Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Summer is rapidly approaching, and it’s already hot outside. Even when the weather is moderately warm, the temperature inside a parked car can rise dangerously high. Heat and humidity put dogs at risk of heat stroke, which can be fatal.
Dogs rely mostly on panting to cool themselves (they sweat only a little from their paw pads). But panting isn’t always enough to keep a dog’s body temperature in the normal range, from about 100°F to 103°F. As the body temperature rises above normal, dogs can develop heat exhaustion. Heat stroke (in dogs) is defined as a body temperature over 105.8°F along with central nervous system dysfunction.
Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency and has a reported death rate of about 50% in dogs. It damages the brain, kidneys, heart, intestines, and other internal organs, and it causes blood clotting disorders.
Causes of heat stroke
Heat stroke is caused either by exposure to heat and humidity or by strenuous physical exertion. These are situations that commonly lead to heat stroke in dogs:
Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, an emergency veterinary medicine specialist, recommends not exercising with your dog if the temperature (in Fahrenheit) plus the humidity level is over 150. So when the temperature is 80°F and the humidity level is 80%, it’s too hot to take your dog on a run (80 + 80 = 160).
Dogs at risk
Although any dog can develop heat stroke, the risk is higher in dogs with these conditions:
Signs of heat stress
Dogs start showing signs of heat exhaustion before they develop full-blown heat stroke. Watch for the warning signs, which become more severe as heat stroke sets in:
If you see signs of heat exhaustion in your dog, carry him to a cooler place immediately; at least get him into the shade. Wet him down with cool water (ice is not necessary) and give him water if he’s able to drink on his own. Take him to a veterinary clinic right away if he has any of the more severe signs or if you’re not sure whether he’s OK after a few minutes. It’s much better to take in a dog who turns out to be fine than to delay treatment for a dog who has heat stroke.
Preventing heat stroke
Photo by Kasia Koziatek
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Dental radiography (x-ray imaging) is an important diagnostic tool for pets, just as it is for people. Animals don’t always show signs of mouth pain, and radiographs may be the only way to know there’s a problem.
Most dental disease in dogs and cats happens under the gumline, where it’s hidden from view. In published studies, radiographs revealed disease in apparently healthy teeth in 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats. Dental radiographs find problems that can’t always be seen on a physical examination:
Radiographs also guide dental procedures in pets. For example, some dog and cat teeth have curved roots, extra roots, or roots that extend very close to the jawbone. It’s best to know about these issues before trying to extract these teeth.
In animals, dental radiography requires general anesthesia or sedation. The radiographs use sensors or small film cassettes placed inside the mouth, and animals can’t wiggle during the procedure. Imagine putting an x-ray sensor between your dog’s teeth and politely asking her to lie still and not chew on it. Now imagine asking your cat the same thing. Dental radiographs are often obtained while a pet is already under anesthesia for a dental procedure.
Dental radiography delivers a very small radiation dose to the patient. The American Veterinary Dental College reports that “the radiation risk to the patient from taking dental radiographs is minimal.”
Like people, pets benefit from having full-mouth dental radiography from time to time to be sure no problems are lurking under the surface. Oral imaging may also be indicated in pets with these conditions:
Photo by muhannad alatawi
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
It’s snake season in North Carolina. Snakes are most active in the early spring through fall, and dogs that accidentally disturb snakes sometimes get bitten. Although a bite from a venomous snake is a medical emergency, try not to panic if it happens to your dog.
North Carolina snakes
North Carolina is home to about 37 snake species. Most are nonvenomous. Don’t run for the hoe if you see a snake in your yard; chances are it’s a nonvenomous snake that’s helping control the rodent population.
Six venomous snake species live in North Carolina: copperheads, cottonmouths, 3 rattlesnake species, and coral snakes. Copperheads are by far the most common. In our state, venomous snakebites are usually from copperheads. Rattlesnakes and possibly cottonmouths can also be found in the Piedmont. Coral snakes are rare and live in the southeastern part of the state.
See photos of NC snakes here: http://herpsofnc.org/snakes/.
Symptoms of snakebite
Nonvenomous bites: Nonvenomous snakes may bite if they are provoked. These bites may look like small abrasions or punctures in the shape of a horseshoe (if they’re visible at all). Venomous snakes sometimes bite without injecting any venom. Nonvenomous bites typically don’t require medical attention unless they become infected.
