Category Archives: Pet Wellness

Welcome to Autumn

Welcome to Autumn!

Here are some tips for keeping your pet healthy this season.

As the temperature gets cooler mice, rats, and other rodents start looking for a warm place to spend the winter and end up in people’s homes. No one wants to share their home with these critters, but it’s important to keep your pets safe if you decide to use poisons or traps. All rodenticides are harmful to dogs and cats, and can be fatal if eaten. Talk to your veterinarian about the pest control methods that are safe for your pet.

Just because fall is here it doesn’t mean that ticks aren’t hiding close by. In fact, many species of ticks, including the one that carries Lyme disease, are active when temperatures hover around 4C and up – even in the dead of winter! Be tick-savy: clean up leaf and garden litter – two of their favourite places to over-winter; frequently check your pet for ticks; continue using tick control and repellent products especially if you enjoy activities such as hiking and camping. Check out this link for more info (and check out the Ticknado!)

Annex autum pic 1This time of year fungi are sprouting up everywhere! While some are safe others are highly toxic and lethal. Contact your veterinarian right away if your pet eats wild mushrooms.

Anti-freeze is a killer. One to two teaspoons of it can kill a 5kg dog – much less can be lethal to cats. Take care when topping up your car’s fluids and wipe up spills immediately. If you suspect your pet has ingested any, call your vet immediately or go straight to an emergency clinic.

Remember to keep human treats away from pets. Some foods that are fine for us are downright toxic to pets – grapes, onions, chocolate – others will just cause g.i. troubles such as vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. Cooked bones can splinter and get caught in your pet’s throat or even perforate their stomach or intestines! No one wants an emergency trip to the vet during Thanksgiving or Christmas, so keep garbage out of your pet’s reach and don’t be tempted to let Fluffy enjoy some of that delicious dinner.

Common Parasites

It’s Finally Here!

It’s so great to get out into the warmth and sunshine, and our pets love it too, but as every pet owner knows, this is also the time of year that parasite problems gear up. In Toronto the most common parasites that we see are fleas, ticks, roundworms, tapeworms, and giardia.

Pulex irritans isolated on a white background.

Pulex irritans isolated on a white background.

Fleas are extremely common and almost every pet owner has encountered them at some point. Their bites not only cause itching but some pets get a severe skin reaction called flea allergy dermatitis or FAD for short. Fleas can also carry the infectious phase of tapeworm and, in fact, these two parasites are so closely associated with each other, that when we treat a pet for fleas, we also treat them for tapeworm.

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Ticks are becoming increasingly common even in downtown Toronto and every year we see dogs who have never left the downtown core with live ticks on them. Ticks, like fleas, also survive on blood, but they’re different in many ways. First, they bury their heads in the pet’s skin and feed for days while fleas stay on a pet and take frequent meals. Second, ticks’ bodies expand as they feed so while they start as a brownish, flea-sized insect they grow to be almost dime-sized while fleas never get bigger than a few millimetres. Third, ticks carry different health risks than fleas including Lyme disease and several other blood-borne diseases. Ticks are also active earlier in the spring than fleas – as soon as the temperature is 4 degrees or higher

Four life stages of a black-legged tick

Female black-legged ticks at various phases of feeding

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Giardia is a protozoa that is most commonly picked up by pets when they drink infected water or eat feces from an infected animal. This is a nasty parasite that can be difficult to get rid of and which causes flatulence, watery diarrhea, and lethargy. The symptoms may come and go as the parasite goes through it’s life cycle.

Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms can all be passed on to your pet through the environment (ringworm isn’t actually a worm; it’s a fungus), and of the three, roundworm is the most common in Toronto; we regularly see pets, mainly dogs, for roundworm infections.

Heart worms are in a league of their own. The adult worms lodge in the blood vessels around the heart and in the heart itself causing inflammation and blockages. If left untreated they cause permanent damage and death. Unlike other types of worms, heart worms are not transmitted through feces, but by infected mosquitoes so even indoor pets are at risk. Luckily, the risk in Ontario is much lower than in the south-eastern U.S., and up the Mississippi river, but thanks to climate change, heart worm infected mosquitoes are here, and have been for decades, and every year dogs are diagnosed with heart worm disease right here in Ontario. The procedure to kill adult heart worms is expensive and dangerous so as we do for all parasites, we recommend using safe medications to prevent infection in the first place. Check out this video for a great overview of heart worms.

Today’s preventives are generations better than what used to be available. Gone are the days of stressful flea baths and messy flea powders; prevention can be as easy as putting drops on your pet’s skin or giving a delicious chew. Veterinarians will tailor parasite prevention programs to each pet’s needs and an important part of every program are blood and stool tests to see what parasites, if any, your pet already has.

Digestive Upsets & Bite Wounds

It’s warming up!

The sun is getting warmer, the snow is melting, and birds are beginning to return to the great white north; it’s spring – finally!

This time of year we see some common themes in our appointments with two of the most common ones being digestive upsets and bite wounds.

Now that the snow has melted, all those strange and wonderful things that were covered are being exposed and it takes one second for you dog to gobble one of them up while you’re taking her for a walk. That one second can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, a week of giving medication, and a special tummy-friendly diet. It could even mean surgery to remove something blocking your dog’s intestinal tract. Not a nice beginning to the warm weather.

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For dogs that keep their heads down and their mouths open, we usually recommend using a basket “muzzle” when you go for walks (you can purchase one at our webstore – link above), that way, she can breathe normally but can’t eat anything. If your dog does get into something, give us a call and we will be happy to make some recommendations specific to your situation. It may include coming in right away so we can help your dog get whatever she ate right back up, or simply monitoring at home while providing a bland diet such as boiled rice and chicken.


Some wild animals are becoming more active now which means your pet may have more encounters with raccoons, skunks, opossums, bats, and others. Number one consideration? Make sure your pet is current with vaccinations. Many mammals carry viruses that can be passed on your pets (and some can be passed on to you!), including distemper, leptospirosis, and of course, rabies. If you aren’t sure if your pet is up-to-date, check with your veterinarian.

Because of the bacteria in animals’ mouths, bite wounds are almost guaranteed to become infected, so clean up all wounds immediately just as you would do for yourself and give your veterinarian a call. If the wound is large or if you’re unable to adequately clean it up, book an appointment to have your clinic take care of it for you. Because cats’ teeth are so narrow, the wounds they cause close up, trapping in bacteria. If your pet is ever bitten by a cat we strongly recommend bringing them in for care and some preventive antibiotics. Don’t wait until the wound becomes infected.

If your cat goes outside we strongly recommend having him microchipped. We get many well-intentioned people calling about or coming in with cats that have shown up in their back yards, believing them to be lost or strays. Without a permanent way to identify these cats, it is impossible to know who the owner is and these little ones frequently become someone else’s pet or are taken to a shelter and put up for adoption. Microchipping is a quick, permanent way to link your cat to you. It can be done during a routine visit and if your pet is current on her health evaluation, you won’t even need to see a vet as one of our great technicians can place it.

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We also recommend putting a bell on your cat’s collar to alert birds that he’s around. Did you know that cats take a huge toll on birds? Scientists estimate that Canada’s 5-10 million house cats kill 100-350 million birds a year. It is mainly the wild roaming cats that do the damage (another excellent reason to spay or neuter your cat so it doesn’t add to the feral population), but pet cats contribute to this carnage as well. Better still, keep your pet indoors if possible. There are several great websites, such as the Indoor Pet Initiative , that can help with making an indoor environment a rich, and satisfying one for your cat.