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Summer Safety Tips to Help Protect Your Pet

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Summer Safety Tips to Help Protect Your Pet

As we all know, summer’s a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather with our pets, but we want to make sure we’re doing it safely. Here are 7 tips from your Westmount veterinarian to help keep the summer fun for you and your pet.

1. Beat the Heat

Like people, pets can suffer from heat stroke. Unlike us, though, dogs and cats don’t cool off primarily through sweating. When they get hot, they pant, but panting isn’t always enough to bring down their body temperature. This puts our pets at higher risk for heat stroke, or elevated core body temperature, a dangerous, potentially life-threatening condition.

So what causes heat stroke in dogs and cats?

  • Being outside in hot temperatures, especially on sunny days without access to shade or water
  • Exercising (including just walking) during the heat of the day
  • Being stuck in a hot car, even with the windows cracked

Heat stroke can be life-threatening, especially if not caught and treated quickly. Call us immediately if you think your pet may be suffering from heat stroke.

Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses or flat faces, such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese cats), overweight pets, seniors, puppies and kittens, pets with dark skin or fur, and those with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of heat stroke.

Pets with heat stroke may show the following signs:

  • Panting rapidly
  • Salivating or drooling excessively
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Glassy eyes
  • Bright red gums
  • Confusion
  • Collapse

To prevent heat stroke in your pet:

  • Make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of room temperature (not cold) water to drink.
  • Consider exercising your pet in the morning or evening, when the temperature is lower.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a car, even on days that don’t seem that warm. When it’s only 21 degrees Celsius outside, the inside of your car can climb to almost 40 degrees in just 20 minutes! On a 32-degree day, your car’s interior will reach almost 50 degrees in that same time. Cracking the windows makes very little difference.

Heat warning: If you can’t leave your hand or foot on a sidewalk or concrete for 5 to 10 seconds, then your pet’s paw pads can’t take the heat either.

2. Prevent and Manage Hot Spots

For some pets, summer may mean “hot spot season.” Warmer, more humid weather can create prime conditions for these painful, itchy areas to flourish on your pet’s skin. Hot spots commonly show up on the legs, hips, or head, but they can develop anywhere on the skin. Characterized by red, well-defined, irritated areas of hair loss, hot spots are often swollen, moist, and can become crusty. Unless properly treated, hot spots will continue to get larger as the pet keeps licking or scratching at them.

Give us a call as soon as you notice any hot spots on your pet. We’ll work to determine the underlying cause of the hot spots, which can include a large range of conditions, such as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), parasites, skin allergies, food allergies, infections, and even moisture from swimming or being bathed. Understanding and treating the underlying issue will help us get your pet relief and help prevent hot spots from coming back.

3. Keep Pets Out of Summer Toxins

Several kinds of poisons can spell trouble for pets if they get into them:

  • Fertilizers and pesticides, for instance, often cause relatively mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, but can be more problematic if large amounts are consumed or if they contain iron or other worrisome ingredients.
  • Mulch can cause a blockage inside a pet’s GI system, and cocoa bean mulch can potentially cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and muscle tremors if the product contains enough theobromine and caffeine (the same chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to pets) or if a pet eats a large amount.
  • Bait, even in small amounts, can cause tremors, seizures, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and other serious signs. Depending on the kind of bait, ingestion by a pet can be deadly.
  • Most herbicides tend to be less of a concern, as long as the product is applied correctly and pets are kept off the yard or other treated area until the product dries completely. Follow label instructions, and be sure to dilute any runoff.

Keep the following products well out of reach or ideally locked away from pets, and keep pets away from areas where the products are being used: pesticides, rodenticides like mole and gopher bait, snail and slug bait, mulch, herbicides, and fertilizers that contain iron or bone, blood, or feather meal. Even products that are less toxic to pets can cause serious symptoms if a pet consumes a lot at one time. Close and properly dispose of used containers.

