COVID-19 and Pets – What You Need To Know Now

COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our lives and will continue to for many months. When it comes to the virus, there are plenty of questions to be asked, so here are a few answers:

How is COVID-19 spread?

Although it has been theorised that the new coronavirus emerged from an animal source, the pangolin, the current main known route of transmission is human-to-human. 

At present, the spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs or when they come into contact with infected sputum (hand-to-mouth transmission).

Can cats and dogs get coronavirus?

There are species-specific coronaviruses that affect dogs and cats, but it is essential to realise that these are not the same as the COVID-19. The strains that affect cats and dogs can cause mild gastrointestinal signs and, very rarely, can lead to a disease in cats called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). 

There is a vaccine available for the canine form of coronavirus. This vaccine should not be used for prevention of COVID-19 as the viruses are distinctly different.

Can I get coronavirus from my pet?

No. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread from a pet to a human. Transmission appears to occur via a human touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose and possibly eyes. Smooth surfaces such as a countertop or a door handle transmit the virus better than porous materials such as paper and clothing. At this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. 

Can pets contract COVID-19 from humans?

Currently, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive to the virus are two pet dogs in Hong Kong and two pet cats (one in Belgium and the other in Hong Kong). In all of these cases, these pets were in the direct care of someone who had confirmed COVID-19. It was only in the case of the cat in Belgium that there was any suggestion of the pet showing clinical signs of the disease, but it is essential to understand that other diseases that could have caused the same symptoms were not ruled out. This cat has since recovered. According to the World Health Organisation, there is currently no evidence that pets can transmit COVID-19. 

What should pet owners do?

The best way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to adopt sufficient hygiene measures and maintain social distancing. This includes washing your hands before and after handling animals. The Centre for Disease Control recommends that people who are sick, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, should restrict their contact with animals (this means avoiding cuddling, kissing or being licked by your pet) until further information about the virus is available. There is no reason to remove pets from their homes if COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household. 

If your pet is unwell, or you have any questions regarding your pet’s health you should always contact us for advice.

Giardia – what is it and how you can prevent it

In recent weeks we’ve noticed an increase in the number of Giardia cases in dogs and cats in our community, so we thought we would put up some information outlining what Giardia is, what it does, and what we can do to prevent it.

Giardia is a parasite which inhabits the intestines of dogs and cats, it exists around the world and can also infect humans. Giardia causes infection when it is consumed (i.e. swallowed), so the most common causes of infection include contact with contaminated water (drinking, swimming or playing), contact with faeces deposited by an infected mammal, rolling in contaminated soil, or consuming contaminated food.

The most common sign of Giardia is diarrhoea, however, affected dogs and cats may also suffer from vomiting, lethargy, stomach pain and have a decreased appetite. Some animals may be asymptomatic and not show any signs of disease. To work out if an animal has Giardia generally a faecal sample is tested.

Although Giardia is a zoonotic parasite, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans, this is quite uncommon. As many animals have the disease with no signs, Giardia is generally most concerning to us when it is causing severe diarrhoea, or in cases where the pet or owner has a depressed immune system e.g. is very young, very old, undergoing chemotherapy, etc.

If treatment is required, certain antibiotics and medications may be prescribed by us.

Preventing Giardia
The easiest and most effective way to prevent a Giardia infection is by maintaining routine hygiene practices, especially thorough handwashing. Other ways to decrease the risk of Giardia for you and your pet are:

  • Handwashing after all animal contact
  • Using gloves to pick up animal faeces
  • Limiting the contact your animal may have with contaminated water sources e.g. rivers or ponds at the park, communal water bowls, etc.
  • Cleaning household surfaces, bedding and toys your pet has access to regularly

Please contact the clinic if you have any questions or concerns.

What do I do if I find kittens?

It’s Spring, the season of adorable baby animals, and that means kittens are going to be out in abundance! Already, we have been inundated with requests from kind members of the public to help with small kittens that have been found in sheds and under houses. If you find yourself with a surprise family in your backyard, we have some tips to help you help them. 

