Saturday, June 28, 2014

Buying Pet Products at the Supermarket

Every single working day, I am asked what are the best flea and worming products to purchase from the supermarket.  And unfortunately, every time I have to answer  "I don't know, as I rarely set foot in a supermarket".

"Listen closely - the best pet products at the supermarket are...."  

You see, I am an impulse buyer, and when I go to a supermarket to buy one or two items, I usually walk out with half  the store.  And we are broke if I ever go in to do the "family" shopping - and the rest of Dapto probably goes hungry!  It is the Polish side of me, I guess! We do like to "be prepared"!

But finally, this windy Saturday afternoon, after the millionth person asked me (yesterday), I have done the research, and the costings.... and debunked a myth in the process!

It should never be forgotton that all veterinarians care about pets, and want to help you look after them as best as you and they can.  I know that I care very deeply about all (well, most) of the pets I see every single day. 

 This often means that many veterinary hospitals will stock products that we know are the best for your pet - this is where we are different from pet shops, pet produce stores or supermarkets - they are there to sell you whatever product, and they will say whatever they need to say to "make the sale", and of course, they also will  have have a large range of products, most of which are probably not suited for  your lifestyle, budget or pet. 

An old photo of our "waiting room"

One of the other (many) prompters to write this post is a client who bought Frontline from the produce store to be told it "does everything" (well it does all fleas and ticks, but not worms ), and I recall another client two years ago who believed her pet shop attendant who said that "Revolution" was the newest best product (well, it is a great product, but it is not a new product at all). 

You see, I just hate misinformation, and having been at the other end of a liar, I just hate people who lie just to sell a product (or a house).  I have also seen pets who are on three different products, and the majority of them overlapped in what they did - we saved them alot of money by ensuring their pet gets just what they needed - no more, no less.

Unless you know what you are buying, you can often buy the wrong thing, or worse, buy something harmful to your pet - for example, purchasing a flea control product for a dog and using it on your cat!  A BIG NO NO!  Don't do it.

Our pet's health check list includes

Intestinal worming
Heartworm prevention
Flea control

 Of course it also includes vaccinations, microchip status (including database information) and nutritional advice too, but you can't buy those at the supermarket.

So, with Piper and Pandora's help, we are going to give you our "Pet Picks" for the supermarket products (and their prices), for your pet's health care program.  (and I also add in our prices for comparison, as many of you have cited cost as the number one reason you buy from the supermarket, not convenience). 

This is Piper (as a puppy)

Piper's Pet Pick for Dogs

  • Flea Control 

    • Exelpet Capstar - this is a tablet that can be given daily if we are treating Flea Allergy Dermatitis, or as needed if your pet is going into a high flea situation (such as visiting friends, grooming, or the dog park).  
      • Cost at Coles: Small Dog  $19.20 for a six pack 
      • Cost at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - we stock the veterinary brand, which is exactly the same thing.  It is $26.00 for a six pack.

    • Total Care Flea Shield - (Fipronil 100g/l) - this is a "spot on" similar to Frontline Original (it is a generic of Frontline)  It is not the same as Frontline Plus, Advantage or Advantix. 
      • Cost at Woolworths: Small Dog Up to 10 kg for a 2 pk is $28.80 (at a cost of $14.10 each)
      • Cost at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - we stock Frontline Original (the original brand)  Small dog (UP to 10 kg) is $45.00 for a 4 pack ($11.25 each)
  • All Intestinal worms and Heartworm prevention

    • Total Care Tasty Chew Heartwormer and All wormer - this is a once a month chewable which contains Milbemycin. 
      • Cost at Coles for a 3 pack for the 11-22 kg dog -$ 31.90 ($10.63 per tablet)
      • Cost at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - our equivalent is Milbemax, which does up to 25 kg which we sell singly, which is $13.50 per tablet.
Pandora (and her box)

