Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Helping Pets cope with the loss of their Best Buddy

Losing a much loved family member, well, just plain hurts.  Some people argue that our pets have no concept of death or loss.  Well, I am not going to argue with these people, other than to say that I hold a  different point of view.

Our pets are aware of death and dying - I have looked at a pet's eyes and seen the look of "it's time - let me go in peace". 
RIP Teddy - We knew it was time to say goodbye when he 
no longer wanted to play with his tennis ball.

The look in their eyes tells me so much when they come in for a vet visit. We have all seen other pets in the household behave differently when one of them is sick - they may often seem to try to comfort them, or they give them space.

After the loss of a pet, we (all of us), feel a  deep sadness and loss. Knowing that it is normal does not lessen the pain.

What if the pet owner has multiple pets ( like us)?  What do they (the pet's)  know or feel when their best buddy is no longer there?

In our current household at home, we have Piper (our kelpie), and two cats (Stone (our new cat)  and Dash). Our cat, Pusski passed away earlier this year from Lymphoma . When this happened,  our remaining pets (Piper and Dash)  knew something had changed.

 Piper no longer had to look twice around the corners (where Pusski used to do the "You shall not pass" look), and poor Dash - well, she seemed to grow old suddenly. They both would go when Pusski used to sleep, sniff the area as if searching for him.  

I used to joke that Pusski was still there sometimes as Piper would be at the top of the stairs barking (as she used to do when Pusski was sitting on them and wouldn't let her pass).

Pusski and Piper were not "best buddies", but even so, Piper did notice when Pusski was no longer there.
In many households, the pets didn't just grow up with the kids in the family, but they often grew up with each other - they would sleep together, walk/play together. Their day routine would be dependant on the other pet.

When one pet dies, the other one may show signs of distress.

Signs of distress can resemble human grief
- not sleeping well
- pacing, as if searching for their friend
- avoidance of social interaction or the opposite - being overly attached to someone
- not eating well

A question I often get asked "should I let my pet sniff the pet that has passed?" or "should they be present for the euthenasia?".  The best advice I can give is to not push your pet to sniff or interact with the one who has passed on. Most pets usually ignore the body itself, as if to know the spirit is no longer there. Others will sit by their side, as if to say "this is my mate".

Some strategies that will help you and your pet.

Understand that things are never going to be the same - you will have to develop a "new kind of normal"  Be kind to yourself and to those around you as you all adjust to this change.

Develop a consistent routine 
  •    of eating .  Keep the type of food constant, and avoid the temptation to feed extra treats or special foods.  Feed at the same time of the day.
  •  of playtime.  Knowing when there is going to be playtime, or meal time will reduce your pet's anxiety (because they know how the day is going to play out). This will help them adjust to a "new" normal routine. 
  • of comfort time. Of course you are going to want to cuddle and comfort your pet, and feel sadness and loss.  Keep your pet active during these times, through shared experiences of a nice long walk, or a trip to the off leash park or beach.  Create new positive memories for you and your pet. 
  • of interactions between existing pets.  In multi-pet households, each member of the unit usually have a particular role that oftentimes, as owners, we aren't privvy to.  When one passes, the others usually decide between themselves who is going to do what.  This can often lead to signs of aggression between these animals if not managed well.  In these situations, expert vet advice will help tremendously. 

Piper and Dash are "kissing buddies"
What about medications? 

Please speak to us about this option - there are some "over the counter" anxiety medications that I have used effectively, whereas some pets do have a need for short term prescription antidepressants.

Whilst no one wants to have their pet "on drugs", if your pet needs medication in the short term to help them cope, please do not deny them this help.

Vets can help you and your pet through this difficult time.
 What about getting another pet? 

For many pet owners, the thought of getting another pet is painful.  The pain of loss is too much for them, and so they decide not  to revisit that pain.  For many more, though, the memory of love and joy shines through, and there is enough love there to share with a new pet.

I have often had pet owners remark that their surviving pet "perked up" and started "acting like a puppy again" as soon as a new pet completed the family unit.  You are never going to replace the one you lost, you are just opening your heart up to another one to love you as much as you love them.

Do you have any questions?

  Let us know.  We will do our best to help you as much as we can.  Be aware though, that the advice we give can only be general in nature, and we often do need a veterinary consultation to make sure that there are no other medical issues that we need to be aware of.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  I do believe our pets feel grief when a companion pet dies.  Like people, some dogs seem to cope better with loss than others.

I am also a pet owner, and have been through this (unfortunately many times) with our own family pets.  As a vet, I have been through this also many many times.  There are many things I can do to help you and your pet cope through this very difficult time.

Please call us if you feel you need that extra bit of help and support.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Care of the Adult Rescue Dog or Cat

How exciting it is when a new puppy or kitten joins your family  The efforts of new fur parents to know more about how to look after their new family member is extraordinary.
Nurse Tegan with Seth at his first vet check.

So what happens when it is not a puppy or kitten, but a more mature dog or cat that has been adopted?  Older pet adoptions are  on the increase - which is awesome (and sad).

 It is awesome that these pets get a chance at a new home, and sad that they had to leave their previous one for whatever reason.  We have looked after a few oldies over the years, such as Ol' George and Georgette.
RIP Ol' George

Just because your new adopted pet is maybe 4 or 5 or 6 years of age (or older), does not mean that the care you take in finding out about their health is not as important as if they were a puppy.  In fact, there are few more things you need to look into before, during and after your adoption process.

There are some important things to remember -

- Our pets are sentient beings. They remember,  they feel pain, sadness and loss.  They also feel joy, happiness and love.  They are like us in that they want to love and be loved.

I'm in love!
- Like anyone undergoing a huge upheaval in their life in which they have no control, your new pet is going to feel some anxiety and concern.

You need to think about how you are going to make them feel secure and confident in their new surroundings.

What are some key things to know?

1. Gather as much information as you can about the pet's previous medical history and behaviour.
- do they like or get along with cats, dogs or children
- any previous illnesses or chronic issues (like teeth, skin, ears are common ones)
- any sign of possessiveness, separation anxiety or escaping.

2. Research the rescue organisation you are dealing with - You are looking for one that takes its adoption processes very seriously, especially if they put the pet's emotional and physical needs first and foremost. 

3. Visit your new  vet within a few days of picking up your new pet for a vet check - we recommend this in all new pet adoptions, to make sure that your pet has no underlying medical issues (simple ones like ear mites or more complex ones like chronic skin or dental disease).

This is me, Dr Liz with a happy munchkin.
4. Make sure the microchip details are updated at the time you pick your new pet up- in NSW, this is as simple as going online, so there is no/little need for paper transfers.
We are Chip Checker station - just drop in and ask for help.

What can you do to help them cope with their new environment?

All new pet owners need to think about the strategies to help their new family member adjust to the new routine and rules.

Be consistent.

Be kind.

Be understanding.

Set them up to succeed.

We are big believers in the use of pheromones to help reduce stress and arousal.
Recommended Pheromones for dogs and cats

Your new pet will not be able to read the "House Rules" by your front door on the do's and don'ts. 

What about their veterinary care?

Like any puppy or kitten you will need to ensure you have a plan for your pet's long term health care.

What are the things you need to know about?  If you are not from our area, please speak with your vet about whether there is anything specific to your area that you need to do.

In our area, it is
  • Heartworm Prevention
  • Intestinal Deworming
  • Flea and Paralysis tick control
These things can kill - effective prevention is now available.

Do not forget the usual vaccinations, diet, coat and dental care.  If they are only a few years old, we would even suggest looking into pet insurance for them.

Many older rescues suffer from severe dental disease due to neglect.

There are many things to consider, but in all of it, do not forget to thank yourself for opening up your heart and house to an older pet.  You rock!

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.

 Our animals give us so much joy and love, and we seem to give them so little in return. Always be kind to your animals and your fellow human beings. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Products Showcase - What was new for 2016

Firstly, I have to thank all of my animalclinic family who support my family and I at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.  

It is thanks to all of you, that we can continue to care for the beautiful animals in our little part of the world.  We cannot continue to do what we do without your support. 

It is because we care about the health and long life of your family pet, that we strive to do the best we can.   We make sure that all of our products and services pass the "would we use it in our pet" rule, that they have a great safety profile, and that they actually do what the marketing says it does.

Read on to find out more about our new products.


This was introduced into Australia in October 2016, and it is going well.   What is so great about it? 

Well, it is tasty and it is unique.  There is nothing else like it on the market. It contains a unique medication called Delmopinol which coats the teeth, tongue and gums - this protective layer makes it harder for bacteria and plaque to attach. 

Bye Bye bad breath!

Friendly Dog Collars -

These are unique colour coded dog leads communicate special messages to those around them.  These are ideal for those caring pet owners who have dog's who have special needs, such as deaf, blind, working, friendly etc.

What I like about them? - They are high quality woven leads, designed to last.

Healthy Mouth

Whilst we have had Healthy Mouth since it first came into Australia a few years ago (and how excited were we at that), we are even more excited with the new flavours now available.

