Toronto Veterinarians - Pet Wellness Network

View Larger Map

Contact Willowdale Animal Hospital

Open 24 Hours, Year Round

256 Sheppard Ave. West
Toronto, ON M2N 1N3
(416) 222-5409

Doctor’s Orders

Why It’s Important to Vaccinate Your Pet

In the world today, there are numerous controversies over whether or not certain vaccines are necessary in humans, but a problem that doesn’t often come up is the vaccinations in pets. Animals are often just as at risk for disease as people are but unlike us, they can’t rely on themselves to take the necessary precautions. That leaves you, as their owner, to decide what’s best for them.





What is a vaccine?

A product designed to produce protective immune responses and prepare the immune system to fight future infection from the disease the vaccine is designed for.


How does it do this?

Vaccines stimulate the immune system’s production of the antibodies that identify and destroy disease-causing agents entering the body.


Can a vaccine only protect against one disease?

No. Some vaccines are designed to protect against several diseases or several strains of the same disease.


Are vaccines one and done?

While it is a common belief that some vaccinations only need to be administered once, in most cases this is false. The best way to protect against diseases such as rabies or Lyme disease is to talk to your doctor about a schedule of when these need to be administered and how often. While some vaccines may need to be given annually for many it is more likely to be once every two or three years.


Vaccines and My Pet


Do vaccines guarantee protection in my pet?

It is very rare that a vaccine is not designed to eliminate the risk of a disease altogether and just as rare that a pet immune system will not be able to fend off the disease altogether after being vaccinated.


What specific vaccinations should my pet be receiving?

There are two different categories of vaccines that your pet may receive: Core and Non-core. Core vaccines are determined based on the region of the world that your pet lives in and are to protect against diseases most common in that area. Non-core vaccinations are individual to each pet based on their health and their risk. You can talk with your vet about what vaccines will be best for your pet based on their risk and exposure to different environments.


If I’m traveling with my pet, are their vaccines they may need to get?

Depending on how far away you are going, how long you’ll be gone, and how different the area is from where you live, your doctor may recommend certain vaccines to ensure that your pet remains protected in a new place. It is not entirely uncommon that some countries will require that incoming animals be vaccinated against diseases common to the area.


Vaccines and Their Risks


Are there risks to vaccinating my pet?

It is unlikely you’ll find a medical treatment that is entirely risk-free but it is very rare that a pet young or old will respond poorly to a vaccine. Any risk that is associated with a vaccine should be weighed against the protection of not only your pet against potentially fatal diseases but your community as well.


Are their specific responses to a vaccine that I should be worried about?
While the majority of responses will be mild and short term there are uncommon but potentially serious responses that are possible if unlikely. One of the rare serious reactions in cats is a tumor which can occur anywhere from weeks to years after the vaccination however improvements in vaccinations have made and continue to make this occurrence less and less likely.


Aside from the risks, are there side effects associated with vaccines?

Side effects are common even in human vaccinations and so it is common for pets to experience some mild side effects following hours after receiving their vaccine. However, if these side effects last for more than a couple days after the vaccine then you will want to contact your vet.


Vaccines and Their Side Effects


What are the side effects I should be aware of?
Side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Sneezing
  • Mild coughing
  • Mild fever
  • Discomfort at the vaccination site
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity


Are there side effects associated with a more serious reaction?

Yes, there are some less common but more severe side effects that should be brought to immediate attention with a doctor and in some cases may be life-threatening. These include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Itchy or bumpy skin
  • Swelling of the muzzle or around the face and eyes
  • Severe coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Collapse

Are all side effects that persist cause for concern?

While continuity of any of the side effects listed above over a number of days should be brought up with a doctor, a common occurrence in pets is a small swelling under the skin at the vaccination site. This should begin to disappear in a couple of weeks but if it persists and appears to get bigger up to three weeks, then you should see a doctor.


Vaccines and Puppies and Kittens


Why do puppies and kittens require so many vaccinations?
As with human babies, young animals are at a higher risk of contracting disease because of an immature immune system that has to develop as they get older. While for the first few months of their life they will receive some protection from the antibodies in their mother’s milk, once you’ve adopted them that protection begins to go away and they need to be protected another way.


Are vaccinations different for puppies and kittens because their immune system isn’t fully developed?

