Itchy Pets

One of the most common reasons I am asked to examine a pet other than for its annual physical and vaccine status assessment, is for skin issues. Most of the time, the lesions are associated with itch—sometimes the itch comes after, or is caused by, whatever is going on. Sometimes, the skin is ‘normal’ to start with, and the scratching causes the changes that we see. This can be an important differentiation when I’m trying to diagnose what the problem is…
There are skin conditions that are ‘non-itchy’, and the skin changes, or hair falls out, but there is no itch. Glandular conditions (thyroid, for example) can cause that to happen. We’re going to focus in this blog edition on skin problems associated with itch. There are few things more annoying than a dog scratching, or a cat licking, and waking you up from a deep and restful sleep…

In the warm weather, the most common cause of scratching is parasites, or a reaction to them. It is interesting to note that a single flea bite will make a dog scratch incessantly, while most cats pay no attention to fleas biting them (look instead for tell-tale signs of ‘flea dirt’ deep in the hair coat usually over the pelvic area or around the neck). Another common parasite is the mange mite, which causes the most intensely itch in dogs that we see, usually under the belly, backs of legs, elbows and ears.

Another factoid—ticks, which are increasing in numbers and interest because of Lyme disease, usually cause no itch whatsoever—they inject a little local anesthetic when they bite, and the host doesn’t even know they’re there! Our clinic recommends programs that are easy to use, that prevent and treat fleas and ticks on dogs and cats. Mange is also treated and prevented by a simple and safe monthly medication.

Another common cause of sudden onset of itch with obvious skin changes is a Staph infection. This can quickly turn into a ‘hot spot’, a small area of oozing and red skin that can spread like wildfire if left untreated. This is most common in dogs with thick undercoats. Swimming can be a factor, but is seen in dogs that never go in the water. Staph infections can also cause red scabby lesions that can look like ringworm (which usually ISN’T itchy!).

The most frustrating and difficult cause of itchiness in dogs (and to a lesser extent, in cats) is allergies. They are just as common in pets as in their owners, and usually cause itch in the spring (grasses and tree pollens), summer and fall (weeds including goldenrod and ragweed) or all year (food allergies). Antihistamines work for only about 10% of dogs, so for the rest we have to use special shampoos, sprays, omega fatty acid supplements, products that strengthen the skin barrier to prevent pollens from reaching deep into the skin, and a variety of other strategies. A lot of research has gone into special foods for allergy management even if it’s not a food allergy! New medications have also come out in the last several years that help control itch and inflammation with fewer side effects than our longtime favourite, prednisone.

If we suspect a food allergy, at some point a ‘diet trial’ will be recommended for 4-8 weeks. This involves ensuring that nothing but the special elimination diet and water are the only things that go into your dog’s or cat’s mouth…the fall or winter is the best time for that.
Treating an itchy pet involves an accurate diagnosis of what is going on at the skin and cellular level, to ensure all causes are being addressed. Working with your veterinary team to follow up on supplements and medications will help to ensure that we can maximize success and have a plan to address flare-ups and recurrences.

Diagnosing and treating that itchy pet will give everyone a better night’s sleep!

