What “Chouchou” taught us
By Andrea Bates, cert. Animal Health Technician
Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
I am a firm believer that all of life’s experiences are to be learned from and help us grow. In 2002, I was a young veterinary technician working full-time in a small animal hospital. One day, I came in to find a cat in a cage with a big ‘EUTHANASIE’ scrawled on the cage I.D. tag. Unfortunately, back then it wasn’t unusual for many vets to perform non-medically justified euthanasia and sadly this was just part of the job, although I and every staff member hated it.
I went to look at this condemned cat – he was beautiful, but scary! Huge puffy orange coat, face pushed in angrily, giant black pupils, ears folded back on his head, sharp teeth bared, and emitting the most blood-curdling screech I’d ever heard. He even lunged at the cage door and I almost fell backwards. He stared at me, eye to eye, and I thought, “Holy c*@p – this guy’s nuts!” The tag said his name was “Paco”, it should have said “Lucifer”!
I asked around and was informed that a Persian cat breeder had intended for this cat to be his breeding male (which explained why he was over 2 years old and still not neutered) and that “Paco” refused to breed with the females. After many failed attempts, he was of no use to his owners who decided to cut their losses and dispose of him. My jaw just hung open. “And they had him declawed!” I said in horror. This just wasn’t fair. Maybe he didn’t like the females he was presented with. Maybe he was shy. Maybe he was gay – who knows! Whatever the reason, I felt this cat had been dealt a raw deal.
I convinced my boss (at the time) not to euthanize and agreed to pay the boarding costs of keeping him (yes, she charged me!), and of course I had him neutered. I was determined to prove to this ferocious beast that some humans could be trusted. Every day on my lunch break I would sit on the ground by his cage door while he screamed and lunged at me. After a few days of this, he settled down a bit and quietly watched me eat my sandwich while I spoke to him softly. The first couple of times that I tried opening the cage door, I was treated to an impressive array of snorts and howls warning me to stay away. I persisted of course, and after a couple of weeks was able to touch things in his cage (without the thick gloves the kennel workers had to use!) and even touch his forehead with my index finger without being attacked. Soon he was taking treats and would even take his eyes off of me for several minutes at a time. I promised him that I would never toss him aside and we both knew that deep down inside, he was just a little “chou-chou”.
When I finally brought him home to my 4 kids, 6 cats, and dog, my husband said I had to be insane to think that this could ever work. The kids giggled at his grumpy face, and he was gradually integrated into the family.
The happiness that “Chouchou” brought us over the next 12 years can’t be measured. And over these years, Chouchou served as a living example of how change is possible. My children learned (and I was reminded) that no matter what difficulties life can bring, there is always hope for change and a brighter tomorrow. They learned that behind some grumpy faces lie some very warm hearts. And that although it wasn’t easy to see at first, our little Chouchou had it in him the whole time to be the lovey-dovey we knew. He loved to settle down on a different child’s bed every night, purring up a storm. He patiently waited for my autistic 4 yearold to let go of his tail on a few occasions! He made us laugh watching him romp out in the backyard with the other cats trying to be “cool” – although the first time he caught a mouse he looked completely repulsed and just held it down at arm’s length, looking unsure as to what to do with it – so he just let it go and walked away in disgust! There are so many great memories.
Sadly, our family recently had to say goodbye to Chouchou.
We all loved him dearly – and there will never be another quite like him.
When I speak with veterinary colleagues in Europe and Australia, I am simply embarrassed. I live in this wonderful country where we are often leading the way of research and innovation in animal health and welfare. And yet, we still declaw. Twenty-eight countries (and counting) have made declawing illegal and considered inhumane. Why is Canada so far behind?
I know that my Canadian veterinary colleagues hate to declaw. When I ask them why they still declaw they will answer: “I would rather perform the surgery than have another cat abandoned at a shelter” or “I would rather do it myself so I know it is being done well and with proper pain management”. As long as our clients have the option to declaw they will and so will the veterinarians. And there is no judgement here. Many of my friends and even family members have cats that are declawed. I don’t believe in it and they know that. All I can do is speak the words and promote the CHANGE in OUR BEHAVIOUR.
We all know why cats have claws and what they can do with them. There are so many websites available to give you great tips on how to make your cat’s claws house-friendly! And certainly your veterinarian has given you these websites and promotional materials which tell you all about enriching their environment with posts, cutting their nails, Soft Paws®, etc. They have also likely given you a detailed description of what the surgery is (amputation of the final digit). But for many people, this simply is not enough and “I’ve always had declawed cats and it was never a problem. My cat seems fine and so is my couch!”
When I was in veterinary school I had an ethics class. We had many speakers come in to discuss relevant and controversial topics in the veterinary world. There was one speaker who really stuck out in my mind. She was an owner of a small animal practice that refused “healthy euthanasia”. Her message to us “to-be-vets” was: “I knew by refusing to do a healthy animal euthanasia, the owners were simply going to go down the street to the nearest clinic, but if I changed even 1% of the people’s minds, then it was worth it. I had to sleep with myself that night, knowing what I did. And I couldn’t sleep knowing I euthanized an animal that was healthy”.