The vaccine that your pet will get will serve as a prep for your pet’s immune system against diseases. The vaccines that follow it will then stimulate the immune system so that it begins producing those protective antibodies.


Is there a specific order or schedule that should be followed for young pets?
For the best protection, the vaccination should be scheduled during the first months of the pets life about three or four weeks apart from one another. Typically, the last set of vaccines is given when the animal reaches about four months however schedules may be altered by doctors depending on individual pets. Often times if you are getting your pet from a breeder, they can take care of these things in the months that the pet lives with them before coming to you. If that is not the case, often times the breeder or shelter you’re are getting the animal from will give you a list of comprehensive information on what your pet will need during the first months of their life with you.

Vaccines and Why My Pet Should Have Them


How will vaccines benefit my pet?

The widespread use of vaccines on pets over the last century has saved millions of animafromfor disease and death. Unvaccinated pets are susceptible to both the common diseases in the civilized world as well as diseases common in the wild such as rabies. Vaccines will not only protect your pet from disease, but improve your pet’s overall quality of life.


Are there any other reasons to vaccinate my pet?

Here’s three:

  1. Vaccines help you avoid costly treatments for diseases.
  2. Vaccines protect against diseases that can be passed from animal to animal as well as animal to human.
  3. It is common for local or state areas to require that your pet have certain vaccinations.


Contact us!

Call to schedule an appointment today at one of our four convenient Toronto locations. Ashbridges Bay Animal Hospital at (416) 915-7387, Beaches Animal Hospital at (416) 690-4040, Bloor Animal Hospital at (416) 767-5817, Downtown Animal Hospital at (416) 966-5122.

Here’s Why Senior Citizens Live Longer With Pets

No matter what age we are, most of us crave some type of companionship. This need only tends to intensify as people age. Oddly enough, company isn’t the only thing that owning a pet can offer as one gets deeper into their senior years. In fact, there are many impressive benefits to owning a pet as a senior:


Pets Stimulate Brain Activity

The entire process of adopting a pet allows for mental stimulation. Searching for the most fitting animal breed and reading through their tendencies and behaviors helps get the mind moving. There have also been cases where elders with some memory loss can regain access to old memories after adopting and interacting with their new pet. Pets provide the responsibility of caring for another creature, which keeps the mind fresh.


Increasing Social Interaction

Having an animal, especially a dog, can result in more social interaction with people while out and about, including an excuse to talk to neighbors. A leashed dog gives people something to talk about when they pass on the street. A pet even helps to get the conversation going when visitors come over the house. A cat or dog gives off a more friendly atmosphere that stimulates conversation.



As people age and retire, it’s easy to lose focus and structure for day to day life. Having an animal helps seniors implement more of a routine into their day. Pets require responsibility and keep people active and moving, both mentally and physical.


Physical Activity

Whether it’s a dog, cat, or even a bird or reptile, a pet provides the chance to get up and do something. It may be taking the dog out on a walk to get some exercise for pet and owner alike. It may be getting a toy and playing a bit with the cat. Or, it may just be getting up to feed the petor clean up their cage or bedding. No matter what age a person is, staying healthy requires regular physical activity and pets provide the opportunity and the obligation for it.


Pets Give a Sense of Now

The more health issues a person accumulates, the more upsetting, or even scary, the prospect the future can be. Animals, especially dogs, live very much in the now. They play now, they eat now, they bark now, and they have no worries about what tomorrow will bring. This helps pet owners with health concerns live in the moment and enjoy what life still has to offer them.


Reduce Stress

Studies show that owning a pet reduces stress overall. Researchers believe that pet owners have lower blood pressure and healthier pulse rates. Animals also help to reduce anxiety. The carefree attitude of a happy animal has a calming affect on those around them, and even just touching a pet is said to make some people relax.


Love and Acceptance

Pets offer undying love, affection and companionship. Their loyalty and and attachment comes easily from the beginning, and it doesn’t fade the way some human relationships can. As pets are dependent on their owners, their human families understand they are needed. Pets provide all this love readily and easily, allowing people to make a strong bond without fear of upsetting them.


Mood Improvement

The vast majority of pet owners say their animal companions makes them feel better when they are said or upset. In some cases, they can help when people feel physically ill or sick. Animals eliminate some feelings of  loneliness and can reduce feelings of depression. They provide an outlet for interaction when someone feels stressed or upset.


