Senior Pet Care

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Helping senior pets feel younger

My own pet Captain is a great example of a dog enjoying a wonderful quality of life despite significant problems. He struggles to walk, occasionally has accidents in our home and is not as mentally sharp as he used to be, but still steals food from us, plays with his toys and and hogs the couch when we cuddle. Like the patients I see every day, he has a loving family that is happy to have tools like the following to support him as he ages.

Dr. Mara Ashby


dog obesity

In his Fat Elvis days Captain was both heavier and hairier

Is it age or excess weight that is slowing your senior pet down?

Can you feel your pet’s ribs? If not, weight loss may help his mobility and prevent disease. Seeing Fido or Fluffy acting more playful and jumping on the bed again is the best reward for months of careful portions.

Does your pet have the opposite problem, appearing thin with a prominent spine, hip bones and shoulder blades?  This can be caused by loss of muscle, a sign of disease if excessive, a normal effect of aging when gradual and mild.

If your cat or dog has not been diagnosed with any new health problems and is maintaining a healthy body condition, there is no need to change to a senior diet. As pets age, conditions like bladder stones may improve and new issues like kidney disease can develop requiring diet changes. Our team is trained in balancing the complex needs of senior pets, providing complimentary nutritional assessments to all of our patients.

dog physiotherapy peanut

Captain thinks core work on the peanut is hilarious

Pain Management

Using a variety of treatments is more likely to help and less likely to harm

Physiotherapy can be performed at home using easily accessible materials and in hospital using advanced equipment.  Although time consuming, physiotherapy is one of the most effective and inexpensive treatments for arthritis.  Learning to do exercises at home gives you a chance to contribute to your senior pet’s comfort.

Massage and laser therapy are used to reduce pain and increase range of motion in pets with arthritis. Supplements and diet are reviewed in partnership with our veterinarian and modifications to the home environment may be suggested to improve mobility at home.

Chiropractic care improves and maintains your pet’s overall well-being by treating spine and joint dysfunctions to reduce pain, improve mobility, decrease muscle tension and maintain spinal wellness. Aging pets have accumulated a lifetime of imbalances and benefit greatly from having regular adjustments.

Pain medications stop pain in a variety of ways and some work better for individual pets than others.  Using more than one pain medication reduces the dose required and the related risks. Supplements can reduce inflammation or support healthy joints and need to be treated with the same attention to quality and dose that we apply to pharmaceuticals to ensure they do no harm.

Dental Care

It is no fun snuggling with smelly breath

Captain still has a beautiful smile thanks to a life time of dental care

Dental disease causes pain and infections that shorten the lives of senior dogs. Families worry about anesthetizing older pets, not realizing that balanced general anesthesia is much safer than allowing untreated dental infections to damage their kidneys and heart.

Smelly breath and chalky tartar build up on teeth can be clues that bacteria are damaging your dog’s jaws and teeth.  Only a veterinarian can x-ray the teeth to look for disease and clean tartar below the gums.  We can help you do your part with tooth brushing and home care products to help maintain your pet’s dental health.


Aging pets can develop behaviour changes that make them harder to live with

DISHA is an easy way to remember the signs of senility or cognitive dysfunction syndrome, it stands for: Disorientation, Interaction changes, Sleep/wake disturbances, House soiling and Activity changes

Pets with mild to moderate signs can benefit from antioxidant supplements and enrichment with food puzzle toys and increased exercise.  More severely affected dogs may need sedatives to help them sleep at night and specific prescription medications. Cats with changes in behaviour as they age can also suffer from high blood pressure with howling at night being a common sign.

Captain’s food toy makes him less anxious

Anxiety during thunderstorms and fireworks and when left alone often worsens as pets age. Sedatives can be given at home and environmental modifications made to protect your pet while we work on a gradual program of desensitization to these triggers. A severely anxious pet may require long term medication to help them recover from their disease. 


Hospice care, cutely called Pawspice for animals, gives options to families with pets diagnosed with terminal disease. 

The HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale is useful for ensuring we are preserving quality of life, not quantity during Pawspice Care.  The five H’s stand for:  Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene and Happiness.  The two M’s stand for:  Mobility and More good days than bad.

Dr Ashby and Captain outside Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital

Pets who receive Pawspice Care benefit from modifications to the home and comfort medications to improve quality of life. Pawspice begins once a diagnosis is obtained and supports pets and their families until we cannot maintain life quality and euthanasia is elected, or a natural death occurs.

Its spring and the creepy crawlies are blooming

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As the days get longer and warmer, we start to hear questions about the risks for our pets that come with warm weather. In our area most of our patients benefit from prevention for fleas and ticks from March to May with additional heartworm prevention from June to November.



Although fleas cannot survive freezing temperatures, they live in homes all winter and quickly reappear outside as the weather warms up. They can become a big problem quickly.

What Kind of Damage Can Fleas Cause?

