5 Safety Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Dogs love to go for walks no matter what the weather is like! Thanks to our awesome climate in the Vancouver and Burnaby areas, the weather is usually mild enough that you can go outside and walk and play with your dog even in the winter. It sure can get cold though! This drop in temperature presents some safety concerns for dog owners, which is why we are offering you five important safety tips to help you deal with the challenges of walking your dog in the winter.

Remember that the benefit of taking your dog for regular walks during cold weather usually outweighs the risks, but you must pay attention to how your dog is reacting. In general, the colder the weather is, the shorter the walk should be. Check the weather forecast and the wind-chill factor online before you go out.

1. Learn to Deal with Cold Weather Risks

You must watch out for signs that your dog is too cold for comfort. If he or she seems to be having fun but then starts to whine, repeatedly lifts or licks their paws, or begins to shiver, it’s time to head back home. Some breeds, especially bigger dogs with thick coats, are much more tolerant of the cold. Even so, they shouldn’t be walked for too long or left outside for a long period of time.

Keep a close eye on your senior dog and expect the winter weather to aggravate their arthritis and stiffness. Older dogs need to be exercised, but the length of your walks should decrease as your dog ages. Talk to your veterinarian about supplements to help with their arthritis.

Frostbite is no joke and dogs are at a greater risk of this when the cold winter months settle in. If you see signs that the skin on your dog’s ears, nose, paws, or tail have become cold, pale, and hard, you have to worry about frostbite if the walk is prolonged. Take your dog home and apply warm—not hot—cloths to the areas and wrap your little friend in a warm blanket. Don’t allow biting, scratching, or chewing of the affected areas as they can become infected.

Pay particular attention to your pet’s paws. Keep the hair between your dog’s toes clipped so that ice doesn’t accumulate in small, hard balls that make walking painful. After a walk, always wipe your dog’s paws with a warm, wet cloth to remove salt and other chemicals that have been used to treat roads and sidewalks, and dry them carefully. Apply a dog-safe moisturizer—not one for humans—to keep your dog’s paw pads from drying out and cracking.

Consider buying protective clothing for your dog—a sweater or coat—especially if your dog is small with short hair. Your dog is not as fashion conscious as you are and will certainly appreciate a cozy sweater’s warmth when the temperature drops. Have more than one coat or sweater available so you will be able to alternate and give them time to dry out between walks. A wet sweater will make a dog much colder than dry fur or hair.

2. Keep Your Dog from Eating Harmful Substances

Although you must always be on the alert for your dog’s inclination to eat almost anything interesting and edible found outside, winter brings particular substance dangers with it. The chemicals in products used to melt ice as well as road salt and antifreeze are very toxic and can contaminate other items dropped on the road and sidewalks that may smell and look appealing to your pet. Make sure your dog is not allowed to eat anything found outside. The best way to do so is to make sure your pet is fed before leaving the house, and to carry a few treats with you.

As well as food items that may entice your pet to take a bite, make sure unlimited amounts of snow are not consumed. Bring some water—you can purchase a pet water bottle that has an attached dish—and offer it to your pet from time to time so that eating the snow isn’t too appealing. You never know what chemicals may be in snow.

3. Watch Out for Ice Hazards

This is the time of year that boots or booties become practical footwear for dogs. Not only will they keep your dog’s paws reasonably dry and warm and protect them from toxic substances, but also they can keep your dog from slipping on the icy road or sidewalk.

4. Avoid Problems with Metal

We all know about the obvious problem with metal in the winter, and young humans aren’t the only ones tempted to lick them. Like humans, dogs might lick a metal object and pull the skin right off their tongues in an effort to break free. Try and imagine that pain.

There is another danger in winter from metal posts, plates, sewer covers, electrical boxes, etc., and it is the risk of electrical shock. Melting ice and snow and faulty wiring can create an electrical hazard, which means you and your dog should steer clear of metal, and is another good reason for keeping your dog on a short leash when walking in the winter.

