To continue the fun of Pet Dental Month, I figure it’s time to delve into the world of dental cleanings. Oral care for pets is definitely a growing field in veterinary medicine. I can remember discussing dental cleanings with my grandpa during vet school and him being shocked that people actually do this. Even 20 years ago, people rarely did any dental care for their pets. Can you imagine that!? In stark contrast, we (humans) get our teeth cleaned at least yearly if not twice per year. Why do we do this? Because we want that pearly white smile and don’t want teeth to rot out of your mouth…duh.

Now imagine being a 10 year old Beagle. I see so many of these patients come in to my office for their yearly check-up, and when I peel back their lips I am

greeted by this….

Talk about a mouth-guard of tartar! I can’t even imagine how it feels to have multiple rotting teeth in my mouth while I walk around each day smiling, eating, drinking, and talking. Not to mention, you let them lick your face!! WOOF!

Now I know a lot of this happens innocently. I don’t think many pet owners peel back their pet’s back lips to take a look at their premolars and molars. I guarantee >95% of pet owners don’t even brush their pet’s teeth regularly.

Don’t get me wrong…It can be difficult to do with many pets because I know Louis won’t sit still for very long. Now to segway into a dental cleaning, as a veterinarian, it is my job to offer my patients the very best care. Whenever I see a mouth like the one above, I feel like I have failed. My goal is to promote good dental health every year to try to avoid that situation. At home oral care only goes so far. Once I start to see the signs of dental disease (red gums, bad breath, mild to moderate tartar build up, jaw chattering, etc), then I know it is time to have “the talk.”

Where I practice, an average dental cleaning for a cat is $350-450 and dog is $400-500. This cost includes sedation (they won’t open up and say “ahh”), radiographs of teeth, and then cleaning (scaling, polishing, fluoride, etc). I want to get my patients in for their first dental cleaning as early as indicated so that I can prevent infected teeth and help keep all their teeth in their mouth as long as possible. If we get in too late, teeth may need to be extracted (removed) because infection or tooth resorption has already started to occur. Finding these diseased teeth is also important because it removes a source of pain and infection from your pet.

I know the cost can add up over time, but I promise you it is money well spent. It keeps your pet’s teeth healthy and their breath fresher. It can be hard to link directly, but there are studies out there that show that large amounts of bacteria in the mouth can lead to other health concerns over time (cardiac disease, respiratory disease, and even cancer). Next time your veterinarian starts blabbing on about dental health, remember we are only looking out for the good of your pet. I know you want your pet’s mouth to continue to smile back at you like this, right!?


Time to open up and smile for the camera Louis!

One of the biggest concerns I hear expressed from my clients during a yearly check-up is “Man, Sparkles has had some badddd breath lately!” Well! February represents the month where the pet world comes together to help increase awareness for why this most likely is occurring. As a general rule of thumb, if you start smelling your pet’s breath, dental disease is probably present. Halitosis or “bad breath” occurs due to the build-up of odor producing bacteria in your pet’s mouth. The severity is based on how much plaque/tartar is present and if any teeth have become infected due to this bacteria. The age and breed can also play a role in severity. The younger the animal, the more reversible the changes are because intervening sooner can prevent your pet from having teeth extracted due to disease. I also find that our smaller breeds (chihuahua’s, shih tzu’s, etc) have dental disease at a younger age than our larger breeds. This makes it all the more important to partner up with your veterinarian to determine prevention strategies as well as when it is time to intervene with a dental cleaning.

When you take your fluffy friend to us for their annual physical exam, one of the areas we focus on is performing an oral exam. I always make a point of showing my client’s the teeth that tend to hide in the back of their mouth. The teeth most prone to dental disease are the premolars and molars. I almost always see a look of surprise on their faces because these teeth aren’t visible to them on a daily basis. Now depending on the severity, I have a few recommendations up my sleeve to share with you today! Some are less expensive than others, so my goal is to help you practice good dental hygiene for your pets early on in order to delay that “expensive dental cleaning.”

