Can All Dogs Swim? And Other Dog Swimming Tips Worth Knowing

Does your dog love the water? Many dogs will do anything they can to go for a swim, while many others will do everything in their power to stay dry. There’s no consensus among dogs about whether they like the water. Here’s a big question, however: can all dogs swim?

Understanding different breeds and their abilities to swim

There are a handful of dog breeds that have been selectively bred to be experts in the water. For instance, retrievers have been trained for generations to go into the water to grab birds for hunters, while dogs such as Irish Water Spaniels have developed waterproof coats so they can work in the fields. 

These breeds are generally believed to know how to swim the second they lay eyes on a body of water, and will usually be happy to do so since their physical structure is perfect for swimming. Other breeds often prefer not to swim, or simply don’t see the point. 

Some of the dogs that most love the water are:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Toller retrievers
  • Portugese water dogs
  • Irish water spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Newfoundlands
  • Irish setters

Regardless of whether your dog likes to swim or not, you should know that with a little preparation and training, all dogs are capable of swimming. This is especially good to know in the summertime, when dogs are at a higher risk of overheating and dehydration. If you can safely get your dog accustomed to being in the water, they’ll have a good option to keep cool in the warmer months. Swimming is also great exercise for dogs, and is a fun time for everyone involved. 

So for those of us with dogs who aren’t natural swimmers, how can we safely introduce them to swimming and get them more comfortable in the water?

How to teach your dog to swim

It can be a little difficult getting your dog into the water especially if they’re not accustomed to swimming, but once you do, you’ll both be experiencing the benefits in no time. So where to begin?

There are a number of avenues you can take when teaching your dog to swim, and choosing which one to use depends mainly on your dog’s breed. While some dogs, like the ones mentioned before, are natural-born swimmers, others are just not able to excel in the water due to their biology. Bulldogs and Dachshunds, for instance, often don’t have the physical build to keep themselves afloat, and will likely need extra help with a floatation device. 

Even if your dog is meant to be a capable swimmer, each pup is a little different, and yours may not be as keen on swimming as they’re ‘supposed’ to be. Whatever the case, it’s important that you understand your dog’s lineage and capabilities, set your expectations accordingly, and don’t be disappointed if your dog still prefers dry land over water.

Invest in a life jacket for your dog

When introducing a dog to the water for the first time, it’s vital that the dog finds swimming fun and not scary. You want to do everything you can to get your dog feeling confident in the water, and one great way to do that is to ensure they can’t sink. Life jackets for dogs come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of breeds and weights. Assuming their life jacket fits well, your dog will be able to focus on the mechanics of swimming, rather than struggling to stay afloat. 

Even if your dog is a capable swimmer, a life jacket is never a bad idea. Even the strongest swimmers can get tired, and if you’ve ever thrown a ball for certain breeds, you know that many dogs will over-exert themselves to the point of danger if they’re allowed to. A life jacket allows them to not work as hard while still staying afloat, which will keep them safe as well as feeling confident.

When choosing a life jacket, ensure it’s the right size, and that it can be adjusted to fit your dog perfectly. Bright or reflective material is also a plus, since they’ll help you spot your dog in the water more easily. You should also look for a life jacket with a sturdy handle on the back. This will allow you to pull your dog out of the water if they’re struggling, guide them as they learn to swim, or even simply keep hold of them on the beach. 

Make a plan for swimming lessons

Once you have all the equipment, it’s time to figure out your method for teaching your dog to swim. Every dog is different, so you’ll know better than anyone what you need to do to keep them feeling comfortable. With that said, a good idea for all dogs is to ensure that they’re the ones to enter the water. This can be achieved by throwing a floating toy into the water, or getting in yourself and encouraging them to come out to you. When a dog enters the water on their own terms, they’ll be less likely to become afraid. Start in the shallows, and don’t try to make your dog move deeper until they seem comfortable. 

Every time your dog comes out of the water while they’re learning, you should reward them with a treat, a toy, or affection. This will help them form a positive association with swimming, and encourage them to get in the water next time.

Give your dog a demonstration

If you know anyone with a dog who’s already a confident swimmer, consider arranging a time for your dog to watch them swim. With your dog in a life jacket, they’ll be able to follow the other dog around, observing their technique and having a great time while doing it. After a few playdates in the water, your dog may feel more confident about swimming on their own.

Keep water safety in mind

Beyond the risk of drowning, there are a handful of other potential hazards for your dog in the water. 

  • Cold water. Too much exposure could lead to hypothermia, which is dangerous. 
  • Swallowing too much water. This is possible while your dog swims and grabs toys. If your dog is regularly vomiting after swimming, they’re swallowing too much. To counteract this, try to keep swimming sessions to about ten minutes, and choose a water-toy that they can easily pick up without ingesting too much water in the process, such as a flat, floating disc.

