So You’re a New Pet Owner and Found a Vet…What’s Next?

If you’ve become a new pet owner, it’s now time to prepare for your very first vet visit. Your little pet will probably be nervous and you may be nervous too!

Whether you have a new puppy, a kitten, a little rabbit, or a new older pet, the worries and concerns—your pet’s and your own—are the same. How can you relieve your pet’s anxiety at being taken to these new surroundings, which will include strange animals who are also afraid, unfamiliar sounds and smells, and someone who is going to poke and prod them? What questions will you be asked? Are you doing the right things for your pet? What will the veterinarian actually do during the examination?

Don’t worry—with a little preparation, you can ease your mind and concerns for your pet. Reminding yourself that this first checkup is the key to ensuring your pet’s future health and happiness is a good start. Your veterinarian will use this visit to record all the signs of your pet’s health and wellness. These signs become the baseline against which future problems can be compared, and then quickly caught and treated if any problems are detected. The first visit allows you not only to hear what is expected in terms of vaccinations and the future care of your pet, but also to voice your own concerns and get professional advice on any issues that cause you unease as a new pet parent.

How to Prepare Yourself for Your Pet’s First Visit to the Vet

Phone the veterinarian’s office, make an appointment, and ask if you need to bring a stool sample or anything else to help your vet in the assessment of your pet’s health. Arrive early enough to fill out the registration form needed for new clients and pets, and bring any paperwork that pertains to your pet. 

  1. Bring Necessary Information
  • Be ready with basic information about yourself: your name, address, phone numbers, and place of employment. This information ensures that your vet’s office can get in touch with you regarding test results and reminders about future appointments.
  • Be ready with basic information about your pet: name, sex, how and when you acquired your pet—store, shelter, farm, gift—any medication that accompanied your pet, any medical conditions that are already present, and vaccination status.
  • You will be asked about your pet’s lifestyle: indoor or outdoor housing; the usual diet and how often your pet is fed; forms of exercise.
  1. Bring a List of Questions

After the examination, ask your vet these questions if any of these points haven’t already been covered:

  • How do I take care of my pet’s teeth? What do I do if he/she won’t let me brush their teeth?
  • How and when should I cut my pet’s nails?
  • What is the best diet and what are the food brands you recommend?
  • When is the best time to have an ID microchip inserted and how much does it cost?
  • Are there particular risks for my pet’s breed that I should be prepared to notice if a problem occurs?
  • What vaccinations does my pet need? Are there optional vaccines?
  • What is the recommended flea and parasite treatment?
  • When is the best age for spaying/neutering my pet?

The answers to a lot of these questions can be found on our veterinary blog, but you can ask your veterinarian these questions in person too!

If you have only a small budget for pet care, be sure and mention this to your vet also so that costs can be taken into consideration when your vet recommends essential care. 

  1. Take Notes 
  • Have a pen and notebook to record information about what to do in an after-hours emergency.
  • Find out if your vet responds to e-mails or phone calls, or both, and record the contact numbers.

Prepare Your Pet for His/Her First Visit to the Vet

You can’t explain what is happening or why the visit is necessary, but your pet will take cues from your own reaction to the trip and the visit. Talk to your new pet in an encouraging, soothing tone of voice and bring along items of comfort such as treats or toys. Remember that your veterinarian will be used to meeting nervous pets and their nervous new owners.

  1. Use a Carrier or a Leash 

You will need a carrier for your kitty or bunny, and a leash for your pooch or a carrier if your dog is tiny. Have the carrier ready when you bring your new pet home, and keep it with the door open in the room where your pet will spend the most time. Always have toys or treats inside it to avoid a negative association with the kennel and encourage your pet to go into it now and then. Carry your pet around in the carrier occasionally so that the actual trip to the vet won’t be frightening to them.

  1. Bring a Comfy Blanket or Towel

On your trip to the vet, put a blanket or towel in the bottom of the carrier, and carry an extra one in case it becomes soiled. Drape another towel over the top of the carrier so your pet feels protected.

  1. Carry Small Treats

Don’t feed your pet a big meal before the visit, but you can carry a number of small, favourite treats to use as rewards during the outing.

What to Expect from a Thorough Physical Examination

Your veterinarian will give your pet a “nose to toes” examination. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart to make sure it sounds normal. Your pet’s body condition will be evaluated and specific nutritional recommendations will be made if your pet is over or underweight.

Depending on the reason your pet is coming in and the symptoms they are showing, the veterinarian may do a variety of different things. A cytology may be run if they have symptoms of an infection in the ears or on the skin. There are several different eye tests that could be performed if your pet is showing discomfort, swelling, or discharge. An oral examination may also be done if the vet notices bad breath, excessive drooling, or discomfort.

Examinations are tailored to manage your pet’s stress and anxiety of being in a veterinary office setting.

Your vet will discuss vaccinations and tell you which ones are needed and which are optional, and recommend preventative measures that can be taken to protect your pet from parasite and flea infestations. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian anything about pet care, diet, behaviour, and training.

After this experience, your pet will probably be tired and sleepy, and you might be, too! Remember that your veterinarian is an ally in helping your new pet lead a long and healthy life with you. It’s all worth it!

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.

Signs Your Cat is in Pain & Needs Help

Cats are not exactly known for their openness! If you’ve ever had the painful lesson after surprising a cat with a belly rub, you can attest to this fact. Cats can be difficult to read at the best of times, and this is even more true when they’re sick or in pain.

Like you, we are always looking for ways to keep our furry friends safe, healthy, and happy. That’s why it’s so important to go over some of the signs of pain or illness in cats, so that you can identify when there’s a problem, and get them help as soon as possible.

Why All the Secrecy?

After thousands of years of evolution and natural selection, even the friendliest kitties have the instincts of a predator. One of the most important behaviours when it comes to staying alive in the wild is hiding weakness. After all, an animal won’t be so concerned about seeing a cat if it knows they don’t pose as much of a threat. By hiding their pain, cats kept predators at bay and continued to strike fear into the little hearts of rodents everywhere. Additionally, this behaviour would help a wild cat avoid being left behind by their group.

This behaviour makes perfect sense for cats in the wild, but you’d think that with food in the bowl and a nice sunny spot to relax, cats would feel more at ease showing their vulnerable side. However, old habits die hard. Domestic cats may feel that they’ll have to compete for food and water, or even worry that they’ll become a meal for other animals in the home. As much as we wish we could reassure our feline friends that we’ll love them no matter what, the best we can do is keep a careful eye for any of the behaviour listed below.

Symptoms of Cat Pain or Illness

While exact behaviour will differ from cat to cat, there are a few general signs to watch out for. Here are some of the most common symptoms of sickness or pain in cats:

Hiding or Withdrawal

As mentioned before, primal instinct can take over when a cat feels they’re endangered. Wild cats would find hiding spots to rest and recover, keeping them safe from predators and the elements in the meantime. This behaviour often carries over to domestic cats, who will sometimes withdraw from interaction with humans or animals.

