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A few good things to know about porcupine encounters with your dog

porcupineAs spring is turning into summer, you may pleasantly find yourself spending more time with Rover walking in natural areas, dog parks, and camping. Such lovely activities sometimes bring not-so-lovely encounters with our spiny friend, the porcupine. With such encounters, some dogs will learn their lesson on the first go around with quills, but, believe it or not, some are repeat offenders!

The porcupine: Porcupines do not hibernate and are active year-round (much less so in the winter months). They are nocturnal animals but can be found out and about during the day, especially in warmer months. As they are a small animal with slow movements, they become very fascinating targets of inspection for a dog sniffing curiously through the brush or grass. Porcupines do not throw their quills, but are quite capable of releasing hundreds on contact with a perceived predator.

Rover and the porcupine: Generally, there are two types of dogs who get quilled…

Type 1: The “Cautious Sniffer” who gets a bit too close to have a peek at this fun looking puffy playmate. The result is often 10-20 quills in their muzzle, possibly including their tongue. After the unfortunate event, everyone goes their separate ways, with many dogs learning a valuable life lesson!

Type 2: The “I Must Kill the Porcupine” dog. These are the ones that fight the porcupine, chew on it, stomp on it, try to eat it and possibly roll on it afterwards. These dogs may not learn a lesson and often become repeat offenders with more quills each time.

quills in dogQuill removal: Regardless of how severe the quills are, they are painful and are best removed under sedation by your local veterinarian. Each quill has tiny barbs on it to allow it to stay imbedded, and this can lead to migration of the quill. Migration into the chest, abdomen, joints, eyes, or vital organs may occur, potentially causing significant health problems, and (rarely) death. It is therefore important to remove all quills if possible. Note that animals who have been quilled will sometimes break off the quills themselves, leaving the barbed end embedded in their skin. It is advised to have your pet seen as soon as you are able to have the quills properly removed.

Be cautious of what you may find about quill removal on the internet, as some websites encourage cutting the quills to “release pressure” or “deflate” the quills. Quills do not hold pressure nor do they deflate, please do not cut the quills short before bringing the dog in for quill removal. Cut short, there is simply less to grasp to properly remove the quill, and can lead to missed quills because they are more difficult to find!

Hopefully Rover (and you) never deal with an encounter with one of these prickly critters! If you do, here’s to hoping Rover is the “Type 1” dog!

overweight dogAn estimated 30% of pets are either significantly overweight or obese

Obesity in cats and dogs has become a growing problem over the past several years. An estimated 30% of pets are either significantly overweight or obese. Many reasons exist, but it primarily boils down to not enough exercise and too many calories. Genetics, disease, and metabolism play a role, but to a lesser degree.


Health Concerns:

Health concerns can occur when a pet is obese. Excess stress on the joints from unneeded weight occurs, leading to earlier and/or more significant arthritis and resulting arthritic pain. This in turn leads to less voluntary activity which compounds both problems. Breathing difficulties occur especially in short nosed breeds. Extra fat in the throat and around the chest make tracheal (wind pipe) collapse more prevalent and full lung expansion more difficult. The pet also overheats more easily, making exercise difficult as well as dealing with the heat. Diabetes is very common, especially in obese cats. If an obese cat ever goes off food for whatever reason, body fat is used for energy and this can lead to excess fat deposition in the liver (hepatic lipidosis) and potential liver failure.


obese catWhat Can Be Done:

Extra calories that are not required to maintain a lean body mass contribute to weight gain. Here are a few tips to aid in cutting back those unnecessary calories:

  • Measure meal feedings – most bags of food have feeding guidelines. Every pet has a different requirement and may need more or less food than suggested depending on their age, activity level, and metabolism. Using a lower calorie, higher fiber food often helps keep them full.
  • Treats are a great way to bond with your pets. Remember, the pets’ reward is that they are getting something from you, they don’t care how large of a treat it is. Breaking the treat into smaller bits or using kibbles of food as treats are effective ways of controlling the caloric intake.
  • Exercise is important to burn fat. Lean muscle mass promotes fat burning and increased metabolism. It is important to start slow and gradually increase the exercise levels over time, all the while evaluating the tolerance levels of the pet. For example, start off with an extra 5 minutes of walking per day and gradually increase, or toss the mouse toy for the cat an extra 5 minutes. Swimming for dogs is a great low impact form of exercise.
  • If you have a little one in the house, it may be a good idea to separate the pet from the dinner table if there are children dropping (or sneaking) extra food.
  • So many times I’ve heard the pet has gained weight while staying at someone else’s house (Grandma and Grandpa I’m looking at you!). Try measuring out your pet’s meals and treats ahead of time with strict instructions (and, um…good luck…. 😉