If you find a litter of kittens – become a covert-op spy:

If you find a litter of kittens it’s best not to assume that kittens have been abandoned. Whether it’s to hunt for food, perform perimeter checks, or just for a little break – mother cats will leave their kittens for periods of time during the day. Sometimes, she may even be in the process of moving them to a new location when you stumble across them. She will do this one at a time, and only if she thinks you aren’t looking!

The best thing you can do is observe them from a safe distance (think 15 meters at least), secret agent style. Check every hour or so to see if the mother returns. If you spy her moving her kittens about it’s best she thinks you haven’t seen her, or she’ll likely move them again for safety’s sake. 

Helping the cat-family:

  • If you want to help keep mum and her kittens near, it’s best to leave them untouched, but you can leave some food and water in a safe place out of reach of the litter. If mum is comfortable eating and drinking from a place near her kittens, it’s less likely she’ll have reason to leave.
  • If they seem settled, it’s best to ask around (through Facebook, bulletin boards, the good old fashioned phone book) and find out if the cat and her kittens have owners. 
  • If you know that the cats are unowned, it’s recommended that they are trapped and handed in when the kittens are 3 weeks or older. Get in touch with your local rescue or vet for advice on how to do this in a way that won’t freak them out, or separate the family!
  • Avoid separating the kittens from their mum, as they are entirely dependent on her when they are under 4 weeks old.

What to do if the mother cat has not come back:

It’s uncommon for a mother cat to leave her kittens behind. If you have observed the litter (sneakily and from afar) and you’re certain that the mother isn’t returning, then there is cause for action! Small orphan kittens under 8 weeks can be handed into vet clinics and rescue groups straight away – you can tell how old they are by how they look:

  • Newborns: completely helpless, their eyes are closed and their ears are folded. They can’t stand, eat or toilet on their own, and they also can’t regulate their own heat. 
  • 1 Week: kittens are starting to open their eyes, and to become more aware of their surroundings. Their ears will start to unfold and they will wiggle around on their own a little more. They still depend on regular feeds and toileting from mum. 
  • 2 Weeks: Eyes and ears are open, and you’ll start to hear little mewling sounds coming from them as they discover their surroundings. They have begun kneading, and still can’t retract their little claws. They still depend on regular feeds and toileting from mum. 
  • 3 Weeks: You can tell by now if the kittens are boys or girls, their teeth are coming in and their walking is becoming more confident. They will start toileting themselves, and will be more active and mobile. Some wet food can be eaten.
  • 4 Weeks: Kittens are sturdier, playing with each other, toys and people. 
  • 5 Weeks: Kittens now have a measure of independence, and will be more active – their personalities will begin to show through, they will likely be exploring a lot. They will climb and run and will be interested in solids.
  • 6 Weeks: Kittens are mobile now, can eat cat food – although they will want mum for comfort and some feeds. 

If you need to move kittens who are up to 5 weeks old, they should be placed in a box (good air ventilation is a must) with blankets or towels, ideally with a warm hot water bottle underneath. Abandoned kittens should be handed to your vet or a rescue group who can care for them, because when they are young need constant attention and care.
They are lactose intolerant, and will need specialised formula made to imitate their mother’s milk. They will need regular feeds, every 2 hours if they are under 2 weeks, every 3 hours if they are 3 weeks, and every 4 hours if they are 4-5 weeks!

Helping cats and kittens where you can is a great and heartwarming thing to do – but the best thing you can do is ensure that they won’t end up homeless, and pregnant again. Finding forever homes, plus the cost of vaccinating and desexing kittens is no small task. Rescue groups will ensure that they receive the care they need, and when they are old enough – will ensure that the cats are desexed, microchipped and vaccinated. You can do your part by helping us help the kittens by donating time, money, or supplies to vet clinics, or rescue groups like our favourite cat charity Maneki Neko based right here in Melbourne. 

For info about Maneki Neko, and their upcoming Kitten Shower to raise funds for rearing kittens – click here, or check them out on Facebook.

