Your Pets & Halloween

October 29th, 2013


Trick or treat! It’s Halloween (almost), and Fido & Wine‘s Jen Mitchell Oddi and Laura Ducharme have a column in this month’s On The GO Magazine with some spook-tastic seasonal safety tip for pet owners. Read on … if you dare!

It is well known that we must keep our dogs away from chocolate, but there are many other pet safety hazards related to Halloween that you should be aware of.

Keep your pets indoors and in a safe place. Not only might they dash out the door during times of frenzied trick or treating, they are at risk for cruel treatment by so called Halloween pranksters. They can be taken and injured by these sick people. Many adoption agencies have banned adoption of black cats around Halloween for this very reason.

Make sure that your pet is not able to get near your jack-o’-lantern or any candles. One wag of a tail or an acrobatic cat can knock them over and start a fire. Consider using battery operated LED candles instead.

It’s not just chocolate that shouldn’t be fed to dogs (or cats for that matter). Some candy includes xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic and can cause seizures. Wrappers and sticks can pose a risk as well. Keep the candy bowls away from your pets and make sure your kids understand the dangers of sharing their loot with their furry friends.

Cute costumes are hard to resist — but if you’re going to dress up your pet in costume, make sure they’re comfortable and safe. Never, ever leave them unsupervised when in a costume.

Halloween is a great time to remind us to make sure our pets are identifiable with a microchip or tattoo, preferably. At the very least, make sure your pet’s wearing a collar with a tag.

Catch the Pet Network original series Fido & Wine weeknights at 6:30 pm Eastern.

And don’t forget to check out Jen’s blog, My Dog’s Breakfast. She posts a ton of great recipes and ideas for folks who want to prepare healthy and delicious meals for their canine companions.


February 1st, 2013


From puppy pret-a-porter to kitty couture, PET FASHION is your guide to what the world’s best-dressed pets are wearing. This one-of-a-kind Canadian series returns to The Pet Network this weekend with brand new episodes. Here’s the official announcement from the producers, our friends at FRONT TV:

PET FASHION, the only show of its kind that brings pet chic into focus, is returning for a fourth season on The Pet Network. New episodes of the half-hour program, hosted by Kristina Ejem (pictured below) will make their broadcast premiere on Saturdays and Sundays, starting February 2, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. ET. (Repeats at 1 am ET.)

PET FASHION, a fun and innovative lifestyle series, offers an in-depth look at the evolving world of the companion-animal kingdom – from educators and innovators creating the latest pet products, to visionary designers who are shaping the current pet fashions and trends of tomorrow, to the pet lovers who share their stories and the contents of their pet’s closets.

The new season will include a salute to all things fandom-licious, an interview with a real-life Dr. Dolittle, a discussion of pet reincarnation, and an introduction to a canine whose resumé reads like an A-list celeb. We’ll also meet a pet-advocate Italian Prince, go gaga over pet fashion, get the inside scoop on the latest pet-centric events, and more.

“This is this only program that shines a positive light on pet fashion designers,” says PET FASHION producer Bianca Kapteyn. “Usually, the editorial slant on these stories is jokey and frivolous. We take pet fashion designers seriously. Some of them are practically rock stars.”

PET FASHION is produced by FRONT TV, an international award winning and broadcast design and branding agency with its own TV production and animation arm that is aimed at producing high-quality, ground breaking entertainment. FRONTS’ headquarters, TV studio, animation and post-production facilities are located in Toronto, ON. For more info: www.front.tv.


Babysitter Wanted, Opposable Thumbs Not Required

November 19th, 2012

So a friend forwarded this gallery of images, and … well, it’s Monday and whose spirits couldn’t use a lift? Really, toddlers and pets: an unbeatable combination. Prepare to squee!


Woofjocks @ Purina PawsWay Toronto

May 21st, 2012


Posted by Christina Dun

Our newest PETnews contributor, blogger Christina Dun, joined Kalen, Michael, Jonelle and the rest of the team this past Saturday at Purina PawsWay Toronto as Woofjocks presented thrilling demonstration of agility, flyball, freestyle disc and other canine sports. Check out the full photo gallery HERE, and don’t forget to follow Christina’s blog HERE.

