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Jo De Klerk

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  1. Jo De Klerk

    Canine Seizures

    It is a terrifying sight to witness your dog having a seizure, especially when you haven’t seen one before. Seizures can look very different from animal to animal, and the cause of the seizures will influence this greatly. In this article we will give all you need to know about canine seizures in six bite-sized pieces of information. How do I know my dog is having a seizure? Seizures can vary significantly in appearance from animal to animal. Seizures used to be classified as ‘petit mal’ and ‘grand mal’, but now, these terms are rarely used by veterinarians, and are rather called ‘partial’ and ‘full’ seizures. These terms describe how much of the brain is being affected by the hyperactive nerves. A partial seizure, depending on the area of the brain affected, might not even cause a loss of consciousness. Usually the symptoms displayed are a loss of attention, twitching muscles, or a change in sight, such as spots in front of the eyes which may cause your dog to act like they are trying to catch a fly. A full seizure, however, is what people classically know as a seizure. This usually causes your dog to drop to the ground, shake, bite, have stiff legs, and foam at the mouth. They may also defecate or urinate from the muscle contractions and loss of control. Your dog, within this time, will probably not close their eyes, but they are not rousable or conscious of what they are doing. Seizures generally last just a few minutes, but if they go on for over 5 minutes, your dog must be seen by a vet immediately. If your dog seizures for over 30 minutes, this will lead to permanent irreversible brain damage. Seizures can also come in clusters, which are defined as more than 2 seizures in 24 hours. Cluster seizures indicate a serious clinical cause. You may be able to tell that your dog is about to have a seizure, as their behaviour will change hours or even days before the seizure. This is called the ‘prodrome’ phase. The behaviour might also remain unusual for hours or days after the seizure as well, known as the ‘post-ictal’ phase. What are the causes of seizures in dogs? There are many causes of seizures in dogs; some benign, and some extremely serious. Many people know seizures as epilepsy, but epilepsy is just one cause of seizures. True epilepsy is thought to be genetic in origin and is diagnosed through a process of ruling out every other cause. Generally, epilepsy begins in the first 6 years of life, so if your elderly dog is having a seizure for the first time, then it is unlikely to be epilepsy causing it. Other causes of seizures are more cause for concern. They are categorised into two categories; intra-cranial and extra-cranial. Intra-cranial seizures are from diseases present inside the brain. This could be due to tumours, trauma, bleeds or infections, and are extremely serious and often difficult to treat. Extra-cranial seizures are from issues outside of the brain, such as toxins or related to defective internal organs. What do I do if my dog is having a seizure? If your dog is having a seizure, the most important thing is to try not to panic. The first thing you must do is note the time, so you can tell your vet how long the seizure lasted for. Next, remove all objects in the vicinity of your dog so that they cannot harm themselves if they are convulsing. If you have another person in the room with you, ask them to video record the seizure whilst you phone your emergency vet services to tell them your dog is seizing and requires to be seen. The video will help your vet greatly in determining the cause. Be aware that if you touch your dog whilst he is seizing, there is a high chance you may be bitten by accident. Therefore, only try to move your dog if their seizure is continuing for more than 2 minutes. Otherwise, allow the seizure to finish, then immediately take them to your veterinary clinic for a check over and testing. If you have to move them whilst they are seizing, be cautious of the head end, and place them in the car in such a way that they cannot harm themselves. What will the vet do? Most seizures will have finished by the time you arrive at the vets, however a check over and tests as close to the time of seizure as possible are important to determine the cause. If your dog is still seizing when you arrive, the vet will give emergency medication to stop the seizure. This often is in the form of diazepam, administered rectally. This will stop the seizure long enough for the vet to place a cannula in the vein to administer further drugs if the seizure returns. You dog may need to remain sedated to stop the seizures, and if toxins are suspected, the vet might flush their system with intravenous fluids whilst they are sedated. If your dog is no longer seizing when you arrive at the vets, they will perform a check over to see if there are any neurological changes. This might involve looking in the eyes, testing reflexes and checking mentation. If these are all normal, the next step would be for your vet to do a blood test to investigate whether all internal organs are normal or if the body is fighting an infection. However, if the neurological exam is abnormal, this is an indication there is an intra-cranial cause. An MRI scan by a specialist veterinary hospital is the only way the brain can be fully assessed to understand what the root cause is. How are seizures treated? The cause of the seizure will influence the treatment of it. For extra-cranial seizures, if a toxin is suspected, your dog will be hospitalised and intensively treated to attempt to flush the toxin out of the system as soon as possible before major internal damage is done. If they determine a defective organ is the cause, then further investigations may be needed to fully understand what disease process is present, and this will need to be treated specifically. For intra-cranial seizures, if there is a tumour which can be removed, then a veterinary neurologist may attempt surgery. This is a risky and costly procedure though, and many owners will instead opt for euthanasia. If the intra-cranial cause is an infection, then antibiotics may be started based on culture of the spinal fluid. Finally, if it is a trauma or a bleed, then your dog may just be given anti-inflammatories and nursed gently back to health either at home or hospitalised in the vet clinic. If all other causes have been ruled out, and a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made, long-term medication is available to help reduce the frequency of seizures. This medication has side effects such as weight gain, behaviour change and lethargy, and so the quality of life of your dog must be taken into account when deciding whether to medicate or not. What is the prognosis for the future? The prognosis is dependant on the cause of the seizure. In young dogs, where epilepsy has been diagnosed, long-term treatment is often very effective and they can live a normal happy life, however, they are likely to need yearly blood tests to ensure the medication is not causing any side effects. If the cause was a toxin, then as long as there was no brain damage and the toxin was fully flushed out of their system before any internal damage was done, then there should be no long-lasting complications. Tumours, infections, defective organs, trauma and bleeds in the brain are more variable in diagnosis. The prognosis will be dependant on how progressed they are at the time of the seizure, and will often involve intensive and early veterinary treatment for the best chance for the future. In the end, the causes of seizures can range in severity from completely benign, to something serious, and so a full work up by your veterinarian is a wise idea. Until you have the results of the tests, try not to panic, as your dog is in good hands with your veterinarian.