Venomous bites: Venomous bites are easy to diagnose if you see a snake bite your dog. Diagnosis is a little trickier if the bite isn’t witnessed. Fractures, abscesses, and insect bites can cause symptoms similar to those of snakebite.
Copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths are all pit vipers belonging to the family Crotalidae. These snakes inject venom through 2 long fangs. The puncture wounds might or might not be visible through a dog’s fur.
Crotalid venom causes significant tissue damage at the bite site. Copperhead venom is typically less toxic than rattlesnake and cottonmouth venom. The severity of symptoms depends on the size of the dog, the amount of venom delivered, and the location of the bite (for example, bites to the face or neck can cause swelling that obstructs breathing). Symptoms that usually appear right away include the following:
Crotalid venom can also interfere with blood clotting. The venom of some rattlesnake species (not native to North Carolina) damages the nervous system.
Coral snakes are in the family Elapidae, like cobras and mambas. Elapid venom targets the nervous system and can paralyze the muscles of breathing. Bites from coral snakes are serious medical emergencies but luckily are very rare.
If your dog is bitten by a snake
Stay as calm as possible; this will help your dog stay calm too. Limit your dog’s movement by carrying him to your car (if possible) instead of having him walk. Snakebites can be extremely painful, so you may need to muzzle your dog before handling him to prevent him from biting in response to pain. Take your dog to a veterinary hospital without delay. Treatment of crotalid bites depends on the severity of symptoms, and your dog will probably need to be hospitalized. Copperhead bites do not necessarily require antivenin. The decision to use antivenin depends on the individual case and the severity of symptoms.
Do not try first aid techniques that you might have read about. These can worsen the tissue damage caused by crotalid venom and delay transport to a veterinarian.
Don’t try to kill or capture the snake. You risk being bitten yourself if you do. Snake identification is not necessary for treatment. Nearly all venomous snakebites in Mecklenburg County are from copperheads, but the treatment is similar for all pit viper bites. Crotalid antivenin is polyvalent, meaning the same antivenin treats copperhead, rattlesnake, and cottonmouth bites.
The best way to avoid being bitten is to leave snakes alone. Copperheads are not aggressive and do not typically bite except in defense. Dogs may stumble upon snakes by accident, though, so take the following measures to reduce the risk:
For more information, check out the Snakes of North Carolina section of the NC Cooperative Extension website and the Carolinas Poison Center website.
Image credit: CDC/James Gathany
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Do you have unused or expired prescription medications in the house? Keeping these drugs around is risky because of the possibility of accidental exposure, overdose, or intentional misuse, says the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Disposing of medications safely also protects the environment.
This Saturday, April 28, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can take prescription medications you no longer need (whether they were prescribed for animals or for people) to collection sites for safe disposal. To find a site near you, go to the DEA Take Back Day website.
Don’t dispose of medications by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down the drain. Drugs discarded this way enter the waterways, where they can harm wildlife and damage the environment. Drug residues can even enter the drinking water supply.
The safest way to dispose of medications is to take them to an authorized collection site. These sites are usually located in police stations or pharmacies and are available throughout the year, not only on Prescription Drug Take Back Day. To find a location, check one of these resources:
Some prescription drugs have disposal instructions in the package insert. If your medication came with disposal instructions, follow those directions. If disposal instructions aren't included and you don't have access to a collection site, follow these steps:
A few prescription medications are so harmful if they're accidentally ingested that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend throwing them in the trash. For more information about these drugs or about drug disposal in general, see Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know on the FDA website.
Photo by Joshua Coleman
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
April is Heartworm Awareness Month. How much do you know about this infection? Check out the questions, then scroll down for the answers.
1. How are heartworms transmitted?
a. By mosquitoes
b. By eating raw meat
c. Through the feces of infected animals
d. By vampires
2. About how many dogs tested positive for heartworm in North Carolina in 2017?
3. Adult heartworms grow to what length in a dog’s heart?
a. 3 inches
b. 6 inches
c. 9 inches
d. 12 inches
4. In addition to dogs, which animals can get heartworms?
5. True or false: Dogs should receive heartworm preventives through the winter.
6. You forgot your dog’s monthly heartworm pill and now it’s a month overdue. What should you do?
a. Have your dog tested for heartworms before giving the pill.
b. Give your dog the pill now.
c. Give your dog a double dose.
