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Marijuana Toxicity

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Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs       Level of toxicity: Moderate to severe

If your dog or cat ate marijuana, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for life-saving treatment advice.

Common signs to watch for:

  • Severe depression
  • Walking drunkmarijuana-is-dangerous-for-pets-300x300
  • Lethargy
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vocalization
  • Seizure

Cannabis sativa is a member of the Cannabaceae family. Slang terms include pot, weed and Mary Jane, just to name a few. Marijuana, or THC, affects receptors in the brain which alter normal neurotransmitter function. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from second hand smoke exposure, or from direct ingestion of marijuana or baked foods (e.g., pot brownies, pot butter, etc.). In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, clinical signs can be seen within 3 hours, and include severe depression, walking as if drunk, lethargy, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization and seizures. Vomiting is often seen with dogs despite the “anti-emetic” (anti-vomiting) qualities of THC.

We are here to help – not to judge – knowing exactly what Fluffy or Rufus ate will help immensely on our ability to accurately treat them in this emergent situation.

the cycle of ticks

Quick info on Lyme Disease

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Infected ticks generally must attach for a minimum of 24 hours for transmission to occur. The spirochete replicates at the site of tick attachment, after which time it spreads to other sites. Although briefly found in blood, the organism primarily replicates and spreads through connective tissue. After invasion, the organism can persist in dogs for over a year, through evasion of host immune responses.

Deer Tick


The initial signs in dogs occur 2 to 5 months after a tick bite and consist of variable fever, inappetence, thrombocytopenia, mild peripheral lymphadenopathy, and lameness due to neutrophilic polyarthritis. Clinical signs result from severe protein loss and renal failure and include inappetence, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, and polyuria and polydipsia. Urine protein to creatinine ratios are often > 5 and may be > 15. Peripheral edema, pleural effusion or ascites may develop.


One widely used serodiagnostic test for canine Lyme disease is a C6 ELISA (SNAP 4Dx Plus), which detects antibodies against a portion of the Lyme proteins. The advantages of the C6 ELISA assay are that 1) it detects antibodies 3 to 5 weeks after the time of infection, so by the time dogs develop clinical signs they are virtually always positive, and 2) it is negative in dogs that have been vaccinated for Lyme disease, because the antigen is not expressed by organisms used in Lyme vaccines. The C6 ELISA is available as an in-house assay, in combination with Ehrlichia canis/Ehrlichia ewingiiAnaplasma spp. and Dirofilaria immitis (4Dx Plus SNAP) and as a quantitative ELISA which is sent to outside labs.

Ticks and their Diseases

four Ixodid ticks image - a guide to identify ticks

Ticks, Ticks, and More Ticks!

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Ectoparasites are organisms that live on the outside of an animal. Ticks are fairly common ectoparasites of dogs (and cats). How often you see ticks on your dog and how severe a tick assault will be depends on the region of the country in which you live, the time of year (tick activity varies in warm and cool weather), the habits of your dog, and how and when you use tick control products. Some ticks can infest dogs that spend most of their time indoors, and even dogs that only spend brief periods of time outside can have ticks.

Tick Map Canada

 How will ticks affect my dog?

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Ticks attach to your dog by inserting their mouth parts into your dog’s skin. Many ticks also produce a sticky, glue-like substance that helps them to remain attached. After attaching to your dog, ticks begin feeding on your dog’s blood. The places where ticks attach can become red and irritated.

Although rare, ticks can consume enough of your dog’s blood to cause a deficiency called anemia. Certain female ticks can also cause a rare paralysis in dogs as a result of a toxin they produce while feeding. More important, ticks are capable of causing many diseases in your pet. The disease with which most people are familiar is called Lyme disease. Another is Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Tick Twister

Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling of your dog’s joints, resulting in painful lameness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause fever, lameness, and other signs. There are also other diseases that ticks can transmit to your dog. Your veterinarian can answer questions about the diseases that are important where you live.

How do I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

It is very difficult to prevent your dog’s exposure to ticks. Ticks can attach to your dog when he or she goes with you on walks, hikes, or during any outdoor activities.

The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog is by the regular use of tick control products. Your veterinarian can advise you about the best product for your dog and your situation. Your veterinarian is also aware of diseases that are common in your area and can pose a risk to your dog.

If you have a tick problem in your yard consider:

  • treating the outdoor environment (be sure to understand what products you are using and how they affect the environment)
  • making a landscape change to make the environment less tick friendly – this can be done by providing a 3 foot buffer between the lawn and any woods.  Mulch, wood chips, or gravel work well, and help to decrease the migration of ticks into yards.
  • ridding your yard of wild animals

Often more ticks are present or they are more active at certain times of the year. Your veterinarian can tell you how to avoid locations where large numbers of ticks are found.


