Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wollongong Dog Parks - Exploring the Southern Highlands

Piper is now into her third year, and as a modern day pet owner, it is an ongoing, interesting ride.

She never fails to be a great teacher on many things.

A few weekends ago,  we went to the beautiful Southern Highlands, staying in Bowral.    It was my nieces wedding that was the main reason for the visit to this area.

I have never seen so many BMW's, Mercs and Jaguars in one spot, let alone in five minutes - when I put petrol in my old Honda, it was surrounded by them. 

We had to put Piper into Boarding Kennels for the first time  - we chose a place close to where we were staying  in Berrima. Do you know what that feels like?  It is heartbreaking, and yes, I did cry when she was taken away! I will write about that experience at another time, as it was certainly an eye opening, and a life learning experience.

Want to go back to where my interest in dog parks  all started? Go here!

We didn't look at "Pet Friendly" accommodation for us this time (well, I left the booking of the accommodation to Dirk, and we wanted to be very close to the wedding reception area for obvious reasons) , so what we did was took Piper out during the day instead.  It was a Friday wedding, so she went to the Boarding facility in the morning, giving us time to "dolly ourselves up" for the wedding in the early afternoon.

The next day (Saturday) , we gave her "gate leave" from the Boarding Kennel  at 9 am, and went first to Bowral Dog Park (on Centennial Road), and then to Belanglo State Forest, to return her to the kennels by the afternoon.

Wollongong has no fenced dog parks at all, and any existing plans for Dog Parks falls way short of what is ideal (from size, fence size, facilities).  It is really sad that our pollies see pets and their pet owners as nuisances, rather than valued members of our family and of our community.

Bowral Dog Park

Bowral Dog Park is a fully fenced dog park on Centennial Road, only a few minutes walk from where we were staying.  At that time of the morning it was fairly quiet, but every time we drove past it, it was well utilised, with people and their pets enjoying each other's company.

That is a vital service of a fenced dog park - it enables people to talk to each other - to connect, even if their only companion is their pet. This is a concept that Wollongong City Council doesn't seem to grasp! Or perhaps I misinterpreted their actions?

I will always maintain that one of the most crucial purposes of a fully fenced, well designed Dog Park, is to allow people and pets to connect in a safe, fun environment.  

Like anything in life, it is not risk free, as it is truly dependant on the people - they make or break it - from the design, implementation and use.

Bowral Dog Park was in an area a bit outside of town, but was also close to a kid's playground  -  not sure what the reasoning was, but it could allow Dad to do two things at once - take the kid(s) to the playground, and walk/exercise the dog, whilst Mum has a break, or it could allow Mum to do the reverse.

 Or, God Forbid, it could actually be a fully family day out, satisfying all of the children in the household!

- Availability of Drinking Water
  There was only one drinking fountain and bucket for the dogs.  We can only assume that some owner takes responsiblity to clean/fill this bucket out.

A recent valuation of dog watering facilities for Wollongong Council Dog Park came in at around $4000 (from memory), but I suspect this one didn't cost that much.

It would be a situation though, where I can see it easily being a reservoir of disease - not sure on the vaccination rates of the privileged pets of Bowral are, but if it is like children, the potential for it being a health hazard is high.

- Materials to clean up and dispose of poop

This is one area where this dog park gets the Gold Medal.  Of all of the dog parks we have been to (from Sydney, West Sydney, Camden, Goulburn and Canberra), this is one of the first that had all of the poo bag containers fully stocked.   Now, this could be that the facility is barely used (which I doubt), or that it is actually kept well stocked (i.e a responsible council).

Whilst the dog park was a quadrangle, there were three poo bag sources and bins.

Sadly, like every other facility, we still saw multiple dog poops sitting there, ready to smear itself into the welts of anyones shoes, ready and willing to stink out the car on the way home.

Pet owners - some of us are not as wonderful as our pet think we are. 

- Space available to romp

I had to laugh (and then cry) at my local Councils recommendation of a 400 to 600 square metre dog park size, as they needed to add an extra "0" to it to actually be a useful area. Oh well! 

The Bowral Dog Park (by estimation) is approximately an acre (2400 square metres), and was really a small dog Park.

 Was it suitable for its area?

It was well frequented, and never appeared overcrowded on the two days we were there... what do the locals think, I wonder.

- Fences and Entry/Exit gates

The ideal Dog Park has one entry, one exit, and both are double gated with Pool Fence type latching.  And, the fences need to be minimum 1.8 metres.

Well, here was only one entry/exit, but it was double gated, with the traditional farming latch, not the preferred pool fence type latch.

The fences were soft, collapsible 1.2 m high (my local councils preference choice (poor choice),  and in poor condition (sad).  It fascinates me how council can provide a service, like microchipping, way below market value, yet do fencing/landscaping in excess of it.

You can tell you were in the country, as they used the standard country latches, instead of the Pool Fence type latches.

- Visual Barriers

The area was easily locatable from the road, but there was no visual barrier between the fenced dog park and the unfenced children's play area.  How much this causes problems with children in the playground, I do not know.

 Nor do I know whether inquisitive children sticking fingers through the soft, open fencing has led to issues(whether it be excessive moisture from licking or worse), has led to issues.

There were two areas of trees, grouped together, which was lovely - absolutely lovely, as you can see through the video here.

- seperate small and large dog areas

In a short sentence - it was a one size fits all area!

- Available activities

In short, none.

Belango State Forest

Did you know that dogs area allowed in State Forests (not National Parks), as they are cultivated pine trees, and not otherwise natural "need to be preserved" areas?

What a fun day we had. We stopped at Dalys Road camping ground, where you can camp/park/have a picnic.  Toilet facilities, camp fire places, and lots of walking tracks for us (and our pets).

This place is beautiful! Absolutely beautiful, and sad.  It is sad in that many backpackers met their end here, in the most cruel and horrific way.  Innocent people, exploring the world, enjoying the natural beauty of Australia.

Whilst this is under the Dog Park heading, it actually isn't an off leash dog park, and had none of the "Dog park" facilities available.

You will need to take your own supplies with you, and take the rubbish (including dog poo) with you when you go.

It is for this reason that I am a wee bit scared of sharing this location, as I would hate for irresponsible pet owners to destroy a piece of beautiful land.  This is those pet owners that think it is ok to bury pet poop in the sand, or leave it on the ground in the dog park or foot path.  Or for those who cannot control their pets at all via voice command.  Or for those who think they have the "right" to whatever it is they want.

We like to think of pet owners as good people, but actually, many aren't.  Pet owners are like everyone else.  They are human.

 Back onto the positives though - It is actually a great day picnic family trip for the entire family - and one spot that we are going to come back to in summer.

Highly recommend this as a full family friendly day trip!

The Family - Sean, Dirk, Tegan, Haiden, Paige with Piper sitting in front.
I am Dr Liz, the mad family vet from Bellambi.  Welcome to the animalclinic family.

Please, please, please.... enjoy your family, and any time that you have with them.  The number one regret of people in their retirement, and on their death bed is that they never spent enough time with their family. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Musings of Dr Liz - Five gifts I wish I was born with

 Whenever I look at the TV or read through magazines, there is an undeniable bit of envy.  Whilst I know I have my own special talents, it is human nature to never be satisfied with what has been given us.

Why could I not be given the gift of a singing voice, or be able to draw, or move well on the dance floor, or be able to act, or even wear an outfit well.  It isn't that I am ungrateful for the gifts I do have, which is my love for my family and my animals, but it often feels like it is not enough.
I am like a happy Lab - thankful for the gifts I do have!

As a general practitioner vet, I know that there are skills that I wish I was gifted with, that would make every interaction with my pets and their owners so much easier. 

1.How I wish I had Superman eyes --- Xray and Microscopic Vision!  (not asking for much).

So many pet owners expect me to know what the lump is by just looking at it.  No sooner than they walk in the room, and point to this tiny lump in an obscure spot, I am expected to give  a diagnosis, then be able to give a prognosis, and then be able to cure the problem before the pet even leaves the consult table.

What about the pet dental check where I am expected to give an accurate assessment of the severity of the disease in their pet's mouth, and therefore give them an accurate estimate  (with the added difficulty of not doing any extractions or complicated dental work, as we would hate for the tongue to loll out the side).

Oh, how I wish I had Xray vision, being able to answer the question "is that leg broken", especially when the pet is running around the room using the leg with the slightest of limps.  In a young animal, it is perfectly possible to have a greenstick fracture, or thin bones due to a calcium deficiency, and still be using the leg.

Cats are notorious for hiding their fractures well.

The xray vision would certainly help  figure out why the pet had been vomiting for 4 days or having trouble urinating, or urinating pure blood.

Wouldn't it be nice. Real nice.

I guess I have to be happy with the equipment being able to do all of that, whether it be use of my xray machine, my dental xray machine or my ultrasound.

And, in this instance, no one else has been blessed with this gift  or xray vision either, except in the movies, so it is a bit of an unfair thing to ask for.

Thanks to whoever invented  Superman (not)!

