Health tips and general information

Here you may find information on various subjects such as vaccination, surgery and parasites, as well as answers to the most frequently asked questions in our practice.


Glucose is a molecule derived from sugar ingested by an animal and is the main energy source for cells in order to fulfill their functions.  Glucose circulates through the blood, but it is insulin produced by the pancreas that allows it to enter and be used by the cells. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin (type-1 diabetes mellitus), then glucose accumulates in blood and is excreted in urine without having been used by the cells. Sometimes cells can become insensitive to insulin (type-2 diabetes mellitus, as often seen with obesity), and thus cells cannot absorb glucose even though the pancreas produces enough insulin. This type of diabetes can be reversible!

This condition is seen in both cats and dogs of middle years, but a juvenile form exists as in humans. Pets suffering from this disease will drink excessively and urinate more, and can lose weight even in presence of a good appetite. Diabetes predisposes to infections, cataracts, hypoglycemia, and keto-acidosis (a severe and deadly diabetic emergency).

Your veterinarian can easily confirm diabetes with simple blood and urine tests, and start the appropriate therapy (diet reduced in carbohydrates/sugars, exercise regulation and insulin). Treatment is rarely curative, but will lead to a resolution of clinical signs, and will return its quality of life to your pet.

Toxic Products, Plants and Foods

If your pet inadvertently comes into contact with one of these products...

Did you know that a lot of household products and foods are toxic and/or dangerous to your pet? Every year many animals are admitted to our animal hospital because they ate or came in contact (skin absoption!) with toxic foods and products. There exists a multitude of toxic substances and a complete listing would be exhausting, but here are some of them:

-foods : dark chocolate, garlic, onions, *raisins, macadamia nuts, *xylitol (sugar  substitute often found in chewing gum
-common household items: *rat poison, *anti-freeze, insecticides, fertilizers
-plants:  poinsettia, aloès, dieffenbacchia, *lillies...
-medication: *permethrin-containing flea products for cats, *acetaminophen (Tylenol)  deadly to cats!, Ibuprofen (Motrin)  
and the list goes on...
(*very toxic)

The symptoms and severity of intoxication vary greatly depending on the type of product involved, species, quantity ingested or absorbed-which can be very difficult to calculate, age and health status of the animal, and the rapidity of treatment.
One rule remains the same, however: 
Never give a product to your pet without the advice of your veterinarian!

If your pet is ill, do not attempt to medicate it yourself! Call us!  We are much more available than our human counterparts. If no advice is available, then the old adage 'Better safe than sorry' applies!

If your pet inadvertently comes into contact with one of these products, or you suspect it may have eaten something suspicious, here is what you must do:

1) Remain calm, act quickly.
2) Take the name of the product involved, or better yet keep the box or packaging!
3) Note the concentration of product and approximate quantity ingested.
4) Call your veterinarian or the Emergency Center with the approximate weight of your  pet and the information on the product.
5) Follow the directives.
*Unless the product is known to be inoffensive, then your veterinarian may need you to contact an animal poison hotline in order to better assess the danger to your pet or more effectively treat a possible intoxication as new antidotes are found.

It is important not to make your animal vomit without first obtaining the advice of a veterinarian as many contra-indications exist. (the risk of the product causing more damage on the way out! or, the risk of causing aspiration pneumonia...)

The rapidity of treatment is VERY important in any intoxication, because more and more product may be absorbed or digested with time!

Pet poison-hotline: 1-800-548-2423 
 (Charges will apply, but can greatly reduce the veterinary bill in the long run by quickly providing the information for the best or most specific therapy!)

Blood tests

When is it important to do blood tests?

When is it important to do blood tests? 
Apart from the more obvious necessity of testing sick animals, many situations also justify the recommendation of blood testing, as blood analysis can give us varied and valuable information:
Before anaesthesia:
A blood test can allow us to evaluate the function of various organs and thus assure us that the health of the animal is optimal before the procedure. Normal values allow us to proceed with confidence knowing the risks of anaesthesia are minimal. Abnormal values can indicate the need to modify or adjust the anaesthesia protocol and/or take additional precautions to minimise the risks.

Diagnostic of diseases:
A complete physical examination will give us a lot of information about the health of your pet, but by itself can rarely give us the certainty of a diagnosis. However, when combined with blood testing, we can detect with precision the cause of your pet’s ailment. Damage to an organ (liver, kidneys, pancreas…), an electrolyte or hormone imbalance, or an infection can be discovered…often before the onset of overt clinical signs!

General/geriatric health screening (= 7years):
Old age is not a disease in itself! Unfortunately, as time passes, the more the probability of problems exists: organ degeneration, and dysfunction, cancer…Being unable to adequately communicate with us, animals conceal their malaise and often clinical signs appear late in the course of disease. For example, the kidneys can lose up to 75% of their function before we can observe any changes. Blood test allow us to more adequately assess the health of your pet and address problems much more quickly.

Long-term medication:
Many animals require long-term medication because they have been diagnosed with diseases that are controllable but incurable such as diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, epilepsy, heart disease…Blood tests allow us to evaluate the efficacy of therapy and to detect certain complications that can accompany the chronic administration of these medications. In short, to ensure proper and safe treatment.

Detection of infectious agents:
Some infectious diseases can be detected by blood testing: heartworm, Lyme disease, feline leukemia virus and feline AIDS…


General anaesthesia is a procedure required to put your animal to sleep in order to perform certain tests (ex. biopsies which can be a painful procedure, or radiography in a recalcitrant pet), or for surgery and dentistry. Anaesthesia is not without risk, but a thorough physical examination and appropriate tests (blood tests, chest x-rays) to detect anomalies can greatly reduce the risks. If an anomaly is detected, anaesthesia can be postponed while the anomaly is corrected or adjustments can be made to the choice of drugs and fluids used, or the methods of surveillance during anaesthesia that will reduce risks to a minimum. Be assured that the safety of your pet is of utmost concern to our team!


