All posts in Medical Information

Cushing’s disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

What is Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)?

Cushing’s disease is one of the most common endocrine disorders that affects middle aged to older dogs (this condition is extremely rare in cats).  Cushing’s disease can develop when a dog’s own body overproduces cortisol or when a dog is given corticosteroid medications at high doses and/or over a long period of time. Cushing’s disease is most commonly caused by a small benign growth on the brain that results in over secretion of the hormone cortisol.


Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

What is Addison’s Disease?

In animals with Addison’s disease there is a deficiency or reduction of the corticosteroid hormones released from the adrenal glands. We usually don’t know the direct cause of the hormone deficiency, but fortunately the disease can be managed with the administration of corticosteroid hormones even if the cause of it is unknown.veterinary-85925_960_720


Seizures and your pet

Your pet having a seizure can be a very scary thing to witness. One second your pet is fine, the next they have fallen over and have gone stiff or start to twitch uncontrollably. First and foremost, try to remain calm. If your pet is in danger of falling down the stairs or having something fall on them gently try to slide them out of harms way. Stay away from their mouth’s as they may bite during a seizure. If possible, try to time how long the seizure lasts for.



Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in both dogs and cats. Urinary tract infections are only one of the many health concerns involving the urinary tract and many of these concerns involve the same symptoms. If you think your pet is suffering from a UTI, an exam, urinalysis and urine culture will be needed to determine if it is truly a urinary tract infection.




Anal Gland Abscess

What are anal glands?

Anal glands are two small glands just inside your pet’s anus. They sit at about 4 and 8 o’clock on either side of your pet’s anus.  The material secreted into these glands is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling fishy. Normally, every time your pet has a bowel movement there is pressure placed on these glands and some of the secretion is placed on the fecal material. Other dogs and cats are then able to tell who has been in the neighborhood, back yard, litter box etc,  just by sniffing the stools they find.


Ear Infection (otitis externa)

Otitis externa (commonly known as an ear infection) is an inflammation or infection of the external ear canal. Bacteria, yeast, ear mites, allergies and hormone imbalances can all cause otitis externa. Once an ear infection starts you may see your pet scratching at their ears, shaking their head or holding one ear slightly dropped. Discharge and odour may be noticeable as well.



Heartworm and your dog

How is heartworm spread? How would my dog get it?


Heartworm is a parasite that is usually specific to dogs, but on rare occasions cats have become infected (a cat is considered a resistant host of heartworms because the worms do not thrive as well inside a cat’s body).  Heartworm is spread though mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites an infected dog and ingests microfilariae (the immature form of the heartworm), the mosquito becomes infected. The infected mosquito can then bite another dog, and the microfilariae pass through the tissue into the blood stream (this is the point of action of preventative heartworm medications-it kills the tissue state of microfilariae before they enter the blood stream). Once the microfilariae enter the blood stream they grow in the blood vessels of the lungs, then migrate to the heart and other vessels causing heart disease.

Heartworm here in Edmonton


Luckily for us, here in Edmonton (a cooler part of Canada) heartworm is not a major concern. The development of the microfilariae in the mosquito is temperature dependent, requiring about two weeks of temperature at or above 27°C. Below a temperature of 14°C, development and transmission of heartworm cannot occur in the mosquito. Since we rarely see 14 consecutive days of a temperatures consistently above 27°C and it will commonly drop to 14°C overnight over the summer months heartworm is a rare occurrence here in Edmonton.

Does my dog need heartworm prevention medications?

We recommend that your pet be on heartworm preventatives if you plan to travel to southern Canada (especially south BC or Ontario), to the USA or to anywhere else where heartworm is endemic and preventatives are recommended. Pets that remain in Edmonton year round are not at risk and do not need preventative medications.

