Sick animals and veterinary services help topics | BC SPCA
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Sick animals and veterinary services help topics

Sick animals/veterinary services

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

Grey cat wearing collar and id playing with a young baby and woman indoors

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.

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.

Photo: Liron Gertsman

How common is rabies in bats in B.C.?

It is estimated that 1 percent 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 2000 and 2003, two people in Canada died of rabies infection, one in Quebec (2000) and one in British Columbia (2003). 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

Bat-to-person contact?

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.

Bat-to-pet contact?

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.

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.

cat wearing two casts lying down

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.

Curious ginger kitten looking down playfully

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.

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.

A happy smiling dog sitting outside looking up with tongue out

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

“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.

A happy dog outdoors on grass being pet by a smiling girl

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.

Two happy dogs running through a forest trail with a person behind them

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Cat at vet clinic getting paw bandaged