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Pocket Pet General Health information

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Some of us may have had pocket pets while we were growing up, but many have not had these experiences. While this is not all encompassing information, here is some basic information about some of these species. There is a separate blog on Guinea Pigs: https://southwindsoranimalhospital.ca/2018/11/19/guinea-pigs/ , and a rabbit blog is in the works!

Hamsters

Hamsters are crepuscular animals, this means they are awake at twilight and dawn. Usually we don’t recommend keeping a hamster in a bedroom, unless you are a heavy sleeper, since those wheels go off when we are sleeping.  There are different types of food available for hamsters, but a pelleted diet is preferable to a seed mix.  Hamsters tend to select their favourite parts of the seed mix, so seed mixes predispose to obesity.

Ensuring they have lots of things to do and explore such as different items to chew in the cage, species specific toys that get rotated out to keep them excited. They’ll live most of their lives in their cage, we have to make their cage fun! There are plastic balls that hamsters can ride in, but ensure to keep them away from stairs, and make sure the lids are closed tight before they take off on their ride. No hamster is born an athlete, so slowly increase the time in the ball over a few weeks, and put them back in their cage when they are tired.

Hamsters are more solitary animals, and don’t usually prefer to have other hamsters in the same cage. This does mean that the humans need to spend a good amount of time socializing with them.

 

Gerbils

Gerbils are extremely active and definitely need to be kept busy! They are also prolific chewers, with paper towel rolls and Kleenex boxes being a great addition to the cage. Being a desert species, gerbils need dust baths, much like a Chinchilla. You can buy chinchilla dust at the pet store that they will use to keep their coat clean and dry, it also prevents their scent gland from getting clogged or infected.  Same rules of feeding apply to gerbils as hamsters- seed mixes can predispose them to obesity. Check out Oxbow for some great feeding information for both of these species. Gerbils are more social than hamsters, with their same gender, of course! They can jump, and are good at escaping- so keep those cages shut tight. 

 

Rats

Rats make great pets, they can be quite affectionate toward their owners. Many rats even like being tickled. Rats eat lots of different types of food, though a pelleted diet is also a great idea for keeping them healthy and less likely to become obese. They’ll need a lot of exercise and socialization, it is often a good idea to have more than one rat at once.  Their teeth, much like a hamster or gerbil’s teeth, will grow throughout life. Keeping those incisors at a normal length with items to chew such as chew blocks can help to reduce overgrowth.

 

For all of these species, avoid aspen wood chip bedding, since many species can develop respiratory issues with this type of bedding. Better yet, using recycled newspaper bedding is preferable to wood chip.  Cleaning the cage often is paramount, especially with rats- since they do make a large amount of feces, they may need their cages cleaned daily.

These animals also need regular healthcare, like any other pet. If you think your pet is at all abnormal give your clinic a call!

 

Guinea Pigs

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                Guinea pigs are great pets, they are inquisitive and social, are very well mannered, and live around 5-6 years of age (though some can get as old as 8 years!). They originate from South America, and they are found in four different types of coats: Peruvian (long-haired), Abyssinian (with coats in whorls, rougher coat), Smooth coated, or hairless (a.k.a. skinny pigs).

                Male guinea pigs are called boars, with females called sows, just like real pigs. They make many different types of noises, including short chirps and ‘wheeks’ to get your attention or ask for food, to purring noises, something like a cat would make. Check out the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue’s website for various guinea pig sounds.

Nutrition

                Nutrition is extremely important with guinea pigs.  They need to eat large amounts of hay every day, with Timothy hay being the most recommended type.  The hay helps to keep their teeth ground down to a normal level.  If they don’t get enough hay, their molars can easily overgrow. Vitamin C is also very important for guinea pigs, they need a daily source of this important vitamin (such as the Oxbow Vitamin C tablet). They can also eat vegetables in their diet, with certain types being recommended more than others. For example, iceberg lettuce isn’t recommended, since it is too high in water content and guinea pigs can get diarrhea from this type of lettuce.  

Housing

                Guinea pigs need a large amount of floor space to keep them comfortable. While guinea pigs aren’t avid jumpers, having a cage with walls high enough to avoid escape is important (>10 inches).  They can easily get hurt from jumping from a high height, it is best that if they have a second floor to their cage, that it (and the ramp) is enclosed to protect them from injury. The most commonly used caging for guinea pigs is called a C&C (Cube and Coroplast) cage. Having several areas in the cage to hide, such as an igloo, or a box is helpful, since they like their privacy.

