Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Dirty Mouth Dilemma

The DogsLifeKC packs wants to thank Oak Park Veterinary Clinic's Jennifer S. Strickland, DVM, RN for sharing her time and thoughts with us.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Talk to your veterinarians about what is appropriate for your dog. Ask about possible specials during this upcoming month.

People often ask me "Do dogs really need dental care?" My answer to them is "Absolutely!"

Regular home care in addition to professional dental care can be beneficial in many ways for your dog:
  • A cleaner mouth leads to less halitosis or "bad breath."
  • A cleaner mouth is a healthier mouth. Regular dental care helps prevent spread of bacteria from the mouth to vital organs like the liver, kidneys and heart. 
  • A cleaner mouth is a more comfortable mouth, resulting in a good appetite and over all better quality of life.
A discussion by veterinarians on dental health is often viewed with a glazed look in the client’s eyes as many feel professional dental disease prevention is not essential to overall pet wellness and really is just a way of increasing the bottom line profits of the clinic. This could not be further from the truth. Veterinarians get involved in dental procedures and cleanings when severe periodontal disease has set in, and as the second line of defense against the onset of the disease. Therefore, your pet needs a combination of in-home (first line of defense) and professional care on a continual basis to keep their mouth clean. So let’s go through what you can do at home to avoid extra trips to your veterinary professional.

Periodontal disease is the number one infectious disease in dogs and cats. We see periodontal disease in about 80% of our canine patients and in about 70% of our feline patients. Periodontal disease is exclusively due to poor dental hygiene. Tartar buildup in our pets occurs at a rate five times faster than in humans. This is why you can’t compare your personal dental needs to your pet’s dental requirements. Home dental care is critical in avoiding periodontal disease among our pets.

Some basic signs that your pet may be suffering from periodontal disease are oral pain, bad breath which is totally unnatural in dogs and cats, infected or bleeding gums, loose teeth, and difficulty chewing dry food.

The disease process begins with bacteria invading and infecting the gums resulting in gingivitis. This bacteria is created when food debris is combined with oral epithelia cells, mucin, and oral glycoprotein. Just one milligram of plaque contains over one trillion bacteria cells. If left untreated the bacteria will advance beyond the gum line and into the supporting structures of the tooth. If allowed to continue to advance the bacteria will eventually attack the alveolar bone slowly eroding it to the point that the tooth will eventually fall out on its own. All the while this bacteria is moving into the bloodstream potentially doing damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs.


Stage 1: Periodontal disease is not very visually noticeable at this stage. It begins with gingival inflammation and variable accumulation of plaque. There is no discoloration at this stage. There is no deterioration of the supportive structures at this stage. Plaque control at home during this stage can reverse any pathologic changes.

Stage 2: The first visual signs of destructive periodontitis can be seen. Plaque and calculus begin to form below the gum line. The pet’s breath is now mildly offensive. There can be up to 25% tooth attachment loss at this stage. Even at this stage the disease is still reversible with a professional dental cleaning and proper home care.

Stage 3: Now moderate periodontitis has set in. 
The pet’s breath is now very offensive and noticeable at a short distance away from the mouth. There can now be up to 50% tooth attachment loss at this stage and up to 30% alveolar bone loss. There are now moderate to deep gingival pockets that have formed. The only option to cure the disease at this stage is aggressive periodontal therapy, but it is too late to correct the permanent pathologic changes that have occurred in the mouth.

Stage 4: This is the advanced periodontitis stage. 
The  recession of the gum line is extensive. The pet’s breath has become intolerable to the human nose. Teeth have become loose to the touch. There is now more than 50% bone loss and extensive deep pockets. Pets at this stage will require professional dental care up to and including complete dental extractions or root canals. A course of oral antibiotics will be necessary to curb the bacterial infection that has set in.

So how do we prevent periodontal disease? By developing a complete home and professional care plan we can keep the disease at bay. It starts with prevention and not just professional treatment.


