Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Random Act of Kindness - Nominated for a Website Makeover

Thanks to my cat, Pusski, I was awake really early yesterday morning (21st October).  He was doing the usual scratching at whatever papers are in my room, to alert me that it was his breakfast time.

And, I am sure I am like many of you, I checked my email at the same time.

What I surprise .... a random act of kindness occurred to me.   I am not usually the recipient of kindness, as a veterinarian, we are usually the ones who give, not receive.

There was a kind hearted person called "Anonymous" who felt that my website needed a "makeover", and nominated us as a "Local Legend".

Oh, wow!

Thank you Anonymous, for your Random Act of Kindness.

It is appreciated. It is an opportunity to win an amazing prize, and yes,  my website can do with a "makeover". 

I agreed to the terms and conditions, gulped when I saw that there was going to be publicity involved, but agreed nonetheless.

To be nominated was very humbling, but to get to the next stage, is going to require your help.

We need to get ourselves from the "nomination" list to the "short list".  I don't know what Anonymous wrote about us (as this is one of the determinants), the website review is another determinant (so do I make it look good or leave it as it is?).

The most important thing we need is for all of you to vote for us, and to share it amongst your friends, so they can also vote for us.

Please go here.... 
or if link doesn't work

or you can click on the photo below.

We thank each and everyone of you for supporting my little vet hospital at Russell Vale.

The tally as at 22nd October (after one day only) is 113, but it would be awesome if it was much much higher.

The Mad Vet, Dr Liz
Pusski, my "fat cat" hard at work!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Common Poisons We see in Wollongong Pets

The Common Poisonings seen in General Veterinary Practice

Only horrible people would deliberately go out of their way to poison an animal.  Most of the poisonings we see are actually accidental, but unfortunately, some are avoidable or preventable.

Often, pet owners have seen their pets eat these poisons, ring up for advice, and then usually say "I will  just wait and see what happens".

Please do not wait and see what happens, as many times, it can be too late. 

For example, if your pet has just eaten something, and it is possible to induce vomiting, then this is the best treatment. 

Many times, I hear the line  " I never thought he would..... climb the shelf/move the lounge/ reach that spot   "

With respect to marijuana, I have had owners say to me that they didn't think the pet would inhale it, and others didn't think they would eat the hash cookies off the compost heap. 

Well, yes, our pets do both!


Signs: drowsiness or abnormal excitable behaviour, swaying in the breeze (sway from side to side), easily startled, increased appetite (the munchies), star-gazing, lack of coordination

How soon: Within minutes

Rat Bait:

Signs: Depending on the type - either bleeding tendencies (will not show for days) or neurological signs (seizures, coma, tremors, altered behaviour) which occurs within hours.

How soon: Hours (if neurological type) or days (if bleeding type)

Snail Bait:

Signs: restlessness, seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, death.

How soon: within 1-2 hours depending on how quickly it goes through the stomach


Signs: vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach or intestinal ulcers, kidney failure,

How soon:  Hours to days to weeks.

Paracetamol - TOXIC FOR CATS

Signs: Liver failure, abdominal pain, breathing problems, damages red blood cells so get muddy coloured gums, coma and death.

How soon:  Hours

Topical Flea Products

Do not ever use a dog product on cats (unless it is cleared by your vet).

Signs: Salivation, muscle tremors, seizures and death

How soon:  Hours

Cockroach Baits:

Signs: depending on type, but usually salivation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain.

How soon: Within hours

For more information on these and other poisons visit

Refer to our First Aid app on what to do in the event of an emergency, and of course, call us on 42845988

If you don't have the First Aid app on your phone, click here to access the iTunes and google play links to  download the app.

 Don't forget that you have to select Russell Vale Animal Clinic as your preferred vet to access all of the handy information on this app.

 I am Dr Liz, and we are here to help you keep your family safe and sound.  We are for happy, healthy pets always.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meet Cicero - our newest family member

Sharing some exciting news with all of you - we are now owned by a rascally rabbit, called Cicero.

He has an interesting history, but we have no idea what it was before he was brought into us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic as a "lost bunny".  He came in on the day of our Open Day, 13th September 2014.

