Rabies in the 21st Century

Nature, the first frontier.  So much has been learned about the world around us but one of the things we haven’t figured out is how to eradicate rabies.  Yes, rabies is still out there and an affliction with it can be devastating.  The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario does its best to vaccinate the wildlife but sometimes it isn’t enough.  This is where the reality of your pet’s health and the welfare of the general public comes into play.

Photo courtesy of Edie the Pug

Photo courtesy of Edie the Pug

Why is this especially important now?  In the past 2 months, 35 cases of rabies  (as of February 11, 2016 per the Ontario Animal Health Network) have been diagnosed in raccoons in Ontario alone, primarily in the Hamilton area.  Fortunately, it has not spread to much further as we have not seen cases where I live in Kingston.  The re-emergence of rabies was noted when two dogs were picked up by animal control and placed in a van with a sick raccoon.  Subsequently, the raccoon and one of the dogs both got loose and were fighting.  The dogs were not vaccinated against rabies and their fate remains undetermined as of December 2015.  Additionally, several of the raccoons have also been diagnosed with distemper which is also transmissible to dogs (but not people).

Signs of rabies occur in phases:

    • dilated pupils, fever, hypersensitivity around the wound

    • constricted pupils, aggressive behavior, excessive drooling, stumbling, seizures

    • progressive paralysis, voice change, inability to swallow, dropped jaw, coma, death

Rabies vaccineWhy don’t vaccines get updated?  For some, it becomes a matter time or cost.  Maybe it’s because the anti-vaccine movement has picked up ground though for the record, there are extremely few reasons to not have your pet vaccinated and they don’t typically get noted until pets are older in life.  More often, the reason I’m given is that some pet owners feel their pets are indoors only (many cats) or that they never leave the yard or live out in the country.  The fact remains that bats can fly indoors and wild animals can migrate through yards.

Animals that are not vaccinated and either bite a person or get bitten by an animal are at risk for being quarantined or in certain cases will be euthanized and tested for rabies.  Yes, your beloved pet may be euthanized all because it wasn’t vaccinated for a preventable and deadly disease.  Is it worth the risk of losing a furry family member or putting people at risk of being exposed?  Besides, every city, town, municipality has laws that require rabies vaccines for any pets over 4 months of age.  So no more excuses please; do what is right.  Protect your pet & your community.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain opinions which may not necessarily reflect those of any current or former employers.

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Be Excellent to Each Other!

From MGM

From MGM

One of the best movies of the last 30 years (though some may argue this point with me), is “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”  Yes, under the facade of time travel, best friends, air guitars and some sweet music – okay, so let’s agree to disagree – is a moral message.  The boys’ mission through time with a goal to make future society a place where people enjoy everlasting peace and compassion towards each other.  I think anyone who works in an animal related field and anyone who interacts with these people (so if you have pets) should take some advice from this small plot point to make other people lives better.  It’s like a circle where we can all support each other.  “Be excellent to each other.”

From Bell.ca/letstalk

From Bell.ca/letstalk

Every year, Bell Canada sponsors #BellLetsTalk which aims to help end the stigma around those who suffer from mental health issues and who may be afraid to seek help.  This has been a significant problem facing those in the veterinary and animal care fields where depression and compassion fatigue are at the forefront.  Compassion fatigue is also known as secondary traumatic stress disorder.  While previously noted in human health care workers, it has been well documented in recent years that veterinarians and those in animal care fields suffering from compassion fatigue are more prone to taking their own lives than the general population.  Four times as likely which is a frightening number (multiple studies show this).  They are also twice as likely as other healthcare professions to take their own lives.  There have been many theories or known factors that contribute to this but ultimately and unfortunately we do not fully understand why as each person’s case is different.

A few commonly known aspects are that veterinarians deal with death far more often than anyone else (except maybe a morgue employee).  Euthanasia, or a humane & peaceful death, is a common and accepted practice in working with animals.  It is both a gift and a curse – we are able to relieve suffering but at the same time some of us can harden our hearts too much or become numb to the act.  This can make some of my colleagues feel that taking their own life is more justifiable.  This is the main contributor to compassion fatigue.

There are specific traits of every veterinarian, technician, vet assistant, animal shelter worker, etc.  First, we deeply care about animals, our patients.  If they don’t do well, many vets & staff can take it personally and given our tendency to expect the best, this can leave us vulnerable to depression, feelings of failure, and in the worst cases a person can feel as though they must pay for their failure.  Secondly, while we expect perfection from ourselves, it is often also demanded from our clients – the pet owners.  We understand how much you love your pets, we have pets ourselves.  We do everything in our power to get them back to feeling well and into your loving home.  This sometimes can include working 60-70 hours a week, not taking sick days or vacation, and forgoing time with our friends or family.

