Sick animals/veterinary services
Yes, the BC SPCA recommends pet insurance. In fact, with every dog and cat adoption, you get a complimentary six-week trial of pet health insurance provided by Petsecure Pet Health Insurance.
With pet health insurance, you can lower the stress of paying for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses with a monthly premium.
Make your cat or kitten’s visit to the vet as stress-free as possible. Start with treats and a favourite towel, and take your time getting him or her out of their carrier. To learn more tips, read our care sheet (PDF) and watch our video:
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your cat is sick or injured. The signs that she’s sick might not be obvious. Cats have evolved to try and conceal when they are sick. Watch for the signs below and call your vet if you’re not sure. Make sure your cat has regular vet exams to prevent illness.
Signs of illness in cats:
- Hiding, decreased energy, or other behavioural changes
- Changes in grooming patterns
- Changes in litter box usage (going outside the box, straining, etc)
- Increase or decrease in appetite or drinking
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Bad breath
- Sitting hunched over
- Obvious illness or injury: vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, wounds, limping etc.
Help a shelter cat receive a health check:
The veterinarian’s office doesn’t have to be a scary place for your dog or puppy. Treats, a towel and plenty of petting can help. Not to mention lots of love!
Learn more about taking your dog to the vet and helping them learn it isn’t a scary place, watch our video:
Spaying or neutering your dog, cat or rabbit doesn’t just help prevent accidental litters. It also has health and behavioural benefits for your pet.
Benefits of spaying and neutering your pet
Generally, neutering decreases aggressive behaviours in pets
- Neutered dogs are calmer and less likely to bite, attack or get into dog fights.
- Neutered cats and rabbits don’t have the drive to mark and protect their territories and are less likely to spray or get into fights, resulting in fewer injuries.
Spaying ends the heat cycle in females
- Heat cycles are usually twice a year for dogs, and result in many unwanted behavioural changes including possible aggression.
- Cats generally go in and out of heat every three weeks between January and November.
- Female cats in heat can howl relentlessly, may try to escape to mate, spray or urinate inappropriately and attract unwanted male cats.
Spaying and neutering lowers the chance of reproductive health problems
- Studies show that spayed/neutered pets, on average, live longer.
- Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer and pyometra (life-threatening infection of the uterus) in dogs, cats, and rabbits. Up to 80% of unspayed rabbits will develop uterine cancer.
- Spaying reduces the risk of mammary cancer in cats, dogs, and rabbits.
- Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer in all species and lowers the risk of prostate problems in male dogs.
Spaying and neutering eliminates the drive to reproduce
- The likelihood of your male pet wandering away or escaping will be decreased.
- Male dogs can smell a female in heat up to a kilometre away.
- Once neutered, your pet will be less frustrated and may become a calmer companion.
Spaying and neutering provides an opportunity to have other important procedures performed
- Other procedures, as necessary, can also be done at the time of the operation.
- This includes procedures such as an identification tattoo or microchip, teeth cleaning, hernia repair and baby teeth removal.
Spaying and neutering prevents accidental pregnancies
- Research shows that the majority of cat pregnancies are unintended.
- Pregnancy is hard on the mom physically. Prenatal care, birth complications, and puppy/kitten care can be costly.
Spaying and neutering helps your community
- Research shows that, as an individual, you help reduce overpopulation issues in your community when you spay or neuter your pet.
- Spaying and neutering your pet helps reduce the number of stray or unwanted animals in your community.
- Reducing the amount of stray animals helps prevent other pets and wildlife from being injured or killed in fights.
- Fixing your pet helps lessen the amount of stray animals getting into or causing car accidents, getting into garbage cans and damaging property.
Learn how fixing your cat helps combat the cat overpopulation problem and how you can take action in your community.
But aren’t there also some risks to spaying and neutering?
Yes, any surgical procedure carries some risks. However, the overall benefit outweighs the risk for most animals. Talk to your veterinarian about the best choice for your pet.
- Risks of surgery and anesthesia include pain, bleeding, infection, the incision opening up, or a bad reaction to the drugs used.
- Spaying and neutering removes reproductive hormones from your pet’s body. This has many benefits but also has minor effects on bone development and other body systems.
- Several recent studies show higher rates of some bone and joint problems and cancers in purebred dogs spayed and neutered as puppies. These studies have attracted a lot of attention.
- The studies involved small numbers of dogs who were already predisposed to the problems being studied because of their breeds. More research is needed to understand these risks.
- If you are concerned about risks of spaying and neutering, don’t just consult the internet. Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your pet.
