Coventry Animal Hospital Talks about Dog Park Etiquette

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The nice weather is here and it’s a great time to take your dog to the dog park! Dogs (like people) need mental and physical exercise, and the dog park is a great place to get this. Dogs crave playful interaction with their peers. Going to the dog park will allow them to see, hear and smell new things as they exercise with other dogs. Active dogs (like active people) are healthier. Coventry Animal Hospital wants to make sure you and your pup have a good time and stay safe at the dog park. So let’s take a trip to the park!

Here are a few simple tips for you and your dog to maximize the fun and to stay safe:

  1. Before going to the park, make sure your dog’s vaccines are up to date. The dog park is an easy place for your dog to contract disease from another dog. No one can be sure if other dogs are vaccinated or sick when coming to the park, so it is best to make sure your dog is protected. Coventry Animal Hospital recommends vaccination with the kennel cough vaccine in addition to the core vaccines if you plan to visit the dog park on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid rush hour. Many dogs may fare better when the park isn’t crowded. Take your time to acquaint yourselves with the surroundings during a less busy time. It’s easier for both of you to focus without the distraction of lots of dogs and owners.
  3. Obey the rules. Your dog may be smart, but he or she can’t read. It’s your responsibility to read and obey all posted rules. Especially obey the “clean up after your dog” rule. This helps decrease the risk of parasite transmission.
  4. Watch your children or leave them at home. It’s great to have your children play with your dog, but sometimes it can be a safety concern with the interference of other dogs, especially if your dog is very protective. And even though your child and dog may get along wonderfully, not all dogs are well-socialized with kids. Just because a dog loves children it doesn’t mean that he won’t barrel right over a toddler while in the throes of a game of chase.
  5. Limit toys and treats but not water. Don’t pack the entire toy box or pantry for a park excursion. It’s OK to give your dog a treat, but brandishing lots of toys and treats may create conflict with other park patrons. Bring bottled water and a collapsible water bowl if your dog park does not have a dog-friendly water fountain.
  6. Wait before taking your puppy to the park. Pups under 4 months of age aren’t fully immunized and exposure to other dogs puts them at risk of infection. Small pups are more vulnerable to injury, even by well-intentioned larger dogs. And young pups aren’t adequately socialized and may not do well when bombarded by multiple new faces, human or canine. Socialize your pup gradually, vaccinate and de-worm him regularly, and let him grow a bit before venturing out to the park.
  7. Control your dog. Bring a leash along to restrain your dog as needed. Make sure your dog knows basic verbal commands. He may get so excited to be around his friends that he temporarily forgets his manners.
  8. Be aware of your dog’s physical condition. Don’t bring your dog to the park if he is sick. This isn’t good for your dog or his playmates.  No one wants to share sniffles, coughs or diarrhea. Also, it’s best to leave female dogs at home when they are in heat.
  9. Supervise your dog (and everyone else’s). Spending time with your dog in the company of others is a joy. Avoid reading a magazine or playing games on your smart phone. You may get so distracted that you miss something really fun or really dangerous.
  10.  Protect your dog from getting parasites. With many dogs frequenting the park, it becomes a great place to pick up parasites like fleas or worms that other dogs may be carrying. Placing your dog on a regular parasite protection program helps minimize the risk of contracting these parasites. Some parasites may even be harmful to humans. Contact Coventry Animal Hospital to put your dog on a parasite protection program to protect your dog and your family.

Going to the dog park can be an exciting outing for your dog and time for the two of you to bond. By following some simple, common sense rules you can ensure you, your dog and everyone else at the dog park has great fun in a safe and courteous way.


Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses “What is the Lifespan of Cats and Dogs?”

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Nowadays with excellent nutrition and advances in preventative medicine, our cats and dogs are living longer than previous generations were. It is possible for cats to live into their twenties.

