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Avian Influenza in 2022

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Avian Flu: Does the 2022 outbreak pose a health risk for pets and humans?

If you’ve been doom-scrolling the news lately, you may have heard about the “bird flu” making a resurgence in Canada and the United States. As we continue to slog through a sixth(!) wave of COVID-19, another wave of infection is making noise in the poultry and veterinary community – Avian Influenza.

We don’t want to be alarmist and we certainly don’t want to overstate the risks, but awareness of this specific new strain of bird flu should be addressed, as it can potentially affect the health of our clients and their pets. As they say, information doesn’t exist in a vacuum!

This new, highly transmissible strain of bird flu is spreading in farms and flocks across North America and killing poultry by the millions. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the risk of human/pet transmission remains very low.

First, the facts:

  • The first cases of avian flu in North America were verified at a farm in Newfoundland last December, after the sudden death of poultry over several days. A second outbreak was confirmed in NL in January 2022.
  • Since late 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has acknowledged outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in a number of commercial and backyard poultry flocks in Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In March 2022, the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in a poultry flock in Ontario.
  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported outbreaks in 24 states to date, killing nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys.

What is Avian Influenza (AI)?

Avian Influenza – better known as the “bird flu” – is a highly contagious viral infection that affects chickens and turkeys as well as migratory birds such as ducks and geese. It should be mentioned that Avian Influenza occurs naturally in many wild birds – just not this particular highly contagious strain.

The bird flu virus is spread through nasal discharges, saliva and fecal droppings. Because of the number of transmission vectors, it makes severe outbreaks of AI difficult to contain.

What is the difference between LPAI and HPAI bird flu?

Avian Influenza viruses can be classified into 2 groups:

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian influenza (HPAI) virus strains are very infectious, and often fatal to poultry as it can spread quickly from flock-to-flock.
  • Low Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory birds without causing illness. LPAI can infect domestic poultry, creating little or no signs of illness.

The new bird flu strain currently spreading in North America is a High Pathogenicity (HPAI) virus and has genetic features previously unseen from the bird flu epidemic of 2015. 50 million birds in the United States died that year.

How is the Avian Flu virus detected?

If you guessed it was similar to COVID-19 testing procedures, you’d be close. Instead of invasive nasal cavity swabs, testing for the avian flu usually includes swabbing the mouths and throat areas of poultry. These samples are then sent to independent labs to be analyzed.

Can Avian Flu spread to humans or pets?

According to the CFIA, birds shed the AI virus in their mucous, saliva and feces. Humans and pets can potentially get sick by breathing in the virus or with direct contact with their eyes, nose or mouth.

To keep from getting sick, avoid contact with wild birds (including the legions of pigeons in Toronto!), don’t touch dead – or dying – birds and avoid visiting poultry farms, if possible.

The risk to humans is very low, but Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist at the Ontario Veterinary College cautions:

“…there isn’t evidence of the subtype spreading to humans, but if we have massive circulation of highly pathogenic viruses in our flocks, the chances for gaining such ability (to transmit to humans and pets) by the virus will enhance significantly.”

Since bird flu viruses have previously jumped to mammals, public health authorities are keeping a close watch for any signs of genetic variations that could lead to the virus infecting humans and pets in large numbers. The tiny fraction of human bird flu cases has been reported in people who work directly with birds, such as poultry workers.

Can infected animals – such as outdoor or feral cats – transmit the virus to humans?

The latest science suggests that the risk of a human being contracting AI from your family cat or dog is very low. However, pet parents are encouraged to be attentive and take appropriate precautions to protect their pets and themselves. If you suspect your pet has come in contact with bird poop or raw bird meat – especially outdoor cats – and exhibits symptoms, then contact us to schedule an appointment for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.

Is my outdoor cat at risk of Avian Influenza?

The following advice from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is offered to cat parents in areas where HPAI has been identified or suspected in poultry or wild birds:

  • do not handle any ill-looking or dead cat (or any other animal for that matter!)
  • don’t let stray cats inside your home and avoid all contact with them outside your home.
  • regularly (and thoroughly) wash hands with soap and water, especially after handling a possibly exposed cat and cleaning their litter boxes. Avoid contact with your cat’s feces or saliva.
  • if possible, make sure all contact with wild birds or poultry (or the feces) is avoided.
  • if your cat likes to bring home ‘presents’- a dead bird, perhaps – wear a pair of disposable gloves and put the bird in a plastic bag for disposal.
  • if your cat shows any respiratory distress or nasal discharge, consult our veterinarians.

Is it safe to use my bird feeder?

Avian Influenza does not affect all bird species in the same way. It can cause severe illness and death in domestic poultry flocks, but it is not considered a disease threat to feeder birds. The use of bird feeders, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada, is still safe on your property.

In any event, to help keep feeder birds healthy, you may want to clean feeders every two weeks or so to help curb the unlikely event of AI transmission. How? Wash feeders with a 10% chlorine bleach solution, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before refilling.

Is it safe to eat poultry and eggs?

In Ontario, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs maintains that eggs and poultry cooked properly do not pose a threat to human health. 

What is being done to stop the spread of the Avian Flu virus?

No, chickens are NOT required to stay 2m apart.

The primary measures to stop the virus are biosecurity and quarantine. Actions include limiting access to poultry flocks and requiring farm workers to practice strict hygiene measures, such as wearing disposable boots and coveralls.

Control zones are also used as an effective method to isolate and prevent the spread of the bird flu.

According to the CFIA:

“a control zone is a defined area that is established to prevent the spread of animal disease from an infected area to areas free of the disease. Movement restrictions may be placed on certain products leaving, going into, or moving within the control zone.”

In Ontario, there are currently 13 Primary Control Zones (PCZ) zones (and growing) to map where the disease has taken root.

6 signs of a sick bird

It should go without saying: it is NOT in one’s best interest to touch a dead, injured or sick bird during this current Avian Flu wave.

Signs of Avian Influenza include:

  • anxiety, shakes and/or lack of coordination
  • inflammation around the head, neck and eyes
  • respiratory distress: coughing or sneezing
  • lack of energy or movement
  • diarrhea
  • sudden death

Reporting dead or sick birds:

For Canada: Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative information line 1-800-567-2033 or by using their online reporting tool.

In Ontario: the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at (866) 673-4781

Conclusion

The current Avian Flu outbreak across Canada and the Unites States has not reached a level of concern that would affect public health, unlike COVID-19. Although very serious for the poultry industry, this outbreak has not yet shown any indicators – or mutations – that might make them more likely jump to humans or pets.

For more information from a Canadian perspective, see CFIA’s Avian Flu Fact Sheet.

A comprehensive, detailed FAQ of bird flu by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) can be read here: Avian Influenza in Companion Animals.

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How To Photograph A Black Pet

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Parenting

Taking great, Instagram-worthy photos of black pets has the bane of pet parents since forever

PICTURE THIS:  You’re out playing with your cherished black-furred dog on the beach having the time of your life. Wouldn’t the cherry on top be a professional-grade snapshot to document the event for all of time, not to mention the satisfaction of seeing a subsequent flood of  ♥’s on Instagram?

The problem, no matter how hard you try, is that the photos emerge as a black splotch rather than a representation of the beautiful animal they are. Pets with black coats are particularly difficult to photograph due to their stunningly dark-coloured fur, making it hard to capture their striking features.

Worse still, black dogs and cats tend to stay in rescue shelters or the local Humane Society/SPCA much longer than their light-coloured colleagues. Unfortunately, some never get that lucky break of being re-homed based just on the colour of their fur.

There are possibly two explanations at work here. First, because black pets are notoriously difficult to photograph – especially in the age of posting our best lives on social media – they tend to get overlooked at shelters or in a litter. Secondly, a long-standing, absurd belief still exists that black cats are harbingers of bad luck.

So, what’s the secret to getting excellent photos of your black companion animal?

Whether you’re a pet parent – or work in a rescue shelter – here are 4 useful tips when photographing black pets. Don’t worry, you won’t need any fancy photography equipment or software (ie. high-end, DLSR cameras, Adobe Lightroom), although it would be helpful. We’ll assume that you’re using your smartphone with automatic settings.

Four easy tactics to help take great, Instagram-worthy photos of your black pet:

Quick Links:

  1. Lighting: Source and Position
  2. Backgrounds: Colour, Texture and Bokeh
  3. Eyes: The Window to the Soul
  4. Silhouettes: The Black Pet Advantage

1. Lighting: Source and Position

What is the biggest challenge of black pet photography?

LIGHTING!

Lighting in photography refers to how the light source – and its position – relates to the main subject (your pet) of the photograph. It determines brightness and darkness in addition to tone and mood. Paying close attention to how light affects the quality of your pictures will empower you to employ the available light source to produce excellent Instagram-worthy pictures of your furry friend.

Getting the lighting right is usually what frustrates budding pet photographers the most. Sometimes the lighting for the photo location could be near perfect but your pet is too dark (underexposed), or the lighting could be good but the background looks washed out (overexposed).

4 Lighting Tips when Taking Photographs of Black Pets Outdoors:

  • Avoid hard light conditions, such as bright, overhead sunlight – take you dog to an evenly shaded area to reduce contrast. Too much contrast can give your pet a bright glare on some parts of their dark coat and solid black shadows on others.
  • Auto-modes underexposing your photos? Take a crash course on your smartphones’ cameras manual settings – you may be surprised by the amount of control a hi-tech smartphone camera can give you.
  • Take memorable photos during the “Golden Hour”, typically 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset for the best natural light.
  • If it’s a little too dark (heavy clouds) or there’s too much backlight to bring out your dog’s features, try supplementing your available light with fill-in flash to compensate for the differences.

Direct Sunlight

Contrary to what you might expect, bright direct sunlight isn’t great for photographing black pets. Very bright light means your camera works too hard resulting in a battle between two extremes – the black coat of your pet against the white light of the sun. If you do find yourself with the sun directly overhead, bring your dog (or cat) to a shaded area to take the photo. It’s important that your chosen location is evenly shaded. For example, if you take the photo under a shade tree, make sure that the background isn’t too brightly lit.

The important part of showing off the details of a black pet is getting a balance between shadow and highlight, and not letting the pet be too dark in the photo.