I still have questions about spaying and neutering
Shouldn’t a female cat/dog have a litter before being spayed?
Will spaying/neutering change my pets personality?
Will my pet become fat/lazy once it is fixed?
What does spay or neuter mean?
When should my cat/dog/animal be fixed?
What does it cost to spay/neuter my cat/dog/animal?
Find out more about the benefits of sterilizing your pet and how February is spay/neuter awareness month.
Dogs form strong bonds with animals and people with whom they live. Most dogs can cope with separation from family members for a few hours. Some feel anxious, stressed, even panicked when left even for a few minutes.
Signs your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety
- Anxiety when you start to get ready to leave (panting, hiding, trembling, don’t want to eat)
- Damage to your front door, back door or windows (door you leave from)
- Injure themselves (bleeding paws, broken teeth, bleeding from mouth)
- Refuses to eat when you’re not home, even high value treats (eats them when you come home)
See your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
Never punish your dog when she is anxious. She is not destroying things on purpose. Separation anxiety is a type of illness that is highly treatable with a combination of medication and behaviour modification (behaviour therapy). Your veterinarian can help determine whether your dog has separation anxiety or another condition.
- Take your dog to work if possible
- Walk him frequently and have water available in a spill-proof bowl
- Leave him with a sitter or at doggie daycare
- Have someone stay at home with the dog
Learn more about how you can deal with Separation anxiety – Preventing and reducing dog anxiety when alone (PDF).
“Spaying” and “neutering” are surgical procedures used to prevent pets from reproducing. In a female animal, “spaying” consists of removing the ovaries or uterus and ovaries. The technical term is ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy. For a male animal, “neutering” involves the removal of the testicles, and this is known as castration.
In addition to preventing unwanted offspring, spaying or neutering has many health and behavioural benefits to the animal.
If you are adopting your cat, dog or rabbit from the BC SPCA, spay/neuter is included in the adoption fee.
For other animals, the cost of spaying or neutering your pet depends on many factors and will vary according to each pet’s circumstances and needs. For example, a large dog will cost more than a small dog. If your pet is overweight or in heat this can also add to the cost. Contact your veterinarian to get a more accurate idea of the costs involved for your pet.
The cost of spaying/neutering is small when compared to other costs of pet care, such as what you will spend on food for your pet over their lifetime.
Consider the possible costs if you do not spay or neuter. If your pet should wander off in search of a mate, you may be faced with paying fines and impoundment fees. You may also be faced with the additional costs of caring for puppies or kittens for whom finding homes may be difficult. Worse yet, think of the costs should your pet be injured while roaming for a mate.
Spaying or neutering is a one-time investment with life-long health and welfare benefits for your companion.
If you require financial assistance, learn about low-cost spay/neuter programs in B.C.
Vaccines protect your pet from getting diseases that are contagious and possibly fatal. Vaccinating your pet doesn’t just protect your pet, it also protects other pets in the community who may be too young or sick to be vaccinated. Vaccines also protect against some diseases that can be passed from pets to people.
All cats and dogs should receive vaccines. Your veterinarian can help determine which vaccines are necessary and the best schedule for vaccinating based on your pet’s lifestyle and age.
Talk to your veterinarian about vaccines for your pet.
Puppies and kittens should start their vaccines at six to eight weeks of age. Your puppy or kitten will need a series of vaccines before they are four months old. Schedules for adult animals may vary depending on lifestyle and vaccines needed.
Shelter or rescue animals may require more frequent vaccines while they are in the care of a shelter due to higher risk of exposure to disease.
Talk to your veterinarian about when to vaccinate your animal.
Act quickly! If you suspect your pet has consumed antifreeze you must take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Animals who have ingested antifreeze go through two stages of symptoms. If untreated, death from kidney failure will occur within days.
In the first hour after drinking antifreeze, animals will stagger, act uncoordinated or disorientated, possibly bumping into things. They may also try to vomit. The quicker you get to the vet the better chance your pet can be successfully treated.
After stage 1 it may appear your pet has recovered. However, in this stage the antifreeze is being processed by the liver, creating substances that cause permanent kidney damage as well as signs of central nervous system damage. The more antifreeze the pet has ingested the more damage. Eventually the animal will lapse into a coma. Death usually occurs within 48 hours.
Immediate treatment is critical. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, take your pet to a veterinarian. Your pet will NOT recover without treatment.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a tiny parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. It can infect both cats and people, but most healthy animals and people won’t get sick because their immune systems will protect them.
