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What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health – Interview with Dr. Burr from Trupanion

I know…it’s March! And Pet Dental Health month is February, but the reality is that we should be discussing pet dental health year-round. Not to mention, I recently had an opportunity to interview Dr. Katy Burr, on-staff veterinarian from Trupanion, and she had some excellent nuggets of information that I couldn’t wait another year to share with you!

Without further adieu, let’s get started!

If pet parents could learn one new thing about pet dental health today, what would that be?

Pet parents should be aware that poor pet dental health, or periodontal disease, is one of the leading causes of disease in our pets. Additionally, periodontal disease is often not treated until late in the disease process. I highly recommend that pet parents become all about preventative care. Which means, brushing their pet’s teeth, looking in their mouth regularly, and having annual checkups with their veterinarian.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

What is a veterinarian looking for when checking your pet’s teeth during the annual exam?

Signs of periodontal disease to look for:

  • gingivitis: redness and swelling in the gums or any bleeding
  • Bad breath
  • Calculus and tarter buildup
  • painful while eating or not wanting to eat
  • Swelling on their face
  • Drooling or dropping food out of their mouth
  • weight loss

For the busy pet parent, how often should they brush their pet’s teeth?

Plaque (bacteria films) form on a pet’s teeth the same way it does on people. Therefore, we recommend brushing every day, so that calculus never has a chance to form. However, we know that every day isn’t always a possibility, so at a bare minimum, you should be brushing your dog’s teeth twice a week.

Do you have any tips for increasing the success for teeth-brushing (i.e. getting pet parents to brush their pet’s teeth the recommended amount)?

Make it a part of your routine! One of the best things you can do is put the brush and toothpaste in a place you visit every day.

Additionally, get your pets acclimated to teeth brushing early, and take the appropriate steps to make sure there is a lot of positive reinforcement associated with teeth brushing.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

Do you have any brands you recommend for toothpaste?

C.E.T is a great brand of toothpaste. Many dogs like the taste, which makes the process of brushing their teeth much easier!

I highly recommend looking for a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal on toys or products. The VOHC seal ensures that the products actually reduce plaque and tartar. They also have a dedicated page on their website where you can look up products for dogs and cats.

What is your opinion regarding the efficacy of dental chews?

When used in conjunction with other parts of dental care: brushing, professional cleanings, etc. they can be effective in preventing the advancement of periodontal disease in pets.

I would caution pet parents to keep an eye out for the really hard dental chews. Some are harder than teeth and can crack their teeth.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

Rooney is what I would describe as a tough chewer, what kind of chews would you recommend for for Rooney?

For tough chewers, I recommend the C.E.T rawhides. They last a few days, and can help reduce tartar on your pet’s teeth.

(As a side note, while cats can be picky, I have good luck with Greenies.)

I personally don’t recommend gentle dentals, what do you think pet parents need to know about this common service?

Speak with your veterinarian about dental health and what your veterinarian offers. However, the biggest concern with “gentle” or “anesthesia-free” dentals is the inability to clean under the gumline. Addressing the periodontal disease under the gum line is important for preventing ligament and bone loss due to the severity of the disease. To put it simply, it’s equivalent to a person who never flosses. Their teeth may appear clean, but they are going to suffer from tooth decay.

I think it’s also imperative to note the importance of polishing when performing a dental. During a dental when the pet is under general anesthesia the teeth are scaled (or cleaned) by removing plaque and tartar either with a hand scaler or with an ultrasonic scaler (the kind used for human teeth cleanings) or a combination of the two.

The scaling process is very important to remove built up calculus and plaque deposits to decrease bacterial colonies, but this process creates microgrooves in the surface of the enamel. These grooves, if not addressed, can actually lead to plaque and bacterial colonies forming on the tooth more quickly as it’s easier for the bacteria to become established in those tiny grooves that can’t be easily reached with tooth brushing or dental chews.

Polishing is the final step in the dental cleaning, and extremely important to smooth out all those microgrooves. Polishing involves using a very fine grit applied in a rubber cup rotating at high speeds on all surfaces of every tooth. This process is loud and creates an odd vibrating sensation in the mouth, so it is very difficult to correctly polish the teeth when the pet is not under anesthesia. For this reason, if the teeth cannot be properly polished after a “gentle” dental, there may actually be risk of dental disease progressing more quickly for the pet.

