Cold and Creaky

The cold weather has arrived and we might not be the only ones that find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet slowing down, taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, or getting a bit grumpy. Cold temperatures can exasperate these signs which are often related to degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis (OA), and commonly referred to as ‘arthritis’.

Most often we see OA in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy) but it can occur at any age. It is also common in dogs that have or have had previous joint damage, such as in cranial cruciate ligament ruptures, luxating patellas, and elbow and hip dysplasia.

OA mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another and acts as a shock absorber. In OA the surface layer of the cartilage breaks down and wears away allowing the bones to rub together causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone can abnormally grow on the edges of the joint and pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space causing further pain and damage. However, our pets do not need to suffer in silence.
There are many ways we can treat OA including specialised diets, laser therapy, rehabilitation, supplements, and various types of medications that help to slow damage and manage pain. The efficacy of supplements is dependent on the type, source, and quality, and it is very important to always use products designed specifically for animals, Never give your pets any type of human pain medications because animals metabolise drugs differently to us and in many cases human medications are unsafe and deadly to pets.

As with any health issue, the sooner OA is managed the better the outcome, but every animal’s needs are unique. In this area, we are lucky as Levin and Horowhenua have one of only a few certified rehabilitation vets in the entire country who can create a personalised plan for your pets OA management to maximise their quality of life. Until then, make sure your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on and whilst it might seem counterintuitive, movement is an important aspect of OA prevention and even light activity is more beneficial than none.

Please call your vet and schedule an appointment to have your pet assessed to make sure that they are comfortable this winter.

Animals can benefit from Physical Rehabilitation

Almost every dog suffers from arthritis at some point in his or her life. Arthritis can be a painful disease process that can benefit significantly from rehabilitation. The changes in the joints can lead to stiffness, lameness, decreased activity, and loss of muscle and strength. Rehabilitation aims to manage pain, maintain function, and regain normal activity.

Rehabilitation improves the quality of life and wellness of dogs. This is done through weight loss, building and maintaining muscle and strength, and improving fitness. Rehabilitation is appropriate for bringing an injured working dog or canine athlete back to his or her job, as well as for keeping your companion dogs happy and healthy even into their golden years. It enhances recovery following surgery such as cruciate ruptures, patella luxations, spinal surgeries, amputations, fracture repairs, and more. IT also aids in recovery after neurological accidents such as slipped discs (IVDD) as well as in dogs with inherited issues such as hip dysplasia.

Applying rehabilitation principles to animals is a growing trend. This has, in part, stemmed from veterinarians desiring to improve the level of patient care, and is backed by significant supporting data. Veterinarians must go through more than 150 hours of post-graduate education, followed by a written and practical exam to be considered a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) in the US, and one of the vets at Levin and Horowhenua Vets has achieved that.

Veterinary physical rehabilitation uses noninvasive techniques including cryotherapy, heat therapy, therapeutic ultrasound electrical stimulation, laser therapy, shockwave, aquatic therapy, and specific physical exercises. The goals of rehabilitation and physiotherapy treatments are specific for each individual patient.

If you are interested in seeing whether your dog can benefit from a personalised rehabilitation programme, contact the clinic for an evalulation.

What you need to know about Parvo

Helping you keep your dog safe

Recently there have been parvovirus outbreaks across the country; the Horowhenua district has had its fair share of cases. Here is what you need to know about “Parvo”. 

What is “Parvo” ?

Parvo is caused by canine parvovirus. It is a very contagious, hardy virus that is easily spread and survives long periods of time in the environment (several years).  Because it lasts so long in the environment it is impossible to know where a dog might get it from. Dog parks, side-walks, public paths, roads and beaches may be contaminated and are not considered safe for unvaccinated dogs.  

Parvovirus attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body, particularly in the gut and the bone marrow. As the gut cells die dogs stop eating and develop severe vomiting and diarrhoea (the signs we usually associate with parvo, and the dog stops absorbing enough nutrients and becomes severely dehydrated.  

As the bone marrow dies, the dog stops being able to produce red and white blood cells. This causes the immune system to fail, preventing the dog from fighting the virus and other secondary infections. 

Left untreated, canine parvovirus infections are usually fatal.  

How to prevent Parvo 

Preventing canine parvoviral disease is easy. Vaccinate your dogs.  

We are lucky to have access to an extremely effective vaccine for canine parvovirus that is around 99% protective. However, the vaccine is only protective if the course has been completed and all booster shots are up to date.  

Usually a dog requires a minimum of three vaccines as a puppy with the last one being at 16 weeks old or older.   Puppies may not be protected until at least one week after their final 16 week old vaccine. 

