Pet Insurance for your Dog.

We offer 4 weeks free insurance for puppies and kittens.

We are lucky to live in a world where our ability to treat our animals is improving at an amazingly rapid rate. Even since I graduated, many conditions that where owners were told “there’s nothing we can do” are now very treatable. The unfortunate side-effect of this is vet bills are getting bigger. A broken leg can cost around $2800 to repair, cancer treatments can cost $5000, and cases referred to specialists in Perth can cost over $10000. This is why pet insurance is now so important. Pet insurance gives you the ability to obtain the best treatment for your pet without having to worry about the cost.

Should you get pet insurance for your dog?

Whether you need insurance or not depends on a several factors.

  • What can you afford? Could you afford to treat your pet if they broke their leg, became very unwell or ruptured a cruciate ligament? If you can’t, insurance is essential.
  • Does your dog have pre-existing conditions? If your dog already has arthritis, skin problems or other chronic illness, you may find you pay the same premium with less cover. After all, insurance companies won’t cover any conditions that your pet is already showing signs of at the time they become insured. This means the benefits of insurance may be reduced.
  • Is your dog pure bred? Many pure bred dogs are much more prone to certain medical conditions. For example, Staffys are prone to skin disease, Great Danes have an increased risk of a twisted stomach and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have high rates of heart disease. We strongly recommend insuring the majority of pure bred dogs.

What type of insurance is right for my dog?

Like any product, pet insurance varies depending on the policy type and company providing the policy. These are the things we recommend you look for when considering a pet insurance policy:

  • Cover for the duration of each condition: this means that if your pet develops a chronic condition such as arthritis, skin problems or any other ongoing condition, the insurance policy will keep covering the bills. Some policies only cover for 12 months from when a condition is diagnosed, which are ok if the pet breaks a leg or has an acute illness, but are not much good for chronic diseases.
  • Cover bilateral conditions: We recommend policies that will cover illnesses if they occur on both sides of the animal. For example, a dog that ruptures a cruciate ligament has around a 70% chance of rupturing the cruciate ligament in the other leg. Ensure your policy will cover both legs
  • Cover accident AND illness: Some policies will only cover accident or illness. This means if your pet breaks its leg you may be covered, but if they develop a chronic illness such as diabetes, arthritis or skin disease then you may find you’re on your own.
  • Cover for life: We also recommend policies that will keep covering your pet even when they get old, as many policies only cover the animal until around 10 years of age. Like people, when pets get old they tend to need more treatments an medications, so it is important to have a policy that will keep covering your pet as they age

Please feel free to talk to any of our staff about pet insurance, or find examples of policies available at www.petplan.com.au

What should I feed my dog?

Photo collage of different breeds of dogs isolated on a white background

Feeding Your Dog.

What should I feed my dog?  When it comes to feeding your dog, there are a lot of different thoughts and theories as to what is best. Is commercial food, a home cooked food, or a raw food diet the best?

I think the answer is all three can be good or bad, but they all need to be done well.

Keeping your dog and ideal weight.

Let’s start with the most important point – quantity. Far and away the biggest food related problem we see is simply overfeeding dogs. Excessive weight has similar issues in dogs to people, with increased risk of arthritis, cancer, heart disease and many other problems. A recent study conducted by a pet food company compared the life expectancy of Labradors which were overweight to those of an ideal weight. They found that the average life span of an overweight Labrador was 12 years, while those which were kept at an ideal weight lived for 15.4 years on average. That’s over three years difference!

My recommendation is you should be able to easily feel your dog’s ribs, but if you imagine them shaved you shouldn’t be able to see the ribs clearly. It is worth checking your dog’s body condition every few weeks, as changes in season and activity levels can lead to some fairly quick changes. It’s much easier to correct weight issues when they are quite minor rather than once the dog is very over or underweight.

The dogs we most often see weight issues in are the breeds that love their food, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, but also small breed dogs where the owners see them as fussy eaters.

Dogs such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers will eat far beyond the point of being full. I saw a dog once which had eaten seven kilograms of dog biscuits in one sitting. It had a huge belly and looked quite sorry for itself, but she was still wanting a treat from me.

The “fussy eaters” are also prone to being overweight. We actually find that they’re not really fussy, but simply not hungry. This may be because they are not food motivated, or more commonly just don’t need as much food as the owner thinks they do. We see this most often in small breed dogs.

We find the fussy eaters will not be hungry, so won’t eat the “normal” food they are offered. The owner gets a bit worried, so try something a bit more tasty. The dog eats some of that tasty food because it tastes so good, then gets full. It’s a lot like offering a kid a healthy meal. They will likely eat what they need, then go off and play. If you then offer them some chips or an icecream, they will probably come back and eat some more. If this is done on a regular basis, you end up with an overweight kid.

