Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: Sore Ears

" 'Ear ' ear'. " Says Charlie!
Your pet's ears are hot.  They are swollen.  There is yuck coming out of them.  And it is a Saturday afternoon that your pet has chosen as the moment to drive you nuts with the head shaking and scratching.

(Let's be honest here.. this didn't happen quickly.... but your pet is in distress non the less)

In short, your pet has irritated ears.  I won't go as far as to call it an ear infection yet, as that is really a diagnosis.... and there are alot of things that can cause swollen, yucky ears.....

 But first, I will go through the situations where your pet needs to see the vet quickly .....

  1. If there is blood, or yellow liquid coming out of the ear
  2. If the ear has been lacerated
  3. If it is hanging down, and feels soft like a whoopie cushion (or a small water balloon)
  4. If your pet appears to be in alot of pain.
If your doesn't fit into any of the other categories, then you need to make a time to see your vet as soon as you can (but it is not an emergency kind of visit).

Now, if I had 10 cents for every phone call or email out of business hours with a hysterical owner because their pet is in agony over their sore ears, then I wouldn't be writing blogs or working for a living, I would be retired!

sore ears painful how to treat ear infections
Ear infections hurt, so be gentle.
You'll remember that I mentioned earlier that the "Astonishing Secrets" series is to give you practical advice...... so here it is!

Collect the following items...

1. Make up removing pads, or wads of cotton wool, or swabs
2. White vinegar & Cooled boiled water
3. Gloves
4. Vitamin E cream
5. Antihistamines
6. An extra pair of hands - you are not going to be able to do this on your own without causing more pain for your pet
7. Lots of treats.
8. Ear Mite Treatment (most of the ear problems I see are not due to ear mites, but it is worth treating anyway - (I find Revolution by Pfizer works the best for my area, so speak to your own vet locally about what they find works best for them)

Ear Cleaner Recipe:

1. Make up a 50: 50 mix of vinegar and water (i.e 0.25 cup of white vinegar and 0.25 cup of cooled boiled water)
Hint: Instead of vinegar and water, you can use Malaseb shampoo (dilute it 1 part to 30 parts) and the water must be warm.


Put your right hand in front of you and shape it to an "L" as in "loser" using your thumb and forefinger.  That is your pet's ear canal - it has a vertical canal and a horizontal canal. 

All you will be able to clean and see is the vertical canal only.  So, a trip to the vet is needed to look and clean deeper.

Dunk your make up removing pads into the ear cleaner mix you have.
Squeeze out as much moisture as you can
Wipe the ear flap part only, cleaning away any discharges that are sitting there.
Clip or trim the hair around if you need to.
Use fresh wipes each time
Start cleaning out the ear canal gently, in a scooping motion, making sure not to push stuff in further.

Please Note:

  1. If your pet is in pain, then stop
  2. If there is blood, then stop.
  3. Don't use cotton tips
  4. Don't use olive oil, methylated spirits, eucalyptus oil or anything else that you wouldn't shove into your own ears.

As I've mentioned, this is here to help your pet.  You need to make sure you are giving them lots of treats whilst you are cleaning their ears, and you also need to make sure you don't get yourself bitten or hurt.

How to reduce the swelling?

Many dogs and cats need steroids to control the swelling, as in many cases, the ear infection is due to allergies.   Unless there is a reason why your pet shouldn't be on anithistamines, we recommend your pet has some. 

Our website has an antihistamine dose chart, but you need to know your pet's weight. And remember, it is for Australian Antihistamines.  If you choose to use antihistamines, you accept the risk of any potential adverse resaction.

Now for the pain?

That is where having a great relationship with your vet is going to hold you in good stead.

Do not give your pet Panadol or any paracetamol containing products.
Do not give your pet your own pain medication

DO speak to your vet (or me, if I am your vet),  about what can be used.

And why the Vitamin E cream? - rub a small amount around the ear flap and base - as a moisturising, soothing balm.

But a word of caution, this is general advice only, and is not to replace you taking your pet to the vet.

Naturally, you'll think that what you have done is enough... your pet is alot more comfortable, and you won't need to see a vet.

What do we do?  Why is a vet visit necessary? 

