15 Reasons to Adopt a New Pet from an Animal Shelter

Are you looking to adopt a new pet soon? Have you considered going to a nearby animal shelter? You may think it would be a better choice to go to a pet store or look online instead, but there are actually good reasons to adopt from a shelter over the other options.

Although pets are available from other sources, animal shelters are excellent and reliable places to find the perfect pet for you and your family. If you need some reasons why, we have fifteen! These include a number of good personal decisions, good animal-protection decisions, and good local community decisions.

Personal Benefits from Adopting Pets from Shelters

  1. It is less costly to adopt a pet from a shelter than from a breeder or a pet store. In fact, the cost of adopting a pet from a shelter is usually less expensive than adopting your new pet any other way. Even if you acquire a pet from a friend for no cost at all, you must still pay for their vaccinations, neutering or spaying, and for a checkup by a veterinarian before you take your new friend home. These services are mostly provided (partial or complete) for pets at shelters already.
  1. You can adopt an adult or baby animal, whichever you prefer. Pet stores usually handle only young animals, but some people want an adult pet more used to children and family life, and they can be found at shelters. Animal shelters will also take in any babies from owners whose pets have offspring after a “whoops” incident, so you can count on puppies and kittens to be available for adoption as well.
  1. Animals at shelters receive good care. Shelters treat animals that are sick or hurt and do not allow them to be adopted until each one has been given a clean bill of health. They will have been given their vaccinations and, if old enough, will be spayed or neutered. Animals at shelters are inspected by veterinarians and will be assessed for their temperament and response to children and other pets. If an animal requires long-term healthcare or possesses unwanted behaviours, potential foster pet parents will be informed so that there are no unpleasant surprises.
  1. You will have a wide choice of pets. Shelters are not restricted to particular ages or breeds of cats and dogs, and you will have a good choice of animals. In contrast, breeders usually specialize in raising and selling particular breeds, and pet stores tend to deal in only selling young animals.
  1. Older animals will likely already be housetrained and socialized. Older pets that have never had loving owners and are not sociable will be identified so that you will know what to expect.
  1. Pets help keep you active—especially if you have a dog that needs to be exercised—which, in turn, can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your weight stable. Even a cat forces you to get up off the couch every now and then to feed and play with it.
  1. If you live by yourself but talk to and care for a pet, it can be a great source of company. If your family doesn’t live nearby and your friends have moved away, a pet can play an important role in your life and increase your overall well-being.
  1. If you have children, they can learn how to be kind and responsible by helping care for an animal. A pet will become a very important part of your household. They can comfort unhappy youngsters as well as anxious adults and may watch over ill or injured members of the family.

Benefits that Animals Receive When You Adopt Them from Shelters 

  1. It is untrue that most animals in shelters have personality issues because they are there after being mistreated and abandoned. Most of the pets in shelters have been lost or are brought to the shelter by people who are no longer able to care for them.
  1. Overpopulation is a serious issue even in BC. Because of the misconception that all animals in shelters have personality issues, some shelters cannot hold on to all of the animals they receive. You can literally save the life of a helpless little animal by adopting them from a shelter.
  1. You reduce the discomfort of animals that are kept in overcrowded shelters when you adopt one of them. Not only is it kind to offer a home to a homeless animal, it decreases the problem of animals living unhappily in small quarters and not getting the individual attention they can get if they’re adopted by a loving pet parent or family.

Community Benefits by Adopting Your Pet from a Shelter

  1. You support a charitable and community institution by adopting animals from shelters. Animal shelters discourage the unfortunately commonplace and terrible practice of pet owners abandoning their pets and leaving them to fend for themselves. Knowing there are institutions that will take an unwanted pet off their hands reduces the odds of treating animals in this fashion.
  1. You encourage other people to adopt pets from shelters so they know it is a safe and economical practice. If your friends and neighbours discover your new, adorable pet came from a shelter, they may be more inclined to consider adopting one themselves.
  1. Animal shelters are an important resource in the community. They reduce the popularity of puppy mills that often supply pet stores and deceive pet owners online. Also, shelter workers will give you information about pet care.
  1. The most important reason of all: by adopting from a shelter, you’ll give a little animal a safe and loving home, all while increasing your own happiness and satisfaction at a price you can afford.

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

Things to Know about Ringworm in Dogs

Have you ever heard of ringworm before? Did you know that it is contagious to both dogs and cats? Although ringworm isn’t usually a painful or itchy condition, it can become a big problem if it’s left alone. Ringworm can also be pretty unsightly on your dog! If left untreated, it can spread over large parts of the body and cause other skin, hair, and nail problems.

We discuss below what ringworm really is, how to identify its symptoms, and what to do about it.

