Posts Tagged ‘health’

How do I look after my pets dental health?

Here at Goddard Vet Group, we see a lot of dental problems in both cats and dogs, and in fact dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases throughout the UK. But is there any way to prevent this horrible disease? And how can we help your pets?


Dental Diseases in Pets

Dogs can have a variety of dental problems throughout their lives. When they’re young, problems with the deciduous (‘baby’) teeth can mean they’re left with too many teeth in their mouths. This leads to food becoming stuck and causing gum disease. Some dogs are mad chewers – they’ll break teeth or wear them down, which is not only painful but may result in a tooth root abscess. Most commonly, though, dogs suffer from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease affects dogs of all ages, although it’s more common in older dogs as it takes a while to occur. It’s also more common in some breeds – generally the smaller breeds. Bacteria in the mouth live on the teeth and gums in the form of plaque, and over time they eat away at the gum and get down beneath the gumline. Here, they start to affect the periodontal ligament, which is the connection between the teeth and the jawbone. When this ligament is damaged the teeth become wobbly, which inevitably results in tooth loss.

Cats also get periodontal disease, but they’re also prone to resorptive diseases. This is where the body, for a currently unknown reason, breaks down and re-absorbs the tooth root, resulting in a painful tooth very prone to breaking.

How Can I Prevent Dental Disease at Home?

Whilst resorptive lesions are hard to prevent, some simple changes to lifestyle can make a big difference to the other diseases. Since worn and fractured teeth are a result of dogs chewing on abrasive or hard materials, talk to one of our nurses about appropriate chews that are less likely to cause dental problems. Baby teeth that fail to fall out should be removed under general anaesthetic. They’re often still firmly attached and great care needs to be taken not to damage the root of the nearby adult teeth. This can often be done at neutering or as a separate procedure.

Tooth Brushing

Brushing the teeth is the single most useful thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease. Toothbrushing removes plaque before it has a chance to harden into tartar and cause gum disease. It’s also a great excuse to check your pet’s teeth daily (yes- daily!) for any problems. We always recommend trying to introduce tooth brushing to pets as soon as possible, and to start slow and build up – just like with anything new. Don’t forget, never use human toothpaste (it’s not good for our pets!). Our nurses are fantastic at giving you top tips for tooth brushing, so if you think you can make time in your day to brush your pet’s teeth, please give them a call or book in for a free dental check to go over it.

Dental Dog Chews

Some dental chews have been shown to reduce the level of plaque in the mouth. However, there are a lot of brands out there that may not have the same benefits. We recommend choosing from the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products, or talking to our nurses. Don’t forget that these chews contain extra calories which should be accounted for in your pet’s daily allowance to avoid obesity.

Can Water and Food Additives Help?

Water and food additives to prevent plaque build-up do exist and some even have evidence that they help. Whilst they’re not going to be as good as tooth brushing, they’re a good added extra, especially in pets that won’t allow anything else. Again, the VOHC have a list of accepted products, so choose from this list or discuss with one of our nurses at your next dental check.

Diets for Dental Disease

For those animals very prone to dental disease, specific diets have been created to reduce plaque and tartar through a combination of ingredient choice and kibble that breaks up in a particular way. These diets are prescription diets, so if you think you’d like to try them please have a chat with our team.

How Can my Vet Help?

Despite doing some, or all, of these things at home, it’s still possible that your pet will suffer from periodontal disease. This is especially true if your pet is genetically predisposed or has already lost teeth to the disease.

Regular check-ups with your veterinary nurse can keep track of the level of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth and allow an early-warning sign if disease is starting. However, our animals are masters at hiding the signs of disease and sometimes a dental check-up under general anaesthetic is necessary to allow us to do a more thorough exam.

Problems such as fractured teeth, exposed pulp, wobbly back teeth and resorptive lesions can be missed on a conscious check-up, especially if your pet objects to the examination. Putting them under a general anaesthetic allows us to examine more thoroughly and even test the teeth for problems using a dental probe, just like a human dentist. And during the check-up, just like at the dentists, they’ll also get a scale and polish. This enables us to remove any tartar build up from the hard to reach places before it starts to cause a major problem.

For most pets, a scale and polish are necessary every 6-12 months. After all, we humans brush twice daily, but we still miss spots and need a professional clean at least annually. Whilst it is theoretically possible to clean the teeth conscious, the most important area to clean is under the gum line. This is uncomfortable for pets and the majority will not tolerate it without an anaesthetic, meaning that cleaning without anaesthetic results in a sub-standard clean.


When was the last time your pet had a dental clean? If they’re overdue, why not book for a check-up with our vet team and we’ll talk it all through with you!

Can diet really affect my pets health?

Your pet’s diet has a big impact on their health and wellbeing. The wrong diet could lead to your pet developing health issues such as obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, allergies or dental problems — so getting it right is crucial!


