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Paws & Claws Autumn 2019

Autumn

Well summer has nearly gone and winter is fast approaching—so there are a few things to remember as we work our way through Autumn.

The nights are going to be cooler now. Be sure to have soft warm beds for your dogs and cats. Provide adequate shelter from the elements and insulation from the cold weather!

It’s a good time to bring older pets in for an autumn health check. Dogs and cats on arthritis medication may be due for their six monthly check up. Be sure you don’t run out of tablets over the winter months!

Keep your flea treatments going through the autumn and into winter to prevent a massive flea problem in spring when it starts to warm up again.

Take your dogs for plenty of walks–it’s starting to cool down now so they will enjoy it a lot more.   Remember to always have water available!   Training tip: If you and your pooch haven’t been active outdoors in a while because of the summer heat, do some remedial recall training. Dogs, like people, get rusty on their skills if they aren’t using them.

This is the time of year rats and mice start heading for the warmth and cover of our sheds and houses.  Baits used to poison rodents are also very poisonous to our pets.  Consider using traps or the nontoxic maize based bait (this should still be placed out of reach of your pets).  When a pet has consumed rat bait it is a matter of urgency that they are brought to the clinic and made to vomit, we always ask that the bait packaging is brought in with the pet so we can correctly identify the product.  If a pet has consumed rat bait and it wasn’t noticed at the time it is an emergency that may result in the pet having supportive treatment, and a blood transfusion.  Sadly, at times the pet may die.

 Duck shooting season is nearly upon us. Are your duck dogs fully up to date with their vaccinations?  Mature duck dogs may need a health check before hand to ensure they are up to all the extra exercise.  Are their prescriptions up to date for anti-inflammatory treatments?  An older dog may also enjoy the benefits of a warm coat on the ride home.

Skin Allergies In Cats And Dogs

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a foreign body or allergen. In dogs and cats skin allergies present in many different forms, but in NZ, we see three main forms –  atopy;  flea allergy dermatitis and food allergy.v

Atopy is a generalized skin allergy caused by environmental allergens such as pollens, house dust mites, moulds and animal dander. These are often inhaled, as in human Hay Fever; but in dogs, results in acute itchy skin rashes.  Occasionally dogs will also get allergic conjunctivitis, rhinitis & bronchitis. In cats, generalized scabby lesions and over-grooming are more common. (Secondary hairball problems often happen in cats because of this.)

Diagnosis is made by ruling out other causes of itchy skin rashes such as mange mites; skin infections with bacteria or fungi, fleas, lice and food allergies. Sometimes skin or blood testing can be done to help pinpoint the exact allergen.

The occurrence of an allergy in a pet depends a lot on its genetic predisposition; as well as exposure to the allergen.  Some breeds are known to be prone to allergies:  Terriers, Shar-Peis, Labradors, Setters, Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Miniature Schnauzers, Pointers & Dalmations.

The main symptom is itching, predominantly around the face, belly, feet and ears. Constant scratching or licking damages the skin & leads to secondary infection & sometimes “Hot Spots”.  Atopy is frequently seasonal especially when the allergen is plant based.  Plants such as Wandering Jew, Willow Weed, Privet, Acacia and Pine Pollen are common allergens.

Ideally, allergies are treated by avoiding the allergen. However, as identification of the allergen is difficult and expensive, and avoiding it extremely impractical in many cases anyway, treatment is most often by using drugs to dampen down the immune system. Traditionally steroids and antihistamine combinations were our main tool to aid in the management of atopy/allergy. More recently new drugs (Apoquel – oral and Cytopoint – injectable) have become available which are very successful in many cases for long term treatment.

Hyposensitisation therapy (usually by a skin specialist) is also possible in dogs. Its effectiveness varies but it provides at least some relief for around 75% of pets treated.

It is always worthwhile eliminating known allergens from your pet’s environment:- e.g.  Wandering Jew, Privet &  Willow Weed.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis is caused by an allergy to the flea’s saliva which is injected into the dog or cat’s skin when it feeds. The usual area affected is the pet’s back especially around the tail-base, but the whole skin area can be affected and again secondary “Hot Spots” are common.

Eliminating fleas from your pets environment (by treating all your pets regularly with a highly effective flea treatment ) is essential in the treatment of FAD. Sometimes a course of medication is also necessary to break the “Itch Scratch Cycle”

Food Allergy is much less common in dogs but is well worth ruling out as it is manageable without drugs once the allergen is identified.