Ringworm Isn’t Really a Worm—it’s a Fungus

Ringworm is not in the same category as a hookworm, roundworm, or tapeworm. In fact, it is not a worm at all. This fungus, which affects the skin and leaves circular or semi-circular bald spots and rashes, is a fungal infection that gets its name from the ring-like, worm-like shape visible on raised and red skin rashes.

Ringworm is the common name for these fungal infections that affect the skin; its scientific name is “dermatophytosis”. The three common species causing skin problems in dogs and cats are Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton metagrophytes. The disease can affect dogs, cats, and even humans. On humans, it causes a red circular or patchy rash to develop, and when it gets on the feet it is known as “athlete’s foot.” 

If your dog catches ringworm, please remember that this fungal infection can also infect people. You have to be careful to not catch it until your pup has received successful treatment and the problem has been resolved.

Symptoms of Ringworm

Bring your pooch to a dog hospital if you notice any of these symptoms of a ringworm infection. Even if you don’t see the characteristic circular rash, which may not be noticeable, these are reasons for a visit to your family vet:

  • Dry, brittle hair with hair follicles that break easily
  • Inflamed, red skin rash
  • Circular or patchy areas of hair loss (alopecia)
  • Scales that look like dandruff
  • Scabs or raised nodular lesions on the skin
  • Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Reddened skin (erythema)
  • Inflamed folds of the skin around the claws, or bordering the nails
  • Itchiness (pruritus)

How Ringworm Gets Around

Ringworm is spread either through direct contact with an infected animal or from an object that has been contaminated such as towels, bedding, a comb or brush, food or water bowls, a couch, or carpets. The fungus spores can survive for many months, which means ringworm can be spread via hair that has been shed. It can also remain on surfaces or trapped in the fibres of carpets, drapes, and linens in your home if they’re not cleaned.

Dogs may often get the fungal infection from playing at the playground as some forms of the fungus can freely live in soil. Once the fungus ends up on the skin, even the slightest trauma to that part of the skin can expose the body to a ringworm infection. After this, the pet’s immune system may fight the fungus off, or it may turn in to a localized or more widespread skin infection, depending on many factors including the pet’s overall health, the species of fungus, part of the body affected, the pet’s age, and so on.

Sometimes a pet can be a ringworm carrier but they don’t have any visible symptoms. If your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, it is a good idea to have your other pets checked by a veterinarian. You should also alert your fellow dog owners and dog-walking buddies that your dog has been infected and is being treated, and that they should watch for signs of ringworm in their own pets.

If your dog has been visiting other dogs or has been in a kennel or animal shelter, he or she should be watched carefully for problems like ringworm, fleas, ticks, and any other parasites that travel via infected skin or hair with which your pup has been in contact with. 

Good Treatments are Available

There are other more common conditions besides ringworm that can cause hair loss and rashes, so if you do notice symptoms of ringworm in your dog, take them to your family veterinarian. Do not self-diagnose this condition as it is never based on visual clues alone and diagnostic testing is always needed, not just to diagnose ringworm, but also to help find out the species of ringworm and decide what may be the best available treatment for that species. Bacterial skin infection (pyoderma), skin yeast infections, and allergies are some other more common problems that affect dogs and may look similar to ringworm to the untrained eye.

If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, there are a variety of good treatments available. Your vet will help you choose the solution best suited for your dog depending on the severity of their ringworm problem.

These are the usual methods to treat ringworm:

  • Topical medication
  • Anti-fungal oral medication
  • Environmental decontamination

Your vet may also suggest that your dog’s hair be trimmed off in the more infected areas. Do not assume your dog is free of the infection once their symptoms are no longer visible. Continue to treat your pet until your veterinarian pronounces them cured.

Although it does not commonly affect dogs, ringworm is a troublesome problem that is best dealt with soon after you notice its symptoms. Remember the symptoms we discussed above and do pursue a vet consultation if any of the symptoms are noted, as it may be due to ringworm or another skin problem that needs to be dealt with promptly so your pooch can stay healthy and comfortable.

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How to Prevent Pesky Parasites from Plaguing Pets and People

Springtime is just around the corner again, and you know what that means: parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and mites, are waking up and are more than happy to make you and your pets their new home! Preventing the spread of infestations to other animals and people is a solution you can do year-round. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure,” as the saying goes, and there is a lot you can do as a pet owner to protect your pets and household. One major pest prevention solution is to clean up your pet’s environment, indoors and out.

What We Mean by “Parasite”

By “parasite” we are referring to the general term that covers plants, animals, or insects that live on or inside another living organism, which is referred to as a “host.” The parasite’s survival is dependent on the survival of the host and, in order to flourish, they will travel from one host to another.

