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My Pet World: Oral hygiene options for your dog and cat

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My dog is six and a half years old and had to have her teeth cleaned about a year ago. Since then, I had started brushing her teeth almost every day, as the vet suggested. Now she will not let me get near her mouth to brush her teeth. She doesn't growl or try to bite, but has clearly grown tired of me brushing them. Are there other options out there to insure her teeth are being cleaned without having to brush them? -- Jennifer, Mineola, NY

Dear Jennifer,

While brushing your dog's teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste made just for dogs is the number one way to maintain good oral hygiene, there are other oral hygiene options available to keep her mouth healthy and clean.

There are dental sprays, wipes and gels that you can apply to her teeth to reduce plaque and act as a preventative. There are dental toys with ridges that act like floss and massage gums; daily dental treats in the form of oral hygiene chews or dental sticks; and even additives you can add to her water bowl. There is even dental pet food she can eat that will help reduce plaque build-up. (Many of these same products are available for cats too.)

Try using a finger brush or gauze wrapped around your finger instead of a toothbrush to see if that is more acceptable to her. Your dog's sudden dislike of the toothbrush may also be related to a sensitive tooth or gum issue, so rule that out with your veterinarian as well.

Dear Cathy,

I just wanted you to be aware of a danger concerning cats swallowing sewing thread. A friend took her cat to the veterinarian because she was afraid the cat had swallowed a needle. X-rays showed no needle, so the cat was sent home. The next day, the cat was much sicker. Emergency surgery revealed the cat swallowed sewing thread, which required the removal of 18 inches of intestine. The cat now has chronic diarrhea and must eat special food. Even though they missed the proper diagnosis, the vet charged my friend $10,000 for the treatment and surgery. It seems that threads act like a knife, so be careful what your cat swallows. Plants are not the only thing that can be harmful to your cats. -- Nancy, Shoreham, New York

Dear Nancy,

I can personally attest to your cautionary tale about sewing thread. I had a cat who once ate thread from a spool of thread on a sewing machine. I was only away from the machine for two minutes, but it was long enough for him to swallow enough thread to require emergency surgery. Sewing thread can cut like a knife, as you say, and injure organs, so a word to all cat parents: don't leave sewing threat anywhere where your cat can get to it.

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Dear Cathy,

You recently wrote a column about felines forming strong bonds, and it reminded me of my two cats. They were sisters, just weeks old when I acquired them. After 16 years, one died, and the other one searched every corner of my apartment for more than six months. The situation was very sad. The other cat died the following year.

Now comes the part of the story, I don't generally tell anyone because they wouldn't understand. I wanted to bury that cat with dignity and choose a beautiful spot in my parents' suburban rose garden. But the cat died in winter. When I lived in upstate New York, people who died in the winter would be "stored" until the spring thaws. Without telling my parents, I "stored" my beloved cat in the bottom of their chest freezer in a container marked with my name. They never excavated their chest freezer and never knew. In the spring, when they were away for the weekend, I successfully buried my cat in their rose garden. --Jan, Wheaton, IL

Dear Jan,

It's not uncommon for bonded pets to experience grief when another pet dies, and clearly your two cats had a very strong bond. All you can do is love your pets when this happens in the hopes of helping them cope with their grief.

As for your cat's burial, I completely understand. During especially cold winters, it can be difficult to bury a pet in the ground until spring. I am glad you found a solution that allowed you to provide the rose garden burial you wanted for your feline.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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