Sick cats will prioritize themselves over things they would normally be interested in. This includes socializing with people or other animals, playing with toys, hunting, or any other activities that take a lot out of them. This will all be harder to tell with a cat that’s already more on the aloof side, so pay special attention to their favourite activities and whether your cat is keeping up with them.

Sitting Still 

Cats in pain will often move less, particularly if they’re experiencing arthritis or another condition making movement more painful. You’ll notice this if your cat is typically more active, but even their body language can tell you a lot. If they’re hunched up or in an unusual position, there’s a good chance they’re in some discomfort.

Hygiene 

Cats are naturally a bit obsessive over their hygiene. Not only is it a relaxing ritual, it helps to stimulate blood-flow, control body temperature, and keep wounds clean. Sick cats will often neglect to groom themselves, so keep an eye out. If their fur is matted and dirty, or if they’re beginning to pick up an odour, there may be something wrong. Additionally, sick cats may over-groom a single spot. This could be a symptom of stress, which often accompanies injury or illness. They could be trying to relieve an itch caused by a rash or other skin condition.

Unusual Noisiness 

Cats in pain may make an unusual amount of noise, or even noises that you haven’t heard before. Excessive meowing, crying, and other unusual vocalizations can all be cause for concern. However, these calls won’t always be a clear indicator of discomfort in your cat. Even excessive purring can be a warning sign that something’s wrong.

It’s important to bear in mind that in some cases, excessive vocalization isn’t always a cause for concern. Some breeds, such as Siamese cats, tend to be a bit noisier by default. Likewise, intact cats (cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered) may be louder during mating periods. Vocalizing in the litter box could be an indication of underlying urinary issues or constipation. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s best to get a professional opinion on your noisy kitty.

Unusual Aggression 

It’s no secret that cats can be a bit…unpredictable, even at the best of times. One minute they’re rubbing against you like you’re best friends, and the next they’re in full on ‘psycho-kitty’ mode. This is pretty standard for many cats; however, atypical or extended aggression towards otherwise friendly environments can be a cause for concern. If your cat is being unusually destructive or violent, it may be confused, or aggravated by pain or illness.

‘Accidents’ 

By instinct, cats like doing their business in private, enclosed places, which is why litter boxes tend to be the go-to for a cat in need. If your cat normally uses their litter box, but then starts going wherever they please, there might be a problem. It’s possible that getting into the litter box has become too difficult for the cat, or perhaps it’s too far away from their current favourite spot.

What to Do If Your Cat is in Pain 

The best thing you can do for a cat that’s sick or in pain is to get help from the professionals. You know your cat better than anyone, which makes you the expert on knowing when something is out of the ordinary. If you notice unusual behaviour from your cat, it’s best to see a veterinarian and get to the bottom of what’s causing it. 

If you have other animals or small children in the house, do your best to keep rough-housing with your convalescing cat to a minimum. Giving them a peaceful environment will keep stress levels down and help them to heal faster. It will also help your cat trust people more, which is important for keeping an eye on their condition.

One thing to never do is administer any human-intended medication to your cat. Even a Tylenol can make them very sick, or possibly even kill them. Whether it’s painkillers or simply a supplement, you should always check with a veterinarian before giving your cat anything.

How Your Vet Can Help 

A veterinarian will help you to interpret the signals your cat is giving you, and determine what exactly is going on. From there, they’ll come up with a treatment plan to get your pet back in top shape. They may recommend medication, supplements or a new diet.

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we want to see your cat get back to normal as much as you do. Our dedicated staff offers professional animal care, with the end goal of making your pet feel safe, healthy, and at home. After all, a cat, or any pet, is another member of your family, and we treat them like a member of ours as well.

If you have any questions about pain, illness, or injuries in cats, don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital 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.

Valentine’s Day Safety Tips For Dogs

Be sure to check out, and take to heart, these Valentine’s Day safety tips for dogs. After all, what creature loves you more than your dog? (Probably none!) Although your feelings may be mutual, you may not realize there are expressions of love that are great for humans but can actually harm your beloved pooch. We want to alert you to the dangers that lurk around this day’s festivities so that you can make an environment free of potential hazards for your furry friend. Some of these tips can be applied to other holidays too!

Keep Chocolate and Chocolate Desserts Out of Reach

You may love chocolate in all its forms and be thrilled to receive a box of chocolates from your sweetheart. You may also plan a celebration dinner for a loved one or for your family that includes a yummy chocolate dessert. However, make sure you dog can’t possibly reach any of these sweet delights. Your pet would probably love to eat chocolate and other tasty treats like you, but unfortunately chocolate is toxic for dogs, especially dark chocolate. Here’s why:

  • Chocolate contains high levels of cocoa, caffeine, and theobromine (a dangerous food item for dogs).
  • The smaller the dog and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Theobromine will build up in a dog’s system because a pooch can’t metabolize it, and it can reach a toxic level that affects their nervous system and heart muscles.
  • 1/2 ounce or 15 grams of gourmet or baker’s chocolate will cause toxic effects in a mid-sized dog. It only takes 2 ounces or 50 grams to be fatal to an average-sized one.

 

With that in mind, here’s what you can do:

 

  • When cooking with chocolate or cocoa, keep it out of reach of your pooch and put it away as soon as you have finished using it.
  • If you receive a Valentine’s gift of chocolates, eat what you want and then put the gift in a cupboard with a door that your dog can’t open or on a shelf he or she can’t possibly reach.

If your small dog nips a chocolate candy before you can whisk away the danger, expect to see a range of symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Sugar-Free Candy & Desserts Are Not Get-Out-of-Trouble-Free Gifts for Pets

The problem with sugar-free candy and dessert is that they aren’t free of danger for your dog. Many of the familiar little candy-shaped hearts, gummies, and jellybeans we share on this holiday contain the sugar substitute xylitol, which is a polyalcohol compound that is highly toxic to dogs, as well as to cats and bunnies.

It’s best to keep all sweet treats and desserts away from pets. Stay on guard.

Toxic Plants and Thorny Flowers are a No-No

Any flower with thorns like roses —are dangerous to dogs for obvious reasons. The thorns can cause a painful gash in the skin. Don’t assume your curious dog will never get close enough to be hurt by thorns or that he or she won’t try and eat a thorny flower. Are they beautiful and colourful and have a great odour? Assume your dog will be attracted enough to get nice and close to them.

Ordinary lilies won’t cause much more than a tummy upset for a dog but the striped Barbados lily is poisonous, and so are begonias, the California ivy, and aloe, among other plants. The advice to dog owners is, if plants or flowers come your way on Valentine’s Day, make sure to put them out of your dog’s reach.

Get Rid of Shiny Packages and Wrappings

You aren’t the only one who loves beautifully wrapped gifts with ribbons; your dog appreciates them, too. In fact, it is a good idea to quickly put away any cellophane, shiny wrap, and ribbons before your dog decides to start chewing on them. Gift wrappings and ribbons that are swallowed can cause intestinal blockages even if they aren’t made out of materials that make them unsafe for your pet to ingest.

Any candy wrap is particularly dangerous because the candy flavour remains on the wrap, and your pet, especially if he or she is still a puppy, may decide the wrapping is the next best thing to wolfing down the candy itself.

