Thursday, September 27, 2012

The "Eyes" have it.... conjunctivitis that is!

Well, where this is wind or a good breeze, there are dogs out there, sticking their head right into it.

As animal lovers, we have all seen those fantastic photos of dog's lips wobbling in the breeze as their head sticks out the side window of car as it drives down the freeway.  Or those dogs with huge ears, put up as if they are in a hold up, and their eyes popping out of their head!

In the past few weeks, I  have seen many dogs, with the owners bring them in with their diagnosis of "conjunctivitis".

Some owners have said "Me dog has conjunctivitis, and needs some drops", others have said "I have been cleaning my dogs eyes for two weeks, and it is no better, I think it needs to see you.". 

But, all owners have been clever enough to bring their pet in to have their pet's eyes checked, so that part is all good.

What many people think though is that conjunctivitis is contagious in dogs.  Most times it isn't.

What many owners also think is that cleaning the eyes of their dog's is enough.  Most times, it's not.

Fortunately, no one has come in asking for drops or ointments for their pet's conjunctivits without a consultation.  That is so refreshing, and a very intelligent move. Why? Because as "oils ain't oils", (those of you who are my age, know which oils ad I am talking about),  causes of conjunctivitis are not equal, and thus, the different causes need different therapies.

The eyes are not imaginative in how they show that they are pissed off with the world.  They weep, produce mucoid sometimes green discharge, it closes a bit, and becomes overall unhappy.   And the cause of this can be scratch, foreign body, infection (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic), allergy, neurological,  etc etc etc.  

Are all of these causes treated the same way?  Heck, no!  You don't need a vet degree to know that you don't put eye drops into a eye with a foreign body - you remove the foreign body. You don't use antibiotics for allergies - you'll get nowhere!  The best chance of a successful treatment is to treat the right condition.

In the past few weeks the causes of conjunctivitis I have seen include
- irritant (going to the beach, or due to the winds a few weeks ago)
- allergic (it is spring after all)
- Mites (demodectic mange causing eyelid infection, the dog was rubbing its eyes because it was itchy, and caused the conjunctivitis that way)
- a cat scratch - cat's are busy at the moment causing grief, including "scratching eyes out".
- normal - no conjunctivitis but the dog was so excited everytime it went for a walk (and it is spring so this was daily), it's eyes went red with excitement (way to go "sympathetic stimulation").

All are treated differently, and all need follow up check ups to make sure that things are improving.

And cats are not small dogs, and dogs are not small people.  Treatment of conjunctivitis is different for dogs and cats. 

But it is late at night, your pet's eyes are red...what do you do.  Do no harm! 

There are alot of do nots.... so won't go into that list.  If you want more specific information, you can read my newsletter from a few months ago.  Visit and then visit the Enews archive. But please,  do no harm. 

Use a compress of cool boiled water to clean discharge. Apply for 1 minute, and then gently wipe away any discharges  And get your pet to the vet as soon as you can. 

Pet's have only two eyes - look after them! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I am a magician!

Yes, its true. Apparently, I am a magician. 

With no magician training, nor experience, it appears I can do magical things.

Of course, the audience (owner) then gets disappointed, when they come in with their pet, expecting me to wave my magic wand, or weave a magical spell, and magically cure or fix the problem.

I often have consultations where pets have been showing signs for many months, and suddenly, the owner wants the problem fixed in a week.    Why let the pet suffer for that long if you honestly thought a weeks treatment would fix it?

Many a time a client will walk through the consultation room, and not even before I get a chance to put the pet onto the table to examine it, I am asked for the diagnosis and treatment of the problem. And the owner then gets all huffy and puffy, when I say " I need to examine your pet first"

Another classic case is the client who says "my dog has conjunctivitis and just needs some drops". When you go to actually conduct a complete eye examination, they go on about how they just needs the drops, and don't understand that an examination is needed.  "What if your dog had a grass seed? or a scratch on the eye".

Disappointing people is something I hate to do, and, not giving them the answer they seek about their pet's medical condition, equally hits me hard.

But, sorry, I am not a magician. I refuse to come up with a diagnosis of your pet's condition unless I am pretty sure.  This doesn't equate to "I  have no idea what was wrong with your pet", but, simply means "unless I can say 100% your pet as ABC disease, I will leave my diagnostic options open".