Not so much yummy flavours for us, but for our pets.... nom nom!

Wagyu Beef, Blueberry and Peanut Butter, as well as the original flavours.

But it isn't just the flavours that is exciting, it is the fact that this Veterinary Oral Health Council approved product designed to improve oral health is as easy as making up the cordial, and filling up the water bowl.

Prime100 Treats
We all love to give treats to our pets, but we do know that some have been implicated in kidney disease in dogs and cats.  We only stock and sell ones which have been shown to be safe, such as Ivory Coat Treats, SavorLife and Prime100.

So next time you want to spoil your special someone, think of these and us.


One of our most recent "New" Products, which we are excited to introduce. Imported from the US, this unique product combines fibre, probiotics and natural antiinflammatories to help promote normal anal gland health.

Why is this important?  If you have a pet with anal gland problems, with the leaking, smelling, scooting - you will appreciate the difference this product will make.

Novel Protein Food
As the owner of a food allergic dog, it is frustrating and difficult to find a quality, affordable diet for her. Prime100 food has been a welcome addition for our dog Piper, as well as for all of you who have pets with similar issues.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. We have introduced so many new products and services this year (the above is just a few), and hopefully next year will be the same.

Drop in to check us out in Bellambi Lane, Bellambi.(opposite the future Bunnings store - exciting times ahead).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Anal Gland problems in Dogs and Cats - the Annoying Bum Scooting

Once upon a time, there was a dog called Spot.  Spot is a gorgeous happy Pug who just loves his mum and his Nan.

He (sort of) loves his vet too. His vet is me, and I am Dr Liz.
No, this isn't Spot. This is Spot's body double (although not a Pug). Spot was too shy to show his face (or bottom).

He really loves me when I don't need to do anything to his bottom - after all, we now have the infrared temperature thingo (we just point it at the gums and we get a temp).

He knows as well as I do that I do not like to go near the bums of animals - it really does not do anything for me at all.

He (sort of) loves me when I have to see him because he has started scooting again.

You see, Spot has anal gland problems, which means that he needs to visit me on a regular basis (usually 6-8 weeks) to have them "cleaned out".

He knows "Dr Liz's rules - I do something yuck, I do something nice".  This means I give lots of yummy home made liver treats at the front end whilst I am expressing the anal glands at the other end.

Cleaning anal glands is a "Dirty Job", although I have never seen it featured on the TV show!  It should be!

Another cute puppy photo - toy breeds often need anal gland support.
As a vet who loves animals, I am constantly looking into things or ways to help my animal friends, whether it be with the latest in technology, medications, therapies, or nutritional support products.

When it comes to anal glands, things are no different.

But let's get back to the beginning....

What are Anal Glands?  The short version is that they are a pair of tear shaped glands with a narrow duct which opens on either side of the anus (the duct opening is at 3 and 9 o'clock if you look at the bum front on).

What do they do?  Well, there are many theories.  In cats, the information it contains depends on the situation the cat is in - it is commonly released in fear, and is a common warning signal of "danger" to other cats.  In dogs, they are expressed in fear, but it is theorised that their purpose is as a source of information to other dog and "non dog" animals. 

What information they want to share is up for debate, but I suspect it is about territory and ownership.

Why do some pets get problems and not others? Why are toy breeds more likely to have anal gland problems compared to the giant breeds?  Why do pets improve if their allergies are managed better?

It is believed that with pets with allergic skin disease, the allergies causes swelling of the ducts, narrowing it even further, making it very difficult for the muscles around the anal glands to squeeze the material out during toileting.

It is believed that in some toy breeds, the anatomy in the area makes it very difficult to for the anal glands to empty (some vets remove anal glands for that reason).

A cute puppy is much better looking than anal glands.
It is also possible that toy breeds are bred to be more "baby like", and therefore never master the need to empty those anal sacs to mark their territory. Or, it could be that their diet is not as fibre rich as it should be, so those anal muscles do not get the exercise.

 What can be done to help? 
There are many published and anecdotal strategies.
NEW for 2016  at Russell Vale vets - Glandex
1. Improving the quality and type of fibre in your pet's diet

2. Regular vet checks to ensure that your pet's anal glands need emptying

3. Hypoallergenic diet (food allergies have been implicated in some dogs)

4. Short course of prescription medication to reduce inflammation

5. Probiotics - to improve digestive health

Next time I see Spot, I am going to share with him some great news about a yummy chew that combines 1 and 4, with a natural antiinflammatory, which I am sure is going to give him peace.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi, and Anal Gland Expressor Extraordinare.