from www.veterinaryteambrief.com

from www.veterinaryteambrief.com

Sometimes the stress of this interaction becomes more than some people can bear.  Such was the case with a New York veterinarian named Dr. Shirley Koshi who went bankrupt, received death threats, and unable to continue running her clinic due to a smear campaign on social media & unfounded litigation, decided to take her own life.  This was directly resultant after a good Samaritan brought a stray cat into a clinic that needed care, which Dr. Koshi provided, and a person claiming this cat was part of her outdoor colony led the boycotts and lawsuit.  She was just doing what was best for the cat, at her own expense, with her own time.  Another high profile loss was that of Dr. Sophia Yin, renowned veterinary behaviorist.  Sadly, there are often no answers as to why she and many others have chosen that path.  If you were to ask a veterinarian if they personally knew a colleague who took their own life, it’s a fair chance that over 66% of them do.  My wife & I both fall into this category.

from www.spunkyfluff.com

from www.spunkyfluff.com

To wrap this up, there are things everyone can do to help.  If you work in the veterinary field: veterinarian, technician, client services, management, kennel staff…be respectful and friendly to your co-workers.  If you think they are having trouble or seem distressed, reach out to them.  Let them know you are there to talk.  If you are the one being affected, there are people that care about you and places you can get help.  For those of you who are not in the veterinary field (friends, family, clients), know that we are trying our best for you and let us know that we are appreciated.  Don’t be afraid to be respectfully honest with us either when we are caring for your pets.  As long as we have open lines of communication between everyone involved, we will do our best for everyone involved – pets, vets, pet owners, and everyone who is working to keep animals happy and healthy.  Be excellent to each other; you never know what the other person may be going through.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain opinions which may not reflect those of my current or former employers.

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Winter Protection & Health Safety for Your Pet

Note:  This post was previously published on the Ontario SPCA’s blog under the guest author section on December 18, 2015.

Winter is upon us and though you may want to stay inside where it’s warm and curl up by the fire or under a blanket, your dogs still need to get outside to at least use the bathroom.  Admit it, we all probably gain a little weight over the holidays but some dogs will want to stay out longer and can benefit from the exercise.  Cold-weather breeds such as huskies, malamutes, and Newfoundlands generally do pretty well in colder temperature but there are so many other breeds of dogs or those which may have some medical issues that in some cases you need to take some extra precautions.

Taylor Rudy in coatsShort to minimal hair breeds such as Chinese Cresteds or Boston Terriers are a great example of dogs that may need to bundle up.  Similarly, slender dogs in general that do not have a lot of body fat or muscle mass can be more susceptible to frigid temperatures.  But if you look at the other side, even the longer haired dogs don’t escape the wrath of the cold and snow.  For any of those dogs who love to dive through the snow or roll around in it, long hair and water don’t mix to create a manageable, healthy hair coat.  Matted or tangled fur can subsequently lead to skin rashes so coats even for these pooches aren’t a bad idea unless your superbly committed to brushing them.

from www.mydr.com.au

from www.mydr.com.au

I don’t know about you but when I’m outside in the middle of January shoveling snow it gets a harder to breathe.  The reason this happens is that cold air will cause some constriction of your airways.  When you look at anatomy, pugs, bulldogs, maltese and other brachycephalic breeds already have a high risk of breathing problems that can be compounded in the brutal cold if they are exposed for too long or get to be too active.  Dogs that also have pre-existing breathing problems like asthma should be closely monitored and if you notice your dog having any breathing issues, get them checked out by your veterinarian.  The best course of action is to take a safe approach and limit any hyperactivity outside.  Additionally, it can help if you keep your home inside at a comfortable temperature without being too hot and with a controlled humidity to make the transition outdoors easier.

Cat w/ frostbitten ears (www.thewhig.com)

Cat w/ frostbitten ears (www.thewhig.com)

There are a few other hazards which are simple to prevent.  Frostbite can unfortunately happen to both cats & dogs outside for prolonged periods of time, especially ear tips.  Make sure you bring cats in from the cold and keep a timer to know when it’s time go back inside from outdoor activities with your dog.  Just after a freshly fallen snow and then a further drop in temperature, we can see a slight ice layer on top of the snow.  While smaller dogs may not be heavy enough to step through this, heavier or more energetic dogs may bust through that layer which, if the conditions are proper, can lead to cuts on paws or legs so some boots might come in handy.  And while you’re getting Rover fitted for boots, get something with some traction as icy conditions can lead to slip & fall injuries.  For these dogs, nails can be broken, hip arthritis can be worsened, or ligaments can be torn.

from www.thegreenleash.com

from www.thegreenleash.com

So just like any other time of the year, you are your pet’s best bet to stay healthy by taking a few precautionary measures.  After all, it’s the holiday season and you would rather spend your time surrounded by family, friends, and pets rather than at an animal emergency room.  Enjoy the winter and remember, your pet truly knows if you’ve been naughty or nice!

