Heartworm Season!

heartworm awareness

It’s the time of year for Heartworm Prevention!

Once per month from June to November.

Give our office a call to get your pet’s prevention today.


What is Heartworm?

Heartworm (dirofilaria immitis) is a parasite that infects dogs and other canine species such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Cats can also become infected, although they are more resistant to infection.

Heartworm is a blood-borne parasitic infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm infection was once limited to the southern regions of the United States, however it is now found in most areas of the continental United States, Mexico, and Canada – Including British Columbia.

Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease that affects the cardiovascular system. Heartworms mature in the heart and lungs (pulmonary arteries causing severe disease. If a large number of worms are present, blood flow through the heart can become obstructed and lead to heart failure. Blood clots may also form, and in severe cases and embolus (blockage) can become lodged in a small artery. This blockage obstructs normal circulation and can cause sudden death.


How can by dog become infected with Heartworm?                  

Mosquitoes inject a larval (immature) form of the heartworm parasite into the dog when they feed. The larvae mature into thin, adult worms that are several inches long. Adult heartworms live in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary arteries) in the heart. Their physical presence causes harm in two ways:

  1. They block the normal forward flow of blood through the heart, causing the heart to work excessively hard and to potentially fail.
  2. They damage the inner lining of blood vessels, which gives rise to blood clots and thus cuts off circulation to parts of the lungs.

Adult heartworms reproduce and release the next generation of immature larval worms, called microfilaria, into the bloodstream. Mosquitoes feeding on an infected dog pick up the microfilaria and then proceed to transmit the parasite to healthy animals.

How do you diagnose or screen for heartworm disease?

Several tests are available to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs. The test that we recommend is a very simple blood test called 4Dx test.  The 4Dx test detects antigens (substances secreted by adult heartworms), as well as it includes testing for ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and anaplasmosis.  All dogs should have a heartworm test performed if they have not previously received some form of heartworm preventative treatment.



Treatment of heartworm disease is time consuming, expensive and can be associated with serious complications depending on the severity of infection. Prevention is a much safer and more cost-effective method, and also helps reduce the prevalence of heartworm in the animal population, thus limiting transmission of the disease.



It is very important to administer heartworm prevention to your dog during the summer months in British Columbia. We recommend starting your pet on heartworm medication June 1st and continuing until November 1st. In some areas such as the Southern USA, heartworm prevention is necessary year-round. This is very important to remember if you are travelling to a southern location in the winter.

If your dog has not previously received some form of heartworm prevention we will perform a heartworm test to ensure that your pet can be safely started on a prevention plan.

There are several different products that are safe and provide excellent protection against heartworm disease.

These include:

Heartgard Plus:  A beef flavored chewable tablet given once monthly

(just like giving a treat!)


Revolution: Applied topically to the skin once monthly


Please contact your pets favorite vet clinic today and make arrangements for your pet!

Central Valley Vet Hospital, Westbank Animal Care Hospital & Fairfield Animal Hospital

A Healthy pet is a happy pet !!!!

healthy dog



The dangers of Anesthesia-Free Pet Dental Cleanings

Did you know you could be doing more harm than good for your pets mouth by having “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings performed!

More and more pet stores, grooming salons and independent people are offering “anesthesia free dental cleanings for dogs and cats.” At first glance this seems like a marvelous idea! Who doesn’t want to avoid anesthesia for their pets! After all, humans don’t need full anesthesia to get our teeth cleaned, so really, why do our pets? Additionally these services are offered at a fraction of the cost that the veterinarian charges!

Well… let’s dig a little deeper and uncover the facts about “anesthesia free dental cleanings” for pets.

                                                                         anesthesia free cleanings

1. Myth: People offering “anesthesia free dental cleanings” are trained professionals, educated in pet dental health.

a.) Many people that offer “anesthesia free dental cleanings claim to be “pet dental hygienists” or “pet dental technicians.” However, there is no recognized licensing, training or certification to back up these statements. Those titles are simply marketing slogans. Additionally, many human dental hygienists are offering dental cleaning for pets; remember dog and cat dental health is very different from human dental health!
b.) It is best to trust your pets dental health to a trained and licensed veterinary professional; a person that has dedicated their life to the betterment of pet health.