Dr. Kevin Belbeck
Sauble Beach Pet Hospital


May 2017


In this blog, we’re going to talk about spaying and neutering, what the difference is, when you should have it done on your pet, what’s involved and when you might consider not having it done. Spaying is the removal of a female cat or dog’s ovaries and uterus—they no longer go through heat cycles and can’t become pregnant. Ovariectomy, which is the removal of only the ovaries, is common in Europe but not in North America. Neutering is the removal of the testicles in a male dog or cat, removing the source of sperm and most of the production of testosterone. These surgeries are routine and very low risk when the animal is young.
There are 3 main reasons to have your pet spayed or neutered (one of the reasons is NOT being a big fan of Bob Barker—okay; that’s for the older crowd, few of whom may be reading this blog—he used to end his show “The Price is Right” by saying “Make sure to have your pet spayed or neutered”….you could google it…):
1) Reduce pet overpopulation—while it might be a cute idea to have kittens or puppies, many perfectly healthy young animals end up in shelters without finding a good home and thousands are euthanized because of it.
2) Improve the Health Risk Potential of your pet—a neutered dog or cat is less likely to wander, be at risk of a traffic or wildlife encounter, or become involved in fights which may lead to serious (and expensive) injuries. A female dog or cat spayed before their first heat is at much lower risk of breast cancer later in life, and will never have a uterine infection. In the past few weeks here at the clinic, we have seen life-threatening examples of both of those situations in older, non-spayed pets…sad (and much more expensive!). Also, if your female pet has trouble giving birth, surgical intervention may be required—a bill usually 4-5 times the cost of spaying!
3) Improve the behaviour potential of your pet—spayed and neutered pets are much easier to train and make better pets. They’re also much less likely to be territorial and have issues with inappropriate urination. ‘Having a litter, or just one heat’ does NOT improve personality.
Will you be using your dog for guarding, hunting or serious breeding? Please discuss all the factors involved with your vet before making a decision.
When’s the best time? Shelters often spay and neuter pets when just weeks of age to prevent unwanted litters, but most vets suggest between 5 and 7 months of age. Some purebred breeds may benefit from delaying the surgery a bit longer. Talk to your veterinary team for more information.

MARCH 2017


It’s been said that the single most important thing we do for are pets is something that we do every day, and an action that is routine and easy: what and how much we put in our pet’s food bowl!! We are being constantly bombarded with advertising about pet nutrition—it is a huge and lucrative market!! As our pets become closer to being members of the family, it is understandable that we want to feed them better food, and to become more knowledgeable and involved in that food bowl decision! And what about treats??? There are so many choices…

As a vet, I consider myself fortunate that pet nutrition is an integral part of not only how we keep our pets healthy, put also how we manage certain disease conditions in all ages of dogs and cats. Human medicine in our part of the world does not pay much attention to what we as people eat….years of research in the pet food industry have resulted in the availability of not only complete and balanced diets, but also therapeutic diets that can treat many illnesses! If your pet comes to the Sauble Beach Pet Hospital for an illness or just for a wellness checkup, we want to talk to you about what and how much you’re putting in that bowl…as well as what they’re getting for treats, snacks and things to chew on.

We all project ourselves into our pets—how can they eat the same thing every day??? That must be boring….yet dogs and cats have 12-19 times fewer taste buds that humans, and also that many times more olfactory (smelling) cells! That’s why we recommend warming food to give off more aromas when trying to tempt a pet to eat. We also like to read labels—pet food companies can list all kinds of wonderful ingredients that sound great, but may not add much to the actual nutrition of the food! Here’s another trick used by a certain food company (one with a colour): there are very few rules for pet food, but one of them is that ingredients are listed by weight, so “fresh” chicken not only sounds better than “chicken meal”, but also contains 80% water, so it gets to go first on the label, and who wouldn’t like that? This is also a good time to note that there are no regulations for the words ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘holistic.

We will work with you to find the best nutrition based on the following 3 questions:

1) Is the food safe? (what are the sources; quality control; manufacturing standards, etc);

2) Is the food nutritious? (beyond the minimum panel, has there been clinical trials?);

3) Is it the right food for my pet? (breed, age, coat and skin condition, medical history?)

Two of the major issues in nutrition right now are obesity (about 70% of adult dogs and cats in a recent U.S. survey) as well as food allergies (showing up as skin, ear and itch problems in addition to digestibility problems). Feeding the right food can make a world of difference and we’re committed to helping! We will answer your questions, provide information or point you in the right direction to get started.

—–Dr. Kevin Belbeck Sauble Beach Pet Hospital



One of the most annoying sounds to wake up to in the middle of the night is your dog scratching its ears and shaking its head…the most likely cause is an outer ear infection called “Otitis Externa”. This is a common condition in any breed of dog, but those with long, floppy ears or those that have hair in their ears are more prone to infections. Cats rarely get ear infections!

