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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Getaway with a difference

I’ve been thinking about booking my holiday for this year and want something a bit different. I rarely go away without my dog, but fancy something a bit more than just hiring a cottage by the sea for a week, which is what I usually do.

Are there any activity getaways me and my boy could book on to? We love long walks and also do agility, but I’m open to any ideas. I'd be happy to join a group of like-minded dog owners. Have your readers been on any they can recommend?


Julie South, by email

Lauren Langman, Devon Dogs, advises...

Hi Julie,

I think your holiday plans sound fantastic, what a great suggestion and how lucky is your dog? You really are the perfect dog owner.

Have you ever thought of a training camp or weeks training break? For example you could look at Dash2Devon. It is a week of agility, flyball, life skills, obedience, heelwork to music and so much more where you can select your chosen training sessions along with like-minded folk. From the fun you will have whilst training, to the BBQ, bring and share dinners and the additional club quiz you couldn’t ask for a friendlier week. You would be able to enjoy the training sessions booked, visit local attractions and countryside, meet new friends and also leave with ideas to take your training to the next level.

Another option would be to visit a cottage with good access to agility or dog sports either on site or close by. Devon Dogs have a fun filled innovative and lively agility, life skills and flyball timetable alongside Bowerland Holiday Cottages set in the heart of Devon. Their cottages are warm and dog friendly (allowing multiple dogs) with great access allowing you to stroll up on to the moor and get to the beach easily whilst also being able to have a mixture of dog sports, 1-2-1 lessons, groups whilst on your holiday.

These sorts of camps, cottage holidays and activity breaks are vibrant, fun and different. They are definitely increasing in popularity and I really think they sound like they could be just what you have been searching for.

Out of sorts

I’m after some advice and am open to all suggestions and ideas.

Since my husband left late last year, my Jack Russell, who is six years old, has been quite withdrawn. It is clear she misses him, but she no longer waits by the door for him to return from work but she does spend a lot of the evening lying at my feet or with me on the sofa, whereas before we would play with a tug a fair bit. I want to get her back to her old self. This has been a stressful period for me and I am worried she is feeding off my upset. How can I perk her back up? I would love to understand exactly what she is feeling and hope we can get through this big change in our lives together.

Thanking you in advance.

Name supplied, by email

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Facing facts about leishmaniasis

Dear Dogs Today,

We are currently living in Cyprus and brought our nine-year-old retired racing Greyhound out with us. We have recently adopted another Greyhound out here who was in a poor state. She is approx four years old and has had puppies at some point. She was bald and red raw in the back end from a flea allergy which has now cleared up and her hair is growing back. She tested positive for tick infections with a blot test and is on 300mg Doxycyline per day for a month and now seems well in herself but she also showed positive for Leishmania. The vet has said that this would be difficult to treat along with the tick infections so we are to go back after the course of Doxycyline for a further test which goes off to a laboratory. If this comes back positive I really don't know what to do for the best as the reading on the internet is quite grim. The vet has said that the signs do not look good as she has ulcers on her paws, lower legs and end of her tail. She also urinates frequently and drinks alot although this has improved with her drinking less. We have had her 4 weeks now and she has also vomited 3 times always within 20 min of eating.

I have read that Leishmania is incurable and that the treatment can make the dog as ill as the disease. However I have spoken to someone who had a dog with Leishmania who lived to the age of 18. The dog did suffer relapses but recovered with treatment and according to the owner lived a long and happy life after the eventual use of the drug Allopurinol.

Unfortunately there is also the matter of cost, although I wish this was not a factor it is something we will have to consider. What sort of cost will it be to care for a dog with Leishmania?

I am also very concerned about our healthy boy catching the disease. I understand if an insect feeds on her and then feeds on him he could catch it, also if she was to bite him (although they are both lovely temperaments so I'm not too worried about this). Does this mean it's in her saliva which would worry me as they share a water bowl and really would be very difficult to police if they were to not drink out of the same bowl. Also they share chews, is this a route of infection?

Summary of questions:
How difficult is Leishmania to treat?
How much does the dog suffer on the treatment?
How expensive is the treatment and long term care?
How much danger from catching the disease is my healthy boy in?

