Monday, February 18, 2013

Astonishing Secret: cough, sneeze, sniffle...

Why is your pet coughing?

Why are they sneezing?

"Ah Choo! "
Why is there mucky stuff coming out of your pet's nostril?

And the answer to all of these are... Coughing sneezing, discharging body parts are just a sign of irritated tissue.

And irritated tissue can be irritated from lots of different things... so it is again, what we call a "non specific sign". 

This Astonishing Secret series is all about how you can help your pet before you are able to get in to se us, or me, Dr Liz, the vet at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  Or, you may have your own favourite vet in your little corner of the world.... which is awesome, as I believe that every pet deserves a great vet!

What Astonishing Secret series is not, is a way for you to avoid your vet visit.... if your pet has a problem, they need a vet check.

Woof-cough-cough--- sharing the love!
So your pet is coughing, or sneezing, or mucky stuff is coming out of their nose. 

The first thing you need to do is...

  1. Make sure your backyard is escape proof, the gates are locked,
  2. Remove your pet's collar - or anything around their neck that could irritate them.
  3. If you must go walking (not my recommendation in a coughing pet), you need to use a chest harness instead.
  4. And then keep your pet quiet.  
The more your pet runs around, the more air flow through the nasal passages and throat, and the more your pet is going to cough, or sneeze, or struggle to breath. 

What not to do:
  • Don't give milk, honey or yoghurt... or anything else to "coat the throat"
  • Don't allow your pet to run around like an idiot, and
  • Definitely Don't allow your pet to mix with other pets until the cause of the problem has been identified.
So how can you help your pet until you can get them in to see a vet?

Oh, a quick word of advice.... don't just turn up at your vet without a prior warning.... if you were a healthy pet in the waiting room, would you want to be exposed to a coughing one? No, you wouldn't, so a bit of consideration goes a long way.  We have a protocol in place at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, which allows your pet to wait comfortably, seperated from other ones until we know it is not infectious.  

Well, it depends on which part of the respiratory system is causing the most grief for your pet.

Let's start at the nose end - the mucky discharge

You need to see a vet urgently if
  • there is bleeding, even if it is a little spot
  • the bleeding is like a "punched in the nose type nose bleed"
  • there is rubbing of the nose with a paw or along the ground (or any other sign of irritation)
  • your pet is making funny snorting noises and appears distressed as a result of it all.
If you don't need an urgent visit, what can you do at home to make your pet more comfortable until your vet is open?

You can
  • for a straight nose bleed, you can get a small wad of cotton wool, or toilet paper, or if your pet is big enough, a tampon, and place it in the nostril (make sure you do not go to far) to allow a clot to form.
  • For mucoid discharge... one nostril at a time.... get some cotton wool, soften it with some warm boiled water... and then gently apply to the nose for about 30 seconds to soften the muck. A dab of eucalyptus oil on the nose can help with clearing the nostrils (the tiniest amount as it is potent stuff and dogs can smell 1 part in 30 000).

The type of discharge can help us sort out what the cause is.... now the rule is not  fixed in stone but....

  • if it is watery, then most likely to be allergic or viral.
  • if it is mucoid, then most likely to be irritant
  • if it is purulent then most likely to be fungal or cancer
  • And the caveat is.... if it is due to good old fashioned dental disease, then it is bacterial and your pet needs intraoral dental radiographs to sort out the problem.
And your vet is the best one to sort out which is which.

Sneezing and reverse sneezing are interesting, and are not the same thing.  Sneezing is the forceful expulsion of air out, whereas reverse sneezing is air being sucked in.

Reverse sneezing is commonly seen in brachycephalic dogs (your pugs, shih tzu's), and occurs as a result of a post nasal drip irritating the back of the throat, combined with the overlong tongue and soft palate, causing an irritation.   Dogs can have multiple episodes, and it can be distressing to watch.

What can vets do ?

It isn't all antibiotics and anti cough medications.  What we do is actually do the "lay of hands" on your pet, to find out where the problem actually is, and then discuss with you what tests need to be done to find out what the problem is.

When we know the where and what, then we know the why it is, and how to treat! 

