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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I'm anxious about my dogs anxiety

I am dreading firework season, although this will be the first one for my young dog. As she is already quite nervous of thunder and gunshots, I think we'll have trouble.
I'm using a CD to try to slowly get her used to bangs, but is there anything I can give her to make her less anxious both while I'm using the CD and as we get nearer to the night itself?
Helen Lindsey, Barnsley

If she is anxious while you are doing the CD then you are proceeding too quickly for her and you need to start from scratch and slow the whole process down.  The CDs work by introducing your dog in a gradual and controlled manner to the sounds they fear.  You are in effect desensitising them to the sounds. This is relatively easy to do but must be done very slowly over a number of months and with constant monitoring of your dog’s responses. It is important not to rush any of the stages. Jumping ahead before your dog is ready will have the opposite effect to the one you want to achieve. To begin with play the CD very quietly as background noise while you both go about your usual day-to-day activities. Do not draw attention to the sound or fuss your dog. Gradually, for each session, increase the sound volume. The time you need to take on each stage can vary from dog to dog. Take your cue from your pet and do not proceed to the next stage until they are completely happy with the current volume level. Eventually the sound will become insignificant to your dog and they will ignore it. This is desensitisation. Apart from the sound CDs, there are other things you can try. Some people have claimed success with Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.). You can purchase D.A.P. plug-in diffusers. These emit a synthetic substance that mimics the reassuring pheromone produced by bitches for their puppies.  D.A.P. is also available in a spray form for more local applications to bedding or indoor kennels.  I have also seen calming/relaxing dog collars in our local pet shop. They look like flea collars but are for stress management. Homoeopathic remedies can be useful, such as Bach Flower Remedies. Rescue remedy treatment should ideally be started a few days before bonfire night. Put about 5 drops (read the label) into your dogs food or water each evening.  Other natural remedies such as skullcap and valerian act as a herbal anxiety-relieving combination and can help at times of stress. The TTouch Body Wrap also claims success, using moderate pressure to comfort the mind and body during periods of stress and anxiety. Apart from lotions and potions, there are things you can do to help your dog when the fireworks start. Remain Calm - During the time of the fireworks you must make sure that you do not inadvertently reinforce your dog’s unwanted behaviour by paying them extra special attention. This will only lead your dog to think that it is right to feel fear and also that by showing fear they gain your attention and comfort. This will reward their fear response and make it more likely to recur. Instead, remain calm and act as you usually would. Ignore fearful behaviours and reward calmness. Lead by Example - Your dog will mirror your attitude. Giving your dog cuddles could make it seem that you are fearful too. If you remain calm then you encourage them to remain calm. Dogs also learn from each other. If you have a friend who has a dog that is not afraid of fireworks, invite them round for the evening. Your friend's dog will help set the right example. A word of caution - learning by example can work both ways. If the visiting dog becomes anxious after observing your dog's fear, do not continue. Tired Out - If your dog has been for a nice long walk and is physically and mentally tired out, they will be much more likely to settle in the evening and less likely to worry about the noise, lights and activity outside. Comfortable Surroundings - Take simple measures to make your dog comfortable such as closing the windows and curtains so that the sounds are not as loud and your pet cannot see the fireworks going off. It might also help if you provide your pet with a safe house such as a cosy den full of blankets. Make sure your dog views her den as her safe house by providing treats for her while she is in there and making sure she generally associates it with nice things.  Ideally, start this a week or two before firework night. All the blankets provide the perfect place for your dog to bury and hide when the noise starts. Comfort Food - Some dogs can also benefit from being fed a meal high in carbohydrate (such as well-cooked rice or pasta) which will help them to feel sleepier that evening. Distract - Take all focus away from the fireworks by playing music and start a game with your dog, generally keeping her busy. Maybe treat your dog to a new toy and save it especially for Bonfire night. Some tasty treats will also help to create good associations with this time of year. Other Precautions - Find out the exact date of local firework displays. Ask neighbours to warn you in advance of any private displays. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and ID tag in case they escape in fear. Top up your dog's water as an anxious dog may be more thirsty than usual. Jenny Prevel,

My initial reaction to your query is concern because of the heading and your first sentence – if you are anxious, then your anxiety will easily transmit to your dog, inadvertently reinforcing her anxiety. With her being a young dog showing noise phobia, you are right to be wanting to help her sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, management of noise phobias has moved on a long way from the days when acepromazine (‘the yellow tablet’) was prescribed. I remember well the requests which filled the dispensing pages during the week or so leading up to Guy Fawkes, and the requests on the day itself which really put pressure on us to fulfill them in time. ACP is a sedative and is now recognised as being inappropriate because being sedated does reduce or eliminate the anxious behaviours, but equally means that the dog cannot take any avoidance actions which it feels necessary.
Different drugs can be prescribed which act more appropriately. However, it is much better if the dog can be trained to cope and that is where a desensitisation programme comes in. It needs to be taken at a pace to suit the individual. It cannot be rushed, so you have quite rightly embarked on it this much before Guy Fawkes night.
Along with the changes in approach to noise phobias is the additional problem of fireworks being let off not just on 5th November. They are far more readily available than they used to be, and often discounted to encourage bulk-buying which can mean they are kept for use at other times of the year. Not only is there the problem of public and private fireworks displays from a week before to a week after 5th November, but there are also 31st December, Chinese New Year, weddings, birthday celebrations, etc., etc. In fact, I was reading in my local paper that a company has started marketing fireworks for use at funerals to commemorate the deceased. This all means that fireworks can potentially be a problem at any time of year.
Jenny mentioned Dog Appeasing Pheromone (plug-in diffuser, spray, collar) and herbal treatments which are indeed ideal to use in conjunction with a desensitisation programme. I have had great successes with the DAP collar in all manner of behavioural problems. It has the advantage of enabling the dog to take the DAP with him or her wherever he or she goes.
My Labbie Pippin became very insecure when we began packing up to move house so I fitted her with a DAP collar and she chilled out overnight. In fact, I had to work for a full day shortly afterwards so I bedded her down in a kennel at work and warned the nurses that she would howl. On the contrary, she curled up and went to sleep. Later in the day, she even took a dental chew and worked on that. I could not make out what had made the difference because previously she had barked incessantly and totally disregarded any food put in with her (yes, she was that unhappy!). Then I remembered that she was still wearing the DAP collar!
With your dog being only young yet already showing sound phobias, I would also suggest you seek professional help. Your vet will be able to offer individual advice, and may prescribe a drug to help your dog on specific risk times such as Guy Fawkes and New Year’s Eve in the short term. Your veterinary practice may offer a behaviour clinic with a veterinary nurse or vet, and should be able to recommend a dog behaviourist who will be able to work with you and your dog.
Alison Logan, vet

