Archive for Pet Care

Thanksgiving Blog post: From The Canadian Vet Med Association


Brought to you from the CVMA website

Seasonal Safety Tips: Thanksgiving

October 23, 2012

Thanksgiving is a time to give “thanks” for the many things we are fortunate to have in our lives. Our feasts of turkey, ham and other delicious foods are a highlight of the holiday weekend. It is important to note, however, that while the family feasts, our pets need not do the same.

  • Offering pets fatty leftovers from the family’s Thanksgiving dinner is a risky practice. Dogs, particularly certain smaller breed dogs, are especially susceptible to pancreatitis – an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin and enzymes for digestion and when it gets irritated, serious illness results. Vomiting is a common sign of this type of digestive system disturbance. If a serious bout occurs, it can be life-threatening and may require hospital treatment.
  • Avoid feeding sharp poultry bones to cats and dogs.  A turkey bone can splinter and become lodged in the throat or further down the digestive system. Bone fragments can lacerate (cut) the delicate tissues as they move down the tract.
  • You should also avoid feeding raw sweet breads, giblets or necks to pets as a treat since most raw poultry and meat has bacterial contamination. This can result in diarrhea or more serious illness. People should also handle raw meats with care to avoid cross contamination.
  • Many pets are adept at finding food on counter tops and tables, so keep your dinner out of reach. The fridge or even the microwave can serve as a secure holding area as you prepare or clean up!
  • When disposing of your turkey, double bag the carcass and move it to a secure garbage bin immediately after the meal.
  • If you are expecting a crowd for Thanksgiving, it may be wise to make up a special room for the pets, equipped with beds, food, water and a source of pleasant noise like a radio tuned to soft music. All of the hustle and bustle of a busy Thanksgiving dinner may be stressful for a shy pet, and a territorial pet may be unhappy with the intrusion! By restricting your pets access to company, you can also help minimize the chance that your pet will escape through an open door and get lost!

If you really want to include your pet in your Thanksgiving festivities, offer a few tidbits of the regular foods he enjoys with some extra affection. Sometimes those big brown begging eyes are hard to resist, but remember, your decision to indulge your pet may result in serious health problems!

Itchy Scratchy Part 2

Continuation of Itchy Scratchy Blog. Because Allergies are so common and can present in a number of ways due to a number of causes we have a whole blog devoted to this topic. Hope everyone enjoys, and if you have any questions please give us a shout!

Allergies, allergies, allergies – Unfortunately allergies are quite common in pets, especially dogs. Rather than getting hay fever signs like people, their skin gets inflamed and itchy from allergens that are inhaled, ingested or contacted directly.allegeies

Food allergies – Symptoms can appear at any time in your pet’s life, even if she or he has been on the same diet for years. However, allergies to food often appear in young dogs, even those less than one year of age. The symptoms may wax and wane but are likely to be present year round. Itchy, inflamed skin is often in and around the ears, on the face, between the toes, in the armpits, and the groin region.

Secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections are common alongside the allergy symptoms and can worsen the itch factor significantly. Testing is available, either by intradermal needle tests or by a blood sample. A skin biopsy (small pieces of the skin removed, a stitch or two closes the small wound and the sample is sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope by a trained pathologist) can be done and can help rule out other causes of pruritis and give a general indication of allergic skin disease.

Beef and dairy are the most common food allergens in dogs, followed by chicken, eggs, soy, corn and wheat.

There are numerous other ingredients that can be the culprit causing your pet’s discomfort. The best method of testing for food allergies is by your pet’s response to a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet.

Commercially prepared diets are available as well as recipes for homemade hypoallergenic diets. We at Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic can provide you with commercial diets or recipes for nutritionally balanced homemade hypoallergenic diets. It is critical to the success of the food trial to ensure your pet does not get any treats, flavored medications, nutritional supplements not issued by your veterinarian, etc. during the trial period. Symptoms should significantly improve within 10-12 weeks on the hypoallergenic diet if it is to be effective. Additional food items can then be introduced one at a time to trial the response and if allergy symptoms are to result, they would most likely be seen within the next 7-10 days.allergy3

Allergies can be frustrating to treat. Obviously avoiding the offending food ingredients is essential but this can be more difficult than first expected with multiple family members (some that eat their meals in high chairs and love to toss tidbits to Fido!), visitors, caregivers, etc. involved in a pet’s life. There are many medicated shampoos, ear cleaners, nutritional supplements, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory medications, antimicrobial medications and alternative medicine therapies that can be used alone or in combinations to help treat food allergy symptoms. It is recommended that you, as an owner, keep detailed records of what therapies help alleviate the symptoms so we can ultimately tailor a treatment plan most appropriate for your individual pet.

Inhaled allergens: Symptoms of allergies from inhaled substances, such as pollens, dust mites, weeds, grasses, mold, insects, dander, etc. etc. often appear in dogs between 1 and 3 years of age.It is uncommon in cats. In both species, it is felt that there is a genetic predisposition to this ailment.