2. Myth: My dog/cats teeth look so clean and his/her breath is much better after having an “anesthesia free dental cleaning”. This is evidence that all the tartar and disease is gone.

a.) The most important issue with “anesthesia free dental cleaning” is the quality of the dental cleaning. The tartar that ‘anesthesia-free’ procedures attempt to remove is above the gum line. It completely misses the tartar below the gum line. This is the tartar that is causing severe damage. Even if all the tartar is removed from the visible part of the tooth, the tooth is not any healthier! The tartar below the gum line is damaging the root. This will cause pain and infection, which can lead to many other systemic illnesses.
b.) Remember, just because your pets teeth look cleaner after they have an “anesthesia free dental cleaning”, the real damage is below the gum line and not readily visible. The only way to address the tartar under the gum line is to perform dental scaling under anesthesia.

3. Myth: Isn’t some cleaning better than none at all?

a.) NO! The teeth can visually look clean but this gives a false sense of security because the dental disease is silently progressing below the gum line, causing pain and infection. It is also possible for teeth to be damaged by a pet who struggles with a dental scaler in their mouth. Additionally, tartar will accumulate at an increased rate due to micro-abrasions left from scaling the teeth but not following with a thorough polishing.

4. Myth: My pet is very well behaved and will allow anyone to open his/her mouth; this makes him/her a great candidate for “anesthesia free dental cleaning”.

a.) It is impossible to perform a thorough and accurate dental examination and cleaning on a patient that is not anesthetized. Unlike humans, dogs and cats do not sit still with their mouth open when asked. This is even true for dogs/cats with excellent, calm temperaments. Without anesthesia it is impossible to fully assess the extent of dental disease and impossible to address/correct the dental disease.

5. Myth: Anesthesia is very dangerous, it is safer for my pet to have an “anesthesia free dental cleaning.”

a.) Many people prefer the idea of “anesthesia free dentistry” because they are afraid of the risks associated with anesthesia. It is important to remember that veterinary anesthesia protocols and drugs are considered very safe, allowing very elderly and very young patients to be anesthetized safely. The dental tartar that is left untreated after an “anesthesia free dental cleaning” is far more dangerous to your pets overall health and comfort.

After reviewing the facts it becomes evident that “anesthesia free dental cleaning” for pets provides the advantage of being cheap. However, this false sense of security will cost you more money in the long run. Dental disease below the gum line will progress, causing pain, infection and systemic illness. Many patients that have frequent “anesthesia free dental cleanings” end up requiring dental (tooth) extractions due to infection under the gum line.

As a veterinary hospital, we are committed to patient health and safety. The advantages provided by the use of general anesthesia are clear:

– improved patient safety,
– better experience for the patient,
– ability to perform a meticulous oral examination,
– ability to take dental radiographs,
– ability to perform dental extractions, if indicated, and
– ability to clean the tooth above and below the gum line, ensuring complete oral health.

In summary, all pet dental procedures should be performed using general anesthesia and by a licensed veterinarian.


The Veterinarians and staff of The Interior Pet Health Group

(Fairfield Animal Hospital, Westbank Animal Hospital & Central Valley Vet Hospital)

Why “dog breath” is dangerous to your pet

Dental Disease In Dogs and Cats

Dental disease is a very common problem in pets. Over 85% of dogs and cats over 4 years old have dental disease. Unlike us, dogs and cats do not commonly get cavities but they do suffer from tartar buildup and periodontal disease, which left untreated, leads to infected and rotten teeth. Infected/rotten teeth are a significant source of pain as well as bacteria, which can spread to the heart and the liver causing severe illness.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease begins with the formation of “plaque”, a coating on the teeth and gums containing bacteria and debris. If plaque is not removed, minerals in chewed food/saliva will be deposited and hard dental “tartar” forms. The tartar causes irritation of the gums and tissues surrounding the tooth. Bacteria grow around the tartar and under the edge of the gums. These bacteria gradually dissolve the supporting structures of the tooth, permanently damaging the tooth itself.

