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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.

Adopting a Pet Bunny? Learn Rabbit Care 101

Are you planning to adopt a pet bunny, or have become a new rabbit owner recently? If so, congratulations! Now is a great time to learn basic rabbit care 101. That way you can provide a healthy environment that will keep your new pet happy.

There are lots of reasons for choosing a bunny as a pet. The following information will help you be a good pet parent for your brand new family member.

Why a Rabbit Makes a Good Pet

If you want a charming pet who will show you love and affection and will fit into a small household without requiring the attention a puppy needs or the space a kitty wants, a rabbit can be the perfect pet for your household.

  • Rabbits are very, very quiet, which is a big bonus if you live in an apartment or a peaceful neighborhood. There will be no barking when something or someone passes by outside or when left alone, and there will be no whining at the door when you leave the house.
  • Like cats and dogs, rabbits form deep bonds with their owners, recognize them on sight and by voice, will come when called, and tend to follow their parents around.
  • Rabbits can be housed in small spaces and are low maintenance compared to dogs. They don’t have to be walked, they require little grooming, and they can be litter box trained quite easily.
  • Rabbits are very cute and cuddly and they can be taught tricks too, like jumping through hoops or running through mazes.
  • Unlike most small animals (e.g. hamsters or guinea pigs), rabbits usually live eight to ten years or more, especially if raised indoors.
  • You can select the perfect rabbit from more than 50 breeds in a variety of colours and with distinctive personalities.

Why a Rabbit May Not be the Right Pet for You

There are particular considerations to make when choosing a rabbit as a pet. You might not be in the best situation to welcome this little animal into your household if any of the following applies:

  • For people who live in very small homes and have no yard, it might be difficult to bunny-proof a house for the times when your little pet needs freedom to exercise by running around outside a cage or hutch for two or more hours each day.
  • If there are small children in the home, it won’t be a safe place for a fragile pet who needs to be picked up and held very carefully. Rabbits can be injured easily, especially when being handled by children too young to understand how delicate little bunnies can be.
  • Although you can easily find rabbits in shelters and they are not expensive to acquire, you need money to buy a suitable cage or hutch, litter, appropriate food, an annual checkup by a rabbit vet, and spaying or neutering surgery if it’s not already done.
  • It is important to ensure there is a qualified veterinarian in your area who knows how to treat a rabbit, especially if your bunny becomes sick or is injured.
  • Rabbits are social animals and you need to have time available to play with your bunny. If you move frequently or travel a lot, please understand that rabbits hate travelling and tend to be very nervous in new environments.

Basic Rabbit Care 101

1. The First Important Decisions

Once you have decided a rabbit will be a great pet for you or your family, choose your pet carefully, decide if your rabbit should be an indoor or outdoor pet, and if indoors, caged or allowed to roam at will or with restrictions.

Spend time with the bunnies you like best before making a final decision on which one to take home with you. Just like dogs and cats, some rabbits are very playful and outgoing, others are shy and more conservative. You should select one with a personality that suits you and your household the best.

Because rabbits are extremely social creatures, you should consider buying a pair of rabbits so that they can keep each other company. Handling your rabbit gently and often can help avoid aggression. As well as, spaying or neutering them.

If you have a yard and live in a very mild climate, you may consider housing your pet outdoors. However, domestic rabbits are not like wild rabbits and can’t survive in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Even if the climate is fine, the sight or sound of a wild animal nearby—even if your rabbit is caged and out of harm’s way—can cause so much stress to a little bunny.

If you plan to house your rabbit indoors—this is a preferred, healthier, and safer choice—you have to decide how much freedom your bunny can have. If it’s allowed to roam at will or is restricted to certain rooms when out of the cage (i.e. for most of, or part of, or a few hours of each day), you have to bunny-proof all areas in the home that your bunny can reach. Rabbits love to chew and will munch on anything like electrical cords, toxic cleaning products, and various plants. Keep your bunny safe by removing these hazards!

