The History of Our Feline Friends

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Hello friends! Welcome to my first blog post 🙂

You may already know that South Windsor Animal Hospital is promoting our Feline Focus Month! So, now that all the dog people have read that first sentence and scrolled on, let’s talk about cats! Yay Cats!

Before I get started, myself and the other SWAH Doctors have already filmed an educational video answering some FAQ we get about your feline friends, so go check that out on our Facebook page!

Here’s a fun fact about myself: if I wasn’t going into veterinary medicine, I probably would have studied history of some sort. Is that nerdy? Yes, definitely. So, I thought it would d be fun to write a little blog about the history of cats! Question for you all: Do you ever look at your cat as they’re screaming at you to fill their food bowl and think, “How did we get to the point that this five pound creature is bullying me and I listen?” I do too, so let’s get into it!

Scientists have discovered that today’s domesticated cat all have one common ancestor, Felis sylvestris lybica, also known as the African Wildcat (which are still around today but sadly are an endangered species). Contrary to dogs, many scientists believe that cats domesticated themselves! About 10,000 years ago in Northern Africa / The Middle East, as humans started making more advances in agriculture, it became necessary for us to store our grain indoors. With this, came rodents trying to eat our grain. Cats, being natural hunters, saw this as an opportunity for easy hunting and invited themselves into towns! Cats got to enjoy the abundance of food and humans enjoyed the pest control! But the fun didn’t stop there. Cats adapted to their environment and began learning to have more docile traits that were favoured by humans, allowing the two species to co-exist quite happily together.

Now, if your cat ever acts like it’s their world and you’re just living in it, this next part of history may explain that! Around 2000 BC, the ancient Egyptians held great reverence for cats and actually worshipped them! The ancient Egyptian goddess of love and fertility, Bastet, took form as a woman’s body with the head of a cat. It is said that during these times, being convicted of killing a cat often meant a death sentence for the offender. It was also quite common for people to mummify their cats, so they could come with them into the afterlife as well!

But the fame didn’t end there! As cat popularity grew, many people traded and took cats with them as they moved to new settlements around the world. The ancient Romans even saw cats as a symbol of liberty! They were respected by many different cultures! Even during times of worldly exploration with boats, captains and crew would bring cats aboard the ship for pest control (and probably some cuddles too, let’s be real). What’s not to love about our little feline friends?!

We are now going to fast-forward to the Medieval Ages of Europe, where cat popularity declined quite a bit, especially for our black cat friends. Now, I’m not superstitious, but I am a little-stitious (shout out if you got that reference), however back in those days, everyone was EXTREMELY-stitious. It was believed that black cats were sent from the Devil himself and were a warning of bad luck and misfortunes to come. Because of this, many cats were cruelly treated and killed.

People who owned cats (women especially) were accused of being witches and hanged. Many historians actually think that the unnecessary and excessive killing of cats actually helped to spread plague, a disease carried by rats, more quickly throughout Europe. So joke’s on them, I guess.

Okay, time to be more positive again! In the late 1800’s cat popularity was on the rise again! On July 13th 1871, Harrison Weir held the first cat show ever at London’s Crystal Palace in England. Sixty-five cats participated in the show and it included special exhibits such as the first ever Siamese cat brought to England and an exhibit showcasing a polydactyl cat (a cat with extra toes). From this, cats became an extremely popular choice as pets. Cat-fanciers even began selecting certain traits to create “fancy breeds”. In 1895, the first cat show in the USA was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Cats proved their usefulness to humans once again with their presence in both World Wars. Yes, you read that right. War Cats. But they weren’t exactly in the front lines using their own weapons of mass destruction (paws) to attack our enemies (as hilarious as that is to picture). In both World Wars, cats were brought aboard ships to protect the soldiers’ food supplies from rodents. Cats were also very common within the war trenches and often acted as little mascots for the soldiers. They were a form of entertainment, companionship and emotional support for the soldiers during the worst moments in history. Many of these cats were regarded as heroes.
Back to the present day, cats are superstars and MAN they really let the fame get to their heads sometimes (but it’s warranted, so we’ll allow it). Cats are the stars of many shows, movies, comic strips… you name it. If someone tells you they love lasagne and hate Monday’s, you already know they’re talking about Garfield. Cats have become one of the most popular pets worldwide. The International Cat Association has listed 73 different breeds of cats, however this number differs based on who you ask. We love them for all their unique traits, even when they’re a bit spicy with us.
Alrighty friends, I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson with me today! Please give your cats some extra love this Feline Focus (and always) and make sure they’re healthy as can be by giving us a visit for their annual check-up.

