Dog Jaw Chattering and Dental Health

dog dental health photo
Dental care is more than just brushing.

Have you ever seen your dog’s jaw chatter? It might have happened for a split second when he was super excited for you to throw the ball, or maybe you’ve seen it and brushed it off as just a weird thing he does sometimes but didn’t think it was anything serious. I’m sharing this personal story in hope that it will help someone out there who is reading everything they can find on the internet about dog jaw chattering.

I’ve raised my little girl on home prepared and raw food. When she was younger, I gave her raw meaty bones and believed that was the best thing I could do for her dental health. Unfortunately, she broke a couple teeth chewing on the bones and had to have two root canals.

After the root canals, she could no longer have hard bones or traditional dental bones because the teeth are a lot more fragile after they’ve had work done.  Since then, I’ve brushed her teeth twice a day, every day for years.

Because my little one is older now and I like to stay as holistic as possible, I didn’t want my girl to go under general anesthesia. I had her teeth professionally cleaned one time after the root canals, which was three years ago. We go to the vet regularly, I brush her teeth daily without fail and she eats a pretty amazing diet.

Then one day, about a month ago, her jaw suddenly started chattering.

There are many things that could cause jaw chattering.  It could be that he’s just really excited or nervous about something or it could result from him getting into something toxic, oral eosinophilic plaque like Turk has in this video. It could also be neurological or dental related. Since our dogs can’t tell us exactly what’s going on, it’s up to us to find out a root cause by starting the process of elimination.

Before the jaw chattering started, my girl started to bite me during our tooth brushing sessions, but I just thought it was her strong personality.  Then one day she bit me really, really hard. I worried something was wrong with her teeth or her jaw, but then she seemed fine. She was eating and drinking normally and didn’t have bad breath. I just thought I had to desensitize on the tooth brushing and find a new routine for us. I even consulted with a trainer with a PhD in animal behavior to get some tips.

We visited with the vet as soon as possible and discussed if it could be an allergic reaction, dental pain or neurological. He examined her and watched videos I provided and said “let’s keep an eye on it for a few weeks and see if it goes away”.  He didn’t think it was dental related since he knows how good I’ve always been about brushing and she didn’t have any tartar or gingivitis that he could see and she didn’t have any bad odor coming from her mouth.

Two weeks passed and the jaw tremors (as I was calling them at the time) were still there. They’d even happen when she was sleeping. I was worried they might be focal motor seizures, arthritis in her TMJ or a pinched nerve in her neck. I was so scared and I read all I could find on the subject and kept a log of every time the jaw chatter took place, which was several times daily.  I took video after video in all types of scenarios, eating, sleeping, barking, yawning. I was determined to understand the root cause so I could fix it. Just accepting something as general aging, is not acceptable in my book.

As the days went by, the chattering seemed to diminish a little, but was still present and other neurological and pain symptoms were showing up, which confused me even more.

I ordered an allergy test to see a food sensitivity was the root cause. I had recently re-introduced grains to her diet, so I was worried perhaps that was the problem, but taking the grains away didn’t change anything.

We went to see our holistic vet who thought it was maybe her TMJ and then we went to a third vet for another opinion and that vet thought it was  back pain related.  We went to laser therapy, but right there in the therapy room, just after the session had completed, I gave her a soft treat and her jaw chattered.

Finally, we got into see a Canine Dental Specialist at a specialty hospital. She was the fourth vet we saw about this. She looked inside my little one’s mouth and didn’t see anything obvious, but said it was possible the jaw chattering was from dental pain. It wasn’t a common response, but she said it was possible. We had to wait a week to get in for x-rays to see if there was any evidence of periodontal disease and get treatment.

The morning of her dental procedure I dropped her off at the specialty hospital and waited in the car in the parking lot across the street. The dentist called me as soon as she had the radiographs and told me there was a tooth at the very back of my dog’s mouth that had pretty advanced periodontal disease. She removed the tooth and a few hours later, my little one was ready to go home.

