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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.

Safety Tips to Go Camping With Your Dog

Getting into the great outdoors and spending a few nights there is a great way to get out of the house, disconnect from the stresses of day-to-day life, and appreciate the beauty of nature. When it comes to relaxing outside, there’s no better authority than our dogs. Bringing your dog on a camping trip can be a great experience, and can lead to powerful bonding moments between humans and their animals. However, there’s some preparation needed in order to keep you, your dog, and your fellow campers safe, comfortable, and happy. Read on for our top tips on safely going camping with your dog!

Phase 1: Preparation

If you’ve been on a camping trip before, you’re familiar with the sheer amount of preparation necessary for a successful adventure. There are so many little things that won’t seem so little if you get out there and realize you’ve forgotten it, so getting organized and prepared is a must. This is even more true when it comes to going camping with your dog. Before even looking at campsites, there are some steps you should check off your to-do list, such as:

Ensuring your dog’s shots are up to date

With massive tracts of wild land to explore, and countless things to smell, it’s quite likely your dog will wind up poking its nose where it doesn’t belong. That’s why ensuring they’re up to date at the vet is crucial. It’s very possible your dog will run into other dogs while camping, so it’s important that they’ve had the DHPP (Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus) vaccinations. These diseases are quite contagious, and can be harmful or even fatal to pets. Your dog should also be up to date on immunizations for other illnesses, such as rabies, bordetella, and leptospirosis. This will not only keep your dog safe, but eliminate the chance of other dogs being infected.

It’s also a good idea to get your dog on a preventative treatment for parasites, such as fleas, mosquitos that can transmit heartworm, and ticks. We recommend having your pet on this treatment year-round, but it’s especially important when taking an extended camping trip. Like humans, dogs can contract Lyme disease from a tick-bite, not to mention potentially bringing a few unwelcome pests home with them, so it’s a good idea to take all the preventative measures possible, for everyone’s comfort and safety.

Training

Ensuring your dog is well trained is an extremely important part of preparing for a camping trip with your canine companion. Even if your dog is fairly well-behaved at home, there’s no telling what will get into them once you’re out there. The unfamiliar environment, and wealth of strange new sights, sounds, and smells, can be downright overwhelming for even the most well-adjusted dogs. That’s why going over the doggy training basics can make such a huge difference in everyone’s enjoyment of your next trip.

A good place to start is making sure your dog is comfortable hanging out in an enclosed area, such as a playpen or a crate. Most campsites require all dogs to be on-leash, and this isn’t exactly easy when you need both hands to set up camp, make dinner, or roll a sleeping bag. You can also tether them with a long lead, but remember that this is no substitute for supervision, and that there’s still lots of trouble for them to get into.

If your dog is a big barker, consider whether bringing them camping is a good call or not. People get outside to enjoy the soothing sounds of nature, not to hear someone else’s dog barking at squirrels at all hours of the day. If you aren’t able to keep your dog’s voice down, they may be best left with a sitter for your trip.

A few other commands that your dog should have down pat before your trip include: Sit, stay, come, quiet, and drop it. Your pup needs to have a strong handle on these commands, or there’s no telling what kind of mischief they’ll get up to. With other campers, who may have dogs or children, not to mention the potentially sensitive flora and fauna in your area, it’s crucial that you can keep your dog under control at all times. 

Keeping track of your dog

With so much room to run and play, there’s always the possibility of a dog tearing off into the woods, and you spending the rest of your trip searching for them. Since they’ll have no idea how to get home, it’ll be up to you to track them down. Should this horrible experience of losing your dog happen to you, you’ll be glad you took the time to ensure your dog was properly identified on its collar, and that it has its microchip, so it can be identified if it turns up later. Although this might not help you track them down in the moment, (that’s what all that training was for!) it greatly improves the chances of the two of you being reunited.

Getting your dog used to roughing it

While we may be able to prepare ourselves, mentally and physically, for sleeping on the ground in a tent, our dogs may not yet be up to the task. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to sleeping outdoors, even if that means the two of you spending the night in a tent in the backyard. Even if you can’t make time to spend the night in a tent together beforehand, bringing your dog’s favourite treats, toys, blankets, and other objects will help your pup be more comfortable in the tent, and get excited about roughing it.

Do your research!

Depending on your destination, there are lots of things to be on the lookout for when camping with your dog. It’s important to read up on the area you’re planning to camp, and find out what kinds of plants and animals may cause problems for you and your dog. Parasites, as discussed before, are nearly everywhere, but can be much worse in some areas than others (think a marshland full of mosquitos). On top of that, predators like bears, cougars, coyotes, or snakes can pose a major threat. It’s not overly likely to run into these creatures, but it’s important to be aware of them, and plan accordingly. Additionally, look up if there are any dangerous plants your dog might run into, such as stinging nettles or poison ivy, or perhaps something more exotic. 

