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Common Mistakes to Avoid Making as a Cat Parent

On our recent summer vacation, my wife and I met a lot of animal lovers, strangers, and relatives included. It was mostly a discussion on the happiness pets brings to our lives, how each is different, and an odd medical opinion on their pet. We were fairly taken aback when one of our relatives mentioned to my wife (also a veterinarian) that she had given her injured kitten Rosie, a dose Diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to help with pain management. We both got progressively more concerned as she went on to tell us that the kitten has been very tired and had inappetance (she wasn’t eating) since.

Very quickly, our primary concern had become the dose of diclofenac, and what potential damage it may have caused to her kidneys. Was Rosie not acting lively due to discomfort from pain or was it due to adverse effects of human painkillers given to cats? Did you know that indiscriminate use of pain medications have huge potential to cause GI ulcers, kidney damage and blood abnormalities in cats?

This episode helped reiterate the fact that there are so many things we may do (or not do!) for our pets that are actually harmful to them, without realizing the true potential of it. Thankfully, Rosie did very well within a few days of rehydrating her body and a lot of loving care from her family.

Following is a list of some other common mistakes to avoid as a cat parent:

  1. Leaving stringy toys and hairbands unmonitored in the house – can cause cats to accidentally swallow them and lead to serious intestinal obstructions.
  2. Using leftover antibiotics from before – is never ok, as you may not know the adequate dose or length of course needed. Also, as different antibiotics target different bugs it may not be a good antibiotic choice. Such indiscriminate use can lead to resistant infections and nasty superbugs.
  3. Allowing an outdoor lifestyle, without taking precautions for outdoor hazards such as fleas, worms, and viral infections (feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus) – be sure to keep your outdoor cat up to date on outdoor cat vaccines, deworming, and monthly flea prevention year-round.
  4. Feeding dry food (kibble) exclusively – this was considered ideal for cats till a few years back, but it is now recognized that a large portion of a cats’ diet should be canned or soft moist food.
  5. Believing that cats are not perturbed by environmental changes – on the contrary, cats are very sensitive to changes in their routine or environment. We should always consider and pursue environmental enrichment for these sensitive critters when it is time for a move, introduction of a new pet, upcoming childbirth, etc.

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

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.

How to Reunite a Lost or Abandoned Cat with Its Owner

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

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

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

How to Tell if a Cat is Actually Lost or Abandoned

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

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

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

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

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

If the above applies, the cat likely needs help.

Always Look for Identification

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

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

How to Return the Lost Cat to their Owner

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

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

What to Do if the Cat is Abandoned

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

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

What Not to Do

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

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

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

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

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.

How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Safe During Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for everyone. There’s so much to do, especially if you are planning to have family and loved ones visit this year. The tree needs to be decorated, there’s planning and shopping for gifts to do, there’s food and baking to prepare for…the list goes on.

What about your pets though, particularly cats? A reality all cat owners must face is a huge number of hazards to watch out for during this busy time of the year. Luckily, we have some cat care-based solutions that will help you both enjoy the Christmas season without throwing an emergency trip to your veterinarian into the mix!

Problem #1: Christmas Trees

Who doesn’t love Christmas trees? They’re a classic symbol of the Christmas season. Unfortunately, your cat is also a fan of them. It’s hard to keep kitties from playing with Christmas trees and their decorations. Glass balls, garlands, beads, fake snow, ribbons, strings of Christmas lights, candy canes…you name it, it’s all hazardous for kitty. Your cat may also get the bright idea to climb up and into the tree!

The type of tree you decide to decorate can also pose problems. If you chose to put a real tree in your home for Christmas, kitty may want to drink the water from the tree stand which contains tree oils that are toxic to cats. Accidents such as bowel obstructions and poisoning can happen when Christmas trees and cats are mixed together, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital.

Solutions: Aside from keeping a close eye on your kitty during the day, it’s best to put up your tree in a confined room where the door can be shut. Keep your kitty distracted while the tree is being decorated by providing them with toys and even a few treats away from the excitement. You may even need to put kitty in a separate room with the door shut when it’s time to decorate. You will need to confine your kitty away from the tree whenever you are not at home or sleeping as well.