It’s amazing how often we see an overweight dog where the owner says “if I feed it any less it will starve to death”. A dog’s metabolism is much more efficient then ours, so they need much less food than we would necessarily think. It is a simple input/output equation, so if the dog is overweight it is receiving too many calories. If the diet is well balanced, it will still get all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy from a much smaller amount of food.

I find that many commercial dog foods recommend feeding more than most dogs need, though the actual amount required varies a lot depending on gender, size, sterilisation status and exercise levels. We recommend starting off feeding the recommended amount then adjusting as needed according to your dog’s body condition.

What to feed your dog.

This is always going to be a very polarising topic. Some people believe that commercial dog foods are the best way to feed dogs, while others firmly believe that a raw food diet is the only way to keep your dog healthy.

Personally, I think either diet can be good or bad, depending on the quality of ingredients and the balance of nutrients. We do need to remember that different dogs are going to have different nutritional requirements, so there is no “one size fits all” approach to feeding.

Commercial Dog Food:

I feed my own dog a commercial dog food. I use the Royal Canin foods, as they are well balanced, made from human grade food, and look after the specific needs of my dog.

It is probably obvious that a large dog such as a Great Dane needs different food to a Chihuahua, but many commercial diets aren’t designed to allow for these differences. Large breed dogs need controlled calories and nutrients to allow for ideal growth rates, while small breed dogs which are particularly prone to dental disease need biscuits designed to keep their teeth clean.

Feeding commercial food is great for people who don’t have the time to put together a well balanced food for their dog, or where the dog has a specific medical issue.

It is critically important to feed good quality dog food when using a commercial diet. Some foods cost as little as two dollars per kilogram, which makes me wonder what sort of quality ingredients are used. You will find that most vets can tell then a dog is on these cheap foods by the smell of their flatulence and the colour of their pooh (many of the artificial colours used will be passed straight through, giving a red tinge to the pooh). Just the same as you wouldn’t expect a child to thrive and be healthy on a poor diet, we can’t expect a dog to be at its best when fed rubbish.

Because many poor quality foods have a lot of fillers in them, you often need to feed quite a lot more to feed your dog sufficiently. This means you end up with more pooh passing through your dog, which you need to pick up, and the actual cost of feeding your dog is not that different to feeding a good quality diet where to feed a smaller amount.

For most dogs, we recommend biscuits over soft food such as tinned food or rolls. Soft food tends to be higher in fat, and also contributes to dental disease as it will leave more residue on the teeth.

Home Cooked Diets:

Home cooked diets can be good for your dog if well balanced. It is important to formulate the diet carefully to ensure the dog receives all the nutrients they need for their size and life-stage. I would recommend finding a good book with a variety of recipes.

Raw Food Diets:                               

These diets are based around the idea of what a dogs ancestors would have eaten. Think of it as paleo for dogs.

Proponents of this sort of diet argue that a wolf in the wild would have eaten their meat raw and ingested the contents of their prey’s stomach and intestines.

Raw food diets are normally based around fresh meat, raw bones or chicken frames and a mix of vegetables.

Opponents to raw food diets argue that a dog’s nutritional requirements have changed with domestication, and feeding raw meat increases the risk of certain pathogens in the faeces.

If feeding a raw food diet, it is very important to feed high quality meat and bones to reduce the risk of food poisoning and pathogens in faeces.

Feeding bones to dogs:

Feeding bones to dogs has benefits and risks. The Australian Vet Dental Association recommends not feeding bones to dogs due to the risk of tooth fractures, the wearing down of teeth, and the chances of bones causing blockages in the gut or constipation.

I do recommend feeding bones to dogs, as I think the benefits tend to outweigh the risks. It is important to only ever feed raw bones, and avoid feeding chop or knuckle bones as these can get stuck in a dog’s throat or intestines.

We know that chewing bones regularly helps keep teeth clean. Although we do see the occasional fractured tooth from chewing bones, I would estimate we pull out over 100 rotten teeth to every tooth fractured by eating bones. If you’re able and willing to brush your dog’s teeth daily then you’re probably better off not feeding bones as the risk of tooth fracture becomes greater than the risk of other dental diseases.

For puppies, I recommend feeding raw chicken wings. This teaches them to chew bones properly from a young age, and directs their chewing away from shoes, power cords and other things they may destroy as an alternative. Puppies need to chew things to help their teeth come through and develop a strong, healthy mouth, so providing a “good” object to chew is essential.

Whatever you choose to feed your dog, it is important to ensure it is high quality and the right quantity to maintain an ideal weight, clean teeth and a healthy dog.

 

 

Parasite Control for Adult Dogs

Parasite Control for Adult Dogs.

Adult dogs have three main groups of parasites to control. Intestinal worms, fleas and heartworm. Regular treatment for these parasites helps keep your pet happy and healthy, as well as protecting people and other pets from potentially dangerous problems.

