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Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bactera Leptospira. This bacteria is carried by and shed in the urine of many wildlife hosts including skunks, foxes, rats and racoons. In these hosts the bacteria resides within the kidney and causes no clinical signs. Cohabitation with these wild animals is increasing due to suburban growth encroaching on their natural habitat. Thus, it is possible for all dogs, urban and rural alike, to cross paths with Leptospira. Dogs are exposed to the bacteria when they come in contact with water or organic material soiled with urine from an infected animal.

Once inside the dog the bacteria replicates and travels throughout the body in the blood. This allows rapid access to all of the organ systems including the liver, spleen, kidneys, eyes and central nervous system. The wide spread of the bacteria results in the varied clinical signs of leptospirosis. These include, but are not limited to: fever, anorexia, soreness, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness and hemorrhages of the mucous membranes.

Basic biochemistry and complete blood count performed when a dog first presents often shows evidence of kidney failure, liver damage, and whole body inflammation. A urinalysis also shows changes associated with kidney damage. The test of choice for definitive diagnosis is called a microscopic agglutination test (MAT). This test is performed by a referral laboratory and is reported as a titre. The titre indicates the magnitude of infection with the bacteria if it is present. Unfortunately, this test can be negative during the first 7-10 days of the disease. Alternative tests include PCR and culture.

All methods of diagnosis do not yield immediate answers and thus treatment is initiated prior to obtaining a diagnosis. The sooner treatment can be initiated the more likely it is that existing tissue damage can be reversed. Hospitalization is required and treatment is comprised of supportive care, targeting clinical signs, and antibiotics. Leptospirosis responds well to appropriate and prompt antibiotic therapy. Prognosis is generally good with survival rates reported as 80-90%. However, dogs may develop chronic kidney failure or chronic active hepatitis.

Measures to prevent leptospirosis infection include: control of rodent population, decrease stagnant water, isolation of infected animals, vaccination. The current vaccination available in North American protects against 4 serovars (variant) of Leptospirosis. Unfortunately, infection with Leptospira can occur in vaccinated dogs if they contact a serovar not present in the vaccine.

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans from the urine of infected dogs and wildlife. It is therefore important that humans should wear gloves and wash their hands after being in contact with the urine of an infected dog. Clinical signs in humans include: fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash. More information can be found online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Permethrin Toxicity in Cats

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Permethrin is an insecticide used in many flea control products formulated for dogs. It is highly toxic to cats and contact of a cat with a permethrin containing product is an emergency. Cats are most commonly exposed to this chemical when topical products for dogs are applied to cats or when cats rub against dogs treated with these products. Clinical signs of permethrin toxicity in cats include muscle tremors, twitching, seizures, salivation, incoordination, fever and dilated pupils. Between 10% and 40% of known permethrin poisoning cases are fatal, therefore cats with suspected poisoning should be taken immediately to the veterinarian. Brands that contain permethrin and can be found in pet stores and grocery stores include: Hartz, Sergeant’s and Zodiac. It is important to check all products labels for indications that the product is for dogs only or not for cats and to check the ingredients label for permethrin. Most importantly, these products should not be used in any household with cats.

Prevalence of Tick Borne Diseases

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The 4DX test, commonly known as a heartworm test, tests for 3 tick borne diseases, Ehrlichia, Lyme, and Anaplasmosis, in addition to heartworm. These maps represent the prevalence of these 4 diseases in Southwestern Ontario. The prevalence is determined through veterinary reporting and is likely higher than we know. You can check the prevalence in other areas of North America by using the “Diseases in Your Area” interactive map provided by

Anaplasma copy


Lyme copy


Heartworm copy


Ehrlichia copy


What are Pyodermas

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Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin and is usually caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus pseudintermedius. The bacterium is normally present in most dogs but typically doesn’t cause disease in healthy skin. When the immune system and normal barrier function are compromised due to an underlying condition, the skin becomes susceptible to infection. Common underlying causes of pyoderma include allergic diseases (food allergy, atopy, flea allergy), parasites (mange), and hormonal imbalances.

