Power Breeds

Power Breeds

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to selecting a type of dog. Some people prefer large over small, short hair over long hair, wrinkles over a smooth face, curly tails over straight… The list could be endless! And luckily for us, dogs come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of different traits and temperaments. What I want to focus on in this blog is the so-called “power breed.”

What is a Power Breed?

When referring to a power breed, I am talking about those breeds that are just that – powerful. They are typically a larger breed of dog, with a lot of defined musculature. These would be your Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, Doberman Pinschers, Mastiffs, Cane Corsos, etc. These dogs can be extremely loyal and loving, and we have quite a few that come into our clinic that are complete delight – sloppy kisses and all!


Heidi is a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she gives the sloppiest of kisses when she comes into the clinic!

Another noteworthy attribute of many of these power breeds is that their original “jobs” were to be watch/guard dogs, hunters, and in some cases, even fighting dogs. Therefore, certain traits have been selected and emphasized over many, many years of breeding. Characteristics such as an imposing or intimidating appearance, a reservation towards strangers, brute strength and high intelligence have become instinctual within these types of dogs.


Finn is a sweet, old Doberman Pinscher who is owned by one of our staff members.

Battling Preconceived Notions

A few years ago, my husband and I welcomed a Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue into our home. His name was Troy and he was only the second dog I had ever adopted. I had been a fan of the breed since I first met a group of them about a decade earlier. Unfortunately, I was not in the least bit prepared for the difficulties I encountered when I was out with him. In fact, the thought had not even crossed my mind when we were considering adopting him… To me, he was a sweet soul that had endured a life of neglect and wanted nothing more than to snuggle up and be part of a family. To others, he was large and scary, and he had a big mouth with lots of teeth and a loud bark. I would go for walks with him and people would cross the street so they would not have to go near us. It broke my heart. This was a dog that literally ran away from a 5-pound Maltese in the waiting room of the clinic one day and hid behind me! The realization that he, and other breeds like him, would be met with fear and misunderstanding was a bitter pill for me to swallow, especially after having gotten to know Troy and experiencing first-hand the issues faced by those who have these types of dogs in their lives.


Troy is our Rhodesian Ridgeback who was scared of 5 pound lap dogs.

Ending the Stigma

Power breeds have had to endure a bad reputation that has been developed within our society and has stuck to them like glue. Their nature has too often been referred to as dangerous or aggressive. And while there is no denying that these dogs do have the potential to do harm, many of them are not deserving of the discrimination that they face.

Stone & Rocky

Stone and Rocky are two goofy Rottweiler patients of ours, it is always a pleasure seeing them.

Luckily, there is a way for lovers of these breeds to help repair the damage that has been done. And that is by showing the world the amazing, goofy, loving side of these dogs. The temperament of a dog can often be contributed to the time and effort their family puts into training them, as well as the boundaries that are set out for them. When one commits to adopting a power breed, they are taking on not only the responsibility of pet ownership, but also the responsibility of meeting the needs of a very special type of dog. It is critical for all dogs to be well socialized from a young age and given strict guidelines on what is proper behaviour. However, this becomes an especially important consideration for prospective pet parents when accepting power breeds into the family.


This is Kali, a 95-lb Boxer. She is such a joy to see whenever she comes to visit us!

Considerations for Prospective Owners

If you are thinking about adopting a dog, please also look into training and consider going to puppy classes. It is essential to do your research and make sure that you understand exactly what sort of discipline and structure is required for the welfare and happiness of your new family member. Power breeds can be very strong-willed, so it is important to take a step back and evaluate yourself as an owner before taking on the responsibility of accepting these types of breeds into your family. An unprepared or unsuitable owner can result in an out of control pup, which only serves to harm the reputation of these breeds even further.


Indy (aka Spotty Dog) is Dr. McQueen’s Great Dane rescue.


Take your time, do your research and select a breed that is appropriate to your lifestyle. Your future fur baby will thank you for it ten-fold, and the bond you two will develop will last a lifetime!

Thank you for reading,


Taking the “Finicky” Out of Your Feline

Taking the “Finicky” Out of Your Feline

A well-balanced and properly formulated diet can make a world of difference when it comes to your pet’s health.

I discovered this first-hand a few years ago when my cat, Adelaide, was urinating around the house. It was behaviour that was so out of character for her that I knew she was trying to tell me something. It took a few urine samples and some x-rays, but she was soon diagnosed with bladder stones. She was quickly booked in for a cystotomy (surgery to remove the stones) and recovered very well.

