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Heartworm disease in dogs

Heartworm disease in dogs

As many of you are aware, spring is the time when your veterinarian recommends that your dog take a preventive medication to protect against heartworm diease. Below, you will find information that will help explain to you what heartworm disease is and why it is important to prevent the disease.
At the current time, we are not recommending heartworm prevention in cats in Quebec since the disease is still very rare in this species in this geographical area.
If you need additional information, do not hesitate to call us anytime to speak with one of our animal health technicians or veterinarians. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Thank you

The Baker Animal Hospital Team

What is heartworm disease?


Heartworm disease is one of the major health problems of dogs in the United States and throughout the temperate and tropical areas of the world. As well as being found in dogs and other species, it is now being found in cats in ever increasing numbers. The disease develops when a pet becomes infected with parasites called Dirofilaria immitis that are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Dogs may be infected by a few or up to several hundred heartworms. Cats are similarly infected although usually by only a few worms. Heartworm infection often leads to severe lung disease and heart failure and can damage other organs in the body as well.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?


Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog or other host release their young, called microfilaria, into the bloodstream. Mosquitoes become infected by the microfilaria while taking a blood meal from these infected animals. During the next 10 to 14 days, microfilaria mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat or susceptible animal, the infective larvae exit the mosquito’s mouth parts and are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin. The infective larvae can then actively enter the new host through the fresh bite wound.

Inside a new host, it takes a little more than six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms may live up to five to seven years, and because of their longevity, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in our pets.

What physical signs could my dog have?


Heartworms may accumulate gradually over years, or quickly when conditions allow exposure to high numbers of mosquitoes carrying infective heartworm larvae. Clinical signs of disease may not be easily recognized in pets that have been recently infected or in those with low numbers of heartworms as they may not yet exhibit outward signs of disease. However, pets heavily infected with heartworms or those with chronic disease often show prominent clinical signs.

In dogs, signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure commonly recognized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen giving the pet the appearance of a “swollen belly.” Dogs infected with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart leading to a life threatening form of cardiovascular collapse called “caval syndrome.” Signs of caval syndrome include a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums and dark bloody or “coffee-colored” urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few pets survive.

Can you tell me more about heartworm testing in dogs?


Two common types of tests exist for diagnosing heartworm infection in dogs. Because adult heartworms release their young (microfilaria) directly into a dog’s bloodstream, a relatively simple blood filter test can identify them. A positive test tells us adult worms are present. Positive means positive. Unfortunately, 15 to 20 percent of heartworm-positive dogs will not have “microfilaria” circulating in their bloodstream and a negative test will sometimes be falsely negative. The most accurate test for detecting heartworm infection in dogs is the antigen test. This test looks for the presence of small proteins released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream. A positive test tells us mature female worms are present. And, while false negative results are uncommon, they can occur if a pet has a “male-only” infection (since the test detects antigen from females), if only one or two worms are present, or if the female worms are immature.

Your veterinarian may have reason to suspect a negative test result to be inaccurate and might recommend re-testing using other methods. Chest X-rays and ultrasound evaluation can help identify heartworm disease and may be indicated.

How long does it take before heartworm infection can be detected by blood tests?


It takes five to seven months from the time a dog is bitten by infected mosquitoes until a blood test can accurately detect the presence of adult worms.

Do you need a prescription for heartworm preventive medication? If so, why?


Yes, heartworm preventives must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription through a pet pharmacy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling on heartworm preventives indicates that the medication is to be used by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. This means a veterinarian must have a doctor-client-patient relationship in order to write a prescription. Typically, prior to prescribing a heartworm preventive, the veterinarian will perform a simple heartworm test to make sure your dog doesn’t already have adult heartworms. It is not necessary to test very young puppies prior to starting preventives since it takes approximately six months for adult heartworms to develop to adulthood in a dog. If the pet is free of heartworms, prevention is prescribed. Giving preventives to dogs infected with heartworms can lead to rare but possibly severe reactions that could be harmful or even fatal to the dog.

There are many types of medications available for heartworm prevention. What is the difference between the daily and monthly tablets?


