Bloat -- what you need to know

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 @ 11:31 AM

dog-owners.jpgWhen you buy a dog, it's a life-long commitment. You have to make sure they are fed properly, taken to the veterinarian many times during their lives, make sure they get walked, etc.

One of the topics we are going to discuss today is bloat or Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This is an extremely serious situation and should be considered life-threatening. There are no natural or home remedies for bloat so if your dog is having symptoms related to this disease - which we will be going through below, you need to see your Veterinarian ASAP.

Dogs with bloat can die within several hours so time is of the essence. Even when a dog gets treatment there is still a chance that they may not survive.

With bloat, for a number of different reasons, your dog's stomach can fill up with air and put extra pressure on the other organs in the dog's body. It can also cause the stomach to rotate onto itself and pinch off the blood supply. Once this happens the blood supply is cut off and the stomach begins to die.

The pressure makes it difficult for the dog to breath and it can also compress larger veins in the abdomen which can prevent blood from returning to the heart.

Breeds That GDV Is More Common In

As with a lot of other health issues and diseases, GDV is more common in some breeds than it is in others.

Great Danes have a 4.1 risk ratio
German Shepherds have a 4.1
Golden Retrievers have a 1.2
Mini Poodles have a 0.3

GDV tends to be much more common in larger dogs than smaller dogs, hence the numbers above.

It's a good idea to not only talk to your veterinarian about GDV but also talk to them about your specific breed.

Dogs also over the age of 7, who are male, who are fed less than 1 times a day are also more at risk to get GDV than dogs who are not.

Signs Of Bloat In Dogs

Some of the symptoms you'll want to look for in your dog include:

- Swollen or Protruding Belly
- Non-Productive Vomiting
- Retching
- Abdominal Pain
- Rapid Shallow Breathing

Prevention Of Bloat In Dogs

While getting care for your dog after the fact can keep GDV from coming back later on in the dog's life, most vets agree that having a surgery called gastropexy, while they are young, is the best way to keep dog bloat away entirely. A gastropexy can be done on both male and female dogs and it can be done at the same time as they are being spayed or neutered.

In gastropexy, the dog's stomach will be sutured and attached to the abdominal wall or the diaphragm and this is what will keep the dog's stomach from flipping over on itself.

For most dog lovers and owners, that stat alone is worth getting the gastropexy.

Other Preventative Measures:

- Owners should be aware that they have a dog breed who is more susceptible to GDV.

- Dogs who are more susceptible should be fed 2-3 times a day, rather than 1 time a day.

- Water should always be available, however, it should be limited after the dog is done eating.

- While exercise is great for any dog, dogs that have a higher chance of getting GDV should not exercise vigorously, be too excited or stressed out 1-2 hours before and 1-2 hours after a meal.

According to studies, dogs that have the gastropexy have a small 4.3% chance of getting GDV in the future versus the 54.5% who can get it in the future who have NOT gotten gastropexy.

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Topics: pet resources, pet care, pet behaviour, choosing a vet, pet nutrition, dog care, animal hospital, Halifax vet

Ways to Tell If Your Cat Is Sick

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Tue, Feb 07, 2017 @ 06:39 AM


All too often, pet owners don't realize that their cat is sick until their dear friend is very ill. However, most problems are best treated if recognized early. Unfortunately, cats are good a hiding their pain and they may even instinctively hide themselves away when they are sick because in the wild that is safer. Luckily, your pet doesn't have to get better on their own. You can help them get treatment from a veterinarian if you pay attention to these ways a cat tells you they are sick:

Behavior Changes

Did your previously well-trained cat start eliminating outside the litter box? Is your generally independent cat suddenly more clinging? Or is your friendly cat suddenly hiding under the bed all the time? Cats are animals who love routine and any change in behavior can be an indicator of anxiety or illness. If you've recently moved or changed a routine, that might account for the behavioral change, but if not, suspect illness and consider taking your pet to the vet.