2. Purchase a Cage or Hutch and Other Necessities

A cage or hutch should be five times the length your rabbit will be when it’s fully grown and high enough for your bunny to stand up on its hind legs without bumping his or her head. The average size is about 12 square feet (1.1 square meters) plus another larger area or a room for exercise. If the bottom of the cage is made of wire, place layers of cardboard or other materials that will protect your bunny’s feet; they are not covered with pads like those of cats and dogs.

There must be room in the hutch for a litter box, which should contain organic litter (not kitty litter) made of paper, wood pulp, or citrus, plus a little hay for your bunny to snack on when they use the box. Boxes should be placed in the corners of a room; they prefer to use the litter box in these areas.

Make sure there is enough room for a sippy cup or a bowl of water in the cage. The water should be changed at least once a day. Include some items for your rabbit to chew on, such as blocks, rings, or balls of untreated willow wood, and cardboard paper towel rolls, or toilet paper rolls.

Have some of these items outside the cage as well to keep your bunny occupied when they’re roaming the house or exercise area. That way the edges of carpets or loose, enticing, chewable household objects are less attractive to your ever-munching pet. Bunnies also like to hide, so you can supply a little box with an opening that your pet can go inside and be alone.

3. Provide a Balanced Diet

Hay is the main diet staple for rabbits, and a body-sized amount of grass hay (e.g., timothy grass, orchard grass, oat hay, or brome) is the right amount. There should be a constant supply as it ensures protection of your bunny’s digestive system.

Fresh vegetables, primarily leafy and dark green ones (e.g. leaf lettuces, arugula, dandelion greens, and parsley) are best and you can supply a head-sized amount each day. Alfalfa-based pellets can be used as a supplement (not a substitute) to the leafy greens, and should be given only in small quantities, such as a small handful a day.

Fruits and treats are great when training your rabbit (to come when you call them, etc.) and just for fun, but use sparingly starting with a teaspoonful and only one at a time. Carrots, in spite of what you have seen in Bugs Bunny cartoons, fall into the category of treats, along with fresh blueberries, strawberries, pears, peaches, plums, papayas, and melons.

Avoid giving your rabbit iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, beets, onions, nuts, seeds, crackers, bread, and cereal. Don’t offer them candy, chocolate, or food for humans in general either.

4. Be Careful Lifting and Holding Your Rabbit

Avoid inflicting severe injuries on your new pet by remembering these “don’ts”: Don’t pick up a rabbit by the ears. Don’t carry one by the scruff of the neck without supporting the hind end. Don’t try to restrain rabbits on either slippery or hard surfaces or by pushing down on the animal.

A towel can be used to help restrain a rabbit safely. Remember to lift your bunny gently with the hind end always supported. For moving an aggressive rabbit, lift them by the scruff of the neck and support the rump while positioning the hind legs away from you to avoid being scratched or kicked.

For docile rabbits, lift them in the same fashion but hold the rabbit close to you and support the hind end with your elbow while placing your fingers under the front legs. Another lifting method for docile and shy rabbits is to place the head of your rabbit in the crook of your elbow, and support its weight and hind end with your arm while placing your other hand to hold or pet your rabbit over the back of the neck.

If a rabbit is the right pet for you and your household, following these simple rules in rabbit care 101 will supply you with the basic knowledge of how to care for these delightful, loving, little animals.

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.

15 Reasons to Adopt a New Pet from an Animal Shelter

Are you looking to adopt a new pet soon? Have you considered going to a nearby animal shelter? You may think it would be a better choice to go to a pet store or look online instead, but there are actually good reasons to adopt from a shelter over the other options.

Although pets are available from other sources, animal shelters are excellent and reliable places to find the perfect pet for you and your family. If you need some reasons why, we have fifteen! These include a number of good personal decisions, good animal-protection decisions, and good local community decisions.