How do I know if my pet has dental disease?

Most commonly people will notice bad breath, however dental disease is very advanced by the time this occurs.

  1. The earliest sign of periodontal disease is red/swollen gums, which may be subtle and difficult to notice in many dogs and cats. The large teeth located along the side of the mouth are more frequently affected than the front teeth.
  2. Next, “tartar” is deposited on the surface of the teeth just above the gum line. Tartar is hard and permanent, and cannot be removed with brushing.
  3. As this process worsens, bacteria deposit underneath the gum line and destroy the supporting structures of the tooth.
  4. The gums may eventually retract, exposing the roots of the teeth.
  5. Abscesses (large infections) may form under the teeth, which is very painful!

The earliest stage of periodontal disease—red, inflamed gums—is reversible. A proper dental cleaning performed under a general anesthetic plus a home dental care plan can restore your pet’s teeth to their healthy state. However, once bacteria develop under the gum line the teeth can become permanently damaged. This is often irreversible and dental surgery is required to remove the affected teeth.

Prevention and Treatment of Dental Disease

A thorough dental cleaning, followed by home dental care, can control periodontal disease. The cleaning must be done under anesthesia so that all areas can be cleaned and properly assessed. Additionally, any teeth that are infected/loose need to be removed during the procedure. Your pet will be more comfortable and healthier without loose, infected teeth.

Many people worry about the risks of anesthesia, especially with older pets. Yet older pets are often the ones most in need of dental care. A thorough physical examination and laboratory tests to identify health problems combined with modern, low-risk anesthetics can make safe anesthesia possible for many pets. The risks are low compared to the benefits of dental care for most pets, even elderly ones.

Dog Panting

How can I prevent dental disease?

  1. Tooth brushing using a pet specific toothpaste
  2. Specific Veterinary prescription diets such as the Royal Canin Dental Diet is very effective at reducing plaque build up.
  3. Oral rinses / Dental wipes
  4. Veterinary Oral Care chews
  5. Bones of any kind are NOT recommended for dental care, due to the risk of fractured teeth (among other complications)


    It is important to remember that pets are individuals and may develop plaque and subsequent dental disease very quickly despite prevention measures, while others seem quite resistant. Many small breed dogs, such as: Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas, as well as, short nosed dogs such as: Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs and Pugs require frequent dental care even with rigorous prevention measures.

Common Myths:

  1. My pet is still chewing his food so he must not be in pain
    1. All pets with dental disease are in pain, however pets will still eat despite this pain. Sometimes they will favour a certain side of their mouth in an effort to reduce the pain.
  2. If my pet has some teeth removed then he/she will not be able to eat!
    1. Your pet will be able to eat pain free now that the infected/damaged teeth have been removed.

Helpful links:

A list of products that have received approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (a non-profit independent group of board-certified veterinary dentists) is available at www.vohc.org. Check out this website and try to incorporate some of these prevention measures into your dogs routine.

Take home message

It is important to remember that oral health plays an important role in pet health. Dental disease doesn’t just affect the mouth, but the entire body. Dental disease is a source of extreme pain and infection. Bacteria that has accumulated in the mouth can be carried by the blood stream to the heart, liver, kidneys and other internal organs resulting in severe illness.

Please contact Fairfield Animal Hospital, Central Valley Vet Hospital or Westbank Animal Care Hospital today to book your complimentary dental assessment.


Sincerely, The Doctors and Staff of the Interior Pet Health Group.

(Fairfield Animal Hospital, Central Valley Vet Hospital & Westbank Animal Care Hospital)


Reference: Clinical Vet Advisor, 2nd Ed. Cote et al.