Veterinary Dentistry is a field of Veterinary care where there has been huge progress in recent times. It is now 18 years since I joined Donaldsons Vets, and the way that we now approach dental health has been transformed over that time.
Plaque and tartar build up on the teeth is still a common issue, but many of the top quality pet foods are now designed with the maintenance of good dental health as an objective. Where soft tinned foods have a tendency to stick to the teeth and encourage decay, biscuit foods help to scrape the teeth and limit to progression of tartar. Special dental biscuits have a honeycomb structure and are even more effective at cleaning the teeth and can be used in pets where tartar accumulation is a particular problem.
Vets also stock a range of tooth pastes which are formulated for dogs. Some toothpastes need to be applied with a brush but some can be added to the food making the process much easier.
We now have specialist dental X ray facilities which allow us to take the sort of high quality X rays of the tooth roots that you might expect from your own dentist. The ability to assess the health of the portion of tooth bellow the gum line as well as the crown which can be seen with the naked eye can be really important. Assessing the root on X ray and aggressively treating root infections with antibiotics can sometimes allow us to save a tooth that we would otherwise have had to remove.
Unfortunately, some teeth are beyond repair and the only course of action is removal of the tooth. Some of the larger teeth towards the back of a dogs mouth have very large roots and conventional removal can necessitate quite a lot of force on the tooth and jaw. The result is a dog who needs high levels of pain relief following dental extractions. Now, with the kind of equipment we have available, we can use high speed burs to section the crown of the tooth so that we can take out each root individually. This results in a much less painful process.
Though we are not quite at the stage of offering veneers and cosmetic whitening Veterinary Dentistry continues to be an area of rapid progress .
Hyperthyroidism is a common condition in older cats and has been discussed in this column previously. The thyroid gland is located in the neck of all mammals and in some cats it can become enlarged and produce excess amounts of thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid hormone can cause a variety of problems including weight loss, despite an increased appetite, increased thirst, poor skin and coat condition and sometimes diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Affected cats can also suffer temperament changes and develop secondary problems in a variety of organs like the eyes, heart and kidneys.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated in a variety of ways but no treatment options are without problems:
• Tablets can be used, but they need to be given once or twice daily, lifelong. This can be very difficult in some cats.
• Surgical removal of the offending thyroid gland can be attempted but this must be done under general anaesthetic, which can be a concern in an older cat.
• Radiotherapy is third option, but is expensive and involves a long period of isolated in-patient treatment.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition has developed breakthrough nutrition, with a pet food which is clinically proven to manage hyperthyroidism. A ‘hyperthyroid’ thyroid gland uses dietary iodine to produce excess thyroid hormones, causing the clinical signs described above. By carefully limiting dietary iodine, normal levels of thyroid hormone production can be achieved. The product has already been clinically proven to safely and effectively manage cats with hyperthyroidism in the USA.
Even more excitingly, Donaldson’s have been selected to take part in a European Survey on the product, prior to its full release, for the purposes of getting feedback from owners on how it has helped their cat. Our vets have the opportunity to offer the food to 10 clients over the next few months. These pet owners will be among the first to try out the food for their hyperthyroid cats. With a great taste cats will love, this complete daily nutrition means no pills or medication are required to treat hyperthyroidism. In fact, it’s as easy as feeding!