Personal Benefits from Adopting Pets from Shelters

  1. It is less costly to adopt a pet from a shelter than from a breeder or a pet store. In fact, the cost of adopting a pet from a shelter is usually less expensive than adopting your new pet any other way. Even if you acquire a pet from a friend for no cost at all, you must still pay for their vaccinations, neutering or spaying, and for a checkup by a veterinarian before you take your new friend home. These services are mostly provided (partial or complete) for pets at shelters already.
  1. You can adopt an adult or baby animal, whichever you prefer. Pet stores usually handle only young animals, but some people want an adult pet more used to children and family life, and they can be found at shelters. Animal shelters will also take in any babies from owners whose pets have offspring after a “whoops” incident, so you can count on puppies and kittens to be available for adoption as well.
  1. Animals at shelters receive good care. Shelters treat animals that are sick or hurt and do not allow them to be adopted until each one has been given a clean bill of health. They will have been given their vaccinations and, if old enough, will be spayed or neutered. Animals at shelters are inspected by veterinarians and will be assessed for their temperament and response to children and other pets. If an animal requires long-term healthcare or possesses unwanted behaviours, potential foster pet parents will be informed so that there are no unpleasant surprises.
  1. You will have a wide choice of pets. Shelters are not restricted to particular ages or breeds of cats and dogs, and you will have a good choice of animals. In contrast, breeders usually specialize in raising and selling particular breeds, and pet stores tend to deal in only selling young animals.
  1. Older animals will likely already be housetrained and socialized. Older pets that have never had loving owners and are not sociable will be identified so that you will know what to expect.
  1. Pets help keep you active—especially if you have a dog that needs to be exercised—which, in turn, can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your weight stable. Even a cat forces you to get up off the couch every now and then to feed and play with it.
  1. If you live by yourself but talk to and care for a pet, it can be a great source of company. If your family doesn’t live nearby and your friends have moved away, a pet can play an important role in your life and increase your overall well-being.
  1. If you have children, they can learn how to be kind and responsible by helping care for an animal. A pet will become a very important part of your household. They can comfort unhappy youngsters as well as anxious adults and may watch over ill or injured members of the family.

Benefits that Animals Receive When You Adopt Them from Shelters 

  1. It is untrue that most animals in shelters have personality issues because they are there after being mistreated and abandoned. Most of the pets in shelters have been lost or are brought to the shelter by people who are no longer able to care for them.
  1. Overpopulation is a serious issue even in BC. Because of the misconception that all animals in shelters have personality issues, some shelters cannot hold on to all of the animals they receive. You can literally save the life of a helpless little animal by adopting them from a shelter.
  1. You reduce the discomfort of animals that are kept in overcrowded shelters when you adopt one of them. Not only is it kind to offer a home to a homeless animal, it decreases the problem of animals living unhappily in small quarters and not getting the individual attention they can get if they’re adopted by a loving pet parent or family.

Community Benefits by Adopting Your Pet from a Shelter

  1. You support a charitable and community institution by adopting animals from shelters. Animal shelters discourage the unfortunately commonplace and terrible practice of pet owners abandoning their pets and leaving them to fend for themselves. Knowing there are institutions that will take an unwanted pet off their hands reduces the odds of treating animals in this fashion.
  1. You encourage other people to adopt pets from shelters so they know it is a safe and economical practice. If your friends and neighbours discover your new, adorable pet came from a shelter, they may be more inclined to consider adopting one themselves.
  1. Animal shelters are an important resource in the community. They reduce the popularity of puppy mills that often supply pet stores and deceive pet owners online. Also, shelter workers will give you information about pet care.
  1. The most important reason of all: by adopting from a shelter, you’ll give a little animal a safe and loving home, all while increasing your own happiness and satisfaction at a price you can afford.

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 Choose Your First Family Dog

Do you have children in your life who love dogs as much as you do? If you do and your family is ready to raise one, your first family dog should be an affectionate, kid-friendly companion. It’s a good idea to choose a breed that will be patient even if tiny hands pester them.

Some dog breeds make good family dogs because they have mild temperaments, but there are other considerations to keep in mind when choosing your new pet. This includes your family’s lifestyle.

