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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Melan-collie wobbles

I really need some advice and hope that this scenario is known to someone as I don’t know who else to contact.

We have a Border Collie bitch, rescue dog approx 12 years old. She has been fed on the raw food diet since we got her and have had very few problems with her health-wise.

In October I noticed a slight ‘hop’ in her gait on her back left leg. We took her to the vet but they could not find anything wrong and just advised us to ‘rest’ her for a week or so. The ‘hop’ did not go away and by mid-November the leg was being raised quite significantly off the ground when she was walking but was not noticeable when she ran. By the end of November it was really bad and she was beginning to fall over, when presumably, her legs did not touch the ground in the right order and her front legs just buckled under her and she did not have enough strength in her back legs to get up. The ability to run or move fast had ceased. We took her back to the vets who did a thorough examination but again could not find anything wrong.

She had suffered from hair loss at the beginning of the year and we had been given steroid cream for her but the hair had not grown back, so the vet decided to draw a blood sample and test for any thyroid problems. The results came back negative. The vet has tried her on Metacam (even though there is no indication of her having arthritis) but that made no improvement, he has also tried PLT (prednoleucotropin) but that just seems to have upset her stomach and given her very runny and smelly poos. The symptoms have got worst and I now think that the other back leg is showing the same signs. She is falling down quite often and whines and pants a lot, though I do not feel that this is with pain more with discomfort or confusion. The vet is at a loss as to what the problem is. I have now started her on a course of acupuncture, though this vet also does not know what the problem might be. We thought it might be ‘Wobblers Syndrome’ but neither vets think that it is.

Is there anyone who has experienced this type of problem with their dog before? We desperately want to try and find out what the problem is and how to improve it. Missy has always been an ‘independent’ and ‘free spirited’ dog (her nickname is Missy the Monster Dog), and to see her now falling down and unable to wee and poo properly is heart breaking, and she gets very agitated when there is no-one around (previously she rarely liked to be in the same room as anyone), and barks for us to go to her, but even her barks are not the way she used to bark to attract out attention.

ANY suggestions or help would be appreciated more than you can know.

Janine Lodge, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Having been brought up with Border Collies, I know just how active they are, often well in to old age, so it must be heart-breaking to see Missy like this.

Wobblers syndrome, or cervical spondylopathy, is a condition more usually associated with breeds such as the Dobermann and Great Dane, and can manifest much as you describe. A malformation in the cervical or neck vertebrae can cause variable abnormal pressure on the spinal cord, with consequences for the nerves leaving the spinal cord in that area.

There are, however, other possible causes of the signs you describe which do sound neurological, suggesting something going on affecting the nerves. This could be why there was a lack of improvement when given meloxicam (Metacam, Boehringer Ingelheim), and then PLT (Novartis Animal Health UK Ltd) . Further investigation is needed if a diagnosis is to be reached, and in particular imaging (radiography, MRI scan).

They are such an intelligent breed that the signs of separation anxiety she is showing may reflect the confusion and frustration she is experiencing at not being able to move around as easily as in the past. Alternatively, given that she is approximately 12 years old, this may be the early signs of dementia as it is possible for more than one condition to manifest at a time, or it could conceivably all be linked if there are changes taking place within the brain.

I would therefore go back to your vet for him to examine Missy again for any change or progression in her condition, and to decide on the next course of action. If there is any treatment feasible to help her, then the sooner it is identified and initiated the better, for Missy’s sake.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Lumps and bumps

Dear all,

I would really appreciate any advice with regards to my Labrador as I am very concerned.

I have a very healthy happy Labrador who is my world. She is seven years old and in September I noticed a lump about the size of a grape under her chest area near her belly. I promptly took her to our vets, our vet is a very friendly lovely lady who has the interest of the animals first and the business second! She said she thought it was a fatty lump and to keep an eye on it.By the end of November the lump had grown to the size of a large plum and felt very hard.

Daisy, my Lab, had also lost 2kg in six weeks which I thought was quite a lot, even though I have been cutting out the treats a little to try and reduce her tummy! My vet said she didn’t like the look or feel of the lump and decided she wanted to remove it; I was in total agreement as having lost my previous dog to cancer I didn't want to take any risks at all.

Surgery was all scheduled, but the lump had moved to further down towards the belly area, so my vet decided not to operate and took a sample instead by FNA (fine needle aspiration). The results have come back negative, but my vet wasn't 100 per cent that she got a decent sample from the lump. It has been left that we keep in touch, monitor it and play it by ear.

