Winter Warnings

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After a little preview in September, winter seems like it’s finally here to stay, along with the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Here are a few things to remember this winter to keep your pets safe!

  1. Antifreeze – while you’re winterizing your car, changing to winter tires, and replacing your windshield washer, keep in mind that antifreeze/windshield washer is toxic when ingested. Anti-freeze (ethylene glycol) is sweet-tasting, and quickly attracts dogs. Unfortunately, when ingested, it causes acute kidney failure and can result in death if not treated promptly. Make sure that any spilt fluids are cleaned up thoroughly, and that unused fluid are stored securely.

  2. Salt – salting your driveway and sidewalk helps to melt snow and prevent ice buildup. Keep in mind that many salts can be irritating to our pet’s paws and cause dryness, cracking, and in some cases chemical burns. When ingested (either directly or while cleaning/licking their paws), some salts may result in gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, or diarrhea. Consider using pet-friendly salts, or using sand instead. If tolerated, boots can help to protect your pet’s paws as well.

  3. Ice – presents many hazards to both us and our pets, with slippage being a major concern. My dog LOVES chasing rabbits, but sprinting on ice also creates a recipe for injury. Also, ice can often be quite sharp at times and can lead to cuts and abrasions easily. Use your discretion to determine when to safely allow your pet to let loose.

10.17.2018 – Cannabis and Pets

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October 17th, 2018. It’s finally here. Cannabis is officially becoming legalized, medically and recreationally. As veterinarians, we strive to do right by our pets and make recommendations based on quality science and evidence. Unfortunately, there is currently no good evidence or studies supporting the use of cannabis in our pets. Perhaps in a few years when it has been studied we will have more understanding of the effects it has on our pets for better or worse, but at this time we have no scientific basis to recommend its use. There have been a few stories anecdotally suggesting that it may help with anxiety, but it has yet to be studied to determine efficacy and safety. Due to the lack of knowledge of what effects cannabis may have, we have to recommend avoiding its use in animals until we have a better understanding of its effects.

As veterinarians, we have no ability to prescribe medical cannabis. Pet products have no legal requirements for quality control etc, and thus there is no guarantee of product purity and quality. We do know our pets, dogs especially, are much more sensitive to the effects of marijuana, with or without THC being present. THC is the chemical compound in marijuana that causes the hallucinogenic effects, which is supposed to be removed from medical cannabis. Dogs have more receptors to cannabis compared to people, and thus they are much more sensitive to its effects. Side effects and signs of cannabis toxicity can range from drowsiness to vomiting, ataxia/wobbliness, loss of balance, muscle tremors, seizures, and loss of bladder control. As a precaution, we recommend keeping all cannabis products in a safe location which is not accessible to animals. Keep them in secure locations, and not on the countertop where counter-surfing animals may find them. Avoid their use until a better understanding of its effects has been acquired, and safe dosing recommendations have been developed. 

Having the talk… about Catnip

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 Catnip is a funny thing and is often called the ‘Feline Marijuana’ as it can cause them to jump, roll, play, and zone out in some cases. But what is it? What does it do? With marijuana becoming legalized shortly, is catnip next? 

Catnip was never illegal, but it is an interesting plant. Felines of all sizes seem to love to play with it, and it often helps to calm cats down for short periods of time. Give it a try!

“The catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) contains various chemicals and oils which are volatile and released into the air. The plant and these chemicals are considered non-addictive and harmless to cats. The compound of interest in catnip is a volatile oil called Nepetalactone. When sniffed by cats, this chemical mimics a pheromone and triggers a sexual response or arousal. Behaviours often seen include salivation, jumping and rolling around, meowing, or rubbing up against the herb. The effects generally last approximately 10 minutes at a time, after which they become temporarily immune to catnip’s effects for about 30 minutes. Only 70-80% of cats will react to catnip in this manner. Catnip also only works on adult cats (6+ months of age) due to it requiring cats to be sexually mature to elicit such a behavioural response.”

