Have you downloaded it yet?

by: Jennifer Oldfield

In our current era mobile devices are everywhere!  Having a smartphone means we have almost everything at our fingertips – 24/7.  We can access our bank accounts, check our email and Facebook, take photos and even play our favourite games.   We find life is busy, always seemingly on the go, making it difficult, even with our smartphones, to have time to do small tasks like call to schedule appointments or call in prescription refills.

New Screen Shot3Here at Albert North we decided approximately 2 years ago that we wanted to be able to make it even easier for our clients to connect with us, and with that in mind we developed our Mobile App.   We wanted the app to be functional with helping clients to contact us, providing some basic medical information for those times when we can’t be reached, and to have special promotions just for our App users.  Today we have almost 1000 users and that number seems to be growing daily.

The question is, what does the App do for you?  What benefit can it provide?  Here are some of the key features:

Home screen
  • A quick link to call us or get directions (handy if you have referred someone to the clinic, recommend they download the App)
  • Location tab that will take you to our hours, directions, a general email link and a link to our website
  • Promotions tab – the promotions are specifically for our App users only and can be an additional savings on an in-clinic promo for all clients or a promotion only available to App users.  (For example in February during Dental Month dental products were on sale in-clinic for 20% off, with the App you receive 30% off)
  • A Coupon Tab – this provides you with a $5 off coupon to use the first time you download the App.  Future coupons/loyalty rewards are in the works
  • Book/Refill – request an appointment or prescription refill whenever you remember, regardless of the time of day
Under the More Tab
  • Email sign-up – receive email notifications about health concerns, happenings in clinic, changes to hours, etc.
  • Events – information on events like Dental Month, Photo Contests, etc.
  • Library – ever been camping and wished you knew what your dog needs for an antihistamine or if that plant or food item your pet just ate is toxic?  Our library provides you with immediate access to this information.  Plus if you say yes to having access to the app when offline, you won’t need to worry about being in an area where you aren’t connected
  • Media access – instant access to our Facebook page, Blog posts, YouTube channel
  • Photo Gallery and Submit Photos Tab – take a picture and send it to us to go in the Photo Gallery plus see other photos we have shared

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We are continually looking at more ways to make the App of benefit to you, so if you have an idea, please feel free to share with us.  You can do this from within the App under the Book/Refill tab – simply click on Contact Us!

Download our App:

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itunes

3 Hazards During Warm Winter Weather

by: Jennifer Oldfield

Here in Saskatchewan, well Canada really, it isn’t unusual to have drastic changes in temperature.  Going from -40C one week to +3C the next, can be a common occurance.  Although the warm weather may seem great, there are some disadvantages to having temperatures on the plus side at this time of year.

bambi-iceIce

Plus temperatures during the day and colder temperatures at night mean more sheets of thin ice.  Ice as expected, presents a slipping hazard for everyone, including our pets, and just as we can injury ourselves, so too can they.  The “bambi” slip (where back +/- front legs splay out from underneath) can cause strains to tendons and muscles that can take time to heal.  This may mean requiring medication, rest, and even some massage or rehab work to get back to tip top shape.

How can you prevent this?

Avoid exercising your pet during the hours where frost and ice are forming.  Here in Saskatchewan this can be tough as that may mean only a handful of hours in the day when the frost and ice are melted.

If you can’t avoid these times, go slow.  Be cautious of where you are walking.  Don’t throw toys for retrieving in areas that are most prone to icy sections.

Salt/Ice Melt

sand-truckWith the new layers of ice even more salt/sand mixtures are being applied to roadways and ice melt being applied to walkways.  The salt from the roadway can be harmful to a pet’s paws and can make them sick if they groom it off.  Ice melt, if not pet friendly can also be hard on paws and potentially toxic if they lick it off.

How can you prevent this?

If you can’t avoid it (which at this point is near impossible), wash your pet’s paws off as soon as you get home.  Also be sure if you are using any ice melt products on your walkways, that you are using a pet safe version.

