Saturday, July 26, 2014

August is Australian National Pet Dental Month

August is a big month for all of us here at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - but not just us, but for many vets all over Australia.  Wherever you may be, if you are in Australia, and  your pet hasn't been to a vet at all in the past six months, why not take this "freebie" as an opportunity to go in, and say "G'day".

Brushing teeth is still the Gold Standard of Home
Dental Care!
This month, vets all over Australia will be reinforcing the message that we say every day in our veterinary hospitals to the regulars - a healthy pet starts with a healthy mouth.

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, I am blessed with many loving pet owners who feel comfortable bringing their much loved family member in for their "regular dental check" even if their pet seems healthy to them. 


They know the benefit of "happy" free vet visits.

What can you expect at a Free Dental Check at Russell Vale Animal Clinic?

Visit for onlinebooking

It starts with you being able to make an appointment during any of our appointment times.  We have times available from 9 am to 11 am and from 3 pm to 5.30 pm Monday to Friday, and from 9 am to 12 noon (ish) on Saturday's.

In other words, you can make a time during any of our regular available times, not just on our "quiet days".

Your pet will see a vet.

At our pet dental checks, your pet will (almost) always see me (Dr Liz).  Our vet nurses Dirk and Tegan, are extremely experienced and trained, and there is really no reason why they can't "flip the lip" too.

In our pets who have perfectly healthy mouths, and need help to keep them that way, your pet will always be referred to them for that information.

But I love playing with all of the pet's who come in to see me, so I will take any and every opportunity to have fun with them - and this includes the dental checks.  I just love seeing all of my animals (your pet's) in a happy visit.

The weigh in.

Our dental check up's start with weighing your pet in, and introducing them to all of us.  If it is your first time visit to a vet, there is no need to be scared.  We don't bite, and we work hard to make your pet's visit as fun as we can.

Seriously.  We want your pet to enjoy coming in to see us, as this will mean you will want to bring them in more regularly.


The microchip scan and check.

We see so many dogs and cats, whose microchip details are not up to date on the NSW government database, and so we take this "Free Dental Check" as an opportunity to "scan and check" all pets. 

As a pet owner myself who have had pet's go missing, and never come back home, I know the feeling of loss.  Your pet's microchip is their best chance of making it back home!

In the "torture chamber"

What you may think of as a "torture chamber for pets" is my consultation room, where I spend 4-5 hours a day.   It is light, airy and spacious, filled with amazing artwork.

We use a lot of Feliway for cats, and Adaptil for dogs, and both get spoilt with liver treats as a way of saying "hallo", and to make your pet feel "Welcome". 

Both Feliway and Adaptil are synthetic "Calming" sprays for cats and dogs.

Most of my "regulars" view this room as the "liver jerky" room, as they run in, and sit in front of the bench where the liver jerky is housed.  And who am I to argue with that description! I prefer that to the "torture room".

Don't we all want to go where are made to feel welcome and valued?   Including your pets?

The "lip flip"

We are strong believers in "paying our pets well" for all of the unpleasant things we do - like temperature taking and the "laying of the hands".

As I wouldn't like some stranger coming up and lifting my lip and having a good perve, I understand your pet feels the same.   We respect our pets, and we respect their right to say "No". 

We hope that with our kindness and gentle hands, that they will say "Ok, I will let you have a look"



The final assessment

It is too complex to go into every single thing we check, but what I can tell you it isn't as simple as looking at your pet's mouth and seeing tartar, and then trying to convince you to get that tartar removed.


What we do at Russell Vale Animal Clinic is

  • we count the teeth your pet does or does not have - and then discuss with you what that may mean
  • we examine the relationship between the teeth - i.e how are they sitting in relation to each other, and to soft tissue too.
  • we check if there is a difference in one side of the mouth compared to the other - if there are differences, we need to find out why.
  • we check for any broken teeth, or areas of enamel damage
  • we check the gums for any puffiness or blood, and even look for pus underneath the gums or around the teeth.
  • we keep an eye out for any unusual lumps or bumps that may be hiding in that mouth
and so much more.

Once we have discussed with you all of the abnormalities we have found (and hopefully they are minimal), we will discuss with you the latest information on how to keep your pet's mouth healthy.

You see, for us, National Pet Dental Month isn't about twisting your arm to get your pet's teeth cleaned, but about raising awareness that every pet deserves a happy relationship with their family vet, and this starts with "happy (needle free) visits, such as our "Dental Checks".
It's all about happy pet visits - an old photo of Dirk and Benji, but
still shows clearly how happy your pets are when they visit

But what about the "arm twisting"?

As the statistics say that 80% of pets who are 3 years of age or older have some form of dental disease, it is unrealistic to think that if your pet is in this age group, that they are disease free.