Daisy isn’t herself though. She is still eating and drinking fine, and exercising, but she just goes through the motions and doesn’t really have the interest in walks like she used to. I can’t say what is wrong because she isn't showing any signs of ill health, just that she isn’t right for her.

Then this week I have noticed what I think is a lump below the jaw line in her neck, exactly where a male human would have an Adam's apple. Is this the voice box I can feel? Do fatty lumps appear here or could it be a gland? I don't know what to make of it, again its the size of a grape. I am worried enough that I am checking for any symptoms daily, but feel reluctant to march her back to the vets for the fear that I am going to come across as a neurotic owner.

With regards to the first lump, do fatty lumps move about? Because it’s moving does this mean it is not a tumour?

Please help me with some advice or information on lumps because I am worrying and am frightened that this could be serious.

Kind regards from Jo Bedwell, by email

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Double trouble

Here's my story of my 18 month old female Border Collie, Hollie.

Basically, a year ago, when she was nine months old, I bought her off from an older lady, who said she didn't have the time for her anymore, she also said she was good on the lead and with other dogs, and children. How wrong was that!

First night we had her in the house, she was very, very timid, however, gradually she got used to being around myself, and my girlfriend. Then, out of the blue, she would just do the toilet in one specific area of the living room, in the corner, at times we didn't even know she had done it as she gave no indication that she needed to go out to the toilet. We got her a training mat, etc which seemed to work, but eventually we managed to get her to go out the back yard. The original owner also stated that Hollie (who was called Lady at the time) was excellent being kept outside and she didn't bark and such like. When Hollie was put out the back, she went absolutely crazy, barking, clawing, scratching, etc. I think that it was due to the separation between Hollie and myself, yet I couldn't sort it out. When it came to walks, that was completely different to what the original owner had told me... Hollie, when she was out on the lead, she would pull so hard, that it was like she was taking me for a walk. As we had only just got her I was rather hesitant of just letting her off the lead up the park. When we passed other dogs, she would start jumping, and screeching loudly, almost like a whimper, but louder and excited. Her body language was hard to decipher, she would be excited, but her body would be rigid with her ears erect and she would try and charge at passing dogs. After walks, and when it was time for bed, we would leave her in the livingroom/kitchen, with some toys and plenty fresh water, we would only wake up to the whole place chewed to pieces, got to the point, if we were going out she had to be physically put outside, or muzzled if being kept inside.

After many months went by, she got a bit more calm in the house, though the chewing didn't stop, but it got easier for her to be kept out the back, walking was still a bit of a nightmare.

We opted to get another Border Collie, this time it was a neutered dog - Shadow he was two years old. When we first introduced them together, it was against all advice and suggestions, rather than gradually, we just threw them together and it took a few days, but from showing teeth they went to cuddling up and being playful - a result by any standard I would say.
Shadow is a fantastic dog, he didn't pull on the lead, ignored other dogs, he even plays fetch, lets you know when he needs out, etc. Couldn't ask for a better dog. Best of all he doesn't chew.
We've had both dogs for a good while now, but it's only more recently that the two of them are playing off each other. By this I mean, Hollie thinks she's top dog, though I let her know she isn't. Shadow accepts he's at the bottom of the chain. However, that doesn't stop him getting excited and bouncing all over the place. Basically, Hollie will occasionally attempt to go for Shadow but I put a stop to that. He's actually scared of her, and they need to be fed separately. Hollie gets her food in the kitchen, and Shadow gets his bowl of food and water on the bottom step in the hall. Granted, he goes and eats his food no problem at all - only when you close the door, yet Hollie won't eat unless Shadow is present in the room. Hollie has a tendency that when everyone is calm, she will come up to me, and try and jump up, then when I tell her to get down, Shadow looks up and sees Hollie getting excited, so then he starts to get energetic and it ends up I have to shout at them as they don't listen.
When it comes to walking them, it takes about 20 minutes to get their leads/harnesses on as they just go completely ballistic. When we are on a walk up the park, Hollie will still act up, but now it's like she's trying to go for the dog, she barks, and attempts to charge the dog, when Shadow sees this he does the same, his only reaction is when Hollie does something. He never used to pull, but unless he is on a harness, he pulls like mad.
At night, I try to keep them in the kitchen, but Shadow will do all he can to prevent going in the kitchen with Hollie. If I am able to get him in the kitchen, it's a result, if not, then it ends up with Hollie going in the kitchen, and Shadow being kept in the hall.
Many thanks.
Kindest Regards
Christopher Peacock

