What to Expect if your Pet Needs a Root Canal

A pet’s fractured tooth may result in a referral to Dr. Kristin Walker, board certified veterinary dentist; in today’s blog the basics behind root canal therapy, why it’s a good treatment option, and what to expect on the day of surgery and for post-operative recovery.

We all know how painful tooth injuries can be; pets can experience the same discomfort from a broken tooth. Fractured teeth are a fairly common injury in pets, often caused by chewing on hard items such as bones, antlers, or hard plastic toys. What happens when a dog breaks a tooth -- when a root canal at the veterinary hospital is the best treatmentOccasionally, a traumatic accident can injure teeth. It's important to remember that most pets will not exhibit obvious signs of mouth discomfort -- their instinctive behavior is to hide pain or illness. 

When a tooth breaks, the deeper, porous layer (dentin) and oftentimes the nerve (pulp) become exposed, resulting in sensitivity and pain. When left untreated, infection of the jaw bone and swelling of the face can develop.

Root canal therapy serves as an excellent alternative to tooth extraction when a large, functionally important tooth is damaged. Your family veterinarian will work closely with Dr. Walker to determine if your pet is a good candidate.

Benefits of root canal therapy include:

  • preserving a strategic tooth
  • less post-operative pain than an extraction
  • an immediate return to normal activity

Consultation at WestVet. Upon referral, your first stop is an in-depth meeting with Dr. Walker. During this consultation, she will carefully exam your pet’s teeth and bite, explain the procedure in detail, and answer your questions. Procedures can often be scheduled for that same day, or another convenient time.

The day of the root canal procedure. Your pet will arrive early at WestVet where he/she will be placed under general anesthesia with careful monitoring by a dedicated veterinary nurse. Dental X-rays will be performed at this time.

Successful treatment requires specialized instruments and materials to disinfect, shape and fill the root canal. The procedure is finished with a white composite filling (similar to cavities in people!). In some instances, metal crowns can also be placed. Your pet will return home that same evening and quickly return to their normal routine by the following day.

Follow up appointments. Dr. Walker will determine the follow-up schedule for your pet, which will often include rechecking the tooth with dental X-rays.

The good news?If your dog has a broken tooth -- when to see the veterinary dentist at Westvet Root canal treatments are over 90 percent successful, meaning your pet’s oral health will soon be restored.



If you have any concerns about your pet’s dental health, whether or not you suspect a fractured tooth, it is always appropriate to consult with your family veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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Fireworks and Pet Safety

Independence Day is usually not a day our pets enjoy celebrating, in today’s veterinary blog a few reminders for keeping pets calm, home, and safe during the big summer holiday.

July 4th can be downright terrifying for pets. Loud booms and bangs, bright lights, crowds of people—all of it could send your dog bolting out the door/back yard. In fact, animal shelters around the country report their kennels are filled to capacity in the days following Independence Day. Treasure Valley shelters are no different. Even worse, many pets are injured and require veterinary care.

A few suggestions to avoid lost friends:Keeping pets safe during fourth of july fireworks and celebrations

Exercise early. Provide an opportunity for your pet to burn off some energy to help them be more relaxed and ready to rest during the evening celebrations. It may prove challenging for Idaho dogs to enjoy a good walk due to the extreme heat we have been experiencing. If you can, exercise early in the morning when it’s still cool or find a way to play inside.

Keep pets indoors. Pets deal with the chaos best when kept safely in the house. A crate can add an additional level of security.  

White noise. Use music, television or a fan to disguise fireworks.

Offer a treat. A new chewy or interactive toy will keep attention focused on something fun.

Keep pet identification current. If pets get loose, current ID tags could provide a ticket for a quick reunion. Also, don’t forget to update microchip information if you’ve recently relocated or changed phone numbers.

Prepare for early (and late) fireworks. Neighbors may celebrate in the days leading up to the Fourth, as well as the days following.

If your pet goes missing.  Contact area shelters immediately and file a report. Also, check back often.

The IHS shelter will be closed on the 4th of July. If an emergency involving a pet such as an injured stray or dangerous animal arises, an animal control officer can be dispatched by calling the Ada County Sheriff Dispatch at 208.377.6790. 


WestVet does not take in stray or lost animals, we work with area shelters to reunite pets with their people. However, if your pet needs veterinary care and you veterinarian is unavailable, we are open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. and will be open and fully staffed throughout the weekend of the Fourth of July.

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Common Symptoms of Heart Disease in Pets

Congestive heart failure is a progressive disease that could have serious–even fatal consequences—for your dog; in today’s veterinary blog, signs your pet needs to seek treatment.

The sooner your pet is treated for heart disease, the better, as the heart’s primary function is to transport oxygen throughout the body. Common symptoms of heart disease in your dog - Veterinary Cardiology care.If the heart becomes weakened or ineffective, other body organs can be affected.

The vast majority of heart disease cases are discovered in middle-aged and older dogs. A few signs to look for that indicate your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian include:

  • Shortness of breath. A rapid shallow breathing rate could be an indication of declining heart function and a reason to see your veterinarian.
  • Cough. Coughing is not normal in a dog. A dry cough after exercise or one that worsens at night is a concern.
  • Rapid Tiring. Poor exercise tolerance, panting at rest, stopping mid-walk on your typical route; these are signals of atypical behavior for your pet and should be evaluated by a veterinary professional.
  • Swollen Abdomen. When there is cardiac dysfunction, this may result in fluid build-up in the belly, creating a pot-bellied appearance. This could accompany muscle mass loss and lack of appetite—even though your pet appears larger vs. thinner.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fainting.