The adage that one human year is equivalent to 7 “dog” or “cat years” is only partially true. During the first 6 months of life, there are dramatic changes in a puppy and kitten.  They experience huge growth spurts and transform from cute cuddly little fluff balls into lanky teenagers.  Their eyes and ears open at approximately 10-14 days.  Puppies and kittens start to eat solid (softened) food at 4 weeks and they stop nursing from their mother around 6 weeks (although time for weaning varies a lot with the circumstances!).  A lab puppy will double in weight between 8 and 12 weeks of age.  Our pet goes through the baby, toddler and teen stages in literally weeks.  Get your camera out because you will forget they were ever that small!

Dogs and cats become sexually mature at approximately 6 months of age, at which time they can reproduce and are roughly 60% of their adult size. They will continue to grow and the bones in their limbs lengthen until their growth plates close at around 12 months of age.  Cats and small and medium-breed dogs are adults and done growing at approximately one year of age.  Large breed dogs and giant-breed dogs (such as Bernese Mountain dogs) continue to grow until 1.5-2 years of age, as their growth plates close later.  Knowing there are such dramatic differences in growth between breeds and life stages, it is not surprising that individual animals have very different nutrition needs.

Up until 8 years of age, cats and dogs are in their prime or considered “mature”, then become classified as seniors. At 12 years of age and up, cats and dogs are considered geriatric.  As a general rule, smaller-breed dogs are longer lived than their larger-breed counterparts.  Below is a list of average life expectancies for several dog breeds, which highlights their wide range of ages.  Mixed-breed cats and dogs often are longer-lived than their purebred counterparts because they have a broader gene pool with less risk of inherited disease.  The average lifespan for a spayed or neutered housecat is 15 years; this can also vary by breed.

Reference: Dog Longevity, Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy

The lifespan of the average cat and dog can be extended through proper breeding, routine health exams, spaying/neutering, preventative medicine and good nutrition. Many animals will have lifespans that are shorter or longer than the “average”.  However, information about an animal’s expected lifespan can be used to help plan how to best care for a pet during the time that it is with us.

Ask one of our team members at Coventry Animal Hospital about the routine preventative care for your pet.

Itchy Dogs in the Spring, Summer and Fall – Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses What it Could Be?

By Small Animal No Comments

Usually during the spring and the fall, we see an increase in the number of dogs that come into Coventry Animal Hospital for itchiness. Just like people, many dogs have seasonal allergies.  If your dog’s itchiness seems to be worse at certain times of the year instead of others, then you may have a dog that has environmental allergies.  This is a diagnosis that can be difficult to obtain as the other possible causes of itchiness need to be ruled out first.

Fleas or other insects could be making your dog itchy. It is important to have your pet on a reliable product for flea control.  Many dogs and cats are actually allergic to flea bites.  Even if you don’t see fleas on your pet, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Dogs with allergies benefit from year-round flea prevention.  To learn more about fleas, check out our article: Summer is Almost Here in Perth County! Coventry Animal Hospital Gives a Flea Update.  Your vet will also check for other parasitic insects, such as sarcoptic mange mites and demodex mites.

Food allergies are another common cause of itchiness in dogs. The only effective way to test for a food allergy is to put a dog on a strict hypoallergenic diet and see if the symptoms go away.  During a food allergy trial, your pet cannot have any food or flavourings for several months other than what is prescribed by the veterinarian.  We will discuss food allergies further in a future article.

Dogs that are itchy from allergies may scratch or chew excessively and weaken their skin’s natural defenses. This leads to secondary skin infections from yeast or bacteria that are in themselves itchy.  Depending on the severity, skin infections can be treated with oral or topical anti-fungals and antibiotics.

Environmental allergies are known as atopy (or atopic dermatitis). An animal with seasonal allergies reacts excessively to allergens on the skin or inhaled from its environment – such as pollen, grasses, dust and mold.  A dog that reacts to allergens becomes itchy; especially at the feet, groin, armpits and belly.  Less commonly, dogs may have sneezing and watery eyes, similar to people with “hay fever” symptoms.

Environmental allergies cannot be cured, so symptoms need to be controlled lifelong when they flare up with the seasons. Treatment of individual dogs usually includes multiple therapies to maximize their effect.  Therapies include anti-itch medications – such as antihistamines, steroids and immune-modifying drugs.  Usually a combination of topical products and oral medications are implemented.  Topical therapies, such as shampoos, are usually aimed at improving the skin’s natural barrier and reducing the amount of allergens that come in contact with the pet.