Water

You may be thinking how can water be a hazard.  Think of it this way, when you are out melted-snow
building a snowman and your mitts get wet, what happens to your hands?  They get cold.  Leaving them wet and cold could lead to frostbite or even hypothermia if the rest of your body gets chilled or other parts of you are also wet.  The same holds true for your pets.  Wet paws, fur, and possibly bellies can potentially lead to frostbite or hypothermia.

How can you prevent this?

Again avoiding is the best option although somewhat impractical.  Instead, avoid lengthy periods of time outdoors in areas that have water built up, have your dog wear waterproof booties (provided they are tall enough to not allow water inside the boot), dry feet and underbelly when you arrive home.  If you have driven to your exercise location bring a towel and dry bedding.  Dry your pet’s feet and underbelly and ensure they aren’t laying on wet or damp bedding materials for the ride home.

Have fun but be safe!

Taking advantage of the warmer weather is definitely more enjoyable than staying indoors and avoiding the hazards.  Just take care and caution when out and about.  Ensuring you and your pet are safe and warm will mean you both get to enjoy the best part of warmer winter weather – running and playing in the snow!

snow-play

Photo by Cassandra Lobb

 

 

 

The Importance of Diagnostics Part 3

In Part 1 of our series we discussed the importance of ultrasound; Part 2 was about x-rays; now in our final part of the series,we discuss the importance of lab tests.

by: Dr. Barb Eatock

20161114_125233If your pet is sick, your veterinarian may recommend performing lab tests to help determine the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms.  These tests can provide a lot of important information to your veterinarian regarding the diagnosis and therefore the appropriate treatment.  Even if all the results come back in the normal range, this helps your veterinarian rule out several potential causes of the symptoms your pet is having and these results can then be used as a baseline to compare to future tests.

The most common laboratory tests for a veterinarian to recommend are bloodwork and a urine sample.  The veterinarian may recommend other tests such as an examination of a stool sample; depending on specific symptoms.  Bloodwork may include a complete bloodcount, chemistry or additional tests.  The complete blood can help determine whether your pet is anemic, has an inflammatory response and whether he or she has enough platelets to aid with blood clotting.  The chemistry shows whether your pet has liver, kidney, or pancreatic disease, checks protein and electrolyte (sodium, potassium, and chloride) levels, and checks blood sugar and calcium levels.  The blood count and chemistry can also be used to determine if patients are a good candidate for an anesthetic procedure.  Urine samples also provide important information such as infection, blood  (which may indicate bladder stones or other problems), sugar in the urine (which may indicate diabetes), and how concentrated the urine is (which can help determine whether the kidneys are functioning properly).

img_3662

Additional tests which may be recommended depending on species, age and symprotms, include thyroid tests and tests for certain viruses such as parvo, feline leukemia, and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).  Most tests can be performed in clinic with same day results; tests that need to be sent away will generally have results back within a few days.

img_3664Lab tests are a very important tool for your veterinarian.  They provide essential information to allow for a precise diagnosis, which allows your veterinarian to provide specific treatment, which can help save time, money, and prevent the needless suffering of your pet.

 

 

The Importance of Diagnostics: Part 2

In our first blog post on Diagnostics we featured the benefits of Ultrasound.  Next up X-rays!

by: Dr. Tracy Fisher

Radiographs, or X-rays as they are more commonly known, have been around for a
long time, since 1895 in fact, but they remain an invaluable tool in diagnosing a wide
variety of conditions. Our clinic offers high quality digital radiology for the body as well
as digital dental radiology.

Wascana Turtle Project.July.1-2-Jul-2016

A turtle with 20 eggs!

Radiographs are used to diagnose many diseases and conditions from heart disease
and pneumonia, to gastro-intestinal foreign bodies (otherwise known as, my pet ate
what?????), kidney and bladder stones, some kinds of cancer, broken bones and
dislocated joints, arthritis, and to get an accurate count of how many puppies a pregnant
dog (or other animal) is going to have. Radiographs and ultrasound are often used together, especially when imaging the abdomen as they provide different types of images that compliment one another and allow us to get a much better idea of what the problem
may be.