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, says:
You may be dreading the ‘season of sounds’, but you’re preparing early – well done. CD is a good idea – to be played as frequently as possible, especially in the evenings, to mimic what will happen in November. Well done.
However, there are a number of things that we can do in conjunction. The best thing would be, of course, a vet trained in homeopathy and herbs, to get a specific prescription, but if this is not possible, then I’d suggest ringing Dorwest Herbs to discuss the use of their Scullcap and Valerian tablets, which I find can be very good to help relax things. Start trialling them as soon as possible, so you know exactly how to dose for your dog, when the season comes. The orthodox approach is to use products such as Valium and Zylkene; it’s worth having a chat with your vet just so you have knowledge of the entire armoury at your disposal.
Homeopathically, I’d contact one of the many homeopathic pharmacies in the UK (Freeman’s, Helios, Nelson’s or Ainsworth’s, to name a few) to talk about getting a mix made up in a 200c potency. They are able to prescribe over the phone where vets are not. The remedies in the mix will differ, depending on the presenting symptoms (whether hiding under the bed, or clinging to you; whether over-excitedly chasing every rocket that goes up or responding by standing stock still, hoping they’ll not be noticed, and so on), but I usually look at Phosphorus, Borax, Gelsemium, Aconite, Belladonna or Stramonium, for example.
Your behaviour is really important, too. I would suggest getting into a routine in the evenings where you are very calm, have loud music (bombastic Proms-type tunes or Heavy Metal works well) playing and act as if nothing is happening. If you get into the habit now, it’ll seem like second nature when the season is upon you both. Best of luck.

Searching for an Annabel-proof toy

Our seven-month-old chocolate Lab/ Golden Retriever mix is a chewing machine! The first day we brought her home she seriously chewed through the molding and dry wall. She has progressively gotten better and for the most part, only chews the things we give her, such as toys... which is where our problem lies. We have yet to find a toy she can not destroy within 24 hours. Indestructible they may be, but are they Annabel proof? Not so much. We have tried many of these "indestructible" toys and find we just keep wasting our money. We want to make sure she has things she can play with, but we also want to keep her safe, no choking for this pup! Any one have any similar stories and solutions that have worked? We're quickly drowning in a sea of headless stuffed animals and half eaten ropes!
Suzi, by email

What's your poison?

Six years ago when we got our latest retriever pup, Diva, we soon found she had the most horrendous puppy 'scurf' - much more than normal. The initial reaction from our vet was that it was just puppy scurf and would clear up but if anything it got worse - trails of 'dandruff' everywhere.
They then decided it was a problem she wouldn't grow out of and suggested the only solution was long term steroids. I didn't want to go down that route and was advised to try a homeopathic vet in London (Ainsworths). I explained the problem on the phone and within 24 hours they had posted me a phial of arsenic tabs. The instructions were to give her one a day for a week, then one every other day for a week, which we did. Within a fortnight the scurf/dandruff had gone never to return. She had no adverse side effects to the treatment whatsoever.
What has happened though is that she has never ever had a flea on her, so I have not needed to pay for expensive flea control. She has had a very occasional tick but only when she's stuck her head down rabbit holes etc - nothing on a par with our previous retriever who had regular flea control but still had big problems. Can it be that arsenic in the system from a young age has kept fleas at bay similarily to garlic in humans keeping mosquitoes away? I'd be interested to know of similar reports - it would certainly revolutionise the cost of flea control.
Lyn Gadd, by email

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, says:
What a fantastic story! There’s a large contingent of ‘scientists’ in the media who are out to disparage homeopathy. Your ‘scurf’ story would suggest otherwise. Thanks for bringing it up.
The fact that Diva is not getting any problems with fleas and ticks is, I’m afraid, nothing to do with this early treatment or arsenic in the system. Homeopathic remedies are prepared in such a way that the toxic effects of the source material are eliminated. This is just as well as veterinary homeopaths commonly use many toxic substances in their remedies, for example: Strychnine, Phosphorus and even Uranium!
What I think is happening here, regarding fleas, is just good fortune. If you’d said you’d changed to a raw food diet and were feeding garlic, ginger and brewer’s yeast, I’d put it down to this, but as you don’t mention it, I presume you’re feeding similar to your previous dog.
You know how midges and mosquitoes attack some people much more than others, because of skin type and pheromones and such like? Well, I think this is similar to what we have here. I think Diva has good skin and is just lucky that insects are not really attracted to her.
Yes, flea products are used a lot with our cats and dogs. Too much, in my opinion. I advise my clients never to use these pesticides on their pets unless absolutely necessary, and then, only if herbal products containing Neem, are not effective. I say that I’d prefer to live with the odd flea than to have to cope with pesticide all over the dog, and, consequently, me! We spend millions on organic food in this country. If you come home, stroke the treated dog, then pick up an organic apple, for a snack, that apple is no longer pesticide free and organic!
Keep up the good work. Avoid pesticides where possible, maintain health to keep the skin vital and use homeopathy as much as possible.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Help, my dog has been diagnosed as anorexic

