Monday, December 28, 2015

What does 2016 hold for Russell Vale Animal Clinic?

What will be in store for Russell Vale Animal Clinic for 2016? 

We are filled with such hopes, dreams and aspirations, aren't we, as human beings, and then reality occurs.  Things can happen which can derail those dreams and hopes.

Well, 2015 was again one of those years - it started with someone hacking my computer, and diverting $3000 (that was to pay a tree loper), and ended with the never ending foot path/driveway council work - with multiple break ins, vandalism, and theft of services in the inbetween months.

It almost feels like Russell Vale Animal Clinic is a living version of "Groundhog Day" (for those who are young, this is a reference to a movie which you should never watch when you are drunk).  In 2014, we endured multiple break ins, enough to make it into the local newspaper! 2015 was supposed to be a better year - in which it was, but then it wasn't in other ways.

I won't ever give up on my childhood dream! 

So, what does 2016 hold for us? 

I am so excited about the plans I have for the next twelve months and beyond, and it has already started.   It is as a result of our ongoing investment in our equipment, and ongoing training to provide services that our pets deserve. I am not going to let a few breakins, a smashed pot plant or three, or anything else (although I am not trying to challenge fate), stop me.

Online Veterinary Advice 

Ok, this doesn't require extra equipment or skills, but it is something which every pet owner deserves - an email service, where you can ask any question from your vet, and have it answered within a reasonable time frame. We aim for within 24 hours, and if you are lucky, it is within 2 hours.
Dr Liz is as reliable as your Lab

So it isn't for emergency advice, but then you know to take your pet to an emergency vet for that.  But what about the "hiccuping puppy", or the "just wanted to confirm the dose of abc medications"?  Our online veterinary advice service is perfect for that.

After all, isn't most of the questions you have about the care of your pet not urgent?  Serious enough that you want an answer to, but not serious enough that you are able to pay a vet for?

Our online veterinary service is free, but of course, we will accept donations, which can be made directly via paypal. 

Eyes are the Window to the Soul

It is true that the eyes are the windows to our soul, but when they are irritated, so is the owner of these eyes (and the pet's owner too).

Our eye examination usually includes a Schirmer Tear Test (measuring tear production), Fluroscein staining (checking for irregularities to the cornea), and checking for foreign bodies.

Whilst we are experienced in dealing with "red eyes", we had to rely on old technology (our Schiotz tonometer" in being able to accurately measure eye pressures.

In December 2015, our digital Tonovet arrived, which will revolutionize our diagnosis and management of "Red Eyes", whether it be uveitis or glaucoma.

Fluroscein staining on an indolent corneal ulcer (prior to grid keratotomy)
Every dog with "Red Eyes" needs to have the eye pressures measured - this is something that we always knew, and we relied on old technology as well as experience (touching the eyeballs) to get a feel for what was happening.

With our new Tonovet, we are able to accurately measure eye pressures - so instead of saying "it feels soft", we can say " the eye pressure is 8 mm, with the normal range of 15 to 25" (common in uveitis), or "the eye is bulging", we can say "the eye pressure is 56 mm, with the normal range of 15-25" (common in glaucoma, either primary or secondary).

We are expanding our opthalmic service in 2016, to go beyond what we currently do.  We are currently able to manage successfully "Dry Eye", Red eyes,  eyelid nodules, corneal ulcers and ulcerations, weepy eyes, conjunctivitis, cherry eye, epiphora, keratitis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, as well as blocked tear ducts.

You can't handle the "Tooth" - ah, yes, I can! 

Sorry for my poor pun on "You can't handle the Truth", a great line by actor Jack Nicholson in the Tom Cruise movie, "A Few Good Men" (1992)
Identifying, and extracting unerupted/hidden teeth and fractured tooth roots is our specialty (sadly).

Ah, yes, we can handle the truth, and your pet's tooth (or teeth),  as we have spent many years training to be able to do just that! In December 2015, we upgraded our dental base to a (almost) top of the line dental base with suction and LED lighting (of course, this description will mean nothing to you, but everything to those vets with a working wish list).  With the training that we are currently undergoing (you know, in the spare time I have from working as a solo vet), we are hoping to offer services that would've often meant extraction of the tooth, or referral to a veterinary dental specialist.

Whilst many of my loving pet owners are willing and able (financially, and with their time) to travel to a veterinary dentist, there are an equal (if not more) number of pet owners who are not able to .  Their pets still need the care, which is something that I, as a vet, recognise.

Hence our commitment to working towards being able to bring in to you, for your pets.

There are many "tooth salvaging " procedures, such as advanced periodontal therapies which we have been offering for a few years now (whereas under normal circumtances elsewhere,  extraction would be the only option available).  This is one of the many reasons, why we are one of the best providers of veterinary dental care in the Illawarra region.

As a final note - we do not extract or perform any dental procedures on your pet without your permission aka - we keep you informed 100% of the time.

Beauty is skin deep, but the itch goes on!

Ah, but the itchy dog seems to annoy more than just the pet.  Being the owner of an itchy pet, every time Piper goes to even look at licking her feet, or chewing her back leg, I squirm.  Allergic skin disease is one of the most frustrating diseases pet owners face.

For those who may not know, Piper is a 2 yr old desexed female kelpie, who has been diagnosed with Food allergy (beef, chicken, fish, lamb, egg, rice), Inhalant allergies (multiple grasses, pollens, dust and dust mite plus cockroaches), Insect bite allergy (fleas predominantly), and she is probably allergic to alot of other things that are yet to be determined.   She is currently on desensitisation injections three weekly, a strict diet (with a dash of doggie scavenging), antihistamines, sprays and special shampoos/conditioners.  Despite all of this, she still has episodes of itchiness, but if you looked at her - you wouldn't know - her coat is shiny, and she looks awesome.

