Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nutrition and Your Pet

With this blog series I hope to bring a little bit of clarity to the confusing world of pet food and nutrition.  Nutrition is a relatively complicated topic and there is a lot of misinformation floating around. Combine that with expert marketing departments and it is no wonder many pet owners are confused about what food they should feed their pet.

 So let’s dive right in and answer some of those frequently asked questions.

 What is the difference between the foods we sell at the clinic and the foods you buy at the pet store?

The diets we sell in the clinic are veterinary prescription diets and are only available through a veterinary clinic. They are formulated specifically to treat and prevent medical conditions. Think of them like a prescription for a medication without any associated side effects! These foods have undergone extensive research to ensure they have a significant positive impact on the medical condition they target. Studies of the foods last for months or even years to assess their effects. Grocery store foods on the other hand only need to undergo a 6 week feeding trial and often do not have any research done beyond that point.

Let’s look at a side by side comparison: Pet store dental diets have a larger kibble size to try to help mechanically break tartar off the teeth. The veterinary prescription diet has this feature but also includes ingredients to bind calcium and prevent plaque from becoming tartar. We have studies looking at exactly how effective they are at tartar prevention. In addition there is a small dog option that is formulated to prevent bladder stones, a common problem in smaller breeds. Your pet store dental diet may help with tartar build up, however the company does not have research to show how effective their diet is. Your veterinary diet has the research to back it up along with several other added benefits.

Research shows that our veterinary diets are highly digestible ie: most of the ingredients are absorbed and used by the animal rather than being passed out as waste.  Pet store brands may add ingredients that sound very beneficial but no study has been done to assess whether the pet is actually able to absorb these extra ingredients. 


So you can see why there is a price difference between that veterinary diet and your pet store food. That being said our aim is to prevent or treat medical problems so you don’t have to spend more money on costly treatments.

Stay tuned to more answers to FAQs on pet foods.
Thanks for reading!
Dr Ingrid
Friday, September 22, 2017
Making the Vet Visit Fear Free:
Part Two

Welcome to part two in the series about making the vet visit fear free. If you didn't catch part one I  recommend you check it out as there are tips you can use at home to help make getting to the clinic easier. This edition we will cover thundershirts, the use of sedation and tricks we use in the hospital to make our day and overnight patients more comfortable.

 You may be wondering what the heck is a Thundershirt?! The Thundershirt is a vest made to fit your cat or dog that is pulled snug with velcro attachments.  The snuggness applies an even pressure around your pet's mid-section and this has been shown to reduce anxiety in animals. The concept originated from the use of weighted vests and blankets in people and is also similar to the idea of swaddling a baby. In the animal world a similar concept is employed when using a squeeze shoot for cattle. It is called a thundershirt because one of its main uses is in helping dogs cope with thunderstorm anxiety.  It is effective at reducing fear in about 66% to 75% of animals, which I think is a pretty great result for something that is non-invasive and not pharmaceutical.  We can use a Thundershirt in a variety of ways to help pet's cope with their visit to the doctor. If your pet is anxious about their vet visits and needs to come in often, then purchasing a thundershirt to put on your pet before you arrive at the vet is a good investment. It can also be helpful for those pets that stuggle with fear at the groomer or during nail trims. We also have some feline Thundershirts in clinic that we use during exams to help make grumpy cats more amenable to our poking and prodding.
A cat wearing the Thundershirt

In Clinic
When patients need to stay with us in the hospital, whether for a day procedure or overnight due to an illness, we want to help make them as comfortable as we can. If you know your pet will be staying in the hospital for a planned procedure consider bringing a small bag of their regular food with.  Similarily a favorite blanket or toy can be reassuring for your pet.  Cats feel very safe when they are able to stay hidden which is why I will often build a small fort with towels for inside the kennel of our hospitalized cats.  This is another instance where we use our feliway and adaptil calming pheromones.  We spray the towels and blankets we place in the kennels with the species appropriate pheromones prior to introducing your pet into the kennel.  These seemingly small steps can all add up to a more pleasant day in the clinic for our pets.

