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: , and a rabbit blog is in the works!


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 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 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!


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:

  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:

  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!

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.





Appropriate Treats for Pets

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February 2017                                                                                          Dr. Kim Quinn

The world is our oyster for foods and treats!  There is also a plethora of information regarding toxic foods for us humans, so we are less likely to ingest odd things.  It isn’t the same way for dogs and cats as for us humans, we have to be a bit more careful with them.  So many different toxins exist for our pets, which are not an issue for us.  Everyone knows about chocolate, grapes and raisins, but some of the lesser known toxins such as macadamia nuts and walnuts, caffeine, fatty foods being predisposed to cause pancreatitis, xylitol (in gums, candies, etc.,), onions or garlic.  This is just to name a few!

Do pets even need treats?
Nutritionally, treats aren’t really necessary for us to give our pets.  Many dogs love their kibble and will be just as happy with a piece of kibble as any other treat, and it is safer for their GI tract (less vomiting or diarrhea!).

Does your pet have allergies or food reactions (sensitive GI tract)? 

We have dogs in the clinic almost daily with vomiting or diarrhea issues with having a new treat.  If you have a pet with allergies, or has had issues such as these in the past- don’t get creative with new treats since they are at high risk of an issue.

Amounts of treats

Calorie content of treats should be less than 10% of the total amount of calories needed in a day.  Just like us, we can’t eat only treats or our nutrition will not be properly balanced.  If you would like to know the amount of calories your pet should ingest in a day, give us a call and we can calculate that for you! Everything in moderation.

So what types of treats should we offer our dogs?

We need to balance ‘tasty’ and ‘healthy’ for our pets.  Small amounts of vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers or apples can be great treats for our pets.

Since raw and freeze dried foods and treats carry the risk of bacteria which can make pets ill (and us!), we recommend using cooked food and treats (See: for more information).

With puppies, we can use bland items such as small amounts of plain cheerio cereal as training treats.  If they love their kibble, use that as training treats instead- just reduce the amount they would eat at their meals!

Puppies and Kittens!

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CaesarianSectionThis time of the year we see many of our adorable, furry, new additions to our pet families.  Getting a puppy or a kitten is such an exciting time for everyone involved, and we love seeing our new friends!

When you get a new member of your family, there is always a lot of preparation: new food and water dishes, toys, leashes, a crate for puppies, litterboxes for kittens, and pet food, just to name a few!


There are so many types, how do I chose a Pet Food?

The first rule for any puppy or kitten is to be on a puppy or kitten specific food.  Read the bag, ensure that it is not an ‘All Life Stages’ type of food, which is used to feed every age category from a pediatric, to an active adult, to a geriatric, to a nursing mother.  It is better to feed an age specific food to ensure they are getting the correct nutrition.

The second rule is, if switching diets, perform a gradual transition over at least a 7 day period.  During this 7 days, slowly increase the proportion of new food in the mixture.  This can help to avoid some vomiting or diarrhea which can arise with a quick diet change.

Our recommendation with any diet is to ensure the company you are working with has performed research diet trials, this helps to ensure the food is going to be safe for your pet.


When does my pet need to come to the vet for Vaccines?

It is of the utmost importance that pets are vaccinated, especially puppies and kittens.  Our typical vaccination schedule for these pets is vaccines at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, then yearly thereafter.  At each of these appointments, new vaccines are added, and some vaccines are boosted to provide more lasting immunity.  Some animals may be vaccinated earlier, give us a call if you have questions about a vaccine schedule which is appropriate for your pet.  We will also discuss lifestyle choices for your pet to determine vaccines outside of the core recommendations which might be needed.


What about deworming?

At any pet’s first vet visit as well as their yearly visits, we recommend brining in a fecal sample which is less than 24 hours old (and not frozen) for parasite evaluation.  Many puppies and kittens acquire intestinal parasites from their parents, through the milk, in-utero, or via feces.  Some of these parasites can be transmitted to people via feces, so the sooner we can treat them, the better.

