May issue

May issue
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Monday, 30 September 2013

Spot on

How many spots does a Dalmatian have?

Milly, aged 7

Christmas dinner

After discovering Christmas pudding was absolutely not for dogs in a Dogs Today article earlier this year, are there any other foods I should avoid feeding my dog this holiday season?

Nicola Bates, Information Scientist, at the Veterinary PoisonsInformation Service (VPIS), advises...

Christmas food hazards are:

Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical very similar to caffeine, which dogs do not tolerate very well. The amount of theobromine depends on the quality and type of chocolate. White chocolate contains very little and is generally not a risk but even a relatively small amount of dark chocolate (which is very high in theobromine) can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and problems with the heart.  Dogs will not unwrap chocolate and can eat a very large quantity. The wrappers are not toxic but could cause obstruction of the gut. If there are dogs in the household or are visiting over Christmas do not put any chocolate under or on the Christmas tree.

Onions (and garlic, leeks, shallots and chives)
Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the Allium species of plants.  They can cause toxicity even when cooked. Initially there can be gastrointestinal signs with vomiting and diarrhoea but the main effect is damage to red blood cells resulting in anaemia.This may not be apparent for several days after ingestion.  Foods to avoid at Christmas include sage and onion stuffing.

Grapes and dried fruits (currants, sultanas, raisins)
Grapes and their dried products (currants, sultanas and raisins) are toxic to dogs.   Ingestion of even a small quantity can cause severe kidney failure. Don’t forget this will include food items that contain dried fruits such as Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies. Be aware that chocolate-coated raisins are available so there is the additional risk of chocolate toxicity with these.

Xylitol (food additive code E967)
Xylitol is a naturally occurring, sugar-free sweetener and is frequently found in sugar-free chewing gums and sweets, and some pharmaceuticals including nicotine replacement chewing gums. Xylitol is extremely harmful to dogs and can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) and liver damage.

Dogs may help themselves to any alcohol left unattended including wine and liqueurs and it can cause similar signs in them as it does in their owners when drunk in excess.   Dogs can become wobbly and drowsy and in severe cases there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. 

Bread dough
Uncooked bread dough that has been left to prove can be hazardous to dogs. The dough expands in the warm, moist stomach and this can result in bloating and obstruction. Also the yeast produces alcohol and this can cause additional effects (see above).

Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness. Be aware that chocolate-coated macadamia nuts are available so there is also a risk of chocolate toxicity with these.

If there is any food left over at Christmas, be careful to dispose of it promptly and appropriately. Mouldy food (including yoghurt, bread and cheese) can contain toxins produced by the mould that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.

**Ed’s note – the toxicity mechanism regarding grapes/raisins and dogs is not fully understood by scientists. This means any amount could be fatal to a dog of any size. The advice from the world’s top scientists is NOT to give you dog any grapes, raisins, sultanas, or any products containing them such as Christmas cake, pudding, and/or mince pies. Even if dogs have been fine eating these products before, because the science is not understood, it is not safe to say that these dogs will be ok with the next grape they eat. Please avoid these foods to avoid tragedy this Christmas.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Big softy

I am looking for an oval cushion/mattress for my dog's plastic bed.

I want one with a cover for washing as when I have washed his old cushion (which came with the bed, with no cover) it has gone all lumpy!

Can anyone recommend one?

His bed is approx. 90cm x 54cm


Wendy, by email

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Watch this space

Hello Dogs Today,

I'm emailing to ask if you can help? I’m looking at ways of saving space in my house. With one daughter in primary school and the other soon to start nursery you can imagine the number of toys in our house!

I was considering getting a new bed for Bella, our Westie, and was wondering if any of your team or readers have experience of corner beds for their dogs? Are there any good ones that give dogs enough room to sleep comfortably but also take up little room?

Any other space saving ideas very welcome!


Helen Slade, by email

Chip in or chip out

My friend has a large, Mastiff cross, and the vet is refusing to microchip him until he's 9 months old, saying the chip would move, as he's a large breed. Never heard that before - is it true, or just an excuse from a poorly skilled vet?!

Marnie Cohen, Forest of Dean

Throw in the towel

I’m on the hunt for the most efficient, highly absorbent towels for drying a dog after walks/swimming etc. Can anyone recommend a good one?

Claire, by email

Sleigh ride

Dear DT team,

I hope you can help as I love your mag. Barney, my Schnauzer, went to the bridge three months ago and I am waiting until the time is right to get another dog. I love looking through the rescue pages each month.

My partner and I both love dogs and have wanted to go on a holiday where we can go husky riding for years and I think the time is now right. Preferably somewhere snowy! Do you know of any good ones? We’re prepared to be hands on. I was hoping you could put my email on your Think Tank so other readers could recommend.

Thank you.

Claire Baines, by email

First timer

Hi Think Tank,

I’ve found you online and need some advice. My wife and I are thinking of getting a medium sized dog and we’re not bothered about what type it is, as long as he’s friendly and likes walks. We’ve never had a dog before and are thinking of getting a rescue dog but will we be allowed because this would be our first dog?

Do you know of any animal sanctuaries that we could contact in our situation?

