National Pain Awareness Month….Pets can feel pain too! How do you know if your pet is in Pain

Kit:  Oh hey Al Catcino!  It’s National Pain Awareness Month for Humans, so I thought we should chat about pain in pets! I figured you might know a thing or two about pain 😉

Al Catcino: Hey Kit, no problem! I sure do know a lot about pain! Being a tom cat, sometimes I get into…shall we say…disagreements with other tom cats….and sometimes I get hurt!  Don’t tell anybody though – I don’t want to mess up my tough guy image.  The thing is, pain in pets can be tough because we can’t talk!  So we can’t tell our owners with words how uncomfortable we are – and being the tough guy that I am, I often hide my pain and act like everything is fine until the pain is really bad!

Kit: I know lots of pet friends who pretend to be fine when they are in pain. Our instincts tell us we should not show our pain to others. If we can’t talk and we hide our pain, how will our owners know something is wrong and that we need to go visit the vet?

Al Catcino: Well Kit, the last time I got into a really bad, um, disagreement… well, let’s just say that I had some pretty bad bruises and a small cut – and you shoulda seen the other guy!  Anyway, after a couple days of pretending that everything was ok, the cut got infected and it hurt so bad that I could not put any weight on my foot. That’s how my owner knew to take me to see my vet, Dr. Murphy.  Dr. Murphy talked a lot to my owner about pain in pets and how to pick up on the little clues. I guess next time I won’t be able to hide it so well! Dr. Murphy fixed my infected cut and I am feeling great now! If you like, I can tell you some of the things she told my owner.

Kit: That would be great Al. It’s important for people to know that pets feel pain too! And because we can’t talk, it’s even more important to be able to notice little things that might mean we are uncomfortable.

Al Catcino: First of all, Dr. Murphy said that the reason we like to hide our pain is because of our instincts like you said. When great-great-great-great granddaddy Caesar lived in the wilds in Sicily, he naturally wanted to protect himself from any bad guys looking to make him their lunch! Those predators look for injured animals as they are easier prey. It was safer for us back then to pretend we were not hurt or in pain. Caesar was really tough and he never let his pain show.

Dr. Murphy also said that it is more difficult to tell if a cat is in pain. One of the most common things a cat does when they are in pain is HIDE.  She was right with this one! Every time I get into a scuff and get hurt, I go right under the bed and stay there!

The American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) came up with 5 clues for owners to help identify discomfort or pain in pets. Dr. Murphy gave them to my owner, I’ll list them below!
“Abnormal chewing habits: Abnormal chewing can be a sign of pain in the mouth. This could be due to dental disease or a growth in the mouth. Other signs include face rubbing or smelly breath. Regular dental checkups at your vet are very important to catch dental concerns early and prevent unnecessary dental pain.
Drastic weight gain or loss: Pain can influence a pet’s weight and eating habits. Animals carrying excess weight are at increased risk for joint or ligament pain. Pets with arthritis or sore muscles may not eat as well if it is uncomfortable to bend down to the food dish or go up or down stairs where the food bowl might be located. Arthritis pain can be very subtle – you might notice weight gain because the pet is less active. If pain is really bad, it often can lead to a lack of appetite in cats and dogs.
Avoiding affection or handling: A normally active pet may spend more time sleeping or laying around if it is painful. A pet may not like being petted if there is an area that is sore.
Decreased movement and exercise: Pets may be reluctant to go up the stairs, jump into the car or up onto the bed if they have sore muscles or joints. You might even notice limping if a limb is painful. Back pain can often cause dogs to walk very stiffly and cry out loud when they jump up or are picked up.
Accidents in the house: Sometimes accidents in the house can be seen as a behavioural issue when they are actually secondary to pain. A cat with arthritis pain may not want to go downstairs to a litter box or climb over the high sides to get into it, and therefore may do their business on the floor somewhere else in the house. Urinary tract infections or tummy troubles can also cause pets to have accidents in the house. The pet may be very painful in its abdomen if there is a bladder infection or if they are experiencing a sore tummy. Unwanted surprises in the house should prompt an owner to take their pet to see the veterinarian to make sure there are no health concerns.
Being aware of a pet’s habits can be helpful too, any changes may be a sign that something is wrong or that the pet is uncomfortable.
 Kit: That is very helpful information Al, thank you! It sounds like it can be really hard to tell if a pet is in pain. Is there anything else owners should look out for?

