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.

Cat Bites

Did you know that there are hundreds of disease-causing microbes lurking in your cat’s mouth right now?

It’s pretty gross when you sit down and think about it, but really, the same is true for human mouths as well. The difference? Most well-adjusted humans don’t go around biting each other or other animals… the same is not exactly true when it comes to cats!

Biting is one of a cat’s main defenses when they feel threatened.

Because of this, we actually take cat bites very seriously within the veterinary community. Due to the narrow size and pointed shape of a cat’s canine teeth, they are able to penetrate skin very deeply, but leave only a small wound on the surface. When a cat bites, the bacteria on their fangs can be driven deep down into the tissue, but the wound can heal rather quickly. This traps the bacteria beneath the surface of the skin. If left untreated, this bacteria can easily turn into a dangerous infection within 24-48 hours.

If you or your pet are unlucky enough to experience a bite from a cat, you should immediately wash the area under running water. Avoid using any harsh disinfectant that could damage surrounding tissue and/or delay healing. Apply direct pressure to the area to stop any bleeding and see a doctor or veterinarian as soon as possible.

It is a rule within our clinic here at Snelgrove Vet, that any staff suffering from a cat bite wound go directly to a walk-in clinic in order to received appropriate treatment. This often means a round of antibiotics to fight infection. The feline patients we see here are up to date on their vaccines, so typically the doctor is not concerned about the potential for viral disease. However, if someone is bitten by a cat that is unknown to them or possibly feral, a doctor may recommend a rabies vaccine depending on the severity of the bite wound.

If you see a stray cat, it is best to call animal services if you want to help it. A stray or feral cat can be skittish and may lash out at an attempt to help them. Your intentions to aid an animal in distress may be sincere, but it is best to leave handling an unknown animal to the professionals, lest you risk a bite from those bacteria-laced mouths!

This may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to read.

We understand that China has a different culture than us.

We understand that they have a real problem with over-population of both dogs and cats.

What we don’t understand is deception. Nor do we think it’s right. Give us the option to choose what we want to purchase!

What we are talking about today is the fur and leather industry. China is the one of the largest fur and leather suppliers in the world but, did you know that much of it is sourced from dogs and cats? That’s right. Dogs and cats. Even faux fur is sometimes real because it’s actually cheaper for them to provide real fur instead of manufacturing synthetic fur, yet they will still label it as “faux-fur.”

Watching these videos and reading these articles will be heart-breaking, but turning a blind eye is worse.

As a clinic, we recently sat down and watched some of these videos together. With tears running down our faces, we forced ourselves not to be naive to the torture these animals endure. It forced us all to go home and look at labels on everything from purses to wallets to the trim on our coats. It made us all stop and think about our future purchases. Many of us have come in to work commenting on how we now walk by certain stores when making a trip to the mall, how our stomachs get queasy just seeing leather gloves on a shelf… It’s made us Stop and Think. And that is all we are asking you to do.


Unfortunately when it comes to leather, there is no way to know what animal it is made from, especially in regards to products produced in China (and perhaps other countries as well).

Here are some articles showing graphic pictures, videos and horrifying statements concerning the Chinese fur and leather industry. Although there may be some honest manufacturers out there, there is no way to distinguish between the good and the bad. While these videos can be gruesome to watch, forcing yourself to do so will help you to fully understand the gravity of these occurrences.

The chinese fur industry

The chinese leather industry

P.E.T.A. has also posted some ways to help you identify real fur from faux fur.

  1. Separate the fur and look at the base. Genuine fur usually protrudes from skin or leather, while faux fur generally has a mesh or threaded backing. If the backing looks like skin (which just makes it doubly gross!), don’t buy it.
  2. Look at the tips of the hairs. Real animal hairs taper to a fine point unless they have been sheared or cut. Faux fur, on the other hand, typically does not taper at the ends. So if the ends of the hairs taper to a fine point, play it safe and leave it on the rack.
  3. Do a burn test (obviously, this one’s only for things you already own). Remove a few hairs and hold them with tweezers over a nonflammable surface. Light them with a match or a lighter and let the smell do the talking. Burning animal hair smells like burning human hair. Faux fur, which is commonly made from acrylic or polyester, smells like melting plastic when burned.

This blog may seem overly controversial for a vet clinic to write, but it comes from the heart and we felt it necessary to share. Everyone has different opinions on what they feel is right or wrong. We have not written this blog today to change your choices, but to make you aware that you have a choice.

Thank you.

Antibiotic Misuse


Among the lengthy list of medications that we dispense here at Snelgrove Vet, antibiotics have to be one of our most common. In a most basic explanation, antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial that either kill or prevent the growth of bacteria. There are many different types of antibiotics, and they treat a myriad of different types of bacteria. Seems pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it? Not so. In fact, antibiotics are likely one of the most misused medications on the market, for both animals and humans.

