Ask a vet online – ‘My dog keeps shaking his head and scratching his ears’

Question from Amanda Shaw

My dog keeps shakeing his head scrathing his ears they feel a little bit swollen but they are cleaned often so no mites he is lively and not of his food im at a loss.

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, online vet

Hi Amanda and thank you for your question about your dog’s ears. It is great that you are cleaning your dog’s ears regularly. I will discuss a list of possible causes for your dog to be shaking his head, scratching his ears and for the swelling followed by some treatment options.

Why is my dog shaking his head and scratching at his ears?

The symptoms you have described could be due to a foreign body e.g. a grass seed down the ear canal, bacterial or yeast infection, skin allergy, parasites e.g. ear mites, polyps or an aural haematoma(blood blister) all of which can be painful.

Grass seeds are a common finding down the ear canal of dogs that go for walks in the countryside. The shape of a dog’s ear canal has an upright tube (vertical canal) and then a 90 degree bend and a sideways tube (horizontal canal) at the end of this is the ear drum (tympanic membrane), this lends itself to getting things lodged inside. A foreign body like a grass seed can usually be seen by your vet with the help of an otoscope (hand held torch with a magnifying lens and a funnel). Grass seeds can usually be removed using a special pair of long grabbing forceps; some dogs will however need sedation or a general anaesthetic to allow the removal and examination to be carried out safely. We often send dogs home with antibiotic and pain relief after foreign body removal to combat any infection and pain………

Was I wrong to castrate my young male dog? And is it wrong to spay young female dogs?

I knew I wasn’t going to breed from my Hungarian Viszla so I made the decision to have him neutered which I did at six months old. Since then I have been told by the breeding fraternity that neutering at such an early age is a factor in dogs getting bone cancer. I cannot bear that I may have done something in good faith that could affect my beloved dog’s future health. What is the truth?

This question from a VetHelpDirect reader is an increasingly common query from pet owners responding to internet rumours and discussions that are doing the rounds. As is often the case, the truth is complicated: we still do not know everything about the impact of spay/neutering, but we do know that there are pluses and minuses to having the operations done……

Ask a vet online – ‘How imperative is having the annual booster jabs for cat flu/ Felv/ Fiv/ Leukemia?’

Question from Jakkii Mickle:

Feline question again- how imperative is having the annual booster jabs for cat flu/ Felv/ Fiv/ Leukemia ? If they have had these injections from kitten age- would they have built up a natural immunity ? One of my cats reacts very badly to these injections, so as a result, I decided not to have them immunised – also my mums dog developed canine leukemia as a result of the injection programme ( confirmed by vets )– so what is best- assume they have their own immunity , or risk them catching these horrible ailments ? Or make them ill by injecting them….???

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, Online Vet

Hi Jakkii and thank you for your interesting question about cat vaccinations. In order to answer your question I will discuss what is in the feline vaccines, what immunity is and how vaccines work.

What diseases are covered in my cat’s vaccine?

Commonly found in the vaccine your vet will offer your cat is protection against feline influenza (cat flu), feline infectious enteritis (viruses affecting the gut) and feline leukaemia (FeLV).  Other feline vaccines available but less commonly given include rabies, Bordatella bronchiseptica (airway disease) and Chlamydia.  There is currently no vaccine against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)……

Don’t Panic! – What to do in a Vet Emergency

Thankfully, medical emergencies don’t happen very often with our pets, however, when they do occur they can be very frightening and it is easy to panic when a beloved animal is seriously ill. This article will hopefully help you by explaining some common emergency situations and what to do.

Firstly, all vets have to provide an emergency service out-of-hours, so you will always be able to contact a vet if you need one. Some practices run their out-of-hours and others will use a separate, dedicated emergency clinic. It is useful to know your vet’s arrangements before you need them but usually a quick call to the surgery will give an answer-phone message with the instructions you need (so remember to have a pen close to hand if you call!) The best place for a sick pet to be seen is the surgery and although sometimes your vet may be able to visit, it is likely you will need to take them in, so make sure you have some arrangements in place, especially if you have a large dog who you might not be able to carry if they collapsed……

Ask a Vet Online – ‘My vet says my poodle cross Pom, may have cushings disease what is this please?’