It’s all in the eyes

Pardon the pun, but you don’t have to be blind to see that your pet’s eyes are very important!

Eye issues can be serious. That’s why, if you notice anything unusual about your pet’s eyes, it’s best to have them checked out ASAP. Conditions like conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, uveitis and glaucoma can be very painful and, if left untreated, can go downhill rapidly.

Things to watch out for:
  • Discharge from one or both eyes
    Mucoid, sticky, yellow or green discharge is not normal. Any one of these may be a sign of infection, or other diseases like dry eye.
  • Squinting or excessive blinking
    Similarly, this may be a sign that your pet is in pain.
  • Increased redness on the white of the eye
    Infections and irritation can lead to an angry looking eye. Likewise glaucoma, an increase of pressure in the eye, can lead to redness.
  • Swollen eyelids or swollen eye
    Infections, trauma, allergies or the presence of a foreign body can cause swelling.
  • Your pet is repeatedly rubbing their eye
    Itchy eyes, a foreign body or any type of irritation can make your pet scratch or rub their eye/s. As a result, this can lead to further trauma (often due to a scratch on the eye) and even corneal ulcers.
  • Your pet’s third eyelid is easily visible
    Or is swollen, or very red. The third eyelid is usually hidden in the corner of the eye, but changes in its appearance may be a sign of: pain, a corneal ulcer, a foreign body or even a condition known as ‘cherry eye’.
  • Your pet is suddenly bumping into furniture or walls or seems disoriented
    This can indicate a change in vision and may be due to the presence of cataracts, glaucoma or retinal diseases. A sudden loss in vision may also occur with high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Behavioural changes
    Eye conditions can be very painful. This can lead to changes in behaviour and demeanour – as well as constant tiredness in your pet. It’s amazing how often (after treatment) fur-parents realise just how much the condition was affecting their pet’s demeanour. 
Other Tips

Above all, resist the temptation to use any leftover ointment or drops (human or animal) that you might have at home on your pet. Some medications can actually make conditions worse – and leave your pet in serious discomfort.
Most importantly, the best thing you can do is bring them in to us, and let us determine the cause of any eye problems. 

If you ever think there’s something ‘not quite right’ please give us a call for advice.

Dental disease stinks

There’s no doubt about it when it comes to dental disease it can really stink! But don’t be tempted to simply turn your head away, as bad breath can be a sign that your furry friend is suffering from dental disease, a sneaky condition that likes to creep up on them.

As the disease progresses, plaque and tartar build up around the teeth leading to an inflammatory condition called gingivitis. Eventually, the gum separates from the tooth and small pockets of bacteria accumulate. This is very painful as nerves are exposed and tooth root abscesses can form.

Dental disease is painful, and can impact the overall health of your pet. If bacteria from dental disease are left untreated, there is a risk that it will enter the bloodstream, affecting your furry friend’s health. Small signals of pain and discomfort can be easy to overlook, but it’s vital that you stay vigilant for the sake of your four legged friend!

Signs of dental disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Redness of the gums
  • Drooling from the mouth
  • Changes to the way your pet eats, or their preferences in their diet 
  • A loss of appetite or weight loss

Sometimes the signs are subtle and you may not notice anything at all. This is why regular check-ups with us are so important as during any routine examination we will always examine your pet’s mouth to rule out the need for further intervention.

How do we treat dental disease?

If we diagnose dental disease early enough, we can implement a treatment plan and slow the progression of this condition.
Dogs and cats with more advanced dental disease need a general anaesthetic to assess the teeth and thoroughly clean the entire mouth, including under the gum line. This helps remove the plaque and bacteria, and treats gingivitis. Radiographs may also be taken to look for hidden problems inside the tooth or beneath the gums. Teeth that are severely diseased and cannot be saved are removed.

