Give Paws A Chance

Companion animals enrich our lives in countless ways, as pets and personal supports and even as protectors and workers. Chances are, if you have a pet, they are a member of your family and are treated with the same reverence and devotion as a child.

Roughly half of Canadian households own a pet, and we spend billions of dollars on them each year for veterinary care, food and other speciality products and services

Sadly, not all pets are born into (or borne to) doting homes, and many end up in shelters and under the care of rescue organizations who often struggle to attract and maintain sufficient funding to operate successfully. According to 2013 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies’ statistics, more than 119,000 cats, 53,000 dogs and 15,000 other animals were admitted to shelters in 2012 (a number the organization says is conservative, since it is estimated from the responses of only 102 shelters that responded to a survey).

Many organizations that coordinate foster care and training for service pets — such as guide dogs for the blind, emotional support animals and those that help with other special human needs — also have to raise funds to keep the lights on.

Over the past several years, PETS Magazine has profiled many of these groups and the passionate individuals who work tirelessly to make life better for people and pets alike. Their devotion takes many forms, from providing free veterinary care to the pets of homeless people to raising money for pet health research, offering support for pets whose owners are in endof-life care, flying adoptable pets to their distant forever home, training people in pet first aid and much more

Looking for a charity or cause to support? Find inspiration by checking out Pet Project profiles in back issues of PETS Magazine at Your veterinary team will also be a good source for identifying legitimate organizations near you. On the Internet, check out for listings of registered Canadian charities by keyword.

If you are concerned about how your money will be used, check out Charity Intelligence Canada (, itself a registered charity that researches and assesses Canadian organizations so donors can make sound decisions. The Canada Revenue Agency also provides listings of registered charities and other tips for making donations at

Whether you have a personal affinity for specific breeds or merely companion animals in general, there are hundreds of organizations in Canada to choose from. They all need some form of support, in the form of donations of money, supplies, food or volunteer time. In some cases, your financial contributions can qualify for a tax credit.

In all cases, whatever support you can offer will change lives


Although there are now fewer cases, rabies remains a problem in North America. Wildlife species are the only carriers of the disease, with occasional cases affecting domestic animal and human populations

Cats are more likely to be infected with rabies than dogs! This is probably because they are less likely to be vaccinated and may not be well supervised when outdoors.


  • All dogs, cats, horses and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Consider vaccinating livestock or any other close contact mammals because animals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated to help prevent exposure to the virus.
  • You can reduce the possibility of your pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free.
  • Neutering (spay, castration) of your pets may decrease undesirable behaviour, like aggression and roaming.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals — even if they appear friendly


  • Don’t leave garbage or pet food outside, as it may attract wild or stray animals.
  • Wild animals should not be kept as pets. Observe wild animals from a distance.
  • Do not feed or handle them — even if they appear friendly. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control personnel.


  • Contact your local health department. The person bitten should receive prompt medical attention after immediate gentle flushing of the wound.
  • A dog, cat or ferret that bites a human will need to be examined by a veterinarian and quarantined for 10 days, regardless of vaccine status.
  • Promptly report any illness or unusual behaviour of your pet to your veterinarian


Consult your veterinarian immediately. They will examine your pet and assess your pet’s vaccination and other medical or surgical needs. Dogs, cats and ferrets can sometimes be observed for up to six months to see if they develop signs of rabies; the time depends on their vaccine status.

Contact the appropriate authorities if your pet was bitten by a stray or wild animal (varies by province) — your veterinarian can assist.

Identifying or safely capturing the animal that bit your pet will help determine if your pet was exposed to rabies, but it is very important that you do not risk getting bitten yourself.

The biting animal may be tested for rabies; this requires euthanasia and testing of brain material.


Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Contact your physician immediately. Prompt and appropriate preventative treatment after being bitten and before the disease develops can help stop rabies.

