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Friday, 29 October 2010

Rescue plan needed!

We rescued Bobby a Cocker Spaniel, aged two years old, from a well-known rescue organisation approx 10 days ago. We were told that he had been handed over by his single owner because he was being left for 10 hours at a time and had become destructive! The only other issue we were told about was that he pulled on the lead. Our two previous rescue dogs are no longer alive, but one had had no training and the other was a severe cruelty case. Now we have a young family, Bobby seemed right for our present situation, and we believed that we would have no problems training him.
Bobby is very bright, has responded well to training and with the use of a Kong and other activities has shown no signs of destructiveness. However, whilst on the lead, Bobby becomes extremely vocal and excited when he sees another dog, which appears to be from frustration. However, I took a risk and let Bobby off the extendable to see what he would do when approaching a group of dogs off lead and unfortunately, he attacked an elderly German Shepherd. We think Bobby has been exercised on an extendable lead, and for the time being are having to use one ourselves until we are sure of his behaviour, not least his recall. (He is learning to focus on us whilst out, but this will obviously take time).
I spoke to the person who runs the local dog training class and attended for the first time tonight. Unfortunately I ended up walking out! Bobby was extremely agitated and vocal and was upsetting the other three dogs. I moved further away from them, and then out of their sight, to help Bobby calm down and focus on me, but the trainer was not happy with that. I was also not happy with the suggestion that we use a Citronella spray collar on him.
I have come home and decided to initially get some help from Dogs Today! I will also try and find a COAPE trainer because I realise that a training class is not the place to help Bobby.
We are using a Gentle Leader to help with lead control and, as I said, are using an extendable to allow Bobby some space for running.
Until we find a trainer who can help us, can anyone give us any ideas as to how to deal with his frustration/aggression on his twice daily walks?
Donna Ely, by email

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Why is my dog bringing up bile?

My ( nearly ) eight-year-old terrier bitch keeps having recurring issues of bringing up bile and sometimes a diarrhoea like type sick. This seemed to begin after we returned from a holiday in June where Missy was quite unsettled and didn't eat for almost an entire week until the day before we left, she also had a bad bout of diarrhoea during our stay too.
At home she started eating again and that's when the sickness began. I know bile is normal and normally indicates an empty stomach and as she was throwing up over night I assumed she was hungry. So after advice from some other dog people on a forum I belong to I started giving her a night time treat to tide her over to breakfast and started adding a bit of natural live yoghurt to her diet. This had varied results but it seemed to help improve with her sickness. And then about a month or two ago she stopped altogether and we had a few good weeks with no sickness until, that is, she started bringing the bile and sick up again over night these past couple of weeks or so. This week alone it's been every night since Sunday with sometimes up to three lots of sick.
Missy is fed a good natural food once a day in the evenings with Applaws tins of meat mixed in as she will barely touch her dry food. She never eats breakfast and after years of trying to feed her two set meals each day I went with what she seems happy with. She does get treats during the day and late evening so I don't think it's hunger. She is perfectly fine in herself and is why I've perhaps been hesitant to take her to the vets, after being told (and knowing myself) that bile is normal and no change in Missy's behaviour.
I'm not sure if this is something to be concerned about or not. Although, one behaviour change in her is that she is almost obsessed with eating grass at times and occasionally along with the bile she has also sicked up pure grass too.
Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated.
Louise Nichol by email

Bilious vomiting first thing in the morning is a common complaint, and one where I would agree with the advice you were given, ie feeding a small meal at bed-time to give the stomach something to digest overnight. As you found initially, that is usually enough to settle the problem. When I was competing in dog obedience, a good friend had a beardie who simply had to have a plain biscuit before going to bed, and then a small meal as soon as she awoke in the morning, in order to avoid yellow vomits.
I am therefore concerned, like you, that the bilious vomiting has started again. Another possibility is that it could be a nervous reaction. It is interesting it began whilst she was on holiday when, you say, she was unsettled so I wonder whether there has been any change at home to set this off again. It could be something obvious like visitors or having the builders in, or a more subtle change such as a new suite of furniture or a change in your daily routine.
Otherwise, I do think an examination by your vet would be worth organising. There may well be an underlying problem which therefore should be diagnosed as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment can be given. It cannot be pleasant for your dog to be bringing up bile so the sooner a cause can be found and treated, the better. Eight-years-old is not very old for a terrier, but old enough to be wanting to rule out serious problems.
Alison Logan, Vet

Monday, 18 October 2010

Do dogs suffer bereavement like we do?