Radiographs do use a type of radiation to create an image but the dose used to take a
series of diagnostic images is not significant to your pet. The radiation dose can be
harmful to humans who are repeatedly exposed and to pregnant women. For this
reason our staff wear lead aprons, along with other protective gear and measure their radiation exposure to minimize their individual exposure amounts. This is also why we ask owners to wait outside the room when their pet is having radiographs taken.

Oldfield, Jennifer.Magnum.1-27-May-2014

Radiograph checking hip placement

Sometimes we will sedate a pet in order to take radiographs, this is most common when the positioning may be awkward or painful for the pet such as an animal with a broken bone, painful shoulder or hip x-rays in an excited dog. We will recommend sedation in any pet when we feel it will be too stressful or painful to restrain them for the radiographs.

 

Dental radiographs are used when we clean and examine your pets teeth under a general anesthetic. They are very useful in determining which teeth need to be extracted and which teeth are healthy. Many patients, especially cats, have disease in the roots of their teeth that cannot be seen by looking in the mouth or probing the tooth.  Radiographs let us identify these teeth and remove them, saving your pet another procedure a few months down the road when the problem comes to the surface.

The Importance of Diagnostics: Part 1

Diagnostics are the tests doctors are able to perform, that allow them to find out what is going on with your pet when they aren’t well.   Sometimes a diagnositc may be performed that comes back normal, and although we understand this can be frustrating for our clients, this information is actually extremely useful for the veterinarian.    It helps eliminate possible diagnoses and helps them to determine what is more likely to be the problem.

In this series we will provide a bit of information on the diagnostics we are able to perform right here at Albert North Veterinary Clinic.

Ultrasound

by: Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe*

Ultrasound is one  of the diagnostic tests we offer in clinic.  Ultrasound is best used for the evauation of soft tissues like internal organs, the heart, and sometimes masses, tendons, and muscles; in certain species.  Ultrasound does not do well with air or bone because the sound does not travel well through these media and the results are a poor signal.

Ultrasound can give important information about the prescence of fluid in the abdomen, masses (to help determine which organ may be affected and even to biopsy without full anesthetic or expensive and invasive surgery), pregnancy diagnosis and assessment of fetal viability and health, finding bladder stones (some of which are not visable on x-ray), and overall organ health.

Our clinic was the first in Regina to offer this valuable service and over the years we have continued to upgrade our equipment to continually improve image quality for the best evauation possible.

Diagnostic us small

Gizmo, a 14 year old domestic shorthair being ultrasounded to check his pancreatic health. His liver, stomach, kidneys, spleen, bladder and intestines were also evaluated

*Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe is highly trained in ultrasound evaluation and is one of only a small few in the Regina area who can perform a comprehensive diagnostic ultrasound.  We are pleased to work with other veterinarians to be able to provide this valuable service to their patients through a referral.

 

 

Not all KONG Toys are Created Equal

KONG toys are fantastic toys for your dog.  They are wonderful for retreiving and playing with, they are great for dogs that like to chew, and they are super fantastic to stuff for keeping dogs busy on days when it is harder to get out with them (like snowy or rainy days) or when life just gets in the way of a good round of exercise and play.  However did you know not all KONG toys are created equal?  There are an assortment of colours in the KONG family in which each are designed with a specific type or age of dog in mind.
kong pupTypes of KONGS
  • Pale pink or pale blue are for your puppy.
  • Purple ones are designed for your senior dog.

Both of these KONGS are a bit softer with more flex behind them, to
be gentle on young or aging mouths.

