Keeping On Top of Your Dog’s Dental Health Monday 15 January 2018 @ 10:25
Last month, we met Ciarra and Keisha, two gorgeous kitties looking for adoption through Hunter Animal Rescue. The pair are still waiting to find their forever home, but if you think you can provide one you can check out their page on Hunter Animal Rescue’s website. When we first met them, Ciarra had just returned from a visit to the vet and had just received a polish, one tooth extraction and a descale. For this reason, we thought it would be a good idea in our last post to talk about some of the best ways to look after your cat’s dental hygiene.
But of course, your cat isn’t the only pet whose teeth you need to keep in tip-top condition. Between the regular vet checkups, fitness and quality food, we put a lot of effort into making sure our canine companions are healthy. But it can be so, so easy to overlook their dental hygiene. Conditions like periodontal disease can easily occur when the deep bone structures of your dog’s jaw are separated from the teeth by calculus, allowing abscesses and pockets to form.
Experts have suggested that around 85% of dogs over the age of 4 will be living with a type of periodontal disease, which can easily lead to infection and tooth loss. If your dog has damaged gums or toothache, they’ll be living with difficulty and pain that you may not even have noticed. A dog’s teeth are often forgotten about, but they’re a major part of their overall health.
As with oral hygiene issues in cats, bacteria from your dog’s mouth, if left untreated, can reach the bloodstream and cause real issues in their kidneys, liver or heart. Fortunately, all of these issues can be avoided with the help of regular tooth-brushing and visits to your doggie dentist.
Doggie Dental Diseases
When your dog has good gums and teeth, they’ll get to enjoy every last morsel of food they can get their paws on, but with unhealthy teeth, this will quickly come to an end and your pup will no longer be enjoying their food. This can be very bad news. So what should you be looking out for as a concerned puppy parent?
- Plaque develops when the bacteria constantly forming in your dog’s mouth get the chance to mix with food and saliva. This appears as a colourless, sticky film on the outside of the teeth, especially the upper molars and pre-molars. If plaque is allowed to build up, it can harden and turn into calculus. Plaque and calculus can be helped to a certain extent by dry dog foods, but you will also need to provide some dental care to keep everything healthy.
- Calculus forms when plaque is allowed to stay on your dog’s teeth for around 3-5 days and combines with the minerals in their saliva. This is also known as tartar and can be very irritating to a dog’s gums, leading to reddened, swollen gums as a result of gingivitis. Gingivitis can also cause bad breath, which can be rather noticeable.
- Periodontal disease is more likely to become an issue the longer calculus is allowed to build up under your dog’s gum line. This is where your dog can begin to struggle with bloody gums, lose teeth, struggle with food and suffer damage to their internal organs. Bacterial growth is allowed to progress unnoticed, eventually causing irreversible damage. And every last part of this process could be avoided with a good cleaning!
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Brushing your dog’s teeth will be a little difficult when you do it for the first time, but if you’re gentle and allow your dog time to get comfortable with what’s happening it can be a lot simpler than you may expect. Here’s a quick Step-by-Step to help you become the best doggy hygienist out there!
- Be gentle. Give your dog time to get used to having hands and brushes in their mouth.
- Let your dog do a taste-test. Help them get used to the taste of dog-friendly toothpaste by licking it off your finger or brush.
- Introduce the toothbrush. Allow your dog to get used to the idea of the toothbrush and see that it’s nothing to be afraid of, but help them understand that this is not a toy.
- Start small. Just brush a couple of your dog’s teeth at first so they can get used to the sensation.
- Move from Outside to Inside. Brushing the outer sides of your dog’s teeth is less invasive, so it’s generally a better idea to start here and move to the inner sides.
- Introduce a routine. If you turn brushing your dog’s teeth into a routine, it’ll be easier for them to get used to it and for you to remember to do it regularly. Daily brushing will provide the best results, but even three times a week will make all the difference.
There are also a number of high-quality treats and chews that can contribute to better dental hygiene for your dog. These chews will keep your dog entertained, involve less work for you and will still provide a good clean (though you will still need to brush their teeth occasionally).
Four Tips to Make Brush-Time Easier
- Your dog can sense if you’re stressed or tense and will mimic these emotions, so try to keep calm!
- Don’t go straight for the goal - your dog will need time to adjust to this new experience!
- The earlier you start (anytime after the age of 8 weeks), the better your dog will be at having their teeth brushed.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: You aren’t going to be able to brush your dog’s teeth for a long time straight away. This is something that will get easier over time.