Auto-Modes

It is really easy to underexpose your image when shooting pictures in auto-mode. Although auto-modes continue to get ‘smarter’, your smartphone camera will look at the scene to figure out the right settings and think that your pet isn’t much more than a dark shadow. This means your photo may be too dark, with too little detail for your pet stand out or ‘pop’. This is where capturing shots using manual settings can be very helpful, provided you’re prepared to put in the time to learn and experiment. Most smartphone have these features built-in (or download a free, 3rd party app) which will provide seemingly endless options to manually adjust your camera for that perfect shot.

The Golden Hour

When taking photographs of black pets in direct sunlight, there are two ideal times of day to do this: on sunny days, this is shortly after sunrise or just before sunset. Generally speaking, the “golden hour” is roughly 1 hour after sunrise or 1 hour before sunset.

Camera Flash

If it’s a little too dark or there’s too much backlight to bring out your pet’s features, try supplementing the available light with fill-in flash. Working with flash is most effective when conditions are not too dark or too bright. When the dog is in shade, a splash of flash can help them to be seen better, raise the light in the shadow and get the eyes to be seen more clearly. Experimentation is important, but used properly, fill-in flash helps lighten the dark areas to reveal more subtle features of your black-furred pet.

2. Background: Colours, Textures and Bokeh

def. Bokeh: In photography, it’s the intentional blurring of an image (ie. background) to make the subject more visually appealing. It forces the focus of attention to a particular area of the image. The word comes from the Japanese language, which literally translates as “blur”.

In photography, backgrounds play a huge role – it can literally make or break a photo. For photos of black pets, this is especially important to consider. Because your pet easily loses detail due to its darker colour, you want to ensure that the background doesn’t further detract from the main subject. Busy backgrounds will also distract attention from your subject, so a soft, minimal background will help your pet stand out.

What type of background works best for photographing a black pet?

For a more vibrant picture, pick a background that highlights at least one vivid colour. In nature, the simplest choice will be using green as main colour.  Mid-spectrum colours also work well – think blue, green, purple, red, yellow and orange. These colours balance out monochromatic pet fur, creating a contrast that – when applied properly – tells a great story.

In the event you can’t avoid a busy background, you can easily minimize its effect with a quick setting change found on most recent smartphone cameras. The noisy background now becomes a lovely soft bokeh instead, making your pet ‘pop’.

3. Laser Focus on the Eyes

As the old saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. Emphasis on this prominent feature takes black pet photography to another level. However, if your dog has a long coat or if there is little contrast between the fur and the colour of the eyes it can sometimes be hard to ‘free up’ your pup’s eyes.

Eyes are important in any photograph, but especially so in pictures of black companion animals because they may be the only other contrasting colour they can offer. 

The good news is that the contrast between a black-furred face and brown, blue or green eyes can be undeniably stunning. Focus on the eyes – in the correct light – for great photographs!

  • To uncover their eyes from longer fur, use water. This could simply be a wet cloth around the eyes, as opposed to dedicated swimming date or a bath in the tub. Splashing in a body of water can give you fantastic pictures – water shots are great fun for your pup and result in cool images.
  • Another tip to expose the eyes is to take the picture from above. When your dog is looking up at you, the fur retreats from the face.

In addition to capturing the eyes, focus your gaze on other compelling parts of your pet. This could be the texture of your pets’ coat, or perhaps their unique personality as they play. Think about how to best highlight these features and pursue them with that in mind.

4. Silhouettes: The Black Pet Photography Advantage

Silhouettes are highly effective for visual storytelling. They provide an obvious and attention-grabbing contrast – large areas of darkness over large areas of light, creating a dramatic atmosphere that always makes a photograph more interesting. Silhouettes make for amazing pictures you’ll want to share. They allow you to take advantage of moments like:

  • A cat on a tree branch against a beautiful, deep blue sky
  • Dogs watching the sunrise at the beach
  • Your cat sitting in the window watching intently at birds in the yard.
  • A puppy sitting next to the sea shore at sunset.

Silhouettes are naturally black, making darker-coloured pets perfectly suited for this technique. Shooting silhouettes with a black pet has one huge advantage: Since your subject – your pet – is darker, you don’t have to underexpose the scene as much as it would be needed with a lighter-coloured dog. This means that the sky or background keeps an exposure level that is nearer to its natural intensity.

As always, the best time to take your silhouette photo is when the sun is very low in the sky – just after sunrise or just before sunset (aka. the Golden Hour) and works best when the sun is directly behind your pet.

Conclusion

Our pets bring us happiness and unconditional love, no matter their size, shape or colour.  However, pets with black coats have the bane of every amateur pet photographer since day one. Taking beautiful photographs of your black pet can be tricky. But just because your pet has a dark coat doesn’t mean you should settle for a collection of black blobs with bright eyes.

In summary, always pay attention to the quality of the light. The softer the light, the more detail you’ll be able to capture. This coupled with exposure compensation and a mid-toned background and you’ll find yourself taking professional-looking, Instagram-worthy photos of your beloved pet in no time!

If all else fails, take pictures in RAW mode and edit in your favourite photo editing software.

And remember, practice makes perfect – which may mean a lot of trial and error. Nevertheless, get out there, learn new photography skills and be the best black pet parent photographer you can be!

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

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7 Myths About Dogs | Busted!

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health, Pet Parenting

How well do you know your canine cutie?

Perhaps you feel that your dog is the sweetest, most adorable canine on the planet – likely true, but you may be surprised to find that there’s a lot to learn about your beloved furry friend.

Humans took a keen interest in dogs (wolves) a very long time ago – enough time to develop some considerable, era-spanning myths about our canine companions. A startling amount of misinformation and half-truths have been repeated enough times about dogs to make it appear like conventional wisdom.

As pet lovers, we assume the responsibility to provide our furry friends with the best care possible. To do that, we need to understand our dogs’ needs and debunk misconceptions – we need to know how to keep them healthy and happy.

We don’t plan to address ALL dog myths, but our Top 7 seems like a good place to start.

Myth #1:  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

One of the oldest – and most recognizable – myths in the book!

This well-known saying has existed for hundreds of years, being used not only in relation to dogs, but also when describing human habits! This common phrase is used to explain why older humans may feel stuck in their ways and find it more difficult to learn than younger folk. There is a modicum of truth in this or it wouldn’t have prevailed for as long as it has. However, this myth is a not true when it comes to dogs.

It’s true that puppies’ brains absorb information like a sponge and acquire good habits (or bad!) quickly. This doesn’t mean that adult dogs can’t be trained – it just takes a bit more time.

Our canine pals are highly food-motivated, especially for savoury, protein-rich treats like chicken or beef – food that a dog’s scent can pick up immediately. This is a great way to reward good work.

All dogs crave mental stimulation, regardless of their age. Teaching your senior dog a new talent is a gratifying experience for them, as it strengthens their bond with you and provides their brain with much-needed exercise. However, you do need to take other factors into consideration that generally don’t apply to puppies. These factors may include less energy, degraded physical health and/or mental health issues.

Adult dogs may require a bit more patience, but they are more than capable of learning new skills – from housebreaking to advanced directives. Make training sessions fun and keep them positive – just be aware of their physical needs and limitations.

Myth #2:  When my dog eats grass, it means they are sick.

She’s just been fed…so why is my dog eating grass?

It’s true that some dogs have a tendency to eat grass and then vomit shortly thereafter. It’s a common concern of pet parents, as some believe that dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit in an attempt to get rid of something nasty they’ve consumed. Some dogs will eat poop!

Others believe grass eating is a sign that they’re lacking of important nutrients from their diet, but studies have shown this is not the case and incidentally, grass isn’t particularly nutrient-rich anyway.

However, research shows that only a small percentage of dogs will vomit after eating grass. Some dogs simply enjoy the taste and texture of grass, especially in the springtime when it’s green and fresh. Chances are, they’re much more likely to eat grass because it tastes good.

If your dog is ingesting soil and/or stones with their grazing habits, this may be a behaviour to take more seriously. This disorder may be associated with Pica – this condition can be caused by a nutritional deficiency, stomach sensitivities or even boredom. If your dog constantly eats grass to vomit, it’s a good idea to have your pet examined by our veterinarians to look for any digestive issues or underlying illness.

Grass-eating by your canine friend is relatively benign, as long as it hasn’t been sprayed with harmful pesticides.

Myth #3:  Garlic is an excellent remedy for fleas and ticks.

Garlic is one of the best ways – allegedly – to stop a vampire but it is certainly NOT an effective flea and tick treatment for dogs.  Unfortunately, this is a myth that is widely circulated on the internet.

Not only will garlic have zero effect in ridding fleas and ticks from your dog, but garlic has also been known to cause hemolytic anemia.  Although relatively rare, this condition occurs when the body attacks and destroys its red blood cells. This is bad.

Treatment for this condition is VERY expensive and generally requires several days of hospitalization with frequent blood transfusions. Not all dogs who eat garlic will suffer from this condition, but if you feed your pet garlic, you’re unnecessarily risking your dog’s health.

Myth #4:  Rescue dogs are bad because they’re all damaged. There’s a reason they are a rescue dog.

Rescues aren’t damaged – just people’s attitudes towards them are. 

The ASPCA estimates that nearly 8 million dogs and cats arrive in US animal shelters each year as strays or are relinquished by the owners.

Many people believe rescue dogs are surrendered primarily because of behavioural issues. This may be true in some cases, but there are other (more likely) reasons for this:

  • Puppy Mills: thousands of dogs are rescued each year from illegal puppy mills
  • Life Changes: death of an owner, or owners not physically able to provide proper care
  • High Cost: many pet parents underestimate the cost of ownership or can’t afford unexpected medical treatments.
  • Lack of Time: job obligations and/or changed life circumstances, such as divorce, new job
  • Housing Restrictions: landlords may not allow tenants to have dogs – or certain breeds – in a new residence
  • Stray or Abandoned: most noticeably seen in 3rd world countries, but occurs everywhere on earth

Not knowing the full history of a rescue dog should not be a deterrent from adopting. Getting an older dog has a lot of advantages. Adult dogs’ personalities are already formed, so when you meet one at your local SPCA or Human Society, you can make sure they’re the right pet for you. Also, dogs adopted through the Ontario SPCA will be spayed/neutered, fully vaccinated, treated for any parasites and microchipped before they get re-homed.