He was with us for a few days and was posted on a few Facebook Lost and Found pages, including our own.  As no one came forward to claim him, he went to the local RSPCA, as we knew that this was going to be his best chance to be reunited with his original family.

 I know that he must've been  loved, as he was already desexed, and is a very tame man.

The RSPCA staff at Unanderra kept us informed the entire time about his welfare, and for this we are forever grateful.  And sadly, no one came forward to claim him as their own, or to choose him as the newest member of their own family.

Now we are back to building our menagerie again.  He is now with us, has joined our family, and we have called him Cicero.

Check out his new digs!

Cicero showing off his new house to our cat, Pusski.

Choosing his accommodation is important - he needed shelter and ample area to move and run.  If he felt threatened, he needed an area where he could go to keep himself safe. ]

It is a split level home, like ours. A big area on the bottom with shade and open - ness.

Since the photos were taken, we have since added mosquito netting to protect him from myxomatosis (spread by biting flies and mosquitoes).  He is already vaccinate against Calicivirus (having had that done at the RSPCA).  He will get this vaccination every year, with his annual dental check and blood work. 

Outside activity

We have bought him a rabbit harness, as we don't want him running away (there are dogs on either side of our property, and as we back onto the RTA land, there are foxes in there.

We want him to have fun with us outside too, but know that he is safe. 

What about food?

In all that I know, have read, or have had lectured to me about rabbit health, there was one point that always stood out.  What food a rabbit eats is the single most important part of a healthy rabbit.

Ensuring an appropriate diet can prevent many diseases, such as those involving teeth, their gut and their skin.

The problem with many commercial rabbit foods, is their fibre content.

A rabbit food needs 18 to 20% fibre, and their digestive system is designed to eat grass for 6-8 hours a day.

To keep it simple for us, we have a formulated a menu for Cicero

He eats a "keep it simple" diet - this is the best thing for him.

Oxbow Timothy Hay - the reason why I choose this, is that it is lower in protein and calcium than other hays, but equally higher in fibre.  This will help keep  his digestive tract as healthy as it can, as well as prevent urine crystal or bladder sludge (a common problem in house rabbits). This type of hay will encourage a lot of chewing, which is what rabbits need for their continuously growing teeth.

To my surprise, we had a lot of trouble sourcing this through the local pet shops, but we know that this is the number one food recommended by vets who specialise in exotic pets, like Cicero. 

Vegies - access to plenty of fresh grass.  He gets this daily.
He gets 1 packed cup of mixed veges - we include - carrot tops, brussell sprouts (see there is a use for them), spinach leaves, bok choy.

Rabbit pellets - the problem with many commercial rabbit pellets is that they contain insuffient fibre, so we make sure that when we went shopping, we looked for a high fibre, low calcium pellet. We couldn't find one locally, so we are using a normal commercial one for the time being, but we will be ordering it online, as well as stocking it for our fellow bunnies.

Herbs - he gets a tablespoon or more of mixed herbs - dandelion (we have lots growing naturally), parsley, basil, dill or mint.

And who doesn't love a treat or two. 

We give him chopped up banana or apple (but no more than tablespoon) each few days.

Because we want our  (and your rabbit) to have the very best, we will be stocking a range of Rabbit and Guinea Pig food from Oxbow.

How did Piper react?

The usual barking and carrying on initially, but she has now adjusted to the idea.  She alerted Dirk on the first day (Cicero escaped from the old rabbit hutch we had).  Cicero was sitting there, with Piper barking at him. Neither one moved. 

If Cicero had run, then Piper would have too. As Cicero did not move, neither did Piper.  Phew!

Just as well.  A rabbit running from a kelpie would not have been a fun situation for Cicero at all, and certainly not we would have intended for him on his first day.

Our cat Pusski is bemused by it all (he is the boss at home), and Dash? don't know yet.  Dash and Piper are besties, so I suspect she would not be a problem

So, we welcome Cicero to the mad household of Dr Liz and her animal mad family. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet of Bellambi. Welcome to my family.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Dog Piper - Turning One!

On the 29th of October, 2014, our dog Piper, will turn one. Well, we hope that is her birthday, as on her vaccination card, and her RSPCA paperwork, the dates are different by two weeks.
Piper - during the first week in our family

So, was the second six months of her life as eventful as her first?