Keeping On Top of Your Kitty’s Dental Health Saturday 30 December 2017 @ 11:09
In our last post, we met Ciarra and Keisha - two ten-year old female Birman X cats featured through Hunter Animal Rescue. These kitties need to be rehomed together with an adoption fee of $200. It’s not yet known if these friendly felines would be suited to a home with children (or birds), but they do like near-constant human interaction so they’ll be sure to give plenty of love to whoever takes them in.
Ciarra and Keisha haven’t been adopted yet, so if you’d like to meet them there’s still a chance you can - just check out their page on Hunter Animal Rescue’s website! Ciarra has recently returned from a trip to the vet and is in great condition, having only needed a descale, polish and one tooth extraction. She is well on the road to recovery by now, but in honour of our fallen comrade (Ciarra’s tooth) we thought it might be a good idea to talk a little bit about the best ways to care for a cat’s dental hygiene.
How to Spot Dental Issues in Cats
Severe dental diseases in cats can lead to much more serious issues if they aren’t dealt with properly, such as complications with the kidneys and heart. This is why it’s so important that you keep an eye on your cat’s teeth, and that they have access to frequent dental checks (especially for older cats). Before any of this happens, though, your cat will begin to have incredibly bad breath - a sign of advanced dental disease.
Just like our own, a cat’s teeth will slowly gather plaque over time. If this isn’t removed it will irritate the gums by turning into a harder tartar, which can cause tooth loss and gingivitis. If this happens, you may notice your cat beginning to chew on one side of their mouth, lose weight due to difficulty eating or consistently drop food out of their mouth.
The first step in preventing this is to learn how to identify potential warning signs and how to keep the teeth in the best condition possible. Symptoms other than bad breath that are worth noting include yellow-brown tartar, drooling and reddened gums.
However, some cats will refuse to show their discomfort even if they develop severe dental disease. It’s not uncommon for cats to hide their pain if they’re unwell.
If you do notice any problems with your cat’s teeth, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will know what needs to be done, whether that’s using ultra-sonic vibration to de-scale (remove tartar and plaque) or removing any damaged teeth.
Get Your Furry Friends Used to a Cleaning Routine
In many cases adult cats will have a bigger problem with this than younger kitties, so it’s a good idea to get them started at a young age. This actually isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You can make the experience a little more pleasant for your pet by dipping your finger in tuna water first, so they come to associate the action with a pleasant taste.
Keep in mind that older cats may need their teeth cleaned more often than kittens. Try to find toothpaste that’s made specifically for cats, and rub this on their teeth and gums using some gauze or a finger cot. This is the best option. However, if your cat really won’t let you brush their teeth and becomes violent, fearful or agitated with every attempt, there are other options.
It’s possible that your vet will suggest a dental formula food. Certain vets will prescribe a special formula you can add to your cat’s drinking water to aid dental care by discouraging bacteria and breaking down plaque. You’ll just have to make sure your cat doesn’t stop drinking because of the taste of this additive, because dehydration will help nobody!
Some treats will contain ingredients like selenium, antiseptics, taurine and Vitamin E to try and cut down on the amount of bacteria in your cat’s mouth. There are special treats out there that have a rough texture designed to control the buildup of tartar, freshen the cat’s breath and remove plaque. Some companies have also produced dental sprays which can be squirted into your cat’s mouth every day to fight the buildup of plaque.
Foods with larger pieces, or “nuggets”, can be good at reducing plaque by getting your cat to chew more. No matter what method you use to keep your cat’s mouth clean and healthy, make sure you take them for a dental checkup at least once per year.
Examine Your Cat’s Teeth
Routine cleans and keeping a general eye out for signs of bigger problems are one thing, but the best way to make sure your furry friend has healthy teeth is to actively check them. If you have a cat who shows affection by pushing you with their head, this can make things a whole lot easier as moving their head with your hands won’t be so foreign to them.
Be sure to keep your cat as relaxed as possible when you’re doing this, so that they’re more likely to allow you to do your thing.
That said, you should never just stick your finger in your pet’s mouth without making sure they’re okay with it first! Having a close bond with your cat won’t save you when they accidentally/instinctively close their mouth with your hand inside.
One way of examining your cat’s mouth is to gently lift the flaps of their gums (while they’re sitting calmly and comfortably) and gently examine the teeth you can see this way. Examine one side fully before checking the other, so that you aren’t poking your cat too many times. Things to look out for include unexpected lumps, sore-looking areas, chipped or broken teeth and discoloured gums.
While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see their entire mouth, you should still be able to get a good idea of what’s going on.