Now for the coughs and splutters.....

This is alot harder to give advice on, as the cough could be due to

  • any irritation of the trachea (windpipe)
  • any irritation to the lungs - whether it is outside the lungs, inside the tissue of the lungs, inside the airways
  • any irritation to the heart
  • even good old fashioned heartburn will cause a cough too...
So, any dog with a cough needs a vet check to get it sorted.  But what can you do at home to help them till they get to see the vet?

An urgent vet visit is needed if...

  • your pet is turning blue - this could be choke, or could be a heart problem - blue is bad, pink is good!
  • your pet is breathing rapidly when it is at rest - more than 30 breaths per minute warrants a vet check sooner rather than later
  • coughing at a night time or restless breathing - this  could be an early marker for heart failure so the sooner the better
  • if the cough appears to be productive - that is, the pet is gagging up alot of phlegm with it.
  • and definitely if the cough is associated with a nasal discharge - often seen in dogs with pneumonia, and you know how bad that is.

What can you do at home to make them more comfortable? 

That is why having a good relationship with your vet is important, as they can help you with advice on what over counter medications you can use until you can get them in.  Please do not administer any human cough medications without a vet say-so first. 

  • Keep them quiet, away from draughts
  • Keep them away from other dogs or cats if possible 
  • Gentle percussion of the chest with cuffed hands may help relieve any phlegm
  • Humidify the air - you can use a drop of eucalyptus oil in a bucket of hot water in a laundrey or bathroom or if you have access to one, you can use a nebulizer with saline.

What can vets do? 

After a full check up, we will advise you on what sort of procedures and tests are needed to identify what the problem truly is.  It is only with knowing what the problem is, and treating that properly, that everyone is going to be happy with the outcome. 

In some pets, it is just some antibiotics and rest, and in others, especially if asthma is expected, or Heartworm disease, then antibiotics will do nothing. 

But common things do occur commonly.... 

The common causes of coughing that we see in our area include...
For Dogs:
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Pulmonary nodules (primary or secondary cancer) 
  • Kennel cough (viral cough)
  • Roundworm (the larvae cause damage as they migrate through the tissue)
  • Obstructive Airway Disease 
  • Tracheal Collapse
For Cats:
  • Lungworm 
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Bronchial Asthma
  • Toxoplasmosis 

Please let me know if this information is helpful.  We just love animals at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, and we just want to help them as much as we can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: Straining to Pass Poo

This Astonishing Secret is a bit on the smelly side... it is all about shit, or the lack thereof.  

" I can't shit, man! It's wrong. Help!" says Charlie to the Town
Crier...otherwise known as the "Blabbermouth"
As a vet, I commonly get phone calls from loving pet owners, whose pet is straining to pass a motion.  And, some owners just want over the phone advice.

"My dog is constipated, what can I do", is usually how the conversation starts.

And then I usually have to advise them that without a vet check, alot of other things could be going on, that looks like a constipated dog (or cat), and we hate to give the wrong info.

Not being able to pass a motion, do a crap, pass number 2's, straining to defecate, well, you know what I mean... well, it is..... uncomfortable to watch, and definitely, uncomfortable to be the one doing the straining!

Now, here is a moment of truth.... I have seen pets come in to see me with the owners saying that their pet is straining to defecate which ended up being something totally different.  Such as...
A beautiful pregnant cat... but some cats and dogs hide
their pregnancy well.
  • giving birth - the owners didn't know their pet was pregnant (a true story, as I never need to tell any other kind)
  • straining to urinate - they had bladder stones, and were obstructed. They were not constipated at all.
  • severe metritis - after birth the uterus was infected, and the dog was straining to pass the retained placenta.
Sorry for the "eeew" examples, but truth is pretty gross.

So, in any of the above cases, the owners thought their pet was constipated, but when the pet was examined, they weren't.  Now, I am not saying the owners are dumb and don't know any better... but I am saying that without a vet examination, the advice I could've given could have killed these patients.

So, as "oils aint oils" as the old commercial used to say, neither is "straining to pass poo" means a constipated pet.