7. True or false: Heartworm preventives sold over the counter at pet stores work just as well as the prescription versions.
c. Unfair trick question
8. Which state is free of heartworms?
d. None of the above
1. a. By mosquitoes
Mosquitoes pick up tiny heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, when they take a blood meal from an animal infected with adult heartworms. When the mosquito bites another animal, it injects these larvae into the new host. The larvae mature into adult heartworms in the new host in about 6 months.
2. c. 9000
According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 9457 dogs tested positive for heartworms in 2017 in North Carolina. This number has been increasing each year. To see more parasite statistics, see the Parasite Prevalence Maps on the Pets & Parasites website.
3. d. 12 inches
Adult heartworms grow about 12 inches long in dogs. Infected dogs typically have 14 to 20 of these foot-long worms in their heart and lungs.
4. c. Both
Both cats and ferrets get heartworm disease. In cats, heartworms do not grow as large as they do in dogs and are usually fewer in number. However, heartworm infection can be devastating in cats, potentially causing severe respiratory disease or sudden death. In ferrets, even a single worm can cause serious illness because ferrets’ hearts are so small. Medical options for heartworm removal (like those used in dogs) cannot be used in cats and ferrets. Heartworm preventives are available for cats and ferrets.
5. a. True
For best protection, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention for all dogs, not just for dogs in southern states. Also, think of this: for several days this past February, the temperature in Charlotte was 75°F or higher. Do you want to risk your pet’s health by guessing what the mosquitoes here consider “winter”?
6. b. Give your dog the pill now.
But do not give a double dose! Have your dog tested 6 months after missing a pill. The test detects adult heartworms, not larvae, so the test result will not be positive until the larvae have had time to mature.
7. b or c. False; unfair trick question
All heartworm preventives approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in dogs and cats are available only by prescription. Deworming medications that are available over the counter (without a prescription) either don’t prevent heartworms or are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in dogs and cats.
8. d. None of the above
Heartworms have been diagnosed in all 50 states.
For more information, see the American Heartworm Society website.
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs and cats are popular, but those cute squashed noses can cause some serious health problems. If you have a brachycephalic pet, watch for breathing trouble (snoring and grunting are not normal). These pets are also prone to heat stress, especially if they’re overweight.
Brachycephalic means “short-headed.” Brachycephalic animals have short noses, round heads, and large, low-set eyes. Examples are English and French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, and Persian cats. If you think these pets are adorable, you're not alone. Studies have shown that many people are attracted to facial features in animals that are similar to those of human infants.
Unlike dog breeds that were developed for tasks like hunting, brachycephalic dogs have been bred over time for looks. Unfortunately, breeding for form over function has compromised the health of many of these dogs.
Earlier this year the British Veterinary Association released a policy position on the welfare of brachycephalic dogs. Their aims are to improve the health of future generations of these dogs and to increase awareness of the problems caused by breeding for extreme brachycephaly. The association highlighted 5 of the most common medical concerns: respiratory, eye, reproductive, skin, and dental problems.
Many brachycephalic animals cannot breathe normally. Although the bones of the face are shortened, the soft tissues are not, leaving excess tissue that can block the airway. Signs of impaired breathing include snoring, snorting, and exercise intolerance. Brachycephalic animals are at risk for heat stroke, respiratory distress, and collapse. Long-term labored breathing can also cause digestive tract problems like gagging and vomiting. Obesity makes all of these problems worse.
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome includes 3 main anatomic abnormalities: narrow nostrils, elongated soft palate (excess tissue at the roof of the mouth), and everted laryngeal saccules (tissue that blocks airflow through the trachea, or windpipe). Some animals require surgery to correct these problems. Brachycephalic animals may also have an abnormally narrow trachea, which gives the effect of constantly breathing through a small straw.
Brachycephalic animals have shallow eye sockets and large eyelid openings, so their eyes are not as well protected as those of other animals. Many also have impaired tear production (dry eye), reducing their defense against eye irritants. Skin folds at the top of the nose may cause hair to rub against the eyes. These problems can cause eye ulcers and eventual blindness.
Some brachycephalic breeds have trouble giving birth naturally because the puppies’ heads are too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. One study found that over 80% of English bulldog, French bulldog, and Boston terrier litters born in the United Kingdom were delivered by cesarean section.
Skin and dental disease
Folds of loose skin give bacteria and yeast a handy place to grow, so brachycephalic animals are prone to skin fold infections. Because of their shortened upper jaw, they often have crowded or maloccluded teeth.
