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Veterinary Health Care

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Veterinary Health Care
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We all know that we should tell the mail carrier and our children’s school when we will be away, but have you considered who you would leave in charge of making decisions regarding your pet’s health?  Providing  us, your veterinary team at Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Kitchener, with the name and phone number of the person you are leaving in charge of your pet while you are away allows for easier communication and can keep you updated on any emergencies that may occur while you are away.  Don’t forget to let us know how long you will be away.

We have an ‘Informed Consent For Treatment form’ at our clinic that you can fill out, thus ensuring that your pets are well taken care of while you are away. This will help you relax and better enjoy your vacation time.

The fees you pay for veterinary services at Blue Cross Animal Hospital take into consideration a number of factors, including the cost to compensate the veterinarians and veterinary team for their medical skills and knowledge, and the investment in equipment and supplies that must be maintained to provide our professional services.

Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer, which means you may be spending more over the lifetime of your pet. However, in general, the annual cost of caring for a pet hasn’t increased much over the past several decades. (Consider how much the costs of many professional services, such as human healthcare, have risen over that same period!) The availability of some advanced procedures mean that an overall bill may be higher, but as the owner, you have a say in the level of care you want to provide your pet.

It may seem like you’re paying more for your pet’s care than for your own, mainly because you have to pay your pet care expenses directly out of your pocket. Part of the perception of the high cost of veterinary services stems from the fact that, in Kitchener-Waterloo we are fortunate to have the majority of our health care covered through OHIP, and larger employers are able to provide their employees with insurance coverage for dental and medical expenses that are not covered by provincial health insurance. Since pet care expenses come directly out of your take-home pay, if you decide to adopt a pet, you need to factor the cost of annual veterinary care into the overall cost of owning the pet, and into your annual budget.

At Blue Cross Animal Hospital, we have decided to offer Wellness Plans to our clients in an effort to help you with your budget and spread your annual preventive medicine costs over the full year. As an added bonus, if you sign up for a Wellness Plan for your pet, you will receive unlimited examinations during the term of the plan for the cost of a single examination.

For emergencies, accidents and coverage for serious health problems, you may wish to invest in pet insurance. Pet insurance is a growing industry in Canada, and insurance packages offer coverage that ranges from basic accident insurance to extensive insurance that will even cover annual preventive care such as vaccines, wellness bloodwork and dental prophylaxis.

At Blue Cross Animal Hospital, we can provide you with brochures that highlight the different insurance plans.We also can provide you with the information for a third-party healthcare line of credit as an option.

A veterinary technician is trained to assist veterinarians in caring for pets. These professionals perform many of the same tasks that a nurse would for a doctor. Veterinary technicians have received training, either in accredited programs or on the job. In Ontario, Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) have graduated from an accredited program and belong to the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians.  Responsibilities vary among clinics, but the basic duties remain the same. For instance, technicians collect patient samples, perform lab tests, assist during patient exams and dental cleanings, and take x-rays. Senior techs also train and mentor other staff members. Some technicians work in research facilities or for manufacturers.

Both food-based supplements and nutritional supplements, are becoming very popular with pet owners. The main problem with these products is the lack of regulation for their ingredients and labelling. Some manufacturers, particularly of products that originate in North America, have good quality control procedures and provide consistent and efficacious supplements. At Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Kitchener, we have taken a special interest in both natural and food supplements and only use those from manufacturers that we trust. We can help you weed out confusing and conflicting information and provide you with good advice on any supplements that might benefit your pet.

The answer is different for each pet, although many commercially available foods are fine to feed healthy dogs and cats. You can look for a nutritional adequacy statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), as well as the words “complete and balanced.” Pets’ nutritional needs do change, depending on their life stage and health. Your veterinarian can recommend a pet food, as well as give you advice on deciphering ingredient lists and determining how much to feed your pet.

Losing a pet can be extremely upsetting and hard to move beyond. We have such a close bond with our pets, so letting go is never easy. Many veterinary hospitals offer grief counseling, as do some veterinary colleges and professional organizations. You can contact your veterinary hospital to find out who they recommend to help you through this sad transition.

Even though your pet may be showing the same symptoms as he or she did the last time, the problem may be different. Many diseases have similar symptoms, and your veterinarian needs to examine your pet to ensure that he or she correctly diagnoses the cause.

