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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Can dogs have autism?

I am interested in people's thoughts on autism in dogs.

I have a 14-year-old collie bitch who over her lifetime has exhibited some very autistic type tendencies.

Julie Smith, via Facebook

Quiet as a mouse

Can anyone give some advice on barking, not excessive but lack of.

I have just acquired a Staffie, aged about four to five years, from the dog warden in Hampshire. She was found as a stray, and not much is known about her background, probably ill treatment. She has a wonderful disposition, clean, completely non-aggressive to people or other dogs, very affectionate and loving, walks well on lead; cannot fault her at all.

She was in the kennels probably for about a month and they never heard her bark. They thought maybe she had been ill treated. Perhaps she had been punished for barking. We have only had her for one week. She is quite relaxed and wagging her tail all the time but still not a sound comes from her. I recently heard about another Staffie, quite young who also couldn’t bark and made sort of grunting noises. they said it was probably a collapsed larynx. I spoke to someone else about it who has recently adopted a Labrador aged 13-14 who also doesn’t bark. I asked her, “what do you think is the reason”. She said often ageing or a paralysis of the larynx. Maybe it was caused by retrieving sticks or something stuck in the throat. So now I am thinking, in my dog’s case cannot be ageing so must be something else. My vet doesn’t think it is anything to worry about, not a health problem fit and healthy in every other way, but it would be nice to hear just a “woof” now and again.

Does anyone have any ideas or experience of this? Is there any remedy and could barking return?

Mrs V. J. Denton, by email

Avoiding lipomas


Our blue roan Cocker Spaniel, Tosca, is nine years old, and has started to develop fatty lumps. One, on the side of her chest, is growing, so she’s going to have it removed next week.

Internet info says that lipomas are most common in overweight dogs, but Tosca weighs just 12.5 kilos and is very active – most people who see her in action think she’s a puppy, and can’t believe how old she is. We feed her on raw meat and lightly-cooked vegetables, about 220g of each per day, divided into two meals. For treats, we give nuggets of Burns or James Wellbeloved dried food, about 15g per day. If we reduce this quantity of food, she loses weight.

Our previous cocker, Corran, also slim, had the same problem and, at 13 years old, the front of her chest was a mass of fatty tissue. Before that I had a Springer, who lived to be 14 and didn’t have any fatty lumps at all.

I was wondering whether there’s any way to reduce the formation of these lumps? We prefer natural remedies whenever possible.


Ellie Judson, by email

Richard Allport, vet, advises

Yes, if you scan the ‘infernalnet’ you will find that lipomas are supposed to be most common in older dogs, in overweight female dogs, and in certain breeds (Dobermans, Miniature Schnauzers, Labradors). This may well be true, but I do see lipomas in many other breeds; in males and in females; and in dogs that are under, normal or over weight. Lipomas are, essentially, fatty lumps, and are almost always benign. However, very rarely, malignant lipomas, (known as liposarcomas) do occur, so fatty lumps should always be checked regularly and be examined by a vet if growing very rapidly.

It seems that some dogs are prone to lipomas and some are not, and many dogs that are predisposed to them will keep producing new ones. Surgery to remove lipomas is therefore not undertaken routinely; otherwise the affected dog would have to undergo multiple anaesthetics and operations. However, rapidly growing lipomas are often removed to prevent them becoming extremely large, and lipomas in places that could interfere with movement might also be removed.

Lipomas are usually soft, pliable and mobile, and commonly just under the skin without strong attachment to the flesh beneath. Some are more ‘infiltrative’ and are found in muscle or other tissue under the skin.

It is difficult to control lipomas. I have had reasonable success using natural medicines and supplements, although more in limiting size, growth rate and number of new lipomas rather than eliminating them entirely.

Supplements such as Vitamin E and Selenium can help, as can Kelp (especially for dogs that are overweight). One supplement I am finding useful is a combination of minerals and trace elements known as ‘Volcanic Elements’. Although this is intended as a general strengthening and energising supplement, it does seem to help in reducing size and numbers of warts, cysts and lipomas.

Homoeopathic medicines such as Thuja, Baryta carb, Calc carb and others can also help, and one client appeared to have success with rubbing Sage extract on the lipomas directly.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Weak at the knees


Just wondering if anyone has an experience of Patella Luxation in dogs? My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lady, is suffering from it, she's on painkillers until she sees orthopaedic surgeon next week and will most likely need surgery. She's only one.