What To Look For:

Some general rules of thumb to evaluate ideal adult body condition include:

  • It should be possible to feel the ribs while having a small amount of padding.
  • Viewing the pet from the side, there should be a tuck where the belly meets the hind legs.
  • Viewing the pet from above, there should be an “hourglass” shape.



As some of us know all too well, the aging process is (unfortunately) inevitable, and the same goes for our pets. The golden years for a cat or dog may be barely noticeable for some as they are still running laps after that pesky squirrel in the yard, however others may look and feel their age! Just like us, each individual is unique with regards to how their minds and body change with the aging process.

Caring for Aging Pets

Common Health Issues:

Good news! With advancing veterinary care over the past 15 to 20 years, our pets tend to not only live longer, they often have a better quality of life in those later years. New medications, specialized foods, advanced diagnostics, and specialist care are now readily available to help diagnose and treat common health problems elderly pets experience. Examples of such health issues found in senior pets are; kidney disease, heart disease, dental disease, and unfortunately cancer. Regular veterinary care plays an important role in prevention, early recognition where possible, and guiding diagnostic and treatment recommendations should a health problem arise.

Loss of Hearing and Sight:

The gradual loss of eyesight and hearing can be commonplace. To aid those elders with loss of sight, keep the pet’s environment the same as possible, as adding changes to their environment when they know their way around by memory often proves to be stressful. In addition, dim light may make it difficult to navigate high places such as stairs, beds, and couches. Hearing loss, depending on the severity, often results in a suddenly startled pet especially when awakened from a deep sleep. This unnerving “shock” may result in an instinctive nip out of fear. Teaching children and visitors to be aware of this fact is very important to avoid insult, if not injury. If the hearing is still partially functional, a hand clap or foot stomp may be enough to gain the attention required to not have that sudden fright.

They are Embarrassed Too:

Bathroom accidents may become more prevalent as pets age. Cats may start going beside the litter box (or elsewhere) as time goes on. Dogs may simply go to the door to be let out and not be able to hold it, or they forget they have just gone and ask to be let out (again)! Difficulty rising, moving, or posturing for the process can also impede the ability to “go”. This can be related to arthritis and/or muscle weakness, or constipation. If this is a problem for your pet, speak with your veterinarian as there are supplements and medications that can help with the process.

Mobility and Comfort:

You can help set up your senior furry loved one for success by providing ramps, lower litter boxes, extra comfy bedding, and steps (so they can still get on your bed)! Patience, reassurance, and working with your veterinarian are great ways to help keep those golden years golden.

To learn more about our Edmonton veterinary services click here.


Has this ever happened to your pet? It’s a lovely spring day when you and Fido are out planting the flowers in the garden. Naturally Fido is curious about the interesting things around him – old grass, bark, twigs, and OH WOW – a yellow flying thing that buzzes! Looks like THAT thing should be eaten right away! Next thing you know his face is double the size and he looks like a walking cartoon caricature.

allergies and pets - MacTaggart Vet Clinic Edmonton

Allergic reactions in pets are a common concern. The majority of reactions occur in dogs, but occasionally cats are affected as well. Interestingly, certain breeds of dogs such as Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Dachshunds, (to name a few) are more susceptible. An allergic reaction can be caused by any number of things including; insect bites, plants, pollens, dust, molds or foods to which that particular animal is overly sensitive, medication, and injections. Unless the offending item or insect is actually SEEN being ingested or biting the animal, often the underlying cause of the allergic reaction remains a mystery.