Deciding to adopt a rescue or shelter dog is an important decision. There are a lot of considerations – both expected and unexpected – to take into account when preparing yourself and your home for a soon-to-be re-homed dog. In most cases, the rewards of adopting a rescue far exceed the unjustified concerns many people have about adoption.

Myth #5:   I’m the pack leader – I need to show my dog who’s boss.

Cesar Milan – the Dog Whisperer – is wrong.

Up until quite recently, negative reinforcement was considered the tried-and-true standard of training. This promotes the theory that pet parents should act as the ‘alpha’ dog. As of late, this method has come under intense scrutiny, and many pet parents and trainers have abandoned it entirely as a training technique.

Where did this outdated training technique originate?

Dominance-based, ‘alpha’ dog training was based on studies of captive wolves in the 1970’s. These studies propagated the idea that ‘alpha’ wolves become the leader of the pack by being aggressive towards other wolves. Because dogs descended from wolves, humans started to apply this philosophy to dog training. Further studies have since shown that (non-captive) wolf families are similar to human families in that the ‘leaders of the pack’ are the parents taking care of their cubs.

Thankfully, science always moves forward and this theory has now been debunked.

Practice positive reinforcement.

Remember the satisfaction you felt when you received a dollar from your parents for every ‘A’ on your report card? That made you want to get more of them, we suspect? That’s positive reinforcement.

Like humans, dogs care about rewards. This could be praise, or most likely, treats or toys. Positive reinforcement training uses a reward to promote desired behaviours. Because the reward makes them more likely to duplicate the behaviour, this training method is a powerful tool for shaping your dog’s behaviour.

Pet parents are responsible for helping their dog become a well-mannered and sociable member of society. This does NOT mean you need to pull rank – your dog isn’t competing with you for status. Just your love and affection. And food.

Myth #6:  Dogs are colour blind – they only see in black and white.

Why do people think dogs are colour blind?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), this myth began with dog enthusiast, Will Judy. He was a veteran of World War I and devoted his life to educating people on the spiritual bond connecting the human and canine species.

Judy was a publisher of Dog Week Magazine since its inception in the 1930’s and asserted that dogs had poor vision. He went even further with this claim, stating that dogs could only see single shades and tones, and just general outlines of objects. The exact quote from his 1937 training manual read:

“It’s likely that all the external world appears to them as varying highlights of black and gray.”

The quote was generally accepted in the scientific community for decades. Even until the 1960’s, it was believed that the only other mammals that could differentiate colour – like humans – were other primates. We now know this is not true. Debunked!

Although they can’t see the world in full technicolour like most humans, dogs can see some limited colours. Humans have three types of cones in their eyes that allow them to detect a full range of colours, but dogs only have two. This means that dogs can see shades of yellows, blues, and violets – they cannot distinguish reds, greens and oranges the way we can. Their perception is similar to humans with colour blindness.

You would think this partial colour blindness would negatively affect their ability to navigate the world. Not so, since this is offset by their unique eye physiology, allowing for keener night vision and motion detection, not to mention their heavy reliance on their highly-attuned smell-o-vision.

Busting this myth may affect pet parents’ decisions when it comes to training and deciding which products (toys!) to buy. You might prefer to get your dog a yellow ball – instead of red – as it will show up more clearly in the grass. Although this could be a consideration, dogs primarily rely on their sense of smell, often overriding their limited colour vision. Your dog likely doesn’t care what colour of toy you decide to buy, as long as they’re having fun!

Myth #7:  Rubbing my dog’s nose in his ‘accident’ teaches him not to do his ‘business’ inside the house.

Many pet parents still think this myth is an effective training method, firmly believing that their dog understands what it means.

This method is mean and most certainly unhygienic. It might make you feel good, but as a retaliation technique, it has zero benefit in correcting the behaviour. At its worst, adhering to the rub-their-nose-in-it myth can cause a severe breakdown of communication, leaving your dog with enduring behavioural issues.

Dogs learn from association, so if your dog has an ‘accident’ in the house, they can’t make the link with the punishment (nose pressed in urine/feces) and the crime (accident in the house). This is negative reinforcement at its worst.

Modern dog training is founded on a theory called Operant Conditioning, with thanks to B.F. Skinner. Simply, the consequence of an action dictates whether the dog wants to repeat that action.

Rubbing your dog’s nose in his feces well after the incident is not a reaction to an action, because the action has happened. Although some dogs show a perception of time, they rarely have an understanding of ‘cause and effect’ like humans. This is why punishing a dog for having an accident in the house is not very effective if you don’t catch them in the act. Furthermore, it can also lead to irrational habits like eating feces, as they may try to suppress the evidence to prevent further punishment.

Proper housetraining your dog should only involve reprimanding when you catch them in the act. A sharp voice command (no!) and quick trip outside is the ideal plan of action. This requires patience and tolerance. Another effective technique is rewarding your pup every time he goes in the right place.

Conclusion

Myths about dogs get passed down through many generations of pet parents. While dog myths are fun to demystify, unaddressed “common sense” can cause actual harm to your furry friend. This miscommunication between pet parents and their dogs can leave them in potentially unsafe situations. It’s important to determine what’s true (and what’s not) – sometimes conventional wisdom and common sense requires closer examination.

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Veterinary Services

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Pet Obesity | Risks and Prevention

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health, Pet Parenting

30 Second Summary

  • Pet obesity is one of the most challenging and, more importantly – controllable – medical conditions in veterinary medicine. It reduces life expectancy and deprives pets from living their best life. Pet obesity has seen a steep, steady rise in recent years.
  • Overweight pets are much more likely to be disposed to musculoskeletal conditions and diabetes. Trupanion policyholders with obese dogs or cats spend over 10x more on diabetes treatment than pet parents of pets at an average weight.
  • Why is pet obesity a problem? Plenty of evidence now exists showing that excess fat deposits in dogs and cats are associated with many serious health complications, including osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and cancer.
  • 4 Benefits for Maintaining a Pet-Friendly Weight:
      1. Reduced risk of health issues.
      2. Higher quality of life.
      3. Longer life expectancy.
      4. Lower veterinary expenses.
  • Although there is no universally accepted veterinary definition for obesity in pets, pets are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10-30% above their ideal body weight. Obesity is diagnosed when their weight exceeds 30% of their ideal body weight.
  • How can I help my pet maintain a healthy weight? Maintaining a healthy weight requires a commitment to a healthier diet and lifestyle that achieves a balance between the calories consumed and the calories used. Basically, it means decreasing calories and increasing activity levels. We offer 14 tips to help your overweight pet lose those extra pounds.

Is my Pet overweight?

The love of a pet does NOT equate to giving them more food.

Many pet parents conflate food with love, causing them to feed their pets too much – think routine access to table scraps and treats.

Unfortunately, these genuinely heartfelt intentions have unintended consequences: a lower life expectancy for your furry friend. Obesity imparts a heavy burden on pets, regardless of species and can lead to all kinds of health issues. Pet obesity has seen a steep, steady rise in recent years.

Is pet obesity an epidemic?

It’s likely approaching the dictionary definition. For our canine friends, clinical obesity has been diagnosed in more than 54% of all dogs in the United States – a figure is likely similar for Canadian pets. That’s a large number.

From a health perspective, obesity is one of the most complicated, challenging and more importantly – controllable – medical conditions in veterinary medicine.

Looking at it from a financial perspective, our pet insurance partner – Trupanion – has presented research that reveals:

  1. Policyholders with overweight dogs or cats spend as much as five times (5x) more than policyholders with average weight pets for musculoskeletal conditions such as cruciate ruptures, lameness and limping.
  2. Overweight pets are more likely disposed to diabetes. Policyholders with obese dogs or cats spend over 10 times (10x) more on diabetes treatment than pet parents of pets at an average weight.

Pet obesity affects nearly all pet parents and their furry family members in some detrimental way. It costs many millions (billions?) in medical bills, reduces life expectancy and deprives pets from living their best life.

That’s why the battle to acknowledge – and address – pet obesity is so important.

Fun Fact: Pet Obesity affects more than half 54% of all dogs in the US. 35 million of these dogs are considered overweight and 6.7 million are considered clinically obese.

What is pet obesity? Is my pet overweight or obese?

Quite simply, obesity in pets is an accumulation of additional body fat. Body weight and body fat tend to complement each other, so most overweight – or obese – pets will have an excess body fat.

It’s no surprise that body weight is the measure used when assessing if a pet is overweight or obese. Pinch-an-inch does not apply, as this method measures subcutaneous fat (sits under the skin) and not visceral fat (accumulates around internal organs).

Dogs are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10-30% above their ideal body weight. Obesity is diagnosed when their weight exceeds 30% of their ideal body weight. Cats follow a similar standard. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no universally accepted veterinary definition for obesity in pets. While obesity is loosely defined as 30% above ideal body weight, just being marginally overweight can impact the health of your pet.

Perhaps the biggest (no pun intended!) challenge is that many pet parents simply do not recognize there may be an issue. If there was a better understanding of how costly this can be for their pet’s health – and their wallet – then, perhaps we could see a decline in this preventable epidemic.

4 Easy Ways to Tell If Your Pet Is Packing Extra Weight.

How do I know my pet is obese? To start searching for a solution, we first need to recognize there’s a problem. Obviously, the most fail-safe way to tell if your pet is overweight is to take them to your veterinarian for an examination.

However, here are a few simple, home-based tips before you go:

  1. Does the stomach sag? Like humans, this is a clear indicator that your pet is carrying too much weight.
  2. Are your pet’s ribs hard to distinguish? By placing your hands on the sides of their chest, you should be able to feel their rib cage without much effort.
  3. Dogs and cats should have a distinct taper at their waist, between the abdomen and where their hips go into the socket. Overweight pets are oval-shaped, rather than hourglass.
  4. A broad and flat back is another sign they’re too wide on the sides.

Why is my pet gaining weight?

There are several reasons why your pet could be overweight, but the root cause is an imbalance between the energy intake and usage. In other words, pets are consuming more calories than they can expend. They key is to find the right balance for your pets breed, age and activity level.