5. Be Aware of Dangers That Lurk in the Dark

It is safer to walk your dog in daylight than in the dark, but with winter’s shorter days and longer nights, you may not have that choice. Be sure to wear clothing with reflectors to catch the light from headlights in order to reduce the danger from traffic. Your dog’s collar should also be reflective and you can attach LED lights to the leash. Remember that it takes vehicles longer to stop in snow or on icy streets, so you should give drivers as much warning as possible that you and your dog are sharing the roadway.

When daylight is fading or approaching, keep to the sidewalks as much as possible. Remember that dogs become cold quickly if snow touches their unprotected bellies, so you should avoid deep snow as much as possible. Frost and, on rare occasions, deep snow can sometimes conceal sharp objects as well.

Burnaby Dog Parks for Wintry Walks

Naturally if it’s snowing out too hard or the temperature is too low, it’s best if you and your dog both stay inside. However, if the weather is mild as usual, consider taking your dog out to one of the following dog parks in Burnaby BC and the surrounding areas. These dog parks listed below are open year round:

  • David Gray Park enclosure
  • Confederation Park’s off-leash trail
  • Burnaby Heights Park’s off-leash area
  • Warner Loat Park
  • Burnaby Lake Regional Park
  • Malvern Park
  • Robert Burnaby Park
  • Taylor Park

Using these five safety tips for walking your dog in the winter will help you keep your pooch healthy, happy, and safe when the cold weather sets in. Happy walking!

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.

Great Gift Ideas for Pet Owners and Their Pets

Are you looking for some gift ideas for your furry friends? We have some great suggestions to help take the stress out of making decisions in time for the upcoming holiday season!

We all know how much you and your friends love their precious pets, and we know that they usually treat their pooches and kitties with tenderness and affection. If you are a pet owner, you know exactly what I mean!

If you are currently choosing a gift for your own or someone else’s pet, there is a wide range of choices to fit any wallet. If you are looking for a gift for a pet owner, there is an equally wide selection. Gifts are available from pet stores and online, too.

Both Cats and Dogs Will Love These Gifts

If they knew how to write, we’re sure pets would add many of these items to their wish lists:

1. Treats – What pet doesn’t love a yummy treat? That’s right, they all do!

  • Choose from a variety of cat treats or dog treats that are both delicious and nutritious. They are great to use as rewards when training pets (e.g. training them to come when their name is called) and for comforting them when they are in stressful situations (e.g. after meeting new people and animals).
  • An alternative treat idea is a water fountain that both cats and dogs will enjoy and can even use together. Fountains can help a pet stay hydrated and most cats and dogs are attracted to the sound of running water. Pet fountains are usually made of stainless steal or porcelain and are easy to clean when necessary, but any fountain with a low brim that sits on the floor will do.

2. Toys – There are many cat toys and dog toys available that will keep pets amused and active all by themselves, and other toys that will also keep their owners active and amused when they’re playing with them!

  • Both dogs and cats love to chase balls. Even though the game is different for each kitty and pooch, try to find the right type and size of ball and plan on everyone having a good time. Some balls make interesting noises and flash sparking lights to entertain your cat, and others are perfect for tossing through the air for a dog to chase and retrieve. Choose one for your pooch that lights up at night for a fun evening game!
  • Toy choices that will make every pet happy are the chew toys. These can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy, and they’ll keep cats from chewing on electrical cords and wires or other dangerous items.

3. Comfort Gifts – Pamper pets with a cozy bed, or provide an aid for senior pets to make their life easier.

  • Every pet loves to have a bed that is just right for them even if they’re allowed to sleep on their owner’s bed now and then. There are memory foam beds for pets that live with arthritis, and there are thermal cushioned mats for senior pets that use an insulated layer to keep a pet warm using body heat rather than an electrical connection.
  • Pet stairs or pet ramps are a good choice for senior pets with arthritis since they may be no longer able to jump up onto the bed or the couch, or that allow dogs to get up into cars when travelling.
  • Brushing your pet’s coat not only feels good to them, but also it keeps pet hair and fur from building up on every surface in the home. Select a good brush for a pet and everybody wins!