Allergic reactions can range from mild (hives, swelling) to severe (anaphylaxis – vomiting, difficulty breathing, shock). Symptoms most often seen are signs of facial swelling, especially around the eyes, lips, muzzle and sometimes the ears. Often there is pronounced itchiness accompanying the swelling. Another symptom can be “hives” under the skin which are small localized swellings over the majority of the body, and these may or may not be itchy. Fortunately, anaphylaxis, where the animal goes into shock and can be life threatening, is rare. Vomiting, staggering, and/or difficulty breathing can be an indication of a serious reaction occurring, therefore it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately should you observe any of these symptoms.

Any time an allergic reaction is suspected, treatment at a veterinary clinic is recommended to stop the swelling and make the animal more comfortable. Prolonged swelling and itchiness can lead to self-trauma and infection. Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, a variety of medications may be administered. Typically, the prognosis is excellent for slowing/stopping the progression of the swelling and getting things back to normal.

Prevention can be quite difficult, unless a specific allergen known to have caused a reaction in the past is avoidable. Fortunately rapid treatment by your veterinarian is usually quite successful in managing these unfortunate incidents.


Seizures and how dogs and cats can be affected - mactaggartvet.comSeeing your pet seizure can be a very unpleasant, stressful, and frightening event. Here is some helpful information on what to look for, and what to do if your pet has a seizure.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden, disorganized over-activity of the brain cells and their connections to one another. This can range from a localized, short seizure event to a widespread, lengthy event. There are multiple causes for a seizure that include but are not limited to: epilepsy, tumours, trauma, electrolyte imbalances, kidney or liver disease, low blood sugar, and toxin ingestion. Seizures are more common in dogs than in cats, and certain breeds of dogs are more prone to seizures than others.

Most seizures have three phases:

  • Pre-ictal (behaviours prior to the seizure). In the pre-seizure phase, the animal is restless, acting oddly, or in a deep sleep.
  • Ictal (the actual seizure). The seizure phase will vary. A small “petit-mal”/focal seizure may be nothing more than a facial twitch, biting at the air, stiffness in one limb, or staring off into space. A large “grand-mal” seizure is much more dramatic. Typically, the unresponsive animal is on their side with the legs stretched out stiffly and paddling. There is often frothing at the mouth as well as urination and defecation.
  • Post-ictal (behaviours after the seizure). In the post-seizure phase, the animal is often disorientated, hungry, temporarily blind, and may vocalize.

All phases can be of varying length.

What can I do if my pet seizures?

  • During a grand-mal seizure, things happen quickly. Try to peek at the clock to time the seizure if possible.
  • As some animals become aggressive during a seizure and may bite, ensure your own personal safety by avoiding the mouth (in addition, they are not at risk of swallowing their tongue, do not try to put anything in their mouth).
  • Protect the pet from injuring itself before and/or after the seizure, from hazards such as water, falling down stairs, and off of furniture.
  • Do not try to keep them still or hold them down, let the seizure complete its course.
  • If a seizure lasts longer than 3 – 4 minutes, emergency care should be sought by your veterinarian immediately, as lengthy seizures can lead to long term health deficits.
  • Animals that seizure for longer than 3 minutes may become very hot, cool the pet with a damp cool cloth on the belly, ears, and paws.

If your pet experiences a seizure, it is recommended to have your pet examined by a veterinarian, especially after the first event. A physical exam as well as laboratory testing and/or imaging is used to help diagnose and treat the underlying cause. If the seizure occurs after regular business hours and your pet requires emergency medical attention, there are several emergency clinics throughout the city that are available after-hours.

– Article by Dr. Travis Foster, DVM – Dr. Foster is the owner of the MacTaggart Veterinary Clinic and has over 14 years of experience practicing Veterinary Medicine.


Bubbie“My name is Bubbie, and I used to eat my own poo. That was up until I was one, when I kicked that “nasty” habit with the help of my “owner” (or so he likes to be called). I still eat rabbit poo every chance I get. What can I say? I am a coprohagiac and I just can’t help it.” ~ Bubbie Foster

Say What?!

Coprophagia (the ingestion of feces) is unfortunately an all too common problem many dog owners face. The worst part is, after having their “little brown treat”, your loving dog may come over and try to lick your face…leaving you thinking “Oh great (and perhaps a few choice words), this is not what I signed up for, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ROVER?!”.


No-PooWhy on Earth?!

