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Pet Parenting

Hot Spots in Dogs: What Every Pet Parent Needs To Know

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health, Pet Parenting

I. Introduction

HOT SPOTS – also known as acute moist dermatitis – are a common skin problem in dogs that can affect all breeds and at every life stage. These raw and unpleasant sores can appear unexpectedly and spread rapidly, if left untreated. As a pet parent, it’s important to understand what hot spots are, what causes them, and how to prevent and treat them.

In this post, we’ll provide a complete overview of hot spots in dogs, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available. We’ll also offer advice on how to prevent hot spots from occurring in the first place. By the end of this post, we hope that you will have a stronger grasp of how to care for your furry family member and help keep them happy and healthy over their lifetime.

II. What Causes Hot Spots in Dogs?

Acute moist dermatitis or hot spots are a common skin disorder in dogs. Hot spots can appear suddenly and become large red, irritated lesions in a short period of time.

Hot spots are self-inflicted often triggered by chewing, scratching, and/or licking the affected area. The resulting distress to the skin causes irritation, swelling and secondary bacterial infections. Constant licking (or over-grooming) keeps the area moist, making it an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish. A dog’s coat can also become matted over the skin, trapping in moisture and further promoting infection.

This compounds the self-harm by making the skin even itchier, which causes the cycle to continue unabated. Any circumstance that causes your dog to feel inflamed has the potential to result in a hot spot.

The most common underlying health issues that lead to hot spots include:

  • Allergies (flea allergy, food allergy, or seasonal allergies)
  • External Parasites: Reactions to insect bites from small pests such as mites, bees, mosquitos or fleas – especially fleas!
  • Behavioural Issues: Stress, anxiety, fear or OCD can cause excessive licking and scratching.
  • Ear Infections. Disruption in the ear can be debilitating enough that your dog scratches at that location, creating hot spots behind the ear, on the neck or even on the ear flap.
  • Dogs develop bad habits just like their human counterparts. You might chew your fingernails, but your dog may lick easily reachable areas out of sheer boredom.
  • Canine Atopic Dermatitis.
  • Anal Sac Disease/Gland Inflammation: Unsurprisingly, infected (aka. impacted) anal glands are truly irritating – and painful. Dogs will lick the area around their rectum (if reachable!) causing hot spots, either below or on top of the tail.
  • Poor Grooming: Unkempt coats can cause dogs to chew at matted hair, creating open lesions. Also, matted fur prevents air from reaching the skin. If a dog with matted hair retains water after swimming or after a bath, the skin may maintain moisture – this is almost always bad, creating a perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate and a hot spot to emerge.
  • Orthopedic Concerns: Dogs – usually mature – with arthritis or back problems tend to lie down much of the time, creating irritations over pressure points – we know them as bed sores in the human world. Dogs instinctively lick or scratch these points, causing a hot spot.
  • Injuries: Damage to skin, joints, bone, or soft tissue can cause dogs to engage in itching or scratching behaviours.

Other Causes

Due to their thicker coats, some breeds – Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers come to mind – are susceptible to developing hot spots. Dogs that are often wet either from swimming, bathing, or rainy weather are more vulnerable to emerging hot spots due to the additional moisture held against the skin by their thicker coats.

Seasonality also contributes to hot spots. They are much more likely to occur during warm weather and periods of high humidity.

III. Symptoms of Hot Spots

Hot spots can occur anywhere – and anytime – but are most commonly seen on the head, legs, and hips.

The affected area is generally moist and may discharge fluid (pus…ew!) due to a bacterial or fungal infection, which can lead to matting of the neighbouring hair. Hot spots will grow in size as scratching continues to injure the area.

6 Common Symptoms of Hot Spots include:

  • Red, swollen, and inflamed skin
  • Hair loss surrounding the affected area
  • Excessive licking or biting
  • Intense itching and scratching
  • Hot to the touch
  • Oozing or crusting of infected fluids

Because different types of skin conditions can have similar symptoms, it is important discuss the condition with one of our veterinarians to determine the underlying cause.

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IV. Prevention and Treatment of Hot Spots

Although it is difficult to completely prevent hot spots, the following tips can help significantly reduce the risk of recurrent skin problems in dogs.

3 Pro Tips to Help Prevent Hot Spots in Dogs:

  1. Keeping your dog’s skin healthy is the first step towards keeping hot spots at bay. Make sure flea and tick treatments are kept current and continue to manage any allergies they may have. Excellent parasite prevention, treatment of skin infections, and management of allergies are crucial to stop scratching and preventing trauma to the skin.
  2. Good hygiene and routine grooming play an important prevention function when it comes to dog hot spots. For dogs that swim or bathe frequently, it is also important to ensure their coats are thoroughly dried after these events. Trimming long coats – especially in hot and humid weather – will stop moisture from getting trapped close to the skin and discourage bacteria from breeding.
  3. If your dog has developed a bad itching habit because of boredom or anxiety, there are a few simple things pet parents can do to combat this issue. Increasing daily exercise, providing more toys and engaging in active play time can help alleviate this problem. Of course, there may be more serious underlying issues, but this is a great starting point.

Although it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the possibility of canine hot spots, some easy upfront planning can reduce the risk.

How are hot spots treated?

Once you’ve identified a hot spot on your dog’s skin, we recommend that you book an appointment with one of our veterinarians. By getting veterinary care as soon as possible, you can prevent further infection and any permanent damage.

Depending on the severity, our veterinarians may use the following treatments:

  • Flea and tick preventives.
  • Topical ointments – sprays or creams to relieve itching and cleanse the affected area.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics. (oral or injected)
  • Oral Antipruritic or abirritants. (anti-itch medications)
  • An Elizabethan collar (e-collar) to prevent further damage to the affected area.

Upon arrival for your appointment, our veterinary team will conduct the following:

  • Hair from the affected area is shaved with clippers to allow easier access to the wound.
  • The area is cleansed with sterile saline and a mild antiseptic; the wound is patted dry and left uncovered to air dry.
  • Prescribed medications, such as topical sprays may be applied to help the hot spot mend. Our vets might recommend antibiotics to help fight the infection or steroids for combating inflammation, depending on the severity.
  • An E-collar (“the cone of shame”) is standard protocol to prevent the dog from further harming the site while in recovery.
  • Provide a home care regimen and arrange a follow-up appointment, if necessary.

The majority of hot spots will start to heal within a week after the beginning the treatment. We highly recommend that you follow our veterinarian’s advice regarding care at home and follow-up.

And, most importantly, contact us if the wound is not healing or your dog continues to shows signs of infection.

V. Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my dog suddenly getting hot spots?

There are many possible explanations. However, the simplest ones tend to be due to allergic reactions (food, seasonal or flea) and skin infections.

When should I take my dog to the vet for a hot spot?

It’s best to contact our vet clinic immediately if you notice a hot spot on your dog. Without treatment, they can get much worse leading to a more progressive and damaging infection. While there are OTC medications for these types of lesions, they generally can’t address any secondary bacterial infections that are common with hot spots.

Are hot spots likely to reappear?

The short answer is yes. Dogs susceptible to hot spots are likely to experience recurrences. If your dog suffers from chronic hot spots, they should receive testing for hypothyroidism, skin and food allergies, joint problems, or behavioral issues. In general, flea and tick control, as well as proper bathing and grooming are your best defense against future hot spots.

Can you use home remedies to treat dog hot spots?

If you aren’t able to get to the vet right away, there are a few things you can do at home to help heal hot spots. Assuming the spot isn’t already infected, you can administer the following pre-appointment care at home:

  1. Trim the area around the hot spot with clippers, not scissors. This allows the affected area to get some air and prevent excess moisture from slowing down the healing process.
  2. Gently wash the area with water and apply a cool compress to help reduce inflammation down*.
  3. If you have access to an e-collar, put it on to prevent your dog from licking or biting the hot spots.
  4. Monitor the area for improvement, such as decreased redness and reduction in lesion size.

* OTC medications such as hydrocortisone, Vaseline and Neosporin, are NOT recommended. These topicals tend to cause dogs to lick the area even more causing additional injury.

VI. Conclusion

Acute moist dermatitis – also known as a hot spot – is a common and very treatable dog skin problem that affects canines of all ages and breeds. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, pet parents can easily take the proper precautions to prevent and manage any emerging hot spots. Also, with any persistent dog skin issue we encourage you to speak with one of our veterinarians to rule out any underlying health issues.