2. Able to diagnose the illness of each pet as soon as they walk through the door

Wouldn't it be amazing if each sick animal had little clouds above their head, and in these clouds had the disease that they are suffering from?

Or even a handy dandy Star Trek type gadget, that when I scan the pet up and down, is able to tell me not only their vital statistics, such as temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, but also their blood pressure, their full genetic profile, and, well, to make this sentence shorter, the diagnosis in just a few simple minutes (or even better, seconds).

After all, when a pet is sick, seconds can make the difference between life and death.

Or these clouds would say things like, "I have a headache, a really bad one, not the usual kind, and not one you want to ignore", or "I ate three servings of roast pork last night, and perhaps, that wasn't a smart move".


Really, anything, other than relying on the owners observing the vague signs of "not quite right".

Whilst I applaud those owners who are sensitive to these vague signs, it doesn't always make things easier.  Vague signs are often just that... vague.

Admittedly, I do sometimes get a vibe from the animal; I wouldn't say I read their energies, as that sounds a bit "out there", but sometimes I do get an inkling that pushes me to go in one direction versus another when I am trying to sort out what is going on. Us older vets call that a "hunch", the smarter vets call it, well being "smart". 

Fortunately, I am gifted with the ability to do a full physical examination, (the "touchy feely" is what my vet nurse, Dirk calls it) to get a better idea of what could be going on, and we have the equipment to be able to perform a wide array of blood, urine and fecal tests (and xrays and ultrasound) to find out more if we need to.

I have to be thankful that I am in era where we can put a name to many of the diseases if we are given the opportunity to test for them.

3. To be Dr Dolittle

No, not a doctor that does little, but Dr Dolittle, the wonderful, amazing doctor that can "talk with the animals, walk with the animals....grunt and squeal and squawk with the animals." and, it would be super grand if the animals could talk with me too.

Now that would be really really grand.  Even better than the clouds in No 2.

Not asking much, I know!

I could even be satisifed with  that dog collar in the movie "Up", but then, having a dog holding a conversation with you that lasts 2 seconds, then have their head twist when they see a ball, or a treat, or a cat (we don't have squirrels here, so no point saying "squirrel") probably wouldn't be super useful.

I suppose I have to be satisfied with the licks (boy did I get a nice licking today from Nitro), and purrs (thanks Timmy).  Those happy licks and happy wags communicate alot to me, as do those "complaints" from pet owners about their pets dragging them into the vet hospital.

Yes, I really do feel I talk with the animals, and they talk to me too. 

4. To have a Crystal or Magic 8 ball,

Every pet owner has an expectation during each veterinary consultation.

 For some, that expectation  requires a bit of X Files intervention, in that they assume that not only will I be able to diagnose their pet's illness, but that I will able to do that without testing (definitely not of the invasive type ), be able to give them a treatment protocol that will not only work, but that will automatically administer itself,  all the while ensure that this will be 100% effective, 100% of the time.

If only I had a crystal ball to know that the therapeutic trial  is going to work, as I do agree that no one, including me, wants unnecessary, expensive tests or therapies that will not help the pet.

Or a Magic 8 Ball, that answers those nigly questions. The pet is coughing - is it respiratory or cardiac.  The dog is choking - is it kennel cough or do they have something more sinister.

The pet is scratching - is it due to allergies, fungal infection, bacterial infection, dietary problems or immune mediated disease (or something else).

Shake the ball - Yes or No.

Thank you Ball, that was good to know! Could not have done it without you!

"Mrs Jones, the Crystal (Magic Ball) confirms the diagnosis of "XYZ", we just need to turn around three times and wave to the star to the left of the moon at 8 pm, and your pet will be cured (not forgetting the important step of holding your breath for 10 seconds whilst reciting the first two lines to God Save the Queen at this time). " Oh, and that dash of salt over the left shoulder - essential step!

Yup, super useful gift to have. 

I suppose I have to be thankful for the gift of a practical, logical, thinking brain, which works through problems systematically (including going over things from the very beginning to make sure I am not missing anything), to get to a solution. 

Finding the answer is like doing a jigsaw puzzle - we need to collect the pieces, and then put them together in the right way to get the right answer.

5. To Be like Hermione Granger (of Harry Potter fame).

I don't really want to be like Harry Potter (wearing glasses, with a scar on my forehead and have someone evil want to kill me doesn't quite give me thrills); nor do I want to be like Ron (I have a temper as it is without being a redhead, and whilst he is lovable and true, having tools that wants to backfire on you (like his broken wand), also doesn't work for me). 

How is that for a really long long sentence!