Here are our top tips for dental care at home:

  • Make every mouthful count:
    Wet and soft food diets are notorious for allowing plaque and tartar to accumulate.We have excellent diets available that are actually designed to clean the teeth as your pet chews. We can also advise you on the best chews and treats available when it comes to dental care. Not every chew on the market is entirely safe for your pet so it’s best to ask us for advice.
  • Brushing is best:
    Brushing your pet’s teeth is considered gold standard in home care. We have toothbrushes that enable you to get into the hard to reach places. Keep in mind that it can take a few months for your pet to get used to the idea! Daily brushing is recommended (in an ideal world) however a couple of times a week is better than no brushing at all. If you are using a dental paste make sure it pet-friendly (human toothpaste is toxic to pets). We will show you how best to brush your pet’s teeth – just ask us for a demonstration.

If you are worried about your pet’s teeth you should speak to us. With correct dental care, your pet will be happier and live a healthier and longer life without dreaded doggy, or kitty, breath! 

Is your pet overweight?

When it comes to your pet, you might think that carrying a few extra kilos isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, even slightly overweight pets are at an increased risk of developing a host of diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, respiratory disorders and diabetes.

Pets come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no ideal weight for every breed. The key is to know what to look out for so you can identify when your pet is getting a bit portly.

Here are our top tips for determining if your pet is carrying a few too many kilos:

  • Look at your pet from above – an overweight pet will have lost definition of their waist. Instead of an hourglass figure, they may resemble a barrel on legs.  
  • Have a feel of your pet’s ribs – if you can’t feel their ribs easily when you run your hands over their sides, they are hidden under a layer of fat. In some cases, you may be able to feel rolls of fat over the ribs.
  • Can you see their neck? A very obese pet may have neck fat, a pendulous tummy as well as fat deposits over the hips.

The very best way to determine whether your pet is overweight is to drop in for a weight check with us. This will allow us to score your pet’s body condition and, if necessary, start a weight loss plan.

Thankfully, getting your pet to lose weight is easier than you think.

Physical exercise is a must, and it will be crucial to monitor the amount, as well as what type of food you are feeding your pet. Get your family involved in the process too, get them measuring the correct scoops of food per feeding, and stop them sneaking scraps from the dinner table to the pampered pet!

It’s also easy to overdo the treats at home and you might not be aware just how much of an impact these treats are having on your pet’s weight. Keep these calorie translator facts in mind when you are having trouble saying ‘no’ to those adorable eyes:

For the average 5kg cat: a glass of milk is equivalent to a human eating 3 hamburgers! (not to mention the fact that cats can’t digest the lactose in cow’s milk)

For a 10kg dog: a 30g piece of cheese is equivalent to a human eating 1.5 hamburgers!

The best news is, we have diets available that will actually help your pet lose weight, including one to increase your pet’s metabolic rate. We are happy to say that many of our patients have had great success with these so you should ask us for more information.

Helping your pet lose weight is easier than you think and we will help support you and your pet through the process.

The Christmas Treats That Aren’t Pet-Friendly

In December, our Bulleen vet sees a lot of patients with tummy upsets which can often be traced back to too many rich festive foods. Ideally, pets should not ever be fed processed foods as their stomachs have not evolved to digest them and so eating them often leads to diarrhoea and/or vomiting.

 

However, there are some festive ingredients (and inedible) which can cause more serious health issues including:

  • Candy wrappers/toothpicks/skewers: If something smells good, your pet will eat it, even if it’s not edible. These are just some of the things that can get swallowed and stuck in your pet’s oesophagus or intestines.
  • Poinsettias: These traditional flowers are toxic to dogs and cats, so keep them out of reach or out of the house altogether if your pet likes to nibble on plants.
  • Raw or undercooked meats: The bacteria in raw or undercooked meat makes pets sick too! If you do give your pet some meat over the festive season, it should be boneless and without seasoning- lean cuts like chicken breast are ideal.
  • Dough: Once ingested, the raw dough will continue to rise in your pet’s stomach and it can cause life-threatening bloat or alcohol poisoning (from the yeast).
  • Alcohol, tea and coffee: Whilst tea leaves and coffee are only likely to cause a stomach upset, alcohol is toxic to pets and can be lethal even in small amounts.
  • Sage: Toxic to cats, this herb can cause central nervous problems.