Characteristics to Consider When Choosing a Dog

  1. Size – Is a small dog a good choice for your family, or would a medium or large dog be better? Think about where you live and how you are going to exercise and raise your new pet. Do you have a small apartment? Do you have a house with a big yard? Do you live in the city with a dog park nearby or further out in the countryside? Large dogs are, in some cases, very calm and easy-going but need lots of room to move around, while some small dogs can be very high-strung and excitable but don’t need a lot of space in which to live in or exercise.
  1. Temperament – It’s certainly best to choose a dog with a mild temperament and lots of tolerance, especially if your children are too young to understand exactly how gentle they need to be with animals. Even if your kids are older, you need to make sure your new dog has an agreeable personality and can form strong bonds with everyone in the family.
  1. Vigor – Will your new dog be able to keep up with your active family? Will your family be able to keep up with your new, active dog? Make sure you choose a pooch that will be a good fit with your family’s lifestyle. There is no sense in choosing a dog who requires more exercise than your family is able to supply. A dog who needs and wants to run off their energy but has no opportunity to do so on a regular basis will become very unhappy, anxious, and even overweight.

Questions to Ask the Breeder or the Caregiver at an Animal Shelter

Depending on whether you are choosing your new dog from a licensed breeder or from an animal shelter, there are important questions to ask before you finally decide:

  • Is this dog gentle and will he be friendly to everyone in the family? Some dogs become attached to only one person, or will prefer only males or only females, or only adults.
  • How much care does this breed need? If they are a long-hair who requires lots of grooming, drools all over everything, or sheds a lot of hair, you must decide if you can handle the dog care he or she needs or not.
  • Will this dog require a lot of exercise or will they often expect to be carried around in your arms? If you are frequently carrying a toddler around, the addition of a little dog in your life may be an unreasonable burden. You may be happier taking a long walk twice a day with a big dog, or you may not be able to work that much exercise into your busy schedule. Be realistic.
  • Will he or she get along with other pets? This question is particularly important if you live in a multiple pet household, but even if you don’t, you may want to have another pet someday.
  • How old is the dog? A puppy will need lots of training, but will probably adjust to your family very quickly. An older dog will already be trained but may not fit into the family so easily and may not feel comfortable with visitors. If he or she is a senior dog, they may have health issues on the horizon, meaning they will need to see a veterinarian more often.

Popular Kid-Friendly Dog Breeds

There are many appropriate choices of kid-friendly dog breeds that you can safely invite into your family. Here are eight good choices in no particular order:

  1. Bulldog – This breed is known to be patient, docile, and friendly, and will get along well with kids and other pets. Because they are smaller breeds, they can be happy in an apartment or a large house. For these brachycephalic breeds with short noses and flat faces, extra care is needed for the care of their teeth, but their coats are easy-care (so long as they’re not overly exposed to warm weather), and they don’t require a lot of exercise.
  2. Beagle – These dogs are smart, sociable, friendly, and happy, and they love being outside. They are small and can be carried, and get along well with children and other pets. Expect them to shed and require frequent bathing.
  3. Collie – All collies, from border to bearded, are gentle and easy to train, and very protective of their families and love children. Their long hair requires regular grooming. They also require a great deal of exercise and will not be happy cooped up indoors all of the time, given that the Collie is bred to be a herding dog.
  4. Newfoundland – This large breed loves and protects children, and they are kind and gentle dogs. Expect lots of shedding and daily grooming, especially during the spring and fall. Although they need lots of room, you can train them to stay in rooms that are easy to clean and, fortunately, they are easy to train. They are also great swimmers and will protect their family in the water.
  5. Irish Setter – These sociable dogs, easily identified by their red coats, are friendly, energetic, love children, and love their families. They need lots of exercise and are sometimes anxious if left alone for long stretches of time.
  6. Poodle – Despite popular culture portraying them as over-stylized, poodles are actually one of the smartest, most obedient, and gentlest breeds of dogs. Their size ranges from miniature to standard and so you can pick the best size for your home. They are devoted to the family, good with children, and get along well with other pets. Find a good dog groomer as their coats must be cared for properly and regularly. This is the breed you can consider if you or your children suffer from allergies, as there is very little shedding or dandruff from their coats. They love swimming, running, and retrieving.
  7. Labrador Retriever – This breed of dog is very smart, very easy to train, gentle, loving, and playful. They need lots of exercise, lots of room, and love to swim. They are strong and obedient, good with children and other animals, and their short coats require very little care.
  8. Bull Terrier – These dogs love children and adults, and they are good with young children who are still learning how to treat pets. They love to be indoors with the family but still need lots of exercise in the yard or on walks, and their short, flat coats require very little care.

