Ask a Vet Online – ‘I have got 2 staffies 1 is afraid to go out at night even on a lead. How can I help him?’

Question from Anji Bradley

I have got 2 staffies 1 is afraid to go out at night even on a lead. How can I help him.He stopped going out after he heard a car back-fire and he thought it was a firework.

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, Online Vet

Hi Anji, thank you for your question about your dog’s fear of going out at night. What you are describing would fit with being a noise phobia.

What is a noise phobia?

Noise phobia is a fear response which is triggered when a particular sound is heard, in this case banging sounds similar to those produced by fireworks. Dogs are intelligent animals and soon make associations to a stimulus, in this case the stimulus is a sound and the response associated with it is a reluctance to go out for walks in the night for fear of hearing the scary sound.

From what you have described I have assumed that your dog already was fearful of fireworks prior to hearing the car back-fire. If this is the case then hopefully the following will be useful information.

How can I help my dog with his noise phobia?

In order to deal with a noise phobia you will need the help of your vet or someone trained in dog behaviour and plenty of patience.

Puppy Love! How to Look After your New Puppy

Puppy Love!

There are few things more exciting than bringing home a new puppy. No matter how big they eventually get, they are all cute bundles of fluff with wobbly legs and wagging tails in the beginning! The experiences and care a puppy receives in it’s early weeks have a massive impact on the rest of it’s life & behaviour, and it’s your job as their owner to ensure they grow up into happy, healthy and well adjusted individuals.

A pup’s introduction to the world around them begins from the moment they are born. The bitch and litter must live in the home, surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of family life; not in a shed or outhouse. Once they become more independent they should be handled regularly, allowed to meet different people, given a variety of toys and plenty of opportunities to play and explore. Finally, and most importantly, they should not leave the breeder until they are 8 weeks old. Although they will have been quite independent for some time by this age, they will still be learning vital social skills and doggy behaviour from their mum and littermates. A good breeder will understand all this and ensure their pups have the best start. They will also, if they are breeding pedigrees, have completed all the relevant health tests on the parents & have registered the litter with the Kennel Club at birth, meaning you will be given all the paperwork when you collect them.

Once you have your new pup home, allow them a couple of days to settle in before inviting everyone round to meet them! Ask the breeder what they were feeding and keep this the same for a week, after which you can change their diet but make sure it is good quality puppy food. This is also the time to instill good sleeping habits. It might be cute having a little pup curled up in bed with you but it won’t be so nice when they are fully grow and spent the day splashing in puddles in the park! Most pups will cry when they are left alone for the first few nights but they soon learn to settle and it is very important dogs learn to be on their own, otherwise they can develop serious problems such as separation anxiety. I am a big fan of using crates for young pups. You can shut them in at night and when you go out; the pup will feel safe and secure in the small, enclosed space and you know they are safe. Leave the door open when you are at home and then they can take themselves off to bed when they feel tired.

Ask a Vet Online – ‘I have a border collie he has progressive retinal atrophy and now he has a cateract, is there anything that can be done for him?’

Question from Anne Wood

I have a border collie 5 years old. Hes a very frightened dog but he is completly blind in 1 eye and partly blind in the other the vet told me it was progressive retinal atrophy and now he has a cateract on top of his blind eye, is there anything that can be done for him please and thank you for taking the time to read this.

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

Hi Anne, thank you for your question regarding your dog’s eyes and behaviour.

So what is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)?

As the name suggests it is a condition where there is gradual degeneration of the retina (layer lining the back of the eye). PRA is usually an inherited condition and sadly there is no cure for it, however on the positive side it rarely causes pain. There is no treatment for PRA at present, there have been some trials of using antioxidants to slow down the degenerative process but the results of this are as of yet inconclusive.

Cataracts are a common finding along with PRA; a cataract is cloudiness in the lens of the eye. The loss of vision caused by the PRA itself means that cataract surgery is rarely advised as there will not be much improvement to vision as a result of the surgery.

How would I know that my dog has PRA and how is it diagnosed?

Owners usually notice a loss of vision in the pet, most noticeable in low light conditions, their pets pupils may appear more dilated with an increased glow/shine (tapetal reflex) from the back of the eye.

A diagnosis is usually made when your vet or ophthalmologist examines your dog’s eyes and notices the damage to the retina.

What can I do for my dog with PRA?

Sadly there is no treatment for PRA itself but as it is a painless condition then it is more a case of trying to help your dog to adjust to his gradual loss of vision. Generally the other senses smell, hearing, touch and taste increase to try and compensate for the one that is deteriorating.

You can take steps to make your home environment easier for your dog with poor or no vision to get around. Keep large pieces of furniture in the same place, use stair gates to block off dangerous areas, when out and about use lots of vocal and physical clues to let your dog know where you are and to provide reassurance.

Dogs are incredibly resilient animals and adjust very well to changes especially when they are gradual. I hope that this answer has helped you to understand a little bit about PRA and how both you and your dog can still lead a happy life together………

Think before you throw… The trauma of canine stick injuries…..

Who “wood” have thought that playing with a simple tree branch or stick could result in such life threatening injuries?

With such a vast selection of toys available today for our canine companions it is a wonder why the simple tree branch / stick is still so widely used as an interactive “toy” for dogs to chase , catch and retrieve. Often so freely available after a windy winters day the selection of the most suitable stick can be so tempting, often dogs will help themselves with an overzealous approach attempting to carry a tree branch much larger than their own body length or owners simply pick up a small stick that would be much easier to throw, fly through the air further and with the added advantage to float in water too!

But do you ever stop and think of the implications of throwing a stick? And the serious life threatening injuries that can result?

Dogs are natural athletes often with a desire to do everything with such speed and with an abundance of enthusiasm during play. Mid-air acrobatics during stick catching is often considered part of the “fun” but severe trauma can result ; I have even nursed a dog that have caught the stick and then ran into a tree resulting in a cervical fracture in the neck!

The hidden “minor” injuries that occur through playing with sticks can often go unnoticed for a period of days, often lacerations occur under the tongue, in the laryngeal area, or stick fragments become lodged in the roof of the mouth which cannot be seen. Often symptoms of excessive salivation and reduction of appetite might be the only indication of oral damage……

How to walk your dog safely in the dark months of winter

As the clocks go back next Sunday (28th October) at the end of British Summer Time, millions of dog owners in the UK will be walking their dogs in the dark when they come home from work. Road casualty statistics show that there is an 18 per cent rise during the winter months in the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in road accidents: it’s darker, wetter and windier out there.
Road traffic accidents – RTA’s – are the most common cause of serious injury to pet dogs. While it’s true that many accidents happen when dogs are out on their own, a surprising number happen to dogs that are accompanied by their owners. And even more surprisingly, dogs can even be hit by cars while on the leash. I remember one case, where an owner was walking on a narrow footpath, with their dog on one of those extendable leashes. It was a dark evening, with poor visibility. Cars were swooshing by at speed. A cat darted out of some bushes beside the road, and the terrier leapt after it without thinking, straight into traffic. The oncoming car braked heavily, but couldn’t avoid hitting the dog. The unfortunate owner was left shocked, with a badly injured dog at the end of his leash.
It’s important to take steps to ensure that you – and your dog – are as safe as possible during those evening walks in the winter. The UK’s biggest dog charity, Dogs Trust, has put together some useful tips to help.
Keep control of your dog and don’t let him off lead unless you are in a safe area which is well lit
Wear high visibility clothing such as jackets, vests or reflective strips on your clothes so you can be easily seen by motorists
A reflective collar and lead or a high visibility coat or flashing collar will also increase your dog’s visibility in the dark
Work out a winter dog walking route which, in urban areas, includes both wide pavements and bright street lighting
If there is no pavement, walk against the flow of the traffic and keep your dog on the side farthest from the road
Carry a torch which will help you be seen and also enable to you see to pick up your dog’s mess. Or, consider a head torch so your hands are free
Walking in groups can be safer than on your own
If possible, take your dog in the car to a place where you can walk away from the roadside. Many parks and sports fields have lighting but always check that dogs are allowed first
Make sure your dog is well trained and responsive to commands. For helpful tips on training, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk
With some thoughtful planning, you can make dog-walking a safer, more enjoyable activity, for both you and your pet. Take care out there this winter.

A new trend: pets with human names

A survey of the most popular pet names of 2012 has just been released by Co-Operative Pet Insurance, and there seems to be an interesting trend: people are beginning to call their pets the same names as their children. The most popular dog names are are Alfie, Molly and Poppy, with Charlie and Max following, whilst the most popular cat names are Charlie, Molly and Poppy closely followed by Oscar and Alfie. The survey shows that pet owners are moving away from traditional pet names such as Rover and Whiskers, and are now choosing human names. The top two pet names also appear in the recently released top 10 children’s names.
This is something that I’ve noticed in practice as a vet: some people are even using names that can’t be shortened into handy “calling” names, such as Christopher, Andrew and Margaret.
This new approach to pet names reflects a change in the way that people view their pets: they are now often seen as members of the human family. Many people see themselves as “pet parents” rather than “owners”, so it seems natural to use children’s names rather than animal versions. The humanisation of pets has become visible in veterinary consult rooms too…………….

