Top 5 List of Gift Ideas for a Pet Lover this Christmas

Like the rest of the family, pets deserve a gift or two this holiday season! However, it’s important to choose safe and appropriate presents for our furry friends.

If you’re planning on gifting a pet that belongs to a relative or a friend, there’s a wealth of toys, treats, and accessories available. In general, we recommend only gifting pet-specific items, just to ensure that they’re safe.

Here is our top 5 list of gift ideas for a pet lover this Christmas:

  1. Grooming date for their pet (ideally at their regular groomer)
  2. A commitment to housesitting their pet on their next weekend getaway
  3. Gift card from a pet store
  4. Appointment with a pet adoption home to explore the possibility of pet adoption
  5. A bag of their pets’ favourite treats (never goes wrong!)

Other creative things like a portable water dispenser or a paw print kit are also an option. If you want to invest in a more expensive gift, there is a large selection of pet monitor cameras for cats and dogs, so you can keep an eye on them when they’re home alone.

Things to watch out for

On the no-go side, if you’re not a pet owner yourself, you should know that many human foods can cause bloating, digestive issues, vomiting, or diarrhea in dogs and cats.

Chocolate, for example, is one of the best-known food hazards to dogs. Onions and garlic can be extremely harmful to a cat.

So, whatever you choose to give a furry friend for the holidays, we recommend it’s something specifically made for them.

Need inspiration?

You can find even more helpful gift ideas in our articles—there’s one specifically for your pooch, and another one for your pet-friendly human family members (and their dogs and cats too).

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Creative Ideas to Keep Pets Out of Christmas Decorations

If you’ve ever raised a cat or dog, you probably know that the holidays tend to bring new levels of challenge when it comes to keeping your furry friend safe. With all the exciting decorations, delicious food, and new people coming and going, the holidays can be an overwhelming time for pets.

One of the most common causes for pet injuries around this time of the year involves some kind of holiday decoration, whether it’s a Christmas tree or a strand of lights. Avoid unplanned visits to the veterinarian this winter with these creative ideas to keep pets out of your Christmas decorations.

How to Pet-proof Your Decorations

There are a number of decorations in the home that can be hazards for your pets. Of course, every animal is different, and what might be completely safe for one could be a serious danger to another. However, here are a few common Christmas decorations to keep a watchful eye over:

  • Christmas trees are a cherished and classic holiday decoration. However, because of their height, and the fact that they’re normally loaded with enticing, dangling decorations, they’re also one of the most common causes for holiday pet accidents.
  • Christmas lights are beautiful, but pose a couple of safety risks to many pets. The light bulbs, being so colourful and exciting, might be a temptation for a bite-happy dog. Likewise, playful pets might bite right through the cord, risking electric shock or even a fire. Finally, animals of all kinds have been known to get tangled up in the strands of lights, which could lead to injury.
  • Garlands are often seen in the home around the holidays. Whether they’re artificial or real, these decorations can be hazardous to keep around mischievous pets. Your cat or dog might get tangled up in the garland, possibly injuring themselves in the process. Also, the needles on some garland’s might shed, especially if you’re using the same decoration year after year. If your pet ends up getting these needles in their mouth, they could be a choking hazard.
  • Candles are a great way to set the holiday mood. Unfortunately, many animals find them alluring for the same reasons as humans, and could end up burning themselves or even knocking the candle over and starting a fire. 
  • Wrapping paper can be a hazard as well. If your pet is prone to eating little bits of whatever they can find, be sure to properly dispose of even the smallest scraps of wrapping paper after the gifts have been opened.

These are just some of the more common holiday hazards that could wind up causing trouble for your pet. Keep your cherished decorations in good shape, and keep your pet safe by taking a few simple precautions.

Choose Decorations Wisely

There are a huge variety of decorations available for trees, and taking the time to choose the right ones will go a long way in ensuring a safe holiday for everyone.

  • Fragile hanging baubles and glass decorations can be risky temptations, particularly for dogs who like to try eating whatever they can get their paws on. 
  • Since these decorations are liable to shatter, we advise keeping them off the tree, or at the very least, ensuring they’re higher up so your dog can’t reach them. 
  • The same goes for cats, since many are enticed by dangling objects. If you have a particularly mischievous cat, we’d recommend avoiding any tempting decorations entirely, since they’re likely to try and climb the tree to get at whatever catches their eye.
  • We also advise against any food-based decorations, such as strings of popcorn. These are just another temptation to most animals, and could be the thing to send them after your Christmas tree.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Real Trees

A real Christmas tree is a beautiful and nostalgic piece of holiday decoration, but you should consider carefully if it’s the right choice for your pet. Needles from a real pine or spruce tree can be a hassle and a hazard. Not only will your pet likely track them all through the house, but also they could be choking hazards for smaller animals, or possibly even be mildly poisonous depending on the type of tree and any chemicals present on the needles. In general, an artificial Christmas tree is likely to be the safest option for your pet.

Make a Barrier Around the Tree to Protect it from Nosy Pets

If you can’t seem to shake your pet’s interest in your Christmas tree, consider blocking access to it in some way. You could use a baby gate or a moveable play-pen to enclose it, or even block the way with larger gifts if your pet is small enough. The more you do to keep your pet away from the tree in general, the less likely they are to run into trouble.