(‘How Does Catnip Work Its Magic on Cats?’. Scientific American. Nature America, Inc. May 29, 2007. Visited 9/04/2018)

Service & Working Dog Shout-Out

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September is National Service Dog Month, and we thought we’d take a moment to recognize all the different roles dogs play in our lives. For most of us, dogs are our pets, companions, and part of the family. Dogs play many other roles in our lives and in society. With many working dogs, it is important to allow them to do their job without disturbing them. If they have a ‘working vest’ on, refraining from playing with them or petting them is important to their training and safety. Here are but a few examples of some of the jobs dogs have. 

  • Pets & company

  • Seeing-eye dogs

  • Autism support dogs

  • Therapy dog

  • Bomb detection

  • Bed bug detection

  • Drug detection

  • Police dogs

  • Cancer detection/screening (bladder, kidney and prostate)

  • Avalanche & disaster search and rescue

  • Herding dogs

  • Guard dogs

  • Sled dogs

  • Homicide tracking

Dogs are some pretty amazing animals, so here’s a shout-out to all the dogs out there that make our lives and this world a better place.

Vacationing with your pets

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June is ending, and school is just about out. It’s summertime, and for those of us fortunate enough to get some time off to enjoy the sun, vacations may be in order. If you plan to take your pet(s) with you, here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your trip. 

Speak to your veterinarian! Consultation to go over travel precautions (different vaccines, disease prophylaxis medications/prevention, travel anxiety, travel requirements) is worthwhile! 

 1) Travelling outside the country: If you are planning an international travel, be sure to look up the travel requirements of the country you are travelling to. Some have stricter requirements than others, and can potentially require weeks to months in advance to prep get all the required treatment and testing done. Often there are specific paperwork and treatments/vaccines that are required, and some require very strict schedules and timelines to be followed.

2) Disease and parasite prevention: Whether it be within the country, or internationally, different diseases and parasites are present in different areas. It is important to talk with your veterinarian and discuss appropriate preventative measures depending on where you are travelling. For example, heartworm prevention may be required if travelling to heartworm endemic regions, tick preventatives, Lyme disease vaccinations, or leptospirosis vaccinations may be recommended depending on where you are travelling to. Having some medications for potential diarrhea cases while abroad may not be a bad thing to have on hand either!

3) Travel stress/anxiety: Vacation is supposed to be a relaxing time for us, but travel can often be a stressful event for our pets. This can be in the pet carrier, in the car, on a plane, boat, or other means of transport. If you know your pet gets stressed while travelling, have a chat with your veterinarian about different management options. This can include things such as pheromone sprays, dietary supplements, and in some cases anti-anxiety medications. 

Heat Stroke

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With the temperatures rising and the sun shining, many of us start becoming a little more active outdoors, often together with our pets. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can happen to both our pets and us alike, so it’s important to take some precautions and keep an eye out for signs of distress, especially with some of our brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs, as well as overweight animals. Avoiding and preventing overheating is relatively easy to do, and can prevent potentially life-threatening scenarios! A dog’s drive and desire to play can sometimes override all other concerns, so keep your eyes out for signs of heat exhaustion. If at all in doubt, take a break, find somewhere cool, and provide water. Your local veterinary clinic can provide info and avoidance measures should you need anything. If things seem to be worsening or not improving despite rest, seek veterinary attention immediately, especially if some of the more severe signs are present. Body temperatures over 106F (41C) put dogs at risk of heatstroke and potentially serious consequences.


  1. Bring water! Portable dog bowls and bottles pack light and are great for long walks or hikes. You can even get a dog pack so your pet can carry their own gear!

  2. Frequent breaks and shade. Dogs don’t sweat, except through their feet, and thus panting is their main way to cool down. Lots of water breaks are important for this reason. Pick shady areas to rest in.

Signs to watch for:

  1. Initial signs: Excessive panting is one of the first signs. Being dull or less responsive than normal. Other signs may include glazed eyes, excessive drooling, tachycardia (fast heart rate, can be felt through the chest or on the inside of the thigh) while resting, dizziness, lack of coordination or ataxia/wobbliness, fever, lethargy, and fainting.

