Dental Care For Pets

When you were growing up, how many times as a kid did your parents tell you to brush your teeth? From a young age, we were taught the importance of dental care and how it plays a major role in our overall health. The same goes for your pets.

Dental care for your pet is extremely important and not taking care of your pet’s teeth could not only end up costing your pet some teeth, it could end up costing you lots of money in the long run. 

So why dental care so important?

There is nothing worse than sitting beside a dog with really bad breath. Along with bad breath, a few signs that your dog needs their teeth checked are excessive drooling, inflamed gums, bleeding gums, reduced appetite, discolouration of teeth, visible tartar build up and any loose teeth. 

Pets can wear teeth down and in some cases, break a tooth if their dental health is not being maintained. They can also end up developing dental diseases such as gingivitis 

 In some severe cases, dogs and cats can wind up with an infection that can spread into their jaws and surrounding tissues, causing your pet to be in more pain. Dogs can also develop dental diseases such as gingivitis. In both cases, extractions become necessary. 

What can you do to take care of your pet’s teeth?

Like humans, one of the best ways to take care of your pet’s teeth is by brushing them. As many pet parents know, this is sometimes easier said than done. 

Try to make it a positive experience for them rather than something they see as punishment. Use positive reinforcement by offering praise and rewarding with treats. Start slowly by only brushing for a couple of seconds, and gradually increase the amount of time brushing their teeth. 

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There are a couple of different options for brushes. You can get a brush that is like a brush used for children or you can get a brush that goes on to your finger. For toothpaste, do not use human toothpaste for your pets. Instead, get a good quality pet toothpaste. These are created with ingredients that are safe your pet to swallow and will generally contain enzymes to break down plaque and tartar on your pet’s teeth. There will also be flavours that will be much more appealing to your dog such as chicken or beef if they are not fans on mint, which in turn make it much easier to brush your pet’s teeth if they like the taste of what is in their mouth.

Another option can be to use dental wipes for your dog, that you can purchase at any local pet store. While they aren’t as good as brushing, they can be a great option if trying to brush your dog’s teeth is a challenge and they are great to use on the go.

One way to keep plaque and tartar from building up on your pet’s teeth (specifically dog’s) is by them chewing. By chewing, it helps naturally scrape the plaque off of your dog’s teeth. 

One of the best things to give your pet to help their teeth (and keep them occupied) is giving them raw bones (never give them cooked bones as they and easily splinter and break off). You can also give your dog treats such as bully sticks as that will not only help their teeth, bully sticks are a good high protein treat that any dog will enjoy. As with anything, make sure to supervise your pet giving them any sort of chews. 

There are many people who give their dogs deer antlers to chew one, but they are not recommended as they are extremely hard and dogs can break teeth if they chew too hard. That is not a vet bill that anyone wants.

Professional Vet Cleaning

All pets, just like humans, should have their teeth checked annually by their vet. Vets are able to see things like plaque and tartar buildup on their back teeth, just like when human goes to the dentist. Unfortunately, brushing will not be able to get rid of tartar build up once it’s already there. 

Also like humans, all dogs should get their teeth professionally cleaned by their vet. Many people worry about their pet being put under anesthesia, but it’s not something that should be worried about. It’s standard that a bloodwork panel will be done prior to any anesthesia given and if there is a concern, the vet will call you. Vets will not put a pet under anesthesia if they feel there is any sort of risk to them.

While under anesthesia, vets are able to take any x-rays deemed necessary, do a full cleaning and extract any teeth need that need to be removed.   

A big issue that many pet owners face is the cost. Cleaning and tooth extractions can cost anywhere from $600 to over $1000 depending on how extensive the work is. With that, most vets will give you a breakdown of costs prior to performing any procedures and some will give you a full estimate of costs prior to booking your pet’s dental appointment. 

With cost being a big issue for many pet owners, many vet clinics are able to offer payment plans. With that being said, cheaper isn’t necessarily better but some vets do charge more than others. The good thing about living in a city as big as Edmonton is that there are many different places for pet owners to go to. 

February is National Pet Dental Health Month and many vets are offering dental services at a discounted rate, so if you have been holding off on getting dental work such as a cleaning done for your pet, this would be a great month to do it. 