Many seniors feel far more secure with a pet. Sometimes it’s just the idea of having another creature in the house with them. A dog actually does improve the security of a house, even if they are not physically imposing. Thieves do not want to deal with a barking a dog, even if the dog is a foot tall.

Pets keep people healthy

As a whole, pet owners are healthier than the rest of the population. This can cut back on medical needs and doctors visits, and dog owners will live longer after they suffer a heart attack. Pets aren’t just cute; they’re also good medicine.

Making Life Easier For Older Pets

People aren’t the only ones who start to get a little run down as they age. Our pets face the difficulties of aging as well. Just as one would care for the extra needs of an elderly family member, it is the responsibility of the pet’s family to make life easier for older pets.


Give Them a Boost

Many older pets face arthritis in their joints. They are not as agile as they were when they were younger and it’s much more difficult for them to access those high-up comfy spots where they love to curl up. Give them some help by gently  lifting them up placing a box or steps to give easier access.


Make Them Comfortable

As animals get older, they become much more sensitive to changing temperatures. Their joints and muscles start to get stiff, making it uncomfortable for them to use some beds. Older pets will enjoy a lofted and heated bed, or even add a blanket to make them more comfortable. The heat will soothe their joints and keeping them off the cold, hard floor will be better on their bodies.


Keep Their Food and Water Fresh

Some older pets don’t drink as much water as they should. A pet water fountain is one simple solution, as it will refill automatically and doesn’t need as much maintenance. Fountains also filter the water, providing a better taste that increases the odds older pets will drink from it.

Older dogs sometimes show changes in appetite, so consider adjusting their meals. This could mean using a food made for older pets, or providing smaller, more frequent meals. For pets that have discomfort when moving, consider elevating their food and water bowls so that they don’t have to bend down as much.


Keep Them Active

It is important to keep all pet active, including pets, but their body can only take so much at once. When a pet’s health starts to wane, continue to take them on walks or play with them during the day, but shorten the duration. Space out the activities more to get them time to recover, and make sure they aren’t getting too tired.


Make Sure They’re Healthy

Regular checkups are still important, and if you haven’t started paying attention to their dental health, now is a crucial time to focus on it. Unhealthy teeth and gums can lead to gum disease and toothache, which is uncomfortable for aging pets. Try brushing them a couple times a week or get them a teeth-cleaning toy. Preventing health problems before they become big issues is your best strategy.


Keep Them Feeling Secure

Older dogs get frightened much more easily as they age. They may be more sensitive to loud noises or become afraid of thunderstorms. Try getting them a weighted vest, like a Thundershirt. It is snug to their body and makes them feel more secure and protected.


Protecting your pets from rabies

In December, Ontario had its first confirmed case of rabies in the raccoon population in 10 years.  The raccoon was picked up and caged in the back of an animal service van where it was able to get get loose and injure a pair of bull mastiff dogs. The dogs appear to have avoided contracting rabies, but the raccoon did test positive and was destroyed.
Ontario has seen the odd case of rabies in bats here and there for years, but a re-emergence in the raccoon population is a cause for concern. Rabies is commonly spread by bite from an infected animal where saliva gets into the victim’s flesh.

Any bite wounds on pets or people should be washed with soap and water immediately. If there is a possibility that you or an animal were exposed to rabies, or witness a sick animal, notify the city of Toronto at (905) 546-2489 and call your doctor or veterinarian, as treatment is needed as quickly as possible.

Pets should be vaccinated for rabies, as should people who are at at high risk of being exposed to rabid animals. Do not let your pets interact with wild animals and supervise their time outdoors if they could potentially encounter a raccoon.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system. Infected cats and dogs will show mild symptoms that will quickly become dramatic if the disease is left untreated. Pets that are far along in the disease will typically either develop a state of paralysis, or one of violent aggressiveness. Symptoms include fevers, seizures, lack of coordination, changes in audible sounds, changes in behavior, excessive and frothy saliva, jaws that will not close and an inability to swallow.

February Pet Health Tip: Get A Dental Exam

Pets need dental care just as much as we do. During your pet’s annual physical exam, your veterinarian will likely examine their mouth and check to excess tartar build up, damaged teeth and gum health. They may recommend a professional cleaning, change in food, and cleaning regimen for your pet to maintain good dental health. Since pet’s use their mouths not just for eating, but also grooming, it is important to keep their teeth healthy.

