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.

Puppy Care 101, Part 2: Ages 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part 2 of our 2-part puppy care series! This is the age where your puppies are really growing up from babies to toddlers.

A pup is able to leave its mother and their littermates when he or she is about eight weeks old. We’re positive they will be excited and nervous when he or she first comes to their new home. We’re certain you have been waiting just as eagerly to welcome them into your home and want to help them adjust as soon as possible!

You will need to have the necessary food, bed, water and food dishes, collar, ID tag, and leash purchased in advance. Organize your home, too, and make sure it is a safe and loving environment.

You will see many changes taking place in your little friend over the next few weeks and you should prepare yourself for the kind of behavior they are most likely to exhibit while settling in with the new family. You should also know how to train your new puppy accordingly as they grow and learn so that he or she develops good behaviour. 

Expect These Normal Characteristics of Young Puppies

  • Your pup will be only a fraction of their adult size at eight weeks, and will usually grow rapidly for the first six months.
  • He or she will sleep or need sleep about 18 to 19 hours a day.
  • He or she will have all their baby teeth and develop their first adult teeth at this stage, which explains why they love to chew on everything in plain sight—they will be teething! Supply lots of chew toys.
  • Your puppy will be adjusting to being separated from their mother and littermates for a few days, and they may exhibit concerns in a few ways. He or she may pace and pant much more than normal, or vomit, develop diarrhea, or relieve themselves inside the house. Assume he or she will have a few mishaps, stay calm, and don’t scold or shout at them.
  • Take your puppy outside frequently to the same spot each time and praise them when he or she relieves properly. Try to establish a regular routine, such as before breakfast, after breakfast, at noon, mid-afternoon, etc., so that they will learn how long they need to control themselves. Most puppies at eight weeks old can hold their urine for about three hours. He or she will be able to wait longer as they get older.
  • Between 8 to 12 weeks, he will be alarmed easily by loud noises, unexpected events, and new people and animals, but he will grow out of this stage more quickly if you remain calm and speak to him reassuringly.
  • He or she may need to eat three times a day when they’re a small pup, but you can cut back to twice a day when they reach about 16 weeks old.

How to Puppy-Proof Their New Home

You can puppy-proof a home in the same way you would baby-proof it. Puppies, like little children, are curious and love to move around fast. Make sure your puppy will be protected from encounters with dangerous objects that are perfectly safe for older children and adults.

Take a tour through the premises and try to think like a puppy or a child—what will interest and attract them the most? Before your puppy arrives, remove any small, sharp, poisonous, and dangerous objects they may find intriguing.

  • Remember that dogs have a great sense of smell that helps them discover new and interesting items. You must put temptation out of reach, up high, behind latched doors, and into bins that can’t be knocked over. You may need childproof latches for low cupboards, especially if you keep toxic substances like cleaning products in them, or if you don’t want the contents strewn all over the floor.
  • Puppies like to chew and may decide to munch on exposed electrical cords. Put these out of their reach! Also, tie up cords from curtains and window blinds as pets can get tangled in them.
  • Small objects can cause a puppy to choke. Coins, jewelry, sewing equipment, yarn, dental floss, paper clips, fishing line and hooks, and small toys should all be hidden from their sight and kept off of the floor.
  • Use screens to shield your pet from fireplaces, heaters, and wood stoves, and remove toxic plants and decorations.
  • Take a tour through your yard as well, and look for dangerous objects, such as sharp nails, small pebbles, or any areas that you must restrict your pup from entering. Make sure paint, fertilizers, tools, and all toxic materials are safely stored away.

Protect Your Puppy’s Health

Any puppy that reaches 8 weeks of age should be checked up on by a veterinarian and given their first vaccinations. If your puppy was not checked over before you brought them home, make an appointment right away. Your new little friend will be given the necessary vaccinations and a nose-to-toes checkup. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions you have about their care, food, and training, and you can set them up with a regular vaccination schedule.

Your dog vet will be your lifesaver during this stage in their lives! They can guide you on the vaccinations your puppy will need and when it needs them. They will be immunized by its mother’s milk in the first few weeks, but this protection gradually disappears between 6 to 20 weeks of age.

