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!

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Getting Too Hot Under the (Dog) Collar

“Whew! Dahling – it’s like an oven in this car!  I can’t possibly wait for you here.”  Zsa Zsa Dogbor was indignant that her owner would even think about leaving her in the car while she went in for her hair appointment.  Summer is here and some owners forget that their pets need to stay cool!  Zsa Zsa was chatting later with her friend, Schnitzel, about this and he agreed that it is a scary time of year for dogs, especially.  “Ja, dis is da wurst time for dogs.  Sometimes, I feel like a ‘hot dog’ bratwurst in da bun”, said the little dachshund.  “Every year, dey hear da warnings, and every year, some dog owners let their pets suffer in the heat.  Why, why, why do dey do dat?” 

“Oh Dahling”, Zsa Zsa cooed, “some owners have memories that are shorter than your legs – we have to keep reminding them about the dangers of heat stress for us.  My cousin, Ilsa, almost died from being left in a car while her owner went for lunch.  Can you imagine?  She was stuck there, with no air conditioning, and no idea why she was left there or for how long.  She panicked and that made it even worse.  Here is what I learned from my PetFocus vet after they saved her…. 

“It’s Ok – I’ll only be gone five minutes.”  That’s what Ilsa’s owner said when she left her.  The human was going into Tim’s to pick up a coffee – but, she met a friend and decided to have lunch and forgot about Ilsa.  That happens so often.  Five minutes becomes twenty-five.  Honestly, I don’t know how any human could forget about me for a moment, but it happens!  The scary thing is that Ilsa started to be stressed in only 10 minutes.  Her human left all the windows open a crack and left her some water but it didn’t help.  She still suffered from heat stress. 

“How hot is too hot?”, asked Schnitzel.    

Well, even on a typical summer day at 21OC, temperatures inside a parked car can reach 38OC and on a really hot day of 32OC, they can hit a whopping 60OC!  Oh Dahling, we literally cook at those temperatures.  People don’t realize that inside temperatures can be 10–20OC higher than outdoors within minutes. Of course, Dahling, I don’t sweat!  Actually, no dogs and cats can sweat like humans and most of us have heavy fur coats. I don’t like to talk about it as it is not very ladylike, but we cool down mainly by panting and through sweat glands on our feet. The other problem, which Ilsa had, is that as it got hotter, she panicked which made things even worse.  Poor baby was barking and pacing and no one noticed.  

“Ach, nein!”  said Schnitzel.  “Dat is terrible.”  He wondered… 

How can you tell if a panting animal in a car needs immediate help?”  

Zsa Zsa explained – Oh, it is not at all ladylike – some signs of heat stroke are extreme panting, drooling, deep red or bluish tongue, trouble breathing… Ilsa threw up (how embarrassing), and she was stumbling and weak and her muscles had tremors.  When her owner finally came back, her eyes were glassy and she had a “far away” stare… it was awful, dahling.  The vet said that the next step would have been a seizure, collapse or loss of consciousness.  Even worse, after that, she might have gone into a coma or even died! 

“What if someone had seen her in the car?  What should they have done?”  asked Schnitzel.

This is a difficult question to answer – they could call 911 or the local animal control agency right away.  They should write down the license plate and a description of the car. They could also try to find the owner in nearby buildings – ask stores to page the car owner.  If they think that it is urgent, they could get another person to check too and then do whatever they can to get the poor baby out of the car.  They will need to go to the vet right away.  They should be moved to an air-conditioned car or building and they should be wetted down with “cool” (never cold or icy) water for a few minutes.  Give them some cool water to drink.  

Other things to think about in the heat are that pets can get sunburned too – Zsa Zsa said that she never sits in the sun as she is so concerned about her perfect skin but some dogs are taken places where there is no shade.  Cats, she said, are sometimes better at finding shady places and dogs need that too.  It is also important to make sure that pets don’t have to walk a long way on hot pavement – oh dahling, my poor feet. 

Don’t make excuses. Don’t take pets out for walks or runs during the hottest time of day.  Leave your pets at home if you know you will need to make any stops and NEVER leave them unattended in a parked car.  Paying attention to this may save their life.

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.”

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.

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

Trick or Treat?

Kapoodle: Hey Kit, did you hear what happened to Indie? You know, my buddy, Indiana Bones?  His humans brought home a whole lot of chocolate and a costume for him. He was pretty excited about the chocolate because they never let him have any, but not so keen about the costume… Who ever heard of a dog wearing a hot dog costume?   He noticed that they hid all those boxes of chocolates in the pantry, and he didn’t understand why they thought they needed to hide those things from him. Anyway, when the grown ups went to work, and the kids went to school, he broke into the pantry and decided to sample all of the different types of chocolates.  He said it was fabulous!  Some guys have all the luck!

Kit: Oh my gosh, Kapoodle!  Don’t his owners realize that wearing a hot dog costume is so last season!? And doesn’t he know that chocolate is toxic to him?

Kapoodle: Well, actually, his luck did change pretty fast.  He realized that after he ate all of that chocolate, he felt pretty ill and quite a bit of stomach upset. As soon as his owners got home and saw all the wrappers and boxes, they rushed him to the PetFocus Veterinary Group clinic at the DartmouthVeterinaryHospital – he is definitely lucky that he has such smart owners – they realized right away that it was an emergency. Sarah, the Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) took very good care of him, and Dr. Robb told Indie’s owners that there is this chemical in chocolate, called Theobromine, that causes serious issues such as cardiac arrhythmias, epileptic seizures, internal bleeding, heart attacks, and can also be fatal.  And it doesn’t just affect dogs – it can affect other animals including cats!  Pretty scary, eh?  I’ve been reading more about it on these sites that Dr. Robb told Indie about:

http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=A_Safe_Halloween

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/halloween-safety-tips.aspx

Kit: Well I’m glad that he is okay, Kapoodle, and I hope that he learned a lesson from today. My tastes are too delicate for chocolate anyway – did you know that cats cannot taste sweetness?   And did you know that there are a lot more hazards at Halloween than most pets think. Decorative corn and pumpkin stems can cause tummy upset, and with doors constantly opening and closing, anyone could just run outside and get lost. Ooo… I don’t want to even think about what could happen out there with all those scary goblins and ghosts!

Kapoodle: Wow! I didn’t realize how many potential hazards there are during Halloween! It’s amazing how much our humans really need to pay attention to what pets can get into. Indiana Bones was pretty lucky – things could have been a lot worse for him had his humans not rushed him to a PetFocus clinic right away.