Periodontal Disease in Dogs

 How to Care for Your Dog's Teeth

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of dogs show oral disease by age 3, and it is the most common health problem treated in small animal health clinics today. The buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth may cause more than just bad breath; according to research presented at a recent conference on Companion Animal Oral Health, bacteria are also the cause of oral disease and diseases in other organs of the body like the heart, liver and kidneys.

Just like humans, dogs teeth are prone to plaque buildup, and when allowed to combine with saliva and residual food between the tooth and gum, plaque turns to tartar. If plaque and tartar are not removed routinely by your veterinarian, they may cause periodontal disease.

  • Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums most commonly caused by the accumulation of food particles in the crevices between the gums and the teeth. The main symptom is bleeding, although you may also notice redness, pain and difficulty chewing. If gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to periodontitis.
  • Periodontitis is a serious infection that spreads to the tissues and bone in which the teeth are rooted causing loss of the teeth. Unfortunately, this disease is irreversible and may lead to other problems.
  • Broken teeth are a common problem, most commonly caused by aggressive chewing on hard objects.

What to Look For

The most common signs of oral disease are:

  • Yellow and brown tartar buildup
  • Bleeding
  • Bad breath
  • Red inflamed gums
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Change in eating habits
  • Pawing at the mouth

Veterinary Care

Fortunately, veterinary dental knowledge has grown exponentially in the last few years. Dental technology has also exploded, allowing your pet virtually all of the dental care that you receive, including: dental implants, braces (to enable a comfortable bite), ultrasonic scaling controlled with microchips, root canals and bonding and brightening.

Veterinary care should include periodic dental exams, which are important in order to maintain good oral health. The frequency with which dental examinations should be performed depends on your pet’s age.

  • Puppies. The mouth should be examined by your veterinarian immediately upon acquiring your new pet and at every vaccination appointment up to four months of age. A dental exam should be performed again at six months of age. It is important to assess your pet’s bite as well as his/her overall oral health. Bite abnormalities can sometimes be corrected by orthodontics before six months of age.
  • One to three years. At this age, unless you notice problems or your veterinarian has developed a custom exam program due to special circumstances, dental exams should be done annually.
  • Four to six years. If your pet has perfect teeth and you brush them daily, annual exams may suffice, but many dogs in this age range require exams every six months. It is better to have more frequent examinations done and get a clean report card as opposed to finding potentially painful problems later. Toothaches are painful for animals, just like humans, but your pet won’t be able to tell you that it hurts.
  • Seven years and up. Dental examinations should be performed every six months when your pet is seven years of age or older.

The Dental Exam

  • Your veterinarian can examine your dog’s teeth in the exam room if your pet is cooperative and does not have severe dental problems.
  • Full mouth X-rays are usually required because 70 percent of the tooth structure is beneath the gum line and thus is invisible to the naked eye.
  • Your veterinarian may use a periodontal probe (a blunt probe that is used to check the gum/tooth interface) to search for gum pockets and other problems. He may use it sparingly in cooperative patients; however, a thorough exam may require sedation or anesthesia. He will examine all soft tissues.
  • If anesthesia is required, new injectable anesthetics are available which are short-acting (a few minutes), and relatively safe. Additionally, new anesthetic monitors are available to help ensure that the anesthesia is as safe as possible.

Home Care

Your dog needs preventive dental care just like you. AVDS recommends using a three-part dental care regimen to include:

  • Routine physical exams by your veterinarian
  • Regular dental care at home: Tooth brushing is the single most important part of oral care and cannot be over-emphasized. If your pet will allow it, you should brush her teeth daily. It is best to start early since most dogs will allow brushing if you start when they are puppies. Use a special toothpaste formulated for your pet; human toothpaste may upset your dog’s stomach.
  • Regular follow-up care: You can ask about specially formulated foods, such as pet foods that have been developed to enhance oral care by their abrasive action. Scientific studies have proven that these special diets are beneficial in maintaining oral health.There are also numerous chew products available that may be helpful. Use common sense and caution when choosing these products; (ask your veterinarian for help). It is usually best to stay with softer products.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

How to Recognize Dental Disease in Dogs

Dental disease in dogs, specifically periodontal disease, is the most common ailment affecting pet dogs and cats. The amount and severity of dental disease in our pets can be very surprising. The recognition and treatment of dental disease is all-to-often overlooked by veterinarians and pet owners alike. Most veterinary schools have yet to recognize the importance teaching about oral health in the education of veterinarians and technicians. It may require the combined efforts of pet owners and enlightened veterinarians to recognize the signs of dental disease in our pets.

