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Dogs and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days grow darker and shorter, and the thermometer plummets, so does the mood of millions of people living in the Northern Hemisphere. But humans are not the only ones affected by what scientists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Our dogs – even the happiest, most active and energetic ones — can suffer the same dramatic downturn in mood.

In some veterinary studies, one third of the dog owners surveyed reported a steep plunge in their dogs’ otherwise happy and balanced personalities during the winter. According to them, nearly half of their dogs were less active, while half of them slept longer and were more difficult to rouse in the morning.

The British veterinary organization PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) recently listed some of the symptoms displayed by dogs suffering from SAD. They include aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately, clawing at the furniture, either demanding more attention or appearing withdrawn, frequent barking, lethargy, less interest in going for walks or playing either with people, other dogs or toys, and reduced appetite accompanied by weight loss.

According to scientists, the reason for these behavioral changes in both humans and dogs appears to stem from the effect that light has on two significant hormones. The first is melatonin, produced in the pineal gland. The second is serotonin, produced in the brain.

Melatonin, often referred to as the “hormone of darkness”, plays a vital role in regulating the sleep cycle. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and because melatonin is usually secreted at night, the less light there is – as in the shorter, darker days of winter — the greater the production of melatonin. Key among its many, negative effects: lethargy, loss of appetite and sleepiness.

Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel good” substance in the brain also affects mood, appetite and sleep – but in an entirely different way. In this case, it’s sunlight that’s needed for the production of serotonin.

There are ways, however, to combat the effects of daylight’s diminishing hours on your dog’s mood before the full onset of winter. Start by ensuring that his regular exercise regime is maintained, and that his diet is well balanced. If your dog is already showing signs of lethargy or withdrawal, talk constantly and comfortingly to him and play games — such as hiding his favorite toys or tug-o-war — to keep him active and engaged. Studies show that dogs left alone most of the day are those who suffer the most. To rectify this, spend more time with your dog, hire a dog walker, or place him in doggy daycare.

Since the absence of bright light seems to be the major cause of SAD, the other solutions involve raising your dog’s direct exposure to as much light as possible. Place his bed close to a window or glass door. Change the schedule of his walks so that he is outside during the brightest portion of the day, and keep the lights on inside, particularly on the dullest days.

Ultimately, though, it’s the composition of the light that matters most. The more closely it resembles natural daylight, the more therapeutic it is. Just as there are specially designed “light boxes” for people with SAD, there are now similar light boxes for dogs. Owners opting for less expensive solutions need simply replace old, tungsten light bulbs with new, compact white fluorescent ones, labeled either “full spectrum” or “daylight.” Turn these lights on for at least an hour each day, then play with your dog to ensure his eyes are fully open and both retinas clearly exposed to the incoming light.

Hopefully, following all or some of these suggestions will spare both you and your cherished doggy companion an unnecessary case of the winter blues.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

Senior Cats and Senior Dogs

Familiar with the axiom: “There may be snow on the roof top, but there is fire in the furnace”?

Now, imagine it this way: “There may be snow on the fur/hair, but there is fire in the soul.”

Not to mention a springy step, a feisty spirit and a loving heart. Describing both a senior cat and a senior citizen, when these two are placed paw in hand, more often than not, they form the perfect forever pair.

While understandably attracted to the “idea” of a kitten, the “reality” of one –brimming with energy, climbing everything in sight and scampering underfoot – may paint a rather exhausting pussycat picture for the average senior.

The solution to this purr-plexing problem is as clear as the whiskers on a fine feline’s face: match a senior cat with a senior citizen.

There are many benefits to adopting an older cat, a true “adult” in every sense of the word. One who has long been comfortable inside her own “skin”. One who is likely to relish sitting on a warm lap or atop a cat tree to watch the birds fly past the window. One whose appetite is no longer ravenous but reasonable. One for whom litter box training is not a learning experience, but a lifetime habit. One who will take the occasional absences of an active senior companion during the day with good grace and a genial “welcome home” meow.

For less active seniors or those in assisted living facilities that allow pets, felines make fabulous roommates. Unlike their canine counterparts, they don’t require a daily regime of being walked and exercised outdoors — whether it’s hot or cold, raining or snowing. Whatever the weather, cats will remain contentedly indoors, provided their food dish, water bowl and litter box are near by. Playing cat-specific videos whose themes range from birds and butterflies to squirrels and mice will keep them endlessly entertained whether their humans are with them or not. Entranced and stimulated by the movements and sounds, they can happily view the same tape over and over.