 Well, we can identify why the problem occurred, what the real problem actually is, and what is the best treatment.  And this may involve the use of prescription medications, and the law states ,a vet needs to see your pet to be able to dispense that.

And this is what vets do - diagnose and treat!

Has this helped your pet? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: The Beginning

"Keep Mum, hey!  It's a secret!" says Charlie to the
Town Crier (aka blabber mouth)

Astonishing Secrets.... The Beginning....

The beginning, begins here!   Obvious, hey!

In February and March of 2013, I am going to write, some simple, powerful, astonishing secrets (and, most of them not so secret), emergency home remedies for your pet, to get you and them comfortable before you can get them to a vet for a check up. 

Whenever you see Charlie and the Town Crier having a yakka (i.e a conversation), then you know they are sharing a few more "astonishing secrets".

You want to know why I won't tell you how to fix your pet? ... I would if I could in this blog, but in almost every unwell pet situation, an expert needs to put their hands on your pet to find out what the best long term treatment is.  And really, the best treatment is based on the right diagnosis, whereas, all I can give you is a few ideas on how to make your pet comfortable on the signs you see or condition you think your pet has. 
check up for dogs and cats at Bellambi vets
Vet work is not child's play!
Frankly, I see it almost daily, where owners spend weeks doing home treatments costing them more money when they go to the vets, than if they went there when the problem began.

You want an example? You think I am just joking?  Three time this past few months, the same scenario....

"My pet has itchy skin. I have used itch wash, asked my cousin who gave me their ointment, I asked the pet shop and they recommended this shampoo, I have been using this ointment from my ex neighbour whose dog's skin looked the same as mine." ....  and, by the time I see the pet, it looks totally different to when it first started, making me work that much harder to find out the problem.  And sorry, people, working harder doesn't work for me, as it costs you more for me to figure out what the primary problem was in the beginning!

Looking after your pet is not child's play... its not easy, because if it were, well, vets wouldn't exist.

So, my "Astonishing Series "  is not intended to keep you out of the vet hospital,
wherever you may be,
but to help your pet at the time when you have noticed that they have a problem,
until you can get them there.

But a word of caution, if you are using my recommended treatments, it is based on the diagnosis you have made.  My advice is to not diagnose your pet, but let a great vet do that for you. I think you will agree, that vets are experts in what ails your pet, if you just let them.

Form a relationship with your vet... it doesn't have to be a
cat-dog fight!
I will let you in on a little secret.... those pet owners who visit their vets regularly, and have formed a relationship with them, have happier, healthier pets.  Spending a little along the way, saves alot in the long run! 

You'll remember I mentioned earlier, that this is the beginning of a series on some therapies for common problems.  And with that is, an end, unless I get some more ideas from you guys!

In this modern day of all of this social thing, there are multitude of ways to get hold of me, and equally, multitude of ways that things get lost.... so you can write a comment, send me an email (you'll find it on my website), post it on facebook, google plus me, whatever.....  just let me know!

I am humbled to know, that I  (speaking for the entire veterinary profession here.... equally, humbled, I am sure) can only continue to be what we are, and do, because you need us to be there for you.

Hope you enjoy my "Astonishing Secrets" series.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Australia Day, Animals, And .......

We Heart Australia but can't it be a firework free day?!

Australia Day means different things to different people.  I am sure you will

agree that as this blog is all about animals, it isn't a a fair place to discuss the politics of this day. 

But, to me, Australia Day is about recognising that we live in the luckiest country in the world, and appreciate the fragility of our society, and landscape.   For others, it is about letting off fireworks, or achieving Citizenship, or, just a day off work to relax with family.

For our animals, it could be a day of family fun, or being absolutely petrified when the fireworks go off.

So, I am going to focus on family and fun. 

What are some fun activities with your pets?   I will go through a few ideas, and you can feel free to add yours also, if you want to share.   The best games for any animal, are those which mimic the behaviours that are already hard wired into their brain, but which, usually, in a domestic or caged situation, they don't get the opportunity to exercise in an acceptab 

And for most animals, it all revolves access to, and hunting for, food.  And this is where you can get involved to make it fun for them, as well as spending quality time with your pet.

