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Sixteen pet food brands may be linked to increased risk of canine heart disease

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a list of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to increased risk canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The investigation, which began in July 2018, was conducted to determine a cause of the drastic increase in reports of DCM in dogs, including breeds without genetic predisposition.

Brands named in the report include Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish. Many of the foods identified are labeled as “grain-free” and contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds and potatoes.  

Although most commonly reported in larger dogs, some smaller dogs and a few cats have also developed the disease.

Due to the complexity of the issue, the FDA has announced it will continue to investigate the link between pet food ingredients and DCM.

To read the full report and learn more, visit the FDA website.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medications and Pets

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With the wealth of information seemingly available on the internet, some pet owners feel inclined to treat their ailing pets with over-the-counter (OTC) medications formulated for humans. While their hearts are in the right place, the unintended consequences of administering human medications to pets are often unknown to these well-meaning pet parents. Much information derived from the internet is often false or interpreted incorrectly. In reality, most OTC medications available that are safe and appropriate for humans are toxic to pets. This blog post hopes to clarify why most OTC drugs are not appropriate for pets, and why these drugs are toxic to our furry friends.

Tylenol (Acetominophen)

Tylenol is a common trade name for the drug acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an drug used for mild to moderate pain that is commonly used and available for humans over-the-counter. In humans, it is used for anything from fever to arthritic pain. Tylenol should never be given to our pets, as they lack the ability to properly and safely metabolize and excrete the metabolites created by acetaminophen.

For Cats:

Under no circumstances should a cat ever be given Tylenol! Cats have difficulty metabolizing acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. For cats, the metabolized Tylenol results in  products that are toxic to the liver and red blood cells. Damage to red blood cells can lead to a state called methemoglobinemia, meaning that the red blood cells are incapable of carrying oxygen to the various cells of your cat’s body, resulting in brown, muddy gum colour and respiratory distress. Gum colour may also appear blue to the lack of sufficient oxygen. In severe cases, Tylenol toxicity leads to liver and kidney failure, and possibly death. Just one tablet of Tylenol is enough to harm if not kill your cat.

For Dogs:

While dogs are less sensitive to Tylenol, the same consequences from toxicity exist for dogs. Dogs also tend to be less particular about what they will consume, so if they accept higher doses from well-meaning humans, there are concerns for their liver and kidney health.

Note the blue gum and tongue colour, symptoms that can be associated with poor oxygenation as a result of Tylenol toxicity.

 

Ibuprofen (includes Advil, Motrin, Children’s Advil and Children’s Motrin)

Ibuprofen is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that is commonly available OTC for humans. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to ibuprofen in particular and NSAIDs in general, and being that OTC concentrations of human NSAIDs like ibuprofen are very high, even in children’s formulations, ibuprofen is not recommended for use in pets. 

Why can’t I use Ibuprofen for my dog or cat? 

Pets are very sensitive to ibuprofen. Moreover, the concentration of ibuprofen in adult and children doses is too high for pets. In the available human dosing, ibuprofen can cause severe stomach ulceration, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy and loss of appetite. In high doses, ibuprofen can cause kidney and liver failure, and can lead to neurological problems such as seizures. 

How are pet-approved NSAIDs different?

Whereas ibuprofen is not well-tolerated by dogs and cats, NSAIDs used by veterinary hospitals contain active ingredients (for example, meloxicam) that are tested for an accurate margin of safety at specific doses through peer-reviewed studies. These drugs are formulated in doses that are species-appropriate. In veterinary hospitals, the safety of longterm NSAID use is monitored by bloodwork to monitor kidney and liver function, as well as platelet function. Platelets are required for clotting ability, which is responsible for stopping blood from flowing out of a wound. NSAIDS like Metacam (Meloxicam) are dosed in specific amounts based on the weight and species of your pet, as prescribed by a veterinarian. Never give NSAIDs prescribed to one pet to another pet without consulting your veterinarian, as NSAIDs can have adverse effects when administered with other classes of drugs, and are dosed differently depending on your pet’s species. In general, NSAIDs are used very sparingly in cats due to their sensitivity to this class of drug.