Good hygiene and regular grooming can help prevent hot spots, and early detection and treatment can help prevent them from escalating into a more serious medical condition. With the information contained in this guide, you can ensure that your canine furry family member stays happy, healthy – and feel comfortable – in their own skin.

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Feline Redheads: What Makes Ginger Cats So Unique?

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Introduction: Gimme Some Ginger Cat Love!

Ginger cats are hard to miss. Also called red, orange, orange tabby, marmalade, tiger-cat and cinnamon, this distinctive feline can certainly strike a charismatic pose.

From 9Lives Morris to Garfield to Puss in Boots, ginger cats are some of the most celebrated felines in television and film. However, there’s more to them that meets the eye. Gingers possess personalities that are as strong-willed and sincere as their stunning coat coloring.

As pop culture phenoms, we’ve taken this opportunity to discover as much as possible about them, leading us to two important – and, dare we say – provocative questions.

What makes ginger cats so special? Are ginger cats the best cats?

What Breed of Feline are Ginger Cats?

Ginger cats are not a specific breed, but rather refers to the colour of their fur. In fact, all ginger cats are tabbies. But not all tabbies are gingers. Tabbies are also not a specific breed, but a coat type. Confused yet?

Just like tabbies, ginger cats can be found in various distinct breeds, from Bengals, Savannahs, Maine Coon and Persians, all the way to your standard Domestic Shorthair (aka. mutts of the cat world).

All ginger cats – and tabbies – have the ‘agouti’ gene, meaning that this gene determines the coloration, length, pattern and texture of a cat’s fur, typically resulting in stripes, swirls or tiger-like markings. Another distinguishing feature in tabby/ginger cats is a unique ‘M’ pattern on their forehead.

What Makes Ginger Cats So Unique? | 6 Fun Facts

1. PERSONALITY PLUS: GINGER CAT STEREOTYPES AND TEMPERAMENT

Do ginger cats have a ‘fiery’ disposition? Many believe that because of their red/orange coats, they tend to have a spirited, feisty nature. Fortunately, this stereotype isn’t true – vibrant coat colours tell us little, if anything, about a cat’s temperament. As mentioned earlier, Felines are more likely to take their behavioural traits from their breed, parents and/or life experiences, rather than the colour of their fur.

“Velcro” cats?

Gingers are generally known for their super-chill and loving purr-sonalities – yep, you read that right – and are often described as ‘velcro’ cats. You know, because they like to closely attach themselves to humans…the Bengal and Siamese breeds are good examples. This could be a good thing, but if they’re being too clingy, there could be an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Gingers can be quite demonstrative, nudging their body against their favourite human and making their belly available for a solid scratch session.

2. VOCAL CALISTHENICS: GINGER CATS LOVE TO CHAT

From pet parent surveys to veterinarians, the results are in: ginger cats – by a large margin – are the most prolific communicators in the domestic feline world. Although we don’t always know what they want, anyone who has spent any significant time with gingers describe them as very chatty.

While other cats may express themselves only when they need to be fed, are annoyed or want to go outside, ginger cats appear to use their voice for their own pleasure! This makes for a great companion. Their expressive – and frequent – vocal stylings include an assortment of sounds like chirping, meowing, trilling and purring.

3. FELINE FRECKLES: GINGER CAT BEAUTY MARKS

Cats develop freckles, just like their human counterparts but for a different reason. In ginger cats, black freckles are a feature, not a bug. Around two years of age, orange cats develop their trademark freckles on their noses and mouths.

Freckles are usually caused by lentigo, a generally non-threatening genetic condition that increases the number of pigment-producing cells containing melanin in a cat’s body. This increase in melanin produces the darker shade of the freckles. Since lentigo is associated with the gene that makes hair red, freckles are most commonly seen in ginger cats, calicos, and tortoiseshells with orange colour patterns.

4. FUR PATTERNS: ‘M’ MARKS THE SPOT + UNIQUE COAT DESIGNS

If you look closely enough, you’ll see that ginger cats display a very distinguishing feature – a large ‘M’ on their forehead.

How that ‘M’ came to be has become the of stuff of myth and legend, with assertions that its origin was attributed to the Virgin Mary in early Christianity, the ancient Egyptian tradition of “Mau” and to the creator of Islam, the Prophet Mohammad.

However, there is a much simpler, scientific reason that ginger cats express this feature: it’s part of their DNA. The ‘M’ marking is embedded in the same ‘agouti’ gene that gives them their tabby pattern. All ginger cats show the tabby pattern, and the tabby pattern itself is the result of three types of genes that can be found in all felines, including domestic cats, tigers and leopards.

The goal? To help camouflage them from prey when hunting.

As for their coat colour, a ‘ginger’ gene is responsible for producing a red pigment, called pheomelanin. This is the same pigment that also causes red hair in humans.

There are 5 different variations of tabby cat markings in ginger cats:

  • Classic: Covered in a swirling pattern of varying shades of red/orange/brown, the classic tabby is one of the most recognizable ginger cats. These gingers have a pattern that looks like a bullseye on the sides of their bodies, much like a marble cake.
  • Mackerel: this is the most common coat pattern – it produces stripes, not unlike you would find in their larger tiger brethren. These stripes branch out from a band of red color that runs along the cats back, giving it the appearance of a fish skeleton – hence the name ‘mackerel’.
  • Spotted: While most ginger colourations are comprised of stripes, the spotted tabby is covered in spots of varying size, colour and shape on their coat. Bengal cat breeds typically exhibit this coat pattern.
  • Ticked: From a distance, these cats can appear to have a single, uniform colour – ginger. Ticked orange tabbies are unique in that they don’t normally show discernible stripes or spots on their bodies, with the exception of faint markings on the tail and legs. Instead, their underlying fur is comprised of agouti hairs which can exhibit bands of pigmentation.
  • Patched: The patched tabby is also known as the bi-color tabby. These colour ‘patches’ can be dark or grayish brown with variations of red or orange within the tabby pattern. They are often referred to as Tortoiseshell tabbies because the brown and orange spots mimic those seen on the shell of a tortoise.

5. MICE BEWARE: GINGER CATS MAY HAVE A HIGHER PREY DRIVE

Are certain physical characteristics of cats – such as coat colour – associated with specific behaviors? A 2016 study came up with some interesting findings.

Although they determined that most behaviours seemed to follow breed standards rather than coat types, they did see some associations separate from breeds. Their results suggested that cats with the ‘agouti’ gene display increased aggression and interest in prey.

What does this mean? Your orange feline friend may feel the urge to stalk and hunt more than other breeds. Good news for those who need to keep the mice at bay!

6. SEX DISPARITY: WHY MOST GINGER CATS ARE MALE

Nearly 80% of ginger cats are male.

That’s a big difference. Why?

We won’t get too deep into the intricacies of feline genetics, however the ‘ginger’ gene which produces the red/orange colouring is on the X chromosome. A female cat has two X chromosomes and needs to inherit two copies of this gene from each parent to become a ginger. Since females inherit two X chromosomes, it is possible for them to inherit more than one dominant color gene, forming the coat patterns known as calico and tortoiseshell. Interestingly, more than 99% of tortoiseshell cats are female.

A male feline only requires a single copy of the X chromosome from the mother. This is why there are approximately three to four times more male ginger cats than female gingers.

Famous Ginger Cats Portrayed in TV, Movies and Comic Strips

There have been many high-profile and iconic ginger cat characters portrayed in television, film and print over the years. This has probably helped shape the deep attachment and love many have towards ginger cats, complementing their super chill nature.

7 FAMOUS GINGER CAT CHARACTERS:

1. Garfield: First appearing in 1978, Garfield is a lasagna-loving, comic strip character created by Jim Davis. This famous ginger – belonging to fictional pet parent Jon Arbuckle – spends his days terrorizing the family dog, Odie. This cartoon is the most widely syndicated comic strip in history and spawned two movies, with a 3rd in the works.

2.  Jones (aka. Jonesy): This ginger tomcat was a resident aboard the interstellar cruiser USCSS Nostromo in the classic 1979 sci-fi/horror film, “Alien”. SPOILER ALERT: Jonesy was the only survivor with Ripley in the original Alien movie.

3. Puss in Boots: Seen first in the movie “Shrek 2”, Puss in Boots quickly became a central character in the Shrek franchise, even spawning his own movie.

