Animal Health Week

Veterinarians and animal wellness advocates throughout Canada celebrated the Animal Health Week during September 28 to October 4, 2014.* This is a yearly appreciation of the lovely and varied animal species we veterinary professionals work with – the perfect profession for animal lovers!

This is a time we celebrate popular companion pets like dogs and cats as well as the larger species like cattle and horses; and the more “exotic” ones like rabbits and reptiles. The veterinary profession is responsible for the care of all animal species after all. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) chose this opportunity to highlight the importance of responsible antimicrobial use by one and all during this years’ celebration, as not all illnesses require antibiotic use.

Alongside other veterinarians in the Lower Mainland, the veterinary care team at our clinic, Hasting Veterinary Hospital, celebrated the importance of pet care with some very enthusiastic and knowledgeable pet parents on October 4th. The event was held in the Burnaby Heights area and included educational seminars on important pet health topics.

The event was named “Healing is a team effort” in appreciation of educated pet parents being a vital part of responsible pet ownership. This was just one of many efforts by veterinarians across Canada to help further improve our nations’ top notch, compassionate care for animals, large and small. These events would not be possible without the involvement of eager, nurturing pet parents.

If you are an animal lover and missed this year’s celebrations, be sure to remember and be a part of the celebration next year – during October 4-10, 2015.* You may be able to contribute by getting involved in helping organize a pet-health celebration event with a veterinary team or an animal care group; or by attending a pet health educational event.

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

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their October 2014 issue

Emergency Tips to Use if Your Dog is Wounded on a Walk

When it comes to walking your dog, nothing is more panic-inducing than finding out your dog has been hurt by accident. If something happens to your dog, the very first thing you must do is to try not to panic and talk to them soothingly.

These simple emergency tips will help you reduce your pet’s anxiety in such situations and avoid further injury. Bring your pup to a veterinarian if you need their professional help.

Be Prepared for Accidents

No matter where you take your pooch for a walk, it’s best to be prepared for anything. Accidents can still happen even if you’re careful. Along with your water bottle, your “pooper scooper,” poop bags, and a collar and leash for your dog, here are some other useful items you should include on your dog-walking adventures:

  • Tweezers
  • Styptic powder or a pencil, or cornstarch
  • A small hand towel
  • A couple of non-adhesive absorbent dressings
  • A box of sterile absorbent gauze
  • A roll of first aid tape
  • A muzzle (only for extreme cases)
  • ID on you and your pet’s ID on their collar and/or placed on them as a microchip
  • A phone with your veterinary clinic’s phone number in your contacts list 

Call your vet immediately if an accident occurs and you do not feel comfortable treating the wound yourself. It is advised to take your pet to the vet to be checked out after any accident or serious incident (for example a bug bite).

What Can Happen and What You Can Do About It

In all cases—torn nail, skunk encounter, etc.—the first thing to do is to ensure your own safety as well as your pup’s. Stay calm, approach your pet slowly, and talk soothingly to them. Frightened, pain-stricken pets will usually try and bite anyone who touches them, including you, the pet parent. Talk gently to your pet and if he or she snaps when you reach out, you may try putting a cloth over their face or putting a muzzle on them, being careful not to hurt them in the process.

Situation – Torn Nail

Response – Remain calm. Examine your dog’s paw if you see the following signs of a torn nail: holding a paw in the air while on your walk, limping, visibly leaning on favored paws, constant paw licking, visible swelling, and resistance to your examining their injury. Some torn nails cause bleeding and these are very painful to your dog at the touch.

Wrap up the paw in a loose-fitting bandage or even a sock with Scotch tape. Styptic powder or cornstarch is okay to use on minor quick injury at the tip of the nail, but any nail injury should still be examined by a vet for signs of further injury. A loose bandage is acceptable for transport.

If the nail has been torn to the quick (the pink fleshy part inside of the nail), bring your pup to a veterinary clinic ASAP. Follow your vet’s at-home care instructions exactly to prevent infection.

Situation – Skunk Spray

Response – Keep your dog outside of the house so as to avoid the foul odor from going inside. Apply an over-the-counter smell neutralizer, or tomato juice, or vinegar diluted in water, or a mix of 1-quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap on to your dog as soon as possible (wear rubber gloves and don’t get these mixes in their eyes!).