DOGS

  • It’s important to feed your dog a complete, balanced, high-quality diet. High-quality commercial dog food will contain all the right nutrients and vitamins, and in the right amounts. The best way to recognise a decent quality diet is to take a look at the list of ingredients. The first item should be an animal protein e.g. chicken or pork. If the item is, for example, chicken ‘derivative’ or ‘meal’ this tends to imply a lower-quality diet. Avoid any diets where the kibble is a range of bright colours which means there are likely to be added colourants and additives. These are added to make the food look more appealing to you, whilst your dog doesn’t care what colour his food is!
  • It’s also key to feed a diet appropriate to life stage and age of your pet. As you can probably imagine, a Great Dane puppy has a completely different calorific and growth requirement compared to say, an elderly Chihuahua. You should feed a good quality puppy or junior food up to the age of about 1 year (sometimes longer for large breed dogs – usually to about 15-18 months), then gradually switch to an adult diet, then to a senior food from the age of 8.
  • If you have a large breed dog, then you should feed your dog a diet specially formulated for large breeds. This is because joint problems tend to be more common in larger dogs, so these diets contain additional joint supplements to support bone and joint health. Small breed dogs can be more prone to dental disease so generally diets suited to smaller breed dogs have a smaller kibble size and contain supplements to reduce tartar build-up (which can lead to dental disease).
  • Once your dog has been spayed or castrated, it’s a good idea to feed a neutered diet. These diets are calorie restricted to help prevent post neutering weight gain. It’s vital to maintain a healthy weight and body condition score (BCS) – extra weight puts your pet at health risks including diabetes, arthritis and heart problems. If your pet is a little on the porky side and is already carrying a few extra pounds, then special prescription weight loss diets are available.

CATS

  • Cats are obligate carnivores, so it’s important that they are dependent on their diet containing meat to thrive and survive. In a similar way to dogs, they should be fed a life stage-specific diet based on their age.
  • Most adult cats are lactose intolerant (they lack the main enzyme required to digest lactose in milk) so it’s best to not feed your cat milk.
  • Prescription diets are available for certain health concerns including – kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, overactive thyroid (cat), skin problems, urinary problems and cystitis, obesity and many more.

RABBITS

  • The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (fibre) or dark green leafy vegetables – a minimum of 80%. This should ideally mimic what a rabbit would eat in the wild. A small amount of dry concentrate food can be offered, usually about 1 tablespoon per rabbit.
  • It’s important to feed a complete pellet concentrate, as muesli mixes promote selective feeding and can lead to dental problems. Diet is particularly important for rabbits to wear down their teeth, which continuously grow. Feeding an unsuitable diet can lead to overgrown teeth, weight problems, fly strike and lack of grooming.

If you require further advice please contact to your local Goddard vet who can share details on what’s best for your pet.

What Should I Feed My Cat?

Understanding what you should feed your cat is important as a good diet generally tends to promote and maintain good health. A cats metabolism is so heavily specialised in obtaining nutrition from meat, it’s important to choose the correct diet. Most cats are notoriously fussy — so getting a healthy and suitable diet into them (that they will enjoy) isn’t always as easy as it seems… and this might explain the sheer range of diets currently available on the market!


Cat nutrition 101

Cats have evolved as obligate carnivores, meaning that they need certain nutrients only found in animal tissues to survive. In particular, key nutrients that cats need include:

  • High levels of protein in the diet (as much as 30-40% higher than a dog).
  • Specific proteins, e.g. taurine and arginine. A taurine-deficient diet leads to blindness, heart disease, and a weakened immune system, while feeding a single meal deficient in arginine can lead to liver failure and seizures.
  • Certain vitamins that they cannot make themselves, e.g. vitamin A (needed for vision).

In general, the best meal for a cat is a meat-based one, although using appropriate cereals and oils (as in many commercial diets) to balance the calorie provision is perfectly acceptable. Cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian, or survive on a vegan, diet without synthetic supplements.

So, with this vast array of options – where do we start? It can be a daunting decision. However, to make it easier, we’ve selected certain key features to consider below.

What should I feed my cat?

How old is your cat?

As we grow up from infants into toddlers into children into teenagers and into adults, our nutritional needs change. And of course, as we age, they change again. This situation in cats is exactly the same. Kittens typically need high calorie and high protein diets, with specific minerals such as calcium, for growth – more than at any other age. Adolescent active cats need more calories than adults; whereas older cats often benefit from limiting the amount of dietary protein to protect their kidneys. That’s not to say you need to buy a new food every six months or so (well, except for keeping up with those fast-growing kittens!), but that you need to be aware that your cat’s dietary needs will change.

What kind of lifestyle does your cat have?

Is your cat out and about, hunting and playing outdoors? Or are they more of a sofa-surfer? The more time they spend outside, the more calories they’re likely to require. HOWEVER, also ask yourself are they being fed anywhere else? Some cats have a great knack for persuading neighbours that they’re a poor starved stray, and may work their way from house
to house getting a fresh meal at each one… so keep a close eye on their waistline!

