Sunday, September 25, 2016

Vaccinations and Titre Tests - Protecting Fionn and other Furbabies

As a practicing veterinarian in 2016, I am extremely thankful for vaccinations - for the health for my human and animal family that I love so much. 

In the human side, we have been able to eradicate many diseases, such as small pox, and reduce the incidence of many others, such as measles, polio, whooping cough, rabies.  On the veterinary side, parvovirus is not as common as it used to be, and I cannot remember the last time I saw a distemper or infectious hepatitis case. Rabies vaccinations in our dogs and foxes (in those continents where it is still a disease) has reduced the incidence of disease in us humans. 

In other words, vaccines are not evil, and vets (and doctors) are not "over-vaccinating" our pets and our children. 

As parents we should be asking (not assuming) that those around us are vaccinated (or if they aren't, what is their medical/veterinary reason for not getting it done). 

Vets are your friend, not foe.

A big congratulations to all loving pet owners who take the responsibility of ensuring their pet is protected against these horrible, fatal diseases.

So what do you do if your pet gets sick from the very thing that is supposed to protect them? 

As a mother, my own son had a vaccination reaction.  I spoke with my GP, and we were able to come up with an option that ensured he was protected, and kept healthy too.  I take vaccinations seriously.... it is not a "jab and run", and I acknowledge that it is not risk free either.

As a furbaby mother, you need to do the same thing. Speak to your vet about your concerns - in many cases, what your pet experienced had nothing to do with the vaccine, and everything to do with a "big day out" and "sensory overload". If it was a vaccine reaction, there are things we can do to make sure your pet is protected.

If you are part of our animalclinic family, then we will discuss with you what is the best thing for your pet - whether it be re-vaccinating, or re-vaccinating with supporting medication or supervision, or titre testing. 

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we remain up to date on all things relating to our animals under our care - whether it be vaccinations, surgical sterilisations, microchipping and of course, all of the medical and surgical diseases also. 

We have been providing Triennial vaccinations and Vaccine Titre testing since they were available in Australia, and in recent years, also perform our vaccine titre test on site (faster turn around of results).
Meet Fionn
This is very useful in those cases, like Fionn, who was very sick after his second vaccination when he was 12 weeks old. He was sick for two days.  Whilst he wasn't sick enough to require medications or to be hospitalised, he was sick enough to look at what the options where for him when it was time for his third vaccination.

This is where vaccine titre testing is useful.

It lets us know whether another vaccine will be of any extra benefit for him, and let us determine whether the risk of the vaccine outweighs the benefits. 
You see, as a veterinarian, it is all about risks and benefits.  Nothing in life is risk free - crossing the road, buying a house, meeting your life partner, to something inane like buying a pair of sunglasses.  If you buy the wrong pair, thinking they will protect you against UV light (and they don't), they can still cause damage to your corneas. 

The last thing I wanted to do was to disregard Fionn's parent's concerns.  He was genuinely unwell, and they were scared (understandably so).  My role as a veterinarian was to reassure them that Fionn would be fine (he was), and that we had his best interests at heart (which we do).

We opted to perform a Vacci-chek Titre Test, in accordance with with 2015 World Small Animal Association Vaccination Guidelines.

 It starts with taking a blood sample.  Then when we have 45 minutes clear dedicated time, our vet nurse Tegan runs the test.   For Fionn, it was after our usual consultation time on Saturday afternoon.  Fionn's pet parents were concerned, and wanted fast answers.  Our onsite titre test allows us to do just that.

After going through the various steps (it is 12 step process), the strip magically changes colour. 

We match the top dot against the control.  And that sets it up for the remaining three "dots".

All of Fionn's results were high positive (> 6).  This meant that for him, any vaccination was not going to be of any further benefit for him.  This is great news, as the last thing I wanted to do was to downplay or disregard his parents concerns, but neither did I want to subject him to something that had the potential to cause him harm. 

As a veterinarian, I take what I do extremely seriously, after all, it was all I wanted to do and be since I was in fourth class.  The absolute central core of what I do is what is the best thing for my animals - what is the best thing to keep them happy and healthy always.   