Until the late 1980s, the only medication available for the prevention of heartworms had to be given daily. These products work by killing the microscopic heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito, but must be given every single day to be most effective. This is because infective heartworm larvae quickly molt within two to three days into their fourth stage of development. This fourth stage can not be killed by the daily medication. Daily heartworm preventives have largely been replaced by monthly products and are no longer commercially available in the United States. Compounding pharmacies still formulate daily preventives on an “as needed” basis. An important note to keep in mind is that monthly medications are quickly eliminated from a pet’s system and do not continue to work for 30 days. Instead they work “backwards” to eliminate the larvae the pet acquired the previous 30 days, in essence, “de-heartworming” our pets each month in many cases, these monthly preventives control other parasites too.

How do monthly heartworm preventives work?


Fortunately, there are many very effective once-a-month heartworm preventives available today. Some are chewable tablets and others are topically-applied solutions. Monthly heartworm preventives, because of their ease of use and effectiveness, have become the popular choice for prevention of heartworm disease. Unlike the daily products of the past, these compounds are capable of killing developing heartworm larvae, and administering the preventive every month will effectively eliminate the chance of infection. Check with your veterinarian to see which product is right for your pet.

Why do dogs need to be blood tested before starting heartworm medication?


Before starting a preventive program, all dogs should be tested for heartworms. Giving preventives to dogs that have adult heartworm infection can be harmful or even fatal to the pet.

Adult heartworms produce millions of microscopic “baby” heartworms (called microfilaria) into the bloodstream. When you give a monthly heartworm preventive to a dog with circulating microfilaria, this can cause the sudden death of microfilaria, triggering a shock-type reaction. Even if your dog does not have this type of reaction, heartworm preventives do not kill the adult heartworms (although they may shorten the worms’ life expectancy). This means an infected dog will remain infected with adult heartworms.

Unfortunately, as long as a pet remains infected, heartworm disease will progress and damage the heart and lungs, which can lead to life threatening problems. Giving heartworm preventives to heartworm-positive dogs can mislead an owner into thinking everything is all right, while within a pet, heartworm disease is worsening.

I heard that certain heartworm prevention medications will also protect against intestinal parasites. Is this true?


Certain heartworm preventive products are also effective in removing specific intestinal (and external) parasites and are labeled for such uses. They either contain a single active ingredient that is effective against several parasites including developing heartworm or a combination of ingredients to achieve control of many different parasites. Such products have been tested and meet the same safety requirements as the heartworm-prevention-only products.

I heard that the heartworm prevention medication is toxic to certain breeds of dogs, particularly collies. Is this true?


When given as prescribed, all of these medications are safe. It has been found, however, that some dogs are genetically predisposed to be more sensitive when doses dramatically exceed the recommended amount. Problems can occur when products designed for large animals (horses, cattle, pigs) are inappropriately used in dogs, or when dogs are dosed incorrectly. Heartworm preventives are safe for all breeds of dogs when used as directed.

Is a puppy born with immunity to heartworm disease?


No, even nursing puppies are at risk for heartworm infection. Puppies of any age exposed to mosquitoes carrying infective larvae can become heartworm-infected, so it is important to begin prevention early. Puppies can be started on heartworm preventive as early as four to eight weeks of age, depending on the label recommendations of the preventive.

Is there an effective natural prevention for heartworm?


No, there is no natural prevention for heartworms.

What is the treatment for heartworm disease in dogs?


If a dog is infected with heartworms, the treatment needs to kill the adult and immature worms. Currently, only one product is approved by the FDA for this purpose (Immiticide®- melarsomine hydrochloride). It is given by deep injection into muscle. A series of injections are given, either over a 24-hour period or two treatment periods, one month apart. While treatment may be administered on an outpatient basis, hospitalization for the procedure is often recommended. Other medications may be given at the time of treatment depending on the stage of heartworm disease.

What causes the death of a dog due to heartworm disease?


Heartworm disease may cause a combination of medical problems within the same dog, including heart, lung, kidney and liver disease. The worms are found in the right side of the heart, and in the major vessels that bring blood to and from the right chambers of the heart. The worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and can block blood flow leading to pulmonary thrombosis (clots in the lungs) and heart failure. Heartworm disease can also lead to liver or kidney failure, causing death by one or a combination of these problems.

Is heartworm contagious from dog to dog?


