10 signs you’re ready to get a dog.

Are youthinking about getting a dog? Please read this first to make sure you’re ready.

  1. My dog, Marvin

    You KNOW you can take care of it for the next 12-15 years

Before anything else, ask yourself what the next 12-15 years holds for you. Remember that taking on a dog is a lifetime commitment. It is not a commitment until your lease expires, or you move interstate, or develop new interests where you don’t have time for a dog any more.

Today, I had a brief look on Gumtree. I actually visited it for a bit of research on puppy farmers selling their pups online, but I was surprised by the number of dogs being sold or given away because the owners circumstances had changed. One puppy was being sold again after just 10 days!

A dog is for life. If you’re not prepared to commit to the life span of the dog, you’re not ready.

  1. You can afford basic health care

There is no such thing as a free dog. Dogs need vaccinating, desexing, parasite control, good quality food, and occasional trips to the vets when they become unwell.

Basic health care costs over $400/year in most cases. If you dog becomes unwell, it can cost considerably more. Pet insurance is a great way to protect yourself from big vet bills if your pet becomes very unwell or seriously injured, but there is normally an excess for most claims.

Every year we see puppies and young dogs dying from Parvovirus infections because the owners couldn’t afford the vaccines. This may sound harsh, but if you can’t afford to vaccinate your dog, you can’t afford a dog.

  1. You have the time to train and exercise them

One of the biggest causes of dogs being euthanased is behaviour issues. This can be problems such as barking, escaping, aggression to people or other animals and destructive behaviours.

You need to have time to train and socialise your dog when they’re young. They need to be introduced to a range of animals and people at a young age (especially under 16 weeks of age), and should have daily training sessions. They don’t need to be trained to high levels, but need to be taught to sit, stay and come when called.

They need to be exercised daily and interacted with throughout the day. It’s not surprising that dogs that are locked in the back yard all day every day end up causing problems. They get bored and need to stimulate themselves.

  1. You have done your research into the type of dog which will suit you

What sort of dog will suit your lifestyle and home? If you enjoy going for runs and exercising, a pug or bulldog may not be for you. If you have a small flat, a kelpie wouldn’t be a great idea. Matching the breed to your lifestyle will ensure the dog can be part of your life, rather than an interference in it.

  1. You have considered a rescue dog

Once you have decided what sort of dog you want, have you had a look at rescue dogs available in your area? This isn’t meant to be a judgement on people who buy a dog from a breeder or asking people to compromise on what they want. Rather, it’s about encouraging people to look at rescue centres for the perfect dog for them. It means you save a dog’s life, save a lot of money, and you can avoid the destructive and time consuming puppy stage if you get an adult dog.

I own a Golden Retriever (Marvin) who was a rescue dog. He would have cost me over $1000 from a breeder, but effectively only cost a small amount to vaccinate, microchip and desex him. People who know Marvin will confirm what a beautiful boy he is.

  1. You know what sort of health problems your preferred breed may be affected by, and what should be done to minimise the risk of your dog being affected

Golden Retrievers such as Marvin are known to be at increased risk of certain problems. Marvin has elbow dysplasia, which we manage quite well, as well as allergic skin disease. He is also at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. I know all this before I took him on, but he desperately needed a home which could care for his medical needs when he was found.

Had I been buying a Golden Retriever from a breeder, I would have ensured the parents were hip and elbow scored, and I would have wanted to examine the parents to ensure they were healthy with no skin issues.

Each breed is at risk of certain conditions, so you need to do your research on the breed you want, and ensure the breeder is doing as much as they can to ensure the good health of your puppy.

If you want the best chance of a healthy dog, a cross-bred dog will have a lower risk of most conditions as the genetic diversity is better in most cases.

  1. You are prepared to visit the breeder and see the dogs parents (at least the mother)

You should visit the puppy and its mother at least twice before you buy a puppy. These visits should always be where the puppy was bred. You need to do this for several reasons:

  • To make sure the puppies and mother are in good health
  • To make sure they’re not coming from a puppy farm
  • To ensure the puppy and mother are being kept in a clean, warm and comfortable environment

If the breeder won’t let you visit, that’s a red flag for them potentially being a puppy farmer. If they won’t let you visit, don’t buy from them.

If a breeder tells you to meet them somewhere other than their home (a park, car park, shopping centre, etc.) to pick up the dog, it’s another red flag for a potential puppy farmer.

  1. You believe in vaccinations

We’re not asking you to believe in the tooth fairy or Santa here. Vaccines work and they save lives. Every year we see dozens of dogs die from Parvovirus infections. Of course, no vaccine is 100% safe (I have seen one dog in 17 years of vet work which  am convinced died as a result of a vaccine reaction), but the risk of the vaccine pales into insignificance when I compare it to the hundreds of dogs I’ve seen die from Parvo.

