Saturday, September 27, 2014

A superstitious and a mad vet? Yup, that's me the vet Dr Liz from Bellambi!

Do you have a superstitious vet in your neighbourhood? My neighbourhood is very lucky as they have a Mad Vet and a superstitious one - in the one body in the shape of Dr Liz (which is me).

What are some of my more common superstitions or situations that are beyond normal belief?

Be Careful not to Jinx

There are some phrases that a vet should never say to a pet owner.  Unfortunately, these are often the same phrases that every pet owner may want to hear.

So I touch wood every time I say "things will be fine" when I have a concerned owner.  And so far, it has worked.

Putting a bandage on a sore foot without sending extra bandaging material home is a sure fire guarantee that the bandage will come off within 5 minutes of leaving the building.

A less common jinx is giving a dog or cat a vaccination, but forgetting to ask if there were any previous reactions, only to find out 2 seconds after administration that the pet was "off colour" for a day or two previously at another vet hospital.

 Murphy's law states that the one pet who you forget to ask, is the one pet who you needed to know the information!

The Ghost of Bellambi Lane

There is such a long history of the building that now houses Russell Vale , that it should be no surprises that there is a mischievous spirit around the vet hospital ( Pandora our boss, is not the only one).  It was built in 1895 to be the Bellambi Post Office and General Store. The building is actually a group of separate buildings joined together by extensions, to eventually form one big building. What a history! 

We have had objects fall of the top of bookshelves, things go missing and then turn up elsewhere.

I have heard footsteps late at night when I have slept over, and a few other strange occurrences

Can our pets sense this other spirit?  I suspect they can - there are some mornings where everyone seems a bit skittish, including me. So I blame the ghost on these days. (it can't be the fact that we are a vet hospital :).

I like to think of this ghost as a bit of mischievous spirit, as it doesn't seem to mean any harm (most days).

The Vein god

Everyone who has to try to take blood from any living creature, has had days where the blood has no intention of flowing down the needle or catheter.
This little critter has no problem getting blood out of anything.
If only it was that easy some days at the vet hospital!

Many of us lift a silent prayer to the "Vein gods" every time we need to draw some blood.  Sometimes they are smiling, and it goes smoothly, and on some days it's a struggle.

Taking out two catheters or two syringes and needles, when you really need one seems to satisfy the "Vein gods" most days.

Oh, and we never push our luck in saying... " this vein looks great" as that is a sure fire guaranteed way  to convert the vein wall into a slippery snake that wont be penetrated.  When the vein looks great, its best to keep the mouth shut until its over.

The Quiet Day

Every vet dreads the quiet day, and its not for reasons that you may think.  No one likes to sit around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the clock to tick over to "go home" time.  For most vets, there is always something to do, like research information, or make follow up  phone calls

What is a universally known fact in the veterinary profession, is that on a "quiet day", there is a very high probability of a sick pet coming in five minutes before closing time.

And we could even bet money that the pet had been sick for 4 days or longer, with the common phrase of "we thought we would give it a few days to get over it". More often than not, you are spending the next five hours doing all of the tests and treatment to save this pet.

Sometimes leaving them a day or two just is not the right thing to do.

Never say "We haven't seen (insert name here) for a while"

"We haven't seen you for a while"
Most vets will relate to this one - our brains never stop whirring, from the sick dog or cat we saw the day before, or three years before.  Our minds are constantly on the go, as we wonder how so and so has gone.  Just because we don't call, doesn't mean we aren't thinking of you.

Many a time, though, Dirk and I will say to each other " we haven't see XYZ for a while, and no sooner, do XYZ turn up". 

We try not to do that too often for the rare dog that wants to eat us.

Happy "three"day!

Things happen in three's

Itchy pets, anal glands, blocked cats or any other common condition often happens in 3's. When you have your first or second, you feel bad that a third pet has to suffer to fulfil the "things happen in three's" rule.

Interestingly, that the conditions are different for individual vets.  For some it may be 3 pyometrons or GDV( twisted stomach), for others it may be anal gland abscesses or blocked cats. For me, it varies.  At the moment it is mammary tumours and urinary tract infections.

I am Dr Liz, the mad (and superstitious) vet of Bellambi.  Thanks for reading and sharing (and commenting too).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Piper and her Physiotherapist - Part One

Its been a few months since our dog, Piper, has had her pelvic surgery. For  newbies,  she has hip dysplasia, and she was an excellent candidate for corrective procedure called a Bilateral Double Pelvic Osteotomy.

If she was a human, it would go without saying that she would be seeing a physio two to three times a week, starting probably almost immediately after her surgery.  But, in the vet world,  many times we think it is not needed - they are moving fine, and all seems to be fine.  And if we do act, it is often weeks after the surgery (like us).