Why is this?

The explanation is really quite simple – we, as a society, are pretty terrible at complying with our doctor’s instructions. Either doses are missed or the course is stopped before it is complete. Hey, it happens. Maybe our lives are busy and we forget, or maybe our pet seems so much better that we don’t bother finishing those last few days.

Well, today I am here to tell you:

It is so, so, so important to follow your doctor’s instructions and complete a course of antibiotics (or any prescription medication for that matter) to the absolute letter.

I am the first to admit, I haven’t always finished my or my pet’s antibiotics when they’ve been prescribed by a doctor. That was before I knew what I know now…

I recently re-read a book called Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse, M.D., and George C. Williams, Ph.D. It is a fantastic read that I was originally assigned in university, and a lot of the content has stuck with me since then (I won’t tell you how long ago “since then” was!), so when I saw it on my bookshelf  the other week I decided to pick it up again. Among some very interesting arguments, the authors describe an “arm’s race” between modern medicine and ever-evolving illness. Antibiotics are a perfect example of this. When they are misused in the ways described above, we are are basically giving the advantage to the bacteria. We are unknowingly creating antibiotic resistance which results in stronger bacteria and, in turn, less effective antibiotics. Needless to say, this is a big problem.

How can we combat this?

I am happy to say that at the public level, there are ways that we can curb antibiotic resistance. The answer is an easy one, so I am sure you can guess it! That’s right – complete any course of antibiotics prescribed in its entirety. For real, that’s all we need to do. And it is becoming easier and easier. There are apps that we can download to remind us to give our pets their medications, websites that can e-mail us reminders, or we can even go back to the cave-man days and write it out on a wall calendar, checking off each dose as we go. If your pet is a real pain to give pills to, there are also the options in some cases of giving an antibiotic injection instead, or even a flavoured liquid or paste. And remember, if you ever have a problem giving your pet any medications, we are always here to help!

What does it mean when a cat slowly closes their eyes at you?

Love! It’s as simple as that. scout

A cat that looks at you with half-closed eyes while slowly blinking is essentially saying they love you.  These special eye blinks are considered ‘cat kisses’. They convey affection, contentment, relaxation  and most of all, trust. Try doing a slow blink back at your cat in these moments of affection. This will help build and strengthen your relationship with your cat.












Why Dogs Sniff Butts. Yuck!!

Why do dogs sniff butts?

There is no delicate way to ask, “Why do dogs sniff butts?” Apparently, this particular issue is as sensitive as a dog’s sense of smell, so let’s approach the question carefully. To address why dogs sniff rear ends, we have to understand their sense of smell and their communication techniques.

Dogs Have an Amazing Olfactory System

Like humans, dogs have five basic neurological senses: taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell. Of these senses, smell takes the lead in the canine world. A dog’s ability to smell is far more advanced than ours. An average dog has a sense of smell that is about 100,000 times more sensitive than his owner’s partly because dog noses contain 150 million olfactory receptors while human noses only have 5 million. And dogs devote about 1/3 of their brain mass to the detection and identification of odors, while humans utilize a mere 5% for olfactory purposes.

Plus, dogs have an additional tool to enhance their sense of smell. A special organ called Jacobsen’s organ is located inside the nasal cavity and opens into the roof of the mouth behind the upper incisors. This amazing organ serves as a secondary olfactory system designed specifically for chemical communication. The nerves from Jacobsen’s organ lead directly to the brain and are different from the nerves in the olfactory tissue of the nose in that they do not respond to ordinary smells. In fact, these nerve cells respond to a range of substances that often have no odor at all. In other words, they work to detect “undetectable” odors.  dog3

Jacobsen’s organ communicates with the part of the brain that deals with mating. By identifying pheromones, it provides male and female dogs with the information they need to determine if a member of the opposite sex is available for breeding. In addition, this organ enhances the sense of smell that newborn puppies need to find their mother’s milk source. Jacobsen’s organ allows pups to identify their mother from other nursing dams. With a quick sniff, a pup placed between two nursing mothers will migrate to the one that gave birth to him!

The two separate parts of the dog’s odor detection system, the nose and Jacobsen’s organ, work together to provide delicate sensibilities that neither system could achieve alone. When the dog curls his lips and flares his nostrils, he opens up Jacobsen’s organ, increases the exposure of his nasal cavity to aromatic molecules and essentially becomes a remarkably efficient smelling machine.

The Benefits of Sniffing

In addition to chemical communication, there is another purpose to butt sniffing. Dogs smell rear ends as a calming mechanism. Performing this innate ritual soothes them and serves as a stress reliever. Plus, sniffing is much quicker than a lengthy conversation. So, even though sniffing butts seems revolting to us, try to think of it as a healthy, socially acceptable form of canine communication!