You can read more about why I think pet’s shouldn’t have gentle dentals here

How does periodonatal disease affect a pet’s overall health?

The bacteria present in your pet’s mouth can enter into the bloodstream and spread systemically, damaging the kidney and liver.

What You NEED to Know About Pet Dental Health

You can read more about the importance of a pet dental here.

Do you recommend pet parents understand the importance of dental x-ray?

I think Dental X-ray is important to your pet’s veterinary dental care. Make sure to ask your veterinary about their dental x-ray set up. Specifically, ask your veterinarian how they perform dental x-ray and if it is included in the payment. The reason dental x-ray is important is that it assesses the overall health of the mouth and provides information about the health of your pet’s mouth below the gum line.

I want to thank Dr. Burr for sharing such valuable information with our readers!

What did you learn about pet dental health today?

Is Your Dog Protected if Something Happens to You?

Do you have a plan for your dog if something happens to you?

I know this question is daunting and arguably somewhat morbid, but it’s also a necessary topic. Since it’s tax season and a time of year when people organize their affairs, Carol from Fidose of Reality and myself, thought your dog’s future plans would be a great topic to discuss.

No one wants to think about a time when they are no longer able to care for themselves or their family. However, those who do, are doing their family members and their pets a huge favor. If you are taking the time to be prepared, here are a variety of scenarios you should be prepare for:

  • If you get sick or injured: Of course I am not referring to a cold or flu, I am referring to a long-term illness or injury. Evaluating the possibility of an injury is particularly important if you are solely responsible for pets.
  • If you have a drastic change in your living circumstances: Things happen. Unfortunately, in our ever-changing financial environment, a family can lose their current lifestyle and potentially lose their home. For example, there were a number of dogs and cats that were abandoned during the recession.
    • “[In 2008], across the country, animal shelters were overwhelmed by pets that were being surrendered by their owners. In response, the HSUS set up a “foreclosure pets fund” that provides financial aid to pet owners who are facing foreclosure or eviction.”. – NPR. Many people needed temporary solutions and homes for their pet, which having a plan could provide.
  • If there is a natural disaster: Right now in California, all kinds of people are being displaced from their homes and might need to find temporary care for their pets. Keep in mind that during these times, local shelters tend to get overwhelmed and overcrowded.
  • If you pass: When I worked at the veterinary hospital, there were a few situations where veterinary technicians took responsibility for other people’s pets when they suddenly passed and there wasn’t a plan. One example I remember very well was Mr. Tankersley. Mr. Tankersley was a client at a veterinary hospital I worked at in Davis, and he had 7 cats. Unfortunately, he passed suddenly, and his family was unable to take his 7 cats. Due to their ages (between 10-12 years old) it would be very difficult to find a forever homes for 7 adult cats in a few weeks. Fortunately, Mr. Tankersley donated regularly to a cat rescue that was happy to take all seven cats and find homes for them, but even that arrangement took time as the cats had to be transported across states.

As you can see, a number of things can go wrong and leave your pet’s future at risk. Therefore, I would like to walk you through creating a plan for your pet’s future.

Creating a Plan

Can a friend or family member step up?

The Humane Society recommends not only reaching out to friends and family members to see if they are willing to care for your pet long-term, but also to make sure that you have people who can step up immediately to provide emergency care in the short-term. One very important point is to make sure that the different caregivers know each other to make coordinating your pet’s care much easier.

Choosing a Permanent Caregiver

Selecting a person that will care for your dog is a very difficult decision. Here are a few things you should ask yourself:

  • Is this person familiar with your dog’s breed? For example, Rooney is a herding breed and his herding breed tendencies are strong. I wouldn’t want someone who didn’t know anything about herding breeds to care for him long-term because frankly, they might not understand him.
  • Will this person provide the same level of veterinary care as you? If you will spare no expense for your pet, it’s important that the person you choose reflects that same decision making.
  • Does this person have room for your pets in their home? While I know a handful of people who would be more than suitable to care for Rooney should something happen to my husband and myself, I know that not every person has room in their home to take Rooney at a moments notice.

Formulate a Formal Plan with Your Veterinarian

Does your veterinary hospital know what plans you have for your pet? You can request to add emergency contact information to your pet’s medical record. You may be thinking to yourself that this is an unnecessary step. However, if you don’t have any nearby family members, your veterinary hospital can be a great resource for helping your family organize your pet’s affairs should something happen to you. For example, let’s say Rooney’s designated caregiver is named Sarah. I can call my veterinary hospital and document that if something has happened to me and my husband, Sarah (last name) has the authorization to request Rooney’s records be sent to her veterinary hospital.