Another vaccine is required 6-12 months later, followed by 3 yearly boosters. 

 Vaccine Protocols 

o    Puppies 

·         3-4 vaccines as a puppy finishing at or after 16 weeks of age 

·         A booster 6 months to 1 year after initial course (i.e. at 9-16 months of age) 

·         A follow up booster every three years. 

o    Adult dogs 

·         Unvaccinated or overdue adult dogs may require a single shot followed by a booster 6 months to 1 year later,  

·         Then a follow up booster every three years 

o    Vaccination protocols may vary geographically and depending on individual circumstance.  

Until a dog is fully vaccinated it is important to avoid all public areas. This means not taking your puppy out to dog parks or for walks in public until one week after their final shot. As puppies need to be socialised, it is usually recommended that you bring fully vaccinated dogs to play with them, or take them to properties of friends or family who have fully vaccinated dogs on “safe” properties (i.e. properties that are known not to have had a case of parvovirus for several years) 

Signs a dog might have Parvo 

The most common signs of parvovirus are vomiting and diarrhoea in an unvaccinated dog. Diarrhoea is often bloody and the dogs are usually lethargic, not eating and look miserable.  

However it may take several days for a dog with parvo to develop diarrhoea. Often in the early stages of the disease they may simply be “a bit off”, “not themselves”.  

The most important thing is to call your vet and seek advice for any sick unvaccinated dog.  

 If you think your dog has parvovirus do not take it off the property or bring it into a vet clinic without talking to a vet first.  

Most common signs of parvovirus 

o    Vomiting 

o    Bloody diarrhoea 

o    Fever 

o    Lethargy 

o    Inappetance 

o    Dehydration 

How do we treat Parvo?

Treating parvovirus in dogs is all about supportive care. Patients should be hospitalised and given intensive care. This involves IV (intravenous) fluid therapy, nutritional support, repeated blood tests, electrolyte support, antibiotics, antinausea and pain medication.  On top of this they have to be kept in isolation to prevent spread to any other dogs. This makes their management very difficult and often very expensive.  Cost of care can exceed $1000.  The majority of treated dogs will survive, but even with the best care, some dogs can still die. The best treatment therefore is prevention by regular vaccination.  

Cleaning up 

If you suspect a dog may have had parvovirus on your property, it is possible to clean your property to reduce risk to future dogs. It is a difficult task to clean a property and you should seek veterinary advice on how to clean up properly before you allow any unvaccinated dog onto your property again.  

 

When Your Cat Can’t Pee

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Sometimes we notice our cats frequently going (or trying to go) to the toilet. We may describe this as straining, or think that they are constipated. Sometimes they manage to pass little drops of urine which may be tinged with blood. At other times, nothing seems to happen. Your cat may cry out, seem distressed, or become quiet and depressed, and they may resent being petted or spend a lot of time cleaning their genital area.

Your cat may have cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder.  They will be very uncomfortable and require veterinary attention. Causes can include stress, diet and infections. Sometimes we can’t determine the cause, but we still need to treat the symptoms.

If your cat is male, there is a chance your cat is partially or totally ‘blocked’. This is an emergency, and they must see a veterinarian immediately! It is a life-threatening condition. The kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins from the blood or maintain a balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Without treatment, death frequently occurs when these imbalances lead to heart failure—often in less than twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

We often see a number of cases when the rain comes, because cats that are used to going to the toilet outside stay in – holding-on waiting for the weather to improve, stuck inside, possibly with other cats. It’s most common in overweight neutered males, but any cat can be affected.

If you suspect that your cat is having trouble peeing, contact your veterinarian immediately. Please don’t wait for them to get better on their own, or to get worse before seeking help. For more information on this problem, the symptoms, treatment, and ways to help prevent it, please download a copy of FLUTD Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease from the Companion Animal Resources page, or come into the clinic for a copy of our brochure.

Your cat may cry out, seem distressed, or become quiet and depressed, and they may resent being petted or spend a lot of time cleaning their genital area.

Your cat may have cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder.  They will be very uncomfortable and require veterinary attention. Causes can include stress, diet and infections. Sometimes we can’t determine the cause, but we still need to treat the symptoms.

If your cat is male, there is a chance your cat is partially or totally ‘blocked’. This is an emergency, and they must see a veterinarian immediately! It is a life-threatening condition. The kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins from the blood or maintain a balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Without treatment, death frequently occurs when these imbalances lead to heart failure—often in less than twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

We often see a number of cases when the rain comes, because cats that are used to going to the toilet outside stay in – holding-on waiting for the weather to improve, stuck inside, possibly with other cats. It’s most common in overweight neutered males, but any cat can be affected.

