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DEAR LABBY: EXOTIC PET EDITION

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DEAR LABBY: I try my best to act normal even though I haven’t been feeling well lately. I don’t like to show when I’m sick because it makes me worried I might get picked on by my cage mates. Should I keep trying to fool everyone or is it time to sit on the bottom of the cage so that my featherless parent will notice I’m ill? -BELOW PAR BUDGIE

DEAR BELOW PAR: It’s totally normally for feathered friends such as yourself to pretend you are 100% well even if you are not. What you are doing is called a survival mechanism. Even if they are not well, your cousins (wild birds) will pretend to eat, continue to perch and try to groom until they are so ill that they can no longer fake it. It is then that they start showing signs of distress such as loss of appetite, fluffed up feathers and unusual behaviour such as spending time on the ground instead of on a perch. This trait is so ingrained even in house birds such as yourself that it can be difficult for your humans to know anything is wrong unless they are watching you very closely for even the slightest unusual behaviour. You my friend are not doing well and it’s time you let your owner know that you need to see an avian veterinarian – once you are showing signs of illness, it is an indicator that you have been unwell for much longer than you’ve been letting on.

DEAR LABBY: I love my pellets. I can eat pellets all day every day and then some! My human mom offers me some veggies sometimes and they’re pretty good too but most of the time I have my beloved pellets to munch on. Problem is, I was taken to the vet a couple of days ago and apparently I have pointy/overgrown molars. What can I do about this and how can I prevent it in the future? -TROUBLESOME TOOTHED RABBIT

DEAR TROUBLESOME TOOTHED:
As you probably know, your teeth grow continuously throughout your life. When most people think of bunny teeth, they think of the front incisors. Most, however, aren’t aware that molars can cause problems in rabbits. A diet heavy in pellets can cause a multitude of issues for our hoppy friends, one of which is oral. Pellets do not allow you to grind down your teeth like you need to. Good news though! You should start asking for more veggies in your diet – particularly dark, stalky and leafy greens such as kale, parsley, carrot tops etc. These types of veggies force you to use your molars in a way that helps grind them down and keep their length in check. And while veggies are good, the gold standard of keeping those teeth in tip top shape is hay! Lots and lots of timothy hay! You should cut back on those pellets and opt for as much hay as you can eat. If your molars are already overgrown, there’s a good chance you’ll need to have dentistry at the vet but once you get that taken care of, you can help keep your teeth at a normal length with lots of hay, some veggies and you can still enjoy your pellets but more as a treat.

DEAR LABBY: I used to love eating all my mealworms and crickets and whatever goodies found their way into my home but lately I am not interested at all. I don’t feel as active as I used to and something’s just not right but I’m not sure what’s wrong. Do you have any suggestions? -FEELING LOUSY LEOPARD GECKO

DEAR FEELING LOUSY: Keeping reptiles such as yourself healthy is not as simple as caring for cats and dogs. Many of our non-scaly friends do not realize how important husbandry is for your overall health and wellbeing. Reptiles have very specific requirements for lighting, temperature, humidity, feeding, enclosure size, bedding – all sorts of things! If any of these things aren’t correct, it can make you feel pretty crummy and it can eventually lead to some pretty serious health issues. I would suggest that your human takes you to your vet for a checkup and to discuss your current husbandry. In the meantime, have your person check out some awesome information from Melissa Kaplan at anapsid.org

Everything you want (and don’t want!) to know about intestinal parasites Pt 1

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Have you ever looked at that sweet furry face and those heart melting eyes and thought about intestinal parasites? Probably not! You’re not alone – most pet lovers don’t like to think about the fact that their four legged best friend (or ruler, for cat people) could be harboring intestinal parasites. Hey, if you can’t see them they must not be there, right? Hmmm, wrong.

Common intestinal parasites such as roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm live in the gut and intestines. They thrive in the intestines. They want to stay in the intestines. What does this mean? Even if your pet has worms, you may not see adult parasites unless the dead ones are expelled (often they disintegrate prior) or in some cases if there are so many that they just can’t hold on and stay in the digestive tract. With that being said, you may not know your pet has intestinal parasites unless they have A LOT of them. So if your pet has parasites but you’re not seeing them, do they pose a risk? Yes.

Dogs or cats that have intestinal parasites shed the microscopic eggs in their bowel movements. Try as you might, you will not be able to see the eggs with your naked eye, a microscopic is needed to identify them. Even after your pet’s bowel movement has been removed or melted into the earth, these itty bitty trouble makers can stay in the environment for YEARS. All it takes is another unsuspecting animal to come along and sniff the ground or lick a paw and ingest eggs for another not-so-fun cycle of intestinal parasites to begin.