But this Astonishing Secrets series is about how to help your pet once you have confirmed constipation.

What you need to do :

  1. Pull up all of your pet's dry food
  2. Give them access to lots of water
  3. Think about the type of foods that gives your pet the runs (i.e diarrhoea)
  4. Feed  your pet those foods from point 3.
  5. "Relief. Aaaah!"
  6. Wait.


  • If your pet is straining to defecate
  • If your pet is passing blood or mucous
  • If your pet is vomiting...
Then your pet needs to be hospitalised, and treated aggressively, uness your vet thinks otherwise once they put their hands on your pet.

To help your constipated pet.... these medications are for humans and available in NSW, Australia. For those in other areas, please check with your vet. And, in fairness to your vet, there is no reasonable reason why they need to help you, as they know, like me, that what you think is the problem, and what the problem is, may  be two different things.   But, back to topic,  this is about helping your pet....

To help your pet...
  1. Bland food - I suggest cooked chicken or fish plus yoghurt   OR any food that you know will cause diarrhoea - and small volumes.... i.e a teaspoon full.
  2. Faecal softeners - these may include Coloxyl or Lactulose - available over the counter at the local chemist.
  3. Mild laxative - I usually use Coloxyl with Senna or Lactulose.
  4. Enemas - in most cases, this is not necessary - you can apply KY gel (lubricant) around the anus, to help lubricate things, or you can use Microlax Enema - a single dose only.   Most pets will defecate within 5 minutes of using this.  If not, then they need more aggressive veterinary therapy.
  5. Access to water. Water is your pets best friend if they are not vomiting.
Once your pet has passed the "nugget", and the flood gates are opened, then stop all laxatives and faecal softeners.

And, address the cause of the constipation in the first place.  In most cases, it is due to chewing on bones or eating crap food. 

And for undesexed males, an enlarged prostate gland also makes doing a crap uncomfortable. Desexing these guys can help prevent future "straining to past shit" scenarios.

I hope this information has helped your pet in their time of need.  

Oh, it is also a good time for you to know what your pets poop should be like...

It should be soft, malleable, like playdough.
It should leave a wet residue where it has been deposited.
It should have a reasonable length.

It should be a dark brown colour, and shouldn't have any bony fragments, or other obvious food fragments within it.

There should be no mucous, no blood, no watery component to it... it should be formed through out the entire poop.

Sorry to get down and dirty, but we all poop, and knowing what your pet's normal poop is, and when it changes, it can be your early clue that things are not well.

What diseases can constipation be a sign of?
  • kidney disease - low grade dehydration causes drier than usual poop. And it is seen as constipation, when the actual problem is kidney disease.
  • Spinal disease - if there is nerve damage as a result of severe arthritis of the back, a back/disc infection or for anything else affecting the lower back, the nerves that innervate the colon do not work... so we see it as constipation or faecal incontinence.
  • Pica - eating strange objects, such as hair, grass, tree roots, soil.  Pica is a behavioural problem, or can also be a sign of a nutritional imbalance.
And here you thought a pet not being able to crap is a simple problem, and not worth a vet visit! 

Think again!

I am always here for you, to help you wherever I can. For happy, healthy pets, see Dr Liz at Russell Vale Animal Clinic

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feed, Brush, Wipe, Wash, Scale .. your pet's teeth

Another Pet Dental Month is here.... same old, same old... message that is.

And that message is......  80% of pets older than 3 years of age, have some degree of periodontal (dental) disease.

A statistic I don't understand (well, I do understand what 80% is, but I don't understand how so many of our pets suffer from this disease?).

How astonishing! 80% of animals (not limited to just our pets) have dental disease!  (this includes us too.... true!)

So let's look at why - what are the steps to keeping our  (human) teeth healthy.   So, it is about the foods we eat (avoiding sugary foods, and drinking flurinated water), how we brush, how well we floss, the mouth rinses, and then the visits to the dentist. 

So now, how does your pet fare?  What food are you feeding them?  Are they dental protectant? How often do you brush their teeth? Any rinses? What about the visit to the vet for their scale and polish treatment each six months?   I suspect that many of you are doing fantastically well in all of these areas, and others, well, are not convinced your pet needs it.