Pandora's Pet Pick for Cats

  • Flea Control 

    • As best as I could see, there is nothing suitable for cats at all.  I will go to another store and have a look, and will modify this post if I find something suitable.
    • Flea collars and flea shampoos are not suitable at all, and flea spot ons that kill flea eggs, are useless.
  • Intestinal Worming
    • Exelpet Allwormer Tablet - 1 tablet does up to 5 kg, and it comes in a two pack.
      • Cost at Coles is $12.06 a packet ($6.03 a tablet)
      • Cost at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - our equivalent to this wormer costs $5.50 a tablet (up to 5 kg), but we often have cats who are heavier than this. 
An alternative we have does up to 8 kg (Milbemax) which costs $13.50 per tablet, but this also provides Heartworm prevention too. Pandora (and our other cats are on Advocate, and there is no supermarket equivalent to this).

A myth debunked

So, if it was down to the cost of the product, I believe I have debunked the  myth that vets are expensive.   I had also believed the line that the media sprouts (I should've known better where the media was concerned), but clients have also been telling me -  that buying stuff from the vets is expensive.

For the added information and advice you get, the guarantee that we, as vets, can give you if something doesn't go well, and the added peace of mind 

of knowing that you are using the right product in the right way, and overall, doing the right thing for your pet 

 - what is that worth to you, as a loving pet owner?  

As a pet owner myself, and especially as a veterinarian,  I know that I always have the pet and the pet owner's needs at heart, and I know I can safely speak for my profession here (well, for most of us anyway) when I say that.

But I also understand that the supermarket is easy for you, when you go into buy your groceries, so I do sincerely hope this information has helped you make the right choice when you get there.  So, choose wisely, and don't forget that your vet is always there, willing and able to help you when you need us.

Any questions, as you know, do not ever be frightened to email me or post a comment below.  If you are local, feel free to call us on 42 845 988 during regular business hours.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic. Stay safe, warm and happy please.

We are for happy, healthy pets... always, and we stand behind that statement every single time! 

PS Prices are valid at the time of writing (28th of June 2014) only.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dental discussion - A more unusual dental extraction story

Today was an exciting day for me.  (Well, most days are usually exciting when I come into work, as I never know what is going to happen).
(graphic photo alert, and xrays too - technical stuff below).

Dr Liz's Dental Discussion
Last week, I saw Sienna, for her annual vet check up.  Sienna is a 9 yo very happy, very energetic, Labrador! At that vet visit, with me, I found her fractured tooth. The crown was swinging in the breeze, so an extraction was necessary.

 Today, she came in to have an anaesthetic to have her  mouth fully examined  the fractured tooth xrayed and then extracted.  It was broken, and couldn't be salvaged.

A routine "dental" and "extraction", I thought to myself. 

Something nice and easy, as it has been a very intense, very busy few weeks for us here.  I should've known better.  There is nothing routine about dentals and extractions!

Sienna's procedure was anything but routine. 

Everything went smoothly, but what we had expected to find, and what we actually did find, well.... made it exciting enough for me to write about it tonight.

For her, it started with her examination, her sedation and then on  intravenous fluids.  She is a 9 year old girl after all, and she would benefit from the extra fluid support! That went smoothly. No complications there at all.  All of the monitoring gear, plus our trained nurses means our pets are very well looked after!

Once she was asleep, we "charted" her mouth - this means that we go around each tooth, and with that we found that she had a growth on her gum over her canine, and her jaw shuddered when I probed her lower incisors.  OK, we weren't expecting that!  Will talk more about that later!

We saw the fractured tooth - the crown was swinging in the breeze!  It was her third premolar, which, generally speaking, is a fairly easy extraction - section the tooth, remove two roots - Bob's your uncle, so to speak!


We have flipped the fractured crown back, and you can just see
a little tooth root spike below my finger.

This is the tooth in its more normal position - it was only the
odd angle of the crown that gave it away during her
vet check the week before.

So we went to radiograph the area, and what I saw was a surprise.  This third premolar, which in over 98% of dogs and cats, usually has two roots, actually had an extra root.  In other words, Sienna had a three rooted premolar (which should've been a two rooted premolar).