Don’t push your dog too far

Despite our best efforts, some dogs never really take to swimming. Even with all the floatation devices, training, and safety measures, some dogs simply don’t like the water. If you’ve been trying to get them interested in swimming for some time and aren’t making any progress, it may be that your dog just doesn’t like to swim. If that’s the case, don’t feel the need to continuously push them. There are still ways you can help your dog enjoy the water and keep them cool in summer.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your dog to enjoy the water in the warmer months. With some time, care, and preparation, most dogs will gradually come to love swimming. If you have more questions about how to safely teach your dog to swim, or anything else pet-related, feel free to contact us today.

The Benefits of Pet Insurance You Need to Know About

As a pet owner, you have the responsibility of the health, happiness, and overall well-being of your animal. Much like any other life partner, your duties to a pet are in sickness and in health, good times and tough times.

One important part of this responsibility is being prepared in case something happens to your pet. Perhaps your dog swallows something they weren’t supposed to, or your cat falls ill. These problems often require professional veterinary care, and depending on the necessary procedures, the costs can quickly add up. 

Even with a dedicated savings put aside, certain health issues with your pet might put you in a difficult financial situation—that’s where having pet insurance comes in.

Pet insurance is best recommended to get while the pet is young. This is to avoid any medical exclusions. While it is best to get while young, older pets can still very much benefit from pet insurance.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is a health policy that an owner puts in place for their pet. In exchange for a monthly premium, your insurance company will provide reimbursement for a multitude of procedures and treatments at the veterinarian. While we always hope to never need to use pet insurance, it remains one of the best ways to protect the finances of an owner and the safety of the pet. 

Not every pet owner is completely prepared to foot the bill for necessary treatments. Pet insurance allows people to take the stress of finances off the mind of pet owners, allowing them to simply make the best decisions for the health of their pet.

Perhaps you’re looking into getting a pet, or you’ve recently adopted a new one, and you’re wondering if pet insurance is a worthwhile investment. If you ask us, it’s one of the most important ways you can protect your pet and yourself. With that said, here are the six biggest benefits of pet insurance and setting up a policy.

1. Save money at your veterinarian’s office

Saving money is one of the biggest reasons people choose to set up pet insurance. Depending on your policy of choice, your plan could be paying for itself in just one or two urgent visits. Although you’ll have to pay the cost of your vet visit up front, you’ll be able to get reimbursed for your portion. At the most basic level, pet insurance simply makes good financial sense.

2. Gain access to the best possible pet care

Rather than being forced to choose between the most advanced, effective treatments and your pocketbook, pet insurance gives you access to options when it comes to pet healthcare. In recent years, technology in the veterinary field has been advancing rapidly, and there are now many more options for the owners of sick or injured pets than ever before. Chemotherapy for instance is an effective way to treat cancer in pets, but it can often be very expensive for people without insurance. Having a policy in place beforehand allows you to think about what the best option for your pet would be, rather than concerning yourself about what you’ll be able to afford.

3. Pay a small, regular fee instead of saving for emergencies

It can be difficult to keep a sizable emergency fund aside in case of a health issue with your pet. Rather than saving every spare dollar in case of the worst, you can pay a small monthly premium to your insurance company in exchange for pet healthcare coverage, which opens up more financial options for you. 

4. Choose a flexible policy for your pet

Because people’s pets are so varied and unique, pet insurance offers many flexible policies for all kinds of animals, breeds, and ages. Just because your pet is older doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get pet insurance for them, and doing so will often pay off down the road. Furthermore, with lots of competition in the pet insurance market, you’ll be able to get a variety of quotes and find something affordable.

5. Gain peace of mind

The number one reason people choose to set up a pet insurance plan is for peace of mind. We know how much you love your pet and want to provide them with the best care possible. As a pet owner, you are responsible for ensuring that they’re well looked after in even the worst case scenario. Pet insurance allows you to rest easy knowing that providing your pet with the care they need won’t be an issue, regardless of the necessary treatments and procedures.

As a pet owner, you have countless duties when it comes to looking after your four-legged family member. Whether it’s taking them for exercise, feeding them right, or cleaning up after them, we perform these responsibilities as an act of love for our pets—insurance is no different. By setting up a good pet insurance policy from the outset, you can be confident in knowing that your pet will have access to the best possible care no matter what, allowing the two of you to have a long, healthy, and happy life together.

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.

How to be Proactive about Protecting Your Pet from Fleas

There are fewer words a pet owner wants to hear less than “your pet has fleas”. Fleas are pesky parasites, and in addition to being a major annoyance for us humans, they can cause serious problems for the unlucky animal playing host. 

