When Dogs Go Weak at the Knees

cruciate

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.

 

 

Letting the Cat out of the Bag

cat in bagCats are, by nature, enigmatic. Cats do not show their emotions as obviously as other animals, and tend to withdraw and become quiet. Acute problems may be recognised by sudden changes in behaviour, but when the issues are chronic, signs of stress and pain can be subtle and we may easily mistake them for normal cat behaviour.

Cats need to feel in control of their environment. Anything that interrupts their feeling of control can, over time, raise your cat’s stress level. Stress has been identified as a significant trigger for most cat behaviour problems and some diseases. Knowing the common warning signs when your cat is feeling stressed is essential in identifying their emotional well-being and making the changes necessary to improve their feeling of security and contentment, or seek veterinary help when necessary.

The cat that overeats, over-grooms, is inactive or sleeps a lot, may not just be the lazy fat cat you know and love, but instead be withdrawing to protect themselves from stress or pain. The cat that wees on the carpet, scratches the furniture or fights with other cats isn’t being naughty, but instead may be displaying signs of anxiety, pain or discomfort. The cat that sleeps on your bed with the other cat but creeps slowly past is in fact threatened by the other cat, and only just managing to tolerate its presence in order to be with you.

Understanding your cat’s environmental needs and behaviour can be difficult. There are many resources online to help but it’s crucial to seek quality and qualified advice from reputable sites, such as International Cat Care. If behaviour is causing problems or health issues are suspected, seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Pheromone therapy like Feliway can be very useful to increase your cat’s sense of wellbeing in the face of stress whilst causes are identified and eliminated.

 In-clinic special: 33% OFF Feliway Diffusers, while stocks last!

When to say goodbye

7947371_origThere sometimes comes a time in a pet’s life where you as their owner have to make the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye and elect for euthanasia. It may be due to accident, behaviour or an age-related disease. Vets are able to give advice but ultimately it is up to you, as the pet’s caregiver, to make the decision to end their life humanely. Some age related diseases give us time, but in other circumstances an urgent decision is required to prevent further suffering. Your pet’s quality of life is most important, but how do we measure that?

We know our own pets better than anyone, but it can be difficult to be objective about their quality of life when there is any sort of question around it. Here are some signs that may indicate your pet is suffering or no longer enjoying a good quality of life:

• Chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain).
• No longer eating or will only eat if you force feed them.
• Frequent vomiting or diarrhoea causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
• Incontinence to the degree that they frequently soil themselves.
• Loss of interest in all or most of their favourite activities – walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats.
• Withdrawing from family.
• Unable to stand on their own or falls down when trying to walk.
• Chronic laboured breathing or coughing.

If you recognise any of these signs in your pet, it is certainly time to have the discussion with your vet.

As difficult as it is, it pays to think about these things before you are called on the make the final decision. Discussing options with other family members may also be a good idea.

Cold and Creaky

arthritisThe cold weather has arrived and it might not just be us that finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, generally slowing down or getting a bit grumpy. Very often this is a sign of age related degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as simply ‘arthritis’.

DJD 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 absorbs energy from movement. In DJD, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone may 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.

Most often we see DJD in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy). But just because age related changes are normal, doesn’t mean our pets should suffer in silence. There are many ways we can manage DJD, including specialised diets, supplements and various types of medications that help to slow down the damage and manage the pain. It’s very important that high quality products, designed for our pets, are used. The type, source, and quality of ingredients are crucial. Never give your pets human pain medications. They metabolise drugs differently to us, and in most cases human medications are unsafe or deadly to pets. One measure you can take at home is ensuring your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on.

Your veterinarian will assess what stage your pet is at and offer the most suitable options for managing their condition and maximise their quality of life. As with any health issue, the sooner we see them the better.

The Darkside of Backsides

catfdogback

Anal glands are two small semi-fluid filled sacs, located under the skin on either side of the anus, in dogs and cats. They are designed to empty their very smelly fluid onto the animal’s bowel motions. Most animals never have an issue with their anal glands, and you may not even know they exist. However, they can develop problems, ranging from irritating, to very serious.

The classic signs of anal gland problems in pets is “scooting”, where they drag their bottom along the ground. This is commonly mistaken as a sign of worms – although tapeworm infestation can occasionally cause scooting, it is far more likely to be anal gland irritation. Your pet may also chase, lick or bite at their backside or top of the tail. They may have trouble going to the toilet, or be in pain when trying. Sometimes they may have a swelling around their anus which could be very firm, or soft and inflamed, and find sitting painful.

Diet, being overweight, skin issues or allergies, and infection, as well as trauma or even poor anatomy can all be a cause of anal gland problems.

Impaction is the most common problem associated with anal glands. This occurs when the fluid builds up in the glands and thickens, and isn’t expressed with toileting, resulting in enlargement and irritation of the glands.

Anal gland infections cause irritation and inflammation and can develop into an anal gland abscess. Pus can build up within the anal gland until it eventually ruptures.

Anal gland tumors do occur, and although rare, are usually an invasive cancer growth called an adenocarcinoma, with a poor prognosis.

If you notice your pet bothered by their backside, it’s important to get them to their vet to determine the cause. Treatments can range from treating the underlying cause, providing supplements, antibiotics or pain-relief, manually expressing the anal glands, flushing the glands, and rarely, surgical removal.

Terrible Toxicities

toxinsWe’re approaching a time of year where we see a lot of animals with potentially fatal toxicities. Their natural curiosity makes them vulnerable to substances about the home that are harmful to their health. Most pet owners go to great lengths to care for their pets, but there are several hazards which are commonly overlooked, yet easily avoided.

Rat Bait

Most rat baits available to the public contain anticoagulants. These work by preventing clotting of the blood. Symptoms often do not appear until several days after eating as it takes some time for the clotting factors to be depleted. Unfortunately, rat bait is often ingested without the owner’s knowledge and an untreated animal can potentially die from blood loss.

Signs of rat bait poisoning are variable and are caused by internal bleeding. These include:
•Lethargy, depression
•Loss of appetite
•Pale gums
•Coughing or difficulty breathing
•Blood in stool or urine
•Vomiting
•Bleeding from nose or gums

Slug/Snail Bait

Most contain a toxin called metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system causing seizures. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours.

Signs of poisoning are usually progressive:
•Anxious behaviour
•Mild twitching
•Uncoordinated walk
•Salivating or excessive drooling
•Vomiting
•Diarrhoea
•Tremors
•Seizures
•Hyperthermia

Antifreeze

Most antifreeze formulations contain ethylene glycol. The sweet smell attracts animals, but it is deadly if ingested even in small amounts. As little as half a teaspoon can kill an average-sized cat. Unless you catch it early, the damage to pets’ kidneys is irreversible. Signs can be seen from 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning include:
•Nausea and vomiting
•Mild to severe depression
•Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken-appearing gait (ataxia) or movement and knuckling of the feet
•Twitching muscles
•Short, rapid movements of the eyeball
•Head tremors
•Seizures
•Decreased or no appetite
•Ulcers in mouth
•Drooling
•Little or no urination

Think about your pets as you would your children when considering the dangers of using these products. There may be alternatives that pose less of a risk. Keep all products stored safely, well out of reach of your pets and any spills or leaks cleaned up immediately.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any of these poisons it is important to contact your vet clinic immediately. If you know the brand, inform the vet and if possible, bring the container with you. As with all emergencies, the sooner they get to the vet the better the chance of a positive outcome

Warm Wet Weather Woes

Funny guinea pig with little rabbit isolated on whiteIt’s hard not to mention the weather again because it so often causes a number of problems with our pets. Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are regularly seen at the clinic during warm, wet weather with a number of ailments that can be distressing or life-threatening.

