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The Pet Parent Guide to Heartworm Disease

By Pet Health

Heartworm Disease and your pet

30-Second Summary

  • Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. In its mature, reproductive form, this foot-long worm normally exists in and around the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets.
  • A dog (or cat) may be infected with heartworms and show no clinical signs. If clinical signs do transpire, the disease is likely well advanced and will be more difficult to treat.
  • When an infected mosquito bites another dog, the infective larvae are dumped onto the surface of the animal’s skin. They then proceed to enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound.
  • Our feline friends are atypical hosts for heartworms, as most worms do not survive to the adult stage.
  • Heartworm disease often goes undetected in cats, so it’s important to test periodically.
  • The medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used with cats. Therefore, prevention is the only way of protecting your cat from the harmful effects of heartworm disease.
  • The 5 Most Frequently Asked Heartworm Disease Questions: Answered

When it comes to keeping your pet parasite-free, the least likely condition to infect your pet – but potentially the most damaging – is Heartworm disease. As Part 3 of the Unholy Pet Parasite Trinity, we answer all the questions you were afraid to ask.

Part 1:   Ticks and Canine Lyme Disease
Part 2:   Meet the Enemy: Fleas

Mosquitos are the worst. Go ahead, name an organism that has resulted in the deaths of more people over human history. They are among the world’s deadliest vectors for disease, including Zika, West Nile, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Malaria and….Heartworm.

Heartworm disease occurs largely in dogs, but incidences can occur in our feline friends, too. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside a dog can mature into adults, mate and produce offspring.

The disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. In its mature, reproductive form, this foot-long worm normally exists in and around the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets.

If left untreated, heartworm can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs and sometimes, death.

The number of dogs that test positive for heartworm in North America has been steadily rising, despite the efforts of the veterinary community to increase pet parent awareness. Projections indicate that with a warming climate, these numbers will only continue to rise as the disease continues it’s northerly expansion from the southern US into Canada.

What are Heartworms?

As the name implies, Heartworm is a worm-like parasite that can grow up to 8-12 inches (!) at maturity. Once infected by a wayward mosquito, your pet becomes a ‘carrier’ or reservoir of infection.

Infectious heartworm larvae take about six to seven months to make their way to the heart, mature into adults and begin to produce new offspring – called microfilariae.

Adult worms tend to migrate and gather around the heart and the arteries that supply the lungs, while the microfilariae circulate throughout the bloodstream before reaching adulthood.

A dog (or cat) may be infected with heartworms and show no clinical signs. If clinical signs do transpire, the disease is likely well advanced and will be more difficult to treat.

How is Heartworm Disease Spread?

The mosquito is the central, dreadful actor who plays a critical role in the life cycle of heartworms. They are truly the bane of our existence.

As mentioned above, adult female heartworms reside in infected mammals – dog, fox, coyote, or wolf – and (re)produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria. These offspring circulate in the bloodstream of infected animals as they mature.

When a mosquito bites and takes a blood lunch from an infected animal, it picks up the microfilariae (plural). Over the period of 10 to 14 days, they then develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae.

When the infected mosquito bites another dog, or any other animal including cats, the infective larvae are dumped onto the surface of the animal’s skin. It then proceeds to enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound.

Once they inhabit the new host, it takes nearly 6 months for the larvae to develop into sexually mature adult heartworms. In adulthood, heartworms can live for 5 – 7 years in dogs and up to 2 – 3 years in cats.

Because of their longevity and heartiness, each mosquito season can have a cumulative effect and increase the number of worms in an infected pet.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Detecting heartworm disease early on can be a challenge, as many dogs exhibit few symptoms or none at all. This is why prevention is key – the longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop.

As for outward signs of the disease, dogs severely infected with heartworms, active dogs or dogs with other underlying health conditions are most likely to display distinct clinical symptoms.

Signs of heartworm disease in your dog may include:

  • Unwillingness to exercise
  • Reduced appetite
  • A mild, but persistent cough
  • Tiredness after moderate activity
  • Weight loss

As the disease advances, dogs may develop heart, liver or kidney failure and a swollen abdomen due to excess fluids.

If there are very large aggregations of heartworms, dogs can develop an abrupt blockage of blood flow within the heart. This is called Caval Syndrome and is evident by the start of heavy, laboured breathing, pale gums and dark, bloody urine. This is the worst-case scenario – few dogs survive without immediate surgical removal of the heartworm blockage.

Heartworm in Cats? 

Our feline friends are atypical hosts for heartworms, as most worms do not survive to the adult stage. If heartworms reach the adult stage in cats, they typically have just one to three worms. Dogs can have hundreds of mature heartworms.

Heartworm disease often goes undetected in cats, so it’s important to test periodically – especially if your cat is allowed outdoors. The medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats. Therefore, prevention is the only way of protecting your cat from the harmful effects of heartworm disease.

Heartworm Disease Symptoms in Cats

Signs of Heartworm disease in cats can be subtle or glaringly obvious.

Symptoms may include:

  • Suppressed appetite
  • Coughing or hacking
  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Weight loss
  • Sporadic vomiting

As for the glaringly obvious, an affected cat may struggle to walk, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid buildup in their belly. In extreme cases, the first sign is the last sign – sudden collapse or sudden death.

How Often Should I Test My Dog for Heartworm?

Ideally, all dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, especially in high-risk areas. An antigen test is easily administered during any routine visit for preventive care.

American Heartworm Society Guidelines on Testing and Timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be begin on heartworm treatments without a heartworm test, as a positive test for infection takes up to 6 months to be detected.
  • Testing should begin 6 months after your initial visit, and then again 6 months later. Yearly testing after that ensure they are heartworm-free.
  • Dogs older than 7 months and not on a preventive treatment plan need to be blood-tested for antigens before starting heartworm prevention. It’s recommended they be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.

Annual testing is important – even if your dog is on heartworm prevention year-round – to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective – but not quite 100%. It’s possible that dogs can still become infected. Miss a dose or give it late could open a window to infection.

Our Cabbagetown Care Wellness plans include Heartworm and Tick blood screens on an annual basis to keep these parasites at bay.

What if my dog tests positive for Heartworm?

A Heartworm diagnosis is bad news. The good news is that the majority of infected dogs can be successfully treated. The treatment goal is straightforward: stabilize your dog if showing signs of the disease, and then kill all adult and undeveloped worms while keeping side effects to a minimum.

What to expect if your dog tests positive:

Diagnosis Confirmation: Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis may be confirmed through additional testing, such as x-rays or an ultrasound exam. Treatment for Heartworm is expensive and complex – additional testing measures by our veterinary team are needed as to absolutely ensure treatment is required.

Exercise Limits: If your dog is used to being active, this requirement may be hard to manage. Normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, as physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. Simply put, the more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.

Stabilizing the Disease: Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, the process can take several months.

Treatment Protocols: Once our veterinarians have determined your dog is stable enough for treatment, she will recommend a treatment plan, usually involving several steps to recovery.

The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease have a high success rate with treatment.

Severe disease can also be treated, but the possibility of complications is increased. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.

What if my cat tests positive for Heartworm?

Cats are not ideal hosts for heartworms. However, the risk of infection still exists. Some infections resolve on their own, but can leave lasting respiratory system damage.

Diagnosis. Difficulty: High. The severity of heartworm disease in dogs is proportionate to the number of worms – just one or two worms can make a cat quite sick. Detection can be complex, usually requiring a physical exam, an X-ray and/or ultrasound and a complete blood screen.

Treatment. There is no approved drug therapy for heartworm infection in cats – drugs used to treat dogs is not safe for their feline counterparts. Great veterinary care from the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic is the treatment. The goal is to stabilize your cat and establish a long-term management plan. If mild symptoms persist, small doses of prednisolone may be administered to help reduce inflammation.

Prevention. If your cat is allowed to explore outdoors, it’s highly recommended that you provide them with monthly heartworm preventives. Preventatives for indoor cats are not mission-critical.

How can I protect my dog from Heartworm disease?

Prevention: A preventative treatment plan is, without doubt, THE best deterrent against Heartworm disease. Couple this with our Cabbagetown Care Wellness Plans and all your bases are covered. Treatments after the fact are available, but may be associated with increased health risks and tend to be expensive. Simple oral medications, such as Simparica Trio – typically administered monthly – have been shown to be very effective for the prevention of heartworm disease, as well as providing protection against ticks and fleas.

