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Thursday, 20 January 2011

How do I get my deaf dog's attention?

I have a Springer Spaniel called Molly who is coming up to 12 years old. I've had her for nearly five years. Over the last few months I have noticed that she can no longer hear the doorbell or people entering the house. Due to other health issues, which she takes medication for, she is on a special diet to control her weight.

Because of this weight issue, I have been told by the nurse at the vet's to keep her active, which I have been able to do for the last five years. But unfortunately it is now getting harder to let her off to play with her ball and run around due to her losing her hearing. The vet agrees that her hearing has nearly gone, if not completely gone.

I am teaching her hand signals and she now knows how to come back, but the problem is getting her attention when she is looking away from me. I'm considering a vibrating collar to get her attention, so that I can give her a hand signal to come back when she turns to look at me. Because of the lack of proper exercise due to her deafness, she is slowly putting the weight back on. This worries me as she has hip and leg problems, so she can't afford to pile the pounds back on.

What also concerns me is that every collar I've seen with a remote vibration setting also has a shock setting. I am completely anti shock-collar and I need one with just the vibration. The only one I ve seen is totally out of my price range - does anyone else have other recommendations?

Molly hasn't had a very good seven years prior to me having her, and it's great that she has a new lease of life. But this deafness is now affecting her life.

Please, please can you help with some advice, as I also worry about Molly's safety.

Tracey Topham and Molly Moo, by email

I wonder whether the collars with both remote vibration setting and shock setting can be used on vibration only. Then you would not have to use the shock setting.

It is so sad when a dog goes deaf. When my dear Border Collie Nan began to lose her hearing, I found it really upsetting that she might think I was no longer talking to her. There are of course other ways of showing how we care for our canine friends, and for the dog it must simply seem that the world is going quieter until it is a silent place. They do not, I hope, appreciate that the noisy world is ongoing as a human going deaf would.

For any dog going deaf, their safety is of paramount importance. We all know how deaf a dog with normal hearing can be when in pursuit of a rabbit, for example, and may have no regard for a danger which is fast approaching. With Nan, she did train up to hand signals when I realised that her hearing was failing but, as you say, they only work when the dog happens to be looking in your direction. Eventually, I did have to resort to an extending lead – I really dislike these leads with their clonky handles, but they are invaluable in those instances where you cannot let your dog off the lead for whatever reason but they still need exercise.

Molly’s weight problem is my major concern. To my repertoire of questions for owners of overweight dogs, I have recently added “… and is that hour’s exercise on or off the lead?” This is because an owner proudly told me last week that his overweight dog went for two hour-long walks every day. I could not understand why the weight reduction diet was not working (unless the owner was not admitting to titbits and other food sources) until the owner let slip that all the exercise was on the lead. There is a world of difference in energy output between an hour’s exercise off the lead (which for an overweight dog is realistically no more than a trot) and a plod at your owner’s walking pace, if not lagging behind. I am also an advocate of short frequent walks during the day for older dogs rather than a single long walk.

This is where an extending lead could really help you because Molly can feel as if she has freedom to explore but she would have the security of being on a lead still, and you would know that she was safe.

Depending on Molly’s other health problems and the medication she needs for them, it should be possible to keep her at a healthy weight but it will need constant vigilance on your part. Use your vet practice’s weight clinic – the nurse is running it to help you keep Molly at her ideal body condition, by taking into account the limitations on exercise because of her deafness and orthopaedic problems. As you quite rightly say, with her hip and leg problems she does not need to be carrying more weight than necessary.

Alison Logan, vet

Monday, 17 January 2011

Who nose?