Canine rehabilitation medicine is one of my interests, which was developed many years ago during the care of Indy. (if you read my earlier blogs, I did write about him earlier this year). So after Piper's surgery, we knew she needed a physio visit.  An appointment was made at the Animal Referral Hospital, to visit their physiotherapist, Dr Helen Nicholson, who established Animal Physiotherapy Services. 

Yes, we drove 1.5 hours for our dog to have a physio consult.... and it was worth it.

Maddie (Physio Intern) examines Piper
with Tegan
Today, we had our first visit, and it was F U N!  It was confirmed that Piper's muscle is not as strong on her right hind than her left, and that she gets tired easily, because of the many months of not using her muscles appropriately.  As a result, she is using other muscles to compensate, which, unfortunately, if she keeps on using them that way, will cause her significant pain down the track.

Use of "rails" to check her coordination
I would liken it to the Dolphin who lost his tail, and had a prosthetic put on.  It was made into a movie (Dolphin Tail) which is great family entertainment, if you ever get a moment to watch it.

Back to Piper's visit - It started with an examination with Maddie, which checked her muscles, and her coordination.  Maddie explained everything that she was doing, and what she was finding. 

After this preliminary assessment, the real fun began, with a visit to the gym, and meeting with the bubbly Dr Helen, the founder of Animal Physiotherapy Services.

In the gym, was all of the fun toys that you would expect to see - bouncing balls, rails, treats (yummy yummy treats), mats, wobble boards and probably a lot more.  Did I mention the yummy yummy treats?  They spend a lot of time getting a range of treats to keep our pet's motivated, as this is as important as the exercises themselves.  If our pet's don't think its fun, then we don't think its fun... and then it isn't going to get done!

So F U N was the key word, using F O O D!

I learnt that dog's have "chicken wings" when their core is weak (yes, dog's do have a core too), and that Piper's chicken wings were showing!  We needed to develop her core strength and flexibility to help her in the long term.  Whilst the physio could show us the exercises, it was ultimately up to us to do it all at home, every day.

So what are chicken wings? 

Most of you would've seen them in your older pets, not knowing what they were - it is when the elbows swing out slightly (like a chicken wing).  It just means the dog is tired or lost its core strength), and so the wings come out.

We were shown the exercises that Piper needs to start on daily, and a program developed for her.

One of the first exercises we need to start doing is standing her front legs on a flat ball.

The first exercise! Position is important - easier said than done with our
energetic Piper.

It is just as well that we used positive reinforcement training for Piper from the outset, as I struggle to see how any trainer could have got her doing all of these exercises in a short time using a different technique.

The second exercise - the rails, which encourages Piper to
life her legs higher than she would normally need to
during walking. 


The third exercise - retraining Piper's back to increase its flexibility.

One of the things I didn't realise was how inflexible Piper actually was, which was not normal for a dog of her age or breed.  When she weaved around two witches hats, she moved like a big truck, rather than smoothly. We hope with her ongoing exercises, that she will achieve her full potential, and of course, be pain free.

Her inflexibility was a surprise as she runs well, jumps up and down ok, happily jumps on the bed (where she sleeps at night time), so without a physio consultation, I would never have known.

The fourth exercise - although not a good picture of it.  Doggie situps.
Please do not attempt these exercises on your own pet, as they may not be the appropriate ones for them.  Piper was assessed by a professional, and these are the best exercises that is needed for her to address her particular problem.

Now that Dr Helen and Maddie have done the hard work in giving us the homework, it is up to us to do these exercises on our Piper daily.  And I do mean "us" loosely, as I suspect it will be mostly Tegan doing it all.

Next check up is in two weeks time, and probably, more homework too. 

Tomorrow we are off shopping to buy a few essential bits and pieces, and I promise to share the photos of our own doggy gym in the future.   I can just see it now - opening in a suburb near you - the 24/7 Dog Gym!

Don't forget to read about the eventful first six months of Piper's life! It will be her first birthday in October, so I promise to share more about the eventful second half of her first year!

Thanks for reading. I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

I always joke about Piper being my "problem child", but isn't she an adorable one?  Can't imagine our family life without her!

Friday, September 19, 2014

An Ode to the Old Codger otherwise known as George -

The seventeeth of September, 2014 was a memorable day - but not in a good way. 
Owners often talk with me about making the "final decision" for their pet.  I have seen checklists of things you need to look at, and behaviours your pet may show.  But when you are emotionally invested in the living creature in front of you, the decision you are making to let them go with dignity is because you love them so much, not because it is the easiest thing to do. And checklists don't always help.

It was on this Wednesday, that was George's final day with us - with Dirk, with me, and after school - with our children Tegan and Paige.

George's Last Day - soaking up the "rays"
To find out more about how George joined our family six months ago, read here.