If you have a free-roaming cat, consider using pet-safe alternatives where possible or removing weeds by hand rather than using herbicides, for instance.

Call us immediately at 519-569-7902 if you think your pet has consumed something toxic. During off-hours, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a fee may be charged).

4. Be Aware of Toxic Plants

Certain plants pose a risk to pets as well. Some may only cause GI issues, but others can be life-threatening. Plants to keep your pet away from include:

  • Rhubarb (leaves)
  • Tomato (the plants and unripe fruit, or green tomatoes)
  • Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Potato (both the leaves and raw potatoes)
  • Lilies (many varieties are extremely toxic to cats)

For more information on toxic plants, please give us a call or consult these sites:

5. Watch Out for Stinging Insects

This time of year, there are plenty of stinging insects that can cause problems for pets. Be on the lookout for beehives, wasp nests, yellow jackets, and other wasps around your home and neighbourhood. If your pet gets stung, don’t wait for an allergic reaction or other symptoms. Call us right away at 519-569-7902! A sting can become life-threatening within minutes.

6. Watch Your Pet at Cookouts

Attending a cookout or picnic with your 4-legged friend can be fun, but it can quickly turn into an emergency if your pet consumes any food that can be dangerous, like corn cobs, avocado pits, whole stone fruits like peaches and cherries, watermelon (rinds and seeds), meat with bones, food on skewers, onions, grapes, or raisins. Keep your pet away from the food, especially if you know he or she tends to eat food off the ground or sneak treats from tables.

7. Beware of Fireworks

Not only can fireworks frighten pets, but they can cause burns and other injuries, often to the eyes, mouth, or paws. Some types of fireworks are corrosive or toxic if consumed; they can cause serious GI issues in pets and may even be deadly if they contain heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.

To be safe, keep your pet away from all stored fireworks, as well as far away from the area where you plan to set them off. If your pet tends to be scared of fireworks (or if you aren’t sure), consider leaving him or her at home, ideally with the TV or radio on to drown out the sound, while you attend any events where fireworks are planned.

We can also offer options, such as medications and pheromones, to help to calm your pet and reduce his or her fear of fireworks and other loud noises.

Call us to find out how we can help your pet with noise aversion!

Your Westmount Vet Can Help

If you have questions about keeping your pet safe this summer, please give us a call. We’re here for you and your pet!

Heartworm Disease: A Risk in Kitchener-Waterloo and Surrounding Areas

By Moose Tracks No Comments

As the weather starts to warm up around Kitchener-Waterloo and throughout southern Ontario, we want to take this time to remind you about the importance of keeping your pet protected against heartworm disease.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and they pose a risk to pets in our area from June through November. Heartworm disease is becoming more common in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and in fact, most heartworm disease cases in Canada are found in southern Ontario.

Heartworm Disease Is Preventable!

When a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae (baby heartworms) bites a dog or cat, the larvae enter the pet through the bite wound. Over the next few months, these tiny worms make their way inside the pet to the heart and lungs, maturing into adult heartworms and causing serious damage to these organs and associated blood vessels.

Your pet can get heartworms from just a single mosquito bite!

Although we can’t prevent a pet from getting heartworms, we can stop these worms from developing into adults and harming your pet. There’s a brief window (about 2 months or so after infection) when these baby worms can be killed off. If a heartworm disease preventive is administered during this crucial time, your pet will be protected against heartworm disease.

What If You Miss That Crucial Prevention Window?

If the immature worms are allowed to continue developing inside your pet, they will become resistant to heartworm disease preventives. At that point, treatment will be required to kill the adult worms. But treatment is only available for dogs, and it can be difficult and costly. No treatment has been approved for cats with heartworm disease.

Untreated, heartworms can grow up to a foot or more in length. And even if they are treated successfully, heartworms can cause lasting damage to a pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

The best way to protect your pet against heartworm disease is by giving a heartworm disease preventive regularly.