  • Red are the classic original KONG for the general chewer.  The are definitely tougher kongsthan the puppy or senior dog kongs but are designed with the average dog in mind.
  • Black are called extreme and are a tougher strength rubber designed for a more intense chewer.  These KONGS aren’t indestructible but definitely more heavy duty then the classic.
  • Blue KONGS are generally veterinary exclusive and are designed for most levels of chewer.
The Special Feature of the Blue KONG

IMG_2334 The puppy, senior, classic and extreme kongs if ingested will not show up on xray – HOWEVER the blue veterinary exclusive are designed specially to be radio-opaque, meaning that if ingested the pieces will be visible upon xray.  This is  wonderful news from our perspective and we now have a selection of all available sizes in clinic.  For more information on the benefits of the KONG, come on in, we would love to assist you!

Additional Sources:

KONG Toy User Guide

KONG Recipes

dog kong

taken from the KONG Company website

 

Hairballs

by: Jennifer Oldfield

April 29 Hairball Awareness

April 29th is Hairball Awareness Day

If you own a cat then you are likely familiar with having to clean up a hairball ot two, but did you know it isn’t normal for your cat to vomit up hairballs?  Cats groom themselves, naturally ingesting fur, dust, dander, and other debris to keep clean.  Their system is designed to take this ingestion of hair, digest it and expel it in their bowel movements.  At least this is the case for short-haired cats.  Cats with longer coats or multiple cat households where they groom each other, aren’t as well equipped to deal with the excess of hair.  So what can you do to help and when should you see a vet?

How to help:

  • hairball blogBrushing – For cats with longer hair, regular brushings to remove loose cat is extremely helpful.  Even short haired cats can benefit from this.  There are also products available that are a combination cat toy/grooming device, that when your cat rubs against it helps to remove the loose hair.
  • Grooming – Having your cat professionally groomed to remove loose hair and excess undercoat or even having them shaved can be very helpful.
  • Hairball Remedy – The remedies act as a lubricant to help the hairballs pass through the cat’s digestive tract.  Although this can help for some cats, it doesn’t work in all of them.  It is best to discuss this with your veterinarian before using to ensure the product will be safe for your cat and their situation.
  • Hairball diets –  Generally these diets are higher in fiber and work on the premise that the fiber keeps the digestive tract moving.  As with the remedies, this may work in some cats but not in others.

As mentioned above, vomiting hairballs should not be the “norm” for your cat.  Although it may occur on occasion, if it is happening with any frequency or regularity it is best to see your veterinarian to uncover the underlying cause.  Inflammatory bowel disease, even some types of intestinal cancer and many other serious illnesses can have vomiting as a symptom.

There is also another problem that can occur with hairballs besides vomit – intestinal blockage.  On occasion the hairball can become lodged in the digestive tract and may require surgery to be removed.  If your cat isn’t really eating, isn’t acting normal, is hiding,  lethargic or listless, vomiting, or having trouble in the litterbox, don’t hesitate to get him in to the vet.

Ultimately the best solution to reduce and prevent hairballs from being an issue is to assist your cat in their regular grooming.  Brushing them yourself or bringing them to a groomer can make all the difference.

grooming cats

 

Additional sources:

www.petmd.com – Cats and Hairballs

Tick Time

by: Brianna Redlich

The snow has melted, the sun is shining and the ticks are questing! Unfortunately it is getting to be that time of year when the little vampires that hide in the grass start to appear.

What is a Tick?

Besides icky, ticks are a tiny, eight legged parasite with a small head and a large body. Ticks have 3 life stages. They hatch from an egg into a 6 legged larva, molt into an eight legged nymph, then molt again into an adult. After the larva and nymph stages take a blood meal they then molt into the next stage. After mated, adult females take a blood meal them drop off into the environment to lay eggs. The ticks we find in Saskatchewan are mainly found in tall grass and shrubs. There they stand on blades of grass waving their arms (questing) in hopes of getting picked up. Ticks can become active once the temperature is above 4 degrees Celsius.

ticks 1

Which Ticks Are Found in Saskatchewan?

The 2 main kinds of ticks we see in Saskatchewan are the Rocky Mountain Wood tick (demacentor andersoni) and American Dog tick (dermacentor variabilis). Ticks are migrating and expanding their territory. The Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) that carries Lyme disease is starting to make its way into Saskatchewan.