Eating and Drinking Differences

Have there been changes in your cat's eating and drinking habits? Drinking more or less water could indicate kidney disease, or perhaps diabetes, especially in an older cat. Eating more could show hyperthyroidism. Eating less might be an indicator of a dental problem or perhaps even cancer. Since changes in eating and drinking patterns can be signs of a serious disease, you need to make sure a medical professional evaluates your pet, especially if the problems persist.

Losing or Gaining Weight

Some disorders cause weight loss or gain without a change in eating habits. So if you pick up your cat and notice they are heavier or lighter than before, that can be a clue they may need medical attention.

Bad Breath

Don't just hold your breath if your cat has halitosis. Bad breath may not be just a problem that makes it less pleasant for you to interact with your pet. Kidney disease, digestive disorders, and dental disease can all cause bad smells in a cat's mouth. Let your veterinarian decide whether this is something that you need to treat.

Grooming Less Carefully

Does your cat's hair look mangy? Is your cat not grooming as fastidiously as in the past? Cats are careful in their personal grooming and if your cat is not looking its best, it can be a sign they have pain from arthritis or dental disease.

More or Less Sleeping

Let's face it, all cats do sleep a lot. However, if your cat is more lethargic and sleeping even more than before, that can be a sign they aren't feeling well. Just as humans often sleep when we are sick, cats do too. Your pet's health care provider should be consulted.

More or Less Talking

Is your cat vocalizing more than usual? Or maybe your usually frenetic cat suddenly becomes silent. Take more or less "talking" as a clue your pet may have a medical condition. Changes in vocalization can be caused by feline cognitive dysfunction, high blood pressure, anxiety or hyperthyroidism. Have your pet checked out.

The Bottom Line

Is your cat acting differently? Do you see some of these signs? You are your cat's best friend and first health care provider. Since you see them every day, you are the one who can best notice that they need help and take them to your veterinarian for a check-up. Purrs and love from your cat will thank you!

Cat friendly practice


Topics: cat care, best vet, pet cancer, Halifax vet, pet behaviour

Making a cat carrier cat-friendly

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 @ 09:51 AM

cat.jpgDoes your cat hate getting in their carrier? If so, your cat is not alone. Unfortunately, cat carriers are an important part of a cat’s life and are a highly recommended mode of transportation when bringing a cat to a veterinarian’s office; even a cat-friendly practice such as the Halifax Animal Hospitals. But when you think about it, more often than not cats only get into their cat carrier if they are going someplace unfamiliar or to someplace stressful, such as the veterinarian’s office. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a cat would not want to get into, let alone stay, in their cat carrier. Luckily, there are things you can do to get your cat used to their carrier:

Don’t hide it

Make your cart carrier a part of your cat’s everyday environment. Keep the carrier someplace where the cat can get to it, and keep its door open. Your cat will explore the carrier on his or her own terms and may just figure out that it’s a comfortable space to sleep.  

Make positive associations

Don’t just use the cat carrier for trips to the veterinary office or to your cat boarding facility. If possible, take your cat for car rides to the park or someplace else they may like using the carrier. This will make your cat realize that being in the carrier does not always mean they are going someplace they don’t like.

You could also place a familiar toy or blanket in the carrier. The smell will remind your cat of home and may make them feel more at ease while in the carrier.

Alternatively, you can calm your cat using a pheromone spray in the carrier. These sprays are known for their calming effects on cats. 

Wash it

Cats like clean habitats, so if you use the carrier a lot make sure to keep it clean – especially after a visit to the veterinarian’s office.

When selecting a cat carrier, don’t select one simply because it looks like a designer purse. The best all-purpose carrier is a medium-sized (large enough to fit an adult cat comfortably) plastic box with a handle and openings in the front and the top. These cat carriers are portable, durable and easy to clean.

They key is to introducing any carrier to your cat is to do it in a drama-free way. You want your cat to see their carrier as a safe, comfortable space and not associate it with bad smells or situations. 

We hope to see you soon...  and remember we are here to answer health and behavior questions too.

