Monday, November 24, 2014

Living a worthwhile life as a vet

In recent days, I was fortunate to be at a local business seminar in Wollongong (Breakthrough for Business) where one of the speakers was called Trav Bell.

His other name is "the bucket list man", or as he kindly reminded us, he is the "World's number one bucket list man".

Have you ever been to a seminar where you spent most of the time crying?

Well, this is a first for me. I did. I pulled out my hanky, and spent 90 minutes dabbing my eyes.
The next day, another speaker made the point that we are most affected by a message when we are angry or sad.  I don't think I was either emotion  that afternoon with Trav, but I was truly moved and touched by the inspirational message that was shared (plus a touch of jealousy of the places he has been too).

Really, it was my empathetic side went into overdrive with his life story, especially his struggle with depression, coupled with the emotionally charged videos of people helping people.

In any career survey I do, I rank high on empathy, love and common sense.  It means my ideal career is counsellor or minister, or something similar.  And I am a vet...well, close enough!

"Stop living in delayed gratification mindset" says Trav. (Guilty of that)

" When we see our potential it puts a smile on your face" he adds. (What potential?)

And then he says "If it is to be it is up to me", as he flings out his right arm, where those same words are tattooed, as a permanent reminder of the single most important message.

The only photo I took - thanks to being mesmerised ....Darn!

A shiver went down my spine. That line is what I often recite to myself.  Freaky!

Whilst I had heard of the Bucket list (which, for those who don't know is the list of  things you want to do before you die), I had never heard of the "Reverse Bucket List".

The Reverse Bucket List is all about the things one have already achieved.  How many of us look at what we achieved and say "Geez, that's amazing, aren't you one clever cookie"

"If I achieved all that by default, just imagine what I could do by design", Trav shared.

I am part of a profession which has one of the highest suicide rates, where fellow colleagues work 40, 50, 60  hour weeks, with a low financial and emotional payout.  We often lose touch with our family and our friends. Many family get togethers are disrupted because of the urgency of a sick pet.
Because of this, we continue to work 40, 50, 60  hours a week as we believe this gives our lives a purpose.  Strangely, one of the other speakers the next day suggested those who work these hours are suffering "burnout".  He was speaking to an accountant, but this fact applies across all professions, careers and jobs. And especially, my beloved veterinary profession.

To those of you who are working such ridiculous hours - stop!  (and sadly,  I have to include me in this too).

Part of the problem is that we lose sight of what is important: because we help many animals daily,  we lose touch with life.  And when a situation arises that the outcome is less than ideal, we tend to hang onto the one negative, and forget all of the positives.

As humans, we are hardwired to remember the fear and the negatives.  It is a basic survival skill, but in modern veterinary life, this skill actually works against us.

Every day, each of us have to remind ourselves of what we have achieved.  For me, the reverse bucket list is as important as the future one, in that it celebrates our achievements, whether big or small.

Go now to  make your list of past achievements, and then, do your list of future dreams.   Trust me, its liberating.

I am Dr Liz, and I have started to dream of my future potential. Exciting.

Thank you for reading my blog,  and writing your bucket lists.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dr Liz's Gratitude Project - Honest People are the Best People

Welcome to Dr Liz's Gratitude Project.

I am grateful for people who are honest about everything in their lives.  I call them the "no bullshitters"  as you know what you are going to get.

Of course, honesty doesn't necessarily mean you have to tell everyone what you think. Being honest doesn't have to mean being cruel or heartless.
Honesty is mostly always the best policy.

I am very good at blurting out the wrong thing, or saying something that someone else doesn't want to hear.  It is one of my many faults, but I don't think honesty is a bad fault to have.
Unfortunately, I have zero tolerance for liars or those that deceive.  I have suffered the consequences of the lies and deception of others, with the upshot of zero tolerance for liars.
I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. Thank you for following my gratitude project. 
Be kind to someone today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Diseases that undesexed dogs may suffer from

When I was a university student, one of the few surgical procedures that we had to perform regularly, was the "desexing" procedure for both male and female dogs and cats.  The reason?  This was going to be the most common surgery of general veterinary practitioners.

 Is it going to stay like this as the veterinary profession forges into the future?