There are also many other good family dogs aside from our list including the English Setter, Golden Retriever, Shepherds, and Boxers, among many others. You can check with your veterinarian, local pet breeders, and animal shelter staff who will do their best to steer your family towards the most appropriate pooch.

Keep These Additional Ideas in Mind When Choosing a Dog

  • When a dog is spayed or neutered, it won’t make a hostile dog safe—only safer. Spay and neuter should be pursued for health reasons, but it is training and good dog care that can truly help prevent aggression problems. Lessening aggression is not the point of spaying and neutering.
  • Teething puppies will be happy to teeth on toys but may try and chew on kids and your furniture as well. Good training will help the puppies to learn not to use their teeth during play behavior, but patience and time are both needed to get them fully trained. Adult and senior dogs are gentler than puppies because they don’t jump around as much, and are usually calmer than they were as puppies no matter what breed they are.
  • Holidays are the worst times of the year to get a new dog. The last thing you should do when choosing your pet is be impulsive.
  • Any dog already socialized to be around children may be safer than one who is not.
  • It is important to teach both your children and your dog how to behave in a pet household so that your new dog won’t be thoughtlessly harmed by the kids, or vice versa.

Owning and raising a new family dog is a big responsibility! That’s why for any family with children choosing their first dog, it’s best to select from the many kid-friendly breeds that make good, gentle companions for 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.

Pets and Gift Giving During the Holiday Season

There is so much on our minds these days. Finding appropriate gifts for friends and family, organizing and attending parties are at the forefront of our thoughts. Among all the wonderful gifts and good wishes being exchanged during this time of year, occasionally kittens and puppies are also presented to a loved one. What could be a better gift than a cute little fur-ball to an animal lover friend! While the thought behind the idea is a very positive, heart-warming one, it must be remembered that adopting or owning a pet can be a very personal decision.

Pet ownership is a commitment of many years and involves fulfillment; yet time-consuming activities such as socializing the pet, daily care, training (for dogs, and yes it includes house training), veterinary and grooming appointments, etc. Young puppies and kittens demand a ton of time and effort devoted towards them. This is generally while adjusting your lifestyle to that of the new member in the family. Due to careers, school, or relationships, some people may not be prepared to commit to such a huge responsibility – no matter how much they adore animals. Friends that have had previous pets may not be prepared to train a young pet from scratch. Or, worse, your gift may turn them into first-time pet owners, with them having no clue about what they are getting into!

Also, dogs and cats (or rabbits, or fish) make very different types of pets. Each has its own specific needs and personalities. A friend may have been a long-term cat parent, but their home and lifestyle may not support having a dog as part of the family. The same holds for different breeds within an animal species.

So, if you are planning to gift a pet to your friend or family member, be sure to initiate a conversation with them before deciding on the gift. It is also important to talk about what species and breed best fits the home. The most likely time for pets being adopted and finding loving, forever homes is when they are still very young. It would be a shame if the pet adopted by you for a friend does not get the absolute best care and attention it deserves.

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

 

P.S.: this is my top 5 list of gift ideas for a pet-lover on your Christmas list:

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

Animal Health Week 2017

October 1st to 7th is a very special week for our pets – it’s Animal Health Week! Sponsored by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, this week celebrates the wonder of the human-animal bond, which is the unique and wonderful relationship that exists between a pet and its owner – a relationship based on unconditional love. Many studies have already defined the healing power of this bond, especially in reducing stress and heart disease, and in providing critical emotional support for the elderly and infirm.

Never judgmental, always forgiving, and possessing undying devotion and loyalty for their owners, pets truly provide us with a unique relationship that is hard to duplicate between people. Not only is the human-animal bond unique to every pet and owner, it is celebrated in unique ways as well.

