News & Events


News and Events

Dental Health Month—What Pet Owners Should Know About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a common problem in pets, affecting most cats and dogs by age 3. While bad breath is prevalent in pets who suffer from periodontal disease, halitosis is the least of their problems. Periodontal disease can significantly impact your pet’s overall health and wellbeing.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and our team at Veterinary Referral Center wants to take this opportunity to provide information about periodontal disease and explain how you can protect your pet from its detrimental consequences.

What Causes Periodontal Disease in Pets?

As your pet chows down on their food, tiny particles lodge between their teeth, attracting nasty bacteria. These pathogens feed on the sugar and starches left behind and form a sticky film called plaque.

If the plaque is not removed, minerals in your pet’s saliva are deposited in the plaque biofilm, which hardens and becomes calculus (i.e., tartar). When left to multiply, the bacteria encroach under your pet’s gum line, damaging the structures that support your pet’s teeth. Periodontal disease in pets progresses in four stages:

  1. Gingivitis — Stage one of periodontal disease is gingivitis (i.e., an inflammation of your pet’s gingiva). The gingiva is the part of the gums around the base of your pet’s teeth. In this early phase, the disease is mild, and the supporting structures are firmly attached to your pet’s teeth. The prognosis for pets affected by gingivitis is good, as long as they receive appropriate dental care.
  2. Mild Periodontal Disease — As the bacteria start to break down the supporting tissues of your pet’s teeth, periodontal disease enters stage two. Less than 25% of the tooth’s supporting structures are lost at this stage. Mild bone loss may be seen on dental X-rays. The prognosis for pets affected by stage two periodontal disease is fair, as long as they receive appropriate dental care.
  3. Established Periodontal Disease — Stage three periodontal disease occurs when 25% to 50% of the tooth’s supporting structures are lost. Moderate bone loss may be appreciated on dental X-rays. The prognosis for pets affected by stage three periodontal disease is fair when they receive advanced dental procedures, and diligent follow-up dental care.
  4. Advanced Periodontal Disease — Stage four periodontal disease occurs when greater than 50% of the tooth’s supporting structures are lost. Severe bone loss may be appreciated on dental X-rays. The prognosis for pets affected by stage four periodontal disease is guarded, and any teeth damaged to this degree will need extraction.

Why Is Periodontal Disease Concerning for My Pet?

Periodontal disease can significantly impact your pet’s quality of life and overall wellbeing by causing conditions that may include:

  • Halitosis — Your pet’s stinky breath is a cause for concern because the odor comes from the bacteria in your pet’s mouth. If left untreated, the condition can progress to more damaging problems.
  • Oral Pain — Periodontal disease causes inflammation and pain throughout your pet’s mouth, and most pets suffer in silence until the disease is well-established. At that stage, the condition is harder to treat effectively.
  • Tooth Root Abscesses — Bacteria can invade the roots of your pet’s teeth and result in painful abscesses, which can make eating and drinking difficult.
  • Fractured Jaw — In cats and toy-breed dogs, severe periodontal disease can lead to a fractured jaw, since the tooth roots are so close to the jawbone edges.
  • Organ Damage — Bacteria can also get into your pet’s bloodstream, and then travel throughout their body, damaging their organs, including the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

How Can I Keep My Pet’s Mouth Healthy?

While periodontal disease is extremely concerning, the condition is preventable if you take the appropriate steps to provide dental care for your pet.

Professional Veterinary Dental Cleanings

Your pet should receive regular professional dental cleanings. Most pets should have their teeth cleaned once a year starting at around age 2, but some pets, such as brachycephalic breeds, who tend to have more dental complications, may need more frequent attention.

Dental cleaning procedures are carried out under general anesthesia to ensure your pet’s safety, and to enable the veterinary professional to adequately remove the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth and from under their gum line. Dental X-rays are also necessary, to accurately determine your pet’s oral health status.

Toothbrushing

Daily toothbrushing is the best way to ensure your pet’s mouth stays healthy between professional cleanings.

Never use your own toothpaste on your pet, since these products can be toxic for them. Pet-specific toothpastes in a wide array of pet friendly flavors, such as poultry, beef, seafood, and peanut butter, are available, and can help your pet accept the process.

Also, ensure you use a soft-bristled toothbrush, so you don’t hurt your pet’s sensitive gums.

Dental Chews

Chewing on dental treats and toys can remove some plaque from your pet’s teeth. Choose products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, to ensure they are effective.

periodontal disease pets

Dr. Han Chia is VRC’s residency-trained clinician in dentistry and oral surgery. She received her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and then completed a rotating internship at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dr. Chia is passionate about all areas of veterinary dentistry and completed her residency at the Center for Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Maryland. Her presence allows the VRC team to offer a full range of dental and oral surgery services.

If your pet has complications associated with periodontal disease, contact our VRC team, and Dr. Chia will get to the root of the problem.

Cataracts—A Guide for Pet Owners

The lens is a normally clear structure that acts as a focusing device for the images projected on the retina in the back of the eye. Cataracts are opacities that develop in the lens, preventing image projection, which can eventually lead to vision loss. Veterinary Referral Center (VRC) is welcoming Dr. Zachary Badanes, who is reestablishing our hospital’s ophthalmology service. Since cataracts are a fairly common eye issue, knowing more about the condition can help you recognize signs in your pet.