My opinion?

 No -

I foresee that, like vaccination, we will be desexing fewer younger animals. And we will be performing alot more emergency surgeries on very sick older dogs, with all of the risk that it entails.


There are currently multiple studies that seem to raise more questions, than provide answers on this controversial issue of whether to desex or not.

As a vet, I applaud any research that investigates the potential causes of disease in our animals.

What we do know is that there appear to be significant breed differences of the effect of desexing on specific cancers and joint problems.

There is no dispute that the act of desexing (male and female), predominantly large breed dogs, and the age that this occurs, affect our animals in ways that was unexpected.

Sadly, many online authors are extrapolating the published results from one breed to another, and making broad blanket "scientific"  statements.

If you want to know more about desexing (pros and cons), then you can visit my website.

My position (at time of posting this, so it is subject to change) - each pet is individually assessed on whether the procedure is the right thing for them or not.  If I have any doubt based on current knowledge, then I will do what is the best thing for that pet.

In other words, I do not perform unnecessary procedures.

Many of the studies are from universities, and here I see a flaw in the argument.  These studies cite a low incidence of pyometron and breast cancer in undesexed dogs, and thus, downplay the seriousness of these very real, life threatening conditions. Many online "scientific" opinion pieces also downplay  how common  these serious diseases are.

Problem is, treatments for pyometron and breast cancers are commonly performed in general practice (what is often called primary care centres) with many vets rarely, if ever,  needing to refer pets to a specialist for this surgery. Breast cancer and pyometron patients do die.... but sadly, they do not make it into the "statistics" of how common a disease is or isn't.

However, with respect to many cancers, such as hemangiosarcoma or lymphoma, or cruciate disease - these are common referrals due to the nature of the treatment required. Only a handful of vets in general practice are set up to deal with chemotherapy drugs (requiring special equipment) and advanced orthopaedics.

Does this mean I don't take any credence to these studies  about the effects of desexing on our pets?

Teddy- rest in peace sweet man - 2009
Of course not!  My own dog, Teddy, died from lymphoma in 2009, and like any other pet owner, I also wonder what caused it.   He was not desexed until he was 2.5 years old (simply because I never got around to it.  I do not believe, nor do I have any evidence to believe, that desexing him caused his cancer.

What I would like to see is the inclusion of cases from the general population, and - an acknowledgement that there are pros and cons in either decision - whether to desex or not. 

Let me talk about three very common diseases that undesexed dogs may suffer from. 


This is a common condition of usually older female dogs, with a typical set of signs. 
A Friday night Pyometron surgery in a 12 year old  cattle dog. The uterus
ruptured after I had removed it from the dog. It weighed
over 2 kg.

Basically, it is a pus filled uterus as a result of the hormonal influences.  The signs are seen within three weeks of a dog's "heat" cycle, with the signs including
- lethargy
- drinking more than usual
- a distended abdomen
- with or without a vaginal discharge

And, it can be fatal. 

Treatment, in general is emergency surgery (desexing), but there are the options of medical treatment too in dogs who are intended for future breeding.

The surgery is technically difficult, there is a high risk of the uterus rupturing at any time of the surgery, and often, the female dog is systemically toxic and sick with liver/kidney damage.

Half of the pyometron cases I see are euthenased, primarily, to the cost of the surgery and the age of the dog.  On average, it is 4-5 times the cost of a routine desexing. On the surface it may appear to be the same surgery, but it actually isn't.  The incision is usually 3 times longer, the uterus is significantly larger, and much more friable.  The dog itself, is sick and old.

This disease is preventable by desexing when the dog is healthy (irrespective of age). 

As an aside:  There are suggestions in many anti-desexing web pages about "partial spay" or "ovary sparing spay".  These are surgeries that leave 1 or both ovaries, but with the removal of the uterus.  Unless the entire uterine tract is removed (technically difficult), there is a high risk of  "stump pyometron".   The problem also lies in how to mark the dog as having undergone this procedure (in the event of rehoming in the future).

How common is this?  More than 50% of undesexed dogs older than 7 years of age are likely to get this condition.

We see approximately 4 cases a year, with a euthanasia rate of 50%.  Very sad.

