Sunday, February 8, 2009


Questions On Dogs and Cats has benefitted immensely from the contributions of Desperado...from guest issues to arrangement suggestions to editing. On Monday, 9 February, Desperado will "advance" to the next year, getting better all the time! Even the Eagles, our favorite musical group, felt compelled to mark this birthday with their song: Enjoy!!!

Last week's poll asking about how frequently you work on your pet's teeth at home was pretty revealing. Several readers reported "weekly" or "monthly" attention to their pet's teeth, while a few of you proudly stated that you are "daily" in your efforts...and, then there were the stragglers who admitted only "rarely" or "never" doing so. Perhaps these last two weeks will stimulate all of you to do a better job of preventive your pet's mouth. This issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats will finish up this portion of dental-related problems for your dog and cat. As always, if you have unanswered questions related to any of our topics, please send an e-mail to: or send in a comment from the appropriate location at the end of each issue.
Be sure to answer this week's poll in the column to the left. Your answers will provide important feedback to our format. Thanks!


It would seem that the topic of pet food recalls due to contaminated peanut butter has been adequately addressed in recent issues; however, each week brings a new advisory about another pet food/snack-producing company that has one or more contaminated products of which to be aware. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are two new additions to the list this week:

Supervalu Inc Recalls Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits (02 Feb 2009)

Salix Recalls 6" Peanut Butter-Filled Shank Bone Because of Possible Salmonella Risk (30 Jan 2009)

The rest of the article can be read at:

The AVMA has also produced a "podcast" concerning food safety. You can hear the podcast at:


A lot of you sent in comments and/or questions after reading the column last week about the various dental problems experienced by dogs and cats. Obviously, dental disease is a common difficulty faced by our pets as they mature. Being more aware of the dangers presented by periodontal and gingival disease can not only help you keep your pet's teeth where they belong, but also help you provide your pet with better health as they age.

All of you have enjoyed the experience of smelling your pet's breath, especially when it just about knocks you over! From The New Yorker:

Some of the odor does arise from what the pet has been eating, but that part of the odor is not long-lasting. The real underlying cause is most likely the damaged, infected tissue resulting from gingivitis and periodontitis. Sometimes this odor is so strong and pervasive that Helpful Buckeye and his former partner could smell it when the dog or cat came in the front door of the hospital! There are only a few other distinctive odors which can get your attention from a distance: the bloody diarrhea associated with parvovirus in the dog, a nasty ear infection, and an abscess that has just opened up with drainage.

If any of you have the new "scratch and sniff" monitors, you can scratch the screen right now to sample the odor. Otherwise, walk over to your sleeping dog or cat, raise their upper lip, and take a sniff. The really sad part of this story is that most, if not all of it, can be prevented. Regular attention to your pet's teeth at home, coupled with periodic teeth-cleanings by your veterinarian will keep periodontitis and gingivitis to a minimum, thus reducing the odor level. If you really have to struggle to smell anything offensive in your pet's mouth, you have accomplished a lot...and you will, more than likely, have your pet live longer while enjoying better health!

Starting with today's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats and continuing for the next two weeks, Helpful Buckeye will provide you with a list of "Frequently Asked Questions" about dental care for your pets. This list was composed by Dr. Brook Niemiec, a board-certified veterinary dentist, in San Diego. This is the first portion of those questions:

Is dental disease really a big deal?
ANSWER: Dental disease is a HUGE deal. Periodontal (gum) disease is the number one diagnosed problem in dogs and cats. By the age of just two, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. In addition, 10% of dogs have a broken tooth with pulp (nerve or root canal) exposure. This is extremely painful until the nerve dies, at which point the tooth becomes infected! Infectious oral diseases affecting the gums and root canals create systemic bacteremia (bacteria in the blood stream, which can infect other parts of the body). Periodontal inflammation and infection have been linked to numerous problems including heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, emphysema, liver disease, osteoporosis, pregnancy problems and diabetes. Therefore, oral infectious diseases are known as “the silent killer.”In addition to systemic effects, oral disease can also cause inflammation to the eye, resulting in blindness. Furthermore, jaw bone loss from chronic infection can lead to a jaw fracture known as a pathologic fracture, and these have a very hard time healing. Finally, infectious oral disease can result in osteomyelitis (an area of dead, infected bone), nasal infections and an increased risk of oral cancer.Speaking of oral cancer, the oral cavity is the fourth most common place for cancer. Unfortunately, by the time that most are discovered, they are too advanced for therapy. Early treatment is necessary for cure. That’s why you, the pet owner, need to check your pet for oral growths on a regular basis. Anything suspicious should be shown to your veterinarian promptly.In cats, a very common problem is feline tooth resorption lesions, which are caused by normal cells called odontoclasts eating away at the cat’s own teeth. Approximately half of cats over 6 years of age have at least one. They are similar to cavities in that once they are advanced, they are VERY painful and can become infected. They are first seen as small red areas along the gumline. Other oral problems include bacterial cavities, painful orthodontic problems, dead teeth (which are commonly discolored), and worn teeth. Almost every pet has some form of painful or infectious oral disease that needs treatment. Unfortunately, there are few to no obvious clinical signs. (See below, What are the warning signs of periodontal disease?) Therefore, be proactive and ask your veterinarian for a complete oral exam, and perform regular monitoring at home.