Every year the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) surveys pet owners throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to learn more about peoples’ relationships with their pets. Here are some of the highlights from the past few years:

  • 84 percent of respondents refer to themselves as their pet’s “mom” or “dad&”
  • 72 percent of married survey respondents greet their pet first when they return home, compared with 13 percent who say they greet their spouse or significant other first, and 7 percent who greet their children
  • 63 percent of respondents celebrate their pet’s birthday, and 43 percent give their pet a wrapped gift
  • 87 percent of pet owners include their pet in holiday celebrations, with Christmas being the most celebrated holiday with a pet at 98 percent
  • 65 percent of pet owners have sung or danced with their pet
  • 66 percent would opt for their pet if stranded on a desert island and given the choice of a companion

As a general rule, pet owners are far more forgiving of inadequacies or misbehavior in their pets than they are for their own friends and family members! And what do our pets ask for in return? Nothing but our companionship.

So take a moment to rejoice in the human-animal bond that you share with your own pet and ensure that you are living up to your end of the bargain. Call your veterinarian to double-check that you have availed yourself of all of the preventative health measures your pet requires. Make sure that your pet is on a quality diet appropriate for his/her age and health care needs. Have your pet properly identified (i.e., tag and microchip) to ensure a speedy recovery should your pet become lost. And, finally (especially for dog owners) – grab the leash and watch your pet come alive. Go for a walk – it will do you both good!

Should Pets be Adoptable in Pet Stores?

It has been very satisfying to witness passionate Burnaby residents discuss the outcome of City Council’s review on Burnaby’s animal control by-law in September.* We haven’t spared any avenue from talking about the issue, from one-on-one discussions with the newspaper and social media. It is lovely to witness what an animal loving city we live in, hence the passion and lively discussion, no matter which side of the fence we might be on.

The two key issues to be discussed by the council at the next meeting on August 26* are – whether or not to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and whether to put in breed-specific legislation on pet ownership. While the former topic has been debated extensively, we must not forget the implications of a breed-specific ban, without stressing the need for pet training, socialization, and leash regulations.

Both issues are multifaceted and it will be challenging to come up with a consensus. Coming up with a simple answer such as banning sales or banning pitbulls would amount to tackling the issue lightly. I sincerely hope that no single answer is sought during this review. We are a forward-looking city in most aspects of business and environmental initiatives. I would like to see the same approach taken to tackle this very sensitive topic on animal care and protection, one that other cities in the province might follow.

I agree with the animal advocate groups and rescue groups about the abundant need for local adoption of homeless or abandoned pets in not just Burnaby but in our province as a whole. We need to consider that a pet store sales ban would address a very small proportion of the homeless pet situation when it comes to local dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Also, a simple ban on pet stores would move the problem to puppy and kitten mill animals being sold through the Internet and backyard breeder type sales which may include the purchase of animals from out of province or even from across the border. If animals for sale are being imported from the United States for sale in Burnaby, it is decreasing the likelihood of adoption of local shelter-based adoptions. In my opinion, it is trivial to discuss whether these animals are coming from puppy mills or not, or if they are being sold by a pet store or an individual; as a city, our emphasis should be on minimizing homeless animals locally.

One of the pet store owners has been reported to contact local feline shelters to help sell their cats and this effort should be lauded and encouraged by not just the city of Burnaby but also the shelters involved. It could be a match made in heaven, assuming both parties meet the quality standards, as the abandoned pets in shelters could replace the sale of imported pets as opposed to competing with each other.

In my opinion, the City Council should consider a futuristic animal control model where pet stores may be able to provide adoption of pets within specified guidelines. The guidelines may include certification and ongoing inspections of the facility where pets are made available for adoption.

This would also include a commitment to home local pets only, which are obtained through the SPCA or local shelters so as to discourage local puppy and kitten mills and out-of-province adoptions. After all, the council is deliberating the draft on animal control issues rather than animal sales alone.