 It takes alot of work to keep her that way. With the knowledge of knowing that we will never cure her, but can only manage her condition to make her comfortably itchy.

So what is new for 2016 - ah, I shall not tell yet, except to say that we feel, oh boy do we feel (and understand), the frustration of an itchy pet.  We also understand that whilst the best practice of skin testing and creation of a personalised vaccine is the best (as this is what we are doing for Piper), that this is an expense that many pet owners cannot do.  I do not say that with disrespect or rudeness, but from experience -  I have had only one pet owner pursue allergy testing (other than me), yet I have seen many allergic pets, and the frustration that this brings.

We are hoping to bring to you an affordable desensitization allergy treatment, as well as a new medication to sooth the chronically itchy pet.
Dr Liz aka Mad Vet

 It is a "watch this space", (or subscribe to our newsletter) to find out more when this becomes available

Is there more?

Well, yes, I do have alot more planned for 2016 -  and it is only through listening to the sort of things that you, the loving pet owner tell us that you are looking for.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi Lane.

Feel free to wave your magic wand, and share below your "wish list" for your family pets vet.  After all, we are only as good as what you want. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So you found a "Stray" Dog or cat in Wollongong

As a vet, we are often the first port of call when someone finds a stray pet.  These kind hearted people, who may have stopped their car, and stopped what they were doing to take the time to rescue  this pet, that, more often than not - was playing with the traffic!

And pets who play with the traffic, can often ended up injured, or worse!

Many Good Samaritans are confused as to what the process is next - and it is not uncommon, to have the waiting room full of people (with their pets), with all of the hullabaloo of a stray dog as well.

To help explain the process, we have developed a handout, which we are going to start giving to these people to read, whilst we try to track down pet owners. 

Whilst the majority of people have been understanding of the process involved in scanning, checking databases and contacting pet owners, some feel that their needs takes priority over the other things that may be happening within the veterinary hospital - and this can cause problems.  Also, some do not understand that when we take the stray pet away from them, it is only to reduce the stress for everyone in the room, especially those pets who are waiting to see the vet.  

Thank you for bringing in this lost pet

This is a note to explain to you what happens now -
Note – you can choose to take the dog to the pound directly yourself, or back home whilst we try to contact the owner. If we are placing this dog in a cage, this is to reduce their stress whilst we take the time to check the databases.

We thank you for your patience. Be aware, that under the Companion Animal Act we are not required to do anything with stray animals, however, we want to get them back home as much as you do.

What we will and can do -

  1. We will scan the pet for a microchip.
  2. We may put them into a cage, temporarily, to reduce their (and our stress) in times when there are other pets or people in our waiting room.
  3. We will check the government's Companion Animal Register to identify the pet owners.
  4. Under privacy laws – we cannot give you the pet owners address or phone number.
  5. We will make contact with the pet owner, and ascertain their instructions on what to do with their pet, and to make arrangements to get their pet back home.
Many pet owners do not come down straight away, as they are at work, and we are happy to keep your contact details to pass on to them.

Many situations arise when the phone number is disconnected, not accepting incoming calls or the person who has the number denies any ownership of a pet. In these situations, the Companion Animal Act is clear – the pet must be transferred to Council as soon as possible.

In these situations, we contact other veterinarians, in case the pet owner has been there, or we will check Facebook and the phone book. We will make contact with the “alternate contact” numbers on the database if they exist.

If we are unable to make any contact, then we transfer the pet to the RSPCA (Council Pound) as soon as we can (usually within 24 hours).

What we cannot do is – keep the pet indefinitely
- rehome the pet

What you cannot do is -
  • you cannot keep this pet as your own – this pet belongs to someone, and that someone is looking for them.
  • You cannot keep the pet for a few days because you do not want it to go to the pound – many pet owners go to the pound first in search of their pet
  • You cannot be rude or treat any veterinary staff with disrespect as they are going about their work.

We thank you for your patience whilst we are searching the multiple databases, and (hopefully) contacting the owner of the pet you have rescued from injury!

Any questions do not hesitate to ask! …...... Dr Liz

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi Lane. We are thankful that there are many kind and generous people out there who work tirelessly for our animals!  Thank you, if you are one of them!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pet Etiquette - Help your pet be a great part of our Community!

This year, 2015, has been one of the most extraordinary years - and not in a good way! 

The rules are written there - just for you! 
As a vet, I am here to care for injured and sick animals, but what devastates me, is that this year, I have seen a spike in the number of dog bite wounds I have had to treat, as well as the number of cats too!

 What made it worse - the number of pet owners who just walked away after the incident! 

The Companion Animal Act 1998 changed the landscape of our animals as part of our New South Wales animal loving community. 

Cats became a "legal entity", and it was legal requirement for BOTH cats and dogs to be microchipped and registered! 

Pets could not be purchased or given away (even if free) without being microchipped, and the new pet owner details needed to be updated on the Companion Animal Register.

Dogs walking "off leash" in public areas was banned, and "Off Leash "  parks and beaches were created.

In 2014, there was a BIG move to STOP our dog's access to some areas -  all because some pet owners refused to follow community expectations of "Pet Etiquette" . These policies are reviewed on  a regular basis, so please do not do anything that gives the "anti-dog" people of our community and council any leverage! 
Paige doing the "Poo Pick up"

The power is in OUR hands!

