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Dr. Matthew Kearns

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

We recently had a dog present to our clinic for weight loss and decreased appetite. Initially, the owners were suspicious that a change in diet was the culprit. However, as the situation progressed in a negative direction, the owners consented to blood work and it was discovered that the dog’s kidneys were functioning very poorly. Even after referring this patient to a specialty hospital, her condition worsened. She was dead within less than two weeks of a diagnosis of Lyme nephritis.  

Nephritis is defined as inflammation of the kidneys. Lyme nephritis is an uncommon manifestation of the infection with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme arthritis, or swelling of the joints, is the most common manifestation of disease). What makes Lyme nephritis so dangerous is that it is not only the infection that triggers this condition but also the immune system’s response to the infection. It is the development of an antigen-antibody complex that triggers inflammation in the kidneys and, ultimately, the destruction of the organ.

Antigens are foreign proteins that trigger a response by the body’s immune system. Most antigens are viruses, bacteria, abnormal cells, etc. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to antigens. Antibodies identify and tag antigens which signal white blood cells to destroy these foreign invaders. Usually this process just clears the infection or destroys abnormal cells before they can become tumors or cancers. Sometimes the antigen and antibody combine to form a single unit called an antigen-antibody complex. These complexes circulate throughout the bloodstream until they lodge in the body’s tissue (in this case the kidney). Once the antigen-antibody complex deposits in tissues it triggers an inflammatory response that damages the tissue itself. 

Lyme nephritis is especially dangerous because the inflammation secondary to these complexes continues even after the infection is cleared and leads to a condition called a protein losing nephropathy. A protein losing nephropathy leads to protein loss, as well as progressive destruction of the kidneys until they shut down completely (as with what happened to our patient). There is no such thing as kidney transplants in dogs at this time and dialysis is both expensive and limited as to which clinics can provide this service. 

The best defense to this condition is to vaccinate against Lyme disease before an infection occurs. It is usually a series of two vaccines and then once annually. Remember that this vaccine is only effective if given annually so don’t skip.  

In summary, if you live in an area where tick exposure is at higher risk, or you have found ticks on your dog (even if they’ve tested negative in the past), I would recommend a serious conversation about vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

Canine heart disease is prevalent in larger dogs like golden retrievers. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

I recently had a pet owner come in and ask me what I knew about the list of FDA-banned diets for dogs. I felt I’d better not be behind the times, so time to do some research.

I took a quick trip to the FDA’s website and found the article to which all the hub-bub was linked. What I found was that the FDA did not ban any diets but did list 16 brands of dog food that were linked to 500 cases of a heart condition called dilatory cardiomyopathy, or DCM for short. The study ran from 2014 to 2019. I will not list the 16 diets, but they can be found on the FDA’s official website in the report.

I need to start with a disclaimer that there is no current evidence to link grain-free diets and heart disease, but here’s what we know so far: New studies have found that some dogs on grain-free diets are more at risk for canine DCM.

DCM is a heart condition where the heart muscle becomes thin and the heart dilates, or the chambers of the heart expand. Unfortunately, as the heart dilates, the heart becomes an inefficient pump and the patient goes into heart failure. The lung and abdomen then fill with fluid, making it impossible to breathe and, without treatment, is fatal. Even with treatment the patient’s life span is reduced dramatically.

Why would grain-free diets cause this? The link seems to be taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid, or building block of protein, that is essential for normal heart function. It is found in higher concentrations in muscle of animals including red meats, poultry and seafood. Plants contain very little to no taurine. The lowest concentrations of taurine are found in legumes (peas, chick peas), potatoes and other plants. Some dog foods are supplemented with taurine and some are not.

In 2018, A study led by Dr. Joshua Stern (a veterinary cardiologist at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine) found a higher number of DCM in golden retrievers. Stern also discovered that many of these patients were on a grain-free diet and had abnormally low taurine levels.