Thankfully, flea treatment and prevention has come a long way, and now, with the right measures, these irritating creatures can be mitigated fairly easily. Addressing fleas before they become a problem will not only save you time, money, and hassle later on, but it will ensure your pet’s safety and comfort at the same time. Here are some proactive flea prevention tips for your pets.

How to Identify a Flea and Causes of Infestation

Most of us are aware of fleas and understand what they do, but do you know what a flea infestation looks like? Fleas are small, wingless insects that survive by feeding off of the blood of larger animals. They are reddish-brown in colour, usually just a couple of millimetres long, and can exist almost anywhere in the world. They don’t fly, and instead get around by jumping (relatively) massive distances. They survive by feeding off the blood of mammals, and sometimes birds.

It’s possible for a home to become infested with fleas year-round – in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, fleas are around all year. Typically, fleas enter the home with other animals. Since dogs tend to spend more time outside, they are at a greater risk of contracting fleas, but outdoor cats can provide an unwitting ride for the tiny insects as well. Additionally, fleas can enter the home with people, visiting animals, or in some cases, on the backs of unwanted animals, such as mice and rats.

There are a number of issues that can be caused by a flea infestation in your pet:

  • Fleas can cause a lot of discomfort in your pet from all the bites
  • Your pet will likely scratch and bite at their skin repeatedly to try and get some relief, leading to irritated skin and other wounds. 
  • Additionally, fleas can carry tapeworms, which can be passed onto your pet as well. 
  • Some animals are allergic to flea bites, which can be very serious if left untreated. 
  • Additionally, constant scratching can lead to infections, creating an even bigger problem.

Fleas can bite people, but they tend not to actively live on them in the same way they do with other animals. Fleas prefer furry animals, making cats and dogs obvious targets. Once on an animal, a flea will remain there until they are killed or die off naturally. However, they’re also capable of laying eggs in the fur of an animal, which will eventually hatch and start the whole frustrating process over again.  

Now that you know a little more about fleas, you’re probably wondering how best to prevent them from becoming a problem with your pet, and by extension, in your home. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to be proactive about flea prevention, addressing the problem before it’s too late.

Watch for the Signs of a Flea Infestation

One of the best ways to ensure your pet is flea-free is simply to keep an eye on their behaviour and take note of anything unusual. Pets that have fleas on them will be very uncomfortable, so it should be fairly easy to tell if there’s an infestation in progress. Here are some things to look for when watching for fleas in your pet:

  • Excessive scratching, chewing, licking, and grooming
  • Red, irritated skin, especially on the neck, belly, and hindquarters
  • Dark brown ‘flea dirt,’ which is the flea’s excrement, present in your pet’s fur

If you notice any of these signs, confirm your suspicions by brushing through your pet’s fur with a fine-tooth comb. You may spot some moving spots, which are fleas, but it’s more likely you’ll see more ‘flea dirt.’ You can confirm that this is flea excrement and not regular dirt by brushing it onto a wet piece of paper towel. It will turn red, indicating that this is dried blood sucked from your pet and passed on by the flea.

Check Your Pet Regularly

It’s good to routinely check your pet for fleas. You can purchase a flea comb from your local pet store. Having your pet on a monthly flea product can prevent the hassle of checking—while flea baths can help soothe your pets skin, flea shampoos are not 100% effective. Your veterinarian is the best resource for effective external parasite prevention based on your pet’s lifestyle. 

Choose an Appropriate Preventative Flea Medication

For dogs and outdoor cats, your vet may recommend a preventative flea treatment. These can vary widely depending on your pet, but they tend to be a topical solution or oral tablet intended to be taken regularly. Be wary of over-the-counter flea treatments, as these can differ drastically in their effectiveness and safety for your pet. If your vet identifies your pet as being at-risk for fleas, they’ll make the necessary recommendations for preventative treatment.

One very important thing to note is to never use flea medication intended for a cat on a dog, or vice versa. Preventative flea formulas for one animal may actually be toxic for another, so always follow your veterinarian’s advice to the letter.

Keep Your House Clean and Sanitized

A great way to prevent a flea infestation is to keep your home clean. 

  • There are some chemical products intended to treat an environment for fleas, but be cautious with these, as some can be harmful to the people and/or animals they’re intended to protect. 
  • Deep clean your carpets, towels, blankets, and other fibrous surfaces. Fleas will sometimes take refuge in all of this, particularly if they come into frequent contact with your pet. 
  • Vacuum carpets, pet-specific blankets, towels, and pet beds frequently to decrease any fleas or flea eggs hiding out there. 
  • Always empty your vacuum canister outside and wash it with soap and water afterwards to ensure no hangers-on are reintroduced to your home.

Maintain a good routine of regular hygiene for your pet

It is typically recommended that you treat all your pets every month for fleas, as fleas can lay dormant in your home and in British Columbia they are around all year. This is in addition to their regular bathing and grooming. 

Take your pet to see your veterinarian regularly

The best thing you can do to ensure your pet’s health is to simply take them in for their routine vet check-ups. Of course, you do your best to run checks on them and ensure they’re free of any pesky pests, but there’s nothing better than a comprehensive veterinary examination. Your veterinarian can recommend the proper flea and tick medication based on your lifestyle.

Fleas are a common fear for many pet owners, but with proper preventative care, they don’t need to be a huge concern. It’s very important to take the proper precautions to mitigate the risk of fleas and other parasites, and when done right, you’ll sidestep a lot of potential issues down the road. Not only will your home be free of fleas, but your pets will be healthy, comfortable, and happy.

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.

Senior Dog Care Part 2: Dental Care Tips

When it comes to taking care of a senior dog, there are countless new considerations you need to make. On top of the regular responsibilities of owning a dog, looking after one that’s reaching its golden years can mean a whole new list of obstacles. 

One of the most important things to consider when taking on this new challenge is your dog’s dental health. Although it might seem trivial when compared to diabetes, arthritis, organ issues, or any of the other countless health trials your dog may face, dental care is a crucial part of senior dog care and it can actually relate to lots of other common health issues. With proper care and consideration for your dog’s oral health, you’ll not only keep their teeth and mouth in the best possible health, but it can actually extend their life, and make things more comfortable for them overall.  

Common Signs of Dental Issues in Senior Dogs

Before we look at the best practices for taking care of your dog’s dental health, let’s go over some of the biggest warning signs that your dog’s teeth and mouth need attention:

  • Bad breath. Although a dog having bad breath is sometimes considered normal, it’s actually an indicator of poor oral health. Excessively bad breath on a regular basis is a sign of bacteria that is present in your dog’s mouth, which is commonly caused by infrequent brushing and oral cleaning.
  • Plaque and tartar. Plaque, the sticky, bacteria-based substance that can build up on poorly-cleaned teeth, eventually hardens to become tartar, otherwise known as calculus. 
    • Plaque can be removed fairly easily with brushing, but once it becomes tartar, it’s much harder to remove. 
    • Neglecting to clean your dog’s teeth can lead to excess build-up of tartar, which can be observed as inflammation in the gums and teeth discoloration.
    • Oftentimes, the full extent of tartar build-up and periodontal disease can’t be seen with just your eyes, and may only be visible via a dental x-ray.
  • Changes in the way your dog eats. Another sign that your dog is experiencing dental issues could be changes in how they eat. 
    • A dog with sore teeth or other dental issues may eat more slowly than usual, or favor one side of their mouth when chewing their food. 
    • Dogs with sore mouths may just eat less overall, which is a clear sign of a major health issue in need of your attention. 
  • Recent lack of energy. Another more serious indicator of poor dental health in your senior dog could be a recent lack of general energy.

Now that you know what to be on the lookout for when it comes to your dog’s dental health, you should brush up on the best practices for actually keeping their teeth and mouth in the best possible shape. 

Regular home brushing

Step number one for any dog owner is taking care of your dog’s teeth at home. This is not something to only take up after noticing a problem in your dog, much like how we don’t start to brush our teeth only when we discover we have a cavity. Ideally, your dog’s teeth should be brushed or wiped daily, or at the very least, two to three times a week. 

Brushing is an important preemptive way to care for your dog’s teeth, and is a step you should be taking from day one of caring for your dog. However, it’s possibly even more important to be diligent about brushing for your senior dog.

Dental check-ups and cleanings

Beyond home dental care, it’s crucial to get your dog’s oral health examined routinely by your veterinary team. Frequency of comprehensive oral health treatment will depend on your pet’s individual oral environment. Annual oral examination along with a health check is imperative in order to keep an eye on any potential problems before they become more serious.

Bloodwork, X-rays, and other tests

When taking your senior dog in for dental cleanings and check-ups, there are other tests and measures to take that are a very important part of monitoring your dog’s oral health. Even if a dog’s teeth and gums look healthy to the naked eye, a dental x-ray, for instance, can reveal a myriad of other issues that otherwise wouldn’t be visible. Likewise, a blood analysis can be an invaluable tool to learn about your dog’s health, revealing elevated bacteria levels or other signs of infection. 

Your veterinarian will be able to make the best recommendations to monitor your dog’s health, so always follow their advice when having your senior dog consulted.

Supplements to food and water

Another great way to care for your dog’s teeth at home is through special products specifically for dental health. There are lots of specially-formulated treats and chews that help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar. These can be great for any dog, but especially for dogs that are resistant to brushing.  

When looking for dental products for your pet – look for the VOHC seal on the product. This ensures that the veterinary oral health council has approved this product & that it does in fact help with plaque and tartar build up.

