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The veterinarians and staff at Cats & Critters are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Dental care is vital to your pet's health. If you've already established a dental care program for your pet, you're off to a great start. But if your pet hasn't received a dental exam from your veterinarian, it's time to get started. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time to schedule a dental exam for your pet and develop a home care regimen for your best friend.

Why is dental care so important for your pet? Periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed problem in pets. By the age of two, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have periodontal disease in one form or another. The buildup of plaque and tartar on your pet's teeth leads to bacterial infections that can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of your pet's body. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other problems.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily prevented. Regular dental cleanings and a home dental care regimen can eliminate the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and oral infections. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian also performs a complete oral examination of your pet. This includes screening for oral cancer, broken teeth and cavities. Spotting these problems early on makes them easier to treat and improves your pet's overall oral health.

Your pet's dental cleaning is more involved than the same process you go through at your dentist's office. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet still and comfortable during the procedure. Because of this, your pet undergoes a thorough physical examination before each dental cleaning. Laboratory blood tests, as well as other diagnostic procedures are also used to screen for potential problems and risks before anesthesia is administered. Using these results, your veterinarian develops a safe anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet.

A Cat's Teeth Before and After a Dental Cleaning

During a dental cleaning, tartar is removed from your pet's teeth with a hand scaler. Next, a periodontal probe is used to check for pockets under the gumline - where periodontal disease and bad breath start. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above the gumline and a curette is used to clean the teeth under the gumline and in the crevices. Finally, the teeth are polished and an anti-bacterial solution is applied to help delay future tartar build-up.

Dental care doesn't end in your veterinarian's office. Brushing your pet's teeth at home is an added level of protection against gum disease. In order to be most effective, brushing must be done at least three times a week; however, daily brushing is ideal. Brushing your pet's teeth can be supplemented with antiseptic rinses. Some pet foods and treats are also effective in preventing plaque and tartar buildup. However, there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Call your veterinary hospital to schedule a dental examination and cleaning for your pet today. Your best friend will thank you!

Importance of Preventative Care

Please remember that regular wellness care not only saves money over the course of your pet's life, it also helps ensure his or her life will be long, happy, and healthy. Some excellent reasons to maintain a regular preventative care schedule for your pet include:

• Wellness exams are not only about vaccines, but include a full examination of mouth, ears, and eyes, skin, respiratory system, heart, lymph nodes, abdomen, joints, and muscles along with an evaluation of organ function, changes to your pet's weight, habits, and activity level, and blood work—as well as a chance for us to answer any questions you might have.

• Routine exams help us develop a baseline for your pet, making it easier to assess any changes that take place from one visit to the next. Declines in health may not be as obvious to you because you see your pet every day, but with regularly updated records, we can recognize differences and take steps if needed.

• Early signs of illness can be detected before they become serious—signs that can only be identified by a veterinarian during a through exam.

• Dogs and cats can hide illnesses and pain, and in the absence of other obvious symptoms, could be struggling without your knowledge.

• Senior and geriatric pets have evolving health issues as they age, and routine wellness exams will give you an opportunity to manage your pets aging and understand any lifestyle changes that may be needed.

• Dental issues in your dog or cat can affect his or her body more than you may imagine. Advanced stages of dental decay can cause heart, liver and kidney disease due to the bacteria entering the blood stream.

• Even indoor cats need preventative care. Problems ranging from ear infections to cancer can still occur, and need early detection only regular examinations can provide. An indoor cat can still come in contact with a rabid bat or a mosquito carrying heartworm.

• There are physical and emotional costs associated with illness, not just for your pet, but for you and your family. Illness can be time-consuming, messy, worrisome, and stressful—all of which impact your household and the way your pet interacts with family members. A stressful car ride and wellness exam once or twice a year pales in comparison.

Home Dental Care For Your Pet

In order for any dental program to work properly, home care follow-up is essential. Brushing your pet's teeth is the single most important procedure you can do to maintain good oral health. If performed regularly, daily brushing will dramatically increase the interval between teeth cleaning appointments.

