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Dr-Oz-s-Vet-Advice

Watch for snakes

The hot summery weather is probably one of the most significant factors making the Okanagan a unique and attractive area for residents and tourists.

We are now in the prime of spring and starting to enjoy a variety of the outdoorsy activities.

However, we must remember that humans are not the only beings active in the warm outdoors. Among  other wildlife, one of the animal encounters likely to occur in this season is with snakes.

Snakes are cold-blooded creatures, meaning they hibernate during the winter and are active during spring and summer.

There are few types of snakes in our area, but only one type is venomous — the western rattlesnake.
It is 0.6-1.2 metres long. It can be easily recognized by its two unique physical characteristics:

  • a triangular-shaped head
  • a thick tail ending in a series of rattles.

It is tan to pale green, with a series of dark brown to olive ovals along its back. The distinctive head has two holes below the nostrils connecting to a heat-sensing organ (heat pits), which are used to sense prey. The eyes have a distinct vertical cat’s-eye pupils. 

Rattlesnakes hibernate in communal dens on rocky hillsides. In the spring, they disperse through grasslands and forests to areas with rodent populations.

There is one more type of large snake in our area that can mistakenly be recognized as rattlesnake — the great basin gopher snake, also knows as the bull snake.

The gopher snake, which is not venomous, is the largest snake in our area, reaching up to 1.8 metres. It  is light tan with dark-brown markings. Along the back are dark rectangular patches (opposed to the oval or round markings on a rattlesnake).

The head is small with a dark line running through the eye and over the forehead. The eyes are pale with a dark round pupil. Their tail tapers gradually to a thin point. The gopher snake may bite if feels threatened, but its bite isn’t venomous.  

All snakes, the rattlesnake included, are shy creatures that do everything they can to stay out of the way.

They cannot hear, but are very sensitive to vibrations. If a snake feels something large approaching, such as a human or a dog walking on a trail, its first reaction is to hide.

It may also shake its rattles to warn you of its presence. A rattlesnake bites non-prey only as a last resort when it is close to being stepped on, or when another animal gets too close.

A snake encounter is something that has to stay in pet-owners’ minds. Dogs suffering from snakebites is something that I have to deal with quite often during the warm weather season.

In fact, just in the last week, we saved a dog’s life after it had been bitten by a snake.

Dogs are curious creatures, which makes their encounter with rattlesnakes especially dangerous because they tend to get too close to the snake, and therefore get bitten on their faces or necks.

The reaction to the venom is a severe inflammation and swelling. The swelling of the face and neck can lead to breathing difficulties.  

If you suspect your dog was bitten by a snake, rush it to your vet. We are very lucky to be able to offer anti-venom. On top of anti-venom, other medical means and respiratory support, are being used in order to control the tissue injury caused by the venom.

The prognosis of healing from a snake bite depends of three factors:

  • The location of the bite
  • the concentration of the venom (the earlier the season, the more concentrated the venom is)
  • how long after the bite the medical intervention was given. Immediate intervention and care improve the outcome of the treatment.  

As for prevention, the key is control. When walking your dog, always keep it on a leash.

As for your own yard, the rule of thumb is that if a mouse can invade, so can a snake.

However, unlike mice, which can chew their way in, snakes rely on existing holes and unsealed gaps. Most access points are just above the foundation of the house or in basement window wells. Another common entry point is under basement doors.

Make sure all of these areas are sealed. A special snake proof fence is also available. The best time to snake-proof your house is from late fall to early spring when snakes are in their dens and unlikely to be in the building or under siding.

Unfortunately, despite all safety measurements, dog-snake encounters can still happen and can be fatal to the pet.

I was fortunate to be able to save the dog’s life this past week, thanks to its responsible owner who brought him in right away.

Being mindful and proactive in avoiding a snake encounter is the first step in protecting your beloved pet.

However, if your pet has a sudden severe swelling on its body, don’t hesitate and rush to the vet — it’s better to be safe than sorry.



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Grooming an act of love

Grooming your pet on a regular basis can significantly improve its quality of life and wellbeing.

Grooming typically includes some or all of the following:

  • caring of the fur
  • keeping it clean by brushing and/or bathing the animal
  • cutting the hair
  • trimming the nails
  • removal of any dry or crusted discharges from areas such as the eyes, ears, skin folds, etc.
  • teeth cleaning.