What Are the Signs of Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease in pets can cause:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty or rapid breathing
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Reluctance to exercise or exercise intolerance
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Weight or appetite loss
  • Sudden collapse or death

Heartworms may also cause no symptoms, especially in the early stages.

Dogs with a lot of worms can develop what is called “caval syndrome,” in which the worms block blood flow through the heart, eventually resulting in heart failure.

Cats with heartworms may have other signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea, trouble walking, fainting, or seizures. Early signs of heartworm disease in cats may resemble those of asthma, when in fact, they’re signs of what is called “heartworm-associated respiratory disease” or HARD.

Even just 1 or 2 heartworms in cats can cause severe symptoms and be life-threatening.

Why Do We Test for Heartworm Disease?

Annual testing for heartworm disease is essential for all dogs. Even for a dog on year-round preventives, if a dose was accidentally missed or the pet vomited or spit out the medication unnoticed, for instance, the dog might not be protected against heartworm disease. If a preventive is given to a dog who has any adult heartworms, it can be deadly.

What Do We Recommend to Prevent Heartworm Disease?

Although heartworm disease can be deadly, it is preventable. It’s also much easier to prevent than to treat.

Our team at Westmount Animal Hospital will create a heartworm disease prevention plan, as part of an overall parasite prevention program, that’s personalized to your individual pet. If you have any questions about what we recommend to protect your pet, give us a call.

COVID-19 Protocols

During this challenging time, we are committed to continuing to serve you, and that includes making sure you get your pet’s medications. Call us at 519-569-7902 to request your pet’s heartworm disease preventive refill, which you can pick up curbside. You can also order online and have your pet’s medication delivered right to your door.

To learn more about our coronavirus response, please see the Westmount Animal Hospital COVID-19 protocols.

Intestinal Worms and Fleas: Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases in Kitchener

By Moose Tracks No Comments

In and around Kitchener-Waterloo, ticks and heartworms aren’t the only parasites we need to protect our pets against. Roundworms, hookworms, and fleas can also cause trouble for cats and dogs, and a tiny tapeworm is putting both pets and their owners at risk for a nasty infection.

Troubling Tapeworms

Quite small compared to other tapeworms, Echinococcus multilocularis doesn’t get longer than 1 centimetre (other tapeworms that infect pets can grow up to 70 centimetres in length). E. multilocularis infects the intestinal tract of wild canids, like foxes and coyotes, but this parasite can infect domestic dogs (and occasionally cats) as well.

Pets who eat rodents or feces are at risk for E. multilocularis infection, but these intestinal tapeworms don’t tend to cause symptoms in dogs or cats. The real concern is the tapeworm eggs that are expelled from infected wild animals or pets. When people accidentally ingest these eggs from contaminated soil or feces, they can develop an infection called “alveolar echinococcosis” or AE. This infection causes tumour-like cysts to form in the liver and lungs. Dogs can get AE too, but canine infection is rare.

Fortunately, AE remains rare in people as well. However, it can cause severe disease, making tapeworm prevention in pets essential.

Hunters and young children are at particularly high risk for exposure to this tapeworm’s eggs. But considering the numbers of coyotes and foxes that have started roaming around even urban areas in southern Ontario, more people may also have a chance of being infected.

Most people won’t show any signs of AE infection until 5 to 15 years later. At that point, the cysts are often extremely difficult to treat, requiring surgery and possibly chemotherapy. AE can be fatal.

Worrisome Worms

Roundworms and hookworms are another threat to dogs and cats in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. These worms live in the intestines of pets and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and changes in appetite, especially in young pets and those with a large number of worms.

Infected puppies and kittens may also fail to grow properly or appear potbellied, and pets with hookworms can even end up with anemia, a potentially life-threatening decrease in red blood cells.

However, many adult cats and dogs with intestinal parasite infections don’t show any signs of illness.