We often prophylactically treat puppies and kittens with broad spectrum deworming treatment for their own and their owner’s safety.  But, there isn’t one dewormer which will treat all intestinal parasites, so the fecal sample is so important.


Fleas, Heartworm and other treatments?

When you come for your first visit, we will discuss these different preventions, and will recommend something specific depending on their risk levels or what is found on their physical examination.


Dog Bathroom Training

In order to train your puppy, bring them outside as soon as they wake up, after they eat and drink, and every half hour when you are home. When they urinate or defecate outside, praise them!  This can be either a pat on the head, or a treat to eat.  If they make a mistake and go inside, don’t punish them or yell.  Punishment is confusing for a young dog, it leads to fear of their owners since they don’t actually link the punishment to the behaviour.
Some owners will hang a bell by the back door, ringing it when bringing the puppy outside.  Over time, the bell sound is linked with their visits outside, so they begin ringing the bell themselves.  This can help to signal you when they need to visit the facilities.


Puppy and Kitten Biting

These cuties are used to playing with their littermates by biting around their head and neck, they translate this behaviour to biting our hands, arms and legs.  If you want to ‘nip’ this behaviour in the bud, it requires patience and dedication from everyone at home.  I could write an entire blog on biting, thus I encourage you to check out our website, sign in for a full list of articles on puppies and kittens, including a great article on how to decrease biting behaviours.


There is only so much space I have to write about these important milestones and so much more to discuss.  Give us a call if you have questions about your new critters!








Toys, toys, toys! How do I know which to buy?!

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A world of choices!  Which are the best for my pet?  There are several factors we must take into account to make sure your dog or cat doesn’t eat their toy.

Each pet is different and in determining what type of toy is the best for your animal, you need to keep in mind the following things.  What is the size of your pet’s mouth?  It is quite obvious that a toy the size of a ping pong ball is not a good idea for a Great Dane.  The same can be said for a normal sized football for a cat.  Pay close attention to the recommended size for the pet, or the recommended weight category, it is typically written on the front of the toy packaging.

What type of chewer is your pet?  Some animals are bent on tearing apart their toys, while others are so gentle they wouldn’t even make a puncture mark.  The extremely avid chewers need to be supervised with any toy to make sure they don’t destroy or swallow any pieces.  Remember, no toy is indestructible.  If there are any cracks- throw out the toy. If there are any pieces missing, call your Vet.   Knowing your pet’s chew level will aid in determining the type of toy which is ideal for them.  For example, Kong brand makes toys colour coded for chewers.  Black is the most indestructible, Blue is for puppies, Purple for seniors and Red is for the minimal chewers.  What if you have multiple pets in the house? Use toys aimed for the largest animal and the most avid chewer.  Avoid toys with small pieces, such as small mice for cats- the ears and tail are easily eaten!

What toy type should I choose? Here are some of my favourite picks!


Depending on whether you are at home with your furry friend, there are different toys which can be chosen.  Just like dogs, there are some cats who would rather eat their toy than play with it.  Toys must be larger than a cat’s mouth, and they should not be able to bite off pieces which can be swallowed.  If you are home to play with your cat, some of my favourite toys are using a laser pointer in the dark.  Just be sure not to shine it in the cat’s eyes!  Make different patterns and watch the cat go crazy for it!

If your cat doesn’t like laser pointers, the next best toy is the feather on a string or ‘cat dancer’ toys.  Make the feather dance and watch the cat bat away.  This is a definite toy to only have around with supervision, since the string can easily be chewed and eaten.

Cats love to bat around balls, as long as they are bigger than their mouth and don’t show any interest in chewing them, this is a great toy.

Scratching posts are excellent play items, cats will show preference to one type over the other.  Cardboard is the most common type, but carpet, leather, and sisal are other very common types.  Sprinkle a bit of catnip on the area to make it even more desirable.