Other things that will be important to research are the campsite’s dog policy. Are well-behaved dogs allowed to roam off-leash, or must they remain tethered at all times? Most campsites will have information online about their dog policy, or have specific sites that are dog-friendly. If you can’t find the information you need, you can always give the site a call, or try a third party site such as Bring Fido, which can help you find a suitable destination.

The bottom line here, though, is to do extensive research, and learn everything you can about the area before visiting. 

What to bring

In a previous post, we discussed the best ways to prepare your dog for a hike, complete with a packing list. Many of the same principles apply to a camping trip, with a few added items that are a good idea to bring along. Here’s our list of essential supplies for camping with your dog:

  • Water and a collapsible bowl
    • No matter when or where you go camping, you can count on your dog getting thirsty. It’s important to bring enough water, or ideally, more than enough. Exactly how much depends on the size and breed of your dog, the temperature of the area, and the expected level of intensity of getting to the campsite, as well as any day trips or other activities you have planned. One thing is for certain, you don’t want to run out of water while camping with your dog, for your sake and theirs. As well, do your best to stop your dog from drinking from streams, ponds, and puddles, as this water may pass parasites or pathogens to your pup.
  • Food and treats
    • For day-to-day sustenance, or for when your dog needs a little pick-me-up (or a convincing bribe).
  • Poop bags! (And/or a spade)
    • Always make sure to clean up after your dog, either bagging it and properly disposing of it, or, if it’s not possible to pack it out, burying it at least a foot deep, a hundred feet or more from water access points, roadways, or civilization in general. 
  • Doggy first aid kit
    • On top of your normal first aid gear, we recommend adding some dog-safe antihistamines and antiseptics, as well as liquid bandages for paw pads. 
  • A cozy dog bed
    • While your dog might be attached to their cozy bed at home, it’s a good idea to get a second bed that’s designed for camping. These usually are thicker, and provide better insulation for your dog to keep them comfortable through the night. The more comfortable your dog is in the tent, the less likely you are to be woken up by a restless pup in the middle of the night.
  • A long leash
    • For campsites that only allow tethered dogs, look for a sturdy leash with a good length. You should be able to wrap it around a tree when needed, while still giving your dog a decent amount of room to roam. At the same time, it should be short enough to allow you to keep control of your dog at all times.
  • Doggy-dedicated towel
    • This will allow you to dry and clean them off before letting them into your tent, keeping whatever dirt, water, or unwelcome critters out of your sleeping area. We recommend bringing a towel that is just for your dog, because, well, who would want to share?
  • Dog-friendly sunscreen and bug spray
    • These specialty products may prove a little hard to find, but they’re essential for keeping your dog healthy and happy on your camping trip. Sunscreen made for dogs will protect them from harmful UV rays, while special bug spray will protect them from mosquitos, and therefore from heartworm. IMPORTANT: Never use DEET on your dog!
  • Your dog’s favourite toy(s)
    • A little something to remind them of home, and keep them out of trouble while you brew that first pot of coffee.
  • A reflective or illuminated collar
    • While not essential, having an LED light or reflective surface on your dog’s collar or jacket can be a big help in tracking them down should they leave your sight.

Phase 2: Arriving to the campsite

Although it’s tempting to get to work straight away on setting up camp, remember that this all might be a bit of a scary or overwhelming experience for your four-legged friend. Keep them calm by giving them a (leashed) tour of the place, and allow them to check everything out under your supervision. This will help put the dog at ease for the rest of the trip, as well as hopefully satisfy their curiosity, and stop them from running off at the first chance they get. You can also help make your pet more comfortable by setting up a relaxing, safe spot for them to hang out while you’re in the campsite. Someplace that’s shady and free of pests or hazards, and allows them to get a good lay of the land.

Phase 3: Enjoying the trip!

You’ve done your due diligence, prepared and planned accordingly, and you and your dog have finally arrived. What to do now? Well, the world is your oyster, but here are a few suggestions on activities to do while camping with your dog:

1. Fetch!

This one might seem a little obvious, but truthfully, camping is one of the best times to play fetch with your dog. Think about how excited your pet will be to be running wildly in a huge open area, not having to worry about other dogs or people. It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, and we certainly count a round of fetch in the grout outdoors among them.