More Gifts to Pamper a Pooch

  • What dog doesn’t love to play with a Frisbee? Even a senior dog will probably not be able to resist trying to catch a spinning Frisbee in the air or on the ground, and running back to their owner with it, chewed and covered with slobber. Good times!
  • Who wants to play tug of war? Dogs do, that’s who! Buy a good tug-of-war rope and you’ll make a dog and their owner very happy.
  • When it’s time to go out for a walk, dogs will appreciate having their paws warm and dry when the weather isn’t. Try finding them water resistant socks or shoes and you’ll make both them and their owner’s walks even better!

More Purr-fect Gifts for Kitty

  • Do cats love chasing wands, wand teasers, and bird feather teasers? Oh, yes, they do! These toys are not only fun for kitties, but also they provide good exercise. Cats will stretch up on their toes or jump up into the air to catch their “prey” whenever you offer them one of these!
  • Cats love to scratch, and scratching posts are welcome gifts for cats and their owners. Add a little catnip to really encourage kitty to scratch the post rather than the furniture.
  • Wind-up toys are always fun! They come in a great variety of small, tempting, “animal-looking” prey to excite and lead kitty on a merry chase.

Gifts That Please Pet Owners

There are a multitude of awesome gifts for pet owners that let them show the world that they love their pets, make playing with their pets easier, and help keep them safe.

  • Pet tote bags with illustrations of cats or dogs are welcome gifts. Owners can carry pet essentials (e.g., food, water, toys) on walks, travels, or visits to friends.
  • Pet owners need a crate for both cats and dogs for long-term travel, and are needed for cats even on short car trips.
  • A litter scoop is an inexpensive gift for a cat owner, and poop bags or a poop bag carrier is an ideal, inexpensive gift for a dog owner.
  • An attractive throw to protect a pet’s favourite sleeping spot on a sofa or comfy chair can make a pet owner very happy!
  • There are a lot of pet gates that will keep a dog (not a cat) out of a room or rooms. Some of them come with a hinged door and some with useful auto-close features that are useful when your hands are full.
  • Dogs love being taken for walks no matter what time of day! For late eveningwear, check out leashes with a light-up LED light or those made from glow-in-the-dark material.
  • A tennis ball holder for playing catch with a dog makes the fun easier on the owner, who may get tired before their dog does.
  • Placemats to put under pet food and water dishes, making cleanup for owners easier, and they aren’t too expensive.
  • Personalize gifts with their pet’s name and a pet owner will be over the moon! You can arrange for pet names to be embroidered on blankets, T-shirts, Christmas stockings, engraved on jewelry, stamped on dog or cat collars, placemats, etc.
  • Pet-themed bins for toys, jars for treats, collars for cats or dogs, owner T-shirts, welcome mats, socks, coffee mugs, phone cases, key chains, coasters—you name it, there will be a cat or dog theme for almost any gift item at a very wide range of prices.
  • Books on pet care, how to interpret a pet’s form of communication, subscriptions to magazines aimed at dog and cat owners, or a book full of humorous dog and cat stories will take care of gifts for pet owners who like to read.

We hope our suggestions help you find the perfect gifts for pet owners and their pets in time for the upcoming holiday season. Look for these items in your local pet store or online. Whatever gift you get them, we know your friends and their pets will love them. Have fun!

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

How to Get Ready for Your Puppy’s First Veterinary Appointment

Did you get a new puppy recently? If so, your puppy’s first veterinary appointment is a great opportunity to ask questions and address concerns you may have about raising your new pet. Now is the best time to ask for professional advice on how to provide quality care for your little pup now and in the future.

Expect some paperwork, a thorough physical examination of your puppy, a discussion about vaccinations plus a schedule, and advice about your puppy’s diet, exercise, dental care, and emergency situations. Before you leave, ask any questions that haven’t already been answered.