Avoidance: By reducing walking or exercising during peak mosquito periods – typically at dawn and dusk – you can help lessen, but not eliminate, the risk of mosquito bites. Note: indoor pets are not immune to heartworm disease, as mosquitos can fly into a home or apartment through open doors or windows.

Eliminate: Reduce the amount of standing water on your property, especially in rural areas of the province – mosquitos love and thrive that type of environment.

The Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Heartworm Disease Questions

Q: Can my dog die from Heartworm Disease?

A: Yes, but not likely if treated.

Heartworm disease is multifaceted and can distress many vital organs. As a result, the undesirable outcomes of this infection can differ significantly among dogs.

Adult worms – left untreated – cause inflammation of blood vessels which can result in severe heart, liver or kidney failure to the point of no return. Prevention is key.

Q: Do I need a prescription for my pet’s heartworm preventative medication? If so, why?

A: The short answer is yes. Heartworm preventives – such as Simparica Trio – must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Before writing a prescription for a heartworm preventive, our veterinarians perform a 4DX blood test to check for antigens to ensure your pet doesn’t already have adult heartworms.

Why? Although rare, prescribing preventatives to a pet that already has heartworm has been known to lead to severe reactions that could be harmful or fatal.

Q: I live in Canada. Does my pet need year-round heartworm protection?

A: In the United States, the American Heartworm Society recommends a year-round prevention program. In Canada, we follow their recommendations. Diagnoses of heartworms have been found in almost every northern state and, by extension, Canada.

Mosquito species thrive in warmer climates, but are relentlessly adapting to cooler climates as well. Climate change is a factor adding to this northerly creep.

Q: Can I get Heartworm Disease from my dog?

A: You can relax. No amount of petting – or any forms of pet contact – will result in transmission. The parasite is spread ONLY though the bite of a mosquito – it’s the only known vector for Heartworm disease acquisition. It’s a very precise parasite that affects dogs, cats and other mammals, but it’s extremely rare in humans.

Q: Can my dog get a vaccine for Heartworm Disease?

A: No. Currently, there is no vaccine available for the prevention of heartworm disease in dogs or cats.

Heartworm disease can only be prevented through the regular use of preventive medications prescribed by your veterinarian. These medications offer the added benefit of preventing other parasites – namely, ticks and fleas – as well.

Left untreated, Heartworm disease is a severe, progressive illness. Early detection is critical, as this gives your pet the best chance of recovery.

The best treatment for your pet is always year-round, all-in prevention – Simparica Trio covers all the bases.

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Pet Insurance: Inner Peace For Your Wallet?

By Pet Health

From homes, autos, vacations and even our smartphones, we purchase insurance to protect our most precious possessions. A beloved furry family member certainly qualifies as ‘precious’ in any household.

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

Serious illness or accidents can result in a severe financial hit for some people. Cancer treatments can run into the thousands. Fixing a broken bone from an ill-timed or less-than-elegant launch off the living room couch can exceed $3000.

Injury or Illness Typical Cost*
Hit by car     $1987
Foreign body ingestion $7552
Poisonous plant ingestion $2247
Lymphoma  $3500 and up
Bilateral cruciate rupture $5800

*costs reflect procedures in major metropolitan areas based on Trupanion’s research and experience.

Unless you literally keep you pet “on a short leash” and take every measure to keep them from harm, there will always exist the possibility of a large, unplanned bill you didn’t budget for. Not only do you feel the pain of your injured or sick pet, the pain in your bank account can be just as devastating. In some dire circumstances, we see pet parents put in the difficult position of considering “economic euthanasia” as an option. With pet insurance, this situation can be avoided.

Pet insurance helps to remove the sharp edges of uncertainty.

How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?

Pets aren’t cars, but the analogy holds true – pet insurance is similar to auto insurance. Unlike autos, it not illegal to walk your dog without insurance.

Quite simply, you select a coverage plan and pay a monthly premium. The coverage you select will depend on what you want to have covered. This can range from just accidents to the whole enchilada – accidents, illnesses and wellness components, such as vaccinations, prescriptions and exams.

Not only will the scope of the coverage matter in how much your monthly premium will cost, but other factors matter, too: this include your pet’s species, age, breed, area code and reproductive status.

Once you have decided on the level of coverage, you pick a deductible that makes sense for your unique situation. This amount is what you pay out-of-pocket when submitting a claim. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium and vice versa. The insurance company covers the rest.

In general, veterinarians do not directly process pet insurance claims. It’s important to mention that when a pet needs emergent medical care, you and your veterinarian make independent decisions on what treatments to pursue – not the insurance company.

Typically, the entire bill gets paid at the clinic and then you submit a claim to your insurance provider. If covered, the insurance company reimburses you for a percentage of the bill – this is all based upon your plan’s coverage at this point. The drawback is that this requires you to have enough cash or credit on hand to pay the bill while waiting to get reimbursed by the insurance company.

Some pet insurance companies offer to pay the vet clinic costs directly, as is the case for our preferred partner, Trupanion. No waiting for reimbursement.

What Are The Different Types Of Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance companies offer a wide array of different products, but the main types of insurance products areas follows:

  • Accident Only: As you might expect, accident only pet insurance covers the cost of treatment for your pet if it’s been involved in an accident. ie. hit by car, swallows a sock (hello Labs!)
  • Accident and Illness: same as above, but also covers illnesses such as diabetes, heartworm and cancer.
  • Insurance with Wellness Riders: covers accident and illness and may include a preventative wellness element such as vaccinations, annual exams and/or acupuncture treatments.

How Much Are Premiums? Deductibles?

Premiums

The monthly premium you pay is based on the species, breed, age and area code of your pet. In general, there is a small difference in cost between a dog and cat – a difference normally due to the types of veterinary services that each animal needs.

In Canada, the average monthly insurance premium for basic pet insurance is $39 for a dog and $29 for a cat. So, for your beloved canine or feline partner-in-crime, you can expect to pay between $350-$475 per year.

Deductibles

The advantage of a higher deductible is a lower monthly premium. However, this means that you’ll have to cover more out-of-pocket services first before the insurance kicks in.

A higher premium with a lower deductible could save you a lot of money a longer timeframe, if you have a pet known to have persistent health problems, such as French bulldogs (ear infections and conjunctivitis) or a German Shepherd (hip dysplasia).

In Canada, you’ll find three categories of deductibles:

  • Per Condition (yearly): A deductible for each condition; resets every year
  • Per-Condition (lifetime): A separate deductible for each condition
  • Annual: One deductible for any condition.

Lifetime/Annual Payout Limits

Many pet insurance companies in Canada have limits on what the insurance will pay out in a calendar year or in a lifetime. Some companies offer an annual limits of up to $15000, while others will have no lifetime ceilings – Trupanion – after the deductible conditions have been met.

Most pet insurance plans allow you to customize a policy to placate your budget by varying the deductible amounts or the annual limit caps. This will allow you to factor in how much you would be likely to spend in veterinary bills versus the cost of the premium.

What Isn’t Covered By Pet Health Insurance?

Pet health insurance plans DO NOT cover pre-existing conditions. A Pre-Existing Condition as defined by our preferred provider – Trupanion:

“A pre-existing condition is any injury or illnesses that your pet shows symptoms of before coverage begins.” They look for “any condition that presented before enrolling in a policy or during the waiting periods (5 days for injuries, 30 days for illnesses) to determine what is a pre-existing condition and not eligible for coverage.”

How an insurance provider determines what is considered a “pre-existing condition” will vary by company. Read the fine print for their definition of a “pre-existing condition”, ask questions and get a detailed list of what’s covered before you sign on the dotted line.

Half of all pets will have a major illness in their lifetime. That said, 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.

However, treatment can be pricey – veterinary bills can add up to thousand of dollars. Is it pet insurance worth it? We’ve seen pet insurance significantly rise in North America and we see it locally in Cabbagetown – more pet parents are taking the step to protect their pet – and themselves – then ever before.

We Trupanion. 

Trupanion Canada is our preferred pet insurance partner and just happens to be one of the largest providers in Canada. They keep pet insurance simple by offering a single (and excellent) pet insurance plan that will cover the needs of most pet parents.