Rinse out any of the aforementioned products and then bathe your dog in a dog-friendly shampoo (again, without getting it in their eyes). Wash your clothing if the smell rubbed off onto you with regular detergent and half a cup of baking soda.

If the spray got in your pup’s eyes and mouth directly, bring them to a veterinarian immediately as the skunk spray can cause nausea, vomiting, and irritated eyes.

Situation – Splinter

Response – Similarly to the torn nail, it’s best to remain calm and examine your pooch for signs such as favoring a paw, limping, etc. The tricky thing about splinters however is that bleeding is not an obvious sign, and some splinters are so tiny they can be tough to find.

Always use a calm, soothing voice as you examine your pup’s paw thoroughly. Gently clean their paw with warm, soapy water and a clean towel. Do not remove the splinter yourself, because if it breaks and a portion is left behind in the foot, it could cause infection and extend healing time. It’s best to bring them to your veterinarian so they can remove the splinter or recommend alternatives if it’s dug in too deep.

Situation – Bug Bites or Stings

Response – identify the bug in question as treatment for the bite or sting will vary.

If it’s a flea, keep your dog outside upon discovery to avoid them from infesting your home! You can prevent fleas before going out by applying a topical solution regularly; your vet can do so at your clinic or you can apply them at home, but follow your vet’s instructions exactly.

If it’s a tick, do not remove it yourself if it’s latched onto your pooch. Bring them to a vet immediately.

If it’s a wasp or bee sting, remove the sting if it’s attached to your pup with a piece of flat cardboard or even the flat part of your debit or credit card. Do not use tweezers as it may squeeze the stinger and add more venom to the wound.

If it’s a spider bite, don’t treat it at home. Bring your dog to a veterinarian and be sure to identify what kind of spider bit your dog.

In all cases of bug bites, gently apply a mix of baking soda and water to relieve the pain. You can also use an ice pack or ice cube wrapped in a towel and apply to the stung or bitten area if it’s swelling or swollen. An oatmeal bath is recommended if there are multiple bites or stings.

If the bite or sting leads to infection or immediate allergic reaction, or in the case of ticks, bring your pup to a veterinarian ASAP.

In Case of Major Injuries

Major injuries such as road accidents, bites from other animals, broken bones, heatstroke—all of these situations are possible. If in the event they do happen, your dog will require immediate veterinary assistance. This is why we recommended microchips, ID, and having your veterinary clinic’s number on speed dial—in case emergencies such as these take place.

First aid classes are available if you’re interested in learning more about emergency tips for dogs and wounds, from minor ones like what we just described to major ones, and how to determine serious versus DIY situations.

In any case, you can be prepared with a few essential items in case your dog is wounded on a walk and you have to improvise with emergency treatment on the spot. Stay calm and help your dog stay calm. Always contact your veterinarian if you need assistance with your pup’s emergency.

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

Arthritis Awareness Month

September is marked as Arthritis Awareness Month in our country. It is important to recognize that people, dogs, and cats suffer daily from this chronic painful, life-altering condition. We all know of a family member, colleague, or friend that suffers from arthritis. Similarly, we all likely know a pet that also suffers from arthritis. We may just not know the symptoms to watch for!

Symptoms in dogs include stiffness of the gait, reluctance to jump on couches or run up and down stairs. Tiredness during walks, panting, pacing and shaking are other symptoms. Cats may show any of these symptoms as well, but also can demonstrate more subtle signs such as inappropriate defecation, over-grooming, matted hair coat, irritability, and vomiting to name a few signs. If your pet has been showing any of these symptoms, it is likely time to help his or her comfort levels by seeking your veterinarian’s advice.

Similar to people, young pets may also be affected by arthritis. Irrespective of age, the quality of life of an arthritic pet can be immensely improved through early diagnosis and treatment. Pets with a history of injuries or previous surgery are more likely to develop signs of arthritis earlier in life. While osteoarthritis is not curable, it is generally manageable with anti-inflammatory medications, appropriate exercise (swimming is a better activity than running is), glucosamine, and other nutritional supplementation and appropriate bedding for the pet. Multimodal therapy is often desirable as the pet ages, as one single intervention will likely not work in the long haul.

