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Ticks and Their Prevention

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Spring has arrived (on the calendar) and the snow seems to be leaving. The geese are back, and the ducks, and – the ticks are out too.

Ticks are tiny creatures. They depend on a warm-blooded host to take a blood meal, and unfortunately those can be our pets (or we ourselves, for that matter). They can also transmit some pretty detrimental diseases like Lyme disease. Ticks belong to the family of arachnids, which means they are more closely related to spiders than to insects. Here in Alberta, we have several different species of ticks; most common are the Deer Ticks, Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks and American Dog Ticks. Ticks are generally small – about the size of an apple seed (adults, not engorged from a meal). Typically, they drop from a higher spot like the blade of grass or brush onto their intended host. Then they crawl to a more sheltered spot to attach and feed. On dogs, favourite spots are in the ears, but also in the armpits or groin area, or even under the tail.

It is important to note that not every tick transmits disease. But they do not come with a little flag which says: “I’m infected – Caution!” While the bite of a tick usually does not cause a problem, the transmission of disease can. And there are a few more besides Lyme disease for our pets, like Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And since these parasites are so small, and can be easily overlooked, it is better to be on the safe side and prevent any disease. There are quite a few different products on the market for that, and in forms like chewable tablets or topical applications. Typically, these products are used monthly. They can be used year-round or at times when ticks are active (April to late October). We as veterinary professionals can help you select the best product and treatment schedule, with respect to the individual risk of your pet.

For more information you can also go online: “Ticks in Alberta: what you need to know” is information through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). The Public Health Agency of Canada also has some information, and there is also a tick submission program through Alberta Health (there is a new submission process in place; look for “Alberta Submit-a-Tick Program”; currently only photo submissions are accepted). We can help with that as well.

Have a great month of April!

– By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Itchy Ears – Are Parasites to Blame?

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Itchy ears are a common occurrence in our pets. It is normal for our pets to shake their head or itch their ears occasionally. However, if the pet is constantly scratching or rubbing their ears (or both), or is continuously shaking their head, we get concerned.

There is a multitude of issues which can cause itchy ears, or otitis as it is called. Otitis just means inflammation of the ear, which is uncomfortable for the pet. The pet will try to alleviate the discomfort by shaking their head or scratching.

In puppies and kittens we often find parasites as the reason for the inflammation, specifically: ear mites. Those creatures live inside the ear canal. Taking up residence inside the ear comes with all the activities you would expect from a tenant: eating and discarding of waste products, as well as reproduction. All inside the ear canal! This will create a significant amount of debris, often visible as dark, crusty discharge.

Fortunately, in this case it is fairly easy to evict the nuisance tenants: your veterinarian will apply an anti-parasite medication after cleaning the ears. This treatment will have to be repeated at least once after 3-4 weeks, to make sure that the critters have left, and that there are no eggs left behind that can hatch and start the cycle all over again. Usually this treatment is curative.

But not all ear inflammation has parasites as the cause. Often the inflammation sets the stage for bacteria and yeasts to move in and cause havoc. Just like parasites, the yeasts and/or bacteria will take up residency in the inflamed tissues. Unlike parasites, most of those organisms already live there, but the inflammation allows them to overgrow and do damage. Once started, the infection will get worse if not treated, and can even lead to rupture of the ear drum and/or an ear infection of the middle ear, which is more difficult to treat.

Once your pet has been presented to your veterinarian, a sample from the ear canal will be taken to better understand which organisms are involved with causing the itch. Then the ear will be cleaned, and often a topical medication will be prescribed to treat the infection. Sounds pretty easy? In most cases it is, if the problem is addressed early on.

In some cases it is not quite as easy, as is with recurrent ear infections. Those are ear infections which occur frequently despite being treated regularly. However, there is a reason for this to happen, and we will gladly help you track down reasons and suggest treatment options, to help make the life of your pet better (and yours as well).

– Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Painful Pets

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Hello, hopefully everyone had a good start to the New Year! Looks like our cold snap is finally subsiding!

A common concern with our pets is the possibility of pain since they do not talk in human words to us. We want to make sure our pets are comfortable and not experiencing any pain, especially older pets or the ones nearing the end of their life. What are we looking for here?

First, we can categorize pain. There is acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain occurs with any trauma, like an impact from a fall or a bite wound. Chronic pain is longer persisting pain; often we see this with arthritis pain, when a pet keeps limping if it does not receive medication. Here pain is categorized by a timeline.

Other categories can be according to the origin of the pain (oral pain with tooth problems, joint pain, or abdominal pain for example). This is often more specific and can be addressed with trying to resolve the underlying issue. The difficulty here is to pinpoint the origin.

Unfortunately, we cannot ask our pet how they perceive any pain (like a sharp pain or a dull pain or using the pain scale). Sometimes we can judge and record pain levels in the veterinarian’s office by doing an exam. Often other findings are classified indirectly by pain level: toe touching lame or non-weight-bearing lame for example, which translates into pain levels.

