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.


Pets and Plants

March 7th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

With Easter coming up and spring planting to follow soon after, now is a good time to take inventory of the plants in your house and give thought to what you might be growing in the yard or garden this summer.

Cats and dogs are curious creatures, especially the young ones, and some pets just cannot resist a taste of any greenery that may be within reach. Many of the most common houseplants are toxic if ingested by animals. For example: lilies, which are so popular during the Easter season, contain a toxin that is especially dangerous for cats. Ingesting even a few leaves of the plant has been reported to cause fatal kidney failure.

There are dozens of types of houseplants that can be poisonous to pets, and it’s important to remember that some parts of a plant may contain particularly high concentrations of the toxin. Many flowering bulbs fall into this category. When the ground thaws in the spring, some dogs are inclined to dig vigorously to investigate all the wonderful smells and treasures that have been lurking for months beneath the snow. The discovery and ingestion of a newly sprouting flower bulb can result in one very ill canine.

Certain plants may become more toxic as they wilt or dry out, so take care to dispose promptly of any dropped leaves or remnants of pruning. Other plants have non-toxic leaves, but poisonous roots or rhizomes. And many common flower and plant seeds are also toxic to pets. The fruit of the apple, for instance, is perfectly edible — but the leaves, stems and seeds actually contain cyanide. The pit of many fruits, including apricots and avocados, also contain this toxin. Meanwhile, onions and members of the onion family (including garlic) contain a chemical that can cause the breakdown of red blood cells.

Incidentally, dogs and cats are not the only susceptible pets: house rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and pocket pets should all be closely monitored when they are allowed access to areas with plants.

In many cases, the consequences of ingesting a toxic plant are limited to the various forms of gastric upset, such as drooling, vomiting or diarrhea. Irritation of the mouth is also common. In certain situations, however, the result can be heart arrhythmias, seizures and even fatal organ failure. The ASPCA has an extensive Web site that lists both toxic and non-toxic indoor and outdoor plants and flowers. You will likely find nearly all the plants in your house described there in detail. Know what’s dangerous and what’s not: your pet will be safer, and you’ll enjoy peace of mind.

CLICK HERE for the ASPCA’s comprehensive guide to toxic and non-toxic plants.

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 Feline In The Family

February 21st, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

Adding a cat to your household can be a joyous occasion  – and a little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring the success of this new relationship. Maybe you’ve been planning for the new arrival for quite some time. Or maybe a lonely stray found her way to your front porch. In either case, a visit to your family veterinarian should probably be your first step.

Stray cats and kittens, as well as cats from a shelter, should be examined for signs of illness before being brought into your household. Problems to watch for include upper respiratory infections (which may look like a cold), eye infections and other diseases. A blood test may also be advisable, to check for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). These are diseases that depress the immune system and can have fatal consequences. Cats may carry these diseases for years without showing any outward signs, and mothers can pass on the infection to their kittens. Your veterinarian will also check for parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms and ear mites. He or she can let you know what vaccinations are needed, and can provide information about spaying and neutering as well.

Even if you purchase your kitten from a breeder, it’s still recommended that you make a timely visit to a veterinarian for a physical exam and all the appropriate vaccinations. Be certain to research your breed of choice carefully before buying, as some purebred cats are prone to genetic conditions that may cause kidney, heart or respiratory issues.

If you have no other pets, a new feline friend is pretty low maintenance. Most kittens virtually house train themselves when given easy access to a clean litter box. Keep in mind, though, that individual cats may have different preferences when it comes to the type of litter, and many dislike scented litter. Not surprisingly, cats would rather have their food and water dishes placed away from the litter box. And who can blame them — would you want to eat in your bathroom?

If you do have other animals in the house — particularly other cats — the introduction process can be a little trickier. Keep in mind that cats are territorial by nature, and will identify their personal space by marking — urine being the preferred mode of communication. You can help to avoid turf wars by providing each pet with his or her own feeding and elimination areas. The general rule: have one more litter box than you have cats.

Cats moving into a new environment also need safe resting and hiding areas. Try to provide elevated locations where cats can climb to observe activity from above. This allows them to acclimate more readily, while reducing their need to hide in closets or under beds.

Pheromone products are available that may also help to reduce stress. You can spray these in areas of the house where the cats reside, or buy plug-in dispensers that work much like a household air freshener. Keeping everybody’s claws trimmed short will help to avoid injuries if a newcomer does have a difference of opinion with an incumbent.

Cats and kittens have an amazing tolerance for rough handling from toddlers and younger children. They will endure a great deal of unintentional abuse, and will generally resort to escape rather than defending themselves with teeth or claws. For this reason, it is important that youngsters be taught how to handle their new pet gently and appropriately. With vigilant parental supervision, even pre-school children can take some responsibility for the care of the new family member. (Cats especially like fresh water, so youngsters can perhaps take on the task of replenishing the water dish several times a day.) Make sure the kitten’s needs have been tended to before the child sits down to eat breakfast or dinner.

Finally, remember that cats and kittens are curious creatures, and will investigate anything new and interesting. Be sure to keep doors and windows closed or screened off to prevent escape. Craft materials such as yarn, thread or ribbon can be extremely hazardous if swallowed. Take inventory of your houseplants, and check to make certain that your cat doesn’t have access to any plants that might be toxic. When choosing cat toys, try to find those that are durable, and don’t let your cat play with delicate toys unsupervised — there’s always a risk of ingesting small parts. Interactive battery-operated toys are a great way for your kitten to burn off excess energy, and food-puzzle toys help to channel hunting instincts in a constructive way.

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.


Five Foods You Didn’t Know Were DANGEROUS FOR PETS

February 8th, 2012


A new monthly pets column by Laura Ducharme and Jen Mitchell, host and producer, respectively of The Pet Network original series Fido & Wine, makes it debut in the February issue of On the Go magazine. Congratulations, Laura and Jen! We’ll be reposting their columns here, so check back every month for more great advice and insight on living with and caring for pets.

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