Step 1: The easiest way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup on a daily basis without a lot of fuss is to give your pet a clinically proven dental chew designed for dogs and cats. There are several very good products on the market today. We recommend and use C.E.T. chews at our clinic. They are made by Virbac Animal Health and come in chewable sizes designed for all pets. These chews combine a natural antiseptic with abrasive action on the teeth to break up plaque and tartar. Whichever chew you choose it is important to know who is making the chew and where it is being made and with what ingredients. Far too many chews on the market today are doing more harm than good. Consult your veterinarian for safe brands.

Step 2: We know how hard it is to get your kids to brush their teeth so we are very aware of how difficult it is to find the time and energy to brush your pet’s teeth. Daily brushing yields the very best results but we know that may be unrealistic in most households. So we say that doing it is better than not doing it at all. Aim for three times a week and try to work up to daily brushing. The more you do it the easier your pet will be to work with. Again there are many fine products on the market, but we prefer C.E.T toothbrushes and toothpastes. They are specially formulated and designed with your pet in mind. The toothpastes come in several pet-friendly flavors. Your veterinarian will offer a complete dental care kit to get you started. The key to success with brushing your pet’s teeth is to go slowly. Maybe the first few days you are simply touching the mouth with your fingers without using any paste at all. Then you slowly ease your pet into the process by putting some toothpaste on your finger and working it around your pet’s mouth. Once your pet is used to the procedure you can then introduce a pet toothbrush or ribbed finger brush. Then brush just like they were your own teeth for about two minutes. Keep in mind what it would feel like if you had not brushed your teeth for a whole year and then suddenly had someone aggressively brushing out of the blue one day. You wouldn’t like it very much either and might try to run away. Success is built with small steps for a week or two. Both of you will be happier with the whole process if you approach it in this manner.

Step 3: Your veterinarian should conduct an annual dental exam as part of your pet’s annual wellness exam to check up on your home care. They can determine if your home care is keeping tartar and plaque at bay or if you need to step up your home dental treatments or maybe even have a professional dental cleaning to give you a good dental foundation to build from. Be sure to ask what they see and what the care plan should be going forward.

In addition your veterinarian may suggest/prescribe some dental health food designed specifically to assist in reducing the bacteria that causes gingivitis. You should consult with your veterinarian to see if a dental diet food is right for your pet. Whatever you do be sure not to put off proper pet dental care. Delaying treatment can lead to other previously discussed health concerns that can do permanent damage to your pet.

Pet Dr. J

Jennifer S. Strickland, DVM, RN

You can also visit her clinic on Facebook! 

The Big "C"

The DogsLifeKC packs wants to thank Oak Park Veterinary Clinic's Jennifer S. Strickland, DVM, RN for sharing her time and thoughts with us.

I remember watching a movie from the 1980’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” and in that movie filled with brat-packers there was a character who was the mother of one of the recent college grads who every time she had something horrible or horrific to say she would whisper the key word.  One of those words was the “c” word.  Cancer.  For some reason that image has stuck with me all these many years.  Well while the “c” word is horrible and horrific for both humans and pets it is by no means the end.

Let’s first clean up some terminology often used interchangeably with cancer.  The term neoplasia is any uncontrolled abnormal growth of tissues or cells in the body.  The proper term for this growth is called a neoplasm which is often called a tumor.  These neoplasms can be non-malignant (benign), or malignant (cancerous).  These non-malignant neoplasms do not grow aggressively.  They do not attack surrounding body tissue, and do not spread throughout the body via the blood or lymphatic system.  The term tumor is usually used to describe the area of swelling or mass associated with the neoplasm. 

Neoplasia is a very common among our pets especially as they age.  Malignant neoplasia is responsible for nearly half of all deaths of pets over the age of ten.  Dogs get cancer at the same rate as the human population while cats develop cancer at a slightly lower rate than humans.  Here are some various types of Neoplasia.

A lymphoma is one of the most common types of neoplasia in our pets.  It is typically an enlargement of one or more lymph nodes in the body.

A neoplasia in the abdominal cavity is also very common.  Unfortunately, this is a neoplasia that is very difficult to make an early diagnosis.  An early warning sign is sudden weight loss.

A neoplasia of the bone is usually seen in large breed dogs older than seven years of age.  This neoplasia is rarely seen in cats.  This neoplasia usually attacks the bone near a joint.  Early warning signs are lameness, swelling at or near the joint and continual pain at or near the site.