  2. "We thought it would be nice to breed our cocker spaniel… just let her have one litter, before spaying her. There’s obviously a lot to read up on before we pursue it, but what are the most important things to know about pregnancy"? – Lola That’s exciting Lola! It’s always lovely to have a litter of puppies in the house, but do make sure you do your research first because there’s so much to consider. I could write a book on it, so this is hardly going to touch on the subject, but it’s a good starting point. Firstly, make sure your little cocker is ok to breed. She shouldn’t be bred on her first season, and she should be fully grown, which for some dogs, takes over 18 months. It is worth letting her have a couple of seasons prior to breeding, so that you know how long a gap there is between them. That way you can be prepared for the third or fourth season, which is when you would take her to the stud dog. Next, make sure she’s healthy enough. There are quite a few genetic tests which your vet can do, to ensure she doesn’t have any hereditary diseases which might get passed down to the puppies. At the very least, your vet should take radiographs of her elbows and hips, to ensure she doesn’t have elbow or hip dysplasia. Other genetic tests to consider are Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Adult Onset Neuropathy, Familial Neuropathy and Acral Mutilation Syndrome. These can all be arranged through the Kennel Club. So, assuming she’s fine, and assuming she mates and falls pregnant, she will be pregnant for an average of 63 days. A pregnancy can be confirmed with a blood test after day 22 or by day 42 via an ultrasound scan. It is impossible to be certain how many puppies are in the mother unless an x-ray is carried out after day 45, which is when the puppies’ bones have calcified, however this can be harmful to the development of the puppies and so is not routinely done. Signs of pregnancy include the mother acting sleepy, grooming herself more than usual, and gathering items to make a nest. Her abdomen may feel firmer than usual, and towards the end start to bulge, and the nipples will rapidly grow. After four weeks, her appetite will increase and it is important to feed her more, as she will be using a lot of energy to provide the puppies with all the nutrients they need. She will also gain roughly 30% of her ideal weight during pregnancy. During pregnancy, everyone who comes into contact with the mother should be very gentle with her. She should have a warm and comfy area to rest, where it is quiet and she will not be disturbed. She should still be encouraged to exercise, however a 15 to 20-minute walk with limited jumping and running is all that is needed. Towards the end of her pregnancy, her temperature will suddenly drop to below 37.7 degrees Celsius. This means that she is about to give birth in the next 24 hours. Most dogs can manage by themselves and you just need to monitor from a distance, but it is important to know when things are going wrong, and be quick to act if there are complications. These scenarios can include being pregnant for more than 70 days, being more than 24 hours since the temperature dropped and there have not been any puppies, one puppy has come out and it has been over two hours and no more have made an appearance (if you know there is more than one puppy), the mother is in extreme pain, there is excessive blood or she is showing signs of weakness or extreme distress. In any of these cases, she must immediately be rushed to an emergency veterinarian. It may be the case that a caesarean section will be needed to remove the puppies surgically. The best thing to do, is do your research, and have a long conversation with your veterinarian. He will be very knowledgeable about the whole process, and will be more than happy to help. Breeding is certainly not for the faint hearted, and so ensure you know all there is to know before even taking your girl to the stud dog. Good luck!
  3. "I really want to buy a Golden Retriever puppy, but I’ve heard they have lots of joint problems. How can I find one that doesn’t have any issues"? - Jack I’m also a big fan of Goldies, Jack, but you’re right, they can have their joint issues. What you’re talking about is hip and elbow dysplasia. They are developmental disorders whereby the joints haven’t formed properly. If they go untreated, they can lead to early onset arthritis, and an uncomfortable life for your dog. The hip is made up of a ball and socket joint, where the top of the femur meets the pelvis. The top of the femur should be perfectly round and sit in the socket like a puzzle piece, however when a dog has hip dysplasia, the shapes do not match up. It is usually the ball, rather than the socket which is affected. This can cause the hip to become luxated out of the socket if severe, and causes a swing like gait, and hind limb lameness. There are several surgical options for hip dysplasia, such as replacing the hip with an implant, or fusing it if very severe and finances are a problem, however conservative management is more commonly carried out, which entails anti-inflammatories when needed, controlled exercise including hydrotherapy, and joint supplements. Elbow dysplasia is also a common cause of lameness in the front limbs in young Golden Retrievers. It is where parts of the elbow, such as the medial coronoid process or anconeal process, haven’t developed appropriately, and have become detached. Elbow dysplasia can be improved via joint surgery to remove any fragments. Conservative management is also an option which is the same as for hip dysplasia. So, how do you make sure that you purchase a puppy that doesn’t have elbow or joint dysplasia? In short, it’s difficult to be completely sure that your puppy won’t have it, however your best chance is to purchase from a breeder who has used a mother and father which have excellent hip and elbow scores. These scores are set out by the Kennel Club and BVA to assess radiographically how good the joints are. The radiographs are graded by BVA appointed Scrutineers to ensure that they are completely reliable. Elbows are graded between 0 and 3, and hips are scored between 0 and 106. Ideally you want to purchase a puppy who comes from parents with score 0 for elbows, and as low as possible for hips.
  4. There’s a seasonal disease doing the rounds, and it’s a rather scary one. Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) was first recognised in 2010, and it’s dramatically on the rise. It is still very rare, and so it is not the time to panic. But being aware of it is important for your dog’s health during the Autumn. The cause of Seasonal Canine Illness is still a bit of a mystery. Ongoing research is being conducted, but hypothesised causes include harvest mites, poisons, contaminated water, fungi, allergic reactions, agro-chemicals, algae and natural gastrointestinal flora. It can affect any dog, of any age, gender and breed, and is more prevalent between August and November. Most dogs which contract SCI have been walked in a woodland area recently, and become very unwell 24-72 hours later. What are the symptoms of Seasonal Canine Illness? The most common symptoms are: Lethargy Vomiting Diarrhoea Inappetence Abdominal pain Muscle tremors High Temperature These symptoms frequently look like a bad case of gastroenteritis, but Seasonal Canine Illness can rapidly progress to being fatal, which is why it is important to take it seriously. It is easy to confuse SCI for your dog having eaten something unpleasant on a walk, and therefore being vigilant about it will ensure that you are not misled. What can be done? If you think your dog might be demonstrating symptoms of SCI, it is important to immediately take them to your veterinarian. Since there is no known cause, it can be difficult to treat directly, but your veterinarian will focus treatment on combating the symptoms. He may also wish to carry out tests to rule out other causes, such as X-rays, ultrasound scans, blood tests and faecal examinations. Vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to extremely serious dehydration, so intravenous fluid therapy will be initiated. This will involve a hospital stay of a few days while your dog is attached to a drip. In addition to that, most vets will start antibiotic and anti-emetic medications, to help combat anything infectious and improve the appetite and general wellbeing of your dog. Most dogs will make a full recovery in seven to 10 days. Even though SCI is on the rise and can be fatal, the number of deaths from suspected cases have dramatically decreased. According to the Animal Health Trust, in 2010, roughly 20% of suspected SCI cases passed away, whereas by 2012, only 2% deteriorated to that level. Now, we are several years later, and veterinary therapies have advanced even further, enabling your dog to be provided with the best care possible. What areas is it most common? Seasonal Canine Illness can be found anywhere in the UK, however, over the years, there has been a higher number of cases reported in Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park), Lincolnshire, Norfolk (Thetford Forest and Sandringham), Suffolk (Rendlesham forest), and the New Forest. Woodland areas in these geographical locations are particularly at risk, and therefore if you walk your dog in these areas between August and November, you should be vigilant for symptoms associated with SCI. How can you keep your dog safe? Apart from either avoiding high risk areas or monitoring your dog closely after going for a walk, there are some things you can do to minimise the chances of your dog contracting SCI. These include: Use ecto-parasite prevention. There is no product licenced for harvest mites for dogs, however, research has shown that fipronil-based products may be effective. Ensure your dog stays well hydrated at all times. Immediately visit your vet if you have walked in a wooded area within the last three days and your dog is displaying any of the SCI associated symptoms.
  5. The eyes are two structures that are so vital to your dog’s ability to perceive their surroundings. On a normal basis, he shouldn’t be able to feel his eyes, but if there’s something wrong, they can be excruciatingly painful. The cornea (outside layer of the eye) has one of the most densely packed areas of nerves in the whole body. This means that even a tiny scratch can lead to excruciating pain, and needs swift medical attention. The eye is made out of several structures. As we’ve already mentioned, the outside layer is called the cornea. The inside of the eyelids is lined with the conjunctiva. When you look at the eye, the black part in the middle is called the pupil, which is not black, but instead a hole to the back of the eye where the light enters. Around this is a coloured part of the eye, known as the iris, and the function of the iris is to cause the pupil to get bigger and smaller, to let in more or less light. Across the pupil is a clear structure called the lens. This bends the light as it passes through, to focus it on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is a layer which is full of nerve endings. This is the structure that converts the light into a signal to the brain for processing. Normally, all these structures work harmoniously together, but when there is a problem, it is very obvious to your dog. Here are the five most common conditions why a dog will need to see their vet about their eyes: Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis translated means the inflammation of the conjunctiva. As we’ve already mentioned, the conjunctiva is a lining of the eyelids. When it becomes inflamed, it turns a dark pink or red colour and can be very sore. It can cause the eyes to produce mucus, which may be green, yellow or white, and collect in the inner corner of your dog’s eye. This needs to be cleaned away daily to prevent skin infections in this area. Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by an infection, usually bacterial, although not always. A veterinarian will first check that the eye hasn’t had any trauma to it, that has got infected. He will do this using a stain. If the conjunctivitis has been going on for a while, he may also take a swab to send off to the laboratory to be cultured for bacteria, but for most conjunctivitis conditions, they will clear up with daily drops which your vet will prescribe. Corneal Ulcers A corneal ulcer is one of the sorest eye ailments that your dog can experience. Even tiny ulcers can cause great pain. Ulcers can arise for many reasons. The most common reason is because of a traumatic abrasion. This could be from something as big as a stick which your dog’s eye contacted on a walk, or as small as dust. Another common reason is because of an object getting stuck in your dog’s eye. Grass seeds are common foreign bodies, and they commonly get stuck under the third eyelid. Finally, if your dog has an underlying condition, such as Dry Eye (talked about in the next section), or protruding eyes, such as in Pugs and French Bulldogs, they can be prone to developing ulcers due to dryness. Like conjunctivitis, your vet will probably start by investigating the amount of damage to the eye with a stain. This will be orange or green in colour and fluoresce when he shines a blue light on it. If he thinks there might be something in the eye contributing to the damage, he is likely to also put in some local anaesthetic, and use a cotton bud to check underneath the eyelids. Most corneal ulcers will heal up very quickly with eye drops to prevent infection and promote healing, but in rare cases, surgery might be needed to remove loose flaps of the cornea which may be causing a problem. Dry Eye Also known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), dry eye is a disease that some predisposed breeds of dog may go on to develop. The medical term essentially means ‘inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissues due to drying out’. It is due to inadequate production of tears from the lacrimal gland and/or the tear gland in the third eyelid. This is usually due to immune-mediated destruction of the glands or in other words, the body’s immune system attacking and destroying the glands. Tears are needed to lubricate the eye and remove debris which may have come into contact with the eye surface. Tears are made up of water, mucus, and fatty substances. When there are not enough tears in the eye, your dog will have painful eyes and he may be red and squint or blink excessively. There is usually a discharge from the eye, which is the mucus part of the tears that no longer has water in it. In severe cases, as mentioned earlier, ulceration may also happen, which might lead to scarring of the eye or increased pigmentation. If it is very extensive, the eye may also have a blue hue to the outside of it. The eye will also have numerous tiny blood vessels going to the area where it is ulcerated to try to bring nutrients to the area to heal it. Both eyes are usually affected, however, one is often worse than the other. Dry eye can be easily diagnosed based on the history, clinical signs and a test called the Schirmer tear test. Any veterinarian can carry out this test in a matter of minutes at very little cost. It is a simple test, where a strip of blotting paper is placed under the bottom eyelid for one minute, and it measures the volume of tears produced and absorbed within that time frame. There are two aims of treatment for dry eye; firstly, to increase tear production and secondly to replace the tears. There are several types of eye drops available that stop the body from attacking the tear glands, thereby allowing them to function again to some degree. These are usually used in combination with replacement tears to keep the eye moist. These drops require lifelong administration, although once any ulcers have healed up and the eye is less painful, the drops can usually be reduced to just several times per day, rather than every few hours. Cataracts and Nuclear Sclerosis Both cataracts and nuclear sclerosis are conditions of the lens. Normally the lens is clear, but in these cases, it appears cloudy. The difference is, with cataracts the cloudiness is opaque, whereas a dog with nuclear sclerosis will be able to have some vision. Nuclear sclerosis is a normal part of aging and is of no concern. It is when the fibres of the lens condense together. Cataracts, on the other hand, are not normal, and underlying medical conditions such as high ocular pressure or diabetes should be investigated and ruled out. Some dogs don’t have underlying issues, but instead, their cataracts are related to genetic predispositions. There are no medical options for the treatment of cataracts once they form, however, it is possible to surgically replace the lens under the treatment of a veterinary ophthalmologist. Glaucoma Glaucoma is when the pressure of the eye is high. This can be due to many reasons. The most common reason is because of high blood pressure, however primary eye problems can also cause glaucoma, such as eye tumours pressing on the eye or luxation of the lens. Glaucoma is extremely serious, and while drops can be given by your veterinarian to reduce the pressure, the underlying cause should be investigated and treated. Glaucoma might not be externally obvious, but in some cases, the eye may be cloudy and there may be excessive tears from the pain. If the drops do not work, and addressing the underlying issue does not make a difference, then in some cases, the eye might have to be removed. How Do You Give Eye drops? Your vet is likely to prescribe some eye drops to treat your dog’s eye. Before applying the drops to your dog’s eye, ensure that you read both the package instructions and your veterinarian instructions. Some drops may require storage in the box, out of light, and some may require storage in the fridge. Ensure that you apply the drops to the eye as frequently as your veterinarian advises. You can do this by cleaning the discharge away from the eye, then tilting your dog’s head upwards and applying the drops to the centre of the open eye. If you do not see a marked improvement in 24-48 hours, then you should revisit your vet, because luckily for your dog eyes heal quickly, and therefore they should have made an improvement by then.
