Pet Health

Author: Chantelle


Pet Health

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Pet Health

Pet Health Resources   

Our Pet Health pages contain a wealth of resources for the pet owner who wants to learn more about the health of their pet. 

There are a range of pet health information sheets that will assist you as a pet owner; plus pages we may refer you to if your pet is diagnosed with a specific illness, disease or injury; and also some commonly used home care Instructions that you may need to follow when you get your pet home from hospital. 

Happy Reading! We look forward to seeing you in the surgery soon to answer your questions and help you best enjoy your pet!


Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

Pet first aid

First Aid for Pets

Over the course of your pet's life you may experience the occasional ‘accident’ that will require emergency veterinary care. These situations can be extremely stressful for you and your pet.  Being prepared and knowing what to do if the situation does arise can assist you to remain calm and make the most of a bad situation. 

In most emergency situations it will be recommended that your pet be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

It is important to have contingency plans in place for emergency situations with your pet and that all members of the family are aware of what to do should the situation arise. It is recommended to have the number of your local veterinarian programmed into your phone or on the fridge so that the number can be obtained quickly when required. It is also worthwhile knowing where your nearest 24 hour emergency clinic is located as well as their contact number for any problems that may occur out of normal working hours or on the weekend. At Northgate Vet Surgery, we recommend the Pet ER at 263 Appleby Rd Stafford Heights. They can be contacted after hours on phone 3359 5333. 


Be aware that any pet that has undergone trauma will likely be painful and may act differently or even aggressively when you are trying to move them. Be careful! If your pet is trying to bite, sometimes using a large blanket or towel and placing it over their head before trying to move them will help to avoid bites. A large sheet or blanket can be used as a makeshift sling to move large pets. It is important to note that most of the readily available human pain relief and anti-inflammatories available are generally toxic to pets and should be avoided at all costs. 

A basic ‘first aid kit’ for pets, containing some sterile wound dressings and bandage material is worthwhile having at home. Many of the bandaging products that you have in your own (human) first-aid-kit will be suitable to use in pets. 

If your pet has a bleeding wound, pressure should be applied to it – this could be done with a clean towel. If the wound is on an extremity like the paw or tail you may be able to place a compressive dressing using some sterile gauze and crepe bandage material (readily found in most first aid kits), to help stem bleeding prior to having the wound assessed by a veterinarian. 

All wounds, but particularly those caused by cat or dog bites, should be assessed by a veterinarian ASAP no matter how small they appear externally.  The potential for extensive trauma to underlying tissues and development of infection is high. 

  Snake bites

Summertime in Queensland is a beautiful time of the year to be outside with your pets! It is also unfortunately a time of the year that snakes and paralysis ticks like to be outside (or in some cases inside) as well. They are more prevalent in certain areas – particularly bushy areas, but also in yards where there are wood piles and large amounts of leaf litter.

Symptoms of snake envenomation include – weakness, lethargy, paralysis, discolouration of urine, tremors, leading to collapse and possible sudden death.  If you witness your pet being bitten by a snake you may attempt to apply a tourniquet to the bite site, but otherwise the pet should be seen by a veterinarian ASAP.  If you have the ability to take the snake to the vet safely (ie. if the snake has been killed by your pet) this can be useful to identify what type of antivenom is required. We do not recommend killing the snake yourself – this is actually an illegal and reportable offence.  If the snake is still alive on your property, you should call a registered ‘snake catcher’ to remove the snake and relocate it to a safe place.  

 Tick paralysis

Paralysis ticks are another inevitable pet-predator throughout the spring/summer months.  Tick season is usually from late August through to March, although some areas may see ticks almost all year round.  Symptoms of tick paralysis include – weakness, lethargy, inappetance, vomiting/retching with development of paralysis and respiratory distress.  First aid for tick-affected pets is limited to keeping the pet as calm, cool and rested as possible until such time as they can be seen by a veterinarian. Stress and vigorous exercise can exacerbate symptoms of tick paralysis. 

To avoid the potential for tick paralysis, it is recommended to have your pet regularly treated with a preventative therapy.  Bravecto and Nexgard are newer products on the market that are associated with excellent tick-kill rates. 

What to do if my pet eats something poisonous

A common emergency scenario in our pets occurs when they eat something they shouldn’t!  Chocolate, plant material, cleaning products, socks/undies, toys…you name it – we have seen them eat it!!  If we can catch them early enough we can potentially avoid any problems by getting them to vomit. 