I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, who are greatly loved and who greatly love, and I feel that I would like to introduce a third member to my 'pack' as they are inseperable, and if the worse happened they would be alone. Do dogs know that a member of their 'pack' either human or canine has died or do they feel deserted and wonder where they have gone? Would a dog have a greater understanding of loss if it came in contact with the deceased, again whether it be human or canine, would it then realise that nature has taken its course, rather than wondering what happened and accept the situation better? I realise a dog can sense illness and never really understood the whole death part. I would be extremely interested to hear your views on this.
Clare Reynolds, by email

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Stressing about splitting nails

I have a two year old male Border Collie whom I have had for five months. Someone knew he was looking for a home and I decided to have him.
He is an absolute sweetheart but he has rather large feet with long fast growing claws which are very brittle and keep splitting.
He is a very nervous boy but is slowly coming along nicely with me but I recently found out he had been hit quite a bit in his previous home so it's no wonder he is nervous. My problem is when I have taken him to the vet about his claws which have split, in spite of being muzzled, the vets cannot stop him from snapping and he gets very stressed and the only way they have been able to clip his claws is to anaesthetise him. This cannot be good for him in the long term.
The vet suggested giving him biotin but so far this hasn't done much.
He gets several walks on pavements each day but I am at a loss as to what to do for the best.
Incidentally when he came to me, his coat was dry and dull-looking and now it is lovely and glossy and he has gained  weight which he needed. So I think his diet is balanced.
Has anyone got any ideas because I don't want the poor lad to suffer too much more as he is gaining confidence and I want him to continue.
Sue Delaney, Worthing, West Sussex

We covered a similar question not long ago - so do check out the answers to see if there's anything that might be helpful. Click here.
As a Beardie person I'm always a little nervous when someone mentions nail problems as our breed is one of those that does suffer from autoimmune problems and nail issues can be one of the first signs.
SLO is an autoimmune disease of dogs which can cause severe claw problems in otherwise apparently healthy dogs. It can result in the loss of claws from more than one paw - eventually all claws may be lost. Other symptoms may include: receding quicks, secondary infection (often with a strong smell), claw splitting (usually down the back of the claw), pain, distorted/twisted claws and lameness.
Might be worth asking the vet whether he or she thinks the claw problems may be autoimmune related? It may just be he has suffered from very poor nutrition in his previous home and the nails grown in that period are weak, things may improve as the new nail growth starts coming through.
It might be worth investing in a tool which grinds down your dogs nails, then you'd be able to do this at home - but it would take lots of positive reinforcement to get him to accept the noise and the vibration.
I found a Dremel 761-03 Cordless Pet Nail Grooming Rotary Tool sale for about £36 on Amazon - and I believe Oster also do a version, too.
Dog groomers tend to be very confident at doing nails and a good local one may help you - especially as their shop would not have the same smells as a vet's surgery.
I would enlist the help of a good dog behaviourist who should be able to help you with a plan on how to introduce the nail filing tool and recondition your dog's behaviour so he is less fearful at the vets, too.
Do let us know how you get on,
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Career advice please!

I'm in my final year of my GCSE's at school and at the moment the teachers are all talking about A levels and even university. However, I'm not sure what subjects to pick. I know I want to work with dogs; they're my life and I want them to play an important part in my future. The only problem is, I have no idea what I'm going to do!
My predicted grades at the moment are six A*'s and three A's and so everyone wants me to become a vet. But I don't think it would be the perfect career for me as I'm certainly not good with coping under pressure or with animals in pain and distress.
I would be really grateful if anyone has any experience or advice on 'doggie' related careers which they could share with me.
Many Thanks,
Jessica Ellis