Can humans be harmed by ticks?

Ticks can attach to and feed on humans. The skin where ticks attach to humans can become red and irritated. Ticks that transmit diseases to your dog can also transmit many of the same diseases to people. It is important to realize that people do not get these diseases from their dogs. Both people and dogs get the diseases from ticks they come into contact with outdoors. Diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which have already been described in dogs, can also be very serious in humans.

If you have questions about human diseases that are transmitted by ticks and how you can protect yourself, you should consult a doctor.


Thank you to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

Be Aware logo - "Things Aren't always as they Seem!" in black and white colour

Breeding Complications – Be Aware!

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For all novice or potential future breeders – CAUTION – VERY descriptive and blunt in the explanation!

SO YOU WANT TO BE A BREEDER? – Breeding the female
So you want to breed your female. You know what to expect if everything goes right. Your little girl will present you with tiny bundles of joy. She will lovingly nurse them and care for them until they are old enough to be weaned.


You and your family will find great joy in watching and playing with these little dolls, and then when the time is right they will all (or maybe you keep just one) go off to special homes to live out their lives as cherished companions. But have you given consideration to what if something goes wrong? I have listed here a few of the problems that I myself have personal knowledge of. Everything listed has happened either to me or someone I know. These are not isolated incidents. I’m sure other breeders could add miles to my list. Learn by others mistakes!. Let the breeding up to those who know what they are doing, have the experience, know what to expect.


The stud dog you have chosen is carrying a venereal disease and gives it to your female. She not only doesn’t conceive but you have to pay the vet bills to get her infection cleared up and she is now sterile.
The stud dog you decided to breed your darling to is not experienced. Once the two dogs are joined tightly in a tie, he decides to chase the neighbors cat out of his yard. He bolts for the cat ripping his penis loose and causing your bitch to hemorrhage from within.
Your modest girl decides she doesn’t want the attentions of this gigolo mutt chosen for her without her consent. She snaps at him catching her tooth on his loose cheek and rips it open sending blood flying everywhere. He retaliates by sinking his teeth into her left eye.
You leave your dog with the stud owner because the breeding is not going very swiftly. In fact, it’s been three hours and nothing is happening. The stud owners leave the two dogs alone in the back yard. The dogs get out through a tiny hole in the fence and a truck hits your female.
You pay the $250-$1000 stud fee up front figuring you will make that and more back when the pups sell. The breeder guarantees the stud service to work or you can come back again. After 2 months you discover it didn’t work and now must wait another 4 months to try again. Of course it doesn’t work again, so in another 4 months you take your dog to another male and risk loosing another stud fee.
You get her bred. Bring her home. She bothers you so you let her out she is still in heat and still receptive to males. You hear a commotion outside there is your girl tied up with the neighborhood mutt. When she whelps there will need to be DNA tests done on the pups.
You get her bred. Bring her home and let her out. (She is still in heat and receptive to other males) but you do not see the neighborhood mutt breed her. The pups are born but look odd. You call the stud owner he suggests DNA testing (At your expense). You have a litter of mutts! What do you do about the ones you have already sold?
Or knowing she tied with the neighborhood mutt you decide to terminate the pregnancy and try again being more careful next time. But a few weeks later your female is very sick because you had her given a miss-mate shot creating a hormonal imbalance causing a uterine infection and now she has pyometra and needs a complete hysterectomy. All plans of getting a litter is gone and your female’s life is now in danger if she does not have the operation.


The puppies are too large for the female. She never goes into labor, the puppies die and she becomes infected by the decaying bodies.
The puppies are coming breech and they drown in their own sacks before they can be born.
The first puppy is large and breech. When it starts coming your female starts screaming, and before you can stop her she reaches around, grabs the puppy in her teeth and yanks it out killing it instantly.
A puppy gets stuck. Neither your female nor you can get it out. You have to race her to the vet. The vet can’t get it out either. She has to have an emergency caesarian section of course it is 3:00 am Christmas day.
A puppy is coming out breech and dry (the water sack that protects them has burst). It gets stuck. Mom tries to help it out by clamping her teeth over one of the back legs. The head and shoulders are firmly caught. Mom pulls on the leg, hard, peeling the flesh from the leg and leaving a wiggling stump of bone.
A dead puppy gets stuck in the birth canal, but your female is well into hard labor. She contracts so hard trying to give birth that her uterus ruptures and she bleeds to death on the way to the vet.


The mother has no idea what to do with a puppy and she drops them out and walks away, leaving them in the sack to drown.
The mother takes one look at the puppies, decides they are disgusting droppings and tries to smother them in anything she can find to bury them in.
The mother gets too enthusiastic in her removal of the placenta and umbilical cord, and rips the cord out leaving a gushing hole pulsing blood all over you as you try in vain to stop the bleeding.
Or, she pulls on the cords so hard she disembowels the puppies as they are born and you have a box full of tiny, kicking babies with a tangle of guts the size of a walnut hanging from their stomachs. Of course all the babies must be put to sleep.
What if because of some Hormone deficiency she turns vicious allowing no one near her or the babies, who she refuses to nurse, or you have to interfere with.
You notice something protruding from her vagina when you let her out to pee. You take her to the vet to discover a prolapsed uterus, which needs to be removed.


One or more of the puppies inhaled fluid during birth, pneumonia develops and death occurs within 36 hours.
What if the mother’s milk goes bad. You lose three of your four puppies before you discover what is wrong. You end up bottle feeding the remaining pup every two hours, day and night. After three days the puppy fades from infection and dies.
The puppies develop fading puppy syndrome you lose two. You are bottle-feeding or tube feeding the last remaining baby. It begins to choke and despite your efforts to clear the airway, the pup stiffens and dies in your hands.
Your female develops mastitis and her breast ruptures.
Your female develops a uterine infection from a retained placenta. Her temperature soars to 105. You race her to the vet, he determines she must be spayed. He does the spay in an attempt to save her life, you pay the hundreds of dollars bill. The infection has gone into her blood stream. The infected milk kills all the puppies and the bitch succumbs a day later.
All the puppies are fine but following the birth the female develops a hormone imbalance. She becomes a fear biter and anytime anyone tries to touch her she viciously attacks them.
Mom and pups seem fine, the puppies are four weeks old and are at their cutest. However, one day one of the puppies disappears. You search everywhere but you can’t find it. A few days later another puppy is gone. And another. You can’t figure how on earth the puppies are getting out of their safe 4′ x 4′ puppy pen. Finally there is only one puppy left. The next morning you find the mother chomping contentedly on what is left of the last murdered puppy.


You give a puppy to a friend. Their fence blows down so they tie the puppy outside while they go to work. A roving dog comes along and kills the puppy. Your friend calls you up to tell you about the poor little puppy and asks when you are having more puppies.
You sell a puppy to an acquaintance. The next time you see them you ask how the puppy is doing. They tell you that it soiled their new carpet so they took it to the pound
You sell a puppy to a friend (you give them a good price and payments). They make a couple of tiny payments. Six months later they move to an apartment. They ask you to take it back. You take it back and of course the payments stop. The dog they returned is so shy, and ill mannered from lack of socialization and training it takes you a year of work providing socializing and training to be able to give it away.
You sell a puppy to a wonderful home. They love her like one of the family. At a vet check done by their vet it is determined that the puppy has a heart murmur. (Your vet found nothing when he checked the puppy before it was sold.) They love their puppy and want the best for her. They have an expensive surgery done. The puppy is fine. They sue you for the medical costs. They win, because you did not have a contract stipulating conditions of guarantee and so as breeder you are responsible for the puppy’s genetic health.
You give a puppy to your mother. She is thrilled. Two years later the puppy starts developing problems. It begins to develop odd symptoms and is suffering. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of tests later it is finally discovered that the dog is suffering from a terminal condition that was inherited. Possibly from your female since you know nothing about her family lines.
One loving home decides your puppy is untrainable, destructive and wants to return the pup and get a full refund, which you have spent on your vet bills.
One loving couple calls you and is very upset because their pup has crippling hip dysplasia and want to know what you are going to do about it. You have spayed your female so a replacement is out of the question, looks like another refund.


You put your ad in the local paper for your pups at the usual price and get only 2 responses and no sales. You cut the pup’s price in half and broaden your advertising to 3 other newspapers in which the advertising totals $120.00 a week.

You get a few more puppy inquiries from people who ask all about health testing you did before breeding and if the pups are registered. You tell them your dogs are healthy and it was enough and that you could get the papers. The callers politely thank you and hang up.
The pups are now 4 months old and getting bigger, eating alot and their barking is really beginning to annoy the neighbors who call the police who inform you of the $150.00 noise by-law.
Your neighbors also call the humane society who comes out to inspect the care of your dogs. You pass inspection but end up feeling stressed and harassed.
You finally decide to give the rest of the litter away but still have to pay the $1200.00 advertising bill and the $600.00 vet bill.
So you gotta ask yourself: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, “breeder?”