From a human perspective, a study in 2012 by the Arthritis Society found that one in three Canadians living with arthritis had to quit working as a result of their condition, making it one of the leading causes of long-term disability in the country. The disease costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars every year, both directly and indirectly in human healthcare costs and lost productivity. Let us educate ourselves and help spread awareness regarding arthritis in people and pets, and fight this chronic painful condition.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

Pet Care Tips to Keep Them Safe from Dangerous Tick Bites

Finding a tick anywhere on your pet makes for a bad day! Knowing how to keep your pet tick-free is great preventative pet care in that it keeps everyone safe from dangerous diseases transmitted by tick bites. You should also know what to do if your efforts fail and you find a tick attached to your pet’s skin.

It is important to use the right safeguards, inspect your pet for ticks after he or she has been outdoors, and consult your veterinarian right away if one of these nasty little brutes latches on to them.

Tick Bites Can Cause Your Pet Serious Harm

Ticks are parasites that can be found in city parks, forest and meadow areas, and your own backyard. Many pet owners don’t take tick warnings seriously enough and rely on simple tick and flea collars to keep their pets safe, only to have their beloved pets infected with terrible diseases carried by a variety of ticks.

Lyme disease, for example, is just as debilitating for pets as it is for people, and is becoming more and more widespread in BC. Other parasitic diseases, such as anaplasmosis, can be terrible, too, and the symptoms are often difficult to diagnose.

Use good preventative measures to keep your pet safe, and see that your lawns, bushes, and trees are trimmed to reduce the tick population in your yard. Keeping your dog or cat indoors during the height of the tick season can help, and be sure and check your pets carefully for ticks after outdoor exercise or playtime.

A Veterinarian is the Best Person to Remove a Tick

You can find instructions for removing ticks from pets, but nothing quite prepares you for the dangers of attempting this job yourself:

  • It’s difficult to get your pet to remain motionless—which they must be—while you do the job.
  • If you leave any part of the tick behind, you must take your pet to a veterinarian to dig it out.
  • Gloves must be worn for your own safety.
  • If the insect is twisted or squeezed while being removed, reaction to the embedded tick parts can cause discomfort and infection.

Play it safe and take your pet to a veterinarian for help.

There are a Variety of Preventative Measures to Use against Ticks

Work with your veterinarian to come up with the best kind of pet care plan to protect your little friend. Pets that live outside or are used to running free over large territories or that you take with you on camping trips in the wilds are more at risk from tick bites than homebodies. However, even a pet that is indoors most of the time can pick up a tick bite almost anywhere outside.

Here are some of the Standard Safeguards:

  1. Topical medication – Such products work very well but you must choose carefully and follow all directions faithfully. Many products such as Advantix and Revolution are available through veterinarians and pet stores; it is best to use a veterinary approved product. Ask your veterinarian for advice and assistance with these products as they vary in the spectrum of the ticks they cover. Your vet can help you determine what product is best suited to your pet based on their size, lifestyle, and so on.
  2. Oral medication – These products are safe and effective protection against ticks and fleas, and should be administered by your veterinarian. These are almost as effective as topical medication and are very useful for dogs who love water! Whether they are to be applied once a month depends on the product; most can be applied once a month such as Simparica and Nexgard, but there is a once-every-3-months product available called Bravecto. Again, consult your veterinarian on which oral products would best suit your pet.
  3. Tick shampoos – Medicated ingredients in a tick shampoo will kill ticks, but this is not the best plan for either your cat or dog because their effectiveness doesn’t last very long. The aforementioned products (topical and oral) are much better and safer preventative products.

Keep your pet tick-free and safe with proven tick-bite preventative measures. Check them after they’ve been outdoor during the height of tick season and, if your pet has the misfortune to be bitten in spite of your efforts, get professional help to remove the horrible little disease-carrying pest.

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

Dogs Need Dental Care Too! What to do for a Broken Tooth

Like us humans, dog teeth may occasionally be fractured, chipped, or cracked. Their teeth should be cared for like we care for ours. Regular dog dental care can help prevent other health problems.

Brushing your dog’s teeth and periodically lifting the lips to look around the teeth and gums are some good practices to do at home. Dog teeth are tough, but like ours they can break and depending on the severity, can be quite serious.

What is a Fractured Tooth?