Ovarian & Testicular Cancer

As the ovary and the testicle are technically similar tissue, I have put these two conditions under the one heading.
Whilst this is the size difference in a cryptorchid surgery, the same
size variation applies with testicular cancer too.

I had my first ever ovarian cancer patient three weeks into my first job in 1990.  It has haunted me since, as it came as an after hours emergency case, collapsed and died within 20 minutes.  The distraught owner blamed me for not saving her dog.  The ovarian cancer was identified via  a post mortem. There was nothing I could have done to save her.

It has still haunted me. I didn;t cause the cancer, and in theory, it was a preventable problem. However, it died and I could not save it.

Testicular cancers are a little easier to diagnose (thanks to the location of the testicle).  Usually, there is an asymmetry in the testicle size, which is very obvious to anyone who looks.

Herein lies the problem - how many pet owners check their dog's balls?

In my area, very few, as I am often pointing out the size difference to owners in a consultation (often they are in because of skin problems or sneezing, or something equally non-serious). It is a difficult conversation advising surgery in an older dog  - after all, the dog has made it to that age without the need for desexing. 

How common is ovarian cancer?  Diagnosis is problematic, like with us, so the true incidence is unknown. It is listed as uncommon.

How common is Testicular cancer?  Diagnosis is easy, and is common in older (than 7 years) undesexed male dogs.  Fortunately, in most cases, surgery (desexing) , is curative.

 I see 1 to 2 cases each year.

Prostatic Infection

In undesexed male dogs, the hormone testosterone enlarges the prostate gland (which sits on the base of the neck of the bladder).  With hormonal stimulation, this gland enlarges (called Benign Hypertrophy), which causes few problems.  The dogs may have trouble passing a bone impacted poo (one of the many reasons I am opposed to bones in dogs), and may dribble wee occasionally.  These are usually not life threatening problems.

However, this enlargement can get infected. It can form into a prostatic abscess, or worse, into multiple prostatic abscesses or cysts. The largest prostate abscess I have palpated was the size of a honey dew melon in a bull dog. 

Diagnosis occurs as a result of a combination of tests, including  palpation of the abdomen, abdominal radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, and then performing a prostatic wash.  A culture is performed to identify the best antibiotic to use.  In my latest case, the bacteria was actually resistant to the fluroquinolone most commonly used for prostatic infections, so fortunately, with the culture results, we were able to use the right antibiotic that would get into the tissue.
Male dogs can die from this condition - from either the abscess rupturing internally, urinary obstruction or septicemia (septic shock).  Treatment involves desexing ( or the suprelorin implant), aggressive and long term antibiotics based on urinary culture and sensitivity.  Sometimes, surgery is required to drain the abscess (marsupialise it).

How common is prostatic disease?  I see a case each 2 to 3 months.  (about 4 cases a year)
Desexing is curative and preventative

Now don't think for a minute that these are the only conditions that an undesexed pet can get. There are alot more, including

- skin conditions 
- mammary cancer
- vaginal polyps
- perianal adenomas and adenocarcinomas
- perineal hernias
and this is without thinking too hard!

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. I am always happy to discuss the pros and cons from desexing your pet with you.  There are many factors to consider, such as your pets breed and lifestyle. 

What I am trying to say... probably poorly is....speak to your vet, the one you trust, about what is the right thing for your pet.  They really have their welfare at heart.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creating the Perfect Wollongong Dog Park

Before I go into what creates the perfect Wollongong Dog Park, I should state very clearly that it is really the pet owners that will ultimately control how perfect it will be.

Do you want to appreciate the positive human - dog - dog interactions that can occur?   Why not visit my recent video taken at Whittaker Street Agility Park in Shellharbour.

If the people who use the dog park are not going to follow basic "fair go" rules, then no matter how great the intention is going to be, no matter how well designed we may want it to be,  it will turn out badly.

"When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.
- Abraham Lincoln." via Pollyanna (1960) Hayley Mills.  

So let us always look for the good in people and their pets.

At the point of posting this, I have visited  8 fully fenced dog parks, some which also include agility equipment.  I have also visited 8  unfenced  unleash dog areas, 1 of which is also listed as a "dog agility park".  And I can add multiple offleash beaches within the Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Council areas. 