Tunnels can be great for cats to hide inside, or run through.  There are so many different types of cat tunnels, but each offer an area of solitude and fun!

Incorporating food and toys is a great way to burn calories while losing weight.  Catit Design Senses Treat Maze ( is one of my favourite ways to make feeding more fun.  Food dispensing balls are also a great way to encourage foraging with our cats.  Check out the Twist and Treat toys- available for both dogs and cats.  These come in various sizes, and you can twist the toy to either be smaller or larger- thus making the game easier or harder. (

The Peek a Prize cat toy box is a great way to keep a cat occupied, batting away at a ball inside a box! Check out these adorable ragdoll kittens enjoying their toy. (



Our furry dog friends have the play world at their fingertips!  So many different brands, what do you choose?  Some the best made toy brands are: Kong and Busy Buddy.  Great thing about these brand is their abilities to dispense food.  Remember, there is no need for a food dish if the dog likes to play.  Get some food dispensing toys instead and rotate them out!

They may be destructive with plush toys, but the same may not be true for rubber toys.  Check out the GoughNuts rubber toys (  If the pet has chewed too deep and you see red from the toy-> it is time to throw the toy out or have the company send you a new one!

Avoid- any toy which is so hard it would hurt if you hit yourself in the knee.  These items can be too hard to chew, leading to broken teeth.  Chews such as deer antlers, real bones, and ice cubes.

Again, no toy is indestructible.  Keep an eye on your pet during playtime.  If there are any cracks-> throw the toy out!  And most importantly, a toy which is safe for a child is NOT necessarily safe for a dog.


If you have questions about toys, give us a call!

Dr. Kim Quinn

South Windsor Animal Hospital



Help! My Pet is Overweight

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Diet and Weight Loss

Diet and Weight Loss

Did you know:

A 1 ounce cube of cheese to a 20lb dog is the equivalent of a person eating 2 ½ hamburgers or 1 ½ chocolate bars!

The most common disease in pets is not cancer or diabetes, it is obesity.  I recently went out of town for a few weeks, leaving my dog with my parents.  Upon our return, my mother whispered to me, “Your father gave Pepper a few extra treats here and there. He told me it is a grandparent’s prerogative”.  We love our animals through food, it’s a large part of how we bond with our pets and my dog will shower you with affection when you feed her!  Now, I should tell you that my dog’s previous owners, as well as my husband and I, have worked diligently to reduce her weight.  She was a chunky girl (4lbs overweight at her heaviest), and we had gotten her down to a perfect weight over about a one year battle.  At the end of our vacation, the scale measured Pepper at gaining two pounds (half of the weight she had lost!), and her treat bags were almost empty (instead of being half full!).

How do I know if my pet is Overweight?

The first step is realizing when your dog or cat is overweight.  An animal with an ideal Body Condition Score (BCS) should have an hourglass figure when observed from above, and a slight tuck upward in the waist towards the hips. With your fingers, your pet’s ribs should be readily felt under the fingertips.  When pressure is needed to feel the ribs, this means the layer of fat between the skin and ribs is too thick, and your pet is overweight.

The Hills website had a great section with questions and diagrams to help you determine your pet’s Body Condition Score.


Why does it matter?
When a pet gains weight, it does not just accumulate in one location, it is evenly distributed around the body.  That means increased amounts of fat surrounding the major organs such as the heart, kidneys, bladder, etc.  The excess weight, can also put pressure on these organs and cause issues with breathing, or their organ function such as joint mobility.  Overweight to obese animals are more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, heart and respiratory disease, and have reduced lifespans compared to a dog at an appropriate weight.  Extra weight means less energy, and they tend to have a decreased quality of life compared to another pet at a good weight.


So, what can I do?

  1. Feeding Plan for Weight Loss

Give us a call to recommend an appropriate weight loss diet for your pet based on their medical history.  Our technicians will calculate the amount of calories for your pet’s daily needs, allowing for weight loss.  Then, we can take into account the food and treats to find a feeding plan appropriate for your pet.  There is not one weight loss diet or plan which works for every pet.

