Older Cats Need Love, Too! 8 Reasons for Adopting One

Older cats make great pets! Their need for love and their willingness to return love so readily is only one of eight reasons to adopt an older cat. We love kittens just as much because they are so cute and cuddly, and it’s easy to lose our hearts to them even though, in many cases, an older cat might be a better choice for your household.

Why There Are Many Older Cats Available for Adoption

Older cats may be given up for adoption for a few reasons. Usually it’s because the owners:

  • are downsizing to an apartment that won’t accept pets
  • no longer want a cat after a baby is born into the family
  • have someone moving into the home who suffers from a cat allergy
  • develop asthma or some other allergy to cats
  • are moving to another area with accommodations and conditions unsuitable for pets
  • accept a new job that involves extensive travel and can no longer care for a pet
  • are moving into a seniors’ complex that doesn’t allow pets
  • become too sick to care for a pet, or are hospitalized for an indefinite time, or pass away

Older cats are often not chosen for adoption because people seeking a cat as a pet don’t realize the many benefits of choosing an older one, so they pick a cute little kitten instead. Lonely older cats yearning for a loving home may end their days in an animal shelter.

An older cat can be defined as any full-grown cat, which means it has reached the age of 18 months and, for some large breeds (e.g., a Maine Coon), at ages two to four years old. You can consider a cat to be a “senior” at approximately seven years old—again, depending on their breed. Most people consider a cat to be an “older cat” when the animal is beyond the cute kitten stage.

Whatever the definition, an older cat needs love just as much as a kitten does. Without further ado, here are the advantages of adopting an older cat.

1. Lower Costs

Most older cats have already received their vaccinations as kittens and may have had some of the booster shots as well. They have usually been spayed or neutered already as well. All these procedures have basic costs, which have been paid for by their previous owners, and it means that the costs of cat ownership are lowered by a lot for new owners. Your new cat needs to be registered and examined by a veterinarian where you can pass along all the information about her or him from the previous owner and/or shelter where you obtained ownership and you can ask questions about how to care for an older cat.

2. Easy Care

Speaking of care, it is a lot less work to care for an older cat than a kitten. You merely have to introduce your cat to the location of his or her litter box and you are free from the necessity of training your cat to use it. Also, you won’t need to entertain or play with an older cat as frequently as you must with a kitten since kittens require a lot of interaction. An older cat usually already knows the terms “no,” “down,” and “off,” and is more likely to come when called by name. Older cats have been socialized and are anxious to become part of a family.

3. Great With Kids

Young children have to be cautioned many times about being gentle with a kitten but often forget, or don’t really know what “gentle” means and, in some cases, don’t have the motor skills needed to be gentle “enough.” Kittens don’t understand acceptable behavior either, and they might often bite or scratch children without realizing their claws and teeth hurt, so they must learn to be gentle as well. Older cats already know how to keep their teeth and claws to themselves, have much more patience, will break free of children who hurt them rather than fight back, and will still love their little owners.

4. Great With Seniors, Too

An older cat is a great companion for an older adult. Senior cats as well as senior owners are more relaxed and move more slowly. Older cats have lower energy levels and are much less likely to do anything destructive, like trying to claw their way up the drapes or jump up on tables where there isn’t room for them. Older cats sleep a lot and enjoy households where the pace of living is slow and relaxing.

5. Great With Other Pets, Three

If you own other cats and want to introduce a new pet into your household, it is a lot easier if you choose a mature cat rather than a kitten. Kittens want to play, not only with you but also with your other pets. Kittens can create a lot of stress, especially for older cats who like their established lifestyle and routines and don’t want to deal with an energetic, playful kitten. It is also better to select an older cat that has lived in a household with other pets and has learned to live with them as well as with humans.

6. An Established Personality

When you choose a kitten as a pet, you have no idea what your pet will be like as an adult cat. Maybe your kitten will grow up to be absolutely delightful and a good companion for you, or may become an unfriendly annoyance who leaps on you from the top of the fridge or scratches your ankle from under the bed, or launches an assault on you while you’re sleeping (this is rare, though, and if present kittens will outgrow this behaviour). Former owners can describe their cat’s behaviour and staff at a shelter will know whether or not a cat gets along well with other animals and if it is friendly with people. You want to choose a cat who will be happy in your household, and you can make a more informed choice if it is an adult with an established personality.

7. Experienced and Wise

No matter how cute and sweet kittens may be, they require a lot of work to keep up with their energy. Kittens need time to learn how to use their litter boxes, not to jump up on tables and counters, not to climb up the curtains, and not to get into trouble when you leave the house. Older cats know how to use a litter box, understand how households run, don’t care if you leave them alone for most of the day, are happy on their own, are happy if you are there with them, and come when they are called.

8. Immense Love

Older cats are so grateful to be in a family household after living without an owner and/or in a shelter. It’s so easy to love a kitten at first sight, but it takes a lot of work to care for them and raise them when you have a busy schedule. An older cat needs love and gives tons of love back when they’re adopted. Any older cats who have been denied such a warm and loving environment for so long will be very happy to have found a new home and will love their new owners at once. You can count on them for devotion and to remain attached to you for the rest of their lives.