She settled back in at home and was happily using her litterbox again. However, her treatment was not quite finished yet. The doctor’s wanted to make sure that she did not suffer a repeat of her experience. The stones collected from her bladder were sent out for proper identification, and a new food that was specifically designed for cats with urinary issues was recommended. I was, of course, eager to oblige. Anything for my little kitty! Addie, on the other hand, was not so excited for her new food…

Introducing a cat to a new food can certainly be a challenge.

As I immediately discovered, cats can be very picky when it comes to their diet. And, I have to admit, I hear from owner’s all the time at the clinic that their cat’s are very fussy eaters – I just never thought it would be a challenge that I would have to face myself! Luckily, I had the support of my fellow staff members at Snelgrove Vet, as well as a team of veterinarians. Through the experience of having to switch a (then) 10-year old cat to a brand new food, I learned a lot of tips and tricks, which I can now share with our readers and clients alike!

Offering your cat a variety of foods while they’re still young can make your life a lot easier in the long-run.

If I had been doing this since she was a kitten, I don’t think Addie would have had a difficult time transitioning from her old food to her new urinary food. Cats often become conditioned to eating only one type of food and, because they like to stick with the familiar, it can be difficult to change foods later on if necessary. This is especially true of lower quality dry and canned foods (some are the equivalent of having a cheeseburger with fries everyday. Tastes great but not great for you!) It is a good idea to introduce your cat to all different kinds of  textures while they are still young enough to be willing to try them. Of course, I was not forward thinking enough to do this when she was younger.

Preparing for the transition from old food to new food took some consideration.

Before I could transition Addie to her new and amazing urinary food, there were a few things I needed to put into practice first. I had to get her off of free-feeding and establish a feeding schedule. She was so used to grazing from her bowl whenever she wanted that I was afraid she would turn her nose up at her new food and hold out for her old food. I had to start feeding her at specific times so that she would be hungry by the time I was filling her bowl again. I also had to eliminate any hint of her old food from the house. Some very clever kitties think that they can hold out for their old food and eventually get it, especially if they can see or smell the bag or can. So, I took her old bag of food out to the garage so that she would not be able to sniff it out. I did keep it on hand, just in case I needed it though.*

Waiting (not so) patiently for dinner

Transitioning to new food took a little bit of time and a lot of patience.

Cats are usually very particular about their eating habits, and my Adelaide is no exception. In order to allow myself the greatest chance of success, I had to make sure that I didn’t make any “environmental” changes to her routine. I fed her in the same spot within our home, out of the same bowl, with the same scoop, at the same time of day – the only change was to the food itself, nothing else. Finally, we were ready to break out the new food! Sometimes all it takes is a bit of time for a cat to accept a new type of food, so I started feeding a mixture of 3/4 regular food and 1/4 new food for a few days. She seemed okay with this, so I began to mix the foods 1/2 and 1/2. When this went well for another few days, and I was able to feed a mixture of 1/4 old food and 3/4 new food, until I was finally able to eliminate her old food altogether from the bowl. The entire transition probably took about 8 or 9 days. Some cats may need more time, others may need less.

I was lucky that transitioning Adelaide to her new urinary diet went fairly smoothly. I think that approaching the food change with a well-thought out plan helped a lot. Hopefully my experiences can help other cat owners that are facing food transitions of their own! Of course, if any of our clients or readers have any questions or concerns, the staff at Snelgrove is always able to lend an ear and discuss some tips and tricks.

Thank you to everyone for reading, I would love to hear if anyone else has had any experiences with this. What helped the most with your transition, and what hindered it?

– Kait.

*Please note: At no time should a cat ever go more than 24 hours without eating. If your cat is truly considering a hunger strike and has refused to eat for 24 hours, call your veterinarian immediately as they may be in danger of developing health issues such as fatty liver disease, which can lead to renal failure.

The Lowdown on Laser Therapy

The Lowdown on Laser Therapy

You may have heard about Laser Therapy in the past, or maybe not. Either way, let’s take a minute to shed some light (ha-ha) on what exactly laser therapy is, how it can benefit an animal and whether or not your pet is a candidate for it.

What is Laser Therapy?

It all sounds very advanced, but the truth is, laser therapy has actually been around for quite a while for both companion animal and human applications. Here at Snelgrove Vet, we are lucky enough to have a therapeutic laser on-hand for our patients. And it sure comes in handy! We use it all the time for our patients post-operatively – meaning, we treat the incision area after any type of surgery, even our routine surgeries like spays and neuters.