Why is it important to see my veterinarian before administering pain medication?

Ultimately, if your pet is displaying signs of pain and you are attempting to administer an OTC drug, you identify that there is a concern that needs to be addressed with your pet. If you do not know what you are treating your pet for, you can mistakenly cause more harm to your pet. Rather than treat symptoms that you can see at the surface with drugs that can potentially lead to internal injury due to toxicity, by bringing your pet to be examined, a veterinarian can work to diagnose the root of your pet’s issue. If the source of your pet’s pain can be adequately controlled by drugs, your veterinarian can prescribe a safe medication with proven results to help your pet be comfortable and pain-free once more, and monitor their progress and health with bloodwork, other diagnostics and a thorough hands-on exam. If you are unsure as to signs of pain in your dog or cat, read our blog post on the topic!

Post-Surgical Recovery

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Your pet has just come home from surgery . . . what now? How necessary is that “cone of shame?” This blog post hopes to clarify some post-surgical concerns that pet parents often raise during the post-surgical healing period. Please note: this post contains graphic images of open incisions and infected surgical sites, which are potential consequences of poor surgical site maintenance. 

What should I expect now that I have my pet home?

During the first 24 hours of recovery, your pet will likely be tired and may have a decreased appetite. Some pets have not have their usual bowel movement in the evening due to fasting prior to anesthesia. Please notify your veterinarian if your pet does not have a bowel movement after 24 hours, is vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, is painful despite pain medication, or continues to have a reduced appetite. Your veterinarian may need to reassess your pet, prescribe additional treatments or medications to help your pet have a smooth recovery. 

Does my pet need to wear an Elizabethan collar (E-collar)? He doesn’t like it! How will she eat or sleep?

A happy dog modelling a well-fitted E-collar!

An Elizabethan collar, or E-collar, is necessary for most pets recovering from surgery. Depending on where the healing incisions are, an E-collar prevents your pet from licking or scratching at those incisions, potentially removing sutures, opening incisions and introducing infection to the site. This is especially important for abdominal surgeries such as routine spay surgeries; if this site is opened, infection can be seeded deep into the abdomen, possibly requiring an additional surgery to repair the wound and antibiotics to fight off infection in the abdomen.

Your pet’s E-collar is sized appropriately by your veterinary team to ensure that your pet cannot reach their incision when the cone is used correctly. Most pets adapt very well to their E-collars. To help your pet eat while wearing the collar, you can temporarily use smaller bowls that will fit beneath the cone. Otherwise, with the allure of a tasty meal most pets seem to make it work! Cutting the E-collar to a shorter length allows the pet to access their surgical incision. If you are concerned that your pet is uncomfortable with their E-collar, speak to your veterinarian prior to attempting alternatives to an E-collar.

Are there alternatives to E-collars?

Sometimes cats are very talented at removing their E-collars. In these cases, we may recommend adding a “onesie” to help protect surgical incisions.

While alternatives exist to the traditional plastic E-collar, they are often inappropriate for most patients. Inflatable or soft fabric collars can be maneuvered by your pet to allow them to access their surgical sites. Some pets can simply pop their inflatable collars off entirely. As a result, veterinarians generally do not regularly recommend these collars for post-surgical recovery as they do not protect the integrity of surgical incisions. Sometimes, veterinary staff may recommend a “onesie” or t-shirt as a suitable alternative for some pets based on the location of the incision and the energy level of the pet, or if an E-collar would otherwise sit directly on an incision (for example, a lump removed from the neck may have a large incision in the area that an E-collar would normally sit). Your veterinarian will be able to assess whether an alternative to a traditional E-collar is appropriate for your pet.

What should I be looking for in a surgical site that is healing well?

A healing surgical site will appear pink, without redness, noticeable swelling, odour or discharge. There may be some scabbing at the site. Some incisions will be closed with visible external sutures or staples while others are closed internally using sutures just under the skin. External sutures and skin staples require removal by veterinary teams, often 10 to 14 days after the surgery date.