As for those who are thankful that I didn't write about Piper again, sadly, she also did suffer from anal gland problems as a puppy.

Yes, she is the gift that keeps on giving!

We were able to solve her problem through the strategies listed above.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Five things To Help your Noise or Thunderstorm Phobic Pet

Why is it that less than 25 % of pet owners ask their vet for help with their pet's anxiety or fear, yet when asked specific questions on their pet's behaviour, over 50% of our pets are affected?

The answer is easily complicated - pet owners often use the phrases
- we have tried everything
- nothing seemed to have worked
- I didn't know there was anything that could help

There is only one truth in the care and management of a pet (or any sentient being with a phobia) - that is that it is a behaviour that cannot be cured with a pill or that can be "snapped out of".  

But... many pets can be helped if they are identified early enough, help sought and steps taken to help them.

I will use our dog Piper as an example - 

She was 10 weeks old when she joined our family.  We adopted her from the RSPCA in Sydney.  On the second night with us, we had a horrendous thunder and lightning storm. Poor Piper was frantic, and we had a very bad sleepless night.  It had been a long time since we had a puppy, and I had never had one so scared like this one was.
This is what Piper does now through a storm! Snoozing in her favourite place!

Closing the curtains and isolating her to one room stopped her anxiety with the light flashes. Putting the TV on helped reduce the suddenness of the noise.  It was still a sleepless, difficult night.

What should we have done?
We should have used alot more food and games during the storm, to help her form the association that "storms = fun stuff". 

What did we do then? 

Fortunately, we had several thunderstorm and noise CD's, which we played constantly throughout the house - starting at low volume, and then increasing the volume over the ensuing weeks.  She wore an Adaptil collar, and we spent time having fun with the scary noise in the background.

Piper is still anxious with new noises, but fortunately through her previous training, she has learnt to calm down very quickly.
Have a range of foods and distractions available

"Coping with Noise" strategies falls into " Immediate  "(i.e a scary event is happening now, and something needs to be done now)  to " Long Term "  (i.e we know we have a problem, what are our strategies to deal with it).

Five Immediate Strategies to Help
1. Environmental 
- Consider Crate Training your pet
- Allow them to have a safe place (for my previous dog, Teddy, his safe place was under the kitchen nook (it was dark and cosy)
- keep them inside or any place where you know they feel "safe and secure".
It's like us being scared, but climbing into bed and putting the doona over our head.  We are still scared, but feel a bit safer.

2. Supplements 
 - Adaptil sprays, collars or Diffusers  for Dogs or Feliway for cats - I am a big fan of pheromones in helping reduce arousal or anxiety in our dogs and cats. 
- Homeopet Anxiety medication - this does work in a fair percentage of anxious pets, and in some it isn't enough. 
- Vitamin B and Tryptophan supplements - Tryptophan is the precurser to the calming neurotransmitter Serotonin.

3. External Support Items
- Thundershirts are great for many dogs and cats.  Available in many sizes. 
- There are many available head masks and sound reducing head phones (some are not available in Australia), 
- White noise -  There are radios which emit a noise which counteracts the frequencies of the thunderstorm/fireworks. 
- Background noise - such as a favourite TV show or radio.
- Thick, high quality blackout curtains.

4. Distractions
- Games, toys, food, fun, walks, romps in the rain
- Training - a perfect time to distract with training games such as "Touch" or "Tug of War".

5. Medications 
Over the past 25 years, I  have seen the progressive change in the types of medications used in our pets, ranging from medications that make a dog outwardly calm, but inwardly increases their sensitivity to noise (not a good thing) to medications that induce an outward and inward calm (ideal).

This is still a work in progress - currently, we are trialling two new medications for all dogs, so if you have had no success in the past, do not hesitate to call us on 42845988 or email me on to discuss what this may mean for you and your pet.

We are always watching out for new medications and strategies to help our scared dogs and cats, so please do not give up if something hasn't worked in the past. Keep in touch with us by signing up to our Animail Tails.

Click on the image below to find out more about anxieties, fears and phobias in dogs.

 I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi. I have been a vet for over 26 years now, and during that time I have treated many pets with anxieties.

We do stock and sell the medications, the supplements and external support items, with our personal successful experience of dealing with this with Piper and other pets, so do drop in to visit us.

One thing I have learnt, is that I have had greater success if I see the pets early, with owners dedicated to trial different medications at different dose rates.  I also have had tremendous failures, part due to me choosing the wrong medication for that pet, and part due to the owner unwilling to work with me to individualise their pet's management program.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to mental health.