Also, multiple small meals are better than one large meal of the day for weight loss. This ensures your pet won’t be extremely hungry at one point, prompting their body to store more fat to compensate for these periods of hunger.

  1. Exercise

Just as important with people, exercise combined with a healthy diet is the best way to ensure weight loss, and continuing to maintain weight after weight loss.  There are lots of activities you can do with your pet to increase their daily exercise.  For example, take longer walks more often. If your pet likes to swim, increase the amount of times they are in the pool.  Take up agility training with your pet or fly ball, etc.

Need more ideas?  Check out these different exercises:

  1. Feed them in a toy, not a bowl

There is no rule book which says we need to feed our pet in a food bowl.  So why do we do it?  Mainly because of its ease!  But our pets burn no calories with the food bowl method.

Instead, put their daily calories into a Kong, Busy Buddy or a Puzzle ball to stimulate their mind while burning calories.  All of my dog’s food goes in a Kong toy, she has a great time being rewarded for batting the toy around!

There are many other items on the market which can slow down the feeding process, such as games, or stationary objects with holes in the side for cats to use their paws to remove the kibble.

  1. Limit treats

Treats, whether they be people food, or dog treats, all add up to excess calories.  Remember, if your pet gets a treat, you must decrease their caloric intake of their regular meal that day to compensate.  Please, avoid feeding your pet people food, not only is it high in calories, it can cause major health issues such as pancreatitis, vomiting or diarrhea.


For a 20lb dog, eating just 1 hot dog is the same as a person consuming 3 entire hamburgers or 2 whole chocolate bars.

Our dogs and cats deserve the best, and being a healthy weight is our gift to them for a long, healthy life.


Hills/AVMA Alliance for Healthier Pets. Obesity Awareness and Prevention Program.

Rabbits: Care and Nutrition

By Health, Nutrition No Comments

As many of you know, Rabbits come into our clinic (with their owners) every week.  We would like to share some information regarding proper care and nutrition of another furry friend. As with any dog, cat, or person, the conditions in which you live and the food you eat has a huge impact on your life.  Rabbits are no different, diet especially plays a monumental part in their overall health.  The digestive system of the rabbit is somewhat like a small horse, they need a large amount of plant fiber to promote healthy movement of the GI tract.  In the wild, rabbits eat grass and can graze for up to 8 hours or more per day.  Their teeth are continuously growing throughout life, grasses and hay help to wear down their teeth, helping them to live healthier and longer lives.  Most importantly of all, keeping consistency within their diet is key.

Because of the fast moving GI tract of a rabbit, they need a large amount of fiber intake.  Rabbits should be offered as much good quality grass hay as they can eat each day (Bermuda grass, Timothy grass, oat hay or mixed grass such as marsh or orchard grass).  It is best to avoid alfalfa hay, due to the higher proportions of calcium and protein, it is thought that alfalfa hay can contribute to forming urinary tract crystals, which can lead to bladder stones.  Most rabbits will eat about their body size in hay daily. We typically recommend wetting down the hay, then shaking out the excess water, to reduce the amount of dust in the hay.  There are many rabbits who will react to the dust over time, rinsing the hay can help to minimize this risk.

A wide variety of fresh leafy greens and vegetables are the next most important factor in their diet.  Dandelions, parsley, herbs such as cilantro, vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, endives, spinach, bok choy, etc., should also be eaten every day.  About 2 packed cups of greens and vegetables per kg of body weight should be fed to each rabbit daily.

Rabbit pellets do not meet the full nutritional needs of the rabbit, and thus should be only offered in smaller quantities compared to hay and greens.  About the rabbit’s tail size in pellets per day are sufficient. When choosing a pellet type, ensure to choose a high quality product such as ‘Oxbow’ brand.