Laura Turner – AUTHOR (NOTE: This was written by a BREEDER)

Thank you Laura for this amazing peek into breeding and the potential issues that can come with it!

scared dog transformation - scared dog hovering at the corner on the left and dog recovered on the right

Fears, Anxieties, and Phobias

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It is natural to avoid situations that may be dangerous. Fears may range from a normal startle response to a sudden noise to an extreme phobia that interferes with a pet’s ability to function normally. Severity and duration of the pet’s fearful response should be proportional to the stimuli and the animal should in some way recover normally with minimal intervention, and become accustomed to the stimulus. This is called habituation and is a normal way of coping with changes in the environments in which we live. For example, if you move into a new home by a train track, you (and your pet) may be startled the first few times you hear the train rumbling past your home. After a few weeks, you may not even notice when the train goes by! Failure to habituate to a frequently occurring, benign stimuli would be detrimental and the pet would respond in a “fight or flight” response physiologic stress response. 

So what causes a dog or cat to be afraid? Pets may develop fears in response to many different, unique and specific stimuli such as: noises, people, animals, cars, vacuums, or locations (i.e. veterinary hospitals). Genetics and the natural ability to cope with stressful situations, learn and overcome fearful influences are related to breed, brain chemistry and early learning during the socialization period. Sudden noises such as thunder, smoke alarms, or fireworks can cause fear. Even people may do surprising things; if people are yelling, falling, or running, this may cause fear, especially if the animal has been familiar with people who speak quietly and move peacefully.  Even more mysterious to humans, animals have a keen sense of smell and may perceive scents in the environment that we cannot. Children may act or move unpredictably. Dogs may develop fears of people, such as women, children, or delivery persons.  

Animals do indeed have good memories and their brains may actually function similarly to humans in more ways than they differ. The portion of the brain called the amygdala is believed to influence expression of fear; the amygdala may be involved in memory recall and in initiation of physiologic responses to fear such as increasing heart rate, increased blood pressure, diminished pain response and the release of hormones. All of these physiologic responses allow quick thinking and escape in the event of life threatening situations. Animals learn from past experience and the animal will learn to initiate the “fight or flight” cascade of events earlier and thus avoid fatal mistakes.  So it is not in the best interest of survival to wait and see what happens next or be assured that nothing bad actually happened. Preventative response is preferred in order to survive.  Each animal’s response to a fear is an individualized and unique response based on their life’s experiences.   

Fears, Anxiety and Phobias Defined 

Fears are characterized by an emotional state in response to a real threat or danger. The response may be emotional or physical (panting, increased heart rate, fleeing or even aggression). Generally the response occurs when the stimulus (the threat or danger) is apparent and often dissipates soon after the threat is no longer evident. 

Anxiety is a generalized state of apprehension in anticipation of a fear causing stimuli. The response may be initiated by a real threat or danger but anxiety may occur without the threat or if there are other signs associated with the impending event (i.e. the drive to the veterinary clinic).  The pet’s anxiety may be reasonable or unreasonable when compared to the relative threat. The response may persist well after the threat is no longer evident. Learning and past experience often contributes to the development of anxieties but some pets have a generalized anxiety regarding change in routine or presentation of new stimuli.  

Phobia is an extreme emotional and physical state of distress in response to a real or anticipated stimulus response. The pet’s actions are so extreme that daily activities such as eating, resting or eliminating may be affected.  The pet may be so focused on escape or panic that they can injure themselves or others. Animals who display these severe, persistent and extreme responses would benefit from an assessment and the recommendations of a [ ] boarded veterinary behaviorist.  

Often fears intensify over time primarily because the pet learns from each experience. Early recognition of fear and early intervention likely provide the best prognosis for a better outcome but does not ensure that the pet will not display some degree of anxiety. Early signs of fear may be difficult to recognize since the signs may be subtle: the dog may merely freeze, look away, walk away or refuse to eat food.  The dog may fail to follow an obedience command and be labeled stubborn.  Cats will retreat and hide. 

Animals may respond in different ways when they are forced to deal with fears: escape is always a natural and obvious response but sometimes escape isn’t possible. Say there are fireworks exploding over the home or a veterinarian is examining a dog’s ear, and escape is just not a reasonable or possible response.  Agitated or extremely fearful cats are usually not subtle about their anxiety: cats may puff up, hiss and vocalize threats designed to avoid a physical confrontation. They may engage in a physical confrontation using, or threatening to use, claws or teeth.  

Dogs may be more subtle and often they just freeze; sometimes they orient toward the fear-causing stimuli, ready to respond if needed, and other times they look away in appeasement hoping the threatening species will get the message to diminish the threat. Some animals may become aggressive; this is a defensive response designed to give more emphasis to the communication intended to drive away the person, dog or animal resulting in the fear. This may be more likely to occur when a dog is on a leash since retreat is not possible and display of appeasement communication may be limited.  Some animals learn aggression is successful at thwarting a potential attack,  even if the attack was only perceived and would never have occurred. Other animals learn to seek refuge in a safe secure location, which could be in the home, outside the home, under a bed or in a crate.  Cats prefer to avoid confrontation and are perfectly skilled at escaping, fleeing and recovering in their own time. Profound feline fears are associated with longer periods of retreat. 