Common reasons why your pet’s weight can increase over time:

  • Overfeeding – THE #1 reason: consumption of excess portions, high-caloric diets, frequent treats and/or table scraps.
  • Aging – a decrease in activity/exercise due to arthritis and/or some other aging condition, not to mention a natural slowdown in their metabolism.
  • Hypothyroidism – a common disease in pets in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroxine. This hormone regulates metabolism and slows it down.
  • Insulinoma – rare in cats, a tumour on a dog’s pancreas that results in excessive amounts of insulin being produced – weight gain is a common side effect.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease) – a tumour on the pituitary or adrenal glands causing an overproduction of hormones – usually cortisol – being released causing increased appetite.

Fun Fact: According to a Purina Lifespan Studyoverweight pets live 2 years less that pets who maintain a healthy bodyweight. Though all of the dogs were fed a nutritionally complete diet, the amount of food they were fed differed between the 2 groups.

What are the benefits of keeping my pet at a healthy weight?

We’re often asked why it’s important to maintain a healthy weight for my pet. The answer is simple: an appropriate weight for your pet’s age, size and breed gives them the best chance of a longer, healthier and pain-free life.

Four (4) Benefits for Maintaining a Pet-Friendly Weight.

  • Reduced risk of health issues. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight lowers the risk of kidney disease, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and some forms of cancer.
  • Better quality of life. A healthy weight means that your dog is much more able to stay active, such as long walks or playing with their pals at the local dog park. For cats, playing with toys, employing a cat tower and/or regular catnip indulgences help them burn calories. Extra weight can greatly limit your pet’s mobility and energy levels.
  • Longer Life expectancy. A long-term study by Purina of Labrador retrievers from the same litter exhibited that dogs that maintained at a healthy weight lived an average of two years longer than those who were obese. This is closely related to a better quality of life.
  • Lower veterinary expenses. Lower risk of health issues can greatly reduce the amount of money needed to treat obesity-related health issues.

What are the health risks associated with obesity in pets?

Why is pet obesity a problem? Plenty of evidence now exists showing that excess weight and fat deposits in dogs and cats is associated with many serious health complications. The most noteworthy consequence of pet obesity is a shorter life expectancy and lowered quality of life. The following list of ailments do NOT necessarily exist in isolation – these conditions can be one link-in-the-chain leading to other adverse medical conditions.

Eight (8) medical conditions common to overweight or obese pets:

 1. Osteoarthritis

Extra weight puts extra pressure on a pet’s joints. When a joint is overloaded, the cartilage breaks down, resulting in arthritis. Pain medications help but weight loss offers more effective, long-lasting relief.

2. Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

Obese pets have fewer working insulin receptors, which leads to a lack of sensitivity to insulin. The relationship between insulin, obesity and longevity is closely entwined. As a general rule, when a pet’s insulin resistance increases, lifespan decreases.

3. High Blood Pressure

Based on current evidence, it’s clear excess weight in dogs and cats can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension. Having been studied closely for more than 25 years, the link between obesity and high blood pressure is not fully understood.

4. Kidney Disease

Hypertension directly affects the kidney, mostly because it receives nearly one-quarter of the blood pumped by the heart. The exact role obesity plays in kidney disease is still unknown – preventing pet obesity is currently the best treatment advice.

5. Respiratory Disease

Excess fat along the chest wall and abdomen may alter the normal breathing patterns, resulting in uneven and jerky breathing. Many dogs or cats will pant excessively after even a short walk in a desperate attempt to gain more oxygen.

6. Cancer

The relationship between obesity and certain cancers has been growing. At least 13 types of cancers are currently linked to obesity in humans. Animal models used in cancer research and current evidence suggests that obese pets may also be at greater risk for developing cancer.

7. ACL Tears

Carrying too much weight is a well-known risk factor for tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), an important ligament in the knee affecting mobility.

8. Skin Conditions

Overweight pets can have additional skin folds, which can cause irritation (rubbing) and infection (via bacteria). This may lead to scratching and skin redness.

How can I help my pet lose weight? 14 tips to help your overweight pet lose those extra pounds.

This is the eternal question for all pet parents. How can I prevent my pet from becoming overweight? We intuitively all know the answer to this: reaching and maintaining a healthy weight requires a commitment to a healthier lifestyle that achieves a balance between the calories consumed and the calories used by the body for normal functions and activity. Basically, it means decreasing calories and increasing activity levels.

Sounds easy enough on the surface, eh?

What makes this seemingly simple premise challenging is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach or magic pill that will help your pet lose excess weight. What works for one pet doesn’t necessarily work for another pet. What DOES work is a commitment from pet parents to make the change.

Where to start?

 First, helping your pet lose weight is not about you. Our veterinary team’s honest evaluation of your pet’s weight isn’t meant as a judgment – or assessment – of your own level of health or a statement about your pet parenting skills. Our veterinarians have your pet’s best interests in mind and recommendations are based on a commitment to your pet’s optimal health.

Secondly, put your pet’s interests first. All pet parents should have a singular focus: a dedication to their pet’s health and longevity. Does your pet have any medical conditions caused by excess weight? Is there a higher risk of disease or problems because of your pet’s weight? Our veterinarians will provide a professional, candid assessment of your pet’s current health and weight status and will make recommendations on diet and exercise programs.

14 tips to help your overweight pet lose those extra pounds.

  1. Regular Exercise.  Our pets are innately energetic. For dogs, activity levels vary by breed but a daily walk of 30 to 60 minutes is a great place to start for optimum health. For indoor cats, toys, laser pointers and cat trees can go a long way in keeping those calories burning.
  2. Avoid the temptation to overfeed.  Both dogs and cats are known for their prolific begging skills, but giving in to those sad, puppy eyes or plaintive meows isn’t a good thing for their waistline. Btw, starving a pet is just as bad as overfeeding.
  3. Maintain a nutritious and healthy diet.  There are a multitude of healthy diet alternatives and brands to choose from, but a consultation with our veterinarian about the best diet based on your pet’s condition is the best place to start.
  4. Eliminate table scraps and high-calorie treats. At the very least, keep these to a minimum and focus on healthier diets and treats. Make no mistake, it’s hard not to give in!
  5. Reduce snacks between meals. Calories in treats for pets can really add up. It’s been suggested that they should only make up about 10% of your pet’s caloric intake. As a treat alternative, cut up small pieces of pet-friendly fruits and veggies for tasty treats with fewer calories.
  6.  Set realistic goals. When working with our veterinarians, you can develop realistic goals for reducing your pet’s weight over time. Rapid weight loss is NOT healthy, so ask our vets for healthier eating and exercise programs that give a sensible – and safe – rate of weight loss.
  7. Make exercise fun. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone in the family, even if you’re a family of one. Finding pleasurable activities you can experience with your pet will always be more fun for everyone.
  8. Portion control.  A discussion with our veterinarians about your pet’s dietary requirements is a great place to start. Free pouring or ‘eye-balling’ food portions isn’t going to cut it. Consistently measured portions is a reliable, pet-friendly way to keep the recommended caloric intake steady.
  9. Maintain a regular feeding routine. By feeding your pet at the same time every day, they will learn to expect food at that time and be less likely to beg for food throughout the day.
  10. Distractions to control appetite. When your pet begs for food, avert their attention to some other activity they enjoy. This could be going for a walk, playing with a toy or simply receiving some love from their favourite pet parent – they never grow tired of this! Correction: some cats do…
  11. Don’t eat where you sleep. Leave your pet’s food dish far-removed from their favorite place to relax – this gives them a reason to get up and move during the day.
  12. Make them work for their food. To slow the rate of your pet’s food consumption, there are several playthings that you can fill with kibble. The result? It will make your pet put in some effort to obtain their meal. These toys keep them busy and stop them from wolfing down their entire dinner in record time.
  13. Monitor progress. Always monitor – and record – your pet’s progress. All weight loss programs, come with successes and the occasional lapse. By monitoring and recording, you can determine what’s working (and what’s not) and make necessary adjustments to the program.
  14. !!! Follow veterinary advice !!!. Anytime you make changes to your pet’s diet or lifestyle, it’s imperative to check with our Cabbagetown vets first. Certain breeds, current age, lifestyle and underlying health conditions generally require special dietary and activity considerations when it comes to executing a successful weight loss program.

Fun Fact: In North America, obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs. More than 50% of the general canine population is obese, with 40-45% of dogs aged 5-11 years old weighing in higher than normal.

Conclusion

Deep down, we all know of the risks of carrying a few extra pounds. Despite the awareness of health risks associated with overindulging, poor food choices and lack of exercise, we still tend to ignore – or at least delay – simple tactics we know can benefit our overall health and wellness.

Eat less, exercise more.

However, we shouldn’t let our lack of action and inattention affect the ones that truly depend on us the most – our cherished pets. We simply need to have the awareness and the motivation to act. Hopefully, the motivation of having a happy and healthy pet is enough.

Schedule an appointment with our vets today – we can provide you with the tools and expertise to help your pet live a long and happy life.

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

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7 New Years Resolutions for Pet Parents

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Happy New Year !

The New Year is a great time for self-reflection, positive change and fresh starts – who couldn’t use that after the past two years we’ve had!? Just like their pet parents, pets can also benefit from starting new, healthy habits. It’s safe to say that one thing that has kept many people encouraged during this challenging time is the companionship and love of their pets.

New Years resolutions don’t have to feel like a slog… making a change – big or small – to your pet’s lifestyle doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Even making the tiniest adjustment to your pet’s routine now can pay off later – old habits die hard, but good habits add up over time. With your trusted companion by your side, these resolutions can be a lot of fun to accomplish.

1. Walk Your Dog Daily and Maintain A Healthy Weight

It’s maybe the most common New Years resolution on earth – losing weight. Just like humans, it’s important for pets to maintain a healthy weight.

Resolve to spend more time outside playing, walking and exploring the world – even when the weather is cold. Just make sure your dog is warm enough and that you avoid winter dangers, especially salted sidewalks and roads. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to socialize and make new furry friends!

New Years is the Perfect Time to Get Serious About Your Pet’s Weight Loss.

Pet obesity is mostly attributed to improper feeding habits: overfeeding, too many high-calorie treats and table snacks. Obesity has detrimental effects on the overall health and life span of pets, including osteoarthritis, diabetes and dermatological issues affecting skin, hair and coat. Many of these diseases can be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.

