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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

IBS is a pain in the bum

Ronnie was an Irish stray. He ended up in Meath pound and was found a lovely new home via Jemima Harrison's excellent Black Retriever X Rescue.

Unfortunately, since he's been with his new owners he keeps having blood in his stools and the runs.
He's now been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He was on Burns (Pork and Potato) when he was with Jemima and was fine, but fed on Burns in his new home Ronnie has been, well, runny. (I have asked whether the new owners kept on with this same variety, but am still awaiting a response!)

The vet switched Ronnie to Royal Canin Sensitive and things have improved, but the owners are finding it very pricey. Is there a cheaper alternative?
Is there a support group for doggie IBS? Or anyone out there with loads of experience to pass on?
What's in - (or rather not in!) - Royal Canin Sensitive? Is there a difference between IBS and a food allergy/intolerance?
Posted by Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Monday, 27 September 2010

Not so happy feet

I wonder if anyone can help me firstly with a cure and secondly with some preventative measures. My three year old Staffie cross has very itchy back paws, she is constantly licking and chewing them, and they are going quite red, she
seems to have this same problem annually at this time of year.
Last year she chewed them so much they were bleeding, and although the problem cleared up as quickly as it started we don't know if it was something that we did (we tried various creams and sprays) or if it would have gone anyway.
She hasn't been walked anywhere out of the ordinary, we haven't used any different treatments in the garden and we haven't changed her diet.
We thought possibly it could be some sort of allergy to grass seeds, but it is only her hind paws that are affected.
Any advice short or long term would be greatly appreciated.
Emma Jannotti, by email

Friday, 24 September 2010

What do you want for Christmas?

I know it sounds a bit early, but it isn't really. 
Now is the time for our loved ones to be researching and finding that killer present that really shows they care and are totally in tune with our tastes! (No pressure, obviously!)
So come on, share! 
What's the best thing you've seen, what's the top of your really must have list - obviously with a doggie theme, although I would still be fascinated to hear which outfits from Figleaf you've got your eye on!
As a woman who has seen almost every conceivable doggie-related gift, here's the latest gift idea across my desk that had me saying, "Well I've never seen anything like that before!"

These are incredibly realistic miniatures made out of your own dog's hair! The website is fascinating. Lucy Maloney has a rare talent.
Now I am relying on you guys to top this with something even more fantastic and tell me all about it. Please share your unbeatable Xmas pressie ideas and we'll put the best in December's magazine.
Do you know someone that makes something really special? Or maybe you do yourself? Come on let's share our little black book secrets with each other!
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Monday, 20 September 2010

Snap decision

Sadie is a four-year-old English Springer Spaniel bitch (spayed). She is very affectionate with people and loves attention but she is behaving oddly on walks. If another dog approaches she is sometimes fine (especially with dogs she has known since puppyhood) but has started to bark and snap at strange dogs no matter how friendly.
This weekend she had a real go at a young dog (male) - she did no damage and the owner was understanding but I was horrified by her behaviour and at a loss to explain it. I put her on a lead now when other dogs are around but she is still acting up if another dog approaches. Sadie has only been the victim of bad dog behaviour once when she was about two years old - she was on a lead when a loose dog got nasty - Sadie was frightened but not hurt.
I am unfortunately not in a position to pay a dog trainer (circumstances have changed since I became Sadie's owner) but I am happy to undertake any training that would help. There are no signs I can see of impending trouble - a mutual sniff and then POW!
At the moment I am putting her back on the lead and ignore the other dog. I reward quiet behaviour and try to ignore the bad. Any help would be most welcome.
F James, by email