When I opened my practice, I made the choice with our team. We are a no-declaw clinic. And more and more clinics are doing so. At this time, there are approximately 5 clinics in Montreal area that I am aware of that are pro-claw.
Let’s all stop taking the easy road. Stand for what you believe in, as a cat lover, as a veterinarian, as an animal health professional, and as a citizen and policy maker. We CAN make these changes. We CAN be one of those countries that have made declawing illegal. Those countries have no more cats in shelters than we do! In fact most of them have very few cats in shelters. Let’s move into the 21st century and do something about it. Talk to your friends who have kittens and are thinking of declawing, write to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association or your provincial veterinary order/college and ask them what they are doing? Some provinces (not Quebec) have made progress by outlawing tail-docking and ear-cropping. So we are getting somewhere! I believe that change can happen, one person at a time. I believe we can sit back and wait for it, or we can do something about it.
For more information on declawing please check out these websites: www.declaw.com, www.declawing.com, www.pawproject.org. You can also visit the Sherwood Park Animal Hospital FAQ section on why we chose NOT to declaw:
There’s more than one way to ”spay” a cat!
By Andrea Bates, cert. Animal Health Technician
Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
There’s an old expression that says “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”, and I have to tell you I’ve always hated that saying! But it’s funny how old sayings can pop into your mind at any given moment – I think that means you’re turning into your parents, but that’s another issue! The saying came to me one Monday morning when a man walked into our hospital with a cat in a carrier and asked to see a vet. I immediately saw that the cat was not in good shape and asked him what was happening to her. He explained to me that she had been fixed at another clinic a few days ago and there had been some complications, one of which was post-operative bleeding. After having been home for a couple of days she had collapsed. A quick look at her white gums, bruised belly, and low body temperature was enough for me to jump into emergency mode. We hooked her up to an oxygen mask and started actively warming her with hot air, pads, and blankets. During this time the doctor examined her more carefully and I prepared for intravenous catheter placement.
A brief history was also taken and this was her story:
The cat had been found abandoned outside (right around July 1st, surprise, surprise) and this kind gentleman had taken her in. A couple of weeks later he noticed her belly growing in size and he realized she must be pregnant. A friend of his suggested he bring her to a veterinarian a little farther out from where he lived, but they offered “bargain prices”. He made the trip on Thursday morning and once the cat’s pregnancy was confirmed, he agreed to have her spayed before it was too late. He fully understood the overpopulation problem in this province and certainly didn’t want to end up with a litter of unwanted kittens. The cat was whisked away and he was told to pick her up the next day. Unfortunately, during the recovery period the cat apparently bled quite a bit and managed to pull out all of her stitches. So back she went under anesthesia to re-suture her belly and clean up the blood. The client was told by the receptionist to pick her up the following day.
When the owner brought her home on Saturday he noticed that she was very quiet, but not knowing the cat very well, and not having been given much information when he left the clinic, he assumed it was normal for her to sleep a lot. But by Sunday night, seeing that the cat had barely eaten since she got home, and seeing in her eyes that something just wasn’t right, he realized that she was in need of medical attention. That brings us back to Monday morning.
Our exam revealed that the cat was in shock and needed intensive treatments if she was to even have a chance to live through the next few hours. The client, having already grown attached to the little creature, requested that we try to save her. Blood was drawn for analysis and intravenous fluids were given to correct her dangerously low blood pressure. Her body temperature was rising slowly, but her appearance never changed – she just lay there staring off into space, barely responding to petting or soft words, just focusing on staying alive. Within 15 minutes, our in-house blood test results came in and revealed that she was in severe kidney failure. The chances of saving her were slim-to-none. And just as we all shook our heads in amazement at the severity of her condition; she took her last breaths and died quietly.
I didn’t know this cat. I had never seen her strut her stuff with her tail perked up, nor had I ever heard her purr. But I felt a sick, overwhelming feeling inside me that combined sadness and bewilderment.
Then the question from the client came…what could cause this to happen? And the honest answer is – we don’t know. We don’t know if she had a pre-existing condition with her kidneys because no pre-operative blood was taken. We don’t know what anesthetic agents were given to the cat and we don’t know what kind of monitoring was done during the surgery. Was blood pressure monitored? Was her temperature monitored? Was a qualified veterinary technician attending to the patient? Was the cat on intravenous fluids? And what about recovery? Was she monitored adequately post-operatively? How much blood did she lose? The client had no idea. And that’s the problem.
This caring, well-intentioned man assumed that a cat spay is a cat spay, so why not get a bargain price? But the reality is that although the surgery itself is more or less straightforward, what surrounds the surgery can vary enormously. So many things need to be considered – choice of anesthetic medications, delivery of intravenous fluids to maintain perfusion of vital organs, sterility of personnel and instruments during surgery, monitoring of vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygenation, and temperature during surgery and recovery. And of course, pain control and patient comfort.
So it came to me that day…the expression about skinning cats that I’ve despised for so long shall now be “There is more than one way to spay a cat” (or dog!). It certainly makes more sense to me – hopefully it will catch on!