In the case of a known indiscriminate ingestion, our best first aid advice is to speak to a veterinarian – let them know exactly what, when and how much has been eaten and how big your pet is. They will let you know if vomiting should be induced and or any other course of action required.  

There is no safe way to get your pet to vomit at home.  Syrup of ipecac, large amounts of salt, washing soda crystals or hydrogen peroxide may be associated with severe side effects and can be extremely difficult to administer. It is recommended to take your pet to a veterinarian ASAP so that a safer drug can be used to induce rapid vomiting that is reversible.

​© Copyright 2016. Northgate Veterinary Surgery, Queensland. All rights reserved.

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

Thinking of a new pet?

Choosing a new pet can be such an exciting time for the entire family! Pet ownership is extremely rewarding – the right pet in the right situation can become a valued and irreplaceable part of one’s life.    

It is important to remember before purchasing a new pet however, that pet ownership is a huge responsibility.  As a pet owner you are responsible for providing all the requirements of your pet – food, exercise, housing, grooming and veterinary care throughout its entire life. It is a sad fact that pet shelters are overflowing with animals that their previous owners could not or did not want to continue to look after for various reasons.

Purchasing a pet, therefore, should never be taken lightly or on impulse.
Some of the big things to consider include: 

1. Can I look after my pet for its whole life?

With advancements in pet health care as well as general changes to pet lifestyles in Australia, pets are living longer than ever.  The average lifespan for a dog is near to 10 years of age, although many dogs can live until their late teens and beyond.  Cats will often live even longer (and the 20+ year old cat is no longer that uncommon). 

2. Can I afford a pet?

A new pet will not only involve costs associated with the purchase of that pet but you will also be responsible for the lifelong financial care of that pet. 

New puppies or kittens will require vaccinations, microchipping, desexing and worming/flea treatments. Adult pets will require dental care, annual vaccinations, and routine heartworm/worm/flea prevention throughout their life. The cost of food for your pet should also be considered, as well as grooming for longer-haired pets. Also consider that larger pets will cost more to treat than smaller pets as treatment doses are often based on weight. 

Veterinary care can be expensive. It is strongly recommended that new pet owners consider obtaining insurance for their new pet.  Good pet insurance coverage can prove to be a massive help for any unexpected health problems or emergencies that may crop up over a pets lifetime. 

3. Do I understand how to care for my pet?

It is your responsibility, as a pet owner, to thoroughly research the basic requirements of your chosen pet. You should do this before considering purchasing your pet and prior to bringing your pet home so that you are well informed about the species-specific needs of your pet and so you're ready to take good care of it. 

Consider talking to us about your needs/wants in purchasing a new pet. It is recommended that you research any breed-specific problems you may come across. Be aware that some insurance companies will exclude breed-specific conditions. If you are considering adopting a pet from a shelter, you should talk to the staff with regards to any underlying behavioural or health issues that pet might have and what it will entail to look after them. 

4. Does my lifestyle suit the pet that I would like – Do I have enough time?

Before purchasing a pet you should consider how owning this specific type of pet may affect your lifestyle.

Puppies and kittens in particular, will require a very large time investment devoted to their training, socialisation and exercise. Adult animals will also require variable time investment, dependent on their species/size/breed that may include daily exercise/play and mental stimulation. Bored animals can develop undesirable and potentially destructive behavioural traits which can be very difficult to reverse. 

Some questions to ask yourself before purchasing a new pet include –

Are you prepared to walk your dog everyday?
Are you home often enough to keep your cat or dog company and give them attention?
Do you have time to give your puppy or kitten the basic reward-based training it needs?
Who will care for your pet when you are away from home?
Do I have suitable accommodation/space for a pet?

Before purchasing a pet consider:

Am I actually permitted to have a pet in my home? – This is particularly important for renters.
Do you have a yard? Is it secure?
Where will your pet be housed when you aren’t at home? Where will your pet toilet? 

© Copyright 2016. Northgate Vet Surgery. All rights reserved.

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18


Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease

What are Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)?

By definition, arthritis is inflammation in the joint and DJD refers to the progressive degenerative processes that result in pathology in a joint. These are painful conditions and in order for us to imagine what a beloved pet may feel like, all we have to do is ask a friend, neighbour or relative who suffers from arthritis, to know that it’s pretty uncomfortable.