Allergy testing can also be performed. This involves testing the skin or a blood sample to determine exactly which allergens trigger an allergic response.  A “vaccine” can then be made of very small doses of those allergens to diminish the pet’s reaction over time (this process is called desensitization).

Having an itchy dog can compromise your relationship with it if it is keeping you up at night with scratching and licking noises. There are many anti-allergy medications to help manage its symptoms.  Pinpointing the underlying cause that a patient is itching with your veterinarian can allow therapies to be tailored to your pet’s needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet, talk to one of our veterinary team members.

You may also want to read: Allergies in Dogs & Cats

Cool Down with Your Pets as the Weather Heats Up in Perth County

By Small Animal No Comments


What a beauty of a weekend we have lined up weather-wise! Just as we aren’t quite used to the hotter temperatures and need to grab our sunblock and shades, our pets also need to be protected from the elements.  If you were wearing a thick fur coat outside in the sun, you would be sweating in a few minutes.  Unlike us, our cats and dogs lack the ability to perspire to cool themselves with the exception of sweat glands on their paw pads.

Panting is the main mechanism that a dog uses to keep cool – its open mouth allows moisture on the tongue to evaporate. The heavy breathing can also help to evaporate moisture from the larger surface area of the lungs.  Cats have this ability as well.

Pets also cool themselves by dilating their blood vessels to dissipate heat away. This mechanism works to dispel heat after exercise and does not work well in hot temperatures.

Fur acts as insulation – it protects the body from the outside environment, both to keep the cold out in the winter and keep the heat out in the summer. However, in hot environments, once the heat does get in to the body, fur acts as a barrier that slows the ability of the heat to radiate away.  Ask a veterinarian whether having your pet’s fur clipped is right for it.  Certain breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are double-coated and shaving their coats may actually make them more susceptible to sunburn.  Pets that are sunburned are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, especially if they have light-coloured skin and fur.  Exposed skin areas, such as the tips of the ears and nose, are at increased risk of sunburn.  Ask your vet for sunblock suggestions for your pet.

Structure of the coat on a double coated dog (Image created by Brook Wilkins)

Heat stroke happens to a pet when its body cannot get rid of heat fast enough. Check out our blog article that discusses tips to prevent it from happening to your pet.

It is super important that your pet has access to fresh water to drink. This will hopefully limit it’s consumption of water from stagnant puddles and other contaminated sources.  You could also try misting your dog’s coat with water in a spray bottle.  The moisture will evaporate and help to cool it.

Find some nice shade for your pets to enjoy our beautiful Ontario summer. Coventry Animal Hospital wishes you a fun cool summer.

Recommended read: Keeping your pet safe in hot weather


Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses Rabies

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Rabies Update

After being eradicated from Ontario for over a decade, Rabies is back in the province as of late last year. Coventry Animal Hospital wants to ensure everyone has information on this deadly disease to keep your pets and family members safe. As of April 19th, 90 cases of raccoon variant Rabies have been found in the Hamilton area and 2 cases of fox variant Rabies have been found in Perth County. Rabies remains a serious public health concern.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is caused by a bullet-shaped virus. It is relatively unstable in the environment and establishing infection requires direct contact with infected mucous membranes, like a bite wound. Only mammals are susceptible to infection and wildlife is the primary animal group where infection occurs. When wildlife come into contact with humans or domestic animals, Rabies becomes a public health problem. Rabies remains an important and nearly untreatable illness with deaths occurring every year.

Course of the Disease

The virus in the infected animal’s saliva enters the victim’s tissues during the bite. The virus attaches to the local muscle cells for a couple of days before penetrating to local nerves and beginning its slow ascent to the brain. Once in nervous tissue, the virus is not accessible to the immune system and may safely proceed, although the journey is slow and can take up to a year. The virus ultimately reaches the brain and in two to three days is evident in all body secretions. At this point, the disease becomes transmissible and symptoms begin.  Once symptoms begin, treatment is nearly impossible and death can occur within days.


Prodromal stage (1.5 days after symptoms have started)

This is when a change in personality is noted. For example, friendly animals become shy. A voice change may also be noted.

Excitative stage (the next 2-3 days)

Classically, this is the “mad dog” stage. The animal has no fear. The animal may attack.

Paralytic or dumb stage (the next 2 days)

Weakness or paralysis starts. The larynx is paralyzed, resulting in an inability to swallow and “foaming at the mouth” results.  The intercostal muscles which control breathing become paralyzed.

What if there is a bite incident? How do we test for Rabies?

If a person is bitten by a dog or cat that is not vaccinated, the local health unit must be notified and the pet may be quarantined for a specific length of time. If a wild animal bites your pet, a confinement period also may be indicated.  Every situation is different, so it is best to call your veterinarian and they can direct you to the best course of action.

Definitive testing for Rabies must be done on the brain. There is no way to test for Rabies in a living animal.  Classical symptoms of Rabies may not be obviously recognizable, making diagnosis very difficult. Long quarantines are often needed to determine if infection has occurred.


Luckily, Rabies can be prevented with vaccination. In regards to spread of Rabies in wildlife, almost half a million oral Rabies vaccine baits have been distributed and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are continuing active surveillance of high risk areas.  You can keep your pets and family safe by ensuring your pets are up to date with their Rabies vaccines. It is required by law for every dog and cat to be vaccinated against this deadly disease.



Lyme-Infected Deer Tick Populations Continue to Expand in Ontario

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What are ticks?

Ticks are external parasites from the same family as spiders. Ticks feed on blood from hosts including small wildlife, dogs, cats and humans.  Female ticks require a blood meal to complete their life cycle. One female tick lays 4000-8000 eggs! Ticks start as eggs laid in the summer, emerge as larvae in the fall, molt into nymphs in the winter and end up as adults in the spring.  The infant stage of a tick can be quite small and missed even with keen observation.  An adult tick is the size of a sesame seed and once it is engorged with blood can become the size of a pencil eraser.  The engorged part of the tick can have variable colours.

When are ticks a problem?

Ticks are active in temperatures over 4C. There are two “blooms” in the tick population each year, occurring in the early spring and late fall. Tick bites will be most common during these times.  Tick bites are usually not painful, but cause irritation (reddening) of the skin and minor swelling.  Even after the tick has been removed (or falls off), swelling and/or redness in the area of the bite can last for a few weeks.

Where are ticks?

The brown dog tick is unique as it can live inside homes or dog kennels. Kennels in Toronto have reported infestations.

Deer ticks infected with Lyme bacteria are well documented throughout southern Ontario. Deer ticks are found in wooded areas, along the side of trails, playgrounds and grassy areas in urban areas.

Risky Lyme areas:

  • around Kingston/Belleville
  • along the Saint Lawrence valley to the border of Quebec that extend north east towards Ottawa
  • in western Ontario in the region of Lake of the Woods
  • Pinery Provincial Park on the shore of Lake Huron (Grand Bend)
  • Rouge Valley region of eastern Toronto

High risk Lyme areas:

  • Pointe-Pelee National Park
  • Rondeau Provincial Park
  • Turkey Point Provincial Park
  • Long Point peninsula including Long Point Provincial Park and the National Wildlife area
  • Wainfleet Bog near Welland on the Niagara peninsula
  • Prince Edward Point
  • parts of the Thousand Islands National Park

Deer tick populations are expanding and it is possible that Lyme disease can be acquired outside the currently identified areas.

A deer tick bites a human or dog and transmits Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) through its saliva. Lyme positive dogs may be asymptomatic, but a subset can become ill and require treatment. In early stages (4-6 weeks after a bite) symptoms can include fever, decreased energy, swollen lymph nodes, decrease of appetite and limping.  The treatment for dogs that get sick is a course of antibiotics.  In certain dogs (if left untreated) the immune system is constantly active, creating antibodies, which can lead to irreversible kidney damage.  Symptoms of Lyme disease in a person are different from those in dogs.