Fleas are more than just a discomfort for pets. Smaller or younger animals are particularly vulnerable. When they feed on your pet, fleas can cause:

• Flea Allergy Dermatitis (fleas do not make animals itchy unless there a flea bite allergy)

• Flea Anemia

• Feline Infectious Anemia (a life-threatening blood parasite carried by fleas)

• Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonellosis (does not make the cat sick but the infected cat can make a person sick)

• Common Tapeworm infection

How to prevent fleas?

We used to control fleas with shampoos, powders, collars, and sprays. While these products are still available, there are newer and better products available now.


Ticks are found where there is long grass, wildlife and water with semi-annual “blooms” or increases in population, every spring and fall. These blind insects spend much of their life waiting for a passing pet or human to drop down on and feed in order to reproduce. Ticks can carry a number of infections but only Lyme disease can be vaccinated against. Other diseases carried by ticks include:

  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Hemobartonellosis: spread by fleas and ticks, causes feline anemia
  • American Canine Hepatozoonosis: affects dogs in the southern United States
  • Babesiosis: more commonly affects dogs in the southern United States but also seen in Northeastern areas
  • Tularemia: more severe in cats than dogs, also spread by fleas
  • Cytauxzoonosis: affects cats in the southern United States

It is recommended  to use a topical or oral product that prevents ticks if your pet frequents areas with water and long grass. But since no product provides 100% protection, be sure to check your cat or dog for ticks daily by feeling around the armpits, ears and neck and other warm areas preferred by ticks. Lyme disease is more prevalent around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario being spread by ticks on songbirds which frequent those lakes, but shows up rather randomly elsewhere as ticks fall of birds in transit. However, you must be very careful — some products that are safe for dogs are lethal for cats. If you find a tick on your pet please contact us for assistance in removal and identification.


Good Neighbour Dog Training

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Is your dog a good neighbour?

Good NeighbourCarriage Crossing Animal Hospital will be offering lessons to prepare for upcoming Canine Good Neighbour Program Certification at the KW Pet Expo on May 7th and 8th.

These lessons will be held every second Saturday, beginning January 23rd, at 9am. Our popular Certified Dog Behaviour Therapist Amanda Rich will be teaching the lessons. The cost is $30 for each one hour lesson and eight lessons will be offered although attendance. Spaces will be limited so sign up now!

According to the Canadian Kennel Club, Canine Good Neighbours can be counted on to present good manners at home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs.

Requirements are as follows:

• Current vaccination rabies, bordetella (kennel cough), and distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus

• A leash not less than .75 meters (2 Feet) nor longer than 2 meters (6 Feet) in length

• Acceptable collars include a well-fitting slip, buckle or martingale collar, made of fabric, leather or chain. All other types of collars are unacceptable. (Harnesses are acceptable for our class)

• Current flea prevention and a bag of treats or toy your dog enjoys are recommended

Update: Six Furballs Looking for Furever Homes

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In June, us here at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital shined the spotlight on 4 stray kittens and their mother in support of Adopt-a-Cat month. We are now back to give you an update on all of the cats as they grow to become the sweetest companions.

Mother cat Athena has learned to love people- she waits for her daily cuddles and enjoys her ear scratches most of all.

Athena (3)

Apollo is living up to his name with his rocket-fast speed, although sometimes he can be found tumbling out from his less-successful launches.

Artemis is the explorer. He has wandered the furthest away from the den and when he gets lost or in trouble he cries to Momma for help but that doesn’t stop him from doing it all over again right away.

Hades is the clown of the bunch. He loves to play fight and lay on his back with his big belly exposed.

Styx used to be very shy but now follows his brothers around all day long, making sure to stay right on their heels. His overwhelming curiosity has helped him overcome his initial timidness and allowed him to (quite literally) follow in his siblings’ adventurous footsteps.

Theia is the sweetest and most laid back. She’s not as outgoing as her siblings but once you’ve gained her trust, you’ve also gained a friend for life.

Nyx is the smallest and perhaps also the luckiest of the bunch. She has steadily been learning how to walk as she tries to keep up with her siblings.

Theia, Apollo, and Nyx

If you’d like more information on any of the kittens, or on other ways that you would be able to help out our feline friends, please do not hesitate to call or email us.

need a hand…

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Prince and Dr. Ashby at Old Orchard Farms

pardon the lack of formatting but I am typing one-handed after falling off a horse last week.  i’ve broken a metacarpal bone in my right hand, not much worse than a broken finger in my opinion.  i have proven i can still take blood, examine patients and sign forms but am not doing surgery for a couple weeks.

i fell off my horse turning left when he turned right, a bit of a misunderstanding while jumping. my horse prince is just like a Labrador Retriever, he enjoys positive training and having his ears scratched. we just need to work on our communication.

to encourage myself to rest i have moved up a planned trip to visit family in nova scotia.  our regular staff will be performing nail trims and weight rechecks and medication refills by appointment, and i will be only an email or phone call away.  i want all our patients’ families to know we will still be there for your pets while i heal.  we have always had an excellent back up network of technicians and doctors and will continue to rely on their support for any emergencies while i am “short-handed.”

here are some “handy facts”:

dr. erica heim lost her left arm to cancer as a final year vet student‎ and says she does not do surgery but has learned to practice one-handed, i am humbled

prehensile thumbs were evolved by primates descended from tree shrews

dogs and cats walk on their fingers, not their palms.

teach your dog to shake a paw and make nail trims fun by using “target training” to shape the behavior

six-toed cats are called hemingway cats because ernest hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and many polydactyl cats now inhabit the island of key west where he lived

cats and dogs only sweat through their paw pads


how many toes do you count?

