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February 2011

January 2011

Pet Dental Care

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, by age three 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop dental disease. Clinical research shows a direct correlation between poor oral health and systemic diseases. Bacteria, food debris and saliva cause plaque. It takes three to five days for plaque to become calculus, commonly known as “tartar.” Bacteria enter the bloodstream at the gum line. These bacteria can infect the heart, liver, kidney, lungs and weaken the immune system as it travels throughout the body. Left untreated, periodontal disease will lead to oral pain, tooth loss and systemic problems.

How do you know if your pet has periodontal disease? Signs include:

1. Your pet has bad breath.

2. Their gums are inflamed.

3. The gums bleed while they are eating.

4. There is tartar build up on the teeth and gum line. Tartar is the yellowish-brown crusty stuff.

5. There is a change in eating habits. It now hurts to eat. They are avoiding the hard kibble and begging for your softer food.

6. Cats can develop resorptive lesions on the gums. These are very painful.

There are many ways for you to care for your pets’ teeth. You can practice a healthy dental lifestyle with ease. If your pets’ teeth are in poor condition, you will want to schedule a visit with your veterinarian first. You may choose to have an ultrasonic scaling done and start with a clean slate. An ultrasonic scaling is usually what veterinarians’ refer to as a dental.

Dental Toys

What makes a toy a dental toy? The design should include ways to massage the gums, strengthen the chewing muscles, remove tartar build up and clean between the teeth. These would include toys with raised nubs, rope toys and toys designed for power chewers. Keep in mind that you need to buy appropriate sized toys for your pets. Inappropriate sized toys can become a choking hazard.


Always read the ingredient list. Hidden sugars, such as beet pulp, molasses or high fructose corn syrup defeat the purpose of the treat. Bacteria feed on sugar. The purpose of the treat should either create friction to break down the calculus or contains ingredients that do. 


While those $12 triple head brushes are good, a toothbrush from the dollar store will do the trick. If your pet allows you access to his mouth, a finger brush would be less intrusive than a toothbrush. A piece of gauze wrapped around your finger will also work.


Use pet toothpaste. Toothpaste made for people contains fluoride and detergents which are harmful to your pet. Introduce it to your pet in a gradual, positive manner. Start with something tasty like peanut butter or tuna water. Begin in the rear of the mouth and work your way out. Your pet may be more accepting of the brush leaving the mouth as opposed to entering it. Brush their teeth in the same manner as you do for yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot finish in one sitting. It may take time and patience on your part for your pet to accept it. You should brush their teeth two to three times a week. Read the ingredient list. Surprisingly, some pet toothpastes contain hidden sugars.

Dental Sprays and Gels

These contain ingredients that dissolve plaque and tartar when sprayed or applied directly into your pets’ mouth at the gum line. Read the ingredient list. Know what you are spraying into their mouths.

Dental Wipes

The active ingredient is Chlorohexidine. Chlorohexidine kills the bacteria that form plaque. Like the gauze wraps, they are less intrusive than a toothbrush.


Many commercial pet foods contain hidden sugars and a high carbohydrate (fillers) ratio. Bacteria feed on these. Read your labels. Your pets’ diet should include a high quality dry food. Dry kibble creates more friction than eating canned. The friction helps to remove tartar.

Raw Bones

Raw bones are nature’s toothbrush. They are easy to find at any supermarket. To emphasize: RAW BONES. Cooked bones will splinter and cause intestinal damage. When your pets gnaw on the bones, it naturally removes plaque and tartar. The bones also provide a good source of available calcium. The marrow contains enzymes, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and bulk to help your pet stay healthy and regular. However, marrow is very rich. Some pets, such as those with or prone to pancreatitis cannot digest it well. For those pets, you can push the marrow out before giving the bone to them.  This is my choice for the dental care of my pets. Their teeth, over the last year, have improved dramatically. Last year, Reno needed a dental done. This year, he does not.


I do harp on reading the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the pet industry does not have well enforced rules and regulations. If you are uncertain to what an ingredient really is, google it. 

Your pets’ teeth need to last them a lifetime. There are many options to help you practice a healthy dental lifestyle for your pets. It is never too early or too late to start.



Periodontal Disease 101 by Beth Cristiano



Do you want to increase your pet’s lifespan by up to 30%? You can, just by spending 2-3 minutes a day on an oral hygiene regimen you possibly add years to your pet’s life.  The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates by age three 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop oral disease because they do not have an oral care program in place. Imagine if you did not brush your teeth until your 20’s.  Ewwwww!!  Research shows a strong connection between poor oral health and organic disease. When teeth and gums are not cared for bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums. This bacteria may then infect vital organs causing illness, disease and ultimately death. A comprehensive oral care program will improve the quality and quantity of pet’s lives.                                        

Pet's teeth, like ours, have three layers.

1. Enamel is the hard, protective outermost layer on which plaque and later calculus form.

2. Dentin is a bone-like substance that makes up most of the structure the tooth.

3. Pulp is the core of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.


Periodontal disease does not happen overnight but it may occur quicker than you’d imagine. It all begins with plaque, the milky white substance that forms on teeth and gums. Plaque is made up of food remains, bacteria and enzymes. If plaque is not removed it combines with minerals in saliva to form calculus (or tartar) which adheres like cement to enamel. Plaque starts to mineralize in just 3-5 days. The mineralization process is similar to candle dipping where one layer forms on top of the other. If the calculus is not removed it builds along and eventually under the gum-line. Tartar erodes the gums and forms pockets which allow more bacterial growth.

There are four stages of periodontal disease. Each stage has the same signs as the previous, but with increasing severity.

Stage 1. Minimal plaque and calculus build up and redness at the gum line.

Stage 2. Swelling at the gum line and bleeding upon probing.

Stage 3. Receding gums.

Stage 4. Pyorrhea, a discharge of pus, deep pockets in the gums and loose or missing teeth.

The treatment associated with each stage:

Stage 1. Manual scaling, polish and irrigation, the mouth has an excellent prognosis.

Stage 2. Ultrasonic scaling, polish and irrigation, good prognosis.

Stage 3. Ultrasonic scaling, polish, irrigate and curettage, removal of diseased tissue, guarded prognosis.

Stage 4. Ultrasonic scaling, polish, irrigate, curettage and possible extractions, guarded prognosis

As you can see there are two types of scaling which are used to remove calculus buildup. Manual scaling uses hand-held tools, it is time-consuming and is best suited for mild cases. Ultrasonic or mechanical scaling uses instruments powered by compressed air which is the safest and most effective technique to remove buildup below the gum line.  Both methods require polishing and irrigation. The enamel of the teeth must be polished because the scaling process causes microscopic scratches which are ideal for plaque and tartar to re-adhere and flourish. The purpose of polishing is to smooth the scratches. Irrigation, the final step is essential because it flushes away loose debris that could cause infection. The veterinarian will decide the degree and severity of disease and which course of action is required. Veterinarian’s and certified technicians are the only people suited to perform these delicate tasks. If an ultrasonic scaling is needed the pet must be anesthetized and therefore the procedure MUST be done in the vet’s office. Most pets require pre-procedure blood work and those with special considerations such as, geriatric or immune-suppressed patients may require prophylactic antibiotics.

Symptoms that can accompany periodontal disease are:


* Bad or foul breath

* Loose or missing teeth

* Red swollen gums

* Difficulty or pain when eating

* Excessive salivation beyond breed norm

* Extra time eating

* Bleeding gums

* Loss of appetite

* Yellow-brown tartar deposits

* Begging more



Severe periodontal Disease



After cleaning.


Now we will move on to prevention and maintenance. In some cases, the pet may need to begin their oral hygiene routine with a professional cleaning. Once you have established a clean fresh mouth, begin a regular program. Daily is best, but every two to three days is good. You have many options to choose from including toothbrushing, dental spray, gels and wipes. They need appropriate toys and treats to strengthen periodontal ligaments which hold the teeth in the jaw. Lastly, great consideration should be put into making dietary selections for your pet. Many commercially prepared foods contain hidden sugars that can exacerbate oral disease. 

Periodontal disease and related health problems are preventable with annual oral exams and a home hygiene regimen.

 Periodontal disease does NOT occur without discomfort and or pain. Any pet in pain or being moved into pain can and will bite. Use extreme caution when working in and around an animal’s mouth.


Canine Epilepsy

It is estimated that five percent of all dogs suffer from epilepsy, and we as groomers will encounter them in our shops. There are so many causes of seizures, so canine epilepsy is not a specific disorder. Something triggers abnormal electrical activity in the brain sending a scrambled message to the muscles of the dog’s body. In other words, there is a short circuit in the dog’s electrical panel.


Epilepsy is categorized into two groups:



  1. Idiopathic Epilepsy, also called Primary Epilepsy. There is no identifiable brain abnormality. Generally, it is a genetic defect. Most dogs in this group have their first seizure between the ages of one and five.
  2. Symptomatic Epilepsy, also called Secondary Epilepsy. These seizures have an identifiable brain lesion or other specific cause.


There are two kinds of seizures:


  1. Generalized, Tonic-Clonic or Grand Mal are different names for the same thing. This kind of seizure affects the entire brain. Symptoms will vary depending on point of origination and causes. It generally begins with unusual muscle contractions and loss of consciousness. Dogs may or may not experience facial twitching, excessive drooling, defecation, urination, and expressed anal glands. Towards the end of the seizure, they may or may not clamp their jaws, jerk, run in place, and perform other odd leg movements.


  1. Partial/Focal or Petit Mal. This initially affects a specific portion of the brain, usually as a result of an injury or illness. Dogs are generally conscious during the seizure, but it can escalate into a Grand Mal. Symptoms will vary depending on where it originates and cause. When the seizure affects behavior, it’s called a complex partial or psychomotor seizure. It results in bizarre behavior, aggression, irrational fear or “fly-snapping.” Fly snapping is when the dog bites at the air at imaginary flies.


You’ll notice I used a lot of “generally” and “may or may nots.” That’s because the short circuit can occur anywhere in the brain and presented symptoms can vary. I knew of one dog who during a seizure would rear up on his ind legs and come back down stiff as a board and stayed that way for quite some time.


The four stages of epilepsy:


  1. Prodome. This precedes the actual seizure by hours or days. There is a subtle change in mood or behavior.
  2. Aura. This signals the start of the seizure. They may be nervous or whiny; they may tremble, hide or salivate excessively; or, they may simply act restless, apprehensive, and even unusually affectionate.
  3. Ictus. Actual seizure. Usually lasts from 45 seconds to three minutes.
  4. Post-Ictal. This is after the seizure. It can last from hours to days. Dogs will be extraordinarily hungry or thirsty. They may also experience blindness, deafness, disorientation, pacing and change in behavior.


The most common causes of epilepsy are:


  1. Plants, essential oils and chemicals. For a comprehensive list go to Keep in mind that because a particular substance is not listed doesn’t mean it can’t cause a seizure in a particular dog.
  2. Genetics. Certain breeds are predisposed.
  3. Low blood sugar.
  4. Low thyroid hormone levels.
  5. Stress. This can include the kind of stress caused by the High Velocity dryers in a grooming environment.
  6. Brain infection.
  7. Poisons. These include certain chemical sprays, disinfectants, and household cleaners, particularly those that are pine scented.
  8. Portosystemic shunts which are caused by liver disease.
  9. Vaccinations.
  10. Full moon. No wait, that’s werewolves!
  11. Preservatives and chemical food dyes in commercially prepared foods.
  12. Lyme Disease. 
  13. Chocolate.
  14. Topical flea and tick products.
  15. Hydrocephalus or fluid in the brain.


What to do during a seizure:


  1. Don’t interfere with the seizure unless the dog is in danger. If they are on your grooming table, get them off. Move furniture away from the dog, not the other way around. Kick a towel or blanket under their head to protect from blunt force trauma. Do not use your hands. The dog is not in control and you will get bit.
  2. Turn off lights, TV and other loud appliances. Their brain is already over stimulated.
  3. Do not cover them in blankets or towels to stop the trashing. You run the risk of the dog tearing ligaments. 
  4. Talk to them in quiet, soothing tones.
  5. Place four drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy on top of their head or on their ear flap. Rescue Remedy is the most common of Bach’s flower remedies. It is a homeopathic solution, which is very effective in relieving stress and anxiety in dogs. For more information on Bach Flower remedies go to
  6. Place a bag of ice cubes on the lower midsection of their backs. Use a quart size for small dogs and gallon size for medium to large dogs. Remove immediately after seizure stops.


What to do immediately following a seizure:


  1. Their blood sugar will have dropped, so it is important to restore it. Give a teaspoon of Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream to small dogs, one tablespoon to medium dogs, and two tablespoons for large dogs. According to brand is important.
  2. Their body temperature will have risen, so keep them cool. Do not use cold water. It is counterproductive as it creates a thermal shield preventing heat from escaping
  3. They will be ravenous. Feed several small handfuls of kibble, pasta or rice every hour. The carbs will also help to stabilize their blood sugar. DO NOT LET THEM INHALE THEIR FOOD. You could lose a finger or cause aspiration pnuemonia.
  4. Place four drops of Rescue Remedy on their tongues.


When to go to the veterinarian immediately:


  1. The first time your dog goes into a seizure. 
  2. Status epilepticus. This is a series of continuing seizures or one long seizure lasting 10 minutes or more. 
  3. Cluster seizures. Multiple seizures in a 24 hour period. 
  4. Pale white gums. This is an indicator of a pulmonary edema in the lungs caused by the seizure.


All of the above are life threatening and require immediate veterinary intervention. Always call the vet before you leave so that they are prepared when you arrive.


How your veterinarian diagnoses epilepsy:


  1. Clinical tests that may include a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, cerebrospinal fluid examination for brain lesions (CSF), urinalysis to help identify any medical condition, bile acid test to check for liver shunts, brain imaging, and blood sugar check.
  2. Your notes. Of the two, your notes are most important. Keeping a record may help to find a pattern or trigger of the dog’s seizures. Keep all copies of lab work with your notes and take it with you when you travel. It will help an unfamiliar vet if treatment is needed. To download a medical and seizure record go to


How to treat epilepsy:


  1. There are many prescriptions that are available from your vet based on your dog’s diagnosis. Phenobarbital and potassium bromide are the two most common. Many seizure medications heavily damage the liver. Your veterinarian will want to perform regular liver checks if your dog has been prescribed such drugs.
  2. To help counteract the damage caused by those drugs, supplement the dog’s diet with milk thistle and feed them a liver cleansing diet. Examples of recipes can be found at
  3. A healthy diet is crucial as so many ingredients in commercially prepared foods can trigger a seizure. Follow this link to some good, easy to prepare recipes
  4. Quality supplements can be found at and
  5. Complementary alternative therapies such as Reiki used in conjunction with veterinarian care can be useful for some dogs.
  6. Epilepsy kit. Keep appropriately sized bags of ice and ice cream in your freezer and Rescue Remedy with your notes.


Epilepsy is a serious life threatening condition that can be managed through veterinary care, diet and preparation. I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to the ladies of for allowing me access to their wonderful, informative site.



Just For Today

In 1916, Sybyl Partridge wrote an essay titled “Just For Today.” Over the last century it has been adapted by many organizations and authors. This is my version.

1. Just for today I will be happy. Happiness comes from within you. You are responsible for your happiness. It comes when you expect and embrace it. It never comes from other friends, family members, colleagues, or competitors’ misfortune.

2. Just for today I will accept people for who they are. I will not change people to suit my definitions.

3. Just for today I will take care of my body. It needs to last a lifetime. I will make healthy decisions so that it does.

4. Just for today I will exercise my mind. I will read a book, take a class, and daydream.

5. Just for today I will be pleasant to be around. I will be courteous to others, give compliments, and not try to improve anyone.

6. Just for today I will not worry. I will handle the problems I can.

7. Just for today I will have a program. I will keep a to do list. If I know what needs to be done, it will get done.

8. Just for today I will have a quiet half hour to myself. It will quiet my mind and help me see things clearer. I will make better decisions.

9. Just for today I will not be angry. Anger is a self-defeating emotion. It serves no purpose other than to perpetuate itself.

10. Just for today I will be humble. It is good to be proud of your accomplishments, but remember you were green once yourself.

11. Just for today I will show compassion to others. I will only see what others wish me to see. There may be a reason for someone’s else poor behavior.

12. Just for today I will show compassion to myself. I will forgive my errors, learn from them, and move on. I will stop beating myself up.

13. Just for today I will be honest. It's much easier to remember the truth rather than what was made up.

14. Just for today I will smile. Smiling is contagious.

We live once. So live.

Happy New Years everyone!