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Monday, 28 September 2009

Help needed with research

I am a 17-year-old student studying ND animal management ready to go to university to study veterinary sciences and medicine. I am about to start an investigative project. My chosen category is "Will outbreeding pedigree dogs change their current welfare and genetic situation?"
As you may be able to tell, it is basically about changing pedigree breeding standards. This may be a little unorthodox, but I buy your magazine monthly and know how much you are doing to help change the breeding standards within the Kennel Club. I don't get any government support and am finding it extremely hard to gain access to the materials i need.
I have at least seven of your magazines to use in my literature review, and your two pamphlets on the issue, I also have a transcript of the Kennel Club's response to the programme "Pedigree Dogs Exposed." I am getting a book by George A. Padgett called Control of Genetic Diseases.
I was wondering if there was any other books you would be able to advise me to use, and if you would have a copy of the transcript from Pedigree Dogs Exposed as I have to use a transcript, not the video.
I am sorry for writing such an unorthodox email but I hope that you would be the people to help me as I am completely stumped.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully helping my cause.
Kayleigh Bale (student)

Hi Kayleigh
I've forwarded your email to the programme's creator Jemima Harrison to see if there is a transcript available.
The first place I'd start is the RSPCA scientific review of dog breeding which is very well referenced. Click here to download.
Anyone else got any must read books/reports?
I'd stop by Carol Fowler's great website for a review of all the relevant reports, too. Carol was the brave Cavalier lady featured in the documentary. Her website is called "Campaign to improve the health of pedigree dogs" Click here.
Good luck with your studies.
Best wishes
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Friday, 25 September 2009

Pondering about danger

My dog is a Springer, but if it was only spring water she jumped in that would be fine. I've heard about the dangers of Algae and I have no idea what it is I'm meant to be looking for.
There's green stuff growing all over the surface of our pond, but it doesn't stop her drinking it and swimming in it.
How do I spot the dangerous stuff? Anything I can do to our pond to make sure we don't get it?
Jon James, High Wycombe

Alison Logan, vet, says...
The specific risk from algae is when there is a rapid proliferation of blue-green algae following warm or hot weather with little or no wind, generally in stagnant water. This is called an algal bloom. The windward parts of lakes and reservoirs are particularly affected with this blue-green scum and slime, which is toxic if swallowed or if groomed off the coat after swimming.
There are different types of algal bloom which have different toxic effects. There are three main toxins: one causes liver failure, the other two act on the nervous system. They can act very rapidly indeed, and all that can be done is to treat the clinical signs and wait for the toxin to leave the body. Sadly, there have been fatalities.
It is therefore wise - but often not possible – to check the water your dog has chosen for swimming before she launches herself into it when the weather has been calm and warm or hot. If you can see a blue-green scum or film on the water then I would put her on the lead and head off in the opposite direction.
The situation with your own pond is more difficult. Much will depend on the size and location, and whether there is circulation of the water, either naturally or with some artificial method. Avoiding stagnation is a key factor. Inspecting the water by eye in hot weather is advisable and it may well be possible to have samples analysed if you suspect the presence of blue-green algae.
In hot weather, a dog’s natural urge is to cool off with a dip. Swimming is a great form of exercise which avoids over-heating in hot weather, as well as being non-weight-bearing. If, on a particular day when weather conditions are warm and still, you suspect your pond may have been affected with a blue-green algal bloom then it would be safer and wiser to take her somewhere else.

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, says...
Cyanobacteria is the posh name for what you’re referring to here. They are called Blue-Green Algae and they are present in most brackish, still water, much less so in rivers. However, in the summer in hot, calm conditions especially, they can ‘bloom’, or ‘swarm’ across a pond, contaminating the water with hepato-toxins (affecting liver) or neuro-toxins, affecting the nervous system. It makes the water look a bit like spinach or watercress soup. You can see some good pictures if you look in Google Images
The toxins produced by the algae can cause very severe disease and even death, with some reports in the U.S. describing dogs being found dead at the edge of algae infested lakes. If your dog collapses or shows any extreme symptoms (collapse, salivation, breathing difficulty) after swimming in any still water during the summer, it’s probably worth mentioning this to the vet who can treat for toxicity as well as checking for heart problems or epilepsy etc.
Instances of these bloom problems are not that common in the UK at the moment, so please do not forbid your dog from swimming in lakes just yet.
The best advice is to be more careful with still water in the summer, especially late summer and to examine any ponds, lakes or non-flowing water, especially the windward shores, before your dog jumps in or even laps. It's a pain, but the alternative is to forbid all still water swimming, which is much worse as swimming is really important and a lot of fun!
Blue green (which can also be brownish greyish) algae over-grow in still, warm water where the balance of nutrients is high, the acidity of the water is abnormal. Normal maintenance of the pond, monitoring nutrient and pH parameters of the water and keeping the pump running well to oxygenate the water should be enough to stop algae blooming in a pond near you.

