Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in Canada and many other parts of the world. It is caused by worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs in the body and possibly death. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets (as well as many of other wild animals).


Heartworm disease is transmitted via the bite of infected mosquitoes. The mosquito bite introduces worm larvae into the body which then develops into worms that live in the heart and its associated vessels.


Pets may be asymptomatic at first, than a mild, persistent cough may be noted. It may progress to exercise intolerance – reluctance to move, unwilling to do the most basic physical activity. Reduction of appetite and weight loss are also note worthy. Ultimately, left untreated, heart failure, lung disease and sudden death may occur.


Prior to starting any heartworm preventative, it is imperative to have a sample of your dogs blood tested for the disease. Starting a heartworm positive dog on prevention could have grave results. Since no medication is 100% effective, it is also recommended to routinely get your dog’s heartworm test done annually (even if they are on prevention year-round). Many forms of heartworm prevention are available, from topical to oral, and most come as combination medications to prevent other parasites (fleas, ticks, some intestinal parasites etc). Let our team assist you in finding the best prevention that works for your pets lifestyle.

External Parasites

External parasites, or Ectoparasites are the ones living on the outside of our pets: mites, fleas, ticks or lice. We are more aware of them since they can cause visible changes for our pets: itchiness being the most common sign. They can affect a specific host only (which means they only feed on one species of animal, for instance dogs only) or they can affect several different species of hosts like dogs, cats, wildlife and also humans. 

Fleas are the most common external parasite that we see in clinic. Their bite can cause itchiness or worse, a hypersensitivity reaction of the skin, which is seen in our less lucky pets.

Ticks are also a pesky creepy crawly that has become more prevalent as of late. We are concerned about the transmission of diseases by ticks.  Lyme disease is the most well-known disease, but there are other diseases they can transmit as well, such as Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis, to name a few.

Mites are usually transferred in animals by close contact, the most well-known mite is the ear mite. Other mites can infect the skin, which can cause mange. Signs of ear mites can be head shaking and itching of the ears whereas, we often see hair loss and itchiness with mange.

Lice are also considered ectoparasites. They are extremely host specific and cannot survive away from their host. However, a severe infestation with lice can cause itchiness.

All of these critters are unpleasant to have around, but they are easily treated or prevented. There are a multitude of products available, in different forms (for instance topical or chewable tablets), and usually are given on a monthly basis, either throughout the year or in the months when these parasites are most active. However, with recent fluctuations in weather patterns, we are seeing an increased need to have our pets on prevention year-round. Fleas and mites can occur throughout the year (they are not season specific), and ticks are active at temperatures as low as 0 degrees Celsius. We as veterinarians can help you find the right prevention product for your pets.  

Having a pet emergency? Don’t worry, bring your pet to us.