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Topics: cat care, pet travel, pet training, pet behaviour

What You Need To Know About Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or a Bladder Problem

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 @ 08:07 AM

Millions of cats are abandoned in Canada every year. Some are abandoned because of bladder problems. However, bladder problems are not a good reason to give up on a pet cat. Many cats can be helped with a veterinary visit – even if the diagnosis is the dreaded feline idiopathic cystitis, also known as feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.

Cats can still live long and happy lives with idiopathic cystitis. If you and your household are willing to make changes to your cat’s diet and environment, there’s no reason to expect your cat to live out his or her full lifespan.

What Is Feline Idiopathic Cystitis?

Feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC means your cat’s bladder is inflamed for no known reason even after being tested. Female cats 4 years old or older are the most commonly affected. Why this happens to some cats and not all cats is unknown. One theory is that some cats are far more prone to stress than others. This stress results in an inflamed bladder.

FIC is incurable but is manageable. Many cats with FIC respond to medication, change of diet and changes made in their homes to reduce stress. The end result is that you do not have to spend the rest of your cat’s life cleaning up cat urine if you follow your vet’s advice and commit to relieving suffering in your beloved pet.

Symptoms of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Cats need to have two or more symptoms of FIC to be diagnosed. The main symptoms are:

  • Bloody urine
  • Straining to urinate in the litter pan which resembles cats straining to defecate
  • Male cats strain in the litter pan and then walk out without having urinated
  • More licking than usual under the tail
  • Cat urinates in places other than the litter pan, even though the cat has been faithfully using the litter pan for months or years.

If your male cat is trying to urinate and cannot, this is a medical emergency. There could be a blockage which if left untreated will lead to the death of the cat.


Treatment for FIC is usually a combination of medications and changes in the cat’s diet and home life. Medications given include:

  • Anti-spasmotics to help with painful spasms
  • Tranquilizers to help the bladder relax enough to release urine at once
  • Urine acidifiers, especially for males suspected of having a blockage and FIC. They are not prescribed so much now as in past decades
  • Anti-anxiety drugs to help with stress
  • Narcotic analgesics for pain
  • Steroid or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to hopefully reduce bladder inflammation
  • Adequan or Elmiron to help generate a healthy mucus lining in the bladder.

Diet changes include increased wet food and especially veterinary diets proven to decrease recurrence. Make sure the cat has plenty of access to water. Place water bowls in at least three rooms where the cat frequents. Stop feeding your cat spicy human food treats like pepperoni. The spices, although mild to our palette, may irritate the bladder.

Home Changes

Make sure your cat is living as stress-free a life as possible. Do not yell at your cat if you find a stray puddle. The cat could not help it. Just clean up. Some ways to help your cat de-stress include:

  • Use the pheromone product, Feliway, which helps naturally decrease stress.
  • Making sure the cat can look out a window for entertainment
  • Making sure other pets or children are not teasing the cat
  • Changing cat toys as soon as they get ragged
  • Making sure there are separate food bowls and litter pans for each cat in the home.

Halifax Veterinary Hospital, Fairview Animal Hospital and Spryfield Animal Hospital offer preventive and early detection medical care. For more information, click on the picture below.

Early Detection Packages

Topics: cat care, pet behaviour

Urine Marking Feline or Canine

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Fri, Oct 07, 2016 @ 07:42 AM


Pet owners are always looking for the best care for their pets because many of us love them like they are part of the family. When behavioral problems occur it can be frustrating.

One of the most common problems with cats is urine marking around the house and sometimes, right outside of the litter box. Many cat owners are at a loss of what they can do to stop and even prevent this kind of behavior. To begin, here is a list of possible reasons as to why your cat might be doing this:

  • Moving into a new home
  • Bringing in additional cats to the environment
  • Having a new person come to live in the home whether a relative or a new child
  • The stress that comes from holiday commotion and hustle and bustle
  • Various medical conditions that need to be diagnosed by veterinarian
  • Litter boxes that are not easy to step into, that are never clean, or not enough or large enough for all the cats to use, the use of scented or different textured litter

This is why special care needs to be taken to prepare your home for a pet or keep it calm and friendly for that cat to reside in. Behavioral problems in animals are very similar to the ones humans may express. They are typically caused by an unwanted or unsavory situation that promotes either an animal or a human to act out, in this case, for cats to urinate where they are not supposed to.  A natural pheromone product called Feliway also helps to naturally decrease stress.