My Standard Poodle has been diagnosed with anorexia. This problem started a few months ago and reached crisis point a few weeks ago. We have been doing quite well with me cooking her food and gradually adding a little dried food. What she eats one day, she might turn up her nose at another day. I think I have more varieties of food in my house than the pet shop does. If she won't eat we do not make a fuss and try again later. There is no plausible reason why this has happened as I have two other dogs and they all get on well together. I was wondering if anyone else has come across this problem with their dog. Her body went into starvation mode and she has hardly been passing any motions but today she has chronic diarrhoea which has set us back. We have done all that we possibly can but any other suggestions would be most gratefully received.
Judith Stephens, Mrs

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I'd love to try Flyball...

I love watching Flyball on TV but I can't yet drive and there doesn't seem to be anywhere near here where I can have a go even if I could get a lift. Is this something you can learn at home? Does anyone do a remote training course?
It looks so much fun.
I've got a collie that already loves catching balls, sounds like a perfect thing for us to try, but without a club locally we're a bit stuck.
Where can you buy a box that throws the balls in the air?
Maureen Little, Carlisle

Monday, 23 August 2010

Any tips for splitting nails?

I have three beautiful, happy and healthy Jack Russells. One of my boys, Trevor aged seven, has always loved chasing a ball. My problem is that every now and then he must land awkwardly having jumped to catch his ball, and splits a nail. This isn't just when ball chasing, it can also happen if running on uneven ground, such as rough moorland or around rock pools at the seaside. It is not always the same nail or same foot. Obviously when this happens it's very painful for him and bleeds quite badly for a few seconds. My vet has confirmed that Trevor (and his nails) are in tip top condition, and has come to the conclusion that poor Trev is just unlucky and maybe his stopping/landing techniques are to blame. I wondered if cod liver oil might help, but as my boys are fed a top quality complete food with some BARF, I don't want to over do the vitamin A, or anything else. My other two boys Graham and Wilf never have any such trouble. To put this in perspective, my boys get daily long walks and plenty of exercise in varied locations. This nail problem only occurs maybe about twice a year so I can't say it's frequent. It's just that being so distressing for him (and me!) I wondered if anyone had any ideas. He definitely won't wear those doggy boots!
Many thanks
Sara Marlow, Huddersfield

Richard Allport, alternative vet, says...
It seems unlikely to me that Trevor is just awkward at landing, and even if the nails look fine, I’m pretty sure there must be some weakness in them. Supplements of Zinc and Biotin will help strengthen the nail. Give them a try and see if Trevor can avoid his ‘split ends’!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Help! My normally lovely dog is snapping at children

I have two Golden retrievers, a neutered 22-month-old boy, Teddy and nine-month-old Lola. Lola is a total darling and is super friendly to everyone. I would have said the same of Teddy, until two months ago when we had new neighbours move in. They are friends of ours and their children play at our house with our children. 
I'm writing this as, for the third time Teddy has growled at or snapped at the children. Each of the three children have now had a bad reaction from him and I'm stunned. Teddy is a very calm dog, typically soft mouthed, well trained and obedient. He isn't a push-over submissive dog but he is not aggressive. 
The first reaction happened when Lola was being fussed by the children and the 10 year old girl came over to Teddy to give him a stroke. Teddy growled at her. The second time was when the seven year old boy petted him. Teddy made a snap at him. I thought this may be because Teddy and Lola had been play fighting and the lad moved suddenly towards Teddy, when the 'game' had just finished. The third time was when I had hold of Teddy's collar and the seven year old girl stroked his head as she walked past. Teddy snapped at her hand. My own children are 15, 13 and 10 so the dogs are used to children in the house.
I'm really perplexed as to why this is happening and I'm really disappointed too. Teddy barks at the door bell when the children arrive but scrambles to greet them when they get in. I can tell the children to ignore Teddy and I can keep him away from them but I'd really like to know why he is reactig like this. He's not protective over Lola - is he protective over me? I have been standing by his side each time this has happened and he is a mummy's boy.
Any ideas?
Sam Young

Karen Wild, Canine Behaviour Counsellor, says...
It certainly sounds as if Teddy is not comfortable with the children approaching and petting him. The safest option is for you to immediately seek professional help and at present your suggestion is correct, do not allow the children to approach or pet Teddy for now. Ask your vet for referral to a behaviour professional such as an APBC member who will be able to help you teach Teddy to learn some safer habits. A growl is a clear warning that a dog is not happy with a situation and the more 'history' a dog has of the same reactions the more likely they are to repeat the same behaviour, escalating it each time (hence the snapping behaviour you witnessed on the third occasion). I can understand your feelings as it can come as a real shock to see your beloved dog behaving in this way. Try to think of it in terms of Teddy communicating his unease in the only way he knows how. If these warnings go unheeded, he has no option but to take it a stage further each time. This does not mean he should be branded as a 'nasty' dog - it sounds like he sees some things as a threat and would rather keep his distance. Owners often tell me their dog is not 'aggressive' but truly, most dogs that bite are often out of their comfort zone but are lovely pets the rest of the time. His reaction in this case could be for many reasons so do take that first step - contact an accredited behaviourist who will help you - and Teddy - to regain that level of confidence again.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Scared kittens, fascinated pup. How to make it work?