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Please, do not ever use the word "over-vaccinating" in front of me, as I hate that word. 
 Vaccines are still the best line of defense we have against many of the diseases that afflict our world. I clap my hands in support of all of the scientists and researchers who work so hard to find cures for the illnesses that affect us and our beautiful animals.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Five things that Warms this Veterinarians Heart

 Recently, I wrote a post about the five things that hurts a veterinarians heart.  Like anything in life, when there is a downside, there is always an upside.  It is the upside which gets me jumping out of bed in the morning, excited to get to work.

It is too easy to focus on the negatives.  We need to remember that life is not fair, bad things happen to good people, and we need to always look at the good in people and in life.

So now I am sharing some of the things that encourages me to jump out of bed, excited about what the day may bring (Honesty moment here - I have to admit that I am one of those people where the line "I don't like Mondays" rings true, so I don't get excited about Mondays.).

Puppy Breath and Kitten Meows

Ah, the sweet smell of a puppy, or the cute "Meows" of a bubba kitten.

There is something very special knowing the joys of a new furbaby starting its life journey with its forever family.
Tegan and Paige on the day we met our new puppy, Piper

With each puppy breath, you visualise in your head the walks on the beach, the hugs on the lounge watching their favourite TV show, the learning on both sides of the tug toy.

With each kitten Meow, you see them prancing, climbing curtains, and sitting on someone's chest purring loudly with contentment. 

Life is always about shared experiences with family, as it is those days that we treasure when we are on our deathbed (or so I am told, as I am not quite there yet). 

When I can say "your pet is awesome"

Followed up by " Despite my best efforts, I can't find anything wrong".

Smiles all round. I love those happy visits.
"You  are awesome, Ms Patches"

When we ask the important questions on what they are on for Heartworm prevention, intestinal worming, flea control, what they are eating, and what they are using for their pet's coat needs - we get the answers.  

It is alot better than some of our usual answers of "the other half does it", " its the spot on the back from the supermarket", or "its the food from the second shelf, and it has round bits and long bits in it".

When I hear "they love coming in"

We love it that many dogs run up our front ramp and can't wait to come in.  Or, when they are told that they are off to see Auntie Liz or Uncle Dirk, their little tail wags in excitement.   Or when the pet owners turn the corner, the look in their pet's face changes (and it is not sheer terror), at the excitement of coming in.
Dr Liz getting a free face wash from Lillie.

It is exciting when they run into the consult room and sit in front of the back bench (the place where all awesome things come from - like the thermometer, the stethoscope and the home made liver treats).

Admittedly, it is not something I hear often when it comes to our cats, although I do have a few that are happy to come in, walk around and enjoy our treats (Caash is one of them - he also likes to brush his teeth, so he is a superhero also). 

When I read "excision is complete" and other news of a job well done

One of the hard things of being a grown up adult, is that you no longer have teachers giving you a star for good work, or an A+ on the school report.  One of the lessons learnt as a qualified veterinarian, is that we have to take any positive as a "win", as there are always going to be moments and days when nothing seems to go well (for you and the pet).

Lumps and bumps on our pets are sometimes challenging - some of the lumps can be cancerous, and the surgery can be technically challenging ( like the one I did recently that was adjacent to the anus, or the lump I removed of a dog's nose the other day). I was ecstatic when the reports came in that said those very words "your diagnosis is confirmed, excision is complete".

Knowing that a pet is no longer in pain -

Pain - our pets are sentient beings, and they feel pain.   Why so many still deny this very fact, I do not understand!

Pain management has come a long way, with a whole plethora of medications available now, that were not available  years ago.

Piper - a happy dog at the dog park.
It puts a smile on my face when I am able to remove those infected teeth, and being told by the owners that their pet is acting like a puppy or kitten.

The other day, when I removed dust and debris from a dog's eyes (Olivia had very sore eyes), her owner made the comment that Livvie looked like she was actually smiling by the time I was finished.

Even something like nail clips  and expressing those smelly anal glands is rewarding - as it makes every pet more comfortable afterwards.