Thank you

Laura Davis, by email

Is two company?


I noticed in Dogs Today's listings for rescues that some dogs are listed as preferring to be the only dog in a household. My question is, how is that assessed?

I ask because I am thinking of adopting a second rescue. At the moment, I have a 3-year-old collie cross (border jack) who is alone a fair bit, perhaps 20 hours over the course of a week, but rarely more than 4 hours a day. He gets 3-4 miles of walks a day, plus 3-4 short play sessions of around 10-15 minutes (all with me, as I am single). My thinking is he might like company both when he is alone in the house and also a dog to run and play with when out on walks or in the garden. Of course I would enjoy a second dog as well!

My dog (neutered) is not aggressive with other dogs. On occasion I have seen him be possessive of a favourite toy and worry that with a second dog, he might get possessive of favourite articles or of me. If that happened, we could certainly work with it. But I would very much like to understand how rescue dogs are assessed for whether or not they are better suited to be the only dog in a household.

Yours sincerely,

Clare, by email

Lynn Barber, Dogs Trust Head of Training and Behaviour, advises...

The decision to rehome as an only dog is made for the dog’s best interest. They are often dogs that may find it stressful living with any other dog or could be a dog that has shown antisocial behaviour which hasn’t been improved with rehabilitation.

Generally Dogs Trust prefers our dogs to live with another dog or at least to be able to spend plenty of time in their company; they are after all very social animals. The vast majority of our dogs are kennelled in pairs and these dogs will then hopefully go on to live happily with another dog. However, some dogs are found to be more people orientated and that living as the only dog is better for them. The vast majority of our dogs will happily live with another dog.

For the assessment the dogs are introduced to a variety of dogs and their interactions, body language etc are scrutinised to allow us to learn as much about their social preferences as possible. When a Dogs Trust dog is rehomed with another dog we insist that the dogs met up in our presence so we can be assured that they will be friends for life.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Dear Dogs Today,

My friend has two young Cockerpoo dogs. The female was spayed two months ago and has been giving off a most offensive odour ever since. Shampooing only helps for a couple of days. She is healthy otherwise.

Can you please help.

Thank you,

J. Cooper, Hitchin

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

This is not a normal consequence of spaying. I would suggest you book an appointment with your vet for your bitch to be examined, taking along a fresh urine sample collected that morning into a suitable container (not jam jar!).

Another possibility would be impacted anal sacs which can create a really fishy smell around the rear. Sometimes the whole dog can be smelly together with really horrendous dragon breath as I call it, following on from her licking excessively at her rear in an attempt to empty her anal sacs, and then inadvertently spreading the smell all over herself during grooming.

I do hope a solution can be found to your bitch’s smelly problem!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Bad breath or something more?

Hi all! I'm hoping someone might be able to help....

My 12-year-old Doberman bitch was diagnosed early last year with fairly widespread cancer that is affecting her liver. Despite our vet being stunned that she is still with us, she is not currently on any medication because no one has told her that she is ill and she is still behaving like a young dog! She is on a veterinary diet to help support her liver and is enjoying a good quality if life.

In the last few months, she has developed ulcers in her mouth which I have read can be caused by the disease in her liver. They have always been very smelly but recently the odour from her mouth has become even worse, (her teeth are not the cause). Could this rancid smell be due to the build up of toxins in her liver because of its diminished function? I know that kidney failure can cause bad breath from experience with an elderly Springer Spaniel I took on many years ago, but is the same true of liver failure?

Any hints, tips or general advice regarding liver disease and/or mouth ulcers would also be greatly appreciated!

Becky Holt, by email

NB. Please note, only a qualified vet can provide veterinary advice, but anecdotes and personal stories from fellow dog owners can help

Weighing up the risks

I have a small Jack Russell cross who weighs just under 7 kg. I have not had her spayed and during her last season she developed a false pregnancy. I was told to have her spayed because she is more at risk of developing a pyometra. Is this correct? I am not going to breed from her and her seasons are well controlled, but I am worried about incontinance and a few other things if I have her spayed.