The most common allergens are proteins such as beef and dairy products. Cereals can also, less commonly, cause food  allergies (e.g. wheat, corn, soya).

The main signs are similar to atopy- ie itchy, inflamed skin. Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea may also be present.

Food allergy is diagnosed by first demonstrating an improvement after 6-10 weeks on a hypoallergenic diet such as Hills z/d.  Proteins can be introduced one at a time, and the pet monitored for a reaction.

Once the allergen(s) are identified the pet can be fed diets excluding those proteins, or kept on a hypoallergenic diet.

It is most important to realize that allergies are generally not curable. Allergic pets need to be managed through their lives by avoiding the allergens as far as possible, and using drugs when “challenged” by allergens.

Arthritis In Your Pet

Coming into the cooler months, arthritis is one of the most common reasons for dogs to visit the clinic. It is probably the most common skeletal disease we encounter in dogs. 80% of felines over 12 years old have some degree of arthritis.

Dogs and cats are generally uncomplaining sorts, all you see is a slow, progressive loss of mobility.  You may notice your dog is reluctant to jump on the ute or your cat walks slowly up the stairs rather than running.  Stiffness after resting is often noticed, particularly with dogs. During these earlier stages the cartilage covering the joint surface is gradually being destroyed leading to painful inflammation. By the time joints become stiff and swollen the arthritis is advanced and there have been irreversible changes within the joint. Some previously friendly dogs and cats can become agitated and even bite when these sore areas are handled.

Most joint disease in pets is degenerative due to ‘wear and tear’ with aging.  Extra weight also puts more strain on joints.  A few immune conditions do occur, like rheumatism, but these are rare. Dogs and cats with joint injuries commonly have arthritis in later life.  Congenital problems like hip or elbow dysplasia (more common in larger breeds) also lead to arthritis later in life.

We cannot cure osteoarthritis but we have products to slow down the cartilage deterioration. Early treatment generally brings about better results. Arthritis pain is not constant, so treatment plans are tailored to meet the needs of each animal.

Treatments

Pain relief is our primary concern as veterinarians. There are many anti-inflammatory medications we can use. Some medications may have side-effects and we will discuss these with you. NEVER give human medications to your animals.  A tiny amount of Paracetamol can be fatal.

Chondroprotective agents help to preserve cartilage by inhibiting destructive enzymes and helping new cartilage to grow. There are several brands available, some are injected by your vet and others are tablets. “Hubrihound” (green lip mussel extract) is available at the clinic too, often given along side pain relief.

Controlled exercise is good at preventing acute flare episodes. Swimming is excellent as it is ‘weightless’. Do check entry and exit points to the water beforehand. In old dogs ‘pottering around’ at home is better than one long strenuous walk per day, so be aware of your pets limits.

Mild arthritis is alleviated by maintaining a slim figure! This can be a challenge in greedy patients and our nurses have several tricks to help them. Small changes in routine can give your dog their mobility back.

Prescription diets specially designed for joint support are available.  Hill j/d (for dogs and cats) and Eukanuba Joint Mobility (for dogs) are two we recommend. These foods contain chondroitin sulphate, a component cartilage and omega 3 fatty acids. They are effectively a medicine. We have been surprised at how effective they are on their own within a month, especially in cats that are tricky to get medication into.

A nice warm bed is always beneficial to a stiff jointed pet. A hammock style bed keeps dogs out of the way of cold floors and draughts or a thick sponge mattress is supportive and warm.

So please don’t dismiss your pet’s slowness or grumpiness on ageing, come and have a chat and see if arthritis pain is the answer.

Public Holidays

Over Easter we will be open on Saturday, but closed on Friday, Sunday and Monday.

On ANZAC Day we will be closed.

When we are closed, there is always a vet available on call for unexpected  emergencies as we know that your animals don’t keep nice tidy office hours!

Restraining Dogs Safely on Utes

There are specialized cages and harnesses that can be used to safely restrain dogs on a ute so if you are frequently travelling with your dog it is worth investing  in one of these.

If this isn’t an option, you can use a chain or lead to restrain your dog but there are some important points to keep in mind.

The chain should be attached by a swivel to an anchor point hard up against the vehicle cabin.  The other end of the chain should be fastened to the dog’s collar or harness with another swivel to prevent tangling.

The chain/lead should be long enough to stand up, lie down and move around but short enough to stop either the front or hind legs reaching either side of the tray when the dog is standing normally. If it’s too long the dog may end up being choked or dragged.