Tuesday, May 29, 2018

10 Subtle Signs That Your Cat Might be Sick

Like most prey species, cats are very adept at hiding signs of illness until they are so sick they can't put up a brave front anymore. As cat owners, it's important for you
to be tuned in to their subtler signals and become aware if something may be amiss.

Inappropriate elimination behaviour or litter box use.
When your cat urinates or defecates outside the litter box, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Medical conditions associated with these behaviours include lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, diabetes mellitus, and pain/arthritis.

Changes in interaction.
Cats are social. When the way they interact with family members or other pets changes, it could be a sign of disease, fear, anxiety or even pain.

Changes in activity.
A decrease or increase in activity can be a sign of a number of conditioners. Discomfort from joint disease or illness can lead to decreased activity; hyperthyroidism can cause an increase in activity.

Changes in sleeping habits.
The average cat may spend 16 to 18 hours a day sleeping. The key to differentiating abnormal lethargy from normal napping is knowing your cats sleeping patterns and noting any changes.

Changes in food and water consumption.
Look for changes such as a decrease or increase in consumption of food or water. An increase in water intake could be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other illnesses.

Unexplained weight loss or gain.
Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cats thick coat. A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. If your cat goes to the food dish and then backs away without eating, nausea may be the source. At the same time, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems.

Changes in grooming.
Cats are typically fastidious groomers. A decrease in grooming behaviour can indicate a number of conditions, including fear, anxiety, obesity or other illnesses. An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem or underlying joint pain.

Signs of stress.
Stressed cats may demonstrate an increase in grooming and social interaction, spending more time awake and scanning their environment. Or, they may hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression. Stress may also cause changes (increased or decreased) in appetite.

Changes in vocalization.
More common in older cats, increased vocalization or howling could be the sign of an underlying issue. Many cats also have increased vocalization if they are in pain or are anxious.

Bad breath.
Dental disease can lead to bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to the heart and other organs. An early sign of an oral health problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and regular veterinary dental exams are the best way to prevent dental disease.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Cat Friendly Practice

Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic is a Certified Cat Friendly Practice!

What to Expect from a Cat Friendly Practice
CFP’s have a:

Waiting room/area that reduces stress associated with noise, other pets, or unfamiliar smells (methods can include feline-only area, cat-only appointment times, separate space with a barrier blocking visual contact, etc.).  
Veterinary staff receives ongoing feline education on medical care, behavior, communication, and feline-friendly handling techniques.

Feline-only or feline-centric examination room–a safe, non-threatening area where cats can be
examined calmly and effectively.
Trained staff who recognize subtle, early signs of sickness, fear, or anxiety, and adapt appropriately.
Veterinary facility that is well-maintained and equipped for feline patients (cat sized equipment,
soft coverings, feline facial pheromone diffuser, etc.)

Procedure to adjust for each cat based on whatever is least stressful for the cat. Exams may
be performed in the carrier, on the floor, or in the veterinarian’s lap.

 Cat Friendly Practices’ make specific changes to ensure they understand a cat’s unique needs and
implement feline-friendly standards. These changes provide a more calming environment for cats. CFP’s
can advise you on ways to reduce stress before and after the visit, including how to make the carrier a
home away from home for your cat.
Staff are trained in approaching and handling cats in a gentle, empathetic, and caring manner. Some clinics have even made physical adjustments to make the visit more positive for you and your cat.
The CFP certificate on the clinic’s wall is earned. Through a self-assessment, the practice must meet
specified criteria to verify the staff, environment, and overall veterinary practice is truly cat friendly.
When you see the CFP designation at a practice, you can be confident your cat will be given exceptional care and attention through all phases of the visit including examinations, procedures, and/or hospitalization.

The Cat Friendly Practice® designation indicates the practice has demonstrated higher levels of commitment and excellence in feline medicine.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Leptospirosis and Your Pet: CDC Facts!

Leptospira bacteria on stain of liver impression smear. 

Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect human and animals, including your pets. All animals can potentially become infected with leptospirosis. While for many years occurrence among pets was rare, the disease has been diagnosed more frequently in the past few years. See below for information on how to protect yourself and your pets from leptospirosis and what to do if your pet becomes infected.
The bacteria that cause leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.
If your pet has become infected, it most likely came into contact with the bacteria in the environment or was exposed to infected animals. Your pet may have been drinking, swimming, or walking through contaminated water. Because of increased building and development into areas that were previously rural, pets may be exposed to more wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, or deer that are infected with leptospirosis. Dogs also may pass the disease to each other, but this happens very rarely.

