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Ask a vet online- ‘My dog has dandruff . Could it be his diet ?’

Question from Andi Jane William:

My dog has dandruff . Could it be his diet . What is best to feed him . He is a 7 year old border collie

Answer by Shanika Winters:

Hi, thanks for your question regarding your border collie and his dandruff. I will answer your question by discussing what dandruff is, possible causes and then possible treatment options.

What is dandruff?

Most people think of flaky white bits of dry skin usually found on the head and shoulders of a person when they hear the word dandruff. Dandruff is a word used to describe flaky bits of skin, they can be dry or oily, different sizes and come from any area of skin on the body.

Mostly we are talking about dry white coloured flakes when we use the word dandruff to describe the appearance of a skin condition….

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Elizabethan Collars – a necessary evil?

One of my clients was talking about his recently neutered bitch today. “She needs one of those Victorian Buckets” he said. I knew what he was talking about, but his terminology was not quite correct. The problem was that his bitch had been licking her operation wound, and he wanted to stop her. The item he was describing is an important tool to assist the healing of animals’ wounds. It is more correctly called an ‘Elizabethan Collar’, because it resembles the white starched lace collars that Queen Elizabeth I and her subjects used to wear….

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Ask a vet online-’Why do dogs find cat poop so alluring ?’

Question from Jayne Whybrow:

Why do dogs find cat poop so alluring ? How can I stop my pup sticking his head in the cat litter?

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Thank you Jayne for your question regarding your puppy and his interest in the cat litter tray.  I will answer your question by discussing why your dog is interested in the cat litter tray and possible methods to stop this unwanted behaviour.

Why does my dog find another animal’s poo so interesting?

Animals in general leave a scent marker where they pass faeces (poo) and this helps to mark out their territory.  Therefore faeces are naturally interesting whether it is of your own species or another.  The scents could indicate a possible mate, a possible threat to your territory and even predators/prey.

Even our domesticated pet animals have not lost these instinctive behaviours.  Unfortunately as humans/pet owners we find our dogs interest in the faeces of other animals very off putting especially when they may lick or eat it.  Not only do we worry about them passing germs onto us humans but also we are concerned about them getting ill from infections or even parasites.

So what we are dealing with when a dog is interested in e.g. cat poo is a bad habit/unwanted behaviour.

How can I stop my dog from investigating the cat litter tray?

In order to try and change a behaviour we have to firstly understand why it happens and then try and redirect the behaviour in a direction we are happy to encourage.  The first section of my answer goes into why the behaviour happens and now we can address possible solutions.

Types of litter tray:

Simple open litter tray-this is just a shallow plastic tray with sides but no cover

Covered litter tray-this is a shallow plastic tray at the base but then has a cove over the top, with an opening at one end to allow your cat in and out.

Covered litter tray with a door-this is as above but the opening has a door on it, this can help reduce the amount of litter that gets flicked out of the tray as well as helping to contain odours.

The more difficult it is for your dog to access the cat litter tray, the more masked/hidden the scent of the cat faeces are then the less likely he is to show interest in the tray and its contents.  Therefore if you place the cat litter tray in a place that is easy for your cat to reach but not your dog, use litter that helps to mask the smell of the faeces/urine and ideally use a covered litter tray with a door then this will all help to discourage your dog from being interested in it.

It is also advisable to clean out the litter tray as often as you can, at the very least once daily but if possible after each time the tray has been used.  This will reduce the smells present which will mean that the litter tray will be far less interesting to your dog.

How to discourage your dog from his interest in the cat litter tray:

Distraction and deterrents are the next area I will discuss!

Generally when it comes to trying to modify an animal’s behaviour we try and focus on positive reinforcement, this is where you praise and reward a behaviour which you want you’re pet to show rather than punishing them for unwanted behaviours.