I wonder if any of your readers or experts can help me with a serious problem which I would like to stop in my Border Collie pup, Jake. I have two adorable kittens as well as Jake, intending for them to all grow up together.
Tibbs the little tabby one spits at Jake so until now he has given her a wide berth, but has now started going down in typical Collie style and bouncing round her barking, I think this is his way of trying to get her to run away so he can chase her.
Chloe on the other hand is very timid, and whenever they are together Jake mouths her making her look like a wet dish rag instead of the gorgeous fluffy white kitten she normally is, you can see that she
doesn't like it but she just lays there till either, I find them, or she can escape.
He has recently started to try to pick her up by the scruff of her neck or her tail, and once when I caught him he had her by the throat. I know he likes her, but I also know she is frightened of him, hence the baby gate to allow them to be able to escape from him.
He knows he is doing wrong because when I chastise him he looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth and then walks away making sure he stands on her or her tail, almost as a retaliation.
I think he is a bit jealous because I pick the kittens up - usually to save them from him, but he gets most of the attention, we walk a lot and we are going to training classes and we are learning new tricks each week.  He has Kongs, and lots of toys. Is there anything I can do to integrate these three?
Thank you.
Janet, Preston

Can Peggy avoid a lip tuck?

I have a seven-year-old, neutered Cocker Spaniel called Peggy. She is a funny old baggage, but I love her dearly.
She has a few problems, dry eye and an undiagnosed dietary intolerance for which she is fed Wafcol fish and corn. But the reason I am emailing is because of her lips. She is not a particularly jowly dog, but she does get constant soreness in her lower lips folds. This has been going on for about two years I have been back and forward to the vets, with no real conclusion.
They give her Synulox which helps while she is on them, but once they stop the soreness starts again. I clean her lips everyday with Hibiscrub and apply Fuciderm and keep the hair around her lips trimmed short.
It is difficult to do as she finds her lips so tender. To see her delicately scratching her lips is really sad as Peg does most everything full on but her sore lips do bother her so much.
The vets only real answer is a lip tuck, something I don't want to do as apart from anything else I cant afford it.
They are very dirty and scabby each time I clean them and when they are infected you can see the raw skin and even puss, we then get down the vets for more Synulox. but how often can you keep going for antibiotics. I would be grateful for any suggestions please to Peggy's sore lips.
Thanks so much
Tracey and Peggy

What's the law on keeping your dog in order?

Is it a legal requirement to keep your dog on a collar and lead when walking
him along a main road? An adult dog who was being walked off-lead in my area
recently ran across the main road and attacked a puppy, who was seriously
injured. When I spoke to a policewoman about the incident, she told me
there is no law stating that a dog should be kept on a collar and lead when
being walked along a highway. Surely it is common sense to keep your dog on
a lead next to a busy road?! It would only take a second for my dogs to be
distracted by a playmate on the other side of the road and they would be
off! I often see dogs walked off-lead along the busy road and dread to think
what would happen if they were to run into the path of a car. There seems
to be no clear guidance. I wonder where the law stands?
Carol Ward, Nr Norwich

Help - my pup's got campylobacter!

My puppy has had a very dodgy tum pretty much for the whole six months since I've had him. At first I thought it might be the food so have tried to find a diet that works for him and am now moving towards feeding raw.
The pattern has been a few days of runny poo followed by a couple of weeks of normal stools. I talk to the breeder regularly and she has been very supportive. The breed is known for their jippy tums.
I went to the vets recently as he was particularly poorly and they conducted a fecal test, the first result back showed something that sounded like coxydilla (which I'm told is normally present and nothing to worry about) and then after two weeks of growing the culture they found campylobacter. He's now just finished a 10 day course of antibiotics and fingers crossed he's okay - but we've had waves of good health before so aren't counting chickens just yet.
Can anyone tell me more about campylobacter, I've heard it described as a bacteria overgrowth? He is a terrible scavenger and is always eating poo on walks - from any species. He's also picked up the odd dead rabbit. Can this be the source and if so why don't all dogs have this problem as I'm sure my dog isn't the only one with nasty habits.
He's been thoroughly wormed at 12 weeks and also monthly due to the local risk of lungworm.
I've read on the Internet that camplyobacter can be passed to humans, how easily does this happen as he has lots of kids that love giving him pats and get lots of licks from him in return. Do I need to stop this? No one that has close conatct with him has had an upset tum.
Will he keep reinfecting himself if he's picking this up from eating poo?
Is camplyobacter present in all dogs - if so, why has my pup now developed a problem with it? The other dogs he mixes with all seem fine.
Could he have had it in his system since I got him? The breeder says his older brother had a similar problem until antibiotics sorted it out at six months.
I've no interest in trying to blame anyone, just want to sort my pup's tummy out and keep him healthy.
Julie Ashton, Bristol

Friday, 13 August 2010

What's the best cheese, please?

During dog training, for that extra umph I often recommend a tiny piece of cheese as a reward. But many of my customers complain that the cheese melts and is all greasy in their hands.
I'm in search of some cheese to recommend that is extra tasty for the dogs, not too greasy in the hand and doesn't melt.
Has anyone found the ultimate training cheese?
Tony Cruse, Chelmsford

The following suggestions came via Facebook:

Charles Namey: We use mozzarella string cheese.

Karen Lawe: Austrian or Bavarian smoked cheese is generally well received and comes in handy sausage shape. Any cheese can go sticky so best to chop it into small cubes, spread out on a plate and leave in the fridge overnight uncovered to harden a bit if you don't want gooey cheese under your fingernails. It does soften as it gets warm again though.