Halitosis, or bad breath, is the most common sign of oral disease. Classic “doggy breath” is not necessarily normal. The major cause of halitosis is periodontal disease. This is an infection of the gums and potentially the other supporting structures of the teeth. Plaque builds up every day on the tooth surface including at the gum line. Left in place, the plaque can mineralize, or harden, in less than 2 days, forming calculus or tartar. The tartar will stick to the tooth surface forming a scaffold for more plaque accumulation. The continued build-up of tartar both above and below the gum line can eventually produce an environment that is a haven for certain types of bacteria that may be more destructive to the periodontal tissues and also produce a more noticeable odor.

The most obvious signs of dog dental disease in dogs is the build up of the tartar on the tooth surface. A much more subtle clue to dental disease is the change in the normal gum lines. Every tooth has a bulge just where the normal, healthy gum meets the tooth. This bulge is normally not a straight line for most teeth. This means that we should see a slight wave of gums along the outside of normal, healthy teeth. If the gums are straight along the tooth, either gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, or gingival recession, or loss of the normal gum height, is present.

Gingivitis is reversible, as the inflammation will go away once the cause of the inflammation is addressed. Plaque along the gum line is easily the most common cause of gingivitis. Once the gingiva, or gums, begin to be lost, periodontal disease is present. As in humans, gingival recession is permanent. With gum loss, comes exposure of the root surface of the tooth. The root surface is rougher than the crown of the tooth and is therefore more likely to attract plaque.

In dogs, however, gum loss has even more serious repercussions than in humans. The area between the roots of teeth with more than one root is called the furcation. The furcation is much closer to the normal gum line in the teeth of dogs. A seemingly small amount of gum loss can cause exposure of the root surface and perhaps even this furcation area, providing even more surface for plaque and tartar on which to adhere. What looks like a black spot along the gum line of a tooth is much more likely to be exposed furcation than a “cavity.” Dogs get caries, or “cavities,” much less commonly than do humans. Visualization of the actual bulge or even the exposed furcation area of a tooth is evidence of fairly significant periodontal disease. As more of the gums and bone supporting the teeth are lost, the more likely loss of teeth. Noting one of the more severe signs of dental disease, loosening of the teeth, may also be tricky unless one knows to look for it.

There are other signs of dental disease in your pet that may be more subtle. Dogs may preferentially choose softer foods, play with chew toys less and decline crunchy treats. You may notice your pet chewing more on side of his mouth. He may chew less in general and this sometimes causes the dog to vomit, seen as undigested, poorly chewed food. Increased salivation, pawing at or rubbing the face can be indications of oral pain.

It is important to realize that some periodontal disease may not be visible to even the most experienced observer. Sometimes the bone around the teeth is lost faster than, or even without, gum loss. A complete periodontal examination, including dental X-rays, is necessary to uncover all types of periodontal disease.

Such a comprehensive dental examination requires anesthesia. Larger breeds usually require once-a-year dental exams; smaller breeds twice a year. Complete exams are important to maintaining good dental health.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Top 10 ‘Small Breed’ Dogs

Great Things Do Come In Small Packages

If you’re thinking of getting a small dog because they’re cute, cuddly and quiet, you probably should think again; what they lack in stature, they often make up for in arrogance. Sure, small dogs are cute, and some of them look cuddly, but not all small dog breeds have meek personalities. Like people, small dog breeds come with different personalities, so before you pick up your small-framed dog, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting.

Here are PetMD‘s 10 favorite “small breed” dogs:

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#10 Skye Terrier
This is not a dog to get if you are a cat owner, as they dislike those of the feline persuasion. Otherwise, the Skye Terrier is extremely dependable, gets along fine with people, and is a great family pet. It is also a great dog for avid outdoorsmen.

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#9 Pekingese
This small but ferocious dog is a faithful companion and good watchdog. The Pekingese’s aggressive nature, however, does make it unsuitable for a family with other pets and kids. Its thick undercoat and coarse overcoat also requires daily grooming.

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#8 Dachshund
Believe it or not, the Dachshund actually makes an excellent watchdog and was bred to exterminate vermin! It is very attached to owner and family, but can be aggressive around unfamiliar children. The daring, adventurous and curious Dachshund is also fond of digging, hunting, chasing game, and tracking by scent.

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#7 Bichon Frisé
The small-framed Bichon Frisé gets along well with children and other animals. Known for its white puffy coat and curious name, the Bichon Frisé is considered an active, easily trained dog. Overall, a wonderful small dog breed for families and individuals alike.

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#6 Shih Tzu
While it does no shed, it does require daily grooming. The Shih Tzu, also known as the “mini lion,” makes for a good family dog — it is very friendly and gets along with all creatures (even children).

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#5 Maltese
A good dog for those with allergies (it’s not a big shedder), the Maltese is friendly and often gets along well with other dogs and even cats. The Maltese doesn’t like to be left alone too much, though, as it was bred as a companion dog.

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#4 Jack Russell Terrier
Do not choose this small breed dog if you’re looking for a quiet dog that likes to lounge around being pampered all day. The Jack Russell Terrier is an active breed that loves to jump up on furniture, run around and lead a generally boisterous, happy existence. However, proper training can help make the dog calmer.

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#3 Boston Terrier
A great family dog, the Boston Terrier is friendly and bonds well with kids. Another plus is it doesn’t require a ton of grooming. But be warned, it loves to munch on household items, so lots of chew toys are definitely recommended. You should probably keep anything you don’t want destroyed out of this dog’s way, too.

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#2 Chihuahua
Meek though it may look, the small Chihuahua can really pack a punch in attitude. It is known for nipping at children (probably not the best choice for a house with kids) or barking incessantly at strange dogs. It can also be loud and demanding. But before you say no, the Chihuahua is loyal and affectionate, and it’s even been known to get along with cats (after an adjustment period, of course).

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#1 Pomeranian
The Pomeranian is an adorable, mellow and gentle dog, but it can sometimes get noisy (just like children). As a matter of fact, if you want a Pomeranian, it is great with kids, just as long as it’s introduced as a puppy. Despite this, the Pomeranian, which sheds profusely, may not be the best choice for a house with very small children.

As you can see, there are many small dogs to suit all tastes and lifestyles; it’s all a matter of what you want. However, many small dog breeds are purebreds that have been interbred for hundreds of years, causing various congenital defects. So if you decide to choose a compact canine pal, find a reputable breeder.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds


Want to adopt a cat, but suffer from allergies? Maybe you’ve tried coping by taking antihistamines, and have a HEPA air filter in your home. You may have even heard the term “hypoallergenic pet” but not know it applies to cats.

Some feline breeds exist that are considered “hypoallergenic” or low allergy cats. This is because they produce fewer allergens than others. Cats do produce pet dander, a common allergen, but the culprit for the estimated 10 percent of the population who are allergic to cats may be a protein, Fel d 1, that is present in cat saliva.

Technically, there are no 100 percent hypoallergenic domestic cats or cats that are completely non-allergenic. All cats produce some amount of dander, so you won’t find a dander or allergen-free cat. However, there are breeds that produce less of it and therefore make good cats for people with allergies. The following list of “hypoallergenic” cats is a guideline which petMD recommends for people who want to adopt a feline, yet feel options are limited due to allergies:

Popular Hypoallergenic Cats

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

6 Pet Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing


Warm noses, eating grass, and dangerous foods—none of them mean exactly what you think they mean. Misconceptions about your pet’s health abound and some of them can actually harm your furry one if you aren’t able to differentiate truth from myth.

Here are six common myths about dog health issues and cat health issues that you may have fallen for in the past.

Myth 1: A Warm Nose Means Your Dog is Sick

Warm nose equals a fever, right? Sorry, but no. In fact, it is absolutely a myth that a warm nose means your dog is sick, according to Dr. Shelby Neely, DVM, a Philadelphia-based veterinarian and the director of operations for the online vet service whiskerDocs.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint how this myth got started, Neely suspects it might have become a prevalent belief when canine distemper, a contagious viral infection, was more common. “Dogs that are sick with distemper may have a thickening of the nose, which may alter its temperature and moisture,” Neely explains.

So why is your dog’s nose warm sometimes and not others? It could be for many reasons—“from being overheated to genetics to normal fluctuations throughout the day,” Neely says.

If your suspect your dog might be sick, Neely says a much better diagnostic measure is to observe the way your dog is behaving, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. “In addition,” Neely adds, “nothing replaces an actual thermometer for assessing a dog’s temperature.”

Myth 2: A Few Table Scraps Will Not Hurt Your Dog’s Health

This is also a myth. In fact, human food can be quite dangerous for dogs. “Dogs are not humans and they have very specific diet requirements to keep them healthy, which are different from ours,” Neely explains.

Take, for example, things like garlic, onions, grapes, potato leaves, walnuts, and anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol—all seemingly innocent foods that could cause serious harm to your dog, according to Neely.

Other foods to worry about include cooked bones, as they can splinter and pierce the bowel, explains Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. Dr. Morgan is certified in acupuncture and food therapy and is a member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

In addition, many table foods are too high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and carbohydrates, according to Morgan. “So if you want to share some broccoli, feel free,” says Morgan. “But foods high in salt, sugar, and fat can be problematic for our pets.”

Why is that? Simply put, sugars cause the pancreas to release insulin, which is then used to convert the excess sugars into fat. The result: pet obesity.

“High fat diets and snacks cause the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and can lead to pancreatitis, which can be life threatening,” Morgan adds.

Myth 3: Dogs Must Be Vaccinated Every Year

dog vaccine

While rabies vaccines are mandatory in most states, the rest of the vaccines are discretionary and should be given only to dogs that really need them.

To be clear, all puppies should receive a full core vaccination protocol to build immunity against a multitude of highly fatal diseases, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, owner of Animal Acupuncture and a licensed veterinarian certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.  “These [core vaccinations] include canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and rabies,” Barrack explains.

Non-core vaccinations, on the other hand, may not be necessary for all dogs, depending on their lifestyle. “This also is true for older dogs, whose vaccination frequency recommendations depend on the individual lifestyle in question,” Barrack says. “It is important to take into account geographic location, exposure to other dogs, and underlying disease.”

A clear example: If dogs do not have contact with other dogs in day care or boarding, it makes no sense to vaccinate them for influenza and bordetella, explains Morgan. And the leptospirosis vaccination should only be given to dogs that have exposure to the disease, said Morgan. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife and rats.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that some vaccines likely create immunity for longer than one year, so they do not need to be administered annually. “Distemper and parvovirus vaccinations may give immunity to pets for 5 to 7 or more years,” Morgan says.

If you are unsure whether your pet needs to be revaccinated or not, Barrack recommends asking your veterinarian for a blood test run called a titer. “Titers can be taken from a blood sample to determine if the dog has enough antibodies to maintain immunity status or if booster vaccines are needed,” Barrack explains.

Depending on your pet’s titer, revaccination might not be immediately neccessary.

Titers measure the quantity of antibodies present in the bloodstream of a previously vaccinated dog, but the results do not necessarily parallel with immunity status. And antibodies are only one portion of a healthy immune response to a particular bacterial or viral disease. Titers are useful for identifying animals who are potentially at risk—that is, those with negative titers—but a positive titer doesn’t mean a pet is 100% protected.

“Titers are most commonly performed for distemper and parvovirus,” Morgan explains. “We recommend titers for all our patients and we recommend never giving vaccines if a dog is sick, has cancer or other chronic disease, or is being treated for an illness.”

If you would like to explore your options in titer testing for your pet in place of an annual vaccination, discuss your pet’s individual heath risks with your veterinarian.

Myth 4: It’s OK For Dog to Lick Their Wounds

Many pet owners actually believe that they should let their dogs lick their wounds to speed up healing. While there is evidence that some of the enzymes in saliva can aid in the healing process, there are other things lurking in the mouth that can do just the opposite.

According to Neely, while licking the wound can help remove dirt, there’s more harm than good that can come from allowing your dog to lick his wound.

“Dogs’ mouths, just like every living being, can have some nasty bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected,” says Neely.

In addition, while licking can keep an incision moist—therefore delaying healing, which can be good for a wound that needs to be allowed to continue to drain for a bit—Neely points out that it can also irritate the wound, making it worse. “[Licking] can even remove stitches that have been placed there by your veterinarian,” Neely says.

The best move? Prevent your pet from licking its wounds at all costs, even if it means making your dog wear the dreaded E-collar for a while.

Myth 5: Dogs Eat Grass to Make Themselves Vomit

sick dog, dog eating grass, why do dogs eat grass

The truth is that not all dogs eat grass, and those that do may do it for different reasons, according to Morgan. In fact, Morgan points out that a lot of dogs simply seem to enjoy eating grass, either because of the taste or because they’re attracted to some of the nutrients it contains. “Grass is high in potassium, chlorophyll, and digestive enzymes,” Morgan explains.

That said, some dogs will instinctively eat grass when they have an upset stomach, and while a sick dog does not know to eat grass with the intenion of vomiting, doing so often does result in vomiting. “Coarse, tough grasses are particularly effective at inducing vomiting,” Morgan says.

If your dog enjoys eating grass, Morgan recommends making sure there are no chemicals or pesticides sprayed where the dog has access.

“Unlike cats, dogs aren’t exclusively carnivores, so they like some roughage or plants in their diets,” Barrack says. “So if you notice your dog eating a lot of grass, you may want to include more vegetables as a source of roughage in their diet, or get a small tray of grass for your home.”

Myth 6: Only Old Dogs Get Kidney Disease

Although kidney disease is often seen in older pets, it can occur at any age. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Bull terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and others, are more likely to develop some type of kidney disease, but all dogs and cats are at risk.

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from kidney disease—excessive drinking and urination are early signs—get your dog to your veterinarian right away.

A urinalysis should be performed to assess the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine, says Neely. This is done by measuring the urine specific gravity, which will be lower than normal in pets with kidney disease. “In addition, blood tests can be performed to assess kidney function, with the two most common being creatinine and BUN, or blood urea nitrogen.”

While kidney disease can be fatal if left untreated, early detection can easily change the outcome. “With early detection, treatment can be started, which can lead to pets living many years—even normal lifespans,” Neely says.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372