Some cats adapt easily to a harness and leash, enabling their humans to take them for walks in the hallways of their seniors’ residence, outside in the garden, into the common areas, and on visits to those without pets of their own. For more finicky felines, there are specially designed, enclosed strollers, allowing them to ride safely and stylishly both indoors and out.

As beneficial as senior cats are for senior citizens, senior citizens are equally as beneficial for senior cats. More difficult to adopt than younger cats and kittens, but just as deserving of permanent homes, they’re all too often overlooked at shelters, humane societies and rescue groups — and for all the wrong reasons. Senior cats seem to sense when they receive a second chance at the rest of their lives. And any senior citizen savvy enough to adopt one, will not only reap the rewards, but will be the lucky recipient of a love as endearing as it is enduring.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

A Feline Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a festive time, filled with feasting, family, and friends. But it’s also a time of potential distress for our feline companions. Any changes in a cat’s regular routine – a calm home now crammed with new scents, sounds and strangers — can send even the least “fraidy cat” cat scampering for cover.

To reduce your furry friend’s stress level (and YOURS), maintain her regular feeding and playing routine with some extra interactive play sessions for good measure. Keep all but the most social cats in a separate room, then ensure that your social “cat-erfly” doesn’t dart out into the night when the door opens and your guests arrive. Should the worst happen and she does disappear, make certain that she has either been micro-chipped or is wearing a collar with up-to-date tags for proper identification and a swift return to your waiting arms.

As tantalizing as Thanksgiving food is for people, some can prove painful, even fatal for cats. The most notorious offenders are:

Chocolate: All chocolate, especially semi-sweet, dark and baking chocolate contain the toxic, caffeine-like ingredient theobromine. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, is also dangerous. If you suspect that your cat has eaten something toxic, promptly call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Turkey stuffing: It often contains onions and garlic, raisins and spices – all of them toxic to cats. The sulfoxides and disulfides in onions and garlic destroy the red blood cells and can cause serious blood problems, including anemia. The effects of ingesting raisins and/or spices usually occur within 24 hours and include lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased urination.

Cooked turkey bones and gristle: Turkey bones splinter easily and can get caught in your cat’s throat or esophagus. They can also cause intestinal blockages or perforations leading to infection, while turkey gristle presents a clear and present choking hazard. To safeguard against these painful possibilities, all leftovers should be carefully wrapped and promptly disposed of.

Alcohol: To avoid intoxication and alcohol poisoning, keep all full glasses and half-filled glasses of wine or spirits out of reach of your cat’s curious nose and playful paws.

And yet, there’s no harm in providing your kitty with her own Thanksgiving feast, one that includes a few small, boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

Cats Who Act Like Dogs

There’s long been a stereotypical depiction of cats by diehard dog lovers, who consider canines social and eager to please while finding felines aloof and openly independent.

There are, however, several pussycat breeds that defy ALL stereotypes, causing both puzzled dog devotees and cat caretakers to pose the question, “What do you think you are: a dog?”

Strangely enough, these kitties possess traits more often associated with doggies, such as sociability and an increased need for affection, an affinity for water and playing fetch, greeting their owners and even learning basic canine commands. And six of these “dog like” breeds are:

Turkish Angora: Instantly recognizable by their luxurious white coats, these lavishly furred felines crave attention and affection from everyone. They’re extremely friendly towards strangers, yet remain fiercely loyal to their owners. Famous for being fun loving, they thrive on playing games like fetch, love going swimming, and require frequent social interactions to keep them hap-hap-happy.

Maine Coon: The largest and lushest of domestic cats, they often reach the size of a small dog. But their size pales in comparison to their smarts! Thanks to their high intelligence, they’re easy to train and exceptionally good at games. Due to their dexterity, they’re capable of opening doors, turning on lights, and getting food for themselves. And should they ever run out of steam, they morph into the cuddliest teddy bear wannabes.

Siamese: These chatty “catties” vocalize even more than the average dog. They possess a vocabulary of sounds that suit their every mood: be it a purr or a growl, a mewl or a meow. And they’re sassy! Tell them “No!” and they’ll promptly respond with the kitty equivalent of “Oh, really?” Besides their ability to banter, they’re also one of the most affectionate breeds and form deep, loving bonds with their owners.

Manx: Having originated on the Isle of Man, they’re known for having no tail (the result of a dominant genetic mutation) almost as much as for their ability to bond firmly and fur-ever with their people. Like puppies, they’ll faithfully follow their owners everywhere, never wanting them to be out of sight. They’re also one of the few breeds that enjoy car rides, that are easily leash trained, and that actually growl at intruders, making them fairly effective “guard” cats.

