Browsing tag: dog

Ask a vet online- ‘My 10 year old dog has a lump not sure if I should take him to the vet?’

Question from:

Sheree Lu

My 10 year old dog has a lump around the size between a 10-cent/20-cent (Australian) coin. It’s round, soft to touch and when I touch it, it didn’t seem to cause him any discomfort or pain. It’s located on one of his hind flanks, on his thigh-ish area. Like if he sits down, the lump would be on the ground but it’s not near his anus. I’m not sure if I should take him to the vet..?

Answer by Shanika Winters Online vet

Hi Sheree and thanks for your question, with any lump you find on your pet I would advise that you take your dog to be seen by your vet.  I will try and explain in my answer some of the possible causes for the lump and how it can be monitored, treated or removed.

Why has my dog got a small soft lump?

A small soft lump can be caused by an infection, reaction to a parasite/foreign body, swelling in response to an injury/allergy, a tumour or a combination of these.

Infection tends to lead to an area of reddened/hot (inflamed) skin, which may then swell up as it fills with fluid/puss.  An infected lump would usually appear over a few days, may be painful to the touch and might burst followed by crusting over.  An infected lump may be due to a skin infection, where a parasite has bitten, where a foreign body (e.g. a grass seed or thorn) has entered or is trying to exit or maybe on top of an existing lump.

Reactions to a parasite/foreign body will also lead to inflamed skin but can occur over a much longer time scale of days to weeks.  A common parasite that can lead to development of a lump like reaction is a tick.  On some occasions the lump that you see is actually the tick still attached to your pet’s skin, it could also be the reaction to a tick bite that looks like a small lump on your dog’s skin.  Tick bite reactions are more likely to lead to a firm lump (granuloma).  Common foreign bodies that can cause a reactive lump in your pet’s skin include grass seeds and thorns.  A reaction to a foreign body may also be infected and/or painful.  Grass seeds and thorns are easy to come across on walks, depending on what season it is and where you tend to walk your dog.

Allergy or injury can cause a lump to develop quite soon after encountering e.g. a stinging nettle or having a tumble.  Allergic lumps can be single or multiple and can come down themselves in time, but the concern with an allergic reaction is if it affects the airways or circulation then this becomes an emergency situation requiring urgent veterinary attention.  A lump which occurs after an injury such as falling over or bumping into something at high speed is something an owner can usually link to the incident occurring.

Tumours are abnormal growths that come about due to a mutation (change) in your pets cells causing unregulated growth and multiplication of cells.  Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous and likely to grow/spread).  The time scale of tumour development varies from slow growth to very fast and there are some tumours (mast cell tumours) that can vary in size due to the release of Histamine (reactive body chemical).

Should I take my dog to the vet?

Definitely take your dog to the vet if you find a lump, the urgency with which you need an appointment will depend on how long the lump has been present, how well your dog is and if the lump is changing.

Your vet will ask you a lot of questions such as:

How your dog is in general, eating, drinking and toileting?

How long has the lump been present?

Has the lump changed in shape, size, colour or texture?

Is the lump causing your dog any pain or affecting its normal bodily functions?

Your vet will also ask about any changes in diet, environment, medications and general routine.

The answers to all these questions combined with a full clinical examination will help your vet to work out what the lump could be and what steps should be taken.

What happens next?

In some cases your vet may send your pet home with medication such as antibiotics if the lump is thought to be an area of infection, or pain relief if it is thought to be a reaction to an injury.

If the lump is thought not to be harmful then your vet may ask you to monitor its size, shape, colour and texture on a weekly basis and return for a check-up should there be any significant changes such as the lump doubling in size or changing colour.

If however your vet is still unsure as to what has caused the lump then further tests may be advise, from a fine needle aspirate through to an excisional biopsy with or without x-rays.

Fine needle aspirate is when a needle is inserted into the lump (usually done in an awake pet) and some tissue sucked out into a syringe, this tissue can then be put onto a microscope slide or into a bottle of liquid to enable analysis to try and work out what the lump is.

Biopsy is when a small piece or the entire lump is cut out (usually under a general anaesthetic) and is then sent for analysis to try and work out what the lump is.  If your vet finds other lumps or enlarged lymph nodes which may be related to the original lump then samples may need to be taken from these too.

X-rays of the affected area, chest and abdomen (tummy) may be performed to show how deep the lump goes and whether it has spread to other areas such as the lungs or liver.  The reason why the chest and abdomen are x-rayed is that these are common sites for the spread of malignant growths due to their very good circulation.

If the lump turns out to be cancerous then even after cutting out the lump your pet may need further therapy such as chemotherapy to treat/prevent the lump spreading or re-growing.

I hope that my answer helps to explain the importance of having a lump checked out by your vet, hopefully your dog’s lump is nothing sinister and your vet can confirm this. But due to the many possible causes of a lump it is always safer to get your dog looked at by your vet and then make a joint decision as how best to proceed.

Shanika Winters MRCVS (online vet)

If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

Zoonotic diseases – what could you catch from your pet?

Zoonosis is any disease that can pass from animal to human. Although most are easily treated, some of them can be serious and even fatal. Below are several zoonotic diseases that can be passed from dogs and cats, sometimes via other organisms that use the dog and cat as their host.