If you have a brachycephalic pet:
If you are thinking of getting a brachycephalic pet:
1. Archer J, Monton S. Preferences for infant facial features in pet dogs and cats. Ethology. 2011;117(3):217-226.
2. Health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs. British Veterinary Association website. https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/policy/companion-animals/brachycephalic-dogs/. Accessed March 27, 2018.
3. Packer RM, Hendricks A, Tivers MS, Burn CC. Impact of facial conformation on canine health: brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. PLoS One. 2015;10(10):e0137496.
4. Brachycephalic syndrome. American College of Veterinary Surgeons website. https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/brachycephalic-syndrome. Accessed March 27, 2018.
5. McNabb NT. Top 5 threats to vision in the brachycephalic dog. Paper presented at: North American Veterinary Conference 2017; February 6, 2017; Orlando, FL.
6. Evans KM, Adams VJ. Proportion of litters of purebred dogs born by caesarean section. J Small Animal Pract. 2010;51(2):113-118.
7. Caring for brachycephalic dogs. MSPCA Angell website. https://www.mspca.org/angell_services/caring-for-brachycephalic-dogs/. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Do you know which common plants are toxic to dogs and cats? Spring is just around the corner and Poison Prevention Week is the third week of March, so this is a good time to discuss plant hazards in the house and yard.
This article covers only a few of the plants that are dangerous to dogs and cats. For more complete lists, see these websites:
If you think your pet may have licked or swallowed a plant or other toxic substance, contact your veterinarian or call one of the 24-hour animal poison control hotlines (a fee may apply):
All parts of these plants are toxic to pets. Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, convulsions, coma, and death.
Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) and spring crocus (Crocus species) are 2 different types of plant. Autumn crocus is in the Liliaceae family. All parts of the autumn crocus are highly toxic to pets, even in small amounts. Ingestion can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, organ damage, shock, and death. Symptoms may not appear until a few days after ingestion.
Spring crocus is in the Iridaceae family. These plants are not particularly toxic, although dogs and cats that eat them can develop drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Cyclamen is a common flowering houseplant. The tubers (roots) are the most toxic part. Dogs and cats that eat any part of the plant can develop vomiting and diarrhea. Ingestion of large amounts can cause heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and death.
Daffodil, jonquil, paperwhite, amaryllis
Dogs and cats that eat bulbs of Narcissus species can develop vomiting, diarrhea, and belly pain. Ingestion of large quantities can lead to problems with breathing and heart rhythm.
Dieffenbachia (dumbcane) contains substances that cause severe mouth and throat pain. Ingestion can also cause nausea and trouble swallowing.
Ingestion of hyacinth (Hyacinthus species) or tulip bulbs can cause mouth irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dogs that dig up the bulbs or find a bag of stored bulbs may eat large quantities and have more severe symptoms. Grape hyacinths are a different genus (Muscari) and are not toxic.
Ingestion of iris rhizomes (bulbs) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy.
These flowering houseplants contain substances that cause stomach upset and, in higher doses, heart rhythm abnormalities and tremors.
Don’t bring lilies into your house if you have cats! Some are extremely dangerous for cats, even in small amounts. “True” lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis species) contain a toxin that can cause fatal kidney failure in cats. Some examples are Easter lilies, Asiatic lilies, daylilies, stargazer lilies, and tiger lilies. All parts of these plants are poisonous to cats, and even pollen licked from a paw or water licked from a vase can be toxic. These lilies do not cause kidney failure in dogs.
If your cat ingests any part of a lily, seek veterinary care immediately (bring the plant with you for identification). For more information, see No Lilies for Kitties on the Pet Poison Helpline website.
Calla lilies, peace lilies, and Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) are not true lilies and do not contain the agent that causes kidney failure. However, ingestion can cause mouth irritation and stomach upset in both dogs and cats.
Lily of the valley
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) contains toxins called cardiac glycosides, which cause serious heart rhythm abnormalities. Ingestion of lily of the valley may be fatal. Other symptoms are vomiting, painful abdomen, and diarrhea. Cardiac glycosides are also present in foxglove (Digitalis species), kalanchoe, milkweed, and oleander.
The Pet Poison Helpline reports a 448% increase in marijuana cases in pets in the past 6 years. Pets can be poisoned by eating food that contains marijuana, being exposed to smoke, or ingesting the plant itself. Marijuana poisoning can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling, lethargy, incontinence, changes in heart rate, seizures, coma, and death in pets.
All parts of the oleander plant contain cardiac glycosides. Oleander ingestion can cause heart rhythm problems, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and death.
Sago palm is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. It is also called fern palm or cycad (Cycas and Zamia species). This plant grows outdoors in warm regions and is also used as an ornamental houseplant. The seeds are the most poisonous part of the plant, but all parts contain the toxic agent. Ingestion causes liver failure, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, seizures, and death. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, only about half of animals that ingest sago palm survive. ASPCA Poison Control reports that ingestion of 1 or 2 seeds can be fatal.
Brownie CF. Houseplants and ornamentals. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Accessed March 9, 2018.
Brownie CF. Range plants of temperate North America. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Accessed March 9, 2018.
Poisonous plants. ASPCA Animal Poison Control website. Accessed March 9, 2018.
Top 10 plants poisonous to pets. Pet Poison Helpline website. Accessed March 9, 2018.
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Hookworms are common in dogs and cats, especially young animals in warm climates. These parasites are also zoonotic: hookworms that infect dogs and cats can also infect people.
What are hookworms?
Hookworms are small parasitic worms that live in the intestines of host animals. Different hookworm species have different preferred hosts. Hookworm larvae can also infect other animals—accidental hosts—that they happen to come in contact with. The symptoms of infection depend on whether the infected animal is a preferred host or an accidental host.
Adult hookworms in the intestines lay eggs that are passed out of the body through feces. Once in the environment, the eggs hatch into larvae. Larvae enter a new host’s body by penetrating the skin. Preferred hosts can also be infected by swallowing hookworm larvae, such as by eating contaminated dirt. Puppies can be infected through their mother’s milk.
In preferred hosts, hookworm larvae migrate to the intestines, where they grow into adult worms that reproduce and lay eggs. In accidental hosts, hookworm larvae cause a local reaction where they have penetrated the skin, but they do not mature and reproduce.
Hookworm infection in dogs and cats
The hookworm species that most often infect dogs and cats are Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala, Ancylostoma tubaeforme, and Ancylostoma braziliense. These worms attach to the lining of the intestines and feed on blood. Infection can cause anemia from blood loss, which can be fatal in young puppies and kittens carrying large numbers of worms.
Symptoms of hookworm infection in dogs and cats depend on the number of worms and the age, size, and overall health of the infected animal.
A number of effective, safe medications are available to treat hookworm infections in dogs and cats. Young animals with severe anemia may need blood transfusions.
Hookworm infection in people
Humans can be infected by dog and cat hookworms if they come in contact with larvae in the environment—for example, by walking barefoot on sand or soil contaminated with hookworm larvae. The larvae burrow into the skin, causing an itchy skin reaction called cutaneous larva migrans. The larvae live only a few weeks in humans, so the symptoms may resolve on their own (contact your health care provider if you have more questions).
Humans are the preferred hosts for 2 hookworm species: Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. These hookworms are a major source of human disease worldwide and were once common in the southeastern United States.
Because dog and cat hookworms cause serious disease in animals and are also a health risk for people, preventing hookworm infections in our pets is important for both animal and human health.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends the following for dogs and cats:
The CDC recommends these steps to prevent zoonotic hookworm infections in people:
For more information
Hookworms (PDF from Worms & Germs Blog)
Hookworms – Dog Owners and Cat Owners (Companion Animal Parasite Council)
Zoonotic hookworm FAQs (CDC)
Photo by Andrew Pons
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Preventive health care helps pets live longer, happier lives. But some cats are so anxious about travel that bringing them to the clinic—not to mention examining and treating them—is a challenge.
Resistance to carriers and stress at the veterinary hospital are two of the top reasons that some cats receive no preventive health care at all. Here are some things you can do at home to make trips to the clinic easier for your cat.
Choosing a carrier
Choose a carrier that is easy to get your cat into and out of. Lifting a cat out of a top opening is less stressful (to the cat) than pulling or dumping her out of a front opening. A front-loading carrier lets a cat walk in on her own, so consider carriers with both front and top doors. Rigid plastic carriers that come apart in the middle are great for cats who are anxious at the clinic. Taking the top half of the carrier off makes it easy to gently scoop out a cat. Sometimes the cat can stay in the bottom half, where she might feel more secure, for most of the examination.
