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

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.