For all you Toronto dog or cat owners looking for pet-friendly places to spend a great long weekend afternoon, PawsWay is the place to be. Located at Queens Quay, it’s full of activities, exhibits and special events for both you and your pet. And on Saturday May 19, Woofjocks was the highlight of the day.

Woofjocks is an educational and entertaining variety-type show with the goal of demonstrating that dog training can — and should — be fun. It’s all about building relationships with your pet. And even though I don’t have any pets of my own, I do love being around animals, so shooting this segment for The Pet Network was pretty fun.

When we arrived, the Woofjocks show had already begun, so we got settled and started getting footage of the event. I’m not used to photographing animal events, so it was a challenge to get good shots — they were constantly moving, and I’ll admit, I do get distracted when cute dogs are around. But in the end I think it went well.

Woofjocks showcased agility, speed, and obedience, along with choreography to music and fun tricks. Following the show, Kalen and Michael set foot onto the obstacle course and shot some footage while trainers and their dogs ran around them. It was pretty entertaining to watch.

Some other great features of PawsWay are the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, a breed match station, and the Williams Fresh Cafe.

Check out the full photo gallery HERE.

Making The Best Of The Golden Years

May 16th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

Last time I discussed one of my favourite topics: senior pets. Having had several of these in my own life, and having seen countless others in my veterinary practice, I have particular soft spot for the older pet who’s given many years of loyal companionship.

In the not-so-distant past, we had to resign ourselves to the fact that old age  — for pets and people — meant decreased activity, increased stiffness and, quite often, chronic pain. Happily, this is no longer the case. For our aging pets, as for ourselves, there are now many options available to help make life more comfortable.

As a veterinarian, I believe the first hurdle is recognizing that your pet may be in pain. Human beings, as a species, are a pretty whiny bunch. We’re all too pleased to share the details of our slightest aches and pains with anyone willing to listen. Our pets, though? Not so much. Mother Nature designs animals with a built-in instinct to hide pain or illness. In the wild, any creature who lets it be known that he or she is hurting stands a pretty good chance of becoming somebody’s lunch.

So when I see a pet that is less active or engaged with their owner, that shows signs of stiffness, sleeps excessively or (in the case of dogs) pants a great deal, I’m going to assume that the animal is in pain. I would rather err on the side of compassion than allow the pet to suffer in silence.

So let’s say you and the vet have concluded that your senior pet may be suffering from chronic pain, caused by a condition such as arthritis. Now what? Often, the only way to know for certain is to treat the pet for pain.

For dogs, there exists a wide range of safe and highly effective pain-relieving medications. Many were developed specifically for long-term use on animals with chronic pain. And their impact on a dog’s quality of life can be profound. I love hearing from owners about old dogs that are getting into trouble again: climbing up on that white couch reserved for company or chasing the neighbour’s cat. Acting years younger, in other words.

When prescribing medication for an older pet, your vet will likely recommend bloodwork to make certain there isn’t an underlying problem with the the liver or kidneys. Since most medications are processed through these organs, it’s important to confirm that they are functioning properly.

For senior cats, the choices are more limited. Cats have a very different metabolism from dogs or humans, and medications must be selected carefully to meet their needs without causing undesirable side effects. Still, there are a number of excellent options for pain control in felines, and many cats can be made quite comfortable with medication that needs only to be given a few times a week.

Glucosamine chondroitin, a naturally-occurring supplement with anti-inflammatory properties, works well to ease joint pain and increase flexibility in both dogs and cats. SAM-e and fish oils may have similar benefits and offer a more holistic approach to pain management. Your veterinarian can also administer a series of injections of a naturally-derived product that helps to lubricate joints and maintain joint health.

Veterinary acupuncture is a field gaining wider acceptance and becoming increasingly popular with pet owners. Acupuncture can promote relaxation, improve overall functioning, and reduce pain and stress. A further advantage is the absence of adverse side effects.

Pet massage, heat and cold therapies, rehabilitation exercises and therapeutic ultrasound are also excellent ways to help your pet. Owners can learn how to perform some of these techniques themselves, so that treatment can be done in the comfort of home — something many senior pets appreciate.

One consideration that owners of elderly pets sometimes overlook is the home environment. Take a look around the house or apartment from your pet’s point of view. Older kitties still love to observe their world from high places, but often can’t get up to that ledge or bookshelf because they can’t jump or climb anymore. A non-slip ramp or stack of cushions leading up to a favourite perch will be very welcome.