If you’ve noticed your dog or cat has ‘expanded’ over the past year, take this opportunity to face the scale and make a New Years weight loss plan. Consult with our veterinarians to determine the best weight loss regimen for your pet. We can calculate the appropriate amount of calories your pet needs for daily requirements as well as the percentage of caloric decrease required for weight loss to avoid hunger or losing weight too quickly.

We can all pack on pounds during the holiday season – pets included. Exercising is always more fun with our furry friends, so head outdoors with your dog, get your heart rate up and stay fit!

Remember BodyBreak? Here’s some inspiration – and true 90’s Canadiana nostalgia – to get outside with your dog:

2. Review Your Pets Diet for a Healthier Lifestyle

The New Year is the perfect time to perform a pet food audit to evaluate what, when and how much your pet is eating. This ensures that your pet is eating the proper diet for their age and nutritional requirements. Choosing a diet specifically tailored to your pet’s life stage is a great way to keep them in optimal health.

Have you walked down a pet store’s food aisles lately?

The choices of what to feed your pet are seemingly endless, sometimes making time-strapped pet parents just throw up their hands and pull the nearest bag off the shelf. But cats and dogs have very specific nutrition and diet requirements for how much protein, fats, carbohydrates and calories they need each day.

Regular nutritional evaluations are a critical link in the chain of preventive care for pets. Prescription or therapeutic diets are a core part of an overall pet health and preventative care strategy.

Before we make any specific food recommendations, regular examinations help us determine if there are any underlying issues or emerging threats that may require a dietary adjustment. Once a baseline of your pets’ health is established, only then can we make suggestions on a proper dietary pathway.

Our veterinarians are independent thinkers and recommend products – including non-prescription diets – they feel will best serve their patients’ needs.

We encourage all of our clients to have an open, honest discussion with our veterinarians about your pet’s nutritional needs to find the optimal diet for your pet.

3. Make Your Pets Dental Health A Priority

If one of your New Years resolutions is to improve your own oral health, why not include your pet as well? Just like you go to the dentist for an annual appointment, your pet should have their teeth examined by our veterinarians at least once a year, as oral health is an important factor in their overall health and happiness.

If you’re a real keener, one of the best resolutions you can make in the New Year is to begin an at-home dental care routine.

Here’s a quick, at-home dental care primer:

At your next appointment, we would be happy to go over proper procedures and recommend the best tools.

Symptoms of oral health problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown crust on tooth surface
  • Bleeding gums
  • Change in chewing habits
  • Tooth loss
  • Drooling

If you observe any of these conditions, please make an appointment with us as soon as possible. That way, we can alleviate any further dental deterioration and get your pet on the right path to a healthy mouth.

4. Conduct a ‘Pet Toxins in the Home’ Audit:

It’s no secret that pets are inquisitive. However, that same curiosity can be hazardous to their health. The New Year is the perfect time to do a quick assessment of the potential pet toxins in your home.

How do animals investigate new things? By ingesting them. As a pet parent, you want to keep your furry friend safe and healthy, but your pet’s curious nature can sometimes get them into trouble.

Common Examples of Pets Toxins in the Home:

  • Over-The-Counter Medications (ie. ibuprofen, acetaminophen and diet pills)
  • Prescription Medications (ie. AAHD medication, antidepressants)
  • Cleaning Products
  • Paints and Solvents
  • Plants (ie. azaleas, rhododendrons)
  • Food, including bones
  • Alcohol
  • Essential Oils
  • Rodent Poisons
  • Antifreeze
  • Lawn and Garden Products (ie. fertilizers and herbicides)

The AAHA website has an excellent rundown of the potential toxins in your home. Keep in mind that some household products we typically think are safe may pose a risk to your pet. Use some common sense and planning – it can go a long way to prevent dangerous exposure for your cherished furry family member.

What to do if your pet is poisoned?

During regular business hours, call us immediately. Time is crucial for successfully treating accidental poisoning. If your pet is poisoned outside our regular hours, please call the nearest emergency clinic.

5. Buy Pet Insurance

50% of all pets will have a major illness in their lifetime. Fortunately, they have access to better treatment than ever before. Advances in technology and training have extended the lives of our beloved pets the world over.

Purchasing pet insurance means that you have to imagine the possibility of an unforeseen medical, worst-case development involving your beloved pets health. You shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay for the best veterinary medicine available when the unexpected arrives at your doorstep.

However, treatment can be pricey – unexpected veterinary bills can add up to thousand of dollars. We’ve seen pet insurance enrolment notably rise in North America and also locally in Cabbagetown – more pet parents are taking the step to protect their pet – and their wallet – then ever before. Having pet insurance ensures you don’t have to make a decision about your pet’s health based on your financial situation.

What better way to budget for the coming year by saving money on unexpected veterinary expenses? Pet parents say they want to be better prepared for the unexpected – they can now choose from a variety of plans from various carriers that will meet their needs and fit every budget.

Trupanion Canada is our preferred pet insurance partner – one of the largest providers in Canada. We like it because they keep pet insurance simple by offering a single (and excellent) pet insurance plan that will cover the needs of most pet parents.

Ask us how to receive 30 days of FREE coverage at your next appointment

6. Enroll Your Pet in the Cabbagetown Care Wellness Program

Yearly examinations are a crucial piece of a good preventive care regimen, as many medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes or obesity are common as pet’s age. They are much easier to manage when detected in the early stages of the disease process. Even if your pet appears to be fit, it may be is tempting to forego an annual veterinary appointment. Make it a point to schedule a wellness exam in the New Year for your own peace of mind.

Our Cabbagetown Care preventive health care plans are directed towards your family pets current life stage. These plans were developed to provide simpler, less costly access to essential veterinarian services and to meet the needs of the evolving phase of your pet’s life. These core services are available at a discounted rate. Plan members pay through annual or monthly payments, making budgeting easier for your pet’s health care needs.

An investment in a Cabbagetown Care wellness plan is an investment in your beloved pet. It’s the foundation of a long, happy and healthy life.

7. Review Your Pet’s Microchip ID Information

The New Year is a great time to make sure the information on your pets’ microchip ID tag is up to date. Furthermore, if you’ve been considering a microchip for permanent identification, now is the time to do it.

Hopefully, your cherished furry family member will never go missing. If it happens, the microchip implant will give you the best chance of a swift, joyful reunion.

Five Benefits Of Microchipping Your Pet:

  • Collars and tags can break or get lost.
  • Microchips are made to last the life of your pet – up to 25 years.
  • Peace-of-mind. Successful scans result in reuniting you with your pet as soon as possible.
  • If your pet gets lost, it is far less likely to be euthanized or re-homed.
  • It’s low-cost, reliable proof of ownership in cases of theft.

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

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Top 5 Holiday Toxins For Pets

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Season’s Greetings!

Most families have holiday traditions, regardless of what holiday you are celebrating. And those traditions usually involve lots of food and holiday cheer. As much as we would like to include our furry family members in all of our favourite holiday vices, some of them can have severe negative heath consequences.

We’ve compiled a short list of the common holiday foods and treats that can cause irreparable harm to your cherished pet. Most of the following apply to dogs, but cats can also experience distress from these toxins.

1. Chocolate

It’s no secret that dogs and chocolate do not mix.

What would the holidays be without abundant quantities of chocolate? There rarely seems to be any counter, table or cabinet that doesn’t have an assortment of these delectable pleasures. That makes them all the more enticing and irresistible to your family dog.

Chocolate includes two chemical compounds – theobromine and caffeine – both are toxic to dogs. Both substances are used medicinally for humans as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator and a muscle relaxant. However, dogs cannot metabolize theobromine (or caffeine) as well as people, thus making them more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?

The weight of your dog and the amount ingested are the two main factors to determine the level of toxicity. Chocolate toxicity is so common in dogs that the Merck Veterinary Manual offers a chocolate toxicity calculator that you can use to determine if your dog has consumed a toxic amount of chocolate.

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?

Clinical indicators depend on the quantity and type of chocolate consumed. For many dogs, the most common signs of poisoning are excessive urination, vomiting, increased thirst, diarrhea, panting and accelerated heart rate. In severe cases, symptoms can include seizures and heart failure.

What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?

If in doubt, call our clinic immediately and we’ll make every effort to see your dog during opening hours. Treatment by our veterinarians is encouraged if a poisonous amount of chocolate is eaten. The sooner treatment begins, the better your dog’s diagnosis.

2. Xylitol

Danger lurks in sugar-free candies, gum and baked goods – anything that uses this toxic, sugar-free substitute.

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. Even tiny amounts can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure or death. A lower-calorie, sugar substitute with a low glycemic index, this compound is making its way into almost anything that requires a sugar replacement – the proliferation of Xylitol has been popping up on our veterinarians’ radar for many years because of its harmfulness to dogs.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar substitute often related with sugar-free gum and mints. But it’s also found in many other places, including peanut butter, toothpaste, medications and vitamins, many other sugar-free products – such as Jell-O, yogurt and pudding – and even some household products such as baby wipes and lip balm.

How does Xylitol affect dogs?

The actual process that can cause liver failure in dogs is not entirely understood. However, what IS known is that a dog’s pancreas confuses Xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin to store it. The insulin then removes actual sugar from the bloodstream and can cause the dog to become anemic, resulting in tremors and possibly seizures. The effects usually start within 30 minutes of consumption.

How much Xylitol is poisonous to a dog?

There will always be differing amounts of Xylitol across various products, so the amount of product that is needed to be ingested before toxicity sets in varies widely. Common sense would dictate that, in general, lower doses of Xylitol cause mild hypoglycemia, while higher doses can result in complete liver failure. If untreated, hypoglycemia is life-threatening.

What are the signs of Xylitol poisoning?

Initial signs of Xylitol poisoning are typically due to low blood sugar and can develop within 30 minutes of consumption. Signs of low blood sugar may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination / difficulty walking or standing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Muscle tremors

In severe cases, the dog may develop seizures, slip into a coma or experience liver failure. Dogs that develop liver failure from Xylitol poisoning may or may not show signs of hypoglycemia at first. If a dog came into our clinic and bloodwork showed that they’re hypoglycemic, Xylitol would be one of the first things our veterinarians would ask the pet parent about.

The ‘devils trifecta’ for dogs to be avoided at all costs: THC-infused, chocolate edibles containing Xylitol.

