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Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital

Flea Allergic Dermatitis

If your cat or dog has allergies you have probably heard us discuss flea prevention at one of their visits to NVH. We often recommend flea prevention to rule out flea allergies as a cause of skin allergies in dogs and cats. This is because it can often be difficult to differentiate environmental allergies from either food allergies or flea allergies. One of the ways we do this is to have the pet on regular and effective flea prevention. Another tip that can help us determine if the allergy is due to fleas is of course the finding of live fleas on the dog or cat. This is not always reliable because even a single flea bite can cause a hypersensitivity reaction that can last for weeks and the flea could be long gone by the time we examine the pet. Also cats are very good at grooming and often eat the fleas before we get to see them.  In fact many times we don’t actually see the live fleas. “Flea dirt” is another indicator that fleas are present if we don’t see the live fleas. Flea dirt is the fleas poop found on the animal and it is mostly composed of dried blood. It has the appearance of cracked pepper on the fur.

Flea allergic dermatitis is a hypersensitivity reaction to the flea saliva that enters the animal skin when the flea bites to take a blood meal.  In cats flea allergic dermatitis can present as an itchy cat with hair loss, crusts, scabs, scratches, redness or any variation of these. In dogs we tend to see an itchy patient with red skin, secondary bacterial skin infections and or hair loss. Sometimes flea allergic dermatitis will have a unique distribution in which they seem to be itchy “below the belt”. This means they are itchy in their back half. Dogs often will bite or nibble at their hip area or hind legs or around their rectum.

Treatment involves killing the fleas, stopping their life cycle and ridding the environment of the flea eggs, larva and pupae. An effective and safe systemic medication is usually recommended and these are either monthly or every 3 months depending on the medications. These medications kill the adult fleas and stop the flea lifecycle. To eliminate the environmental stages vacuuming furniture and washing fabrics such as the pets bedding or blankets can help significantly to reduce the flea numbers.  


Dr.  James Kirkham


The Pesky Flea

Spring has sprung and so have the number of dogs and cats we have seen with those pesky fleas. In our warm and moist climate here on the island we see fleas all year round however spring and fall provide optimal conditions for the flea life cycle.

Fleas are amazingly fecund. An adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. Those eggs quickly hatch into larvae then molt and turn into pupae and finally back into adults. As soon as the adult emerges it looks for a host to take a blood meal. The entire lifecycle can occur in as little as two weeks when conditions are favorable.  The only stage of the lifecycle that is on the dog or cat is the adult stage. The rest of the lifecycle is in the environment. Theoretically this means that 1 flea could turn into 50 adult fleas in as little as two weeks. They are also able to pause the life cycle for several months if environmental conditions are unfavorable.  Flea pupae can lay dormant waiting for favorable conditions for months before emerging as an adult.

Fleas are more than just a nuisance for pets.  Of course we all know that scratching or itching can be a result of flea infestations but did you know that some dogs or cats can be covered in fleas and not itch at all while for others a single flea bite can cause a severe hypersensitivity reaction that can last for weeks.  This is called flea allergic dermatitis and can result in severe itch, hair loss, scabs, crusts and skin infections.  Fleas also can be responsible for disease transmission. Fleas can carry tapeworm in their gut that can be transmitted to the dog or cat when they eat the flea.  Bacterial blood disease such as mycoplasma haemofelis and Bartonella henselae (cat scratch fever) can also be transmitted by the flea. In severe infestations anemia can become a problem due to blood loss from the flea bites themselves.

Fortunately there are many safe and effective flea preventatives and treatments available for dogs and cats. Due to our favorable climate for fleas year round prevention is generally recommended in most cases to avoid infestations. Our knowledgeable staff is happy to help if you have questions about flea prevention or flea products don’t hesitate to give us a call or stop by the hospital.


Dr. James Kirkham


Thank you Laura

We are a little sad to announce the departure of Dr. Laura from the Nanaimo Veterinary Team. Dr. Laura will be missed but we would like to wish her all the best in her move back to her family and home province of Ontario.

Dr. James and Dr. Alexandra are happy to help and continue the care for all the clients and patients of Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital.