Thank you,

S. Tasker, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

To spay or not to spay – that is the question. And there is no simple answer because there is no disputing that it is the most involved of the routine surgical procedures, and your bitch will need a general anaesthetic. Equally, do remember that because spaying is so commonly performed it is also a procedure which your vet will be very used to doing.

I am not sure that having a false pregnancy will make your bitch more at risk of developing a pyometra. It is true to say, however, that with every season there is an increased risk of any bitch going on to have a womb infection. Pyometra is a very serious condition, developing a few days to a few weeks after a season. There are essentially two possible scenarios:

- closed pyometra: abdominal enlargement and pain, fever, lethargy, increased thirst, vomiting

- open pyometra: the owner may notice little more than an unpleasant discharge from the vulva

There are medical options for treating a bitch with a womb infection or pyometra. Spaying is, however, generally the main course of action, although the risks are obviously far higher than for a routine planned spay when the patient is fit and well and usually much younger so without any health concerns associated with ageing.

As vets we would therefore prefer to spay when a bitch is young and healthy. There is a risk of urinary incontinence which can usually be managed, although I have not encountered a case for some years now so there may be other factors which have changed. The often-quoted association with mammary tumours and a protective effect of early spaying is unclear and still under investigation. When I first qualified more than twenty years ago, I would be regularly finding mammary tumours when running my hands along the underside of bitches at routine visits, whereas I have certainly noticed that this has become a real rarity in recent years. Seeing a patient booked in for a mastectomy is noteworthy, not at all common.

Weight gain after spaying is another reason that puts owners off having their bitches spayed. In my view, it is far outweighed by the advantages of spaying, especially as it is simply a matter of appreciating that when a bitch is spayed her body slows down by as much as 20%. Cutting back on her ration, coupled with a switch to a food formulated for a neutered dog if feeding a commercially-prepared diet, should prevent weight gain. If it is a planned spay, then it is going to be best performed when the bitch is at her ideal bodyweight as it will be hard to shift weight after spaying. This is another reason to avoid being rushed into spaying by the development of a womb infection.

Then there is the matter of unplanned pregnancy. I assume this is what you mean by having good control of your bitch’s seasons. It is alarming how often accidents do happen…

The decision to have your bitch spayed is very much your own decision and does merit careful thought. I hope this has helped, and would urge you to discuss it further with your vet in order to come to a reasoned decision.

Coat quandary

Dogs Today’s Christine Bailey is looking for a coat which features leg straps, plus a hole for attaching lead to harness. Any suggestions?

She says, “I put a coat on Dan – my Border Collie - today which does have harness hole, but keeps slipping over to one side so it’s right down one side but he’s completely exposed the other!”

Any suggestions would be gratefully received by a chilly dog!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

A clean sweep

To all at Dogs Today,

I’m hoping you can help me please. I'm after some advice as I’ve just moved house to a house with far more carpet, and much thicker, better quality carpets than our previous home had. We’re not in a rush to change them as they’re decent enough and it’s the kitchen that needs the most work.

I’m finding myself doing a lot more cleaning of carpets than I used to! I have two dogs, an elderly Border Terrier and a rather energetic Cocker Spaniel. Both enjoy bringing mud in, and I’m sure watching me remove it!

What have you found to be the best vacuums and carpet shampoo to keep carpets as clean as possible?

I’d be so grateful if you could advise.

Thank you,

Mrs J. Christian, York

Scrubbing up well

Good evening,

Can you or your readers suggest a good doggie shampoo that contains gentle ingredients, as my Lurcher has sensitive skin? He is a long-haired Lurcher and can get quite grubby at this time of year.

Thanking you in advance.

Mrs Joy, by email

I don't want to test my cat's nine lives

I wonder if you or any of your readers (or contributors!) can help me?

I am currently without a dog (although waiting for our puppy to be born, hopefully this month :oD ) but wonder if any of your readers can advise me about natural flea treatments/deterrents for cats?

I've read that garlic can be fatal for a cat but I hate putting chemical spot-on treatments on him because he goes a bit mental - I'm sure they can't do him any good (like the chemical wormers) but just have no idea what to use as an alternative and the internet articles are just so contradictory (ie, use garlic: NO, don't, it'll kill your pet in days: nah, it's absolutely fine!).