So, let us have a bit of fun, and create the Perfect Wollongong Dog Park!

Big Dog Vs Small Dog

  • Whilst our human kiddies come in one size, our dog's don't. 
  • Having two separate areas for our dogs is ideal
  • A larger one for the larger, more boisterous dog
  • A smaller, separate one for the smaller, more frail, elderly or shy dog

Ideal:  An area not adjacent, but physically separated.
Good Example: O'Connor Dog Park, Canberra. On Fairfax Street (near the roundabout at the intersection of Fairfax and Dryandra Streets).
Bad Example: Any of the Wollongong unfenced off leash areas - there are no small or large dog areas.


  • A minimum of 4000 square metres for the large dog section
  • The smaller dog area can be slightly smaller.
  • The larger the area, the more likely the dogs and people are able to spread out, giving dogs some space if needed if they don't feel like a group play.
  • An irregularly shaped block is best
Tuggeranong Park Lake view
Tuggeranong Park
Ideal: A minimum of 4000 square metres

Tuggeranong Park
Example: Tuggeranong Dog Park, Canberra, Mortimer Lewis Drive adjacent to Lake Tuggeranong

Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour as it is a rectangle shape, and is quite small if there are more than 7 dogs present.

  • 6 ft mesh wire fencing with no sharp edges
  • Irregular corners (no 90 degree corners to reduce "cornering" and "bullying")
  • Mesh small enough to stop little dogs squeezing through
Ideal: Well constructed, 6 foot high wire fencing with no 90 degree corners.
Good Example: O' Connor Dog Park, Canberra (as above)
O Connor Park in Canberra -  Disabled friendly also. Corners are angled and it
is a secure fence of sufficient height.

A bad example of fencing- a flimsy, low fence at Warrigul Run, Western Sydney
Bad Example: Warrigul Run, Western Sydney and Forde Dog Park, Pooley Street Canberra where the fence is flimsy, with large gaps. It is easily jumped or pushed over.

Entrances and Exits number and design:
  • A minimum of two entrances/exits to reduce the excitement of existing dogs within the park to newcomers
  • Double entry  (double gated) which
    • allows for dogs to be herded into a smaller area prior to departure,
    • allow dogs to be let off the leash prior to entry into the main area, and
    • ensure current dogs are unable to escape inadvertently
  • Large gate to allow for easy access to mow lawns and other maintenance
Ideal: Pool gate latch kind and a self closing gate or sufficiently wide "disabled" access opening in.
O'Connor Dog Park in Canberra is very high and wide, with a disabled friendly latch.
Good Example: Allen Street Dog Park in the Strathfield Council Area and O' Connor Dog Park in Canbera.
Whilst it could be higher, the pool latch self closing type is suitable.
The side access gates at Yarralumla Dog Park in Canberra

Bad Example:  Whittaker Street Agility Park in Shellharbour Council Area - no double gating, with a stiff standard gate latch.

Provision of Water and other animal cooling facilities:

  • Multiple human and dog water bowls
  • Tippable water bowls (allows owner to clean out and refresh easily)
  • A dam, pond, lake edge or beach access to allow  a means of cooling down during activity
Ideal: Access to beach or dam either within the facility or adjacent
Good Example of a tippable water bowl: Tuggeranong Dog Park, Canberra
It had a separate tap for the dog's bowl, and the bowl could be easily tipped,
emptied and refilled with fresh water.

Good Example of water access:  Yarralumla Dog Park, Banks Street (opposite Brown St Junction) with access to the adjacent boat ramp at Lake Burley Griffith

Yarralumla Boat ramp area
Piper on the Lake's edge.
Bad Example: Queanbeyan Dog Park which had a large murky filled water tank that would be impossible to drain and keep clean water available, hence someone leaving a small bowl of water nearby.