Friday, 17 September 2010


My two-year-old Leonberger dog has suffered from bouts of diarrhoea since I brought him home at eight weeks of age. Many of these 'bouts' have been quite serious and the treatment has proved to be expensive due partly to his size. It is also very unpleasant to deal with this problem on a regular basis.
Tests showed that Tallis suffers from an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut and it was suggested eventually that he should take Synbiotic D.C. (Probiotic & Prebiotic powder) administered as one tablet per day.
This I'm glad to say is extremely effective and, as this is a non-prescription medication, the cost is approximately 50p per day per tablet.
However, glancing through 'Healthspan Directory' I noticed that the 'human' equivalent Probiotic costs approximately 13p per tablet, which leads me to wonder is there in fact any difference in these apart from the cost?
I should be very grateful is anybody could inform me as even over one month the saving would be considerable.
Mrs B Newton, Hertford

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Risk assessment

What is the risk of a dog contracting salmonella from being fed raw chicken? Upon being told that I feed a raw diet, one vet politely said that she would be concerned at the risk of salmonella - and another (who is a close friend) told me I was absolutely crazy to feed raw chicken. The latter believes that all chicken is contaminated by the time it leaves the processing plant. Needless to say I am horrified that I may have been unnecessarily putting my dogs' health at risk - and my family's too. I can't recall coming across any mention of salmonella in the books and articles I have read on feeding a raw diet. Incidentally I transport chicken home from the supermarket in a coolbag and then freeze it.
Name and address supplied

Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:
Well, let’s start with how you or your family could pick up Salmonella bacteria: poultry, eggs, melons, lettuce, sprouts, salad mixes, tomatoes and peanut butter can all be contaminated with Salmonella.
Your dog could pick up Salmonella from poultry and other meats and also from dried dog food. There is an assumption that processed pet food is ‘sterile’ – it isn’t, and there have been several cases of dogs contracting Salmonellosis from eating kibble type dog foods.
However, it is true that it is statistically more likely that dogs will pick up Salmonella from raw chicken than from processed food. Keeping chicken cool during transportation then freezing it will certainly help, it doesn’t kill the bacteria but it does stop it multiplying, so there will be fewer bacteria present.
However, picking up Salmonella doesn’t mean picking up Salmonellosis. Confused? OK – tests have shown that some dogs fed on raw chicken passed Salmonella in their faeces. But these dogs were perfectly healthy, with no digestive upsets. They had the bacteria but no symptoms. Salmonellosis, as a disease, means that the bacteria multiply rapidly and cause food poisoning symptoms. This rarely happens in raw fed dogs, possibly because as they are raw fed they have good immune systems and don’t succumb to the condition.
So even if your raw chicken contained Salmonella and your dog picked up the bacteria, it is most likely that your dog would remain perfectly healthy and (this bit is very important) as long as you follow normal hygiene precautions about handling raw meat, you and your family will not be at risk.
I have been feeding raw chicken to my dogs for years, as have many of my friends and colleagues. I have never yet met anybody or heard of anybody feeding raw food who has had a case of Salmonellosis in their dogs or themselves.
Nothing in life is risk free, but the risk of Salmonellosis to you, your family and your dog by feeding raw chicken is absolutely tiny, if you are sensible about hygiene (don’t forget that dogs can pick up Salmonella from processed dog food too). The health benefits to your dog from a raw food diet are huge and far outweigh any minute risk from Salmonella.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Going deaf and getting depressed

I wonder if you can help as I can’t find anything in any of the back-issues I have, but my 13-year old Border Collie, Beau, has over the past 12 months or so been loosing her hearing and it is now almost gone.  I took her to the vets to check her over as the stage from not hearing bits of what was said to her to hearing very little of what you said was very quick.  The vet said that it was not unusual and it was probably due to age.  Unfortunately that doesn’t help Beau, who being a Border Collie doesn’t do ‘age’ and still thinks she is a pup.
Over the past two months I have noticed a real decline in her and I can only put it down to depression, in that she thinks no-one is talking to her.  I have been trying to teach her sign language, and have just got her a vibrating collar – only problem is I really don’t know where to start without scaring her with the vibrations.  I am trying to get a book called ‘Hear Hear’ which I think is about training deaf dogs, but I was wondering if you had covered anything like this in your magazine as I am sure, like people, there are lots of dogs who go deaf when they get older but would still like to join in and be part of the rest of the family!
Anything you can do to help would be appreciated by both Beau and me!
Janine Lodge, by email