Toxocariasis

These are the roundworms of the dog and cat (and other species). They can be transferred to humans via their eggs which are left in soil after infected animals have defecated. Children are more predisposed to ingesting the eggs as they might play in the soil and not wash their hands. Adults can also ingest the eggs from eating raw vegetables that have not been washed properly.

If the infection is heavy or repeated, it can cause the disease ‘visceral larva migrans’. This is when the worm larvae move through the body and causing swelling to the major organs and affecting the central nervous system. High-temperature, coughing even pneumonia are various symptoms. The disease is also known to cause ‘ocular larva migrans’ when the worm larvae enter the eye causing inflammation and even blindness.

Once this disease has been diagnosed it is treatable by medication from a doctor.

Dermatophytosis

More commonly known as ringworm this highly infectious disease, affects cats and dogs, it is not a worm at all, but a fungal disease. It can be transferred from animals to humans by skin to skin contact. It can also be spread by contaminated clothing, grooming brushes and other items that have come into contact with the animal.

The disease is characterised in cats and dogs by circular, raised and dry lesions that are normally crusty and cause hair loss. The disease often starts on the head and feet areas, but can spread across the body if left untreated. In cats ringworm is often difficult to detect as it sometimes causes only very mild symptoms. In humans the infected areas are often red rings with scaly edges.

Ringworm can be treated both in animals and humans with the correct medication, however full recovery can be prolonged.

Sarcoptic mange

This is caused by a mite known as sarcoptes scabei canis and is found predominantly on dogs, a different, but closely related mite causes scabies in humans. A similar condition is caused in cats by the mite Notoedes cati. In animals sarcoptic mange causes fur loss and intense itching, where in extreme cases animals can bleed by prolonged scratching, the sarcoptic mange mite that infests dogs can infest humans, however in most cases the mite will quickly die off as they cannot complete their life cycle.

 Leptospirosis

This is a bacterial disease that is carried through the body of the infected animal (in companion animals this is normally dogs) and excreted in the urine. Dogs can pick up the disease by wading through, sniffing or drinking contaminated water where rats have been. Humans can contract this disease with direct contact of the animal’s infected urine.

In dogs the disease can cause vomiting, high-temperature, dehydration, shivering and muscle weakness. In advanced stages it can also cause chronic kidney failure, causing death.

In humans common symptoms are like influenza, however severely infected people can get intense headaches, muscle weakness, high-temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea and meningitis. The infection can go on to produce jaundice and kidney failure. In humans the condition is known as Weil’s disease.

Although there is a vaccine for dogs, there is no vaccine for humans. In some cases people are known to have come into contact with leptospirosis are put on antibiotics by their doctor as a precaution.

Toxoplasmosis

This is a parasitic disease carried by cats. It can be transferred to humans by contaminated soil which carries the parasite after the cat has defecated in the area. The soil may be on poorly washed garden produce, much the same as Toxocariasis can be contracted. It can also be transferred to humans by poor hygiene after cleaning cat litter trays.

In cats there are very non-specific symptoms of toxoplasmosis, they might display a lack of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea, high-temperature, lethargy and weight loss. These symptoms can be attributed to many other cat illnesses. In humans the symptoms are usually mild but people may display a prolonged high-temperature. The main issue with toxoplasmosis is for pregnant women. Should women that are carrying unborn children contract the condition, it can result in miscarriage or severe disease in the new-born child.

Rabies

Although this condition in the UK is very rare, it is not unknown. With the stringent guidelines of the pet passport scheme and quarantine, animals are highly unlikely to carry the disease in the UK.

The disease itself is an acute viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Affected animals normally show behavioural changes, in further stages they can start to drool, become excited then aggressive, attacking people and other animals. Convulsions and paralysis normally follow, before death.

If a human contracts the disease through a dog or cat bite, it is invariably fatal. After the initial bite, a high-temperature followed by headache and nausea are common. Mood changes such as apprehension or excitability come before paralysis, fear of water and delirium. A respiratory paralysis is often the final cause of death.

Other Zoonoses

Of course it is not just cats and dogs that carry diseases that can be passed to humans. Other species such as birds, goats and cattle can also carry diseases which can, if severe and left untreated, cause death. Reptiles and tropical fish are known to carry salmonella which can make humans very ill and even be fatal. Scientists are constantly monitoring infection and trying to develop treatments for new strains of zoonotic diseases for example avian bird flu, CJD and others.

There are numerous zoonotic diseases in the UK (and there are more carried by cats and dogs than are listed above). Despite this, by the use of proper vaccination (in the case of leptospirosis, regular boosters as well), parasitic treatments, stringent hygiene and common sense, risks to human health from animals can be minimised.

David Kalcher RVN, DipCW(CTJT), A1

If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

June bugs – stopping parasites from bugging your pets!

Hurrah, it’s June!  Which means the weather is (hopefully) warming up and summer is just around the corner!  However, just as we enjoy the sunny conditions, so do the bugs and beasties that live on our pets.  A little forethought and treatment now, can save a whole lot of trouble (and maybe some vets bills!) in the future.

