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.

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.