2. Go for a hike

If your dog is up to the task, we recommend taking a hike while you’re camping! Lots of campsites have great day trips or even overnight hikes in the area, so have a look around in your research phase to see if any trails catch your eye. It can be a good challenge for your dog, and lots of fun for the both of you. 

3. Take a dip

If it’s mid-summer, and there’s a beautiful, undisturbed body of water nearby, we probably don’t even have to make this recommendation. And your dog certainly won’t need to be told twice! You may just find yourself wading out there after them.

4. Just take it all in!

Life as a dog is simple, but that simplicity is what we find so wonderful. Even just taking your pal on a little walk around the area, especially if your dog is a breed not predisposed to more challenging hikes, can be a great way to get them excited. After all, it’s only natural that your dog will want to smell, eat, or pee on just about everything, so you may as well join them on the trip, and make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.

Going camping with your dog can be an incredibly fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the great outdoors with your best friend, and more often than not, taking a trip with them will lead to powerful bonding moments that neither of you will soon forget. With proper preparation, training, and understanding of how to look after your pet in the wild, anyone can experience the joys of camping with their dog.

For questions about getting your dog camp or hike-ready, or anything else around your animals and their needs, 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.

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.

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 Often Should My Dog’s Ears Be Cleaned?

This is one question our vets get asked a lot! Your dog’s ears need to be cleaned only as per recommendation of your veterinarian, or when there are signs of an ear problem. In any case, your dog’s veterinarian should always be the one to make the diagnosis and take care of the problem with treatment and any ear cleaning necessary.

What Can I Use to Clean My Dog’s Ears?

This is another frequently asked question we get, and the answer is: not a whole lot, and for a very good reason. It is actually not a good idea to try to clean your dog’s ears yourself; cleaning may not even be necessary.

Let us explain. The cleanliness of your pet’s ears, in general, depends on your dog’s breed, coat, activities, age, and the amount of earwax produced. Your dog’s ears may be floppy, long, short, or stick right up, and there may be a lot of thick hair, or the hair in the ears may be thin and sparse. Whatever it may look like on the outside, however, on the inside, a dog’s ear canal is always L-shaped with vertical and horizontal portions, which makes cleaning difficult. That means you should never take on this job yourself. There is a lot of potential to create a problem when there may be no reason for concern.

A professional groomer will be happy to remove thick hair in the external ear and around the ear canal opening to reduce chances of water or pollutants being trapped inside, but will not venture further into a dog’s ear than a half inch. If your dog displays any symptoms of ear problems, don’t go to a groomer but to your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Many dogs never need to have their ears cleaned. As a pet parent, your job is to make sure your pet’s ears are dried well after swimming or splashing in the water, and to watch for signs and symptoms of ear problems. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether or not your dog’s ears need grooming to keep shaggy hair out of them before the excess hair causes problems.

Ear Problems in Dogs Can be Triggered in Several Ways

There are lots of do-it-yourself (DIY) instructions for cleaning your pet’s ears online, but don’t follow them. It is best that you examine your dog’s ears routinely for discharge or redness and sniff them for odor, and leave the cleaning to an expert. There are too many concerns with taking on this job yourself, including the fact that your dog may not be very cooperative if you try!

Here is why dog ear problems can develop:

  • Excessive hair in and around the ears or excessive earwax can make it difficult for your dog’s ears to dry out well after water gets into them.
  • Ear mites, a foreign object stuck in the ear, tumours or polyps, or water trapped in the ears can lead to bacterial or yeast infections.
  • Ear cleaning too frequently can cause irritation of the skin inside your dog’s ears, which can lead to an infection.
  • Ear cleaning with the improper tools, such as a poor cleaning solution or not enough cleaning solution, or Q-tips can all be sources of infections.
  • Allergies, hypothyroidism, or a ruptured ear drum can all cause ear problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Ear Problems

Keep in mind that floppy-eared breeds such as basset hounds, retrievers, and spaniels are more prone to ear infections. If this is your dog’s breed, then you should be diligent about checking their ears often. Take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Frequent head shaking or head tilting
  • A foul smell from the ears; a strong, very unpleasant smell usually indicates a bacterial infection; a musty smell, like moldy bread, usually means a yeast infection
  • Loss of balance or walking in circles
  • Discharge from ears that is yellow, brownish, black specked, or bloody
  • A scabby or waxy or brownish build up in the ear folds or the ear canal
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear sensitivity, i.e. the dog avoids having anyone touch their ears

Veterinarians Test for Dog Ear Problems and Treat Them Carefully

Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s ears and may take a sample for further examination under a microscope. Further testing may also be required if the cause of the ear problems are not readily apparent.

