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Frequently Asked Questions at Prince of Wales Animal Hospital

Prince of Wales Animal Hospital understands the importance of educating Ottawa pet owners about caring for their furry friends. Here, you’ll find the answers to some of our frequently asked questions. If you don’t see the answer you need, we urge you to contact us and speak with our certified veterinarian technicians today.

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Should I get pet insurance?

We recommend getting pet insurance to ensure your furry family member. There are a number of ways you can go, all with disparate coverages and premiums. Among the available carriers include Petsecure, Trupanion, and Pets Plus Us. Contact us to learn more about the insurance providers we accept.


How do you become a veterinarian?

In Canada, you have to graduate from a licensed school of veterinary medicine and pass board examinations. Then you can practice veterinary medicine. Earning the D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) will take at least six years of university education although most graduates will spend more than six years. Many in fact earn a B.Sc. prior to entering vet school. High marks from high school are essential in gaining admission to a Canadian veterinary college as there is a lot of competition. There are four colleges offering veterinary medicine, the Ontario Veterinary College of the University of Guelph, the Western School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Saskatchewan, the Atlantic College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Prince Edward Island, and the veterinary college of the Université de Montreal at St. Hyacinthe.


What are your policies?

Please note, we highly recommend that you obtain pet insurance to help defray the cost of pet care.

  • We do NOT bill.
  • We do NOT accept cheques.
  • We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard, and debit.
  • Full payment of all charges is required prior to the discharge of your hospitalized pet

If you qualify, you may arrange payment through Medicard®. This must be done prior to picking up your pet. Please call the receptionist if there is concern about the bill. Medicard® offers a simple and affordable way to finance your veterinary costs. For further details call 1-888-689-9876 or learn more online at the Medicard® website.

The federal government enacted a federal law effective January 1, 2004 to regulate the accumulation and use of personal information. It legislates what our hospital has been doing, i.e. the respect and control of information gathered to enable our practice to provide the optimal care to our clients’ pets. We do not share this information with anyone unless a third party requests we forward it. The only person authorized to give us this permission is the client on the medical record and in our computer records.


What is early detection testing?

This is a very common question because we all go to see a dentist and we know how much it costs to go to the dentist. The reason it costs more to have your pet’s teeth scaled and polished is your pet will not voluntarily open their mouth and keep it open while we examine and work on their teeth or refrain from using their sharp teeth to bite our hands and fingers. As a result, we have to use an anesthetic to put your pet into an unconscious state so that we can work on their mouth.

This first requires a blood test to ensure there will be no unexpected problems with anesthesia. Then we use sophisticated anesthetic machinery, including monitoring equipment. Our patients have to be monitored until they can stand and walk. This takes time and is the reason your pet is hospitalized for the day.

Lastly, because some of our patients have to wait for some time before their guardian takes them to the dentist, their mouths and gums are often so bad that we have to start antibiotics before the dental day.


Is all pet food created equally?

Absolutely not. In fact, in most cases the quality of the pet food is directly proportional to its cost, provided that the food is bought from a veterinary hospital, a pet store, or a grocery store. We strongly recommend against buying pet food from distributors whose food is not obtainable from anyone but themselves. The good news is, the more expensive the food, the less you have to feed your pet. You will pay more at the check-out counter but return less often.

More importantly, your pet will have a greater chance to live a longer and healthier life with fewer veterinary bills. Be very careful of the claims on the labels of pet foods. The most important quality of the food is its digestibility, which will have a major impact on the long-term health of your pet. In fact, a first-year animal nutrition lesson taught at the University of Guelph showed how to use a piece of old shoe leather, crankcase oil, and a few other odds and ends to meet all the requirements of a dog food label. Always remember that the label shows the minimum requirements.

We recommend that you purchase food from the companies that actually test their food on animals (in a very humane way), and either perform the nutritional research that has greatly improved the longevity of our pets or provide the research funds to universities to conduct this research. These companies are Purina®, the Royal Canin®/Waltham®/Medi-Cal® group, Hill’s®, and The Eukanuba/Iams group.