Many owners are proactive in working towards keeping mouths healthy, and want to be kept up to date on how to do that.   There are also some owners who are not aware of how they can keep teeth healthy easily.

And this is what we do best at Russell Vale Animal Clinic - we are the best in giving you the information... This is what you need to keep your pet happy and healthy.

If your pet has been labelled a Grade 1 or 2, why not find out more about what we do at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  Go here.

As an example of what can be hidden, I share a story about Candy, who, on examination I thought was a "Grade 2", and look what we found. 

What could be hiding in your pet's mouth? 


We welcome all existing and new pets to our little vet hospital, and we always have room for loving pet owners.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi Lane. We are passionate about the health of each and every pet that we see.

 We are dedicated to providing a high standard of dental care services, which include dental radiography, dental charting and treatment plans, including subgingival  as well as normal teeth cleaning.  

Want to book your pet now for their Free Pet Dental Check?

You can call us on 42845988 during business hours, or book online (at or email us directly with your preferred date and time.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dr Liz's Dental Discussion - Give your dog a bone, or not.

It is not unexpected that with any discussion that involves pet owners and bones,  it can sometimes get argumentative.  The "give your dog a bone" movement is far stronger than I, and their followers are often so passionate to the point of intolerance of alternate points of view.
(graphic photo alert at the end).
Do you hear what I am saying?  

What drives their passion is the love of our animals, and the absolute desire to do the best they can for them.  As a vet and animal lover, I am the same.  On this, I hope we can agree.

But... and there is a but, in my corner, it comes with a willingness to maintain an open mind, and a preparedness to change my opinion when there is new information or knowledge.  There is a published myth that those who are critical of giving bones, do so because they lack understanding of what it is all about.  I absolutely do understand the theories behind giving bones, and those theories of the benefits  are flawed.  They fail to recognise that the damage bones causes is greater than their benefits.

I won't deny that there are some benefits to giving bones to dogs, but do they outweigh the damage that they can cause?

As a new graduate, in the early 1990's, I was one of the many vets who recommended chicken wings, chicken drum sticks, strips of skirt steak, and bones. I shudder now to think of the harm I caused through the advice I gave. 
In recent months, I have read the medical histories of a few pets who have transferred to my area, with the vet writing " tartar on back teeth, bones advised" or words to that effect.  These same pets whom have had dental procedures with me, have teeth with a small amount of tartar, but the gums are red, swollen and puffy.  But, when we performed dental radiography, we found endodontic disease.

Endodontic disease is hidden dental disease.  It occurs at the base of the tooth, and is not visible to the naked eye.

I stopped recommending bones for dental care, the day I started performing dental radiographs.

This "aha" moment or epiphany came when I realised that my advice was contributing to enamel damage or worse, a fractured tooth, which allowed bacteria to enter the tooth via the pulp cavity, and cause disease. 

When I knew the damage my advice had caused, I stopped saying "give your dog a bone".  I also stopped looking at tartar  occurs on the teeth as disease, and started recognising dental disease for what it truly was - the disease under the gum in the periodontal space (periodontal disease), and the disease at the end of the tooth (endodontic disease). 

I am not saying that we ignore the tartar on the teeth - this does need to be addressed too, but only with an anaesthetic, examination and dental radiographs do we know that the  mouth is healthy.

Of course, no one wants to subject their pet to an unnecessary procedure. As a vet, I don't want to do this either. 

But, I am sure you and I are on the same page, when we say that we do not want our animals to be in pain either.  And if you give your pet a bone, it is entirely likely that at some stage in their life, even with pristine clean teeth, they will have dental disease (of the endo kind).

It devastates me to have to extract teeth damaged beyond repair in an 11 month old dog, like Oscar. Here is a photo of what we found when he came in for desexing (for increased aggression and food resource guarding).  This would've been painful. The owner thought she was doing the right thing, in giving her dog a bone (or two).

Oscar's painful tooth! No wonder he wouldn't let me near his mouth.

This is what it looked like radiographically

This is what it looked like after we resected back the gum.
We extracted this tooth completely, and Oscar has made a full and complete recovery.  His temperament has improved too, I am told!

This can happen to any dog or cat who chews on bones or any other hard object.  It is these cases where the owner will often be in denial that their pet has a dental problem due to their age.

But breaking of teeth, isn't the only problem bones can cause. They often can cause pets to choke to death, or cause severe constipation.

Let me introduce you to the internals of "Rex", an absolutely beautiful, very patient Schnauzer, who had trouble pooping. 

 You see the colour of his poop on the xrays is the exact same colour as his bones - and this is because Rex ingested alot of bones - raw bones.  He ingested bones daily for a few days to keep his teeth clean. 

