4 Tips for Daily Pet Dental Care

By: Katherine Collins, Team Care Coordinator

Leo! Your breath smells!” Haven’t all pet parents mumbled this phrase a time or two to their furry family members while accepting their kisses? Just like humans, every meal pets eat builds plaque and tartar over time causing unpleasant breath odor. Your pet’s teeth are similar to your own, requiring similar dental hygiene. In addition to regular dental exams and cleanings at the vet, your pet counts on you to make sure you supply their daily dental care—just as you provide your own oral hygiene every day.

To assist with the maintenance of pet dental hygiene at home, writer Alison Landis Stone offers important advice in a Healthy Pet Magazine article to help ensure pet plaque and tartar build up don’t cause costly dental repairs. Since dental disease is the most common disease in adult dogs and cats, these quick tips are essential for every pet’s dental care between regular exams and cleanings.

  • Choose the Right Size Toothbrush

Pet toothbrushes come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on the size of your pet, you may need to adjust accordingly. If you can’t make it to the veterinarian to get a pet-specific toothbrush, use an American Dental Association (ADA) approved children’s soft bristle toothbrush.

  • Pick the Correct Toothpastepet dental health tips

When selecting your pet’s toothpaste, purchase pet-specific toothpaste that contains chlorhexidine gluconate, a clinically proven antiseptic and antimicrobial, or enzymes such as glucose oxidase or lactoperoxidase, which possess antibacterial properties to decrease plaque. Never use toothpaste formulated for humans, as it can cause your pet to become sick.

  • Select a Healthy Dental Diet

Considering your pet’s food brand, “look for one that carries the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance,” asserts Stone. The VOHC Seal of Acceptance guarantees the product has been tested and is clinically proven to help control tartar and plaque.

  • Purchase Dental Chews

Dental chews are specially formulated with abrasive textures to help control plaque and tartar. Some chews even include sodium hexametaphosphate to specifically reduce tartar formation. Dental chews should last a while so be sure to watch your pet when you introduce a new dental chew to make sure your pet doesn’t swallow the chew whole or after one bite, claims Stone. Opt for dental chews instead of real bones, which can cause pet digestion problems and/or teeth damage.

In addition to these helpful dental care recommendations, other products such as oral rinses and sprays, water additives, and dental sealants may benefit your pet’s daily oral hygiene. Adding products to your pet’s regular routine can help control tartar and plaque and protect your pet’s dental health between veterinary visits.

To see what specific products Drs. Kahuda and Blackwood recommend, call or stop in and visit us. Our office is open from 7:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Friday. We are always here to share tips and tricks to help keep your furry family healthy!

Can there be too much transparency?

Intersection of Crosstown, Rutledge and Line

If you have followed our Facebook page for any length of time, you will know that Charleston Harbor Veterinarians was designed under two big philosophies that we feel makes us a unique veterinary practice in the South Carolina Lowcountry.  One is a home-like atmosphere, with the goal of decreasing pet stress during the veterinary visit.  The other is transparency in all our medical and surgical procedures, with the goal being to give the owner the opportunity to be side-by-side with their pet through many medical procedures.

We received our first complaint today.  I have been dreading this day.  I think that most veterinary professionals aim to please their clients and their community, making hearing that someone has been dissatisfied by your services devastating.  What surprised our team the most today was that the complaint came from someone who was not a client; we had never seen her pets and we don’t even know if she even owns a pet.  And, it involved our philosophy on transparency.

Our facility has excellent visibility on the crosstown, and our surgical suite is positioned at the front and center of the building.  This was no accident.  The location for the surgical suite in the interior of the building is away from the main flow of foot traffic within the clinic, greatly decreasing chances for bacterial contamination from clients and pets coming to visit.  It is also located close to the treatment room, to be easily accessible during emergencies.  As an added bonus, the room has two large windows facing the crosstown traffic, adding not only natural light into the clinic but also visibility from the outside into what has traditionally been in the past, the most off-limit room to pet owners in a veterinary practice.

This is where the complaint occurred.  This morning, Dr. Kahuda performed a relatively minor surgical procedure on a dog in our surgical room, during the hours of normal morning rush hour traffic.  Keeping with practices for best surgical standards, the surgical suite was scrubbed ahead of time and free of clutter, Dr. Kahuda wore complete sterile attire (gown, caps, mask, booties, gloves), and a licensed surgical technician and an experienced assistant wore appropriate caps, masks, and booties.  All three of the staff members spent 100% of their effort monitoring and caring from this pet throughout the anesthetic procedure, both with monitoring equipment and direct observation.  While the patient was recovering beautifully post-operatively in the treatment area, Dr. Kahuda received the phone call: a human operating room nurse driving through the crosstown could see the surgical procedure while sitting in her car at the light and was displeased.

This phone call has occupied the minds of our team all morning and into the afternoon.  I walked outside into the rain multiple times to stare into our windows, just trying to understand how much detail one could view in the car across the street that would upset someone enough to make a call.  Our staff sat in confusion.  We called a pediatric nurse who I am close friends with to get her opinion.  This is what we as a team basically settled on:

  1. Our transparency is no secret.  We want to offer every client who walks through our doors a tour of our facilities. When you visit with your pet, you will quickly see that there is no “back” to take your pet away from you for treatments.  Our entire treatment room is enclosed in glass, easily visible from Exam Room 3.  Many of our medical treatments are performed in the exam room, with the client by our side.
  2. We are proud of our transparency.  If you can see inside our facilities from the street, you can bet that we are going to be following proper veterinary surgical protocol!  You will never see a staff member perform a procedure without properly maintained equipment or attire.  You will never see us treat a pet with anything but compassion and respect.  You will never see a technician texting on her cell phone instead of monitoring your pet during anesthesia.
  3. We do care about the privacy of our pets and owners.  This patient’s face was away from the window and the surgical site was covered in sterile draping throughout the procedure.  The draping would cover the majority of the surgical site from visualization on the street.  When clients fill out a new form to meet us, they let us know the level of their pet’s care they want to personally see and if they are willing to give permission for the posting of any pictures to our Facebook site.  We do not talk about you behind your back or gossip about your pet’s private medical concerns to other people.  We don’t have HIPPA laws in veterinary medicine, so our staff instead strives to operate by “The Golden Rule”.
  4. We ask our clients about the “open windows” policy when we meet them.  The pet’s owner in question today is a close friend of the veterinary assistant mentioned above.  The owner said that she desires our transparent policy, which she says assures her that when she leaves her pet here for the morning, she knows that she can trust the level of treatment that will be performed.  It shows we have nothing to hide.

I wish we had thought enough in advance to offer the person who called if she would like a tour and a chance to meet us.  In retrospect, I would have invited her to our Open House on March 29th from 12pm-4pm.  Instead, I am inviting all of you to visit us during the Open House, where we will have a Teddy Bear Surgery demonstration that will have active opportunities for participation for our younger visitors.  You will be able to see (on our Teddy Bear patient) the level of care that we can offer to our pet patients.

I know that we will never be able to please everyone.  My hope and joy would be to be able to provide outstanding service to those members of the community whose philosophy of pet care matches our our own and get the pleasure out of getting to know them and their pets on a personal level.

So, what do you think? Leave your comments below.


Janette Blackwood, DVM

Charleston Harbor Veterinarians @ the Teddy Bear Picnic

Come out on Sunday March 8th from 1:30pm-4:30pm to Hampton Park and bring your Teddy Bear!  The doctors at Charleston Harbor Veterinarians are proud to be a part of this 6th annual event. Dr. Blackwood and Dr. Kahuda will be at the Teddy Bear first aid station, doing physical exams and possibly even a surgery or two!  This is a great family event and is so close to the new Charleston Harbor Veterinarians at 280 Rutledge Avenue.  We’re excited to see you and your Bear!

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Charleston Parks Conservancy – Teddy Bear Picnic

In an effort to connect children and families to our parks, the Charleston Parks Conservancy is once again hosting its annual Teddy Bear Picnic. This free event encourages families to get outside and take advantage of Charleston’s vast network of more than 120 parks and green spaces. The sixth annual Teddy Bear Picnic is 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8 in Hampton Park. Activities include Teddy Bear first aid station, crown making, seed planting, face painting, cookie decorating, environmental education, booths with worms and more. John Cusatis will provide live music and other entertainment will include dancing and hula hooping. Food will be available for purchase or families are welcome to bring a picnic. The afternoon wraps up with a Teddy Bear parade. Don’t forget your bear!

Environmental Enrichment for Your CAT!

By: Dr. Christa Kahuda

Keeping your cat indoors has kept him safe from many health hazards such as infectious diseases and injuries.  However, most outdoor cats lead busy lives. They explore, hunt, scavenge for food, and they might interact with other cats. In contrast, our indoor cats have little to do and boredom may set in. For some cats, indoor confinement and other adverse experiences can even lead to health problems such as inappropriate behavior, obesity, and chronic conditions such as lower urinary tract disease.  Studies conducted over the last several years have found that by modifying the indoor environment for our cats we may be able to reduce some of these conditions and unwanted behavior.

The first line of therapy for your indoor cat is environmental enrichment.  This means providing for all the resource and social needs of your cat.  Consider the categories below – you may find many ways to easily improve your cat’s indoor environment!Charleston Harbor Veterinarians Cat Sleeping

Food:  Cats prefer to eat individually in a quiet and safe location where other animals, appliances, or sudden movement will not startle them.  Cats are also natural predators and some prefer hunting and stalking behaviors.  You can stimulate these situations by also hiding small amounts of food around the house or by using a food puzzle container from which your cat can release food pieces.

Water:  Each cat may have a preference for freshness, taste, movement, and container of their water.  Be sure to provide a variety of options for your cat’s drinking water and be sure to change the water and clean the bowl regularly.

Litter Boxes: Litter boxes should be provided in several locations throughout the house.  Those locations should be quiet and convenient for your cat.  The locations should also provide an easy escape route.  You may need to test several types of litters to determine which your cat prefers, but generally unscented clumping litters should be considered.  Litter boxes should be scooped daily and completely cleaned weekly.

Space:  The cat’s environment should include appropriate areas for scratching (horizontal and vertical), climbing, resting, and hiding.  Raised platforms, shelves, or window seats often appeal to cats.  Some cats enjoy playing and hiding in cardboard boxes.

Play:  Cats have preferences regarding interaction with their owners.  Some may like to be petted while others prefer to play.  Provide a variety of toys for your cat. Some cats prefer toys that they can throw around themselves. Other cats prefer toys that require owner participation, such as those you wiggle and dangle. Stimulating play for a cat involves opportunities to “hunt,” so move toys in such a way that they mimic the movements of a rodent or bird. Introduce new toys periodically to keep your cat from becoming bored.

Resources:  Often indoor cats compete for resources – you may start to notice intercat aggression due the perception of limited resources.   Provide multiple ‘spaces’ for each cat and also be sure to provide separate/safe locations for food, water, and litterboxes. 

Phermones:  Phermones are chemical substances that are produced naturally by cats.  Synthetic forms of these phermones may reduce anxiety in cats when used in combination with environmental enrichment.  (consider ‘Feliway’)  

Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns regarding your indoor cat! 

Adapted from “Pandora syndrome” by C.A. Tony Bluffinton, DVM

Dr. CK