Do indoor cats need vaccinations?

Vaccinating is undergoing a great deal of review. We are learning more each year about the duration of vaccine effectiveness and consequently, the recommendations we give to our clients will change. Unfortunately, a lot of the research has been performed on very small samples of dogs and cats so we have to be very careful in our recommendations. The protection of our client’s pets is our number-one goal when assessing vaccine needs.

Each case is different so it is very hard to make blanket recommendations. It is best to assess each pet’s exposure level when deciding which vaccines to use. This can best be done during the annual health examination. During that exam you can discuss with the veterinarian what your pet’s lifestyle is. For instance, indoor cats in homes where they can meet outdoor cats on the opposite side of window screens are at risk. Does your cat escape outside periodically? Do you have friends visit with their cats or do you take your cat to a home where there are other cats? Do you know if you have any bats living near your home?

These questions all need to be answered before deciding which specific vaccines are needed for your pet, even an indoor cat. Please note: Because rabies is a human health risk, the city of Ottawa requires an up-to-date rabies vaccine on all dogs and cats. Follow the link to read the Ottawa animal care by-law.


My friends say I should let my female dog have puppies before she’s spayed. My vet tells me to spay her before her first heat. Who is right?

With all deference to your friends, unless they have a D.V.M beside their name, you should listen to your veterinarian. Unless you are interested in letting your female dog have puppies, your veterinarian is correct in recommending that she be spayed before her first heat.

There are two major reasons. The first is that female dogs spayed before their first heat have almost no chance of developing mammary cancer (breast cancer) in later life. This is a plus as intact female dogs are very prone to mammary cancer. This occurrence will possibly result in a shortened life. It will at least result in surgery and expensive veterinary bills.

The second reason is that a female dog spayed before her first heat is considered an immature bitch and her reproductive organs are immature, less well developed with less blood supply, less abdominal fat and surgically much easier to perform with a lot less risk of surgical complications. As an added bonus, because the surgery is easier to perform, it will be less expensive to you than if she was mature.


Can my pet be vaccinated if it has an ear infection?

No. If your pet has an existing health problem, it is already mounting an immune system response to try to heal itself. If we vaccinate this pet, two things may happen. First, the body’s response to the vaccine may distract and divert the body’s immune system from mounting a successful attempt to heal itself. This will possibly let the existing problem, in this case, an ear infection, get worse and maybe even become dangerous.

Secondly, the reason we vaccinate is to protect the pet against a disease. A pet with a pre-existing health problem has an immune system already compromised. If we vaccinate such an animal, we do not know how good a response to the vaccine will occur. It may only respond 50% or 60%. We want as close to 100% protection as possible. Even worse is that we will assume the pet is protected after we administer the vaccine when, in fact, the pet is not adequately protected.


Why is it dangerous to feed my cat dog food? I have three small dogs and one cat so it is easier to buy one bag of dog food and let them all eat it.

Your cat may not mind eating the dog food, but it will mind a shortened and unhealthy life. In the past, nutritional research was done mainly on dogs, and cats were considered small versions of a dog.

Luckily for cats, the good pet food companies have researched the nutritional needs of cats and discovered some very interesting facts, which in one case has made a dramatic improvement in the longevity and health of cats.

They discovered that cats, unlike dogs, cannot synthesize an essential amino acid called taurine from other amino acids. Consequently, a cat fed nothing but dog food will be deficient in taurine. Researchers found that a deficiency in taurine is a major cause of a serious cardiac problem in cats, which is called dilated cardiomyopathy. This is a condition whereby the heart muscle becomes weak and, in order to maintain its ability to pump blood, starts to expand. This expansion or dilation of the cardiac muscle causes the heart to weaken and eventually fail. As a result, pet food manufacturers add taurine to cat food. As a result, dilated cardiomyopathy has decreased tremendously.

There are a number of other reasons to not feed cats dog food, including the fact that cats, unlike dogs, are carnivores and need a higher percentage of protein in their food. Also, the pH of cat food has to be kept in a rather narrow range to prevent the formation of urinary crystals, which can be very harmful to cats.

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