Would love to hear some successful treatment stories at the moment, I feel so sorry for her and she was doing so well with her training and now can hardly walk!

Siobhan Campbell, via Facebook

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Patellar luxation is also called a slipping kneecap. My children have been adept at diagnosing this from a young age because I am prone to saying out loud ‘Oh, look, that dog has a luxating patella’ whenever I see a dog skipping for a few strides.

There is a mismatch between the kneecap and the groove within which it sits, which may be exacerbated by the pull of muscles acting on the knee. When the knee or stifle is bent, the kneecap may slip out of the groove, preventing straightening of the knee so the dog hops for a few steps until the kneecap returns to its correct position, allowing the knee to extend and bear weight once more.

As a vet, the position of the kneecaps is checked during routine examination. If a dog has a luxating patella, it can be possible to slip the kneecap out of position with quite a thunk, and then return it, usually without much of a response from the dog (but it always makes me shudder!). In Lady’s case, you say that she is in pain and can barely walk so there may well be active inflammation and other issues going on so I am glad she is receiving pain relief and will be seeing an orthopaedic surgeon next week. At her young age, it is important to have this investigated at as early a stage as possible if long term adverse effects are to be avoided. After all, being able to move about freely without pain is paramount, and especially if you are a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

I hope that the orthopaedic surgeon is able to help Lady. Please let us know how she does.

Expanding the family


Could you please advise me on what to do, I am thinking of getting a German Shepherd puppy but I have a dog already.

My dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel he is very timid, not at all dominant and is not social with others (people and dogs), he sleeps most of the day and does not play games/or with toys. He never shows aggression but always backs away and is submissive. As he is nervous I am wondering whether getting a puppy would scare him more or whether it would be a good idea to get another dog?

Thank you,

Nikki Cooper, by email

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Behavioural change

Hi all,

Advice will be greatly appreciated here as I am feeling quite desperate.

We are fostering a little dog, a female Lab/terrier mix. Although it’s hard to know, we estimate she is about two years old.

She was spayed recently by our local SPCA branch who is now offering her for adoption. We have had her since September 5 and she has been a really well behaved little dog to date. Only in the last few days have some problems presented. On Saturday evening, we discovered she had soiled on our bed. She managed to get back into the bedroom unnoticed the following evening and soiled again, with poo this time. Aside from the major clean up situation, this has never happened before and she has been very clean in the house. No accidents or anything. Nor has she shown the slightest sign of anxiety to date. She was a bit nervous at first but she soon settled in.

Also, when potential adopters came to see her on Sunday evening last, she growled and snapped and refused to walk with them on the lead. Again, this caught us completely by surprise as she has always been very placid around visitors who have called to the house. Another fosterer took care of her for a weekend a few weeks ago when we were away and this fosterer has young children and found that she was very good with the children. However, now she is also reacting to any dog she meets outside on walks. She gets on very well with our schnauzer Isaac and our boxer Barney but when walking her, it is as if she is going frantic to get at the other dog.

This is escalating is the space of a few days. By this morning, she was hysterical, pulling on the lead when she was approaching areas where she knew there were dogs in the yard or behind the fence, literally spinning and jumping on the end of the lead as if charged with electricity. If not on the lead, she would have ran straight out under traffic. I was almost in tears by the time I arrived home. Nothing distracted her, not even pieces of sausage meat I was carrying as treats.

The puzzling thing is that these bad behaviours have only presented themselves in the matter of a few days. The vet checked her out on Friday and she is in perfect health. My local SPCA branch have been very supportive but there are no behaviourists in our area.

No-one will adopt her if this is not sorted. A potential adopter is coming to see her this week, an elderly lady who is looking for a companion and best friend. Sounds like the home of dreams for this little dog but not if she keeps this up.

Thanks in advance,

Fiona Robbins, Ireland

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

The fact that you describe a sudden onset of problems leads me to think that this needs urgent professional involvement rather than speculation and you did the right thing getting a vet check straightaway. It might be that there has been a traumatic event to set this off or something else underlying that could need further medical investigation, and more indepth behaviour screening. As we know dogs have especially clear memories especially if it is of something unpleasant happening in the past. Equally they often have not had a great deal of 'real-life' experience which can cause them to be fearful (they may toilet inappropriately) or defensive through aggressive display. It might even be that the recent trauma of moving between foster homes (no matter how nice the homes are as they sound very caring), could be causing the dog distress?