Al Catcino: Well Kit, we’ve talked quite a bit about cats, I suppose we should talk about those other pets… dogs!  Here is a list of other signs that dogs may be in pain.
“Most dogs that are experiencing pain will show a vocal cue such as whimpering or crying out. They also might be significantly agitated and not able to get settled. Sometimes they become extremely sensitive and things that normally would not hurt them, such as picking them up, may cause them to cry out.
Long term pain in dogs can cause signs of depression, reduction in appetite, changes in attitude such as nipping or growling, and trembling.
Dogs that are hurting may…
Appear less active and quieter than normal
Hide or avoid being around people
Have stiff body movements or unwillingness to move, limping
Appear restless and pace around
Show increased panting, shallow breathing, trembling or pupils may be dilated
Stop eating
Be licking or chewing at an area that might be uncomfortable
Seek more attention than usual or follow the owner everywhere
Stand in a hunched position when there is back or abdominal pain

Kit: That’s a great list of signs to watch for! Hey Al, can you tell me a bit about how pain in pets can be treated?

Al Catcino: Sure Kit! When I saw Dr. Murphy last week, she gave me something called a “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug” or NSAID. It helps with pain and can take down swelling too. You can get it in two ways – from a needle or in a pill. There are human forms of NSAIDs but they ARE NOT SAFE for pets!! This is a common problem for veterinarians. Many humans who think that their pet is in pain, give them one of their own pills, like Tylenol or Advil. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the proper enzymes in our liver to break down these drugs and they can be TOXIC!  Sometimes even fatal! Especially with Tylenol in cats!  Stay away from that, Kit!

If owners think their pets are in pain, its best to see the veterinarian. Veterinarians can prescribe SAFE pain medication, some that are made just for pets! Most of them come in yummy flavors too!  Some pets with long term pain, such as arthritis pain, take these NSAIDs on a regular basis. For these pets, it’s important to have their blood checked out every 6-12 months to make sure it’s safe to continue taking this medication long term.

These days, many people are looking for alternative options for pet pain management. Things such as laser therapy, acupuncture, massage and physiotherapy can really help. Dr. Penney at PetFocus Bedford South does those cool treatments.

Kit: I didn’t know that people pain medication like Tylenol or Advil were so toxic for pets! I am sure glad my owner always calls my veterinarian first if she thinks I am sick! I’m glad we talked about this Al, this is important information to know! One more question for you before you go, what happens if a pet is in a lot of pain and their owner cannot get them to the vet clinic?

Al Catcino: That’s a good question Kit! It happened to a good friend of mine once who fell out of a tree! His owner was afraid to move him! They called PetFocus and the veterinarian came out to their house! Did you know PetFocus now offers house calls?

Kit: I didn’t know that! That’s great! Sometimes I get terrified when I am at the vet clinic, even though my vet is really nice. There are a lot of scary smells and sounds there. I think I would be much less scared if my vet came to visit me at home. Thanks for all your helpful information today Al! I hope our blog readers find it useful!

Al Catcino: No problem Kit, now back to guarding my territory!

Kit:  Stay out of trouble, Al Catcino! You don’t want to be visiting your veterinarian over the Christmas Holidays, unless it’s for a treat!

BARKS AND RECREATION – DO’S AND DON’TS FOR ENJOYING NATURE

“Wanna go to the park?”  Tommy Holedigger was trembling with excitement when he heard that question – “I can’t believe it!  It’s “Parks and Recreation Month” again – or as I like to call it, “Barks and Recreation Month” – my favourite month of the year!  This is the month that all pet owners are reminded to take us out to play outdoors with them.  Hurrah!  Let’s go… c’mon…now!” 

Tommy is a very busy Border Collie and he likes nothing more than to get to an off-leash park and run, run, run… and then when that is done, to run some more!  Of course, he does have a few “issues” and has been known to get into a bit of trouble sometimes as he is not always polite with others – and he does not always come right back when called.  His buddy, Indiana Bones, a busy beagle pup, has learned a few things at his Socialization classes and decided to share with Tommy. 

