Frequently Asked Questions for Veterinarians in Meridian

How often should my pet have an exam?

River City Veterinary Hospital recommends yearly wellness visits for young, healthy pets. Older pets, or those with chronic health conditions should be seen more frequently – at least every 6 months. Puppies and kittens need to be seen more frequently during their first year of life to complete their vaccine booster schedule. At your pet’s annual/biannual appointment, your veterinarian will do a nose-to-tail exam, as well as make lifestyle and age-appropriate recommendations for vaccines and lab work.

Why does my pet need a dental cleaning?

Professional teeth cleaning is essential for your pet's oral health and overall well-being. Just like humans, dogs and cats can suffer from dental problems, and regular dental care is crucial to prevent and address these issues. Here are some reasons why your pet should have regular, professional teeth cleanings:

  • Prevention of dental diseases: Professional cleaning helps prevent dental diseases such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, and tooth decay. These conditions can be painful for your pet and may lead to more severe health issues if left untreated.
  • Plaque and tartar removal: Over time, plaque and tartar can build up on your pet's teeth, leading to bad breath, discoloration, and irritation of the gums. Professional cleaning removes this buildup, improving your animal's oral hygiene.
  • Early detection of dental issues: During a professional cleaning, a veterinarian can identify potential dental problems like fractured teeth, abscesses, or tumors that may otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Preventing tooth loss: Dental diseases can cause tooth loss in dogs and cats, affecting their ability to eat and leading to discomfort. Regular cleanings can help preserve their teeth and extend their oral health.
  • Pain relief: Pets may experience pain and discomfort due to dental issues. A cleaning can provide relief and improve their quality of life.
  • Reduced risk of systemic health problems: Poor oral health can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream, potentially affecting vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys. By maintaining good dental hygiene, you can reduce the risk of systemic health issues.
  • Maintaining overall health: A healthy mouth contributes to your pet's overall health and longevity. Proper dental care can enhance their immune system and overall well-being.
  • Preventing expensive treatments: Regular professional cleanings can help prevent the need for more costly dental procedures in the future.

Remember that regular home dental care, such as brushing your dog's teeth and providing dental treats or toys, is also essential to supplement professional cleanings. Your veterinarian can guide you on the best practices for maintaining your dog's oral hygiene and recommend an appropriate schedule for professional dental cleanings based on your dog's individual needs.

What happens during my pet’s dental cleaning?

During your pet's dental cleaning, the veterinarian and their team will perform a thorough oral examination and a series of dental procedures to ensure your pet’s teeth and gums are in good health. 
Here's what typically happens during a dental cleaning:

  • Pre-anesthetic Examination: Before the dental cleaning, the veterinarian will examine your pet to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. This may involve additional blood tests and other evaluations to assess your pet's overall health.
  • Anesthesia: Dental cleanings for dogs and cats require general anesthesia. Anesthesia is necessary to keep your pet calm, pain-free, and immobile during the procedure, as well as to ensure the safety of both the animals and the veterinary team.
  • Monitoring: While under anesthesia, your pet's vital signs, such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, will be closely monitored by a highly trained veterinary nurse.
  • Dental Radiographs: Before the cleaning begins, we will take full mouth X-rays. These X-rays are essential because they allow the veterinarian to see what's happening beneath the gum line and inside the teeth. Dental X-rays help detect issues that might not be visible during a regular examination, such as fractured or cracked teeth, tooth root abscesses, retained baby teeth, and bone loss.
  • Dental Charting: During the cleaning process, the team will document the condition of each tooth, notating the presence of plaque, tartar, gingival recession, mobility, or any other dental conditions observed. This information helps in tracking the progression of dental disease and monitoring the outcome of dental treatments.
  • Scaling: The first step of the dental cleaning is scaling, during which a nurse will use a variety of specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from your pet's teeth, as well as from under the gum line where bacteria can accumulate.
  • Polishing: After scaling, the team will polish your pet's teeth to smooth the surfaces and remove any remaining plaque. Polishing helps to discourage plaque from adhering to the teeth again.
  • Examination of Teeth and Gums: The veterinarian will carefully examine each tooth and the surrounding gum tissue for signs of dental disease, fractures, or any other issues that may require further attention.
  • Extractions (if necessary): If your pet has severely damaged or diseased teeth that cannot be saved, the veterinarian may need to extract the affected teeth to prevent further pain, complications, and disease.
  • Recovery: Once your pet has fully recovered from anesthesia, we will contact you to schedule a discharge appointment. During this time, they may still be a bit groggy, so it's essential to provide a quiet and safe space for them to rest.
  • Home Care Instructions: The veterinary team will provide you with instructions on how to care for your pet's teeth at home, including dental hygiene practices and the use of dental products that can help maintain oral health.

Regular dental cleanings, along with consistent home dental care, can significantly improve your pet's oral health and overall well-being. It's essential to follow your veterinarian's recommendations to keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy throughout their life

I noticed a change in my pet’s behavior. Should I see a veterinarian?

Pets cannot tell us how they feel and are able to hide their pain from us (especially cats). Changes in behavior such as appetite change, lethargy, energy level, aggressiveness, inappropriate elimination, and vocalization (barking/meowing) can be symptoms of behavior or health issues. Contact our vet hospital for an exam appointment right away.

What should I do if I notice fleas or ticks on my pet?

Isolate your pet from other animals and small children to prevent the spread of the parasite to them. Bring your pet to our vet clinic for thorough testing for parasites. Parasites can most often be easily treated, but parasite preventative measures are best for your pet and your wallet. We have safe and effective parasite prevention products available.

At what age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?

River City Veterinary Hospital recommends waiting until your pet is at least 6 months of age before seeking a spay or neuter procedure. Contact us to discuss specific details based on species, breed, and size. Spaying/neutering has health and behavioral benefits to your pet and of course, helps prevent overpopulation.

Is it a good idea to let my pet have at least one litter?

No, there is no advantage to letting your pet have one litter. However, there are plenty of advantages to having your pet spayed or neutered. These advantages include decreasing the chances of breast tumors later in life, decreasing the chance of cystic ovaries and uterine infections later in life, decreasing the desire to roam the neighborhood, decreasing the incidence of prostate disease later in life, helping prevent spraying and marking, and also decreases the surplus of unwanted puppies and kittens.

What are heartworms? How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworms?

One infected mosquito is all it takes to infect your dog with the baby form (larval stage) of the heartworm parasite.

Heartworms are a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. Twelve-inch-long worms (looks like spaghetti) live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets, causing lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and can be fatal if untreated.

How does my pet get heartworms? Heartworms living in an infected dog, cat, or wildlife produce baby worms that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up these worms and when it bites another animal, the worms enter through the bite wound. Heartworms can grow and live for 5 - 7 years in dogs and 3 years in cats.

What can I do to protect my pet? Heartworm disease is preventable! Dogs should be tested annually and before starting prevention. Provide heartworm prevention 12 months of the year. Prevention is the safest and most cost-effective option, but treatment is available for dogs (although costly and lengthy). Cats should be tested before starting prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate. There is NO treatment in cats, so prevention is critical and the only means of protection.

River City Veterinary Hospital has safe, effective products available that cater to you and your pet's lifestyle and your budget. Heartworm prevention should be provided 12 months of the year.