Even a senior cat can be a delightful companion. Many age-related health problems such as arthritis can be managed with good care. As long as they have the right owners, senior cats can live full and happy lives and prove to be perfect pets for many cat lovers.

There are many good reasons for adopting an older cat, even cats who have reached their senior years, and they have lots of love to give. Let your heart be your guide—as well as recommendations from animal shelter staff!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Tips for an Enjoyable Halloween Night for Pets

Halloween is almost here! Costumes, parties, and plans for the day are likely already in place, including costumes for our furry friends. It is becoming quite popular to dress up your dog and the occasional cat in addition to the traditional partying and trick-or-treating on Halloween night. It is an enjoyable time and being socially inclined, dogs (and the odd cat) are happy to be involved in the fun. New commercials on TV appear to encourage pets go out trick-or-treating with kids!

Again, all fun and enjoyment with the right pet, but remember there are pets (as are humans) that may not be lining up to be part of the dressing up or socialization.

Pet families know their pets the best and it is important to assess how involved your pet may like to be during Halloween, or what the families’ overall plans should be. Addressing the following should help you make this a happy Halloween for the whole family:

  1. Pets can get anxiety from firecrackers (noise phobia) – skipping fireworks or boarding your pet in a safe, quiet kennel for fireworks nights are ideas to consider.
  2. Taking your pet for trick-or-treating may increase their chances of ingesting chocolate or candy, which can be toxic to them. Adult supervision for both your child and your pet is advised.
  3. If trick-or-treating with pets, putting a leash on should help keep them safe.
  4. Strangers can be wary of unknown pets, no matter how friendly your pooch is!
  5. If you are giving out candy to kids or will have many visitors, ensure your pet will not escape with the frequently opening front door.

Once safety for everyone is taken in to account, all you have to decide is if your pet will be a superhero, a hot dog, a prisoner, or will simply skip the dressing up!

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.

How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Yes, it’s true! Your cat can be trained to walk on a leash. While letting your cat outdoors is not something we recommend, if your cat insists on going outside and you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let cats outside on their own because of traffic or other dangers, the only way you and your cat can have fun outside is to train them to walk on a leash. It’s not difficult to introduce your cat to the leash and if your pet is familiar with it, you can enjoy frequent outings together.

Will Your Indoor Cat Enjoy Going Outdoors?

You can let a cat outdoors on a leash if it absolutely insists on going outside. You need to be vigilant, of course, and make sure your pet is protected as much as possible against various bacteria, parasites, poisons, and the usual outdoor dangers that they may encounter. You also have to accept the fact that outdoor cats are never as safe as indoor cats because of the dangers. This is why we don’t recommend letting cats outdoors in the first place. Having your cat on a leash is the safest way to protect them if they want to be outdoors.

You may decide that you want your cat to remain indoors unless on a leash. The question is, will going outside be a treat and will the leash be accepted by your cat?

Maybe – Cats that are trained to walk on a leash generally enjoy being outdoors and exploring. As long as cats are trained slowly and at an early age, most of them can adjust to the outdoor experience. Walking on a leash can keep them from becoming bored and lazy. It allows them to have regular exercise, which helps to maintain their health and weight. It can also be fun for both of you!

Maybe Not – Some cats are never comfortable walking on a leash because of their personalities, their age, or their health. If you spend a lot of time slowly and patiently introducing the harness and leash with plenty of treats and praise, but your cat continues to resist, it is time to give up. Accept your cat’s decision to not walk on a leash and play indoor games instead.

How to Train Your Cat

When training your cat, each stage requires treats, praise, and patience.

1. Purchase the Right Equipment – The “right equipment” means a harness, not a collar. Cats can slip right out of a collar, so make sure you buy the correct sized harness, preferably one that is adjustable. 

2. Introduce the Harness – Leave the harness near the food dish so your cat associates it with something nice—food, of course! If the harness makes a snapping sound or the characteristic Velcro sound when the harness is adjusted, make those sounds with the harness multiple times for several days so that your cat is used to the sound before you try fitting it on. After a few days to two weeks, put the harness on your cat right before mealtime, and take it off afterwards. Repeat for several days.

Once your cat is used to the harness, try adjusting it for size—you need to be able to fit two fingers under the harness. Leave it on for a few minutes and offer your cat a treat, some praise, and a pat on the head before taking it off.

3. Introduce the Leash – Your cat may not mind wearing the harness or it may take several days or weeks before it is accepted; take your time. When your cat is used to wearing and walking around with it, attach the leash. Let it drag on the floor while you feed your cat treats, give praise and a pat on the head, play for a bit, and then take it and the harness off.

After the leash is accepted, pick up the end and follow your cat around the house with the leash slack in your hand. Don’t forget the praise and treats! Then try gently coaxing your cat with a treat while guiding the harness. Don’t allow your cat to back out of the harness because you don’t want that to happen when you are out on a walk. Repeat this exercise daily for a few days.