Has your pet consumed any of the above? We recommend you book an appointment with our Bulleen vet clinic immediately.

Protecting Your Pets From The Sun

During summer, most of our pet patients visit our Templestowe veterinary clinic because they have been overexposed to the harsh sun. In this blog, we are explaining the different health consequences that this exposure can have on your pet. We’ve also put together a quick 5-step grooming guide for owners to care for their pets during summer.

Sunburn

Pets can get sunburnt too! Whilst any breed of animal can get sunburnt, pets with white or lightly pigmented hair are particularly susceptible. Sun damage usually occurs where your pet’s hair coat is at its thinnest. For cats and rabbits, sunburn is most common on the tips of the ears, eyelids and noses; for dogs, sunburn is most common on muzzles, armpits, abdomens and groins.

Like humans, sunburnt pets will have skin that looks red and flaky. Longer term sun damage shows up as thickened or scarred skin with ulceration and crusting. This skin is also susceptible to secondary bacterial infections and sun cancers may also develop.

 

How to protect your pet from the sun – slip, slop, shade

  • If you have an all-white or light coloured dog, or they have a thin coat, invest in sun-protective clothing. (Yes, they make sun shirts for pets!) Just make sure they don’t overheat in them.
  • Use a pet-specific sunscreen (available in our East Kew veterinary clinic) to ward off sunburn. Apply as directed to vulnerable areas twice a day.
  • Try to keep your pets out of the sun between 10am and 4pm. UV rays are at their strongest between these times so keep them in a well-shaded area of your yard or inside under the air con.

 

Pad burn

Did you know: When the air temperature is 25°C, the temperature of asphalt in the sun is 51°C. You can fry an egg at 55°C so imagine what that feels like on your dog’s feet!

The pads of your dog’s feet are as thick as the skin on the soles of your own feet, so walking your dog on surfaces like asphalt, concrete and brick during the summer months can burn the skin in as little as 60 seconds.

The best way to test if the pavement is too hot for walking your dog is to press your own hand onto the surface for 7-8 seconds. If it’s uncomfortable for you, then it will be uncomfortable for your dog.

Other summer walking tips to keep in mind:

  • Walk your dog in the morning rather than the evening, as asphalt retains heat.
  • Walk on dirt or grass paths which don’t soak up the heat at the same rate.
  • Consider investing in protective booties for your dog.

 

Our summer grooming guide

  1. Get your dog a summer cut but make sure they are not shaved all the way down to the skin as this makes them susceptible to sunburn.
  2. Cats typically do not need to be shaved unless they are unable to groom themselves.
  3. Bathe your dog once every few weeks using pet-friendly shampoo. Bathing more often or with products meant for humans can cause irritation.
  4. Check in between your dog’s paw pads after they have been playing outdoors – burrs and grass seeds can work their way into the skin and cause irritation or infection.
  5. Summer is flea and tick season! Make sure your pet is up to date with their parasite control and chat with your vet if you’re planning on taking your pet to the beach (other parts of Victoria and Australia are home to different kinds of parasites).

Vets on Parker is a Templestowe veterinary clinic that is dedicated to supporting our community with helpful veterinary advice and services. Please don’t hesitate to book an appointment at our clinic today!

Pet First Aid 101: Heatstroke

As we head into summer, it’s important to know the risks that the hot weather will present to your cat, dog or pocket pet. The main risk is heatstroke – a life-threatening condition that can escalate in a matter of minutes. In today’s blog, our trusted vet in Templestowe has put together a guide for everything you need to know about heatstroke so you can help your pet avoid the deadly consequences.

 

Know why heatstroke occurs

At our vet clinic in Templestowe, the number one heatstroke-related question we get asked is, “Why does it happen?”

Heatstroke occurs because our cats, dogs and pocket pets cannot cool down their bodies in the same way that we can, as they do not have as many sweat glands as we do. In order to compensate, they can often start to pant, but this only works to a certain extent before they begin to overheat. Once they start overheating, they can experience the symptoms of heatstroke, which is a condition that can be fatal.