Grooming your pet often will benefit both you and your pet. The cosmetic advantages of frequent grooming are pretty obvious and straightforward.

A groomed animal is a cleaner animal, less smelly, and sheds less fur. A clean and well-kept animal is more pleasant to be around. Regular grooming also promotes medical advantages.

Spending time brushing and cleaning your pet makes you go over its body and helps detect any new or existing abnormality that requires medical attention.

Animals with long hair benefit greatly from frequent brushing. Many animals with long hair tend to easily develop mats that are very painful and uncomfortable to the animal. 

Getting rid of mats once they have formed is challenging because they cause extreme pain when being brushed. (think how you would feel if someone would pull your hair so hardly). Often, cutting the mats can only done when the pet is sedated or anaesthetised.

Bathing pets is controversial. Most animals should only be bathed very seldom if at all. Bathing your pet to frequently can harm its skin and fur. In a normal urban lifestyle, most pets do not required to be bathed more than three to four times a year.  
Here are some key points on sage grooming.

There are numerous types of pets brushes. Consulting the salesperson in a pet store can help you choose the best suitable brush for your pet fur. Make sure your pet also approves of the brush and its not causing it pain or discomfort.

Only bathe your pet with a pet shampoo. Animals have different skin requirements than humans and any other soap or shampoo other than pets, shouldn’t be used.

Animals have a blood vessel in their nails. Cutting the nail too short will cause a bleeding that may require a trip to the vet office to be cauterized.

If your pet has white nails, your task is easier because the blood vessels are visible and only the white tip should be cut. Owners of pets with black nails face a bigger challenge.

You can get it done by a groomer, veterinary staff member or try it yourself. If you want to try it, you should cut the nails slowly, step by step, only cutting a really small part of the nail.

In calm animals, once you get closer to the nail quick, the pet will react with a sign of pain or discomfort.

If you did cause bleeding, put ice on the nail. If you can’t stop the bleeding, take your pet to the vet to get the nail cauterized.

Be careful with cleaning the ears. Do not use Q tips or cotton balls. If you want to clean the ears, use a gauze square. These are available at any pharmacy. Wrap the gauze around your finger and clean the ear.

The gauze cannot break down, so you won’t leave any foreign material in the ear and you can’t get too deep into the ear canal with the gauze on your finger.

Any foul odour, redness of the ear, discharge other than normal wax or pain reaction while cleaning the ear, are signs of possible infection that requires medical attention.

Be careful of using ear cleaning solutions. Excessive moisture in the ear canal is a common reason for infection. there are numerous products out there for ear cleaning. Not all products are suitable for your pet specific condition.

Consult your veterinarian about cleaning our pet ears with a solution and get specific recommendation for a product and a protocol that will be safe for your pet.

Brushing your pet teeth is recommended, however most pets won’t allow you to do it properly. Remember, the physical brushing is far more important than the chemical effect of toothpaste.

Even wrapping a gauze of face cloth around your finger and rubbing it against the teeth can be beneficial. Pet stores carry toothbrushes that can be worn on the finger and flavoured toothpastes for pets liking.

All of the above can be also done by a professional groomer. Beside the professional end result, a professional groomer may also detect and alert you about issues that you may overlooked.

However, if you choose to use the service of a professional groomer, do not stop grooming your pet completely. Grooming is an essential quality time you share with your pet.

If done gently, this undivided attention can be a true treat for your pet and strengthen your relationship.      



Is your pet too fat?

In our modern life style, food is no longer serving as a basic survival need, but has become a part of life’s pleasures.

This is also true for pets. Many pet owners are using food to spoil their pets, hence obesity among pets is extremely common. Obesity is the most frequent nutritional problem encountered in veterinary medicine, and approximately 20-25 per cent of the dogs and cats I see in my practice are obese.

Pet owners are getting more and more aware of the importance of preventative, medical care for their pets, including vaccinations, de-worming and dental cleaning, but obesity is an underestimated health problem.

In general, obesity is caused when the pet eats more calories than it burns. Some medical conditions can also lead to obesity. For example, hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism (slow function of the thyroid gland) or problems in the bones, joints or muscles that greatly influence the ability to exercise.