It is important to diagnose and begin treatment of the underlying problem in order to help prevent recurrence. Treatment of the pyoderma may involve oral antibiotics and/or antibacterial ointments, shampoos, sprays, or mousses.


Do not stop your pet’s antibiotics before they are finished without consulting your pet’s

veterinarian—no matter how good the skin looks—because this may lead to antibacterial


Topical treatment, such as a strict bathing regimen or application of leave-in products such

as spray or mousse, is essential to resolving current infections and preventing future ones,

especially in cases of antibiotic resistance.

A recheck examination (usually after 3–4 weeks of treatment) is necessary to evaluate

your pet’s skin.

The diagnosis and management of the primary problem is the key to preventing

recurrences of a skin infection.

BATHING TIPS: Remember that bathing is a therapeutic tool, not just a grooming tool.

Saturate the pet’s coat and skin with water. Begin in affected areas, then move to

remainder of body.

Apply the shampoo to the palms and then spread onto the pet.

Do not apply the shampoo directly to the pet in a stripe down the back.

Work the shampoo into the coat and ensure it contacts the skin.

Do not scrub against the growth pattern of the coat; this can worsen infection.

Allow 10 minutes of contact time with the skin (not just the coat).

Pets can be fed or taken on walks during this time.

Rinse extremely well with tepid water. Begin with unaffected areas,

then move to areas with lesions.

Towel from head to tail, top to bottom with gentle pressure or with a hair dryer

on a cool setting.

It is very important to keep your pet’s recheck appointment. The oral medications and topical treatments may need to be modified based on your pet’s progress.

Topical treatment, such as a strict bathing regimen or application of leave-in products such as spray or mousse, is essential
to resolving current infections and preventing future ones, especially in cases of antibiotic resistance.

Dental Procedures

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A dental, also sometimes called a “prophy” or prophylaxis, is a cleaning and polishing of a dog’s teeth. It is important to realize that dental disease does not reach a particular level and remain there. Dental disease continuously progresses. As dental disease progresses, the treatment becomes more involved, meaning longer and more elaborate (and more costly) dental procedures. This means that sooner is better than later when it comes to addressing your pet’s dental disease with an appropriate treatment.

What Are the Indications for Performing a Dental Procedure?

A dental cleaning should be performed on your pet when gingivitis (red area along the gum lines) is seen or bleeding during brushing is noted. Many pets get their teeth cleaned once a year. A yearly cleaning is not necessarily appropriate for all pets. Diet, chewing behavior and preventative care (daily tooth brushing) are among the important factors affecting the potential of your pet getting dental disease and how fast dental disease can progress.

Larger breed dogs, who often eat only dry food and do a fair amount of recreational chewing, are not as prone to periodontal disease as are smaller dogs. Small dogs have more crowding of their teeth, are less likely to be eating only dry food and do less recreational chewing, all of which lead to increased risk of periodontal disease. Any damage of either the tooth or gums along the gum line will increase the likelihood of periodontal disease.

What Preoperative Examinations or Tests Are Needed?

A proper dental procedure for your pet requires him to be placed under general anesthesia. Prior to such a procedure, your veterinarian should perform a complete physical examination. Some basic blood tests, including evaluation of liver and kidney function and red and white blood cell counts, may also be done before an anesthetic procedure. If there is any concern of kidney disease, a urinalysis should also be part of the work-up. Concerns about heart function, such as the presence of a heart murmur, may need to be addressed.

What Type of Anesthesia is Needed?

Your pet needs to be under general anesthesia for a dental procedure for several reasons. A complete examination and cleaning of all teeth cannot be performed efficiently and safely (for both your pet and the veterinarian) if your pet is awake. Dental radiographs (x-rays) may be helpful for appropriate evaluation of dental disease and are impossible to perform on an a pet that is awake. Any tooth extractions that may be necessary most definitely require an anesthetized patient. Even the most routine dental cleaning is a fairly wet procedure and our pets are not very good at the “rinse and spit” aspect of dentistry.

How Is the Dental Procedure Operation Done?