This changed the "routine" to the "non routine".  We had to change our anticipated plan on how we were to extract this tooth.

The 3rd premolar has 3 roots, not the usual two.
The root labelled "3" is the "extra " one!
What a lucky, special girl she is!  Lucky that we have dental radiographs at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, and lucky that we used them, rather than "assumed" the tooth had  two roots, and lucky that two of the three roots were easy to spot - they were the ones that were poking through the gum. It was only the third root that we had to find.

What made it all the more exciting was that the distal root (the one closer to the back of the mouth), had a little curve at the end - we could see that on radiographs, so accounted for that in how we chose to extract the tooth.  We could also see that the root in the middle had a bit of twist on it (like a corkscrew), which again, made for a challenging extraction. We did this one last!

 We knew that her tooth was at high risk of fracturing during the extraction. The tooth was already dead, hence the reason why it broke in the first place.  A dead tooth is a friable tooth - more likely to snap or break, and we always aim to remove the entire tooth root - in one piece preferably!

It took time and patience, and of course, skill!  A thrill, and a little pat on my back for a job well done when I could count three roots on the swab, and the radiograph taken confirms three empty sockets!  

But the most important thing though, is that Sienna will now be pain free in her mouth, with all of the roots removed from her very special three rooted premolar tooth.

The "post extraction" radiograph - showing all tooth roots
are out!  Yeah!

It has now been 10 years since we have had dental radiology (we started in 2004), and we went digital in 2009.  It was a huge financial investment, as well as a huge learning curve, but we believe your pets deserve that. Don't you?

What if we didn't have dental radiographs? 

Well, we would've seen the two roots - they were visible easily.  We would've extracted two roots, and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.  A root would've been left behind, enough to cause ongoing pain and suffering for Sienna.  She wouldn't have complained about it, as pets often don't complain about dental pain.

Sienna at the end of the day - Ready to go home!

What about the growth on her gum near her canine?

 We have excised that. It is in formalin.  We will speak to Sienna's parents about submitting that for histopathology.  As for the sensitivity between her lower incisors - well there was a wood chip in there, which we removed - she does love to chew sticks!  She has had periodontal therapy to salvage this area, and fingers crossed it works.

I am Dr Liz, the mad (and now cold thanks to the extreme winds in our area right  now) vet in Bellambi Lane. 

Did you know we offer free dental checks all year round?  No need to wait for Pet Dental Month here, as every  month is Pet Dental Month.  So if your pet has never had a complete dental check, why not book your pet in with us.  Call us on 42845988 or you can book online.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Piper's LIfe Story - The First Six Months -

Well, since we picked up our new puppy, Piper from the RSPCA back in February (or was it January 2014), she has been an endless source of joy, and ..... education.  If you think you have had problems with your pet, let me share with you the story of Piper's first six months!
Piper - during her first week with us.

The fear of thunder...

Firstly, she was fearful of thunderstorms and lightning - we spent many days of desensitizing her - this was successful with the help of her Adaptil collar and constant playing of thunderstorm music.  Now a thunderstorm happens, and she is a cool dude.

She then decided that any new noise needed her own bark to improve it.  And so she does.  No sooner that she gets over a noise, that there is a new one that she has never heard before.  Her reactivity to noise is a work in progress, but she is slowly getting better, or maybe we are running out of "new noises"? Either way,  it is improving.

And then it was kennel cough....

Within a couple of days of her entering our family, she started sneezing, and having gunky eyes.  No coughing though!  So, it was either allergies or viral.  And like a worried mum, I did the Canine Respiratory PCR test on her - and she had kennel cough.  I did advise the RSPCA on that one, but not sure what they could do to stop it given how it loves areas where there is a high concentration of animals. What could they do?  Nothing!

She made a full recovery.  Some antibiotics and staying away from everything including work.  We had to change our clothes as soon as we got to work to ensure we didn't infect any of our beautiful pets that come to visit us. 