As you can see, dental health is a crucial but sometimes overlooked aspect of caring for a senior dog. However, with diligent home care such as brushing and dental treats, as well as regularly checking in with your dog’s veterinarian, you can keep a good handle on their dental care and ensure they’re as healthy and comfortable as possible in their golden years.

Did you miss part 1? Click here to read Senior Dog Care Part 1: General Care Tips

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.

Senior Dog Care Part 1: General Care Tips

Dogs are often characterized by their endless energy, happy nature, and easy disposition. And while this is normally true, things can become a little more complicated when a dog reaches their senior years. As a dog ages, it can be more of a challenge to make sure they’re taken care of, thanks to more complex health needs. But it goes without saying that even the oldest dogs deserve our utmost love, care, and respect. With that in mind, here’s the first of our multi-part series covering our senior dog care tips for your aging pooch.

What happens when a dog gets older?

Just like people, our canine friends can experience the full spectrum of new challenges and difficulties as they age. One thing to keep in mind is that the age at which a dog is considered a ‘senior’ varies depending on the breed. Small breeds, like Malteses, Shih Tzus, and Dachshunds are typically not considered senior dogs until they’re ten years or older. Medium breeds such as Retrievers are considered senior a few years earlier, around six to eight years. Giant breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs are considered senior at only five to six years of age. Keep in mind that these estimates are just guidelines and can vary even more depending on genetics, as well as the lifestyle of your dog.

Whatever breed of dog you have, the signs of aging are fairly consistent across all of them. Common changes include: 

  • Decreased energy
  • Sight problems (eg. cataracts)
  • Hearing loss
  • Organ difficulties (eg. kidneys, liver)
  • Weight gain

If your dog is starting to reach their golden years, it’s time to start adjusting their (routine and yours) in order to make them as comfortable as possible.

Ensure your dog’s comfort in their environment

Like people, senior dogs tend to be more sensitive to extreme temperatures. This is because they’re less able to thermoregulate as they get older. To combat this, ensure they’re kept at a comfortable temperature as often as possible. If it’s cold in the house, consider getting them a sweater or other garment to keep them warm. In colder winter months, limit their time spent outside and keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they’re comfortable. 

In the warmer months, it’s equally important to make sure your dog is kept cool. Avoid leaving them outside for long stretches of time in the heat. Not doing so can lead to dehydration and all kinds of further problems.

Choose an age-appropriate diet

As your dog changes in old age, their diet should as well. Often, a lower-fat, lower-calorie dog food is preferred for older dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with specific recommendations for food in order to meet your dog’s unique health needs. In general, don’t make any changes to your dog’s diet without your vet’s go-ahead, as changes can lead to unexpected issues later on.

Also, you should be cautious about dog food that’s marked as being specifically made for older dogs. While there is some regulation on what goes into these formulas, similar to food that’s especially made for puppies, there’s not enough oversight to act as a guarantee. When in doubt, always talk to your veterinarian when choosing food for your senior dog.

Carefully regulate exercise

Exercise is very important at all stages of a dog’s life. Not only does keeping them at a healthy weight reduce their risk of organ failure, diabetes, heart disease, and more, but also the added strain of excess weight can put stress on their joints, causing pain and perhaps more serious issues such as arthritis. 

At the same time, you should take care not to overwork your senior dog. They are no longer puppies after all, so just make sure you don’t push them too far. Be patient with your dog, and work your way up to more strenuous activities, depending on how they’re doing with your current routine.

Check in with your vet regularly

One of the best things you can do for your senior dog is to regularly book them to see your veterinarian. As a dog gets older, their immune system will weaken, leaving them more prone to illnesses and diseases that they’d otherwise be able to fight off. By getting them seen regularly by your vet, you can stay on top of their health and address any issues right away before they become more serious. A good rule of thumb is to take your senior dog into your family vet office at least once a year, unless otherwise specified by your vet.

Keep up with grooming and dental care

Senior dogs can develop irritated skin more frequently as they age, which can lead to a lot of discomfort for your pooch and not to mention dull the luster of their shiny coat. Brush them regularly to prevent matting and tangling, and use natural shampoos to nourish their hair and skin. 

Similarly, ensure you keep up with your dog’s oral care. Older dogs who have had insufficient dental care throughout their life can start to lose teeth, which can make eating more difficult and even potentially lead to infections. Regular annual exams will help assess dental health for your dog.

Accommodate your dog wherever possible

Depending on your dog and any special health conditions they may develop as they age, it may be necessary to adapt your home to make it as accommodating, comfortable, and accessible for them as possible. Dogs with sight problems might have a hard time finding their bed, so keep it in an easy spot and don’t move it around on them. Similarly, ensure their bed is soft and comfortable and that it provides the support they need to avoid any joint pain. 

