Pet foster program of VAW shelter clients in Ottawa and surrounding areas


Here are some informative and useful links we like to share:

RFPs / Job Opportunities / Volunteering
Calgary Humane Society’s Pet Safekeeping and Emergency Boarding services
Women & Animals

Items You Need in a Basic First Aid Kit

What should you keep inside your pet’s first aid kit? For a detailed use of these items, click here.

  • thermometer
  • peroxide
  • salt
  • antibiotic ointment
  • Benadryl liquid
  • hot/cold packs
  • sanitary pads
  • gauze pads and gauze tape
  • cotton balls
  • tensor or vet wrap
  • telfa pads
  • scissors, tweezers and tick key

Health Tips for All Animals
Quick Assessment of your Dog or Cat

Capillary Refill and Colour


Cap refill is used to assess blood flow. It’s a simple test, just press on your dog’s gums with your finger then release pressure. In your dog’s gums are many tiny blood vessels called capillaries. When you apply pressure the blood is pushed out of the capillaries. When you release your finger the pressure is also released and the capillaries immediately refill. Normal time for a healthy dog is 1.5 seconds


Check your dog’s colour by lifting your dog’s lip and looking at the colour of the gums they should be pink. If the gums are blue, cherry red, grey, or white these are all serious symptoms of lack of oxygenated blood being circulated. If the gums are yellow the animal may have a liver condition. If the dog’s gums are black (Chow) and you can’t assess colour, you will need to check the dog’s eyes pull down the bottom part of the eye lid and check for pink.

Foot Pad Care for Dogs

The pads on dogs’ feet need tender loving care! Dogs’ pads need to be gradually exposed to the outside world to become more tough and conditioned. The thick spongy underfoot of your dog’s paw is his pad. The pad is used to give your dog protection against the elements (hot or cold), absorb shock and give traction when they move. They also help regulate your dog’s temperature by sweating through the pads. Watch your dog playing, running, and jumping — see how much abuse your dog’s pads take.

Pad Care

The most common injuries to our dog’s pads are punctures, lacerations, cuts, and burns. Common symptoms of pad injuries are limping, licking, bleeding , not walking on injured foot.

Common Treatments

Although it will depend on the injury of the pad. Wash the pad with antibacterial soap, rinse well and dry. To stop bleeding apply pressure. Abrasions will need to be flushed to get all and any dirt particles out. Keep bandaged with a light dressing to keep clean. Keeping covered during the day and left to the air at night. Using an e-collar on, your dog, to stop your dog from removing the bandage or continual licking the juried site. If you can’t stop the bleeding or the wound is deep and isn’t healing properly you may need to take your dog to the vet for oral antibiotic and/or antibiotic creams.

In the heat of summer, roads can get very hot and even though dogs’ pads are tough they still can burn. Walk your dog on grassy areas and whenever possible rinse feet with cool water. Watching where your dog is walking and if any sharp objects could be stepped on is proactive.

There are numerous products on the market to help toughen up your dog’s pads. In the winter many dogs wear foot wear.

Just remember: caring for your dog’s feet today may prevent injury another day.

Dehydration in Pets

If your dog or cat has been vomiting or has diarrhea for days there is a strong possibility that dehydration has resulted.

There is a simple test to see if your pet is dehydrated. Simply pinch and twist the skin of the neck. If the layers of skin remain together and don’t exhibit their usual elasticity by snapping back in place, then the dog or cat is dehydrated.  You can also touch your pet’s gums if they seem tacky and sticky this is another indicator of dehydration.

Water intake should be monitored. A product called Pedialyte, which you can get from any pharmacy, can be given to hydrate your dog. On average 1oz of water per pound of dog is needed to stay hydrated. If your dog refuses to drink, an intravenous fluid therapy may be needed to be given by your veterinarian. Cats and Rabbits can be rehydrated with Saline therapy by a subcutaneous injection of fluids you can do this at home under veterinary instruction.


Often, frostbite and hypothermia go hand in hand: both are caused by prolonged exposure to extreme cold.

Frostbite is localized damage to tissue due to freezing temperatures in which the fluid in individual body cells freeze. Frostbite usually occurs on areas less protected, like the tips of the ears or tail or the scrotum because these areas are less protected by hair.

Dogs do certainly get cold feet, but somehow it’s a rarity that they actually get frost-bitten feet. Some vets believe the thicker skin on the pads protect the feet; there is also the fact that dogs can tuck their feet in against their bodies.

If the skin freezes it no longer has a blood supply, the tissue will be pale white or bluish in colour.  Without a blood supply the tissue will die. You need to get your dog into a warm place.  Warming frozen tissue must be done slowly and very gently – do not rub, as this may fracture the frozen cells and do irreparable damage. Frostbitten tissue may peel.  Warm the tissue with a hairdryer on low heat or with warm water. If circulation does return, this tissue will be red and swollen and extremely sore.

Treat with antibiotic cream and bandage lightly. If severely frostbitten tissue doesn’t regain blood supply a Veterinarian will be needed to remove dead tissue.