“Scooting” across the floor can be a sign of parasitic infection, but more often it’s related to a different health problem, such as skin inflammation or an anal gland issue.

Pets can become infected by these intestinal worms in several ways, including through their mother’s milk, by ingesting infective eggs or larvae (depending on the worm), or even directly through their feet or skin (in the case of hookworms). Puppies can also be born with roundworms if their mother was infected, and pets who consume mice or other small animals are at risk as well.

Infuriating Fleas

The most common external parasite of cats and dogs, fleas can multiply quickly once they find a pet to feast on. These blood-sucking creatures are capable of laying up to 50 eggs a day, so it doesn’t take long to get an infestation in your home.

Getting rid of a flea infestation can be extremely difficult. It takes time to break the flea life cycle and find and get rid of all of the hidden flea stages around a home.

Adult fleas are only the tip of the infestation problem. Eggs, larvae, and pupae (the cocoon stage) tend to stay hidden in carpets, furniture, and cracks in the floor. Insecticides don’t kill fleas in cocoons, and several rounds of treatment are almost always needed to destroy all the fleas.

Besides infestations, fleas can cause life-threatening anemia, especially in kittens and puppies. Fleas are also responsible for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in pets. Even if you can’t see fleas, FAD can make pets miserable, causing itchy skin, hair loss, and skin inflammation.

It only takes a few flea bites to cause FAD in some dogs and cats.

What Do These Parasites Have in Common?

All of these parasites are considered zoonotic or can cause zoonotic disease, which means disease or infection that can be spread from pets to people, either directly or indirectly.

Keep These Parasites Away!

Being proactive is the best way to help keep your pet and your entire family safe from these nasty parasites. That’s why at Westmount Animal Hospital, we recommend routine monthly deworming to prevent E. multilocularis, roundworm, and hookworm infections, as well as flea control to prevent fleas and flea infestations.

Call us to make sure your pet’s up-to-date on necessary parasite preventives or to get a refill on your pet’s medications. We’re currently offering curbside pickup and online delivery.

Ticks: Is Your Pet Protected From These Parasites?

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Finding ticks in and around Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas is becoming more common, especially as these parasites are spreading farther into Ontario and other parts of Canada. Be aware that ticks like to hang out in wooded or grassy areas, tall grasses, and ground cover such as leaves. In addition, other locations you might visit, such as Hamilton, Turkey Point, and Long Point, are considered to be risk areas.

Ticks are scary because they do more than just feed on blood: they can transmit serious diseases to pets (and people), which may lead to heart and kidney complications, joint damage, and even neurological issues, especially if not caught and treated early. We want to arm you with an understanding of the damage ticks can cause, as well as how to help keep you and your pets protected.

A Look at Ticks

Related to mites and spiders, ticks are small arachnids that live off the blood of people, dogs, and cats, in addition to birds and other animals such as coyotes, deer, horses, rabbits, and rodents.

Of the 900 or so tick species worldwide, just a handful can cause disease in pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in Kitchener and the surrounding area are blacklegged (deer) ticks and American dog ticks. We occasionally find brown dog ticks as well. Although the lone star tick isn’t a concern in our area yet, this species is being monitored.

Did you know? Nymphs (immature ticks) are about the size of a pinhead or poppy seed, and adult deer ticks are only about as big as a sesame seed!

Tick-bourne Diseases

Not all ticks are infected with disease-causing agents (pathogens), but those that are can transmit Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and other diseases to dogs and cats.

Ticks can also cause tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva.

Symptoms of Tick-bourne Diseases

Let us know right away if you notice any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fever
  • Lameness (potentially shifting from leg to leg, referred to as “shifting leg lameness”)
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight or appetite loss

Canine Lyme disease cases in Ontario have been steadily increasing. More than 5,200 dogs tested positive last year.