Arthritis = Pain

The most common form of arthritis is very similar to that seen in most people, which is due to “wear and tear” of the joints over  time, and therefore is  seen mainly in older animals. Larger dogs seem to be more affected, however it does occur in small dogs and cats but is much harder to detect. It may involve just one joint, or many throughout the body may be involved. Arthritis can also be seen in much younger animals if they have had a joint injury,  joint surgery, or if they have a congenital or hereditary joint abnormality. There are also rare forms of autoimmune arthritis (e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis).

Initially the main change in the joint is a loss of the natural lubricating quality of the joint fluid. Soon, the inflammatory changes inside the joint quickly start to damage the articular cartilage, a tough, yet shock absorbing layer of cartilage that sits over the ends of the bones inside the joint. Whilst damage to cartilage is the major issue in arthritis, there are very few nerve endings there, so  pain does not start to show until the cartilage has been eroded and pain receptors in the bone underneath are stimulated. This means that once signs of arthritic pain are evident, the disease has already progressed significantly. As joint disease progresses there may be secondary changes such as extra bone being laid down around the joint in an attempt to stabilise it, which actually leads to greater joint pain and immobility. 

Arthritic Pain = long standing cartilage damage 


What should I look out for?

The main problem of arthritis for our pets is the pain it causes, which can be expressed in many ways. Limping or lameness, an inability to quickly get to a standing position, a reluctance to jump, exercise or play, or becoming more aggressive or grumpy, can all be signs of arthritic pain. Some pets however will not exhibit their pain, especially chronic pain, and will suffer in silence. A common myth, is that if an animal is “a bit stiff” first up in the morning but is okay after they warm up, then the arthritis is not too bad and no treatment is needed. This tends to underestimate the effect of arthritis both from the pain it causes and the fact that starting treatment at the earliest indication is better for prevention of disease progression. Many of these animals that only show transient lameness will exhibit reduced weight bearing on the affected limb, as seen on tests like the sensitive “force-plate analysis”, long after they have warmed up indicating that pain is real and on-going.  

Apart from pain, some lameness or stiffness may be caused by structural deformities in the joint, changing the way it moves and therefore how the limb functions. An examination of these more severely affected joints may reveal either fluid or bony swelling, or a crunching or clicking sound when the joint is manipulated. Additionally, the affected limb may have muscle wasting due to reduced weight bearing. Sometimes x-rays may be needed to visualise the typical signs of chronic arthritis and to help rule out other diseases in the bones close to the joints.

Chronic arthritic pain continues after warming up even if stiffness improves

These signs are not specific to arthritis but when several of them occur together, there’s a pretty good indication that your pet may be suffering with arthritis: 

  • Limping
  • Difficulty rising, standing or sitting
  • Slow and/or reluctant to get up
  • Decrease in activity
  • Decrease in interacting with family or other pets
  • Disinterest in activities he/she used to enjoy e.g. playing fetch
  • Hesitancy to jump up or down, run or climb stairs
  • Change in temperament - becomes grumpy or aggressive
  • Sleeping more
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Appears stiff or sore, even if they seem to improve after warming up
  • Swollen looking or lumpy joints.

How is arthritis/DJD diagnosed?

A clinical exam along with a thorough history of his/her clinical signs seen at home, will give the examining veterinarian a pretty good idea that arthritis is a possibility. During the exam the vet may feel fluid or boney swellings around the joint, crunching or clicking sounds when the joint is moved. He or she may also find there’s been muscle wasting because of reduced weight bearing and limb use. Radiographs (X-rays) may be needed to visualise boney changes, to make a definitive diagnosis and exclude other diseases that may occur in bones close to joints. 

Once a preliminary diagnosis is made, we advise owners to trial their pets on a 1-2 week course of strong anti-inflammatory pain relieving medication, even if this is not used long-term. The medications (referred to as NSAIDS) will help to show just how much pain is being caused by the arthritis and gives us a goal for therapy. The fact is, many owners with arthritic pets will not recognise the signs of arthritis, or will consider them to be part of the ageing process. It is not until the pain is blocked out with medications  that the debilitating nature of this disease can be realised.

What can be done?

Effective relief of pain caused by arthritis uses a multi-pronged attack to get the most successful outcome. 