If you suspect that your cat is having trouble peeing, contact your veterinarian immediately. Please don’t wait for them to get better on their own, or to get worse before seeking help. For more information on this problem, the symptoms, treatment, and ways to help prevent it, please download a copy of FLUTD Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease from the Companion Animal Resources page, or come into the clinic for a copy of our brochure.

Keep your pets summer safe

dogs in car posterTake some simple precautions to keep your much loved pet healthy, happy and safe this summertime.

Keep your pet cool. A panting animal is trying to cool down. If they can’t, they may become heat stressed, and this can rapidly become life threatening. NEVER leave your pet in an enclosed space or car, even with the windows down. Even exercise on a warm day can cause a problem. If you suspect an animal is heat stressed cool with tap water and seek help immediately. They may pant heavily, feel hot, salivate, or have dry, dark gums. They may be lethargic, collapse or seizure. This is an emergency! Take water for your pets with you, even on walks.

 Lovely romps outside can turn nasty when certain grass seeds get stuck in paws, ears or into the skin. This can be very painful. Grass seeds can even migrate through the skin, requiring extensive surgical exploration to remove. Check your pet regularly for grass seeds and see your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.

Skin issues are common in summer, including skin infections, flea bites, burns and sunburn.

Keep up with their flea treatment – a scratching pet may develop skin problems, such as “hot spots” – areas of moist, inflamed skin.

Animal safe sunscreens are available and it is worth applying some to your pet’s ears and nose, especially if they are light coloured. Just like us sunburn can lead to skin cancer. Hot concrete, tarmac and BBQs can cause burns, especially on paws. If you can’t touch it, neither can they!

Discard any uneaten food that can quickly become spoiled or contaminated by flies. And remember – BBQ and party food is not for pets.

Don’t forget the pets outside. Flystrike is a common problem in bunnies, and is often discovered too late. Check your rabbit regularly for any soiling around their bottom and if you find maggots, see your veterinarian straight away.

Please always make sure your pets have cool shade, and fresh water available.

The Hangry Cat

hangry catYou know the one –puss has become cranky or aggressive, is always hungry but is losing weight.

Other signs may include restlessness or nervousness, increased vocalisation, a poor coat, drinking and urinating more, intermittent vomiting, defecating more, and heat avoidance.

Many people believe these signs are to be expected when our cats get older and it’s a normal part of aging.

Although these signs are certainly common in the older cat, they are not normal, and should always be investigated by your veterinarian. One possibility is your cat will be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroid simply means overactive thyroid.

Your cat’s thyroid glands regulate the speed at which your cat’s body metabolism works. It does this by producing a hormone called thyroxine (or T4) that regulates the speed of all body processes.When your cat produces too much of it the metabolic rate soars, and your cat has become hyperthyroid.

Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed following a simple blood test. A small sample is sent to the laboratory to measure the T4 level.

There may be concurrent disease which the vet may choose to test for also. The most common would be for kidney (renal) disease, another common disorder of older cats.

Hyperthyroid treatment may involve diet, tablets or a transdermal gel placed on the cat’s ear, all requiring daily administration for the rest of the cat’s life. The only curative treatment advised is I-131 or radioactive iodine, available at only a few veterinary clinics in NZ.  Your cat will need to be away from home from 7 to 21 days.

Ongoing monitoring will be required, involving blood tests to measure the T4 levels. This will let your vet know if the treatment is working or dosages need to be altered. How frequently depends on what stage of treatment they’re at.

Cats that are treated for hyperthyroidism can go on to live a happy life.

Causes of Cat Skin Conditions

royal canin logoCats are some of the best groomers and can spend up to 30% of their awake time cleaning their coats. As a very general rule of thumb, the healthier a cat’s coat, the healthier they usually are on the inside too. Sometimes however, you may notice that your cat is grooming much more than usual, or potentially evening scratching, and these symptoms may be an indication that they may have a skin condition or allergy that is bothering them. Cats that have itchy, irritated skin will generally increase their grooming habits to help relieve their discomfort. The exact cause of skin problems in cats can take some investigating, but the good news is that there are many treatment options available to help manage their issue and reduce their scratching, including certain diets.

 

Common causes of skin conditions in cats

Food Allergies

Adverse food reactions to their diet, or from your cat eating something they shouldn’t, can sometimes be the underlying cause of red or itchy patches on you might see on your cat’s skin. These adverse food reactions can also potentially bring about gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhoea as well. A trip to your local vet is the best way to go when these signs first appear in your cat, so that they can help determine what the cause might be. If your vet decides that a food allergy could be to blame, you will most likely need to undertake a food elimination trial for your cat, to help figure out the potential cause of their allergy, so that it can be avoided in their diet.

