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Family Pet Animal Care - December 2014 - Life Made Better

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Family Pet Animal Care - December 2014 - Life Made Better

by Dr. Michael Trapani

Happy Holidays! We spend hours contemplating what gift might be most appropriate and most appreciated by a cherished friend or loved one because we don’t want to waste our hard-earned cash on junk or have that certain special thing we picked out re-gifted when we fail to hit the mark, but what about our pets? Does CookieCat really need another catnip mouse? Does WaggieButt actually benefit from a stocking full of freeze-dried jerky chew-spleens?

Oh sure, WaggieB will savor every one of his spleens and CookieCat will play gleefully with her new catnip mouse until she loses it under the sofa next to the others, but maybe, MAYBE, we’d like to give our pets something more than a cheap catnip high or an opportunity to become a mysterious-death-linked-to-Chinese-made-dog-treats statistic. WHAT is a loving pet owner to do?

Selfishness isn’t always a terrible thing. Speaking only for myself, I’d like my cat, Felid Eternal Prince of His Daddy’s Heart III, to live at least 20 years. Yes, it’s selfish of me to demand such a thing from him, but it’s not as if I expect him to do it all by himself. It may be too much to ask the same of our dog, SophieWoaf, but I DO expect her to TRY and I will be there to help her too!

Even if my pets cannot manage to become the animal equivalents of a human centenarian, I want their lives to be comfortable, pleasant and enjoyable. I want them to be happy and secure and healthy. In practical terms, how can pet owners ensure these things for the animals we love?

Health is key to nurturing a long and happy life, and dental health plays a huge role in the health of critical body systems. We are all aware that poor dental health promotes heart disease in people, yet at least one out of three well-loved pets suffers from significant tooth or gum disease. Oral infections promote kidney degeneration, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, AND IT HURTS! Anyone who has ever suffered a toothache understands just how painful dental disease can be, but our pets suffer in silent acceptance of what, to them, simply “is.”

I hear people say, “We had pets when we were kids and they never had their teeth cleaned,” and it’s true. And those animals died when they were ten or twelve. And they had toothaches for years. 

I hear people say, “Animals don’t feel pain the way people do.” And I say, “Are you nuts?” My record patient required 30 dental extractions to return his mouth to health. He was on the verge of heart failure - and a severe anesthetic risk - from the infection that had settled on his heart valves from chronically sick teeth. He had been suffering severe toothaches for years, including one tooth root infection that burned through his cheekbone and created an abscess on his face – tell me he didn’t feel it!  After losing those infected teeth, he was like a new dog, acting years younger.

So, if you want to do something for your pets over the holidays, think about having their teeth cleaned. Preventive dental care is inexpensive and eliminates the need for extractions, antibiotics, and pain medications. Preventive dental care reduces the risk of heart disease and liver disease and kidney disease and urinary tract infections. Preventive dental care will not only improve your pet’s quality of life and extend their life span by years, but it will save you a bundle compared to dealing with all the problems guaranteed to take place when your pet’s teeth are neglected.

It’s OK to be a little selfish sometimes. Felid isn’t particularly happy to have his teeth cleaned every year, but like all my patients, he gets a pleasant cocktail of very good drugs. One shot, and he really doesn’t care what I do. He just purrs and purrs, and then he wakes up with clean teeth. No pain. No drama. I do it to make his life better – and longer. When Sophie gets old enough to need dental cleaning, she’ll get the same treatment, early and often, to keep her healthy and free of pain.

I say that I do this for them, but it’s really for me. Our pet’s lives are far too short as it is. Where dental health is concerned, when you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. Give yourself the gift of a happy, healthy pet for the holidays.