Tina Humphrey: Organic - mild cheddar cut into tiny peas sized cubes - it sticks together well and can be 'hand dispensed' a tiny piece at a time. It's worked quite well for us!!!

Gillian S. Stewart Baby Bells..,cut into little bits, or the hard, strongest Cheddar the supermarket cares to stock lol!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

It's all relative

I am preparing to get a dog and have been researching different breeds. I am keen on natural looking, healthy breeds and have done a lot of reading about Northern Inuits lately. With the amount of health problems that have been registered in many breeds, this is obviously a major concern and I want to make sure to get a healthy dog.
The Northern Inuit seems to have a good reputation in terms of health, but I have noticed that the "Breeders Code" on the official website of the Northern Inuit Society contains no clause that addresses inbreeding, whilst at the same time disallowing out-crossing (even though the breed was created by crossing Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds, amongst others, in the first place). I am concerned that, with such a fairly new breed and a fairly small gene-pool to go with it (there are not that many registered breeders, and many of the stud-dogs appear to be closely related), the Northern Inuit will quickly become inbred and go down the same road as other breeds with genetically induced health-problems.
It would be a shame and quite frankly infuriating if this were to happen despite the widespread awareness of the results of inbreeding. I am no expert, however, and I am hoping that you might be able to advise me on this subject.
Leslie Sass, by email

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Help for a grieving dog

Dear Beverley and Think Tank contributors
Can anyone give an advice for a Westie who has recently (Tuesday this week) lost her lifelong companion? My friend and her husband had two Westies,(both females) and the older has just died aged almost 19. She was definitely the boss. Her companion dog (aged approx 7-8) has been with her for all of her life and is apparently quite depressed at home (though still eating and drinking okay) and searches for her old friend, especially in the morning when she used to go and jump on her to wake her up and the pair of them used to have a tussle and play round the garden. My friend is not sure whether to remove the other dog's bed yet or just leave it as will still smell of her and may comfort the remaining dog.
I had been taking both dogs out for walks daily as my friend and her husband work full time - and I am not bringing the remaining dog home with me and my two dogs so that she is not left home alone for too long. When she was with me today she seemed quite happy, but there is nothing here which would be a reminder of her old friend.H
I know that most dogs do eventually adjust to a new life without a previous companion and it is important that we do not mollycoddle her as this will reinforce her feelings of something being wrong. However, any pointers and advice from contributors who have had to deal with a similar situation would be helpful.

Many thanks
Fiona McLean

Friday, 6 August 2010

An alternative for phantoms

Does anyone have any suggestions for a homeopathic remedy for phantom pregnancies? Our Lexie was convinced she was having puppies after her season last year and as she has just been in season again we are not looking forward to a repeat of her going off her food and nesting.
Ann Andrews

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, says:
Poor old Lexie. But please remember this process, a bit like puberty or birth, although less than comfortable at times and thoroughly inconvenient, is a natural process and does not necessarily need treatment. I only treat these bitches if they are actually in distress – and this is different from bitches being fine with their nests and their dollies, but their owners worrying because they’re eating less. If their weight is fine and they are well in themselves, leave them to it, I say. Most dogs can benefit from losing a bit of weight, so actually false pregnancies can help in this regard.
If, however, they are getting into a bit of a tizz or they are at risk of mastitis due to excessive milk production or are really miserable, then something must be done. There are five main remedies that we use in this situation. Usually we’ll use a 30c potency three times a day for three days, then repeat if more effect is required. Remedies are selected according to the behaviour of the patient:
Chamomilla – from Chamomile – for the over excitable and hypersensitive bitch – where there is bad temper and irritability. ‘Demanding for things, but then refuses them when offered’ is a common cry of the owner with a Cham bitch. Teats may be swollen and tender to touch.
Helonias dioca – Unicorn Root – mainly a remedy for weakness and pain in the lumbar region of the back, but it can also be useful where mammary glands are very swollen as the main symptom, along with tenderness of the lower back.
Lac caninum – yes, bitches milk made into a homeopathic remedy (sounds like something from Shakespeare, doesn’t it!) - used in false pregnancy (and after weaning) where we’re trying to halt milk production. Bitches needing the remedy are often very unconfident, but who ‘act’ very confident and aggressive with other dogs. They are better for petting.
Pulsatilla – the Wind Flower – the archetypal remedy we use for false pregnancy. Bitches needing Pulsatilla are changeable in their moods and their symptoms, they are very clingy and are better for touch. They prefer fresh air (drafts under doors or sitting outside), but don’t like to be chilly. Generally sweet, but they can be unpredictable!
Sepia – from the ink of the Cuttlefish – for the weak, exhausted bitch who just doesn’t want to know. She’s tired of everything, but, remarkably, will brighten up if taken for a lively run. They are congested and bloated generally and tender to touch around the vulval area. Useful for maiden bitches with pups when they have no maternal instinct, too.

Op or not?