                The cage needs to be changed daily, since they are prolific at urination and defecation. Bedding can either consist of shredded paper products or pellets, aspen shavings, or towels/blankets. Do not use pine or cedar shavings, since they have aromatic oils that can predispose to respiratory and skin diseases.

                Guinea pigs are indoor pets, they prefer temperatures between 65-80⁰F (18-26⁰C) for comfort. Ensure there is plenty of water available. They typically prefer a water bottle, but some guinea pigs will only drink out of a heavy dish on the ground.  If you are using a bowl, ensure to clean this water several times daily, it will get dirty very quickly. 

Handling

                Guinea pigs can be skittish, and it takes them time to get used to handling. Bringing them out for play at least once daily can help get them used to being held.  To hold a guinea pig, pick them up with a hand under their belly/chest, and one hand under their rump.  Hold them on your chest, with one hand under the rump, one on their back to prevent jumping.

Nail trimming

                Guinea pig nails can get very long, curling around themselves. Nails should be trimmed about once every month.  Just like with dogs and cats, you want to avoid cutting the blood vessel in the nail.  If you aren’t sure where this is, you’re always welcome to have your veterinarian or a veterinary technician demonstrate how to best hold your guinea pig, and how to trim the nails safely.

When should I bring my guinea pig to the vet?

If your guinea pig’s appetite reduces or they are putting out less feces than normal, they should be seen by a veterinarian. With a guinea pig’s digestive system, they need to continually eat to keep themselves healthy.  A reduction in appetite is a medical emergency.

Otherwise, guinea pigs can develop other health issues just as any other species, such as a runny nose, or blood in the urine.  Proper nutrition and housing can prevent a lot of health problems. Weighing your guinea pig weekly will help to monitor their condition as well.

October is RVT Month

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Registered Veterinary Technicians are wonderful, important members of the Veterinary Team.  They are involved with every part of medicine from birthing puppies, through vaccine appointments and illnesses, through to helping us when we lose a pet family member. They are experts in taking an animal’s blood for wellness profiles, delivering anesthesia to our patients, performing dental cleanings, taking x-rays, administering medications and treatments, as well as delivering compassionate care to each and every creature.

Becoming a Veterinary Technician is a choice to become patient advocates, discussing cases with the veterinarians and ensuring concerns are heard.  They are knowledgeable in disease, health, preventive medicine, treatment, communication and of course, their plethora of technical skills. Our technicians have spent hours with clients and patients, ensuring animals are the happiest and healthiest we can make them.

At our clinic, we are so fortunate to have five skilled technicians who devote their lives to such a noble cause as helping to keep our pets healthy and safe. Thank you to: Amy, Briana, Cathy, Kristi, and Sharon for all that you do.  Superheroes can wear scrubs, too!

Remember to thank your technicians!

Online Remedies- Ask your vet!

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The internet can encyclopedic, with great information, but you have to be a skeptic.  Some information can be misinformation, or even harmful to your pets, but it can be difficult to sort out! Also, many times information is anecdotal, without the scientific evidence backing it to prove it is true.  When researching as to whether an item is appropriate or not to use for your pet, give your vet a call. This will likely be the best resource for you, since they know your pet well, and can tell you the safety for that specific animal.  Secondarily, sources such as the pubmed research database, veterinarypartner.com, or lifelearn articles on our website are excellent other resources. I’m going to discuss a few common anecdotally recommended items which are not as helpful as you may think, and some which can be harmful.

 

Tea Tree Oil

There are many websites and product which purport the benefits of using tea tree oil application on the skin, or in shampoos or conditioners.  What many people don’t know is that dogs and cats are much more sensitive to this product than humans, with it being absorbed through the skin into the nervous system, causing varying severity from weakness to paralysis!  All pets are sensitive to the product in the air, it can cause breathing issues.  If ingested, it can be toxic, and pets can have severe reactions and even liver damage with tea tree oil products. Check out the aspca toxicity information on Tea Tree Oil.

Coconut Oil

While delicious as coconut oil is when used for cooking, it does not have the same skin benefits as omega fatty acids.  Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, which if ingested, the body uses as calories- it is broken down well in the small intestines. While omega fatty acids in the correct dosages can be used to treat many inflammatory conditions such as skin and joint issues.

On the skin, coconut oil is still a food- but for bacteria and yeast!  We often see skin issues get worse very quickly when this oil is applied to the skin. Plus, your pet will try to lick it, which also adds more bacteria to the skin!

 

Yoghurt as a probiotic

The type of bacteria in yoghurt is in the genus of Lactobacillus. Since the exact strains and volumes of Lactobacillus vary widely in yoghurt, not being in high enough concentrations to be helpful, and yoghurt can often promote vomiting and diarrhea since dogs and cats can’t digest it well- Yoghurt is not be best probiotic for our pets.

 

Chamomile tea on irritated eyes

Chamomile tea has had some reports of toxicity with dogs and cats, exposed mainly from drinking from an unguarded mug! Chamomile tea has Coumadin inside, which can predispose to bleeding disorders, vomiting and diarrhea.  For some reason, animals seem to be much more sensitive to the Coumadin than humans. So, while chamomile has some properties of reduced inflammation, it isn’t worth the risk of using a tea bag on those eyes.  

Garlic and Heartworm disease or Fleas

There are many safe heartworm and flea medications available through your veterinarian.  The good news is, heartworm preventions have been tested stringently and have been proven to work well.  There are no safe alternatives to heartworm prevention which actually work to prevent heartworm disease.  Garlic is a food which contains sulfur compounds. Enough sulfur compounds can cause a type of anemia called Heinz body anemia. Remember, if we don’t protect our pets from heartworm disease, the treatment for heartworm disease is quite expensive, and can cause them pain, illness, and discomfort. Prevention is safe and effective.

 

Not an all exhaustive list, but at least an overview on the more common home remedies. If you have any questions about whether you should use something with your pet, give your vet a call.

Minimizing Cat Predation of Birds and Small Mammals

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March, 2018                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Dr. Kim Quinn

                It is estimated that cats kill approximately 1.3-4 billion birds and 6.3-22 billion mammals, annually (Loss, Will, & Marra, 2012).  In Canada, this amounts to about 269 million birds and destroy 2 million bird nests in Canada every year (Stewardship Center for BC, 2013).  Cats are the single greatest cause of mortality for these species.  While, it may not seem as important for the loss of mice and rats, it is extremely important to help reduce the loss of species such as songbirds, whose numbers are already threatened by flying into windows and being hit by cars.  Cats have caused multiple species on several islands to become extinct.  We typically don’t know the extent of the numbers cats kills since they bring animals home less than 25% of the time (Stewardship Center for BC, 2013)!

So, what can we do?

The best means of prevention is keeping our cats indoors.

Or, bring them outside when they are on a leash, or in a fenced in area. Keeping them indoors also leads to a longer lifespan, and reduces the risk of cat fight injuries and diseases such as fleas, intestinal parasites, and Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

If you have an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat, having something on the cat to scare the birds can help.

Birdsbesafe® cat collar is a Nylon quick-release collar with bright colours and patterns.  Cats wearing the collars killed 19 times fewer birds than uncollared cats in the spring (Willson, Okunlola, & Novak, 2015)!

Cat Bibs can reduce predation by making a cat more visible to prey, and interfering with their ability to pounce on the prey.

– Wearing a collar with a bell or whistle can be helpful, but since many cats wait quietly for prey that venture too close, it may not prevent as many predation events.

 

Birdfeeders

– If you feed birds in your yard, keep feeders on high poles, away from trees or other areas where cats can hide and stalk.

– Don’t allow bird seed to stay on the ground.

– If in doubt, don’t use a bird feeder at all.

 

Spay and Neuter your pets, and advocate for wild animals to be spayed or neutered as well, to reduce the overpopulation.  If you have issues with number of feral cats in your area, notify the Humane Society for solutions such as trapping cats for spay/neuter programs, or adoption if the cats are not feral.

Conservation of species is everyone’s responsibility, keeping our native species safe also will help to keep our pets safe!

 

Loss, S., Will, T., & Marra, P. (2012). The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nature Communications (4), 1-7. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2380

Stewardship Center for British Columbia (2013). Species at Risk Voluntary Stewardship Practices for: Reducing Domestic and Feral Cat Predation.

Willson, S., Okunlola, I., & Novak, J. (2015). Birds be safe: Can a novel cat collar reduce avian mortality by domestic cats (Felis catus). Global Ecology and Conservation (3), 359-366.