And our hands should be holding a leash, attached to our dog when in a public space! If you are an "animal lover', you will love and respect all animals, not just your own; you should understand how the behaviour of your pet will affect other pets. 

What has upset me this year, has been the number of people who have witnessed their dog attack another dog, but walk away!  This is directed towards you - be the person your dog thinks you are! 

Hint:  If you are travelling to another area, please check with the local Council's rules on pets - some councils will not even allow pets on sports grounds, or parks. 

Pet Etiquette Tips
  • Take ample "poo bags" with you - they are cheap, and it really isn't that icky a job.
  • Make sure your  dog always has a collar with an up to date (with phone numbers)  pet tag attached.  If they are being baby sat, a key tag with phone numbers is cheap and easy.
  • Do not use retractable leads - they are dangerous, and not appropriate leads for a walk. Many dogs have damaged their necks as a result of these leads, or worse
  •  Socialise your dog - i.e train them to not want to go up to every other dog out there!  
  • Respect those around you - if you want your dog to play with their dog - ask them first if their dog is up to social interaction!
  • One dog per person - if you have four dogs - then you need four people.  Allowing four dogs to run amok, and harass another dog (this happened to our Piper recently) is unfair, and is, in reality, bullying. No one likes a bully!
  • Your dog should be able to obey basic commands - such as "come" and "sit"
Hint:  Ask other pet owners if their pets are OK with other dogs - your pet may be friendly, but theirs may just like to walk and play solo! pushy dogs 

  •  If your pet hurts another (even if minor), do not say "its only a scratch", or worse, walk away. Be the person your pet believes that you are, and help the other pet and their owner.
  • Do not tie your pet outside a shop, house anywhere unattended - it is an open invitation to someone to steal them, or worse, they are tied and could be attacked by any stray pet that may come along.
  • You are in control of your pet's world - so if they need exercise, you need to do it, if they need food, water, you must supply it, and if they need love - give it!
And - if you know your dog doesn't like other dogs, and if you have no control over them, DO NOT go to an off leash area!  

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Our dog Piper loves going to our off leash dog beaches and parks, and, and she (mostly) behaves very very well.  We wish we had a fenced Dog Park area for her to play in, such as the dogs in Canberra, but alas, it is not to be! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Astonishing Secrets - Heartworm Disease and Prevention for dogs in Wollongong

"My breeder told me that I didn't need to do that" exclaims the pet owner when asked on what Heartworm prevention she had chosen for her English Pointer.

The look on this pet owner's face when I went through the discussion about Heartworm disease, and how important it was to maintain ongoing preventive medication, said it all.

This pet owner was always going to believe her breeder over a veterinarian.  Fortunately, this pet owner did find a veterinarian who didn't have a problem with that position, and that vet wasn't me.

With every pet owner we see, we discuss preventative care, and ensure that all pets are on a reasonable, appropriate care program.  I will try to respect an owners decision if they choose not to do something, so long as they are making an informed decision, and equally, accept the responsibility of the decision that they have made. (well, it is more complex than this, but I do try to be understanding of differing points of view).

What are some of the other reasons why pet owners don't have their pet on Heartworm Prevention?

"The person at the pet shop said that the tablet does everything" (it didn't, it was just an intestinal worming tablet only)
"I'm not sure"
"The other half does it"
"The other vet took care of it all"
"We are on nothing"
"Isn't that part of the worming tablet each three months"
"It had something as a puppy but not since"

 Let me share with you the story of Star. 

 Star is the reason why we ask EVERY pet owner about Heartworm prevention.   In those days (around 1999-2000), we didn't ask the questions of pet owners that we ask today.  We had seen Star for a few years for his vaccinations, but in those days, the annual Heartworm injection was not available. 

One day, Star started coughing badly, and at that time, Dr Scott, who was part of our vet team, performed a quick and easy Heartworm test.

The Heartworm test in those days involved taking a small blood sample, and then doing a few easy steps, adding a few drops of this and that, and then waiting for the colour change to occur.  These days, it is a drop of blood, two minutes - and voila!

Sadly, Star's result confirmed that he was infected with the adult Heartworm. This required a hospital stay, and the administration of painful injections into his back muscles to kill off the adult worms.  He then had to stay very still and quiet for 30 days whilst the worms died off.  As the worms died in his heart, they would break up, and release themselves through the blood stream, with the potential to cause a severe thromboembolic episode (and thus, severe respiratory distress).

Star was very very sick throughout this, and was lucky to survive this stage of his treatment.

The next phase of the treatment involved the killing of the microfilaria (the babies of the adult heartworm) - these are what  the mosquitoes pick up in their mouth parts during their feed.  Once they are in the mouthparts, they then mature to become "infective larvae", which can then infect another dog when the mosquito bites another pet a few weeks later. 

Microfilaria do not like to be killed off.  They are, in fact, very upset.  I know this for a fact.  After all, they do a "dummy spit", and try to kill the dog through anaphylactic shock.

Despite the struggle of treating this Heartworm infection,  Star made a full recovery....

but his owner had said to me at the end of it
 " If you had told me about Heartworm prevention, we would've had Star on it".  

Essentially, I was told that it was my fault that Star was infected, because no vet (including us) had discussed this very important disease with his owner.  Star was much loved by his elderly owners, and they would've done everything, and did everything, they needed to do to give him a good life.
I hated being told that it was my fault that Star
was infected!  Not a happy vet! 

Since then, I vowed that I would never have a pet owner say to me " Its your fault that I didn't know about Heartworm".