4. Take Your Cat For Walks Outside – With the harness and leash attached, pick your cat up in your arms and walk out of the house. Never allow your cat to walk out or your cat will be streaking out the door whenever it is opened. Carry a towel with you in case your cat gets scared when you put them down on the ground. That way, you can quickly wrap up your cat in the towel to avoid being bitten or scratched before taking them back into the house.

Try going outside each day for an hour, always staying close to the door so that you can go back inside at a moment’s notice. After building their confidence while outside, your cat will soon enjoy going for walks. If at any point your cat drops to the ground with tail twitching and ears flattened back, stop the training session or the walk. Your cat is always the boss and you do whatever the boss wants!

Useful Hints

  • Don’t tie up your cat outside and leave your pet unattended. A cat can be tangled up in the leash in no time or be spooked by another animal or a person and can’t get away.
  • Keep your cat from picking up items and licking or chewing anything. Have some treats handy as a distraction.
  • Remember that you are walking a cat, not a dog. Cats tend to be less inclined to be guided by a leash and they may decide for no obvious reason that today is not a good day for a walk. Or they may decide a walk is fine, but not at the same place as before, even though it was a perfectly acceptable place yesterday.

Most cats can be trained to walk on a leash, but not all. If you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let a cat outside and your cat refuses to cooperate with your training efforts, resign yourself to enjoying only indoor adventures with your pet. Again, we don’t advise letting cats outdoors, but if you need to then using a harness and leash is the safest way.

However, you could be lucky. Purchase a cat harness and leash and try training your pet. It may take many weeks of effort or you could be out walking with your cat quite soon. You’ll never know until you try!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

15 Scientific Reasons Why Owning a Dog is Awesome

If you are debating on getting a new dog, but you’re also thinking of how much time and effort it takes to care for one, don’t worry—they can take care of you too! Here are 15 scientific reasons why owning a dog is not only awesome, it’s even healthy for you!

Good for the Heart

According to a recent study, owning a dog could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Not only is this a heart-warming benefit, it’s also a heart-healing one.

Dr. Fido, PhD

People who unfortunately live with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other mental and/or physical health problems can get some relief from AAT (animal-assisted therapy) or pet therapy. Your furry friend is right there during your time of need, whether it’s during a depressive episode, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical therapy, or just a really bad day.

Dogs = Happiness 

Owning a dog requires you to have a daily routine and forces you to stay active, including interacting with other people, which in turn creates a sense of well-being while taking care of a dog. This routine can help a clinically depressed person out of a depressive episode. Dog owners are less likely to develop depression than non-pet owners. Interacting with and receiving love from a dog can help you stay positive. Even looking at your dog increases the amount of oxytocin (“feel good” chemical) in the brain.

Cancer Detectors

Since dogs have a sense of smell that’s a million times stronger than ours, they have been known to be able to smell out bombs and drugs. This means that dogs can sniff out what’s going on inside of our bodies as well. Studies have shown that dogs can be trained to isolate the differences of a healthy person to that of one suffering from breast or lung cancer. They can also be trained to detect biomarkers in the urine of those suffering from prostate cancer. 

Less Stress

We’ve established that dogs can help make us happier. There is also research that shows interacting with dogs can reduce stress. Not only does petting or playing with your dog increase oxytocin levels in your brain, but also it lower the production of cortisol, i.e. a stress-inducing hormone.

Lower Blood Pressure

This connects to owning a dog for the heart and happiness. Research has found that pet owners have lower blood pressure brought on by mental stress when getting support from their furry friends.

Dogs Help with Self-Esteem

Dogs are considered to be man’s (and woman’s) best friend, and rightfully so. A study found that pet owners have higher self-esteem, felt more conscientious, and even bounce back from social rejection better. Being a single adult can be quite isolating, but there’s good news. Another study found that owning a dog is most beneficial for the mental well-being of a single adult.

Quit Smoking Aid

Did you know that owning a dog can help you quit smoking? The harmful effects of second hand smoke on a pet motivates 28% of smokers to quit, says one study.

Bring your Dog to Work?

If you can bring your dog to work, there is a positive perk; they can help lower your stress levels on the job. Research shows that employees with their pets at work reported lower levels of observed stress throughout the day. If only every office could allow this.

Immune System Boost

If you feel a cold coming on, don’t just reach for the tissues, reach for your dog too. A study performed on college students saw overall health benefits to the immune system of students asked to pet real dogs, opposed to stuffed animals or nothing at all.

Detect Life-Threatening Health Issues

As well as being able to sniff out cancer, dogs can be trained to identify when their owner is having a seizure. Given a dog’s extraordinary sense of smell, they can be trained to catch triggers for an owner with food allergies before their owner has a potential reaction.

Find Out More About Your Personality

Your personality can be reflected in the kind of dog you own. According to a study from England, there is a very clear association between people’s personalities and what type of dog they own. Small dog owners tend to be more intelligent, while the owners of dogs like Dalmatians and Bulldogs were the most conscientious, for example. It has been found in other studies that, generally, dog owners tend to be friendlier and more social than cat owners.