Older dogs, especially larger ones, tend to land hard on their elbows when they lie down. Thick, padded bedding is more comfortable and will help prevent callous formation and pressure sores on bony joint areas.

Finally, bear in mind that regular activity slows the aging process — for people as well as pets. Even if they can’t travel far, senior dogs still benefit from a daily walk. Older cats, similarly, can be coaxed into a play session with an engaging toy. Pet stores and online suppliers offer all manner of light-up and moving toys that even the grumpiest old felines find hard to resist. A few daily dashes across the living room or down the hall will help prevent muscle wasting and keep joints mobile.

Secreting a few treats around the house or yard for your dog or cat to search for is another good way to encourage activity and provide mental stimulation. Hunting for food is a deeply ingrained behaviour that animals retain throughout their lives — and old noses stay sharp and sensitive even after hearing and sight have diminished.

Inevitably, the end comes for all of us. But the last years of your pet’s life can be a time to treasure — and afterward, you can take comfort in knowing you did everything possible to make that time the best it could be.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Growing Old Gracefully

May 1st, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

When you share your life with a beloved pet, the years fly by all too quickly. One day your children come home with a tiny kitten they found under the neighbour’s porch. In no time, those same kids are attending university and that endearing kitten is a long-treasured member of your family.

The good news is that our pets are living longer than ever. Thanks to vaccinations and improvements in veterinary care, many domestic animals now live well into their teens — and a few even reach a third decade.

It’s important to remember that pets age on a different timeline than their owners. The adage about one human year equaling seven pet years really only applies to a fairly narrow range in the life of a dog or cat. If you think of human aging as a diagonal line, pet aging looks more like bell curve. There is a comparatively short youth, followed by a much more rapid progression of old age.

Cats and small breeds of dog mature quite rapidly, generally reaching physical and sexual maturity between 9 and 12 months of age. So a year-old cat or small dog is essentially at the same stage of life as your typical high school senior. (Parents of teenagers may wish their own kids could sail though adolescence in a few short months!) Larger breeds of dog may take anywhere from 18 months to two years to reach maturity.

From there, pets tend to age fairly uniformly — but by the age of six or seven years, the aging process again begins to vary widely. Among giant breeds of dogs, for example, ages eight to 10 are the geriatric years. Many of these lovely breeds, sadly, do not live into their teens.

For healthy cats and most other dogs, however, these years represent the prime of life. Indeed, cats and some toy breed dogs may be well into their early or mid teens before owners start to notice the physical signs typical of advancing age. On the other hand, larger dogs — such as retrievers, shepherd-type breeds and others of similar size — will begin to show signs of aging earlier.

Regardless of their chronological age, once pets reach their geriatric years they begin to show the same kinds of physical changes that we see in ourselves as the retirement years approach.

Many owners become concerned when they notice the cloudy blue haze that sometimes appears in the eyes of older dog or cat. It shouldn’t be cause for alarm, though. If there’s no sign of discharge or redness, and no evidence (such as blinking or rubbing) to suggest it’s causing pain, then what you’re seeing is likely just a natural consequence of advancing age — a gradual hardening of the lens of the eye, which is the structure that allows us to adjust our sight for fine motor tasks. Unless your pets like to read or do needlepoint, they won’t be troubled by it.

A progressive loss of hearing is another common sign of aging; it may even afford a degree of comfort to a senior pet, as it does help turn down the volume if the household is a particularly boisterous. Owners, however, sometimes find it a bit distressing to discover that their pets don’t always come when called anymore. (Then, again, if you have cats you’re probably used to being ignored.)

Arthritis in geriatric pets is as common as it is among senior citizens. If you live long enough, the years of wear and tear on your joints begin to add up. The joints become less flexible — and in advanced cases can cause quite a lot of pain. Cats and dogs usually signal this pain through a decrease in their normal activities, or a reluctance to do things they used to do, such as jumping up on a bed or climbing stairs. Dogs suffering from chronic pain may pant even when they are neither hot nor tired. Pets may also sleep excessively to escape the discomfort.