Dog and cat ears function much the same way human ears do—there is an outer flap (pinna) to direct sound waves; an ear canal leading to an eardrum; a middle ear with small bones to transmit the vibrations; and an inner ear that translates the sound waves into nerve signals that get sent to the brain. The inner ear also helps maintain balance—a severe infection of the inner ear can result in a head tilt!

Contrary to popular myth, most ear infections are NOT caused by ear mites…those are most often seen in young dogs and cats from less-than-ideal beginnings! When exposure to another such pet is possible, we’ll often check some wax and debris from the ear to ensure that mites are not involved.

Instead, most infections are caused by an overgrowth of either yeast or bacterial organisms that already populate the ear canal normally…an increase that is triggered by some factor including moisture, trauma, allergies (including food), or certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism.

In addition to head shaking and scratching, signs of an ear infection include a dark or bloody discharge from the ear, pain, swelling, and an offensive odour. Chronically infected ears are often thickened and scarred to the point that the ear canal has been closed over!

Your vet will assess the ears and decide the best treatment schedule to follow. Diagnostic tests or other follow-up procedures may be necessary if the infection responds poorly or recurs frequently. Daily cleaning and treatment will likely be necessary but we have a new weekly treatment, given twice, that doesn’t require home treatment. Ask if this treatment might be able to be used on your pet.

An ear infection that returns at the same time yearly, or that happens during the winter, may indicate an allergy. Your vet may recommend additional testing, or a restrictive feeding trial as part of the treatment protocol. There are many dogs who may benefit from such an approach to ear infections.

Another complication of ear infections can be an ‘aural hematoma’…this is a swelling on the ear flap as a result of a broken blood vessel in the ear. Most dogs with this condition have underlying ear disease. Surgery is often indicated so that your pet does not end up with a shriveled ear flap.

Most dogs should have their ears checked and cleaned on a regular basis to ensure no wax or debris is building up. Ask your vet or vet tech to show you how!

Dr. Kevin Belbeck



 We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives, but when do you know your pet is becoming a ‘senior citizen’? The old rule of thumb about 7 times their age in human years is a good guideline up to a point, but an 8 year old cat or small dog is similar to a person in their late forties, while an 8 year old dog belonging to a large breed, is like a person in their early sixties! Just as your own doctor asks a few more questions, and recommends a few more tests, your veterinarian will talk about how getting older impacts your pet, what to watch for, and how to proactively manage changes that inevitably occur. Remember that as a vet, if I see your pet for a checkup and possibly some tests on an annual basis, it’s like seeing your doctor or dentist only once every seven years!

Getting older, for our pets as well as ourselves, means subtle changes to metabolism. We lose muscle mass; vision and hearing become less acute. There are more aches and pains, and it takes us longer to recover from physical stress. We may need to get the flu shot and the shingles shot as our immune system changes; your pet needs to stay up to date on recommended vaccinations. Skin texture changes, and little lumps may appear. Internally, organs may start to show signs of ‘wearing down’. Our temperament and personality may change, and we may get more anxious. The good news is, that not only are there simple things you can do to monitor your pet’s changes, our veterinary health team has many ways to help your pet age gracefully and healthfully, and to detect problems in their early stages!

Ensure that your pet has an annual health examination. Senior pets with concerns are best seen by your vet every 6 months (remember, that’s three human years!) Blood and urine tests may be recommended on a regular basis to look for early changes. Parasite prevention and treatment will be discussed. Lumps need to be checked and monitored. Dental health becomes very important after years of plaque and tartar buildup. Changes in thirst, urination, appetite, weight, vision and hearing must be noted and followed up on. Decreasing mobility, or pain and stiffness, can be addressed appropriately. Nutrition, an area where animal health far exceeds that of humans, can strategically prevent or target specific age-related conditions such as loss of muscle mass, gastrointestinal issues, or declining cognitive function.

Working together with your veterinary health team can really help to keep your pet active and healthy to maximize health for a long life! We’ll see you and your pet soon!