Parasites Can be External or Internal

External parasites live on the surface of the host and internal parasites live inside. There are symptoms associated with most parasite infestations, but some are difficult to detect early and cats or dogs can spread parasites without your knowing. This is why regular routine veterinary checkups are so important! Some parasites cannot be found without a veterinarian’s help—that’s how sneaky they are.

Some parasites live on or in both cats and dogs, and some use humans as hosts, too.  Parasites are often passed between animals and most are easily picked up by animals and people that come in contact with them in the environment.

Here are examples of some of the many parasites and the problems they can create for animals and people:

External Parasites 

  • Fleas – The most common external parasite is the ever-annoying flea. They can live on both cats and dogs and create health issues for humans as well. Fleas not only cause terrible itching, but the host might also be allergic to flea bites which makes the itching—if left untreated—almost unbearable. Fleas can also carry tapeworm parasites and pass diseases to humans if the flea problem goes untreated. In Burnaby, Metrotown, Vancouver, and even the Lower Mainland, fleas can live through our mild winter months, which means flea control for both dogs and cats must be practiced all year round.
  • Ticks – Ticks are another nasty parasite that can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease. Ticks can live up to three years without a host. If you happen to discover that a tick has latched on to your cat or dog, do not attempt to remove it yourself! Bring them to the nearest veterinary hospital.
  • Skin mites (Cheylitiella) – Skin mites are an annoying parasite that can live up to 10 days without a host and love to live under a dog or cat’s fur coat! They can cause itching, hair loss, and irritated skin and are highly contagious among pets. They are similar to fleas in terms of symptoms and treatment.
  • Ear mites – Ear mites, or Otodectes, are attracted to the wax and oils in the ears of cats and dogs, and can cause ear infections. The symptoms are discharge, foul odor, ear scratching, and head shaking. Since an ear infection can also be caused by such problems as trapped water and foreign objects, you must have a veterinarian check your pet’s ears to determine the cause and proper treatment.

Internal Parasites

Because most pets with internal parasites show no early symptoms, it is crucial to take your pet for a routine checkup so that a veterinarian can check for them. 

  • Roundworm – Both cats and dogs can catch roundworm and it can be spread to humans through wild animal feces such as from raccoons. The symptoms of roundworm in humans are coughing, pneumonia, fever, and serious eye problems.
  • Toxoplasmosis – Cats are common carriers of this parasite and they spread the disease through their feces. Infected humans show flu-like symptoms and it can be serious for people with compromised immune systems.
  • Cryptosporidiosis – This is another serious illness that can be spread to humans and other animals through animal feces, and can be controlled, but not cured.
  • Tapeworm and Hookworm – Both of these parasites can be spread to both cats and dogs. Cats can ingest them while grooming themselves. They can also be passed to humans if they walk barefoot on parasite-infected soil.
  • Heartworm – Though the cause of heartworm is external (mosquito bites), the effects of heartworm in dogs and cats are internal, spreading to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworm cannot be spread to other animals or humans, but they are dangerous because they don’t show symptoms for months.

Keep Parasites at Bay with a Clean Environment

You can prevent parasites from attacking your pet and your home by using the protection of oral or topical medications, as well as going to your local veterinary hospital and getting routine checkups performed by your family veterinarian. This will help detect any symptoms of parasites you may have missed.

As well, you can keep your pet’s indoor environment as clean as possible by vacuuming, washing, and scrubbing, and do your best to keep your pet’s outdoor environment uninviting to parasites. Be wary when taking your pet outdoors and discourage them from roaming in areas that are likely to harbor parasites.

Indoor Cleaning Tips:

  • Minimize the spread of parasites between pets by giving them their own separate food and water bowls. If you have multiple cats, each one should have their own separate litter box. Wash dishes and bowls with hot, soapy water, and replace litter often.
  • Routinely wash your cats’ and dogs’ toys, blankets, and bedding.
  • If you have a pet that is being treated for parasites, decontaminate the environment by adding a cup of bleach to a gallon of water to wipe down solid surfaces and floors. Steam clean your carpets. Wash toys, blankets, and bedding in very hot water. Vacuum daily. Also, change the litter in the litter boxes more frequently.
  • Wash your hands after playing with your dog and use gloves and plastic bags when cleaning up feces. Always pick up after them when you’re on a walk and at the beach!
  • Thoroughly wash any vegetables you bring into the house from your garden, and wash your hands when you come in the house after working in the yard.
  • If your pets are allowed on furniture or on beds, remember to clean them as scrupulously as everything else your pets use.