Barry Eaton who wrote the fantastic Hear Hear does sometimes stop by here, hope he and others can give you some help and support at this worrying time.
Beverley Cuddy, Ed

Barry Eaton says:
Age related deafness is not uncommon - even in Border Collies. Ideally it would have been good to put in place visual signals with verbal ones over the last 12 months so as the deafness progressed the visual cues would take over from the verbal ones. As it is, I'm afraid you'll have to start teaching Beau visual cues from scratch. But don't worry - it's not difficult. Start with something simple, like getting him to sit using a food treat as a lure and developing a hand signal at the same time. All the basic commands you need to know are explained in my book 'Hear, Hear'. Have a look at Body language and facial expressions are very important when communicating with Beau. If he gets something right, smile, have an open body posture and give him lots of hugs. Always talk to him during training (and at other times). If you just think 'good dog', your face won't light up with delight when he gets something right. If you actually say 'good dog' and mean it, you can't help your face from showing how pleased you are. If you are teaching something and he hasn't quite got it, show no expression on your face. Eventually, Beau will learn that your happy, smiley face means he's done good and a blank expression means he's not quite got it. It doesn't matter what hand signals you use as long as they are clear and simple.
I generally recommend deaf dog owners to take great care when using vibrating collars. There is nothing guaranteed about them. It may work; it may not. It may work for a long time; it may work until Beau becomes accustomed to it and chooses to ignore it. It may be scaret; it may not. As you already have a vibrating collar, it might be worth trying it and see what his reaction is. But if he really doesn't like it, do not persevere with it. Just put it down to experience and throw it away. If however he accepts it, it's best to get him conditioned to it in the same way a dog is conditioned to a clicker. So instead of click/treat, you would vibrate/treat until he feels the vibration and looks to you for a reward. Most people would like to use a vibrating collar for a convenient recall but that would limit its use to just one command. And just as hearing dogs someimes go conveniently deaf when they are called, so Beau could conveniently ignore the vibration knowing he's supposed to go back to you. The biggest problem most owners have with deaf dogs is getting their attention. So I suggest, if you can use the collar, you use it for just that - to get his attention. Once Beau has felt the vibration, you need him to look at you (which he should do if he has been conditioned to it) then you can give him any command you have taught him. There are many vibrating collars that can also be used as an electric shock collar. If you have one with such a device, never, never use it - under any circumstances.
As you know, collies are very bright and mentally (and physically) active. I'm sure he'll relish a new challenge of learning hand signals and body postures. Once Beau has responded to his first visual command you've taught him, you will feel a real 'buzz' of excitement and, hopefully, will be encouraged to carry on teaching him more and more commands. The sky's the limit. I train my hearing dogs with verbal and visual commands and they respond better to visual commands. So in the meantime, if you think he's feeling depressed, interact with him more, play with him; have fun.
Best of luck and have fun training.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Car crash fears

I just witnessed a horrible crash on the motorway and it really shook me up. It has made me worried about driving with my dog. The crashed car's tailgate had opened during the crash and I am worried what would have happened if there'd be a dog in there.
I have a portable, adjustable generic dog guard in my car and now that I look at it I do wonder how it would stand up to the force of a crash. My dog is quite a large one and I just fear that a collision from the rear might mean they'd hit the guard hard and it would come loose and probably him me on the back of the head and that my dog could end up going through the front window.
I realise I'm probably just in shock after seeing an accident and I'm now imaging all sorts of ghastly possibilities.
What is the safest way to transport a GSD in an estate.
Up until today I was just tethering my dog to a point in the back of the car and using an extendable dog guard that stretches to fit the gap.
How can I do it better?
Tessa Harold, Watford