Night lights needed

I am finding that walking my gorgeous black pup in the evening is proving increasingly tricky. I can't see her if she runs too far ahead and on the bits of our walk where we are near the road, cars struggle to see both of us as nearly everything in my wardrobe is black, too!
What can I use to help us stand out? And is there anything I can use to help us to continue to enjoy a game of fetch at night? I'm aware that darker mornings and evenings could significantly lessen our chances of having a good game.
Please brighten up our lives! What fun things have you found that we can wear/play with?
Georgina Blaire, Halifax

I have the same problem when walking our black Labrador in the early hours of dark mornings. In fact, for me it is a sign of impending winter when the reflective gear has to be worn.
I wear the reflective belt I used to wear when cycling in the dark. It has a waist band with a band running up from the front, over one shoulder to re-join the waist band at the back. Now, you can also buy high visibility tabards to wear over outer clothing, which are even more effective.
I always carry a torch but never have it turned on because I like my eyes to become dark-adapted. If I hear a vehicle approaching, then I do turn it on and point it in the direction of the vehicle to reinforce my presence!
I must confess that I do also look on my torch as some means of self-defence. I go through phases of chickening out of walking in the dark, even though I have my trusty canine friend with me. As for walking in the dark when it is foggy…
There are now all manner of safety items for dogs to wear when it is dark, or in that awkward half light of early morning or dusk. They range from high visibility collar and leads to LED collars.
Pippin sports a reflective, high visibility collar and lead. Her original set was black with white reflective stripes but sadly that went astray so she now has a fluorescent yellow, high visibility set. Attached to the collar is a special tag: it is a shallow cube which has a fluorescent yellow patch on one side and a light source which I switch on before we set off. It is very interesting to watch the light and follow what she is doing, when I am sure she thinks her activities are hidden under cover of darkness!
I think it is very important to consider the safety of yourself and your dog when light conditions are poor. Facing oncoming traffic is generally recommended, because your face will be more apparent when vehicles’ lights illuminate it. I would, however, think about trying to ensure that your dog is walking on the verge side of the road, ie you will have to walk your dog on the ‘wrong’ side of your body, on your right side.
Take care!
Alison Logan, Vet

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

How do you fatten up a skinny Lurcher?

Dear Think Tank
Meet the newest Dogs Today dog. This is Isla, a small, sweet young Lurcher from Scotland originally via Dogs Trust's Newbury kennels. She has settled straight in, loves everyone and has been remarkably good.
Isla arrived with a bag of dry food, which she was not terribly keen on. While Lurchers are known for their slim figures, Isla is very underweight and needs to put on about 1kg ideally.
How should I do this? Isla loves ham and human food, but dry dog food does not seem to interest her at all.
She already has two meals a day, now tarted up with very finely chopped ham, but she's not got a great appetite.
What tips would you pass on for putting some meat on her long elegant bones? She was spayed just before she left Dogs Trust and is about to have her stitches out.
She is painfully thin, even for a Lurcher. I am worried if she were to fall ill she would have no reserves. She has very little stamina and tires very easily.
My partner Kathryn cooked her liver and bacon but also included a worming tablet, which may explain why she didn't tuck in!
Not much is known about her life in Scotland, the staff at Dogs Trust thought there was more chance of her putting weight on in a home than in kennels which is why she's come to us so thin.
What should I try to build her up? Beverley has suggested trying lots of small meals with more carbs than protein. I've just made her some macaroni cheese and she's licked the plate clean and is now soundly asleep on the sofa. Anyone got any Lurcher-specific hints or indeed recipes?
Kevin Brockbank, Dogs Today illustrator

PS Both Kathryn and I fed her three bowls of pasta/potato/ham with thin coating of leftover cheese not realising the other had already done it. She ate the lot but had an upset tum the next morning. Too much, too soon. The vet agrees she needs to put on about a kilo.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Rain check

I have a six-year-old male neutered Whippet. He developed a phobia of fireworks and thunder several years ago. This has escalated so that now he is also frightened of rain. Each time it rains heavily when he is indoors he will pant, shake and pace. This becomes so stressed he hardly eats and often vomits if he does eat. To make matters worse he has a grade 4 heart murmur so I worry at the stress he is placing on his heart.
I have tried Skullcap and Valerian tablets, rescue remedy, DAP diffusers, collars and room sprays. I have tried a supplement called Zylkene, and also seen my vet and been on two courses of Clomicalm on two separate years for three months - October through to December. I think the Colmicalm helps a little, but nothing else seems to help much at all. I try to be matter of fact and never make a big thing of his fear. I have tried sound tapes and taking his mind off things with treats, toys and training, but he is generally too stressed to respond. Giving him a 'den' (cage covered over) seems to help him a little, yet strangely he can hear gunshot and thunder while out walking without any signs of fear and his only problem with rain when outside is being miserable because he is wet and cold.
Does anyone have any other ideas I might try?
Frances Wrigley, by email