  2. Severe cases (potentially life-threatening) – Collapse, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, gum/tongue colour changes from normal pink to blue or bright red.

Things to do to help cool off:

  1. Rest and find shade, air conditioning if possible

  2. Provide water, consider wetting the paws, groin, and ears with a cool wet cloth

  3. If there is a lake around and your dog is a swimmer or is so inclined, allow them to take a dip

  4. Seek medical attention if not improving


Summer Time Swims

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With the sun shining and the warm weather here to stay (hopefully), it’s time for hiking, camping, lakes, swimming, and fun. There are lots of things to consider when planning outdoor activities with your pet(s). From tick prevention and Lyme disease vaccines to allergies and algal blooms in the water, there are countless things to be discussed. For today, I’ll touch on a few important things to remember if your dog (or cat) goes swimming or wading in the water.

  1. Not all dogs are good swimmers – it’s a misnomer that dogs can all swim well. If it’s their first time, stay close and only let them in the shallow water until you know they are comfortable swimming. If not, consider a floatation device or vest for your dog.

  2. After a swim, give your dog a good rinse or bath with fresh water. Lake/pond water may contain a variety of substances (bacteria, algae, toxins, parasites etc) that can cause skin irritation and rashes if left on the skin.

  3. Especially if you know your dog is prone to ear infections, bring some ear cleaner. After a swim, clean your dog’s ears to help minimize the chances of an ear infection or swimmers ear. Water itself doesn’t cause an infection, but moisture promotes yeast and bacterial growth. And lake water isn’t always the cleanest.

  4. Algal blooms – keep an eye on the Blue-Green Algae Health Advisories from Alberta Health Services. Algal blooms in lakes can result in poor swimming conditions resulting in skin rashes and irritation on skin contact, and severe vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. If you see an advisory, try to avoid going in or allowing your animal into the water. See the link for current updates.

  5. Stale contaminated puddles of water can harbour numerous bacteria and parasites such as Giardia. These can cause gastrointestinal irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Parasites like Giardia are also zoonotic – can be transmitted to people. Try to avoid letting your pet drink from puddles on the ground. Provide fresh water frequently.

Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the sun! If you’re planning a trip or some outdoor activities with your pet, speak with your veterinarian about things to consider. We’re here to help!

Tick Pow Wow – 7 points, 5 minutes

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It’s tick season again. You may have already noticed clinics around town mentioning the topic or seen somewhere on social media a shared link about them. Instead of a long ramble post describing everything in detail, I thought I’d share a few key facts in point form. Any further questions can certainly be directed to us or your local veterinarian. 

– Ticks are small blood-sucking arachnids (Yes, they are related to spiders!) that hide in bushes or grasses, and attach to animals to feed, grow, and reproduce. 

– Ticks become active when the temperature rises above 4C, even if there is still snow on the ground

– Higher risk areas for tick exposure are bushy or grassy areas. While most ticks wait for hosts to walk by,  some tick species actively seek out and hunt for hosts. Prevention is the best recommendation

    1) Avoid high-risk areas

    2) Prevention – for people we can use repellents, however for our pets who lick and groom themselves and ingest some of these products this can cause potential toxicities. There are several tick prevention medications that can be used to kill ticks before, or soon after they bite to prevent infestations and infection. 

    3) Check – yourself and your pets regularly for any new lump/bumps that may be a feeding tick, especially after travelling in higher risk areas. Remove them if found and submit them for testing. 

– Ticks may feed for up to several days at a time. Disease transmission takes varying amounts of time depending on the disease, so prompt discovery and removal is important. Tick preventative medications can be used to prevent tick infestations in your pets. Ask your veterinarian about the different options and how they work. 

– The province of Alberta has a tick surveillance program that tests ticks for the presence of Lyme disease. Your local veterinarian can submit ticks found on your pets for testing (unfortunately this service does not test for other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis). If found on a person, the ticks must be submitted through your family doctor or your local Alberta Health Services Environmental Health Office.