Pet Owners Should Take Precautions This Winter


Freezing temperatures and inclement weather are a threat to not only humans, but pets as well, so Pet Sitters International (PSI) advises pet owners to take some simple precautions this winter to ensure their pets stay safe.

PSI, the world’s leading educational association for professional pet sitters, advises pet owners to only use the services of professional pet sitters for their pet-care needs and to discuss winter weather preparations and policies with their pet sitters.

“Professional pet sitters have the knowledge and credentials to provide quality care for pets, regardless of season,” explained Patti J. Moran, PSI president and founder. “However, in many areas the winter brings unique challenges and it’s important that pet owners and their pet sitters are on the same page regarding protocols for pet care when temperatures or outside conditions become dangerous.”

PSI advises pet owners to follow these tips:

  • Know your pet sitter’s inclement weather plan. Most professional pet sitters offer pet-sitting services year-round in all types of weather, but make sure your professional pet sitter has your emergency contact on file should treacherous conditions or impassable roads prevent the pet sitter from reaching your home.
  • Keep pets inside as much as possible. Young, old and short-haired pets are more vulnerable to cold weather and should not be left outside unsupervised, and some pets may require warm clothing if they are going to go outside. Pets should not be kept outside in belowfreezing temperatures, as both cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Consult your veterinarian for additional guidance on pet safety in extreme temperatures.
  • Discuss exercise options with your pet sitter. When temperatures drop, your pet sitter or dog walker may need to shorten your pet’s walk or engage your pet in an alternate activity such as indoor play time. Stephanie Novak, owner of Pet Au Pair in Bala Cynwyd, PA. said, “[On frigid days] I tell my clients that I will only keep their dogs out long enough to ‘do their business’ and then play indoors with them for the remainder of the time. I also have an established relationship with two vets in the area. If I am at all doubtful on a particular day, I call them for advice.”
  • Watch out for chemicals. Ice-melting chemicals and salt can irritate and burn the pads of your pet’s paws, so thoroughly wipe off your pet’s paws upon returning inside. Also be sure to thoroughly clean up any antifreeze spills and store household chemicals out of paw’s reach, since antifreeze is poisonous to pets.
  • Discuss emergency care with your pet sitter. Ask any potential pet sitter if he or she has been trained in pet first aid, and provide your pet sitter with signed authorization to take your pet to the veterinarian in the case of an emergency. Make your veterinarian aware of the arrangement and be sure your pet sitter has up-to-date contact information for your preferred veterinarian.
  • Don’t just hire a pet lover. “Often times, pet owners, and even news outlets, use the term ‘pet sitter’ carelessly, referring to anyone — from a family friend to the neighbourhood teenager asked to check in on your pet — as a ‘pet sitter,’” Moran said. “It is important that pet owners understand that pet sitting is a professional career and professional pet sitters offer peace of mind that other pet-care options cannot.”

PSI advises pet owners to ask seven important questions of any potential pet sitter. The questions are outlined in PSI’s free Pet-Sitter Interview Checklist. To learn more about PSI or to find a local PSI member pet sitter in your area, visit

Canine Influenza Confirmed In Essex County In January

H3N2 canine influenza has been identified in two dogs in Essex County. The dogs were imported from South Korea (via the United States) in late December and were showing signs of respiratory disease the following day when they were examined by a veterinarian. A small number of dogs that had close contact with the affected dogs also have mild respiratory disease, but test results from those animals are not yet available.

This is the first known incursion of H3N2 canine influenza in Canada. The virus is widespread in some parts of Asia and is causing outbreaks in various locations of the United States, especially in shelters. Canine influenza virus is of concern because it is highly transmissible between dogs, particularly in areas (such as Canada) where dogs do not have natural immunity from previous infection and where canine influenza vaccination is rare.