The use of mild sedatives for patients who are extremely anxious in the clinic can be very beneficial.  When choosing sedation for our patients our first choices are drugs that are very safe and can be given by mouth at home. These drugs tend to be very well tolerated and we rarely see side effects. They do not completely knock your pet out but tend to "take the edge off" of their fear. They are also very cost effective. Some pet owners feel badly giving sedatives to their pets but it really does make the visit much less stressful. I don't think there is any reason to feel guilty about helping your pet manage their fear.  In addition, your veterinarian will be able to do a much more thorough examination and potentially perform needed treatments in a safe manner. If you feel your pet might be a good candidate for using a mild, oral sedative before their next visit please mention this when you call to book your appointment. A lot of owners are surprised at how well things go with the use of a very mild sedation or anti-anxiety medication.
An ear examination for a sore ear can go much more smoothly with the use of a mild sedative.
Photo courtesy of

It is always our goal to help make your visit and your pets visit more enjoyable while also giving the best medical care we can. Hopefully some of these "fear free" techniques can be tested out at your next visit!

thanks for reading
Dr Ingrid
Monday, September 11, 2017

Making the Vet Visit Fear Free

A lot of pet owners dread bringing their four footed companions for their annual veterinary check ups. Who can blame them? The clinic can be a strange and intimidating place for our pets. Add to that the fact that many pets, especially cats, are not accustomed to riding in their carriers or in the car and you can see why stress levels hit the roof, often before the vet has even entered the exam room.

 Fear and stress are common reasons owners give for not bringing in their pets for the regular vet care they know they need. It can also make things a lot harder on the clinic staff. We love your pet and don't want to put them through an ordeal anymore than you do. At Winrose we are working towards a fear free experience for your pet! This article will outline some of the things you can do to help make your pets more comfortable during their vet visits. I will also explain methods we use to decrease stress once you and your pet arrive at our clinic.

1) Treats, Treats and more Treats
Lets start with a simple one. Many pets have a favorite special treat. You can help us by bringing that favorite snack from home with you. In addition you can give a smaller meal than usual before your appointment so your pet is extra motivated (hungry) to get the treats. At the clinic we will break the treats into small pieces so that we can constantly reward your pet throughout their exam. If you happed to forget their favorite at home we often have Dr. Eichkorn's famous homemade liver treats on hand to make your pet feel welcome. When you are in the waiting room or waiting in the exam room dont hesitate to reward your pet with a treat. We want them to build positive associations with being at the clinic. Essentially we want your pet to remember "this is the happy place where I get lots of my favorite food".

2) Transportation
This one is aimed more towards cats but can also apply to any dogs that are nervous in the car or carrier. A big reason cats hate the car and their carrier is because they are not used to it. Help your cat get used to the carrier by leaving it out for 1 to 2 weeks or more before your visit. Some owners leave the carrier out at all times as an extra piece of cat furniture. This is a great idea. Leave the door open and put soft blankets inside. If you see your cat go into the carrier on their own, reward them with a treat. Some cats will even make the carrier into a regular sleeping spot. Similarly, if you can, take your dog or cat for some short drives around the neighborhood to help them get used to the car. If your pet experiences car sickness let us know. We have medications you can give prior to the car ride to prevent car sickness.

 Whenever you take your pet out in the carrier remember to carry it from the bottom rather than the handle. Holding it by the handle causes it to swing back and forth...not very pleasant for your buddy inside! Once you arrive at the clinic try to place your carrier some where that will keep your cat or dog from being face to face with other pets. If we have a room available we will take you right in so that your pet will have a private and quiet place to wait until your appointment. 