Helping the Pet with Fears, Phobias and Anxieties 

Forcing cats or dogs to ‘face their fears’ often results in increased fear and stress rather than alleviating the underlying unpleasant emotional response. Punishment also never alleviates anxiety and often pets may be punished in efforts to get them to stop doing undesirable behaviors. If the dog is afraid and retreats to the back of the couch in an effort to escape, punishment for getting on the couch will not alleviate the fear. Providing better, safer retreats is important for both dogs and cats. Some cats like elevated retreats, such as shelves or furniture, while other cats prefer low, covered caverns that seem like safe havens. Animals assess a situation based on their past experiences and their prediction of likely outcomes motivates their behavioral responses.  If thunderstorm noises terrified a cat and the frightening noises became muffled when the cat went under the bed, then the cat may seek refuge in this location again.  If a dog was going outside just as the lightning struck the neighbors house, he may not be willing to venture out in the rain again; he may even choose to eliminate in the home rather than go out in rain.  

Should we reassure or ignore a pet that is fearful? While much concern is given to the unintentional rewarding of attention seeking behaviors, it appears this question is actually quite complicated. Many animals become comfortable and relax in response to fear-evoking stimuli naturally; that is, they habituate. So, when most dogs face a relatively mild stimuli that startles them momentarily, the dog will observe, investigate and recover spontaneously. For these emotionally stable dogs, the human response may not be important or relevant in the dog’s response. Many pets may be calmed by comforting. Other dogs, especially more sensitive, reactive or attached dogs, will take cues from their owners and if they are calm, it calms them. If the humans display hysteria or confusion the animal assumes there is justification for this dramatic response.  So, the fear or anxiety response displayed by their favored human may either contribute to the development of a fearful memory or aid this adjustment process or. When the dog is exposed to a severe fear evoking stimuli, it is not simply enough to ignore the dog’s attention-seeking response and hope the dog will adjust naturally and learn that attention-seeking behaviors are not helpful.  

For the dog with a severe fear or phobia, a learned response has already become a pattern. Learning may even occur following a single event if the stimulus was terribly frightening at the first exposure. These dogs do not readily habituate naturally once the severe fear or phobia is established. These severely affected pets do not just get better on their own. So, should we reassure or ignore a pet that is fearful? The simplest answer may be to ignore mild responses to mild anxiety-evoking events if you can observe the pet closely to see if they can recover spontaneously – this is natural and appropriate. But for the pet that is severely fearful – help gently guide this dog into a calmer response and coping strategy. Avoid adding to the emotional drama. Strategies for calming a phobic pet may include helping them to find a safe place to hide, or using a leash and maybe a head halter to reduce pacing or even settling on a dog bed and massaging gently and calmly. The severely phobic dogs need a complete program and these strategies merely get them through the fearful experience;  contact your veterinarian to discuss use of medications and behavior modification strategies. 

Some dogs seek refuge with a human companion when they are afraid; some dogs will whine, vocalize or paw at their favorite human. In theory, we should ignore these dogs until they display more appropriate behavior. These dogs are difficult to ignore and ignoring them does not necessarily alleviate their anxiety. Dogs that are very attached to people and have minimal coping skills of their own will be confused when ignored. Consider: Is it reasonable to expect the phobic dog to have an epiphany, a Eureka-type break through, during their moment of greatest anxiety and panic and conclude they should stop demanding attention in order to attain the human comfort they seek?  The more severe the anxiety or the attachment, the less likely the animals is going to reach this brilliant conclusion all by themselves. So again, the suggestion to ignore the mildly anxious dog that paws at your leg may successfully reduce the occurrence of the attention seeking behavior but the same strategy will not be beneficial for the severely anxious dog. 

Learning During a Fearful Event 

During a fight or flight-based response animals respond instinctively and quickly. These are not carefully thought out mental calculations. People may respond similarly and do not learn well in panic situations or fear causing situations. Imagine yourself on a job interview and being asked to memorize a few phrases of a foreign language with which you are unfamiliar. In a stressful situation we can use skills we have practiced and rehearsed to perfection but not necessarily acquire new ones. Many behavior modification strategies include a recommendation to avoid the fear-evoking stimuli. This is not a short cut or excuse. This is not the end of the journey, it is the beginning. Once new coping strategies are learned, then the pet can be gradually exposed to the fear-causing situations. Ideally this occurs at a low intensity level so the fearful fight or flight response is not induced.  