Strategies for At Home Care

  • Brushing: Now, I know what you are thinking. That is easier said than done! I agree with you. The first time I tried to brush Louis’s teeth, he ran away from me as quickly as he could. With my cat Lola, it proved to be even more challenging. Well, I will work you through a good way to start because it is a process to get them into the routine. Now first, grab your soft bristled tooth brush (can use a kid’s toothbrush from your pharmacy) and a pet approved tooth paste (my favorite is CET Toothpaste in Chicken flavor–they have multiple flavors if your pet has an allergy). Remember, even just performing these steps a few times per week is better than nothing. All-stars brush their pet’s teeth daily, but hey, I know we sometimes have a hard enough time brushing our own on a busy day!
    • Week One– The goal here is to get them used to the flavor of the tooth paste. I will put a small amount on my finger (or piece of gauze), then rub it on their back teeth. Try to do this in increasing increments over this week (10 seconds day 1, 20 seconds day 3, 30 seconds day 5).
    • Week Two-Depending on how week one goes, you may be able to start with the tooth brush now. If not, repeat week one but try increasing the times you have your finger (or gauze) in their mouth with the tooth paste. If week one went surprisingly well, start using the tooth brush with their new favorite tooth paste. Perform similarly to week one by increasing the amount of time over the week that the brush is in their mouth. The goal is to get the time up to two minutes or at least long enough to get a good brushing of all teeth.
    • Week Three & Beyond:If week one and two went well, then now it is time to get in a routine. The goal is to brush their teeth for about two minutes a few times per week. Of course, the more frequently the better. However, I completely understand it can slip your mind. If it does, I have other less time consuming options you can use as well to supplement your teeth brushing routine.
  • Dental Chews and Treats: There are quite a variety of options out there now, and I have a few favorites that have become household staples. Don’t forget to account for these calories in their daily intake so that it doesn’t contribute to weight gain.
    • Milkbone Brushing Chews: Based on their research, adding this into your pet’s dental regimen daily proves as effective as brushing twice a week based on the reduction of tartar build-up.
    • E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews: These are made from beefhide to combine a natural antiseptic with an abrasive texture that work’s with your pet’s chewing action to loosen tartar. These are also proven to minimize plaque formation and help with bad breath.
    • ***Tartar Shield Product: This brand is by far the best. They have a variety of options out there from chews to treats for your cat to sprinkles that you can put over their food to help with bad breath and keep teeth clean. The sprinkles are by far my favorite for cats as I know from personal experience brushing their teeth isn’t easy!
  • Rinse and Water Additives:The goal of these products are to freshen breath and prevent plaque accumulation.

The Veterinarian’s Role:

  • Dental Cleaning: This is recommended when the degree of dental disease requires a more thorough cleaning. Things we look for to indicate this may be needed include gingivitis (redness along the gum line), moderate to severe tartar build-up, pain when your pet chews (dropping food, eating less, weight loss, jaw chattering), or loose teeth. The cleaning itself has to be performed under general anesthesia so that your pet is still, and we are prepared if we need to remove any teeth. This cleaning is very similar to what you have done at your dentist, and radiographs of the teeth are performed to assess the tooth roots. If we see any signs of infection around the tooth, that is when extractions are recommended. This helps remove the source of infection and pain. There are even veterinarian dental specialists who can perform root canals on their teeth or put on braces! Crazy right?

By getting into a good dental routine with your pet, this will help keep your pet’s teeth healthy long term. And remember, dental care with your pet is similar to your own. Routine teeth brushing and dental cleanings when necessary will help minimize bad breath and maintain that pearly white grin you love so much!


There is nothing better than waking up at your own accord on a Saturday with no alarm clock chiming in! After a long work week, it is a most welcome feeling. My household is certainly doing the lazy Saturday thing right this blustery, rainy Saturday. Exhibit A –>

Louis can be lazy with the rest of us, but come noon time, the aussie in him starts to come out.

Now with winter officially here (for us Southerners that would be an average of 40 degrees-sorry North!), our outside excursions have been cut in half. I have had to find ways to keep Louis entertained inside and wanted to share my tips. These are also good ideas for a puppy since they are never ending balls of energy!

  1. Practice their commands. Sit, Down, Shake, Stay….It is proven that mental stimulation actually tires them out faster than physical.
  2. Play fetch in your hallway.
  3. Freeze peanut butter in a Kong then voila!
  4. Sign your pup up for doggy day care during the week (even once a week makes a difference!)
  5. Give your pup the Everlasting Treat Bento Ball when you leave for work.
  6. Have a puppy play date at a friend’s house.
  7. Teach your dog how to play hide and seek.
  8. Old dogs can learn new tricks! Try to teach them how to play dead or roll over if that isn’t in their repertoire.
  9. Feed their breakfast in a puzzle feeding toy.
  10. Go shopping together at a dog friendly store. Louis and I enjoy Orvis and Pets Mart 


I hope everyone had a Happy New Year full of fun celebrations! My crew and I went to a black tie event on the 50th floor with panoramic city views and an open bar…What a treat!