Because your veterinary staff cares about you and your pets (I promise you they do), they will want to help, and it will help them and your family if you document this ahead of time.

Talk to a Local Rescue

While you can do your very best to prepare your pet’s affairs and the people who you have spoken with, circumstances change. You never know if someone will be able to keep your pet long-term. If so, be sure to provide your caregivers with the information for a local (to them) rescue. For example, if I had arrangements for Rooney to live in Southern California, I would make sure his caregiver had contact information for Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, which is a Corgi rescue in Southern California. Should they be unable to keep Rooney long-term (and neither could either of my backup caregiver selections), I would want them to take Rooney to a breed specific rescue rather then a shelter.

Talk to Your Pet Insurance Company

Specifically, make sure that your pet’s health insurance remains if something happens to you. For research for this blog post, I called Trupanion which is Rooney’s pet insurance to see what I could do to make sure Rooney is covered should something happen to us. As it turns out, I need to make sure that Rooney’s caregiver has his policy information in order to continue his health insurance.

Funding for Your Pet

Speaking of insurance, have you considered the potential costs associated with finding a new forever home for your pet? Or the travel associated with rehoming? The Humane Society of the United States provided this sample information to include in your will so that your executor can expend funds to cover your pet’s temporary care.

“{Article Number} A. As a matter of high priority and importance, I direct my Personal Representative to place any and all animals I may own at the time of my death with another individual or family (that is, in a private, non-institutionalized setting) where such animals will be cared for in a manner that any responsible, devoted pet owner would afford to his or her pets. Prior to initiating such efforts to place my animals, I direct my Personal Representative to consult ______________________, D.V.M. (currently at the _______________________ Hospital), or, in the event of Dr. _____________’s unavailability, a veterinarian chosen by my Personal Representative, to ensure that each animal is in generally good health and is not suffering physically. In addition, I direct my Personal Representative to provide any needed, reasonable veterinary care that my animal(s) may need at that time to restore the animal(s) to generally good health and to alleviate suffering, if possible. Any animal(s) not in generally good health or who is so suffering—and whose care is beyond the capabilities of veterinary medicine, reasonably employed, to restore to generally good health or to alleviate suffering—shall be euthanized, cremated, and the ashes disposed of at the discretion of my Personal Representative. Any expenses incurred for the care (including the costs of veterinary services), placement, or transportation of my animals, or to otherwise effect the purposes of this Article ___________ up to the time of placement, shall be charged against the principal of my residuary estate. Decisions my Personal Representative makes under this Article ___________________—for example, with respect to the veterinary care to be afforded to my animal(s) and the costs of such care— shall be final. My intention is that my Personal Representative have the broadest possible discretion to carry out the purposes of this paragraph.” – Sample information from “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You” The Humane Society of the United States

Other things to consider:

  • Does someone have a key to your house? If you travel without your dog, and you and your spouse (or other family members are injured), can someone get into your home to let your dog out? These people should probably be the friends and family members that you identified above.
  • Are their immediate instructions available? Specifically, do you have feeding instructions and a list of medications for your pet readily available in your home?
  • Does your pet know these people you have entrusted? Rooney warms up to people quickly, so this doesn’t apply to him as much. However, if your dog doesn’t warm up to people very well, you will want to make sure your dog knows your temporary and permanent caregivers very well.
  • Do you have documentation that states who your pet should go to should something happen to you and your immediate family members? Also, when was the last time you updated that documentation? With the benefit of digital calendars these days, we really have no excuse. If you don’t have a reminder in your Google calendar now, I challenge you to take a moment to make a date and time to update your documentation (whether this is a will or a piece of paper with your signature). This update should include having a conversation with the person (or preferably people) who are in charge of your pet if something happens and see if they are still willing and able to take care of your dog.

So that’s all the information I have to share. Do you think this info can help you prepare? Are you prepared for your pet’s future already?

As always, I invite you to hop on over to Fidose of Reality to read Carol’s Dog Mom perspective on this topic.

medicine versus mom

Why Do Dog Dentals Cost So Much?

