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1) Is there a holistic approach to treating/preventing “fatty tumors” (usually benign) in dogs?

Lipomas are masses formed of adipose (fat) tissue, found very commonly in middle-aged to older dogs. They are usually benign (meaning they do not spread elsewhere in the body) and so we often only advise surgical removal if they are likely to become particularly large or affect the dog’s movement. They can be diagnosed by a simple needle-sample when you visit the practice.

The major factor in the development of lipomas is body mass – i.e. lipomas are much more common in overweight dogs. Switching to a lower-fat diet, and generally trying to keep your dog fit and lean, may help. We can help you along the way with tips, diet suggestions and regular weight monitoring.

You may have heard about other therapies, including herbal remedies and homeopathy, however there is much debate as to how effective they are – if interested you would need to consult a qualified veterinarian who specializes in alternative medicine.

2) Do the dental chews sold at pet stores really help?

Sometimes! The idea behind most dental treats is to encourage prolonged chewing in order to cause mechanical removal of tartar from the teeth. Unfortunately, some chews can be swallowed and get dangerously lodged in the intestines. They can also be too soft (ineffective) or too hard (so they cause damage to the enamel) or just very high in calories. The majority of us do use dental chews in our own dogs, but only in moderation. Look for veterinary-approved products if possible: (http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm). Home tooth-brushing (if you can manage it!) is particularly great for reducing daily plaque build-up.

Remember, just like with our own teeth, nothing replaces the need for annual dental check-ups and prophylactic cleaning (under anesthetic). At Dexter Animal Clinic, our dental prices include full-mouth x-rays, and a full assessment including probing and scoring of any periodontal pockets, gingivitis or other disease. We use local anesthetic blocks for any extractions, as well as systemic painkillers, so your pet is kept pain-free. After the procedure, we will discuss with you any disease we have found and you will receive a full report including images of the x-rays and before- and after- photos.

3) If my pet is starting to show signs of arthritis, should we exercise more or less?

The best exercise regimes for older dogs center around regularity. I.e. short, regular walks multiple times every day. A dog is more likely to get sore after doing little exercise all week and then a 2-hour hike at the weekend. It may also help to provide ramps for going up and down stairs and assisting dogs on and off of furniture.

In arthritis, dogs may have acute inflammatory flare-ups (needing a short period of rest) or longer periods of stiffness (which may benefit from hydrotherapy or physiotherapy) – the important thing is to take your pet to the veterinarian so we can determine the cause of discomfort and the best treatment course.

A note on non-dogs – cats and other pets get arthritis too! Cats (and rabbits, and all pocket pets) tend to hide pain much more than dogs, and so you may not see limping but could notice your pet being quiet, lying down more than usual, or being less interested in food. It is important to continue with regular wellness checks with all elderly pets so we can help you pick up signs of disease (including arthritis) early.