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Cabbagetown Pet Clinic

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

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

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

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

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!

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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

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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

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

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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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Coping with the Loss of a Pet

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Parenting

The Heartache of Losing a Pet

Death is a part of life. It may sound trite, but always rings true.

A cherished pets’ death is a necessary part of the cycle of life and should be accepted as a natural – though painful – process. We know this in our hearts and minds, yet the loss of a pet – either gradually or suddenly – never fails to catch us off guard in many profound ways.

Most companion animals live less than 15 years. This is more than enough time for a pet to enter and live in our hearts. They become a part of the family and occupy a distinct role in our lives. They become an indispensible part of the household and often provide us a continuous source of warmth and positive experiences.

As humans, we have a tendency to project onto our cherished pets our thoughts, emotions, and ideas – we desire see our good qualities reflected in our animals. This attachment creates emotional bonds that can sometimes go beyond those of immediate family members. Our pets are a part of the everyday fabric of our lives in a way that few human relationships are. When you lose your trusted companion and this bond is broken, something internally changes – sometimes forever.

GRIEVING THE LOSS OF A PET

Whether you’ve lost a pet by accident, illness or old age, the grieving process lacks a clear timeline and has no emotional boundaries. Many factors can be attributed to the disparity:

  • Your age and personality
  • Your pet’s age and personality
  • The circumstances surrounding your pet’s death
  • The relationship between you and your animal.

The pet parents most emotionally affected by loss tend to be those who live alone or people who lose a service dog – a dog that played a vital role in their daily tasks. The grieving process may take longer because their trusted companion played such an important role in their lives.

Routines shaken.

Losing a pet changes our daily routines, causing effects that go beyond the loss of the actual animal. This can leave significant voids in our life that need to be filled.

Pet parenting creates responsibilities and a schedule around which we craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog, or wake up early each day to feed our cat – the cat will NOT let you forget their feeding regimen! As a result, our days are richer, more fulfilling and productive because of it.

When you pet dies, routines are permanently (temporarily?) disrupted. Companion animals – dogs, cats and horses among others – provide unconditional love, help to ease anxiety and reduce loneliness. They support our emotional wellbeing, instill purpose and provide meaning. Adding to the emotional pain is the aimless feeling and loss of purpose following a pet’s death.

6 STEPS TO HELP COPE WITH THE LOSS OF A PET

Grief does not necessarily take a predetermined path or reflect five distinct, orderly stages as psychologists generally propose. Everyone reacts differently and on his or her own time.

1. Recognize and accept the reality of your pets’ passing.

Acknowledging your loss may take weeks or months, but must be done in a timeframe that is right for you.

 2. Do your best to embrace the pain of the loss.

A “healthier” expression of grief may come from taking the time to work through your feelings. Pushing your grief away or ignoring it may extend the mourning period unnecessarily.  

 3. Keep the fond memories alive.

Embracing good (and bad) memories can be a slow and uncomfortable process best experienced in small steps. Past photos and memories shared with others can help guide you through.

 4. Amending your self-identity.

Your self-identity with others may be wrapped up in being “the gal whose dog was the most well-trained at the off-leash dog park”. Recognizing and adjusting to this change is vital to the grieving process.

5. Quest for meaning.

Taking the time to come to terms with the meaning and purpose of pets in your life is needs to be addressed.

 6. Seek support from others.

You need the love and support of others that have been in your position – talking to or being with other pet parents can be one important way to help mend the wounds.

EUTHANASIA AND EOL (END-OF-LIFE) PROCESS

The decision to euthanize can be extremely difficult or, in some cases, a forgone conclusion made easier knowing their pet will meet a peaceful, painless end to their suffering in a controlled environment. If one chooses not to be present during the procedure, we completely understand.

