What is That in My Pet’s Ears?

pets scratching

Otodectes cynotis mites, most commonly known as ear mites are a type of mange and are more common in kittens and young cats, but can be found in dogs as well as other animal species.  Happily for us though, ear mites do not affect humans.  Mites are passed from moms to newborns or from pet to pet especially when sleeping and cuddling together, or grooming occurs; most noteably around the ear area.  The most common symptoms you will notice include:

  • shaking the head
  • scratching the ears
  • a coffee ground like debris inside the ears
  • thick red-brown or black crusts around the top external portion of the ear

if the infestation is really bad you may notice

  • your pet is painful when touched in the ear/ear canal areas (along side the base of the ear)
  • some blood within the ear
  • scratch marks and a loss of fur behind the ears
  • crying when scratching

ear mites ear

What can be done?

It is far more common and highly likely for your kitten to have ear mites than to not have them.  Adult cats if recently acquired from a rescue or humane society or found stray may also have ear mites.   Most often this is taken care of and treated on their first ever visit to the vet.   It is much less common for puppies and dogs, often if their ears are bothering them they likely have another type of infection like yeast or bacteria, although they can definitely get ear mites.

The best, quickest and most guaranteed way to get rid of ear mites is to bring your pet in to see your veterinarian.  Often mites can be diagnosed on physical exam, however your veterinarian will likely take a swab of the debris to check under a microscope and confirm the presence of ear mites and assess that no other infection is present.  The ears are then flushed and thoroughly cleaned to remove all the mites and debris.  Your pet will also be treated with a prescription medication to kill any remaining mites and prevent the infestation from recurring.

Be sure to let the vet know if you have other pets at home that spend a lot of time together or sleep in the same place as the pet that has mites.  All those pets at home should also be treated to prevent mites from continuing to pass from one pet to the other.  If the pet at home has a lot of debris in the ears, it is a good idea to bring them in to get their ears flushed as well.  This is not something that should be done at home as you wouldn’t want to accidentally cause damage to the ear drum or ear canal.

Sir Charlie Mouse after his ear cleaning

Sir Charlie Mouse after his ear cleaning

Can you treat at home?

There is an over-the-counter treatment for ear mites, however if there is any uncertainty (especially in dogs) that the ear infection is mites, it is best not to use this medication.  A downside to home treatment is that unless the ears are cleaned and the product is used exactly as directed, including the repetition of the medication a few weeks later, it may not resolve the problem completely, resulting in the same issue for your pet a few weeks down the road as the mites continue to re-infest the ears.  We have also had clients who used the product exactly as directed and it still did not resolve the problem.

The great thing about mites is that they are fairly easy to get rid of and don’t often recur when done with the aid of your veterinarian.  If you have any questions about ear mites, your pet’s potential ear infection or anything else related to your pet’s health please contact your veterinarian.

ear mite

Ear mite seen under a microscope.

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).

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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.

 

 

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

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!

 

What’s In Your Backyard?

by: Jennifer Oldfield

Where is all the snow?  Normally at this time of year we are just waiting for the snow to melt so we can enjoy the outdoors and the warmth of spring. Instead we have been fortunate and are enjoying an early taste of the summer to come.  With no snow, now is the perfect time to take a good walk around your yard.

Look everywhere for all potential hazards.  Some things are very obvious – broken branches, sharp objects, etc.  There are however, some items that may not seem to be of concern, but are definitely still hazards.  Look for kid or dog toys, especially anything that may be easy to swallow, or items that are broken or breaking.

toyMagnum, my 7-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever found one of those items that you may not think is a hazard, especially if you have dogs that don’t tend to eat toys.  He loves to pull them apart but he never eats the bits!

This is the end to one of those kid’s plastic golf clubs.  Chewed, and as you can see, split at the seam.  I found my boy sitting outside with this stuck on his foot.  Somehow he had managed to step on it just right and got a toe – including the pad – stuck inside!  Although not a frantic emergency, still an emergency.  I had no idea how tight this was and leaving it too long could cause damage to the toe, even potentially leading to an amputation.toy on foot

We needed to get it off, but touching it caused him to scream in pain.  Even just the lightest touch was too much.  So off we headed to the clinic.  Dr. Meaghan Broberg sedated Magnum and  was able to carefully cut it open a little farther and then pry it  wide enough to take off.