Feed, Brush, Chew, Wash, Scale .... for healthy teeth!


When I put my pet owner hat on, I know that Pandora, and our three cats at home won't let me brush their teeth, and there aren't alot of cat Dental chews available either.  So for me, using a food with a strong dental protectant in it, is important.

Now, this isn't a Brand Power commercial, but I feed my cats Hills Feline t/d exclusively, as with this, I have peace of mind knowing that I am doing all that I can to keeping them healthy.   And their annual dental check ups under anesthetic, where I do perform the full bit (dental chart, xray, scale and polish)  for these children of mine, prove my point.

You can visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council website to see what other diet and dental protection options are available in your area for your pet.


As you know, brushing teeth is the Gold Standard of home care for teeth.  So, do you know how to brush your pet's teeth?  Have you tried?  Well, there are alot of videos on youtube how to do it, and here is a link to one of my favourites.

Those owners who brush their pet's teeth, are doing the best thing they can!


Some pets, well brushing, per se, is not possible, and, well, you are not ready to go for the dental diets quite yet.  Well, there are alot of dental chews available now, but not all are created equal.

What chews are the best to keep your pet's teeth healthy? And how often should they get one?

But have you thought about carrot sticks too?  A natural, cheap alternative to those who take to it?

There are many chews out there, but we like Dentastix, Denteez, and Greenies. Which one is the best for your pet depends on how they chew - the best one is one where your pet actually spends at least a minute actively chewing the treat.

And, it should be daily for the best result.

You can book your pet in any time of the year, for their FREE Pet Dental Check, as all of our pets are entitled to TWO Free Dental Checks each year.

We do not recommend bones at all, and if you want to know why, read here.


The washes.... the rinses..... the water additives that make you feel better.   Well, don't get too warm and fuzzy here.  Sorry, but using them is like using a human mouth wash on yourself without brushing!  Your breath may smell a bit sweeter, but really, the plaque is still on your teeth! 

But there are some good ones out there... such as Hexarinse and Maxiguard Oral Cleansing Gel, which may help slow down the progression of periodontal disease.


Has your pet undergone a professional dental cleaning in the past two years?


Is your pet less than 7 years of age?

If you answered Yes to one or both questions, then your pet may be suitable for our $249 Dental Xray, Scale &  Polish Treatment.

I no longer perform any dental procedures on any pets without the benefit of radiographs.  It is just not fair for your pet. 

It's not a movie, but a clip from one! Dr Liz (me) hard at work
getting a pet's teeth pearly whites! 

What does that involve?  Well every pet gets a full check up, they are then sedated, and given a full general anaesthetic.  They are not going to sit in a chair and say "AAAh" like us.  

We then go through the entire mouth, and check each individual tooth (in dogs they have 42, and cats have 30), and we give each tooth a grade ( from 0 (great) to 4 (absolutely horrible).  Not all teeth are created equal, and we can have great teeth, and some really horrible teeth.  

Once we have done that, we know which areas benefit from an radiograph (the $249 price includes 2 radiographs). And with our handy dandy digital Xray system, they are done! 

With that information, we can assess if there is anything else we should be doing to keep your pet's mouth healthy, which usually means extractions, or if everything is hunky dory, then away we go, and then do the actual scale and polish.  
"Oooh.... look at that horrible spot, and the tooth looks normal
from the outside. That one has to go too." says Dr Liz!

So your pet isn't just getting a "scale or polish" or a "dentall", when its done by Dr Liz at Russell Vale Animal Clinic,  but a fairly comprehensive look see into their mouths.

How often should your pet undergo a professional dental cleaning? In many pets, it needs to be at least each 6 months, as periodontal disease can only be managed, not cured. In others, each 2 to 3 years is sufficient.

In my pets, they have their teeth checked each year,  as I want to keep their livers, kidneys, and hearts as healthy as I can, and I know I can do that by keeping those pearly whites healthy too.   But they also get annual blood work, and chest radiographs, as an extra check too.  

And I started doing this in them when they were 18 months old!  Yup.... that young.  Because I don't want my cats becoming a statistic. 