The drinking water at Queanbeyan Dog Park "The Scar"
Large enough though to step into to cool yourself down though

  • Multiple shelters against rain and sun for pet owners
  • Picnic type seating within the shelters
Ideal: Large enough shelters for multiple groups of people in the event of sudden hailstorm, rain or heat
Good example: Warrigul Run, Western Sydney - with two large pergola shaped shelters, suitable for multiple people comfortably

Bad example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour - with a single small shelter that will accommodate 2-4 people, and most of the Canberra dog parks (had a heavy reliance on the trees for shelter)

The only shelter at the Whittaker Street Dog Park, Shellharbour

  • Bench seats scattered randomly throughout the park
  • Some seating in the sun, some are in the shade
Ideal:  Sufficient seating in both shade and sun
Good example: Tuggeranong Park, Canberra
Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour - the seating available is in the pergola area


  • Sufficient number of suitably sized trees placed within the park
  • Natural visual barriers within the park
  • Offers variety
  • Offers a means for dogs to hide and separate if feeling threatened, to distance themselves from the threat
  • Natural source of shade, smells and natural beauty
Ideal:  Plenty of trees within the park and along the boundary
Good Example:  Tuggeranong Dog Park and Yarralumla Dog Park
Yarralumla Dog Park  Canberra  - a lot of trees providing natural shade, novel experiences and protection

Bad Example:  Queanbeyan Dog Park and Warrigul Run Dog Park - the trees are small, immature and unlikely to offer any shade for many years.

Surface type:
  • Grass is preferred as is soft on the feet, and cool in the hot months
  • Gravel has been published as being suitable (small diameter only)
Ideal:  Decent non-clover grass with no bindi's or other burrs or weeds
Good Example: Allen Street, Strathfield City Council

Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour (which is predominantly clover and full of bees when unmowed), Queanbeyan Dog Park (The Scar) which is predominantly dust.

  • "If...... then you must leave" clause is important (not seen in any Australian dog park but is documented in some overseas)
  • Get pet owners to agree to a "In principle" agreement to the rules and regulations of the park, and charge a fee to allow ongoing access to the park
  • Clear, obvious signage with spells out
    • the dos and don'ts
    • who to contact when something needs repairing  or replacing
    • who to contact when something is wrong
    • responsibility of the users and the responsibility of council
    • the authority of users to remove from the facility the pet owner who does not monitor or control the actions of their dog
Ideal: Decent, clear, explicit signage
Good Example:  Bombo Beach Headland "Stop" signage, and all of the signage from Canberra

Bombo Beach

Bad Example: Any of the off leash areas in Wollongong

Poo Bags and Bins
  • It is the law in every council (locally and overseas), that it is the owner's responsibility to clean up after their dog
  • Sufficient bins available (preferably at each exit/entry gates) to facilitate easy disposal
Ideal:  Owners are responsible for bringing their own poo bags and are required to do so or council ensures a sufficient supply all the time.
Good example:  Queanbeyan Dog Park - the local council obviously provides nothing, as there were multiple shopping bags along the fence line filled with shopping bags, specifically to pick up the poo.

Residents are forced to bring their own poo bags in Queanbeyan - obviously some have taken
time and care to ensure a steady supply.
Kiama Council provided poo bags with disposal

Bad Example:  Whittaker Street Dog Park (and others) where the council provided poo bag dispensers are empty and spider web filled.  Also saw a similar thing happen at Allen Street (Strathfield council).

Fun Stuff:

  • Fun stuff can be either natural or man made.
  • Natural fun stuff includes hills, irregular surfaces, lots of trees and bushes, and a means of meandering or moving through the park to offer novel smells and experiences
  • Man made fun stuff includes agility equipment
  • Agility equipment needs to be chosen carefully with an understanding of the potential end user - in general, the dog park is for the general dog owning population, and the potential for harm is possible with poorly chosen agility equipment.
  • Suggestions would include tunnels (such as pictured below), weave poles and jumps (such as Forde Park in Canberra)
Ideal:  The average pet dog in the average off leash experience will benefit more from an interesting natural environment. 
Good example:  Offleash beach areas (although these are not fenced areas),  Lake Tuggeranong Dog Park as it has undulating ground, a lot of trees, bushes and novel surfaces.

