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The veterinarians and staff at the Shawnee Animal Clinic 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!

Head Against the Wall: It May Look Silly, But It Could Indicate A Problem

It’s known as “pressing;” the strange, yet unquestionably cute behavior of dogs or cats standing with their heads planted face-first against a wall or other object for no apparent reason. Are they putting themselves in timeout? Are they ashamed of something they’ve done? This behavior could indicate a medical problem and should be checked by your veterinarian.

What It May Mean

Head pressing is typically indicative of damage to the pet’s nervous system. What can cause this damage? There are several possibilities.

In addition to poisoning, pressing behavior can also be a symptom of a brain tumor, head trauma, liver shunt, metabolic disorder, infection of the brain or spinal cord, or stroke.

It could also be an indicator of prosencephalon disease. More commonly referred to as the forebrain, the prosencephalon is the forward-most portion of the brain. With this disease, the forebrain and thalamus become damaged and pets may exhibit circling, changes in learned behavior, damaged reflexes, pacing, pressing, seizures, and/or vision problems. Dogs and cats of any age or breed can be affected.

What To Do

A visit to your veterinarian will help get to the bottom of the behavior. Providing your veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog or cat's health, when the head pressing first began, and possible incidents that might have preceded it, will help him or her in diagnosing the cause.

Diagnostic tests, such as blood and urine testing, radiographs, and a complete physical examination, may determine the cause of the head pressing. Advanced tests, such as MRI or CT scan, may be required if the initial results come back negative.

Not To Be Confused With Normal Behavior

It’s normal for healthy pets to rub or butt their heads against objects, animals, and people. Known as bunting, this is a form of territorial scent-marking. Pressing, on the other hand, indicates a serious medical condition and is abnormal.

By itself, head pressing may not be dangerous to your pet - the concern lies in what it could be signaling. You know your pet better than anyone. If something seems off, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Therapy Dogs Improve Lives of Dementia Patients

Dementia. The diagnosis is most often devastating. As the condition progresses, your loved one will become more forgetful, less able to effectively communicate (if at all), and unable to perform simple day-to-day tasks. You’ll begin to feel hopeless and helpless when it comes to improving the person’s mental health and quality of life.

Those in the healthcare field, working in nursing homes and assisted living environments, witness the struggle firsthand. Many report patients who won’t even make eye contact with them or their family members. But, for some reason, visitors with wagging tails seem to hold their attention. Dogs have long been used as therapeutic aides in hospital environments, even if the therapy they’re providing is as simple as a smile. Programs are now being geared specifically toward Alzheimer and dementia patients in an effort to reach them.

"The best way to reach an Alzheimer's patient is through music, children or animals," said Diane Dzambo, the director of People & Animals Who Serve (P.A.W.S.) in a Capital Gazette article. "The patients become lucid. The pets provide a connection to the outside world."

Like other programs worldwide, P.A.W.S consists of volunteers and their dogs who visit senior communities, assisted living residences, senior activity centers, adult day care centers, and more.

The Benefits of Animal Therapy

Mara M. Baun, DNSc, a coordinator of the nursing program at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center has been researching the benefits of therapy dogs on dementia patients for more than a decade. She has found that one-on-one and group settings where a dog is present increase interactive behaviors in those suffering from dementia.

“Even people with Alzheimer’s recognize a dog and they see that the dog is someone new in their environment,” she said in a medical article. “I think they see it as someone with whom they can interact without any worry.”

Therapy dogs have also been shown to:

Lessen agitation – This common symptom of dementia is reduced when a therapy dog is around

Increase physical activity – Petting, brushing, or playing with a dog adds to patient mobility

Increase appetites - Dementia patients have been shown to eat more following a dog’s visit

Provide enjoyment – Depression is common among dementia and Alzheimer patients, but therapy dogs have

been shown to lessen such feelings

Dementia Assistance Dogs

In the U.S. alone, approximately 15% of citizens 65 years and older will suffer from some form of dementia and another 10% from Alzheimer’s disease – that’s 5.5 million people. More and more therapy dog programs are popping up, not just geared at providing companionship and joy, but also for assisting with everyday living. Just as guide dogs for the blind are trained to help their handlers live better lives, dementia assistance dogs are now being trained to help patients in the early stages of the condition.

“Research has shown that an individual who walks with a dog is more likely to be engaged in conversation by other people along the way,” states a Psychology Today article. “An important fact is that such interactions are very predictable… These positive and predictable social interactions reduce the sense of loneliness and isolation experienced by people with dementia.”

Dementia assistance dogs are trained to guide people through the day, reminding handlers when to eat, how to get back home, and more.

Sources: Alzheimer's Project, Capital Gazette, Everyday Health, & Psychology Today

Traveling With Pets Just Got Easier at O’Hare

Astroturf has been introduced at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. It isn’t replacing the airport’s paved landing strips, but it can now be found in a small corner of Terminal 3. An artificial grass carpeted bathroom for pets has been installed indoors for passengers traveling with pets and service animals.