Cataract causes in pets

The lens is composed of thin, clear, highly organized protein fibers. A cataract causes a permanent change, transforming the clear protein to a milky, white opacity. Numerous conditions can result in cataract development, including:

  • Genetics — The most common cause of cataracts in dogs is a genetic predisposition. Hereditary cataracts have been identified in several dog breeds, including the Afghan hound, bichon frise, Boston terrier, Chesapeake Bay retriever, German shepherd, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, and cocker spaniel.
  • Diabetes — About 75 percent of diabetic dogs develop cataracts. When the dog’s blood sugar rises, the sugar level in the eye fluids also increases. The lens absorbs this excess sugar, which ultimately results in cataract formation. Early referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is the best way to manage these dogs.
  • Geriatric — As pets age, the proteins and fibers in the lens begin to break down, resulting in cataract formation.
  • Inflammation — Cataracts can occur when inflammation breaks down the proteins and fibers in the lens.
  • Trauma — If the capsule that encloses the lens is disrupted, the immune system recognizes the lens proteins as foreign, and attacks, resulting in inflammation and potential cataract formation.
  • Congenital — Some pets are born with cataracts.
  • Dietary deficiencies — Amino acid deficiencies, including histidine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and arginine, have been linked to cataracts.
  • Toxins — Certain toxins, including ketoconazole and disophenol, have been linked to cataracts.
  • Electric shock — The exact cause is unknown, but receiving an electric shock can cause cataracts.

Cataract signs and diagnosis in pets

A cataract causes the lens in the center of your pet’s eye to appear white, gray, or cloudy. Cataracts can affect only part of the lens, or the entire structure. The opaque area impedes normal image formation, and causes vision loss. Pets are exceptionally good at adapting to vision loss, especially if the loss is gradual. This means you may not realize your pet has developed a cataract until you see the changes in their eyes, at which point the cataract may be advanced. Advanced cataracts often incite more inflammation inside the eye, which can decrease your pet’s eligibility for cataract surgery. 

Having a veterinary professional regularly monitor your pet’s eyes is the best way to detect cataracts early, when they can best be managed. If your pet has developed a cataract that causes vision loss, our ophthalmology department will assess whether they are a good candidate for cataract surgery. Diagnostics include:

  • Blood work — Screening blood work will be performed, to ensure your pet is healthy enough to undergo general anesthesia.
  • Ultrasound — An ocular ultrasound will be performed to assess the back of your pet’s eye, since an advanced cataract makes visualization difficult.
  • Electroretinogram (ERG) — An ERG measures the retina’s electrical activity in response to a light stimulus, assessing your pet’s retina health. Pets who have retinal degeneration or retinal detachment are not typically good surgery candidates, as cataract removal is unlikely to restore their vision.
  • Tonometry — Your pet’s eye pressure will be evaluated, to determine if they are affected by glaucoma. Pets who have glaucoma may not be good candidates for cataract surgery.

cataracts in pets

Cataract medical management in pets

The primary goal when medically managing a cataract is to maintain the pet’s comfort, and manage inflammation to prevent secondary complications, such as lens luxation and glaucoma. Medical management cannot restore vision, but for pets who are not surgery candidates, this approach is the best way to keep their eyes pain-free. Regular monitoring by a veterinary professional is important to evaluate for secondary complications. Potential long-term management protocols can include topical lubricants to maintain corneal health, and possibly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to manage inflammation. Other medications will be needed if your pet develops glaucoma.

Cataract surgery in pets

Surgery is the only vision-restoring option to manage cataracts, and involves a process called phacoemulsification, in which special surgical equipment uses sound waves to break apart the lens. The pieces are then removed from the lens capsule, and an artificial lens is implanted. Cataract surgery is approximately 90 percent successful, and pets who have early stage cataracts typically experience fewer complications and have better outcomes. After surgery, pets usually stay one night in the hospital, and they will wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from rubbing their eyes. You will need to administer three to four topical eye medications to your pet for several weeks. Initially, the drops should be given four times a day, with the frequency decreasing over time.

Dr. Badanes will need to reevaluate your pet at one week, three weeks, six weeks, three months, and six months after surgery, and potentially more frequently, if complications occur. Possible complications include:

  • Retinal detachment — The retina lies along the back of the eye, and is important for normal vision. Retinal detachment occurs when the retinal layer separates from the back of the eye. This can cause permanent vision loss, but this complication is not common after cataract surgery.
  • Glaucoma — Glaucoma occurs when inadequate fluid drainage causes increased pressure inside the eye. Topical medications can control ocular pressure.
  • Chronic inflammation — Some inflammation is expected after cataract surgery, but persistent inflammation requires long-term management.

Cataracts can significantly affect a pet’s vision, but when caught early and managed appropriately, their vision can be salvaged. If you think your pet may have cataracts, contact our VRC team, so Dr. Badanes can evaluate your pet and determine whether they are a good cataract surgery candidate.

10/15 COVID-19 UPDATE

To our clients:

Effective today, October 15th, 2021:

        • All clients are allowed to enter the hospital for emergency visits and appointment check in
        • Following check in; Clients may wait in the lobby for their pet to be seen, or they can return to the car if they chose
        • Wearing a mask is recommended for all unvaccinated people, one will be provided to you upon request
        • Curbside consultation will still be available

 

We continue to appreciate and thank you all for being so adaptable in this ever-changing environment!

8/31 Covid-19 Update

At VRC, for the health and safety of our clients, patients, and employees, we have implemented the following:

  •  Masks or face coverings are now REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Curbside check-in
  • No contact” services

Simply call us when you get here and we’ll come out and meet you at your car: (610) 647-2950.

As always, we are committed to our patients and focused on delivering the high-quality care you expect from VRC. With coronavirus (COVID-19) status continuing to evolve, we want to assure you that we plan to remain open for emergencies and continue uninterrupted specialty care during regular business hours.

 

We appreciate the support during these ever changing times!