Wellness, Medical and Diagnostic Services

At McKenzie Veterinary Services we strongly believe that the best way to promote and maintain good health in your pet is through preventative measures. This starts as kittens and puppies with the initial vaccinations, de-worming, dietary recommendations and behavioural training. As pets begin to age, we place more emphasis on disease prevention by doing regular physical exams to detect diseases early in their development and through diagnostic testing such as blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound. Many of the common age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and arthritis, if diagnosed early on, are very treatable and can be managed with medicines and diet. We believe that our shared goal is to enable your pet, at any age, to have the best quality of life possible.

Pet Care

Vaccination Protocols at McKenzie Veterinary Services

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In recent years much of the concern about vaccines being dangerous or unnecessary has subsided. There was for a time, an unsubstantiated notion that vets were “over vaccinating” pets and that vaccines were the cause of “many illnesses” in pets. However, thankfully published studies using evidence-based medicine, 60 years of experience and just plain common sense has prevailed and a balanced approach to vaccinating pets has been achieved. The bottom line is that vaccinations have saved more lives of animals and people on this planet than any other medical discovery and will continue to do so for years to come. Vaccines are generally very safe and very few animals experience any adverse effects. Read this section to learn more about our vaccination protocols and why and when we recommend them to prevent diseases in your pet. A full physical examination is performed on every dog or cat which receives vaccines and if health issues are found during the examination, vaccines may be postponed until your pet is well enough to receive them.

Vaccinations for Cats and Kittens

cat stethoscopeThe core vaccines which we recommend for kittens and cats on Vancouver Island protect kittens and cats against distemper (panleukopenia virus), upper respiratory infections (calicivirus and viral rhinotracheitis), feline leukemia virus and rabies virus.

The feline distemper vaccination is actually a combination vaccine protecting against panleukopenia, calicivirus, and viral rhinotracheitis. These viruses can create serious health conditions, especially in kittens, often leading to death or chronic debilitation. Direct or indirect contact with infected kittens or cats and or through bodily fluids is how these viruses are spread. Distemper is especially nasty and often will cause death via severe diarrhea and bone marrow suppression in young kittens. This combination vaccine is recommended for all cats (indoor cats or outside cats) and given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, at one year and then boosted every three years thereafter.

Another core vaccine is against feline leukemia virus which can cause a wide variety of conditions such as leukemia, chronic immune suppression and lymphoid tumours. This is spread through direct means usually involving prolonged close contact, sharing food and water bowls or from bites with infected cats. Generally, this vaccine is recommended vaccine in young cats which may get into fights outdoors or in multiple cat households or catteries. This vaccine is given at 8 and 12 weeks, boosted at one year and then annually until middle to old age depending on the cat’s lifestyle.

bat 1Rabies on Vancouver Island is a low-risk disease because unlike other areas in Canada, the only recorded wildlife vectors of rabies in this area are bats, but cats can catch sick bats both outdoors and indoors on occasion. At Mckenzie Veterinary Services we strongly recommend all cats receive this vaccine because rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted directly to humans through saliva in a cat bite. Cats rarely behave clinically ill until they go into a “furious phase” of the illness and start attacking people. Rabies vaccine is given at 12 or 16 weeks, boosted at one year and then every three years. Rabies is also required for movement of cats into the US and nearly every other country.

Vaccinations for Dogs and Puppiespuppies

The three core vaccinations we recommend dogs on southern Vancouver Island receive are distemper and parvovirus, leptospirosis and rabies.

Distemper and parvovirus are major infectious causes of death in young dogs in so many parts of the world. Fortunately, in Victoria we have a well-vaccinated urban population of dogs, distemper is becoming very uncommon. In addition, because responsible dog owners remove and properly dispose of their dogs’ feces, the local “load” of parvovirus which is shed in feces into the environment, has been reduced and so parvovirus too is an uncommon disease in Victoria dogs. Nonetheless, these diseases can be fatal and vaccinations we use do protect your dog and therefore we recommend puppies receive this vaccine combination at 8 and 12 weeks, boost at one year and then every three years.

dog drinking out of puddle

Dogs can become infected with Leptospirosis when they drink from puddles infected by raccoons.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease we don’t hear about much but it is arguably the most likely preventable disease which dogs could pick up anywhere in Victoria and without knowing it. This is not a disease generally spread directly dog to dog; dogs get infected when they drink standing water or damp grass or vegetation which has been contaminated with the infected urine of urban wildlife such as rats, raccoons, mice, squirrels and also river otters.