Making Your Own Dog Food Saturday 02 December 2017 @ 00:00
Back in August, we sponsored Jordy. Jordy is an energetic, loving, playful pupper who just loves to be affectionate with his humans. His only special requirement was that he needed a family willing to pay special attention to what he ate, as he had a food allergy. But in return for this extra care, he was ready to give all the love in the world!
Jordy’s allergy is the reason that our last blog post was all about hypoallergenic dog foods. With food allergies becoming an increasingly big deal for people and pets alike, it’s easy to feel a little lost when you find yourself staring at stacks of food, all of which claim to be grain-free or hypoallergenic or any number of other things.
An alternative to investing in some complicated hypoallergenic, organic and grain-free dog food while still keeping your pup healthy would be to make your own dog food. This may sound a little fiddly, but it’s quite possibly the best way of making sure your dog doesn’t eat anything they’re allergic to. There’s a whole community of people out there who have all taken to making their own dog food.
Try looking at some hacks and tips such as those shared on websites like Pinterest, and some recipes like the ones shared on Rover.com. To help you get started, here are a few tips that might be helpful.
The Perks of Making Your Own Dog Food
- As we’ve already mentioned, making your dog’s food yourself can be a great way of keeping them healthy if they have allergies. This is the only way you can personally choose the ingredients that go into their food, and the best way for you to make sure you’re avoiding everything you should be.
- If you’re smart about your sourcing and try to buy in bulk, making your own dog food will be no more expensive than buying it in cans, and can sometimes be even cheaper while still being more nutritious.
- You will be able to save time and effort by preparing large batches of food which you can freeze and use later.
- Picky dogs are often more likely to love the food you’ve prepared for them yourself than processed food from cans.
- Better food often means more compact, tidy stools.
- Many people who make their own dog food find that their dogs tend to be leaner and more muscular as a result.
- A healthier diet often brings with it fresher breath, less doggy odour, clean teeth and good skin.
- Preparing food for your dog will be no more difficult than cooking for your family, but will make a big difference to your pet’s health.
- You will no longer need to worry about dog food brands being recalled, as you know that the food you’re giving your dog is safe to eat.
- Making your dog’s food means you get to choose the standard of ingredients you want to use. You get to choose if you want foods to be free-range, organic or anything else. You get to choose if you want to buy ingredients from a farmer, market, supermarket or wholesaler.
Animal Products and Meat
These should always make up at least 50% of your dog’s meal. Be careful of meat cuts that contain excessive amounts of fat, as these are unhealthy and can cause obesity. Unless your dog gets the chance to have intense exercise on a regular basis, try to remove the skin from any poultry you use, cut off as much fat as possible and use lean meat, ideally with less than 10% fat.
If your dog becomes obese and you have to try and reduce their food to control their weight, this can result in deficiencies in the other nutrients. Remember that unless your dog needs an extremely low-fat diet, dark-meat poultry is better than breast meat. If this is already starting to sound a little tricky, just consider all of the advantages this change can bring.
In time, you’ll be able to come up with your own recipes without any help from us. But until you feel like you’ve got the basics of doggy dining down, here are a few ingredient lists you could try. Please note, all ingredients in these lists should be cooked before use!
Doggy’s Salmon Supper
3 potatoes (any variety)
1 head of broccoli (with the stem)
2 portions of salmon with skin (or 1 ounce per 10 pounds of dog)
|1 pound of beef mince
1.5 cups of rolled oats
Half a cup of cottage cheese
1.5 cups of your dog’s favourite grated vegetables, like carrots, peas or aubergine
Tasty Turkey Stew
|2 pounds of turkey mince
2 tablespoons of raw chicken or turkey liver
2 grated carrots
1 cup of broccoli florets
Half a shredded aubergine
1 cup of cauliflower florets
|OR:||1 cup of brown rice
1 shredded aubergine
Half a cup of peas
3 cups of chopped baby spinach
3 pounds of turkey mince
2 grated carrots
Add Any Necessary Supplements
Just because you’re cooking from scratch, it doesn’t mean your pup’s supplements are off the table. Even if you’re using the best recipes possible, it doesn’t mean your dog will automatically be getting all of the necessary nutrients. Supplements for nutrients such as calcium are the best way of keeping your dog healthy.
The supplements you need to include will depend based on the ingredients you’re using and the nutrients they already contain. For example, a recipe containing spinach and broccoli will contain iron, but might not have enough zinc. For more guidance on this topic, talk to your vet or a pet nutritionist.
