Avoiding a trip to the vet this Christmas

Let’s face it. No one wants to take their pet to the vet over the Christmas break. And you vet probably wants a bit of time off as well. But every year, we see the same Christmas related problems.

Here are our top tips for avoiding a trip to the vet this Christmas.

  1. Don’t feed left-overs to your dog. We see a couple of common issues coming from this. A condition called pancreatitis can be triggered when a dog eats an unusually large or fatty meal. This is a very painful and potentially life-threatening condition. We have also seen dogs become constipated or blocked by eating ham bones, and a dog with onion toxicity over the last few year. We recommend feeding your pet its normal diet over the Christmas period.
  2. Watch your pets around the Christmas ornaments. We often see cats swallowing bits of tinsel, which can cause a blockage in their intestines. If your cat likes to play with tinsel, it’s time to pack it away. It’s just not worth the risk.

Also be careful with ornaments which can break into sharp pieces. We often see pets with cut paws when they knock ornaments onto the floor then tread on the broken shards.

  1. Make sure your pet has a place to hide. Although a lot of people coming around for Christmas dinner might be fun for us, it can be very stressful for pets. Make sure your pet has somewhere out of the way where it can go and hide away from the crowd. Stress can trigger several medical conditions, especially in cats.
  2. Ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. With a lot of holiday makers coming down from Perth with their pets, we see a spike in the number of parvovirus cases over summer. You need to ensure your pet is up to date with its vaccination to keep it safe.

If you’re planning to put your pet into kennels, double check they are fully vaccinated and that you have a copy of their vaccination certificate. You don’t want to have your holiday ruined because the kennels won’t look after your pet which isn’t up to date with their vaccines.

  1. Make sure you have enough of your pet’s medications. If your pet needs regular medication, make sure you have enough to see you through any days when we’re closed. We are only closed on the public holidays, but you still need to make sure you don’t run out. If your pet’s medication needs to be ordered in especially for them, you need to allow for delays in the post arriving.

If your pet does become unwell over Christmas or needs urgent vet attention, we will be operating an on call service as usual when we are closed. To talk to the duty vet, please phone the normal clinic number and press “2” when prompted.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Why does my dog scrape its bottom on the ground?

So many dog owners know the embarrassment of having their dog scrape its bottom along the ground in front of visitors. My own dog, Marvin, seems to consider this his favourite party trick. Many people incorrectly think their dog has worms, but in most cases, it’s actually the dog’s anal glands causing the problem.

The anal glands (also called perianal glands or anal sacs) are little scent glands located at around the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions around a dog’s anus. There function is mainly territory and scent marking, as well as playing a social role.

When a dog defaecates, some of the contents of the glands is expressed onto the faeces. The contents have a slightly different smell for each dog, so the dog can mark its territory this way. When dogs sniff each other’s bottoms, they’re actually smelling the anal glands. This helps to tell them if they have come across this dogs path before.

For some dogs, the anal glands can cause problems. It may be that they don’t empty properly, get infected, or just irritate the dog. This is when the dog will scoot its bottom on the ground.

In most cases where the anal glands are causing irritation, they simply need emptying. This can be done by one of our qualified vet nurses. The procedure involves inserting a finger into the dog’s anus and squeezing the contents outwards.

Some dogs will have fewer anal gland issues when fed a high fibre diet (fibre increases the bulk of the faeces, which assists in expressing the glands naturally), while other dogs will continue to have problems regardless of diet. Although it doesn’t always work, it’s worth trying increasing dietary fibre using products such as bran and vegetables.

If your dog is scraping its bottom on the ground or showing signs of anal gland issues, head to our website where you can book an appointment online to see one of our qualified nurses.

Parvovirus: Choose Your Needle

Every summer, we see a spike in the number of parvovirus cases seen at our clinics. With summer just around the corner, I don’t want to see another case of Parvovirus. Ever.

But how effective is the vaccine? How safe is the vaccine?

I wanted to find a way to show just what the risks were with vaccinating your dog versus leaving it unvaccinated. I think you’ll agree that this video shows you the relative risk quite well.

