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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.

Happy ‘Doggieween’: Halloween Treats for Dogs Do’s and Don’ts

Halloween can be fun for dogs too, if they’ll let you dress them up. But if they get into the “human” treats, it can mean an emergency trip to the vet. There are treats you can give your pooch, but be wary of the ingredients. Any kind of human Halloween treat, candy, etc. are forbidden for dogs! Lollipop sticks can get stuck in their throat and candy wrappers can cause obstructions.

This is a good time to use that obedience training. Using the command “Leave it,” if you spot your pup sniffing around; this command can be especially helpful if any candy or chocolate lands on the floor. If you see your dog ingest something they shouldn’t have, call your vet or poison control immediately!

Halloween Treat Don’ts

Carefully read the ingredients in all treats you plan on giving to your dog. Sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis, and symptoms may not show for about 2-4 days. You may not know it, but raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs too.

The artificial sweetener, xylitol, that is in a lot of “sugar-free” treats can cause sudden drop in blood sugar, subsequent loss of coordination, and seizures if ingested by your dog. Some treats contain white chocolate, which is still chocolate and a big no-no for dogs. Theobromine is the main ingredient in chocolate, which is harmless to humans but toxic to dogs.

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

Should you see any of these signs in your pup take them to your vet straightaway!

Halloween Treat Do’s

All treats for your dog should be only given for training purposes or on special occasions. Don’t let treats replace their meals and don’t let your dog overindulge on the good treats. If your dog has allergies or is on a special hypoallergenic diet, talk to your vet about what you can give them for treat options.

Don’t forget, your dog can have treats that are beneficial to their health. Dogs can get bad breath, plaque, tartar formation, and tooth decay. You can give them dental treats that cleans their teeth, freshens their breath, and controls plaque and tartar.

Don’t forget their coat and skin either! There are treats you can give your pooch that contain Omega-3 fatty-acids, which are good for their skin and coat health.

For pups who prefer really crunchy treats, feel free to give them bite-sized pieces of raw carrots! There are other certain fruits and vegetables you can give your dog too.

Halloween Treat Ideas for Dogs

Not only can you find treats in the store to buy for your pooch, but you can also find many recipes to make homemade dog treats, including online. It can be fun to make treats from scratch and there are some that you can enjoy eating too along with your pooch.

Pumpkin is an okay treat for dogs, but only in small portions. Unless your pup is allergic (which is unlikely, as pumpkin is not a common allergen), baked pumpkin makes a good treat idea. Peanut butter is also a tasty option (again, be sure it’s only given to your dog in small amounts). There are plenty of peanut butter-flavoured treats you can find in the store!

Speaking of treats, it may be handy to keep a bag of dog treats handy during this time of the year. That way, your pup will not miss out on the festivities and they receive treats that are appropriate and safe.

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.

Tips for an Enjoyable Halloween Night for Pets

Halloween is almost here! Costumes, parties, and plans for the day are likely already in place, including costumes for our furry friends. It is becoming quite popular to dress up your dog and the occasional cat in addition to the traditional partying and trick-or-treating on Halloween night. It is an enjoyable time and being socially inclined, dogs (and the odd cat) are happy to be involved in the fun. New commercials on TV appear to encourage pets go out trick-or-treating with kids!

Again, all fun and enjoyment with the right pet, but remember there are pets (as are humans) that may not be lining up to be part of the dressing up or socialization.

Pet families know their pets the best and it is important to assess how involved your pet may like to be during Halloween, or what the families’ overall plans should be. Addressing the following should help you make this a happy Halloween for the whole family:

  1. Pets can get anxiety from firecrackers (noise phobia) – skipping fireworks or boarding your pet in a safe, quiet kennel for fireworks nights are ideas to consider.
  2. Taking your pet for trick-or-treating may increase their chances of ingesting chocolate or candy, which can be toxic to them. Adult supervision for both your child and your pet is advised.
  3. If trick-or-treating with pets, putting a leash on should help keep them safe.
  4. Strangers can be wary of unknown pets, no matter how friendly your pooch is!
  5. If you are giving out candy to kids or will have many visitors, ensure your pet will not escape with the frequently opening front door.

Once safety for everyone is taken in to account, all you have to decide is if your pet will be a superhero, a hot dog, a prisoner, or will simply skip the dressing up!