Use Sprays to Deter Pets from the Tree

Pet deterrent sprays are available at most pet supply stores, but if those don’t work, or you’d prefer to make something at home, you can try spraying it with a concoction of water and turmeric. We recommend consulting with our veterinarian first to find out the safest way to deter your pet without bringing risk to them or your family.

Keep Electrical Cords Safe and Secure

Electrical cords pose a major hazard to pets, particularly to dogs with a knack for biting on things they shouldn’t. If possible, route Christmas light cables and extension cords high up so your pet doesn’t have the chance to chew on them. If this isn’t possible, you could always securely tape the cords to the floor. Just make sure to keep an eye on your pet to ensure they don’t try to pull the tape off in order to get at the cable.

Ensure the Tree is Well Secured

If you’re going to put a Christmas tree in your home with your pet, you should ensure it’s as securely placed as possible. Even small animals can climb up the tree, push it, or get tangled up in the branches, causing it to topple over. Not only can this injure your pet, but also it could hurt a family member, or at the very least wreck the tree, the decorations, and other objects in the room. 

Avoid this by ensuring the tree is well-secured to its base. It’s even better to have an additional point of contact, ideally at the top of the tree that’s fastened to a wall, ceiling, or curtain rod, to ensure the tree can’t be knocked over—no matter what.

Secure Your Decorations to the Tree

Another great way to ensure your decorations stay on the tree is to securely fasten them when you place them. You can use twist ties, clips, string, or stiff wire to do this. It’s best (and easiest) to do this for every ornament as you’re hanging them, and it’ll go a long way in keeping your decorations out of the mouth of any curious pets.

In General, Choose Safe Decorations Around the House

We all have our favourite seasonal decorations, but it’s important to keep your pets in mind when choosing them. There are a few decorations that can be major hazards to your pets, and should either be placed with extreme care or avoided entirely. 

Candles are a common choice for holiday decor, but are quite risky to keep around pets. The flickering flame is likely to catch the interest of your pets, particularly if you have an especially curious cat in the house. No matter what kind of pet you have, be very careful with candles, as they may try and play with it, potentially burning themselves or even knocking the flame over and starting a fire. If you want to achieve the same look, consider battery-powered candles with no heat or open flame. 

As you can see, decorating a house for the holidays with a pet in the equation comes with a few extra considerations. However, with a little extra thought and preparation, you can keep your home looking festive and beautiful, just the way you like it, while ensuring your pet has a safe and comfortable holiday as well. 

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How to Get Your Cat to Exercise More (They Need it Too!)

Cats aren’t exactly renowned for their highly organized exercise regimens. When you think of a cat, you probably think of naps and carefree stretching, punctuated by brief explosions of energy. Although outdoor cats usually get a decent amount of exercise in a day, it can be tougher to keep an indoor cat in shape, so that’s what we’re going to focus on in this article. 

In combination with a proper diet, exercise will go a long way to keep your indoor cat in the best possible health. Otherwise, you run the risk of your cat becoming overweight, which can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and more. With that in mind, here are Hastings Vet’s top ways to get your cat to exercise more:

Exercise games for cats

Physical games are some of the most effective (and fun) ways to get your cat more active. Although the energy levels of cats differ widely depending on their age, breed, and personality, you should always try to play with your cat as often as possible. Some of the best things you can use to play with your cat are:

1. Feathers or other objects on sticks and strings

The majority of cat toys are some variation of a lure on a string, attached to a stick. Think of it like a fishing rod, only you’re trying to catch a four kilogram predator instead of a fish. Moving the stick around mimics the movement of a small animal, which will get your cat’s hunting instincts going and encourage them to go for the ‘kill’. This can be a lot of fun for cats and humans alike, and is a great way to encourage your indoor cat to get some exercise, all while honing their natural instincts.

2. Playing with a ball

Playing with a cat-friendly ball is another great way to get your cat moving. Seeing an unassuming ball rolling along the floor, practically begging to be pounced on, is basically irresistible to most cats. Simply rolling it around is usually enough to spur your cat into action, keeping them active while promoting their predator instincts. Obviously, make sure the ball isn’t small enough for them to swallow, and keep an eye on your pet just in case.

Build the indoor environment with exercise in mind

Playing with your cat is great, but you don’t want your pet to solely rely on you for exercise. Setting up your indoor space with your cat’s activity in mind is a great way to make sure they’re getting enough exercise, even when you’re not around to tempt them with a toy. Cats love to climb, scratch stuff, hide in little places, and generally cause mischief, so outfitting your place with things to help with this will not only save your furniture, it’ll help keep your cat healthy as well!

Some of the best ways to set up your space for your cat to get exercise are:

1. Getting a scratching post or a cat tree

This is one of the best things you can do for your cat. Although there’s a common joke that the more time you spend finding the perfect scratching post, the less likely your cat is to use it, this isn’t always the case. A scratching post will likely see a lot of use, especially if you rub a bit of catnip on it once in a while. If you’re able to, get a cat tree with a scratching post included. This way, your cat has something to climb around on, a high-up place to relax, and a scratching post all together in one convenient package. 

An important note on scratching posts is that it should be the right one for your cat. Get one that’s tall enough that they can fully extend against it, and ensure the post will support their weight. The better suited the post is to your cat, the more likely they are to use it. 

You can also experiment with other things to get your cat moving around the house. Some cats love those long tubes that they can run through and hide in, and some might just be satisfied with a few boxes here and there for them to climb in. Play around and see what your cat likes best, and what gets them moving the most. 

