The veterinarians and staff at the Beach Veterinary 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!

Caring for Your Senior Pet

As you age, you begin to encounter new health concerns, daily challenges, and may enjoy things differently than you once did. The same is true of your pets. Since they age more rapidly than humans, pets are considered to be entering their golden years around age seven. Older pets require special care for optimal health, as is the case at any age and stage. Thankfully, due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer than ever.

Behavioral Changes May Signal A Problem

It is important to pay attention to any behavioral changes in your aging pet. These changes may be noticeable before any medical signs become apparent. These include:

• Change in sleep cycles

• Confusion

• Decreased interaction w/humans

• Decreased response to commands

• Decreased self-hygiene/grooming

• Disorientation

• House soiling

• Increased irritability

• Increased reaction to sounds

• Increased vocalization

• Increased aggressive/protective behavior

• Increased anxiety

• Increased wandering

• Repetitive activity

Health Concerns for Senior Pets

Older pets are more prone to cancer, disease of the heart, kidney/urinary tract, liver, joints and bones, and to diabetes, senility and weakness. The risk of cancer in pets increases with age and is as common in dogs as it is in humans. About half of all the deaths in pets over age 10 are caused by cancer.

To catch problems before they progress, senior pets should see their veterinarian more often (semi-annually) for in-depth senior pet wellness exams. Your pet’s vaccination and parasite control needs may change with age as their immune systems aren't as strong as they once were. They may also need changes to their diets and living conditions.

The following are common warning signs of disease:

• Cancer - Abnormal swellings; sores that don't heal; weight loss; loss of appetite; bleeding or discharge from any body opening; offensive mouth odor; difficulty eating/swallowing; loss of stamina; persistent lameness/stiffness; difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

• Kidney Disease - Decreased appetite; increased thirst; increased/decreased/no urination; vomiting; sore mouth; poor coat

• Urinary Tract Disease – Increased urination; spotting/"accidents"; straining to urinate; blood in urine; weakness

• Heart Disease – Coughing; difficulty breathing; decreased tolerance of exercise; decreased appetite; vomiting

VIDEO: What's Wrong With My Cat's Mouth?

Many cat owners look at the grace, athleticism and beauty of their pets and think that they have the “perfect” animal. Unfortunately, many of these same cats will have a very “imperfect” mouth, due to a serious and very painful condition that causes teeth to resorb, dissolve and even break! Here’s what we know about Tooth Resorption in cats.

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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.

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

Your Dog’s Perception of Time

Owning a dog brings many simple joys and often teaches you valuable lessons about life. However, it also comes with its sorrow. Looking into a young puppy's eyes, you are aware that you will watch that animal age rapidly before your own eyes. That little puppy will quickly blossom into a nearly-full-grown dog and before you know it, you'll see gray hairs on his snout. To pet parents, a dog's short lifespan just doesn't seem fair.

One Dog Year

It is common to hear that one "dog year" is roughly equivalent to seven human years. Although that one year may not feel like seven to your pet, he is getting more time out of the same 365 days as you. This is because dogs take in visual information at least 25-percent faster than humans, so they are essentially experiencing more. Rapid perception is an evolutionary characteristic that allows dogs and other animals to respond to threats and catch prey more efficiently as a means of survival in the wild.

While humans have an episodic memory that allows them to recall detailed events from the past, dogs don't think back or look ahead. Instead, they develop associations and learn as they go. You may assume your dog has memories because he sits every time you tell him, but he doesn't "know how he knows" to sit, he just does it. The same is true of familiar places, scents, and experiences. Your dog can't recall what happened at his last visit to the veterinarian's office, but he can associate the smells and surroundings with either a pleasurable or unpleasant past experience without understanding what his opinion is based off of. Dogs are also able to gauge time based on cues from their own bodies, daylight, and so on. This is why your pet may wake or expect to be fed at the same time each day. Dogs can tell the difference between minutes and several hours, as is evident when you return from a day at work. But, their perception is based more on the last time they were fed or taken out rather than on memory.

Cherish the Moments

When your pooch nears his final days, you may think he's looking back on his life and wishing he could swim in the lake or chase cats like he once did. You may be worried that he is aware of his shortened time on this earth. But, dogs experience time much differently than we do. Cherish the moments you do have with your pooch and try to understand that his lifespan isn't something that causes him grief.

Source: Scientific American

Otto, the Cat With An Eating Disorder

Think eating disorders are just for people? Think again. If your cat is a mealtime monster, he may need a therapist.

Otto, the eight-month-old Siamese cat, lived to eat. He voraciously sought after everyone’s food, both human and feline, even engaging in pica—the abnormal urge to eat non-food items.  He was one obsessed kitty, hissing and growling and purposefully jumping up on the dining room table.  His abnormal responses to food occurred in every situation: during food preparation, throughout mealtime, and immediately after meals, when he desperately scavenged. Otto was out of control.

Otto, the Cat With An Eating Disorder

So what do you do with a ravenous, insatiable cat?

Otto’s family brought him to the veterinarian for lab work. Those test results were basically normal and next, his behavior was evaluated by a team of researchers at the Università degli Studi di Padova in Italy. The team, comprised of eight veterinarians, came to an untraditional conclusion: Otto’s disorder was psychogenic; it was psychological, not physical. Otto is the first cat ever diagnosed with an eating disorder.

The team focused on a treatment plan. They limited Otto’s exposure to stress while attempting to modify his responses to food. They:

  • Provided environmental enrichment
  • Increased playtime and interaction
  • Rewarded positive behavior
  • Ignored negative behavior
  • Allowed Otto to see food only at mealtime (no one could eat in front of him)
  • Changed his basic food


After lots of TLC and consistency, Otto’s behavior improved to the point where his owners could actually eat his favorite foods right in front of him. Otto didn’t even care.

If your cat demonstrates unusual or disruptive eating patterns, consult your veterinarian. He may lack necessary nutrients or have a more complex medical problem. Or he just might have an eating disorder that requires a therapist and a behavioral modification program.