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!


And they called it… Puppy Love….

Kit: How are you today, Kapoodle?


Kapoodle: I’m great Kit, how about you?


Kit: Well I am a little worried today, Kapoodle. My owners are talking about getting a new puppy! I am the only pet in the house right now and it’s not just that I like having all the attention, I’m worried because my owners have never had a dog.


Kapoodle: Oh my, that is big news and it’s normal to be worried – a new puppy comes with a lot of responsibility but can be a great addition to a family!


Kit: I guess it would be nice to have another pet to hang out with. But how will they know what breed to get and how to train it? I sure don’t want to step in dog pee! And what if the puppy gets sick? I know when I got sick once, my family found it hard to fit the cost into their budget.  What if the puppy doesn’t like cats and chases me around the house, oh no! I’m getting more stressed all the time… what should I do, Kapoodle?


Kapoodle: Take a deep breath.  There is a lot of good information out there to help your family pick out a wonderful puppy that will fit just right and maybe even become your friend! I can help answer some of your questions if you want, after all, I do know a few things about dogs 😉


Kit: Oh would you!? That would be great Kapoodle, then maybe I can stop worrying and get back to playing with my toys and watching birds through the window.


Kapoodle: First of all, picking the right breed of dog is one of the most important things to consider! Every family is different and some breeds may fit into a family much better than others. For example, if your family has lots of time and loves to hike and play outdoors, or you live on a large property or farm, a larger breed or more active breed might be best. On the other hand, if you have a family that lives in a small apartment and works long shifts, a smaller, less active dog might be best. There are dogs that shed less for people with allergies or who are bothered by dog hair too! Some families have young kids and if so, it would be important to pick a breed that is known for being wonderful with kids – gentle and calm.


This website might be helpful in choosing a breed:


Does the family have any pets already living in the home? This is very important to consider, as everyone wants his or her family members to get along! If getting a puppy from an SPCA or shelter, it would be important to make sure they get along with any pets in the home before deciding to adopt. Some places will allow a home visit to see how the pets get along and other shelters might already know if a certain dog does not get along with cats. I am sure your family will make sure they get a dog that enjoys the company of a cat, Kit J


As you mentioned Kit, pets can be costly to care for sometimes so it’s important to be sure a new puppy will fit into your family budget. Even puppies that are adopted for “free” are never really free. Puppies in their first year of life can be quite costly as they require frequent deworming, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, food, dishes, and of course, lots of toys to play with! New puppy owners should also consider long term costs as well, such as health issues that may pop up. There is nothing more sad for an owner or a veterinarian then when a pet is very ill and the cost of care is too great for the owner to afford. Pet Insurance is something that new puppy owners should strongly consider. When a pet is ill, it can ease a lot of stress from an already stressful situation for the owner and the veterinarian. The pet is able to get their care they need and deserve without breaking the family budget or putting a family in a very difficult financial situation.


Kit: Thanks Kapoodle, I feel better already. Is there anything else they should know?


Kapoodle: Well Kit, training can be a challenging issue for some owners. A well behaved dog, like myself, doesn’t just happen, it takes work! I remember chewing up many of my owner’s favourite things when I was a puppy! I got in big trouble and learned quickly that when I was good, I got lots of snuggles and treats! Kit, did you know that many pets are surrendered to shelters because of bad behaviour that could have been avoided and corrected with proper training!


PetFocus offers puppy socialization classes and obedience classes at many of their locations! These can be very helpful for new puppies to learn proper behaviour and manners. It is also a great way for them to be properly socialized and be mentally stimulated.  Obedience classes are great for older dogs too, I have gone to a couple with my owner and had a ton of fun, and I got lots of treats too!


Where should you look for a new puppy?  Once you decide what breed or size of dog might suit your family, you then need to find that new puppy! There are many breeders out there; ask your vet for a recommendation. They often know many good breeders. You can also check out your local shelters and SPCA. There are always lots of nice puppies and mature dogs looking for a loving forever home. A mixed breed dog can be just as great as a purebred and many times have fewer health issues too. When choosing a breeder, it is important to see the mom and dad, ask for health certificates and be sure they are well bred and well cared for. You may want to see what kind of personality the parents have or how big they are.  Be careful purchasing pets online; you want to make sure the pet is healthy.  Never get a puppy from someone who won’t give you all the information you want – or who wants to meet you in a parking lot!


Always remember that pets are forever – families should look into the future and decide if it’s the right time to get a new puppy. Our futures are never predictable but a family should consider what they have planned such as changes in career, a move, financial changes, marital or parental status changes. Pets are sometimes surrendered to shelters because of a divorce or because a family is moving and cannot take the pet. It’s something to think about – your home should be a forever home for a new pet.



Puppy Proofing your home!

Puppies also like to chew and eat things they shouldn’t! Its very important to “puppy proof” your home like you would for a baby. Keep clothes and socks off the floor, all food should be locked away or up on high counters where pets cannot reach. Did you know Kit, that veterinarians see many puppies every year for tummy troubles? Many times the puppies have eaten something they shouldn’t, sometimes the item even gets stuck in their tummies and they require costly surgery to remove it!

“Puppy proofing” your home and using a crate to contain your puppy while you are at work or away can greatly reduce the chances of a puppy ingesting something it shouldn’t. And always remember that chocolate, raisins, grapes and onions can be toxic to dogs! Yuck… I stay away from all of those things – and you should too!


Lastly Kit, there are a couple of health related things to know about puppies! Puppies should be vaccinated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. Your veterinarian can help a family decide which vaccines are appropriate for their puppy. Puppies also tend to have worms! Ewww! They need to be dewormed every 2 weeks until they are 3 months of age, then monthly. Flea protection should be used monthly as well. It is recommended that puppies be spayed or neutered at 6 months of age. This prevents unwanted puppies. Many people do not know this Kit, but spaying and neutering is also important to prevent many health issues, some of which can be life threatening! It can also decrease behavioural issues such as marking areas with pee and roaming or running away for example.


Helpful websites:


Kit: Oh wow Kapoodle! You have given me so much helpful information! I feel so much better now. I will bring this information to my family to help them chose the right puppy and make sure it stays healthy and happy! Maybe they will contact our veterinarian at PetFocus as well to get some help!


Kapoodle: You never know Kit, you might think this new puppy is just as awesome as me!


Kit: Hang on now Kapoodle, you are my friend, but you will always be a DOG J


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?