Monthly Archives

May 2014

Hot Diggity Dog

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Finally, summer weather is here and it is getting HOT. You may notice that your dog is starting to pant a lot more than normal during your walks or is becoming tired more quickly. These are signs that it is time for us all to learn a bit more about heatstroke in our pets!

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke, otherwise known as hyperthermia, is simply referred to as an increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions–namely heat and humidity. A dog’s normal temperature is usuallybetween 37.8 and 39.8 degrees Celsius. If their temperature rises higher than 40.5 degrees–this is a true danger zone.

How does heatstroke occur?

One common cause of heatstroke, (which is seen featured on the news nearly every summer), is pets being left in cars with inadequate ventilation during hot summer weather. You may think the car is cool when you leave it, but it can heat up by as much as 4 degrees within a short period of time. Also, if your animal is exerting itself by barking or trying to escape from the car, the heat generated exceeds the heat that can be dissipated. Heatstroke can happen other ways too–pets being left outside without adequate shade, pets who have recently moved to a warmer climate, and pets who are over-exerted in hot weather are also at risk. Additionally to these situational causes, some conditions, such as obesity can predispose your pets to experience hyperthermia. Even breed type makes an impact! Short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds such as Pugs (like Marty below), English bulldogs and Lhasa apso often suffer from ineffectual panter syndrome which can result in a fatal increase in body temperature.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke in my pets?

The initial symptoms may be hard to spot, and are characterized by excessive panting, distress, and restlessness. As the condition worsens though, symptoms such as excessive amounts of drool from the nose or mouth will be harder to ignore and are a high cause for concern. Finally, the pet may appear to be unsteady on their feet and the gums may begin to turn a purple, blue, or even bright red colour due to inadequate oxygen supply.

How can I prevent and treat heatstroke in my pets?

Try to be logical and empathetic when it comes to your pet’s well-being–if you wouldn’t want to be in the car for a half hour with the windows up, neither would your pet! Do not leave your pets unattended outside during the summer season, and try to groom them more often than in the winter so their hair doesn’t assist in overheating.

When treating heatstroke, what you SHOULD do is just as important as what you SHOULD NOT do. You SHOULD remove your pet from the hot environment and transfer to a shaded, cool environment, pointing a fan at him/her. Then, begin the cooling process by putting COOL, wet towels on their back, armpits, and groin area, putting cool water on their ears as well. Then, transport to the nearest veterinary facility immediately. Always drive with the air conditioning on and windows open. Remember, this disease can be fatal, and no time should be wasted.

What you SHOULD NOT do is use cold water or ice to cool your pet down. Although it seems logical to use the coldest temperature possible, it is actually the opposite of helpful. The goal is to cool the innermost structure of your pet, not just their skin. If cold/ice water is used, it will actually shrink their superficial blood cells creating an insulated layer of tissue which will hold the heat in even longer!


Gfeller, R. W. (1994, December 31). Hyperthermia (heat stroke, heat prostration). Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Is Your Pet Bikini Body Ready?

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What is obesity?

Obesity is classified as your pet’s body being composed of 35%+ body fat, whereas the ideal body fat percentage is between 16% and 25%. During the winter, it is not unlikely that your pet spent more time inside the house. Our Canadian winters are cold, and it is hard to gather the motivation to take your pet on those long walks that they are accustomed to. The result–a little bit of weight gain for everybody!

Now, some weight gain is okay and easy to fix. For most pets, when you return to your usual walking schedule, the extra pounds will come off. For some pets though, the problem may be more difficult to solve. Obesity in your animals is just as much of a problem as obesity in your children and your own body. It may seem like giving your pet a few extra treats or table scraps will make them happy, but the results of such actions will actually cause a far worse standard of living in the long run.

How did this happen?

You may be thinking, “my pet doesn’t even eat that much–how is he/she obese?” Well, there are many reasons why your pet may be obese. First of all, packaged food guidelines are just guidelines. It may suggest a certain food serving for a 30 lb. animal, but consider this: a 30 lb. Chihuahua is very different from a 30 lb. Sheltie. Also, if the kibble calls for a cup of food–it means a measuring cup, a.k.a. 250 ml. An average kitchen mug may be different than this size, so ask your veterinarian to provide you with a measuring cup to feed your animals! Other factors include genetics, metabolic speed and too many treats! Make sure to watch your kids and ensure they aren’t giving your pet extra food when you’re not around.

What problems does obesity cause?

Obesity can cause many health problems, including arthritis, respiratory compromise, diabetes mellitus (obese cats have been found to have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity), hepatic lipidosis (when the liver becomes infiltrated with fat and then fails), reduced life span, and increased surgical/anesthetic risk (due to drug dosing becoming less accurate).

What Can I Do?

Like I said, the solution may be simple, but not always. Just like humans, all animals’ bodies are different, and it may be more difficult for some animals than others. One thing that you must NOT do is feed the pet what you might consider to be ‘less’. Always ask your veterinarian for advice before attempting to manage the weight yourself. A common mistake cat owners make is changing their pet’s food suddenly and assuming they will eat it–this is not always the case. If the cat doesn’t eat for 48 hours then they can experience a disease called fatty liver, so please talk to your veterinarian about the proper way to transition to a new diet. A more formal approach needs to be taken, i.e., feeding a prescription diet for weight loss, feeding a measured amount, and coming in for regular weigh-ins at the vet’s office every 30 days for precise weight monitoring.

Patience is key. If the weight isn’t coming off right away, you may actually need to feed more instead of less. As your pet loses weight, the amount you feed them will have to change each month as well, and remember that cats and dogs are different! Fun Fact: Cats tend to lose weight better on canned food than dry! Also, putting your cat’s food in a high place that they have to jump to will automatically require them to have a bit more exercise, or you can consider using a food ball to stimulate prey behaviour. Finally, putting away your animal’s food once they are finished their meal for selected hours of the day will reduce grazing–this is especially important for cats. In some cases, the pet may have a medical condition that causes obesity, so consulting your veterinarian about the problem is very important. Remember, if you want your pet to be happy, everyday healthy eating and exercise is a necessity.


Brooks, Wendy C. “Obesity.” Veterinary Partner. N.p., 20 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 May 2014. <>.

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Swamp Monsters–They Really Do Exist!

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What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by exposure to a bacteria called leptospira, which are spread through the urine of infected animals. This urine can end up in soil, mud, and stagnant water, allowing the bacteria to survive there for a period of weeks or even months! Once in your pet, leptospira travel through the bloodstream, (causing many unwanted symptoms), and eventually settle in the kidneys where they begin to reproduce.

If your pets come in contact with the leptospira bacteria through abraded or water-softened skin, or drink contaminated water, they are at high risk of contracting this unwanted disease. If your pet becomes infected, it is likely they were drinking, swimming, or walking through contaminated waters, like Archie & Chance in the pictures below. Water can become contaminated from wild animals who carry the disease–mostly commonly raccoons and rats. Most cases occur in late summer and early autumn, so this is a period when you should be extra careful. Pets and working breeds that spend time in wooded or swampy areas are more likely to catch leptospirosis. Dogs that spend their lives indoors or in areas that are not contaminated by carrier wildlife are less likely to become infected.

What problems does leptospirosis cause?

Leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease, and kidney failure is a very common result, causing the ability to produce urine to become endangered and the condition to escalate quickly. Acute kidney failure affects 90% of dogs with leptospirosis; 10-20% of these also experience liver failure as well!

How prevalent is leptospirosis in Canada?

The prevalence of this disease is relatively steady between Canada and the United States, with 677 cases found of 1,819,792 dogs examined at 22 veterinary teaching hospitals between 1970-1998. So, the prevalence in this study comes out to 37/100,000 dogs. Although it seems small, the prevalence of infected dogs has increased significantly since 1983, which means vaccination is important. It should also be noted that “male dogs were at significantly greater risk of leptospirosis than were female dogs; dogs between 4 and 6.9 years old and between 7 and 10 years old were at significantly greater risk than dogs < 1 year old; and herding dogs, hounds, working dogs, and mixed-breed dogs were at significantly greater risk than companion dogs” (AVMA, 2002).

Sometimes, no symptoms occur at all, but when symptoms do occur, they most often take the form of fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, stiffness, severe muscle pain, inability to have puppies, excessive drinking (a symptom of acute kidney failure after sudden fever), jaundice, and excess bleeding. Younger animals tend to be more severely affected, and the disease is most common in large breed dogs. Sad Fact: There may be a genetic predisposition for leptospirosis in German Shepherd dogs.

How can I prevent and treat leptospirosis in my pets?

The most important prevention strategy against leptospirosis is vaccination. There are many different strains of leptospires, about 200, but there are 5 main ones which cause the disease! The vaccine does not prevent against all strains, but it does protect against the main four. It should be noted that the incidence of adverse reactions for this particular vaccine is slightly higher than other common vaccines. For this reason, generally only at-risk pets are vaccinated and the vaccine can be given on a separate day from other vaccines as an extra precaution.

Following the leptospirosis vaccine, a small number of dogs may experience a local reaction such as pain at the injection site. This can occur from 30 minutes to 1 week after the injection. There are medications that can be given to make your pet more comfortable. Please seek advice if your pet appears sore.

While relatively rare, some dogs will experience an anaphylactic (acutely allergic) response. This reaction is characterized by vomiting, facial swelling, itching, increased heart rate and/or the presence of hives. Additionally, the gums may appear very pale in colour, and the limbs may be cold to the touch. This type of reaction usually occurs within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccine.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency requiring prompt medical attention. All reactions should be reported immediately to your veterinarian or your local emergency clinic so that treatment can be given in a timely manner. It is good practice not to leave your pet unattended the day the vaccine is given.

Besides vaccines, some other tips involve keeping rodent problems under control, making sure your garbage is covered to prevent raccoon traffic, washing hands after coming in contact with an animal’s excrement, or avoiding handling completely if possible. Treatment can be as easy as administering antibiotics, but may require more complicated methods such as hydration and nutritional therapy. When testing for leptospirosis in your pet, it may be difficult to receive accurate results if the animal has been vaccinated within three months of testing. Blood tests and urine samples are the most common testing methods for this kind of disease but tests can take time. Since testing can be challenging, treatment is often undertaken prior to receiving the test results.

Can I get leptospirosis?

YES. Based on monitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1/3 of leptospirosis cases in humans come from contact with infected dogs, and 1/3 come from contact with infected rats. Without prevention, leptospirosis can cause kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.


Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 1). Leptospirosis. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: <>.

VIN Community Contributors. (2004, October 19). Leptospirosis and Your Pet: a CDC Fact Sheet. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner Website: <>.

AVMA. (2002, January 1). Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Leptospirosis Among Dogs in the United States and Canada: 677 Cases (1970–1998). Retrieved from American Veterinary Medical Association website: <>.

(2012, January 13). Leptospirosis. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: <>.

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury DVM