Here are a Few More Potential Valentine’s Day Hazards

  • Candles – Your dog isn’t likely to mistake a candle for food (a young puppy might), even one that gives off the enticing odour of vanilla; however, candles and pets don’t mix well. There is always the danger of a curious pet or a happy one with a long wagging tail to come to grief with candles. Don’t leave them burning in a room without adult supervision or they may be knocked over by a curious animal.
  • Alcohol – Your dog may very likely drink alcohol left in glasses or spilled on surfaces. Be sure and clear away containers that hold any alcohol and clean up spills right away.
  • Sparkly Gifts – Yes, your pooch may love that sparkly necklace or ring as much as you do, and may decide to scoff it up if it is in reach. Your dog may even eat two or three of these sparkly items. Don’t take a chance; keep all such items out of reach too.

Watch for Signs Your Pooch Has Ingested Something Dangerous 

If you suspect your dog has eaten something that isn’t intended for dogs, do your best to track down the possible suspects so that you can report what it is to your veterinarian or to an emergency vet. Also, try and figure out how much of it you think he or she has consumed. These are the signs:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive panting
  • Shakes and chills
  • Seizures
  • Laboured breathing
  • Coma
  • Weakness and confusion
  • Difficulty standing or lack of coordination

You don’t want to spend your Valentine’s Day or evening in an animal hospital, or sitting up with an unwell dog. Stay alert to the dangers to which your pet may be exposed and incorporate safety measures into your celebrations. You can show your dog lots of love during this holiday with nothing more than your time and companionship.

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.

Indoors or Outdoors? Where to Raise Your Pet Rabbit

The Burnaby BC area has a mild climate with even temperatures that allow rabbits to live outside all year round. However, it is definitely better if you own a pet rabbit to raise them indoors. Although it is possible to keep your pet rabbit outside as long as you are mindful of the dangers, most pet experts agree that raising rabbits indoors is the safest and healthiest option.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Indoors

  1. Safe from Predators – Your rabbit will feel much more secure if he or she lives indoors because predators will be out of sight and out of mind, sound, and smell. Unless there is a danger from other pets—in which case, they must be kept away—indoor bunnies can thrive happily and have plenty of freedom even in a very small house or apartment.
  2. Loneliness is Less Likely – Rabbits make adorable family pets and are intelligent and inquisitive by nature. Loneliness can be a serious problem for these little animals, and a family member must to be able to play and interact with your pet rabbit daily, which is much more convenient if a bunny is housed indoors. If you have a busy life and you can’t manage regular playtime even for an indoor pet, you should acquire a second rabbit so they can keep each other company.
  3. Weather is Never a Problem – No matter how cold, wet, damp, or stormy it is outside, you and your pet rabbit will be comfy and cozy inside. Your mind will be at ease even if the weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes and you are not at home. You don’t have to worry about racing home to rescue your little rabbit from the nasty weather while he or she is in an outdoor hutch.
  4. Housing Arrangements Can be Flexible – Your pet needs a suitable caged home indoors that is big enough to stretch and move around in easily, including room for lots of hay, food, water, and chew toys. In addition, you need an area for your bunny to have lots of exercise. When you litter-train your pet, he or she can have a whole room or part of the house where it is safe and fun to roam around. It is a good idea to put your bunny in the cage when you are not at home and when you go to bed at night, so that you can relax, knowing your little pet is perfectly secure and happy.
  5. Health Problem Signs are More Obvious – If your rabbit lives indoors with you, it will be easy to notice if there are symptoms of a health problem developing. It’s more difficult to notice symptoms if your pet lives outside and you have less interaction with them.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Indoors 

  1. Other Pets Can Be a Problem – Other pets in your family may pose a danger to your bunny. If you have, say, a hunting or herding breed of dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier, you will have to make special arrangements to keep them separated and the solution can’t be to keep your bunny locked in a cage all the time. That would be unkind.
  2. Furniture May Entice a Bunny to Chew and Dig – Rabbits love to chew, dig, and burrow and it is important for owners to provide the opportunity for their little pets to enjoy these activities without causing harm. You must rabbit-proof your home with the same care that you baby-proof one.
  • Secure electric cords out of reach, protect the legs and undersides of furniture, and provide lots of chew toys: blocks of wood, commercial rabbit toys, paper towel tubes, and towels or old shirts that can be used for tunneling.
  • Tape boxes together with openings through which rabbits can squeeze, or plush cat tunnels, wicker baskets, or sisal mats that can be chewed and torn apart, and provide a variety of items to keep your bunny busy and happy. Block off areas that are unsafe for your pet to go or where there are items that could be damaged by chewing.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Outside Was Once a Rabbit’s Natural Habitat – Today, a rabbit can survive even if the outdoors is not the natural habitat of domestic rabbits. They can adapt to living outside as long as a good home is provided and the owner keeps a close eye on the situation. Because your pet needs an exercise area that is three times the size of a hutch, it is usually easier to find a good location like this outside.
  2. Bunny has the Freedom to Chew and Dig – Most outdoor items won’t be harmed by a chewing, digging rabbit who can engage in these activities to his or her heart’s content. You must secure the area, of course, and take precautions to keep your rabbit from tunneling under a fence and escaping. If you are careful, your bunny will enjoy the freedom of living outside, especially if another rabbit is there for companionship.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Times Have Changed – Domestic rabbits, unlike the wild rabbits people remember from the olden days, don’t thrive as well or for as long if housed outside, nor are they equipped to survive on their own. If kept outside, a bunny now needs a very secure enclosure, which includes a hutch where your pet can hide if feeling threatened and can be protected from the elements when the weather changes.
  2. Predator Safety Concerns – Rabbits are prey to animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, hawks, and eagles. Even if he or she is safely tucked away in a hutch, a rabbit can be so frightened at the sight, sound, or smell of a nearby enemy, he or she can suffer a heart attack.
  3. Loneliness is More Likely – Loneliness can be a serious problem for rabbits as they are social animals. If a family member can’t play and interact with your little pet daily, which is probably less convenient if he or she is housed outside, your bunny will become very unhappy fast.
  4. Weather Can be a Serious Problem – Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or stormy weather at all well, and accommodations that adapt to all weather conditions may be difficult to find, build, or arrange.
  5. Vegetation Must be Constantly Monitored for Safety – Rabbits will munch on just about anything, and you have to keep a close eye on what is growing in your bunny’s play area. See to it that all toxic plants that may start growing in the yard are quickly removed. Make sure you know and can identify all the plants that must be ruthlessly dug up before your bunny finds them first.

How Do You Make Your Decision?

You may have heard the argument that rabbits can be raised outside because they have lived outside in hutches for many generations, and wild rabbits still safely live outside today. However, that is not a realistic assessment of the situation because:

  1. Wild Rabbits are a Different Species Than Domestic – Domestic rabbits are not the same animals as wild rabbits. Wild rabbits are smaller, they grow thicker coats, have bigger feet, can run faster, and are better equipped to deal with and hide from their natural enemies. If domestic rabbits become lost outdoors, they cannot survive for long because they don’t have the instincts and traits that allow them to live in the wild.
  2. Rabbits Used to be Kept Outdoors Only Briefly – Outdoor rabbits were generally kept in hutches and raised as food for only a matter of months. Domestic rabbits are kept as pets for many years.

