Hairball Happy Hour

The last Friday in April is National Hairball Awareness Day. How many times a month do we wake up or come home to a surprise hairball on the nicely cleaned white carpet? Ask any cat owner and they will gladly tell you.

Cats are avid groomers and like to keep themselves in tip top shape. They spend a lot of their lifetime removing old hair, surface dirt or foreign bodies from their themselves or other cats. They have rough tongues and any loose or dead hair will get caught on it as they groom themselves. That hair is then swallowed. Most of the hair will go through their stomach and intestines and make it into the litter box in their bowel movements. Some cats ingest more hair than others. If there is an excessive amount of built up hair, it will often form a ball in the stomach and won’t be able to pass through into the small intestines. This “hairball” is then regurgitated or vomited back up (and often left for us to find on the freshly cleaned pillow case or carpet or just in the middle of the floor when guests are set to arrive!).

Brushing your cat daily can help relieve hairball issues. Also making sure that your cat is not over grooming themselves can reduce the accumulation of hairballs in your cats stomach. Over grooming can occur when your cat is stressed, experiencing pain or depressed. The hairballs that do make it into the small intestine can sometimes move very slowly through the cat’s body and cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or anorexia. There are laxative supplements to give your cat to help keep things moving through the gastrointestinal tract normally. Your cat may also need a diet change to improve their bowel movement quality or improve their skin and hair coat. If you feel that your cat is having issues with hairballs, please contact your veterinarian.

Happy hairball day to you and your furry ones! Below are some pictures of our long haired clinic cat, Celine, grooming her paw this morning (we unfortunately didn’t get a photo of the enormous hairball she vomited up the other day, sorry!):

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Big or Small, We Love Them All

**Warning: this blog posting is a tear jerker!**

Grief Counseling

Losing a pet is never easy. Any of our staff members are here to listen and console you.

If you are grieving for an animal that is sick or one that has died, you are not alone. The loss of a companion animal is often as painful as the loss of a best friend. It is important for you to realize that grieving for a pet is no different than mourning the death of a human being.

A good relationship with a pet has been shown to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, help heart disease patients recover more quickly, give the elderly new purpose in life and much more. Pet therapy is now used in many hospitals and nursing homes worldwide. Pets can work so many miracles in our everyday lives. Understanding your pet’s value in your life is an important part of understanding why its loss is so traumatic.

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When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

We are never prepared for the loss of a pet. Whether death is swift and unexpected or whether it comes at the end of a slow decline, few of us are fully aware of what a pet means to our lives until our companion is gone. Everyone privately hopes their pet will have a peaceful passing when its time arrives. However, the impact of a pet’s death is significantly increased when we have to face the most difficult decision: to have a pet euthanized.

Euthanasia is the induction of painless death. In veterinary practice, it is accomplished by an intravenous injection of a concentrated dose of anesthetic. The animal is always sedated before this injection. The animal may feel slight discomfort when the needle tip passes through the skin, but this is no greater than for any other injection. The euthanasia solution takes only seconds to induce a total loss of consciousness. This is soon followed by respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. Your pet will then be at peace.

Veterinarians don’t exercise the euthanasia option lightly. Their medical training and professional lives are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. They are very aware of the balance between extending an animal’s life and prolonging its suffering. We need to understand that euthanasia is a humane way to end a pets suffering.

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Reaching the Decision

Consider the following questions when preparing to make the decision to euthanize your pet. Only you can decide what the best solution is for you and your pet. Take your time and discuss it with your family and veterinarian.

  • What is the current quality of my pet’s life?
  • Is my pet eating well? Is it playful and affectionate towards me?
  • Is my pet interested in activity surrounding it?
  • Does my pet seem tired and withdrawn most of the time?
  • Is my pet in apparent pain?
  • Is there anything I can do to make my pet more comfortable?
  • Are there other treatment options available?
  • Will I want to be present during the euthanasia?
  • Do I want my pet cremated? Do I want the ashes back or not?

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Children and the Death of a Pet

When a child experiences the death of a beloved pet, he or she may experience emotional reactions that can be painful and frightening. Children process their thoughts and feelings by “doing.” By helping to guide your children, you will be giving them an important life tool that they will never forget. Below are several ways to help children cope with these reactions in a healthy way:

  • Making a scrapbook of your pet’s life
  • Making a contribution to an animal organization in your pet’s memory
  • Fostering an animal that needs temporary care
  • Attending a pet loss support group

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Seniors and Pet Loss

The loss of a loved companion can be especially difficult for older adults. Often, you have already experienced the loss of loved ones. In many cases, pets become the most important companion for talking to, caring for, sleeping with and sharing unconditional love with. They become family members and best friends, so the loss of a beloved animal can be overwhelming.