There will be Standard Paperwork to Complete

When you and puppy arrive at the veterinarian’s office, you will have to complete some paperwork. The information required will be:

  1. About You, the Owner – You will need to give basic information including your name, address, phone number, and employment. This record will make it easier for your veterinarian to contact you regarding future appointments and/or test results.
  2. About Your Pup – You will be asked your puppy’s name, sex, where and when you purchased or were given your pup, what — if any—medical care was given in the past, and if there are housebreaking concerns or behaviour problems you are aware of.

Expect a Nose-to-Toes Examination of Your Pup

Your veterinarian will carefully examine your puppy. They’re very accustomed to reassuring nervous pups—and their nervous owners!

  1. Weight – A weight check is needed to ensure your puppy is at a healthy weight. A pup’s weight is used to determine the amount of medication needed (only if any is required now or in the near future).
  2. Temperature – Your vet will take your puppy’s temperature, which indicates whether or not they’re currently fighting off an infection.
  3. Body Examination – Your veterinarian will check over your puppy’s body for lumps, swelling, and any indication of pain. The stomach and abdomen will be palpated afterwards to check them more carefully.
  4. Point Check – The veterinarian will make sure puppy’s ears look and smell fine; teeth are free of tartar and plaque; tongue and gums are clear and of good colour; eyes are bright and there is no cloudiness or discharge; anal glands are normal; the coat is healthy and shiny; and the skin is free of parasites, such as fleas and flea eggs.
  5. Lungs and Heart – Using a stethoscope, the vet will check the puppy’s lungs and heart to make sure their lungs are working properly, and their heart rate is normal with no abnormalities.
  6. Tail, Paws, and Back – This final stage of the examination ensures everything from top to bottom is normal.

Is It Time for a Vaccination?

Vaccinations are an important factor in providing essential care for dogs. Depending on how old your puppy is and whether or not some vaccinations have already been received, your puppy may need a vaccination at their first veterinary appointment.

The first vaccinations are usually given when puppies are between eight to twelve weeks old, which is also the appropriate age to live independently from their mothers and their littermates. There are core vaccinations that all dogs should receive and there are non-core vaccinations that are optional and dependent on your dog’s risk factors.

  1. Core Vaccinations – Puppies are very susceptible to illnesses so it is best to keep your pup away from most dogs and public places until they’ve received vaccine protection. Some of the most dangerous diseases to puppies are usually spread through feces, urine, and saliva.
  • Canine distemper, or CDV – very dangerous and difficult to treat and often fatal
  • Parvovirus, or CPV2 – attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal organs and is fatal if untreated
  • Canine hepatitis, or adenovirus, or CAV2 – can cause eye and/or liver damage and breathing problems
  • Parainfluenza – this respiratory disease is easily spread from dog to dog
  • Rabies – this is the final vaccination needed because puppies must be 16 weeks of age to receive it. Rabies is fatal and can be transmitted to humans.
  1. Non-Core Vaccinations – Depending on where you live and your pup’s lifestyle, your dog may need some of these non-core vaccinations for such problems as bordetella, or kennel cough—a vaccination required at doggie daycare and kennels—or possibly leptospirosis, or Lyme disease.

Your veterinarian will give you a vaccination schedule that will include all of the necessary vaccinations needed as a puppy and booster shots when necessary to keep your dog protected throughout their adult years.

Protection Against Other Common Problems Begins Now

It is typical for treatment against parasites to begin at this stage. Your veterinarian will provide de-worming and medication or treatment for protection against ticks, fleas, and heartworms.

Your pup’s breed may be at risk for various medical problems. Your veterinarian can provide advice on prevention, screening, and testing for health problems that may occur in the future, and you can ask about the usual treatments for any of them.

Voice Any Concerns That Haven’t Been Covered

Your veterinarian cares about your new pet as much as you do! They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have that went unanswered. Don’t worry if you don’t think they are important or if they may sound silly; there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you brought a list of questions or thought of some during the examination, now is the time to ask.