Note the limited redness and smooth healing of this spay incision.
Image Credit: Amber Toy Poodle

 

Here are some images of incisions that pets licked or scratched at during the healing process (**Viewer discretion is advised due to graphic images**):

An infected spay site. Note the large amount of swelling, the open incision and green discharge in the incision.

This site is almost completely opened, with one skin suture remaining. The site is inflamed and infected, with green discharge.

 

This is an infected neuter incision. Note the inflamed, red tissue around the incision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there anything I can do to help my pet recover smoothly?

Yes! Following the instructions of your veterinarian by administering pain medication, keeping preventative devices like E-collars in place and monitoring your pet’s activity level, eating and water intake can all be beneficial in terms of helping your pet recover well. Keeping your pets calm and quiet and preventing rough-housing with other animals will help keep surgical sites intact. Cats should not be allowed to jump up on high surfaces which creates tension on healing incisions and dogs should only be walked outdoors on a leash to use the bathroom. While your dog may be adjusting to the cone or your cat may seem bored in their room without furniture to jump on, remember: a little discomfort for 10 to 14 days, which is the typical recovery period, goes a long way! Allowing your pet to return to normal activity or access their surgical site delays healing and can lead to a second surgery to fix damage done to their surgical site.

Muzzle Training for Dogs

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A veterinary hospital is a scary place for many dogs. There are strange sounds, smells, unknown animals and strange humans. To make matters worse, these strange humans in white coats want to examine your dog and possibly vaccinate them with sharp needles, or examine tender areas. It is natural for many dogs to feel uncertain, nervous or scared in these situations, and a natural defensive instinct for canines is to bite. Sometimes, a muzzle is needed to keep veterinary staff, yourself and your dog safe. Beyond veterinary hospitals, your dog can benefit from muzzle training in times of emergency, such as painful broken bones or if your pet is hit by a car. In order to transport your dog to a veterinary hospital safely, a muzzle can help prevent your dog from biting out of pain, and allow him to be transported for treatment much faster. Just like a leash or head halter, a muzzle is tool used to help control animal behaviour and should not be painful or stressful for the dog. Through muzzle training, you can help your dog accept a muzzle calmly and be prepared should your dog ever require a muzzle.

 

The Purpose of a Muzzle

A muzzle is a tool intended to limit a dog’s ability to bite. Even the most docile dog is genetically programmed to bite in reaction to pain. In this scenario, a bite is a protective instinct. They do not think about the fact that they are biting the hand that is trying to help them, as the dog is trying to prevent the area in pain from being subject to further injury. 

Muzzles should never be used for punishment! If your pet is inappropriately chewing furniture in the home or barking at strangers through the window, a muzzle is not an appropriate tool to correct these behaviours. Consult a veterinarian who can refer you to a professional trainer or behaviourist if you have concerns regarding inappropriate behaviours.

Types of Muzzles:

While different styles of muzzles exist, a muzzle should allow a dog to breathe normally, pant if needed, and drink water. For these reasons, a basket muzzle is recommended when muzzle training dogs. Other styles of muzzles should only be used for a very limited duration by professionals.

 For short-snouted dogs like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers, a mask-type of mesh muzzle is often more appropriate for short procedures like nail trims or exams. Due to their anatomy, the short, broad nose and flat faces of these breeds render traditional muzzles ill-fitting. The mesh mask muzzle allows these breeds to breathe properly during restraint, while still keeping veterinary staff safe.

 

Tips for Muzzle Training

The Blue Cross Animal Hospital has provided an excellent video on how to muzzle train your dog.

