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FIDO & WINE Is Back!

January 9th, 2013


The wait is over! Fido & Wine is back for a new season! We’ll be premiering new episodes online, right here at www.thepetnetwork.tv, starting this Monday. Here’s the news release with all the details:

TORONTO, January 7, 2013: Fido & Wine, the world’s first cooking show dedicated to sharing ideas and recipes for meals that both people and their pets can enjoy, is returning to The Pet Network for a second season.

New episodes of the half-hour program, hosted by Laura Ducharme, will premiere online at www.thepetnetwork.tv, starting on Monday, January 14. The episodes will make their broadcast television premiere on The Pet Network in the spring of 2013.

Viewers will find full episodes of the show, along with recipes and more, at www.thepetnetwork.tv/fido-wine.

Fido & Wine Producer Jen Mitchell Oddi says this Pet Network original series taps into an area of growing interest among animal lovers.

“More and more Canadians are concerned with finding alternatives to processed pet foods and making sure that their dogs and cats enjoy healthier, more wholesome diets,” says Ms. Mitchell Oddi, who also authors My Dog’s Breakfast, a popular blog devoted to home cooking for canine companions.

“People often assume that preparing homemade meals for a pet is difficult, time-consuming and costly – but it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “Fido & Wine is all about finding inspiration to create simple, enjoyable and affordable meals for the special animals in our lives, using fresh and natural ingredients.”

The highlights of season two will include a “round-up” dinner inspired by a demonstration of duck and sheep herding, and a hearty cold-weather meal for some hard-working sled dogs. Fido & Wine will also take on the issue of pet obesity, with an episode devoted to weight-loss recipes. All this, plus a look at meal ideas for felines, and guest appearances by some of Canada’s leading design and renovation celebrities.

Don Gaudet, Vice President, Programming and Production for Stornoway Communications, which owns and operates The Pet Network, says the return of Fido & Wine reflects the station’s commitment to delivering entertaining and informative stories about the animal companions who share our lives.

“Pets are important members of our families. And as with other family members, we want the very best for them. Fido & Wine speaks to the many Canadians who care passionately about making sure their pets enjoy long, healthy and happy lives.”

The success of Fido & Wine has also sparked a spin-off project from the same production team: an original documentary for The Pet Network, now in development, that will explore the link between nutrition and aggressive behaviour in canines.

Season two of Fido & Wine is produced with the assistance of the Canadian Media Fund.


Talent Hounds: Behind The Scenes, Part One

November 30th, 2012


The producers of Talent Hounds, a new documentary slated to air on The Pet Network in 2013, got in touch this past week to tell us about a recent live audition — one of a series they’ve organized in an effort to cast gifted canines to appear in the film:

On Friday, November 16th, the Talent Hounds crew were on location at the Red Barn Event Centre in Barrie, Ontario shooting the upcoming documentary: an engaging one-hour film that traces the history of dogs and their changing roles and talents. Talent Hounds‘ first official shoot at Red Barn did not disappoint, proving to be a goldmine of fantastic auditions, expert interviews and stories that warmed the heart.

Brenda and her dog Indy drove five hours all the way from the Ottawa region with friends and pooch pals for visiting-trainer Cassandra Hartman’s Canine Musical Freestyle and Intro to Treibball Workshops — and to audition for Talent Hounds Casting Call. When asked what motivated this crew and canine caravan to travel all this way, Brenda immediately quipped: “We came for a very simple reason: to have fun with our dogs. That is what it is all about for us. Having fun with our dogs.” And the Freestyle and Treibball sure looked fun. The talented group impressed the crew with their amazing moves and training.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Hartman, owner and head trainer of Cassandra’s Canines in Caledonia, Ontario, takes the value of the human/canine bond through fun and fitness very seriously, advocating owner health and well-being as part of the overall training routine with their dogs.

“Take Zumba classes, take yoga,” she advised, “Exercise in a way that makes you think about your body and your lines so that when you train with your dog, you are aware of your body in relationship to theirs.” This great advice gently prompted clients to see that in order to take the best care of their dogs, they need to take care of themselves. However, Cassandra’s final message was simply “Have FUN with your dogs!” prompting Brenda to nudge her canine companion Indy in affirmation: “That’s what I keep saying!”

Over the next few weeks, the Talent Hounds producers will be sniffing out a range of talents, dog breeds and training methods through an open Casting Call whereby proud pet parents and trainers can submit photos or videos of their dogs online or attend one of the live Casting Call auditions (listed in the Events section of Talent Hounds Web site). CLICK HERE for more information on Talent Hounds and the Talent Hounds Casting Call.