Kids Become More Empathetic

In a 2017 study of 1,000 7 to 12-year-olds, it was found that pet bonding of any kind stimulated compassion and positive attitudes towards animals, which in turn promotes a better well-being for both the child and the pet. The highest pet attachment was scored by children with dogs, noting that “dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child’s attachment related behavior.” 

Teaches Responsibility in Children

Taking care of a pet means thinking about something other than yourself. According to research, kids who feel a strong connection to their pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships. 

Help Us Age

We already know that dogs help our physical and mental health. In those of retirement age, owning a dog helps give them a sense of purpose. The companionship dogs provide, as well as the care they require, helps reduce the feeling of loneliness.

We hope this has convinced you to follow through with your dog adoption! Now if anyone asks, you can tell them owning a dog is great—and it’s proven by science.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Prepare for Your Kitten’s First Veterinary Appointment

First of all, congratulations on becoming a new kitten parent! However, there is a lot that needs to be done other than providing the new kitty with lots of cuddles and playtime. There is new food to get for the kitten, new toys to provide so he or she doesn’t get bored, a new litter box to be set up…and a new veterinary appointment to book.

There is nothing to be nervous about on your part, but that may not mean the same for your kitten! They are likely still trying to adjust to all of the new sights and smells you are exposing them to on a daily basis. From a kitten’s point of view, meeting the vet can be a scary thing! However, there are ways in which you can make their first veterinary appointment a smooth one. Here are some tips.

Making the Appointment

Depending on when you adopted your new kitten, you need to bring them in to see a veterinarian within 48 hours of adoption. The standard age a kitten should be brought in is between 8 and 12 weeks old.

Though the 48 hour timeline is the usual recommended time to bring a new kitten in to the veterinary clinic, you should bring your kitten to the vet sooner if they seem ill. Signs of illness you should look out for include the following:

  • Watery eyes or tear ducts
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing problems

Making the appointment is easy: pick up the phone and call the vet! Your new cat’s veterinarian may ask you some questions prior to the appointment.

You will also need to provide paperwork detailing your kitten’s medical history. Kittens from animal shelters can be released after 8 weeks and it’s very likely they will already have received their first round of vaccinations. The shelter will tell you if your vet needs to provide your new kitten with a booster shot.

Before the Appointment

Before bringing your new kitten to the veterinary clinic, you need to make sure you have a secure, appropriately sized cat carrier in which your kitten can travel. Your kitten may not like the carrier at first, so you need to get them used to it. The carrier should also be big enough for when your kitten becomes fully grown.

Place the carrier on the floor and leave the door open so the kitten can sniff inside and walk in and out of it. It wouldn’t hurt to place down a small blanket or even treats inside of the carrier! That way, the kitten will associate it with something pleasant rather than fearful. Depending on the kitten itself, it may or may not even choose to sleep inside (this would be a great thing to happen! Again, you want to make sure its mode of transportation is pleasant).

Once the kitten is used to the carrier, try closing the door behind them. Then when they’re inside, lift and move the carrier into another room before letting them out and give them a treat. Repeat this until the kitten is used to the motion. Take short trips in the car with the carrier, followed by a treat so that, again, the kitten will not grow to hate their carrier.

When it’s time to leave and go to the vet clinic, talk to your kitten soothingly when they need to go into the carrier. Never raise your voice or get angry with the kitten if they still don’t like the carrier; some cats never get used to it despite our best efforts. When the kitten is inside, add a few more treats and keep talking to them as soothingly as possible before, during, and after traveling to the vet.

During the Appointment

Allow your kitten to explore the exam room when you bring them in for their appointment so that they get used to the strange, new smells and surroundings. Let them look around until it’s time for your vet to properly examine kitty.

A physical examination of the kitten should be expected at every veterinary appointment. Your vet will check the kitten’s ears for mites, their eyes for watering or crusty areas around their eyelids, and their mouth, teeth, and tongue for oral problems. They will also listen to their heartbeat to check for any murmurs and gently palpate their stomach for abnormalities. Your vet will need to take your kitten’s temperature rectally to ensure they don’t have a fever or underlying problem as well. Allow your kitten to walk around so your vet can make sure their joints and muscles are normal and that there’s nothing wrong with your kitten’s knees or mobility.

A fecal examination may be performed to ensure there are no parasites such as roundworms, hookworms or tapeworms living inside your kitten’s body; depending on their previous environment your vet may ask you to bring in a stool sample. Your kitten’s vet will also comb through their fur to ensure no fleas or eggs are present on your kitten.

If your new kitten was not spayed or neutered prior to their first veterinary appointment, now is the time to bring it up. Spaying or neutering cats is helpful in preventing them from contributing to the over population of cats. It will also discourage certain behaviours such as spraying if done at the correct time. A follow-up appointment may be required if your new kitten is in fact not spayed or neutered; again, talk to your veterinarian about this.

Vaccinations for your kitten will be provided usually when they are around 8 weeks of age, with boosters at ages 12 and 16 weeks. Feline distemper (FVRCPC) is a typical vaccination for your kitten to receive during their first veterinary appointment. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if it’s necessary to provide vaccinations against FELV (feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s new lifestyle.

