Featured Pet

Abbey the Grouchy Old Cat

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Miss Abbey was a grouchy 16 year old cat. She wouldn’t let anyone pet her belly or her lower back and would become quite crotchety! She was becoming more anti-social and started to withdraw from her family. Her owners noticed that she appeared stiff when walking around the house and she stopped going down to the litter box in the basement. For several months she had to jump up on a chair to get up on the counter. Her hair coat was matted because she wasn’t grooming herself well and would not tolerate brushing.

Abbey’s family was concerned about her and brought her in for a physical exam with Dr Stephanie van Monsjou. Dr Stephanie recognized Abbey’s symptoms as indicators for arthritic pain. Her examination found discomfort in Abbey’s hips and lower spine, which are common areas for arthritis in senior cats and dogs. Senior bloodwork and urine testing was done to rule out any other disease processes.

Dr Stephanie started Abbey on a treatment plan for her arthritis including pain medication and joint supplements. Abbey’s owners had her mats shaved and groomed into a lion cut. Almost immediately Abbey was feeling better! She was much less grouchy, acted more affectionate and enjoyed being petted by her family. Over the next few weeks, her family found that she was more interactive, roaming the house more and was jumping up more easily. She even started grooming again. Managing Abbey’s arthritic pain has really improved her quality of life and her attitude too. Abbey is no longer known as the grouchy old cat!

Indigo: Lost and Found

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Indigo is lovely 4 year old German Shepherd who was adopted last winter. As a rescue dog, Indigo was quite timid and skittish however she quickly bonded to her new owners Jamie and Brenda and became a member of their family.

In June, Indigo slipped out of her collar when out for a walk in her neighbourhood and ran off. She would not come back when called and ran away when pursued. Indy had a history of running away from her previous home and had been known to scale a 6 foot fence in the past! Jamie and Brenda did everything they could to find Indy and bring her home safely, including enlisting the help of  community members, Burlington Animal Control, Halton Regional Police and finally a professional pet recovery organization called Healing Hearts.

Indigo was away from home for 16 days. She was spotted all over Burlington and after a co-ordinated group effort Indy was eventually contained in a backyard. Jamie was able to entice her with food and catch her. She had lost a lot of weight, her paws were bleeding and her tail appeared to have been ripped off at some point during her travels. Her family brought Indy right away to see our team at Headon Forest Animal Hospital. Dr Murphy examined Indy and found that she had a large skin wound on her rump and her tail was missing except for a few centimetres of exposed muscle & bone left at the base. Indy had lost nearly 14 pounds, had a few chipped teeth and her paw pads were torn from running scared on hot pavement for several weeks. She was home safe but had lots of healing to do.

Dr Patton started the process of surgical repair for Indigo’s large wound and traumatic tail amputation. The wound was too large to close so we elected to clean & trim the wound and manage it with a honey bandage that was sewed onto her skin. Honey has been show to promote healing and has anti-bacterial properties. Indy’s bandage needed to be changed often so she and her owners became well acquainted with our team at Headon Forest at her frequent visits. We were all amazed at how quickly Indy’s condition improved! Her wound steadily decreased in size and her comfort improved every day. She gained weight and her paw pads slowly healed.

Indy’s story captured the hearts of people in Burlington and she was even featured in the Burlington Post! Community members donated to help cover the costs of her veterinary care. We are all inspired by Indigo’s bravery and her family’s commitment to finding her and helping her recover from her injuries. Today Indy is back to her healthy weight and is doing very well at home!

The Adventures of Thor the Rescue Puppy

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Hi There! My name is Monte and I am a very handsome 7 year old Domestic Short Hair cat. I live with Dr. Murphy and wanted to tell you a little about myself. Every year, I get to go to Headon Forest Animal Hospital for a check up. I get a full physical exam so that all my systems are checked, including my teeth, heart, abdomen and kidneys. My mom takes some of my blood and urine to make sure my organ function is good and that I have no underlying infections. Because I go outside and come into contact with other cats, I also get tested for Feline Leukemia and Immunodeficiency Virus-two potentially very serious illnesses in cats. To be honest, this is not my favorite thing but I know that it is important and when my tests come back all normal, then everyone feels better. My poop is even tested for parasites which is pretty cool and I really don’t mind donating a sample.


During my check up, my Mom also updates my vaccines so that I am protected from some pretty serious diseases, including rabies! I like to catch small rodents when I am outside so I get dewormed every month and get flea prevention during the summer months. Mom puts this stuff on the back of my neck which smells a little funny but it isn’t so bad. Mom also weighs me at my check up. This year I gained some weight-yikes!! Now I am on a little diet because I want to keep my tiger-like physique and I know that being overweight makes me more prone to many diseases such as diabetes.


I also have a microchip- a tiny implant that sits just under my skin. Even though I do wear a collar with an identification tag and bells (to prevent me from sneaking up on birds-urgh), I often lose it when I sneak under things. The microchip is a permanent form of identification and that way, when my collar breaks or gets lost, I can always be identified if I ever get lost.


Next year, I turn 8 and mom says that I get to have a check up and laboratory testing every 6 months! I know that by regular checks ups and screening tests, diseases can be detected much earlier, even before I start to show symptoms of illness. Going in the car really isn’t that bad, even though I do cry a little bit. Mom covers my kennel with a blanket which makes me feel safe and she gives me lots of love and treats so that overall, my trip is more of an adventure. Thanks Mom!


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It is with sad hearts that we pass along the news that our dear Trixie passed away on January 21, 2015. Trixie was surrendered to our clinic in 2012 when her owner could no longer manage her health problems-most of which resulted from being very obese. Trixie lived at the clinic until 2014 when she was adopted by one of our summer students. Trixie spent the last year of her life in a very loving home and was finally able to be a cat. Her new owner, Michelle, worked with Trixie to help her lose weight through controlled diet and hydrotherapy. Trixie was finally at a healthy weight and she enjoyed exploring both the upstairs and downstairs of her new home. Our thoughts are with Michelle at this very sad time and we are very grateful that she gave Trixie so much love and care.

Trixie was adopted by Headon Forest Animal Hospital in 2012 (see her full story under previous featured pets).  In early 2014, Trixie was very fortunate to find her forever home with Michelle, one of our summer students. Under Michelle’s care, Trixie has undergone underwater treadmill therapy and laser therapy which have helped her mobility greatly.  Adjunct therapy along with continued weight loss has   allowed Trixie to decrease her arthritis medication -she can even do stairs-a feat that was unimaginable months ago. Her diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease is in remission thanks to a special diet and controlled weight loss. Trixie is a very happy kitty and is living the life of a princess. Although we miss her sweet face and silly antics at Headon Forest, we are very thankful that Trixie is in a wonderful home enjoying her golden years. Thanks Michelle for giving Trixie a new lease on life.



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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.