If a client(s) wants to be with their pet during the euthanasia, our compassionate veterinarians will take all the time necessary to go over what to expect:

  • Explain the physical process of how the euthanasia is to be performed
  • Clarify the importance of the placement of a catheter to ensure a smoother procedure
  • Outline the visible effects of any pharmaceutical agents used
  • Define the length of time each stage may take
  • Note the anticipated restraint that the patient may experience, and
  • Describe unavoidable aftereffects.

For many pet owners, the actions surrounding their pet’s end of life are as important – and as meaningful – as the total of all the care provided by our clinic team during the lifetime of that pet. Needless to say, this is a very emotionally charged process for pet parents. And as many times as this procedure has been done at our clinic, euthanasia also takes a heavy, emotional toll on veterinarians and RVT’s alike, as many of the patients were not only loved by their pet parent, but in many instances, the veterinary team itself.

PET LOSS SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

Grief over the loss of a pet may be as strong as when a significant person in our life passes away, but the process of mourning is different.

There are societal mechanisms in place – social, professional and community support – for managing human deaths, but few exist when a pet dies.

We are not only deprived of important support systems when our pet dies, but our own perceptions of our emotional responses likely add another level of distress. Am I overreacting? Is this stress normal?

Fear ands shame keep pet parents from requesting time off from employers to grieve the loss of a pet, lest they be seen as overly sentimental, lacking in maturity or emotionally weak.

Embarrassment by the severity of the heartache we feel may make us hesitate to share our feelings to loved ones, thus prolonging our grief. Add shame to the mix and this also complicates the process of recovery by making it more lengthy and complex than it should be.

Our advice? Find a great listener. In lieu of – or in addition to – finding a great listener there are resources beyond family and friends available to help you during this difficult transition.

www.ontariopetloss.org 

This organization hosts monthly meetings in the GTA. There is no charge to attend a meeting, however registration is required.

www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com/forum/11-loss-of-a-pet/

This is discussion group is private and professionally moderated. There is no cost to post in the forum.

http://www.pet-loss.net/

10 Tips to How to Cope with Pet Loss – a thorough and informative webpage devoted to pet loss.

1-855-245-8214

This is a 24/7 hotline for access to a Pet Loss Support Specialist.

CONCLUSION

Losing a treasured pet can be psychologically devastating. Because one-on-one, emotional attachments are so closely aligned with our pets, others will never fully recognize how painful – and personal – our pet loss is, unless experienced themselves. Sure, we can offer sympathy, thoughts and prayers to help smooth out the pain, but the hurt stacked upon our emotional and physical wellbeing has no defined end point.

Society at large is not prepared to give pet parents the acknowledgement, support and attention they need to guide them through the grieving process, leaving it up to ourselves to identify and address our emotional wounds alone. The more validation we receive from friends, family and veterinary staff, the faster and our psychological recovery will 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

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.

sad-dog-in-window

Pet Separation Anxiety: The Perfect Storm Ahead

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health

30 Second Summary

  • With WFH waning and school resuming in-class learning in the fall, it’s time to prepare for anxious pets as they’ll soon find themselves flying solo for the first time in months.
  • Separation anxiety can be extremely difficult to correct if not addressed in the very early stages. Behavioural issues such as this are the leading cause of pet surrenders.
  • It’s not a slam-dunk that your dog will experience Pet Separation Anxiety, but there are some steps you can take to help alleviate the possibility.
  • A dog’s cognitive ability does not exceed that of two-and-a-half year old child, thus they are unable to view situations subjectively, unlike humans. Dogs act out of a purely emotional state and have no conscious influence over their feelings.
  • We may not be able to pinpoint an exact root cause, but we’re quite aware of the triggers that cause Pet Separation Anxiety
  • 10 Signs of Pet Separation Anxiety

As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes this summer, another potential one has begun – the Pet Separation Anxiety pandemic.

During the pandemic, pets have joyfully adapted to pet parents being always home and have become accustomed with this new routine. However, unsettling change is afoot as some pets will soon have their expectations shaken. This is especially true for puppies – they assume you’ll always be around and rely on the extra attention they’ve learned to be normal. They will soon find themselves flying solo for the first time in months as pet parents return to the office and children go back to school in this fall, creating a potential separation anxiety pandemic among dogs that has no precedence.

