Behaviour Counselling at Upper Canada Animal Hospital

Upper Canada Animal Hospital is pleased to announce that Krystin, our RVT, has also taken on the role of Behaviour Counselor within our hospital, helping our clients and our patients.

Krystin has been a key part of our pet health care team for over a year now, has done extensive research, and attended seminars on animal behaviour, educating herself on how to deal with different behaviour types in our pets.

Krystin is available for complimentary consults if you have questions or concerns regarding your pet, either in our hospital or a phone call.  She can meet with you to discuss the behaviour and work with you on a plan to implement proper training methods for your pet.  She works with puppies, kittens and full-grown adults on reward-based training, tips for house training, dominant behaviour, etc.

Contact Krystin today at Upper Canada Animal Hospital if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s behaviour.  We are here to help!

Nutrition Counselling

Upper Canada Animal Hospital is pleased to announce that Christine, one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians, has also taken on the role of Nutrition Counselor within our hospital, helping our clients and our patients.

Christine has been in the veterinary field for over 10 years and has done a vast amount of research on canine and feline diets.  She has completed a training course with Royal Canin and has worked with our veterinarians on a program that will work for clients.  Whether you are concerned about oral health, weight loss, skin issues, or urinary tract health, Christine will have the information you require.  Prescription diets must always be prescribed by one of our veterinarians, but Christine is available to answer any questions, and offer more information on the diets.

Christine also oversees our “Weight Watchers” program for our overweight pet family members.  She works with our doctors to set up a healthy and safe weight loss program and offers guidance and advice to our clients. Bi-weekly weigh-ins and constant encouragement are just the starts of this successful program.

If you would like more information or would like to book a complimentary consultation with Christine, please feel free to give us a call at 905-468-4100, or send us an email at wecare@ucah.ca.  We are here to help!

Fleas, Ticks and Heartworm Disease and Prevention

The Niagara region is home to some of the warmest temperatures in the country, especially in the spring and summer. With this warm weather comes increased susceptibility to topical and bloodborne parasites which thrive in this environment. Although these parasites or the diseases they carry may sometimes be successfully treated, prevention is always preferred because of decreased cost and increased safety for the patient. Typically, these parasites have been of concern only from May to October, however, due to warmer temperatures, we are now recommending topical parasite prevention for both cats and dogs year round.

Fleas

Both dogs and cats are typically infested with the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), although other species do exist. They are acquired from the grass, ground or carpets where the immature flea larvae reside and grow. Fleas can also be acquired from other infested adult animals. They mature more quickly in high temperatures and humidity, which makes them especially prevalent in this region. Although fleas are more of a nuisance than a serious health threat, they can cause anemia (decreased red blood cells) or severe allergic skin disease if the pet is allergic to the flea’s saliva. Fleas can also carry one variety of tapeworm.

Fleas are best prevented or treated with a flea adulticide. These medications are available only through your veterinarian. Over the counter flea control products do not treat adult fleas, but instead, keep them from reproducing and are therefore far less effective overall. Some over the counter flea medications are also toxic to cats, so care is exceptionally important with this species.

Ticks

There are three main varieties of tick found in the Niagara region, the American Dog tick, the Brown Dog tick and the Deer tick. We see ticks on our pets when they attach and feed on them. Feeding usually takes several days and the tick gradually increases in size as it engorges with blood. Once the tick is full, it drops off.

The American and Brown Dog ticks prefer to feed on dogs, however they can sometimes be found on other species including deer and people. They are generally acquired in grassy or wooded areas, as are all ticks locally. In addition, the Brown dog tick can set up an infestation in the home or kennel. In this region, these species of tick do not typically spread any infectious diseases of concern although there is some evidence that this may be changing.

The Deer (or Blacklegged) tick can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. With this species, young and adult ticks will feed on all sorts of animals, including dogs and people. Removing this tick within the first 24 hours of its attachment will prevent Lyme disease, which is why tick checks are so important for dogs and people. Even when infected with Lyme, the majority of dogs will not get sick, however when they do, illness can be severe and in occasional situations, fatal.

The best way to prevent the spread of Lyme disease is to prevent or kill the ticks before they spread the disease. Medications for this purpose are available from your veterinarian and work in a variety of ways. Some tick medications are toxic to cats, so it is always important to let your veterinarian know if there are cats in your household.

Heartworm

Heartworm disease is a parasite spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Adult heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected dogs. These heartworms mate and produce microfilaria (baby heartworms), which are then ingested by female mosquitoes during a blood meal. The microfilaria partially mature in the mosquito, a process that becomes more rapid the warmer it is outside. They can then be transmitted to another dog when the mosquito takes another blood meal.
Although adult heartworm disease can be successfully treated if caught early, it is expensive and complications, occasionally serious, can occur. Advanced heartworm disease, involving damage to the heart, is usually fatal. For these reasons, it is important that all dogs be heartworm tested annually and take preventive medications during mosquito season. Heartworm prevention medication is only available by prescription from your veterinarian.