This is why, overall, raising a rabbit indoors is the best choice you can make for your pet rabbit. However, if you don’t have a suitable area indoors, and you have the space and the inclination to take all the special precautions that are required to raise a rabbit outside, it can be done—but you must be very, very careful.

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.

5 Useful New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Owners in 2020

A new year approaches, and it’s a very special one: 2020. It’s not only the end of another year; it’s the beginning of an entirely new decade. Because of this, many are opting in to make New Year’s resolutions more so than ever.

Just as many of us make resolutions for ourselves at the start of every year, we should also make and keep resolutions for our pets for the same reasons. Consider what we are trying to achieve for ourselves by making resolutions: we want to improve our health, happiness, safety, comfort, and to feel good about ourselves. Why not keep these goals in mind when making resolutions for your pets? Here are five New Year’s resolutions for pet owners that you can put to good use for 2020.

1. Ensure Your Pet is Eating a Nutritious, Appropriate Diet

Humans receive nutrition from milk and then graduate to solid foods with an emphasis on particular nutritional needs at various ages, and for control of health problems, too. As we age, our activity decreases and the amount of food we eat must decrease as well. Diets and nutrition for pets follow these similar patterns. Resolve to be careful about your pet’s nutritional needs and make sure you stay on track:

  • Keep yourself informed about the best diet for your pet, and be prepared to alter it as your pet grows older.
  • As pets age, they are often prone to diseases of old age, just as humans are. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your elderly cat, dog, or bunny.
  • Diets can help control arthritis by easing joint pain and increasing joint function.
  • Obesity is dangerous for any pet and can lead to arthritis, diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems. The cure for obesity is diet and exercise, just as it is for humans. Your pet will not willingly cut down on his or her food intake, and won’t willingly exercise either. It’s up to you to see that these problems are controlled and better still if you anticipate the patterns that lead to obesity.
  • Avoid being led astray by myths spread by people or companies that can profit from our eagerness to give our pets whatever they need to lead long and healthy lives. If you are urged to buy, say, high protein food for your pet, check with your veterinarian first before you commit to your decision. Don’t make radical changes to your pet’s diet without professional advice.

2. Follow Age-Appropriate Health Guidelines

Pets need their owners to see that their basic health care needs are met, and these must be adjusted as pets go through different stages and as they age. Are your pet’s vaccinations up to date? Have you arranged for an annual checkup in the last 12 months? Resolve to take care of the most important concerns as soon as possible:

  • Annual checkups are the key to good health and the welfare of your pet. Your veterinarian will provide a full comprehensive exam and may opt for adding some additional testing to screen for problems such as altered cell counts, liver problems, hormonal changes, kidney disease, diabetes, and many more; the physical exam includes checking for lumps, swelling and signs of pain, breathing difficulties, tooth decay, and problems associated with your pet’s age and breed.
  • Our furry companions of all ages need to receive vaccinations and booster vaccinations to protect them against diseases. Your veterinarian is the best source the most current vaccination recommendations for the life stage and life style of your companion.
  • Your pet is also counting on you to see that flea control and parasite protection is made available so that terrible suffering isn’t the trigger for you to remember, “Oh, right, I should have prevented that.” See to it that your pet is protected from an insect or parasite infestation before it happens, this maintains a good quality of life for them.
  • There are desirable ages at which your pet should be spayed or neutered in order to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Spayed females are spared from heat periods and are protected from uterine and mammary cancer; neutered males are spared the urge to fight, roam, mark territory, and are protected from the risk of prostate and testicular cancers. Ask your veterinarian about these procedures and when they should occur if they haven’t already.

3. Improve Safety Conditions for Your Pet

Find a veterinarian trained to care for your particular pet: dog, cat, or an exotic pet like a rabbit. Introduce yourself and your pet soon after you have adopted him or her. Pick a safety resolution from the following list that you haven’t already implemented and adopt it as soon as possible to ensure your pet’s safety.

  • Start keeping phone numbers handy not only for your veterinarian, but also for an emergency animal clinic or hospital, and names and numbers for after-hours emergency help. Make sure these phone numbers are keyed into your cell phone, and addresses and routes handy if you are in a tearing hurry to locate urgent help.
  • Assemble a pet first-aid kit for your home and a smaller version of the kit to take on pet outings, walks, hikes, or vacations. It should include a list of serious symptoms so that you will know how quickly you have to respond to some mishap.
  • Make sure your pet has a collar with a nametag that includes your name and phone numbers, so that you can be contacted if your pet becomes lost or is injured. This is especially important for outdoor pets. An ID microchip that can be inserted painlessly by your veterinarian is a really good idea. Pet hospitals and shelters routinely check for ID chips now and the chip carries a number that identifies your pet with all the pertinent information about the owner’s name and contact numbers.
  • Invest in a pet carrier and introduce it gradually. A good idea is leaving the carrier open in a common space such as a living room so your pet can roam freely in and around it. This can make) taking a trip to a hospital or a visit to a friend’s home less traumatic.
  • Do a regular check of your pet’s environment, inside and outside at home and in the yard, and keep an eye out for dangers in pet parks, or any place your pet is likely to wander. Make sure poisons, toxic chemicals, cleaning supplies, electrical implements, batteries, and unsuitable foods and plants stay out of reach.

4. Engage in Regular Grooming to Make Pets Happier

We humans feel better when we pamper ourselves with luxuriously soaking in the bathtub, a visit to a steam room, a pedicure and manicure, regular brushing and washing of our hair, and taking good care of our skin. Pets are happier, too, when owners fuss over their needs, and take time to brush, stroke them and keep them well groomed. Make pet grooming a habit:

  • If you are nervous about any necessary procedure for keeping your pet well-groomed, take your pet to an animal groomer for baths or nail clipping. Make sure you supply the means for your pet to keep teeth clean with chew toys if your pet doesn’t want you to brush his or her teeth or if you don’t feel comfortable about it. Eventually a dental cleaning under anesthetic may be needed if brushing is not allowed by your pet.
  • Purchase a good brush and comb and make time to keep your pet’s hair or coat brushed and combed daily or as often as you can. Pets love having their owners brush their coats and massage their skin.

5. Make Time to Love Your Pets!

Pets need to feel loved just as we humans feel happier when we know we are loved. Everyone responds well to caring relationships. Make sure your pets know they are loved by taking time to play with them, and/or walk them, talk to them, massage them, groom them, and show you enjoy their companionship. Pets can become very attached to their owners and respond to them with love and attention, too. Make time for playtime.

Most of these resolutions are easy to implement. Put together a list and post it where you will have a daily reminder of your New Year’s pet resolutions. It will make 2020 a good year for you and your pets!

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.

5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Dangers for Dogs

Happy holidays! Don’t forget to include your dog in the festivities. That being said, it is important to review your plans for the holidays and make sure seasonal dangers for pets can be prevented in your home.