But don't forget to come back to make a dedication to the "Old Man", or  the "Old Codger", otherwise known as George.

On that sad Wednesday, he struggled to walk.  Dirk refused to believe this was the end, so he gently carried him outside, and sat him in the sun.... "to warm up his bones", he said.

As I looked through the kitchen window watching the two of them, my heart sank further.  The "warming of the bones" was not going to be enough. As Dirk pulled out his phone to take his own photos of George, it was clear that he also knew this was going to be George's last day.

As I joined them outside, George's eyes locked with mine - he was confused and scared.  George had a "vestibular episode" that day,  which meant he didn't know which way was up or down (hence his head tilt).  From human terms, similar to a stroke.

At least, he lifted his head as best as he could, and with my hand on his cheek, rubbed his cheek gently on my hand,  purring gently.  But it was a different purr which saved his life many months earlier.

My sweet little man.  How are we to let you go, when we need your wisdom and kindness? 

As your eyes locked with mine, and for the first time since we met you, you told us that it was time to let you go. When we first met you, with your infected feet, your purred, and looked at us to save you. But who would've guessed that it was us you saved.

Many people have asked me how old you were... you weren't telling, but we knew you were old.
George - his last day.

Many also asked me about your previous life... again that was a secret only you and your previous family knew.  But we knew from the state you were when you came in, that the past few months, possible year, weren't easy ones.

George - on his second last day. 
How we will remember him.
 Let us not go on about the unhappy moments of your life, but let us celebrate the gift you gave the old mad vet at Bellambi and her family.

You gave us a gift that Saturday afternoon many months ago.

We hope that we were able to return that to you in the six months that you were part of our family.

Let us celebrate the happy life you had, and the gift you gave all of us, and all of those who met and knew you.

Lift a glass and  light a candle... In memory of George!

From our Facebook page of well wishes....

"Go get all the mice George. RIP"  Emma

Sometimes pets come into our lives for only a very short time but what a difference they can make. Thank you so much, all of you, for giving George an extra 6 months of sunshine and love. R.I.P George, you were very much loved indeed." Lynda

"Oh, don't know what to say, he was such a beautiful boy, no more pain bud. So sorry, feeling very sad for you all, take care and much love from jenny"

"RIP George, I'm glad that you were surrounded by such wonderful people for the last chapter of your life. Run free on the rainbow bridge with non-achy joints kitty.

"RIP George - I will miss you teasing my puppies when we come to visit xx"  Jess

Light a candle in memory of all of our loved family members.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The new Veterinary Oath.

At the 2014 WSAVA Congress, the new global veterinary oath was revealed.  

As I read this oath, a tingle went down my spine.

With my hand on my heart, my head up straight, I proudly state that...

"As a global veterinarian, i will use my knowledge and skills for the benefit of our society,  through the protection of animal welfare and health, the prevention and relief of animal suffering and the promotion of One Health.

I will practice my profession with dignity, in a correct and ethical manner,  which includes lifelong learning to improve my professional competence."


The Mad Vet
Dr Liz

Russell Vale Animal Clinic
And I share my extra (personal) line to the "veterinary oath"

"I vow to allow my face to be licked left, right and centre by all of my animal friends, as all that I do and am, is for them."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dear Wollongong City Council - leave our dog beaches alone

Our dog Piper, who loves the beach!
Dear Wollongong City Council,

RE: Your Review of Dogs on Beaches and Parks Policy

There are many many areas in our beautiful city that do require your attention and review.

Our city centre is a dead zone, the shopping precinct at Piccadilly is an eyesore, and there are many side streets that still don't have guttering or decent playgrounds.

Weeds are overgrowing on the freeway, potholes are popping up in local side streets, and for all of this wonderful negligence, council rates have increased dramatically each year.

What I am trying to say is, albeit poorly, whilst we appreciate that you are showing an interest in our four legged friends, denying them access to the beaches is a not a cool way of showing it.

There are a lot of other more immediate, more serious problems that do need to be addressed in our beautiful city!  And we need serious people to deal with them.  Are you one of them?

I know stepping in dog poop is not pleasant, but if this is your reasoning for stopping our dog access, then you should also stop them from walking our streets too. 

Oh please do not say that you are considering that too! 

More people step in dog poop on our grass verges than they do at the beach.    I know that we clean up dog poop on our front lawn all the time, and yes, it annoys me too.

  But I am not writing letters into council complaining about it, I just try to educate pet owners on responsible pet ownership.

Let us get back to your existing park "off leash" areas.

So let me be honest with you....your park "off leash" areas suck.

We road tested a few of them several months ago, from both Wollongong and Shellharbour Council Areas, and we will continue to road test more in the next few months too.

And so far, what you currently provide for our dogs is appalling and substandard. 