If your cat’s encounter with a Christmas tree is unavoidable, there are ways to cat-proof your tree. Try using a citrus repellant to spray on or near the tree; it can add a pleasant smell for you and keep your cat away (cats hate citrus smells!). You may need to re-apply the spray whenever necessary. If you insist on using a real tree for Christmas, find a covered tree stand to keep kitty from drinking the water out of it or conceal your current one.

One creative solution we can offer is to vary your form of Christmas tree this year. For example, if you own a lot of books, why not make a book tree this year? There are lots of great ideas for how to make a book tree online if you don’t know already. You can set it up wherever kitty can’t reach, leaving you ample room for decoration!

Speaking of such…

Problem #2: Decorations

We’re not only talking about the ones you find on a Christmas tree, but also around the rest of the house. Tinsel is still sold in stores and used as a decoration, but it’s the number one hazard for kitties! Basically, anything that glitters, glows, dangles, and spins will all convince kitty to play. Even the ribbons on top of your Christmas presents under the tree can be a choking hazard.

Solution: Plastic decorations are a good alternative to the fragile glass ones offered in stores. Any decorations that are matte, less shiny, and less than likely to dangle will also be less appealing to your cat. Be sure to fasten your decorations as securely as possible and to hang them out of kitty’s reach. When it comes to gift wrapping, it’s best to avoid adding ribbons and bows entirely.

Problem #3: Christmas Plants

Poinsettias are another classic Christmas symbol, but did you know they’re actually highly toxic to cats? Holly, mistletoe, pine needles, amaryllis, and Christmas cactus leaves are also bad for kitty and could result in poisoning if ingested. If you see any signs of poisoning in your cat such as excessive drooling, vomiting, lethargy, breathing problems, diarrhea, or tremors, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Solution: Just like with decorations, there are plastic variations of Christmas plants that won’t bring harm to kitty, and you won’t have to give up decorating your home. If your kitty can’t reach certain areas in the home and you simply must have Christmas plants, keep them out of kitty’s reach just as you would with your regular decorations.

Problem #4: People Food

Both dogs and cats are guilty of trying to eat the same food humans do, especially roast turkey with gravy or ham. The smells are so enticing they can’t help but nibble. Unfortunately, human food is not okay for pets, and Christmas is another one of those holidays where pets may try to nibble on chocolate, much like on Halloween and Easter.

Solution: Offer your kitty some turkey or chicken-flavoured wet food that’s veterinarian approved instead of allowing them to eat human food (the tins wet food comes in usually contain gravy, so bonus!). Feed your kitty away from where you’re having Christmas dinner. If you have kids or are expecting children visitors, it’s a good idea to take them aside and show them exactly what they can and cannot give kitty as far as treats and food go.

We understand that these are a lot of precautions to worry about during Christmas, but don’t let this get you down! You can still have a wonderful holiday season by following our cat care advice. This is the time of the year where being with the ones you love matters the most; if you include your kitty in the mix, we’re sure you won’t miss the other stuff at all!

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.

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.

Call a Veterinarian If Feline Herpes Virus Strikes Kitty

One of the most common causes of upper respiratory infection in cats is the feline herpes virus. This virus is also known as rhinopneumonitis (FVR), the rhinotracheitis virus, and the feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1). They all sound like worrisome illnesses but, fortunately, this virus as well as its variations are quite common and can be treated and managed successfully by your veterinarian.

FVR is very contagious and many cats are exposed to it at some point in their lives. A cat may develop a mild case that clears up without formal treatment. However, the majority of cats who have the virus never get rid of it altogether and the risks are that it will reoccur, become chronic, and, if not treated, encourages secondary effects and bacterial or other infections. A cat with this virus in their system may be a lifelong carrier.

Watch for These Symptoms

An FVR or FHV-1 infection has flu-like symptoms and is frequently referred to as “feline influenza.” As you might expect from this name, the first obvious symptoms are upper respiratory problems such as sneezing, a runny nose, redness, inflammation, swelling of the inner lining of the eyelids, eyelid spasms, and squinting.