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

A Brief History of Social Behaviour in Dogs

Dogs love having companionship even more so than some humans probably do! In the wild, the canine families hunt in packs and have a hierarchy system. The same is true for companion dogs, even though their social behavior may not be as well studied as in the case of some of the more wild animals.

The dog’s cousin, the wild wolf, stays together in family groups and they are also very social animals. They hunt large prey, because of their strong pack mentality, which also gives them the best chance of survival. This strategy requires that individuals within the group maintain peaceful social bonds with one another. This relies largely on non-confrontational communication and a high level of social self-awareness, with individual wolves having to coordinate, cooperate, and compromise with one another in order to stay alive and well.

While survival for the pet dog is not as tricky or fickle as it would be for a wild wolf, man’s best friend is likely hard-wired for the same level of social interaction and respect for their companions. It likely helps dogs remain social animals because they tend to live with another very social species the “dog-owner”. Socialization with other dogs as well as humans is a very strong factor in how healthy and sociable a puppy will be in the future. Going to puppy classes and interacting at the park with dogs having different personalities helps puppies learn to adapt to and be respectful of the personal space of others. Leash training helps them bond with their family while also allowing them to learn to respect the personal space of other humans. In my opinion, every dog should be socialized with humans and other pets alike.

As a dog ages, it is helpful for the individual to go for walks and playtime as this would help keep the brain fresh and the joints active. Next time your dog brings you the leash or signals intent to go for a walk, it doesn’t only signify potty time! It is him (or her) telling you that it is time to freshen up the mind and body alike while spending some quality time together.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

Pets at Work: The Pros and Cons

Have you ever felt guilty about leaving your pet at home alone when you go to work? While not every workplace is pet-friendly, there are exceptions to having pets at work that should be considered.

How Can Pets be Relevant in Your Daily Work Activities?

First of all, regardless of whether you think yourself more as a cat or a dog person, pets offer a feeling of relaxation to their owners that can certainly ease the daily pressures of work. Nurturing and looking after an animal offers a therapeutic effect relieving stress and creating a more positive environment.

Having a pet around the office means there is potential for a significant boost to productivity. Moods can be improved with a pet present and they can be a great reminder to take a break when you need to, leaving you more focused when you have to return to work.

Having a pet around while on the job can help out you and your co-workers as well. Bonding between pet owners happens naturally and encourages conversations between everyone at home, so why shouldn’t that be the case at work as well? It also helps if conversation on your part is tough to do in the first place; having a pet present can be a real ice-breaker.

Business owners, entrepreneurs, and even solopreneurs may even want to build their brand around being a service or company that not only respects pets but also cannot function without them. Companies such as Workday not only encourage their employees to bring their pets in to work but also insist upon it. Even Google has taken note of these benefits, establishing and encouraging a working environment that thrives on creativity and engagement while pets are present and supervised.

The Downsides of Pets at Work

For every pro to having a pet-friendly workplace there are cons as well. For instance, your co-workers may have an allergy to pets that will harm their work performance and decrease efficiency while on the job. Some pets may misbehave and grind productivity to a halt instead of the other way round while in an office. Some companies you work for may have a zero-pets policy in place anyway, and bringing a pet despite this policy could actually harm you and your company’s reputation – especially if it’s a restaurant!

So are Pets at Work a Good Idea or Not?

It all depends on where you work and the policies present at your company. We do not recommend bringing your pet to work where cooking and handling food for people is a daily task, nor do we recommend bringing your pet to your office if it’s not permitted. Aside from these situations, a pet can offer a sense of companionship to your work life.

Being alone in a cubicle, day in day out, can make you a little stir crazy! But having a little furry critter to lie at your feet as you work at your computer offers something to have a little chat with, even if he or she might not answer back!

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.

5 Dog Food Myths that Need to be Busted, Pronto

Have you ever given your dog food that you think may be safe for them, only to find out it isn’t? Contrary to popular belief, not everything you feed dogs is good for them, and some things you think are terrible for them may not actually be so. These five dog food myths are common enough, but they need to be busted, pronto, for the sake of keeping your pooch happy, healthy, and safe. 

Beware the Common Myths

“Myths” in this case are exactly what the word implies: untrue stories founded on misconceptions about dogs, their food, and the ways in which various ingredients can affect them.

We love our pets and want to feed them food that will help them grow and live long and happy lives, but there are a lot of conflicting stories about what constitutes a good diet for dogs. Here are the most common issues.