After all, it is all about having happy and healthy pets.   And preventing, preventable diseases, is what it is all about for veterinarians, not just me!

Any questions, sing out! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Itchy Skin - Feline Style Part Two

fleas, itchy cats, solutions at Russell Vale Animal Clinic
Your pet could have this thing as its dinner guest.
Part Two is exactly what Part Two means.... I am now going to talk about the other common causes of itchy cats... the ones vets see day to day.... the last blog started with....

"As summer has rolled in, so have some very frustrating conditions in our pets.... that is the itchy skin, or summer itch or seasonal pruritis or whatever other name we want to give it.

The pet's feet or tongue are spending more time shredding their own skin to bits than eating food or walking on the ground. And, at the same time, the owners frustration level is close to reaching new heights, as again, they have to bundle their pets into the car, and on the way to the vets.'

In my last blog about itchy pets, I then talked about our cat Dashie which had a flea/lice related dermatitis easily solved with four doses of fortnightly Bayer Advantage for Cats flea control. (and let's not forget the monthly treatment thereafter, come hail, rain or shine.... i.e every single month!) .
I am not itchy... I just can't hear what you are saying... speak
louder sonny....
Rather than start with the skin conditions here, as I have no doubt, if you are reading this, you know what your pet's skin may look like,  I am going to start with some reasonable therapies you can start for every single cat with skin problems, without even knowing what their problem may be. 

Why?  Because my pet owner hat feels your frustration about your itchy cat.  And, because, my vet hat knows that the skin is not imaginitive in showing that it is inflamed... it will be itchy and irritated whether the cause be allergies, fungal infections, bacterial infections, immune mediated diseases, or some other funky disease. And that is where your vet visit is essential.... what is causing the problem.... how can I fix it!

But let's be honest.... common things occur commonly.....

And, so, let's extend the honesty even further.... have you ever seen your cat groom itself?   If you have, why on God's Earth do you think you will see the sneaky little black crawly thing, otherwise known as the flea, or the little dot hiding in whatever square millimetre of skin where the mosquito bit it.

So, you think your pet has no fleas, and doesn't know what a mosquito is.... Congrats.  But if your pet is itchy, you will still need to do these very important steps anyway!

1. Quality flea control - absolutely essential.  Now, this isn't flea powder, or the most expensive flea collar you can get your hands on.  
2. Minimise access to mosquitoes
3. Sensitive Skin diet or even a Food Allergy Diet.
4. Shampoos and conditioners in the early stages
5. Avoidance to grasses, pollens or isolation to a single room to minimise contact.

Now, the above are general ideas, which you can use if you are local to Wollongong, and perhaps other parts of Australia.

The Flea Control:
Fleas often cause little sores over the body, like multiple insect bites, and in the worst cases, parts of the lip starts to be eaten away (a rodent ulcer), or the back of the legs or base of ears are raised, red and sore looking.  It is often given the name Miliary Dermatitis or

As for flea control, My personal preference, and what I have used in my own pets, is Advantage made by Bayer, applied each 2 weeks. Note, I receive nothing from Bayer for saying this (zilch, nothing, and I don't even sell it on my online store, so this is a genuine recommendation... note that this is what I believe in February 2013, and may change if new flea products become available, so if it is 2014 and beyond, please check with me first).

My next favourite is Ilium Frontera Spray, applied each 8 weeks.... but it is a spray, so really, some cats deal with it, and some don't!.

Lastly, if your cat tolerates tablets, then it is Capstar daily for 21 days and then given each week. But alot of cats don't like the tablet thing either!

The Mosquito Dilemma:
An interesting point that had been mentioned to me by a colleague is that mosquitoes like cats in the morning and dogs in the evening.  Don't know if that is true as I am not on speaking terms with mossies (tend to smack them first, ask questions later), but it is a reminder that the peak danger times is morning and night (or dusk and dawn).

Mosquito Bite Hypersensitivity causes alot of little ulcers or spots on the nose, base of ears and the eyelids. 

The best treatment is placing your cat into a mosquito free zone from dusk until late morning.