And no, I have no magical therapy that will cure your pet's skin problems, or fix their arthritis, guaranteed.  That magical potion doesn't want to exist in my veterinary hospital.

But I do have treatment plans and options, which will, at least, make your pet as comfortable as they can be.

So, sorry that my title disappointed you.  I am not a magician.   Just a humble vet, trying to do the best she can for her pets.

Friday, September 21, 2012

To be social, sociable and socialise

The words social, sociable and socialise have a specific dictionary meaning.  But lets not waste time reading the dictionary for a definition of these words.

In the real world, they mean very very different things... these are contextual words.

"I am not a social person, but I am well socialised.  I do not socialise, per se."

Take the above phrase.  In this context, " a social person" is one who goes out with lots of people, has an active life, and overall, knows lots of people.  Well, I am not a social person.  I don't go out and party. It can also mean that if someone gets up close to me, I don't really want to talk to them.

"I am well socialised" and that is true.  In this context, a well socialised person is one who allows each person to occupy their space.  In other words, I respect that every person has a right to exist in this world, and I try to be tolerant of these other people.  I may not always like or respect what they do, but this isn't about liking or respecting, its about tolerance and allowance.  

"I do not socialise, per se",   No, I don't like social events.  My eldest daughter said to me the other day, that she has to rely on her friends to show her how to "do lunches", as I don't "do lunch" with friends.

So what if I looked at these words in the context of a dog.  From a dog's perspective.  What do social, sociable and socialise mean to them, especially as part of  their daily lives.

Let's start with social.  Everyone wants to take they dog to Doggie Daycare, and to the Dog Park, and let their dog's play with other dogs.  Some dogs like this, and get alot of enjoyment of it.  And many dogs, well, this is living hell.  It is like attending a party you just don't want to go to, but being forced to by other well meaning people.

Dog's don't need to be social with each other. Dog's don't need to like every single dog out there.  They don't need to be social or sociable to other dogs.

But they do need to be well socialised.  Going to Doggie Daycare doesn't make them well socialised, but they do get to be sociable and social.  A well socialised dog is one who allows another dog their space - looks at another animal and says "Well, you have a right to be there, I have a right to be here, we don't need to say hallo, but we don't need to fight either. "  This is a well socialised dog.

It is not a dog that goes bouncing up to every other dog in the park or playground and says "Do you wanna play?"  This is a social dog and a sociable dog, but really, this dog is mostly a pain in the proverbial.   I really love happy dogs coming into the vet clinic, but this isn't about the vets, it is about a dog in the park.   I once read an article that described the social sociable type of dog as actually rude.  It likened this dog to someone coming up to when you are sitting in the park reading a book, sitting right up close to you, putting their arms around you, and talking to you like you are best mates.  Whereas the well socialised one, is like the person who may sit on the park bench, but pull out their own book, and leave you well alone, unless a conversation is needed.

A social and sociable dog can be a well socialised dog, in that they know who to approach and who not to approach.  Or they can be a total fruitcake, and get in your face (but unsocialised).

But, if your dog is not well socialised.... that is, if they don't respect the space of others, then you do have a problem that needs to be addressed.

When I look at the mad world around me, I realise that many human beings aren't well socialised either.  And this is a shame, as it is only when we learn to allow each its own space, that the human race has a hope.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A life lived in fear.

In a Baz Lurhman movie, there is a line by the heroine, which was.... "A life lived in fear is a life half lived."   Of course, she was trying to tell the hunky dancer to follow his heart, and his dreams, even if he went against conventional dancing.

But the line can be taken in many other ways to.  "A life lived in fear...."  Watching the TV screens yesterday with the violent clashes in Sydney (and in other countries), made me very fearful.  I was absolutely petrified that such violence and aggression has hit our shores, and what does this mean for our community.  The quiet and meek can easily be belted down by such aggressive and violent outbursts.   We all try to co-exist happily in our society, and then it explodes into lunacy by a few. And then it will go back to quiet again, when those who were violent justify their actions.  And those who watched in fear, will live their life in fear.

There is no justification for violence other than self defence. 