As you can see by the list at the beginning of my blog, you can tell that we are told everything else other than "You didn't tell me".  Whilst some owners are very offended (to the point of never coming back),  or skeptical (because they think we are trying to upsell them Heartworm prevention), they are the minority.

The majority of pet owners are thankful, and understand, that we always have their pet's welfare at heart.  Always!

I am sad to admit that I remember the days of having two to three Heartworm positive dogs in the veterinary hospital I first worked at (when I was a new graduate).  Most would die from severe liver and kidney failure as a result.  The treatment in those days was thiacetarsemide, which was arsenic based, administered intravenously.

Since I am going on my trip down memory lane, even as a vet student, a quarter of the pound dogs that we used as part of our Anatomy labs, had the spaghetti looking worms in the heart - as this is what Heartworm look like.

Fortunately, it is not as common a problem as it used to be - and this is how it should be!  

We are in a society of animal lovers, who are in a position to be able to afford and be willing to administer medications to our pets to keep them healthy and happy.
We love our animals, don't we! 

One of the sad parts of the current generation, is that many have never experienced the horrible diseases that used to exist - us older animal lovers have been too good - so good that  some of the younger pet owners have never seen an infected dog cough up blood, or the acute respiratory distress of thromboembolic disease.

So should your pet be on Heartworm prevention?


You are preventing your pet from becoming infected, and your pet deserves that.

The only time you should stop prevention, is when you know that every single Mosquito has been obliterated from our environment.  Whilst the mosquito exists, so does the risk of Mosquito borne disease - of which Heartworm is one!

If your pet is currently on Heartworm prevention - your pet thanks you!   You are doing the best you can to keep them away from disease.

If your pet is not on Heartworm prevention, then take this as a wake up call, and get this fixed up ASAP.

It's easy enough to do - we just take a blood sample, get it tested on site (only takes a few minutes), and if the result is "below detectable limits" aka "negative", then you can start your pet on Heartworm prevention straight away.

Call us on 42845988 or book online for your pets blood test.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Any questions or thoughts on Heartworm prevention in your pet, then please ask.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Musings of Dr Liz - Honesty is the best policy... or not!

Dr Liz's musings is all about being honest  - and how one person's view of honesty isn't always the case, and it  isn't always the best policy.

Ok, let me re-phrase that - being honest and transparent is always the right thing to do - but sometimes, people use "being honest" as an excuse of voicing their opinion, phrasing it as "honesty", and using it to be cruel and vindictive.

The times to be honest includes the times when you are given too much change when you purchase something, or you accidentally broke something that belongs to someone else. Be honest at these times.  That is fair!

When are the wrong times?  When it falls into the sphere of personal opinion, or, when the expression of the honest opinion inflicts severe harm and pain on a fellow living creature (whether it be a human being or an animal), when it would serve no purpose other than to cause pain.

Recently, the American Veterinary Medical Association was running an "America's Most Favourite Veterinarian" competition, which I was following, with enjoyment.

I enjoyed reading the testimonials of the pet owners who voted for their vet - I enjoyed reading about fellow veterinarians, and how they had followed their dream, studied and worked hard, to work with our beautiful animals.

It was really exciting to see and read. It put a smile on my face to read about the final Top Ten! Yes, I am an Australian vet, but I always rejoice reading of the success of others, especially, when that involves helping our beautiful animals.

This morning, I was shocked to see that the competition was cancelled, due to cyberbullying.

Well, shocked is the wrong word!  The use of the word "shocked" would imply that it was something that would've been totally unexpected and out of the blue.  More appropriate words would be "Disappointed" and "saddened".

When I went onto a vet forum that I am part off, to my surprise (and disappointment), the attitude of fellow veterinarians was surprise that we should be surprised! "It is the way it is now", writes one veterinarian. " Vets are commonly victim to social media witchhunts" says another.  "Remember Shirley?" - and I had to stop reading the posts after that.  Shirley Koshi was a veterinarian I had never met, but she had committed suicide over 12 months ago as a result of the ongoing cyberbullying that she was victim to.

I had been pondering this all day - I remember the first time that our vet hospital at Russell Vale was broken into, in 1997 - the thief stole alot of tools, many of which belonged to my father, as we were renovating the building. It hurt, on many levels. We had felt violated.   Last year (2014), we were broken into five times - and whilst I was frustrated, the hurt was different - it was more of an acceptance of " this is the way it is,  move on".

The acceptance of someone breaking into my property, as if it is normal - well, that is just wrong!  We should not be living in a society where such things should be "normal", because burglary should not be considered "normal". or "the way it is".

Neither should bullying be considered "normal" or "that is the way it is" these days.  It shouldn't be a situation of "deal with it".

Bullying is wrong - either face to face or via the internet! Bullies need to be stopped. Sadly, our schoolyard bullies grow up to be adult bullies. They still need to be stopped, but they have had many years to perfect their skills - stopping them is not going to be easy.

The justification of the bullying in this veterinary competition is that they were speaking "the truth".  The truth is about the procedure of declawing of cats, which is, in actuality an illegal procedure in Australia.  I am not going to debate the need or not for this procedure, as in Australia it is not legal, except in exceptional circumstances.

 The procedure is legal in many areas of the US - attacking veterinarians performing a legal procedure is, to put it frankly, wrong! 

Change the laws, increase awareness - by all means, but cyberbullying is, wrong!  Bullying in any way, shape or form, is wrong.

 No person should be afraid to do their jobs, for fear of being bullied. A competition that rejoices the work of caring veterinarians should not be silenced. 

Veterinarians should not be afraid to care for animals, and publicising this fact,  for fear of social media assault or cyberbullying.