I was told that even under general anesthesia, my little girl’s jaw chattered when they touched the infected tooth. She had bone loss from the periodontal disease and the tooth was very loose and was hitting a nerve.  We don’t know for sure if this was the cause of the problem, but so far we haven’t seen the chattering again, so all things are pointing to dental pain.

So even if you brush your dog’s teeth every single day, twice a day, even on vacation, and never ever miss, and your dog’s breath smells fresh and teeth appear to be clean and beautiful, your dog could still have periodontal disease. It’s a nasty thing because our dog’s mouths open to their bodies and with periodontal disease, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect vital organs. We can’t see what is going on below the gum line and it’s super hard to see those very back teeth. I pushed to find out the root cause of the jaw chattering.  It would have been very easy to just write it off as an aging tick.

Looking back at it now, it seems obvious that a dental issue was the cause, but it really wasn’t all that obvious at all. Our dentist even consulted with a canine neurologist on the topic.  I feel terrible that it took almost a month get to the root cause, but I’m so grateful that we finally got there. Today my little girl is doing great and her jaw chattering and pain have gone away.

 I hope our story inspires you to schedule a professional cleaning for your dog.  February is Dental Health Month, which is a month to bring awareness to the importance of not only your dog’s regular tooth brushing, but also x-rays and professional cleanings for your dog’s mouth.  Healthy smiles are happy smiles!!

 

Dog training, it’s not just for puppies!

dog trick photo
Now is always the right time to keep learning!

You’ve made it through puppy training, obedience and your dog might even have a few tricks down pat. Your dog might have even graduated at the top of his class, but sometimes over the years, bad habits slip back in.

It’s easy let things slide and not address the behavior issues that have developed. But bad habits often escalate into more bad habits and pretty soon they can get out of control. Sometimes, we even encourage the bad habits without realizing it, or we might know that we are encouraging bad habits, but don’t know another way to get the end result that we want.

For example, you might use luring with a treat to get your dog to do something you want.   But luring only gets you so far.  It’s not actually encouraging your dog to perform or offer something to you for a behavior, but rather you are manipulating him. He might go through the motions to get the treat, but what if you could train him to offer the behavior on his own and then he gets rewarded?  Wouldn’t that be better?  Think about it, would you rather be lured into something or rewarded?

Some bad behaviors need to be corrected with redirection.  Let’s say your dog developed a habit of scratching on something. Instead of punishing for the behavior, like a squirt from a water bottle, you can redirect and engage him in something like a new trick that you teach him, and then offer a reward after. Learning new tricks is fun for both of you!  Then you will have a new ‘go-to’ to pull from and not have to lure, but rather redirect the behavior to a fun new trick and then reward after.  You want to make sure plenty of time passes after redirecting so he knows he’s not getting a reward for the misappropriate behavior.  Doing a trick will help with that.

As both we and our dogs get older, and have spent lots of time and years together, it’s easy to get lazy and let routines develop that let behavior issues slide.  Your dog is never too old to get rewards for good behavior and you are never too old to learn how to direct him.  A training class or three or five can really help.  Private training could be just the answer for you.  Now is always the right time to keep learning!

Blueberry Pepita Quinoa Dog Cookies

dog cookie photo

If you are looking for a special dog cookie to bake, here’s one we both LOVE!!  It’s not sweet, but it’s delicious and it’s loaded with goodness!

3/4 c. quinoa flakes

1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. dried unsweetened blueberries

3 eggs

1/4 C. unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk

2 Tbsp melted coconut oil

1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix quinoa, flour, cinnamon and blueberries.  In a separate bowl, mix two of the eggs and coconut milk and melted coconut oil.  Add to the dried ingredients.  Knead briefly and roll out 1/4″ thick.  Cut out with cookie cutter and place on parchment paper lined cookie tray.  Brush with remaining egg and water mixed together.   Bake for 15 minutes.

Holiday Stress and your Dog

 

holiday dog photo

The holidays are a busy time of year at most households.  It can also be a bit stressful for both you and your dog. Usual routines get interrupted by more frequent comings and goings with holiday shopping, parties and festivities.  Cold, snowy days and shorter daylight hours might interrupt your usual walk routines and suddenly there is a big tree in the house that your dog isn’t supposed to touch.