Let's recap what she happened to her in the first six months of her life....

  • Fear of thunder
  • Kennel cough
  • Giardia infection (causing diarrhea)
  • Limping front legs
  • Unerupted lower first premolars
  • Car accident (she was a passenger)
  • Hip dysplasia requiring a Double Pelvic Osteotomy
  • Demodectic Mange
Quite an impressive list, don't you think?  If you want to read the indepth version, go here.

How have things resolved for her? 

Well, she is no longer fearful of thunderstorms (as far as we know), but she is still reactive to new noises.  She is also now given the nickname of "the doorbell", as she lets us know if anyone is approaching the house. Even though the noise is similar, she reacts to it... I guess its because we do too by approaching the door ourselves.

Her kennel cough and giardia resolved quickly.  She is no longer limping on any of her legs (thank
A dentigerous cyst - the thing I wanted to avoid in Piper
which we did successfully, because the unerupted premolar
was extracted before it could cause  a problem.
goodness).  We ended up extracting her unerupted first premolars, as I couldn't handle the stress of knowing that they were there, due to their potential to form into a dentigerous cyst (a bone eating cyst which can fracture the jaw).

She recovered well from her DPO surgery.  Gee that was hard keeping a kelpie crate confined for four weeks, and then restricted exercise for another two weeks.  Benefit of drugs, and previous crate training, but unfortunately, we had to rely heavily on drugs.

The demodectic mange is still ongoing, as the treatment for this is at least 4 months.  We have her on the weekly injections.  Her final skin scrape and injection will be around her first birthday. 
A demodex mite - they live in the
hair follicles, causing damage, and make
hair fall out as a result.
Common in young dogs.

What a birthday present!

So what has happened in the past six months?


I do not believe it!  Tegan saw this bald patch on her lip, and I couldn't believe that the treatment for mange wasn't working.  So I performed a skin scraping, and there were no mites. 

I did a fungal smear - and there were the fungal elements, waving hello at me.

As I did not believe what I was seeing, I performed a fungal culture - and grew a furry fungus!

Please note - ringworm is not a worm - it is a fungal infection that causes a sore that look like a round circle (in the old days, people thought it was a worm).

She had a "kerion" which is an infected ringworm on her right lip.  She most likely picked it up from digging around the yard. Whilst that is responding to treatment, it is a slow process. It can take up to six weeks or longer for the infection to totally clear.

At the time of writing, her lip is 98% normal. Phew!

An itchy dog

If Piper gets just one flea on her, or even the thought of a flea, she starts to scratch.  All of our animals are on monthly flea control throughout winter, and fortnightly during summer anyway, but I could not believe it when she started chewing around her tail end.

I hear the voices of all of those other pet owners who proudly proclaim that there is no way on this God's earth that their pet could have fleas.   I was saying the same thing to myself too.

We could not see a flea on her.  We gave her a capstar tablet, and put on a white sheet to find that pesky flea - we did not see one!

She occasionally scratches at her ears too, although they are crystal clear with no discharges or smell. 

Watch this space on her itchy skin!   Or I could be lucky with her, and it goes no further than good quality, regular flea control! 

How lucky do you think we feel right now with her? 

Even though we have not seen a flea, even though she is on good quality flea control, the fact that she is itching on the lower half of her body, automatically gives a good 90% odds on bet, that she is allergic to fleas.  It doesn't mean that she has fleas, just means that she has exposure to fleas.

And given her active lifestyle, that is very likely.

All we are doing to manage this itchy dog,  is have her on fortnightly Advantage during the summer months.  The fact that she responds to that treatment, means that this is most likely what is causing her itch.  My other alternate medication is fortnightly Comfortis. I have not needed to do this at the time of writing.

What about her ears?  Again, likely allergy related, but this has settled down too. Phew!

Fingers crossed that she doesn't develop any other allergies to pollens or grasses! (probably just jinxed myself there).  These are a lot harder to diagnose and treat.  Of course, it would mean allergy testing, and referral to a dermatologist - joy!  another specialist! 