Many clinics offer veterinary-approved toys and accessories for pets. With all the options out there, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s safe. Your veterinary hospital can also recommend toys based on your pet’s age, breed, needs, and interests.

Certain behaviors can be frustrating and difficult to overcome. Many veterinary hospitals offer behavior counseling and obedience training. Call your clinic to set up a behavior assessment.

Modern anesthesia is generally quite safe. Most veterinary hospitals perform a physical examination and run blood tests before all procedures requiring general anesthesia to make sure your pet doesn’t have any hidden health issues. In addition, a veterinary technician should be monitoring your pet’s vital signs during the procedure, to ensure your pet’s safety or to catch and treat any potential concerns as quickly as possible. Anesthesia and patient monitoring vary from clinic to clinic. Ask your hospital what they do to protect your pet before, during, and after the use of anesthesia.

Not any more than a regular vaccine injection. The chip is inserted at the back of the pet’s neck, where the skin is loose. Microchipping is a safe and effective way to identify your pet in case he or she becomes lost.

You pet’s microchip should continue to function over your pet’s lifetime without any maintenance; however, the system won’t work unless you keep your contact information current. Whenever you move or change your phone number, make sure you update that information with your pet’s microchip manufacturer. Remember to also get your pet new ID tags at the same time.

Although natural remedies may offer some protection or repellency against parasites, they are not nearly as effective as products specifically designed for pets that are proven safe and effective. In addition, natural remedies often need to be applied more frequently than once a month, making them less convenient as well. Some, such as garlic, may actually be harmful to your pet.

Just because a product has “natural” on its label doesn’t mean it’s safe. Consult with your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter preventives on your pet.

If you purchase preventives from sources other than a veterinary hospital or a website affiliated with a veterinary hospital, you don’t have any guarantee that the product is authentic or that it has been stored and shipped as recommended by the manufacturer.  When you order from your veterinarian, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to rely on his or her expertise and knowledge of your pet’s medical history.

Fleas and ticks are not just minor nuisances; they can transmit serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, some of which can be passed to people. Even indoor-only pets are at risk because fleas and ticks can hitch a ride inside on your clothing, shoes, or other pets. Keeping your pet on a monthly preventive is your best bet for protecting your pet—and your family—against these parasites.

It is not safe, and it is illegal for anyone (including veterinarians) to offer anesthesia-free dentistry in Ontario.

Dental health is just as important for dogs and cats as it is for people. Bacteria and food debris accumulate around the teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. This decay can result in irreversible periodontal disease, tooth loss, and expensive oral surgery. Bacteria can also cause serious, potentially fatal infections in your pet’s kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart.

Unless your pet just ate something fishy, stinky breath isn’t normal. Having a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s teeth regularly and clean them as needed will help prevent dental disease and any related problems.

Almost all puppies are born with intestinal parasites, which are passed from mother to pup during pregnancy. Although kittens are not infected when they’re born, they can become infected through their mother’s milk. Puppies can also become infected while they’re nursing.

Puppies and kittens should both be dewormed every 2 weeks, starting at about 2 weeks of age for puppies and 3 weeks of age for kittens. After the biweekly series of dewormings is finished, monthly deworming should begin (at about 8 to 9 weeks of age for kittens and 12 weeks of age for puppies).

Many factors affect the cost associated with treating heartworm infection, including diagnostic testing, hospitalization, medication, and office visits. Preventing heartworm is much less expensive, which is why most veterinarians recommend that you keep your pet on heartworm prevention year-round.

Unfortunately, if you were late or missed a dose even once, your pet could have become infected if he or she was exposed during that time. Call your veterinarian, and explain the situation. Depending on how many doses have been late, he or she may recommend that you have your pet tested for heartworm infection, then put your pet on a regular preventive schedule. You should also have your pet retested in 7 months, as recommended by the American Heartworm Society. (For heartworms to be detected, they need to be 5 to 7 months old.)

Your pet should be tested for heartworm infection before he or she is placed on a preventive to avoid any harmful or possibly fatal complications. For instance, if a heartworm-infected dog is started on a monthly preventive, immature heartworms (called microfilariae) can die suddenly, causing a serious, shock-type reaction. In addition, preventives won’t kill adult heartworms, so an infected dog needs to be started on a treatment plan.

