Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spay Day USA

National Spay Day USA, 2011

As happens every year in February, this year on February 22nd the East Bay SPCA  and Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care will be joining with animal welfare organizations across the country for Spay Day USA. Spay Day USA is a national campaign to promote spays and neuters as a simple, humane, and effective way to end the tragedy of euthanizing homeless pets. The goal of the EBSPCA this year is to spay and neuter 100 Pitt Bulls, Pit Mixes, and cats. In addition to the free surgeries, pets will be given free vaccinations, pain medications, and sent home with e-collars. The EBSPCA is performing this service at no charge for qualifying lower income pet owners from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

Last year the event was held at the Oakland Spay and Neuter facility where over 100 dogs and cats received free surgeries and together over the past four years, the EBSPCA and Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care have spayed and neutered over 400 animals for free. This year, alongside the EBSPCA’s veterinarians and staff will be Dr. Kristi Peterson and her technician Katie McKenna from Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care who are both helping to make this event possible.
During Spay Day USA’s first 12 years, participants spayed or neutered an estimated 1,366,000 animals! When you consider that an unspayed cat can give birth to 18 kittens each year and an unspayed dog can give birth to 20 puppies each year, and that the average cost for shelters to handle each homeless animal is $176, it’s clear that Spay Day USA participants have, potentially, prevented millions of surplus births and saved millions of taxpayer dollars.
Sadly, thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every year in our local shelters, and nationwide the estimates range as high as 10 million dogs and cats euthanized in the United States annually. Yes, that means 10 million pets were put to sleep last year, and again this year, and again next year, every year. It is really a number that is difficult to grasp.

Unless you have a pure-bred dog specifically intended for breeding, he or she should be neutered or spayed before they have a chance to reproduce. Dogs and cats enter puberty (yes, pets go through puberty just like their owners) when they are about 6 months old.

The spay or neuter surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning a dog or cat comes in to the veterinary hospital for surgery and goes home several hours later. Most pets receive painkillers for a few days post-op at home, by which time they have generally returned to full activity level. The relative quickness and simplicity of the procedure, and the rapid recovery of most dogs and cats within a day or two, means there is no reason a healthy dog or cat, puppy or kitten, should not be spayed or neutered before they reach reproductive age.

Great Question

This week’s Great Question is from Kate Z.
“I take my dogs to the vet every year. Do indoor cats need yearly checkups as well?”

Indoor only cats absolutely need annual check-ups.  While they are not exposed to as many hazards as indoor/outdoor cats, they can still have medical problems that can be caught early -- such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism -- with annual exams.  Indoor cats can have just as many internal problems as their outdoor counterparts that can be made worse by being strictly indoors--such as asthma and urinary tract problems.  If your cat is the  type of cat that can become excessively stressed by trips to the vet, then I recommend yearly check-ups in the home with a traveling veterinarian. 
Leanne Taylor, DVM

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Healthy Mouth Makes a Happy Pet by Frank Utchen, DVM

How do you know if your dog or cat has gum disease? After all, the odds are that anyone, including our pets, who don't brush their teeth regularly will develop tartar on their teeth. And by age 3 years, 80% of dogs and 70% cats have visible tartar and gingivitis.

The cause of gum disease is the same in cats and dogs as it is in people. Gum disease is an infection resulting from the build‐up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. Although the plaque layer is essentially clear and not easily noticed, the bacteria in this invisible layer irritate the gum tissue. If plaque is allowed to accumulate, it transforms into hard dental tartar (“calculus”), consisting of calcium salts from saliva deposited over time in the plaque layer. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean, and provides a rough surface that enhances further plaque accumulation. Once it has begun to grow in thickness, tartar is difficult to remove without dental instruments.

The effects of gum disease can be significant. Bad breath is the most common effect noted by pet owners. However, this is often only the tip of the iceberg. The gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and oral pain, and your cat or dog may lose its appetite or drop food from its mouth while eating. Ultimately, the roots of the teeth may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out. Bacteria surrounding the roots gain access to the blood stream ("bacteremia"). Studies have shown that dogs and cats with severe periodontal disease have more severe microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle, and liver than do pets with less severe periodontal disease.

The key to management of gum disease (for humans or pets!) is prevention. As long as the surfaces of the teeth are kept clean, the gums will stay healthy. The gold standard is brushing, although daily chewing activities can also be effective in maintaining oral health. Use of products that have been awarded the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal (visit www.VOHC.org) will help keep your pet’s teeth clean and the gum tissues and bone around the roots of the teeth healthy. Specifically, we recommend incorporating as many the following methods as possible into a routine home dental health plan for your pets.

1. Routine tooth brushing at home can be done using a regular soft‐bristle tooth brush for dogs, and a toothbrush or a C.E.T. Finger Toothbrush for cats or dogs. There are several toothpastes that can be used. The best time to start a home program of brushing is when your pet is still a puppy or kitten. We will be happy to demonstrate the easiest ways to brush a pet’s teeth. For a description of exactly how we recommend brushing pets teeth, see the article titled “Periodontal Disease in Dogs and Cats” located in the Pet health Library at www.webvets.com.

2. There are a number of recommended chew toys and treats to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. “C.E.T. Chews” are available for dogs and cats which contain plaque‐destroying enzymes and antiseptics. “Greenies” are chew treats for both dogs and cats that act as an abrasive to remove plaque. For dogs, hard rubber or plastic chew toys, and leather (“rawhide”) chews have also been shown to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Hard bones are not advisable because of the risk of tooth fractures and the potential need for surgery to remove a bone if swallowed.

3. A specially designed food called “Prescription Diet t/d” can be used as a pet's regular diet. It is uniquely formulated to scrape plaque off the teeth better than regular dry food, which normally crumbles before removing any significant amount of plaque. This is available for both cats and dogs.

The interval between professional dental cleanings varies depending on how many of the above aspects of home treatment are employed, and is also affected by differences between individual pets. Tartar buildup and periodontal disease develop more rapidly in small dogs, and in certain pure breeds of cats.