Hermione, however, is just right!  Smart, sassy, confident, organised, precise but knows how to be honest, loyal and faithful.  And she has a cat.  Not a rat like Ron, or an owl (how snobby, really) like Harry.

Did I mention she knew how to pronounce "leviosar" correctly, even though that ended up with her sharing a bathroom with the Troll!

What I admire most is her photographic memory, her intelligence, her loyalty, and her grace. I wouldn't mind her little Time twister device too - that would be handy on some days so I can go back a few minutes to stop myself from saying the wrong thing!

She was always the outsider (being muggle born of muggle parents), not like Harry and Ron.  Well, Harry's mum was also a muggle.  She had to fight against the taunts of being a mudblood but she stood firm and true to herself and her muggle parents and her new wizarding family.

I am no Hermione, but even so, I am thankful that despite my "outsider" status of being the daughter of immigrants (even though I am aussie born and bred), that I live, and am able to bring my family up in the best country in the world.


Life is difficult, complex, difficult.... we are often so hard on ourselves, and wish we were shorter, taller, skinnier, fatter, more blonde, more brunette, smaller boobs, larger boobs, etc etc etc.

But you know what... we may not always have the voice of Celine Dion, or the sassy kindness of Sister Therese, but each of us have our own special gifts.  We just need to learn to appreciate them.

And if you are vet, well, you already have superhero status! 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

Madness is one gift I am very thankful for - it keeps me sane!

Musings of Dr Liz - The 2016 Australian Australian Census vs Our Pets

Put your hand up if you own a pet - dog, cat, mouse, rabbit, rat, bird, horse, cow, pig, snake, lizard, frog, and to all other animals that we, as humans, have as faithful companions and friends.

I am not going to argue the ethics or terminology of the word "pet", as for many of us, it is really the adoption of a family member that is not human.  On the day that Tegan, Paige and I went around to shelters looking for one that knew it belonged with us, it was not to get "a pet" but, as I said, to complete our family.
The moment we met Piper!

Now, as many of us have completed the Australian Census, which is supposed to help our government know more about our lives and what services we may need, how many of you were surprised that there was not one question about pets - not even to ask if we had a pet or not?

Whilst there are movements and Facebook pages dedicated to keeping Australia pet friendly, the reality is, we should be demanding that we are made more pet friendly.  Most Council and Government actions are moving towards making it a community where it is harder to have a pet.

Our previous dog, Teddy, didn't have the charmed life that our current dog Piper has.   He used to sleep outside with Sugar (on the deck), he ate normal dog food, and his only problem was that he was "ball obsessed", and liked to bark at 4 in the morning (when the neighbour left for work).
Teddy as a puppy

Teddy at his finest - always happy!

Piper, well, she sleeps indoors (and on our bed),  goes to Doggy Daycare, has sleep overs with family members, eats gourmet pet food (thanks to her allergies), and spends lots of time at dog parks and dog beaches.

I wasn't asked one question about my animal friends 

But if the Census doesn't ask the question on what pets I do have, how are they to know how to incorporate animal friendly facilities in our community? 

So now that I had asked that question, I can probably answer it - we are in such a digital age, that perhaps that kind of information is accessible through other means, meaning the census is technically traditional, rather than necessary. Or perhaps, the real truth is that our governments are heading into such a "nanny state" mode, that they really don't want animals as part of our society. 

After all, they say not to work with animals and kids - for very good reasons - as they are unpredictable, messy, and.... fun! 

Many years ago, Dirk and I were census collectors, when we went door to door dropping off the forms, and then facing many idiots afterwards in picking them up.  Many people were paranoid that I would actually be interested in reading through their personal information.  I had to tell people that I honestly did not have the time nor inclination to go through their personal stuff.

 Now that it is online, I would be more afraid (rather than less) of the information would be more easily assessible by those who actually might be interested in the income of the person who lives at Number 123 of ABC street in the local suburb near you.

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

What is the solution to the problem? 

 We, as pet owners, need to write to our local council and councillors telling them of what we actually need or want as pet owners, in terms of facilities and services.

I think writing to council with suggestions on how to improve our "animal friendliness) is a GREAT idea,  as all councils seem to get is complaints, so they spend their time putting out fires (or creating fires so they can put them out).

I know what I will be doing this week!  What about you?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dental Discussion - Secret Diseases that Dental Disease Causes

How seriously do you take care of your own teeth?

Some of us take it very seriously, and visit the dentist regularly as well as the oral hygiene steps at home.  Some of us winge about the cost of visiting a dentist, and do not see the benefit of it.