Can the vet or rescue centre suggest someone professionally qualified to help? Most vets have a behaviour referral service that they rely on locally and most good rescue centres provide behavioural support for the dogs they rehome in one way or another. A dog's best chance of success when rehoming goes along with a professional behaviour assessment that is thorough - Wood Green sends out excellent, accurate and thorough reports with every dog they rehome, for example. The SPCA or vet should be able to suggest someone with a kind approach who can really work through this to give this little girl the very best chance of success.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Unpleasant discovery

This morning I found a small, white moving maggot in my dog's poo. He had only just gone and I went to clear it up straight away so it was not laying for more than five minutes.

What could it be?

Carol Davies, by email

Steve Leonard, TV vet, advises...

From the sounds of things it seems that what she has found is a worm - if it was short fat and ribbed (looking like a maggot) it's most likely it was a tapeworm.

Tapeworm are picked up from accidentally ingesting fleas or scavenging on dead carcasses that they come across on a walk. Once inside the dog they develop into the adult form of the worm feeding in the dog's gut and laying eggs wrapped up in segments. These segments are visible to the naked eye and look like grains of rice. Whole worms or longer sections of worms can also be passed out and it may be this is what you have seen. Because of the relationship with fleas it is very important to check for them by looking for flea dirt (black specs in the coat that turn pink or red when brushed out onto wet paper). By eliminating the fleas you will reduce the chance of re-infection.

However, there is no tablet or injection that will prevent dogs picking up tapeworms from scavenging so we have to concentrate on regular treatment. If your dog regularly picks up stuff you should worm your pet more frequently. Once monthly should be sufficient in most cases as it stops the worms completing their full lifecycle and seeding the environment with more eggs. For more information, visit

Monday, 15 October 2012

Going down a treat


I’m hoping you or your readers can advise. I am switching my dog to a BARF diet but am wondering what to feed her for treats? She is so food-orientated (which made her quite a dream to train!) and I like to carry something smelly on walks in case I ever need to tempt her away from a discarded mouldy sandwich or similar.

Can you recommend something free from nasty additives?

Thank you.

Mrs Reid, by email

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Border Collie Collapse syndrome

My blue eyed collie boy who you photographed as a pup has just been diagnosed with assumed Border Collie Collapse. Which means no more agility or full on play with the others. He started on some suggested supplements but it doesn't seem much is known about the condition & there isn't a genetic test. If any of your readers have dogs with this condition I would be interested in speaking to them
Please post here or/and email 
Gina Stokes
Border Collie collapse is similar to the exercise-induced collapse syndrome in retrievers. Alternative names include ‘the wobbles’, exercise-induced hyperthermia and stress seizures. It is episodic because it is triggered by vigorous exercise, excitement or high environmental temperature or a combination of two or more factors. An exact explanation is the subject of ongoing research, as is the search for a genetic factor.

The problem manifests within five to fifteen minutes of starting to exercise or after stopping exercise, with disorientation and vacancy, swaying and staggering to one side, and a bizarre, altered gait. The legs may even cross over when the dog turns. This lasts for a variable length of time and then the dog is normal once more without any apparent side-effects from the episode.

This is why you have been advised your dog can do no more agility or ‘full on play’ with other dogs. As the Border Collie is an inherently active and willing worker, this must have come as a real blow to you.

Alison Logan, Vet

Friday, 5 October 2012

Life after death


Please could you advise?

I have two Japanese Chins and would like to know what options are available for making sure they’re looked after in the event of my death.

I do have family and friends who have said they would take them on, but I just wondered if there was anything I could do to guarantee they will be cared for. I would not wish for them to spend a long time in kennels after I’m gone.

Thank you for your help.

Linda Benson, Croydon

Dogs Trust advises...

Many people worry about what would happen if they were to die before their dog. Thankfully, Dogs Trust is on hand to ease this worry. The Canine Care Card scheme is a fantastic free service that gives you peace of mind, knowing that Dogs Trust will care for your dogs if you pass away before they do.

What would happen if your dog came to Dogs Trust

If you pass away and have registered as a Canine Care Card holder, we will arrange to bring your dog or dogs to our nearest Rehoming Centre. Once there, they will be examined by our vet and cared for by our dedicated, trained staff.