Hypoallergenic Dog Food Monday 13 November 2017 @ 00:00
In August, our sponsored pet of the month was Jordy, a playful, super-active and loving young pup who loves nothing more than a sloppy kiss and a big old cuddle every once in a while. If you want a chance to meet Jordy, you can look for him through his page on Hunter Animal Rescue’s website, because he’s still searching for his forever home!
Jordy’s one special requirement is that he needs a family who will pay attention to what he’s eating, as he needs to avoid eating anything he could be allergic to. In return for this little bit of extra care, he’ll be more than happy to give you all the love and fun you could possibly want!
Jordy is the reason that our last blog post was all about caring for dogs with food allergies. Around 10% of all dogs suffering from allergies are living with some type of food allergy. However, it’s also possible for dogs to suffer from food intolerances, which are different to food allergies. Food allergies are the cause of around 20% of all scratching and itching in dogs. We also covered hypoallergenic dog food to a certain extent in the last post, but today we’d like to talk about it in more detail so that you have all the information you need on the subject!
What is hypoallergenic dog food?
With food allergies becoming an increasingly big deal for people and pets alike, it’s easy to feel a little lost when you find yourself staring at stacks of food, all of which claim to be grain-free or hypoallergenic or any number of other things. A dog with an allergy doesn’t necessarily need you to splash out on some overpriced “organic” meal, and while some will benefit from grain-free foods others will feel no difference between the two.
What your dog will need is an elimination diet. This is why the only actual hypoallergenic dog food is either a diet with hydrolyzed protein or an elimination diet. Ingredients from your previous dog food must be avoided in an elimination diet. This is why, as healthy as grain-free dog food with venison meat may sound, it may be of no use if it’s also full of corn, dairy, beef, chicken, eggs or soy.
Try taking the ingredient label from your old pet food into your local pet store and identifying any foods which don’t have any of the same ingredients. Keep in mind that colouring and flavour additives should also be avoided if possible. The best way to find the right food for your dog is to take them to the vet. Your veterinarian might be able to come up with a diet plan specific to your dog or find you the prescription diet right for your dog.
Most Common Allergens
As a general rule, dog foods will be marketed as hypoallergenic if they’ve been formulated to avoid the more common allergens for your pet. Pet food producers such as Drs. Foster and Smith explain that although dogs aren’t naturally allergic to the majority of these items, some of the most common food allergens for canines include…
These have become the most common allergens as they’re the ingredients used most often in dog foods. As a result, our dogs are exposed to them more often than they would be naturally.
Making Your Own Dog Food
As fiddly as it might sound, making your own dog food from the very basics is easily the best way to make sure your dog doesn’t end up eating things they’re allergic to. Try looking at some healthy dog food recipes such as those shared on Rover.com, and tips and hacks like the ones shared on Pinterest. There’s a great big community out there of other people who have started making their own dog food. Go out and find them, and they’ll be able to help you on your way!
Perks of Switching to Hypoallergenic Dog Food
There are loads of benefits you might find when you make the switch from regular dog food to hypoallergenic and homemade types. At the end of the day, your dog won’t be the only one who gets the benefit of a healthier diet: your wallet might also start looking much healthier. While saving your pup from the unpleasantness of an allergic reaction is the main goal here, it’s not the only benefit you’ll get to experience.
A carefully planned diet of homemade or hypoallergenic dog food could also reduce your dog’s likelihood of suffering from a number of other health issues, including anal gland blockages, periodontal disease, obesity and arthritis. Further problems you could avoid can include difficulties in digestion, some kidney ailments and heart disease.
Dogs are happy, fluffy, eating machines. They love food and need plenty of nutrients to be healthy. It’s not surprising, then, that the vast majority of illnesses that tend to affect our dogs come as a result of their diets. With veterinarian appointments costing as much as they do, improving your dog’s diet and therefore their health will be the best move for both of you in the long run.
- Food that doesn’t contain the same ingredients as most other dog foods is known as hypoallergenic dog food (though the best hypoallergenic food for your dog can be found through an elimination diet).
- This is not a solution for all allergies. Only around 1 in 10 dog allergies can be treated through the use of hypoallergenic dog foods.
- If you think your dog may have an allergy, talk to your vet. Seek professional advice before attempting an elimination diet.
- These foods are a good way to help your dog if they’re suffering from food-related allergies. They are not, however, the only tool available to you.
All dogs deserve to get the best food possible for a content, healthy life.