A fractured tooth is one that is broken or cracked, like a fractured bone in humans. It can be caused by major or minor trauma to the face during playing or fighting, or by chewing on hard objects such as rocks, bones, sticks, wire fences, and cages.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Tooth

A dog’s tooth structure is made up of pulp, dentin, enamel, alveolar bone, periodontal ligaments, cementum, gingiva, and lateral canal.

Inside the dog’s tooth is the “pulp canal,” which goes to the root. A deep break can expose the pulp and provide an access point for bacteria to enter and can cause a systemic infection and abscess.

Signs and Symptoms of Fractured Teeth

Affected dogs will drool, shake their head, rub their face with their paws and/or stop eating, as well as be lethargic and irritable. They will generally exhibit a feeling of discomfort. They may have a swollen jaw and their gums may be noticeably swollen. In some cases, the tooth can “die,” and the normal white colour will turn into a grayish-brown.

Most Common Break

The most commonly fractured is the canine (fang) tooth, followed by the upper fourth molar, which is the largest in the back top of the dog’s mouth. Premolars and molars are most commonly fractured due to chewing objects while the canines and incisors are most commonly fractured due to trauma.

When to See Your Vet

Fractured and broken teeth need to be repaired or removed as quickly as possible. If you notice any of these signs being exhibited by your pooch, contact your veterinarian’s office immediately:

  • Bad breath
  • Change in eating or chewing habits
  • Pawing at the face or mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Missing teeth or misaligned
  • Discoloured, broken, or missing teeth
  • Red, swollen, painful, or bleeding gums
  • Tartar on the gum line
  • Bumps or growths in the mouth

Treatment of a Fractured Tooth

Not all broken teeth require treatment. It depends on what part of the tooth is involved and the extent of the damage. Extraction may be necessary in the most severe cases to prevent infection, especially in geriatric dogs. If the pulp canal is not affected, you can talk to your veterinarian to see what they recommend regarding sharp edges of chipped teeth.

When the problem is a more complicated tooth fracture, involving the pulp, endodontic treatment is needed which may be a root canal or extraction. A root canal can save the tooth and is less invasive and traumatic for your dog. Again, speak to your veterinarian for recommendations before dog dental care is given, as well as to receive further instruction on their food before and after endodontic treatment.

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

Why Veterinary Professionals Do What They Do!

What makes veterinary professionals take up pet care as a profession? Undoubtedly it is our passion and will to help animals in their time of need. The biggest benefit of this desire lends to the fact that compassion is not required to be taught during the training of a veterinary professional.

The beauty of pet care also derives from the patient’s family being an extension of the veterinary team. In times of illness, aging, and even in good health, the family is essentially the at-home nursing staff of the veterinary community. Our pets are adorably expressive about a lot of things (ask any pet parent and hear their pets’ unique ability to express themselves), but when it comes to sharing what they ate off the floor, which alley cat may have fought with them, feeling a tooth ache, or nausea, the information is not always as forthcoming (nor as endearing!).

Signs of chronic life affecting conditions such as allergies, gastric problems, arthritis, diminished eyesight & hearing, anxiety, and obesity are often subtle to start with. Over time, these signs slowly progress and without keen observation and routine monitoring of well-being, such symptoms can be easily missed. Do you know what the general symptoms associated with such illness might be?

There is usually a big range of nonspecific signs associated with chronic conditions such as arthritic pain, anxiety, allergies, etc. As an example, when an older pet is pacing and vocalizing for no apparent reason; this may be due to a range of possibilities including spinal pain, loss of sensory functions (eyesight, hearing, etc.), all due to anxiety related to changes in the environment, or even an old age illness.

No pet owner or veterinarian can simply hear the description of the symptoms and make a diagnosis. To best help a pet with medical concerns and to diagnose illness early, the combination of a close bond between the pet and parent, clear communication between the parent and veterinary team, and a thorough evaluation of health as well as compassion towards the implications of potential illness are essential.

While compassion is second nature to veterinary professionals (think veterinarians, vet technicians, office assistants, kennel attendants etc.), it is best used while helping nurture improved pet parenting through loving pet owners. This is why the veterinary community is advising increased vet visits. Advertising campaigns on the role of nutrition, exercise, and monitoring pet health, as well as special events at vet clinics, are all geared towards improved pet parent education. After all, by bringing a pet into their family, pet owners are signing up to be an extension of the pet healthcare system.