Essential puppy shots are:

  • 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and repeated at 16 weeks – distemper, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
  • 12 weeks – Bordetella or kennel cough and leptospirosis.
  • 16 weeks – rabies, Lyme disease, and boosters for Bordetella and leptospirosis.

The need for other vaccinations will depend on your puppy’s risk factors, their new lifestyle, their breed, where you live, etc.

Puppies must also be protected against flea bites and it’s recommended they be de-wormed with each puppy booster, with regular checkups afterwards. Plan on taking your puppy to your vet for a checkup each year, at which time they can receive their annual vaccinations (again, what they will need will depend on their new lifestyle), nipping any problems in the bud.

Start Puppy’s Training Right Away

Establishing boundaries for your puppy should be full of positive experiences. Be careful not to be angry, impatient, or fearful while training or letting your puppy see you are upset with them or with anything that happens. Do your best to establish a routine, including playtime.

If you have the time and money, consider enrolling them in formal obedience training. Otherwise, you should teach them to obey simple commands such as sit, stay, come when their name is called, refraining from jumping on people, not biting people, and learning the meaning of “no”. It’s okay to give them a treat when he or she does what you ask!

When dealing with chewing problems at this stage, remember they are teething and needs something to safely chew on. Don’t remove whatever they have chosen unless you have something in your hand to make the switch to something more acceptable. Also, don’t give your puppy an old shoe to chew on or he or she will think any shoe is fine—including your most expensive footwear.

Make sure he or she sleeps in the place you have chosen so they don’t think there are options. Be consistent. Sleeping with a blanket that has been rubbed against their mother for the first few nights would be a great way to comfort them.

Most puppies have light coats that don’t shed; however, it’s a good idea to groom them regularly and to keep an eye out for any skin problems. Carefully brush their coat at regular intervals and inspect their feet, nails, mouth, and ears so they get used to being touched at an age when they’ll enjoy the attention.

Introduce your puppy slowly to visitors, other animals, and noises. Keep visitors to a minimum and carefully supervise their time spent with other animals so that the new social experiences are happy ones.

Let your puppy play in and out of their travelling crate so that trips to the vet are positive experiences too. Leave the door open, put a treat inside, and let them come and go until he or she is used to it and doesn’t fear it or mind being inside.

Congratulations on becoming a new puppy parent! Be sure to combine their health and safety care with providing lots of love and attention.

Did you miss out on part 1? Check out Puppy Care 101, Part 1: The First 0-8 Weeks.

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 Have a Great Summer With Your Cat

As the weather gets warmer, seasonal care for cats is needed. There is a way to plan a summer of fun with your cat and ensure they are safe, healthy, and happy! To do that you will need to know the seasonal conditions worth preparing for. You can also check out activities to keep you and your kitty entertained.

If your cat is an outdoor one, it’s crucial you anticipate and prepare for the risks that exist whenever he or she goes out to play. Even if he or she is an indoor cat, there is the possibility it may decide to stop lazing about and rush outside when an unscreened door opens or when an open window invites it to find freedom.

Outside Risks

Ideally, it’s best to raise your cat as an indoor one so that the risks of being outside can be avoided altogether. However, if your cat insists on enjoying the warm weather outside and there’s little to no traffic around, prepare yourself and your cat for the call of the wild:

  • Teach it its name. Use its name often and always when you call to it for dinner. Cats can be hyper aware of the sound of dinner preparations—the noise of the can opener, the crinkle of the dry food bag, and the clatter of silverware tapped against their food bowl—so you should call his or her name whenever you go to get food so he or she connects the name with the pleasure of eating. Also, call him or her at various times and have a treat in your hand. He or she’ll catch on so when he or she is outside and hears his or her name being called, he or she’ll probably come.
  • Make sure your cat has received the vaccinations he or she needs such as rabies and de-worming preventatives so he or she can play outside without risk.
  • Equip your cat with an ID collar. If he or she has not had preventative flea treatment from his or her veterinarian, get treatment right away and then put the ID on an easily detachable collar. If he or she gets lost, anyone who finds him or her can contact you, and the collar will prevent your kitty from being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Have an ID microchip registered with your cat’s name, your name, and your phone number embedded under the skin. This is a simple, painless procedure that your veterinarian will be happy to perform at your cat’s next checkup or if you call ahead before an appointment. Shelters and animal hospitals always scan for microchips when lost or injured cats are brought to them and they will contact you.
  • If you are travelling with your cat, don’t leave it alone in the car. Take it with you in a travel case even if it becomes awkward to carry. You probably don’t need another reminder of why you must do that, but here is another one anyway: if you leave your pet for only a minute and circumstances turn that minute into an hour, your beloved pet may be trapped in a dangerously hot car, and possible heat stroke can occur.
  • If your cat is in accident, a fight with another animal, or shows unexpected symptoms of illness or poisoning, take him or her to a cat clinic or hospital as soon as possible. Have the phone number and address handy at home, or on your phone so there will be no delay.

Make sure you know the common symptoms of problems, illnesses, or poisoning for which you need professional help. It’s a good idea to be familiar with basic first aid too such as how to keep a frightened, injured cat from biting you and how to transport an injured kitty to a cat hospital.

Remember that cats will try and conceal pain because it shows weakness to their enemies in the wilds and makes them targets for attack. This instinct is so strong that they will not show their distress to their loving owners either. Be alert. If your cat comes into the house and immediately hides, or if an indoor cat hides and won’t come when called or to eat, it may be in pain. Examine it carefully and give it whatever help it needs. 

Keep Kitty Cool Indoors and Out

Cats love warm weather but older cats and kittens are less tolerant of the heat and sun. Watch out for conditions that could cause heat stroke or dehydration for cats of any age.

  1. Water – Keep your cat’s water bowl full and check it often as he or she will need more water than usual when the weather is warm. It is a good idea to have more than one bowl of water available. Check out our blog post if you’re not sure just how much water your kitty will need.
  1. Sun – Your cat is better off inside on very hot days or during the hottest time of the day (between 10am and 3pm). Once the temperature has lowered and he or she insists on going outside as usual, make sure a water bowl goes outside with him or her, and make sure there is shade he or she can reach when he or she wants to get out of the sun. A cardboard box on its side can do the trick.
  1. Inside the House – When your cat is indoors, make sure it’s not trapped in a room that gets too hot for comfort. Cool tiled floors, open screened windows, fans and air conditioning, and closing blinds and curtains and windows during the hottest time of the day can all help keep kitty cool inside.
  1. Walks – If you take your indoor cat outside for a walk, choose the coolest time of day and stay off the hot pavement and sidewalks. Test these with the back of your hand for five seconds, and if the surface is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your cat.
  1. Cooling Suggestions – Try putting cold water in a hot water bottle or cool a towel in the freezer and put it on their bed so kitty can lie on it. You can also put an ice cube in his or her water bowl to give him or her something to play with while also staying cool.

Healthy Cat Checklist

  1. Pest Protection – Keep your cat safe from outdoor pests, even if he or she is an indoor cat. Fleas and other parasites can be carried indoors on footwear and clothing and if other pets are visiting. Even indoor cats can suffer from flea allergy dermatitis. Check outdoor cats carefully for ticks when you are grooming them and bring them to a vet ASAP if you find any that have latched on! Make sure your pets are protected from all parasites with regular treatments from your vet. Check out our blog post on the subject if you’re looking for prevention tips.
  1. Vaccination Schedules – As we mentioned before, it’s a good idea to keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date. Diseases don’t take a vacation and your outdoor or indoor cat needs his or her booster vaccinations for protection. Your kitty may also need booster shots for non-core vaccinations (e.g., leukemia) if it is receiving them. Don’t let vacation plans interfere with kitty’s healthcare!
  1. Cat Disease Safety for Humans – Be alert for diseases that can spread from cats to humans, especially if you have children in your house. Caution them against touching cat feces, touching cat litter (and be careful yourself!), or playing in sandboxes that are not covered. Keep your cat off of surfaces in your home where food is prepared or eaten.
  1. Hairball Problems – Cats develop hairballs more frequently in the summer months because they lick themselves in an attempt to stay cool, and when playing outside, they want to keep themselves clean. You can cut down on the hairball problem with daily brushing and combing, and feeding your cat food that is high in fiber, often called “hairball formula.”