A neoplasia of the skin is very common in older dogs but rarely seen in cats.  When they are seen in cats they are almost always malignant.  They are rarely malignant in dogs.

Mammary Gland
A neoplasia in the mammary gland is a serious thing.  More than half of all neoplasia in dogs are malignant and more than 85% of neoplasms in cats are malignant.  You can greatly reduce the risk of this form of cancer by spaying your pet before they reach one year of age.

Mouth & Nose
Neoplasia of the mouth is rare in cats but is not uncommon in dogs.  Warning signs are a tumor on the gums, bleeding coming from the gums, a foul order in the mouth, and difficulty eating and chewing.  Many of these tumors are malignant so consult your veterinarian immediately in order to begin an aggressive treatment plan.  Neoplasia may also develop in the sinus cavities causing severe swelling to the face and bleeding from the nose.  This too should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately for quick diagnosis and treatment.

Warning Signs
  • Weight Loss
  •  Loss of Appetite
  • Difficulty eating, chewing, or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Continual lameness or stiffness
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Abnormal swellings that continue to grow or remain
  • Bloody discharge from any body cavity
  • Unusual pungent odor
  • Loss of energy

Neoplasia is usually detected during a routine medical examination normally associated with an annual wellness exam that includes full blood chemistry.  These may be discovered with a head-to-toe hands-on visual exam of your pet.  Your veterinarian may ask to do a needle stick to remove a sample of neoplasia cells for viewing under the microscope during your visit.  This can act as a rule-out of a possible malignant neoplasm.  Often these tumors are no more than fatty lipomas that are noticeable to the touch but harmless to your pet.

Once a neoplasia is suspected or detected your veterinarian will want to run several tests to confirm or dismiss the initial findings.  These may include blood work, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound exams, and the afore mentioned biopsies.  These tests are needed to determine the malignant or non-malignant nature of the neoplasm.  Early detection and diagnosis is critical to the long-term effective treatment of all neoplastic diseases.  The sooner they are discovered and treated the better the prognosis.  Many of the symptoms associated with neoplastic diseases are symptoms shared by other disease processes and need immediate veterinary medical attention no matter what the ultimate diagnosis is. 

Once your veterinarian has completed testing and made a final diagnosis they will discuss treatment plan options for your pet.  They may offer multiple treatment plans from very aggressive to minimally aggressive depending on a variety of factors such as the pet’s age, overall wellness, client’s financial situation, and ultimate expected outcome.

Possible treatments may range from surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, cryosurgery (freezing neoplasm), or immunotherapy.  This may be incorporated with a nutritional treatment plan to improve your pet’s response to the overall treatment plan.  Often pain management is part of any good overall treatment plan.  You should consult with your veterinarian about all aspects of the plan. 

There are 100% cure rates with some types of neoplasia if they are detected early and treatment is started promptly.  Time is the enemy when it comes to cure rates.  The longer it takes to detect and treat a pet the lower percentage of full recovery.  However, some types of neoplasms can only be managed to limit the spread of the disease and make your pet comfortable.  In these cases your family may consider euthanasia for your pet.  Before making any final decision regarding euthanasia you should consult with your veterinarian in order to make the best informed choice possible.

We learn more and more every year through research and newly developed diagnostic methods about the “C” word.  Every advancement in science will lead us closer to a final cure of this horrible disease process.  Until then, early detection and aggressive treatment plans are our best defense.  This is just another reason why continual consultation and annual examination with your veterinarian is vital to the overall wellness of your pet. 

Pet Dr. J
Jennifer S. Strickland, DVM, RN

You can also visit her clinic on Facebook! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The importance of getting a second opinion

It's common when we talk about our own human medical issues that we discuss second opinions. 

If a doctor tells us we have a condition that requires surgery or talks about a risky treatment, it is quite normal for us to seek a second opinion from another doctor or we go to a specialist.

Unfortunately, I don't believe we do this enough for our dogs.

Anyone that is familiar with me personally knows that my pack is important to me. And quite frequently, I do put their needs before my own comfort. But, I'm not suggesting people do that. I'm simply wanting to encourage people to know they have options.

Right now, I am blessed with a 9-year old Newfoundland named Quincy. And, he is reason #1 that I strongly believe in getting second opinions.