Bringing a cat to the vet can be very stressful not only for the cat, but for the owner too. Knowing that there may be other animals there which may upset your cat is sometimes unavoidable, but this is why certain veterinarians take pride in providing a cat friendly practice. This is a certified organization that specializes in making the environment welcoming and calming for your cat when you have to take them to the vet. This includes things like textured mats on the examining table, examination rooms that only cats use with no dog scents, and separate areas for cats with scratching posts and other inviting tools to try and make your cat feel more at home. With three locations in Quinpool, Fairview, and Spryfield, our Quinpool Veterinary Hospital is a Certified Feline Friendly Practice one of those places that take the time to make you and your cat welcome and well taken care of. All of our practices use low stress handling and a pheromone spray/diffuser in the exam rooms and kennels which naturally decreases stress for your cat. We also place your cat in the exam immediately to decrease the chance of other animals upsetting your cat. They even have a strict policy about not declawing cats as this has also been related to behavioral problems causing unwanted urination around the home. Safe alternatives are offered instead with information on what this procedure ultimately does to your cat long term.

If you have questions about your cat's behavior, ask your vet.  

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Topics: pet training, cat care, pet behaviour

How to Get Your Leash Aggressive Dog to Be Calm

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 04:05 PM

leash.jpgIf a dog feels he is restrained, agitated, and unable to put distance between him and a fear source the dog may react. A dog may also act aggressive when he is excited and attempting to be social. Trying to walk a dog that does not behave well is not a pleasant experience. To begin a change in your dog's behavior you will first need to ensure that you have identified the cause of why your dog is lunging and/or acting aggressively during walking.. You want to condition your dog to believe that there is nothing to be concerned about and thereby no longer seeing it as a threat.

The causes of leash aggression

For some dogs it is not fear that is causing them to lunge. The dog may be social and is attempting his best to get to the stimulus. The dog must be trained that lunging does get him closer to the stimulus and alternatively, calm behavior will be rewarded by being allowed to socialize. For some dogs, leash aggression stems from the fact that they see another dog and feel threatened.

Don’t punish aggression

In order to train your dog that socializing is okay without lunging, there are a few simple steps to take. You will want to turn the dog away from the social stimulus and when he is calm and when the leash is loose the two dogs may greet. There is no need to punish your dog for lunging, as this would be very ineffective. If your dog is feeling insecure and that is the cause of his behavior, you certainly should not punish him. Instead, give your dog something else to focus on so that they can return to a state of comfort. Changing a lunging dog’s feelings through positive reinforcement is key.

Training with positive reinforcement

Make your dog more comfortable in a few moments by pulling out their favorite toy or most valued treat when they see another dog. In this way, you are able to change the way your dog perceives the other dog in a positive way and help him deal with the presence of the other dog. The idea is to make your dog feel safe about the sight of seeing other dogs. By making this new association of seeing a dog and getting a treat you’re helping change the way that your dog feels in a positive way.

Remember that punishing your dog will only serve to suppress him at that moment but it will not ultimately change the way that he feels. You will need to employ positive techniques in order to have long lasting success with your dog and prevent lunging and aggression. You can also help train your dog by using a calm, non-reactive dog to help teach desensitization techniques.

Training your dog does not have to be a long, arduous process. It can be fairly easy and it will depend on how high the level of discomfort is for your dog. The aforementioned technique has an incredible rate of success, so utilize your patience until you see results. You will also need to remain calm and relaxed yourself. The dog can sense your frustration and aggression and you don't want them to reflect that. With time and consistency you will definitely see improvement in your dog's behavior by using techniques that work.

If you have questions about pet behavior, ask your vet.  