Outdoor Cleaning Tips:

  • Keep grass short and remove leaf litter and brush from around your house and from any concrete or stone walls.
  • Do not stack woodpiles near the house, and clean up debris.
  • If your lawn reaches wooded areas, use a three-foot divide of woodchips, mulch, or gravel to discourage ticks from crossing into the yard.
  • Cover any sandboxes and keep your pets out of outdoor play areas for children.
  • Don’t allow pets to drink from standing water, such as puddles or pools in outdoor containers. On walks, carry a water bottle and portable dish for your dog.
  • Discourage your dog from walking through tall grass or playing in standing water, and don’t allow him or her to eat grass, garbage, or their own feces or that of other animals.
  • Sanitize your dog’s outdoor house and keep concrete walks and patios swept.
  • Remember that humans can bring parasites into the house and so can rodents, so don’t assume that indoor cats, for instance, don’t need preventative parasite treatment.
  • If you have a parasite problem that you have trouble controlling, consider using pesticides outdoors. If you are concerned about chemicals, ask your vet about alternatives.

In addition to preventative solutions and treatments from your veterinarian for parasites, a clean indoor and outdoor environment will help keep your home, yard, pets, and your family parasite-free.

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.

Cat Dental Care Tips & How to Clean Your Kitty’s Teeth

Did you know cats can develop dental problems just like humans? Cats may not need to worry about quitting smoking or cutting back on their coffee intake, but they do need dental care just like we do. They can’t brush their teeth themselves (if they could, they’d go viral on YouTube for sure!); they need our help to keep their mouths clean. That’s why you need to pay attention to their teeth and gums in addition to the rest of their well-being.

In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, we’re going to offer you some veterinary dentist advice. Be aware of the following oral health issues in cats, when to take your kitty to a veterinarian, and how you can help keep their teeth clean at home.

When to Take Kitty to a Cat Hospital

Some oral health issues in cats are best left to professionals to treat and care for them. Do take your kitty to a cat hospital if the following reasons apply to their situation:

  • Their gums are bleeding or look swollen/red
  • They’re excessively drooling at an unusual rate
  • Their breath smells terrible
  • They’re showing visible signs of pain such as withdrawal or crying out when you touch their jaws or face
  • They’re losing weight
  • They’re not eating their food, or they’re avoiding eating their crunchy food

All of these signs are causes for concern and require a veterinarian’s diagnosis in order to provide proper treatment.

The Most Common Oral Health Issues in Cats

Fractures – sometimes kitties can bite down the wrong way if they’re on a dry food diet, or they nibble on something they shouldn’t have, or if their toys are hard. If you see any signs of pain, such as your kitty withdrawing from your touch around their jaws, it may be because of a fracture or even a broken tooth. Both need a veterinarian to look at them properly.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease – yep, cats aren’t exempt to this dental issue either. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, leads to all sorts of long-term problems and in some cases it is a symptom of them. Periodontal disease in cats develops over time and starts out as gingivitis and plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth. If it’s left untreated, gum disease can develop into infection and in worst cases tooth loss. It’s easily preventable though by having your cat’s teeth regularly cleaned.

Bad breathbad smelling breath is usually a sign of a more serious, underlying issue such as periodontal disease, halitosis, or inflammation. It could also be a symptom of more pressing issues such as kidney disease or diabetes.

Tooth abscesses – a tooth abscess can form on your kitty’s gums and they’re a red flag for tooth decay or, in severe cases, oral cancer. In the case of a normal abscess, your vet may perform surgery to remove the cause of the problem; if the tooth has decayed too much, it will need to be removed. Antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian can help clear up an abscess in about five to seven days; you will need follow your vet’s instructions exactly when administering the medicine to your kitty at home.

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth at Home

First, you need a toothbrush and toothpaste. You can find them at your local vet clinic or at the nearest pet store. Different flavours are available such as chicken, fish, and beef (all yummy for kitties!).

Do not give human toothpaste to cats, ever! It contains chemicals that are very toxic to cats.

For the toothbrush, we recommend using the soft rubber brush that will fit over your first finger. If they refuse the toothbrush, your fingers can be a good alternative.

It’s a good idea to give your kitty a tiny sample of the toothpaste for tasting before attempting to brush their teeth. Massage the toothpaste on their gums or let them lick the toothpaste off of the brush. Some kitties need to be introduced gradually to feline dental care, so this is a good first step to take to get them more comfortable with the routine.

Once they’re ready, you need to get your kitty. Always speak to them soothingly and hold them gently in your lap, helping them get comfortable. Don’t be afraid to get a buddy to hold your kitty while brushing their teeth—sometimes it can be a two-person job (depending on how comfortable your cat is!).

After you or your partner have managed to get hold of kitty, apply about a quarter teaspoon of toothpaste to the brush. Allow your cat to sniff the toothpaste. Gently lift their upper lip and rub the brush against their front teeth in small circles. Make sure to brush down and away from the top of the gum line to get rid of any food crumbs lodged in their mouth. For the bottom teeth and jaw, brush up and away from the gum line. Keep brushing around the outside of their teeth until you’ve brushed the entire mouth.