Indiana was excited too but he knew that he had to follow a few rules.  His tail was wagging as fast as it could go and he ran around in circles as he reminded Tommy of a few things… 

Tommy, get a grip.  I just came from my obedience class and Dr. Callen was there and she said we have to remember a few things – here is what I learned:

  1. Leash: What park are you going to?  Do you need your leash or not? Check first or you might get in trouble with “the law”.  Remember, Tommy – we are not allowed to run loose anywhere except in special “off-leash parks”.  As much as we like to take off and run, we have to be “under control” all the time… I hate that too, but it is for our safety.  We are well behaved (most of the time) but there are other dogs or safety issues that we might not know about and so we need to be on our leash to be safe.  My owner is really good about that and says that she wants to be a “responsible pet owner”.  Hurrah for her!
  2. Aggressive dogs: Have you ever been to the park with that big mutt, Bony Soprano?  That guy is mean – he pretends to be friendly and then “Wham!”, he lunges.  We have to be careful about guys like him, and his cousins – those guys just should not go to off leash parks at all.  Don’t their owners know that?  It’s because of thugs like them that being on a leash is good as it makes it easier to break up fights. 
  3. Training: I am so glad I have been going to obedience classes.  It is sooo hard to come back when I am called when I am off exploring or chasing squirrels but now I know how to do it – every time.  My humans will let me go off leash now.  Tommy, if you would learn to do that, you might get to go free more often!  Even busy Border Collies like you can learn to do that.
  4. Licenses:  I just got a new tag – and it looks pretty sharp!  My human said I need it on my collar so that the City knows about me and can help if I get lost.  Pretty cool, eh?  Make sure you get your license renewed too. 
  5. Microchip: Hey, Tommy… do you have one of those cool microchips?  I do, and it kind of makes me feel like a space dog.  I went to see my vet at PetFocus and she put this little thing, about the size of a rice grain, under my skin.  It didn’t hurt a bit.  It’s very high tech – if I ever got lost, a vet could wave this magic wand over my back and the information about my owners would pop up.  How awesome is that?  I think all the guys should get one.
  6. Poop:  Well, we know all about that, right?  When you gotta go… anyway, our owners have to remember to “scoop the poop.”  I hope they know that this is the law too… back to that responsible pet owner thing again.  I love sniffing poop but apparently there can be dangerous stuff in it – like buggy things and diseases.  Ick.  As much as I love checking it out, I wouldn’t want to carry bad stuff back to my owner’s house.   My owner is really careful about that – she just took a sample of my poop to PetFocus to be tested – she said we will do that every year.  She’s the best.
  7. Parasites: I hate ticks and fleas!  Those things make me itchy and give me a rash.  Fortunately, I get some stuff every month to keep those pests away from me…  The problem is, not all the guys get that stuff and so some of the dogs I like to play with at the park are carrying around pests, and they are in the grass too.  Make sure your owner is giving you the monthly dose of treatment.  My owner also checks me over (I love that part – it’s like a free massage!) for ticks every time we come in – and we don’t go back to the places where I find ticks.
  8. Vaccines:  I was at PetFocus last week – my owner took me in because we are going camping and she was afraid we might run into some deer or raccoons.  You know I just can’t help sniffing around where those guys have peed!  Anyway, it seems I needed some vaccine to help protect me from some of the awful stuff those wild beasts might carry.  Tommy, you should check that out too as I know you like to drink from puddles and ditches – you don’t know who peed there, buddy!  Get vaccinated to protect yourself and your humans. 

So anyway, Tommy, I am ready to roam.  Let’s go celebrate “Barks and Recreation” month and enjoy the great outdoors.  Be safe and responsible. 

Additional information:

CPRA ACPL – Parks and Recreation Month www.cpra.ca

HRM Off Leash Parks Strategy – http://www.halifax.ca/realpropertyplanning/olps/index.html

By-Law A-300 Respecting Animals & Responsible Pet Ownership – http://www.halifax.ca/legislation/bylaws/hrm/index.html

Family… see, family is da most important thing. Check out the shelters and rescues.