No matter how much good my veterinary dermatologist is , it would be nice to not have to visit another specialist any time soon.

Those of you who have had itchy pets, know how frustrating the management of them can be.

Weak muscles

Getting Piper into the right position to have a special frequency vibration
go through her muscles to re-active the ones that have been lazy. This
is from her second visit.

As a result of her hip dysplasia, and consequently the surgery to repair that, Piper's muscles are not at their full functioning potential. 

Piper is now visiting a physiotherapist at the Animal Referral Hospital, and at time of writing, we have only had two visits.
Tegan with Piper, preparing ourselves for our next appointmen.

Read more about her first visit here.

Every day, she has daily exercises to re-train her body to use all of her muscles. As a result of her hip dysplasia, she is strong on the upper half of her body.

Slowly, but surely, we are getting there.  A slow road ahead

We are just thankful that other than all of these issues, she is a lovable, happy, sociable dog.

Overall, we feel she has had a good first year.

She comes to work with us some days, other days she spends with Tegan.  She sleeps on someone's bed every night, and as far as she is concerned, she is a family member.

Before anyone goes on about treating Piper like a child, when she is actually "just a dog", there is one thing I have to say in my defence.

 If I treated Piper like a child, she would be sleeping in her own bed! 

The way we try to treat Piper is with compassion, kindness and affection.  We know that she relies heavily on us for a lot of things, and we rely on her too for the things that may be lacking in our lives.  Those of us who have a pet will know exactly what I am saying here.

Shall I talk about money?  Just because I am a vet, does not mean all of this costs nothing.

Most of the problems with Piper were managed at my veterinary hospital, but when it came to the orthopaedic surgery and the physiotherapy, she needed specialists.
Pet insurance, for me, is like a protective blanket.

Piper has pet insurance, and that has covered the bulk of her specialist veterinary fees.  Whilst Piper's policy has an excess of $125, the only things I have put a claim in for is her giardia infection, her hip dysplasia and consequent physiotherapy.  

If I didn't have pet insurance, and I wasn't a vet, her veterinary bill would've been in excess of $8000.00.
As I had taken out pet insurance for her, from the day she joined the family,  her pelvic surgery cost me only $125.00.

So far, with all of her problems, I am probably $800 out of pocket - not bad considering all of her medical problems.

I had taken out her insurance policy because of our experiences with our previous dog Teddy. He had B cell lymphoma that needed a specialist oncologist. That cost over $10 000, and to this day, I don't quibble about spending that money on him. I just wish I had taken out insurance for him.

Many years ago, a reporter called me to get my opinion on people who spend lots of money on dogs or cats, and getting things done like chemotherapy or kidney transplants.  I asked her what type of car she drove. She said BMW.  How much did that cost? She said over $60K. I asked her why spend that much on something that just gets you from  A to B. That is all a car really is.  I personally think spending that much money on a car  is ridiculous, but I don't judge harshly those who choose to spend their money that way.  They have their values, and I have mine. Obviously, conversation did not end well.

Who is she to judge how I may choose to spend my money? or how any other pet owner spends theirs, for that matter.

As an animal loving family, we knew that we would spend whatever we needed to spend to keep Piper healthy, but we also knew we were not in a financial position to spend thousands of dollars.  We knew our financial limit.

Piper's pet insurance is the best $770 I have ever spent. 

Vital Facts:

Piper is a pure breed Kelpie. Her siblings were Sally, Liz and Kelly.  Her RSPÇA name was Tammy. We met at the RSPCA Rouse Hill one hot Saturday afternoon, and she was the last puppy in the shop.  The other dog didn't like cats, which would not have suited us (as we had two cats at home).
What are her nicknames?
Her proper name is Piper.

Her nicknames include "problem child" and "doorbell".

Her "dog park come-to-me" name is "Pup - Pup", she will stop whatever she is running to, look around, and then come back if needed.  Amazing to see!

Her favourite visitor?

My eldest son Haiden (whenever he comes over to visit us, she goes ballistic).  I should video it sometime, as she really just goes nuts!

Her favourite cat?


We call them the "kissing cousins"

Her favourite treat?

At the moment, it is ice, but that's because we have had a few warm days.  She loves her "bully sticks" and scavenging the cat food. Oh, and pieces of cooked chicken too.