  6. My poor girl is so itchy! I have a 6-year old Westie called Misty, and she’s been itchy since a very young dog. The vet has always told me it is allergies, which make sense because the summer is the worst time, but I just can’t get on top of it. Help! – Sasha Sorry to hear Misty is so itchy Sasha. It’s a very common problem for Westies to have skin allergies. But nevertheless, it’s always worth ruling out parasites first. Just double check it’s not fleas, and if you haven’t given a flea preventative treatment recently, then pop one of those on her. You have quite a lot of options with treating allergies, which may sound like a good thing, but actually that means there isn’t really one particular treatment which works best. The first thing to start with is to make sure she is on a good quality hypo-allergenic food. Most allergic dogs have multiple allergies, and that can be to food or allergens in the environment. So, removing the allergens in the food is a good start. Next, make sure she is receiving a good quality omega oil supplement. This should ideally be one which is specifically formulated for itchy dogs as then it will have the correct ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 oils. When these are in a ratio of 1:3, then they have wonderful anti-inflammatory effects. In addition to this, they help improve the quality of the skin barrier. Then, there are medications you can try. You should try to avoid steroids if possible. Yes, they are cheap, and very effective at bringing down the itchiness, but they have horrible side effects. They can have major impacts on the liver and the kidneys, as well as make Misty feel very hungry and thirsty. There are other medications though, such as Atopica, which bring down the immune reaction to the allergens, and as a result help with the itching. Like with allergies in humans, you can also give anti-histamines to help with the itching. Your vet will be able to prescribe you what he thinks is best though. Finally, there is also the option of allergy testing to see what she’s allergic to. This is usually done with a blood test, but it can sometimes not be very accurate. But with the results, you should be able to decide whether it is possible to avoid the allergens. If not, a vaccine can then be made against what she is allergic to, using these results, which your vet can give to her at regular intervals. The vaccine can be costly, and not 100% effective, but for some animals, it is an excellent solution to their allergies. So, as I’m sure you’ve gathered from this, there are lots of different options, and most work great for some dogs and not others, and so it is a matter of trial and error to see which ones will work for Misty.
  7. What is your take on pig ears? I’ve heard both good and bad things about them, and I can’t decide whether to give one to Tommy, my Labrador – Harry Thanks for your question Harry. There are plenty of pros and cons to pig ears, and to unpack them further, let’s just look into what the treat is made of first. Pig ears are exactly what they say they are; the ears of a pig. They are a natural dog treat, humanely harvested as a by-product after the slaughter of a pig for bacon or pork. This ensures less of the pig goes to waste. Once the ear has been harvested, it goes through a process of blanching in boiling water for 30 seconds, followed by rapid cooling in ice water. This removes all the remaining hair. After drying, they are then dehydrated either on a dehydration rack, in an oven at a low temperature, or in a smoker for extra flavour. This process can take between four and 24 hours, depending on which method is used. Because pig ears have a large hide content, they are tough to chew and require some effort to eat. With that being said, they are not as tough as cow hide, and therefore do not cause excessive abrasion on the gums. The toughness is a good thing as the continuous chewing action will remove plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. It’s a lovely natural treat to give your dog, that has no additives or preservatives, to help with preventing dental disease. However, there are some major downsides too. Because of the high fat content, dogs who are struggling with their weight should not be allowed to have pig ears. Obesity is a major welfare problem, and can be linked to diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes and liver failure. Also, a large amount of fat ingestion can trigger a disease called pancreatitis, in some dogs. There have also been Salmonella contamination scares in pig ear treats. Approximately 4% of commercially produced pig ears contain Salmonella. A Salmonella infection can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in your dog, as well as in humans. Nevertheless, if you source your pig ears from reliable places, such as butchers, reputable pet stores and veterinary clinics, then they are less likely to be contaminated. Finally, since they are hard, if your dog becomes over enthusiastic about their treat, then they might swallow large bits of it which can cause obstructions. So, what’s my verdict? I think pig ear treats can be nutritious and delicious treats for your dog to enjoy on a moderated basis. They can be beneficial to your dog’s dental health; however, they should be offered only with supervision to avoid your dog from swallowing pieces which could cause an obstruction. They should also be avoided if your dog is still a puppy, overweight or prone to bouts of pancreatitis, but if your dog is a healthy adult dog, then you can let him enjoy the occasional pig ear.
  8. I’ve just bought a little Patterdale puppy, and I know I must get him vaccinated. But what must I get him vaccinated against? I guess the vet will tell me at the consult, but I’d like to understand what my puppy is being injected with - Marcus I’m glad you’re looking into getting your puppy vaccinated Marcus, as there are a lot of deadly diseases out there. There are a lot of anti-vaccine campaigners, but the reality is, vaccines are exceptionally safe, and the risk is just not worth taking. The initial vaccine course will vary depending on the brand of the vaccine, but in general, it will require two or three injections, roughly 3-4 weeks apart. After that, an annual booster vaccination is all that is needed to keep up the immunity. The following diseases are routinely vaccinated against: Distemper – This vaccination is in the form of an injection. Distemper is a disease which causes coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and reddened eyes, before it spreads to the brain and causes symptoms such as seizures. It also causes hardening of the pads and the nose. Hepatitis – This vaccination is in the form of an injection. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by Canine Adenovirus. This causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, lethargy, diarrhoea, vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, swelling of the brain and eventually death. Parvovirus – This vaccination is in the form of an injection. Parvovirus is a life-threatening disease that is common among puppies. It causes profuse bloody diarrhoea and occasionally vomiting. Puppies die rapidly of dehydration. It is extremely contagious. Leptospirosis – This vaccination is in the form of an injection. Up to four strains are vaccinated against depending on the vaccine brand. Dogs come into contact with Leptospirosis through contaminated water. It affects the kidneys, liver, central nervous system and reproductive system and causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, fever and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Parainfluenza and Bordetella – These vaccinations are given in combination in a vaccine which squirts up a nostril of the dog. Not all vets offer this vaccine as standard, but it is worth opting for if your puppy is going to socialise with other dogs. Together they form a complex disease called ‘Kennel Cough’. This is a highly contagious respiratory disease which causes an inflamed trachea, a hacking cough and copious phlegm. Rabies – This vaccination is not required for the UK but is required if you travel. It comes in the form of an injection. Rabies is a very dangerous virus which can be transmitted to humans through bites. It causes excessive drooling, aggression and behaviour changes which rapidly progresses to death within a week for 100% of cases showing clinical symptoms. While this seems like a lot of vaccinations, most manufacturers will combine the first four into one injection, so that your dog does not seem like a pin cushion!
