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

The Mysteries of Urinary Issues in Cats

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Cats are beautiful animals and can be wonderful pets. They can be cuddly and soft, or entertaining and playful, and all around pleasant to have.

We are learning more and more about the complicated mental health of cats. You might think: “What? Cats can be stressed? What is there to be stressed about?”

In our mind the cat has everything it needs and possibly wants: Humans as companions, maybe some more feline house mates, or dogs; food, water, places to hang out, lots of toys and playtime, and not a worry in the world.

But the cats think differently. There are a lot of things which can contribute to stress for a cat, and then this stress can turn into urinary issues. Cats can develop idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder for an unknown cause), also called FLUTD (or other names for that matter). What we see is a cat which urinates in inappropriate places, strains to urinate, frequently visits the litter box without producing a normal amount of urine and is vocalizing in pain. Some male cats even develop a urinary blockage, which is an emergency and needs to be addressed right away. In these cases, the blockage is due to narrowing of the urethra, with or without crystals or any material involved.

This issue is often related to several things the cat is unhappy about, and it is not always us humans causing this. Of course, we should make sure that the litter box is clean (which means daily scooping), and easily accessible. We recommend using one litter box per cat in the house plus an extra one, and to have a box available on each level of the house, especially if our furry friends are ageing and mobility is becoming a difficult task. Also, a canned diet might help with water intake, which helps to keep the urinary tract going.

However, some things we do not have an influence on. Often, we see these issues arise in colder weather. The temperature can influence how much water cats consume, regardless of whether they are indoors or out. It can also influence urinating patterns.

Other things which can become stressors for cats are changes within the household, like a person or pet moving in or out, renovations or house improvements, or animals outside the home, like stray cats or wildlife. It does not have to be visible or notable to us, but our cats will know.

Whatever is causing these issues for our cats, sometimes it remains a mystery. However, we do know that urinary issues like that can be quite painful, and therefore this needs to be addressed. We can assess those issues and together with you can find a solution for your cat, be it medical treatment or a change in food or supplements or a combination thereof. Please ask us if you need help!

Have a happy and stress-free February everyone!

– By 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


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This past month we had numerous wellness exams and vaccine appointments scheduled. It made me think about how much we actually discuss vaccines with our clients. I am sure the majority of us understand the importance of vaccinating our furry family members, but I thought it would be good to refresh our knowledge on this very important topic.

 When we vaccinate our pets we prevent many illnesses, we avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented, we avoid spread of certain diseases that can be transmitted from pet to pet and even pet to humans!

 The pets that are over a year old may require only annual vaccines, but many of you may wonder why puppies and kittens require a series of vaccines. Well, to keep it simple, their immune system is not mature enough to fight any possible infection. They rely almost exclusively on maternal antibodies acquired through their mom’s milk. The maternal antibodies may interfere with a puppy’s or kitten’s vaccine response, so vaccination is recommended around the time the maternal antibodies are no longer active (around 8 weeks of age), with 1-2 boosters 3-4 weeks apart.

In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the animal’s immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help further stimulate the immune system to produce the important antibodies needed for long-term protection.

 Remember that incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, resulting in vulnerable puppies and kittens!

 Well, now that we’re all pros on vaccination schedule, give us a call to book your pet for a wellness check and vaccine appointment!

-by Dr. Alysson Macedo

Healthy, Not So Healthy

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As we learn more about sugar alternatives for human consumption and attempt a better and healthier life style for ourselves, we may be imposing some unknown risks to our furry friends.

One of these days we were discussing healthy baking options for our Friday treats at the clinic (thanks to our amazing RVT Ronda!) and we came across a very interesting topic: did you know that xylitol – a sugar substitute – is extremely toxic to dogs?

Here is how: Insulin controls our blood sugar. In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin, but in dogs it does. So, when dogs eat anything that contains xylitol, it stimulates a potent release of insulin that may result in a rapid and profound decrease in blood sugar. This can happen as soon as 10 minutes after xylitol ingestion, and if left untreated, the hypoglycemia can be life-threatening. The most common symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, decreased activity, weakness, incoordination, collapse and seizures.

Xylitol can be found in a variety of products such as gums, mouth wash and toothpaste, baked goods, sugar-free peanut butter, medications, and body products. Important hint: xylitol can be “hidden” as sugar alcohol, so please read the product labels very carefully!

I hope this helps you keep your healthy habits without any risks to your furry friends!

If your dog eats something and you’re unsure of its toxicity, please give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to help!

Stay healthy everyone!


-by Dr. Alysson Macedo

What does a dental procedure include?

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Obviously, we cannot expect our pet patients to sit through a dental procedure voluntarily, still and with the mouth open. Therefore, a dental procedure must be done under general anesthetic. This allows us to assess the mouth properly, and perform dental x-rays, cleaning, and any necessary treatment without the problem of asking the pet to hold still.

So, what happens when we have a pet here for a dental cleaning/procedure? Once at the clinic, we perform a preanesthetic examination, to assess vital signs. Often, blood tests have been performed a few days before, determining health of the liver and kidneys, as these are the organs in the body which metabolize the anesthetic agents and eliminate them.

