Calendar Health Tips

We hope you're enjoying the 2017 WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre Monthly Animal Health Calendar!
Click on the bars below to read more information about each month's animal health tip. 
JANUARY | Plastic net wrap

The newer plastic net wrap or plastic twine can’t be digested within a cow’s rumen and can be extremely hazardous to cattle. 

  • Producers should remove the plastic materials from the feed or ensure that they’re shredded into small enough segments that they can move into the digestive tract and pass in the manure.
  • Once a cow ingests the larger pieces, the plastic remains in the rumen and can cause an obstruction that blocks the outflow of the rumen and results in gradual weight loss and even death.
  • Obstructions are particularly dangerous in pregnant cattle. As the rumen fills with feed material that can’t move into the digestive tract, the combined pressure of the fetus and full rumen on the diaphragm and lungs can result in suffocation and death. 

Source: "Bale netting is a cattle hazard," by Dr. John Campbell, The Western Producer

FEBRUARY | Equine infectious anemia

Equine infectious anemia (EIA) or swamp fever is an incurable viral disease that affects horses, mules and donkeys. Animals infected with the EIA virus remain lifelong carriers.

  • Because horses can be asymptomatic carriers of the EIA virus, testing is critical; veterinarians recommend that owners test their horses at least once each spring. They should also test new horses before purchasing and then isolate them for 45 days before introducing them to other horses.
  • Owners can prevent the transmission of EIA by controlling biting insects (horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes) and using only disposable needles and syringes.
  • To promote regular testing, current negative EIA test certificates should be required by farm, stable and arena operators as well as organizers of equine events such as rodeos and horse shows. 

Source: "EIA in Saskatchewan: key facts about equine infectious anemia." Fact sheet produced by the WCVM, Saskatchewan Horse Federation and the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association. 

MARCH | Canine parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious, life-threatening viral disease that infects dogs at any age but is common in young animals. Because the virus is resistant to many disinfectants and hardy enough to withstand extreme temperatures, it can exist in the environment for years.

  • Animals can catch parvovirus by sharing the same environment or contacting the feces of infected dogs. People can carry the virus on their hands and clothing.
  • Since drugs can’t kill parvovirus, prevention through vaccination is critical. Puppies should be vaccinated at around eight weeks followed by two boosters one month apart and subsequent boosters every three years.
  • Until fully vaccinated, dogs should be kept away from public areas such as dog parks and boarding kennels where they could contract the infection from unvaccinated animals. 

Source: WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre

APRIL | Vaccinations

Horse owners should consult with their veterinarians to create a workable biosecurity plan that can be used consistently to protect their animals at home and at public events.

  • Vaccination is crucial, and veterinarians recommend a four-way vaccination that prevents tetanus, eastern equine encephalomyelitis/western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE) and West Nile virus.
  • Facilities should be cleaned regularly by removing visible dirt before scrubbing with soap and then disinfecting. Practices such as washing hands thoroughly and using alcohol gel can help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Owners can avoid exposing their animals to disease by choosing shows and events that require paperwork such as a negative equine infectious anemia (EIA) certificate. Tack and equipment should never be shared at home or at shows, and horses should never drink from a shared trough. 

Source: "Vaccinations for your horse," WCVM fact sheet

MAY | Rabbits' dental health

Dental problems can cause serious illness in domestic rabbits.

  • Diet is often the main cause of dental problems. In the wild rabbits eat tough, fibrous grasses that help to maintain their constantly-growing teeth. Grass hay is the best feed for adult pet rabbits. It’s nutritional and abrasive, which wears down teeth.  For young, lactating or pregnant rabbits, choose alfalfa, which has high calcium and protein.
  • Monitor rabbits for secondary signs of dental disease at all stages of life. Trouble may be seen first in the rabbit’s fecal pellets, with a decrease in size, number or moisture. Watch for eye and nasal discharge or drooling. Rabbits clean their faces with their front feet, so watch for excess discharge, crusting of hair or saliva on the front legs. As the disease progresses the rabbit will typically stop eating: first hay, then pellets and then greens.
  • Visit your veterinarian to get some baseline data on your rabbit and receive the latest health information.

Source: "Rabbit dental health ever-growing concern," by Gwen Roy, WCVM Today

JUNE | Laminitis

Equine laminitis or founder is a painful, often life-threatening disease that occurs when the hoof wall detaches from the last bone in the foot so that the bone then rotates or sinks within the hoof.

  • Carbohydrate overload is a major cause of laminitis that occurs when a horse eats too much rich pasture grass or too much grain. Owners should limit their horses’ grain intake and their access to fresh grass, particularly in the spring or the fall after the first frost. 
  • Any horse can get laminitis. It’s possible that horses with existing metabolic disease such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) may be more prone to developing chronic laminitis because of an underlying abnormality in their hoof structure. Ponies are more at risk when exposed to lush pastures and horses are susceptible when given an excess amount of grain in their diet.  
  • Strict diet control and nutritional management can help in the cases of ponies or horses that have previously foundered. Keeping the horses away from grain bins or lush grass will also help.
  • Proper weight management is essential. There is some evidence that overweight horses can develop insulin resistance — leaving them more prone to laminitis.
  • Treatment of underlying metabolic conditions, such as properly-managed PPID, can go a long way to reducing the number of recurring bouts of laminitis. Affected horses should be provided with medical management and veterinary care.