Photos: Cat Cappuccio


Bon Appetite?

June 19th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

It never ceases to amaze me at what dogs will eat. Ask any veterinarian, and they’ll recite a catalogue of the curious items they have removed from the inside of a dog (where, as Mark Twain once said, it’s very dark).

I am reminded of this every spring, which seems to be the official kick-off for the season of Inedible Objects Being Consumed. A few months ago, I was called in one evening to remove a bone from a dog’s mouth. This happens more often than you might think. Most often a piece of the bone gets lodged on the roof of the mouth between the large chewing teeth in the back. And it’s amazing how tightly they can get stuck. Even more amazing is that some dogs don’t complain about it — you’ll never even see it unless you crank the mouth way open to look for it. I’ve encountered several cases that were only discovered when the stench of the dog’s breath became unbearable.

This bone, however, was a bit different. It was one of the round, hollow kind, and somehow this poor guy — who came into the clinic wagging his tail, but looking a bit embarrassed — had managed to get it stuck around the bottom of his chin. It was absolutely clamped around his lower jaw and lodged behind the canine teeth. His owners had been working at it for some time, but had finally given up.

To make everyone’s life easier, I gave him a light sedation and something to relieve the pain. I figured then I’d be able to give the bone a little twist and slip it right off — looking terribly clever in the process. Well, you know what they say about pride before a fall. Even with the dog completely immobile, the bone remained as lodged tightly as ever.

Finally, since nothing else was working, I pulled out our cast cutter and sawed the bone in half. Worked like a charm — but I swore the owners to secrecy, since this is most definitely NOT the intended use for the cast cutting saw, a piece of equipment that runs about $800. My boss would not have been pleased. (Though I did, guiltily, ‘fess up later, and he took it with good humor.)

To this day, I have no idea how the dog managed to get a bone wedged on there so tightly that it had to be cut off. Seems almost impossible that this could have happened by accident.

There have also been other more common items. Fish hooks, for example are a problem in this part of B.C. during the summer. Often stuck through a lip, on the nose, or hooked on the tongue. Once in a while, a dog will even swallow one. Which is a really good reason to not take your dog on a fishing trip if you like using hot dogs for bait.

One of my most memorable cases involved a really nice dog — a standard poodle named Sam — who swallowed some very  . . .  well, let’s say racy women’s lingerie. Twice. Now, when an owner has to pay a hefty vet bill for surgery, they naturally expect to see what you’ve retrieved. Usually it’s a child’s toy, a piece of a ball, a rock — regular stuff. When it’s something from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, that makes for an awkward moment in the consult room. The first words the client uttered upon seeing this wildly coloured piece of mangled lace? “Those aren’t mine!”

Fortunately for all concerned, she had a sense of humor and a generous limit on her VISA card, because Sam would repeat his performance just a few months later. This time, neither one of us was surprised. The odd part was that he never left the fenced backyard of her rented house, except on a leash. The only thing we could figure is that a former renter must have buried the evidence of an indiscretion in the backyard, only to have Sam unearth the remains of the affair.

Mind you, this case one pales by comparison with one I happened to read about. The owner turned the house upside down searching for a pager. Finally, in frustration, the owner dialed the number, and began removing all the sofa cushions. Suddenly, the ringing could be heard. And when the owner’s dog, dislodged from its perch on the sofa, left the room … the ringing did, too. Go figure.

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.


Making The Best Of The Golden Years

May 16th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Talkin’ Jerky

May 7th, 2012


On her blog, My Dog’s Breakfast (which, if you’re not following it, why are you not following it?) Fido & Wine producer extraordinaire Jen Mitchell has a post addressing some of the troubling health and safety issues around made-in-China chicken jerky treats. The U.S. FDA has issued multiple warnings about these products since 2007, yet they remain widely stocked on store shelves across North America. Jen has some particularly strong points to make about misleading packaging and labeling. We won’t try to summarize here — you really should read the whole thing.

One practical alternative to buying packaged jerky treats is to make your own at home. As Jen demonstrates, it’s really pretty easy; here’s her recipe:


- Chicken Breasts – that’s it!

Basically, we are dehydrating strips of chicken. Dehydrating is the process of slowly removing all of the water. The dehydration process retains almost 100% of the nutritional content of the food.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Thinly slice the chicken with the grain. The slices should be very thin.

Place the strips on the baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 3 hours, just check on it once in a while.

Remove from oven and cool.

Easy, right? You can store the jerky in the fridge for about 3 weeks. If you make a big batch, you can freeze for later use.