Getting your cat used to the carrier
Cats need lots of time to adjust to new things. Let your cat get used to the carrier at home before you need to bring her to the clinic.
Once your cat is going into the carrier on her own, shut the door for brief periods. Continue to give positive reinforcement: occasionally drop a treat through the top while the door is shut. Let her out before she shows signs of anxiety (ears pinned back, flattened or frozen posture, vocalization).
Getting your cat used to traveling
After your cat has accepted the carrier as a normal part of life, take her on short car rides that end in something fun. Dogs who love car rides have learned that good things happen after a trip. Cats are often put in the car only to go somewhere they don’t like, so naturally they are less happy about it. Try taking very short trips that end at home, with treats and toys when you get back.
Carrier training and synthetic feline pheromones are just not enough to manage some cats’ fears. (Cats who are aggressive at the clinic are scared cats, not bad cats.) Or you might need to bring your cat to the clinic before you have time to accustom her to the carrier. Antianxiety medication given at home before a clinic visit can make a big difference for some cats. Call the clinic if you’d like to discuss the options. We want the clinic experience to be as stress-free as possible for both you and your cat.
More information from the American Association of Feline Practitioners
Choosing the perfect cat carrier
Cat carrier tips
Getting your cat to the veterinarian
Photo by Paul
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Have you wondered what happens during a dental cleaning at the veterinary hospital? Recently I brought my dog Oreo to the clinic to clean her teeth. Read on to see what was involved.
Oreo is about 7 years old and had her last dental cleaning 2 years ago. I’ve brushed her teeth at home, but not regularly enough to keep tartar from building up.
Oreo came to the clinic with an empty stomach. Thoroughly cleaning pets’ teeth requires general anesthesia, so Oreo had bloodwork to check for abnormalities that might affect the anesthetic plan. The analysis included blood cell counts, markers of liver and kidney function, electrolyte levels, blood sugar level, and other tests. I also gave her a complete physical exam. In the coming months Mallard Creek will be installing a dental x-ray unit, which will let us further assess patients before their dental procedures.
2. Preanesthetic medication
Oreo received a sedative injection before going under general anesthesia. This sedative reduced the amount of general anesthetic she needed. Injected sedatives wear off more slowly than the general anesthetic agents we use at Mallard Creek, so Oreo was a little sleepy for a few hours after her procedure.
3. Intravenous catheter
We clipped fur from Oreo’s front leg, cleaned the skin with an antiseptic, and placed a catheter in her vein. During the procedure, Oreo received intravenous fluids through the catheter.
4. Anesthesia induction and endotracheal tube placement
Oreo’s general anesthesia began with an injection of a fast-acting anesthetic agent through her catheter. Once she was asleep, we placed an endotracheal tube in her trachea (windpipe). This tube allowed us to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gas to keep her asleep. An inflatable cuff on the tube also kept water and debris out of her lungs.
Pam, one of our trained veterinary technicians, looked after Oreo while I was cleaning her teeth. Pam monitored Oreo’s heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen level, and level of anesthesia.
6. Tooth scaling
I removed plaque and tartar from Oreo’s teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. This instrument vibrates at a very high speed to remove tartar quickly and efficiently. It sprays water while it’s cleaning to keep the scaler tip cool. Because Oreo was under anesthesia, I was able to remove plaque and tartar under her gums, which is essential to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. Oreo’s gums bled a little during scaling, showing that she had already developed some gingivitis even though her gums did not look particularly inflamed on the physical exam.
7. Tooth polishing
After I scaled Oreo’s teeth, I polished them with polishing compound. The point of polishing is not to make the teeth look pretty. Polishing smooths the tooth enamel after scaling, removing tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can take hold. Brushing with toothpaste does not have the same effect.
8. Rinse and repeat
After I rinsed the polishing compound from Oreo’s teeth, Pam and I turned her over to repeat the process on the other side.
9. Waking up
When the cleaning was finished, Pam turned off the anesthetic gas and let Oreo breathe oxygen. During this time, Pam continued to monitor Oreo’s vital signs and trimmed her toenails. After a few minutes, Oreo began waking up, and Pam removed her endotracheal tube. Later on, Pam removed the intravenous catheter.
10. Going home
Oreo came home with a bandage on her front leg where the catheter had been. I removed the bandage that evening. After a couple of days it was time to restart her home dental care!