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Topics: pet behaviour

How to say I love you without food

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 @ 07:42 AM

The common way pet owners reward their pets is by providing them with their favorite treats. Food-based rewards are a way owners say “I love you” to their furry friend. It is important to know food is not the only way to reward or show love to your pets. In fact, too much pet food and treats can lead to obesity, which can shorten your pet’s life. Instead, reward and show love through other favorite objects and means you know pleases your loving pet.

Ways to Say I Love You to Your Pet without Food and Treats Praising Your Puppy

Favorite Toy: If the pet has a favorite toy it loves playing with, take it out and play with it. It shows the pet love and provides a reward. It also helps the pet get some good exercise that is always much needed to help keep your pal happy and well behaved. Sometimes a lack of attention can cause a pet to act out in ways it thinks are right to get the attention it desires. 

Going for Walks or Runs: Pets love going for walks and runs. They prevents obesity and says I love you in a healthy way.  If you think your pet would not enjoy a good walk or run just because it is a cat or bunny, you are wrong. Dogs are not the only ones that love going outside for some much needed fresh air and quality time with their pet owner. Cats and bunnies love taking adventurous small walks and runs too. All you need is a good harness and leash and a safe area to do the activities in together. 

Quality Snuggle Time: All pets whether furry, scaly, or feathery love spending quality snuggle time with their owner. Snuggle time allows the pet to receive affection such as snuggles, pets on the head, body rubs to help with relaxation and provides love in a rewarding way that brings comfort instead of obesity. 

Playtime: Taking your pet to its favorite spot too play such as the beach, doggy park, backyard, pond, or wherever it is that makes your pet happy can say I love you in a rewarding way. It also provides bonding time for you and the pet. If your pet is small such as a bunny or guinea pig, maybe these pets enjoy playing in a fenced in area outside for some fresh air. If your pet is a hamster maybe, its favorite way to play is in its hamster ball or wheel. If the pet is feathery, maybe allowing it to sit outside the cage in its favorite area with some of its favorite toys is away you could provide a reward and love without the use of treats. 

Car Rides: Sometimes the best way to provide a reward and say I love you to your loving pet is by taking it for car rides. Many dogs and cats find this to be a real treat. In fact, some fuzzy bunny pets do too. Most of the time, a car ride is desired by a pet as a reward just so it can spend quality time with you. 

I Love You without Food and Treats Provides Health to Your Pet

Remember, treats and special pet foods once in awhile is a healthy reward that can say I love you, but all the time just creates obesity and this is not a proper way to show your pets love. There are other beneficial ways to reward and say I love you to your pet that are healthy for it and for you such as the ones just discussed. 

Further questions, we'd love to chat.

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Topics: Halifax vet, animal hospital, pet behaviour, pet nutrition

Benefits of Grooming your Pet

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 @ 08:05 AM

Grooming your pet does more than make them look good. In fact, it promotes a host of benefits for both of you.

pet grooming

The first benefit of grooming your pet is that it facilitates the growth of new, healthy hair. This not only leads to a shiny coat, but less hair to vacuum off your couch later. Additionally, long-haired pets' hairs have a tendency to knot up, which can lead to irritation, causing itching, scratching, and irritability. Ensure that your pet's nails are clipped short at all times to prevent injury to yourself, others, and your pet.

Grooming gives you the opportunity to check for ticks and fleas. Ticks carry diseases, and fleas cause itching and scratching. It also allows you to check on any growths, such as skin tags or other abnormalities in the skin. If you believe that such abnormalities need addressing, put a call in to your veterinarian and schedule an appointment to be seen right away.

Another benefit to grooming your pet is the opportunity to engage in private time. Humans and pets share deeper intimacy during brushing than during playing fetch. This is great for your pet emotionally and can promote better mood, better appetite, and better health and well-being all around. It is also good for you! Not only does human-pet interaction support better emotional health, it contributes to better physical health by extension. Physical closeness with a pet has been known to improve the quality of life in cancer patients, and has been proven to be instrumental in the treatment of depression.

