Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Is it OK for my dog to eat Pork fat (and other leftovers)?

Christmas is an amazing time, isn't it.  In fact, it was so great this year, that I ended up spending two days afterwards in bed exhausted - from working right up to Christmas, and then dealing with the cooking and cleaning of Christmas family day. 

How easy is it when you are slicing up the ham, with your dog sitting right next you, looking at you with their big eyes, to slice a bit extra and give them a tid bit.  Or after the family leaves, and you are cleaning up - all of those leftovers might as well go to your dog, rather than chuck them away for landfill.  It won't hurt will it.
"Oops - how did that slice of ham go from my hand to my pet!"

If it wasn't for Piper's food allergies, even if I did know better, I would've slipped her a piece or three of leftovers.  Like many of other loving pet owners - I am human too.  It is hard looking at those big beautiful eyes, and not succumbing to them.

It's also human (and Aussie) to think "She'll be right mate!".  After all, alot of us grew up with our pets just eating the leftovers anyway, and they seemed to do perfectly fine.

At work today, I had several people ask me if it was OK for their pet to have eaten the leftover pork, or ham.

The short answer is "No, its not OK".

The long answer is - ham is very high is salt and fat, and roast pork is equally usually very fatty with extra herbs and spices. They, with the leftover fat of steaks, and the sausages from the BBQ, are the more common causes of  a very common summer digestive problem, called Pancreatitis. 
This is NOT OK!

Pancreatitis is an expensive but in many cases, a preventable problem.  At this time of year, no matter how much we love our animals, there is no need for many pets to succumb to this terrible disease.

Sadly, there are also many animals who are just prone to the condition, and even on a normal diet, may get sick and unwell.

So exactly what is Pancreatitis?  It is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is a small organ that lies parallel to the upper part of the small bowel.  When it is inflamed, it tickles the intestine, and the adjacent stomach and liver. 

What signs will you see?  With many pets with low grade chronic pancreatitis, all you may see is the occasional vomit.  For others, with severe acute pancreatitis, there may be severe vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain and fever. 

For more information on pancreatitis itself, click here.

So, what should you do if you were a bit naughty, gave your pet a few too many fatty treats, but they seem OK?

Well, the best thing you can do is to switch immediately to a low fat highly digestible food - such as cooked chicken with yoghurt.

Feed small amounts often, as we do not want to overstimulate the pancreas, but we do want to give the intestinal lining nutrition.

Other options include steamed white fish. 

If cooking is not your thing, then come in and ask - we have several tasty options available. 
A low fat but tasty alternative.

So what should you do if your pet is vomiting and/or has diarrhoea and/or is lethargic and/or not eating much?

See a vet ASAP - Pancreatitis is not a condition that you should wait and see if they are going to get better on their own.

 If it is severe or aggressive enough, complications can arise - such as adhesions, pancreatic abscesses, liver damage or even death.

 Treatment often involves fluid therapy, pain relief, gastric support and of course, exceptional veterinary and nursing care that every pet deserves. 

Once you have been through it with your pet, you will appreciate how something so little, like a tiny bit of ham can cause serious harm.  If there is one thing that our pets deserve, it is to be loved and looked after - and giving them ham, pork, sausage or fatty offcuts is not the way to do it.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Wishing all pets to stay happy and healthy this Christmas as we head towards 2017!

Take it easy everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

How Desexing Your Pet can Prevent Serious Disease

It is great working in a family practice like ours. We chat, laugh with , and sometimes swear at, each other all the time. One of the drawbacks however is that it is not uncommon for friends of friends to ring up one of my kids to ask for veterinary advice.

Warning: Pictures of body parts and surgery are depicted - if you have a weak stomach, do not read on.

After all, they are the kids of a vet in a family business - these kids should be able to diagnose the reason why Fluffy did not eat dinner that night, shouldn't they?

If vets  should be available at any time of the day or night to answer any question from any pet owner,  then their children should equally suffer the same fate. (I am being sarcastic in case you missed it).

Recently, my daughter received a phone call on a saturday night from a friend of a friend of a friend asking for veterinary advice. To cut a long story short, the dog did go to an after hours vet, had emergency surgery and is now doing well.   It cost several thousands of dollars to treat a common but serious condition of older undesexed female dogs.