No. Heartworms can be transmitted from animal to animal only by the bite of a mosquito carrying the infective stage of the larvae. Heartworms release live young (microfilaria) directly into the bloodstream of a dog. When a mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected pet, it may become infected by several microfilariae. The larvae then develop into an infective stage within the mosquito. As the mosquito bites another susceptible dog or cat, the infective larvae can be left behind to cause infection. The life cycle of the heartworm requires the mosquito as an “intermediate host.” Without the mosquito, heartworms can not be transmitted.

Can children get heartworm disease by playing with and being licked by a dog with heartworm disease?


No. Heartworm disease is transmitted only by the bite of a mosquito that is carrying the infective stage of the parasite.

I have missed two months of heartworm prevention for my dog. Should I worry?


Yes, you should worry. You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately start your dog back on monthly preventive and retest in seven months. The reason for testing seven months later is that heartworms must be approximately seven months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

The above questions and answers were provided courtesy of the American Heartworm Society. For more information, go to


Cats and Fleas

Cats and Fleas

How do cats get fleas?

The most common source of fleas is from newly emerged adult fleas in the home or outside. The flea life cycle includes: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults.  When adult fleas are on our cats, they bite them (ie. Take a blood meal) and then start laying eggs as soon as 2 days later. In ideal conditions, adults will emerge in as little as 2 weeks; in adverse conditions, eggs can develop into adults up to 1 year later. This means that fleas can develop in the house even over the winter months. Houses can provide ideal conditions for fleas to develop in: carpets and central heating provide  conditions for year round development of these parasites. It is very difficult to find fleas in the home since they are so small and hide in carpets and furniture. Eggs are tiny white specks the size of dust particles and larvae migrate deep in carpets, furniture and cracks in floors away from the light. So, often flea infestations go unnoticed by owners.

 What signs may my cat exhibit if he/she has fleas?

Many cats will groom or scratch excessively after being bitten by a flea. Some cats are allergic to flea bites and these cats scratch and bite themselves so much that they can develop patches of fur loss and skin infections secondary to the trauma they cause to themselves.

Fleas can also be a source of tapeworms. If a cat swallows a flea infected with tapeworms while grooming, the cat will likely develop a tapeworm infestation. Signs of tapeworm infection include weight loss, poor hair coat and diarrhea. Tapeworm segments look like grains of white rice stuck around your cat’s perianal area.

 How to get rid of fleas?

Fleas need to be eliminated from 3 sources: the cat, other cats and dogs in the home, and from the home and yard. Keep in mind…outdoor sources can be difficult to control since we cannot control wild animals, other people’s pets and other outdoor areas. Raccoons and squirrels are important sources of fleas to our pets.

 What safe products are available to treat my cat and the environment?

Flea shampoos and powders have limited efficacy because they only work a few hours after application. They will only kill the adults present on your cat at the time of application but have no residual effect. This means that fleas jumping on your cat over the next few days and weeks will not be killed and the flea cycle will continue.

Your veterinarian has several safe products that are effective at getting rid of fleas. Some kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs with residual activity lasting a month and are given orally or topically every month. Others contain insect growth regulators that work as a flea birth control and prevent females from laying eggs. Many of the above products also kill eggs and larvae developing in the home by being in the pet’s dander and when the dander has contact with the eggs and larvae in the home, it kills them.

Vacuuming weekly and throwing out the vacuum bag to prevent eggs and larvae from developing inside the vacuum cleaner will also help get rid of infestations. Pay particular attention to areas where your cat spends most of his/her time such as the bed, sofa, and carpets.

 My veterinarian is advising flea control even though I have not seen any fleas on my cat.

If your cat is scratching more than usual, has hair loss or is grooming excessively, your veterinarian may suspect a flea problem. When fleas are present in small numbers they can be very difficult to find. They move very quickly. They can usually be found near the neck, stomach and around the tail base area. Often your veterinarian will not see adults but see “flea dirt” instead. This is fecal matter from the flea that contains partially digested blood. It indicates that the cat has fleas. Flea dirt looks like small black specks and when placed on a damp tissue it leaves a reddish brown stain. Flea dirt can sometimes be seen on the cat’s bedding or anywhere the cat sleeps and spends most of his/her time.  Do not forget that cats spend most of their time grooming. Their tongue will remove fleas and flea dirt from your pet’s coat and make it hard to find evidence of a flea problem. So, even if no adult fleas or flea dirt is found, your veterinarian may still recommend treating for fleas if she/he thinks that is the source of the problem.