 

Cat Food Allergies

What is a food elimination trial?

A food elimination trial involves removing all the potential allergens in your cat’s diet including treats, dinner scraps and even certain chewable medications and toothpastes, over a period of time to see if there is any improvement in their skin issue. To help with this process, a special diet like ROYAL CANIN®’s Anallergenic and Hypoallergenic diets, will generally be recommended by your vet to help your pet avoid these allergic reactions to their food.  These diets have been specially formulated to use during these important food elimination trials, and can also be used as complete and balanced nutritional options long term if your cat suffers ongoing food related issues.

 

Cat Environmental Allergies

Environmental Allergies

The environment your cat lives in everyday can have a big impact on their skin health. Environmental allergies (also known as feline atopy) can cause your cat to constantly scratch because of their sensitivities to a range of different allergens including grasses, pollens and mites. You may see red and irritated patches or small bumps under your cat’s fur and you may notice stained fur in areas they are constantly licking. As many health problems can first present themselves with itchy skin as a symptom, it’s a good idea to head to your vet first to identify the cause and understand the best way to treat the issue. Environmental allergies are often diagnosed once other potential causes (such as adverse food reactions, dermatitis and infection) are ruled out. In cases of environmental allergies, it is often impossible to remove the offending allergen(s) from your cat’s environment, however thankfully certain medications and specially formulated diets can help ease their symptoms. The nutritional management of feline atopy usually includes a combination of nutrients to help protect the skin’s natural barrier role, alongside good amounts of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, to help minimise skin inflammation.

 

Cat Parasites

Parasites

For many dogs and cats, skin parasites can be a nuisance and the most common ones we see in cats are fleas and mites. If fleas are the issue, you will see your cat scratching a lot around their hindquarters. In some cases, severe irritation can lead to flea allergy dermatitis if your cat happens to develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva. On the other hand, ear mites are also incredibly common in cats. A strong indication your cat could have ear mites is if you see them scratching at one or both ears a lot, alongside a dark, dry discharge from their ears. If your vet determines parasites are the cause of your cat’s skin issue, then treatment will generally involve treating your cat with an appropriate product, as well as removing the infestation from your cat’s environment. If you would like to know more, please read of our “Common ear problems in cats” blog to learn about the symptoms you should look out for, as well as how best to treat ear mites.

Common causes of skin conditions in kittens

Your vet knows best

All cats will bite or scratch at their skin at times, but if these habits seem excessive and are accompanied by lots of licking or hair loss, it may be a sign of something more troublesome. For any kind of skin issue in your cat, it is always a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues that are presenting themselves as a skin condition. Your vet will be able to give you the best treatment options available, and will help guide you through managing your cat’s problem skin.

http://healthypets.royalcanin.co.nz/blog/causes-of-cat-skin-conditions/

How to deal with your dog’s food allergies?

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Allergies are a very common cause of skin problems in pets and surprisingly, approximately 10% of all skin allergy cases in dogs are food related. Seeing your dog scratch constantly, rubbing up against furniture to itch and licking their fur more than usual, could be an indication of a number of potential skin issues, including a food allergy. Food allergies in dogs are typicaly due to proteins in their diet, with some of the most common causes being beef, dairy, chicken and egg proteins. Luckily, however, diagnosing and managing food allergies isn’t impossible – the hard part is figuring out exactly what an individual dog is allergic to.

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What are food allergies?

Just like in people, a food allergy happens when a dog’s immune system thinks a certain type of protein in a food is dangerous. Their body will then fight off the so-called ‘harmful protein’ via the immune system that can trigger symptoms that are usually skin related. Other symptoms that may lead to the diagnosis of an underlying allergy can include ear infections, gastrointestinal problems (such as diarrhoea or vomiting), and excessive licking and scratching at certain areas of skin. Your first point of call should always be to contact your local vet if your dog is showing any of these symptoms. After a full physical exam and potentially a few simple diagnostic tests, if your vet suspects a food allergy, then your dog will likely have to undergo a food elimination trial to confirm this suspicion, as well as to find out what protein your dog is actually allergic to.

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What’s a food elimination trial?

A food elimination trial works by feeding your dog a specially formulated diet with very low chance of causing allergy, so all potential allergens are completely removed from their diet. This typically takes around 8 -12 weeks to complete, and if your dog’s adverse reactions to their previous diet have cleared up, then it’s safe to assume that a food allergy to one or more proteins in this previous diet were to blame. After the trial is complete, you’ll need to reintroduce the original diet or suspected allergen to them again to see if they have a negative response, in order to confirm the diagnosis.

