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Entertaining Your Pets During a Pandemic

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Entertaining Your Pets During a Pandemic

By Dr. Megan Forgan

We have entered into uncharted territory, and I think we can all agree that this time of self-isolation and social distancing can be very difficult on our mental health. What we may not have considered, is how it can be difficult on our pets as well. In order to help prevent animal boredom, I’ve included a list of some fun things you can do with your pets.

  • Get outside! As long as you are healthy, have not travelled recently, and maintain proper social distancing there is no reason you and your four-legged friend can’t go for a long walk. Explore some parks or trails you may never have been to before. Take time to smell the roses!
  • Gourmet Treats. There are lots of websites online with recipes for making doggy treats, or doggy “mash” to stuff into different toys. If you put these in the freezer after, they make for very good long-lasting treats for your dogs.
  • Training. Always wanted to teach your dog how to play dead, but never had the time? Well here’s your chance! Not only are there a lot of trick training videos on YouTube, a lot of local training centers are offering online virtual training sessions! This isn’t limited to dogs! Who says cats, or even rabbits, can’t learn new tricks!
  • Alternative Feeding. Instead of placing your pet’s daily meals into their bowl, why not hide the kibbles around the house? This allows them to work on honing their keen sense of smell, and helps them keep entertained and full throughout the whole day.
  • When you’ve got all the time in the world, why not work on getting them used to the things your veterinarians are constantly hounding you about. Brush those teeth! Trim those nails! Clean those ears!


Lastly, don’t forget that your veterinarians are considered an essential service. We are here to help you and your pets with any questions or concerns you may have during this trying time.

Obesity in our Pets

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Obesity is a very common problem amongst our pets, so we thought we’d talk about the importance of maintaining a good weight in our pets. Maintaining a healthy body weight influences many factors. Previous studies have shown that dogs/cats in an ideal body weight live on average 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts! Being overweight increases the likelihood of various diseases including diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, and cruciate ligament injury.

‘Dogs/cats in an ideal body weight live on average 2 years longer’

It’s not always easy to get our pets active, whether it be cats or dogs, and even more so in the winter when it’s freezing outside. Exercise is certainly an important factor in weight management and should not be ignored. It is important for reasons other than just weight including muscle mass maintenance, joint mobility, and cardiac well-being. Regular exercise is encouraged over long sedentary periods followed by large amounts of activity.

When it comes to weight, diet is the most important single factor that influences weight. Ultimately it is about reducing the number of calories taken in, and increasing the calories burned. There are several weight-loss diets available that can help hasten and increase the success of a weight control program. Regular weigh-ins are crucial to measuring success, so we recommend weighing your pet monthly during this process.

Think of it as a double win – you spend less money on food and your pet lives a longer, healthier, happier life in addition to being less likely to develop several diseases which can be painful and/or expensive to treat.

Thunder Phobias

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It’s been a temperamental summer so far, with thunder, heavy rain and winds being commonplace. Thunder and storm phobias are very common amongst dogs and can start a few hours prior to the storm even arriving. These dogs will often hide, tremble, act uneasy, pant, or a variety of other stressed behaviors.

There are a variety of things that you can try to help alleviate their stress. The thunder vest is available and works in some cases by providing a feeling of being held/swaddled. Other dogs respond better to either supplements or medications. There are some over the counter supplements that may help with mild cases of anxiety and phobias. For the more severe cases, consider discussing anti-anxiety medications with your veterinarian. Phobias (whether they be storm phobias or fears of other things) can worsen over time if not addressed and can cause undue stress and anxiety in our pets’ lives. It is best to address these behavioral fears and issues earlier, as they are more difficult to manage once they have become more severe. 

Soggy Summer Slews

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It has been a wet and soggy summer so far, and seemingly there’s more to come. This amount of moisture and sitting water brings up a lot of things from the ground – everything from mushrooms to parasites, bacteria, and viruses that can potentially cause problems for our pets and in some cases, us. Many organisms thrive and come to the surface when it is this wet outside as they float to the surface. This may include things such as giardia (parasite that can cause diarrhea and beaver fever), clostridial bacteria (diarrhea causing bacteria), and other things. We’re not saying to avoid going outdoors, as many of our pets love getting dirty and rolling in the mud despite our futile attempts to tell them not to. However, we do recommend trying to avoid swampy and marshy areas that have been sitting for long periods of time, as exposure to and ingestion of this sort of water can cause illness in same cases. Most often they will cause vomiting +/- diarrhea, and some may require treatment. Depending on the organism, some infections can transmit to people as well, so ensuring proper hand hygiene is imperative.