  • Introduce the muzzle in a fun way! Use treats, play or other things that your dog likes and gets excited about, and pair those positive elements with the muzzle to create positive associations with the muzzle. 
  • Habituate your dog to the muzzle. If you only bring out the muzzle when your dog is nervous or painful and the muzzle is needed to prevent a potential bite, your dog can form negative associations with the muzzle. Instead, bring out the muzzle periodically and give your dog a treat while being relaxed near the muzzle, then put it away without putting it on your dog. Your dog will become desensitized to the muzzle—just because the muzzle is out does not mean your dog needs to wear it!
  • Start slowly. Allow your dog to start wearing the muzzle for short periods of time before gradually increasing the duration of wear. Once your dog becomes more comfortable, you can start fastening the strap at the back.
  • A proper fit: the strap below the ear sat the back of the neck should fit snugly. For everyday use, you should be able to fit two fingers between this strap and your dog’s neck, but not so loose that your dog can paw off the muzzle. When used as a means of restraint in a veterinary situation, this strap may be tightened for short periods of time if there is a concern about bite risk. The end of the muzzle for everyday use should allow about 1.25cm between the end of your dog’s nose and the beginning of the basket muzzle.

    A muzzle measurement guide from Dean & Tyler, a canine equipment retailer.

 

How does muzzle training benefit my dog?

  • In Hamilton, the Dog Owner’s Liability Act dictates that a dog that bites or attacks another pet or person can be ordered to be euthanized as a danger to society. By muzzle training animals that have a bite potential, you can help prevent injury to other dogs and people.
  • In Ontario, Breed Specific Leglislation deems certain breeds “dangerous.” As a result , these breeds must be muzzled in public by law. Muzzle training helps desensitize your dog to a device that must be worn by these breeds in public.
  • If your dog bites a person at one of our hospitals, Hamilton Public Health requires us to complete a bite report. If your dog is overdue for their rabies vaccine and bites a person, they will be required to enter quarantine based on a rabies risk assessment.
  • In veterinary medicine, we sometimes have to do things that are uncomfortable for the dog in the moment, but are essential for ensuring long-term health. For example, a dog that is limping may not want to be approached by staff and will require sedation both for the dog’s comfort during the exam and the safety of veterinary staff. However, the dog may not even allow staff close enough to administer the sedative injection safely. In this scenario, a muzzle is placed with the owner comforting the dog and keeping his attention and head away from staff which allows everyone to be safe, the dog to be sedated, and a full exam to completed pain-free. The dog can then be accurately diagnosed and treated. With muzzle training, stress is removed from the restraint portion of the procedure, and the dog does not struggle against the muzzle because he has never seen one before.

Cannabis and Pets

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As of October 17th 2018, cannabis became legal in Canada for recreational use. Due to the potential increased access and exposure of pets to cannabis products and baked goods, pets may also be at a higher risk for possible cannabis toxicity. As illustrated by studies on the effect of legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the legalization of cannabis led to an increase of  four times the number of reported cannabis toxicity cases in pets. In the past 6 years, the Pet Poison Helpline reports a 448% increase in marijuana cases.

According to the ASPCA Poison Control Center the leading cause of toxicity, especially in dogs, is due to edibles that are infused with marijuana. Pets are proportionately more sensitive than humans t

o the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the agent that causes the “high” experienced by humans who intake cannabis products. Cats, who tend to be more selective with their eating habits, are less likely to raid the garbage and consume disposed cannabis products and also lack the “sweet tooth” that attracts dogs to baked goods containing marijuana.

 

Signs of Toxicity Include:

Signs of toxicity can present anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after exposure, and can last from 30 minutes to several days depending on the level of exposure.

Source: Aspen Grove Veterinary Care

  • Prolonged depression
  • vomiting
  • incoordination and drunkenness
  • sound or light sensitivity
  • pacing and agitation
  • sleepiness or excitation
  • hypersalivation
  • dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
  • inappropriate urination, incontinence or dribbling urine
  • vocalization
  • fast or slow heart rate
  • low body temperature

In some cases, marijuana toxicity can cause seizures or cause a comatose state. In rare cases, marijuana toxicity can cause death. Pets who are exposed to cannabis should be assessed by your veterinarian and given supportive care to help clear the toxin from their systems. 