In June of 2019 the FDA released a report that found 500 cases of DCM related to 16 diets. Golden retrievers were the most common breed affected. All of the diets listed were labeled “grain free” or contained legumes.

An actual link between grain-free diets and DCM has not been definitively established, but research is ongoing and I will update everyone as soon as I have more information.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

When I review vaccines with a pet owner, I usually get a nod of recognition on all vaccines until I mention leptospirosis. Then their face kind of squishes up in a weird sort of way.

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by an S-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. The bacteria affects dogs, humans, raccoons, possums, rats and squirrels. Outbreaks occur during a wet period after a prolonged dry spell (the type of weather we see from mid-August to mid-October). 

Leptospirosis bacteria are passed in the urine of infected animals. Therefore dogs do not have to come in direct contact with the wildlife. The most common way the bacteria is passed is from drinking “standing water.” Standing water refers to stagnant creeks, puddles, etc. Once the Leptospira bacteria is in the mouth, the bacteria passes through the membranes of the mouth into the bloodstream. It then travels via the bloodstream throughout the body. Depending on the strain that the pet is exposed to the bacteria can do damage to the liver, kidneys or both. 

Symptoms of infection include lethargy, inappetance, increased thirst and urination, and sometimes vomiting. Initial blood work will show elevations in liver enzymes, kidney enzymes or both. Definitive testing takes at least 10 days to get results. Therefore, better to treat while waiting on test results than to wait.  

The good news is this is a bacterial infection and will respond to antibiotics. If leptospirosis is diagnosed or suspected by your veterinarian, they will place your dog on antibiotics and other medications. Dogs that are too ill to take antibiotics will need to be admitted for IV fluids and medications initially. Dogs still eating and not vomiting can be sent home on oral medications. The bad news is (especially with the kidneys) the damage is sometimes already done by the time your dog presents to your veterinarian with illness.  

There is no way to eradicate this bacteria from the environment, but there is a vaccine available from your veterinarian that is effective against the most important strains seen on Long Island. The protection provided by the vaccine is short lived so annual boosters are a must. Make sure to keep your yard clear of puddles and other standing water (if possible), as well as keep dogs clear of wild animals or where wild animals have been.

This infection is zoonotic. Zoonotic refers to diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. If exposed, most people only get flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, etc.), but the bacteria can affect the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. At-risk groups are the very young, very old and those with compromised immune systems (whether it be from disease or medications). 

If your dog has been diagnosed, take special care in handling them or their bedding. Wear gloves, wash bedding with bleach, and leash walk in areas that can either be decontaminated with dilute bleach (a 1:40 dilution or one teaspoon of bleach to every gallon of water) or away from where other dogs and humans play. Wash hands after handling them and if you are feeling ill please see your own physician immediately.  

If you think your dog may be at risk for leptospirosis talk to your veterinarian about instituting the leptospirosis vaccine into your dog’s annual protocol. 

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

This second of a two-part series continues to discuss if vaccines are necessary for your pet and, if so, how often. The first article, from June 18, gave a brief overview of the immune system and how vaccines work. In this article I hope to more specifically address which vaccines are necessary and why. 

There are certain core vaccines that are recommended or required. Core vaccines protect against diseases that are so prevalent in the environment that your pet is at risk for exposure even if they do not go outside or are legally required by the county and state. Noncore, or “at risk,” vaccines vary from pet to pet depending on where they go and interactions with other pets or wildlife. 

We also take into account multipet households where some pets venture outside and are in contact with indoor-only pets. Certain vaccines are required on a regular basis by boarding facilities, groomers, doggy day care and group obedience classes. Be sure to let your veterinarian know if your pet participates in any of these activities. 

Can too many vaccines hurt your pet? The answer to that question is, “Not if not given all at once.” Two large studies (one involved over a million dogs and the other involved almost 500,000 cats) focused on what are termed vaccine-associated adverse events (VAAE). VAAE refers to serious, even life-threatening vaccine reactions. 