Ask questions. Become informed – it’s your right to know. And don’t forget, your pet is counting on you!
Cold enough for you? What about your pet?
By Andrea Bates, cert. Animal Health Technician
Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
Cold enough for you? What a winter we are having! Polar vortexes and record-breaking frigid temperatures…makes me want to hibernate until it’s over!
Unfortunately we can’t hibernate, and neither can many of our pets. Most of our dogs still need to get out there and do their business and hopefully get a bit of exercise too. Many outdoor cats will also brave the weather despite deep snow and howling winds. The problem is that our house pets are not always able to tolerate extreme conditions and so injury is common at this time of year.
The good news is there are things that can be done to minimize the risk and keep our little ones safe and happy. Here are some helpful suggestions to avoid injuries that we too often see at the hospital at this time of year:
1. Think “happy feet”. Your dog’s foot pads, no matter what breed of dog, are soft and tender and have not been acclimatized to handle severe ice and snow. The pads can become dry and cracked through contact with ice, snow and other chemicals that may be on the road. Booties are the ideal solution and should be attempted! If your dog refuses to wear them, a Vaseline massage before walks will provide some protection. There are many other alternatives to Vaseline such as Dermoscent BioBalm or Bag Balm. Paws should also be wiped down when coming inside to remove any salt residue. If a paw does become injured, call you vet for advice.
2. Keep those nails short! Long, curving nails are easily caught on rock-hard ice, especially when your dog is grasping at the ground for traction. Dog nails should be trimmed regularly and if it is too difficult to do at home your vet or groomer can certainly help!
3. Slipping and falling on the ice is very common in dogs and can induce, or worsen, injuries. Large breed dogs, especially ones that are overweight, are susceptible to ligament injuries, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This knee injury (common in human athletes) occurs when the knee joint is twisted and one of the ligaments tears partially or completely. Avoiding this consists of keeping your dog on leash during icy conditions to prevent harsh turns while running on slippery surfaces and avoiding play in deep snow. We also highly recommend keeping a first aid kit nearby at all times. Your kit should include gauze, bandage wrap and tape, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol swabs.
4. What about kitty? Outdoor cats are exposed to a whole different bag of hazards. Firstly, ears can easily become frostbitten. The skin will appear greyish blue, and be painful to the touch. Re-warming should only be done by applying warm, wet compresses and the skin should never be rubbed. If in doubt, call us for advice.
5. Another risk to cats is if left outdoors for too long, they will often seek warmth and shelter elsewhere, which can lead to them being accidentally locked in a garage or shed. Cats will also climb into the hood of a car whose engine is still warm and snuggle up for the night. A good knock on the hood before starting your car in the morning could save a cat’s life!
6. Coats or no coats? Best is to use your own judgment. If your dog has very little fur (short coats) or skin conditions, you should certainly consider putting him/her in a winter coat or sweater. There is a huge variety of dog coats and sweaters available in all shapes and sizes. Haute doggie couture – enjoy the shopping!
So whether you have a dog, a cat, or both, keeping them indoors as much as possible during extreme temperatures is the best thing you can do for them. But remember – they get bored too! A little extra playtime with some new toys will help chase away the winter blues and keep everyone happy.
Dogs in War
By Andrea Bates, cert AHT, Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
Every year around this time we are reminded of the brave men and women who fought for freedom and justice throughout the many wars in history. But there are other soldiers that should be remembered as well – canine soldiers. This November 11th, they too deserve recognition for their bravery and perseverance in the face of the horrors of war.
Dogs in battle can play many roles, all of them requiring intensive training and natural abilities depending on their size, intelligence and temperament. The most common breeds of military dogs are the German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, Belgian Sheepdog, Siberian Husky, Labrador, and smaller dogs such as terriers. During WWI and WWII dogs were especially appreciated for their many uses.
Sentry dogs were large intimidating dogs used by soldiers to patrol camps and military bases. They were held on a short leash and were trained to give a warning signal, such as a bark or growl, to indicate a suspect presence on the periphery.
Scout dogs were highly trained canines and had to be quiet and disciplined. Their job was to run ahead of foot soldiers and detect enemy scent, which could be as far as 1km away. Instead of barking and drawing attention to the squad, the dogs would stop in their tracks, raise the hair on their backs, and point their tails to “sound the alarm”.
Casualty dogs were also called Mercy dogs. These dogs were outfitted to carry medical supplies and were trained to roam the battlefields and find wounded soldiers. The men would help themselves to what they needed to treat their own wounds, or if too gravely injured would have the company of a mercy dog who would wait by their side until they died.
Messenger dogs, as the name implies, were experts at running across “impassible” terrain to bring messages to a squadron’s headquarters and back. These dogs were faster than any human on foot, could pass through mushy ground that any vehicle would get stuck in and could pass almost unnoticed by the enemy. One dog in WWI was recorded to have traveled 5kms over extremely difficult terrain in under 60 minutes – this when all other methods of communication had failed.
And of course, there were the mascot dogs. These dogs spent most of their time down in the trenches with the soldiers and brought psychological comfort to them during terrible times.