Find the food game:

    Bellambi vet rat fun
  • Rabbits: You can hide pieces of food in your pockets and hands, and encourage your rabbit to sniff your body to find the food.  This has the added bonus of increasing handibility of rabbits, as they will often bite and scratch when handled, as really, they know they are "prey" to bigger animals, so will act defensively if they feel threatened.

  • Rats/Mice:  Similarly, you can hide food in your pockets and encourage your rat or mouse to play.  Or you can hide food in and around their pen or your room.

  • Dogs:  Many domesticated dogs were initially "village dogs", and scavenged food from the leftovers of the villagers.  Other domesticated dogs still retain the "search for food" of their ancestors, and so, hiding food or treats in around the backyard, is a great, mentally stimulating, boredom busting, activity.

Cats love to hunt and play.
  • Cats:  Most domesticated cats still retaining the hunting behaviours, which for many of us bird and nature lovers, can be difficult to cope with.  But this behaviour is hardwired - it has nothing to do with whether they are hungry or not, and everything to do with normal actions, like breathing.  So why not work with it?   You can create fun toys at home, such as tying cat balls together with braided string, and using lots of catnip spray. 


    Obstacle Course:

  • Rabbits:  Yes, you can make little jumps, and mazes for rabbits - use food to make it worth their while also!

  • Rats/Mice:  Well, you know about the tunnels and wheels for these guys, but how about ladders and little hidey holes for them?   Give them lots of things that they can shred, as well as use as bedding... they will love you for it.

  • Dogs:  You don't have to go to dog agility classes, you can set up an obstacle course at home for your dog.  Little jumps, long tunnels, hanging ropes off trees, make it all fun for them.  Dogs also love to dig, so even make a sand pit for them, and encourage them to use that, and not the spot around your clothes line!

  • Cats:  Cats love heights and exploring.... you know the saying about Curiosity and cats.  Give them an opportunity to go up high.  A fun, easy to make obstacle course  is a shallow cardboard box, cut little shapes out of the base, big enough for a cat paw to go in.  And in the box, put in a couple of balls with bells in them.  The cats love to stick their paws in, to try to grab the ball that makes a fun sound.

  • Now, go out, on Australia Day, and every other day, and play with your pet.   That is what having family is all about..... being with them!


    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Are vets the first and best pet whisperer?

    Are vets the first and and best pet whisperer out there? 

    Just to clarify, when I am talking about what is colloquially called " pet whisperers", I am talking about a large group of  non-vet people, who self promote themselves as being able to talk to animals, or to be able to solve barking, or escaping or any other problem the pet may have. I am not saying they are next to useless, and a waste of the money you may pour into them... I am just saying that they are not vets.

    And when I am talking about vets, I am talking about those who have gone to university, been given the Degree, in whichever country or state, which allows them to practice as Veterinary Surgeons or Physicians, or as I like to think of us.... vets... just vets.

    So, can vets be pet whisperers too?  It may be a surprise to many of you, but actually, most of us vets are.  And we are the best at it. 

    Why is it so?

    Before we spent the 70 plus hours a week doing our course, not including our holidays getting our prac work quota done.  And then working 70 + hours as a vet after we graduated, but being paid for a the average working week.   Even, before we even did our HSC (or the equivalent in whatever area you are in),  we were the pet whisperers.... we spent more time with our pets, or other people's pets than our human family or community. 

    Many of us "pet whispered" before we said DaDa!

    We connected with animals and we liked animals more than we liked people when we were kids.  We craved the presence of animals, as many animals craved us.

    I remember, when I was in fourth class at West Wollongong Public School, getting into trouble for having dog paw prints on my school uniform from some strays at the school gate jumping on me.  I remember the taunts by my peer group.  But I remember more about the animals I met in my childhood, than the people. (sorry to those if you are from my childhood who so happen to be reading this).  

    Those who are veterinarians are the original, one and only, pet whisperers. 

    What we do is a vocation, not a job.

     All other pet whisperers are wannabes...they know how to self promote, know how to get you to part money for their bits of whatever, but at the end of the day,  they are still wannabe pet whisperers. 

