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Jo De Klerk

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  1. Question from Julie. It’s always nerve-wracking when your dog needs to go into surgery, but don’t worry Julie, your dog is in the hands of professionals that do this day in day out. You haven’t elaborated on the type of lump or location, but assuming it is an easy to remove lump, of small to moderate size, your dog will just need to be at the vets for the day. It is best to drop him off first thing in the morning. He should have an empty stomach to ensure that he does not vomit whilst under the anaesthetic. He can, however, be allowed to drink water until you take him to the vets. When he arrives, a vet or vet nurse will give him a thorough check over to ensure he can have his operation. This is mainly to identify anything which may need to be considered during the procedure, such as heart murmurs, being overweight, or internal organ problems which may hinder how the drugs are filtered out of the system. If they find anything, they will discuss this in full with you prior to the procedure. Some vets will first run a quick blood test as well, to double check that your dog is healthy, whereas others may just run the blood test if the clinical exam was abnormal. Your dog will then be given a sedative and put on an intravenous fluid drip, to keep his blood pressure normal. About half an hour after the sedative injection, his anaesthesia will be induced. This is done with an injection into a vein in the leg. Once he is asleep, a tube will be placed down his windpipe which will provide him with anaesthetic gas and oxygen, as well as enable the anaesthetist to intervene and breathe for him, if for any reason he or she is not happy with his breathing. After the operation, the anaesthetic gas will be turned off, and he will be allowed to breathe pure oxygen for five to ten minutes, to help filter out the gas. It usually takes about ten minutes for a dog to wake up after an operation, however once awake, they then often fall back asleep to rest for several hours when put into a recovery kennel. Once the vet is happy that your dog has recovered enough from the anaesthetic, and had something to eat, he will allow him to go home. It is likely that your dog will be drowsy for the rest of the day, and it is best to just allow him to rest. Some bland food for dinner, such as a gastrointestinal food, or chicken and rice, is the most beneficial for him at this stage. Most vets require two post-operative checks; one at three days post-op and one at 10-14 days post-op. The first check is to ensure that the wound is not infected and is starting to heal nicely, and the second is to take out any stitches that there may be. Until the stitches are out, you should keep your dog as quiet as possible, as popping stitches may lead to complications and longer healing times. Good luck, and I hope he gets better soon.
  2. "I have seen many dogs in my life that were small and slow growing up but later they recovered. However, one pup of my dog has had a prolonged growth and unable to participate in games actively. Could this be a genetic disorder like Down Syndrome?" – Shavin, a question from the forums. This is a really interesting topic Shavin, and something that I expect any breeder or new puppy owner will be interested to know. Genetic conditions are always a worry when it comes to breeding puppies. They can happen for two reasons; either when the embryo was developing, there was a chance mutation in the DNA, which has resulted in abnormal development in one way or another, or it can be because both parents were carriers of a recessive gene unknowingly. Genetics are complicated, however, to put it simply, every animal has two sets of genes (also known as chromosomes); one from the father and one from the mother. Genes can either be dominant or recessive, which means that if the gene is dominant, it will cause the condition to be noticeable even if both genes are not the same. Whereas if it is recessive, both genes must be the defective gene to cause the visible condition. As an example, a parent of a puppy might have one normal gene (N) and one defective recessive gene (D). This would make her what is known as a carrier. She would not have the condition visibly, but she has the potential to produce offspring who would have it. So, if two carriers (ND) mate, the four possible outcomes of their offspring would be NN (normal), ND (carrier), ND (carrier) or DD (condition), i.e. a 25% chance that the puppy would have the condition. This means that it is easy to unknowingly breed dogs with defective genes for many generations before the condition is evident. Now, coming to your question about Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is when a human has a third copy of chromosome 21, rather than a pair, but humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, whereas dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes. Therefore, the DNA that makes up chromosome 21 in dogs is very different from that which makes up chromosome 21 in humans. If a dog was to have three copies of chromosome 21, it would not present like Down Syndrome would in humans. With that being said, there are many conditions which are very similar to Down Syndrome which we see in dogs, and two spring to mind which would fit the symptoms you are describing. The first is Pituitary Dwarfism, which leads to significantly stunted growth, as well as an occasionally increased pigment in their skin and coat, and hair loss. This is a recessive gene which causes the pituitary to produce less growth hormone (GH). The lack of GH also means that the thyroid does not develop properly, leading to dullness and slow intelligence. The second is Hypothyroidism. This can be a genetic or acquired condition, which leads to the thyroid gland underproducing triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), or not responding to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). As a result, the dog will be mentally impaired, dull and prone to putting on weight. In addition to this, the legs and spine are usually shorter, leading to an apparent stunted look. I hope this has been helpful, and I’d just like to close with one comment; I always recommend that any dog who is not developing appropriately should be taken to the vet for a check over. They will be able to give a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which is important for your puppy to have a lovely long, healthy life. Good luck!
