It’s The Most…Hazardous? Time Of The Year

Courtesy of:  Carmen

It’s that time of the year!  Busy, busy, busy!  The parties are starting, the decorations are going up and a variety of foods are being baked and consumed.  The holidays are upon us.

During this festive time, many risks exist for our pets:

Those pretty poinsettias that decorate our homes so beautifully may be toxic when eaten in large amounts by our dogs and cats.


Delicious chocolate to us may become toxic when eaten by our pets.  Depending on the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, even a small amount can be fatal if untreated.


Turkey or chicken bones may cause obstructions or perforate bowels when consumed.

Chewing on Christmas electrical cords may cause burns to mouths or cause electrocution.

Tinsel, garland or ribbons may cause obstruction in the bowel, especially in cats who love to eat anything string-like.


Tree decorations, in particular glass ones, can be a safety hazard – best to place them high on the tree.

Anchor that tree securely!

Watch those lit candles…they can be knocked over by curious pets, or cause burns if they get too close.  Keep them up and out of reach.

Candies wrapped in foil or plastic can be very tempting for pets, but may become lodged in the throat or cause obstructions in small pets.


Raisins and grapes can have harmful effects on the kidneys in some pets.  Keep them away, just in case.

Alcohol left unsupervised may be ingested and cause discomfort for pets.


Watch out for nut shells that can also get caught in throat or become impacted in bowels.

With a few precautions and planning we can all have a wonderful holiday.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the staff at the Truro Veterinary Hospital!


Trimming Your Dog’s Nails – A Step-By-Step Guide To Success

Courtesy of:  Ashley

Lots of pet owners cringe at the thought of having to trim Fluffy or Cujo’s nails.  Maybe it’s the thought of having to dress up in hockey gear to protect yourself, or the thought of “quicking” your pet and making them bleed that intimidates pet owners. Either way, with some training, most pets will allow you to trim their nails without a battle or injuries (on either side of the clippers).

For this discussion of nail trimming in dogs, I’m going to share our experience of teaching our four month old puppy, Brenley, to allow us to trim her nails.

Sondra and I are very lucky!  Brenley LOVES food, which makes training her for this process much more enjoyable for all of us.  We use her food as treats but if that is not enough you may need to find a treat that is of very high value to your dog and use it only for nail trims.  Hugo, our other dog (you’ll meet him in a future blog), prefers cheese as his ultimate treat of choice and he only gets it for nail trims.

We are using two methods to trim her nails, the nail clippers and the dremel.


Using the Clippers:

Teaching your dog a new behavior takes lots of time, patience and rewards.  Nail trimming, in particular, can be especially difficult because it can mean strange noises and staying still.  Below are the steps to help guide you and your dog in becoming a master nail trimming team.  Please take note:  depending on the individual dog these four steps could occur in a short (several minutes) or long (several days) time period.  Try not to push your dog too far past their comfort level; it’s better to take longer than you think you need to, than to do too much at once and risk causing your dog to experience unnecessary fear.

1.  We started off by handling her feet often.  Taking her paw in my hand, I placed my thumb above one toe and my index finger under the toe behind the pad.  Slightly pushing down with my thumb extended the toe nail out enough for us to see.  We started this procedure when she was sleeping, then when she was tired and lying down but not sleeping, and now we can do it while she is awake.  As we did this to each toe we were giving her treats, making sure she was enjoying the experience.

2.  Next, we introduced her to the nail clippers.  We started this procedure by letting her sniff and show interest in them.  As she did this we rewarded her with treats.

3.  Once she was comfortable with them, I started holding onto her paw in my non-dominant hand (in my case the left) and holding the clipper in my dominant hand (the right) while Sondra fed treats.  The more relaxed she became, the more treats she received.  Be careful not to give treats if your dog is pulling away as you would be reinforcing the undesirable behavior of pulling away.

4.  Once Brenley was relaxed and used to having the clippers near all of her feet, it was time to start trimming.  We started by trimming the tip off the nail.  By taking small amounts off at a time you are less likely to trim too short and cut the quick.


Using the Dremel:

Like training your dog for the clippers, the dremel takes time, patience and lots praise and rewards.

1.  As in step one in “Using the Clippers”, we got Brenley used to having her feet handled with lots of food rewards.

2.  We next introduced the dremel by letting her sniff and show interest in it.  Once she was comfortable with having it near her we turned it on, using treats to reward her good behavior.

3.  Just like step three in “Using the Clippers”, we started holding her paw and the dremel at the same time.  Next we started touching the dremel to her nails without it turned on, then with it turned on.  We were careful not to treat at the wrong time, only when she was giving us a behavior we wanted.