Diarrhoea was to follow...

Piper's Giardia antigen test - two bands means
it is positive!
Puppy classes then began.... and she had severe diarrhoea.  Again, the worried mum did a faecal test, and found that our poor baby had Giardia.  We started her on treatment, and after her diagnosis, was screening more pets, and  found we had five other cases (thanks to the rain we had at the time).

 All would've been infected by drinking infected rain water! And thanks to Piper giving me a heads up to screen for it, I was able to test them, and treat them effectively.

A limping puppy....  one leg, then the other....

So she then hurt one leg - her front one, limp for a few days, then be fine.  Then it would be another front leg - again, limp for a few days.  And then she started limping on her right hind leg. 

We thought, as you do, that she would be fine again. After all, it hasn't stopped her from running, or jumping onto the bed, going up the stairs and having an overall amazingly good time!

More later on how important this ended up being.

And some missing teeth too ...

It was about this time that her adult teeth were erupting, and boy, was she chewing everything she could lay her little mouth on - toilet roll is shredded in two minutes (actually less).

Perhaps I could lend her to the government to their shredding of important documents department?  She is very very effective (and fast).  Highly recommend her for her paper shredding skills.

The car accident...

And then she was in a car accident with Tegan - and with that brought the realisation that we needed to xray her mouth, and xray her hips.  On this day, her limping was significantly worse.  So Xray her, I did. 

With her mouth, we found that she had unerupted first premolars on her left and right lower jaw.  These needed to be extracted to prevent a future complication of a dentigerous cyst. 

By this stage, Piper's nickname was  "the problem child".

And then the news of her "bad hips"....

When we radiographed her hips,  we found she had bilateral hip dysplasia, with her right hip much worse than her left.  Our hearts sank. 

 It was so obvious on the radiographs, and she also had a positive ortolani sign (which indicates crepitus or laxity). 

Oh my stars!  What words do I use to express our sorrow at our beautiful girl suffering this disease.

She had been on the best food, we had kept her lean, controlled her exercise.... and we had to realise that it was not our fault.  Hip Dysplasia is an insidious horrible disease, that can target any breed.

We booked her in to see an orthopaedic specialist straight away, and she spent a day there.  Initially she was a candidate for surgery, but after further review, it was felt that perhaps it would be better to protect her joints, keep her lean, and see if she "outgrows" the lameness.

  I received the same advice from colleagues on VIN (Veterinary Information Network).

And then I heard about a Hip Dysplasia talk that was due to be given by SASH (Sydney Animal Specialist Hospital) which was sent to all of the vets. It was a long way to go for a topic close to my heart!

I went, and heard about a newer technique which they were doing, and had great success with. It was a DPO (Double Pelvic Osteotomy)

It wasn't risk free, and not all dogs are candidates for it. Was Piper, I asked them?  They didn't know until they examined her.

How much was it, I had to ask?  About $6500 not including the preliminaries and post op tests. Big Gulp!

Would Pet insurance cover it, I had to ask?  Some do, some don't they said. Bigger Gulp.

You see, we took out Pet insurance for our dog from the moment she entered our household.  Many people told me I was nuts for doing so, because I was a vet.  Well, yeah... I am...and I didn't take it out because I am a bad vet, because I'm not... I am a very good vet.

  I took out pet insurance because I know the amazing technology that is out there for our pets, and I did not want finances to get in the way of my family's pet getting the best care that she deserved.   I see it all too often when finances mean that pets are euthenased instead of treated.
Pet insurance, for me, is like  a protective blanket
It was for my peace of mind that Piper could have
the best that veterinary medicine could offer.

For you see, despite the belief that vets are rich, and business people are rich (and I am both), I am not a rich vet business person.  I am a solo vet, mother of four beautiful children .... and the bank loves me due to the level of debt I am in!

OK, let us get back on track .....