Bad Example: Bombo Beach Headland with the agility equipment which appears to be placed randomly. 
Agility equipment placed in an unfenced area (such as Nowra - not visited, but seen online)

Forde Park, Canberra


Queanbeyan Dog Park "The Scar:

Bombo Beach Headland

Allen Street Dog Park, Strathfield Council
Logistics - Parking and Access

  • Easy access from a main road
  • Good parking which is located in a safe area
  • Have to understand the possibility of dogs walking unleashed from the park to the car, and have the area accommodate for that possibility (i.e be safe for the dog and for those around them)
  • Suitable for disabled access
Ideal: Multiple car parking spots with easy access to the dog park
Good example:  Warrigul Run, Western Sydney - there is offsite parking, but will need to leash the dog to get from car park to the run. O Connor Dog Park in Canberra  where there is a dedicated disabled access to the large dog park area.
Disabled Carpark

Bad example: Allen Street, Strathfield Council and Whittaker Street Dog Park in Shellharbour. Street parking available only.

I am Dr Liz, and I am still learning/exploring the dog parks and off leash access areas with our dog, Piper. 

She is a well socialised, mature dog, and is perfectly suited for an off leash fun time.  Our previous dog, Teddy, was not.  

In other words, off leash activities are not for every dog... you are not a bad pet parent if you do not take your dog outside of your property if they are fearful.

My goal is to encourage Wollongong City Council to re-consider their off leash areas for our dogs, to increase the off leash beach areas to accommodate the proposed growth in the population, and to create suitably sized, well fenced off - leash park areas. 

Do you have any suggestions to add to my perfect Wollongong fenced dog park?

Don't you agree that Wollongong is, and should continue to be a dog friendly city?

When dogs pee blood

When dog's pee blood, or bloody drips, it is a common thing for owners to ring up and ask for a course of antibiotics. After all, that is what happens with us when we go to our own GP, isnt it?

The problem lies with our dogs, is that whilst they can get urinary tract infections (UTI's ) very easily, by the time their signs are seen by the pet owner,  it has become a little more complicated.

Kidney, ureter and/or bladder stones are all very likely complications.  Antibiotics will not help this at all.

Underlying causes such as kidney disease or diabetes are also possible, and will need to be screened for via urine tests. Again, antibiotics alone wont solve the problem.  We also need to eliminate other causes of bloody pee, such as prostatic infection in undesexed male dogs, and bladder cancers.

This post, however, is all about bladder stones. 

Bladder stones are still the most common urinary tract stone we see.  Whilst there are five main types of stones, the two most common ones we see are Struvite and Oxalate.

Struvite and Calcium Oxalate, and the uncommon Silicate stones will show up easily on radiographs, whereas the Urate and Cystine ones do require an ultrasound to visualise them.

Spun down urine -if you look closely, you will
see a touch of red, which is red blood cells.  The
white is the "sand" or "crystals"
What are the signs you'll notice?
  • urinary incontinence
  • frequent urination
  • straining to urinate
  • passing small volume (to sometimes none if they are obstructed)
The urine may be
  • smelly
  • cloudy yellow colour
  • red or red tinged
  • rarely see blood drops.
A urine sample is needed to check for blood, pH and the concentration.  We can often rule out kidney failure or diabetes at the same time too.

When we spin the urine down, we often see "sediment" which looks like white sand at the bottom.

We then examine the sediment under the microscope. The problem is, just because a dog is passing struvite crystals, and has bladder stones, does not mean that the stones will be struvite too. 

Struvite crystals from a cat.

So, let us work through a case (or two) together. We have Bipsy, a 3 year old female Yorkie, and Sulu, a 7 year old male Bichon

There are many factors that we, as vets, consider, when we have a dog with a bladder problem.  The two important things in the early stages are 1. pH of the urine  2. Radiographic appearance.

For example, Bipsy's urine had a pH of 9, with big white  marbles in the bladder - these are more likely going to be Struvite.
Radiograph of Bipsy - You can see the spine, the pelvis, and big
white things just in front of the legs -

And Sulu,  with a pH of 7 with a lot of little ones, are likely to be Calcium Oxalate.

This is a "double contrast" with air injected to surround the little
white stones in the bladder.

 Obviously, the next thing we do, after we collect a urine sample, is to perform an abdominal radiograph.

With Bipsy, you could feel the stones - it literally feels like a bag of marbles.  With Sulu, you can't feel them on palpation.

So, what are the options now?