Choose your needle

What are the signs of snake bite?

We are already hearing reports of snakes being seen in the South West, and with Summer just around the corner, it is important everyone knows what to do if their pet is bitten or found with a snake.

If you find your pet with a snake, take it straight to the vets (phone first to let them know you are on your way). Even if your pet looks fine, it may still have been bitten. Many dogs and cats will appear normal for even a few hours after envenomation, but may then collapse and die rapidly. You will rarely be able to find puncture wounds from a snake bite, so don’t waste time looking for them.

A common sign of snake bite, particularly in dogs is sudden collapse followed by an apparent recovery. If your dog does this, especially after being in the bush or an area where snakes may be, treat it as an early warning sign that your dog has been bitten and seek emergency treatment. Later signs include weakness, being unsteady on their feet, or collapsed.

Cats may have an acute collapse similar to dogs or may appear weak and limp, unable to walk around normally.

It can often be very hard to know if a cat or dog has been bitten without some laboratory tests, so during the warmer months it is worth seeking urgent veterinary attention if your dog or cat becomes suddenly unwell.

“Home remedies” such as Vitamin C do not work. Please don’t waste valuable time trying any treatments at home as you may lose the chance to save your pet.

Rapid treatment not only increases the chance of survival but also tends to lead to a faster recovery and less antivenom being used as it deactivates the venom before it has a chance to bind to the sites in the body where it causes damage.

Most pets will survive snake bites with rapid treatment. If you are concerned your pet may have been bitten, please phone your vet immediately and seek their advice.

The Brachycephalic Challenge

If you have a French Bulldog, pug or any other short-faced dog you need to do the Brachycephalic

Challenge before summer.

I would like to set a test for all owners of brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs.

Can your dog walk around a footy oval in less than 10 minutes? If the can’t, they need to have their airway assessed and may benefit from surgery.

Every summer we see multiple dogs for heat stroke. Short-faced dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs represent a large portion of these cases due to having severe BOAS.

BOAS is a group of conditions which come about from certain breeds having abnormally short faces. We tend to see issues such as narrow nostrils, long soft palates, everted laryngeal saccules, narrowed tracheas (windpipe) and other related problems.

Over summer, dogs suffering from BOAS can develop severe breathing and overheating problems due to their conformation.

We all know that to cool down, dogs pant. When we have a shortened face, the panting isn’t as effective as there is less tissue for the air to flow over. A short-faced dog might only have 1/3 of the cooling ability of a “normal” dog, so it can be very hard to cool off by panting.

When a dog starts panting, it has two bad side-effects on brachycephalic dogs.

Firstly, the act of panting uses a lot of muscles. Using these muscles creates more heat for the dog to try to remove. If the cooling mechanism is not very effective the dog will pant harder, produce more internal heat from the muscle contractions, and continue to get hotter. This creates a vicious circle of panting and heating which can rapidly lead to heat stroke and even death.

Secondly, the panting creates a lot of suction at the back of the throat. This suction can pull the long soft palate into the larynx, making it very hard to breathe. It can also cause some glands in the larynx to pop out, adding to the obstruction. The narrowed nostrils common in short-faced dogs can further contribute to the amount of suction at the back of the throat.

To improve the airways of affected dogs, we normally perform a combination of surgical procedures. We will open the nostrils, shorten the soft palate and remove excess tissue in the larynx.

These procedures can be challenging to perform, but it is much easier to perform these procedures in a planned, controlled manner rather than as an emergency once the dog is experiencing severe problems. We also find that the problems tend to become worse with age and harder to treat successfully, so we recommend early intervention when it is needed.

If you have a short-faced dog, please take the time this weekend to walk around a football oval. If your dog can’t make it around in less than 10 minutes, you need to make an appointment to see us to assess the airway and plan surgery if needed.

It may just save your dog’s life.

Keeping your kids safe around dogs

I checked the diary and saw my next patient was in for euthanasia. It’s a common part of our job so I don’t think too much would be different here until I walked out and saw a very happy, healthy border collie sitting in reception with its male owner.