Question from Carol Fogerty

Hi my vet says my poodle cross Pom ,may have cushings disease whot is this please

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, Online Vet

Hi Carol and thank you for asking about Cushing’s disease (HAC hyperadrenocorticism) which is a condition where the body makes too much of the steroid cortisol which can result in a variety of symptoms.  HAC is most common in middle aged to older dogs but does also affect cats, horses, hamsters and ferrets.

Ask a vet online – ‘ Is too many wormer tablets bad for my dog?’

Question from Gillian Richards

I have a American bull dog and every couple of weeks as worms I have giving 1 dose wormer tablets but is to many wormer tablets bad for her or is their another wormer I could use to treat it many Thanx

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, Online Vet

Hi Gillian and thank you for your question about worming your dog. I will start by discussing the common worms that affect dogs and then treatment options.

When we say a dog has worms we are usually talking about intestinal (gut) worms but we are now much more aware that worms can also affect the lungs and heart of dogs. Worms have a life cycle and this can include other species sometimes such as cats, foxes, sheep, slugs, snails and mosquitoes. The worms are a parasite, the animal it is living in is called the host, and if the worm as part of its life cycle has to pass through another animal then this animal is called an intermediate host.

Dog Vaccinations: are they really necessary?

Tomorrow is World Veterinary Day (WVD), an annual event that highlights the role of veterinary profession around the world. This year’s theme is the importance of vaccination to animal health. Over the past two hundred years, scientists have created vaccines that have prevented – and, in some cases, eradicated – diseases in humans and animals.

Yet if you talk to pet owners online, the question of the need to vaccinate is one that keeps cropping up. People worry that vaccines may even be causing illnesses, and sadly, they sometimes feel that they cannot trust the advice from their vet, because the vet benefits financially from the sale of the vaccine.

There is a danger here that pet owners may stop vaccinating their pets, and if they do, it’s likely that they will get away with doing so for a number of years. Vaccines have caused serious illnesses to become rare, so that there may not be an immediate threat to most pets. The problem is that if people choose not to vaccinate, there will be a growing population of unprotected animals that are vulnerable to viral disease if an epidemic does occur…..

Horses and money – is it really either/or?

With the new financial year, and the recent bad weather, everyone involved in and working with horses is trying to make money go a bit further. Among other issues, the cost of medicines is rising every month (many drugs have seen their manufacturers put the price up 10 or 15% in the last few months), and feed bills are rising due to poor cereal harvests.

As a result, I’ve put together a list of “top tips” for saving money in the coming year.

Firstly, 5 things to do…

1) Make sure you worm smart - which doesn’t necessarily mean often! Many owners still worm religiously every 6-8 weeks; however, recent studies have shown about that 80% of the worms are in 20% of the horses. If your horse doesn’t have a high worm burden, it may be a waste of money pouring expensive wormers down him every other month. In addition, the more wormers we use, the higher the risk of worm resistance – there has been recognised round- or redworm resistance to every active ingredient available in the UK, so the less we use them, the longer they’ll be effective.

The way I like to recommend people go forward is to use Worm Egg Counts – your vet will be able to do these, or will have a lab they send them away to. The test simply takes a faeces sample and counts the worm eggs in it, giving you a good estimate of the number of worms in the horse. Remember, this test can only be done in the warmer months (the worms don’t lay eggs in the winter!), and it only tests for nematodes (round and redworms). To test for tapeworms, your vet will need to take a blood sample, but this usually only needs doing once or at most twice a year.

