Warm weather hazards

We all love spending time outdoors on these long summer days, and our pets are no exception! The increased activity is great for their mental and physical health. To prevent some common warm-weather hazards from raining on your pet’s parade, follow these summer safety tips!

Heat stress
In hot weather, cats and dogs can be at risk of dangerous overheating. This can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition where your pet goes into a cardiovascular shock state, putting them at risk of brain, kidney, liver or heart damage.

Certain pets may be at more risk of overheating, due to reduced ability to cool themselves naturally. These include snub-nosed pets, pets with thick coats, overweight animals and animals with pre-existing respiratory issues. 

To protect your pet from overheating in hot weather:

  • Ensure they always have access to shade and cool water.
  • Only exercise your pet in the cooler early morning and evening, and keep exercise light.
  • Stop exercising your pet if they are panting heavily.
  • Never leave your pet in a car unless the air-conditioning is running and they have adult supervision.
  • On hot (over 28°C) or very humid days, keep your pet indoors with a fan or air-conditioning (especially important for at-risk pets).

Water safety
If you’re bringing your dog along for some fun water activities, it’s important to follow basic water safety guidelines as you would for a young child. Make sure your pet can only access pools under adult supervision. Not every dog is automatically a competent swimmer, so if your dog doesn’t have prior water experience, fit them with a dog life jacket, and introduce them to the water slowly. And remember, swimming is hard work! Help your dog out of the water promptly for a rest if they seem tired or are panting heavily.

Sun safety
Pets can get sunburnt just like us, particularly those with areas of pink skin on their noses, ears or bellies. Repeated sun damage can lead to nasty skin cancers, so regular protection against sunburn is best. In summer, prevent at-risk pets from sunbathing between 9:30 am – 4:00 pm. If they’re going to be outside during these hours, regularly apply a pet-safe sunscreen.

Grass seeds
From spring to summer, the grasslands in suburban and rural areas produce copious amounts of grass seeds. Some of these seeds are very sharp with backwards-facing barbs, which can get caught in your pet’s fur and embed painfully into their eyes, ears, paws or skin. From there, the seeds can migrate surprisingly deeply and cause infection. Pets may require surgical removal of seeds under anaesthetic, and sometimes  in rare occasions with specialist CT or MRI to ascertain the location of particularly deep seeds. (including ones that migrate into the abdomen and brain!)

Help prevent issues by keeping your pet well-groomed during spring and summer, with weekly brushing to remove excess undercoat, and trimmed fur around their face, ears and paws.

Provided your pet safely avoids these warm weather hazards, we’re sure they’re going to love joining their favourite person (you!) for some fun summertime activities.

Holidaying with your pet

Holidaying with your pet

Is your pet joining you for a Christmas holiday trip? Here are some basic pet travel guidelines to keep everyone merry!

Making a list and checking it twice

  • Pets away from home can easily get disoriented and lost. Before you travel, check that your pet’s microchip registration details are up-to-date. If you are unsure, use petaddress.com.au to find which registry your pet is registered with and then visit the website. Click on the owner link and type in your friends microchip number. It’s safest to make sure your pet is also wearing an ID tag or collar marked with your best contact number. 
  • Think about everything your pet will need for the trip. This often includes a secure carrier or collar/harness and lead, plus bowls, your pet’s regular food, some familiar comfortable bedding and a few “keep busy” toys or treats. If you’re bringing your cat, don’t forget to pack cat litter and a tray. For dogs, bring a decent supply of poo bags.
  • If you know your pet gets sick or stressed on car journeys, please contact us to discuss the safest options for relief medications. Mildly anxious pets may benefit from starting on a calming natural supplement like Zylkene several days prior to travel.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient supply of any regular medication your pet takes and that they’re up-to-date with parasite prevention and vaccinations.
  • If you’re travelling up the east coast of Australia make sure your pet is on a tick preventative. Ticks have travelled as far down as the coast of Victoria and are easily picked up by pets in grass and around water sources.