This much loved dog had a pyometron. What has prompted this post, is not the fact that my daughter was rung up on a saturday night, but that the pet owner claimed her vet had never told her, or warned her, about the risks of keeping her female dog undesexed.

I speak to pet owners about this all the time, and the most common reply is "aren't they too old to get desexed".

Oh how I love to be able to say, let us a wait a year or two for them to get younger, but haven't had the guts yet to say that out loud!

I would much rather desex an older female dog in general good health, rather than wait.  If we wait  for the pyometron to develop, they will still need to undergo an expensive emergency surgery but at time when they are toxic from the infection, with possible liver and kidney damage. 

Pyometron is an infection of the uterus, which usually occurs a few weeks after a dog has a heat cycle. The signs can be as vague as being "off colour", to be more obvious such as  smelly vaginal discharge, drinking alot more than usual, with an abdomen looking like they are going to deliver puppies.

I am not writing this to say that every dog should be desexed, and that you are an irresponsible owner if you do not take that step.  What I am trying to say is that EVERY pet owner needs to stand by their decision on whether to desex their dog or keep them entire.

This is a decision which has consequences - some positive, some negative.

What about our male dogs?  Our older male dogs are at higher risk of testicular cancer,  prostatic infections and perianal tumours (lumps around the bum).

A really huge testicle, and then one not so big! This is cancer.
As a vet, I am faced with the difficulty on  determining what is the best thing to do when faced with a younger male dog , as the desexing studies raise some serious concerns of increased risk of lymphoma, cruciate injury and  some other cancers.

As a vet, I am more than willing to discuss the pros and cons of desexing of both male and female pets, as it is a decision that should be never be taken "for granted".

Any questions, let me know. My nurses Dirk and Tegan are available to discuss with you the procedure and what is involved.

Scrubbing up for pretend surgery!
I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  We love to play "dress ups" here at the vets, and this photo shows us practicing "gowning" and "gloving" during our many training sessions.

Welcome the mad vet house!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

I pulled a tick off my dog (or cat)...what now!

OMG!  What a scary situation many pet owners find themselves in! 

Scenario one -
The little bell on our front door starts ringing, with a frantic pet owner needing urgent attention.  “I found a tick on my dog”.

The white munchkin is put onto the ground, running around happy as anything, showing no signs of being unwell. The tick has decided to lodge itself just above the eyelid.
Meet Ted and his tick from September 2016.

Out come the tick pullers, and the tick is removed. All is well, there is peace on earth (and in our waiting room!)

Scenario two –
“Ring Ring” goes our phone. “Russell Vale Animal Clinic, this is Dirk speaking. How can we help you?”, answers our trusty vet nurse, Dirk.

“I just pulled a tick off my dog, what do I do? I can’t find any others. They are breathing up a bit, but walking OK. What do I do?"

So, what do you need to do?

There are variations of Scenario one and two, but the essentials are still the same – a very worried pet owner, and a pet with a tick (or two)  found on them. Some of the pets are clinically fine, and some are showing early (or maybe advanced) signs of paralysis. 

We are always here to help you and your pet, so it is always the right thing to do to ask us first for help.  
These are easy to use effective tick pullers

1.       Pull the tick off using tick pullers – if the tick is large enough you can grab them with your fingers, do a light twist and remove WITHOUT squeezing the body.   If the tick is small, you will need Tick removal forceps.  If you don’t have these easily available, and it is possible without hurting or cutting your pet, you can grab a pair of scissors – open them up slightly, and wedge the tick out (like you would remove a nail from a floorboard)

2.       Don’t be frightened that you are going to leave the head in – this rarely, if ever happens. Studies have shown that the body will reject the tick head as a foreign body (like a splinter).

What you do next depends on whether your pet is showing signs of tick poisoning or not.

The usual signs include
  • -          Loss of voice (they sound like they have laryngitis)
  • -          Cats will often walk close to the ground (as if to hug it), and will flail their legs all over the place when picked up (they can’t handle the loss of balance/strength)
  • -          Dogs will often walk as if they had a few too many beers at the pub
  • -          Their breathing rate will increase, which will progress to difficulty breathing out (expiratory grunting)
  • -          We may see local paralysis (eg around the eye, they will have trouble closing the eyelids, or on the side of the face, the lip will droop (as it affects the facial nerve).
  •       It causes an ascending paralysis (which means that it starts at the back legs, and “ascends” or  extends to the front legs, affecting the muscles of breathing and swallowing along the way.
"I can't close my eye" - look for a tick in the area.