After thoroughly checking his toe over, there were no cuts, it didn’t appear broken, however it was definitely swollen.  Once he was no longer sedated and could walk we would be able to see if he was willing to put weight on that foot.

Icing

First round of icing while the sedation was wearing off.

Fortunately Magnum was willing to weight bear.  Treatment would involve a few days worth of pain medication, icing, and rest.

We were lucky, in part, because I was able to act so quickly. However, I regret the fact that I did not consider this item a hazard in my yard.  Once home I did a complete yard tour and picked up anything that really did not belong out on the lawn when nobody was out there to use it.  I threw away any items that were even moderately not in good shape and have marked reminders on my calendar to do this sweep through the yard every week.  With two young active human boys and three very busy dogs, there is no telling what could end up out there next!

 

Trust Your Instincts

CIMG6107

by: Jennifer Oldfield

This blog post is a personal one.  It’s about my cat Gizmo.  Gizmo is a 14 year old domestic shorthair that meows incessantly at me for food or to go to bed…or food.  He really likes food (but he isn’t at all heavy, he just likes to eat… as many small meals a day as possible).  He is a royal pain in the…. (well you know what) with all his meowing at me.  But, I love him to pieces!

A Little Bit of History

Initially he wasn’t even my cat.  He belonged to my husband before we got married, but somehow over the years he chose me.  He climbs under the covers with me in the winter and sleeps on my pillow in the summer.  He prefers to be as close to my face as possible and gets a bit frustrated when he can’t get in the right position.  Once when he was injured and had to wear a cone, he shoved it against my head so his forehead could be pressed against my face…not in the least bit enjoyable.  If you follow our clinic Facebook page you may have seen the occasional photo of him.

The photo above was taken several years ago.  He still looks the same with the exception that the white has “spread” as the grey begins to take over.  

G&P

Gizmo and Playdoh

A little more than a year ago we unexpectedly lost our other cat Playdoh.   Initially we thought we would wait a while before getting another cat…or maybe we wouldn’t bother.  I was concerned with Gizmo being older it would be hard for him to adjust to another cat in the house.  Plus, what age would be good?  I wouldn’t want a kitten, that would be too much for him, but sometimes older cats don’t adjust to each other well.  We decided to wait.

The wait didn’t last long.  Less than a month later I realized Gizmo seemed sad… and lonely.  He missed the other cat that he snuggled with… he missed his friend.  Well I guess we needed to get another cat.  It was extremely important to us to get a cat that would work for Gizmo, I didn’t want him stressed over a cat he didn’t like.  Fortunately the Moose Jaw Humane Society has a trial program, for 2 weeks you can see how the relationship works.  If it doesn’t, you can bring the cat back.  Perfect!  So off my husband and our two children went in search of the cat that would fit our home.    They checked out and visited with many cats.  Finally when my husband was beginning to feel like there wasn’t going to be the one, he found an approximately 18 month old female that felt “right”.

When he got home with her, I had given explicit instructions to keep the cats separate, I wanted to introduce them properly.  Cats base recognition on scent.  She needed to be in our home for a bit, to smell like she belonged.  This plan also didn’t last long.  About an hour after arriving home my husband called me at work and said “Gizmo is laying beside the crate she is in and won’t leave it, can I just let her out?  There hasn’t been any hissing or growling.”  So out she came and over the next few weeks they became even more bonded than Gizmo had been with Playdoh.  We named her Pekoe.  The two of them became inseparable.   The played a lot and cuddled even more.

I have tons of photos like these of the two of them curled up together.

Now the Part Where You Need to Trust Your Instincts

Over the Christmas week we were away visiting family.  When we got back I noticed something didn’t seem right.  Gizmo was super sucky – my husband thought it was just because we had been gone for a few days.  However on top of that I noticed that Gizmo and Pekoe weren’t cuddling.  In fact, they weren’t playing either.  It seemed odd, but I tried to chalk it up to the chaos of Christmas time.  With Gizmo being 14 I tend to worry about him more.

Regular blood work is important especially in older pets.  I checked to see how long it had been, 9 months.  Dr. Barb Eatock who examined him 6 months ago recommended a Wellness Panel and a thyroid check before he had a dental.  I figured now was as good a time as any to do the blood tests.  Even though I partially felt like I was being paranoid, it also just seemed like something wasn’t right.

As an additional note, he was eating and drinking well and bathroom breaks were normal, but he wasn’t coming to bed with me like he normally does either and it was just so strange to see the two cats like the photo below.

no cuddling

I brought him in for bloodwork, upon weighing him we discovered he had lost about a pound (over 5 months that is a lot for a cat, especially when we weren’t trying to lose weight).  Blood results showed nothing significant, in fact for an old cat his bloods were pretty good.  Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe decided to ultrasound him just to be sure there was nothing of interest in his abdomen.  It was all clear.  Nothing of concern there.  The plan: re-weigh him in 2-3 months and monitor at home.  A few days later he was playing with Pekoe and they were cuddled together.  Next day; back to no playing and no cuddling and he still wasn’t coming to me at night.  My gut told me this wasn’t right, something was wrong.

By fluke I had him back in the clinic 6 days after his first check.  I weighed him and over those 6 days he had lost more weight… but he was eating!  Dr. Barb Eatock and Dr. Tracy Fisher decided to do a full body x-ray, as well they would recheck his CBC.  Both showed nothing abnormal.  There is a new test out for pancreas function, it has only been out for 2 months.  Based on the weight loss and him just not being himself, they decided to run this test as well.  Bingo!  It was POSITIVE.  Gizmo has pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis in short is the inflammation of the pancreas.  This inflammation is problematic because “the normal pancreas has a number of safeguards in place to keep its digestive enzymes securely stored. If these enzymes escape, they will digest the body! This is exactly what happens when the pancreas gets inflamed: the enzymes escape and begin digesting the pancreas itself. The living tissue becomes further inflamed and the tissue damage quickly involves the adjacent liver”¹.  Continued inflammation can lead to further complications including diabetes and even death.

In dogs pancreatitis is caused by an excess of fatty food and in some breeds is very common.  Symptoms often involve vomiting and abdominal pain.  In cats however there is no definitive cause and the reason for it is almost never known.  Also the symptoms in cats are far less obvious – occasionally there is vomiting (Gizmo only vomited a tiny amount once over the course of the 2 weeks leading to his diagnosis) and reduced appetite is another symptom.  Gizmo was still eating fine, however eventually his appetite would have diminished, that is almost certain.  Gizmo’s treatment involves pain medications and a diet of a moderate calorie gastro canned food.  In a few weeks I will re-weigh him to see if he is maintaining his weight and then I will try to switch him slowly back to his regular food.  The unfortunately thing is that there is a high risk of recurrence so his diet change may be permanent and I will always need to trust my instincts when I think something isn’t right.  I want to be sure to prevent a long-term flare-up.awe

Now after only a day of medication, Gizmo is already feeling better – a definite sign is that he and Pekoe are back to snuggling on the couch.

Bottom Line

The story of my cat Gizmo is meant to help you realize you should trust when you feel something is wrong.  You know your pet better than anyone else, you know when something isn’t “right”.  Don’t make an assumption that it is old age or the weather or the hectic season or that you are imagining things.  Trust yourself when you notice their norm is no longer their norm.  Maybe there is a chance it turns out to “just be a part of aging” like arthritis, but even that causes your pet pain and there are ways to manage it so they are comfortable and pain-free.  You can do something about their comfort and their health – you, together with your veterinarian can do many things to make your pet as healthy and happy and as comfortable as possible for the longest period of time possible.  So if you find yourself in that position where you notice something is off, trust yourself and call your veterinarian.  An early diagnosis and treatment of a problem can be the difference between life and death.

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Resting comfortably

In Thanks

I am extremely grateful for this amazing veterinary team I have and am fortunate enough to work with.  I trust them inexplicably and I know that my pets are receiving the absolute best care that I can provide for them.    Thank you Albert North Veterinary Clinic; veterinarians and team members, you are all amazing!

UPDATE: Gizmo is doing well.  He is off pain medications and seems to be feeling pretty good.  He is back to cuddling both his housemate and his family.

1THE PET HEALTH LIBRARY
By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP
Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com

 

Top 5 Holiday Hazards

by: Jennifer Oldfield

The month of December is a busy one.  We are all preparing for whatever the holiday season means to us; parties, family get togethers, celebrating Christmas or Hannakuh, eating and being merry.  It is super important in all the hustle and bustle to be aware of the hazards this time of year brings to our pets.  If your pet gets into any of these items or anything else this holiday season you are concerned about, please contact your veterinarian for information on how you should proceed with your pet’s care.  In certain circumstances, time will be of the essence in ensuring a positive outcome.

