Why does my cat urinate outside its litter tray?

cat sittingThis is a fairly common problem which doesn’t always have a straight forward answer. We tend to approach inappropriate urination in cats in a fairly methodical way, as it can be a sign of a major underlying problem.

Give the cat a thorough health check.

There is a large range of conditions which might make a cat urinate in the wrong spots. The most common of these is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). This can present in a wide variety of ways, such as non-infectious cystitis, urethral blockages in male cats, and crystals in the urine. A urine sample is very important to check for crystals, bacteria and other indications of this disease.

Other conditions which can cause inappropriate urination include arthritis (too sore to get into the tray), diabetes, senility, stress, kidney failure, and bacterial cystitis. By doing a thorough examination we can obtain a correct diagnosis and ensure the treatment is appropriate.

NOTE: if you have a male cat which is straining to urinate but not producing any urine (or just a small amount), please take them to your vet urgently as this may indicate a urethral blockage. This condition can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Ensure the toileting facilities are appropriate.

Cats tend to be fairly particular when it comes to toileting. A few “golden rules” of litter trays are:

  • You need one litter tray per cat, plus one. For example, if you have two cats you need three litter trays.
  • They need to be easily accessible but not in a high traffic or highly exposed area.
  • They should be well away from food and water.
  • They should be scooped daily and thoroughly cleaned at least weekly.
  • Different cats prefer different litter. Don’t be afraid to try several types to find what you cat prefers.

Clean all urine marks using warm soapy water.

It is important to remove as much smell as possible so the cat no longer considers it a “toilet”. Avoid the use of bleach as any ammonia smell can encourage further urination.

Use Feliway to help stop spraying.

Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. This is the pheromone that cats leave naturally when they feel safe and secure in their environment. This comes is a spray or diffuser, and can be very useful for stress and for inappropriate urination. The spray can be used on the spot where the cat is peeing inappropriately and is applied to the area daily for one month. This will generally be enough time to break the cycle and stop the problem.

Of course, if the problem persists, please contact your vet for more advice.

What does it cost to see a vet?

Wednesday night I was on call, covering several practices in the greater Bunbury region. At around 8pm the phone rang, and the person on the other end of the phone told me they had a sick puppy and were looking for a vet who bulk bills. They had no money at all to pay for a consultation.

While bulk billing might be possible for doctors, it’s just not available for pets and vets. Vet clinics are a purely private business, and therefore get no government payments or assistance. Unfortunately, the only way we can keep our doors open is to charge for our services.

This phone call did make me wonder whether people know how much veterinary care might cost, and what their options are for paying for the services provided. We often find when we give estimates for procedures in the consult room we find some people are shocked at how expensive some treatments are, while others are surprised that it doesn’t cost thousands more.

One thing I hate seeing on Facebook and other discussion groups is “if you can’t afford to have X treated properly, you shouldn’t have a dog”. While people do need a small amount of money put aside in case of an emergency vet visit, it’s just not fair or reasonable to expect everyone to have $3000 sitting around just in case their dog gets hit by a car.

How much money should you have set aside?

The reality is that most of our bills come out at less than $200. This includes a consultation ($79), plus some medication and maybe some in-house lab work. Unfortunately, for severe illness or injury, the bill can be much higher. A broken leg may cost around $3000, intestinal blockage around $2000, and our most advanced cancer treatments around $12000.

What can you do if you can’t afford a vet bill?

We’re proud to be able to offer a couple of payment options when needed. We now work with Vetpay, ZipPay and ZipMoney to help finance veterinary care. Our team can help you through the application process to ensure you qualify, in which case you will normally be able to pay the bill over 6 months interest-free.

We are always happy to provide estimates prior to any work being undertaken so you can ensure it fits within your budget.

How can you minimise vet bills?