Friday, 18 September 2009

Something is bugging our Havanese

My husband and I recently had swine flu. I have recovered, but my husband is still coughing. We sometimes give our leftover chicken or other protein to our Havanese and Golden Retriever after dinner. In the last 24 hours the Havanese has developed a very hoarse raspy cough, but otherwise is acting fine and is not running a temperature. Could she be getting the flu, too?
Diane K, by email

On the basis of my current understanding, the simple answer to your question is ‘no’, assuming your question to be ‘Could my Havanese have caught swine ‘flu from us?’
There are two types of influenza virus, named A and B. Type B affects humans whereas Type A viruses can also affect certain animals, although usually in a species-specific fashion. The virus involved in the current Swine ‘flu pandemic is thought to be the result of a pig influenza virus mixing with a human influenza virus to produce a new strain. Because this is a new strain, there is no immunity to the virus in the human population from having had a bout of ‘flu previously.
To date, there has only been human-to-human transmission of this swine ‘flu or H1N1 virus. It is generally recognized, however, that influenza viruses can readily change, hence all the worry when cases of avian ‘flu were first identified in humans. We have to hope that this virus retains all its current characteristics.
Type A influenza viruses can cause illness in dogs, and cats, but transmission to humans has not been identified. An outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) occurred in Florida in 2004 and has affected dogs across several states in the US since then. A vaccine is now available in the US to limit the spread of this highly contagious virus which, fortunately, is rarely fatal. The illness it causes is quite similar to kennel cough here, and it is kennel cough which would head my list of possible explanations for your Havanese being ill.
Kennel cough is a coverall term for an infection characterized by a honking cough. The patient often brings up small pools of white froth. There are various causal agents, so although there are vaccines available against Bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus they will be ineffective against other causes. A kennel cough infection is readily transmitted between dogs; an outbreak under kenneling conditions is classic if a dog is taken in who happens to be incubating it, hence the name kennel cough. Likewise, it can be picked up at dog club, dog shows, or meeting other dogs in the park, for example, so it could be said to be behaving like the common cold with a wide range of causative agents.
The patient may run a fever and therefore be under-the-weather, but more often than not he or she is otherwise well apart from this cough which can persist for one or two weeks. As vets, we do not prescribe antibiotics unless we suspect a secondary bacterial infection, and perhaps if the patient is frail or elderly. Cough suppressants and expectorants have a limited place in treatment because the cough is the body’s natural response to the effects of the virus.
Isolation is a priority and mainstay of treatment to limit the spread of the infection to other dogs. If you ring a veterinary practice to book an appointment for your dog to see a vet because of a cough, then it is likely you will be asked to leave your dog in the car. Only yesterday, I examined two dogs out in the car park with suspected kennel cough – great excuse for a breath of fresh air!
If your Havanese does indeed have kennel cough, then a more immediate likelihood is that your Golden Retriever will also develop the infection!
Alison Logan, vet

Can you help sniff out this product?

For the first time in many years I have a puppy, a Beagle. I would like to use the same method for housetraining as I did many years ago but I can't remember the name of the product.
It was a small bottle of a concentrated aroma that encourages dogs to wee on the newspaper or where ever you sprinkle it. Does anyone know what this is called and where I can get it.
Mr Hogarth, near Aberdeen, Scotland

I don't think Potty Rock will have existed when you last had a dog.
The US inventor had two dogs male and female and became angry at that his dogs were destroying his beautiful lawn with urine burn spots, he looked for a product to solve his problem and found nothing that worked so he set about researching and developing the Potty Rock in 2002, now having won a number of inventor awards in the US in 2005/2006 launched the product a year later, with huge success having sold over 100,000 units.

As the manufacturers in the UK of the Potty Rock we have large number of puppy and adult dog owners contact us with many problems with toilet training.
POTTY ROCK is a healey scented thin briquette 7''x 4'' that attracts all dogs and puppies male and females to toilet.
This product allows the dog owner to choose the area in the garden for their dog to do their toilet. Great for gardeners too, as it limits those ugly urine burn stains found dotted all around the lawn, the soiled area being confined to a small area far away from the children's play areas.
By following 'our four-step guide to training your dog to Potty Rock' assists the dog owner to toilet train their dog in a very simple method, the main thing to remember is to praise the dog and have patience and to put the time aside.
Your dog will soon associate the stone smell with toileting after a few visits.
Please visit for more detailed information.
For puppies we have found the Potty Rock a great asset, lay out the newspaper in the kitchen as you do and place the Potty Rock to one corner the puppy will soon use the Centre of the newspaper( have you laid newspaper down on the kitchen floor only to find your puppy poops and pees everywhere but on the newspaper) With the auwfull clean up that follows.
Once you have achieved this take the Potty Rock out to the garden and then follow our four step guide.
I do hope your readers find this a far more helpful aid to toileting
Kindest regards
David George
Sales Director
Greentouch Pet Products Ltd
Tel: 01525 721218

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

In the genes?