Dogs with joint problems might have trouble getting up and down stairs, so keep their food, water, and bed at the same level so they’re always able to get what they need. If stairs are unavoidable in your home, you could consider buying or putting together a ramp in order to make them a little easier for your pooch. Dogs also have an easier time walking on carpet than on hardwood or tile, so consider adding some rugs to ensure they’ve got good footing.

Cherish your time together

There’s no getting around it—watching your dog age can be really, really hard. After years of delighting in their playful energy and boundless excitement, it can be a real challenge to adjust to life with a senior dog with less energy. Nevertheless, one of the best things you can do to make a senior dog feel comfortable is to spend as much time with them as you can.

Older dogs, particularly ones that are losing mental clarity, can easily get anxious when their owner isn’t by their side for long periods of time. If you can’t always be with your pet, try and ensure your dog always has a trusted family member or friend nearby, and cherish the time you two can spend together. In short, treat them like the beloved best friend that they are.

Aging can come with all kinds of additional complications for you and your dog. You may need to make adaptations to your routine that you never considered before. With all that in mind, it’s a great idea to ensure you’re well supported to take the best possible care of your furry friend. One of the best ways to do this is to keep in regular contact with your veterinarian. They can provide guidance, reassurance, and make recommendations as necessary to ensure your dog’s senior years are as comfortable as possible.

Stay tuned for the next part of our senior dog care series on our blog.

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.

Preventive Medicine for Pets: Why We Do What We Do

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we are all about providing pet owners with preventive medicine. So here’s what you need to know.

What is Preventive Medicine for Pets Exactly?

There are several different forms of preventive medicine that goes into our regular veterinary care services. Examples include vaccinations, blood testing, and flea and parasite control.

Basically you’re not bringing your pet in to see the veterinarian the minute they’re sick; you’re bringing them in to the vet office before such a stressful event can take place and cause you and your pet greater anxiety.

Why Do You Practice Preventive Veterinary Medicine?

Simple: we do what we do because we care about your pets. We all have pets at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, and we treat them like family—with love and respect. So, we always treat our pet patients and their families like they’re a part of our own family too.

We don’t want our pets to get sick, or be scared, or feel anxious—we know you don’t want that either. To avoid such stress in our lives, we make sure to follow up on scheduled appointment times and pay extra attention to the details of each pet’s case during an examination. In the event a specialist is needed, we’ll make the referral for you so your pet gets the best possible care they need.

Other benefits of preventive medicine for pets include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • It’s less expensive. While there are surgical procedures that do fall under the category of preventive medicine, such as spaying and neutering, these procedures are far less costly than it would be if you only take care of your pet when they are sick and need more urgent care.
  • It’s less stressful. Going back to our previous point about reducing anxiety, by practicing preventive medicine through our routine check-ups and exams, we will be able to detect underlying conditions or address future concerns before they become an even bigger problem. For example, a bump on your pet’s skin could be a flea bite, or it can mean something else; either way, by bringing your pet in for an exam, you’re also bringing your family veterinarian’s attention to their case now as opposed to later when it may be too late to prevent secondary conditions from developing. Finding out that there is a problem now and addressing it sooner than later reduces future anxieties on you and your pet going forward!
  • It’s more considerate. From your pet’s perspective, they can only do so much to communicate to you whether they are happy and healthy or sick and in need of help. It’s tougher in some cases, especially for cats, since their natural reaction to pain is to hide it from potential predators. By practicing preventive solutions in your daily pet care routine, you are in turn contributing to the reduction of their fear and anxiety surrounding veterinary services. The less stressed out you feel about going to see the vet, the less stressed out your pet will be too.
  • It’s more beneficial to you and your pet’s well-being. Stress is the number one factor in causing harm to the body in both humans and animals. Once your pet is receiving preventive medicine and care, you will see a difference in their well-being tenfold. The alternative would be having to treat conditions left undiagnosed and untreated for too long…and that’s definitely not something we recommend you doing.

How Does It Work?

All you have to do to make preventive medicine for pets work is bring your pet in for their annual checkups and routine vaccinations and deworming. It’s that easy!

Ask any and all questions you have for your vet during checkups to ensure that your pet is getting the help they need. The more educated you become on how to best care for your pet, the greater the preventive solutions will be and the happier your pet will be for it. If you’d like to continue to learn more about pet care, our blog is a good start.

If you still have any questions regarding preventive medicine as a veterinary service, we are here for you. Contact us to learn more about our practice or if you’d like to book an appointment.

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.

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.

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.