There are a lot of ways you can minimise vet bills, and it starts right at the point when you’re getting a pet. Here are our top tips:

  1. Don’t buy a dog or cat with extreme characteristics. As cute as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Great Danes might be, they are much more likely to suffer from various health issues. A cross-bred dog will on average be healthier and therefore cheaper to own
  2. Get insurance early. Insurance will be there for you when your pet becomes unwell, but it is important to get it early. Once a dog or cat develops a problem there will be limitations on insurance cover.
  3. Contact a vet early. A consultation at 3pm will cost you $79. A consultation at 9pm will cost up to $270. Don’t wait until after we close before calling us. Also, the earlier we see a condition the easier it is to treat. This can save a lot of money over the course of the pet’s treatment.
  4. Check what is included. For procedures such as desexing, some vet clinics will include intravenous fluids and pain killers in the price, while others will consider these “optional extras”. Although these second group of clinics might give a lower price over the phone, the extra they charge to add in pain killers and intravenous fluids often means you end up paying more.
  5. Prevention is better than cure. To vaccinate a dog against parvovirus costs around $114. To treat a dog with parvovirus costs $3000-5000. That’s a huge difference.
  6. Join our Healthy Pets Club to get free or discounted consultations. More information can be found at //www.bunburyvets.com.au/healthy-pets-clubs/

There’s no getting away from the fact that vet bills can be quite big and tend to come at really bad times, but with a bit of planning and a good relationship with your vet, you should hopefully find them manageable.

What Can I Do To Help My Arthritic Dog?

Marvin at the beach.

As the proud owner of a poorly-constructed dog, I have had a lot of first-hand experience in treating arthritis. When we first rescued Marvin, we noticed that one front leg was held at a strange angle when he was lying down. We took some xrays of his joints and diagnosed him with Elbow Dysplasia, and he already had some early arthritic changes occurring. He was only 12 months old, so we knew we were going to have a lifetime of managing this problem.

Marvin is now around 10 years old, and can still chase the ball on the beach and go for a short run with us. This is how I have managed his condition for so many years.

Weight control

This will make more of a difference than any medication. Excess weight puts a lot of strain on joints, so contributes to both the development and clinical signs of arthritis. I find that some dogs with mild arthritis can be maintained medication-free simply by getting them back to a healthy weight. If your pet is struggling to lose their love handles, or nurses run free weight clinics to help them get back to an ideal size.

Dietary Changes

Initially, I used products such as Pernease, which is basically a glucosamine/chondroitin and green lip muscle supplement. However, I like things to be as simple as possible when it comes to caring for my dog, so I now feed him Royal Canin Mobility CP2+, which is designed as a complete diet with supplements to help with arthritis control.

Zydax Injections

This is known as a Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drug (DMOAD). These are a course of injections given weekly for 4 weeks, which is then repeated every 6 months and can help arthritis by:

  • Stimulating cartilage producing cells to produce healthy cartilage
  • Slowing cartilage damage by destructive enzymes
  • Stimulating joint capsule cells to produce lubricating joint fluid
  • Reducing swelling and blocks inflammatory processes
  • Improving blood flow and nutrition to joint structures

For Marvin, I have been using these injections from when we first diagnosed him with elbow dysplasia at around one year of age, and I believe these injections have had a massive impact on maintaining mobility and quality of life for him.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Think of these as “Nurofen for dogs” (PLEASE NOTE: Ibuprofen can be very toxic to dogs so do not use Nurofen or any other human medications without a discussion with your vet). These medications are pain killers and also reduce inflammation in the joints. We generally use these medications once everything else is not keeping the dog mobile and pain-free. For Marvin, he is now on these medications daily. When he’s had an extra-busy day I will give him an additional dose to make sure he doesn’t pull up sore the next day. (Once again, only give an extra dose if your vet has informed you it is safe to do so).

Other Medications

When the above steps aren’t enough to control the discomfort, additional medications can be used. We tailor the treatment protocol to your individual pet’s needs and responses, so these steps are best discussed with your vet rather than general advice being given here.

The Future

We live in exciting times, and it will be interesting to see where treatment options go in the future. Stem cell treatments, joint replacements, and new medications are likely to be developed and become available over the next few years. We look forward to being able to offer even more effective treatments in the years to come.