What Diseases Can Ticks Carry?

The American Dog tick and Wood tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsia). It usually appears suddenly with severe illness lasting 2 weeks. The symptoms of the disease are vague, but can include fever, joint/muscle pain, depression and anorexia. Only about 5% of ticks in a given area are infected and need to feed for 5 to 20 hours. The infectious organism is passed through the salivary excretions.

Deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease. Ticks become infected with the organism when the larva and nymph stages feed on infected mice. The tick is then able to pass on the organism to the next host. It needs to feed for 24 to 48 hours before the organism can be passed to the host through the tick’s salivary gland. This type of tick feeds mainly on deer and are starting to make an appearance in Saskatchewan (SK). There have been a few sporadic cases of Lyme in SK, but most are from dogs that have travelled to a place where Lyme is more common. Acute symptoms of Lyme include fever, lameness, swollen joints, lethargy and depression.

ticks 2

When Are Ticks Out?

Most of the time we notice a large bloom of ticks in spring to early summer. What you may not know it that ticks can be active from early spring to late fall. Below is a chart showing at what time different ticks and life stages are active.

 

American Dog Tick Mountain Wood Tick Deer Tick
Larvae Active April to September.

Feed on midsize animals.

Active March to October.

Prefer to feed on rodents.

Active July to September.

Preferred host is the white foot mouse. They molt and re-emerge in the spring as a nymph.

Nymph Active May to July.

Feed on midsize animals.

Active March to October. Larvae and nymph stages rarely attach to humans and pets. Active May to August. Commonly found in moist wooded areas.
Adult Active April to early August.

Feed on medium size animals, humans and pets.

Most common late spring/early summer. Activity goes down during the hot, dry months. Active October to May as long as the temp. is above freezing. Females feed, hibernate, and then lay eggs in mid to late May.
Misc. Info Adults can go 600 days without a blood meal. Found in deciduous forests where deer can be found.

Can cause Lyme Disease.

 

How to Remove a Tick

If you or your pet are unfortunate enough to have one of these attached to you it is tickimportant to remove it as soon as possible. Here is a step by step guide on how to best remove a tick from your pet or yourself.

  • First of all DO NOT apply anything to the tick such as alcohol or Vaseline before removing it. Also DO NOT try to burn it off with a lighter or a hot needle. Doing these will cause the tick to inject germs into the wound. Essentially you are causing the tick to vomit into your skin. Gross!
  • Use a pair or tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upward with firm steady pressure. Do not jerk, yank or twist the tick. If the tick doesn’t come off easily, see your local vet to make sure it’s not a lump or something else.
  • After removing the tick you can wash the area with an antiseptic.
  • Contact your vet if you notice any signs of infection such as swelling and redness at the site the tick was attached.

 

How to Protect Your Pet

There are different products you can use to help protect your dog from ticks. There is a new topical* for cats that will be available this year. Luckily in the mean time if your cat is able to groom itself they usually lick most of the ticks off. There are 2 products that I would like to discuss and both are available at your veterinary clinic. One is a topical liquid that is applied to the skin and the other is a chewable tablet.

advantix                Advantix is a small tube of liquid that is applied to the skin and acts as a repellent for ticks and mosiquitos*. The liquid spreads across the body through the natural oils on the skin. When a tick comes into contact with the dog it absorbs the medication through their feet. This is painful for the tick and will cause them to drop off. Ticks that are still alive when they drop off will not reattach and will die within 1 to 12 hours. It is recommended to check your dog for ticks before application because ticks that are already feeding may not come into contact with the drug. Some dogs may have a reaction called paresthesia which can be described as a pins and needle sensation. This can occur within 1 to 2 hours after application. If this happens owners can put 3 drops of vitmain E on the spot of application. If that dosen’t solve the problem than you should bath your dog with Dawn soap. This product is toxic to cats so please do not apply it to them. If you do have cats at home they need to be separated from the dog for 12 hours. Lastly if your dog enjoys swimming or gets regular baths it may decrease the efficacy of the drug, so it may have to be applied every 3 weeks.*

Bravecto is a new product that is a chewable tablet that you bravectogive once and it lasts for 3 months. The tablet is flavored and most dogs take it as a treat. The drug stays in the blood stream, so the tick does need to take a blood meal before it dies. A feeding tick is a dead tick. The rare dog will vomit after being given Bravecto. Seeing how this medication is not on the skin you do not have to separate cats from the dog and the efficacy doesn’t decrease with bathing or swimming.