Does your cat have any dietary sensitivities?

While food allergies aren’t that common in cats, they do occasionally occur, so it’s worth being aware of what the protein source in their diet is.

Is there anyway your diet may be able to support and manage an existing issue for your cat?

Many health conditions have been proven to respond to certain balances of nutrients in diet – in particular, cystitis, and many bladder stones can even be dissolved by feeding the correct diet; cats with kidney disease will also benefit from a specialist renal diet that contains lower levels of high-quality protein, low phosphate, and altered salt balances. These specific food formulations are called “prescription diets”, and are available through us
(please don’t feed a prescription diet except on veterinary advice though!).
There are also diets available with specific nutrients (e.g. tryptophan) to help manage things like stress and anxiety.

Is the diet you are considering labelled a complete diet or a complementary diet?

A complete diet does what it says on the tin… it contains all the nutrients your cat needs, in the correct ratios. A complementary diet does not, and needs to be combined with another type of food to give a balanced meal. In general, most manufacturers provide complementary biscuit and wet diets, that you mix together. The problem with a complementary diet is that it assumes the cat will like both parts equally… which isn’t always the case!


Remember that your cat is an individual with their own unique requirements. No-one is better placed to know what they need than you and your vet — who both knows your cat as an individual. So, if it all seems a bit too much, and you’re not sure what the best option is — talk to one of our team! We can carry out an individual nutritional assessment for your cat and determine what their exact needs are, and then work together to find the best diet for them.

How can veterinary nurses help with preventative health?

Veterinary nurses play a large role in helping and advising pet owners with the care and well-being of their animals. We are proud of our veterinary nursing team at Goddard Veterinary Group, and the passion they have for the health of your pets. Part of that role includes advising on preventative healthcare – keeping your pets in the best health before problems arise.


Diet

There are so many diets on the market for pets it is really difficult to know where to begin! Our nurses can advise you on the best diets for your pet’s specific breed, age and the recommended feeding amount.

If your pet is overweight and should ideally be fed a smaller amount or given a calorie reduced diet, our nurses will be happy to advise and weigh them. They can further advise on maintaining their weight, when they reach their target.

Preventing obesity in pets can help lengthen their lives and dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and joint pain, among other conditions.

Fleas and worms

Almost every pet will end up with these critters at some point in their lives. Preventing them is much better than having your pet playing host to them. If you suspect your pet has fleas for example, our nurses can take a look at their coats and search for tell-tale signs.

Worms, of course, are a lot more difficult. However, there are symptoms that can point to a worm problem. Goddard’s veterinary nurses can explain the life-cycle of these parasites, and the best ways to avoid having both your pet and your home infested with them.

When it comes to fleas and worms it really is worth preventing them – the cost of treating a skin condition caused by fleas for example, far outweighs the price of flea treatment!

Vaccinations

Although it is our vets that vaccinate your animals, our nurses can give you advice and guidance on the types of diseases that pets can be vaccinated against. No one wants to have a pet with a potentially life-threatening disease, and vaccination can prevent that from happening.

Nails

It is our senior pets that we find can have a problem with their toenails, simply because they won’t tend to wear them down as easily as younger pets. Senior pets are normally less active, often choosing softer ground to walk on, whereas a puppy that tears about on all types of ground will have a pedicure naturally! This is why preventing nails from overgrowing and making your pet uncomfortable is important. Our nurses can check your pet’s toenails and trim them if necessary.

It’s not just dogs either, cats too can have this problem especially if they have gone off using the scratch post. Our nurses will also make sure the dew claws are a comfortable length, in extreme cases these can curl around and dig into the pad, even leading to infection.

Microchipping

As of April 2016 all dogs over age of eight weeks in the UK, are required by law to have a microchip.  These tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, can help you and your pet to be reunited if they happen to get lost. A microchip is also a requirement for a pet passport.

No responsible owner would want to lose their pet and our nurses can help advise about microchipping, preventing this from happening. At present there is no law about cats being microchipped, but we strongly advise this is well – in fact almost any animal species could be microchipped!

One thing you may hear our nurses and vets reiterate, is keeping your contact details up to date for the microchip, especially if you move home!

Teeth

Our nurses can give all sorts of advice about preventative health when it comes to your pet’s teeth. From brushing techniques to dental products, they can help advise on keeping your pet’s teeth pearly white. Dental health is very important as poor teeth can affect other parts of the body, including major organs, through infection and toxins in the bloodstream.

Pets even at the age of 4-5 years can start to suffer with dental disease, so it’s very important to get the advice as early as possible on helping to keep their teeth sparkling!

With advice from our team of nurses (and vets) on preventative health, your pets can really benefit. Be sure to ask us if any health aspect of your pet worries you — we’ll be happy to help.


Don’t forget Goddard Veterinary Group’s healthcare plan, ProActive Pets. The scheme provides discounts on your pet’s preventative healthcare, allowing you to spread the cost throughout the year.