Honey is a three-year-old terrier-Poodle cross. He is full of life and energy, and enjoys running and chasing lizards and cats. He eats well: home-cooked natural food with lots of fresh meat and bones, and is usually outside walking with me and his mates for at least four hours per day.
All was well with him until two weeks ago when part of his nose turned pink. Naturally, I worried, although Honey was as usual: full of energy and happy to run and play. My vet said it could be three things: inflammation, an infection or an imbalance of his immune system. Since he was digging after some lizards it could have been one of the first two. He has been on antibiotics for two weeks and part of his nose has slowly turned back to black. The tip of his nose returned to black but the nasty pink appears halfway up it. Now, two weeks later, he has just a small speck of pink left and I hope it will disappear in a day or two.
My vet said that this may reappear and is not life threatening, but I hate filling Honey up with antibiotics. Is there anything else that could help him? Has anyone ever heard of a dog's nose turning pink before?
D. M. Novak-Antoniou, Greece

Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:
This is a difficult one to be sure about without a close examination. Many dogs do simply get a change in pigment colour from time to time and the change might be quite normal. Such a change is often seasonal.

On the other hand the colour change could be a sign of an autoimmune disease – however in this case, apart from the pink colour, there are usually signs of inflammation, soreness and crusting at the edges of the nostrils.

I would suggest adding kelp to Honey’s diet, this helps promote a healthy skin in general and seems to help pigmentation problems in particular, and then just wait and see if it recurs or not.

Alison Logan, vet, advises:
As owners, we are made aware of our dog’s nose whenever we are nuzzled for attention so any changes in its colour are quickly apparent. They are also worrying to us because they are so evident.

Nasal depigmentation can be as a result of a serious underlying condition, but in such cases there are often other changes present, such as scaling or ulceration. Honey’s nose is returning to its original black colour, suggesting a less worrying explanation for its occurrence. One possibility is that it was because of an infection which has responded to the antibiotics prescribed by your vet. Alternatively, part of Honey’s nose went pink because of so-called idiopathic nasal depigmentation: for some unidentified reason, the nose changes colour. This may be a permanent change (‘Dudley nose’), or the nose may revert to its usual colour. In some dogs this depigmentation shows a seasonal pattern, occurring in the winter but then becoming pigmented once more in the summer (‘snow nose’).

A further possibility I have come across is depigmentation in response to contact with a rubber or plastic food/water bowl, so I wonder whether you had changed Honey’s bowls from ceramic or metal a little while before the nose changed colour, and then for some reason changed back after the depigmentation occurred?

Has the final pink area disappeared now?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Brain training

I recently had an animal communicator speak to my dogs and one of them, when asked if there was anything that he was lacking, answered that he would like magnesium as he was worried about his brain health. I have been searching online and looking through books but so far can find very little information or any magnesium supplements for brain health. Can anyone help?
Eleanor Garwood, by email

Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:
Magnesium is needed to help build the myelin sheaths that protect nerve fibres, so a magnesium supplement could help to keep the brain functioning better. I guess your dog really does know what he needs! There are many other natural supplements that can help brain function, especially in older dogs, such as Co enzyme Q 10, Vitamin E, L carnitine and so on. One commercial supplement (Aktivait) contains many of these ingredients and I find it really helpful for older dogs whose brains are not quite as sharp as they were.

How best to manage CDRM?