The majority were near busy roads with no fences; they were really just a big park area with not much there!

So far, Piper has enjoyed the beach the most.  And you don't have to invest any big bucks here at all... just keep your mitts of our access areas to the beaches!

The rock pools, the waves, the sand dunes offer enough entertainment for our pets, and for us pet owners - we have a blast too!

Here are the links to my previous posts about the dog parks, where we "road tested" them on several points

We looked at
  • Availability of drinking water
  • Materials to clean up and dispose of poop
  • Space available to romp
  • Fences and Entry/Exit gates
  • Visual barriers
  • separate small and large dog areas
  • Available activities - i.e fun stuff - either natural or man made

Each one was given a score out of 10, by us aswell as Piper. 
Shellharbour Beach

You should read, and see for yourselves how insufficient the grass areas you are currently providing ... if you are going to stop dogs from accessing our beaches, then you really need to invest big in providing decent off leash dog parks.

 I mean, lots of dollars to get them to any sort of suitable standard.  It will take a lot of dollars to get them up to any suitable standard, and that is dollars taken away from the areas that seriously do need your attention (I refer you to my earlier list of eyesores in the Illawarra)

Keeping dog beach access as it stands, or even giving us more green areas, isn't going to cost you a cent!  Win- win, don't you think?  And we will love you for it to when the next election rolls around.

Not sure what is out there for our dogs?  Here is an honest view of it all....
Wollongong Dog Parks....
Part One:

Part Two:

So, dear Wollongong City Council, be fair to all of us, not the noisy minority.  Please, pretty please!


Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi Lane, on behalf of her family pet Piper

An exhausted Piper after a fun time at the beach!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Trouble Breathing or Walking? Paralysis Ticks could be the problem!

Is your pet having trouble breathing ? Is their pattern of breathing sounding very noisy as they breath out?  Are they also having trouble walking, or not going up the stairs as easily as they used to?

Of course, this could mean many things, such as old age, arthritis or heart problems... but these are also the tell tale signs of paralysis tick poisoning.

Last summer, 14 year old SuZu (not a typo) came in, with his owners in tears.  His owner thought SuZu  had reached the end of his days, even though he had been quite sprightly up until the day before. The rapid deterioration in him made the owner think of strokes or a heart attack.

Fortunately, the way he was walking (as if he was drunk), and the splat of the legs made tick poisoning top of the list of possibilities.  A tick search found the culprit (pictured below) - it was confirmed that SuZu had Paralysis Tick poisoning, and was going to live a lot longer.

 Whenever you do a tick search on your pet (which you should do daily by the way in our neck of the woods), you need to be methodical. You need to do what Dirk calls the "touchy feely session" - that is, you need to move your hands over your pet from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail. 

Those sneaky ticks can be anywhere - they can be up noses, down ear canals and up private bits (if you know what I mean).  Fortunately, though 80% of them tend to be on the front half of the dog.

What are some of the other signs?

  • Some pets sound like they have laryngitis -- their bark or meow are a bit hoarse
  • Vomiting/gagging
  • Localised paralysis (eg ticks near the eyes can make it difficult for eyes to close, or a lip to droop)
  • and of course, the walk as if they are drunk or weak in the back legs.

Most times the signs comes on over several hours, but I have seen cases that have walked the same for a week (and thus making tick poisoning low on the differential diagnosis list).

What are some of the more unusual signs?

With cats, their legs go all haywire when you go to pick them.
With dogs, vomiting/gagging only can occur, or just heavy breathing only.

If you find a tick?

We use a "tick puller", which looks like the other end of a hammer - it makes pulling ticks of eyelids and other sensitive areas very very easy.  Another method is the grab it, do a slight twist and remove. The problem with that method is, you need a pet that doesn't move much, and a tick you can grab onto and remove quickly.

My dad used the thread of cotton trick - he would grab a length of sewing cotton, make a small circle, and virtually wrap that around the head end of the tick (as the bum end is sticking out), and then he would close it until it separated the tick from the pet. 

If you are experienced, with good gripping fingers, you can just grab the tick and remove it quickly.

Leaving a "head" behind is not a problem.

Most times, however, what you think is a head, is actually a bit of the pet's own tissue as a result of the two sucking pincers of the tick.

If your pet is showing any signs of tick poisoning, then they need urgent veterinary attention. The neutralising anti-tick serum is administered, and hospitalisation is needed to monitor until they are walk, eat, drink, wee and poop.

The take home message

During tick season, any pet walking or acting funny is "tick poisoning" until proven otherwise.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  If you find a small lump, and you think it may be a tick, do not be frightened to bring it in for our vet nurses Dirk or Tegan to check it out for you.  We do not charge to check out "tick like" lumps on our pets when it is tick season.