Pet Health Alert in the Comox Valley – Toxic Mushrooms


Whether you’re headed out for a walk, or staying on your own property, you’ll want to be vigilant about mushrooms when it comes to your pets (and your children of course). Poisonous mushrooms that grow in the wild can cause serious – and sometimes lethal – harm to your pets if you’re not careful.

How do you know which mushrooms are poisonous?

Mushrooms are very difficult to identify, so when in doubt, we should always assume worst-case scenario – and keep our pets away from ALL wild mushrooms. Depending on the kind of mushroom ingested, poisoning can even occur with one small bite! This spring, a warning from Island Health was issued about a poisonous mushroom known as the “Death Cap”, which has been spotted in residential areas near Victoria. They can resemble safe cousins, and sadly, even caused the tragic death of a three year-old following accidental ingestion.

How do you keep your pets safe?

To stay safe, clear your yard and property of all wild mushrooms, and be on the watch for these when you go out for walks.

What do you do if your pet ingests a wild mushroom?

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a mushroom, call our emergency line immediately. (250) 339-6555. 

When you bring your pet in, bring the mushroom if possible.

And don’t hesitate; the sooner you bring your pet in, the sooner we can decontaminate (e.g., induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to bind the poison from the stomach) and treat. This is less damaging to your pet, and comes at less cost to you. Additional treatment often includes IV fluids, blood work monitoring (for 2 days), liver protectant drugs, anti-vomiting medication, and supportive care. If you wait until clinical signs develop, it may be too late to treat your pet effectively.

Do you remember? In 2015, Rock Johnson’s dog Brutus passed away following the ingestion of a toxic mushroom.

Unfortunately, we do see accidental mushroom poisonings occur here in the Comox Valley as well. The good news is, we can do our best to prevent these from happening. Please share this post with your friends and family members with pets here in the Valley to spread the word!  

"I encourage all of you out there to be mindful of mushrooms in your yards, parks or anywhere outside your dogs play. What looks innocent, can be deadly to your lil' family members. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Instagram

"I encourage all of you out there to be mindful of mushrooms in your yards, parks or anywhere outside your dogs play. What looks innocent, can be deadly to your lil' family members. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Instagram

Has your pet ever had an encounter with wild mushrooms here in the Comox Valley? 

Our family, caring for yours. Come and get to know us today. 

from the desk of Dr. Stacey Gastis

Meet Blueberry - sweet as can be!

This month we are welcoming a new #SunriseVetPet to the family. Meet Blueberry. With Kelly and Blueberry, it was ruv at first sight. And after a few years of walks and time together, Blueberry wiggled her way into Kelly’s heart and home. Blueberry quickly became part of the pack, which includes… 4 feet and 24 paws!

As the Sunrise Vet Pet for the month, Blueberry also won a free bag of veterinary-approved dog food, and of course - a feature on this blog and our social media. 

Blueberry’s mom, Kelly, shared with us a bit about Blueberry.


Q. Tell us a bit about Blueberry - how long has Blueberry been part of your family?

A. Blueberry has been part of our family for six months, but she has been in my life for around three and half years. I used to walk her as a pup, and we grew a strong bond because of it! She was rehomed to me due to her previous housemates not getting along! She has fit nicely into our pack, making our group complete with four dogs, two cats, and two humans.


Q. What are Blueberry’s favourite activities?

A. Blueberry loves going for walks, especially anywhere she can swim. She isn’t a great swimmer, so she does have to wear a life jacket if the water is deep. She had a sheltered life before moving in with us and is slowing getting used to being out and about, and she is taking small steps into the big world!

What are some of your favourite dog-friendly activities in the Comox Valley? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Beach days with Kelly's granddaughter. 

Beach days with Kelly's granddaughter. 

Come and Get to Know Us!

dr. g and puppy 2.jpg

Scaredy cats and fraidy dogs no more! Have you ever heard of the Fear Free movement in veterinary practices? The Fear Free movement promotes positive veterinary visit experiences for our pets (reducing any associated stress and anxiety that may come with a visit), to encourage better healthcare. It’s a set of practices, methods, and tools that help to calm our veterinary patients and create a low-stress environment for their care.

After all, a peaceful, pawsitive visit to the vet leads to a happier, healthier pet (and parents, too!). 

The Fear Free movement was in large part, based on the wonderful work of some acclaimed animal behaviourists, trainers, and veterinarians. And what's not to love?  Like you, we love pets like family, and want what is best for them. Pets not only need veterinary professionals to look after their physical well being, but their emotional well-being too – they go paw-in-paw with one another.