What is periodontal disease?
ANSWER: Periodontal disease is defined as the destruction of tooth attachment (periodontal ligament and jaw bone), caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria form on teeth in a substance called plaque. If plaque is not removed immediately, two things occur. First, the plaque is calcified by the minerals in saliva to become calculus (or tartar). This is the brown substance on teeth that many people mistakenly equate with periodontal disease, but the truth is that calculus does not result in periodontal disease. The other thing that occurs with chronic plaque formation is that it will start to move under the gumline. Once the plaque gets under the gum, it starts causing inflammation, which is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the initial, reversible form of periodontal disease. If this inflammation is not controlled, the bacteria within the gingiva change to a more virulent type. These more virulent species create more severe inflammation. Eventually, the body responds to this inflammation. Part of this response is bony destruction, which continues until the tooth is lost. However, in most cases periodontal disease causes problems long before this happens. (See above, Is dental disease really a big deal?)

What are the warning signs of periodontal disease?
ANSWER: Unfortunately, there are no obvious outward signs of periodontal disease until it is VERY advanced. The earliest sign is inflammation (redness or swelling) of the gums. This is generally accompanied by buildup of plaque and calculus on the teeth, but unless you are looking for these changes (see above, Is dental disease really a big deal?), they are not noticeable. As periodontal disease progresses, the infection will worsen. The next signs within the mouth are receding gums or loose teeth. This increased infection may result in bad breath or blood on chew toys; however, this should NOT be relied upon for diagnosis. If your pet has bad breath or you see blood on toys, it is almost a sure sign of advanced periodontal disease requiring a trip to the veterinarian. Late signs of periodontal disease include nasal discharge (blood or pus), eye problems, facial swelling or a jaw fracture.


1) Helpful Buckeye has addressed the problem of barking dogs in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats (30 August 2008 and 23 May 2008). Even so, this is a problem that will always bear some attention, especially in urban environments where everything is a little bit closer together. The metropolitan Phoenix area has been experiencing its own share of these difficulties recently, as reported in the Arizona Republic:

Dogs bark for a lot of reasons and it can be difficult to sort out the causes. Training plays an important role in the control of unwanted barking but, as the article above pointed out, there are usually other factors involved that might be difficult to overcome, as this cartoon from The New Yorker illustrates:

Being a good pet neighbor is part of fitting into your neighborhood.

2) The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has released their Guide to a Pet-Friendly Valentine's Day.

Some of their guidelines are:

  • When sending a floral arrangement, request that it contain no lilies, as all species within the plant genera Lilium are toxic to cats. And please de-thorn your roses, as their sharp, woody spines can hurt your pet if chewed, stepped on or swallowed.

  • Stow chocolates in paw-proof drawers and cabinets. The darker the chocolate, the more likely a pet who’s ingested it will suffer vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and an elevated heart rate.

  • Spilled wine is nothing to cry over—until a curious pet laps it up. Because animals are smaller than humans, a little bit of alcohol can do a lot of harm, causing vomiting, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing and even coma.

  • Gather up tape, ribbons, cellophane and balloons after you open presents—long, stringy and “fun-to-chew” items can get lodged in your pet’s throat or digestive tract.

Furry valentines across the country will be party to all sorts of romantic evenings at home this February 14—are you prepared to keep your pet safe?


The folks at have come up with a list of "The Top Ten Strangest 'How To' Books". Two of the books on this list have something to do with pets. The first is: How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O'Connor and is available at: As evil as the title sounds, there is an interesting twist to this story. The second strange book is: How to Speak Cat, by Sarah Whitehead and is available at:


1) My Aunt Cathy, in Florida, sent me this video of an unexpected interaction between two unlikely species, a cat and a fawn: to the accompaniment of What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong. Enjoy!

2) The current issue of Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article entitled, "Cats as Pets and Predators," in which the author "explores the evolution and enigmatic ways of the most popular pet in America -- the house cat." Find it at:

3) Helpful Buckeye has received several e-mails from readers entitled "Pet Rules", perhaps most of you have read these. The first one I received was from Dianne, in California. If you haven't read them yet, here they are (mostly funny and probably always true):

Dear Dogs and Cats: The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.
The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Racing me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.
I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm. For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom! If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years - canine/feline attendance is not required.
The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough. Finally, in fairness, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:


  • They live here. You don't.
  • If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it "fur"-niture.
  • I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
  • To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours, and don't speak clearly.


  • eat less,
  • don't ask for money all the time,
  • are easier to train,
  • normally come when called,
  • never ask to drive the car,
  • don't smoke or drink,
  • don't want to wear your clothes,
  • don't have to buy the latest gadgets or fashions, and
  • don't need a gazillion dollars for college....

4) has a contest running in which you can choose your favorite from among 15 adorable shelter pets. Look at the contestants and cast your vote at:

5) also is running the following public service announcement by Felicity Huffman: She may well be a "Desperate Housewife" but she is also big supporter of adopting a shelter pet.

6) The ASPCA has announced that they are offering course work at the University of Florida in the field of...Animal about that? Read about it at:

7) The ASPCA is also promoting a program of animal cruelty awareness, Top 10 Ways to Prevent Animal Cruelty. Read over this list to learn how you might be able to help:

8) This past Tuesday, February 3rd (1907,) was the birthday of James Michener. Michener died in 1997, having written more than 40 books, 2 of which are favorites of Helpful Buckeye...Chesapeake and Centennial.


It's been a slow week, following the activity of the Super Bowl, but there are some things of interest in the sports world. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still pursuing Manny Ramirez, which may or may not prove fruitful. The San Antonio Spurs are leading their division, but are behind the LA Lakers in winning percentage in their conference.



~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~


  1. Say "Happy Birthday" to Desperado for birthday was on the same day! Luv the blog and have shared it with several friends! Great info on dental stuff...I really should have been looking closer at Ginger's mouth!

    Tom, Muncie

  2. You could be qualified to receive a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.