I believe that all dogs should be vaccinated, but as infrequently as possible. We know that in adult dogs the parvo vaccine lasts for at least three years, so I don’t believe annual vaccination against parvo is justified.

If you’re worried about vaccinating your dog, consider talking to your vet about blood tests to check your dog’s immunity. You may find you can vaccinate even less frequently then every three years in some cases.

All puppies definitely need vaccinating. If you’re not prepared to vaccinate your puppy, please save me from having to needlessly euthanase another puppy for Parvo and don’t get a dog.

  1. You want a pet, not a security system

If you want something to keep potential burglars out of your house, get security screens or an alarm system. Dogs are great for home security, but that is just a bonus, not the reason to get a dog.

  1. You are prepared for something that will love you more than anything else in the world

Anyone with kids will tell you that if you want something to come rushing up to the door, super excited to see you every time you come home, get a dog.

Dogs will love you unconditionally. But remember, to you the dog is a part of your life and will not be there through it all. For your dog, you are their whole life. You’ll see them from puppyhood through to old age, and be there to say goodbye to them at the end. It’s a big responsibility to give that much love back, but if you’re prepared to do it gladly, a dog is for you.

10 signs you’re ready to get a dog.

Are youthinking about getting a dog? Please read this first to make sure you’re ready.

  1. My dog, Marvin

    You KNOW you can take care of it for the next 12-15 years

Before anything else, ask yourself what the next 12-15 years holds for you. Remember that taking on a dog is a lifetime commitment. It is not a commitment until your lease expires, or you move interstate, or develop new interests where you don’t have time for a dog any more.

Today, I had a brief look on Gumtree. I actually visited it for a bit of research on puppy farmers selling their pups online, but I was surprised by the number of dogs being sold or given away because the owners circumstances had changed. One puppy was being sold again after just 10 days!

A dog is for life. If you’re not prepared to commit to the life span of the dog, you’re not ready.

  1. You can afford basic health care

There is no such thing as a free dog. Dogs need vaccinating, desexing, parasite control, good quality food, and occasional trips to the vets when they become unwell.

Basic health care costs over $400/year in most cases. If you dog becomes unwell, it can cost considerably more. Pet insurance is a great way to protect yourself from big vet bills if your pet becomes very unwell or seriously injured, but there is normally an excess for most claims.

Every year we see puppies and young dogs dying from Parvovirus infections because the owners couldn’t afford the vaccines. This may sound harsh, but if you can’t afford to vaccinate your dog, you can’t afford a dog.

  1. You have the time to train and exercise them

One of the biggest causes of dogs being euthanased is behaviour issues. This can be problems such as barking, escaping, aggression to people or other animals and destructive behaviours.

You need to have time to train and socialise your dog when they’re young. They need to be introduced to a range of animals and people at a young age (especially under 16 weeks of age), and should have daily training sessions. They don’t need to be trained to high levels, but need to be taught to sit, stay and come when called.

They need to be exercised daily and interacted with throughout the day. It’s not surprising that dogs that are locked in the back yard all day every day end up causing problems. They get bored and need to stimulate themselves.

  1. You have done your research into the type of dog which will suit you

What sort of dog will suit your lifestyle and home? If you enjoy going for runs and exercising, a pug or bulldog may not be for you. If you have a small flat, a kelpie wouldn’t be a great idea. Matching the breed to your lifestyle will ensure the dog can be part of your life, rather than an interference in it.

  1. You have considered a rescue dog

Once you have decided what sort of dog you want, have you had a look at rescue dogs available in your area? This isn’t meant to be a judgement on people who buy a dog from a breeder or asking people to compromise on what they want. Rather, it’s about encouraging people to look at rescue centres for the perfect dog for them. It means you save a dog’s life, save a lot of money, and you can avoid the destructive and time consuming puppy stage if you get an adult dog.

I own a Golden Retriever (Marvin) who was a rescue dog. He would have cost me over $1000 from a breeder, but effectively only cost a small amount to vaccinate, microchip and desex him. People who know Marvin will confirm what a beautiful boy he is.

  1. You know what sort of health problems your preferred breed may be affected by, and what should be done to minimise the risk of your dog being affected

Golden Retrievers such as Marvin are known to be at increased risk of certain problems. Marvin has elbow dysplasia, which we manage quite well, as well as allergic skin disease. He is also at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. I know all this before I took him on, but he desperately needed a home which could care for his medical needs when he was found.

Had I been buying a Golden Retriever from a breeder, I would have ensured the parents were hip and elbow scored, and I would have wanted to examine the parents to ensure they were healthy with no skin issues.

Each breed is at risk of certain conditions, so you need to do your research on the breed you want, and ensure the breeder is doing as much as they can to ensure the good health of your puppy.

If you want the best chance of a healthy dog, a cross-bred dog will have a lower risk of most conditions as the genetic diversity is better in most cases.

  1. You are prepared to visit the breeder and see the dogs parents (at least the mother)

You should visit the puppy and its mother at least twice before you buy a puppy. These visits should always be where the puppy was bred. You need to do this for several reasons:

  • To make sure the puppies and mother are in good health
  • To make sure they’re not coming from a puppy farm
  • To ensure the puppy and mother are being kept in a clean, warm and comfortable environment

If the breeder won’t let you visit, that’s a red flag for them potentially being a puppy farmer. If they won’t let you visit, don’t buy from them.

If a breeder tells you to meet them somewhere other than their home (a park, car park, shopping centre, etc.) to pick up the dog, it’s another red flag for a potential puppy farmer.

  1. You believe in vaccinations

We’re not asking you to believe in the tooth fairy or Santa here. Vaccines work and they save lives. Every year we see dozens of dogs die from Parvovirus infections. Of course, no vaccine is 100% safe (I have seen one dog in 17 years of vet work which  am convinced died as a result of a vaccine reaction), but the risk of the vaccine pales into insignificance when I compare it to the hundreds of dogs I’ve seen die from Parvo.

I believe that all dogs should be vaccinated, but as infrequently as possible. We know that in adult dogs the parvo vaccine lasts for at least three years, so I don’t believe annual vaccination against parvo is justified.

If you’re worried about vaccinating your dog, consider talking to your vet about blood tests to check your dog’s immunity. You may find you can vaccinate even less frequently then every three years in some cases.

All puppies definitely need vaccinating. If you’re not prepared to vaccinate your puppy, please save me from having to needlessly euthanase another puppy for Parvo and don’t get a dog.

  1. You want a pet, not a security system

If you want something to keep potential burglars out of your house, get security screens or an alarm system. Dogs are great for home security, but that is just a bonus, not the reason to get a dog.

  1. You are prepared for something that will love you more than anything else in the world

Anyone with kids will tell you that if you want something to come rushing up to the door, super excited to see you every time you come home, get a dog.

Dogs will love you unconditionally. But remember, to you the dog is a part of your life and will not be there through it all. For your dog, you are their whole life. You’ll see them from puppyhood through to old age, and be there to say goodbye to them at the end. It’s a big responsibility to give that much love back, but if you’re prepared to do it gladly, a dog is for you.

Should I worry about a lump on my dog?

braden-operating

Dr Braden removing a tumour from a cat.

If you find a lump on your dog, should you get it checked by a vet or just keep an eye on it for a while? What if it feels like another lump your dog has? Can you tell what it is just by feeling the lump?

The short answer is you need to have any lump checked by a vet, and the sooner the better.

The problem with diagnosis what type of lump is present is it is impossible to be certain if it is cancerous or not without looking at the cells under the microscope. Even for very experienced vets, we can sometimes be fooled if we don’t take a sample to examine.

The question we always ask ourselves when we see any sort of lump is “what is it and where is it?”

When we examine a lump, we need to work out what type of lump it is (inflammatory, benign or malignant), and from there we can work out a treatment plan as we have an idea about how the lump will behave.

The first thing I will do with most lumps is called a fine needle aspirate. This involves putting a small needle into the lump (the needle I use is the same size I use to vaccinate pets) and removing some cells to examine under the microscope. For many types of lumps, we can tell there and then what type of lump it is and what treatment options will be best. For cases where we can’t tell what type of lump is present, we may send the sample to a specialist pathologist, or recommend a larger sample (a biopsy) be sent to the lab for examination.

For many lumps, we may feel that “doing nothing” is the best treatment course. For example, the most common lump we diagnose on dogs is a lipoma, which is a benign (the good type) tumour of the fat cells. For these tumours we rarely recommend surgery as we know they don’t spread and will normally stop growing at some point, so they can normally be left and monitored. In other cases, the surgery may cause the animal so much pain or dysfunction that it is not in the animal’s best interest.

If we are concerned the lump is malignant (the bad type), we may recommend a process called “staging”. This is where we examine the rest of the body for signs of the tumour having spread using tools such as ultrasound, xrays or CT scans. After all, there is no point removing the lump we can feel if it has already spread to other parts of the body. Cancers tend to be fairly predictable in where they spread, so when we know what type of lump is present, we know where to search for signs of spread.

The location of any lump can also influence our treatment choices. For example, a lipoma on the side of the abdomen may not cause any problems and might be left, but one under the armpit might cause some problems and need to be removed. A malignant tumour on the side of the chest where dogs have more skin might be quite easy to remove, while the same type of lump near their paw might be very difficult to treat as there is very little “spare” skin to close the wound once the lump is removed.