Weird Trivia: When Puss in Boots first meets Shrek (1:00), he gets into Shrek’s clothes and bursts through his shirt, perhaps referencing the iconic, chest-bursting scene in the sci-fi/horror film Alien.

4. Crookshanks from ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”: Hermione adopted this ginger Himalayan from the Magical Menagerie. Half-Kneazle and highly independent, Crookshanks had the mystical ability to identify untrustworthy people.

5. Orangey Minerva (‘Cat’) from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: Film-goers and Audrey Hepburn fans were none too pleased when Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly failed to give her ginger cat – “poor slob without a name” – a proper title, as well as deserting him in an alley (1:47) ! Don’t worry, it has a heart-warming ending. (5:03)

Tissue Alert!

6. Bob the Cat: The film – A Street Cat Named Bob – is a biographical true story of a ginger cat (0:41) who helped former heroin addict James Bowen survive on the streets as he attempts to attain a better life. It was named the Best British film of 2017.

Another tissue, please…sniff

7. Morris: The spokes-cat for the 9 Lives cat food brand went from being a shelter cat to a cultural icon in the 70s and 80s. “I’d walk the plank for 9 Lives”!

Conclusion

Are ginger cats the best cats? Those who agree are passionate about their orange tabbies and, if necessary, will fight you. They offer many desirable traits that can even turn non-cat people into cat lovers.

We won’t wander into this debate. Suffice it to say, all cat breeds hold a special place in our hearts and your current kitty companion will always be your favourite.

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cats-sneezing

Why is My Cat Sneezing?

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Why Cats Sneeze: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Cute? Definitely. It’s not hard to find cat sneezes entertaining, even adorable. However, when is it a cause for concern?

Yes, our feline friends can catch a cold and experience the same upper respiratory (URI’s) and sinus infections that humans can. However, there are other conditions that can also lead to those cute little sneezes.

Should I worry about my cat sneezing?

The act of sneezing is an involuntary, bodily reflex in response to irritants in the upper nasal passage. It helps to clear out irritants from the respiratory tract by blowing out air from the lungs through the nose and mouth. This function is prevalent throughout the animal kingdom, including your family dog, pet chickens and even elephants.

Cabbagetown Pet Clinic PSA: if you’re within 6 feet (2m) of an elephant about to sneeze, vacate the area immediately.

What Causes a Cat To Sneeze?

Our feline friends sneeze for the same reasons humans do: usually an itch in the nose, prompted by suspended particles in the air such as dust, smoke or even their own cat fur.

Sneezing is a normal, biological function when it occurs infrequently. It’s even normal for a cat to throw an occasional sneezing fit. However, it’s uncommon for a cat to sneeze several times a day for many days in a row. If sneezing persists – or if other symptoms develop along with sneezing – you may need to check with our veterinarians to see if treatment is required.

However, there can be more serious reasons why your cat is sneezing.

7 COMMON CAUSES OF WHY CATS SNEEZE:

     1.  External Irritation

When we think of external irritants, it’s noxious smells (such as chemicals) and exposure to toxins (rat poison) that come readily to mind. However, supposedly non-threatening household products can also trigger sneezing.

For example:

  • cooking spices – pepper and cinnamon are two common sources – may irritate a cat’s sensitive nose, especially if she’s curious about what’s happening in the kitchen.
  • household cleaning products, including those with bleach, vinegar or other chemicals.
  • Essential oils: while they may enhance your mood and living experience, it could cause distress with your feline friend – your cat’s acute sense of smell may induce a sneezing fit.

     2. Foreign Material

Curious cats get all sorts of foreign material lodged in their noses.

  • Objects like lint, grass or a hair.
  • Airborne bodies such as pollen, or other allergens.
  • Dust and other airborne particles such as smoke.

As in humans, when these particles are inhaled by a cat, the animal’s reaction is to sneeze to expel the foreign debris. If sneezing doesn’t expel the lodged material, make arrangements for an appointment at our veterinary clinic immediately.

     3. Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)

If your cat is sneezing more than normal, it’s more than likely that your feline friend has an upper respiratory infection or URI. The most widespread respiratory infection is Feline Herpesvirus or FHV. It’s estimated that as many as 80-90% of all cats are infected with FHV.

Most cats have been exposed to upper respiratory viruses as kittens, and are chronic carriers of the virus. When cats get stressed or immunosuppressed, the dormant virus has the ability to re-emerge. In sneezing cats, viral URIs are usually – as a general rule – the underlying issue.

Although there is emerging research to suggest that existing medications could improve results for cats infected with herpesvirus, there is currently no cure, and infections are lifelong.

Other viral infections that can contribute to sneezing cats include Calicivirus (which the FVRCP combo vaccine provides protection against) and influenza.

Common symptoms of upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats include:

  • Repeated sneezing over several hours or days
  • An appearance of irregular discharge (yellow, green or bloody) from the nose or eyes
  • Recurrent coughing or swallowing
  • Lethargy and/or fever
  • Dehydration and/or decreased appetite; weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

     4. Dental Disease

As the Pet Health Network notes, “dental disease can cause sneezing particularly involving root infections. Infections of the feline tooth can allow bacteria to establish in the nasal sinus with resulting inflammation and sneezing.”

Many pet parents are surprised to discover that dental disease can contribute to cat sneezing. Like most cases, sneezing is a symptom of a larger issue. The root canals of the teeth on the upper jaw are located right next to the nasal passages. When a tooth (or teeth) become infected, or when severe inflammation occurs, the wall between the tooth hole and the nasal passage can be breached. If left untreated, bacteria can travel to other parts of the body.

This condition is generally painful and serious. If you suspect that your cat has dental issues, a veterinary visit is strongly recommended.

     5.  Bacterial Infections

When you observe a yellow or green discharge originating from your cat’s nose or eyes – accompanied by excessive sneezing – it’s a sure sign of a bacterial infection.

In cats, bacterial infections rarely act alone; they almost always play a secondary role after a respiratory virus or other medical condition causes damage to the nasal passages. Always opportunists, bacteria use the occasion to take advantage of the weakened barriers that usually protect cats from such attacks.

     6. Neoplasia

As with most sneezing symptoms, neoplasia (tumors) is always on the list of possible reasons, in older cats especially. Aberrant (cancer) cells can grow inside the nasal passage, creating irritation and inflammation that causes the cat to sneeze. These tumors are typically detected visually via rhinoscopy or a nasal biopsy. When present, the diagnosis, regrettably, usually results in very poor outcomes.

     7.  Fungal Infections

Although relatively rare compared to viral or bacterial infections, fungal infections are a known cause of sneezing in cats. A fungus – known as Cryptococcus – is the most common offender.

By itself, a physical exam will not be adequate to distinguish a fungal infection from other causes of cat sneezing – rhinoscopy or a biopsy is typically needed to reach a definitive diagnosis.

My cat is sneezing more than usual. What should I do?

STEP 1:  Study your cat’s environment and consider potential causes. Looking for patterns can help determine if your cat is sneezing due to an irritant, such as dust or perfume, or if it’s caused by an infection or other underlying condition.

  • Does sneezing occur around the same time each day?
  • Does it only happen in a specific room or during household activities?
  • Have you introduced new cat litter? Dusty and/or scented litter may cause your cats to sneeze.
  • Are you using new products in your home? Cats can be sensitive to the smell of cleaners, candles, scented oils and perfumes.
  • Does your home need thorough cleaning? Dust or pollen are usually suspects.

STEP 2:  If you do suspect your cat has an upper respiratory infection, here are some immediate steps you can take to provide some relief before you confirm a vet appointment.

  • Remove any discharge from your cat’s nose and face with warm, moistened cotton or clean cloth.
  • Attempt to get your cat to eat: warming up canned/wet food for easier digestion.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water.
  • Keep a humidifier humming to help keep your cat’s nasal passages moist.

STEP 3:  If you have taken all the steps to rule out environmental causes and your cat’s sneezing still persists, it’s time to schedule a veterinary appointment.

When is it Time to See My Veterinarian?

If your cat sneezes once in a while, and has no other symptoms (or has only mild symptoms) you may want to simply monitor them for a few days. There’s probably nothing to be concerned about at this point. As a precaution, keep your cat indoors and watch for changes.

However, these signs – accompanied with excessive sneezing – are more serious and require an immediate vet visit:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nasal discharge
  • Worsening of symptoms
  • Persistence of symptoms beyond a few days

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Treatment of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Treatment for an excessively sneezing feline is typically targeted towards an underlying cause – the culprit that usually emerges is an upper respiratory infection.

While a wide variety of treatments are available, owners should be aware that the goal in most cases – especially chronic ones – is to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms, not to cure them.

The severity of the upper respiratory infection will determine the treatment response. In cases with mild symptoms, URIs may resolve on their own after a couple of weeks or be aided by simpler treatment solutions.

Treatments for mild cases:

  • Humidifiers or vaporizers
  • Antihistamines and decongestants
  • NSAIDs
  • Antinausea medications
  • Eye and/or nose drops

For more progressive cases, treatments options may include:

  • Antiviral medications or antibiotics: Although bacterial infections are rarely the primary issue, antibiotics are often used to make your kitty feel better faster.
  • Nasal Lavage: Flushing the nasal passages is done under general anesthesia can temporarily ease symptoms, regardless of the cause. It can also dislodge hidden foreign material.
  • Steroids
  • Subcutaneous fluids (to alleviate dehydration)
  • Surgery (in extreme cases)

Advanced cases may require hospitalization to administer more intensive treatments, such as IV fluids and nutritional support. Upper respiratory infections – if left untreated – can lead to other serious complications such as pneumonia ands chronic breathing issues.

Conclusion

When your cat sneezes, it’s usually because of some simple, benign cause: a floating particle (ie. dust, pollen) that gets inhaled through the nose. This irritates the nasal passage causing in an involuntary bodily function present in all mammals – a sneeze.

However, if your beloved kitty companion is persistently sneezing and has nasal discharges, it’s time to see one of our fearless and compassionate veterinarians. We’re here to help.

Felines with upper respiratory infections are not uncommon in most vet practices. Fortunately, the majority of infections respond well to treatment and your cat will continue to lead a fulfilling life of sleeping, insisting to be fed and ignoring you.

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The Top 10 Dog Breeds: Cabbagetown Pet Clinic [2022]

By Pet Parenting

CPC’S TOP 10 DOG BREED COUNTDOWN

Dogs are an integral part of the family unit, whether you reside solo or you’re part of a larger, multi-person household. Over the last few decades, the percentage of households that own a pet in Canada has increased significantly, making us one the countries with highest pet ownership rates in the world. Add in a global pandemic and the number of new (or lapsed) pet parents continues unabated.

About 900,000 Canadian adults got a pet since the start of the pandemic who didn’t have one before it – 3% of the population.

Whether you’re looking for a new pup, a long-time client or just a fan of statistics, you might be curious about which breeds are the most popular at the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic. From one-of-a-kind, hybrid (aka. designer) breeds to stylish purebreds, we dug deep into CPC’s database to find out this year’s most popular dog breeds among our clients.

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 most popular dog breeds at the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic in 2022.

#10. French Bulldog (aka. Frenchie)

Calm and unflappable, the French bulldog craves attention. They tend to be well-suited for solo flyers because they generally don’t need to compete for attention from other family members.

This easy-going breed is a great addition to any home in an urban environment, because large spaces are not needed and they don’t require a lot of exercise. Perfect for condo-living. Although they’re willing, activity should be managed with care. Frenchies have squished faces and narrow nostrils which can make breathing difficult in the best of conditions. Not the best running buddy, but they’re always game to go for a brisk walk.

Their even-tempered and energetic personalities make this breed a favorite of city-dwellers. They may snort and snore (part of their appeal!), but Frenchies make excellent companions and are relatively easy to train – just ensure there are adequate treats to be had!

FUN FACT: As a result of their short legs and bulbous head, French bulldogs are terrible swimmers, so pool owners and beach goers should always be alert around bodies of water.

#9. Cockapoo (aka. Cockapoodle, Cockerpoo)

Very clever and outgoing, the Cockapoo combines the sweet nature of the Cocker Spaniel with the trainability and friendly nature of the Poodle. As one of the oldest designer dog breeds, Cockapoos are a hybrid breed – a cross between purebred American Cocker Spaniel and a purebred Poodle.

Cockapoos are generally bred for their disposition, more than their good looks. They tend to inherit the loving and sociable natures shared by both parent breeds and flourish in social exchanges. However, they abhor isolation and are prone to develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.

Depending on their size, Cockapoos do well in apartments, although maxi-cockapoos may be less well-suited for small living spaces. They’re not prolific barkers (yeah!), but they will alert you when there’s a knock at the door.

FUN FACT: Cockapoo’s are one of the oldest known designer (or hybrid) dog breeds – popular in the US and Canada since the 1950’s.

#8. Miniature Poodle

Miniature Poodles are well-known for their intellect and are highly trainable. They tend to be active, fun-loving family dogs with a sense of silliness. Their smaller size is also ideal for city living.

However, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation is a must. Early puppy socialization is key and must include other people, pets and a regular grooming regimen.

Miniature Poodles thrive on attention and may develop separation anxiety if left alone. As such, they don’t make great kennel dogs. They were initially bred as hunting dogs, so they do require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be at their best.

FUN FACT: Their crazy-looking haircuts have a practical purpose. This unique look – called a ‘lion’ coat clip – served an important function in their past life as working animals bred to retrieve waterfowl. Less hair allows the Poodle to be a more proficient swimmer, leaving them susceptible to cold water. To help alleviate this conundrum, Poodle parents left hair around the joints, the upper torso and tips of the tail to protect the joints and vital organs.

#7.  Mixed Breed / Heinz 57 / Mutt / Pot-Licker

When nature takes its course, mixed breed dogs are the result. The number of breed combinations can be limitless, and a dog’s ancestry can go back so far as to be indistinguishable without DNA testing.

Mixed dogs come in every shape, size, color and personality – they can simply be defined as not being any breed at all. Unfortunately, this category of dog makes up a major percentage of the dogs that end up in shelters, humane societies and animal rescues. Needless to say, by saving a mutt’s life, your compassion be rewarded with passionate love and devotion!

Every dog’s health is unique. However, over time many people have found that mixed breed dogs tend to be often healthier than purebred or designer dogs. Because purebred and designer dogs have limited gene pools, genetic disorders can occur over generations. Mixed breed dogs have a much more diverse genetic pool, so even if one dog has a health issue, chances are it will fade within the next generation.

The benefit?

Dogs that cost less to own or adopt, have higher life expectancies, have more genetic diversity and generally beget lower pet insurance premiums.

FUN FACT: Mutts can compete in official dog shows! The Westminster Dog Show opened its doors to mutts (called “All-American” dogs) in 2014, allowing them to compete in agility competitions.

#6. Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers have been a Top 10 dog breed in Canada since forever. Playful and kind, these dogs remain loyal to their pet parents – they’ll stick by your side no matter the weather or temperature.

This breed is not only a fantastic family pet, but thrives as a service dog because of their compassionate nature and trainability. Golden Retrievers are hardworking and are regularly found hunting, guiding the blind, and participating in search-and-rescue missions.

Originating in the Scottish Highlands, this is an active dog bred to ‘retrieve’ birds in water or on land. Golden Retrievers are “bird dogs” by nature, so they often crave a game of fetch or a swim. When exercise is offered daily, Golden Retrievers can adapt to any type of setting, even in an urban environment.

FUN FACT:  A Scotsman named Lord Tweedmouth of Inverness (quite a handle!) is credited with creating the Golden Retriever. In 1864, he crossed a Yellow Retriever – called Nous – and a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle. The majority of modern Golden Retrievers are believed to have descended from the resulting litter.

#5. Goldendoodle

The perfect pet?

The Goldendoodle is a hugely popular designer or hybrid breed: a deliberate cross between two purebreds – a Golden Retriever and Poodle. Chosen for particular their characteristics and traits,

the result is a medium-sized dog with the friendliness and sociable nature of the Golden Retriever and the high intelligence and energy of the Poodle.

The physical look of Goldendoodles can differ widely depending on which parent possessed the more dominant genes. As with their appearance, Goldendoodles’ temperament might take after one parent more than the other. However, more often than not, this cross-breed results in a smart, obedient and tremendously affectionate family pet.

Like their Golden Retriever parents, Goldendoodles also make great service dogs. Their intelligence and obedience are a perfect combination that helps them shine as guide dogs, and their affectionate and kind nature makes them a great choice for therapy dogs.