We have been avid readers of Dogs Today since its inception and just wondered whether you - or one of your advisors - might be able to help.
We have four dogs , the eldest of whom is called Eddie - he is an eleven and a half Italian Spinone.
Eighteen months ago he was diagnosed with CDRM. Up until recently, he has done brilliantly well but with the recent snow and ice, together with the fireworks (he has always been terrified of them), this has really affected him and he now - at times - struggles to get up, is unsteady and falls over.
Beverley: we know how much you love dogs and I'm sure you will know how devastating it is to see a dog you absolutely adore deteriorate like this. Do you happen to know of any new drugs we could try - or any supplements we could give him? We will pay anything to make sure the rest of his life is as happy as we can make it. We have considered hydrotherapy but given Eddie hates water, the vet said to avoid it as it would stress him too much. We also wondered about high dose of Vitamin E?
Many thanks for taking the time to read this & we look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes to you & all the staff at Dogs Today for the New Year.
Kind regards,
Nicola Thomas
Dear Nicola
I am so sorry to hear about Eddie. I wish I could tell you that there's a cure for CDRM around the corner, but sadly there is not. I know several people in the same boat as you. It is such a shame that he doesn't like water as all have said that hydrotherapy has been the best thing they have tried. Is there no way of trying to make it more of a positive experience, maybe using a behaviourist to encourage him over his dislike of water? Maybe a DAP diffuser might help with anxiety generally, as keeping him calm may make sudden movements less likely?
I know there are some people doing research work on CDRM in Glasgow and there is also now a DNA test so people can screen for CDRM before breeding, but none of this will help the dogs already with the condition.
Has anyone tried high doses of Vit E with good results? Please do let Nicola know what has worked best for you. Vivitonin might help, not sure if there's any problem with dogs with CDRM having it, you'd need to ask your vet - but that does seem to give all older dogs are real boost generally.
Best wishes to you and all your dogs - but especially lovely Eddie, let us know if you find anything that works. Wouldn't it be great if someone could start a CDRM support group for pet owners as this really would help. Maybe someone should start a facebook page? Maybe I'll try setting one up?
Beverley and all the Dogs Today team.

CDRM support page now set up on facebook, please do start using it if you have or have ever had a dog with CDRM. Be great to have support groups for all these upsetting conditions. Here's the link please do cross post:

CDRM is a heart-breaking condition because everything is working apart from the rear end. I have only come across it in the GSD, and three cases spring to mind.

One was a GSD I met when in my final year at Vet School. His owners had sought a referral because they simply could not believe that there was no treatment for their dog. We so wanted to find a treatable cause for their dog’s hindlimb weakness, but sadly could only confirm what their vet in practice had diagnosed.

The second GSD was a dog I used to meet when out walking my own dog from our previous house. He was in a cart because of CDRM, and was very happy. His owner had found that he would bark to be put into his cart so that he could move about more readily.

Lastly, an ongoing patient. She is only seven-years-old and quite the friendliest GSD I have ever met. She is drop-dead gorgeous! However, over the past 18 months she has developed the classic signs of CDRM with the swaying gait and tendency to fall over, especially when turning a corner too quickly.

Much research has been carried out into CDRM. There is now a DNA test for it, but that is of no consolation when your dog is showing all the signs. Vivitonin (Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health) has been suggested, and would have other benefits for Eddie anyhow given his age, assuming he does not have certain health issues which would preclude Vivitonin. There are other drugs suggested, many of which are not licensed for dogs and can have serious side effects.

It is a real shame Eddie does not like swimming because hydrotherapy is such a great form of exercise, being non-weight-bearing.

A cart is worth considering. It does restore a dog’s mobility, and can help with bowel movements and bladder emptying.

I would suggest you go back to your vet to discuss Eddie further.

Alison Logan, vet

Sparking discussion about electrolytes

We have a Labrador who is a working dog and after a days picking up/beating he's totally exhausted. My sister is a keen horse rider and mentioned that they sometimes use electrolytes on their horses after a long race or cross country etc.
Does anybody know much about electrolytes and where I can obtain some?
Angie Stokes, by email

Looking after number one

I live in Turkey and bought your magazine on a vacation to London. I have a question to ask: I have an eight-year-old calm Golden Retriever and we are thinking of adopting another Goldie from a shelter. Both are male and the one we are thinking of adopting is really calm and docile. If we adopt him, what can we do to prove to our original Goldie that we still love him a lot?
Deniz Özkardeş, by email

Living with GCKD

I have a dog (a one-year-old Italian Spinone called Mylo) who was born with one kidney and it's also been discovered that he has GCKD (glomerulocystic kidney disease). Mylo is on lots of medicine and a special renal diet so he can never put on weight like my other six-month-old Spinone can.
Mylo was born with GCKD but has always been very active and full of life. When we heard of the condition we knew nothing about it, always thinking only older dogs had kidney problems. The vets gave him no longer than six months; we found out when he was three months old. It was very upsetting and no one knew much about GCKD, so we took him to a specialist who did tests, scans and a biopsy, and we now believe that Mylo is the only living case of a dog with GCKD. The other animals were discovered at post mortem.
When we found out we had no clues about GCKD or what to do. Does anyone have any information about the condition? Has anyone heard of another case of a living dog with GCKD?
It would be excellent if this could help someone else, I know I read all I could but felt very lonely.
Anne, by email

Taking on a puppy should be such a happy time, so it must seem very unfair that you have had these health worries with your Mylo for most of the time that he has lived with you. I do hope you are still able to enjoy the good times – I am glad that you describe him as ‘very active and full of life’. You certainly have your hands full with two young Spinones!

