Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dr Liz's Gratitude Project - Thankful for loving pet owners

How is your gratitude project going?  If you aren't doing one, then you should get yourself started. 

My project has hit hurdles this year, but, frankly, without it, it would've been harder to cope with what we have been hit with this year.

Many of the sadnesses have included saying goodbye to loved family pets, others coping with chronic illnesses that take the toll on everyone in the family. Sadly, I have to include the human element too, with the multiple break-ins at the vet hospital.

So lets be thankful for the great things in our lives.

I am thankful for the beautiful loving pet owners that I get to meet every single day at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

(and I am very thankful for the free face washing too!  Thanks Lillie)

You guys rock!

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. Thank you for being part of Dr Liz's Gratitude Project 2014. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Winter Exercises for the Stiff and Sore Pet

Why is it a surprise that each year, there is a winter, it is cold and our pet's joints end up unhappy.  It's the same each year at Christmas time too - when suddenly we have to go out and buy (or if you are creative, make) your gifts for the ones you love. Why are we unprepared for these seasons?  Human nature, is my guess!

So it is now winter here in Wollongong - the morning and nights are cold (well down to 8 degrees Celsius, which is cold for us), and the days are either chilly or nice.  Even with the short days, and early darkness,  it is important to remember that joints are meant to be moving, not lying still.

Keeping joints mobile is extremely important.  

Up and Over - keep the muscles and joints moving

Protecting them with non impact exercises and joint protectants is vital to long term pain free joints. 

Check ups isn't always child's play.
Sometimes a real vet needs to play too.

A winter check up for your best friend (whether cat or dog) is vital, especially if they are getting on a bit in years.  It is estimated that one in five dogs, and as many as one in three cats will have some signs of degenerative joint disease when examined.

 Animals will not cry or whimper with joint pain, so DO NOT wait for this sign. 

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, our "arthritis checks" not only includes a discussion of the supportive medications that are available, we also  discuss with you the combination of physical therapy exercises that are best suited to your pet.

Yes, this does involve the "E" word. 

Exercise is the most important thing that all arthritis management programs at Russell Vale Animal Clinic  revolve around, NOT medication. Of course, we do use medication, but to rely on this alone is not in the best interest of your pet.

As a vet, I try to formulate the right program for each individual dog, as what may suit one (increased walking and aerobic conditioning), may not suit the other ( low impact movement of joints).

I also try to remember that it isn't just the joints we are needing to protect, but the muscles and ligaments around them - when one fails, the others soon follow. If your joints aren't as mobile as they should be, then your gait will be shortened, and your muscles that used to cope with the full stride, will waste away. 

It is also important to remember that not all limping pets are in pain, but all painful pets limp. But would you know the difference? 

 It is only with a full veterinary check up that we can tell.  Again,  using my own dog Piper as an example - she was limping on her right hind leg because she had hip dysplasia with no osteoarthritis, and pain relief did not improve her gait (it made us feel better though). 

Another example would be the dog with cruciate ligament rupture - these guys need surgery to reconstruct the joint, not pain medications.

To find the videos on some of the exercises I list below , you can visit my All About Joints page. 

Thanks to Piper (our dog) and Tegan (our vet nurse) for showing off some of these exercises.  If you need to know more, you can book your pet in for a FREE arthritis check, which we offer from 1st July to 30th of September each year.

A nice massage

Never underestimate the benefit of massaging the tired muscles of the shoulders and the back legs.  Warming up the muscles with warm towels is essential BEFORE you start. 

Gentle fingers rubbing in a circular motion the muscles will improve blood flow and muscle mass.

The garbage bin lid!

You could invest in a proper wobble board, but an upside garbage bin lid is also suitable for short term treatments.  These help improve balance, and awareness of limb position.

For us, we would call it strengthening the "core". 

You place your pet's front feet on the lid, and gently rotate the lid, forcing your pet to contract and relax muscles to remain "balanced".  Support your pet through out this.  Twenty repetitions and then you can go onto the back legs if needed.

Another similar exercise you can do is "hip tapping", which is tapping your pet's hip forcing them to place weigh on one leg, then other leg (similar to us changing our main standing leg).

Ice packs or warm packs?

Which one depends on your pet.  Some pets find the ice cold packs soothing, whereas others love the warmth.  Either way, make sure you do not burn your pet.

