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What Do Pet Food Labels Really Tell Us?

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By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Hello again, it is Dr. Susanne Krägeloh. This crazy year is drawing to an end, and despite increased measures to contain Covid19 we all hope for a peaceful Christmas and holiday season.

Typically around this time there are warnings about foods which can be poisonous or dangerous to our pets when consumed; this is a huge concern but I just would like to give everyone a helpful link: good information and an extensive list of toxins and what to look for when ingested are to be found at petpoisonhelpline.com. Also, you can always contact your veterinarian!

I would like to address a few misconceptions which are widespread when it comes to pet food. We all want the best for our pets. There are literally hundreds of different options, brands, and formulations, as well as thousands of opinions. What about the legal side of it with labelling, though? What do the words on the label mean?

First, the label must include the common or generic name (“dog food”/”cat food”), the amount of product, and the information of the manufacturer or importer. Additionally, the following information should be included: list of ingredients, feeding instructions, guaranteed analysis and nutritional adequacy or intended life stage. The ingredients must be listed by their common name. If an ingredient or combination of ingredients add up to 90% of the total weight of the ingredients it may form part of the name. That means if the food contains 90% chicken it can have “chicken” in its name (“House Brand Chicken Cat Food”). (See: Consumer packaging and Labelling Act)

Then there are a host of different claims which are used on the labels.  The claim “natural” is often found – the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has a definition what can be called “natural”; in essence it is free of artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives. “Natural” also is not to be confused with “organic”, which refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown, or animals where raised. Currently there are no official rules to be applied to the term “organic” other than said conditions. 

What do we expect from out pet food? We often hear that people do not want “fillers”. What do we think fillers are? Especially for “weight control” or “light” foods, but also for all others it is important to have good fibre in the formulation. Fibre is an ingredient with a purpose – it helps the digestive process in a very desired way, and also can make our pets feel full longer – who likes a pet begging for food because the digestive process went too fast! So – fibre has a place in our pet food!

And why is meat not always the first ingredient? First of all: dogs (not cats though) are omnivores, which means their nutrition contains animals as well as plant-based foods (fruit and vegetables as well as grains and other starchy foods). So, they need a variety of food items, not just meat. Then the processing comes into play: ingredients have to be listed by weight, and during processing water is removed from the ingredients, which makes up a good chunk of meat. So, a food with a non-meat ingredient in first place can still be a qualitative high-ranking food!

All in all, pet food labels contain a lot of information, just sometimes not what we expect or read into it! For the readers who want to delve in detail into this: more information can be found here: Guide for the Labelling and Advertising of Pet Foods (Government of Canada); the website of AAFCO; and also worthwhile looking at, is the website of the FDA (pet food labels). Or have a chat with your veterinarian!

Intestinal worms – why deworming our pets is important

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Summer is over, and winter is knocking on our door. We are staying indoors more, and so are our pets. We as veterinary professionals often get asked: why is it important to deworm our pets, even in the winter months? And even if we do not see any worms in their stools?

The answer is: we usually do not see worms in the feces.  Only if we have severe infestation with them do we see worms or pieces exiting our pets. A good routine with deworming helps us keep our pets worm free, and healthy. And it protects us as humans, as well.

Here is some short information on different types or worms and what this means for our pets and ourselves:

Roundworms:  Those are the worms we are mostly concerned about with young puppies. They can be transmitted already in the womb, or with the mothers’ milk. The life cycle of roundworms can be complicated, but we know that they can also infect humans, and transmission is not depending on direct contact with feces or the animal carrying the parasites. Especially young children and immunocompromised people are at risk. Therefore, it is advisable to deworm dogs regularly.  

Hookworms: Just like with roundworms, these worms can affect our pets from the time they are babies. These guys can be contracted by ingesting an infectious egg or even by larvae penetrating the skin, and the adult worms usually live in the intestines of their host, where they feed on the blood of their host. This can lead to anemia in severely infected animals. Here again: these worms can be transmitted to humans, either by ingesting infectious eggs or by larvae penetrating the skin. The good news is that they can be treated readily with the same products we use for roundworms.

Tapeworms: Typically, we think of cats which are hunting and eating mice as carriers of tapeworms, and it is right to want to deworm mousing cats for tapeworms. Recently another tapeworm is also more in the spotlight: Echinococcus, or the fox-tapeworm. While the “usual” tapeworm which affects dogs and cats is gross, echinococcus can be a huge health concern in humans.  Echinococcus can affect inner organs (liver, even the brain) where it can form cysts and lead to extensive damage. Fortunately, that seems to be relatively rare, but we want to be proactive and not risk severe health consequences from these critters. Treating tapeworms requires specific medication, which is in several, but not all products, for deworming. These products are generally prescription products.

