dogs and cats, and hyperthyroidism in cats, may lead to successful medical management and very good quality of life. Please visit our website for more detailed information about senior health screening.

Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats
It is a medical fact that our pets need as much dental care as humans do. Complete dental care is a combination of regular home care and in hospital dental prophylaxis.

Heredity and diet play a major role in the development of dental disease in our pet's mouths. Commercial diets, dry and canned, are not of the same consistency as the foods that our pets would eat in the wild. Dogs and cats are predators. They hunt for live prey, killing with their canine teeth, and then consuming. This way of eating naturally keeps their teeth clean.

Even so, we still see some dogs and cats that have been eating commercial diets all their lives and have perfectly clean mouths. Genetics is a strong factor in this small percentage of animals.

More commonly, certain breeds of dogs and cats are genetically predisposed to develop severe dental disease unless complete dental care is regularly performed. Poodles, Beagles, Boxers and many toy breeds of dogs are predisposed. Siamese, Persian and Himalayan cats are also predisposed. However, any animal may be affected, and most will to a certain extent.

Most pets will need to have their teeth professionally cleaned and polished by three to four years of age. At Goosepond Animal Hospital, we recommend beginning homecare early. By cleaning your pet's teeth several times a week beginning at four months of age, they are more likely to accept the procedure. This will help to prevent the development of dental disease in your pet's mouth. It may also decrease the frequency of hospital dental procedures.

Rawhide bones for dogs have been shown to decrease the amount of dental calculus (tartar) if chewed on a regular basis.

Avoid hard bones, plastic bones and cow hooves as these may cause tooth breakage.

How Dental Disease Develops
The mouth supports one of the most concentrated and varied microbial systems found in the body. Bacteria colonize first beneath the gum line, and then on the enamel of teeth. Accumulation of bacteria forms a coating on the teeth. This coating is called plaque. The accumulation and mineralization of gum line plaque forms dental calculus. This is more commonly known as tartar.

Bacterial toxins from dental calculus cause inflammation of the gum lines. At first the changes are subtle and completely reversible. There may be mild redness, swelling and bleeding on gentle probing. This is called periodontal disease. The first sign the pet owner might notice is halitosis (bad breath). There may already be irreversible changes by the time this symptom occurs. If periodontal disease is left untreated, the gums begin to recede away from the teeth eventually exposing tooth roots. The bone forming the tooth socket begins to erode from chronic inflammation. This leads to loosening of teeth and tooth loss. There is pain associated with chewing, and there may be depression and weight loss. The progression of the disease at this point is very slow, and the owner may associate the changes with old age and natural loss of spirit.

There are theories that the mouth is not the only area affected by periodontitis. Bacteria from the inside of the mouth may be inhaled into the lungs. This may predispose some animals to develop chronic bronchitis. Bacteria may also be absorbed through the inflamed gums into the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body such as the heart valves and kidneys.

Procedure for Dental Prophylaxis
  • Food and water are withheld after 9:00pm the evening before the procedure.
  • The patient is admitted to the hospital at 8:30am. A pre-anesthetic tranquilizer and antibiotic injection are administered shortly thereafter.
  • An intravenous catheter is placed in one of the front legs and intravenous fluids are administered. A short acting general anesthetic is injected through the catheter.
  • An endotracheal tube is inserted into the trachea (airway) and the tube is connected to a gas anesthesia machine. Anesthesia is maintained via inhalation of isoflurane and oxygen. Vital signs and blood pressure are monitored by state-of-the-art equipment and licensed veterinary technicians.
  • All patients receive intravenous fluids during the procedure.
  • Dental calculus and plaque are removed with an ultrasonic cleaner.
  • Subgingival curettage is performed to remove plaque and calculus from beneath the gum lines.
  • The teeth are then polished with a high speed polisher.
  • The gum lines are then examined for deep pockets, infection and signs of tooth root disease.
  • Doxyrobe, an antibiotic gel, is gently packed into tooth root pockets after thorough cleaning. Gingivectomy may be performed to remove excess or diseased gum tissue.
  • Teeth may be sectioned with a high speed drill and extracted if periodontal disease is severe and the bone loss is excessive.
  • When the procedure is completed the patient is administered oxygen through the endotracheal tube until they are able to swallow.
  • The tube is then removed and the patient is monitored closely until they are able to get into an upright position on their own.
  • Pain medication is administered if extractions were performed or severe periodontal disease was present.

Discharge from the hospital is usually late afternoon. Home dental care is strongly recommended to prevent the further progression of dental disease.

There is now a vaccine available to decrease the number of bacteria in the mouth that are responsible for the development of plaque and tartar. This vaccine will be recommended for dogs that are predisposed to dental disease.

— by Dr. Christopher Alwang —
Dr. Christopher Alwang
Tick borne illnesses are a prevalent cause of illness of dogs in our area. One that is becoming more widespread is Ehrlichiosis.

Ehrlichiosis is caused by a group of bacteria from three genera, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and Neorickettsia. Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Incubation is 1-3 weeks. The disease has an acute, sub clinical and chronic phase. The various species can cause various symptoms ranging from fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, bleeding, and lameness. Clinical signs of Anaplasma species can be indistinguishable from Lyme disease. The acute phase is the most treatable phase and tends to present with the typical symptoms listed above. Many dogs never progress past the acute phase and recover spontaneously. The sub clinical may have blood abnormalities but no symptoms. Finally the chronic phase can affect the bone marrow and be very difficult to eradicate from the body.

Diagnosis of these diseases can be troublesome since the available diagnostic testing measures antibodies rather than the organism itself. Routine testing thus only indicates exposure not active infection. This could lead to a diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis when another disease entity could be to blame. Positive results must be correlated with clinical signs and blood work. Low platelets, mild anemia, high globulin levels, and mild liver and kidney enzyme increases can all be seen.

Treatment involves the use of Doxycycline for 2-4 weeks. In severe cases where the low platelet count could lead to bleeding abnormalities, prednisone, a corticosteroid, may need to be used.

There are no 100% preventative measures but a combination of tick preventatives and visual inspection of animals can decrease the likelihood significantly.