FUN FACT:  The Goldendoodle was first officially bred in 1989 by the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia and made its first appearance in North America in the early 1990s. However, Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, is said to have bred the first cross in 1969.

#4. Yorkshire Terrier (aka. Yorkie)

The Yorkshire Terrier is energetic and feisty, but also affectionate. It is considered a good apartment or condo pup due to its size.

However, the Yorkshire Terrier’s small size belies its true character, which is tends to be active, aggressive and, some might say, overbearing. Yorkies can be very loving, but they also require a ton of attention. If you like to dote on your dog, this breed is a great choice – Yorkies crave it. Yorkshire Terriers are loyal and like to look out and defend their pet parent, thus making them excellent watchdogs. However, if not treated respectfully or gently, they can be ill-humoured towards other humans, especially children.

Because they are so small, Yorkshire terriers do not need a lot of room to exercise, making them they excellent apartment/condo dogs. They also enjoy going for walks outside, but the breed is sensitive to cold weather and prone to chills. When outside, Yorkies need to be protected – a dog coat and booties are an important investment during the winter months.

FUN FACT:  A Yorkie was a World War II war hero. In 1944, a Yorkie – named Smoky – was recognized with saving the lives of American soldiers in New Guinea by dragging a communications cable through a very narrow, 60-foot-long drainage ditch. She is also thought to be the world’s first therapy dog, visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals.

#3. Shih-Tzu

The name Shih-Tzu means “little lion” in Mandarin, but this toy breed is anything but ferocious – this pup’s a lover, not a fighter!

The Shih-Tzu personality is extremely charming, and even non-dog people (yes, there are a few!) find it hard to resist this breed. They were bred for one thing – companionship. They don’t herd or hunt, and definitely don’t count on your Shih-Tzu to protect your home. Their friendly and outgoing nature would probably welcome an uninvited interloper with an enthusiastic tale wag.

They tend to get along well with people of all ages, with other dogs as well as other pets. Shih-Tzu’s require an ample (dare we say, enormous?) amount of personal attention. They have a huge need to be with people, whether lounging on your lap or taking a short stroll through the neighbourhood. Because Shih-Tzu’s thrive on human companionship, they can easily become spoiled to the point of annoying.

If you’re looking for a smaller canine bestie who can easily adapt to apartment/condo living, join you on the couch and shower you with absolute love and devotion, Shih-Tzu’s were bred for you.

FUN FACT:  During the first half of the 20th century, the breed was nearly extinct. Every Shih-Tzu alive today can be traced to one of 14 dogs – seven males and seven females – used to re-establish the breed.

#2. Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is probably one of the most misunderstood breeds. Small in size, but large in disposition, they’re complex canines – first impressions can thoroughly perplex potential owners.

A Chihuahuas temperament? It’s complicated.

They crave attention and are very loyal to their pet parent, but can be aggressive – or even hostile to others not in their orbit. They can be snappy around outsiders, as they like to keep all of their pet parent’s attention to themselves. Unsocialized Chihuahua’s have a reputation (warranted, or not) for nipping at visitors or smaller children who may be threatening to their diminutive size. However, they nurture strong bonds with their owners, are intelligent and easily trained – as long as you socialize early.

Even though they are considered lap dogs, they are active and like to be kept occupied. They can get all the exercise needed in your house or apartment making them the perfect condo/lap/on-the-go companion – or even therapy – dogs. Despite their quirky nature, they are clearly a massively popular choice among our Cabbagetown Pet Clinic clientele.

FUN FACT: Not only are Chihuahuas are the smallest dogs in the world, have one of the longest lifespans (15-20 years!) and the largest brain-to-body ratio in the canine world – the planet’s most diminutive dog has the biggest brain!

#1 Labrador Retriever

Surprised? Not likely…

The most popular dog breed at the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic in 2022 – and across the country – is Canada’s very own Labrador Retriever. Labrador Retrievers have been enormously popular for over 25 years, thanks to their smarts, loyalty and calm nature. They’re a great breed for families or service dog work, adapt well to any environment and tend to get along well with other dogs.

This devoted and laid-back breed makes for a great pet no matter where you live thanks to their outgoing and eager-to-please dispositions. These dogs are particularly well-adapted in Canada since they have thick, warm coats to keep them comfortable in sub-zero temperatures, and a kind-hearted demeanor that makes them perfect for couch cuddles on those cold winter nights.

Labs are enthusiastic and athletic, so they require lots of exercise and enrichment. Owing to their energetic nature, Labradors who are left alone or not well-exercised can become destructive – chewing, digging and barking to excess. Our clinic has had to remove more than a few objects from a Lab’s stomach over the years, including socks, toys, crayons and other foreign objects!

FUN FACT:  The Labrador Retriever’s ancestor is the St. John’s Water Dog – a common breed in the Newfoundland area of Canada. This now-extinct breed was used by fishermen to recover ropes and nets (sometimes fish, too!), from the icy waters of the North Atlantic coast.

CONCLUSION

At Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we celebrate all dog breeds. When you need a veterinarian for your furry family member, our animal hospital has your back, delivering loving, compassionate and professional pet care.

Don’t see your breed in the Top 10? Will some of these popular CPC breeds crack the Top 10 in 2023?

  1. German Shepherd
  2. Pomeranian
  3. Pug
  4. Husky
  5. Maltese
  6. Standard Poodle
  7. Australian Shepherd
  8. Toy Poodle
  9. Border Collie
  10. Boston Terrier

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.

Discover the CPC WebStore

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

The CPC WebStore: Save Time and Money.

Life gets busy.

Imagine running out of prescription pet food for your beloved pet. It’s the Friday before a long weekend and stocking up on food and treats has completely passed your mind. Or you’re unable to pick up food at the clinic in person. Or you finally remember at the last minute, only to find out your clinic is temporarily sold out. You may think this is rare, but when it does occur it can cause quite a lot of undue stress.

The solution?

Ordering your pet’s needs through our WebStore. It saves you time AND money.

Cabbagetown Pet Clinic gives you the option to order therapeutic food, treats, toys and prescription refills online, 24/7. Our WebStore provides our clients the simplicity of online shopping for therapeutic pet foods requiring a veterinary prescription. And a convenient automatic re-fill option ensures pet owners don’t run out of the prescription food or medications their pets need, resulting in better pet health and welfare.

What are the advantages of our WebStore?

Our WebStore offers you the convenience of shopping for your pet’s products whenever you have the time. It can sometimes be inconvenient to come to our clinic to buy food, treats or your pet’s favourite toys – the WebStore provides you with 24/7 service.

  • Access to exclusive sales, promotions and rebates.
  • Order anytime at your convenience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Delivery to your doorstep. Products can be shipped directly to the address of your choosing: your home, cottage, neighbour or office with the exception of PO boxes.
  • AutoOrder: Automatic Home Delivery. Have your pet products automatically delivered to your address. Select shipping frequency, delay your shipment or cancel at any time. Never run out of food again!
  • Free Clinic Pick-up. When you order online, you can also choose to pick-up your order at our clinic, it’s always FREE!
  • Huge Selection. Shop a full catalogue of products for your pet such as prescription food, toys, treats and shampoo…all at competitive prices.
  • Free Shipping on orders over $150.00.
  • Prescription Refills available upon veterinarian approval.

SCROLL to the bottom for the latest WebStore INCENTIVES AND DISCOUNTS

The Best Feature on WebStore? AutoOrder

Beyond the convenience of ordering online, the most powerful feature of our WebStore is the ability for our clients to sign up for AutoOrder. It’s essentially a subscription service that will automatically send product automatically – typically prescription food – at an interval of your choosing. It could be one week, two weeks or more, depending on your pets eating habits and product size.

Once enrolled, you’ll automatically be shipped a bag (or case) of your pet’s prescription food before the current bag is empty. This ensures that you’ll never be out of pet food on a long weekend or when the veterinary hospital is closed.

In addition to being a huge time saver, signing up for AutoOrder will also save you money! Familiar prescription diets like Hills, Royal Canin and Purina offer various discounts and incentives on their food, if placed by AutoOrder.

How do I Register?

Registration is easy! There are 2 ways to register:

  1. Sign up on the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic website.
  2. Have our staff members register you. Gives us a call – this can be done over the phone in minutes.

Once registered, you’ll receive an email automatically, giving you a secure password – this can be changed anytime through the WebStore under My Account. Important* Information about you or your pet will never be sold or accessible to any third parties. WebStore Privacy Policy.