Use a toothbrush not a bone.

Fortunately, five days in hospital, multiple enemas, and alot of praying, Rex made a full recovery and went home - and the owner now chooses brushing as a way of keeping his teeth healthy, and not bones.

These are just two of the many cases we have seen, and I am a solo vet in a small practice.  How many pets are out there suffering silently? 

When you come into see us, we will ask you "How do you keep your pet's teeth healthy?", and hopefully you will say "I brush my pet's teeth daily. No bones for us"  Woo Hoo! Awesome!

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi, and we don't like arguing with clients over issues like this, but please understand your pet's health is always on my mind.  If you choose to give your dog a bone, be aware that there are consequences to that action.

Every Day is Pet Dental Month at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, so if you have any questions or concerns at all, please sing out.  We are always here to help you, whenever you need us.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Indy's Story - 4th March 2005 - Part Two

Introduction:  In 2005, Indy was a young, fighting fit Beagle.  Over a week, he became progressively weaker, starting at his head and neck, and then progressing to his legs. He was eventually transferred to the Animal Referral Hospital, who ran a series of tests, which were all normal/negative, and concluded that he had a neurotoxin.  With time and patience, it was possible that he would make a full recovery, but it was not going to be an easy  journey. He stayed there until he was able to swallow and move his eyelids, and then he came back to Wollongong to me, for rehabilitation.

To read Part One of Indy's Story

Now onto Part Two.

Friday, 4th March

The day started with a crawl towards the front door at home to get to work. And that was just Liz. Indy got the cheats method of getting to the car by being carried by Dirk.

The grass was wet at work, so an indoor workout was the way to go. Weight is now 12.09 kg but that was before going to the toilet. Still far short of the 14.5 kg Indy was prior to his illness, but at least it is slowly heading towards the right direction.

The day was spent outside in the grass (when it dried). Indy's favourite spot is underneath the mulberry tree.  Fortunately, there are no mulberries, otherwise he would be a purple, brown and white dog.  In the afternoon, he was back inside for another massage with Nan and some more roast chook.

After Nan left, Indy crawled to the back door, woofed to be carried over the step, and Dirk supported Indy's chest whilst he was "walked" towards the water bowl.

After he came back to Liz and Dirk's home, he was spoilt rotten by some feral children (some belong to Liz and Dirk, some to the neighbours).

He is now in the lounge room watching "The Simpsons".  Hopefully he doesn't go home and say "doh" instead of "woof"

Saturday 5th March

The day started slow. It improved when Nan brought Indy some roast chook and some wonderful body rubs.

The weather stayed stable, and with Dirk heating the pool to a comfortable 30 plus degrees, meant that Indy, Dirk and Liz (plus Paige and Sean) were able to go for a nice leisurely swim.

Indy is able to swim several laps of the pool (10 m length), and go to the step.  He tries to figure out how he is going to propel himself out of the pool. He is able to try to walk on the second step of the pool and still breath. The water supports his weight, whilst he sorts out the movements with his forelimbs.  He knows how to move his forelimbs in a co-ordinated fashion, but there is not a lot of strength in his muscles to support his weight outside of the pool.

He finishes up in a heated bathroom to dry off slowly. Finished off with a bowel of fresh roast chook.

When he is dry, he is able to sit out with us in the loungeroom, and watch a video with the kids. He is currently watching Mulan 2.

Wednesday, 9th March.

Indy's current program involves massaging, passive range of motion of his limbs, encouraging him to stand and wheelbarrow.  His right side continues to be his weakest side(front limb)

His progress is steady.  Unfortunately, he will only  improve at the rate at which he deteriorated originally.  We can only aim to maintain circulation, stimulation and motivation.  Indy does the really hard work.

Indy is due for his vaccinations and flea control.  After consultation with Dr Angles, we believe that Indy should NOT be vaccinated at all, now or in the future.  His flea control should be either Frontline or Advantage/Advocate and definitely he is to have no access to organophosphates - either directly or indirectly.  Directly would be through proban or flea/tick collars.  Indirectly through snail baits, some herbicides etc.

His lack of vaccination status may make it difficult for his current guardians to put him into kennels half way thru the year.  We will make some phone calls over the next few days to see what the kennels can do to help.  As vaccination protocols are undergoing a radical change within the profession, then it may not be as difficult as it first appears.  It all depends on how open minded the boarding kennels are.

Generally, his progress is steady.  He is actually in the hard part of the rehabilitation.  He has come so far, and yet, he is still a long way off.  His frustration and his determination to overcome it, is inspirational.

Hang in there!

We should also consider/explore the possibility of further testing in regards to myasthenia gravis.  Dr Angles brought it up for consideration.