As you can see, it is very easy for intestinal parasites to spread and remain undetected for a period of time. However, these unsavory invertebrates can eventually cause our furry loved ones harm – and none of us enjoy seeing our pets feeling unwell. Some of the symptoms include dry hair coat, distended abdomen, inappetence, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea, etc. Basically, you don’t want your pet having to deal with these intestinal hitchhikers.

Tips for your pet to stay intestinal parasite free:

Use a monthly broad spectrum dewormer (often a combined product that includes flea prevention, for convenience sake) such as Advantage Multi, Revolution or Drontal (dewormer only)

Have your pet’s fecal sample tested yearly at his annual checkup for common parasites that are routinely dewormed for but also for other parasites they may have picked up

Clean up your pet’s waste as quickly as possible

Do not encourage wildlife to enter your yard as they can be carriers of intestinal parasites as well

Be Egg-xtra careful with these common Easter pet hazards

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Food

Chocolate: The darker the chocolate (which means higher amounts of the active ingredient theobromine), the more toxic it is to your pet. While cats are also susceptible to chocolate toxicity, it tends to be much more common in dogs. The size of your dog, the type and amount of chocolate ingested are all factors in determining toxicity. Reactions can range from less serious GI symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea up to seizures and heart failure in severe cases.

Candy or treats containing Xylitol: Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free candy, treats or gum. If ingested by a cat or dog it can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and death.

Fatty foods: A glistening ham on the table may prove to be a temptation your furry friend can’t ignore. While fatty foods can cause stomach upset such as vomiting and diarrhea, in more serious cases it can cause painful pancreatitis for your cat or dog – a trip to the vet with supportive care such as IV fluids is not what anyone in the family had in mind for the long weekend.

Onion, garlic, chives, leeks: If your pet ingests foods in the allium family, it may take a few days for symptoms to appear. Signs to watch out for are lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, painful abdomen, pale gums and increased heart and respiratory rates.

Plants

Easter Lilies: Definitely a more common toxicity in cats than in dogs (cats are much more likely to nibble plants); Lilies are a huge problem if ingested. In fact, even licking a petal, steam or leaf of a lily can cause kidney failure.

Decorations

Basket fillers: Another favourite of our feline friends, plastic grasses used as basket fillers are very tempting to eat or play with. If ingested, the plastic pieces can cause an obstruction which will require surgery.

Plastic eggs: Fun to play with, fun to toss, fun to chew? Sounds good but unfortunately they are not good toys for our cats or dogs. These little plastic eggs, all shiny and colourful, can cause an obstruction if swallowed (even small pieces that have broken off are a cause for concern) and just like plastic grass, if an obstruction happens, surgery must follow.

*If you have concerns about your pet ingesting any of the above, please contact us or the emergency clinic as soon as possible. We hope you have a safe and hoppy Easter!

Rabbit Owners: Information on highly contagious and fatal Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RAHD)

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What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease and how is it spread?

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is a serious and extremely contagious virus of domestic (including feral domestic) rabbits. With a high mortality rate, most infected rabbits will not survive the virus. There have been confirmed cases where two small colonies of rabbits died from the disease on both Vancouver Island and Annacis Island (within the Lower Mainland) in February 2018. All rabbits are susceptible to this disease, including pet rabbits.

The RHD virus is spread directly through contaminated bedding, food and water as well as urine or droppings. The hearty virus can live in the environment for many weeks and may survive at varying temperatures, as well. Indirect spreading of the virus can occur through the use of contaminated items such as human clothing, surfaces, unwashed hands, etc. or by contact with insects and wildlife (flies, birds, mammals) that have had an interaction with a deceased infected rabbit. This disease does not affect humans or any other species besides rabbits.

What symptoms should I watch for and how do I protect my pet rabbit?

Within one to nine days of becoming infected, signs of RHD occur quickly and include lethargy, problems with balance/coordination, difficulty breathing and behavioural changes. Unfortunately though, most rabbits that contract the disease pass away suddenly. The highly fatal virus causes internal bleeding and attacks the liver and other organs.

Listed below are suggestions to keep your pet rabbit from contracting RHD:

  • Avoid travel to areas known to have infected rabbits and avoid other rabbits in general
  • Limit/Avoid human visitors that live or have travelled recently to contaminated areas
  • Remove shoes before entering your home and wash hands before handling your rabbit
  • Avoid introducing any new rabbits into your home
  • Clean and disinfect any new/used rabbit supplies entering your home
  • Avoid using wild plants, grass or vegetables grown in areas that other rabbits or wildlife have access to
  • Remove or tightly secure anything outside (such as food) that could attract wild rabbits, insects or other wildlife
  • If you exercise your rabbit outdoors, do so in areas that are secured with no possibility of contamination
  • Cats or dogs that go outside to potentially contaminated areas should not be allowed near your rabbit’s living area

How do I disinfect my rabbit supplies?

