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Heartworm Season - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Sunday, 01 April 2012 21:55

With warmer weather comes...those pesky mosquitoes.  And in the veterinary world, that signals the start of "heartworm" season.  Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites. A rising number of cases indicates a very strong need for preventative treatment.  Regular testing and using choosing the right preventative can help lower this number.  Last year, approximately 85% of the animals found with Heartworms, had not been on a preventative medication.

Heartworm lifecycle:

It begins when a Mosquito ingests microfilaria (heartworm larvae) while sucking blood from an infected dog.  After 2-3 weeks, the microfilaria develops into infective larvae within the mosquito. 

As it feeds, the infective larvae escapes from its mouthparts into a drop of hemolymph (insect’s bodily fluids), later entering the wound.  Larvae develop within tissues & begin migrating to the heart.

Approximately four months later, young adult worms are present in the heart and pulmonary arteries.  And by six months, the adult female can shed microfilariae in the blood stream, continuing on the life cycle of the heartworm.

Symptoms of heartworm:

The most obvious signs are a soft dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness, and loss of stamina.  All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise, when some dogs may even faint.

Testing for Heartworm:

Yearly testing for heartworm is recommended by most vets.  This is the best course of action, even if your dog is on a preventative during heartworm season. The reason?  Dogs aren’t always the easiest to medicate, as more don’t like swallowing pills and would in fact spit it out rather than chew it.  It's also helpful should we (ie. dog owners with busy lives) accidentally forget about the monthly treatments.

The heartworm test is performed on a small blood sample, using less than 1 ml. It detects antigens (proteins) produced by the adult heartworm.  It will be positive even if the dog does not have any microfilariae in the blood.  A positive heartworm test will also be viewed under a microscope for microfilariae. To confirm heartworm is present, an x-ray and echocardiogram will give your veterinarian visual confirmation.


Treatment for heartworm disease is available - but costly, and can be dangerous to your pet.  If heartworms are present in the heart, medication is given to kill the heartworm and the dead heartworms can decompose and get lodged in small blood vessels causing further problems.  Hospitalization and intravenous fluids are recommended with treatment, and it may take up to a month or two.

Preventative care can eliminate the need for much more expensive and uncomfortable procedures. Since there are so many out there, ask your vet which one is best for your lifestyle.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Will I need flea prevention as well as heartworm prevention?
  • Would I prefer a topical or oral treatment?
  • Am I planning on going out in fields or wooded areas, where ticks may be present?
  • Did I like the medication from previous years?

Your veterinary team will help guide you towards the right medications, and answer any questions to ensure you both benefit, and enjoy a carefree summer together!  Let’s all do our part to prevent the further spread of heartworm disease. cool  Lexy


Last Updated on Sunday, 01 April 2012 22:30
PET EAR CARE - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Thursday, 01 March 2012 08:14

Regular home ear care is very important to your animal’s health.  Performed in between regular health checks will help keep your animal's ears healthy and pain-free.

Normal ears are clean, odour-free, and pale pink in colour with a minimal accumulation of wax.

Signs of Ear Disease  An unpleasant odour, excessive scratching and pawing of the ear and head, sensitivity to touch, often resulting in pain.  Constant tilting/shaking of head to one side, black or yellow discharge, redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal.  Changes in behavior like listlessness, depression, or irritability; accumulation of dark brown wax, loss of balance or hearing & disorientation; bleeding or discharge resembling coffee grinds.

Who is affected by it?  All dogs are prone to ear infections due to the warm, damp, and dark environment with little to no air circulating in their ear canals.  Their ears are often the perfect breeding ground for ear mites, yeast, or bacteria in those conditions. In some breeds regular ear cleaning is very important to prevent this from happening.

Some dogs ears stand straight up which allows for more air to flow into the ear canal.  Dogs with floppy ears, like spaniels, hounds & retrievers are more prone to ear infections, because they have very little air flow into the ear canal.

Causes of Ear Disease:

Otitis externa-infection of the external ear canal and Otitis Media (the infection of the middle ear) are usually caused by bacteria or yeast. Other possibilities include accumulation of wax, matted hair, debris, or a foreign object (something not normally located in that area) lodged in the canal.

When seeking treatment, act quickly.  If your dog has an ear infection, they will be in considerable discomfort.  Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections while antifungals are used for yeast.  Ear infections can also be indicative of other problems such as allergies, hormonal imbalances, or heredity.  Your vet will determine this during your visit, and suggest the best course of action.