Fleas

These irritating little creatures are the ones everyone thinks about as the weather warms but here’s an interesting fact; actually the worst time of year for fleas is the Autumn.  Then the few fleas our pets have picked up over the summer move into our centrally heated houses and have a party.  However, what that means is by protecting our pets over the summer, we not only keep them from getting itchy bites now, we can stop a house infestation later!

It can be surprisingly difficult to know if an animal has fleas, especially cats who are good at grooming out all the evidence, but you need to look for small black flecks of flea dirt in the coat, small red raised bites on the skin, excessive scratching and, of course, the insects themselves.  Rather than waiting for them to appear (especially as you will probably miss them anyway), treating against them preemptively is best.  There are various ways of doing this including spot-ons, tablets, sprays, injections and collars.  However, whichever you chose to use, make sure it comes from your vet, who will provide far more effective products (and better advice!) than pet shops.

Scabies

The more common name for Scabies is ‘Fox Mange’ and certainly most dogs (it is very rare in cats) who contract it are often those who enjoy rolling in fox poo (why DO they do that?!) or poking their heads down fox holes.  The Scabies mite is a burrowing kind; it digs through the skin causing a great deal damage.  The most commonly affected body areas are the head, ears, limbs and groin, where the skin will lose the hair, be very red and inflamed, is often extremely scabby and always very itchy.  It is easily treated, and prevented, using veterinary spot-on medications.

Ticks

Although these little blighters are most active in the Spring and Autumn, if the weather remains warm but wet (which pretty much describes our summers!), they can survive longer.  When they are attached, ticks look like small, grey beans stuck onto the skin.  They remain in place for a few days and get larger over this time as they gorge themselves on our pet’s blood.  Left untreated they will eventually drop off but while they are biting they can infect animals with some nasty diseases, are unsightly and can leave the skin very sore.  There are spot-ons which kill ticks but usually the best way to remove them is manually.  Tick pullers are cheap and easy to use, your vet can give you a demonstration!

Worms

Regularly worming your pets all year round is important, especially if you have young children, but it is particularly vital in the warmer months.  This is for several reasons; firstly, many of the worms that infect our pets are passed from prey animals, so hunters (and it is mainly cats but some dogs are very good rabbiters!) are more vulnerable when prey numbers are higher.  Secondly, worm eggs (which are microscopic & are passed in faeces in their millions) can survive in soil for a long time and although most pets get out and about all year round, most inevitably spend more time outside, and more time snuffling though flowerbeds and undergrowth, in the summer.

Like fleas it can be very difficult to know if a pet has worms.  Many people know about signs like itchy bottoms & bloated tummies but, in fact, most infestations are symptom free, another reason why regular treatment is vital.  There are spot-ons, tablets and liquids available and, again, your vet is the best source for advice on which kind to pick.

I hope I haven’t made your skin crawl too much thinking about all these little blighters!  Just remember, prevention is always better than cure and the best people to ask for advice on what is best for your pets is always your vet!

Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS – Read more of her blogs at www.catthevet.com

If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

Ask a vet online –‘2 yorkshire terriers sneezing for the last 2 days’

Question from Sharon Barrett:

I think my 2 Yorkshire Terriers may have hay fever as the last 2 days they have been sneezing, they are 6yrs old can I give them antihistamines?

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Sharon and thank you for your question about your two sneezing Yorkshire terriers and whether it  is safe to give them antihistamines.  The first thing I would advise is not to treat your pet without having discussed this with your vet or better still having had your pet examined.  I know that we often do not complete a course of medication for ourselves or our pets and end up with tablets left over which we keep just in case they may be useful.  We should really not use medications unless they have been prescribed specifically for an individual pet or under the direction of your vet.

Why are my dogs sneezing?

 Sneezing can be due to allergy such as hay fever (Atopy, allergic to an inhaled substance) but in dogs is more commonly due to infection or irritations from inhaled substance e.g. dust/smoke or a foreign body e.g. grass seed/thorn.  Less common but a possibility is also that some dogs can develop tumour type growths in their noses.

The simplest way to make a diagnosis is to give a detailed history of what has been going on with your dogs for the last few days, where they have been and what they have been exposed to.  Your vet will then perform a full examination of your dogs, which may include looking up their noses, some pets will allow this to be done with or without some local anaesthetic spray and or sedation.  If infection is suspected then your pet might have an increased temperature which can be easily checked by your vet.

Sometimes the type of discharge coming out of your pets nose can provide information, it is more likely to be clear and thin if simply allergy or viral infection however with bacterial and fungal infections the discharge may be thicker and yellow/green.  If blood is present then this suggests some ulceration of the lining of your dog’s nose may have occurred.

A common cause of sneezing in an otherwise well dog is kennel cough infection (infectious trache bronchitis), this can sometimes show up as sneezing and a watery nasal discharge through to a harsh dry choking type cough.  Kennel cough is very easily spread by contact with other dogs or the droplets they cough or sneeze out.  Vaccination does exist for kennel cough via injection/nasal spray but it is not 100% effective as kennel cough is brought about by some bacteria and some viruses which can change (mutate) making them tricky to vaccinate against.

What further test might be done?

