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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The Tale of the Trials and Tribulations of Sir Labsalot on Howl’oween

Indiana Bones, a young beagle puppy, was peeking through the fence at his neighbour Sir Labsalot.  Labsalot was a 3 year old yellow Labrador retriever that was usually a bundle of energy but that day he was just laying down in the leaves – not rolling in the leaves like his usual goofball self but quietly resting.  Once in a while he would let out a big sigh and then go back to sleep.  Just then, Sigmeow Freud, the wisest cat in the whole neighbourhood, came sauntering along the top of the fence and gave a big long stretch and then settled into a comfortable perch just above Indiana.  When Indiana asked what was wrong with Labsalot, he began to explain what happened.  You see, Halloween had just passed, and with it, many dangers to cats and dogs like Sigmeow, Indiana and Labsalot.  This year was another close call.  The story of last night begins 3 years ago…

Stress from the frequent doorbell and costumes and lost pets – Oh My!

Sir Labsalot’s first Halloween was coming and he was so excited!  He couldn’t wait to see what all the commotion was about.  Then it started to get dark and then the doorbell kept ringing.  At first he thought it was the mailman and he ran to the door barking with his best tough boy voice!  But then when the door opened, it was all he could do to not pee on the floor, he was so scared!  That night, there was what appeared to be an endless stream of scary lurking figures stalking his front door.  The doorbell kept ringing and as it got darker and darker, the figures got even more frightening.  He didn’t know who these people were and why they were there.  He then was so upset and things were so busy he ended up running out the door during one the many times it was opening and closing.  He ran around the neighbourhood dodging between cars and then finally Labsalot hid behind an old shed until morning.  Boy, was his family scared that night and so was he!  Luckily he was found by Mr. Herman when we was out for his morning walk.  It is a good thing Labsalot had his collar with ID tag on and he was micro-chipped as well.  That made it a lot easier to find his home for sure!   Remember, Halloween can be a scary and confusing time for pets.  Did you know some pets become very fearful or aggressive at the sight of certain Halloween costumes?  These pets would much prefer to be kept in a safe, quiet place in the home away from the trick-or-treaters. Labsalot wasn’t the nervous type but he knew a dog named Bony Soprano that would not have responded to trick-or-treaters as well as he did. 

You are making me wear what?

The next year, Labsalot’s family decided to take him out with the kids as they went door to door – and they dressed Labsalot up! He did look very cute in his costume.  “Did I mention he was dressed up as a cat?”  Sigmeow lifted his head in obvious pride as he told Indiana about the costume.  People need to be careful dressing pets up on holidays. Sometimes costumes can make it hard to see and hear.  Moving becomes awkward too and boy, can it ever get hot in those suits.  Have you ever seen a dog trying to pant in a cat costume?  It isn’t pretty!  That night, Labsalot did think about chewing his way out of the cat suit but luckily his family stayed with him the entire time he had it on so he didn’t hurt himself or eat any parts of the costume.

Watch that candle!

The following year, Labsalot was wagging his tail and it knocked over the candle in the pumpkin and the fire department had to be called!  No one was hurt but that pumpkin didn’t look very good after that… his tail was a bit singed too!

Don’t tell me you left out the chocolate and candy…

Just then, Indiana Bones looked over at Labsalot through the fence posts and saw him lift his head a little and reposition himself a little to get comfortable.  “Why does Labsalot seem so uncomfortable today?”  Sigmeow looked off into the distance for what seemed like a long time and then turned to the bright eyed Beagle pup and said, “Well that is because of what happened this past Halloween, Indiana…”  After a busy night of trick-or-treating, when the kids came home with all their chips, chocolates and candy, they all went to bed and didn’t put the treats away, out of Sir Labsalot’s reach.  Well if I know one thing, it is that you are hard pressed to keep a Labrador retriever from eating something as tempting as Halloween candy.  That night, Labsalot ate more chocolate, candy, wrappers and chips than one would think possible.  His family had to take him to the veterinary hospital to help him recover.  He had to stay in the hospital to help him get better from being so sick!  Luckily his family woke up in the middle of the night and caught him in the act and got help right away!  He was going to be okay but boy, did he have a belly ache!  And do you know what?  If you put a bag of candy in front of Labsalot again, he would probably do the same thing!  You see chocolate is really harmful to dogs – even just a little bit!  And when it comes to chips and candy – they can cause really bad belly aches! 

And with that Indiana realized he would have to wait and play with his friend Labsalot another day when he was feeling better. Hopefully next year his family will remember the previous years and do their best to keep him safe so he can have a wonderful time with his family and his friends Indiana and Sigmeow!! 

 

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?