  • If you worry about how you will be able to cut your pet’s nails, ask when it must be done and how to do it.
  • If you are nervous about brushing your dog’s teeth, ask for a demonstration.
  • You can ask for suggestions about your puppy’s diet and for recommendations on age-appropriate dog food and treats.
  • Raise any concerns you have about behavioural issues, such as barking, whining, or chewing on items they shouldn’t be.
  • Ask about having an ID microchip inserted, when it can be done, and the cost.
  • Ask what is considered to be an emergency and when and where to call after hours for help. Make sure you know where to take your hurt pet to a dog hospital or a dog clinic if you can’t wait.

Your veterinarian can help you prevent your best friend from becoming ill. They can also detect possible problems even before an onset of signs and symptoms that can be observed. Early treatment means a good chance of complete recovery.

Bring your questions and concerns and be prepared to discuss your worries about care and costs. Your puppy will be a little nervous about this visit and may be worn out and sleepy afterwards—and you might be, too! However, the vet visit is worth it for both of you. Your puppy’s first veterinary appointment will start your new pet on the road to good health and a long and happy future. It’s a road you can enjoy traveling along together!

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 Neutering & the Movember Movement

November is here, or should we say, “Movember”? It is quite intriguing and fun to suddenly see all of the moustaches showing up around this time of the year.

While the Movember movement is a lot of fun with all the events and moustaches involved, it is about a lot more than just that. It is about the acceptance and recognition of the fact that awareness around men’s health is vital.

An important facet of the Movember movement is to raise awareness regarding prostate cancer and illness. Man’s best friend, the dog, also tends to get various kinds of prostate illness (including cancer).

An important difference is prostate problems in dogs are easily avoided. Neutering (or castration) of male dogs is a safe surgical procedure wherein the testicles are surgically removed. Various veterinary associations and veterinarians recommend neutering pets within the first year of life across Canada.

In this day and age, this recommendation is mostly aimed at decreasing illnesses seen in non-neutered dogs. Decreasing inter-pet aggression and unwanted puppies are also known benefits of neutering.

There are various myths about neutering in pets. Dogs will reach their adult weight and size based on a combination of genetics, nutrition, exercise, environment, socialization, and hormones. Neutering a pet does not affect the eventual size of the dog and generally does not alter how muscular (or cute) he may look. While neutering at around 6 months of age is ideal, there is no harm if a pet owner decides to pursue the neuter surgery for the pet at around one year of age. Generally speaking, any non-neutered dog is prone to testicular or prostate illness after a year of age.

Neutered dogs are much less likely to have health problems such as prostate infection, testicular tumors, and prostatic cancer. Non-neutered or intact dogs with such problems may show signs such as difficult urination, blood in urine, hair loss, and changes in behaviour during early illness. If diagnosed early, neutering the pet can easily treat such illnesses. If, however, an infection or tumor has progressed to a certain stage, more complex treatments and a poor outcome may be possible.

As we raise awareness and learn more regarding health issues for men, it is important not to forget man’s best friend. A timely neuter procedure may well add years to your pooch’s life.

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

How to Prepare for Your Kitten’s First Veterinary Appointment

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

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

Making the Appointment

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

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

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

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

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

Before the Appointment

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

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

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

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

During the Appointment

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

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

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

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

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

After the Appointment

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

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

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

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

How to Protect Pets from Wildfire Smoke

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

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

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

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

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

Planning a Trip? How to Treat a Cat with Travel Anxiety

Does your cat hate riding in the car? It’s very common for cats to generally dislike travel of any kind by any means. However, with a few simple tricks, you can reduce kitty’s travel anxiety by a lot, even if he or she never seems particularly happy on a trip.

Unless you happen to live within walking distance of a veterinarian, your cat has to travel now and then. It pays big dividends to help your cat accept travel as best as possible. It’s a better strategy than trying to capture and thrust your struggling, furious kitty into a carrier or crate when a trip is necessary!