As dogs are generally only allergic to proteins, the specially formulated diets recommended by your vet will either feature a protein source your dog has never eaten before (novel protein diet) or a protein that has been broken down into tiny particles so their body doesn’t recognise the source (hydrolysed protein diet).

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What’s the best food for allergies?

ROYAL CANIN®’s Hypoallergenic and Anallergenic diets take into account the nutritional needs of your dog both during a food elimination trial and as a long-term dietary solution to help manage their sensitivity to food.

Our Hypoallergenic diet uses soy protein that has been broken down into tiny molecules to stop your dog’s immune system recognising it and our Anallergenic diet uses feather protein hydrolysate, which is an alternative protein source rarely used in pet foods. We also have a selected protein diet called Sensitivity Control which contains duck and tapioca, and this could be used as a novel protein diet if your dog has never been fed duck before. On top of this, all three formulas use long chain omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to promote a healthy skin and coat, and B vitamins alongside the amino acid histidine to help maintain the skin’s natural barrier effect. Both a hydrolysed protein diet and a novel protein diet like ROYAL CANIN®’s dermatology diets can be used as part of a short-term food elimination trial, or as a long-term nutritional solution if your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy.

http://healthypets.royalcanin.co.nz/blog/how-to-deal-with-your-dogs-food-allergies/

Don’t play it by ear

catdogitchingProblems with our pets’ ears are very common. Signs of these ear problems include scratching or rubbing at the ears or head, odour, discharge, redness or swelling, shaking their head or tilting it to one side, holding the ears down, pain around the ears or resentment to being touched, and even just a change in behaviour, such as depression or irritability.

Ear problems may be localised to the outside part of the ear (the pinna, or ear flap), inside the ear canal, or further into the middle or inner ear. In some cases, all parts of the ear may become affected, especially if treatment is delayed.

Allergies, parasites, infection from bacteria or yeast, foreign bodies such as grass seeds, trauma, excessive heat and moisture, the conformation of the ear, immune diseases, hereditary conditions and tumours can all cause ear conditions.

Because there are many potential causes and many different signs, in the majority of cases your veterinarian will need to investigate in order to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. They may need to look down into the ear and take a sample with a cotton bud, to look at under the microscope. If your pet won’t allow this examination due to fear or pain, sedation or anaesthesia may be required.

No single treatment can treat all causes, and different conditions require varied treatment times, with some requiring frequent revisits to monitor progress. Some conditions are chronic in nature or reoccur.

While not all ear conditions can be prevented, the vast majority of them can. Check your pets’ ears weekly, clean them when necessary, and keep their parasite treatment up-to-date. If your veterinarian has prescribed treatment, make sure you are administering it effectively and as directed.

If you notice any of the signs indicating a problem with your pets’ ears, or any sign of pain or discomfort, don’t see how it goes – the sooner your pet sees the vet, the better.

When Dogs Go Weak at the Knees

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The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the most important stabilisers inside the canine stifle (knee) joint and unfortunately rupture of this ligament is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain and subsequent arthritis.

Cranial cruciate ligament rupture can affect dogs of all sizes, breeds and ages, but rarely cats. Certain dog breeds have a higher incidence, and obesity and sudden strenuous activity increase the risk. Chronic changes can also be responsible with few or no symptoms until the ligament finally ruptures without an obvious cause.

Typical signs your dog may exhibit include non-weight bearing of the affected leg, general lameness (limping), swelling or pain in the knee, difficulty with normal activity such as getting up or jumping into the car, or seeming a little stiff in the back legs.

If you notice any signs of pain or discomfort in your dog, the sooner you consult with your veterinarian the better.

Your veterinarian will initially watch your dog walk and feel the stifle joint to determine if ligament rupture is indicated. X-rays will need to be taken to evaluate the extent of damage to the stifle joint, including existing arthritis, and help to determine the best course of treatment.

Treatment or management may be surgical or non-surgical, and will depend on the dogs size, age, activity level and degree of damage. Surgical treatment is usually considered the best treatment as it is the only way to permanently control the instability and pain. The ligament itself is not repaired; instead the tibia (shin) bone may be realigned, implants inserted to change the angle of the bone, or specialised suture techniques utilised to stabilise the joint.

Careful post-surgical management at home is critical to reduce the chance of the surgical repair failing. Unfortunately, 40-60% of dogs that have had one knee affected will go on to develop a problem in the other knee.