2. Cycling a few toys in and out to keep things fresh

Cats love a good toy, but like kids, they tend to get bored of the same ones eventually. Keep it exciting by rotating toys in and out, encouraging your cat to go on the hunt and get active at home. The more interesting the toy, the more time they’re likely to spend playing with them, so make sure they’ve got enough to do around the house!

3. Give your cat an elevated spot

Cats love to find a vantage point to survey their kingdom (your home) and watch the world. Try to find a good (and safe!) spot in your house, somewhere they can get a good view of everything. If you’re able to put this spot near a window, that’s even better. This is a great way to foster your cat’s natural hunting instincts, and is more likely to get them into their natural mindstate, promoting a more active lifestyle.

4. Make time for your cat!

While having stuff at home for your cat to play with is great, nothing is more fun than playing with their person. Make sure you’re making as much time as possible to play with your cat. Whether you’re whipping a fake mouse on a string around, or simply chasing them throughout the house, your cat is sure to have a lot of fun and get a lot of exercise if you simply engage with them. You might get a few scratches along the way, but that’s part of the joy of cat ownership, right?

Keeping your cat in good shape

It can be challenging to keep your indoor cat in a healthy lifestyle. However, with a little bit of care put into their toys and their home environment, along with ensuring you’re frequently available to play with them, you’ll be able to stimulate them and keep their natural instincts sharp. If you’ve done the above, but your cat is still acting more like Garfield than a frisky kitten, you should consult your vet to see what other changes can be made.

If you have more questions about keeping your cat healthy, please don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital today!

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The Healing Power of Service Dogs for Our Veterans

For tens of thousands of years, humans and dogs have had a long-standing symbiotic relationship. They’ve helped us find food, protected us from predators, and provided much-needed companionship. So it’s clear that humans and dogs have an intertwined relationship. It can be difficult to discuss the history of one without discussing the other. This long history between us and our dogs carries on today, but not only when it comes to choosing a pet.

These days, fewer of us need to hunt to survive, or be protected as we spend the night in the wilderness. However, dogs are still helping us in an extremely important way: therapy and emotional support. Although any dog owner will tell you how helpful a dog is when they’re feeling down, there’s one group in particular that benefits from the inherent kindness and loyalty of a dog: our Canadian veterans.

A Brief History of Service Dogs

To understand the amazing impact service dogs can have on today’s veterans, we should take a look at the history of dogs helping humans out. Although we’ve co-existed with domesticated dogs for thousands of years, there’s evidence that they’ve been working in a service role for almost as long.

For instance, a piece of art discovered in Pompeii was discovered depicting a dog guiding a blind man. This depiction dates all the way back to 74 CE, during the rule of the Roman Empire. This is the first known example of a dog guiding a blind person. Other examples have been found from across the world, illustrating hundreds of years of dogs helping humans navigate their disability.

In 1780, the Paris hospital Les Quinze-Vingts began training dogs to guide blind people for the first time, formalizing the service role for the first time. From here, more and more dogs were specifically trained for this task until they became indispensable.

During the first World War, dogs played a crucial part in supporting troops on both the British and German sides. Whether it was delivering supplies or messages, leading medics to wounded troops, or keeping an eye out for enemy spies, dogs proved that they could support humans in more ways than previously thought. After the war ended, humans still made use of service dogs. Germany was the first nation to assign guide dogs to their veterans after World War I, pairing up around 4000 blind veterans with a faithful companion by 1927. 

That same year, an American dog trainer named Dorothy Harrison Eustis wrote an article about the German guide dogs in The Saturday Evening Post, an American magazine. By this point, Eustis had been working for a few years in Switzerland, training dogs for the police and military. After the article was published, she received a letter from one Morris Frank, a blind man in America who couldn’t believe what he’d heard about Germany’s guide dogs. He asked her to train him a dog, and to teach him how to train them himself, so that he could help the thousands of other blind Americans become self-sufficient. Eustis agreed, and trained a dog for Morris, who spent the rest of his life in the company of guide dogs (all of which were named Buddy). Eustis would go on to open an academy for training guide dogs in the United States, which inspired a movement across North America and Europe to do the same.

By this point, it was clear that dogs had a lot to offer when it came to helping people with disabilities. However, it’s only in the past fifty years that the modern training process has become the norm, allowing people from across the world to gain the advantage of working with a guide dog. What’s also changed in the past fifty years is our understanding of what a service dog can help with, particularly in regards to our veterans.

Of all the wounds that soldiers sustain when serving in active combat, few have been as poorly understood as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Because research on this mental illness is still in its infancy, we don’t know everything about helping veterans battle PTSD. However, research over the past few decades has suggested that service dogs have a crucial part to play in treating this mental illness. 

How Service Dogs Can Help Treat PTSD

In a study conducted by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, it was found that around 10% of veterans studied experienced depression, and another 10% struggled with anxiety. PTSD affects 11-20% of soldiers who saw combat, depending on which conflict they served in, and still more struggle with MST, or military sexual trauma. These mental illnesses can be extremely difficult to handle on one’s own, and are commonly linked to suicidal impulses, self-destructive behaviour, and difficulty with social adjustment.

Today, there are many organizations that train service dogs and connect them with veterans. Although these are also concerned with helping veterans after physical injuries, the growing knowledge of PTSD means mental health is becoming more of a priority for these organizations. Knowledge of other mental illnesses is growing in tandem with research on PTSD, allowing us to gain a better understanding of how to help people who have experienced trauma.