 

Know how to help prevent heatstroke

The best way to help your pet with heatstroke is to prevent it altogether. You can help prevent heatstroke in the following ways:

  • Avoid exercising your pet or allowing them to walk on heat-retentive surfaces (such as sand or asphalt) in the hot weather
  • Put a wet towel inside your pocket pet’s cage for them to lie on, and hang another wet cloth on the side of the cage so that the passing breeze will be cooler
  • Never ever leave your pet in the car – in just 20 minutes on a 21°C day, your dog can overheat.

 

Know the symptoms of heatstroke

The main symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Rapid panting and salivation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Agitation
  • Collapsing
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Muscle tremors and/or seizures.

 

Know a vet in Templestowe that you can contact

The first thing you should do if you notice that your pet is suffering from any of the above symptoms is call a vet in Templestowe and let them know your pet is experiencing a medical emergency.

The next few things you do are crucial to helping your pet cool down in the meantime:

  • Immediately remove your pet from the hot environment
  • Spray or apply cool (not cold) water on your pet and then use a fan to cool down your pet quickly
  • Use a wet cloth to wet the area around your pet.

Vets on Parker is a vet in Templestowe that has been trusted by pet owners for over 30 years. If you have noticed that your pet is displaying any signs of heatstroke, we urge you to get in touch with us immediately on (03) 9850 1355.

Animal and Child Safety

Many children love animals and can develop close bonds with their pets. This, in turn, can help the child learn important social skills such as empathy, respect for others and patience. However, if an animal feels trapped, frightened or threatened, even the most docile pets will do everything they can to make a perceived threat go away. As a parent, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your family pet and your child develop a harmonious and safe relationship. In this blog, we look at the four basic steps of animal and child safety.

  1. Teach your child how to be safe around pets

Safe behaviour around animals as well as the knowing the signs of an upset animal are both valuable skills which can be taught very early on.

Dogs

Children should be taught:

  • To leave sleeping and eating dogs alone
  • To recognise the signs of an aggressive or upset dog (lifted lips, growling, staring, raised hair)
  • To ask pet owners for permission before interacting with a new dog
  • When approached by an unfamiliar dog, to stand completely still ‘like a tree’ with arms by their sides, hands in a fist, and not to make eye contact
  • To pat a dog gently along the back and sides
  • To avoid roughhousing
  • To never get between two fighting dogs

Cats

Children should be taught

  • To recognise the signs of an upset cat (swishing tail, raised hair, hissing, swiping)
  • To leave sleeping and eating cats alone
  • To pat rather than pick up the cat

Birds

Children should be taught:

  • To never tap the cage or stick objects in it

Rabbits/mice/guinea pigs

Children should be taught:

  • To hold the pet securely but gently
  • Not to pull hair or drop the animal from a height
  • Not to rattle or stick things into the cage
  1. Reinforce basic hygiene around animals

Good hygiene should be practised around pets at every age. Teach your children to wash their hands with soap every time they touch a pet, it’s food or it’s bedding. Children should be discouraged from going near the litter box or dog poo and parents should regularly clean cages or toileting areas to prevent the spread of bacteria.

  1. Supervise children under the age of five 

In Australia, children five years old and younger are the group most likely to sustain injuries from pets (particularly dogs) so during these first five years, children should always be supervised when around a dog or separated from them if supervision is not possible. Other supervision tips to keep in mind are:

  • With birds, it’s best if you hold the bird and have your young child pat it
  • Try to handle rabbits/mice and guinea pigs at least 15 minutes a day so the animal gets used to being held and is less likely to scratch or bite
  • Keep cages in a common area so you can supervise all interactions
  1. Take precautions to ensure your pet is healthy and well trained

Make sure your family pet is up to date with all of their vaccinations and parasite treatments as some parasites are transferable to humans. In addition to this, dogs who regularly interact with children should have basic obedience training and be able to follow simple commands.

 

Vets on Parker is a family-focused veterinary clinic in Templestowe dedicated to ensuring your pet has the best possible quality of life. Book an appointment online or call us on (03) 9850 1355.