Category Archives: veterinary care

Tooth Resorption in Cats and Dogs

tooth resorption makiaBy Julia Williams

A few months ago I took my cat, Annabelle, in for a routine checkup. After a thorough exam, my vet told me that Annabelle had a painful condition called tooth resorption. This came as a complete surprise, as Annabelle had been acting her normal happy self, she was eating well and seemed to be in perfect health.

I hadn’t noticed any abnormal behavior, and Annabelle did not act like she was in any discomfort when she was scarfing her CANIDAE wet food or her treats. My vet explained that even though tooth resorption is known to be quite painful, in most cases our pets don’t show outward signs until it’s become extremely uncomfortable. This is a largely a survival instinct, since an animal in the wild who showed weakness would be vulnerable to a predator.

What is Tooth Resorption?

Although tooth resorption is similar in appearance to the cavities humans get in their teeth, there is a difference. Cavities are caused by bacterial decay which begins at the tooth’s hard outer surface (the enamel) and progresses toward the interior of the tooth. With tooth resorption, the damage begins inside the tooth with “resorptive lesions” which are caused by cells eating away at the tooth. A tooth that is affected by resorptive lesions will erode and eventually disappear entirely as it is absorbed back into the animal’s body. As a tooth disintegrates, the dentin (inner part of the tooth) and nerve are exposed, causing extreme sensitivity and a great deal of pain.tooth resorption rick

Tooth resorption occurs primarily in cats, but dogs can get it too, as can larger cats such as tigers, lions, cheetahs and leopards. Tooth resorption in domestic housecats is a common condition that affects as many as 50% of cats over three years old.

What Causes Tooth Resorption?

Some studies suggest that an excess of vitamin D in the diet may play a role in tooth resorption; other theories support that it’s an autoimmune response. However, at the present time there is no definitive answer as to what causes the resorptive lesions. What is known is that once an animal develops one resorptive lesion, it’s highly likely that other teeth will also be affected.

Is Tooth Resorption Preventable?

Unfortunately, until it’s understood what causes the resorptive lesions to occur, there is no way to prevent them. Pets that have resorptive lesions in one tooth often have them in other teeth.

How is Tooth Resorption Diagnosed?

Some things to watch for include excessive salivation, bleeding in the mouth and difficulty eating. (You might notice, for example, that your pet appears to only be chewing on one side of her mouth). As I mentioned earlier, however, some pets with tooth resorption may exhibit no outward signs; in this case, the condition will be discovered when your vet examines your pet’s mouth.

Some resorptive lesions can be seen, while others are hidden below the gum. If a lesion is suspected, your vet may use a probe such as a cotton swab. When the lesion is touched by the probe, it causes pain resulting in chattering and jaw spasms. tooth resorption danielleRadiographs (x-rays) are extremely helpful not only in making a definitive diagnosis, especially for the hidden resorptive lesions, but also for treatment planning.

How is Tooth Resorption Treated?

Tooth resorptions can be seen on radiographs in many different stages, depending upon how long the tooth has been affected and how fast it is resorbing. Unfortunately, there is no reliable treatment and extraction of the affected tooth (or teeth) is usually recommended. If the disease has significantly progressed and the resorbing tooth has already fused to the jawbone, the veterinary surgeon may recommend amputation of the tooth instead of extraction. Radiographs while under general anesthesia will help your vet determine which procedure is best.

Top photo by Makia Minich/Flickr
Middle photo by Rick Wasser/Flickr
Bottom photo by Danielle Kellogg/Flickr

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Could Your Dog Have Fall Allergies Too?

allergies timothyBy Lyn Lomasi

You’ve seen or felt it all before: the sneezing, the itching, the watery eyes, the irritated nasal passages, and so on. But your dog is now displaying some of the behavior typical for fall allergies in humans. Could your dog have fall allergies too? Is this even possible? What signs and symptoms should you be concerned about, and when is the appropriate time to pick up the phone and call the vet?

Can Dogs Be Affected By Hay Fever?

The answer to this may not be quite what you’re thinking. If you see your dog struggling with what seems like hay fever or fall allergies, you might be correct. However, in dogs, it is often referred to as atopy. Some of the symptoms of atopy are similar to what humans would experience with hay fever. Atopy is also most common in the fall season. Some of the signs and symptoms vary greatly from hay fever. Fall allergies in dogs can range from mild to serious. Learn the signs to watch for, as well as when the appropriate time to contact your vet is going to be.

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Thyroid Problems in Dogs and Cats

thyroid rekre89By Langley Cornwell

As a responsible pet owner, there are many health issues dogs and cats may experience that you should be aware of. In fact, being a pet owner often means learning about things you had no idea even existed. Each species has specific health conditions that affect them, and then there are several that can afflict both cats and dogs. One of these conditions is thyroid problems.

Both dogs and cats can have problems with their thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces the hormone that controls metabolism. Cats tend to have hyperthyroidism (too much hormone) while dogs often suffer from hypothyroidism (too little hormone).

How to Know if Your Pet Has a Thyroid Problem

If you notice your dog or cat is acting either extra sluggish or extremely active—as compared to their normal behavior — or is gaining or losing weight, you will want to call your vet and discuss this. It’s important, because if left untreated, thyroid issues may have a detrimental effect on your pet’s quality of life. The symptoms of thyroid problems, if left untreated, can lead to other conditions and can even eventually be fatal.