Natural behaviour: A nursing mother stimulates very young pups to eliminate by licking their hind ends, then ingests the feces to keep the nest clean. It may be considered a normal exploratory behaviour in pups that may or may not be outgrown.

Funzies: Stool left out to freeze in the winter time may become fun toys (poop-sicles) to toss around and eventually ingest. Some dogs actually find feces appetizing so it is a self-rewarding behaviour.

Medical/Behaviour Issues: Anemia, malnutrition, parasites, separation anxiety, or a fear of an “accident” being discovered can all be potential causes of coprophagia. If this new undesirable behaviour begins, please have a veterinarian examine your pet to ensure any potential medical issues are being addressed, as well as for behavioural advice.


What Can I Do?

Dog ToiletSanitation: The best way to break the habit once medical concerns are ruled out is to remove access to the stool by picking it up immediately. Most dogs will eventually forget about it if it simply is not there.

Positive Reinforcement: A dog very intent on eating it may be faster on the draw than the pooper scooper. If this is the case, try a leash with a head harness to control the mouth, while at the same time calling the dog to you. Deliver a treat once he leaves the stool and comes to you. Back away a few feet, call him and when he comes, deliver another treat. Do this a few times and he should have forgotten about the stool. Take him inside and return by yourself to clean the poop. Over time, you can begin to clean up with the dog outdoors with you.

Food Additives/Diet: There are food additives that can make the stools taste less desirable, however speak with your veterinarian to ensure they are safe for your pet before trying. A change in diet may help curb coprophagia, either because it is more nutritionally balanced, or the consistency and taste of the feces changes making it less desirable.

Although coprophagia is an unpleasant behaviour, rest assured you are not alone dealing with this “dirty little secret”. Numerous ploys have been attempted to curb the behaviour, some with more success than others, but usually one can find a technique that works after some experimentation. And don’t forget, there are many breath freshening dog treats out there…

Here are common spring time plants and other toxins to keep your pets away from.

Lilies – Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestion of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs – The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Amaryllis – Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

Fertilizers and pesticides can be very toxic to your pet. Do not allow your pet to come into contact with fertilizers and pesticides, read all labels and MSDSs before use!

If you think your pet has come into contact with a toxin, seek Veterinary care immediately.



Fall is in the air, leaves are changing color and decorating the ground, and pumpkin carving is upon us! Halloween is on its way, and thoughts of candy, costumes, and frivolity are on our minds, however Fido might think otherwise. Here are some tips to help your pet have a safe and happy Halloween.Halloween dog

Being as dogs and cats have much more sensitive hearing than us, they may not appreciate the doorbell ringing, knocking, and hollering of “trick or treat”. If loud noises induce stress or anxiety in your pet, try to make their evening as pleasant as possible by ensuring they are in a quiet, safe, comfortable place with some ambient music playing or a companion(human or otherwise) for reassurance.

The change in routine may be worrisome for a dog or cat. A constant flow of strangers at the door could raise the “territorial” instincts in some and cause unwanted aggression. In addition, some costumes are downright terrifying and can bring out a fear response or a defensive attitude. If any signs of aggression are noted, the pet should be removed from the situation immediately to avoid any unpleasant experiences for the “scary” little visitors at your door. Keep in mind some children are allergic to pets and may not appreciate a hairy, four legged greeting party!

With the door opening and closing a lot more than usual, along with the hubbub of kids, costumes and candy, some dogs and cats see this as an escape route and sneak away into the night. Proper identification is important in the event the great escape is a success. Cats are particularly prone to encountering trouble on this evening, so a good idea to keep them inside. If your dog doesn’t fancy the kid’s costumes, walkthemat a time when there are less ghoulies roaming about.

Curious noses may find the new and inviting smells of chocolate and candy quite intriguing, as well as the crinkly wrappers a fun toy to chew on. Chocolate can be toxic to pets, as well as products with Xylitol (artificial sweetener). Wrappers can cause upset stomachs, choking, or obstruction. Take care to keep all candy up and out of reach of our shorter, multi-legged roommates.Samurai Dog

Dressing up your pet for the holiday can be fun (and quite hilarious), keeping in mind some pets like it, and some find it very stressful. If your pet does not enjoy wearing that hot dog costume, include them in the festivities by giving them a new pumpkin stuffy to play with, or some fun treats from your local veterinary clinic or pet store. If your pet is sporting the latest Halloween fashion, be sure to always supervise as an entangled pet could become injured.