Dogs, Cats and Automobiles

Dogs, Cats and Automobiles

By Andrea Lin–

 People are on the go, and increasingly, they are taking their pets along for the ride. While some pets seem born to ride, for others the loud noises can be a real problem.

 Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, advises owners on issues related to animal behavior. She offers these tips on how to make traveling a safe and pleasant experience for your pets.

 “The first step is to watch for signs that your pet is stressed”, advises Dr. Ballantyne. 

 That is easier said than done, because not all animals express distress in the same ways. Some animals that are very anxious show obvious signs, such as pacing and vocalizing, whereas other, equally stressed pets may give much more subtle indications.

 “Fog dogs, you should watch for excessive salivation, panting, a furrowed brow, holding their ears back, and frequent liplicking or yawning”, says Dr. Ballantyne. 

 “Cats may crouch or try to hide when stressed”, she says. “They may also twitch their tails and pull their ears back. These all can be signs that your pet is anxious and not enjoying the trip”.

 Your veterinarian will be an important partner in finding a way to manage your pet’s anxiety while traveling. There are many options, and you may need to try several approaches to discover what works best for your pet. Dr. Ballantyne recommends experimenting with different approaches when taking your pet on short trips so you can find out what works before taking your pet on a long road trip.

One option available for both dogs and cats is a synthetic equivalent of a natural pheromone with stress-relieving qualities. Feliway is a pheromone product for cats that comes as a spray or in a diffuser. A similar product for dogs is a DAP (dog appeasement pheromone) collar or spray. 

 For dogs, specially made clothing that applies gentle, constant pressure on the torso is marketed to produce a soothing effect on stressed dogs. Lavender aroma therapy has also been found to help calm anxious dogs. 

 For some pets, prescription anti-anxiety medications or sedatives may be the best alternative.

 In addition to addressing your pet’s stress level, you should ensure that your pet will be safe while traveling, according to Dr. Ballantyne.

 “Cats should always be in a carrier”, she says. “You can’t predict how your pet will react while traveling. A carrier will keep her safe and ensure that she can’t accidentally get away from you”.

 Dog should also be secured in a carrier or harness when riding in a car. Special harnesses and seats that attach to seat belts are marketed to ensure safe car travel for your dog. If your car has airbags, your dogs should not be placed in the front seat, just as small children should never ride in front.

 Nausea is another problem that plagues pets that travel. In dogs, drooling and looking sick to their stomach are likely signs of carsickness. Owners of pets prone to carsickness wonder whether or not to feed their pet. 

 “It probably isn’t a good idea to feed your pet a large meal before a trip, especially before a place flight”, says Dr. Ballantyne. “When going on a long car trip, try feeding small meals during rest stops and feed the biggest meal at the end of the day. If your pet has been carsick on a trip before, talk with your veterinarian about anti-nausea medicine”.

 Your veterinarian can also advise you on how to handle a long trip if your pet has a special medical condition that requires controlled feeding times, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.

 A final piece of advice from Dr. Ballantyne is for people on the go who are getting a puppy or kitten: “Start when you pet is young. Let him get used to traveling and learn that it is a positive experience.”

 So get going, and bring your pet with you!

 Just be sure to work with your veterinarian to find safe and low-stress strategies that will make the experience enjoyable for you and your pet. Happy travels!

 Universitry of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine


 PETS Magazine

March/April 2012



February is Dental Health Awareness Month

February is Dental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats above the age of 3 have some degree of gingivitis and tartar build up?
This not only means that they are more likely to have bad breath, bleeding gums and in more advanced cases, diseased teeth such as tooth root infections, but it can affect their overall health!
The best way to prevent the above complications is to get your pet used to having its teeth brushed at a young age. Most cats and dogs will enjoy the taste of the flavoured enzymatic pet toothpaste and like the sensation of the toothbrush rubbing on their gums and teeth.
For those pets that already have some degree of periodontal disease, a prophylactic cleaning and polishing of the teeth by the veterinary team is the best way to prevent problems later on.
The cost of a dental prophylaxis ranges depending on your pet’s age, the degree of periodontal disease, and whether any extractions are needed. One of our veterinarians will be more than happy to examine your pet’s mouth and give you an estimate of what the cost would be for this procedure.