Wishing you a Purr-fect day,

Dr. Shania 🙂

Sources:,foundation%20breede r%20of%20Saint%20Bernards).

Clinic Update

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Clinic Procedure- COVID Update
The Ontario government has allowed veterinary hospitals to resume normal operations starting on Tuesday May 19 with the stipulation that we continue practicing social distancing and take measures to protect our clients and staff. The South Windsor Animal Hospital will begin a gradual transition on this date to accommodate our patients’ needs while maintaining the safety of our hospital. Due to the inability to perform routine procedures for the last two months, we are experiencing a backlog and will prioritize certain cases in our attempts to work through this back log.

Starting on Tuesday May 19, 2020, we will begin calling owners of our patients who are overdue for Rabies vaccines and owners of senior pets who should have routine geriatric screening bloodwork. We will also begin grooming appointments on Tuesday, May 19th. Once we have protected these patients, we will be calling owners of pets who are in need of the other parts of our vaccine program. We will continue calling all the owners of dogs who have not picked up their heartworm and flea/ tick prevention yet.

While we are resuming normal medical procedures, the manner in which we are working will be different to accommodate human health considerations. We will continue to have a locked front door. Clients needing food or medications should call in advance to order these products, prepay and arrange a pick up time. When arriving at the pick-up time, owners should call from the parking lot and products will be brought outside to them.

We hope to continue easing our way back to a more normal style of veterinary medicine over the months to come. Our goal is to continue providing our patients and their owners with the highest quality of veterinary medicine in a friendly and informative manner.

We ask that you please be patient with us as we are modifying our protocols to try to keep everyone safe. We hope everyone stays safe in this difficult time and look forward to seeing our clients in person soon.

Dr. Chris Chamandy and the staff of South Windsor Animal Hospital

Updated Office Hours Aug 2020

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MONDAY        8 am – 7 pm

TUESDAY         8 am – 7 pm

WEDNESDAY 8 am – 7 pm

THURSDAYS  8 am – 7 pm

FRIDAY            8 am – 7 pm

SATURDAY      8 am – 12 pm


In order to comply with social distancing measures in Ontario, our front door is locked. Please call in advance to make an appointment for your pet or if you need to pick up food or medication. Our hospital phone number is 519 969-7390

If you have a cough, fever, loss of taste or have traveled out of Canada in the last 14 days, please advise our staff when you call us. Please advise us if you or anyone in your house is presently diagnosed with COVID.

Thank you for your patience. We will continue to update our clients of any changes to our protocols on our Webpage, Facebook and Instagram platforms.


Dr. Chris Chamandy and the staff of South Windsor Animal Hospital

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 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.  


                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. 


                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,, 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.


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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 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



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!

Meeting Your Indoor Cat’s Needs

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When thinking of what your pet cat’s daily needs, it is normal to assume just food, water and shelter. Unfortunately, this common misconception often leads to stress, particularly when it comes to indoor cats. The problem is that generally, stress in cats can lead to severe stress-related disease as well as behaviour problems. Cat environmental needs are just as important as food and water in their overall well-being. It is essential to provide them with opportunities to express normal behaviour to reduce stress in their lives (in addition to reducing vet visits for you!). All cats require the same environmental enrichment, regardless of if they are showing signs of stress or behaviour problems as unnoticed stress will, in all likelihood, progress to problems requiring veterinary involvement (over grooming, feline lower urinary tract disease, upper respiratory infections etc.). Here are some ways to implement environmental enrichment for your feline companion in your own home.

Puzzle Feeders

Puzzle feeders are a great way to mimic the natural hunting behaviour of working for a meal. This stimulates your cat to use their senses and wet or dry food can be used. There are many kinds of puzzle feeders available as well as tutorials online to make your own out of household supplies. Another benefit is that feeding with a puzzle feeder will take more time out of the cat’s day to eat. This reduces the amount of food consumed as well as reduces the amount of time to become bored and develop behaviour problems such as over grooming. Each cat should have their own feeding space plus an extra in case.