The main problem could be affecting the outer ear, but may involve the middle or inner ear as well. Outer ear problems can be treated easily, but when an infection spreads to the middle or inner ear, treatment takes longer and your dog’s balance and hearing can be affected. As well, inner ear infections can cause a lot of pain to dogs.

The usual treatments for infections and other ear problems are:

  • Medication, which can be either oral or topical or both, and may be antibiotic or antifungal depending on the problem. A bacterial infection will be treated with an antibiotic. A fungal infection, such as a yeast infection, will be treated with an antifungal medication. Corticosteroids may be used in addition to antibiotic or antifungal medications.
  • A veterinary prescription will be needed for pain and possibly steroids for inflammation
  • Ear flushing may be recommended by your vet for infections.
  • Further testing for allergies or complicated or chronic problems by a dermatologist may be necessary.

If your dog is a very shaggy breed and there is a lot of hair in your pet’s ears, ask your groomer to remove the hair in and around the ear canal. Otherwise, carefully examine your pet’s ears as part of your regular at-home dog ear care program, and wait until you see symptoms of a problem, which may never happen (fingers crossed!).

We cannot state it enough. If you should see any of the symptoms or signs listed above, leave the diagnosis to your veterinarian. If cleaning your dog’s ears is necessary, you can rest assured it will be done correctly and no further problems occur.

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 There Supplements/Natural Remedies that Would Help My Dog?

This is a question our veterinary staff gets asked a lot at our clinic! Dogs are dependent on their pet parents to supply everything necessary for them to be healthy and happy. They need a healthy diet to support growth, healthy bones and teeth, a shiny thick coat, a strong immune system to ward off diseases, and a high energy level.

Safe supplements can be added to your dog’s food to improve its nutritional value and to assist in the treatment of various health issues. As well, there are many natural remedies that can be introduced to enhance a dog’s happiness and well-being, or are starting to develop problems as they age.

It’s best that you always consult your veterinarian about supplements and natural remedies. 

Quality food for your dog is a good investment and it is important for your dog to have a high-quality well-balanced diet.

Specific problems require special supplements

  • Glucosamine – This is the most commonly recommended supplement for dogs with stiff joints and mobility issues or for dogs with arthritis. It helps to reduce inflammation.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – This is the second most popular supplement. It essential fatty acids that are needed to improve a dog’s coat, skin health, and help reduce inflammation.
  • Antioxidants – These supplements, such as vitamins C and E, help reduce the negative effects of aging, improve memory, reduce the risk of heart disease, and reduce inflammation. Good quality well balance diets contain these important supplements.
  • Probiotics – These supplements increase the growth of good bacteria and yeasts that live in the digestive system. Probiotics are especially important to restore balance in the digestive system after a stressful incident such as vomiting, diarrhea, or the use of antibiotics, etc.

Be cautious with supplements

  • Use only supplements made for animals and prescribed by your veterinarian. Never substitute the dog supplements with those intended for human consumption; those are sometimes dangerous for dogs.
  • Carefully follow the dosages at the direction of your veterinarian. Never exceed the recommended doses.
  • Remember that supplements do not produce overnight results. Be patient and expect results to show up slowly with regular usage over time.
  • Don’t ever expect impossible claims to be true. Supplements cannot replace prescription medication when your dog is ill, and they cannot cure cancer or any other serious disease.

Add to Your Pet’s Health and Happiness with Natural Remedies

We all know that it is important for your pet’s health and happiness to provide a balanced diet, and to give your pet as much companionship as your schedule will allow, coupled with sufficient daily exercise. However, there are natural remedies you can also use to keep your four-legged best friend mentally healthy and alert and to calm your pet when necessary.