Would we complain so much if we really knew how important keeping your mouth healthy is to the overall health of your body?  Probably not!

As a vet, my primary focus is the care of your pet - every single part of them - from their mouth, skin, heart, kidneys, liver, intestines, brains - you name it.  I became a vet to keep animals healthy, and to help sick ones get better. 

I think of Dental Disease as a hidden disease.

It is a disease that likes to hide, but whilst it is hiding, it isn't silent in the pain and distress it causes our pets. Our pets feel it, but our pets do not complain about it (like we would).

Whilst they are eating normally, love us unconditionally, and show us how much they love us, all the while, in their mouths are evil bacteria which are plotting to eat away at the gum and bone, unknownst to us.

You do not need a vet degree to see the hard brown tartar sitting on the tooth surface, or to be able to smell the pus that is hiding between the gum and the tooth. 

That brown stuff on the teeth is not the hidden disease I am writing about today. 

There are some serious hidden diseases that dental disease has been linked to.  These are the diseases that you would not have thought would be even remotely caused by dental disease.

I am going to share the story of twi very lucky pets, because they were owned by three dedicated, loving pet owners, who (yes, I am biased), came in to see us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Immune Mediated Disease - in this case, eyelid disease (Blepharitis)

Our immune system is fascinating, and scary, and, well, overwhelming in how it can react to things.  I think of the immune system like an invisible army, with reserves, ready to go to fight any evil thing that wants to attack the body.

Sometimes, though, it attacks the body it is trying to protect.  Immune mediated disease (or Auto immune disease) is just that.

Blepharitis secondary to dental disease.
Something has stimulated or activated the immune system, and in its process, has triggered a response.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, which can affect the eyelids themselves, and/or the meibomian glands within it. There are many causes, such as mites, bacteria, fungal, and of course, the very own immune system of the animal.

Part of the treatment for Blepharitis is identifying what the potential trigger is - and in this case, it was considered to be the teeth.  The dog had not had any recent vaccinations (in fact she was overdue), no recent (past 6 weeks) medication, and there had been no other changes in the environment.  All blood work and urine tests were considered normal.

But, this one did have periodontal disease, which has been longstanding.

Aggressive dental therapy included identifying diseased teeth (with the help of dental radiographs were were able to find 3 dead teeth due to their widened pulp), as well as endodontic disease (tooth abscesses) that were hidden from view.

Future treatment will include regular (each six months) dental assessments and cleaning under a general anaesthetic, but the alternate to this is full mouth extractions (doable, but not preferred).

Kidney Disease
 It is well documented that ongoing severe dental disease will contribute to disease of our livers and kidneys.
Testing for Kidney Disease starts with a urine sample.

But it may surprise many people that if we are able to remove the disease in the mouth, in many dogs and cats, the kidney enzymes can actually go back to normal.

Why is it so?

There are many reasons why it can be so. What causes the damage to the kidneys  is the constant bacterial invasion through the blood stream from swollen bleeding gums that get trapped in the nephrons in the kidneys, ticking them off one by one.  
No surprise here about the bacteria and pus spreading from here through the blood stream

 Some nephrons can recover from the insult, and some decide that it is time to give up as they have been hit one time too many.

Once the disease in the mouth has been removed, then the ongoing onslaught to the traumatised nephrons stop - and the kidney is then able to repair (to some degree) the damage.  

How to prevent these problems? 

  • Understand that despite your best efforts, your pet probably has some degree of pet dental disease, which requires ongoing treatment, whether it is via you, or with our help.

  • Understand that you do not need to feel guilty if your pet suffers from these conditions - just trust your vet and take all steps needed to fix the problem.
We know that many pet owners are distraught to find out their pet has disease (often to the point of crying), we do understand that, but let us tackle this problem together, as both you and I want to help your furbaby.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  I am on a mission to improve the health of of our pets, one by one. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Responsible Pet Ownership in New South Wales 2016

The NSW Pet Registry has finally hit the 21st century! It is only 2016 after all!

 Update Note 10th August 2016 -  If you are local and need help, we are willing to help you - we will be available on Tuesday afternoons from 5 pm to 7 pm to individually help you as much as we can.  This will be available until November 2016.  By appointment only.

Since the Companion Animal Act came into being in 1998, with the compulsory microchipping of dogs and cats, it has been, in my opinion, poor implementation of a great idea.

Where did the faults lie?

Where do I begin...