To be continued.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet in Bellambi, and Indy was and is, an inspiration. When you read of his struggle, you will agree.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Caring for the new puppy in your household

Today was one of those "what everyone thinks vet work is all about" days.  That is, I spent my morning kissing, hugging and overall playing with some beautiful new puppies. 

Four of them, to be exact, all in for their first vet visit, at the time of their second vaccination.

And after a full vet check, and discussion with each of these new owners, I realised that some of these pet owners had sought puppy care advice from a pet shop or produce store,  and not their local vet.  

And, what was even more troublesome, was when we raised important questions with them over Heartworm prevention and worming and diet, we heard a lot of things which weren't entirely correct.

With this, comes confusion, and, unfortunately, a big question mark as the new owners ponder who should they believe. The produce store or the vet?

It would be arrogant of me to say that the vet is always right, because this simply isn't true.  If you read my story about my dog, Burek, you can see that the vet isn't always right. 

If you know of anyone who has a new puppy, or is thinking of getting a new puppy (or kitten, for that matter), encourage them to ask their local vet and helpful vet nurses for advice instead of the pet shop.

Your puppy's first vet check:

This should happen within 48 hours of the new one joining your household.

At this vet check, we thoroughly check your pet over, and make sure that there are no "hidden" diseases, such as dental problems, ear mites or extra eyelashes.

Your puppy's preventative care program.

Intestinal worming can be given on its own, or as a combination with Heartworm prevention.

Intestinal worming tablets only:

All puppies should be wormed each two weeks until they are twelve weeks old.

Then, it is monthly until they are six months old.

Then it is each three months thereafter.

We often use this protocol in dogs who we intend to start on Proheart SR-12 injection (the Heartworm injection) at 12 weeks of age.

1. True or False: All worming tablets are the same.

Or you could consider the intestinal worming/Heartworm prevention combination tablets

All puppies and dogs need this monthly for the rest of their lives.

This could be the monthly tablet (we use Milbemax) or a once a month topical (we recommend Advocate)

We need to worm against Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworm and Flea & Hydatid tapeworm AND prevent Heartworm disease.

We also recommend worming your puppy yourselves when it enters your household, even if the breeder or pet shop wormed them the day before.

2. True or False:  There is a three monthly Heartworm prevention tablet.

Heartworm Prevention:

All puppies should have their Heartworm prevention protocol started by 12 weeks of age.

Heartworm is spread by infected mosquitoes, and we know the incidence of Heartworm is on the increase (thanks to the Qld floods of a few years back, coupled with complacency of many pet owners).

We do not recommend nor use "Heartworm only"  tablets, as in this day and age, there are more economical combination medications.

You should not wait until six months old to start, in fact, it is wrong to wait that long, as your pup then has had six months to get infected, and most medications will only "reach back" 2 to 3 months.

(Reach back means that a treatment given today will kill any heartworm larvae that was injected into the skin up to "x" months previously.  With Proheart SR-12, the reach back is 3 months, with monthly medications, it is about six weeks (depending on what you use). )

3. True or False: My dog does not need Heartworm prevention until they are six months old.

Flea Control:

Many flea and tick products cannot be used in puppies less than 8 weeks of age, but then again, many can.

Advantage can be used from weaning (4 weeks on), Revolution and Frontline (Plus and Original) from 8 weeks of age.

 Frontline or Frontera spray can be used as young as 2 days old.


We know that you want your pet to be healthy and happy.  And we know that you know that your pet's nutrition is important to you.  You often do a lot of reading and listening to people about what to feed.  If I was ever to get into an argument with a pet owner, it is usually over diet.

And the owner who said to me that "you don't sell pet foods, therefore you don't know anything" is only half right.  I don't sell  "wellness pet foods", but I do know a lot about pet nutrition. T

In fact, I can guarantee that the information I do possess on pet nutrition does not come from a pet food salesman.  The information I have comes from  independent veterinary nutritionists, and is  based on science, not salespeople.

4. True or False:  The food must be OK if it has a picture of a vet on it

My general tips are:
Please avoid anything that involves feeding of mince or pet mince - even if it says "preservative free".

The Australian pet food industry is not regulated, and as such, many pet foods are sold which are not "balanced" and are actually harmful.  They may cause thiamine deficiency (neurological signs including blindness), Acquired Proximal Renal Tubulopathy (kidney disease), not to mention the other more common ones, such as food poisoning (salmonella).

Keep your pet's diet simple and complete. 

For my position on pet foods, read here and how choosing the wrong food can affect your pet, read here.


As a pet owner myself, I do understand the confusion of other pet owners, when you hear one thing, and then hear another- who do you believe?  In the perfect world, we would believe those who have worked and studied hard to become the local experts in their chosen profession, but we do not live in a perfect world, do we.