This is is also why letting a pet go to a better place, may be physically and emotional painful to me as a veterinarian, but being able to do so means that I have completed my veterinary oath to this pet - I have alleviated them of further pain and suffering in the most gentle and compassionate way I can.

My vet team - Tegan, Dr Liz and Dirk
Finally.... being a vet is like being the ping pong ball, being hit from one side of the table to the other - one side is called "highs" (when things are going well)  and the other side  is "lows" (when you have a day you would rather forget).  

In any given day, we are hit from one side to the other in such a short time that it can be hard to catch one's breath. 

And there are some days, when you always seem to be hitting the net, stuck on the "low" side, never seeming to get over the net, no matter how many times you try.  What I tell myself when I do get stuck on the low side, is that at some point, I am going to get over the net back into the "high" side.  I always do, and know I always will.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. 

We love seeing puppies and kittens of all ages, and we promise to make every effort to make their visit with us as calm as we possibly can. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why do you need to do Dental Radiographs?

"Why do you need to do dental xrays on that dog?, asked a veterinary colleague recently.

How do I explain to someone who, by the tone of their voice, sees it like an unnecessary waste of time.  After all, what would radiographs show that you can't see yourself with the naked eye?

"If there is periodontal disease, you don't need dental radiographs to show that.  "  says my veterinary colleague.

"True" I say. " If that was the only reason I would be doing them then you would be completely right."

Periodontal disease is not the only disease that occurs in our pet's mouths. There are so many things that can wrong in there, that it would require multiple volumes to do the topic justice (which is why those textbooks exist).

So, let me see if I can convince my colleague that dental radiographs are necessary, and along the way educate  pet owners that when they are choosing a vet hospital for their pet's next "dental" they should choose one that routinely includes dental radiographs even in the lowest grade dental procedures.

For example, our Grade 1 dental procedure includes two dental radiographs, and in our Grade 2 (and 3 and 4) dental procedures, we always xray the entire mouth.  They are not an optional extra, they are part of our dental packages.


To make sure as  much pathology that is humanly possible to find, is found and treated.

The Wobbly Tooth

Periodontal disease is not the only reason a tooth may wobble.  It may be fractured under the gum, like this one was.  And sitting right next to that was a tooth root from a previously fractured tooth.

If you just removed what you could see (without radiographs), the pet would have nice white teeth, but still be in pain. 

Moth-eaten teeth (aka resorptive lesions)

All vets have seen those typical "neck" lesions on cats, when you touch them with a probe, watching the jaw shudder.  Painful.  But easy to pick up.  

What about those that extend a bit further? You need xrays to find those (which is why our Grade 1 mouths in cats now  always include full mouth xrays the first time we do them). 
Twosome or threesome ? (two roots or three)

It is easy to forget that many pets "Do not read the textbook".  The pictured  tooth that is fractured  is the third upper premolar (of the right), and the textbook says this tooth has two roots.  

The dental charts from all over the world will draw this tooth with two roots only.  

So, without dental radiographs, you would remove the fractured crown, and you would remove two roots.  Most would pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  But,  a tooth root would have been left behind, and be a source of ongoing pain.

Me, as a vet, I would NOT be happy with that at all.  Me as a pet owner, I would be downright angry and disgusted the moment I found out that had happened (the retained root can be a cause of ongoing pain, and sometimes abscessation).

 "Evil" Curve 

 It is not uncommon for us to radiograph a normal looking mouth, and find tooth roots going at 90 degrees at the end.  We warn pet owners about this, as these angled roots make extraction more difficult if they need to be done in the future - more bone needs to be removed, more pain for the pet.

Extraction is not necessarily necessary in all pets - if you keep the teeth healthy through regular oral care, then many pets can keep most, if not all of their teeth well into their senior years. 

 There are some pets that are so genetically flawed, that extractions are going to be necessary, but these should be the exception, not the rule.

 Hide and Go Seek (the unerupted tooth)

This is a radiograph of my own dog, Piper, when she was 7 months old.  The lower first premolar on both sides was not visible.  So why is this important to know?

In any dog with missing teeth, we need to radiograph to make sure that the tooth is truly missing, rather than fractured  or unerupted.

