Mace Dekker, DVM
Special to The Union

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March 14, 2013
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Vet tips: Baths, toothbrushing and plumpness

Why do I need to keep my pet on heartworm preventative year-round?

Heartworm is transmitted through mosquito bites and transmission happens year-round as a result. Giving the medication seasonally is like playing Russian roulette, odds are not on your side long-term.

Should I brush my pet’s teeth?

The short answer to this question is yes, you should brush your pets teeth — preferably twice a day. There are special pet toothbrushes and toothpaste to make the experience more positive.

Dental disease is a leading cause of other problems in pets as well as people. The bacteria do not limit themselves to the mouth and can cause problems with the liver, kidneys and even heart, shortening their lives.

However, having younger kids myself and knowing how challenging it is to brush their teeth on a regular basis, you can imagine that my pets don’t get it done as frequently as they should.

As a result, they need a dentistry checkup intermittently when their breath starts to smell.

And don’t be fooled by “anesthesia free” dentistry. This is nothing more than an illegal way to make the teeth look good but do nothing for the disease under the gumline.

It cannot evaluate what the tooth root looks like or get to the back teeth, where most of the problems are. Some veterinary chew items can be helpful to control tartar as well.

How often do I need to bathe my pet?

As with a lot of medical questions, the answer to that depends.

For my pets, I bathe them once a year or so. Personally I don’t mind them smelling like dog — that’s what they are, after all. I bathe them when they have been rolling in something dead out in the woods — much to their chagrin.

They do that to mask their smell by the way, so that if they were hunting for real (not for their food bowl), they would not be detected by their prey. Some pets have skin conditions, which can be helped with bathing, but in general, it is not something that is really needed. If you feel it is, consult your veterinarian.

How do I know if my pet is too plump?

Just like with humans, the incidence of overweight dogs and cats is on the rise. Obesity in animals carries with it the similar risks as it does in people, potentially leading to joint issues and diabetes among others.

There is a body condition scale that can be used as a guideline for weight problems. If you search for it online, there are multiple sites where you can get a feel for what the weight should be.

Think about the way a greyhound looks. Most dogs need to have a waist, and under the fur, the ribs should be able to be felt.

If you’re still unsure, consult with your veterinarian, who will be happy to discuss it with you. Don’t start on a strict calorie restriction regimen without consultation by the way — particularly in cats. This can cause serious medical problems and needs to be done carefully.

Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital’s Mace Dekker, DVM, will answer questions regarding pets each month in the Vet Tips. Have a question? Submit it to pets@theunion.com, attention Dr. Dekker.


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The Union Updated Mar 14, 2013 06:49PM Published Mar 14, 2013 01:48PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.