Just know this... as a vet, I want all of my pets (that means your pet) to live forever, or as close to forever that is humanly possible.  And I will forever strive to ensure I give you and your pet the best and most current information on everything.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic. 

Answers to Questions.
1. False. Allwormers are not necessarily "All wormers."
2. False. Heartworm prevention tablets need to be given monthly to be able to kill off the larval stages of the parasite.  These tablets can only kill off the larvae before they have a chance to migrate into the heart itself.  Once the worms are in the heart, maturing away, it is too late.
3. False.  We have a very small window in which to kill the Heartworm parasite after it is injected by an infected mosquito. If the puppy was bitten by an infected mosquito during the third week of its life, by the time it is six months old, the larval stages would have progressed too far for the Heartworm prevention to be effective.
4. False. "Vet approved" doesn't really mean that all veterinarians approve of it. The terms "holistic" "organic" etc are over used aswell.  Remember that the pet food industry is poorly regulated in Australia, so anybody can claim anything, and there is nothing to stop this from happening.

PS.  If you need some help on buying pet products from the supermarket, well I have covered that too. Why not head over to read all about that now.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Indy's Story - 1st March 2005 - Part One

Introduction:  In 2005, Indy was a young, fighting fit Beagle.  Over a week, he became progressively weaker, starting at his head and neck, and then progressing to his legs. He was eventually transferred to the Animal Referral Hospital, who ran a series of tests, which were all normal/negative, and concluded that he had a neurotoxin.  With time and patience, it was possible that he would make a full recovery, but it was not going to be an easy  journey. He stayed there until he was able to swallow and move his eyelids, and then he came back to Wollongong to me, for rehabilitation.

It is a credit to Indy's family that they gave him a chance to live, and gave my family and I a chance to be a part of his recovery.

In those days, canine rehabilation medicine was new in the US (and non-existant) in Australia.  Indy is the inspiration for my "All for Joints" page, as he introduced me to rehabilitation medicine.

As his owners lived in Sydney, I wrote updates on my website with photos, so they could see how he was going. I share those posts here.

Tuesday, 1st of March 2005.

Indy arrived back in Wollongong on Thursday night.

Today he has eaten some chicken (freshly cooked by his Nan), played in the backyard with some puppies, had some muscle massaging and infrared muscle heating.  He finished the day with swimming a few laps in a heated pool (finishing in the spa).

Wednesday, 2nd March 2005.

Nan came to visit in the morning and the arvo, bringing with her some beautifully cooked roast chook.  After a massage, a rub and lots of TLC, Indy spent the day either in the backroom of the clinic or outside, weather permitting.

No swimming today as the weather was a bit cool. The day started with a thunderstorm also, which is a bit rough.

Thursday, 3rd March 2005.

Indy's combat crawl has improved and he has even managed to get his ass into the air. He is also able to propel himself forward heaving his chest off the ground.  Of ocurse, such work is exhausting, so we motivate him in short spells.

His weight is stable at 11.9 kg, which is good considering his increased physical activity.

We try to assess what motivates Indy.  Food, of course, is a motivator, but the desire to get up and move is even stronger.

We use a variety of techniques, including ring -ins... like TJ, the bunny, or Pommy, the stray pomeranian (who absolutely loves Indy). Having such movement around him, makes him want to move also.  We can see his frustration when he can't do what he wants to do, but he is trying and moving.

No swimming today, due to the wonderful electrical activity and high breeze factor.

Our current aim is to improve his truncal muscle control, motivation and desire, as well as spoil  him rotten.

I am just glad that he can't really talk, otherwise he will pass on the message that Liz and Dirk are weird.  They have bunnies loose in their backyard at work, they have cats and dogs loose in the backyard at home, as well as Ja Ja (one of the neighbours dog) that turns up on their doorstep whenever there is  a storm brewing.  Ja Ja is the best storm detector that we know.

I am also very glad that Indy can't talk, because I would hate him to go home and say "well, my foster parents let me sleep inside and stay up late."

To be continued......

I am Dr Liz, and I am the mad vet from Bellambi. As you can see, I am as mad now in 2014 as I was in 2005 (and obviously earlier too). Keep an eye out for Indy's story.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Mad Dr Liz - 2005 and now

The website of Russell Vale  Animal Clinic has been going on since 1998 (when we opened), and even in those days, I was still the author of all of the content.

In those days, it was a software program called Frontpage that I used, and I had to upload it via ftp onto the server.  And it would take forever! These days, it is a template where I fill in the information, and it is all done online. So much easier!  My website had 10 pages - Home, What's New, Petcare, Usual Info, Make a booking, Ask Dr Liz, Animail, Search, My Pet Hate and Indy's page.