Your cat may not like having their teeth brushed at all at first, so if you need to stop or they’re struggling, leave it for another time. Don’t force them into it. It may take time before your cat will accept the toothbrush or toothpaste, or both. Patience is key.

Other At-Home Dental Solutions for Kitties

One alternative solution to brushing their teeth at home is to invest in dental chews for cats. However, it will take a while to see results from these chews (and it is not as effective as brushing), plus it’s not recommended if your kitty is overweight. Double-check with your vet if you want more information about this solution.

It’s also a good idea to check out the toys you’re offering them. If there are any that look like they could cause teeth fractures or other cat dental problems, consider giving your kitty softer chew toys instead.

Cat dental care isn’t exactly pretty, but it is important. Make it a point this year to practice good feline dentistry at home and get your kitty regularly examined by your vet for any dental health problems. It could save their life!

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.

Dog Dentistry 101: Dental Issues to Look for in your Dog

Dogs need dental care just like cats and humans! Caring for their teeth daily can help to prevent other oral health problems. In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, we go over how to watch for the signs and symptoms of dental issues as well as inform you about the dental diseases dogs can have that, if left untreated, may require a visit to a dog hospital.

Dental Diseases in Dogs

Tooth decay is very common among humans but is rare in dogs. The most common dental issues seen in dogs are fractured teeth and periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Although there are no outward signs or symptoms in the beginning of gum disease, once it has advanced it can cause your dog to experience chronic pain, eroded gums, and missing teeth. Periodontal disease is so common that over 80% of dogs over the age of three are known to have it. It is 5 times more often to happen in dogs than in humans.

There is Such a Thing as Bad Doggie Breath: Halitosis

Most people don’t think highly of their dog’s breath daily, but if your dog’s breath is worse than normal, it could be halitosis. Halitosis is caused by a build-up of foul-smelling bacteria in the mouth, lungs, or gut. If your dog has halitosis, it can mean that there could be something wrong in their gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys, or it just means they need better dog dental care. Either way, it’s always better to get your pup checked out by their veterinarian to be sure. Halitosis usually appears if the dog has gum disease, an infection, or tooth decay.

If you detect these smells in your dog’s breath, get them checked right away:

  • Unusually sweet or fruity: can indicate diabetes, especially if your dog is drinking and peeing more than normal.
  • Urine: a sign of kidney disease.
  • Unusual foul odor: a liver problem, especially if accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged eyes.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease in dogs is the inflammation or infection of the tissues or gums surrounding the tooth. It’s caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar, which causes periodontal pockets or receding gums around where the tooth is attached. If left untreated, the infection will make things worse for your dog. 

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

As we all know, mouths are full of thousands of bacteria which multiply on the surface of the tooth, forming an invisible layer which is the plaque (or biofilm). A dog’s tongue and chewing habits can remove some of the plaque.

However, the plaque can thicken, becoming mineralized and creating tartar if it’s allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface. The tartar builds up below and above the gum line which can lead to inflammation (gingivitis). Further plaque buildup can lead to periodontal disease. 

What Can Factor in the Development of Dental Diseases in Dogs?

  • Age and general health: dogs at any age can develop dental diseases, but the most commonly affected are adult and senior dogs.
  • Diet and chewing behavior: canned dog food rather than hard kibbles is not that good at keeping plaque from accumulating. Various toys or treats may also be contributing to some of the buildup.
  • Tooth alignment: while dogs with their teeth often crowded together (often in smaller breeds) are at greater risk of developing dental diseases, all dogs whether their teeth are straight or crooked are at risk. This is one reason why daily brushing is so important!
  • Home care: if you are not taking regular care of your dog’s teeth at home by brushing daily (if possible), this increases the risk of dental diseases as well as the amount of plaque and tartar buildup in their mouth. 

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Health Issues in Dogs

  • Problems with eating hard food
  • Red/swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • “Talking” or making noises when they eat or yawn
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Ropey saliva
  • Favouring one side of the mouth while chewing
  • Withdrawing from being touched
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Stomach or intestinal upsets
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss

You should take your pooch to a dog hospital at once if you see these signs and symptoms of dental problems:

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

Prevention

Dental diseases in dogs may be common but each one we’ve mentioned is preventable! Doing your best brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day is recommended. If for some reason you are unable to do so yourself, there are toys and treats that can help. It’s best to get help from your vet if your dog resists or refuses to have their teeth cleaned. When in doubt, ask your family veterinarian about dog dental care, report any teeth issues you may have noticed, and make it a point to have your pooch checked regularly. 

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.