  1. Change-up the exercise routine to keep your dog alert. Dogs love routine and, when you start on your walk, will turn and pause at all the usual places; however, it is a good idea to introduce some variety now and then. Take a new route or reverse the one you usually take.
  • If throw-and-fetch makes your pooch happy, find a place where you can play the game with a ball or a Frisbee or another suitable toy.
  • If your dog loves to splash in the water, head to the beach or a place where dogs are welcome to swim and enjoy the water.
  • Add a few extra short walks to your day, or take doggy on a run, or to a park where he or she can run off-leash.
  • Allow your dog time to stop and smell the roses or the stinky stuff—but stop him or her from eating or rolling in whatever it is!
  1. Mental stimulation. Give your dog some opportunities for mental exercise and stimulation.
  • Dog parks are great places for your pooch to interact with other dogs.
  • If your dog doesn’t make friends easily, try the occasional doggy date with a friendly neighbourhood dog and owner.
  • Teach your dog tricks to help spice up his or her life. Start with the basic commands of “sit,” “stay,” and “down,” and to come when his or her name is called. You can then move on to teaching your dog to shake hands, roll over and play dead, or to bark on command. You will need lots of patience and treats, and a signal such as snapping your fingers, or a hand signal, or a word. Keep the sessions short—no more than 10 minutes—and stop if you or your dog find yourselves losing patience or stressing out.
  • Add new toys and interactive puzzle toys to your doggy’s toy box.
  1. Music can help calm a stressed dog. If you have a nervous dog or one that becomes anxious when travelling or when a routine is changed, try adding some music to the scene. Yes, dogs do like music, especially classical music. Bach is particularly soothing and seems to be a favourite with most animals. Interestingly, they don’t react well to heavy metal, rock, hip hop, or jazz.
  1. Massages and grooming. Grooming your pet is great for bonding, and so are massages.
  • Grooming: Use a brush daily or as often as you can to keep your dog’s coat clean, to keep it free of mats and tangles, and to reduce unpleasant smells.
  • Relaxing: You can help dogs relax by petting and massaging them when they are stressed, such as during a thunderstorm or when they are restless. Pet your dog from the top of the head with long, even strokes down the spine and over the tail. Repeat this motion several times, increasing the pressure gradually—but not on the lower spine—and then rest your hands on the head and the high point on your dog’s hips. These areas control relaxation responses.
  • Sore joints: Massage can ease the stiffness and pain in a dog’s joints resulting from overexertion, inactivity, or aging. Pet the areas around the joints to warm the locations and then apply gentle compression to them. Finish off by gently petting and stroking the areas again.

Supplements can be added to increase the nutritional value of your dog’s diet and to ease various health problems. Be sure and check with your veterinarian to make sure the choices being made are appropriate ones. Other natural remedies can be used to enhance your pet’s well-being, alertness, and happiness. At the end of the day, your dog will reward you with a wagging tail and lots of affection!

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.

House Training & Crate Training Tips for Dogs

Bringing home a new puppy or an older dog means opening up a whole new world of love, excitement, and experiences! We hope these house and crate training tips for dogs will help make life easier for everyone in your home, including your new pet.

House Training Your Dog Requires Consistency and Encouragement

Puppies and older dogs are happiest when they know exactly what their owners require of them, which means it’s a good idea to plan out a schedule. By nature dogs tend to try very hard to please you, so they may soon enough catch on to the times you expect them to eat, play, sleep, and go outside to relieve themselves or go out for a walk. If you are careful to stick to the scheduled times, all while taking your dog’s age and size into consideration and using patience and rewards, you can teach your brand new member of the family what is expected of him or her in a few weeks or months.

When your dog is fully house trained, life will be happier and easier for everyone. In some cases though, the training process will usually take four to six months and occasionally up to a year before full training status can be accomplished.

When to Start House Training

For puppies you can start house training when they are between 12 and 16 weeks old. A general rule of thumb is that puppies can control their bladders for one hour for every month of age, which means three-month-old puppies should be able to hold in their urine for three hours. Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and can’t control them as long as bigger breeds can, however, so keep this in mind as well.

If you’ve adopted an adult dog or a senior, there’s a chance they may have learned bad habits from an earlier living situation before coming to your home. If this is the case, you may have to spend some time helping your new pet unlearn their bad habits by starting basic training all over again, just as if they were young puppies. Be prepared.

Space

Confine your puppy to a particular space and routine while house training.

  • A puppy (or an older pooch) should be kept in a large crate, or in a particular room where there is no carpet, or on a leash near you where you can keep an eye on your new family member. You can spread paper in one area (use several layers) of a room, but make sure your dog has space left to play, sleep, and eat in the room.
  • When taken outside, your dog should be on a leash and taken to the same spot for elimination each time.
  • As your dog learns that outside is where elimination is supposed to occur, you can give your best friend a little more freedom to move around in the house.

Times of the Day

Always take a puppy outside first thing in the morning and again 30 minutes later, and continue with 30-minute intervals all day.

  • When your new puppy grows up a little, you can extend their schedule to two-hour intervals.
  • Also, remember to take your pet outside after meals, after naps, after playtime, before being left alone, and at night just before bed.

Mealtimes

Offer food to your dog on a regular schedule, which may be three or four times a day when the puppy is really young and small, and remove any leftover food after mealtime.

  • Remove the water bowl about two hours before bedtime to lessen the chances that your pooch will need to go outside in the middle of the night—most dogs can sleep through the night. If you do have to take your dog outside, turn on very few lights, don’t talk, don’t play, and put him or her back to bed as soon as you return inside.
  • If dogs are fed at the same time each day, it is likely that they also need to eliminate at the same time each day, which can speed up the house training process.