After the Appointment

Never hesitate to ask your vet any questions that were not covered during the appointment! The more they know about your kitten, the better they can help them lead a happy and healthy life.

If your kitten is given a clean bill of health from your vet and their required vaccines are all up to date, you’ll be advised to do a follow-up exam next year and then be sent home.

Once the kitten is brought back into your home, be sure to give them cuddles, treats, and playtime! Enjoy being with your new kitten!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for a New Dog’s Arrival

Are you planning on bringing home a new dog? Adopting a new pet is one of life’s greatest joys, but it can also be a challenging experience. Your pooch may be understandably nervous when meeting your family and while adjusting to a new home and surroundings. By carefully planning and following a few basic steps, you can ensure your new pet is safe, healthy, and happy, both when the big day arrives and for years to come.

1. Find Ideal Spots in Your Home

Your new dog will be excited or anxious coming to a new home, so expect a few accidents to occur, perhaps for a few days. Choose areas that are easy to clean for your new pet’s bed, water and food dishes, and playtime areas. Scatter newspapers around for a few days to make “accident cleanup” easier.

Use baby gates to close off areas where you don’t want your dog to go. That way you have a chance to teach your pooch which rooms you would like to keep off limits.

2. Check for Danger Zones and Products

Inspect the areas and closets where you keep shoes, dirty clothes, and any makeup or personal care products that could be within your dog’s reach. Put things up high, store them in drawers, or put them behind doors fastened with ties to make sure your pet doesn’t have access to them. Some dogs love to chew on personal items and are attracted to anything with an interesting smell.

If you have a fireplace, make sure it is blocked by a screen or a grate. You may need to make the room where the fireplace is located off limits to your new dog if they get too curious.

Keep all of your cleaning products, chemicals, tools, plastic bags, sharp objects, and matches out of reach or in cabinets/closets that can’t be opened by a curious pup.

Remove small objects from tables that can be reached by your pet. The last thing you want to find is a sick dog that decided to chew on or swallow them, or knock them off and break them!

Keep valuable objects such as expensive vases and table lamps, as well as frequently used items such as cell phones, iPads, and remote controls out of reach.

If you store food on low shelves or keep munchies out on tables, be sure to remove them. Keep in mind that many foods for humans are poisonous for dogs, such as grapes and chocolate. Use safety latches on low cupboards to make sure your pet can’t reach your food or any garbage cans.

Remove plants from the floor, or put them behind furniture so your dog is not tempted to chew on the leaves or flowers. A few house plants that are toxic to pets include lilies, azaleas, irises, sago palm, and daffodils.

3. Hide Electrical Cords and Wires

Bundle cords and wires together and hide them safely behind furniture where your dog can’t reach and chew on them. If you can’t hide dangerous wires and cords, tape them against walls or furniture.

Don’t charge your phone or iPad in outlets that are on or near the floor, and don’t leave plug-ins dangling from outlets where your pet can reach them.

4. Take Precautions for Older Dogs

If you’re looking to adopt an older dog, please be aware of any mobility problems they may have. You also need to be aware that bare floors can be difficult for them. Keep your new senior dog out of rooms with hard, slippery floors, such as the kitchen and bathrooms, and keep them comfortable with carpets or rugs that are secured and won’t slide. If all of your floors are hard, consider buying booties with secure, rubberized soles made specifically for a senior pet.

If an older dog has trouble using the stairs without help, use baby gates to block them off, or invest in pet stairs, or a ramp. You may need a ramp to help an older dog climb into your car too. Raised feeders and heated beds are also great for senior dogs.

5. Purchase Food to Welcome Home Your New Pet

Purchase dog food, preferably a type appropriate for your dog’s age and veterinarian approved. Have a box of treats on hand; they are useful when training a dog, and some treats can even help keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Find out what your pet has been eating before introducing the food you want to provide. If there is a particular food to which your new dog is accustomed to, it is wise to keep offering it while introducing new foods. Gradually increase the amounts of the new food over a few days or weeks.

Make sure you are familiar with your pet’s normal eating schedule. You can adjust it over time to work with your own schedule and the feeding routine recommended by your veterinarian.

6. Purchase Items for Both Indoor and Outdoor Living

Have a collar and an ID tag purchased for the trip home when you go to collect your new dog.

A leash is essential no matter where you may live. You will occasionally have to take your pet with you in and out of a vehicle and having your dog on a leash and trained to heel will be a lifesaver in busy areas.

Have a comfy bed for your new pet, which should be chosen according to the dog’s size.

Be sure to invest in a pet carrier or crate because you may need one for travelling time to time. Be sure it’s a regulation carrier because homemade carriers are not as secure.

Purchase separate bowls for food and water each, keeping your dog’s size in mind. Metal bowls are easier to clean and a mat to place under them is a good idea as some dogs are pretty messy eaters! It is very nice to have a portable water-bottle-and-dish-combination, as well, for walking and hiking.