For more information about these products and others please contact your veterinarian.

Have fun in the sun and remember to stay safe out there.

UPDATE (April 7, 2016): Changes were made to the information for Advantix after a recent seminar with our Bayer Rep.

*UPDATE (April 10, 2017): Information was added for Advantix and there is a new topical treatment coming for cats – Bravecto Feline.

Additional Resources:

Dental Quiz Answers

During the month of February our technologist Meghan put together a Dental Quiz for our clients.  They could answer and turn in their quiz for a chance to win a dental care gift pack.  It wasn’t about getting the answers right or wrong, it was about getting our clients to actively think about dental care in their pets.  Often this is an area of animal health care that is over looked and yet can greatly affect the health, length, and quality of your pet’s life. pup teeth

Below are the questions with the answers and a brief blurb on each.

  1. What percentage of pets over the age of 3 have dental disease? 

80%

By age 3 your pet has gone 1,095 days without brushing his teeth and even if your pet does chew his food and even if it is a dental specific diet it isn’t going to provide the same exact action as brushing with clean water and toothpaste (think of you eating a carrot).

  1. What is an early sign of dental disease that owners may overlook? 

Bad Breath

Bad breath is a sign that the mouth has a build up of bacteria in it.

       3. True or False: Dental disease causes pain.  

True!

As bacteria builds up in the mouth and eventually plaque then tartar forms on the teeth and gums bleed and separate the decay moves under the gums.  All of this leads to the decay of teeth making the mouth very sore.  Until a dental surgery is performed and the teeth can be cleaned above and below the gums as well as removing any unhealthy teeth the pain will not go away.

  1. dental-brush-paste-kitWhich is the “gold standard” of home dental care? 

Brush daily

Although feeding a dental diet, offering dental chews and using an oral rinse are all helpful in dental care, the absolute best thing you can do for your pets oral health is to brush daily!

  1. Which can be brushed off? 

Plaque

Plaque is the first build up of debris on the teeth.  Tartar is the mineralization of that debris and cannot be removed with regular brushing.

       6. How long does it take plaque to mineralize to tartar?

24 – 36 hrs   

This is the reason why brushing daily is the key to keeping teeth healthy.

        7. True or False: Hand scaling teeth on an awake patient is best.

False

Scaling teeth creates tiny microscopic grooves in the surface of the teeth.  Without polishing after scaling the grooves remain, leaving the perfect place for food and debris to continue to build up and eat away at the teeth.  Pets need to be under a general anesthetic so that scaling and cleaning of all the teeth can be done thoroughly and completely, then teeth can be polished to remove the tiny grooves created by scaling.Dent

        8. How often should a dental cleaning be performed on pets?    

Depends on the individual animal.

Some pets require regular annual cleaning, while others can go years before needing a cleaning.  Genetics plays a very large role in the health of teeth and even when the owner does everything right including brushing daily, a dental may need to be performed on a regular basis.

           9. Order the following stages of dental disease from best (0) to worst (4)DDD_dog_gum_disease

__0__ Clean, healthy teeth

__1__ Plaque accumulation

__2__ Gum inflammation (gingivitis)

__3__ Tartar build-up

__4__ Gum separation (periodontitis)

Plaque accumulation and gingivitis can occur almost simaltaneously, so if you couldn’t decide which of these two went first you are essentially correct either way.

         10. True or False: Dental disease can lead to heart and kidney disease.

True

The bacteria in the mouth that causes dental disease spreads throughout the body leading over time to heart and kidney disease.

