Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month?


Well, it’s very timely because we just had a little “situation” with Ninja, resulting in some major dental work.


In the past, our veterinarian was able to scale my dogs’ teeth to do a cleaning. But the veterinary laws changed, and they are no longer able to do cleanings this way. This is a problem because I decided that I didn’t want my dogs to go under general anesthesia to have their teeth cleaned.


What to do?


A few years ago I did try an anesthesia-free vet who couldn’t work with Ninja.  Ninja has no interest in people putting their hands in his mouth and he is super strong, so that didn’t work. The reason why it worked at the general vet is that she could do one tooth at a time, go see another patient, come back and do another tooth until it was all done.


Every time he would go to the general vet for a visit she would say- his teeth could use some attention and I’d say, “yeah, I know, I need to do something about that.” And I never did.


Unfortunately, he seemed to be uncomfortable for a few weeks this winter, biting at his body. But I just thought it was fleas or allergies (even though he’s on flea treatment). I didn’t think it was pain.


One Sunday morning in January I noticed a lump on his snout. By the middle of the day his whole face was swollen and all of the veterinary ER’s were full. Early Monday morning we went to the ER vet who decided that he was having an allergic reaction to something. However, I had researched online, and abscessed tooth appeared as a possible cause.  I asked the vet if that could be what it was, but the ER vet said “no, since he’s eating, it’s not.”


He gave him some cortisone and Benadryl, and the swelling improved for a few days, but never fully disappeared. I called the regular vet who was busy and asked me to send a photo. From the photo she said- yes, it looks like an abscessed tooth. Bring him in for me to double check. Sure enough, he had at least one abscessed tooth. She put him on antibiotics immediately and scheduled him for oral surgery a few weeks out.


On surgery day he went in and she took x-rays and found he had multiple abscesses and various other dental issues and had to have 7 teeth extracted. And of course, this was all under general anesthesia. Fortunately, he did very well, especially given that he’s 11 years old. Oh, and it cost us thousands of dollars. I’m still waiting to see if insurance will reimburse us…


The recovery took about a week but now he seems much happier.  Going forward, to prevent this from happening again, she gave me a list of dental chews and products to try. A friend gave me a sample of an enzyme that you rub on their gums and our dogs now get daily chews too.


Hopefully this will all work well, and this won’t happen again! I’ll report back in a few months once he sees the veterinarian for his next checkup and let you know if the enzyme and chews are keeping his mouth clean.


In the meantime, take your pet to the vet and have their teeth checked. Here’s an article from the American Veterinary Medical Association with more information to support you until then.


This week is Have a Heart for Chained Dogs week and it ends on Sunday February 14th- Valentines day. The organization Dogs Deserve Better has been championing chained dogs for years and they do it with love. They send valentines each year to people who chain their dogs.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart as my dog, Ninja was chained for the first year of his life. For some reason, the group that rescued him out of the backyard where he first lived, sent me video of him on a chain. It was a small dirt lot, and he could run only up and down the length of the lot. In the video you could see the people open up the door and throw some kibble out into his bowl.

I’m not sure how this rescue group found out about him, or why the family agreed to give him up, or if they ended up with more dogs after that. But I do know that no dog deserves to live that way. (After he was rescued from there, he was in the shelter for 3 months, but black pit bull mixes don’t get easily adopted from the shelter. Then he was in a foster home, but the foster’s dog didn’t like him so then he went to a boarding facility for three months. All told, his first two years were chained, in a shelter and then bouncing around.)

It’s remarkable that his disposition is as sweet as it is. Dogs are so forgiving. But they should never be in that position in the first place. I know that there can be cultural issues involved. And that many people have dogs as guard dogs, rather than as companion pets. It’s time to change that. If we choose to have a dog, they should be a part of our family, treated with respect and dignity. They are not an alarm system. They are sentient beings with needs and wants and it is our duty as the beings who domesticated them to honor their true nature.

The very first thing that I ask in my book, What to Expect When Adopting a Dog is whether you are ready for the responsibility of being the guardian to a sentient being. If the answer is: I’m getting a dog for protection, then please reconsider. If the answer is, I’m ready to have an amazing relationship with a dog, then great! Let’s get a dog and invite him or her to be a part of our family.


I attended an online conference with Animal Place, a farm animal sanctuary a while ago. The intention of the conference was to share about the future of the farmed animal movement.

While many of us are more familiar with companion animal rescue, fewer people have been exposed to farm animal sanctuaries and there are more and more popping up all the time.

My friend Corinne took her son to a local sanctuary last week, and they got to experience farm animals up close. I’ve been to one in Southern CA called Gentle Barn a few times. And of course, during my time in India, the sanctuary where I volunteered has many different types of farm animals to get up close and personal with.

These encounters open our eyes and hearts to other sentient beings and enable us to see them as individuals. (Yes, I eat a plant-based diet and attempt to live a vegan lifestyle. I am aware that that isn’t the case for most people. If you would like to discuss it with me, please reach out. I welcome the conversation.)

Watch the Animal Magic Films 
Mini Documentary series