VAAEs are rare (less than 1 percent) and neither the number of vaccines a pet receives throughout its life nor any particular type of vaccine increases that risk. What the study did find was the risk of a VAAE increased significantly in patients under 22 pounds when they were given multiple vaccines at the same visit. The take home of these studies was we can vaccinate our pets for whatever they are at risk for as long as we don’t treat a Chihuahua like a Great Dane. Stagger the vaccines by a week to a few weeks in smaller patients. 

Is your pet ever too old for vaccines? Age never plays a role in vaccinating but underlying disease does. If your pet has developed any organ dysfunction, glandular diseases or cancer, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations. Vaccinating pets with underlying disease is contraindicated (a no-no). Not only won’t these pets use the vaccines to their advantage, but this is also an added stress they do not need. However, if you have a healthy, older pet, they should receive any vaccines against any infections they are still at risk for exposure to regardless of age.  

Are there alternatives to vaccinating annually? There are certain vaccines that need to be given annually to be effective. For other vaccines, yes, there are alternatives. One alternative is to ask your veterinarian to run antibody titers instead. As discussed in the first article there are blood tests to measure the effectiveness of one component of the immune system, the humoral component. 

The other alternative is to use vaccines that are approved for longer than one year. Just remember that Suffolk County does not recognize the difference between a one-year versus a multiyear approved vaccine when it comes to boarding.

I hope this opens the door to a healthy discussion with your veterinarian at your next visit.  

One last thing: Even if you do not vaccinate your pet every year, I still recommend an annual checkup or exam. It is true that one human year equals about seven dog years and about five and a half to six cat years.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

I often get asked, “Are vaccines really necessary for my pet every year?” The answer is, “Yes and no.” This two-part series will hopefully expand on that murky answer.

A brief review of how the immune system works is a good place to start. The immune system has two major components: humoral and cell mediated. Humoral immunity refers to the portion of the immune system that produces antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that are made by certain white blood cells against specific diseases (viral, bacterial, fungal, etc.).

These proteins attach to these foreign invaders and release chemical signals to recruit a different set of white blood cells to attack. This other set of white blood cells are labeled as cell-mediated immunity and they attack and kill foreign invaders before they can harm our pets.

The body needs BOTH humoral and cell-mediated immunity to effectively fight infections; without one, the other is useless. Vaccines are designed to stimulate both components of the immune system without causing disease or infection.

Once the vaccination is administered, our pet’s immune system processes these proteins to produce antibodies against these invaders and prime the white blood cells to be ready to fight if they are exposed to infection naturally.

Here is the problem. When measuring the body’s ability to fight infection, veterinarians can only measure one part of the immune system: the humoral component, or antibodies. Antibodies are proteins; so a blood sample is sent to the laboratory to measure antibody titers produced by the immune system against certain diseases. If the level is high enough, it is deemed “adequate titers.”

Unfortunately, since antibodies are only signals to the cell-mediated component of the immune system, adequate antibody levels do not guarantee the ability to fight infection in all cases. There are both human and veterinary studies that back this finding.

The good news is that there are also studies that have proven that inadequate antibody titers does not always mean that your pet will become sick even if exposed to certain infections. Sound confusing? If it makes you feel any better, this is confusing to us veterinarians and we’re supposed to be the experts. 

Veterinarians will follow the recommendations of the vaccine manufacturer, and the manufacturers have made it a little easier with vaccine trials. Vaccine trials refer to studies where, after administering a vaccine not only are antibody levels measured, but patients are also exposed to the actual infection to see if they develop symptoms. The initial series of vaccines and recommended updates are based on these trials. 

I hope this gives you the knowledge base to continue the discussion in my next article. It will discuss in more depth concerns about how often vaccines should be given, risk factors in the administration of vaccines and both New York State and Suffolk County laws on mandatory vaccination.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

Brain tumors in dogs and cats can be quite distressing to pet owners. There is no such thing as a truly benign brain tumor because even a benign tumor left untreated will eventually put pressure on surrounding structures. 