Cat It Food Tree & Cat It Senses Digger (links to – “Cat It” carries many other good environmental enrichment products for cats.

Trixie Flip Board Level 2 & Trixie Move 2 Win Level 3 (links to – Trixie has varied puzzles good for cats and dogs! Different levels to suit different abilities.

Cat Puzzle DIY (links to

DIY Interactive Cat Box (links to



Cats need their own space. They tend to be territorial especially when easily accessible resources are lacking. This includes space for feeding, water, litterboxes and scratching as well as vertical space and places to hide.

Water bowls should always be kept away from food as contamination of the water with food particles tends to discourage cats from drinking. Water can also be used as enrichment by adding pet water fountains to drink from as well.

Recommended: Petmate Fresh Flow Fountain (links to


In multi-cat households, each cat should be fed separately to reduce the occurrence of bullying. Cats should also have access to multiple water bowls spaced apart for this same reason.

A general rule for litterboxes is to have a litterbox for each cat, plus an extra. These litterboxes should be spaced out, cleaned consistently and allow for the cat to exit from two directions. This can help to reduce the occurrence of cats not using the litterbox as there will be less conflict in accessing the boxes.

Scratching posts are also an important part of a cat’s wellbeing. Normally, cats scratch to stretch (relieving tension, think of it as yoga for cats.), scent mark and sharpen/wear down claws.  If cats are scratching furniture, it indicates insufficient opportunity to display this necessary behaviour. Supply sturdy posts and mats with different materials to find out what your cat(s) prefer. Additionally, ensure your cat’s nails are regularly kept clipped to reduce the urge to scratch as often.

Vertical space is a great way to add space to your cat’s territory. Indoor cats need this space especially as it is not comparable to that of a natural outdoor cat’s territory. In multi-cat/animal households, it also gives space to avoid conflict and get away. This is necessary to enable your cat to calm down after a stressful encounter. Also, cats often enjoy watching the room/out the window from a high place where they can feel secure – another way to alleviate boredom.


Places to hide are essential to increase an anxious cat’s sense of security. Boxes with a hole cut out are a cheap, effective way to incorporate hiding places into your household. Tunnels and cat hideaways are also available from pet stores. Cat towers add places to scratch, vertical space and can have cubbies to hide in. These are highly recommended to enrich your cat’s environment. No matter how confident your cat may seem, places to hide are important. Not having sufficient places to hide can cause a lack of a sense of security thereby likely leading to reduced confidence, stress and eventually, possible stress-induced disease.


cat treeCat Trees/towers are great for providing places to hide, vertical space as well as a scratching post.

Although it may seem logical to get more cats to give your cat more stimulation, it is often detrimental to the cats’ wellbeing unless raised together from a young age. All cats are capable of living alone, some cats will accept social contact with another of their species but most will avoid it. If your cat is not bonded, it is far better not to have more than one cat. If you have more than one cat, even if bonded, ensure that the resources mentioned above are adequate. See “further information” section for signs of bonded cats.



Interaction is important to reduce boredom and its associated problematic behaviours. Cats that are bored, have excess energy and not enough stimulation tend to use their energy and focus on unwanted behaviours (over grooming, destruction of furniture, etc.). They often become stressed.

Cats naturally enjoy pouncing, it releases endorphins similarly to humans when exercising. This in turn makes them happier. It is recommended to engage in play with your cat with toys on sticks and toy mice for them to chase and pounce on. This mimics natural behaviour.

Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained. This is an ideal way to interact with your cat as well as stimulating them to think. Most cats are food driven so training should be done with treats. With calorie restricted cats, instead of feeding with a puzzle feeder, the cat can be fed their food as treats daily.

Another way to enrich their lives is to play cat DVDs (sold online and in pet stores). These DVDs include sounds and sights that fascinate the cat for hours. However, this doesn’t entice all cats but it worth trying out with your own. Outdoor bird feeders by accessible windows are similar in effect and often work with all cats.