Wanted: Furever Homes for Five Furballs

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June is adopt-a-cat-month! In support of this cause, Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital will be helping to find homes for cats and kittens in partnership with the rescue group Pet Patrol. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the kittens who will be ready for adoption at the beginning of August.


Three of the sweethearts!

These sweethearts were born to a stray that arrived, heavily pregnant, at a local barn 2 weeks ago.  The mama cat, Queenie, was found by Dr. Ashby and promptly taken into foster care by one of the boarders.  Queenie was lucky enough to deliver her litter of 6 in the comfort of the foster home just one day after being taken in.  It was as though she knew she had finally found a safe place!

Only a week old and these kittens have already begun to craft their own personalities.  Hades and Styx, the two orange kittens, are the feistiest of the group.  They sing all day long and are always managing to find something (or someone) to have fun with.  The two grey tabby kittens are called Artemis and Apollo.  These guys are the mama’s boys; they’re a bit tamer than their siblings and especially love to cuddle.  Theia is the grey that looks just like her mum and is quite the lady herself!  And finally, there’s Nyx, who’s the luckiest of the bunch.

Nyx had a hard start to life and almost didn’t make it past her first few hours in the world.  Her odds weren’t very good but with the support (and body heat) of her mum and siblings, she managed to survive.

Out of this litter of 6, the 4 male kittens, Hades, Styx, Apollo, and Artemis are up for adoption. The other two kittens, Nyx and Theia have already found their Furever homes.  Mama cat Queenie is also looking to find a family for herself once her kittens are old enough to be without her.  Queenie would be best suited for a quiet home with a loving family as she enjoys cuddling but is still overcoming her shyness.

Mama cat and her babes

Mama cat and her babes

Keeping these kittens in a foster home until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated ensures that they are healthy and tame before they go to their new homes. Foster care is easier with Mom Queenie around to help care for them. Foster care can save the life of orphan kittens, who need to be fed every few hours day and night by their dedicated human caretakers.

Although this group of cats has found themselves to be very lucky, there are many cats in Waterloo who are much less fortunate, making both foster care and forever homes desperately needed. During the summer months local rescues and shelters with pre-existing waiting lists will be overwhelmed by the numbers of cats surrendered so, if you can, why not support their efforts by fostering kittens- all it takes is a spare bathroom and a little extra time and dedication. Even better, provide a Furever home for an adopted cat or kitten.

Queenie and her babies Hades, Styx, Artemis and Apollo will be available through Pet Patrol or Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital by July 27th.  If you’d like more information on these adorable kittens or on what you can do to show your support for adopt-a-cat month, send us an email at [email protected] or call us at 519-725-1777.


parasite heartworm dog cat scratching

The Five W’s of Parasite Prevention

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June first marks the beginning of heartworm season in Southern Ontario, in honour of this occasion, we’ve put together an article answering some FAQ’s regarding parasite prevention, take a look!

Who needs parasite prevention?

  • Every pet is at risk of parasites, even indoor pets
  • Puppies and kittens catch worms from their mothers
  •  And all cats and dogs, and ferrets too, are at risk of heartworm

What parasites are problems for pets?

  •  Intestinal worms are common, roundworm eggs are everywhere for example
  • Heartworm is less common but deadly
  • While Fleas have always been common and ticks are increasing in numbers

When should I prevent parasites?

  • At least from June to November every year for adult animals
  • Puppies and kittens need to start deworming when they are two weeks old
  • Year round prevention is recommended for many pets in high-risk situations such as boarding kennels or travel to the southern US

Where should I buy my parasite prevention?

  • Your veterinarian has the most knowledge of current risks, your pet’s health and the best access to safe suppliers
  • Beware of counterfeit products and canine products which are toxic to cats if you buy online or in a pet store

Why do I need to test for parasites if I use prevention

  • There is no one product that gets every parasite?
  • People forget to give doses
  • And Pets spit out or wash off medications

How do I choose a product?

  • Some pets, like wiggly greedy young labs are easier to give an oral product
  • Dogs with picky appetites or food allergies are better suited to a topical
  • Your pet’s lifestyle and your budget are the final factors to consider, protection from more types of parasites typically costs more money
  • There are lots of products and lots of parasites, we look at every patient individually and make a recommendation based on all these factors