For veteran and new pet parents alike, it’s time to start preparing for an upsurge of anxious pets. For our purposes, we’ll focus on our canine friends as most display a distinct emotional attachment with their owners. Our feline counterparts? Not so much, but they are not immune higher anxiety levels.

Separation anxiety can be extremely difficult to correct if not addressed in the very early stages. Behavioural issues such as this are the leading cause of pet relinquishments or surrenders. Pet Separation Anxiety is real and must be treated with patience and understanding.

WHAT IS PET SEPARATION ANXIETY?

Research has shown that a dog’s cognitive ability does not exceed that of two-and-a-half year old child, thus they are unable to view situations subjectively, unlike humans. Dogs act out of a purely emotional state and have no conscious influence over their feelings.

 Separation anxiety can be defined as clear distress that occurs only in the absence – or perceived absence – of the owner, usually manifested in a range of uncharacteristic behaviours.

In human terms, separation anxiety in dogs is similar to having a panic attack that causes destruction and self-harm. It’s not uncommon that a dog that has been “acting out”, is a dog feeling an overpowering sense of panic.

WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF PET SEPARATION ANXIETY?

 The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a “puppy boom”, adding a sizeable wrinkle to the already common mental health issue of pet separation anxiety.

Your new puppy has spent the entirety of their short lifetime with you. Now you’re being asked to come back to the office, even if only part-time. This is going to create a large cohort of “pandemic” puppies that have never experienced separation for their pet parent.

Let’s not forget the adult and senior dogs at home prior to the pandemic that have become accustomed to a gushing geyser of extra love and attention. This all-waking hours, nirvana dog state may soon evaporate resulting in widespread pet separation anxiety.

How does the end of WFH affect your dog?

The likelihood that your puppy will develop a bout of stress-related anxiety when you’re gone for 8-10 hours a day is not only possible, but probable. Not all dogs are bothered by this change, but many show symptoms. The reason – or root cause – for pet separation anxiety is not entirely clear.

Why?

A definitive answer remains elusive, even though separation-related distress is one of the most widely studied canine behaviors. There’s a lot of complexity surrounding pet behavioural issues. Limited research data makes it difficult for veterinary professionals to accurately predict the root cause of distress, what dogs may develop separation-related problems or how to prevent them.

From the America Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):

“A team led by scientists from the University of Lincoln in Lincoln, England, identified four main forms of distress for dogs when separated from their owners. These include a focus on getting away from something in the house, wanting to get to something outside, reacting to external noises or events, and a form of boredom. More than 2,700 dogs representing over 100 breeds were included in the study.

 The study highlights how different emotional states combine to produce problem behaviors in dogs. Although the unwanted behavior is first triggered by the owner’s departure, it arises because of a combination of risk factors that may include elements of the dog’s temperament, the type of relationship it has with the owner, and how the two of them interact.”

We may not be able to pinpoint the exact root cause, but we’re quite aware of the triggers that cause pet separation anxiety:

  • Being left alone for the first time
  • A move from a shelter to a new home
  • Family routine or schedule changes
  • Change of pet parent
  • Loss of a family member

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF PET SEPARATION ANXIETY?

Dogs display stress and anxiety in a myriad of ways. There is no single, defining indicator that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety as a variety of symptoms are usually exhibited.

It’s conceivable that age, breed and chronic medical conditions may manifest themselves as pet separation anxiety symptoms when, in fact, they are related to other issues. Yet, if your dog regularly shows several of these behaviours when left alone, they may be suffering from this condition.