Myth #1 – It’s Okay for Dogs to Free-Feed During the Day

“Free-feeding” is the term used for leaving your dog’s food out during the day for them to casually graze on, rather than giving them food on a schedule. This may seem convenient and easy if you have to leave for work for the day or go to school, but it may not be as convenient to your dog’s overall health.

A dog that free-feeds their food is more than likely to become overweight, leading to all sorts of long-term problems. It also can end up being unsanitary—especially if you tend to feed your dog outside. Unwanted critters such as rodents, bugs, and even stray cats or dogs may smell your pup’s food and come to your home to eat it.

It’s best to feed your dog with the portioned amount they need and on a schedule. A vet can recommend you a schedule and the portions needed based on your pup’s current lifestyle, breed, size, and exercise routine.

Myth #2 – Chocolate is Okay to Give to Dogs

This one’s a very harmful myth and one that should not be believed for a second! Chocolate is actually one of the worst things you can give to a dog. Chocolate contains the ingredients xylitol and theobromine, which are harmless to humans but highly toxic to dogs. Whether it’s around Easter, Halloween, or any other major holiday involving chocolate, always keep it out of their reach.

If at any point you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, bring them to a veterinarian—even if obvious symptoms haven’t shown up.

Myth #3 – Bones are Okay for Dogs

Yes, dogs love to chew on bones, but it depends on both the bone and your dog. Here’s the general rule: cooked bones, whether they’re from pork, chicken, beef, or other animals, are more dangerous than raw ones because cooking makes them brittle and more likely to break or shred.

Yes, you can buy raw marrowbones from butchers and pet stores and they will be safer, but bones carry no guarantees and might break, even if they’re not too small or not too big and are cooked or raw. More importantly, they can cause your enthusiastic bone-crunching pet to break a tooth or, worst-case scenario, cause a gastrointestinal blockage that would require immediate veterinary attention.

Bones may not harm your pup, but why take a chance? Give him or her something else to chew, such as carrots or chew toys.

Myth #4 – Grains are Bad for Dogs

Actually, grains such as wheat, corn, soy, barley, and rice are not harmful to dogs. They are harmful, however, if your dog has a diagnosed wheat allergy or a food allergy that is triggered by grains. If your dog is not intolerant to wheat, however, then it’s perfectly fine to give your dog food containing other grains. They should not be the only part of your dog’s diet—it’s best that they’re combined with protein, such as chicken.

Myth #5 – Pork is Bad for Dogs

This is only slightly true. Uncooked or raw pork is most definitely bad for dogs—but once it’s cooked thoroughly (minus any rubs or spices), it’s actually as harmless as cooked chicken, beef, or any other meats. Just be sure to trim any additional fat off of the piece of pork you want to feed your dog, and portions must be appropriate for their size. While straight-up pork from loins, chops, etc. is fine, what’s not fine is ham or bacon—both are made of pork, but they are processed and contain higher fat and salt content as well as ingredients that could harm your dog.

The best way to feed your dog is by keeping their needs in mind while choosing dog food, which means their diet will change over time. After all, what is suitable for a puppy (up to one year) differs for an adult dog (one to seven years or so) and a senior dog (seven and up). You may have to alter their diet if he or she develops health problems such as diabetes, obesity, or food allergies.

Your veterinarian will guide you through the mysteries of finding the best dog food for your pup, and can help debunk any other myths you may encounter—and there is bound to be others!

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

Animal Health Week 2017

October 1st to 7th is a very special week for our pets – it’s Animal Health Week! Sponsored by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, this week celebrates the wonder of the human-animal bond, which is the unique and wonderful relationship that exists between a pet and its owner – a relationship based on unconditional love. Many studies have already defined the healing power of this bond, especially in reducing stress and heart disease, and in providing critical emotional support for the elderly and infirm.

Never judgmental, always forgiving, and possessing undying devotion and loyalty for their owners, pets truly provide us with a unique relationship that is hard to duplicate between people. Not only is the human-animal bond unique to every pet and owner, it is celebrated in unique ways as well.

