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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.

Things to Know about Ringworm in Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of Ringworm

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

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

How Ringworm Gets Around

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

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

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

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

Good Treatments are Available

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

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

These are the usual methods to treat ringworm:

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

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

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

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 Prevent Pesky Parasites from Plaguing Pets and People

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

What We Mean by “Parasite”

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

Parasites Can be External or Internal

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

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

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

External Parasites 

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

Internal Parasites

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

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

Keep Parasites at Bay with a Clean Environment

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

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

Indoor Cleaning Tips:

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

Outdoor Cleaning Tips:

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

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

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

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

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

Dental Diseases in Dogs

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

There is Such a Thing as Bad Doggie Breath: Halitosis

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

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

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

What is Periodontal Disease?

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

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

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

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

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

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

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Health Issues in Dogs

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

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

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

Prevention

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

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

Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs and What to Do About It

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

What is Hypothermia?

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

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

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

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

Signs of your dog’s dropping body temperature are:

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

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

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

Which Dogs Need Protection the Most?

Dogs who are most at risk for hypothermia are those:

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

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

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

Here is What to do for Your Cold Dog

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

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

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

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

Tips for Caring for Your Pet When the Weather is Cold

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Pet Oral and Dental Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Merry Christmas for Pets

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays!

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

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Dog

Christmas is here again, and you’re ticking off each person on your shopping list. But wait—did you forget about Fido? Maybe you’re not sure what to give your dog for a Christmas present. Fortunately, we have a lot of gift ideas for dogs to offer you including lots of DIY (do it yourself) gift ideas.

Of course, when it comes to anything involving your dog, be wary of their overall health and safety. Whether it be a toy or treat, if you’re not sure about a certain gift, ask your veterinarian.

Idea 1: Fancy Store Bought Items

If you’re someone who considers your dog as your fur baby, then these ideas may be right up your alley. How about some doggie perfume? Yes, they have scents made especially for your dog at pet supply stores, but please do make sure to read the labels carefully and consult your vet if you’re concerned about allergies. Along with the scent theme, there are doggie candles as well. However, it may be best to avoid the candles altogether (that way there is less risk of fire accidents for you and Fido) and instead opt for vet-recommended sprays and scents to give to your anxious pooch.

If your dog will wear them, you can get some adorable Christmas-themed sweaters, jackets, and booties. If the cold weather arrives early, the booties may especially come in handy!

Let’s say you’re a fitness buff, and you’d like your pooch to be one too. Consider investing in a doggie treadmill or another such piece of doggie-centric fitness equipment (so long as you have the room in your home and your budget, of course!). If you and your pup are outdoor enthusiasts, reflective gear and backpack pet first aid kits are great stocking stuffers!

Idea 2: Store Bought Basics

There are many different types of toys you can buy your dog in the store. Basics include food or treat dispensers, which makes them work for their treat, is mentally stimulating, and makes for good exercise. You can also find non-stuffed squeak toys, which are great for playing tug of war, but be wary when it comes to the squeaker (especially if your dog likes to tear things apart!).

Don’t forget the treats! There are a lot of special Christmas-themed dog treats you can purchase, Again, make sure you carefully read the ingredients and be sure they’re right for your dog, especially if they have food or even skin allergies.

Speaking of treats and food, you can get them a new food dish or dishes perhaps if their old ones are looking dingy and worn out. For on-the-go dogs, you can get them a doggie water bottle.

Is their leash or collar looking worn out too? Perhaps it’s time for new ones. You can also get personalized dog tags to attach to their new spiffy collar.

Maybe their dog bed or pillow is looking like it has seen better days? It could be time for a new one, and there are so many awesome pillows out there!

Idea 3: Endless DIY Projects 

The Internet offers endless amounts of DIY projects you can make for your dog. Pinterest has grown to be one such resource for crafting your own doggie stuff, such as:

  • Dog beds
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • A toy box to store all their playthings
  • Treat jars
  • Baked goods (be sure to account for any possible allergies in your dog, and make sure the ingredients are dog-friendly!)
  • Personalized stockings and dog toys, using fabric and tennis balls to create an animal or perhaps braid some fleece for rope

That’s just to name a handful! 

Idea 4: Activities

If you have snow this Christmas, skijoring would be a fun activity for both you and your dog, provided you like skiing. Skijoring involves your dog pulling you by running ahead in the snow while you’re on cross-country skis. Be sure to stay on a trail or straight road to prevent accidents and injuries!

Maybe go out for the day at an indoor dog park if it’s too icky outside (providing you can get there). If there are no local parks nearby, perhaps pampering your pup at a doggy daycare would be fun, or sign them up for an indoor training course.

If it’s cold outside and they have everything they need as far as dog care goes, the best gift you can give your pooch is some much-needed cuddle time by the fire, or on the couch, or on your bed—wherever is comfy. Snuggling with your fur baby gives them attention, affection, and love, not to mention it will keep you both warm on a cold day.

Is it time for their winter trim? Treat them to a doggie spa day and go for the full package, nails included. If there is no spa nearby or they’re closed, consider taking Fido to your veterinarian—they can offer grooming and nail trimming too, as well as some cuddles!

If you know any other dogs in the neighborhood that get along with yours, set up a playdate with toys and treats. Maybe get together at the nearest dog park, and while the dogs play, you and the owners can get to know each other over a hot drink. 

You’ve heard of hide and seek for kids, right? Well, who says it’s just for them? Try hiding a treat or favorite toy of your dog’s and make them come find you. If you have kids, this is a great game for the whole family to play. Get the kids to throw the dog’s favorite toy or treat to get them away while you all go hide. 

If you have snow, and your dog likes it too, just playing about in the yard makes a great gift (being careful all the while, of course). Make doggie and human snow angels and just playing around in the snow is a great bonding experience.

Some of the best gifts aren’t bought at a store but come from the heart. Just spending time with your dog and making sure they are happy can be a great gift, especially if you’re low on funds for Christmas shopping.

When in Doubt, Ask for Help

Your dog’s safety and health are very important! During this time of the year, there can be many things that you might not be sure of, like treats and toys etc., and that’s okay. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or an expert about any dog-related items you’re not sure about. Asking for help makes sure you and your dog have a happy and healthy holiday season! 

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.

Ask an Expert: Abnormal Dog Nails

Q: My dog has been losing nails and some nails are bent out of shape. Why could his nails be abnormal?

A: Dogs that have an active lifestyle or dogs walked on pavement generally wear their nails short.

Nails that are prone to fall easily or appear abnormal in shape and size are signs of medical problems in dogs. The most common condition causing misshapen or broken nails is called Lupoid onychodystrophy. This condition may be due to multiple underlying causes and is easily treated using a combination of medication, dietary management, and supplements.

Other common causes for such symptoms include nail bed infections due to bacteria or fungus.