The more important question I hear is, “Is there anything that can be done?” The answer to this question is yes. However, what can be done very much depends on the appearance and location of the tumor. The increased availability of advanced imaging (CT and MRI) through referral hospitals improves diagnosis and potential treatment of these tumors. 

Symptoms of brain tumors usually depend on the location. Changes in behavior can be common. Signs include neck pain, aggression, lethargy, circling in one direction, head pressing into corners, anisocoria (uneven pupil size), seizures, etc. Any one of these symptoms would be an indicator to bring your dog or cat to the veterinarian. 

Diagnosis always includes advanced imaging (CT or MRI). Spinal taps, or evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid, can be helpful in diagnosis in conjunction with advanced imaging. Biopsy is not performed unless the tumor is going to be surgically removed or debulked.   

Surgical options: In cats, certain types of tumors such as meningiomas are surgically resectable, or removed, depending on location. In dogs, brain tumors tend to be of a class called glial cell tumors and the tumor’s location prohibits surgical removal. These cases require either chemotherapy or radiation therapy as primary options. The type of chemotherapies available can improve quality of life but can have side effects and the survival times are not as long as radiation therapy. Newer, targeted radiation techniques also decrease damage to surrounding tissues. 

Cost: It is expensive. Although I do not have actual numbers I can publish in this article, any of the treatments described above are going to require specialists and specialty hospitals. That does drive up the cost quite a bit. There is also palliative care. If a brain tumor is suspected (or diagnosed) and you do not wish to pursue more aggressive treatment palliative care is available. Palliative care refers to comfort measures only, or hospice. This consists mainly of anti-inflammatories (usually corticosteroids, or cortisone derivatives), other pain medications and antiseizure medication. Palliative care does not require a specialist.  

Prognosis or survival time: Generally speaking, a patient will get on average 1 to 3 months on palliative care alone. Other methods such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or combination average 1 to 3 years. Tumor type and location will play the largest role in survival time.

In summary, the ability to diagnose and treat brain tumors in dogs and cats has improved tremendously. Cost of treatment and survival times may prohibit more aggressive treatment in all cases. I hope this helps in making a decision with your veterinarian.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for Dr. Kearns? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

This past Sunday just before the clinic closed we had a call for a dog that had a laceration she received while running around with her owner. Our clinic is only open a few hours on Sundays and the owner was grateful we could see her and her dog. However, what should she do if we weren’t open until the following day?

 Emergency clinics are expensive. Could there be a way to manage the wound until your regular veterinarian opens again? Before proceeding make sure to make your own safety a priority as much as your pet’s. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to get seriously bit or scratched. When a pet is in pain and afraid, there is the potential for aggression. A leash wrapped around the muzzle prevents biting. Worst case scenario would be placing a thick towel over the pet to prevent biting (even if it is just to take them to the nearest clinic/emergency center).

First, stop the bleeding. If the wound is superficial and there are no larger blood vessels involved, direct pressure is usually enough. I was told in school that singing the “Star Spangled Banner” (either in one’s head or out loud, your choice) while applying pressure to the wound is the appropriate amount of time needed to stop minor bleeding. 

During this time it would be a good idea to pet and talk to your pet to calm them and lower blood pressure. After a few minutes recheck the wound. If the bleeding continues, try again. If the bleeding restarts a second time, then do go to the nearest clinic/emergency center.

Once the bleeding stops we can evaluate and clean the wound. What is safe to use to clean the wound? Running the wound under a hose or tap will remove dirt and other debris. Studies have shown tap water does not cause significant tissue damage when compared to isotonic saline. 

If you have an over-the-counter antiseptic like povidone iodine (Betadine) solution even better. Remember to dilute the Betadine solution. The exact appropriate dilution is 1 part Betadine to 9 parts water; but I was told that if the solution has the color of strong tea that is close enough. 