Let’s Have Some Fun!

  1. Toys – Cats love toys that appeal to their hunter instincts such as mice, bugs, and birds. You can attach a toy to a length of string and take your cat on a merry chase. Use a laser pointer to skip along on the floor like a bug does. Expect your cat to get bored quickly and be ready with another toy to replace it. Let it catch something now and then and put a treat someplace where the toy or the laser takes it in order to keep kitty entertained. An empty box provides amusement for a long time!
  1. Training – Take time in the summer to train your cat. Work on having it come when you call, teach it to stay off of furniture (like the table where you eat), or to stop scratching couches or climbing curtains.
  1. New Experiences
  • You can take your indoor cat on walks using a leash.
  • Try to help your cat adjust to riding in the car by letting it get used to their travel carrier in the house. Put some toys or treats inside so kitty can go in and out and get used to it before taking him or her out to the car. When you take kitty out on a ride, give it a treat just before you start the engine.
  • Blow bubbles from a non-toxic solution outside in a safe area where your cat can jump, chase, and catch them.
  • Show your cat a treat and place it under a plastic cup so he or she has to figure out how to knock it over.

With some preparation, you can have a fun summer with your cat while making sure he or she stays safe, healthy, and happy, and in turn makes your summer more enjoyable, too!

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

Pet Obesity: An Ever-Growing Concern

Obesity is a growing concern in companion animals, and the increasing incidence appears to be mirroring the trend observed in humans. In fact, it is the most common nutritional disorder in companion pets. Obesity is defined as an accumulation of excessive amounts of adipose tissue in the body. Similar to humans, being overweight is usually the result of either excessive dietary intake or inadequate energy utilization, or both.

Numerous factors may predispose our pets to become overweight including genetics, the amount of physical activity, and the energy content of the diet (the whole sum of pet-food, homemade & commercial treats, table food, etc.). We all like giving our pets treats as positive reinforcement and as part of TLC. Those big eyes, wagging tails, or the persistent barking or meowing (depending on how your pet companion may influence you) definitely makes it easy to reach out for the treat bag; or, to reach out for food off the dining table. While it is all right to use treats for training or to show affection to your pet, it is not the only available method. After all, it is you and your company they crave most. Yes, even over food and treats.

In order to prevent pets from packing on the pounds, the most important thing is to not reach out for the treats as a reflex. We use treats as positive reinforcement, as a distraction, when we just want the pet to be attentive, when we are happy, when the pet is happy, the list goes on. Treats are meant to be just that – similar to snacks or an order of fries that we might enjoy from time to time, but should not be thinking of at every instant. The smaller your pet is, the smaller his or her stomach is, and the more harmful excessive treats can be for their wellbeing. So, instead of “treating” your pet, think of alternative methods of positive reinforcement, distraction etc. If you want to share some love with your dog or cat, nothing beats hugging and petting them. Our clinic cat, Midnight is overly food oriented at the best of times and steals food all the time. But when she is in the mood and is getting gentle scratches on her chin and getting babied, she drools profusely. Obviously it is not all about the food and treats, is it!

It is also helpful to designate one person in the family, or a common place of treats in the house, so as not to exceed the designated volume of treats a pet should be getting per day. The family needs to work as a team on this. I am always surprised to see that often the weakest link in following a weight reduction program is not the pet, but a family member. Following a weight loss program for a pet is only successful with a whole family approach. It is very easy to train a young pet to not want treats at every instant – all it is takes is some self-restraint. In a house with an adult or senior pet, the same self-restraint would be needed, but with the additional hurdle of slowly backing off on the treats and extra food rather than stopping abruptly, in order to wean them off of a long-standing habit.