Ear mites are common parasites that are highly contagious - often contracted from pet to pet. Excessive itching is the most common sign.  Ear mites create dark, crumbly debris that look like coffee grinds.

Hematoma of the ear flap means blood has accumulated in the ear flap (pinna). Vigorous head shaking, scratching or trauma to the ear area results in damage to the blood vessels often set off by infection, mites, fleas or debris.  It's very painful for your animals and usually involves lancing the affected ear to relieve the pressure from the accumulated blood.

Deafness - usually brought on by age, trauma, loud noise or infection, can also be hereditary or congenital.  Unfortunately, once diagnosed with clinical deafness, it is a lifelong condition.

What can you do?

Regular inspection of your pet’s ear will allow you to pick up on problems earlier and treat them sooner, so that your animal is not in discomfort. Regular cleaning is also important to remove any excess of wax or debris.  Also drying your pet’s ears out, will prevent excessive moisture.

How do I clean my pet’s ears?

When doing so, it's important to have all of the tools set up before you start.  You'll need 'Ear Cleaner' (most are alcohol-based formulas) so if there are cuts or open sores in the ears, I would recommend an oil based cleaner as it is gentler on the animal.  Gauze or cotton pads can be used to clean out the dirt.  Never use q-tips as they can push debris back down into the ear canal, cause more damage and in some cases, you can even lose the cotton tip in the ear canal.

It is important to know your animal’s ear canal is L-shaped.  It descends vertically and it makes a 90-degree horizontal turn before it reaches the eardrum. Even though dog eardrums are better protected than humans, you should still proceed with caution when cleaning the ear canal.

Start the process by lifting the outer ear (pinna) and applying the solution to fill up the ear canal.  Gently massage the outer ear at the base of the canal making a swishing noise. This allows for any dirt to be removed by the ear cleaner - and rise to the top of the canal.  Allow your pet to shake its' head so dirt rises to the top, for easy removal.  Next: wipe the excess cleaner and dirt from the outer ear, away from the canal otherwise you're just pushing debris back dowin inside.

Ear cleaning is recommended roughly once a month for most dogs.  Cats generally don’t need much help in that area, as they keep themselves well groomed.  You can increase the frequency of ear cleaning depending on your breed of dog and their outdoor activities.

Lastly, checking your dog’s ears only takes a few minutes - so make it part of your dog grooming routine.  And when your dog’s ears do need cleaning, don’t put it off.  Remember regular cleanings can prevent many common problems.  But if you think a problem may be developing, take them to the vet immediately.  An infection, if left untreated, can be very painful for them, and could even damage your dog’s hearing.  But as luck would have it, your veterinary team is always there to help you. wink Lexy

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 March 2012 08:32
Nail Care/Proper Pedicures - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 16:04

One of Winter's most common problems, is broken nails.  The reason we see it so often?  Because most dogs enjoying the weather, break them on pieces of ice. Best thing to do?  Keep their nails trimmed on a regular basis.

As a rule, their nails should be trimmed when they touch the ground (as soon as you hear that ‘clicking’ noise on tile ceramic or hardwood floors).  Depending on how often they walk on sidewalks or dig holes, they may not need to be trimmed at all.  It's always a good idea to check them every 2-4 weeks to see if they need to be trimmed.  And, pay close attention to the dewclaw if your dog has them (that's the thumb-like nail on the inside part of your dog’s paw.)

What to use?

There are two different types of dog nail trimmers: the scissor type and the guillotine type.  They both work equally well, so you can use whichever you find most comfortable.  You'll want to make sure you buy the correct size for your dog.  ie. don’t use tiny trimmers on a Great Dane.

If they find the trimmers intolerable, you may want to try something different - like a grinding tool to file down the nail.  The disadvantage to these tools?  They make noise and some dogs don’t enjoy the vibrations or sensation at all - so it will take longer to file them.  On the other hand it offers more control with less pain.

How to start

Start by playing and massaging your dog’s feet right from a young age - offering treats and praise when behaving nicely.  This whole exercise needs to be very positive.  If your dog is a little touchier, it may take up to a couple of weeks for them to be comfortable with the exercise.  If it's your first time, just clip one or two nails a day, following up with a treat/praise and/or their favorite game.  You could distract your puppy with a really crunchy treat, and trim the nails while they're busy with it. Remember, it's OK to use lots of praise and treats to continue to make this a positive experience.