The Results Are In…

So how did you do?  Did you learn something new?  We sure hope so!

Just like dental care is important for you, so is it for your pet.  The best you can do is work together with your veterinary team to determine what you can do to keep your pet’s oral health at its best, ultimately leading to a longer, healthier, happier life!

Jack Russell Terrier Snarling

Jack Russell Terrier Snarling — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Want more information on dental care and what is involved in a dental cleaning for your pet?  See the dental section of our website!

 

Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies!

With Easter around the corner it seems a good time to talk about rabbits as pets.  Although they do make good pets, they aren’t the most ideal for children and certainly should not be purchased on a whim, just because, well it is Easter bunny time after all.   As with all new pet additions to any home, it is good to do your research first.  Be aware of the time, feeding, housing and care required for the pet you are considering, and remember that your veterinarian is your best source of information.

Our most exotic knowledgable and experienced tech Meghan has written this great post to provide you with the information you need if you are considering adding a rabbit to your household.

by: Meghan Eggertson

The popularity of rabbits as house pets has grown greatly in the last couple decades.  They are very social, most active in the morning and evening (when their people are usually home), clean, and quiet, making them a great companion for many people.  For most of their domesticated history, rabbits have been used as production animals (for meat and fur) and more recently in research settings – but the needs for these rabbits are different from those of the pet rabbit, which is what will be discussed in this article.

Behaviour

Rabbits are very social animals that like companionship; however, they have very strong feelings of like or dislike towards other rabbits.  When introducing rabbits to one another, do not allow them direct access to each other initially.  Place them in separate cages/areas where they can see and smell each but cannot physically interact for a few days.  If both of the rabbits seem comfortable with the other’s presence, they can be placed directly on either side of a barrier (such as a baby gate or wire mesh cage top).  If they continue to do well in each other’s presence (laying down near each other, touching noses, etc.) the

IMG_1963

Tech Meghan snuggling a surgery patient

rabbits can be allowed in the same area under supervision.  Dogs and cats can also be trained to accept the presence of rabbits, but they should not be left alone with them unsupervised.

Enrichment is necessary for a rabbit’s well-being.  They should be provided with lots of items to chew on such as branches from fruit trees, untreated sisal mats, and cardboard rolls.  They also enjoy toys that they can toss around such as hard plastic cat balls and toy keys.  Places to hide such as tubes or tunnels, boxes, or “igloos” also need to be provided.

If kept in a cage, your rabbit needs to also be provided with access to larger areas where they can run around and exercise.  Exercise is not only mentally beneficial but also helps with digestion and decreases the risk of foot and bone issues.  If inside the house, make sure all electrical cords are covered or out of reach and plants are not accessible.  Be aware that some rabbits also like to chew on baseboards and drywall or furniture; baby gates or exercise pens may be set up to keep them out of certain areas.  If your floors are smooth (wood, tile, linoleum, etc.) place a mat or rug down so that your rabbit can get traction.  Outdoor exercise areas can also be set up for your rabbit using a dog exercise pen.  Make sure the grass is not treated and the area is protected from predators (including dogs and cats).

Housing

There is a wide variety of commercial and homemade options available for housing your rabbit, but they should all follow the following guidelines:

  • Your rabbit should have enough room to stretch and hop around and the roof should rabbit homenot touch its ears when it is standing.
  • The area should be will ventilated (i.e. wire mesh should be used, not glass) as rabbits are more sensitive to the heat than the cold.
  • Due to their sensitivity to heat they should not be placed in direct sunlight.
  • Ideally the bottom should be solid, not mesh, to prevent pododermatitis (foot sores) and plastic because it is easy to clean.