3. Grapes and Raisins

How can seemingly harmless raisins, grapes (and currants) be toxic?

It is not currantly(!) understood why these fruits are poisonous. Researchers have speculated that the harmfulness is due to a mycotoxin – a toxic fungal product – or a salicylate (aspirin-like) drug that may be naturally occurring in the grape. More recently, studies have shown that tartaric acid may be the trigger. Regardless, no specific toxic element has been clearly identified.

All of these compounds mentioned above can result in decreased blood flow to the kidneys. According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, dogs that have eaten grapes or raisins are at risk of total renal failure within 48 to 72 hours of eating this fruit.

When should I be worried?

Studies determining the quantity of grapes and raisins needed to cause GI issues have shown there is a sizeable range and each dog can respond differently. Observation is key – if you observe any of the toxicosis signs mentioned below and/or see a previously full grape dish now empty, call our clinic immediately during our regular hours and we’ll make time to attend to the poisoning.

Because we don’t know why these fruits are potentially lethal, any exposure – even a single grape – should be a cause for concern.

Signs of Grape or Raisin Toxicosis (GRT):

  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy / weakness
  • Vomiting / diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain – tender to the touch
  • Dehydration – signs include panting, dry nose and mouth, pale gums
  • Increased thirst / urine production
  • Kidney failure

How is grape poisoning treated?

The primary of treatment at the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic starts with decontamination. Our veterinarians will induce vomiting in an attempt to expel the grapes or raisins. Activated charcoal may be given to help bind any leftover grapes or raisins in the stomach to help absorb the toxin. Additional treatment may be needed (including drugs and intravenous fluids) to help support – and protect – the kidneys to minimize damage.

4. Turkey and Ham Bones

Undoubtedly, appropriately sized, raw animal bones are an excellent source of minerals and other nutrients for dogs. Chewing stimulates saliva enzymes and helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth and gum disease. And a dog chewing on a bone is less inclined to excessively scratch or lick his paws. All good reasons to give your dog a bone.

But…

Many veterinarians believe it just isn’t worth the risk of serious injury to give your dog an animal bone, especially cooked. There are better, less harmful options available as seen in any major pet store aisle.

Should dogs be given turkey or ham bones?

Hard no. Poultry bones – particularly cooked – are brittle. Combined with their small size, they are very unsafe for dogs. Cooked ham bones are an even bigger issue because they’re even more disposed to splintering. Our veterinarians caution against feeding dogs bones of any kind as they can result in the following issues:

  • Bleeding mouth and tongue injuries
  • Constipation
  • Choking
  • Bone fragments can puncture the lining of stomachs and intestines
  • Blockage of the throat or intestinal tract
  • Rectal bleeding from sharp bone fragments
  • Obstructions that require emergency surgery

If you want to give your dog a bone for Christmas, try a large, tough nylon or rubber toy bone or another size-appropriate chew toy.

5. Raw Bread Dough

Nothing smells quite as pleasant as fresh, homemade bread wafting through the kitchen during the holiday season.

If you’ve ever made bread from scratch or in a bread-maker, you know that dough has to rise – preferably in a warm, moist, draft-free environment.

Fully baked bread is safe for pets as a special treat, so long as it’s not raisin bread. However, unbaked bread dough can be dangerous when eaten by dogs – and also cats. When ingested, the unbaked bread dough expands in the warm, moist environment of your pets’ stomach, resulting in a bloated or distended abdomen.

Additionally, when the yeast uses sugars in the unbaked dough – a process called fermentation – it produces carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. The carbon dioxide gas is what makes bread rise. Alcohol from the fermenting yeast is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and results in alcohol poisoning. Inadvertent consumption of alcohol can cause unsafe drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can potentially experience seizures and respiratory failure.

If your dog or cat is fed bread dough or you suspect they have stolen bread dough, call our veterinary clinic immediately and look out for following symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Depressed central nervous system
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Unsteady, drunken gait
  • Hypothermia
  • Seizures

Conclusion

The holidays are a wonderful time to snuggle up with our pets, but many popular holiday treats can pose serious danger to furry friends. While celebrating this year, be sure to keep these foods well out of reach of curious pets!

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

6 Ways COVID-19 Has Impacted Our Veterinary Practice

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges in the veterinary care sector. Our practice has had to respond to ever-evolving lockdowns, give clients and staff safe, COVID-19-free environments and embrace new digital technologies, while ensuring pets get the care they need.

Vaccines for COVID-19 are now readily available to anyone who wants one in our Cabbagetown community, which is beginning to see a return to some form of ‘new’ normalcy. While we slowly emerge from the tethers of this pandemic, we can’t forget the vital lessons and permanent changes this pandemic has triggered.

So, what’s changed?

1. Acceleration and Adoption of New Digital Platforms.

Out of the COVID-19 crisis, comes an opportunity to make life better for pets, their owners and our veterinarians who chose this career path because they wanted to improve animal welfare. This opportunity has forced vet clinics to embrace digital transformation faster than most had anticipated.

Our forward-looking animal hospital is using new technologies to enhance customer relationships in an ever-changing digital landscape. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but is even more widespread now. While the pace of change can be challenging for our clients and staff alike, it’s entirely necessary for the future prospects of our practice.

Here are some examples of the digital platforms we’ve incorporated since the beginning of the pandemic:

VETSTORIA: This integration into our website allows clients the ability to schedule appointments in real time – on their own time. We’ve seen a significant uptick in online bookings as it gives our clients – new and existing – more control over the booking process.

GOFETCH: This software application has been implemented to enhance our Wellness Plans. It provides an avenue for pet parents to track wellness plan services, receive cash rewards for service and retail purchases as well offering access 24/7, after-hours telemedicine veterinary care.

SCRATCHPAY: Did you know we offer payment plans? If you haven’t purchased pet insurance, unexpected emergencies can result in higher than expected vet bills. We have teamed up Scratchpay to give our clients two simple, wallet-friendly payment plan options.

DOCUSIGN: We’ve incorporated this software for all mission-critical forms and legally binding agreements to ease onboarding, reduce paper and simplify our workflow.

2. Client Stress and Anxiety Levels.

At its heart, veterinary medicine is a client-focused business. Clear and empathetic communication with pet parents to ensure that patients receive the level of care they need is the top concern for any well-respected animal hospital.

The combination of (many!) new pet parents, reduced clinic hours due to staff shortages, changes in how the clinic operates (ie. curbside service) and the general uncertainty of how the pandemic may play out for people personally and professionally has created a higher level of stress for EVERYONE concerned.

Luckily for us, the majority of our clientele have taken the inconveniences and frustrations in stride – and we’re forever thankful for that. Not surprisingly, we have experienced a slight uptick in unacceptable client behaviour. As a result, we’ve had to re-examine our abuse policy to help mitigate the toll this behaviour takes on the mental wellness of our team.

With our goal of superior and consistent client service, all members of our veterinary team are expected to deal with a wide variety of client requests and behaviours. Sometimes these demands cross the line from merely challenging to being out-and-out, hostile or abusive.

Client behaviours we deem unacceptable at our clinic include:

  • Physical violence or threats of violence
  • Verbal abuse
  • Discriminatory language or hate speech
  • Continual unreasonable requests
  • Threats, if demands are not met
  • Behaviour that creates a negative experience for other clients in the clinic

It’s only human nature that clients (or staff) may have an “off” day from time to time. We’re comfortable in our ability to recognize and deal with these scenarios. But in some extreme instances, no good faith effort on our part will ever be enough to satisfy a very small minority of clients.

When a client exhibits consistently anti-social behaviour that negatively impacts the well-being of our team members or other clients, we will take the rare step to terminate the relationship and encourage them to find another veterinarian. This is becoming – regrettably – more common within the veterinary industry.

Fortunately, cases like this are extremely rare for us, but the mental effects of the experience on our staff can have lingering effects. To counter this, we shift our thinking to the majority of our wonderful and appreciative clients – particularly those who have sent us gifts and thank you notes. Or spend more time with a puppies…

3. Increased Focus on Preventative Medicine.

One thing has become abundantly clear since the beginning of the pandemic – there’s been an explosion of pet ownership among new – and lapsed – pet parents. Working from home, loneliness and extra disposable income have all played roles in the largest increase in pet ownership in recent memory – maybe ever.

Whether it’s enrolling in a comprehensive Wellness Plan, keeping current with vaccines or just regular yearly examinations, preventative medicine is at the forefront of our clinic’s objectives. The ability to anticipate and treat potential issues before they appear aligns with our goal to provide to best-in-class veterinary care for our clientele, not to mention potential cost savings.

3 ways we encourage good preventative medicine practices:

  1. We offer free, year-round telephone consultations to help determine your pets’ risk of parasitic infection by fleas, heartworm or – most importantly – ticks. Canine Lyme disease is a major issue on the wooded trails of Toronto, so awareness and protection is your greatest ally.
  2. We offer feature-packed and cost-efficient wellness plans for all stages of your pets’ lifecycle.
  3. Regular email and text reminders are delivered to our clients with the ability to make an online appointment immediately from the email or at a time of their convenience.

4. Veterinary Practices as an Essential Service

Pets play a prominent role in our lives. We rely on them for companionship and unconditional love, especially when lockdown measures confined us to our homes and away from loved ones. This is especially true for people living alone and/or depend on them as service and therapy animals.

Because of this, the pandemic has cemented our important role in society. By being classed as an ‘essential’ service across Canada – and many other parts of the world – veterinarians were allowed to operate amid lockdown actions.

Why are veterinarians considered essential services?

  • Veterinary employees – along with other healthcare professionals – provide surveillance for reportable diseases such as rabies and Lyme Disease.
  • Issuing certificates of veterinary inspection are required for the movement of animals between provinces and countries.
  • Veterinary care is critical to ensure that only healthy animals enter the food supply.
  • Veterinary practices provide medical and surgical care for critically ill and injured animals.
  • Veterinarians provide care for service and therapy animals, supporting both animal and human welfare.
  • Veterinarians also oversee the care of laboratory animals, which are critical to research that leads to the development of pharmaceuticals and biologics, including vaccines.
  • Even if certain entities need to be closed to the public, veterinarians are needed for continued care of rare, threatened and endangered animals in zoos, aquariums, wildlife rehabilitation clinics and wildlife facilities.