My German Shepherd, Monty, suffers from Anul Furunculosis, for which he gets Nizora half an hour before food and Atopica two hours after food - twice per day.
We were told that this disease is genetic in the German Shepherd breed. Is this correct? Is he on the best of treatment and should he be fed a special diet?
Monty is on his second lot of treatment in the last 12 months and we have been told the outlook is not good. Please could someone advise us and give us some hope.
Mr J S Booth, Barnsley, Yorkshire

Richard Allport advises:
Anal furunculosis is thought to be a hereditary autoimmune disease and is a condition seen almost exclusively in German Shepherd Dogs, or GSD crosses. An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system goes haywire and mistakenly attacks normal healthy body tissue – in this case the area around the anus.
It is not, however, quite as simple as that. The anatomy of a GSD predisposes to the condition – the tail is held down and very close against the anal area, rather than held up as in may breeds, so there is little natural ventilation reaching the anal region. Anal furunculosis often seems to be associated with other conditions such as colitis, pancreatic insufficiency and hypothyroidism. It is evidently a very complex problem.
Treatment can include antibiotics, surgery or cryosurgery to remove diseased tissue, steroids and other immune suppressive drugs such as Atopica (Cyclosporin). Nizoral is often prescribed alongside Atopica, not because it has a therapeutic effect on the furunculosis as such, but because it means a lower dose of Atopica can be given. As Atopica is a very expensive drug, this is useful from an economic point of view. None of this treatment is curative, and drug side-effects from the suppression of the immune system are always likely.
Diet is a controversial topic. There are some dogs that seem to benefit from a wheat free diet. Indeed, some benefit even more from a totally carbohydrate free diet. Naturally, any diet that produces formed but softish stools may help a dog that has this problem, since passing stools can be painful. Adding Psyllium husks to the diet can help achieve this. I find that dietary supplements such as Zinc, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera can be helpful.
So my advice for Monty, or any dog afflicted by anal furunculosis, is to feed a wheat free and low carbohydrate diet, with Psyllium husks, Vitamin E, Zinc and Aloe Vera as beneficial supplements. Also to bathe affected areas several times a day with salt water, and apply Manuka honey which helps promote healing and keep infection at bay. Try and avoid immunosuppressive drugs if at all possible, maybe look at herbal and homeopathic medicines as an adjunct or an alternative. Avoid vaccination or any other drugs or treatments that might further damage the immune system.
I do wish Monty good luck and good health for the future.

Gail Gwesyn-Pryce, Dogs Today Breed Advisor, says…
The cause of anal furunculosis is not known but it appears to be connected to irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune conditions. Drug therapy is usually only a temporary cure and the condition often needs freezing or surgery. The condition can also be seen between the toes but this is much more difficult to treat.
The anal type is rather like fistula in people, in or around the anus which on close examination can be seen as tiny holes and it is when it takes hold underneath that freezing or surgery are recommended. Homeopathic remedies have been found to be very helpful in the early stages. I would strongly advise that you look up Canine Health Concern who can give you lots of help regarding general health problems and a resource link for such things as garlic and colloidal silver, both of which could be beneficial.
The Royal Veterinary College is undergoing a research project to try and identify the genes involved. A leaflet on the subject can be obtained from the German Shepherd Owners Information Centre. Contact Chris on 01223 298216, email or Dorothy on 01277 220933, email
As for diet I would always recommend a good fresh, raw food diet for all GSDs – firmer stools would be important so that no residue is left behind to further compromise the anus and of course chemical diets can have an effect on the immune system. I suspect that Monty has other medical problems, perhaps dermatitis as this often goes hand in hand.
I have no first-hand experience of this condition so it is difficult for me to comment further, however I believe there is also a strain of Leonbergers that carry this condition so it may be worth contacting their breed club to see if they have any suggestions.
Please make sure you inform Monty’s breeder so that he/she is aware of this condition in their line so they can take steps to eliminate it from their breeding programme.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Trigger happy

I am the proud owner of a lovely caring rescued Border Collie cross. I am a carer to my elderly mother and every time I go to give my mum her inhaler, Murphy jumps up and whines pitifully at us. On most occasions he also makes a beeline for one of his toys. Is this normal behaviour?
Elisabeth Hurley, by email

Carol Price, trainer and behaviourist, advises:
Please rest assured that this is perfectly normal collie behaviour. Collies are an exceptionally reactive breed, and the things that can trigger them quickly into an excited state can range from the doorbell, phone or TV to owners coughing or sneezing or filing their nails, or a broom, mop or food blender. In fact - you name it! The trigger has just got to move quickly or make a distinct noise, or preferably both factors together.
Once excited, many collies will then have an urge to do something with their mouths - eg grab a toy or nip something or, if out, snatch at sticks, grass or even earth. This is purely instinctive behaviour, adapted from the classic offensive/defensive nip reflex sheepdogs need to have in order to work livestock, and protect themselves from being challenged by these animals. This instinct gets triggered as soon as the dog enters a more aroused or excited mental state.
Some collies will be highly reactive on this front, with a wide range of triggers that set them off. Others may have far more limited triggers they react to, or may barely possess this instinct at all. If you are not careful, however, what begins as an instinctive response to a specific trigger can then turn into a longer-term attention-seeking device, once the dog realises how much notice you take of its excitable behaviour.
For this reason it is important to nip such behaviour in the bud, and correct it, by calmly making your dog lie down, and stay still, the instant it starts. If you do not do this then one excitable reaction tends to lead to another and the dog can quickly wind itself up into a totally manic state in this way, drunk on adrenalin.
You do not say how much exercise you give your dog, but the kind of behaviour you describe in him is always more common in dogs who have not been given sufficient daily physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Remember remember... how awful fireworks were last year!