4.  After Brenley was comfortable with step three, we proceeded to dremel her nails.  This involved grinding the nail tip, making sure to go slowly and take a little off at a time to ensure we weren’t getting them too short.

The dremel

The “quick” is the supply of blood vessels to the toe nail.

It is much easier to see in white/clear nails than dark nails.  If the nail is clear, the quick is the pink area inside the nail.  You want to trim the toenail to within a few millimeters of the pink part.  However, if the nails are dark and difficult to see, you will have to trim small pieces off at a time and look at the cut area.  The cut area will change from black to a grey the closer you come to the quick.  Stop trimming when you see grey coloration.

If you cut the quick on your pet and make them bleed, they will be okay, but it can be painful.  It may mean you have to go back a few steps to get your pet comfortable with the idea of having their nails trimmed again.  To stop the bleeding there are some household items in your pantry that can help.  Place a small amount of cornstarch or flour in a Kleenex and hold it to the nail adding pressure.  If you are unable to stop the bleeding give us a call and we can help you.

A clicker can come in handy when training your dog for trimming nails; it sure helped us with Brenley!  If you are not sure what “Clicker Training” is, stay tuned to one of Kaila’s blogs coming soon.

Some dogs have no problem with having their nails trimmed, while others take LOTS of time and patience.  If you would like a demonstration of everything I’ve written about, please call us to schedule an appointment.  Not all dogs will allow you to trim their nails.  Some are better without the owners in the room.  If you tried to trim your dog’s nails without success or you would just prefer not to do them yourself, please give Truro Vet a call (893-2341) and we can assist you.


Potty Training…In A Cat?!?!

Courtesy of:  Dr. Melissa

Shortly after graduating from vet school, my husband and I moved to Northern Alberta for work.  We had a 4 year-old cat (Folly), who I had adopted from the PEI Humane Society, and we thought it was time to get her a companion.  A few weeks later, after visiting a farm with a litter of barn kittens, I drove home with an 8-week old ball of fur on my lap.  We named him Tompkin.  It didn’t take long for him to fit in and even win Folly over!  He was very affectionate, loved to cuddle and ‘chatted’ to us regularly.  He especially liked my husband and would climb up on his shoulder anytime he bent down to put on his shoes or pick something up.

He grew into a handsome cat with a thick tabby coat and was loveable….until one day…he PEED on our couch!  Anyone that has experienced this knows the frustration of cleaning cat urine, especially when it happens repeatedly.  In fact, the sad truth is inappropriate urination is one of the top reasons why cats are returned to shelters or euthanized.

Tompkin was lucky to live in a house with a fairly new vet school graduate.  I was determined to figure out what was going on!

Cats can urinate inappropriately for many reasons including cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), crystals, stress/anxiety, marking and infection.  The first step to helping these cats (and your furniture) is ruling out a medical condition.  This usually means getting a urine sample..which as with most things is more difficult in a cat!!  We generally try to do a cystocentesis, which is taking a sample directly from the bladder with a needle.  Most cats tolerate this very well, we get a sterile sample and we don’t have to wait for them to pee!  Once we have a sample we look at how concentrated it is, and look for inflammatory cells, blood, crystals and bacteria. We may take a radiograph to look for bladder stones.  If this is all normal, we focus on behavioural issues.  We will ask a lot of questions to create a history of what is happening which helps us form a plan for therapy.  Things that can help include increasing the size and number of litter boxes , decreasing stress in multi-cat households with cat trees/perches and pheromones as well as anti-anxiety medications in severe cases.

Prevention is key, because once a cat pees on a bed/blanket/bath tub, they may decide they like that better and continue!  Good quality diets, including canned food as a large component, and increasing water consumption are really important.  Keeping multiple litter boxes in open areas and cleaning them frequently will help encourage cats to use them.

As for Tompkin, it turns out his urine issues are a combination of medical and behavioural  problems.  His urine is very concentrated, which creates crystals.  The irritation from this causes him to pee outside the litter box…a sure sign to me that he is hurting.  He flares up when he is stressed (if we are away or having noisy renovations done).  He is on a urinary diet, with canned food daily to dilute his urine.  He also gets an anti-inflammatory medication when there is a flare-up. His last episode was almost a year ago..hopefully it was his last!


Our Lost Souls Fund – Here For Animals In Need

Courtesy of:  Ashley

The Lost Souls Fund is a fund created and supported by the Truro Veterinary Hospital.  It was implemented with the knowledge that there are injured stray and abandoned animals in our community that need our help.  We thought we would share a few stories about the Fund and some of the animals we have helped so far.

Wiggles, our new “Assistant Manager”, was helped back onto her four paws with the aid of the Fund.   As you may read here in the “Wiggles’ World” blog, she arrived at the clinic trembling.  She needed intravenous fluids and medication for multiple days.  Once she was stable, she was spayed, vaccinated, feline leukemia tested, dewormed and treated for fleas.  If Victor and the staff had not decided she was a fit for the clinic she would have been placed up for adoption.

Flynn, whom you met in the last blog by Dr. Michelle, was also a recipient.  He had exploratory surgery to find out why his belly was so swollen.  Turns out Dr. Gwen needed to remove his abnormally enlarged kidney and she neutered him too.  After he recovered from his surgery he received vaccinations, a feline leukemia test, deworming and flea treatment.  Once Dr. Michelle returned from her vacation she fell in love and the rest is history.

Ember’s story started in the Sobeys’ parking lot.  She was found under a car hood.  Our technician, Joye, happened to be grocery shopping and brought her to the clinic.  She was examined by a doctor and put on medication for her burnt feet and skin.  She stayed with us until she was healed and able to be spayed.  She also received vaccinations, a feline leukemia test, deworming and flea treatment.  We found her a lovely home.

R.K. and P.K. were the latest animals to benefit from the fund.  P.K. was neutered, vaccinated, feline leukemia tested, dewormed and had flea treatment.  He was adopted out to a home with another cat and is enjoying his new relaxing lifestyle.  R.K. (aka Rowlin, thanks to our Facebook contest) was with us a little longer only because the right home for her took longer to find.  During her stay with us she was spayed, vaccinated, feline leukemia tested, dewormed and treated for fleas.  Her forever home was discovered just a few weeks ago.

All of the animals helped by the Lost Souls Fund are adopted to new homes for a minimal fee, which in turn is placed back into the fund.  Sadly, there are some injured animals who arrive beyond our ability to heal them.  For them, the Lost Souls Fund provides the funds to alleviate their suffering.

If you have been in to visit us on Fridays you may have noticed some of our staff wearing colorful scrub tops.  The Truro Vet Care Team is now dressing for “Casual Friday”, with a donation going towards the Lost Souls Fund.  There has been much individual support from members of our community as well, and our December nail trim donations go towards the Lost Souls Fund (for more info on nail trim donations, click here).

The animals in the stories above are just a few that have received care thanks to the Lost Souls Fund.  We are looking forward to being able to continue to aid in the care of animals like the ones we have already helped.  The continued support and donations from the staff and community will help support us in our efforts.

If you would like more information on how you could help please come visit Wiggles or give Truro Vet a call at 893-2341.


Never Trust A Vet Without A Pet

Courtesy of:  Dr. Michelle

This is a common saying heard jokingly amongst the veterinary community. Well, up until about two years ago, I was a vet without a pet. Sure, my parents still had my 20 year old cockatiel at their house, but since they live about 4000 miles away, I could hardly claim Puffy to be “my” pet anymore.  It was known around the clinic that I wanted a cat, but not just any cat- it had to be a “special” cat. So one day I walked into the clinic after being off for two days, and I noticed a little grey and white kitten in one of the kennels. “Your cat is doing very well today!,” exclaimed one of the staff members. “My WHAT?,” was my initial response. While I was off, a good Samaritan dropped off two kittens found in a chip box on the side of the road! The female was healthy and we named her Autumn until we found her a home. The male was less fortunate. He was sick with a high fever and a bloated belly. After a more thorough examination, the male cat was found to have an infected kidney, filled with pus! An emergency surgery was his only chance of survival! Now, it isn’t every day that a stray cat gets a second chance at life, but since he was still purring while feeling so sick, Dr. Gwen felt that he deserved that chance. And after all, she knew of a certain vet that needed a pet!

I went to Walmart that night and purchased a comfy cat bed to put in his kennel (even though I knew that with all the blankets and pillows in the cage, he was probably sleeping more comfortably than I do at night!), and put a name tag on the cage. “Flynn Milan”. I guess I was keeping him. After the successful surgery to remove the infected kidney, he had a touch-and-go few days. Days quickly turned to weeks and it became clear that Flynn would make a complete recovery. The only long-term complication of being so sick would be a severe heart murmur, likely due to the infection spreading up into one of the valves of his heart.

While all of this was going on back at the clinic, we were living in apartment that didn’t allow cats, but we were in the process of renovating a house which would be ready for us to move into a few months down the road. So with the blessing of the entire staff, Flynn took up residency at the clinic! He quickly learned how to chew though the biggest bags of dog food up front, that not every dog wanted to play with a cat (some wanted to snack on a cat…), and that Victor liked his own space (well, until he met Wiggles of course!).

I am forever grateful to Dr. Gwen for saving his life, and for the Lost Souls Fund for making his surgery possible in the first place. He is a very happy and healthy cat who is just starting to burn off some of his kitten energy! It has taken him two years to learn that kitchen counters are not for sleeping on and that his housemate Earl is not a chew toy.  Flynn will be your best friend if you toss him a toy mouse or let him play under a running faucet.  I am so happy to finally be a vet with pets!



Truro Vet is Celebrating Animal Health Week

Come celebrate with us!  Animal Health Week (September 30 – October 6) is a national public awareness campaign organized by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).  This year’s theme is “Preventive Veterinary Care…for the health of it!”

Preventive veterinary care involves all of the things we can do to prevent problems before they get a chance to start.  Preventive care includes vaccination, deworming, flea and tick control, professional and home dental care, diet, and wellness screening.  This week, we encourage everyone to consider how we can help you keep your beloved pets healthy.

This week if you pop in with your furry friend, he/she can have a photo taken with our I ♥ Animal Health Week sign.  We are having so much fun posting these photos on Facebook for everyone to see.  Also, we are currently holding a children’s colouring contest.  We have a great cartoon celebrating dog safety for kids to colour, and next week we will be announcing a winner.  The deadline for contest entries is Saturday, October 6th.

Please share your stories of ways that you keep your pet healthy!  We always love to hear from you, and look forward to snapping pictures all week.  If you have any questions about preventive health care for your pet, please call us at 893-2341!




To Brush Or Not To Brush?

Courtesy of: Kaila

I had worked at Truro Vet for almost a year when I got my puppy Indy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  By that time I knew EXACTLY all the things I was going to do to make sure that my puppy lived a long, happy and healthy life.  One of the health topics that stuck out most to me was dental care. I would see all sorts of dogs and cats of different ages and breeds and they all seemed to have the same issue at some point in their life – and that was bad breath. What simpler way to fix that than to brush your pet’s teeth!

Dogs (as well as cats) don’t often get cavities like humans do, but they are prone to plaque build-up, tartar and gingivitis, all leading to tooth issues and foul breath.  Keep in mind our dogs aren’t going to be the perfect little patients and “Say aaaahhhh” when your veterinarian asks when it comes time to clean those less-than-pearly whites.  A proper dental cleaning is going to require an office visit, pre-surgical bloodwork and for your pet to be put under anesthesia.  This is a very safe and common procedure but if you could delay the time between needing the dental work done – why not?!

So early on with my new puppy I started setting him up for success with this brushing thing.  It wasn’t a big concern right away because the teeth he had when I got him would fall out over the next few months, but I did want to have him ready for brushing by the time those adult teeth grew in.  I started with lots of handling of Indy’s mouth, getting him used to me holding his muzzle, and rewarding him with kibble and treats for not resisting.  I also would flip up his lips, and rub his gums with my finger.  In no time at all he was very accepting of this fun new “game” that resulted in him getting lots of rewards for being such a good puppy!

As he started to lose teeth I introduced the toothbrush and toothpaste, and again made it a fun “game” where he got to lick the yummy chicken flavored toothpaste off the end of the toothbrush or my finger.  We quickly built it up to him letting me peel back those lips like we had practiced many times before and now brushing his teeth with the brush.

I wanted to make Indy’s teeth brushing part of my daily routine with him so believe it or not – his tooth brush and toothpaste sit in the bathroom next to mine.  Every night after I finish brushing my teeth I brush his (and am very careful not to mix up the toothpaste – as I am not a big fan of brushing my teeth with beef flavored toothpaste!).  It is like his “bedtime” snack, and he is very used to this routine.  I have had Indy in my life for over 4 years now and have been brushing his teeth every night and we always get compliments on his gleaming smile as you can easily see from the picture below.

Photo courtesy of Photographer Robert MacLellan (see more great work at

Brushing teeth can have beneficial effects even when you don’t start with a brand new puppy.  If you have questions about brushing or other dental care, please contact Truro Vet at 893-2341.  With a little work, your pet’s smile can be as big and bright as Indy’s!


How A “Wisdom Tree” Can Heal A Family’s Heart

Courtesy of:  Juanita

Every time I look out my kitchen window I gaze fondly at my Wisdom tree.  You might be wondering “What’s a Wisdom tree?”   In March 2011 our beautiful orange tabby, Wisdom, was diagnosed with a rectal tumour.  It was surgically removed but after 3 months it reappeared.  Surgery was not an option the second time around.  After 3 months of palliative care, it was time to say goodbye to our Whizzie.  He was 15 years old.

Over the years we have said goodbye to many friends.  Some have passed on their own, others we opted to euthanize to ease their suffering.  Each time we struggled with how to say goodbye.  At Truro Vet Hospital, we encourage owners, if able, to stay with their pet for euthanasia.  A familiar hand and voice can be very comforting.

Many clients choose to bury their pet in the backyard.  We provide several other options for aftercare.  We work with Peaceful Acres, a pet cemetery in Windsor NS, that provides cremation services (privately for return to owner or together with other pets).  Peaceful Acres has a lovely selection of urns to hold your pet’s remains.  There is also a pet cemetery locally.  Thinking about and planning your options now can take some of the stress away when the time arrives.

When we lived in an apartment, we opted for burial at a pet cemetery for our pets.  Over the years cremation became more readily available.  I have a couple of beautiful urns made by my brother-in-law containing ashes.  I have other pets’ ashes that I intended to scatter- I know it would be what is right for them- but I can’t bring myself to let go yet.

When Wisdom’s time came, I knew I wanted something different.  As a family with young children, I wanted the kids to know Whizzie would live on, not only in our hearts, but also in a tree.  So, we dug a deep hole by the fence in our garden, placed his frail body in the hole and planted a pear tree on top.  My 4 year old looked at the tree the other day and said ‘Remember Whizzie?’  My heart ached.  How could I forget him?

‘Yes sweetie, I do’.


Changing The World – One Paw at a Time?

For many years, pets who receive annual vaccinations with our hospital have been entitled to free monthly nail trims.  Many clients use this service each month to keep their pets’ toes looking their best.  Here at Truro Vet we are always looking for more ways to give back to our local, national and global communities.  Last July we started our “Nail Trim Donation Program”, in which we select a different animal related charity each month and accept donations for these nail trims.  We have been so pleased by the overwhelming generosity of our clients.

Past recipients of our donations include the Forgotten Heroes monument, Veterinarians Without Borders, Animal Rescue Coalitions, World Wildlife Fund, Animals Asia, Colchester SPCA and our own Lost Souls Fund.  Between January 1 and August 31 we collected close to $1200.00 for these important causes.  Since our beginning last July, that total is over $2000.00.  A small donation each month can add up to big change!

If you have an idea for an animal related charity that could use our help, or if you would like to book an appointment for your free nail trim, please contact us at 893-2341.  A very special thank you to all of our clients who are helping us help animals around the world…one paw at a time!


Cushing’s Disease – The Scoop On Sparky

Courtesy of:  Dr. Michelle

Our last Facebook contest gave you the opportunity to guess what disease our 12 year old fictional dog Sparky had.  The correct answer was Cushing’s Disease (also known as hyperadrenocorticism, or HAC).

HAC is a disease involving an excess of one or more adrenal gland steroids, most commonly cortisol.  We tend to see this disease most commonly in older dogs over 6 years of age.  There are many clinical signs to watch for including: drinking more than normal and therefore urinating more than normal (which can also be a sign of diabetes or kidney disease), excessive hunger, a distended belly, panting, thinning or loss of fur, and oily skin.

In order to diagnose HAC, we start with some basic blood work.  The most common finding of these tests is an elevation of alkaline phosphatase (ALP).  This enzyme, which is normally found in the Iiver, may be elevated in either liver disease or when there is an excessive amount of steroids in the bloodstream (as is the case in HAC).  The next step in the diagnosis of HAC is to do one of two tests: an ACTH stimulation test or a Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test.  Depending on the clinical signs and blood work results of the individual dog, the doctor may choose to do either of those tests.

Once a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is made, treatment will be started.  The most common treatment is a pill called Trilostane (Vetoryl).  This drug inhibits cortisol production at the level of the adrenal gland, therefore reducing clinical signs associated with the disease.  There are also drugs which partially destroy the adrenal gland and are only indicated in certain cases of HAC.  Other more drastic treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy may be needed in very rare instances.

After beginning Trilostane, a follow-up ACTH stimulation test is performed one month later, and the dose of the medication is adjusted as needed.  We recommend repeating an ACTH stimulation test every 3 months to make sure that the cortisol level in the dog is not dropping too low which can lead to an emergency condition called an Addisonian crisis.

Dogs can live a long and healthy life after being diagnosed with HAC.  If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms that Sparky was showing, please give Truro Vet a call at 893-2341.