As you are planning your family’s holiday activities, be aware that your dog might be feeling a little left out or stressed.  If you can, take time to do something special with your dog, even if it’s just making time to snuggle and give extra belly rubs.

If you are simply too busy to slow down with a full-time job, shopping, wrapping gifts, school concerts and so on, consider taking your dog to daycare.  Doggie daycare is perfect for days when you are running around like crazy and your dog is feeling neglected. Signs of your dog’s stress might manifest and him acting a bit sad and gloomy, excessive chewing or destroying things, when he’s never exhibited that behavior before, excessive barking or trying to get your attention or clinging super tight to you staying as close as he can as you move from one room to the next.

Be sure to also let your dog know how much you love him.  Nothing shows your love more than time spent together, so when time allows you to be focused on your special pooch, do something you will both cherish. Take a walk together to see the lights in your neighborhood, book a training class together that is essentially scheduled together time of working to understand each other, do some FitPAWS sessions together.

Each year together is a blessing and time is a fleeting thing.  We all get busy during this time of year that is about celebrating life, love and family.  Light a candle, take a breath and take in all that you love.

From my heart to yours, may you and all creatures great and small, have a joyous holiday season.

Thanksgiving with your Dog

Thanksgiving Dog Image

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday to bring family and friends together. With a little planning, your fur baby can enjoy the celebration too.

If you are cooking a plain turkey at home, there’s no reason your dog can’t enjoy a little of the meat along with you! In Chinese Medicine, turkey is a neutral to cool food, which is especially great for older dogs or those who have a Yin deficiency.

To make sure your dog does not suffer from intestinal upset, be sure you bake your turkey without lathering on all of the butter, oil and seasonings.  That’s where some problems could begin.  If you do season your bird keep it simple and don’t feed the skin to your dog.  The fat content of the skin could lead to pancreatitis and seasonings could possibly irritate your dog’s digestive system.

Sitting around the table, make sure that no one slips your dog a cooked turkey bone. Poultry bones become very brittle when cooked and are small in size, which spells disaster for your dog who could suffer from an obstruction, choking, bone fragments piercing the lining of the stomach or intestines, constipation, rectal bleeding or a blockage that requires emergency surgery.  Scary stuff!!  So never feed cooked poultry bones!!

You’ll also want to bypass the stuffing when sharing your turkey with your dog.  Stuffing often includes onions which are toxic and that means onion powder too.

Green bean casserole wouldn’t be a good choice for your dog, but chopped up steamed green beans would be great!  A little plain baked sweet potato, not the yams covered in butter and marshmallows are another great addition to your dog’s thanksgiving plate.  When cooking cranberries, you could always cook just a little tiny bit in plain water minus the sugar to let your dog have a teaspoon with dinner.

When it comes time for pie, your dog could enjoy a tablespoon of plain baked pumpkin without all the spices.

If you prefer to give your dog a canned food, Merrick has a recipe called Thanksgiving Day Dinner. It has turkey, sweet potato, carrots, apples and green beans.

Not everyone is able to bring their dog along if going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving and that usually means several hours of your dog being home alone.  Make sure you do something nice together before you have to leave the house.  Take a longer walk than you usually do together, play a little extra ball… do something out of the ordinary that makes the day special.

Most importantly take the time to give thanks for your wonderful companion and the life you share together. Pets are family and the holidays are for us to share together.  Just keep plan ahead and keep them safe.  You’ll have a wonderful memory to cherish always.

Halloween Ideas for You and Your Dog

Dog-O-Lantern photo
Halloween Dog-O-Lantern Fun!

Everyone loves seeing their dog all dressed up in a cute Halloween costume.  There are so many adorable costumes out there, who can resist taking photos and sharing them on Instagram and Facebook.