Dear Think Tank
Firework night is fast approaching and I'm dreading it. My older dog is very noise phobic. He paces, drools, shakes, tries to hide or escape. It's heartbreaking. But this year I also have a new puppy, a Border Collie, and I really don't want her developing the same fears. Any suggestions as to what to do to get the Border Collie prepared. And is there anything I can do to help my Lurcher?
Jane Roberts, by Email

This is common problem and it is estimated that up to 1.6 million dogs suffer from noise phobias in the UK but during the fireworks season their noise phobias become more obvious. There are several steps that I would recommend; firstly don’t panic or cuddle or fuss your dog as this can make the problem worse as it only reassures the dog that there IS something wrong, so stay calm and try not to change your usual behaviour. Generally a dog will be comforted by being able to retreat to a safe place, so it can be a good idea to prepare somewhere suitable in advance. I would highly recommend using a herbal medicine called Scullcap and Valerian tablets as these are entirely safe and are very effective to calm dogs without sedating them. They should be given throughout the firework season, starting at least a week in advance, and increased to a high dose on the nights you know will be worse such as November 5th. Along with the herbal medicine you may also want to try a desensitization CD. You will need to start this well in advance but it can get your dogs desensitized to loud noises and fireworks and can be effective when used in combination with Scullcap and Valerian tablets. These measures will enable your dog to still be aware of the bangs and loud noises but not become concerned about them, and so enable them to cope much better.
I think the key here is try to desensitize your dogs and use a herbal medicine to help them stay calm, but it is most important for you not to give out the wrong signals to your dog that may increase its fear.
Roly Boughton, Dorwest Herbs

I have seen firework phobia from both sides of the table, so to speak. As a vet, I see a surge in requests for medication from mid-October, not helped by firework displays taking place on the weekends immediately before and after 5th November, as well as on Guy Fawkes night itself (let alone on random nights around this time). Also, eight years ago my parents-in-law adopted a JRT from rescue at the age of three years who came with a firework phobia, which has incidentally escalated into a phobia for all manner of sounds including thunder, rain drumming on the conservatory roof, strong winds, gun fire on the nearby army range etc etc.
I would agree with all that Roly Boughton has said. There are other strategies available as well, such as the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (or DAP) as diffuserand/or collar, so I hope there will be a combination which will help. No two dogs are alike with regard to a firework phobia so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. As with so many behavioural problems, it is not clear cut. I am glad you are aware of the risk of your puppy picking up on your dog’s phobia. It does need careful management.
Many years ago, the infamous yellow tablet of ACP was the mainstay of treatment but, being a sedative, it is rarely suggested now because it prevents the dog from being able to hide up or show other behavioural responses. Thankfully, there are now better prescription drugs available from veterinary surgeons to help.
I am always a little saddened when approached for advice on firework phobia just a few weeks before Guy Fawkes night. Management of a phobia needs time. Also, fireworks are used at so many other different times of the year: New Year, Chinese New Year, celebrations such as weddings and major birthdays, ‘Last night of the Proms’ concerts, military tattoos – the list goes on. There is always a fireworks display at our local sailing regatta in August.
In addition, as I mentioned with the JRT belonging to my parents-in-law, a fireworks phobia can become a more generalised noise phobia.
Alsion Logan, Vet

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Foxy is looking a bit poxy

Dear Think Tank
I just love wild animals and I think my initial attraction to Shelties was probably due to the fact that I think they look a lot like little like foxes! When I moved to this house I was delighted to discover that a fox already regularly visited our garden and I started leaving out scraps for her as I suspect the previous resident did before. I have greatly enjoyed watching this beautiful fox from my window. Unfortunately, lately she's been looking a bit scrawny and poorly. I'm no vet, but it looks like mange to me - her coat is starting to look very grotty.
Whatcan do to help this poor, usually beautiful creature get better? And is there any chance that my Sheltie could now catch mange, too? Am I putting my dog at risk by putting food out for the fox? What should I be feeding the fox? I've been leaving out meaty bones and left over cooked meat. Are these okay?
Lucy Trent, Leatherhead, Surrey