Grooming will allow your pet to become accustomed to having people handle him - especially pet groomers or your veterinarian, to whom you will likely pay a visit every six months or so, for vaccinations and regular physical examinations. Handling by strangers is often very unsettling for a pet. If your pet views handling as a threat to his well-being, or yours, he may bite.

A well-groomed pet is a happy pet, and a healthy pet.  Not up to doing your own pet grooming?  Our Spryfiled Animal Hospital offers a grooming service.  

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Topics: Halifax vet, animal hospital, dog care, cat care, pet behaviour

Victoria Barks: Dogs in the Park... some photos from the day

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 09:27 AM

bark in the park halifax

On Saturday July 12th our team took part in Victoria Barks:  Dogs in the Park.  Here are just a few pictures from a great day!

halifax vets in the community

halifax vet hospital in the community

nail trims halifax vet

bark in the park halifax 2014

describe the image

Topics: Halifax vet, animal hospital, choosing a vet, pet behaviour

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Mon, May 26, 2014 @ 07:16 AM

choosing where to find your new family member
Amanda Mullins, RVT, BSc (Animal Science)

Choosing where to acquire your new dog or cat can be a daunting task. Keeping in mind body structure, temperament and overall health, there are a lot of “little things” to pay attention to.  When in fact, the above are all the traits that make a wonderful new companion. Whether you are looking for a family pet, breeding dog or cat, dog sport competitor, jogging partner or a snuggle buddy to relax on the sofa; choosing a responsible breeder is of utmost importance. Remember, when you purchase a dog or cat you are ultimately supporting the person whom you acquire the dog or cat from and their practices.

Choosing A Dog Breeder
Most of us looking for a family member will opt to choose a less expensive pet and go the route of the hobby breeder, if we aren't interested in showing or breeding our pet. Hobby breeders should still be putting an emphasis on genetic health testing and body structure. A pet bred with poor body structure, no genetic health testing and a poor temperament will ultimately put a strain on the emotional and financial human-animal bond.

A good source to acquire a new pet will meet the following guidelines:

1. Genetic health testing has been performed and the breeder can show you proof
A dog or cat bred with genetic health problems will put a financial and emotional strain on their new family. Be sure to ask the breeder for proof of the health testing and do some research on common health problems related to that breed.

2. The breeder allows you to visit the dog or cat in their home
Seeing where your pet has been raised is great, it gives you a chance to meet the breeder in person and interact with your new pet before brining them home.

3. The breeder does not keep both breeding males and breeding females together
A breeder who keeps the mom and dad together may not put as much planning into their litters, rather letting nature take its course. A good breeder will research potential mating pairs and only have one (maybe two) litters per year, keeping the health of their female as top priority.

4. Provides references
Be sure to get references of previous dog or cat owners. Make sure to have references of both male and female pets, as behaviors and health problems may be related to one sex or another.

5. The breeder is registered with the associated breed club and shows their pets in both conformation and working sports
A breeder in good standing with the kennel club shows that they put emphasis on showing their dogs. A dog proven to be conformationally sound (appropriate body structure) will be less likely to develop abnormalities and wear and tear on their body, like ruptured cruciate ligaments, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and arthritis or other joint diseases. A breeder who shows their dogs in working sports (obedience, scent detection, agility or fly ball) shows they can be trained and have a working ability, this can also be a reflection of good temperament.

6. The breeder should ask you questions

The breeder should be carefully screening potential homes for their cats and dogs. They should have specific questions to ask you, keeping in mind what is best for the pet. This shows that the breeders priority is not with a financial gain but with placing individuals in long lasting and loving homes.

Some people opt not to purchase from a reputable breeder and go the rescue route instead, this a wonderful alternative and it is always recommended to visit your local shelter and offer them your support. A rescue dog should come from a recognized rescue organization and not purchased from a less than desirable home, remember whenever you pay for a pet you can in turn be supporting more pets in that environment.

For more information on genetic health diseases and how to choose a pet visit the following:

University of Cambridge, Inherited Diseases in Dogs

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, A Common Sense Guide to Selecting a Dog or Cat


Topics: choosing a vet, dog care, pet behaviour