Bedding may consist of hay, wood shavings, newspaper, or a blanket/towel.  Fabric (blanket or towel) should only be used if the rabbit does not like to chew on it.  If using shavings, make sure they are not made of preserved pine or cedar as the fumes from these are toxic to the rabbit’s liver.  Newspaper may cause staining on the feet of light coloured rabbits, but the ink is vegetable based and nor harmful.  If the rabbit is not litter trained the bedding should be changed every couple of days, but if it uses a litter box the bedding only needs to be changed every 1-2 weeks.

rabbit houseLitter training is relatively easy for rabbits.  Use a pelleted litter, like Yesterday’s News, not clumping or clay based litter which if ingested can impact the caecum.  Place the litter box in the area of the cage that the rabbit already uses as its toilet.  It is sometimes helpful to place your rabbit’s hay next to or in the litter box because rabbits like to eat as they defecate.  Clean the box out every day or two.  After a few weeks using the box, it can be moved to whatever location the owner desires and the rabbit should continue using it.

If the housing area needs to be cleaned, diluted vinegar or CLR can be used to remove urine scale.  Let it sit for a few minutes, use a scrub pad if needed, then rinse very well with running water (especially if using CLR).  Bleach can also be used for disinfecting at a ratio of 30mL bleach to 1L water; again, make sure to rinse very well afterwards.

Feeding

Rabbits are vegetarians and hind-gut fermenters – this means they need to re-ingest their “night feces” (caecotrophs), which are a source of amino acids and vitamins.  Caecotrophs look like a little mucous encapsulated cluster of grapes.  Rabbits normally ingest these right away, so they are not usually seen by the owners.

Rabbits eat constantly and require a high fibre diet.  The majority of their diet should be hay: not only is it high in fibre, but it wears the teeth down and can be grazed on all day long.  Grass or timothy hay is ideal; alfalfa hay is high in calcium and protein and can lead to obesity and urinary crystals.  Make sure the hay looks and smells fresh and is stored in a dry area.timothy-hay

Pellets are good as a more concentrated source of nutrients.  They should be timothy (not alfalfa based), have no artificial colours, and be uniform.  “Mixed ration” type food is not ideal as some rabbits pick out their favourite ingredients which can lead to a deficit in vitamins and minerals.  Pellets should not be fed ad-lib but restricted to about 20% of the daily diet; most recommended feeding amounts on bags are for commercial rabbits and are usually more than what a pet rabbit needs.  Offer the pellets just once daily, and whatever isn’t eaten in a couple of hours should be removed.

A variety of fresh vegetables can also be fed as a supplement to the hay and pellets.  Limit the amount of fruits and carrots given as these are high in sugar.  Some greens such as kale, spinach, alfalfa, and dandelion greens should also be fed in moderation as they are high in calcium which can be hard on the kidneys.  The best vegetables to feed include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot tops, parsley, cauliflower leaves, parsnip, and green beans.  If a change in diet needs to be made, it should be done over at least a 5 day period so that the rabbit’s gastrointestinal system has time to adjust.

Salt and mineral blocks or vitamin supplementation are not needed as long as the rabbit is receiving a balanced diet (as described above), unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian.  Some rabbits chew their mineral blocks out of boredom which may result in harmful levels of calcium.

A good supply of fresh water should always be available to your rabbit.  Rabbits have high water consumption and a 2.5kg (5.5lb) rabbit can drink a cup of water a day.  Water is extremely important in the digestion of the rabbit’s high fibre diet and therefore should not be withheld for any length of time.

Types

Lionhead, dwarf, angora, lop…. the list goes on.  Although there are many types of rabbits when it comes to the information provided above, all pet rabbits are the same – they all require the same stimulation, housing, and feeding.  The only thing to consider is that longer-haired rabbits, such as the angora, may require additional coat care with brushing and possible shaving of the backend to prevent matting and urine scalding.

Rabbits truely are a fun and interactive pet and can provide a lot of companionship. If you do decide to get a pet rabbit, it is recommended that they receive a yearly veterinary visit (just like cats and dogs!) with a veterinarian with rabbit experience to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues. If you are considering getting a rabbit (or alreay have one) and have any other questions, please call the clinic and we will be more than happy to help.

Additional Resource:

House Rabbit Society