It would be great if you can provide your dog with as much distraction as possible to help lessen his interest n the cat litter tray and its contents.  Methods of distraction can include play, toys and training.  Playing with your dog whether it be throwing a ball or rolling around and tickling his tummy will give your dog mental stimulation as well as strengthen the pet owner bond.  Toys such as squeaky balls treat stuffed puzzles and chews are also good to give your dog something more attractive and interesting than the cat litter tray to investigate.  When choosing toys, make sure that they are safe, regularly inspect them for damage and replace before they become dangerous e.g. possible risk of them being eaten and getting stuck.  As regards food stuffed toys keep in mind your dog’s overall energy requirements and how you may need to reduce how much food you give him if he is getting extra calories from his treat stuffed toy.

Training either in the form of organised classes or quality dog and owner time can really help to give extra mental stimulation to your dog, build up the dog owner bond as well as distracting your dog form unwanted behaviours.  It is really important to remember that the more we put into our pets the more we will get back from them in terms of good behaviours and owner enjoyment.

Deterrents are verging on negative reinforcement to try and avoid/stop an unwanted behaviour.  If the deterrent is used carefully and we try and follow up other good behaviours with positive reinforcement then there is a place for this.  Most owners will have already told their dog off/shouted at him for unwanted behaviours.  The problem with this is that the negative focus then is directed at the owner.  If possible it would be better to remove yourself one step from the deterrent; one possibility is the use of a high pitch sounds device or a spray.  Ideally these negative reinforcement behaviours should be used as a last resort and under the close direction of either your vet or a trained animal behaviour specialist.

It is really important to remember to positively reward/praise your dog for all the times he does not show interest in the cat litter tray. The reward can be in the form of kind words, a pat/cuddle and at times treats.

I hope that my answer helps you to understand your dog’s behaviour and that you can make a start on discouraging …

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What makes dogs lame, and how can they be helped?

Why is a lame dog lame? The obvious, but incorrect, answer to the question is ‘because it has a sore leg’. The correct answer is more complicated, but also quite obvious when you think about it.

Firstly, what is a lameness? Everybody knows what a lame animal looks like – they ‘walk wrongly’. But what is happening to make them walk wrongly? There are three main reasons why lameness may occur.

Pain is the most common and most important cause of lameness. If an animal damages a limb, any further pressure causes more pain, and so the instinctive response is to rest the limb, by carrying it, or at least by not putting full weight on it. The type of damage can vary widely from a bruise to a laceration. The damage can be anywhere in the limb, from the toe to the shoulder or hip, and the result is the same – a lame animal. Long term diseases such as arthritis can also involve considerable pain.

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Ask a vet online – “My dog has trouble peeing”

Question from Jaamal Dupas:

I have a 7 month old female dog. When she squats to pee the first time it’s normal. Then she tries again and only a few drops. And i noticed a drop of blood the last time she went. Could this be a UTI or her going into her first heat. I have a vet apt in a few days but was just curious.

Answer: Pee Problems-dribbling and blood

Hi Jaamal, thanks for your question about your dog’s urinating. To answer your question, I’m going to discuss the “symptoms” she’s showing, the possible causes, and then talk about how your vet will go about deciding which one of these conditions is the cause, and the treatment options.

What are the symptoms?

Technically, in animals they’re called clinical signs, not symptoms, but it means the same thing. In the case of your dog, she’s able to urinate, but it’s taking her two or more goes to empty her bladder….

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Ask a vet online-’How do you stop your dog jumping?’

Question from Jacky Brosnan:

How do you STOP your dog jumping up when anyone comes in or when we come back in

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Jacky, thank you for your question about your dog’s jumping behaviour when anyone comes into your house. To answer your question I will try and give you several strategies to put into place to try and improve your dog’s behaviour as regards the jumping up at people.

Why is my dog jumping up?

Most dogs that jump up at people are doing this as they are excited to have company but there can also be an element of dominance in jumping behaviour….

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Ask a vet online- ‘what is this on my dog’s paw?’