They have an industry-leading reimbursement rate of 90% with the ability to directly invoice your veterinarian through their Vet Direct Pay feature. This eliminates a potentially large upfront, out-of-pocket payment to your veterinarian, including us. Instead, the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic submits a claim when you check out – you only pay a portion of your bill while Trupanion pays the rest directly to our clinic. Easy-peasy…

  • The deductible is per condition
  • Direct payment to your veterinarian option
  • Reimbursement is 90% of your actual veterinary bill
  • No lifetime limits on accidents and illness coverage

Find out how to receive 30 days of FREE coverage at your next appointment.

TL;DR

If you believe your pet – especially a higher-maintenance breed – may put you in a position where you’ll have difficulty covering a large, out-of-pocket bill, pet insurance may be your ticket some peace of mind.

Like most insurance policies, it’s a bit of a gamble. Unexpected events happen – you just hope it doesn’t happen to your pet.

Make sure you grasp what is (and isn’t) covered, policy caps, reimbursement levels and any other fees you may need to pay if you need to use your plan, BEFORE you purchase a policy.

Take the time to research ALL options and get online quotes – arm yourself with information (there’s no shortage of it!) to help make a decision that suits your individual needs best.

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.

Dogs vs. Canadian Winters

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health

Cold Weather Dog Safety

Keeping Your Four-legged Family Members Safe in Cold Weather

Our furry, doggo friends are an integral part of the family. And as the leader of the pack, Pet Parents must ensure that their dog is prepared to endure the rigours of a long, Canadian winter. Your dog is counting on you to keep them safe in cold weather.

A solid coat of fur is the first line of defence against cold weather, but this alone is not enough to protect dogs from the elements. They – much like people – have varying degrees of tolerance when it comes to temperature extremes. Even the hardiest breeds are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.

How Cold Is Too Cold For My Dog?

Know your dog’s limitations

Just like people, dogs have different levels of cold tolerance. How cold is too cold for your dog is knowledge gained over time. Cold tolerance varies from pet to pet based on their activity level, coat, body fat stores and overall health.

Things to consider:

  • Arthritic and elderly dogs may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling.
  • Dogs with longer hair tend to be more tolerant of cold temperatures, but are still at risk over time. Conversely, short-haired pets have less protection and may be more susceptible to hyperthermia.
  • Short-legged dogs tend to feel chills earlier because their torsos are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground.
  • Dogs that suffer from underlying medical conditions – such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease or hormonal imbalances – may have more difficulty regulating body temperature. This can lead to problems at temperature extremes.

Given these factors, be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your dog.

Still unsure about how cold is too cold?

Stay inside.

How Can I Keep My Dog Safe in Cold Weather?

1. Protect Your Dog from Common Winter Chemicals

Antifreeze is chemical commonly used in winter is a lethal poison for dogs. And cats, rabbits, squirrels and any number of other animals, for that matter. If you’re replacing coolant or antifreeze in your garage or driveway, make sure to thoroughly clean up any spills without delay. Consult your vet immediately if your dog ingests even a small amount – a seemingly insignificant amount can be fatal. Not sure if your dog has ingested antifreeze?

The following severe symptoms require immediate medical care:

  • Unsteady or uncoordinated movement
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat and weakness
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Coma, unresponsiveness

Road salt and de-icers are frequently used on sidewalks to keep them clear of ice. These, too, are generally chemical-based and can easily burn a dog’s pads. During walks, your dog’s paws, legs and belly may attract de-icers, antifreeze or other chemicals that could be toxic. Inspect your dog’s paws after a walk outside and wipe them with a warm, damp towel, if necessary. Shorter dogs may also need their bellies wiped down.

2. Feeding an Appetite in Cold Weather

Exercise during the cold, winter months is often limited. Snowstorms, freezing temperatures and Pet Parent motivation all play a role in staying inside. Hibernation-mode is a thing in Canada.  

Your dog is likely to consume more food during the winter months because extra calories are required to generate sufficient body heat and energy to keep them warm. Because of this, it’s tempting to increase your dog’s caloric intake or allowing excess snacking during this time of year.

This is a mistake.

Extra weight can lead to joint or respiratory problems, and may cause underlying medical issues – such as arthritis – to become worse.

If your feel the need to add extra calories to your dogs diet, our veterinarians can provide expert guidance based on your dog’s breed, age and health history.

3. Make a Fashion Statement While Protecting Your Dog

Dogs at higher risk of hypothermia – young, old, ill, thin, or short-haired dogs – may need to wear a sweater to protect them from extreme temperatures. For small dogs in particular, sweaters are an important addition to their wardrobe during the cold weather months. Why? Small dogs have a greater body surface area to body weight ratio.

Sometimes, we see dogs wearing booties and think it looks absolutely absurd. From a practicality standpoint, booties are much more than a fashion statement – they can help dogs with traction on snow or ice, protect their paws from extreme cold and shield paw pads from getting cut on ice.

4. Automobiles Can Act Like a Freezer

During the cold, winter months, your automobile can act like a freezer. Hot cars are a well-known threat to dogs, but subzero cars also pose a substantial risk to your pet’s health. A car parked outside in the extreme cold can turn into freezer in short order.

Pets who are young, old, or ill are particularly at risk for becoming hypothermic and should never be left in cold cars, even if your think you’ll be back in a moments notice.

How can I tell if my dog is too cold?

What are the signs that my dog has hypothermia?

Dogs have a high tolerance for the cold – much more than humans. Don’t they? Given their thick, shiny coat of fur, it’s a natural assumption. However, for most breeds, it’s just not the case. Pets are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite just like their pet parents and it’s our responsibility to recognize it.

It’s easy to infer that higher risk pets include the young or old, those with little body fat – hello Greyhounds! – and those with medical conditions that are exacerbated in cold conditions. Hypothyroidism? Check.

Given the puppy boom of 2020, it is imperative for new dog owners to take every precaution necessary to protect their new family member as they experience their first winter.

Hypothermia Symptoms for Dogs:

  • Intense shivering.
  • Lethargic behaviour – stops moving or slows down unexpectedly.
  • Slow or shallow breathing patterns, or a slower heart rate.
  • Pallid gums underneath their lips.
  • Excessive whining; appears restless or anxious.

What to do if you suspect your dog has hypothermia

First things first: immediately bring your pet indoors, put them in a warm, dry spot and wrap in warm blankets from the dryer. It only takes a few minutes to heat them up. While you wait, take the opportunity to dry off your pet using a towel or a hair dryer on a low setting. Pets should be warmed up slowly, as they can be easily burned!

Some pet parents resort to hot water bottles, although this comes with risk if they are too hot or not applied properly. They should never be used without being wrapped in a towel. Even then, precaution is a must. If you feel this step in necessary, place the towel-wrapped bottles against the groin or by the armpits where there’s less fur.

If you believe your pet is suffering from hypothermia or frostbite, contact our clinic immediately.

Talk to Our Veterinarians About Cold Weather Protection For Your Dog

Have you considered enrolling in our Cabbagetown Care Wellness Program? There’s no better way to keep tabs on your dog’s immediate needs for the winter months ahead.

If not, we recommend our veterinarians examine your pet once a year – at least. Having your dog checked at our clinic can help ensure that problems don’t worsen when the temperature dips. This is especially true in colder climates, such as Toronto. Being aware of your dog’s risk factors will ensure that you and your dog are prepared for cold months ahead.

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.

Spaying and Neutering | the ABC’s

By Pet Health
30-second summary:
  • 6 to 8 million unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized each year.
  • In 6 years, just one female dog and her descendants are capable of breeding 67,000 puppies! 
  • Spaying reduces the likelihood of uterine infections and breast tumors. Tumors are malignant in around 50% of dogs and 90% of cats.
  • Aggression and territory marking are behaviors that can be curtailed or avoided by early neutering.
  • The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has raised concerns about the relationship between pre-puberty neuters and joint disorders and cancer in dogs.
  • The timing of a spay or neuter should always be in consultation with our veterinary team. Their knowledge of your pet’s particular breed and possible disease risk are your best guideposts.

The puppy/kitten pet population has greatly expanded in 2020, as people are adding furry family members at an amazing pace. As a recent new pet parent, you’re probably thinking about the next step – getting your pet spayed or neutered.

In animal shelters all over North America, 6 to 8 million unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized each year. That’s a lot of needless death. Although this statistic seems astounding, it’s easy to envision if you consider:

A single pair of cats can produce 8 kittens in a year. If each of those 8 kittens produces an average of another 8 kittens per year, well, you can see where the math is headed. Left to their own biological drives, almost 300,000 cats are in the family tree by Year 6. In Year 7, the descendants of the original mother and father will number almost 2.4 million.

Yikes !

This is an extreme example, but cats will be prolific if left to their own devices. And if you think this doesn’t hit close to home, think again – these are issues in our own backyard. A recent TVO documentary – Cats of Cornwall – shines a spotlight on how a runaway cat population can go from “cute” to “invasive species” territory in a heartbeat.

Dog reproduction is slightly less extreme, but anyone who’s wandered the backstreets of a developing country can attest to the high level of pain and suffering experienced daily by a local “pot licker”. Food for thought: In 6 years, just one female dog and its offspring are capable of generating 67,000 puppies!

These shockingly high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.

What is the difference between spay and neuter?

The medical term for a “spay” is an ovariohysterectomy and is performed under general anesthesia. It involves removal of the female’s uterus and both ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen.

Neutering – or orchiectomy – is the surgical removal of one or both male testes. Also performed under general anesthesia, an incision is made near the front of the scrotum where the veterinarian will proceed to remove the testicles.

Spaying your pet has multiple benefits:

  • Prevention of unwanted pets and overpopulation.
  • Prevention of uterine infections and breast tumours. These are malignant or cancerous in around 50% of dogs and 90% of cats.
  • Eliminate heat cycles. In the case of felines, they usually go into heat 4 to 5 days every three weeks during breeding periods. Spaying your female cat or dog reduces yowling,  erratic behaviour and bloody vaginal discharge.
  • Cost control. The cost of your pet’s spay surgery is far less than the cost – not to mention the time – of caring for a litter. A uterine infection or tumour that requires emergency surgery can result in a vet bill of thousands of dollars.

Why neutering your pet is the right decision:

  • Prevention of testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
  • Prevention of unwanted litters, thus reducing pet overpopulation.
  • Cost control. The cost of your pet’s neuter surgery is far less than the cost – not to mention the time – of caring for a litter.
  • Resolution of (some) behavioural issues. Your dog might be less likely to mount other dogs, people and inanimate objects after castration. Aggression and marking their territory are behaviours that can be curtailed or avoided by early neutering.

At what age should a pet be spayed or neutered?

CANINES

According to the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, it’s recommended that small-breed dogs be neutered at 6 months or spayed prior to the first heat – 5 to 6 months of age. Large-breed dogs should be neutered after growth stops – usually between 9 and 15 months.

The timing of spaying a large-breed female dog is based on many factors – our veterinarians can help define an optimal time within the AAHA-recommended window of 5 to15 months, based on your dog’s disease risk and lifestyle.

FELINES 

The first heat cycle for female kittens is usually at the age of 5 or 6 months. The AAHA has endorsed the Fix Felines by Five initiative that recommends the spaying and neutering of cats by 5 months of age. However, it is generally considered safe for kittens as young as 8 weeks old to be sterilized.

SPECIAL OFFER:

Receive a 25% discount on spay/neuter procedures when you enroll in our Cabbagetown Care Pet Wellness program. You will also receive a free, one-year membership ($50 value) when you sign up with our Client Support Partner, GoFetch.ca. Get 5% cash rewards and 24/7 telemedicine access to veterinary care.

What does recent research say about when to spay or neuter your pet ?

There is limited data concerning the absolute best age to spay and neuter pets. In 2013, the University of California, Davis led research on golden retrievers that raised eyebrows in the world of veterinary medicine concerning early spaying and neutering. UC-Davis established that early sterilization prevented many issues, but also appeared to increase the risk of others. These included “cranial cruciate ligament rupture, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumours, lymphosarcoma, and hip dysplasia”. Again, this was breed specific and not found to be analogous in all dogs.

Of particular concern about early spay/neuters are joint disorders and cancer. Because the procedure removes the male testes and the female ovaries, this can cause disruption of certain hormones that play significant roles internally, such as the closure of the growth plates of bones and regulation of the estrous cycle in female dogs.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) – THE trusted voice in veterinary care – continues to monitor ongoing research closely. Their guidelines are backed up research that shows that behavioral problems, orthopeadic disease, obesity, endocrine disorders, cancer and urinary incontinence may be linked to sterilization status and the age at which the procedure is performed. In a nutshell, they’ve determined that there may be long-term health benefits to spaying or neutering dogs after they have passed through puberty.

So, when to neuter a large breed dog? As an elective procedure, pet parents ultimately make the decision to neuter their dog – or not. Any surgical procedure has risks. Add that to the uncertainty of potential medical issues that cannot be denied and this decision has the potential to make your head spin. The fact the pet overpopulation is a HUGE problem should help guide your ultimate decision.

If your choice is to neuter, consult with our veterinarians. They’ll help you make an informed decision on the optimal time to neuter your particular breed and determine if any underlying conditions may affect a positive outcome. If you choose to forgo the procedure, know that you will need to be constantly hyper-vigilant to prevent your dog from escaping your control, lest they find a female in heat.

Research continues – especially with different canine breeds – to help understand the cause and effect of sterilization and the relationship between spay/neuter status and disease prevalence.

Cabbagetown Pet Clinic is steadfast in our belief that the benefits of spay/neuter significantly outweigh the risks in the majority of cases.

The decision to spay or neuter your pet is a socially accepted no-brainer in most circles, unless you’re an above-board, licensed breeder or there’s an underlying medical concern expressed by our veterinarians. The “when” part should always be in consultation with our veterinary team. They are your most up-to-date resource. Their knowledge of your pet’s particular breed and possible disease risk will help you make an informed decision about a suitable age for your pet’s procedure.

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

Location and Hours

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Puppy-socialization

Puppy Socialization: A Complete Overview

By Pet Health

Socializing your puppy

SUMMARY:

→   Socialization isn’t an “all or nothing” project. Socializing a puppy a little bit or a whole lot depends on the amount of time you’re prepared to devote. Doing nothing may negatively affect the mental and physical health over your pets’ lifetime.

→  The goal of ALL responsible dog owners: to have a sufficiently socialized dog that you can introduce to other pets and people without fear of anxiety, aggression and reactivity.

→  There is a window at about 4 to 14 weeks of age when it is optimal to introduce a puppy to new things and environments so as to reduce fear of them later in their development. It’s believed that after approximately 12 weeks of age there are diminishing returns on the long-term benefits of socializing your puppy.

→  There are safe ways to familiarize your puppy with other people and animals during COVID-19 while maintaining social distancing protocols.

→  Helpful tips on socializing your puppy.

Imagine this scenario: walking blissfully through streets and trails with your perfectly socialized bestie, stopping to chat with other owners and their equally well-mannered dogs. Then heading off to the local dog park where your dog can join the high-spirited – and friendly – pack to burn off some energy. You gaze affectionately at the results of your socialization efforts, sip a delicious mocha caffe latte and talk about the lovely fall weather with other pet parents.

Reality rarely reflects our expectations or experiences. Socializing a puppy is much less glamorous and a lot more work to get to our dream scenario. Awkward rear-end sniffing and temper tantrums usually happen before this picture can even occur. It takes time and effort to get your dog in the mindset where they’re relaxed around new people, places, and especially other dogs.

Your puppy’s genetics can’t change and training can come later. Socialization, however, has only a small window of opportunity before it is lost.

Why socializing your puppy is important

Puppy socialization means learning to be part of human society and thus, pet parents have one singular mission – to help their dogs learn to happily live within it.

The puppy socialization period should be a top priority for all pet parents. The ultimate goal is to have a dog that you can take places and introduce to other pets and people without worry. The idea behind socialization is that you want to help your puppy to react to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive way.

You also don’t want to be known as “that person”. Generally, people don’t want their dog’s poor behaviour to reflect poorly on them. Oddly, some don’t care.

When done properly, your dog can learn how to interact positively with other dogs, people and animals. Dogs who are relaxed about honking horns, cats, cyclists, veterinary examinations, crowds are easier and safer to live with than dogs who find these conditions intimidating.