Outdoor Trips

For any walks or trips outside, use a leash and take your puppy to the same spot each time if they need to eliminate. The scent will help remind your puppy of what is expected.

  • Use the same word or phrase each time the puppy is eliminating so that the word or words become a signal to them of what to do.
  • Give your dog praise and a reward as soon as their business is finished—not after you go back inside the house. That’s too long for dogs to wait to be able to associate the reward with the action. Also, be careful not to give rewards before they’ve finished or they may be so happy that they stop and don’t remember to finish until they are back inside.
  • During house training time, don’t take your dog for a walk until the job has been done in the regular spot. This will help reinforce the training.

In the Event of Accidents

Expect accidents to happen from time to time while house training your dog. Watch for the signs—barking, squatting, circling, or scratching at the door—that your dog needs to go outside.

  • If your puppy starts to eliminate in the house, interrupt the act by quickly and firmly saying, “Outside”—without yelling or threatening them—and immediately take your dog outside to finish. Never be upset or angry at them, and don’t ever rub your puppy’s nose in the spot or they may become scared to eliminate in your presence. When you go back inside, clean it up.
  • If you discover an area in the house that has been soiled, it’s too late to do anything but clean it up and make sure there is no lingering odor that may encourage further accidents. Again, never ever force your dog to smell the spot as punishment or yell at them after the fact; not only is this unnecessary but your dog won’t understand why you’re angry, they’ll only understand that you are angry. This, in turn, can cause a dog to distrust and dislike you as their owner. Always be gentle when house training, even if an accident occurs.

How to Make Crate Training a Happy Experience

Crates are great for keeping your dog safe and confined when they’re young and before being house trained. Crates are also useful when transporting your dog in the car or anywhere a dog isn’t free to run. Buy a crate big enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down in.

The main rule when crate training is to make sure the crate is associated with happy experiences and is viewed as a “safe, comfortable place” by your dog. Take your time and don’t expect miracles overnight.

6 Steps for Crate Training:

  1. Place the crate, door open, in the room with your pup, and put a toy and blanket inside. After your dog is used to having it in the room, place a treat inside and wait for puppy to go inside and explore. You may have to wait a few days.
  1. Put the dinner bowl near the crate and after a few days, put it inside. If your puppy enters freely and is comfortable, gradually move the food bowl to the back of the crate; if not so comfortable, put it right inside the door and move it back over a longer number of days.
  1. After a few days, close the door while puppy is eating and open it as soon as the meal is finished. Start leaving your dog inside for a minute or two after the meal is finished and then longer, but open the door immediately if there is any indication of unhappiness or unease. It means you should leave puppy inside for shorter intervals. Start over.
  1. If your puppy starts to cry or whine, don’t open the door until the whining stops or that becomes the way your dog trains you! You mustn’t let that happen. Pet your dog and offer a treat. Open the door while your dog is eating the treat.
  1. As before, gradually increase the time your dog is left inside when you are home and in the room, and then leave the room for a few minutes and then for longer periods. In time, you can coax your puppy inside with a treat and a command like, “crate time,” and leave him or her there for a few hours.
  1. If you want to crate train your puppy at night, keep the crate inside or near your bedroom so your pet doesn’t feel alone and abandoned. Over a period of weeks, you can move the crate further and further away until it is in the location you prefer.

House training and crate training are important responsibilities of dog owners. It is always best for you and your pet to work with a certified dog trainer. When you have accomplished these tasks and your dog is house trained and crate trained, you can rest easy knowing you have a very happy and well-adjusted dog!

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 Get Ready for Your Puppy’s First Veterinary Appointment

Did you get a new puppy recently? If so, your puppy’s first veterinary appointment is a great opportunity to ask questions and address concerns you may have about raising your new pet. Now is the best time to ask for professional advice on how to provide quality care for your little pup now and in the future.

Expect some paperwork, a thorough physical examination of your puppy, a discussion about vaccinations plus a schedule, and advice about your puppy’s diet, exercise, dental care, and emergency situations. Before you leave, ask any questions that haven’t already been answered.

There will be Standard Paperwork to Complete

When you and puppy arrive at the veterinarian’s office, you will have to complete some paperwork. The information required will be:

  1. About You, the Owner – You will need to give basic information including your name, address, phone number, and employment. This record will make it easier for your veterinarian to contact you regarding future appointments and/or test results.
  2. About Your Pup – You will be asked your puppy’s name, sex, where and when you purchased or were given your pup, what — if any—medical care was given in the past, and if there are housebreaking concerns or behaviour problems you are aware of.

Expect a Nose-to-Toes Examination of Your Pup

Your veterinarian will carefully examine your puppy. They’re very accustomed to reassuring nervous pups—and their nervous owners!

  1. Weight – A weight check is needed to ensure your puppy is at a healthy weight. A pup’s weight is used to determine the amount of medication needed (only if any is required now or in the near future).
  2. Temperature – Your vet will take your puppy’s temperature, which indicates whether or not they’re currently fighting off an infection.
  3. Body Examination – Your veterinarian will check over your puppy’s body for lumps, swelling, and any indication of pain. The stomach and abdomen will be palpated afterwards to check them more carefully.
  4. Point Check – The veterinarian will make sure puppy’s ears look and smell fine; teeth are free of tartar and plaque; tongue and gums are clear and of good colour; eyes are bright and there is no cloudiness or discharge; anal glands are normal; the coat is healthy and shiny; and the skin is free of parasites, such as fleas and flea eggs.
  5. Lungs and Heart – Using a stethoscope, the vet will check the puppy’s lungs and heart to make sure their lungs are working properly, and their heart rate is normal with no abnormalities.
  6. Tail, Paws, and Back – This final stage of the examination ensures everything from top to bottom is normal.

Is It Time for a Vaccination?

Vaccinations are an important factor in providing essential care for dogs. Depending on how old your puppy is and whether or not some vaccinations have already been received, your puppy may need a vaccination at their first veterinary appointment.

The first vaccinations are usually given when puppies are between eight to twelve weeks old, which is also the appropriate age to live independently from their mothers and their littermates. There are core vaccinations that all dogs should receive and there are non-core vaccinations that are optional and dependent on your dog’s risk factors.

  1. Core Vaccinations – Puppies are very susceptible to illnesses so it is best to keep your pup away from most dogs and public places until they’ve received vaccine protection. Some of the most dangerous diseases to puppies are usually spread through feces, urine, and saliva.
  • Canine distemper, or CDV – very dangerous and difficult to treat and often fatal
  • Parvovirus, or CPV2 – attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal organs and is fatal if untreated
  • Canine hepatitis, or adenovirus, or CAV2 – can cause eye and/or liver damage and breathing problems
  • Parainfluenza – this respiratory disease is easily spread from dog to dog
  • Rabies – this is the final vaccination needed because puppies must be 16 weeks of age to receive it. Rabies is fatal and can be transmitted to humans.
  1. Non-Core Vaccinations – Depending on where you live and your pup’s lifestyle, your dog may need some of these non-core vaccinations for such problems as bordetella, or kennel cough—a vaccination required at doggie daycare and kennels—or possibly leptospirosis, or Lyme disease.

Your veterinarian will give you a vaccination schedule that will include all of the necessary vaccinations needed as a puppy and booster shots when necessary to keep your dog protected throughout their adult years.

Protection Against Other Common Problems Begins Now

It is typical for treatment against parasites to begin at this stage. Your veterinarian will provide de-worming and medication or treatment for protection against ticks, fleas, and heartworms.

Your pup’s breed may be at risk for various medical problems. Your veterinarian can provide advice on prevention, screening, and testing for health problems that may occur in the future, and you can ask about the usual treatments for any of them.

Voice Any Concerns That Haven’t Been Covered

Your veterinarian cares about your new pet as much as you do! They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have that went unanswered. Don’t worry if you don’t think they are important or if they may sound silly; there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you brought a list of questions or thought of some during the examination, now is the time to ask.

  • If you worry about how you will be able to cut your pet’s nails, ask when it must be done and how to do it.
  • If you are nervous about brushing your dog’s teeth, ask for a demonstration.
  • You can ask for suggestions about your puppy’s diet and for recommendations on age-appropriate dog food and treats.
  • Raise any concerns you have about behavioural issues, such as barking, whining, or chewing on items they shouldn’t be.
  • Ask about having an ID microchip inserted, when it can be done, and the cost.
  • Ask what is considered to be an emergency and when and where to call after hours for help. Make sure you know where to take your hurt pet to a dog hospital or a dog clinic if you can’t wait.

Your veterinarian can help you prevent your best friend from becoming ill. They can also detect possible problems even before an onset of signs and symptoms that can be observed. Early treatment means a good chance of complete recovery.

Bring your questions and concerns and be prepared to discuss your worries about care and costs. Your puppy will be a little nervous about this visit and may be worn out and sleepy afterwards—and you might be, too! However, the vet visit is worth it for both of you. Your puppy’s first veterinary appointment will start your new pet on the road to good health and a long and happy future. It’s a road you can enjoy traveling along 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.

