Pet Dental Month is Coming to A Close!

You might not know it, but February is National Pet Dental Health Month.


Now, this may sound like just a clever marketing ploy to get your pet into his or her veterinarian, but there actually is quite a bit to be gained by working with your vet to keep up with your pet’s dental health, as well as instituting regular dental home care for your pets.

In addition to reducing the time needed between professional dental procedures and cleanings, regular at-home dental care can also help improve systemic health, decrease bone loss — which can eventually lead to mobility and loss of teeth — and even improve breath (important for when you get a big slobbery kiss from your pooch!).


Now, as the parents of toddlers ourselves, we realize that this may be asking a lot (teeth brushing is admittedly often a battle in our house), but we hope the following will encourage you to take a second look at your pet’s mouth.

  1. Dental disease is undoubtedly one of the most common diseases veterinarians diagnose and treat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will have some degree of oral disease by the age of 3.
  2. In the majority of cases, dental disease is a condition where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Small preventative measures such as regular brushing can significantly slow the progression of tartar accumulation and subsequent periodontal disease. While daily brushing is by far the ideal, even brushing every 72 hours will make a significant difference in the amount of tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth. Every three days is the minimum frequency recommended as beyond that the plaque will already have hardened into tartar, which cannot be removed via brushing.
  3. Most dogs, and even cats, can learn to love (or at least tolerate) brushing — check out the video link here for instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth.
  4. While the jury is still out on exactly how the low-grade infection associated with periodontal disease affects our pets systemically, in people there are consistent correlations between periodontal disease and systemic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac, and kidney disease, likely related to the chronic inflammation and infection originating from the mouth.
  5. If brushing is absolutely out of the question, there are other options to help decrease the plaque and subsequent tartar buildup in your pet’s mouth. Look for products that carry the VOHC — Veterinary Oral Health Council — seal of approval, such as CET products, Greenies, or antiplaque water additives. Most of these products need to be used on a daily basis to make an appreciable difference.
  6. Routine brushing and home care can reduce the chances of needing aggressive or emergency dental care, such as tooth extractions and root canals for problems such as severe gingival infections or tooth root abscesses.
  7. And, last but not least, maybe seeing you brush the family cat or dog’s teeth will encourage that toddler to brush their own teeth.

Source: and Clarendon Animal Clinic online column

The Benefits of Walking Your Dog

At one time or other we’ve all heard that dogs need to be taken for walks.  But how many of us really understand the reasons why it’s important?  Ask anyone you know and a large percentage of people might tell you that walking your dog is just to provide him exercise.  Yes, exercise is important, but that’s only part of it.


Here are ten reasons why regular walks with your dog should be a high priority:

    1. Provides an outlet for their energy.  Dogs build up a certain amount of energy every day that needs to be expended.  If it doesn’t happen through walking, it will often result in bad, destructive behavior or separation anxiety.  You may have heard that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog, and also, a bored dog can become a bad dog.  A good walk can also significantly calm a hyper or energetic dog.
    2. Walking aids greatly in training your dog.  Draining energy results in a calmer, satisfied and more submissive dog who is much more likely to focus on you and your training.  The walk itself should be a time of training.  Done correctly, it can reinforce the bond between you and your dog and will help to establish you as the pack leader.  Remember that you should be in control and walking your dog, not him in control and walking you.  See future articles for tips on training your dog to walk properly on a loose leash. 
    3. Fulfills his natural roaming and exploring instincts.  In nature dogs walk as a pack and roam for miles every day searching for food and water.  Even though your dog is not a wild dog, walking is still in their natural instinct.  Dogs are working, thinking animals that need a purpose beyond just sitting or sleeping all day long.  Walking provides a sense of direction and accomplishment.  Regular walks can help prevent her desire to run away or bolt out the door in an attempt to fulfill that roaming instinct.
    4. Provides both physical and mental stimulation.  Exploring their surroundings with their senses is also an instinctual activity for dogs.  During the course of a walk your dog will be exposed to all sorts of smells, sights and sounds.  This also acts as a mental workout for the brain.
    5. Provides much needed social interaction.  Socialization is an important part of any dog’s life, especially in their early years.  When walking you will most likely encounter other people, children and other dogs.  This will help to build her confidence and social skills.  Dogs who are not walked can become more fearful and shy, or might lack the necessary social skills to interact with people and other dogs.
    6. Provides exposure to a wide variety of “worldly” things, creating a more confident and stable dog.  A dog who is walked often will become more comfortable around all sorts of things such as bicycles, skateboards, traffic noises, loud trucks, mailmen, etc.  Dogs without this exposure can become fearful, skittish and territorial, seeing every strange sound, vehicle or person as a threat.  Many dogs who bark constantly are barking out of fear of everything they hear or see that is strange to them.  If you walk the same route regularly, it can also possibly assist your dog in finding his way home if he gets out of your yard and lost.
    7. If you own other dogs, walking them together will help them to bond with each other as a pack and prevent behavior problems between them.
    8. Dogs are social beings that crave our attention – walking with them provides your attention and interaction with them.
    9. Regular walking can lengthen and improve the quality of life for your dog.
    10. And best of all… you will have a walking buddy and a reason yourself to get out, get moving, enjoy the fresh air and get yourself healthy and fit!

