Monday, March 5, 2018

Guinea Pig Nutrition and Dental Health

Time for some guinea pig talk! These fuzzy little guys (or not so fuzzy in the case of skinny pigs) can make great pets and are very endearing.  For those who are new to the world of guinea pigs I wanted to share some information on their ideal diet and their dental health. Dental problems are one of the main concerns we see guinea pigs in the clinic for.


Diet is an essential component of keeping your pig healthy. Guinea pigs should eat a diet that consists of a combination of fresh Timothy Hay, a well balanced pellet such as Oxbow's Essential Adult Guinea Pig diet, and a mix of fresh greens.  For pigs over 6 month of age we recommend feeding 1/8 to 1/4  cup of pellets per day in addition to unlimited grass hay. Fresh foods should not make up more than 10-15% of the daily food. Changes to the diet should be made gradually as they have very sensitive digestive tracts.  Leafy green veggies such as spinach, turnip greens, parsley and dandelion greens are good options for fresh foods. Leafy greens should be the main component of the fresh foods with other vegetables and fruits being offered in moderation.  These can include things like apple, carrots, cilantro, cucumber and berries.  Some foods to avoid include raw beans, iceberg lettuce, and shelled nuts or seeds, rhubarb and long celery stalks. 

Guinea pigs also require a vitamin C supplement because they do not produce their own vitamin C (just like people). The best way to do this is by giving a 1/4 to 1/2 of a human 100mg vitamin C tablet once daily. 

Keep in mind that hay is essential to keeping your guinea pigs digestive tract working and for keeping the teeth from overgrowing and developing problems.

Dental Health

Guinea pigs have twenty teeth in total. They are all open rooted teeth and this means that are continuously growing. They rely on their food to help wear them down and keep the teeth from overgrowing.   You will see four incisors at the front of the mouth, two on top and two on the bottom. The other teeth are premolars and molars and are difficult to see due to the guinea pigs large cheeks. In the clinic we use a special tool call a speculum to help us to look in the back of the mouth and check the teeth for problems. Sometimes sedation may be required to get a proper look in the mouth. The most common problem we see is the molars and premolars becoming overgrown. This can occur if the pig is born with a malocclusion or if the do not eat a proper diet. The teeth can grow very quickly and if a pig stops eating due to an illness they may also develop overgrown teeth that need to be trimmed.

If teeth grow too long they can rub on the cheeks or tongue causing painful sores and infection. Some pigs may require regular dental checks and tooth trims.  In extreme cases the lower teeth can grow towards the middle of the tongue from both sides, trapping the tongue under the teeth. This requires an emergency tooth trim to free the tongue to allow the guinea pig to eat.

this picture shows how overgrown teeth can rub on the tongue and cheeks

Guinea pigs can also develop other dental health problems such as elongated tooth roots, tooth root infections and overgrown incisors. It is important to have your guinea pig checked yearly to ensure their teeth are looking good and to identify any potential problems early on.

A side view of a guinea pigs jaw and teeth on X-ray
I hope this has been a helpful and informative blog post. If you want more information on guinea pig care call or stop by the clinic for our guinea pig care package.
As always thanks for reading!
Dr Ingrid

Thursday, March 1, 2018
Meet Jackie F our Team member of the Month for March

Jackie has been at Winrose since 2017. After many years working in advertising and marketing, Jackie is living her dream of working with animals. She shares her home with her teenaged son, 3 rambunctious dogs, a guinea pig and several fish. Jackie has a special interest in the surgical procedures we do here at Winrose and she can often be found cuddling with many of the various pets we see in the clinic. Please take a moment to tell us why you think Jackie is great employee!

Monday, February 12, 2018
Team Member of the Month February 2018
Meet Tanyss R.
Tanyss has been with Winrose since 2017. She has a special interest in the exotics animal we see in the practice.
She enjoys spending time with her family, watching football, water skiing and has a special interest in Bats. Take a moment to tell us why Tanyss makes your visit so special!
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Tips for Exotic Pets

 The long and brutal cold winters here in Winnipeg can take their toll not just on us, but on our pets as well. This blog will address how to help our small and exotic pets get through the winter happy and healthy. 

Temperature: Keep them warm! We tend to see a lot more sickness in our exotics pets in the winter months. Part of this is likely due to the fact that they are exposed to colder temperatures, drafts and dry air. Keep your cage or enclosure away from windows and exterior walls that may be prone to drafts. For birds you can cover the back of the cage with a blanket to help keep heat in and consider adding a heat lamp to provide a warmer area, especially for older or more tropical birds.  For reptiles this is a great time to do an over all evaluation of your enclosure. Make sure you have two working thermometers in the enclosure, one on the hot side and one on the cooler side. Also make sure you have changed your UV light within the last 6 months and have a hygrometer to measure humidity in your enclosure.  When it comes to small mammals you can add a bit of extra bedding to their enclosure so they have the option to snuggle up if they feel the need.

Humidity: In addition to the cold we tend to see humidity drop in the winter. This can have varying effects depending on what kind of exotic pet you have. In general the dry, colder air can make pets more susceptible to respiratory infections. Consider adding a humidifier to the room your pet is kept in if your humidity is reading low. If you aren't sure what the ideal humidity is for your pet give the clinic a call and we can advise you. Many species of birds enjoy being misted with a spray bottle and this can be done daily to help with dry skin.  Reptiles like geckos benefit from the addition of a moist hide box. This is a small container, think small margarine or sour cream  container size, with a hole cut in for a door and sphagnum moss inside. The moss creates a very moist environment inside and the gecko can decide when to go in depending on their needs. 
Nutrition: Our birds and small mammals burn more calories in colder temperatures as they try to maintain their body heat. It is essential to  have them on a balanced diet with the correct amount of calcium and vitamins, especially vitamin A.  Vitamin A is especially important in fighting off and preventing respiratory infections.  Keep in mind that an all seed diet will not have enough Vitamin A for a bird. If you are having trouble getting your bird to eat a well balanced pellet contact us for tips on how to transition from seeds to a pelleted food or for a list of human foods that are high in Vitamin A.  Reptiles and amphibians also need Vitamin A and calcium in their diets. If you aren't sure if you are feeding the ideal food contact us! Reptiles can also enter a state known as brumation during the winter if the temperatures drop too low. This is an adaptation they have developed for life in the wild but when they are living in a house with the ability to control the environment they should not be entering this state. Brumation can make them more prone to illness and if you are seeing a loss of appetite and activity levels you should bring them in for an exam.

Transport to the Clinic:  If your pet is showing signs of sickness in the winter you need to take extra precautions when transporting them to the clinic for their exam. First make sure you warm up your car well before you put your pet inside. Reptiles can be placed into an insultaed container, birds and mammals should have a towel or blanket covering their carriers to limit cold air getting in.  You can use a hot water bottle placed underneath the cage or carrier to provide additional warmth during transport. It is essential that you do not allow your pet to get too cold in transport as this can push an already sick animal into a crisis. 

Thanks for reading the blog today and remember to contact us if you have any concerns
Dr Ingrid
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