Category

Pet Health

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 Visual 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

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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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.

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.

Prescription Pet Food: Veterinary-Grade Excellence

By Pet Health

Prescription Pet Food vs. Everybody

We know how mighty the human-pet connection can be and are committed to do everything within our grasp to help pets live their best lives. Near the top of the list of ways to achieve this – after vaccines – is pet nutrition. It may be the single most important part of your pet’s longevity and happiness that you can directly influence.

For us, it means listening to our clients concerns, providing the latest pet nutrition information, recommending diets that meet your pets’ specific nutritional requirements, offering food options that your pet will actually eat and avoiding diets that could be potentially unsafe. Now, there’s a mouthful!

There will always be unexpected events that can upend the health of our beloved pets, but the two things that we can control are food and shelter. That’s why we’re so invested in the quality of food and pet nutrition.

Why pet nutrition is important

Balanced nutrition is the key to healthy lifestyles. Prescription pet food manufacturers work tirelessly to improve upon the mix of ingredients – and in what proportion – that go into their products. Every nutrient in your pet’s food has a purpose.

Optimal pet nutrition must include these elements:

Proteins: Muscle Tone and Body Repair

Protein does the lion’s share of work in cells and is necessary for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They supply a source of energy and help with muscle function and growth. Protein is necessary to repair damaged cells and produce new ones. Without adequate protein, pets can incur a wide-range of severe health problems.

Fats: Skin and Hair Coat Health

Fats are an absolutely vital component of a balanced canine and feline diet. A pet with a lovely, shiny coat is most likely to be healthy because pets – especially dogs – are eating a correct balance of fatty acids. Fats also provide energy, help in brain function. Be aware of volume – your can have too much of a good thing!

Carbohydrates: Digestion and Elimination

Carbohydrates supply a good source of energy that allows your dog to be active and energetic. One important type of carbohydrate is fibre which aids in digestion and elimination. These needed nutrients are absorbed by the body and into your pet’s digestive system to create well-formed stools to form an easy elimination pathway. 

Vitamins and Minerals: Immunity and Disease Prevention

Vitamins and minerals work in concert to keep your pet’s immune system and metabolism at peak performance. Every day, they work to reduce the damage done to cells in the body. In addition, vitamins and minerals are needed for optimal muscle contraction and nerve conduction.

What are animal byproducts on the ingredients label?

Animal byproducts are what remain after the desirable edible parts are separated, leaving behind organs, blood, bone and intestines. These may be items that humans are less interested in eating, but doesn’t mean the leftovers – byproducts – are unsafe or lack nutrition, they just aren’t used to satisfy our delicate palates. The thought of consuming a cow spleen for dinner is repulsive to most people, but your dog probably wouldn’t think twice – these organs can be a veritable storehouse of valuable vitamins and minerals.

What is “prescription” pet food?

Many more high quality, premium pet food brands are available today than ever before. Consumer demand is driving this trend based on overall awareness of pet nutrition and, more importantly, their love and devotion to pets.

Prescription pet foods – also known as therapeutic foods – are scientifically formulated to meet the specific health needs of your pet. They do NOT contain medications and are different from most over-the-counter (OTC) pet foods brands in that they are designed to specifically address – not only healthy pets needs – but also issues such as obesity, arthritis or food allergies.

In Canada, a proper ‘prescription’ or note from a veterinarian is not necessary to make a purchase, however, a consultation with our veterinary staff is crucial before starting a new diet regimen. Prescription or therapeutic food can be bought OTC, but only at authorized veterinary clinics.

Why prescription food is the right choice

You may be wondering: are premium or prescription pet foods really better for my pet? Our price-sensitive clients often ask our veterinary team about less expensive generic pet food options, apart from the therapeutic diets we recommend. This is a fair question.

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

Depending on the diagnosis, certain nutrients may be restricted or enhanced in comparison to the requirements for that nutrient in healthy pets. Prescription or therapeutic diet manufacturers are specifically formulated for these cases.

While generic OTC pet food brands produce many quality products, their mandate is to feed healthy pets and their quality control procedures are based on that assumption. 

Therein lies the answer.