Some changes in behaviour can indicate a potentially serious health issue. Owners of senior pets should be especially alert for any change in appetite. An animal that gradually loses its appetite or that must be coaxed into eating with treats should see a veterinarian. The change may be caused by infected, loose or painful teeth, or may signal the nausea resulting by an internal organ problem. Cats or dogs that eat voraciously but still lose weight might be suffering from diabetes, kidney disease or even cancer. Excessive thirst is also a warning sign. It’s a common symptom of several serious but treatable diseases.

Keep an eye out for these signs. Pets, like people, stand the the best chance of recovery when illness is diagnosed in the early stages.

Next time, we’ll discuss ways to help keep your aging pets happy and comfortable in their twilight years. There is nothing quite so comforting as the warmth of a old cat snoozing in your lap, or a loving look from the faithful, grey-muzzled dog you’ve raised from a rambunctious pup. There are many things you can do to make sure this will be a wonderful time for both of you.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.

A Phone Call Home

April 17th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

CBC Radio recently aired the story of a dog named Rivers, who disappeared from his fenced backyard and was recently returned to his owner after being found in Calgary, Alberta. Not really headline material — until you learn that Rivers was lost four years ago. And that his owners live in Arkansas.

No one knows how or why this Labrador retriever found his way across the border. Does he have a passport? (Where would he keep it?) Rivers has not been forthcoming with the details; doubtless he’s holding out for a big cheque from one of the tabloids.

What we do know is this: Rivers is back home with his owner today because he happens to have a microchip.

Microchip technology has come a long way in recent years, and has become one of the best tools available for helping owners to keep their pets safe.

Other methods for identifying and tracking pets do exist, but they have their limitations. In many parts of Canada, a tattoo is placed on the inside of the right ear when an animal is spayed or neutered, allowing the pet to to be traced back to the clinic that originally performed the surgery. However, if the animal changes owners, or if the the owner moves, this may not be particularly helpful for identification. Tattoos can also fade or become illegible over time.

Collar identification is important too, but collars can easily be lost or removed. (If you do rely on collar ID, make sure to include an emergency contact, in case you have an accident and cannot be reached, or become separated from your pet while traveling.)

The microchip has two big advantages over both of these other forms of identification: it is permanent and unalterable. The chip is placed under the skin between the shoulder blades, via a simple procedure quite similar to a vaccination. When read by a scanner, the chip — which is no larger than a grain of rice — emits a unique number that is registered with the microchip company. If your pet goes missing, you can contact the company by telephone any time of day or night, 365 days a year.

Unlike a collar tag, a microchip cannot be lost. If your contact information changes, or if the pet is sold or given to someone else, all it takes is a quick call to the company to get the records updated immediately. Microchipping your pet also provides proof of ownership — an important advantage, since photographs and veterinary records aren’t always sufficient in cases where there’s is a legal dispute over custody of an animal.

When your pet is given a microchip, a collar tag comes along with it. If someone finds your lost dog or cat, the collar will alert them to the presence of a chip, and will include an identification number and a telephone number to call.

While a scanner is required to identify the presence of a microchip, these instruments have become increasingly affordable, and most veterinary clinics and animal shelters. can be expected to have one. Most of these facilities, moreover, will scan a pet for no charge. If you’ve brought in a stray, they can also lend a hand in contacting the microchip supplier and locating the rightful owner.

Having a microchip means that if your pet should ever end up in a shelter, the staff will have a much better chance of tracking you down and reuniting you with your lost companion. Veterinary clinic staff usually scan for a microchip immediately when dealing with an unidentified and injured animal. The presence of a microchip can prevent delays in much-needed treatments that legally require an owner’s permission.

Because microchips are so tiny, they can even be placed in reptiles, birds and a host of other exotic animals. Some organizations require a microchip for the registration of certain breeds of horses. And many performance events involving animals also require microchip identification.

For pet owners, a microchip can mean a lifetime of peace of mind. While not all lost-and-found pet stories are quite so dramatic as that of Rivers, microchipping certainly has made for many safe and happy reunions.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Lumps And Bumps

April 10th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

Discovering an unusual growth on your pet’s body can be a scary experience. With so much media attention devoted to the dangers of cancer, the sudden realization that your pet might have a tumor is understandably distressing. Knowing what to look for can help you spot potentially dangerous situations and may even save your pet’s life.