 

Hookworm

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Dr. Kim Quinn                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Jan 2018

                Dogs and cats get intestinal parasites from exposure to other animal’s feces, eating animals (such as rodents/birds), drinking from puddles, or from their mother (through her feces, milk, or while in the uterus).  This is the main reason why we ‘deworm’ animals frequently, sometimes monthly, depending on their risk.  Another important reason is to prevent the risk to humans of picking up a parasite. 

                Most of us have read the news article about the couple from Windsor who contracted hookworm in the skin of the feet while on vacation in Dominican Republic. While the concentration of hookworm is higher in tropical climates, this IS a parasite we see in the Windsor-Essex County area in dogs and cats.  Dogs and cats acquire hookworms from another animal’s feces, through penetration of the parasite through the skin, from their mother, or in cats, from eating rodents.  The parasite lives in the intestinal tract, ‘hooking on’ to the inside of the intestines.  The worms feed on blood and can cause anemia, which can be fatal if there is a large number of worms present. They can also cause diarrhea and loss or protein from the GI tract.  Good news? It is a parasite which is easily found on fecal sample testing since the adult worms lay eggs which are released in the feces. It is also easily treated with specific deworming medication, but we will ask that you remove any feces from your yard to prevent them from re-infecting themselves (wear gloves!).

 

                How do humans factor in to this picture?  Hookworms are deposited in feces in soil, on sand, etc.  If the area where they are deposited are not exposed to high temperatures from the sun- i.e., shaded sandy soil areas, the parasite can live well.  They wait for a human or animal to walk in the area for the parasite to penetrate through the skin.  Since their normal life cycle involves living in the intestines, being under the skin isn’t a normal place for these worms.  They cause weeping sores which are painful and itchy on the feet.  These can be treated, but it is an awful issue to have to go through.

Foot with hookworm, from cdc.gov website

 

                Life lessons from hookworm:

– Don’t walk on shaded sandy soil without wearing shoes, they can burrow in your skin.  Sunny soil during summer should be fine, since the heat of the sun kills the parasite.

– Perform fecal tests with your pets at least once yearly

– Deworming is so important, because it protects your pet, and YOU!

– Pick up the feces from the backyard after it is defecated, wear gloves

 

 

Dog and Cat Toxic Foods

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Dr. Kim Quinn                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Jan 2018

Each year the ASPCA posts the top toxins which they received calls for, with human prescription medications topping the list and over-the-counter medications at a close second! Check out the list from 2016 for more information. Many of these ingestions can require lengthy hospital stays and treatments, with some having much better outcomes than others.   With this blog, I will focus on potentially toxic foods to dogs and cats.  

  1. Xylitol

This is an artificial sweetener ingredient which is used in many types of foods, such as: candies, chewing gum, breath mints, tooth whiteners, and is also sold by the bag for use in baking.  In the USA, there is a type of peanut butter which uses xylitol as its sweetener! 

The body sees xylitol as being a sugar molecule, and releases insulin to allow for sugar to be used by the body.  Unfortunately, xylitol cannot be used by the body as a sugar.  Insulin reduces the glucose available, and the body doesn’t have enough sugar around to be able to perform normal activities- these animals become ‘hypoglycemic’ (have low levels of blood sugar).  The hypoglycemia can cause many issues such as lethargy, vomiting, inappetence, and even liver destruction.

                           

  1. Grapes/Raisins

Grapes and Raisins can cause kidney damage to failure, though the exact mechanism is unknown, the level of damage depends on the amount eaten, and the individual’s susceptibility to this toxin.

 

  1. Chocolate

There are a few ingredients which can cause issues with dog.  The fats in chocolate can predispose to pancreatic inflammation.  Theobromine can lead to increased heartrate, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, coma and death- depending on the dose and type of chocolate. The higher the concentration of theobromine, the higher the risk, with bakers chocolate ingestion having the highest concern of toxicity.

  1. Onions/Garlic/Chives

Onions and garlic cause gas production in the GI tract, which leads to vomiting, bloating, inappetence, lethargy and diarrhea.  Even a small amount can make a dog feel quite ill!

Picture from: https://fruitguys.com/almanac/2012/05/09/the-wonderful-world-of-alliums

  1. Bones

Bones- cooked or raw- can cause many different issues.  The most common health concern is broken upper premolar teeth, leading to the tooth needing to be removed.  Other issues such as bones becoming stuck along the GI tract (and potentially penetrating through the intestines) are concerning possibilities.