– REMOVAL: If you find a tick on your dog, do NOT squish it, or apply chemicals to it to cause it to let go and die. This will only cause it to regurgitate the blood it has sucked into the bloodstream, potentially increasing the chance of infection should it be carrying a disease. See the link below for the proper removal technique. You may use a tick removal tool or using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull straight outwards. Do NOT twist or bend the tick as you are pulling.

Spring Time, Let Allergy Season Begin! – Sneezing, itching, and crying!

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As the snow melts, it is common for us to see an increasing number of environmental allergies flare-up in some of our pets. Whether it be snow mould or the new growth of plants and flowers that spring brings, they can cause a variety of irritating sensations for us and our pets alike.

Allergies can present in a variety of ways depending on the individual animal. Sneezing, and especially reverse sneezing are common presentations and can be unnerving to see if you haven’t seen them occur before. Reverse sneezing can seem quite violent and can last for a few seconds all the way to a few minutes. These fits do pass and are caused by nasal irritation. This can be due to allergies, nasal foreign bodies (like a piece of grass lodged in the nose), parasites, or sinus infections. In most cases, an allergy of some sort is the cause. Youtube has some good examples of what reverse sneezing might look like in a dog. Other things may include red watery eyes without discharge, itchy ears, itchy skin and feet, and numerous other symptoms. These symptoms can overlap with other issues and infections, so it’s important to ensure there is no underlying infection when creating a treatment plan.

If your pet seems to have seasonal allergies (whether it be in the spring, fall, or any specific time of year), speak to your veterinarian about different management strategies. Allowing allergies to go untreated often results in discomfort and secondary infections requiring further treatment. Treating an allergy early on allows more effective and less treatment required. If the allergy can be anticipated, prophylactic allergy medication can be used to minimize the chance of an allergic flare-up.

Choosing a Puppy/Breed

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Spring is finally here! The snow on the ground may linger around for a bit longer yet, but at least the days are getting longer and the temperatures rising! 

March 23rd is National Puppy Day! And it’s the year of the dog this year. So if you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, here are a few things to ponder when deciding what type of dog to get, especially if it’s your first dog. I’ve tried to break it down into 5 main categories to keep it simple.

1) Activity level: Different breeds have dramatically different activity requirements and abilities, and this isn’t always related to the size of the dog. Consider the type of activities you plan on doing with your dog, as well as who will be handling the dog – are there young kids around? other dogs? Excess unharnessed energy can be displaced and redirected as anxiety, destructive behaviours, the ‘zoomies’, and in some cases aggression. 

2) Space: A larger dog doesn’t always mean you need to have a larger house or yard. That being said, if there is very limited space indoors, more time is likely needed to be spent outdoors with more stimulation and activity. Consider your living arrangements, and what size of dog is appropriate.

3) Time commitment: New puppies require a lot of time and work. At young ages, expect to get up throughout the night since they can’t hold their bladders for that long. Everything from house training, to going on walks multiple times a day, cleaning up your house, grooming and vet appointments – these things take up a lot of time! 

4) Health concerns: This applies not only to your dog but also to yourself. For you – allergies are a common problem. Hypoallergenic animals can still cause allergies, they are just less likely to do so. For your dog, certain breeds are more likely to have certain issues, which should be considered especially when it comes to my last big consideration – cost. Ask your veterinarian about what these concerns may be, and what can be expected of them. 

5) Costs: Pets can potentially end up costing more than a few dollars. Assuming there are no unexpected injuries or issues, regular health exams, vaccines, grooming, kennels, and dental care are things to be expected. Certain breeds are much more prone to specific problems that can require surgical or medical care, which may influence your decisions. For example, brachycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs are much more prone to respiratory issues that may require surgery and hospitalization; German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis; Daschunds and slipped spinal disks, Bichon’s and bladder stones… you get the idea. Some of these issues can be expensive to treat and are important to consider when selecting a breed. Look into getting Pet insurance – it can help to cover unexpected costs should the need arise.