This client information sheet is based on material written by: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Interpreting Tail Wags in Dogs

What does a wagging tail mean?

When your dog wags his tail is he telling you that he’s happy? Not necessarily! Canines know many variations of the “tail wag” and they all mean different things. In fact, a wag of the tail is one of the best methods of  communication in the canine kingdom. Like human infants, dogs must learn their language. Pups aren’t born knowing what a wagging tail means any more than a newborn baby understands words. But when a pup is about a month old, he recognizes the need to communicate with his mother and siblings so he picks up the lingo. The pup wags his tail to tell his littermates that he’s tired of playing or to tell his mother that he’s hungry.

Why do dogs wag their tails to communicate?    dog4

Words are the basis of human communication so people are good listeners. Dogs, on the other hand, are watchers. Lacking a verbal vocabulary, dogs communicate broader messages with body language by taking a certain stance, moving their ears, furrowing their brow, shifting their eyes or wagging their tails.

Tail wagging works well for dogs. Since canine vision is attuned more to movement than to colors or details, dogs readily discern different tail wags. Evolution has also helped by producing tails that are more visible. Some tails have color variations such as dark or light tips, some are lighter on the underside, and some are really bushy. All of these traits accentuate the tail wag and enhance communication.

What messages does a wagging tail communicate?

Before we learn to speak “tail,” we must recognize that the neutral or natural position of a dog’s tail varies by breed. Most dogs have tails that hang down near their heels when they are relaxed. But some dogs, like Beagles, hold their tails more vertically. Others like Greyhounds and Whippets curl their tails under their bellies. Still others, like Pugs and Boston Terriers, have tails that coil tightly against the body and don’t wag at all.

Tail position may indicate:

1. Preparedness or agitation. When dogs are alert, they stand with their ears up and tails raised. This posture indicates that they are watching and ready to confront whatever caught their attention.

2. Negotiation. When a dog suddenly stops wagging his tail and freezes, it may mean that he wants to divert a threat without being aggressive. Many dogs do this when petted by strangers to communicate that they don’t want to interact with them.

3. Aggression. When a tail moves from a neutral position to a vertical one or arches over the back, it indicates that the dog may be aggressive. The higher the tail, the greater the threat. This high tail position also releases more of the dog’s scent from the anal glands which announces the
aggressive dog’s arrival and marks his territory.

4. Submission. When a tail moves from the neutral position to a lower one, the dog is submissive and is not a threat. If the tail is tucked tightly between the rear legs, the dog is scared. He perceives a threat and is asking not to be harmed. This lower tail position reduces the amount of scent emitted from the anal glands and allows the dog to remain in the background or fly under the radar.

5. Curiosity. When a dog is curious about something she hold her tails straight out in a horizontal

6. Happiness. When a dog is happy, he holds his tail in a neutral or slightly raised position and adds a healthy wag.

The rate at which a tail moves adds further meaning to canine communication.

Wagging speed may indicate:

1. Excitement. The faster the wag, the more excited the dog. A tail wag may range from very slow to extremely rapid (known as flagging). Sometimes the dog’s tail wags so fast that it appears to vibrate.

2. Insecurity. A dog that is tentative about meeting a new person or another dog may wag his tail ever so slightly to indicate that he is insecure.

3. Friendliness. A dog that is very friendly may wag his tail more freely and even wiggle his hips at the same time.

4. Aggression. When a dog wags his tail very fast while holding it vertically, he may be an active threat. So, remember that a person can get bitten by a dog that is wagging its tail!

Canine “tail talk” is so complex that even the direction of the wagging is significant. Studies show that dogs wag their tails to the right when they are happy or confident and to the left when they are frightened and there is a reason for this.

The left side of the brain controls movement on the right side of the body and vice versa. So the left brain is engaged when the tail wags to the right and the right brain causes the tail to move to the left. Since the left side of the brain is associated with positive feelings like love and serenity, a happy dog wags his tail to the right. Conversely, the right half of the brain is associated with negative feelings like fear and depression, so a frightened dog wags his tail to the left.

Can tailless dogs communicate?

Dogs without tails communicate but have limitations. Tailless dogs approach other dogs or people cautiously to avoid miscommunication. They depend on other aspects of body language such as ear position, facial expression, and stance to communicate their intentions.

Tail Talk

While dogs don’t speak the human language, they still communicate quite effectively and tail wagging enhances their ability to communicate. Interestingly, dogs don’t talk to themselves. They will wag their tails in front of humans or other dogs, but they don’t wag when alone! Think about that the next time you mutter to yourself!

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.