Have a brush and comb on hand, as well as shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste specially made for dogs—toothpaste made for humans isn’t safe. The earlier pets are introduced to these care products, the faster they adjust to them and the healthier they will be.

You will certainly want to have a few toys for your new dog. Get toys your dog can safely chew on and are fun to play with for you as well!

7. Equip Your Home with Special Cleaning Items

You need to have appropriate cleaning products when you have a dog in the house, including an odor neutralizer. Whether you plan to allow your dog up on the furniture or not, he or she may decide to climb up on the bed or sofa and leave behind their own scent. It is a good idea to assume an accident might happen as well, so make sure your home is equipped with stain removers and repellants as well as paper towels.

Purchase a “pooper scooper” and plastic bags to take with you on walks or hikes. That way you can pick up your dog’s waste and dispose of it properly.

8. Post Lists as Reminders for Everyone

Talk to your veterinarian and set up an appointment before you collect your new dog, especially if there will be no veterinarian inspection first (normally there is a checkup at pet shelters before animals are released to new owners).

Post your veterinarian’s phone number and other emergency numbers—animal poison control, after-hours emergency care, etc.—in a place where everyone in the family as well as dog sitters or dog walkers can find them easily. Program these essential numbers into your phone, too.

Post “training words” as reminders to yourself, as well as for your family and visitors. For example, “down” is the usual word to use for dogs when you want them to stop jumping up on people, and “off” is the usual one to use when you want them to get off furniture. It is easy to see how dogs can receive conflicting messages if the word “off” is sometimes used in reference to jumping on people and “down” is used to instruct them to get down from furniture. It takes longer to train an animal if different instruction or “training words” are used.

Stay one step ahead of your new pet at all times, and remember to do a quick scan of areas to make sure nothing unsafe or hazardous has been left lying around. Also make sure that drawers and doors are securely closed when you leave a room.

With a little effort, you can have your home prepared for your new dog’s safety, well-being, and happiness. You can develop the habit of keeping it that way, which will ensure your happiness and peace of mind, too!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Protect Pets from Wildfire Smoke

Not only is there a heat wave going on in British Columbia, but also we are experiencing extremely smoky days due to the hundreds of forest fires that are happening in BC right now. The severe drop in air quality has made it dangerous for both ourselves as well as our beloved pets to walk around outside for very long.

Because of this combination of hot weather and smoke from the wildfires, extra precautions are needed to keep ourselves and our pets safe. Here are some pet health care tips to consider while we wait for the wildfire smoke to clear:

  1. Dogs that cough or wheeze occasionally may be affected by chronic bronchitis (typically older dogs), collapsing trachea (typically small breed dogs) or environmental allergies. Such pets are more likely to have worsening of symptoms due to the smoke.
  2. Cats on treatment for chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma– keep indoors and monitor for respiratory symptoms closely such as panting, labored breathing, coughing, etc.
  3. For dogs that are not used to strenuous exercise outdoors – wait till smoke clears before starting any exercise or training program.
  4. For flat nosed dog breeds such as English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs, the high temperatures make them prone to respiratory difficulty due to hot weather. Keep indoors and keep cool as much as possible.

Let’s all hope that the smoke clears away soon and that we can all take a nice long walk outside with our pets again!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Common Mistakes to Avoid Making as a Cat Parent

On our recent summer vacation, my wife and I met a lot of animal lovers, strangers, and relatives included. It was mostly a discussion on the happiness pets brings to our lives, how each is different, and an odd medical opinion on their pet. We were fairly taken aback when one of our relatives mentioned to my wife (also a veterinarian) that she had given her injured kitten Rosie, a dose Diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to help with pain management. We both got progressively more concerned as she went on to tell us that the kitten has been very tired and had inappetance (she wasn’t eating) since.

Very quickly, our primary concern had become the dose of diclofenac, and what potential damage it may have caused to her kidneys. Was Rosie not acting lively due to discomfort from pain or was it due to adverse effects of human painkillers given to cats? Did you know that indiscriminate use of pain medications have huge potential to cause GI ulcers, kidney damage and blood abnormalities in cats?

This episode helped reiterate the fact that there are so many things we may do (or not do!) for our pets that are actually harmful to them, without realizing the true potential of it. Thankfully, Rosie did very well within a few days of rehydrating her body and a lot of loving care from her family.

Following is a list of some other common mistakes to avoid as a cat parent:

  1. Leaving stringy toys and hairbands unmonitored in the house – can cause cats to accidentally swallow them and lead to serious intestinal obstructions.
  2. Using leftover antibiotics from before – is never ok, as you may not know the adequate dose or length of course needed. Also, as different antibiotics target different bugs it may not be a good antibiotic choice. Such indiscriminate use can lead to resistant infections and nasty superbugs.
  3. Allowing an outdoor lifestyle, without taking precautions for outdoor hazards such as fleas, worms, and viral infections (feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus) – be sure to keep your outdoor cat up to date on outdoor cat vaccines, deworming, and monthly flea prevention year-round.
  4. Feeding dry food (kibble) exclusively – this was considered ideal for cats till a few years back, but it is now recognized that a large portion of a cats’ diet should be canned or soft moist food.
  5. Believing that cats are not perturbed by environmental changes – on the contrary, cats are very sensitive to changes in their routine or environment. We should always consider and pursue environmental enrichment for these sensitive critters when it is time for a move, introduction of a new pet, upcoming childbirth, etc.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

10 Beach Day Tips for You and Your Pup

You and your pup will love having fun together at the beach this summer! To make your beach day even better, we have ten tips to share with you! These will help make sure the experience is always a great one for you and your four-legged best friend.