Treats can be offered in very small quantities, please do not exceed 1 tablespoon per rabbit per day.  This includes foods such as fruits, root vegetables (carrots, sweet potato), etc.  Please do not offer any cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, chocolate, etc. These foods can cause serious GI issues with rabbits, so they are best avoided.

Of course, always provide clean and fresh water, refreshed multiple times per day.  Some rabbits prefer sipper bottles, some water bowls and bottles.  Food and water bowls should be ceramic or metal, not plastic, to avoid our rabbits from chewing on their bowl.

Rabbits are extremely active animals, their ideal housing environment is large pens in open areas. A minimum of 180cm x 60cm x 60cm (6ft x2ft x 2ft) per rabbit is best. They can be housed indoor or outdoors (in hutches), though due to our varied climate, indoor housing is highly preferable.  Outdoor hutches should provide shade, protection from the wind, and safety from predators.  Rabbits tolerate cold better than heat, with their optimal temperature range between 39-82°F (4-28°C). Any temperature outside of these ranges and rabbits should be brought inside the home.  Cages should have a non-slip floor surface, avoiding wire floor cages because of the risk of foot issues and infection.  Using towels or newspaper as bedding is best, and change these at least daily.  Monitor your rabbit when on towel bedding to ensure they are not eating part of their towels.  Rabbits enjoy having a litter tray in their area, which should be changed daily.  Also, Rabbits should have at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, with up to 4 hours per day.  If they are exercising in the house, keep all cords and edible objects out of reach.  Rabbits like to chew and scratch objects around the home.  Electrical cords and poisonous plants tend to be the greatest health hazards for Rabbits.

Rabbits can be great companions, and they can live from 4 years to over 10 years of age!  We highly recommend annual wellness exams with Rabbits, just as with dogs and cats, to help identify illnesses early in your rabbit.

If you have any questions about your furry critter, give us a call or book an appointment.

Dr. Kim Quinn


  1. Carmel, Brendan. The Healthy Rabbit. AAVAC-UEP 2009.
  2. Johnson, Dan.  Rabbit Medicine and Surgery.  ACVC 2006.
  3. Vella, David.  Feeding Recommendations for Pet Rabbits.  Sydney Exotics and Rabbit Vets Handout.  2014




Questions To Ask Your Pet Food Company

By Health, Nutrition No Comments

This is a bit of a follow up blog regarding our last Nutrition blog.  There are literally hundreds of diets, made by a variety of different food companies, and of course a vast variety of quality.  Determining which diet is best to feed your beloved fur-baby can be challenging when faced upon the rows and rows and bags and bags of pet food.  Our job is to help make that decision a little bit easier, and to help you make the best informed decision for your pet.


The following list of questions was composed by Dr Joe Bartges.  Dr Joe Bartges is a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Tennessee.  He is board certified in both Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and nutrition (ACVN).   This list was in response to the many questions he receives about how to decipher and validate the quality of commercially produced pet foods.

  1. Do you have a Veterinary Nutritionist or some equivalent on staff at your company? Are they available for consultation or questions?
  2. Who formulates your diets and what are their credentials?
  3. Which of your diets are AAFCO Feed Trial tested?
  4. Which of your diets meets AAFCO Nutritional requirements?
  5. What testing do you do beyond AAFCO trials?
  6. Can you give me the caloric value per can or cup of your diets?
  7. What specific quality control measures do you use to assure the consistency and quality of your product line? What safety measures do you use?
  8. Where are your diets produced and manufactured? Can this plant be visited?
  9. Can you provide a complete product nutrient analysis of your best selling canine and feline pet food?  (this is different than the guaranteed analysis that is listed on the food)

Every bag of food should have an 800 number to call for questions and information. If a call is made to a company and they can’t provide reasonable answers to these questions, it sends up a huge red-flag.

If you ever have questions regarding your pet’s food, please do not hesitate to call us at 519-969-7390.  We are always happy to help.  As we have stated before, your pets nutrition is very important to them and us.  Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy, happy, long life.

Nutrition is the tightrope of life, proper balance and you’re golden!