Hi Christopher
Does sound like you’ve got a lot on your hands! Where are you based roughly? Have you tried any local dog trainers yet? Have you had dogs before? It would have been easier to sort out Hollie’s problems first before you got Shadow, but I’m sure it is still possible to sort things out but it’ll mean a lot of work with each dog separately.
I’ve put the question on think tank now but I’m sure people will want to know where you are based.
Best wishes

Yes, it can be rather tedious at times. I'm based in Woodvale, North Belfast. Unfortunately, I can't seem to pinpoint local trainers, plus the cost is more than I can cover at the moment. I have grown up with dogs, yes, however this is the first time since leaving my parental home that I have owned my own dogs. I agree, it would have been a lot easier to help Hollie on her own, but we just jumped in feet first.
I'll try and keep checking the post as oft as I can, though I don't have internet access in the home, so I can only keep updated when I frequent the library.
Many thanks.
Kindest Regards
Christopher Peacock

So folks, it is Christmas - are there any lovely positive kindly trainers in Belfast that can help Christopher sort this all out?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Top toys for strong chewers

Hello Dogs Today team,

I have a question regarding chew toys for my puppy. Fay is now 12 weeks old and is a Vallhund who loves to chew and destroy her toys.

When I brought her home I gave her a few different toys; a soft toy, a rubber toy, a ball and a rope toy. However, I have had to replace many already, she ate part of the soft toy (it found its way out luckily), ripped the rope apart and chewed lumps out of the rubber toys. So after advice from her breeder I bought an adult red Kong and some other chews, she has had the Kong three weeks and has already chewed small lumps out of it and I can’t see it lasting much longer.

I’ve brought rope toys from the rough and tough range from Pets at Home at the same time and they are starting to fray as well. The only things that are lasting are stuffed and smoked bones, and nylon bones; I tried a pork roll but it upset her stomach and rawhide chews don't seem to last that long either.

I’m planning to get her a black Kong soon but was wondering if anyone can suggest good chew toys for strong chewers?

Thank you,

Joanne Stockbridge and Fay, by email

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Warming the heart and the dinner

I know I prefer warm food, but what about dogs? Why do we mostly serve their dinners cold?
What's the best food warmed and does it really make a difference to their enjoyment like it does to us?
I've taken to warming up my dogs tinned food as I had often put half a can back in the fridge and it felt terrible giving him something really very chilly. He seems to appreciate the warm version and I can't help but notice the smell is stronger.
Why does the aroma increase when you heat food? Sounds like a silly question, there's obviously a massive difference between the smell of uncooked bacon and cooked - but why does it make us more hungry when we smell cooked food?
As dogs' noses are so very much more advanced than ours surely smell is even more significant to them and must increase their enjoyment and anticipation.
Or am I just anthropomorphising my dog too much by choosing to 'cook' his tea each night with the rest of the family!
Either way I'm not stopping, he appreciates my cooking a lot more than the humans!
Yvonne Reynolds, Manchester

Friday, 2 December 2011

Barking at all hours

Hi Dogs Today,

My five-year-old Greyhound, Suki, has developed an annoying habit of barking to be let out in the early hours of the morning. This started a few months ago with the occasional request to go out for the toilet, as we thought. Gradually this has increased until she now barks roughly every other night. I have recently had to move away into rented accommodation for work reasons, and have had to leave Suki and my other dog Oscar (a nine-year-old crossbreed) at home with my parents. Since prior to this I was living at home with my parents, Suki and Oscar have always lived in my parents’ home and have not been disrupted by my move. While very much a 'people' dog, Suki is not particularly attached to me personally, being happy with any family member, and since the barking first started just before I moved out, I doubt that it has any connection to my moving away.

As you can imagine, Suki's barking is very annoying for my parents and wakes first my mum, followed by my dad (my brother, his wife and their three month old baby also live with my parents). Because my mum is worried that my brother and his wife will be disturbed, she has always gone straight down and let Suki out, despite my advice not to as I believe Suki is seeking attention and thus being rewarded by my mum's appearance.

My parents make sure they feed Suki early in the evening and ensure that she goes to the toilet before they go to bed, so I can't believe she genuinely needs the toilet every time. Would it be reasonable to limit the amount of water Suki has access to in the evenings to make sure she isn't drinking too much (she always has drunk a lot more than my other dog, but it hasn't been a problem before)?

Please could someone advise me how my parents can deal with this problem? My mum is very busy and stressed at the moment, and lack of sleep really isn't helping! Times are tight for all of us at the moment, so we really need a solution that we can implement ourselves.

Any advice would be gratefully received!

Many thanks,

Rose Hodkinson, by email

As nature intended?


I have two four-year-old West Highland Terriers and have never considered having them castrated before, but lately I have been reading more cases of cancer in non-castrated males.