Many people ask about hydrogen peroxide solution. I remember that hydrogen peroxide was the “go to” antiseptic when I was a child and got a cut or scratch. It is an excellent antiseptic, but it tends to destroy more tissue and slow the healing process overall. It has also been implicated in the entrance of air emboli into the bloodstream when used to clean deeper wounds or abscesses. These emboli can have serious, sometimes fatal results. If you have no other antiseptic but hydrogen peroxide, then dilute it 50:50 with water.

Lastly, cover the wound. It is true that when a pet licks at a wound it does remove debris and dead tissue, but it also introduces bacteria from the pet’s mouth, which slows or prevents healing. To cover the wound one can use some gauze and an ACE bandage. Now, one can even pick up self-adhesive bandage material from the pharmacy or store. Just remember that the self-adhesive material tends to tighten as it dries out (after it is removed from the packaging).

I hope this helps. Please remember that these are temporary measures to allow you to wait for your regular veterinarian to open. I would recommend always having the wound evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for Dr. Kearns? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

The power of massage. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

The smell of spring is in the air and we all want to be outside implementing our New Year’s resolution. However, too much too fast leads to injury. The same holds true for pets. This article will describe some techniques to loosen up your dog before exercise, as well as a modality after exercise to help with pain.

Heat: Heat packs can be used before exercise to improve hemodynamics (blood flow), neuromuscular (decreased spasms and pain) and flexibility. Increased blood flow relaxes muscles before any activity by slowing down the firing of nerve synapses. This decrease in nerve firing reduces pain associated with ischemic nerves. Lastly, heat increases flexibility in connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments.

Massage therapy: The word “massage” is derived from the Arabic word “mass,” which means “to press,” and creating pressure has both physiologic and positive psychologic effects. Physiologically, massage decreases edema and muscle spasms, reduces adhesions within tissues, and facilitates the regression of sensory pain. Massage can be performed both postsurgically and pre-exercise. Psychologically, multiple studies have proven that the physical touching of animals reduces the amount of stress hormones circulating throughout the body.

Range of motion: Range of motion exercises increase flexibility, prevents adhesions between muscles/tendons/ligaments and bone and prevents further injuries to joints/muscles/tendons/ligaments. There are two types of range of motion exercises: passive and active. Passive range of motion consists of flexing and extending of joints for the patient.

The most common orthopedic injury in veterinary medicine is an ACL tear, so we’ll use that joint as our example. Passive range of motion on the knee joint would include stabilizing the thigh with one hand and gently bringing the shin into as close to full flexion and then close to full extension as the patient will tolerate. This same technique can be used for any joint in the body.

Active range of motion would include active muscle contraction. Using the knee as an example one more time, active range of motion would include encouraging the patient to sit and then stand up again (this is much easier for dogs than cats). Usually five to 10 repetitions and two to three cycles (if the patient will tolerate).

Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is derived from the two Greek words “kryos,” meaning “icy frost,” and “therapeia,” meaning “healing.” It is the use of cold to aid in healing. Inflammation triggers vasodilation and increased permeability of vessels leading to edema, or generalized swelling of the tissues. The result is decreased oxygen to injured tissues, secondary cell death, release of more inflammatory chemical and more edema.

Cryotherapy can be used both in the acute phase of tissue injury (trauma, postsurgically), as well as after exercise/rehabilitation to minimize adverse secondary inflammatory responses. Cryotherapy counters this edema and pain with vasoconstriction, reduction in edema, desensitization of nerves and decreased muscle spasm.

I hope this information helps. It is far from comprehensive but some basic exercises and treatment modalities that can be helpful in keeping our pets active, healthy and happy.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I authored an article on the benefits of medical marijuana and the legal restrictions of a veterinarian’s ability to prescribe anything with the psychogenic component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), back in September of 2018. 

I touched on cannabidiol, or CBD, in that article and wished to expand on the reported benefits of CBDs. A quick disclaimer: As a veterinarian I am not legally allowed to recommend the use of this product. There is limited science behind it regarding safety, efficacy and purity of products.