Ragdoll: Named for their flip-floppy demeanor when they’re picked up, these cats are remarkably easy to train by using the twin reinforcements of praise and treats. Calm and quiet and adoringly attached to their owners, they cherish being in their company as much as paws-ible, and due to their oh-so-cuddly nature, they’re just naturally compared to a snuggly, cuddly lap dog.

Abyssinian: Assigned the title “Athlete” of the feline world, and arrayed in their trademark “ticked” tabby coats, these lithe acrobats LOVE heights and will effortlessly make their way to the highest part of any room. Affectionately called “Aby-grabbys” because of their propensity for taking things that catch their eye, they also love playing with toys, learning tricks, and being the focus of their owners’ universe.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

10 Brightest Cat Breeds

1. Abyssinian

Not one to laze about, the Abyssinian keeps moving as she eagerly explores her indoor world. She’ll even allow herself to be leashed and walked by her owner if it means further investigation of the world outside. A great fan of both people and bird watching, adept at learning tricks, she much prefers playing to cuddling as her main form of social interaction.

2. Bengal

True to her “wild cat” appearance, the sharp-brained Bengal thrives on activity. Whether she’s outdoors running, playing and watching the birds or indoors leaping from counters and “climbing the walls”, keeping this kitty mentally and physically stimulated is key to keeping her happy. Use a clicker to teach her tricks, join her in puzzle playing, and this attention seeker is purr-fectly content.

3. Savannah

Part African Serval, adventure comes as naturally to the Savannah as her curiosity, and thanks to her magnificent leaping skills, takes her to the highest places, be it the top of the refrigerator or the tallest shelf in the room. She also reigns supreme when it comes to socializing with her people, loyally and lovingly shadowing them and even accompanying them on walks if they leash her.

4. Cornish Rex

Her head may be egg-shaped, but it’s certainly not empty. Extremely charming and exceedingly purr-sonable, the Cornish Rex relishes human attention and revels in tricks and puzzle games that involve both her and her devoted owner. She also LOVES being held, and with so little fur on her body, is winningly warm to the touch, making her the ultimate bed warmer on cold winter nights.

5. Balinese

Both inquisitive and entertaining, the Balinese loves being involved in whatever her owner is doing as much as she loves performing tricks. Add a touch of naughtiness to her niceness, and her sense of humor will keep her human not only “ooh”-ing, but “ahh”-ing in wonder. Given her druthers, she would cuddle all day, every day while whispering sweet kitty nothings in her chosen person’s captive ear.

6. Sphynx

Described as part monkey (due to her dexterity), part dog (due to her sociability), part child (due to her curiosity) and part cat (due to her intelligence and grace), the Sphynx is a sublime example of puss-in-boots purr-fection. Whether she’s defying gravity, mixing and mingling, exploring her world or showering her owner with love, she does it with elegance and poise.

7. Japanese Bobtail

Striking a splendid balance between social and solitary, the exotic Japanese Bobtail is one feline who fairly oozes confidence. Famously friendly and amazingly amiable, with a distinctive singsong “coo”, she’s exceptionally easy to train for performances in shows, and when she’s not nestling close to her owner for human companionship, she’s purr-fectly content to keep her own company.

8. Somali

Created, it seems, for mischief, the vividly colored Somali with her full, plumed tail and vixen-like cunning make her more fox than feline. With an insatiable curiosity that leaves no proverbial stone unturned, she navigates every nook and cranny of her inside world, wreaking havoc wherever she puts her paws. Fortunately, her good-natured sociability and easy lovability tip the scales in her favor.

9. Burmese

Boundaries don’t exist for the perpetually curious and enduringly playful Burmese. The world is her oyster filled with wonders that demand exploration, while her owner’s her own best friend whose moods she can read like an open book. As trusting as she is teachable (tricks come easily to her), she’s also fabulous fun to be around and can, with little effort, turn even the grayest day sunny.

10. Singapura

Addicted to admiration, the Singapura lives to be loved and to shine in the spotlight! Bristling with kittenish energy, this petite puss butts nosily into everyone’s business, earning her the title of “pesky people cat.” Known for her exceptional intelligence and effortless agility, she’s as nimble on her paws as she is at stealing hearts, making her endearingly lovable to those lucky enough to love her.

