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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sleepless nights

I'm writing in the hope you might be able to help as to be honest, we are desperate!

When Billy came home from his eye op, he appeared very traumatised by the whole thing when he came home - wouldn't eat, hiding under things, squashing himself into dark corners etc. After six and a half weeks, he seems more like his old self apart from one major problem - he won't sleep at night any more.

He didn't sleep after his op for several nights and this seems to have become a pattern , along with the night-time barking. He now doesn't go to sleep until about 3am every night although it has been 5am on really bad nights.He now sleeps during the day instead.

We have had two complaints from our neighbours and have taken him to the vet who has said he needs a type of anti-depressant - Clopicalm? Have you heard of it? The vet has also prescribed him sedatives. We are desperate not to use any drugs as we don't want to "medicalise" a problem (  a bad habit?); we have consulted a behavourist but she hasn't come up with anything useful either. We have tried Rescue Remedy, DAP etc, all to no avail.

Beverley: we are desperate! Please can you think of anything or anyone who might be able to help?

Thanks so much.

Best wishes,

Potty re-training

Wonderful friend of dogs everywhere, Joanna Mason, has been running Staffie rescue in Sussex for over 40 years and is still involved at the fantastic age of 88. Unfortunately, Joanna now has a condition which means she is prone to blackouts, and is soon to move into sheltered accommodation.

Joanna is sadly not allowed to take her Staffie with her, but has rehomed him to a lovely family. Her Yorkshire Terrier, Danny, however, is allowed to join her in her new home. Joanna rescued puppy Danny after he survived a train crash in which his owner was killed.

Danny is now an older chap and Joanna often needs to let him out to toilet in the middle of the night. He is acustomed to Joanna's large garden, but he will not be allowed outside at night once they move. Joanna is keen to train him to us a litter tray or similar, however as dogs are creatures of habit and are sensitive to their surroundings, this is proving quite a task.

If anyone has any ideas as to how Joanna can train Danny to use an indoor toilet, we would be most grateful and will pass the advice on. Joanna and Danny move in six weeks' time.

Thank you

The Dogs Today team

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

I think we are looking almost at toilet training in reverse for Danny! In other words, he has learned to treat indoors as a clean place where he must not toilet and he prefers the open space outside at present. Instead we need to teach him the toileting indoors is actually now ok -  but only in a small area of our choosing. We do not want to cause him distress by being made to feel like he is being unclean.

First of all the indoor toilet needs to match the same surface that Danny currently uses. If he prefers grass, a roll of turf cut to size on a sheet of polythene will work well. If he prefers gravel, this is what should be used at first. I would take him outside to this specific ‘new’ toilet so that he can go there (whilst on his lead). Go back to giving a ‘toilet’ cue such as ‘hurry up’ followed by lots of praise and a treat when he performs! Keep the treat pot near to the toilet area so he can see it but not reach it. That usually provides ongoing encouragement for a dog to seek out a new specific place.

Once he is reliably choosing to or is happy to toilet there, I would gradually move it indoors and repeat the same toileting command at times he needs to go such as waking, after eating/drinking and so on. Finally I might try to convert the surface to the one I want him to use in future e.g. half gravel, half absorbent training pad, newspaper or whatever you actually want him to use, until he is happily going on the new, but now happily familiar, toilet area indoors.

If Danny is not capable of holding his bladder or bowels in the night then it would be very unfair to put him in a small area such as a crate as this may only result in him soiling his bed. I suggest keeping his toilet area within easy access, next to an outside door (or the one he goes through to reach his normal daytime toilet) and not giving him too much roaming space at night to dissuade him from choosing unwanted areas to toilet in. His new toilet area needs to be well away from his bed or food, as we do not want to cause him distress by having a latrine next to any areas that dogs like to keep completely clean.

Obviously if you know the layout of the new environment he will be living in, there may need to be adjustments made to the above advice and I would also make sure that his Vet has checked him over to make sure he is physically fine with no health problems before this training commences. You’d need to be happy that the new arrangement does not represent any welfare issues for him with regards to him needing to toilet and not being given the opportunity to get outside for this, but I am sure you have considered this already. Eventually it may be that he learns to accept this new arrangement, but if it is too unpleasant for him no matter how kindly or carefully he is trained, then other options might need to be looked at. If you feel you are struggling, it might be a good idea to ask an expert to come in and help you see the situation with fresh eyes –

Best wishes


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Calling the shots

We have just acquired a new pup and, whilst I am an experienced dog owner, I am not 'up to speed' on the latest developments in puppy vaccinations.