The Vue Sky Lounge

With a new year always comes a time of reflection. It’s important for everyone to remember the positive moments while also looking back at the things that you may want to work on over the next year. The cool thing about life is knowing that if you don’t like something, you can change it! You just need to figure out what aspects of your life need improvement and dedicate some time to making it happen. The best way to accomplish your goals is by stating them as fact and then implementing each daily.

When deciding on my resolutions for 2016, I wanted to choose things to focus on that will better myself and my future. Since I’ll finally be making my debut in France this August as an Assémat, this realization helped motivate me towards my goals for this upcoming year.

I decided this year that as a veterinarian, my pets need resolutions too!

Louis’s New Year Resolution: To get started in agility training.

Louis (and his mom) have loved playing with the tunnels, jumps, and climbing boards at the dog park so it is time to dedicate Louis to actual training. This is a very cool activity where you can bond with your dog as you teach them how to navigate through an obstacle course. It is also a great way to keep them lean, get out some of their extra energy, and also strengthen their determination, focus, and listening ability.

Lola’s New Year Resolution: To be nicer to her brothers.

Lola has never been the happiest cat. Her happy place is laying on a blanket in the sun by herself. She loves her mommy and hasn’t been the most enthused about her new younger brother Napoleon. She has decided her goal for this year will be to have more hiding places to escape for quiet time when she needs it and to breathe in her Feliway (feline pheromone) whenever she is stressed. Kinda like how her mom uses red wine after a long day!

Napoleon’s New Year Resolution: To not get into everything around the house.

Napoleon has now realized that he is in the awkward teenage years transitioning from an 8 month old kitten to an adult on his 1 year birthday this year. As such, he has been enjoying getting into every shenanigan possible around the house. Whether it is knocking things over, climbing where he shouldn’t, or chewing on shoes/belts, he knows it is time to start practicing his self control. Thankfully, he has Louis to always mess with when he needs to get his energy out!

It may seen a bit silly to some to make a resolution for your pet, but I actually enjoyed nerding out on this today. It’s important to always think about your pet and their vices….If your pet is overdue for losing those 10 extra pounds or has shown signs of separation anxiety, this is your year to dedicate time to working on these things together. Everything takes time and patience, and in the end, YOU are your pet’s advocate so it is up to you to help them to lead a healthy, happy life. In turn, it will help strengthen your bond together while also improving quality of life for all!

Now what are your resolutions going to be!?


I still can’t believe it is only 4 days until Christmas! After working all weekend, my goal is to spend the next couple days getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s been hard to get into it this year because we made the executive decision to nix the beautiful pine tree….It is just a recipe for disaster with a spunky 8 month old kitten that wants to get into literally everything. Along those lines, I wanted to make my December PSA about the most commonly bought plant of December.

If you walk into any grocery store this time of year, you will find these beautiful plants hanging out in the floral section. Poinsettias are a traditional part of decorating during the month of December. Little did I know, the association comes from the star shaped leaf resembling the Star of Bethlehem while the red color symbolizes the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. To me, it represents a seasonal reason for a dog or cat to make an emergency visit to my hospital.

Thankfully, poinsettia’s are considered a mild toxicity.

Common associated signs when ingested:

  • Drooling
  • Licking Lips
  • Dermal Irritation (redness, swelling, itchiness of skin)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

I know my kitten loves to chew on any floral arrangement in my house, so it is important to keep this in mind when decorating. My husband learned early on in our relationship that though lilies may be beautiful, they are banned from our household due to their toxicity to cats. When decorating, place these plants up high and out of reach because you never know when your pet may suddenly decide to indulge in a late night snack. If your pet ingests anything this time of year of question, you can always call ASPCA Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 for further information (sometimes you don’t need a vet visit) or your local emergency veterinarian for advice.

Happy Holidays, and may every pet be safe this holiday!


Tis’ the season of giving, and of course this translates to our pets! This is Louis’s favorite time of year where his busy mommy showers him with his favorite buffalo rawhides (mostly to give him something to do while I wrap presents) while prepping for the holidays.

Chewing is a great activity for dogs especially when we need them to “get busy” for a little bit. It takes them back to their “wolf-like” days and as a vet….of course I think about the wonders it does for cleaning their teeth. I completely get that brushing our pet’s teeth is a laborious, often painful experience. I remember my first day attempting to brush my first kitty Lola’s teeth like it was yesterday….

It was about 7 years ago. I was working as a veterinary assistant and feeling like a hypocrite discussing with owners the need to brush their pets teeth when I had yet to even attempt it myself. So that day…I saddled up with a finger tooth brush, some chicken flavored tooth paste, and left work determined to make it happen. I sat Lola in my lap, lifted up her lip, inserted the finger brush, and BOOM! She was bunny kicking her way out of my lap within seconds and then hurled herself under the bed as far away from me as possible. Needless to say, she hid for two days, and I have yet to revisit this task with her!