Just because your cat doesn’t venture outdoors doesn’t mean outdoor parasites can’t get inside. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, and as you probably know, mosquitoes always seem to find a way to get inside your home. Plus, fleas and ticks can both hitch a ride on clothing, so every time you come back into the house, you could potentially be bringing these parasites in with you.

Although you can’t always protect your pet from coming in contact with these bloodsucking insects, you can help protect him or her from the diseases they can transmit. Ask your veterinary hospital to discuss the benefits of preventives with you.

Just because your cat doesn’t venture outdoors doesn’t mean outdoor parasites can’t get inside. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, and as you probably know, mosquitoes always seem to find a way to get inside your home. Plus, fleas and ticks can both hitch a ride on clothing, so every time you come back into the house, you could potentially be bringing these parasites in with you.

Although you can’t always protect your pet from coming in contact with these bloodsucking insects, you can help protect him or her from the diseases they can transmit. Ask your veterinary hospital to discuss the benefits of preventives with you.

During your pet’s wellness exam, your veterinarian will take your pet’s history and perform a thorough physical examination. He or she will also give your pet appropriate vaccinations and perform a diagnostic workup, which is helpful in detecting underlying diseases. Your veterinarian will recommend preventives and may suggest dental work or other follow-up care. The specific services provided during the exam will vary depending on your pet’s age. You can help by letting your veterinarian know if you’ve noticed any unusual behavior or physical changes in your pet.

When you consider the cost of prevention versus the cost of treating a disease or condition, you’ll find that treatment is often far more expensive. For example, parvovirus treatment can frequently cost 10 times more than a single parvovirus vaccination. When you keep your pet up-to-date on preventive care, you’ll know that your pet won’t have to suffer from a condition that could have been prevented or treated.

Your veterinarian will determine which vaccinations are appropriate for your dog or cat, based on individual factors, such as lifestyle and health status. Veterinarians commonly recommend that dogs be vaccinated against rabies, distemper, and parvovirus and that cats be vaccinated against rabies and panleukopenia (feline distemper). Additional vaccines, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and Bordetella (kennel cough), are recommended based on your cat or dog’s risk.

Many of these diseases can be fatal to your pet. Preventing them is far easier and less expensive than treatment. If you would like more information on vaccines, ask your veterinarian.

Many areas have laws that require dogs and cats (and sometime ferrets) to be vaccinated against rabies. These laws help protect both pets and people from this deadly disease. Check with your veterinarian to learn local requirements and to find out what he or she recommends. Except in certain rare cases, a veterinarian needs to examine a pet before the vaccine is given.

Because of rabies laws, control and prevention programs, and pet owners’ cooperation, domesticated pets in North America rarely become infected with this disease. By keeping your pet up-to-date on his or her rabies vaccination, not only are you protecting your pet, but you’re also helping to eradicate rabies from the pet population in your community.

Getting into veterinary school is extremely competitive. Because veterinary programs have a limited number of positions to fill, not all students who apply get in. Those who hope to become a veterinarian must have high grades in their pre-veterinary studies. In addition, any real-world experience or additional years of college may be beneficial.

Most veterinary degrees require at least 6 years of study at the university level, including a minimum of 2 years of pre-veterinary education and 4 years in a veterinary medicine program. Veterinary students usually spend 4,000 hours or more in classroom, laboratory, and clinical study.

To stay current with veterinary medicine, techniques, and technology, practicing veterinarians read scientific journals and attend continuing education symposiums, seminars, and courses.

A veterinarian is a doctor who studies animal health; prevents, diagnoses, and treats diseases and health issues in animals; and helps protect the welfare of animals and people. Veterinarians are knowledgeable and well educated on many aspects of animal care and fulfill a range of roles across the private and public sectors. You can find veterinarians working at small animal clinics, emergency and specialty hospitals, universities, research facilities, pet food and drug manufacturing companies, and government organizations.

Just like human doctors, veterinarians are expected to meet minimum standards of care (as overseen by veterinary regulatory authorities). Thus, the quality of care your pet receives should not change based on the fees charged for services. However, if prices are lower at one clinic, you should ask for clarification about what the procedure or treatment includes. You may find differences in the level of care provided by that clinic.