Depending on what is causing the itch, symptoms are often seasonal. House dust mites may cause year round symptoms. The areas that are most often itchy are the feet, flanks, groin, axillae (armpits), face and ears. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections are also common and add to the itch factor. Testing is available through intradermal injections or blood tests. These tests may be recommended in more severe, stubborn cases to help give more pieces to the puzzle when trying to determine the cause of a pet’s itch. Skin biopsies can be helpful also for the same reasons as with food hypersensitivity.

Multiple therapies similar to food allergies are available and often a combination of them is used to control symptoms and minimize a pet’s discomfort. The fewer medications given orally to a pet the better so attempts at control are aimed at topical and nutritional treatments as much as possible. Rarely can the offending allergen be completely avoided. Hyposensitization shots (immunotherapy) can be tried in more severe cases. Allergy testing is first done to attempt to identify the allergens after which an injectable solution is made up. Injections are given to your allergic pet over the following months to a year before assessing if a positive response is noted.

In studies done, 60-75% of dogs getting immunotherapy show a good to excellent response. This is not a cure and relapses and itchy spells will occur throughout your pet’s life.

Contact allergens: These allergies are quite uncommon in dogs and cats. The skin may have a local allergic reaction to prolonged contact with such things as plants (eg. Grasses), carpet deodorizers, detergents, topical medications, natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics, concrete, plastic dishes, rubber chew toys, leather, rawhide, etc. etc. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections can accompany any allergic skin. Testing is often non-diagnostic but can be tried. Removal from the environment, even as drastic as being housed in a stainless steel kennel for 3-5 days and observing for significant improvement in the symptoms can be the most helpful diagnostic step.allergies2

Treatments are similar to other allergies and removal of the offending agent can result in a significant reduction in symptoms. Providing a barrier for the skin in the form of socks or a T-shirt can help. Bathing can also help minimize signs.

Conclusion: If you think that your pet may have an allergy, contact one of our vets here at the clinic and we can work with you to provide relief and a solution to your fur kid’s reactions!


Photos credits:


Itchy Scratchy Pets… Part 1

Itchy Pets

“Doctor, my pet seems very itchy lately” is a common concern of owners when they come to the Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic. Sometimes the cause for the scratching or biting at the skin is obvious and a simple solution is available. However, pruritis (itchy skin) can be quite complex and difficult to manage.

The first step to reaching a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan is to get a thorough and accurate history from you, the owner. Owners should come prepared to discuss what symptoms are present, how long they have been present for, if symptoms are constant or intermittent, what exposure to other animals is happening, if any littermates to your pet have similar symptoms, what diet your pet is on and for how long, if any home remedies or previous veterinary treatment has helped or worsened the condition, etc. etc.

Common causes for pets to be itchy:

Parasites: There are lots of “critters” that can cause your pet to be itchy, such as fleas, lice, ticks and mites. A detailed history is needed to investigate potential skin parasites. What is your pet’s level of exposure to other animals? Has there been a recent purchase of a kitten or puppy from a source where there were lots of cats/dogs interacting? Does your pet have frequent stays at a kennel or doggy day care? Has your pet recently been to a groomer? Has there bdemodexeen recent travel or camping experiences to areas where external parasites are more prevalent? Many parasites are visible to the naked eye and the diagnosis is fairly simple. Anytime you see a crawling “bug” on your pet, we recommend you capture it and submit it to the Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic for identification. Mites are too small to be seen and a skin scraping is required to try to find them. Most are easy to find on a scraping with the exception of sarcoptic mites which burrow deep in the skin and are rarely seen on a scraping. The appearance of the skin and the response to therapy is often the route to diagnose this very uncomfortable and contagious condition. Fortunately most external parasites are easily and successfully treated with oral and/or topical therapies.   imagesX7Z85W93

Infections: Bacterial, yeast and fungal infections can occur on the skin without an apparent underlying cause. Variable levels of itchiness occur from such infections. Minor trauma can inflame the skin and allow the opportunity for overgrowth of normal micro-organisms that cause further inflammation, make your pet scratch the area, creating even more inflammation and a nasty cycle is set up. Microscopic examination of skin cells and culturing of the offending organism may be suggested to aid in the diagnosis and design the correct treatment plan. Clipping overlying hair, cleansing the areas with anti-microbial soap and appropriate anti-microbial medications, either topically or orally are in order. Also important to the treatment of infections is the prevention of self trauma from scratching or biting at the lesion and T-shirts, socks, or Elizabethan collars (cones) are psot

Allergies, allergies, allergies – Unfortunately allergies are quite common in pets, especially dogs. Rather than getting hay fever signs like people, their skin gets inflamed and itchy from allergens that are inhaled, ingested or contacted directly. Allergies can present at paw or body licking, ear infections, swelling around the eyes, hot spots and more.

Part two of this blog will be devoted entirely to allergies so stay tuned!


Diet and Exercise for a Trim Kitty

Mighty Hunter

Mighty Hunter

Obesity affects up to 80% of our cats. Obesity can cause cats to be more prone to urinary tract disease, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. Domesticated cats burn far less calories than their wild, hunting counterparts. With the need for survival hunting reduced, cats spend far more time sleeping and often have a lot of pent up energy. In addition, our domestic cats are much more likely to gorge on food as well. Diet and exercise and the type of food are critical factors in feline obesity.