Piper, fast asleep, in her most favourite sleep position - between
Dirk and I.
Thank you for following.
I am Dr Liz, the mad vet of Bellambi.

Piper is our newest, special family member.

She is also the Practice Manager, and Food Control Supervisor (two jobs she takes very seriously).

Don't forget send her happy birthday wishes (and good luck and good health in the future).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dogs on beaches? - Dr Liz's Veterinary Opinion

Not a day goes by, that the smell of beachy wet dog reaches my nostrils.  Some days it comes from my own dog, Piper, but most times, it is from the beautiful dogs who come in to see me, Dr Liz the mad vet of Bellambi.

"The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog".  Ambrose Bierce.
My family dog Piper at the beach (when she was a puppy).

I could virtually guarantee that all of my colleagues who have their veterinary hospitals in coastal towns, experience the same thing I do.  Bliss, isn't it?

As you go to palpate the dog's abdomen, your nose is up against the wet fur, filled with the aromas of the beach. You can feel the positive energy and happiness that surrounds the dog, and you are buoyed up by it too.  In my mind is a vision of freedom, running around madly, exploring this, checking out that....

In my mind I see the waves and rock-pools that were explored probably 10 minutes earlier by that dog.  The dogs senses are overwhelmed by the joy that nature has provided us - what dog doesn't love to roll in "dead bird" or something else equally as pungent.

Piper at Bass Point - ooh, that must smell nice (to a dog) - Piper was only 4 months old, so yes, she was "on a lead" at the time - she now runs leash free, and boy, she looooooves it!

Nothing puts a smile faster on my face than a happy pet!

"To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. - Milan Kundera.

My veterinary hospital is also on a road that ends up in a path, that in 5 minutes you are at the beach, and another 5 more you are at a "green zone" off leash access area of the beach (Bellambi Boat Ramp). Every day, I am waving "Gday" to many of my dog friends and their owners as they trot on their way down or back.

And sadly, if the Wollongong City Council review of the "Dogs on Beaches" policy goes ahead, Bellambi Boat Ramp will be permanently a "No Go" area for dogs - dogs will be banned 100% of the time.  I have to admit, I am wondering why this dramatic change.

Getting back to the "beachy" smell of these dogs... what every dog had in common was the big smile on their faces, the happy wagging tail, and a look in their eyes that says "can we go again.... please? Cause that was fun!" 

Such a happy smile on a dog's face, puts a big grin on mine.
Our  previous dog, Teddy - he captures the happy smile I love.

From a veterinary slant....whilst their temperatures may be increased due to their activity, these dogs are usually in a healthy weight range (note - they are not obese or fat)  Their hearts are healthy and strong.  They are usually well muscled, with a great coat. Sometimes, the sand and salt can be drying on the skin, but nothing that a rinse, and a bit of doggie conditioner wouldn't solve.

I call these dogs, my "beach bunnies", as they run, frolic, explore, sit, swim.... and are happy and content with life, as they are always with their  family.... that is the most important thing to them.

From a human angle?  I would suspect the health benefits would be the same. Aren't thousands of our tax money spent by governments to encourage us to be out and about?  But when we want to go out and about with our dog, we can't because our government wants to stop us from doing that with the one thing that encourages us to get out and about?  Our dog?

"A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk."  O.A. Battista

So many dogs (not), so much space, yeah!  Free time to explore!

Many pet owners even use the beach as their dog's "reward" for having to put up with the indignity of  full check up at the vets, despite all of the home made treats we give. As we always aim for fun at our vet hospital, this works for me too.

What I love about our animals?  -  the beautiful relationship between two different species - a pet and their loving family.  They are able to communicate with each other through touch, a look, through shared experiences of togetherness, love and fun.

They are as if they are family.... well our dog's are part of our family, aren't they. I have always believed in, and advocated for mutual respect, trust and affection between dogs (or any pet) and us.  Many of you  know that I also advocate for compassion and kindness to all, as these are the two most important things my animal friends have taught me.  (oh, and tolerance too).
Benji with Dirk  = I call them "twins"! They are like family!