Source: ASPCA Animal Poison Control and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Treatment

Please remember that we are not here to judge if you are feeling embarrassed about what your pet has eaten . . . we simply want to help your pets! By informing veterinary staff that your pet may have eaten cannabis, it helps us to narrow down what may be affecting your pet and helps us to provide an accurate treatment plan for your pet. Human urine drug-screening tests are not accurate for use in pets, so we rely on history and a physical exam to determine possible cannabis toxicity.

If your pet has consumed cannabis, treatment may involve the following steps:

  • Physical exam and history to gauge level of risk 
  • If cannabis was ingested recently, we may induce vomiting and give activated charcoal to bind to any remaining toxin in the stomach
  • IV fluids to help your pet’s body to clear the toxin from their system, especially the liver
  • Possible bloodwork to assess organ function
  • Supportive care and monitoring of temperature and other vital signs

I understand the risks cannabis toxicity poses to my pets. What about cannabis-based pet products? Are they safe?

While most cannabis-based products marketed to pet parents are produced from the hemp plant and hemp contains negligible levels of THC, very little research has been completed to validate the claims of many of these products, their therapeutic benefits and their potential toxicities. Moreover, Health Canada has not approved any cannabis-based products for animal use at this time. All products containing cannabidiol (CBD) require a prescription for use, and as such, any herbal product sold without a prescription is being sold outside of the bounds of current legislation. In summary, veterinarians do not currently have a legal pathway to prescribing cannabis products to pets, and the lack of research into their risks and benefits and absence of a regulatory framework for ensuring the quality of CBD pet products are issues affecting the ability of veterinarians to safely recommend these products for therapeutic use.

Rabies is Real

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In honour of World Rabies Day, this is a blog post about the rabies virus and rabies prevention. Since 2015, 300 animals have tested positive for rabies in Hamilton. Rabies is 100% preventable with vaccination. The information below is provided by Hamilton Public Health and the Ontario government in their initiative to educate the public about rabies and the importance of vaccination.

What is rabies and how is it transmitted?

In Hamilton, raccoons, skunks and several foxes and cats have tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system. It is transmitted through saliva, often from one infected mammal biting another mammal. Rabies can also be transmitted if your pet comes into contact with brain or spinal tissue from an infected animal. This infected animal can be dead or alive. If any of these fluids or tissues come into contact with an open wound, break in the skin, eyes or mucous membranes such as the mouth or nose, your pet is at risk for contracting rabies. Depending on the level of exposure, most affected pets will begin to show signs of the disease within 2 to 12 weeks of being exposed to the virus. In some animals, signs of rabies can take several months to appear. Once symptoms appear, the infected animal will die within 7-10 days.

 

Rabies Symptoms in Cats and Dogs

Image Credit: CDC

  • behaviour change, either:
    • more quiet or depressed
    • unusually friendly when normally timid
    • more aggressive toward people, animals, objects, even its own body
  • loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
  • barking or meowing differently
  • drooling excessively
  • biting the site of the wound where the animal was exposed to rabies
  • overreacting to touch, sound or light
  • staggering or falling
  • becoming partially or completely paralyzed (unable to move)

Source: https://www.ontario.ca/page/rabies-pets

Infection period

Rabies can be transmitted up to 10 days before your pet displays signs of infection; this is why veterinary staff will ask if your pet has bitten anyone and broken skin within the last 10 days as part of our appointments during routine intake questions. 

My dog has been vaccinated before and I have concerns about “over-vaccination.” Does my pet still require a rabies vaccine? Are titres available?

A common question! Yes, all cats, dogs and ferrets in Ontario over the age of 12 weeks must be vaccinated for rabies by law regardless of previous vaccination status, unless otherwise determined by a veterinarian. By law, only a veterinarian can inject the vaccine. The type of rabies vaccine used at Beattie Pet Hospital hospitals is a “killed” virus, meaning that your dog or cat cannot contract rabies from the vaccine. The rabies vaccines we use have been extensively tested in clinical trials and have been shown to have limited adverse effects in a small number of pets. Adverse effects are similar to other vaccines: pain at the injection site, vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy.