Many many years ago, tail docking was legal in NSW.  As a new graduate veterinarian, I was forced to tail dock - I did the procedure, under protest, in 8 puppies (my total for my career- thankfully)  - and I was very happy to be in a position, as an older veterinarian to refuse to do any more! 

I remember a day when a breeder of rottweilers (whom I had never met before or after) spat in my face when she found out that I was a member of the Australian Veterinary Association, and that I was opposed to cosmetic tail docking.  That was back in the mid 1990's.  Rotties commonly had their tails docked at 2-3 days of age. Tail docking is now illegal in NSW (thankfully).

She spat in my face, and said a few obscenities. I was manning a stall at a trade show in Sydney at the time.  Needless to say, her violent act was an eye-opener.

One personal belief should not be any reason to attack and hurt a fellow human being - perhaps they should follow Luke 6:31 "Do to others as you would have them do to you." If you expect one to treat your views with respect, then bullying is not the way to achieve that!

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
Robert F. Kennedy

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”
Martin Luther King Jr.

I am a (sad) Dr Liz today - the profession that I am part of, and absolutely, unashamedly, proud to be part of, was bullied into being ashamed of what it is they do.

 Sadly, I see things getting worse, rather than better, but being the eternal idealist, will always hope for the best - for if we practice compassion and kindness, we can leave this world a better place than how we found it. 

For compassion and kindness!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dr Liz's Dental Talk - Extra Teeth?

There are some very special pets out there -  very very special!
You can see 7 teeth where there should only be 5! "Extra teeth"

They are so special, that when I, as a vet, start looking at their teeth, I find something very interesting! 

You see, I love looking at healthy mouths, and telling pet owners that their pet is perfect in every way! 

Fortunately, I get to do this quite a bit in my vet hospital, as many of my pets come in to see me regularly for their dental checks, and my pet owners work hard to keep their pet's mouths healthy!  Of course, these are the visits above "the usual" once a year jab.  We encourage regular "happy visits", as this will make your pet love coming into see us, as much as we love coming in to work to be there for them. .

 If statistics were to be believed, it would say that I would only be able to say that only 20% of the pets I see that are 3 years of age or older are perfectly healthy!

That means, if I see 30 pets a day, only 6 would have perfectly normal, healthy mouths!

If I haven't seen the pet since they were a puppy or kitten, or if the pet owner is new to our veterinary hospital, we can sometimes find something that we did not expect.

For some reason,many "new to us" pet owners seem to think dental disease is tartar on the teeth or red gums.  Dental disease really incorporates anything within the oral cavity that is not normal.

And the "extra teeth" or "missing teeth" can make them very very special, and unfortunately, not normal. 

What should we do when we find "extra teeth" 

Extra teeth can be either supernumerary adult teeth, or retained baby teeth (that is, they didn't want to leave!).  Sometimes you can tell by looking at them, which one it is, but most times you need radiographs to differentiate the two.

As my first example is this beautiful dog below - the retained upper canine is obvious, but did you realise that the second premolar was also a baby tooth too?  The radiographs (and the size of the crown) gives it away!
Between PM1 and PM3 is a retained baby tooth
Radiographs confirm the deciduous premolar.    

As an example of "extra teeth" is this beautiful Boxer dog.

This is an unerupted "extra" tooth -

Say for example, we count five upper premolars in your dog on the left side, and four upper premolars on the right side.  We need to do full mouth radiographs to make sure that there are not any unerupted teeth at all on either side. 

What should we do when we find that there seem to be "missing teeth" or gaps? 

As there is a "standard" or "normal" dentition for all animals, including our dogs and cats, whenever there is a deviation from this, we need to investigate it further. 

Say for example, we count only three lower premolars on the left and right lower jaw, when there should be four, we need to do full mouth radiographs to make sure that there are no hidden surprises. 

What we may find includes
- the is no tooth at all confirmed on radiographs
- we may see tooth roots (that is, the crown has broken/been snapped off), leaving the roots behind with the gum to close over 
- we may see an unerupted tooth (one that has not come through the gum at all - it may be within bone, or under the gum. 

So why bother? 

If the teeth are missing totally, then no need to worry.

If the tooth roots are present, then, in most cases, we would recommend extracting them, as a general rule.

If the tooth is unerupted, if the tooth is left behind, it has the potential to form into a dentigerous cyst. 

What does "dental radiographs" involve? 

Well, we have all sat in our dentists chair, and have been asked to hold a dental plate in our mouths, whilst they take the radiographs.  Unfortunately, our pets won't allow us to do that - and even if they did, the shape of their heads makes positioning of the xray beam a problem. 

In us, for all of our teeth, the xray beam is perpendicular to the plate no matter which tooth that needs assessment.  In our pets, it is only the lower teeth that can be radiographed using this technique - for the remainder, we have to place the xray plate, identify the longitudinal plane of the tooth, bisect that angle, and place the xray beam perpendicular to that "imaginary" line (otherwise known as the bisecting angle technique). Yup, alot of imaginary lines are drawn to be able to get useful dental xrays. 

So, obviously, we have to give the pet a general anaesthetic, but that isn't as scary as you think.  With our modern drugs and monitoring equipment, it is safer now than it ever used to be.  If you do nothing, you are allowing your pet to live with potential time bomb in their mouth, which is very very dangerous.

So what's next? 

Just call us on 42845988 to make a time for your pet's free Dental Check. At that time, we can give you an estimate for what may need to be done, as well as answer any questions that you may have.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Could it be a tick? Paralysis tick, that is.