Contamination is primarily from contaminated environments, not as much from infested pets as is the common belief.

The flea is a well known parasite frequently found on our pets. While some animals will suffer frequent re-infestations, others will never encounter this insect. Contamination is primarily from contaminated environments, not as much from infested pets as is the common belief. In reality, it is the adult flea that is parasitic and it generally remains its entire life on the host (dog/cat) it has infested. Eggs, however, are not sticky and fall in the environment, thereby potentially contaminating large areas. If conditions are favourable, eggs will hatch and in turn contaminate new hosts. In Quebec, the seasonality of the climate controls the abundance of fleas and August and September are the months where most infestations occur, although they are possible throughout the year.

Fleas live 7-14 days on a host, and females lay dozens of eggs per day. Their reproductive capacities are such that a flea couple can produce in 3 months a population of 3 million individuals!
Pets can develop diseases following flea infestations. If in high numbers, fleas can cause anemia as they are a blood sucking insect. Also, fleas can cause an intestinal tapeworm contamination (Dypilidium caninum) when the host (dog/cat) ingests the flea. Finally, fleas can cause discomfort and dermatitis, and allergic pets can develop severe secondary skin inflammation and infection. Humans can also be affected by flea bites, but fleas much prefer dog/cat blood. Small red, itchy papules can develop especially on fore-arms and legs.

It is for all of these reasons that treating flea infestations rapidly and effectively becomes so important. Different products are available on the market, each with their own advantages and limitations. Essential to the efficacy of treatment is that the animal as well as the environment must be treated. Do not forget to treat all the animals in a household as they are an important source of ongoing infestation! Veterinary anti-flea products (topical or oral) exist that protect the animal from nose to tail for a period of one month. However, environmental decontamination usually takes approximately 6 months. These products can also be used preventatively. A monthly dose will prevent contamination of your pet and its environment by fleas.

Obesity - a disease

Obesity is not a simple condition, it is a disease and can lead to a variety of ailments in our small animal companions.

Following the trends of our North-American society, obesity is a condition that is becoming overly common in our pet population. It can be secondary to many factors such as lack of exercise, over-feeding (especially treats or table scraps) and over-eating and diseases (hypothyroidism, diabetes).  As in humans, obesity can lead to a variety of ailments in our small animal companions.

In cats, the most important and common consequence certainly is diabetes. In fact, obesity is one of the factors involved in lowering cellular sensitivity to insulin, creating Type 2 diabetes. Other complications include osteoarthritis, megacolon (chronic constipation) and urinary tract infections from lack of proper grooming (fat cats lack the ability to reach their perineum and groom adequately). Finally, obesity leads to a sedentary life-style and a vicious circle ensues...It is much easier to prevent obesity by choosing an adequate diet and controlling quantities of meals (and snacks!!) than to try to make a cat with sedentary tendencies lose weight!

In dogs, the most common complication is an early development of osteoarthritis. Others can develop skin infections in skin folds created by the accumulation of fat (fat rolls), especially around the vulva. These in turn can lead to urinary tract infection (cystitis, pyelonephritis) and vaginitis. Obesity can also lead to chronic respiratory problems, mostly in brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs such as Pugs and Shih-Tzu's). Regular walks will help control this problem but it often also necessary to choose well your pet's diet, and control quantities. We all know how glutton they can be!


Sterilisation does not only prevent pet overpopulation and behavioural issues but also prevents many health problems! 

Sterilisation (castration/spay or neutering) can be practiced at any age, but is usually done at around 6 months age (ideally before the first heat) and is very important in pet population control. Sterilisation can also help decrease unwanted behaviours such as urine marking, fighting between males, and escaping and wandering. It will also greatly reduce urinary odours, especially in male non-neutered cats!

Sterilisation also helps avoid common health problems by reducing the risk of uterine infections (pyometra), prostate enlargement and infection (prostatitis) and neoplasia (cancer) of the uterus, ovaries, prostate and most importantly, the mammary glands.

As a 'heat' (period of fertility and sexual receptiveness) in female dogs is accompanied by bleeding, sterilisation will also prevent this unpleasantness. Heats can last two-to-three weeks and are usually twice yearly occurrences. Cats don't bleed like dogs, but can become quite annoying as they can become very vocal to 'call' a mate, which in turn attract males that will mark their territory rather unpleasantly. Heats in cats are very variable, but on average last one week, repeat every two weeks for approximately two months and this two to three times a year.


Ticks -vectors of many transmissible diseases...

Ticks are an external parasite of dogs and cats becoming more common in our region.
Although they have a lesser tendency than fleas to cause infestations, they can transmit many diseases of which Lyme disease is probably the best known. Ticks can also transmit diseases to humans, but cat/dog transmission to humans is less probable. A blood test exists to diagnose this disease, and it is usually combined with heartworm testing.
Ticks are visible through the naked eye, resembling a small black or greyish protuberance attached to the skin. It varies in size according to the amount of blood ingested. Tiny legs can be seen at the base of the tick, near where the mouth-parts penetrate the skin. It is recommended to seek veterinary help for adequate removal and analysis in order to verify that it was not a carrier of Lyme disease. A close examination of the skin of your pets is in order after every outing, especially in tall grasses and forested areas.