Laser Machine

This is our Companion Laser Therapy® system

“Laser” stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It works by passing a laser beam across your pet’s skin, directly above any area of discomfort. The invisible beam of light passes energy to your pet’s cells, causing them to reproduce faster.

What are the Benefits of Laser Therapy?

Laser therapy can benefit an animal in many ways. When the energy from the laser is passed to the cells within the body and they reproduce faster, it encourages those cells to repair at a quicker pace. This aids in breaking up scar tissue, reducing inflammation and increasing circulation.

A laser therapy session is completely non-invasive and the animal will only feel a bit of heat from the beam of light. It is a pain-free way to help an animal heal faster and it will also reduce the chances of re-injury. If anything, it is a nice, relaxing session that most of our patients enjoy, much like we enjoy a massage.

Who is a Candidate for Laser Therapy?

Laser therapy has a broad range of applications. Beyond the obvious uses for wounds, trauma injuries, bone fractures and breaks, it is also a great way to battle signs of aging in your pet as well. It can help diminish joint stiffness, which allows animals to enjoy all the things they used to – from playing fetch to jumping up on the couch for a snuggle. If you notice your furry family member has been disinterested in playing or going for walks, it may just be the soreness and arthritis that comes with age that could be stopping them.

Truthfully, any animal can be a candidate for laser therapy. From young puppies and kittens recovering from their spays and neuters to older dogs and cats that are perhaps suffering from an injury, or even just plain “old age.”

For more information, please call Snelgrove Vet Services at (905) 846-3316 to book a consultation.


Xylitol – the deadly product in your purse or pantry that can kill your dog!

It’s that time of year again – all of the busyness of the holiday season is coming to a close as we look forward to a new year. And while we reflect on another year passed, some of us may be considering some New Years Resolutions for ourselves.

Hiking Pups

Maggie and Heidi have a New Years Resolution to do more hiking!

According to Statistic Brain, the most common resolution is to lose weight and/or eat healthier. Many people turn to food alternatives to accomplish these goals, which can be great for us humans, but can actually be dangerous (and even deadly!) for our pets. The one I specifically would like to write about today is xylitol, which is a lower calorie alternative to white table sugar that is often used as a sugar substitute in baking or beverages. It can also be found in nasal sprays, over the counter sleep aids, multi-vitamins, prescription medications, antacids, stool softeners and sugar-free chewing gum. I bet if you were to go look in your purse, pantry or medicine cabinet right now, you would likely find a product listing xylitol as an ingredient.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. It has become more popular over the last few years as it has a sweet taste and also contains plaque fighting properties, making it a popular choice for chewing gum, breath mints and dental products such as mouthwash and toothpaste. It has even been added to some brands of specialty nut and peanut butters!

Nuts 'N More Peanut Butter

Xylitol listed as a natural sweetner on the label of Nuts ‘N More Peanut Butter

Risks of Xylitol Toxicity  

As I mentioned earlier, xylitol is even more toxic to dogs than chocolate is. Ingestion is often fatal and that is very scary! To put this into perspective, some brands of chewing gum contain 1g of xylitol per piece. That means that it would only take 2 pieces of gum to cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in a medium size dog weighing about 20 kgs. If that same dog ate 10 or more pieces, it could go into complete liver failure!

The other concern with xylitol is that it can be a very complicated ingredient. It is often considered a proprietary ingredient so the quantity is not listed on the package label. Typically, a product’s ingredients are listed in order of the greatest amount to the least. However, drug and dietary supplements have completely different regulations from food products. In those, xylitol is considered an “inactive” or “other” ingredient and therefore is not required to be listed in order of predominance, and, in fact, is often listed alphabetically – putting it at the bottom of the list.

Forest Pup

Rennik, a 50-lb Duck Tolling Retriever, could be in serious trouble if he ate even a few pieces of sugar-free gum containing xylitol.

Affects of Xylitol

In humans, blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin released from the pancreas. Xylitol does not stimulate the release of the insulin in humans, so it is a very safe alternative to sugar for most people, including diabetics. In dogs, however, xylitol has the opposite affect and does stimulates the release of insulin, which causes a rapid decrease in blood sugar levels that can be life-threatening. This drop in blood sugar can occur as fast as 10-60 minutes after the xylitol is ingested, but in some patients it may not be seen for up to 12 hours after ingestion. Clinical signs of xylitol ingestion include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, stumbling, depression, tremors, seizures and coma.

Accidental Xylitol Ingestion

If your dog ingests a product containing xylitol, there is only one thing to do – get them to a veterinary clinic immediately! While there is no antidote, rapid treatment with sugar supplementation, IV fluids and liver protectants are highly recommended. If no clinical signs have developed and the ingestion is recent, inducing vomiting can be considered to prevent further absorption.

