There are times when it is obvious our pets need veterinary attention, when illness or injury requires they get medical treatment quickly. Alongside this it is worth keeping an eye on any subtle changes that are not immediately obvious – but that may cause problems over time. Vets will conduct a full clinical examination when they see your pet, looking for early signs of potential problems, but if your pet seems healthy their visits to the surgery may be quite infrequent. There is plenty you can do at home to keep an eye on things and this article discusses some general checks we can all try to incorporate as part of our normal routine.
As you may be aware there have been recent changes to the law which will affect all dog owners. From April 2016, it will be law for all dogs to be micro-chipped, and owners who do not comply – and can be traced – may be liable to a penalty via a substantial fine. The legislation aims to encourage responsible ownership, establish a safeguard by which ownership can be established and to reduce the problem of the stray dog population. It acts as a more permanent form of identification than a collar or tag which can be easily lost or removed.
Q3 – My Chocolate Labrador is 3 years old and always jumps up when he meets people. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. Do you have any suggestions as I feel really embarrassed that he does it, especially when we are out on a walk?
Q2 – My dog has just suffered with an abscess on her anal gland and has had to have it drained as well as having had a couple of weeks of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. She is now over it but why do anal glands fill up and get infected and is it something that I am doing with her diet that is causing it?
Q1 – My friend’s dog has just been diagnosed with Kennel Cough and we go out walking regularly together. Can my dog catch it and if so what are the symptoms and what should I do?
Q3 – I have been thinking of buying a Labrador puppy but am very worried about it developing hip dysplasia later in life as I keep hearing people mentioning it but I don’t really know what it is and don’t know what to check for when I start looking for a puppy.
Put simply, hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball and socket joint of the hip does not form properly, such that the joint becomes unstable and there is abnormal wear and tear. Over time it is a disease that leads to reduced exercise tolerance, lameness and arthritis. Essentially it is something that effected dogs are born with, but becomes a progressive problem over time. It cannot be diagnosed until a dog has matured, as up to this point their skeleton is changing and we would not be assessing the final outcome. However, once fully grown dogs can be radiographed and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has a team of experts who will examine the x-rays and then assign a score to give a quantitative indication (a number) that measures how well formed a particular dogs hips are. The lower the score the better, and each dog is marked out of a maximum of 106 (each hip up to 53).
This distressing condition has a higher incidence in some breeds, of which the Labrador Retriever is known to be one. To try and counteract this, responsible breeders will only use dogs with ‘good hips’ for producing litters. Good hips basically means choosing parent dogs who have a score lower than the average for that breed. The average can be marked in two ways, either as a mean or a median. The mean score can be markedly effected by a small number of dogs with very high scores, and can create an artificially high marker. Therefore the median, or middle dog, within a population of scores is now the figure recommended to be used by the BVA. As of Nov. 2011 the ‘mean’ score for the Labrador Retriever was 14, and the median was 10.
More information is available on this complex subject from the BVA at www.bva.co.uk.
Written by Miss Gemma Clark BVSc, PG(Dip), MRCVS.
Q2 – We have a young 15 week old spaniel who always urinates with excitement when anyone comes to visit and we don’t know what to. Will she grow out of it or is there something wrong with her can you help?
The first thing I would suggest is to get your puppy checked by your vet to make sure there is no medical cause for her to have a weak bladder. Secondly, well done if you have got her reliably house trained at all other times! Urinating at times of high excitement is quite a common behaviour problem, but if and when all medical causes have been ruled out there are still a few questions to answer. You need to decide if your puppy is struggling to control herself because she is so pleased to see her unexpected visitors, or because she is frightened. If you are unsure about this in any way I would suggest talking to a reputable trainer for help.