Always make sure that there is fabric between the ice/heat pack and the skin, and try it on yourself first so you know whether it is going to burn or freeze. If there is any sign of discomfort in your pet, then stop.

Primary Floor exercises and Passive Range of Motion

I have to admit, that these are the most common types of exercises I recommend.

Standing Resistance - These are great for those who are weak in the front or back legs.  Taking it slow, whilst your pet is standing, apply light pressure either between the shoulder blades or hips. Ideally, your pet should be trying to push back or "resist" your pressure.
Standing Resistance - front legs
Standing Resistance - Pelvis

One leg standing - Lifting the leg opposite to the one you are wanting to strengthen, inand holding it for 10 seconds.  Stop after 2-3 repetitions.  This will increase the pet's range of motion.

One leg standing -

Sit to stand - As it says, you are asking your pet to stand from a sitting position (similar to our lunges). This will help build back muscle mass.

Cavaletti Rails - Having rails placed a set distance apart on the ground, will help increase the range of motion in your pet's joints.  Start off with rails on the ground, with the distance the same as height of your pet's elbow. A couple of repetitions, and each day, adjust the poles to get the stride you are looking for.

The scrunchie - Something as simple as a young girls hair scrunchie can get your pet's legs moving. I am sure you have all seen the dog with a bandage on their foot, and they busily shake and shake their leg to get the thing off!  Or hold their foot up at a funny angle?  This is movement which is what we are looking for.

Swimming - is often talked about for great low or non impact exercise, but it isn't just letting it go free in a swimming pool. The height of the water is dependant on what you wanting to achieve.

 If it is to improve their proprioception (or how they place their feet), then the water should be foot deep. If you want them to work the entire leg, then it should be knee deep.  The water should be a hip depth, if you are aiming for weight support during walking.

Finally, many of our pets do need medications to help them cope with their arthritis.... like us.  In many pets, exercises are not enough to keep the pain away. Visit us (or your local vet) for what is best for your pet.

Do you love our photos?  They are of our dog Piper, who is still recovering from her pelvis surgery.  For her, our goal is to prevent her from developing osteoarthritis, but doesn't she make a beautiful model?

Dr Liz Bellambi vet Russell Vale Animal Clinic
I am the mad Dr Liz from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  We are for happy, healthy pets, always. 

Thank you for caring about your pet.  Vets like me need pet owners like you.

PS Thanks to Tegan and Piper for posing for the photos.

Keep an eye out for the next post or two as I will share some exciting new information that I heard about at a seminar at the University of Sydney vet school. 

Exciting times ahead for combatting the pain our pets feel in their joints - will there be a better way of doing it?  We hope so!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pet "Dental" is not the same as a Human "Dental"

It is understandable that as a pet owner, you would compare your own personal experience at the human dentist, to the type of experience you think your pet will get at our (or any) veterinary hospital that offers veterinary dentistry.
Words are not needed to know how he is feeling right now!

Whilst I don't want to insult my own lovely dentist who does do a very thorough job, I have heard many pet owners complain about the "pay alot for only 5 minutes in the chair".

All pet owners are pleasantly surprised once we talk them through what is actually involved in all dental procedures at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  We know what we offer is thorough, appropriate and affordable. 

As a vet, I always educate my owners from their first visit on what is "normal" - whether it is skin, movement, ears, teeth.  I view pet owners as an extension of me.  Unless you, the pet owner, know what normal should be, then you are not going to appreciate the severity of any abnormality in your pet. 

Unless you, the pet owner, know that dental disease is actually the stuff under the gum - the part we can't see, then you will treat the brown stuff on the tooth as a bit of an eyesore, but not a problem. Or worse, you will see white teeth, and think that the teeth are normal. Sadly, many pristine looking teeth may harbour dental abscesses.  

Vets know that dental disease isn’t the stuff you see on the tooth surface... and as a result, all animals do require an anaesthetic and a complete oral cavity assessment, as, at the time of writing, I (nor any other person) do not possess Xray vision.

We don’t perform “dentals” at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, but rather a “Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment” (known as COHAT). 
We may use the term “dental”, as it is a common term, but it fails to fully describe what it is that we do.  Sadly, in most pets, we are actually treating disease, and like any disease, it needs thorough investigation, assessment and treatment - hence the COHAT!