  1. Fatty Foods

High fat component in foods can lead to pancreatic inflammation, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Some of these animals can get such terrible pancreatic inflammation that it can lead to pancreatitis- where the pancreas releases digestive enzymes onto itself.  Pancreatitis is a painful condition, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and often requiring hospitalization.

  1. Avocado

The chemical called persin in the avocado plant (leaves, fruit, seeds, and bark) can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea with pets such as dogs and cats.  But also cardiac and respiratory illnesses with birds and rodents! 

  1. Nuts (Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts)

Macadamia nuts are used in many baked goods, but can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and a fever if ingested!  Walnuts and other nuts, especially raw off the tree, can grow fungi which can be toxic to animals and is best if avoided.

Picture from: https://www.priesters.com/category/Cashews-Macadamias-Pistachios-Walnuts-Peanuts

  1. Raw food

Raw food can pose an infection concern, since raw meat can carry bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.  This can cause diarrhea, vomiting, inappetance, and can increase the risk of infection in other areas of the body.

  1. Milk and other Dairy Products

Dogs and cats have very small amounts of the enzyme lactase, which would break down milk and milk products.  This leads to these products being able to cause diarrhea, bloating and vomiting in our patients.

  1. Uncooked Bread dough

Ingestion of uncooked bread dough can cause major digestive upset such as swelling in the stomach/intestinal tract and severe illness! 

 

If you think your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, please give us and/or Animal Poison Control a call!  Sometimes we will recommend you call the Animal Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.  There is a fee for this service, but it allows for toxicology and internal medicine specialists to evaluate your pet’s case, helps direct the best treatment course. 

Senior Pets: How Can We Help?

By | Dental Disease, Disease, Health, Nutrition, Patients, Registered Veterinary Technicians, Staff, Veterinarian | No Comments

Dr. Kim Quinn                                                                                                                                                                  December 2017

In general, we consider our dog and cats to be ‘senior’ pets when they are over 7 years of age.  This rule may differ with large breed dogs, since these breeds age faster than smaller breed pets.  Depending on the species, we can see different changes over time.  Some of these changes may be preventable, and some we can slow the development over time.  So, how do I know what to do and when?

Here are some of the more common diseases found in senior pets.

    1. Lenticular Sclerosis of the lenses of the eyes- This is seen with almost all geriatric pets, when the lens of the eye becomes gray and opaque over time. This is different from a true cataract, since dogs don’t become blind from the issue, but vision will decrease over time, especially in low light conditions. There is no treatment to reduce the progression, but dogs tend to do well with this issue over time.  Cataracts can also form in dogs and cats, though the majority of time they are due to other health conditions, such as diabetes.  If your vet is concerned there is a cataract present, they may recommend blood and urine testing to rule out diabetes as a possible underlying cause.
    2. Arthritis and Stiffness– Over time, joint wear and tear leads to inflammation, cartilage damage and pain. Most of these pets are stiff when they first get up, but as they start moving their joints produce synovial fluid to increase lubrication which facilitates easier moving as the day progresses.  Some other signs you may see with arthritis include: hesitation to jump or go up/down the stairs, limping, reduction in energy level, and specifically for cats- urinating/defecating outside the litterbox.  There are many different treatments available for arthritis such as: joint supplementation (i.e., glucosamine/chondroitin), pain medication, low impact exercises, and physiotherapy.   Walking and exercise are very important for our senior animals, since we want to keep their muscles intact as long as possible.  Continue bringing them for their daily walks, monitoring how well they are tolerating them.  More frequent number of shorter walks is the best recipe for the seniors.  Swimming is a great low-impact exercise, as well as hiding food in toys such as kongs- to keep their muscles and brain active!
    3. Urinary or Fecal Incontinence- Urinary incontinence is relatively common in spayed female dogs as they age due to estrogen level reduction in the body causing relaxation of the urinary tract sphincter muscle. Urinary incontinence can be seen by drips of urine in the place where the pet was laying.  There are times when urinary incontinence can be confused with a urinary tract infection, or when the open urinary tract sphincter can predispose to a urinary tract infection.  A urinalysis is performed first to help determine underlying causes, and which treatment (antibiotics, an estrogen supplement, or both), may be needed.  Fecal incontinence can be more difficult to diagnose and treat.  This can be caused by nerve issues, an issue with the anal sphincter, or gastrointestinal disease.  Depending on the cause, treatments may be completely different.
    4. Dental Disease- Plaque and tartar are made up of bacteria and food. Initially, they adhere to the teeth, but keep accumulating until they cause gingivitis, recession of the gumline, and finally root disease and decay.  Our senior patients are most at risk because of years of tartar accumulation.  Tooth root abscesses can cause infection, pain and severe disease necessitating emergency treatment. Daily tooth brushing helps to decrease accumulation of plaque and tartar over time.  Dental cleanings can aid in reducing the further progression of dental disease, and helps identify diseased teeth which may need removal prior to causing abscesses.
    5. Lumps and Bumps