Preparation for pedicure

Before beginning your pup’s pedicure, tire your dog out with a long walk or vigorous exercise, and enlist some help to hold her.  Once your dog is relaxed, grab your gear: cutting device, treats, and styptic powder (which I'll explain in a moment).  You are now ready to begin.

Now, to trim

You'll want to take your dog’s paw in your hand, holding it firmly, but gently.  Showering your dog with calm praises & treats, take your trimmers so that you are cutting from top to bottom, not side to side.  Insert a very small length of nail through the trimmer’s opening.  Avoid nicking the quick (the pink fleshy part of the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels) just taking the pointed tips off.  With black nails, it’s harder to see where the quick is, so if you have a flashlight or penlight available, shine it through the nail to make it easier to pick out the quick.  You'll want to cut a little bit of nail with each pass until you can see the beginning of a circle - still nail-coloured - appear on the cut surface.  The circle indicates that you are nearing the quick, so it’s time to stop that nail and move on to the next.

In case of an accident

If you do manage to hit the quick, your dog will probably yelp and may even struggle.  It's a good time to end the session.  You'll want to apply styptic powder to the bleeding nail tip.  Apply a little pressure as you press on the powder into the wound to make sure it sticks.  The powder will help clot the wound. If bleeding continues for more than a few minutes, please alert your veterinarian team, who can then check for clotting disorders.

Difficult dogs

Some dogs show fearful or aggressive behavior when faced with nail trimming.  Watch carefully for signs of distress such as panting, drooling, trembling, whining, freezing, cowering, tail-tucking, growling, snarling or snapping.  Even with the most patient and gradual of introductions, some dogs will not be able to get over their terror.  If your dog falls into this category, do not force them to submit.  See if your veterinarian or professional groomer has better luck at getting the job done.  And as always, if you need any further guidance, your veterinary team is always there to help you. wink Lexy

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 21:38
Holiday Health Hazards for Pets - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 21:12

The Holidays are upon us!  For most it means: visits with family & friends, enjoying delicious meals, and all the wonderful Christmas decorations.  It also means: a dramatic increase in unwanted & untimely Vet Visits! 

The most common reason Pet Traumas & toxicities occur?  Ingested FOODS, PLANTS & ORNAMENTS!  With that in mind, here are some things every Pet Owner should know, to ensure everyone enjoys the Season:

Let's start with "FOODS"

ALCOHOL can be found in things other than the obvious beverages - such as baker’s yeast and antifreeze. Canines and Cats are attracted to the smell & taste. Cats are more sensitive to its' toxic qualities, and if not treated by your vet clinic, Alcohol Poisoning can result in death.  The faster the treatment, the better the outcome.

CHOCOLATE contains theobromine and caffeine - both of which are toxic to pets.  The amount of this chemical in chocolate, depends on: the total concentration of cocoa, how much is eaten, and the size of the animal.  In mild cases, chocolate toxicity symptoms include: restlessness & hyperactivity. While vomiting, diarrhea and seizures may also occur. 

If you suspect or KNOW your pet has ingested Alcohol or Chocolate, it's imperative you contact your veterinary team immediately.

ONIONS, GARLIC & CHIVES: In fresh or powdered form, ALL 3 are toxic to dogs & cats.  The toxin attacks the red blood cells, may lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and pale or blue mucous membranes.

COOKED POULTRY BONES become brittle, and if eaten will splinter, possibly getting lodged in your pet's throat or puncture the intestinal tract.

FATTY FOODS are NEVER a good thing to feed them.  This could cause an upset stomach & may lead to pancreatitis.  If left untreated, may cause death.

Remember what may be healthy to you, may not be healthy for your pets.  Feeding your dog(s)/cat(s) their own food will keep them healthy & happy right through the New Year!


The traditional Pointsettia - although not believed to be as dangerous - can cause upset stomachs and mouth irritation.

Mistletoe on the other hand is VERY TOXIC to your pets, and will attack the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal area.

Holly, another holiday favourite is also toxic - and causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.

It’s always a good idea to keep these types of plants, out of your pet's reach.  And as always, consult your veterinarian, if you think any of these otherwise festive plants, have been ingested.



Animals love to 'taste' their environment.  This can pose a problem when your pets enjoy things, their bodies cannot digest.  Broken ornaments & hooks, tinsel and electrical cords are very common things they may be interested in. Keeping these temptations out-of-reach or monitoring them around all the trimmings, will help alleviate this issue.