You can feed your dog these treats and feel secure in the knowledge that they are healthy and safe. And they have one super special ingredient that no store can sell: L-O-V-E.

Don’t forget to follow Jen’s blog HERE.


Growing Old Gracefully

May 1st, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pet Effect

April 16th, 2012


Here’s a little secret that just about every pet owner knows: having animals in our makes us healthier and happier. Fido & Wine‘s Jen Mitchell and Laura Ducharme devote their column in this month’s On The Go magazine to the mental and physical benefits of pet ownership — and suggest ways that people without pets can still soak up some of the benefits of befriending an animal.

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

Don’t forget to catch the newest episode of Fido & Wine, “Dogtoberfest,” tomorrow (Tuesday April 17) at 8 pm ET/PT. Repeats on Saturday.



Lumps And Bumps

April 10th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

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

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

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

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

So when should you become concerned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Soundness Matters

March 13th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

So you’ve made the big decision: you’re going to get a puppy. Congratulations! You’ll enjoy unconditional love and lowered blood pressure — and you’ll give total strangers a socially acceptable excuse for striking up conversations with you.

For many of you, your ideal companion will be found at the local animal shelter or adopted from one of the many fine rescue organizations that help provide loving homes for dogs in need. We’ll talk about how to find that perfect match in an upcoming post.

Others of you may have your heart set on a certain breed. Maybe your family had a Doberman Pinscher when you were growing up. Or maybe you’ve long been dreaming of a St. Bernard or an elegant Afghan Hound. If you are interested in a purebred dog (and there are several hundred breeds to choose from), the wisest course is to do your homework first. Dogs have been bred for centuries to perform different tasks, and their behavioural tendencies and activity levels vary as much as their appearances.

Even if you’ve already decided on a particular breed, it’s still important to do some research before shopping for a puppy. Virtually all breeds have a national club with a Web site offering a wealth of information — not only about physical and behavioural qualities, but health concerns as well. No breed is entirely free of genetic health issues, and you’ll want to know what questions to ask. These inherited disorders can spell pain and heartbreak for you and your pet, and may require expensive corrective surgery or lifelong treatment to manage symptoms. Moreover, many — if not most — such disorders don’t become apparent until a puppy has reached maturity. A one-week return guarantee means little if your much-loved family member becomes disabled or develops epilepsy as a young adult.

So how do you know if the breeder you are considering is responsible and ethical breeder or a backyard breeder?

Many people believe that if you have no intention of showing or breeding your dog, it’s not particularly necessary to seek out a high-quality breeder who might have a long waiting list or require a spay/neuter contract. It’s certainly true that high prices and a flashy Web site do not, by themselves, mean quality and health. But there are sound and sensible reasons to steer well clear of backyard breeders.

One reliable way to identify a reputable breeder? He or she will have a long list of questions for you. They will want to know why you chose the breed and what expectations you have for your new dog. They will inquire about your household and the environment where the dog will be kept. They may ask if you have a fenced yard or other pets in the family. They will want to know the ages of your children and what plans you have for the dog when family members are at work or school. They may even ask for references.

Quality breeders will expect you to have questions too. They will be well-versed in the health and behavioral issues associated with the breed, and will be able to produce documentation of health clearances for their breeding animals.

Bear in mind that every breed has issues, and that health screening tests are the only way to definitively identify such potential concerns. Dogs that have’t been tested for health issues aren’t necessarily free of them — theirbreeders simply choose not to know.

Breeders who are taking steps to produce healthy puppies will be proud to explain the process — and, most important, can provide documentary proof that the puppies come from sound breeding stock. Registration papers themselves only signify that a dog is purebred. They give no indication of health or quality of the dog.

A quality breeder will serve as a resource for you throughout the life of your dog. They will always be there to answer questions. And, if for some reason you are unable to keep the dog, they may require that the animal be returned to them. This is one way that responsible breeders ensure the puppies they produce do not end up being abandoned or joining the thousands of purebred dogs that are surrendered to animal shelters every year.

Many buyers don’t realize that they can get a healthy, stable puppy from a quality breeder at a price comparable to what they would pay for an unsound, randomly bred dog from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill. Responsible breeders don’t use puppy sales as a money-making endeavour. They breed their dogs carefully and give great forethought to how these dogs will contribute to the breed. Only a fraction of the puppies they produce will go on to be winners in the show ring. But the remainder will be exceptional dogs puppies, exemplary of their breed: physically and mentally sound, and destined to make a wonderful addition to your family.

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.

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.

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