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The Adventures of Thor the Rescue Puppy

By Featured Pet

Thor initially came into our clinic as a rescue puppy from the Burlington Humane Society. He was found with his brother and they were estimated to be 12 weeks old. Both puppies were very cute and very scared at first! It was puppy love at first sight for one of our technicians Laura. Thor would be her first puppy and her husband Jim came to meet him right away.

Thor was a shy pup at first but he came around quite fast with love and kindness. Laura adopted Thor through the Burlington Humane Society. As part of their adoption package, all pets get a 6 week trial of pet insurance. This came in very handy for Thor as he ended up having quite a few health issues as a puppy!

The first day he was found, Thor had a complete physical exam by our veterinary health team at Headon Forest Animal Hospital, including a stool sample analysis.  We found that Thor had all kinds of intestinal parasites including Roundworms, Hookworms, and Giardia. He also had dry flaky skin and diarrhea. He was treated with medications and shampoo for these issues.

After his 6 week insurance trial period was over, Laura wisely decided it would be a good idea to sign him up for an insurance policy because puppies can get into all kinds of things and cause unexpected expenses!

Thor continued to have itchy skin and developed a skin infection on his belly which needed to be treated with antibiotics. His skin and stools continued to be an issue for poor Thor even after several different medications to help manage these conditions.

We decided to perform allergy testing on Thor and it’s a good thing we did! Thor was allergic to pretty much all meat sources, insects, and trees. He can only have hypoallergenic foods and treats that Laura carefully selects based on his allergy testing results. After several weeks on a hypoallergenic diet, Thor’s stools have normalized and his itchy skin is significantly improved!

In typical puppy fashion, Thor likes to chew on every single thing he can find and quickly eats it while making eye contact as you are running towards him yelling “STOP!”. Thor has chewed and/or eaten a variety of different objects including; slippers, crocs, cat toys, ropes, garbage, rugs, cat litter, sticks, toilet paper, and a toilet paper holder. Thor also snuck about a half tray of kielbasa sausage off the coffee table. Laura has had to induce vomiting on a few different occasions!

One night, Thor suddenly cried in pain and was holding up one of his hind legs. Laura brought him into the clinic for an exam and X-rays. Thor was diagnosed with a condition called Panosteitis. Panosteitis is a painful bone condition in large breed puppies where inflammation develops in the bone marrow of a growing puppy. With lots of rest and anti-inflammatory pain medication, Thor got better and overcame another obstacle, and all before 5 months of age!

At 6 months of age Thor was neutered and not surprisingly, he chewed out his stitches after wiggling out of his onesie. Good thing Laura is an RVT and can handle this little handful!

Lesson learned in the first 4 months of owning a puppy: GET PET INSURANCE! Costs add up quickly and you don’t want to be caught without it. Thor agrees and says “Thanks Mom!


Sadie’s Story

By Featured Pet

Our featured staff member Michelle has written about her dog Sadie the healthy senior!

Let me introduce you to my Wheaten terrier Sadie who recently turned 10 years old, and is officially a senior girl! Sadie is as energetic and mischievous as she was when she was a puppy, and I think most of the time you would have no way of knowing how old she really is. 

With her age I have noticed some subtle, and not so subtle changes – one of these main concerns being her dental health. Sadie was in for a dental cleaning earlier this year and have transitioned her on to a dental diet that is appropriate for senior doggies as well. 

I have also added a few supplements to help with her anxiety, and an omega fatty acid to help with her joint, heart and skin health.

I want to keep Sadie a puppy at heart and make sure her physical health stays in top shape for many more years. I realize that a lot can change in a year, even more so with a senior dog. With the advice of her veterinarian I am starting to include blood work and bi-annual health checks to her routine. 

The Story of How we Saved Jellybean

By Featured Pet

Jellybean is a sweet energetic little Lab/Shepherd cross who was found as a stray at 8 months of age in South Western Ontario. Burlington Humane Society brought her in to Headon Forest Animal Hospital for her initial check up and full health care. On physical exam she appeared to be a happy healthy puppy so we were surprised when her initial blood testing came back positive for Heartworm!

Heartworm is a blood parasite which is spread by mosquitoes. When an infected animal is bitten, the larvae of the parasite are taken up with the bloodmeal and develop inside the mosquito. This mosquito then infects the next dog who is bitten and the heartworm larvae pass into the dog’s bloodstream.  Over several months these larvae develop into worms which grow inside the heart and blood vessels in the lungs.  Heartworm infection causes heart disease. The worms interfere with blood flow to lungs, liver and other organs and can lead to heart failure and death. Treatment of heartworm infection is very costly and also has risks of complications, including sudden death.


Heartworm infection is easily prevented with monthly products  given during the summer months such as Advantage Multi (topical drops applied to the pet’s skin) or Heartgard (oral medicated chew).

Luckily for Jellybean her heartworm infection was detected early with a blood test before she developed any symptoms! Symptoms could include coughing, decreased stamina, heart and liver enlargement, collapse and sudden death. Symptoms often do not develop until the pet is already in heart failure. Jellybean must have been bitten by an infected mosquito when she was a young puppy living outside as a stray. If she had been on heartworm prevention then she would have been protected against infection!

Working with Dr Tina Hall, Burlington Humane Society elected to treat Jellybean according to the American Heartworm Society treatment protocol. This treatment is expensive and has some risks however Jellybean tolerated her treatment very well with only mild side effects since we detected her heartworm infection so early. During the course of her treatment, our client care advocate Alison fell in love with Jellybean and decided to foster her. She lived with Alison and her family during her treatment and eventually Alison adopted Jelly! Jellybean’s recheck testing showed that she was negative so her treatment was successful! Now she lives happily ever after with Alison and her family with 3 other dogs and 2 cats at home. Jellybean is a success story as well as a cautionary tale on the importance of heartworm prevention for dogs in Southern Ontario and early detection of disease with blood testing.


Sonny’s fractured tooth

By Featured Pet

Sonny is a lovely senior Bearded Collie with a wonderful owners! Sonny’s owner noticed that he had a funny odor about him one day and found an open wound on the side of his face. Sonny is a very relaxed, happy-go-lucky dog who did not show any signs of pain or discomfort prior to this. This photo was taken after we shaved his face to evaluate the wound:


Deb brought Sonny in to see Dr Stephanie van Monsjou for an exam that day. Dr Stephanie found that Sonny had a fractured tooth which had abscessed! Sonny occasionally chews on bones at home and must have broken his tooth while chewing on a bone in the past few months. Many dog owners are surprised to learn that bones and antlers are too hard for dogs to chew and can cause fractured teeth among other concerns. Follow this link posted by local veterinary dental specialist Dr Hale for more information about the risks of feeding bones to your dog:

The crown of Sonny’s tooth was broken, exposing the central pulp cavity to the environment in his mouth. This led to infection of the tooth which travelled into the root and caused a tooth root abscess. The tooth root abscess then became swollen and burst causing a smelly oozing wound on Sonny’s face. Yuck indeed! Broken teeth are painful for dogs and cats, however the symptoms of dental pain are subtle and often difficult to appreciate. Dogs and cats will still eat even with painful teeth and gums. This is another reason why regular veterinary exams are important to allow us to identify signs of dental disease which could be causing pain for your pet.


When we find a fractured tooth on oral exam, the next recommended step is dental x-rays to evaluate the root of the tooth. Sonny was anesthetized for dental radiographs and a complete oral exam. His dental x-rays showed bone loss surrounding the roots of the fractured and abscessed tooth. Due to the degree of disease present, this tooth was removed and the rest of his teeth were cleaned by ultrasonic scaling and polishing. Sonny healed very well from his dental surgery to remove his abscessed tooth and he now has a healthy, pain free smile! 😀

Sheba the Itchy Golden Retriever

By Featured Pet

Sheba is lovely 9 year old Golden Retriever. She loves to swim and go for long walks with her family. Every summer, her owner Leslie notices that Sheba seems more itchy than usual and has a “smelly dog” odor.
Leslie brought Sheba for a visit at Headon Forest Animal Hospital. Dr van Monsjou examined Sheba from nose to tail and diagnosed her with an ear infection and a bacterial skin infection. Sheba is on monthly flea and tick preventative drops so Leslie was relieved to know that she doesn’t have fleas! Dr van Monsjou advised Leslie that Sheba likely has seasonal allergies (also known as Atopy) due to the recurrence of her itching and skin & ear infections every summer.
Allergies weaken the barrier on Sheba’s skin and make her more prone to infections. Similar to people, dogs can be allergic to grass, trees, weeds, mold, dust and other pollens found in the environment. The symptoms of allergies in dogs include itching, excessive licking, rashes (scabs, crusts or red spots) on the skin and ear infections. Some dogs have sores and hair loss from licking and chewing themselves because they are so itchy. These symptoms can be seasonal and occur in the spring, summer or fall months every year if they are caused by environmental allergies. Food allergies cause similar symptoms but can occur all year round or when a dog eats something she is allergic to such as chicken, beef, lamb, wheat, corn or dairy.
Treatment for allergies often includes short term antibiotics to help manage skin & ear infections as well as medications to help control itching and keep the dog feeling more comfortable. Medicated shampoos and topical skin treatments prescribed by your veterinarian can be helpful to soothe itch, remove crusts and help repair the skin barrier. Allergy testing bloodwork can be done to identify specific allergens and make patient-specific allergy serum to help reduce symptoms for environmental allergies. If a food allergy is suspected, a hypoallergenic diet trial will be recommended to eliminate any potential sources of allergens in the pet’s diet.
Sheba was successfully treated with 2 weeks of oral antibiotics for her skin infection as well as ear drops to treat her ear infection. Our technicians showed Leslie how to clean Sheba’s ears using a gentle ear cleaning solution to remove the smelly debris caused by her infection. Her itching is well controlled with medication during the warmer months when she needs it.
Does your dog get itchy or smelly during the warmer months of the year? Contact us to book an appointment with one of our veterinarians to find out if your dog needs treatment for allergies too.


By Featured Pet

Meet Tucker! Tucker is a 5 year old Labrador Retriever who first came to Headon Forest Animal Hospital in 2012, presenting with itchy skin.  He started to chew at his paws and lose his fur. As allergies are quite common in dogs, Tucker was sent home with some medications to help with the itching. Eventually, Tucker was transitioned onto a hypoallergenic diet and the combination of both food and medication has offered relief to his situation. In early 2014, Tucker came to us with a suspicious lump on his ear. In order to determine exactly what the lump was, Tucker had to have the lump aspirated with a small needle for cytology and sent to the lab where they would look at the cells under the microscope. The results came back a few days later and the outcome was that Tucker had a Mast Cell Tumor on his ear. Mast cell tumors are one of the most common skin tumors in dogs and if detected early can be removed with little chance of reoccurrence. Tucker was then sent to the Ontario Veterinary College to have the tumor removed. Because the tumor was found early, Tucker did not have to lose his ear and is cancer free. This is a great example of why early diagnostics are important and preventive health examinations are a benefit to pets and their owners.