Some years ago a previous pup did not fair well after his initial course and I am anxious to avoid anything similar. My vet is keen to get going with this [pup is eight weeks old] but I'm hoping someone has more information on combination vs. singular, and/or start dates etc. Should I be asking him to get me a particular brand for instance?

Thanks in advance for any replies.
Wendy, by email

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Tick master

My collie, Mia, has just come back from our walk with a tick on her face. It's not unusual for her to pick up ticks and she is regularly Frontlined, but this tick is inbetween her eyes and is very close to her right tear duct. I've tried to get it out with a tick remover hook but as I started to twist it Mia squealed and pulled away so I imagine it's painful. The tick isn't dead but it's not moving too much and hasn't taken in any blood, so I imagine it is on its way to ticky heaven.

What is the best way to get it out? Should I just wait for it die and hopefully fall off? She's incredibly wriggily, understandably, and I don't want to hurt her or stress her out any more, or accidently poke her eye out with the remover. Is there a good way to restrain her without stressing her out so I can try and quickly remove it? At the moment she's just padding around the garden quite happily, it doesn't seem to be irritating her. I don't want to risk Lyme disease but I also don't want to cause Mia any stress.

Thanks for your help!

Rachael Millar, Dogs Today

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Behind blue eyes

I have picked a male blue merle collie puppy out of a litter; they are currently five and half weeks old, and he has two bright blue eyes. Here is a photo of him:

I already have a blue merle dog who is two years old, and he has one blue and one brown eye. I have never seen a blue merle with two blue eyes; will they stay blue or will they go brown or wall eyed?

Sarah, Wigan

Monday, 11 June 2012

Signs of age, or something more?

My 10-year-old crossbreed, Titch, had her routine booster a month ago together with a Wellpet blood test. This test showed that she had elevated levels of one of the liver enzymes. The figure should normally be no more than 212 but hers was 475. As she was showing no symptoms and it was only one of the enzymes (I'm not sure which one) we decided to retest in a month to see if it changed. We have just retested and the level has gone up again to 559. My vet says at this stage it is nothing to be too concerned about as if the liver was severely diseased the enzyme level would be up in the thousands, but the fact that it is rising means that, in her opinion, we should maybe do a few more tests to see of we can figure out what is going on. She is recommending a liver stimulation test and an ultrasound initially.

Having done a little research, I have read that it is often quite normal for middle aged dogs to have elevated liver enzymes and it doesn't always indicate a real problem. The suggestion seems to be that it may be better to wait and retest again in six months unless adverse symptoms start to appear.

At the moment Titch seems perfectly healthy. She is fit and active, is not drinking or urinating excessively and does not have any signs of fluid retention. I adopted Titch from a rescue centre when she was about nine months old and she has always had a tendency to occasionally vomit up bile, but I have had another dog who did this, almost seeming to purge himself when his stomach was empty, and so have never thought that might indicate a problem. It is a very infrequent occurrence since her stomach is very rarely empty (!), unlike the stomach of my other dog, who was not food orientated at all and would often go two or three days without eating anything.

Any suggestions about what might be going on here? I don't really want to start putting her through a whole load of tests if it turns out to be a false alarm, and while she is insured my insurer will only cover 35 per cent of the costs after the £95 excess so it could prove to be expensive.

Any advice would be welcome!

Many thanks,

Genny Stallabrass, Bourton-on-the-Water

Please note: veterinary advice should not be given by those not qualified to do so, but owners can benefit from the experience and support from others in the doggie world who have been in similar situations

Titre check

Thanks to Dogs Today, we have been re-educated to the possible harm that yearly vaccination can cause our dogs. We have a three-year-old Labrador-Rottweiler cross who, because he is creched, has to be up to date with his vaccinations (we know the Leptospirosis vaccine has to be given once a year). We are pretty sure that if we could confirm by titre testing and only vaccinate for what is actually needed, that they would be fine to accept this (and hopefully so would the insurance company). We did have blood tests done prior to his last full vaccination to check his immunity, which came back fine, but we still weren't comfortable with doing the full vaccination. We want to do the best for our dog by making sure he is protected, but not over vaccinated.