Signs and Symptoms
The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary and are nonspecific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms. Common clinical signs have been reported in dogs. These include:
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • refusal to eat
  • severe weakness and depression
  • stiffness
  • severe muscle pain
  • inability to have puppies.
Generally younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals.
If you think your pet may have leptospirosis, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can perform tests to determine whether or not your pet has the disease.

If your pet has been confirmed by your veterinarian as having leptospirosis, the appropriate action to take will depend on the nature of contact with your pet. Normal daily activities with your pet will not put you at high risk for leptospirosis infection. Types of contacts that are considered to be high risk include:
  • direct or indirect contact with urine, blood, and tissues of your pet during its infection
  • assisting in the delivery of newborns from an infected animal.
If you have had these types of high-risk contacts with your pet during the time of its infection, inform your physician. If common symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches, occur within 3 weeks after a high-risk exposure, see your physician. Tests can be performed to see if you have this disease.
Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics. If an animal is treated early, it may recover more rapidly and any organ damage may be less severe. Other treatment methods, such as dialysis and hydration therapy may be required.
The time between exposure to the bacteria and development of disease is usually 5 to 14 days, but can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days or more.

Prevention in Pets
To help prevent leptospirosis infection, keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease (see Prevent Rodent Infestations).
Get your pet vaccinated against leptospirosis. The vaccine does not provide 100% protection. This is because there are many strains (types) of leptospires (the bacteria that causes leptospirosis), and the vaccine does not provide immunity against all strains. It is important to get your pet vaccinated again even if it gets leptospirosis because it can still get infected with a different strain of leptospires.
Pet owners should also take steps to prevent themselves and others from becoming infected with the disease due to an infected pet. The primary mode of transmission of leptospirosis from pets to humans is through direct or indirect contact with contaminated animal tissues, organs, or urine.
In some instances, shedding of leptospires in the urine may persist for as long as 3 months after infection as a result of inadequate or lack of treatment. Always contact your veterinarian and your physician if you have concerns about a possible exposure to an infected animal.
In addition, be sure to follow the below prevention guidelines:

  • Do not handle or come in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from your infected pet before it has received proper treatment.
  • If you need to have contact with animal tissues or urine, wear protective clothing, such as gloves and boots, especially if you are occupationally at risk (veterinarians, farm workers, and sewer workers).
  • As a general rule, always wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have your pet's excrement on it.
  • If you are cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated or have urine from an infected pet on them, use an antibacterial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts water.
  • Make sure that your infected pet takes all of its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is Fido Slowing Down...this could be the reason!

What is Arthritis?
The word arthritis is a generic term referring to many different types of conditions in the joint. When the term arthritis is used it commonly refers to osteoarthritis (OA), which is also known as degenerative joint disease   (DJD). Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and studies indicate that it occurs in 20% of dogs over 1 year of age.

Understanding Canine Osteoarthritis
A healthy joint consists of cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones in a joint. The cartilage has no nerves and in a normal joint when cartilage rotates on the cartilage of another bone, the dog feels no pain.

However, arthritis causes the cartilage to wear away. This exposes the bones, which have many nerves. When two bones touch each other, your dog feels pain. This pain can greatly affect your dog’s quality of life, although dogs tend to be very quiet about displaying their pain.

Early treatment of Canine Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis can be managed much more successfully when it is diagnosed and treated early in the process. Some owners will proactively start joint supplements or joint support diets in working or active dogs.

The Risk Factors of Canine Osteoarthritis 
Dogs of any age or breed can develop osteoarthritis and there are certain risk factors you should be aware of including:
  1. Breed size - large or giant breeds have a higher incidence of arthritis
  2. Age - arthritis is more common in older dogs
  3. Weight - overweight dogs are more prone to arthritis
  4. Breed inherited traits and conformation - which can lead to arthritis because of hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia changes in the joint
Overweight dogs: Studies have shown that weight loss alone can significantly improve comfort in dogs with OA. Joints that are already sore and stressed are made worse when they have to support extra weight. Ease of activities such as climbing stairs, jumping into a car or truck or getting up from a sitting position can improve dramatically with weight loss. If your dog has a Body Condition Score over 6/9 you should consider weight loss for your pet.
There are a number of very good weight loss diets available. Royal Canin Satiety Support is a low calorie diet that contains ingredients designed to help your pet feel full, maintain lean muscle mass, help with skin and coat and also contains Glucosamine/Chondroitin to help improve joint function. It comes in a dry and canned formula. We would be happy to develop a weight loss program to help achieve weight loss and ultimately improve the comfort of your pet. 
Other option for weight loss include: Hills Metabolic and Royal Canin Calorie Control diets. Hills also makes a combination weight loss and joint support food.

Just like in people exercise is vital for weight loss.  Exercise helps increase the resting metabolic rate and burns more calories while maintaining or improving muscle tone. The most successful weight loss programs are combined with good exercise programs.
Controlled exercise is invaluable in treatment for patients with osteoarthritis. This can help improve function and reduce pain, by using the “move it or lose” it principle. Please see our additional exercise sheet.

Joint Support Diets
Royal Canin Mobility is a veterinary diet that is specially formulated to help improve joint health and reduce joint pain in the canine patient. It contains green lipped muscle, omega fatty acids and glucosamine /chondroitin all ingredients that support joint health. It is also moderate in calories to help maintain weight.
Please see the diet brochure.
This is the diet that Bowmanville Veterinary Staff reach for with their older active dogs and many of us use it proactively as our pets become seniors.
Other options for joint support diets include Hills J/D and Hills Metabolic/Joint.  (See brochures)

Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements and are believed to have a positive influence on the cartilage health in the joint. Many people will have heard of Glucosamine and Chondroitin which are products that have been available for humans for many years. Using products that contain these natural ingredients may help but we have found products that contain more than these two ingredients to be more valuable.
There are many products available as joint supplements.  At Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic we will only stock/sell products that have been proven by scientific studies. Some products on the market have anecdotal reports that they work, which is supportive great, but we want to know that the products we sell also have evidence based scientific studies to support them.. The other criteria that must be met before we consider bringing a nutraceutical to our shelves is some thing called the NN number. Unfortunately some nutraceuticals have inconsistent delivery of ingredients so you may not be getting what you pay for. Products that carry a NN number mean they have been certified to meet safety and quality criteria. When a product contains only approved ingredients which are safe or low risk they can be assigned a NN number. For you and your pet the NN on the package is proof that the manufacturer meets adequate standards for these types of products.
Flexadin Plus - our number one nutraceutical for joint support is Flexadin Plus.  It has scientific studies and is NN certified. This product contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega fatty acids and Devils Claw. Devils claw is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory. Many of our canine patients have started with this product and owners have found a very positive improvement in their dogs comfort and mobility. Remember it is very important as your dog ages to encourage exercise to control weight and maintain flexibility. We need to keep them moving.
Results can often be seen within days. The same company that makes Flexadin Plus also manufactures Flexadin Advanced. This product uses UCII collagen a very advanced ingredient that is widely used in human medicine. This product works with the immune system to help maintain joint integrity. It can take up to three months to see the maximum benefits of this product. One big advantage of Flexadin Advanced is that you only need to feed one chew regardless of the size of your dog.
Flexadin Plus and Flexadin Advanced have a palpability guarantee so if your pet does not approve of the taste they are fully refundable. This company also offers a “buy six get one free” loyalty program. (See brochure)
We also carry Dasuquin by Nutramax another scientifically studied and NN certified product that has been widely used in the U.S for years. This is a good alternative to Flexadin if your pet does not like the taste of Flexadin.

The term NSAID refers to Non Steroidal Anti –inflammatory Drug a class of drugs that are used to treat the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. One of most common NSAID’s used in people is ASA but since dogs are much more sensitive to NSAIDS than humans aspirin can cause unwanted side effects such as stomach upset or irritation to intestines and can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, stomach ulcers and possibly more serious side effects. NSAIDS specifically formulated for dogs were introduced in the 1990’s. These NSAIDS work more effectively for dogs than aspirin while minimizing side effects in the internal organs. These drugs have changed and provided improved quality of life for millions of dogs living with the chronic pain of osteoarthritis. NSAIDS do have side effects that we must consider. Kidney, liver  or gastrointestinal conditions must be assessed to make sure your dog is able to metabolize and excrete the medication A complete history, physical exam and blood work are necessary prior to initiating NSAIDS along with periodic follow-up blood work as recommended by our veterinarians
Metacam (Meloxicam) is our number one NSAID of choice. It comes in a flavoured liquid that can be given directly or mixed in to food. We also like this product because it can reduced to what we call a lowest effective dose i.e. the least amount of drug needed to still provide pain management and improved quality of life.  (See brochure)
There are a number of other NSAIDS available to us if Metacam is not giving the desired results.
For our very arthritic patients it may become necessary to prescribe drugs to use in conjunction with nutraceuticals and Nsaids. Drugs commonly used for pain management in humans are now approved in dogs. The most commonly used adjunct drugs are Tramadol and Gabapentin. These are sometimes used alone if a pet is not able to safely use an NSAID.

