April issue

April issue
April issue

Friday, 26 December 2008

What's your best tip?

Have you go something in your cupboard that you swear by? Is there something someone has recommended to you that has really impressed you?
For example, what's your best tip for a dog with an upset tum?
Have you ever used Thorn-it? If so, what for? Magnetic collars? Stumbled on a great treat?
Why not share you top tips here!
I'll kick it off with one of mine...
Crazy Dog Grooming spray.
Before I discovered I lived just around the corner from the dog groomer of the year, I used to buy Crazy Dog Grooming spray in bulk! This magical spray seemed to make the comb fly through the knots.
What's your best buy and why?
Beverley, Editor

There's a lavender-based horse detangler by NAF Care that's stunning for
dogs, btw - and much better value than any dog detangler. TH Whites sell it
- £7.50 for a big spray bottle. We use it to give us a fighting chance to
de-burr the dogs during the SPBS (Salisbury Plain Velcro Season).
Jemima Harrison

What’s your best tip?
My Labrador has always been a great one for rolling in fox muck. It is not just the shoulder but the whole dog. Not only does she always seem to choose a cold day when I would not be choosing to bath her, but you can also guarantee that time is in short supply with other pressing tasks! Not only is it unpleasant aesthetically, but the smell is simply awful! There is also the risk of sarcoptic mange, which Pippin has had once.
The best way to eliminate the smell, which seems to linger even after thoroughly bathing, is to rub in tomato ketchup. Go for the cheapest you can find, and apply it liberally. Honestly, it is very effective (thankfully!).
Alison Logan, vet

Cavaliers and wet heads

I have owned two male Welsh Springer Spaniels who both had a peculiar habit that I've never had explained. On off-lead walks, whenever we encountered a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, both dogs would pee on these little dogs heads. It was most embarrassing.
Neither dog was alive when the other was so it wasn't learned behaviour.
Never happened when we met any other breed of dog - probably happened 20 plus times over many years.
Any clues?
Graham Smith, Chobham, Surrey

Pondering grapes

We are all meant to know that real dark chocolate is bad for dogs and that grapes are, too. But as I was eating a grape this morning I started to wonder what it is that is so different about us and dogs that makes grapes healthy for us but deadly for them. We're both omnivores, but exactly how do they differ from us digestion-wise? There are probably many things they can eat that would make us ill so we must differ in a few ways - just wondering anyone out there know exactly how?
Beverley Cuddy, Dogs Today

I first learnt about the dangers of fruits from the woody vine Vitis vinifens and their dried derivatives (grapes, raisins, sultanas) as a throw-away comment from the lecturer on a day course in August 2004. We were all veterinary surgeons in first opinion small animal practice, and none of us there was aware of there being a problem, which has only really come to light over the past ten years or so. Like you, I have wondered just why dogs should develop acute renal (kidney) failure from eating grapes, raisins and sultanas, and have not managed to find an explanation anywhere.
The main problem is that the source of the intoxication has not yet been identified and therefore a mechanism of action cannot be formulated. It does seem that a bigger quantity of grapes can be eaten than of raisins before signs of intoxication develop, suggesting that the toxin is more concentrated, present at a higher level, in raisins. A bunch of grapes has been said to be equivalent to a small snack size box of raisins, for example.
There are also conflicting reports on the amount of grapes or raisins which poses a toxic threat. I suspect this relates to the fact that the owner often has no idea how many have been eaten, unless a bunch of grapes has patently gone missing which no human has owned up to eating. This is especially the case if the patient has been helping himself direct from the vine. It does also make one wonder whether the toxic component occurs at highly variable levels, or needs another contributing factor present.
My Lab Pippin is notorious for eating anything and everything, and especially fruit-wise. She will delicately pick herself blackberries from the hedgerow, and was eating plums from the ground in our garden as a puppy if I did not manage to remove them first, which gave me many sleepless nights. I did often see her spitting out the stones, but otherwise they simply passed through!
We do have three grape vines in the garden, which we planted when we moved here in 1992 and hence before the intoxication problem had become apparent. In the last two years, there have been bunches of grapes within her reach. I no longer wait for them to ripen but pick them as soon as I find them because I did catch her helping herself to a surreptitious snack. The following day, there were grape skins in her faeces but no other signs of ill health. Does this mean that the toxin is not present in our grapes?
Renal failure has been reported to occur at a wide range of levels on a bodyweight basis so it is best to consider any amount eaten as a health risk. Clinical signs become apparent rapidly within 24 hours, manifesting as gastro-intestinal upset, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and lethargy. Development of kidney impairment manifests as increased thirst, leading on to failing urine production.
Treatment needs to be initiated urgently, including:
- Induction of vomiting;
- stomach lavage;
- activated charcoal may help limit absorption of toxins, provided there is normal intestinal function;
- anti-emetics to stop recurrent vomiting;
- aggressive intra-venous fluid therapy to support the kidneys and maintain normal hydration for at least 48 hours;
- diuresis if urine output is inadequate.
Sadly, though, dogs have died as a result of acute kidney failure so it is wise to avoid your dog having access to grapes, raisins and sultanas.
Alison Logan, vet