According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), there is limited evidence that titres, blood tests that measure the level of an antibodies against a particular virus, prove immunity. While some veterinarians correlate high titre results with low disease exposure risk for some vaccines, rabies titres are fairly unreliable for immunization status in dogs and cats.

In general, the vaccine is very well-tolerated, and if there are concerns about safety please discuss them with one of our veterinarians.

Why is the vaccine the same size for a Chihuahua and a Great Dane?

The vaccine is formulated based on the amount of killed virus required to activate an appropriate immune response and trigger the creation of antibodies against rabies. The “size” of an immune system does not vary based on the size of the dog, so what may look like a “large” vaccine for your Chihuahua is actually appropriate in terms of his protection against rabies. Veterinarians will often offer to “split” vaccines for smaller pets: giving the rabies vaccine separately on another visit apart from other core vaccines.

What to do if you or your pets come into contact with an animal that may have rabies:

If your dog or cat has been bitten or scratched:

  • Contact your veterinarian to examine the bite or scratch, and follow-up with possible quarantine protocols

If you have been bitten or scratched:

As per Hamilton Public Health, if you have been bitten or exposed to a potential rabid animal:

  • Call your doctor and schedule an appointment to have them examine the animal bite or scratch
  • Report potential exposures due to animal bites or scratches to public health by calling 905-546-2489. Wash wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention
  • If you believe you were in contact with a sick raccoon, or if you see other sick raccoons, skunks or other wildlife report it to the City of Hamilton at 905-546-2489.

While the current risk to the public remains low, this is due to vaccination protocols, education and awareness. Since 1989, the number of rabies cases has decreased by 99% according to the Ontario government, which tracks all reported cases of rabies.

 

 

Signs of Pain in Cats and Dogs

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As veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary support staff, we are often asked how to identify signs of pain in pets. September is Animal Pain Awareness Month. Read on below to understand how to identify signs of pain in your dog or cat, strategies for pain control, and the importance of effective pain management.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

While some dogs are very vocal when they are painful, many dogs tend to hide their level of pain, giving only subtle clues that they are experiencing discomfort. Signs of pain in our canine friends include but are not limited to the following:

  • Reluctance to use stairs

    Photo Credit: My Dog Can

  • Withdrawing from activities with family members
  • Poor appetite
  • Sensitive to touch in certain areas
  • Limping or non-weight bearing in one or multiple limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Licking at an area
  • Vocalizing, whimpering or whining 
  • Straining and/or difficulty urinating or passing stool, or eliminating in inappropriate areas
  • Personality changes
  • Increased heart rate and/or breathing rate outside of normal conditions (for example, when relaxing)

Signs of Pain in Cats

Cats tend to be stoic and do their best to hide their pain as a survival mechanism. Watch for the following signs as possible indicators of pain in your cat:

  • Hiding from family members

    Note the hunched, curled body posture and half-closed eyes. This cat may be in pain.

  • Decreased overall grooming, or over-grooming of specific areas
  • Reluctance to be touched in certain areas or in general
  • Aggression or personality changes
  • Limping or stiffness
  • Reluctance to jump up onto surfaces
  • Poor litterbox habits
  • Straining to urinate or defecate, or reluctance to urinate or defecate
  • Poor appetite and/or drinking less water
  • Lethargy
  • Hunched body posture and/or “pinched” facial expression
  • Increased heart rate and/or breathing rate

Why Pain Management Matters:

  • Being exposed to increased levels of pain can delay the healing process due to the release of cortisol, a hormone that is released in times of stress.
  • Balanced electrolytes are essential for good health. When poorly managed, pain can lead to electrolyte imbalances and negatively affect the heart, liver and kidneys.
  • Poor pain control can lead to suppression of the immune system, which is responsible for fighting off infection.
  • Pain can also lead poor growth in young animals.

Types of Pain Medication

Depending on the type of pain your pet is experiencing, your veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate medication to target your pet’s pain.