Do not forget the need for exercise in maintaining a healthy body weight – this is especially true for indoor cats. Remember to regularly stimulate them to run around and play on a daily basis. By helping keep your pet at a good body weight and preventing a serious problem like obesity, it would help decrease the chances of other serious illness such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, respiratory problems, cancer, and severe arthritis in your pet. Let us make sure they are with us for a long and happy life.

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

How to Reunite a Lost or Abandoned Cat with Its Owner

Please note: while this article is very cat-centered, these tips can apply to our pooch friends, too!

Picture this: you’re out on the usual walk, minding your own business, perhaps on a walk home from work, or you’re out for your morning jog. Suddenly, you hear it—a cat’s meow. You pause, look around, and realize the sound of the cat has come from a place where they shouldn’t be—near a dumpster, or from under a garbage can lid, or from around the corner where you normally walk. You take a step closer, and the cat either pops out from around the corner or they pop out from under a garbage can or dumpster. That’s when you glimpse it—a collar around their neck, or a thin ribcage.

This may not be a normal situation, but there are times when a pet cat can get lost on their way home or, in some cases, be abandoned by their previous owner. Cats who live their lives as strays do not receive the medical attention they need, and a lost cat may end up in an even worse predicament than described (especially in the city!). If you are ever in a situation such as the one we just described, there are steps you can take to ensure if these cats need a home, or are missing theirs.

How to Tell if a Cat is Actually Lost or Abandoned

Sometimes, a cat is actually not lost at all but simply prowling its neighbourhood (especially if it’s being raised outdoors, but this is actually not a very good idea!). If this cat looks familiar to you, and you don’t see an owner calling out its name or desperately searching for the cat, it’s probably fine.

If you’re really not too sure, read the list below to see if the cat matches any of the following:

  • A clean, healthy looking fur coat
  • Bright eyes, with no goop from its tear ducts or redness
  • A friendly, easygoing temperament
  • A healthy physique, i.e. it looks well-fed

You should be more concerned if these signs are evident in the cat, however:

  • Shy and timid behaviour (i.e. the cat runs away from you, or tries to hide)
  • Aggressive behaviour, i.e. the cat hisses and bats at you when you draw near it
  • A dirty and dull fur coat or patches of skin where fur should be
  • A thin, visible ribcage
  • Irritated eyes or goop-filled tear ducts
  • Visible face wounds
  • Limping

If the above applies, the cat likely needs help.

Always Look for Identification

A collar is usually a dead giveaway that the cat belongs to someone else. However, some cats hate wearing a collar, and they may escape outside if they’re being raised as strictly indoor cats. The other best means of identification is either one of two things: one, a series of numbers inside the cat’s ear flap, and two, an embedded microchip. These are permanent forms of identification that can help a lost cat be reunited swiftly.

If there is ID on the cat’s person, follow the next section on how to safely get the cat to its owner. If there is no ID to be found, or the cat appears to have been outside and fending for itself for some time, skip the next section and read the one that comes afterwards.

How to Return the Lost Cat to their Owner

Unless there is an owner nearby calling out the cat’s name, or searching desperately for their pet, these tips can be done if the cat is lost:

  1. Try and bring the cat to a veterinary office or an animal shelter and get them checked out for a microchip. This is because microchips are actually not visible at first glance; they are inserted under the cat’s skin between the shoulders. Often, microchip numbers are registered with the manufacturer’s company online. Vet offices and shelters have scanners to read the number, which will definitely be registered to the company and is searchable online. The number that is identified on the microchip should be on file at the vet office or shelter.
  2. If you see a serial number tattooed inside of the cat’s ear flap, and there’s no owner to be found, get the cat to a veterinary clinic or shelter right away! Each province in Canada has their own unique alphanumeric code for identifying which vet clinic applied the tattoo. This makes reunions with lost cats and their owners a much easier task!
  3. Get on social media! Take a photo of the cat and then post about what has happened to your social networks (Facebook and Instagram are good places to try and reach out to fellow pet owners). Some groups on Facebook were created specifically for this purpose, and you can join the group if the need calls for it; perhaps they’ve posted information on the very cat you’ve just found?
  4. If there are any posters of the cat you’ve found in your neighbourhood, get the info you need from it and then contact the owner. While posters may be a bit outdated compared to social media, in some cases they still work well as a means of notifying fellow pet owners that a cat needs help.
  5. Ask around your neighbourhood in person about the cat. This will require some door-to-door action, but it’s better to do that than to find out the cat was indeed missing when it didn’t appear to be!