However, we all agree that we want to provide our pets with a level of care where they are not painful, or where we can manage pain with medication to provide a better quality of life. There is a certain complexity to finding the right treatment. Often (but not always) it means that we must use diagnostic tools to first find the origin of pain and then create a treatment plan addressing it. This could mean diagnostic imaging, like x-rays, or bloodwork and/or urinalysis to better judge the disease process causing potential pain. Also, often there is a mix-up between pain and comfort. We have to be able to read the behaviour of the pet, as if it is talking to us. A hiding pet often means it is in pain, but sometimes also means it is stressed (without physical pain).

If you feel that your pet is distressed, or in pain, please come and talk to us. We can help finding solutions to the problems you and your pet are experiencing.

– By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh


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It is December already, and we are getting ready for the Christmas season, and still COVID is influencing every step we take. Hopefully we all stay safe! Also, to keep our pets safe, please remember to safeguard our food and treats to not endanger our best friends! To them, a lot of our consumable goods are toxic! For information on poisonous substances, you can review the information on Pet Poison Helpline.

It is getting colder, and our ageing pets also might have mobility issues, just like us. Osteoarthritis in pets is a common occurrence, and not only in large dogs. Small dogs and cats are also affected by it.

So, what can we do when we suspect that our pets have osteoarthritis? First, signs can be very subtle and easy to miss. Our pet is taking its time to get out of bed and get moving. It is not jumping up and down furniture like it used to. It appears stiff initially but then “walks himself in” so that he appears normal after some time. It gets obvious when we have a pet playing hard (with some friends or playing fetch or frisbee) but the next day she appears stiff and sore.

It is a good thing to bring this up at the annual health exam with your veterinarian or consult with him/her specifically when issues arise. However, even here prevention goes a long way, and we can adjust our routines to the needs our pet has.

First, keeping our pets in good body condition helps mobility. Maintaining muscle mass helps normal function of the joints. Exercise is an essential part of good health care, to the best of the individual ability. As our pets age, they might not be too keen on a long, 2–3-hour hike. We need to adjust exercise to the capability of the animal, which means shorter but more frequent walks are better for our pets with mobility issues.

Food is important. An older pet might benefit from a good quality senior diet to keep weight down. Some foods directly address joint problems. However, food additives are often not in amounts that are sufficient for direct supplementation. It might be better to add a daily nutritional supplement. There are a lot of useful (and some not so useful) supplements on the market for joint health. There are glucosamine preparations, omega fatty acid supplements, herbs and other derivatives which are on the market for joint support. For some patients they work, for others not so much. Nutritional supplements can be helpful if used properly, and here again it is useful to ask a veterinarian to get the best information. Supplements are not backed by as much research as medications, and there are differences between products. One way of knowing a product has been manufactured to quality standards is to look for a NN number on the label (nutraceutical number).

If all this is not enough, we might have to control pain with medication. This will increase comfort of your pet and therefore quality of life. Of course, medications do have side effects. To safely administer any medication, we might have to look at regular blood screening tests, to ensure that the medication is doing good and not harm.

There are a variety of ways to deal with arthritis in our pets. If you have questions about it and want to help your pet have a better quality of life, ask your veterinarian!

Have a merry Christmas everyone!

By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Animals and Heat Exposure

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Summer is here, and with the summer hot temperatures are arriving. We already had our first heatwave of the summer and lots of reports of pets being exposed to and affected by the heat. There are even reports from BC that pets died because of heat exposure/heat stroke.

Now, we cannot change the weather (and to be honest, I enjoy the heat more than the deep freeze), but we can change the way we are helping our pets through the heat spells if needed.

The major considerations are to keep pets out of the heat. Walk them in the early morning or late at night, otherwise keep them indoors, in the coolest place possible. Not everyone has air conditioning, but shade and a fan go a long way. Misting with water also can help. Always make fresh water available. Especially short-nosed breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and relatives are heat sensitive. Because of their short noses and smaller airways, it is more difficult for them to regulate their body temperature (which in dogs is accomplished by panting, thus eliminating heat through the airways). Excessive panting in hot conditions indicates that the dog is too hot!

A lot of people will provide a kid’s pool for dogs to wade or swim in – excellent, a lot of dogs will enjoy this, but make sure the water is clean!

When walking, make sure that concrete or asphalt (or any other surface) is not hot to the touch. Our pets are barefoot, and even the toughest foot pads can be damaged by heat. Burns on the feet are no fun!

Sometimes it is better to leave your pet at home. Car rides can be especially challenging in these temperatures, and of course, we all know never to leave the pet in a car by themselves, not even for a very shortstop.

Signs of overheating are: panting, drooling, gums turning from pink to red, tiredness, unresponsiveness, even seizures. If in doubt, call your veterinarian. However, prevention is always better!

Have a safe summer everyone!

By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Camping With Your Pet

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I don’t know about you, but I already have a few campsites booked for the summer! Looking forward to seeing you all out there with your pets as well. But, before booking your sites make sure you know if they are pet friendly, and if so, what are the rules!

