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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

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

Ask an Expert: Puppy Contact

Q: When is it safe for my puppy to come into contact with other dogs? 

A: Puppies have a developing immune system and should always be vaccinated and dewormed before they come in contact with other dogs.

Puppies generally receive their first vaccination at 8 weeks of age. It is best to wait another week after the vaccination till puppies can meet other vaccinated, healthy puppies and dogs. It is important to encourage meet-ups with friendly, vaccinated dogs in order to help socialize puppies at an early age.

After the 2nd booster, typically administered at 12 weeks of age, your puppy should be protected enough to meet and play with all dogs at the playground.

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.

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks

Congratulations, you’re a mother! Well, your cat is. While your cat is like any mother, you as a new owner of kittens have a few motherly duties yourself in terms of kitten care for these precious new babies.

That being said we do not recommend home breeding of cats! Spaying and neutering (especially if they are outdoor cats) is also important especially if you are not financially ready or have the space for properly raising a litter of kittens. We understand though that “oops” moments happen however, or perhaps you’ve even adopted your kitten from a shelter like VOKRA or other rescue shelters for foster care, so this article should help prepare you for those sorts of situations.

And if you just got your first kitten, this post is for you too!

Week 0-1: Babies have Arrived!

I’m sure many have heard that newborn kittens are born with their eyes shut, but did you know they are also born with their ears shut as well? Without any hearing or sight, they rely on their sense of touch and smell. Their mother will lick and clean them, a lot! This helps to stimulate the kittens, who also need their mother for warmth, stimulation of intestinal function for their bowels and bladder, and source of nutrition.

As with most babies, kittens eat, sleep, and poop. But unlike human babies, before being litter box trained, after they eat, mother cat licks their bellies and genital areas, stimulating digestion and keeping them clean.

Kittens need their environment to be kept consistent so they don’t develop hypothermia or hyperthermia. At this stage, your kittens will eat constantly which is vital to their growth, development, and immunity buildup against diseases.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: each kitten has a preferred nipple they feed from and rely on its unique smell to locate it.

Week 2-3: My, What Bright Blue Eyes You Have!

Not too much happens this week, but every bit of development counts. Your kittens’ eyes should be starting to open, and their eyesight will be blurry. DO NOT force open their eyes! This can result in permanent eye damage, making them more vulnerable to infections. Keep watch for signs such as crustiness and white/yellow secretions. If you think something doesn’t look normal, bring them to your veterinarian’s office.

Like human babies, kittens are also born with blue eyes. As they get older, their eyes may change to the colour they will be permanently.

Your kittens should be twice the size they were when they were born!

Week 3-4: Tiny Explorer Ever Growing. Hello, Squeaky!

At this stage, the kittens’ sense of smell is getting better, their eyes may start to change colour, their ears are standing up and their hearing improves. Like humans, kittens get milk teeth (baby teeth) and eventually adult teeth.

They start to be more aware of their siblings and surroundings, and start to stand and crawl, exploring away from mom for short periods. But this still means you should resist handling those cute little bundles of fur. Too much handling in early stages upsets mom, and in worst cases, mom can reject them because of it.

By the end of this week, your kittens should be four times their birth weight. As they start to hear better, they will squeak when hungry, purr when they’re happy, and hiss when they’re scared, which means they’ll be extra sensitive to loud noises.

Week 4-5: Kitty Bobble Head, Potty Training, & Mom Weaning

Their hearing should be well-developed but their eyesight is still improving. At this stage, your kitties are starting to try and balance out, as they have reached the “bobble head stage” in which their head is bigger in proportion to their body. They will be exploring more but still sticking close to mom. The kitties can now start to groom themselves.

This is considered to be the weaning stage, to help reduce their dependency on mom. As the kitties start exploring more, be careful of things around the house that can be harmful to them such as chemicals, plants, and small openings as to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

During the weaning stage, provide a small litter box and shallow bowl with kitten milk replacer (as to not upset their digestive system with cow’s milk)in a small separate area. The litter box should be easy for the kittens to climb into.

With litter box training, keep the kittens from trying to eat the litter in case of obstruction; this is not normal behaviour. Make sure you get the appropriate kind of litter. Also, be wary that like any animal or human, they may have accidents or miss the litter box. Be sure their bedding is easily washable and keep their area clean regularly.

Week 5-6: Boy or Girl? Human Cuddles!

The kittens’ eyesight should be fully developed. They will now start to use the litter box voluntarily. The kittens may still be nursing, but as you start to help them wean, you can introduce them to a mix of canned kitty food or dry kitty food with kitten formula. You can try and place a small amount of food or formula on your finger and see if they will lick at it to accept it. Not all will take to food so patience is needed. Your vet may also provide you with diet recommendations should they be needed – just ask!

As the kitties become more explorative, they will be more graceful, start playing with toys, and pounce on each other. This is the time to start giving them lots of human cuddles! Handling them physically helps their development by getting them used to humans and help them be more social and friendly.

Weeks 6-8: The Cat Babies are Now Toddlers!

This time frame is typically when it’s best to take your kitties to your veterinarian for their vaccinations as well as precautionary worming treatment.

As you know, they are becoming a lot more active and playful, which means their claws are developing and they are going to start scratching to sharpen their nails. This is the time best to find a suitable scratching post to teach them that anywhere else (curtains, furniture, etc.) equals bad behaviour.