CBD is a compound found in the non-THC portion of the cannabis plant. There are two known cannabinoid (CB) receptors in the body: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system. These receptors are activated by THC, the psychoactive portion of the cannabis plant and gives people the “high” associated with marijuana. 

CB2 receptors are found associated with the immune system and associated cells circulating throughout the body. CB2 receptors are activated by CBD and other non-THC compounds found in the cannabis plant. 

Almost all of the information we have in veterinary medicine comes from studies done on the human side so a look at those studies may prove helpful. CBD oils were first isolated from the cannabis plant in the 1930s and ’40s, and it was compared to phenobarbital, as well as other anti-convulsants, for its anti-seizure properties. 

There was a more recent human study that anecdotally reported a reduction in both seizure frequency and duration using a purified CBD product. As a matter of fact, preliminary results show that this product is more effective at treating seizures than a 50:50 blend of CBD:THC.  

CBD has been shown in humans to have an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety effect) similar to the benefit of a benzodiazepine, but there has yet to be a study performed on animals to support this claim.  

CBD products may also have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies on rheumatoid arthritis reveal that the administration of a purified CBD oil reduces the release of inflammatory chemicals such as gamma interferon and tumor necrosis factor, and CBD proved a more effective antioxidant effect than vitamin C. No studies have been performed in dogs or cats. Topical CBD activity has been shown  to be resistant against Staphylococcus bacteria in laboratory settings.

The future for the CBD oil appears bright, but some real studies need come about first to standardize some of the claims that are out there, as well as guarantee the purity and quality of products. There is only one CBD product approved for the treatment of epilepsy in humans. There are currently no approved products for pets. 

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

February is National Pet Dental Health Month so I figured an article on dentistry is appropriate. A quick tooth anatomy reference: Everything below the gumline is considered the “root,” and everything above the gumline is considered the “crown.”

Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, or FORLs for short, is a strange pathology of the feline tooth, essentially a “hiccup” in the tooth loss cycle. Normal deciduous (baby) tooth loss involves the root and the structures around the root below the gumline. The destruction of the dentin is achieved by a type of cell called odontoclasts. 

Odontoclasts are specialized cells whose sole job is to absorb the bone of the tooth root and the weakening of the structures around it. This process is critical in the loss of deciduous, or baby teeth, to make room for adult teeth to erupt. 

I previously described FORLs as a hiccup in this normal tooth loss cycle because these same odontoclasts destroy the dentin, or layer of the tooth just below the enamel. The FORLs pathology progresses to invade the pulp below the dentin, and this is where the blood supply for the entire tooth lies. Once the blood supply is compromised, the enamel on the crown of the tooth starts to resorb, exposing the dentin underneath. This is above the gumline and can be painful as H-E-“double hockey stick.” 

FORLs differ from a cavity where bacteria adhere to the surface of the crown of the tooth (the portion of the tooth above the gumline). Bacteria in the mouth produce acid that eats away the enamel until the root of the tooth is exposed. 

Cavities are very unusual in dogs and cats for multiple reasons: the shape of the tooth, diet, type of bacteria in oral cavity compared to humans, and dogs and cats live shorter lives than humans. Dogs and cats suffer more from periodontal disease, or problems associated with structures around the tooth.

What triggers FORLs in cats? There are theories that include previous trauma, accumulation of plaque and tartar, impacted teeth around the affected tooth, etc. Bottom line, we as a veterinary community, do not yet know what triggers this pathology (to try to come up with a way to prevent it). 

Treatment of FORLs requires removing the damaged portion of the tooth. This is a far less complicated and painful process compared to extraction, but the only way to determine if there is damage to the tooth is to perform dental X-rays. If the root is not involved, then it is FORLs (no extraction, just remove the damaged portion of the tooth); and if the root is involved, it is periodontal disease (extraction). 

As more information becomes available about FORLs, I will give an update. Until then, make sure to get your cat (or dog) in for a dental checkup. SMILE!!!!!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.