I would like to have them both castrated, but my partner doesn't like the idea.

I don't breed from my dogs.

Can you help?

Many Thanks,
Jackie Twigge, by email

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

In fact there is strong evidence that some forms of cancer are significantly more common in neutered dogs than in entire males. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and splenic cancer, for instance, are more frequently seen in neutered dogs. The only cancers an unneutered dog are more likely to get are (self evidently) testicular cancer and also prostate cancer.

However, prostate cancer is very rare in dogs (much less common than bone cancer) and testicular cancer is usually benign. In addition, neutered dogs are more likely to become overweight and suffer from conditions such as diabetes: and neutered dogs are more likely to be affected by hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroids).

Then there is the small but real risk of the anaesthetic and the surgery itself. So my advice is that if your Westies are fit and well, there is probably a greater risk in having them neutered than in leaving them entire and intact as the good lord designed them!

Can dogs get cold sores?

Can dogs get cold sores?

My two English Springer Spaniels have sores on their noses that look like cold sores, but no other symptoms anywhere else.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Sarah Mann, via Twitter

Does your dog have epilepsy? Can you help this study?

Dear Dogs Today,

I am in Lower Sixth and as one of my subjects I am taking Extended Project Qualification. For this I intend to produce a project answering the questions "How does diet affect canine epilepsy? And can it be used as a measure to control it?".

EPQ demands a large amount of independent, primary research and as a part of mine I have devised a questionnaire, which I need to get as many people as possible to complete. Therefore, if anybody has, or has had, a dog with epilepsy and would be willing to help, please email me at In your email please state whether this is a current or previous pet, as it affects which questionnaire I send you. Any other experiences would be gratefully received as well.

Finally, if anybody reading this is a vet, it would be greatly appreciated of you could share with me your professional opinion on the matter.

Many thanks,
Emma Liddell, by email

What's the top dogs' dinner for taste?

I find food that smells good makes my picky eater much more interested. I guess it's obvious as dogs' noses are so much more sensitive than ours, but which type of food gets your dog's nose twitching the most?
I have a young dog that really seems to find little joy in eating her 'proper' dinner, it's so depressing picking up the bowl to find hardly any food gone so I have got used to trying to tempt her!
I have an enormous sack of dry food that breeder insisted I feed, but I find I have always have to add something extra to get her to eat any.
I don't always have a suitable leftover from our human dinner and would like a reserve of prepared food in the store cupboard to tart up her dinners.
What do you suggest?
When I have eventually finished this sack can I switch her to all wet food that she so obviously prefers? Which one is the tastiest? What's worked for you?
Hattie is a Cocker Spaniel, so not a huge dog. She's fully grown now - but how she's managed to grow eating so little I have no idea! The vet has checked her he can't find anything wrong with her apart from having gourmet tastebuds!
I've tried the 'pick it up and put it down' till she eats it philosophy but she held out for two days last time and I couldn't keep it up it made me so unhappy seeing her go hungry.
The breeder insists this dry food is the best, but my instincts say not for our Hattie! It really would make me happy to see her enjoying mealtimes.
Fiona Smith, Luton

Which country has the best dog laws?

I have heard that we are no longer the best country in the world for dogs, that elsewhere dogs have a much better life and there are far fewer dog problems. Which system results in the fewest dog problems and are there any good ideas we can borrow here? I heard that in Switzerland for example you are only allowed to keep two dogs not one on its own? Is this true?
Henrietta Russell, London

Regarding Switzerland, each canton/county has its own legal system. So it depends on the canton how many dogs you are allowed to own and how much tax you have to pay on each dog. For example, in Basel where my parents are, you are only allowed to have two dogs in one household. The first one costs 180.- and the second 360.- Swiss Francs on top of the first one. And that is for each tax year.
But in Aargau (another county) you can have as many dogs as you want and each only costs 50.- Swiss francs.
It is also the law that all dogs have to be chipped (this responsibility lies with the owner as well as the vet as they have to register the dog and have to check the chip details) this then gets sent to the national database calles ANIS which the tax people have access to, so they can compare the tax paid compared to the dogs registered.
Regarding a minimum amount, this I have never heard of. Only when owning a ferret you need a county vet inspection and then there is a minimum of two per cage. But dogs, no.
Laws here are very strict, as well on farm dogs. They all get inspected and have to be let off their chain a certain amount of hours and the lead has to be at least 10meters long.
There are a lot more laws so just let me know if you have any more questions:)
Fran Albisser, Basel, Switzerland and Farnborough, Hampshire