Is the government serious about tackling irresponsible dog ownership?

The government has fudged the dog laws again. A written ministerial statement from the Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs was released today, with the promising title “Tackling Irresponsible Dog Ownership“.

A statement had been widely anticipated but its content had only been guessed at. In the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, Germaine Greer called for stricter controls on dog ownership, including a licence for humans to have dogs. I wrote a counter-piece, suggesting that such a radical change was not needed. My own choice would be to follow the suggestions of the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club, who have suggested simple measures such as universal microchipping of all dogs, along with new legal instruments such as Dog Control Orders which could be used to force irresponsible dog owners to smarten up.

So did the government say? You can read the full statement for yourself, but it seems to me to come down to three main actions:

1) The extension of the Dangerous Dogs Act to include private property. While this will bring some relief to postmen and other casual visitors to doggy households, intruders should be aware that this specifically excludes “trespassers”. It seems that dogs can continue to bite burglars’ bums without fear of being sued.

2) The police will no longer automatically seize and kennel dogs that are accused of being “dangerous” pending the outcome of court proceedings. This will be a great relief to owners of Pitbull-look-alikes that ran the risk of being impounded because of a mischievous complaint from a neighbour. The civil servants in charge of police budgets will be relieved that they no longer will need to pay for months of boarding for dogs “awaiting trial”.

3) The government has announced its intention to “introduce regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on microchipping to promote animal welfare by making it easier for local authorities and rescue centres to quickly re-unite stray dogs with their owners.” And this is where the fudge comes in: a decision has not been made on how to do this. The government is going to have “a further consultation to give the public an opportunity to give their views”.

Four possible methods of introducing microchipping are listed:…………..

Looking after the Older Horse

When I was training as a vet, a 20 year old horse was considered really quite old. Now, however, I regularly find myself working with healthy horses in their late twenties and thirties – even a few that go on into their forties!

That said, horses don’t age uniformly – one may be sprightly and fit at 30, while her paddock mate is really feeling his age at 20, so there’s a lot of variation. The challenge is maintaining them at the best quality of life for as long as possible.

To do so, we need to consider three things:

• Work and exercise
• Preventative health (worming, dental care etc)
• Disease management and medication

I’ll deal with these in sequence, although really they are of course all interconnected……..

Could Carprodyl Kill your Dog?

The headline in today’s Daily Mail is typically attention-grabbing: “Could the drug that cost this beloved pet its life kill YOUR dog too?” The article tells the sad story of a thirteen year old Labrador who died after taking pain-relieving medication prescribed by her vet. There’s no doubt that many owners of elderly, arthritis-ridden dogs will be rushing to their vets this week to find out if their own pets are at risk of the same fate.

So what is this drug? Why do vets prescribe medicine which may risk such a severe reaction? And when they do use it, why don’t they tell owners about the potential dangers?

First, the medication was Carprodyl, a generic form of a chemical called carprofen, which is part of a group of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Carprofen has become perhaps the most widely used pain relieving medication used in veterinary medicine since it was launched as “Rimadyl” by Pfizer, around fifteen years ago. The patent on the chemical has now lapsed, so a wide range of cheaper generic alternatives have become available. Most vet clinics in the UK are likely to sell some version of the product.

Second, why do vets prescribe it? Simply put, because it’s the most effective way of treating arthritis in dogs. Many millions of older animals have been given extra, pain-free life thanks to this type of medication. Three years ago, a major review was published in the Vet Record, comparing the wide range of treatments available to help dogs with the common, painful, debilitating problem of arthritis. The review gathered together the results of research papers published between 1985 and 2007, attempting to derive the best science-based opinion of the best treatment method. The conclusion? There was strong evidence that carprofen and two other commonly used drugs from the same group were “effective in moderating the clinical signs of osteoarthritis”. There was only weak or moderate evidence that other treatments were effective. The conclusion for any vet reading this paper was clear: carprofen and other similar drugs are the most effective way of helping animals with arthritis.

Obviously, an effective drug needs to be safe, so what about those risks? While it’s true that all drugs in this group can have undesirable and potentially life threatening consequences, the incidence is very low. The most common side effect is gastric irritation: affected dogs suffer from gastroenteritis which usually resolves when the medication is stopped. Much more rarely, there’s a very low risk of kidney failure associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs…….

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Information and advice in treating your pet for worms and fleas.