The death of Ben Fogle’s dog: his honest grief is helpful to us all

Ben Fogle has written a moving piece in the Sunday Telegraph about the loss of his Black Labrador, Inca. At twelve years of age, she had lost the power in both hind legs. Ben made the right decision for Inca, but it was still terribly difficult to go through the process of euthanasia. His article is unusually frank, with Ben describing how he “burst into uncontrollable tears” on the telephone when talking to his veterinary surgeon father, Bruce, about the situation. Then later, Ben describes the actual act of euthanasia:
“I carried her from the car into the house, burying my face into her fur, and laid her on the kitchen floor. Mum, Dad and my sister were all there. “I lay on the floor, hugging Inca while Dad injected her. Her breathing became heavy. I could feel her heart pounding and the warm blood beneath her skin. I breathed the familiar scent of her fur as I nuzzled into her thick coat. I have never sobbed like that in my life. It was a primal, uncontrollable, guttural sob as I felt her heart stop beating.I lay there on the kitchen floor clutching my best friend, unable to move. Wishing, hoping it was a dream, I held her lifeless body.”
Many readers have commented on the online version of Ben’s article, with some describing how tears were streaming down their face as they read his words.
Ben’s account will come as no surprise to vets and nurses: we witness people going through the emotional trauma of losing a pet every day, or even several times in one day. Perhaps the only surprising aspect is that the depth of grief isn’t discussed more commonly in public. It’s as if it’s only behind closed doors that it’s acceptable to express this level of grief for an animal……………………….

But can’t he just die in his sleep…..?

This week my Granny died, which was sad for us all but she was very old, had had a wonderful life and her family was with her at the end. She had been in a home for some time and was cared for very well. When she became sick and bedbound, the doctors and nurses worked together to keep her comfortable and pain free, until she slipped away in her sleep. I am lucky in that she was the first person I knew well who has died and this experience has made me understand why many people hope this is how their pets will go. However, to die in their sleep is rarely a pleasant or pain free experience for our animals.

Although, just like people, our pets are living longer and healthier lives, inevitably there comes a time when their age catches up with them and illnesses develop. Advances in veterinary care mean we can do a lot for them but eventually we won’t be able to keep up with their problems. If they were people we would put them in wheelchairs or place them in a home where their needs could be catered for, for example being assisted to the toilet or spoon fed but this isn’t practical, or in most cases fair, to a pet who won’t understand what is happening….

Getting ready for an anaesthetic at the vets

At one time or another we all have to face our beloved pets having an anaesthetic which can be a scary process if it’s not properly explained. Fortunately most veterinary practices have a fantastic team of nurses that can help you understand the procedure. (NB. I have used “he” in the article for continuity but this goes for all dogs a

and cats regardless of gender).

To give you a head start, here are some top tips:

1. The number one golden rule for preparing for an anaesthetic is no food after midnight (this does not apply to rabbits or guinea pigs). Also, some practices may give you an earlier time say nine or ten o’clock but the principle is still the same, basically no midnight feasts and no breakfast. The reason for this is two fold. The main reason is to stop your pet vomiting and potentially inhaling it. This can also prevent nausea on recovery. Another reason is to try and prevent any ‘accidents’ on the operating table which increases the risk of contaminating the surgical environment although to safe guard against this, some practices routinely give enemas and express bladders before surgery. So, while it breaks your heart to tuck in to steak and chips with Fido giving you the big brown eyes treatment console yourself with the knowledge that you are actually acting in his best interests to help minimise the risk of anaesthetic.

2. Give your pet the opportunity to relieve himself before coming into the surgery. Obviously this is easier with dogs but while we advise taking dogs for a walk before coming in we don’t mean a five mile hike on the beach with a swim in the sea, we mean a nice gentle walk around the block to encourage toileting. If you bring your dog in covered in dirt and sea water, you’re increasing the anaesthetic risk as we have to keep him asleep longer while we prep him. (See my previous article about how we prepare your pet for a surgical procedure).

3. Tell the nurse when she is admitting him whether you have noticed any unusual behaviour. Vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing or sneezing can all be indicators of problems and may need to be investigated prior to anaesthesia. Also tell the nurse if your pet is on any medication, when he last had it and bring it with you if you can. This way, if your pet needs to stay in after his operation, they will have everything he needs without adding extra to your bill…………

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:…………..

More Useful Information

Examining your pet

Simple ways to check the health of your pet. Vets use these techniques as part of their clinical examiniation.

Medicating your pet

Arming you with the same simple techniques for stress free pill giving.

Worming & Flea Treatment

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