Spring and Summer Smokey Smog

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It seems that smoky hazes and smog due to surrounding forest fires intermittently shrouding the skies is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. This smoke is detrimental to our health as much as it is to our pets.

Poor air quality can cause significant irritation and inflammation in the lungs, so outdoor activity should be avoided when the air is smoky. Pets with respiratory conditions should be especially careful of this. For example, cats with feline asthma can have asthma attacks or flareups as a result of exposure, or pets with bronchitis can have flareups as well. Animals with tracheal collapse can have coughing fits due to respiratory tract irritation and thus result in aggravation of their symptoms. Combined with the heat which is usually associated with these smoky spells, animals may breathe faster and respiratory issues can be compounded exponentially and rapidly. We recommend to keep outdoor activity limited, and to keep your windows closed if possible.

If your pet is still being affected indoors, consider purchasing an air purifier. Many of these contain hepa-filters and a carbon filter, which helps to remove the pollutants as well as the odors from the air. 

If your pet is suffering from respiratory issues, contact your veterinarian to see if there is anything else that can be done to help. Similar to people, some animals may benefit from inhaled medications to help reduce respiratory symptoms. 

Allergy Season Strikes Back

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The snow is gone and seasonal allergies are flaring up for those affected, some worse than others.  

Seasonal allergies can affect dogs and cats, just like they can affect us, and can present in many different ways. This can include sneezing, itching, rashes, and watery eyes. Ensuring that we differentiate between allergies and other causes of similar symptoms is important, as missing an infection or other underlying cause can result in further problems – some of the more serious than others. For example, allergies can trigger asthmatic flareups in some cats. These asthma attacks can be mild or severe and result in difficulty breathing and require hospitalization and intensive care in severe cases. 

There are many over the counter allergy medications for people, some of which can be used in animals and help with mild allergy symptoms. Please exercise caution when using these as dosing can vary, and animals can be more sensitive to some compared to others, and many of these products are combination products of multiple medications that can potentially be harmful to our pets. Please consult your veterinarian prior to using these remedies. 

With the emergence of spring and flowers also come bees and other insects. Insect bites/stings (from bees, spiders, and others) can cause severe reactions in some animals requiring urgent therapy. This may include swelling of the face, difficulty breathing, or ulcerative lesions on the skin which may slough over time. Seek veterinary attention immediately if your pet is suspected to be showing anaphylactic allergic symptoms.

Tick Talk Time – 6 point refresher

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You guessed it, it’s that time of year again! Spring is here (almost), and with the weather warming up again, ticks will once again start to become more active and look for hosts to feed off of – ie you, me, our pets, and other animals. 

We’ll try post a few other things and tidbits of info throughout the spring regarding ticks, but here’s a quick refresher and things to keep in mind. 

1. Ticks become active when the temperature gets over 4C. 

2. Ticks can carry several diseases that can be transmitted to both people, dogs, and cats. These include Lyme disease, anaplasma, babesia, ehrlichia, and a few others.

*Edit* Lyme disease is not thought to infect cats, as there have not been any reported cases of natural Lyme disease infections in cats as of yet. This does not apply to other tick-borne diseases, unfortunately.

     a. When diagnosed early, these diseases are often very treatable. If left undetected for prolonged periods, they can wreak havoc on the body and cause serious medical issues. 

3. If you find a tick, the government will pay for it to be identified and tested for Lyme disease. They do not, unfortunately, test for any of the other infectious diseases, so we still recommend having your dog tested for exposure to these diseases via a simple blood test. 

4. Being bitten by an infected tick does not always result in infection. Transmission of the disease can take up to 24 hours depending on the disease. If the tick is killed or removed early enough, this can prevent disease transmission.

5. There is a Lyme disease vaccine – although not 100% effective due to different strains being present, it can reduce the chance of acquiring the disease. This does not prevent other diseases, so tick prevention (avoidance and medication) is still recommended. There are reliable monthly medications that can ensure that even if a tick does happen to latch on and bite your pet, that they are killed off. 

6. Properly remove them if seen. Do not squish them if you see them. Do not try to apply any chemicals or burn them. Use a tick remover, or some flat head tweezers and pull straight out after grabbing them as close to the skin as possible. Then we can have the ticks tested. 

Speak to your veterinarian about the risk, and the best way to prevent ticks on your animals. 