Whatever the job, military dogs have lived through the same experiences as humans in past and present wars. They have been exposed to enormous amounts of stress and performed their duties in a hostile and frightening environment. They have lived through heavy machine gun and mortar fire, explosions, injury, and have witnessed the death of their handlers. It is not surprising that many of these canine heroes suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) upon release from the military.
And they are heroes. They bravely risk their own lives to save ours – and they have saved countless lives. Many receive medals of Honor from the military and there are museums and memorials all over the world built in their commemoration.
Today in 2013 dogs are widely used in the Canadian Armed Forces in areas like Afghanistan. With today’s technology these dogs are often outfitted with bulletproof vests and carry video and audio equipment that relays back to the soldiers. They are used to sniff out roadside bombs and are sentries and scouts for advancing squads. The dogs are so important to their troop that enemy forces such as the Taliban will often aim at the dogs first during a firefight. In fact, they are so valuable, that in case of evacuation a wounded dog will take precedence in the aircraft over a healthy soldier!
So this Remembrance Day let us remember ALL of the brave souls who fought and died for our freedom…we wouldn’t be here without them.
Photo to the right: “Zanjeer” The Golden Hero of Mumbai died in 2000. In this photo he is being honoured by one of his fellow officers.
According to Reuters, thousands of lives were saved thanks to a brave golden labrador named Zanjeer. The heroic canine detected more than 3,329 kgs of explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades, and 6,406 rounds of live ammunition. Zanjeer, a treasured member of the Mumbai Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad, also helped avert other potential explosions by detecting three more bombs in the days following the initial blasts in Mumbai 20yrs ago that killed 257 people and left 713 injured.
Keta-From Puppy Mill to Podium!
By Beverley Stevens, Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
Keta ended up at my house more or less by accident. Of course, that’s what most of us say about our rescue dogs.
I met Keta at an adoption clinic being held by a Montreal-area animal rescue organization in my old neighbourhood. I thought I would go to say hello to all my dog park friends – people who I used to see a couple of times a day, but now never saw because I had moved. My friends were all there – and so were Keta and her puppies.
Keta had been used as a breeding dog by a “backyard breeder” – really just a small-scale puppy mill. She and her puppies were picked up by the rescue group, cleaned up and vetted, and then put up for adoption. Of course her puppies were the star attraction at the adoption clinic and were quickly adopted. When she saw her last puppy walk out the door, poor Keta went to pieces – howling, crying, and shaking.
Keta was only about a year and a half old at the time, in good health, and a good looking shepherd-lab mix. But, no potential adopters came for Keta that day – no wonder, since she was such an emotional wreck at the time. At the end of the clinic, all of us still there were in tears. “She can’t go back to the shelter!” the rescue volunteers said. “Why don’t you take her home to foster?”
Now, at the time, I already had a large German shepherd mix at home. I didn’t really need another large dog (Keta is not really little – she’s a good 65 lbs!). But, I took her home with me that day, and there she has been ever since.
It was the next year that I finally decided to try agility with my dogs. We took lessons and we enjoyed it, but I never thought I would enter competitions – I thought that was for professionals! Finally, in our 3rd summer of lessons when Keta was 5 years old, I decided to enter an upcoming competition. Keta was amazing! We Q’d almost every event we entered (a Q in agility is a qualifying run, when you complete the run without faults and under course time, which entitles you to a rosette or ribbon). I was hooked. Once you start earning those rosettes, it’s hard to stop!
Over the next few years, we kept taking agility classes, and we entered more and more competitions. There were a lot of firsts for Keta and me. First time going on a road trip (to the National competition in Toronto!), first time (for Keta) staying in a hotel, first National competition. Keta was never that fast – but she was fast enough to be under time. And she was consistent, rarely going off-course or dropping a jump bar. Keta really loved running in the agility ring. People would often comment to me after our run, “I just love watching you two run. Keta just looks like she is enjoying herself so much!” (Personally, I think Keta always had her eye on the cookies she would get after the run was over. She always picked up speed on the last 3 or 4 obstacles!)
Keta qualified for the Agility Association of Canada (AAC) Nationals in four consecutive Quebec regional competitions, and even placed 2nd in her division in 2010- our first and only time on the podium! And we travelled to 4 AAC National competitions between 2007 and 2011.
From her rather inauspicious start, the doubts about her speed, her problems with hip dysplasia, arthritis, and a heart murmur – Keta overcame all obstacles and earned her Lifetime Award of Excellence in April 2011. She retired from agility the following spring, having also earned her Expert Gold Jumper, Expert Gold Snooker, Expert Team Relay Bronze, Versatility Bronze and Master Steeplechase Dog of Canada awards. Since then she has been enjoying snoozing on the sofa and taking relaxing walks in the woods.
My journey into agility with Keta has truly been a wonderful experience. I have spent quite a large number of my weekends at agility trials, in beautiful and not so beautiful weather. I have learned a lot more about dog training. I have bought dog crates, dog warm up coats, supplements, and agility practice equipment. I have met a whole group of wonderful people at the trials, people who truly care about their dogs, and about the sport – and who cheer you on through your difficult periods and celebrate with you when you succeed. By spending so much time practicing, travelling, and competing with Keta, I have developed a connection with her that is so much stronger than the bonds you build by simply leash-walking your dog.