As you can see, there is a lot we can do to help keep your pet mobile and comfortable for many years. If you’re concerned about your pet’s joints or mobility, please give us a call or book an appointment online.


Why you shouldn’t delay brachycephalic airway surgery.

A normal larynx

Larynx of a brachycephalic dog where surgery was delayed too long.

Two weeks ago, I performed surgery on a brachycephalic (short-faced) dog to improve it’s breathing. I shortened the soft palate, removed the laryngeal saccules, and opened the nostrils. The surgery went well, and I expected a great result. Two weeks later, the dog was still struggling to breathe normally so we anaesthetised the dog again to examine the throat.

Unfortunately, the dog was suffering from laryngeal collapse.

What is laryngeal collapse?

Laryngeal collapse is a problem which can develop over time in brachycephalic dogs. Because of the amount of suction it requires for these dogs to breathe in, the cartilage of the larynx becomes weakened and starts to get sucked into the airway.

Why operate early?

Apart from simply improving the dog’s breathing and therefore quality of life, early surgery for brachycephalic dogs helps prevent a lot of secondary changes. These changes include laryngeal collapse, thickening of the tissues at the back of the throat, hiatal hernias (where part of the stomach gets “sucked up” into the oesophagus because the dog needs to suck so hard to breathe in), and laryngeal saccule eversion.

We most often see these dogs coming in for surgery between 3 and 6 years of age. This is when the secondary changes are starting to occur, which means the dog’s breathing is getting gradually worse. While some of these changes can be reversed with surgery, some become permanent and therefore continue to affect the dog for the rest of its life. Early surgery means we can prevent these secondary problems from forming, giving a better long term outcome.

How do you know if your dog needs brachycephalic surgery?

If you find your dog snores a lot, makes a harsh rasping sound when they breathe in, needs to breathe through their mouth when resting, can’t exercise as much as a “normal” dog, or has very narrow nostrils, they may benefit from surgery.

You can also perform the BRACHYCEPHALIC CHALLENGE, where you see if your dog can walk 400m in 10 minutes. 400m is roughly once around a footy oval, so on a cool day take your dog for a walk and see if it can do one lap in 10 minutes. If it can’t, you need to have it assessed by a vet.

Isn’t it normal for a pug to breathe like that?

Too often we hear owners say “that breathing is normal for a Pug/French Bulldog”. That may, unfortunately, be true, but it doesn’t mean that the dog is not struggling to breathe. Owners also might say that they just don’t exercise their dog because it “runs out of breath”.

Try blocking your nose then putting two drinking straws in your mouth. You will probably find that you can just breathe well enough to manage when you’re not doing much. Now try going for a walk around the block. It won’t take long before you start struggling to get enough oxygen. Imagine living your life like that. I made a short video, WHICH YOU CAN SEE HERE, showing just what life with brachycephalic obstructive airway disease would be like.

I know that not all brachycephalic dogs are affected, and there are some very good examples of the breed out there. The message that I’m trying to get across is that if your dog is affected, please give us a call and we can help improve their quality of life. But please do it early to get the best results.

Dr Braden has an interest in treating Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Disease. Appointments can be booked at the Eaton Vet Clinic with Dr Braden on 97250399 or through our online booking service.



Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus – Bloat

Typical appearance of GDV (Bloat)

This radiograph shows what a little kid might call the “bottom sign”. That might sound funny, but this is actually one of the most serious conditions we see as vets. This radiograph tells us that this dog has a twisted stomach, and it needs emergency treatment. This condition is called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), or Bloat.

What Causes GDV?

We still don’t understand a lot about this condition. We know that dogs with a deep chest, such as Great Danes, Dobermans and Weimaraners, are more prone to GDV. There are also suggestions that eating large meals, exercising after eating, eating too fast, and eating from an elevated platform may all contribute to GDV developing.

What are the signs of GDV?