If we, as veterinarians, say that we believe in Animal Welfare, and that we believe in preventative medicine, then what does it say about us, as professionals, if we say "but why do we need to do dental radiographs".

Hallo Halo (aka the tooth root abscess)

 All vets are familiar with the tooth abscess look on the dog - with the painful swelling on the side of the face, or under the eye. The most common tooth that is the culprit is the fourth premolar (second tooth from the left), whereas the problem tooth is the first molar (the first tooth from the left). Radiographs show this up very very clearly.

I once had a case where the dog had wear on all of her teeth, and a swelling along the jaw - it was only with radiographs that we identified the correct tooth causing the abscess (it was her canine), extracted that one only, and problem was solved.

A dead tooth

If you look at the xray closely, you will see that one big canine is different to the other - the pulp (the centre part) is wider in one tooth, which is not normal.  It means that the tooth died a while back.

The teeth are living things within our bodies.  When they die, they cause pain.  Whenever we look at radiographs, we can determine many many things - such as the age, sometimes the breed or breed type, whether there has been previous dental work done.

Dead teeth need either a root canal or extraction. But if I just looked at the tooth visually, I would not have picked it up easily.

So, what do you think?  Was my argument convincing? 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

 Admittedly, I try to be thorough in all aspects of the services that we offer at our veterinary hospital, and dental radiographs are one of the essential core components of our dental services.

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we offer free dental checks every day that we are open, all the time. Our dental checks are there to help you continue to keep your pet's teeth healthy, and to recognise all of your hard work in doing so. 
We know when a pet owner has been good (being proactive in their pet's dental health), and not so good (room for improvement). 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Astonishing Secrets - Chronic Diarrhoea in Dogs

Welcome to another Astonishing Secrets - written to help you, the pet owner help your pet until you can take them to the vet for a thorough check up.
"Do you have the do-run-runs?"

Diarrhoea is one of those signs that most pet owners do not miss, but they often over or under estimate its importance as a sign of illness in our pets. 

The majority of our animals (like us) do suffer from sudden onset diarrhoea, which resolves just as quickly as it started.  Some of these cases do require hospitalisation and aggressive therapy (such as parvovirus or whipworm infection).

Some of these cases do fine on simple dietary manipulation, such as
- bland, highly digestible food (such as chicken/boiled rice/yoghurt)
- feed small amounts often
This is a normal poo! 

Some of these cases continue on for days and days, or worse, occur intermittently - i.e some days the poos are normal, and other days, they are like soft serve icecream or cow pats or chocolate milkshake.

The information here is for those dogs who have
- diarrhoea longer than 3 days
- diarrhoea that seems to come and go

as these are these dogs that have chronic diarrhoea.

The short version of the post is - Unfortunately, you will need to take your pet into to see a vet for a thorough physical examination, and don't forget to take in a freshly collected poop sample from your pet with you.


As veterinarians, we are trained to ask the right questions (get the history), examine your pet (look for signs of systemic illness), and form a diagnostic and treatment plan.

Chronic diarrhoea is one of those conditions that lends itself to this kind of thinking process, as the list of causes is extremely long (think of the book War and Peace).

Chronic diarrhoea is frustrating for the pet, the owner and the vet, and ad hoc therapies which often don't work add to that frustration. 

So, what can you do at home?

You need to review some very important things about your pet and their lifestyle

- Weight - 
Has your pet lost any weight unexpectedly?
Has their activity level changed?

TIP - chronic intermittent diarrhoea with weight loss requires more
 intensive examinations and tests, compared to those 
whose weights have been stable.  
You will need a vet visit sooner, rather than later.

- Worming -
Intestinal parasites are going to be high on the list of possible causes, even if you have been worming your pet consistently.
If you haven't wormed your pet in the past two weeks, do so now.
Clean up your yard of dog poop (to reduce re-contamination), and continue cleaning it up daily.

TIP - Your vet can dispense Fenbendazole for 3 days
 to cover those hidden parasites that 
regular worming may not kill or kill enough of.