How toxoplasmosis is transmitted to humans
Most people who get toxoplasmosis get it from eating undercooked meat or unwashed produce. Because cats only shed the parasite for the first few days after becoming infected, infection from cats is rare.
- Handling and/or eating raw or undercooked food
- Handling and/or eating unwashed fruits and vegetables
- Drinking unpasteurized milk
- Eating or drinking from contaminated sources
- Being exposed to cat feces from their litter box
- Being exposed to gardens or sandboxes that may have cat feces in them
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy
Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are more at risk for infection. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, her baby may have health problems.
Can pregnant women be around cats?
Yes, pregnant women can be around their cats, though there are some precautions to take:
- Do not change your cat’s litter. If you have to change the cat’s litter yourself, make sure you wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after
- Do not interact with any unknown cats
- Keep your cat inside
- Don’t feed any raw or undercooked meat to your cat
Still concerned about your pet and your baby?
- If you have more questions or concerns about toxoplasmosis and your baby’s health, please talk to your doctor.
- If you are concerned about toxoplasmosis and your pet’s health, please talk to your veterinarian.
Shelter medicine is a field of veterinary medicine that combines individual animal health care with the needs of the population. Shelter medicine is an exciting, growing field that is now being taught in many veterinary schools.
The main goal of shelter medicine is to improve the health and well-being of animals in shelters. Key aspects of shelter medicine include:
- Infectious disease management and prevention
- Population management and animal welfare
- Medical, surgical and emergency care
- Caring for and providing documentation for animals who are part of cruelty cases
- Shelter facility design
- Clinical behaviour
- Community programs and working with community veterinarians to share information
Shelter medicine recommendations may differ from private practice recommendations, because of consideration for the entire population and not just individual animals.
The BC SPCA has a shelter medicine program that provides provincial support to all sheltering branches using an evidence-based approach. Our program also hosts 4th year veterinary students from across the world who are interested in learning more about animal welfare and shelter medicine.
What is the rabies virus?
Rabies is a viral disease of warm-blooded animals that can be transmitted to humans. It is caused by a virus of the Rhabdoviridae family, which attacks the central nervous system and eventually affects the brain. Rabies is almost always fatal in animals and people once symptoms occur.
How is rabies transmitted between animals and humans?
The virus is transmitted through close contact with the saliva of infected animals, most often by a bite or scratch. It can also be transmitted by licks on broken skin or mucous membranes, such as those in the eyes, nasal cavity or mouth. In very rare cases, person-to-person transmission has occurred when saliva droplets became aerial. Bat bites can inflict small wounds and go unnoticed.
Who is at risk of being infected by rabies?
The rabies virus can infect any mammal. In North America, it occurs mainly in foxes, skunks, bats and raccoons, and can spread to domestic livestock and pets. In B.C. however, the only carrier of rabies is bats; no raccoons or skunks in B.C. have ever transmitted rabies.
How common is rabies in bats in B.C.?
It is estimated that one per cent of bats in the wild in B.C. carry rabies. In June 2004, four skunks in Stanley Park in Vancouver tested positive for the rabies virus. However, it was discovered that they all carried the bat strain of rabies; likely they had all been in contact with a rabid bat.
Cases of human rabies infection in Canada
In the past 20 years, three people in Canada died of rabies infection, one in Quebec (2000) and two in British Columbia (2003, 2019). These were the first cases of human rabies in Canada since 1985.
The most likely sources of infection for both individuals were unrecognized bat exposures. Without wound cleansing or post-exposure vaccinations, the potential incidence of rabies in exposed humans can be very high.
Does my pet need a rabies vaccine?
Dogs and cats account for fewer than 5 percent of all animal rabies cases in Canada. However, rabies presents a serious public health risk, and even indoor pets could come in contact with a bat. Some pets also need the vaccine for travel. Ask your vet whether your pet should be vaccinated.
What if my pet brings a bat home?
If your pet brings home a bat you should take your pet to a veterinarian. If the bat is available, your vet may send it for rabies testing. Additionally, your vet may vaccinate your pet against rabies and/or ask you to keep your pet in your home for several months to see if they develop signs of rabies.
If any person in your household has touched a bat with bare skin, seek medical attention from a doctor or local public health unit immediately.
What will happen to the bat?
The bat may be euthanized and sent for testing. As of April 1, 2014, CFIA veterinary inspectors are no longer involved in species collection activities. However, CFIA continues to perform and cover the cost for rabies laboratory testing involving domestic and wild animals and humans. This is vital as once the symptoms of rabies (flu-like including fever, headache, fatigue, progressing to GI and CNS problems) start to appear, there is no treatment and the disease is almost always fatal. However, wound cleansing and immunizations, done as soon as possible after suspected contact with an animal, can prevent the onset of rabies in virtually 100 percent of exposures.
