Vaccines and Vaccinations

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If you’re getting a new puppy or kitten this spring, you need to plan on vaccinating your pet. If you want to brush up on what this means and what it’s all about, you’ve come to the right place!


What’s all the fuss about?
There’s another world out there living with us that we cannot see, but we can see the effects of its existence. This is the micro world of bacteria and viruses – the tiniest of organisms that can only be seen with a microscope and, in the case of viruses, only a very powerful one at that.
All organisms want to live, to survive, and to reproduce. Many so-called “bad” bacteria and viruses survive best in living tissue. Different families of these tiny bugs prefer to live in certain species of animals and invade certain areas of the body. Well, as you know, your pet’s body is also trying to survive and thrive. Fortunately it has been provided with its very own security back up response team – the immune system.


The immune system is made up of many workers and soldiers, but the ones most pertinent to our story are the cells that produce antibodies, the lymphocytes. These are tiny white blood cells that live in the blood stream and the tissues. Their job is to survey their surroundings and look for foreigners – those bacterial and viral invaders. Once they meet someone who doesn’t belong, they start to form very specific weapons against them called antibodies. These antibodies work to kill, slow, debilitate and hopefully just give the bad bug the boot out of the animal’s body.

The body needs to be exposed to bacteria and viruses in order to make its own antibodies, or it needs to be given the antibodies through another route.


When a baby kitten or puppy is born, its immune system is not yet mature; the baby is wide open for infection. Fortunately, the mother produces a first milk, colostrum, which is rich in antibodies. The antibodies from the mom will be passed on to the baby through the baby’s intestines during the first 24-48 hours of life. This protection shared from mom to baby lasts for only a period of time, however, and how long that is varies between individual puppies or kittens. We DO know that by 14-20 weeks of age, maternal antibodies are gone and the baby must be able to continue on its own immune system.

In the meantime, since we don’t know how the mother’s antibodies are doing, we give inactivated vaccines to puppies and kittens at about every 3-4 week intervals in order to give some early protection before their own immunity is really strong.

What are vaccines and why are they needed?
Vaccines can be thought of as little tiny bits of the bacteria or viruses that have been inactivated (killed or modified live), meaning they can’t cause the disease, but they resemble the bug enough to trigger the immune system. The immune system recognizes something foreign and makes its weapons against it. In this way, if it were ever to now come in contact with the real live, fighting bacteria or virus, it’s already prepared and can swiftly conquer the enemy before any signs of illness are even detected.


Common diseases that we see in puppies in kittens in this area are caused by viruses and bacteria and therefore we want to vaccinate them in order to prevent disease. This helps not only your pup or kitten, but also helps to decrease the spread of the disease in the general population.

Common core diseases in dogs:
• Parvoviral enteritis – otherwise known as “Parvo” – caused by canine parvovirus
• Canine distemper – caused by Canine Distemper Virus
• Some types of pneumonia and respiratory disease – caused by Canine Adenovirus Type 2 and/or Parainfluenza virus
• Canine infectious tracheobronchitis – caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria

In cats, common core diseases in our area are:
• Feline Upper Respiratory Disease – caused by Feline Herpes Virus (Rhinotracheitis) or Calici virus
• Feline Panleukopenia – Caused by Feline Panleukopenia virus (which is related to canine parvovirus, but not the same)
We recommend puppyhood and kitten hood vaccinations against the above viruses and bacteria. This means regular visits to your veterinarian during the first few months of life.

Ideally puppies and kittens should be vaccinated against the above infections at age 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks.
VERY IMPORTANT: It’s just not enough to vaccinate your pet once at 6 weeks of age. That would be like playing Russian roulette. In fact, the most important vaccine a kitten or puppy can have is at 15-16 weeks of age, when his or her immune system is mature enough to produce its own antibodies. Multiple vaccines during the first 2 to 4 months of age are the best way to help prevent disease.

There is also Rabies – caused by the Rabies virus – which, while not common in our area, is a serious disease with human implications and can be completely prevented with the vaccine.

We vaccinate against these diseases because many of them are very serious and even fatal. They may require aggressive hospital treatment and may have lifelong effects if the pet survives.
We want to help you help your puppy or kitten to have the best fighting chance against them.