Wrapping Up 2015

Source: www.decentfilms.com

Source: www.decentfilms.com

How different would your life be if you changed one thing, a seminal moment in your life?  Can you trace your life back to that one moment that forever altered your life?  Imagine yourself in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you play yourself (unless you really want to be known as George Bailey).  For those who haven’t seen it, the protagonist gets a chance to see what life of those around him would be like if he had never been born (no spoilers here!) thanks to a guardian angel named Clarence.

Take a second now and find that moment.  For me, it was the arrival of my cat Zorro that forever altered my life.  I can’t imagine being anything other than a veterinarian nor would have I been able to touch the lives of so many people & their pets.  In my version of “Wonderful Life,” my guardian angel is my pets and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.  Whether giving a unique perspective to see life through their eyes or just helping unwind at the end of the day with a fun game of fetch or napping on the couch, our family pets are the one thing we can’t live without and are grateful for all they give us through the year.

image2This year we paid it forward for all the love our previous pets have shown us and we gave Rudy his forever home!  By fostering and then adopting him, we made room for another dog to be rescued from a shelter by Friends of Willow.  I can’t wait to see what he has to teach us over the next several years.  2016 is rapidly approaching and with the close of another year, I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for following along and having a glimpse into the journey we experienced this year.  We covered a lot of great topics with our friend Edie the Pug, took a stand against cat declawing, and learned a lot about why we should take some pointers from our dogs.  So with all this in mind, is there a New Year’s resolution you want to make involving your pets?  Enjoy this time with your family & friends (especially the furry ones!) and see you next year!

Date Your Next Pet

You can feel it in your bones….the anticipation of getting that new pet to join the family.  Many people often want to get a young puppy or kitten over adoption of an adult or senior pet.  Believe me, I get that; especially if you have lost a pet you just can’t see yourself going through the heartache of another pet loss so soon again so a younger pet is what you’ve set your heart on.  But don’t rule out a mature pet.

From wormsandgermsblog.com

From wormsandgermsblog.com

Sadly, there is an pet overpopulation epidemic amongst shelters where too often pets are surrendered after some time with their families.  In a few cases, the surrenders may be warranted – family medical issues or a physical or financial inability to care for the pet are two such cases.  The other situations, in which they are not the pets’ fault either, can often be avoided – behavior, time commitments, lifestyle – if the new owners take the time to get informed before adding that new pet.  Not every animal is lucky enough to get out of a shelter and have a home.

If getting a young puppy or kitten, proper breeders will likely screen you before sending the baby home with you.  If some circumstances, they may also have provisions to take the animal back if things aren’t working.  Buying a pet off Kjiji or from a friend of a friend of a friend will not likely grant you that opportunity and you will have to make the decision to work through the issues or re-home the animal.  Shelters may allow you to return an adoption but think about the stress placed on an animal of changing homes by getting adopted and after a couple of weeks getting dumped right back in the shelter.  Older animals (not necessarily senior pets) have a leg up here as often their personalities are already established and known about.

This is where the idea of rescue groups and foster pets can truly shine.  The “adopt don’t shop” movement also gains Adopt_a_Petground here.  If you’re working with a well organized rescue group, they will interview you before an adoption and likely also visit your home and want a letter from your veterinarian.  This may seem like a lot of hurdles but it really is for the best interest of the animal and it also tests your commitment.  The next step may be called fostering to adopt or foster failing.  I like to think of it as dating the potential pet before you make that lifelong commitment.

Just a few weeks of sharing your home with a foster pet allows you to get to know each other.  Does the dog have separation anxiety?  Does kitty destroy furniture and mark everywhere?  Are you able to commit the time to walking, playing, training, and cleaning up after your new pet?  How do your current pets and your potential new furry family member interact?  These things and more can be answered during a trial period.  It’s as much about making sure the pet is right for you as you are a good match for the pet.

Settling in at home

Settling in at home

This is where I’m at now with the little guy Jennifer & I are fostering.  Ti-Loup (soon to officially be Rudy) ended up with Friends of Willow Rescue after his family realized he was too active for their lifestyle.  So far we have noted that the possibility of some separation anxiety exists and we have discovered that he gets along with our cats.  He certainly is an energetic guy and quite the intelligent dog so we are looking forward to getting to know him better and help meet his needs.  In general, he has fit in well and has been very compatible.  I only hope he doesn’t think the Christmas tree is an indoor bathroom!

So before you put a collar on that cat or dog, make sure you take the time to consider all the aspects of adding a pet to your family, no matter where they come from.  Doing this can save them from the stress of changing homes and you from the heartbreak of having to part with an adoring animal.  And don’t forget what a great option fostering a pet or adopting from a group or shelter can be for everyone!

New friends & family!

New friends & family!

Disclaimer: All blog posts are may be opinions and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.

Subscribe on the right to get more posts delivered to your inbox!  And check me out on Facebook & Twitter for more frequent updates, cute photos of patients, and a bit of insight into my daily routine!

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