From the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA): “The CVMA holds that veterinary practices and all veterinary services including where animals are housed for research purposes provide “essential” services to Canadians given that veterinary medicine is critical for public health, agri-food safety, pharmaceutical stewardship, and animal health and welfare.”

5. Team-Building and Off-Site Staff Events

With the lockdown measures in place during the pandemic, one of the things we’ve dearly missed are staff getaways outside the workplace.

Why would that be important in our practice?

Teamwork is regarded as a core skill within our veterinary team. Our clinic is a cozy, community-minded practice that performs big-city, best-in-class veterinary care with team members working in close quarters. One would think this would create an environment ripe for personality clashes and flare-ups, but this has been remarkable rare.

Despite our team unity, there has been something missing – the recognition that outside activities play a vital role in team-building at our clinic. The inability to socialize outside the professional environment tends to put the focus on the work habits and professionalism of the team members only. This is certainly a good thing, but interacting with teammates in a social environment can help bind those professional ties closer, not to mention increase trust.

Staff dinners, spa excursions, Blue Jay games and Xmas parties have all fallen by the wayside as our city has grappled with the lockdown effects of COVID-19. Thankfully, restrictions are being eased and we look forward to re-engaging with each other on a social and personal level.

6. Operational Changes Due to COVID-19

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have collectively held our breaths to come to a point where we can – hopefully – start to exhale and put the worst part of pandemic in the rear-view mirror.

It’s our social and moral responsibility to our clients and the Cabbagetown community – as well as the need to protect our Cabbagetown Pet Clinic team – to make every effort to not stall the progress we’ve made over the past 18 months. Some of the changes mentioned below will wane as the pandemic recedes, but some may become permanent.

Changes to Clinic Protocols due to COVID-19:

  • Fastidious Hygiene: With our already high standard of routine environmental cleaning, staff will continue to practice good hand hygiene as per the World Health Organization guidelines. All common surfaces are disinfected frequently.
  • Curbside Services: Clients are still not permitted in the clinic, but with masking, Toronto’s high vaccination rate and the lifting of some provincial controls, some of these indoor restrictions have been relaxed in some circumstances. We have posted a sign on our entrance advising our clients that if they are showing any signs of illness to remain outside and call the clinic.
  • Staffing: Although our team is fully vaccinated, our vet clinic hours are still limited to account for the current high demand for veterinary services in combination with a labour shortage in the vet industry.
  • Cashless and Contactless Payments: Debit terminal payments are wiped down between EVERY transaction.
  • Increased Digital Integration: (see above)

CONCLUSION

We’re extremely thankful that our clients have been super patient and understanding with the changes we’ve experienced and some of the protocols that remain in place. A reversion to ‘normal’ times – pre-COVID – will be a welcome addition to the overall clinic experience.

Meet the Team

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Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

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The Best Animal Hospitals in Toronto

By Pet Parenting

We’re so proud to be named one of the best animal hospitals in Toronto by blogTO.com. Our compassionate, dedicated team is honoured to receive this hard-earned recognition. Also, many thanks to all our devoted clients in the Cabbagetown community for their support during these challenging times.

See The List

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

Cats and Boxes – A Love Story

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Parenting

It’s no mystery that cats can be funny, independent, affectionate, weird and quirky – all at the same time! This is what we love about them.

Building on a previous post covering the complexities of verbal and non-verbal forms of feline communication, we’re exploring another curious feline behaviour that continues to confound and amaze even the most dedicated cat parents. BOXES.

CATS AND BOXES

If you’ve ever prepared for a vacation and left your suitcase on the floor, it would not be unusual for your cat to immediately jump in and occupy the exact space you intended for your clothes. Two things generally come to mind from a pet parents perspective: a) your cat doesn’t want you to leave; or b) they want to come along. Neither of these explanations are likely pass the smell test.

You’ve probably noticed that cat’s love to curl up in boxes. Big boxes, small boxes, oddly-shaped boxes – it doesn’t matter to your feline friend. Place one on the ground, a chair or a bookshelf and watch your cat quickly hijack it.

Why do cat’s love boxes?

Cats are total pushovers when it comes to cardboard boxes and just about any other space they consider confining and comfy. Sinks, paper bags, shoes and empty fish tanks – among other small spaces – also qualify. What might surprise you is that they’ll also go sit inside the two-dimensional outline of a square box on the floor. Huh? (see below)

Given the multitude of complex behaviours they exhibit and their chronic uncooperativeness, it can be difficult to analyze their motivations. Cats are generally unhelpful study subjects, generally giving their human meddlers fits when it comes to studying them closely.

What about big cats? Are only domesticated, housebound cats obsessed with boxes? Apparently, not!

Despite the ubiquity of internet memes and videos that box-cats command, scientists still can’t quite explain why felines are so passionate about contorting their body into anything and everything confining. Behavioural biologists and veterinarians have come up with some possible explanations.

5 REASONS WHY CATS LOVE BOXES

  1. Safety And Stress Relief.

Cats squeeze into small spaces in search of comfort and solace. To a cat, the world is a worrying and intimidating place. Grocery bags, drawers and Amazon boxes might be the closest thing to a cave that a cat confined to a house can find. However, this doesn’t explain why cats may be attracted to two-dimensional shapes on the floor.

  1. Warmth And Comfort

Certain containers may deliver an insulating or warming effect that produces two outcomes. First, a cat’s normal body temperature is about 100°F to 102°F and most homes are kept around 72°F. This temperature differential may offer an explanation of why cats like to curl up in small spaces – it’s just warmer. Cardboard can provide insulation that helps them retain their body heat. Secondly, some animal behaviourists believe that being enclosed reminds cats of being cuddled by their mothers and fellow littermates. Close contact with a box’s interior has shown to releases endorphins causing pleasure and reducing stress.

  1. Predation

Cats retreat into smaller spaces to hide from prey – evolutionary predatory behaviour to take cover before an ambush. This gives a cat an excellent vantage point from which to stalk and waylay their prey. For most domesticated indoor cats, the “prey” could be a toy, a passerby’s pant leg, an unlucky foot or vacuum cleaner. Maybe ever a real mouse!

  1. Attention

To a cat, humans are agents of chaos that build environments to be responsive and agreeable to the feline set. Provide a new box/change into their environment? Cats will occupy them and we’ll pay tonnes of attention to their antics, as any search on YouTube will prove. Left alone, they might not find a box so enchanting were it not for the unrestrained attention we devote to them.

  1. Curiosity

We’ve all heard the term ‘curiosity killed the cat’. That’s only the first part of the expression. The complete phrase is ‘curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back’. Cats are curious and the appearance of an unfamiliar object is a guaranteed way to pique a cat’s interest. Clearly, a box keeps them coming back!

HOW CAN I SAFELY PREPARE A BOX FOR MY CAT?

Here are a few safety tips you should take when you have empty boxes in your home.

  • Ensure the box is short enough to easily jump in and out of so your cat won’t get stuck or feel trapped.
  • Make sure the box is free of any staples, adhesive tape or other things that could stick to your cat’s coat or get swallowed.
  • Keep the box out of high traffic areas, so your cat can relax in a space where they will have some privacy.

CONCLUSION

No single theory has proven to be conclusive, as they all contain reasonable elements of plausibility. Something about box behaviour is ingrained in a cat’s biology – part of the evolutionary code written deep into the DNA of felines. So entrenched is this behaviour that cats may even sit in anything square-like, including 2-D shapes on the floor. A new study has found that cats will instinctively sit inside an optical illusion – known as the Kanizsa square – that merely has the appearance of a box/square. Weird, yet fascinating…

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

Helping your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

Location and Hours

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

10 Great Songs About Dogs

By Pet Parenting

10 Great Songs About Dogs: A Compilation

In this post, we’ve decided to compile a list of the 10 best songs about dogs. Various themes of unconditional love, devotion, sadness and remembrance are consistently represented over many musical genres and generations.

In our research, the old country music cliché is certainly true – there are an overabundance of country songs about lovin’ and leavin’, drinkin’ and of course, countless references about dogs. With country’s strong, story-telling narratives, we could have probably compiled a standalone ‘country songs about dogs’ playlist, but we wanted to include a variety of contemporary artists across multiple genres. The list is ordered from the oldest entry up to the very latest in pop music.

1. How Much Is That Doggie In The Window

Patti Page – 1953
A song about companionship as she “must leave” her sweetheart and wants to make sure he wasn’t lonely…also protected from harm. Singer Patti Page’s version of “The Doggie in the Window” was #1 in the US Billboard chart for 8 weeks and sold over 2 million copies in 1953 alone. Your grandparents will remember it well…

How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

I must take a trip to California
And leave my poor sweetheart alone
If he has a dog, he won’t be lonesome
And the doggie will have a good home

How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

I read in the papers there are robbers
With flashlights that shine in the dark
My love needs a doggie to protect him
And scare them away with one bark

I don’t want a bunny or a kitty
I don’t want a parrot that talks
I don’t want a bowl of little fishies
He can’t take a goldfish for a walk

How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

2. I Love My Dog

Yusuf / Cat Stevens – 1967
This song is about human relationships and how they can deteriorate – or fade – over time. People in relationships may change, but according to Cat Stevens, his love for his dog is everlasting. This song was the first single off his debut album, “Matthew and Son” and reached #28 in the UK singles chart.

I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through

All he asks from me is the food to give him strength
All he ever needs is love and that he knows he’ll get

So, I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through

All the pay I need comes a-shinin’ through his eyes
I don’t need no cold water to make me realize that

I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through

Na, na, na, na, na, na, nana
Na, na, na, na, na, na, nana

I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through

Na, na, na, na, na, na, nana
Na, na, na, na, na, na, nana

I love my dog, baby, I love my dog
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
I said, I love my dog, baby, I love my dog
Baby, I love my dog

3. Martha, My Dear

The Beatles – 1968
Yes, there had to be a Beatles song on the list. This song from 1968 appeared on the “White Album” and was an ode to Paul McCartney’s first pet, an Old English Sheepdog named Martha.