To start, keep your pooch well protected and make sure that everyone in your home is on board with monitoring dog treats, gifts, and activities to make sure they are safe for dogs and to help keep the environment risk-free for your best friend.

1. Choose Safe Gifts and Healthy Treats for Dogs

When filling a holiday stocking for your pet, choose safe chew toys and healthy doggie treats that are easy to digest.

It’s easy to buy safe gifts for your dog as there are lots of choices such as comfy doggie beds, soft blankets, great brushes, decorative and colourful pet collars and leashes (including those that are reflective or light up with night safety LED lighting), and the ever-popular plush toys, squeaky toys, and balls for fetch-and-carry games. If your dog has a habit of eating plush toys, maybe this won’t be a good option for them. We have a whole blog post dedicated to finding that perfect safe toy or treat for your pooch if you’re interested!)

2. Be Careful With Decorations

  • If you want to have a decorated tree in your home, make sure it is securely fixed so that it can’t be knocked over by your energetic pooch. As well as using a sturdy container or stand, consider fastening it with fishing line to a curtain rod, the ceiling, or a doorframe; just make sure your pet doesn’t get tangled in it.
  • If your tree is a natural one sitting in a container of water, remember that the water, too, can be hazardous for your dog if there is any aspirin, sugar, or other additives in it. Try to find a stand with water that can be covered so only the tree can drink the water and not your dog.
  • Make sure all stringed lights and electrical cords are out of sight and out of reach so that your dog is not tempted to chew on them. See that everything is unplugged at night or whenever you leave the house.
  • Don’t use homemade decorations made of food products like salt dough or popcorn, and keep fragile decorations out of reach as broken pieces can be toxic to pets if swallowed and they can also cause internal and external injuries. The most suitable and safe decorations are those made of wood or fabric and fastened to the tree with string rather than wire hooks.
  • Candles should be kept up high on shelves where curious dogs can’t reach them. There should never be lit candles in a room if no responsible person is there to watch over them. Fortunately, there are artificial candles that flicker and crackle like real ones and can safely replace them.
  • Batteries and gadgets holding batteries must be kept away from your dog in case your pooch decides to chew on them. If you see a battery-operated gift, remote control, or a gadget with a battery missing, start a search for it right away. If you can’t find the battery, you must assume your dog has swallowed it and should take your dog to the veterinarian for help right away.
  • Keep potpourris out of reach, especially if liquid, as these usually contain essential oils and detergents that can burn your dog’s mouths, skin, and eyes.

3. Avoid Holiday Food Dangers

  • Dogs love sweets and are particularly drawn to the scent and taste of chocolate, which contains the compound theobromine. This ingredient is poisonous to them. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, and chocolate of any kind is more dangerous for small dogs than large dogs. For example, consuming 400 grams of any chocolate can be fatal for average sized dogs as they don’t have the enzyme needed to digest and metabolize it.
  • All sweets are dangerous for dogs and so are candy wrappers and plastic lollypop sticks, which can cause choking and create an intestinal blockage if ingested. Candy and desserts intended for dieters may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol that can be poisonous to dogs and cause liver failure, watch out for the “no sugar added labels”. Keep all candy and sweets out of “paw reach.”
  • Don’t allow your pet to consume any alcohol and make sure your guests don’t decide it would be fun to see how your pet reacts with alcohol in his or her system. Yes, there are people who will actually offer alcohol to pets. Place unattended beverages where your pet can’t reach them.
  • Make sure everyone, including guests, are aware that your pet can’t be fed any table scraps or leftover snacks, and make sure these are safely discarded when people have finished eating. Many foods that are safe for human are hard for dogs to digest, can cause intestinal problems such as bloating, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can be poisonous to them. Rather than read a list to your guests of what your pet mustn’t be fed, request that no table scraps or snacks be offered or dropped invitingly on the floor. As an alternative you can give your guests appropriate treats to offer during dinner time if needed.
  • Don’t leave leftover food around to tempt your dog. Clear your tables and counters, see that your garbage can has a tight fitting lid, and take out the trash to make sure your dog can’t get into it.
  • Watch for symptoms of food poisoning—vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and poor coordination—and take your dog to the veterinarian for help immediately if you see these warning signs in your pet.

4. Keep Certain Christmas Plants Out of Reach

  • Mistletoe and holly with its bright red berries are dangerous to pets if ingested, and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and heart arrhythmia. Poinsettias and Christmas cactus are not nearly as dangerous, but they should still be presented and used with caution since they can still cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Other holiday plants you should avoid having around are amaryllis, calla and peace lilies, balsam, pine, and cedar, which can also cause digestive problems for dogs.
  • Substitute artificial plants made of silk or plastic if you want to add the “plant touch” to your holiday decorating plans.

5. Plan Pet-Safe Holiday Entertainment

  • Arrange a holiday safe zone where your pooch can always retreat so that you don’t have a stressed-out pet. Set up a room where your dog can hide from the noise of loud people and loud music when you are entertaining. Leave food, water, some favourite toys, and a comforting mat, blanket, or bed in which he or she can snuggle.
  • Explain the dangers of human food and beverages for dogs to all guests and make sure visiting children understand and are aware of the dangers, too.
  • If your dog is inclined to make a dash for the door whenever it is opened, install a baby gate to make sure your pet can safely greet guests from behind it.

By working together with everyone in your home, you can prevent holiday dangers for your dog when you choose gifts and treats for your pooch and keep pet safety in mind when choosing decorations, plants, and food. Be careful about leftover food on tables and counters and the disposal of it. When everything is in place for the holidays, look around and see if anything presents a possible danger to your dog, or if your pooch could come to harm in any of the rooms accessible to him or her. You don’t want a trip to the veterinarian to be on your list of holiday events!

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.

Weird Things Dogs Eat and Why They Eat Them

We love our pet dogs, but sometimes they eat some pretty weird things! As dog owners it’s natural to worry about the health and safety of our pets, especially if we see gross, disgusting items disappearing into their mouths and then being swallowed before we can stop it from happening.

Will that horrible stuff make our doggies sick? We can’t help but worry, worry, worry! However, many of the non-food items dogs choose to eat are neither dangerous nor worrisome. There are others, however, that do require our immediate attention and even a trip to the veterinarian. If your dog consumes something large that can’t pass through the intestines in 10 to 24 hours, a blockage may be occurring which can be life-threatening.