Our staff is trained and experienced with Gentle Handling techniques, as well as other veterinary visit protocols which align with the Fear Free movement – like creating a calm, relaxing environment in our waiting area, using veterinarian-approved treats, choosing a suitable room for examinations, and cradling every pet’s physical and emotional needs. And yes – every visit seems to end with a Sunrise snuggle!

We also educate our families on how to best prepare their BFF for visits with us - be sure to ask us. Many choose to pop in when they’re in the neighbourhood for a treat - which we greatly encourage - and we might even ask to snap a photo for our Facebook page!

If you’re receiving this, chances are you already know us.

But if you don’t, be sure to give us a call or drop in (or even forward this email to a friend who hasn’t yet!) as we’re offering 30% off first visits for new patients this month only. 

Head to our Facebook page for regular, helpful tips on how to best care for your BFF. 

We are committed to the well-being of our pets (and their parents). Thanks for reading!

- From the desk of Dr. Stacey Gastis 


What's the difference between a SPAY and a NEUTER?

Wonder what the difference between a SPAY and a NEUTER is? You're not alone!

Both are procedures done to sterilize animals like cats and dogs (rendering them unable to reproduce), but spaying refers to the procedure done to females, and neutering refers to the procedure done to males. Both are serious surgeries - spaying involves taking out the uterus and ovaries, while male pets are neutered by taking out the testicles.

Wonder WHY people opt to have this procedure done for their pets? Read our last blog post, here. (And yes, we're offering 10% off this month, or when you plan for future months too!)

Why People Spay/Neuter Their Cats and Dogs

Are you wondering whether you should spay (female) or neuter (male) your cat or your dog?  

Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why families opt to:

puppy kitty.jpg

1. Unexpected pregnancies
The call of the wild! An intact male is programmed to find it difficult to resist a female in heat. An intact male can run away and follow the smell of a female in heat located miles away - sometimes getting lost or hit by traffic. In addition, you may be liable if your male procreates. For those with female pets, you might find yourself caring for an unexpected family member - as well as the female throughout her pregnancy and birth, who will require extra medical care. 

2. Pet overpopulation
Meanwhile, 3 to 4 million of unwanted pets are euthanized each year, when many of these deaths could have been prevented by neutering and spaying. Too many pets - not enough homes.

3. Behaviour
 When done early in life, neutering can reduce aggressiveness and improve behaviour overall in our male pets. For example - you'll find less of the always-embarrassing "mounting" behaviour in our doggies! 

4. Marking
Peeeee-yew! Few things smell WORSE than intact male cat urine.This increases the risk of being hit by a car. Neutering, when done early enough in life, virtually eliminates the odour of male cat urine and should prevent marking in male dogs.

5. Roaming
Our pets simply don't understand how to cross the street safely. The urge to roam or run away from home is greatly reduced by neutering our pets. This keeps them out of scraps, out of traffic, and out of unexpected pregnancies. Not to mention, every year millions of pets get lost - often from simply roaming away from home.

6. Important Medical Health Reasons

Intact male dogs can have a number of prostate diseases, which are prevented by neutering. A perineal hernia (often seen in intact male dogs) is dramatically reduced by neutering, and the risk of testicular cancer is eliminated. No testicles - less health problems! 

Female dogs have no risk of infections, cancers, or diseases of the uterus (which is removed), and also a reduced risk of breast cancer. 

If you're considering the procedure, we urge you to give us a call or come in to talk to us. We can help you identify the associated costs, timelines, and the individual needs of your family and your pet. 

From the desk of Dr. Gastis. Come and get to know us. 

For the month of August, we're offering 10% off the spay/neuter services for this month or for future months. 

Call us today to learn more.

(250) 339-6555
Get more great info @


Meet the pup with the GREAT pawsonality - Mika!

Mika is our August Sunrise Vet Pet of the Month

For a couple of years now, Mika has been such a great member of our Facebook and Sunrise Community - we can't get enough of her ADORABLE photos and outgoing paww-sonality!

As the Sunrise Vet Pet for the month, Mika also won a $25 coupon off her next service at Sunrise, a free bag of veterinary-approved treats, and of course - a  feature on this blog and our social media. 

We sat down with her Mom, Stephanie, to learn a bit more about her. 

1) Mika has such a great smile! Can you tell us a bit about her? How did she become part of your family?

Mika found her way into our hearts when she was only 6 months old. We adopted her privately from someone who could not keep her, and she quickly charmed us with her big smile and gentle spirit. She loves to play with her toys, suntan on the deck, or snuggle on the couch. 

2) What does Mika love most about living in the Comox Valley?