As the Canadian Nurses Association likes to say, “Health begins at home!”

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

Eye Care for Pets: Our Top Tips

Your pets’ eyes are one of the more sensitive organs, making eye care an essential part of pet care. Some awareness and monitoring goes a long way to ensure proper eye care and monitoring by pet parents. If there is any eye related discomfort, pets will typically rub their faces against carpet or furniture. They may even try to scratch/soothe themselves with their paws. This can be unsafe as the nails can traumatize the eyes or other facial structures. Like many other things, your pet depends on you to provide this important part of his or her well-being.

Pet parents should perform a weekly health maintenance check up on their pets (more frequently for puppies and kittens) – during the routine evaluations, look for any redness or swelling in or around the eyes. If your pet squints or is abnormally sensitive, it may be an early indicator of a potential problem. If you notice green or yellow mucus discharge in excessive amounts, this would indicate towards an eye infection. Dogs and cats will get some “sleep” (normal physiological eye discharge) in their eyes routinely. Regularly checking the eyes will help you differentiate between what is normal and abnormal for your pet. Healthy eyes of dogs and cats are moist and clear.

Dogs with long hair-coats can be prone to eye infections due to the hair irritating the cornea. Professional groomers are good at identifying the appropriate length of facial hair for dogs and their advice should be sought, if you cut your pets hair at home. Bathing can also lead to eye irritation if the shampoo comes in contact with the eyes. It is best to do wipe downs of the face carefully rather than splashing water or shampoo on the face when bathing pets. This should help prevent irritation to sensitive parts of the face including the eyes, nose and ears.

Many dogs can get brownish stains below the inside corner of the eyes, especially the light-coloured breeds. There are several causes of the overflow of tears. Miniature dog breeds and Persian cats often have more prominent eyes. This stretches the eyelid and may cut off the drainage system. This is the most common cause and there is little we can do to correct it. Some animals are born with an abnormal drainage system that may or may not be surgically correctable. Sometimes, the eyelids turn inward and block the drainage. This is also surgically correctable. It is important to remember that while most of the staining due to tears is a cosmetic problem, it can get quite unsightly if not cared for.

Your veterinarian should be able to advice you on appropriate treatments if the tear staining is considered due to other potential causes such as allergies, eyelid anatomy, or other irritation to the eyes. Annual health checkups by your veterinary team will ensure that more subtle changes to your pets’ eyes do not go unnoticed.

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

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part two of our “Caring for Kittens” series! This is an exciting period for you and kitty as your adventurous, playful little pet will be forming their very first impressions of people and the world. During these weeks, you will need to monitor his or her learning experiences and ensure they are both healthy and safe.

Normal Characteristics between Weeks 8-12

By week eight, most kittens know how to use a litter box. If your kitten does not, you can housetrain them in a few days by providing them with a litter box. Scoop kitty up and place them in it each time he or she starts to urinate or defecate. Never punish them while they are learning this important skill. Be patient.

You should also expect the following changes and habits:

  • During these weeks they will sleep about 20 hours a day.
  • When awake, kitty will be on the go, running, climbing, jumping, stalking, pouncing, and more than eager to play. Now is the perfect time to offer them paper bags, plastic, flexible straws, and anything they can chase as toys.
  • Kittens have very small tummies and will thrive on 4 small meals a day. They need access to a water bowl at all times.
  • They love to use their claws and will be happy to scratch and shred anything on which they can get their little paws—even you! You can deter this behavior by providing a scratching post.
  • They will grow bigger and heavier every week.
  • Whenever you run your hands over your kitten, there should be no lumps, bumps, or any indication of sensitivity to touch. If there are, you need to contact your veterinarian.