Maintaining good dental health for your pet is vital. It’s as important as getting your pet vaccinated and spay/neutered. Healthy teeth and gums equal healthy pet. 

Happy brushing, everyone! 

The Benefits of Crate Training.

One people add a pet to their family, specifically a puppy, a big question is whether or not to use a crate.

Some people view crate training as a negative thing, but that shouldn’t be the case. There are many positive benefits for both you and your pet by having your pet crate trained.

It makes house training simple

One of biggest benefits to crate training, especially a puppy, is it makes house training for your pet much more simple. 

The first thing pet parents should do when letting their puppy out of their crate is have them go outside right away to pee and or poop. They will learn very quickly that this is what they are supposed to and it definitely helps if they are rewarded with a treat and lots of positive praise for doing so. Dogs are very smart and like routine, so if you do this all the time, they will know that by going outside, they will get rewarded. 

With that said, it’s never recommended to leave a puppy six months of age or under in a crate more than three to four hours as they will not be able to hold their bladders for longer periods than that.  

There are people who instead will choose to place pee pads down on the floor and either block off an area for their puppy or let their puppy free roam throughout their house. The only downside to using pee pads is constantly having to change them or in some cases, the puppy will miss the pee pads all together and you will be left with a big mess on the floor. 

At the end of the day, choose to do whatever you feel works best for you and your puppy.

It makes travel simple

If you like and or choose to travel with your pet, having a crate for them to stay in is beneficial. Some dogs get very nervous and stressed not only travelling, but staying at a place they are not familiar with. 

Having a place for them to decompress in a space they know makes a big difference. If you are staying at someone’s house, an Airbnb or hotel, would mitigate any stress that your pet might have by being in an unfamiliar setting. Some dog can will become destructive due to separation anxiety or stress, and no one wants to have to pay for damages left by your pet. 

It’s also much safer for pets to travel when they are secure and if you ever chose to fly with your pet, they will have to go in a crate in order to be allowed to travel. 

It also makes transporting your pet to and from the vet much easier if they tend to get stressed in a vehicle. 

It can help with separation anxiety

Many pet parents find themselves in situations where their pet all of a sudden becomes destructive by chewing, digging or peeing and pooping in the house. These can all be symptoms of separation anxiety. 

As much as we all would love to bring our dogs with us everywhere we go or stay home with them at all times, it’s unfortunately not possible. Separation anxiety can be a very challenging and stressful situation to deal with.   

Crates can help prevent massive destruction from your dog. It’s not to be seen as or used as punishment, but rather a place where they can feel safe and calm. Place their favourite blanket in their crate or you could even put in an old t shirt that you’ve worn so they have your scent with them to help relax them. Make it their home and make it a place where they enjoy going. 

With that said, crates are not a solution for separation anxiety, especially in moderate to severe cases. If your dog is dealing with separation anxiety, it’s best speak to your local Edmonton vet. 

How do you get started with crate training?

Like any training, go slow. Try giving your pet treats and even small portions of their meals in their crate and leave the door open. 

Your dog may whine and cry at first while in their crate, and that’s normal. That’s generally when people decide to give up on crate training as they don’t like hearing or seeing their pet upset. Like anything, it will take time for them to adjust. Unless you notice your pet is highly stressed and agitated, try not to give up. 

Make it comfortable for them. Some people will choose to place a pet pillow in their dog’s crate and or also place a comfortable blanket in there. The one downside is if your dog is destructive, you could come home to find their pet pillow ripped apart. 

Giving you pet a kong stuffed with treats or peanut butter (only use all natural to give to your pet) will keep them busy and occupied while in their crate. 

Where you decide to place, your crate can also make a big difference. Many dogs like to be where their owners are, so having their crate in your bedroom or living room would be much better than having it in the basement or a spare room that you are never in. 

There are a variety of different crates available. Wire ones make it easy for your dog to see out and they are also collapsible which is convenient to take anywhere. Hard shell plastic crates are ones that airlines use to transport dogs, so if you are planning on flying with your pet, that one would be recommended. 

The biggest key to crate training is to not use it crate as a form as punishment. You don’t want your dog to associate the crate with any sort of negative connotations. If you notice that your pet is stressed, do not force it. 

Dogs can sense your stress, so if you are stressed about using a crate, your pet will also be stressed. 