If they are normal, then what you need to do is
1.       Keep them quiet – no walks for a few days
2.       Keep them not too hot, not too cold, but just right!
3.       Give them tick preventatives immediately.  We recommend Nexguard or Bravecto immediately in our dogs, and Frontline Spray (all over) for our cats, as we want to kill any other ticks that may be on the body.
4.       Do a thorough tick search TWICE a day.
5.       If after FIVE days, your pet has shown no signs of tick poisoning, then you have dodged a bullet.

Be mindful though, that it takes up to a month for tick toxin to circulate out of the body, so if your pet picks up another tick during that time, it is possible for them to come down with tick poisoning, even if you pull the tick off straight away. The effects are cumulative.

Also, if they over exert themselves, you may see signs of weakness.

Whilst most pets will only have one tick, and that 90% of ticks will be either on the shoulders or head, I have seen them down ears, inside the mouth and have heard of them going into vagina’s and prepuces (males).

Ticks can be anywhere – they have no shame!

If your pet is not normal, and showing active signs of tick poisoning then you need to see a vet ASAP.

If your pet can swallow, then follow step number 3 above.

If they cannot swallow, then your vet will advise you on the safest anti-tick therapy for your pet. 

As there are signs of tick poisoning, your pet’s body is overwhelmed with the toxin, and the sooner therapy is started, the sooner your pet will recover.  There is a twelve hour lag between administering the serum to when we see signs of improvement, as the tick antitoxin will only neutralise the toxin circulating in the blood stream – it will do nothing for the tick toxin at the nerve muscle junction or at the point of attachment.

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we follow the modern guidelines on tick poisoning management, coupled with  over 25 years of experience in dealing with tick cases. Every tick case is different, as our pets are individuals.

What happens at the vets?
All of our affected pets are admitted into hospital, are sedated and kept quiet under strict observation.
An intravenous catheter is placed, and tick serum is administered slowly over 15 minutes, monitoring for signs of a reaction to the serum (rare but possible).  During this time, oxygen is administered, and your pet’s blood pressure is also monitored.

A dose of replacement fluids is also given to help rehydrate the pet, as they will often be going without food or water for a few days.
NB - this is on "demo mode" for the picture

In some cases, we need to perform an ECG (to look for elongated QT syndrome), as we do know that there is a cardiac component to the tick toxin. In some cases they need to have a tube placed into their airway, or have oxygen delivered via a nasal tube.

We always monitor for a pet’s ability to urinate, as it is not uncommon for the bladder muscle to also struggle to do its job.

You know what?
My heart sinks every time I need to treat a tick poisoning case, as my head spins with all of the things that can go wrong.  Granted, 99% of the time the pet makes a full recovery, but there are some pets who suffer from life long heart damage or muscle fatigue. 

It is one of those things where prevention is the best medicine. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi, hater of the Paralysis tick and the way it can kill our beautiful animals (pets and wildlife). 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Preventable Australian Summer Diseases of Dogs and Cats

As the year rolls around to another Aussie summer, vets all over the country are inundated with sick pets.

What makes it sad is that many of these conditions can be prevented or the risks of being affected reduced.

Whilst we all love our animals, and many of us would spend whatever we needed to so our pets can get well again, no one likes forking over money unnecessarily.  As a vet, I hate seeing any animal sick, but especially if it was avoidable.  

Pancreatitis, vomiting and diarrhoea 

Not suprising for us vets, but it does surprise many owners that feeding your pet leftovers from the BBQ and Christmas party can make our pets very very sick.  Most of the cases of pancreatitis I see, the pet has eaten sausages or BBq steak before, with no visible signs of illness, so their pet owner does not see a problem with it during the festive season.

Your pet probably did have a problem with it, but didn't show it.  We know that Diabetes Mellitus is often the end stage of Chronic Pancreatitis, and that Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) is on the increase. 

Sometimes it is the well meaning Grandma or Uncle - not realising that that a little sausage can cost the pet owner hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and days of intensive hospitalisation of a very sick, very painful vomiting pet. 