What to Do If Your Dog Gets Stung

Warmer weather brings lots of new critters out and about. And while we love spending time in the sun with our furry friends, there’s still something to be on the lookout for: bees, wasps, and hornets. As you know, there’s little a dog loves more than chasing around after smaller creatures and sticking their nose where it might not belong. Sometimes this behaviour can wind up getting your dog in trouble, especially in the peak of the summer, when wasps, bees, and hornets are out in force.

Although a sting is one of the less serious injuries you and your dog need to worry about, there’s no doubt that they hurt, and lots of stings in the wrong place could even present a more serious injury. Knowing about the different types of stinging insects, as well as the best ways to treat those stings, can save your dog (and you) a lot of agony down the line.

Stinging insects to watch out for

There are a few insects that carry stingers and toxins – and there may be others specific to your area. However, in most places, you’re likely to run into the same three types of flying, stinging insects:

Bees

Bees are characterized by their fuzzy coat and larger abdomen. When a bee uses its stinger, it can be quite painful, but it will also kill the bee. Bee stingers are barbed, which means it becomes lodged in the skin, and can continue to channel toxins into the bloodstream until it’s removed. 

Although a bee sting is quite painful, it’s relatively rare to see a bee use its stinger. Since they can only use it once, bees will usually only sting if they feel threatened. If your dog sticks their nose into a flower patch that a bee happens to be pollinating, for instance, it may be intimidating enough for a bee to sting.

Wasps

Wasps are typically slimmer and sleeker than a bumble or honey bee, and fly through the air much quicker than their lumbering bee cousins. They have a smooth, hairless, almost shiny coat that is usually black and yellow (these wasps in particular are commonly known as yellowjackets). There are dozens of varieties of wasps all throughout the world, but their general description and behaviour is consistent across almost all of them.

Wasps are predators, and so tend to be more aggressive than bees, sometimes chasing after even the largest prey. If your dog winds up aggravating a wasp, or worse, disturbs a nest, there’s a good chance that the wasp will chase after the dog and go for a sting. This is because, unlike bees, a wasp is not killed by using their stinger, and can actually use it multiple times in a row. The upside of this is that wasp stingers normally do not lodge in the skin, as they’re not barbed.

Hornets

Hornets share a lot in common with wasps, with the major differences being in size and colour. Hornets are much larger, and can be identified by their hanging bodies as they fly around, and are usually marked with black and white rings, rather than black and yellow. Like a wasp, their stinger isn’t barbed, which means a hornet can deploy multiple painful stings in a row. Since hornets are even stronger predators than wasps thanks to their size, you may find them acting more aggressively, even towards a big dog.

Prevention tips for stings

The best way to get your dog relief from a sting is to prevent it completely. Of course, there’s no guarantee, especially when out in nature, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to improve your odds of a pain-free walk. For example, be aware of the types of locations your dog is likely to find stinging insects. In the daytime, flower patches or blooming bushes are likely to be full of pollinating bees, so try to keep your dog’s nose out of these areas.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to have an idea of where nests may be. While many bees, wasps, and hornets build hives in trees or other high areas, some wasps and yellowjackets actually build hives in the ground, usually with a small hole to access it. If you see your dog sniffing around a small hole in the dirt, proceed with caution, as they may be disturbing a hive.

Overall, the best method of preventing a sting on your dog is good training, and good on-leash control. It’s only natural for a dog to want to poke around and explore, but, sad as it may be, there are some spots that are best left un-sniffed. 

Treatment for a sting

If your dog does wind up getting stung, it’s important to understand the severity of the sting in order to make the best decision. Like we said, stings usually occur after a dog pokes their nose somewhere it might not belong, which means that the majority of stings seen on dogs are on their face. Obviously, this is a painful area for anyone to be stung, so learn about treatment now to save your dog some suffering down the line.

If your dog has only suffered one sting, you should be alright with minimal treatment. Remove the barb if needed, using your nails or a piece of rigid paper. Avoid using tweezers or pliers, as these can actually force more of the toxin into the skin. When the barb is out, it’s probably a good idea to head home. Once back, you can prepare one of a few simple home remedies to give your dog some relief. There are two treatments that are most effective when your dog has been stung by a wasp:

  • A weak solution of baking soda and water can be applied to the sting. The baking soda will help neutralize the toxin, and soothe the pain somewhat.
  • For swelling, you can place an ice pack or cold compress around the area, which will reduce the inflammation more quickly

It is also important to monitor for any immediate swelling of the face, eyes, ears, neck, lips, and excessive itchiness following the sting. This may indicate an anaphylactic reaction that needs urgent veterinary care.

All the while, you should be keeping a watchful eye on your dog. Like humans, some dogs are allergic to the toxin from stinging insects. This allergy can result in swelling and increased pain, but in more serious cases, it could actually be fatal. After a sting, keep an eye out for the following signs of allergic reaction:

  • Weakness or decreased energy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive swelling (that lasts more than 1-2 hours), especially if it’s not near the area of the sting

While a single sting is usually little more than an irritation, multiple stings can be very serious. If your dog has been stung more than once, especially on the face, tongue, or inside of the mouth, you should take your dog to a veterinarian right away. Even without an allergy, the concentration of toxins in a small area can lead to excessive inflammation, not to mention a lot of pain.