Diet can also affect your pet’s dental health.  We generally recommend Royal Canin, a supplier of high quality, specialized dog and cat foods in the veterinary, pet specialty and breeder channels. Royal Canin offers a comprehensive veterinary exclusive line of therapeutic and life stage formulas.  Royal Canin food is available in hospital and through our convenient web store.

pet dental care - pet teeth cleaning - toronto pet health - toronto veterinarians

Vet Check Ups

January is a good time to get your pet in for their annual physical.   Start this year off on the right foot with your pet and schedule an appointment today.  During your pet’s physical you can expect:

  • Parasite testing
  • Updated on vaccinations
  • Address any health concerns you’ve noticed
  • Your pet’s weight
  • Your pet’s joints
  • Nutrition and supplements
  • Inspection of eyes, ears and teeth
  • Examination of your pet’s paws, joints and reflexes

While January is a big month for our personal health resolutions, it is just as important to keep your pet healthy. Your vet may recommend a diet, an exercise regimen or a change in supplements for your pet.  By bringing your pet in for an annual physical exam, you help prevent illness, are likely to catch health concerns early on and treat them promptly.  Overall, this will save you money and time in addition to providing a happy and healthy life for your pet.

To help your pet prepare for it’s annual exam, refer to our post on Fear Free Vet Visits!

Keep Your Pet Safe This Winter

Winter time is here and with every season, there are certain precautions you need to take for yourself and your pets.  Here’s a few tips on keeping your pet safe this winter.

1-Keep them warm
Pets can get hypothermia and frost bite just like us!  Even if your pet is pretty hearty and loves the cold, bring them in when it’s bitter cold and at night.  If you plan to take them out in the cold for a walk or snowshoe hike, consider a light jacket.  Keep their sleeping space warm as well, even if it’s as simple as providing a sleeping pad or bed.

pet bed - winter with pets - warm pets - comforting pets - pet safety - toronto

2-Be prepared for storms
You may be ready to be snowed in, but make sure you have enough supplies for your pets as well.  This includes extra food, clean water, first aid, shavings or liter and heat.  Sometimes, evacuations are necessary.  Make sure all your pet’s documentation from your vet is readily available and that you have supplies packed away for them.

3-Don’t let them wander in a storm
It’s tragic when you hear of a cat or dog getting lost, freezing or worse during storms.  Keep your pets safe inside and if they must go out, keep a close eye on them!

4-Watch those paws!
Salt is so harsh on a pets little pads.  Even if they never go outside, it can be tracked in and transfer to their feet.  Keep your floors clean and wipe down their paws after they have been outside.  Also be aware that cold ice and snow can cut open their paws as well.  Be aware if they start to limp or appear to be bleeding from the paws.  Use a product like Mushers to protect and condition their pads during the winter.

Protect your Pets Paws

5-Stay visible
The days are fairly short now so keep your pet visible with a reflective collar, leash or jacket.  Bright colors work best and help with visibility in the day time as well.

reflective leash - pet visibility - pet safety tips - pet care - winter safety for pets - toronto

Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Pet Feast

Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.  There are so many foods that can be poisonous to your pets over the holidays, chocolate, chicken bones, alcohol and more.  Also be careful of guests visiting your home who may want to sneak your pet a little bite.  They may not be aware of how this may affect your pet.  Provide your guests with real pet treats if this is a concern.

Securely your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water from spilling. Stagnant tree water is hazardous to your pet and can contain a lot of bacteria.  Don’t allow your pet to drink from the tree water basin.  Be cautious of wires as well.  Some pets love to chew on everything so be careful that they don’t chew on your string of lights.


Cats love tinsel because it looks like a fun “toy”. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, and may require surgery. Use something other than tinsel to wrap around your tree.

Pets Gifts

By now you may have heard plenty of recalls for pet toys and food alike.  Go with a brand you trust and one that you usually give your pet to prevent an upset stomach or holiday trip to the ER.

Holiday Greenery

Holly,  mistletoe and most lilies can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Use artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Give them Down Time

The holidays are a stressful time for pets too.  Give your pet his own quiet space of respite—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle and know when to give them a break from social time with the family.

New Year’s Noise

As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can cause blockages in your pets stomach if ingested, much like tinsel. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.  Try a thunder shirt on a skittish pet or use pheromones to help them with all the noise and excitement.