The next symptoms that may occur later are a fever, cough, lethargy, and anorexia, which may develop as kitty loses their appetite. After the initial symptoms disappear, a secondary bacterial or some other type of infection may develop, usually in the eyes, nose, or mouth.

There are Several Ways Cats Can Catch this Virus

Both wild and domestic cats of all ages, sizes, and breeds are prone to the feline herpes virus. It is usually spread through direct contact with the secretions of an infected cat. The virus is also airborne; a cat can catch it when an infected cat sneezes near them. Humans can’t catch herpes from a cat and neither can a dog, and it is a different herpes virus from the one transmitted to humans.

Any discharge from a cat carrying this virus will infect other cats. It is spread by sharing food and water dishes, sharing litter boxes, and when cats groom each other. Sadly, an infected cat can become a latent carrier and spread the virus without showing any symptoms. If symptoms do reappear, it usually means the infected cat has been subjected to emotional, medical, or environmental conditions that have weakened or stressed them out, such as an illness or a physiological stress.

Any cat can be at risk, but Persians and other flat-faced cats are more prone to feline herpes. Cats with weakened immune systems and kittens and senior cats are also at risk. If your cat has ever been diagnosed with FVR or FHV-1, be on the lookout for a recurrence.

What to do If You Suspect Your Cat Has the Virus

If you note the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection or any flu-like symptoms in your cat, take him or her to a veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment if any is required. Even if no treatment is needed because the disease is very mild, their condition requires ongoing supervision.

How to Reduce the Chances of Your Cat Catching Feline Herpes

There are several ways to reduce the chances of your kitty getting an FVR or FHV-1 virus:

  • Have your cat vaccinated against rhinotracheitis as a kitten, and be sure to take him or her to your veterinarian for booster shots as advised by your vet. Although the vaccine won’t completely protect your cat from the virus, it will lessen the severity of an upper respiratory disease. It will also prevent or reduce the possibility of secondary infections.
  • If your cat receives all of their core vaccinations and boosters, they will strengthen their immune system so that he or she will be less likely to be affected by bacterial and viral threats.
  • Isolate any of your cats showing symptoms of the virus from the other cats in your household (if there are any). This may be helpful temporarily when the symptomatic cat is showing signs of being affected by the virus, but it is important to consider that there may already have been or will be exposure from one cat to the other if they live together.
  • Keep your cat carrier clean. Disinfect it if it is used by another cat.
  • Keep your cat strictly indoors.
  • Do not let your cat mingle with unknown, unvaccinated cats if he or she is going to meet a friend’s cat, for example. 

Tried-And-True Treatments Help With Unpleasant Symptoms

Even though it is unlikely that an infected cat will ever be completely rid of the feline herpes virus, there are a number of treatments for the symptoms that accompany it and treatments for any secondary infections that may follow. A veterinarian can determine what, if any, treatments are required.

  • If your cat is sneezing but doesn’t have a fever, a cough, an eye infection, dehydration, or a loss of appetite, your veterinarian may decide that no medication is required, but will want to see them again if other symptoms occur.
  • For a serious respiratory infection, an eye infection, relief of pain, or to prevent a secondary infection from occurring, your veterinarian may prescribe medicine.
  • If kitty is refusing food and liquid, your veterinarian will recommend one or more treatments to make sure he or she gets the food and liquids they need to recover.

You can help your distressed cat feel better with special care:

  • Clean their eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth so that hard, uncomfortable crusts don’t form from discharges from the eyes and nose.
  • Put a humidifier or vaporizer in the room they use the most to relieve their nasal congestion.
  • Offer them their favourite nutritious food and treats to keep him or her interested in eating, and lots of water to keep them hydrated.
  • Make sure their water and food bowls are kept clean and the litter box is changed frequently.
  • Encourage rest by keeping them calm and comfortable. Make sure your family leaves them alone until kitty is feeling better.

To help keep your kitty free from adverse effects of feline herpes virus, make sure he or she has all the vaccinations they need and see that they have an annual checkup and boosters; this combination will keep their immune system strong. If you recognize the telltale feline herpes virus symptoms, take kitty to a veterinarian right away for an examination.

As long as you carefully follow the advice you are given, your kitty will soon be back to normal and any residual problem can be managed.

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.