Cats need enrichment in their lives and environment to help keep them active, busy and out of trouble. Enrichment can take several forms. Many cat owners play with their cats using cat toys or a laser pointer dot to keep them active. After taunting him or her with that feather toy , i-pad game, or laser dot, be sure that you give them something to take their frustrations out on so that they don’t take it out on you or end up anxious with pent up energy. A catnip stuffed toy, some honeysuckle, or a treat will work well.

By simulating hunting and feeding behavior, your cat will be motivated to be more active and reduce the likelihood of gorging on food. Cats that have to play hunt or work for their food are more likely to notice the signals that the brain is sending to tell them ‘I am full’ and stop eating. Low cost cat Play-n-Treat Balls or Kong™ toys can be filled with dry kibble and placed in a 5cm deep casserole or cake dish. The cat is rewarded by gradually receiving kibble for batting the ball around the dish. Many cats will stop playing long before the ball is empty of kibble. A much more complex version of a cat food puzzle toy is the Pipellino™ which holds more than an entire meal for kitty and has adjustable degrees of difficulty. The Pipellino™ works well in multiple cat households. Other options for cat food puzzle toys include ‘Spin a Treat’ and homemade boxes with holes in them. Another alternative to stimulate hunting behavior and activity can be to hide food in small piles around the house for your kitty to find.

By keeping your kitty more active, stimulating hunting behavior, and reducing the likelihood of them gorging on food, you can maintain a healthier, fit kitty.





Crate Training by Dr. Donszelmann


Travel carriers or crates can be a cozy, safe haven for dogs or cats to retreat to. Both dogs and cats can be taught to sleep quietly in their crate at night. When comfortably accustomed to their crates, most pets will travel more calmly. Dogs that are trained to spend extended time in the crate alone are less likely to develop separation anxiety when their humans leave.

Conditioning pets to enjoy their crate is a simple process that generally takes only a few days and involves their regular meals and some treats. Begin by feeding your pet his meals just outside of the crate. Once he is comfortable eating near the crate, move the food bowl for his next meal just inside the door of the crate. For pets that are really jumpy, it may be useful to remove the door of the carrier for the time being. When your pet is willing to eat his entire meal with his head inside the crate, begin to move the food dish farther inside the crate with each meal.

Once your pet is eating his entire meal inside the crate, begin giving him several treats in a row all the way inside the crate to stop him from immediately darting out (being careful to not mistakenly encourage him to come forward to get the treat, rather reward him for pausing or staying there). Initially, you will feed the treats in rapid succession then gradually slowing the rate of positive reinforcement by feeding a treat every 3-5 seconds. If your dog reaches outside of the crate for a treat, he doesn’t get it. Alternatively, you can toss the treats into the crate, being sure to not accidentally lure him out of the crate. When your dog is calmly waiting for the treats inside the crate, treat him another 5-10 times.

Throughout the day, hide a tasty treat well inside of the crate for your pet to find, or affix a frozen food/treat stuffed Kong™ toy to the inside of the crate. This will help the pet learn to enjoy the comfort of the crate even more. Continue the positive reinforcement (treats) as you practice closing the door of the crate in order to prevent him from bolting out. Periodically toss treats into the crate when your dog has been quietly in there. Gradually increase the time between the treats. A MannersMinder™ can be used to reward the pet every at few second intervals (gradually increase the interval to five minutes) providing that he is quiet. If your pet is barking or whining, do not give treats until there is a lull or he is quiet again. A MannersMinder™ can also be set so that you can deliver treats by remote control when your pet is quiet. While crate training, remember to let your pet out before he is anxious or full and no longer interested in food.

With time, you should be able to teach your pet to get into the crate on a cue word. Some pets will be easier to train using attention such as scratches or patting in place of treats as the positive reinforcement. Time spent crate training your pet is invaluable. Making the crate a comfortable and safe environment for pets to travel, sleep, or spend time away from their owners will reduce their anxiety.

Ticks, lice, worms, and more

Having your pet run through the grass in tick present areas can expose them to external parasites.

Dr. Donszelmann recently attended an intensive week long course in Clinical Parasitology at Kansas State University with American expert Dr. Michael Dryden who is often known to his students as “Dr. Flea”.  In addition to providing an update on the status of heartworm, ticks, fleas and internal parasites, the “Wildcat Parasitology Course” provided an amazing experience where practitioners from across North America shared their experiences of parasites and parasite carried diseases such as Lymes disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Beaver Fever that affect both animals and humans alike.

After spending an hour collecting hundreds of ticks in a park near Manhatten, Kansas Dr. Donszelmann developed a new appreciation for our relatively safe outdoor environment in Alberta.  Although we do have ticks and fleas and many internal parasites in Alberta, it is obvious that the patients most at risk are those that venture across provincial and international borders with their vacationing owners.  Many parasites are zoonotic and as such can be passed from animal to animal and to other species such as humans.  Please consult a veterinarian before travelling with your pet, there are many pests and potentially life threatening parasites lurking out there.