Most common household cleaners are not affective against the RHD virus. It is recommended that bleach is used for cleaning at a 1:10 dilution (one part bleach to 9 parts water). Ensure that materials are rinsed thoroughly after being cleaned with bleach to remove any residue. Another option is a product called Virkon (potassium peroxymonosulfate) which can be purchased at your veterinarian. Both should be allowed to soak on surfaces or items for at least 10 minutes before being rinsed.

What if I have more questions?

Contact your local small animal veterinarian if you have any questions regarding RHD or the health of your pet rabbit.

What should I do if I see a group or rabbits or a deceased rabbit?

If you come across a group of rabbits or a deceased rabbit, contact your local animal control – do not attempt to handle it yourself.

*Article written with excerpts from original BCSPCA article that can be found here: http://spca.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/Rabbit-Hemorrhagic-Disease-Information-Sheet-for-Rabbit-Guardians.pdf

DEAR LABBY: Healthy Mouth Edition #2

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DEAR LABBY: The last time I was at the vet she told my human mom that I have tartar, gingivitis, some gum recession and a tooth that may need to be extracted. Sure my mouth hurts on the one side (pretty much all the time, actually) but I still eat and drink just fine! Is this something I should be worried about? -MOUTH TROUBLED MALTESE

DEAR MOUTH TROUBLED: It is a good thing you had your mouth assessed by your vet! And yes, your oral health is definitely something that should be a concern for you and your owner. Unfortunately, many of our furless loved ones don’t realize when we are having issues with our mouth because we rarely show signs that we are living with such chronic oral pain. If your human had a pain in her mouth, it wouldn’t stop her from eating either – but odds are she would have it looked after by a professional because no one wants to live life in pain. Have your person talk to the vet about dentistry and how much better you’ll feel once you can eat your favourite food and chew your favourite toy without any pain in your mouth!

DEAR LABBY: I just had my teeth professionally cleaned under a general anesthetic and luckily, I didn’t need any extractions. Man, are they shiny, white and healthy! I know my vet was talking about some preventive things we could do so that I won’t need another dentistry soon but to be honest, I was too busy thinking about playing in the park. Can you refresh my memory? -DAYDREAMING DOBERMAN

DEAR DAYDREAMING: You are in luck, my friend! There are lots of things you and your human can do to help keep your mouth in tip top shape. The first and most effective is tooth brushing …but it can’t be a once a week sort of thing. Having your teeth brushed daily (or at minimum every other day) is the sure fire way to help keep your mouth healthy, otherwise plaque forms which then turns into tartar (yuck). Other options that help are veterinary diets that are designed to reduce build-up with ingredients such as sodium hexametaphosphate (that’s a mouth full!) and/or ones that are designed in such a way that when they are chewed, it is like they are scrubbing your teeth. Your parents will appreciate that all of these diets are guaranteed so if you decide to get picky (hey, we like what we like, am I right?!), they can always get a refund or an exchange. There are also special oral gels and chews that can help, as well. If you can get on board with some or even all of these preventive options, you’ll definitely have a healthier mouth for longer.

Have you ever wondered…? Pt 2 Physical Examinations

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As a pet owner, you probably know the importance of having your furry, feathered, or scaled loved one having an examination by a veterinarian every 6-12 months. During each physical examination with us, our vet will communicate findings throughout the appointment. But, have you ever wondered exactly what your vet is checking during the examination and why?

Your pet’s eyes: Using an ophthalmoscope, your vet will check the structures within your pet’s eyes as well as the areas/tissues surrounding the eyes for any abnormalities such as lenticular sclerosis (aging change), cataracts, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyes), excessive discharge, lumps growing on eyelids, etc.

Your pet’s nose: A visual examination of your pet’s nose is performed to check if there is any unusual discharge or growths. Owners are also asked if there has been any excessive sneezing.

Your pet’s ears: Your vet will use an otoscope with an attached tip to look into your pet’s ear canal. Excessive debris or redness can indicate a possible ear infection.

Your pet’s mucous membranes: During an oral examination, your vet will check the colour of your pet’s gums to ensure that they are pink, moist and healthy (if they are pale, yellow or blue in colour, or feel tacky to the touch, this is a concern)

Your pet’s teeth and gums: Further into the oral examination, your pet’s doctor will check the health of their teeth and gums – assessing any possible problems with tartar, gingivitis, cavities or resportive lesions and/or infection, etc.

Your pet’s heart: Using a stethoscope, your vet will listen to your pet’s heart rate and check for any abnormalities such as heart murmurs, a heart rate that is too fast or too slow, or any unusual rhythm, etc.

Your pet’s lungs: Also using a stethoscope, the doctor will listen to make sure your pet’s lungs sound clear and free of any wheezing or abnormal breath sounds.

Your pet’s abdomen: Using her hands to palpate your pet’s abdomen, the vet can check to see if there is any obvious discomfort within the abdomen and can usually palpate some of your pet’s organs for irregularity or possible masses.

Your pet’s lymph nodes: Your vet will check various lymph nodes over your pet’s body for any enlargement.

Your pet’s coat and skin: Your vet will visually check your pet’s coat and skin for any dryness, skin infection, lumps or external parasites (such as fleas)

Your pet’s joints: Your pet’s doctor will check the range of motion in your pet’s hips and legs, check for any signs of clicking, grinding or discomfort, etc.

Your pet’s overall appearance: Your vet will give your pet a Body Condition Score (BCS) during their visit to assess their overall appearance (usually graded out of 5, with 3 out of 5 being the ideal body condition).

If you haven’t read Have you ever wondered…? Pt 1 Blood Collection, click here!

Tips for a pet safe Meowy Christmas and Happy Howlidays!

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The holiday season is meant to be an occasion for relaxing and spending quality time with your loved ones, furry or otherwise (once all the shopping and craziness is done!). The last thing any family would want is for their pet to spend Christmas at an animal emergency clinic because of a holiday-related mishap.

‘Tis the season to be mindful of our four legged friends and their safety!

Seasonal Plants and Decorations

Christmas Tree: Ensure that your tree is securely anchored so that it cannot fall onto a curious pet. Also make sure that your pet is unable to drink any tree water as it can contain fertilizers that may cause stomach upset.

Plants: Poinsettias have gotten a bad rep. While they’re not the best thing for your pet to be eating (they can cause mild GI problems), the real culprits to watch out for are mistletoe, holly and lilies which can cause symptoms related to GI system, cardiovascular and even result in kidney failure.

Tinsel: Cats in particular find it hard to resist the temptation of these silvery strands. Ingestion can lead to vomiting and a serious obstruction that may require surgery.

Candles: Don’t leave any candles left unattended or in reach of your pet. The swipe of a paw or the wag of a tail can cause injury to your pet and become a fire hazard within your home.

Wires: All those extra lights may make a beautiful glow but your pet might be tempted to chew on exposed wires which can lead to burns on the mouth or electrical shock. Secure extra wiring with cable management tubes and keep an eye on your pet.

Food

Sweets: Make sure your pet doesn’t have access to any chocolate (the darker it is, the worse the toxicity) or treats containing xylitol. Many dogs have been known to rip open presents under the tree or dig in garbage cans to score some of these delectables which are highly toxic.

Leftovers: Your pet should not get leftovers that are fatty, spicy or contain bones. Pancreatitis and obstruction are not fun ways to spend the holidays.

Adult Drinks: Care should be taken with any alcoholic beverages. If ingested by your pet, it can cause weakness, respiratory issues and even coma.

Keeping the above safety tips in mind, we wish you a safe Meowy Christmas and Happy Howlidays! If you do have an emergency outside of regular hours, please contact your local animal emergency hospital such as Animal Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley or Vancouver Animal Emergency Centre

DEAR LABBY: Senior Edition

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DEAR LABBY: I think like a puppy, I get excited like a puppy but my body is not acting like a puppy. I’m finding as I’m getting older that the ball is getting harder to catch – I just can’t jump like I used to. I love going for long walks but man am I sore the next day. My human says my vet might be able to recommend something to help my aching joints. –BUSY BRITANY SPANIEL

DEAR BUSY: Your human is right! Lucky for you, there are lots of options to help keep you acting like a puppy again (or closer to it, anyway!). Some of the options include special diets for joints (like Royal Canin Mobility), supplements like Glucosamine or Omegas, and therapeutic treatments such as Laser Therapy or Cartrophen injections. You might want to try one or two of these non-medicated approaches or you can try a combination to see what helps you most. Happy Tails!

DEAR LABBY: My human companion is taking me to the vet again. I swear I was just there yesterday! She claims it was 6 months ago but still! I know I’m 7 years old but does that really mean I need to go more than once per year? I mean, the treats are pretty good but I’d rather be at the park. –BEFUDDLED BEAGLE

DEAR BEFUDDLED: I understand your confusion but after your 7th birthday, you are considered a senior, my friend. With your golden years comes the need to see our medical friends every 6 months. A lot can happen in 6 months for us dogs! Our human friends want to keep on top of any of those changes so they can help us as soon as possible if there are any issues. With bi-annual examinations and blood work, prevention and early detection can really help us old timers live a longer, love filled life with our companions.

DEAR LABBY: My slobbering co-inhabitant has started limping recently. Our human has started giving him glucosamine and something else – I’m not too interested in all the details – that’s supposed to help him. As much as I feign to admit this, I’ve had some difficulty in the joint area myself. I don’t limp and carry on like my brother from another mother but I have noticed little things like I really have to think about that jump before I make it. I used to jump like a young leopard within a fraction of a second – now I pause for a second or two. I know this is a sign of arthritis for me but how can I get my owner to know that I need help too? … Without seeming too obvious about it, of course.–QUEEN OF THE CASTLE

DEAR QUEEN: That’s a tough one. Yes, your canine friends are a little more obvious when it comes to showing signs of pain. Like yourself, those of the feline persuasion tend to be a bit more subtle. Hopefully your owner will start to notice that small change in behaviour as far as your jumping goes. Other things that you may experience could include decreased activity, trouble using the litterbox (those sides are tall and it’s getting more difficult to get inside!), avoiding stairs or even avoiding jumping all together. The thing is, senior cats can benefit from many of the same therapies as dogs when it comes to arthritis. Diet, supplements, cartrophen injections and laser therapy are all options. Hopefully your human will discuss these with your vet soon so you can continue ruling the house as usual.

May the force be with you! (Laser Therapy)

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What comes to mind when you think of laser therapy? Hopefully it doesn’t involve a tall guy in a black cloak with a lightsaber. All kidding aside, laser therapy is a procedure used to treat arthritis, tendon or soft tissue injuries and to promote wound healing with a beam of light that generates heat and reaches deep within the tissues. It has been used in human medicine for over 40 years and luckily our furry friends are now receiving the same benefits of this type of therapy.

Depending on your pet’s specific needs, laser therapy may only be used once (to aid in healing a spay incision, for example) but more likely, it will be a series of beneficial treatments. Let’s take a dog with arthritis in his hips, for example – Our vet will prescribe a laser therapy plan tailored to your pet’s needs. This often means starting off with frequent visits for laser treatments every couple of days that typically taper down to maybe once or twice per week thereafter.

During the procedure, your pet will relax on the floor while one of our animal health technicians (wearing a necessary but ridiculous looking pair of safety glasses) will determine the duration and strength needed for your pet’s particular need. This typically means a few minutes of laser time per area needed to be treated. When everything is ready, our technician will start the procedure by moving the hand-held laser in a “grid” pattern along your pet’s problem area. Most pets quite enjoy the laser therapy session itself as the warmth is comforting and should feel pretty good (who wouldn’t want a warm massage?)! After the few minutes are up, your pet is free to go – after some cuddles and treats, of course. As you can see, laser therapy is quick, painless and it really can improve the quality of your pet’s life.

If you think your pet would benefit from laser therapy (or if you have any questions about it), please contact us. For the month of December, we are offering 50% off our laser therapy packages of 6 sessions or more – so if you’re thinking about it, now is a great time!

It’s getting hot in here!

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As the sun shines and the temps climb, it’s important to remember the comfort and safety of our furry friends this summer. We all know we should offer opportunities for time in the shade, out of direct sunlight and that we should have lots of fresh, clean drinking water available and (of course!) we all know not to leave our pets in the car for any amount of time, especially during temperature extremes.

Heat exhaustion is very serious and potentially life threatening. If your pet is spending any amount of time outdoors this summer or in a warmer than usual situation, these are some of the signs and symptoms you should be aware of:

  • Rapid panting
  • Excessive thick, sticky drool
  • Dehydration
  • Reddening of skin
  • Bright red or pale gums
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Wobbly or uncoordinated
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Seizures

What should you do if you think your pet is in trouble?

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, remove them from the hot area immediately and take them to your vet right away. While you are transporting your pet, slowly try to lower their temperature by placing cool, wet towels over their back, neck and under forelimbs and groin. DO NOT USE VERY COLD WATER TO COOL YOUR PET. Cooling should be done gradually – doing it too quickly can actually have negative effects. DO NOT FORCE YOUR PET TO DRINK WATER. Allow access to water but let him/her drink on their own. As soon as you arrive at your vet, the staff will continue to cool your pet gradually, frequently checking their temperature and administering any other treatments necessary to help your furry loved one recover.