Fox or sarcoptic mange would certainly be very high up on my list of possible explanations for this fox’s ‘mangy’ appearance. If that is the case, then your dog could well pick up the mite and develop signs of sarcoptic mange. It is well known that fox populations have increased in recent years in both rural and town environments. I would therefore suspect that having one fox visiting your garden probably means more in your immediate neighbourhood, so your dog could be at risk of contracting mange whenever you go out for walks anyhow.
It is not a very pleasant skin condition, both through causing the affected dog or fox to be very itchy as well as cosmetically with the fur loss and other effects on the coat and skin. It particularly affects the ears, elbows and hocks, armpits and tummy, because the mite likes skin with less of a fur covering. Classically, rubbing an ear between finger and thumb will cause an almost reflex movement with a hindlimb, as if to scratch at the ear.
It used to be very hard to treat sarcoptic mange because there was not a product specifically licensed for use in the dog. In fact, the treatment used (a cattle wormer) was not recommended in the border collie and Shetland sheepdog because adverse reactions had been reported.
Fortunately, the situation has changed in recent years so it might be worth considering treating your dog pre-emptively. In fact, you might even find that your current flea control strategy is already affording protection to your dog against sarcoptic mange. I would contact your vet for more specific advice, since it is likely you will be needing a prescription (POM-V) product.
Alison Logan, vet

This certainly sounds like mange. There are two courses to treat mange. The first is a drug that we use here at Wildlife Aid that is highly effective and takes just three weeks of actual medication, and then after a further rehabilitation period we release the fox back into the wild. This, however, MUST be done here, and cannot be administered in your garden as it is a very specific course of treatment. On the whole we prefer not to have to take a fox in unless absolutely vital as we are very strict about the need to avoid unnecessary human contact. As an alternative to the conventional drug, there is a homeopathic treatment which can be put in the fox's food, and it is reported to be very successful. Please get in touch with Wildlife Aid (09061 800132) for more information.
We have been dealing with foxes for over 30 years and have had numerous cases of mange that we have treated here at Wildlife Aid. I have always had dogs here and at no time has any of them caught mange. As far as feeding foxes is concerned, we always advise strongly against it as this lessens their instinct to hunt and means they get used to one easy food source, it also means that if you move away or go on holiday their food supply will abruptly cease, and besides which plenty of people don't like foxes and it is not uncommon for people to put down poison or to seek to do them harm in other ways.

Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid
To order the fox mange treatment from Wildlife Aid click here

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Healing hands

Please could you advise where I would look to start investigating the possibility of training to become a canine therapist - ideally massage etc? I am a qualified Holistic Therapist with Massage, Aromatherapy and Hopi Ear Candling for humans, however I would like to pursue my career with dogs, cats and other animals. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
Janine Osnowska, by email

Natalie Lenton, The Canine Massage Therapy Centre, says…
Firstly you may like to decide which particular area of therapy you are interested in.
To train in Canine Massage you are looking at around an 18-month study along with practical case studies and assessments; check out for more information on Canine Massage training. You will also be studying Canine Anatomy and Physiology alongside massage to gain a greater understanding of the body and common pathologies like Luxating Patella, Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia to help with your work and ensure that no harm is done. Masseuses work solely on soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligaments and fascia) to help areas of pain, overcompensation and soft tissue problems that may be causing reoccurring lameness, pain etc.. Go to to find out more on what a trained canine masseuse can help. You may like to attend a one day workshop (home use only) run by Canine Massage Therapy Centre to see if it is what you are expecting before embarking on a full course.
Other therapies like acupuncture are strictly performed by veterinarians ( and is not a transferable qualification even if you are a human acupuncturist, to ensure that infection can be controlled and in case a needle breaks. You may however like to find out more about Acupressure, although I am aware that Tall Grass will not be coming over to the UK until 2011 to do more training, I have been told what a fantastic, and thorough, course they run, see for further information.
Again, aromatherapy may only be performed by a vet too due to the effect of the oils on the dog’s physiology.
Tellington TTouch involves body work and ground work exercises to help with rehabilitation of physical and emotional issues. It helps promote feelings of wellbeing and is often used when dealing with behavioural issues. See for more information on their different grades of practitioner.
Canine Bowen is a nice gentle therapy but specifies that you must firstly be a human practitioner before you go onto work with animals (
Hydrotherapy is a great treatment for rehabilitation but often depends on you setting up your own centre which can be costly. See for more information on training to become a hydrotherapist.
Mctimoney Animal Manipulation (they aren’t under law allowed to call themselves chiropractors even though this is what we know them as). They state, ‘Under current legislation, the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) regulates the chiropractic treatment of humans. Only practitioners that are registered with the GCC can legally call themselves chiropractors and treat members of the public. Animal practitioners are not able to join the GCC as it is only concerned with human treatment. The use of the word McTimoney to describe the animal treatment DOES NOT imply that our Animal practitioners are chiropractors.’ This course takes around three years and involves adjustments that are fast to beat the body’s muscle reflexes to return the bone to its correct position and function, no force or stress is necessary as the small movements make use of the body’s innate ability to realign itself by simply reminding the bone where it should be naturally in order to achieve its full natural working capacity.
Reiki, or energy field healing, may also be something you are interested in and can typically take around six months to train. You will of course still need veterinary consent as discussed below.
If you are considering working with animals you should also be aware of the UK Veterinary Act 1966 which states that no one other than a vet can treat animals.
The Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 was bought in to amend the veterinary act to legitimatise therapies performed by professionals on animals. This means that you must gain veterinary consent from your clients’ vet before treating the animal to ensure that there are no contraindications to treatment. This also of course depends on gaining the right training and also having insurance too before setting up in practice, it is quite normal for vets to check on your qualifications so they can ensure that their clients are being treated by a professional. Go to for more info.
If you aren’t too sure which therapy you would be happy with doing you could always look at a general course like the one run by the Animal Care College,, which although it doesn’t qualify you to practice could be a good starting point for continuing professional education.
Best of luck on your path towards a new career, I can promise you it is worth it when you get there!

