Thursday, December 31, 2009

Giving your dog a pill

Lots of dogs get pills – either daily health supplements like glucosomine or fish oil, or occasional antibiotics or other medications.

Some dogs will simply take a pill that’s mixed with their food, while others meticulously eat around it or spit it up. Others will eat a pill that’s ground up then sprinkled on their food. While this option is good for supplements, because some of the pill is wasted at the bottom of the bowl, it may not be a good option for medications where exact doses are needed.

To make the task easier, tastier and more fun for your dog, pill pockets do the trick. Commercially available pill pockets are available at most pet stores and cost about 25 cents each. A more economical, home-made option is to use a slice of wiener. No dog can resist the amazing aroma and taste of a pill stuffed wiener. Give it a try and watch your dog’s eyes light up!

Lastly, when you find out that your dog needs a pill, be thankful that you have a dog, rather than a cat. With dogs, there’s far less hissing, biting and scratching. Anyone who has ever had to give a cat a pill knows exactly what I mean :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Enjoying the festive season with your dog

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the time of the year where your over-excited dog can get into some extra special trouble. Here are a few quick tips to add a layer of safety over your Christmas fun:

  • Avoid decorating with tinsel. When ingested, it can wrap around intestines and cause internal damage. If you notice any tinsel near your pet’s anus, take your pet to the vet. Do not pull it out, as the tearing action can do more damage.
  • Keep seasonal toxic plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe out of your dog’s reach so they can avoid getting into it and having digestive troubles.
  • Never feed your dog cooked turkey bones. They’re brittle, can splinter and cause internal damage.
  • Chocolate is extremely toxic. We recommend that you eat it up as quickly as possible so your dog has no chance of getting into it :)

If your dog has any after-hours medical emergencies, we’re really lucky because 24/7 veterinary care is now available in Regina at the 24-Hour Animal Hospital. Keep their number handy in case of emergency - it's 306.761.1449.

We wish you and your furry family a very safe and merry Christmas!

Louise, Dan, Daisy and Buddy

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paying veterinary bills: an introduction to pet insurance

One of our customers has two beautiful, typically boingy golden retrievers. Last year, both needed surgery. One suffered from bloat and torsion, then six months later, the other needed surgery for an intestinal obstruction. Total bill $6,000. Ouch!

A lot of people expect to pay for food, licensing, vaccinations and other basic services, but are caught off guard by the high cost of emergency medical care. We hear similar stories all the time. Monitoring after a stroke and multiple seizures $1,800. Anterior cruciate ligament surgery $2,500. Dental cleaning and extractions $750. Metacam prescription for one year $720.

Conversely, instead of paying for effective, but costly medical procedures pets are often surrendered or euthanized - this is known as “economic euthanasia”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a treatment decision would be about what’s best for the dog rather than what’s affordable at the moment? Planning ahead can give you peace-of-mind, save you money and, ultimately, may save your dog’s life.

One family we know, puts away $100 each month into their dogs’ savings account. This family’s previous dog had a lot of medical expenses during her golden years, so they’re planning ahead.

Some families can easily afford the bills and don’t worry too much. Both Money Sense Magazine (December/January 2011, page 11) and a Virginia veterinarian recommend that “If a bill of $10,000 or less would not place catastrophic strain on your family or if you are disciplined enough to regularly save for your pet’s future care, then pet insurance is probably not necessary.”

Other families choose pet insurance. Many pet insurance options are affordable when the pet is very young, but quite expensive for older dogs or multi-pet families, and typically excludes hereditary or pre-existing conditions. If you’re considering insurance, do some comparison shopping. Read the policy fine print to compare total costs, deductibles, co-pays and coverage limits, pre-existing problems and hereditary exclusions, and cancellation fees. Some policies also include third party property damage liability resulting from your pet’s actions. Watch out for policies that offer low policy caps as you may be left with a significant bill to pay. The Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner publishes a list of questions to ask when pricing out pet insurance:

  • Can I choose my vet?
  • Is there a waiting period?
  • Do you cover routine wellness exams?
  • Do you cover neutering or spaying?
  • Does the plan include prescription drug coverage?
  • Do you cover claims annually or by incident?
  • If the coverage is by incident, is there a time limit?
  • Is there a dollar limit for vet office fees?
  • If my pet has a pre-existing or hereditary condition, will this plan cover it?
  • Does this plan cover chronic or recurring conditions?
  • How long do you take to pay claims?
  • Do you give discounts for insuring multiple pets?
  • Does this plan cover advertising costs and rewards if my pet is lost or stolen?
  • Does this plan make payouts if my pet is being treated and dies?