The most common signs we see in GDV cases include the abdomen getting bigger, and the dog trying to vomit but not bringing anything up.

What do I do if I think my dog has GDV?

GDV is a true emergency. Affected dogs can die in as little as one hour. If you notice your dog’s belly getting bigger, or if it is trying to vomit but not producing anything, please call your vet urgently. Don’t “wait and see” what happens, or wait until your vet is open. Any delays could be fatal.

What will my vet do to treat my dog?

To get a diagnosis of GDV, we will normally take a radiograph of your dog’s abdomen. There are some very typical changes which we can normally see on radiographs. Once we have confirmed a GDV, we will treat the dog for shock with intravenous fluids and oxygen, treat any other complications such as heart arrhythmias, and then try to release some of the pressure from the stomach. Once the dog has been stabilised, emergency surgery will be performed to untwist the stomach and anchor the stomach to the abdominal wall to reduce the risk of it twisting again.

This condition is very hard to treat, and even with the best vets around 5% of pets will not survive the surgery.

How do I prevent GDV?

The best way to prevent GDV is with a preventative surgery called a “gastropexy”. This is a surgical procedure where the stomach is permanently attached to the abdominal wall. Although not 100% effective, it is considered the best way to massively reduce the risk of GDV developing. This can be done at the same time as desexing, or as a stand-alone procedure.

Other advice includes feeding multiple small meals each day rather than one big meal, and avoiding exercise after eating. Specially designed bowls which slow the dog’s rate of eating can also help.

Contrary to popular belief, feeding from an elevated level actually increases the risk of GDV, so dogs should always be fed at ground level.

The Bunbury and Eaton Vet Clinics offer elective gastropexy surgery for all deep-chested dogs. Please give us a call if you would like to discuss this procedure for your dog.


What to do when the vet is closed.

What to do when the vet is closed.

In the perfect world, pets would only ever need a vet during office hours. However, we never hear anyone say “at least Fluffy chose a good time to get sick”. Our pets can get sick or injured at any time of the day or night, so we make sure your pet can be treated whenever needed, whether it’s Christmas day, 3am in the morning, or a Sunday afternoon.

Living in a regional centre (rather than in Perth) means there are no dedicated 24 hour veterinary clinics. The closest 24 hour clinic is in Baldivis, over an hours drive away. Imagine if you had to drive that far if your pet was bitten by a snake or hit by a car. The chances are, they wouldn’t survive the trip.

We believe that emergency care needs to be provided for your pet right here in Bunbury, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As such, we offer an after hours service. At any time when our clinics are closed, you can call the normal clinic number and press “2”. This will direct your call to the duty veterinarian.

Before you call the vet, there are a couple of things we would like everyone to keep in mind.

  1. The duty vet generally isn’t at the clinic waiting for an emergency. It’s important for you to phone ahead so the vet can attend the clinic to see your pet. We also need to be able to direct you to whichever clinic the vet will be seeing cases at.
  2. The vet has probably worked that day, and will probably be working the next day as well. If it’s not urgent, please wait until we are open to call.
  3. It will cost extra to have your pet seen after hours. This reflects the cost of providing the service. Our current fees for clients on the Bunbury and Eaton Vet Clinics, or Harradine and Associates, are $220 between 6am and 10pm and $320 between 10pm and 6am. For clients of other clinics we recommend first calling your regular vet. If they don’t offer an after hours service, we can see your pet for $270 between 6am and 10pm and $370 between 10pm and 6am.
  4. Payment for all after hours services is required at the time of the appointment.
  5. We have an online booking service. Click on “Book Online” on our website and you can see when our first appointment is available when we reopen. If you feel your pet is unwell but is ok to wait until we’re open, this is a good way to get them booked in as early as possible.
  6. We don’t perform house calls after hours. This is for the safety of our staff.

We are very proud of the service we are able to offer. Remember, we will always be there when you need us.

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.

Cats may have an acute collapse similar to dogs or may appear weak and limp.

“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.