For the sleigh ride

  • Encourage your pet to go to the toilet before starting your journey, so they’re more likely to rest comfortably. It’s best to avoid giving your cat or dog a large meal for several hours prior to travel to reduce the potential for car-sickness.
  • 15 minutes prior to travel, apply a calming pheromone spray onto your pet’s travel bedding. For pheromone sprays, use: Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats. This can help them to feel secure during the upheaval of their normal environment and routine. Collars of these products are also available and last for one month once applied.
  • For everyone’s safety, ensure your pet is properly secured in the car. For most dogs, the safest option is usually restraint on the back seat using a safety-tested car harness and seatbelt attachment system. For cats or small dogs, it’s best to use a properly-secured travel crate. Check that the crate is large enough for your pet to stand up and lie down in comfortably, and has good airflow to prevent overheating.
  • Every two hours, stop to offer your pet some water and take dogs for a toileting walk. For long trips with a cat, it’s best to plan in advance for toileting stops at least every four hours, somewhere that you can set up a litter tray for them in a safe, confined area. Cats in unfamiliar environments may be too worried to pass urine for up to twelve hours, but it’s best to offer opportunities all the same.

If you have any concerns about taking your pet on holiday, please don’t hesitate to phone our friendly team for advice.

Ditch the itch

20% off Hill’s skin and food sensitive diets! For the months of October and November 2020, we are offering 20% off Hill’s skin and food sensitive diet range for dogs and cats. Hill’s nutritionists and veterinarians developed the Derm Defense, z/d and d/d food ranges especially to support pets with skin and food sensitivities. Offer ends November 30. If you think your pet is suffering from itchy skin, call us or make a booking online. If your pet does require a special diet for a skin allergy, we will be able to recommend the best Hill’s product for your pet’s particular condition. 

Itchy skin can cause absolute chaos and really affect your pet’s quality of life. One of the most common and frustrating ‘itchy skin’ conditions we see in pets is atopic dermatitis. This inflammatory condition is caused by a reaction to allergens in the environment (a bit like the common triggers of asthma and hay fever in humans). It is particularly troublesome in spring and summer but can occur all year round. 

These irritants can cause dogs to bite, lick or scratch themselves with their legs, and cats to over-groom (constantly lick) certain areas, causing hair loss. This itchiness can be excruciatingly annoying for your pet, and if left untreated can quickly lead to trauma of the skin and secondary skin infections. 

Allergens that might cause a problem include: grasses, trees, plant pollen, dust mites, insects, and moulds. The signs associated with itchy skin generally consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, biting, and licking. 

Diagnosis and management of itchy skin relies on a good history of your pet’s symptoms and a thorough physical examination. It is essential that all potential parasitic causes and food allergies are ruled out. Your pet may also undergo further allergy testing and these results can be used to formulate a unique desensitising allergy vaccine.

The good news is that there are some exciting new immunotherapy drugs available that have minimal side effects, and can greatly improve your dog’s comfort and quality of life. 

Our top skin care tips for your pet

When it comes to managing the itchy pet, there is no magic pill. It’s all about prevention of parasites and taking action before things get out of control. Here are our top tips for healthy skin:

  1. Be vigilant with flea treatment all year round for all pets in your family. Fleas are the major cause of an itchy pet and regular use of a 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, including those that provide protection for a few months at a time.
  1. A premium diet balanced 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.
  1. Always wash your dog in pet-approved shampoo and conditioner. A product containing ceramides can help rebuild the epidermal barrier and reduce allergen exposure – ask us for more information.
  1. Medication to help reduce the immune system’s response to the allergen can greatly reduce an itch and these can be used during flare-ups and for ongoing management – we can provide you with more information so chat with us about what’s suitable for your pet.
  1. And finally, 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 have an itchy pet at your house it is best arrange an appointment with us. We will help keep your pet happy, healthy and comfortable.

A little bit of wee goes a long way

A urine test is a simple and effective method for us to check the health of your pet’s urinary system. A urine test provides a large amount of information on the health of your pet and can be helpful in identifying conditions such as bladder stones and obstructions, kidney disease, diabetes, urinary tract infections, and other metabolic conditions. In this blog, we look at two conditions which can be detected with testing a urine sample and how you can collect a sample from your pet at home.  

Kidney disease

Just like humans, our pets have kidneys too. The role of the kidneys is to:

  • Filter out waste from the blood to produce urine.
  • Maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes within the body.
  • Produce hormones and enzymes that help regulate various metabolic functions throughout the body. 

When there is a problem with any aspect of the kidneys’ function, this is referred to as kidney disease or renal failure. 

A urine test, combined with a blood test, can measure different enzymes and substances in the urine and blood to determine if the kidneys are functioning normally. Further diagnostic tests may often also be indicated, including imaging (x-rays or ultrasound), blood pressure measurement and further blood tests. 