 – It is common for humans and animals to have growths as we age. Most lumps will be benign (non-cancerous), but since they could be cancerous we would like to examine them to ensure this isn’t the case.  If there is any question, we may recommend either a needle biopsy, or to have the entire lump removed and sent away for analysis.  This will help us to plan if we need any further stages of treatment, or if the lump has been removed in its entirety.

6. Major organ abnormalities, i.e., Kidneys, Thyroid- These organs commonly have issues with function as time goes on. In cats, an overactive thyroid gland, as well as kidney disease are two different disease which require medical treatment.  An overactive thyroid gland can cause weight loss, hyperactivity, ravenous appetite, and heart disease.  In dogs, an underactive thyroid gland is a common issue, leading to decreased metabolism, weight gain, poor hair coat, and lethargy.  In either pet, kidney disease is a wearing out process over time, causing increased drinking and urination, weight loss, and loss of muscle mass.   With any of these issues, we would recommend blood and urine testing in order to diagnose, then determine types of treatment and prognosis

7. Senility– As we age, our cognitive function will decline, the same happens with our pets. This is often seen as disorientation or confusion, and especially disruption of normal sleep-wake cycles.  In cats, this may mean meowing at odd times of the day, often in the middle of the night.  They may ask for more food when the bowl is full, and otherwise have changes in behaviour over time.  In dogs, asking to go outside more often without needing to go to the bathroom, the development of anxiety disorders, and there is change in the amount they would like to interact with their owners.  With senility, there are a few different treatment types we may adopt such as: Selegiline, a supplement used to aid in cognitive dysfunction syndrome, brain health diets (i.e., Purina Neurocare), or antianxiety medications

8. Proper Diet- Ensuring the correct nutritional balance is important, older animals may need more fiber, less calories, and lower levels of protein, but this is all based on the individual. Calories are especially important for us to monitor over time, since so many senior pets are overweight!  We can calculate the approximate number of calories needed for your pet anytime.

 

This is just a quick overview of some of the common issues we deal with concerning our senior pets.  If you have questions or concerns about your pet, please give us a call!

What to do if Your Pet is Behaving Differently

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If your pet is licking/scratching/chewing/gnawing at an area- there is a problem. If there is a change in their behaviour, such as them rubbing their face on the ground or becoming aggressive when they’ve never done that before, there is a reason for it.

Since we don’t see your pet on a daily basis, it is more difficult for us to know if issues have changed with your pet, you are the best judge of their behaviour.  Giving us information about new behaviours aids us in best pinpointing the problem.  Once you’ve found a new behaviour, writing information on frequency, duration, and type of behaviour can aid in addressing the issue.  If you feel it needs to be dealt with immediately, call your veterinarian right away.

So what could be the problem?

Licking/gnawing/chewing at a spot could mean such a variety of different issues, from allergies, to fleas, to hormonal issues, to parasites, to pain!  What a range of different possibilities!  How do we help determine what the possible underlying causes?  Location can be a big indicator, itching above the tail is more likely to be due to fleas, under the tail would likely be anal glands/allergies, at the vulva may mean a UTI or urinary incontinence, etc.  Also, if they are chewing/biting/licking at multiple locations, the patterns of distribution could be our key.  Depending on other factors such as age, duration, bloodwork status, and history, we may recommended other testing to determine an underlying cause and the most appropriate treatment.

Hormonal issues such as an underactive thyroid gland can lead to weight gain and lethargy, but also skin issues such as dryness, crusting and itching.  This is more common in older dogs, and requires bloodwork to diagnose.

In older animal, arthritic conditions are common, licking at a specific site on a paw may indicate a painful joint.  As they continue to lick the area, it is more likely to become infected, which continues the licking process, and we get stuck in a loop.  Sometimes pain medication may stop the cycle, some animals may need anti-anxiety medication since it becomes a neurological issue.