Feeding Your Pet

Misinformation:
Some of the most common questions we encounter as veterinarians involve feeding or food-related concerns. The sheer number of brands and diets available is truly mindboggling. These are made more confusing with inaccurate or misleading advertising and package wording, including words like holistic, human-grade and organic which have no legal meaning when referring to pet food. In addition, there is no requirement as to the quality of the ingredients in the food. Even paying a high price for the food does not guarantee quality or quality control.

When looking at a commercial food product, we have been taught that the first ingredient should be meat. The reality of the situation is that dry food needs carbohydrate in order to be manufactured and maintain shelf stability. Even grain free foods have carbohydrates (sweet potato, potato), so there is no such thing as a low carb or carbohydrate free dry food. Food labels should be read carefully. Ingredient lists ARE important, however, one must pay close attention to the listing. For example, some grains are sometimes listed by their component parts as opposed to the whole grain so that they appear lower on the ingredient list than they actually are. We know of one company that was listing corn on its ingredient list under its Latin name so that the word corn was not so readily apparent! Companies can also omit ingredients from the list, change ingredients without changing the list and add ingredients that are not on the list. There are no laws in place to protect the consumer in this regard.

So how do I choose/feed a commercial food?
We always recommend you speak to your veterinarian about what food or foods would best meet the individual needs of your pet. In general, though, we recommend sticking with companies that hire veterinary nutritionists and have an active research program. Companies should list not only the ingredients but also the specific nutritional breakdown (including the calorie content per cup). Stay away from very inexpensive foods; they tend to use poor quality ingredients and change their ingredients frequently to reflect market-based cost fluctuations. Call the manufacturer and ask to speak to a customer service representative. Not being able to speak to one should be a red flag.  Ask where they source their nutrients, where they make the food and for details on their quality control. Companies should be able to provide this information when asked.

How To Feed Your Dog
Using the bag label as a guide, and remembering that the recommendations are for dogs of average metabolism and average activity level, DIVIDE the total daily dose of food into 2-4 daily feedings. Use four meals a day up to three months of age, three meals a day from three to six months of age and then two meals a day after that. If you add canned or other foods to your dog’s kibble or give the dog treats throughout the day, remember to factor that in and decrease the kibble accordingly. Other foods should make up no more than 10% of total daily calories. You will need to increase food if your pet is much more active than average and decrease it if he/she is much less active. If your dog is a grazer, he /she can be free choice fed as long as he/she is not eating more than the recommended daily dose of food in a 24 hour period.

How To Feed Your Cat
Due to the sedentary and mainly indoor lifestyle of most cats, they have a tendency towards weight gain and obesity. Due to their unique metabolism, it is very difficult to reduce a cat’s weight once it has become overweight or obese. For this reason, obesity prevention is exceptionally important. Cats should be meal fed from kittenhood (use the same basic guidelines as for dogs with respect to number of meals and age). In addition, we recommend feeding 50-75% of total calories as high quality, high protein canned (wet) food. It is more easily digestible, lower in calories per volume and the higher protein content helps prevent obesity. A Dental food fed as the dry portion of the diet is also recommended for most adult cats. If your cat always seems hungry, divide the total daily food dose into 4-6 meals rather than simply adding more food. As always, your veterinarian can help you decide on the best food for your cat.

A word about food allergy
Food allergy is relatively common in dogs and cats. These pets can be allergic to one or more components of the food. Any source of the allergen will result in symptoms including chronic ear infections, itchy skin, especially the paws and anus and occasionally, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Although grains are often blamed for food allergy (and they sometimes are the cause), protein sources such as chicken are equally common allergens. For this reason, novel diet trials, elimination diet trials and hypoallergenic diet trials are often recommended. Please speak to your veterinarian if you are concerned that your pet may be food allergic.

A word about raw food
One food movement that is currently gaining steam is the raw food or BARF (bones and raw food) diet. Most veterinary practices, veterinary schools and the American Kennel Club all recommend against raw food. One issue is that the mineral and nutrient balance of these foods can sometimes be incorrect, leading to problems with bone density and growth, among other things. In addition, the incidence of foodborne illness in pets fed raw food is higher than in pets fed cooked or commercial diets. Owners of these pets can obtain foodborne illnesses like salmonella from their pets, even if the pets themselves are not ill. Other pets can obtain foodborne illness from their raw fed counterparts. Foodborne illness can be fatal in both people and pets. Should you chose to feed a balanced homecooked diet, it is our recommendation to cook all meat fully prior to feeding it.