Mika loves going on walks, exploring at the beach, going kayaking with us, and most of all she loves to play fetch with her chuck-it at the park, which she will happily do until she is exhausted! 

3) It's often said that our pets can be our greatest teachers. Can you tell us about the impact Mika has had on your life?

When we adopted Mika, I was at a low point in my life. I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt very alone. When we welcomed her into our lives immediately I felt a deep connection with her. She never left my side, and would follow me around like a little shadow. She is the most loving, loyal, sweet and gentle dog. She has brought me so much joy over these past 4 years. I am so lucky to be able to share my life with her.

Thank you so much for sharing, Stephanie and Mika! 

We think you two were MEANT for each other - wouldn't our Sunrise community agree???

Comment below - how has YOUR pet impacted your life in a positive way? We'd love to know!


Please, please - it CAN'T be fleas!

If your pet is doing a lot of THIS....

Chances are, they're not feeling too hot!

Skin problems are one of the MOST common reasons why people bring in their cats and dogs to see us. Often people notice it more at night time, when the house is quiet (and they're trying to get some sleep).

We can only imagine that our itchy cats and dogs have a decreased quality of life and can even feel quite miserable due to their discomfort, so we aim to diagnose and establish a treatment plan as quickly (and cost-effectively) as possible. The underlying causes of your pet's itchiness can vary widely, and should be properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Apollo,  9 week old Shepherd cross, was in for his Advantage®  application today!

Apollo,  9 week old Shepherd cross, was in for his Advantage®  application today!

Some signs you might notice in your itchy pet include: 

  • Ear infections
  • Redness of the skin
  • Wounds associated with scratching (“hot spots”)
  • Secondary infections
  • Hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea (associated with adverse food reactions)

and of course... excessive itchiness!

What are the most common causes of skin problems?

Flea allergies, atopic (environmental allergies), adverse food reactions, and skin infections are common culprits.

While there are different stand-alone reasons for the itch like: fleas, infection with bacteria, yeast, ringworm, and mites to name a few, your dog or cat may have an allergy that continuously drives the whole thing. Infections can be quickly treated, however allergy is always about continuous management.
Signs of allergy may include one or more of: ongoing ear infections, fur loss around the eyes, chewing at the nails constantly, bronze discolouration of the paws from licking, swollen paws with red skin, red skin all over the whole body, scratching constantly, scooting on the bottom, colour change or rash on the belly, red skin on the temple area or small crusts all over your kitty, pulling fur out with bald patches and of course sudden red oozing ‘hot spots’ appearing with a vengeance. Wow, what a list!
Allergy is either present all year (food or dust mites) or seasonal (pollens). The most important thing is to get the diagnosis. Recurring skin or ear infection is often a response to allergy. The allergy shows first.
Understanding is key for you to help your pet. And they need help. Having a constant itch is NO fun.



From the desk of Dr. Gastis. Come and get to know us. 

What Does My Dog Have - Skin Allergies or Bug Bites?


Did you know that one of the most common reasons people bring their pets to see us, is itching?

Why is my dog scratching?

Your doggie is scratching because of inflamed skin - medically referred to as dermatitis, with derma- referring to skin and -itis meaning “inflammation of.”  This can be the cause of intense scratching in the dog.

Why does their skin get inflamed?  Two of the most common types of dermatitis are allergic and parasitic. Allergic dermatitis can be caused by seasonal allergies, non-seasonal allergies, food allergies, etc. Parasitic dermatitis, on the other hand, is associated with insect bites or stings or contact with their secretions (feces, saliva, etc.).

 So how can I tell the difference between allergies and bug bites?

 Because they can have similarities in their clinical symptoms, it’s imperative that you have a consultation and physical examination with your veterinarian.

We can help you determine the cause and help prescribe or suggest the best treatment route for your BFF – one that fits the needs of your family!

 Allergic Dermatitis

Dogs affected by allergies may have allergies related to seasonal, food-related causes, or other causes. Seasonal allergies can be triggered year-round depending on what your pet is allergic to (yes, not just spring!). Blooming plants and flowers, grasses, weeds, and trees are common triggers. Other common allergies include dust, molds, environmental materials, and chemicals. Don’t forget food, too - some dogs can be allergic to certain proteins (beef, dairy, chicken, etc.) and/or grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc.).

When your dog has an allergy, they can be affected all over their body, but often patients experience the most irritation in the armpits, ears, feet, groin, legs, muzzle, and around the eyes and anus. What to look for? Redness, oozing, skin pigment changes, thickening of the skin, crusting, oozing, and redness.