After your pet has been placed under general anesthesia, your veterinarian will examine all of the teeth and gums. If any periodontal pockets (loss of bone around the tooth, below the gum line) are found, dental radiographs may be done to assess the extent of damage. Appropriate treatment of diseased teeth is done. Using an ultrasonic instrument, your veterinarian will remove the tartar on the teeth by scraping the tartar with a vibrating probe. This allows minimal damage to the tooth enamel. After all the tartar and plaque has been removed, the teeth are polished with a special tooth polish.

How Long Does the Dental Procedure Take?

The length of a dental procedure can vary greatly. A straightforward cleaning may take 20-40 minutes. Any dental disease that requires more treatment than just a cleaning or any necessary tooth extractions will, of course require more time.

What Are the Risks and Complications?

The risks of a dental procedure are usually minimal. Anesthesia is never completely without risk, but advances in anesthesia protocols and monitoring can greatly reduce risks. Appropriate evaluation of your pet prior to the procedure and addressing any medical problems can also go a long way towards reducing risks of anesthesia. Other risks include excessive bleeding following tooth extractions, fracture of the tooth root or the surrounding bone, or damage to neighboring healthy teeth. The potential for these risks is remote.

What Is the Typical Postoperative Care?

Care for your pet after a dental procedure depends on the extensiveness of the procedure. Special care is usually not required after a simple cleaning. If tooth extractions or advanced periodontal treatment was performed, feeding softer food, administering antibiotics and using an oral rinse may be recommended while healing occurs.

How Long Is the Hospital Stay?

Most dental procedures are complete within one hour and your dog may only spend one day in the hospital. Any concern of recovery from the anesthesia may warrant an overnight stay in the hospital for observation.

October is National Pet Wellness Month

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IMG_1470October is National Pet Wellness Month. More than likely you visit the doctor and/or dentist at least once a year. Are you doing the same for your pet? Because cats and dogs age quicker than us, taking them to the veterinary hospital once a year is like you going once in five to seven years! October is National Pet Wellness Month (NPWM); celebrate by committing to your furry friends’ health with annual wellness exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends annual wellness exams at a minimum, and as your pet gets older, AAHA suggests that the frequency of visits should be determined on an individual basis, taking into account the pet’s age, species, breed and environment. Talk to your veterinarian about what is right for you and your pet. So, why take your pet in for a checkup at least once a year; “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” right? Wrong. It’s all about prevention! Why do you take your car in every 3,000 miles for an oil change, get a physical exam each year at your own doctor’s office or visit the dentist to have your teeth cleaned every six months? You do it to check on your overall health, catch issues before they become problems and prevent future catastrophes. Your pet shouldn’t be any different. When you go in with your pet for a wellness visit, your veterinarian will request a complete history of your pet’s health. Don’t forget to mention any unusual behavior that you have noticed in your pet, including: Coughing, diarrhea, eating more or less than usual, excessive drinking of water, panting, scratching or urination, vomiting, weight gain or weight loss. Your veterinarian will also want to know about your pet’s daily behavior, including his diet, how much water he drinks and his exercise routine. Your veterinarian may ask: Does your pet have trouble getting up in the morning? Does your pet show signs of weakness or unbalance? Does your pet show an unwillingness to exercise? Depending on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and age and other factors, your veterinarian may also ask about your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites. He or she will develop an individualized treatment and/or preventive plan to address these issues. During a wellness exam, your pet will get a complete “tune-up,” just like you would take your car or bike in for, examined from head to toe. When was the last time you took the four-legged friends in for a checkup? Celebrate NPWM and schedule an exam today!

Top 10 Green Pet Tips for Earth Day

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  • Help your pet tread more lightly on Mother Earth with a few easy changes!

    Scooping poop!  Use biodegradable bags to collect your dog’s waste.  Ordinary plastic bags can take decades to decompose in landfills.  If your bag meets biodegradability standards (ASTM D6400) they will decompose in just months.   Avoid clumping clay litter for cats.  Not only is the clay strip-mined (which is bad for our planet), there are usually several chemicals added to this type of litter which can be harmful for the cat and the environment.  There are several environmentally friendly alternatives such as litter made of plant sources or recycled newspaper. 