For further information and to book an appointment, please contact us at
(514) 739-1935

Some frequently asked questions:

How are my pet’s teeth cleaned?

Some frequently asked questions:

How are my pet’s teeth cleaned?

All dental cleanings are done under a general anesthetic using an ultrasonic scaler and polisher, similar to when you visit your dentist. Your pet is monitored closely by our veterinary health technician and has a Cardell monitor that measures his blood pressure, oxygenation and heart rate during the procedure. Your pet also has an intravenous catheter in place and is on intravenous fluids while under anesthesia to make sure that his blood pressure is kept stable throughout- which is important for his heart and kidneys!
If your pet is above 7 years of age, he will also have some blood collected prior to the dental prophylaxis to assess his kidney and liver function (among other things) in order to reduce the risks associated with anesthesia as much as possible.

Why is it not enough to break the tartar off my pet’s tooth while he is awake?

If only a scaling is performed on the teeth without proper polishing afterwards, the surface of the tooth will be uneven, predisposing it to more plaque and bacteria build up, more quickly. This is why a proper cleaning under anesthetic is needed to make sure the surface of the tooth is smooth after the scaling and polishing. We also want to look for other signs of periodontal disease such as pockets and fractures. When your pet is anesthetized, we not only assess the health of the teeth and gums but we make sure the entire oral cavity looks healthy.


Water intake test

Water Intake Test

Water intake tests are very important to help us work out whether your dog is drinking too much water. Some diseases make dogs drink more water than they should.

Water intake can vary depending on many factors, including the weather, the type of food your dog eats and how much activity he or she does. Consequently the amount of water your dog drinks can vary from day to day. Because of this, we do a Water Intake Test over 3 consecutive days (3x 24 hour periods) so that we can average out how much is actually taken.

It is very difficult to assess water intake if there is more than one animal in the household, as they share water sources. To do a Water Intake Test accurately, animals may need to be kept separate over the time of the test. Alternatively they may need to be hospitalised so that they only get to drink from one source.

Step 1: Empty out all bowls or buckets that your dog normally drinks from, inside and outside the house.

Step 2: Measure exactly how much water you add to each bowl or bucket. Make a note of this.

Step 3: Don’t allow the bucket or bowl to be empty of water. Note down the amount of water you add to the bowl during the day and add this figure to the figure from Step 2.

Step 4: After 24 hours, measure exactly how much water is left in each bowl or bucket.

Step 5: Subtract the amount left over from the amount in Step 3.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 1-5 over 2 more 24-hour periods.

Bring your calculations into the clinic so we can assess the amount taken in and work out whether this is normal or abnormal.


Toilet training your pup

Toilet training your puppy

Toilet training your pup involves anticipating when your pup will need to go to the toilet, taking the pup to the desired toileting area of the yard, and reinforcing this desired behaviour by rewarding your pup for successfully eliminating in this area (praise, and or a tasty food treat given straight after the act).

A 6-8 week old pup has little bowel or bladder control, but this will develop quickly over the next couple of months. Ideally toilet training starts as soon as you bring your new pup home. Before you take him into your house take him to the toilet area of your yard. If he passes urine or faeces reward him immediately. If nothing has been produced in around 5 minutes take the pup inside but return to the area 10 minutes later. Continue this until the pup eliminates. Reward the pup, and wait an hour before taking him out again.

It won’t take long to work out your pup’s usual toileting patterns and to be able to reduce the frequency of visits outside. You should try to always take your pup out to the toilet after he has eaten, drunk, woken up, or played for a while. Your pup may also display some signs of needing to go, such as circling or sniffing. If you are unable to observe your pup closely for a while, confining the pup to a small room or better still a play pen containing a bowl of water and his bedding can help. Dogs naturally avoid soiling their ‘den’ and so will be more likely to whine & move around when they need to go, giving you more chance to notice and take them outside before they soil indoors.