Dr. Kevin Belbeck and the team at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital



We’ve had a warm and lovely fall season here at Sauble Beach, but it will soon be October and it seems as though Halloween signals the start of ‘real’ fall, with frost, colder weather and the time changing to rob us of our evening daylight.

The warmth of September and October this far has meant that seasonal problems like allergies (commonly manifested as itchiness, chewing at legs and feet, and ear infection flare-ups) as well as flea infestations, are still present and remain a concern for some pets. By now, frost has usually eased these afflictions!

The purpose of this blog is to outline some of the safety concerns, both obvious and subtle, that we need to be on the outlook for around the Halloween season!

  1.  Candy and Chocolate:  most people are aware that chocolate is bad for their pets, but it is more of a concern than just causing indigestion: chocolate contains an ingredient that can affect your pet’s heart and also cause nervous system issues. Ensure that pre-holiday storage of treats is secure, and make sure that when you put the goodies out on Halloween, they’re out of reach of curious pets;


  1. Pumpkins:  candles can be a source of injury to curious cats and excited dogs. Make sure the flame is protected;


  1. Costumes:  if you must dress your pet up for the event (and, let’s admit that most people have a great time with their pet in costume and posting on social media), make sure that the costume fits properly and can’t be chewed or get tangled up and cause injury or anxiety;


  1. Anxiety and Escapism:   The doorbell! People’s voices! So much excitement! Pay attention to your pet’s personality—it can be overwhelming and stressful if you’re in a neighbourhood that has many trick-or-treaters. If you have an cat that may escape, make sure things are secure to prevent getting out during the excitement. If your pet is anxious about things, a quiet area with some white noise will make for a more comfortable evening for everyone!

Stay safe and have fun!  Happy Halloween from the staff at the Sauble Beach Pet Hospital—your pet’s ‘second-best’ friends…

July/August 2016


One of the concerns of a nice hot summer is the risk of heatstroke to your pet, which can be a life-threatening, and often fatal condition if left untreated. Being aware of the risk factors can help prevent this condition, and we’ll also discuss what to do (and what NOT to do) in an emergency if you find a dog that may be suffering from this. Hyperthermia is a rise in body temperature, and can be caused by internal factors, such as a fever due to infection, but is also affected by external temperature, especially our hot, humid summers. Exercise in the heat, and lack of access to water and shade are also risk factors for our pets, as are underlying medical conditions involving the heart, lungs and airway, and being overweight. We’ve all seen people smashing car windows to get at dogs who have been left unattended in the vehicle; even in the shade, or with a breeze, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to catastrophic levels. As a dog’s body temperature rises past 40 degrees C (104 degrees Fahrenheit), the body tries to get rid of the extra heat by panting, one of the few ways dogs can ”sweat”. This will become excessive, and drooling and anxiety will quickly set in. Soon, the gums will start to turn colour (blue/purple or bright red), as the lungs and heart start to run out of adequate oxygen. The dog becomes unsteady and may collapse. Organs begin to fail as the body is unable to prevent tissue damage caused by the excessive heat. Death can quickly follow.WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT A PET HAS HEATSTROKE Move the pet to a cool place, or the shade Use a fan, or AC if you have it for extra cooling and to move air to aid evaporation Place cool, wet towels (using cold tap water) over the body, especially the groin, armpits and the back of the neck—the ear flaps and feet are also good areas for cooling Call the nearest vet and transport ASAP for i.v. fluids and supportive careWHAT NOT TO DO Do not use direct ice to prevent frost damage to skin; cooling a pet too quickly can also cause unintended complications; steady, controlled cooling is best Do not force the pet to drink cool water, as aspiration may occur if the pet is too weak to swallow properly Make sure that you and those around you are aware of how heatstroke happens, and how to prevent it–this is an entirely avoidable condition! Shade, air conditioning and rest on hot and humid days is best for your pet. If you see a pet in distress in a vehicle, try to find the owners and call the police. Have a safe and happy summer from the team at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital!