Whilst I was at the AVA conference in Perth, Piper underwent extensive tests.  Tegan and Dirk took her to SASH, and yes, she is a candidate for the DPO.

Piper recuperating at home with her "Cone of Shame"

She had her surgery  at SASH - (June 2014) and at the time of writing, is recuperating at home. It's possible to keep a 7 month old previously active dog quiet... its called "training" - always rewarding and reinforcing the calm behaviours of being in her crate (of course, with the help of her Adaptil collar, spray and medications).

And then the mange....

The mange.... or more accurately, demodectic mange. It started with two bare patches on her toes, which we noticed a few weeks after reducing her activity (because of her hip).  This was prior to her surgery.

I often call this mite "little alligators" as this is what it looks like under the microscope.  To treat it takes at least 4 months of medications.

When I scraped those bald spots, well, I am sure you could imagine the way I felt, and the look on my face!.

The look on my face.... when I saw the mites!

 And this is just the first six months of her life.... what will the next 15 plus  years bring?

So you can see - Piper is a very special, very lucky dog.... actually, I will rephrase that.... we are indeed lucky people to have met her, and have her as part of our family. 

Yes, she has had a lot of medical problems, and yes, she has cost a lot of money, not all we will get back with pet insurance, but she is full of joy when we come home of an evening, and sadness when we leave in the morning.

 She delights in all the little things in life, and, well, isn't that what life is all about?  Sharing and caring with your family?
Piper and Tegan at more happier times - at the dog park in
April 2014.

I am Dr Liz, and I am the mad vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic. If you have any questions about any of the conditions listed above, I assure you, I am now the local expert on it... one of the upsides of having a pet like Piper!

Do you have a story that can beat mine?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Hope for Sore Joints in Dogs and Cats

The TV and magazines are full of advertisements on a multitude of stuff that will help a person with joint pain.  Rub this on, buy this gadget, see XYZ.  Those of us who suffer the pain, often spend the money buying these things, but really, we should be consulting our doctor!

Dr Liz with Lillie's leg! Lillie ended up having a cruciate injury
 Our pets deserve the same care.  They deserve a check up at the vets, even if you are not sure if they are in pain or not. 

One in five dogs suffer from joint pain - is your pet one of them?  And as for cats, it has been estimated at 1 in 3!

 Most of us know what joint pain feels like, but many loving pet owners still deny that their pet may be in pain (whether it is dental or joint).

Well, our pets do get joint pain, and they do suffer from it. 

 They just don't complain about it, they don't cry out in pain, they don't whinge about it, and they, overall, well..... don't complain.

I will bet you that you have noticed your older pet sleeping more than usual during the winter months, and have said to yourself - "That is normal, that is just old age, and it is cold after all."

As a vet, I see it all the time - the dog with muscle wastage on the back legs, the struggling to get up or down (and the blame on the slippery floors), the owner who says that their dog sleeps for days after the one long walk on the weekend.  These are the dogs that should be assessed for arthritis. 

George - our resident "Stray"
As for our cats, well they have joints, and by definition, get arthritis too.  Who notices that their cat sleeps more than usual?  No one does, because cats like to sleep. 

But the signs you may notice is, again, the muscle wastage on the back legs, the slowness in getting down or up stairs, and the unwillingness to jump on or off the bed.  Sometimes they will have the matted coat along the  lower back or legs because they can't groom.

 We have noticed those signs in our cat, Pusski!  He will not be happy once he hears of our "joint plan" for him (as it will involved injections). 

George (our resident "Stray"), is on Feline j/d as well as Meloxicam.  If you ever come in to see him, you will see that he has improved significantly since he was brought in. (to find out more about George, why not go here).

As a vet, I look at many different aspects of joint support in all of the pets that I see.

I may recommend
  • joint supplements
  • special exercises,
  •  massage therapy,
  • nutritional support injections and/or
  •  medications. 