Our COHAT is very comprehensive and includes

-          A full physical examination of your pet whilst they are awake. Blood tests and/or intravenous fluids are started.

NB the machine is in "Demo" mode
-          Sedation, and then a full general anesthetic, using equipment similar to that found in a human hospital (intubation, gaseous anaesthetic, and surgivet monitor – which does oxygenation, heart rate, carbon dioxide levels, temperature, ECG and blood pressure).

-          Probing of every single tooth in your pet’s head (if it is a cat it is usually 30 teeth, if a dog, usually 42 ).

-          Examination of the entire oral cavity (eg examining tonsils, back of the throat, underneath the tongue etc)

-          Our grade 1 procedures include up to two intra-oral radiographs and up to one simple extraction if necessary.

-          Our grade 2 procedures include up to four intra-oral radiographs and up to two simple extractions if necessary.
Dental radiographs are essential, but only a few
veterinary hospitals actually have them.
Do your homework, and choose a vet hospital that
performs veterinary dentistry WITH dental
radiographs, always!

-          Our grade 3 /4 mouths  are full mouth radiographs, and we often see  all sorts of things that we could not see with the naked eye.
-      With this information collated, we have a thorough picture of what is going on in your pet's mouth, we formulate a "Treatment Plan".
-      The Treatment plan can include periodontal therapy, extractions (simple and complicated), and even more complex oral procedures.

-          And finally, we are at the part that all of us think the "dental" is.. -the hand and ultrasonic scaling, polishing and fluoride treatment.

There is a lot more that is involved, but I wanted to share an overview.  Our "dentals" are appropriate in that they include dental radiographs, pain relief and antibiotic injections too.  We do not skimp on any essentials, nor do we cut corners.

We have packaged our dental services to be affordable for loving pet owners, as we hate that money comes in the way of doing what needs to be done. 

A "pet” dental is  simply not the same as an “human” dental. 

As for the "human" five minutes in the chair?  Your pet's dental procedure (including check up etc) can range from 30 minutes to up to 4-5 hours (in those really really bad mouths).   I know I would prefer my pet to have a 30 minute procedure each year to a 4-5 hour one once in its lifetime!

Often we get phone calls from loving pet owners who have been to ABC vet hospital, now wanting a price on a “grade 2 “ dental. 
Why not come in and visit us instead?   Virtually all who have come in to see us, have booked their pet in at the time.... a testament to the quality of the dental services we are able to offer every pet.

Smiling pets... happy and healthy... that is what we want!

A dental check is free with us all year round - a no obligation vet visit where we can weigh your pet, check its microchip, give them lots of liver treats, and make it as pain free for them (and for you too  as it is free). 
 Most importantly, work towards the healthy mouths of all Australian pets.

I am the mad Dr Liz, and I am the vet at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  We are for Happy, Healthy Pets... Always.  
A pet's good  health  starts in the mouth. Why not come in with your pet for their free Dental Check - any time of the year.

 To find out more you can visit our website.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A funny thing happened... blame the super moon!

Whenever there is an unusual amount of "strange" activity in Bellambi, I head over to my "moon" calendar to see if there is a correlation.

There have be many scientific studies which show that there is absolutely no correlation between what our moon is doing and what we are doing.  But frankly, science has got it wrong!

It is going to be one of those things, like divining, telepathy or any other hoo doo voo doo,  that, anecdotally appears to exist, but when you try to measure it through the means we want to, it just refuses to be measured.

And sometimes a vet's day just seems to do the same thing. 

You wake up all excited by what it may bring, and at the end of the day.... you feel like you have lived through a day of "Comedy Channel" (or the Drama Channel or a combination of the two,  depending on how the day went).

The "temper" needle

This "zombie" also needs the "temper needle" to
calm him down too
(my son Sean at the Museum of Human Diseases
Zombie Apocalypse)
Every few months or so, there is a guy who walks in to say "Gday" to us as he walks home from Bellambi pub down the road.  He is nice and harmless enough, and according to him... absolutely loves his two dogs.

We have never seen his two dogs, as he always says they are up to date on everything, getting that done at the best vet in the world down near Bomaderry a few years ago.   It always puts a smile on my face to hear something like that... seriously... as this is awesome for him that he has absolute respect for a colleague, even if I have no idea who that is, and don't recognise the name.