How to Help Your Cat Develop a Positive Travel/Carrier Attitude

It is important to introduce your cat to its travel carrier or crate well before he or she needs to take a trip. That way, kitty views this important item as comfortable and familiar instead of strange and unpleasant. It’s not wise to travel with kitty using anything other than a regular crate or a carrier. Cats can slip through very small holes and will be obsessed with finding a way out of any box or homemade restraint. This can be a serious hazard to the driver if kitty runs loose in the car!

To prepare your cat for travel, have the carrier sitting out for several days with the door open. Leave it in a room where kitty spends a lot of time, such as near his or her favourite napping place or a window.

Place one of kitty’s favourite toys and a treat inside the carrier, which will usually excite a cat’s curiosity and cause it to go inside.

After your cat has had a few days to become familiar and comfortable with going in and out of the carrier, close the door and carry it to another room, set it down, and open the door so that he or she can leave.

A day or two later, put your cat into its carrier, close the door, and take it out to the car and take a short trip. Talk to him or her and put a treat inside the carrier before you start the engine. Look back after the engine has started and talk to your cat again so that he or she is reassured by your calm voice.

A few short trips should help reduce a cat’s anxiety about going inside the carrier and travelling by car. He or she may still not like travelling, but at least you won’t have a fight on your hands every time you try to put kitty into the carrier.

Use These Steps to Reduce Travel Stress

As well as helping your kitty become used to being in its travel carrier and to being in the car, prepare for other travel difficulties and emergencies:

  1. If your cat is very unhappy with even short trips in the car, try putting a towel over the carrier so that he or she feels “hidden.” This may help kitty feel more secure.
  2. Talk to your kitty using its name and try singing to it during your trips as well. Playing soft music may also soothe him or her.
  3. Make sure you are prepared for the unthinkable and that, somehow, kitty gets out of the carrier and makes its escape from the car or the final destination. Make sure your cat is wearing a collar with its name and yours, plus your phone number. An additional safety measure is to have an ID microchip inserted painlessly by your veterinarian just under the skin of your pet’s shoulder area. Make sure the number is registered under your name and information with the microchip company.
  4. You can offer kitty some catnip when you are at home and see how he or she reacts to it. Some cats like it a lot, some become excitable, others become mellow, and others don’t react at all. If your kitty likes it and calms down, you can use it as a travel aid. However, if it doesn’t have the desired effect, talk to your veterinarian about what other mild, natural sedatives are harmless and available.

Three Ways to Make a Trip More Enjoyable for You and Kitty

Before starting a trip, put your cat in the bathroom with the door closed and the carrier or crate open while you make your trip preparations. Close up your home so that your cat doesn’t become alarmed by the activity. When everything is ready, place kitty in the crate and take him or her out to the car. 

Make sure you have packed everything your cat will need:

  • A leash to secure your cat if you want to take him or her out of the carrier to urinate or defecate, or to clean up the cage if it becomes sick, or to take him or her with you if you are going to leave the car and aren’t sure how long you will be
  • Regular food and treats, any necessary medication, and two bowls—one for food and one for water
  • Litter, a scoop, a litter pan, and some garbage bags
  • Kitty’s usual blanket and a toy or two

Always place the carrier in the back of the car, preferably where your cat can see you. At traffic stops, turn around and speak to him or her and make eye contact. If you can, place your hand low on the carrier so your cat can rub against your fingers when you have stopped.

At reasonable intervals, stop and let your cat out on the leash so that he or she can get some exercise, have a drink of water, and use the litter pan, and then put a treat and another toy into the carrier before putting your cat back inside and continuing your trip.

How to Ease Your Cat’s Arrival at a Destination

When you arrive at a location for the night or at your journey’s end, take the carrier into the bathroom along with your cat’s litter and litter pan, some food, and some water. Open the carrier so that your cat can come out when he or she feels comfortable, and then leave and close the bathroom door. You will be free to unload the car and become comfortable yourself while your cat becomes accustomed to the new environment for an hour or so.

Here are Some Final Reminders

Remember that your car is not a comfortable place for kitty to be by itself on either a hot day or a cold day. In fact, it can be a very dangerous place for pets if they are left in the car for too long. Get used to the idea that if you are going to stop and leave the car for anything, assume your return may be delayed and take your cat with you in the carrier or on a leash.

No matter how much you try and prepare your cat for travel, don’t feel that you didn’t do your job well enough if your cat seems unhappy—some cats never fully get used to travel. Do your best to reduce its travel anxiety as much as possible, and even though he or she may not show it, you will have made kitty’s life happier for the effort. Safe travels!

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

Common Mistakes to Avoid Making as a Cat Parent

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Plan a Safe Trip with Your Dog this Summer

Are you planning on bringing your dog with you on your travels this summer? If so, you will need to make preparations ahead of time. Careful planning for your pet’s safety and care will ensure you both have a fun-filled trip each time you and your best friend head out!

The Most Important Preparations for a Safe Trip

Whether you are planning to travel by road or by air, make sure you have taken care of these essentials: 

  1. Visit the Veterinarian – ’Tis the summer season and time to schedule a checkup with the veterinarian if your dog hasn’t had one in a while. You will be able to make sure that all vaccinations are up to date, and find out if any booster shots are needed because of your travel destinations. Naturally you should make sure you have the latest and best tick and flea protection in place as well.
  1. Have the Appropriate Crate, Carrier, or Leash – If you are travelling by plane, you need a crate for your dog. If you are travelling by car, have some kind of restraint so that your pet isn’t loose in the car.
  • Plane – If you insist on traveling with your dog by plane, you must make sure the country you want to travel to will accept your dog. Not all breeds are legal in certain locations! You should also make sure your dog’s crate is approved by the airline with which you will be traveling. The crate itself must be big enough for your dog to stand, sit, and turn around in, and it must be lined with bedding, such as shredded paper, to absorb moisture. Check with your airline to make sure you have the correct crate design as well as all the travel papers, health certificates, and vaccines needed if necessary.
  • Car or Other Vehicle – It is not illegal, but it is recommended that your dog not be allowed to roam at will inside a vehicle because it can be very dangerous for both of you. In any accident, an unsecured dog can be injured, and even a small dog becomes a life-threatening projectile for humans. Dogs should also not be allowed to ride with their heads out of windows, and because they may decide to hop out of a window, even if the car is speeding down a highway.

A dog crate or carrier or short leash should be purchased well before your trip and a few test drives taken. That way, your dog is not horrified by the restraint, especially if he or she is used to riding around unrestrained.

  1. Dogs Need ID – Proper identification is essential for traveling pets. Make sure your dog has an ID collar. However, collars can become undone and lost, so a good backup plan is to have an ID microchip inserted under their ear flap. All animal hospitals and shelters will check their files for ID chips in the event a lost or injured animal is brought to them. Bring along a photo of your dog as well.
  1. Plan for Dog-Friendly Routes and Accommodations
  • Plane – If you are traveling by plane, direct routes are best and decrease the chances of you and your pet traveling on different planes to different destinations!
  • Car – Keep your pet in mind when planning your route so that the trip is not too long, there is an opportunity for little breaks, and your dog will be welcome when you stop for the night and when you reach your destination. There are websites devoted to finding dog-friendly hotels, motels, and beaches.
  1. Pack for Your Pet

Make sure you have your dog’s leash and collar, enough food and water, dishes, poop bags, toys—including some for the trip—a towel, a bed or blankets, medical records, a cleaner for accidents, and any medication your dog requires.

  • Treat Bag – Make up a little bag of dog treats to take on your trip.
  • Dog Medical Kit – Smartphone owners can find a free app for phones with medical advice, and you can buy a first aid kit for pets or make your own. At the very least, program the numbers of animal hospitals and an animal poison control center into your phone, or take a list of important numbers.