My little Keta-Banana. I knew when I brought you home I was changing your life. Who knew you would have such a huge impact on mine!
Top: Triple title! Keta earns her Agility Trial Champion of Canada, and Bronze and Silver Awards of Merit!
Center: Keta poses with a Lifetime-worth of ribbons!
Photos courtesy of Christine Gardner
Remember to always warm-up first!
By Joanie Leclaire, cert. Animal Health Technician
Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
Summer is just around the corner and we are all looking forward to the upcoming outdoor activities that we enjoy so much. Many people are most active in the summer and so too are our 4 legged companions, who faithfully follow our lifestyle.
Unfortunately, summer also comes with possible injuries as we switch from our winter ‘’couch potato’’ lifestyle to very active people and that is the same for our dogs. Like us, dogs aren’t really in shape when the spring comes and unless you were dedicated to keeping them fit and active during the winter, it is unlikely they will be ready for the season. As we do, dogs need to be slowly trained to perform as they did last summer. Every time you start an activity or sport, you should start progressively. You build your dog’s stamina, strength and muscles…things that they lost during the winter due to quieter days.
To avoid injuries or reduce the severity and to prepare them slowly to get back in shape, you can follow these simple steps:
1- Make sure your dog is healthy and has no extra weight on before starting any activity with him/her. If your dog has a medical condition that you are unaware of, or is even slightly overweight, you can do more harm than good. When in doubt, discuss with your veterinarian.
2- You should progressively increase the intensity and the duration of every exercise and activity over multiple training sessions. Use your common sense to determine if your dog is up to the task or not.
3- Be aware of the temperature outside and do shorter sessions if need be. Also make sure your dog has access to water when doing any physical activity.
4- Before starting an activity, you and your dog should always do a little warm-up of 5 to 15 minutes. Common warm-up exercises are a fast pace walk or very light jogging. Warm-ups allow the body temperature to rise a little bit, prepare the muscles and joints to work more actively, increase the heart and respiratory rates and allow oxygen to be distributed to muscles and organs more effectively.
5- Finish every activity with a cool-down of 5 to 15 minutes. A good cool-down would be a slow pace walk. Cool-downs help to re-establish the heart and respiratory rates to a more normal one, relax muscles and flush the lactic acid that builds up in the muscles if no cool-downs are performed. You should never put your dog back in the car, his crate or in the house if he/she is still panting and has his/her tongue all the way down to the floor.
6- It is known that some dogs will only show their discomfort when the amount of pain is significant. Very often, we miss the cues that our dog may be in some discomfort or sore after a physical activity. It is very important to observe your dog attentively and note when you think he has worked too hard. You will then be able to adapt the training session to his capacity.
These simple steps are a very good way for you to prevent injuries. By introducing a warm-up and cool-down routine to your daily activities, you are contributing to keeping your dog fit, safe and in good shape for many years to come. So, it’s time to go out and play people! Enjoy this wonderful season. The Sherwood Park Animal Hospital Team wishes you a great summer!
Baby Mammals: Squirrels, Raccoons, Skunks and Rabbits, what do I do with them?
By Lisa Keelty, Environmental and Wildlife Technician
Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
There are 89 different species of mammals that reside within Quebec. The ones most commonly seen in rural areas are the Eastern Grey Squirrel, Raccoon, Striped Skunk and Eastern Cottontail. As early as April these critters start giving birth. Most of us have had a friend or family member who, at one time or another, found a baby mammal. Our native wildlife is nothing like our pet dogs and cats, so knowing WHEN or IF these animals are in need of help can save their lives and also save a wildlife-rehab worker a lot of hard and perhaps unnecessary work.
Infant or Juvenile?
There is a big difference between an infant and juvenile mammal. Infants are still blind, under-developed and helpless. These infant animals need their parents to survive. Juveniles, however, look almost like adults except they are smaller, their eyes are open, and they can walk or move around on their own (or hop). In most cases these juvenile animals are old enough to take care of themselves.
Baby squirrels can occasionally fall from their nests and onto the ground because of various reasons:1. high winds, 2. larger siblings pushing out runts or 3. nest destruction by humans. In these cases the best thing to do is quickly inspect the animal and make sure it has no injury. If it looks fine and the squirrel nest is accessible place the pup (baby squirrel) back inside the nest. If the nest is too high off the ground, a make-shift basket can be made out of a plastic container and hung in an elevated area such as a branch. Make sure the pup is warm before putting him inside; towels and a plastic glove filled with hot water can help a young squirrel keep warm while it awaits its mother. If the animal is healthy, the mother will more often than not return to pick up her pup. If the mother does not return after 4 hours remove the baby and seek assistance from a professional (see below for more information on who to call for assistance).
