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Jo De Klerk

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. What’s more lovely than a dog bounding up to greet you at the end of a busy day, with his mouth wide open, tongue flopping out and a bit grin on his face? But when he finally reaches you, the last thing you need is rotten breath in your face. Dental care is vitally important, not just to keep your dog’s breath smelling nice, but to keep their mouth pain free and teeth in good condition. It is a common misconception that dogs don’t need their teeth cleaned, as in the wild, dogs do not clean their teeth, and they are just fine. However, a domestic dog is not a wild dog. Wild ancestors were able to gnaw on bones to keep their teeth clean, whereas the diets that domestic dogs are fed very different. The Teeth The tooth is a bony structure, comprising of two parts; the crown, which you can see, and the roots, which are under the gum. Some teeth have one root, others two, and some molars have three. The first teeth to appear are the 28 deciduous (baby) teeth. These gradually fall out in the first year of life to be replaced with 42 adult teeth. The small teeth at the front are called incisors, and next to them are the large, pointed canines. In the wild, these teeth would be used by the dog to grab hold of their prey, as well as nibble pieces of meat off of the bone. Along the cheeks are pre-molars and then at the back, molars. These teeth are larger and flatter, and are used to grind harder food. Each tooth is made up of bone, coated in a protective layer of enamel. In the very centre of the tooth is the pulp. This is a fleshy section filled with nerves. If this becomes exposed, it can cause considerable tooth ache. Surrounding the tooth is the tooth socket. This is the area inside the skull in which the tooth root sits. It is held in place by a very strong ligament all the way around the tooth. This is called the periodontal ligament. Tartar and Gingivitis Tartar is a build-up of food and bacteria around the base of the tooth. This happens in all dogs who do not have their teeth brushed on a daily basis. Tartar leads to bad breath and a poor taste in your dog’s mouth. If your dog has tartar build up, they are also likely to have gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the adjacent gums, local to where the tartar is. The reason why the gums become inflamed is because the tartar is full of bacteria. Therefore, the body sends white blood cells to the area to fight the bacteria, but the influx of white blood cells causes the area to swell. Gingivitis can further progress to periodontal disease, whereby the periodontal ligament becomes weak from the inflammation, and no longer holds the teeth in place, resulting in tooth loss. Tooth loss does not happen overnight, and therefore the tooth is usually wobbly for an extended period of time before it finally falls out. This means whenever your dog chews on something hard, it causes significant discomfort in that area. For some dogs, this causes them to lose weight as they do not want to eat as much, whereas for other dogs, they will happily continue to eat, despite the discomfort and foul taste in their mouth. Tooth Care There is not one best method of keeping your dog’s teeth clean, but rather it is best to use multiple methods to maintain sparkly white teeth and fresh breath. Dental care should become part of a daily routine, started from the puppy stage, as this will prevent deterioration of the mouth. Routine Examination Examining the mouth for plaque build-up should be done on a monthly basis. Some dogs do not tolerate owners or veterinarians looking in their mouths, but this is usually because they are not used to it. If your dog doesn’t like it, try to make it a positive, fun experience. To examine the teeth, firstly lift up the front lips to look at the incisors. Tartar or plaque, which is a grey or brown sticky build-up at the gum line, decay, tooth discolouration or redness of the gums should be noted. Next, the corner of the cheek should be pulled far back to examine the premolars and molars for the same issues on both sides. Finally, the mouth should be opened wide from the front, to look on the inside of the teeth. Teeth Brushing Brushing teeth will help to keep them clean, reduce the amount of tartar, and keep the breath fresh. It will also ensure that you are checking the mouth on a regular basis and therefore any changes can be picked up early. To brush your dog’s mouth, you will need a toothbrush and toothpaste. You cannot use regular toothpaste however, as this can be highly toxic to dogs leading to erratic blood glucose levels and liver damage. Anyway, your dog will much prefer the meaty taste of a dog toothpaste, which you can buy off the internet, at veterinary practices, and many pet stores. Dog toothpaste works through enzymatic action. This is when enzymes in the toothpaste work to dissolve any new tartar build up on the surface of the teeth, thereby reducing bacteria and freshening breath. Dental Chews Dental chews are a nice way of keeping your dog’s teeth healthy, and a way which he is sure to appreciate. Your dog won’t be aware that this delicious treat is actually for his benefit. It is important to note that although giving dental chews is much easier than brushing, they are not a replacement for brushing. They should always be used in combination. Dental chews are formed to provide some form of abrasion or friction to the surface of the tooth so that tartar is broken or sucked off. As with all treats, they are not calorie free, and so calculating how many calories must be taken out of your dog’s normal food is important to do. Otherwise, you may end up with a rather overweight dog! Dental chews can be bought from pet stores and