I will be fearful of these violent people, and the speed that they can be provoked to anger.  A life lived in fear....

Our pets feel the same way.  They are often fearful of the world around them. Many pets are scared of the vets.... and act violently in some cases.  We call them "fear biters".  A small movement can provoke them into biting.  Is this acceptable? No. Is it understandable?  Yes. Is it preventable? Yes - the more visits they have (not less), then the more likely they see the vets as a happy place to go to - a haven of liver jerky treats, and pats.

Many pets are scared of, or threatened by, other dogs - and they will lunge at them, snapping.  Sometimes, their snapping jaws will hit their target, and another pet will be injured.  This week I have seen several "dog bite wounds", and all of them have been from same-dog households.

Yet, these dogs will go through periods of happy co-existance until the next stoush. They will eat, run and play together. They will be best mates, and sleep curled up together on the same rug. And then, a trigger point - something that one wants that the other has, or some other trigger, and then its all biting, snapping jaws.   A life lived in fear.... for the owners (if they care), for the vet (definitely, as another fight is inevitable), and for the dogs.... for they too know that another fight is inevitable if they continue to co-exist in the same house. 

With known fear biters, their owners will often avoid vet visits... these pets will rarely get to the vets, as the owners get too stressed by the fact their pet is petrified, and may need muzzling, or sedating.   With inter-dog aggression situations, the only way to not have that happen, is to make the household an only dog household.  Simple.

Those dogs who are fearful of other dogs during walks etc, then the advice is to avoid those situations as you don't want the dog getting lots of practice on aggression.

And that is what happens with aggression.  The more it gets practiced, the more it becomes part of the normal psyche of oneself.  That is a given fact.  The more you do something, the better at it you get.   And the better you get at justifying your aggressive behaviour in the first place. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I could never do your job

The most common comment made to me (and I guess, vets all over) is "I could never do what you do."  And in most times, the context of this is a pet that has passed away, either through its own illness or accident, or at my hand, through humane euthenasia.

Many of them are right... if what I did was just a job, then no one could do it, unless you were a psychopath.

But today is National Pet Memorial Day, where we light a candle for our pets who were so much a part of our lives, and in many ways, guided our temperament.  As a vet, I have to light a few more candles than the average household, as there have been so many pets, although not mine personally, who had touched me and my family in many ways.

Grief, sadness, sorrow often fills the void where our animal's smile, playful glint in the eye, the eagerness to play ball used to sit.  Every day, most individuals remember, but today, we all come together to smile, as we were indeed fortunate to have these animals as  parts of our lives.

Our dog Teddy, passed away in November 2011.  His photo sits next to my desk still.  He is fondly referred to as Mr August, as he was in the 2011 Save An Angel Calender.   He is now the face of my Lost and Found facebook page, and the face you see on the left here too.  That is Teddy.

He fought against a horrible disease called Canine Lymphoma.  He had chemotherapy, and was successfully in remission. And then it came back, and we had to let him go.  He was euthenased at home, and by my own hand.  I still cry when I think about that afternoon, when it was a struggle for him to walk, and the look in his face when he saw his beloved tennis ball - he just didn't care.

Teddy was much more than my family dog.  He was a lifesaver.  He was the blood donor for my vet practice as his blood group meant he was a Universal Donor.  He saved many dog's lives through this, and whilst he didn't exactly volunteer, he didn't complain much either.   And when those dogs come in to visit for their check ups, I look them in the face, and see a bit of Teddy pumping around them.

He is what I would've called "a true gentleman".  We used to have a pet rat, Athena  It was summer, so his cage was on the back verandah (under cover).  I woke up at 3 to hear a whingeing sound, and went out to see what was wrong.  The latch on the rat's cage had become undone, and Athena was sitting in the middle of Teddy's trampoline bed, in lovely blankety comfort, whilst Teddy was lying on his chest, with his head between his paws, on the cold concrete.

His eyes looked so mournful, and so sad, whilst Athena was curled up, very comfortable and safe.

What a gentleman... or "gentle  man". 

Every time a pet dies, a bit of my soul goes with them too.  But it is with love and respect, that I do what I do.... I see it as  a gift given to me, to have a huge soul, to be able to hug all of these pets, and hold their hand into their next world.