10 Signs of Pet Separation Anxiety:

  1. Destructive acts such as scratching, chewing or digging holes, usually around doors and windows
  2. Drooling, salivating or panting beyond normal occurrences.
  3. Self-harm: Some dogs exhibit panic and escape behaviors that may result in injury. ie. Crating your dog when they’re not crate-trained.
  4. Excessive barking, howling, whining and trembling as you prepare to leave
  5. Accidents – urinating or defecating – from housebroken pets while you’re away
  6. Incessant pacing, sometimes in compulsive patterns
  7. Hyperventilation
  8. Vomiting and diarrhea
  9. Withdrawal and lethargy from normal daily activities
  10. Most dogs don’t like to eat alone and often wait until their pet parent returns home.

While at home, it’s likely you won’t see your dog show any severe behaviours. Under normal circumstances, you might occasionally observe some of these symptoms, but a dog with separation anxiety will do them repeatedly.

IS MY DOG IS AT RISK OF PET SEPARATION ANXIETY?

The root cause(s) of separation anxiety are not known. Predicting whose pet will or will not develop this condition is a fool’s errand. However, there are some factors that can influence whether certain dogs will become distressed.

Senior Dogs: Senior dogs tend to have higher rates of anxiety-related problems. Just like humans, our ability to tolerate changes in our environment decreases as age. Your dog is similar and abrupt or repeated changes to their daily routines are more likely to cause distress.

Recently Adopted Dogs: In some cases, it’s just assumed that dogs from shelters suffer from a higher rate of separation anxiety. Why? Is it because they already had behavioural issue and were surrendered? Quite possibly. Was the dog abandoned by their owners in the countryside, or perhaps, ran away from home only to be recovered by animal control? In any of these scenarios, the result is the same – a major lifestyle and environmental change – always a clear precursor of behavioural distress.

Pre-Existing Behavioural Issues: Some behavioural traits are baked in at birth and affect the general temperament of your particular breed. That’s the ‘nature’ part and this alone may intensify separation anxiety. The ‘nurture’ part is more controllable as there are methods to help reduce anxiety-causing issues.

Puppies: Not all puppies are predisposed to separation anxiety, but they offer their new pet parent a unique opportunity to lessen the possibility. Early in life, dogs tend to be more disaffected by new experiences – good or bad – just like humans. Taking steps toward the prevention of Pet Separation Anxiety along with successful puppy socialization is an opportunity not to be missed.

6 WAYS TO EASE YOUR DOG’S SEPARATION ANXIETY.

 As mentioned earlier, it’s not a slam-dunk that your dog will experience Pet Separation Anxiety. However, there are some measures you can take to help alleviate the possibility.

          1. Crate Training

Crate training is one of the most important training tools at your disposal. Some may believe it’s cruel – or even harmful – but if used appropriately, it provides your dog with a pleasant, quiet safe space.

2. Proper Exercise

Exercise can help treat and ease Pet Separation Anxiety, but it is no cure-all. Your dog – at a minimum – should get an adequate supply of age and size-appropriate physical exercise. An exhausted, satisfied dog is more likely to settle down when you depart.

3. Minimize Dependent Behaviour

When you have a dog that shows you loads of unconditional love, it’s difficult (nearly impossible!) to not reciprocate that affection in return, especially with a new puppy. They appreciate it too, but this may increase the possibility that separation anxiety will be more intense when you need to leave them alone for any period of time.

How to develop independence in your puppy:

  • Teach your puppy to be alone in another room, even when you’re at home.
  • Training your puppy with a solid “stay” can combat excessive attachment.
  • Play it cool when you leave or return from your home. Greet your dog with affection, but without being overly emotional.
  • If you return home to damage or accidents (likely!), don’t punish your dog under any circumstances as it only adds to their anxiety and intensifies the problem.

4. Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant and has been acknowledged to be useful for treating a variety of different health conditions, including anxiety in pets. Anecdotal reports from pet parents have stated that CBD oil helped alleviate the effects of anxiety in their pet. Although positive anti-anxiety effects attributed to CBD in pets has been documented, there is currently no scientific data (yet!) to support these claims.