Depending on the test results, your vet will be able to advise you on the best worming strategy, and if you’ve got a low burden, it may not be necessary to worm at all, as long as your pasture management (poo-picking etc) is decent. I’ve seen horses wormed every month come back with such low counts that we stopped worming completely and, because they weren’t mixing with lots of other horses, they were still worm free a year later. That said, I’ve also seen horses that really do need that regular dose, so it does depend on the yard, the herd and the individual horse.

2) Consider warming up with unaffiliated competitions – and beware direct debits! Skip past this one if you’re not competing – but if you are….

Ask a vet online- “My 9 year old GSD has a black disk like cataract in one eye. Can it be removed safely. Would this be expensive to remove? Is this usually done by my vet or a specialist eye vet?”

Question from David Keown
My 9 year old GSD has a black disk like cataract in one eye. Can it be removed safely and what’s the prognosis for a good recovery. Would this be expensive to remove? Is this usually done by my vet or a specialist eye vet? Thanks.

Answer from Shanika Williams MRCVS online vet

Hi David, thank you for your question about the black disc in your GSD’s eye (German shepherd dog).

Firstly I will describe what a cataract is; I do not think that your dog has a cataract but an iris cyst.

A cataract is an area of discolouration in the lens of the eye, the lens sits in the middle of the eye and is usually colourless and clear, it sits just behind the iris (coloured part of the eye). Usually a cataract can only be seen without the use of specialist equipment if it is very large or the lens has dropped out of its correct position and has fallen into the front chamber of the eye.

So what is the black disc?

The black disc that you are describing in your GSD’s eye is most likely to be an iris cyst. Iris cysts are fluid filled black discs of varying size that bud off from another part of the eye. They vary in size (usually few millimetres in diameter) and can move around or are fixed in position; they are usually found at the front bottom half of the eye. I have personal experience of this condition as our family GSD had several mobile iris cysts.

Does my pet need any treatment?

Ask a vet online – “My dog is drinking a lot, and seems to be starving to the point of raiding my Shopping bag. She has Arthrities and her back end seems to be wobbly.”

Question from Gurnos Tenants Residents

My dog is 14 and is drinking a lot, and seems to be starving to the point of raiding my Shopping bag, something she has never done before. She has Arthrities and sometimes her back end seems to be wobbly.

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS online vet

Thank you for your interesting question which has four parts, I will discuss one at a time.

Your dog is drinking a lot.

The first thing to do when you have noticed that your pet is drinking more is to work out the actual amount of water being drunk. This is most easily done by measuring out how much water you put into the water bowl, also how much is left each time you change the water. It is best to work out how much your pet is drinking over a few days as this will give an average amount per day taking into account differences on each day. We usually consider a dog to be drinking too much if water intake is more than 100ml/kg/day that would work out as around 2L for a 20kg dog (a medium sized dog). So when you discuss your pet’s water intake with your vet they will want to know the amount your pet drinks a day, its weight and if there have been any changes to your pet’s diet. Dry food diets tend to lead to pets drinking more water than wet food (tins or pouches).

Your vet will also want to know if your pet is passing urine as normal or if this has changed in amount or frequency, often it is helpful to collect a sample of urine in a clean container and take this to your vet for analysis.

Increased drinking is called polydipsia (PD) and can be an indication many conditions including kidney disease, infection, hormone imbalances and diabetes. It is really important to discuss any other symptoms your pet is showing with your vet so that the most appropriate urine and blood tests can be performed to find out the cause of your pets PD.

Your dog is raiding your shopping bags.

When a pet has an increased hunger we call this polyphagia (PP). It is normal for dogs to eat more food when their energy needs go up e.g. when the weather is cold, if they are more active than usual or during the later stages of pregnancy or lactation (milk production). So provided there is no obvious reason for your pet to be eating more this is definitely something worth discussing with your vet.

Ideally if your pet is weighed regularly and records have been kept of this any changes will help to make a diagnosis as to what is causing your pets PP. Some of the conditions mentioned for PD can also lead to PP……..

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Worming & Flea Treatment

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