While working at the veterinary hospital, I went over an endless number of estimates with our clients. My goal was to make sure that everyone understood the healthcare and treatment they were purchasing for their pet. I felt that if I could help people understand the costs and how they relate to their pet’s overall care, I could help them better understand not only why their pet needed the treatment, but also, why certain treatments were priced at a specific level.

If you read pet blogs at all, you are probably very aware that February is National Pet Dental Health month. This year, instead of talking about the importance of pet dental health like I have in the past, I thought I would take the time to explain some significant variables in the costs of a dog dental.

Firstly, when you visit your vet’s office for your dog’s annual exam, you vet should always examine your dog’s teeth. When looking at their teeth, they are evaluating the health of your dog’s gums, as well as the level of plaque on their teeth. Specifically, they are looking for any areas that might be causing your dog some pain and discomfort.

Periodontal disease is usually under-treated, and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs in some patients as they age.” – American Veterinary Dental College

Many veterinarians recommend annual dentals when they see periodontal disease becoming a regular problem in your dog’s overall health. However, most veterinarians will urge you to schedule a dental soon if they feel the level of periodontal disease has increased to a point where your dog is experiencing sensitivity and probably some pain (not to mention the level of plaque that could be on their heart). No matter the circumstance, you always have a right to request an estimate from your veterinarian regarding the costs of the dental. Some pet parents experience a bit of price tag shock when they receive the estimate. Let’s breakdown a few reasons for the costs, fluctuation, and variability in your dental estimate.


Time and time again, we would hear at the veterinary hospital, “How could a dental cost this much? I saw a dental available at my pet store for $150!”. (Just to give you an idea; the costs of a dental with anesthesia in the Bay Area would be around $400-$600). What most pet parents don’t know is that a $150 dental is called a “gentle dental”. Which means that your dog is not anesthetized during the procedure. I thoroughly outline the reasons I believe your pet shouldn’t have a gentle dental here.

So what you are paying for when you schedule a dental at your veterinarian’s office is a dental with anesthisia that will allow the doctor and technicians to properly and thoroughly clean your dog’s teeth and make sure that all plaque is removed from the teeth and under the gum line.

Pre-anesthetic bloodwork

Anesthesia is not something to mess around with. I would never encourage a pet parent to pursue a surgery lightly, and nor should your veterinarian. That’s why, many veterinarians recommend pre-anesthetic bloodwork prior to any anesthetic procedure. This bloodwork will reassure your veterinarian that your dog’s kidneys and liver are functioning properly (i.e. they can filter the anesthesia through the body without causing problems), and let your veterinarian know that there aren’t any abnormalities that would increase the risks associated with anesthesia.

So, if you have your dental estimate in front of you, you might see a line item for pre-anesthetic bloodwork if your pet hasn’t had any bloodwork recently. This line item is important, and a necessary cost in my opinion for any anesthetic procedure.

Surgical Time

Surgical time is probably one of the biggest variables in a dental estimate. Actually, it might not be included if your veterinarian doesn’t believe that your dog needs to have teeth surgically removed. However, if your dog’s periodontal disease is severe, they might need to have some teeth removed. Properly removing teeth from your dog’s mouth is a surgical procedure and requires a significant amount of the veterinarian’s time. Sometimes this time could be upwards of an hour. On the estimates we provided, we would include the minimum time we believed the doctor would need to remove the teeth on the low side, and the maximum time on the high side (we deterimined this based on the severity of the disease and the number of teeth affected).

Dental X-rays

If you dog has teeth removed, they will need dental x-rays. Why? Because the x-rays provide your veterinarian will a clean picture of the health of the roots, which can help your dog keep teeth that looked bad, but had healthy roots. And, it will provide your veterinarian with the reassurance that they removed all of the root if the teeth were indeed extracted.

Dental radiographs are required to correctly diagnose and assist in treatment of patients with extensive disease.” – American Veterinary Dental College

Why is it important that the whole root is removed?

Because roots that are left behind often cause reoccurring problems, possibly infections, that can cause your pet to have another dental (meaning, another anesthetic procedure) to remove the root.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have my dog get a dental somewhere where they didn’t have dental x-ray. It’s simply not thorough.

Weight of Your Dog

If you have ever purchased a medication for your dog, your may have realized that the larger your dog is, the more expensive their medications will be. Your dog’s weight will also play a role in the cost of their pre-op medications, anesthesia, and post-op medications.