Dog Neutering & the Movember Movement

November is here, or should we say, “Movember”? It is quite intriguing and fun to suddenly see all of the moustaches showing up around this time of the year.

While the Movember movement is a lot of fun with all the events and moustaches involved, it is about a lot more than just that. It is about the acceptance and recognition of the fact that awareness around men’s health is vital.

An important facet of the Movember movement is to raise awareness regarding prostate cancer and illness. Man’s best friend, the dog, also tends to get various kinds of prostate illness (including cancer).

An important difference is prostate problems in dogs are easily avoided. Neutering (or castration) of male dogs is a safe surgical procedure wherein the testicles are surgically removed. Various veterinary associations and veterinarians recommend neutering pets within the first year of life across Canada.

In this day and age, this recommendation is mostly aimed at decreasing illnesses seen in non-neutered dogs. Decreasing inter-pet aggression and unwanted puppies are also known benefits of neutering.

There are various myths about neutering in pets. Dogs will reach their adult weight and size based on a combination of genetics, nutrition, exercise, environment, socialization, and hormones. Neutering a pet does not affect the eventual size of the dog and generally does not alter how muscular (or cute) he may look. While neutering at around 6 months of age is ideal, there is no harm if a pet owner decides to pursue the neuter surgery for the pet at around one year of age. Generally speaking, any non-neutered dog is prone to testicular or prostate illness after a year of age.

Neutered dogs are much less likely to have health problems such as prostate infection, testicular tumors, and prostatic cancer. Non-neutered or intact dogs with such problems may show signs such as difficult urination, blood in urine, hair loss, and changes in behaviour during early illness. If diagnosed early, neutering the pet can easily treat such illnesses. If, however, an infection or tumor has progressed to a certain stage, more complex treatments and a poor outcome may be possible.

As we raise awareness and learn more regarding health issues for men, it is important not to forget man’s best friend. A timely neuter procedure may well add years to your pooch’s life.

By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.

Dog Food & the Raw Food Diet: A Veterinarian’s Thoughts

Back in the day, pets were fed what we ate. With changing times, research, and an increase in the number of feeding options and opinions for pets, nowadays our pets eat what we believe in, more and more.

The common feeding practices that I currently recommend in practice include kibble food, canned diets, and balanced home-cooked diets.

There is this recent fad of feeding raw diets to dogs. The idea of ‘raw’ may sound similar to the push towards going green, organic foods, spending time out in the sun, being closer to nature, etc. But are raw diets for pets really the answer to making them healthier for the long term?

Raw diets have become popular mainly due to anecdotal reports on the Internet and from some pet owner hearsay that dogs feel and look better on them. While I am always happy to hear about or see a happy and good looking pet, it is important to keep in mind the long-term health of each and every individual pet.

Proponents of raw feeding for pets like to believe that they are feeding their dogs what they would eat in the wild. But Shadow or Bella are not living in the wild anymore, are they? They share our beds with us, lick our faces, and spend time with our newborn kids whose immune systems may just be kicking in. And they live to be 12-15 years more often than they did 20 years back (when they still were not living in the wild).  Feral dogs, in comparison, tend to live much shorter lives.

The position of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is quite reflective of why raw diets are not recommended for pets. The CVMA website states that “there is evidence of potential health risks for pets fed raw meat based diets and for humans in contact with such pets”. These hazards include bacteria like Salmonella in raw meat, which may persist in the dogs’ immediate environment (our homes), potential for zoonotic infections to in-contact humans, and potential gastric obstructions from undigested bone or broken teeth. An unbalanced diet may damage long-term health of dogs if given for an extended period.

Recently, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has joined the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in taking a stand against raw food diets for pets as well. The reason for such distinguished associations taking this stance on the issue of pet foods is the lack of documented scientific evidence in favour of feeding raw and its perceived benefits.

There is also the concern of lack of regulations for raw pet food manufacturers. As things stand, anyone can just start a raw company out of their kitchen (or garage), and that is a worrisome sign.

In practice, I like to take the time and effort to educate pet owners regarding healthy feeding practices for pets, as educated pet owners make better decisions. I prefer to feed pets balanced diets (which may include home-cooked meals, under a veterinarian’s supervision) as opposed to a diet that has no scientific evidence of benefits over other options.

Our homes and veterinary clinics may not be the best place to start a “research project” to evaluate how a dog would do on an unproven diet. Remember, the popular choice may not always be the right choice.

By Dr. Bajwa,
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.