Nutrition Advocates

by: Brianna Redlich

You may have read the title of this post and wondered, what is a Nutrition Advocate?  In our clinic we have two Nutrition Advocates.  We are Registered Veterinary Technologists that have taken extra training in the field of Nutrition.

Lucas and Brianna

Lucas & Brianna

What can a Nutrition Advocate (NA) do for you?

Our NAs work in one of two ways;

  1. We work closely with our veterinarians to develop a plan tailored to a pet’s needs.  Either the veterinarian will decide on a diet or they will ask our advice. Once a diet has been selected, based on the pet’s needs we then calculate a feeding guide. Next we explain to the client why the diet was chosen, how to transition, how much to feed and how often. We also do a follow up call 2 to 3 weeks later to see how the pet is doing and to answer any questions the client might have.  We then recommend coming in for weigh-ins following a diet change to monitor the pet’s weight. This helps to ensure the pet is not gaining/losing on a maintenance diet or is losing at a safe rate on a weight loss diet.
  2. The other way we work is when a client comes in seeking information or help in
    pet-food-on-shelves

    Some many choices…which is right for your pet?

    changing to a different diet. When a client comes to us with concerns about their pet’s weight, diet, eating habits, etc we will work with the client to determine the best course of action for the pet. An example is a client is concerned their pet is overweight.  We have a look at the pet and evaluate the body condition score and the overall appearance.  We also ask questions for a nutrition history.  It is very important that the client is honest when answering questions about feeding amounts, number of treats and exercise. We are there to help, not judge.  Once a body condition score and history have been evaluated we will then come up with a few different options.  Some clients decide to try achieving weight loss using the pet’s current diet. We will develop a plan and explain that if they are not seeing results that a prescription diet may be needed.  We do regular weigh-ins to track the pet’s progress and make adjustments as needed. Once the pet is at an ideal weight we will continue to work with the client while switching to a maintenance diet.

Please keep in mind that there are some situations where the Nutrition Advocate will recommend an exam with one of the Veterinarians before proceeding with a diet plan. An example would be a pet that has bad allergies and irritated skin, that may need to be treated both medically and nutritionally.

Not sure if you need to make a diet change? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Is your pet’s coat dull, brittle or do they have flaky skin?
  • Is your pet gassy?
  • Is your pet over or under weight?
  • Is your pet having loose or small hard bowel movements?
  • Is your pet having multiple large bowel movements a day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may want to book a consult with one of our Nutrition Advocates.

Further information:

Nutrition Consultations

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FAT CAT vs Skinny Cat

By: Jennifer Oldfield

So you’re thinking, what’s the big deal, right?  I mean many of us carry extra weight, it’s just part of life… isn’t it?  As someone who is by no means a skinny cat, it is a big deal.  There are many side effects to carrying access weight that we don’t tend to think about.  As a human it is hard to shed those access pounds, we have to exert our own self-control, which can be so tough with the onslaught of delicious food choices and a busy, often sedentary life style.

cat-eating-food-in-bowlOur cats on the other hand are at our mercy – we control the food.   We can control how much and when they get to eat.  Unfortunately many of us grew up thinking you just pour food in a bowl, walk away and do it again when the bowl gets low or (God forbid) empty!  If you currently feed your cat this way I want you to do a self-test:

  • Measure how much food you tend to pour in the bowl (is it half a cup, a whole cup, two cups?)
  • Pay attention to how long it takes for the bowl to be empty (half a day, a whole day, several days)
  • Now mark down how many pets eat out of that bowl
  • Calculate who ate how much per day
    • Example: there is 2 cups and it takes a day and a half for the bowl to be empty with one cat eating out of it: approx. 1 and 1/3 cup eaten per day

So how did you fair?  Is there more than one animal eating from the bowl?  Did you realize you have no way of knowing who ate how much?  Often when there is more than one eating from the same dish you tend to have a heavy cat and a slim cat.  It is obvious who is getting more, the question is, is the slim one getting enough?