Plaque is constantly being made and deposited in the mouth. Humans have a buildup of plaque in the morning. This accumulation of plaque makes our breath smell bad. Proper dental care, for dogs as well as humans, can keep plaque buildup under control. People brush their teeth several times daily to remove plaque — why not our pets? The goal of dental home care is to remove plaque from tooth surfaces and under the gum line before it mineralizes into calculus, a process that occurs within days of a teeth cleaning. Success depends on the owner's ability to brush the pet's teeth, as well as the dog or cat's acceptance of the process. True oral cleanliness can only be achieved through the mechanical action of toothbrush bristles above and below the gum line.

Home care is best started at a young age, before the adult teeth erupt. The younger the animal is, the more likely he or she is to accept it. Your veterinarian may discuss the advantages of home dental care at the time of your pet's first vaccinations. Daily brushing not only keeps your pet's teeth clean and healthy, it also enhances the bond between you and your pet.

A misconception is that hard food keeps pets' teeth clean. Some believe that when their dog or cat chews on hard food or biscuits, mineral deposits are broken down and the teeth stay clean. This is not true. Granted, animals on soft diets accumulate plaque more readily than those on dry foods, but the only way to keep teeth clean above and below the gum line is by daily brushing.

If you are unsure of how to brush your pet's teeth, you may want to ask a veterinary hospital staff member for instructions or watch this video by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Proper brushing technique involves applying the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Use small circular motions around the outside of the teeth, being sure to get the bristles under the gum line. It is not as important to brush the inside of the teeth, as dogs and cats do not accumulate tartar on the insides of their teeth.

The most important area to keep plaque and tartar from accumulating is under the gum line. Adding products such as Oxyfresh to the drinking water or rubbing the teeth with dentifrice impregnated pads may help in home care, but it's necessary to understand that periodontal disease begins below the free margin of the gum line.

Getting Your Pet to Accept Tooth Brushing

• Start with a healthy comfortable mouth - Untreated problems can cause pain and a non-compliant patient. Dental pathology must be cared for first. If you suspect that your pet has an accumulation of tartar, a painful mouth (he pulls away each time you touch his head or jaw), bad breath, or a problem chewing, drinking or swallowing, a veterinary dental exam is in order.

• Choose a proper toothbrush and toothpaste - Toothbrushes have bristles that reach under the gum line and clean the space that surrounds each tooth. Plaque accumulates in this space. Devices such as gauze pads, sponge swabs, or cotton swabs remove plaque above the gum line, but cannot adequately clean the space below the gum line.

• The size of the toothbrush you choose is important - There are specific brushes for mouths of long muzzled dogs, as well as small brushes for cats. Each dog or cat must have his or her own toothbrush. Sharing brushes may result in cross contamination of bacteria from one pet to another.

• Introduce the toothpaste and toothbrush gradually - When you sense that your pet has had enough, give him reassurance by talking and try again. Expect progress not perfection. Reward progress immediately with a treat or a play period after each cleaning session. Don't expect to brush your pet's teeth on the first try. Take time. Each pet is different. Some will be trained in one week, while others will take a month or more. The payoff is well worth the learning curve.

The type of dental home care products dispensed by your veterinarian may vary from animal to animal. Trust your veterinarian to dispense the products that are best suited to your own pet's dental needs.

The Good and the Bad of Hepatitis C Discovery in Dogs

First, the bad news: Researchers have discovered a hepatitis C-like virus in dogs. Now, the good news: this discovery could lead to important new research and development on the causes of the virus in humans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 200 million people are affected by hepatitis C worldwide, with over 3 million infections in the United States alone. New research reveals that our fury friends may be both the reason and the cure.

Hepatitis C

The discovery of the virus in dogs marks the first time a hepatitis-like infection has ever been detected in non-human primates. Such a discovery gives researchers hope that there is much more to be uncovered and understood about the evolution of the virus, and ultimately, its prevention and cure. The new studies also indicate that the virus could have been introduced to humans centuries ago through contact with dogs or other similar species. But don’t worry, there is currently no proof or risk that dogs can infect humans with the virus today – only that they could lead in the hepatitis discoveries of tomorrow.

