Abytes Pet and Animal

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Month: July 2015

What’s Behind Bad Pet Breath

Just like people, some dogs and cats have stinky breath. Here’s how to recognize if the stench signals a serious health problem — and how to say bye-bye to bad pet breath.
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Bad dog breath or cat breath can certainly be unpleasant — but more importantly, it could also be an indication of a pet health problem.

“Bad breath in pets is most commonly due to dental disease, including gingivitis, periodontitis, and decayed or abscessed teeth,” warns Jean Hofve, DVM, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and president of the Rocky Mountain Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

There are other all-too-common factors that can cause bad breath in pets, adds Susan Nelson, DVM, an assistant professor of clinical sciences at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Non-medical causes include eating malodorous foods or coprophagy (eating feces),” she says.

When Bad Breath Becomes a Problem

In rarer instances, bad dog or cat breath could be an indicator of a more serious health problem. “An ammonia odor may be due to kidney disease, while an acetone-type odor can be a sign of diabetes,” says Dr. Hofve.

Other pet illnesses that include bad breath as a possible symptom are sinusitis, rhinitis, neoplasia, autoimmune disease, FeLV and FIV in cats, foreign bodies, and open fractures, says Dr. Nelson. Considering all these possibilities, it’s best to see your veterinarian if the bad breath is lingering and persistent. “You should always have your veterinarian examine your pet if you notice any odor coming from its mouth, as many of these causes are potentially life-threatening conditions,” says Nelson. “At the minimum, most of these will cause discomfort for your pet.”

The Basics of Brushing Cat and Dog Teeth

For bad breath that’s not related to a more chronic condition, brushing your pet’s teeth is the simplest way to remedy the situation. To do this, Dr. Nelson recommends purchasing a pet-specific toothbrush. There are brushes with longer handles for big dogs and brushes that fit over your finger for small dogs and cats.

If you’ve never brushed dog teeth or cat teeth before, you may want to start with a damp washcloth or gauze passed over their teeth to get them used to the sensation. Then you can switch to the toothbrush. “Concentrate on the outside surfaces of the teeth. Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle at the gum line and use short back-and-forth, circular motions along the base of the tooth and in between teeth,” says Nelson. “You may only be able to do a few teeth during these early sessions, but don’t get discouraged. Most pets can be taught to accept tooth brushing if you are patient and take it slowly.”

More Ways to Banish Bad Cat Breath and Dog Breath

Brushing your cat’s and dog’s teeth isn’t the only way to alleviate their bad breath. Here are other tips that our experts recommend:

Don’t ignore it. Since bad breath might be hiding a more serious medical condition, have a vet check it out first, says Nelson.
Have necessary dental work done. In some instances, dental work on your pet’s teeth or gums may be necessary to eliminate the problem, so don’t be surprised if this is what your vet recommends.
Rely on brushing. Once your vet has given the okay, you can incorporate pet teeth brushing based on the techniques explained above.
Consider rinses. Certain additives to your pet’s drinking water and oral rinses may be effective at reducing bad breath. “Speak with your veterinarian as to which ones may be best for your pet,” says Nelson.
Choose the right chew. Dental chews claim to clean your pet’s teeth, but Hofve is skeptical of many of them. “Most ‘dental’ treats are not effective, but I have found CET Chews and Feline Greenies to be the best at actually getting existing plaque off,” she says.

Does Your Pet Belong Indoors or Outdoors

Most experts agree: Cats and dogs are better off as indoor pets. Here’s why.
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Domestic cats and dogs are the most popular pets in the United States, numbering more than 130 million.

Some people believe that cats are natural outdoor pets and will be happier outside, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, cats will stay healthier as indoor pets. Since the 1940s, when kitty litter first became available, cats have gradually moved indoors. Cats left outside adapt quickly and will naturally start hunting smaller mammals. Because they are not as dependent on people as dogs are, they have a greater tendency to stray from their homes. In fact, 20 percent of cats that are adopted were strays.

Here are some things to keep in mind about outdoor cats:

Pet health. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is about two years compared to more than 10 years for an indoor cat. Ticks, fleas, disease, traffic, and predators all pose danger to outdoor cats. Studies have found that about 13 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of cats.
Environmental concerns. Domestic cats are not part of the natural environment. Even when well fed, their instincts are to hunt. In addition to killing mice and chipmunks, outdoor cats kill millions of birds each year.
Outdoor options. If you want to let your cat enjoy the outdoors, consider an outdoor pet enclosure or a harness. Cats can be trained to go for walks outside on a leash and harness. An outdoor enclosure should be one that keeps cats in and predators out, which means it must have a closed roof.

