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!

National Veterinary Technician Week

(Kapoodle) Hey Kit!  How’s it going? I’ve been a bit lonely lately, what with the kids back in school and all.  All this talk about homework and studying hard so that they can get a good job has got me to thinking…what is a “good” job?  I’m pretty happy with the work I do here so I guess I have a good job, it never hurts to consider your options though.

(Kit) A good job?  Please Kapoodle, tell me exactly what kind of “work” it is you do?  All I see is a bunch of laying around and knocking things over.  Why are dogs so clumsy anyway?  You could learn a lot from a cat you know!  The only time I knock things down is when I want to, usually when my humans are late with dinner.

(Kapoodle) What do ya mean, I don’t do any work?  I fertilize the yard, I help clear the table and wash the dishes when my family is finished eating, and…all that knocking stuff down gives them something to do so they don’t get bored.  I’ve often heard my people say “Thank goodness Kapoodle spread these tissues all around, I didn’t know what I was going to do with that extra 5 minutes!” Next week I’m going to do some gardening.  You wait and see how excited they’ll be?!

Anyway, I got to thinking about what other jobs are out there that might be fun and then I ran into my friend Hairy Pawter.  You know Hairy, he’s the Puli with the crazy dreadlocks.  Well, turns out Hairy was over at Harbour Cities Veterinary Hospital the other day for his yearly check up.  He said there was quite a commotion going on because one of his favourite people, Toni Martin, was receiving an award from the Eastern Veterinary Technician’s Association.  Toni is what they call an RVT, or Registered Veterinary Technician.  Now, you’re probably wondering what that means, I know I was.  The closest comparison I can give you is that an RVT is a lot like a human nurse.  The main difference is that RVTs need to be skilled in all aspects of patient care such as medicine, surgery, radiology, dentistry, diagnostic testing (like looking at poop, which doesn’t sound so bad to me), etc.  Hairy said that over the past few years Toni has taken blood from him, trimmed his nails, given him medication (that he really didn’t like), took pictures of his stomach that time he ate the corn cob and couldn’t stop throwing up, and lots of other things.  He said that Toni was responsible for carrying out a lot of the veterinarian’s treatment plan. 

It was starting to sound like an interesting and difficult job so I looked into what kind of education is needed.  It turns out there is a Veterinary Technician program right here in Nova Scotia through the Dalhousie Agricultural College.  The program takes two years to complete and involves spending some time at the Atlantic Veterinary College in PEI as well as in a regular veterinary clinic.  Students who graduate from this, or any other accredited Veterinary Technician program, can write an exam to become “registered” and carry the title of RVT.  Then, every year they have to take some continuing education courses to stay current and maintain their registered status.  It’s great to know there are some standards in place to ensure those caring for us are well trained!

It sounds to me like technicians are the veterinarian’s right hand.  I bet it is a really challenging and rewarding career.  I guess that would make it a “good” job.  It also sounds like a lot more work than pulling up tulips and sorting through the garbage.  I think I’ll keep my job.  Afterall, what would my owners do with their extra time if I wasn’t here?

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

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Winter Worries from the Fashion Experts

Liz Claybone: Liz Claybone here!  Your fashion forward cocker spaniel!!!  I just wanted to let everyone know about all the salt on the sidewalks that is soon to come. All of us dogs love going for walks but in the wintertime it becomes almost painful. The salt they use to breakdown ice on the sidewalks dries out our poor paw pads. Though that may mean a trip to one of my favourite places, a PetFocus Clinic, it also means sore poochie paws. But… for all of us who love fashion, our humans can pick up some winter boots at pet stores or other retailers who carry pet supplies that are specially made to fit our paws.  They shield our sensitive paw pads from cold weather and the salty sidewalk. Of course we will walk like a duck uncontrollably at first, but after that there’s just no stopping us!!  There are also creams you can use to help shield the paw, and moisturize, it’s like a manicure/pedicure!  What do you think CATrina, is there anything you’d like to add?

Catrina: Hey Liz, it’s almost purrrfect, but don’t forget that outdoor cats can suffer from the same problem. You also forgot to mention that if we are outside too long we can suffer from hypothermia.  Even though I’m a Russian Blue, I would prefer my toes and nose not to be the same color!  When the temperature drops you should keep your pets inside as much as possible, outdoor cats should be kept inside, and dogs should be let outside to do their business for short periods of time, short haired dogs should have jackets, and all dogs should wear some sort of paw protection as you mentioned!  If they have to be outdoors, then they should be provided with a heated doghouse or run for shelter. If owners have any questions about the best care of their pet during the winter they can go into any PetFocus Veterinary Hospital, they are always very helpful.

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.

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.