Treating your dog at Hastings Veterinary Hospital

Whether it’s a bee sting or a pulled muscle, a hornet’s attack or an upset stomach, Hastings Vet has the team, techniques, and experience to take expert care of your four-legged companion. We love animals, and this passion carries through every day at our clinic. If you have more questions about treating your dog’s wasp sting, prevention of stings, or anything else to do with your pet and their health, contact us 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.

How to Prevent Heat-Related Problems for Indoor Cats

Summer is the prime time of the year when the heat is on…both outside and inside our homes. Do you raise an indoor cat 24/7? If so, did you know that even indoor kitties can get overheated?

It’s true. Even if your cat may not usually go outside or they only ever go out onto an enclosed patio, they are just as prone to heat problems as outdoor pets!

What Kinds of Heat-related Problems Should I Be Concerned About?

The most common type of problem is called hyperthermia, or heatstroke. Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia in that rather than showing symptoms of being too cold, a cat may show signs of being too hot. Heat exhaustion or overheating is another common problem seen in cats, even indoor ones.

All of these problems can arise for a few reasons. A lot of exercise for your kitty while it’s hot is one; excessive heat in a location such as the patio is another.

Most of the time, cats know when to find a shady spot if they’re getting too warm. If you see your indoor cat displaying certain signs though, that’s when you should be concerned.

What are the Signs of Heat-related Problems in Cats?

Since cats are notorious for hiding their symptoms from sight, these signs may appear at first as vague. That being said, they can include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Hiding
  • Sweaty paws
  • Dull looking and dry gums
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering
  • Restlessness
  • Panting (unlike dogs, cats don’t normally pant, so this is a serious sign)

Some of the above signs will be more extreme depending on whether or not your indoor cat has pre-existing medical conditions. Examples include obesity, feline asthma and other respiratory conditions, and heart disease. Older cats with such conditions will have a lower tolerance for heat compared to younger, healthy cats. 

What to Do if You See these Signs

Time is of the essence if you see these signs of overheating in your indoor cat. 

  • Move your kitty to a shadier, cooler spot. This may involve closing your curtains and blinds and turning off the lights.
  • Grab a dish cloth or paper towels. Soak either or in cool (not extremely cold) water. Wring out the water as much as possible and apply it to your cat’s paws and body, taking care to not get water in their ears. Unlike dogs who love to be soaked in water, cats have the opposite reaction so be careful with this step! 
  • Start a fan at low speed. Make sure the fan is not directed towards your cat as it may scare him/her.

If your indoor cat is showing any of the above signs and your attempts to cool them down aren’t working, bring your cat to a veterinarian right away! 

Prevention Tips for Heat-related Issues in Indoor Cats

These tips are your best means of ensuring hyperthermia or heat exhaustion doesn’t happen to your indoor cat in the first place. It’s helpful if your home has air conditioning (if not, we have a pointer about that as well).

  • While there is no “exact temperature” to keep in mind, the basic rule of thumb is, if it’s too hot for you even indoors, then it’s definitely too hot for your cat. Try to cool off your home for both your sakes.
  • Your cat may not appreciate this tip, but it’s got to be done: keep your cat inside while the sun is out at its hottest, usually between 11am and 3pm.
  • Open windows and curtains only when it’s cool outside. Close these during the hottest hours of the day, as described above. You can re-open them in the evening once it’s cooler out. Keep an eye on the temperature outside meanwhile (a quick check on your phone online, or by glancing at a thermostat outside, can help you determine this).
  • If your indoor cat must go out on the patio, leave a spot where they can withdraw and find shade when needed. As much as cats love to sunbathe, you should always make sure they stay cool. 
  • Air conditioning usually helps regulate the temperature inside. That being said, not every home has A/C. If your home is the latter, keep the rooms where your cat frequents the most cool with a ceiling or other form of fan.
  • Keep your indoor cat’s water flow going. Clean out their water dish if it gets too dirty. A water fountain may also be worth your consideration since they allow cats access to water at a regular rate (maintaining this matters too though; change the filter, clean the fountain, and refill it as recommended by the manufacturer).
  • Add some water to their dry food if hydrating your indoor cat is a struggle. Wet food is recommended by your cat’s vet, and also depends on their lifestyle and health needs.

Remember, even if your kitty lives indoors at all times, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to heat-related problems. Give us a call if you have any questions about heat-related problems in indoor cats or if you would like to schedule an appointment.

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.

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!

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.