Avoid “Flooding” 

When the pet is frequently exposed to the fear causing stimuli and the fearful response occurs, this is called flooding.  Some pets may learn by this strategy and may successfully get used to it, thereby alleviating the fearful response. The problem is that many more dogs are further traumatized by the experience. Observe your dog: the slightly anxious dog may be able to adjust, cope and relax but the extremely fearful dog will not. Extremely fearful dogs will instead learn their worst suspicions have been confirmed and that the situation is indeed horrifying! 

What about Corrections or Punishment? 

Sometimes the anxious behaviors can be quite annoying – barking, pacing, pawing or climbing incessantly.  Often this leads people to try to interrupt or stop these problem behaviors. This effort results in a series of attempts to stop a behavior, such as yelling “no,” yanking on a choke collar, startling with a noise or ultrasonic device, or even hitting or shocking a dog.  Don’t forget the underlying motivation for the attention seeking behavior was fear, so it is unlikely that any intervention with something negative will reduce anxiety.  

Punishment does not alleviate anxiety. If the punishment causes more fear than the initial stimulus, then the dog may actually discontinue the fearful display. So, consider a dog that is afraid of children that begins barking and flailing on the end of the leash when children are visible during walks. If we implement a strategy of firm choke collar corrections, it is possible to make the dog quit flailing around. Maybe a bark activated shock collar would stop the barking. But what about the dog’s underlying anxiety regarding children? This probably made it worse and now the dog no longer engages in a dramatic display so children may be more likely to approach the anxious dog! Corrections or punishment based strategies may be effective at alleviating a dog’s problem activities but not improve the underlying emotional response.  

What about cats? A fearful cat may display agitation, arousal and even aggression. Often people try to punish these puffed up cats, which actually only worsens the anxiety. When people try startling the cat, yelling or even squirting them with water, these tactics may successfully chase the cat away but only justify the cat’s fearful and agitated response in the first place. Punishing a cat only worsens the fear and anxiety. Do cats learn to be anxious by watching people? Some do, but generally dogs are more likely to learn from attention or human display of anxiety then cats since the fearful feline has already made their own assessment, fled the scene and is no longer around to seek attention or observe if the humans are fearful, reassuring or ignoring them.  







Pets with anxieties deserve compassion and assistance to alleviate their apprehension. The goal is for the pet to be comfortable, relaxed and at ease when fear evoking stimuli and situations occur. Much can be done to help the worried pet.

Copyright 2011 – 2016 by the Veterinary Information Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

image of heartworm life cycle - mosquito carry the inflection from infected dog to healthy dog

Who is Ready for Heartworm Season?!

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What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?


The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?

Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.

How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?


Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).

The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.

For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

When should my pet be tested?

Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs and cats.

Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.
  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.
  • You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your dog on monthly preventive—then retest your dog 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

Cats. Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody” test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.

What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?

No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

Here’s what you should expect if your dog tests positive:

  • Confirm the diagnosis. Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.
  • Restrict exercise. This requirement might be difficult to adhere to, especially if your dog is accustomed to being active. But your dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.
  • Stabilize your dog’s disease. Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.
  • Administer treatment. Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.
  • Test (and prevent) for success. Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life.

What if my cat tests positive for heartworms?

Like dogs, cats can be infected with heartworms. There are differences, however, in the nature of the disease and how it is diagnosed and managed. Because a cat is not an ideal host for heartworms, some infections resolve on their own, although these infections can leave cats with respiratory system damage. Heartworms in the circulatory system also affect the cat’s immune system and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in cats may even migrate to other parts of the body, such as the brain, eye and spinal cord. Severe complications such as blood clots in the lungs and lung inflammation can result when the adult worms die in the cat’s body.

Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:

  • Diagnosis. While infected dogs may have 30 or more worms in their heart and lungs, cats usually have 6 or fewer—and may have just one or two. But while the severity of heartworm disease in dogs is related to the number of worm, in cats, just one or two worms can make a cat very ill. Diagnosis can be complicated, requiring a physical exam, an X-ray, a complete blood count and several kinds of blood test. An ultrasound may also be performed.
  • Treatment. Unfortunately, there is no approved drug therapy for heartworm infection in cats, and the drug used to treat infections in dogs is not safe for cats. Nevertheless, cats with heartworm disease can often be helped with good veterinary care. The goal is to stabilize your cat and determine a long-term management plan.
  • Monitor your cat. Heartworm-positive cats may experience spontaneous clearing of heartworms, but the damage they cause may be permanent. If your cat is not showing signs of respiratory distress, but worms have been detected in the lungs, chest X-rays every 6 to 12 months may be recommended. If mild symptoms are noted, small doses of prednisolone may be administered to help reduce inflammation.
  • Provide veterinary care. If the disease is severe, additional support may be necessary. Your veterinarian my recommend hospitalization in order to provide therapy, such as intravenous fluids, drugs to treat lung and heart symptoms, antibiotics, and general nursing care. In some cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be possible.
  • Maintain prevention. A cat that has developed heartworm disease has demonstrated that it is susceptible to heartworm infection, and both outdoor and indoor cats are at risk. It’s important to give your cat monthly heartworm preventives, which are available in both spot-on and pill form. Preventives keep new infections from developing if an infected mosquito bites your cat again.
close up of teeth, before and after dental cleaning