  3. "I’ve just bought a new Great Dane puppy, and the breeder recommended a particular brand of puppy food. I have no idea whether it is a good food. How do I tell?" – Hannah Congratulations on your new puppy Hannah. How exciting! Great Danes are a huge bundle of fun! Getting the diet right for your puppy is really important, so I’m glad you asked this question. Most breeders are quite knowledgeable, and therefore there is a good chance the food that they started your puppy on is of good quality, but there are some things that you should certainly look out for when choosing a food for your puppy. First of all, you should feed your puppy commercial food. If the breeder has been using a raw food diet or home cooked diet, it is advisable to change this straight away. A commercial diet is important because if a food is on the market, it means that it has met stringent nutritional guidelines and be well balanced nutritionally. An imbalanced diet at this age can lead to many developmental health problems. The next thing you should make sure is that you are feeding a large breed puppy food. This is really important because puppies grow rapidly, especially large breeds, and therefore they need more protein, calcium and phosphorus than adult dogs. Finally, good dog food should have plenty of meat in it and minimal starchy fillers. If you look at the ingredients list, they are in order of weight. Therefore, the first food on the list should be a quality meat protein. There should also be plenty of vegetables. It is up to you whether you choose a dog food with or without grain in it. There is some anecdotal evidence that grains can lead to skin allergies and heart disorders, however, there is very little published scientific proof of this at this stage. If you do decide to change the food of your puppy, it is best to do this very slowly over the course of at least a week. Puppy’s stomachs are sensitive to sudden diet changes and so this way it will prevent any stomach upsets.
  4. Raw food diets are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, despite their controversy. A recent discussion in the forums shows there is still some disagreement. Many people who feed their dogs raw food are firm believers in its benefits, and will strongly defend their choices for feeding such a diet. They claim improved health of the coat, skin, teeth and general energy and demeanour of their dogs, and first-hand experiences and pre- and post-diet change photos can certainly be persuasive. Nevertheless, the benefits of the diet are still very much in the anecdotal stages. So, what is a raw food diet? Raw food diets first came onto the scene in 1993, when a veterinarian called Ian Billinghurst, from Australia, suggested that it would be best to feed a diet closer to the natural food a dog would eat in the wild. The type of diet was called ‘BARF’ which stood for ‘Bones and Raw Food’ or ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’. BARF diets tend to compromise of uncooked meat, whole or crushed uncooked bones, raw eggs, vegetables, and fruit. Billinghurst was adamant that this type of diet would be more beneficial for the health of domesticated dogs, and he was vocal about his views against commercial dog food. However, this is a view that most vets now take a negative stance towards. The British Veterinary Association has a relatively neutral opinion on the topic of raw food, stating ‘raw food and home-cooked diets are increasingly popular but it can be time-consuming to prepare them as well as difficult to ensure that they are nutritionally balanced and safe and that all risks are addressed.’. So, what are the risks? There have now been numerous studies on raw food demonstrating the high numbers of dangerous pathogens which can be transmitted to the dog, and the owner, from these diets. These pathogens include bacteria such as Salmonella, E.coli, and Campylobacter. Not only do they stay in the saliva of the dog, but they are also still present in the faeces and coat when the dog grooms himself. This, therefore, means they can be readily transmitted to people. At particular risk are those people who are more vulnerable, such as children and the elderly. In these age groups, infections with these pathogens can be life-threatening. On average, in the UK, there are over 200 deaths per year from Salmonella, and many more hospital admissions. Dogs also can develop illness from infections that derive from these pathogens, however generally the gastrointestinal system of a dog is significantly more robust than humans. Therefore, many dogs can withstand some level of contact without developing disease. It goes without saying that meticulous hygiene during preparation can mitigate some of the risks. Disinfecting the area where the food was prepared, your hands, and the dog bowl after every use will decrease these harmful pathogens in the environment considerably. There are other risks that come with BARF diets which contain whole bones. Bones can present risks of choking, damage to teeth, internal punctures, and internal obstructions. Most raw food advocates will argue that only raw bones are being offered, which are more flexible and digest better than cooked bones, but regardless, there is still some element of risk. Finally, the main concern of veterinarians is the lack of balancing BARF diets appropriately. In a study of 95 raw food diets, 60% were found to have a major nutritional balance. The majority of raw food feeders will not have consulted an expert veterinary nutritionist, but rather will have developed their dog’s diet through personal research or advice from breeders or friends who also feed their dogs raw diets. As a result, the diet is not balanced properly, and there are excessive levels of calcium and phosphorus or incorrect levels of other nutrients. This can lead to serious consequences in the dogs receiving the diets, and they can develop conditions such as rickets, bladder stones, and stunted growth, particularly if they are not yet fully grown. Nevertheless, there are some suppliers of raw food in the commercial market, which have started to produce products that can mitigate many of these potential pitfalls. A few years ago, there were only a handful of suppliers, but now over 80 companies are registered with Defra, of which nine are members of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA). This is excellent, as the PFMA has set out stringent regulations: ‘Raw pet food manufacturing plants must be registered under the Feed Hygiene Regulations (EC) 183/2005 with their local authority and require approval under ABP Reg (EC) 1069/2009 from the APHA before they begin to manufacture raw pet food.’ Vets tend to universally agree that home-created raw food has the potential to be exceptionally dangerous, however, many will now accept these commercially produced products. This is because these products are tested to ensure that the nutrients are correctly balanced. Many also test their meat for pathogens and therefore can certify that they are pathogen-free and safe for consumption. The production of these commercial foods, therefore, have become more compelling for the veterinary industry to acknowledge safe raw food feeding, even if they cannot yet promote it. Despite the obvious risks, consumers are still driven towards home-made raw diets through anecdotal evidence, hype, and very persuasive pre- and post-diet change photographs. Unfortunately, a great number of these consumers are pedigree dog breeders, passing on their passion to ignorant first-time puppy owners who are not aware of the risks. So, what’s the future for raw food diets? There has been major growth in alternative husbandry practices in the animal world over the past few years, of which raw food is certainly one of those practices, and consumers are moving much closer towards requiring personalised diets and lifestyles for their dogs. Therefore, BARF diets have become extremely attractive. Whilst many veterinarians are hoping that raw food diets are just a fad, which will soon blow over, it appears that they are here to stay. Luckily the PFMA have recently updated their guidelines and factsheets regarding raw food, so commercially produced raw food diets can be excellent for dogs, and for the foreseeable future, they should only be getting better. With the commercial raw food market improving, it can be hoped that owners will now move away from homemade imbalanced raw food diets to safer, nutritionally complete commercial raw foods.
  5. Question from Brian. You’re not alone Brian. So many people have this exact problem with their dogs. It’s every so common. There are usually two reasons why this may happen; anxiety or nausea. Or sometimes anxiety from the idea of becoming nauseous. It may be a process of elimination to figure out which. In answer to your question, yes there are medications that you can give your dog prior to travel to help the situation. Your vet can prescribe one of three types of medications: Sedatives – These are usually only used in extreme cases of anxiety. The most common type of sedative to be given is a benzodiazepine, such as Valium. The reason for this is that it will calm your dog as well as allow him to forget the stressful event afterwards. Calmers – For some dogs, these work exceedingly well, without causing side effects such as drowsiness. For other dogs, they don’t work at all. But they are significantly safer than sedatives, and therefore they are the best thing to try first. Some calmers contain L-Tryptophan, which build up levels of serotonin in the brain, and helps your dog feel happy. Other calmers contain dog appeasing pheromone (DAP), which will make your dog feel comforted like a puppy. Anti-nausea medication – These are tablets which can be given an hour before travel, and are extremely effective if there is no anxiety element. You may wish to try these in combination with a calmer. There are also other non-medicated options, such as putting your dog in a Thunder Jacket® which will help him feel secure, or providing him with a long-lasting chew toy such as a Kong® as the chewing action releases endorphins which will help him to relax. Finally, if you think that nausea plays a role, travelling on an empty stomach will help with any motion sickness.
  6. Welcome to our very first ‘Ask Dr Jo’. In this series, Dr Jo, a companion animal veterinarian, will try to answer all of your dog-related health queries, no matter what they are. So, if you have a question you would like answering by a vet, please get in contact. Question from Meghan. Meghan, I think this is a worry of every dog owner out there! I regularly get clients asking me to clip their dog’s nails while they are at the consult, and that is something you can do too if you want; a vet, vet nurse or groomer will be very happy to assist. However, if you wish to do it yourself, there are some things you can do to ensure that you don’t hurt your dog. As I’m sure you are aware, each nail is made out of keratin, much like our own. This keratin covers a fleshy centre called the quick. Unfortunately for us who wish to cut nails, the quick is full of blood vessels and nerves, and is excruciatingly painful if you accidentally cut it, not to mention extremely messy. It is best to cut your dog’s nails with a specific dog nail clipper. You can purchase these from any pet store. Buy one appropriate for the size of your dog. A small one won’t be strong enough for the nails of a big dog, and a big one will be fiddly to use on a small dog. Next, have a look at the nails. If they are black and you cannot see the quick, then turn the paw upside down. Some nails do not completely meet underneath and therefore in some dogs, you will be able to see the quick this way. If you are unlucky, and have a dog with black nails, completely surrounding the quick, the best you can do is to just be cautious and take small amounts off at a time. Some people also have success in cutting diagonally, rather than directly across the nail, as you will catch less of the quick this way if you cut too deep. If you do make the nail bleed, do not panic. Your dog is not going to bleed out from a cut nail, although the mess may make it seem like it! Get a large wad of cotton wool, and apply a firm pressure to the nail for five minutes. Alternatively, you can purchase a silver nitrate pen, when purchasing the nail clippers, which is an excellent cautery device to have on hand for these situations. Finally, to avoid having to clip your dog’s nails too often, ensuring he regularly walks on hard abrasive ground, such as pavements, will help file down the nails and keep them short naturally.
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