Thursday, 25 December 2008

New Year COI resolution

What's the easiest software to use to calculate COIs and where do you get it from?
I'm not in the least techie, but it will be my new year's resolution to get to grips with this.
Can you tell me which one you use and what is the best and worst thing about it?

Sore paws

Woody, who is a cross, has always had very thin, soft skin on his paws which makes him very prone to injury. No matter how much he is walked on rougher surfaces, they never seem to toughen up. Is there any product I could try that could help him avoid cut pads? I now try to avoid road exercise as it makes his paws so raw. I'd heard that there was something owners with dogs in snowy climates apply to their paws to stop them getting sore. Does anyone know what it is called or any other things I could try?
Rachel Worley

A wee problem

My vet has asked me to collect a urine sample from my female dog. I wasn't really taking in what was being asked of me when I took the sample bottle from him so didn't ask him how I was actually going to achieve this!
Has anyone got any tips on how best to do this? Misty is quite a shy dog and might be a little intimidated by me following her around with the bottle!
Cameron Roberts, Shrewsbury

I'm a fan of the baking tray method myself. Follow the unsuspecting dog around and as soon as the flow starts insert the corner of the tray - you don't need to collect too too fill the bottle! Anyone got any tips for collecting a sample from a male dog, too - while we're at it! Beverley, Editor

Over the years, I have suggested all manner of collection devices deriving from the kitchen. One problem can be inadvertent contamination, especially if the receptacle previously held sugar which can linger. The presence of sugar in the urine is a common finding in diabetes mellitus and therefore a false positive is to be avoided at all costs.
There is a really clever plastic collection device called a Uripet which is so successful that it is easy to collect too much urine! Being plastic, it is not cold like a metal container which can make a bitch jump up from bopping! A universal container attaches onto the end and acts as a useful handle with which to slip the Uripet between your bitch’s hindlimbs as she squats. Seeing the urine flood into the universal container is very satisfying and virtually effortless! Then you simply detach the universal container, and screw on the lid securely. Fill in your details and the name of your dog on the label provided and attach to the universal container.
A uripet can also be used for male dogs because having the universal container attached does result in a useful handle. Otherwise, I generally recommend a long-handled saucepan. In theory, it should be easier to catch a sample from a male since they repeatedly cock their legs against all manner of objects, but they can just as readily move off as they see you approach with collection device in hand!
Do ensure that any homemade device is spotlessly clean, and likewise any container into which the urine sample is decanted. Label clearly. Also, do bear in mind that a sample of the first urine passed in the day is generally the most useful because it is often the most concentrated after a night asleep and therefore not drinking as much as during the day. It will therefore give the best guide to the kidneys’ concentrating ability, for example.
When I ask an owner to collect an early morning urine sample, my mind conjures up this image of the owner trotting around the garden in dressing gown and slippers behind his/her dog, and watched by the next-door-neighbour!
Alison Logan, vet

A major or minor chord?

I have a gorgeous male Bearded Collie, he has a great temperament, has passed all his health tests, and is simply stunning. There's just one little problem. He had an umbilical hernia when I got him from his breeder. I didn't spot it at first, it's not needed operating on and hasn't been spotted by anyone when my boy has been shown.
What should I do? I would very much like to use him at stud and retain a puppy. He is my perfect dog in every way other than this.
I've read that sometimes these hernias are hereditary but that sometimes they are just caused by trauma when the chord is severed. How can I tell the difference between something that might be passed on and something that will not? If he is healthy in every other way so long as I let him breed with bitches who don't have this problem would it be acceptable to breed on despite this problem? I want to be a good breeder, but no dog is perfect. What would you do if this really was the best dog you had ever seen? End the line or breed on?
Name and address supplied

Very responsible, my advice is check with your vet as sometimes it's easy to tell an acquired (congenital) rather than hereditary umbilical hernia. Even if it is hereditary in the vets opinion, as long as there are no other obvious hereditary traits, in my opinion you could still try breeding with him as long as:

1/ You select a Dam with no family history or clinical umbilical hernia.
2/ If the dam you select throws all normal pups, then OK if not, then try one other similar bitch (ie different dam) if still passing on then don't use him again.

That's the approach I took with my Lab bitch and in two litters with two different sires she was still throwing recessives so I spayed her.

Best and Happy New Year to all

Simon, a vet

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Is it an ill wind?

I have an 18-month-old male Whippet who is full of life and a really lovely chap. My problem is he suffers from rather a lot of farting! Most people seem to find it amusing but I don’t, as I am concerned that I am doing something wrong with his diet. It doesn’t seem to bother him and he loves his food, in fact he is rather greedy! However, I don’t let him overeat and I watch his diet carefully. He is fed in exactly the same way as my current and previous Whippets, and none of them have this problem (although two of my bitches did experience the occasional bout of colic and they were quite stressed). His diet is as follows; in the morning he will eat around 4oz of cooked packaged chicken and four small biscuits. At 12.30pm we play “find it” with a very small handful of James Wellbeloved Turkey and Rice. In the evening he will eat 6oz of raw tripe or tripe and beef, 3oz of good quality puppy meat, vegetables including carrots, peas, broccoli or cabbage and 5ml of flax oil. On alternative days I give him one Ultimate Nutrition vitamin tablet, and sometimes he will have a tiny drop of milk with some hot water, and plain yoghurt. Other foods I give him include white fish once a week, scrambled eggs (occasionally), small amounts of tuna; one or two Muchy Rawhide chews a day and tiny bits of cheese and sausage as training treats. His motions are usually fine but occasionally a little loose. He is never sick. As he is a very boisterous and excitable dog, I sometimes wonder if it’s just his personality. You may be interested to hear that all four of my whippets enjoy eating Cleavers Goosegrass, more than ordinary grass. Do you know why this would be? I hope you may be able to give me some advice about this.
Ruth Pritchard, Blandford, Dorset

Lovely alternative vet and Dogs Today contributor Richard Allport was very quick off the mark on this one, think windy dogs are a bit of a specialism!

"I believe some dogs are just prone to be old farts (or in the case of your Whippet, young farts) and that in this sort of case diet is not the prime cause, it’s just an innate tendency to ‘ferment’ internally.
Helpful supplements to stifle the smell and ditch the gas are:
Charcoal – give a teaspoon of charcoal granules with each meal (most pharmacies stock this). This helps neutralise the smell and decreases gas formation
Probiotic- give a good probiotic such as Lacto B daily, long term. This encourages growth of beneficial bacteria that are god for the digestive tract
Slippery Elm – this helps keep the stool firmer and aids absorption of food. Available in powder or tablet form, the oral tablet form is usually easier to administer.
Carbo veg – a homoeopathic remedy that helps stabilise the digestion and minimise gas production. Use Carbo veg 30c and give one tablet three times daily for a week, then one twice daily for a week, then one daily for a week, followed by one tablet twice a week long term.
These should all help keep your Whippet gas free!
As to Cleavers/Goosegrass, I think many dogs just enjoy the texture; it’s probably more satisfying to chew than ordinary grass. Cleavers is a herb long used by herbalists for treating arthritis, so older dogs would definitely benefit from eating it."

Richard Allport