Will you send me reminders when I need to re-order?

Yes. If you opt out of AutoOrder, the WebStore will automatically send you an email reminder to reorder your pet’s therapeutic diet so you don’t run dry.

Why not order from other online stores?

Ordering through our WebStore is faster (and safer!) for your pet. The WebStore is just an extension of our office. All of your pet’s diets are monitored by our veterinarians through our WebStore. When ordering from some non-affiliated online pet store, they are required by law to validate your order through your veterinarian. This introduces time delays and potential errors.

How long to receive my order?

Most orders should arrive at your door within 8-10 business days. Shipments are delivered through courier. For in-clinic pick-up, the order should be available within 2-3 business days. Orders placed on Friday, Saturday or Sunday will be processed on Monday. When placing an order, you have the option to have the order either shipped to a specific address or picked up at our clinic when it is ready. To check the status of an order at any time, go to the “Past Orders” tab of the WebStore. If you have any problems with your order at all, please give us a call. Our phone number is listed at the top of the page. We will be more than happy to help you out.

How do I set up AutoOrder?

Easily. Once you have logged onto your profile and your current diet prescription has been approved, you can create an AutoOrder in just a few clicks. Most diets are considered prescription, therefore will be approved by the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic prior to your first order. Once the diet is approved you will find all current diets listed under the “For My Pet” icon, shown highlighted below. During the check-out process you choose your time frame for your AutoOrder delivery, once you have filled out your shipping address and credit card information. Check the box “Yes, create my AutoOrder.” Then place order. At the final check out page you will be able to pick the frequency of your order. IMPORTANT!* You are not locked in to any particular AutoOrder frequency or make a long-term commitment – it can always be changed to suit your unique circumstances. A reminder email is delivered 7 days prior to shipping, so you have time cancel or adjust the order as needed.

Active Promotions

All of the following promotions are applied to your purchase when you set up AutoOrder.

1. HILL’S PET NUTRITION (for New WebStore Users):

Save $25.00 on your first purchase. Get $15.00 off your second and $10.00 off your third purchase. Enjoy $50 in total savings!

Offer End Date (for New Users): 12/1/2022 Promo-Code: HillsPet25

Get a 5% discount when you set up AutoOrder for any Hill’s Pet Nutrition product. This incentive has no expiry date and is available for all client purchases made through the WebStore.

2. NESTLE PURINA PETCARE

Save $10.00 on your 1st purchase of Purina Pro Plan veterinary diets Essential Care, Urinary or Gastrointestinal products. Enjoy a 10% savings on your 2nd purchase of the same product when purchased using AutoOrder. A coupon code will be provided via email for the 10% discount in approximately two weeks, once you have qualified for the promotion.

Offer End Date: 10/29/2022 Promo Code: Purina10

Save 5% off Purina® Pro Plan Veterinary Diets® products when you place your order through AutoOrder.

3. ROYAL CANIN

Get a 5% discount when you set up AutoOrder for any Royal Canin product. This incentive has no expiry date and is available for all client purchases made through the WebStore.

4. AVENTIX– Avena Sativa and Thera Bites

Receive 7.5% Manufacturer Instant Rebate for Select Aventix products with AutoOrder. The promotion will automatically be applied to your cart during checkout. Offer End Date: 1/1/2023 – AutoOrders only

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.

dog-and-cat-in-animal-shelter

Pet Surrender: What Goes Up, Must Come Down?

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Was it inevitable?

During the pandemic, people went shopping in record numbers – for pets.

Many of these purchases were by new owners adopting a pet for the first time, presumably to soothe their boredom and loneliness as government measures to help stop the spread and work-from-home took hold.

According to a June 2021 survey commissioned by Purina, nearly 3.7 million Canadians adopted, purchased or fostered a cat or a dog during the pandemic.

Now the pendulum has swung and surrenders to animal shelters are on the rise.

The last two years have seen huge societal shifts. Now that we’re adapting to the “new” normal, you may find yourself returning to the office and not being home to properly care for your pet. You’re definitely experiencing high inflation, making it more difficult to keep up with rising costs. You may be facing a potential job loss. All these factors are putting a strain on pet parents, veterinarians and animal shelters. Animal shelters are now in crisis-mode because of staffing shortages, higher operating costs and access to veterinary care.

According to Toronto Animal Services, in the first half of 2022, 709 pets were given to city shelters, compared to 404 during the same time period last year. That is up 75% compared to the first half of 2021.

Unfortunately, this number is expected to rise.

In this post, we will offer 5 ways to help keep your pet out of the shelter system.

Why are pet parents surrendering their cherished pets?

1. Pet Ownership Costs

Most new pet owners are now past the start-up costs associated with their pandemic pet purchase. According to rover.com, initial costs for Canadian pet parents during the pandemic ranged from $700 to $1,800 for cats and $1,300 to $3,300 for dogs.

This includes all pet parent start up obligations such as bowls, leashes, crates, microchipping, nail trimmers, poop bags or litter boxes, flea and tick prevention, food, bedding, adoption fees, vaccinations and spaying or neutering.

However, it’s the ongoing costs that pet parents new to the ownership game may struggle to reconcile, especially for financially strapped pet owners amidst surging inflation.  Some costs are up 30% or more from January 2021. This includes food, grooming, vaccines, toys and flea and tick prevention, among others.

2. Spay and Neuter Deferrals

Another reason for the increase in unwanted pets – the postponement of spay and neuter early in the pandemic. Some clinics – Cabbagetown Pet Clinic excluded – were forced to pause spay and neuter surgery for a short period of time because of PPE availability concerns. We’re now approaching the fourth generation of unwanted litters that arose from that period.

3. Staffing: Veterinary Care Access

Yes, it’s affecting every business, not just veterinary care. However, veterinarians and veterinary technicians – at the best of times – tend to have higher rates of depression, burnout and suicidal thoughts. The study linked above was completed in February 2020, right at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic pet syndrome has only exacerbated these results since then, leading many to leave the industry completely.

Where have they gone?

Some veterinarians have sold their practices and retired, while others have just left the industry entirely to pursue other interests. Unfortunately, veterinary schools in Canada and the United States are not even close to replacing them, creating a giant hole in veterinary access for pet parents when they need it most. There are open positions in almost every animal hospital and filling them is an ongoing struggle that appears will not end soon.

4. Veterinary Operations Costs

We could go into all the reasons why veterinary costs are what they are, but for some clients that would never be satisfactory. We get it – pet ownership comes with significant financial commitments that new pet parents may not have carefully thought through when they stepped into the pandemic pet ownership arena.

Although the standard exams fees have barely budged, clinic supply chains are creating limitations for the basics – particularly vaccines and medications – and prices have increased accordingly with the world-wide rise of runaway inflation. Couple that with higher wages and incentives for recruiting employees and the cost of veterinary care has risen appreciably.

In basic Economics 101 language, demand is high and supply is low.

Surrender and adoption feel-good story. Tear trigger alert!

5 ways to save money and keep your pet out of the shelter system.

I’m committed to keeping my pet out of the shelter system. How can I save money and keep my pet?

If your financial position has become precarious for whatever reason (job loss, moving into pet-free apartment, medical condition) and you think that you can’t swing the ongoing expense of pet parenting, we can offer 5 ways to help address your unique situation – and avoid surrendering your pet to an animal shelter.

1. Known knowns – be completely transparent about all the costs associated with your pet.

This is an easy first step. Take a few minutes with a pad and paper and list every expense for your pet. It would include annual vaccines, food, pet supplies, etc. If you’re unsure about future expenses, review your transactions from the previous month, or even year.

Put the cost beside each item and arrive at a total. If the total is worrying, take a deep breath. This is an important first step – seeing where you currently stand allows you to chart a path forward.

2. Identify all the ways to save on day-to-day expenses – implement them today.

There are lots of ways to save on pet expenses.

  • Bulk-buy food and supplies (Costco)
  • Use digital coupons for pet food (ie. Hill’s Diet, Purina)
  • Make diet adjustments of to reduce food costs (consult with your veterinarian first!)
  • Cashback / Loyalty credit cards for pet products
  • Homemade treats
  • Food banks with pet food reserves
  • Score pet supply bargains at Winners or Marshalls

If you are currently (over)spending in some areas (restaurants, vacations), can you reduce some of those discretionary costs in your lifestyle? And is it worth to you? We’re not here to preach, but if the answer is ‘no’, then it’s likely that you’re not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to keep your pet happy and healthy.