Socializing a puppy a little bit or a whole lot depends on the amount of time you’re prepared to devote. Doing nothing may negatively affect the mental and physical health over your pets’ lifetime.

Lack of socialization can cause:

  1. Anxiety: Dogs that skip the socialization process regularly exhibit nervousness and stress when encountering an unfamiliar situation, person or animal.
  2. Aggression: As a member of the ‘pack’, where a dog resides and who they live with are their possessions. They will defend their property should another animal (or human) encroach on their territory. This is baked into their DNA.
  3. Reactivity: This type of behaviour means they will be difficult to control given a specific environment. The environment may include going to the groomer, the vet clinic (we’re Fear Free Certified – dogs love it here!) or any other pet-friendly area. Not to be confused with aggression, a ‘triggered’ dog will overreact to certain stimuli or situations. 

Almost all behavioural issues can be traced back to a combination of insufficient socialization, training, and/or genetics. Unsurprisingly, pets with behaviour problems are more likely to be surrendered to shelters or re-homed before the age of three. As you may imagine, this is super-stressful scenario for adolescent adult dogs. Cats, too!

When should you start socializing your puppy?

New puppy pet parents are keen to get them out into the world as soon as their immune systems allow. In a puppy’s first three months of life, he will experience a socialization period that will forever shape his personality.

The puppy socialization window is limited. They aren’t usually adopted until 8 to 10 weeks old. After about 12 weeks there are diminishing returns on the long-term benefits of puppy socialization. There is a window of about 4 to 14 weeks* of age when it is optimal to initiate the process.

* in our research, there is no exact puppy socialization window. This time frame is an approximation: breeds and environments differ, so it’s safe to assume variations exist within any particular socialization window.

Puppy Socialization during COVID-19

At the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we’ve seen a substantial increase in adopted puppies and kittens since the beginning of the pandemic. This is not surprising, as people are working from home and have time to foster a relationship with a new companion.

How does this affect the puppy socialization process?

Most people are doing the right things with respect to protecting each other from COVID-19 when out in public. For pet parents, however, there are legitimate fears for their new pet’s health. One unintended consequence of social distancing measures is that some new puppies may have had limited exposure to another human beings and animals – aside from family members – during a critical time in their development.

Will we see a generation of unruly, reactive and anxious dogs?

It’s anyone’s guess how pets adopted during the pandemic are going to react when pet parents begin a return to their normal routines (?) as the pandemic passes into the history books. There will be lots written about SARS-CoV-2 in the coming years. Only then, will we have a clear picture of the many effects on pets and pet parents.

While it’s important to maintain social distancing from each other, there are ways to safely introduce your dog or puppy to other people and animals in the age of COVID-19:

  • Take your dog or puppy for a walk in an area where other people walk. Keep your distance at least 5m away from others and gradually decrease the distance over time as your puppy becomes more confident within the environment.
  • Pay close attention to your puppy’s body language. Slow the process down if they appear anxious or fearful and increase the distance from the new experience, if necessary. This could mean starting further away from the action. When the comfort level stabilizes, continue as described above.
  • Be overly cautious when meeting new dogs – they may have their own socialization issues. You want your puppy to have consistent and friendly associations with other dogs and people. Have treats at the ready for your puppy when a new person or dog comes into the frame. Don’t forget…verbal praise is greatly encouraged to complement the treats!

At our Fear Free Certified vet clinic, behavioural issues are always given the same level of consideration as a medical concern.

We are very fortunate to have a veterinarian on staff with a special interest in behavioural medicineDr. Amanda Low. She’s an expert at building client-puppy relationships and is highly skilled at identifying and preventing emerging behavioural issues.

In addition to the conversations involving all things puppy-related, such as vaccination schedules, preventive healthcare, heartworm and flea control, nutritional advice and spay/neuter considerations, our veterinary hospital incorporates behavioural medicine as part of our holistic healthcare approach.

We’re thankful to all of our clients with new puppies (and kittens!) that trust our animal hospital to give their new pet the best chance at leading a happy and healthy life.

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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Top 10 COVID-19 Q&A’s

By Pet Health

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Where are we now ?

It’s been a challenging time over the past few months. We appreciate how this global pandemic has turned all of our lives and routines upside down. We recognize the overwhelming stress felt by the outstanding businesses at the heart of our Cabbagetown community and we must acknowledge the resilience of our team at Cabbagetown Pet Clinic. Not surprisingly, our animal hospital has made a number of adjustments in how we deliver care to our patients during these times. Be assured that the level of care given to your pets has never wavered and we are proud to maintain our exceptional level of service at our AAHA-Accredited facility.

We’re extremely thankful that our clients have been so patient and understanding with us during this unprecedented time. Constant adjustments to our protocols were the norm at the beginning of this pandemic and we feel comfortable that our current policies and procedures allow for the utmost safety of our veterinary team, our clients and their pets.

We are also thankful that the crucial veterinary care that we provide was never interrupted and that we were deemed an essential service during the most stressful period of the pandemic. Continued due diligence is the order of the day – we will not be complacent.

Scroll through to find answers to some of our most common questions that we are asked. If you have any other questions or concerns, please Contact Us!

THE TOP 10 PET-RELATED COVID-19  Q&A’S IN CABBAGETOWN

1. When will I be allowed back in the vet clinic with my pet?

The short answer is that we don’t know. As with most veterinary hospitals in Ontario, it is very difficult for us to adhere to 2 meter social/physical distant requirements in our facility. We request that you wear face coverings whenever you have less than 2 meter distant contact with any of our staff, such as the transfer of your pet to or from one of our staff members or when picking up pet food, medication or supplies from our front door.

2. Have you resumed your full-service capabilities? Can I get my dog’s teeth cleaned?

Yes, as the initial curve has been flattened, we are now able to move forward with spays, neuters and all elective surgeries, including preventative dental procedures. We also are providing grooming, laboratory testing, imaging, full preventative/wellness care and sick animal appointments. For existing clients, you can book an appointment here.

Book an Appointment

3. Can I get my pet vaccinated?

Yes, but please note that the veterinary clinic is currently booking vaccine appointments 1-2 weeks out due to changes in scheduling and new pet clinic procedures and protocols related to Covid-19.

Do you have a new kitten or puppy? Check out the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic vaccine schedule at:

Vaccine Schedule for your Kitten or Puppy

4. How long will the appointment be?

With current Covid-19 protocols in place, our veterinarians allow 20-30 minutes for an examination depending on the reason for the visit. Once complete, the veterinarian will call you to discuss any issues and recommended treatments if necessary. Depending on the individual situation, your veterinarian will require an additional 10-15 minutes – on average – to ensure your pet is ready to go home. You will be asked to complete a health questionnaire prior to your arrival. Please ensure that you are available by telephone throughout the appointment period.

5. What Covid-19 protocols have you implemented in your clinic?

  1. Increasing our already high standards of routine environmental cleaning.  All common surfaces are cleaned and disinfected frequently. Between appointments, we have allocated time to clean and disinfect doors, chairs, dog scales and floors where required.
  2. Mandatory use of masks or face-coverings. All staff are required to wear a mask or face-covering upon entering and remaining within the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic facility.
  3. Clients are currently NOT permitted in the hospital except under exceptional situations. We have a procedure in place to perform exams without requiring the client to enter the hospital and we ensure that you have the ability to discuss your pets care and receive timely answers to all of your questions with the attending veterinarian prior to discharge of your pet.
  4. Debit terminal payments – we wipe down the terminal between EVERY transaction. We prefer telephone transactions, as this reduces the use of the terminal (and cash) to help with our social-distancing efforts.

6. Can I order my prescription food online?

Yes, our WEBSTORE offers easy and convenient 24/7 access to your pet’s prescription food and treats. It even allows you to automatically re-order, if you happen to forget. Products can be shipped directly to your home, cottage or office. You will receive a follow up email letting you know when your order has been shipped. You can also order online and arrange pick up at our clinic either by through the webstore, email, phone or through your personalized PetPage APP.

Current Covid-19 protocols prevent us from allowing our clients into the clinic however we are happy to provide curbside non-contact delivery. Call us once you’ve arrived and we will place your order outside at the appropriate drop off point. Since your order is prepaid, no contact (debit terminal or cash) with our staff is necessary. Until further notice, this ensures that we comply will the current social distancing guidelines.

7. Are pets from a shelter safe to adopt?

The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, based on the limited information available to date. There is currently no supporting data to conclude that any animals – including shelter pets – play a significant role in spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans.

8. Can my pet contract COVID-19?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but the probability that pets in the household of a COVID-19 case will be exposed and become infected is believed to be low. Although there’s been limited testing, there has only been a handful of confirmed reports worldwide of pets contracting SARS-CoV-2 from households that have experienced a human Covid-19 case. It’s important to remember that COVID-19 is spread almost exclusively person-to-person, so if you’re not infected it’s unlikely the virus will be transmitted to your pet.

9. Can an infected pet transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans?

Despite the worldwide pandemic, there have no documented cases of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from a household pet to a person.

The possibility of transmission by an infected companion animal to a person is currently considered low, although it may be higher for veterinarians or veterinary technicians who could have close contact with pets from COVID-19 positive households.

The possibility exists that the SARS-CoV-2 virus deposited on a pet’s fur by an infected owner could survive – at minimum – for a few hours. Whether or not these animals could shed a sufficient amount of virus to result in transmission to humans remains doubtful.

To stay safe, the best way to avoid this possible transmission vector is to not cuddle, kiss, sneeze around, or even stroke someone else’s pet.

*IMPORTANT* A pet owner is much more likely to transmit the virus TO their pet than to get it FROM their pet.

10. As a pet parent, what precautions should I take?

At this stage, there are no specific precautions pet owners can take, regardless of images in the news of pets in face masks. Only in the unfortunate event that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a pet, it is recommended (until more is known) that:

  • Avoid close contact with your pet – do not cuddle or kiss them, do not let them lick your face, sit on your lap or sleep in your bed.
  • Sounds obvious, but avoid coughing and sneezing on your pet. Not a good practice in the best of times…
  • Wash your hands before touching or feeding your pet or other animals.
  • Limit your pet’s contact with other people and animals.

We know that pets are vital to our wellbeing especially in times of uncertainty. We know many stories of pets in our community who provided comfort and security to their human partners during the worst times of the pandemic, but what a time to be a cat or dog! The memes on the internet were spot on with all of the canine complaints about never ending dog walks and feline exasperation with everyone home all day! There definitely were bright spots that shone through all of the worry and unknowns and our furry family members were front and center.

Thank you again for trusting us in the care of your pets. We value your business and we stand together to continue to “flatten the curve” and keep our community safe.

Many thanks to the efforts Dr. Scott Weise and Dr. Maureen Anderson at the Ontario Veterinary College’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses. Their contributions to the Worm & Germs blog and guidance to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association have been an invaluable resource since the start of the pandemic to veterinarians both in Ontario and worldwide.

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.

Meet the Enemy – Fleas

By Pet Health

Fleas are annoying, little creatures that we’d rather not think about.

These tiny, blood-sucking parasites irritate your pet and can infest your home, often before you realize that they’ve have moved in. If you and your dog are scratching your heads and you’re wondering how to address dog fleas, we’ve got your covered.

MEET THE ENEMY: THE NOT-SO-HUMBLE FLEA.

Fleas aren’t just an annoyance, they can cause serious health issues for you and your pet. Fleas exist to live off the blood of its host. As far as we know, they have few benefits to an ecosystem outside of feeding on the sick and weak in animal populations.

Pet Health Concerns:

  • Skin issues – severe itching can lead to skin infections and hair loss. In some cases, pets can develop an allergic reaction – Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats.
  • Infections and parasites – the transmission of bacteria called Bartonella henselae (Cat-Scratch Fever) can cause health issues in pets and people. Fleas can also carry a type of parasite – a tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum – that can draw nutrients from a pets intestines and cause anal itching.
Common Flea Myth #1

MYTH:  My pet is indoor-only, so it can’t get fleas.
FACT:  Fleas – in all stages of the life-cycle – are easily transported and thrive particularly well in the regulated temperatures in your home. This means that even if your animals never go outside, they are still susceptible to fleas.

THE LIFE CYCLE OF FLEAS

Across the planet, there are more than 2500 different types of fleas. The most common type afflicting dogs and cats in Cabbagetown is called Ctenocephalides felis – the cat flea.

There are four life stages of this unassuming pest. For successful flea control, you need to know how to break this life cycle at any one of these points. The entire flea life cycle can be completed in as little as three weeks and having just one (!) flea get into your house can be enough to start an outbreak. An adult female can give birth to as many as 500 eggs within her short lifetime.

Common Flea Myth #2

MYTH:  My pet can’t have fleas because I haven’t been bitten.
FACT:  Ctenocephalides felis does not prefer human blood and won’t snack on it unless absolutely necessary. Humans tend not to be bitten unless flea populations are excessive.

WHERE DO FLEAS COME FROM?

Most companion animals have had or will pick up fleas at some point in their lives, much to the frustration of careful pet parents.

Why does my dog have fleas ?

Hotspot #1 – Other animals

Being sociable creatures, the most common way your dog will pick up fleas is from the environment following contact with other animals. On a daily walk, or even in your garden, your dog could come into contact with birds, rodents, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and deer, or places they’ve been, all of which might have fleas.

Hotspot #2 – Your home

Unfortunately, uninvited fleas can easily break into your home and make it their house too. Flea eggs in the home environment can hitch a ride on people’s clothing, and fleas can be carried by pets visiting you, and on nesting wild animals, such as mice that might have set up camp under your floorboards.

Hotspot #3 – Pet facilities

Indoor areas where other dogs frequent pose a risk of fleas for your pet. Doggy day care, dog parks, veterinary practices, grooming facilities and boarding kennels are not always guaranteed to be free from fleas. Despite often strict rules requiring dogs to be flea free in these facilities, treatment varies from dog owner to dog owner, so fleas can easily find their way in.

Hotspot #4 – Warm climates

If you’re travelling abroad with your dog, they will be exposed to different bugs and the diseases they carry. But in warmer regions, fleas are a particular risk because they are able to survive for longer periods in the open environment without a host, waiting to jump on your dog.

Common Flea Myth #3

MYTH:  We can’t have fleas because we deep clean our carpets regularly and have hardwood floors.
FACT:  The cracks between boards of hardwood floors are a great place for the life cycle of a flea to flourish, not to mention wall-to-wall carpeting.

7 WAYS TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF FLEAS

Given their tiny size, it can be a challenge to know if your pet has fleas. But there are some telltale signs. Maybe you spotted some tiny specks around the house that you might’ve missed before. Maybe that beautiful hair coat that was so thick and luxurious is looking thinner. Before you know it… fleas.

Excessive scratching.

If you spot your cat or dog scratching, and suspect fleas, use a very fine-toothed comb through your pet’s fur, checking for small brown shapes moving about. Look especially closely for signs of fleas by the ears and tail of your cat or dog.

They can be seen with the naked eye.

They’re reddish-brown, very thin and are about 3mm long. Without a microscope it’s really difficult to see the details what they look like (probably just as well), but they do have large back legs, enabling them to jump almost a 1/2 meter in a single leap.

They leave behind lovely parting gifts.

Keep an eye out for what’s called “flea dirt” – particles that look a like a speck of pepper. This is the fecal matter that fleas deposit on its hosts. As it is primarily composed of ingested blood, it will turn the red on a moistened on a tissue.

You can spot it on your pet’s skin, or be left behind in places like:

  • Pet bedding
  • Your own bedding
  • Carpeting
  • That favourite sofa or chair (if they’re allowed !)

Tiny white ovals – flea eggs – fall off into the environment around it (your bed, the dog bed, the carpet, that favorite chair), only to hatch a few days later into flea larvae. Larvae is visble – they’re tiny, worm-looking objects with brown heads that will feed on all those specks until they wrap themselves up into a cocoon called a pupa. If you see tapeworms – parasites that are white or pinkish white and resemble little pieces of rice – in your pets posterior, that’s a sign it may be having a bout with fleas.

Hair loss.

From all the itching, scratching and biting. Fleas often gather at the neck and shoulder blades of your pets. The base of the tail and along the back of the legs is a favorite hangout, also.

Irritated skin.

If you can get past your pet’s coat and look deeper at the skin, flea bites usually reveal themselves as tiny, raised red dots. This can lead to Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), a hypersensitivity to flea bites. If your pet has this, their skin can become itchy, red, and scaly.

Pale gums. 

Pale gums are often an indication of anemia. With larger infestations, some pets – especially smaller kittens or pups – could be in danger due to a loss of red blood cells. Fleas are thirsty and can take in up to 15 times (!) their body weight in blood.

Common Flea Myth #4

MYTH:  If my pet had fleas, I would see them in their fur.
FACT:  You can’t always expect to see fleas in your pets fur because pets will scratch, lick, groom, and chew after being bitten. The fleas are either ejected or get swallowed.

FLEA AND TICK TREATMENTS

Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Flea Medications

The flea and tick treatment marketplace features numerous generic drugs that are available over-the-counter. As generic options, these drugs offer generic solutions and are more affordable than prescription medicines.

It’s always best to discuss the benefits of using any specific over-the-counter flea product with our vets before considering a purchase. These medications could behave differently than described given your pet’s current condition and medical history.

If you choose to go the over-the-counter route to treat your pet, you need to decide which medication is the most effective and more importantly, which is the safest. While most over-the-counter products work well, they should be used with caution – overdoses are possible and some products cause unintended side effects.

Bottom line ? Do your research.

Why should I consider prescription flea medication ?

Given any number of medical and environmental factors, your pet’s circumstances are unique. Prescription drugs work effectively to treat specific concerns and address your pet’s unique dosage needs. This is where our veterinarian’s advice is invaluable.

Our veterinarians recommend an examination before using any prescription flea, tick or heartworm medication, in the event of any possible adverse reactions. Changes in body weight, current drug interactions and/or undetected medical conditions can result in the reduced effectiveness of generic treatments and may cause harm to your pet.

We offer the latest in prescription medicines – Simparica Trio™ – that offer complete parasite protection against fleas, ticks, heartworm, hookworm and roundworms all in one yummy, chewable tablet.

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.

COVID-19: Our Clinic Protocols Have Changed.

By Pet Health

*New* Cabbagetown Pet Clinic policies are now in place.

With the onset and continuing spread of Covid-19, we are collectively – personally and professionally – taking ever-extreme measures in an attempt to combat the looming menace that this pandemic brings.

It is NOT business as usual. 

**UPDATE** 08/31/2020 As the initial curve has been flattened, we are now able to move forward with spays, neuters and all elective surgeries, including preventative dental procedures. We also are providing laboratory testing, imaging and full preventative/wellness care plans. 

The latest updates and the Top 10 COVID-19 Q&A’s can be found here.

As of this writing, the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic is OPEN (with hours restrictions), but not without new protocols being implemented to try “flatten the curve” and slow the coronavirus spread.

Most veterinary clinics and emergency animal hospitals will attempt to remain open (until they’re not) given their importance to your pets health. These services include emergency surgeries, the purchase of therapeutic pet food and prescriptions that are crucial in keeping our beloved furry family members healthy and safe. 

At the same time, we implicitly understand our social responsibility to our clients and the Cabbagetown community, as well as the need to protect our Cabbagetown Pet Clinic team.

What new clinic protocols have you implemented?

  • Increasing our already high standards of routine environmental cleaning*. All common surfaces are disinfected frequently. This includes door handles, countertops, payment terminals (between every transaction), telephones, reception desk and any other area that has seen contact between clients and staff. Between appointments, we have allocated time to clean and disinfect doors, chairs, dog scales and floors in the exam rooms.
  • Clients are NOT permitted in the clinic. We have a procedure in place to take your pet and perform exams without you entering the hospital. 
  • Staff will continue to practice good hand hygiene as per the World Health Organization guidelines.
  • Staff hours (and appointment scheduling) have been reduced to decrease the potential for spread.
  • 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. Clients will also be asked about their recent travel history and current health status upon scheduling appointments.
  • Debit terminal payments – we wipe down the terminal between EVERY transaction. We would like to reduce the use of the terminal (and cash) if possible to help with our social-distancing efforts.

Additional procedures may be required, and we continue to explore all options available to keep the doors open. The Cabbagetown Pet Clinic will take ALL precautions necessary to ensure that pets get the treatment they need.

How will my pet’s appointment be affected?

Any appointments that are currently scheduled will NOT be cancelled unless otherwise contacted.

Appointment times have been staggered to help decrease overlap and congestion in the clinic.

When scheduling appointments, we are obligated to ask our clients about their recent travel history, and if they are showing any signs of illness or symptoms of COVID-19.

Under certain circumstances, we will be asking clients to fill out an enhanced Pre-Appointment Questionnaire prior to their arrival at the clinic, so that our staff can get a jump in diagnosing your pet’s issues. This will reduce your time spent in the clinic and is part of our social distancing protocol.

Handling procedures during your pet’s examination have been adjusted in order to comply with our social distancing procedures whenever possible.

Can I still purchase food and/or medication refills?

Absolutely, we are still open for those wishing to pick up food and medication at the clinic. However, we are requesting that you call ahead of time to process your payment over the phone, in an effort to reduce your time spent here.

To date, our suppliers are still delivering, albeit on a less frequent basis. Should circumstances change, we will communicate with all of our clients to keep them up-to-date on availability.  

Surfaces as a Source of Covid-19?

*With respect to potential spreading from non-human sources – surfaces – a lot is still unknown on the stability of SARS-CoV-2 over time. However, there has been a recent study documented in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study – found here – indicates that it’s plausible.

“Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days (depending on the inoculum shed).”

We don’t know for sure whether non-human to human (surface) contact is an issue, but we should assume that it is until proven otherwise.

How is this related to your pet?

It presupposes that pets could be categorized as an environmental source. We should assume that the SARS-CoV-2 virus deposited on a pet’s fur by an infected owner could survive – at minimum – for a few hours. Perhaps the best way to avoid this possible transmission source is to not cuddle, kiss, sneeze around, or even stroke someone else’s pet.

Social distancing !

Can your pet contract Covid-19 from an infected owner? It’s looking increasingly likely, as another dog in Hong Kong has tested positive for the virus from their infected owner.

We’re extremely thankful that our clients have been very patient and understanding with the new protocols we’ve put in place. Given the situation we’re currently under, these necessary changes will help minimize disruption in our clinic routine, as long as everyone continues to work together.

We are attempting to do as many simple, practical and minimally disruptive measures as we can to reduce transmission risk.

In the event this crisis escalates, we will not hesitate to add more preventative measures to our clinic protocols in an effort to keep our doors open and, more importantly, keep clients, pets and our Cabbagetown team safe. Reasons for further controls include limitations in supplies (already an issue), staff (sickness or self-isolation) or intervention (municipal order) beyond control of the clinic.

In the meantime…

Be kind, check-in on friends, stay safe, keep your social distance and wash you hands!

Social Distancing

I’m sure everyone at this point has become aware of Social Distancing #stopthespread. This is the practice of keeping a 2m (6 ft.) distance between one another. This is absolutely THE best method that everyone MUST practice (along with regular handwashing) to limit the spread of Covid-19. We are adapting to this new paradigm by reducing the number of direct and indirect human-human contact points in our clinic.

But…

How can we maintain effective social distancing and still operate our clinic with minimal disruption? We must admit, it’s a huge challenge but one that we’re fully embracing.

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COVID-19 is here. Is my pet at risk ?

By Pet Health

Can my pet be infected with COVID-19 ?

The coronavirus known as SARS CoV-2 – and the illness it causes, COVID-19 – is pulling off new tricks and continues to spread worldwide. There is much we still don’t know about this contagion – how it came to be, how to stop it and it’s long-term affects on human and animal populations.

Scary times, to be sure.

The most vulnerable appear to be people with compromised immune systems and the elderly, although anybody – including animals – can carry this virus. In some cases, many would not even know they have it.

Although most countries have protocols in place to help ease the spread, there is presently no vaccine available to halt a potential pandemic in its tracks. We say ‘potential’ pandemic because the World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared one…yet.

That’s the bad news.

The good news – in Canada, at least – is that we’re receiving the latest information on how to combat this virus on a daily basis.

Here’s what we know so far.

What is SARS CoV-2 ?

SARS CoV-2 is a new coronavirus strain that was first identified in Hubei Province, China and has been steadily spreading across the planet since December 2019. Patients who came down with disease all had connections to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan China.

It is believed that it was passed from animals (likely bats) to humans though markets selling live fish, meat and wild animals. These are known in the region as “wet” markets and are common in many parts of Asia.

How does COVID-19 spread and what are the symptoms ?

COVID-19 is largely spread through respiratory droplets. To become infected, individuals generally must be in close proximity (within six feet) of someone who is contagious and has come into contact with these droplets, either through sneezing or spitting.

It is also known that someone can contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own face. However, this is not thought to be the principal mechanism causing the spread of the virus.

Signs of COVID-19 can appear within two to 14 days after contact and include fever, cough, runny nose and respiratory problems. It is also possible that some people can carry the virus and not experience any symptoms. Yikes.

Now that we’ve completed a short primer on this coronavirus, how might this affect our pets?

Have any companion animals been infected by Covid-19?

Recent news that a dog tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong has caused concern among pet owners all over the world. 

The dog – reportedly a Pomeranian – was repeatedly tested over a number of days and follow up tests revealed that it had tested “weak positive” after it’s owner had previously tested positive for the virus.

International disease specialists at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) determined the dog has some degree of Covid-19 infection, likely caused by human-to-animal transmission. It was concluded that the pet had contracted the virus from its affected owner.

Can Covid-19 be transmitted from humans to pets?

The short answer is ‘yes’. The finding above makes it pretty clear that the infected dog – albeit at a low level – was a case of human-to-animal transmission.

Experts at the University of Hong Kong and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) support this conclusion.

The good news is…

They don’t suspect the virus can cause severe illness in dogs, or that dogs are spreading the virus back to humans. Also, the dog has remained healthy. What isn’t known is whether this virus can generally cause sickness in dogs, or just not in this particular dog.

People, as with animals, can be infected with SARS CoV-2 without getting ill or showing symptoms. It’s still too soon to imply what this “weak positive” result means in the wider canine picture.

As a pet parent, are there any precautions I should take?

At this stage, there are no specific precautions pet owners can take, regardless of the pictures in the news from China of pets in face masks. Only in the unfortunate event that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a pet or other animals, it is recommended (until more is known) that:

  • Avoid close contact with your pet – do not cuddle or kiss them, do not let them lick your face, sit on your lap or sleep in your bed.
  • Sounds obvious, but avoid coughing and sneezing on your pet. Not a good practice in the best of times…
  • Wash your hands before touching or feeding your pet or other animals.
  • Limit your pet’s contact with other people and animals.

If you haven’t been diagnosed, snuggle with your pets. Take them for walks. Don’t change their routine. Animals can have a very comforting effect on their owners, especially in times of uncertainty. And remember, when you’re calm, your pet is calm and better off for it.

Also, wash your hands. Often.

Can I get this virus from other pets when travelling to other countries?

It’s certainly possible.

Although the outbreak of COVID-19 is largely spread from person to person, experts agree that the virus likely originated from bats and passed through an intermediary animal source in China before being transmitted to humans.

Because the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in animals, the Government of Canada recommends “travellers, and especially those who travel to an affected country or region, avoid contact with animals and animal products, including wild meat and wet markets.”

Sounds like good advice.

If you are considering travel or already booked a vacation, be sure to check your travel insurance coverage and the latest health notices for the region you plan to visit. It is vital that you receive the most up-to-date advice prior to traveling.

Travel Advisories from the Government of Canada

 

Additional Resources and Latest Updates on COVID-19

For the Veterinary Profession and Pet Lovers: Worms and Germs blog by Drs. Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson

Government of Canada – COVID-19 FAQ

Government Of Ontario – COVID-19 Latest from Public Health

The World Health Organization

 

 

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

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

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CBD and Pets. Potential Wonder Drug?

By Pet Health

CBD is big news and like all hyped and yet-unproven medical claims, it appears to be a cure-all for almost everything under the sun. However, hard scientific evidence remains elusive. If new, on-going research can support even some of its claims, it could introduce a whole new treatment paradigm in veterinary care.

At our AAHA Accredited Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we closely monitor emerging CBD research and are always prepared to address our client’s questions and concerns.

Introduction to CBD for Pets.

CBD is on the minds of many pet owners, and not just for their own personal use. Fueled largely by anecdotal reports, pet parents are turning to this potential wonder drug to help manage pain, arthritis, seizures, and other chronic health problems in their fur-babies.

In the US, a growing crop of CBD products marketed for pets – including extracts, capsules, and chewy treats – have erupted onto the market to meet consumer demand.

In Canada, however, all legal CBD products for pets must be approved by Health Canada. They are taking a more cautious approach, as solid evidence on its efficacy is still unknown. To date, there have been no such approvals for any pet-specific CBD products.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol is a member of the cannabinoid family, a class of organic compounds naturally found in the cannabis or hemp plant. 

Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems of humans, which help the body maintain a normal healthy state, also known as homeostasis. It is generally believed that a similar interaction is replicated in pets, but more research is needed.

Unlike its THC cousin, CBD doesn’t produce a ‘high’, but it is psychoactive. Psychoactive – or psychotropic – is a term that is applied to chemical elements that change one’s mental state by affecting the way the brain and nervous system work. Alcohol and caffeine also fall into this group.

What are the Health Benefits of CBD for my Pet?

The jury – medical community – is still out on CBD’s effectiveness.

While there’s no conclusive scientific data – it’s ongoing – in using CBD to treat our furry friends, there’s growing anecdotal evidence suggesting it can treat pain, reduce anxiety, as well as helping to control seizures.

CBD is also purported to deliver anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation and anti-anxiety impacts, although there’s no conclusive data on these claims.

Risks and Possible Side Effects of CBD in Pets

The safety of CBD products for pets has not yet been adequately researched. Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not approved CBD for use on animals. Consequently, there are no guidelines on what dosages to administer to your pet, based on species, breed, body weight or any other number of multiple variables. You’re not entirely on your own – always seek guidance with one of our Fear Free Certified Cabbagetown veterinary team first to discuss any potential risks associated with its application.

Any medication or supplement has the possibility of a positive or negative response. If a pet owner wants to use CBD on their pet – regardless of its legality – it is prudent to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects.

More importantly, pet owners should be aware that there are no approved, legal CBD products available to consumers in Canada, although plenty of CBD products are being marketed and sold to those who seek it. If a CBD product does not have a drug identification number (DIN) or a notification number (VHP) then its safety and efficacy can’t be demonstrated.

If you DO choose to try the CBD route for your pet, how do you know what dosage to administer?

The short answer is, you don’t. While there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for pets, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans.

  • Dry mouth: There is research to show that CBD can decrease the production of saliva. For pets, a noticeable increase in thirst may be apparent.
  • Lowered blood pressure: High doses of CBD have been known to cause a short-term drop in blood pressure. Even if the drop is insignificant, it could create a momentary feeling of light-headedness.
  • Drowsiness: Pet parents – especially dog owners – have been known to use CBD to treat anxiety. The comforting effect of CBD can also cause slight sluggishness.

Again, a discussion with one of our AAHA Accredited Cabbagetown veterinarians can help clarify risks and help mitigate potential side effects.

Is CBD Legal for Use with Pets in Ontario?

From the CVO – College of Veterinarians of Ontario, as of January 2020:

“As veterinarians are included in the definition of practitioner in this Act, veterinarians would be permitted to prescribe either substance if there was a legal pathway to do so. The Office of Controlled Substances at Health Canada has confirmed that there are currently no approved CBD products for animals, meaning there is no legal pathway to obtain these products for animals in Canada.

It is not enough that CBD oil or related products may be offered through a licensed supplier in Canada – the supplier must also be supplying a CBD product that is approved by Health Canada. Manufacturers would need to complete the approval process to get such a product approved for use in animals.

The College is aware that animal owners may ask their veterinarians about using products for their animals that contain active ingredients found in the cannabis plant. It is important that the public is aware that:

  • There is currently no legal pathway for veterinarians in Ontario to prescribe medical marijuana to animals.
  • There are currently no CBD products approved by Health Canada and therefore no legal pathway to obtain these products.”

Additional Resources

cvo.org
veterinarycannabis.org 

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.