Mum wasn’t there. She was at the hospital with their daughter. The dog had bitten the daughter on the face, so the dog was being put to sleep and the daughter had a lot of surgery ahead of her to treat the injuries.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a story I’ve made up. And a similar thing has happened several times during my career. All too often, kids are being bitten by dogs that are known to them, and these bites are almost always preventable.

So how do we go about preventing these types of incidents?

  • Adequate Supervision. ALWAYS supervise children under 10 years of age when around dogs, even family pets.

Anyone who knows my dog, Marvin, would know what a softy he is with people. I still don’t let my kids play with him when my wife or I aren’t around.

If you’re supervising your children around dogs, you have a chance to see the warning signs that the dog is not happy. The dog may stop panting, pull its ears back, roll its eyes or even try to move away from the child. If the child keeps following the dog, keeps jumping on it, or generally continues to upset the dog despite the dog telling the kid (in dog language that it’s not happy), the kid may be bitten.

  • Act early. If you are concerned that your dog may pose a risk to your kids, talk to your vet.

Often with the right information, training (for dog and owner) and careful management the risk can be minimised and bites prevented

  • Never approach a dog which is eating.

When I was a kid, we would be shouted at if we went near a dog which was eating. It was obvious they might bite. Now there seems to be a belief that the dog is at fault if it growls when a kid approaches its food.

For a dog that loves its tucker, food is a very important thing and it is actually being polite in dog language by growling – a growl like this is a dogs way of saying “please go away, this is mine”. Listen to what the dog is saying and respect it.

  • Teach kids to always ask permission before interacting with a strange dog, and respect the owner’s wishes if they say no.

Some dogs don’t like kids. They may be rescue dogs, have had a bad experience with kids, or just hate being crowded. Always check with the owner before patting a dog, and if they say no please understand that there may be a reason for it. Also, learn to look out for the dog becoming stressed – a dog can still bite even if the owner gives permission for you to pat it.

  • Learn to look for signs of discomfort in dogs – ears back, licking lips, eyes rolling, etc.

Dogs will rarely bite without warning, so learn what the warning signs look like.

  • Don’t let kids climb on dogs, lay on them or drape themselves over dogs.

I get so angry when I see “cute” photos on Facebook with a kid sitting on a dog or generally treating the dog badly. More often than not you can see signs of stress in the dog’s body language. Encouraging your kid to treat a dog inappropriately can lead to them being bitten.

  • Make sure kids don’t pursue a dog which is trying to move away from them.

We see a lot of bites occur when the child starts to annoy the dog and the dog moves away. The kid keeps chasing the dog and eventually, the dog can feel cornered. This is when the dog may give a bite as it feels it has no other option to get away from the kid. It may be a “gentle” bite, but the kid still may end up with severe injuries to their face and the dog put to sleep even though it tried to remove itself from the situation.

  • Teach kids to let dogs sniff them before they try to pat the dog.

Proper introductions are just good manners. When patting a dog for the first time, let it sniff your hand. It then has a chance to move away if it doesn’t want to be patted or move closed if it does. When you see dogs meeting each other for the first time they sniff each other and spend a bit of time getting to know the other dog before they start to play. It’s just good dog manners.

  • If attacked, try to keep calm – cover head and face with arms, turn sideways to the dog and try to keep calm.

Try not to scream, flap your arms around or stimulate the dog further. I know this is very hard to do but a lot of noise and movement will potentially make the attack worse.

  • If you are concerned that your pet is a risk to other people or animals, seek veterinary advice before it’s too late.

We find it is rare that there is no warning before a dog attacks someone. If you are concerned about your dog, talk to a vet. They can ensure there is no medical reason for the problem (for example, the dog may be in pain) and give appropriate advice. They may also refer you to an appropriate veterinary behaviourist.

Dog bites are almost always avoidable. Please make sure your kids don’t become a statistic.

What Should I Feed My Pet?

Slow Feeder Bowl – perfect for dogs who scoff their food.

This is one of the most common questions we are asked by new pet owners, and also one of the more controversial topics when it comes to pet health care.

Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of information and misinformation being given out to pet owners, and it’s very hard to separate the science from the opinion and the downright rubbish.

I don’t want to go down the path of recommending any particular brand or product here, because the truth is that one option doesn’t suit all pets and owners. What I am aiming to do is give you the information needed to make an informed decision about what to feed your pet.

Commercial vs home-prepared diets

Should you feed your pet a commercial or home cooked diet? In my opinion, both can be very good or very bad, depending on the quality of the ingredients and the balance of nutrients.

High-quality commercial food is made with “human grade” food. That is, the ingredients are good enough for you to eat yourself. The very cheap products are more likely to contain poor quality protein sources – basically the bits people won’t eat. The “lips and bums”.

If you look at a per day cost for feeding your pet, it is quite often not much more expensive to feed the high-quality food. This is because the high-quality food is more digestible and has better quality nutrients, so you need to feed your pet less. It also means that they absorb more of the food and therefore produce less pooh. A real bonus!

You should always check the label to see if a commercial diet is a “complete” food, meaning it is nutritionally balanced and can be fed to your pet every day, or a “complementary” pet food where it is not completely balanced so other foods need to be few to meet your pet’s nutritional needs.

Home cooked diets can be a very good option if well balanced and prepared properly. It is important to balance energy requirements with nutrients, especially calcium and phosphorous levels. We occasionally see pets on home-prepared diets not receiving enough calcium which can lead to very weak bones and other health issues.

Different Breeds Have Different Requirements

As you can imagine, a growing Great Dane puppy has different dietary requirements to a Chihuahua. As a general rule, it is worth feeding growing large breed dogs a commercially prepared diet specifically designed for large breed dogs as the consequences of getting the balance wrong can be devastating for the pet. Once the dog has finished growing, the balance is less critical but still important.

For small breed dogs, dental disease is a major issue. It is important that small breed dogs are fed diets which encourage chewing to help maintain healthy teeth.

Human Health

If feeding your pet a raw food diet, it is important to consider any human health implications. It has been shown that pets being fed raw meat can pass many pathogens in their faeces which can affect people as well.

Of course, our pet’s pooh likely contains a lot of nasties regardless of what we feed them. I think this more stresses the importance of feeding high-quality foods (only foods which would be fit for human consumption) to help protect your pet and your own health.

Is Grain Free Better?

We are currently seeing a trend towards feeding pets grain free foods. So is this any better than diets which contain grains?

There is no evidence to show health benefits of grain-free diets, with the exception of those pets which have an allergy to a particular grain. Of course, grains can be high in carbohydrates so you don’t want a diet to be too high in grains, but moderate amounts are fine.

A recent study has shown a link between a certain heart condition (dilated cardiomyopathy) and grain-free diets, so a diet which doesn’t contain any grains could, in fact, be harmful to your pet’s health.

Summary

I think the truth is that a well balanced commercial or home cooked diet can be equally good for your pet. A poorly balanced diet can cause health issues either way, and any diet which is made up of low-quality ingredients is unlikely to give your pet the best of health.

When you consider that the difference between a high and a low-quality diet can be as little as one dollar per day, it’s easy to see that it’s not prohibitively expensive to feed your pet well. And if a good quality diet means fewer visits to the vets, it could even save you money.

Caring For Your Aging Pet

The Aging Pet

As your pet ages, you need to reassess their needs and lifestyle. Of course, there is a lot of variation as to when a pet is “old”, so each individual pet needs to be looked at independently.

As a general rule, large dogs age faster than small dogs, so a Great Dane might be considered elderly at 5 years of age, while a Jack Russel may be over 10 years old before we consider it to be a senior pet.

Here are things you should consider as your pet ages:

Diet and Nutrition

Older pets tend to need fewer calories as they tend to be less active and may have less metabolically active muscle. They may also benefit from some additional nutrients such as glucosamine, chondroitin or turmeric, although the evidence to support these supplements is not particularly strong.

Weight Control

Carrying extra weight can exacerbate problems such as arthritis, as well as increase the risk of diseases such as various cancers and type 2 diabetes in cats. Unplanned weight loss, especially in cats, may indicate an underlying health problem and should be investigated by a vet.