During the time of grief it is common and recommended to seek out others who are compassionate, sensitive and supportive to the very real and painful loss you are feeling. Such support can be critical to coping and recovering from such a significant loss.

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The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called
The Rainbow Bridge.
When a beloved pet dies who has been especially close to someone here,
that pet goes to The Rainbow Bridge.
It is a land of meadows, hills and valleys.
There is always plenty of food and water and sunshine, and
our friends are warm and comfortable.
Those who were old and frail are young again – restored to health and vigor;
Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again.
The animals are content and happy with each other.

But there is something missing.
They are not with their special people who loved them on earth –
the ones who were left behind.
Then the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
The bright eyes are intent;
the eager body quivers.
Suddenly he breaks away from the group, flying over the green grass;
his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been seen.

And when you and your special friend meet,
you take him in your arms and embrace.
The happy kisses rain upon your face.
Your hands again caress the beloved head.
You look once more into the trusting eyes of your friend.
And then, together, you cross The Rainbow Bridge.

Never again to be separated.

– unknown

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Top 10 Spring Hazards for Pets

  1. Spring cleaning: Keep all cleaning products out of reach from your pets. Many of them contain hazardous, toxic chemicals. Be sure your floor cleaner is safe for use around pets.
  2. Parasites: Fleas seem to have stuck around all winter but are ready to come into full effect now that the weather is warming up. The ticks are also back in town. Check your pets daily after walks or play outside.
  3. Gardening: Don’t forget that many fertilizers and pesticides are harmful to your pets if ingested.
  4. Plants: Many plants and bushes in our gardens spring back to life this time of year. Don’t let your pet chew on or ingest them, as many are toxic if ingested. A few to name are: azaleas, rhododendrons, foxglove, lilies and daffodils.
  5. Home renovations: Spring brings out the renovation mode in many of us. Monitor your pets closely around paint, solvents, nails, staples, etc. It is usually best to try and keep pets out of the construction zone.
  6. Allergy season: Many pets suffer from seasonal allergies, just like us. Some common signs of allergies are itchy skin and ears or weepy eyes. Contact your veterinarian if allergies are making your pet uncomfortable.
  7. More time outdoors: Be sure your pet has adequate identification on them at all times (microchips, ID tags, tattoos). We often spend more time outdoors when the weather warms up and many pets will wander further on their own. If they are to become lost, proper identification will help them arrive home safe and sound.
  8. Open windows: Make sure screens on your windows are secure. Cats enjoy basking in the sun and napping against warm windows. We don’t want them falling and injuring themselves.
  9. Fishing tackles: There is often lots of good springtime fishing to be done but it is best to keep your pets away from your tackle box. Dogs may want to try and ingest a fishhook while cats think shiny tackles and fishing line make great toys.
  10. Shedding season: Warm weather brings out the need to shed winter coats for all animals. Brush them daily to avoid matting and excessive hairballs.

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10 Pet Dental Questions and Answers

  1. How many teeth does my kitten have? 26 deciduous teeth.
  2. How many teeth does my adult cat have? 30 teeth.
  3. How many teeth does my puppy have? 28 deciduous teeth.
  4. How many teeth does my adult dog have? 42 teeth.
  5. Why does my pet have bad breath (halitosis)? Bad breath usually comes from an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Some bacteria can produce sulfur compounds as waste products, which produce an undesirable odor.
  6. How often should I brush my pet’s teeth? Once daily is ideal.
  7. Can I scale my pet’s teeth at home? No, there is no way to effectively scale your pet’s teeth at home. While it may look like you are making a difference for the teeth cosmetically, proper and thorough scaling must be performed with the pet under anesthesia.
  8. Why is anesthesia necessary to scale my pet’s teeth? Non-anesthetic cleaning only provides a cosmetic improvement for your pet’s teeth. A proper dental prophylaxis involves a thorough oral examination, scaling and polishing of the teeth. Scaling is the process of removing tartar above and below the gum line (using an ultrasonic scaling device and hand scaling tools). Polishing is the process of “smoothing” the tooth surfaces after scaling. This makes the teeth more resistant to future plaque and tartar formation. Proper polishing of the teeth is very important and should always be performed following scaling. An awake pet will not allow their teeth to be scaled and polished properly, which may lead to even more dental disease issues in the future.
  9. Why does my pet need to have teeth extracted? Teeth often need to be extracted because of severe periodontal disease, abscessed tooth roots, fractures, resorptive lesions, misalignment, and other problems that may cause discomfort or difficulty chewing.
  10. My pet has both deciduous teeth and adult teeth in place. What should I do? This is a very common problem, especially among small breed dogs. The deciduous teeth must be extracted (if they do not fall out on their own) once the adult teeth have fully erupted to avoid future orthodontic problems.

ImageCat mouth model inside a dog mouth model. Showing off the “dirty” side. 