Pet Dentistry – Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment

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Ancaster Pet Dentistry for Dogs and Cats

Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment

Families with dogs and cats often do not realize that their pets need regular dental care to ensure their overall good health and wellness. Statistics show that well over three quarters of pets have never had their teeth brushed, and most have never had Professional Pet Dental Care. If your pet has bad breath, seems to have pain while eating, has lost his or her appetite, presents swollen, bleeding gums, or has lost any teeth, he or she is probably suffering some level of painful dental disease (gingivitis or periodontitis). Even without these symptoms, dental problems may still exist and the bacteria involved in dental disease can travel into your pet’s bloodstream to cause heart, liver and kidney damage if not stopped. If your pet has never had his or her teeth brushed, please call our Ancaster Veterinarian to set up a pet dentistry appointment.

Cat Dental Chart

Dog and Cat Pet Dentistry Important for Overall Wellness

Dogs and cats should see our pet dentist at least once a year, and pet owners should establish a daily dental hygiene habit for their pets at home. During a Pet Dental Checkup, our veterinarian will examine your pet’s teeth to determine their condition and then ultrasonically clean them to remove tartar buildup. If periodontal disease has already taken hold, our pet dentist may also need to perform extractions or other dental surgical techniques. Exams, cleanings and extractions need to be done under our safe anesthesia procedures.

Dog Dental Chart

Before any such procedure, we always run a complete blood screen to check for any hidden health issues. Your pet will also have a veterinary technician on hand at all times to monitor your pet’s vital signs and comfort levels to make sure everything goes smoothly and safely. Pet dentistry is quite safe, and by far outweighs the suffering and cost of letting dental disease advance to possible life-threatening bacterial infections.

Staging of Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

Staging of Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

Our pet dentist will also show you how to begin a teeth brushing regimen with your pet at home. The process is not as difficult as it may seem and most pets learn to enjoy this daily personal time with their owner over time. First you will need an especially-formulated pet toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste) and a pet toothbrush. There are several types and flavors and we can help you find the one best suited to your pet. For the first few days, just allow your pet to examine and lick the toothbrush with a little bit of toothpaste on it. We suggest doing this at the same time every day, accompanied by copious praise. Gradually, over the next few days, work up to moving the toothbrush into your pet’s mouth and start gently brushing, particularly along the gum line.

Pet dentistry is a critical aspect of your pet’s overall wellness, and we are ready to help. Please call us at 289-639-5540 to schedule an appointment.

How to Incorporate Dental Care into Your Daily Routine…..

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Is your pet’s breath anything but a bed of roses? A bad or foul smelling odor is not just unpleasant – it may also by symptomatic of an undiagnosed oral health problem like gum disease. Regular pet dentistry appointments are the best way to protect your pet’s oral health and reduce the risk for gingivitis, periodontal disease, bacterial infections and tooth loss.

3 At-Home Pet Dental Care Tips

Worried about your pet’s dental health? Keep reading to brush up on your pet dentistry knowledge and learn how to keep you pet healthy:

#1: Brush your pet’s teeth.

Good oral health is important at all stages of your pet’s life, and should start with puppy and kitten care. Once your pet has his permanent teeth, you should begin weekly brushing. Help your pet acclimate to the brushing by putting a small dollop of toothpaste on your finger and running it over your pet’s gums. Once your pet is comfortable with this, you can progress to using a toothbrush. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle; this is the best angle to remove plaque buildup and food debris from the gum line. Brush your pet’s teeth at least once per week.


#2: Choose dental-friendly food and treats.

Wet foods are more likely to stick to the gum line or become caught in the teeth. If your pet eats a wet food diet, you may need to brush more regularly than a dry food diet. Stickier treats like Kong peanut butter are more likely to become stuck along the gum line. Choose natural pet dental health treats that freshen breath and help “floss” the teeth by removing plaque. Remember, however, that even the best dental treats are no substitute for regular brushing.

RC Denta

#3: Schedule regular cleanings at an animal hospital.

While at-home care provides a strong foundation for your pet’s oral health, only a professional cleaning can remove tartar. Our veterinarian recommends annual cleanings at our Burlington animal hospital. During a cleaning we will scrape away tartar from the gum line and polish your pet’s teeth.

Do you include pet dentistry as part of your puppy and kitten care?