If our world just had a pinch of the compassion, tolerance and kindness that our dogs have, then it would be a whole different (much better) world! 

"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others"  Audrey Hepburn

All dog owners should have access to an "off leash area" that is within 10 minute walking time from their place of residence.  

Yes, I know I am dreaming.

Why such easy access?

From what I know is a usual typical work out at a local gym - a 10 minute warm up walk, then 30 to 50 minutes or longer heart pumping exercise, then a cooling down time.

In our day and age of environmental impacts, getting into our cars, and being forced to drive to an off leash area, is plain stupid. Unfortunately, where I live (In Mt Brown), that is exactly what we (meaning my daughter, Tegan) do/does  with our dog Piper. We have no choice.

She has to get into her car, and drive 20 to 30 minutes to get to the beach (Bass Point or Port Kembla), or to a park (Flinders or elsewhere).  So yes, people can and do, do that.

 Some people, like my family, have no choice because of where we live if we want our pet to experience free range, uninhibited, do whatever they feel like, smell whatever they want, stimulation.

  We do that because we see the look on our dog's face as she zooms around, darting here, there, exploring, meeting new friends - the joy on their faces as they found the latest "dead bird", and make it "theirs" all day.  
One of Wollongong's "off leash" parks (no fences, and fortunately, no other dogs - have you seen dogs play together in a park - they play "chasies" or "tag" - and in an unfenced area, likely to run onto a busy street and get hurt. Our beaches have a "natural" fence which is the ocean on one side, and the sand dunes on the other.

Leash walking is as exciting as walking on a treadmill.
One day, my daughter was in a car accident - she had Piper (our dog) in the car, and she was heading to Port Kembla off leash beach.  So yes, this issue of driving to access off leash areas is personal... deeply personal!

With the arguments that "so many dogs are on our beaches, it has to stop",  comes the consequence that these same pet owners love their dogs so much, they will jump in their cars, wasting money on petrol, pushing fumes into the environment, and adding traffic already onto a congested roadway, just so their dog can experience freedom and joy.

With all of this 20 to 30 minutes of driving - increases the risk of a car accident or worse.  Yes, its personal.

 Actions and consequences.

In a day and age of "sustainability" reducing our dog's access to beaches is not an environmentally appropriate direction to be taking. 
Do you hear what I'm saying?

Dogs are not damaging our beaches, people are.

It is irresponsible people who don't pick up after their dog, who say "f.. u" when asked to do so, who don't watch what their dog's do or how they act, who shout out "It's Ok, my dog's friendly" (when your own dog is just minding its own business).

 Last time I looked, our dog's don't talk like that.

Which brings me around to responsible dog ownership.

 What does a responsible pet owner look like? It might surprise you that the picture in my head is probably a bit different to yours,  and I know it is not the same as what our governments think.

So let's start with the governments - they say it is someone who gets their dog desexed, microchipped and pay their registration fees. The dog must be on a lead at all times when off private property, and only off leash at locations and times that they specify. You must pick up after your pet at all times. Etc Etc Etc with a lot of rules and regulations.

Before you read on, stop and think - what is a responsible pet owner in your mind?  Think about the person who you don't think is a responsible owner, and then one whom you think is?

In my mind, a responsible pet owner is one who acts to ensure that their pet remains healthy and happy all the time.  This is the one who wants to spend time with their pet, who doesn't see them as a money pit, or "just a dog".  They are the ones who will wake up each 3 hours to put eye drops in, or give the injections twice a day if needed.  They are the ones who are there "for better or worse", like any other long term, solid partnership.

This is the one who knows the benefit of a great relationship with their vet. I am not saying this because I run a vet business, but I know that the pets that I see on a regular basis are happier and healthier.

 Simple fact.

These dogs may not always live longer than the dog that never goes to a vet, as we all know someone who owns a dog who is 18 years old with the last vet visit was desexing.  That, in any mans language, is a long time between vet visits.

But at least, the dog with regular vet visits doesn't have rotting teeth with pus, skin sores, muscles wasting away with joints as stiff as anything.  These are the dogs that makes a poor vet's heart ache when we see them.

The responsible pet owners of my mind  take their dogs with them on their holidays if they can (not always possible - I wouldn't take a dog to Bali, for example, nor to countries that choose dog as a food item). 