3. Delay the non-necessities; save up instead.

This does NOT mean delaying medical treatment for your pet. However, there are many things that can be put on the back burner.

  • Hold off on adopting playmates for your pet
  • Need a new crate? Check the second-hand market for gently-used pet products (ie. Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji)
  • Specialty pet shampoos and grooming items
  • Wash an old dog collar, don’t replace it.
  • Skip expensive training classes; DIY
  • Reserve funds: If you have flexibility in your budget, start a reserve fund for yourself and your pet. Having emergency reserve funds can help pay for unplanned vet bills or even cover the basics – like food – if your circumstances change.

4. Raise money and/or look for financial pet support.

Most people would rather “keep up appearances” or poke themselves with a sharp object in the eye than ask for financial assistance. It’s a blow to our ego, but this shouldn’t deter you in the face of losing your cherished companion.

  • Can you upgrade your job and salary in the midst of the Great Resignation? Keeping your beloved pet is always extra motivation to make a move.
  • Is there additional work available, such as a second job or extra shifts? Weigh the financial benefits of extra work against how much time you have available – your pet still needs you!
  • Sell your unwanted items on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace – ie. clothing, guitars, bicycles – then use this money to cover pet expenses.
  • It’s completely acceptable to ask friends and family for help with practical pet essentials, provided they care about you and your pet.
  • Assistance Programs: The Farley Foundation assists those who are struggling financially to pay for veterinary care. You can find program details here. The Cabbagetown Pet Clinic is a dedicated partner of the Farley Foundation – the diverse Cabbagetown community is the beneficiary.

5. Consider Pet Insurance

It’s folly to say, “it would never happen to my pet”. It is almost a certainty that every pet during its lifetime will have a major veterinary bill.

Pet insurance means that you have to imagine the possibility of an unforeseen medical, worst-case scenario involving your beloved pet’s 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.

Some pet owners incorporate pet insurance in their monthly budget. The prices for coverage vary widely, so shop around. If you choose not purchase pet insurance, then be prepared allocate the same amount of money (premium) into an emergency reserve fund – this could range anywhere from $50-$70 per month.

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.

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

*costs reflect procedures in major metropolitan areas based on Trupanion’s research and experience in 2019.

Conclusion

In addition to shelter surrenders, who knows how many pets are being abandoned by the side of the road in remote, rural parts of Canada? We can’t even imagine what goes through a pet’s mind when their owner drives away leaving them to fend for themselves. Heartbreaking…

That said, the ‘perfect storm’ for animal shelters is ongoing. With supply chain issues and staffing, shelters in most municipalities lack the necessary resources to accommodate this current surge, resulting in them being understaffed and turning away pets. It’s incumbent upon pet parents to look for any means possible – without causing their pet undo harm – before giving up the responsibility of pet ownership.

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.

How To Keep Your Canine Cool in the Summer Heat

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Canine Hyperthermia: How to keep your dog cool in hot weather

After a long, cold Canadian winter, we’re all more than ready to head outside with our furry family members for some fun in the sun.

However, summer in Toronto usually means one thing – hot, humid weather. Nobody likes to be soaked in perspiration and feeling drained, including dogs. They’re suffering just as much as us – if not more – under that shiny, fur coat.

When the temperatures rise and the sun shines, we dutifully take precautions, such as wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated. The same goes for dogs – it’s up to responsible pet parents to keep them safe and comfortable on excessively hot and humid days.

Take steps to protect your dog in the summer heat.

Whether taking your dog for a walk, a ride in the car or just playing in the backyard, heat and humidity can pose a significant threat. Heatstroke or exhaustion can easily cut your outdoor escapades short and result in harmful outcomes.

WHAT IS HEAT STROKE IN DOGS?

Heat stroke (aka. heat exhaustion, heat prostration or hyperthermia) is a term used to describe an elevated body temperature above the generally accepted norm. Although normal temperatures for dogs will vary, it is acknowledged that body temperatures above 39° C (103° F) are excessive.

When a dog’s body temperature climbs above the normal range, they begin to lose their ability to regulate their internal temperature. Up to this point, dogs can normalize their body temperature through respiratory means (panting) or through sweat glands in the nose and paws.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE OR HEAT EXHAUSTION IN DOGS?

It’s relatively easy to spot the earliest sign of an overheated pup – excessive panting. This is the first indication to get your dog into a cooler environment. Other early signs are more indirect, but may be as simple as your dog being less reactive to regular commands or drinking more water than usual.

If you happen to miss these early indicators and exposure to oppressive heat persists, a severely overheated dog may collapse, experience convulsions and/or exhibit vomiting. Therefore, you must identify the problem before it gets to that point. If there is any uncertainty at all, GET YOUR DOG OUT OF THE HEAT. Yes, we’re yelling…

Visible symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include:

  • difficulty breathing; excessive drooling or panting
  • severe thirst
  • weakness and/or fatigue
  • unsteady, uncoordinated movements
  • vomiting
  • agitation and disorientation
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • elevated and/or irregular heart rate
  • dark, bloody stools
  • muscle tremors/seizures

Severe heat stroke in dogs can cause internal medical issues, such as kidney failure, brain swelling and intestinal bleeding. This is bad. If you observe any of the above tell-tale symptoms, immediate veterinary care at our clinic or an after-hours emergency facility is highly recommended.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR HEATSTROKE OR HEAT EXHAUSTION?

All dogs are at risk for overheating under the right conditions. However, dogs with heavy coats/long hair, very young or very old dogs and brachycephalic breeds tend to be more susceptible. Overweight dogs and those that suffer from underlying medical conditions – causing breathing or heart problems – are especially vulnerable.

9 Factors that Raise the Risk of Heat Stroke in Dogs:

  • dehydration due to inadequate water intake or lack of water access
  • age – the very young and very old
  • obesity, resulting in poor heart and/or lung conditioning
  • underlying history of heart or lung related disease
  • increased levels of thyroid hormone
  • flat-faced, short-nosed, breeds such as boxers, shih tzus, bulldogs and pugs
  • heavy, long and/or dark coats
  • extremely active dogs and working/hunting breeds such as shepherds, spaniels and retrievers
  • environmental factors such as overheated automobiles or lack of shade

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS OVERHEATED

At the first sign of overheating, immediate action is required to cool down your dog.

5 Ways to Treat an Overheated Dog:

  • move your dog immediately to a cooler area, either indoors where there is air conditioning or into the nearest shade.
  • it’s a bit of a stretch, but if you have a rectal thermometer, check your dog’s temperature. Heat stroke or exhaustion normally occurs when a dog’s temperature exceeds 39° C or 103° F. If your dog enters this ‘danger zone’, call our veterinary clinic immediately.
  • if you’re near a body of fresh water (lake or pool), encourage your dog take a dip. In the absence of a body of water, use a cooled towel to help reduce core body temperature. Place the towel around the neck, armpits and between the hind legs.
  • if your dog is conscious, give him cool, fresh water. Forcing your dog to drink is ill-advised, as it may end up in the lungs creating more issues. If your pup can’t – or won’t -drink, liberally wet their tongue with water. Feeding ice cubes sounds like a good idea, however, it may cause their temperature to drop too quickly, leading to shock.
  • get your dog to our animal hospital. Call ahead so we can administer prompt treatment as soon as you arrive. If it’s an after-hours emergency, take your dog to the nearest 24/7 emergency animal hospital.

6 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR DOG COOL AND BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT:

     1. Always Stay Hydrated.

While outside, make sure your dog has access to fresh water, shade and shelter away from direct sunlight. At home, keep fresh drinking water in their dish. Toss ice cubes into the bowl for an extra cool-down measure.

     2. Be Exercise Wise.

If you plan on walking your dog in the summer heat, limit walks and playtime to short sessions at cooler times of the day – the early morning or late evening. Bring along a water bottle or collapsible water dish with lots of cold water and take frequent water breaks. If possible, stay on the shady side of the street and remember that your dog’s paws are very sensitive to hot pavement.

     3. Go for a Dip.

One of the best ways for your dog to stay cool is to find water, whether it’s a lake, river, neighbour’s pool, kiddie pool, local dog pool or simply at the business end of a garden hose.