Susan Davies, from HandsOnHounds, says...
Well done for choosing canine massage therapy as a career. It is most certainly a rewarding and satisfying way to be involved in the wellbeing and general health of our canine friends. I have been a fully qualified canine massage therapist for around seven years now and still find that I am learning constantly. Do beware when researching training establishments that
you avoid the 'fast track' courses that claim you can qualify in weeks or days. These are positively dangerous and only serve to devalue the therapists out there who have trained properly and have taken the time to qualify with a credible training centre. There is only one course therefore that I fully recommend and that is the course run by Julie Boxall of ICAT - Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies. It is divided into three levels and will equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge you will require to treat animals with confidence and know-how. Each level involves two or three days of theory and practical sessions from which you practice 'at home' building case studies and building a case file for assessment. There are exams and practical assessments at the end of each level. It may take you 18 months to complete but it will ensure you are properly qualified. The details of ICAT are as follows:
The Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies
P.O. Box 299
01626 852485 or 07977 359347
Good luck and I hope you go on to train for a wonderfully satisfying career.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Alternative insurance?

Dear Dogs Today

Like many animal guardians now, I only use homoeopathic nosodes for my dogs {Cavalier King Charles Spaniels}.

Two of my boys were insured with the Kennel Club - like several companies, if you had not given the dog conventional vaccine, they would not offer cover if the dog developed the disease for which a vaccine was available but would cover for everything else. The renewals are through and I note that they have changed their wording so that you now have to vaccinate. This seems to be the industry standard now.

I know you have several holistic vets writing for the magazine and wonder if they have any suggestions of companies who will offer lifetime cover and do not require the dog to be vaccinated.

Other readers must also have come across this problem - I know I'm not the only one in this position!! Can anyone offer any advice please?

Thanking you in advance

Mrs Nicki Hughes

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, advises:
This is a very thorny issue. First I'd like to tell you where I stand on the vaccine issue, then have a look at the Kennel Club vaccination policy and finally look at your vaccination options.
I don't think nosodes can be equated with vaccinations. I don't think they were ever designed to give lifelong protection from infectious disease and so I don't advise their use in this way. I do use them to treat specific animals with specific problems, but this is very different from trying to prevent disease for life.
I always quote the work done with children in the slums in India where they use remedies to protect from diseases that they will never ever be vaccinated for as they are so poor and outcast. The results from a Dr. Banerjea, of the Bengal Allen Medical Institute, are as follows -
Polio - Not reliable
Tuberculosis - Wonderful
Diphtheria – 40 per cent success rate
Whooping Cough – 95 per cent success rate
Mumps – 70 per cent success rate
Typhoid – 90 per cent success rate
These, as far as I can find, are the most reliable large scale tests in the world on remedies protecting against disease. I say to my clients that this type of study has not been done on animals anywhere in the world. I follow with 'if you are happy to have 'unreliable' or only 40 per cent cover for your animal, then use a nosode, but I'm not.' I have seen animals die of Parvo who were only covered with nosodes. (I also know of animals who died of Parvo who were fully vaccinated, come to that.)
I am not happy that we have a truly logical and rational approach to conventional vaccination in the veterinary world in this country, but I feel there is a middle road between over-vaccination and under-vaccination. This is the road I try to find with each patient, on an individual basis. I use optimal nutrition, herbs, homeopathic remedies, titre testing and minimal vaccination with single vaccines, where possible, to reduce the effect of vaccine insults to the immune system and maximise immunological cover.
The Kennel Club state the following on their website:
You must keep your dog vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus or as advised by your vet. All vaccinations must be administered under veterinary supervision. Homeopathic vaccines are not acceptable. Furthermore there is no cover provided for these conditions in the event that the required vaccinations have not been carried out.
The first line allows your vet to minimally vaccinate, but maximally protect your animal as they see fit - using titre testing etc. There is no such thing as a 'homeopathic vaccines' in the third sentence, but I'm sure the Kennel Club assessors would contest if you made a claim for Parvo if you'd only used Parvo nosode as a preventative. The final line is not very precise as it does not state when the vaccines should be given and makes no allowance for titre testing (which is actually the only way you can ensure your dog has ‘taken up’ the vaccines administered by your vet).
As to your options, Pet Plan state you must keep your animal vaccinated, but do not specifically forbid homeopathic nosodes. The same is true for More Than, NFU and Direct Line, as far as I can see. Your other alternative would be to put £20-30 in the bank each month when they’re young and by the time things start going wrong, when they get older, you’ve got a fighting fund.