The current website has a few more than that now. I restarted Animail back in 2012, we now have a more sophisticated online booking system, and obviously, always update the website (so there is always something new).

But this memory trip now is all about a very very special dog. 

In 2005, I met a dog called Indy.   He had a neurotoxin that affected him so that he could only move his eyelids.  After a few weeks treatment at the Animal Referral Hospital, he then came to me for his rehabilitation care.  He stayed with us for 4 weeks. As his owner lived in Sydney,  I used my website to keep the owner updated on Indy's treatment and progress, and it worked out well.  Prior to Indy coming to me, he was living with his "Nan" in Wollongong.

Indy came to us only being able to lick food from a syringe.  By the time he left four weeks later, he was able to walk and even run. It was an intensive four weeks of rehabilitation with us, and then more when he went home.

Indy - at the vets in 2005.
Recently, we had to say goodbye to Indy. Shortly after,  I received a sweet email with a copy of what I had written on the internet.  The owner had printed it off at the time, and kept a copy, and forwarded it to me. Not everything stays on the internet forever!

I promise to write and share what I had written back in those days, but for now, I just had to share what I wrote at the bottom of my website back in 2005.  Obviously, I was very opinionated and mad back then too!

"I am Dr Liz. I often pretend to be a bit mad and a bit nutty, but I am sure I am as normal as the next person who works 60 hours a week plus not including my own kids and animals for very little monetary pay (I know I would get more on Centrelink "pay" ). (And as one of my long term clients recently mentioned to me... "just pretend"???).  I have wanted to be a vet since I was 6  years old, so I consider myself extremely lucky to have achieved my childhood dream.  I believe in a passion for what you do in your life, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones in life to be able to do something that I feel passionately about - all of the animals that I look after.  I am equally fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive spouse, and four wonderful, yet energetic children ranging from 5 years to 13 years, all of whom take after both Dirk and I, that is, they all share our love of animals and their care.  I als include in our family, Teddy (our dog), Jamie and Sapphire (our cats), ten chooks (with multiple names), and 6 rabbits (with an escape artist called soxie).  We have no staff or employees, just family.  After all, your family will stick by you, no matter what."

Our eldest daughter Tegan, with one of the bunnies.
Well, alot has changed, but alot has stayed the same.  I am still mad, but alot more nutty (I think). My kids are now ranging from 14 to 22, and our pets are different too.  We have Piper (our dog), Pusski and Dash (our cats) but no chickens or rabbits. (the foxes liked them too much).

I am still as passionate about the veterinary profession itself, and of course, about all of the beautiful animals that form a part of my life. 

Keep an eye out for excerpts of what I wrote in 2005 about Indy.   It brought a tear to my eye reliving those days, and a warm glow to my heart that we were able to help Indy and his family through that very difficult time, with a great outcome.  Now that is what being an animal lover and a vet is all about!

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Pet Dental Extraction Experience with a Dinosaur

Today, my two youngest children and I, was present during a most unusual dental extraction on a most unusual "pet".  As you read, please remember that I write the truth, and nothing but the truth.

The pet was a  T-Rex, that wouldn't eat the "guts" that was given to him as a treat.  Whilst there was also the offer of sausages, everyone agreed that a BARF diet (heart/guts) would perhaps be better for him.  He was offered that, and he accepted it.

Even so, he  (T-Rex) "dropped his guts" on some poor children in the front row, and then rubbed his face on the ground, groaning softly.  The poor T-Rex was in pain, and he let everyone know about it.  He did it through a change in his behaviour, and a change in the way that he ate his food.

What did his owner do? 

He (the owner)  examined T-Rex's mouth, and identified a discoloured tooth that was a bit wobbly.  Good on him!  A braver man than I (well, I am a woman), but even so, braver person than I to wobble a tooth on a T-Rex. 

As it was my day off, I didn't offer to help out. They obviously had the situation under control, and it was a bit out of my comfort zone.  Their "anaesthetic" was not one which I had any experience with, as they used two pre-schoolers on either side of T-Rex's strong hind legs to "hypnotise" him through long gentle strokes.

We do know that nice long gentle strokes are calming in our dogs and cats, so I couldn't argue with this technique in terms of calming, but it is not a technique that I will adopt with my next man-eating patient. I did note though that there were  no rapid movements either, and they were all very careful in ensuring that everyone knew the emergency position, in case the T-Rex "lost the plot" (aka got very angry). 

What was the emergency position?

We were to use our forearms in front of our faces to "brace " ourselves, as we could live without our arms, but not our faces.  Obviously, the OH & S officer was nowhere to be seen here, as I am sure that there were other safety precautions we would have  needed to know about.   As for my children and I, we stayed near the exit, just in case! 