Likely, an association between pet stores and local shelters would lower the cost of adoption for new pet families as most veterinarians in Burnaby are committed to decreasing homeless pets through discounted veterinary services for shelter and homeless animals, TNR (Trap-neuter-return) programs, spay-neuter clinics, etc. Pet stores willing to work within City Council guidelines such as re-homing local adoptable animals only as well as in association with local animal advocacy groups would still be able to provide pet adoption if they so choose. Thus, the suggestion would be to allow adoption through pet stores, as opposed to the current model of pet sales.

Everyone in the pet care industry needs to do more in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Education of prospective pet owners involves a thorough discussion regarding pet care needs, the cost of pet care, licensing of pets, need for neutering, longer life expectancy of pets (thus a longer commitment to your new friend), and support from the avenue it was adopted from. Fostering prior to adoption should be encouraged by adoption agencies including pet stores.

Adopting a kitten or puppy can be a bigger challenge as a first-time pet – new pet owners should be given an option to adopt an adult. This may help make their first pet experience a smoother ride compared to the surprises a kitten or puppy would bring in day-to-day needs.

The way to address the need for responsible pet ownership is not only through legislation but also through public education. As individuals, we should consider adopting locally instead of buying pets.

By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005.

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their August 2013 issue

Why Veterinary Professionals Do What They Do!

What makes veterinary professionals take up pet care as a profession? Undoubtedly it is our passion and will to help animals in their time of need. The biggest benefit of this desire lends to the fact that compassion is not required to be taught during the training of a veterinary professional.

The beauty of pet care also derives from the patient’s family being an extension of the veterinary team. In times of illness, aging, and even in good health, the family is essentially the at-home nursing staff of the veterinary community. Our pets are adorably expressive about a lot of things (ask any pet parent and hear their pets’ unique ability to express themselves), but when it comes to sharing what they ate off the floor, which alley cat may have fought with them, feeling a tooth ache, or nausea, the information is not always as forthcoming (nor as endearing!).

Signs of chronic life affecting conditions such as allergies, gastric problems, arthritis, diminished eyesight & hearing, anxiety, and obesity are often subtle to start with. Over time, these signs slowly progress and without keen observation and routine monitoring of well-being, such symptoms can be easily missed. Do you know what the general symptoms associated with such illness might be?

There is usually a big range of nonspecific signs associated with chronic conditions such as arthritic pain, anxiety, allergies, etc. As an example, when an older pet is pacing and vocalizing for no apparent reason; this may be due to a range of possibilities including spinal pain, loss of sensory functions (eyesight, hearing, etc.), all due to anxiety related to changes in the environment, or even an old age illness.

No pet owner or veterinarian can simply hear the description of the symptoms and make a diagnosis. To best help a pet with medical concerns and to diagnose illness early, the combination of a close bond between the pet and parent, clear communication between the parent and veterinary team, and a thorough evaluation of health as well as compassion towards the implications of potential illness are essential.

While compassion is second nature to veterinary professionals (think veterinarians, vet technicians, office assistants, kennel attendants etc.), it is best used while helping nurture improved pet parenting through loving pet owners. This is why the veterinary community is advising increased vet visits. Advertising campaigns on the role of nutrition, exercise, and monitoring pet health, as well as special events at vet clinics, are all geared towards improved pet parent education. After all, by bringing a pet into their family, pet owners are signing up to be an extension of the pet healthcare system.

As the Canadian Nurses Association likes to say, “Health begins at home!”

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

Ask an Expert: Puppy Contact

Q: When is it safe for my puppy to come into contact with other dogs? 

A: Puppies have a developing immune system and should always be vaccinated and dewormed before they come in contact with other dogs.

Puppies generally receive their first vaccination at 8 weeks of age. It is best to wait another week after the vaccination till puppies can meet other vaccinated, healthy puppies and dogs. It is important to encourage meet-ups with friendly, vaccinated dogs in order to help socialize puppies at an early age.

After the 2nd booster, typically administered at 12 weeks of age, your puppy should be protected enough to meet and play with all dogs at the playground.