  1. Over the counter food brands employ quality control measures ranging from a random, but complete macro-nutrient analyses in the finished product to no post-manufacturing quality checks at all. By contrast, the companies that specialize in therapeutic diets – Hills, Royal Canin – test every batch of food produced, from their therapeutic diets to their OTC options for healthy pets.
  2. Prescription or therapeutic diets are developed by nutritionists and scientists in the veterinary industry. Extensive testing is completed post-production to ensure that they do what they claim to do. Conversely, some OTC pet food brands mass-produce a generic formula and take it to market with big advertising budgets – all potentially done without reliable testing for efficacy or post-manufacturing quality testing.

Considering the extensive research, superior manufacturing controls, high-level quality testing and facilities to ensure these diets are safe and effective, the extra cost for premium food is justifiable for many pet parents. Speaking of amazing facilities, check out the extraordinary pet paradise testing facility at Hill’s!

Can I actually save money buying prescription foods?

Higher quality prescription food generally leads to a longer and healthier life for most pets. The result? Lower veterinarian service costs. There’s an increased risk of health issues tied to improper nutrition, thus the cost of prescription or therapeutic diet over a pets lifetime is likely to be offset by lower vet bills. Also, when prescription food is matched with your pets’ dietary needs and taste, food intake is optimized and less waste is incurred. Tastier and more digestible food results in less overall volume, thus making a bag of food last longer, despite the higher cost. Less is more, as they say…

What are the alternatives to prescription pet food diets?

The options for pet food are seemingly endless. We’ll touch on 3 types of dietary alternatives, as opposed to a comparison of specific brands.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pet Food Brands

Over-the-counter (OTC) pet food brands generally meet all the nutritional needs of a healthy pet. Some OTC brands claim to meet the challenges of a pet that may have bladder or urinary tract issues, so you can get a premium food that addresses urinary tract health. Available almost everywhere…

Raw Food Diets

The argument of raw food advocates goes that these diets are easier to digest than other dog food diets and provide very concentrated nutrition for your dog. The veterinary industry has mostly debunked this notion on cost and nutrient-value grounds, although there are pockets of pet owners who will not be swayed.

Limited Ingredient Diets

A Limited Ingredient Diet (LID) is made with super-food ingredients. For protein, it may include higher amounts of venison and rabbit. For carbohydrates, sweet potatoes and lentils may be used to create a denser, targeted nutritional profile. Having fewer ingredients does not imply high nutrient value, unless they are high-quality ingredients. LID is not a regulated dietary option in Canada, however this option is used extensively to diagnose food allergies.

Always do your due diligence when exploring non-therapeutic brands of pet food. Read the label, understand the ingredients and purchase the highest quality food you can afford. We’ll address some of the issues and concerns noted above in greater detail in Part 2 of Digestive Health.

How do I choose the best food for my pet?

Your pet is an important part of your family and you want the best for them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed – and sometimes confused – with all food options out there. A pet’s age, medical condition(s), immune system and lifestyle all need to be considered when selecting a proper dietary regimen. Our veterinarians and RVT’s are the best source of information when determining an appropriate dietary choice for your specific pet.

We understand that many elements go into choosing the best diet for your pet including a your financial situation, availability, health issues and your own personal value system. Your pets individual preferences may also play a role – you could select a perfect diet, but if your pet doesn’t touch it, then on to Plan B.

If prescription pet foods are better for pets with chronic health conditions, why can’t I just buy the food at Walmart? 

This is a fair question. Why not? There are two caveats to address.

  1. Pets with chronic – or even mild – ailments generally require veterinary supervision to determine whether a specific therapeutic diet can continue to be the correct course of action. Feeding your pet too much of anything – or the wrong thing – can have prolonged negative results.
  2. Some diets are not considered complete and balanced by Association of America Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or FDA standards. The sale of prescription or therapeutic foods are restricted to veterinary professionals and not left to an untrained Walmart “Associate”, as it could lead to nutrient deficiencies in healthy pets. The US standards are considerably more stringent than our non-regulated, Canadian counterparts.

Regular nutritional evaluations and counseling 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. Our own Dr. Amanda Low has a BSc. in Nutritional Sciences and is uniquely qualified to help create customized nutritional plans – especially for those pets with underlying chronic conditions or special needs.

Learn more about our prescription food brands:

Hill’s
Royal Canin
Purina

Dog-heartwom-mosquito

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.

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.

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.