Seeking Veterinary Care. Your family vet will complete a thorough exam and ask detailed questions about your pet’s symptoms. (It may be helpful to have notes on your observations to ensure you do not forget any important symptoms).

There are times your family veterinarian will refer you to a specialist. Dr. Jason Arndt is a board certified veterinary cardiologist. WestVet's Cardiology specialist, Dr. Jason Arndt, provides advanced veterinary care to Idaho pets​He will collaborate with your family vet to diagnose heart disease. This may include lab work, an echocardiogram, or an ultrasound test called a Doppler echocardiograph, which measures exactly how the blood flows through the heart, making diagnosis very reliable. Once your pet’s heart condition is determined, a treatment plan will be developed.


If your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a heart condition, it is always appropriate to consult your veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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WestVet 2016 Intern Class Preparing for their Next Adventure

It’s that time of year again! Our new intern class arrives next week. For the past nine years WestVet’s postgraduate training, the only rotating internship offered in Idaho, has enabled veterinary students to continue their education.

It seems that the time with our current interns, has zoomed by; these talented young doctors will soon be moving on in their careers in veterinary medicine.  The WestVet Class of 2016 Intern class is concluding their time at our veterinary hospital

Pictured left to right, our class of 2016 includes Dr. Christine DePompeo, WestVet Surgical Intern, up next for her is a surgical residency at Washington State; Dr. Brea Sandness, who is pursuing a surgical intership in Reno, NV; Dr. Annamaria Tadlock, will be working in Emergency and Critical Care in Salt Lake City; Dr. Hailey Turner, will take part in a neurology internship in Houston, TX; Dr. Samantha Loeber, will start a radiology residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Dr. Meaghan Pryde, who will be working in Emergency and Critical Care n Tacoma, WA.

A specialty hospital one-year internship has been equated to working three years in a family veterinary practice as residents are exposed to a wide variety of cases and mentored by specialists. During their year-long stint at WestVet, residents rotate through surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, pathology and ophthalmology departments.

WestVet offers  a one-year rotating internship and a one-year specialty internship in surgery; Washington State University and Oregon State University offer similar programs.

In addition, our surgery center partners with Washington State University to offer four surgical residencies. These doctors serve at WestVet for 10-12 weeks per year. Once their clinical work is completed, they will publish in a peer-reviewed journal and successfully complete National Board examinations to earn the specialty surgical credentials.

Dr. Curtis Brandt, WestVet Emergency and Critical Care Veterinarian and local Photographer, shared these photos of the team as a commemorative gift to honor their time in Boise. Westvet Intern and Residents class of 2016 to continue their veterinary careers and education.We wish them the best as they head off to new challenges. Good luck!

The 2017 class arrives Monday, having recently graduated from Veterinary School We are excited to welcome these new doctors and to watch their growth throughout the coming year.  


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Dogs & Rattlesnake Bites 101

The sun is shining and the trails are calling; in today’s veterinary blog we have a few tips on avoiding rattlesnakes, and how to respond if you encounter one, or if your dog is bitten.

Living in the Gem State means lots of trails for hiking, biking, and running. However, it may also put you and your dog in the path of a rattlesnake. Add to that the curious, energy bounding, nose-first behavior of dogs, and a rattlesnake strike is a possibility.

Avoiding rattlesnake encounters. When planning your outdoor adventures, check trip reports. Hikers often report snake activity along with trail conditions. Here are two area online resources: Boise Foothills Trail Conditions and Boise.Trails.Dog.

Utilize trekking poles if hiking. They not only add to your work out, they enable you to push back brush stretching over trails – a favorite, sunny spot for snakes taking a snooze. Stick to well-hiked trails during late spring/early summer. Snakes want to avoid humans (and dogs) and are more apt to stay away from busy areas.

Stay on cleared, open sections of trails. Thick brush, large rocks, fallen logs all serve as a perfect hiding spot.

Ensure that you and your dog stick together and keep him/her on a short leash.

Meeting a rattlesnake. Look ahead on the trail and observe your surroundings. Dogs and rattlesnakes -- avoiding a bite when hiking in the foothillsMany snakes in the west blend in seamlessly. Never reach into dark areas on the trail that you cannot see—and help your dog follow the same guidelines. Rattlesnakes are not typically aggressive and seeking a confrontation. The purpose of the rattle is a warning, to hopefully help you avoid a strike. If you hear it, freeze. Locate the source of the sound before you begin any movement. Then, slowly move away. Leave the area carefully, if there is one snake, there are likely more in the vicinity.

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake. Remain calm. If able to do so, carry your dog to your car; if not, walk slowly in an effort to inhibit the snake venom moving through your dog’s body. Seek emergency veterinary care immediately. The sooner a dog receives emergency care and, if possible, anti-venom, the greater the chance of survival.

Recognize the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite in your dog:

  • puncture wounds (possibly bleeding)
  • severe pain
  • swelling
  • restlessness, panting or drooling

The following symptoms may manifest quickly, or over the course of a few hours:

  • lethargy, weakness, sometimes collapse
  • muscle tremors
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • neurological signs including depressed respiration

A rattlesnake bite is a potentially life-threatening situation for your dog. Seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Should your dog receive a rattlesnake strike, WestVet is open 24/7 to provide supportive care and provide anti-venom to treat dogs with a rattlesnake bite.

Pet insurance can be helpful with the expense of unexpected veterinary emergencies, something to consider if you live in or visit areas prone to rattlesnakes. Speak with your family veterinarian regarding snakebite vaccinations. This may reduce the severity of illness associated with a rattlesnake bite but does not alleviate the need for prompt veterinary care; it is still important for you to seek care should your dog suffer a rattlesnake strike.


If you are concerned that your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a snakebite, it is always appropriate to consult your family veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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