What to Do if the Cat is Abandoned

Most abandoned cats hang out where there is a food source, i.e. garbage dumpsters and cans or in alleyways where predators cannot find them easily. It’s a sad fact that kittens may end up being abandoned too, usually because the owners did not think their ownership through or the kittens are born to a feral mother.

In all cases where the cat is abandoned, notify your local animal shelter and give them as much information as you can about the cat or kittens. If for any reason you cannot leave the cat’s side, or the cats in question are kittens, stay put and call the animal shelter.

What Not to Do

There are some no-nos that can and do apply in the event of a lost or abandoned cat:

  • Do not attempt to trap an abandoned or lost cat yourself! It’s very likely that in both cases they will try to run away from humans. They may also be ridden with parasites such as fleas if they have been out on the streets for that long. An animal shelter has the means to trap the cats humanely as well as work with veterinarians in the event that medical attention for the cat or cats is needed.
  • Don’t feed the cat or give them treats if they keep visiting you. Not only will this make them needy, their owners may not be too happy that you’re overdoing it with the treats!
  • Don’t attempt to take the pet home with you. Unless the cat or kittens have been abandoned on your property, you may be unwittingly causing an owner grief by doing this!

All pets should be raised in a loving, nurturing environment, but unfortunately homelessness for cats is a reality, and some cats do go missing. In the case where a cat is lost, it’s an incredibly stressful situation for their owner! Imagine their relief if and when you help them find out their cat is safe and swiftly being returned to them. Hopefully by following our tips, and in the best case scenario, you can make yourself a hero to felines everywhere, whether it’s by reuniting a caring owner with their fur baby or helping abandoned pets find a new and loving home.

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.

Puppy Care 101, Part 1: The First 0-8 Weeks

Congratulations on your new babies! Fur babies, that is. If your family dog is now the mother of a litter, you as a new puppy owner have some parental duties as well to ensure each bundle of love gets the puppy care they need (as well as some cuddles!).

An Important Note

Before you read any further, please understand that we are not encouraging anyone to home breed dogs! If you do not wish to have puppies or you don’t have the financial security or space to raise multiple dogs, spaying or neutering your current dog is the first best step you can take. We understand that in some cases there are “Whoops” moments, however, or perhaps you’ve decided to adopt from a shelter such as VOKRA or the SPCA for foster care, and if that is the case then this article may be of use to you.

If this is your very first puppy and you want to be an awesome pup parent, this post is for you as well!

Week 0-2: We Have Puppies!

When they are first born, puppies are blind, deaf, and toothless, meaning they will be especially dependent on their mama for everything from eating and sleeping to staying warm. Their first impression of their environment should be warm, loving, and safe.

We know the puppies look very cute after they are born, but did you know it’s actually a bad idea to touch the puppies constantly during the first week? The less human contact is made, the better. This is the time for mama dog to do her part as a mother by letting the puppies eat, sleep, and cuddle her; cuddling is especially important as it will regulate the puppies’ temperature for them, preventing them from getting too warm or cold. The puppies’ weight should double over time during the first week, and they will spend the majority of their day sleeping or feeding off of their mother’s milk. The milk contains the nutrients needed to help boost their immune systems.

Fair warning, their sleeping area is bound to get messy! Mama will be licking them to both keep the puppies clean as well as stimulate them so they know to urinate and defecate. You will need to clean up after everyone in the area regularly.

Week 2-3: Peek-a-boo, We See You!

Week 2 is when you get to see the puppies’ eyes and ears open at last! Their ears will usually open after 2 weeks have passed since birth, and their eyelids usually open between 10 to 16 days after birth. This is the period of time when they are finally realizing there is a bigger world beyond their mother’s care, and they’ll be finding their vocal chords by yelping, whining, and barking. Their senses will have improved, and they’ll be able to tell light from darkness. Do not force your puppies’ eyes open during this week! This could lead to permanent blindness as well as make them more vulnerable to infections.