A pup is not able to hold on throughout the whole night, they need to go to the toilet at least every 5-6 hours. Therefore ensure you take your pup out to the toilet before going to bed yourself, and plan to get up during the night to do the same. Ideally the pup is near your bed (a play pen is great for this) so he has a chance of waking you when he needs to go. If you are a heavy sleeper you may need to set an alarm during the night. It’s a good idea to protect your carpets in case of accidents. Many people like to leave the pup in the laundry or outside overnight. This deprives the pup of companionship, and usually means there is no chance of him being able to wake you to go outside if he needs to. Any overnight accidents are counterproductive as we have forced the pup to mess inside the house by not taking them out when they need to go.

When (not if!) accidents happen it is important not to punish the pup. They associate punishment with going to the toilet, not with the fact they have done so inside, and will become frightened of eliminating in front of you – this often causes them to hide where they go to the toilet, eg. behind a door or couch. Clean up the mess well, ideally with an enzymatic based cleaner (e.g. biozet laundry detergent) that break down any smells left behind. Don’t use ammonia based cleaning agents as these smell like urine to your pet, and may encourage further elimination in this area.

So remember:
1. Take your pup out frequently when it’s awake, and reinforce successes with rewards.
2. Allow your pup to walk to the door to establish a pattern of going to the door when he needs to to out.
3. Don’t punish accidents, clean up well, and try to be more observant.
Following this advice most pups will be house trained in a few weeks.


Urine spraying

Urine spraying

There are many different reasons for urine spraying – some are physical, some are behavioural. The first thing we want to do is a full physical examination and urine analysis, to eliminate any medical problems.

Having done this, we can then approach the behavioural causes.
Some cats may urine spray because they are feeling anxious. In these cases you will need to do some extra things to make areas the cat is urinating in less attractive or unsuitable, while making the litter tray as attractive and accessible as possible.

1. Clean the soiled area to eliminate smells of previous urination with cleaners such as the laundry powder, Bio Zet and neutralise rather than mask, the smell with a product such as Bac to Nature, Nilodour or Enzstain.  When possible, clean with 90% alcohol prior to Bac to Nature to further reduce odour.  Avoid bleach and ammonia as these have a residual smell that can actually enhance the urine odour.

2. Confine the cat to a small area that has previously not been sprayed in.  Gradually allow access to more of the house once the spraying diminishes.

3. Change the significance of the soiled areas by placing there such items as food (superglueing some dry cat food to a paper plate placed on that spot), toys, double-sided sticky tape, lemon-scented soap, citrus peels, mothballs, or Snappy Trainers.  Cover the area with thick plastic or plastic hall runners or place the cat’s bedding in that area or simply denying access to certain areas until the cat is reliably urinating appropriately.  Another alternative is to place a tray in the area the cat prefers and then gradually move it to the area that you consider acceptable. Spraying a pheromone spray on all soiled areas daily for 30 days may help.

4. Spray the cat with a water pistol if it is caught in the act of urine spraying.

5. Provide one litter tray per at and an extra one in another area, to allow easy access.

6. Clean the tray at least once daily with warm soapy water and preferably every time it was used.

7. Vary they type of litter or add an empty litter tray, as cats have different litter and/or privacy preferences. Modifications to the tray itself can also be useful, for example, providing  a covered tray for more privacy or a tray with a cut down side for an arthritic cat for easier access.

8. Spend 10-15 minutes per day at a set time, playing, grooming and otherwise interacting with the cat on its own.

9. Grow an indoor garden of safe plants such as catnip or catmint for the cat to use.

(SEE ALSO TIPS FOR FELINE FUN and Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease.


Progressive reinforcement training

Progressive reinforcement training

Positive Training Yields Positive Results!

By Kristin Crestejo, ABCDT

 Progressive reinforcement training (PRT) is a type of animal training that involves no forms of intimidation, violence, or domination, but rather emphasizes teaching the desired behaviour using only rewards, such as a toy, treat or positive environment.

I know that when a lot of people hear the phrase “reward good behaviours and ignore bad ones” they have conjure images in their heads of training that allows dogs to get away with murder. This is very far from the truth! Over the years, trainers and animal behaviourists have learned that dogs will always do what is reinforced, so it is therefore our job to show them exactly what we want them to do.