Does anyone know a vet in the West Sussex that does titre testing, as our vet doesn't? We left it too late last year to look into other options, but hope to find a solution this year.


Sue, by email

Walk the line


My wife and I have a German Shepherd pup who is almost 10 months old. His name is Torin.

My enquiry might seem quite trivial to someone who is used to dealing with dogs but we are relative newcomers to dog ownership although we have both had dogs in the past. We want to do our absolute best for Torin.

We have become a bit confused about how much exercise he should have on a daily basis. Someone told us that he should get five minutes for each month of his age per walk and he should get two walks per day. At present we give him about 90 minutes in total per day (plus playtime in the garden) spread over two or three walks but some sources say this isn't enough and others say that the dog is still too young for this amount. We don't let Torin off the lead much as he barks at other dogs and the dogs (and owners) often look quite concerned at this big dog who seems to be aggressive but in fact isn't.

We love Torin to bits and obviously want to do our best for him - the thought of our doing him harm fills us with dread.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thank you in anticipation.

John and Liz Brannan, by email

Christine Bailey, Dogs Today, says...

Hi John and Liz,

I think the five minutes per month of age is a pretty good guide, split into two or three walks a day. It’s especially important for a larger dog. When I had my first dog, Airedale Tasha, I spoke to a vet at my local practice (a locum) as I had been advised to only give her two 15 minute walks and it didn’t seem much to me. He told me that he didn’t think that enough for any pup, and to walk her much more. But a couple of months later she went lame, and on seeing the owner of the practice I was told in no uncertain terms that I most certainly should not be walking her so much, and I could well have caused her a major problem! You can imagine how I felt. Luckily rest sorted her injury, and I was not best impressed with the initial vet, who of course by then had left. I have never forgotten that experience.

Play with your pup in the garden but my advice would be to keep him on shorter walks until he is about 15/16 months, then gradually increase. Are you taking him to classes? Training exercises will tire him too, and you can practise your recall in safe areas, calling him from one to the other with tasty treats, and socialise him with other dogs so that he learns to interact in an acceptable way. It’s hard work, but definitely worth it in the long run!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Pain in the backside

My six-year-old neutered male German Shepherd has just been diagnosed with anal furunculosis.

He is on Atopica four times a day which will hopefully improve his condition. I have never met anyone with a dog who has this so I was hoping your readers who have experienced it can help with with any tips or advice?

It is daunting to read about as recommendations can vary from bathing using diltuted hibiscrub to putting sudocream on any sores, and some advise diet changes, too. Any help would be most welcome.

Lisa, by email

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

Unfortunately anal furunculosis is quite a common condition in German Shepherd Dogs. It is an autoimmune disease (that is, the immune system mistakes normal healthy body tissue as foreign and begins attacking it) leading in this case to fissures and inflammation of the area in and around the anus. Dogs that suffer from anal furunculosis also often have IBD type symptoms and sometimes an eye condition called pannus. Anal furunculosis has many similarities to Crohn’s disease in humans.

Drugs such as Atopica suppress the immune system but often either don’t control symptoms successfully, or can have adverse side effects. Even if they do suppress symptoms, the beneficial effect may eventually decrease with time.

I have had a great deal of success with natural medicines, though not 100%. One of my favourite patients, a GSD called Paddy, is doing exceptionally well and at present all the lesions have healed and he has no symptoms. This has been achieved by the use of supplements of Vitamin E and Zinc, homoeopathic medicines (mainly potentised Nitric acid) and acupuncture. Paddy has a regular train trip out to my centre at Potters Bar once a month and I’m sure he is adored by every train passenger he meets!

Every case is different, and certainly cleaning with hibiscrub can help, though I prefer a more natural cleanser and soothing agent such as Propolis spray or cream, or Colloidal silver.

I do find changing to a natural (raw meaty bone based diet) helps most dogs, as does regular exercise, avoiding weight gain, and all the usual healthy lifestyle changes.

Good luck with this problem – it’s a really unpleasant condition to happen to a dog, but there is a great deal that can be done to help.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Vaccination frustration


I am the devoted pet of a six-year-old Springer Spaniel called Sadie.