We could hope for the best, and put them both onto a dissolving diet (hoping that they were struvite crystals).

I look so much better
gowned and gloved!
It would take many months for the stones to dissolve away, and the dog would need to be on antibiotics the entire time.  As the stone dissolves, any bacteria that was within it, also comes out and can cause ongoing problems.

The quickest and best solution is to perform a surgery to remove the bladder stones.  Whilst it does involve an anaesthetic, and the potential complications of surgery, it is the fastest way of getting both Bipsy and Sulu (and any pet with bladder stones) back to normal.

It means that we can collect the stones and send them away to be analysed.
These were some of the stones that Bipsy had. This is 100% struvite.

Both dogs have had surgery, and are now fully recovered. 
This was one of Sulu's stone!  Ugly! This is 100%
Calcium Oxalate
Now that we know what the stones are, we can recommend the ideal diet or medications to prevent recurrence. 

We thank both Bipsy and Sulu (not their real names) and their families, for trusting in us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Any questions? You can always ask via email or comment below. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

Thanks to Lillie for my free face wash the other day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Off Leash Exercise for Dogs - Beach Vs Off leash Park Areas Vs Dog Parks

There is a lot of confusion within the local community in Wollongong about off leash areas for our dogs. 

There is a myriad of personal opinions, and unfortunately a whole lot of opinion passed off as information.... aka misinformation!

What is being forgotton, either deliberately or through lack of knowledge, is how our dogs actually behave at the various off leash areas. Whilst they may be "off leash", what they actually do and how they behave differs from one to the next.

As a vet who has an interest in behaviour - how and why we do what we do, visiting the dog parks and beaches this year with Piper has proved inspirational.

One has to look at off leash activities as not  just about being allowed to run "off leash", but everything about what the dog does, and how they feel, when they are in the different areas.

It is only when you understand this, then you can truly appreciate the benefits (and disadvantages) of each of the "off leash" areas available for dogs.

The three types of available off leash areas are
1. Beach
2. Unfenced park
3. Fenced park

Wollongong does not have a fenced park that our dogs are able to run in and play in.  This is a travesty, which I hope that the Councillors have the good sense to rectify.

 I fully support the development of a fenced dog park, as the unfenced parks are potentially dangerous (next to busy roads).

If you want to gain an understanding, then you need to spend time (I mean real time) in the different off leash areas... sit and observe.  Like I have.

Frankly, for me, it isn't about making people happy or unhappy, but in doing the right thing.   Sure, our dogs don't vote, and yes, they can be a public nuisance.
Maybe Council would prefer we got this type of dog!

The reality is, our dogs are part of our community.  Our modern Australian society recognises and accepts dogs (as we do other animals).  Until the day that changes, we need to accept that huge responsibility.

Dogs do not have more rights than people, but it is arrogant to say that we have more rights than them, or any other living creature.  There are societies where animals have no rights, are perhaps a source of food, or , but we don't have that here in Wollongong, or even Australia.

The fact that Australia is a tolerant, animal loving society is one of the many reasons I am proud to call this place home.
Dog's form a big part of every family.

 If we are going to accept them as part of our general community, we also have to accept responsibility for their overall wellbeing.  Those who do not like dogs in our society don't have to like this fact, but they should be mature enough to accept it.

Did you know that there are communities where all pets are banned?  I have visited several suburbs or developments where the residents are unable to keep dogs and cats as pets.

Wollongong is not one of them. You should not create retrograde legislation to make Wollongong an unpleasant place to live with a dog or cat.

Let us talk about exercise and our dogs. 

 Some dogs do not need leash or off leash exercise.  These are the anxious, worried dogs or those who are naturally sedentary.
"It's a big scary world out there, so I'll just stay under my blankee"

Let us talk about "leash " exercise first.  

For most people who walk their dogs on the leash, the dog is either beside them or in front, the walk may be brisk, likely to go on for 20 minutes to an hour.   The dog may be physically tired, but not mentally tired.   Some of these dogs are still bored and continue to do destructive behaviours at home, such as digging, whining, escaping.

I know, we have one ourselves... her name is Piper.  She could go for several leash walks a day, but still have "energy to burn".
These are the dogs whose owners ring me up, frustrated that their dogs are still wanting to escape even though they have been for two walks that day.

There are of course, many other dogs who find this is just their type of exercise, and are happy with that. As a pet owner, you need to know what is the right thing for your pet.

Now, let us talk about "off leash areas". 

I'll start with the off leash parks first.  For those who are not from Wollongong, we do not have fenced dog parks as they have in other areas.  For the locals, you need to visit some of the Sydney dog parks, or read my blog about them, to appreciate what they really are. 

Our off leash parks are not fenced, and are usually large open fields with trees on one boundary, and usually a creek or busy road on the other 2-3 sides. 

But what can a dog do when they get there?
Eleebana Park - a big area, but boundary is a creek and a busy road.
And no other dogs - no surprise.

Well, dogs like to use their noses, and go exploring. They like to investigate, and nosey about.  If there are other dogs, they often like to go up to see who wants to play tag, or run around the place.

Very few are questioning the functionality of our existing off leash park areas.  Whilst I have to be thankful that at least we have some, for day to day "off leash" exercise, I question whether they are truly appropriate or well thought out.

Even so,  the ones we have should still continue to exist... I can't advocate closing what limited off leash parks we do have.

Sadly, Wollongong does not have any "fenced" off leash dog park, in fact, its overall animal management plan is appalling.

Fenced dog park exercise

A true dog park has several features which I have written about before. But what does a dog do there?  

I have observed dog-dog and human - human interactions at dog parks, that I have not observed elsewhere.  As the pet owners are more relaxed knowing that their dog is not going to go chasing something down a busy road, they are more likely to approach and be approached to start up a discussion. 

A local hub or community is formed.  Often people will arrange to go at the same time so their dogs will have a fun time, and they do too.
Paige(my youngest) is sitting whilst Piper (the kelpie)
and her new friends are playing

  It is a way of bringing people who may not know other people together - through the communal love of their animals, as well as wanting to give them a change of scenery.

Dogs can stretch out and run safely.  They may reach out to other dogs to see if they want to play, and if not, go and find another one that does.  Games of "tag, you're it" are common place, with both parties willing participants in this chasing and tagging game.

But the single most important that that I was struck by, and pleasantly surprised too  - the dog parks aren't just for dogs, they are for people.  People who only have their pets as companions, will speak with other people at the dog park (whereas they are unlikely to at other places). 

It is a dog centred community facility, that everyone benefits by.

 And that is what our community needs!

Let us get onto our beaches.

Have you sat and watched what a dog does at the beach?  They will run around, investigate the waves as they ebb in and out, perhaps go for a little swim. Owners will often throw a stick or a ball.

The beach is often full of amazing sea smells, the sand is perfect for dogs to stretch out their muscles and joints.

When we had a couple of busy days at home, and the best we could do was walk Piper around the block, Tegan made the point that she was going to take Piper to the beach so she could get "worn out".   How many other dog owners find the same thing with their dog?

Quite a few, I suspect.

It is inappropriate to say that the "off leash" exercise a dog gets at the beach, is the same as it could get at a fenced dog park, and therefore, you could legitimately swap one for the other. You can't!

Our off leash beaches need to stay as they are (in fact, you need to increase the space available), BUT we still do need a suitably sized, suitably fenced off leash dog park with no need for fancy agility equipment.

The reality, which seems to escape many, is.... our dogs are part of our community.  For good, for bad. It is what it is. Everyone in the community, whether they like it or not, need to understand and accept this. 
Dogs may not vote, but they are still an important part of our

Banning or restricting the available activity areas of our dogs is not only unfair but is totally unreasonable. 

Of course, I am preaching to the converted here. 

Those who have the power to make the decision, are unlikely to read this, or even get off their butts and watch for themselves. Those who have the power, and are reading this,  congratulations and thank you.

I hope you brought an open mind when you visited the dog beaches and park areas,  and not just see the little bags of poo tied up neatly on the foreshore, or hear the abuse hurled at you by nasty dog owners.  

If you opened your eyes and ears, you will see positive human - pet- human interactions being the more common experience, not the dog attacks that make the headlines.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. I hope that a shred of common sense walks the halls of our local Council, and those with the power to do so, review sensibly their Animal Management programs.