New Mandatory Dental Standards from AAHA

AAHA-accredited hospitals voluntarily choose to be evaluated on 900 standards in the following areas: quality of care; diagnostic & pharmacy; management; medical records; and facility. Why does this matter to you? Here are a few examples of how AAHA’s standards impact you and your pet.

The Standards developed and published by AAHA are widely accepted as representing those components of veterinary practice that represent high quality care. The Standards are periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain consistent with evolving knowledge and technology.

Accreditation helps veterinary hospitals stay on the leading edge of veterinary medicine and provide the quality and range of services you and your pet deserve.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2013, AAHA-accredited veterinary hospitals or those hospitals aspiring to gain accreditation will be required to anesthetize and intubate all dental patients in order to pass the AAHA accreditation evaluation.

The standard applies to all dental procedures, including dental cleanings, AAHA said.

The announcement of the mandatory standard follows the summer introduction of the 2013 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, which advocate the use of anesthesia and intubation to conduct more thorough dental work and spare pets from pain during procedures.

“At AAHA, we hold our accredited practices to the highest standard of veterinary excellence. We firmly believe that accredited practices should be practicing the best veterinary medicine,” said Kate Knutson, DVM, 2013-2014 AAHA president. “The Guidelines state that cleaning a companion animal’s teeth without general anesthesia and intubation is unacceptable and below the standard of care.”

According to AAHA, general anesthesia with intubation offers several benefits for veterinary professionals and their patients, including:

  • Anesthesia alleviates companion animals’ pain during dental procedures.
  • Anesthesia allows veterinarians to probe more deeply under the gum line, where at least 60% of plaque and tartar resides.
  • Anesthesia also keeps animals immobilized, which enables veterinarians to take intraoral dental films.
  • Intubation during general anesthesia protects the trachea and prevents aspiration of water and oral debris.

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, the organization’s board of directors firmly supports AAHA’s decision to update its dental guidelines and implement the mandatory standard.

“Dental experts agree with and endorse AAHA’s new mandatory guidelines regarding anesthesia and dentistry,” said Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP, president of the American Veterinary Dental College.

How To Create A Happy, Friendly Dog

The days of keeping your puppy confined to the house until 16 weeks of age are over!  Many new puppy owners believe that their pup should be kept indoors and away from new places until they have completed the full series of vaccines.  While it is wise to use your best judgement when taking your pup out, if they are kept away from people and other pets until the age of 4 months old, they have missed out on the crucial socialization period.

During this time, puppies are like sponges.  They are absorbing our world and learning who is good, who is bad, what is frightening and what is okay.  They make up their minds based on the experiences they have.  If you want a well-adjusted, friendly, happy dog they should be well-socialized as a puppy.  This means exposing them to many different people, other dogs, cats, and new places on a regular basis to the point that they are comfortable in any situation.

Unfortunately, most puppies are not adequately socialized and become problem pets later on.  These pets do not tolerate being handled at the vet.  They are fearful and aggressive and this can make them very difficult patients to treat.  They are often very stressed if they have to stay hospitalized at the vet if they are ill.  Some even require 4 people to restrain them for something as simple as a toenail trim!  This is the not type of dog anyone hopes for when adopting a new puppy.  Genetics and initial personality aside, there is a lot the owner can do to help the puppy branch out and relax in new situations.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (, a well respected group of veterinarians who share an interest in understanding behavior in animals, believe it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive socialization as early as 7-8 weeks of age after a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class, with other healthy dogs in an environment that is clean, not in places such as dog parks or pet stores.  We recommend Dr. Vanya Moreno of Animal Magnetism for “puppy kindergarten” and “basic obedience” classes.  These classes provided the puppies with stimulation, play with other puppies, and most importantly starts work on their obedience training.  Visit her website here.

Socialization is the process by which pets develop a relationship with animals of their own species, other species, and humans. With adequate socialization starting as a young puppy, pets are often able to maintain these relationships for life, helping to prevent behavior problems. Although socialization should be continued throughout life, pets are more likely to be defensive, fearful, and possibly aggressive later in life if not properly socialized during their sensitive socialization period, between 5 weeks old and 5 months old.

Here is a checklist of some, but not all, experiences your puppy should have before 16 weeks of age. Always associate the experiences with high value rewards such as treats or a tennis ball. Every puppy is different so make sure to go slow if your puppy shows signs of fear or anxiety. If your puppy shows aggression or extreme fear contact your veterinarian immediately.