Parasitic Dermatitis

 Fleas, ticks, oh my! Here in the Comox Valley we have to be very aware of the fleas, ticks, and other biting or stinging insects, and take preventative measures for the health and wellbeing of our pets. Some dogs can be really sensitive to an insect bites and experience allergic symptoms to its saliva or venom. You may notice chewing, licking, or scratching as a result.

1.    Fleas

Fleas tend to hang out around your doggie’s head, neck, inguinal area, tail base, and perineum, which are locations where your dog will itch and scratch.

The saliva from fleas is very allergenic, so a single flea can cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) – which makes your pet VERY itchy and uncomfortable indeed.

2.    Ticks

These crawling parasites cling to fur when animals brush by (typically from leaves, blades of grass, or other environment surfaces) – so you’ll typically find them on the outward-facing sides of your dog’s body and limbs.

Like fleas, ticks look for blood in order to survive. That is why tick bites create inflammation at the point of entry that can worsen the longer the tick stays attached and releases its saliva into the skin. Not to mention, you can often find secondary bacterial infection on the tick bite site that will lead to further irritation and itching.

Not to be forgotten? Mites love our pets, too!

 So, Now What?

Your pet is itchy scratchy and it’s driving you crazy – can you only imagine how THEY must feel?

 Not just a nuisance - fleas, ticks, and other biting insects can transmit bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can have irreversible and fatal consequences. As well, skin allergies can be representative of a bigger internal health problem, and our doggies can even seriously injure themselves or receive an infection as a result of the itching.

That is why prevention and early treatment is key.

Final thought? Itchy pet, call your vet! Come in for your pet’s Itchy Scratchy Exam during the month of July and find the best solution for your dog or kitty.

From the desk of Dr. Stacey Gastis

Summer Safety Tips for Pets

As the weather kicks up a notch, our natural tendency can be to get everyone up and out of the house... pets included. While spending more time outdoors can be a great source of exercise and fun for all involved, we have to be aware of the dangers that face our pets during the warmer months - and understand how to keep them safe!

Watch WHEN you exercise. Take walks in the cooler part of the day, in the early morning and evening hours. Bring enough water for both of you!

Never leave your dog in the car. No, not even if you think you’ll only be a few minutes. Even when it isn’t that hot outside, temperatures soar inside a closed car. Dogs can and do die of heat-related injuries after being left in cars every year - let's avoid this. 

Give them a cool place inside to chill out.  Help your pet cool down when they need to with a designated, cool and comfortable place in your home. 

Hot to trot? Before you head out for a walk, touch the pavement. If it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for your dog's paw pads. Walk on the grass and stay off the asphalt. You also might want to try booties for your dog so his or her paws don’t burn!

Offer plenty of water and shade. Don't leave your doggie alone outside for long. And when he is there, make sure he has shade and lots of fresh, cool water - add ice cubes too! FYI: keep in mind that doghouses can trap the heat and make it worse. 

Make Dogsicles: Help your canine chill from the inside out. For puppy popsicles, make ice cubes with tasty treats inside. Or fill and freeze a chew toy to make a chilly snack.

Reuse your kiddie pool. Those cheap, plastic, child-sized pools that everyone seems to have laying around their garages?  These are perfect for for your dogs to wade or lie in. You could even make bath time out of it!

Headed out on the water? Life preservers aren't just for humans. Bring lifejackets for your pets, too. 

Be mindful of your dog's needs. If you have a snub-nosed pet like a pug or bulldog, be aware that their smaller airways make it harder for them to release heat when they pant. Pay special attention to the needs of your dog who is aging, overweight, or who have special medial concerns during the summer months. 

Talk to your groomer. Be sure to get rid of any mats and tangles your dog may have - it will help keep them cool. But before you shave or clip their coat, be sure to talk to your vet or groomer. The extra fur that keeps them  warm in winter may also keep him cool in summer!

Watch for signs of overheating. Your dog can't tell you when they don't feel well, so keep an eye out for heatstroke, which can have these symptoms:

  • Heavy panting
  • Heavy drooling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dark or red gums and tongue
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Agitation

If you see any signs, get them to the vet right away.

See your vet. Keep your pet's shots up to date, especially in summer. The parvo virus spreads in warm weather. When your dog spends more time outside, the likelihood of them coming into contact with a critter with rabies increases. As well, preventative treatments are needed for fleas and ticks, which spread many diseases. We can prevent these pests from getting your BFF sick!

We hope you found these tips to be useful! Prevention is always easier than dealing with a crisis later.

How do you keep your dog cool in the summer? Do you stay inside as much as possible? Share your tips on how to keep dogs cool in summer below!