If your pup seems very happy to greet people then you probably need to work on making times of greeting less fun. Ask everyone in the house to ignore her when they first come to the house, this means no touching, no talking to her and no eye contact! Instead quietly and discreetly allow her access to the outside and wait for her to perform where she is supposed to. When this is done, let her know she has done the right thing with whatever reward works for her but try not to get her too hyped up! Allow your visitors to interact with her when she is calm – or as calm as a spaniel can be! Ask them not to fuss or overcrowd her and keep everything quite low key. To start with, visitors may have to meet your pup outside as she is likely to have a lot of setbacks while she learns to relax and realises that people coming round are just a part of everyday life. You can certainly help the process by remaining calm yourself whenever you enter and leave the house. Ideally, you leaving your dog shouldn’t be a big deal, making a fuss of her before you go makes it more distressing when you have gone, Equally when you get back you shouldn’t give too much attention as it focuses your dog on waiting for your return. If you can, you should try and avoid making either a significant event to your dog. If she has an accident, do not punish her as this may cause a fearful reaction to visitors, which is the last thing you want.
If you suspect that your dog is shy of visitors this needs careful assessment and training over a longer period of time. I would advise that you seek professional advise and your vet should be able to help you find a qualified reputable trainer or behaviour counsellor. In the short term, if you have an anxious or fearful dog give her somewhere to hide when people come to the house and ask visitors not to interact with her. Do not try to force the issue as this may be counterproductive. Over time, you can aim to changer her emotional state from fear to pleasure, but this requires time and patience and proper assessment of you and your dog as individuals.
Written by Miss Gemma Clark BVSc, PG(Dip), MRCVS.
Q1- Now that the laws have been relaxed with regards to moving your pets around Europe I am thinking of taking my 5 year old terrier on holiday with us to France. Can you advise on what is needed to get a pet passport for him and if there is anything we have to do when we go away?
The laws for issuing pet passports have now been relaxed such that our criteria in the UK now match that of the rest of the E.U. Previously, animals had to be identified by a microchip and then vaccinated against rabies. 21 days later a blood test was performed to confirm that the rabies vaccination had been effective. If this was not found to be the case – as has sometimes happened – then the rabies vaccination and blood test were repeated until the animal got the ‘all clear’. At this stage a pet passport could be issued. The animal could now leave the country, but could not return to the U.K within 6 months. There is now no need to confirm the success or otherwise of a rabies vaccination and after vaccination a passport can be issued. You still need the 21 day wait for the vaccine to take effect, but once that has passed you can travel out of and back into the UK. Before returning you must ensure your pet is treated against tapeworm 24-120 hours (1-5 days) before you arrive in the UK and this must be completed by a suitably qualified vet who can sign off your paperwork. There is no longer any requirement for tick treatment.
For some of us Christmas is a time of great anticipation and excitement, something to be looked forward to as soon as the supermarkets have cleared up after Halloween! For others it can be a time of hard work, and of-course there are those who would rather avoid it all together. Our pets are much the same, at least in my household. I have a 13 year old dog who knows full well what Christmas is about and not only waits patiently to be presented with his own presents from under the tree, and also enjoys his share of Christmas dinner. My younger dog finds it all a bit overwhelming, she loves the idea but – much like some children – can get a little overwrought and out of control. Finally, there is the poor cat who tends to make herself scarce until it is all over!
It is hard to advise people on how to handle Christmas with their pets because everyone’s Christmas, and everyone’s pet, is different. If you have animals who like to be involved that’s a good start, but remember that they may get upset by the change in routine, scared by all the noise, hustle and bustle or tired by all the activity. It is always a good idea to have somewhere that any animal can go for some time out, as a ‘retreat’ if they need some peace and quiet or when you need them out of the way of a hot oven! Of-course Christmas is also a time when many of us have more visitors than normal, or are invited to travel, and not everyone we socialise with will be as happy with our pet’s company as we are, or indeed there may be other animals your own pet’s do not get on with. It may be that you need to have a separate area where your pets can settle away from unwelcome other animals or unfamiliar people, especially if these include children who may be scared of your pet, or may well be the cause of anxiety in reverse.