To sum it up:  Deworming our animals regularly is necessary to keep our pets (and ourselves) healthy and free of parasites. We can help you find the right products and the right regimen for your pets.

Creepy Crawlies

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By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Hello, my name is Dr. Susanne Krägeloh, and I have been working in Beaumont since August 2020. My welcome to the new workplace has been warm, and I really appreciate to be in a community like Beaumont, where the people are so nice, friendly and helpful. Working in the midst of a pandemic has hindered to get to know people more in depths, but we are getting there.

It certainly has been a challenging year for everyone; I am sure our pets feel it too. Having said that at this time we are blessed with nice fall weather, and are preparing for the winter months. So, a lot of us are drawn outside for walks or camping, and enjoying the outdoors, together with our dogs, and our indoor­outdoor cats will also be roaming to get some hunting in.  

Who has probably not been affected by the pandemic are little critters living on or inside our pets: parasites. There are a multitude of parasites here in Alberta, and mostly we are unaware of them since they are not visible in most cases. External parasites are the ones living on the outside of our pets: mites, fleas and ticks as well as lice. We are more aware of them since they can cause visible changes for our pets: itchiness is the most common sign. 

There are several groups of ectoparasites: Fleas, ticks, mites and lice are the main ones we see frequently. They can affect a specific host only (which means they only feed on one species of animals like dogs only) or they can affect several different species of hosts like dogs, cats, wildlife and also humans.  

Fleas are a common parasite of dogs and cats, as well as other mammals (wildlife: coyotes, foxes, small rodents). Their bite can cause itch and also hypersensitivity reactions of the skin, which is frequently seen in dogs (as well as in humans). Adult fleas feed on the hosts blood, and lay their eggs on the host; then the eggs fall into the environment (inside and outside, depending where the host lives). Larvae hatch from the eggs, and the larvae feed on organic debris. Then they form pupae, from which adult fleas emerge as early as after one to two weeks. The adult fleas need a host for a blood meal, in order to produce eggs. Then the life cycle is complete and starts over. Adult fleas can live 2-3 months, and can produce 40-50 eggs per day – a stunning number of up to 1500 eggs within 3 months!  

Besides being a nuisance, fleas can also transmit diseases: for me the most well known is the plague (caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis), but also salmonella, a bacterium which can cause diarrhea, or blood parasites which can cause anemia (lack of red blood cells) among others. Some fleas can even transmit tapeworms!  

Ticks are also a parasite present in Alberta, and lately we have been hearing a lot about them. They seem to have become more prevalent here. We are concerned about the transmission of diseases by ticks, with Lyme disease being the most well-known disease, but there are other diseases they can transmit as well, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia or Anaplasmosis. These diseases are caused by pathogens transmitted by the ticks, when the ticks are feeding; and the pathogens are released into the bloodstream of the host after several hours of feeding.  

There are several different species of ticks in Alberta, and they all have the potential to transmit diseases. Most ticks are acquired from being outdoors; they live in the woods or in grassy areas, climb up on vegetation and let themselves fall onto a passing host. The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguinueus) though can live inside homes or kennels, where dogs are, in cracks and crevices of any building, and can survive there for quite some time.  

The life cycle of ticks can be very specific, generally there are eggs, larvae, nymphs and adults. Larvae, nymphs and adults feed on a host, then fall off to molt into the next stage and move on. Adults will mate, then when the female is engorged, she will fall off the host and lay a cluster of eggs. She will then die, but the life cycle goes on. 

Mites are usually transferred in younger animals by close contact, the most well-known mite here is the ear mite (Otodectes cynotis). Other mites can infect the skin, which can cause mange. Signs of infestation are head shaking and itching of the ears with ear mites and hair loss and itchiness with demodicosis or sarcoptic mange. Fortunately, mites are relatively host specific, which means they do not affect people (with the exception of Sarcoptes scabiei which can cause scabies in people as well). Therefore, it is always a good idea to wear gloves when handling a dog with suspected mange.  

Lice are also in the category of ectoparasites. They are extremely host specific and cannot survive away from their host. However, a severe infestation with lice can cause itchiness. The biggest concern here is transfer of eggs through grooming equipment like combs or brushes.  
All of these critters are unpleasant to have around, but they are easily treated or prevented. There are a multitude of products available, in different forms (usually topical products which get applied onto the skin of the animal or chewable tablets), and usually are given on a monthly basis, either all through the year or in the months when these parasites are most active, which is still possibly from March through November. Fleas and mites can occur right through the whole year, and ticks are active at temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius/40 F. We as veterinarians can help you find the right prevention product for your pets.  

This is a very general overview of these creepy crawlies; it is a good thing that we have the ability to treat and prevent them. Next time I will give some information on internal parasites but for now I want to wish everyone a pleasant and parasite free October! 

