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Transitioning your pet to a new diet

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It is important when introducing a new food to your dog or cat that you transition them onto the new food gradually. A rapid change in diet can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea.  Mixing the new food with the old food over a 7 day period will allow your pet’s gastrointestinal tract to adjust to the composition of the new diet.

Working together with your veterinarian can ensure the right diet choice and correct feeding amount based on your pet’s individual needs.

Feeding guide for a diet change:

Day 1 & 2 : Feed 25% of the total daily amount of the new food mixed with 75% of the old food.

Day 3 & 4 : Feed 50% of the new food mixed with 50% of the old food.

Day 5 & 6 : Feed 75% of the total daily amount of the new food mixed with 25% of the old food.

Day 7 and on :  Feed only the new diet.

If your pet is on a hypoallergenic or novel protein diet it is important that once the transition period is complete only the new food is fed. This includes any treats or table scrapes.

If your pet is on a diet trial to rule out food allergies the new food will need to be fed for a minimum of 8-12 weeks exclusively.

Winter Holiday Hazards

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Holiday Foods:

Table scraps/Garbage – Leftover meat, table scrapes and garbage can lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas) resulting in abdominal pain, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. This ailment can be life threatening if not addressed. Garbage and other table scraps may also contain bone and other hazards for choking or gastrointestinal obstruction.

Chocolate – This common treat during the holidays can cause serious symptoms in your pet if ingested. The toxicity of the chocolate varies depending on its “purity”, with toxicity increasing with the darker the chocolate. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, increased or abnormal heart rate and seizures.

Xylitol – Many sugarless gums and treats which may fill your stocking contain xylitol. This sweetener is toxic to dogs causing a drop in blood pressure and liver failure when consumed.

Grapes/Raisins – Consumption of grapes or raisins can lead to renal failure and even death in some animals. The mechanism of toxicity is not known and therefore any dose is potentially fatal. It is best to be safe when it comes to grapes and avoid them.

Alcohol – Ingestion of alcohol by pets can result in vomiting, disorientation, seizures, respiratory failure and drops in temperature and blood pressure. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood

Ornaments & Toys:

Tinsel – It may be fun to play with but this shiny Christmas decoration can cause great harm to your feline friend if ingested. If swallowed tinsel has the potential to cause intestinal obstruction or even intestinal rupture.

Foreign bodies – Ornaments and presents may seem like toys to our pets but ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea and even intestinal obstruction which if left untreated can lead to death.


Mistletoe & Holly – These plants along with their berries are very toxic to both cats and dogs. Symptoms of intoxication include vomiting, diarrhea, salivation and abdominal pain. Mistletoe contains an additional toxic compound which can result in a sudden drop in blood pressure, hallucinations and breathing issues. Seizures and death are also possible outcomes if a large amount is consumed.

Poinsettia – It is of popular belief that the poinsettia plant is deadly for our pets, but this is not actually the case. The leaves of the plant contain sap which can be irritating to tissues if ingested resulting in oral irritation, nausea and/or vomiting.

Amaryllis – The bulb of this beautiful winter plant is the most dangerous part of the plant. Common signs of intoxication are salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite and tremors.

Pesticides and Fertilizers – If plants have been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers even harmless plants can become deadly to your pets. The size of your pet and the amount of toxin ingested determines the severity of poisoning.




The holidays aren’t just for people!

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According to the American Pet Products Association nearly 39 million dogs and 32 million cats will be on peoples holiday lists this year. That means that more than 50% of dog owners and close to 40% of cat owners will be buying Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for their furry companions. There are many gift options to pick from! Just ensure to choose toys, treats and other gifts which are safe for your canine or feline friend. Take a look at some gift ideas in an article by The Hamilton Spectator by clicking the link below.

Pets are people, too. Remember that at gift time

Raw Food Diets

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With so many different pet foods on the market how do you make the right choice? Ensuring the diet you choose is complete, balanced and safe for you and your pet is the first step!

There are quite a few myths out there regarding pet foods, especially when it comes to raw vs. commercially processed diets.

One common belief is that raw food is more easily digestible, natural and healthier than cooked foods, and thus provides better nutrition to your pet. Currently there is no scientific evidence to support such a claim.  In fact the opposite may be true!

Potential health concerns arise when feeding raw meat to your dog or cat. Firstly animals are susceptible to the same bacterial and parasitic infections that people are. Pathogens like salmonella and E coli can be transmitted through raw meat products. This not only poses a risk to your pet but also to yourself and other members of your family. The bacteria can be shed in your dog’s feces and saliva for days following ingestion.

Nutritional concerns can also arise. Some raw food diets can contain excess nutrients like protein which can put stress on the kidneys, or contain inadequate nutrients.

If you wish to feed a homemade diet to your pet please work together with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the best nutrition for your dog or cat.



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Unfortunately the warm fall weather has not only been lovely for us but also lovely for the fleas. We have had quite a shocking number of animals come to us over the past few weeks suffering from fleas. So watch out! Monitor your pets for signs of skin irritation including scratching or chewing at their skin. Adult fleas may not always be seen. It is their “flea dirt” which is most commonly noticed which appears as small black specks.

All pets are at risk, even indoor cats. Fleas can be carried into your homes on your own clothing or shoes or even across a screen door or window.

Fleas can be easily combated or prevented with products obtained through your veterinarian. The best way to avoid a flea infestation is by using monthly prevention, especially during the warm damp months. If your pet is infested with fleas, three monthly treatments will do the trick. It is also important to treat all pets in your home.

Rabid Fox Found in Glandbrook

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On September 1st the Hamilton confirmed its first case of rabies in a fox since 1994. Luckily no people had been exposed to the fox.  It is currently unknown if the fox was infected with the same strain of rabies as skunks and raccoons found locally this past year. A report should be released sometime next week.

Please click here to view the related article by The Hamilton Spectator which includes important safety tips.

Cat Diagnosed with Rabies in Hamilton – First rabid domestic animal in Hamilton in over 20 years!

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Last week a stray cat from rural Ancaster tested positive for rabies.  This marks the first case of rabies in a domestic animal in over 2 decades.  A Caledonia man is now undergoing treatment for rabies exposure after being bitten by the positive cat.  Hamilton public health and Haldimand-Norfolk Health Services are working together to investigate this case and to ensure no others were exposed.

This case has been linked to the outbreak of raccoon rabies which begun this past December.  Since the outbreak 173 cases of raccoon-strain rabies have been confirmed, with the majority in raccoons and skunks.  Before now Ontario had not seen rabies in a raccoon since 2005.

Rabies is a serious risk and proper measures should be taken to protect both you and your pets. Keeping a safe distance from wild or stray animals, alive or dead, is important. Supervise your pets at all times and ensure their vaccinations are up to date.  Please report any animal bites or scratches to public health immediately.  If you come across any sick or injured animals please call the City of Hamilton Animal Services at 905-546-2489.

Here are some related articles from the Hamilton Spectator and CBC News

Rabies Baiting Continues in Hamilton

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Baiting for rabies will start back up again mid-August in Hamilton, Burlington and the Golden Horseshoe area.  This is the third time the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has used the vaccine bait to control the rabies outbreak in Hamilton since December 2015.  The baits are khaki-green in colour and will be dropped by helicopter and twin-otter plane in addition to hand-baiting. They are considered safe in dogs and cats but are not a means of vaccination.  Routine vaccination of your pets should be maintained by your veterinarian.

As of August 4th 157 cases of rabies have been identified.  Approximately 1/3rd have been in found in skunks and 2/3rds in raccoons. 2 cases of rabies have also been identified in bats and 2 in foxes. Glanbrook and Lower East Hamilton have seen the most cases, followed by Ancaster, the Central Mountain and Stoney Creek.  It is estimated that it could take up to five years to eliminate the current outbreak.

To learn more please click here to read the Hamilton Spectator Article

First case of bat rabies in Hamilton!

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The first case of rabies in a bat this year was confirmed July 15th.  Hamilton has already been dealing with a rabies outbreak in raccoons and skunks since this past winter. A second rabid bat has also been identified in Oakville.

Bat bites can be difficult to see and feel. Therefore it is recommended that anyone who comes in contact with a bat call public health immediately. This is also true for our animal companions, especially outdoor cats, as we will not be able to tell if they can had contact with a bat or not. Even indoors cats are at risk as bats can enter homes through chimneys, attics, open doors, etc. Please make sure to keep your pets and family safe by avoiding all wild animals. It is also important to keep your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination.

To learn more please click here to read The Hamilton Spectator article 

Illnesses that can affect both you and your pet

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Animals are wonderful companions; however pet owners should be aware of illnesses that affect both humans and animals alike. It is important to be aware of such illnesses in order to protect the health of both you and your furry friend.


Rabies is a deadly virus for which there is no cure. It is spread through a bite, scratch or contact with mucous membranes from the saliva of an infected animal. We are currently experiencing a rabies outbreak in raccoons in Hamilton. Rabies prevention in your pets can be easily accomplished through vaccination by your veterinarian.


Animals that commonly carry Salmonella include turtles, iguanas and occasionally dogs and cats. Dog and cats fed raw or under-cooked pet food are at risk of contracting Salmonella and spreading it to their owners. Ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces is also a source of Salmonella, which manifests itself in the development of diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.

Avoiding contaminated food and practicing good kitchen hygiene is a great way to prevent infection with Salmonella. If feeding your dog or cat a raw food diet, wash your hands after feeding them and avoid contact with their saliva or feces.


Leptosporosis is a bacterial infection that is spread by wildlife in Ontario. Approximately 1 in 2 skunks and 1 in 3 raccoons in Ontario carry the bacteria.  The bacterium resides within the kidneys and is excreted in the animal’s urine.  Animals transmitting Leptosporosis are commonly found roaming in our backyards and parks, meaning even our city pets are at risk of becominginfected.  People and dogs are both susceptible to infection and transmission.

Although treatment is available, diagnosis can be difficult and is fatal if not identified.  A Leptosporosis vaccination is available and important in preventing this disease in your dog.


Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It affects most animals and poses a great risk to unborn children. People can experience various degrees of illness ranging from flu-like symptoms and joint pain, with the majority going unnoticed. If the organism crosses the placenta, miscarriage or birth defects can result.  These issues arise when a person is infected with Toxoplasma for the first time.  Transmission occurs through ingestion of undercooked meat, raw milk or contact with contaminated cat feces.

Prevention involves cooking meat thoroughly, washing fruits and veggies and scooping cat feces promptly. Be sure to wash your hands immediately afterward cleaning the litter box.

Lyme disease:

Borrelia Burgdorferi, or Lyme disease, is a pathogen transmitted by the black legged deer tick (Ixodes Scapularis). Ticks must feed on their host for several hours to transmit the disease.  Although contracted the same way, canine and human Lyme disease manifests differently.  People typically develop a rash and/or flu-like symptoms within a few weeks of being bitten by an infected tick.  Joint pain or neurological signs can also be experienced by some people. Dogs on the other hand may develop clinical signs of the disease weeks to months following infection.  Fever and lameness are the most commonly demonstrated symptoms in dogs, with long- term effects including damage to the kidney.

Wearing light coloured clothes and insect repellant is a great way for people to help prevent tick bites.  Oral and topical tick preventative options are available for your dog and can be obtained at your veterinarian.  A vaccination for Lyme disease is also available for dogs to prevent infection in the event they are bitten by a deer tick.