Vaccinations are the way to go.
Make the appointment with your veterinarian and ask more questions about how vaccines can prevent disease in your kitten or puppy this spring!


You are what you eat…

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Every day we provide food for our pets. They depend on us for this basic need. They don’t have to make the decision of what to cook tonight after work; they’re not tempted at the grocery store or the weekend party to make the not-so-healthy-food choice. We decide for them and they eat. What a great opportunity we have to give them good health by controlling what they eat!

There are a lot of pet foods available in all shapes and sizes and blends and types.  Many of them are very good but some aren’t so good, depending on many factors.  We all know that we could survive by eating junk food day after day, but would our health be optimal?  As humans, we thrive on certain amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates (macronutrients), certain amounts of fiber, and then enough vitamins and minerals (micronutrients).  The same is true for cats and dogs.

Make sure what you feed your cat or dog has been properly formulated and well-balanced for them.  Cats and dogs are not small people.  They need different nutrition than you and I do.

Cats are carnivores – they need meat.   They need a higher protein and lower carbohydrate diet than dogs.  They need the amino acid, taurine, to be provided in the diet.  Cats will do better, especially with age, if they eat a wet food or a combination of wet and dry.

Dog are omnivores – plants and meat. They still need a good balance of macro and micronutrients – one that is formulated for dogs.    It’s very important that young, growing, large breed dogs are not fed a diet too high in calories – as it would promote rapid weight gain and rapid growth, ultimately leading to joint and bone problems.

Some breeds of dogs would benefit from a lower fat diet. Others, depending on the activity level, size, and environment would do better with lower or higher caloric intake from carbohydrates.



Food is medicine.  Many specially formulated veterinary diets are made to be an important part of the treatment of certain diseases and conditions – diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, skin disease, and pancreatitis. Your veterinarian will often prescribe food as part of the treatment plan.

Pet foods that are made by a reputable company have been formulated after rigorous research and testing and safety checks.  These days knowing what’s in your pet’s food is more important than ever.

Talk to your veterinarian or one of the knowledgeable staff about nutrition.  We can help you choose food and choose wisely.

Winter Safety for Cats and Dogs

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It’s winter! Whether we have a lot of snow or not, it’s a beautiful time of year that brings with it some potential health concerns for pets.

• Antifreeze toxicity. Antifreeze solution from vehicles is poisonous to your dog or cat. It’s sweet and tasty and VERY dangerous if ingested; life-threatening in fact.
If you have antifreeze spills of your own, be sure to clean them up very well and don’t leave open containers laying around. If you’re on a walk, don’t let your dog off the leash to run around and sniff and eat things. If you think your pet has drank or licked some antifreeze, call your veterinarian immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are initially vomiting, acting drunk, urinating and drinking more, and later on extreme fatigue and a painful abdomen. Please be very careful to keep your pet from this toxin.

• Cold temperatures. It seems we haven’t been getting the brutally cold temperatures anymore, (think minus forty on the prairies), but hypothermia and frostbite can still occur. Warm sweaters or jackets and boots will help dogs with thin/sparse hair coats.
Make sure pets that live outdoors year round have shelter and bedding. Many heavy-coated winter breeds love the cold winters and the snow and would be worse off if they were inside, but they still need shelter.
It’s also important to feed enough to outdoor pets, as keeping warm burns up a lot of calories.

• Snowballs between toes! If your dog or cat has very hairy feet, he or she may have a problem with snow building up between the toes. While not serious, it can be uncomfortable and lead to red, cracked skin or pads. This snow accumulation can be prevented by having your pet wear boots or by helping to melt and remove the snow as soon as the pet comes indoors. Using petrolatum jelly on the skin and hair before an outdoor walk on a snowy day will also help to prevent the problem.

• Toxic indoor plants. Maybe your cat is bored being cooped up indoors and maybe he really wants to eat grass. More cases of plant toxicity happen in the winter. Supply cat grass for indoor cats, and make sure house plants are non-toxic. To name a few (but there are many more): Poinsettias, Dracaena, and many types of lilies are poisonous plants for your pet.

