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Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital

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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