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part two of our “Caring for Kittens” series! This is an exciting period for you and kitty as your adventurous, playful little pet will be forming their very first impressions of people and the world. During these weeks, you will need to monitor his or her learning experiences and ensure they are both healthy and safe.

Normal Characteristics between Weeks 8-12

By week eight, most kittens know how to use a litter box. If your kitten does not, you can housetrain them in a few days by providing them with a litter box. Scoop kitty up and place them in it each time he or she starts to urinate or defecate. Never punish them while they are learning this important skill. Be patient.

You should also expect the following changes and habits:

  • During these weeks they will sleep about 20 hours a day.
  • When awake, kitty will be on the go, running, climbing, jumping, stalking, pouncing, and more than eager to play. Now is the perfect time to offer them paper bags, plastic, flexible straws, and anything they can chase as toys.
  • Kittens have very small tummies and will thrive on 4 small meals a day. They need access to a water bowl at all times.
  • They love to use their claws and will be happy to scratch and shred anything on which they can get their little paws—even you! You can deter this behavior by providing a scratching post.
  • They will grow bigger and heavier every week.
  • Whenever you run your hands over your kitten, there should be no lumps, bumps, or any indication of sensitivity to touch. If there are, you need to contact your veterinarian.

How to Make Sure Your Kitten Stays Safe

  • Cover any exposed wires in your home, and keep cleaning products, insecticide baits, and sharp objects out of kitty’s reach.
  • Make sure kitty doesn’t have access to the attic or basement if these areas aren’t well ventilated or if they expose tiny, inviting places where kitty can wiggle in and can’t get out.
  • Introduce him or her slowly to other household pets and supervise them until you are sure they all get along. Again, you need to be patient with this; all animals need lots of time to get used to each other’s scent.
  • Check for doors in your house that don’t close properly or give kitty access to rooms you want kept out of bounds. Also check for broken screens on windows and outer doors that could allow kitty to escape from the house.
  • Have your veterinarian insert an ID chip under kitty’s skin to make sure they can be identified if he or she is lost or comes to harm and is taken to a shelter or clinic.
  • Invest in a travel carrier. You will need it when taking kitty to the veterinarian and for visits elsewhere, and you should keep it near kitty for a while so that they will grow more used to it.

Checkup and Vaccinations

Kittens should have a nose-to-tail checkup from a veterinarian and a vaccination program started or planned.

When kittens stop receiving mother’s milk, they no longer have immunity from diseases for which their mothers were immunized or developed antibodies against. Kittens usually receive their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks, boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age, or 4 weeks after their first visit. Let your veterinarian be your guide to the vaccinations needed. Typically during their first visit your kitten will receive vaccination against feline distemper. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if there is any possible need for vaccinations against FELV (aka feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s lifestyle. 

Feedings

Make sure your kitten eats an appropriate diet—your veterinarian will be happy to make recommendations. If your cat receives canned food, don’t let it stay out for longer than 20 minutes. Canned food should be offered early as it does have some health benefits for kittens; you should also gradually introduce your kitty to dry food at this age.

Avoid letting him or her eat food intended for humans or dogs. Keep their water bowl full; it needs to be changed frequently in order to give them access to fresh water. If the water has a peculiar odor or taste and kitty turns away from it, you can give them bottled water.

Useful Training Tips for Kitty

  • Get them to socialize: Take time to pet and play with your kitten daily and introduce him or her now and then to other people so that he or she will learn to like and trust humans in general.
  • Teach them to accept the carrier: Put treats inside the carrier and, when he or she is used to wandering in and out, shut the door and move them to another room, then let them out right away and give them a treat. Take short trips in the car followed by a treat so that he or she will not be afraid of the carrier.
  • Train them to use their scratching post: If he or she starts to scratch your furniture or carpets, discourage them and then move them to the scratching post.
  • Teach kitty to come when you call: Use their name often and, when he or she starts to look up or at you when they hear their name, reward them with a treat.

Congratulations, you now have a healthy and happy kitten in your life!

Did you miss out on part 1? Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks.

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.