Thursday, February 26, 2015

Warm Wagging Tails – Pawsitive Winter Activities for You and Your Dog

OK, so you’re feeling fed up. You want to be the best pet owner for your dog and you know that means providing plenty of exercise and stimulating activities each day. But let’s face it – that’s not the easiest thing to do during a winter like this one. The walking paths and trails are buried in snow, you’re up to your knees trying to walk through the park, and the sidewalks are becoming more and more difficult to distinguish from the snow banks. The roads are covered in salt and, honestly, your dog seems just as cold and miserable as you when you assume your winter warrior persona and head out to endure a barely bearable February stroll.

Good news: You don’t have to do this! There are plenty of alternatives to simply walking the dog each day through the winter. If you’re looking to try something – anything – else, here are some ideas to help keep your pet happy and healthy until the sunshine and green grass return.

Indoor games Many dogs can easily learn to play hide-and-seek with you. Games like this provide some indoor exercise, as well as mental stimulation and fun, for your pet and your family!

 New toys Stock up on toys that are interactive and stimulating for your pup. Tug toys, for example, will provide fun, exercise, and interaction. Stuffable toys that make your dog think and work to get to a treat are also great, but make sure you’re not overcompensating fewer walks with far more treats!

Nose work Challenge Rover’s nose by hiding treats throughout the house for him to search for; create an obstacle course to be sniffed through to find his dinner; or create interactive challenges for your dog by hiding a treat under one of several covers, and praising him when he finds it.

Outings. Next time you’re heading out to your local pet store or animal shelter, take your dog with you. He’ll be excited to get out of the house, see and sniff new people and animals, and show off some of his good manners and obedience training in hopes of coming home with a new toy or treat.

 Join a class Take your dog’s training to the next level by joining a new obedience or agility class. This will provide a regular outing for both you and your dog to look forward to each week, and give you new interactive tricks to practice together at home.

 Plan a FUN outdoor activity Find a scenic, pet-friendly location for snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, or winter hiking. Invite some friends along to make for an enjoyable group activity.

Spice up “the walk” Alternate between walking and jogging with your dog every 10 minutes or so. This will help keep things interesting for your pup, and it will help keep both of you feeling warmer while you’re out. Pausing the walk for snowball fetch is another exciting activity for your dog, and you don’t have to worry about favourite dog toys getting lost in the snow!  

Hopefully these suggestions will inspire some renewed enthusiasm for providing exercise and excitement for our dogs during the winter. Remember, the benefits of fresh air and exercise are many – for both you and your pet – so avoid giving up on dog walks altogether. Instead, try incorporating new activities so that you are not relying solely on bitter cold dog walks for providing both exercise and fun for your pet. New, alternative activities can be an excellent way to increase your pet’s training, socialization, and bond with you. Before you know it, you’ll be back to playing fetch in the park under the warm summer sun. 

Andrea Tatarski
OHS Coordinator: Humane Education

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cheer Up Pup! (Part I)

As Ottawa residents, we are not strangers to winter’s harsh temperatures, treacherous weather conditions, and dull, dark, dismal days. Unfortunately, for some of us, winter can take its toll as we succumb to what is commonly known as the "winter blues." Common symptoms of the winter blues include loss of energy, increased appetite, and feelings of depression.

Fortunately, when feeling the brunt of the winter season weighing down, we can find comfort and cheer in both the benefits and responsibilities that come with caring for our pets. Here’s how:
  •  Pets provide a unique form of simple, unconditional love and companionship. With a pet, any time together is uncomplicated, quality time spent: pets don’t complain; they don’t ask us to talk about our feelings; they don’t give advice we didn't ask for. Just love.
  • Caring for a pet keeps us active and engaged. Knowing we have to get out to walk the dog might be the only thing that gets us some fresh air and exercise on a gloomy winter day. Keeping active for our pets will help improve our energy levels and mood as well. And, simply caring for a pet each day can help keep us engaged and feeling valuable and needed, with a positive focus to get us through the winter.
  •  Pets connect us to people. Pets can be the easiest conversation starters with other people when we are feeling isolated in the dead of winter. Taking the dog for a walk or to the park might turn into a positive social experience meeting other animal lovers who may need a friendly chat as much as we do.
  • Pets keep us healthy. Research shows that owning a pet can be linked to lower blood pressure, a better balance of natural hormones and chemicals in our bodies, better fitness, and fewer visits to the doctor than those who choose not to keep an animal companion around.
So as we endure another frigid February here in Ottawa, hang in there, and know that comfort, companionship, and some help cheering up are just a tail-wag away.