Did you know on average a cat should eat only 1/2 cup (240-250 calories) PER DAY!  If you have discovered that indeed you either don’t know how much your cat is eating or they are definitely eating too much, don’t fret.  One of our Nutrition Consultants will gladly assist you with transitioning to meal feeding and finding the right amount of food for your particular pet.

Now, let’s look at what the extra food, creating the fat, is doing to the body;Fat Kitty

The red arrows indicate two areas of fat pockets (there is more below the pink arrow, however we aren’t as concerned with that for the purpose of this blog).  Notice the compression on the stomach, intestines and colon (plus the other organs above and beside those are hard to even see).  Also note that the fat pockets will also be pushing into the chest cavity compressing the area available for the heart and lungs.

The pink arrow indicates the colon which has an uphill “S” shape making it so that the body has to work harder to move fecal matter out.  This is part of why overweight cats often have issues with constipation.

Looking at this x-ray it may not seem too bad, but let’s compare to a cat that is at a nice lean weight:

Skinny kitty

Notice how the stomach, intestines and colon are able to spread out in the body cavity.  Plus we can see other organs we couldn’t see on the previous x-ray.   The pink arrow here shows the colon again.  This time you can see that it makes almost a direct straight path out causing no extra work or strain to defecate.

Aside from cats, dogs would also have issues with excess fat causing strain on the organs in the body.  For both species fat pushing on the lungs and heart mean that both have to work harder.  Often pets that are overweight have difficulty breathing.  In dogs you notice they pant more.  Think of it is this way: in the heat we often have issues breathing, we find the air heavy on the lungs.  Now imagine not only breathing that heavy air but that your lungs are unable to expand fully.   Breath is more rapid and shallow – you can’t get that nice deep breath.

The good part is that, because as mentioned at the beginning, we control the food, it is easier to work to get your pet to lose weight than it is to do so for ourselves.  There are some fantastic diets available in-clinic that help to increase metabolism of your pet without needing to decrease the amount of food they eat.  There are also other store brands that are reduced in fat and calorie content to help, if not lose weight, at least prevent the further gain of weight.  Plus there are easy ways to increase the activity of your pet to help burn off that access weight.  Yes, even your cat can increase activity at home to loss weight.  See Amaya’s success video.

When deciding to proceed with a weight loss plan, keep in mind loss should be gradual.  Losing weight too quickly for a pet can be detrimental to their health.  Seek guidance from your veterinarian: contact us to make an appointment or to speak to one of our Nutrition Consultants today.

It’s Not All Puppies & Kittens

by: Jennifer Oldfield

Upset nurse sitting on the floor

*Image taken from the resource link below

Approximately 1 week ago another veterinarian took her own life.  Suicide rates among veterinarians is approximately double that of dentists and doctors and is up to 6 times higher than the general population.  This is a scary statistic.

People often don’t realize the stress involved with being not only a vet, but anyone working within the veterinary profession.  Let’s start right from the front:

Our Client Service Reps are the front line of our clinic.  They field phone call after phone call, are the first greeting for our clients when they come in, they weigh patients, take them to the exam rooms, deal with bill payments, and then they are the final face when our clients leave.  This may not seem too tough – after all, they get to love up all the sweet animals that come in!  Although that is true, they also deal with clients who are stressed because their pet isn’t well, they field calls for the doctors, they help clients determine if the situation they are experiencing is an emergency… they have the tough job of having to turn clients away in the event that we aren’t able to provide them with the emergent care they are needing.   Our CSR’s deal with our clients not only in the most stressful times, but in the most heartbreaking as well – they have to ask what choices you want for the end of your pet’s life, they have to manage a delicate balance to get your consent, go over your options and accept your payment, all while trying to be quick and efficient, so as to not get in the way of your grieving.