• Getting enough exercise and not overeating. It happens to all of us. It’s not as easy to move around or go out for a walk with the snow, the cold, the ice, the busy times in winter. Eating comfort food makes us warm and comfortable. So we gain weight. Remember to make time to take your dog for a walk or play with your cat. And unless your pet is living outside in the cold or working hard every day, if you cut back on his daily calories by 25%, he will come through the winter in a sleeker condition. Good advice for pets and their people!

• Winter accidents. Be careful when skiing and snowshoeing that you always know where your dog is beside you. Skiis can be very sharp.
Be extra careful when driving at night, as it may be more difficult to see animals on the streets if there are a lot of bright lights, exhaust from vehicles, and snowbanks.

Have winter fun and be safe!


Senior Pets

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We’re celebrating senior pets in November.

Our senior pets are special. They are experienced, devoted, and well grooved in – they know you and you know them. You feel as if they’ve always been there. You know what each other is thinking and it’s a comfortable relationship. The senior years can be a fine time of life!

There can be changes in the senior years that are common but sometimes overlooked. Some of these changes are normal and predictable, others are warning signs and should not be ignored.  It’s been said many times that “old age is not a disease”, but it certainly is a time of life when many diseases make an appearance.

What are some expected Senior Cat and Dog issues?

Changes in senses: changes in vision, hearing and taste. Sometimes these cannot be fixed, but sometimes they are a sign to go looking for an issue that can be treated.


Behaviour: Your old dog or old cat may become mellow, which is often a welcome change. But what if he or she is grumpy, forgetful, fearful, and experiencing an increase in anxiety and phobias? Talk to the veterinarian about behaviour issues, as many of these are related to anxiety and can be controlled very well with supplements or medications.

Health issues: Kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, dental health issues, pancreas and thyroid gland issues. Cancer, unfortunately, is common in our senior pets. Your veterinary team is your friend.  Take your senior pet in for check-ups every 6 months.


Diet: Many cats and dogs become less active and have a decreasing metabolism, so they will tend to put on weight. Others will have problems that prevent the food from being utilized properly and will lose weight. The veterinary team can show you diets and supplements that are tailor made for seniors and for the nutritional or caloric problems your senior may be having.

Comfort: Arthritis pain and pain from muscle tone loss are way more common in cats and dogs than we realize. Yes, talk to your vet about recognizing pain and then about managing it with medications or supplements.

Provide soft padded beds for tired old bones to sleep on.  Provide warm clothing for your skinnier friend who has trouble maintaining body heat. A make-shift or permanent ramp for getting up onto the couch or into the vehicle will make getting around so much easier. A low-sided litter box that is on the main living level will make a senior cat much happier.


We can’t slow down the hands of time and we can’t lengthen the too-short life-span of our pets, but we CAN make the most of the time they have with us, and we should always try to make it the best time.

Let’s Make Senior Years Great Years!

Obesity in Pets

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“Is my cat fat? Or is he just fluffy?”  “My dog is not fat, it’s her big-boned breed!” “My pet LOVES his treats and he would suffer greatly if I stopped giving them”.  “She’s so fat and cute!”

As a veterinarian, I see fat pets every day.  Sometimes it’s hard to let people know.  Some people don’t want to hear the word “fat” or “obese”. If my priority is the health of your pet, then I am obliged to let you know.

I can try to say it in the kindest way possible, but it’s time to face the hard truth.  Our pets are too fat.  Recent studies suggest that up to 35 percent of dogs and cats in this country are just plain obese.

What’s wrong with being fat anyway?

  • Obesity in dogs and cats is linked with arthritis and other painful joint problems.
  • Obesity can lead to restrictive breathing disorders.  It’s hard to breathe with a big layer of fat compressing around your lungs.
  • Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes mellitus and a severe liver condition called hepatic lipidosis.
  • Fat pets have an increased surgical and anaesthetic risk.
  • Fat pets have a decreased life span.

Do you need any other reasons?

How did this happen?

As people become more sedentary in society in general, so do their pets. Animals, just like people, need to take in fewer calories than they burn off, or weight gain happens. Exercise is key to weight loss and weight control.