Yes it hurts, and yes, I do cry (alot). And yes, sometimes the pain is unbearable, and I don't think I can carry on. 

Today, all of us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, light a candle to remember all of our pets who have died.  For it is for them, that we are what we are.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

A boy scout motto... Be prepared

The weather is so warm right now, that it is giving me a really bad feeling about what the next few months will bring.

Queensland has gone 40 days without rain.  Strong winds in the past few days in the 'Gong are nothing compared to what the Victorians have had to go through. Yesterday was a total fire ban in Wollongong.  And this is only Spring.

And what has surprised me in all of this is the knowledge that, if someone knocked on my door and said "Evacuate, now", I would not be prepared. I would not know what to take or what to do.

I read a blog of a vet in the US after their most recent Hurricane in Louisiana.  She was so proud of her clients for being prepared - they had time to prepare. They knew the storm was coming, so they prepared. Good for them, as this is awesome.  After Hurricane Katrina, they learnt alot as they made alot of mistakes.

Have you seen the movie "Terminator"?   She knew what the future held, and she prepared herself (and her son) for the time. Did you know that a vet is a good person to have around in  a zombie apocalypse?  Google it, and you will see.  Apparently, vets are good to have around in the time when the shit hits the fan.

Apparently sometime in December is supposed to signal the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.   Well, I don't know if the world is going to end, and I don't know if we should be stockpiling years of food, or building a self enclosed bomb shelter in our backyards that could sustain the entire neighbourhood for 5 years.

But I do know that if someone knocked on my door and said, "You need to evacuate, now",  I know that I am not prepared.  My family is not prepared. And that is my fault.

Be prepared.  Tomorrow (well, it is now 8.30 and I really need a good sleep, so, yes, I will put it off until tomorrow),  I vow to get my Pet's Emergency Details updated, uploaded to my vet, as well to a friend in a town away from me,.  I vow to get my First Aid kit together and ready for any emergencies for me, my family and my pets.  I vow to get a box together ready to grab in the event of that knock on the door that I need to evacuate, now.

And, I vow to hug my family every day, tell them that I love them, and value them, as bad things don't always happen to "other people".   And my cats... well, they get fed, don't they?  No, joking aside -my entire family deserve to be protected, and whilst many emergencies can't be protected, they can be protected from the feeling of "I have lost everything, because no one was prepared". I vow to have cat carriers/pillow cases/whatever to grab the cats and go.  We don't have a dog now, but if we did, we would vow to have leads easily accessible, ready to go.

My vet hospital has those pages available for anyone to borrow, steal, whatever.  Use them for the benefit of your pet and your family. Visit

for this information. 

But love your family  (four and two legged, haired or furred or feathered) - every day. Hug them, appreciate them, even if they look at you as if you are nuts.  It is far better to be thought nuts, and be nuts and show your love, than to go through the rest of your life reliving the moment of anger and not being able to retract those words.

And no, this is not a personal regret of mine... it is just an observation from the regret of others. 

Be a good boy scout... Be prepared.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bring Spring On

Yesterday, was a big day of "firsts" for us at Russell Vale vets.

It was the first day of Spring -- well, we have had them before - every year in fact!

It was the first Saturday of the month - nothing too unusual there.

It was our first day of our Dog Hydrobath, and we had the sum total of "zero" dogs.  But, that is due to lack of advertising the fact - and it was just as well, as Dirk spent the entire day (literally) scrubbing graffitti of our building (see an earlier blog post).

It was the day of printing of vaccination reminders, doing the birthday cards, updating invoices, and doing the stock control.   None of it directly involving touching or playing with pets.

But it was a great day for contemplation.  I, with many of my colleagues, attended a local seminar held by Animal Referral Hospital at the Novotel.

It was an interesting night where I learnt alot.  But all this learning finished at 11 pm, and for this old body, way past my bedtime.

Today - well it's Father's Day, and whilst I am not a Father, but a mother,  I am also enjoying the Sunday morning sleep in, hearing the chirping birds outside, and the soft snoring husband next to me (as I type this blog).

So, on that note, Happy Father's Day everyone. Bring Spring On!