Raccoons and Skunks
Raccoons and skunks are often found under sheds, balconies and other humanized areas of our backyards and properties. In most cases their pups are found when their den has been disturbed. Just like with squirrels it is always best to make sure that the babies are actually abandoned before taking action. Most mothers will retrieve their young if they are healthy and uninjured. If the animal is visibly in distress, hurt or not retrieved within 4 hours they will need a helping hand. Do not attempt to handle raccoons or skunks before contacting a trained professional, these animals can be carriers of disease such as rabies.
The Eastern Cottontail is a species of rabbit that can commonly be seen foraging on lawns early in the morning and evening. Unlike other species of mammals these guys tend to make their nests in open and poorly camouflaged areas. These nests can be disturbed by pets and human activities such as cutting the grass. Almost every one who accidentaly finds Eastern Cottontails assume they have been abandoned. The reality is that mothers will only return to the nest 1-2 times a day; at dawn and dusk, to feed their kits (baby rabbits). The rest of the time the only company they have is their brothers and sisters. If you find infant Eastern Cottontails the best thing to do is to leave them alone! These wild rabbits do very poorly in captivity. In general, only 1 out of 10 will survive when being hand-reared.
Some important tips when helping wildlife
– First establish if the animal in question is an infant or a juvenile; infants may need assistance, juveniles usually do not.
– Always observe from a great distance. The mother will not return to her nest or attempt to retrieve a pup or kit if there are any people or pets nearby.
– You can use garden gloves to pick up the pups, rubbing them with dirt can help reduce your smell (this isn’t absolutely required but certainly doesn’t hurt).
– Animals can be placed in small cardboard boxes with air holes, lined with towels and a hot water bottle if needed. Keep the box in a garage or an isolated area (away from your pets). Wildlife can carry parasites such as fleas and diseases that can be transmitted to your pet.
– If the animal is visibly injured or in distress, contact a professional for help.
– If the animal has been bitten by a cat or dog, contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately; these animals need medical treatment to prevent infection that may be deadly.
– Always seek help if you are worried the animal is carrying a disease or is too large to handle by yourself. Your own safety always comes first!
Unfortunately there is no large scale wildlife rehabilitation center for mammals in Quebec; most animals are cared for by trained individuals with permits within their own homes. To find wildlife rehabilitators contact your local humane society.
For more information on how to recognize whether or not a young animal is in need of human help or for professional assistance with injured or nuisance wildlife visit the following links:
Easter Lilies – Springtime Beauty or Deadly Threat
By Andrea Bates, cert AHT
The answer depends on whether or not you share your home with a cat. For our feline companions, Easter Lilies present a real danger. In fact, numerous houseplants can be toxic to our pets. Virtually all species of lilies cause acute kidney failure in cats including the Tiger Lily, Japanese Lily, and other Day Lilies. Even minor exposures such as a few bites on a leaf, chewing a stem, and even ingestion of pollen, may result in severe toxicity. All feline exposures to lilies should be considered life-threatening. Thankfully, other pets, such as dogs and rabbits, do not seem to be affected.
How do we diagnose Lily poisoning?
Observation or suspicion of a cat chewing a Lily plant or discovery of any part of the plant in the vomit of a cat is reason to call your vet immediately.
Unfortunately, no diagnostic test for the presence of lily poisoning exists, so blood tests and urine analysis need to be done to evaluate kidney function.
What are the symptoms?
This is where things become so hazardous. The first symptoms observed are typically vomiting which will occur a short while after ingestion. However, after a few hours the vomiting subsides and the cat may appear completely normal or just mildly depressed. This is when owners are falsely reassured that the problem has resolved and the cat will surely recover from its gastro-intestinal disturbance. Unfortunately, if treatment is not started immediately, acute kidney failure will develop within 2 to 5 days at which point the damage is often irreversible.
Can the toxicity be treated?
Treatment of Lily toxicity consists of inducing vomiting immediately in order to expel as much of the ingested plant material as possible. This is followed by oral administration of a medication that will bind to any remaining toxins in the stomach and prevent them from being absorbed into the blood stream. Intravenous fluids are administered for at least 24 to 48 hours to maintain kidney function and urine production is monitored. Other medications may be required to treat ongoing symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, electrolyte imbalances, etc. Unfortunately, if treatment is not initiated in time the chances of survival are poor.
A complete list of toxic plants for cats and dogs can be found online at:
And remember, prevention is the key. Keep all plants out of your pet’s reach – it could save a life!
Bad Things Come in Small Packages – Ticks, Fleas, and Your Pet
By Erica Gledhill, cert AHT
Once again, spring is just around the corner! As the snow starts to melt away (or at least we hope it will….) and the temperatures rise, we all start spending a lot more time outdoors, our pets included. Because of this, we need to start thinking about the prevention of parasites for our four legged family members. Firstly, it is vital to know what types of parasites your pet may be exposed to and how we can help prevent them from bringing these insects into your home! This blog will focus on Fleas and Ticks, their life cycles, what diseases they can carry and how to prevent them.
In the past few years the incidence of ticks and tick-borne diseases has risen dramatically even in the West Island of Montreal. Warming climate conditions, urban infiltration into wildlife habitat and increased “hitchhiking” of infected animals from the United States are the main reasons for this.