Bladder stones and obstructions 

Bladder stones are rock-like accumulations of minerals which can form in the bladder. The bladder stones can occur as a few larger stones or multiple smaller stones. The smaller stones can sometimes block the urethra, which is the outflow tube from the bladder, causing pain or difficulty with urination. 

If the bladder cannot empty urine, not only is this painful for the pet, but the toxic products that are normally excreted out of the body in urine build up in the bloodstream and can result in kidney damage and other problems. A blocked bladder is also at risk of rupturing, which is painful and results in urine leaking into the abdominal cavity causing disease.

Depending on their size, number and location, bladder stones can often be diagnosed via a combination of urine tests, physical examination and imaging (x-rays). 

How to collect a urine sample

If you notice a change in your pet’s urination, such as discoloured urine or increased frequency of urination, then we recommend booking them in for a health check and a urinalysis.

You can even collect a urine sample on the day of the appointment to help save time.

With dogs, collecting a urine sample is usually a matter of waiting until they go to urinate, and then catching a sample of the urine into a clean and dry container such as a plastic bowl or jar. Once the sample is collected, you can bring it into the vet hospital along with your pet for testing.

For cats, collecting a urine sample can be a bit trickier. If your cat uses a plastic litter tray, you can remove the cat litter and replace it with a non-absorbent crystal litter (available from the clinic), and then when the cat urinates you can tip a small amount of urine from the tray into a clean plastic container. 

If you collect the sample prior to your appointment please refrigerate it until your visit to help preserve the sample.

If you’re unable to collect a urine sample from your cat at home one of our vets will be able to collect it during the consult, provided your feline friend hasn’t visited the tray just prior. We can sometimes palpate and express a cat’s bladder to collect a urine sample. If this is not possible, we may consider using a technique called cystocentesis, which involves collecting a urine sample from the bladder by passing a needle through the abdomen – we can explain this procedure in more detail if it is recommended. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly veterinary team.

Taking care of teeth at home

The development of dental disease in pets can be affected by the animal’s breed, oral anatomy, diet and age. Dental disease is one of the most common problems we see in veterinary practice and it needs to be managed with a multi-targeted approach. Regular check-ups with the vet will help to identify any dental issues your pet might be hiding, and there are several important things you can do at home to help your pet’s teeth stay healthy.

What causes dental disease?

When particles of food and bacteria accumulate along the gum line, they combine with saliva to form plaque. If this plaque builds up, then tartar and bacteria accumulate too. The presence of this tartar and bacteria leads to inflammation around the gum line, a condition known as gingivitis.

As dental disease progresses, teeth can become eroded and the gum tissue infected. Once this happens, your pet can suffer from bone and tissue damage, and wobbly, rotten teeth. These changes can be severely painful and can significantly affect your pet’s quality of life.

Sometimes, even with all the best dental prevention measures in place, your pet may still need a dental procedure at some point. An excellent example of this is a dog who fractures a tooth chewing on something! The fractured tooth needs to be assessed by the vet and is usually extracted, as exposure of the tooth nerves can be painful and also lead to infection.

Brushing is best!

Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is considered gold standard in-home care. Keep in mind that it may take some time for your pet to get used to the idea, however even if you only manage to do this occasionally, it is better than no brushing at all. If you are using a dental toothpaste, make sure it is pet-friendly (human toothpaste is toxic to pets). Ask us for a tooth brushing demonstration!

Make every mouthful count

We have excellent dental diets available designed to help clean your pet’s teeth as they chew. Speak to our friendly team for more information about the best diet to feed your pet.

Signs of dental disease in dogs and cats:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown staining on the teeth
  • Redness of the gums around the teeth
  • Bleeding gums or excessive drooling
  • A loss of appetite or weight loss

What to do if you think your pet has dental disease

Dental disease is painful and can impact the overall health of your pet as the bacteria enter the bloodstream and make their way around your pet’s body.

If we diagnose the dental disease early enough, we can implement a treatment plan and slow the progression of this condition. Correct management of dental disease means your pet will lead a happier and healthier life and, in most cases, be less likely to need major dental procedures during their life, so it’s vitally important to keep an eye out for dental disease in your pet. 

We strongly recommend getting your pet in for a dental check-up if you haven’t done so in the past 12 months. Ask us for further advice on dental disease prevention for your pet.

Understanding canine cruciate ligament disease

“Oh no! My dog isn’t a footballer but could he have just ‘done his knee?” 

One of the most common orthopedic conditions we see in dogs is cranial cruciate ligament disease, which is actually very similar to the injury seen in humans on the sporting field – rupture of the “ACL”. Cranial cruciate ligament disease is painful, will lead to arthritis and, if not treated correctly, can severely affect your dog’s quality of life. 

The cranial cruciate ligament plays a vital role in stabilising the knee (stifle) joint. It connects the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone) and is intricately associated with a ‘cartilage-like’ structure known as the meniscus. This meniscus plays a critical role in shock absorption in the stifle and is frequently damaged when the cranial cruciate ligament is injured.  

Occasionally dogs will ‘snap’ the ligament due to overextension of the stifle joint. An example of this may be when a dog jumps from a height or turns quickly. The dog will present their injured hind leg, bearing no weight on it. Cranial cruciate ligament disease is more commonly a progressive and degenerative condition, resulting from stretching and partial tears of the ligament over time. As the disease progresses, there is a thickening of the joint and the development of osteoarthritis. The changes in the joint commonly lead to a complete rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament and damage to the meniscus. These dogs typically have a history of intermittent lameness, thickening of the joint and wasting of the thigh muscles. 

Cranial cruciate disease can occur in any breed of dog but is seen most commonly in large breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Boxers and Rottweilers. Alarmingly, approximately 50-70% of patients will eventually end up with cranial cruciate ligament disease in both stifle joints. 

Examination of a dog under sedation or general anaesthetic will help diagnose the condition. If the ligament is damaged, we will be able to detect instability in the stifle. Radiographs will also reveal swelling within the stifle joint as well as signs of osteoarthritis.

If there is instability within the stifle joint, surgery is usually the best option for treatment. Some small dogs may respond to conservative treatment, such as rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication but may still develop severe arthritis in the future. 

There are different surgical techniques for cranial cruciate ligament repair – the most common methods are a TPLO (tibial plateau levelling osteotomy) or extracapsular stabilisation procedure. If your dog ruptures their cruciate ligament, we will be able to give you more information on the most suitable type of surgery based on your dog’s medical history, size and the health of their other joints. 

If you are ever worried about your pet please call us for advice. We are always here to help. 

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.

Kidney disease can be thirsty work

If your pet is thirstier than usual it could be a sign of kidney disease. The increase in thirst may only be subtle but if you find yourself filling up the water bowl more regularly or even notice your pet drinking from the shower recess, you should arrange a check-up with us.

When it comes to the kidneys and exactly how they work things are pretty complex. Having said that, their basic role is to work out how much water should be conserved in the body. They do this using thousands of little factories called ‘nephrons’. Once damaged or destroyed, nephrons do not function properly. As a result, the body doesn’t conserve enough water so your pet will need to drink more to stay hydrated.

Toxins, drugs, diseases or even just old age can harm the nephrons. The alarming thing is, your pet may not show any signs or any changes on routine blood tests until 75% of these nephrons are damaged. Unfortunately, nephrons do not regenerate.

There are two types of kidney disease (also known as renal disease) that can affect your pet. The chronic form of kidney disease is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ as it can sneak up on your pet and signs may be hard to notice. In other cases, kidney disease can come on quickly (classified as acute kidney disease) and might occur following the kidneys being exposed to a toxin or a certain drug for example.

Other than increased thirst, signs of kidney disease might include:

  • increased urination
  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • dehydration
  • mouth ulcers

There are other diseases that will present with similar signs to kidney disease (such as diabetes) so if there are ever any changes in your pet’s daily habits we need to investigate further. Measuring your pet’s water intake over 24-hours and bringing us a morning urine sample are two things you can do at home to get the investigation process started. A blood test, urine test and a measure of your pet’s blood pressure may then be necessary.

The good news is that there is a new blood test available that can help detect kidney disease earlier than ever before. The result of this blood test is always interpreted with the results of a urine test, routine kidney blood tests and a blood pressure check to help stage the disease and decide what treatment if any is necessary.

If we detect that your pet’s kidneys are not working properly, the earlier we initiate treatment the better. Treatment may include diet modification and even medication that can help reduce protein loss through the kidneys. This can all help slow the progression of this insidious disease.

It’s best to arrange an appointment with us as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your pet’s thirst, urination or any other daily habits. Subtle changes can be an indication of an underlying disease and early intervention is going to help your pet live a happier and healthier life.

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!