When Quincy was about 7 months old, he'd limp off and on on his front legs. I could never really pinpoint which leg it was but knew he was uncomfortable.

My veterinarian at the time gave us some anti-inflammatories and told me to give Quincy some rest and come back in about a week. We did that and unfortunately, the pain did not go away.
When I came back, we discussed the possibility that Quincy had panosteitis, more commonly known in the word of giant breeds as pano. And, while the name sounds serious, it is simply a puppy condition where there is a wandering lameness caused by the rapid growth of their long bones. Some might call it growing pains.

To get a formal diagnosis, our veterinarian felt we needed to see a true orthopedic veterinarian at a local clinic to get a true diagnosis. I agreed to it and set an appointment as soon as possible.

At that appointment, Quincy had x-rays done and the orthopedist did see signs of pano. But, he also saw signs of retained cartilage cores in each leg. In the most basic of terms, it simply means that the puppy cartilage doesn't go away as they grow and it can cause the limbs to grow at an improper angle.

The orthopedist suggested I move Quincy to a low calcium diet and come back in 8 weeks and we'd do another set of x-rays to compare and see if the cartilage started to disappear. I was shocked, hurt and said OK.

8 weeks later, we came back and after another round of x-rays, the orthopedist came back with bad news. I personally found that shocking because I felt that Quincy had improved dramatically over the past few weeks. But, he said the cartilage cores were still there and quite visible. And, Quincy also had, in the orthopedist's opinion, the worse elbow dysplasia he had ever seen. He said that I had two options: 
  • Option number 1 was that I have surgery on each leg to cut the cords and provide room for the leg bones to grow longer. If I chose this option, I'd have to have surgery done on each front leg twice due to his young age. 
  • Option number 2 was to put him down now and skip the pain that was in his future.
I didn't say anything but as soon as i got out to the car with Quincy, I started crying. On the way home, I called the breeder I got Quincy from and she said that she'd help me in any way she could. She said that she'd start doing some research and was going to call her veterinarian.

I called my original veterinarian and he said very gently that I needed to pull myself together and he recommended that I take Quincy up to K-State Veterinary school and get a second opinion.

Long story short, we went up there and while Quincy did have pano at the time, he didn't have the retained cartilage cores nor did he have any sign of elbow dysplasia. No surgery was needed at all and the head of orthopedics there felt Quincy had good hips and elbows. He said that I should do x-rays again in a year, but that in his opinion, Quincy was happy, healthy and all was good.

A year later, I had Quincy x-rayed again and all was great. No signs of dysplasia and all bones were fine. Fast forward 8 years and I recently had Quincy's x-rays done again and still no signs of hip or elbow dysplasia. All is well.

When I've told people that story, they want to know who the orthopedist is so they can avoid him. And, I don't give that information out. Yes, he is still in practice locally. 

I'm not wanting people to avoid him. That's not the moral of the story here. I'm simply wanting people to know that you have the power to get second opinions for your dogs.

We, as humans, tend to give our veterinarians a great deal of power. At times, we give them more power than we give our own doctors. If our own doctor told us we needed surgery, we'd go get a second opinion.

Quite often, when our veterinarian give our dogs a diagnosis, we don't question them. If they say our dog needs surgery, we simply do it.

When I've tried to encourage people  to do that, I've gotten mixed messages. Some people say "I can do that? I didn't know I could do that." And, I've had others say they feel uncomfortable doing it for fear of hurting their veterinarian's feelings.

When that orthopedist told me that if would be more humane to put Quincy down at 9 months old, I would have missed the past 9 years of a wonderful relationship.

Remember, you have the power because you pay the bills. You can get a second opinion for your dog.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HEARTland Positive Dog Training Alliance (HEART)

The HEART (HEARTland Positive Dog Training Alliance) is a new group of the areas best dog trainers,vpet professionals, dog enthusiasts and dog owners dedicated to educating

others about humane, effective, science based dog training.
And, they're welcoming new members.

HEART's goals are to educate pet professionals and the general public about positive training methods and why this is the best option, provide continuing education to its members and to be a presence in the Kansas City pet community.

