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Dr. Michael Fox, Published February 28 2014

Pet care: Canine dental hygiene

Dear Dr. Fox: My 11-year-old Havanese dog is suffering from tartar-encrusted teeth. Her front teeth – both top and bottom – have become loose and are beginning to fall out. At times she is unable to eat her dry food. Her breath is terrible. I am desperate to find a solution and put an end to her discomfort. A reply would be greatly appreciated. – M.C., Raleigh, N.C.

Dear M.C.: When a dog or cat reaches the stage of having difficulty eating because of dental calculi, scale, tartar and associated halitosis, you know that you have a serious health issue to address without delay. Chances are, there are one or more rotting teeth that must be removed. There may also be infection and inflammation of the gums (periodontal disease), which can spread via blood circulation and damage the heart, kidneys and other internal organs and also infect the jawbone.

I wonder why no veterinarian gave you advice on canine oral hygiene and preventive dental care. Or perhaps your dog has not had a checkup for some years. Either way, a full veterinary examination is called for immediately.

Before your dog is subjected to any oral surgery, the veterinarian should advise you of the risks, including that of giving a general anesthetic. This is needed for extractions, but many veterinarians avoid it when minor tooth scaling and cleaning is needed. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed for human, canine and feline patients before major dental work.

I would also recommend using PetzLife oral care products for five to seven days prior to dental work being done. These gels and sprays applied to the teeth and gums help reduce infection and inflammation, which will help reduce possible complications associated with oral surgery and general anesthesia. PetzLife offers tried-and-true natural, herbal ingredient formulations for oral health maintenance along with safe chew toys and crunchy treats. Visit petzlife.com for more details.

Dear Dr. Fox: Some time ago, I came home with some sushi, and my 6-year-old Siamese cat Suzi went crazy for it. I now give her treats of raw fish every day, and sometimes thawed fish fingers. Is that healthy for cats? – K.M.W., Potomac, Md.

Dear K.M.W.: My answer is an emphatic NO! Most fish – and some more than others, especially white fish and herring – contain enzymes called thiaminases. They destroy an essential B vitamin, namely thiamine. Cooking the fish destroys both the enzymes and much of the thiamine, dietary deficiencies of which can result in gastrointestinal, neurological and other health problems.

So a diet primarily of fish, cooked or raw, is not good for cats. After all, they are originally a desert-dwelling species. To learn more about feline nutrition and the hazards of many manufactured cat foods, check the book which I co-authored with two other veterinarians, “Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food.”

Also, there are ethical reasons to reduce our consumption of seafoods. For more details, visit fishfeel.org.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.com.