That common wildlife are asymptomatic carriers of the spirochete bacteria Leptospira (many strains exist), and when they pass infected urine into the environment, Leptospira can live in cool damp conditions for up to six weeks. Dogs drinking out of puddles or eating grass may get infected unknowingly with Leptospirosis, and become severely ill and may die of liver or kidney infections. It is a difficult organism to definitively diagnose in a sick pet and another concern is that you, the owner, could potentially become infected if you are cleaning up the messes of your sick pet. For this reason, we strongly believe that all dogs should get an annual vaccine against Leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is considered to be an emerging urban disease across North America as our cities become havens for urban wildlife and in 2014/2015 there were many new cases reported in dogs Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. At McKenzie Veterinary Services we have always considered Leptospirosis an important core vaccine for dogs. It is generally given at 12 and 16 weeks of age in puppies and annually in adult dogs. The newer generation Leptospirosis vaccines rarely cause side effects.

Rabies is also a concern in dogs just as it is in cats. It has been estimated that 25,000 people around the world die annually from rabies. The majority of deaths are in children bitten by feral dogs in Africa, India and Asia. Again we are fortunate to have very few carriers of rabies here on Vancouver Island, only know carriers here are bat and BC bat biologists estimate that only 1 in 900 bats in BC carry rabies. The reason why dogs should be vaccinated is because, if a dog bites a human, and that dog has no history of a current rabies vaccine, it may come to pass that it would be euthanized and it’s brain tissue sent to a lab to definitively determine if that dog had passed rabies onto the human. Without prompt treatment most animals and humans that contract rabies will die. Rabies is given in puppies at 12 or 16 weeks, at one year and then boosted every three years. It is also required for all international travel.

tick on dog
There are two canine vaccines which we feel are non-core vaccines, meaning we recommend them only when your dog’s exposure to disease may be higher than normal for this area. One non-core vaccine is for Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) which in our area is uncommon and spread through Ixodes acificus, the Black-Legged Tick. If your dog spends a good deal of time in the woods and parks in our region and receives many tick bites per year, then we may recommend that your dog get this annual vaccine.
Two other tick born diseases, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis are known to be present in ticks on southern Vancouver Island. Vets at McKenzie Veterinary Services recently published a case report of Anaplasmosis in a dog that had never left Vancouver Island (link to our web article on Ticks). There are no vaccines against these diseases, thankfully they are very rare here.

We also consider vaccinating against so-called “Kennel Cough” to be a non-core vaccination. This vaccination may be required for dogs attending doggy daycare, dog shows, obedience classes, field trials and for kenneling purposes. Many different bacteria and viruses can potentially trigger the infectious tracheitis/bronchitis seen during kennel cough outbreaks in our area. The kennel cough vaccines are not always effective in preventing disease, just as the human flu shot does not always confer cross-protection against every strain of flu virus. Furthermore, when dogs are infected they rarely experience more than a harsh, honking cough lasting 5 to 7. Thus, it is unclear if there is a great benefit to giving this vaccine annually unless a dog is in higher risk situations where they are constant close contact with other dogs. Discuss with your veterinarian your dogs’ exposure to other dogs and other events or activities they are involved in before considering the merits of this vaccination.



Importance Physical Exams and History Taking…why our vets know more than Dr Google

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Scenario …..You notice over the past two weeks that your dog, Bobby, has developed a slowly worsening cough. What do you do? Quickly and because it is free, you consult Dr Google with the search words “causes of coughing in dogs”….up pop 450 sites with an array of information but then things get very confusing because there are lots of medical terms and names of diseases and before long you are convinced your dog has distemper or Legionnaires disease (both rare in dogs) and is about to die.

So, you ring the vet and get in right away…. 30 minutes later at the vets office…next appointment for Dr Burniston is to see a coughing dog. Vet comes into the room to see a coughing dog and an anxious owner. Here’s what happens then….

Before our vets begin to examine your pet we start by taking a complete history from you, the owner. No one brings their sick pet to the vet without having noticed something which is either suddenly and obviously different from their pets normal behaviour. Or it may be a subtle and long-standing change in things like appetite, water consumption and urination, vomiting or diarrhea, weakness, change in sleep patterns or respiratory effort, etc. Life style (active or sedentary, indoor or outdoors), the diet being fed, the number and types of other pets in the household, age of pet, vaccination and travel history and other pre-existing medical conditions and medications can provide important clues in helping determine what is going on in our patients. So we as vets need clear and honest answers from owners before we start the examination. Expect to be peppered with questions about your observations, often in your answers lies the clues that the vets needs to know to get to the root of the problem.