  • Consider composting pet waste.  This is only an option for the very environmentally responsible family.  Animal waste contains nasty bacteria (and other pathogens) that can contaminate soil and anything you may grow there.  If you choose to compost, choose a commercially available product or bury an old garbage bin (far away from any food-growing area) to use as a pet waste composter.     
  • Feed a natural or organic pet food for optimal health and well-being.  These foods provide nutrients which are minimally processed and preserved with natural substances.  They do not contain artificial colors or other harmful additives.  Organic pet foods also avoid the use of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically engineered ingredients. 
  • Buy local.  Purchasing fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market not only helps support your local economy but you will also cut down on the amount of fossil fuel required to ship your pet’s food.   Besides, your pet will love this tasty addition of green to his life. 
  • Protect wildlife.  Keep dogs on leash and cats indoors to help protect the native wildlife.  TheState of the Birds survey describes cats as “important indicators of our nation’s environmental health” and lists cat predation as a serious threat to bird populations. 
  • Limit the amount of “fish food” you give your pet.  Pets represent a threat to fish stocks worldwide.  The pet food industry uses approximately 10% of the global supply of forage fish according to a New York Times Op-ed piece.  Too much of certain fish may also pose an increased risk of mercury exposure for your pet.  Consider alternating between fish and other meat sources to keep your pet happy.
  • Try recycled toys.  There are now many toys and bedding made from recycled materials or sustainable fibers to help lessen your pet’s carbon pawprint!  You can even try making toys out of old socks and rope and beds out of old blankets and towels.  This helps avoid taxing the environment and can help protect your dog from dangerous chemicals in plastic chew toys and bedding.   Also try recycled ID tags on for size!
  • Water conservation.  Instead of leaving the spigot running during bath time, try a handheld attachment that turns on and off to decrease the amount of water used during bath time.  Use warm (not hot) water to save energy.  Select shampoos and grooming products that are phosphate-free and free from chemicals so the dirty bath water is as environmentally friendly as possible.
  • Don’t turn up the heat…use a sweater.  To save energy during the winter months, use pet clothing to keep your pet toasty instead of turning up the thermostat.  Stay cool.  Instead of turning the air-conditioner on full blast in the hot summer months, consider chilled pet bed inserts to keep your pet comfortable.  Ice cubes are a nice cooling “treat” for dogs.
  • Neuter your pet.  Pet overpopulation is a real problem—shelters are over-run and homeless pets are everywhere taxing environmental resources.  Only one in four dogs finds a permanent loving home.  When it comes time for your next pet, support adoption as part of a green lifestyle. 

Lovely Lilies and Curious Cats: Dangerous Combination

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Cats are curious creatures by nature. They love to play, jump, and roam around the house, but sometimes their inquisitive personalities get the best of them. As the plastic eggs filled with candy and the baskets of colorful plastic grass leave the store and enter your home, it’s important to remember that these items can be dangerous for our feline friends.
It’s also important to remember that while lilies, a common household plant, are lovely to see and smell, they are still a safety threat for our cats. The entire lily plant (leaf, pollen, and flower) is considered to be toxic for cats. If you have lilies in your home this Easter, make sure that your cat doesn’t eat any part of the plants.
Symptoms of lily toxicity in cats include lethargy (decreased activity), vomiting, and loss of appetite. These symptoms worsen as the kidney damage progresses, leading to death.  Early veterinary treatment is critical.  If you suspect that your cat has eaten any part of a lily or its pollen, call your veterinarian immediately.
Holidays are times to celebrate with friends and family.  Your feline friends want to celebrate with you. Please do your part to “cat-proof” your home in order to keep them safe this holiday season

Dogs as Human Lyme Sentinels

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Heartworm, flea and tick season will soon be here and we strongly recommend annual ” heartworm testing “.  New test kits now give us information not   only about your dog’s heartworm status but  3 tick borne diseases.  Ticks are able to transmit Lyme disease, erhlichia and anaplasmosis. Recently veterinarians in the London area are diagnosing Lyme disease in our dogs which indicates that the black-legged tick, which is the only tick capable of transmitting Lyme disease to our dogs as well as us, is in our area. Fortunately, dogs are not as severely affected as humans and may even go unnoticed by their owners. The significance of positive Lyme disease in our dogs is the potential risk of pet owners contacting these ticks on your walks.