JUNE 2016


Sometimes, our dogs exhibit fear of loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, or vehicles. This phobia can seem to be present from birth, or can develop early or later in life. It can happen from a single experience, or can get worse with each event. The anxiety can range from panting and pacing to panic, escape-seeking behaviour, or destruction of their surroundings. There can be a predisposition, or genetic basis, for anxiety, or it may simply be a reaction to what is a frightening experience. Often, when we try to console or calm our dog, the positive attention and affection can ironically worsen the behaviour because the anxiety is, to the dog, being rewarded! When a puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks of age, most of the responses to social and environment stimuli are formed. That is an extremely important period in your puppy’s development, and it is why we recommend puppy (and owner!) training sessions, so you can begin to understand how your dog perceives the world, and how you can make the most impact when you want to change a particular behaviour. It is far easier to recognize and prevent or redirect an unwanted behavior in your puppy, than to try to change a behavior or reaction after your dog has developed a behaviour pattern. Storm phobias are one of the most common issues we see related to anxiety, and the clinic has extensive and valuable information in handout form to use as you begin to alter your dog’s response to noise phobias. We will often recommend a non-medicinal calming supplement to give to your dog if a storm is forecast, and make sure that you know how to respond when your dog starts to exhibit anxious behaviour. Often, a dog will respond based on your reactions! If you get upset or excited, racing around to close windows, or react every time there’s a flash of lightning or peal of thunder, your pet will often react also! Remember that not only can a dog hear thunder from great distances, long before we can, they can also detect the dropping atmospheric pressure that precedes most storms. The simplest plan is to have a quiet, dark room where your pet can have a safe place. Using ‘white noise’ or background music to drown out some of the storm sounds, can help. Left unchecked, your dog can start to associate lightning, rain, wind, hail, and dropping atmospheric pressure with the noise, and will begin to escalate from noise phobia to storm phobias. The earlier you can detect and correct the anxiety, the better! Another great product we’ve had success with is a “Thundershirt” which works like a big hug…some dogs can really settle down with this product. Sometimes, though, we have to resort to medication. If we’ve tried all of the behaviour modification strategies and non-prescription supplements (from valerian root products to ones that utilize milk proteins and green tea extract, as well as calming scent hormones called pheromones) without success, sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed to pets that still become panic-filled or destructive. More in-depth training, called ‘counter-conditioning’ can be tried if the noise phobia persists. This involves extensive work with your pet using recorded sounds and reward/avoid training. The important thing to remember is that you need to keep your pet safe and reduce fear. Ask us for help for this common but frustrating problem!

MAY 2016


The Canadian climate gives pet owners a bit of a break in the winter, when allergies and skin troubles tend to decrease, and parasites go dormant (at least in the outdoors). As soon as it gets even a little warm in the spring, mosquitoes start to show up. That’s a reminder that the most lethal parasitic disease of dogs (and, rarely, cats) in Canada is making a return… Heartworm disease is caused when a microscopic larva is transmitted after a mosquito bites and takes blood from an infected dog, coyote, wolf or fox. During the next 15 or so days, the larval form develops inside the mosquito, and then is ready to be transmitted to another animal after that time. Since mosquitos can live for up to 30 days, there is plenty of time for that to occur, assuming that it stays warm enough for the entire stage of development. Once inside the host, the larval form makes it way through the tissues, ending up in the large vessels near the heart. It continues to grow and develop, eventually starting to reproduce, making the host infective to others. At some point, it also gets large enough to start causing problems to the host, including breathing, coughing and circulation issues. The infection can eventually become fatal if left untreated. This area is considered “low risk endemic”, which means that cases have been discovered here in dogs that have not traveled to other areas (“endemic”), but we do not, every year, have the hot conditions needed for the parasite to develop properly. Climate change, however, means that as things warm up, the risk is certain to increase. Should you be concerned about your dog getting heartworm? We have treated a number of positive cases over the last few years. The last 2 cases were dogs that had been adopted from further south in Ontario where the risk is higher. We recommend to our clients that they strongly consider heartworm prevention be included in an overall parasite protection and prevention program, even if they do not travel with their pets. This disease is very easy to prevent, but both expensive and difficult to treat (it takes up to 6 months to ensure that the worms are killed inside your pet). If you travel, or if your dog goes south in the winter with you, it is imperative to ensure that the product you use monthly for parasites contains a heartworm preventive. Ask us how to keep your pet from getting this serious parasite! If you’re adopting a pet from more southerly latitudes (including southern Ontario), ensure that all tests recommended have been carried out. Much more of this disease was introduced into Ontario through ‘Katrina’ dogs that were brought to Ontario for adoption, carrying with them undiagnosed heartworms, which then infected Ontario dogs. Areas of the province also have wild canids (coyotes and foxes, mainly) which act as a reservoir for infection. We can answer any questions you may have, and recommend the best protection for your pet this spring and summer. Dr. Kevin Belbeck Sauble Beach Pet Hospital