We have an appointment at Sadie's vets today - for a check up and booster. I am not comfortable to vaccinate every year as I have read too many accounts of problems caused by over vaccinating an had decided to vaccinate every other year - I was somewhat shocked when the vet refused to give the booster shot and insisted on giving a full puppy course of vaccinations. I refused this and explained my concerns to no avail, and my request for titres was ignored.

I am now at a loss as to what is the best course of action for Sadie. Should I re-vaccinate and arrange an annual booster rather than give Sadie no protection? Or rely on her previous shots? Is there any alternative? Sadie never goes into kennels.

Any advice would be welcome.

Fiona James, by email

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Recovering from TLPO surgery


I hope someone may have undergone a similar experience and advice, I am so worried...

I have a six-year-old chocolate Lab called Coco. Last year she had TLPO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) on her left hind leg and a second operation six weeks after for a meniscal tear due to lameness. In April this year she had TLPO on her right but, due to a fracture on her tibial crest, a pin and tension bands were also put in place:

Week 1 - Coco had a slight limp and toe tapping, which I expected
Weeks 2 and 3 - she seemed to use her leg very well, foot on the ground and weight bearing
Week 4 - leg in the air, and would not put her foot down

I went back to the surgeon/vets and she was prescribed with clindacyl 150mg, marbocyl 20mg and carp reive 50 mg. Whilst she has improved to some extent in the fact that she walks on her leg some of the time, the majority of the time she still holds her leg in the air. She also does not use her leg to get up from a lying position. It seems like her leg is not strong enough. She is happy in her self, what is going wrong here?

Please, if you can offer any advice I would be eternally grateful.

Sue and Coco, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

I can understand why you are concerned about Coco. Having had a TPLO on her left hindlimb last year, you are expecting a similar time course for recovery following the TPLO on her right hindlimb this year.
It is worth remembering, however, that there was a complication for the TPLO this time round with there being a tibial crest fracture so she has the additional metalwork. There is therefore more healing to occur.
When you returned to your vet, Coco was given a course of two antibiotics which would have been aimed at any infection occurring, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (carprofen). It would have been useful to have known how long it is since the surgery, because it can take several weeks for healing to occur, and also how long since you returned to your vet and how long the courses of antibiotics and NSAID were. However, whether or not Coco is still taking the antibiotics and NSAID, I do think you should go back to your vet. It does sound as if she is still experiencing pain and, if she is not receiving any analgesia, it may simply be a matter of being dispensed more carprofen, perhaps with physiotherapy or swimming therapy, for example, to strengthen the muscles. If, however, there are underlying problems then follow-up radiography and other investigations may be needed.
It is very hard for us when owners do not come back despite being concerned about their dog’s progress because we can only assume that there has been a full recovery. 

Eau de dog

The weather this Jubilee weekend not only spoilt our local street party but reminded me, after our short but glorious sunshine spell a couple of weeks ago helped my memory fade, just how ingrained the wet dog smell can get in sofas (not that I would possibly allow my two to share our human-only sofa..!).

Can the wonderful Dogs Today community recommend the best cleaning products or upholstery home remedies to rid the house of this stink?!


Sally Lee, by email

Retrain to train


I saw your Facebook post on Friday about an upcoming feature on dog careers and will be interested to read it.

I was made redundant from my marketing role last year and thought I might use the opportunity to realise a long term dream of mine and become a dog trainer. I wonder if you could help me with where to start - there's a lot of different qualifications and courses out there, it's a bit confusing!

Can anyone tell me the best path to take, and also if this is something I can do the majority of from home? I live in a lovely but remote area of Devon and some of the training centers I've looked at are a long way from me and I'm loathed to leave my dogs home alone for long trips across the county.

Thank you in advance,

V Preston, by email

Friday, 1 June 2012

Calling all dogtrepreneurs!

Hello everyone,

We're running a feature in an upcoming issue on career opportunities within the dog world that may appeal to our readers, and whether you're a hydrotherapist or run your own dog sitting franchise, we would love to hear from you.

If you'd like to be invloved, please do get in touch. We'd specifically like to hear about things that others may not have thought of, perhaps even things you hadn't taken into account and learnt about on the way.