Christmas Trees have additional hazards especially when your pets decide it would be fun to climb.  Using fishing line or string to tie off the tree is recommended to prevent further mess for you, and provides a safer environment for your pet.  'Real' Christmas trees sometimes come with instructions to add fertilizer to the water.  Fertilizer can be toxic, so remember to cover it at all times - so your pets don’t have access to it.

Candles and Fireplaces are often used over the Holidays.  Cats love the flickering lights!  So much so, they risk burning themselves or knocking over candles - which could start a fire house fire.  Do not leave candles unattended, especially where pets & children are concerned. 

Scented candles can also irritate the respiratory systems of cats, dogs and birds.

The Holidays are a great time to celebrate with family & friends.  Older or nervous pets sometimes find this month stressful.  A 'quiet area' they can retreat to, is always appreciated and makes things much more enjoyable for them. During this busy time, it would be best to keep your pets’ routines as normal as possible.  Exercise, a normal diet and attention are most important to keep your animals as comfortable as possible, and stress-free!

Your veterinary team is always just a phone call away, should you have any questions.  Have a MEOWY CHRISTMAS & a WOOFerful New Year! wink  Lexy


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:18
Caring for Senior Dogs - by Lexy Marcellus, Registered Vet Technician (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Saturday, 05 November 2011 07:51

Beginning at the age of 7 (5 years for giant breeds) your pet enters the Senior years - often developing diseases similar to their human counterparts. These conditions can sometimes go unnoticed in the early stages. It's important to note some of the changes associated with aging may not seem significant, but even minor ones such as behaviour issues, may be indicative of underlying medical problems.

What to look for:

Some signs may escape your observation or require sophisticated testing in order to be detected.  Other are more apparent in the pet’s normal environment.  To help your pet avoid disease, it’s good to understand the signs associated with common conditions in older pets.

Signs of kidney disease: Loss of appetite, changes in thirst and urination (increased/decreased), poor hair coat, vomiting, sore mouth, diarrhea.

Heart disease: Coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, reduced exercise tolerance, weightloss or gain

Dental Health Deterioration: bad breath, redness in gums, swollen gums, mass (lump)

Joint problems: lameness, reluctance to walk or exercise, decreased appetite, discomfort and/or pain

Signs of age-related behavioural disorder: Fails to recognize familiar people or places, wanders or paces, no longer greets family members, sleeps more during the day or less at night, doesn’t 'ask' to go outside/frequent accidents. 

Here are some of our most-frequently asked questions:

If I notice these signs what should I do?

Regardless of age, every animal should visit their veterinarian once a year for vaccines and yearly health checks.  Keep a list of any problems you may've noticed. From there, your veterinarian will begin with a complete veterinary exam, look at your pet’s past illnesses & tests.  Your veterinary team may offer diagnostics to rule-out organ diseases and hormonal imbalances.  That could include blood work, urinalysis, radiographs, ultrasound, spinal tests, brain scans, or perhaps a referral to a specialist.

My pet is quite old. Is there a point in doing these tests? What can be done?

Unfortunately many pet owners do not even discuss behaviour changes; as they may feel these are a normal part of aging and assume nothing can be done.  This is far from truth. Many problems have an underlying medical cause that can be treated or controlled with medication, diet or perhaps surgery.


Keeping vaccines current prevents unwanted diseases from appearing.  Your vet will determine a proper vaccine schedule for your senior’s lifestyle. Most will receive most vaccines every 2-3 years.  Brushing your pet frequently to prevent matting. This can contribute to skin infections and may hide skin tumors.  Clip toenails as needed to prevent overgrowth.  Long toenails may result in pain or accelerated and intensify arthritic changes.

Keep plenty of fresh water available and monitor consumption. Increases in water consumption or urination are often associated with different diseases. Keep other pets from preventing your senior pet access to food and water.

As Fall turns into Winter, cooler temperatures affect our beloved seniors more in joints and regulating their own body temperature. It's important to keep them inside most of the time to prevent this.  Regular weigh-ins, roughly every 2 months, will help monitor any weight gain or loss. Changes in weight can also be indicator of problems.

The best way to keep pets Young-at-Heart?

Preventative medicine!  When it comes to our animals, there's no such thing as a silly question!  You can ask your Veterinary team anything.  And THAT'S great peace-of-mind, for both you and your pets.wink  Lexy

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 November 2011 08:19
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