Several companies offer health insurance for dogs and cats (and other pets). These plans have premiums and deductibles, just like human health insurance plans. The premiums and deductibles vary based on the level of coverage you select. While not an exhaustive list, many routine services, such as office visits and diagnostic testing, are covered, as well as routine procedures, and surgeries for a wide variety of diseases and conditions. However, there are restrictions and limits, as well as certain guidelines to follow, including making sure your pet receives regular preventive care.

Your veterinary hospital should have more information about pet health insurance.

Many veterinarians who see a pet on a regular basis are usually willing to work with the owner to come up with a payment plan. This is one of many reasons why it’s a good idea to keep up with your pet’s routine care. Owners whose pets don’t receive regular veterinary care will have a harder time finding a veterinarian who is willing to provide services without guaranteed payment. Contact your veterinary hospital, and ask if they offer any alternative payment options.

Our veterinary fees are set by the practice, based on our overhead, which includes both fixed fees such as salaries, rent, utilities, taxes, and the cost of consumable goods and retail items we provide. Fees vary somewhat between veterinary clinics, based partially on different overhead costs and partly on the level of service that is offered. Price comparisons can sometimes be difficult for the consumer to make, since many times, quoted fees do not reflect the same set of services, or the same level of services. Some of the variability in costs is directly related to the use of different drugs, anesthetics, antibiotics, medical techniques, monitoring equipment, pain management, and other products, all of which have a bearing on the cost of the services. 

Relatively speaking, veterinary care is a great value! The cost of veterinary care has risen very little over the last 20 to 30 years, especially when compared to the cost of human health care or almost any other services. 

Our veterinary fees are a reflection of our costs for maintaining suitable facilities, equipment and support personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. Remember, too, the original cost of the animal has no bearing on the cost of services delivered. Annual veterinary care is a cost that should be factored in to the decision to own a pet, as should the potential for emergency costs. 

Like most other professional offices you visit (your dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc.) fees are payable at the time service is rendered. Most veterinary facilities accept payment by major credit cards. This is especially helpful at the time of a medical emergency. For routine care, we recommend you try to budget for veterinary care in your household budget. Many veterinary preventive health care services can be staggered over a period of time, rather than doing “everything” in one visit. During your visit, we can best advise you which procedures can be deferred, if necessary. If you have questions or concerns about costs, call the clinic ahead of time and discus your specific concerns with the reception staff, who may be able to direct you to alternative sources of financing. 

For an interesting article that compares human and animal health care, click here:


Puppies and kittens generally have the same health requirements: an initial veterinary visit that includes a physical exam, vaccinations, and tests for parasites. Follow-up visits include the rest of the puppy/kitten series of vaccinations, as well as treatment and preventives for parasites. Most veterinary hospitals can give you a basic estimate for these services, and most of the fees for these services shouldn’t vary significantly from hospital to hospital.

Each veterinary hospital sets its own fees. These fees are largely based on expenses, such as salaries, utilities, and rent, that all vary from one area to another. However, the services that are covered under the same procedure or treatment may also differ from clinic to clinic. Medications, medical techniques and products, anesthetics, and equipment can all affect the cost of services.

Besides being unethical and illegal to prescribe medication over the phone, veterinarians can’t accurately diagnose or treat a pet without physically examining him or her. Veterinarians appreciate observant owners and want to hear their description of the pet’s symptoms. However, many diseases have the same symptoms but require different treatment. To determine the cause of the symptoms and ensure the best outcome, veterinarians need to examine the pet in person and sometimes perform diagnostic testing. Treating a pet for the wrong disease will cost more in the end and could be harmful or even deadly to your pet.

Legally, once you decide to adopt or “take in” an animal, you become the owner. As the owner, you are responsible for the pet’s care. When you take in a stray, he or she may be injured and require veterinary care. Because the amount you pay for his or her care isn’t related to how you’ve acquired the pet, you need to carefully consider whether adopting a stray pet is a financially advisable decision. If you can’t afford the pet’s care, you have the option to relinquish the animal to a local humane society or shelter (although some shelters cannot guarantee that the pet will not be euthanized).