Every year the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) surveys pet owners throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to learn more about peoples’ relationships with their pets. Here are some of the highlights from the past few years:

  • 84 percent of respondents refer to themselves as their pet’s “mom” or “dad&”
  • 72 percent of married survey respondents greet their pet first when they return home, compared with 13 percent who say they greet their spouse or significant other first, and 7 percent who greet their children
  • 63 percent of respondents celebrate their pet’s birthday, and 43 percent give their pet a wrapped gift
  • 87 percent of pet owners include their pet in holiday celebrations, with Christmas being the most celebrated holiday with a pet at 98 percent
  • 65 percent of pet owners have sung or danced with their pet
  • 66 percent would opt for their pet if stranded on a desert island and given the choice of a companion

As a general rule, pet owners are far more forgiving of inadequacies or misbehavior in their pets than they are for their own friends and family members! And what do our pets ask for in return? Nothing but our companionship.

So take a moment to rejoice in the human-animal bond that you share with your own pet and ensure that you are living up to your end of the bargain. Call your veterinarian to double-check that you have availed yourself of all of the preventative health measures your pet requires. Make sure that your pet is on a quality diet appropriate for his/her age and health care needs. Have your pet properly identified (i.e., tag and microchip) to ensure a speedy recovery should your pet become lost. And, finally (especially for dog owners) – grab the leash and watch your pet come alive. Go for a walk – it will do you both good!

Arthritis Awareness Month

September is marked as Arthritis Awareness Month in our country. It is important to recognize that people, dogs, and cats suffer daily from this chronic painful, life-altering condition. We all know of a family member, colleague, or friend that suffers from arthritis. Similarly, we all likely know a pet that also suffers from arthritis. We may just not know the symptoms to watch for!

Symptoms in dogs include stiffness of the gait, reluctance to jump on couches or run up and down stairs. Tiredness during walks, panting, pacing and shaking are other symptoms. Cats may show any of these symptoms as well, but also can demonstrate more subtle signs such as inappropriate defecation, over-grooming, matted hair coat, irritability, and vomiting to name a few signs. If your pet has been showing any of these symptoms, it is likely time to help his or her comfort levels by seeking your veterinarian’s advice.

Similar to people, young pets may also be affected by arthritis. Irrespective of age, the quality of life of an arthritic pet can be immensely improved through early diagnosis and treatment. Pets with a history of injuries or previous surgery are more likely to develop signs of arthritis earlier in life. While osteoarthritis is not curable, it is generally manageable with anti-inflammatory medications, appropriate exercise (swimming is a better activity than running is), glucosamine, and other nutritional supplementation and appropriate bedding for the pet. Multimodal therapy is often desirable as the pet ages, as one single intervention will likely not work in the long haul.

From a human perspective, a study in 2012 by the Arthritis Society found that one in three Canadians living with arthritis had to quit working as a result of their condition, making it one of the leading causes of long-term disability in the country. The disease costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars every year, both directly and indirectly in human healthcare costs and lost productivity. Let us educate ourselves and help spread awareness regarding arthritis in people and pets, and fight this chronic painful condition.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

5 Tips to Keep Your Dog from Jumping Up on People

Does your dog love jumping up on you when you walk in the door? Does he or she also jump up on guests when they first arrive?  You may not think it is a problem at first when your pooch is a very cute, very small puppy, but it will certainly become a problem if you don’t teach them early that jumping up on people is not acceptable behavior.

There is nothing cute about a full-grown dog running over to a small, frightened child, or a frail senior, and jumping up on them. It can be a terrifying experience and traumatizing for youngsters and for anyone who isn’t familiar with dogs or is afraid of them. Even if you are helpfully shouting, “Don’t be afraid, he just wants to play,” many people find this behaviour very upsetting, and other dog owners would agree. You have some teaching to do to break your pet’s habit!

We offer these tips on how to teach your pooch not to jump up on people

Remember that dogs greet each other by rubbing noses and, when your dog greets you, their first instinct will be to jump up so they can reach yours. As happy as you are to be so warmly welcomed, think of the future: they may jump up on you with muddy paws when you are wearing your best suit, or they may frighten or knock over a child. So, stay strong, and teach them not to jump up on anyone.

1. Establish yourself as leader of the pack

Your dog expects a “leader of the pack” to emerge from any household of which he or she is a member. Make sure they understand you are the leader or they may assume that he or she is and you will have trouble making them obey you. Show yourself to be the leader by being firm, assertive, and consistent, just like mother dog was. A leader of the pack never wavers from his or her role and you mustn’t either.

2. Ignore your dog if they jump up

Your dog needs to learn that they don’t get what they are seeking—attention, food, treats—if they jump up, whether you are coming through the door, sitting in a chair, or have a treat in your hand. Make sure everyone in the family is on board with this training and warn your guests that he or she is to be ignored if they jump. There are various ways of teaching him or her to make the connection between:

  • Getting what they want by not jumping up
  • Not getting what they want if they jump up

3. Don’t greet your dog until they are calm

When you enter the house and your dog jumps up, stop, tell them to sit, and leave the house. Come back in and try again. You may have to make many trips in and out of the house until they obey the “sit” command and stop jumping. When all paws are on the floor, you can bend or crouch down to greet them (but don’t bend over top of them in case he or she jumps again), and give them a treat. You can eventually phase out the treats.

If he or she jumps up on you when you are sitting in a chair, stand up and ignore them until all paws are on the floor.

4. Teach them not to jump up on guests

Arrange for a cooperative friend to come over, and have your dog on a leash. Ask your friend to come in and don’t allow your excited dog to go to them. Tell your dog to sit, and when they have all paws on the floor, have your friend approach. If the dog jumps up, your friend is to stop and back away. Repeat this process a few times until your dog understands that all paws must be on the ground to get the friend to come to them.

When the friend is able to come and starts to play with your dog, they must leave again if they jump up, and you have to start again from the beginning. When the dog will sit until the friend approaches and greets the friend without jumping up, give your dog a treat.

You can repeat this type of training with a friend outside in the yard or a park so that your dog knows this is not just a house rule, but a rule that applies everywhere. 

5. Be consistent

Never break the jumping rule and be patient, and never get cross with your dog while they’re learning this behavior. If you find he or she has trouble controlling themselves, work on the “sit” command separately for a while. Try giving him or her something to hold in their mouth when people come to the door or scatter treats on the floor to distract them. See that your pet gets enough exercise in order to help them control their bouncy nature.

As the “leader of the pack,” you are the one to set the boundaries for your dog and an essential one is for them to understand that jumping up on people is not allowed. Make sure he or she gets treats, playtime, or petting only when they keep all paws on the ground.

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

Why Veterinary Professionals Do What They Do!

What makes veterinary professionals take up pet care as a profession? Undoubtedly it is our passion and will to help animals in their time of need. The biggest benefit of this desire lends to the fact that compassion is not required to be taught during the training of a veterinary professional.

The beauty of pet care also derives from the patient’s family being an extension of the veterinary team. In times of illness, aging, and even in good health, the family is essentially the at-home nursing staff of the veterinary community. Our pets are adorably expressive about a lot of things (ask any pet parent and hear their pets’ unique ability to express themselves), but when it comes to sharing what they ate off the floor, which alley cat may have fought with them, feeling a tooth ache, or nausea, the information is not always as forthcoming (nor as endearing!).

Signs of chronic life affecting conditions such as allergies, gastric problems, arthritis, diminished eyesight & hearing, anxiety, and obesity are often subtle to start with. Over time, these signs slowly progress and without keen observation and routine monitoring of well-being, such symptoms can be easily missed. Do you know what the general symptoms associated with such illness might be?

There is usually a big range of nonspecific signs associated with chronic conditions such as arthritic pain, anxiety, allergies, etc. As an example, when an older pet is pacing and vocalizing for no apparent reason; this may be due to a range of possibilities including spinal pain, loss of sensory functions (eyesight, hearing, etc.), all due to anxiety related to changes in the environment, or even an old age illness.

No pet owner or veterinarian can simply hear the description of the symptoms and make a diagnosis. To best help a pet with medical concerns and to diagnose illness early, the combination of a close bond between the pet and parent, clear communication between the parent and veterinary team, and a thorough evaluation of health as well as compassion towards the implications of potential illness are essential.

While compassion is second nature to veterinary professionals (think veterinarians, vet technicians, office assistants, kennel attendants etc.), it is best used while helping nurture improved pet parenting through loving pet owners. This is why the veterinary community is advising increased vet visits. Advertising campaigns on the role of nutrition, exercise, and monitoring pet health, as well as special events at vet clinics, are all geared towards improved pet parent education. After all, by bringing a pet into their family, pet owners are signing up to be an extension of the pet healthcare system.

As the Canadian Nurses Association likes to say, “Health begins at home!”

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi