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.

A Hearty Topic


As February features its heart-focussed Valentine’s Day, we thought that this month would be the perfect time to talk about the heart that matters most: your pet’s.


When it comes to diseases of the heart, knowing what to watch out for really makes a difference. Early detection of heart disease means that medical treatment is able to get underway sooner, which can help your pet to live a longer and healthier life.

Most signs of heart disease are related to a decrease in the function of the heart. The signs, however, can be very subtle and often difficult to detect.


What to look out for:

+ Coughing

+ Reluctance to exercise or tiring easily on walks

+ Laboured or fast breathing

+ Weakness or fainting from exercise

+ An enlarged abdomen

+ Weight loss or poor appetite


What can WE do?

We always listen to your pet’s heart. This physical examination allows us to detect any changes to the heart, as early as possible. Sometimes we might hear a murmur (abnormal blood flow) or an arrhythmia (irregular rhythm). If we do detect a murmur or arrhythmia, we may perform further tests such as an ultrasound, an ECG or X-rays.

Thankfully, we have a number of medications at the ready to improve your pet’s heart function, if needed.


What can YOU do?

If we diagnose your pet with heart disease, you may be asked to keep a record of their SRR. The SRR is an acronym for your pet’s sleeping respiratory rate. Taking record of the SRR is a powerful tool and can be implemented in your own home. The records can help to detect, or improve the monitoring of, left-sided congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs and cats.

Many of the common heart diseases lead to CHF. When the pressure in the top left heart chamber increases, and blood backs up into vessels within the lung, it results in the blood accumulating in the lungs. This fluid is the cause of the increase in your pet’s respiratory rate.


How to monitor the sleeping respiratory rate

The SRR should be measured when your pet is asleep in their usual environment. 

Repeat the measuring over 2-3 days, then ongoing once or twice a week.

The normal SRR in cats and dogs is often in the high teens or low 20s, at around less than 30 breaths per minute.


When to seek veterinary advice?

If your pet’s SRR is consistently greater than 30 breaths per minute, they could be at high risk of developing congestive heart failure. This means that veterinary advice needs to be sought as soon as possible.

It’s important to note that an elevated SRR can at times be caused by high blood pressure, pain, anaemia, pneumonia, heat stress or even a fever – so a veterinary check-up is always urged.

If you are at all concerned about your pet’s heart health, call us today 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.

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.

Itchy and scratchy

You don’t need us to tell you that an episode of itchy and scratchy can be extremely frustrating for your pet. If the cycle of itch, scratch, rub and lick it continues, it can leave your pet feeling uncomfortable, frustrated and downright miserable. Not to mention the need for ongoing veterinary visits and medication!

A common ‘itchy skin’ condition we see in dogs is atopic dermatitis.
This inflammatory disease is caused by a reaction to allergens in the environment, similar to the common triggers of asthma and hayfever in humans. It is particularly troublesome in Spring and Summer but can occur all year round.

Allergens that can cause a problem include: 
  • Grasses
  • Trees
  • Plant pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Insects
  • Moulds

The signs associated with atopic dermatitis generally consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, biting, and licking. They usually appear in dogs between the ages of 1 and 6 years old.

Common sites your dog may be itchy:
  • Ears (recurrent ear infections are common)
  • The feet and in between the toes
  • The armpits
  • The groin and anal glands
  • Around the eyes

Diagnosis and management of atopic dermatitis relies on a thorough history of your dog’s symptoms and a thorough physical examination. It is essential that all potential parasitic causes (such as the common the flea) and food allergies are ruled out.
Your dog may also undergo further allergy testing and these results can be used to formulate a unique desensitising allergy vaccine.

When it comes to managing the itchy pet, there is, unfortunately, no magic pill that cures all cases. It’s all about prevention, careful management and taking action before things get out of control.
The good news is that there are drugs available that can greatly improve your dog’s comfort and we can discuss these with you.

There are even a few things you can do at home to help your pet stay itch free:
  • Be vigilant with flea prevention all year round for all pets in your family.
    Fleas are THE major cause of an itchy pet and consistent use of flea treatment is easier and cheaper than trying to get rid of the itch. Ask us for the best flea treatment available for your pet.
  • A premium balanced diet is essential to keep your pet’s skin and coat in top shape. This will provide a good barrier against potential allergens – ask us for a recommendation.
  • Always wash your dog in pet-approved shampoo and conditioner. A product containing ceramides can help rebuild the epidermal barrier and reduce allergen exposure.
  • Medication to help reduce the immune system’s response to the allergen can greatly reduce an itch, and can be used both during flare-ups and for ongoing management – chat with us to find out what’s suitable for your pet.
  • If you notice your pet is itching, licking, biting, or rubbing, you should arrange a check-up with us ASAP. The sooner we settle the itch, the less likely your pet is to cause self-trauma and secondary skin infections.
If you would like more information about skin disease and your dog we are on hand to provide you with the best help and 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.

3 Dog Weight Management Tips For The New Year

What is your New Year’s resolution? For many of us, it’s weight loss. While our personal health is incredibly important, it is not every day that we take our dog’s weight into consideration too. In fact, approximately 40% of dogs in Australia are overweight or obese, and many pet owners don’t even know it! Therefore, today the vets at our Templestowe veterinary clinic are sharing some key tips for keeping your dog at a healthy weight in the coming year.

 

3 ways to check if your pet is overweight

It is common to check whether your dog is overweight in the following ways:

  • Checking from above: If your dog is at a healthy weight, his or her body shape should represent an hourglass.
  • Checking your pet’s ribs: You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs quite easily at a healthy weight. To correctly feel for ribs, place your thumbs on your dog’s backbone and spread your hands across the ribcage.
  • Checking from the side at eye level: Healthy dogs will have their abdomens tucked behind their ribcages.

 

3 tips for pet weight management

The first thing you should do if you notice your dog is overweight is book a visit to our Templestowe veterinary clinic. Upon assessing your pet, our vets will be able to create a weight management plan that is perfectly suited to the needs of your dog. We will also be able to monitor your dog’s health and track his or her weight loss progress.

After you visit a vet, there are some things you can do at home to help manage your dog’s weight, including:

  1. Feeding your dog more vegetables (typically we recommend that you replace a third of your dog’s regular kibble with healthy veggies).
  2. Exercising your dog more frequently (aim for around 30 minutes per day). Remember: this will help you achieve your New Year’s resolution, too!
  3. Reducing your dog’s calorie intake by reducing portion size. Your vet will be able to advise you on the optimal portion size for your dog. As a pet owner, you can ensure this portion is enforced by carefully measuring your dog’s food before serving.

 

Book an appointment at our Templestowe veterinary clinic

At Vets on Parker, we are passionate about your pet’s health. Our Templestowe veterinary clinic offers a range of veterinary services that benefit the local community of pets and pet owners, including weight management planning.

To find out more about our weight management services for pets, get in touch with us at (03) 9850 1355 or book an appointment at our Templestowe veterinary clinic today.

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!