Your vet might suggest that blood tests, x-rays or rhinoscopy may be needed to help make a diagnosis.  Blood tests can be to check the general health of your pet and give an indication of infections or allergy. X-rays show a lot of detail of the nasal passageways, if they are symmetrical, and if there is anything abnormal present there.  X-rays will most likely be done under a general anaesthetic to allow the best positioning of your pet and a nasal flush can be performed too.  A nasal flush is when sterile saline is flushed up each nostril and then some of the liquid is sucked back out and can be examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for analysis.  Rhinoscopy is when a very thin tube or camera is inserted up the nostril to have a close and detailed look for any changes or foreign material.

In some cases trial treatment may be opted for before major diagnostic tests are performed, the decision as to how things go is made between you and your vet.

What treatment might be given for my sneezing dogs?

 As mentioned treatment might be tried on its own if infection or allergy is suspected which could include antibiotics, steroid or antihistamines. The medications may be given as tablets or injections. Antibiotics can be used in the treatment of allergy if infection is also present.  Some allergies are treated using immunosuppressant medications or specific vaccines.

If a foreign body is found this will be removed and then your dog may need some antibiotic and pain relief to allow the lining of its nasal passageways to heal.

If a growth is suspected then this will have a small piece taken out (biopsy) which will then be sent for analysis to determine the best course of treatment, which may be surgical removal and or chemotherapy.

The prognosis for your dog will depend on what has caused the sneezing and how effective the treatment available for that specific cause is.

I hope that I have managed to answer your question and that your dog’s sneezing is soon under control and they are back to their normal selves.  It is really important to work with your vet to get the correct treatment for your pet to have a speedy recovery.

Shanika Winters MRCVS (online vet)

Ask a vet online-’ 9 month old labradoodle tends to bark a lot’ – what can I do?

Question from Sarah Brookes:

I have a 9 month old labradoodle. He tends to bark a lot attention barking I have ignored him but he still barks what else can u do. Also when we leave him he shakes and barks but settles eventually I have an DAP plugged in but seems to make no difference HELP

Answer by Shanika Winters:

Hi Sarah and thank you for your question regarding your dog’s behaviour when he is left.    What you are describing sounds like a combination of separation anxiety and attention seeking.  Separation anxiety is when animals feel worried when left alone and this can lead to destructive behaviour, toileting in the wrong place and also vocalisation such as the barking you described.  Attention seeking is when your pet behaves in a way that you cannot ignore often in similar ways to those already listed.

Why does my dog have separation anxiety/attention seeking behaviour?

It is really important that any medical conditions are first ruled out before starting to treat a behavioural condition.  Dogs can show changes to their behaviour when in pain (e.g. arthritis), suffering from epilepsy (having seizures) and when suffering from liver or kidney disease (due to build up of toxic chemicals in their blood).

A detailed history of what is going on with your pet, followed by a thorough clinical examination and diagnostic tests as required are the best way for you and your vet to rule out the presence of any underlying medical conditions.

In the process of taking the details of what is happening with your pet, your vet will get a picture of what is happening in your dog’s world, i.e. changes to the family, pets, daily routine and moving home to mention a few possible triggers of a behavioural change.  It is also important to note that some breeds of dog, especially working breeds (e.g. border collies, German shepherds and Labradors) need a lot more mental and physical stimulation than other breeds of dog.  It is important to take this into consideration when choosing a dog to try and match its characteristics to your family and lifestyle.

How will my dog’s behaviour be assessed?

Your vet may assess your dog’s behaviour themselves or may refer your dog to a behavioural specialist (someone specifically trained in animal behaviour).  As described above the first thing that they will need to ensure is that your pet is physically well, the second thing they will do it take a detailed history of how your pet behaves. The third part of the process is observation, your dog will be observed in the consultation room but this does not always give as much information as seeing how your dog behaves in the home environment and how he/she interacts with other members of the household both human and animal.  Such observation may be via video recordings which can then be watched and analysed.

How can I help my dog to feel less anxious?

In order to help your dog stop feeling the need to bark changes need to be made to help him/her feel more secure and less in need of getting attention through barking.  The use of chemicals can sometimes help when trying to change a dog’s behaviour.  You have mentioned that you tried DAP plug in, this is a pheromone dispenser that releases dog appeasing pheromone, this is thought to help dogs to feel calm.  Chemicals alone cannot always help to change an unwanted behaviour such as barking.  Ideally chemicals should be used in conjunction with a behavioural treatment plan.  Anther chemical that may be advised by your vet is an antidepressant.

When we leave our house we usually have a set routine of getting our bag, coat, shoes and key then leaving.  Also we think that saying good bye to our dog will let them know what is happening and make them feel better about us leaving.  What we are actually doing is setting off a chain of events which build up to trigger their anxious behaviour.  It can help to make a quiet exit and put the emphasis on your return home.

What is in the behavioural plan?

Regular exercise of an amount suitable for the breed and age of dog you have, a small elderly dog will still need to be taken out for exercise but this will be for much shorter length of time than a young adult working breed of dog.  It is important to give your pet regular exercise, if you are not able to do this yourself then remember there are dog walkers available in most areas.

Attention of a positive nature from members of the household is important to reassure your dog of his place in the pecking order.  It is easy to just get on with what needs to be done when you come home after a long day at work and forget that your dog is waiting to greet you and be reassured that you are happy with him/her.  If the majority of attention your pet receives is being told off for bad behaviour then this negative attention can further unwanted behaviours.