Question from Keagan Palardy:

Does any one know what this is on my poor doggies paw?:(


Answer from Shanika Winters:

Thank you for sending the photo of your dog’s paw along with your question as to what it might be.  I will discuss some of the possibilities for what a lesion (growth/diseased area) similar to the one on your dog’s paw could be, how we would try and make a diagnosis and then treatment options.

What is this on my dog’s paw?

The first thing we need to do is find out more details about your dog, your vet will ask you a lot of questions to from what we call a history, this includes information about your dog’s:…

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Ask a vet online ‘symptoms to know if your dog has kidney failure’

Question from Susanne Hayward:

how come no symtems to know if your dog has kidney failier

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Susanne and thank you for your question about how to know if your dog has kidney failure. I will answer your question by discussing what kidney failure is, how we diagnose it and what signs you can look out for in your dog.

So what is kidney failure?

The kidneys are two bean shaped organs present mid way along the back of your dog’s abdomen (tummy); they have a large blood vessel going in and another large blood vessel coming out of them. The job of the kidneys is to filter your dog’s blood and remove toxic/waste products but make sure that the important useful chemicals e.g. proteins, nutrients (sugars and fats) and blood cells remain in the blood. The kidneys are also involved in breaking down some chemicals such as medications. The Kidneys are also important when it comes to keeping the correct amount of water in your dog’s blood, this ensures that all the body cells are adequately hydrated and can function at their best.

Kidney failure is a term used to describe a stage of kidney disease once more than two thirds of your dog’s kidney function has been lost. That means that out of the function of your dogs two kidneys there is a third or less now working. Kidney disease is a broader term used to describe any problem with the kidneys this could be infection, neoplasia (tumour), polycystic (disease where kidneys are taken up by lots of cysts or cavities) or loss of function with age.

So how does my vet look for kidney disease?

Whenever you take your dog to see your vet they will ask you questions regarding how your dog is doing in general including how they are eating, drinking, urinating (weeing) and defecating (pooing)….

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Ask a vet online: ‘ anything I can do to help hip dysplasia?’

Question from Erin Taylor:

Anything i can do to help my bm’s hip dysplasia? She’s only 1

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Erin and thank you for your question regarding your dogs hip dysplasia, to answer your question I will discuss what hip dysplasia is, how it is diagnosed and then treatment options.

So what is hip dysplasia?

The hip joint is made up of the head of the femur (the top part of the upper leg bone) and the acetabulum (the socket in the pelvis). The hip joint also includes cartilage (smooth strong and cushioning substance), ligaments (strong fibrous tissue connections) and joint fluid (liquid which lubricates the joint).

Dysplasia means that this part of the body has not formed properly, in the case of hip dysplasia it can involve some or all parts of the hip joint not being the correct shape, size or working correctly. Hip dysplasia is more common in certain breeds of dog such as the Labrador and the German shepherd dog but can be found in any breed or cross breed of dog.

Hip dysplasia is a congenital disease, which means it is present from birth; it can also be hereditary which means it can be passed on from parent dogs to their puppies. The kennel club has a scheme for measuring and recording the extent of hip dysplasia in certain breeds of dog, this is to help people decide which dogs to use for breeding so as to try and reduce the risk of producing puppies with severe hip dysplasia….

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Ask a vet online – ‘my puppy has watery eyes’

Question from Eileen Murphy:

Hi, I have a bichon x poodle. She has been really poorly. She was born with a skin infection. She pulled through it and her fur is growing back on her face but since this she has been suffering with very watery eyes. Do I need to be taking her back to vets? She is healthy and very playful. I have no other worries from her.

Answer from vet Cat Henstridge

Excessively watery eyes are a common problem in both the Bichon Frisé and Poodle breeds, so it seems like your baby is following the trend!

However, it is important to have her checked over. Although dogs like her can have watery eyes as a ‘normal’ issue, it can also be caused by problems which are painful and need fixing. The most common of these is conjunctivitis….

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