Non-Food Items Dogs Consume

Did you know there are actually terms for why this may happen? In fact, there are two major names to describe the behaviour of dogs eating weird things:

  1. Pica – Pica is the general term for non-nutritive items that dogs may eat. These can range from sand, grass, dirt, paper, chalk, rocks, socks (yes, they may actually swallow socks!), and plastic, as well as toxic items. Eating some peculiar things can be a signal that your dog has a health problem you should be aware of, such as nutritional deficiencies in his or her diet or an electrolyte imbalance. Of course, some of the things we’ve listed here are definitely dangerous items for your pet to eat.
  1. Coprophagia – This is a particular form of pica that most people find altogether revolting, and it is the consumption of feces. However, there are usually good reasons for dogs to engage in this behaviour, which is the most common form of pica.
  • Mother dogs lick their puppies’ bottoms to keep them clean and to encourage them to urinate and defecate. In other words, mothers become used to the taste and smell of poop, and it continues to be a familiar food item for them. Coprophagia is normal behaviour for female dogs.
  • This is unlikely but dogs may often eat feces to keep their kennels or living spaces clean.
  • Sometimes the nutritional needs of dogs are not being met and they eat feces in an effort to improve their diets. Cat feces in particular is high in protein because the diet of cats, unlike that of dogs, usually features a lot of meat. Dogs, therefore, may consider cat poop a gourmet food item! However, eating the feces of other animals is not safe. Make sure your veterinarian knows about this behaviour. 

There are Several Reasons for Pica to Develop in Dogs

Aside from the reasons for coprophagia, there are endless questionable items that dogs ingest for a variety of reasons:

  1. Attention-Seeking – Your dog may simply be seeking attention because he or she feels neglected. If this is the case, unwanted behavior like eating weird items can be overcome by paying more attention to, and playing more frequently with, your pet.
  2. Stress – Anxiety and stress can cause your dog to develop compulsive behavioural patterns, one of which can be pica. Dogs often become anxious when changes occur in the household: a new person comes to live in the house, or a familiar person moves out; a new pet is introduced into the family; or you move to another residence. In time, the problem will disappear.
  3. Curiosity – Dogs are as curious as humans are! Puppies are especially prone to investigating and sampling new delights—or horrors—and will probably grow out of their tendency to try eating everything in sight by six months or so. If not, be on the lookout for reasons other than curiosity and experimentation.
  4. Health Needs – In the off chance your dog has health issues that need to be addressed, pica should never be ignored. You should consult your veterinarian if your older pooch tries to eat the same type of item again and again or shows a craving for feces. An examination can rule out a nutritional need or an electrolyte imbalance.

Symptoms That Should Alarm Owners

If your pooch presents these symptoms and you aren’t sure what was eaten, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately:

  1. Vomiting and diarrhea
  2. Pain and tenderness in the abdomen
  3. Constipation and straining to defecate
  4. Severe disinterest in food
  5. A lack of energy
  6. Snapping or growling when picked up

Worry if Your Dog Consumes These Items

  1. Batteries – Batteries or any small item containing batteries must be kept out of reach of your pet because battery acid is very corrosive. If you find a remote control or any battery-operated gadget on the floor and the battery has been punctured, take your dog to the veterinarian. If the battery has disappeared altogether, you have to assume it has been swallowed and your dog needs immediate medical attention.
  2. Pills or Medication – Pills or any other medication for humans or animals are always a worry, and most are highly toxic for pets.
  3. Plastic Objects – Items made of plastic are often attractive to dogs, and if swallowed, can become a blockage. Broken plastic pieces can cut your dog’s mouth or puncture their insides.
  4. Fabric – Socks, string, underwear, or any item made of fabric can stretch out in the abdomen and then bunch up and cause a blockage.
  5. Toxic Items – Toxic items include any cleaners or home care items that are poisonous or corrosive, both for humans and animals.
  6. Some Food Items Intended for Humans – Make sure you know what food for humans is safe for your pet and keep every other type of food out of reach. Such items as chocolate, alcohol, coffee, artificial sweeteners, nuts, avocadoes, onions, raisins, and grapes must always be kept away from dogs. A more in-depth list of foods you shouldn’t feed your dog can be found in our previous blog post.

Don’t Worry If Your Dog Consumes These Weird Items

  1. Flies and Moths – these can be fun for dogs to catch and eating them won’t hurt your pet
  2. Ice Cubes – are fine and can even help dogs keep cool on a hot day, just be careful they don’t swallow them whole.
  3. Dust Balls – these are a strange choice, but not a problem and your dog may be interested in the salty taste or the interesting texture
  4. Grass – this is fine unless it is an ongoing pastime, which usually signals a nutritional need, the presence of worms, a need for fibre, or a need to improve digestion

What You Can Do About Pica

If your dog routinely eats weird things, make sure your veterinarian knows what they are to rule out medical reasons for your pet’s behaviour. Once these medical reasons are ruled out, the next step would be implementing specific types of training to avoid this.

  • Keep toxic and poisonous items away from your dog. Put them up high, in closets, and behind doors that your pet can’t push open.
  • Pick things up from the floor, hang them up, put them away, and make sure there is nothing around that your pet can eat or chew on without your noticing. If you catch your dog in the act of eating things like dust balls, do not yell at or scold your pooch. Instead, simply pick up the item and remove it from their sight, or dispose of it.
  • If your pet eats the feces of animals outdoors, make sure your veterinarian knows so that a parasite test can be performed on your dog.
  • If you can’t stop your dog from eating sticks and stones, garbage, and anything within reach, you may have to use a muzzle when your dog is taken outside, but this should only be used as a last resort.

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.

Are Cats Allowed to Drink Milk? (The Answer is No & Here’s Why)

To answer the question, “Should cats be allowed to drink milk?” the short answer is “no.” The puzzle that leaps to mind is, why are we cautioned against it when the sight of kittens and cats happily lapping up saucers of milk are shown everywhere? Not only do we see it in numerous movies, cartoons, and picture books, but also we see kittens fed milk by mother cats, and they obviously love drinking it. It’s the food for kittens provided by nature.

And therein lies the difference, and the answer—milk is the food provided for kittens, not cats. Mother cats feed their kittens milk and then wean them off from nursing in four to ten weeks, sharing solid foods with them instead. Mother knows best! Milk as a whole food is perfect for her babies, but it’s no longer good for them when they begin to mature.

As kittens are weaned from nursing and they begin to eat solid food, the mother cat stops producing milk. It is no longer available for the kittens by the time they are eating a regular solid food diet.

Why Does Milk Stop Being Ideal for Cats?

A few weeks after birth, there is a reduction of the enzyme lactase in a kitten’s body. Lactase is needed to break down the sugar in a mother cat’s milk to allow the young kitten to digest it properly. Kittens produce this enzyme in smaller amounts as they develop, and by six months of age, most kittens have adult levels of lactase. These adult levels are insufficient to digest milk and their bodies can no longer tolerate it. Basically, like some humans, most cats become lactose intolerant.

In addition to no longer producing lactase, kittens no longer have access to their mother cat’s milk since it dries up when she stops nursing. This means any other milk you decide to feed your older kitten or adult cat is even less suitable and less easily digested by your cat, who is now, very likely, lactose intolerant.

When cow’s milk is pasteurized, the protein in the milk changes and particles of homogenized milk will leak into a cat’s gut, which causes digestive problems for kitties. The same difficulty occurs if you decide to feed ice cream or cheese to your cat, which will also cause digestive problems since they are processed dairy products.

Milk is not a “whole food” for adult cats any more than it is a whole food for adult humans. Humans need many different types of foods to satisfy their nutritional needs. So do cats.

Are Some Cats Able to Drink Milk?