Why Dogs Do Better Indoors

Some pet owners believe that outdoor dogs get more exercise, are happier, and are good guard dogs. According to pet health experts, however, these arguments are simply not true. Dogs are social animals that crave attention; they are not happy alone outside. If a dog lives outside, the only territory he will guard is his pen. And instead of exercising, dogs that are left outside spend most of their time waiting for you.

“In some parts of the country where the climate is milder, it is more common to have outdoor dogs, but dogs are social creatures and are never happy in isolation,” says Bill Gorton, a professional dog trainer in Lehigh Valley, Pa. Here are some of the other hazards of keeping a dog as an outdoor pet:

Pet health. Outdoor dogs can escape from the yard, facing danger in the form of traffic, poisoning, or fights with other animals. Chronic health problems can develop from cold or heat exposure. Because outdoor dogs are less socialized, they are more likely to be given to shelters. In addition, outdoor dogs are more likely to be put down.
Behavior problems. Dogs that are outside pets are more stressed and develop behavior problems such as barking, digging, escaping, and being overly aggressive. This makes them harder to train and easier to give up.
Outdoor options. Dogs need exercise. The best way to get them outside is to be outside with them, walking or playing. If you leave your dog outside for short periods, make sure to provide a safe, escape-proof shelter, shade, and fresh water. Never chain your dog. Remember that dogs with heavy coats don’t do well in the heat, and short-coated dogs do not do well in the cold.

Should You Change Your Pet’s Environment?

It is possible to bring your outdoor pet indoors, but it may take some time to get him used to being in the house; making an indoor pet into an outdoor pet is almost always a bad idea. Cats will easily learn to use a litter box, and you can keep them happy by providing them with play toys and a scratching post, but letting an indoor cat outside exposes them to dangers, and cats may stray.

Bad habits developed as an outdoor dog may be managed or modified with training. You may need the help of a professional dog trainer. “The worst thing you can do to a dog that is an indoor pet is turn him outside,” warns Gorton. “Imagine how you feel when you have been locked out of your house for just a short time. Trying to make an indoor dog into an outdoor pet is a form of abandonment and cruelty, and your pet’s health will certainly suffer.”

Opening your home to a pet is wonderful for you and the animal you choose, but remember that your dog or cat will thrive within your home, not outside of it.

The Scoop on Holistic Pet Care

Humans aren’t the only ones whose illnesses can be treated holistically. Animal owners are seeking holistic veterinary methods for their pets, too.
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Taking an ailing pet to the vet usually follows a certain routine: The doctor examines your pet, maybe administers a shot, and writes out a prescription to fix what’s bothering him. But some pet owners are now foregoing the classic vet visit in favor of a new approach — holistic pet care.

Holistic pet care, including holistic canine care, is a way of treating a sick animal as a whole, instead of trying to cure an isolated problem, says Will Falconer, DVM, a veterinarian and certified veterinary homeopath in Austin, Texas.

“What it really means is looking at the biggest possible picture,” Dr. Falconer says. “What’s the context that this animal is really in? Is it a lousy emotional environment; is it injury — is their nutrition part of the equation? Often, it’s more than one thing.”

3 Types of Holistic Veterinary Methods

Though holistic medicine for pets has been around for ages, it has increased in popularity in the last few years, along with holistic care for people. Says Falconer, “People start thinking, ‘Gee, I could do this for my dog or cat or goose or whatever, and get as good a result as I’ve experienced myself.’”

However, holistic pet treatment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are several different types of holistic veterinary approaches to pet health. The most popular include:

Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine. Known as TCVM for short, this approach is based on the principle that sickness is caused by imbalances in a pet’s body. A TCVM practitioner may use “opposite” treatments to restore balance, thereby improving the animal’s health. “If a pet has diarrhea, for example, the TCVM approach is to slow things down and take out the heat, or the cold, or whatever it is that is causing the illness,” Falconer says. Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine practitioners may also use Chinese herbs or acupuncture (a treatment in which small needles are placed under the skin).
Homeopathy. This school of thought uses the principle of “like cures like” to treat disease. “With homeopathy, we usually say ‘You’ve got this diarrhea because you’re trying to get well,’” Falconer explains. “We’ll give you something to briefly kick that into a little higher gear so it can resolve itself.” Falconer, who is a homeopathic practitioner, may prescribe nutritional changes, such as raw-food diets, for some of his patients. “Dogs and cats, at least, come from a background of eating raw food for millennia,” Falconer says. “A cat is a desert animal that’s a carnivore. You shouldn’t raise them on dry food.”
Chiropractic. Like their counterparts who treat people, chiropractors tending to animals feel that some illnesses stem from physical disorders, like misalignment of the spine. “They believe that if we can straighten the spine and get energy flowing, the animals can do a lot of good and repair themselves,” Falconer says. Chiropractic specialists may do adjustments, in which they gently correct bone and joint misalignments.