Provide adequate mental stimulation for your dog, this can be in the form of games such as fetch, training such as obedience, agility and fly ball.  It can be helpful to make up a timetable of activities to carry out with your dog, this can help to keep things interesting for both owner a dog.

Company whether in the form of another pet or human can help to relieve the anxiety felt by some dog’s but this is not always practical as many people work long hours and have many family commitments.  There are pet sitting services which can provide someone to visit your dog and break up the length of time that he/she spends alone.

Background noise such as a television or radio can make some dogs feel as though they are not alone.

I hope that I have managed to answer your question and that your dog starts to feel calmer when left alone.  Making behavioural changes involves both dog and owner and can be a slow process but it is worth the effort.

Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online vet)

Ask a vet online-‘I have an 8 year old Maltipoo who has had teeth and gum problems for the last 4 years.’

Question from Mary Collins O’Hara:

I have an 8year old Maltipoo who has had teeth and gum problem for the last 4years. He had 8teeth pulled, including some teeth on the bottom front, so now he drools all the time and he has the worst breath. I have done several rounds of antibiotics, I brush his teeth but his gums are so tender, he cries. I don’t know what else to do. Please help.

Answer by Shanika Winters

Hi Mary and thank you for your question regarding your dog’s ongoing mouth problem.  An adult dog usually has 42 teeth which are made up of four different types:

12 Incisors which are for nibbling

4 Canines which are for grabbing and puncturing

16 Premolars which are for cutting and shearing

10 Molars which in theory are for grinding up food

Most dogs over the age of 3 years have some form of dental disease, this may be as mild as inflamed gums (gingivitis) and plaque through to infected tooth roots with gum recession.  Along with the functions listed above the teeth help hold the dogs tongue inside its mouth and keep the shape of its mouth by holding the cheek flaps out.  Many dogs cope extremely well after major extractions where they are only left with a few healthy teeth.

The diet may need to be changed so as to make it easier for the dog to eat it, in some cases wet food may be advised. Generally however we recommend some dry food is fed as this helps to keep plaque levels down just by the fact that the food is crunched and scrapes on the surface of the teeth.  There are specially designed dental diets which have fibres in each nugget arranged so as to have maximum scraping effect on the teeth.  As most dog owners are aware not all dogs crunch up their food it is wolfed down rather fast and in such cases dental diets may have little effect on keeping the teeth clean.

You have already mentioned that you are brushing your dog’s teeth, that is an excellent way to keep them clean by slowing down the build up of plaque.  It is important to use tooth paste that is designed for dogs, which is both palatable to them and not high in fluoride as are human toothpastes.  It is also advisable to use specially designed dog tooth brushes, these tend to have a smaller head with a longer handle so it is easier to reach all around the dog’s mouth.  Only light pressure should be applied when cleaning your dog’s teeth, it is easy to be too firm and hurt the gums.

Antibiotics are often used in cases of dental disease to reduce the presence of bacteria in your dog’s mouth.  The bacteria may be present; as part of tooth root infections, attached in the plaque, and even in what appears to be a clean mouth can still contribute to bad breath (halitosis).

Why does my dog have mouth problems?

In order to determine why your dog is drooling, has bad breath and sore gums it is essential that he has a full examination by your vet, there can be underlying diseases that are causing your dog’s symptoms such as poor immunity (ability to heal and fight infection), underactive thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism) and over production of steroid (Cushings disease) to mention a few.  Many of the underlying illnesses can be picked up on blood tests which are done on a sample of your dog’s blood collected by your vet and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

What can be done to help my dog?

Once your vet has ruled out any underlying diseases, then a close look at your dog’s mouth is necessary, there may be further dental disease needing treatment such as further extractions, sometimes your vet will suggest performing x-rays to check if there are infected tooth roots where the piece of the tooth visible appears healthy.  Some dogs have skin folds around their mouths and these can trap saliva, the skin becomes inflamed, infected and smelly.  The skin folds can be treated by use of antibiotics, trimming the hair from the skin fold and cleaning with an antiseptic solution.

If there is no need for any further dental treatment, then some dogs benefit from the use of antiseptic mouth sprays or drinking water additives to help reduce bacteria levels in the mouth.

Regular courses of antibiotics can be used under the direction of your vet, in some cases this is the only way to keep some dog’s mouths clean and healthy.

So where there are any ongoing dental disease issues it is vital to work with your vet to find the best plan of action to keep your dog happy, healthy and comfortable.  I hope that this has helped to answer your question.

Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online Vet)

Ask a vet online – ‘Can you suggest a home remedy for mites in dogs please?’

Question from Sharon Barett:

Hi can you suggest a home remedy for mites in dogs please? I used the spot on treatment off the vet for 3 months but it did not make any difference she still scratches it a King Charles Spaniel 5 months old thank you .x

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, online vet

Hi Sharon and thank you for your question regarding your itchy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  In order to answer your question I will discuss the possible causes of the itch, how we work out a diagnosis and then some treatment options.

Dog Scratching Flea

Getting the itch!

Why is my pet scratching/itchy?