Cats Can Catch Colds Too! What to Do If Your Kitty is Sick

Did you know that? It’s true—cats catch colds just like humans do. Normally if they catch a cold the symptoms will clear up in a few days. Still, it’s best to stay alert and take your kitty to a veterinarian for testing and treatment if those signs last longer than a few days.

The symptoms of a cat cold are the same for humans: sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, fever, a loss of appetite and energy, and even a loss of the voice (i.e., their meow). However, as with humans, the symptoms could be caused by something more serious than a mild cold and should not be ignored.

Cats Show Cold Symptoms Under Certain Conditions

Feline cold symptoms can be caused by exposure to a variety of organisms. Symptoms, therefore, can be the result of:

  • Exposure to, and infection from, bacteria or a virus or a combination of both spread by direct or indirect contact with other cats who are contagious or have a chronic condition, or by contaminated objects.
  • A secondary infection that develops after a few days of experiencing a simple cold, which increases the intensity of the symptoms or of particular symptom, depending on where the secondary infection strikes.

Symptoms of a simple cold will usually clear up in anywhere from two to ten days. If it continues or does not improve beyond the initial couple of days, take your kitty to a veterinarian.

Sometimes Cats Can be Particularly Vulnerable to Colds and Infections

Cats can’t spread their colds or diseases to humans, nor can they catch them from humans; however, they can catch and spread colds and diseases to and from other cats. Your cat’s resistance to colds is reduced by a weakened immune system, which can occur under a variety of stressful conditions:

  • Cats are usually unhappy about changes in their routine or their surroundings, like moving to a new residence, a family member leaving home or a newborn arriving, their main caregiver no longer at home most days, or a new pet being introduced into the household. Stress from such changes may lead them to be more vulnerable to viruses and the flu.
  • A cold will weaken your cat’s immune system and make him more vulnerable to secondary infections that can follow a simple cold.

A weakened immune system caused by any number of stressful situations can lead to the development of an illness or a secondary infection, especially in young kittens and older cats.

Watch for Signs That Kitty Needs Treatment From a Veterinarian

If your cat shows symptoms of a cold and then develops more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, or a worsening of any of the other symptoms, you should wait no longer and should take your kitty to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here are some of the possibilities that cause most upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats:

1. Viral Infections

There are two main viral infections that can cause cold symptoms, and they are the herpes virus and the feline calicivirus (FCV), both of which are very contagious between cats. Fortunately, ill effects of these viruses can be prevented by making sure your kitty’s standard vaccinations are kept up to date. These vaccinations greatly reduce the symptoms and the severity of these illnesses.

Feline Herpes Virus – This is similar to humans only in that a cat may have it for life. It’s best to have your cat vaccinated against herpes as a kitten and then take booster shots when required. This will help your cat develop more antibodies to fight the disease. Although there is no treatment that will completely cure the herpes virus, good overall care and prompt treatment of symptoms from the virus can help cats live a very normal life.

Feline Calicivirus – There are unfortunately hundreds of strains of this virus that your cat can catch, and if they do catch one of them, afterwards they may become a chronic carrier if their immune system is too weak.

This is why regular vaccinations are very important, because if your cat encounters one of the strains included in their vaccine, your cat will probably show nothing more than sneezing and a runny nose. However, there is a slight chance that they may catch a strain that has mutated over time. If this happens, your kitty may develop ulcers on the tongue, throat, roof of the mouth, and around their nose—take them to your vet for treatment at once!

2. Bacterial Infections 

There are three main bacterial infections that cause cold-like symptoms in cats: mycoplasma pneumoniae (feline infectious anemia), bordetella bronchiseptica (feline kennel cough), and chlamydia psittaci (feline chlamydiosis). Fortunately, all of these infections can be remedied with antibiotics.

If your cat shows symptoms of a cold plus conjunctivitis (similar to “pink eye” in humans), they may have contracted Mycoplasma, which is very common, or possibly the rarer Chlamydia.  If he or she has a cold accompanied by coughing and gagging, it’s possible they have kennel cough, although this is rare in cats. Your veterinarian will know how to test for these infections and will prescribe the best medicine for whatever infection it is.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Catching a Cold

You can introduce viruses and bacteria into your home on your clothes or your skin, which means that even an indoor cat can catch a virus or any other infection. Most cats catch illnesses from other, unvaccinated cats. If you have more than one pet, or if you let your cat outside even for brief periods of time, it is doubly important to use precautions.

  • Make sure your kitty has all the booster shots they need as advised by your veterinarian.
  • Ask your vet if there is any merit in taking a supplement when your cat is under stress—moving, leaving home for any reason, introducing a change into the household—to keep their immune levels at maximum.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect items that your cat shares with any other pets (e.g. litter boxes, bowls, blankets, beds, and carriers).
  • Make sure that any new pets introduced into the household have been checked over by a veterinarian.