We will then try to find your dog or dogs new owners whose lifestyle and experience match their needs. Any new owners would be visited at their home and given a thorough briefing in caring for your dog.

How to join the Canine Care Card scheme

If you decide to become a Canine Care Cardholder, we will issue you with a handy wallet-sized card. It acts in a similar way to an organ donor card and notifies people of your wishes for your dogs, should anything happen to you.

We also strongly recommend that you mention the care of your dog in your Will. That way, there can be no confusion about your wishes. If this is something you wish to do, we suggest that you include the following phrase in your Will: "It is also my wish that Dogs Trust care for or rehome any dogs that I may own at the time of my death".

Find out more

If you would like further information about how Dogs Trust can arrange to take care of your dog in the event of your death, please contact our Supporter Relations team on 020 7837 0006 or download a registration form online via

Mrs Jarvis, CEO of The Cinnamon Trust, says...

Cinnamon Trust specializes in caring for bereaved pets.  Although The Trust offers may different services to elderly and terminally owners, anyone of any age can make arrangements with The Trust to care for their pet in the event of their death – all bereaved pets have had their lives shattered, no matter what the age of their owner.  The Trust undertakes to care for bereaved pets for the rest of their lives.  This can be in one of our two unique home-from-home sanctuaries or in a lifelong foster home where The Trust pays all vet bills, food bills if necessary and acts as a “safety net” to ensure all bereaved pets are happy, loved and properly cared for for life.  Very great care is taken to ensure that each pet’s needs, likes, dislikes and previous lifestyle are taken into consideration – every pet is a unique individual!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Up all night


I have a three-year-old Westie. She’s a great little bitch, but has a problem. She produces a lot of bile at night which she finds hard to shift and it keeps her awake. Before my Westie I had a Lab who lived to 16 and she never had anything like this so I’m lost.

Hope you can help.


Margaret Bivens, by email

Canine community

Hi all,

I'm hoping some of you fine folk will be able to help me out; I've set up a website ( aimed at helping pet owners who need short-term pet care, ie a for just a few hours or just overnight as there's currently nothing similar available. The idea is essentially based around the concept of local pet owners helping each other out.

It's early days, the website being only a couple of weeks old, and I'm in what might be called the 'customer discovery' phase using a Lean Start-Up business model, ie. I'm trying to clarify and define precisely what it is the site users want in terms of usability, functionality, features, format etc. Currently the website consists of a registration page although I have already connected several registered members.

I would be immensely grateful to anyone who would care to visit the site, have a look and even sign up as a Founder Member, it's free; then give me your feedback about the concept, the site, how you would want it to work or what content you would like to see on the site; in this way, the site gets built around the users' needs and is most effective.

Thanks very much in advance,

Mike Potts (Founder @ PetLodger), by email

Dancing queen

Can anyone recommend a good Heelwork to Music classes in the Droitwich, Worcs, area?

Me and my dog are complete beginners but would like to give it a try to keep both mentally and physically active.

Amy Bright-Smith, Droitwich, Worcs

Off my food


I have a one-year-old German Shepherd male dog.

He is a very fussy eater and sometimes he eats only a little food in a day and on a few occasions he has not eaten anything at all. When he did not eat in the morning he sometimes brought up a couple of mouthfuls of bright yellow, foamy bile. This only happened every two or three weeks and the vet told us not to be alarmed about this as it was quite common for dogs to do this if they did not eat the day before. In the last week he has brought up bile on Saturday, Monday and Thursday mornings. The thing is he is eating his food now so we can't understand why this is happening.

We had him on Wafcol Salmon and Potato (he has digestive problems in common with many other GSDs) but we were having trouble getting him to eat this so we are in course of introducing him on to Burns Duck and Brown Rice. He is in his second week of this and we are giving him 245g of Wafcol and 130g of Burns per day We are reducing the Wafcol by 35g every second day and increasing the Burns by 30g at the same time. He weighs 31.5Kg and we are aiming for him to eventually be on 320g of Burns per day after speaking with a Nutritionist at Burns.

We are quite worried about him doing this so frequently and would appreciate your comments and advice on any action we should take.

Thank you.

John Brannan, by email

NB. Only a qualified vet can provide vet advice, but anecdotal evidence can help to point owners in the right direction.