Catherine O'Driscoll, from Canine Health Concern, advises:
This is a common problem, and it's interesting that the Kennel Club insurance scheme now insists upon dogs being vaccinated annually, when once it did not. This can't be for any scientific reason, because veterinary bodies around the world (the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and the Australian Veterinary Association) have announced publicly that we should vaccinate our dogs no more than every three years. World experts, such as Dr Ronald D Schultz, have actually stated publicly that we shouldn't need to re-vaccinate after the initial puppy shot. It makes you wonder about the financial ties between vaccine companies, insurance companies, and organisations such as the Kennel Club. It’s shocking that insurance companies should insist upon an unscientific revaccination policy, and especially puzzling when it’s known (and stated by the above bodies) that vaccines are not without harm, and should be administered as infrequently as possible.
Nevertheless, if you look around, there are some companies that will insure non-vaccinated dogs, although, naturally, they won’t cover against the diseases you might otherwise have vaccinated against. These include Tesco Pet Insurance (tel 0845 300 200), and Direct Line Pet Insurance (0845 246 8705). I called both companies just now to confirm that they still don’t insist upon annual shots.
Another option is to open a deposit account at the bank when you get a new puppy, and place the premium you would otherwise pay to an insurer into your account. If you are not vaccinating, and feeding biologically appropriate food, the likelihood is that by the time your pup reaches old age and starts to need to see the vet more frequently, there will be plenty of funds in the account to cover it – without the insurance company finding a reason not to pay out.

Wee-lly pleased to meet you

Hi there

I just wondered if one of your doggy behaviour specialist can answer my question. I have a lovely Jack Russell x Fox Terrier bitch, just turned one year. She is a lively little character full of charm, and very inquisitive and full of intelligence. She loves people and always greets them, with a stream of urine unfortunately - thank god for kitchen lino!

Also another slight problem, we take her daily to the park, but from day one, she loves to run up to dogs whether male or female, but in 9/10 cases if they go towards her to fuss, she squeals loudly and lays on her back in the submissive state. A lot of owners think their dogs have hurt her and they have not even made contact with her. She wants to join in the fun, but I have found on a couple off occasions she has been attacked, maybe due to her being so submissive when the dogs approach her. HELP!!!

Kind regards
Tracey Jow

June Williams, COAPE Association of Behaviouists and Trainers, says...
While puppies and young dogs can have involuntary urination at times of stress and/or excitement, which they tend to grow our of, I would have her vet-checked as she is one-year-old. Make sure you never tell her off, let her meet visitors outside (saves cleaning up inside) and have her do something for the visitor in return for a reward (treat or toy game). For example, a sit or down or give a paw - something to engage the brain.
Outside, do not let her run up to other dogs. Running up is adolescent behaviour and not that polite. Call her back when dogs approach, pop her on the lead and have a more controlled meet and greet with selected dogs - calm, sociable, mature adults. Encourage her to stay upright.
From your description, I am not sure that she does want to join in the fun. The squeal is a learned behaviour, designed to get in first and is off-putting. The rolling on her back is behaviour designed to inform the other dog that she is not a threat. How much socialisation did she have as a puppy? Perhaps she had too much, rather then too litter, and with some rougher dogs. Practise with your friends and their sociable dogs. See if you can find some doggie playmates that will teach her that other dogs are not a threat and are fun. Does she ever play with other dogs? Maybe you need to try a different location if you always go to the same park for a walk.

Amy Hatcher, Canine Behaviourist and Dog Obedience Trainer, says...
It does sound like you have a quite a submissive little pup on your hands. The urination on greeting visitors is involuntary so it's likely that your pup is unaware of her actions. It's a sort of reflex. The best way to solve this is for the visitor to calmly walk in and not even look at your puppy for a few minutes - just until she has stopped jumping around. They can then calmly stroke. It sounds like a frustrating way to try to correct the issue but it does work and then you can go back to the original way your visitors would greet her and the urinating shouldn't return.
The key to the other problem is to make her feel she has no reason to submit to other dogs. You need to build her confidence up before she becomes fearful. The best approach is to walk in a group of calm gentle dogs if you can. When she does meet a dog try to spark up a conversation with the owner for a few seconds, this will give her time to realise the dog is not too interested in her- it is vital that you start with dogs that are extremely well behaved. A lot of dogs will be inclined to chase a small, lively, submissive pup so be choosey to begin with. After a week or so of longer meetings with new dogs you can then
start to be less selective and introduce livelier dogs to the mix.
Do you have a day care centre or dog walker near by? In many cases it makes a big difference if a dog can socialise in a controlled and calm pack without the owner being present as they learn to look around and see what the other dogs are doing instead of constantly trying to get their owner to protect them. You definitely don't want to put her in an out of control pack. A lot of the dogs at my new centre are in for extra socialisation so if you can get to Sussex fairly easily you are welcome to bring her along to meet my pack.