Between weeks 6 and 7 is the time you can gently start grooming them. Use a brush, give them a bath (careful with the soap), and handle their paws regularly. Their paws should have five toes on each front foot and four toes on each back foot unless they are polydactyl (more than the usual number of toes on one or more paws). Handling their paws helps to make nail clipping easier (gently press to extend the nails), cuddles, and handling their ears and mouths help make basic health inspections, medicating, and teeth brushing easier. This also helps give mom longer “me time.”  This interaction makes an active part in their socialization process without being intrusive.

Kittens can be homed from about seven weeks if they are fully weaned from mom.

By week eight, they should have all their baby teeth and be eating four small meals a day and mostly solids.

Be sure to keep records of their weight, to be sure they are gaining steadily. Look for signs of sickness: loss of appetite, sleeping alone (at a very young age), rejection of milk from mom, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, discharge from mouth, eyes, anus, etc. When in doubt, talk to your vet.

Now you’re on your way to having happy, healthy kitties!

Part 2 is available now! Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: Age 8-12 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.

Wait Until After Easter to Adopt a New Pet

How great would it be to have a puppy or kitten or rabbit running around the house for Easter? They sure are cute. But unfortunately, not every cuddly pet adopted during this time of year gets a happy ending. By getting a pet on impulse, you could be putting you, your family, and especially your new pet under a lot of pressure to adapt and get used to something so new so fast…as if Easter wasn’t enough of a busy time of the year!

If you are planning to adopt a new pet, it’s best that you wait until after the busy Easter season. That way, you and your family will have more time to learn about the necessary pet health care and training needed by your new family member.

Why Holiday Seasons Aren’t the Best Time for Adoptions

Adopting a pet is a more serious decision to make; it requires more forethought and planning than you may realize. There are also some dangers in purchasing any pet as a holiday gift:

  1. At Easter time in particular, parents often have a vision of their surprised and happy children holding baby animals when there may be no suitable place on the property to raise them. Any baby animal will grow into an adult, and so they will require extra living space as they grow.
  2. Your child may be too young to accept the responsibility of caring for a pet. Any small animal can be mishandled or mistreated by young children who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Many Easter pets could be hurt by accident when they are dropped by excited children or not given proper support when held. Also, keep in mind that a frightened or hurt animal may harm the child as well.
  3. You may not have the time and opportunity to teach your child how to properly handle and care for new pets that are brought into the family unexpectedly.
  4. All animals need a safe environment, and holiday seasons present particular dangers not normally present, such as decorations, candy, and treats that may attract pets but are toxic to them.

Consider Your Lifestyle Carefully When Adopting a Pet

Animals always need love and attention, so they require a commitment from owners for a lifetime of pet health care. Ask yourself the following questions before you adopt:

  1. Can you and your family provide the care needed? Do you have time to housebreak a kitten or a puppy? Do you have a place to house your new pet? Will you be able to feed the new pet on schedule? Does your new pet require exercise and do you have time for that?
  2. Do you have the money for pet food or any other supplies that are needed to care for your pet: a leash, a harness, a cage, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, and other accessories?
  3. Will you be able to pay for veterinary care, which may include spaying or neutering, vaccinations, medications, flea and parasite prevention, and emergency care?
  4. If you buy a pet for your child, are you prepared to take over its care if your child loses interest and neglects the pet?

Animal-Related Easter Gifts Can Be More Welcoming and Exciting 

If you have decided to adopt a new pet and wisely choose not to spring it on to your family at Easter (or any other holiday season), consider animal-related substitute gifts. After deciding on the type of animal that would fit your lifestyle, announce at gift-giving time that the family is going to adopt a pet after the holidays. Present gifts of books and videos on pet care for the particular animal on which you have decided, or gift certificates for pet care items and accessories.

Once the Easter season is over, make sure everyone has had time to become familiar with the specific pet health care, training, and attention that will be needed for the animal you have chosen. It will then be the perfect time to select and adopt your new pet and, soon after, welcome him or her into your home. Enjoy your new family member!

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.

Credit: Pixabay

How a Pet-Friendly Home Offers Safe Cat and Dog Care

A pet-friendly home offers cat and dog care with no threats to their safety from hazardous objects and materials in the environment. With a little effort, not only can your pets live and play safely but also you will be free from the worry that the animals in your care could come to harm if you are not able to watch over them every minute. Read more

How To Introduce A New Pet Into A Multi-Pet Home With Care

A smooth transition may be challenging but if you are patient and careful each time you introduce a new pet into a multi-pet home, you can successfully raise several pets, including a mix of cats and dogs together, in harmony. The saying “fighting like cats and dogs” doesn’t apply in family homes where the two species learn to coexist happily. Read more

Got a New Puppy? Read These Tips For New Pet Care

To help your puppy adjust to his new home and family, we have new puppy tips! Consider using them for new pet care to help make the adjustment easier for you and for your new little friend. Don’t be alarmed if he doesn’t seem happy at first. Some dogs take a while to warm up.

Do Some Preparation Work Before Bringing The Puppy Home

Your puppy will eventually get used to his new home and family, but he will feel happier sooner if you have done a bit of preparation for his homecoming. Read more