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!

Tick Talk! With Kit and Kapoodle

“Hey Kit!  Did you hear about that crazy guy, Tommy Holedigger?  What a character.  You know how Border Collies like to run and play?  Well, that guy just can’t stay out of the woods around his yard and yep… you guessed it… he came home with a bunch of ticks!”

 Kit was intrigued – “you mean sort of like hiccups? “, she purred.

 “No”, Kapoodle replied – “and not like fleas either!  I know, I know, you are too prim and proper to know anything about such things – but let me tell you, these little parasites are no fun.  Even for a fun guy like Tommy.  He was really ‘ticked off.”’  With that, Kapoodle rolled on the floor, laughing at his own joke.

Kit ignored his attempt at humour – but she was really curious now – “do tell”, she said – even though just the word “parasite” made her itchy.

 Kapoodle loves telling stories so he launched into it…

 “Tommy Holedigger had a bunch of ticks on him – his owner, who does a great job of checking him over after they have been out in the woods or for their long hikes in the grassy areas, found some ticks on him.  Did you know that a tick, which is about the size of a sesame seed, can get to be about the size of a lima bean when it has been acting like a little doggy vampire?  Ewww.  True fact – they swell up as they feed.  I have a picture I can show you.  Anyway, Tommy’s human checked online to see what to do – he saw all these crazy ideas like putting a lit cigarette on the tick!  Can you imagine?!?  Yikes – Tommy was pretty glad they didn’t try that.  Then they read about people putting finger nail polish on the tick…”

 Kit perked up at that – “oooo like going to the spa…I love the spa”, she purred. 

 “No no, you spoiled kitty – not like going to the spa!  Some people think they can get ticks out if they put polish on them – duh, not!  Anyway, the human kept researching and realized he would probably make things worse if he tried to pull the ticks off himself, and that the best thing was to visit PetFocus.”

 Kit asked why it wasn’t a good idea to just pull the ticks right off quickly.

 Kappodle, so proud of his new found knowledge, said that he heard Dr. Woodbury on CTV talking about this and that Dr. Woodbury said that if you pull them off and don’t get everything, the bacteria can cause even more problems.

 He continued with the story… “so, they went to PetFocus and got the ticks off with a little tick twister gizmo and they did a simple blood test on Tommy.  And, poor Tommy – the test showed that those deer ticks were carrying Lyme disease and he had contracted the organism carrying it!  Tommy had to take medication right away and now he is fine.”

 OMG, said Kit.  “Did he turn green?”

 Kapoodle shook his head… “Cats”, he said.  ‘Not that kind of Lyme – this Lyme is named after a place in the US where the disease was first discovered.  Fortunately, the disease is easily handled in dogs but it is much worse for people.  They can’t catch it from dogs or from each other – only from a tick – Tommy was pretty relieved to hear that as he loves to cuddle – when he can sit still long enough.  However, his human had some ticks too and they are being tested as well.  And his human was reminded about how important it is for Tommy to have annual checkups and vaccines too – I am so glad my human takes me to PetFocus every year for an exam and vaccine against a whole bunch of parasites. It would really ‘bug me’ to have ticks”, he said, rolling on the floor and giggling again.

 Kit was nervous now as she loves her humans so much and didn’t want anyone to be sick.  She wanted to know more – :”Why don’t I know about Lyme Disease?  Why didn’t we hear about it years ago?”

 Now Kapoodle could really show off his new knowledge.  Here is why, he said:

  • Deer ticks live on… guess where?  I bet even a cat can answer that one.  (Kit just rolled her eyes at him!)  Yep – on deer.  And there are more deer in Nova Scotia than there used to be and they are living closer to where people live and so there are more ticks being carried around.  Birds can carry the ticks around too.
  • The climate is a little warmer than it used to be and the ticks can live through the winter.
  • The rules about “no pesticides” to help the environment mean that ticks are not killed as much as they used to be.