HEART is a member-only organization with two levels of membership:
  • Professional
  • Supporting
To learn more information about the alliance, call 816-699-2260 or email

Their next meeting is: Heartland Positive Dog Trainers Alliance Meeting
July 15, 2010 at 7pmWestwood Animal Hospital4820 Rainbow Boulevard, Westwood, KS 66205-1941
Guest speaker: Dr. Wayne Hunthausen

Welcome to Betty our doggie dining critic

We'd like to send a big WELCOME to our newest journalist, Betty. Betty is known throughout Kansas City as KC's Only Doggie Dining Critic as well as the only Outdoor Dining Critic.

"B.D.R." Big Dogs Rule!!! Says Betty, Kansas City's only outdoor dining critic.

Her actual doggie dining critique was the same. "B.D.R." Beignets definitely ROCK at  the new,"old" Napolean bakery at 119th st.,near the Cheesecake factory. (They used to be located in Westport.)

Napoleon's actually made  figure-friendly, non-sugared beignets for us!

My BCFF (best, canine, friend forever), Beignet, known as "Beg-NOT" for short, snuck around and ate all my breakfast. I didn't go hungry though, I ate my master's blueberries from her fruit cup. YUMMO!

I give Napoleon's Bakery a definite for 4 bones for service,quality--- and atmosphere. Of course, I was bribed by beignets!

Next assignment: I'm going undercover at a local pet spa for the weekend "sleep-over."

To send Betty fan mail or ask her to visit a particular restaurant, click HERE.

3 New Restaurants Added!

We've added three new restaurants to our list of dining establishments that welcome dogs!

On the Kansas Side

The New Napoleon Bakery
6759 West 119th Street
Overland Park, KS 66209
(913) 766-3200

Thank you to our new correspondent Betty the Canine Dining Critic for making us aware of this place!

Napoleon's serve fresh baked goods that are health conscious and delicious. Their desserts are made with only the finest ingredients. All of our breads are freshly baked. At Napoleon Cafe, freshly baked means baked today. Napoleon's has been local favorite for over thirty years. They warmly welcome the dogs on the patio with a bowl of water and fresh beignets.

On the Missouri Side

4124 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 531-7878
Californos, a hip, Romantic Bistro & Event Venue where West-Coast meets Old West with delightful food, service & atmosphere. They often have music on the deck and feature an extensive wine, champagne and martinit list. Californos can accommodate groups of all sizes. Reservations are HIGHLY recommended.

McCoy's Public House
4057 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 960-0866

McCoy's warmly, welcomes dogs on their extensive outdoor deck that has been voted s the premiere place for people watching in mid-town. They're located at the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, in the heart of the Westport District. They have an extensive and appetizing menu serving creative comfort food selections for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Their brewmaster, Keith Thompson, hand-crafts award-winning ales & lagers to suit the season. They feature an extensive list of signature martinis, wine and cocktails, and they offer their hand-crafted ales for only $3.00, 4-6pm for Happy Hour!

Their hours are: Mon-Sat 11a-3a, Sun 11a-12a
If you would like to share with us places that have welcomed your dog or you want us to investigate, feel free to e-mail us or call us: 913-538-1757.

Happy Birthday to Us

As the first birthday for rolls around, our Pack at DogsLifeKC is shaking things up a bit and doing something different.

This year, we have two goals. One is to provide more educational opportunities for dog lovers in the Kansas City metro area. The other is to be more active. :-)

As part of our goal to be more active, we'll be welcoming you, our friends, to join us on walks once a month. We'll be holding those throughout the city in different areas.

As part of our educational goals, we're revamping our weekly newsletter to add a few more stories and interviews. And, we're redoing our events as well.

As part of our educational goals, we're inviting canine professionals to come to our hosted events and speak a little bit about their canine specialty whether that be agility training or conditioning via physical therapy or even reading dog's body language.

Our events, as they have always been, will be held outside and dogs are welcome. They will be FREE and the presentation portion will be anywhere from 15-to-30 minutes long. Then the speakers will hang around for awhile so you and your dog have the opportunity to speak to them at your leisure.

We hope you enjoy our new additions and if you have any thoughts or suggested speakers, let us know!

The DogsLifeKC pack