My eight year old Labrador Sally developed diabetes last year. It was awful because she was so thirsty all the time and really lost weight, but my vet and his nurses have been fantastic and now the diabetes is under pretty good control. It has been a lot of work and we have had lots of trips backwards and forwards to the vets (thank goodness for pet insurance!), and I have to give Sally insulin injections twice a day.
Sally has been wonderful and lets me inject her without making any fuss. However, she has gone almost totally blind with cataracts over the last few weeks. My vet says that the cataracts are because of the diabetes, but they seem to have come on very quickly. It is really upsetting to see her walking into things, and she has lost all her confidence. My vet says that there might be an operation she could have, but I am so worried – I don’t know whether it would work and whether she would be alright, especially with her having diabetes.
Have any of your readers had the same experience, I wonder?
Can anyone help?
Julie Smith, Manchester

I have seen some really miraculous results when diabetic dogs have had cataracts removed. Suddenly they can see again! It is worth bearing in mind that any veterinary surgeon operating to remove a diabetic dog’s cataracts will understand of all that you and Sally have gone through to achieve stability of her diabetes mellitus, and will also be aware of how to manage the general anaesthetic needed for a diabetic dog.
In my opinion, I would air your concerns with your vet and investigate cataract removal with him, or her. If it would involve referral, then I would take it that next step which would still not commit you and Sally but would enable her to be evaluated as a patient for surgery. Her retinas would also be assessed to ensure that they are healthy so that vision is indeed restored on removing the cataracts.
One can never guarantee any surgery, but when successful this is certainly one of those cases where the bounce returns to the patient’s outlook on life.
Alison Logan, vet

I totally agree with Alison Logan’s opinion. As a veterinary eye specialist, I have operated on many diabetic patients with cataracts and the results can be extremely rewarding – diabetic cataracts can progress extremely quickly, potentially causing damaging inflammation inside the eye, and in some cases the retina can detach. A pre-operative ultrasound scan of the eye is required to look for retinal detachment and also for possible rupture or bursting of the lens (the lens inside the eye is what becomes white when a cataract develops). Lens rupture can make the surgery more challenging. It is therefore important that diabetic cataracts are assessed carefully, and ideally surgery should be carried out relatively quickly to reduce the risks of lens rupture and retinal detachment. Providing the timing is right, diabetic dogs have as good a prospect of a successful outcome as non-diabetic patients.
If you are considering the surgery, it is very important to realise that it will be a significant commitment from your point of view – there will (or should) be numerous visits to the specialist undertaking the surgery, because good pre-operative assessment and careful post-operative management are just as important for a successful outcome as the surgery itself. Post-operative care can be intensive, with multiple drop applications every day for the first few weeks after surgery, and some patients can even require some degree of eye medication for life. This is perhaps less daunting for owners who are already used to the commitment of looking after a diabetic dog, however! In addition to these aftercare issues, the surgery will be expensive, especially if both eyes are operated on (which is advisable) and if modern artificial lenses are implanted inside the eyes to improve vision. I see you mention that Sally is insured, but you need to know that the costs of the operation will come out of the cover that you have for her diabetes, as it is the diabetes which has caused her cataracts to develop. If you have good levels of insurance cover this will hopefully not be a problem, but you should check with your insurance company what funds you have remaining in this insurance year against which to claim for diabetes.
A very important consideration is where and by whom the surgery is to be carried out. Cataract surgery is a challenging operation which should be performed using highly specialised micro-surgical instrumentation. The operation in dogs is more difficult than it is in most humans, and it is therefore very important that it is carried out by a veterinary surgeon who has the latest, appropriate surgical equipment, including an operating microscope and a so-called ‘phaco' machine (the phacoemulsification unit that is used to actually remove the cataract). Equally important considerations are the post-graduate training and skill of the surgeon, and the fact that anaesthesia for cataract surgery is not run-of-the-mill – a full general anaesthetic is required, and the best type of anaesthesia for this operation is done using a ‘muscle relaxant’ procedure. This is not routinely carried out except in a few centres, and it is ideally performed with the supervision of an anaesthesia specialist.
I would recommend that you discuss the topic with your own vet and ask if they can refer you to a recognised eye specialist, and preferably one who is also working with an anaesthesia specialist and performing cataract surgery on a regular basis. A word of caution, however – the subject of specialisation within the veterinary profession can be a slightly confused one, as theoretically anyone can call themselves a specialist! When seeking a specialist it is best to look for the terms ‘RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) Registered Specialist’ or ‘European Specialist’, in this case in the fields of Veterinary Ophthalmology and Veterinary Anaesthesia (there are specialists in numerous veterinary disciplines). These specialists will have been through rigorous approved training programmes in a specialist centre and passed Diploma level examinations in their fields (these are the highest level examinations for vets working in clinical practice, and not to be confused with the lower level qualification of a Certificate, which can be taken by vets working in general practice). To be allowed to use these specific Specialist terms means that the vets involved will be highly qualified and actively working in their fields of expertise – whilst taking Sally to such individuals doesn’t guarantee that the surgery will be successful, it does get things off to a good start, which is very important when you will be entrusting the future of Sally’s vision to their care.
To learn more about cataract surgery in dogs, you can visit our informative website and follow the Information Sheet links on our Specialist Services page.
Peter Renwick RCVS Specialist in Veterinary Ophthalmology, Willows Referral Service, Solihull, West Midlands

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Raising the subject of raised bowls

I have come across conflicting advice regarding bloat and raised feeders. Looking at various websites, some say raised feeders could help safeguard against bloat whilst others say the opposite, that raised feeders may actually cause bloat.
Much of what I have found online seems to be second hand advice with little or nothing to back it up, so I am confused as to the truth, if indeed there is any definitive answer.
I am hoping to learn more on this from professional bodies such as vets, to see what their views are. Can anyone help?
Kind regards,
Jenny Prevel

Hi Jenny
I've heard it argued both ways, too! It would be interesting if there is anything other than anecdotal evidence either way. Dogs certainly look more comfortable eating off a raised bowl.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Via Twitter some research was tracked down by @K9_Kirsty. Purdue University have a paper by Dr. Larry Glickman, VMD,Ph.D, & Dr.Malathi Raghavan, DVM, Ph.D. that seems to show that raised feeding bowls and soaking food is bad for dogs prone to get bloat Here's a link