Intestinal Worms:

Worm tabletsIntestinal worms aren’t as dangerous to adult dogs as they are to puppies, but it is still important to regularly worm your adult dog. External signs of worms in dogs may include diarrhoea, weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance or scooting their bottom on the ground (this is more commonly caused by anal gland issues). Most dogs will not show any signs of mild to moderate worm burdens, so the owners may not realise they have a problem.

The two most important reasons (beside the dog’s own health) to worm your dog are to protect people and to protect livestock.

Hookworms can cause a problem called cutaneous larval migrans in people and gut problems. Hookworms complete their normal life cycle by being passed as in faeces, hatching and developing further, then lying in the environment until they have contact with an animal. They can then infect the new host by either penetrating through the skin or by ingestion. If they infect a dog, they follow certain chemical markers to migrate into the intestine. In people, the worm has trouble penetrating through the deep layers of the skin, so can end up crating burrows in the skin, which can be very itchy and unsightly. These are called cutaneous larval migrans. If they do penetrate through the skin, they can reach the intestine and set up a severe inflammatory response, which is very painful.

Tapeworm can cause problems with livestock. Some tapeworms have livestock as a host for part of their life cycle. When the tapeworm eggs are passed by dogs, the larvae that hatch can be picked up by grazing livestock. Once inside the grazing animal, they migrate and produce cysts in the abdomen or muscle. If these cysts are found at the abattoir, the entire animal carcass may be condemned, leading to considerable waste and money loss for farmers.

We recommend worming your dog every three months. Although intestinal worm treatments will only kill the worms in the animal at the time it is given (there is little or no residual activity), worming every three months means any developing worms will be killed before they can reproduce.

Fleas:

Many people still believe that fleas are a warm weather problem, so only need to be treated in spring and summer. The reality is that with modern heating and insulation in homes combined with more pets being kept indoors, fleas are now a year-round problem.

Because fleas are so good at reproducing (one female flea can produce over 5000 eggs), it is critical to keep on top of fleas at all times.

To check your dog for fleas, you can use a flea or nit comb. Focus on areas around the rump, belly and underneath the dog. You may find adult fleas, but more commonly you will find flea dirt (flea pooh). Flea pooh will look like a little curved bit of dirt, but if you put it onto a damp tissue and smear it you will see a red tinge left behind. This is because fleas are blood-suckers, so there is a lot of blood passed in their pooh.

Flea collars tend to be quite ineffective at controlling fleas as the front of the dog is protected by the collar, but the back end is generally too far away for the collar to have any effect.

Supermarket spot-on products are not necessarily the same as you get from the vet or good pet store. Many supermarket products are pyrethriod based. They are VERY toxic to cats (do not have these products in the house if you have a cat), and are also toxic to people and have been listed as likely or possible carcinogens. We do not recommend the use of these products.

We recommend an oral flea control product called Bravecto. This is given as a tasty chew once every three months, and is every effective with quick kill times. Because it is given orally, the dog can be washed and swim as much is you like without reducing its effectiveness. A quick kill time means fleas are killed before the have a chance to bite the dog or other pets multiple times.

Good quality spot-on products such as Activyl and Revolution are also safe and effective options, though it is worth discussing with your vet which may be appropriate for your pet. For example, some products may not be very water resistant so may not be recommended for dogs who love to swim.

Heartworm:

It is recommended that all dogs in Australia have heartworm prevention.

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasite that lives in the main blood vessel between the heart and the lungs. The adult worm produces infectious stages called microfilaria, which are discharged into the blood stream. These are then picked up by mosquitoes when they bite, develop a bit more in the mosquito then are injected into another dog when the mosquito bites. For heartworm to spread in a population of dogs you need two things – mosquitoes and infected dogs.

Fortunately in Bunbury we are in a lower risk area. We obviously have a LOT of mozzies, but few infected dogs (though those numbers can increase over summer when holiday makers from Perth bring their dogs with them). Perth, north of Perth and inland are much higher risk areas.

The main reason we recommend heartworm prevention for all dogs is the difficulty in treating the disease. The treatment takes several weeks, during which time the animal needs to be confined to a cage. The treatment also carries significant risks, as dying worms can break away and lodge in the lungs.

The first sign of heartworm disease is normally the dog coughing. This is caused by the worms creating blood clots which lodge in the lungs. The cough can be quite severe, and in some cases fatal. Infection is normally confirmed with a blood test.

We recommend using a long-acting injection to prevent heartworm. Although monthly products are as effective at preventing heartworm infections when given on time, being a week or so late giving a dose can create gaps in cover where an infection can be established. Studies have shown that the “average” pet owner only doses their pet 6-8 times per year, so the average dog is unprotected for nearly half the year. With the heartworm injection costing a similar amount to monthly oral chews, we feel it provides better protection and more convenience. We normally give the injection at the same time as the dog’s annual health check.