Walking should be the first step in solving any behavior problem.


Most experts agree that an appropriate daily walk should be a minimum of 30-45 minutes, preferably all at once, but could be split into shorter walks throughout the day.  Certain breeds such as herding or sporting dogs, or high energy dogs, may need more.  A common myth is that if you have a large fenced in yard it is not necessary to walk your dog.  Dogs typically will not exercise themselves, unless there is another dog to play with, so your yard will essentially become a large kennel to them, a place to be bored and alone.  They still need the physical, social and mental stimulation as mentioned above.  A dog that is left alone for hours during the day, even in a large yard, may not be a well-behaved dog at night.

If you cannot find the time to walk your dog, you might consider a trusted friend, neighbor or professional dog walker.  There are also doggie day care facilities where your dog can get social interaction and exercise periodically.

When you walk remember to be responsible and carry bags to pick up after your dog, and obey leash laws.

Source: Cincinnati Dog Pages


Low-Cost Surgery Comparison


As with every procedure at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, your pet’s comfort and safety are our primary concerns. Anesthesia and surgery can be with most stressful time for your -pet; we do everything we can to minimize the stress and discomfort while employing the safest procedures possible. We understand that cost is definitely a factor in choosing your pet’s healthcare, and want to be sure that you understand some of the differences between our hospital and the providers of low-cost care.

Proper Pain Control: We now know that pets experience pain in much the way we do. Proper pain control involves not only anesthesia, but a variety of additional medications given for the sole purpose of relieving operative pain. We use an average of four medications for pain alone for more procedures. In addition, we send home pain medication for use after surgery.

Heated Surgery Table: We are very proud of our state-of-the-art heating unit., This allows us to keep out patient’s temperature normal during surgery — this provides safer, smoother recoveries. We do not use harsh electrical “heating pads” which can burn your pet if used improperly.

New Syringes: Believe it or not, there are no regulations preventing veterinary hospitals from reusing syringes and needles. We would NEVER consider reusing syringes or needles on your pet.

Precision Instruments: Out instruments are top-of-the-line surgical instruments. This means there is less of a chance of an instrument slipping or malfunctioning during surgery and causing unnecessary blood loss.

Precision Suture Material: We use the strongest, best quality suture material available. This allows us to bury out sutures, causing less change of infection or sutures pulling out. In most cases, no suture removal is necessary and there are no external sutures visible. These sutures dissolve over time, meaning your pet won’t have sharp metal suture “poking” at them for the duration of their life!

Intravenous Catheters: All patients receiving deep, general anesthesia have an IV catheter placed prior to anesthesia. This allows us to administer IV fluids (which contain molecules with electrolytes and nutrients) throughout their stay. These fluids keep them hydrated and help us regulate their blood pressure. The catheter also allows us to induce (get under anesthesia) quickly and safely, and provides us access to a vein should an emergency arise during anesthesia.

Emergency Drugs: We keep a supply of the most advances emergency drugs available, which are expensive to keep on hand. However, they allow us to be more prepared in case of an anesthetic emergency.

Proper Monitoring: In addition to external monitors (heart rate & EKG, oxygenation, pulse quality, blood pressure, temperature, respiration rate and breathing patterns) we have a trained veterinary technician dedicated exclusively to monitor anesthesia. They alert the doctor to any changes in patient status so issues can be corrected immediately.

Proper Anesthetics: We use Propofol (fast-acting IV anesthetic) and Isoflurane gas for procedures, which are some of the newest generation anesthetic agents available. They are much safer and more effective than older drugs.

Do not hesitate to ask questions of your veterinarian. You have the right and responsibility to your pet to know what you are paying for.