MARCH 2016


It seems like a funny time to be talking about ticks, when there’s still snow on the ground in spots, and probably more on the way, but this gross little external parasite is a lot different than the flea, which almost everyone is familiar with. That’s because ticks can over winter outside, and then as soon as it hits 4C (40F), they wander up the dried-up stalk of an old grass or shrub, and wait for some warm-blooded mammal to walk by–yes, that could be you, too! There are several types of ticks, including the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the Deer, or black-legged tick. Ticks are not really insects, but are more related to spiders and mites, part of the Arachnid family. Like their first cousins, they also have 8 legs and no antennae. Female ticks must bite and have a blood meal in order to lay eggs (up to 6000!!). Male ticks die soon after mating (sorry guys). When the egg hatches (the time dependent on the species and the weather) a ‘seed tick’ or larva emerges, finds a host, then molts into a nymph. This repeats several times until the tick is a mature adult, ready to complete the cycle. Ticks are very well-adapted parasites, and most hosts don’t even know they’re there. The real concern is that ticks are great at spreading disease between hosts, including humans. LYME DISEASE is our greatest concern, and it appears to be increasing in prevalence at an alarming rate, as a warming climate allows an increasing range of carrier ticks. While Lyme, Connecticut, USA is where the disease was first identified, many parts of Ontario are now at risk as well. Most ticks are found only after they’ve been on your pet for a while, and have ingested enough blood to become big enough to be felt. The common reaction is, “When did my dog get a lump there?”, followed by the discovery that the oval greyish lump, about the size of a pea, might actually have legs down close to your dog’s skin. The best and easiest way to remove a tick is with a simple “twister” device that looks like a miniature pry bar (available at no charge here at the clinic), ensuring that the head is removed intact. In humans, which are much more susceptible to Lyme disease than dogs, a ‘bulls-eye’ lesion may develop around the bite area in a short period of time. Dogs will occasionally run a fever, or have lameness due to sore and swollen joints within 30 days after a bite. Humans are at risk for a severe, chronic disease that is often debilitating. The best approach to tick control is prevention. Be careful and aware if you and/or your dog walk in fields, forests and other areas where grass and shrubs might provide cover for ticks. A simple blood test is performed in the clinic to ensure that your dog has not been exposed to Lyme disease, or the two other main tick-borne illnesses, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Ask your veterinarian which type of tick control is best for your pet. Remember that we can see ticks from March until December. The peaks are April-May and September-October. We’ve got plenty of information and some great and easy-to-use products to ensure your pet stays safe and healthy this year. Enjoy the outdoors with your dog with confidence this season! Dr. Kevin Belbeck Sauble Beach Pet Hospital