    I have seen ads by people saying that they can cure a pet's problem through a phone call.   And after the poor owner has parted with lots of money, the owner still finds themself in the same position as before. And by the time the owner has done this several times, buying into the ad hype of these so called "pet whisperers",  the owner is fed up.

    If the pet is lucky, the owner will mention the problem to their vet,  and a solution is reached.

    If the pet is unlucky, the owner reaches their peak frustration level, and takes the pet in to be euthenased, as they have "tried everything".  And there is nothing the vet can do or say to change the owners mind.  My heart breaks at this point!

    You will recall my original question. Are vets the  best pet whisperer?

     Most vets just get on with their vocation (it is not a job for most of us) of listening to the animals, and helping them as much as we can. 

    Which means that, after all that your pet has had to endure, sometimes the kindest thing is to euthenase, but sometimes, most times, we can inch your pet, through whispering, and a lot of good old fashioned hard work, back to normal... a happy pet!

    You know what?  If your pet has a problem, any problem, whether it be behavioural, nuisance behaviour, unwell or whatever, ask your vet first.    Let your vet be the first person you speak to about your problem.  Give them the first go, and not make them the last resort.

    I am Dr Liz, and I believe in the veterinary profession and in vets...  we are for animals, first and always.

    For happy, healthy pets (and all animals).

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    So you need a second opinion on your pet's illness?

    As a general rule,we are  told, that if you are not happy with the  opinion given to you on whatever it is that you are getting checked out,  whether it be your mechanic, electrician, or  your vet or doctor, to go seek a second opinion. That is, disregard the first one, and go somewhere else. Where are animals are concerned, though, the decision to go seeking a second opinion should be done under alot of consideration.

    Russell Vale Animal Clinic offers second opinion on medical cases.

    In  many cases, seeking that second opinion,  is the right thing to do, but before you go "vet hopping", there are some things you need to do to  make sure you and your pet gets the most out it.

    Ok, I am jumping ahead here.  I need to back up a bit.  You need to look at why you are out and about getting a second opinion on your pet, in the first place. 

    Is it really the right thing to do?  

    • Have you spoken to your first vet about the concerns that you have.  
    • Have you listened to what they have had to say back to you? 
    • Are you being honest with yourself about why you are seeking the second opinion?  Is it because they want to do tests, and you don't want to pay? or is it because they are not doing the tests you think they should be doing.

    In the cases I see as "second opinion" cases, they usually fall into  4  categories....

    1. The pet is seeing different vets at each visit, and there is no one really responsible for the overall case, so the pet doesn't improve like it should, or the same old treatment is being dished out at each visit.  Or, the pet is seeing the same vet, and ditto - no change.  
    2. The pet owner is being told different things at each pet visit, and is confused about what the problem actually is.
    3. The pet owner has an expectation that things should be improving faster than they actually are, and just want a second opinion in case the first one is wrong. 
    4. The pet owner has been advised by the vet that further tests are needed, and this is going to cost money, and the pet owner is not willing or able to pay for the tests, and just wants a second opinion for another "treatment trial". 
    5. A communication breakdown between the pet owner and the vet. 
    6. The opinion that the owner is getting is not matching the opinion the owner thinks himself, or matches the "Dr Google" diagnosis so they are trying to find a vet which matches what they think.
    Now I have no doubt some of my clients have sought second opinions elsewhere, as is their right.  I regularly see second opinion cases too... it happens.  

    Naturally,  you don't think you fall into the above categories, and you may not, but I think you will agree, being honest with yourself about why you are seeking a second opinion, will mean that your pet will get the maximum benefit from that visit. 

    Up to now, I have placed the onus on you.... what are your expectations, what are your limitations.  And I have asked you to be honest with yourself about that.   

    You know, I am not one of those vets that rubs my little hands together with glee when there is a second opinion case booked in, simply because it means, in my mind, a communication breakdown between the pet owner and the vet, and that breaks my heart. 

    Medical and Surgical diagnosis and treatment.
    Diagnosing a pet's illness is not "child's play". 
     The majority of colleagues that I have met and worked with, are hard working, dedicated, caring and knowledgeable, as am I.  And sadly, some owners of second opinion cases come in and say unpleasant things about my colleagues.... just don't do it.   You may be right in what you say, but it doesn't help me look after your pet better.... and it is all about the animals for me.  When your pet is in my consultation room, they are my priority, as is addressing any concerns you have.   Dr So and So is not my concern. 