Contact our office for information regarding testing and treatment options to prevent heartworm, fleas and ticks.



This is an article written by Dr Scott Weese regarding dogs as sentinels for human Lyme disease.

A paper that will be published in the September edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases (Mead et al 2011) talks about the potential for dogs to act as indicators of Lyme disease activity and risk for people. The use of animals as sentinels for human disease is well established. Sometimes it’s because animals are more readily affected. Sometimes it’s because the disease is easier to diagnose in animals. Sometimes it’s because getting access to samples from animals is easier than from humans.

Because of the distribution of ticks that transmit the causative bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) and wildlife that act as the reservoir, the occurrence of Lyme disease is highly variable geographically. Knowing the amount of Lyme disease activity in a specific region is important for understanding the role of this disease in humans, and for implementing preventive measures.

Like people, dogs can get Lyme disease. Dogs are NOT sources of human infection, but since both dogs and people get Lyme disease the same way (from Ixodes ticks), infections in dogs can indicate the potential for infections in people (and vice versa). Since dogs may be more prone to being exposed to ticks, and since ticks are most likely to stay on dogs for the 24 hours or so that is required for ticks to transmit the bacterium, dogs may be more likely to be exposed to Borreliaspp. in endemic regions.

That’s the reasoning in the Mead paper which suggests that dogs, because of their potentially greater chance of exposure and tendency to produce a good immune response after exposure, might be good indicators of human Lyme disease risk. To examine this premise, the authors compared data about B. burgdorferi antibody levels in dogs to human infection data. (Note: These are two different things: In dogs, they looked at antibodies, which indicate exposure but not necessarily disease. In people, they looked at disease. It’s not inappropriate to compare the two, but you have to be aware of what they were comparing).

Overall, they showed (not surprisingly) that there was a relationship between antibody levels in dogs and Lyme disease in people. Some key findings were:

When the percentage of dogs with antibodies against B. burgdorferi was <1%, there were extremely low rates of disease in people in the area.

  • This makes sense since it would indicate that there’s little or no transmission occurring in the area. Low levels ofB. burgdorferi in dogs or people don’t necessarily indicate that Lyme disease is active in the area, since some cases could have been acquired during travel, and false positive results are possible with current testing.

The risk of disease is generally low to non-existent outside the highly Lyme-disease endemic areas: Northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest regions of the US.

  • These are the areas where ticks capable of spreading the bacterium are common and where the bacterium is resident in wildlife, so that’s not surprising.

Where 5% of more dogs had B. burgdorferi antibodies in their blood, there was always an above-average incidence of Lyme disease in people in the state, with a lesser association at the county level.

  • Again, this makes sense. If most dogs are exposed, more people are going to be exposed, and more people will develop disease.

In 15% of counties where dogs had a >5% rate of antibodies, people did not have above average disease rates. However, in half of them, the incidence of disease in people increased to above average in the following 3 years.

  • This is quite interesting and perhaps the most important finding of this study. It suggests that monitoring rates in dogs may predict trends in people.

What does this all mean? Well, a lot of these results would be expected based on what we know about Lyme disease. However, the apparent close linkage between human disease rates and dog antibody rates, and particularly the potential that dog rates could predict human rates, is intriguing and could be useful. By routinely monitoring for antibodies in dogs, areas where Lyme disease might be on the rise or might be emerging in people could be identified, leading to more focused educational efforts directed at both the public and healthcare personnel. Getting the dog data (or at least getting good dog data) is perhaps the problem, since testing would need to be done on a subset of the dog population that’s not biased and is of adequate size to say something useful. There are ways to do this, but it takes time and money to do it right. Taking advantage of blood samples collected for heartworm testing is one possible approach, but careful thought needs to go into what could be done and whether it would be better than more intensive surveillance of humans or ticks.