Here are a list of the top 5 hazards to be on the watch for:

5) Tree Water and Melting Salt Crystals

If you plan to purchase a real tree, be sure to have measures in place to prevent your pet from drinking the water.  The water may contain fertilizers or other additives that can cause stomach upset, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Also stagnant water is the perfect place for bacteria to grow, which if ingested, could also cause stomach upset, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Read all labels carefully before adding anything to your tree’s water.

safe paw smMelting salt crystals aka ice melts and salt rock, are often used on icy surfaces.  These products contain sodium chloride or calcium chloride which can be harmful to paws and is toxic if ingested.    Pet safe ice melt products are available, so use these if you need to.  To help protect your dog either wash their feet once you are home from your walk or have them wear booties to protect them from this hazard.

4) Lighting and Candles

It is important to ensure pets are not chewing on any electrical cords, be sure to regularly check them for fraying or utilize special cordchristmas-candles tubes to put cords in to prevent pets from getting at them.  Unplug any holiday lights when you are not home to reduce the risk.

Keep lit candles out of reach of pets and small children and be sure to monitor them whenever they are lit.  Candles, oil warmers, and fireplaces are very enjoyable especially at this time of year, however they pose potential dangers to your pets, and are also fire hazards when not properly monitored.    Take preventative measures by keeping items out of reach and having a protective fire screen in place over the fireplace.

3) Plant Toxicity

There are several plants that are highly toxic to pets and some that aren’t toxic but can cause a lot of tummy upset including vomiting and diarrhea.  The ones to pay particular attention to during the holiday season are:Winter Lilies_Large

Lilies – any variety are extremely toxic to cats.  The ingestion of any part of this plant can be lethal.

Holly – when ingested can cause nausea, intense vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea for both dogs and cats.

Mistletoe – can cause cardiovascular issues, stomach upset, difficulty breathing, erratic behavior, hallucinations, collapse, and depression.

Pine needles – can cause oral irritation, vomiting, lethargy, and posterior weakness.

Poinsettia – although not toxic can cause vomiting and irritation of the mouth and stomach.

For a more complete list of toxic plants see our website.  You can also check the quick reference guide on our Mobile App available free on iTunes or GooglePlay.

You may want to consider the non-real versions of these holiday favourites to be on the safest side.

2) Tinsel, Ornaments, and Decorations

christmas candlesThe shiny tinsel strands are particularly enticing to cats.  Although non-toxic, if ingested this can become an immediate medical emergency as the tinsel could twist inside the intestines causing many problems.   Avoid decorating with tinsel at all if you have a cat.  Ornaments on the tree often resemble a pet’s favourite toy (balls!) and especially with cats, the shinier, the more exciting they are.  Keep fragile decorations hung on higher branches out of reach to minimize the risk of lacerations, choking hazards, ingestion and possible obstruction.  The same should be done with any decorations that could be considered a great toy to a pet but is really a potential hazard – place these on higher surfaces out of reach.

1) Diet and Food Hazards

It is best to continue your pet’s regular diet as much as possible to avoid stomach upset.  Too much of a good thing, is often not a good thing.  Instruct guests to resist giving pets unapproved treats.  Keep garbage can lids on tight and unattended plates and drinks out of reach.

holiday feastAlcohol, coffee (especially beans or grounds), nutmeg, foods containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, yeast, nuts, apple seeds and stems, apricots, cherries, peaches, plum pits and stems, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic (and others of the allium family), can range from potentially toxic to fatal for pets.  Chocolate contains various levels of caffeine, fat, methylxanthines, and theobromine. Toxicity levels depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested.  Generally, the darker the chocolate, the higher levels of theobromine it contains.  Symptoms of chocolate poisoning will appear in 1 to 4 hours after ingestion and may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, muscle spasms, seizures, coma, increased thirst, and even death from abnormal heart rate.  Remember that cocoa is a powdered form of chocolate and is among the most toxic.

For more human foods to avoid click here.  You can also check the quick reference guide on our Mobile App available free on iTunes or GooglePlay.

