Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I get so depressed after the Superbowl is over.  Now I have to wait another 7 months to watch football (6 months for pre-season).  Thank God we have NHL back or I don’t know what I’d do to get my sports fix, considering I HATE basketball.  Go Jets!

Now for those of you who don’t know, February is pet dental health month.  We are promoting dental health all month and trying to educate people on how to care for their pet’s teeth and gums.  Periodontal disease is a serious health concern in dogs and cats.  By the age of 3, about 80% of dogs and cats have some sort of dental disease.  If you get a new puppy or kitten, start brushing their teeth right away to get them used to it.  I usually recommend just starting with your finger and some pet toothpaste.  It comes flavoured in yummy tastes like beef, chicken, etc.  Can you imagine brushing your teeth with toothpaste that tastes like chicken?!  Yuck!  Luckily dogs and cats really love it.

After they are used to the mechanical action of your finger brushing their teeth and gums, then buy a finger brush or a human baby toothbrush and go from there.  It is best to do it daily or at least every other day.  I guarantee it will help keep your furry friend’s smile looking great!  Even if you didn’t start brushing early on in your pet’s life, you can still get them used to it slowly.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks 🙂

At an annual exam, the most common question people ask me is “why does my pet have bad breath?”  I ask them if they brush their pet’s teeth and they usually say “no”.  It’s one of those things that is so glaringly obvious to ME (because I see it everyday) but not something that people think about.  I mean think about what YOUR breath would smell like it you NEVER brushed your teeth!  Yikes.  It wouldn’t be good.  Even after a few days, you’d be getting dirty looks!

Bad breath comes from plaque build-up on the gum line.  Then plaque leads to tartar formation.  As this progresses gingivitis will develop and this can lead to gum recession, infection in the tooth root and bone loss around the teeth.  At this point, the teeth may start to fall out.  In my opinion, dental disease is the main source of chronic pain in our canine and feline patients.  Some common signs of pain include: reduced ability to chew food, reduced interest in eating, less interest in playing, reduced interest in chew toys and treats, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth and decreased grooming.  Unfortunately, many dogs and especially cats will hide their pain and you may not notice anything until it is too late.  That’s one reason why annual exams are so important for your pet.

Once there is plaque and tartar, your vet will likely recommend doing a full dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia.  Many clinics even take dental radiographs to examine the tooth roots and look for bone loss.  The cleaning involves charting the teeth, scaling the teeth above and below the gum line and then polishing.  Unfortunately, many dental cleanings also often involve extraction of teeth that are infected or diseased. I usually do not recommend anesthesia-free dental cleanings. It’s not that they are overtly harmful, but there is NO way to complete a thorough exam and cleaning in an awake animal.

Along with brushing and regular cleanings, you can help keep your pet’s teeth looking good by feeding prescription dental diets.  I like Hill’s T/D and Purina DH.  Contrary to popular belief, chewing on “bones” does not help your dogs teeth.  In fact, bones are hard enough that chewing them can lead to fractured teeth.  There are some dental “treats” or “chews” that can help though.  Greenies and CET chews are pretty good choices, but a dog should always be supervised while they are chewing on them.  Ask your veterinarian what food or dental treat would be good for your pet.

Keeping a dog or cats teeth healthy will not only benefit them, it will also benefit their owner.  We all love to get “kisses” from our pet, right?  We all love to snuggle up with them too.  Wouldn’t it be much more enjoyable to do this with a pet that didn’t have disgusting breath?  I am always amazed when I see a dog with a mouth full of rotting teeth, pus pouring out of their gums, and breath that smells like decaying fish, licking their owners face.  It’s soooooooo gross!  I don’t know how people can stand the smell!  Maybe you just get used to it after a while, I’m not sure.

So take your pet to see your veterinarian for a dental exam to determine whether or not they need a cleaning.  Chances are…they will!  There are MANY reasons to take good care of your pets teeth.  I like this top ten list from the Pet Health Network:

Now to change the topic slightly.  What should you do with those over-ripe bananas you have sitting around?  May I suggest making some double chocolate chip banana muffins!  When I have over-ripe bananas, I usually slice them up and throw them in the freezer so I have some on hand for baking or smoothies whenever I need them.  These muffins are easy to make and they always turn out very moist, thanks to the bananas and sour cream.  I will sometimes make them with whole wheat flour so that I feel less guilty about eating chocolate for breakfast 🙂  I have also made these “dairy free” by using soy milk instead of sour cream.  Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; whisk together to blend evenly and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together mashed bananas and sour cream until smooth. Whisk in egg, sugar, canola oil and vanilla extract until well blended.

Add the flour mixture and the chocolate chips and fold gently until just combined. Do not over-mix. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Bake until the muffin tops spring back when touched gently and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean despite any melted chocolate chips, 20-22 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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