Congratulations Lori and Aliesha

We are very please to announce a significant milestone accomplishment for two of our Registered Veterinary Technologists, Lori and Aliesha. Lori is celebrating her 25th year as an RVT and Aliesha is celebrating her 15th year. We are very fortunate at Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital to have such experienced, skilled and dedicated team members.

Registered Veterinary Technologists are qualified, highly skilled, college graduates trained to assist the veterinarian in the delivery of veterinary medical services. Veterinary Technologist have many roles behind the scene at a veterinary hospital including nursing care, laboratory processing, anesthetic administration and monitoring, radiology processing and client education. They are trained and efficient in performing many procedures such as IV catheter placement, venipuncture, bandaging, wound care, dental scaling and polishing to name a few. To obtain registered status an individual must complete a qualified college program which includes practical and academic training. To maintain registered status, they must also complete yearly continuing education requirements in order to keep up to date with current knowledge. RVT’s are an essential team member at the veterinary hospital.

Congratulations Lori and Aliesha and thank you for all your hard work in helping so many patients at Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital!



As an owner of a new puppy, socialization and early training should be a priority. Socialization is helpful for the growth of your puppy’s confidence, manners and health. Introducing your puppy to many different people, including children in different situations can help habituate your puppy to people. Introductions to other dogs should start with dogs that you know and trust. Socialization will help to reduce anxiety, gain confidence, and can even increase their exercise! Socializing and training your puppy can help curb aggression, fearfulness or anxiety to ease visits to the vet or groomer. Puppy classes are a fun way to learn early training techniques and socialization skills for your puppy.

Socializing and training isn’t just for your dog, it is also integral for cats. Behaviours like scratching and spraying can be stopped or reduced by reinforcing positive behaviours in your cat. Scratching is a natural behaviour, therefore supplying your kitten with acceptable scratching material is important. Products like Feliway Friends can help direct your cat to appropriate things to scratch. Feliway can help your cat feel calm and at ease while leaving your furniture intact! Handling your kitten will help overall with vet or groomer visits; for example, pets that are used to having their paw pads massaged will be less likely to jerk away when getting nail trims!


Introducing a New Puppy or Kitten

Congratulations on your new adoption of your puppy or kitten! Now what? Introducing your new loved one to the family and home is very exciting but can also be a stressful experience on both you and your pet. It is a good idea to take it slow; keep your dog on a leash initially in your home, seclude your cat to one room so they acclimate to the smells and setting on their terms. If you are introducing your new pet to other pets, make sure to do it in a safe setting with an area for “time out” should your new pet or existing pets need a break. You can introduce your dog to another dog outside where they also have time to romp around and play. Pets may need a little separation to get used to each other first. Baby gates allow for sniffing and visualization without contact. As much as children may want to cuddle and play with their new pet, it is very important to make sure that your pet also has a bit of quiet time. Children are likely to be very excited by their new family member. In order to gain the pet’s trust, we can teach children to act calmly and pet gently. Kids are often thrilled when the pet then comes willing to interact with them. If introducing a new cat to another cat we do recommend the “one plus one” etiquette. This means having one litter box per cat plus one more. This gives your cats options and could make them feel a bit safer and more comfortable when finding a place to relieve themselves. Pet pheromone products such as Feliway or adaptil can also be very helpful in the initial introduction period as they provide calming aerosolized molecules that are detected by the cat or dog.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our veterinary team about your new pet please don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Heart Disease vs Heart Failure

 I have found that many pet owners assume the worst when they hear me tell them that their dog or cat has heart disease. Granted the heart is one of the bodies most important organs and a functional heart is critical for life. However, depending on the exact type of heart disease many dogs and cats can live a long time and with excellent quality of life. This is the difference between heart disease and heart failure. Heart disease simply means there is a condition or change of the heart that is not normal. Heart failure on the other hand is when heart disease has progressed to the point in which the functional capacity of the heart to pump blood has declined to the point when it is no longer able to keep up with the bodies demands and there is backing up of the blood or congestion.

Mitral valve disease is one specific type of heart disease that is an extremely common condition in small breed dogs. When caught early and with proper staging of the disease, monitoring and treatment this condition actually has a very good prognosis. It can often be many years before progressing to heart failure. Mitral valve disease is one heart condition in which there is excellent research on when we should intervene with heart medications for the best possible outcome. 

Unfortunately, once heart failure has been diagnosed the prognosis is not as good. Even still there are treatment options that can help significantly.

An annual preventative health exam is the first step in monitoring your pets’ heart health. Clinical signs of heart disease that might be noted at home may include coughing, exercise intolerance or weight loss. If you have noted any of these signs in your pet and would like them checked over don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Dr. James Kirkham, DVM

Common Holiday Toxins

With the Christmas season fast approaching, we wanted to remind everyone of common household toxins that pets can be exposed to over the holidays. 


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in an increasing number of products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It causes blood sugar to become dangerously low (hypoglycemia) which can lead to vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination and seizures. Liver damage and eventually liver failure can be seen within a few days. 

Chocolate, Coffee and caffeine

Cacao seeds contain substances called methylxanthines which can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in dogs and cats. Dark chocolate, Baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder are more dangerous than milk chocolate and white chocolate.


The toxic substance within grapes and raisins (Vitis spp.) is not definitively known but has been linked to development of acute kidney failure in dogs and cats. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs and cats.


While cooked bread is relatively safe for pets, ingestion of Yeast dough is dangerous for pets.  The stomach acts as an oven causing the dough to rise and expand, causing bloating and pain.  This can predispose to twisting of the stomach, a life threatening condition called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus.  The yeast can also produce alcohol as a by-product.

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol.

Garlic and Onions

Compounds in these food can cause vomiting and breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia) in dogs and cats.  Please avoid feeding pets any food spiced with or containing garlic or onions.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts, and other nuts like Walnuts contain high levels of fat that can  lead to development of pancreatitis in dogs and cats.  Also, macadamias can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Poinsettia Plants

More commonly a toxin in cats who enjoy munching on Christmas plant arrangements.  Ingestion of poinsettias causes oral irritation, drooling and vomiting.  Typically these signs resolve on their own but best to keep holiday plants out of pets’ reach.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any type of toxin please call us (250)758-3985 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.


Information obtained for this article from

Congratulations Lane!


 We are all so proud and happy for Lane to be selected as one of the Finalists in PetPlan’s North America Wide Veterinary Awards as Receptionist of the Year 2019!

This prestigious award recognizes Veterinary Receptionists who provide an outstanding client experience to pet parents and help to offer exceptional veterinary care to advance pet health beyond their practice.

She will be participating in the Veterinary Awards Banquet in Florida January 2019 where the winner will be announced.

Good Luck Lane!


How to Trim Nails

Trimming a pets nails is a very important part of routine grooming care but can often be overlooked. Nails continue to grow throughout the pets life and require trimming or filing. Trimming is often needed every 4-8 weeks in most pets.

It is always easiest to start when the pet is young to get them habituated to the grooming and handling. White nails are easiest and we are thankful when we see them! White nails are more “see-through” and therefore one can visualize the vessel, or quick, that is within the nail. Trimming the nail to just before the quick allows for the shortest nail without cutting the vessel or hitting the nerve. This is best achieved with multiple small trims on the same nail.


Black nails are not “see-through” but have cues to watch for as well. These are best to do multiple small trims to be able to watch for the quick starting. The quick comes to a point at the end which will start to look like a white bull's eye in the center of the nail as it is being trimmed. Stop cutting when this bull's eye is seen.


If a quick has been trimmed and bleeding occurs, it can be staunched by packing flour or corn starch in the nail. Avoiding it is best as it is uncomfortable when hit.


There are many types of nail trimmers available, personal preference will apply. I like the curved blades that look similar to garden sheers. In my experience, the guillotine style trimmers will catch on the nail as the nail needs to be fed through the hole.

If your pets struggles, you are having difficulties or do not feel confident in nail trimming, we would be happy to help your pet and trim their nails! 

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Blog posts : "Pet Health"

Heart Disease vs Heart Failure

 I have found that many pet owners assume the worst when they hear me tell them that their dog or cat has heart disease. Granted the heart is one of the bodies most important organs and a functional heart is critical for life. However, depending on the exact type of heart disease many dogs and c…

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