If you are looking for a few more ideas to celebrate Halloween with your dog, here are a few additional ideas to try:

 

Carve Breed Specific Jack-O-Lanterns using a doggie face stencil.  Better Homes and Gardens has some adorable stencils you can download for free.   There are lots of breeds to choose from or if you are skilled at drawing,  try your hand at making your own.

Keep it pet-safe and use a mini LED light inside instead of a candle inside.

Bake Pumpkin Dog Treats for your pooch and his friends. Here’s a recipe combining the goodness of pumpkin, oats and coconut that we love!

Ingredients:

1 ½ c    rolled oats

¼ c       unsweetened all-natural coconut chips (not the sweetened shredded kind with nothing added)

¼  c      creamy peanut butter (make sure it does not contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs and is found in sugar free items.  Some good brands to choose are Earth Balance, Simple Truth, MaraNatha)

½ c       pumpkin puree (fresh or canned, but make sure nothing is added)

½ tsp   cinnamon

½ tsp    baking powder

1             egg

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line cookie sheet with wax paper.

Combine oat and coconut in mini food processor. Pulse for 30-45 seconds then place in a bowl

Add cinnamon and baking powder to the oat and coconut mixture

Mix together the peanut butter, pumpkin puree and egg and add to the dry ingredients.

Roll out ½ inch thick.

Cut with cookie cutters.  Bones, pumpkins or leaf shapes are fun to use.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

 

Make matching DIY Witch Hats for you and your dog.  All you need are a few pieces of black felt, some festive embellishments and a glue gun.  DIY Network has a pattern to get you started.  Decorate it to your liking to make it your own.  A little corded black elastic works great to keep the hat in place.

Acupressure for Your Dog

 

Paw Pod Photo
FitPAWS Paw Pods provide passive stimulation to acupressure points between your dog’s digits.

Acupressure is one of the most ancient healing arts.  Like acupuncture, which is uses the same pressure points, it is based in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  The primary difference is that acupuncture uses needles to activate the points. There is evidence that shows veterinary acupressure has been used since 2000-3000 BC. In ancient times, eastern cultures would use this art not only on themselves, but also on their animals.

Acupressure increases circulation, releases muscle tension and improves the flow of energy or qi. This form of therapy which brings energy and blood to an area, can be used to alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and injuries, it can reduce anxiety, motion sickness and nausea, and can even help with behavior disorders.

The Bladder Meridian is a great place to get start if you want to provide overall wellness for your dog. It begins at the inner corner of each eye, over the head and then breaks into two lines along both sides of the spine and runs down the back to the tail and down the back of the hind legs. There are many association points along this meridian that provide qi to all of the body’s organs.

To stimulate the Bladder Meridian, get your dog into a relaxed position on the floor alongside of you. Start at the base of the neck, using your palm if you have a large dog, and fingers if you have a small dog.  Press gently but and with healing intention as you follow the line down to the tail.  Do not massage across the spine itself, which can be painful, but to each side of it. One side at time. Skim over any raised or inflamed areas very lightly.  Press gently into any depressions or hollows you feel for a few seconds.  If your dog is not interested in the massage, don’t push him and save it for another day when he is more receptive.

Another easy way to active pressure points is with FitPAWS Paw Pods. There are acupoints located along the side of the base of the nail bed on the various digits. Paw Pods gently press against these areas when your dog is standing on them. It’s a great way to incorporate a little acupressure wellness with training and balance improvement exercise.

If your dog has a serious imbalance of any kind and you want to try alternative therapies, find a holistic veterinarian or certified therapist who is trained to identify the correct points to bring your dog into balance and restored health.

What is TTouch?

TTouch, or Tellington Touch, is a bodywork method designed by Linda Tellington-Jones.  It was first designed for bodywork on horses and then later discovered to be helpful to small animals and people.

TTouch is a method of making circular movements on the body, generally in a clockwise manner with light touch.  The circles awaken the cells, likened to turning lights on, and help your dog with healing and behavior.  Because each circle is complete within itself, there is no need to understand anatomy and even a few minutes a day can help your dog immensely.