The life cycle for the tick starts with an adult biting a deer, dog or raccoon. They lay their eggs, which hatch into larvae. These larvae turn into nymphs. At both of these stages they feed off of small mammals (which harbor the diseases that the ticks may acquire). Next, the nymph feeds on a dog, leaves that host, and then develops into an adult. These ticks also latch onto birds, which can carry these ticks to areas where we wouldn’t normally find ticks…and this is one of the reasons that even in the city, we need to focus on prevention!
Ticks find their hosts by sensing body heat, vibrations, moisture and body odors. They tend to hang out in grasses and on shrubs waiting for the next host to walk by. Ticks can’t jump but, they do what is called ‘Questing’. They position themselves with their front legs outstretched to grab onto the next host that walks by. Once they are on their host they attach themselves by cutting the skin and inserting a feeding tube. The dog or cat doesn’t feel this because there is an anesthetic property in the saliva! The tick may feed for several hours or slowly for several days.
Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis. These are transmitted in the saliva of an infected tick. Your veterinarian can provide you with an annual screening blood test to see if your pet has been exposed to any of these diseases. Early detection is very important for a lifetime of good health as antibiotic treatments can be started right away. It is important to know that these diseases may be fatal to your pet. When I first became an Animal Health Technician in the Montreal area, we rarely saw cases of Lyme disease. Now we see positive Lyme’s blood test results weekly at our hospital during tick seasons (spring and fall).
Now for fleas…they are a whole different kettle of fish!
A flea can live for 30 to 40 days on your pet and a female flea can produce anywhere from 20-50 eggs per day! Holy moly!! These eggs are smooth and round and fall off of your pet. They will develop in the environment to form larvae. These larvae like to live in warm dark places, like in your carpet or your pet’s bed, for another 2-3 weeks. They will then spin themselves into a cocoon, called the pupae stage, where they will develop into adult fleas. At this stage a flea can stay alive in its cocoon for up to 12 MONTHS, until they are stimulated to hatch. They especially like to “wake up” in the cool spring weather.
Fleas are not just a nuisance. They can cause medical problems as well. An adult flea can bite your pet up to 400 times per day. So, if your pet has a severe infestation, he may become anemic, develop flea allergy dermatitis and fur loss. Your pet may also get tapeworm if they ingest a flea that has a tapeworm cyst!
So where does your pet get fleas?
- An infested environment (a home, boarding facility, groomer, your garden, the woods, the park…)
- Other animals (dogs, cats, raccoons etc.. )
Did you know that even your indoor cat can get fleas??? Fleas can infest your indoor cat from your dog carrying them and from neighbouring cats that come to your door (where carpets, door mats, grass, etc can become infested and fleas jump onto your cat under the door!).
Prevention is key
So how can we help our pets stay safe and parasite free?
- It would be a good start by checking your dog or cat regularly for external parasites and call your vet immediately if you find a parasite. Fleas are hard to see, and once you see one flea on your dog or cat, you likely have thousands on and around your pet! Ticks are often found on the head, neck and chest of your dog or cat (this is the area that is first to hit the high grasses etc that the ticks are hanging out on). Ticks are difficult to remove completely and if removed partially (the biting head remaining in the skin), then it could lead to infection and further transmission of Lyme or other tick-borne diseases. Your veterinary team can help show you how to remove a tick properly or will be happy to do it for you.
- Some veterinarians are including Lyme disease vaccines as part of the core vaccine schedule for dogs. This vaccine will help protect your dog from Lyme disease if they happen to come in contact with an infected tick (please note that vaccines are never 100% effective).
- Research has come a long way in the field of flea and tick prevention and treatment. The icky shampoos, toxic animal and environmental sprays, etc. are no longer necessary. Phew! Veterinarians can provide you with oral or topical medications for your pet that are effective and safe. While these medications do not stop the transmission of disease, they will stop the life cycle of the parasite. Some medications kill the adult ticks and fleas, while other medications break the life cycle of the fleas by preventing the flea eggs from developing into adult fleas.
- If your pet has been exposed to fleas and treatment has begun, one needs to do a super cleaning of the home… vacuum more frequently and throw out the vacuum bags, wash your own sheets in hot water (if your pet goes on your bed) and wash or throw out your pet’s bed if it isn’t washable.
- Please be extremely wary of products sold without prescription at stores carrying pet supplies, etc. Some of these products are toxic to your pets, especially to cats, and may not be effective. Your veterinarian is the best person to ask for advice on what products are best and safest for your pet.
Be prudent, and check your dog and cat every day for ticks and fleas.
My own story
As a technician I have had my own experiences with both fleas and ticks. One of the greatest lessons that I learned was from my own little dog ‘Sassy’. She is an old girl and only roams in my backyard in TMR and goes for short walks around the block. I was shocked to find out that a tick that I found on her (which was dead because of a preventative product that I used) was positive for Lyme disease. Miss Sassy had not been feeling well and I thought that it was due to old age. In the end, after a blood test confirming that she actually had Lyme disease and after a six week treatment of antibiotics, I finally got my little friend back to her healthy and happy self.