Corticosteroids:

  • Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, prednisolone and prednisone may be prescribed by your veterinarian for arthiritic pain or discomfort due to allergies. These medications often require bloodwork to ensure safety, as they can have long-term effects on your pet’s kidney and liver health.

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs):

  • NSAIDs are appropriate for mild to moderate acute (short-term, sudden onset) or chronic (long-term) pain. Commonly used veterinary NSAIDs include Metacam (meloxicam) and  Rimadyl (carprofen).
  • Human over-the-counter NSAIDs such as Advil or Tylenol are never recommended for pets, as they have limited ability to metabolize these drugs and they are toxic (especially to cats) in low doses.

Opioids

  • Opioids are used for moderate to severe pain, for example as part of a post-surgical pain protocol.
  • Includes hydromorphone, buprenorphine and fentanyl.

Other Strategies for Coping with Pain:

Once the source of your pet’s pain has been identified, the following strategies are examples of changes that may be helpful in alleviating pain when combined with the recommendations of your veterinarian:

  • Alter the home environment as best as possible to help alleviate pain. For example, if your dog has difficulty jumping up onto the couch, purchase a set of small stairs or a step stool to help alleviate the arthritic discomfort associated with jumping onto the couch.
  • Choose elevated bowls if your pet has difficulty stooping down to reach their food and water dishes.
  • For cats, choose a litterbox that is easily accessible with low sides and no cover.
  • Provide carpets or “paw socks” to dogs that have difficulty standing up from a relaxed position.

 

Back to School!

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It is almost back to school time! The change in routine and schedule can be disorienting for our pets. Here are some tips to help your canine and feline friends adjust to the most wonderful time of the year!

Practice Establishing a Routine

  • A week or two before school starts, start establishing a routine similar to the weekday back-to-school routine: walk your dog in the morning or spend some one-on-one time with your cat before sending the kids to school.
  • Start gathering together items that your dog or cat will associate with the kids leaving for school, such as backpacks, lunch boxes and jackets in the mornings. The goal of doing so is to allow your cat or dog to become used to these items being prepared in the morning, without everyone necessarily leaving for the school day. This type of training desensitizes your dog or cat to these school items, and helps disassociate them from long days spent alone. Give your dog or cat a special treat or a chin scratch for being calm around these back-to-school items!
  • Try to leave the home as calmly as possible. If goodbyes are loud and prolonged, it convinces Fifi or Fido that something catastrophic must be happening, and it makes it harder for pets to remain calm when family members leave, if only for a few hours. This does not mean you should not say goodbye to your pets! However, awareness of the effect of your own demeanour is important to your pet’s mental state while you are gone.
  • Practice crate training your dog; most dogs adapt very well to crate training, and the crate provides your dog with the sense that he or she has a place to be while you are gone. If your dog does not tolerate crate training, a special bed or area of the house helps provide the structure that dogs crave!
  • Return home with a similarly calm manner in terms of greeting Fifi or Fido. Greeting pets calmly after a long day away helps them associate your comings and goings with a calm mentality.
  • Provide extra attention at the end of the school day. Play with your dog or cat, or spend time doing another activity that they enjoy.

Doggie Daycare and Visits from Friends

  • Doggie daycare can be a wonderful option for pets who are young and active, or do not tolerate being home alone during the work and school day.
  • Ask a friend, family member or a neighbour to check in on your dog or cat during the day. Regardless of whether your dog likes walks, playtime or simply companionship your dog will look forward to these visits! Although cats are generally more independent, they benefit from these check-ins too.

Home Alone Activities

  • Animals react to music! Follow this link to an article on Mental Floss that discusses the effect of music on animals. Shelters often play classical music to help calm animals that are left alone. As such, some people leave on the radio to help soothe pets while family members are away.
  • Leaving on the television or radio can help ease stress due to a quiet home, by simulating the sound of human voices in a populated home.
  • Treat dispensing toys can be used for both dogs and cats, and this type of activity challenges the mind—helping pets to stay busy and not focus on the fact that they are home alone.
  • Hide kibble or treats around the home just before you leave . . . ask your pet to “go find it” and they will enjoy a fun scavenger hunt while the kids are away.