First, a little reassurance: skin growths and lumps that develop below the skin surface are a fairly common occurrence, especially in middle-aged and senior dogs. Many are completely harmless — a cosmetic issue, at worst.

As pets age, changes occur in the skin that can cause an overgrowth of skin cells — commonly referred to as skin tags. Some dogs, especially smaller breeds such as poodles and spaniels, are also prone to plugged-up oil glands or hair follicles. These cyst-like growths may be unsightly, but they’re not problematic unless they break open and become irritated or bleed.

Larger breeds, particularly retrievers, are prone to fatty tumors beneath the skin or within muscle tissue. These fat deposits, called lipomas, are soft and can rapidly grow quite large. Lipomas can cause discomfort if they interfere with the animal’s movement, or if their size causes the overlying skin to stretch. In very rare instances, fatty tumors can prove malignant, behaving like more aggressive types of cancerous growths.

So when should you become concerned?

First, beware of growths that look like wounds but don’t heal. This is particularly true for cats. Tumors of the ears, nose and face may begin as reddened, scabbed areas rather than lumps.

Just like people, pets can suffer from melanomas: malignant growths of skin pigment cells. (White-faced animals, like fair-skinned people, are particularly prone to these skin tumors.) Melanomas tend to dark or black in colour, but may also be pale or pink. When these tumors occur in or around the mouth or feet, they can be extremely aggressive, and may spread to the lungs or bone. If you find a mass fitting this description, an immediate trip to the vet is called for.

A mast cell tumor is another common type of cancer — one that can be particularly deceiving. Mast cell tumors generally occur on or under the skin. They tend to be small and grow slowly, sometimes over a period of months or even longer. They look unimpressive, so many owners simply don’t realize how dangerous they can be. These tumors release histamine — the same chemical that the body produces in response to an insect bite or sting — so you may notice your pet scratching or chewing at the area. The lump may also be red, and may vary in size — becoming smaller over time, then growing larger. Again, schedule a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Left untreated, these tumors can become extremely aggressive, potentially spreading to internal organs.

Female dogs and cats that have not been spayed, or that have been spayed later in life, stand a higher risk of developing breast cancer. These tumors occur on the belly, often starting out as firm growths under the skin that feel like tiny pebbles. They can multiply rapidly, and may spread to the lungs or lymph nodes.

Cats are less likely than dogs to develop abnormal growths — but those tumors that do occur are more likely to be cancerous. Some of the most aggressive types of tumors are deceptively innocent in appearance, so a good rule of thumb is to have any growth on your cat checked out as soon as possible. Don’t wait to see if the mass grows. Early diagnosis and treatment can be critical to preventing the advancement of the disease.

If you’ve found an unusual growth, make a point of marking the location prior to the examination. You’d be surprised how often a readily noticeable lump will seem to move or disappear once you’re in the vet’s office — especially if you happen to have a large or long-haired animal. Clip the hair short in the vicinity of the lump, or use a permanent marker on a light-coloured pet. Lipstick also works well and is easy to remove.

For a definitive diagnosis of any abnormal growth, you must arrange a veterinary exam. But your sharp eyes and vigilance are also key to ensuring early diagnosis and successful treatment.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Video Blog: Travel Tips

March 14th, 2012


Looking forward to a spring getaway? Make sure your vacation plans include provisions for your pet while you’re away. In this video blog post, The Pet Network’s Melissa walks you through the best options, from posh doggie hotels and spas to professional dog walkers and nannies.


Cures for Your HAIRY HOME

March 9th, 2012


The Pet Network’s Fido & Wine team of Jen Mitchell and Laura Ducharme have published their latest column in On the Go magazine. This month’s article offers welcome advice for anyone who’s ever felt like they’re waging a losing battle against encroaching pet hair.

On the Go is available at TTC and GO Train stations in the Greater Toronto Area. CLICK HERE to check out the current issue.

Oh, and this is probably a good time to remind you about our contest: The Pet Network and Fido & Wine will be giving one lucky viewer the ultimate shedding solution: a FURminator deShedding Tool, courtesy of our friends at SuperFetch Bloor in Toronto. To enter, visit The Pet Network on FACEBOOK. Contest closes Friday March 30, 2012.


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