Happy Spring Everyone!!
For more information about ticks in your area and what to do about keeping your animals safe, please visit www.dogsandticks.com or give us a call at 514-674-2004.
The Changing Face of Veterinary Medicine in Your Community
By Andrea Bates, cert AHT
As a child growing up in Montreal, we had a family dog – a beautiful Airedale terrier. Was he neutered? No. Did he eat quality pet food? No. In fact, I remember grocery shopping with my mum every Thursday night and having fun choosing between the Alpo and the Gains Burgers! Of course, the dog died of hemorrhagic diarrhea at the age of 7. But what did I know then? Not much and honestly, neither did my parents. Our next dog (also an Airedale terrier) did slightly better and died at the ripe old age of 9 years.In “those days” veterinary medicine was what it was: generally a veterinarian working on his own, sharing his time between the surrounding farm animals and the local community pets – James Herriot style practices. Veterinarians practiced what they could with what they had. Their knowledge was limited, as was the science of veterinary medicine. Now, some 30 years later, knowledge of veterinary medicine is anything but limited. Veterinary science has evolved as rapidly as human science has and continues to do so. From the emotional and psychological standpoint, to the physiological and medical one – our pets are no longer considered “just animals”. They are friends with whom we develop close bonds and share our lives and families with.
As a member of the animal health profession for the past 20 years, I can only be proud of the accomplishments of my peers and fellow animal lovers – whether it be the doctors and technicians who strive for higher standards of treatment and care, or my fellow pet lovers who dedicate their lives to helping the abandoned ones who need it most – I am proud to be part of that family. And what a wonderful family it is! Besides working hard every day in the animal health profession, we all give our time and skills in all kinds of ways.There are veterinarians who volunteer year-round: travelling to remote regions of Canada where veterinary services are non-existent, to developing nations around the world, all in the hopes of improving the health of animals which are inextricably linked to the health of people. There are veterinarians and veterinary technicians who spend 12-hour days participating in local shelter sterilization campaigns, animal care assistants who help raise funds for animal adoption groups, and everyone else from the receptionists to the unseen volunteers who just want to help in any way they can. We are all “in it” for the same reason – we are passionate about animal welfare.
When I think of the progress and evolution both in thought and in practice that I’ve witnessed over the years when it comes to companion animal health, I can only imagine what lies ahead! Fortunately my (and my colleagues’) thirst for knowledge is insatiable – we will only move forward, to share knowledge, to educate – this is our mission – this is our passion!
Next time you visit your veterinary team, ask them what they have been doing in their community, globally and locally. I bet you’ll be surprised at how involved they are!
Here are simply a few organizations we support at Sherwood Park Animal Hospital:
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Rosie Animal Adoption
By Andrea Bates, cert AHT
For most of us the holidays are a special time of year, not to mention hectic! There’s the shopping, the visitors, the decorating, and the cooking. And amongst all of this wonderful craziness are our pets that, for a brief time, have their predictable world pulled out from under them! Puffy the cat may be completely freaked out by the giant tree that’s suddenly inside the house, and he and his buddy Sparky the dog might be just a little wired after another visit from the umpteenth family member, whose small children run up and down the hallway again and again laughing all the way!
Besides the obvious stress to our pets’ lives this time of year, there are even more dangerous possibilities: the holiday hazards. Even the Christmas tree is chock-full of dangers: tinsel and small ornaments that could obstruct an intestinal tract, electric cords covered in bright lights that if chewed could cause electrocution, and broken glass decorations that could lead to injury if chewed, swallowed, or stepped on. Besides the tree, the house may have acquired a new plant or two that have piqued your pet’s curiosity – perhaps a poinsettia that if ingested could cause vomiting and diarrhea, or even worse, an arrangement of lilies that, even small amounts, could lead to severe kidney failure if eaten by a cat. And yes, the classic mistletoe which has the potential to cause serious cardiovascular problems.
We also certainly love to treat ourselves around the holidays, especially with food and drink! Mmm – the candies and chocolates, the special coffees, the roast turkeys – just to name a few. And we want to make everyone in the family happy including our pets – so why not share a little? Well we can, but responsibly. Chocolate should never be given to a cat or dog (or left lying around at paw’s length) as it can be toxic and lead to serious illness; it can even be fatal! Lean chicken or turkey meat can be given in very small quantities, but the skin, fat, and bones should be removed to avoid problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, and even a perforated intestine, all of which would definitely ruin the holidays for your pet. Coffee grounds (especially the flavored ones) can be very attractive to a nosy pet and ingestion can lead to serious cardiac problems. And don’t forget alcohol – an unattended bowl of spiked punch could be very tempting to a thirsty pooch but the results could be central nervous system depression leading to seizures and even coma. Another common reason for alcohol poisoning in dogs is the ingestion of raw dough (often left on the counter) which will cause yeast fermentation in the stomach and produce alcohol as a by-product, leading to a life-threatening situation.
But don’t let any of this prevent you and your family from enjoying the holidays – just remember to be wise and keep everyone safe and sound so that when the holiday rush is over, everyone can get back to a happy and healthy routine!