5. Veterinary Intervention: Behavioural Modification and Medications

So, you’ve exhausted all of your own training and counter-conditioning measures and they have made little or no impact on your dogs’ behaviour.

What next?

Talk with our veterinarians.

If your dogs’ separation anxiety is worsening, medications (fluoxetine and clomipramine) or natural therapies (pheromones and aromatherapy) may be recommended – or a combination of both. Natural products have been known to show enhanced efficacy when coupled with prescription medications.

Our veterinarians will help you shape a treatment plan with the goal of helping your dog gain some measure of independence and accept time away from you as routine and natural. This would typically include a combination of re-training, preventive strategies and, in some advanced cases, medications.

6. Employ a Support Cat

CONCLUSION

Not every pet is prone to separation anxiety, but the ones that do need support. Anxiety levels generally increase over time, so pet parents should act quickly to prevent it from intensifying.

Sadly, there is no magic bullet or quick fix to repair this common behavioural issue. Once a pet parent’s anti-anxiety tactics are exhausted, the next step is professional help.

Our veterinary team is trained to screen pets for separation-related anxiety behaviours. With a complete assessment of your dog’s recent health and behaviour concerns, we can recommend an action plan to address the issue, tailored to suit their individual needs.

We’re here to help.

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

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

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Pet Food Marketing and Alternative Diets

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health

How Marketing and human nature shape our pet food choices

The change in mindset from pet ownership to parenting has not only shifted our attitudes about our furry family members over time, but has also been crucial in defining pet food industry trends.

Premiumization and humanization trends – also known as anthropomorphism – in pet parenting are two key drivers in the explosion of options in the pet food market. For this reason, the pet food market is heavy influenced by human nutrition. In turn, these two rising trends are boosting demand for alternative, organic, premium and custom-made pet food products.

But are the alternatives better?

Our knowledgeable Cabbagetown clients are proactive about health and exercise, not only for themselves, but for their pets, too. There is a small segment of pet parents that see a disparity between nutritional recommendations for humans to eat fresh, wholesome, organic, GMO-free, unprocessed foods and the unattractive, foul-smelling wet or dry food that they’re feeding their pets. Emotionally invested pet parents sometimes find the difference difficult to rationalize.

def. Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object.

Combine this emotionally-driven desire with the incessant bombardment of information from the mainstream media, social media and advice from friends and you could easily fall into diet analysis paralysis. As with human diet trends, misinformation can turn into popular belief with alarming ease.

How does a pet parent navigate the options?

Choosing the correct diet for your pet includes the following factors:

  • Age and Size: Nutritional needs are different between puppies and adults dogs; large breeds vs. small breeds
  • Pet Parent Lifestyle: How much time is available to spend for shopping and food preparation?
  • Food Allergies: Some pets are allergic to specific proteins or ingredients.
  • Activity Level: Service dogs have different caloric needs than house pets.
  • Palate Pleasing: Pet food has to taste and smell good – not to you, but your pet.

Marketing and Well-meaning Pet Parents

There are some genuinely valid reasons for pet parents to be skeptical of Big Pet Food. Like human food, the pet food industry has had issues with recalls, contaminations, ingredient substitutions and misleading packaging. It’s not hard to blame pet parents when they look at alternative diet regimens outside the mainstream when these issues get amplified.

Because regulations are thinly enforced, pet food budgets are heavily allocated towards advertising and marketing, in lieu of research. The proliferation of choice floods the marketplace making it difficult for pet parents – and veterinarians alike – to sort through the massive quantity of ‘noise’ in search of an optimal diet for their pets. Our veterinarians are trained to help cut through the noise.

In addition to the noise, long-term peer-reviewed studies on pet nutrition are difficult to come by. There isn’t a ton of evidence-based, clinical studies that to show that commercial pet food offers the best nutrition. Conversely, there is an even larger data gap lending support to non-traditional diets, such as raw food diets. Marketplace confusion reigns.

Unfortunately, economics don’t support investment in large-scale research for pet nutrition when the return on investment is driven by marketing budgets. There has been plenty of research for production animals because these studies are directly connected to human food supply.

There are outliers in this regard. Prescription diet companies – like Hill’s, Purina and Royal Canin – strive to understand how to maximize companion pet nutrition and thus spend significant sums on R&D to determine the best outcomes for pets, whether they’re healthy or have chronic conditions.

Regardless, large-scale, peer-reviewed pet nutrition studies remain elusive across the board. There simply aren’t enough widely-accepted industry studies on how commercial diets impact the long-term health of our furry family members. Until more research materializes, we will continue to rely on the expertise of those who have made concerted efforts to research and test – our trusted prescription diet providers.

Alternative Diets for Pets

We will touch on three types of alternative diets for pets. This is by no means a complete examination of the options available, but these tend to be the most dominant alternatives to off-the-shelf, commercial options. This list is NOT something we advocate, but we also respect the deep beliefs that some pet parents adhere to – this dietary decision is a very personal choice to be made ONLY by the pet parent.

1. RAW FOOD DIETS

What are the benefits of raw food diets for pets?

Advocates of raw food diets offer two seemingly compelling arguments: a health-based claim that their pets have more energy, glossier coats, better dental health, healthier skin and smaller poops. The evidence backing these observations is anecdotal, at best. To date, no published peer-reviewed studies exist to support claims made by raw diet advocates.

They also contend that the diet more closely resembles the diet that their pets’ wild, pre-domesticated ancestors consumed. Probably true, but humans overall health and life expectancy would be considerably compromised if we consumed the same diet as our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This belief does not account for biological, evolutionary and dietary changes that have complemented domestication over the millennia. Today’s pets show little behavioural resemblance to the dogs and cats we currently share our lives with.

Q:  What is a raw food diet?

A:  As the name implies, it is food that is not cooked prior to feeding your pet – usually a dog. A raw food diet usually includes some (or all) of the following:

  • muscle meat from other animals
  • whole or ground bones
  • organ meats, such as liver and kidney
  • raw eggs, vegetables or fruit
  • dairy products, such as unpasteurized yogurt or milk

Q: What are the risks of a raw food diet?

There are two primary risks. First, is the risk of nutritional imbalances – this applies to both home-prepared and commercial raw food diets. Secondly, is the risk associated with bacterial or parasitic contamination. Food poisoning – specifically salmonella – is a concern for humans in the household. Proper handling of raw foods is crucial for reducing the risk, but safety cannot be guaranteed.

Q:  What is American Veterinary Medical Associations (AVMA) – the big brother to our own Canadian version CVMA – policy on raw diets? Does this apply to ALL raw food fed to pets or just a certain type?

A:  The AVMA does not outright discourage this diet; it only addresses processes required to eliminate pathogens in raw or undercooked animal-source protein, including meat or products from chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, fish, deer, buffalo, or any other animal source. It also includes raw, unpasteurized eggs and milk.

Q:  When preparing raw food, what safeguards are needed to protect against bacteria and parasitic contamination?

A:  Safe food handling practices for raw animal products:

  • Practice good food hygiene and sanitation.
  • Consider cooking the raw food before feeding it to your pet, if eschewing commercial foods is your goal
  • Select products that have been treated to remove pathogens when purchasing commercial raw diets
  • A damaged raw food product container should not be purchased
  • Keep food frozen until ready to use; refrigerate or pitch leftovers.
  • Avoid any cross-contamination by keeping the raw meat meant for your pet separated from meat intended for your family,
  • Do not handle raw meat intended for your pet in the same area(s) or use the same utensils or equipment used for preparing food for your family.
  • Never allow cooked food to come into contact with raw meat, unless they are then cooked at temperatures to kill bacteria.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit prior to feeding.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw food.
  • Clean pet dishes, surfaces, cutting boards and utensils on the reg
  • Thoroughly control insects and pests that may be drawn to raw meat as they can spread contamination.
2. HOMEMADE ORGANIC DIETS

Intuitively, it makes sense that an organic diet made with natural ingredients, such as beef, chicken, lamb, peas, spinach, carrots and blueberries would achieve the best possible outcome for your pets’ overall well being – just like it would for us.

def. Projection: the attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects

As a result, some pet parents have the view that a home-cooked, organic diet is safer, more natural and healthier than a commercially available diet. They’re not necessarily wrong – it just pre-supposes that a well-balanced, organic diet for humans is comparable and beneficial within another species. Again, this view is led by the factors mentioned earlier: anthropomorphism and projection, as well as overabundance of marketing messages. It’s certainly possible this diet is ideal – there just isn’t enough peer-reviewed science to offer substantial proof.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to this diet alternative is that purchasing, preparation and cooking for your pet is very demanding on your time and finances. If you are fortunate enough to undertake such a formidable task, then you’re one of the lucky ones. Organic recipes for pets proliferate online to keep the options fresh. Alternatively, you can take the time element away and subscribe to a fresh, pet food service delivered right to your door.

Sounds like a great solution, right?

Before you dive in, it might be informative to review some of the drawbacks.

  • Most homemade or subscription diets do not undergo the scrutiny and rigorous testing applied to prescription diets. Nor do they address the unique nutritional requirements needed for your specific – sometimes chronic or hereditary – pets’ circumstances.
  • Pets may have their own philosophical view. In Western society, we expect variety in our food choices. Pets don’t hold the same attitude. Most are perfectly comfortable eating the same food day after day – as long as it meets their nutritional requirements, feeding times are consistent and it tastes good.
  • There’s a limited quantity of organic meat and produce available for subscription plans, never mind the expense at the your local Loblaws or Whole Foods these days. High quality, organic ingredients are difficult to procure for pet food makers because of high demand for organic products in the human market. Unfortunately, what’s allocated for the pet food market is generally lower quality.
3. GRAIN-FREE DIETS

Commercial dog food brands started making grain-free options because pet parents demanded it. 

Why?

The shift away from grains can be traced back to a recall of tainted Chinese kibble in 2007, as documented by the New York Times. It was found that wheat gluten from a single pet food supplier of kibble was contaminated with melamine. This was bad – it’s a compound purported to negatively affect kidney function.

That article was enough to create worries about wheat – and more generally, grains – to veer away from science into myth. Through a mix of self-proclaimed pet nutrition experts and well-meaning social media users whose failure to do the research presented their opinion as factual and scientific.

This myth about dogs and grains spread in much the same way that trends that fuel such things as juice cleanses or paleo diets have spread virally for humans – via the internet.

To provide an idea of the viral spread of misinformation, less than one percent of North Americans have celiac disease – a damaging autoimmune response to gluten. In 2012, as much as 30 percent of the United States population was reducing their gluten intake, despite the lack of scientific evidence that gluten is harmful in most people. A large number of those people applied the same logic to their pets. By the end of 2017, grain-free diets account for 44% of the pet food market.

In the few years since the explosion of grain-free diets, reports began to surface about a rare heart condition in dogs called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This went beyond breeds that have a genetic predisposition to DCM. Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still ongoing, but the common link to this condition appears to be a diet heavy in peas, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes – carbohydrates intended to replace grains.

If a client truly embraces a belief about a certain type of diet, it’s difficult to shake them out of their faith with factual arguments. Whether or not their devotion is grounded in nutritional science, they are nonetheless devoted.

The psychology behind their beliefs is easy to understand – pet parents are passionate about their beloved pets. The challenge in veterinary medicine is trying to dispel these hardened beliefs or misinformation, especially when a (new) pet owner is emotionally invested.

We respect our client’s choices, but also feel it’s important to take a holistic view of your pets’ well-being, minus the outside marketing noise.

We’re here to be your trusted nutritional advisor.

Our veterinarians are independent thinkers and recommend products they feel will best serve their patients’ and clients’ 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.

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