- What your pet eats -
This includes the food you intend to give your pet (their diet), and the food/rubbish your pet decides they want to eat (treats, toys, bird poop)

TIP - Dietary manipulation is often needed, 
so keep a good Food Diary.

- Regular Activities -
Do a quick review of what your dog does regularly, and see if there is a correlation.  Perhaps your pet gets diarrhoea the day after they visit Grandma, or after Doggie Daycare.

 TIP - Avoidance of situations that can trigger 
a "stress" 
or "dietary indiscretion" 
diarrhoea is best.

Once you have written down the answers to your reviews, have wormed your pet, cleaned the yard, and hoping  for a miracle cure, what do you do if nothing seems to work?

Obviously, we need to see you.

WE will review the information you have, and will form a plan to get to the right answer.

Often, we will run a giardia test and perform a fecal floatation.  A full blood count and biochemistry test will help us rule out liver and kidney disease as a cause of chronic diarrhoea. 

If we have eliminated those things, then we submit a poop sample to a laboratory to perform a "Chronic Diarrhoea pcr test", which screens for Salmonella, E Coli, Campylobacter, Clostridia and a many other potential causes. Sometimes we run this test first, it really depends on the individual case.

Once we have a better idea of what it is (and what it isn't), then we can make useful recommendations and offer treatments.

The problem lies in that many cases of chronic diarrhoea are recurrent even on the right therapy. Sometimes the best that we can get is a reduction in the frequency of the problem. As with people with chronic gastrointestinal disease - it is often a case of managing rather than curing the problem.

A quick note on feeding
Dietary manipulation is often crucial to a successful outcome.

The options include
- a Novel or single protein diet (i.e a protein your pet has not been exposed to previously)
- a hydrolysed protein diet (the molecular weight of the protein has been modified such that the body does not recognise it as an allergen)

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we stock a quality range of hypoallergenic, novel protein, single protein and hydrolyzed protein diets.  We are the owner of a food allergic dog, so we are very experienced and knowledgeable on food trials and elimination diets.

Just one of our many "novel single protein diets" for dogs.

The benefit of fibre 
As vets, we know that many chronic diarrhoeas are responsive to fibre added to the food. Multiple studies have shown the benefit of adding Psyllium husks (aka Metamucil) to the pet's food.

Our September 2016 issue of our monthly newsletter, Animail Tails, lists how much to give. Click here to read. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  We are here to help you help your pet - keeping them happy and healthy, always.

Call us on 02 42 845988 if you have any questions on this, or any other pet health concern you have.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Five Things that Hurt a Veterinarians Heart

 It is very hard to explain what a vet's life is truly like. Like many other people, we are by nature, hard workers (it is how we got into vet school in the first place), and as a result, many of us tend to prefer the company of ourselves, our families, a few close friends, and our pets.

With our elusive nature, and, by the nature of our work, there are  misconceptions on what we do, and assumptions on what we are like as a result.   This is compounded by many of the TV shows and blogs about "a day in the life of a vet".

 Like the cop shows, legal dramas and cooking shows, they are pure entertainment, with an element of truth.

It is not a normal day for us to fly to Africa to run a desexing clinic, or implant neuticles in male dogs,  for example.

That is why our hearts hurt when we hear what some pet owners say (whether the comments were made intentionally to hurt or not).
"There is nothing "Just a" about us! We are family!"

Its just a dog (or cat or bird or rabbit or....)

One of the advantages of being older now, is that I have an excuse to not be politically correct, and I can allow myself to sometimes throw professionalism out the window.

What do I do when I hear this line?  I stand there, and stare at them in utter disbelief.

"Its just a dog, after all." the pet owner says.  What is worse is when they go on about how the got the dog for the kids, expecting the dog to teach them responsibility, and that its the kids fault that the dog is not fed/walked/played with/checked on.

"Its just a dog" really hurts my heart, as I fail to understand why you would have a pet if that is actually how you feel.  Why?  Our animals rely on us for so much, and they give us so much - devotion, love, comfort, support, a listening ear, companionship.... list goes on and on.
There is an excellent meme out there, which offers a great reply to "It's just a dog".  The reply?  "You're just an idiot"  Yup, I like that reply! 

