Thursday, February 26, 2015

Musings of Dr Liz - Open Letter - to Pet Owners who don't visit the vet

 Before you read on, this is not for those of you (which is virtually all of you) who realise that all pets need vets.  This is for those, who aren't likely to read this anyway, who ..... well, read on what they do and don't do!

Dear Pet Owner whose pet does not visit a vet,

I am writing this letter to you to introduce myself, and of course, a group of very special people who care for animals.

I am a vet, and I feel a deep sadness in my heart to know that the only times that you need me is to desex your pet when it is young, and to euthenase many years later when it is old.

And if you  are really unlucky, you may need me in between when your pet gets very sick. At this time, you often say to me "I can't afford that".

What gets me wondering is, why do you think your  pet does not need a vet at all during their life?  Why do you feel a vet is only good for three things - to vaccinate (when they are young only) , to desex and to kill?

Did you know that there are many loving pet owners out there who would be shocked to know that you, who they thought loved their pets, never took their pet  to a vet for regular check ups? or vaccinated them? or even give them basic stuff such as worming or flea control?   

Day in, day out, they see you play with them, take them for long walks, spend lots of money of leads and toys at the pet shop, thinking that you truly love your pet with all that you buy.

Yet I know.the truth... (for if I do get to see them).. when I ask you when their last vet visit was, you say "I can't remember", or you say " they have been perfectly OK until today, never needed a vet". 

What makes me sad, as an animal lover and vet?

I hate doing the full physical examination on your pet,  and finding a range of issues, many of which are preventable.  That's right, 90% of the problems I have found in your pet were preventable.

And then to go through the cost of getting your pet back to normal, the discussion just ends up, well, let us not mince words ..... unpleasant.

Look, I am not saying that you don't love your pet, nor do I doubt how important they are to you. As an animal lover myself, I do understand that love...that bond.

Your pet is also very very important to me.  But to be able to do my life's passion and work, which is to keep all of my animals happy and healthy, I need you to  rethink your vet's involvement in your pet's life.

I know that this letter won't change your mind, and I know it will be a situation that we will have to agree to disagree on the importance of veterinarians in your pet's life. 

Sad, but true.

The Mad Vet, Dr Liz

PS On the off chance that you do get a change of heart, know that your vet, including us, will always be here to help your pet..  All veterinarians are hard wired that way, it is part of our DNA.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hidden Disease in a Pet's Mouth - the not so routine "dental"

Dr Liz's Dental Talk aka Discussion, will be all about a very important fact that many people often forget - Dental disease can hide in a healthy looking pet's mouth.
The only thing hiding here are the toothbrushes!
NB - Micky is under anaesthetic during the photo's

Dental disease is common in our pets, yet there are many pet owners who look in their pet's mouths, and say to themselves (and sometimes to me), "my pet's teeth look great".

Let us meet Micky, a 9 YO terrier, who came to see me for the first time recently.  Micky and his family was on holiday in Wollongong when he was due for his "annual teeth cleaning".

His owners, after doing the internet searching, and visiting several vets locally, including taking advantage of our "free dental check" booked him in with us to have his "dental".

What a brave boy he was that day .... I never underestimate what a big thing it is for your pet to have an anesthetic for their mouth to be assessed and treated.  It is never "another day at the office" for us, as we are dealing with very important members of your family. And there is definitely nothing routine about the "dental", as we try to identify disease that often remains hidden in a pet's mouth.

Micky's general examination was otherwise not too bad, but we did see that he did have discoloration on two of his upper incisors and some tartar build up on his back teeth.   After his sedation, placement of an intravenous catheter, and whilst he was under anaesthetic a full dental assessment was done, a dental chart created, and dental xrays taken.

On visual inspection, his mouth looked like this. If you can spot the disease, then show me.  Visually, this part didn't look to bad to me at all.  He did have some tartar though on his back teeth.
Micky's teeth under anaesthetic

During his charting, when we placed a probe around each of his teeth (please note that dogs have 42 teeth), we found some abnormalities. We found that he had some periodontal pockets (the probe went in deeper than it should've), which we knew would need a more thorough cleaning and treatment.  We also found two incisors which were "mobile".

Why not look at the video to see the "wobbliness". 

Mobility of  teeth raises a big question - is it loose because the tooth is broken?  is it because there is bone loss?  perhaps there is soft cancerous tissue around it?

His xray could've looked like this.
This is not Mickey's Xray, but it does show a root fracture 

But, it didn't. The xray above is from another patient that had a similarly mobile tooth, but with radiographs, were were able to identify the problem - ie it was fractured, and also had a tooth root next to it (but there was no visible crown).  In this case, we extracted both teeth fragments successfully and completely.

Mickey's dental Xray looked like this!

The four incisors in the middle needed to be extracted - there was nothing that would salvage them, and to leave them would cause Micky ongoing pain. Also don't forget that it was only one tooth that was mobile, so if we had just extracted that, based on probing alone, Mickey still would've been in pain as a result of the other diseased teeth.

At this point in time I should add - There is a rule that is sacrosanct with us - we do not perform any extractions without the owner's permission. You can say "do what you need to do, I trust you", and I do really appreciate it when you say that.   But unless we can get hold of you, and get your permission, we will not do anything unless we had discussed it with you.  In my view, you are integral to any decision that needs to be made.

 So, I start to clean Micky's teeth. My vet nurse Dirk jumps on the phone to update Micky's owner.   We get permission to extract the four upper incisors. We are thankful that the owner trusted us enough to do that as we had not anticipated any extractions to be necessary (given his regular "dentals") and his visual examination.

This isn't Mickey either, but it it shows our set up.

After the extraction, we always curette out the socket well, and then flush.  With Micky, we kept samples of this tissue to submit for histopathology, if it was needed. 

After the sutures are placed, Micky woke up uneventfully, and went home later that afternoon. All of our patients who undergo dental procedures with us, go home with a copy of all of the xrays, the dental chart and a home care pack.

 Getting the teeth cleaned and healthy under an anaesthetic is big part of what needs to be done to keep teeth and gums healthy, but it isn't the only part. Ongoing work needs to be done by you, the pet owner.

At his two week post dental check, he was great, and his mouth looked awesome. And of course, a very happy owner. Well, that is a bit  of a lie.  She wasn't 100% happy. She had alot of questions that I could not answer.  "How long was it like that" "Was he in pain all of this time"  Let us not forget that this was the first time Micky had a dental procedure with us, and the first time he had dental xrays, but it was not the first time he had a "dental".

The histopathology report came back with  it all being consistent with bacterial infection aka periodontal disease. Whew! We have started Micky on a home care program (to continue on with the home care pack that he went home with on the day), and have recommended ongoing radiographs

So next time I look in a pet's mouth, and I think it "looks OK",  I'll remember Micky (and I hope you do to when you look in your pet's mouth).  

Dental disease likes to hide, and it is only a full assessment under an anaesthetic, a thorough dental examination, and with the help of dental xrays, can the true extent of disease be identified and treated.

It saddens me to think that there are pet's out there who are getting tartar scraped off at home, at a groomers, or even in a vet hospital, and the true disease is missed. 

We thank all of our loving pet owners who trust in us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic to do the right thing for their pet.  If you ever feel there is disease in your pet's mouth, or if your pet's breath smells, give us a call.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet of Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  We have been offering and doing intra-oral (dental) Xrays since 2005 (the first in the Illawarra) , and went digital in 2009.  We are experienced in identifying and removing tooth root fragments, unerupted teeth, and identifying the problem tooth when a tooth root abscess is diagnosed (it isn't always the tooth we think it is).

Any questions, do not hesitate to call us on 02 42 845988, or comment below, or send us an email.

Don't forget that we have free dental checks all year round (we do not wait for Pet Dental Month), so we are always happy to "Flip the Lip" for you (by appointment always).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musings of Dr Liz - Greyhounds are Amazing Animals

Welcome to another one of my musings.... this week has been hard ..... this week has been almost gut wrenching and sickening for all of those who love and care for animals.

Please note: this post is  without fancy photos and without fancy layout - deliberately. 

This week, ABC Four Corners showed a program which showed graphic sickening video of the torture of rabbits, possums and piglets  which were used in the "live baiting" or "blooding" of Greyhounds to improve their racing performance.

All animals featured are victims of cruelty - both bait and Greyhound alike.

I will share the link to the episode at the end, in case you haven't seen it.

Let us hope that the focus on the Greyhounds doesn't distract us from the other forms of animal cruelty that are out there at the moment - where is the outrage at the live export?  pigeon racing? dog shows? cat shows? puppy mills? pet shops? dog training methods? breeding of dogs with genetic disorders? general animal abuse? animal abandonment?

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Gandhi's quote is true!

I have to admit that it was impossible to watch the entire episode - I was lucky to make it through 5 minutes of it... but got the gist of what it was all about. I, like many of you, have been following the fallout afterwards...... it has been heartwarming, and disheartening all at the same time.

In my vet hospital, the Greyhounds I see are purely pets.   They are very much loved family pets.   All of them are very very gentle creatures.  I would find it hard to believe that the Greyhounds that I see are the animal killing beasts as featured on the show.

As a vet of family pet Greyhounds, they are absolutely amazing animals and loved as much as all of the other pets that I see.

Of course, as is the case, the blame on the cruelty featured on the ABC  is placed squarely on the  human who, as a result of greed, has chosen illegal, inhumane methods of motivating the animals under their care. Sadly, "old school training", and "this is the way my father did it", juxtaposed with the exorbitant dollar value that these dogs are given at the race track, means that these methods will continue, long after the current furore has died down.   Sadly, money talks.  

Unfortunately, there is  also the collateral damage.  In trying to protect these beautiful animals by exposing the cruel training by a few experienced older trainers,  their very welfare is now under threat. 

Those who own pet greyhounds are equally under threat, as mob mentality starts to do what it does best.

I will admit to being a vet who has nothing to do with the Greyhound racing community.  Many would argue I do not have any right to comment one way or another on this issue.   They are not wrong, except as a human being who loves animals, I have every right to comment.

“My doctrine is this, that if we see  cruelty or wrong that we have the  power to stop, and do nothing, we  make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”  ― Anna Sewell

And so, I will not be silenced.

Many years ago, I wrote about the subtle cruelty I see to animals every so often at my veterinary hospital.  I am sure I am not alone in the cruelty I see.   Again, I will not be silenced.  Many pet owners do not like to think that they may be cruel either, and I have no doubt that many journalists do not see the damage they are equally doing to animal welfare  themselves by their attacks on the veterinary profession itself.

How many pets are now not receiving the vaccinations, dental care, and regular check ups they need? 

Like any other feeling human being, watching the torture of another sentient being, is difficult, bordering on impossible.  The fact that I am a human being, who values the life of all living creatures, gives me the right to comment,  like all of you.

Let us not forget that Greyhounds are sentient beings, who, if they are racing or in training,  are not in control of the environment they are in.

What scares me is, that when many of these beautiful dogs need to find family homes after their racing career is over, that  people are going to see those images of "blooding", and then think of these beautiful, amazing animals as killers.

They are not killers!

 Greyhounds are amazing animals, who perform a job - their job is to run fast to make their human owners happy. They are not in control of the training that goes in to make them good at what they do.  They cannot dictate whether the trainer they have uses appropriate, humane methods, or the unscrupulous few who are inhumane.

By all means, get angry and put pressure on everyone to be vigilant - in all facets of our lives where there are animals.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But in that process, we have to be aware that in trying to protect the animals who are also the victim, that we do not  give them a death sentence.

In other words, do not ostracize these same beautiful animals, and do not stop looking at all of the other aspects of our lives where beautiful animals are being abused.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

12 things i like about... My animals

 The other night I had a dream. 

The dream was to come up with a list of the twelve best attributes of the teacher (in my dream). Yup, a strange dream.  I do strange dreams really well.

In many ways, the animals that I have met, and do meet, are my teachers. Here, I share the twelve best attributes of my teacher(s).

1.  Compassion - Our dog Piper
2. Kindness - Our cat Dash

3. Loyalty - My father's cat (now ours)  Pusski
4. Understanding - Cicero

5. Solidarity - an animalclinic family member, Jake

6. Sharing Experiences

7. Fun loving - the dogs at the dog park!

8 - Genuine - My childhood pet - Burek (RIP 1990)

9 - Generous of time and spirit - our family pet Teddy (RIP)

10. Makes us feel needed and loved - our kissing cousins Piper and Dash 2014
11 - Interesting and entertaining -

12  Just for being them - the "Boss!" otherwise known as Pandora

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. What have you learnt from your animal friends?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gratitude Project 2015 - Technology and our pets

Welcome to the Gratitude Project 2015

I am grateful for the money spent by the Pharmaceutical Companies into Research and Development into new drugs and therapies for the diseases that ail us and our pets.

Whilst many write and imply that the pharmaceutical companies are all moustache twirling evil men or women inflicting toxic drugs on the general community, the truth of the matter is far less exotic.
RIP Teddy

We should be grateful that we live in a time where we have vaccines which can prevent fatal diseases (in us and our pets), that we have antibiotics to treat severe infections, and anti-viral medications also.

We should be grateful to those scientists who work hard to find cures for cancers, or to create new drugs that are able to kill fleas and ticks.

(It is thanks to those who have done the research, that our Teddy was able to  live an extra 18 months after his diagnosis of Lymphoma.  )

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

We are here to help all of our special animals.