If anyone can offer me any (tested!) advice, I'd be so grateful! 

Thanks everyone!

Pippa Casely, via Facebook

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The great food debate

Does the type of food we feed our dogs really make much difference to their behaviour?

Should we feed wet or dry? Top of the price range or a more sensible price?

Someone told me, "If the dog likes what goes in and you like what comes out - that's fine!"
As I have a somewhat "excitable" 15-month-old Golden Retriever - I wondered if you could give me some advice as I don't want to swap and change his food for nothing?

Thank you,

Wendy, by email

Head start

Hi all,

I’m looking into agility classes in my local area and wondered if there are any skills I need to teach my dog before we start and if there’s anything else I should consider?

I would be grateful if you could help.

Diane Ryan, by email

Lauren Langman, Devon Dogs, advises...

Agility is one of the fastest growing trends in the country. It is active, fun and both the dogs and their handlers become hooked very, very quickly.

The skills that are required early on all revolve around reinforcement. It actually is very simple. Does your dog like food? Will he work for it? Does he want to do tricks and is he willing to generally hang out with you? Does your dog play with toys, do you have a special toy? Do you have one that your dog is desperate to work for? If your dog enjoys coming back to you for food and toys you will leap ahead in any group and make super progress as training is so easy when your dog wants to work for you.

In terms of the skills required to make a good start you could start to teach a wait, we call it a startline wait, a solid recall, a spin both ways (like a small circle left and right), to race ahead to a toy on the floor and to retrieve a toy back to you to play. If your dog doesn’t play don’t worry I am sure your new trainer will have lots of other ideas. You could also teach your dog to follow you both sides chasing you to get to your leg, similar to very fast heelwork. The other thing we like to do with our own dogs is allow them opportunities out and about on walks to jump logs and low natural jumps to see that they enjoy the process of jumping.

There are loads of innovative games to play at home and in the garden, ask your trainer once you have mastered the above how you can push forward and take it to the next level. Good luck and happy jumping.

Great minds think alike

Hello Dogs Today,

I was wondering if any of your lovely readers could point me towards a forum that will be welcoming to an ethical cross-breeder? I am an occasional breeder, who health tests (hip scores, patellae check, eye tests, DNA tests, the full works, not a simple vet check), takes great care over my dogs and pups (for life), vets homes very carefully, and puts heart, soul and mind into producing sound, healthy dogs of great temperament. But because I cross-breed, I am automatically deemed irresponsible.

I would like a forum I can belong to, chat about dogs, and not get attacked by folk who argue the only good breeder is a show breeder and that all "designer dogs" are bred for profit by unscrupulous individuals who lie about the existence of hybrid vigour in order to dupe unsuspecting members of the public into buying dogs who will naturally inherit the worst of both breeds (including the health issues of both, yes even the recessives not common to both breeds!).

Really hoping someone can help!

Dogs Today reader, by email

Answer in the sky?

I’ve been on a quest for an explanation for years as to why my crossbreed, Madi, barks and growls at the moon. Can anyone shed any light on it? She is at her most active when the moon is in the ‘waxing crescent’ phase.

I’d be fascinated if anyone could tell me why this is!

Claire Horton-Bussey, Dogs Today

Monday, 7 January 2013

Top of the pups

Hello all at Dogs Today,

What are the most popular dog names, as we’d like something a bit different to every other dog?

We’re shortly to bring home a young-ish pup who was born in our local rescue centre after her pregnant mum was dumped.


The McCaul family, by email

Name your poison


Thanks to your raisin awareness campaign before Christmas I now know not to feed raisins and grapes to my dog. I didn’t know before.

You say that vine fruits are poisonous to dogs, so does this include tomatoes?

I’d be interested to know what other foods I should keep my girl away from.

Thanking you in advance,

Rachel Miner, London

Nicola Bates, Information Scientist, Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), advises...

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your enquiry about tomatoes and dogs. There is very little information on the toxicity of tomatoes to dogs and only a very small number of cases have been reported to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS); half the dogs remained well and the other half developed gastrointestinal signs with vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. We would therefore not recommend giving tomatoes to dogs.