‘Everyone wants me to become a vet’ – this must surely be a very wrong reason to decide on a career as a vet so stick up for yourself. If you feel it is not the perfect career for you then it really is not a career into which you should be pressurised.
You have been predicted a strong set of GCSE results so keep on working and I wish you all success. They are not, however, the sole reason for deciding to apply to vet school. High grades at GCSE and then at A-Level are required by universities for entry onto a veterinary science course, in appropriate subjects, not just as a guide to a candidate’s ability to assimilate all the knowledge necessary but also because of the high demand for places.
Being a veterinary surgeon is a vocation, a life-style decision. It is very varied work – you do not always know how many legs your next patient will have, in any at all! You are also working with people who will be very concerned about their pet if he or she is ill or injured. In fact, liking working with people is, I feel, as important as a desire to work with animals.
The hours can be very long and under high levels of stress. Many practices use out-of-hours providers so there may no longer be the on-call rota but there are many other practices which do still provide their own out-of-hours cover. There is nothing quite like working 8am – 8pm during a week-day with limited breaks, then being busy with emergency call-outs through the night and another day at work starting at 8am. There is the buzz of fire brigade procedures (stitch ups, Caesarians, bloat and so on) and you certainly learn quickly when you have to stand on your own two feet without colleagues’ brains to pick, but time off becomes incredibly precious, if only to re-charge the tired batteries.
With these predicted GCSE grades, I would imagine you are planning to take A-Levels and in the subjects which you enjoy and which interest you. University choices is another year away so take one step at a time. A major decision you have made is that you do not wish to be a vet. Use the year to research all that is on offer out there. After all, it may be that your dogs will be an important part of your social life whilst you pursue an alternative career.
Alison Logan, Vet

Monday, 11 October 2010

Barking for their supper

I have two Bichon Frise's, Chloe aged 14 years and Flo, rescued from a puppy farm, is 'very old'. Chloe has recently been diagnosed with Cushing's disease and is on medication. Part of this disease is that she is always hungry. Before Cushings she was a very laidback girl especially at meal times.
She has now started barking while I am preparing her meal and Flo joins in. I have tried many ways of stopping this - to no avail.
Firstly, is this a usual change in behaviour with Cushing's? Have you any information on this disease?
Secondly, do you know how I can stop my dogs barking while preparing their meals?
Terri Sherlock, by email

Cushing's syndrome is a collection of clinical signs resulting from excessive levels of cortisol within the body. The most common signs are a ravenous appetite, excessive thirst, marked increase in the frequency of passing urine, pot-bellied appearance, and loss of fur from the flanks.
The change in appetite can be really marked. I will never forget the Irish setter which came to me initially because of his bloated abdomen. I subsequently diagnosed him with Cushing's syndrome and we started on treatment. Once he was stable, the owners then realised just how ravenous he had been - they noticed that he was no longer stealing food from their children's hands!
There are two possible explanations for why Chloe is barking when you are preparing her food. Assuming the Cushing's syndrome is well controlled, it may have become a behavioural habit, started when she was so hungry that meal times were the highlight of the day for her. The alternative is that she is still hungry because the Cushing's syndrome is not fully under control, or there may be another underlying reason for hunger such as diabetes mellitus. If you feel that she might still be hungry, then further investigation may be recommended by your vet.
If it is a habit, it will be difficult to break. Could you put the dogs in the garden or another part of the house before you start preparing their food, or will they simply bark at the door?
For further information on Cushing's syndrome, I would suggest look at the website
Alison Logan, vet

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Men cause the problem

My name is Jennifer and I am a qualified veterinary nurse, I am a dog owner and have been brought up with dogs since birth. I currently own four dogs and require some help with behaviour for one of them.
Bungle has started to bark at people walking towards us when out on a walk, sometimes chasing towards them.  I am unsure of the best response I can give to this.
The first time he did it a man stepped out on a footpath in front of us with his hood up and I was grateful for B barking.
He has done it occasionally since then if men are walking swiftly towards me but this has been manageable by calling him to heel with a treat.
His canine pack has changed dramatically and I am not sure whether he is showing off, is trying to protect us all or is lacking in confidence in this situation. When he came home as  a puppy he had four adult dogs to influence him, in the last 18 months we have lost three of our dogs and acquired two puppies through rescue. The pups are both entire males who are now 10 months old. B is a four year old neutered male and I have  a seven year old small crossbreed neutered bitch. I want to be sure I give the right and consistent response to this behaviour which has escalated.
He has a command to bark and I tell him to speak at times on his walk when nobody is around and treat him. His behaviour is heightened when the pups are with him and I don't want them to learn this is an acceptable way to behave so they are being separated for walks currently. He doesn't do it if he is on his lead and I am aware that I don't want to grab at his collar everytime I see someone approaching as this may heighten his response.
Any advice would be gratefully received.
Jennifer, by email

As you're a vet nurse, you already know you need to make sure there's no underlying health problem to account for the change in behaviour - but just mentioning it here for others reading who may not know! 
Beverley Cuddy, Editor


Monday, 4 October 2010

More than one way to spay?