Fortunately frostbite can be prevented in many cases. In extreme cold your dogs will start lifting their feet and stop to lick them. These are indicators letting us know its time to bring them in. Frostbite can occur in as little as 15 minutes to exposed skin. If your dog lives outside you will need to make sure he stays warm and dry. Start with an insulated dog house only big enough to stand and turn around in. If it’s too big it will be harder for your dog to stay warm. The dog house should be sheltered from the wind. The dog house should also be on some sort of platform off the frozen ground. Door flaps will help to keep drafty wind out.

Bedding can be shredded newspaper or blankets, but know that blankets can hold moisture. Fresh straw or hay is considered the best. All dogs need access to fresh water. In the winter it is even more important because dehydration happens more because the body is using up energy trying to stay warm. Electric pails are available to keep the water from freezing. These precautions will help keep your dog safe from the winter hazards.

Hypothermia results when the internal organs become so cold they cease to function properly. The animal may even appear dead, but the rule is “not dead until warm and dead“. Immerse the animal in 102F water. It is important to maintain the water temperature. If possible, intubate warm fluid directly into the animal’s stomach [do not attempt this without prior experience!]


Dog Owner’s Guide: Cold Weather Complications (] is a part of the Dog Owner’s Guide internet website and is copyright 2009 by Canis Major Publications. You may print or download this material for non-commercial personal or school educational use.

Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, DVMand James M Giffen, M.D.

Why don’t dogs get frostbite on their feet?

Identifying a Sick Rabbit

If your rabbit is noticeably less active than normal and seems lethargic (rabbits — like cats — groom themselves often) or if grooming has stopped, these are indicators that something is not right.

A huge RED FLAG is appetite and drinking. If the rabbit has stopped eating and drinking or is eating much less and not interested in his favourite foods again this in a symptom something is wrong. With less food there will be not as much poop, or no poop usually points to gastro problems. This could be lack of fibre in the diet or something more serious.

Increased drinking is an indicator that the kidneys or that the urinary tract may be involved. Feed your rabbit a good quality diet of grass and hay and green food.

Sometimes rabbits stop eating because they need their teeth to be trimmed. If the front teeth are too long it makes it very hard for the rabbit to eat.

Discharge from the rabbit’s nose is not normal especially if the discharge is green. Rabbits breathe only through their nose so the discharge may cause difficulty breathing. Also if you see the rabbit is sneezing or coughing, a trip to the vet may be in order. If you also see the rabbit stretches his neck out to breath or mouth breathing this is serious!

Rabbit stool is an enormous health gauge. Stool should be well-formed, round pellets. Diarrhea can cause dehydration. Cut-out pellets and feed hay. Prolonged diarrhea is dangerous. If the rabbit is overweight, feed it less pellet food.

Note: Diarrhea in hamsters before the age of 2 years is most often a dietary deficiency. After 2 years, diarrhea in hamsters is usually due to streptococcal infection. Feed rice & water, but this is a serious condition and usually fatal.


The most common protozoan disease is Coccidiosis. These one-celled animals are not visible, without the help of a microscope. This disease causes diarrhea, and it is contagious so all rabbits should be separated. Infected premises are usually the result of poor sanitation and overcrowding; these are ideal conditions for coccidia’s survival. Another name is big belly it will lead to death if not treated

Other problems you may encounter with your rabbits health that need to be seen by a veterinarian, are Blood in the urine or straining to urinate. Also chalky looking urine maybe an indicator of too much calcium in his diet, call your vet!


Check list of poisonous plants before giving any plants to your rabbit. Call your vet or poison control or look up on the web for a list of plants that may be dangerous if ingested by your rabbit.


If the rabbit is shaking his head often and his ears seem itchy. Examine them if you see lots of dark waxy debris, you will need to clean out his ears and treat for mites. Mites are contagious to other animals. The mites may spread and hair loss around the ears and neck may be visible. Treatment for mites is usually Ivomec shots for three weeks at your vet. Holistic treatment is taking 1 teaspoon of Honey and 2 teaspoons of warm water mix. And put 2 0r 3 drops in the rabbit’s ear massage twice a day to start. as it improves reduce application to weekly.


This condition affects the rabbit’s balance. Either the rabbit will fall over or because it’s affects the vestibular system the rabbit will be dizzy. Circling is also common. If you watch the rabbit’s eyes they will have stigmatism the eyes will be darting back and forth. Vets will need to treat.

Remember many intact Rabbits once reach maturity often display aggressive behaviour, growling biting or attacking your hands. Keep yourself safe!

Rabbits have very thin skin and a bump can tear their skin easily. Check for open wounds and handle often so you will be able to prevent any medical condition from escalating.

Here are a few serious symptoms to watch for, Seek veterinary advice!


Open mouth breathing (Rabbits breath through their nose) Nasal discharge is a concern an upper respiratory infection in Rabbits is life threatening.

Enlarge painful gas filled abdomen ususally a condition called RGIS Rabbit gastrointestinal stasis. Sometime is a accompanied by a hunched posture, teeth grinding and very sore abdomen.


If the rabbit is screaming in pain, it’s time to see your Vet. Rabbits do vocalize but screaming is a huge concern.

Be proactive!

Note to add about diarrhea in hamsters usually before the age of 2 years diarrhea is most often a dietary deficiency. After 2 years diarrhea in Hamsters is usually due to streptococcal infection, Feed rice water but this is a serious condition and usually fatal.

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If you live in Kitchener, contact the Hav Coalition for fostering information:  HAV_Coalition-Logo