On the road again… Happy Tails on the Trails, Rails and in the Air

“Where are we going?  Is it the last train to Barksville? Are we flying to Meow-mi? I do hope we are going to Paw Springs”, said Liz Claybone, the beautiful Cocker Spaniel, as she and Catrina, the elegant Russian blue cat, were chatting about their summer vacations with their families.  They were very excited that their families are planning to take them along on their trips – they used to always be left home but now, they travel much more.  “Why was it that in the old days, we never got to go anywhere?”, asked Liz.  “Times have changed”, purred Catrina.  “So many more humans want to take their pets with them now – and it is a lot easier than it used to be.  There are a few important things to know though, to help make the trip better for the humans and for us,” she continued.  “I like everything to be purrrrr-fect”.

Here are some of her tips:

Where are you going? – “Lots of hotels, beaches and parks like us – and we can go there any time and we might even be allowed to run around without a leash.”  Liz Claybone added that she had been to a few places where leashes were required – and even some where pets were not allowed at all!  Seriously!  She was quite miffed about that but said that she was so glad that her humans checked first so there were no surprises – it would have been awful to go to a park and then not be allowed in!  That is when some humans forget about what happens when pets are left in cars… it can get much too hot.  That’s another whole story…

Catrina, who has travelled across Russia and to many other countries, said that it is also important for humans to check on customs or immigration rules.  That means knowing about the rules when you cross a border into another country.  Not every country has the same rules about pets as Canada and so humans need to know these rules.  Catrina was stuck in quarantine once because her humans didn’t have all the paperwork they needed – “Quarantine means you have to stay with the government people for awhile until they are sure you are not sick – it was just awful… I missed my family – it was worse than being stuck in Siberia” she said!  Fortunately, her humans learned about checking with the consulates of other countries she has visited.  They knew about the vaccines she needed – and had all the paperwork ready.  They also learned about parasites, those awful little bugs, which are different in other countries.  Liz said that on one of her family’s drives to Paw Springs in California, her dog food was taken at the border because her humans didn’t have the label from the bag to show the ingredients and country of origin.  Very important!  “They forgot that paperwork but they did have my rabies certificate”, she said.  “Fortunately, they remembered to take me to the vet to get that before we left or who knows what might have happened!?”

Bring your ID – Always keep an identification tag with up to date contact information on your pet’s collar and consider microchipping them in case they lose their collar.   Liz and Catrina said they both have microchips – “I was surprised”, said Liz – “it didn’t hurt a bit!  I saw the veterinarian coming with that needle and was worried but it was fine.  And my owner’s information is on a computer database and so if I get lost anywhere, a veterinarian can wave a magic wand over me and find out everything.  It is great!”  If you’re heading far from home, it’s a good idea to also attach a temporary tag with your cell phone number and address of your destination. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a photo handy.

Secure them for the ride – Airlines, trains and ships have rules about shipping crates for cargo or “in cabin” carriers. Liz said that it is so important to check their policies and make reservations early.  Once, she said, we got the airport, and my crate was not suitable.  We had to get a new one right away.  Another time, the airline said that only one animal could be in the compartment at a time – “fortunately,” said Liz, “it was me!” 

Catrina said that she heard about a dog who was hurt in a car accident from flying through the air from the back seat – he hit the dash and he hurt a human too!  “How awful”, said Liz.  “I have a sparkly harness that has a slot for the seatbelt to go through,” she said.  “And in some vehicles, I take my carrier and nap in there – totally safe for me and my humans.” 

Keep them comfortable –Try to arrange as direct and short a journey as possible. The danger of flying is mostly the time spent on the ground while we wait to be loaded or unexpected delays. It can get really hot or really cold during these times. Most airlines will post recommendations for food and water. Liz said that her owners always freeze some water in her dish overnight so it won’t spill during loading and it melts when she needs it.

Stress and anxiety; to medicate or not to medicate? – Liz said she does not like to have any medication before flying – it makes her groggy and a bit uncoordinated and she hates that.  It also made it hard for her to breathe properly.  She says that it is always best to avoid sedating your pet for travel. 

Catrina said that her owners have discovered Feliway and she loves it!  It is a calming pheromone (that is, a smell that she notices) and she loves having it sprayed in her carrier before she travels – even in the car to go to the vet.  She also has a Thundershirt for anxiety.  She told Liz that these tight shirts make you feel like you are being gently hugged and it feels so good!  She said her humans got one for her at PetFocus and they have them for dogs too!

Consider leaving us behind – Even though pets love to be with their humans, sometimes it may be best for your pet to be left with a trusted friend, relative or boarding kennel. “Oh, so true,” said Catrina.  “Sometimes I’d rather just stay in one place and look out the window.   The cat condos at PetFocus are so great… I love staying there,” she said. 

Happy trails!!!

Additional information: Travel products www.aspca.org/shop; Canadian Food Inspection Agency www.inspection.gc.ca; www.thundershirt.com; www.feliway.com; www.dogappeasingpheromone.com

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!

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.”

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!

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

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.