Once this baseline is established, the pet will receive an injection of a sedative (also called pre-medication). Once sedated, an intravenous line will be placed, to support blood pressure under anesthetic, and to provide easy access to administer the induction agents (to induce the anesthetic sleep). A veterinary technician will be always with the pet then to monitor vital signs, to keep the procedure as safe as possible.

The pet will be intubated with an endotracheal tube, and connected to the anesthetic machine, which will deliver the inhalant anesthetic mixed with oxygen. This will keep our pet sleeping and unaware during the procedure.

From this point on the procedure is like our own visits to the dentist. Dental x-rays will be taken, to be able to judge the teeth – are they healthy? Are there any signs of underlying issues? Then the veterinarian will assess the teeth by probing and evaluating the x-rays. Then cleaning of the teeth will be started, and usually the veterinarian will contact the pet parent to discuss need for treatment, or to report on the status of the procedure.

Once the teeth are cleaned, any teeth which are significantly affected by dental disease can be extracted. In specialty dental clinics advanced treatments of teeth can be done, like root canal treatment or capping of teeth. A local anesthetic will be placed before extracting teeth. Teeth affected by dental disease are extracted, the extraction sites cleaned (debrided) and then the site will be closed with sutures. This can take as much time as the extraction, or more.

After the procedure is completed, we prepare to discontinue the anesthetic. The animal will be extubated when ready, and then placed in a warm recovery bed. Monitoring will continue until the animal is recovered. Fluid therapy will be discontinued once it is safe to do so.

We like to keep our patients in hospital long enough to allow for complete recovery; however, sometimes our patients are still a bit “under the weather” when going home. We will take every precaution to educate our pet parents as thoroughly as possible on how to take care of their pets immediately following a procedure, and what to do if concerns arise. Usually, a follow-up appointment will be arranged to check on the mouth 2 weeks after a procedure. This is especially important if multiple extractions have been performed.

Now our pet does have a healthy mouth again, and most likely feels good about it! Take care everyone!


-By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh

Puppy Socialization

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Has anybody gotten a new family member recently? We have seen so many new puppies at the clinic lately that I thought we should talk a little bit about how important social interactions are for our furry friends.

The goal when socializing our puppies is to help them acclimate to all types of sights, sounds, and smells. By doing so, we can prevent our pets from being fearful of new situations or people, and help our puppy develop into a well-mannered, happy friend.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during the early stages of your puppy’s life:

  1. A whole new world: to a puppy, the world is a new, strange, and unusual place. The more places, people, sights, sounds and smells we expose our puppies to, the more familiarized they will be with these new things. You can find online a few comprehensive checklists for puppy socialization that you can use as a guide.
  2. Positive experiences: this is the most important aspect of any social interaction. Make sure you reward your friend for every single little accomplishment so they associate what they are being exposed to and the feeling of seeing something new as a fun rewarding experience.
  3. Involve family members and friends: the more people you have as part of the socialization process, the more comfortable your puppy will be with other people and experiences, no matter who they are with.
  4. Baby steps: make sure to not over-stimulate your puppy. Little positive interactions are much healthier than too many at once. Taking your puppy to a busy area to start the process may result in a fearful response.
  5. Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines: Remember to start the socialization process with other dogs once your puppy is vaccinated and dewormed to prevent infectious diseases! Always talk to you veterinarian for appropriate immunization protocols and the best time for dog park visits.

You know what’s a great option too? Bringing your furry friend for vaccines and deworming and making sure to mention to our sweet ladies at the front desk that your puppy needs some socialization time! I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that we won’t mind it at all!
Treats and cuddles on us!

COVID Restrictions

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Summer seems to be winding down, with some leaves already turning color. The season is changing but COVID-19 remains with us and probably will for the future.

Despite our province lifting restrictions (and very recently reinstating some of them) most veterinary facilities have maintained some level of protective measures throughout. I really would like to stress that these measures are not meant to make it difficult for our clients, or to inhibit the liberties of the people we serve. Our goal is to provide care for your animals, and to maintain safety for our co-workers and for everyone coming into our facility. If we were to have to close our doors because of workplace safety issues (and workplace safety is something the government requires from us) we could not continue to serve you and your animals.

Somehow the stress on the veterinary community has been overwhelming. I don’t even know why the workload has increased as much as it has within the last 15 months. I am sure it is multifactorial. There is an abundance of new pets which have been adopted by a lot of people, as well as the way we are working has changed with all these extra measures for safety slowing down workflow. And I do understand that this can be frustrating, as much for us as for you, our clients.

For us in the veterinary field the situation has had very surprising consequences. The work-stress has become very intense, and for some people it has become too much. Did you know that the suicide rate in veterinary medicine is one of the highest of all professions? And why is this? I believe the root of it is because veterinary professionals are caught in between the desire to help animals to the best of their ability, and the expectations that we can and should do everything in our power to help, but also often in the light of a misunderstanding for the cost for “everything possible”. (This is where pet insurance can come in handy).

From my perspective I have been blessed in my workplace with most clients being very understanding for the situation we have to work in. I wish for all of us, veterinary professionals and clients, that we can work together to help our beloved pets live the best life possible, and that requires patience from all of us and understanding for situations which can be stressful.

I hope we can continue to work well together to make our world a better place!