National Pet Dental Health Month

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

(We’re so excited about it that we are starting in January!)

Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.


During the months of February and March we are offering a $50.00 discount on all dental procedures for your pets.

Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

Grain Free Diets and the increased incidence of Dilative Cardiomyopathy in Dogs:

While Dilative Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a known problem for certain dog breeds, researchers are finding a correlation between feeding grain free diets and developing DCM in other breeds not predisposed to the condition.  DCM is a disease causing the heart to lose its strength and no longer be able to sufficiently pump blood to the rest of the body. The numbers afflicted aren’t huge relative to the dog population in the country but nevertheless we recommend most people move away from any of the foods the FDA has found to be most commonly associated with developing DCM and instead feeding a conventional dog food with grain.  This is far simpler and less expensive than trying to obtain a dog’s taurine level (which might be involved in the development of the condition) or supplementing taurine which may help but not with certainty.  It may be that something in these grain free foods makes taurine biologically unavailable. 

Below is a chart released by the FDA of the dog food brands most frequently fed in DCM cases reported to them:


The only dogs we really recommend go to a grain free diet are those which we are actually trying to see if there is a food allergy and moving the dog to a novel protein such as rabbit or venison along with an unconventional carbohydrate source like peas or potatoes.  This wouldn’t apply to most of our dogs.  Some pet stores have promoted grain free diets as inherently better than those with grain even though there is no evidence to support this.  

We also recommend feeding dog foods from larger companies with recognizable names that are known to have a history of research and feeding success over many years.  Examples of these are Iams, Purina, and Pedigree, among others. This recommendation is consistent with advice from Dr. Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University, who advises owners reconsider feeding boutique brands, exotic ingredients, and grain free ingredients or what she calls BEG diets.  

Please feel free to ask us any questions about cardiomyopathy, feeding recommendations, or anything else you’d like to discuss!

Maple Leaf Veterinary Care Center Team

Foxtails – What are they and why should you be concerned?

Foxtail plants can be risky for your dog. The barbed seed heads of the foxtail plant can work their way into any part of your dog or cat, from the nose to between the toes and inside the ears, eyes and mouth. They can even simply dig themselves directly into a patch of skin.

The foxtail plant is a grass-like weed. It is mostly found in the Western half of the U.S.

The danger of foxtails goes beyond simple irritation. Because these tough seeds don’t break down inside the body, an embedded foxtail can lead to serious infection for your dog. It can even lead to death if left untreated. The seeds can be hard to find in your dog’s fur.

So how can you tell if your pooch has a foxtail that’s causing problems? If you find a foxtail should you extract it? And when is it time to call a vet?

Foxtails and Your Dog: Risks and Symptoms

Foxtails travel. Moving relentlessly forward, never back, they can migrate from inside your dog’s nose to its brain. They can dig through skin or be inhaled into — and then perforate — a lung.

Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, and death. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, check for foxtails or talk to your vet:

  • Feet. Foxtails love your dog’s feet and can easily become embedded between tender toes. Check for foxtails if you notice swelling or limping or if your dog is constantly licking the area.
  • Ears. If your pooch is shaking his head, tilting it to the side, or scratching incessantly at an ear, this could be the sign of a foxtail — one that may be so deep inside the ear canal you can’t see it. Your veterinarian needs to take a look using a special scope.
  • Eyes. Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting, and pawing all may be signs your dog has a foxtail lodged in its eye. If you think this may be the case, seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Nose. If you see discharge from the nose, or if your dog is sneezing frequently and intensely, there may be a foxtail lodged in a nasal passage.
  • Genitals. Foxtails can find their way into these areas, too. So if you notice your dog persistently licking at its genitals, foxtails could be the cause.

Tips for Preventing Foxtail Problems

Any dog can get foxtails in the ears, nose, eyes, or mouth. But dogs with long ears and curly hair can be especially prone to foxtail problems. Prevent issues by:

  • Examining your pet’s coat during foxtail season — generally May through December — especially if you’ve gone walking in open fields. Brush your dog as necessary, looking especially closely for pointy foxtail awns in your dog’s thick or feathery fur.
  • Check your pup’s face and ears carefully for foxtails. Don’t forget to look in and around your pooch’s mouth and gums.
  • Carefully check your dog’s paw pads for foxtails — especially between the toes.
  • Use tweezers to remove any foxtails you can easily get to. But if a foxtail is deeply embedded, or if the area around it is red or swollen, call your veterinarian right away. Remember, foxtails won’t come out on their own, and they can burrow into the brain, spine, eardrums, lungs — actually, anywhere.

The easiest way to prevent foxtail problems is to keep your dog out of overgrown, grassy areas. You should also pull out any foxtail plants you find in your yard. Also consider trimming your dog’s fur during foxtail season, especially if it tends to persistently get foxtails in one spot.

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on 2/, 015