ImageCat mouth model inside a dog mouth model. Showing off the “clean” side.

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Periodontal Disease Takes the Stage

STAGE 1

  • Plaque (a transparent film of bacteria, cells and food particles) forms and sticks on tooth surfaces
  • Plaque build up causes bad breath and redness or inflammation of the gum line (gingivitis) 

STAGE 2

  • Plaque can begin to calcify within 72 hours and form tartar (a visible shell on the outer surface of the tooth)
  • Increased inflammation of the gums becomes evident and may cause bleeding at the gum line

STAGE 3

  • Tartar stuck on the tooth surfaces is covered with newly formed plaque
  • The bacteria in plaque secretes toxins and enzymes which cause further inflammation of surrounding periodontal tissues
  • With continued gingivitis, some loss of tissue attachment begins at the gum line and leads to the beginning stages of bone loss around tooth roots
  • The mouth can be quite painful and uncomfortable when eating

STAGE 4

  • Recession of the gums due to tartar buildup
  • Gingivitis may progress to infection of the tissues and bone around the tooth roots and the tooth (or often a few teeth!) may need to be extracted
  • A change in eating habits may be noticed – either not wanting to eat at all or swallowing food without chewing

Throughout all stages of dental disease, bacteria can be picked up and carried by the bloodstream to the liver, kidneys and heart. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and feeding them an appropriate dental diet can help decrease oral bacteria and stop dental disease in its tracks. 

ImageBefore dental cleaning – active bacteria and tartar glows pink under special fluorescent dental light.

 

ImageBefore dental cleaning – brownish tartar is visible on tooth surfaces, redness of gum line evident.

 

ImageAfter dental cleaning – teeth glow bright white under special dental fluorescent light, no more tartar or plaque on teeth.

 

ImageAfter dental cleaning – clean teeth with small amount of gingival bleeding.

**Thank you to our wonderful mouth model, Daisy, a 4 year old Maltipoo.

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A Healthy Body Starts With a Healthy Mouth

Brushing, regular dental exams and oral health nutrition is the combination for a long, healthy life.

There is a strong link between good oral health and heart and kidney health. Plaque full of bacteria builds up on the teeth daily and causes the gums to become irritated. The irritated gums eventually begin to bleed and allow the active bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream then travel throughout the body and can negatively impact vital organs such as the heart and kidneys. 

Follow these steps to improve your pet’s oral health:

BRUSHING

Daily brushing is the foundation of oral care. Life gets very busy at times, but squeezing in this extra daily task is well worth it. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily, you can make a big impact in their oral health. Brushing helps remove plaque (a colourless film containing harmful bacteria) before it has a chance to mineralize into tartar on your pet’s teeth (the yellowish-brown debris visible on your pet’s teeth). 

DENTAL EXAMS

To maintain your pet’s optimal oral health, annual or semi-annual dental checkups should be done. Some animals form tartar in their mouths more quickly than others. For those pets with a history of oral health problems, more frequent exams are a great idea and regular professional cleanings may be advised.

NUTRITION

As well as brushing and regular dental checkups, there is also specially formulated food available to aid in removing plaque and bacteria and help reduce gingivitis. The pieces of food work like a toothbrush as they are crunched by your pet.

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Foreign Body Ingestion: A Piece of Carpet with a Side of Rope?!

Dogs and cats often ingest things they shouldn’t. We will never know what drives them to do this but they sometimes seem to think it is ok to ingest rocks, toys, tennis balls, socks, underwear, bones, needles and thread, string, fishing hooks, Nerf gun darts, pieces of carpet, rope, garbage, etc. Sometimes the object will pass through their intestines without complication. Sometimes the object will pass through only causing a mild upset stomach or diarrhea. Other times, the object will become stuck in the stomach or intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage.

The following is a story about a dog that seems to have a different palate for flavor than most other dogs:

Snoopy is a 2 year old Havanese mix weighing 12 pounds.  He had been vomiting intermittently for one week and had minimal interest in food.  He hadn’t had a bowel movement in quite a few days. He is normally very energetic but was feeling quite depressed when he came to see us.

Upon exam, it was found that Snoopy had a mild fever.  His blood work showed no abnormalities. His abdomen was quite painful on palpation. We suspected that he had a foreign body stuck in his intestines or stomach that was preventing food from passing through. A firm “object” was palpated in his intestines and he cried when this area was touched. We proceeded to take radiographs of Snoopy’s abdomen, which led us to take him directly into surgery. 

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From Snoopy’s small intestine we removed a hard, rolled up piece of carpet. From his stomach, we removed this:  

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An extremely long, long, long piece of rope?!  How?! Why?! 

Snoopy made a full recovery and is now back to bouncing and running around like he used to. He was up and eating 12 hours after surgery. We all hope he has learned his lesson about ingesting anything but dog food. 

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