It is best to prevent tick bites through avoidance or removing ticks right away before they have time to transmit disease. You can keep your pet on a trimmed lawn and on-leash when in the woods.  It is recommended to look for ticks by combing through your pet’s fur when it comes back from playing in wooded areas or areas with long grass.  A tick can be removed at home with tweezers or by a technician at our clinic.  There are several topical veterinary products that kill and repel ticks.  For dogs traveling to a high risk region for Lyme, vaccinating dogs is also an option.  Coventry Animal Hospital recommends yearly heartworm and Lyme testing to screen for exposure to infected mosquitoes and infected deer ticks respectively. Tick prevention is safe to use even in the event that a dog is Lyme positive.



Coventry Animal Hospital Shares a Few Safety Tips for your Pets During Easter Time

By Small Animal No Comments
  1. Crowds can be stressful for your pet – If you are hosting Easter festivities in your home, consider crating your dog and keeping your cat in a bedroom to minimize their stress level.  Feed your pet and play with them before company comes.  If your pet isn’t accustomed to children, a busy dinner gathering is not the suitable time to introduce it.
  2. Don’t forget where you’ve hidden the Easter eggs! – Plastic (or real) eggs could be ingested by your dog and lead to intestinal upset.  Stuffed toys, balloons and small plastic objects (including artificial grass in Easter baskets) are potential hazards to a pet that views them as its personal chew toys.
  3. Keep candy and chocolate out of your pet’s reach – Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats.  Candies with sugar-free sweetener (known as xylitol) is also toxic.  Excessive amounts of sugar or caffeine in any candy can be dangerous to your pet.
  4. Do not bring Easter lilies into a house with cats – Even in very small quantities, this plant is extremely toxic to kitties.  Consider the safety of your pets before bringing potted plants or cut flowers into your home.
  5. Human food is for humans only – Many cats and dogs develop serious tummy trouble, such as vomiting and diarrhea, from eating fatty table scraps.  Uncooked dough and salted ham can both be toxic to your pet.  Bones should be carefully wrapped up and disposed of to prevent your pet from getting into them.  Alcohol can make animals quite sick as well.  Your guests may not know that Fluffy shouldn’t be offered table food.
  6. Baby bunnies, chicks and ducklings may seem like the perfect Easter pet, but these babies will grow into large adult animals that require full-time care for a number of years.  Before adopting a pet, it is important to research that animal’s needs and its average lifespan.  Having a rabbit can be a 10 year commitment.

Your pets depend on you to keep their environment safe. Taking a few extra steps can keep your pets safe and happy during the Easter holidays.



Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses Cognitive Dysfunction in Senior Pets

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Aging pets experience changes in the brain that can manifest as signs of senility (also known as cognitive dysfunction).  Canine and feline cognitive dysfunction is likened to Alzheimer’s or dementia in people.  Cognitive dysfunction is associated with decreased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Age is also associated with smaller brain size, the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques on the brain and decreased blood flow to the brain.

Pets with cognitive dysfunction may have behavior changes that progress so gradually that you may not realize that they are occurring.

Signs of cognitive dysfunction include:

  • Disorientation/confusion (getting lost in their home)
  • Wandering, staring or pacing
  • Getting stuck in a corner
  • Dogs barking or cats crying at nothing
  • Anxiety and restlessness or irritability
  • Loss of house-training (having accidents in the house)
  • Forgetting commands
  • Dogs drooling or licking obsessively
  • Changes in sleeping cycles (waking up in the middle of the night or sleeping unusually deeply during  the day)
  • Changes in social interactions (increased attention-seeking, becoming more aloof or aggressive)


These behaviours can be compounded by the fact that some senior pets also have a decrease in hearing and vision. They may also seem grumpy or reluctant to interact with their family if they have other medical conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes or kidney disease.  Other diseases should be ruled out or treated if they are present.

The surprising thing about cognitive dysfunction is that we have some capacity to improve its symptoms and slow down its progression. Therapies include:

1)      Senior supplements or diets that contain anti-oxidants and vitamin complexes

  •   S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

2)      Nutraceuticals for anxiety

3)      Environmental enrichment

  • Grooming and touch
  • New toys, interaction and games for mental stimulation
  • All the while providing routine to your pet

4)      Behaviour modification medication

  •  Selegiline

Teaching an old dog new tricks is actually a good idea to maintain your pet’s cognitive function. Wellness exams are recommended every 6 months to catch health problems early. Ask your veterinarian whether there are some tools that you could be using to improve your senior’s mental wellbeing.