Other foodstuffs that should be kept out of reach of dogs includes chocolate, coffee, onions (and garlic and leeks), the artificial sweetener xyliol (found in some sugar-free chewing gums and sweets, but also available as a product for baking), macadamia nuts, alcohol (dogs can get drunk too) and salt.  If you are unsure whether a particular food is safe for your dog always discuss with your vet first.

Can I see some ID?

Dear Dogs Today,

Can you settle an argument? My sister is adamant she only needs her phone number on her dog’s collar, but I am sure you need an address too, and my dog’s tag has our surname, first line of our address, postcode and telephone number.

Who is right?!

Yours faithfully,

Mrs E. March, by email

Dave Griffiths, Senior Policy Adviser, National Dog Warden Association, advises...

Dear Mrs March,

I am delighted to tell you that you are absolutely spot on. The Control of Dogs Order 1992 makes it an offence for a dog to be in a place to which the public have access unless it is wearing a collar bearing the name and address of the owner. Interestingly, working dogs are exempt from this law but only while they are actually working.

From a Dog Warden’s point of view, the information that you have on your dog’s tag is ideal. The addition of a phone number makes it much easier to contact the owner and arrange to get the dog back home; all the better if there is a mobile number too.

This legislation was made before microchips became commonplace so chipping your dog is not an alternative; you still need the collar and tag to comply with the law. However, knowing how often my dogs have managed to lose their ID tags (and, on occasion, the entire collar), I would strongly recommend that you microchip as well.

It is very unlikely that your sister would be prosecuted for not having the correct information; the main thing for a Dog Warden is that there is some sort of contact information. You are definitely the winner of the argument though!

Jog on

I enjoy running and think my dog would too. Are there any precautions I should take, as obviously I don’t want him overdoing it?


Paul Green, by email

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Out of step

My Golden Retriever, aged about 13 years, developed a bad limp in his front left paw, and licked his front legs bare. Over night his paw to ankle swelled up so much he couldn't put his paw on the ground while sleeping. The vet and I touched and felt all over his leg, pads and claws, and the dog didn't even wince. After an antibiotic injection, antibiotic tablets, and inflamation cream (Predniderm) for his legs, the swelling started to decrease. Four days later his pad (would be the thenar in a human hand) split from side to side with a very deep hole into his pad. It was an abscess. After more visits to the vet and another antibiotic injection and tablets, and cream (Predniderm) to put into the wound - not bandaging until a week a week later to enable any poison to carry on coming out - the hole is now slowly healing but the limp is still bad and he is still licking his paw and leg.

At the moment he still cannot walk very far and is getting very tired and some muscle wastage.

Other tablets he is on are:-
Fortekor F20  18.42mg  1/2 per day
Previcox 227mg  1/2 or 3/4 per day

He weighs 35k.

Is there anything else I can do, or is it a matter of time and wait?

I O’Donnell, by email

NB. Only a qualified vet can provide veterinary advice, but anecdotes from dog owners who have been in similar situations with their own pets can help hugely. You should always seek veterinary advice for any question regarding your dog’s health.

Alison Logan, vet, advises

An abscess in a pad must be very painful indeed, given that dogs walk on all four paws, so it is not surprising that your dog is still limping. It is probably a matter of wait and see, whilst completing the antibiotic course, but one would wonder whether there was an underlying cause within the pad, such as a thorn or piece of grit.

I would imagine you have an appointment scheduled with your vet to see how the abscess is responding to the antibiotic treatment, now that it has come to a head and burst. If not, then I would be returning to your vet at the end of the course of antibiotic if it has not fully healed. If it does heal but there is something within the pad then the abscess may well recur after the antibiotic course has been completed. 

Harnessing energy

I have a five-month-old black Labrador bitch, Holly, who is gorgeous and a really good girl except for one thing: she pulls on the lead. My children are nine and 11 and they are finding it too hard to take the lead when we go on a family walk, and I admit I’m struggling too. I do most of the walking but it would be nice for the kids to be able to walk her too.

A friend suggested getting a harness. Would this help and can you recommend a good one?

Thank you in advance.

Hayley Gower, by email