Now that you know about this potential danger, I highly encourage you to flip over that pack of sugar-free gum and read the ingredient list; ensure that the next time you buy peanut butter that you take the time to make sure there is no xylitol in it, and make sure you are only using toothpaste intended for pets.  Please help us spread awareness about the deadliness of xylitol – it may save a pets life!

Xylitol Products

These are all products that contain xylitol – how many do you have in your household right now?

Dogs and cats are not small humans…

…and other pet toxin facts. An informative blog from Dr. Judith da Costa.

Recently I attended a lecture on pet poisons so I decided to write a blog about it. Most of the time when pets come into contact with toxins it is accidental. Occasionally however, well-meaning owners give or apply toxins to their pets. Unfortunately things that are safe, or even considered healthy for us, can be dangerous (even fatal!) to our pets. I will cover a small, random selection of these.

Grapes, Raisins and Currants

In the past several years information has come out about the toxic properties of grapes, raisins and some currants when eaten by dogs. The side effects caused by eating the above are; vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and diarrhea. Unfortunately, eating grapes, raisin and certain types of currants can cause acute renal failure leading to the death of the dog. Why this happens is unknown. The specific toxin has yet to be identified. Not all dogs are affected. At this time we have no way of knowing which dogs will be affected. Decontamination (inducing vomiting), IV fluids and supportive care are the current treatment recommendations. Blood work is done to determine the effect the grapes, raisins or currants have had on the kidneys.

Acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol)

Another pet toxin to be concerned about is acetaminophen. So there is no confusion I will be very blunt. Acetaminophen is deadly to cats! Acetaminophen is the generic name for this human medication. Trades names include Tylenol and Paracetamol. Acetaminophen is also toxic to dogs. Most pharmacist don’t know that acetaminophen is toxic to cats and dogs. Side effects include respiratory distress, brown mucus membranes, lethargy, vomiting and yellow mucus membranes. In simple terms, cats die from suffocation, because their red blood cells are not able to carry oxygen. Only a very small amount of acetaminophen will cause this to happen. In dogs, ingestion of acetaminophen can cause liver failure. If your pet has consumed acetaminophen seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Tea Tree Oil

Many people are surprised to learn that Tea Tree oil (also known as Melaleuca oil) is toxic to dogs and cats. People apply Tea Tree oil to themselves as an herbal remedy. Sides effects of applying Tea Tree oil to dogs and cats include: muscle tremors, liver damage, hypothermia, slow heart rates, weakness, and central nervous system depression that can lead to coma. Dogs and cats have died when a formulation of a 100 % Tea Tree oil has been applied to their coats. Treatment includes bathing with liquid dishwashing detergent and IV fluids and supportive medications.


Chocolate is a more familiar pet toxin. Usually the pet consumes the chocolate by accident. The more pure the chocolate is, the more dangerous it is for dogs and cats. Dark chocolate is said to have health benefits for humans but this is absolutely not true for dogs and cats. The two toxins in chocolate are Theobromine and caffeine. Unsweetened baking chocolate can have 10 times as much Theobromine as milk chocolate. Side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, drinking and urinating a lot, staggering, irregular heart rhythm, seizures, tremors and death. Treatment includes inducing vomiting if the chocolate was eaten in the past 6 hours, giving activated charcoal and medications to treat the symptoms. Always store chocolate in a safe location.

Get Help

If you have any questions or concerns about anything that might be toxic to your pets, please call us at Snelgrove Veterinary Services at (905) 846 – 3316. There is also the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213 – 6680. (Note, there is $35 US fee for the Helpline). In a non-emergency situation you are more than welcome to read our Lifelearn Client Handouts on our web-site. Just click on “Pet Health” and type in any topic that you are interested in. These handouts are researched by the University of Guelph.

Dr. Judy da Costa

A personal moment with Melanie

A personal moment with Melanie

Euthanasia. It’s a word that strikes fear in to every pet owner’s heart. At least once a week, a client will say to me “I’d love to have your job but I couldn’t deal with all the euthanasia’s”. After 5 years in this field of work, I can tell you it’s the most difficult part of my job, and yet, one of the kindest things we do here.

Last April, my aunt was in the hospital, dying of lung cancer. She was suffering. She had enough pain management drugs in her system to make a doctor cry. And still she suffered. I asked her once, at the start of her diagnosis, if she was afraid of dying. She said no, she was afraid of suffering. The day she passed away, they had just stopped her pacemaker (the only thing keeping her alive), and I sat at the foot of her bed and waited. I watched her writhe in agony. And we waited some more. And we watched some more. And we waited some more. The whole time, the only thing I could think, was “Why? Why can we help animals who are suffering and not help people?”