Hi! This is Al Catcino here… and I gotta deal you can’t refuse, see?  Family… you can’t ever forget how important family is and even though I’ve met some pretty tough cats (and dogs), I think they all need family and deserve respect.  You listenin’ to me?  Well, here’s the thing, see.  Dogs and cats deserve a real, forever family, see.   And the really sad thing is, not everyone has one and so even a tough cat like me likes to go to shelters and rescue groups to add to my family.  I’ve uh, lost a few family members from time to time, see, so I know how to find great new ones.  And, my father always said, a cat who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real cat – ya read me?

  So, here are some things to ponder before you add to your family, ok? 

  1. When making the decision to adopt make sure that the entire family is on the same page with how you are going to train your new friend, as well as what and how often you are going to feed them.  The family has got to be on side, see?  Just like my family in Sicily, everybody’s got to be on the same page!  All animals need some sort of structure to feel comfortable, but rescue animals tend to need a little bit more structure, especially at first as they are getting use to a new home, and their new family.
  2. Don’t jump the gun… you know what I mean?  Take your time.  When looking into adopting a new pet make sure you go and meet a few different animals, or some rescues have a website on which you can view their current adoptables before you go in to meet them.
  3. Patience.  My father always said, wait for the right moment.  Often times you are unable to adopt your new friend right away.  That’s ok.  It’ll be worth the wait.
  4. Do your research – check ‘im out first.  When you go to meet your new potential friend, watch for symptoms of behavioural issues, and always ask about medical history. Now if you notice they have a behavioural problem, always take them out of the shelter to a more open and grassy area where they may feel more comfortable, as well let them come to you versus you approaching them. These things can make a huge difference in their personality, sometimes they are just uncomfortable with being in a kennel or feeling like they are backed into a corner. Also behavioural issues don’t mean that they are a bad animal to adopt, just means that they need a special kind of family that understands their specific needs, and understands that it is going to be tough at first, but it can be very rewarding.  Loyalty see, that’s what’s important in a family and you will earn that with your new friend.
  5. Always be prepared – if you are adopting an animal with obvious anxiety issues or behavioural problems, be sure you are prepared to deal with those issues. If you don’t have a Godfather, like me, speak to your PetFocus veterinarian – he or she will give you the scoop.  My family knows the importance of training for every job we do – you may also want to be check out the PetFocus trainers, too.   Destruction – I know a bit about that – and so you should make sure  that your home is prepared for an animal that may chew or destroy items;  provide them with lots of toys which they can utilize instead of your shoe, or couch leg.

 For anyone who is interested in adopting a pet in the HRM you can follow this link and find the rescue that best suits you!  http://www.maritimeanimalrescue.com/contacts.shtml#ns

 Thank you for supporting you local shelters, and thanks for considering adoption as an option for your new friends.   You’ll be glad you did!