Severity of the Periodontal Disease

The more severe your dog’s periodontal disease, the more treatment they will need, which can increase the costs of all of the previously listed variables. To avoid some of these cost increases, you can do the following:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly (If your dog hates brushing, Carol from Fidose of Reality has some other suggestions)
  • Take your dog to their annual exam. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you regarding your dog’s periodontal disease before it becomes too severe.
  • Explore additional preventatives with your veterinarian like supplements or water additives.

In summary, I highly recommend dentals as part of your dog’s overall healthcare. However, I would encourage every pet parent to fully understand what they are paying for and how it affects their pet’s health before scheduling a dental!

I hope you found this information helpful! Has your dog had a dental? Were the costs what you expected?

Battling Dry, Itchy Winter Skin: Isle of Dogs

I have always preferred the winter months to the summer. Most likely because my birthday is in the winter and I absolutely love Christmas time. But one of the downfalls of winter is dry skin. Dry skin brought on by winter conditions is not something that is unique to humans. Pets too can suffer from dry, itchy skin in the winter. If you have never suffered from dry itchy skin, consider yourself a very lucky person. Not only can dry, itchy skin be uncomfortable, but it can also cause your pet to scratch excessively, which can damage their skin. Because this problem affects many pets and people during the winter time, I want to introduce to you a new product from Isle of Dogs which was created to battle this exact problem.

Caring for Winter Skin

To properly care for your pet’s skin, veterinarians recommend the following:

  • Avoid over-bathing: bathing your dog too often can reduce the natural oil production on the skin and can lead to chemical irritation
  • Use a soft brush: brushing your dog’s skin can help remove the dead skin buildup, remove loose fur, and stimulate the hair follicles and natural oils on the skin.
  • Consider changing your dog’s food: If your dog has suffered through winters in the past, you might consider switching to a food with more omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. We feed Rooney Petcurean’s GO! Sensitivity + Shine Duck Recipe which has Omega oils to promote a healthy skin and coat. If you are considering changing your dog’s food or adding supplements, please consult with your veterinarian so that you can make the best choice for your pet.
  • Consider a humidifier or fan: if you are able to increase air circulation in your home, you can prevent allergens from building up on the carpet.

Does your pet have Dry, Itchy Winter Skin? Isle of Dogs can help!

How Isle of Dogs Can Help

Isle of Dogs CocoClean Shampoo and Odor Neutralizing Brush Spray were designed with coconut oil due to the many benefits this natural ingredient can provide:

  • promotes a healthy and soft coat
  • relieves dry, itchy, flaky and irritated skin
  • strengthens hair and reduces protein loss
  • can improve the health of the protective skin barrier
  • natural deodorizer

Not only does the coconut oil counteract the symptoms typically associated with winter skin, but the Brush Spray can also help you reduce the number of baths you typically give your dog by keeping them fresh between baths. Additionally, the spray is only effective if you brush your dog, which improves the dry, itchy winter skin.

What Do I Like About Isle of Dogs

  • The Brush Spray: Rooney loves to jump in mud and any available puddle which doesn’t leave him smelling great. The brush spray provides me with an opportunity to keep Rooney smelling good without overbathing him.
  • Paraben free: I have made an effort to remove parabens from my soaps and shampoos this past year because I suffer from a lot of skin issues. It makes me feel good to be able to provide Rooney with the same quality of ingredients.
  • The fragrance: Rooney currently smells very good. I even used the brush spray after a trip to the bay and Rooney smelled good despite having salt water on his coat!
  • Shampoo & Conditioner combined: I love that the shampoo and conditioner are combined into one product. While Rooney actually doesn’t mind a bath, it’s always nice to make bath time as quick and efficient as possible. For those who have pets who don’t like baths, this is an additional bonus.

Your Turn!

Isle of Dogs was generous enough to allow us to host a giveaway! Tell us why you think Isle of Dogs CocoClean is perfect for your dog in the comments below and submit additional entries to win a bottle of Isle of Dogs CocoClean Shampoo and Odor Neutralizing Brush Spray.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Does your dog suffer from dry, itchy winter skin? What has helped your dog’s skin?

Disclaimer: I am a Petcurean Blogger Advocate. I am provided with compensation for my opinion on Petcurean products, however, Petcurean is the food we feed Rooney every day. Additionally, I was provided with Isle of Dogs CocoClean products in order to provide my opinion. However, My Kid Has Paws only shares reviews we believe benefit our readers.