What about the extraction of the tooth?

With a pair of pliars, the owner grabbed the tooth and pulled it out.  Amazing!  T-Rex was a much happier boy afterwards, but I think he did get cranky when the patting of his hind legs stopped!

Amazing! A happy T-Rex, a happy T-Rex owner, and obviously, all of us were happy too, as we still had our arms (and our faces) intact.

For real!

I am sure you have guessed that everything I wrote from the second paragraph to now, obviously did not happen in a real live T-Rex Dinosaur. But I did not tell a lie - it did happen the way I described it. It was a show that I attended today with my two younger children at the Illawarra Fly Tree-top walk.  It was a show filled with giant dragonflies and  an Aussie bred T-Rex with a sore tooth (and attitude to match).

So what is my  problem?  Let's get serious for a minute (or two).

I have been asked by pet owners to "extract" the wobbly tooth during a consultation. So I have no doubt that there are people out there who have done that to their pet, or worse, pet professionals, such as groomers or vet nurses who have done it in the past, and will continue to do it in the future. If any of you are reading this, whilst I understand the pressures that are placed on you to do it - just say no!

For the welfare of our animals, just don't do it. 

No, this is not an Xray of the teeth of a T-Rex!
It isn't possible to do any dental xrays, or a thorough dental examination on a pet that is awake.  Flicking off tartar is NOT a "dental" nor is it enough if you are serious about your pet's oral  health.

Pet dental extractions aren't just wobbling the tooth and then pulling it out with some pliars. What vets do is a gentle, patient,  undermining of the (very strong and tough)  periodontal ligament, eventually removing the tooth, curetting the socket out, flushing it well, and then closing the socket over with fine sutures.

We do this to stop ongoing pain with an open socket (and for many more reasons too).

I won't get started on the nutritional aspects of T-Rex's diet, although I am sure they would normally eat more than the "guts" of its prey, and as such, perhaps, the sausages might have been more appropriate (being the combination of many parts of the animal, rather than a few organs only).

What really stretched the "suspension of disbelief" for me was the obvious pain the T-Rex showed with respect to his sore tooth.

Our dogs and cats rarely show signs of dental pain, so why  would a T-Rex?  It wouldn't,  but it bothered me that the show perpetuated the myth that an animal will let others know that it is in pain, even to those that they love. Sadly, it isn't so.

The signs that owners often do see if they are observant is the dropping of food or preferentially chewing on one side. But most owners are not able to see any signs of dental pain, as our pets just don't send out those signals.

 Our pets love us to much to complain. We should love them enough to get it checked out.

This is why our dental checks are always free, all year round at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, as our pets do not tell us that they are in pain. We are happy to see all pets (unless they are a T-Rex).

You are probably thinking that I am totally mad at this point.  Well, I do sign off as the mad Dr Liz, so you wouldn't be wrong in thinking that too.  I am mad, but more importantly, passionate about our animals, and their well being, even when I am not officially "working" as a vet.

If you think that we can help you or your pet, then call us on 42 845 988 for an appointment.

PS In case you didn't guess or thought I was writing fiction -The T-Rex (and other dinosaurs) were puppets, and we were at  an amazing Dinosaur show at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk today - today was its final day there.

The view of the Illawarra from the Illawarra Fly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Behaviour Bytes - Choosing the Right Puppy Class

   This Behaviour Bytes is about the good and bad of Puppy Classes - so if you have a puppy, or looking for puppy classes, then read on... if not, then thanks for reading so far!
Tegan with Piper at Puppy Preschool locally.

Our newest family member, Piper, who joined our family in February 2014 made me revisit all of the fun puppy stuff which I knew as a vet, but forgot about as an owner.

Aside from the vaccinations, sleeping arrangements, flea, worming, washing, food, vet checks, pet insurance, etc etc etc things that need to be sorted, teaching Piper to be a great family member was equal top of the list of things I needed to do or learn about.

  Veterinarians don't automatically have great children (although I am blessed to have them), and nor do they have well behaved, sociable, happy dogs or cats. It comes through effort and giving them experiences from which they learn positive outcomes.

Joining a Puppy Class is one of the most important things  you can do for your puppy.  But it can equally be THE worst thing you can do as well.  

What your puppy will learn and experience from the 8 to 15 week age in your chosen puppy class, they will take with them when they interact with other dogs or people in the future.  Part of our behaviour comes from our experiences and learning, and this is where Puppy Preschools can be a good thing, or not so good thing.

Puppy Classes at Seaforth Veterinary Hospital - the best one
we ever attended.  Two instructors, lots of space, lots of treats
and distractions. Only problem was that it took us 1.5 hours
to get there each week. 

I will share with you some tips to help you choose the right class for your puppy.