Suggested Reading

Top Ten Reasons why Senior Pets Need Extra TLC

Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses the Dangers of Retractable Leashes

By Small Animal No Comments

A retractable leash is a long length of thin cord that extends when pulled and coils back on a spring-loaded device inside the handle. It is very handy for taking a dog on a walk without pulling your arm when the dog wants to go left and right to sniff.  Many dog walkers like the extra freedom that this provides the dog.  However, here are some reasons to consider NOT using a retractable device:

We have had a staff member at Mitchell Vet Services get a severe burn on her arm from a retractable leash wire cutting her as a medium-sized dog pulled on its leash.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  1. The purpose of a leash is to maintain control of your dog. A leash is a tool to train the dog to walk politely on a lead. If the dog is allowed to pull anytime it wishes, it will never learn to respect the commands from the person leading it.
  2. Retractable leashes can extend to long distances, which can result in a dog putting itself in harm’s way on a road or other hazard before the owner can rein it back.
  3. Not all dogs are comfortable socializing with other dogs or people on a walk. A dog on a retractable leash is pulling forward, which looks like an aggressive stance. A dog on a retractable leash may not be able to be protected or prevented from attacking if it is are on a flimsy cord that is extended.
  4. Both dogs and people can sustain injuries from the thin cord whizzing past them, resulting in burns, cuts and even amputations or lacerations. The sudden jerk on a dog’s neck when it runs out of retractable leash can also harm a dog’s neck and airway.
  5. Lastly, if a retractable leash is pulled out of your grasp, it can make a loud noise and “chase” the dog as it retracts. This can be a frightening experience for a dog that can result in a phobia of leash walks.

We see a lot of retractable leashes being used in Perth County. We wanted to raise awareness of the potential hazards and downsides of retractable leashes.

Coventry Animal Hospital Talks About Dental Health Month

By Small Animal No Comments

How can you keep your pet’s teeth healthy at home?

Here are some suggestions for maintaining a healthy mouth at home in between routine check-ups and professional dental cleanings:


  1. Tooth brushing
  • This is the MOST EFFECTIVE home care practice
  • Brushing daily is not only better for your pet’s dental health, but it then becomes part of its routine and your pet is more likely to accept this routine
    • This is best started when your dog or cat is a puppy or kitten
    • Do not start brushing a painful mouth
  • Focus on brushing along the gumline on the outer perimeter of the teeth
  • Make sure to reach the teeth at the very back of the mouth
  • While you’re brushing and handling the mouth, look for any redness, lumps or bad odour
  • Feel free to use a human toothbrush with soft bristles but do not use human toothpaste (which is toxic to pets).
  • If your pet is adverse to a toothbrush, don’t despair; there are a number of other tools you can use:
    • A facecloth or nylon can be used along the gumline in a circular brushing motion
    • Pet toothpaste is available in yummy flavours, like chicken

2.  Dental diets

  • These diets are formulated to meet an adult pet’s complete nutritional needs but have extra features that help maintain dental health
  • The kibble is a shape that encourages the pet to crunch through them, which helps remove tartar and these diets contain plaque reducing ingredients

3.  Dental treats

–     Treats should comprise no more than 5% of your pet’s daily calories

–      Certain treats are formulated to have dental health benefits through mechanical action, as well as through clinically-proven additives

–     Certain rawhides and chews fall into this category and there are different sizes recommended based on the body weight of your pet


4.  Other dental health products

  • Anti-plaque products reduce plaque formation
    • Water additives
    • Dental gel
    • Dental spray
    • Dental wipes

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) reviews data on products that have been tested using VOHC protocols. Products that meet their standards are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance for plaque and/or tartar prevention.

Want more? Additional information can be found at the following website:


Contact one of our veterinary team members at Coventry Animal Hospital if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health.

Related Articles:

Brushing your dog’s teeth video

Brushing your cat’s teeth video