  • Ask them if they use proper pain control, suture, and drugs.
  • Ask if they reuse syringes and have emergency drugs available.
  • Ask if they use proper sterile surgery attire.
  • Ask if they have a surgical technician dedicated to monitoring their pet before, during, AND after surgery.
  • Ask if your pet will have an IV catheter, and if they will have appropriate and safe pain medication sent home.

All of these are expensive, but some of the materials we use are up to ten times more expensive than the “cheap” ones. These things may or may not be important to you, but they are important to your pet and to our high standards of care.

While we sincerely hope you choose Rita Ranch Pet Hospital for your pet’s surgical care. If you decide to have your pet’s surgery elsewhere, we are happy to continue to care for your pet’s health.

10 “Poison Pills” for Pets

(This information is courtesy of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.)


Anyone who takes medication prescribed for someone else puts themselves at risk of illness or even death – and this applies to your pets, too! Although there are many medications used in both animals and people, the effects, doses needed, and other things aren’t always the same.

About one-quarter of all phone calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) are about human medications. Your pet can easily ingest dropped pills or may be given harmful human medications by an unknowing owner, resulting in illness, or even death, of your pet.

The APCC provided us with the 10 most common human medication complaints they receive. Here they are, in order based on the number of complaints:

  1. Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) is the most common human medication ingested by pets. Many brands have a sweet outer coating that makes it appealing to pets (think “M&M,” but a potentially deadly one). Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
  2. Tramadol – Tramadol (Ultram®) is a pain reliever. Your veterinarian may prescribe it for your pet, but only at a dose that’s appropriate for your pet – never give your medication to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian! Too much tramadol can cause sedation or agitation, wobbliness, disorientation, vomiting, tremors and possibly seizures.
  3. Alprazolam – Alprazolam (Xanax®) is prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication and a sleep-aid. Most pets that ingest alprazolam can become sleepy and wobbly; however a few will become very agitated instead. These pills are commonly ingested by pets as people put them out on the nightstand so they remember to take them. Large doses of alprazolam can drop the blood pressure and could cause weakness or collapse.
  4. Adderall® – Adderall® is a combination of four different amphetamines and is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. This medication doesn’t have the same effect in pets as it does in people; it acts as a stimulant in our pets and causes elevated heart rate and body temperature, along with hyperactivity, tremors and seizures.
  5. Zolpidem – Zolpidem (Ambien®) is a sleep-aid for people. Pets commonly eat pills left on the bedside table. Zolpidem may make cats wobbly and sleepy, but most pets become very agitated and develop elevated heart rates.
  6. Clonazepam – Clonazepam (Klonopin®) is used as an anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety medication. It is sometimes also prescribed as a sleep-aid. When animals ingest clonazepam they can become sleep and wobbly. Too much clonazepam can lower the blood pressure, leading to weakness or collapse.
  7. Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is a very common pain killer found in most households. Cats are extremely sensitive to acetaminophen, but dogs can be affected too. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. It can also cause damage to your pet’s red blood cells so that the cells are unable to carry oxygen – like your body, your pet’s body needs oxygen to survive.
  8. Naproxen – Naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®) is an over-the-counter pain reliever. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to naproxen and even small amounts can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
  9. Duloxetine – Duloxetine (Cymbalta®) is prescribed as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent. When ingested by pets it can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.
  10. Venlafaxine – Venlafaxine (Effexor®) is an antidepressant. For some unknown reason, cats love to eat the capsules. Ingestion can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.

As you can tell from this list, a medication that does one thing for people does not necessarily do the same for our pets. And although this may be the list of the medications about which the APCC receives the largest numbers of complaints, remember that any human medication could pose a risk to your pets – not just these 10.

You can keep your pets safe by following simple common sense guidelines:

  • Always keep human medications away from pets unless you are specifically instructed by a veterinarian to give the medication;
  • Do not leave pills sitting on counter or any place a pet can get to them;
  • Do not leave pill bottles within reach of pets (You’ll be surprised how fast your dog can chew through a pill bottle.);
  • If you’re taking medications out of the bottle and you drop any of it, pick it up immediately so you know your pet won’t be able to eat it;
  • Always contact your veterinarian if your pet has ingested any medication not prescribed for them;
  • Never give your medication (or any medications prescribed for a two-legged family member) to your pet without first consulting a veterinarian.

…and last, but not least, always keep the number for Rita Ranch Pet Hospital (520) 624-6100 and the Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 (a $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card) handy. You don’t want to be looking for it in an emergency situation!