How to Make Sure Your Kitten Stays Safe

  • Cover any exposed wires in your home, and keep cleaning products, insecticide baits, and sharp objects out of kitty’s reach.
  • Make sure kitty doesn’t have access to the attic or basement if these areas aren’t well ventilated or if they expose tiny, inviting places where kitty can wiggle in and can’t get out.
  • Introduce him or her slowly to other household pets and supervise them until you are sure they all get along. Again, you need to be patient with this; all animals need lots of time to get used to each other’s scent.
  • Check for doors in your house that don’t close properly or give kitty access to rooms you want kept out of bounds. Also check for broken screens on windows and outer doors that could allow kitty to escape from the house.
  • Have your veterinarian insert an ID chip under kitty’s skin to make sure they can be identified if he or she is lost or comes to harm and is taken to a shelter or clinic.
  • Invest in a travel carrier. You will need it when taking kitty to the veterinarian and for visits elsewhere, and you should keep it near kitty for a while so that they will grow more used to it.

Checkup and Vaccinations

Kittens should have a nose-to-tail checkup from a veterinarian and a vaccination program started or planned.

When kittens stop receiving mother’s milk, they no longer have immunity from diseases for which their mothers were immunized or developed antibodies against. Kittens usually receive their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks, boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age, or 4 weeks after their first visit. Let your veterinarian be your guide to the vaccinations needed. Typically during their first visit your kitten will receive vaccination against feline distemper. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if there is any possible need for vaccinations against FELV (aka feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s lifestyle. 

Feedings

Make sure your kitten eats an appropriate diet—your veterinarian will be happy to make recommendations. If your cat receives canned food, don’t let it stay out for longer than 20 minutes. Canned food should be offered early as it does have some health benefits for kittens; you should also gradually introduce your kitty to dry food at this age.

Avoid letting him or her eat food intended for humans or dogs. Keep their water bowl full; it needs to be changed frequently in order to give them access to fresh water. If the water has a peculiar odor or taste and kitty turns away from it, you can give them bottled water.

Useful Training Tips for Kitty

  • Get them to socialize: Take time to pet and play with your kitten daily and introduce him or her now and then to other people so that he or she will learn to like and trust humans in general.
  • Teach them to accept the carrier: Put treats inside the carrier and, when he or she is used to wandering in and out, shut the door and move them to another room, then let them out right away and give them a treat. Take short trips in the car followed by a treat so that he or she will not be afraid of the carrier.
  • Train them to use their scratching post: If he or she starts to scratch your furniture or carpets, discourage them and then move them to the scratching post.
  • Teach kitty to come when you call: Use their name often and, when he or she starts to look up or at you when they hear their name, reward them with a treat.

Congratulations, you now have a healthy and happy kitten in your life!

Did you miss out on part 1? Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks.

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

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks

Congratulations, you’re a mother! Well, your cat is. While your cat is like any mother, you as a new owner of kittens have a few motherly duties yourself in terms of kitten care for these precious new babies.

That being said we do not recommend home breeding of cats! Spaying and neutering (especially if they are outdoor cats) is also important especially if you are not financially ready or have the space for properly raising a litter of kittens. We understand though that “oops” moments happen however, or perhaps you’ve even adopted your kitten from a shelter like VOKRA or other rescue shelters for foster care, so this article should help prepare you for those sorts of situations.

And if you just got your first kitten, this post is for you too!

Week 0-1: Babies have Arrived!

I’m sure many have heard that newborn kittens are born with their eyes shut, but did you know they are also born with their ears shut as well? Without any hearing or sight, they rely on their sense of touch and smell. Their mother will lick and clean them, a lot! This helps to stimulate the kittens, who also need their mother for warmth, stimulation of intestinal function for their bowels and bladder, and source of nutrition.

As with most babies, kittens eat, sleep, and poop. But unlike human babies, before being litter box trained, after they eat, mother cat licks their bellies and genital areas, stimulating digestion and keeping them clean.

Kittens need their environment to be kept consistent so they don’t develop hypothermia or hyperthermia. At this stage, your kittens will eat constantly which is vital to their growth, development, and immunity buildup against diseases.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: each kitten has a preferred nipple they feed from and rely on its unique smell to locate it.

Week 2-3: My, What Bright Blue Eyes You Have!

Not too much happens this week, but every bit of development counts. Your kittens’ eyes should be starting to open, and their eyesight will be blurry. DO NOT force open their eyes! This can result in permanent eye damage, making them more vulnerable to infections. Keep watch for signs such as crustiness and white/yellow secretions. If you think something doesn’t look normal, bring them to your veterinarian’s office.

Like human babies, kittens are also born with blue eyes. As they get older, their eyes may change to the colour they will be permanently.