Please email me your comments and anecdotes during the next two weeks (

Thank you,

Rachael Millar, assistant editor

Hard as nails

Is it okay for my five-month-old Golden Retriever to chew horse hooves? My pup has discovered them at our stable. I've stopped him from doing it for now in case it's unsafe, but just wanted to check if he does it in future.

Donna Hotston, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Dogs really like hoof clippings! When we went on holiday last year, there was a stable block adjacent and there had obviously been a recent farrier visit. My Labs spent their time hunting for hoof clippings, and voraciously eating any they found. They came to no harm.
Possible risks to a dog from eating hoof trimming would seem to me to be:
-       Mould or bacteria on the hoof trimming;
-       Sharp edges -  may damage the mouth, oesophagus, stomach or intestines;
-       Treatments applied to the hooves such as for thrush - may be toxic to dogs.
Given that your dog is only five months old, I think you have been wise to prevent him from eating the hoof trimmings. He needs a balanced diet for optimal growth! Dogs brought up around horses have been eating hoof trimmings for years, but perhaps it would be sensible to sweep up the bulk of them. The odd trimming should be fine, although I would certainly be careful to clear them all away if you are treating the hooves with anything. 

A not-so-warm welcome

Can anyone help with a really good method for training my dog to stop barking so much every time someone comes to the front door? My collie cross, Poppy, is seven years old and we’ve had her for four years. She’d been a stray. When she first arrived she never barked at the door, until she boarded with other dogs while we went on holiday and I assume she learnt this from the other dogs. I didn’t mind then, as she only gave a short warning bark, which was good as I often don’t hear the bell or knocking. But recently she has started really barking when someone comes to the door and it’s reached the point where I worry she’ll give herself a sore throat! As soon as the door is open she then stops and licks whoever it is; she is really a very friendly girl. She doesn't do this when she hears a car she knows, for example my husband's or children's. The only other time she barks is at squirrels who’ve dared to run up a tree, as opposed to allowing her to chase them, when we’re on a walk.

I don’t mind her giving a warning bark, but I want to control the level, and I want her to stop when I ask rather than when I open the door, as obviously some delivery drivers and other people who don’t know the dog beneath the bark are terrified by the noise she makes. She will do anything for food, so any methods based around treats would probably work really well, but is noise phobic and wasn't impressed when we attempted clicker training!

Thanks in advance for your help.

June Walker, by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist (, advises...

Hi June

A bark can herald all sorts of things and it sounds like this is a habit that balances between the control you have and the self control your dog has, too. If she is happy and friendly when people are visible it may well be an alert/excited bark although dogs will bark for many reasons, including fear or frustration so it’s worth monitoring her to make sure this is the case.

My aim for dogs who bark for this reason is to give them a job to do that not only interrupts the barking, it gives them something useful and fun to do as well. This would be my choice rather than a ‘shh’. My preferred option would be to teach Poppy a ‘Go to your bed’ signal first of all, before anyone is at the door. This is a lot of fun! All you need is a favourite toy or a treat that you toss onto her bed (or a mat nearby if you would like a new place for her to go to). As she arrives, praise her and allow her the toy/treat whilst on her bed. Next, begin to give a ‘Go to your Bed’ command as she arrives, and gradually move away from the bed yourself, including a ‘point’ with your hand as you toss the treat or toy. This gradually builds up into a gesture from a distance (and a well targeted throw) which should have her happily racing to her new favourite place.

Teaching her a ‘stay’ whilst she is there is your next step of course. Once this is established, begin to make knocking or door bell noises very quietly and at the same time, give her the ‘Bed’ command. You can allow one or two barks, then the command. She has to run there from the door area so build up to this.

Eventually Poppy should be conditioned to hearing the doorbell or a knock, and diving on her bed in anticipation of a reward. Finally (as you can see this must be done in stages!) Poppy can wait there for a beloved visitor to come over and offer her treat, toy, or a bit of fuss whilst she is still on her bed.

Bon voyage

We are taking our dog to France for the first time next weekend.  He has been microchipped and had the rabies jab.

We know he has to be treated for tapeworm 24 - 120 hours before he comes back into the UK and have identified a vet in Montebourg who evidently understands this UK requirement (Clinique Veterinaire Le Haut Gele).  I want to email them to book an appointment, but cannot find their e-mail address anywhere.

Does anybody know it?

Linda Mollison, by email