My first dog, Burek on holidays with us at Ulladulla (around 1978)

Basic things like "picking up after your dog" is, well basic.  It goes with the territory.

These owners ask questions from their vet about "what is the best thing for my dog's (insert problem here)", instead of asking their best friends cousins daughter who did a 4 day stint of work experience at a vet hospital when they were in Year 10, five years earlier (whilst you may think I am joking, I'm not). 

These same owners do not turn around to their pet and say "you'll have to get a job to pay for this flea stuff", but say "you are worth every cent as you give me things money cannot buy.  You are family."

A responsible pet owner thinks about ways to keep their pet happy, through social interaction with others (if this is what the dog enjoys - not all dog's enjoy this, so shouldn't be pushed into it); through different forms of exercise or activities - such as the beach, agility, fly ball or traditional dog obedience.

See, for me, a responsible pet owner is one who thinks through the eyes and heart of their pet, because they are 100% responsible for that pet's life, in more ways than one.  Their pet cannot go out to buy food, the worming tablets, the flea products, or walk into a vet when they are feeling unwell.  Our pets rely on others (i.e you, the responsible pet owner) for these things.

"Dogs have given us their absolute all.  We are the centre of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust.  They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. "  Roger Caras

As for allowing our dog's access to our beaches? 

No secret what my position is here.

The beach is not for every dog, and not every dog should be forced to an off leash area if it is going to increase their anxiety.


Most pet owners don't take their dogs to places that their dog does not enjoy (including visiting the vets, which is why vets, like me, work hard to make the vet visit enjoyable and fun).  


Yes, our dogs and their families, deserve nothing less than free access to some beach space. 

Our dog Piper (as a puppy) - yes she is on a leash, but a very long one.
She was only very young then.

Simples, dimples!

I would suspect that our dog's are cleaner than most humans, as they tend not throw tinnies, glass bottles or chip wrappers on the sand, they aren't the ones leave fish hooks around, nor burn fires. I've yet to see a dog light up a cigarette, and then throw the butt into the sand dunes.

Yes, they may poop, but I do recall in my youth, many of my human friends doing the same in the sand dunes too... grossed me out then, and now at the thought!   I am sure there are few toddlers out there who have done the same. 

So lets ban teenagers and toddlers from the beaches?  (just joking!)

Those pet owners who take their dogs to the beach on a regular basis, aren't in my consultation room asking for help about their dog's barking or destructiveness. 


Because these dogs  rarely have these problems.

Those pets who get regular mental and physical exercise are not the ones that turn up as "strays" or end up filling up the council pound because they have escaped for a bit of fun.

What is the number one noise complaint to council?  Barking dogs.

What is the number one activity of the Ranger?  Picking up stray or escaping dogs.

And that is with our existing areas.  

We need MORE "green zones" not less.

And Councils logic is to reduce and restrict even further the access to beaches by dogs and their families? This would inevitably lead to more barking and escaping dogs. 

Actions have consequences.

"I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons".  Will Rogers

(except wear a green "Unleash our Beaches" Bandanna - Go Green!)

I am Dr Liz, the Mad Vet of Bellambi.  One of the many joyous things I have learnt in the last few months, is how many awesome dog owners there are out there.  There will always be people who hate dogs or any other animal in any society, but thankfully, they are greatly outnumbered by the ones who get the connection with our animal friends.

I know I am "preaching to the converted" here, but thanks for reading.

Now go out there, and have some fun with your dog!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wollongong Dog Parks - Part Three - All About Sydney

Welcome to Part Three in my series on Wollongong Dog Parks. This one is a bit different, in that we will be visiting two of Sydney's off leash, "dog park" areas. 

As a reminder, there are no dog parks at all throughout the entire Wollongong City Council area.  This is a very important fact.  There are several "off leash" areas of parkland, but that is it.  You can read more in Part One and Part Two.

In my humble opinion, it is sad that we need to fight for even "off leash" areas, as these are basic, unimproved, unaltered areas, that require no expenditure from council to maintain, other than improved signage.  Responsible dog owners do the remainder of the maintenance of these areas.