From the Beatles Bible:

“She was a dear pet of mine. I remember John being amazed to see me being so loving to an animal. He said, ‘I’ve never seen you like that before.’ I’ve since thought, you know, he wouldn’t have. It’s only when you’re cuddling around with a dog that you’re in that mode, and she was a very cuddly dog.” – Paul McCartney

Martha, my dear
Though I spend my days in conversation, please
Remember me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear

Hold your head up, you silly girl
Look what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Take a good look around you
Take a good look, you’re bound to see
That you and me were meant to be
For each other
Silly girl

Hold your hand out, you silly girl
See what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Martha, my dear
You have always been my inspiration
Please, be good to me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear

4. The Puppy Song

Harry Nilsson – 1969
This song was originally written at Paul McCartney’s request for an up-and-coming singer named Mary Hopkin, who was had just signed a contract with Apple Records. This is another song about the unconditional love of a puppy – a friend who would be by my side and “stick with me to the end”.

Dreams are nothin’ more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream you wish to come true

If only I could have a puppy
I’d call myself so very lucky
Just to have some company
To share a cup of tea with me

I’d take my puppy everywhere
La-la, la-la, I wouldn’t care
But we would stay away from crowds
With signs that said “No dogs allowed”
I know he’d never bite me

I know he’d never bite me
If only I could have a friend
Who’d stick with me until the end
And walk along beside the sea
Share a bit of moon with me

I’d take my friend most everywhere
La-la, la-la, I wouldn’t care
But we would stay away from crowds
With signs that said “No friends allowed”
We’d be so happy to be

We’d be so happy to be together

But dreams are nothin’ more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream you wish to come true

Dreams are nothin’ more than wishes (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)
And a wish is just a dream (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)
You wish to come true (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)
Whoa, whoa, woo (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)

Dreams are nothin’ more than wishes (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)
And a wish is just a dream (Your wish will come true,
Your wish will come true)
Wish to come true (Your wish will come true)

5. Old King

Neil Young – 1992
From his album, “Harvest Moon”, Old King is about the irreplaceable loss of his beloved hound dog and the good times they had together. His dog’s name was actually Elvis, but he believed this would have created confusion.

King went a-runnin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’ off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’ and he would go
Was the best old hound dog I ever did know

I had a dog and his name was King
I told the dog about everything
There in my truck the dog and I
Then one day the King up and died

Then I thought about the times we had
Once when I kicked him when he was bad
Old King sure meant a lot to me
But that hound dog is history

King went a-runnin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’ off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’ and he would go
Was the best old hound dog I ever did know

That old King was a friend of mine
Never knew a dog that was half as fine
I may find one, you never do know
‘Cause I still got a long way to go

I had a dog and his name was King
I told the dog about everything
Old King sure meant a lot to me
But that hound dog is history

King went a-howlin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’ off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’ and he would go
Was the best old hound dog I ever did know

6. The Dog Song

Nellie McKay – 2004
This quirky song is about how life can be “lonely and blue” in your youth. Sometimes it’s hard to find your mojo when you’re an outsider, trying to find your way in life. “I was the archetypal loser, I was a pageant gone bad”. She turned her attention to a rescue – a dog “in jail” – for companionship providing unconditional love and acceptance, allowing her to feel good about herself and start enjoying life again.

“It’s just me and my dog, catchin’ some sun, we can’t go wrong”

I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song
Strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog
Catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong

My life was lonely and blue
Yeah I was sad as a sailor
I was an angry ‘un too
Then there was you
Appeared, when I was entangled
With youth, and fear, and nerves
Jingle jangled
Vermouth and beer

Were gettin’ me mangled up

But then I looked in your eyes
And I was no more a failure
You looked so wacky and wise
And I said, lord I’m happy

‘Cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song
Strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog
Catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong
‘Cause I don’t care ’bout your hatin’ and your doubt
And I don’t care what the politicians spout
If you need a companion
Well just go right to the pound
And find yourself a hound

And make that doggie proud
‘Cause that’s what it’s all about

My life was tragic and sad
I was the archetypal loser
I was a pageant gone bad
Then there was you on time
And wagging your tail
In the cutest mime
And you was in jail
I said woof, be mine
And you gave a wail
And then I was no longer alone
And I was no more a boozer
We’ll make the happiest home
And I said lord I’m happy

‘Cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song
Strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog
Catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong
‘Cause I don’t care ’bout your hatin’ and your doubt
And I don’t care what the politicians spout
If you need a companion
Why just go on by the pound
And find yourself a hound
And make that doggie proud
‘Cause that’s what it’s all about
That’s what it’s all about
That’s what it’s all about
That’s what it’s all a bow-wow-wow
That’s what it’s all about
(Pant) (pant) (pant) (pant) (pant) good dog

7. Man of the Hour

Norah Jones – 2009
Relationships are hard and finding someone to share your life with is even harder. Her choices appear slim – choosing between and vegan and a pothead, neither of which provides the intimacy and fulfillment she desires. She reflects on the things her dog can’t provide – sharing a shower, receiving flowers – but is confident that she can live her own life (“And I like the way you let me lead you”), without carrying someone else’s baggage.

That’s what he said
But I can’t choose between a vegan
And a pot head

So I chose you
Because you’re sweet
And you give me lots of lovin’
And you eat meat
And that’s how you became
My only man of the hour

You never lie
And you don’t cheat
And you don’t have any baggage tied
To your four feet
Do I deserve
To be the one
Who will feed you breakfast, lunch, and dinner
And take you to the park at dawn
Will you really be
My only man of the hour

I know you’ll never bring me flowers
But flowers, they will only die
And though we’ll never take a shower together
I know you’ll never make me cry

You never argue
You don’t even talk
And I like the way you let me lead you
When we go outside and walk
Will you really be
My only man of the hour
My only man of the hour
My only man of the hour
Ruff

8. Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old

Luke Bryan – 2015
From his album, “Kill The Lights”, this record is about a boy growing up with his cherished black Lab named Bandit and sharing all his childhood experiences with him.

…“and I don’t know if I raised him or he raised me”

When you’re a kid, you think the good times of your childhood will last forever. At some point, an inescapable realization kicks in that your trusted friend won’t be around in for your life’s journey into adulthood.

“And I thought we would be together
Go on and on just like that, forever
But I was young back then
God I wish I didn’t know
Little boys grow up and dogs get old”

Bandit was a black lab, Daddy brought home
He said, “son he’s yours from now on”
Bandit looked at me and he cocked his head
Slept at night on the foot of my bed
All that year, I can see him still
Chasing after me, nipping at my heels
Down to the bus stop, my new best friend
Still waiting right there when I got home again

And I thought we would be together
Go on and on just like that, forever
But I was young back then
I guess I just didn’t know
Little boys grow up and dogs get old

He was my sidekick through thick and thin
And he’d bark at my fish when I’d reel ’em in
Summers came and went and we grew like weeds
And I don’t know if I raised him or he raised me

And I thought we would be together
Go on and on just like that, forever
But I was young back then
How was I supposed to know
Little boys grow up and dogs get old

He was fourteen when I left for Tennessee
And he came down the front porch steps a little slow
I got down to hug his neck
Said “you take care of Mom and Dad, ’til I get home”
“And be a good boy”
“Now you be a good boy”

And I thought we would be together
Go on and on just like that, forever
But I was young back then
God I wish I didn’t know
Little boys grow up and dogs get old

9. Chasing Butterflies (Song for My Dog)

Frankly Speaking – 2017
Losing a dog, or any pet for that matter, can be soul crushing. This country song is another entry about love and loss of a beloved companion. In this case, no one believed he was capable or responsible enough to care for a dog. He proved them wrong.

It’s implied that he was in some type of mental prison – “You’re my angel sent from above to set me free” – and his dog provided a release from that damaging state of mind. He’s wistful, but also happy about all the good times they spent together and hopes that he’s “up there chasing butterflies”. He takes solace in the fact that they’ll meet again sometime.

When I first saw you
I know I had to take you home
My friends they argue that I couldn’t raise you on my own
But I will show them that you’re meant to be with me
You’re my angel sent from above to set me free

Lets get in my car
And I will take you for a ride
Go to the bar and greet all the costumers inside
I wont forget all that you’ve than for my life
My only hope is you’re up there chasing butterflies

Through all the hard times you were rappin’ by my side
And when I needed answers well I just look into your eyes
Now I don’t know all the love you felt inside
My hope is you’re up there chasing butterflies

I know we’ll be together another day, another time
But until then just keep on chasing butterflies
But until then just keep on chasing butterflies

10. Happier

Marshmello ft. Bastille – 2019
This pop hit from 2019 (859M YT views!) is about relationships gone bad and the prospect of walking away so the one you truly love can be “happier”.

“I wanna raise your spirits
I want to see you smile but
Know that means I’ll have to leave”

Clearly, this is a break-up song – not a song specifically about dogs. However, the video tells a different – if not parallel – story about letting go of someone you love. The video features a girl who, feeling socially deserted by her friends, receives a puppy for her birthday. Although her dog makes her “happier” throughout her life, in the end, she learns to be happy on her own and the cycle of life begins anew…

The video is a stunningly poignant portrayal of letting go and the sacrifices that we make for love. If you haven’t seen the video before, it’s a tearjerker…you may want to have Kleenex on standby.

Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier

When the morning comes
When we see what we’ve become
In the cold light of day we’re a flame in the wind
Not the fire that we’ve begun
Every argument, every word we can’t take back
‘Cause with the all that has happened
I think that we both know the way that this story ends

Then only for a minute
I want to change my mind
‘Cause this just don’t feel right to me
I wanna raise your spirits
I want to see you smile but
Know that means I’ll have to leave

Know that means I’ll have to leave
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier

When the evening falls
And I’m left there with my thoughts
And the image of you being with someone else
Well, that’s eating me up inside
But we run our course, we pretend that we’re okay
Now if we jump together at least we can swim
Far away from the wreck we made

Then only for a minute
I want to change my mind
‘Cause this just don’t feel right to me
I wanna raise your spirits
I want to see you smile but
Know that means I’ll have to leave

Know that means I’ll have to leave
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier

So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go
So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go

Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier
Even though I might not like this
I think that you’ll be happier, I want you to be happier

Then only for a minute (only for a minute)
I want to change my mind
‘Cause this just don’t feel right to me
I wanna raise your spirits
I want to see you smile but
Know that means I’ll have to leave

Know that means I’ll have to leave
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier

So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go

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