  9. Separation anxiety in our beloved pets is an all too common occurrence. So, if you are experiencing it with your dog, rest assured, you are not alone. Here, we will begin by understanding what separation anxiety is and why it happens, followed by some helpful tips for you to try at home to ease you pet. So, what is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is the extreme stress state that a dog experiences after their owner has left them alone. This usually happens soon after the owner leaves the house, or even just the room. But what does separation anxiety look like? The following symptoms may be displayed by your dog if he is experiencing separation anxiety: Excessive drooling Pacing Barking Whining Scratching at doors Destroying objects such as toys or furniture The destructive aspects can lead to self-trauma, particularly the claws, paws and mouth. Is there anything that causes separation anxiety? There is still a lot unknown about the causes of separation anxiety, however it is believed that one possible cause stems from when the dog was still in the puppy stage of their lives. This is a prime time for dogs to develop over-dependence on their owner. Sometimes this might be from being weaned too early, sometimes not. But when an owner gets a new puppy, they often take the puppy everywhere with them. Whilst socialisation and exposure to different scenarios are imperative in the successful upbringing of the dog, the puppy comes to know you as their source of confidence and comfort. Once they are a little older, they are then left at home whilst the owner goes to work or out to the shops. They are not familiar with being left alone all of a sudden, and their comfort has left them. When the owner arrives home, it’s a common occurrence to greet their dog with a lot of fuss, as both the owner and the dog are glad to be together again. However, this unintentionally, reinforces the stress and concern the dog had when he was alone. For some dogs, the root of the cause is something different altogether. Separation anxiety is frequently displayed by rescue dogs, which suggests that abandonment or a major change in situation could also be a trigger. Other causes can also trigger the feeling of abandonment and anxiety, such as the loss of a member of the family, a change in routine such as a family member going back to work who usually looks after him, or a change in ownership. Finally, for some dogs it is simply their temperament and no specific situation was their trigger. Whatever the root cause for separation anxiety in your dog, the good news is you will tackle it all the same. So, how is it treated? There are many different options to reduce the anxiety that your dog is feeling when you leave. But before trying any of these methods, it is important that you check with your vet that your dog is truly experiencing separation anxiety, and there is not an underlying medical condition contributing to his behaviour. Neither punishment nor positive rewarding are suitable methods to reduce the anxiety of your dog, as both with worsen the anxiety he is feeling. However, here are some good tips which will help to gradually teach your dog that separation is not the end of the world. When you leave your dog alone, don’t make a big fuss saying goodbye. This will set his adrenalin racing. By ensuring you don’t do this, he will remain in his usual calm state. Likewise, as you return to the house, initially ignore him. Greeting him and making a fuss will reinforce his anxiety. When he has calmed down after a few minutes, you can calmly say hello. Before you leave the house, many owners find it effective to give a long-lasting stuffed toy. Kong® toys are particularly good. You can stuff it with wet dog food, pâté, or peanut butter (although check it is not one which contains xylazine as an ingredient). By having something to chew and lick, not only does this distract him, but it releases endorphins; the body’s natural relaxants. Here is a useful link on how to stuff a Kong® toy: https://positivepettraining.co.uk/a-quick-guide-to-stuffing-a-kong-for-your-dog/ In between times, you can practice leaving so that your dog gradually stops associating it with being alone for a long time. Start with just performing your leaving routine, but not actually going anywhere. Pick up and jingle your keys, or throw your handbag over your shoulder, even put on your coat and shoes. Once this doesn’t trigger any anxiety, progress to leaving the room, but only staying on the other side of the door for a few seconds. Remember not to make a fuss of him when you come back, even if he was good. You can gradually increase the time you leave him to a few minutes, and even jump in your car to drive down the road and back. Once you’ve reached the hour milestone without triggering his anxiety, you shouldn’t have any issues leaving for a whole morning or afternoon. Finally, there are some natural products on the market which have been manufactured into products such as tablets, sprays, diffusers and collars which will help your pet stay calm. These namely come in three different forms: Pheromones: Dog pheromones cannot be detected by our human noses but dogs are sensitive to their presence. ‘Dog appeasing pheromone’ or ‘DAP’ is released by the mother to help calm puppies for the first 5 days after birth. DAP has been manufactured into several types of products for you to use in your house, including a plug-in diffuser, a spray and a collar. Casein: Naturally occurring in the mothers’ milk, casein helps relax puppies, and when ingested by adult dogs, brings back the feeling of being comforted by their mother. This is available both in a tablet form, and a dry dog biscuit. L-tryptophan: This increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical which stimulates happy feelings. However, it takes a few weeks to build up to levels which make a significant difference, so don’t expect to see an immediate change. Like casein, it is available both in a tablet form, and a dry dog biscuit, as well as a syrup for cats. What if none of this works? If you have tried all of the above and your vet has ruled out any ill-health, then the next step would be to seek the services of a dog behaviourist. The benefit of this is that they can witness exactly what is going on in your own home and give personalised advice to suit your specific scenario.