Traveling Tips for a Safe Journey

Whether you’re both taking a trip by car or plane, you need to keep your dog as safe as possible by planning ahead.

In the Car: 

  1. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car. Heat stroke is a common preventable danger in the summer and most likely to occur if you leave your dog alone in the car and are delayed on your return. It can also happen if you are with your dog in the car and exposed to sunlight for a long time. Be sure and check on his or her comfort now and then. 
  1. Use the leash when leaving the car. The taste of freedom after traveling in the car can cause even a well-behaved dog to run, perhaps across a busy road or street. Attach your dog’s leash before opening any doors. 
  1. Take sensible breaks. Stop for 15 or 20 minutes every three or four hours to enable your dog to have a little exercise and a pee break when needed. 
  1. Place crates, carriers, or leashed dogs in the back seat. You may like to have your best friend up front beside you, but it is a distraction for you and is not as safe for your dog. 
  1. Use an Organizing Bag in the Car – Keep all your dog’s supplies in a carrier bag so that you can quickly find everything you need for your pet without delay.

In the Plane: 

  1. Food. Tape a little bag outside your dog’s crate with a bit of dried food or treats so he or she can be fed if there is a delay in the trip.
  1. Don’t lock the door. Close the crate door tightly, but don’t lock it in case airport personnel need to take your dog out in an emergency.
  1. Delays. If there are serious delays, request firmly that someone check on your dog’s safety and comfort.

Summer is a great time to travel with your dog! With a little preparation, you can ensure a fun-filled and safe trip for you and your four-legged best friend.

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 Food & the Raw Food Diet: A Veterinarian’s Thoughts

Back in the day, pets were fed what we ate. With changing times, research, and an increase in the number of feeding options and opinions for pets, nowadays our pets eat what we believe in, more and more.

The common feeding practices that I currently recommend in practice include kibble food, canned diets, and balanced home-cooked diets.

There is this recent fad of feeding raw diets to dogs. The idea of ‘raw’ may sound similar to the push towards going green, organic foods, spending time out in the sun, being closer to nature, etc. But are raw diets for pets really the answer to making them healthier for the long term?

Raw diets have become popular mainly due to anecdotal reports on the Internet and from some pet owner hearsay that dogs feel and look better on them. While I am always happy to hear about or see a happy and good looking pet, it is important to keep in mind the long-term health of each and every individual pet.

Proponents of raw feeding for pets like to believe that they are feeding their dogs what they would eat in the wild. But Shadow or Bella are not living in the wild anymore, are they? They share our beds with us, lick our faces, and spend time with our newborn kids whose immune systems may just be kicking in. And they live to be 12-15 years more often than they did 20 years back (when they still were not living in the wild).  Feral dogs, in comparison, tend to live much shorter lives.

The position of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is quite reflective of why raw diets are not recommended for pets. The CVMA website states that “there is evidence of potential health risks for pets fed raw meat based diets and for humans in contact with such pets”. These hazards include bacteria like Salmonella in raw meat, which may persist in the dogs’ immediate environment (our homes), potential for zoonotic infections to in-contact humans, and potential gastric obstructions from undigested bone or broken teeth. An unbalanced diet may damage long-term health of dogs if given for an extended period.

Recently, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has joined the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in taking a stand against raw food diets for pets as well. The reason for such distinguished associations taking this stance on the issue of pet foods is the lack of documented scientific evidence in favour of feeding raw and its perceived benefits.

There is also the concern of lack of regulations for raw pet food manufacturers. As things stand, anyone can just start a raw company out of their kitchen (or garage), and that is a worrisome sign.

In practice, I like to take the time and effort to educate pet owners regarding healthy feeding practices for pets, as educated pet owners make better decisions. I prefer to feed pets balanced diets (which may include home-cooked meals, under a veterinarian’s supervision) as opposed to a diet that has no scientific evidence of benefits over other options.

Our homes and veterinary clinics may not be the best place to start a “research project” to evaluate how a dog would do on an unproven diet. Remember, the popular choice may not always be the right choice.

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