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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.  

Vaccine Myth Busters: Cat Edition

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Myth #1: Indoor cats don’t need vaccines.

FALSE: While indoor cats may be at lower risk for infectious diseases, they still require vaccines.

  • If your cat ever gets outdoors, even by accident, their immune system will have no protection against the many diseases they will encounter, and they can become quite ill.
  • You can actually bring infectious diseases home with you on your clothes, and these disease particles can be passed on to your feline friends.
  • If you ever choose to add another feline to your household, the new cat may be carrying it’s own diseases and can infect your previous cat.
  • It is highly recommended that your pet, regardless of their lifestyle, be vaccinated for Rabies, due to the large human health concern regarding this disease.

Myth #2: My cat already had a vaccine, so it doesn’t need another.

FALSE: Vaccines require boosters.

  • The initial vaccine only creates a small immune response in the body, and does not create a protective response. The subsequent doses will trigger larger and larger immune responses, meaning more protective antibodies, and overall protection from the disease.
  • Kittens are born with protective immunity from their mothers. However, this immunity actually prevents the body from responding to the vaccine. His or her moms’ protection eventually decreases, but it does so at a different time in each kitten. In order to ensure a kitten is completely protected, both via vaccine and maternal immunity, we need to vaccinate them every 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old.
  • There are only 2 ways we can guarantee the effectiveness of a vaccine. The first is to administer it according to the vaccine guidelines, which are based on research into how long protection lasts in the average animal. The second is to test a pet’s level of protection to a specific disease in their bloodstream (Titers). The downside to titer testing is cost, with titers normally being double to triple the price of the vaccine.

Myth #3: If my cat gets sick with an infectious disease, I can just treat it.

FALSE: Not all diseases can be treated.

  • The majority of diseases that we vaccinate for are viral, and don’t have a specific cure.
  • Panleukopenia (or the P in the FVRCP vaccine) has a 90% mortality rate, and is very expensive to treat.
  • For some diseases, such as the upper respiratory ones, your cat can still catch the virus if it’s been vaccinated, but it will have very mild and self-resolving symptoms. Without the vaccine, if your cat got the illness, it would be much more severe, would likely require hospitalization, and could cause death.

Say “Ahhh”

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Welcome to the beloved month of February, where the weather is unpredictable, the length of the month changes every 4 years, and the month that veterinary clinics around the world refer to as “Dental Month”!

Now personally, for me every month should be dental month, but once a year we decide to highlight our pet’s oral care. I’m sure most of you have been told at some point that your pet has some tartar build up on their teeth, and would benefit from a dental cleaning. Now I’m sure you’ve also wondered exactly what a dental entails. Well I’m here to tell you, that it involves a lot more than the name suggests, and that is why the price is more than what you may expect.

For starters, in order to be able to perform a thorough dental, the patient needs to be anesthetized. The reasons for this are many. For one, most animals are a bit nervous about having their teeth looked at, and thus in order to safely look at their teeth (for us and them), they need to be under anesthesia. As well, a lot of poking and prodding and picture taking and potential extractions occur during a dental; procedures which can be uncomfortable. Thus anesthesia is required so that the pet is not aware of what is going on, and so that we can provide adequate pain control. Lastly, as water and other materials are being sprayed in the mouth, anesthesia allows us to place a tube in the pets’ airway, preventing them from potentially “swallowing” these fluids into their lungs and causing pneumonia.

So now that we understand that part, what exactly happens once the pet is under anesthesia. First off, the tartar or plaque on the teeth is removed by one of our highly trained technicians. The teeth are then cleaned, so that the full tooth can be adequately visualized. Following this, each individual tooth is examined one by one, and we mark down how much tartar is present, if the surrounding gums are inflamed, how loose the tooth is, if there is any bone loss surrounding the tooth, and if the attached gums have become loose. This step is called charting.

Following tooth charting, the teeth are then x-rayed. X-rays are amazing because they show us everything below the gum line that we cannot see with the naked eye. Full mouth x-rays are the best, because even the most beautiful tooth above the gum line may have significant disease at the level of the root, indicating it needs to be removed. These are all things that we could never tell from an awake oral exam, or from a non-anesthetic cleaning. This also indicates why it can be hard to create an estimate for a dental, as we don’t really know what teeth need to be removed until the x-ray and charting portions of the procedure have been completed.

Once the charting and x-rays have been completed, the veterinarian then takes all of that information under consideration to determine which teeth should stay and which should go. If no teeth need to be removed, then the teeth are polished and the patient is awoken. If teeth do need to be removed, then they are extracted. Extractions are the most time consuming, and thus most costly part of a dental. The earlier in the progression of dental disease a dental procedure is completed, the less extractions that will be needed, and thus the less expensive the procedure will be.  So when a veterinarian recommends the procedure, it really will be more cost effective to have it done sooner rather than later.

Now a lot of owners have reservations about having their pets teeth extracted, but the truth is dogs and cats do exceptionally well without all of their teeth and even do well with no teeth at all! Most owners report a huge improvement in their pets’ energy, demeanor and youthful personality after a dental, even if extractions are performed.

Hopefully this has helped clear up some of the misconceptions you may have had regarding dental procedures, and hopefully demonstrates just how much is done in this procedure, and thus how valuable they are, despite the cost of them. If you have any further questions regarding dental procedures, or would like to know if your pet would benefit from a dental, please feel free to call the clinic to book an oral examination. We love keeping our patients smiles happy and healthy!

Does My Pet Have a Drinking Problem?

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Have you noticed your pet is spending more time at the water bowl than usual?  Increased drinking habits can be a normal response to diet or environment, but they can also be a sign of a serious medical condition.

Normal, non life-threatening reasons for increased water consumption can include exercise, high temperatures, and changes in diet. After exercise or on hot days pets will often pant to try to cool down and this results in increased evaporation of water from their tongues.    Switching from a canned food to a dry food may mean your pet needs to drink more water to make up for the water they previously got from their diet.  Conversely, if you switch from a dry food to a wet food you may notice your pet is not drinking as much as they used too.

Serious medical conditions that can cause an increase in drinking habits include diabetes, kidney disease, bladder infections, thyroid disease and Cushings disease.

If you suspect your pet is drinking more than normal, consult your veterinarian.  Blood work and a urine sample will help to determine if their increased thirst is something to be concerned about.

Skating on Thin Ice

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Now that we are officially in the throws of winter, you may have noticed that the rivers and ponds have frozen over. These frozen bodies of water may seem like fun new areas to explore, or a short cut to get from one destination to another. However, no matter how strong these ice fields may seem, we can never predict how they will react to extra weight.

When a dog walks on these frozen rivers, there is always the chance that their weight will be too much, and the ice will crack beneath them, and they will fall into the freezing cold water below. This puts them at a high risk of drowning. Even dogs who are very good swimmers, can be pulled under the ice by the currents of the river, preventing them from being able to resurface. If a dog can be rescued from the water, they will still need considerable medical care for hypothermia.  As well, often times they will have inhaled water into their lungs, meaning they can still “drown” on land, even days later.

If your dog is naturally attracted to the water, you may want to consider putting them on leash whenever you are passing by those areas in the winter.

No matter how frozen those lakes or ponds seem, do not walk on the ice, it is just never worth the risk.

Don’t Eat That! Foreign Body Ingestion

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Foreign body ingestion refers to eating anything that is not food. Pets can be curious creatures with curious appetites.   Some of the common foreign body ingestions we encounter include rocks, socks, shoes, toys, sticks, clothing, bones and personal hygiene products.  Sometimes objects move through the digestive tract without incident and are passed within 10-24 hours.  However, many of these objects can become “stuck” in the digestive tract and quickly become life threatening.

Symptoms

If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t have, monitor them closely for the following signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Straining to pass feces
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy/dullness
  • Behavioural changes (for example, growling when being picked up)

If any of the above symptoms are noticed, have then examined by a veterinarian immediately.   

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood work may be performed to assess your pets’ overall health.  Radiographs may be required to visualize the object.  Treatment depends of the size and shape of the object, the time when it was ingested, and location in the digestive tract.    Treatment may include inducing vomiting, IV fluid therapy, pain management, and potentially surgery to remove the object.

Prevention

Prevention is key!  If your pet is prone to eating things they shouldn’t, limit their access to tempting items.  Insure all food scraps are out of reach, keep a clean house, supervise your pets with toys and remove any toys that have become damaged.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Cold

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Winter weather is here.  As we bundle up in jackets and gloves to stay warm outside it is important to remember that our furry companions get cold too.

Not all pets respond to cold the same way. For example, dog breeds such as Malamutes, Huskies and Saint Bernards with thicker fur and larger body size are more likely to enjoy cooler weather.  In contrast, those with thinner coats, smaller stature or less body fat, such as Chihuahuas, Terriers, Great Danes and cats, may be more sensitive to lower temperatures.

There is no single rule for determining what temperature is too cold for every pet.  As a rule, any temperature below – 10 degrees Celsius can become potentially life threatening to most pets.

Signs that your pet may be too cold include:

  • shivering
  • tucking their legs, tail or head closer to their torso
  • keeping their ears pinned back against their head
  • lifting their paws constantly
  • moving slowly

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it time to warm up!  Always make sure your pet has access to a nice warm place, either inside your house or an appropriately insulated shelter.