If I had to ponder what the most common diagnosis made by pet owners, and cross referenced that with the most common question I get asked, it would have to be "Could it be a tick?"

In Australia, we have a paralysis tick, Ixodes Holocyclus. The toxin this tick releases whilst it is feeding causes a paralysis, hence its original name "The Paralysis Tick".

Like any other parasite, the effects it has on the host is usually predictable. Given that it is a common parasite along the Eastern seabord of Australia, it is also a reasonable question for pet owners to ask, "Could it be a tick" when their pet is unwell.

The beauty of our cats, is that it is one of the few situations where the way they show up with tick poisoning is classic
 -  their meow sounds like they have sung too many songs at the karaoke bar
- in the early stages, they walk with their body very close to the ground
- in the advanced stages, if you pick them up, their legs go all over the place
Pandora (the boss) staying as far away from ticks as she can. 

In fact, one of my first after hour cases as a new graduate vet (back in 1990) was a tick poisoning in a cat - except I didn't recognise it at the time.  I stayed back at the vets until midnight trying to figure it out, (which I did eventually), and the cat recovered fine (me, I still remember that night vividly!)

Now, dogs! Well, they can present as virtually anything.

The typical signs are
- the weakness in the back legs, progressing to the front legs.
- the heavy breathing
- dilated pupils in the eyes
- loss of voice (again the karaoke bar thing)
- gagging and coughing

When I was a vet student (yes, many years ago), I was privileged to attend a lecture given by a prominent veterinary neurologist (who I shall call Dr Rick for the purpose of the story).  It was a small group lecture, and I, again, was fortunate enough to be sitting next to Dr Rick during the lunch break.  In between munching on my yummy chicken wrap, I asked him the question -

"What is the strangest presentation of tick poisoning have you seen"

You see, the week prior, at the vet hospital I was volunteering at, the vets had seen a dog that had been weak in all four limbs for about 10 days - it didn't get better, it didn't get worse. All legs were equally weak, and the dog was otherwise fairly alert.  The vet had done spinal xrays, which were normal, and the job was then given to me (because I was a student)  to do a neurological examination.

As a student (and even as a vet), performing neurological examinations either fills you with dread, or with excitement.   As a systematic person, I just followed the steps, collated the results, which,  pointed to a lower motor neurone (LMN) disease..... and the most common LMN disease was tick poisoning.

 Ok, so have you ever been in a position where you had to tell two people who were much higher than you on the food chain, that they had missed a tick? And when they find the tick, watch as they pass this information onto the owner?

Fortunately, it ended well. The dog was treated, and made a full recovery. 

The Paralysis tick of Australia
Dr Rick  shared a similar story, except that neuro examination didn't show any lower motor neurone signs (well not early on) and this dog went on to have the full neuro workup (which included MRI and spinal taps), until a tick was found 10 days later (hiding as they do). Of  course, a happy dog after tick treatment was given. Even specialists can be fooled.

So, to answer the pet owner's question when they bring their "aint doing well" pet in, "Could it be a tick?", well,  yes, it could.

I have seen 
- a pet unable to blink in one or both eyes (with a tick found nearby causing local paralysis)
- gagging or vomiting only but walking normally until 3 days later
- a heavy grunt when they breath out only (we call it expiratory grunting) but walking normally

I remember a story where the pet had come down with tick poisoning signs 4 weeks after visiting a tick area (lucky they saw a vet who was clued in on the signs). 

So tick cases don't always follow the textbook or the rules.

But what tick poisoning doesn't do -
- it doesn't cause pets to be lame
- it doesn't cause pain
- it doesn't cause a temperature or fever (or the dry nose)
- it is not a cause of panting alone (although it can cause panting)
- it doesn't cause trembling legs
- it doesn't stop pets from eating (they will still eat with tick poisoning, they just may struggle to swallow it properly).

If in any doubt, do a full tick search  - because you never know!

You will recall there was some mention of "hiding places" for ticks.  Well, they love to be around the front legs, under the neck, and the lips.  They really do love the lips and eyelids of dogs.

The most horrible spots I have seen and heard about include up the nostrils, in the mouth itself, in the vagina or prepuce.  I have seen ticks down the ears, but as its  a spot we check, it isn't a real hiding place from us!

As we are heading into tick season, now is the time to start taking precautions in all of your pets. Any mammal (except the bandicoot), can come down with paralysis, so never assume your pet is "immune". 

If you need advice on the best options for your particular circumstance, do not hesitate to drop in to us at Russell Vale vets, and speak with myself, or my vet nurses Dirk and Tegan.   If you are not local, then ask your local vet instead.

As vets, we see the tick poisoning cases, so we have a fair idea of what tick preventatives do work, and what don't.  Vets should be the people you should be asking for the best tick preventative advice, not the pet shop or supermarket check out person.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  If there are any questions or comments, just sing out!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dr Liz's Dental Talk - Interesting Dental Facts

Teeth are one of the parts of our body that we tend to take for granted, until we don't have them. I would imagine that it is the most common "organ" that we can replace easily too, if the number of people with dentures is any guide.

Thought I would share some interesting facts about teeth in general, as even though they are easily replaced, they are special.

Dogs have 30 baby teeth and 42 adult teeth
And sometimes the baby teeth don't want to leave so we end up with  "retained " baby teeth like above.

Cats have 26 baby teeth and 30 adult teeth

Rabbits have 28 teeth , with two tiny peg teeth behind their upper incisors. 
Rabbits teeth never stop growing!

People have  20 baby teeth and 32 adult teeth

Adult teeth in our dogs and cats are usually fully erupted by the time they are six months of age.

Baby teeth in our little peoples (human) start to erupt at around six months of age (don't we all remember the dreaded "teething" time), with adult teeth starting to erupt around    7 years of age and doesn't stop until up to 21 years of age (with the "wisdom" teeth).

Dental disease is THE most common disease in our pets. Is it the most common disease in people?

Yes, you can brush your pet's teeth daily! No joke!
It takes work to keep teeth healthy, no matter how many legs you have. I don't chew on a bone to keep my teeth plaque free, but choose the better, safer method of brushing my teeth.  Brushing your pet's teeth is the best way of keeping them healthy too.

Thank you for taking the time to make sure your pet's teeth are healthy through regular brushing.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. Any questions, or even answers to my questions, please feel free to ask below or via email.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Astonishing Secrets - The Itchy Pet with Lumps

Welcome to another addition to Dr Liz's Astonishing Secrets series - which is all about giving loving pet owners information they need to help them help their pet until they can get to a vet.
"You can blame the bee you ate for those lumps"

In the past we have covered painful ears, emergency pain relief, hot spots and helping lost pets.

This problem usually occurs on a evening (when vets are usually closed) or on a Sunday, but it can occur at any time during the day.  When my father's dog Jenna got this condition when I was a young vet, it was the only time that I saw my father panic.  My dad was usually a very calm man whom all the animals that I brought home gravitated towards.   But when Jenna started running around in circles suddenly one Saturday afternoon, and then came out with large red lumps all over her body, he was distraught. 

Recently, I received a phone call from one of our animalclinic family members, Bella whose owner was equally distraught.

Meet Bella!  Isn't she beautiful? 

Well she is, but one Sunday morning her owner rang me to say that she had lumps all over her body, and was acting a bit strange.  She was a little bit itchy and appeared distraught. She did not have have any trouble breathing, and she was otherwise alert and aware.

Bella had an anaphylatic reaction to something, the most common or likely was an insect bite (and the most common is a bee sting)
Is this an emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention?

In some pets yes!

  •  If you are unsure, 
  • if your pet is having trouble breathing, or 
  • if their gums are not as pink as they should be
  you need to seek urgent veterinary attention.
However, in many pets, giving them a dose of antihistamines whilst you are organising a vet visit is not going to hurt them, and it may help them.

For a full list of suitable antihistamines and their doses go here. 

Common ones that are easily available from the supermarket as well as your local chemist are:

Claratyne (drug name - loratidine)  Usual strength is 10 mg.  A cat dose is 5 mg (half a tablet), and a dog is anywhere from 1 tablet to 2 tablets once a day.

Telfast (drug name - fexofenatidine) Usual strength is 60 mg, 120 mg and 180 mg capsules.  Dose is 5 to 10 mg/kg, which means a cat would get around 60 mg, and a 20 kg dog an 180 mg capsule.

Please be aware that these medications are not registered for use in animals, and you will accept the use of them in your pet at your own risk - there is always the potential for an adverse reaction in any pet, or worse, no improvement at all.

If at any time you are not sure, or if you vet is easily available, please take them along promptly for emergency treatment.  The medications we give are much stronger, aswell as we are able to give any other supportive medications such as intravenous fluids and oxygen. Yes, it can be that serious, so if in any doubt, please take your pet to a vet asap.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Do you have any questions (that are not urgent?), feel free to post them here or via email.

And watch those bees!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dr Liz's Dental talk - Vet Dental Understood!

Welcome to another Dr Liz's Dental discussion.

As a vet who performs dentistry procedures on our pets on a daily basis, I can't remember the last time that I was faced with one that was predictable or routine. There is usually something - it can be minor, but I can't recall the last pet where it was "just a clean".

As a pet owner, I certainly understand the desire for knowing exactly how much something is going to cost before it is done.  I definitely understand wanting some kind of control of what is happening to my beloved pet.  

Whenever you put your pet in the hands of your vet,  there is an enormous trust placed in our (vet) hands. 

As a human, at my dentists appointment, it has been my experience that the dentist will sit there and spend a good 10 to 15 minutes probing my teeth, whilst I am lying there "calmly" so that they can collect all  the information.

Sadly, our animals aren't going to sit there and go "AAAH".

It has been my experience with the human dental side that they will perform full mouth dental radio graphs to identify any hidden pathology, or refer me to a facility that does. They may ask me to "bite down" on the bitewings so they can take good xrays, or they may ask me to stand still for 5  minutes biting down on something whilst something whizzes around my head taking a full mouth xray picture.

On the human side, once they have that information, they are then able to give a more accurate assessment of what needs to be done, and how much it is going to cost.

Now, let us go to our animals.  I have yet to meet an animal that is going to allow me to place a periodontal probe around each of their 42 (if dog) or 30 (if cat) teeth.  They are not going to stay super still whilst I place my (expensive) dental film, and then try to position the xray beam in the right angle, to get the diagnostic films I need to get.

Dental examinations on pets whilst they are awake is a great start, but the true assessment starts when they are dreaming of chasing rabbits (or mice if they are cat), so we can do what us vets can do what we do best - to diagnose (and then treat) disease.
With a pet under anaesthetic we can then check each tooth properly.

This is a dog's dental chart - we document the information on each and every tooth

Whilst the perio probe isn't sharp, its not comfortable, especially in a mouth with red gums and pain.

Sadly, we miss so much disease on just visual examination alone -  there are so many times that we miss things until we start doing a more thorough, collected assessment.

The problem lies in that the pet owner (rightly) wants an  estimate of the procedure before hand, and (sadly) when it comes to dental work that is impossible. Well, it can be done - we could give the pet two anaesthetics - the first to collate the information, and then a second one a week or so later to perform the dental work. 