Caring for Dogs with Food Allergies Tuesday 31 October 2017 @ 07:54
Back in August, we got the chance to sponsor Jordy, a loving, fun and super-active young Vizla X (Kelpie/Bully) who loves a hug and a big sloppy kiss every now and then. Jordy’s favourite pastimes include running, fetching and taking long walks on the beach, but he’s happy to take part in any sort of game (even frisbee). He isn’t even all that high-maintenance in terms of attention - as much as he loves snuggling with his humans in warm or comfy places, he’s still relaxed and happy enough in his own company.
Jordy’s one special requirement is that he needs a family who will pay attention to what he’s eating because he needs to avoid eating anything he could be allergic to. In return for this little bit of extra care, he’ll be more than happy to give you all the love and fun you could possibly want!
Somehow, Jordy still hasn’t found his forever home. This is a shame as every dog deserves to find the family that will love them, but it’s also good news for you as it means there’s still a chance for you to get to know Jordy yourself! For more information, head on over to his page on HAR’s website! And for more information on caring for pups with food allergies, continue reading below…
How common are food allergies in dogs?
Around 10% of all dogs suffering from allergies are living with some type of food allergy. However, it’s also possible for dogs to suffer from food intolerances, which are different to food allergies. Food allergies are the cause of around 20% of all scratching and itching in dogs.
Food allergy or intolerance?
It’s important that you know the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Food allergies are a type of true allergy, showing all of the external skin problems and itching found in other feline and canine allergies. Food intolerances, on the other hand, are primarily internal issues which can cause vomiting or diarrhoea, and won’t cause a typical allergic reaction.
Your pet’s food intolerance could be similar to you getting an upset stomach when you eat fried or spicy foods. It’s not going to kill them, but it will make them very uncomfortable. The good news here is that both allergies and food intolerances can be improved if you feed your pet a diet free from the offending foodstuffs.
Try to isolate the problem
If your pet appears to be exhibiting symptoms, the first thing you’ll need to do is work with your vet to check that these symptoms really are as a result of a food allergy. If this appears to be the case, your veterinarian will probably recommend an elimination diet, that is, feeding your dog foods with a different grain (carbohydrate source) and meat (protein source) to what your dog had been eating previously.
What symptoms should I be looking out for?
A lot of symptoms which may seem completely random could actually be signs your dog has a food allergy. Other symptoms of food allergies can closely mimic those that a human will experience. Your dog’s symptoms might include…
- Chronic ear inflammation
- Paw biting
- Obsessive licking
- Chronic diarrhea
- Itchy rear end
- Skin rash
- Poor coat quality
What causes food allergies and intolerances?
It can take months or years of happy munching before your dog becomes allergic to a certain food. However, once the allergy is there, it’s there and he will almost definitely have a strong negative reaction to the food. Allergic reactions in dogs are most often tied to the protein source (meat) in their food.
Food types: The most common causes of food intolerance and allergies in dogs are milk products, wheat and beef.
Age: Food intolerance and allergies can occur at any age.
Breed: There are certain dog breeds which appear to be more prone to developing food intolerance and allergies. These breeds include cocker spaniels, Irish setters and West Highland White terriers.
Damage as a cause: Food allergies and intolerance may occur as a result of damage to the digestive system caused by infection, certain medications, surgery and inflammation.
Does an allergy to a specific dog food suggest there’s something wrong with that product’s quality?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: Allergies occur as a result of your pet’s immune system, as opposed to issues with the product it is consuming. If your dog develops an allergy to a specific ingredient, they’ll most likely experience the same unpleasant reaction to any product containing that ingredient.
What is the best food for dogs with allergies?
Common anti-allergy foods that may be recommended will feature novel protein sources. Combinations might include venison and potato, or kangaroo and oatmeal. With any luck, this should prevent your pet’s immune response from continuing to be triggered.
It’s important that you work with your veterinarian to determine which food is best for your dog with an allergy. Along with novel protein, hydrolyzed diets which are only available by prescription are generally better than those which are bought in your average pet store, as the later will often contain a certain amount of common allergens whether or not they’re mentioned on the label.
Eliminating different ingredients from your dog’s diet at random without talking to your vet first can also be a pretty bad idea. This can easily lead to nutritional imbalances without making the underlying issue any clearer.
For a simple explanation of how you might identify whether or not your dog has a food allergy, check out this great WikiHow article: 3 Ways to Determine if Your Dog Has Food Allergies. We’ve also written a couple of blog posts on pet foods. Check out our posts, Should You Trust Your Pet’s Food Label? and Species-Specific Diets: Fundamentals of Feeding Your Feline for more information.