  • Litter microchipping in the breeders name  (if it was about reuniting with owners, then the microchipping should've been in the new owners name).
  • Many pets not "transferred" to new owners at point of sale or give away (triplicate paperwork, with breeders and new owners confused as to who was responsible for the transfer, with often weeks, even months before it is done).
  • Many pets not microchipped at all  (some pet owners claimed it was the cost or that their pet never escaped, therefore didn't need it.  For some pet owners, they didn't want the responsibility or cost of claiming their pet at the pound).
  • Many pets microchip details were not kept up to date when owners moved or changed address (many owners felt the address was automatically updated when they notify council of change of address at the time of the house purchase, or that when a vet scanned the chip, that our databases automatically updated the government one). 
It's not all the owner's fault - the system made it difficult and painful to update. It required phone calls to Council, who often didn't update it, then requiring further phone calls, or at the last resort a visit.  Whilst I personally had no problems in updating my pet's details, I have had many clients claim that they did have major problems.

Sometimes the paperwork just went missing, and the pet never made it on at all.  Or the pet was bought from interstate, and thus, had a microchip, but not on a NSW database.

I have great hopes for the new NSW Pet Registry, as it puts the control in the pet owner's hand.

The Official Launch of the Pet Registry was on 7th of August 2016 at the Sydney Dog Lover's Show. 
So, what do you need to do? 

EVERY pet owner needs to now create a user profile, and then "Claim" their pet's microchip number.

To get started...
Make sure you have a copy of your pet's microchip paperwork, which includes the contact number and your pet's microchip number.

Create a user profile by visiting the pet registry website.  Click here.

Click on Register to create the profile.

Once you have your profile, you can then log in, to "Claim" your pet.

To do so, you will need your pet's microchip number and the phone number you had used as your best contact number (for most pets it will be the mobile phone number).

At the time of writing, make sure the mobile number is in the following format 0000 000 000, with spaces after the first four digits and the next three digits.  (It is a current quirk in the database matching, which they hope to rectify).

For a user guide, Click here.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  If there is anything we can help you with, please let us know.  You can make an appointment to see us online at or you can call us during business hours on 42845988.

Don't forget that you can email us any questions too, with the email address on our website.

We are for Happy, Healthy Pets.... Always!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Highlights of the Sydney Dog's Lover Show 2016 with Dr Liz, Tegan and Dirk

This year was the third time Dirk, Tegan and I went to the Sydney Dog's Lover Show.  We had purchased the tickets online back in March, but we will make a point next year to wait for the Mother's Day sales of tickets (as even though we bought the early bird tickets, we could've got them at an extra discount, and saved even more). 

From back to front - Dirk, Dr Liz and Tegan - We have arrived

The morning started with no Sunday morning sleep in, as we wanted to get there fairly early - for ease of parking, and in the hope of avoiding the big crowds (it was a shoulder to shoulder crush last year).  Our plan worked!

There are two halls packed with stalls and displays.  I wanted to check out GPS trackers, novel protein diets (as Piper is food allergic), as well as find out what was new in the dog lover's world.

Needless to say, my wallet was a little bit lighter, and the car boot filled by the time we left in the afternoon.

We were impressed to see several large maps of Sydney, listing all of the dog friendly places available.  If we were to do a similar list for the Illawarra region, I can guarantee it would be a very very short list. 
"There's a great place near Appin", says Tegan. No 72, Mary Bates Reserve.
Another place to add to our "Dog friendly places to visit"

We stopped by many stands, and spoke to many people, but will share highlights from a few. It is surprising the pet focused technology that is out there, such as GPS trackers, 360 degree interactive web cameras including some which do laser pointing games with the cats, to automatic tennis ball throwers, plus much much more. 

So what do I think about these things?  Technology is great, but I do think that it should be used to improve interactions, rather than to replace them.  I can see that with some people, they will use this to justify not taking the dog for a walk, or spending time with them at home.

 As for the laser pointing for the cats - a great point that was made to me was that the cats need to be rewarded with a successful hunt after such a game (a treat/reward), otherwise it will only increase their frustration/anxiety rather than reduce it.  In these situations, then, watching the cats only gives us enjoyment in flicking the laser out of the cat's way, rather than stimulation for the cat itself. We didn't see anything that would allow remote control release of treats/rewards.

Petrek 3G is a GPS Pet Tracker that caught my eye last year.  It is small, fast charging unit, that you can automate updates to your phone on where your pet is.  It is a "watch this space" as we research GPS trackers (this one as well as  few others).  As many of the lost pets we see are regulars, we do see GPS technology a huge help.

Where is the best doggy daycare? or dog boarding place for your loved baby?  Even for us, it has been trial and error for Piper.  That is always a hard one for us to answer, as each of us have personal preferences on what we like and don't like about places.  And I admit to being a shocker - I cried the one time I had to drop Piper off (I was the same with my human kids too at preschool), so now only Dirk or Tegan drop her off at doggy daycare.