Ticks Environments

Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, including fields and parks. If you walk, hike, or camp with your pet in these areas, you may come across ticks. Ticks are also being found in urban areas, such as gardens in the city. Depending on where you live, ticks may even live in your own backyard. Ticks will actively look for a blood meal as soon as the temperature reaches is 4 C .

Many ticks search for hosts by “questing”—they climb up onto a low shrub or blade of grass and reach out with their front legs, waiting to grab a pet or person who walks by.

If you spend time outside with your pet, especially in risk areas, it can be difficult to avoid ticks, which is why protecting yourself and your pet against ticks is your best bet.

Preventing Ticks

You can take several important steps to help protect your pet and yourself from ticks:

  • Keep your pet on a veterinary tick preventive, as recommended by your Westmount veterinarian. We have topical and oral products to protect your pet.
  • Use insect repellents with 25% to 30% DEET or 20% icaridin (picaridin) on yourself. DEET-containing products can also be used on children who are at least 12 years of age, and icaridin can be used on those 6 months of age and up. DO NOT use these products on your dog or cat. DEET is especially toxic to both cats and dogs.
  • Avoid areas known for being infested with ticks.
  • Try to stay out of tall grass and heavily wooded areas. This tactic won’t prevent you from coming in contact with ticks, but it can help limit the number of ticks you encounter.
  • If you’re planning to hike or camp, ask us which areas are high risk for ticks.
  • Check yourself and your pet for ticks after you’ve spent time outside, especially if you’ve been in risk areas.

Learn more about how to prevent tick bites and create a tick-safe yard at these sites:

The temperature in the Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas doesn’t tend to stay cold enough for ticks to die off, so they may remain active year-round.

How to Properly Remove a Tick

If you or your pet does end up with an attached tick, here’s how to safely remove it:

  1. Grasp the tick with fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool right by the skin (near the tick’s mouth).
  2. Pull the tick straight out, steadily but gently, without twisting, or follow the instructions provided by the tick removal tool manufacturer.
  3. Place the tick into a sealed baggie or container (like an old pill bottle), and bring the tick into the clinic for identification.
  4. Clean the bite wound with a mild antiseptic.
  5. Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the tweezers or tick removal tool.
  6. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid squashing the tick’s body.
  • Use gloves, especially if you don’t have tweezers or a tick removal tool. Do not touch the tick with your bare hands, which could potentially allow disease-causing pathogens to get through cuts or scratches in your skin.
  • Don’t try to remove the tick’s head if it remains embedded. It will typically fall out on its own within a few days. If the skin around the bite wound remains red or becomes more swollen or irritated, give us a call.

Smothering ticks in petroleum jelly, nail polish, or liquid soap doesn’t work. Burning or freezing a tick is also ineffective and could harm your pet.

How We Can Help

Ticks and tick-bourne diseases are becoming more common in and around Kitchener. At Westmount Animal Hospital, we want to help keep our patients as safe as possible from these parasites.

Call us today to make sure your pet is protected, and feel free to ask any questions you might have about the ticks in our area.

Wellness Exams: How Preventive Care Visits Benefit You and Your Pet

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Regular veterinary visits are essential for cats and dogs throughout their lives. We typically recommend wellness exams once a year for healthy adult dogs and cats and more frequently for young pets, senior pets, and those with chronic medical conditions. We also recommend bringing in any newly adopted pet for a wellness exam.

Many pets don’t tend to show signs of disease, especially in the early stages. That’s where regular checkups play a crucial role: They give us a chance to catch potential diseases or conditions as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can provide us with more options for treatment and may also give pets a better quality of life.

By being proactive, we can sometimes even prevent certain conditions or illnesses.

Regular testing of pets, including blood work, urinalysis, and fecal screening, helps us identify any hidden diseases or health conditions. Because certain diseases may have similar symptoms, we use screening tests to figure out what’s wrong and how to properly treat pets.