A few important points should be noted:

  • Most dogs that develop influenza do not get seriously ill. Respiratory disease that is indistinguishable from other infectious respiratory diseases (canine infectious respiratory disease complex, also known as ‘kennel cough’) usually occurs, although serious (including fatal) infections and/or complications can develop.
  • Infected dogs can shed influenza virus for a short time prior to the onset of disease. So, dogs that appear to be healthy are still a potential source of infection.
  • Canine influenza vaccines can reduce the risk of disease and are available from veterinarians in Canada.
  • Cats can be infected but this appears to be rare.

Canine H3N2 influenza virus is different than the human H3N2 influenza virus that is a common seasonal flu virus in people. There is no known human risk from H3N2 canine influenza virus; however, the risk of reassortment (or mixing together) between the canine H3N2 virus and human seasonal influenza viruses is a potential concern. As cases of novel influenza in animals are reportable to public health, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are involved in the investigation, along with the University of Guelph.

The investigation and response are ongoing, and at this point, the concern mainly involves the imported dogs and their close contacts. Affected and exposed dogs are being confined by their owners to help prevent further spread. However, dog owners in Windsor and Essex County should be vigilant and watch for signs of respiratory disease in their dogs, particularly dogs that frequently have contact with other dogs

Because canine influenza virus (as well as other infectious causes of respiratory disease) can be highly contagious, care must be taken with sick dogs. Dogs with signs of respiratory disease (e.g., cough, decreased appetite, nasal and eye discharge and fever) should be kept away from others dogs for at least two weeks. If a dog with potentially infectious respiratory disease is taken to a veterinarian, the veterinary clinic should be informed in advance so that they can take appropriate precautions, such as admitting the dog directly to an examination or isolation room and using isolation precautions.

Editor’s note: Information accurate as of January 8, 2018. For local updates consult Ask your veterinarian about the benefits of canine influenza vaccine.

Report On Cat Overpopulation In Canada


The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) has just launched a new national research report on the state of cat overpopulation as a follow up to its ground-breaking 2012 study, Cats in Canada: A Comprehensive Report on the Cat Overpopulation Crisis. “The good news is that we’ve taken some giant leaps forward in cat welfare since 2012,” says Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. “The bad news is that it’s not happening quickly enough to overcome Canada’s cat overpopulation crisis.” In this five-year follow up report, CFHS compared data points from the original 2012 study to those in 2017 to update our understanding of the cat overpopulation problem and how far cat welfare has come since CFHS increased its focus on this issue in 2012.

Key findings from the report include:

  • At animal care organizations across the country, adoption is up, euthanasia is down, animal intake is down and more lost cats are going home.
  • The number of cats who are arriving in shelters already spayed or neutered has doubled, and the number who arrived without permanent ID has been cut in half.
  • Only 28% of Canadians report letting their cats roam outdoors unsupervised. It’s great to see so few cats being allowed to roam freely outdoors because this can be dangerous for cats. There are risks of getting hit by cars, getting into fights with other cats and wildlife or being subjected to cruelty. There are also negative impacts on birds and other wildlife.
  • In 2012, 89% of animal shelters were at capacity, and only 73% reported being at capacity in 2017. This is likely due to more shelters implementing innovative shelter management practices.
  • Over half (51%) of animals being taken in by animal care organizations are now being spayed/neutered prior to adoption, compared to 26% in the 2012 report.

“These trends mirror what we’ve been seeing in our annual animal shelter stats reports,” says Toolika Rastogi, policy and research manager at CFHS and the project lead for Cats in Canada 2017. “That indicates our annual data is a good barometer of what’s happening more broadly at Canada’s animal care organizations.” This new national research is critical to understanding cat population issues in Canada and how they have evolved in the five years of dedicated focus since the publication of CFHS’ 2012 report. As part of this project, CFHS conducted a general population survey of Canadians, as well as a multi-stakeholder survey of animal care organizations, receiving data from municipalities, veterinarians, humane societies and SPCAs, rescue organizations, trap-neuter-return groups, spay/neuter groups and other organizations across Canada that help to house or care for unwanted, abandoned, stray and feral cats in Canada.

Download the report at