We caught up with  a review site for pet boarding and doggie daycare places, to help pet owners
narrow down their choices, based on other loving pet owners. 

My opinion on review sites are that I will only leave positive ones -  If I have something negative to say, I will say it directly to the business involved. 

Tegan filling out a review on a local Doggy Daycare!  She gave it a high score (positive reviews are the best) 

There were lots of stands that sold pet food, pet treats and pet clothing.  When we visited stands that sold supplements, it surprised me how similar the stories were - "my pet had xyz condition, I researched abc, and came up with the this amazing one of a kind product which my vet claims should not work but it did. It has cured my pet.  " with the suggestion that if we spend $59.95 purchasing the shampoo/multivitamin/lotion it can do to the same thing for our pet.

I have to admit, though, we did purchase some of these as we are the frustrated owners of a very itchy dog, who is under exceptional control when she is on medication, but if she misses a few days, is extremely itchy.  It might well be the thing that forces us to develop something for Piper ourselves.  Sheer frustation of what hasn't worked has been the inspiration for others, Piper is worth our efforts to find the right thing for her.
Tegan choosing the right sized antler to try for Piper - I admit I am not a fan, but will remain open minded on this one.

It was interesting for us to note the number of food stands that had boxes of fresh food in a box - a box filled with carrots, kale, parsley, blueberries (and more) to indicate the freshness of their food. It was interesting to see how many put a claim in for being biologically appropriate, yet few advertised themselves as nutritionally complete (which means that it could be fed exclusively). 

One of the foods though, that we are interested in, is a novel protein one, developed with a veterinary dermatologist. Their BARF diet, however, would not work for Piper as she is allergic to fish, but the novel protein rolls look like they are worth trying out (to give some variety to her currently restricted diet).
Dr Liz and Vet Nurse Tegan with the novel protein rolls of dog food.

On to a more positive note - we visited a book stand, and bought some more books for the animalclinic library, including a signed copy of a recipe book on cupcakes for dogs.  I will go through the book tomorrow, and find out which ones we can do for Piper, and will share some online too (only the ones with the author's permission).
"Stand, Stay" said this dog's Handler.  Very well behaved dog (for a statue) 

Serious faced Tegan with her sunglass wearing military dog (in the safety of Sydney).

The military working dog stand is always a highlight for us, as we in awe of the dedication of all of our animals that have gone to war in the past, and support our soldiers now.  We were introduced to a new (only 5 years old) rescue group that rehabilitates dogs and matches them with diggers and their families, especially those who suffer from PTSD.  

And I cried. I know of many people with PTSD, and know first hand how our animals help them cope through they unswerving, unconditional, love.  Of course we made a donation, and they are now on my radar for future fund raising efforts.

I caught up with the Department of Local Government Stand, and am pleased to announce the official launch of the NSW Pet Registry website.  We have the brochures, and free pet tags at the vets for everyone (whilst stocks last).

 Finally, pet microchip databases in NSW has hit the digital age - its been a long time coming, but hopefully, it will mean that more pets make it back home (and that the errors of the previous system are rectified).
Pet Registration goes digital - all pet owners now have online access to their pet's microchip information!

It is interesting as a veterinarian, to look at things from a pure pet owners point of view.  Alot of the stands sold products that focused on joint pain, digestive health and itchy pets. I agree that these are serious problems, but there were no stands with any focus on dental care, which is consistently in the top 3 of diseases affecting our pets (of all types - dogs, cats, horses, rabbits etc).

We were there for hours.  My wallet was a bit thinner by the end of the day, and the boot of  my car filled with bags of goodies, most for the vet hospital (and some for Piper).  As a person who doesn't actually like shopping, I never mind spending money on my vet hospital and my animals (and yes, my kids too).
Shopping spree, animal lover style.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet.

I went to the Dog Lovers show with a specific thing in mind - to see what "off the general veterinary radar" products are there, that are targeted towards you (and me) as a pet owner.

 Looking forward to next year's Dog Lover's Show (and wish there was a cat one!).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pet Dental Discussion - the true local Pet Dental expert - Your vet!

So you have heard about these Pet Dental Checks that are happening all over Australia at the moment ( it is August after all), but you are not quite sure if it is for your pet or what it involves? 
Well done Maya... your mouth is normal! Thanks for telling me what you think about it!