Source: WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre

JULY | Pets in the heat

After Ashley Woodvine accidentally backed over her four-month-old puppy Sharley, she faced an agonizing decision. Sharley suffered a fractured and dislocated vertebrae, and WCVM veterinarians were unsure whether the puppy would walk again.

After Sharley's owners decided to try to save her, specialists completed a three-hour procedure to repair her broken bones. They placed pins in the bone and cemented them together to stabilize the vertebrae. Sharley then went through physiotherapy and rehabilitation, until she eventually regained movement in her back legs.

Sharley’s story has a happy ending, but Woodvine wants pet owners to be cautious.

  • Animals often seek shade or shelter under parked vehicles. Remember to check under your vehicle for pets – especially in hot weather.
  • Always ensure your pets have access to shade and water in the summer, particularly if you’re going to be away.
  • Don’t tie them up. Provide them with a cool space such as a kennel or a garage. 

Read more about Sharley: "Remarkable recovery for injured puppy," by Jeanette Neufeld, WCVM Today

AUGUST | Fog fever

Fog fever or acute bovine pulmonary emphysema (ABPE) is seen primarily in beef cows older than two and is commonly associated with movement in fall from dry summer grazing to lush green pastures.

  • Fog fever is untreatable and often occurs in outbreaks that affect 10 to 50 per cent of the herd. It usually begins five to 10 days after cattle are abruptly moved from a dry, overgrazed pasture to a lush pasture.
  • The disease occurs when cattle aren’t given enough time to adapt to higher levels of tryptophan – a protein found in lush pasture that can trigger severe lung damage.
  • Prevent fog fever by making a gradual transition from dry to lush pasture using a feed supplement during the process. Monensin, a feed additive for cattle, has also proved helpful for preventing lung damage.

Source: "Fog fever: a respiratory syndrome that is often deadly," by Dr. John Campbell, The Western Producer


Colic or pain in a horse’s abdominal cavity generally involves the gastrointestinal tract, and horses kept on pasture have a higher risk of developing colic during the changing seasons.

  • Any diet changes should occur gradually over a five- to seven-day period so that the organisms responsible for fermentation in the large intestine have adequate time to adapt.
  • During spring, horses need a slow transition from their all-hay winter diet to a spring diet that includes rich green grass. This highly fermentable grass causes increased gas in the gut and can trigger gas colic.
  • The diet’s moisture level is extremely important, so ensure fresh water is always available and monitor the water intake, particularly during the transition from fall to winter. Provide a heated watering bowl or tank heater to encourage drinking. 

Source: WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre

OCTOBER | Brain tumour therapy
  • Baxter is a “kooky” 12-year-old soft-coated Wheaton terrier that was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour. As part of a unique study examining a new method of cancer treatment for brain tumours, Baxter and his family travelled from Calgary to receive treatment at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre.
  • This study, done in conjunction with clinicians at the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) and a radiation oncologist from the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, is designed to explore a new protocol for treating brain tumours. The team is using mini beam radiation treatments, which they believe can more effectively target tumours without affecting the surrounding tissues.
  • If this technique proves to be superior in treating brain tumours in dogs, the method will move into a human clinical trial. 
NOVEMBER | Cancer eye

Bovine ocular squamous cell carcinoma or cancer eye, is the most common form of cancer affecting cattle in North America. The disease is often seen in older cattle, particularly in animals with unpigmented skin around their eyes.

  • Since early detection is key to effective treatment, producers should watch for precursor lesions — small white or pink growths on the edge of the coloured part of the eye where the white joins the dark.
  • Check the third eyelid, particularly the lower part of the lid, for small growths crusted over with fluid from the eye. These tumours are often malignant and may bleed easily if irritated.
  • Consult your veterinarian about removing the growths. Although surgeries can be highly successful, the disease has a high recurrence rate. 

Source: "Cancer eye affects older cattle; early detection prevents spread," by Dr. John Campbell, The Western Producer

DECEMBER | Pets and cold weather

When cold weather hits, your cats and dogs feel the chill just like you do, so it’s best to keep them inside – particularly if they’re very young or old or suffering from a chronic disease. Report any neglected animals that have no access to heat or weather protection.

  • Monitor outside animals carefully and house them in an enclosed doghouse filled with straw. Provide extra food for energy and ensure they have access to fresh water.
  • Salt and chemicals used on roads and sidewalks can irritate paws and mouths. Don’t let your pets lick road salt, and provide them with protective booties or wash their paws with warm water after a walk.
  • Stop your pets from eating snow since it can contain chemicals such as antifreeze, a deadly poison that can cause kidney failure.  

Source: WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre