Saturday, January 31, 2015

Astonishing Secrets - My Cat's Ears are Orange and other Mitey Stories

Astonishing Secrets is about sharing tips about how to help your pet, before you are able to take them into a vet hospital to be checked over thoroughly.
"How Mitey are you?"

This one is focusing on a common question I (and I am sure other vets too) get asked, about whether mites could be a cause of their pet's skin problem.

And the answer is .... yes, they could be, but no, I can;t tell tell if that is what is causing the problem in your pet!

Many of the mites that our pet's suffer from are not visible with the naked eye, and strangely, many of them do not make our pet itchy at all.

For example - demodectic mange is not itchy in dogs ,but it is in cats. It isn't an infectious type of mite either.  Sarcoptes mite is an infectious mite, but dogs in the same household aren't always infected.  Ear mites are highly infectious and notoriously difficult to get rid off (if the number of ear mite infections I see from reputable breeders is any gauge, as I am sure they are doing all they can to eliminate the infection)

Below, I am sharing a few of the "mitey" problems we have seen at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

The photos and videos below are taken from my own patients. 

The Chigger Mite...

This is one of the more visually impressive mite, because even though they are not visible to the naked eye on their very own, as a collective group, they are bright orange!

In other words, there is nothing else that would produce an orange layer on your pet's ears.

Microscopically, they are easy to see through a superficial scraping and examination under a microscope.  Even your own supermarket bought microscope would pick these ones up.
Trombiculid Mites -  taken 2015 using my microscope camera

Other names: Chigger Mite
Harvest Mite
Trombiculid Mite

The infection is often called Trombiculiasis.

Avoidance of the bushy environment is ideal, otherwise re-infection is common.
I use Frontera Spray over the entire body, as this often provides up to three months of protection against re-infection.

The Red Mange...

In all of Dr Herriots books, the talk of this mange brought frustration as it was either incurable, or cleared up on its own.   These days, the situation hasn't changed that much, as in some dogs, the condition is incurable, simply because of how the immune system is intrinsic to whether the condition is cleared or not.


Video taken in 2006 using an Olympus camera on my microscope

Demodectic mange is the most common, easily diagnosed cause of hair loss (or dermatitis) in young dogs.  Whilst it can occur in older dogs too, the way it shows in those dogs is usually in the feet only.  Younger dogs can have patches of hairloss anywhere over the body.

It is classified into various forms, but put simply
- localised only - less than 3 spots
- localised, pustular - less than 3 spots that look red, and likely itchy (because of the secondary bacterial infection)
- generalised  - more than 3 spots
- generalised pustular  - more then 3 spots but itchy red sores
- adult onset non pustular - no infection but dogs are older than 2 years of age
- adult onset pustular - itchy dogs with red sores that are older than 2 years of age

Diagnosis is fairly straightforward through multiple skin scrapes and assessment under a microscope.

Treatment is not so easy, as there is a range of treatment options, with your local vet able to advise you of their preferred option.   When our dog, Piper was diagnosed with demodectic mange, we chose the weekly injections of Dectomax for 15 weeks.  Other common options include daily ivermectin.

I am Dr Liz, and I am the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  If you have any concerns of your pets having mites, then they need a vet check and a skin scrape taken as soon as  possible.  In most cases, diagnosis is straight forward after a few skin scrapes (with the exception of a Sarcoptes  mites).

Thank you for reading.

If you have any questions, you can email me directly, or through posting comments below.

Out of Hours Veterinary Service at Russell Vale Animal Clinic

Breaking News - at Russell Vale Vets

As of 1st Feb 2015, we have alternate arrangements for "out of hours" emergency care for all of our animalclinic family. 

For  your information - I am sharing the message as will be recorded on our "out of hours" answering machine as of February 2015.

"Thank you for calling Russell Vale vets on Bellambi Lane. 

Our open hours are 9 am to to 6 pm Monday to Friday and from 9 am to 12 on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

If you are the owner of an injured or sick pet which requires attention, then call 02 42 83 2333 that is 42 832333, and follow the message. Identify yourself as a client of Russell Vale Animal Clinic to enable access to the after hours service.

The closest fully manned 24 hour facility is Animal Referral Hospital on 02 97588666."

 Why is it so?

In 2015, our youngest son, Sean  is going to be entering Year 11 - his final two years of high school.  And in 2016, our youngest daughter, Paige,  will be starting Year 11 also.  (yes, my younger two kids are 13 months apart, as are my older two children Tegan and Haiden). 
An older photo of my kids at a family holiday at Mogo Zoo!

Why am I telling you this? 

There are many challenges that I have to deal with as a solo veterinarian in general practice.  And within this is also the challenge of operating a small business, working hard to provide a decent value-for-money veterinary service for loving pet owners, whilst generating an income to financially support my family.  

Let me keep it simple - up until now, I have tried to be super-mum, super-vet and super-business person.  Thankfully, I have an amazing family (immediate and of the animalclinic family kind)  that allows me to keep up this illusion of being "super".  The reality is, life has a good way of forcing you to face your priorities.  

In 2015, I need to set some boundaries, and remove my guilt from not being available 24/7 for you. My children need me to be there for them, as in a few short years, they will be adults. 

This is my one and only chance to be there for my younger children, at this, one of the most challenging times of their teenage life. I made the mistake of not doing this for my older two children.... it is a mistake I am NOT  prepared to make again.

For example, on Australia day alone, I answered three pet owner's  enquiries (all are people who are not clients of ours) via sms, two emails (again from non clients), and 2 phone calls (from existing clients - neither which were an emergency, but the owners were concerned and needed someone to talk to). 

Being available 24/7 for loving pet owners is part of the unwritten unpublished job description of what being a vet is. 

As my younger children are entering the high school years that will determine their graduating result, being available for others 24/7 is just no longer possible.

 I am not saying that these calls were unwarranted or unnecessary.  The owners had cause to be concerned.  What I am saying is that I, as a person, cannot continue to do it, every day and every night, at the moment!
As a result, I have entered into a financial agreement with a larger local veterinary hospital such that the loving pet owners of Russell Vale Animal Clinic will be able to access the after hours emergency vet  until further notice.

What does remain unchanged?  You can email me at any time for any general questions... Dear Dr Liz will not be affected.  This is a valuable service, that I will continue to offer to all loving pet owners, all over the world. 

You can txt us at any time any general questions.  We will try to help, but our response may not be fast enough in an emergency situation.

For  your information - I am sharing the message as recorded on our "out of hours" answering machine.

"Thank you for calling Russell Vale vets on Bellambi Lane. 

Our open hours are 9 am to to 6 pm Monday to Friday and from 9 am to 12 on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

If you are the owner of an injured or sick pet which requires attention, then call 02 42 83 2333 that is 42 832333, and follow the message. Identify yourself as a client of Russell Vale Animal Clinic to enable access to the after hours service.

The closest fully manned 24 hour facility is Animal Referral Hospital on 02 97588666."

I am Dr Liz, the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  I am a mother of four beautiful children, and am proud to have established Vets on the Move (the first mobile vet practice in the Illawarra in 1995), and Russell Vale Animal Clinic (the first female owned veterinary hospital in the Illawarra in 1998).

Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding, it is something that I truly appreciate and do not take for granted.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dear Dr Liz - A lump in my dog's mouth

 "Dear Dr Liz" is one of the many online services I provide for you, the loving pet owner.  Every day, I receive emails from loving pet owners who are seeking that extra bit of advice or help.

The majority of pet owners often have to drive 60 minutes or more to a vet, so often need to know whether their pet's problem is one serious enough to need the drive. 

Sometimes the questions are just to clarify what your own vet may have said to you, but you were just too scared to ask.

Every pet deserves to have their own personal vet - does your pet?

Dear Dr Liz,

My pet, ...River.......... (insert name) needs your help.

This is not an emergency, they are not seriously ill, but I just need a bit of extra advice.

They are (5), (girl), (Mini Aussie Bulldog ) and I love them to bits.

And I am really worried.... please help me.

I've just returned from a 17 day trip away from her and notice a lump in her mouth looks like it is growing out of her gums. its hard to touch and doesn't bother her when i do. Her breath smell bad as usual not a change there. Could stress from me being away from her bring something like this on. Any information would be great.

Now I need to share some information about me - I am from Australia  and my closest vet is 70km away

Any help would be very much appreciated.

River's Mum

Hi River's Mum.
Thank you for your email.
Thank you for your photos also.  I can see that you love your dog very much. The problem here is that when there is a lump in the mouth, it can be due to many many things.
Generally,, a lump in the mouth is called an "epulis" but this is a generic term, as it just means a "lump" in the mouth.  It isn't a diagnosis, but a general term.
We often use a combination of examination, intra-oral radiographs and biopsy of the lesion to identify exactly what it is.
As an aside, it is not normal for there to be a bad smell from any pet's mouth - pet's breath should not smell, and definitely  not smell bad.
I wish you both the best of luck, but River needs to see a vet for diagnosis, and then recommendations on treatment.

Dr Liz

General Information: 

 The lump pictured here is a oral plasmacytoma, but without histopathology, all I could say is that it is "a lump". 

Every day, you should check your pet's mouth during brushing, and make a note of any growths. 

They are rarely painful,  and most times do not bleed.  But they are no more normal in your pet's mouth than on the skin.  

The steps that are needed include
1. A full oral examination under general anaesthetic - this is essential

2. Intra-oral radiographs - we do this to see if there is any bony involvement, looking for periodontal disease, or any other interesting changes

3. Either an incisional biopsy (a sample or debulking) procedure is performed, or an excisional biopsy (removing the entire lump, the adjacent tooth and some bone ).  Most times, it is an incisional biopsy.

4. The excised tissue is submitted for histopathology - this is the best and only way to find out exactly what the lump is.

Once we know what it is, and how it can potentially behave, a plan can be developed on how to deal with it - whether it would be local surgery, or removal of sections of jaw.

Do you have any questions or concerns about your pet?  One of the awesome things about having a relationship with your own vet, is that you can ask them all of your questions, but I understand that sometimes it doesn't work out that way.

 I will always try to help you if I can, but there are limitations to what can be done online - same as there are limitations in a consultation room too.  Sometimes, tests do need to be done to find out what the problem is, and how best to treat it. 

I am Dr Liz, your family pet's vet in Russell Vale. 

Online vet consults are here.
Please note the disclaimer as written on the website.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Behaviour Bytes - Food and Fun for Fido! - using Food for Games

Canine Feeding Time – Turn Feeding time into fun time for you dog!
Make dinner a winner for your dog

Written by our Vet Nurse Tegan Rozendaal Bsc Cert Animal Behaviour
If there’s something most dogs love – it’s food! When a full bowl of food is placed in front of them, most dogs will happily munch away until not a morsel is left. However, how stimulating is this for your pooch?
 Piper with her Kong Wobbler

It’s a startling statistic that the majority of pet dogs spend less than 15 minutes of their entire day searching for and eating food. It is such a small amount of time because they do not have to search out for food – we as loving owners hand it to them on a silver platter (bowl :P). 
The benefits of using food as a way to enrich an animal’s environment have long been known to those involved in animal care. For example, Zoos feed captive animals in ways that allow them to express their natural hunting or foraging behaviours. This helps prevent boredom and reduces the likelihood of undesirable behaviours occurring. 
However, environmental enrichment isn’t only for the lions, tigers and bears! Your pooch will love you for making meal time a little more interactive! For most dogs, obtaining food is an immensely satisfying activity. Using food dispensing toys can help keep your dog mentally stimulated and in the end, happy and well fed too. 
Piper again - another feeding toy!

In fact, many involved in pet care recommend that both cats and dogs receive their daily meals not poured into a food bowl, but through 3 or 4 treat dispensing toys or used as treats to reward good behaviour. 
The good news is there is no ‘wrong’ way to provide enrichment. The key is to find out what works for you and your pet. Experimenting and trying new things will ultimately lead to a happy and satisfied pooch! 
Piper's Picks:
Piper the Kelpie is Dr Liz’s dog, and boy does she need some stimulation in her day! Being a young working dog, in addition to walks and playing fetch, she occupies her time at home with these games and toys.   
Don't let this sleeping Piper fool you

Food Games
Treasure Hunt!: Take a portion of your dog’s daily food and hide it in a few spots around the house/backyard. The idea is that your dog will use their keen sense of smell to find the hidden treasure. Difficulty can be moderated by where the food is hidden, so no dog is left hungry!
Teaching tricks: use your dog’s usual food instead of special treats as motivation to perform desired behaviours. 

Some of Pipers favourite tricks include sit, shake and spin!

Food Dispensing Toys
Ice Bucket: Great for hot summer days! Dissolve a stock cube in hot water, add dog food and other tasty treats and freeze! 
Cardboard Tubes: use tubes such as toilet paper rolls or gladwrap rolls and fill with treats. Cover both ends and the sides make holes large enough for the food to roll out. As the tube rolls along the ground food should fall out. 
Kong Toys: Kong’s are easily stuffed with food (wet or dry) and can be left for your dog to work on during the day. For maximum effect, moist food is best, seal with end with peanut butter and freeze overnight. 
Treat Balls: Place dry food/treats into the opening provided and the dog has to roll it around to get the food out. 
“The Shredder” : Great for dogs who love to chew and rip – wrap treats in newspaper and scrunch up. Place a few scrunched balls into a brown paper bag and seal. The dog has to tear open the paper to get the treats. 
Puzzle Toys: Puzzle toys are a great test of a dogs intelligence and they make finding treats more challenging. Most dogs will need some encouragement when first using a puzzle toy, but they will soon love the extra challenge of finding tasty treats! 

Did you enjoy Tegan's post?

Tegan with Piper at Puppy Preschool.
I am Dr Liz, the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  We are for happy, healthy pets, always.  

Tegan, is a University of Wollongong Graduate (psychology), and works part time at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  She has a Certificate of Animal Behaviour, and is currently studying for her Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing (and she is my eldest daughter (proud mum moment)). 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Gratitude Project 2015 - Thankful for our Community

Welcome to the Gratitude Project for 2015.

I am thankful for our patient, tolerant and caring Australian Community.

As a community, we care about each other, and appreciate our differences aswell as our similarities. We recognise that we are not all the same, but that we all want to live in a place where we can love our families, enjoy our hobbies and our lives.


I am Dr Liz, the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dr Liz Dental Discussion- The Unerupted Tooth - When things are not how they seem!

Did you know that our dogs should have 42 adult teeth? 

The problem lies in that in some breeds, like Boxers, you can't assume that what you see is what you have. You count 42 teeth, but they can have something totally different within their heads, that you wouldn't know unless you looked!

BE AWARE: This post includes surgery photos of pets under anaesthetic. We thank Milly's owners for allowing us to share these photos with you all.

Let me share with you a story about Milly, a 7 month old Boxer. (names have been changed, but not the breed).  Beautiful Milly is a very happy, beautiful and much loved little girl Boxer.  When she was six months old, she came in for her "six month of age" dental check at my vet hospital, Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

The reason we do this check is that we want to make sure that all of the baby teeth are gone, and that the adult teeth are through. We want to check that the teeth are sitting as they are supposed to be sitting, because if they aren't,  there are some simple things that we can try to help things. We also want to make sure that each and every pet has the right number of teeth that they are supposed to have.

Milly is a bit special. When we examined her mouth, on her left upper side, we counted the usual number of teeth.

This is Milly's "normal" left  side with four premolars and two molars. 
When we examined her right upper side, we realised how special she was. She didn't just have one first premolar, but she actually had THREE of them!

When we radiographed her right upper side, we confirmed the three single rooted first premolars, with the second, third and fourth premolars being normal shaped and sizes. But this then brought up a big question - could there be extra teeth on her left side, even though we do not see any?

So, Milly's owner booked her for a general anaesthetic and full mouth dental xrays!

And the big surprise on the left side was?

A dental xray solved that question - the left upper side wasn't normal.  In fact, it was abnormal in a way that if left untreated, could cause severe pain in Milly.

The surprise was that there was an unerupted tooth (labelled PM1 (1) , with the extra bonus of it being a supernumerary (extra) tooth to boot.  As a vet interested in dentistry, it is drummed into me to count the teeth in all of our pets and to radiograph those areas where the teeth are "missing".

And only a few experienced older veterinary dentists talk about radiographing "normal" areas in brachycephalic breeds, like Boxers, Pugs and Shih Tzu's.  They, like me, know that even in these "normal" looking mouths, we can see abnormalities.

In fact, when I recently shared this case on VIN (Veterinary Information Network), the vet dental specialists commented that they see this "all the time", and one had seen five that week! 

Why is identifying unerupted teeth important? 
Indi's Dentigerous cyst
Do you remember my story about Indi and her dentigerous cyst a few years ago? A Dentigerous cyst is a bone eating cyst that forms around an unerupted tooth.

Dentigerous cysts can be prevented.

Read more here.

It can be prevented by identifying all unerupted teeth and either exposing them (through an operculectomy if possible), or through extraction.

If not identified early, then it can lead to severe bone loss, teeth loss, and even a fractured jaw.

Indi's dentigerous cyst meant a loss of three teeth, including her canine, but she didn't get a fractured jaw!

We wanted to prevent that with Milly.

Her problem was that despite her normal side looking normal, it was anything but. 

So what to do? 

Look at the "Extra" tooth
This unerupted tooth needed to be removed.  Using needles, we identified its exact location. A surgical flap was created, and the tooth was seen.
An empty socket!

Once the tooth is identified, gently undermined and extracted, the socket is curetted and lavaged thoroughly.  The gum is undermined to ensure a closure with no tension, and the area is stitched over.

 Any other issues with the mouth were addressed (and with Milly, there were a few),  and she was allowed to wake up from her anaesthetic.

Happy Milly, Happy Milly's parents, and of course, a happy vet.

We work very hard to prevent disease, and in Milly's case, we prevented a dentigerous cyst and ongoing pain for her.  In amongst the sad moments of being a vet, identifying, treating and preventing disease  is one of the many many joys. 

I am Dr Liz, the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  One of the most important aspects of being a veterinarian is the prevention of disease.  With the work that I do, thanks to the loving pet owners of dogs like Milly, I am able to use my skills, knowledge and equipment to identify abnormalities BEFORE they create irreversible damage.

Thank you for being part of the bellambivet blog.