    But sometimes, there has been a breakdown, or a personality clash, and so, you come to us for a "second opinion".   And that is within your right, and in some cases, is in the best interest of the pet, as we will sit down, and go over everything, with "fresh eyes", like a detective on a "cold case".

    And we will give you our honest appraisal of what is going on, and what needs to be done to get the improvement that you are seeking. 

    That is our guarantee to you.  We guarantee  you, that we will treat you honestly, and fairly, and address your pet's concerns with kindness and compassion.  And that applies, on whether you are a regular client of ours, or whether you are visiting us for a "second opinion"

    As the vet at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, I take what I do very seriously, and try to address owners concerns as best as I can.  So, if you do need a second opinion on your pet's illness, we are only happy to help.

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Answer Your Cat's Questions Day

    Looking through the "Calendar of Days" that I happened to find online, I was surprised to see that the 22nd of January is dedicated to "Answer your Cat's questions"

    So, what questions do cat's have to ask, I pondered.

    I wouldn't mind hearing what people out there think their cats would like to ask, but for the sake of this post, I have asked my three cats at home- Pusski, Fitz and Dash, as well as Pandora (the boss) at work.

     It was a surprise that, even though cats are renowned hunters, my cats decided that food was the number one question. Mostly, complaining that I don't feed them often enough during the night, as really, they are nocturnal hunters by nature, and I should be providing multiple meal opportunities through the night. So, I have deliberately avoided those kinds of questions, and went for some of the more unusual ones.

    So, ladies first. This would be Dash and Pandora.

    Pandora is the boss of Russell Vale Animal Clinic, and most of the time, spends her time walking up to dogs that don't actually like cats, or climbing onto the laps of clients who smell of dogs. 

    Pandora the Boss
    Pandora: Why did you have to fold the towels?  I was asleep on them. What can I sleep on now?

    Answer: Patience, Pandora. Another day will bring another pile of towels, as you know we like our pets to sit and sleep on comfy bedding, rather than dry newspaper.  In the meanwhile, you can sleep on the bed in my old bedroom at the back!

    Dashie acting all innocent.
    Dash: Can you leave the shower door open a little bit when you shower?

    Answer: Dashie, Dashie, Dashie.  Do you know how disconcerting it is to have a tricolour thing dash around your feet whilst you are in the shower?  And then you sit there waiting for another opportunity, with little beads of water on your head!  But, since you love it so much, Ok, we will leave the door ajar for you!

    So, gentlemen are next! And these are our cats Fitz (short for Fitzgerald Darcy), and Pusski (our inherited cat).

    Cats kittens at Russell Vale Animal Clinic
    Mr Fitzgerald Darcy... says "Really"
    Fitz:  What is a good time between 4 and 5 in the morning to wake you up so you can fill up the already -  full food bowl?

    Answer: Dear dear Fitzle.  You are going to have a short life if you continue to wake me up at 4 to come in for food, and then eat, and then go out through the cat flap, to then wake me again 15 minutes later to let you back in again.  That was the long answer.  The short answer is - there is no good time! But we love you anyway.

    Pusski:  How many hours have I slept today?

    Pusski -
    And, I forgot the 15 minutes you sat
    watching a program on
    Bird Watching on
    Answer: Pusski.... I know when you lived my dad, he used to sleep alot too, so the two of you were a pair made in heaven.  As for how many hours you slept, well, I was home today, and I think  you were asleep for most of the time I was awake, and I know you were at my feet for most of the time I was asleep.  So, I would put that at about 23 hours today alone.

    I am sure you moved somewhere in amongst that for the usual habits of eating, drinking etc, but I still suspect you sleep for alot more hours than most!

    Now, what questions would your cats ask?

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Insurance is like a blanket

    What every new pet owner needs to know....

    There is an old saying that you can't avoid death or taxes.  I really think this needs to be modernised, and have insurance added to it.