 Benefits of starting PRT with a young dog

 A young dog’s mind is like a sponge-whatever you show them it is absorbed quickly, and so learning comes easy. If you begin training your pup by showing him exactly what you want him to do, that pup will have a clear understanding of what’s expected and will be less confused. For example, when your puppy is chewing on your hands, many people scream “no” and wave their hands around. This often gets puppies more excited, so now you’ve shown him or her that a person screaming equals play. The puppy is doing what comes natural to him-using his mouth to explore the world, play and soothe achy teeth- so you cannot punish this behaviour. You need to interrupt, and redirect. When the puppy is biting you, make a noise such as a whistle or kissy sound (interruption); most likely the pup will stop to see what the sound was. This is your chance to show the puppy the proper chew toy by moving one of his toys around for a chase and wrestle game (redirect). Don’t make the mistake of tossing a toy to the pup when walking away and ignoring him. Why would the puppy stay with the toy? That’s boring! Make the toy interactive, and play with it for two or three minutes.

 Why is it best to use non- aversive methods?

 When you use punishment techniques, such as intimidation with verbal and physical corrections, you’re teaching the dog to suppress whatever behaviour the dog is showing. Suppressing an undesirable behaviour doesn’t fix the problem, it just covers it up – and a potentially worse behaviour can pop up down the road. Because dogs cannot talk, their communication efforts get lost in translation. If we start comparing human behaviour to dog behaviour in an effort to understand them, things can get really ugly. Dogs and humans have very different communication systems; while we primarily use words, dogs communicate mainly with their bodies. For example, when you see a snarling, lunging dog, chances are it is extremely terrified and feels he must put on a scary face to, say, make another dog or person go away. Rather than correcting your dog, show him what behaviour you would like instead, and reinforce that behaviour with something that your dog likes, such as treats or toys.

 Be proactive, not reactive

When I meet a client for the first time, I constantly hear about how they have had to correct their dog time and again. When the dog doesn’t make any progress, owners often blame the dog’s intelligence level and sometimes even give the dog away, believing her or she will never grasp training. Corrections fail most of the time because we cannot give the right amount of punishment paired with the exact moment the behaviour happens for it to take effect. Most corrections are given too late, and are either too hard or too soft. This makes it difficult for the dog to understand what he is doing wrong.

Don’t wait for your dog to get into trouble before showing him what is acceptable; manage your environment so that he is unable to get into trouble. For example, this could mean not allowing the dog free access to the entire house until he can be trusted.

By not allowing dogs to exhibit bad behaviours, they can’t learn from them!

 The above article is a courtesy of

PETS Magazine, January/February 2012

Kristin Crestejo, ABCDT, is head trainer and behaviour consultant at Modern Canine Training in Langley, British Columbia. www.




What is Toxoplasma?

Toxoplasma is a microscopic organism that is found in many domestic animals including cats, dogs, horses, pigs and sheep. Humans can also become infected. There are a number of possible routes of infections. These include:
1.Eating raw or under cooked meat
2.Contact with cat faeces
3.Drinking water or eating raw vegetables contaminated by cat faeces.

Once infected, humans produce antibodies which can be detected by a blood test. While any person can be infected with Toxoplasma, the people at greatest risk of serious problems are pregnant women with a cat in their household and immunocompromised people eg. those with leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease, AIDS sufferers transplant patients or cancer patients recieving chemotherapy.

Many people often panic and have their cat rehomed or euthanised when they discover they are pregnant. Pregnant women should have a blood test first to determine whether they have any Toxoplasma antibodies. It is only women that have no antibodies and thus have not been previously exposed that are at risk. However, if appropriate precautions are taken then there is often little risk if any to the pregnant woman and her foetus.

Precautions to follow are:
1. Do not handle or eat raw meat and ensure all meat is cooked thoroughly.  If meat must be handled wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly after.
2. Wash utensils used for meat preparation in hot soapy water.
3. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
4. Do not feed cats raw or undercooked meat.
5. Prevent cats from hunting or scavenging.
6. Avoid handling cat litter. If this is not possible wear gloves when doing so and dispose of cat litter daily. Disinfect trays with boiling water and wash hands after handling litter trays.
7. Wear gloves when gardening.
8. Always wash hands thoroughly before eating.
9. Do not assist ewes lambing without gloves!