 Kit was impressed.  She decided to tell all her friends who live with dogs to make sure they get tested right away at PetFocus.  She also said that she has new appreciation for dogs – the occurrence of Lyme in dogs is useful to know about so that humans can be protected too!  Well, she cooed – “Finally, a good reason for dogs to be around!”

To learn more about Ticks and Lyme Disease – see:

https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Safe-use-of-flea-and-tick-preventive-products.aspx

Pictures below:

1. A Tick

2. A tick that is attached to a dog

3. A tick on a person

 ImageImageImage

Meow, Me-OUCH! My Teeth hurt!

Crunch, crunch, “ouch!” crunch, crunch “OUCH!!”  Hi it’s Kit here.  This was me a few weeks ago when I was having lunch with my Pomeranian friend Zsa Zsa Dogbor.  Eating had become painful and was losing its appeal.  I didn’t know what was wrong but Zsa Zsa had an idea.  She felt the same way a few months ago and it turned out it was her teeth!  She suggested that I visit Dr. Woodbury and have a dental exam done.  The next day I got the news: I had a resorptive lesion, and infected gums.

“Oh Dear!” said Zsa Zsa when I told her that evening. How did Dr. Woodbury diagnose your problem? 

“Well”, I told her, “It was a wonderful visit, and thank goodness I went in”

“Cindi the Dental Technician met me at the door. After listening to my story about how painful my mouth was, she took me into the office and had a chat with me. She placed me on the exam table, turned on the light and then lifted my lip to look at my teeth.  She winced when she saw what a state my teeth were in.” 

“She told me that my bad breath was not just because I ate that piece of salmon I snuck off the owner’s plate the day before. It was much more than that.  Cats and dogs should not have bad breath, and because I did, it indicated I had infected gums. My infected gums were red and red gums HURT.”

“Then Dr. Woodbury came in to see me. He wrinkled his brow and he patted my head

 “Poor Kit’ he said “You must be in a lot of pain. It has been a few years since you had a dental cleaning. That’s what happens when you don’t have yearly dental check ups. Bad things happen to a pet’s teeth the same way they happen to other parts of a pet’s body. It’s easy to tell when a paw is sore because you start to limp. But when a tooth is sore, it’s not as obvious. You did the right thing coming in to see me today.’”

Zsa Zsa Dogbor looked very concerned when she heard what Dr. Woodbury said. 

“What did he do next?” she asked

“Well”, I told her, “He suggested that I have an anesthetic (so it wouldn’t hurt) and that he clean my teeth and get all the tartar off. Then he said he would do some x-rays so he could see underneath my gums to see if there were problems there that couldn’t be seen just by looking.” 

“So I came back in the next day and Dr. Woodbury and Cindi the Dental Technician gave me a full dental procedure. When they got a closer look at my mouth, they were able to diagnose tooth resorption. This is when a tooth is dissolving in the tooth socket. To stop the pain and cure the infection, they took out the tooth and they cleaned the socket really well. Now the infection will go away and I won’t have any more pain.”

Zsa Zsa was wide-eyed and looking at me with great concern. 

“I’m so glad that you are not hurting anymore Kit. It must have been a relief to get that taken care of. It is horrible to have a tooth ache.”

I nodded. “Thanks’ Zsa Zsa.” I said. “It was a relief to no longer have a tooth ache, but as it turned out, having an infected tooth is also serious for other reasons.  Dr. Woodbury explained that if I hadn’t gotten rid of the infection in my tooth, the infection could have spread to other parts of my body and infected my brain, my lungs, my liver, my kidneys or my heart!” That could have been a life threatening problem!”

“Oh Kit!” exclaimed Zsa Zsa with tears in her eyes. “Thank Goodness you caught it in time! I would be heart broken if anything happened to you! You’re my best friend!”

I smiled at Zsa Zsa showing her my sparkly white clean teeth. 

“Aw, gee Zsa Zsa, I love you too.” 