3) Pheromones

Have you heard about the use of pheromones before? Pheromones are special "scents" produced by animals and they can have a calming effect. The feline facial pheremone is a scent cats produce, which they use to mark things as their own, when they rub their face on an object. Only cats can detect this scent as they have a special gland to pick up on it. Studies have shown that the pheromone has a calming effect on many cats. We think this is because it signals to the cat that they are somewhere familiar. Dogs also have a pheremone we can use to help calm them. It is called the dog appeasing pheromone and is the scent that the mother dog produces as her puppies are nursing. Again only dogs can actually detect the scent. At the clinic we have these pheremones in our exam rooms and in the boarding rooms. They are dispersed through the air through plug in diffusers to help pets feel a sense of general well being. We also spray the pheromones on towels and blankets used by pets and even spray our lab coats with them!

 I also use a diffuser at home for my cat who is a particularly high stress fellow (I find it helps his inappropriate elimination but that is a story for another day). These pheromones can be used at home for pets with specific anxiety related issues. They come in spray bottles and the dog version also comes as a collar. Spraying your pets towel or carrier with their calming scent half an hour before departure can help make the car ride more pleasant. The dog collars can help dogs who deal with chronic anxiety. We carry both the canine and feline pheromones at the clinic. Ask one of our team for more information!

The feline facial pheromone is sold under the name Feliway. This is the room diffuser product

That is a great start on fear free veterinary visits. I have just scratched the surface so I will be sure to follow this post with part two soon. In part two we will cover thundershirts (a favorite of mine), keeping our in-hospital patients low-stress, as well as the use of mild sedatives to help pets with especially high anxiety in the clinic.
Thanks for reading and see you soon

Dr Ingrid

Monday, August 15, 2016

Feather Picking in Pet Birds

Feather picking in pet birds from Cockatiels, to larger birds such as African Grey Parrots and Cockatoos, is an unfortunately common problem that we see here in the clinic. Today's blog will look at possible causes of feather picking including medical conditions and physcological factors.
Photo Courtesy of

Whenever we see a patient that may have a behavioural or physcological problem it is important that we first rule out diseases or medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms. A lack of proper nutrition, especially low vitamin A levels can cause several health issues including feather picking. It is very important for birds to be on a well balanced diet. Seed based diets are not adequate for parrorts as they are very high in fat and calories but are low in protein and vitamin levels. We recommend weaning birds who are on an all seed diet on to a pelleted diet such as Harrison's. This can be very difficult for birds who are used to eating only seeds and sometimes we need to use table foods such as corn on the cob (cut into small wheels), carrots, whole green beans or whole peas in the pod to supplement the diet if the bird will not accept a pellets diet. Be imaginative and cut food into small pieces at first so your bird does not become frightened of the new foods.

Another important factor is the lighting the bird is exposed to. Most pet birds should be getting 12 hours of daylight and 10- 12 hours of darkness per day. If your bird is on a different schedule you should ask us about how you can very gradually change the photoperiod to reach the ideal length of time. The intensity of the lighting available is also important. In the wild most birds are exposed to high intensity UV light as they live in open areas or high in the canopy. Adding a UV light to your bird's housing set up is a good idea as it is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and increases your bird's vitamin D levels.

Many parrots are originally from a tropical, humid environment and as such a daily misting with water or at the very least daily access to a bath should be included in your parrot's routine. In addition to making sure the diet, lighting and humidity are ideal we may recommend running some bloodwork, examining a feather under the microscope, examining a fecal sample or even performing a skin biopsy. These tests are important to make sure we are not misdiagnosing a bird with a physcological problem when it may actually have something completely different.

Once we have addressed any underlying medical conditions and husbandry practices we can move forward with considering behavioural or physcological causes. Boredom is something to consider before starting with anti-anxiety medications. Most parrots are highly social and are adapted to living in pairs or groups. Scheduling regular interaction with your bird each day, teaching your bird new tricks and bahviours and making sure you have appropriate toys are all essential. When considering what type of toys a bird needs we should think about their natural instincts. In the wild shredding and picking at wood and leaves is a natural daily bahviour. Most birds will be unhappy with indestructible toys and would prefer something they can tear or pick at. Large toys may intimidate a bird and owners should be careful to introduce extrememly small objects at first and work gradually up to larger ones. Once your bird has accepted toys you should rotate them in and out of the cage to help your bird stay engaged.

Training using small food rewards.

If you have been working with your bird and we have addressed the many diverse husbandry needs of your pet and the feather picking continues then we may consider starting anti-anxiety medications. If a bird is causing severe self-trauma from the feather picking we may recommend using a soft or hard collar to prevent picking. This is meant only to be a short term solution to protect the skin. It is normally not successful in stopping long-term picking unless you are also using behaviour modification training. The collar can also be stressful on your bird so it is not a tool that we will use for all patients.

An example of a homemade soft collar

Feather picking is a complex problem with many possible causes which means that treatments must also be diverse and management is long-term and requires effort on the owners part. This is not something we can fix with a short course of medication and it is important for owners to understand that at the outset. If you notice feather picking in your avian friend contact your veterinarian as soon possible. The sooner we can intevene the better the chances of resolving the problem.


thanks for reading!!

Dr Ingrid
Monday, June 27, 2016

What is going on inside your pet's mouth?!

What is the most common health condition we see in our patients every day?  I'm sure you've already guessed from the title of this blog but it's dental disease.  If you have a dog or a cat you may have noticed their breath doesn't smell so nice. You might have also noticed their gums look more red in colour as compared with a person's gums. Many people assume this is normal for dogs and cats. Though dental disease is very common it is not normal.  It is estimated that 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 4 years have periodontal disease--this means disease of the gums, and the bone and other tissues that hold the teeth in place. 
This is what the normal teeth and gums should look like

 The cause of the problem begins when plaque begins to build up on the surface of the teeth. Plaque is made up of a mixture of sticky mucous like substances and bacteria. Plaque begins to form on the teeth within 2 DAYS after a professional dental scaling and polishing.  If the plaque is not removed it will continue to harden and form tartar. Tartar is rough and is irriatating to the gums and changes the environment of the mouth allowing bacteria to creep underneath the gum tissue to live and grow.  These bacteria produce by-products that destroy the tissues that surround and hold the tooth in place. The end result is a loose tooth that is often lost.  In addition to lost teeth the bacterial growth can lead to abscesses (pockets of pus build up). The chronic inflammation of the mouth can affect the entire body as it is constantly fighting off the infection in the mouth.

   All this inflammation and destruction of tissues is painful. Most pets won't show you any obvious signs that their mouth is sore because it has been a chronic problem they have learned to live with. The graphic above shows signs to look for. In my experience bad breath and yellow or brown tartar are the most common signs. If  your pet is having difficulty eating this is a sign the dental disease is very severe! Don't rely on your pet to tell you if they have dental disease. Instead look at their teeth and gums yourself or ask your vet or a veterinary technician to take a look for you if you aren't sure what to look for.

 So what is the solution to this dental disease epidemic? Certainly once dental disease has become advanced a professional scaling and polish with possible tooth extractions is required. However, as you read above, plaque begins to build up again within 2 days of our professional cleaning. This means that home care for teeth is essential for preventing the dental disease from quickly returning. Home care can take many forms. The gold standard is daily tooth brushing. We offer free demonstrations of tooth brushing to help owners get on the right track. The dental diets also offer excellent benefits with larger kibble sizes to scrape up against the tooth to remove plaque. Some dental diets also contain special ingedients to prevent plaque from calcifying into tartar.  Water additives and dental chews can also be added to compliment brushing or dental diets but are unlikely to be enough on their own to prevent dental disease.

Now that you know the basics of dental disease in pets don't hesitate to get started on a home-care regimen. If you need help or have any questions call, e-mail or drop by the clinic!
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dog Bite Prevention

 Last week I had the pleasure of doing a radio interview to talk about the importance of safety around dogs and dog bite prevention. This is a topic that I feel passionately about. Pets can enrich our lives in so many ways but they can also pose a danger. I have seen first hand the damage that can be done if people are not taking proper safety precautions.  So I am adapting my interview into a blog post.

So question # 1 : What Causes a dog to bite?
This is a very broad question and there are many possible answers but a few common reasons are as follows: a dog may be trying to protect something such as a toy or food, or their owner or owner's property.  Another very common reason for biting is out of fear of a perceived threat. Overexcitment during play or chasing can also lead a dog to bite. Finally injury or pain can predispose an otherwise docile dog to becoming aggressive.

Question #2: What are some signs of stress in dogs?
These are great things to become familiar with. If you see a dog showing these signs it's a good idea to give them space and leave them alone. One of the keys to dog bite prevention in many situations is to let a dog have space and let them choose if they want to interact with you or not.  Signs of stress include yawning, rapid panting, pinning the ears down or to the side, licking the lips and showing the white parts of the eyes.  If you approach a dog and it turns its head away from you, holds its tail very low or has a very slow wag the dog is trying to tell you he doesn't want you to come closer.
Right before a bite a dog may become suddenly stiff, hold its head low and possibly curl its lip.  A good rule of thumb is if a dog is wiggly and relaxed it is unlikely to bite but a dog that is stiff like a statue can be dangerous. 
Photo provided by

Question #3 What role does proper obedience training play in reducing dog biting events?
Proper obedience training and socialization of young dogs and puppies is crucial to helping prevent dog bites.  Firstly puppies should not be removed from their litter too young as they learn proper bite inhibition (not to bite too hard) from their mothers and litter mates.  Puppies should not go to new homes before the age of 8 weeks and to be honest staying in the litter even longer is beneficial to social skills.  Once you have your new dog its important to expose it to new people, and other dogs that you know are friendly and that are up to date on vaccines. Ask your vet before introducing a young puppy to new dogs to make sure you won't put your puppy at extra risk of infections.  Obedience training is recommened for all dogs as it will help your puppy get used to new people and other dogs in a controlled setting. It will also teach a young dog how to communicate with their owner, builds trust between dog and owner and can help fearful dogs to become more confident and comfortable.

Question #4 Should young children ever be left alone with a dog?
This one seems like a no-brainer but I can't emphasize enough that young children should NEVER be left alone with a dog. What I think is especially important to know here is that it's not just umfamiliar dogs or dogs outside the family that we need to be careful with. In fact 3/4 of dog bites are inflicted by known or family dogs and most victims are children.  The majority of bite incidents also occur on the victims own property. This means most dog bites actually occur with a known family pet.  I also want to mention that just being in the same room with the child and dog doesn't cut it. If your child and the dog are out of your reach then your child is still at risk for a bite.

Question #5 What should you do if an unfamiliar dog approaches and is off leash?
There is a really excellent education program aimed at children called "Be A Tree" that teaches what to do in this scenario.  Step 1 is fold your branches meaning bring your arms to your side and clasp your hands in the center. Step 2 Watch your roots grow. Look down at your feet and don't make eye contact with the dog. Step 3 Count in your head until help arrives or the dog goes away. Pretty simple and easy to remember. If you are on the ground when a dog approaches curling up into a ball or the fetal position is an alternative method to protect yourself.  I think all children should be taught "Be A Tree" as early as possible.
Photo from

Final Question: what are your final words of advice for dogs owners and parents?
For dog owners: keep your dogs on leash when out in public and keep your dogs up to date on their rabies vaccines. Rabies is a real public health concern and we do have it in Manitoba. For parents: teach children as early as possible to learn the signs of a stressed dog compared to a relaxed dog. Teach children not to hug or ride dogs and that it is best not to pet a dog directly on top of their heads. These precautions alone should help reduce your risk of being involved in a bite incident.  Children and dogs can make great companions and friends but only if the right steps are taken to protect both the child and the dog.

Thanks for reading!
Dr Ingrid
Saturday, May 28, 2016

Winrose Warriors Dog Wash and BBQ

Winrose Warriors Dog Wash and BBQ Sunday June 12, 2016 11am-2pm

Only 2 weeks to go! The clinic has been busy preparing! We look forward to seeing you and your pooch!!! Our friend Jaeger stopped by for a visit to see what the spa facilities looked like!

Check out some of the talent that has been stopping by to show us their moves!

We hope to see you all soon!  All proceeds from the event will  go to CancerCare Manitoba!