Prepare your Pet for a Fear Free Vet Visit, Toronto Veterinarians, Pet Wellness Network

The Fear Free Vet Visit

Presented by your Toronto Veterinarians at The Pet Wellness Network

A routine visit to the vet can create the exact opposite of a routine day for owners and pets alike. Many owners report that their pets do not like coming to the vet. The preventative care your pet receives throughout its life is extremely important. Our goal is make it easier for you.  Here are a few things to help your pet feel more comfortable during their vet visit:

Pet Owner Relaxation:

Ever notice that you pets can take on your emotions? Using your usual voice, and not rushing the process of getting there is very beneficial in reducing apprehension.  Keep them hungry: Unless there is a medical reason, pet owners should bring hungry pets to appointments; this allows them to be fed treats by the staff and reduce the risk of an upset stomach on the trip in

Car Rides:

For many pets, car rides symbolize a trip to the veterinarian, or some other unwelcome change. Adding some enjoyable car rides between veterinary visits will make the trip feel more normal.  Try a car ride to visit a favorite place, a park, a friend and reward them for good behavior on the ride.  Also be sure to make the car comfortable for them.  Suit them with a harness (pet safety belt) and provide them with a soft place to lie on during the ride. Speak normally, and playing soft music encourages their sense ofwell being.

Pet Carrier Issues:

Much like car rides, pets also associate their carriers with vet visits. Clients should use pet carriers as cozy dog and cat retreats at home, which helps them associate it with a safe place to be.


There are wipes and sprays available that can be used to promote a sense of well being in your pet. For example, Adaptil for canines or Feliway for felines can be used on carriers, bedding or blankets. Simply spray or wipe 30 minutes or so before you place them in the carrier.

Use ThunderShirts:

With the calming effects of consistent, gentle pressure, many dogs and about 50% of cats will respond well to wearing a thundershirt while visiting their veterinarian.

Don’t Forget Training:

You have likely worked hard on training your pet for various situations whether you know it or not.  If you revert back to training and basic commands, it gives your pet something to focus on while in the waiting room.

Reward your Pet:

Throughout and after a successful pet visit, be sure to reward your pet.  Give them play time, a treat, bring them to their favorite place or provide a new toy.   This way, their experience is reinforced as a positive one.

Tips for Living in an Urban Area with a Dog

1-Teach your dog basic commands In a city, it’s very important for your dog to be able to listen to your commands for their safety, yours and other people. Train your dog sit, stay, down, and heel to start. These commands could save your dogs life!   2-Not all dogs are friendly. Know that not all dogs in the city are friendly. Be sure to ask before you allow your dog to approach. Sometimes other dog owners will display a flag (typically orange) on the leash of their dog if it is not friendly. Understand your own dogs demeanor around other dogs as well. 3-Clean up after your dog. This is usually the biggest among city dwellers about dogs. On the sidewalks, trails, parks or specific dog friendly areas, please clean up after your dog! 4-Train your dog where to relieve themselves – near the curb There is nothing worse than walking on the street and a dog relieves itself right on your pant leg. Try to train your dog to go next to the curb if it’s safe. 5-Consider hiring a dog walker City life can be busy and you may not have time to take Fido for a walk every day. Consider hiring a dog walker to give him a little exercise and social interaction. Your dog walker probably also knows the best places to take your dog out for an adventure. 6-Discourage barking As a dog owner, you may be desensitized to barking, but you’re neighbors you share a wall with may not be. Train your dog when it’s appropriate to bark. 7-Make sure they have room to roam. Try a dog park, an open fenced in area, or a hike in the woods. Many cities provide some sort of respite from the concrete so make good use of them.   8-Practice poison control The city streets can be full of things your dog wants to eat, like chicken bones, animal feces, trash and more. Teach them not to eat things off the ground unless you give permission. This will save them from possibly getting very sick and some very big vet bills for you.   9-Take Care of those Paws! Watch out for debris on the sidewalks and clean their paws off after walking them on salty streets in the winter. There are also paw balms out there to help heal cracked pads and protect them.   10-Follow your leash laws. There are leash laws for a reason. You don’t want your dog running into traffic, or trying to greet an unfriendly dog, or wandering off. Be aware of your city’s leash laws and make sure to follow them!

After Hours Petcare Service