  10. My dog loves to swim. In fact, I often can’t get her out the water. But last winter, after an episode of swimming, her tail went limp for a few days. I was talking to a friend, yesterday, and she said her dog once had that problem too. I was just wondering what causes it? – Theresa Thanks for getting in touch Theresa. There are a number of reasons why a dog’s tail might go limp, but the most likely reason for what you are describing is a condition called ‘rudder tail’. Rudder tail is also known under the names ‘limber tail’, ‘swimmer’s tail’, ‘cold water tail’, ‘limp tail’ and ‘broken wag’. Symptoms of a broken wag are quite obvious. The tail will be limp and your dog won’t wag it as it usually does. In some cases, the first part of the tail is in a horizontal position, while the rest of the tail is vertical. It can also happen that the tail extends a few inches from the body and then drops. Pain and swelling usually accompany the limp tail, particularly at the base. They might wimp, whine or lick and chew the tail because of the discomfort, and most dogs are also lethargic when they suffer from this condition. It’s still unclear what causes the tail to be hanging down all of a sudden, but there are certain situations after which it tends to develop. Usually, it happens after swimming, hunting, chasing or other forms of excessive exercise. Thus, overexertion is the most common cause. Other causes behind a ‘rudder tail’ are climate changes, inappropriate crate sizes or too long crate time, cold weather, warm or cold baths or overuse of the tail. Of all the situations, swimming, particularly in cold water, seems to be the most common trigger, which is probably why it happened in the winter for you. Even though the exact cause isn’t clear, it’s certain that it’s a muscle injury. Even though the tail looks broken, it’s not the bone that’s causing problems, but the muscle. More precisely, your dog is keeping its tail down because the coccygeal muscles near the base that are sprained. Fortunately, treating rudder tail is pretty easy when diagnosed. Most dogs recover on their own after a couple of days, but there are certain treatments that can speed up the process. It usually consists of the following: Warm packs at the base of your dog’s tail Anti-inflammatory drugs specifically for dogs, prescribed by your vet Rest Results can be seen pretty quickly. The worst pain usually goes away within 24 to 48 hours. However, sometimes it can take up to 2 weeks for the problem to disappear completely.
  11. I've always given Spark ice cubes on hot days going back many years but a recent post I saw on social media has me confused. What’s your take on it? – Lou This is a really common thing within the pet world, so it’s interesting that you brought it up Lou. There has been a lot of interest around this recently in the hot weather, and one veterinarian’s online post has gone viral; warning about how ice cubes are dangerous because they trigger the anterior hypothalamus to increase the body’s core temperature, not decrease it. So, is there much truth to it? In short, no. Or at least not via the hypothalamus. In theory, if a dog ate an awful lot of ice, it might have a small shivering response, which raises core body temperatures and possibly some momentary constriction of the blood vessels in the tongue, which reduces heat loss, but it doesn’t have an effect on the hypothalamus. This is part of the brain which only works to control core body temperature, and therefore stays relatively constant, while the body responds to peripheral temperatures. It’s easy to believe the advice though. Many people have heard the saying that a warm drink will cool you down, and so why would a cold drink not warm you up? Well this is only applicable to humans. A warm drink will trigger temperature sensors in the mouth and throat, not the hypothalamus, and will increase sweating. On the other hand, dogs do not use sweating as a form of cooling down, apart from through their paws. Instead they use panting. And so, this theory doesn’t work for them. So, are ice cubes actually ok for dogs? Yes, in moderation and under supervision. Ice cubes can come with their risks, such as damage to teeth, and some people believe that they cause bloat, but that is also not true. Gulping lots of water quickly causes air to also be swallowed, and that may cause bloat, but ice cubes themselves don’t. But if given in moderation, and under supervision, your dog may enjoy them and it may be beneficial to helping him cool down ever so slightly. In the hot weather, there are some other things you can do to help your dog which are more effective though. Firstly, a damp towel to lie on, or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to lie next to, will help cool him down very effectively. He may also love to play in a paddling pool, and splash around to cool off. It’s also important to remember to use pet safe sun cream where your dog has pink skin, to avoid burns, and finally, never leave your dog in a hot car, even just for a few minutes. I hope this has debunked some myths for you!
  12. Jo De Klerk

    Essential Oils

    I love to diffuse my house with essential oils, but recently I heard that dogs can be quite toxic to them. Which ones are dog friendly? I don’t want to upset my Labrador, Charlie. – Ulrica I’m glad you asked this Ulrica, as many people don’t realise that essential oils can have an effect on their dogs. In fact, essential oils can be highly potent to dogs. They are very easily absorbed through breathing them in, or through the skin, and the body removes them via the liver. This means any dog which has an underlying liver disease, or a puppy with an immature liver, should not come in contact with essential oils. So, what are they? Essential oils are compounds which have derived from plants. They are the aromatic substances found in these plants which give them their incredible smell. They can be used for aromatherapy, as it has been proven that essential oils stimulate the limbic system in the brain. This is the area of the brain which controls emotions, as well as some unconscious functions, such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. They have also been proven to have many desirable health benefits by topical application on the skin. These include anxiety reduction, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-oxidative, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects. But you are absolutely right, some essential oils are toxic to dogs. The following essential oils should be steered clear of: Clove Garlic Juniper Rosemary Tea Tree Thyme Wintergreen If you are worried that your dog has come into contact with a toxic essential oil, these are the signs to look out for: Muscle tremors Lethargy or weakness Trouble walking or an uncoordinated gait Difficulty breathing Low body temperature Excessive salivation Vomiting Excessive pawing at mouth or face Drooling Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue or skin So which ones are good for dogs? The most popular oil used on dogs is lavender oil, as not only does it smell amazing, but it also has incredible anti-anxiety effects. Not only that, it is soothing and anti-bacterial, meaning that it helps with skin concerns, wounds, allergies and infections. Chamomile oil also has very similar effects to lavender oil. Another popular oil is peppermint oil. It can be used to cool sore muscles, energise tired animals, and soothe upset stomachs. It also refreshes the air when diffused. This oil can open the airways and promote a healthy respiratory tract, as well as soothe aching joints. Frankincense oil is considered a super oil, as it tackles so many different health ailments within the body. The most notable is its potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It also helps to boost the immune system. Finally, Cedarwood oil is particularly useful if your dog has a cough. It is an expectorant, which means it helps to loosen the mucus, and is particularly good for phlegmy infections like kennel cough. There are many other oils that you can use on your dog, but it is always worth doing your research first and also asking you vet prior to applying or diffusing any oils.