veterinary practices, however if you want a more natural option with fewer calories, deer antlers are an excellent option. Bones should not be given as they can shatter and cause obstructions. Mouthwash Like human toothpaste, dogs must never consume human mouthwash either. However, there are mouthwash-style products which can be used to help fight plaque in dogs. These liquid products are usually added in small volumes to drinking water, and work on the same premise as dog toothpaste; they are filled full of enzymes which aid in dissolving the plaque off the teeth or stop more plaque from forming. Dental Food Many of the top dog food brands have created dental diets. These are dry dog foods with large kibble bits in them. As the dog bites through the kibble, it helps remove the tartar from the teeth. The kibble pieces are usually a tiny bit softer than other dry dog foods, so that as the tooth is removed from the kibble, there is a small amount of suction. Dental Procedures If the mouth is in such bad health, your veterinarian may suggest having your dog in for a dental procedure. This is a day procedure where your dog will come home the same day. Once your dog is anesthetised, the vet will start by cracking off any large areas of tartar. He will then scale all the teeth to make them clean and white. Once they are clean, he will take a probe, and run it around each tooth. If the probe dips into the socket, then it means that the periodontal ligament has been damaged and the tooth must be removed. Some teeth have multiple roots, and some just a single root. This usually determines how difficult they are to remove. A sharp tool called an elevator is run around the root of the tooth to break the periodontal ligament before the tooth is pulled out. The socket is sometimes stitched closed afterwards, although some veterinarians prefer leaving it open. At the end of the procedure, the veterinarian will polish the entire mouth to remove any residual tartar. The end result is a mouth as shiny white as a puppy’s! Prevention is always better than cure, and so even though your vet can make your dog’s mouth look like a puppy’s again, keeping your dog’s mouth in good condition from puppyhood is always a better option. With diligent dental care from the outset, you can ensure your dog has a healthy, painless mouth with fresh breath.
  13. Most dog owners at some point in their dog’s life will have a moment of panic when they find a lump on their beloved pet. Lumps are extremely common on dogs and can be as benign as a wart or as sinister as cancer. Therefore, it’s important to understand what to look out for to understand when a vet visit is needed. What are the main causes of lumps on dogs? Infection Lumps caused by a local infection will go down as quickly as they came up. They can easily be caused by a small thorn getting embedded in the skin on a walk, or an infected tick bite, amongst many other causes. The lump is caused by an influx of inflammatory white blood cells into the area. The normal tissues cannot hold this number of cells, and therefore, since the skin is stretchy, it expands to accommodate them. As a result, a lump appears. Sometimes these white blood cells pool together to create an abscess, which if it is big, your vet may need to lance and drain it. Usually, small local infections can easily be dealt with by your dog’s own immune system, however, occasionally they may need antibiotics from the vet to heal it up. Cysts Cysts are fluid-filled structures within the skin layer. They can be as small as a pimple or as big as a plum. Most cysts in the skin originate from sebaceous glands which produce an oil-like substance. They are triggered when the gland becomes blocked. Cysts are simply a local nuisance, and not cancerous, so just because your dog has one, does not mean it will spread around the body. They are, however, sometimes difficult to treat, as draining the cyst does not eliminate the problem, and it will frequently fill back up again. Often, if they are large in size, they will need to be surgically removed. Warts and Skin Tags Warts and skin tags are extremely common on dogs and are completely harmless. They both look very similar and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between the two. Both warts and skin tags are small lumps, of only a few millimetres. The main differences are that skin tags seem to dangle, whereas warts have a thicker base to them, also skin tags will always remain, whereas warts may slowly subside. The cause for skin tags is up for debate, however, some people believe it is from inflammation in the skin, overbathing your dog, or skin irritants. However, the reality is that they often occur randomly. Warts, on the other hand, are caused by a virus, however, there is no need to see your vet if you find a wart on your dog. Tumours Most people when they hear the word ‘tumour’ they immediately think of ‘cancer’, but not all lumps are nasty. For example, a common lump seen on dogs is a lipoma, which is a benign tumour originating from fat cells. These lumps can grow locally and may cause problems if they interfere with joints, but they will not threaten the life of your dog. Nevertheless, some tumours can be much more aggressive, and therefore it is always best to get them checked out by a vet. So, what are the signs of a benign or malignant tumour? The table below outlines the key points to look out for, although there will still be some exceptions. Benign Malignant Growth Slow growing Fast growing Size Any Any Pain Non-painful Either non-painful or painful Hair growth Hair present Bald Ulceration None None or broken skin Attachment Free moving Attached to underlying structures Shape Well defined, e.g. spherical Well defined or diffuse e.g. irregular Location Body Anywhere, including