Obesity may lead to severe consequences; these are the most common possible outcomes of obesity:

  • Diabetes Mellitus: A lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted from the pancreas after eating, in order to shift the glucose (sugar) as an energy to the body’s tissues for their basic function. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce it, diabetes mellitus develops.
  • High blood pressure and heart failure: Obesity may lead to high blood pressure, which puts extra load on the heart function and may eventually lead to heart failure.
  • Impairment and damage of joints, ligaments and bones. Overweight animals are more prone to intervertebral disc disease, a condition that can lead to permanent paralysis. Also overweight pets are more prone to developing arthritis and to ligaments rapture. Damages to the joints, bones muscles and ligaments can lead to a vicious cycle in which the animal becomes even less active and then gains more weight.
  • Obesity can affect the liver by accumulation of fat in the liver and eventually liver failure (Hepatic lipidosis or Fatty liver syndrome).
  • Obese animals are more prone to developing pancreatitis.
  • Obesity also affects the reproductive system and may cause infertility and complications in delivery.
  • There is a higher risk in performing anaesthesia and surgical procedures in an obese animal.
  • Some researches show that obese animals are more susceptible to infectious diseases.

In general, an ideal body condition is when the ribs are not seen, but can be easily palpable. In an overweight animal, the ribs are barely palpable. In obese pets, the ribs are not palpable at all.

If you suspect that your pet might be overweight, you should take it to your vet. The veterinarian will gather history and general details and will try to diagnose whether the source of the problem is nutritional or medical.

Besides treating the underlying problem, if it exists, the vet may suggest changing the pet’s diet to high fibre and low calorie.

The amount of food given should be according to the diet manufacturer’s feeding guide and should match the animal’s ideal weight calorie intake requirements.

Table scraps and treats should be avoided or given in severe moderation. Encouraging physical activity is also recommended, within the limitations of the pet’s physical ability.

Maintaining healthy body condition is extremely important to your pet’s health, quality of life and longevity.

Please consult your veterinarian about your pet’s specific body condition and the best way to keep it healthy.  



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Jack Frost can bite your pet

The extreme winter conditions we're facing are adding extra challenges to our daily lives.

Besides tending to snow shovelling, anti-freezing our vehicles and putting on the extra layers to keep ourselves warm. we have to make sure we don't overlook the potential hazards of prolonged exposure of pets to the cold weather.

This week, I had three different cases of frostbites in dogs.

Frostbite is a condition in which certain areas of the body are severely damaged due to exposure to freezing temperatures.

The mechanism of frostbite is simple. 

The blood is transferred to the body organs via blood vessels. The blood vessels are dynamic and change diameter depending on many factors.

Cold temperature causes significant narrowing of the blood vessels, reducing or even blocking the blood supply to the affected areas.

Blood is essential for the organ cells' vitality.

There are four grades of frostbites depending of the length of exposure to the freezing temperatures, and the severity of the tissue. Frst-degree frostbite refers to a superficial damage of skin with a reversible changes that can heal and the area can return to normal function.

In fourth-degree frostbite, the deep layers of the area are severely and permanently damaged, which eventually leads to the detachment and falling off of the affected area/ organ.

The body extremities are the areas most commonly affected. 

The symptoms of frostbite depend on the stage.

In the initial stages, the areas can be numb and darker or blueish colour. In more advanced cases, blisters appear and eventually, in fourth-degree frostbites, the area became black and sloughs off.

Older animals, or animals with conditions that entail impaired blood supply (such as diabetes or heart problems), are at greater risk for developing frostbites when exposed to the freezing, cold weather. 

If you suspect frostbite in your pet, try to rub the area to warm it and stimulate blood flow. Seeking professional veterinary care is recommended in order to assess the severity of the situation and to tend to the problem to reverse the damage as soon as possible.

As always, prevention is the key.

Make sure that your pet is not exposed to freezing, cold weather for a prolonged period. When the animal is taken out, protective pet clothing can prevent the issue from occurring.

All pet stores, and other department stores, carry a wide variety of pet sweaters, jackets and paw wear. 

Do not take this issue lightly. It is true that animals have fur. However, companion animals have been domesticated for hundreds of years, hence are not geared toward spending a prolonged time in freezing conditions. 

Many dogs enjoy the snow and will happily dive right into it. There is no need to deny them this joy as long as basic safety measures are taken. Limit the exposure time to the frozen ground, and provide your pet with protective gear.

If your pet has been affected and you suspect frostbite, take it to see your vet. Early intervention can in many cases, changes the outcome of the damage. 



More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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