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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!

Should Pets be Adoptable in Pet Stores?

It has been very satisfying to witness passionate Burnaby residents discuss the outcome of City Council’s review on Burnaby’s animal control by-law in September.* We haven’t spared any avenue from talking about the issue, from one-on-one discussions with the newspaper and social media. It is lovely to witness what an animal loving city we live in, hence the passion and lively discussion, no matter which side of the fence we might be on.

The two key issues to be discussed by the council at the next meeting on August 26* are – whether or not to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and whether to put in breed-specific legislation on pet ownership. While the former topic has been debated extensively, we must not forget the implications of a breed-specific ban, without stressing the need for pet training, socialization, and leash regulations.

Both issues are multifaceted and it will be challenging to come up with a consensus. Coming up with a simple answer such as banning sales or banning pitbulls would amount to tackling the issue lightly. I sincerely hope that no single answer is sought during this review. We are a forward-looking city in most aspects of business and environmental initiatives. I would like to see the same approach taken to tackle this very sensitive topic on animal care and protection, one that other cities in the province might follow.

I agree with the animal advocate groups and rescue groups about the abundant need for local adoption of homeless or abandoned pets in not just Burnaby but in our province as a whole. We need to consider that a pet store sales ban would address a very small proportion of the homeless pet situation when it comes to local dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Also, a simple ban on pet stores would move the problem to puppy and kitten mill animals being sold through the Internet and backyard breeder type sales which may include the purchase of animals from out of province or even from across the border. If animals for sale are being imported from the United States for sale in Burnaby, it is decreasing the likelihood of adoption of local shelter-based adoptions. In my opinion, it is trivial to discuss whether these animals are coming from puppy mills or not, or if they are being sold by a pet store or an individual; as a city, our emphasis should be on minimizing homeless animals locally.

One of the pet store owners has been reported to contact local feline shelters to help sell their cats and this effort should be lauded and encouraged by not just the city of Burnaby but also the shelters involved. It could be a match made in heaven, assuming both parties meet the quality standards, as the abandoned pets in shelters could replace the sale of imported pets as opposed to competing with each other.

In my opinion, the City Council should consider a futuristic animal control model where pet stores may be able to provide adoption of pets within specified guidelines. The guidelines may include certification and ongoing inspections of the facility where pets are made available for adoption.

This would also include a commitment to home local pets only, which are obtained through the SPCA or local shelters so as to discourage local puppy and kitten mills and out-of-province adoptions. After all, the council is deliberating the draft on animal control issues rather than animal sales alone.

Likely, an association between pet stores and local shelters would lower the cost of adoption for new pet families as most veterinarians in Burnaby are committed to decreasing homeless pets through discounted veterinary services for shelter and homeless animals, TNR (Trap-neuter-return) programs, spay-neuter clinics, etc. Pet stores willing to work within City Council guidelines such as re-homing local adoptable animals only as well as in association with local animal advocacy groups would still be able to provide pet adoption if they so choose. Thus, the suggestion would be to allow adoption through pet stores, as opposed to the current model of pet sales.

Everyone in the pet care industry needs to do more in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Education of prospective pet owners involves a thorough discussion regarding pet care needs, the cost of pet care, licensing of pets, need for neutering, longer life expectancy of pets (thus a longer commitment to your new friend), and support from the avenue it was adopted from. Fostering prior to adoption should be encouraged by adoption agencies including pet stores.

Adopting a kitten or puppy can be a bigger challenge as a first-time pet – new pet owners should be given an option to adopt an adult. This may help make their first pet experience a smoother ride compared to the surprises a kitten or puppy would bring in day-to-day needs.

The way to address the need for responsible pet ownership is not only through legislation but also through public education. As individuals, we should consider adopting locally instead of buying pets.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005 and BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their August 2013 issue

Great Tips For Summertime Dog Flea And Cat Flea Control

It’s summer! Now that it’s here, pet owners should bear in mind that dog flea control and cat flea control are still important and they should consult their veterinarian for advice about the best products. Some people are surprised to learn that flea protection is a good idea for the entire year and if you have let flea control slide during the spring months, hop to it!

Fleas Are More Than a Pesky Nuisance

It is heartbreaking to watch your beloved dog or cat struggling to cope with the terrible itching caused by fleas and, even worse, some animals are allergic to flea saliva and have to deal with almost intolerable itching:

  1. An adult flea has a dark brown hard shell and is about 2.5 millimeters in size. Fleas can be seen by the naked eye. Fleas don’t fly but can jump long distances and have claws on their legs that allow them to attach themselves to animals, people, carpets, etc.
  2. When fleas bite the skin and feed on the host’s blood, it causes mild to severe itching and may cause a dreaded allergy dermatitis in animals with sensitive skin. This type of allergy doesn’t go away even after the fleas have been removed, and requires special treatment.
  3. A large flea infestation can cause an animal to develop anemia, can cause hair loss and skin abrasions (usually from non-stop scratching), and fleas serve as hosts for tapeworms.
  4. Fleas can invade your entire home and yard and bite people as well, and it may take months to get rid of them if you don’t engage in a full-out cleaning assault.