Is it Spring Yet? Thinking of a New Puppy?

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Spring is just around the corner (despite the current temperatures outside)! Hey, we never said that spring had to be warm – we should all know better by now. That being said, it’s a common time for many to start thinking about getting a new puppy to enjoy the outdoors with. Here are a couple of things to think about when thinking about, or selecting a dog.

  1. Adopt or not? Adoption can be a great option if you are looking to provide a good home to a pup in need, and if you might want a dog that is already house trained. 

    They often come spayed and neutered as well. It is important to ensure that you get as much background on these animals, and ensure that they are a good fit by meeting them several times first.

  2. Breed – Different breeds are often known to have different expected personalities, energy levels, and temperaments. While this is not a hard and fast rule, selecting the right breed for your lifestyle, family, and space is important to keep your dog and yourselves happy. Also, different breeds can be at risk for different diseases and issues, as well as having different ongoing upkeep requirements, so it’s important to familiarize yourself and prepare appropriately. This brings us then to the next point of

  3. Cost – there are numerous costs associated with getting a pet. Initial and yearly vaccines, spay/neutering, puppy classes, grooming, food, bedding, toys, daycare, kennels, unexpected health issues, the list goes on and on. Budget appropriately, and always have an emergency fund available. Pet insurance is available through several different providers and can be a way to mitigate a portion of unexpected expenses.

Getting a puppy is certainly an exciting time, and there are lots of things to consider. You can always come by to have a chat about things before getting a dog to see how best to prepare yourself. They can be a lot of work, but they are also some of the best companions around.

How Oral Health Extends Beyond the Mouth

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It’s February again! And that means it’s pet dental health month. Dental health is more than a nice smile, clean teeth and good breath. Dentists often say that the mouth can offer insights into the rest of the body, and in many ways we agree. The benefits of good oral health extend far beyond the mouth, so we thought we’d share a few reasons to stay on top of your pet’s oral health.

  1. Healthy mouth – The most direct benefits of staying on top of oral hygiene include fresh breath, and being pain and infection-free (from gingivitis and tooth infections/abscesses). Tooth abscesses can result in the breakdown of the jaw bones and spread into the surrounding tissues. This can result in jaw fractures, nasal discharge, and facial swelling.

  2. Reduced risk of other diseases – Chronic infection and inflammation in the mouth can increase the risk of numerous other complications throughout the body. Here are some examples

    1. Endocarditis (heart valve infection) – chronically having small amounts of bacteria in the bloodstream increases the risk that some bacteria latch on to a valve in the heart and cause an infection there, possibly leading to heart failure

    2. Pyelonephritis or kidney damage (Kidney infection or damage) – the kidneys are great at filtering the bloodstream, and is commonplace for bacteria to collect and cause problems. This can result in chronic bladder infections, and cause kidney failure over time.

    3. Hepatitis (liver inflammation/damage) – it is common to see elevated liver enzymes on bloodwork with advanced dental disease. The bacteria that are released into the bloodstream from the mouth are most frequently caught by the liver and dealt with by the immune system, thereby resulting in low-grade chronic inflammation in the liver. In rare instances, abscesses may form and result in more complex and serious issues.

This isn’t meant to be a giant scare tactic, but rather to explain why we put so much value on the oral health of our pets. In addition to routine veterinary dental care, there are many things that can be done at home regularly to help maintain a clean and healthy mouth. Give us a ring to for more info on how we can keep your pet’s chompers in good shape!

Winter Weight

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January can be a cold and dark time of year in one sense, and yet bright and sparkly in another sense. Waking up with it being dark out, going to work, and getting back when it’s once again dark is something many of us have to deal with. On the flip side, during the day the sun is often shining and the snow glistening and that can also be a beautiful sight.

Something that we see all too often as veterinarians are the ‘winter weight gain’ in pets. If you’re anything like me, I like to hibernate in the winter and cozy up by the fire. We are frequently less active and don’t get outside as much. This decrease in activity often results in a few extra pounds for our pets. Weight management is largely influenced by diet and caloric intake. While exercise plays an important role in a pet’s health, the majority of weight control is controlling one’s food intake. Measure out how much you are feeding your pet daily. If you know your pet is less active during the winter months and packs on a few extra pounds, consider decreasing their feeding amounts during these months. Regularly weight your pet to monitor their progress. This will help keep your pet in tip-top shape, reduce their risk of arthritis, diabetes, and other age-related diseases.