This month is oral health awareness month at the Sauble Beach Pet Hospital. The reason this topic gets a whole month to itself is that most pets over the age of 2 have some degree of dental problems that may impact their health sooner rather than later. Your vet has a look in your pet’s mouth every time they’re in for a checkup, but it’s probably not something you do on a regular basis! Just like us, sore gums or a painful tooth can be a cause of ongoing discomfort and even cause pain when eating, and can progress to a medical problem that can affect other organs and systems. A diseased mouth can eventually lead to heart and kidney problems that can impact longevity! Here are 4 of the top signs that your pet needs a dental exam from your veterinarian: Bleeding gums—this is one of the most dramatic signs, because the sight of blood really catches our attention in a hurry! This can be caused by an injured or broken tooth, a growth on the gum or palate, some gum damage from chewing on a hard object too aggressively, or from receded, diseased gums. Persistent bleeding needs to be checked right away. Bad breath, or halitosis, is a sign that your pet’s mouth is having some problems. Just like in humans, plaque is a film that forms from food particles, saliva and bacteria. It clings to the tooth surface, and will eventually calcify and turn into tartar—that brown accumulation that you might see if you lift your pet’s lip, often more on the teeth toward the back of the mouth. Humans do a pretty good job at brushing, flossing and rinsing, to keep the plaque under control, though eventually all of us need to go and get our teeth cleaned in spite of our best efforts. Your pet relies on YOU to do all that for them! Some treats help keep plaque under control to some extent. Both dogs and cats have special dental kibble and dental treats that treat and prevent tartar, but most of us aren’t very good at regular brushing and inspections… Chewing abnormalities—over time, your pet can develop methods to eat their kibble in ways that limit the soreness or pain caused during mealtime. Some cats just begin to swallow their kibble whole; dogs will often manipulate the kibble with their tongue so that they can chew on the side opposite where the soreness is. That often slows the eating process as they try to protect the sore area. Trick answer!! Nothing at all! That’s right—a lot of pets with gum disease, plaque, tartar and even tooth issues are so good at hiding dental pain that even their humans don’t realize something is wrong. This comes from long-ago survival instincts that ensured that wild animals didn’t show any weakness that would make them vulnerable. That means that you have to ensure that your pet gets a thorough oral exam as part of their annual healthy pet checkup. Most pets with oral disease require a professional cleaning, or other oral surgical care, to make sure that they’re healthy and able to live a long and happy life. Ask your vet what you can do to keep your pet’s mouth as healthy as it can be!



The holiday season is upon us again, and there are lots of new ways for our furry family members to get into trouble that are unique to this time of year…since I am on call for emergencies this Christmas, I’m especially eager to share some safety tips to prevent a trip to see me! Christmas tree safety—in addition to making sure that your cat can’t use the tree as a climbing toy and tip it over, make sure that if you use a preservative water additive, that your pets don’t have access to the holder. Keep loose needles cleaned up, and avoid tinsel and low-hanging ornaments that might tempt your pet. My new kitten is not allowed in the room with the tree! Be careful to keep chocolate out of reach. Every year, a pet finds a box of chocolates and eats them, causing gastric distress (and more distress for whomever has to clean up after them)! The darker the chocolate, the more intense the toxicity. Heart problems and worse can happen. Other rich foods can cause problems as well—anything fatty or that your pet is not used to, can induce pancreatitis or gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea). Some nice crisp turkey skin or a bit of ham may sound like a wonderful treat, but can lead to serious illness in some pets. Cats love to play with ribbons and bows! Unfortunately, they are prone to swallowing long pieces that can really wreak havoc on intestinal lining! Surgery is often the only answer. Lights and decorations mean more cords and wires to chew on. Care must be taken to prevent injury from electrocution. Candles set a nice mood this time of year—when they get knocked over, they can be a fire hazard, and the hot wax can cause burns on a pet’s skin. Christmas plants, such as poinsettia, mistletoe and holly, are all toxic to pets and are a frequent cause of vomiting and loss of appetite. Grapes, raisins, garlic and onion, and avocados are no-no’s! Dogs like antifreeze, but it destroys kidneys! Keep it out of reach. Make sure your cat doesn’t play with a dropped Tylenol tablet—one loose tablet can ruin liver function and cause death. The thoughts of your family coming over might cause YOU some anxiety, but there are many pets who get stressed when their daily routine changes—travel, new people in the house, moving furniture, putting up decorations and trees—all these things can be stressful and affect digestion, urination and even licking and skin problems. Give your pets lot of love and some alone time! Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy Holiday! Thanks for trusting us with your pet’s care in 2015—all the best in the 2016!