If you do plan to travel where heartworm is a concern, treatment should be started 30 days after your pet’s initial exposure to the heartworm area and continued  monthly until 30 days after they are not exposed anymore.  For example, a short trip to a heartworm area would require 2 doses of medication. If you arrived in the area on June 15th and only stayed 1 week (returned to Edmonton June 22nd), your pet’s first dose would be given July 15th. 30 days after your return is July 22, which is after the initial dose on July 15th, so you will need to give a second dose on August 15th. Longer trips will be prescribed for accordingly: monthly treatments, continued until 30 days after exposure to the area is complete.


Heartworm prevention medications are available as either a chewable tablet or a topical broad spectrum dewormer.

When is heartworm testing recommended?

  • If your dog has never been to a heartworm area before and this is your first trip, testing for heartworm as a precautionary measure before starting medication may be recommended by the veterinarian.
  • If you are unsure of your pet’s travel history, testing for heartworm should be done before starting preventative medication.
  • If your pet has traveled to a heartworm before and was not treated with preventative medications on that trip, heartworm testing will be needed before prescribing preventative medications for the next trip.
  • If your pet travels frequently to heartworm areas, but is always on preventative medications testing will be recommended once every 2-3 years as a precautionary measure.


If a dog is unknowingly positive for heartworm and is started on a preventative medicine, it will not treat the disease. It can actually be harmful to give a dog infected with heartworm the preventative medicine. First of all, heartworm preventatives will not kill the adult heartworms.  Secondly, the preventatives are designed to kill the microfilariae as they migrate through the tissue and not when they are already in the bloodstream. If the microfilariae have already entered the bloodstream the preventive may cause the microfilariae to suddenly die, triggering a shock-like reaction and possibly death of your dog. This is why testing prior to starting these medications are so important.

What if my dog does get heartworms?

It usually takes several years before dogs show clinical signs of infection and unfortunately by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is usually well advanced and is potentially fatal. The adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and lung blood vessels. This interferes with the action of the heart, causing heart failure. The clogging of the lung vessels reduces the blood supply to the other organs of the body causing them to fail as well. Once your pet is evaluated for the severity of the disease (physical exam, x-rays and laboratory diagnostics) and is deemed stable enough, treatment can be started.


Treatment is a two-step process, the first step kills the adult worms, the second step kills the microfilariae still circulating in the system. The treatment of the adults usually causes the most severe side effects. If the worms are not already blocking blood vessels in the body, after they die they can lodge in the lung arteries and block even more blood vessels than before the treatment was started. After the adults are killed and start to break down, they also release foreign substances in to the dog’s circulation, causing large amount of inflammation and swelling.

After the side effects from treatment for the adult worms have resolved another medication is given to eliminate the microfilariae still in the system.

After the treatment is completed heartworm testing is done about 4 months later. If the results are negative, preventative medication can be started. If there is still heartworms present a second round diagnostics and treatments will be needed.


If you are planning to travel to heartworm areas, please call for your prescription first. These medications are by prescription only and your pet’s annual health exam must be current. By calling first we can check if an examination or blood testing needs to be booked prior to dispensing them and gives us time to get the prescription ready for pickup.


Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease and how would my pet get it?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. This is a spirochete (spiral shaped) bacteria that can be carried by black-legged ticks. A tick bite from a black-legged tick carrying the disease has the potential to infect your pet. If one bites your pet the bacteria enters the bloodstream and can travel to different parts of the body and can cause overall illness or problems in specific organs or locations in the body.


In Alberta, ticks found on pets can be submitted to the government lab to be checked to see if they are black-legged ticks. From there, all black-legged ticks will be further tested to see if they carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Based on current evidence from Alberta Health black-legged ticks are not reproducing and are not well established in Alberta. The surveillance activities in 2016 indicated that the majority of black-legged ticks arriving in Alberta are adventitious, arriving via migratory birds, and have not yet established a reproducing population capable of overwintering in Alberta. This means the risk of being bitten by a black-legged tick is still low in Alberta, and  the risk of being bitten by a black-legged tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi is even lower.