In a puppy with a poor skin coat, perhaps we are dealing with a skin infection called a puppy pyoderma, requiring antibiotics. Or perhaps, a common parasite called demodex which necessitates anti-parasitic medication.  Both of these diagnoses would be made via microscope.

Pawing at the mouth may mean a piece of an object has become stuck, or possibly a dental issue.  Though most animals with dental issues just continue through their daily lives without showing pain or discomfort.  It really is amazing how many of these animals will chew hard food normally, while dealing with dental pain!

Aggression is another wide ranging topic, since an animal can react towards a person touching a painful spot, or even the possibility that the person may be near an area of pain.  If an animal feels ill, they can overreact to situations and put people in danger.  These are issues which need to be dealt with immediately and properly.

This information is here to help educate you on the vast numbers of different diseases which are possible with our patients, the more information which can be brought to your appointment, the better able we will be to determine the underlying cause.  Sometimes an exam may be all that is necessary, often we will need other testing such as bloodtests, skin analysis tests (Skin scrapings, fungal cultures), or occasionally more in depth items such as dental procedures.

Give us a call when your pet has a change, the majority of time it is indicative of a larger underlying issue warranting further action!

Oh, no! My pet ate something it shouldn’t have!

By | Health, Nutrition, Patients, Registered Veterinary Technicians, Saftey, Staff, Veterinarian | No Comments

Do you need to keep your garbage and laundry hamper locked tight, lest your pet get into something?  Unfortunately, this is such a common issue in the animal world.  While some ingestions may be fairly benign, causing mild GI upset, others can be much more severe requiring medical intervention or even surgery.

Each year the ASPCA posts the top toxins which they received calls for, with human prescription medications topping the list and over-the-counter medications at a close second! Check out the list from 2016 for more information. Many of these ingestions can require lengthy hospital stays and treatments, with some having much better outcomes than others.

What about an animal who eats an object?  We have had to perform surgery on many animals to remove foreign objects- usually these will show up on X-Rays, sometimes barium is given to outline the object.  A few of the more memorable objects include: clothing (underwear and socks are the dog’s clothing of choice), string (more common in cats, of course, string can actually saw through intestines- very dangerous!), pieces of foam puzzle mat flooring, rocks, an electrical resistor, branches, condoms, bones, etc., etc.  Check out some of the oddest X-Ray winners from 2016!

What should I do if I suspect my pet ingested something inappropriate?
Call your vet immediately!  If it is something that requires the pet to vomit, they’ll need to see your pet as soon as possible, before the object is absorbed into the body, or passes from the stomach into the intestines.

If it is a potential toxin, your vet will recommend calling the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.  There is a cost to the service, but the benefits of expert toxicology and emergency medicine advice to further direct treatment is worth its weight in gold.  There are some toxins where getting the animal to vomit can be dangerous, so if you are able to get specific information such as the:

– Name of the item

– Strength of the medication/item (i.e., the mg amount of a tablet, or mg/ml concentration of a liquid)

– Possible amount ingested (number of items, volume)

– Approximate time of ingestion

Knowing this information will drastically help improve your pet’s care and treatment.  They will also want to know information about how your pet was feeling prior to ingesting this item, if they are on any medications, or have any pre-existing conditions they should know about.

What if my Vet Recommends Surgery?

If your animal ingests something solid which cannot pass through the GI tract and cannot be vomited up as seen on x-rays or Ultrasound, surgery may be the only option.  When we open up the abdomen under anesthesia, the entire GI tract is felt between the fingers to find all of the possible locations where the foreign material could be.  Many times we have to make multiple cuts into the intestines to rid of foreign materials.  Once the material is removed, the areas of the intestines which were cut open are then sutured back together. A ‘Leak test’ is performed, injecting sterile saline into this area of the intestines to ensure the sutures have formed a strong seal from any leaks.

Of course, pain medication is given to keep your pet comfortable, and antibiotics are sent home with all pets to try to reduce infection risk from opening the intestinal tract. An Elizabethan collar (cone collar) is sent home with your pet to ensure they don’t bite or lick at the incision.

This is a very in depth surgery, and most animals aren’t at their healthiest prior, so these are animals who need to be monitored very thoroughly before, during, and especially after the procedure.  With feeding, they need small frequent meals for a few weeks to avoid overloading the intestines and potentially stretching the sections of the intestines with the sutures.

Prognosis depends on many factors, your vet will be able to discuss this in more depth with you while looking at each individual case.

Surgery