When doing comparison shopping, check out the Pet Insurance Review. This web site helps pet owners shop for pet insurance by getting customer reviews so you can see how satisfied or dissatisfied others are with their existing policies. And finally, to help you on your way, here’s a list of Canadian pet insurance providers: HBC, PC Financial (President’s Choice), Pet Care, Pet Plan, PetSecure, PurinaCare and Vetinsurance. (A USA list is available at

Choosing how to finance your pet’s medical issues is a very personal decision. If you choose insurance, please do your homework to make sure you’re 100 percent certain about what you’re getting in exchange for what you’re paying.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our tough Saskatchewan winters are awesome for your dog’s health

Photo: Rocky at play

As you’re shivering your way through this nasty -30° C cold snap, you probably didn’t think about the good that it’s doing for your dog.

In addition to taking your breath away, this frigid weather kills nasty bugs that thrive in warmer climates. We don’t have much of a problem with fleas, and thankfully viruses like H3N8 Canine Influenza that crop up in warmer climates tend to be non-issues here in Canada.

If you take your dog traveling with you to warmer climates, talk with your vet about extra precautions you should take that may include additional vaccinations. If you’re staying home through the winter, grab a blanket and smile as you snuggle your healthy, happy dog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The scoop on poop: dealing with doggie diarrhoea

We got a call last week from a customer who wanted to send their two large dogs out for the weekend. It all sounded great until we asked the customer about medications and he mentioned that both dogs were being treated for Giardia. Stop right there – Giardia, otherwise known as Beaver Fever, is a zoonotic disease – meaning it’s one of many contagious diseases between people and animals. Needless to say, because of the risks, the dogs are not coming to our kennel.

If your dog has occasional diarrhoea, let them skip a meal, then for their first meal, serve cooked white rice – if you’d like, you can add a little chicken broth or cooked ground beef or turkey to it. If the stools return to normal, return to your normal feeding routine – if not, try the rice option another time.

However, if the diarrhoea persists or is recurring, take your dog along with a stool sample to your vet to find out if it’s something more serious. If it’s Giardia, vets typically treat it with a round of medication and recommend that your dog be isolated from other dogs. After the treatment, your vet will likely do one or more follow-up stool samples to check if it’s cleared.

Ways to minimize risks of you or your pet catching or transmitting Giardia or other zoononic diseases include:

  • Keep hands clean. Properly wash your hands after contacting animals – use soap and water, scrub for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well. When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers.
  • Don’t let dogs drink from standing water such as puddles, ponds or lakes, or “community” sources that other dogs have access to.
  • Don’t let your dog lick you – especially around your nose and mouth areas. Avoid contacting your pet’s mouth, nose and feet. Dogs can pick up disease on their foot pads, then if you shake a paw, those diseases can transfer to you. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose or face including not letting your children pick their noses, suck their thumbs or chew their finger nails.
  • Scoop poop immediately. Don’t let your dog sniff other dog’s poop. Use gloves when poop scooping, and wash hands immediately after handling it.
  • If your dog has diarrhoea, don’t let other dogs come into contact. Until it’s cleared, avoid dog parks, training classes or kennels. If your dog has had Giardia, disclose that fact and ensure that it’s clear before returning to these places.
  • Give your dog minimal contact with the floor and exterior grounds areas around animal shelters and veterinary clinics. If you volunteer at a shelter, keep your footwear, dog crates and vehicles clean between your shelter visits and your home.
  • If you’re sick, reduce contact with your pet and cough into your sleeve rather than your hands. If you’re immunosuppressed, ask your vet about using “killed vaccines” rather than “modified live vaccines” for your pet.
  • Don’t pet stray or unknown animals. If you go to petting zoos, don’t eat or drink, or take items like baby bottles or soothers, and wash your hands and shoes immediately after.
  • Focus on hygiene. Trim the hair around your dog’s anus and genital area, and keep them clean so micro-organisms aren’t carried around. Keep your dog’s bedding areas clean and dry.

If you’re interested in this topic, two excellent sources of additional information are the Worms and Germs Blog and a back-dated Animal Sheltering Magazine article.