On My Own

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The mornings are getting cooler, the wind is getting stronger, and the sun is setting earlier. That can only mean one thing; school is almost back in session. After months of upheaval, for better or for worse, the world is starting to return to normal. With this return to normalcy, our pets are going to be left alone at home more often. For all the COVID puppies out there, this will likely be the first time they have been left alone, and that will present certain challenges. Lets explore how we can help our furry friends through this difficult time.

  1. Start Early: The time to start leaving your dog alone isn’t on the first day of school, its weeks to months before. You want to start with small trips away from home at first, so that your dog doesn’t think each time you leave you will be gone for hours. You can gradually work up how long you are gone each trip.
  2. Create a Routine: Just like humans, dogs thrive on routine, and it can be very comforting for them. Start to develop a routine for when you leave in the morning. This includes the little details; like where you grab your car keys from before you leave. Try to make your entrances and exits as boring as possible, so they learn it’s no big deal.
  3. Film It: When you first start leaving your dog alone, do like they do in the movies, and set up a nanny cam. This way you can see how your dog reacts when you are gone, see how anxious they are, and learn how much work you have left to do to make the experience more positive for them.
  4. Create Distraction: Fill your house or crate with items that are safe for them to be left alone with, and that make for good long-lasting toys/treats. This is where those frozen Kongs come in handy!
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Teaching your dog to be alone is not an easy task, especially if they are anxious by nature. Don’t be afraid to contact a trainer to help with these issues. At Leduc Animal Clinic we are more than happy to connect you with a positive-methods trainer, or discuss if medications may be needed.

Happy learning! Best of luck to all the little humans starting their school year!

Looking For Some Hot Stuff

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By Dr. Megan Forgan

Well, it appears as though summer weather is finally upon us. The sun is out, the temperatures are in the 20’s, and there is humidity galore. While this positive change is very much welcome, and provides us with wonderful opportunities to get outside with our dogs, there are some safety rules we need to carefully consider.

Honk-Honk: We say this every year, but every year we still see cases. Don’t leave your dogs in cars during the summer! The temperature outside is nowhere near how hot it can climb to in the cars. Only a few short moments in a car can be deadly. So if you are going out with your dog, plan accordingly, and make sure you aren’t planning to run any errands during that time.

Sidewalk Safety: It’s not just cars that can become too hot, even the sidewalks can pose a threat in hot weather. The cement and pavement can quickly heat up, becoming similar to a stovetop burner. A few short steps, and your pets’ paws can actually burn on the pavement, resulting in a lot of pain and trauma. If you put your hand on the cement and it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your dog as well.

Running Wild: It’s not just the pavement/cement that can be a problem, it’s exercising during the heat in general. Too much exercise during the hot hours of the day can cause heat stroke in any dog, but especially in our little squishy-faced friends. Signs of heat stroke can include excessive panting, vomiting, lethargy, and collapse. These dogs need to be treated by a veterinarian immediately, and in the case of brachycephalic dogs, they can sometimes go into such severe respiratory distress that they need to be ventilated. On the hot days, make sure you are going for your walks in the early morning, or late evening when the temperatures are the coolest.

As always, remember that we at the Leduc Animal Clinic are here to help! If you have any questions regarding pets and the heat, or think your pet may be experiencing a heat related injury, please feel free to give us a call.

The Calm Before the Storm

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The Calm Before the Storm

By Dr. Megan Forgan

 

We are officially in the summer months of 2020, which apparently this year means a lot of stormy weather. While some of us humans love a good storm-watching event, for a lot of our dogs, storms can cause an insane amount of anxiety. Here are some tips to help your dogs become brave storm-watching souls.

 

  1. Start Young: Dealing with anxiety can be difficult, so prevention is key. One of the key training aspects for any new dog is desensitizing them to scary noises. Start by finding YouTube videos of thunder, and playing them quietly. While the videos are playing, make sure to give your dogs loads of their favorite treats. This will help them build positive associations with the thunder, so they learn not to be afraid of it. You can gradually increase the volume of the videos to make it more realistic to an actual storm. Make sure you never stop giving treats!

 

  1. Cool Clothes: There are many different products out there that can be used to try and calm down a dog during a thunderstorm. The most well known is a “Thunder Shirt”, which is essentially a weighted jacket. The weight is meant to provide a calming effect. These products can work great in some dogs, but may not be enough for other dogs.

 

  1. Miraculous Medications: For some dogs, natural type therapies simply are not enough. These dogs often benefit from anti-anxiety medications. Remember anxiety is a very distressing feeling for the dog, and letting them just “get through it”, is not fair. The medications that we use for thunderstorm phobias are for situational anxiety, meaning they are just given as needed. They work best when given prior to the start of a storm, which is normally preceded by a drop in barometric pressure. You can buy a device to measure barometric pressure at home, and when this drops, you can then give your dog its anti-anxiety medications at that time.