Cats and Kids

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You may have already read our recent blog post about safety with dogs and children, and how to teach children to be respectful of dogs. In this post, we will outline safety tips for cats and kids—our feline friends deserve no less!

Tips for Kids

  • Encourage your cat to play with toys rather than fingers or toes! A feather wand or laser pointer can provide hours of fun for most cats. Remember that playtime mimics a cat’s natural hunting behaviours . . . it is best to allow your cat to hunt, swat and bite at a toy rather than your toes!
  • Pet cats gently around the chin, the sides of the face, and along the back. Avoid touching a kitty’s belly as most cats do not enjoy it!
  • If the cat does enjoy being held, always support their chest and hind legs when lifting.  If the kitty does not want to be held, let the cat come sit on your lap if they choose to do so.
  • Allow kitty to have breaks. Some cats prefer shorter periods of time for affection, and some prefer to simply be in the same room as you.

Tips for Parents

  • Flattened ears may indicate that your cat needs a break.

    Read your cat’s body language. Flattened ears and a swishing tail usually indicate that kitty needs a break!

  • Choose a cat that suits your family. If you are purchasing a cat from a breeder, choose a breed known for being laid back and relaxed in a busy environment. Don’t discount shelter cats! Adoption teams often have a good sense of what a cat likes and dislikes, and how they will tolerate children. You can choose a kitten to grow up with your family, or an adult that already likes kids!
  • Practice handling your cats positively (with treats, praise and/or petting) so that you are aware of their likes and dislikes and they become accustomed to handling
  • Teach children to respect cats as individuals, not as toys! 
  • Allow your cat to have a safe space where they can create distance away from children if needed
  • Try to maintain your cat’s regular schedule and environment if you are bringing a new baby into the home. Avoid sudden changes to things such as feeding schedule and litterbox placement as much as possible.

Teaching Children to Interact with Dogs Safely

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Most people love the idea of kids and pets together. There is nothing quite like growing up with a beloved furry sibling. However, as with all animals, safety is key in terms of interactions with our pets as well. Ensure that children are taught to respect Fido’s or Fifi’s boundaries, and adults should not allow children to be unsupervised around pets. This blog post focuses on safety tips for kids and dogs, and proactive tips for safe interactions.

Signs that your dog is stressed needs a break from their kiddie companions:

  • “Whale eye”: Occurs when a dog exposes the white part of their eyes by opening them wide
  • Avoidance: moving away and/or looking away

    While this may be a cute image, the dog is displaying “whale eye”–you can see the white parts of his eyes, clearly indicating his discomfort.

  • Exaggerated yawning
  • Repetitive lip licks, which usually consist of the tip of the tongue touching the nose briefly
  • Panting when it is not hot
  • Tail down and/or tucked between legs
  • Ears held back or down
  • Stiff body posture
  • Growling/Barking insistently

Example of a nervous lip licking

Note this Chihuahua’s stiff, defensive body posture with his ears held back and down.

What can I teach my children to do?

This video provided by Good Dog in a Box outlines general safety tips for children around dogs. 

Tips for Kids:
  • If a dog does not want to be touched, say hi from a distance!
  • Always ask before approaching a strange dog
  • Avoid reaching over a dog to pet them on the top of the head, pat the side of the shoulder or body if the dog is comfortable!
  • Do not touch a dog who is eating or sleeping
  • Do not take a toy from a dog unless they are offering it to you to play

What can I do as a parent?

  • Teach children to respect animals as companions. Never allow children to climb on dogs or pull on canine tails, limbs or ears
  • Encourage children to be calm and gentle when greeting dogs, especially strange dogs
  • Supervise children and pets, watching for the signs that the dog is uncomfortable to intervene and allow breaks or separation if necessary
  • Kisses and hugs make most dogs uncomfortable. Teach children to only blow kisses from afar.