Many people often assume that if a dog was never crate trained as a puppy, that they could never learn. That’s incorrect. You can 100% teach an old dog new tricks. Dogs can learn to be crate trained at any age. 

Crate training, when used in a positive manner, is extremely effective for any pet owner.

Why Trap, Neuter, Return Programs Are Needed.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it’s the start of the new year and have a number of things I want to write about.

The first one is a topic that seems to be a contentious one, and that is trap, neuter, return programs for feral cats. These are cats that will never be house cats as they don’t allow themselves to handled, touched or hide from humans.

Right now, there over 60,000 (yes, you read that correct) feral cats in the city of Edmonton. Cats can become pregnant as young as four months of age and can produce 20,000 kittens in just five years if left un-spayed. These cats also can and do because a public nuisance for many people.

That is where trap, neuter, release programs some into play.

What is a trap, neuter, return program? It’s exactly what is sounds like. Cats are humanly trapped, neutered by vets and then release back to where they were found.

As mentioned, TNR are not programs that everyone seems to support. There are many people who feel that the situation can be “handled by mother nature”, which is like saying “I legit don’t care if cats die”. People also think it’s cruel to release feral cats back to where they were found. It’s actually more cruel to attempt to try and house an animal that is terrified of people.

While there are two programs currents offered by the city, it’s not enough. Not enough spay and neuters are done at a high enough rate to help the current problem with the cat population. There was a recent story by the CBC that talks about this specific issue HERE.

That’s why it’s important to support initiatives put forth by the Edmonton Feral Cats Advocate group and signing the petition for The City of Edmonton Needs a High TNR Cat Program.

By supporting programs such as this, you can make the difference in the life of the feral cat population and help take the massive stress off of rescues who work tirelessly to help cats in the city.

Compassion Fatigue and Animal Rescue

Animal rescue is hard. Often people in animal rescue see and deal with the worst of humanity.

People involved in animal rescue are often faced with negative (and very often) unwarranted criticism over policies in place, hate thrown their way for decisions made, and in some cases, threats (against animals and towards those involved with rescue organizations).

Social media tends to amplify this.

Recently, a rescue got attacked and threatened online after euthanizing a dog that had attacked (unprovoked) four different trainers. The rescue was in a no-win situation – do they put down a dog they’re trying to rescue that has a history of biting its handlers, or adopt it out knowing there was a significant risk it will bite it’s new family? – and made the right choice in not adopting out that dog despite their best efforts.

Rescues have been accused of “stealing” animals. I have seen people go on to a rescue’s social media page to leave negative reviews and spread false information about that rescue.

I have seen rescues attack other rescue organizations for policies or being open and transparent about vet bills only to be called “irresponsible”. The adoption process in place “takes too long” and to some people “it’s easier to adopt a child” (even though that’s not even remotely true).

We waited months to adopt Dolly. It was worth the wait.

I have seen people say that a rescue “must be rich” when thanking donors for donations.

It should be no surprise that every once in a while, people in rescue reach a breaking point and feel the need to vent about situations online. That is usually when that rescue gets told from people to “stop being so negative” and “focus on educating instead of venting”.

This is where compassion fatigue comes in for people involved in rescue.

What is compassion fatigue?

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes compassion fatigue as “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time” and “apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance”.

Sounds a lot like being in animal rescue, doesn’t it?

What happens to people experiencing compassion fatigue?

Anger, sadness, anxiety, depression and in some cases, suicide.

I have seen people start in animal rescue because they want to help out animals go from being a consistently positive person to someone who lashes out online all of a sudden. I have seen people become so completely overwhelmed by everything they see and deal with that they need to go on medication and regularly see a therapist (which I personally do). I have seen people who had to walk away from animal rescue completely because it became too much for them (mentally, emotionally and physically).

There are many people in different professions and roles (such as caregivers) who experience compassion fatigue. And sadly, seeing constant awful news online doesn’t help with anything.

So what can you do if you are the one who might be experiencing compassion fatigue?

Reach out for help. Ask volunteers to help take on some of the tasks that you do (such as get someone else to manage social media for a bit). Remember, you can not do this alone or all by yourself, and a team effort is always more beneficial than trying to be a one person show.

This is a tough one to do but, take breaks. I realize it’s easier said than done but this is where asking for help comes in. Take a couple of days to yourself and only give your number to the volunteer(s) you put in charge for emergencies only. Log off of the social media accounts for a bit or as stated above, get another volunteer to run them for you.

Once again, easier said than done but, learn to say no. There is honestly only so much of yourself to give. If you are running on empty, how can you possibly help? There may come times where you need to take a step back and realize that you are running at capacity and can not take in any more animals. And that is ok! It’s better for a rescue to realize their limits than get completely overwhelmed.

I can not recommend talking to a therapist enough. Like anything, it could be trial and error to find a therapist who works for you, but I found it helpful to see a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioural therapy. And if you find you are still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for medication.

What advice can I give to people reading this who are not involved in animal rescue?

I ask that before you jump online to leave a rescue a one star review because you “never heard back from them”, or leave the director a threatening voice mail because we are full and have no foster home for the dog you are deciding to dump, take a step back. Think. And mostly, have compassion and empathy for those on the front lines of rescue. It’s not easy. And if you think it is, sign up and volunteer and see first hand what rescues deal with.

Muzzle Training and What You Need To Know.

When people see a dog wearing a muzzle, they automatically assume that dog is dangerous, aggressive and is on the same level as Hannibal Lector.

I’ve seen people automatically cross the street while they look over at the owner with shock and fear.

There is a stigma attached to muzzle training when in reality, there should be none, and I’m going to address how and why that’s important today.

So why would someone have their dog wear a muzzle?

The primary reason that people will use a muzzle for their dog is due to them being reactive in certain situations due to pain or becoming extremely stressed and scared.

Vet’s offices can be a place where many dogs feel extremely stressed and if your dog becomes reactive and aggressive while being examined at the vet, they will most often recommend using a muzzle to avoid bites from happening.

This will surprise a number of people reading this, but my dog, Max, has had to wear a muzzle at the vet. While many people think Max is sweet because he’s a smaller breed (Boston Terrier/French Bulldog), he does not like being handled at the vet and has tried to bite the vet examining him on a number of occasions because he’s scared. That doesn’t make him a bad dog or a dog that people should fear. Thankfully the last few times he’s gone in to the vet, there’s been no issue had has not become reactive or aggressive.


I know some people who have chosen to muzzle train their dog in order for their dog to avoid becoming reactive to dogs that run up and try and get in their face. Once again, this is not a sign of a bad dog. It’s an owner who is working on the best possible solution to deal with a fearful and reactive dog. That is a sign of a responsible dog owner.

In some areas, certain breeds are required by law to wear a muzzle in public (despite it being an open discrimination policy towards certain breeds such as pit bulls).

Isn’t is cruel to force your dog to wear a muzzle?

No, it’s not. It’s not the same as something like like a choke, prong or shock collar as it causes no physical pain to them to wear it. It’s keeping your dog safe and avoiding potentially bad situations. While it won’t solve behavioural problems (you will still need to find a qualified and force free trainer for that), it’s a positive step you can take in training your dog.

Yes, Max has had to wear one at the vet, but he was also rewarded with treats and praise for doing so. He actually calmed down after it was on. If I put one on him now, while he wouldn’t enjoy it, he’d be fine.

How do I get my dog to wear one?

The biggest thing with muzzle training (or any kind of training) is to make it positive and not about punishment.

The worst thing you can do is grab your dog and shove their face in it if they have never worn one. That will not invoke a positive reaction and will likely make an agitated and fearful dog even more so.

One of the best things you can do is use treats. Let your dog sniff the muzzle and then reward them with treats. Then try dropping treats into the muzzle and praise your dog if they put their face in the muzzle to get the treats. Do not strap on the muzzle right away the first time after going this though as that could create fear.

Once your dog has associated putting their face in the muzzle and being rewarded with treats, that is when you can start to secure the straps of the muzzle while still rewarding with treats and praise. Eventually, your dog will associate their muzzle with positive rewards such as treats and walks.

Muzzles are not to be used for things such as controlling barking (as that will not work), chewing, or a puppy that nips. Those are all behavioural and training issues that you need to address as a muzzle won’t prevent any of those things from continuously happening.

So then next time you see a dog wearing muzzle, there’s no need to judge or be fearful. If anything, be thankful the owner is being responsible and has taken the time to muzzle train their dog.