The next best is a mosquito repellant... the one that is safe to use in cats is Buzz Off. 

Food Allergy Diet:

Well, this is hard!  Did cats in the past suffer from food allergies, eating mice and rats?  You betcha!

This is not a new world disease.  It is just more common because we are actually watching and caring about our cats!

We often will see yucky ears, scratching on the head, and neck area, sores in the mouth, and sometimes vomiting.

So what to feed.... keep it simple.  Novel protein ..... We recommend a treatment trial with kangaroo meat (on its own with no additives) for six weeks.  After that, if things improve, switch, slowly to Hills Feline z/d.

But changing food is not easy.... cats, as you know, are stubborn, and they just won't eat what you want them to. 

The Shampoos & Conditioners:

Have you ever tried to wash your cat?  I have never, honestly, washed my three cats... EVER!  But in some cases, this needs to be done.  Which ones?
- those with a thick thick undercoat
- flea dirt visible to the naked eye - if we can see it, they can react to it.
- skin infections (pussy sores over the body).

Need some help on choosing the right shampoo? Click here for some extra help.

Ok, so you now feel brave to wash your cat. 

  • Get a good cat basket with a wire top, that way, your cat can sit there comfy, and constrained, and not able to hurt anyone.
  • Choose your shampoo - For cats with skin infections, I recommend Dermcare Malaseb shampoo - diluted well. And leave on for no longer than 5 minutes.   Rinse very very well.

And then towel dry.

BUT, every shampoo, needs conditioning.   I use Troy Oaticoat Conditioner in all cats.

The Avoidance Thing

Pull up your wandering dew, demolish your lillies, and consider investing in a bubble room for your cat!

Avoidance is great.  Cures everything.  But it is also next to impossible in many cat lifestyles!

In Conclusion...

Not convinced? Then consider this scenario....  You have a bird, or several birds.  They are itching and scratching. Perhaps feather plucking.  What is the first thing you think of?  Of course, you think of parasites.  You check, and see none.. So what do you do next?   You get your hands on some parasite stuff and treat them anyway.  And you continue doing this for 3 or 4 times before you give up.

Why not give your cat that same benefit of the doubt.....

But if in any doubt, your vet can (and I know definitely we can), help your cat!

Oh, and please don't read this, follow my instructions, and then go to the vet and say "I have tried everything", because until you have been to see a vet, you haven't.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: Vomiting & Sore tummies...

Every week, vets are getting phone calls and emails about pets who are vomiting, or who have sore tummies.

Russell Vale Animal Clinic vomiting dogs cats
"I have never vomited up carrots, have you?"
Surprisingly, only half of these phone calls or emails are from people who actually think their pet needs to see a vet about this problem.  And maybe, they are right.

But, even as vets can sometimes underestimate the severity of a pet's tummy issue, and get sued for it, owners can too - and the worst they get is a very sick pet, out of pocket expenses trying to fix the problem at the vets, or a dead pet.

And we don't want any dead pets, or sued vets! Just  happy, healthy pets!

You'll remember that I mentioned in the earlier "Astonishing Secrets" posts, that this is not a "quick fix" post for your pet, but just some handy tips to help you  and your pet until you can get to see a vet.

And, the help your pet needs really depends on what the problem actually is.  Because the strange thing is,  vomiting is what we call a "non specific sign"... that is, so many different things can cause a pet to vomit, from old, or fatty foods, to a middle ear infection, and a million and one conditions in between, that the management of vomiting, tends to be equally "non specific", or what we call "symptomatic therapy"... you are treating the signs, not the disease that caused it.

Vomiting and sick pets
Rabbits cannot vomit, but they can get
sore tummies.
Well, we all know that if you have a tyre that is constantly going flat, and all you to is pump it up full of air each time it deflates, that you are going to be doing alot of filling up, without actually getting anywhere.  And treating vomiting symptomatically is a bit like that.

As I've mentioned, it is about getting your pet comfortable before vets get a chance to examine them....

Please collect....

1. Your pet's food bowl
2. Your pet's water bowl.
3. All of your pets food and treats.

Place 1, 2 and 3 away from your pet for the time being.  Take it away, hide it up high, put it back in the cupboards.

Oh, and don't forget access to grass, treats, or anything else that they may want to gnaw on.


Well, think about how they may be feeling.  They may be feeling heartburn from the acid of the stomach contents from vomiting, or they may think that they brought up yummy pre-digested food, so they can go back to eat again.

But the problem comes when their stomach is not feeling any better, and they just continue to vomit up the stuff that they just drank and ate. And some pets will just eat their own vomit.... eeew! True, but eeeew!

And continued vomiting can make your pet worse, so let's not make it worse ourselves by giving them food and water too early!

Once the food is away, it is up to you.... Call your vet, make an appointment,  and  then observe your pet until you can get them in.....

An urgent vet visit is needed if...

  1. They cry in pain prior to or just after vomiting
  2. If their tummy looks like they are ready to drop puppies all in the matter of hours
  3. If they continue to vomit, despite nothing to eat
  4. If they just look awful.... they sound awful, and look awful.
  5. If the vomiting is projectile - like in the horror movies!
  6. Any blood, coffee ground looking appearance to the vomit, and definitely if it looks like bile! The vomit should never be yellow...
Strangely, though, I have never seen carrots in dog's vomit if they are on a commercial diet.... they  must've missed out on the carrot organ (lucky I guess).

Is there anything you can give your pet to help them if they are vomiting?   The best thing you can do is to do nothing... don't force food and water down them, as not wanting to eat when you have a gut ache is actually normal!

And forcing food down them can kill them.... what if they have an obstruction in their oesophagus, and can't swallow, what if they have  pancreatitis, with food stimulating further pancreatic damage. 

And the situations when a vet visit is needed sooner rather than later is if you have....

  1. given your pet bones - cooked or raw, we don't like them for most of our pets. bones are not a natural diet.... meat, guts, vegetables, left over grains are the diet that our pets were domesticated on, not bones.
  2. given your pet the leftovers from a BBQ, or ham, pork, fatty bits, or anything different

Dietary indiscretion is the most common reason why a pet will be sick.... not necessarily the most common reason why we, as vets, see them, as we don't see every single dog or cat that vomits.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am don't seem to be giving alot away?  It is because I want to stress the point that vomiting, whilst common, and in most cases, most pets cope, it can actually be a sign of something alot more serious, and we just don't know which group your pet may fall in to.

You'll remember I mentioned earlier that vets and owners can underestimate the problems that vomiting may be caused by?

Up to now, you have pulled up all food and water.  Had a serious look at what your pet has eaten or not eaten.  What do you do now?

How soon should you offer food?  How soon should you offer water?  What food?  What else can you give?

Frankly, I don't know the right answer for your pet!  There are no fixed, cook book rules here.  

And, the one who gives the instructions on what is the right time for stuff, is really, your vet..  Naturally, you'll want to offer alot of water, and the pet's normal food, and feel good when they eat.  Avoid that temptation though.

I think you will agree,  as you wouldn't start eating spicy food after a vomiting bug, neither should you feed your pet its normal food straight away.

Introducing food and water.....
I am going to assume here that you have taken your pet to the vet, and it has come back as  a primary gastroenteritis, and this needs home treatment.

  1. Offer a small amount of water - I start with a tablespoon of water only - and I don't force the issue either.
  2. Offer a small amount of cooked chicken or some other bland protein - like fish - it can be steamed, boiled with a bit of chicken stock - and I would start with about a tablespoon - or a teaspoon if it is a kitten or puppy.

And then I wait a few hours.

I wait, as I want to give an unhappy stomach, time to cope with getting back to the job of digesting food.  Is it up to it? Or is it going to start puking up again?

Once we know things are going to stay down, then over the next few days, I increase the amount of food, and feed maybe 4 times a day.  And I also add natural yoghurt too.... if the pet likes it.

So, a home made recipe for getting  a sore tummy on track...
1. Cooked rice -
2. Steamed or boiled shredded chicken - not raw!
3. Yoghurt to mix it through
4. And you can add it a bit of crumbled fresh bread, or finely chopped up cooked egg for extra flavour.