Around week 3—only if Mama is okay with this—you as the owner can start picking up the puppies several times a day. Always be gentle and don’t take them out of Mama’s sight! They should be much heavier than they first were at birth, but their legs and bones are still developing. Be extra gentle when picking them up and putting them down!

Please note that if mom has not been dewormed during her pregnancy, then she and the puppies can start their deworming protocol after 2 weeks as parasites can be transferred from mom to her pups.

Week 3-4: It’s Time to Play

Weeks 3 to 4 are when the puppies find their sense of momentum and mobility. If there are sudden sounds or loud noises, they will respond accordingly with startled barking, yelping, and whining.

Food-wise, while the puppies may not be ready to eat regular puppy food during week 3, you can start weaning them off of Mama by giving them soft, wet food (ask your veterinarian for the right kind!). It may be a good idea to combine the food your dog vet recommends for the puppies with Mama’s milk to form a gruel. Your vet may recommend bottle feeding depending on how well the puppies take to their new food (never hesitate to ask if you’re not sure!). By the end of week 3, the puppies will be crawling, and you’ll even see lots of tail wagging.

During the fourth week, the puppies will be much more active; they’ll be standing on all four legs, running, walking, and even pouncing. Mama will be able to teach them to eliminate outside of their sleeping area. They’ll be playing more often with their littermates and learning the difference between biting hard and biting gently. The puppies will not be so dependent on Mama to help them during this week. This is when they are building their individual sense of independence, and maybe a little bit of personality too!

Week 5-6: Time to Get Involved

Now that week 5 has arrived, it’s time for puppy cuddles! This is the crucial week where the more a puppy socializes, the better it is for their well-being and the more likely they will learn to be more obedient. Walking the puppy, even if only around the house if they’re ready for outside, is highly encouraged! This is also the best time to house train them, being sure to encourage their good behaviour but not so much their bad behaviour. Be aware of household dangers while training the puppies however, such as chemicals and house plants to lessen their risk of being hurt or injured.

During these two weeks, you can start providing the puppies with individual bowls of gruel and milk replacer (do NOT use regular cow’s milk as this can upset their digestive system!). Place these food bowls in a separate room so that the puppies grow to understand where they are and are not allowed to eat (it will also discourage them from begging for food they shouldn’t eat, i.e. your food).

While training your puppy, be sure that they are not constantly itching, grooming, rubbing, or chewing on their own skin, ears, and fur. This is not normal behaviour for puppies; these are signs of an underlying skin or ear problem that should be diagnosed and treated at once. Also, be aware that bathroom accidents in your home are bound to happen while house training them. If going outside is not an option for them, use newspapers and designate a corner of the room in your home for them where they can urinate or defecate and you can clean up afterwards easily.

Week 7-8: From Dog Baby to Toddler

It’s around this time frame where it is best to bring your puppies to your veterinarian for vaccinations and a precautionary worming treatment. You can also start grooming your puppies if they are long-hair breeds or require specific healthcare, such as skin treatments.

Regular check-ups on their ears, teeth, and nails are highly recommended, not only for the great social interaction but also because the earlier you start on the nail trimming and grooming, the easier it will be to groom them, brush their teeth, and provide medicine. It’s okay to ask for help from your family veterinarian if any of these tasks are proving difficult!

By week 8, a puppy should be fully weaned away from Mama, they can start eating regular puppy food (mostly solids), and if they need to be adopted they can be. Normally, a puppy should not be adopted unless it is over 8 weeks old; this is recommended so that they can develop properly and in a healthy way.

Whether you’re learning how to be a great new pet parent, or you just love puppies in general, we hope this article has proven to be of use to you. Above all else, enjoy your new little bundle of furry joy!

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

15 Reasons to Adopt a New Pet from an Animal Shelter

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

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

Personal Benefits from Adopting Pets from Shelters

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

Benefits that Animals Receive When You Adopt Them from Shelters 

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

Community Benefits by Adopting Your Pet from a Shelter

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

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