What to do if there has been contact with a bat
If treatment is given promptly after being exposed to (any bare skin contact) or bitten by a bat, the illness may be prevented by taking the following actions:
- Immediately wash the wound or exposed surface with soap and water for 10 minutes and cover the area with a clean bandage.
- Remove any clothing that may have been contaminated.
- Immediately call your doctor and local health authority for advice.
Please contact your veterinarian to have your pet vaccinated and discuss whether a period of isolation/ observation is required for your pet. If the bat is available, your veterinarian may send it for rabies testing.
The BC SPCA is not able to accept donations of pet medications that have been previously dispensed or used. These medications should be taken to a pharmacy for disposal.
Allowing a female cat or dog to produce a litter does not have any benefits to the animal. Animals who go through heat cycles and pregnancy are at higher risk for uterine and mammary problems, including mammary cancer, which can be fatal.
There are health risks to the mother during the pregnancy and when giving birth. Proper pre-natal care, emergency care for birth complications, and proper newborn care are expensive and time-consuming.
Learn more about the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet.
Most unintentional litters (particularly with cats) occur because guardians waited too long to have the surgery done. The usual recommendation is before six months of age for cats, and before six and a half months for dogs. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best time for your pet. Female cats and dogs do not have to have a litter before being fixed.
The BC SPCA supports early age spay/neuter procedures for dogs and cats. Pediatric sterilization prevents excess litters by ensuring animals are sterilized before adoption. This helps combat pet overpopulation and euthanasia of unwanted animals. All major professional, academic, and animal welfare organizations in North America support pediatric spay/neuter for shelter animals.
The BC SPCA will continue to promote other methods of combating pet overpopulation, including education and public awareness campaigns, non-surgical methods of sterilization, traditional spay/neuter initiatives and behaviour training.
The BC SPCA believes pediatric spay/neuter to be appropriate with the following qualifications:
- The procedure takes place between 8 and 16 weeks of age
- The animal is judged to be clinically normal and healthy prior to surgery
- Proper surgical protocols specific to these young animals are employed
- Post-surgery complications receive special attention
We empathize with your situation; unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon. Many animal guardians face difficult decisions when pets require serious medical care.
If you are seeking assistance to spay or neuter your animal, learn about low income spay/neuter programs in B.C.
The BC SPCA Animal Hospital offers an assistance program for low income people. If you qualify for financial aid, it will cover up to 33% of the cost of services provided at the clinic (not including exams, lab work, medication, vaccines or diets). Please note, however, that the BC SPCA does NOT provide financial aid to have procedures done at other vet clinics. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are not in Vancouver, you can contact your local BC SPCA to see if they are aware of any initiatives in your area that assist low-income pet guardians with medical expenses.
For immediate short-term help, you can apply for financing through programs such as Petcard.
Our recommendation for a long-term/preventative solution is to look into insurance coverage. With pet health insurance, you’ll be able to remove the stress and worry of unexpected medical costs and provide your pet with the best medical care possible, at a low monthly premium.
We sincerely hope you are able to get the assistance you need.
Dogs communicate with us through their behaviour. Peeing on your stuff may mean your dog is trying to tell you something. Dogs don’t do it because they’re mad!
Is your dog house trained?
If your dog is house trained and this is a new behaviour, get a vet exam as there may be a medical issue at play.
If your dog has always had accidents then it’s best to restart your house training. Learn how to house train your dog.
Some dogs will pee on things around your house or outside to communicate, find a partner or to let others know this is their home.
If your dog is urine marking, start by house training him again. Always make sure his bladder is empty before you leave him alone. Reward him for going outside. If he’s not neutered, ask your vet about whether this might help.
Does your dog have anxiety when you leave?
If you think your dog has separation anxiety, see your veterinarian for a diagnosis.
Signs your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety:
- Panting, hiding, trembling, lack of appetite when you get ready to leave
- Damage to your front door, back door or windows
- Self-injury (bleeding paws, broken teeth, bleeding from mouth)
- Refusal to eat when you’re not home, even high value treats (but eats them when you’re home)
- See your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
No. Your pet will actually benefit from spaying or neutering, because he or she will lead a healthier and longer life. Pets become fat and lazy as a result of overeating and a lack of exercise, not from spaying or neutering. Furthermore, spaying a female eliminates the possibility of her developing uterine and/or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer. Neutering a male eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.