Leash-Training Your Cat

We’ve always been told that cats are independent – that they like their space and fend for themselves. While this is sometimes the case, many animal behaviorists claim that cats may be more wanting of human attention and companionship than we once thought. Accordingly, these same behaviorists are promoting the possibility – and even benefits – of leash-training your cat. Not only can it increase your bond and overall companionship, but it can also strike a nice balance between owning an indoor and outdoor cat.

Teaching a cat to wear a leash, however, may be no easy feat. Just like new puppies, they’re simply not used to it. Here are a few tricks to get Whiskers on a leash:

• Positive Reinforcements- Cats don’t respond to discipline the way that dogs do, nor is pleasing you enough of a reward for Whiskers. Instead, an approach centered around positive reinforcement may be the only way to get your cat on that leash.

• Rewarding With Food- When you’re first working with the leash, make sure your cat is hungry. Treat him to his meal, or a tasty snack, when he plays by the rules. If he’s not hungry, he simply doesn’t care about how delicious your pocket treat may be.

• Baby Steps- Be patient. Take it one step at a time, day by day. Once your cat is straddled in, it’s probably not a great idea to head straight for the streets. This could be intimidating, with far too many distractions. Instead,  try a park or other safe area first – baby steps until your cat is ready to play with the big guys.

• Refrain from Holding- I know it’s tempting, but picking up your cat whenever he looks scared or defeated will not serve you or your pet well. This will only make him more dependent on you and erase any confidence that he was starting to build.

• Know Your Cat- Most of all, know your cat. If he hates being held or handled, you may have a harder time getting him in that harness. Play to your cat’s strengths and weaknesses, and keep them in mind throughout the entire training process.

How to Take Pictures of Your Pets

Wish you had a lens ready for those cute moments when Whiskers snuggles up against Spot on the couch? Or when Fido gives you that adorable look? More often than not, we are simply not picture-ready for those picture-perfect moments of our pets. And by the time we finally reach for our cameras, the moment has already passed. If this sounds familiar, here are a few tips to help your pet get the spotlight he deserves:

Can I have your attention?

• Timing is everything- With animals, time is always of the essence. Your pet is constantly moving, so having a camera that’s both accessible and easy-to-shoot may be key to capturing those fleeting moments. Where movement presents an issue, photographers also recommend shooting in “burst mode” whenever possible.

• Get low- You may need to do some gymnastics in order to accomplish the shots you want. Shooting from a comfortable angle probably won’t allow those cute puppy eyes to shine through. Getting down to your pet’s level will instantly improve your shots.

• Shoot like a video camera- Instead of waiting for your pet to do something cute before reaching for your camera, try reversing your steps. Grab your camera and wait for your pet to entertain you. Usually we’re just a few seconds too late. But if you already have your camera ready, you’re sure to catch Fido in the act.

• Keep shooting- Especially in the age of digital photography, there’s no reason you can’t rapid fire until you find that one shot that perfectly captures the moment. After twenty shots, you’re bound to get one image that fits the bill.

• Use natural lighting- It’s best to use natural lighting when photographing your pets. If you have to use a flash, avoid taking the photo from straight on, otherwise you’ll get a red-eye effect. Photographers typically recommend soft morning light or early evening light that comes through trees or windows.

• Get their attention- Though the best shots are usually candid, it often helps to get your pet’s attention using treats, toys, or simply calling their name. Remember, dogs will often respond to multiple calls, but chose your battles wisely with Whiskers – she may only fall for that trick once.

• Experiment- Play around with your camera’s various modes and shutter speeds to see what best suits your animal’s movements and personality. Each picture tells a story, so don’t be afraid to play around with your camera until you’ve created the story you want to tell.

Pets can be the most fun – albeit complicated – subjects to photograph. With some time, patience, and a lot of experimenting, you too can get the shots of Fido you’ve always wanted. So go ahead, snap away!

VIDEO: Fresh Breath and Straight Teeth... From Your Veterinarian?

It’s true that most people like the smell of “puppy breath,” but when your puppy starts growing up, he or she will likely develop dental disease. Without proper oral care, more than 80 percent of dogs and cats will show signs of gingivitis or even periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. Factor in incorrect bites, missing teeth or even mal-aligned teeth and you can see that pet dentistry is a subject that touches almost every pet owner. Watch this video to see the new advances in pet dentistry and what you can do to keep your pet’s mouth healthy!

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