How to Reduce Kitty’s Discomfort if They Have a Cold

There are some things you can do to reduce kitty’s discomfort if and when he or she has a cold:

  • Never give your kitty medications intended for humans, but do make sure you give them all the medication prescribed by their veterinarian for as long as you are directed. Don’t stop just because your pet seems better. If you’re having a hard time persuading them to take the medication, ask your veterinarian for help.
  • If a stuffy nose keeps kitty from eating a normal amount of food, try enticing them with special treats. You can also try soaking dry food in warm water, or offering a little wet food.
  • Keep an eye on their water bowl and make sure they’re drinking as usual, and urinating and defecating normally. If there are any issues, consult your veterinarian.
  • Playing with your cat to keep them happy in a hot and steamy bathroom may help open up your cat’s airways and make them more comfortable.
  • Your cat will love warm blankets for their bed!
  • You can gently clean the discharge from their eyes and nose with a warm washcloth.

Having the cold whether you’re a cat or a human stinks! If your cat’s caught one, always watch them carefully and take them to your veterinarian for testing and treatment if they’re not back to normal within a few days.

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.

Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs and What to Do About It

’Tis the season of dropping temperatures! With or without snow, it’s possible for your dog to catch cold. Be sure he or she doesn’t get so cold that hypothermia develops! If you see any of these signs and symptoms, bring your dog to your local veterinarian for quick and effective treatment.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low internal body temperature. For dogs, this means their temperature has dropped below the normal body temperature of 37.8˚C (100.1˚F) to 39.1C˚ (102.5˚F).

An abnormally low core temperature can lead to complications that are quite severe. Protect them as much as possible, and watch for symptoms that indicate they’ve been too cold for too long.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

When your dog is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time, the first worrisome symptom to note is shivering. His or her body shivers to create heat, which also signals that the blood vessels in the paws, nose, ears, and tail are constricting in order to send that heat to their most important organs like the heart and lungs.

Signs of your dog’s dropping body temperature are:

  • Their limbs are becoming very cold
  • Their breathing will be very rapid
  • Increased urination
  • Their hair is standing on end (the doggy version of goose bumps)
  • Shivering
  • They will become lethargic
  • Disorientation
  • Pale gums
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Quickly take your pup to a veterinarian or to an animal hospital for immediate medical help if you see the signs that are suggestive of hypothermia:

  • He or she is still very cold, but has stopped shivering
  • He or she is not only lethargic but also disoriented
  • Their rapid breathing has slowed and is now shallow
  • Their nose, ears, paws, and tail look pale
  • Their internal body temperature has fallen below 36.7˚ C (98˚ F)

Which Dogs Need Protection the Most?

Dogs who are most at risk for hypothermia are those:

  • Who are very young or very old
  • With low body fat
  • With very little or very thin fur
  • With hypothyroidism because the thyroid regulates body temperature
  • Who are not used to cold weather
  • Small breeds such as Chihuahuas who can lose heat more quickly because of their size

The usual causes of a dangerous drop in a dog’s core temperature are:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time
  • Icy cold, wet fur and skin and paws
  • Cold water exposure for long durations

Here is What to do for Your Cold Dog

As long as your dog is not showing a serious drop in core temperature, you can treat the problem at home. Consider investing in a rectal thermometer so that you can take their temperature yourself and find out exactly how cold he or she is. (There’s nothing wrong with asking your vet for help with this part however, especially if this makes you both uncomfortable!)

Quickly warm blankets in the dryer, wrap them around your dog, and place him or her in a warm room. A hot water bottle or a hot pad warmed in the microwave can be wrapped and placed on your dog’s tummy. Make sure this heat pad is well-wrapped in a towel so that it doesn’t burn them by accident! Give your pup warm fluids to drink.

Do not put your pet into a warm bath! The sudden shift in temperature exposure could be too much for your dog to handle and only make the situation worse.

If you are concerned about your pup, bring them to a dog hospital right away. Have your veterinarian check for any long-term, negative effects from your dog’s hypothermia experience. The above methods we just described are good for starting the heating process on the way to your vet clinic.

Tips for Caring for Your Pet When the Weather is Cold

The best defense against hypothermia is a good offence, which means making sure your dog is not exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time.