Maintaining Mobility

It is important to keep your pet physically active, though you may need to adjust their exercise to suit their age. Swimming is a great exercise for older dogs, while vigorous “twisting/turning” exercises such as chasing balls may flare up any joint issues.

Keeping active helps keep weight under control as well as helping maintain muscles.

Mental Health

Did you know that pet’s brains can undergo the same changes as humans as they age? This means they can experience signs of senility and dementia. This may show as confusion, loss of training or inappropriate barking. We seem to find these signs are initially worse at night time.

Environmental Considerations

Your pet’s needs may change as they age, such as needing sleeping areas where the can avoid stairs, having better access to indoors, and if losing vision keeping things in the same place is also advised.

Reproductive Diseases.

If your pet hasn’t been sterilised, they may be at a higher risk of mammary, uterine or testicular cancers. Females will also be at a high risk of pyometra (infected uterus). Please discuss the benefits and risks of desexing your elderly pet and ensure they have regular health checks.

 

As your pet ages, it becomes increasingly important to be proactive in their health care. It would be worth joining our Healthy Pets Club Plus, where your senior pet could receive 6 monthly health checks at no charge, and if you find a new problem you don’t have to worry about the consultation fee. To learn more about the Healthy Pets Club, CLICK HERE.

Storm and Noise Phobias

Noise and Storm Phobias:

This information is courtesy of The Mindful Pet, a Veterinary Behaviour Service which provides a house call service to the pets of the South West on a monthly basis.

Fears of loud noises is very common in our pets. Dogs may commonly become fearful and or develop a phobia of thunder-storms, fireworks, gun-shots and other loud noises.

Fear is an emotional and physical response to a threat. It can be normal in certain contexts for pets to experience fear, as it gives the pet the ability to prepare and respond to a threat. Essentially, fear is a survival mechanism.

A phobia is an intense, irrational and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things or people. A phobia is a maladaptive response, in which the fear or panic response is out of proportion for the stimulus. The marked fear response the pet experiences is like that of a panic attack.

  • Phobias are not training or obedience issues, they are a medical condition, whereby the danger centre of the brain (the amygdala) is over-active and there is dysregulation of the fear pathways.
  • Many owners falsely think that their pet will “grow out of the problem” or that their pet will “just get used to it”. However, for almost all pets, left untreated, storm and noise phobias will become worse.
  • Dogs with storm and noise phobias are at risk of developing separation anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder and or other anxiety-related conditions, which will require treatment.
  • Early intervention is paramount. If you notice a young puppy showing mild stress signs associated with a noise it is important to intervene immediately. Remove them from the noise, comfort them and create a positive experience with toys and treats.
  • Prevention is even better. The best way of preventing the onset of a noise phobia is to form a positive association. We can do this by coupling the noise with something the pet enjoys or a pleasurable experience. That way the pet learns to product something good is going to happen when the noise happens.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing current identification tags on their collar, are microchipped (with your details current), and safe and secure (ideally inside!)

What are the signs:

  • Physical signs: rapid heart-rate, shallow breathing or panting, sweaty paws, salivating, tense muscles, dilated pupils, urination & defecation – including diarrhoea, trembling or shaking, ears backwards
  • Behavioural signs: becoming clingy, going off food, hiding, pacing, vocalising, trying to escape, destructive chewing, self-harming injuries and occasionally redirected aggression

 

Medical Treatment Overview:

  • For moderate and severe storm and noise phobias, medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian to address the panic and anxiety, and may be essential to keep your pet safe.
  • Determining the right dose (and at times medication) for your pet can take time. Your veterinarian may need to adjust and tailor your pet’s medical treatment depending on your pet’s response.
  • These medications MUST BE GIVEN PRIOR to the storm event, before the onset of panic and distress.
  • In severe cases, and or if there are other concurrent anxiety issues, medication may required daily and or be utilised in the long term to treat chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Pet owners of storm phobic should monitor the weather to help be prepared:

+ https://www.facebook.com/perthweatherlive/

+ http://www.bom.gov.au

IMMEDIATE Management Strategies and Support:

  • Create a safe haven for your pet to try and minimise the impact of the storm/noise:

+ bring your pet indoors

+ try to block out the sounds with music (a beat can be helpful to block out thunder!)