The National Institute of Health found in a study that interacting directly with an animal can monumentally improve a person’s socialization, as well as help stabilize a person’s mood. Furthermore, studies in the field of psychology have researched the effects of animals on people suffering from PTSD, and found that it can reduce symptoms by 80% simply through basic interactions. This is amazing news, but why does it happen?

Studies have shown that when we interact with an animal, our brains release oxytocin into our systems. This chemical is sometimes called the “love hormone,” or the “cuddle hormone,” as it’s often produced when we do either of those two things, helping us to bond and build trust. When our brain releases oxytocin, we feel happier, calmer, and more at ease. It helps to mentally ground us, and can soothe the symptoms of mental illness. The most amazing thing is that these results are easily replicable – as increased levels of dopamine and oxytocin can be seen after just twenty minutes of interacting with a service dog. 

For veterans struggling with high heart rates due to stress disorders, having a trusted and trained animal can actually be the difference between life and death, allowing the veteran to calm down and return to a more mentally grounded state. Similarly, studies have suggested that supplying veterans with a service animal can help them feel less alone, potentially reducing the disproportionately high rate of veteran suicide. 

All types of animals have been successfully used to treat patients struggling with previous trauma. From dogs and cats, to horses, and even iguanas, animals of all kinds have been shown to positively impact veterans dealing with trauma after returning home. Although the science is still in its early stages, initial results are so promising that the Department of Defense has invested $300 000 in research for animal-assisted veteran therapy. 

Guiding Our Veterans into the Future

It’s true that science can’t definitively say that there’s a link between service animals and recovery from PTSD or MST. However, subjectively, there’s a strong body of evidence to show that it can make all the difference for veterans trying to readjust to civilian life. As an example, The Wounded Warriors Project has been matching veterans with service dogs for almost twenty years, helping them in their battle against mental illness. 

If you ask us, having a service animal is invaluable when it comes to navigating life after trauma. As we approach Remembrance Day in Canada, we’re reminded of the countless men and women who have made unbelievable sacrifices in the course of their duties. And while remembering these sacrifices is incredibly important, it’s equally important to provide support wherever possible. Whether a veteran is returning home with an observable physical injury, or an invisible mental illness, or both, service dogs can be instrumental in helping them overcome their challenges, and guiding them into a brighter future.

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How to Teach your Child to be Gentle with Pets

Having a furry companion in the family can be a real joy, and there have been multiple studies showing the benefit that having pets at home can have on a developing child. However, if you’re looking to introduce your child to a new pet, or a new child to your pet, you’ll need to put the work in to make sure both are as happy and comfortable as possible.

It’s important to teach your child to respect all animals, not just pets, from an early age. However, since cats, dogs, and rabbits are the animals they’ll most likely come into contact with, they can be the perfect starting place to teach your child the importance of respect and gentleness for all living things. 

Teaching your child to be gentle with animals will not only provide a safe and peaceful environment for you and your pets, but it could help prevent any potentially nasty interactions, such as dog bites, with unknown animals down the line. No matter how well-behaved the kid, as their parent, you should always keep an eye on them when they’re around animals, particularly in the transition phase as they get used to having a pet in the house. Even the gentlest child can hurt, annoy, or aggravate an animal without meaning to, thanks to their limited motor skills and still-developing sense of boundaries. 

While each family has their own specific way of teaching important lessons to children, we believe the best way to make a lasting impression is to lead by example. Young children, with their ever-expanding minds, are constantly absorbing information from the world around them, most of all from their parents. Understanding what kinds of behaviours you’d like to see from your child, and then modelling those behaviours, is the number one way to start seeing positive change from your child’s animal encounters.

Encouraging desired behaviours

Although the exact list of ideal behaviour may shift a bit depending on your family and your pet, there are a few basic ground rules that will help provide stability and happiness for everyone involved. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Overall respect and gentleness when interacting with animals
  • Calm play, and avoiding over-exciting the animal
  • No abusive behaviour, such as hitting, prodding, yelling, etc.
  • Leaving animals, particularly dogs, alone when they’re in their crate unless absolutely necessary
  • Leaving animals, especially dogs, alone while they’re eating
  • Understanding how to pet animals, and doing it calmly
  • Not chasing after animals that want to be left alone
  • When meeting a new dog, never approaching it straight away; instead letting it come to you

Although your child should know each of these, rattling each one off at the same time is unlikely to stick in their brain. When in doubt, think of the old mantra “show, don’t tell.” Kids learn by watching, and by doing, and this is equally true when learning how to respect animals.

Teaching your child proper behaviour

So what’s the best way to model proper behaviour around animals? We recommend working backwards from the behaviour you’d like to see, and figuring out how you can create teachable moments to leave a lasting impression. For instance, show your child how your pet likes to be touched. Do it with them first, in order to give an example. When they’ve observed the proper technique, allow your child to give it a try. Work with them until they’re able to properly pet the animal without corrections or reminders, and be sure to emphasize how much your pet likes it when they’re touched properly.

Children, and especially toddlers, must learn to allow dogs to approach them first, rather than vice versa. They should understand that while many animals look cute and cuddly, they may not be comfortable around new people, or may only like to be touched in a certain way. If you and your kid are out and about, and you spot a friendly looking dog, make a point of letting your child see you ask for the owner’s permission to pet it. Then, invite the dog to come to you, and have your child do the same thing. 