Stay tuned: Next week we discuss how WE can help our pets cope with the winter blues. 

Andrea Tatarski
OHS Co-ordinator: Humane Education

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February is Pet Dental Health Month

Say "Ah" Lola! 
Dental disease can be a big problem for cats and dogs. By age three, the majority will have some degree of dental disease, potentially leading to some serious health consequences for your pets.

Over time, plaque and tartar gradually build up on your pet’s teeth. Eventually, this build up will start to move under the gum line causing inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis.  Gingivitis is one of the earliest signs of periodontal disease, the majority of which happens below the gum line, making it very difficult to see the extent of the damage in your pet’s mouth.   

As periodontal disease gets worse, it destroys the bone around your pet’s tooth. This will continue until the tooth is eventually lost. This can cause significant pain and infection. Pets with periodontal disease also tend to have bad breath. Untreated, this can lead to pathologic jaw fractures from bone loss, infection of the jawbone, and nasal infections. Aside from periodontal disease causing oral problems, it can also have systemic consequences, affecting the kidneys, liver and heart. 

Unfortunately, at the Ottawa Humane Society we see many animals with advanced, untreated periodontal disease.   

Another very common dental problem in cats is feline oral resorptive lesions. These are often referred to as “cat cavities” and are caused by normal cells of the teeth eating away at the cat’s own teeth. These are very painful lesions once they are in the advanced state. Cats are also commonly plagued by a condition known by many names but most commonly called feline plasma cell gingivitis/stomatitis. This disease is an immune mediated problem causing severe and often painful inflammation of the gums and mouth.  

Dental care at the OHS 
Other oral problems include orthodontic issues, dead/worn/fractured teeth, unerupted teeth, and retained baby teeth.

As you can imagine, we see all of the above on a regular basis here at the OHS. Many of our cats and dogs have to undergo a general anesthesia for a complete oral health assessment and treatment, since it is impossible to provide a thorough dental cleaning and oral examination on a pet that is awake. We remove tartar via dental scaling and then we polish the teeth to help prevent the accumulation of more tartar. We take dental radiographs as needed to assess various dental conditions. We pull severely diseased/worn/fractured/retained teeth when necessary and to correct painful underbites and overbites. Healing from extractions generally takes seven to 10 days. I treat animals with post-operative pain relief medication and they usually require soft food while healing.  Last year alone, we did 542 dental procedures at the OHS. 

Regular veterinary visits are crucial to monitoring your pet’s oral health. Your veterinarian will do a preliminary examination of your pet’s mouth at your annual general check up. Your veterinarian can recommend many ways to help your pet’s mouth stay healthy, which is an important part of caring for your pet’s health. 

Dr. Shelley Hutchings
OHS Chief Veterinarian

Friday, February 6, 2015

Feline Romantics at the Ottawa Humane Society Want to Renew Your Faith in True Love... Times Two!

If you've been feeling a little cynical about love lately, there are several cats at the Ottawa Humane Society who would like the chance to change your mind.

These furry romantics have already found that special someone in the best kitty friends they’ve made at the OHS and are missing only one thing: you. They’re just waiting for the opportunity to restore your faith in love with a team effort of cuddles, purrs and collective catnaps.

To help make their Valentine’s Day dreams come true, adopt one adult cat in February and the OHS will waive the adoption fee on the second adult cat. Everyone who brings home two new feline family members will be entered to win a prize pack valued at more than $100!

Merlin and Dagobert 
Merlin and Dagobert still believe in true love and think you could really benefit from some four-legged friendship. For these best kitty friends, two is the loneliest number because it means there’s no you. And without you, who will throw the ball? 

They just have two questions for you: Will you be their Valentine? And, would you please throw the ball? 

To learn more and to meet all the feline Romeos and Juliets, please visit the OHS at 245 West Hunt Club Rd. or the website at

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