DOGGY, COME HOME: TURNING LOST INTO FOUND

Millions of dogs go missing each year. Unfortunately, very few of them are ever reunited with their owners. Many of them become and remain strays. Others are taken to pounds or shelters, where they are all too often, euthanized. The luckier ones are saved by rescue organizations and ultimately placed in adoptive homes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Lately, an increasing number of conscientious dog owners have begun to rely on a dual form of protection for their precious family pet. Included in this “protective package” are visible forms of identification – ID tags — and permanent ones — microchips.

Pet ID tags are small metallic or plastic tags personalized with your name, address, and phone number, and attached to your dog’s collar. These tags are as close as your nearest pet supply store or online vendor, and if your dog ever goes missing, will immediately identify you as the owner.

Microchipping is a simple and safe procedure. A veterinarian injects a microchip designed especially for animals — the size of a grain of rice — beneath the surface of your dog’s skin between the shoulder blades. Similar to a routine shot, it takes only a few seconds and most dogs don’t seem to even feel the implantation. Unlike ID tags, a microchip is permanent and, with no internal energy source, will last the life of your dog. Your dog must then be promptly registered with the microchip company (usually for a one-time fee), thus storing his unique, alpha-numeric code in the company’s database.

Whenever a lost dog appears at a shelter, humane society or veterinary clinic, he/she will automatically be scanned for a microchip. If there is one, the screen of the handheld scanner will display that dog’s specific code. A simple call to the recovery database using a toll free 800 number enables the code to be traced back to the dog’s owner. But in order for the system to work efficiently, all owners are cautioned to keep their contact information up-to-date.

The most complete microchips comply with International Standards Organization (ISO) Standards. These standards define the structure of the microchip’s information content and determine the protocol for scanner-microchip communication. They also include the assignment of a 15-digit numeric identification code to each microchip; 3 digits either for the code of the country in which the dog was implanted or for the manufacturer’s code; one digit for the dog’s category (optional), and the remaining 8 or 9 digits for that dog’s unique ID number.

As with anything else, however, problems can and do arise. Not all shelters, humane societies, and veterinary offices have scanners. Although rare, microchips can fail, and even universal scanners may not be able to detect every microchip. Accurate detection can also be hampered if dogs struggle too much while being scanned or if either long, matted hair or excess fat deposits cover the implantation site. And because there are an ever-increasing number of pet recovery services, there is, as yet, no single database that links one to the other.

Since no method of identification is perfect, the best way owners can protect their dogs is by keeping current ID tags on them, microchipping them, and never allowing them to roam free.

Why You Should Spay/Neuter Your Dog

The problem of dog overpopulation is a global one and requires a solution on a global scale. But like every journey that begins with a single step, this particular journey must begin with every dog owner in every town and every city in the country. Those conscientious owners who act responsibly by spaying and neutering their cherished family pets.

Spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus of a female dog) and neutering (removing the testicles of a male dog) are simple procedures, rarely requiring so much as an overnight stay in a veterinary clinic. Because half of all litters are unplanned, and because puppies can conceive puppies of their own, spaying and neutering them before the age of 6 months can help break this cycle.

According to SPAY USA, an unspayed female dog, her unneutered mate and their offspring (if none are spayed or neutered) result in the births of a staggering 12,288 puppies in just 5 years.

The inevitable outcome? Hundreds of thousands of dogs being euthanized through no fault of their own. Why? Because they are the tragic, but avoidable, result of over breeding and overpopulation. Why? Because there are too few shelters to house them and too few homes to either foster or adopt them. Why? Because there are still too many dog owners unwilling to spay and neuter their pets.

The positive effects of spaying and neutering far outweigh the negatives. Females spayed before their first heat are much less likely to develop mammary cancer than those left intact. Early spaying is also their best protection against conditions like pyometritis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the uterus, as well as ovarian and uterine cancers. Early neutering of males protects them against testicular cancer, and helps curb both aggression and other undesirable behaviors. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents are caused by intact males.

For years, reputable rescue groups have been spaying and neutering the animals in their care before even putting them up for adoption. More recently, in an effort to address at least part of this ongoing problem, various organizations — large and small, urban and rural, public and private — have been springing up across the country. From the ASPCA to local humane societies, spay/neuter clinics are opening and operating. Mobile spay/neuter clinics are reaching out to those unable to reach them. Many rescue groups now offer their own Spay Neuter Incentive Programs (SNIP), which provide assistance to low income households.

Imagine if there were more regional, local and mobile spay/neuter clinics. More Spay Neuter Incentive Programs. Imagine entire communities across the country, where every pet owner took personal responsibility for spaying and neutering their pets. Imagine what we, as part of the global community, could accomplish then.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

Why Foster A Dog?

