Pet Health Education

Leptospirosis in Dogs

At Gibsons Veterinary Hospital we know that taking your kitty to the vet is stressful for both the cat and her owner! We have gone to great lengths to create a separate feline waiting area to minimize your cats stress when you arrive at our newly renovated reception area.

There are a few things you can do to mentally prepare and organize yourself for visit. Also, you can decrease a lot of the anxiety and stress that your cat can feel during a first vet visit by taking some time in the days leading up to the appointment to prepare your pet in a few

Feline Stress and Visiting Your Vet

different ways. Getting your cat familiar with his/her cat carrier is a great way to start. You might even graduate to taking a few short car rides with your cat safely tucked away in the carrier in the seat next to you, and try giving her a treat after each drive. Also, try getting kitty used to being touched in areas like her ears, paws, and belly if she’s not used to being handled this way. There are lots of other techniques to soothe stressed cats and ease feline tension that will no doubt come in handy during this time.

There are a few crucial things to bring along to your cat’s first vet visit. A secure cat carrier is very important, along with any vaccination records you may have if you’ve adopted your cat from a rescue league or humane society that may have administered prior medical treatment. A fecal sample may also be required so that your veterinarian can check for worms and other parasites. To be best prepared, ask your vet beforehand what he or she needs you to bring along in order to give the most thorough care to your pet. You can also read through a basic online checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. Something soothing to your cat, such as a favorite treat or toy will also make the experience go a lot more pleasantly.


After you arrive for your appointment, you can count on your veterinarian asking some basic questions about your cat’s vaccinations, eating and drinking habits, general history and temperament. It helps to be prepared for these standard questions, which are similar to those you’d fill out via paperwork at the doctor’s office or emergency room. Likewise, you should also come prepared with a list of questions to ask your vet. Try keeping a record of any unusual behavior you’ve witnessed at home, or a list of general questions regarding the particular breed of cat you’ve adopted. Now’s the time to get all those nagging questions resolved, so don’t be afraid to speak up! There are many other questions that are important to ask to ensure your cat is getting the best check-up possible, so try your best to be thorough and prepared.

A cat’s first veterinary appointment generally follows a predictable schedule. Your cat will be given a basic hands-on physical examination that’s not unlike a human physical checkup, and your vet should tell you about your pet’s general health, dental or weight issues he or she might find while examining your cat’s coat, eyes, ears, body and teeth. Your vet will also either administer vaccinations, or discuss or set up a vaccination schedule with you if kitty is too young for them yet. Tests for Feline Leukemia may be administered, especially if you’ve adopted a cat or kitten that has spent some part of its life living outdoors. You and your vet may also talk about when to have your cat spayed or neutered at this first vet appointment.

Don’t forget to reward your cat with a treat and a long petting session for being so brave at the veterinarian! Not only will it help to further calm any jittery nerves brought on by an unfamiliar environment, but kitty will learn to associate a visit to the doctor with food and rewards…kind of like giving a child a lollipop at the pediatrician!

LEPTOSPIROSIS IS A PREVENTABLE DISEASE caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease.

WHAT ANIMALS ARE AT RISK? Dogs are most commonly affected and infected dogs can infect people.. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild, although very little is known about the disease in this species. In some areas, the bacteria are so widespread in the environment that almost every dog is at risk of being exposed to leptospirosis, regardless of whether they live in the country, suburbs or city. Any age, breed or sex of dog can be affected. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs include:  

  • Exposure to, or drinking from, freshwater sources

  • Roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources)

  • Exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard

  • Contact with rodents or other dogs (such as in urban areas, dog parks or multi dog facilities)


HOW IS IT PREVENTED? Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Contrary to some beliefs, these vaccines are no more likely to cause adverse reactions than are the other commonly administered vaccines. Annual vaccination is recommended for at-risk dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about the benefits and risks of vaccination against leptospoirosis. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection. This may include the following:

  • Avoid letting your dog drink from or swim in rivers, lakes, ponds, marshy areas or slow-moving or stagnant water

  • Minimize contact with wildlife, farm animals and rodents, including carcasses.  

Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk.

Xylitol can Poison Your Pet

Xylitol is one such sugar substitute that is safe for human consumption, but is toxic for dogs. In fact, it can be deadly.  When compared to sugar, it causes very little insulin release in people and insulin is not required for it to be put to use as an energy source for the body. Xylitol has been shown to prevent mouth bacteria from producing acids that damage the surfaces of the teeth. For this reason, xylitol is commonly included in toothpastes, sugar-free gum, peanut butters, and jellies.

Dogs, cats and rabbits can all be affected by Xylitol toxicity, although dogs are most likely to ingest it.  After a dog consumes a significant amount of xylitol, there is a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This, in turn, results in a dangerously low blood sugar level and symptoms such as weaknesstremblingseizurescollapse, and even death.

At higher dosages, xylitol can cause massive liver destruction or necrosis in which large numbers of liver cells die abruptly. This produces an acute health crisis and, in many cases, death.  The toxic dose of xylitol for dogs is 0.1 gram or more of xylitol per kg of the dog’s body weight. 

Treatment of xylitol toxicity in dogs
Emergency treatment is warranted after a dog consumes xylitol. If vomiting can be successfully induced within the first 30 minutes or so the problem may be resolved. Once xylitol leaves the stomach (the other way) and triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, intensive treatment is warranted.  The prognosis for xylitol toxicity varies and depends on how promptly the dog receives treatment as well as the amount of xylitol that was consumed.

Please read labels carefully before feeding your pet.  Not all product labels clearly state if they contain xylitol. If a label states only, “artificially sweetened,” presume that it contains xylitol. If you opt to use xylitol-containing products in your household, be sure to keep them completely out of your clever dog’s reach.  If you believe that your dog has just eaten something containing xylitol, contact a veterinary hospital right away. You might be advised to induce your dog to vomit at home. This is accomplished by forcing your dog to swallow hydrogen peroxide.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian.  They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Sneezing and Feline Upper Respiratory Disease

Sneezing and eye discharge in cats are the most common characteristics of 'Feline Upper Respiratory Disease'. This is the term used to describe a condition affecting the mouth, nasal passages, sinuses, upper airways, and the eyes in cats. There are multiple causes of Feline Upper Respiratory Disease, but most of the cases are caused by Feline Herpes-1 (also called Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus) and Calici Virus. Other causes of sneezing in cats include Chlamydophila felis, Bordetella bacteria, Pasteurella bacteria, and Mycoplasma bacteria.


How is feline upper respiratory disease complex spread? Both feline rhinotracheitis virus (Herpes) and calici virus are spread through contact with the discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected cat. This usually occurs through direct contact. Sneezing, food dishes, hands, bedding may contaminate the environment and cause transmission of these viruses from one cat to another.


What are the symptoms of Feline Upper Respiratory Disease? The symptoms of feline upper respiratory disease typically include sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis and ocular discharge, corneal ulcers, drooling, oral ulcers, sore throat, gingivostomatitis (very red sore gums), abortion, joint and muscle pain, fever, fluctuating appetite, and depression.


Intermittent recurrence (recrudescence) occurs commonly after stress. These chronic carriers can spread viruses even when not showing signs of illness. A  1:30 dilution of household bleach (1/8 cup of bleach to 1 litre of water) should be used to disinfect already cleaned surfaces.

How is Feline Upper Respiratory Disease treated? The treatment of cats with feline upper respiratory disease is supportive and includes: Keeping the eyes and nasal passages clear through regular removal of discharge, increasing the humidity (placing a humidifier in the room with the cat), and the possible use of a nasal decongestant, supplements, and antivirals prescribed by your vet, as well as, ensuring food and water intake.  Treatment may be recommended for secondary bacterial infections through the use of antibiotics as well as treating any oral ulcers or eye lesions with appropriate medication.

Because of the contagious nature of the disease, cats with upper respiratory disease should be isolated.


Most cats infected with feline rhinotracheitis virus or calici virus will become chronic carriers of the virus. This means they will continue to be infected with the virus but not show any signs of the disease. Cats with calici virus will shed the virus continually for years.


A severe form of calici virus called Virulent Systemic Feline Calici Virus can cause cats to become very ill and has been seen in shelters across North America.  Approximately half of affected cats do not survive the infection.


Vaccination is the primary way to prevent feline upper respiratory disease. Kittens need a series of vaccinations to become protected. Vaccination is not 100% effective and works best before exposure to the viruses. Vaccinated cats can still become infected with the wild strain of virus, show mild signs of disease and become carriers of the virus.  Even after infection, vaccination does boost cell mediated immunity against the Herpes virus preventing local spread in facial nerves.


Keeping animals as stress free as possible can prevent recurrence.  Avoid breeding female cats who had previous litters of kittens with respiratory disease.   Separate pregnant cats from other cats starting at least three weeks before giving birth.  Keep kittens separate from other cats until at least a week after their second vaccination.



Environmental Enrichment and Animal Stress 


We all know from our own experience that we thrive in a rich environment.  Environmental enrichment is creating an environment where an animal can exercise natural behaviours.  When we live in a rich environment, we feel better, have a better outlook, our bodies are healthier, and we make better health decisions.  This improves our quality of life and that’s why environmental enrichment is so important to communities.    This applies to domestic and wild animal communities along side people.


Cats experience the world thriving in environments where they can climb and scratch trees, hunt prey, and raise their families.  Cats have evolved using their claws for climbing and hunting.  Exercising such natural behaviours in similar environments is experiencing environmental enrichment.  This is why scratch posts are claw friendly and are vertically oriented.    This is why cats love chasing feathers and being at heights.


Dogs are social like us and require a den to be with family.  They focus more on interactions than the environment but clearly thrive in natural environments of all sorts.  Dogs have evolved as pack hunters and scavengers.  A rich environment for a dog involves social, mental and physical exercise simulating a chase or a goal and after all the fun having a family in the den for comfort.


Rabbits enjoy a varied environment where they can readily find fresh food in numbers and hide close by.  Rabbits have evolved in numbers as prey and masters of escape.  Because there is safety in numbers, a rabbit’s environmental richness is defined by togetherness, food, and safety. 


People are greatly affected by their environments.  The environment we are in dictates what kind of experiences and behaviours we can have.  We have evolved walking great distances, hunting, gathering, and more recently farming.  This translates into physically working outside to survive.  Our doctors tell us that getting outside and being active are good for our health. 


It is no surprise that we feel better in environments similar to those in which we evolved.  Environmental enrichment is about creating a healthier environment where an animal can exercise their natural behaviours. Experiencing natural behaviour makes an animal healthier, stronger and less stressed. 

Article by Dr. Hershel Frimer