In fact, isn't that what the human dentists do?  Ask us to go back to perform dental work in stages?

This is Pusski, not Putty Cat but they could be twins!

Putty Cat's story is a classic example of "you miss more for not looking than not knowing", or how a "routine dental" ended up as something totally different.

Putty Cat is only 8 years old, and he is happy and healthy,  who rules the house with his typical subtle but firm, cat style!  He had only recently moved to Woonona.

When he came in for his first dental check, there was alot of brown stuff sticking onto his back teeth digging into his gums - tartar in this area is typical of animals who are choosing not to chew their food, and frankly, that is not normal! 

He came in for his "dental", and on charting he was found to be missing a tooth on his left lower side.  On probing, there was a small hole in his gum, so we went on to radiograph this area.

I will let the radiographs below tell the rest of the story.

I put a needle in the area where the sinus was -

It always helps to know what "normal" is - so we now play the game of "Spot the difference"

Do you see the tooth root? 
Putty Cat had a tooth root (with no crown - we could not see the second root) and this was causing him pain (the draining sinus, and the tartar on the back teeth).  We went on to extract that tooth root successfully.  No more pain for the beautiful Putty Cat.
Now you can see where it has been!
I hope you understand that
  • any tartar on the teeth can be the signal that something is not normal 
  • full probing and examination of the teeth with the benefit of some drugs is needed
  • dental xrays are always needed to identify the hidden disease (like Putty Cat)
  • There would've been no way to predict the tooth abscess, or the retained tooth root fragment on a conscious dental examination, and no way to give an estimate for that prior. 
Until we have that information, it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of what is going to be involved.    What we can do is give a broad range based on an estimate on how long we would expect the procedure to take if more disease is found than expected.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. 

Dental checks at Russell Vale Animal Clinic are FREE all year round, so take advantage of a weigh in, a happy visit filled with treats for your pet, and advice on how to keep your pet's teeth healthy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dr Liz's Dental Talk - National Pet Dental Month is here!

For all loving pet owners, all over Australia, August is a very very special and important month for your pet.

It is National Pet Dental Month!
Maya sticking her tongue out during Dr Liz's dental check!

I get excited about this month EVERY year.... simply because, well, don't we all get excited about things that make us happy?

As a vet, I get excited when I examine a pet, and see beautiful healthy gums and nice white teeth.

As a vet, I get excited when I examine a pet, and I can see the efforts that the pet owner is making to try to keep their pet's gums and teeth healthy - whether it be through brushing, dental protectant diets, the use of daily dental chews or water additives.

Yes, I get excited daily at Russell Vale vets.

But in August, I get super excited - as there is now a national focus on something that virtually all pets have in common  (unless you are a chicken) - that is, teeth!

We get to see "not normal" things like this!

Those of you are have been with us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic for a while now, will be all too familiar with the SMS reminder for your pet's dental check.  A big thank you to those who take these reminders seriously, and bring your pet in for them.

Those of you who have never been in to see us, or, perhaps, your pet has not been to a vet recently, then this is your chance to take advantage of a free dental check (plus we do a bit more too for free).

"But there's a catch"

Of course, the dental check at the vet is never totally free is it.

It has a cost... a big cost... one that so many pet owners refuse to pay.

The cost is time - whilst there are so many amazing pet owners who will take the time  for their loved pet, there are, sadly more pet owners who won't. 

Let us not forget the other "hidden cost" of a FREE pet dental check - and this is a big one that many pets hate to face (and pay) - that is the cost of guilt.

Say, you take your pet in for their free dental check, and the vet (it may be me, or it may be a vet near where you live),  find red gums which bleed easily, pus with teeth wobbling in the breeze.

How would you feel being told all of this?  Some pet owner feels absolutely awful.... appreciates the information and acts on it.  Some pet owners are horrified ... and instead of fixing the problem, blames the vet and feels guilty.

The pet owener says "They are eating just fine.  They are not in pain"

In the pet owners head (and sometimes out loud to me) they says to themselves "how dare they tell me that I am neglecting and cruel to the pet that I love so much."

If a pet owner brings their pet in for a dental check, and we identify dental disease, we do not do so to make you feel guilty, but to educate you on steps you can take to improve the dental (and therefore) overall health of the pet that you love so much.

And pain.... that is one of the things we love so much about our animals.... they don't complain much - but if you have ever had a periodontal infection (and I have), it is painful.  I still ate though, as my body shape will testify too! My other alternative was to starve, and I didn't fancy that too much. 

Unless you physically planted plaque on the teeth, or superglued the tartar, it's not your fault, and thus you have no need to feel guilty. 

 It is a well documented fact that 80% of pets who are 3 years of age or older will have some form of dental disease - and this is even with owners doing the best pet dental care they can. 

After all, I go to my dentist each six months for my dental cleaning, but I do brush my own teeth two times a day.  I don't blame my dentist because tartar is building up.  I blame the fact that I have teeth in my head, and I am getting older.

But, if you know your pet has dental disease, and you refuse or deny it, then by all means, feel as guilty as you like.  

AS a vet, I am  doing what all of us are  trained to do - which is the examination, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease in all animals under our care.

Where ever you may be in Australia, there is going to be a vet who is involved in National Pet Dental Month. Make the effort each year for your pet's health sake.
Identifying and treating disease, including dental disease.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. We look forward to seeing every pet, at any time of the year, for their FREE dental check, as our dental checks are free all year round (I told you I was mad, didn't I).

See you soon!