NOT The Happiest Place On Earth!

Courtesy of: Cecelia

My cat, Tom, was one of a kind.  He was my sweetie.  Tom always showed his affectionate side for friends and family but he had another side too.  That side he saved for visits to the vet.  He hated coming to the vet hospital for his visits and I hated to take him.

Tom relaxing at home

I got Tom after working in a veterinary hospital for 2 years.  I knew then (and still know now) that regular visits to the vet for health care are important to identify small problems before they became big problems.  Tom’s regular vet care allowed him to live 18 wonderful years.

Tom was brought to Truro Vet when he was 4 months old to be ‘put to sleep’.  He was a small ball of black fur with a white bib and dazzling eyes.  It didn’t take long for him to win my heart and for the next 18 years he honoured me by being my cat.  The only time I didn’t feel that honour was when I got out the carrier to take him to work with me for a vet visit!

Maybe it was his traumatic experience as a young kitten, being dropped off for euthanasia, or maybe it was that his life with me was so sheltered that any experience that was different was scary to him.  Maybe it was the unusual and sometimes scary smells from other animals that I brought home on my clothing or maybe it was the famous feline ESP.  However he knew, he understood what the carrier meant and he would go into evasive action the minute he saw it.

I tried many things to lessen the trauma for him. Some helped and some did not.  Through the process of trial and error, I was able to lessen his anxiety.  It seemed as I did things to lessen his worry, my worry decreased too and that made a big difference for both of us.

Tips to make your feline friend’s vet visit go purrfectly:

For some cats, a trip to the vet office is just an excuse to get a great back scratch and face rub, but to cats like Tom, it is a trip to hell.

Imagine the vet visit from a frightened kitty’s prospective.  First, there is the hateful carrier. That box of containment that makes many cats run from the sight.  Why? Some cats appear to believe that the carrier is going to eat them whole and they fight desperately to avoid the jaws (aka the door).  Next comes the car ride.  The trip in that smelly, noisy machine that rumbles and reminds them of the last time they were in the car…the last vet visit.  It is not surprising that by the time that your cat makes it to the office, adrenaline levels are soaring for both the cat and their human companions.

Our pets are very empathetic.  If you are stressed, so too is your kitty.  Even an Academy Award winning performance cannot fool your cat.  Our cats know us so well, they can see through the entire charade.  Some people even feel that their cats can eavesdrop on the phone call to book the appointment!  It’s true that many cats conveniently ‘go missing’ at their appointment time.

Thankfully with a little planning, there are several things that we can do to alleviate some of this stress.

  • Start by choosing a day when you are not rushed and can feel a sense of calm.
  • If possible, select a day when the weather is expected to be fine.  Ideally, good road conditions make less scary noises in the car.
  • When you call for an appointment, be open with us about any anxieties that you or kitty might have.  An appointment booked at the start of your vet’s shift or at the start of appointments after a supper break can mean little to no waiting time and less interaction with other animals. We can also pre-arrange to have you and your cat escorted to an exam room immediately on arrival rather then waiting in the reception area.
  • Have a cat carrier that can be easily dismantled so we can access your feline friend by removing the lid rather than dumping the cat out if she doesn’t want to come on her own.
  • Place an old towel in the carrier.  Sometimes stressed kitties going for a drive will lose control of their bladder and bowels. Absorbent bedding can make the clean up easier and preserve some of your cat’s dignity.
  • Spray the carrier and blanket in the carrier with Feliway.  Feliway is a product that is a pheromone (a scented hormone) that comes from cat’s facial glands. These glands produce a scent that has a calming effect on kitties. This can be used at home, in the carrier, car and vet office to ease stress.
  • About two weeks before the visit, leave the carrier out near the area where you would normally feed your cat.  Have the door open and place the food dish near the door. Gradually move the dish into the front of the carrier and then to the back of the carrier so that you kitty sees the carrier is a breakfast nook rather then big jaws.
  • The day or two before the visit, trim your cat’s nails.  This makes for a safer visit for everyone involved.
  • Skip the meal prior to the visit and just use a few treats to get your feline friend into the carrier. Travelling with an empty stomach helps with car sickness and might motivate tolerance of gentle handling in the office.  We have many treat types at the office but you might want to bring a few of her favorite treats.
  • When you and kitty arrive at the vet hospital ask to be put into an exam room as soon as possible.  Once in the room, open the carrier door and let your cat out to explore the room. Entice him with treats or toys. Catnip is not recommended. The effects of catnip can be unpredictable.
  • If you have more than one cat to bring, don’t put them in the same carrier.  Like people, at times of stress cats can redirect their frustrations and anxieties onto each other.  Having separate carriers or preferably separate visits, for your kitties is a wise step to lessen the stress.

If you have questions about making your cat’s trip to visit us as stress-free as possible, please give us a call at 893-2341.  Working together, we can all try to make your cat’s visit as easy and comfortable as possible.

Tom happy on his couch


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!


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!


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!



A Story You Can Sink Your Teeth Into…If Only It Didn’t Hurt So Much!

Courtesy of:  Bethany

As a recent Veterinary Technician student (I just graduated in May, yay me!), I had a lot of interaction with the animals from the local animal shelter. During my first year in the program I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely little feline named ‘Cinder’.  She was just one of many cats without a person to call their own. Who would have predicted the journey before us?

Cinder had been a resident of the local SPCA for almost two years.  The little I know about Cinder’s history is that she had arrived at the shelter with kittens and had been to foster home after foster home, never finding a permanent home and loving family she could call her own.

Cinder was having quite a difficult time in her everyday life; she constantly had a hard time eating, often not eating more than a few bites in a day. It was obvious that she was having some severe issues with her mouth. She was already missing quite a few teeth and had stage 4 periodontal disease. I knew that because of these issues, it would be hard to find anyone who would be willing to take on a case like this and provide her the care she needed.

So, being in the veterinary field I decided that I was qualified enough to take care of this little girl and save her from a life at the shelter.  After paying my adoption fee I took home my new little bundle of joy to introduce her to my other two cats, who I hoped would take to her easily.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t my cats who were the issue.

After I brought her home, Cinder was nowhere to be found! At first I thought her hiding was due to the stress of moving into a new home. I soon discovered she wasn’t hiding due to fear but because she was in constant pain. Eating was almost impossible, even with canned food.  Even trying to yawn would cause her to shriek in pain and go running for the nearest hiding place. In her mind, pain was all around her and no place was safe.

Soon after, she stopped eating entirely for a whole day.  I immediately called up Truro Vet and booked an appointment to have her examined and hopefully come up with a solution to the problem. During this first appointment, Dr. Michelle informed me that Cinder had a serious auto-immune condition and that her quality of life was very poor and that she would quickly decline if something was not done. Knowing I was a student and money was an issue, euthanasia was presented as a viable option since treatment would be so expensive and potentially hard for Cinder to get through.  I couldn’t decide right then and there so I was sent home with some pain medication and antibiotics to help reduce some of the inflammation in Cinder’s mouth and help treat any bacteria that may have been passing through her body due to her dental disease.

For two months I was in denial about the seriousness of Cinder’s condition and kept going with the antibiotics in a futile attempt to avoid the needed treatment. What was the treatment you ask? Treatment involved taking out every single tooth left in Cinder’s mouth followed by a lifetime diet of canned food. I felt like I would be an awful person if I did that to my cat!  What kind of life is it without teeth for a cat?

I booked another appointment at Truro Vet and was booked with Dr. Gwen. I simply asked, “Can you explain to me again what the problem is, what the treatment is and what will happen to her if she has the procedure done?”

Cinder had a condition called Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions. Essentially, her body was rejecting her teeth and because of this, her teeth were slowly being reabsorbed into the gums. As a result, this was very painful! Her gums should have been a nice shade of light pink and instead they looked like this:

Ouch! Her gums were swollen, red and painful and even though she didn’t have an overly large amount of tarter or plaque, that didn’t matter in this case. With this condition, often it is so painful that even under surgical anesthesia, when the animal is supposed to be completely asleep, touching their gums can elicit a pain response. It’s not really understood exactly why this disease happens, only that it is an auto-immune condition.

On x-ray, it became quite obvious how serious the condition was:

Normal x-ray

Cinder’s x-ray

In these x-rays, you can see just how much of her teeth were being eaten away.

When I dropped her off for her surgery that day, I felt so horrible about it I almost wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe that all her teeth were about to be removed and her life would completely change. I got the call later that day that she had sailed through surgery with no complications and was resting comfortably. She stayed the night and I arrived the next day to pick up my kitty, feeling guilty as ever.

Joye, one of Truro Vet’s Vet Techs, came into the room to instruct me on how to care for Cinder at home and the first thing she told me was that after Cinder woke up, Joye had offered her some canned food to see if she would be interested and she ate the WHOLE THING! She ate all of the food she was offered without any indication she was in pain, only the indication that she was starving. I almost immediately stopped feeling guilty because even though her gums had been cut open, her teeth removed and her gums sewn back up, she was doing so much better that she was actually able to eat for the first time in days.

We continued the antibiotics for a few more weeks and I watched as Cinder changed into a completely different cat: she no longer hid for hours during the day, in fact she’s quite the cuddle bug (who knew?!) and now she can yawn comfortably without any pain whatsoever.

Who would have known that when I agreed to give this little girl her forever home that we would go through so much in such a short time? I was faced with the harsh reality of having to choose to spend a lot of money on her or decide to end her suffering permanently and say goodbye.

I know some people would probably say, ‘It’s just a cat, what’s the big deal?’ but I couldn’t imagine having made the choice to say goodbye to Cinder that day. She has become a permanent fixture in my household and has the most amazing personality that I have ever seen in a pet. She is on a diet of reduced calorie canned food to prevent her from gaining too much weight, although she still enjoys stealing hard food kibbles out of her housemates’ dishes. Despite having no teeth, she eats more hard food now than she did when she had them!

With the support of my veterinary team (who I now have the pleasure of working with as well) I was able to make this decision and trust their capable hands to care for my little girl and help her become the lovely cat she is today. And every time someone asks me why I put my cat through that, all I can say is that it turned her into the cat she was supposed to be from the very beginning.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding dental care for your pet, please call the Truro Veterinary Hospital at (902) 893–2341.


Sometimes A Good Purr Can Save Your Life!

Courtesy of: Dr. Gwen

My cat, Uri, wasn’t supposed to have a long life. Thankfully, he subscribed to the notion that cats have at least nine lives. He lived a happy 16 years but only because he managed to win the heart of a brand new veterinarian.  Uri was going to be one of my first euthanasias but his charming purr turned him into a life-long feline friend and one of my first patients.

I had just been a vet for a few months in an emergency practice in Ottawa.  It was late one Saturday night when Uri was brought into the emergency clinic by a young couple. He was about two years old, a pumpkin orange tabby with a large tomcat head and a purr that vibrated the table. He lay there purring to invite pats and attention. “What seems to be the trouble?” I asked the owners.

“Brandy (as he was called then) doesn’t want to eat,” the owners replied. I smiled at Brandy and said hello as I patted his head.  His purr volume increased to rival a jack hammer. As the pats went from his head to the tail, I knew immediately what was wrong. Brandy was still a lean young cat with a muscular neck and chest that tapered into a narrow trim waist until my hand reached the large lump inside his belly.

I had learned early in vet school that cats with testicles can’t be pregnant so that left the most obvious diagnosis … a urinary obstruction.  Male cats can develop crystals in their urine that clump together to block off their ability to urinate.  A blockage was bad news. “Has he been vomiting?” I asked, hoping the answer was no. It turns out he had vomited a few times.  This was a bad sign that suggested that the kidneys were feeling the intense pressure of the blockage.  Death was knocking, calling Brandy’s name.

Sadly back in those days, cat foods were not what they are today. I knew that I could unblock Brandy’s bladder but frequently cats with this condition block again and the long term answer was to perform a surgery that involved amputating the kitty’s penis! Because of this, convincing pet owners to treat their blocked kitties was a difficult thing to do.

As I was a newly minted vet, I wasn’t yet skilled in communicating to people about their pet’s health. I wondered, “How do I tell them that penis amputation may be in their cat’s future?”  Thank goodness that our knowledge of food has enabled us to manage urinary disease much better … I haven’t done a penis amputation in 20 years.

As Brandy lay on that table listening and purring, the conversation turned to tears for the pet owners. Being a young couple, pregnant with their first child, they couldn’t commit to the costs associated with saving Brandy’s life. Euthanasia seemed like the only humane answer.

“Euthanize!” I heard myself scream in my head, “but he is so sweet and purry, how can I do that to him?” In a split second I made up my mind. Brandy was not going to die that day or the next day or for at least ten years. I was going to make sure of that. I explained to the couple that this was my first time being faced with this decision and I found it hard to go through with it.

“Will you give him to me? I will look after him and give him a good home as long as I can,” I promised. Brandy’s watchful eyes looked at me with the purr humming in the background like he was a backup to my song. The couple happily agreed.

Brandy was pretty sick. Not only was he vomiting but his heart was slowing down, another bad sign. His electrolyte imbalances were affecting his heart and could possibly stop it. I had to act fast. Thankfully, the blockage was typically simple to dislodge. It doesn’t seem fair that such a small problem can cause death so quickly.

I nursed him back to health over the next few days and decided that the only body part I was going to take from him was his testicles. He didn’t seem to mind, his purr seemed more important to him then his gonads and it was alive and well.

Brandy didn’t seem like the right name for him. He seemed to me to be a lot more than a ‘Brandy’. Being still very keen on my new profession, I thought an anatomical name would suit him the best, something that would remind me of how our lives crossed paths. ‘Uri’ (short for urinary) seemed like the obvious choice to my recently-graduated-vet-mind.

After a 30 minute ride in my backpack on my bike I introduced Uri to my home. It took about two seconds for him to check the place out (it was pretty small) and say hello to my other cat, Mouth (another vet student bad name choice) and reboot his purr.  That was when my boyfriend (now husband) looked at me like I had two heads. “Uri? What kind of name is that?” He was completely unimpressed with my choice. “He is not a Uri …. he is a Purry.”

From that day on, Uri-Purry enriched our lives and hearts for 14 more years.

There are a few more chapters to Uri’s life … stay tuned.


There’s More Than One Way To…Pill A Cat!

Courtesy of: Ashley

Picture this, it’s deworming time and I have two flavored tablets to get into my boys.  Both of them have already come running into the kitchen because they think it is treat time.  Jasper, my boy who is a picky eater and doesn’t like much besides his food, seems like he should be a big challenge, right?  He looks up at me and I toss the pill onto the floor.  Within seconds it is gone!  Now for Mango, my cat who will eat anything and everything…except deworming pills.  He knows what I am up to and has boarded the first jet out of the kitchen.  I catch him just before he sneaks by security.  I kneel on the floor and place him between my knees.  I open his tightly clenched jaw just enough to slip the pill in past his tongue and wait until he swallows.

It might not sound easy, but in the past, Mango was much more difficult.  With some time and patience he improved.  I know from experience that pilling cats can be a challenge and you may need some suggestions.  Here at Truro Vet we have lots of experience pilling cats and have learned many tips that may help you be successful.  This will also reduce stress for your pet.  If my story doesn’t give you the right ideas for your cat give us a call at 893-2341 as we have more tricks up our sleeves.



My Itchy Kitty

Courtesy: Dr. Michelle

I have two cats, Flynn (I will write about his adventure in another blog!) and Earl. Earl was found at a neighboring vet clinic where my fiancé works (also as a vet) during Hurricane Earl in 2010. After an extensive search for his owners with no success, we decided to adopt him.

Earl has severe allergies to both his environment and food that make him very itchy. This is a chronic, on-going, life-long condition that can be very challenging to manage. He is on a special diet, Royal Canin’s Hypoallergenic HP (Hydrolyzed Protein) which greatly helps to increase his overall comfort level. We don’t know exactly which ingredient in his food he is allergic to- most cats are allergic to either the meat or carbohydrate component (chicken, beef, rice, and potato are common instigators). This specific diet breaks the protein down into very small molecules that an animal’s immune system does not recognize, and therefore does not stimulate an allergic response. No allergic response=no itchiness=happy kitty! Therefore, this is the only food that Earl is allowed. If I feel the need to give him a treat (usually while applying his monthly Revolution), he gets a piece of his daily allotted kibble. If he sneaks a piece of dropped food from the floor, he becomes obviously itchy the next day (don’t even ask about the day when Flynn and Earl shared a box of graham crackers that were accidentally left on the counter!).

Since Earl is also allergic to his environment (likely pollen and dust mites), he receives a shot of a long-acting steroid every 6 or so weeks, depending on the season. While steroids can have detrimental consequences when used on a long-term basis, sometimes they are needed to improve the quality of life of an individual animal.  I have recently started Earl on a drug called cyclosporine, which acts on his immune system in a different way than steroids do, therefore decreasing the risk of side effects. This drug is far more expensive than steroids, but if I am able to wean him off of the steroids and can make him comfortable on only the cyclosporine, then it is worth it! It is also makes fur grow at an exceptionally fast rate, and considering that Earl is completely bald on his belly from over-grooming himself while itchy, this will be an added benefit!

If you believe that your pet may be suffering from allergies, please give Truro Vet a call at 893-2341.  We can’t wait to help!