On a Saturday,  Tegan, Piper and I drove to two different fenced dog parks in Sydney,  within a 35 minute drive of each other. 

As with the areas visited in Part One and Part Two, we looked at several key parts of a great "dog park".

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

So let's get started.

Allen Street Reserve - Strathfield City Council

From website, it states that this is the "newest leash free area. This area features a fully fenced with 1.3 metre fence and double gates, dog agility equipment, seating and drinking water for dogs."

Double Gated entry with good signage. Problem is, who
reads it?  I certainly didn't stop to read it as it is too wordy.
Parking was a bit problematic as it is on a narrow street, with one side not allowing parking at all. The double gates used the pool gate type latch, which, whilst secure, made it difficult if you were handling an excitable dog or three.

There were two entrances to this park, and both were double gated.  The gates were a good height, and there were several areas of seating on different sides of the park.

The signage was bright and new, but unfortunately, who would stop to read all of the rules and regulations?

At the far end was the agility equipment, such as the beam, the A frame, some jumps, a tunnel, and of course - the weave poles.  Poo bag dispensers were at either set of gates, but unfortunately, both were empty. Whilst we had our own poo bags, other owners didn't, and so we shared a few. 

A lack of poo bags seems to be a common theme at many of the parks we have visited in the past.

The agility section at the far end of the park.

Piper met a few dogs - Chip (a six month old Maltese), and Darwin (a very energetic older Beagle). During our time there, three larger dogs came in, and then came a hurricane, in the shape of a beautiful Staffy called Tyson! 

All behaved well, although Tyson was a bit of a handful, not helped by the fact that his owner wasn't watching what he was doing.

Dr Liz's Rating - 6/10

"Access not all that easy"


Piper's Rating - 7/10

"It was interesting and fun"

Warrigal Run (Dog Off Leash Area)

A 35 minute drive from the Allen Street Reserve is Sydney's largest "off leash" area, called Warrigal Run, which is part of the Bungarribee Park, where owners can go for a long walk with their pets on the leash too to enjoy the parklands.
Dogs had a choice of going to the off leash area, or a leashed
walk through the parklands.

Wow - how big was this area!  It was big!

It was double gated, but without any latches. Whilst there was signage there, it was again small, and who stops to read it?   The fence was flimsy and not high enough.  I wish I got a video  of it but we saw a Labrador escape over it (fortunately not hurt). 
Entry was double gated with push gates.

There were four sets of double gates at each corner of the park, and two large covers for shade.  Around the boundary were many areas of seating, which was great!  One could find a corner to sit and watch their pet's play, away from the main group of dogs if they chose to.

There were two garbage bins, but strangely, only one poo bag dispenser bag, and boy was it a big one.  There were four rolls of poo dispensing bags, and there were plenty there. Halleluja!

This where there is a problem - say your dog pooped in the far corner, how likely would it be that you would walk all the way down for a bag, go back to get the poop, and then back to the bin?  Unfortunately, not very likely, methinks!

And sadly, I did witness this very thing happen.

There was a combined water fountain which drained into a water bowl for the dogs - again, only one of them there. This area is very very new, and the trees are still very small (not enough for any shelter or any protection for any scared ones.   There were no other activities for dogs, with some owners deciding to bring their own.
What a clever idea - a combined water fountain for us, and water bowl
for our furr-friends.

Piper had fun though - she could stretch out and run and run - freely, and safely.  And that is what an off leash park is all about - an area where our pets can run to their little hearts content, and we know that they will be safe.

Tegan made a valid point - if this one was closer to home, she would be very happy to drive there for Piper to play.

Our Rating  7/10

"Whilst the area was large, the poor fencing was always a worry"

Piper's Rating  9/10

"I could run and run and run.... it was awesome"

Do you have any great dog parks that you attend with your dog?  I would love to hear what you like and don't like about them.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  With our family pet, Piper, and my daughter Tegan, we are having fun exploring the "Dog Parks" of Wollongong and beyond.  The sad part is, the more we look, the more disappointed with Wollongong.

Hopefully, local councillors are reading this, and hanging their head in shame over the paucity of dog resources in Wollongong.  Hopefully, we can inspire change for our  beautiful area!