For those of us who have been here a long time many of these patients we have known since they were just wee, when they first came into your life, they came into ours.  We all grieve with you, try hard not to show it too much – we need to continue on with the next client, the next patient… but our heart breaks too.

Next are our licensed veterinary technologists -these dedicated people are the right hand to the doctors.  They assist in patient care, they monitor your pet during surgery, they assist in every aspect of your pet’s care where more than the doctor’s hands are needed.  All the while in doing this, they are often working to soothe a pet that is distraught about what is happening, they work to find the best holds to ease the patients stress while also protecting themselves and the doctors, if needed.  They are highly trained to know the subtle signs when a patient isn’t dealing with anesthetic well, aren’t recovering well, require more pain medications.   They draw up medications, dispense them for patients, educate clients, they have a wealth of knowledge to share.   They too field calls, help to educate a client when a doctor isn’t available.   The techs’ love and compassion for animals and their well-being is their driving force.  As with everyone else in the clinic, they hurt and have heartbreak when all doesn’t go well and are frustrated too when a patient isn’t improving.

Finally we have the veterinarians -they have the hardest job of all -their patient’s can’t tell them what is wrong.  The patient can’t tell them what they ate, where it hurts, what they did.  Veterinarians rely on what information the owner can provide, they rely on their education, their experience, the physical exam, the use of diagnostics to determine what is happening.   We are fortunate that in our hospital our doctors work as a team so they can rely on each other to review cases, find a new perspective, do their absolute best for the patient.   Sometimes it is the ruling out of things that helps to determine what is actually going on, which can be frustrating to an owner, but know that they ALWAYS have the best interest of the patient in mind and at heart.  They don’t want to see your pet suffer any more than you do and they have the super tough job of working to get them back to health when they aren’t well.    The doctors also work with the client on top of caring for the patient, trying to help ease the owner’s stress and concern while determing the best course of action to take.  One of the hardest parts can be giving options available without influencing a decision, educating the client without putting their own personal take on what they would do.  Then there are those horrible moments when the harsh reality of an older pet or a really sick pet is that it is time…time to let them go, nothing more can be done.  This is awful news to have to deliver, it breaks our doctor’s hearts as much as it breaks yours.  And, when the final time does come, they are with you, with their patient, right to the end.  Feeling your grief, while trying to not show theirs.

Everyone in the clinic also has the added stress when a client has a sick pet and limited img_3664funds.  It breaks our hearts to know that we will be limited in what we can do for that patient.  As much as we would like to help everyone at no cost, the reality is, we don’t get government funding, if the clinic doesn’t get paid, noone that works here would get paid.  The doctors always do what they can, looking at all the options for what can be done with the funding the client has available.  We offer finance options to help aid the client so they can get the care their pet needs now.  Plus there are those stressful times when a client declines testing or declines treatment.   It pains all of us to know that the outcome likely will not be good, that the patient will suffer because of an untreated condition or the pain they are feeling, but in the end it is the owner’s decision to make, our doctors can only provide their findings and give their recommendations and gently encourage clients.

This profession, this field, can be stressful, it can be harsh, it can feel unrewarding.  When we are having a tough personal day, or have had a tough run in with a difficult cleint, or have a patient where it wasn’t a positive outcome for that appointment, we have to push that aside for the next client, the next patient, we aren’t allowed to have an “off” day.  We need to be our best for everyone and we always strive to make that true.  Your pet is just as important to us as the last patient and as the next patient will be.

On the flip side, there are most definitely very rewarding days, appointments, moments.  They are definitely snuggly puppies and kittens, loveable adult pets, interesting and exotic pets, enduring senior pets.   They are successful emergency surgeries, there is satisfaction in seeing a pet improve and become well again, there are clients who let us know our hard work does not go unnoticed.

There are good days and bad days in this field and remember that we too are people, that we care about your pet just as you do, and everything we all do is with the best interest of each patient in our minds and hearts.

 

Further informational resource:

Why Is The Suicide Rate for Veterinarians So High?

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.

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.

 

 

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