I am thrilled that Mylo has lived beyond the life expectancy he was predicted. I must admit I do tend to fight shy of giving an idea of how long a pet with a serious health condition will live, because it can be a double-edged sword, but I do know that it can help owners to understand just how grave the outlook might be.

Being able to survive with one kidney is, I think, common knowledge but it is essential for that remaining kidney to be healthy and functioning properly. For poor Mylo, this is sadly not the case. We do have far more resources to hand for the management of renal failure than was previously the case. Early diagnosis enabling early instigation of appropriate diet and drugs will undoubtedly have stood Mylo in good stead.

I do hope Mylo continues to lead a full and active life for as long as possible. Do keep in touch – you needn’t feel lonely when there is the Dogs Today Think Tank.

Alison Logan, vet

Monday, 10 January 2011

Crate expectations

I have a 10-month-old German Shepherd Dog who has been crate trained and whilst he is no longer put in the crate, he often goes in there of his own accord if I am doing something he doesn’t like, such has vacuuming, or if I am out shopping. So, he clearly sees it as a good place to be but I would really like to get rid of it at some point as it takes up a lot of room. Can anyone please suggest an ideal time and/or methodology to do this? Thank you.
Lizanne, Guildford, Surrey

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Would a definite diagnosis make a difference?

We have a beautiful male Whippet named Alfie who will be three years old in February. Ever since he was about four months old he has suffered intermittent gastrointestinal problems with vomiting and diarrhoea. (He tested positive for giardia when he was seven months old and was treated with panacur.) As well as the gastro problems, Alfie suffers from a more serious health problem, that seems to follow a bout of vomitting and/or diarrhoea. It first occured when he was 10 months; he presented with a high temperature, general lethargy and discomfort with movement such as lying down or getting up. He did not respond to treatment with antibiotics. Eventually the vet prescribed steroids following Alfie's obvious discomfort when his neck was examined, and a noncommittal diagnosis of steroid-responsive meningitis was put forward. I did not want to go down the road of having a spinal tap carried out to confirm the diagnosis.
This condition has recurred another four times during the past two years, each time being treated with steroids - which bring about an almost miraculous recovery within 24 hours. He has been kept in overnight at the vet's on a drip on at least three occasions to ensure he does not dehydrate due to his high temperature.
He has just finished his most recent course of steroids and the vet is suggesting that we refer him to a neurologist if the condition recurs again, in order to get a definitive answer. This would mean a ferry ride and car drive (we live in the Channel Islands) when he is ill to the nearest specialist in the south of England. Alfie is insured so cost is not an issue, but the thought of the journey with the high temperature and obvious discomfort he shows really worries me. Would a definite diagnosis make a difference to his treatment? He responds to steroids so I wonder if a diagnosis, which could be inconclusive, would make any significant difference to his health management. I don't want him to be reliant on steroids forever, but if this works then is long-term treatment a realistic option?
I have to say when he is well you would never think he'd had an ill day in his life - he is energetic, loving and playful.
We would appreciate others' thoughts especially if you have been through something similar.
Jo Lamb, Guernsey