So why do we need to examine a lump quickly?

The two things that may change with time are the size of the lump and whether it has spread or not.

By “keeping an eye” on a lump, it may be bigger by the time we see it. This makes any surgery to remove the lump more extensive, more painful, more difficult and more expensive.

We know that most tumours take a certain period of time to spread to other parts of the body. By waiting to see what a lump does means it may spread before we have a chance to treat it, which could cost your pet its life.

To request an appointment to have a lump examined (or for any other problem), head to http://www.bunburyvets.com.au/new-clients/appointment-request-form/

Grass Seed Season

Grass Seeds

Grass Seeds

With some fine weather finally here, grass seeds are once again ready to cause problems.

During the spring and summer months, we see dozens of dogs and cats with grass seeds in ears, between toes, and even under eyelids.

Grass seeds have developed the ability to cling on to animals coats as a way of spreading further. Unfortunately, they sometimes bury themselves into the animal and cause quite severe problems.

The most common sites we see grass seeds are in ears and between the toes of dogs, though we have seen them under eyelids, up noses and in the body wall.

Grass seeds in ears:

Over spring and summer, it is safest to assume that any dog or cat with a sore ear has a grass seed in their ear. Seeds in an ear can very quickly travel down the ear canal and through the eardrum, causing a lot of pain and infection. The seed can even travel into the middle ear, requiring a difficult surgery to remove. You normally won’t be able to see a seed in a dog’s ear without special equipment, so a trip to the vet is essential if your dog has a sore ear.

Grass seeds in paws:

The “classic” sign of a grass seed in a paw is a swelling between the toes. Grass seeds will form an abscess quite quickly, which can be very painful. If treated quickly we can normally remove the seed quite easily, but left untreated the seed can continue moving up the leg. This makes it much harder to find surgically as well as leading to a longer recovery for the pet.

Grass seeds in eyes:

Any time we see a pet with a sore eye in spring and summer, we always look under the eyelids to see if a grass seed hiding. We see several cats and dogs each year with grass seeds under their eyelids. Fortunately, these are normally easy to remove with just a bit of local anaesthetic applied to the eye.

Grass seeds in noses:

If your pet has a grass seed up its nose, they will generally be constantly sneezing and may have some discharge from the nose. To remove a seed from the nose, we normally need to give a heavy sedative or anaesthetic.

What can you do to minimise the risk of a grass seed to your pet?

There is a lot you can do to minimise the risk of grass seeds causing problems for your pets.

  • Clip the hair around the paws and ears short (for long haired pets consider clipping the whole dog), as this gives the seed less hair to stick to.
  • Avoid walking your dog in long grass
  • Check between their toes, over their body and near their ears every day as well as after every walk
  • Mow or restrict access to long grass to minimise the exposure to seeds

Sore Ears in Dogs

Ear with a yeast infection.

Sore ear with a yeast infection.

During spring and summer, we see a large number of dogs with sore ears.

The first thing owners normally notice when a dog has a sore ear is the dog shaking its head, though we also see dogs that hold their head to one side or scratch at the ear. Sometimes the dog shows very few signs of infection, and the owner notices a bad smell or a squelching noise when rubbing the dog’s ear.

At this time of year, the two most common causes of ear problems are allergies and grass seeds in ears. Ear infections are rarely a primary problem – that is, there is almost always an underlying cause which needs to be addressed.

What does an infected ear look like?

If you look at the inside of your dog’s ear, the skin should be smooth, pink and be clean. If you notice the ear is red, has a rough cobbled appearance, discharge or a bad smell, that’s a sign your dog has a problem.

What is happening inside the dog’s ear?

We will normally try to look down the dog’s ear when they first come to us with an infection. This is to check for grass seeds, and to attempt to see if the ear drum is intact. Some dog’s ears can be too sore to examine easily, so we sometimes need to give some sedation to thoroughly examine the ear. In some cases, we may delay examining the ear fully until after 7-10 days of treatment.

What type of infection is present?

When we see an infected ear, we will take a swab from that ear to see what type of infection is present. We most frequently see yeast infections in ears, but sometimes see a range of bacteria as well. By knowing what type of infection is present, we can better target our treatment plan to include the right antibiotic or antifungal medications. We also get some clues as to the likely underlying cause, so we can begin to address that as well.

Do you need a recheck at the end of treatment?

Rechecking the ear at the end of treatment is a very important step. It gives us a chance to ensure the infection has fully resolved, as well as allowing us to more thoroughly examine the ear to check for grass seeds, ear drum damage, or anything else which may cause ongoing problems.

Ear infections rarely get better on their own, and left untreated can cause a lot of pain as well as deafness. As with most conditions, early intervention by a vet gives the best results. A sore ear can cause your pet a lot of pain, so please have it checked quickly.