Before You Hit the Beach…

Make sure you don’t arrive at your beach destination only to discover that you have overlooked some key item or haven’t prepared well enough for a day of fun. While at the beach, stay alert to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort.

1. Dogs Welcome

Not all beaches near Vancouver or in the Lower Mainland allow dogs. Check online or on the phone, but make sure the beach on which you have set your heart on is a dog-friendly beach. Also, you may be able to find out ahead of time if your dog will be allowed to run off-leash. If that information isn’t available to you, be sure and check the beach rules for dogs as soon as you arrive. Bring along an extra-long leash just in case he or she can’t run free.

2. Tide Information

If you are taking your pup to the ocean, make sure you know when to expect high and low tides. These times will determine whether or not you can walk along the beach, how far you can go, and how far you have to walk to reach the water when the tide is out. 

3. Health Protection

Make sure vaccinations for your pooch are up to date so that he or she will be protected from any diseases it’s exposed to in the new beach surroundings and from potential new friends. Check with your veterinarian before departing to see if booster shots are needed or to get your dog’s shots up to date. 

4. ID Protection

Some beaches are so huge your dog may get lost by accident when he or she runs off! Don’t forget to attach an ID collar to them and have the contact numbers for your veterinarian on your phone—just in case. An ID microchip inserted in their shoulder area can also help find a dog if they get really lost.

5. Pack Carefully

These are the important items you’ll need for beach day: 

  • Water – Puppy needs water to drink and you also need it to wash the sand off if it is bothering him or her or when it’s time to go home. You may not be able to stop him or her from drinking water that is sitting around in puddles or ocean salt water, but you can reduce the amount by offering fresh water to drink. Bringing a water bottle or a collapsible or regular water bowl can help. Some dog-friendly beaches even offer fountains specifically for dogs so they can stay cool! Check online first to make sure they’re available.
  • Beach towels – Puppy needs beach towels just as you do, so don’t forget to bring along one or two.
  • Leashes – Bring the usual leash as well as an extra-long one because your pup will want to run! Even if he or she is allowed to run free, you may prefer to keep him or her on a leash now and then—especially if you get tired of trying to keep up!
  • Beach Umbrella – Shade will be welcomed by both of you from time to time, so you should bring along a beach umbrella in case there is no natural shade available.
  • Sunscreen – You need sunscreen for yourself and, yes, puppy may need it too. Choose a sunscreen that is appropriate for babies or people with sensitive skin because these don’t usually include zinc oxide, and that is the ingredient you must avoid. Your veterinarian can advise you if you have any concerns about what to buy. Sunscreen is especially necessary for dogs with light-coloured coats or who have been shaved.
  • Paw Protection – The rule of thumb is if the sand is too hot for you to walk barefoot on, it is too hot for your dog’s paws. Be sure and check by slipping off your sandals or flip-flops and taking a few test steps.
  • Poo Bags – There will probably be poo bags available on the beach for your convenience, but don’t count on it. As you might need several and won’t want to make repeated trips to a garbage can, bring along a big bag to hold all the poo bags you accumulate. There is no excuse for not picking up after your dog on a beach. Children play in the sand and so do adults.
  • Toys! – Yes, toys deserve an exclamation mark! The beach is a great place for you and puppy to play. You should bring along toys for the water that float and toys for the beach like a Frisbee or a ball for playing catch. 

6. Read the Rules

Most beaches post a sign with rules for enjoying the beach. If you have taken your pet to a public beach, look for the sign and make sure you know the restrictions. 

7. Don’t Force Puppy to Swim

Most dogs love the water, but some are frightened by the sound of the ocean or they’ll panic when they get out of their depth. Make sure your pup enjoys the water and don’t force him or her into the ocean if he or she seems reluctant.

8. Life Vests are an Option

If your dog is really small, or if it gives you peace of mind, you can buy a life vest for your pooch so you don’t have to worry about him or her being in the water.

9. Check for Hazards

There can be danger in the ocean from sharp shells, jelly fish, sting rays, and crabs, and some dangers are hidden under a thin layer of sand on any beach, like broken glass. Don’t ever take your eyes off your dog or let him or her run out of your sight. If you become tired of non-stop supervision, put him or her on the leash. 

10. Post Beach Care

When you leave the beach, give your pup a good rubdown with a towel so he or she doesn’t get cold or drag sand home! Make sure to dry his or her ears well, especially to prevent ear infections. To deal with the sand and salt water, bath him or her when you get home or, at least, brush his or her coat well until you have time to bathe him or her. An old quilt spread over the back of the car for the trip home can reduce the sand cleanup needed—and it’s always needed!