    Insurance is also something that can't be avoided by most of us.  We are all insured in one way, shape or form.  Most of us have insurance without even realising it, such as being forced to pay Medicare levy (really a tax), or Compulsory Third Party on our cars.
    Insurance is like a blanket!
    For those who have suffered through floods, only to find out their policies didn't cover it, or others, who were insured, only to realise that they were under-insured.

    On Christmas Day,  I got into a heated discussion with a family member over insurance.  Well, it didn't last long, as it really isn't worth fighting over. But, he made a point that he, at 31, was too young to have insurance.  I asked him at what age was appropriate to consider it.  I didn't get a reply.

    It made me wonder if many people feel the same thing about insurance for their pet.  When they are puppies or kittens,  it is hard to think about the things that could go wrong.  So, you wait until they are older as that is when you think this is best time.  But if you take pet insurance out when they are older, there are alot of "pre-existing " exclusions, that may make insurance not viable for you.

    Look, I have seen what insurance doesn't do, and I have seen what it does do.  And, really, we don't need insurance if we budgeted for when the shit hits the fan, or if we had a community that rebuilt the homes if they burnt down, or fed our children if we died, or animal services able to provide top notch services for free. 

    When things go wrong, we don't have some one  else catching us when we fall.... we need to be prepared ourselves.

    But my blogs are about animals.  And, going back to the title of my post.

    Russell Vale Animal Clinic recommends pet insurance
    If only there was a Medicare for pets! Oh, there is, it is called
    Pet insurance - but you have to take the policy out yourself!

    Insurance is like a warm blanket.   Well, that could mean two types of blankets. 

    One type of blanket is the wet, foul smelling kind, that, when it is wrapped around you, gives you the cold chill, and the hair stands up on the back of your neck.   Many people talk about insurance in this way. 

    I know that feeling.  With insurance, there is an expectation, almost an unwritten expectation, that it will protect you, no matter what.  And, really, that is understandable, as that is what their advertising is all about.  

    I also know the feeling of disappointment, when they don't follow through or fulfil what you expect from the promises they make.  I know as a teenager, when my mother was unwell,  she had income protection insurance, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, that insurance failed her.  She did not know to take the non-cancellable kind.

    I know I now can't get income protection insurance because of my weight, and I pay a premium on my life insurance too.  That is the cold wet feeling, hugging a cold, slimy blanket gives you. 

    And then there is the warm fuzzy, woollen blanket, that makes you feel like you are cuddling up to your mum, on a cold day.  That is when things are falling around your ears, you know that insurance is there to catch you (and cover the bills).

    And that is what I have seen pet insurance do for many pet owners.  So instead of the discussion about money, which I absolutely hate having to do, it changes to a discussion on what is the best thing to do.

    But here is the kicker..... say you didn't take out pet insurance till your pet was 2 years old.  And say, when your pup was 4 months old, it got an ear infection, which cleared up really easily on two weeks of drops.  Dogs (and us) get ear infections, which clear up just as easily.  And say, you had no further skin or ear problems for another 2 -3 years. 

    So your dog is now  3 or 4.  And they get another ear infection, because someone didn't wipe their ears out after a swim at the beach.  Great, you think, you have pet insurance.  Finally, after all those months of paying premiums, you will finally get something back.

    That is the warm feeling that insurance gives you. As a result, you Ok drops and medications, which, overall, aren't in the hundreds of dollars, but still is a whack out of your weekly budget.

    You'll remember I mentioned earlier the the cold wet blanket feel?

    That is what you feel when you get the letter back saying your claim was refused.

    Perhaps you are wondering what my point actually is?  It certainly isn't to suggest you ignore insurance overall. 

    I think you will agree, though, that you do need budget for your pet's veterinary needs, or you need to get pet insurance early on in the piece.  Those of my clients who took out insurance as soon as they picked up their pup or kitten, have not, overall, been disappointed with the decision.

    Let me make it simple for you.....I am speaking as a vet here.... you need to budget for your pet's health needs and you need to seriously look at insurance.

    It is OK to say "No, I am not interested in insurance"  so long as you understand my position when I refuse to pay for your pet's veterinary care because you don't have the money to do the right thing.

    If you want to know more about what we do at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, and our FREE four week pet insurance for our clients, then VISIT HERE!