 

If your dog is experiencing thunder storm anxiety, please contact the Leduc Animal Clinic. We would be more than happy to guide you through the different options available for you and your dog.

Tick Season

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By Dr. Devan Boss

TICK SEASON

Temperatures are rising.  It’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors with your pets.  Its also a great time for ticks!   Ticks can become active at 4 degrees Celsius, therefore tick season in Alberta starts approximately mid-late April and doesn’t end until October.   

While tick bites themselves pose minimal threat to pets, some types of ticks can carry disease.  The most important tick-borne disease in Alberta is Lyme disease, which is carried by specific types of ticks.

LYME DISEASE

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a “bulls-eye” rash at the bite site, nausea, decreased appetite, muscle and joint pain and a fever.  In 2018 only approximately 4% of all ticks tested in Alberta were positive for Lyme disease, therefore the risk of infection Alberta at this time is considered low.

PREVENTION

Using a monthly parasite prevention program can help decrease the likelihood of your pet contracting tick-born disease.  Speak to your veterinarian about what medications would be best for your pet.

Avoiding walking in tall grassy or wooded areas, instead stick to cleared trails.   Check yourself and pets for ticks after being outside.

TESTING

If you do find a tick on your pet, it is important to remove the entire tick, including the head that can sometimes get stuck in the skin.   If you are concerned about removal, contact your veterinarian’s office for assistance.  Your veterinarian can help identify the tick and, if applicable, submit it for testing to determine if it is carrying disease.    

If you are concerned that your pet is exhibiting symptoms of Lyme disease, or if they were previously exposed to ticks, ask your veterinarian about testing options for your pet.

 

Spring Awakening

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By Dr. Megan Forgan

The snow has melted, the weather is in the double digits, and the sun is shining. Spring has officially sprung! While spring brings with it many opportunities to get outside, and get active, there are also certain perils we need to be wary of as pet owners.

Pesky Parasites: Once the temperature consistently remains above 4*C, lots of different parasites come out to play. These range from internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. To external parasites such as fleas and ticks. If your dog lives on an acreage, frequents off-leash parks, or loves to eat small rodents– they are much more at risk for tapeworms, and require a specific type of deworming product to keep them safe. If your dog loves going on adventures in tall grass or wooded areas, they are at risk for ticks, and should receive a monthly preventative treatment from May to October. Don’t forget about those cats! If you have an outdoor cat, they require the same type of parasite prevention as most dogs do.

Freaky Flowers: This one is for all you cool cats and kittens! If you have an outdoor cat, or a cat that likes to suntan in the backyard, you should be aware of what flowers you are planting. The most dangerous plants of them all are lilies, which can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Even a small taste or lick can be deadly.

Treacherous Trash: As the snow melts, it reveals with it a lot of hidden trash. Trash can range from being harmless to irritating to the gastrointestinal tract to being life threatening. It’s not uncommon for a dog to find a joint on the side of the road, eat it, and develop neurological issues very similar to what you would expect from a human who is under the influence of marijuana. It’s important to keep your dog away from trash while on walks. As well, if there is ever any chance that your pet may have ingested any type of drug, please be honest with us and let us know. We will not judge you, we simply want to help your pet the best we can.

Creepy Creatures: Nothing says spring like beavers, muskrats, and porcupines coming out to play. Beaver and muskrat bites can cause serious lacerations. Porcupine quills can get stuck in your pets. If this happens, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian to have the quills properly removed. Improper removal can result in the quills breaking below the skin-line, and becoming trapped, resulting in abscess formation. Quills are super sneaky, and can often migrate to the surface months after the initial attack.

If you have any questions regarding the perils of spring, and how to keep your pets safe during this time, we are open and are happy to help!

 

 

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.

OUCH! MY KNEE!

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Cruciate Injuries in Dogs

Just like people, dogs can damage the cruciate ligaments in their knees (stifles).  In fact, damage to the cruciate ligaments is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs in North America.   Risk factors associated with cruciate ligament injury include large breed dogs, obesity, vigorous activity and conformation (straight-legged dogs).

Symptoms of cruciate ligament injury vary depending on the severity of the injury.  For example, if a ligament is just partially damaged you may notice your pet is reluctant to exercise, favoring one leg on occasion, or may be sitting abnormally.  If the ligament is completely damaged your pet will usually refuse to use their hind leg completely, swelling may be noted around the damaged knee, and they will be painful on manipulation of that joint.

Diagnosis a cruciate injury is done by your veterinarian.  They may use a combination of physical exam, joint manipulation tests, and radiographs to help determine the extent of the injury.   Treatment options include several different surgical approaches and/or several weeks of extremely strict rest. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine which treatment options are best for your pet based on the extent of the injury, the size of your pet, your pets energy level and your pets age.