It is Important to Consult a Veterinarian about Flea Protection

There are a lot of flea control products on the market and you want to make sure you buy exactly what your pet needs, which is why you need the guidance of a veterinarian. For example:

  1. Some people who own both a cat and a dog may be tempted to use the same flea protection for both animals. Cats and dogs do not have the same physiologies and flea treatments not only affect them differently, but also some formulations for dogs can be toxic for cats.
  2. Your veterinarian will recommend the best products to control fleas for your pet, and you must be sure to follow the directions to the letter. Consult with your vet about your pet’s lifestyle in order to find the best-suited product—usually topical or oral—for them and for different time periods of coverage. Most products are used monthly.
  3.  Keep an eye on your pets after flea treatments are applied to make sure there isn’t some unusual reaction, which could be drooling or loss of coordination. While this is very unlikely, it is better to be safe than sorry.
  4. If your pet already has fleas, the same product that provides future protection can also kill fleas. However, it won’t protect you from having to clean your house from top to bottom to rid your home of the nasty critters.

It is Wise to Protect Pets from Fleas all Year Long

If you live in a warm region—and Vancouver is usually really warm, neither too hot or too cold!—you will need to make sure your pet has flea protection all year round. Most fleas can survive if they find warm hosts such as cats and dogs. Their eggs can live in protected areas such as animal dens, crawl spaces, and porches, and will hatch in the warmth.

Some pet owners prefer to avoid using chemicals on their pets constantly and fear it could be harmful. However, there has been a great deal of research demonstrating that veterinary-approved flea protection products such as topical solutions (Advantage, Revolution, etc.) and oral products (Bravecto, Sentinel, Program, etc.) are safe.

Use our dog flea control and cat flea control tips, and consult your veterinarian for the most appropriate products for your pets. Follow directions for their use carefully, and may you never suffer the agony of having to rid your home of fleas. We hope you are enjoying the warm weather without fear of those pesky pests!

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.

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part two of our “Caring for Kittens” series! This is an exciting period for you and kitty as your adventurous, playful little pet will be forming their very first impressions of people and the world. During these weeks, you will need to monitor his or her learning experiences and ensure they are both healthy and safe.

Normal Characteristics between Weeks 8-12

By week eight, most kittens know how to use a litter box. If your kitten does not, you can housetrain them in a few days by providing them with a litter box. Scoop kitty up and place them in it each time he or she starts to urinate or defecate. Never punish them while they are learning this important skill. Be patient.

You should also expect the following changes and habits:

  • During these weeks they will sleep about 20 hours a day.
  • When awake, kitty will be on the go, running, climbing, jumping, stalking, pouncing, and more than eager to play. Now is the perfect time to offer them paper bags, plastic, flexible straws, and anything they can chase as toys.
  • Kittens have very small tummies and will thrive on 4 small meals a day. They need access to a water bowl at all times.
  • They love to use their claws and will be happy to scratch and shred anything on which they can get their little paws—even you! You can deter this behavior by providing a scratching post.
  • They will grow bigger and heavier every week.
  • Whenever you run your hands over your kitten, there should be no lumps, bumps, or any indication of sensitivity to touch. If there are, you need to contact your veterinarian.

How to Make Sure Your Kitten Stays Safe

  • Cover any exposed wires in your home, and keep cleaning products, insecticide baits, and sharp objects out of kitty’s reach.
  • Make sure kitty doesn’t have access to the attic or basement if these areas aren’t well ventilated or if they expose tiny, inviting places where kitty can wiggle in and can’t get out.
  • Introduce him or her slowly to other household pets and supervise them until you are sure they all get along. Again, you need to be patient with this; all animals need lots of time to get used to each other’s scent.
  • Check for doors in your house that don’t close properly or give kitty access to rooms you want kept out of bounds. Also check for broken screens on windows and outer doors that could allow kitty to escape from the house.
  • Have your veterinarian insert an ID chip under kitty’s skin to make sure they can be identified if he or she is lost or comes to harm and is taken to a shelter or clinic.
  • Invest in a travel carrier. You will need it when taking kitty to the veterinarian and for visits elsewhere, and you should keep it near kitty for a while so that they will grow more used to it.

Checkup and Vaccinations

Kittens should have a nose-to-tail checkup from a veterinarian and a vaccination program started or planned.

When kittens stop receiving mother’s milk, they no longer have immunity from diseases for which their mothers were immunized or developed antibodies against. Kittens usually receive their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks, boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age, or 4 weeks after their first visit. Let your veterinarian be your guide to the vaccinations needed. Typically during their first visit your kitten will receive vaccination against feline distemper. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if there is any possible need for vaccinations against FELV (aka feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s lifestyle. 

Feedings

Make sure your kitten eats an appropriate diet—your veterinarian will be happy to make recommendations. If your cat receives canned food, don’t let it stay out for longer than 20 minutes. Canned food should be offered early as it does have some health benefits for kittens; you should also gradually introduce your kitty to dry food at this age.

Avoid letting him or her eat food intended for humans or dogs. Keep their water bowl full; it needs to be changed frequently in order to give them access to fresh water. If the water has a peculiar odor or taste and kitty turns away from it, you can give them bottled water.

Useful Training Tips for Kitty

  • Get them to socialize: Take time to pet and play with your kitten daily and introduce him or her now and then to other people so that he or she will learn to like and trust humans in general.
  • Teach them to accept the carrier: Put treats inside the carrier and, when he or she is used to wandering in and out, shut the door and move them to another room, then let them out right away and give them a treat. Take short trips in the car followed by a treat so that he or she will not be afraid of the carrier.
  • Train them to use their scratching post: If he or she starts to scratch your furniture or carpets, discourage them and then move them to the scratching post.
  • Teach kitty to come when you call: Use their name often and, when he or she starts to look up or at you when they hear their name, reward them with a treat.

Congratulations, you now have a healthy and happy kitten in your life!

Did you miss out on part 1? Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks.

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.