Some breeds have a genetic tendency toward obesity. This kind of obesity management takes special dedication and hard work.

Most pet food packages recommend feeding too much. We need to treat our cats and dogs as individuals, because one size does not fit all!

It’s so hard to say no to those big, sad eyes.  We’ve created a habit with treats and over-feeding, and habits are hard to break.

“But she’s really hungry!” Sometimes it’s very difficult for you as a pet owner to accept that your dog or cat isn’t suffering from hunger when they beg for food.

We believe that loving our pets means feeding them or giving them a yummy high calorie treat. A greater expression of love would be to just pet them and give verbal praise, or to go for a walk or have play time for an hour.

Neutering or spaying your cat or dog can decrease his or her metabolism by up to 40%.  You need to be aware of this and adjust calorie intake and exercise levels accordingly.

What’s the answer?

I think we’ve all heard it before many times for ourselves and the same goes for pets:  A careful diet and enough exercise. Burn off more than you take in.  Make it a habit and a lifestyle.  Sorry for the boring repetition, but it’s true!

Understand body condition score. I sometimes think our society has come to accept too fat as the norm and the lean, ideal body weight as too “skinny”, “you can feel his ribs – that’s not right”.

To evaluate your pet, feel for a small amount of padding over the ribs. It should be possible to feel the ribs and there should be a small tuck in the belly where the hind legs meet the body. Sometimes it is hard to recognize that your pet is overweight as the weight gain has come on gradually or it is hard to actually accept that your pet is more than just a little chubby and is now fully obese.

Start with good health. Book your pet in for a veterinary check up and make sure there isn’t a health issue to blame for weight gain or reluctance to exercise.

Make exercise a habit.  Pets love this. Dogs need to go for walks and runs.  Cats love to play and chase toys.  There are many programs and interactive toys available. Be creative and let exercise become a part of your pet’s day.

Feed meals at set times. Take control over what your cat or dog eats.

Feed puppies three times a day and adults two times a day; cats can graze, but make sure you know how much they’re eating each day: set out a daily amount and that’s it.

Be aware of what is being eaten and how much.

Weigh-in regularly: this can be motivating, and it also allows you to make sure the weight loss is not too fast.  Pets should lose no more than 2% of their body weight per week.

Chose the right diet.

  • Talk to your veterinarian!   Therapeutic diets are carefully designed to work toward weight loss in a controlled manner, and not just to prevent wt. gain. Some of these foods are specifically engineered for that cat or dog who thinks she’s starving all day long – the diet provides a feeling of fullness and satisfaction.
  • Talk to the support staff at your veterinary hospital about a weight loss program available that provides coaching and help.
  • There are low calorie treats available, and you can also offer limited amounts of watery vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and lettuce. Be careful of many treats off the table as they are full of carbohydrates and fat.  Remember that ALL treats add up and contribute to the daily caloric intake.

I know it’s hard.  I know it’s not fun.  But don’t give in to discouragement.  Your pet can reach a healthy weight!

Feline Panleukopenia

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Feline Panleukopenia

Every year we see a cat disease that is very serious, usually fatal, and always preventable. These cases are in cats that have not been vaccinated or not properly vaccinated at a young age.

Feline Panleukopenia is a life-threatening viral disease of cats.  The disease may also be known as distemper in cats, and it is caused by a parvovirus (but not the same parvovirus as in dogs). Many people have heard of this disease only because it is in the core vaccine recommendations for cats.

The panleukopenia virus is very common and can live everywhere.  It can last for a year indoors at room temperature and survives freezing and many common disinfectants. The infection is highly contagious among unvaccinated cats, especially in kittens and young adults, and virtually every cat will be exposed to this virus at some point in life. It can be carried and shed in feces, vomit, urine, saliva, and mucus of an infected cat.  You may unknowingly be carrying the virus on yourself when you come home to your cat or when your cat meets a new friend.  Indoor-only cats are still at risk!


The virus enters the cat through the mouth or nose and, if the cat is not vaccinated against it, eventually leads to life-threatening disease of the intestine and bone marrow. Chances of survival without aggressive treatment and hospitalization are low because of severe dehydration and secondary bacterial infections.

The good news is that the panleukopenia vaccine for cats is very effective and provides long-lasting protection. The vaccine should be given at 12 weeks old and again at 14-15 weeks, then every three years afterward.

Vaccinating your cat against the core viruses, including panleukopenia, is always the right thing to do.


Thunderstorm Phobia: How you can help calm the fear.

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Summer is fast approaching and so are thunder storms. Many pets have real fear and anxiety during thunderstorms. They can easily perceive different smells in the air, changes in air pressure, changes in your own body language and routine, and of course the loud thunder and bright lightning.

This is a very common and very real anxiety that can make life miserable for your dog or cat.


Ways to Help:
1. Supplements and pheromones.
• Zylkene is a non-prescription supplement that is derived from milk but is hypoallergenic and lactose free. This supplement causes deep relaxation and decreases anxious reactions to thunderstorms and other stressful situations. It is easy to give once daily in a capsule (or powder if opened). It is safe and has no side effects.
• Pheromones are scents/essences that are derived from dogs or cats and naturally cause relaxation and a feeling of well-being. These pheromones are released by the mother dog to her puppies to make them feel relaxed when she is away.
• Calm Food by Royal Canin Veterinary line of pet foods. This food has similar ingredients to Zylkene and has a natural calming, anti-anxiety effect.

2. Comforting sounds and activities.
• Some dogs only need to know you are there to comfort them. Take them outside during a storm and be re-assuring. Make it a positive experience and don’t show any anxiety yourself.
• Recordings of storms are available, such as Sound Scary. These can be used in a progressive, controlled manner with positive reinforcement to train your dog.
• Some dogs find comfort under a “security blanket” or with a snug shirt that swaddles them. Make sure that he or she doesn’t overheat.


3. Prescription anti-anxiety medications.
• Some dogs become very frantic and are at risk of doing serious harm to themselves and anything around them. These dogs need more than a calming voice. Many need to be seen by a veterinarian and prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
• Please contact us for more information.

Don’t take thunderstorm phobia lightly, even if the problem seems minor in your dog. This is a major problem that calls for intelligent handling at the first sign. Treat storms as a routine part of life, nothing to fear, and even perhaps occasion for some special times. Do these things before your dog ever shows signs of phobia, and perhaps you’ll never experience a serious case.


About a Dog and His Broken Leg: How it was Fixed with Orthopedic Surgery

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Chulo is a lovely brown dog of an undetermined breed who came to Canada from Mexico.

He’s a happy guy who likes to chase things!



But sometimes accidents happen, and a big one did. Chulo was hit by a car. He was very lucky to have his life spared… but he ended up with a broken left front leg. His owners brought him in to us at Steeples Veterinary Clinic.

This type of bone fracture, called an open, comminuted fracture of the radius and ulna, needed surgery.

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A cast or splint was not enough in this case. After carefully looking at the x-rays and taking measurements, the veterinarian made a surgical plan and chose his materials. The goal of fracture repair surgery is to put the bones back where they belong and to hold them there very rigidly until they heal. It usually takes 6-8 weeks for the body to knit the bones back together.

So off to surgery went Chulo.

We put him under general anesthetic and carefully prepared the leg for surgery. In the operating room, the surgeon made an incision in the skin of his left front leg over the fracture area.

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He replaced the ends of the fracture into normal position, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. This part takes a lot of tension and manoeuvering to get it just right. The closer to perfect the bone ends are, the better.

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Then the doctor placed his pre-chosen stainless steel bone plate over the fracture. He drilled holes into the bone with a drill and bit. The holes went from one side of the bone right across and out the other side. He then inserted stainless steel bone screws into the holes and screwed them down snugly. As you can imagine, placing this rigid stainless steel plate tightly across the broken area keeps the fracture ends firmly in place.

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Here’s the x-ray of Chulo’s left front leg after surgery. Can you see how the steel plate is attached to the radius bone with screws?

The incision was closed with sutures and bandaged to keep it protected.

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Now what’s next for Chulo?

He has to take some pain medication and antibiotics for a few days. He has to have his bandage changed and his sutures taken out eventually.

Most importantly, Chulo needs to take it easy! He probably feels like he can run on that leg soon after surgery, but he needs to really go slow for 6 weeks so that the bone can heal.  If he does too much too soon and puts a lot of heavy weight on that leg, he could potentially break or bend the stainless steel.


You probably don’t think a dog would want to run after surgery, but they are surprisingly tough. And come on, chasing a squirrel or whatever else always takes precedence over any little bit of pain! This is where the owners have to really be tough and keep a dog restricted after fracture surgery. All the best wishes to Chulo for a speedy recovery!

Freddie’s Blog

By Freddie's Blog No Comments

In Memoriam:


It’s sometimes hard to accept things. On February 15, 2015, Freddie went missing. Freddie, our clinic cat who likes to write blogs, has not come home. Freddie was 11 years old and has been living at Steeples Veterinary Clinic since September of 2003.

We have searched everywhere and have not seen him. I fear the worst, because, as you know, he was a real home body and liked nothing more than to give us advice and boss us around. It wasn’t his style to leave and never come home in February.

There are always risks to letting a cat, or any pet, roam free outside at will. When Freddie was 2 years old, he was hit by a vehicle and sustained a broken pelvis. After that, he was much less likely to go very far, and he was very careful around vehicles.

There are neighborhood dogs, coyotes, and big birds of prey, any of which could be responsible for Freddie’s demise.

Where do I think Freddie is? I believe he met his end through some mishap or other and he’s gone on to a better place.

Good bye, Freddie. You will be missed greatly.


Are there Pet Poisons in your House?

By Freddie's Blog

Many plants, pills, and substances are lurking in and around your house and they can be very dangerous if ingested by your cat or dog. Sometimes you may not even imagine that something so apparently unpalatable would be of interest, but we’ve all seen how, especially dogs, but sometimes cats as well, will eat first and think about it later.

Are you aware of these toxins?

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

  • PainManagementcontrolAcetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, aspirin, anti-depressants, cold and flu medications, any prescription medications at all, whether originally prescribed for humans for pets, if taken by the unintended and in excessive amounts can be poisonous.
  • Make sure you properly close bottles and keep them in a closed cupboard or drawer. Some pets may chew right through a plastic pill vial!

Mouse and Rat Poison: (also called rodenticide, warfarin, brodifacoum, RAT-AK and many other names).

  • These rodent poisons are poisonous!  It may take 7-10 days to see any effects, but they will prevent blood from clotting and can cause severe, life-threatening bleeding in your pet if enough is eaten.
  • They often taste good and they are often left at ground level – a dangerous combination.
  • Make sure you keep the bag/packaging and take it in with you to your vet if you suspect your pet has been exposed.


  • Lillies, azaleas, kalanchoe, rhododendron, tulip/narcissus bulbs, sago palm, schefflera, oleander, castor bean, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, yew, English ivy, and many more plants can be poisonous to cats and dogs.
  • Toxic effects on pets range from mild to severe irritation to the mouth and throat, kidney failure, liver failure, seizure, or much worse.
  • It’s best to keep all household plants except for cat nip and cat grass away from your cat.

 Marijuana or other recreational drugs:

  • It’s never funny: It’s always serious if your pet ingests any recreational drugs.
  • Tell your veterinarian what has been eaten so the correct treatment can be given.

Common Household cleaners:

  • Bleach, detergents, disinfectants, other cleaning products.
  • These may cause mild to severe irritation to the skin, the mouth, the throat, eyes, digestive tract and respiratory tract.

The Compost pile:

  • frie-compost-largeSometimes ingestion of rotting compost or other plant material can be a source of a fungal toxin that causes seizures and tremors in dogs. Try to keep your dog from getting into the pile!

If your cat or dog has ingested or been exposed to a toxin, call your vet. Bring the container or a piece of the plant with you to show the doctor.

And of course, the sooner you deal with the problem, the better the outcome will be.

Your best bet … have a look around your house for potential risks: Plants? Pills? Chemicals? Make them as inaccessible to your cat or dog as you can. Prevent a poisoned pet emergency from being on your agenda this weekend!