He doesn't buy any flea or worming stuff from us either, as we are apparently too expensive. As for a check up? Well, that isn't necessary, as they are healthy he says.

Today, he came in to ask me a question whilst he was heading home. . 

"How much is the temper needle", he asks.

As I thought he was asking about the vaccination, which includes distemper, I asked my usual question about whether he also needs the vaccinations against Canine Cough.  All dogs require an annual or triannual vaccionation against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus, and only high risk groups should get the Canine Cough needle each year.

A confused look went over his face, and then he said "Not the needles, but the temper needle.  He's getting angry and I need to give him the temper needle to settle him down".  As he clarified what he actually wanted, a confused look washed over my face.

It appeared that one of his dogs was starting to bite his hands when he goes to pat it, and attack the other dog too.   He also had been desexed recently too.

As the conversation went on, apparently this most amazing vet from down south recommended the temper needle as a treatment for this dog's biting.

Whilst I aim to please, and our pharmacy is quite comprehensive, it was with sadness that I had to advise this pet owner that we did not have a "temper" needle, nor were we likely to ever stock this "temper" needle.

He was to come back to let me know what this infamous "temper needle" actually was, but to this day, I still haven't heard. And as I don't know the name of this amazing vet from down south, I can't ring to find out what the medication actually is.

Pandora can't help herself

You have all met Pandora, our boss!  She is the black cat that sits at the front door teasing your dogs either as they walk in or out. She may sit on your lap (if you are a dog person), or try to sit in front of your cat's cage.

Frankly, I have to apologise for her behaviour, as she often comes across all sweet, nice and lovey dovey.... until she bites you.  It's love, honestly, and they do say love hurts.  So do Pandora's bites!

They also say that cat's have nine lives... well, in Pandora's case, she would use them up almost daily, as she ventures into our consultation room.

The problem isn't that she comes into the room, but that she chooses to come in when there is a poor munchkin on the consultation table who really doesn't like cats, and thus, is easily aroused at the mere thought of a cat, let alone one being physically present. 

Top it all off, this cat is allowed to come in and go out of the room as they choose, but this poor doggie,  being restrained by a loving owner, and is even told chastising words for growling, lungeing, trying to jump off the table, and any other combination of behaviours one would see in a dog who sees a cat.

All of us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic apologise to all of you for Pandora's behaviour.  It is a situation which we are sadly very much aware off.

We would dearly love to say that it won't happen again, but unfortunately we can't.  Simply, because Pandora is a cat.  And she can't help herself.

As we do not believe in being anything other than your true self, we cannot ask, our boss, Pandora, to be anything else.  Despite the fact that her behaviour, at certain unfortunate times, is very.... well, what is the phrase...., inconsiderate?

She is a cat, and she loves our home made liver jerky.  I cannot punish her for her good taste now, can I?

The Three Molly's,

We all know things happen in 3's. In veterinary life, it may be three cats who have decided to "obstruct" themselves on a Friday afternoon, five minutes before closing. 

Or the three coughing dogs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

These are not called "Molly" but they are 3 happy
dogs at Russell Vale vets
But I will talk about the "Three Molly's".  One would think that the name "Molly" would be a common enough name for our pet's, as it often ranks in the top ten.

But what is the likelihood of a solo veterinarian, seeing three dogs called "Molly" in the same afternoon.

And, what would the likelihood of these three dogs all having the same presenting complaint (even though the final diagnosis not the same)  even if they are of totally different (unrelated at all ) breeds?

I used to enjoy mathematics in high school, so I would say, that generally, it is not a one-in-a-million type situation based on the criteria of name alone.

But what is the likelihood of three dogs named Molly, coming into a veterinary hospital, within 2 hours of each other, of unrelated breeds and owners, with urinary tract problems?

Ordinarily, I would say  it was unlikely, but we are talking about Russell Vale Animal Clinic - where we make "rare diseases" and "uncommon presentations" the norm! 

It isn't the common things, that occur commonly with us, but the uncommon things too! (a side effect of performing full physical examinations, and doing as thorough a "work up" as we can.)

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Russell Vale vets.  There are some full moon days which put a smile on our face, and some where we just shake our heads, and wonder why.

Thank you for reading the bellambivet blog and for being part of the animalclinic family at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

If you ever need us, why not give us a call on 42845988.