A physical examination, whether it is for a sick pet or as part of an annual vaccination visit, starts with a distant exam using our eyes, ears and nose. We are looking at body condition, movement coordination and mobility, coat and skin condition, abnormal body odours, abnormal breathing sounds or joint sounds. Then a hands on inspection of the surface of a pets body to check for skin masses, wounds or abscesses, lymph node enlargement, swollen joints, parasites such as fleas, lice and ticks, presence of skin diseases, paws and nails and then make an assessment of pain in any joints or the spine. Then begins an inspection of the head end i.e. the oral cavity, the ears and eyes and then the rear end i.e. the anal area and the genitalia. We may also take a core body temperature when necessary. In the thoracic cavity we listen to the heart and lungs and may concurrently feel the femoral pulse. Then the abdomen is palpated for any abnormal position, size or shape of organs like the kidney, spleen, liver, intestines and bladder. All the while, we will be talking to you about our physical findings…but internally we are silently deciding what is normal from abnormal, what we think may be causing the changes in your pets behaviour, how it all ties in with the history and signalment and be trying to sort out a diagnostic work up and treatment plan and how explain to the owner what we think is going on and how to get an answer.

Veterinarians really provide so much more than Dr Google because a vet in real life is the curator of the knowledge and so knows how to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, i.e. the signs and symptoms, the history and the clinical exam findings, and then craft a diagnostic and treatment plan for your pet. By the way…… the cough in Bobby, your 15 year old terrier, is happening at night, the vet heard a loud heart murmur on listening to the chest, and then based diagnostic workup using radiographs and ultrasound, he diagnosed Bobby congestive heart failure, which was then treated with two heart medications which make Bobby’s heart function so much better that he’s like a pup again!

Medical Diagnostic Capabilities at McKenzie Veterinary Services

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At McKenzie Veterinary Services we are constantly investing in new equipment and training to enable us to provide a wide array of diagnostic services in our veterinary hospital. We have large purpose built laboratory space with Idexx blood analyzers that can run a complete blood count and chemistry panel in about 15 minutes. We also have two microscopes with digital camera connection to the computer so we can review blood smears and cytology samples, and when needed beam via the internet the pictures of cells etc to veterinary pathologists for identification and diagnosis. Our animal health technicians and veterinarians are well trained and many have special interest in veterinary pathology.

Other diagnostic equipment that we routinely use include:

veterinarian using tonopenn

   Tonopen used to measure intraocular pressure


CardioVet EGC app for smart phone which can record ECG tracings and transmit them to specialists in New York for analysis

 stool sample

     special urine and fecal analyses

fungassy plate

  fungal culture


cytology and histology from biopsies or fine needle aspirates

ear mites

      skin scrapings, ear swabs


We also make use of several outside veterinary pathology laboratories in the lower mainland, e.g. Idexx Laboratories, True North Laboratory, BC Veterinary Animal Health Center, Histovet, CytoVetStat, Urolith Lab etc, where we send samples for special blood and bacteriology tests, urolith anaylsis and histology sample (whole tissue identification). Allergy testing is done at two outside labs.

Imaging – seeing through to the problem using digital x-rays and ultrasound

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Digital X-Ray

At McKenzie Veterinary Services we make use of state of the art imaging equipment. Our digital x-ray machine produces crisp, detailed images that are ready to view immediately and can be exported to veterinary radiology specialists when necessary. X-rays or radiographs, help the veterinary see inside the body and help show what is going on in both boney structures as well a soft tissues.

Dental Digital X-Ray

Digital x-rays are also used in all of our dental procedures. We uses a tiny x-ray plate to produce excellent images of teeth so that we can visualize the health of the roots (looking for abscesses) and crowns (looking for cavities). Full mouth digital x-rays can capture images quickly and so reduces the length of time a pet needs to be under a general anesthetic for dental work.  Click here to go to our section on dentistry at McKenzie Veterinary Services.

dog and ultrasound


Ultrasound is another important tool for imaging internal soft tissues especially in the abdomen and for the assessing heart anatomy and function. Our brand new ultrasound machine has many uses and gives us insights into changes in internal organs that x-rays may not be able to tell us. Prior to ultrasound one of the only ways we could determine if a dog had swallowed a soft object that did not show up on an x-ray, was to perform exploratory surgery. Now using ultrasound imaging we can be sure that an exploratory is actually necessary for resolving such a problem.