Avoid the Winter Blues – Keep your pet active all winter long

Tommy Holedigger here! Cold weather brings some challenges for keeping your furry friends fit and free from cabin fever. Since I am a Border Collie, I know a bit about having lots of energy, so my good buddy, Kapoodle, asked me to “weigh in” on how to keep your pets active during the winter. Remember to have your people check with your PetFocus vet first to ensure any changes to your exercise program have been given the green light!
Many pets can handle outdoor activities if it isn’t too cold. We play with our family, go for walks, and enjoy the winter wonderland along side of our humans.
The problem is, we often don’t know when to quit so we rely on you to tell us when enough is enough or, when it’s just too cold to go outside at all. The general rule is, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for us…and yes, that applies to those of us with lots of fur too!
There’s a lot to consider when taking a pet outside in the winter so I thought you might like this link from the American Animal Hospital Association to help you out a bit:
http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=Winter_Pet_Care
“So Tommy (you ask), what can I do for my pet if it’s too cold to go outside?”
“Ruff ruff ruff” (I say), which means “You’re in luck!” I have some great options to rid your pets of the winter blues on cold, snowy days. Let’s talk indoor play!
First and foremost, always make sure you have removed any “obstacles” that may be harmful to your pet prior to playing with them indoors. Dog tails and fragile trinkets don’t tend to mix…not that I’d know anything about that. [Why do people put ornaments on low coffee tables anyway?]
The first game happens to be my personal favourite – “hide and seek”! You might know that one! Playing “hide and seek” is a good way to get dogs moving. Supplies needed: you, a few other humans, and some good hiding spots. Get a couple of people to hide in different places around your home and let your dog go. We will have to try and find the humans (that’s you) who should then give us a small treat. It’s always good to reward us after we find you so that we know exactly what you want us to do.
Another variation of this would be to hide treats in select places around your home and have your pet search them out; this game is especially rewarding for any dog that is considered a “hunting breed” as they are bred for these specific types of activities! Cats, being natural hunters, enjoy this game as well. I’ve been told that pet food is so yummy that some tiny humans will eat it too, so keep that in mind if you’re playing hide and seek with food! Another outdoor version that some of my friends like involves hiding things in the snow – that can be really fun.
Laser pointers are a great way to get your pet moving. While they are usually considered a toy for cats, lots of dogs actually enjoy playing with laser pointers as well. It’s an excellent toy to use indoors as you have a lot of control over where your pet goes. Make sure there is something other than just light at the end of the tunnel though or we might get a little frustrated. When you shine the laser in the last location, it’s a good idea to have a reward there that your pet can pounce on. A nice “catch” at the end of the chase helps eliminate any feelings of frustration.
Another toy that can be used for cats is a toy on the end of a string. You can get cats to jump and run wherever the toy is moving and it keeps them engaged for a long period of time. My friend Kit asked me to tell you that any toys involving string should not be left for cats to play with unattended. Apparently they like to eat them…even if they’re not coated in bacon. I’ll never understand cats.
What about a good old fashioned stair climber? Have your pets go up and down steps with you. This may take some tempting (and a little bit of exercise on your part as well) but it’s worth it for everybody.
You could also set up obstacle courses in your home. Use things like pillows for pets to jump over, and hula hoops for them to run through – and my favourite part – make sure to always reward your pets with a treat when they do something you want them to.
How about revisiting some of the obedience training you worked on during your pet’s developmental stages. Being housebound presents a great opportunity to teach new skills. More and more people are clicker training their cats now so even your feline friends can get in on the action!
Here are some more suggestions from AAHA that could come in handy for you: http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=Exercising_Your_Pet
Remember that with some planning, you can keep your pets happy and healthy all year round – and you might get a little extra exercise yourself too!

Dogs on Thin Ice

Kapoodle here! I wanted to talk about something that sadly happens every year during our freezing winters – dogs falling through thin ice.

For us dogs, it’s harder to differentiate between where it is safe to walk on and where it is not safe, and sometimes when we are used to being on a leash, we tend to just run free, not worrying about any of those dangerous things that are out there. It’s your human’s job to make sure that you are monitored at all times when you are outside, even at an off leash park as many off leash parks have ponds in or near by them. If you do happen to fall through ice, your owner should call the local fire department right away, as it is not necessarily safe for your human to get to you. However if your human is able to get you out without a hitch, or if you’re able to swim your way out of it, then your human should take the following steps prior to going to your PetFocus Veterinary Hospital. They should:

  • Take note of whether or not you’re shivering. If you’re shivering, then you are losing body heat, which could mean that hypothermia is a possibility.
  • Dry you off right away, and try to warm you up, wrapping you up in a towel or warm blanket (if nothing else their jacket) is a good way to keep your body heat in.  I love that part at any time.
  • After they have you safe and warm, they should rush you to your PetFocus Veterinarian to ensure that your body temperature hasn’t plummeted drastically.

Of course, it is not a bad idea for your human to have a basic idea of First Aid for situations such as this, and if your family goes for a lot of walks to off leash parks, some good items to keep in the vehicle are warm blankets, heating packs, a first aid kit, and a list of emergency contacts – this is just for the winter time, and should be changed for the summer time. The best prevention is to never give us the chance to end up on thin ice. Avoid dog parks that have ponds in the winter time, and double leash us when out walking – it’s always better to never have to deal with the situation in the first place. Play safe!

Canine Holiday Hazards with Schnitzel the worrisome Dachshund

Oh Christmas is coming, and it can be such a scary time of year for dogs. Did you know about all the different hazards out there right now? There are so many things we can get into such as:

Alcoholic Beverages: Alcohol is around during the holiday season and can be easily accessible to dogs; we tend to just follow our noses! The effects of alcohol in pets are similar to those in humans – it causes depression of our central nervous system which causes us to become drowsy, and lose coordination.  I hate that!  If we are exposed to a larger amount of alcohol, it can cause a greater depression of the nervous system, potentially causing slowed breathing and heart rate, as well as a drop in body temperature. Even if a dog doesn’t die from the acute effects of alcohol, it can cause problems in the kidney and liver.