     4. Create A Breeze.

A no-brainer – a breeze can make summer heat more bearable. For cooling by evaporation, a strategically placed fan can create enough moving air to provide your dog some solid, cool-down relief.

     5. Frozen Treats and Toys.

Chilled or frozen dog treats are an excellent summer treat for your dog. They not only help keep your dog cool, but also aid in relieving boredom when it’s too hot to be outside.

     6. Stay Inside.

The easiest strategy, especially if you have a brachycephalic breed, an elderly and/or obese dog –  keep them inside your air-conditioned home except for quick outdoor bathroom breaks. If you’re without air conditioning, keep your windows and curtains shut during the day to keep the heat out. Run fans to help keep you dog cool and open the windows at night to let the cooler air in.

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Cat Scratch Disease: A Cat Lovers Tale

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Health, Pet Parenting

Summary

  • Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) is an infection caused by bacteria in a cat’s mouth delivered by a scratch or bite.
  • A simple cat bite can carry a high risk of infection.
  • The disease causes redness, swelling and flu-like symptoms.
  • If scratched or bitten, quickly wash the area with soap and water; seek medical treatment if symptoms persist or worsen.
  • Captain Obvious says, “Avoid stray or feral cats.”
  • Keep your furry family member updated on vaccines.

Introduction

As many cat lovers know, the prospect of getting scratched is in Chapter 1 of the feline ownership manual. In many instances, this is a result of healthy play and an accepted part of being a cat parent.

Recently, one of our loyal Cabbagetown Pet Clinic clients was cat-sitting for his mother over the Easter long weekend. The cat is a feisty, 1 year-old that tends to have (overly) playful tendencies, including the tactical use of razor-sharp claws. Our client was well aware of this, but having been scratched many times before, he felt that the risk of infection from light play was VERY low.

Wrong.

Apparently, the cat’s mood changed and playfulness turned to ire (surprise…lol!), resulting in a series of scratches over both hands. Unmoved by this outburst, he doused his hands in hydrogen peroxide and washed them thoroughly with soap and water.

Later that evening, he noticed swelling and tenderness on his left knuckle but thought nothing of it. The next morning, the swollen area had become larger, but he still (remarkably!) didn’t find this a source of concern. Only after an afternoon of cold sweats, back pain and high fever did the prospect of an infection ever cross his mind. Nonetheless, he waited one more sleepless night to see if there would be improvement.

That was a mistake.

The next morning, it had become abundantly clear that an immediate trip to the local ER was a forgone conclusion, as his left hand swelled like an inflated rubber glove. As it turns out, not only were there scratches on the left hand, but also a distinct puncture wound very near to the infected area – mostly likely caused by the cat’s bite. Cellulitis had begun to take hold.

What followed was a tetanus shot, bloodwork and six days of a strong, broad-spectrum antibiotic administered through an IV at the local ER, followed by another 10 days of an oral antibiotic to treat the infection. Yes, this was quite an ordeal, but the story had a happy ending – the infection was defeated. However, another day (or two) of neglect could have resulted in something much worse.

What is Cat Scratch Disease (CSD)?

Cat Scratch Disease (also known as *cat scratch fever*) is an infection caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae carried in cat saliva. This is one of the most common bacteria in the world. CSD is generally mild, but people with weakened immune systems and the young tend to be at more risk of developing a serious infection.

However, Bartonella henselae is not the only bacteria in a cat’s mouth. Others include Pasteurella multocida which is a type of bacteria commonly found in the mouth. A research study (science geek out alert!) from 2013 showed that Pasteurella multocida is the most common organism isolated from both cat and dog bites. Bite wounds tend to be highly aggressive and exposure to this bacterium can cause a more significant infection – such as cellulitis – after a bite or scratch. This can have much more serious consequences, as our devoted client discovered.

Where does the bacteria come from?

It is believed that cats acquire these bacteria from fleas.

Cat Scratch Fever is transmitted when a cat carrying the infection:

  • delivers a deep scratch that draws blood
  • administers a bite* that punctures the skin
  • licks an open wound

* Cats have sharp, slender canine teeth that easily pierce deep tissues, bones and joints. These quick-healing puncture wounds – injected with saliva and bacteria – seal in harmful bacteria and create a dead space for infection to flourish.

How do you know if a cat bite is infected?

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of infection from a cat bite include:

  • redness and/or inflammation
  • warmth over the affected area
  • a bump or blister near the bite puncture

These indicators typically do not require medical attention. However, keep a close eye for an escalation of the symptoms.

7 Signs of a Serious Cat Bite Infection:

    1. A bite or scratch that becomes inflamed and tender within a few days and worsens over time
    2. Sore or swollen glands under the arms (hand wound) or in the groin (lower leg wound)
    3. Pus leaking from a blistered wound
    4. Loss of feeling near the wound
    5. Red or discoloured streaks close to the wound
    6. Discomfort and/or restricted mobility in your hand
    7. Flu-like symptoms including:
      • headache
      • reduced appetite
      • fatigue
      • joint pain
      • fever or chills
      • night sweats

The symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease may look like other medical conditions. Unlike our client, seek medical treatment immediately if you experience these complications.

What cats carry the highest risk of infection?

  • stray and feral cats
  • flea-infested cats
  • kittens (less than 1 year old)
  • outdoor cats that hunt

What should I do after being bitten by a cat?

Follow these 4 steps:

  1. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. An antibiotic ointment can be also applied, but avoid strong disinfectants as this may damage the skin. Vigorous scrubbing of the wounds may damage tissue and delay healing.
  2. With a sterile, absorbent dressing, apply direct pressure to the wound to control any bleeding** and keep covered.
  3. Monitor for symptoms (see above)
  4. If symptoms persist or get worse, see a physician as soon as possible. Left untreated, a serious infection can develop within twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

** If the injury is a bite wound, you may not experience much bleeding. Cats have hypodermic-like teeth that can easily pierce soft tissues. This mechanism creates a tiny break that heals rather quickly – trapping the bacteria under the skin. This is bad.

How Do You Treat Cat Scratch Fever?

In most instances, Cat Scratch Disease clears up on its own without treatment within a few weeks. Most cases of cat scratch fever are mild – a doctor may not always have a prescribed treatment plan.

To help alleviate pain and discomfort at home, an over-the-counter pain reliever can be taken, such as Ibuprofen or naproxen. Applying a heat compress to the affected area may also bring some relief.

If your symptoms are moderate to severe and don’t go away in a month or two, antibiotics (or any other medical interventions) may be required. In rare cases, the CSD infection can travel to your bones or other organs. This requires more aggressive medical care.

Conclusion

The hand is an extremely vulnerable part of the body. It contains many important structures – such as tendons, joints, blood vessels and nerves – covered only by a thin soft tissue sheath. So, it should come as no surprise that the needle-like, canine teeth in cats – infused with various types of bacteria – can cause serious damage. In extreme cases, a deep, skin-penetrating bite can lead to serious medical consequences – including death.

As the ER physician of our client made perfectly clear – if this happens again, DO NOT WAIT TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP!

Hard lesson learned.

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

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Avian Influenza in 2022

By Pet Health, Pet Parenting

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

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

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

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

First, the facts:

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

What is Avian Influenza (AI)?

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

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

What is the difference between LPAI and HPAI bird flu?

Avian Influenza viruses can be classified into 2 groups:

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

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

How is the Avian Flu virus detected?

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

Can Avian Flu spread to humans or pets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is my outdoor cat at risk of Avian Influenza?

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

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

Is it safe to use my bird feeder?

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

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

Is it safe to eat poultry and eggs?

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

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

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

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

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

According to the CFIA:

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

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

6 signs of a sick bird

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

Signs of Avian Influenza include:

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

Reporting dead or sick birds:

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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.

How To Photograph A Black Pet

By Pet Behaviour, Pet Parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Links:

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

1. Lighting: Source and Position

What is the biggest challenge of black pet photography?

LIGHTING!

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

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

4 Lighting Tips when Taking Photographs of Black Pets Outdoors:

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

Direct Sunlight

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

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

Auto-Modes

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

The Golden Hour

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

Camera Flash

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

2. Background: Colours, Textures and Bokeh

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

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

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

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

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

3. Laser Focus on the Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

4. Silhouettes: The Black Pet Photography Advantage

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Meet the Team

Professional, attentive and dedicated to your pet.

Veterinary Services

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

Location and Hours

Modern and efficient in a cozy, friendly environment.