For your own pet, reinforce that your child should do something else while your pet is in their crate, eating, or doing their business. If they don’t understand straight away, try drawing comparisons. How would your child feel if someone tried to scratch them behind the ears while they were busy with sleeping or eating? Make sure they understand that, just like people, animals need private time away from others.

Above all else, make sure your child understands that your pet is a living being with emotions, and a personality, not a toy. While a young child may not fully understand the difference between their cat and their favourite stuffed animal yet, it’s important to reinforce the distinction as often as possible. Again, drawing comparisons to how they’re expected to behave around people can be useful—for instance, just as with people, your child should understand never to throw things at your pet, sit on them, or play too roughly.

Reinforcing gentle behaviour

Lengthy lectures usually won’t have the desired effect on your child—instead, we recommend first modelling the behaviour you’d like to see from them, in essence, setting the best example possible. From here, it’s important to back up what you say, and help your child understand that they need to behave in the same way you do. After explaining the importance of treating your pet respectfully and gently, lay out clear consequences for your child if they don’t. There’s no need to go overboard; a short time-out should get the message across just fine. 

Additionally, making the punishment fit the crime, so to speak, is a great way to reinforce lessons you teach your child. For starters, if you notice your child acting roughly or teasingly with your pet, you should separate the two immediately. This protects your child from a fed-up animal, and your pet from unnecessary grief. Likewise, if your child is using their toys to throw at your pet, take them away for a period. These consequences will not only help them realize they’ve done something wrong, but give them a better idea of exactly what they did wrong, and help them connect their actions with the ramifications.

Helping everyone get along

Instilling the importance of treating all animals with respect will not only help protect your child from run-ins with upset pets, but also help them develop into better people in general. Understanding how to be gentle, kind, and respectful to animals will help your children develop better social skills and healthier relationships later in life, whether that’s with people or pets. 

If you still have questions about teaching your child how to be gentle with animals, how to make the transition period of a new pet as smooth as possible, or anything else to do with your four-legged companion, don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Vet today!

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

Pet Halloween Costume Dos and Don’ts

Halloween is an exciting time for just about everyone. Kids get to dress up and run around on the hunt for candy, adults can hang out on the couch and help themselves to the treat bowl, and everyone else can celebrate in their own way. However, there’s one part of the family who might not have such a great time during this holiday, and that’s our pets.

Between fireworks going off through the night, constant door-knocking and bell-ringing, and countless people milling around in scary or unusual costumes, it’s no wonder why so many pets get overwhelmed on Halloween. The sensory overload can cause a lot of stress on your pet, making them more likely to try and run away (even from home), and also possibly getting frightened and becoming aggressive with people or other animals. With all this hyper-stimulation going on around them, it’s easy to see why a pet Halloween costume might not be the greatest idea. 

With that said, some pets are much more lenient and it can even be lots of fun for you and your pet when you find a costume that everyone loves. Here are our veterinary staff’s dos and don’ts for any pet-friendly Halloween costume.

DO: Ensure the costume is easy to wear and unrestrictive

Like humans, not all pets are so into Halloween costumes. While some animals might have a great time in that hilarious banana outfit you bought online, others might find it extremely annoying. A good rule is to ensure your pet isn’t restricted in any way by your choice of costume. All their senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, should be unimpeded, and they should also have a full range of motion. Ensure too that the costume doesn’t affect their ability to bark, meow, or even worse, obstruct their breathing in any way. 

DO: Give the costume a trial run

Bear in mind that these are good tips if you choose to costume your pet, but it doesn’t change the fact that your pet just might not be a fan. Give the costume a trial run or two before Halloween, and see how they react. If they’re loving the costume and loving the extra attention, then it should be safe to dress them up a little for the real occasion. However, if your pet is acting stressed out, shy, aggressive, or otherwise behaving strangely, we recommend taking the costume off.

DO: Choose a simpler accessory if your pet doesn’t like their costume

If your cat or dog just can’t get down with the costume you’ve picked out for them, don’t take it personally. Every pet is different, and some may prefer to show off their Halloween cheer a little more…minimally. If you’re looking for something less involved to dress your pet up in, we recommend something like a bandana. Assuming you don’t tie it too tight, and that it’s not too large for them, pets will normally forget they’re even wearing it.

DON’T: Go nuts with the costume

It can be tempting to do something really elaborate for your pet’s costume. They’re your companion, and you want them to have as much fun as you! However, the more complex and bulky the costume, the more likely your pet is to get sick of it. If you do choose to costume your pet, (and they’re okay with it), then go for something simple that isn’t likely to bother them.

DON’T: Force a costume on a pet that doesn’t want it

Consent is important, and that goes for throwing a costume on your pet as well. If they’re showing any signs of discomfort or unhappiness, even if they were okay with wearing it before, don’t force it on them or force them to leave it on in the hopes that they’ll get used to it. They’re more likely to get more scared, anxious, or frustrated, leading to further potential problems.

DON’T: Ignore what your pet is trying to tell you

This is one of the most important rules of thumbs for pet ownership, and that’s paying attention to the messages they send. Behaviour, any noises they might make, and especially body language can all be excellent clues to understanding what’s going on with your pet. 

Above everything else, pay careful attention to your pet. You understand them better than anyone else, and they’re counting on you to help them feel safe, comfortable, and happy this Halloween. With some careful planning this October, bearing these tips in mind, you’re much more likely to have a fun, pet-friendly holiday. 