  • If it is cold outside, walk your dog more frequently for shorter lengths of time.
  • Give your pooch a winter wardrobe! Outfit him or her in a protective jacket and even booties if they’re not used to the cold or is considered to be an “at-risk” dog (e.g., any small, skinny, sick, or old dog—especially if they’re arthritic—or a puppy, or any dog with a single layer of hair and no undercoat).
  • Keep your pooch out of water, even from melting snow puddles or regular rain puddles.
  • Even when inside of a car, your pet may freeze in the winter. The weather may be suitable for taking your dog on a brisk walk, but that same temperature can cause hypothermia to set in if he or she is sitting in a cold car. Make sure they’re kept warm!
  • If your pet is left alone in a cold house, their core temperature may drop enough that they start to shiver. Think of your pets when you lower the house temperature on workdays.
  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside for extended periods when it is windy and cold.
  • When taking your dog for a walk, avoid ice salts, which can irritate the feet and paws of animals.
  • Little balls of ice may sometimes get caught between your dog’s toes. This not only hurt dogs, they can also cut into their feet. Remove any icy bits from their paws immediately if you discover this. It’s best to train your dog to accept wearing booties to prevent this cold weather hazard from occurring in the first place.
  • Make sure your dog always has good shelter and warmth whenever you must take them outside. If the weather becomes dire, keep your pup indoors at all times.
  • Antifreeze, which is used a lot in the winter for vehicles, is very poisonous to dogs. Make sure any containers you have around the house are well out of the reach from your dog’s tongue. Wipe up any antifreeze that spills. If your dog somehow manages even one lick of antifreeze, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Winter can be a dangerous season for pets. If you’re a dog owner, please exercise caution when you’re taking your beloved dog outside, and keep watch for the aforementioned signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Early-stage hypothermia can be treated quickly and easily at home, but your dog should be taken to a veterinarian or an animal hospital right away if they show any signs of later-stage hypothermia. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry by having them come in even if it’s early-stage.

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.

The Importance of Pet Oral and Dental Care

The year has well and truly begun and New Year resolutions are the entire craze. While we may have set many personal and professional goals for ourselves, it is important to set goals for our little four-legged friends too. Dogs and cats don’t really need to plan on quitting smoking or be in charge of their gym and play schedules. And they definitely do not know the importance of brushing their teeth every night.

While you may set more than one resolution in order to get your pet a healthy lifestyle, an important one to include would be improved pet dental and oral care. Dental disease is the most commonly recorded medical problem during vet visits for both cats and dogs. Like for our own health, good pet health care starts with the mouth.

So, how can you improve your pet’s oral and dental health? In addition to brushing the teeth daily (using a dog or cat toothbrush and toothpaste), it is important to make healthy choices when it comes to dental treats and chew toys. Ensure that such treats and toys are safe for your pet based on ingredients and the size, temperament, and needs of your pet.

Also, it would be wise to take your pet to your veterinarian for a detailed dental and oral exam. This will help assess if your pet needs a dental cleaning (ideally under general anesthesia) prior to initiating a routine oral care program. Most veterinary clinics offer dental exam and dentistry discounts this time of the year, in order to increase awareness regarding dental disease in pets. Be sure to make the most of this opportunity to initiate a conversation and learn more about oral care from a veterinarian.

Most pet store dental chews and treats will work for healthy pets, along with daily teeth brushing. If your pet has been diagnosed with a medical condition or if tooth brushing is not an option due to a lack of compliance by your pet, a diet such as Hill’s T /D or Royal Canin Medical Dental formula may be right for your pet.

It is important to remember that regular teeth brushing is vital. If you brush your pets’ teeth any less than every other day, you are better off not brushing them at all. A good pet oral health program is literally in your own hands.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa, DVM
Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

A Merry Christmas for Pets

It is the festive season—the season of goodwill and reflection alongside the busy schedule of reaching out to family and friends. It is also a time when we can have the pleasure of sharing a little extra time with our pets or companion animals. After all, they have been there for us throughout the year, tough times and good. And they will be by our sides during the coming year as well.

So what can be the perfect gift for our pet during this gift-giving time of the year? I have always had a tough time bringing gifts home for my cat and dog. Dogs crave company and that is all they look forward to while cats take all your efforts for granted! After all, cats are the real homeowners! It is such traits in our pets that would help select the ideal gift or treat for our pets. Sweaters for the cold days, some designer bling (neck collars, leashes, etc.), their favorite treat, or a day devoted to spoiling them are just a few options. Every pet is different as every person is, and knowing what would be best for the individual pet is the key to pet gift-giving. What we can surely count on is that such a gesture would be much appreciated.

Please enjoy this festive season with your pets – but remember to enjoy responsibly:

  1. Do not bring plants toxic to pets into the house.
  2. Party food can be calorie-rich and is not ideal for pets to consume.
  3. Make sure that all pets are accounted for at the end of each day as outdoor cats can suffer from the low temperature if left out for even one night.
  4. Cats may hide by automobile tires for warmth during cold days and it is important to start the engine for a few minutes before driving to warn such a sleeping animal.

Happy holidays!

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

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