I've been looking into how best to have my new dog spayed and I am wondering which is the best operation to go for?
I have heard that some vets take out the ovaries and the uterus, but others only take the ovaries. And that there are even some vets who are now using keyhole surgery to do this, but I guess there are very few vets with the equipment. What are the benefits of using this method? Can you be referred to a specialist?
I thought one of the benefits of neutering was the avoidance of pyometra - but if the uterus is left behind, could that still get infected, or does the lack of ovulation remove the risk?
Which of the methods is the least likely to result in incontinence?
And that age old question - when do you do the operation? After the first season, after the second? Earlier?
Paula Thompson, Cheshire

Edward Davies, Veterinary Surgeon, Cheshire Pet, says...

Hi Paula,

Here at Cheshire Pet we are regularly using keyhole surgery (or laparoscopy) to spay bitches. The main advantages are a significant decrease in pain with smaller incisions and a considerably quicker recovery time.

Postoperative recovery is so quick that often owners can’t tell their pets have had an operation; in fact, I actually did an exploratory procedure on my own dog, Henny, for a suspicious lump and my wife didn’t realise I had done anything, as Henny showed no signs at all.

We aim for the pets to leave the surgery as they came in – bright and alert and looking well – and we feel that the recovery period from laparoscopic spay is generally far faster than the traditional method of spaying – and a lot less painful.

I think the benefits of this technique will grow and I believe that perhaps in the not too distant future this technique will become the norm and will replace the standard spay procedure to a large extent. Bear in mind that this has only really been available in the UK for the last three to four years and at present it is only performed by very few practices, as the investment in training and equipment is significant. We feel really privileged to be able to offer this at Cheshire Pet.

Routinely only an ovariectomy is performed when a spay is done laparoscopically. (An ovariectomy is the removal of just the ovaries, not the uterus and the ovaries.) The uterus can be removed as well but it has been shown that this is unnecessary and of no benefit. Removing the uterus seems to be done as a historical technique in the UK rather than for clinical reasons. In most European countries ovariectomy has been performed for years, even using the traditional spay technique. It has been very well recognised and documented that once the ovaries have been removed then removing the uterus is of no value because the prolonged progesterone hormone production from the ovary is the drive behind the cause of pyometra. Once the ovaries are removed then that drive has gone and the risk of pyometra has gone.

I do not think the incidence of urinary incontinence is any different between laparoscopic spaying and traditional spaying. We would tend to suggest that if the dog is small i.e. less than 10-15kg then spaying before the first season is absolutely fine; however, in larger dogs spaying them between the first and second season seems to be preferable. This as we know avoids the risk of pyometra and can significantly decrease the risk of mammary tumours. The surgery – as with any spay – is best performed two to three months after the last season or in small dogs before the first season is anticipated.

Dear Paula,

Thank you for your letter, you have raised some excellent questions that are particularly topical at the moment given the increasing availability of key-hole procedures in veterinary surgery. I will try to address each of your questions in turn but unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, the veterinary profession does not have definitive evidence based answers for all of them!

Does the uterus have to be removed as well as the ovaries?

Historically, neutering or a 'spay' operation for a bitch has involved removal of both ovaries and the uterus to the level of the cervix (called an ovariohysterectomy or OVH) via an open approach (the surgeon makes a hole large enough to use their hands and fingers). Ovariectomy (OVE) is an alternative technique that involves removal of both ovaries whilst leaving the uterus in position and can be performed open or using a key-hole technique.

Ovariectomy has been the preferred technique in mainland Europe for many years because it can be performed through slightly smaller incisions, achieves the same overall effect as a 'traditional' spay, minimises the surgical trauma from neutering (by leaving the uterus in place) and does not increase the risk of urinary incontinence or pyometra compared to ovariohysterectomy. The uterus is only left in position if it appears normal during the procedure.