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The Changing Face of Veterinary Medicine

veterinary medBy Linda Cole

The field of study in veterinary medicine is wide open these days for people who love animals and want to pursue a career working with household pets, wildlife, farm animals or other animals. Advances in technology are helping pets live longer, and changes in the way animals are viewed have created a need for more specialized studies. Veterinary medicine is no longer just about caring for pets in an office. There’s even a field of study that helps protect our food supply. There are some surprising opportunities available for someone with a degree in veterinary medicine besides working as a veterinarian or vet technician.

Sports Medicine

The American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation is open for veterinarians from around the world to get an advanced degree in the science of sports medicine. Its main focus is on the structural, physiological, medical and surgical needs of working and athletic animals. Currently there’s two fields of study: Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (Canine) and Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (Equine).

Shelter Medicine

Vets who care for shelter animals deal with the health and welfare of pets in a unique environment. In an effort to improve quality of life for pets that have been abused, neglected, homeless or given up because of medical issues or age, shelter medicine is an important and necessary field of study which also promotes the bond we share with pets, and improves the treatment of animals.

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What Should You Do If Your Dog Tears a CCL?

By Langley Cornwell

We like to take our dogs out in the woods to let them run and play off-leash. There is a secluded area near our house that’s perfect for this kind of activity, and we try to get out there so they can romp around at least twice a week, weather permitting. The fresh air and sunshine is good for all of us. We’ve been doing this for years and consider it quality family time.

Recently on one such outing, Frosty came back limping. We checked her pads carefully to make sure there wasn’t a thorn or cut causing the limp. Everything looked fine, but she wouldn’t put her left rear leg down so we called our vet and went straight over.

When we walked in, he took one look at her and said “I hope it’s not what it looks like, but I’m pretty sure it is.” They took her to the back to get x-rays and then confirmed what he suspected. Our dog had a rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). She had torn her CCL, which is similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

A dog’s CCL (and a human’s ACL) is the ligament responsible for stabilizing the knee joint.


When a dog twists on her hind leg or makes an abrupt turn while running full speed, she can tear her cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). The twisting motion puts sudden, extreme tension on the ligament which can cause it to tear. Sudden CCL tears most commonly happen when a dog slides on a wet surface, makes a sharp turn when she’s running, or gets hit from the side by a car.

Some CCL tears happen over time. Obese dogs have a higher likelihood of developing this problem than healthy weight dogs. Excess weight puts undue stress on a dog’s knees and the cranial cruciate ligament becomes so weak that it slowly begins to degenerate until it ruptures, sometimes without any extraneous activity.


There are several surgical options for repairing a ruptured CCL. Our vet opted for a procedure that involves using artificial suture fibers (he likened it to fishing line) to reconstruct her ligament. He used this synthetic material to weave between the lower outside part of our dog’s femur (the bone above the knee) and the upper inside part of her tibia (the bone below the knee), creating a manmade cranial cruciate ligament.

The other surgical options are called a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and a tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA).

There are cases where surgery is not an option. If a dog is elderly, has a condition that inhibits healing, or is afflicted with another complicating factor, then a combination of medical treatment, restricted activity and physical therapy may be the best route.

For an overweight dog, it’s important to take steps to reduce his body weight. Feed a high quality dog food like CANIDAE, and make sure your pet gets plenty of age-appropriate exercise.


This is where things get tricky, especially if you have more than one dog in your home. After a dog undergoes any of the surgical options for a torn CCL, she must stay completely inactive for a minimum of two weeks. She can only go outside to relieve herself. At around the two week mark, most dogs will do what our vet calls “toe touching,” which means the dog will tap the toe of the hurt leg to the ground and slowly begin putting a bit of weight on it. Our dog isn’t quite there yet. She will occasionally tap her toe to the ground, but most of the time she just hops around on three legs. She’s become amazingly adept at this.

We were told to restrict Frosty to short leash walks for six more weeks to allow complete healing. Because Frosty and our other dog Al are active and like to wrestle, it’s been difficult to keep them from playing around – but we were strictly warned. Limited activity is important in order to avoid damaging the surgical correction.


Our vet thinks Frosty’s prognosis is good if we constrain her activity. We will also continue to massage her knee and perform gentle rehabilitation exercises.

A ruptured cranial cruciate ligament is a serious issue and requires a lot from the pet owners and the pet. However, if you follow your vet’s advice to the letter, your furry friend should be back on all fours in due time. Wish us luck!

Photos by Langley Cornwell

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Help for a Dog with a Collapsed Trachea

By Langley Cornwell

When we adopted our most recent family dog, Al, he had been stuck in the system for a long time; he’d been transported to several different animal shelters in the hopes of finding him a good home. I applaud the local shelters for recognizing that he had potential despite some behavioral problems. Even so, he was on borrowed time, and when my husband and I met him, we agreed that we were ready for the job.

To help his transition, we started Al in behavioral training classes immediately. We still have a very long way to go with this dog, but he’s part of our family and we’ve pledged to give him a safe, loving and comfortable home for the rest of his life.

As it turns out, Al’s behavioral problems are only half of the picture. Once the adoption was finalized, we took him straight to our veterinarian. His examination revealed that Al was heartworm positive and had a collapsed trachea. The heartworm condition has been corrected, but we have to take special precautions not to aggravate his tracheal collapse.

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