I’m convinced that my Barjo tailgate guard saved my dogs’ lives. I was driving along the A34 one afternoon last July in stop/start traffic and when the car in front of me stopped I did too, but the large white van following me didn’t and smashed right into the back of me. My first thought was that from that impact the dogs must be dead; it was so powerful that it had damaged even my driver’s door and I could not open it. An Army driver in front managed to wrench my door open and I was amazed to see my dogs appeared fine. 
The police appeared on the scene almost immediately, and were absolutely fantastic. One of them in particular was very knowledgeable about dogs and helped me get them out. The tailgate was so badly damaged that we could not open it, and we had to entice the dogs over the top of the back seat, and out onto the dual carriageway. Luckily I had a couple of spare leads in the front of the car, as there was no way I could retrieve the ones I had left in the back, and this is something I would recommend to any owner – controlling dogs on a busy road without leads would be a nightmare.
My car was a complete write-off. I was of course shaken up but my two Goldies were totally unhurt. Without the guard they would not be here today. When I got my new car, the first thing I did was have a Barjo tailgate guard fitted!
Pat Hillier

Alfie: What's it all about?

About a month ago me and my partner got an eight-month-old Shih-tzu cross - Alfie. A friend at work bought him when she was drunk - she got the impression that he was just going to be abandoned.
She only had him for the weekend before giving him to me (as she couldn't cope). Although my partner has always had dogs as a child, I have never had one. I am a dog lover, but really don't know what I'm doing.
When we first got Alfie was very unsettled and my partner (who was then out of work) couldn't leave him alone. He would bark constantly - we live in a flat and we worried about the sound. My partner now has a job, we both have to leave before 6 am, so we started taking him to my partner's mum on the way to work - as she is not working. Whenever she went out and left him he would wee and/or poo - sometimes on mats left for him, but not always.
My partner's mum recently went away for a few days, so I took his cage over and put him in it while I was at work - he had his food, some treats and a couple of toys in with him. He went mad when went to pick him up. He had made a right mess - his water was all tipped over there was food everywhere and the treats were outside the cage. The next day when I went to pick him up - he greeted me at the door - he'd got out!! He had chewed off three of the bars! A neighbour lent us their cage which seemed much stonger - but he still managed to chew off on the bars on that cage too. I don't want to use a cage anymore as I'm worried about him hurting himself. He obviously is really distressed whenever he's left on his own - but we have to go to work. He still has his balls, but we are hoping to get him neutered very soon - but I don't think that will stop his anxiety. I also would like to be able to leave him at home, and not keep moving him around. Please can you help, how do we stop this behaviour?
Sally Neatham, by email

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Grass roots

We have a four-year-old JRT, Molly, who has an allergy to grass. We have fields at the back of our house and every morning she rubs her face along the kitchen mats and is constantly chewing at her feet.
She's on ZD dried food, Courtevance spray and a porridge oats bath. I feel that the ZD is a waste of money. Is there anything else we could try? I feel so helpless and even if we don't go for a run over the fields she is still the same. Can anyone help?
Nick Page, by email

