Our team continues to be here for you and your cherished pets. We are OPEN and are now able to provide a wide range of services. To learn more about the changes we have implemented in response to COVID-19 and what to expect during your next visit, click here.
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Allergies and Itching in Dogs

Allergies are a common cause of skin and ear conditions in dogs.  Dogs with allergies rarely show signs that are similar to people, who develop hay fever (sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose). 

Dogs usually suffer from red and itchy skin, hair loss and recurring skin or ear infections. There are three major causes of allergies in dogs including:

  • Food Allergies
  • Atopic Dermatitis (environmental allergens)
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis (the most common here on Vancouver Island)

Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease we see here at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital in dogs. You may not see fleas… but that doesn’t mean those pesky creatures are not there! Flea allergies are caused by flea saliva, and it only takes a few bites to cause a major problem. As lucky as we are to live in a relatively mild climate in the Comox Valley, this means that fleas may survive year round in low numbers.  If a dog has flea allergies, 100% flea control is necessary to prevent symptoms. This may mean year-round flea prevention therapy to reduce the itch

Some dogs will develop allergies to foods. Potential food allergies include proteins, carbohydrates, preservatives or dyes. The only way to accurately diagnose a food allergy is to put your dog on a prescription or homemade hypoallergenic diet for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.  The diet must only contain ingredients that your dog has never eaten before. This is called a diet trial. In order to have a successful food trial, your dog cannot eat any other food, treats, dental sticks or table scraps! If the allergy signs resolve, the former diet is offered to your dog, and if the itching returns, a food allergy is diagnosed.

Atopic dermatitis is an inherited predisposition to overreact to a variety of commonplace substances in the environment.  These allergens include plant pollens, house dust mites or mold spores.  Our damp, rainy winters and yearlong green foliage can contribute to allergy symptoms in our patients that persist over the winter. In other regions of Canada, this type of allergy may present as more of a seasonal irritation. That being said, we will sometimes see an increase in atopic dermatitis symptoms in the spring or in the fall.  Most dogs with this type of allergy begin to show symptoms between 1 and 3 years of age.  Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is made based on results of intradermal skin testing or by in vitro blood testing.  This may require referral to a veterinary dermatologist and is often recommended if we see no response to flea treatments or diet trials and there are no significant findings on routine blood tests.

If a dog is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, there are three methods of treatment:

  • Avoidance of allergens (if possible)
  • Frequent bathing with a medicated shampoo to remove contact allergens
  • Oral Medications (including antihistamines, steroids, cyclosporin and oclacitinib)

Some dogs may develop side effects to certain medications and not every medication works for every dog.  Allergen-specific immunotherapy is the third method of treatment and has a 60-80% success rate but may take months to take effect.  Although therapy may be decreased in frequency over time, it is usually considered a lifelong treatment.

Allergies are also often the cause of secondary recurring skin and ear infections. Bacterial and yeast infections can increase your dog’s itchiness.  Medicated bathing or long term antibiotic and anti-yeast medications may be recommended.

Unfortunately, allergies are usually a life-long incurable problem.

As veterinarians, we strive to control allergies as best we can and improve the quality of life for you and your dog.  Coping with allergies can be extremely frustrating for our patients, their owners and their veterinarians. The best we can do is work together to diagnose the underlying cause to try to reduce the need for medications and allow us to use more specific allergy treatments… and most importantly to give your dog the best chance for a comfortable, happy life!

Submitted by Dr. Yvette Maclean – Van Isle Veterinary Hospital.


Get a Cupcake and Support BC Animals in Need During Treat Week (Feb 24 - Mar 1, 2020)

Van Isle Veterinary Hospital is super excited to be hosting our 4th annual cupcake day fundraiser! BCSPCA celebrates “Treat Week” across the Province from Feb 24th – March 1st 2020 where business, pet owners and animal lovers can bake up a storm and sell treats with the proceeds going to BC animals in need.

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Last updated: May 29, 2020

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we are pleased to advise that effective May 25, 2020 the restrictions on veterinary practices have been lifted. Based on these changes, below are some important updates to our operating policies.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!

As you can imagine, we have a significant backlog of surgeries and wellness/vaccine exams to catch up on and we will be working hard over the next several weeks to do just that. We want to thank everyone in advance for your patience while we work through this. Although restrictions have been lifted, our health and safety protocols have not. It is important we continue to follow the guidelines set out by Worksafe BC and social distance our large team as much as possible. This means although we can offer these elective services, we are doing much fewer during the day then we were pre-COVID.



If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


During the first 8 weeks of COVID, we were operating as a 24-hour facility to better serve our community and to maintain social distancing within our team. However, as the COVID-19 situation changes, so do we!

Our team of doctors felt it was important to get back to performing your pet’s much needed regular services. In order to do so safely, we had to once again change the way we do business.

We are OPEN with the following hours:

Monday - Friday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

We are continuing to expand our hours to better serve our clients and social distance our team with 1 vet and 1 tech here until 11:00 pm, 7 days a week.

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

- Your dedicated team at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital