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.