If your pet is scratching itself then something will be causing an irritation, most commonly this is due to the presence of external parasites such as fleas (Ctenocephalides canis or felis) or mites (e.g. cheyletiella, sarcoptes scabeii). Itchiness can also be due to the presence of an allergy to things you pets eats (food allergy), contacts (contact allergy) or inhales (atopic allergy).

How to diagnose the itch

It is really important to work with your vet to find out the cause of your pet’s itch. The first thing your vet will do is ask for a detailed history of your pets condition including how long it has been going on, any changes to your pets routine, any changes to your household, what treatments have already been tried and if they have had any effect.

The next step is for your vet to perform a full physical examination of your pet paying extra attention to the skin and coat, underlying diseases can have symptoms that affect the skin which include Hypothyroidism( under active thyroid gland), Cushing’s disease ( over production of steroid) and diseases of the immune system.

Finally your vet may suggest performing some diagnostic test on your pet such as skin scrapes, hair plucks, sticky tape strips, skin biopsies, wet paper test, swabs and blood tests.

Skin scrapes: these involve use of a sterile scalpel blade to scrape the surface of your pet’s skin to collect surface cells and debris, which is then examined under a microscope usually for parasites and or fungi.  For certain parasites such as Demodex mite (not usually itchy) a deep scrape has to be taken.

Sticky tape strips: a strong sticky tape is applied to your pet’s skin and then removed, again this is examined under a microscope looking at the surface cells and debris similar to above but it is a less invasive procedure.

Hair plucks: as the name suggests a clump of hair is plucked from your pet and examined as for skin scrapes and sticky tape strips, sometimes this can help to show up Demodex mites (which live down the hair shaft in the hair follicle) or ring worm (actually a fungal skin disease). Hair plucks can be cultured to try and grow bacteria and fungi; this is usually done at a laboratory.

Skin biopsies: this is usually performed under general anaesthesia or sedation as a full thickness sample of the skin is cut out, put into preservative and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Often several samples are taken from different sites.  This gives a lot of information about how the skin is reacting and what types of cells and changes are present.

Wet paper test: your vet will comb through your pet’s coat and collect the debris and put it onto a sheet of wet white paper, if small red dots appear this is suggestive of fleas, as the flea dirt contains digested blood and this turns red when wet.

Swabs: there are sterile cotton bud tipped sticks which are wiped in any discharges present on the skin (often in the ears), the material on the swab can then be stained and examined under a microscope or sent off for culture and sensitivity to grow bacteria and see which antibiotics are affective against them.

Blood test: these can be routine to check overall body function or very specific looking into what your pet is allergic to.  The test chosen will be a decision made with you and your vet depending on your pet’s condition.

What treatment will help my pet?

As external parasites are the most common cause of an itchy pet this is often the first treatment approach whether parasites have been detected or not.  It is important to use a product recommended by your vet that is safe for your pet and covers the suspected range of parasites.  It is also important to use the treatment correctly and repeat as advised. It can take several weeks to clear up some parasites.  Your vet may also advise you to treat other pets in your household and the home environment itself. Especially in the case of fleas as the majority of the flea population is living in the environment ant not only on your pet.

Parasite treatments come in tablet, injection, spot on and spray preparations. Your vet will help to direct you to the method which is most appropriate for you and your pet.

Food allergies are usually treated by feeding a low allergy or special diet (in which protein molecules are broken down so as not to cause reaction).  In some cases your vet may recommend a home cooked diet.  The diet needs to be stuck to strictly and can take 3 months or more to begin to allow improvement in your pet’s skin signs.

Contact allergies usually are present on the paws and tummy, which are areas in contact with the ground.  Once the substance your pet is reacting to has been worked out it is then needs to be avoided or stop being used.

Atopic allergies are usually diagnosed by a combination of examination, skin and blood tests.  There are several treatment options which include medical therapy using drugs or special vaccines.  The drugs often used to treat atopy include antihistamine (reduce allergic reactions), steroid (anti-inflammatory and suppress the immune system from reacting), immunosuppressant (which suppress the immune system form reacting) and antibiotics may be used to treat any infection present on top of the allergy. Special vaccines can be made up in some cases to try and help desensitise your pet to the individual things that he or she reacts to; these are administered in gradually increasing doses over many months by injection.

I hope that I have managed to answer your question by explaining how complex an itchy dog’s condition can be.  I really recommend that you return to your vet and come up with a joint plan of attack to help your pet.  I hope that your dog is feeling much more comfortable very soon.

 Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online Vet)

If you are worried about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet or use our interactive symptom guide.

Is Paul O’Grady mad to spend so much money on his terminally ill dog?

Paul O’Grady, the comedian-turned-dog-advocate, hit the news this week when he talked about spending over £8000 in vets’ fees to treat his nine year old Cairn Terrier Olga for cancer of the kidney. The Daily Mail reports that Paul has ignored advice to have her put down, and instead he’s paying for intensive chemotherapy and surgery to keep her alive. The story has ignited a debate about veterinary fees and pet insurance: Judith Woods, a feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, has added her own tale of spending £3600 when her Manchester Terrier, Daisy, developed a rare form of kidney disease. She had her pet insured, so her feature extols the benefits of pet insurance for these unexpected occasions.
Paul and Judith are clear in their opinions, with no doubt that they have made the right decision for their own pets. It’s the online comments on the stories that are interesting, with members of the public sounding off with their own thoughts on expensive treatments for pets, and the pros and cons of pet insurance.