Do you have more questions about making Halloween as safe as possible for your pet? Don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Vet today!

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How to Protect Pets from Getting Lost

Every pet owner dreads the thought of their beloved fur baby getting lost or going missing, but sadly it does happen. Some cats and dogs love to dash outside if the front door is opened and escape. Others may leave beyond the fenced backyard out of curiosity’s sake. Outdoor pets are at greater risk of this scenario, but indoor pets can get lost too if you’re not careful. Whatever may happen, there’s nothing more upsetting than not knowing where your pet is and they’re lost.

We know all about having that feeling of anxiety and stress that comes with lost pets. The best way to protect your pet from that unfortunate sort of event is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips on how to best protect our pets from getting lost or going missing.

1. Always Hold on to Your Record of Ownership

By holding on to the papers that certify you as a pet owner, you can ensure that if anything should happen to your pet that you have the documentation on hand when you need it. This paperwork should include an up-to-date phone number and address where you can be reached if your pet is found. 

2. Make Sure Collars are Always Worn

While some cats and dogs don’t like them, nevertheless a collar with an ID tag should be kept on your pet at all times. Wearing a collar and ID is a requirement in some housing areas, such as apartment buildings and townhouses.

You must keep the name tag’s contact information up to date too, as you would with your record of ownership. Most pet stores offer name tags and collars for purchase if you need a new one.

3. Invest in a Microchip or Tattoo

Collars are always helpful when it comes to identifying pets, but they’re not failproof solutions. A collar can fall off a pet if they get caught on something when a pet is running, or they can fall off, or you may have been trying to put it on your pet and they ran away instead. Not all pets like to wear a collar either (even though they have to!).

Ear tattoos are one way to identify a pet. They’re usually provided to kittens and puppies when they get spayed or neutered. The ear tattoo will usually consist of numbers and letters registered at your local veterinary clinic, which you can report if in the event you’re the one who found a lost pet and they have this number.

Microchips are more readily available than ever before. This form of ID is implanted into your pet’s skin. It’s less visible but it’s still an effective form of identification. If a lost pet is found without a collar, the veterinary clinic or animal shelter can scan the microchip in order to access your contact information. 

These sorts of pet identification are worth investing in if you’re ever concerned about your pet getting lost. They can speed up the process of reuniting owners with their lost pets tremendously!

4. Be Safe While Outside

No animal can resist the call of the wild outdoors, but it is our responsibility as pet owners to protect them from harm. Always keep your dog on a leash when out for a walk or when outside. Be aware of outdoor dangers such as traffic, unfamiliar animals, and anyone who doesn’t concern themselves with your pet’s best interests.

By practicing safe outdoor activities, you will not only bond with your pet but also ensure their safety and health. For more tips on staying safe, you can read our past article; if you’d like to prevent emergencies from happening at all, we have some tips about that too which you can read here.

5. Considering Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Several studies have shown that a disinterest in roaming is one of the main aftereffects of neutering or spaying pets. When a dog or cat is in heat, they’re more likely to create all sorts of problems and discomfort to their owners. This can include hyperactivity, noise, and acting inappropriately. Roaming is when a female dog in heat will leave their home in search of a temporary mate. The end result is usually a litter of puppies to worry about.

Spaying or neutering pets can not only minimize overpopulation, but also prevent your pet from getting lost or wandering away when in heat. If this is a concern for you especially, we offer this surgery at our animal hospital. For more information on spaying and neutering benefits, you may refer to our previous blog post on the subject.

We hope this article was informative and helpful to you! If you have any questions relating to lost or missing pets, please contact us.

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How to Tell Your Cat is Stressed

Stress. It happens to everyone, for many reasons. Did you know that pets can feel stressed too?

Although both cats and dogs can get stressed out, cats are a little more concerning in terms of identifying stress thanks to their natural means of hiding their pain. Cats are predators by nature, so from their point of view displaying weakness means giving other predators an advantage over them.

The more stressed out a cat may be, the more they will try to hide that pain from you. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your cat’s behaviour and make note of any disruptions that have happened recently. Such disruptions may be the underlying cause for your cat’s anxiety.

Common causes of stress in cats

There are several causes of stress and anxiety in cats, mostly due to their daily routine being disrupted:

  • Moving to a new home
  • A new pet has been introduced to the house
  • Competition for food and water (if your home has multiple cats)
  • A new baby has arrived
  • Guests are visiting
  • A change in your cat’s diet has occurred
  • The litter box is too small, not cleaned enough, or placed next to the food and water
  • A change in your routine, such as being away from home for longer periods than normal

Some of these changes are preventable and easily remedied after your cat’s stress has been diagnosed. Other changes, however, are pretty big and unavoidable. The best thing you can do in terms of unavoidable change is to keep your cat’s routines as normal as possible while these bigger changes are going on. Keep an eye out for any of the below symptoms in the meantime.

The signs of stress in cats

Typically these are the top signs of a cat that’s very much stressed out:

  • Overgrooming, especially around their legs and belly
  • Inappropriate behaviour involving their litter box (urinating and defecating where they shouldn’t)
  • Aggressive behaviours (newer than per usual), such as biting, scratching, and hissing
  • Inactivity (especially if their personality is playful by nature!)
  • Trying to escape constantly
  • Loss of appetite or excessive eating
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cat ‘flu’ (i.e. a runny nose and eyes)

What’s frustrating about these signs is they are very similar to both stress in cats and disease-triggered symptoms! If any of these signs are present in your kitty, it’s time to stop stalling and take them to the vet.