DMOAD-Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs
There are injections available that to retard the progression of arthritis by stimulating production of lubricant and cartilage in the joint. Examples are Cartrophen or Adequan.
The treatment starts with a series of four injections given a week apart. After the initial series the treatment usually consists of one injection per month. Injections are given at the veterinary clinic, along with treats to distract your dog. (See brochure)
Alternative therapies-there are many exciting opportunities in this area for additional resources such as physical therapy-is done here, acupuncture, massage, chiropractics, etc. Please ask for our list if interested.
As you can see, there are now many options to help prevent pain and improve the quality of life of dogs affected by Osteoarthritis. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Friendly Pet Dogs Improve a Child’s Health, CDC Suggests

If there weren’t already enough reasons to own a dog, here's another....

Having a pet dog in the home helps in reducing childhood anxiety, according to research recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Researchers found that dogs can reduce childhood anxiety, particularly social and separation anxiety, in a variety of ways.  Dogs can stimulate conversation and alleviate separation anxiety, and social interaction between humans and dogs may lead to increased oxytocin levels in both the human and the dog.

“Interacting with a friendly dog also reduces cortisol levels, most likely through oxytocin release, which lessens physiologic responses to stress.  These hormonal effects may underlie the observed emotional and behavioral benefits of animal-assisted therapy and pet dogs,” according to the study.  Visit cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2015/15_0204.htm for more information on this study, “Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention?”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Savvy Dog Owner’s Guide to Nutrition on the Internet

More than 75% of all homes have computers and this is both a blessing and a curse.  For dog owners, the internet provides vast amounts of information on many subjects.  The information, however, is virtually unregulated and its quality ranges from excellent to pure quackery.  Deciding which websites are trustworthy can be difficult! Canine nutrition is a popular topic.  There are literally thousands of websites, promoting everything from recipes for raw food and vegetarian diets; advertisements for supplements and holistic foods; recommendations for diets that allegedly prevent or cure disease; ‘get-rich quick’ pyramid-selling schemes for nutritional supplements and consultation services operated by ‘nutritionists’.  Many home-made diets are promoted – some which are almost nutritionally balanced; some that are mildly unbalanced and some that are downright dangerous!

All in all, many nutritional myths are perpetuated, many half-truths reinforced and many incorrect facts conveyed.  There is, of course, some excellent information – but not nearly as much of it!

Surfing Tips
So how can you decide what to believe?  Here are some recommendations to help you when evaluating content of websites:
Discuss information with your veterinarian.  What you read online should enhance what your vet tells you, not replace it.  If in doubt, ask him or her to help you evaluate.
Research the credentials of the site’s author.  Is it a pet owner; a company; a veterinarian; a PHD in animal nutrition or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist?  Be careful when a person marketing  his or her services claims to be a ‘pet nutritionist’ or a ‘certified nutritionist’, as there is no standardization in training for this.  The exception is a veterinary nutritionist who is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) or the European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition (ECVCN).  These are veterinarians who have undergone several years of rigorous post-graduate nutrition training in approved residency programs and who have passed the ACVN or ECVCN’s certifying examination.
Read the website address.  Sites with an address ending in .com are commercial.  Those ending in.edu are educational and those ending in.org are non-profit organizations.  Large pet food companies often have high-quality websites with good general nutrition information that is separate from their product information.
Check the source of the information.  Do the authors simply state that a product ‘prevents cancer’ or is there a reference to a scientifically-conducted research study?  It is easy – though illegal – to make unproven claims for nutritional products but it is much harder to back them up scientifically.  If there is a reference, where is it from?  Is it from the author’s own article or promotional literature or is it from a peer-reviewed veterinary journal?  Most products on the internet do not cite studies to back up their claims.  Those that do, often cite studies on humans or rats which may not be pertinent to dogs.
Check the timelines of the information.  Things change quickly in veterinary medicine and especially in the field of nutrition.  Many websites are out of date.  What was recommended two years ago may not be accepted practice today.  A good website will be updated frequently.
Be wary of anecdotal information.  Descriptions of one person’s experience (e.g. “When my dog was diagnosed with kidney disease I gave him ‘GET BETTER’ nutritional supplement and now he’s cured”) can be misleading.  While it can be useful to hear about other people’s experiences, their positive evaluations do not mean that the actual product or treatment is really beneficial.  Always discuss what you’ve heard with your veterinarian.
Watch out for rating websites.  Most websites that rank dog foods do so either on opinion or on criteria that do not necessarily ensure a good quality food (e.t. price, ingredients, size of the company).  It’s important to use more objective criteria (science, quality control) in judging a dog food.
Be skeptical of grand claims or easy answers to difficult problems.  Remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are a critical web surfer and work with your veterinarian to analyze the information  you find, you will reap the benefits of the computer age without experiencing its problems.

WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Becoming a Veterinarian - Living the Dream!!!

Deciding on career path can be one of the most daunting decisions you must overcome as young adult. The choice to pursue either college or university education at barely 17 or 18 years of age does not permit for much time (if any) to experience the working world, and only adds to the pressure of making such a crucial decision; one that society believes will affect the rest of your life.
            It wasn’t until just recently that I now understand why I often heard people, peers, friends, and family members tell me how lucky I am that I just “knew” what I wanted to be in life. And for me the answer was simple: I wanted to become a veterinarian. (Might I point out that this is much easier said than done – but I’ll get to that later.)
            Sure, as young kids we all aspire to be great figures of authority within society -firefighters, policemen, doctors - or perhaps we dream to grow up just like our parents, becoming teachers, engineers, or architects. But how many of us are actually lucky enough to get there? Along the way we all get side-tracked, life intervenes, we discover new avenues, and before you know it we’re off down a path our 5 year-old brains didn’t even know existed.
            My love for animals fueled my passion to pursue veterinary medicine. From my earliest childhood memories I knew that I wanted to help the creatures of this earth, great and small, and that becoming a veterinarian was the path I was destined to follow. I knew it would be tough, and I heard countless people tell me how extremely difficult it would be to get accepted – boy were they right.
            In my last year of high school I elected to do a co-op placement (in a veterinary clinic of course) in order to finally get my feet wet within the profession. I had no idea what to expect, and honestly was quite nervous to see how it would compare with the visions in my head. As fate would have it (and I still think of it that way) I was chosen to do my placement at the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic. It consisted of 3 hours in the morning, Monday – Friday, for about 5 months. But that ended far too quickly for my liking.
            And so I headed off to UOIT where I completed a bachelor’s degree in biological science, and during my summers off I came back here to volunteer whenever I could. By this time I had done enough research to know (and scare myself) about what it would take to get accepted into the Ontario Veterinary College – where there are only 100 seats per year for Ontario residents…yikes. Being one of the top veterinary schools in the world, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Most accepted applicants have thousands upon thousands of hours of veterinary and animal experience, in addition to academic averages in the 85-95% range. If this wasn’t hard enough, well-rounded applicants typically have thousands of extracurricular hours as well. It seemed like a near impossible feat.
            So I buried my head in the textbooks, and spent as much time as I could volunteering. It was another truly fateful day when I received a phone call from none other than the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic offering me a position as a Veterinary Assistant. I was absolutely ecstatic that such an opportunity had arisen, and could not be happier to join such a fantastic team of individuals, committed to the welfare and care of animals. It was enlightening to see all the time and hard work I had invested start to pay off.
            As you are reading this, I have been working here for just over a year, and have loved every second of it. Thanks to the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic, and their unwavering belief and support, I was on my way to gaining the experience that would make me a competitive applicant.
            After taking several months to prepare my application, I was selected as one of the top 200 applicants chosen to undergo the grueling interview process. Drawing on my experiences here at the clinic helped in more ways than I can explain, and I can happily tell you that less than two weeks ago I received my acceptance into the Ontario Veterinary College, Class of 2020 – the single greatest moment of my life. My dream of becoming a veterinarian is now closer than ever.
            I often look back to that moment in high school, when I was selected by the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic to complete my co-op placement. At the time I did not fully appreciate the significance of that event, but now I cannot help but notice how important a role it played. Without their support, I would not be where I am today.

            The most important thing I learned through this journey (which is far from over) is to follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and don’t give up. Turn your dreams into reality, and live the life you always imagined.

Stephanie Spencer, OVC 2020