The Daily Mail readers’ comments to Paul’s story are mostly short and positive: “It’s lovely that he’s done this for his beloved dog”, “Good on you, Paul, you are a true dog lover” and “If I was as rich as him, I’d do the same”.
Telegraph readers have responded in a predictably more loquacious way to Judith’s feature.
First, of course, there are many “dog lovers” who are supportive of giving pets all reasonable treatment that can be afforded, accepting that high quality veterinary care can be costly, and agreeing that pet insurance can be a sensible way of budgeting for unexpected health crises. When completing a survey of attitudes to dogs on a recent trip to a slum in Delhi, I found that around 60% of the local population “liked dogs”, with 40% disliking them: I now find myself wondering if a similar proportion of attitudes exists in the UK population. For the 60% who care for their pet dogs, it’s hard to consider withholding treatment.

There are plenty of comments from the opposite side of the spectrum – perhaps the 40% who aren’t so fond of dogs. Some of these “anti-treatment” comments are worth discussing in more detail:
“All pet insurance does is persuade owners to consent to prolonged and possibly invasive treatment of their pet. Unless they own a valuable breeding animal they would be kinder and more sensible if they had a really sick pet put to sleep.”
While it’s true that it may make objective sense to have an ailing animal euthanased, when it’s your own pet, surely it’s wise to analyse the options available? Once a clear diagnosis has been made, vets are often able to give a reasonably accurate estimate of treatment, prognosis and life expectancy. If you are able to pay for the treatment (via insurance or otherwise), and if the vet can reassure you that your pet will not suffer during the process, many people conclude that the correct course of action is to give the animal extra life. Why should anyone else feel that they have the right to tell them otherwise?

“Look at the dog and think, ‘If that was me what would I want?’ Or, ‘Am I keeping the dog alive for the dog’s sake, for my sake or I do I lack the moral fibre to do the right thing?’”
I am sure that most owners look at their pet and ask these questions before making a treatment/euthanasia decision. And most vets take time to guide owners through this process. Most vets and owners would agree that if a pet has no hope of living a good quality life, euthanasia is the kindest option. And treatment for serious disease may not be as uncomfortable as people expect in pets. Treatment modalities like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment are often deliberately used in lower doses in pets compared to humans, so side effects are usually less severe. Nobody want animals to suffer pain or discomfort for the sake of a few more weeks or months of life.

“These poor animals haven’t a clue what is happening to them in the vets’ surgeries, all the pain, trauma and strange smells….. people aren’t doing it in the interests of the animals they are most of the time doing it for themselves. Better IMO to let the animal have a peaceful end – a right denied to humans. And don’t get me started on animals with limb amputations.”
Anyone who has owned an amputee dog will know at once that the person who made this opinionated comment has not known any animals with limb amputations (they often have marvellous lives, with no discomfort or visible disability). I suspect he’s also had a similar lack of experience of vets’ surgeries and sick animals recovering from illness.

“I have come to the conclusion that Veterinary Surgeons generally, are individuals who parasitically feed off pet-owners emotions. The fees they charge can bear no resemblance to costs incurred. Have their charges ever been investigated? I suspect this is yet another bunch of rip-off artists. They know you will pay to save a soulmate… So they take you for an expensive ride.”

I’m sorry that this person has such a negative view of my profession: what else can I say?

“As for vets, I told my son to be either a vet or a lawyer. They make the fees up as they go along, nobody really questions the amounts and they get paid even if the client dies.”

This person should really do some proper research before making recommendations to his son. Vets’ salaries are not as high as people may expect. In the USA,  $80460 (£50824) is the median pay, with veterinary graduates struggling to pay off huge university debts. In the UK , according to this website, “the average starting salary is between £21,800 to £33,500 a year, depending on experience. Further training and experience can increase salary to £36,500 per annum. Senior vets can earn around £44,000 to £53,000+” .
So while vets may earn a substantial salary, it’s nothing special compared to doctors (Salaried GPs earn between £54,319 and £81,969). solicitors (between £25,000 and £75,000)  or dentists (between £50,000 and £110,000). And did he tell his son about the high suicide rate in vets – higher than any other profession, and around four times the national average? The job of a vet is not the easy, money-spinning dream career that some people seem to believe.

“I have heard that vets in England charge more if you have insurance, but it wasn’t made clear if this is because they run every test necessary when the insurers are paying but stick to the bare minimum for hard up punters.” 
This person probably is closer to the truth than they realise. The reason why vets “stick to the minimum for hard up punters” is that these clients are unable to afford anything else. Is there anything wrong with this?

Something else needs to be explained: this odd statement in Judith Wood’s feature. ” Vet fees have doubled in a decade, and are rising at an annual rate of 12 per cent.”
Vets’ fees per item have certainly not “doubled in a decade”, nor are they rising at 12% per year. But more advanced tests and treatments are now available to those who can pay for them, which is why the amount spent on pets may indeed have “doubled in a decade” and may be continuing to increase.
The key truth that seems to have been missed by everyone writing on the subject is this: diagnostic tests are amongst the most expensive items on the veterinary menu. The specialised machinery needed to carry out laboratory tests, ultrasound scans, x-rays, MRI scans and other work-ups can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yet these pricey investigations are often the only way to achieve an accurate diagnosis, which is the key fact that’s needed to decide on treatment and to predict the prognosis.