Candles are often an enjoyable part of Halloween decorating, keeping in mind although your pet may not be aware of candle safety. Keep candles out of reach of pets, and covered should your cat be enjoying the view from your tables and counters!

With a little extra caution and remembering to “set them up for success”, animals and people alike can enjoy a happy and safe Halloween!


Happy Halloween

Thinking about adding a new furry member to your family? Whether it be a puppy or kitten, lots of fun (and a bit of work) is ahead of you! Planning ahead can make it easier on both you and your new addition.

What do I need?

Little dog maltese and black and white cat eating food from a boTo ensure a smooth transition it’s a good idea to obtain the items you will need ahead of time. Collars, leashes, dishes, crates/carriers, beds, toys, (add litter box, litter and scratching posts for cats), grooming supplies and a high quality, age appropriate diet are all good to have on hand when the time comes to bring home the new addition.


Pet Proofing

Curious puppies and kittens are not only mischievous, they also have a tendency to chew. Remove available contact with electrical cords, wires, toxic plants and cleaners, sharp objects, and garbage cans. Keep stairs, balconies, and other high places unavailable to avoid a fall.  Ensure windows/screens are closed to prevent escape. Set them up for success!


Introducing the pup or kitten to the new household can be stressful, especially if there are busy little children around or other pets involved. Keep introductions calm and quiet, allowing space for the new pet to get used to their surroundings. Introducing other dogs to the new pup in a neutral site while on leash will allow them to become accustomed to one another.  Introducing older cats to a kitten should be done over a period of time, keeping them Small gray kitten in blue plastic litter cat isolated on whiteseparated at first with small amounts of interaction to begin with. Some hissing and growling is to be expected, but should subside over time. It is recommended to have additional litter boxes and dishes available as older cats may not want to “share” their property. Allow each cat time away from the other and one-on-one time with you. Full acceptance may be very rapid, or take several months.


Veterinary Care

Puppies and kittens are born without immunity to several serious and potentially life threatening diseases such as parvovirus, panleukopenia, rabies, and distemper. Vaccinating at approximately 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age will not only ensure protection against these infectious diseases, but will also provide a starting point for lifelong immunity with ongoing veterinary care. In addition, a deworming protocol is typically undertaken for both puppies and kittens as parasitic infestations can cause serious illness in these little ones. If you choose to spay or neuter your pet to prevent unwanted offspring, health and behaviour issues, this is usually done at approximately 6 months of age. Identification with a microchip and/or tattoo is recommended, and considering pet insurance is an excellent plan.


Ensuring the right amount of exercise for your puppy or kitten is important for proper development. In addition, encouraging exercise and play can combat unwanted behaviour. Use caution when exercising large/giant breed puppies as their rapid growth combined with extensive activity can result in injuries.Obedience training, puppy socialization classes, and the off leash parks are great ways to incorporate exercise, learning and socialization, however ensure the full set of puppy vaccines are complete to avoid contagious infections. Kittens enjoy climbing, chasing toys, and pouncing (often on your head when you are asleep!).  Having a climbing post is recommended as they can save many a curtain and sofa.Chihuahua And Leash

Most importantly, have fun with your new pet. And don’t worry, those “rebellious teenage” times don’t last long!

Traveling with your pet? These tips may help…
Dog in Car

  • Exercise or play with your pet before getting in the car, this will help them relax during the drive.
  • Remember to bring their food to avoid an abrupt switch of diet possibly resulting in an upset tummy.
  • Bring a bowl and some water for your pet, a nice drink of water after all that panting is refreshing!
  • It’s a good idea to purchase a good portable kennel for your cat or small dog to travel in. It is much safer for the both of you!
  • Traveling with a dog in the back of a pick up truck is not recommended. The dog may fall/jump out and could become seriously injured. Tethering a dog in the back of a pickup can be a choking hazard if they try to jump out or fall out of the vehicle. Best to place them in a kennel which is secured to the truck if traveling with a pet in the back of a pickup, and remember wind chill can be a danger as well!