on the limbs Your vet will be able to determine the type of tumour by placing a needle into the lump and aspirating some cells. These cells can be put onto a slide and analysed under a microscope. If the tumour appears sinister under the microscope, then removal is usually the course of action. Sometimes an X-ray of the chest and abdomen is taken before surgery, to ensure it hasn’t spread anywhere else in the body. Removal of the lump is usually a day procedure, and the process has been described in Ask Dr Jo: My dog needs a lump removed .If the lump could potentially be aggressive, your vet will need to take a wide margin around it of at least 2cm, which means that underlying muscle may need to be taken out too. Most surgical sites heal very well, but there are some circumstances which may make healing more complicated. For example, a large tumour would leave a big void, and therefore there is potential for fluid to build up in the site. Also, a tumour removed from a mobile area may lead to slower healing of the incision because of constant movement. Therefore, following your vet’s advice for post-surgical care is vital. If caught early enough, removal of a tumour can be curative, however, if the tumour has already spread, then chemotherapy or radiotherapy might be indicated. Most vet practices will be able to offer chemotherapy, but radiotherapy must be undertaken in specialist hospitals. What is the take-home message? First of all, do not panic. There are many causes of lumps on dogs, and many of them are not of serious concern. Nevertheless, it is wise to get any lump checked out by a vet, as some lumps can be cancerous. That way, by just a simple test that can be done at your vet practice, it is easier to understand the prognosis and course of action to take.
  14. I have an old terrier, Franky. He’s 13 and up until now I’ve been very lucky. He’s been perfectly healthy. But now he’s getting older, what should I be looking out for on a routine basis to ensure I pick up on any health issues early? – Tom Well done Tom for getting Franky to 13, and I’m sure that since you are being diligent in his care, he will still keep going for a few more years. There are certainly some things you should look out for at home when you have an aging dog, as well as things your vet can check for, once or twice a year. An older dog will be more prone to heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, cancer and loss of senses, such as sight. Sometimes the symptoms of these can be very subtle early on, but the earlier you notice signs and visit the vets, the better the long-term prognosis. The following are symptoms that you should look out for: Heart Disease – Exercise intolerance, fainting, coughing, increased breathing rate and depth, increased heart rate, slow gum capillary refill time, pale or dark red gums. Liver Disease – Vomiting, loss of appetite, yellow gums, yellow stools, seizures or behavioural changes, lethargy, weight loss. Kidney Disease – Increased urination, increased thirst, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, pale gums, dehydration, poor hair coat, smelly breath. Cancer – Visible lumps, swollen lymph nodes under the chin, in front of the shoulders, under the elbows, in the groin and at the back of the lack legs, general off-colour, lethargy, coughing, increased breathing rate and depth. Loss of senses – Cloudy eyes, knocking into things, not following a ball which has been thrown, not responding to commands or his name, being nervous of abnormal sounds. It is advisable to occasionally have a senior wellness check at your vets when it comes to Franky’s age. In fact, any dog over the age of eight will benefit. This will include a physical examination, checking the teeth, eyesight, heart, lungs, abdomen and temperature. Depending on how the physical exam is, your vet may wish to carry out a blood test and blood pressure test, to fully understand your Franky’s internal health. This is a good idea to carry out once or twice every year in very senior dogs, as organs can deteriorate very quickly.
  15. I was shopping for treats for my Yorkie, and I saw the pet store selling dog chocolate. I thought dogs weren’t allowed chocolate? - Rosie I’m glad you brought this up Rosie, as dog chocolate and regular chocolate can easily be confused. It is actually poor marketing on the behalf of the manufacturers which produce dog chocolate, as those who have little knowledge about toxins, can inadvertently poison their dog by giving them real chocolate. The treats which you see in the pet store, that call themselves chocolate, actually contain no cocoa. This is the part of chocolate which is toxic to dogs even in small quantities. There are varying levels of cocoa in chocolate, depending on whether it is dark, milk, white, cooking chocolate, or cocoa powder, and the amount eaten and size of your dog will all factor in when it comes to calculating the risk. In the cocoa is something called theobromine. This is at a higher level in cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate. If ingested in small quantities, it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but in larger quantities, it can lead to tremors, seizures, heart irregularities and death. If you are concerned that your dog might have eaten chocolate, it is important to call your vet immediately so that they can induce vomiting to stop it getting into the system. If it is too late and your dog is already experiencing symptoms, your vet will be able to provide supportive treatment to help pull him through. Vets Now have provided an excellent online tool to measure the risk if your dog has ingested some chocolate, which can be found here: https://www.vets-now.com/app/chocolate-calculator
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