Philly’s Corner: Dedicated to the health and welfare of companion animals
These Five Freedoms are contained in the BC SPCA Charter and express the dedication of the BC SPCA ensuring that all animals are healthy, happy and cared for.
“Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, injury and disease
Freedom from distress
Freedom to express behaviour that promotes well-being”
As new parents, you are the Alpha/ Pack Leader in your family, your companion animal, be it dog, cat, ferret, bird, rabbit to name a few, will turn to you for every need. You took on the role of provider and care giver, making a lifelong commitment which could be up to 15 years, you considered the time and energy, the veterinary/health care costs and more importantly the responsibilities and obligations that come with pet ownership.
Unlike human children our pets cannot tell us when they are just not right, so it is up to us to keep a vigilant eye open for problems. Regular vaccination is just part of what is needed to ensure your pets continued health. A firm believer in that prevention is worth an ounce of cure, detecting the early onset on health issues can and often saves your pets life. Veterinary care can be extremely costly, catching a problem or health issue quickly in the early stages not only provides immediate relief and care for your animal but it also makes it easier on your wallet.
All animals when ill/distressed will exhibit signs manifested in behavior different from the norm for that particular animal. While home remedies can provide some relief from non critical illness and minor injuries (small abrasions) it is best to seek veterinary diagnosis and treatment as quickly as is possible. Having a first aid kit for your animal is a good practice. Include in your kit Saline Solution (to wash abrasions and skin irritation), Steptic powder to aid in blood clotting (open wounds) Telfa Pads and Nexcare flexible bandage that is self adhering, antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin, Veterinary medications such as Surolan (ear drops), Vitalax (for the removal and prevention of hair balls in cats and kittens), Diarsanyl (an oral paste which aids in coating the Intestinal Mucosa) (for tummy upsets and diaherria) (note you can get this for dogs and for cats). Get other suggestions from your vet, he will be happy to supply you with a list of items to have on hand.
Watch for signs of pain including abnormal posture and immobility, your pet may remain abnormally quiet, is withdrawn and not as alert as normal. Movement may be stiff or the animal may not want to move at all. These are the usual signs of severe pain. The injury/disease may be internal and not visible as in spinal injuries and nerve damage (animal does not react to stimuli), head trauma (dilated pupils, eyes do not react) internal bleeding / injuries (gums are very pale) and poisoning (vomiting, distorted abdomen).
An animal in “low intensity pain” may experience shivering, may whimper or even howl, possibly growl without any form of provocation, noticeable increases in breathing and panting maybe present, the animal often becomes restless and more alert. Skittishness when you attempt to examine your animal, for example if you try to check a leg, hip, ear; licking of the painful area and sometimes scratching of the area will give an indication. Further in this form of painful discomfort your dog may be anxious, they may experience increased urination , prefer cold surfaces to lay upon and often will hold their tail between their legs, sometimes there may be penal erection.
In cats the behavioral signs may be a little different in that the cat will tend to find a quiet place to hide, facial expressions such as apprehensiveness and creased forehead may be visible, the cat may cry, yowl and even hiss when approached or attempts are made to move the animal. Cats do purr when content, however excessive loud purring is often an indicator that something is wrong. Facial swelling, excessive drooling and pawing at the face as an example may indicate an obstruction in the mouth or worse an infected tooth which requires immediate veterinary care to prevent toxins being distributed to vital organs such as the liver and heart.
With any animal it is important to recognize the onset of health issues, to catch them early before they get worse and possibly threaten the life of the animal. Bouts of diarrhea, blood in the stool/urine, vomiting, head shaking, excessive scratching, discharge from the eyes and nose, skin lesions, both internal and external parasitic infestation; all of these if left untreated properly can result in severe complications and could result in death. As an example, some animals are allergic to flea bites and to mites contained in soil and grasses. Excessive licking and scratching of an area can and often will lead to a bacterial infection of the skin that rapidly spreads throughout the animal being carried by the blood stream. New areas of the body become affected, hair loss, open lesions, oozing sores can result quickly. An untreated ear or eye infection can leave the animal permanently deaf or blind.
The quality time spent with your companion is a priceless gift, providing a strong and lasting bond and unconditional love. This quality time can be used to detect any signs of trouble. During regular grooming/cuddling sessions you can pay particular attention: Running your own hands completely over every inch of your pet can help you pick up on tender areas, bumps or lumps that suddenly appear, skin lesions or abrasions, areas that the animal does not wish you to touch, is the coat dry, does the skin appear flaky, is there excessive shedding? A quick check of the ears, are they red inside, have a foul odor ( an indicator of infection); are your pets eyes bright, pupils not dilated, free from discharge and not bloodshot? Watching your pets movements both during quiet and play time..are there signs of stiffness, limping, favoring a hip or paw, walking a little off balance? Remember to also check that collar to ensure it is not too tight, that hair is not matting around it, that it has not cut into the flesh. Rule of thumb, it is too tight if you cannot get three fingers beneath it.
Exercise caution when trying to examine an injured or ill animal. Cats can be extremely skittish, become aggressive, those claws and teeth can do some real damage, believe me I know. Totally wrapping your cat in a thick towel/blanket thereby limiting movement can protect you, wearing long sleeves and even gloves is another good option. Have someone assist you if necessary. Your normally sweet gentle dog may snap, even bite if in severe pain. Remember it is not their fault, they are distressed and very scared. The trust that you have built with your pet comes into play here, more often than naught, they will realize that you are trying to help them and allow themselves to be examined.