“Fostering a dog is not a lifetime commitment, it is a commitment to saving a life.”

This is the watchword of rescue groups everywhere.

To foster a dog is, quite simply, to save that dog’s life. A foster home provides that same dog with a safe, temporary place of refuge until he is ultimately placed in a permanent, adoptive home.

Most rescues rely solely on a network of dedicated, volunteer foster homes, and could not survive without them. And rescues NEVER have enough foster homes.

Why? Because there are more dogs in need than there are foster homes available to meet that need.

There are many benefits to fostering, many pleasant surprises and many unexpected rewards. Foster parents, past and present, describe it as one of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of their lives.

Fostering is both a way of enriching the lives of the dogs and people involved, and a constructive way for people to give back to their communities. Fostered dogs can provide hours of entertainment and love for their humans, and provide valuable life lessons for adults and children alike.

By taking a deserving dog into their homes, fosters increase that dog’s chances of being adopted. Foster families have the time and the ability to transform their foster dog, through one-on-one contact, exercise and training, into a pet any person or family would be proud to call their own.

Fostering provides a needy dog with a stable environment, coupled with love, attention and affection. While the foster family provides the food, the rescue usually provides everything else, including payment of all medical costs to ensure the dog’s ongoing health and wellbeing.

Fosters are the essential eyes and ears of rescue. By spending every day with their foster dog, fosters will learn all they can about his particular personality. They will be able to identify any behavioral issues that need to be addressed, then work on addressing them.

If fosters already have a dog – either their own or another foster — in residence, all the better. The more animals their foster dog meets, the more socialized he will become, the more easily he will handle stress, and the more relaxed he will be around strangers. And it’s a simple matter to add another warm, furry body to their own dog’s daily walks, meal and potty schedules.

For those who have never owned a dog, fostering provides them with the unique opportunity of seeing if they themselves are suited for permanent pet parenthood.

But fostering a dog is NOT a form of trial adoption for that particular dog. There is even a term for it: foster failure. The most successful fosters are those who, despite being emotionally invested, know that they are a stepping stone towards their foster dog’s future. And that as one successfully fostered dog leaves their home, another needy and deserving dog is waiting to enter it.

Ultimately, then, fostering a dog saves not just one life, but two.

Article by Nomi Berger

 

A note from a STARelief foster home: “Fostering is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I’ve seen the transition of a lost, scared dog to a happy one who understands what its like to be loved. It’s amazing to know you had a part in that, and you have a part in them finding their happiness in a forever home. The dog and new family are almost always so thankful and you can see the positive effect on both of their lives. It’s great knowing you didn’t just save a life, but also added joy to another.”

 

THE MANY WHYS OF RESCUE

Why adopt a rescue pup or dog? Why not buy one from an ad on the Internet or from a pet store? Why not buy one from a breeder? There are many reasons — all of them humane.

The growth of the Internet has spurred the growth of ads selling pets. But it also provides anonymity to a more insidious growth: that of puppy mills and so-called “backyard” breeders. It helps them avoid accountability when they sell unhealthy or mistreated pets to unsuspecting, over-eager buyers. And it only serves to confirm the axiom: “buyer beware.”

Each time a dog is bought from an ad on the Internet, a homeless dog is left without a home.

Many pet stores rely on both puppy mills and “backyard” breeders. Like the Internet, they rely on impulse buying. A child ogles a playful puppy through a pane of glass, and that old song, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” begins. Few parents can refuse the insistent “Please! Please! Please!” of their children.

Each time a puppy is bought from a pet store, a surrendered dog languishes in a shelter.

There may be thousands of legitimate breeders throughout the country but there are just as many unscrupulous ones. There are no laws regulating who can and cannot breed. There are no inspections of their facilities. Even a certificate from a recognized kennel club means only that the breeder has “agreed” to its code of ethics. A piece of paper is simply that: a piece of paper.

Each time a dog is bought from an unscrupulous breeder, an abandoned dog moves closer to death in a pound.

Why, then, adopt a rescue dog?

There are tens of thousands of healthy, happy and balanced dogs available from thousands of rescue organizations across the country. Contrary to popular belief, they include purebreds as well as crossbreeds and mixed breeds. And for people intent on a specific breed, there are rescue groups devoted exclusively to a single breed of dog.