Now, don’t get me wrong… I am still a huge advocate of brushing pet’s teeth, and hey, some pets are a bitttttt more tolerant than Lola. Thank goodness for new products out there that help supplement tooth brushing (my favorite being dental chews!). Now what prompted this whole thought process recently was when I performed a dental a week or so ago on a young, healthy dog. She had beautiful teeth, but one tooth had a slab fracture on the side of it. It was the biggest tooth in a dog’s mouth: the upper fourth pre-molar or carnassial (chewing) tooth. I was able to see the full extent of it with her sedated and sent along a photo to her owner.

This tooth needed to be extracted (removed) because it was a source of pain and would eventually become infected. $1200 later…the dog was good to go! Now what caused this to happen? After discussing later with the owner, I found out that she was given deer antlers to chew on. This is something that I always try to remember to talk to people about during exams…but hey, we are only human. You can only cover but so much in a 30 minute appointment.

Deer antlers and tennis balls are two of the most common things owners give their dogs to play with at home. Deer antlers can break teeth, and I have seen this many times. I know you are probably sitting at home thinking about how many times your dogs have chewed on them with no problems. Well once they do have a problem, that tooth fracture will cost ya! I’m here to save you the expense. You can thank me later Now with tennis balls, the material actually wears their teeth down, and it can eventually wear into the pulp cavity (center of the tooth) causing a significant amount of pain. Both of these situations can lead to an infected tooth over time.

Giving your pets things to play with and chew on is good for their mental well being. My favorites right now are C.E.T. dental chews, Milkbone dental chews, beef or buffalo rawhides (but watch that they don’t swallow large pieces), kongs, etc. Just remember to gravitate toward items that won’t damage their teeth this holiday season when you are out spoiling your pup. When in doubt, ask the Southern Pet Vet!


After a fun weekend romping around breweries & restaurants + a Hokie win (!), it was a refreshing feeling to wake up for yet another day off! Since I work in a 24/7 hospital, my schedule is different week to week so I am lucky to have Monday off to get situated before a busy hospitalist shift ( = in charge of our hospitalized ICU patients). Today is my errand day (list already prepared), but who doesn’t love to start out in bed with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, brand new book, and kitten for a cute cuddle sesh first!?

In spirit of our new family members (kitten and puppy!), I wanted to give you some tips on what to do around the house before bringing home a new pet. It also seems to be the new theme recently in my friend group as two of my friends just got puppies as well (a pug and vizsla!). We got a kitten over the summer, and just a few weeks ago, my dad and step-mom welcomed a new puppy into their home. I can’t WAIT to meet their new English Cream Golden Retriever cutie who is just 10 weeks old. She is currently in her home adjustment and potty-training phase. I look forward to meeting her (see below) around the holidays!

Welcome Skye!

Now I can’t forget about Napoleon who is about 5.5 months old now, so it is always fun to go back and reminisce on the baby kitten pics when he was a whopping 2 pounds!

  1. Make sure you don’t have any poisonous plants or bouquets around. A place you can visit for helpful information is this site, and it has great information on basically anything that can harm your pet that they ingest! –> ASPCA Poison Control This tip makes me sad as one of my favorite flowers (lilly) is poisonous to cats. Both my cats love to nom on plants too!
  2. Hide any electrical cords plugged into devices. I have had a few puppies come into me on emergency from electrocution after chewing on a wire.
  3. Don’t leave food lying around. Cats are notorious for climbing up on counters when you are not around. Until they are trained, best to put away any temptations…EVEN if you think they won’t.
  4. Put important things behind closed doors when unsupervised.It is not a myth that dogs will chew your favorite pair of shoes when you are at work. My cat also loves to find apple headphones and chew through them, which can be quite annoying right before a run.
  5. Don’t leave out destructible toys or rawhides. I have seen dogs chew then swallow pieces of kongs, which are marketed as indestructible. It is best not to leave stuffed animals or toys they can shred and swallow in your absence…leaving you with an expensive abdominal exploratory surgery later. 

This is SUCH an exciting time with your new buddy, and it is important to remember that they are still learning. The worst time for most is from 4-6 months when their adult dentition is erupting (the teething period) so be prepared : ) Every pet will make a mistake at some point, so the important part is minimizing temptation during the training process. Follow my tips and tricks, and it should get you through most of the top reasons I see a puppy or kitten on emergency.

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