  13. I heard through your dog chat page that daffodils are poisonous! I’ve got a little puppy and wasn’t aware of this. Luckily, he didn’t chew any while they were in bloom a few weeks ago. But what other plants must I watch out for around the garden which could be dangerous? – Katie Oh yes, Katie, you must be careful of daffodils around your dog. Luckily, the bulbs are the most poisonous part, however they can still become ill through eating the flower or by drinking the water from a vase. Signs of poisoning includes vomiting, stomach upset and salivation, but can escalate to dogs appearing sleepy, wobbly on their legs, or collapsing. In more serious cases it can result in changes to heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure, and even lead to a seizure. Here are some other plants to be cautious about: Tulips The toxins are particularly irritating to the mouth and digestive system, resulting in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Crocus Most crocus species will only cause a mild stomach upset, but the Autumn Crocus can cause kidney and liver problems too. Tomato Plant The actual tomatoes are fine, as long as they are ripe, but the leaves and stems for the plant can cause stomach pain, weakness, difficulty breathing and a slow heart rate. Rhododendron These are highly toxic, particularly in small dogs, and can cause serious stomach upsets. Deadly Nightshade As the name suggests, this can be deadly. The plant, especially the berries, affect the nervous system. Foxglove This plant contains toxic cardiac glycosides, which means that it can cause heart disturbances. In addition to this, it can lead to nausea, diarrhoea and kidney problems. Poison Hemlock Even a small amount of this plant can cause a dog to die. It is also toxic to humans and livestock. It leads to respiratory paralysis. By no means it this an exhaustive list, and there are many other plants out there, both around the house and out on walks, so the best advice is not to leave anything to chance. If you think your dog has ingested any plant, then contact your vet immediately before symptoms appear.
  14. I’ve just bought a pug and I want to get her insured. What considerations must I make when looking at different policies? - Faye Great idea Faye. I’m glad you’re thinking about pet insurance. Pugs can be a breed of dog which have potentially lots of health problems, such as breathing issues, skin issues, and neurological issues. So, pet insurance will aid in covering potential veterinary bills which can cost thousands of pounds if you’re unlucky. Many people will not have that in savings and vets usually require payment upfront before discharge of the animal. There are several different policy types which are available and so reading the fine print carefully and selecting the option which works best for you will be in your best interests. Some insurance companies give you a sum of money per condition, which renews every year, whereas some companies will provide a sum of money per condition for the whole lifetime. Other companies will give you a sum of money for all health care which renews every year. In addition to this, the excess payment will differ from company to company, and a higher excess might reduce the annual payment, however it will require for you to pay more towards the claim. Also, some insurers will also require you to pay a percentage of the fee if your dog is over a certain age. Nevertheless, pet insurance will save you a great deal of money long term if anything happens to your dog, and will allow your vet to provide him with the gold standard vet care without financial concerns.
  15. My Collie is the most stoic dog ever. How do I know if he is uncomfortable if he never yelps or demonstrates that he is in pain? – Judy I can completely relate to your problem, Judy. Part of my line of work as a vet is to understand how comfortable my patients are. It’s particularly hard, because they can’t tell me where it hurts, and it is even harder when they are stoic, and won’t give me any indication at all. But there are some tell-tale signs to look out for, which even stoic dogs will demonstrate if they are in pain. A Change In Breathing Dogs in pain generally breathe at a faster rate. This can be shallow, or it can be panting. People often mistake it for their dog feeling hot or worn out, but it should not be forgotten that pain often causes this symptom. Behaviour Changes These can be changes such as increased aggression, avoiding affection, reacting when picked up, or generally being quieter than usual. Poor Coat Quality Sometimes when a dog is in pain or unwell, their coat becomes duller and greasier. This can be because of a lack of grooming, or because of internal ill-health. Struggling To Settle Lying down in a comfortable position can be a struggle for a dog in pain. You are likely to see him circle round and round before lying down, and once he’s down, it won’t be long before he’s up again. Licking One of the most common indications that somewhere is sore, is obsessive licking of the area. Dogs find comfort in licking areas of pain, whether the pain originates from the skin, musculoskeletal system or internal organs. Difficulty Passing Stools If your dog suffers from either back or hip pain, squatting to pass stools can be very uncomfortable. They may avoid passing a motion because of the pain, and as a result become constipated, or they may get themselves into an awkward position to do their business. What it comes down to, in stoic dogs, is to just know your dog very well and be on the lookout for subtle signs. If your dog is painful, they may show all, some or none of these symptoms, but if you’re in doubt, it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt and getting a vet to check him over.
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