+ close the blinds and turn the lights on

+ provide access to a hiding spot for your pet (blanket, crate, bed etc.)

+ provide high value treats, chews and or toys/games to try change your pet’s emotional state

  • Do not ignore your pet: comforting your dog will not reward your pet’s fears, but will rather alleviate it.
  • Never punish a dog behaving fearfully. Punishment is not helpful, it does not address the underlying anxiety and will likely worsen the phobia.
  • Thunder-shirts are a body wrap that can also help to alleviate anxiety, by applying gentle and constant pressure (similar to swaddling an infant). These may help all types of anxiety, fear and over-excitement.
  • Adaptil Collar / Diffusers can help alleviate anxiety through the use of dog appeasing pheromones. Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies. It has been scientifically proven to help puppies and dogs of all ages with a variety of stress related problems. For some pets this may be a useful adjunct to treatment and management.
  • Mutt Muffs may help to block out some of the sounds associated with the noise phobias. Check out

http://www.safeandsoundpets.com/page/page/4851794.htm

 

LONG-TERM Management Strategies

  • Behaviour modification can by tricky for storm phobias, this may be because it may be impossible to replicate all the sensory stimuli (low barometric pressure, rain, humidity levels, lightening, smelled etc.) of a “real storm” with a simple recording of the noise.
  • Desensitisation is a structured process whereby the owner teaches the pet not to react emotionally (with fear and panic) to the stimulus (the storm). This is achieved by exposing the pet to the noise in a gradual and controlled manner which does not elicit the fearful behaviour.
  • This behavioural modification technique is normally coupled with counterconditioning which is essentially changing your pet’s emotional response, feeling or attitude towards the stimulus, and teaching a new (positive) response or reaction. The pet is then able to perform a favourable behaviour such as lying quietly in bed or going to their crate.
  • Both Desensitisation and Counterconditioning much be down carefully, in a slow and controlled manner. If these techniques are executed poorly, there is a risk that your pet may become further sensitised to the storm sounds and actually worsen the phobia.
  • Teaching your pet to settle and relax on cue can be a really useful exercise and management tool to utilise in fear related problems. Relaxation is the opposite of stress and panic. Additionally, many pets may benefit from crate training. Fore more information check out the links below:

 

How To Change Vet Clinics

There are many reasons why you may need to find a new vet for your pet. You may be moving house, looking for someone closer, have had a not-so-good experience with your previous vet, or may simply have heard great things about another clinic.

When considering which vet to choose, here a few points to consider:

  • How easy are they to access? Are they nearby with safe parking?
  • What hours are the open? Are they open when you’re able to take your pet there?
  • Do they provide an after hours service? If your pet gets sick in the middle of the night or when they are closed, will you have access to a local service so your pet can be treated without a long trip to a dedicated emergency centre?
  • Are they good value for money? This doesn’t necessarily mean they are the cheapest, but rather they offer a very good service at a fair price
  • Are they recommended by friends and family? This is often the best way to find a vet you will like.

The list could go on a lot longer, but the main thing is to check if your vet will be there for you when you need them and you feel that you can trust them to look after your much loved pet.

How to Change Clinics

If your pet has never been to a vet before, you can simply call the clinic of your choice and book your pet in for an appointment.

If your pet has been under the care of another vet in the past, it is important to ensure your new vet has your pet’s medical history so they are aware of any existing health issues and can better treat your pet.

When you have chosen your new vet, give them a call to register your details with them. Let them know which vet you have used in the past, and give them permission to contact your previous vet to obtain your pet’s medical history. Your new vet will then contact your previous vet on your behalf and the history will be sent over. Your new clinic will do all the legwork for you.

You should be looking for a vet who you can build a long term relationship with. Finding someone you like and trust is important, so make sure you’re happy with your choice of vet.