In theory, leaving the uterus in position could allow a uterine tumour to form in later life. In reality, uterine tumours are very rare in dogs and most are cured by removal of the uterus in the unlikely event that this becomes necessary.

What are the potential benefits of a key-hole spay?

Laparoscopic (key-hole) ovariectomy results in less tissue trauma than an open approach because the operation is carried out from within the abdomen which reduces the requirement to pull on the ovaries or uterus. In Humans, laparoscopic surgery has been shown to reduce pain, promote faster recovery and reduce hospital stay times. Accurate and objective pain assessment in veterinary patients is very difficult and whilst some studies have suggested that dogs spayed via laparoscopy are less painful than those operated via a conventional open approach, others have not been able to demonstrate a significant difference. Most vets who perform key-hole spays regularly do feel that the patients recover very quickly and suffer low levels of discomfort.

Humans obviously prefer to undergo operations that involve smaller scars, and many prefer the same for their dogs. Laparoscopic ovariectomy is usually performed by two or three incisions between 5-10mm long. In the unlikely event of a breakdown of an incision following laparoscopy, the small size of the 'hole' should minimise the risk of any vital structures becoming trapped. Many experienced veterinary surgeons are able to perform open spays through relatively small incisions but most are likely to be at least three to five centimetres long. Limiting any one laparoscopic wound to approximately 10 millimetres results in most surgeons allowing off-lead exercise sooner than they perhaps would following conventional open spay surgery.

Overall, key-hole spay surgery has a number of attractive qualities that can benefit veterinary patients, namely that of reduced tissue damage, excellent visualisation for the surgeon, and smaller wounds requiring shorter periods of postoperative rest. However, conventional spay surgery carried out by an experienced surgeon using an open technique usually carries a similarly low risk of complications and most dogs recover relatively quickly.

When should I spay my bitch?

Your last question involved the age-old debate of when is the best time to spay a bitch regardless of the technique used. The two main concerns are the possibility of increased risk of urinary incontinence after a spay but also minimising the risk from development of mammary tumours. Many of the actual numbers often quoted on this subject are not very scientific as they were based on reports written before veterinary surgeons appreciated the necessity for robust statistical analysis.

It is likely that the risk of development of mammary tumours significantly increases after the first season and then continues to rise slightly with each subsequent season thereafter for at least the first few years. Therefore, in order to minimise the risk from development of mammary tumours, bitches should be spayed before the first season, but there is also likely to be some benefit from spaying after later seasons until at some point, presumably during middle age, the benefit regarding mammary tumour development becomes minimal.

The risk of urinary incontinence is present following any neutering procedure, and unfortunately some bitches will become incontinent whether they are spayed or not. Investigations suggest that there may be some benefit from waiting for the urogenital tract to reach sexual maturity before spaying, to reduce the risk of developing incontinence, and therefore concerned owners may choose to wait until after the first or second season. It is also clear that urinary incontinence is the result of a complex interaction of many factors and therefore it cannot be simply attributed to an effect of sexual maturity alone.

There are some breeds with a particular predisposition for development of incontinence and therefore consideration should be given to spaying after the first or second season, or perhaps not spaying them at all. On the other hand, those breeds with a low incidence of urinary incontinence can be considered for early neutering, and this offers the maximal potential benefit in terms of mammary tumour development in later life and also of avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

Overall, when considering the issue of the timing of a spay surgery, your vet will be the best person to help you weigh up the factors relevant to your own dog. In many cases, neutering after the first season may represent a balanced compromise.

Chris Shales MA VetMB CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS
European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery
Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service
Highlands Road
West Midlands
B90 4NH
Tel: 0121 712 7070

Friday, 1 October 2010

Same difference

My dog Alfie, a three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, was suddenly taken ill with sickness and diarrhoea and was rushed to the vet, where pancreatitis was dianosed after emergency treatment. He is now home but I have been told that he as to go on a low fat diet eg Chappie. His previous food was either Butchers or Winalot wet food with a sprinkling of Wagg.
I also have another dog, a 13-year-old Staffie cross weighing 16kg and they are both fed the same food. Can anyone advise me on what food would be suitable for both my boys.
Josephine Glenton, by email