And feeding 4 smaller meals a day... and after 3 days slowly mix in the pets normal food.

And, of course, ALWAYS follow your own vets instructions, as they have your pet's best interest at heart!

If your vet says your pet needs blood tests, or surgery, then, yes, you can question them about whether it is necessary, but, as vets, we like to know what is going on... we don't like to try this and that, and hope that we grabbed the right treatment.

Just a word of caution - If your vet thinks your pet needs surgery, though, take their advice - very few vets want to open up a dog's abdomen, but all of us do it because we know we need to. We know that in many cases, if we delay intervention (for example, if your pet has an intestinal obstruction), then your pet may die. And we don't like dead pets.

Yours, for happy, healthy pets.... and hope you never need this advice!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Itchy skin - Feline Style Part One!

As summer has rolled in, so have some very frustrating conditions in our pets.... that is the itchy skin, or summer itch or seasonal pruritis or whatever other name we want to give it.

rash on head, itching cats, flea  allergies
The Itchy Scratchy Show
 The pet's feet or tongue are spending more time shredding their own skin to bits than eating food or walking on the ground.   And, at the same time, the owners frustration level is close to reaching new heights, as again, they have to bundle their pets into the car, and on the way to the vets.

Where, everyone knows, money then parts hands.  And this is the next most frustrating part of the excursion.  Things get better, the cat improves, winter rolls around, and when summer comes, it all starts over again.

I am sad to say, I have been forced to euthenase cats because of their skin condition.  And, I know clients have gone elsewhere as I refuse to give the "itch injection" without addressing other issues.  If you are a "itch injection wanted" kind of client, then you will need to go elsewhere.  Simple.

Now here is where I have to admit something big... personal kind of big.  Well, it's not life changing, but the failure to do something which caused harm to one of my cats, with an unexpected result, and, well.... it was humbling ( and a lesson learnt).

scratching flea dermatitis cats
I don't want to know that I have fleas or lice!
The putty cat?  Well it was Dashie!  And it happened a few years ago.  We slacked off flea control over a few months. It was winter after all.  Not too cold, not too hot, and well, we thought what harm could it do.

And then we noticed Dash's coat looking very very .... what is the word.... scaly, matted sections of coat, losing fur in clumps, little sores here and there.   It did have me stumped, as she was 6 years old, and had never had any .... I mean zilch, nada, zippo, nothing.... in  terms of skin problems since we had her as a kitten.

My vet heart sank.... I was thinking all sorts of horrid things.  So what did I do?  I checked her over.  Found no fleas. My other two cats were OK. We had no fleas jumping on us.  So, it was just poor Dashie affected. 

So, I did what needs to be done when you have a skin condition that looks "odd" or out of the ordinary.  I biopsied it. 

And to my shock, suprise, (and a Thank God moment), it was just a severe allergic skin reaction, most likely to fleas and possibly lice.

Well... fleas....lice ... really?  After only missing flea control for 2 months, in the middle of winter?  Three treatments of flea & lice control (quality flea control is required, and that is where, if you find a vet who knows about fleas and lice. can help you), and her skin and coat cleared back to normal.

And as an aside, my other two cat's coats looked better too, although they didn't look too bad to start with. Plus something not skin related,  they urine sprayed alot less too.  I suppose itchy crawling skin, and fleas upsets the cats too!

Lesson learnt?   In EVERY single case of a skin problem in EVERY cat, you need to start with FOUR doses of good quality flea control given EACH TWO weeks (if the registration labels allows it).. 

Okay... this is not a brand placement, I get no money for mentioning this, but my first preference for my cats for flea control is Bayer Advantage for Cats.

Wait for my next blog (part Two) for other options.

I went against the regular label, even though it is safe to do so, as that is what I needed to do to get my little Dashie better.  For Dashie.... this treatment made her coat go back to normal, without any need of "the itch injection." or any other anti=itch tablets.  I just had to be patient!

Now,hopefully, what I have written has helped the cat that doesn't normally get skin problems.  What about those who do?  And the ones that get owners thinking of euthenasia!

My tips for you.... are in the next blog......