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.

The Invisible Rvt: What Registered Veterinary Technicians Do

Your beloved dog Spot is sick. You take him to see your veterinarian and they take Spot ‘to the back’ to run some tests. But what, or rather who, is in the back? Likely it’s a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) who will be running those tests and caring for your animal under the direction of a veterinarian.

You have likely seen and interacted with an RVT at your clinic without realizing it. RVTs are formally educated and trained professionals working as members of the veterinary healthcare team.

“RVTs are integral members of the veterinary team, who meet and surpass the high standards that clients have come to expect for their pets,” said Laurie Williams, RVT and continuing education manager for the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). “RVTs combine excellent practical skills and knowledge with a genuine passion for animal health and welfare.”

genuine passion for animal health and welfare.” RVTs are involved in many different aspects of pet healthcare. They help to ensure clinics run smoothly and efficiently and help to deliver the best possible care for your pets.

The following list contains just a few examples of RVT duties:

  • Husbandry, restraint and handling of animals;
  • Capturing and processing diagnostic radiographs and ultrasounds;
  • Diagnostic laboratory tests for the purposes of hematology, clinical chemistry, and urinalysis;
  • Surgical preparation and assistance;
  • Anaesthetic administration and monitoring;
  • Administration and dispensing of medication and treatments as prescribed by a veterinarian; and,
  • Nutrition management and planning.

In order to use the title RVT in, for example, Ontario, an individual must have attended an accredited college veterinary technician program, passed a national exam, submitted a clear criminal record check, completed professionalism and ethics training and be a member of the OAVT. RVTs also must complete continuing education regularly in order to keep their credentials. Each province has its own member association for RVTs. For more information about RVTs in Ontario visit

Next time you take Spot to the clinic, ask to talk to an RVT to see what they can do for you!

— Canadian Animal Health Institute

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

Canadian Veterinary Student Symposium Welcomes Yukon Vet

On January 13th, 2018, Dr. Michelle Oakley (pictured left), star of Nat Geo Wild’s reality show Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, addressed Canadian veterinary students with her keynote lecture, Life of a Yukon Vet; Will Film for Food, at the annual Students of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA) Symposium. The event was hosted this year by Dr. Oakley’s alma mater, the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) at the University of Prince Edward Island. “The 2018 SCVMA Symposium theme ‘Mink, Mice, and Moose: The Diverse Field of Veterinary Medicine’ highlights the multiple paths students can follow in their veterinary career, and emphasizes Dr. Oakley’s lecture on how she went from being an AVC student to the only all-species veterinarian for Canada’s vast Yukon territory and a National Geographic reality star,” says Karie Bryenton (pictured right), SCVMA Committee representative, 2018 SCVMA symposium chair and AVC Class of 2020.

VETERINARIANS CAUTION: Medical Marijuana Exposure In Pets

From the Canadian Veterinary
Medical Association

Marijuana has been prominent in pet news recently due to the rise of medical marijuana use in people and its impending legalization in Canada. It is important for you to know about these products since the probability of your pet becoming exposed is increasing.

The Effects Of Using Medical Marijuana In Pets Is Not Well Studied To Date

It appears dogs are proportionately more sensitive to the active compounds in marijuana than people. An American study in 2012 by Meola and others reported increased rates of toxicity seen in dogs living in Colourado, a state with recent legalization of marijuana. In fact a four-fold increase in toxicities was reported between 2010 and 2015.

In small dogs, excessive intake can easily result in signs of toxicity, as listed below. Cats are not immune to toxic side effects, but are much more selective in their food intake. Cats generally avoid eating garbage, scavenging butts on walks around the block, or table or counter surfing, and they lack a sweet tooth so we do not see them take in “pot” products like dogs do.

Though, no pet is immune to respiratory irritation from side-stream smoke or purposeful cannabinoid product administration, with possible inadvertent (or, very rarely intended) overdose or illness resulting.

Signs Of Excess Cannabis Exposure In Pets Include:

  • Salivation
  • Sleepiness
  • Fast or slow heart rate
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Low body temperature
  • Wobbling, pacing and agitation
  • Vocalizing
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Vomiting

Where Does Marijuana Come From?

Cannabis sativa L. plants are the source from which recreational and most medical marijuana products are prepared. Preparation includes drying of leaves and flowers. Different types of prepared marijuana have a range of levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the well-known psychoactive compound. “Marijuana” refers to products containing any bioactive cannabinoid compounds, of which THC is just one example.

Marijuana Can Be Broken Down Into Three Classes:

Recreational: The plants can be smoked or vaporized from the dried leaves and flowers, or used in baking and other oral preparations for humans. This class has the highest risk for pet toxicity due to high THC levels.

Medical: These products contain moderate to high CBD levels (cannabidiol, another cannabinoid; a non-psychoactive compound), and minimal to moderate THC. These medicinal products are used for antibacterial, gut-soothing and anxietysoothing treatments in people. They are also used for anti-nausea and vomiting, anti-oxidant, pain relieving and anti-itch properties in people in addition to the psychological effects. Medical marijuana may be prescribed for cancer, osteoarthritis, chemotherapy, epilepsy and certain inflammatory bowel conditions in humans.  There are many plant cannabinoids (80-113 different types reported), and CBD is the main cannabinoid selected for in most medical marijuana products. Human medical products do not emphasize psychological effects (THC), but rather promote proposed medicinal effects (CBD). Strong psychoactive effects of THC are not generally desired for human medicinal use. Some of these products contain enough THC to produce toxicity in pets.

Hemp: A different subspecies, industrial hemp, has been cultivated for centuries for its rich fibre. It has been used in textiles and paper. Hemp tends to be the plant type used for pet “medical cannabis;” most of those products are hemp oil, tincture or hemp powder. Some pet hemp oil products are available for legal purchase in Canada and Europe because the products contain either none or just a trace of THC, and they are derived from legal hemp plants.  Currently, pet hemp products are being promoted as aids for itching, anxiety, nausea, poor appetite, seizures, cancer, digestive problems, inflammation, immune disease and reduced mobility due to joint pain in animals. Hemp products do not get the pet “high,” but effective and safe dosages have not been studied. Hemp is very low in THC and contains minor to moderate CBD levels; there is currently insufficient research data to know rates or thresholds for toxicity.

Veterinarians Are Not Allowed To Prescribe Any Of These Products For Pets

Certain legal hemp products may be useful in pets according to some experts, but veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe any of these products for pets. In fact, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) reminded its veterinarians that: “There are currently no *CBD products approved by Health Canada and therefore no legal pathway to obtain these products.” (*CBD refers to cannabidiol).

Pet owners who intend to administer these products without veterinary consultation, as some have done when traditional medicines have failed, are doing so even though no proven safe and effective doses have been published. Due to lack of suffi- cient evidence about effective, safe dosage and optimal frequency of administration in dogs and cats, owners should not dose their pets with any type of marijuana product. The only information we know for certain at this time is that dogs have a higher sensitivity to the same dose of cannabinoids when compared proportionately to people.

Further research is recommended to understand the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana in veterinary medicine. For now, marijuana of any type is not approved for medicinal use in animals, and giving products to your pet may have unknown side effects and unproven effectiveness. Especially, exposing them to THC-rich recreational marijuana could put them in a life-threatening medical crisis.

Kathleen Cavanagh BSc DVM ME, CVMA Consultant Online Editor; Jennifer Kyes, DVM, DACVECC (Critical Care), Specialist Editor.