Time to go back to your vet! The fact that Molly is on a prescription diet and a POM-V spray means that she is under the care of a vet so let him or her know that Molly is no better or else he or she will have assumed that Molly has responded well.
Your description of Molly chewing her paws is a classic for a dog with atopic dermatitis or itchy allergic skin disease. For the vet in practice, the complicating factor is that there can often be a food allergy as well, which will be why your vet put Molly onto Hill’s z/d, as a dietary trial. The thinking behind z/d is that it is balanced nutrition and hypoallergenic because the protein has been hydrolysed and reduced to such a small size of molecule that it should not be detected by the immune system.
If Molly is no better when being fed z/d, do first check that she is being fed exclusively on this food. A dietary trial is pointless if the patient is still having a rawhide chew or sneaking table scraps, for example. If she really has eaten no other food at all, and she has been fed just z/d for at least six weeks, then this suggests that she does not have a dietary allergy (and ruling that out is a positive result). There are rare occasions when a dog with a food allergy does not improve on z/d (if allergic to potato which is found in z/d, for example) but common things are common!
Cortavance is a steroid preparation as a spray which is applied to alleviate itchiness. It is not absorbed so many disadvantages of steroids are avoided, but it is really addressing the effects and not the cause of the itchiness. Also, it will have limited effect if Molly is simply licking off it off again. This can be avoided by distracting her with a meal or exercise immediately after spraying the area.
The porridge oats bath conjures up a great vision in my mind but I think that you mean an oatmeal shampoo which does again help ease itchy skin. There are however other shampoos which may be more effective, such as a shampoo containing ceramides which will help to improve the barrier function of the skin.
A suspicion that Molly is allergic to grass needs further work-up because immunotherapy can be very successful. There are two ways of testing a dog to identify allergies: intra-dermal skin testing, or serology which involves submitting a blood sample to a specialist laboratory. (Incidentally, the food allergy component could be finally ruled in or out with serology as well if requested on the laboratory submission form.) Based on the findings, a hyposensitising vaccine could then be requested containing those environmental components to which Molly is allergic. If serology did reveal foods to which she was allergic, then it would simply be a matter of avoiding them through careful scrutiny of labels on dog foods, or home-preparing her diet.
A successful course of hyposensitisation involves sub-cutaneous injection of the specifically formulated vaccine at increasing concentration over a schedule of increasing time-length between injections. The results can be spectacular!
Finally, do remember to ensure that Molly does not have fleas. If she has a grass allergy, then she is very likely to also be allergic to fleas which will simply complicate the picture. Strict flea control on Molly, all other dogs, cats and rabbits living with her and also addressing the environment should minimise the chances of her being bitten by a flea.
Molly is still young, which is generally the case with atopic skin disease, so I would definitely go back to your vet for further help. Best of luck!

Alison Logan, vet

Monday, 6 September 2010

Social services

I'm bringing my new Schnoodle puppy home in about five weeks time. I want to take her out and about to socialise her as much as possible, but I'm not sure which establishments she will be allowed in. I know that food stores, restaurants etc are out of the question but can I take her into banks, newsagents, hairdressers etc? Providing there isn't a sign on the door saying 'no dogs allowed' can I assume it is okay? I'm also unsure about public transport. Presumably she will be able to come on the train with me (does she need a ticket?) but what about buses?
I live on my own and will be the only one going out with her, so I won't be able to leave her with someone outside the shops. I do see some dogs fastened up outside shops but I wouldn't want to leave her on her own in case someone decided to take her.
Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.
Sheila Whetnall, by email

Friday, 3 September 2010

Chips in France? No, not frites...

Hi Beverley
Is there such a thing as a national microchip registry or is it just kept by the companies that supply microchips - ie. Petrac and Petlog? The reason I ask is that as our dogs are in France a few weeks of the year I have registered them on the French database but I need to know if its possible for a French resident who's dogs were chipped in France and will be spending time in the UK to register with a UK database? Any ideas?
Many thanks
Annette Pemberton, by email

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Can dog share work?

My own dog, A Jack Russell Terrier, died last year aged nearly 18. Since then I did a lot of dog sitting and dog walking for neighbours and through an agency.
One dog, a four year old Miniature Schnauzer, is my favourite. I have him quite often, every six weeks for a week or so and twice had him for six weeks in a row.
The owners have now asked me if I want to keep him as they think he has a better life with me. They have three children and don't have much time for the dog, who is
alone very day until 3pm. I work from home and have enough time to go on long walks with him twice a day and he is never alone for a long time.
But my husband has been diagnosed with cancer and my job is not the safest one. I need to spend quite a lot of time to go with my husband to hospital appointments etc and also if I lose my job and need to find another one where I can't work form home, what do I do?
I love that dog so much but I think this is to much responsibility at the moment as I have no idea which way things will go.
I suggested the family to "share" the dog, by which I mean coming to an arrangement where I would have him every month for a week or so but his home would still be theirs. They think it might be too confusing for the dog. But I had him quite often anyway and he is totally fine. I am also not sure about sharing vet bills, insurance etc. Right now I buy his food when he is with me.
What do people think, would it be too confusing for the dog?
Kind regards
Claudia, by email