Fleas, mites and lice can cause chewing and scratching, resulting in scabs and hair-loss. They are treatable, but drugs need to be used with extreme caution. Make sure any products you use are suitable for rabbits or guinea pigs and dosed to individual animals.

Teeth need to be taken care of too. A rabbit or guinea pig that can’t eat properly due to malocclusion (teeth that do not meet normally) may develop drooling, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy. Veterinary attention is required urgently.

Fly-strike is a common and serious problem. Many infested pets are well cared for, but the signs of a problem have been missed with normal daily husbandry. Flies can strike a healthy animal that has loose stools, wet skin, or a wound, but at particular risk are aging, disabled, or overweight rabbits that cannot clean themselves. Within a 24-hour period an otherwise healthy rabbit can enter a terminal state of shock due to maggot infestation.

During warm, wet weather, carers need to be extra vigilant with cage or run hygiene, and check their pets daily for signs of a dirty bottom, moist skin, wounds or inactivity, especially if they like to sit where they toilet. If any maggots are seen, call your veterinary clinic immediately.

For more information on how to take care of your rabbit or guinea pig, please download a copy of A Guide to Keeping Rabbits & Guinea Pigs, or come into the clinic for a copy of our brochure. See also our Rabbit Calici Virus brochure and why you need to vaccinate your rabbits.

Forecast – Rain with chance of an emergency

Cat and reflection in the rainThe weather – it’s not just us feeling down about it. Many cats aren’t venturing outside as much as they normally would, especially to toilet. Instead, they’re holding on or getting stressed, both of which can lead to developing urinary tract problems.
We’re seeing a large number of cats that need urgent attention, which is unusual for this time of year. Most commonly these are overweight neutered males, but any cat can be affected.
You may notice your cat frequently going (or trying to go) to the toilet. It might look like they’re straining, or 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 painful, possibly have an infection, and require veterinary attention.
If your cat is male, there is a chance he is partially or totally ‘blocked’. This is an emergency, and he 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.
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 , 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.

Happy Holidays

Pets are for lifeThe holiday season can be overwhelming for animals and a full house can be quite intimidating. There’s a lot going on, and plenty of trouble to get into. Here are a few suggestions for how you can put your pet at ease and keep them safe so that they can enjoy this time as well.

Make time during the day to simply spend time with your pet and keep to their normal routine as much as possible.

Make sure they have a safe and comfortable retreat area away from the hustle and bustle.

Noise can scare your pet. Christmas crackers and corks popping could panic your pet.

Please choose pet specific food treats. Human food can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, or worse, poison your pet or become a medical or surgical emergency. Beware your pet getting into chocolate, nuts, fatty foods and bones. No ham!

Buy your pet’s Christmas present from a reputable pet shop or veterinary clinic, and keep your pet away from children’s toys.

Keep them away from decorations and wrapping paper, electrical cords and lights.

Several festive plants are attractive and poisonous to cat, including lillies and poinsettia. Lillies are EXTREMELY TOXIC and will cause irreparable kidney damage or death with the slightest amount of ingestion. Even licking pollen off their fur can be fatal. Poinsettia may cause skin irritation, vomiting or diarrhoea if ingested.

Keep your pets cool. If you’re outside, make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water. NEVER leave your dog in the car or any enclosed space where they can overheat. Animals that get too hot can die – fast.

If you’re going away and taking your pet, make sure they travel safely and securely, have rest and toilet breaks, and the opportunity to have a drink.

If you‘re leaving them in boarding facilities, make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. Don’t leave it until the last minute! If you find your pet is due for a vaccination whilst you’re away, call your vet now to book an appointment.

If you’re leaving them at home, make sure the person staying with them or checking on them daily has yours and your veterinarian’s contact number on hand.

If your pet has a prescription medicine or diet, check that there will be enough to cover your time away.

Last but not least, help spread the message that pets are for life, not just for Christmas. Never support the giving of animals as a surprise gift.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.