Pandora the boss'  look says it all.

You don't care about animals

Yes, people really do say that to veterinarians all over the world.  We apparently do not care about animals, according to a select few "special"  people. 

The situations that usually gets this line thrown at vets is usually after hours, or because there  is a fee that needs to be paid... and no surprise to anyone - the owner claims to not have any money tonight, but will magically come up with all of the funds (and more) days after the service is required.

These types of pet owners seem to feel that it is the vet's responsibility to put money aside to cover the costs of veterinary treatment for pets that are not their own.  If we don't do this, and actually expect to be paid at the time of service,  then we don't care for animals.

It gets even better sometimes - many of these pet owners  are ones that we have never seen before yet have had their pet for years.  Many have never spent a cent on veterinary care in the past for their "much loved" pet, and they intend to continue with that philosophy even when they are seriously ill.


Pusski (RIP) - enjoying his "old man" status - on the lounge with the "essentials"

He's to old to do anything

This is a classic line that hurts, not just me, but the pet that needs a procedure done,   "He is too old to be put through that", or "Isn't he too old to have an anaesthetic?"

Age is not a disease, but yes, there are times when it is not the right thing to give a particular pet an anaesthetic at that particular time.

As a vet, I would never recommend a procedure on a patient that would not survive it, but neither do I believe that a pet should suffer in pain. 

My father's dog, Jenna, broke her leg when she was 16 years old.  It was the type of fracture that required a specialist to place a plate.  Now, we are talking 20 years ago, and even in those days, this type of procedure was expensive.

Dirk and I paid to have her leg repaired, and Jenna lived for another year and a half- a good life with my father until her joints let her down. 

So, I am really the wrong person to say "they are too old for that " or to ask "how long do they live for?" as a way of justifying not getting something done,  or to say " If they were younger, I would get ABC done".

"If they were younger...."

However.... I believe in dignity in life, and in death.... this is one of my core values which drives my recommendations to all pet owners. Hence,  whilst I may give owners all of the options available for completeness sake, will only perform procedures that are in the best interest of the pet  that is under my care.

"To you too, Dr Liz"

Haven't needed a vet for years.

"My pet has been perfectly healthy" says the pet owner proudly.  As I gaze into the eyes of this ten year old dog, or gently caress the cheek of the 12 year old cat, I listen intently to the story of this pet's life.

'Never needed to see a vet, until now" boasts the pet owner. 

As a vet, I take any opportunity for another vet to examine my own pets, like this year.  The reason being is that I look at my pets every day, and there is always going to be the risk that I am not going to notice the subtle changes that a pair of new eyes may pick up.

  I care deeply about the health of my pets, and as a vet, I am very aware of how animals can hide their diseases.

It is for this same reason why I do regular blood work and chest radiographs too.

Sometimes, the owner is right  - their pet is perfectly healthy, with perhaps some mild dental issues, but most of the time, we find a pet with a heart murmur, or chronic ear infections,  or a mass in the abdomen. 

Those consultations when I see a sick pet, it hurts my heart on many levels - I will need to explain concepts that may be difficult, I know that I will be challenging their perception of their pet's health, and through all of this, this pet may have suffered from this condition for a long time - the thought that they had been in pain is a painful one to me as an animal lover.

I love my dog so much, I can't possibly put them through that.

It never fails to amaze me that pet owners will put their pet through desexing, without a second thought about the risks of anaesthesia or the pain of a procedure which permanently alters their pet, yet use the "love my pet" line to not perform a life saving procedure (such as lumpectomy for cancer).

A common example would be chemotherapy or surgery for cancer -  most of us have either had personal experience, or have seen a loved one go through cancer surgery, and we all know the common side effects of chemotherapy.

What pet owners need to do is to take the "I" out of the sentence, and start thinking about what is in their pet's interest.  "I" did not want to put my pet through chemotherapy, but when our dog  Teddy was diagnosed with Lymphoma, "I" looked at him and his spark for life, and made a decision that was right for him.