Source: http://www.natural-wonder-pets.com/how-harmful-is-alcohol-to-dogs-and-cats.html

Human food: There are a lot of different kinds of food that humans can eat but we can’t – even some really yummy things! All of these types of food smell delicious to us, and sometimes our humans don’t know that they are toxic for us.  Garlic and onion can cause hemolytic anemia in pets, and which is a very severe issue. Grapes and raisins can cause G.I upset, all the way up to kidney failure – I love grapes but they are not safe for dogs at all!  Chocolate is of course toxic as we learned before from our friend Indiana Bones. And did you know that avocado can cause G.I upset?  Who knew?

Christmas Trees and decorations: These can be dangerous because of the low hanging ornaments, and strings of lights.  As much as I like to play with some of those decorations, our humans should always try to hang the ornaments out of our reach and to cover the wires wherever possible. Also real trees require tree food, or preservatives (which are often added to the water) – they can cause G.I upset if we have a little drink from that tree holder-water bowl. Garland and potpourris can be dangerous as well. Garland can get caught up in the intestines if ingested, or potentially be a choking hazard, and potpourris can be an irritant if we eat it… it smells so good…

Antifreeze: Antifreeze is dangerous if ingested, and only a small amount can be lethal to a small animal. Spills should always be cleaned up immediately, and if your human even suspects exposure they should take you in right away. The ingredient in antifreeze that makes it so dangerous is ethylene glycol, and it can cause some very serious damage to the central nervous system, as well as damage to the kidneys and liver. Yikes!

So there you have it, a list of some very serious hazards that your human may have around the home. If your human has any questions, they should always seek the advice of their PetFocus Veterinarian. I hope all of you stay safe during the holidays!

Sources: http://www.vetinfo.com/dtoxin.html

Tinsel Trouble

Kit: Hey Catrina! Have your humans started putting up all the Christmas decorations!? I love that giant tree to climb with all those shiny things, and the cozy stockings to sleep in. Not to mention the warm fireplace to sleep in front of, the cookie house to chew on, all the food I can steal and I always get gifts from my humans because I’m always a purrfect cat! Oh! It’s just my favorite holiday of the year! You know, the best part is once the humans open up all their presents, we get to play in those boxes and with all those ribbons, and all that tinsel, it’s absolutely amazing. Don’t you agree, Catrina?

 Catrina: Well, I agree for the most part, but my family doesn’t have tinsel anymore, not since last year. I was pretty confused because they put it all over the tree, and it was just the most beautiful toy I had ever seen. It would shine in the glow of that tree, and I was certain that it was my Christmas gift, they just gave it to me early. So, I ate a few pieces and I was pretty proud of myself because my humans never even noticed! But the next day, I started to feel sick.  I was vomiting, I completely lost my appetite, my stomach was hurting, and I began to excessively drool. I knew it couldn’t be the wonderful tinsel that I had eaten the day before because that stuff was magical, and Christmas magic doesn’t do that to cats! My humans were concerned and rushed me into the PetFocus location at Petworks. Dr. Swinemar explained to my humans that I had a “foreign body” and that the only way to fix it was to surgically remove it. Yikes! I thought it would be the worst Christmas after that, but it actually turned out better than expected.  I wasn’t allowed to move around very much because of my stitches, but my humans doted on me more than usual, and I got all sorts of fun toys in my stocking. The only downside was they took down all my beautiful tinsel toys; they didn’t even leave me one. 

 Kit: Wow, that’s awful. I didn’t realize that tinsel was so dangerous. I had heard about Cat Albert eating all those Poinsettias – you know that crazy Maine Coon, he’ll eat anything. He was feeling pretty sick that evening and he had to find out the hard way that Poinsettias, although they are not deadly, they are toxic, and will cause gastrointestinal upset. My humans always talk to their PetFocus Veterinarian if they are unsure about what they are bringing into my home, and I’m glad because sometimes I just can’t help myself if they have flowers on the table.