We also can’t overlook that one relative – you know that sweet aunt or uncle who means well but doesn’t understand your pets are not being neglected by not sharing in the holiday feast.   Explain to these relatives that bones, fat trimmings, etc. can become a serious health problem for pets.  Caution them that bones can cause choking, dental fractures, and obstruction.  Bones can also splinter off into small, razor-sharp fragments causing potential perforation and laceration of your pet’s digestive system.  Fat trimmings and fatty foods can cause not only the obvious weight gain but also stomach upset and pancreatitis (a condition that needs to be medically treated often requiring hospitalization).  All of these situations require a vet visit that could include as little as some medication or special diet to help that upset tummy to as much as an emergency surgery to remove and possibly repair the damage from perforation, laceration, and/or obstruction.

Solutions for sympathetic relatives include safe treats in moderation (have a jar of these at the ready) or a play session.  However,  keep in mind not all pets like the immense amount of attention, especially if half the guest list consists of small children that may or may not behave appropriately towards animals.  Depending on the personality, temperament, and stress level of your dog or cat, you may want to consider whether or not they would be more comfortable in a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of company or even at a trusted kennel.  Ultimately, you know and love your pets more than anyone and it is up to you to make the decision everyone will be happy with.

We hope these holiday hazard tips will assist you in making this season a stress free and enjoyable time for both two-legged and four-legged family and friends.

 

 

The Importance of Annual Preventative Care Exams

by: Jennifer Oldfield

September is a busy month.  Not only is it the month that students head back to school, it is also Senior Wellness Month, Happy Healthy Cat Month and Responsible Dog Ownership Month.  That is a lot going on!  These 3 events can be summed together under one simple heading – Preventative Care.  What exactly is preventative care and how can you prevent something you may not be aware of?

In general terms, a preventative is a preemptive agent or measure.  In medical terms, preventative refers to a drug, vaccine or additional agent used to prevent disease.  In animal medicine (and human too!) this refers to things such as: annual exams, vaccines appropriate to your area and lifestyle, blood workups, and if necessary, supplements (such as glucosamine) or other medications to prevent or reduce the advancement of disease or illness.

An annual exam or a Preventative Care Exam for your pet is a vital part of ensuring subtle changes in your pet’s health don’t get missed.  Minor things that you may just consider a part of aging (in senior pets) or maturing (in younger pets) may in fact be a sign of IMG_1623the beginning of something medically wrong.    For example were you aware that cats tend to hide or sleep more when they are in pain?  Have you noticed your cat isn’t coming around as much as he used to?  That she has found a new place to lay and sleep than the usual spot?  This may be an early warning sign that something isn’t right.  A preventative care exam, which may be paired with bloodwork, can help to determine the cause of those subtle changes.

The same can be said for dogs – although they don’t tend to hide when in pain, they are VERY good at masking it.  You may notice little things such as a “hitch” in his step when first rising that goes away or the usual laps around the yard aren’t as fast as they once were or don’t last as long.  Maybe she doesn’t want to retrieve her favourite toy anymore.  Little things that don’t seem to be a big deal but are just “odd” can in fact be a sign that something is wrong.

So why come in annually and not just when you notice these other things?  Annual exams give a medical record of what is normal for your pet, so that when something is amiss it can be caught.  An example of this is when a pet comes in for his annual exam and he has lost weight.  Maybe he was overweight to begin with, in which case this could be a good thing.  IMG_1080However, if the owner indicates that she hasn’t changed anything in the pet’s routine or in his eating habits then this weight loss may not be a good thing.  It may be happening because of something else occuring in the body.  Often owners won’t notice that weight change because a few pounds can be hard to notice on a pet, especially if it happens gradually.  What if that pet hadn’t been in for several years?  We wouldn’t notice that change either.

Catching something like kidney disease in its early stages could mean something as simple as changing food to help the kidneys function better.  Without this the kidney disease will continue to progress, ending with, in most cases a shorter and poorer quality life.

Another example of something the veterinarian may notice is joint health, noticing that although your pet is not necessarily old, the joints don’t feel as smooth or are stiffer when they move.  This could be the beginnings of arthritis.  Being able to recognize this and then getting them on a joint supplement appropriate for them can dramatically help slow the progression of arthritis; putting a cushion back into the joints thus reducing inflammation and pain.

Ultimately Preventative Care is Proactive Care – together with your veterinarian, annual check ups, recommended vaccines and recommended diagnostic testing can extend the life of your pet by several years.  Who wouldn’t want that?  I think we can all agree that more time with our animal companions is one of the best gifts of all!

PeeWee