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Thomas, by email

Monday, 16 September 2013

Muddy paws

Can any fellow dog owners recommend a good mud-removing mat for after we come in from muddy walks? For years I’ve been putting towels on the kitchen floor before we go out in the rain, but I’ve seen a mat that claims to remove mud from paws and I wondered if it is any good. Has anyone used one?

Beverly Riley, by email

In the dark

A few years ago I bought a flashing collar for my Golden Retriever for autumnal and winter evenings which broke earlier this year. No idea where I got it from in the first place so can you recommend a good replacement I can use to keep Bailey visible?

Mark McLaughlan, by email

Nut to crack

Is peanut butter OK for dogs? Are both types (smooth and crunchy) OK? And are actual peanuts OK, or are they harmful in any way?


Summer Clark, age 12

Nicola Bates, scientist at the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, advises...

There is not very much information on peanuts in dogs. We at the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) have had some enquiries. Many dogs remain well but some develop vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy discomfort. We have a few cases where the dogs have developed convulsions after ingestion of (mostly) salted peanuts and this is probably due to salt toxicity. Other dogs have eaten peanuts left out for the birds that have gone mouldy. This can also cause convulsions (this is due to the mould). We only have one case of peanut butter ingestion and that dog appears to have developed an allergic reaction. There is also the risk of choking and blockage of the gut if a large quantity is eaten. On balance I think it would be best not to give dogs peanuts and peanut products. Chocolate covered peanuts are also available and they should definitely not be given to dogs because of the risk of chocolate toxicity.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Off the menu

My GSD is allergic to beef, pork, venison, rice and most cereals.

Does anyone have any recommendations for any other chews or bones I could use? I want to make sure my GSD has something to chew on in order to keep up on her dental hygiene.

Tony Harrison, via Facebook

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Caring career

Can anyone tell me which is the best website to look on for animal care jobs in the UK please? I'm sure there must be somewhere they are all collated together.

Karen Wallace, via Facebook

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Insurance policy?

I have a nine-year-old Beagle, who is insured with Direct Line...she has recently had an op to remove a large lump from her back leg and a smaller lump from her right side...unfortunately we got the news that the large lump on her leg was actually a very advanced mast cell tumour, and although they removed all they could see, her condition is terminal.

My vets did a direct claim with Direct Line (as the usually do) and Direct Line has decided they are going to charge me 2 separate excess fees (£80 each), as they pay our per condition, and as each lump is a different type, this classes as 2 different conditions.
Has anyone else heard about this? I have spoken to several different people at 
Direct Line  but just keep being told it is policy, and to pay the difference to my vets immediately.

I just presumed that as it was one procedure to remove unidentified lumps it would all count as one claim?!

I'd be grateful for anyone elses input!

Claire Ruston, via Facebook

Monday, 2 September 2013

Food for thought

After reading your dog food feature in the September issue I’m keen to try my dogs on raw. 

Any advice on how I start? Both are male Labs and currently eat a high-quality tinned food.

D. Barretto, by email

Afraid of the dark


I hope you can help.

My dog (a medium-sized Heinz 57) has a nervous personality. She was rescued and was mistreated in her early years. She’s approximately 4 years old and we’ve had her since last summer.

On Halloween last year she was spooked by there being a lot of people around her, making funny noises on her evening walk, and didn’t want to go out in the dark for the next few nights. We managed it using treats and lots of hugs and encouraging words, but I don’t want a repeat of this this year as it really set back the training my family and the resuce had done to rehabiliate her from her horrid former life. The kids go back to school this week and although she's been fine throughout the summer I'm worried as the nights draw in she will become worried about waling in the dark again.

Do you have any advice as to how I can prevent her being scared in the dark, and how to help her through it if she does freak out again?

Mark Wall, by email

Fact finding mission


I hope you don't mind me contacting you but I am in bits about the loss of my dog and need some answers from someone who really may know.

My beautiful lurcher who was around 12 died on Sunday after a sudden illness, by the time we had the blood tests back showing liver failure it was too late.

Yesterday I was told the liver biopsy was non specific hepatitis, but the bloods indicated high titre levels for Weils disease. Our vet says the fact we have been back and forward with non specific "not right" issues for a few months may mean this was incubating or getting weaker and older made her less able to fight it.

She was vaccinated and boostered every year we had her (10.5 years) as a rescue dog we signed a contract to do this. However in May the vet did not give her booster as she wasn't quite herself he took blood and urine that showed very slight kidney damage and nothing else. we got involved in pain relief for her hips and kidney diets. Now she has gone I am told the lepto vaccine is only effective for <12 months, there are more strains than the vaccine can protect against and no indication a booster would have helped In this case, diagnosis is not 100% just based on the facts above.

Our vet says that we did all we could and we followed all their advice to the letter, but I am in such a state. Would she really have been unprotected 16 months after her last booster?, are there really lots of strains the vaccine does not protect against anyway?

I am fairly dog knowledgable, but had no idea lepto was such a weak vaccine or that as a swimming/ wading dog she was at risk. With metacalm for her hips she was running around and swimming like a youngster right up to the week before she died.

Any knowledge you have most welcome.

Thank you.

Kindest regards,

Carmella Delargy, by email