___ Veterinarian/ Veterinary technicians
___ Person wearing hat
___ Other animals (including non-dog)
___ You with vacuum
___ Person (child & adult) on bike & roller blades
___ Jogger
___ Stranger on street
___ You mowing grass
___ Person with umbrella, open and close umbrella
___ Toddler (supervised)
___ Person with coat, take coat on and off
___ Man with beard
___ Drive – thru window or toll booth
___ Children playing ball
___ Walk on different surfaces (soft, hard, unsteady)
___ Mailman
___ Person with wheelchair, walker, stroller
___ Rain
___ Person in uniform (police, etc)
___ You with hair dryer
___ Handle your puppy on a daily basis (ears, mouth, paws, belly, tail, etc)

Behaviorists maintain that puppies should meet 100 people by the time they are 6 months old.  This takes a lot of work on the part of the owner, but pays of ten-fold in a wonderful and sociable dog for life!

Remember: Avoid socializing your puppy in areas frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination status such as dog parks, pet stores, and dog groomers until they have completed their vaccine series.  Use your best judgement to choose places where your puppy can meet new people safely without being exposed to disease!
We recommend: Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

Buy it here —

Source:, original content by Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB

Collars & Identification for Your Cat


Collars are a very valuable tool when it comes to making sure your kitty always finds his way home.  Cats should wear collars with an identification tag, just as dogs do.  This is especially important for outdoor cats on the chance they stray too far from home, are injured and taken to a veterinarian by a good Samaritan, or even if they were to be killed by a passing car.

Indoor cats should also wear collars with an ID tag.  No one ever intends for their indoor cat to get lost, but accidents do happen.  They could slip out a door or window left accidentally ajar.  If your cat is wearing a collar and spotted by a neighbor, it will be obvious that they are someone’s pet who needs to be returned.

The ID tag should be small and light-weight.  It should have the pet’s name and 1-2 contact phone numbers.  Larger tags may also accommodate your name and address.  You can also put a medical alert on your cat’s collar tag — for instance a diabetic cat who needs insulin or a kitty with a heart condition that needs their medication daily.

Identification tags should be used in conjunction with a microchip, which is a permanent means of cat identification. A small microchip the size of a grain of rice is inserted under the skin by your veterinarian.  It stays in place for the life of the cat.  Its individual alphanumeric sequence is tied to a specific manufacturer who has your contact information in their database.  In the even your cat is lost and brought to a veterinarian or shelter, the chip can be read with a scanner and the manufacturer contacted to reunite you with your cat.

With any type of identification, it is important to keep the information up to date. So, if you change phone numbers & or address, make sure you change your cat’s ID tag & microchip details as well.


It is easiest to acclimate your cat to their collar and tag when they are a kitten.  Many kittens accept the collar after just a day or so and continue to wear one throughout their life.  If your cat is older, you can still help them get used to wearing a collar.  Start with it on just a little while each day, and give them their favorite treat while putting it on.  Work up to a schedule when they wear it at all times.  When it comes to purchasing a cat collar, the pet store can be overwhelming and there are so many choices!  Here are the most common types:

Safety (break away) collars:  Cats are at risk of strangulation if they become snagged on something (for example a tree branch). There are two types of collars available for cats.  The first (and most common) has an elasticated strip which stretches to allow your cat to slip out should it become snagged. Safety collars are the safest type of collar. They are designed to break enough pressure is applied, therefore greatly reducing the chance of choking. The safety collars are the best type to use on your cat.

Flea collars: Flea collars are not recommended.  They are not only ineffective, but contain dosages of insecticide that are toxic to pets, adults AND children.  They do not control fleas other than the area of the neck that they are directly in contact with.  Additionally, some cats can develop a rash from the chemicals in the flea collar. This is known as “flea collar dermatitis or flea collar rash.”


Topical flea medications, such as Frontline or Revolution are much more effective and safe for your cat.  Remember to NEVER use flea/tick products for dogs on your cat.  They contain high doses of pyrethrin which is highly toxic and fatal to cats!

Decorated collars:  Decorated collars add a bit of bling. There are literally hundreds of different styles available. If this is the type of collar that appeals to you, make sure it has an elasticated strip which will enable your cat to wriggle out of the collar should it become snagged on something.

Magnetic collars:  These collars have a magnet attached which is used in conjunction with a cat flap. The purpose is to allow your cat entry into your house but not neighborhood cats or wild animals.

Reflective cat collars:  Reflective collars are either made out of reflective material or have a reflective strip. If your cat is outside on a night, the reflective collar will glow when it is exposed to light (such as car headlights), making it easier for car drivers to see your cat.

It should be noted that is it dangerous for cat to be outside, especially at night!  While these collars may be of help, there is still a good chance that if your cat is out on a road or street, it faces a very real risk of being hit by a car.

Collar safety:  Never use collars designed for dogs on your cat. These typically don’t have the safety clasp or elastic strip, and therefore can pose a danger if your cat gets snagged as it won’t offer the opportunity for your cat to slip out of the collar.

You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar & the neck.  This is especially important to monitor in growing kittens!