What is best for your pet?  I won't know until I get a chance to do the "laying of hands" on them. If you aren't from my area, why not check out  your local vet this winter, and see if they are doing any special arthritis checks?  You might be surprised! I know I am not the only one offering FREE Arthritis Checks in the world, but I don't know who else is offering this locally. 

Here are some important facts....

Shadow, is a high risk breed,
stays slim and active to protect
his joints!
  • High risk dog breeds are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers, but even the smaller ones (such as poodles and shihtzus, with luxating patellars, also suffer)
  • A pet's weight is a key factor in many pets on how rapidly the signs show, and weight loss is instrumental for controlling signs.
  • Depression  may be the only sign your pet shows
  • The majority of pets 7 years of age or older will have some "wear and tear" on their joints (like us who have hit 40 and above!).
  • One in FIVE dogs are suffering from arthritis - is your dog possibly one of them?

Does your pet have arthritis?

Many times, I see owners who are not aware that their pet is suffering from arthritis, and are shocked to hear that their pet was in pain, and didn't know it.  That is what veterinarians are for - to check for this, and to offer you the best advice on how to help. 

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we offer FREE dental checks all year round, and this year (2014) we are happy to start (for the first time ever) "  FREE Arthritis Checks", starting from 1st of July 2014 until the 30th of September 2014. 

It is up to YOU now - depending on  how popular these checks are, on whether we will extend the "FREE Arthritis Check " to all year round.... so bring your pet(s) in, get their joints checked out for free, pass it on, pass it forward, give someone else's pet a chance for a pain free winter!  The more who come in, the more likely we are to extend the offer!

How young is too young to start supplements?

Our dog "Piper", otherwise known as "my problem child"
who was diagnosed with Hip dysplasia when she was
6.5 months old (in May 2014). She is a "high risk"
dog for arthritis, and she is started on a preventative plan.


Well, you are never too young, as I have seen arthritis in pets as young as 6 months of age (it is heartbreaking to tell a loving pet owner, that their young puppy has arthritis secondary to elbow dysplasia, or hip dysplasia).

For our dog Piper, who has hip dysplasia, we have already started her on "joint medications" as soon as we knew the diagnosis, and have developed a joint plan for her.   She currently does not have any radiographic signs of arthritis, but we aren't going to wait for that... we have opted to prevent!

So let's get personal!

With Piper, as soon as we knew of her diagnosis of hip dysplasia, we started her on Meloxicam, a non steroidal anti-inflammatory.  It was confirmed on radiographs and CT scanning at the specialists that she did not have any arthritis. This made her the excellent candidate for her pelvic surgery.

We know, that despite our best efforts with surgery, that she is likely to develop osteoarthritis. Hopefully, not to the degree that would mean a hip replacement.

Her arthritis prevention plan - (yes, I am talking about preventing it here), includes
  • 4 injections of Synovan weekly, then she will get it monthly for life.
  • Joint guard chews daily when the injections are finished
  • Hills Canine j/d for life
  • Muscle massage, swimming, sit to stand exercises and gentle walks (when she is fully recovered from her pelvic surgery)
And, importantly, this plan will be reassessed each six months for the rest of her life.

So, get those fingers moving - you can book your pet's FREE arthritis check online, or via email, or the traditional phone call on 42 845 988.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, and the owner of Piper, Pusski and Dash (at home), aswell as George (the resident "Stray") and Pandora (the boss) at work.

An addendum:

What are the typical signs of arthritis?

  • Difficulty standing or sitting (often their legs will shake)
  • Favouring a limb
  • Decreased activity or thinking twice before chasing the ball
  • Attitude changes
  • Stiff or sore joints
  • Being less alert
  • Reluctance to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeping more
But, often, I see pets who sleep more after a good normal run on the beach, so don't let your pet fool you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dr Liz's Gratitude Project - Orange Juice

Each day, I try to practice "gratitude" for the things that are around me. 

Today, I am grateful for Orange Juice.  At the moment, it is helping me stay hydrated, and helping me (whether its psychological or not), find this darned chest cold I have!