What can I do for my cat?

The only way to properly decrease a cat’s stress and anxiety is to remove the stressors and causes. One of the best first steps you can take to achieving this is to discuss your cat and their stress and signs of it with your veterinarian. They can make a few recommendations such as diet, litter box, and if needed separation tips if you own multiple cats.

It’s worth mentioning that keeping vet appointments stress-free can help too! Before your appointment, get your cat used to their carrier. Leave it out in the open for your cat to pop in and out of, and throw the occasional treat inside it (not too many treats though!). Leave your cat’s favourite soft bedding or pillow inside of the carrier; familiar smells can be a great comfort to cats.

Once at the vet office, continue to keep your cat’s anxiety to a minimum. Only your veterinarian can determine whether the signs of stress are because of an underlying disease or they’re the beginning signs of one. They can also guide you on further prevention tips to keep your cat’s stress to a minimum.

Outside of going ahead with vet visits, there are several ways you can decrease your cat’s stress and prevent further behaviour problems at home:

  • Keep routines as normal as possible. Cats hate change (even though some changes are unavoidable!). The more you can keep routines as normal as possible, the better. Always practice kindness and patience with your cat if you’ve moved to a new home, for example.
  • Playtime is great anytime! Your cat may not be getting the activity they need. Be sure to make playtime a priority to lower your cat’s stress levels.
  • Cats prefer their world to be vertical. Adding a new cat tower or tall scratching post or perch can give your cat the luxury they need.
  • Afford your cat a hiding space if need be. Don’t force your cat to be social if they don’t want to be. If you have guests in your home, tell them the same.
  • Never, ever yell at or punish your cat for inappropriate soiling. These actions increase stress in cats, not decrease it!
  • Keep these rules in mind with your family and be consistent. For example, if you have a no-table rule (i.e. the cat is not allowed on the table) that you follow, but a family member allows your cat to do this, this can really confuse them and cause further stress! Again, patience and kindness are the best actions for this step.
  • Pheromones and anti-anxiety medicine for cats are a possibility if all else seems to fail. You can ask your veterinarian for recommendations or a prescription, or even purchase a pheromone diffuser through them. Be sure that when you receive these forms of stress relief for cats to follow your vet’s directions exactly.

Do you have any more questions or concerns about stress in cats? Give our staff at Hastings Veterinary Hospital a call. You can also book an appointment if you want to get an official diagnosis or you’re seeing the signs and need some extra help from a vet!

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Home Care Tips for Pets

Even though lockdown restrictions are being lifted in Canada, pet owners and their families are still required to practice safe protocols such as social distancing and self-isolation. If you own a pet and must remain in quarantine or are practicing self-isolation, you mustn’t forget to take care of your pets as well as your family and yourself! Here are some good home care tips for pets you can apply to your routine.

1. Have your vet’s contact info on hand

Post the phone number of your pet’s veterinarian on your fridge or have them on speed dial on your phone if need be. Having that kind of information on hand now is better than to struggle to look it up while there’s an emergency taking place at home.

Even if you’re self-isolating, there are ways to bring your pet to your veterinarian’s office in case an appointment is needed. Several veterinary hospitals (including ours) have set up safety protocols to avoid spreading COVID-19, and from the look of things, it’s tough to say when these protocols will be lifted even while lockdown is being released. You can view our protocols here to see what kind of precautions vets are taking right now to ensure you and your pet are kept safe.

2. Get creative with indoor games

Just because you must self-isolate does not mean your dog or cat or both still don’t need to exercise. Keeping your pets active will prevent future problems such as obesity from happening sooner than later, plus it keeps you active and going too.

Try getting creative with indoor games for you and your pets with some or all of these ideas:

  • Walk around the house together with your dog, as if you’re out on a walk. Do this as often as needed. If you have a backyard where you won’t be exposed to lots of people and you take precautions such as wearing a mask or cover-up if you’re sick, you can play with your dog outside.
  • Move around some furniture and create ramps out of books, chairs, or bulky household items, then guide your pet around and on them with a favourite toy or treats (not too many). They’ll be quite curious about this new environment and may be as eager to play as you are!
  • Try hide-and-seek with pet treats; hide them in places where your pet will have to grab, jump in and out of, or walk to get them. Empty boxes or laundry baskets are a good start for some. Be sure not to go overboard with feeding them treats though!
  • Tug-of-war is a classic, even post-COVID-19. Use any toy that is good to tug on and won’t break apart easily. Be sure to play within a wide open space and move furniture out of the way if you have to. Above all, play safe!
  • Try three cup. The objective of this game is to test your dog’s sense of smell. Get three cups and line them in a row in front of your pet. Put a treat under one of them while your dog is watching, and then give them the ok to show you which cup is the right one. When they choose right, praise them and let them have the treat. Once your pet gets the hang of it, feel free to make it more challenging by mixing the cups around after placing a treat under the correct one.

Need some more ideas? Check out our previous blog post about indoor activities for dogs. Feel free to adapt them to cats if you’re a cat owner.

3. Keep walking your pooch

Dogs still need to be walked regardless of whether or not they must stay in quarantine. Though your daily routine may have been changed by everything that is happening right now, having a schedule in place for your dog can help give your life some structure. After all, your pet needs to be cared for no matter what happens next.