Veterinarians often come across such cases, and many of them will work out an arrangement for people who want to help the animal. However, make sure you tell the veterinarian the situation before he or she examines and treats the pet.

If you find a stray, you should also ask the veterinarian to check for a microchip to determine whether the animal has an owner.

Spaying is the common name which describes a complete ovariohysterectomy for a female dog or cat, while neutering is the common name for a complete castration of a male dog or cat. Both procedures are full surgical operations involving general anesthesia, and render the pet sterile. 

Removal of the ovaries or testes will remove the hormonal drive for mating, as well as removing the ability to reproduce. As a whole, male dogs or cats who have been castrated have much less tendency to mark territory or roam. Female dogs or cats who have been ovariohysterectomized do not cycle (have heats or estrus cycles) and are much less likely to attract unwanted attention from other members of their species. Female dogs bleed for one to two weeks during their cycle, which can be very messy. Sterilization does not affect the pet’s protective instincts towards home or family. There is little benefit to be gained by sterilization through procedures such as a tubal ligation or a vasectomy.

Spaying and neutering have potential health benefits. Because of their physiology intact female dogs and cats are predisposed to developing uterine infections as they age. The most common type of infection is called ‘pyometra’ and can potentially be fatal. A dog or cat who develops pyometra may or may not show obvious signs such as a vaginal discharge. More often, the pet only shows vague signs such as lethargy, a poor appetite, excessive thirst, or vomiting. If this condition does develop, the best treatment for it an emergency ovariohysterectomy, which is considerably more risky and expensive than a routine procedure in an otherwise healthy patient. Spaying also dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer, particularly if the pet is spayed before the first or second cycle. It is relatively common for older male dogs to develop prostatic enlargement which can cause urinary obstruction or constipation problems. Intact male dogs are at risk of developing cancer in the prostate glands, testicles, or glandular tissue around the rectum (perianal gland adenoma). Although in most cases castration will resolve the problem, the risks involved in surgery under these circumstances are much greater. 

A final good reason for sterilization of our pets is to minimize overpopulation. Hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs and cats are killed in animal shelters yearly. Many people are willing to share their home with that cute little puppy or kitten, but when they realize the long term commitment in time and money, will surrender the adolescent or young adult, often improperly trained, to a shelter. Although it may be wonderful to witness the birth and early development of a healthy litter, the fact remains that there just aren’t enough good homes for all of them. Even though it might seem to be a lucrative way to recoup some of the costs of purchasing your purebred dog or cat, it is expensive to provide optimal care during the pregnancy term and the subsequent rearing of the litter – provided that everything goes well and there are no problems. 

An often-heard argument against sterilization is that it makes your pet fat. In actuality, if you take a few precautions, this does not have to be the case. Removal of the reproductive organs will cause an immediate lowering of the metabolic rate and calorie requirements of the pet. However, the appetite isn’t affected to the same degree immediately, and unless the number of calories are restricted while the body adjusts to its new state, excess weight gain may be the result. Restricting calorie intake is even more important if your pet is already on the pudgy side before the surgery is performed.

As the owner, it’s up to you to decide how much money and care you’re going to put into your pet. Each pet owner has his or her own idea of what constitutes reasonable pet care. Your veterinarian recommends services, procedures, and preventive measures that he or she feels will benefit your pet. The owner makes the final decision as to what options to provide.

Veterinarians understand that the cost of taking care of a pet can sometimes seem overwhelming, and they will do what they can to help owners. For instance, your veterinarian can often provide suggestions for how to stay within your budget, such as spreading out routine services. However, when someone decides to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet, he or she needs to be prepared for the expenses associated with veterinary care and to compensate veterinarians for their time and expertise.

Just like your doctor, dentist, and most other professional offices, veterinary facilities usually require payment in full at the time of service. You can call before routine visits and ask about the hospital’s payment policy, as well as any alternative payment methods. Most veterinary facilities accept major credit cards, and some also accept veterinary insurance plans.

If you would like help in preparing for pet care expenses, contact your veterinary hospital. They can often advise you on how much you can expect to spend on routine care for your pet, as well as how to prepare for emergency care. In addition, your veterinarian can help by spreading out preventive health care services over several visits.