What to Expect During Your Pet’s Checkup

Puppies and Kittens

When dogs and cats are young, we need to see them frequently to make sure they’re adequately protected against common contagious diseases through the puppy or kitten series of vaccines. We also want to see kittens and puppies several times over that first year to make sure they’re gaining weight and body mass as expected, their teeth and bones are developing normally, and their heart, lungs, and other organs are healthy. In addition, we’ll look inside your young pet’s ears, examine the eyes, and record temperature and weight.

This is also when your Westmount veterinarian will typically perform a spay or neuter procedure. Spaying/neutering can help reduce some undesirable behaviours, protect your pet against certain cancers, and protect female pets against a potentially life-threatening type of uterine infection called pyometra.

We’ll deworm your puppy or kitten several times to get rid of any intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. We’ll also recommend parasite control to help protect your pet against ticks, heartworm disease, fleas, and intestinal worms.

Making sure pets receive the right nutrition throughout their lives can help keep them healthy. We can recommend a high-quality food that meets your pet’s specific nutritional needs. Our technicians will also provide nutritional consult to assist your pet in meeting the required calories he or she needs. We will also assist in helping overweight/obese pets stay on track to lose weight.

Adult Pets

As pets move into their adult years, we want to see them at least once a year for a regular checkup. During these visits, we’ll:

  • Perform a thorough physical exam of your pet
  • Give your pet needed vaccine boosters to help provide continued protection against serious, highly contagious, and potentially deadly diseases
  • Recommend additional vaccines to help protect against diseases that your individual pet may be at risk for because of lifestyle, exposure risk, and other factors
  • Check blood work for heartworm disease, tick-borne diseases, and breed-specific conditions, such as heart disease or joint issues, as appropriate for your individual pet
  • Make sure your pet remains free of fleas and ticks
  • Check for intestinal parasites by recommending yearly fecal testing
  • Examine your pet’s mouth and teeth and recommend any dental care that’s needed
  • Perform a nutritional assessment to help ensure that your pet is continuing to get the right nutrition for his or her breed, life stage, health, and lifestyle

Senior Pets

Once pets have reached senior status, we like to see them more frequently. So when does that change tend to happen?

  • We consider most dogs to be seniors between 7 and 8 years of age (a bit younger for larger dogs).
  • Most cats move into their senior years between 7 and 11 years of age.

Remember that pets age far faster than we do—unfortunately, this is why we have less time with them than we’d like!

Senior checkups help us detect any potential diseases or conditions, like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, dental disease, thyroid issues, and heart, kidney, and liver disease, which may become more common as pets age. The earlier we can catch any changes, the better. More frequent veterinary exams may even give you more quality time with your pet.

At Westmount Animal Hospital, we don’t want to wait until something’s wrong if we can catch diseases early, when they may be easier to treat or manage.

Ideally, we like to begin senior screening (blood and urine tests) at 7 years of age or earlier, so we can get a baseline of what’s normal for your individual pet.

How Wellness Exams Help You

In addition to playing a crucial role in helping to keep your pets healthy throughout life, regular checkups give you the opportunity to:

  • Ask us about any questions or concerns you might have
  • Bring up anything you’ve noticed that seems different with your pet, like a behaviour that’s new or a lump or bump you hadn’t noticed before

And screening tests can not only give us an early start on treatment, but if they come back negative, the results will give you peace of mind and provide us with a baseline that is normal for your pet that can be used for referencing in the future.

Practicing Preventive Care

Contact us to schedule your pet’s wellness exam, or make an appointment today.

If anything changes in your pet’s health or behaviour in between regularly scheduled exams, or if something just doesn’t seem right, get in touch with us quickly. When possible, we want to catch anything that isn’t normal early on.

Anxious Pet?

Stress can make pets more prone to other health issues. At Westmount Animal Hospital, we aim to create stress-free veterinary visits for pets and their owners. Ask us how we help keep pets calm and comfortable during exams.

If your pet tends to be anxious at other times, we’ll work with you to come up with a personalized solution to help relieve your pet’s anxiety.