Well, each veterinary hospital will have their own systems, and their own checklists on what they are looking at and for, but I will share what it is that we do here, at Russell Vale Animal Clinic. There are similarities though between veterinary hospitals, in that we all usually grade dental disease from 0(which is normal) to Grade 4 (severe periodontal disease).

Before I get started, for many new clients, it starts with a phone call for a quote for a dental.

Whilst we can give you a quote for treatment for  a grade 2 or grade 3 mouth if your pet was assessed elsewhere, we need to examine your pet for ourselves before we will honour that quote. 


Because we need to discuss with you the steps that we will take to examine your pet’s mouth, the assessment of the degree of disease under anaesthesia, and the development of a treatment plan after interpretation of the dental chart with the dental radiograph.
The black halo around the roots makes the decision easy - there is tooth abscess.


Because periodontal disease is not the only disease or problem that can be going on in your pet's mouth.  Too often, on examination I am able to identify areas of concern that need to be further assessed. 
Lumps can be obvious, like this one, or hidden further back in the mouth or palate.

It is important to us that you understand that we don’t do “dentals” here at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, but we do a “Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment”, otherwise known as COHAT. It is also important that you understand that we practice dentistry to a high standard, including dental radiographs at all grades of dental disease.

I am not going to be arrogant to say that we do it better than anyone else locally, but I will say that we are good at what we do. 
Scaling and polishing of the teeth is only a single step in our "dental" procedure.

So what does a dental check involve? 
  •  It starts with a G'day! and a Welcome.  We love happy visits, and we look at dental checks as a "happy" visit. 
  • Then a trip to the scales for a weigh in -  No its not a Weight Watchers meeting but we need to know.  Our dentistry prices are based on two things – your pet’s weight and dental grade (0-4).
  •  We will scan your pet’s microchip, and check the database. We will also give you information on how to update your pet’s microchip details.
  •  A happy visit – lots of treats, an Adaptil or Feliway sprayed bandanna to reduce arousal, and the feeding of treats.   We know that the more visits pets have which are “happy” and “stress free”, then the happier and stress free everyone is, including the vet and owner.
  •   Flipping the lip – going through the oral cavity as thoroughly as we can – Of course, I am still waiting for Superman to send over his xray vision eyes for me to use to really identify pathology in your pet’s mouth, but we can get a rough guide through a conscious examination. 

a.       We will try to count teeth, making sure that your pet has 42 if they are a dog, and 30 if they are a cat.
b.      We look for any fractured or chipped teeth
c.       We look at the gums – are they nice and pink, or red and swollen.
d.      We check for the gum margin itself – is it recessed (like the balding man), is there pus peeking through from under the gum/tooth margin?
e.      We check on how the teeth are actually sitting within the head – is there any soft tissue impact, or even tooth on tooth impact.  What about the wear on the teeth themselves (usually through rocks or tennis balls).
f.        We watch for how the tongue may be sitting, and if there are any unusual swellings in or around the mouth or under the tongue.
g.       Visually assessing the degree of bone loss around the tooth (although radiographs and use of a dental probe under anaesthesia is the best way to do this)
h.      And then finally, checking the degree of tartar on the tooth surface.

  •   More happy visit time activities, with lots of liver treats whilst we discuss our findings with you.

Many pet owners are as what they think is dental disease is the brown stuff on the teeth. Many think that the dental check only looks at point "h" above, and they can do that perfectly well at home. If that was all we did, then those pet owners are right.

You do not need a vet degree to know that there is brown stuff on your pets teeth, or to recognise the bad breath either.

But, a dental savvy veterinarian is going to be able to identify  areas of concern that can be otherwise easily missed.

We  (the dental savvy veterinarian) are the true local pet dental expert.Don;'t be fooled by the wannabes.

What else? 

We look at dental checks as a way of ongoing education of the importance of oral health.  We know that it is an ongoing battle, and that it is not easy.  We know this as we also have pets of our own. 

Piper, our dog is only 3 years old, and when she had an undercover vet check by a veterinary student at Camden Pet Fair recently, we were told that there was tartar building up on her back teeth. 

We had her teeth cleaned a week later.   I wasn't offended as an owner, I was thankful that the vet-to-be was thorough in his examination, and gave me the kick up the bum to book Piper in for the procedure which I knew she had to have).  

It was also good opportunity for our vet nurse Tegan to learn the steps, and she did an exceptional job. Piper's breath is now sweet smelling!
Vet Nurse Tegan cleaning Piper's teeth. 

Does this help? 

Let me know what you think, and especially any suggestions on how we can improve pet dental checks.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Like all of the other vets out there, we are here to help you help keep your pet happy and healthy.  Help us be able to do what we love to do, by coming in to see us.