Bloat is one of many conditions where advice varies with time, reflecting the results of ongoing research. Yes, raising the feeding bowl was advised at one time and current thinking is that it is best to feed from the ground once more. That advice may well change in the future, if it has not already.
It may be a matter of by how much the feeding bowl is raised, so perhaps feeding off the lowest back-door step rather than raising it by twelve inches, for example? There are so many factors potentially at play in the development of bloat that the height of the feeding bowl may be insignificant or a relatively minor feature ii comparison with another factor, which may not have even been identified yet.
From personal experience, my Labrador Pippin has had her food bowl sat in a stand to raise it from the ground for the past six years or so. This is because she has intermittent episodes of neck pain which I feel date back to when a car went into the back of my car at high speed whilst I was stationary in traffic. She was lying down in the boot of my car at the time. I suffered a whiplash injury and chronic consequences, whilst she had times when she could not bend her neck to reach her food bowl on the ground. It was heart-breaking to see – a hungry Lab who simply could not lower her mouth to her food!
I found the stand at a local agriculture show and thought it was worth a try. The stand has been a revelation for Pippin so I do recommend raising the bowl for dogs who find it difficult to bend their neck to eat from the ground
Alison Logan, vet

Monday, 2 August 2010

How old is too old?

I have an entire male dog and recently a friend enquired if they could use him at stud. He's 14 years old and has never been used before, so there's a chance he won't have a clue what to do in any case, but is there any negative health wise for a much older male siring a litter?
He's got a lovely nature and has always been very healthy.
Should I let him try?
The owner of the bitch has lots of people on her waiting list and to be honest I would love one of the pups, too.
Simon Edrich, Chester

You are indeed lucky to have a fit and healthy fourteen year old dog, whatever his breed, and I can understand why you would love to have one of his puppies. Generally, any dog used as a stud has a good clean pedigree and a proven track record in the ring, be it show, obedience or trial, for example. He will be passing on traits to his offspring, as will the dam, which should all be desirable for that breed.
If this was a fourteen-year-old bitch then I think that no-one would be in any doubt as to the answer. I do remember the case of a twelve or thirteen year old bitch who had been unknowingly mated. In fact, the owner was totally unaware of her bitch being pregnant until she ran into problems and, to cut a long story short, needed a Caesarian. Needless to say, it did knock her for six, but she successfully reared her two puppies.
For an older dog, the only physical demand is the actual mating. He will play no other part since he does not live in the same household. The bitch obviously goes through pregnancy on her own, and the dog is generally not at all involved in rearing the puppies. There is therefore no comparison either with the situation with an older human father.
There are six points, however, which do spring to my mind as being important to consider:
1. Inherited diseases are not just a consideration for the young bitch mated to a young sire. You do not mention what breed your dog is – and I am assuming he is a pedigree purebreed - but he should still be screened for those inherited conditions appropriate to his breed. For example, if he is a Labrador retriever then his eyes, hips and elbows should be screened. Temperament is certainly very important indeed, but as the owner of the sire you would not want him to be passing on a serious inherited defect. It follows that the same applies to your friend’s bitch, as well as all the care needed during pregnancy and the risks involved, let alone the costs;
2. How many times have people said that they would love to have a puppy from a litter, only to back out when the litter has actually been born? There are so many puppies around from reputable breeders, and so many puppies and adults in rescue centres;
3. Fertility – being an older dog, it is likely that he will be less fertile, ie have fewer viable sperms. I would have thought that there would also be a higher risk of abnormal sperms which may affect the number and health of puppies developing through to birth. You have not indicated how old your friend’s bitch is but do remember that age will also affect the fertility of the bitch, and the Kennel Club will not register puppies born to a dam less than a year old at mating or more than eight years old when the puppies are born;
4. The mechanics of mating do require the dog to rear up on his hindlimbs. Although it is usual for the dog to turn to achieve a tie ,which may last as long as twenty minutes, bitches will conceive without this stage occurring. If your dog has arthritis, this may be painful for him so should be considered carefully. If it does not put him off from mounting the bitch, in how much discomfort will he be?
5. Mating does involve exertion. An increase in heart rate will put additional stress on the heart. The heart of a fourteen-year-old dog will have been beating for fourteen years and coping with the slow demands of old age. What effect might the exuberance of mating have on it?
Maiden bitch and first-time sire is not always a good recipe for success. It simply may not happen, in which case your friend would be best advised to find an experienced stud dog with a proven track record.
So, not a straight forward decision which is, after all, why you have posted on the Think Tank! The chances of failure are undoubtedly higher than with a younger, proven stud dog. It may be that if you were to decide to go ahead, both dogs having passed screening tests, the bitch might not have a live litter anyway, with a failure anywhere along the way from mating through conception and ultimately to delivery.
Alison Logan, vet

Delicate tum

As my collie has got older, I've noticed that she has developed an increasingly delicate stomach. The slightest thing can set her off. I used to be able to give her some of our dinner or little treats, but now there's usually a smelly consequence the next day.
Even something a simple as an overnight stay at a hotel can mean that she has an upset tum overnight (which is hard to cope with!). It could be the change in the water or just the stress of a change of routine.
Is there anything I can do to help her digestive system run a little more smoothly? Or is this just something that happens with older dogs?
Carol Wilby, Waltham-On-Thames