Yes, some adult cats can drink milk; not all of them are lactose intolerant. However, even if your cat is one of the lucky ones who can enjoy milk as a treat now and then, there are other problems with relying on whole milk as a staple in a cat’s diet.

One is a possible lack of meeting your cat’s nutritional needs because your kitty may fill up on milk and then not eat the variety of food necessary for good health. The other—equally serious—is cat obesity.

Why do Cats Crave Milk in Spite of the Problems it Creates? 

Because cats are not capable of linking cause and effect, your kitty will never make the connection that drinking milk is causing his or her digestive distress afterwards. Fortunately, you can. You may wonder why cats continue to love milk when it is obviously not a good idea for them to drink it. These are the reasons:

  1. Cats love milk because it is cold and fresh, and they love the familiar taste and smell
  2. Cats connect drinking milk with old, positive memories (as kittens), and it remains a comfort food for them.
  3. Cats need liquid and may prefer milk to water.

Although your kitty may not be interested in drinking water, liquid is important for hydration and you must supply water regularly rather than milk:

  • Keep water in your kitty’s water bowl.
  • Add a little wet food to your kitty’s diet.
  • When serving water-packed canned fish, add a little water to the liquid. 

What are the Symptoms of Cats Suffering From Milk Consumption? 

In spite of a cat’s determination not to show pain because of an instinctive fear of showing weakness to predators, there are distress signs of which cat owners should be aware. 

Signs of Adverse Effects of Drinking Milk:

  • Stomach Upsets – Your kitty may vomit and stop eating until he or she has recovered from the stomachache.
  • Diarrhea – This problem is unmistakable and is caused by undigested sugar that draws water into the intestine.
  • Gassiness – Most cats do not routinely expel smelly gas. The gas is created by undigested sugars fermenting in the intestine.
  • Bloating – A distended abdomen can be a sign of bloating caused by gas from fermenting undigested sugar.

Even if your cat is able to tolerate milk and shows no symptoms of distress after drinking it, you don’t have a free hand to let your kitty drink milk regularly no matter how urgently he or she meows for it.

Obesity is Another Adverse Effect 

Obesity is a health risk for animals just as it is for humans. Obese cats and obese humans have shortened life spans and are at risk for many unpleasant ailments.

If your cat has a regular supply of milk, your kitty will eat less of the nutritional, balanced diet you provide through canned food, which is much lower in calories. Most cats also enjoy eating dairy products such as ice cream and cheese, which add even more unwanted and unnecessary calories.

How Did the Message That Cats Can Drink Milk Become so Widespread?

People who don’t know any better spread messages about animals who eat foods that aren’t good for them. Animal experts no longer accept old-fashioned ideas about animal eating habits:

  • Mice don’t normally eat cheese—Cinderella’s friend Gus is an exception.
  • Dogs shouldn’t chew on bones, which can be dangerous to them—Scooby Doo takes lots of risks.
  • Rabbits shouldn’t be offered carrots except in small amounts now and then—never mind what you saw in Bugs Bunny.
  • Older kittens and adult cats shouldn’t drink milk regularly, if at all—forget what you learned from The Aristocats.

In the same way that you have to control children’s access to candy, you must be strong and not allow your cat to drink milk. It will help protect your beloved pet’s health and life.

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.

Why You Should Never Feed Your Dog from the Dinner Table

Why must you resist your sweet dog’s pleading eyes as he or she begs for food at the dinner table? No matter how cute your pooch looks, it is important that you stay strong and resist the temptation. It’s not safe to feed table scraps to your furry friend and doing so can lead to a variety of health problems. It can also promote bad behaviours not only from your dog, but from people too.

Problems Stem from Feeding Your Dog Table Scraps

It is hard to resist feeding table scraps from the dinner table to your pooch, but the problems that can result put your pet’s health and life at risk. Consider the behavioural, social, and physical problems that you will be encouraging by this practice.

Behavioral and Social Problems

Behavior and social issues can result from providing food anywhere but in your dog’s own bowl and will introduce bad habits to your dog and also to you. 

  • Begging works – Are you training your pet or is your pooch training you? Your dog will learn very quickly that pleading eyes, sitting and staring at you, nudging, jumping up, running around, whining, crying, or barking will result in table scraps being offered by permissive human hands. Other times, food will drop from the table or during meal preparation or cleanup, and will be left for him or her to scoop up. Can’t anyone find the broom? It is so easy to let a doggie clean the floor, and it teaches your pet to hang around at meals and snack times.
  • Constant meal disruptions – Once your dog knows that begging works, you will never again enjoy any peace when you are eating at the table, snacking anywhere, or whenever you are cooking.
  • Difficulty re-training – If you accept begging behaviour at any point, it will be hard to reverse the practice. Not only will you be subjected to ongoing begging, but also all your guests will be, too!
  • Refusing dog food – Your dog may learn to enjoy food for humans more than food for dogs and you could eventually have trouble getting your pooch to eat anything but food for humans. Picky eaters aren’t fun to have around, especially if you are about to enjoy a meal that is unsafe or toxic for your little pet. Try explaining that to your pooch.
  • Guest problems – Guests may think your pet’s begging practices are so cute that they begin to slip food to your dog without your noticing and could inadvertently feed him or her something that is toxic and dangerous or simply food that causes a tummy ache or diarrhea. You and your dog will be left to deal with the consequences.
  • Stealing food – Your dog may believe that because any table scraps and food dropped can be eaten, any food put on or left on the table, counters, or anywhere else is fair game. Your pet will simply take and eat whatever can be reached. Do you know exactly how far your dog can reach, standing on his or her hind legs with paws outstretched? Watch out!

Health Problems

Dinner table feeding can cause a variety of health problems and they don’t take long to develop. 

  • Dietary issues – Your dog could learn to love food for humans so much he or she could become dependant on it and refuse to eat dog food. Now you have to worry about feeding your dog a balanced diet from miscellaneous table scraps. Dog food suppliers make sure they are offering balanced diets for pets, but you would have to figure it all out for yourself. Does that sound like fun?
  • Food intake calculations – If you allow a moderate amount of feeding from the dinner table, you have to factor in the amount of calories and food content that your dog is receiving and reduce the amount of dog food your pet receives.
  • Weight problems – Remember, a dog will eat almost anything you put in front of him or her. If you miscalculate the amount of food your dog receives at the table and the amount of dog food you supply, your dog could become overweight. If your dog puts on undesirable extra pounds for his or her size, age, and breed, these kinds of problems could develop:
    • Bone, joint, ligament problems, and mobility issues
    • Heart disease and breathing problems
    • Reduced liver function
    • A shortened life

Danger, Danger!

If you decide to feed your dog table scraps knowing the dangers, set yourself and your family a few basic rules and stick to them. Make a list of what is permitted, what is undesirable, and what is forbidden, and see that your family and friends are on board. Offer only moderate amounts of food and make sure you adjust the servings of dog food and treats your pet receives accordingly.

Permitted: Offer only healthy food items such as cereals; steamed or cooked potatoes; rice; cooked eggs; cheese; peanut butter; cooked, chopped beef, chicken, or turkey (no bones!); some fruits like bananas, berries, and seedless watermelon; and vegetables, chopped, cooked, and unseasoned.

Undesirable: Do not offer junk food such as potato chips, fries, pizza, cake, cookies, or fried or oily foods. 

Forbidden: Forbidden foods are those toxic to dogs, and include avocados, onions—and any food prepared with them—many common seasonings such as garlic and chives, alcohol of any kind, coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and candy, bones, grapes, raisins, nuts, the pits of peaches and plums, and foods that contain artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol—usually junk foods and beverages.

Keep forbidden foods out of the reach of your pet. If your dog suddenly begins severe vomiting or diarrhea, or shows signs of coordination problems, lethargy, depression, shortness of breath, tremors, or seizures, do a quick investigation around your home to see if you can identify a food or beverage culprit. Call your dog’s veterinarian for advice or take your dog to an emergency hospital.

In general, you should not feed your dog from the dinner table or offer food designed for humans because many foods can be unsafe or poisonous to animals, and can cause a variety of health problems, as well as lead to bad behaviours. Keep your best friend safe!

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 Take Care of Your Rabbit’s Teeth

One of the most important tasks you’ll have after adopting a cute little rabbit is taking care of your new pet’s teeth. If you supply the diet and care needed to keep the teeth healthy, which continue to grow for his or her lifetime, you’ll have a happy, healthy bunny!

Why Teeth are so Important to Your Rabbit’s Well-being

A rabbit’s teeth are not like those of a cat or dog—they’re more like those of a horse. Horses and rabbits are herbivores with teeth of different sizes for different chewing jobs structured to break down tough, fibrous vegetation. They also share similar bacteria in their intestinal tracts to help them remove the nutritional value from fibrous material and digest it.

The slicing and biting action of the front incisors, along with the grinding action of the back teeth while chewing tough vegetation, is needed to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy and reduce overgrowth. It is imperative that your bunny’s teeth are healthy for your little pet to be a healthy animal.

Rabbits that live indoors are at risk for dental problems if their owners don’t understand the risk of feeding their pets a pellet-based diet. Even though rabbits can get sufficient nutrition from pellets, this diet does not offer enough fiber and resistance to keep the teeth, particularly the large incisors, from becoming overgrown.

As well as the very visible four incisors at the front, there are two tiny incisors, called “peg teeth,” behind the upper incisors. Including the grinding teeth—the molars—behind the incisors called “cheek teeth,” there are 28 teeth total in your pet rabbit’s mouth. You won’t be able to safely inspect the back teeth, which is why your pet should visit your rabbit’s veterinarian to make sure all is well. Healthy teeth mean a healthy rabbit.

Teeth Problems Can be Created by Poor Diets

Your rabbit’s teeth will continue to grow throughout your pet’s lifetime just like our fingernails do. They grow at approximately two millimeters a week. An appropriate diet will wear the teeth down so that they don’t become too long. If that happens, these problems can occur:

  • An overgrowth of the front teeth means the top teeth won’t meet the bottom teeth as they should, which is called a “malocclusion” and this condition creates problems.
  • A malocclusion can cause the back teeth to become misshapen.
  • Misshapen back teeth can grow sharp and pointed, rub against the cheeks and tongue, and cut the inside of the mouth.
  • Another problem caused by malocclusion is the back teeth can become impacted and the gums inflamed, and painful and dangerous abscesses can form in the jaw.
  • Back teeth need the daily grinding that occurs when a bunny is munching on grass and hay. Otherwise, they may lengthen unevenly and the bottom teeth will no longer meet the top teeth as they should.
  • If your rabbit has dental problems, the resulting pain may cause your bunny to stop eating, which can quickly become fatal. It is dangerous for a rabbit to go without eating for 24 hours.

Signs Your That Bunny’s Teeth are Fine—or Not

Remember that rabbits in the wild are prey for many animals, and any sign of pain or weakness makes them targets. Both wild and domestic rabbits will instinctively go to great lengths to conceal any discomfort, so as a bunny parent you must be vigilant for signs that your dear pet is suffering. Examine your rabbit’s teeth once a month and take your bunny to their veterinarian once a year for a check-up.

Signs That Your Bunny’s Teeth are Fine: 

  • The top incisors should be creamy white and smooth except for a line down the middle. The bottom of them should be neat and chisel-shaped.
  • The top and bottom front teeth should be lined up and straight, and the gums pink.
  • When you feel the sides of your bunny’s head, below the eyes, and along the lower jaw, there should be no lumps.

Signs Your Bunny’s Teeth Aren’t Fine:

  • Drooling or discharge from the mouth
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Your bunny is using their paws to dig inside the mouth (you’ll probably notice wet paws)
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Abnormal feces (small and dry, or big and long)
  • A sudden disinterest in eating
  • Weight loss

A Good Diet Ensures Healthy Teeth and Thus a Healthy Rabbit

You need to provide a good diet for the care of your pet rabbit’s teeth. Dental problems cannot be ignored. You must take your pet’s diet seriously or your little bunny will have a lifetime of regular teeth trimming and abscess draining under anesthetic. That’s not fun for either of you!

Rabbits need lots and lots of hay. It is the staple of their diets, so you must supply an unlimited amount. Hay is what bunnies need to keep their teeth healthy, to control the growth of their teeth, and to ensure good health for their digestive systems.

Expect adult rabbits to eat a daily amount of hay roughly the size of their bodies and it should always be fresh. Replace the hay before it becomes brown or moldy. If you offer different kinds of hay, your rabbit will be required to use different chewing motions, which is good for their molars. Timothy grass hay and oat grass hay are good choices.

As well as hay (did we mention lots and lots of it?), provide some green leafy veggies as well. The best choices are organic, free of pesticides, and washed thoroughly before serving them to your rabbit. Small amounts of three different vegetables can be offered at each feeding and you can choose from various greens such as leaf lettuce (not iceberg) and romaine, kale, carrot tops, watercress, dandelion leaves, and a variety of herbs such as basil and dill.

Fresh pellets can be offered in small amounts and should not contain corn or other high calorie foods, and they should be roughly the same colour and size and high in fiber. Bunnies love pellets but you mustn’t provide so many to the point where your pet will no longer eat the amount of hay they need every day.

Offer only healthy treats in very small amounts and save them for the times when your bunny needs comfort or when you’re training your pet. Treats can be pieces of strawberries, melon, green pepper, bananas, or small—that’s small—amounts of carrot (in spite of what Bugs Bunny cartoons have shown us!).

If you don’t know if a food is safe, don’t offer it. Certainly don’t offer chocolate, any type of candy, or avocado, and keep houseplants out of reach just in case. For more information on rabbit foods that are okay or not okay for your rabbit’s diet, please refer to our previous blog post.

As well as food, provide some rabbit-safe chewing items such as branches, twigs, and dried leaves and wooden chew sticks or blocks to help control the growth of your bunny’s teeth.

Taking care of your pet rabbit’s teeth means an annual check-up with a rabbit veterinarian who has been trained to care for bunnies, and ensuring that you supply the diet needed for their teeth. You’ll keep your bunny healthy and both of you happy as a result!

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