Our Teddy (RIP) - or Mr August in the Save an Angel Calendar
He had his chemotherapy and he had extra quality time in his life.  Chemotherapy in our animals is targeted towards quality of life.

 In fact, that is no different to anything else we do - it is all about quality and dignity in life (and in death).

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. As human beings, we need to be more self aware that what we say or do may impact fellow human beings.

 A little bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way.

Any questions, you can call us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic on 42 845 988.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Attila (the Bun) - an Unwell Rabbit Story

This is the story of Attila.

Attila (the bun) normally attacks his food voraciously. He loooooves his food!

He is a rabbit after all, and that is what they do for a living  (beside being cute and great family members).

Eat, eat, eat (and poop). 

Until one day, Attila was unwell, and didn't eat (nor poop).  Which is when Attila came in to see me.

Attila is on the very best of rabbit food, high in dietary fibre, and plenty of access to grass.  He is spoilt rotten, and everyone was devastated that he was suffering, and might not survive his illness.

Our examination revealed a large "mass" in his abdomen.

That large mass was his stomach, which had distended with food, maybe hair from grooming,  and gas, and things were not able to pass from his stomach to his intestines.  Rabbits can't vomit, so all of this was accumulating there, causing him to get sicker and sicker.

Whilst we do not know what triggered this in Attila, in many rabbits it can be  a combination of eating too much low fibre foods, ingesting too much hair from grooming, other illnesses (such as pain, kidney, liver disease or stress) or an obstruction in the intestine.

So what do we see? 
A rabbit that is not eating, not drinking, not pooping, and sitting there not wanting to move. They can sometimes be hunched in the back because their tummy hurts, and grind their teeth (because of pain).

What will you feel? 
If you put your hands over your rabbits tummy now, what you should feel is not much, generally soft and squishable.  If you  palpate the tummy of a rabbit with gastric stasis, it feels like there is a water balloon in the upper part of the abdomen, and the rabbit usually groans (in pain).

So what's next? 

The radiograph!  We need to do tests to find out more, as after all, lots of things can make rabbits not eat, not drink and not poop.

What you will see in this xray is that the stomach is huge (it looks like a big balloon, with food around the edge and a big gas pocket in the middle.

Sometimes we need to do blood tests (although we did not do that in Attila).

The radiographs and the examination was enough to confirm what he had, and with that diagnosis, we had a plan.

Attila had a tummy massage - well, we massaged his stomach to mix the food with the liquids to help the stomach empty.

He was given fluids under his skin to help rehydrate him, as well as antibiotics and pain relief.

But most importantly, he was being syringe fed food (we use Oxbow Critical Care), each few hours, and enemas (to promote defecation).

By the next day, his stomach was one quarter of the size, and he passed his first poop.  So we did a "poopy" dance to celebrate.

Yes, we are that mad.  We were so excited, as this meant that he had turned the corner and he was going to be fine.  When he ate his first blade of grass, we again performed another "happy" dance.

You see, that is what is like for a vet - we take anything as a "win", and we get excited when we know that we have made a difference in an animals life.  That is what we have dedicated our lives to.

Unfortunately for Attila, this can be a recurrent problem, especially as we do not know what the trigger was for him (as he is already on a high fibre Timothy Hay diet).
His family are going to monitor his appetite, pooping, diet.  They have on hand Critical care to give to him at the very outset of any signs of not eating, and they know they need to gently massage his abdomen to help things move along.

 Sometimes, in some rabbits, it may not always go well, and surgery may be needed to remove the obstruction.

Here are some links to some of our other posts about Rabbits..

Meet Cicero (and information on diet)

Dental Facts (including rabbits)

 What can you do at home if you suspect this? 
1. Start them on Oxbow Critical Food for rabbits
2. Syringe in water on a regular basis
3. Gently massage their abdomen (upper part) to promote stomach emptying
4. Get your pet to a vet as soon as possible - medications are needed to help with pain and infection.

Any general questions, let us know.  Any specific questions on the care of your rabbit, please speak with your local friendly vet (and if that is us, then let us know).

This is a very young Nurse Tegan, with one of our bunnies from years ago.
I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.