Do you want to be able to do the best for your pet if he or she falls ill? If you do, get your pet insured so that you can give your vet the go-ahead to carry out the tests needed to give you the best advice possible. And don’t listen to the “objective” scoffers who tell you that you would be better to have your pet euthanased: talk to your vet and make the decision for yourself, based on facts, not opinions.

 

 

A vet in Delhi – day 6: a selection of photos

I’ve been busy this evening working through my survey results so that I can give a presentation to ASHA about them tomorrow, so I have not had time to write a blog. But to give a sense of the past day here, I’ve put together a selection of photos. The captions should be enough to tell their stories….

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Local children interacting with a street dog. Excitable, uncontrolled close contact like this carries a high risk of dog bites. Education of the children in dog-human interactions could reduce incidence of dog bites.

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This street dog seemed friendly, but he has a track record of biting children such as the girl pictured below

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This girl was bitten on her right forearm a few months ago

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The scar is hard to see now but at the time she needed hospital treatment with post rabies exposure vaccinations

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This pup is being comforted by his mother after a frightening incident that I witnessed

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The pup had been barking ferociously at a local goat

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The goat was not impressed, giving a demonstration of punishment by butting

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ASHA works in the community, spreading information via a network of women from all over the area who come to the ASHA centre regularly to meet up and share knowledge

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The last questionnaires were done today, and the rabies/ street dog survey is now being analysed

Getting to the Heart of the Matter – Heart murmurs in dogs

February being the month of luurve I thought I would write about matters of the heart. The actual heart. Sorry if anyone got excited there!

Whenever you take your dog to the vet, your vet will listen to their heart and chest. They are checking to make sure the heart beat is strong, regular and that there are no murmurs. A heart murmur occurs when the clear drum beat of the heart (often described as ‘lub dub’) has a swooshing sound. This is caused by the blood not being pushed cleanly through the different chambers of the heart, most often escaping through leaky valves back the way it came. It is one of the commonest signs of heart disease and I am going to concentrate on them in this article.

The breed we see most often with heart murmurs is the gorgeous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They often develop them fairly early in life, between 4 and 6 years old is average, but don’t usually develop associated heart failure for at least a couple of years. However, they can occur in any dog and are occasionally heard in puppies (but most will grow out of them)

Heart murmurs are graded from 1-6, with 1 being the quietest and 6 being so loud the normal beating of the heart is drowned out completely. In general the louder the murmur, the worse the leaking of the valves and as the disease progresses the murmurs will get louder. Every time your vet checks your dog they will record the degree of murmur, which allows them to track its progress. They will also be listening to the pattern of the murmur and whereabouts on the heart it is loudest. Often there are no outward signs of a problem, which is why regular veterinary check-ups are so important.

It is very worrying when your dog is diagnosed with a heart murmur and you can feel quite helpless. However, although we cannot cure your pet’s problem there is a huge amount both we as vets, and you as an owner, can do to help them. The first thing to determine is whether they are in actual heart failure and this is a really important point. Just because a dog has a heart murmur it does NOT mean they are in heart failure! It does mean, however, that thire heart is inefficient and has to work harder than a normal organ to do the same job. This puts it under more pressure and essentially means it wears out more quickly.

When a heart murmur is diagnosed, it can be helpful to perform some extra tests to determine how the heart is coping and what exactly is causing the sound. Techniques include ultrasound scanning (although some vets may need to refer you to a specialist for this), using x-rays to measure the size and shape of the heart and taking your dog’s blood pressure. It can be very useful to repeat these regularly (once or twice a year) to monitor the progress of the condition.

There are also things you can do at home. I advise my clients to take their pets heart rate at least once a week when they are relaxed, so any increases (which can indicate a worsening of the disease) are be picked up quickly. I also advise regularly timing a short walk they do often. This allows them to pick up on the very subtle slowing down that will occur early in the disease. Believe it or not dogs are far more naturally athletic and fit than us humans (even fat little Cavies!) and although, like people, they will eventually become breathless & find exercise more challenging, they can hide these effects of heart failure for some time. Other symptoms can include a soft wet cough, collapsing or even going blue or pale at the gums. However, these usually occur only when the heart is in advanced failure and treatment will be more difficult.

Before heart failure develops the best thing you can do for your pet is ensure they stay slim. Being over-weight makes it much harder for the heart to function well. However, once it occurs, the sooner treatment is started the better, which is why looking for the more subtle signs of the problem is so important. The good news is there are many different medications that can help your pet, which will very significantly increase their length and quality of life.

So, if your vet finds a heart murmur in your dog, don’t panic! Keep them in tip top condition, be vigilant for the signs of heart failure and once they occur ensure they start on medication quickly. With this your best friend is likely to be with you for some time yet, which will keep both your hearts from breaking!

Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS – Read more of her blogs at www.catthevet.com

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