The basic method is to make a circle starting at the 6pm position and go around one and a quarter times, to 9pm and then to slide your hand to the next position running down the back of your dog to the sides of his spine.  Keep your opposite hand on your dog and alternate from side to side until you get to the base of the tail and then run your hand along his tail to the very tip. The circles help your dog to relax, help speed along healing, build body self-awareness and confidence and help deepen your bond with your dog.

There are many different hand positions and movements with names like Clouded Leopard, Lick of the Cow’s Tongue and Snail’s Tail, amongst others.  The names were chosen to help make learning fun and easy to remember.

There is also an ear work technique, called Ear TTouch, which is particularly helpful in the case of an emergency and can help you keep your dog from going into shock.  There are many acupressure points at the base of the ear that help with relaxation, digestion and overcoming car sickness.

If you are interested in learning TTouch, there are many books and videos on the subject or you can even take a certification class.  At the very least, be sure to watch a few videos and learn the basics.  It can make a world of difference for your dog.

What is Integrative Veterinary Care?

 

holistic dog care book image
Integrative care for your dog is a whole-body approach.

Integrative holistic veterinary care is a whole-body approach that incorporates both western and eastern modalities.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, massage, herbs and nutrition.  There are also alternative therapies such as cold laser, homeopathy, flower remedies, essential oils, Tellington Touch (TTouch) and water therapy that your dog can benefit greatly from.

Since we are all about preventative care and holistic healing, Tashi and I work together with our holistic veterinarian to create a whole-body approach for optimal health.  We use all of the methods that are briefly described here as part of our integrative therapy.

Acupuncture and Acupressure have been used for centuries.  Whether using traditional needles, laser acupuncture or pressure points, the goal is to get energy moving and restore the body.  Blockage of any type is where pain and disease start. There are specific energy channels, or meridians, where energy flows throughout the body.  Acupuncture or Acupressure is applied in specific areas depending on what is going on in the body.

Chiropractic is also about clearing blockages, but the focus is on the spine and how it affects the nervous system.  Every organ in our body is regulated by the nervous system, the same is true for your pet. The spine is protected by vertebrae which are connected by muscles and ligaments. If the muscles or ligaments are tight, the spine is not able to move as it should and vice versa.

Massage works on the soft tissues of the body, which works hand in hand with chiropractic.  Massage increases the flow of nutrients to the muscles and aids the body in getting rid of toxins.  It also reduces inflammation, and stimulates circulation.

Laser Therapy, also called low-level laser, cold laser therapy and Class IV laser, uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation.  It’s done on the surface of the skin and there is no need to shave the fur.  Hot laser on the other hand, is has a higher risk of cuts or burn due to the intensity of the light.  Cold laser is what is typically done on dogs and cats.

Herbs, the root of medicine, when given properly, can do wonders for your pet, for treating and preventing disease, without the use of synthetic drugs.

Homeopathy was developed in the 1700’s in Germany.  It’s a medical system with the basic belief that “like cures like”.  It claims a substance that causes the symptoms of disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. Homeopathy comes in various forms such as sugar pellets, liquid drops, creams, gels and tablets.

Tellington Touch (TTouch), created by Linda Tellington-Jones, is a technique to help your dog’s physical and emotional health.  It can help with behavior problems, pain, circulation and the clearing of energy flow.

Water Therapy includes swimming, treadmills and underwater massage, all wonderful ways to help your dog with muscle tone, pain management and relaxation.

 

FitPAWS Paw Pods

FitPAWS Paw Pods

 

We recently got some FitPAWS Paw Pods.  They are great for balance,  neural stimulation and building core strength.  Your dog can stand on either the dome side or for a bigger challenge, he can stand on the flat side.  They in a pack of 4 and can be used individually or together.  We are just starting out with them, so the first thing we did was get used to touching them with right and left front paws.  Then we moved up to standing on them, one paw at a time, then both at the same time.  Our goal is all four paws on four different paw pods.  I’ll post an update as we get there!  It’s a lot of fun working together on the training too!

Read more about FitPAWS in our blog post here.