No matter what type of holistic vet you choose, you can expect most practitioners to spend a lot of time examining your pet and getting a complete pet health history since their treatment plan will be personalized for your pet’s specific situation. “I typically spend an hour asking lots of questions,” Falconer says, explaining that he wants to choose the best treatment for each individual animal rather than just basing it on the general diagnosis.

To find a holistic veterinary practitioner in your area, visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s referral Web page.

Top Tips for Pet-Proofing Your Home

New pets are bound to get into a little trouble around the house. By taking some simple actions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy at home.
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Bringing home a new pet? You’ve probably considered the best ways to safeguard your rugs and furniture against “accidents.” But when you start to pet-proof your home, the real attention needs to be paid to safeguarding your pet from common household hazards.

A pet may be exposed to dangers in any room of your house, your garage, or your yard. Pet poisonings can occur from insecticides, cleaning products, prescription drugs, houseplants, and even foods you eat every day. Here’s how to keep Fido and Fluffy safe.

4 Ways to Pet-Proof Living Areas

Common pet hazards in living areas include burns or electrocution from electric cords and choking from swallowing items that fall on the floor. Follow these pet-proofing steps:

Avoid dangling wires or use cord covers. Chewing electric wires is especially tempting for kittens and puppies.
String-like items that fall on the floor can damage a pet’s intestinal tract. Pick up any tinsel, ribbon, string, or rubber bands. Check areas behind or under furniture carefully.
Hide tempting goodies. Put away children’s games, small knick-knacks, decorations, crafts, and candies that can be knocked on the floor. Chocolate and xylitol (a sweetener found in many sugar-free candies) can be especially harmful to your pet’s health.
Ditch the dangerous plants. Be aware of potentially harmful houseplants such as lilies, which are highly toxic to cats, azaleas, geraniums, mistletoe, and poinsettias. Ask your vet for a complete list of potentially harmful plants.

Prevent Pet Poisonings in the Kitchen

Many foods that are safe for you may be dangerous for your new pet. Foods that should be kept out of a dog or cat’s reach and menu include coffee grounds, chocolate, tea, garlic, macadamia nuts, yeast dough, grapes, raisins, rhubarb leaves, and onions. Avocados can be toxic for birds, rabbits, and horses. Chicken bones can splinter and be a choking hazard for your cat or dog.

Follow these guidelines:

Keep kitchen garbage out of pets’ reach.
Read labels on cleaning products and keep them stored properly. Bleach can cause damage to a pet’s respiratory and digestive tract.
Pay special attention to air quality. Fumes from nonstick cooking sprays and self-cleaning ovens can be dangerous for birds.
Discourage guests from feeding pets from the dining table. Fatty and spicy foods can cause damage to your pet’s digestive system.

Avoid Pet Health Hazards in the Bathroom and Bedroom

Eating just one mothball can make a dog or cat extremely ill — it can even be fatal. Common over-the-counter medications such as pain killers, cold medicines, and vitamins can be toxic for your pet. Even aspirin can cause problems.

Follow these steps:

Keep all medications out of your bedroom and stored securely in an out-of-reach cabinet.
Bath soaps, toothpaste, and sunblock can cause pet vomiting and diarrhea and should also be properly stored.
Keep toilet lids down to keep your pet from drinking treated toilet water. Small pets can drown inside a toilet.
Always check your washer, dryer, drawers, and closets before closing them to make sure your kitten or puppy has not crawled in for a nap.

Dodge Dangers in Your Garage and Yard

Lurking in your garage is a danger for your pet’s health — antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol. It has a sweet taste that attracts pets, but it’s deadly. Just one teaspoon can kill a cat or small dog. Outside dangers include plants like rhubarb, azalea, and rhododendron, as well as cedar wood shavings and lawn pesticides.

Keep these tips in mind:

Store all antifreeze, herbicides, pesticides, paints, solvents, and fertilizers in secure areas.
Keep your pet off grass that has been treated with fertilizer or pesticide for the amount of time specified on the product label. Wet granules can stick to your pet’s feet and be licked off.
De-icing salts spread on walk and driveways can irritate your pet’s paws. Wash paws after coming in from the snow or use doggie boots.
Clean spills off the garage floor and driveway. Sweet-tasting antifreeze that has leaked from under your car can be fatal if licked off. There is, however, a pet-friendly anti-freeze that uses propylene glycol, a less toxic base, available in some stores.

It’s important to know the symptoms of pet poisoning, which may include vomiting, significant or foamy salivating, changes on their paws, eyes, or the skin around the mouth, trouble breathing, seizures, or paralysis. If you suspect your pet had been poisoned, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 (there is a charge for the ASPCA service).

Your pet’s health depends on you. If you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that you provide a safe environment. Know potential hazards and pet-proofing your home, room by room.

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