Steroid-responsive meningitis is often a condition diagnosed by excluding other causes for the clinical signs the patient is showing, and by response to treatment with corticosteroids. It is also a condition liable to flare up, such that long-term therapy with low-dose corticosteroids is not unusual.
It is because of this recurrent nature of steroid-responsive meningitis that your vet will have advised referral for a definitive diagnosis. If it was confirmed as the cause of your dog's bouts of illness, then all your questions and concerns about his treatment and long-term outlook could be addressed with a far greater degree of certainty. Long-term treatment with corticosteroids is not without its concerns but if needed for medical reasons then the benefits should outweigh any disadvantages.
It is however always your decision and I can quite appreciate your worries about referral, not least in your situation where travel involves a considerable journey including a ferry ride, and when Alfie is very unwell. On that basis, then a response to corticosteroid treatment when a flare-up occurs can be acceptable, provided there is full recovery with treatment. Compromise is not necessarily the wrong route to take.
I particularly remember a Border Collie who presented on an August Saturday with such acute neck pain that she had become stuck in the passenger footwell of her owner's car. I did refer her because I was worried about a slipped inter-vertebral disc in her neck, but she was diagnosed as having steroid-responsive meningitis and responded very well to methylprednisolone. When we began reducing the dose, she did have flare-ups, which settled once the dose went back up an increment. She has now been off treatment for three years.

Alison Logan, vet

Treating an arthritic dog

My seven-year-old Labrador-Springer cross went very lame last week. X-rays were carried out and the vet diagnosed severe arthritis in both his elbows, and said she was very surprised to see a dog of his age with such a degree of arthritis. I was very surprised, too, as he has been on glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for the past five years; I changed these to Canine Cortaflex Joint Care a few months ago, as they also contain hyaluronic acid. I discussed management of my dog's condition with his vet and what the next steps should be. The vet is aware of my concern regarding side effects caused by NSAIDs and has suggested trying Cartrophen Vet - I’ve never heard of this product and have searched the internet for information on it. All the information I was able to find seems to be positive, are any of your advisors and readers able to provide any further information?

My other dog is a nine-year-old GSD, he also suffers from arthritis and is currently on Glyco-flex Stage III which appears to be helping him. At the time he was put on Glyco-flex I’d never heard of Cartrophen and wonder if he would also benefit from a switch.
Virginia Pope, by email

Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:
Cartrophen is a drug given by injection (usually a course of four injections at weekly intervals). This course can be repeated up to three times in a year and the beneficial effects commonly last for three months or so. Many – but not all – dogs do seem to be less stiff and more mobile after treatment. Like most drugs there are some contra indications to its use – it’s not safe for
use on dogs that have blood clotting problems, or if any infection is present, or at the same time as steroids or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, or if any significant liver or kidney disease is present. This last contra indication means that it often isn’t safe to use in old dogs with arthritis, as they frequently have some degree of liver or kidney disease. I also find that the more often it’s administered, the less well it works, however it can be a very effective drug and seems to have far fewer adverse effects than many other anti arthritic drugs.

Personally I would advise keeping your nine-year-old GSD on Glyco-flex if it appears to be helping, and keep a drug like Cartrophen in reserve. There are also other natural anti inflammatory therapies, medicines and supplements such as acupuncture, magnetic collars, herbs (especially Yarrow complex) and homoeopathic medicines that are likely to help both your dogs, these are well worth investigating.

Caravanning with collies

Can anyone recommend any truly dog-friendly caravan sites? We have a touring caravan because we always take our dogs on holiday with us, and are looking for sites that have dog walking facilities on site, or immediately adjacent, that enable our dogs to run off-lead. We have three Border Collies who need some free-running time before we set off for a day's exploring. We would prefer electric hook-up and ideally an adult only site, although we do take most of our holidays out of school holiday time so it wouldn't be a major issue.
Susan Webb, by email

My earliest memories are from under canvas, camping with my parents and, at that time, our Border Collie cross Pedro. Over the years, we gathered more Border Collies until we were taking six away camping with us, so I know exactly what you are seeking.
As a camper, I have long been a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club whose site book gives detailed information such as the availability of dog walks on and near a site. There is also the website, and contact information is usually listed so that you could always ask before booking. There is also the Caravan Club which I would imagine provides similar information.

Alison Logan, vet