I told her “That’s why I wanted to thank you for sending me to Dr. Woodbury. I also want to remind you to get your dental check up done soon as well. Dr. Woodbury told me that up to 50% of cats suffer from tooth resorption at some time during their life. I know you are a dog and not a cat, but it is still really important that you go.  Periodontal disease is the most common condition diagnosed in both cats AND dogs! AND, up to 70% of dogs and 80% of cats have infected gums by two years of age! Even if you don’t have brown tartar on your teeth, your gums could be infected. So you need to make sure you get your dental check done every year. You know the old saying: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.

“I’ll make my appointment right away” she told me. “It’s Dental Health Month!” It’s a perfect time for me to phone PetFocus and get Dr. Woodbury to examine my teeth right away.”

November was Pet Cancer Awareness Month!

November was Pet Cancer Awareness Month, and Kit and Kapoodle know that Cancer is not strictly a human disease; it is the number 1 disease-related killer of cats and dogs. They also know that it is very important to never overlook the symptoms that could mean cancer. These include:

  1. Persistent, abnormal swelling
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. Loss of weight
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Excessive coughing
  6. Gum Paleness
  7. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  8. Offensive odour
  9. Difficulty eating or swallowing
  10. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  11. Persistent lameness or stiffness
  12. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

Just as in humans, cancer can occur in any part of your pets body, so watch for the symptoms mentioned previously all over your pet. If any of these symptoms appear make an appointment to see your friendly PetFocus Veterinarian.

If you’re noticing any of the previous symptoms in your pets then we suggest you seek medical advice from your local PetFocus Veterinary Clinic. One of the biggest questions is, “What causes cancer?”, but this question is not easily answered. As in humans we are not always sure what causes cancers, though there are some common denominators that we can see in pets such as:

  • Genetics: Animals that come from improper breeding      practices are genetically prone to cancer. This typically refers to puppy      or kitten mills, or breeders using animals who have incidences of cancer      in the bloodline.
  • Over-Vaccination: Always speak to your friendly PetFocus      Veterinarian about which vaccinations are necessary to keep your pet safe.      Over-vaccination can weaken your pets immune system, only vaccinate as per your veterinarians recommendations.
  • Toxins in the environment and food: Large amounts of preservatives and chemical additives can build up in the food, and that has been linked to cancer in both humans and pets. The environmental toxins include but are not limited to, lawn fertilizers, detergents, and cleaners. These of course have been linked to pet cancer though are not conclusive.

The best way to fight pet cancer is to educate yourself, to know the signs and symptoms of cancer in your pets, and to be proactive. Talk to your PetFocus Veterinarian if you are concerned in any way, or notice any of the symptoms noted above.

Sources: http://www.petcancerawareness.org/ , http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/november-marks-fifth-annual-national-pet-cancer-awareness-month-67198552.html, and http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/november-marks-fifth-annual-national-pet-cancer-awareness-month-67198552.html

It’s the Whole Kit ‘n’ Kapoodle!

Kit:  Hey Kapoodle! Guess what? We are going to be VIPs! That means Very Important Pets! We will have our own blog and it’s going to be fantastic. We will talk about all the interesting things we do when our humans aren’t around, and we won’t even get sprayed with the water bottle for it. In fact, we will share some great tips that other humans might enjoy about what we eat, how we stay healthy and even some of the naughty things you get into! Oh! I smell catnip! Woo Hoo!

Kapoodle:  That sounds like so much fun, Kit! I can just imagine that if we do well on this, we can have all the treats that we want, oh, and car rides galore. We can also talk about all our closest friends, right? They get into all sorts of trouble and that might be helpful to talk about – like eating things that they shouldn’t and not looking after their teeth properly. I can’t wait to get started Kit!  I am so excited, I could… oh oh… I think I just did… ooops.

Kit:  That is so like a dog.  You just can’t handle excitement. Well, let’s just move along and introduce ourselves – I am Kit, the gorgeous and highly intelligent mascot cat from PetFocus, and that guy over there is, well, clearly a dog.  Yes, I admit it – he is my friend, Kapoodle, and we are going to be your guides to having happy healthy pets!  Check back with us in a week or so to see what pearls of wisdom we have to share.