I still don’t have the answer for that question but every day I’m grateful that we can help suffering animals. Does that help me deal with an euthanasia better? Sometimes. Sometimes an animal comes in the door in so much pain, that while my heart breaks for the owner, I’m relieved for the animal. There are times when fate plays a nasty trick and we have to assist them in leaving this world too soon. Those days are much, much harder.

Some days, there are days we cry right there in the room with you, while you’re saying goodbye to your pet. There are days we walk in to another room and cry for you, for your pet, but, in the end, I wouldn’t change my job, the career I’ve chosen. All in all, at the end of each day, there’s a sigh of happiness for every animal we helped that day, whether the pet be at the beginning of life, the middle of life, or the end of life.


My pet has been diagnosed with Diabetes. Now what happens?

My pet has been diagnosed with Diabetes. Now what happens?

Facing an unexpected diagnosis for any condition in your pet can be difficult. Diabetes is no different. But, we have some good news for you…

Good News #1: It is manageable!

Don’t panic! While diabetes is a serious condition, it can be managed with the help of your veterinarian and animal health team.

Good News #2: Your pet can still live a long and healthy life!

Through proper diet, an active lifestyle and consistent medicating, your diabetic pet can live a rich and fulfilling life by your side.

Understanding Diabetes…

Diabetes is not species specific, so it can be diagnosed in both dogs and cats. The cause of it, however, remains unknown. Although some researchers have linked diabetes in animals to obesity, that is not always the case. Diabetes can affect animals of any age, weight or size.

In simplest terms, diabetes is a condition that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body does not appropriately respond to the insulin provided. Insulin is a natural defense against excessive amounts of sugar in the body. Although it sounds like a simple enough solution to just cut all sugar from our diet entirely, sugar is naturally found in most (if not all) foods.


Frankie – Diagnosed November 2015


Common Signs of Diabetes…

The most common symptoms of diabetes in an animal could include, but are not limited to:

  • drinking more
  • urinating more
  • disheveled fur
  • weight loss
  • cats may walk lower on their back legs
  • increased appetite
  • depression

Diabetic Diagnosis…

Diabetes is diagnosed in animals by a veterinarian using a combination of clinical signs, blood tests and urine tests. Once your pet has been officially diagnosed as diabetic, they will be admitted into the hospital where your veterinarian will begin insulin therapy. At this time, your pet’s blood glucose levels will be closely monitored. Based on those results, your veterinarian will put together a treatment plan. Upon discharge, you will be given a lesson on how to give an insulin injection yourself at home and what important signs to watch out for. But don’t worry, giving the injection becomes easier with time, and most pets do not mind it at all (or even notice). It is a very tiny needle and very small amount. Blood glucose monitoring will be done at least weekly in the beginning stages, until your pet shows the desired results. At this point, the frequency of appointments will diminish.

Sir Duffer –
Diagnosed April 2017

Diabetic Management…

The initial costs after a diabetic diagnosis involve regular blood work, urine testing and additional physical examinations. Once your pet has been regulated, however, management of diabetes is a fairly low-cost treatment. Insulin medication and injections cost less than a coffee a day – and we mean a Tim Horton’s coffee, not a Starbucks coffee!

As we mentioned above, proper diet plays a key role in diabetic management. Your pet will need to eat regardless, but yes, they will require a specially formulated food, which will cost about the same as a good quality pet food anyway. Physical activity is also important, as is consistency when it comes to medications. More frequent examinations will be required for your pet. This is due to the associated concerns that arise when managing diabetes – we want to make sure that your pet does not develop any other health issues, and make sure we have the ability to offer quick support care, if they should occur.

Moving Forward…

Your pet will need to come in 3-4 times yearly for blood and urine testing and twice yearly for a full examination with a comprehensive ophthalmic exam.

Most pets live a long, happy and healthy life even with this condition present. Although it requires heightened attention and perseverance, a regular schedule can be developed quite quickly to make you feel that it is as normal as brushing your teeth twice a day! And, of course, the veterinarians and staff here at Snelgrove Vet are available to answer any questions that you may have. We are also here to lend an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on ❤

Millie – Diagnosed July 2017


Willow – Diagnosed August 2017

Gucci – Diagnosed
June 2017

Licorice – Diagnosed April 2017

Atticus – Diagnosed
October 2017

Go – Diagnosed
October 2017