"Dietary indiscretion" is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea in our dogs and cats - which means eating foods that are different to what their digestive system is used to. So in these guys, it isn't just the fat in the saussie that gets them going, but the low fat turkey or even getting into the rubbish (filled with such yumminess from a dog's perspective)

What can you do to prevent it? 
  •  Keep your pet's diet constant (and preferably lowish on the fat scale).
  •  Tell your mates to not feed your pet leftover BBQ sausies, unless they are prepared to pay a potentially hefty vet bill
  •  Make sure your pet does not have access to rubbish bins or people's dinner plates. 


When the weather heats up, our pets often cannot drink enough to keep their poos in the normal spectrum of consistency.  Coupled with feeding of raw bones, warmer weather is the perfect recipe for a dog that is straining to pass a poo.
Sorry to be gross - but this is a normal dog poo!

What can you do to prevent it? 
  • Ensure your pet has plenty of access to fresh water in multiple water bowls.
  • Feed semi moist foods instead of dry foods. 
  • Do not feed bones on hot days (and our preference is no bones at all )
  • Add Psyllium husks or other forms of soluble fibre (promotes bowel contraction)

Tick Poisoning 
Australia is home to the Ixodes Holocyclus tick - aka the Paralysis tick.  As if we didn't have enough creatures that could kill us!  This greyish coloured tick attaches onto any living being - whether it be birds, possums, dogs, cats, kangaroos - you name it!  It sucks their blood.

In the process of a blood feed, it releases up to 19 different toxins, which cause heart damage and neuromuscular paralysis (and death)

The paralysis usually starts in the back legs, working its way up to the front legs, to then affect the muscles of breathing and swallowing.  Ticks can be devious - they can just present with a slight wobbliness for a week or two or heavy breathing. We can see the local effects of the tick poisoning especially if it is around the eyes (the eyelids cannot close) or throat (there is more gagging as the muscles of swallowing and vocal cords can't move)
The Aussie Paralysis tick

What can you do to prevent it? 
  • Daily tick searches
  • Keep your lawns trimmed short
  • Quality tick preventatives are available for our dogs (not so much for our cats but it is a work in progress).

Why not ask us (or your favourite vet) on the best tick preventatives for your pet. There are new products and options available all of the time.

Rat Bait and Snail Bait Poisonings 

There are now new rat and snail baits which are non toxic to our animals, so I do not understand why Pet Produce,  gardening and hardware stores still stock and sell those which non can kill non target animals.

The traditional rat baits cause uncontrollable bleeding, and the snail baits, usually vomiting, diarrhoea and death via seizures.
The traditional Warfarin based rat bait - tastes yummy for dogs too!

What can you do to prevent it? 
  • Simple - do not buy these products in the first place.
  • Avoidance - dogs will climb shelves to get to them (they are attracted to the grains in them - the same thing that makes them attractive to rats and snails), so really, they need to behind lock and key cupboards.

Sunburn and Footpad burns

You are at the park or at home, you are throwing the frisbee or ball for your best mate, and they are running back and forth.  They are only crossing a small section of decking or paving, but before you know, the friction and repetition can cause abrasions and lesions on your pets feet.

What about those pets who are already pink skinned? Our animals get skin cancer as well as sunburn.

Piper's abrasion from too much running on pavers - yes, we learnt the hard way too!
What can you do to prevent it? 
  • Keep an eye on the UV scale - if it is hot or high UV index, keep your pet OUT of the sun. Peak danger times are between 10 and 4. 
  • Pet sunscreen is available - so use it (avoid the zinc ones as zinc is toxic to pets) 
  • Do not walk your pet on pavements, sand, concrete on warm days, and especially watch out for the constantly running over pavers even though it is quick, it can still be hot enough to burn. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  Any questions, just sing out and let us know.

 As we are heading into the Christmas season of 2016, all of us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic wish you and yours a safe, healthy and happy Christmas and New Years.

Dr Liz, Dirk, Tegan, Haiden, Sean, Paige
and all of our animals
Pandora (the boss), Pumpkin (the ginger ninja), Dash, Stone, Piper (our problem child), Ned (our budgie) and  Peaches (our rabbit)