 First of all, make sure your four-legged friend is allowed on site. Most Provincial and National campgrounds allow pets, but better safe than sorry, so check the regulations of the specific campground you’re going to!

Understand your pet. Some campsites can be rather busy and may cause some anxious or aggressive behaviour. Make sure your pet can handle it well or look for more isolated campsites.

 Bring all the supplies you may need for your pet, such as a leash, cable, and anchor, poop bags, extra food, treats, and bowls, as well as their favourite toys!

 Last but not least, please make sure tick and flea treatment is up to date! Ticks can transmit a number of diseases to our four-legged friends and us!

 If you want more information on these diseases as well as flea and tick treatment options, make sure to come for a visit and talk with one of our Doctors at the Leduc Animal Clinic!

 Happy camping everyone!

By Dr. Alysson Macedo

Obesity in our Pets

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Obesity is a very common problem amongst our pets, so we thought we’d talk about the importance of maintaining a good weight in our pets. Maintaining a healthy body weight influences many factors. Previous studies have shown that dogs/cats in an ideal body weight live on average 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts! Being overweight increases the likelihood of various diseases including diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, and cruciate ligament injury.

‘Dogs/cats in an ideal body weight live on average 2 years longer’

It’s not always easy to get our pets active, whether it be cats or dogs, and even more so in the winter when it’s freezing outside. Exercise is certainly an important factor in weight management and should not be ignored. It is important for reasons other than just weight including muscle mass maintenance, joint mobility, and cardiac well-being. Regular exercise is encouraged over long sedentary periods followed by large amounts of activity.

When it comes to weight, diet is the most important single factor that influences weight. Ultimately it is about reducing the number of calories taken in, and increasing the calories burned. There are several weight-loss diets available that can help hasten and increase the success of a weight control program. Regular weigh-ins are crucial to measuring success, so we recommend weighing your pet monthly during this process.

Think of it as a double win – you spend less money on food and your pet lives a longer, healthier, happier life in addition to being less likely to develop several diseases which can be painful and/or expensive to treat.

Thunder Phobias

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It’s been a temperamental summer so far, with thunder, heavy rain and winds being commonplace. Thunder and storm phobias are very common amongst dogs and can start a few hours prior to the storm even arriving. These dogs will often hide, tremble, act uneasy, pant, or a variety of other stressed behaviors.

There are a variety of things that you can try to help alleviate their stress. The thunder vest is available and works in some cases by providing a feeling of being held/swaddled. Other dogs respond better to either supplements or medications. There are some over the counter supplements that may help with mild cases of anxiety and phobias. For the more severe cases, consider discussing anti-anxiety medications with your veterinarian. Phobias (whether they be storm phobias or fears of other things) can worsen over time if not addressed and can cause undue stress and anxiety in our pets’ lives. It is best to address these behavioral fears and issues earlier, as they are more difficult to manage once they have become more severe. 

Soggy Summer Slews

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It has been a wet and soggy summer so far, and seemingly there’s more to come. This amount of moisture and sitting water brings up a lot of things from the ground – everything from mushrooms to parasites, bacteria, and viruses that can potentially cause problems for our pets and in some cases, us. Many organisms thrive and come to the surface when it is this wet outside as they float to the surface. This may include things such as giardia (parasite that can cause diarrhea and beaver fever), clostridial bacteria (diarrhea causing bacteria), and other things. We’re not saying to avoid going outdoors, as many of our pets love getting dirty and rolling in the mud despite our futile attempts to tell them not to. However, we do recommend trying to avoid swampy and marshy areas that have been sitting for long periods of time, as exposure to and ingestion of this sort of water can cause illness in same cases. Most often they will cause vomiting +/- diarrhea, and some may require treatment. Depending on the organism, some infections can transmit to people as well, so ensuring proper hand hygiene is imperative.

Spring and Summer Smokey Smog

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It seems that smoky hazes and smog due to surrounding forest fires intermittently shrouding the skies is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. This smoke is detrimental to our health as much as it is to our pets.

Poor air quality can cause significant irritation and inflammation in the lungs, so outdoor activity should be avoided when the air is smoky. Pets with respiratory conditions should be especially careful of this. For example, cats with feline asthma can have asthma attacks or flareups as a result of exposure, or pets with bronchitis can have flareups as well. Animals with tracheal collapse can have coughing fits due to respiratory tract irritation and thus result in aggravation of their symptoms. Combined with the heat which is usually associated with these smoky spells, animals may breathe faster and respiratory issues can be compounded exponentially and rapidly. We recommend to keep outdoor activity limited, and to keep your windows closed if possible.

If your pet is still being affected indoors, consider purchasing an air purifier. Many of these contain hepa-filters and a carbon filter, which helps to remove the pollutants as well as the odors from the air. 

If your pet is suffering from respiratory issues, contact your veterinarian to see if there is anything else that can be done to help. Similar to people, some animals may benefit from inhaled medications to help reduce respiratory symptoms.