Adopting a rescue dog is saving that dog’s life. Rescue organizations are usually the last refuge for abandoned and abused dogs, surrendered and senior dogs. They are often a dog’s only escape from a puppy mill, shelter or pound. These rescued dogs are placed in loving and experienced, volunteer foster homes, where they are socialized with people and other animals.

They are spayed or neutered, de-wormed, updated on all of their vaccinations and microchipped. They receive whatever veterinary care they need, and are either trained or re-trained before being put up for adoption. And everything is included in the rescue’s modest adoption fees.

It is said that saving a dog makes that dog doubly grateful. By extension, then, anyone who saves a dog will be doubly blessed.   

What better reasons could there be to adopt?

 

And if you didn’t know already, we have some great dogs up for adoption from STARelief!

Please email heather@starelief.org or shamika@starelief.org if you are interested in adding a new four-legged member to your family!

 

 

ANNABELLE- Goofy Girl

 

Annabelle is a super sweet and goofy girl. She is ~1.5 years young, great with people, and good with small dogs – NO CATS.  Annabelle is house and crate trained, up to date on vaccines, spayed and mircrochipped.
Annabelle loves to go on long walks, play with other dogs, lay by your side, or on your lap (she thinks she’s a lap dog).
Annabelle knows her basic commands and listens really well.
If you are looking for a way to increase your happiness, and add some zest to your life, please adopt Annabelle.

 

 

 

 

JACK- Pint-sized Perfection

Jack is eight years young, up to date on vaccines, neutered, house and crate trained. Jack is super great with other dogs, not good with cats. He loves to lay on your lap, or in a soft dog bed by your side. Fetch and short walks are two of Jack’s favorite things to do. He is super gentle and sweet.

Jack would do best in a home with another dog. 

 

 

 

 

 

MICKEY- Mellow Fellow

Mickey is nine years young, up to date on vaccines, neutered, house and crate trained. Mickey is great with dogs and good with cats. He is super mellow and sweet. Mickey loves to cuddle with you, or just lay on your lap. He also loves playing fetch! Mickey just had a full dental done so he likes to show off his new smile.

Mickey would do great in a home with children or another dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article by Nomi Berger

Doggy Dental Care

Did you know that 80% of dogs over the age of 4 have some form of dental disease?

As with people, the main culprit is a build-up of plaque, which eventually hardens into tartar, leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease.

The result? A bacterial invasion of the gums and tissues supporting the teeth, damaging them and ultimately causing tooth loss. This bacteria can also invade the bloodstream, potentially damaging the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. 

Did you know that, as responsible owners, you can lower your dog’s risks by following a program of conscientious oral care.

Before you start, have the vet examine your dog’s mouth for signs of hardened plaque and/or dental disease. If your dog suffers from either condition, once the dental disease is treated and/or the plaque professionally removed, your home care program can begin.

Ideally, you should begin caring for your dog’s teeth while he’s still a puppy. Brushing his teeth is the most effective way to control plaque by breaking it up before it hardens into tartar.

Choose only those toothbrushes, tooth pastes and oral gels designed especially for pets. For the more difficult ones, there are “rubber finger brushes.” If your dog refuses to accept any of these “tools,” use your own finger. It’s the act of brushing or rubbing which provides the most benefit.

Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time every day. Begin slowly, praising him often, stopping if he becomes agitated, then beginning again. Increase the amount of brushing time slowly, day by day.

If your dog absolutely refuses to have his teeth cleaned, add specially formulated antiseptic oral rinses (although they’re more effective when combined with cleaning) to his water.

Dogs love to chew, and this has the added benefit of helping to keep their teeth clean. There are dozens of specifically formulated oral care products for them, including dental chews, chew toys and treats.

There are also special dental diets shown to reduce plaque and/or tartar build up. They work by physically cleaning the teeth more efficiently than regular kibble (theirs is less likely to crumble upon chewing) or by the addition of chemicals to prevent the hardening of plaque into tartar.

Weekly inspections of your dog’s entire mouth can also help avoid both dental disease and costly and invasive medical procedures in the future. Ensure that your vet includes a thorough examination of your dog’s mouth, gums and teeth in each annual check up.

Be alert to such problems as bad breath, drooling, red or puffy, bleeding gums, yellow tartar crusted along the gum line, discolored, broken or missing teeth, bumps in the mouth, and changes in chewing or eating habits.

If you’ve been neglecting your dog’s dental health up to now, it is never too late to start.

 

Article by Nomi Berger

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STARelief and Pet Assistance
P.O. Box 3035
Stamford, CT 06905
Phone: 203-636-0971
Fax: 203-883-0325
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