Do keep walking your pooch outside, but stay safe and follow the protocols outlined in your neighbourhood, such as physical distancing and wearing a mask if you’re sick. Try to find public spaces where there aren’t a lot of people in the same area.

4. Nail trimming and grooming

Pet nails and fur never stop growing! Again, having a schedule for this sort of pet care at home can help you get back a sense of balance to your daily routine, even if it’s been radically changed.

  • Groom your pets regularly per your veterinarian’s instructions. Make sure you integrate it into part of your daily routine so you remember too. Brush your pets more often if they’re long-haired and less frequently if they’re short-haired.
  • Likewise, it’s a good idea to mark down dates when it’s best to have their nails trimmed.
  • Keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary; some symptoms of hair loss and over-scratching the ears can be red flags for problems such as ear mites or stress.

Be sure to check out some of our videos on some of our care tips for pets at home!

5. At-home dental care and exams

Although veterinary dental care is the best kind of dental care for pets, owners can still practice good hygiene while they’re in quarantine. Check on their mouths periodically by gently lifting their upper lip to get a look at their teeth, from front to back. You can ask for your vet to provide you with pet-friendly toothpaste and a toothbrush if needed at your next appointment, or pick some up from your local pet store. Follow the instructions from your vet if you need to brush their teeth yourself.

6. Diagnosed with COVID-19? Here’s what to do

Sadly some pet owners in BC have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you’re experiencing the symptoms such as a fever or shortness of breath, here’s what you absolutely must do:

  • Leave all pets out of your bedroom, but inside of the house to prevent exposure to others.
  • Quarantine yourself in your home for 14 days upon arriving home from traveling or upon initial detection of symptoms—your pets must do the same too.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after touching pet food and water, or your pet’s toys.
  • Wear a mask at all times to prevent spreading the disease to your pets and loved ones.
  • Do take your dog outside to the bathroom, but you absolutely should wear a mask before going outside, and wash your hands before and after your dog has done its business.

We’re here for all of your at-home pet care needs! Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

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The Healing Power Between Humans and Their Pets

Stuck in quarantine? Cabin fever? This bizarre era of quarantine has obviously changed life as we know it for the time being. One respite that many have, however, is a pet. Unusual circumstances have helped us to see, even more clearly, the healing power between humans and their pets.

In a time when we can’t see our human loved ones, our animal friends still provide us with connection, companionship, and unconditional love.

The connection between people and their animals is a strong one, and that’s because it’s a friendship that originated as long as 14,000 years ago. For millennia, we have had animals at our side, and it’s not hard to see why. Scientific study has shown the tangible benefit of having a pet, for children and adults alike. Here are five of the healing effects of having a pet.

1. Improved immune system

Although it might be a surprise, some animals—namely dogs—can actually boost your immune system. A 2004 study from Wilkes university found that subjects that pet a live dog had an increase of immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies)—an important component of the immune system. Subjects that pet a stuffed animal or sat on a couch did not see an increase of antibodies.

Although it might not be enough all on its own, the immune system boost provided by dogs can be a great help when trying to stay well. There are plenty of reasons to love your dog, and learning that it might be keeping you healthy is just another one to add to the list. 

2. Making friends and getting outside 

Getting outdoors and socializing has been proven to improve mental health, decrease stress, and promote healthy development in kids. Now more than ever, having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside and do something. A simple evening stroll, a walk in the park, or a hike are all great ways to get away from home for a few moments, and will definitely keep your furry friend happy. 

Dogs or even well-behaved cats can also be a great way to meet other people. Strangers are more likely to initiate conversation when you have a dog, and it can be a nice icebreaker as well. Of course, make sure to stay six feet apart if you do wind up talking shop with any other dog owners. 

3. Therapy for pain, anxiety, and depression 

Animals provide us with a comfort that, for some, is a crucial part of our support system. Some animals are trained and actively work to help people complete tasks. These are known as service animals. For instance, a service dog may navigate a blind person, or sense a seizure in their partner. Mini horses have also been used as service animals, helping the blind, and people with Parkinson’s. In some cases, capuchin monkeys have been used as service animals as well, in order to help with grabbing things, opening doors, or even turning pages of a book. Dogs and cats are also sometimes used as emotional support animals, which aren’t formally trained, but can help provide comfort and companionship to people struggling with mental illness or injury.

Beyond these working animals, an animal simply living in our homes and being our friend provides us with countless mental health benefits. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, petting a happy animal can be the perfect distraction. It helps to calm the mind, and is even thought to lower blood pressure! 

4. Higher self-esteem and confidence 

Having an animal in a child’s home as they grow up has been shown to improve self-esteem and confidence, and it’s not hard to see why. When a child has no one else to play with, animals step in as the perfect partner. Dogs can keep up with an energetic kid, and cats can entertain for hours. Not only that, but the unconditional love from an animal can be a great way for a kid to learn affection, and show more of it as they grow up.

5. Quarantine buddies

For those of us no longer working, it can be hard to feel motivated by anything during quarantine. Having animals in the home is not only some welcome company while in self-isolation, but also it can help provide us with a sense of purpose. There’s no time to lie in bed all day when your cat needs its dish refilled, or when the dog is hassling you for a walk. Our animals get us out there, and keep us involved with the world, no matter what.

Beyond being our best friends, pets have countless healing powers, helping us to stay healthy and happy, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. In order to keep things running smoothly, it’s important to make sure your pet is healthy as well. For more information on pets, their benefits to people, and how to keep them well, contact us today!

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