Complete with miniature fire hydrants, the green oases are designed to make “going” in a bustling airport as comfortable as possible for pets and their owners. Located just outside the Rotunda area of Terminal 3, the room is accessible via an automatic glass door and includes a pop-up sprinkler system to wash away urine. Pet owners can also pick up a hose themselves and wash-up either of the room’s two 2-foot by 4-foot “relief areas” once their pet has done his or her duties. Just like city streets, pet waste bags will be used when pets go “number two.”

“We are pleased to offer this new amenity for passengers, especially those who depend on the assistance of service animals when they travel through our airport," said Ginger Evans, Chicago Department of Aviation commissioner. "This is another way we are making O'Hare International Airport more accessible to the traveling public and creating a more welcoming environment for visitors to Chicago."

The new room is beneficial to pet owners, who previously had to pass through security checkpoints to reenter terminals after taking pets to any of the airport’s three outdoor pet restroom areas. The room is wheelchair accessible and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making travel much more convenient for disabled passengers with service animals.

With more people and pets taking to the skies, airports are evolving to meet the needs of their customers. Indoor pet restrooms are just the launching point, however. Denver International Airport has become the first to boast an on-airport pet boarding facility. The 25,000 square-foot space includes private suites, a bone-shaped splashing pool, flat screen TVs, on-site medical experts, obedience training, and, for when pets really need to relax and wind down, massage therapy.

The Department of Transportation began requiring all U.S. airlines to provide animal relief areas at airports, as well as escorts to those areas for any passenger traveling with a service animal, in 2009. O’Hare’s outdoor relief areas are still located near the lower curb in front of Terminals 1, 2, and 5. With natural grass, wood chips, or gravel, the spaces are fenced in and also require owners to clean up after their pets.

Other airports which have introduced indoor pet relief areas include: San Diego International Airport, CA; Palm Springs International Airport, CA; Fresno Yosemite International Airport, CA; Sea-Tac Airport, WA; Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, MN; Washington Dulles International Airport, VA; Pittsburgh International Airport, PA; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, TX; Detroit Metro Airport, MI; Asheville Regional Airport, NC; Fayetteville Regional Airport, NC; and Memphis International Airport, TN.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Family Reunited with Cat 14 Years Later

Jill Petticord was only eight when her three-year-old cat Ralph went missing. Now 22, Jill was more than a little surprised when she recently got a call explaining her long lost cat had finally been found.

Jill’s mother adopted the kitten in 1998 from the Animal Rescue League (ARL) in Des Moines, Iowa as a gift for her daughter. Per standard procedure, the tiny kitten was microchipped before heading home with his new family. Like any little girl, Jill was enamored with the gift. According to her mother, she carried the cat around and “did absolutely everything with Ralph.”

But, all that joy turned to heartache when Ralph disappeared. Maybe he went searching for his parents and found them, but for the next 14 years Ralph led another life somewhere else. That is, until recently when he was picked up by an animal control officer as a stray.

Once again, Ralph found himself in the care of the ARL, but this time they scanned his microchip and began the search for his family. The contact phone number on the feline’s microchip was found to no longer be in service, but there was also an address. ARL workers reached out via mail to the address linked to Ralph’s microchip, which ended up being connected to a business. An employee who received the letter was able to contact Jill’s mom and the rest is history!

The mother and daughter were confused and in shock, but they made the trip to the ARL and there was Ralph, full-grown and elderly. “According to the family, when they entered the room, Ralph turned his head to look at them, and his eyes came to life.” Where Ralph had been all those years is a mystery, by ARL workers believe he must’ve been taken in by a stranger and cared for – until he decided to leave home once again.

A bit on the thin side, Jill is nursing the cat back to health and making up for lost time.

"I am just glad that he gets to finish out his life with me and not somewhere out on the streets and I can make sure that he has a good ending to his life," Jill said. “It was never a possibility that I was ever going to see my cat again. I had a German Shepard and a cat, but none of them were Ralph."

Source: Cat Channel

VIDEO: Allergic Pets and Their Owners

From springtime through the late fall, many people are subject to seasonal allergies. But people are not the only ones suffering. For our dogs and cats, these same seasons can bring intense itching and discomfort. Yes, its true. Our pets can get their own "hay fever."

It's a very frustrating and somewhat common situation. Pet owners by the millions flock to their veterinarians in the hope of relieving their pet's itchiness. The constant chewing, licking, and scratching can test an owner's love for their pets.

Allergies are an over-reaction of the body's immune system to a foreign substance, such as pollen or flea saliva. For people with allergies, we sneeze and sniffle as our bodies respond to histamine released by immune cells.

Dogs and cats react differently. Histamine is released and causes an itchy feeling. The pet reacts by scratching at that site. The constant assault can actually damage the skin, leading to bacterial infections. Areas of hair loss and oozing sores known as "hot spots" are very common with allergies. Watch this video to learn more about how to ease the suffering of pet allergies.


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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.