Your kittens should be twice the size they were when they were born!

Week 3-4: Tiny Explorer Ever Growing. Hello, Squeaky!

At this stage, the kittens’ sense of smell is getting better, their eyes may start to change colour, their ears are standing up and their hearing improves. Like humans, kittens get milk teeth (baby teeth) and eventually adult teeth.

They start to be more aware of their siblings and surroundings, and start to stand and crawl, exploring away from mom for short periods. But this still means you should resist handling those cute little bundles of fur. Too much handling in early stages upsets mom, and in worst cases, mom can reject them because of it.

By the end of this week, your kittens should be four times their birth weight. As they start to hear better, they will squeak when hungry, purr when they’re happy, and hiss when they’re scared, which means they’ll be extra sensitive to loud noises.

Week 4-5: Kitty Bobble Head, Potty Training, & Mom Weaning

Their hearing should be well-developed but their eyesight is still improving. At this stage, your kitties are starting to try and balance out, as they have reached the “bobble head stage” in which their head is bigger in proportion to their body. They will be exploring more but still sticking close to mom. The kitties can now start to groom themselves.

This is considered to be the weaning stage, to help reduce their dependency on mom. As the kitties start exploring more, be careful of things around the house that can be harmful to them such as chemicals, plants, and small openings as to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

During the weaning stage, provide a small litter box and shallow bowl with kitten milk replacer (as to not upset their digestive system with cow’s milk)in a small separate area. The litter box should be easy for the kittens to climb into.

With litter box training, keep the kittens from trying to eat the litter in case of obstruction; this is not normal behaviour. Make sure you get the appropriate kind of litter. Also, be wary that like any animal or human, they may have accidents or miss the litter box. Be sure their bedding is easily washable and keep their area clean regularly.

Week 5-6: Boy or Girl? Human Cuddles!

The kittens’ eyesight should be fully developed. They will now start to use the litter box voluntarily. The kittens may still be nursing, but as you start to help them wean, you can introduce them to a mix of canned kitty food or dry kitty food with kitten formula. You can try and place a small amount of food or formula on your finger and see if they will lick at it to accept it. Not all will take to food so patience is needed. Your vet may also provide you with diet recommendations should they be needed – just ask!

As the kitties become more explorative, they will be more graceful, start playing with toys, and pounce on each other. This is the time to start giving them lots of human cuddles! Handling them physically helps their development by getting them used to humans and help them be more social and friendly.

Weeks 6-8: The Cat Babies are Now Toddlers!

This time frame is typically when it’s best to take your kitties to your veterinarian for their vaccinations as well as precautionary worming treatment.

As you know, they are becoming a lot more active and playful, which means their claws are developing and they are going to start scratching to sharpen their nails. This is the time best to find a suitable scratching post to teach them that anywhere else (curtains, furniture, etc.) equals bad behaviour.

Between weeks 6 and 7 is the time you can gently start grooming them. Use a brush, give them a bath (careful with the soap), and handle their paws regularly. Their paws should have five toes on each front foot and four toes on each back foot unless they are polydactyl (more than the usual number of toes on one or more paws). Handling their paws helps to make nail clipping easier (gently press to extend the nails), cuddles, and handling their ears and mouths help make basic health inspections, medicating, and teeth brushing easier. This also helps give mom longer “me time.”  This interaction makes an active part in their socialization process without being intrusive.

Kittens can be homed from about seven weeks if they are fully weaned from mom.

By week eight, they should have all their baby teeth and be eating four small meals a day and mostly solids.

Be sure to keep records of their weight, to be sure they are gaining steadily. Look for signs of sickness: loss of appetite, sleeping alone (at a very young age), rejection of milk from mom, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, discharge from mouth, eyes, anus, etc. When in doubt, talk to your vet.

Now you’re on your way to having happy, healthy kitties!

Part 2 is available now! Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: Age 8-12 Weeks.

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

Regular Cat Dental Care Helps Keep Your Pet Healthy

Good cat dental care means monitoring your pet’s oral health by taking him or her in for regular checkups—and treatment if needed—by a veterinarian experienced in dental care. A healthy set of teeth not only keeps your cat from suffering the pain of dental and gum problems, but also helps ensure their overall health. Read more