You and puppy are sure to have lots of fun together at the beach this summer! You can use our tips as a checklist of what to take with you and reminders of how to ensure your four-legged best friend’s safety and comfort. Have fun!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

5 Reasons Why Cats Make Great Pets

There are five major reasons that make cats the first choice as a great pet for many, many people! When you are looking to adopt a new pet, consider your lifestyle and the characteristics of cats when going through the adoption process. Rest assured, cats make wonderful pets and can adapt to almost any situation!

1. Cats are Loving Companions

Forget what you’ve heard about cats being so independent that they don’t love their owners and don’t need attention—it is simply not true.

Cats love to be held and petted, and are very loyal. They will let you know that their lives revolve around you and many cats run to the door to greet their owners when they come home. They follow you around and sleep near you if you are busy—they may even try to sleep on the keyboard of your computer while you are trying to work and on your bed while you are sleeping!

Their independence is a wonderful characteristic for many reasons. It certainly does not prevent them from showing their love and appreciation for their owners. This marvelous characteristic of cats allows them to respond to affection to the same degree that it is offered to them.

2. Cats are Low Maintenance

Cats are not only inexpensive to adopt, but also they are much less expensive to maintain than dogs, and it requires very little work to look after them:

  • They are easily entertained, even with only an empty cardboard box, meaning you don’t need as many toys for playtime.
  • There is no long, grueling housetraining to worry about as there is with dogs. Cats can be trained to use a litter box within a couple of days or so. There will be no accidents unless kitty is ill. You don’t have to take cats out for walks in the rain, sleet, and snow, and you don’t have to get out of bed early in the morning to take them outside when they must heed the call of nature.
  • Depending on their breed and age, you don’t have to bathe a cat with water or worry too much about your pet’s cleanliness. Cats are incessant self-groomers. Even as kittens they take care of bathing all by themselves. They will still need your help to groom knots and tangles out of their fur however, as well as provide them with regular oral care.
  • You don’t have to worry or stress about a cat when you leave for work or go out in the evening. Cats are self-sufficient and there will be no worrisome whimpering or loud cries to disturb the neighbours when they are left on their own. Adult cats sleep about 15 hours a day. Your absence simply means a longer nap time for them.
  • As long as they have access to food, water, and a litter box, you can even leave your cat for a day or two if it’s really needed.

3. Cats Keep You Healthy

The companionship of a cat helps create health and happiness in your household:

  • Children who have a cat at home learn responsibility and empathy. Cats thrive in homes with children and will help them cope with unhappiness and loneliness.
  • Cats also help adults deal with stress and unhappiness. Studies show that cats notice when their owners are sad or worried, so they’ll often rub against their cat parents more aggressively and purr more loudly to comfort them when they sense their human is anxious. (Also, cats are so cute they cheer you up just by being around!)
  • Purring is considered by many people to be downright therapeutic. You can find online videos of cats purring used by people who find the soothing purrs help them fall asleep.
  • Research shows that owning a cat lowers a person’s blood pressure and reduces stress, which lessens the possibility of suffering a stroke or a heart attack by older owners and for people who are ill.

4. Cats Can Be Trained (Or Not)

Cats can be trained and have good memories. You don’t have to train cats to be quiet because they are quiet. They don’t create a loud ruckus when the doorbell rings, or when someone outside walks by the door, or when left on their own. All of these makes them ideal pets for apartment owners and for anyone living in a quiet neighbourhood.

It’s a good idea to train your cat to come when you call their name, which is especially important if you have an outdoor cat that likes to wander out of your yard and out of sight. Cats can also be trained to scratch a scratching post rather than your furniture, and to stay off of food preparation and eating areas such as counters and tables. You can train a dog to obey with a clicker and treats; you can train a cat the same way.

Make sure everyone in the household is on board with your training program and it will go much faster and more easily.

5. Many Miscellaneous Benefits

The following advantages of cat ownership may not fit into any particular category, but cat owners appreciate them:

  • Cats hate bugs and spiders as much as you do! These critter problems disappear when you bring a cat into your home (if there are too many critters to find, however, you should call an exterminator).
  • Cats usually dislike travelling, but they are easy to transport when you have to take them to the veterinarian or if you need to move to a new home. Purchase carriers for them and away you go! You can also walk a cat using a collar and leash, which is very nice if you have an indoor cat and live near a busy street or in a rural area with lots of natural cat enemies. Kitty can get some fresh air while staying safely by your side.
  • It is heartbreaking to lose a pet. That’s why it is comforting to know that cats have reasonably long life spans so you can expect them to live longer than most dogs do.
  • During the darker and colder seasons, it’s seriously wonderful to have a warm cat cuddled up on your lap or wrapped around your neck.
  • A cat will love to play with you, but not for so long that you become bored. They don’t show any disappointment when you have had enough and want to stop.

If you want a pet that is easy to care for, gentle with children, enjoys playing but sleeps a lot, and is good for your health and disposition, adopt a cat. Cats make great pets; you won’t be disappointed!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.