Pets Need Dental Care Too!!

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Yes, it’s True!  Our pets need dental care too!

Pet Friendly Toothpaste!

Pet Friendly Toothpaste!

First thing to remember: Foul-smelling breath from your dog or cat is never normal. It’s a symptom of disease that you need to heed. 
Second thing: Brushing is easier than you think it will be. Approach the task with a positive attitude, take it slow and easy, and then follow with something the pet likes — a play session or a food treat.  
For kittens and puppies, the focus is on training and prevention, but adult pets will likely need veterinary attention before a preventive-care program can help. Your veterinarian should check your pet’s mouth, teeth and gums as part of the regular examination, and make recommendations based on what he or she finds there. For many pets, the next step will be a complete dentistry under anesthesia. The procedure takes 45 minutes to an hour, and involves not only cleaning and polishing the teeth, but also checking for and treating broken or rotting teeth, cavities, abscesses and periodontal disease.  

Staging of Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

Staging of Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

This is a medical procedure, not a cosmetic one.  I recognize that people worry about anesthesia, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Today’s anesthetics are dramatically safer than those of even a few years ago, making the dangers and pain of untreated dental problems the bigger risk to health, even with older pets.

Dog Dental Chart
After the problems are treated, at-home care can keep things in good shape. Here are some tips: 
  Brush regularly. Use a toothpaste designed for dogs or cats a couple of times a week at least, although daily is better. If you absolutely cannot brush, ask your veterinarian about dental rinses that can help prevent dental problems. They’re usually not as good as brushing, but they can and do help. 

 Discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian. Some pet-food companies offer kibble with a mild abrasive texture to help keep teeth clean, or with ingredients that help keep plaque from forming. 


 Offer tooth-safe toys to help with oral health. You’ll want to avoid chews so hard they can break a tooth, and you may want to consider those impregnated with enzymes to help prevent plaque buildup.  Cat Dental Chart

Once your pet’s teeth are in good shape, you’ll notice an end to bad breath. The true benefits of dental care go far beyond a better-smelling mouth, however, making what seems like an aesthetic issue one that is in fact a cornerstone of a preventive-care program.

**Many thanks to the VSPN Network**

Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets?

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A frequently asked question…. Is tea tree oil safe for pets?  Below we have some data complied to help you discover the concerned faced with using tee tree oil in Cats and Dogs.

The simple answer to this is NO, and below we illustrate why it is not safe for Cats or Dogs….

Tea tree oil (melaleuca) is an essential oil produced from the Australian tea tree plant. Tea tree oil is known for its anti fungal and antibacterial properties, and possibly for its anti-pruritic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic effects. Tea tree oil is often found in varying concentrations and high concentrations should never be used on pets. As little as 7 drops of 100% oil has resulted in severe poisoning, and applications of 10-20 mls of 100% oil have resulted in poisoning and death in both dogs and cats.

Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs

Level of toxicity: Generally moderate to severe, life-threatening

Common signs to watch for:

  • Low body temperature
  • Weakness
  • Walking drunk
  • Inability to walk,
  • Tremors
  • Coma
  • Increased liver enzymes
  • Death

Upon further research….

Tea tree oil contains various types of chemicals called terpenes. These are the chemicals that make the oil effective against bacteria and fungi. They are also the toxic agent. Terpenes are rapidly absorbed into the body whether taken orally or on the skin. This means topical application of concentrated oil can result in the same toxicity as accidental oral ingestion. Given the tendency of pets to groom, especially cats,  the toxicity risk of topical applications is amplified.

Kitty Love

 Symptoms of toxicity vary depending on the dose of terpenes ingested. Minor symptoms like drooling or vomiting may be found with mild doses of oil. Animals with moderate illness may appear weak, have difficulty walking, or seem partially paralyzed. Severely ill animals have life-threatening symptoms like tremors, seizures, greatly reduced level of consciousness, or coma. Symptoms follow 2 to 12 hours after exposure.

There is no antidote for terpenes. Treatment is based on the level of toxicity. Skin decontamination and support therapy with intravenous fluids is the standard treatment. Vomiting, muscle tremors, and seizures are treated with medications as needed. Treatment may be necessary for up to 72 hours after exposure. Terpenes are toxic to the liver which will also require supportive care after initial treatment is initiated.

The concentrations of tea tree oil suggested for many skin problems far exceed the concentrations found in most pet products (.1%-1%). The attraction of using a natural product as opposed to a man-made synthetic treatment may not be worth the risk. The use of dilutions of 100 percent tea tree oil should be avoided in pets. It is too easy to miscalculate the amount of oil to use. Finally, oil should be safely stored away from pet access, especially the ingenious, inquisitive cat.

Is it safe?