RecommendedMovies For Cats – The Audio-Visual Cat Toy (links to


Further Information:

Indoor Cat Initiative – Ohio State University

The Body Language of Feline Anxiety (Poster) – Dr Sophia Yin

5 Signs of Bonded Cats

Feuding Felines – Dr Sophia Yin

Covered or Uncovered Litterboxes? – Dr Sophia Yin

Tips for Dealing With Urine Spraying – Dr Sophia Yin

Dog park safety

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Every morning and evening we take my dog for a walk.  Walking is one of my favourite forms of exercise, especially in the morning since it helps to clear my mind and prepare me for another day.  For my dog, it burns off some of her excess energy and gives her an extra reason to nap after her breakfast.  Depending on where you live, there are different pathways available for walking your dog.  Some people live near dog parks, which can be a great place to give your dog some exercise, but many come with a list of dangers.  Addressing some of the potential dangers in dog parks can help to hopefully avoid negative situations.

Giant Breed

Intestinal Parasites

Parasites can be easily picked up from the dog park when a dog either sniffs or licks another dog’s feces, the area where another dog’s feces has been, or water sources.  These parasites can also be acquired from many other sources such as sniffing or licking another animal’s rear end, drinking from puddles, eating the intestines of deceased rodents, or ingesting fleas, just to name a few.  We recommend sending away our pet’s feces at least yearly for parasitic testing, since many of these parasites are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Important tip: Help your dog avoid other dog’s feces by being aware while on a walk.


Transmissible Diseases

Bordetella is a bacteria otherwise known as Kennel Cough which can cause a severe hacking cough in dogs.  Since this bacteria is most often transmitted in areas where other dogs are present, the dog park is a high-risk location.  Vaccination for Bordetella can help to decrease the risk and severity of this disease.

Parvovirus is a virus spread via contact with feces, typically from ingestion.  Depending on the level of vaccination of your pet, parvovirus can cause either a mild diarrhea to a potentially fatal form of bloody diarrhea by killing the cells lining the intestines.  Keeping your pet up-to-date on their vaccinations can help protect them from this terrible disease.


Aggressive Encounters

Always remember that not all dogs are friendly.  Always ask for the dog owners’ permission before having your dog’s interact.  Keep both dogs on a leash at first, so if you see any signs of aggression or discomfort, the dogs can be taken apart from one another.

If the encounter escalates and a dog becomes wounded, pull the dogs apart via their leashes.  Do not get in the middle of a dogfight, they will not recognize you as being their owners when their adrenaline is pumping. Many people have gotten severely injured by getting in the middle of a fight.

We commonly see bite or laceration injuries from dogs in a dog park, some are mild and require some antibiotics, but they can be quite severe, leading to broken bones, lung punctures, or death.  With any issue, please bring your dog to their vet as soon as possible.


Leash Types

Halter-type leashes are great for walking, and to give a good hold of your dog if you needed to grab them quickly.  Wonderful to use in the car, since many have seat belt buckles to help hold your dog in place.

Gentle Leader Collars work by the same principle as nose-leads for horses.  If you control the direction the head is pointing, you control where the animal is walking.  These collars are great to help control animals on a walk and guide them, gently, with less pulling and tugging than with traditional collars.


Yellow Ribbon Initiative

This newer symbol instructs pet owners that yellow ribbons tied on a dog’s leash mean they need space.  There can be many reasons they need space: recovering from a recent surgery, being fearful of other dogs or people, or even being aggressive, but this is a rule that should be followed for everyone’s safety.


Understand Dog Body Language

Just because their tail is wagging, doesn’t mean they are excited and happy- there is so much more to understanding dog behaviour. Check out the Dog Decoder App which helps to evaluate dog behaviour, as well as Dr. Sophia Yin’s great poster on evaluating dog posture.


Children- The Be a Tree Program

Yearly, 1-2 people are killed in a dog attack, and children are at a higher risk than adults.  Teaching children how to appropriately approach an animal, or what to do if a strange dog approaches them, can help to reduce the risk of injury.  The ‘Be a Tree’ program is offered by our clinic, where a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) can come to a classroom and teach children to evaluate how to act around a strange dog.  Give us a call if you would like more information.


As a general rule, if your dog is not friendly with other dogs, keep them away from dog parks, and keep them on a leash.  Train your dog to come on command.  Always ask permission prior to engaging with any other pets at the park.   Stay safe!PuppyTraining