The Library is an online repository of technical information created by our own staff for the benefit of the veterinary community.  Pet owners are always welcome to review the contents of the Library, but should be aware that material in this section is intended primarily for professional use.  If you are a Canada West client and have questions about your own pet’s condition or care, please contact the front desk.  If you are not a Canada West client, please contact your family veterinarian.

Taylor’s Story: Canada West Performs B.C.’s First Successful Canine Open-Heart Surgery

On November 3, 2015 Taylor, a 7-month old german shepherd/doberman cross, became the first dog in British Columbia to successfully undergo open-heart surgery.  The procedure was done here at Canada West Veterinary Specialists hospital, and involved a 12-person Canada West team led by surgeon Dr. Michael King and cardiologist Dr. Marco Margiocco.

About Taylor

Taylor is a rescue dog who was under the care of the non-profit Whistler Animals Galore Society (WAG). WAG referred Taylor to us when they noticed that he appeared to be in distress and had a very distended belly. Dr. Margiocco ultimately diagnosed Taylor with a rare heart defect that was causing blood to pool in his abdomen.  After less-invasive treatment options proved unsuccessful, it was determined that open-heart surgery was the only viable option to save Taylor’s life. However, Taylor had a good prognosis for a long full life without the need for ongoing … Continue reading

Pacemaker placement for treatment of advanced second degree heart block in a 13 yr old Lhasa Apso

Dharma is a 13 year old female spayed Lhasa Apso referred to the Cardiology Service at Canada West Veterinary Specialists in October 2011 with a history of exercise intolerance. Dharma was diagnosed with an arrhythmia during a wellness examination by her regular veterinarian. Dharma also had an episode of acute weakness (“flopping down”) while walking, approximately two weeks prior to our evaluation. She was not on any medications at that time. A standard ECG showed the presence of second degree AV block with an average ventricular rate of 80 BPM.

An atropine test was performed that showed only partial response to atropine, indicating that structural damage to the conduction system was present. An echocardiogram showed normal cardiac morphology, dimensions and function, ruling out the absence of other significant heart diseases.

In order to more thoroughly evaluate Dharma’s heart rhythm at home, we performed a 24 hour Holter monitor recording. This … Continue reading

Wobbler Syndrome


This is a lay term used to describe a condition that is both simple and yet at the same time complex and only poorly understood. The simplest explanation is that this disorder results from a chronic compression of the spinal cord in the neck caused by multiple factors. These factors include being born with a bony canal that is slightly too narrow, together with subsequent degenerative changes like disc herniations and overgrowth of other soft tissues. These structures cause compression of the spinal cord, often at several different levels within the neck. Instability between certain vertebrae may also play a factor in this disorder. There are therefore three major factors in this disorder, namely abnormalities that the animal is born with, abnormalities that the animal develops as it ages and the effect of instability. What is only poorly understood is what role each of these three factors plays in … Continue reading

Vestibular Disease


The vestibular system is the primary sense that governs balance. Just like vision depends on the eyes to convert light to electrical impulses and then requires a specialized region of the forebrain to interpret the information correctly, the vestibular system also depends on two components. These are the inner ear structures that convert information about head position into electrical impulses and then an area of the brainstem that interprets this information. An animal can have a disturbance of balance due to either a problem affecting the inner ear, such as a severe and deep-seated ear infection, or the problem could be caused by either a tumor or an infection in the vestibular center of the brainstem. The signs of vestibular disease include not only a loss of balance but also a head tilt and nystagmus. Nystagmus is a specific, involuntary eye movement where the eyes flick rapidly in one … Continue reading



This condition is not common in dogs and cats as they are quite resistant to the tetanus toxin. As in people, animals get tetanus when a cut gets infected by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani that produces tetanus toxin. The causes the muscles of one or more limbs, and usually those of the entire body and the head, are caused to contract forcefully and continuously. The result is that the animal goes very stiff. Animals also develop a characteristic facial expression as all the muscles of the head contract as well.  The prognosis is guarded but many animals will recover with long-term, intensive care. Complications relate mainly to the risk of pneumonia or, in a few cases, that the animal becomes so stiff and rigid that it is unable to breathe on its own and requires ventilation.

Further Resources

  • Tetanus. REQUIRES LOGIN; FOR VETERINARIANS In Clinical Neurology in Small
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Syringohydromyelia, also known as COMS or Caudal Occipital Malformation Syndrome, is a condition where there is insufficient room for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to pass out of the back of the skull and down around the spinal cord. Instead of flowing gently as CSF should do normally, it seems as if the lack of space affects CSF flow in similar fashion to putting ones finger over the end of a hose and so CSF tends to jet out. This jet-effect damages delicate nervous tissue and forms cavities within the spinal cord that are the hallmark of syringohydromyelia. This condition was first described in Cavalier King Charles spaniels but has since been reported in a number of breeds. Animals are usually born with the malformation predisposing them to this condition and some develop signs within the first year of life whereas others only show signs considerably later. The main clinical sign is … Continue reading