There is no "perfect class" out there, and each class there is always a different dynamic in terms of personalities.

 As a pet owner, how do you know if a class is good or not? 

Our most recent experiences with our puppy, Piper, visiting the puppy preschools in our area, and in Sydney, was an experience. The differences between them was astonishing.

  • Best Practice dictates that there should be around 6 puppies per two instructors, and the ages should be around 8 weeks to 14 weeks. Ideally, puppies are grouped together according to age, not size.

  • The instructors should sight your vaccination certificate and it is best if your puppy has had at least one vaccination before joining.

  • Even though all of the puppy classes literature states that all puppies learn better when wearing  an Adaptil collar, or in an Adaptil infused room. Piper was the only one in her classes wearing one. 

  • Play time between puppies should be "controlled" in the sense that it should not be a "free for all".  With Piper, we did attend a class where it was a "free for all", with bullies and fearful behaviours.

      Meeting other puppies whilst on the leash is not recommended either, as when your puppy or adult dog is on a leash, it should be watching you, not figuring out who else it can meet.  

       Letting puppies interact whilst attached to a leash has been linked to interdog aggression or leash walk aggression as they get older.  What happens is that the puppy believes that every time it sees another dog, it has the right to go play with it.  It will then get frustrated when it can't.

      The issue of "play" in classes is controversial, but I do believe puppies need "play time" and time to "socialise" with other dogs and people, as this is what puppy classes are all about.

  • Puppy Classes should be informative without pushing brands or services. They are an ideal opportunity for you to ask any question you may have, and to share the knowledge or any tips that have worked for you. 
Seaforth Vet Hospital Puppy Classes
 had a plethora of "entertainment"

  • A well run class will have a range of dog toys and treats to keep your pet amused whilst the other pups are doing their training and fun.  They should hand you some food to have in your own hand so you can reward them too, and keep them distracted.

  • A great class will allow each puppy to have some training time with the instructor as well as with the owner. You should also have an opportunity to practice it too.

    •   Your instructor should demonstrate the technique, and go through variations of that technique that your puppy may need (there are many ways of getting a pup to sit and drop).

Piper sitting under the watchful eye of the
  • Training should always be "positive reinforcement", which is different to "bribing them with food" or "lure training".
Positive reinforcement is simply rewarding the behaviours you do want, which in turn, means those behaviours get repeated.
    It is my belief that Puppy classes are very important for socialisation, and also, for identification of potential behavioural problems.
    It is only through attending a class, that we realised that our Piper was "protective" over her treats.  This is called "resource guarding".  This is something that we can't stop her from doing, but it is something that we can now be aware off, and minimise her repeating that behaviour.

    I remember  many years ago, I had a puppy who we identified with a thunderstorm fear (we played the CD of a thunderstorm and it was very scared).  Through early re-training and desensitisation, this puppy went on to have no fear of any loud noises.

Your puppies first few weeks in your family are crucial. Selecting the right class is so important, so do  your homework.

If you need any advice or help, please call us on 42 845 988, or even email me.

Disclaimer:  Puppy Preschool was a concept that I first heard about in 1991 at the Australian Veterinary Association Conference in Adelaide, by guest speaker Dr Kersti Seksel, the top Aussie guru on Puppy Preschool programs. I was sceptical walking into the lecture, and was enthusiastic to get it up and running after the lecture.  At that time, I was working at a respected veterinary hospital in my area. I was able to convince my employer that it was a worthwhile exercise, although it had never been done before locally. It took me  two months to learn, organise the handouts and the information needed, and to attend puppy classes at Seaforth Veterinary Hospital,  as it was all about "best practice" for me (then as it is now).  There were no videos, booklets, classes or Delta in those days It was ground level, and I learnt the old fashioned way - by doing! I ran Puppy Preschool, virtually weekly, from 1991 to 2003, and stopped due to family commitments, but I never stopped learning about what is best practice in running classes.

Visiting classes this year with Piper has reignited my love for Puppy Classes. We can't wait until we are able to start our own again.

This is Piper, with Tegan at Seaforth Veterinary Hospital.
We dressed her up for her "final class"

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dr Liz's Gratitude - Veterinary dental Xrays

My gratitude project continues on daily on a personal level, and it has helped me a lot during those days where it is hard to care about anything.

I am grateful for the fact that I offer dental xrays for my veterinary patients, as it has helped me identify and treat hidden pathology.

A WIN /WIN for our Wollongong pets.

A cat with a "3 rooted" two rooted tooth! Something we need to know
if this tooth every needs extracting.

A dog with a Dentigerous cyst as a result of an unerupted premolar.
This was identified on routine scanning BEFORE there was swelling and BEFORE there
was a fractured jaw.