Although my Lab has an cast-iron constitution, I do tend to play it safe and feed her only her dog food, day in, day out. I suppose it is because professionally I have seen so many stomach upsets in dogs after a change in diet, such as eating titbits or scavenging. From my side of the consulting table, such problems are best avoided from happening in the first place by sticking to a stable diet. So, the easy answer is to stick to what you know agrees with your dog’s digestive system. Really, it is much like the situation with ourselves – if you know that you have a stomach upset after eating a particular food, then you avoid it, and curse when you are ill after forgetting or risking it!
A change in the water does seem to be a common cause of an upset stomach, although one cannot rule out ‘stress’ since the water may have changed because of going away to a different place. Stress is hard to quantify and is not simply an unpleasant experience. Stress in this instance could really being used to describe a challenge for the gut, a change in the intestinal environment.
On that basis, pre- and pro-biotics may be worth giving to your dog when you know a change in the water is likely, such as when you go away. Alternatively, you could give her bottled water to drink at home and if it does not cause a stomach upset then try using that as her sole water source when you are away. I must admit that I do not hold with bottled water - I drink tap water – but this may well help your dog.
Alison Logan, Vet

Are older dogs more vulnerable?

When there's a flu epidemic all the posters in the doctors warn the elderly to get a flu shot. I was just wondering - will my older dog be more susceptible to illness now, too?
What can I do to boost her immune system so she can fight off any challenges she might encounter?
Any ideas?
Robin Anderson, Essex

As the body ages, so do all the body systems which will inevitably include the immune system. It is generally advised to keep vaccinations up-to-date in order to maintain immunity to serious diseases. I would not say that I have noticed a surge in the incidence of illness in older dogs compared to when they were younger, but it can take longer for them to bounce back to health after simple illnesses such as stomach upsets.
Dogs do not seem to experience the same range of illnesses as we do. For example, they do not go through the coughs and colds which characterise one’s childhood and continue through to old age, albeit at a lesser level but with more chance of causing complications. A young dog with kennel cough is often very bright and eating well still, but with a hacking productive cough. Kennel cough in an elderly dog can cause more signs of illness (lethargy, reduced appetite) and the cough can last for longer.
A balanced diet geared to the older dog is important, as is a suitable exercise regime to keep your dog fit and interested in life. Regular short walks over easy terrain are far better than intermittent long walks over unforgiving ground, for example. Above all, though, enjoy your older dog – they still have so much to give us.
Alison Logan, vet

Can you beat wear and tear?

I recently met someone with a 15-year-old dog that was just amazing, so agile. My dog is just 10 years old yet looks very much older.
I chatted with the owner and I just wish I'd had a tape recorder as she reeled off a list of things that she used to keep the spring in her dog's step.
I felt terrible, I haven't changed my dog's regime at all – I'd just assumed getting a bit creaky was natural in old age. That all dogs get natural wear and tear on their joints.
Can someone take me firmly in hand!
What should I try first?
Chris Adams, Dorset

I wonder what breed the other lady’s dog was, and what breed your own dog is? Do remember that smaller breeds tend to age slower than larger, and may be less prone to joint problems, for example. Have you owned your dog from a puppy, so that you know all of his or her history? If not, then he or she may have had a poor start to life.
After all, some people are very sprightly at an advanced age. How many times does one hear interviews with centenarians where some have said they have smoked and drunk all their lives, whilst others have never touched a drop of alcohol nor drawn on a single cigarette?
I have always had an interest in older dogs and trying to keep them with us for as long as possible, with as good a quality of life as possible. There have been many innovations over the years, such as geriatric or senior dog food (for example, lower more easily digested by the older gut, higher quality protein at a level suited to ageing kidneys and liver). There are prescription drugs to combat senility, one of which often has the useful side-effect of helping control urinary incontinence (fantastic when my old border collie miraculously dried up), and specific prescription drugs for urinary incontinence.
Creaky joints are a pet interest, because I think many owners fail to recognise the pain element of stiffness. ‘Oh, he is a bit stiff after resting but that soon wears off… no, he is not in pain.’ Having experienced pain from a stiff back and neck, I think that there is all too often a painful part to a stiff joint. If I can persuade the owner of a stiff dog to try him or her on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for a week or so, they will often come back reporting that it is like knocking years off their dog’s age!
Dietary supplements are worth investigating. I suspect the person you met will have named various things to add to your dog’s food, such as chondroitin, glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids. There are also foods available designed to support the joints, both prescription and on general sale. Pippin has worn a magnet on her collar for the past five years, and I have had some miraculous results in previously stiff dogs.
Is your dog’s body condition ideal, or is he or she carrying surplus weight? It is vital to ensure ageing joints are not having to support excess bodyweight. The terrain where you exercise your dog is also important, as are the length and frequency of walks. Those joints need to be kept moving, but also allowing for rest as well. Hydrotherapy or controlled swimming exercise is great because it is non-weight-bearing activity.
So, don’t feel guilty that you have not changed your dog’s regime as he or she has aged because it may be that what you are doing is entirely suited to your own dog. Your veterinary practice may run a geriatric clinic where you can receive more specific advice geared to your own dog after a full assessment.
Alison Logan, vet

Joint problems are one of the biggest issues that our pets encounter and are particularly common as they age. There are many reasons for joint problems, commonly a reduction in the synovial fluid within joints, and these can result in problems and pain. Common causes are natural wear, injury, and infection.
Syno-Vital® Pet is an easy-to-use liquid feed supplement, which can be used to keep joints healthy, maintain bones and keep a pets coat shiny-smooth. Unlike glucosamine supplements, Syno-Vital contains only hyaluronan which has been described as ‘nature’s healing agent’. It has an important role in bone health, reducing friction by lubricating joints, absorbing shocks, and supplying oxygen and nutrients.
For more information contact Molar Ltd on 01934 710022