Healthy Weight: THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT AND EFFECTIVE, NON-DRUG NATURAL THERAPY WE HAVE AVAILABLE FOR OUR ARTHRITIC PETS. Body weight is a simple equation of energy in, versus energy out, and so to be unapologetically blunt, if your pet is overweight then, as the one with the opposable thumbs, YOU (their owner) are  giving them TOO MUCH FOOD for their current level of activity and making their arthritis, and therefore their pain worse. The solution is also thankfully simple. A strict diet, no treats, gentle exercise in most cases, and letting us be your pet’s diet coach. Far from being cruel, but will be the best thing you can do for your pet. As you start to see the weight come off, the arthritic pain will lessen and their level of activity will increase. It is the absolute minimum that must be done for all arthritic patients!

Pain Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used pain medications. They settle the inflammation that is causing cartilage damage and provide immediate relief from pain. There are several different NSAID options and we recommend the new generation NSAID’s, including Onsior for dogs and Metacam for cats, since they are unique in their mode of action in that common gastrointestinal side effects of NSAID’s are largely eliminated. These are also the drugs we use for treatment trials and the benchmark against which we measure other therapies. For dogs we recommend a blood test every 6 months to monitor any changes to liver or kidney function. For cats, these tests must be done every 6 months since they are usually more susceptible to undetected kidney problems. Other drugs, including cortisone and morphine-type drugs, may be used in particular circumstances.
Chondro-protectives: over-the-counter supplements containing Pentosan Polysulphate, Omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. They are non-prescription remedies that help to rebuild and heal damaged cartilage and can be a longterm strategy in helping improve arthritic pain. Pentosan is an injection that goes under the skin (not into the joint) that helps the cartilage producing cells make more cartilage “factories”, and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements supply the building blocks to those cartilage factories. Each of these remedies has an effect on cartilage regeneration when working alone but will work better when used together. They also work better in the early stages of arthritis but even in severe cases may help reduce the dose of NSAIDs required to alleviate pain. We currently recommend the “PAW Osteosupport” brand.

Special Diets: veterinary prescription diets are also part of the arthritis management arsenal. They ensure the arthritic patient receives the correct levels of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals as well as additional supplements such as Omega 3s, glucosamine and chondroitin all in an easy to feed ration. Hills JD Prescription diet is the one that we recommend.
Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy: swimming is especially good for arthritic dogs since the exercise strengthens their muscles but there’s very little strain put on the joints because the water supports the animal’s body.

IMPORTANT: NEVER give your pet any human medication without checking with your vet first! Some human drugs e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen can cause very serious illness and death.


Arthritis is common. 
It can occur in dogs and cats of all ages and sizes 
Treatment should be directed at controlling this disease at its earliest possible signs as this already represents significant progression of joint disease. 

Recognising that our arthritic pets do not need to suffer pain, especially in their older years, and using a combined approach of weight loss, remedies to repair cartilage and drugs to control inflammation and pain, will go along way to ensuring that they enjoy a very high quality of life without you worrying that they may not be telling you about their chronic pain. 

Remember, if your pet is diagnosed with arthritis, always discuss with your vet any concerns, changes to your pet’s behaviour, difficulties you’re having with medicating, feeding or exercising your pet. He or she is there to help you and your pet find a programme that helps your four-legged friend get the best out of life.

Written by Dr Bronwen Thompson for Northgate Veterinary Surgery

​© Copyright 2016. Northgate Veterinary Surgery, Queensland. All rights reserved.

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

Cat fights

Cat Fights - what to do


If you’re a cat owner, you’ll know the distinctive sound of yeoowwl… Spit! Spit! Followed by a quick scrummage and your cat either speeding in through the cat flap with eyes wide and ears flat, or a slow, show-off saunter that indicates your kitty won… this round. Often these evening tiffs are followed a few days later by a small lump on her head or rump, that rapidly grows in size resulting in your kitty having a bit of a Quasimodo-look and an unfortunate explosion of pus on the Persian rug – yuk! So, what do you do now? And why and how did this happen?

Why do cats get into fights?

Cats are territorial animals with their own home range. Their territory is the area that they regard as their own space, somewhere that they will defend. A home range includes the area that they habitually use; the area they spend time in on their patrols around the neighbourhood. They won’t necessarily defend their home range and usually will avoid getting into conflicts in these areas. Home ranges often overlap with those of other individuals so large areas are shared. Territories however are spaces that they may very well defend ferociously, much like you would defend your home if you had a home invasion.

Most cats also have a daily routine. You may find your cat likes going for a little stroll first thing in the morning and another just after dinner at 7pm, whereas the neighbour’s cat may like lying in the sun until 10am and a midnight prowl. These two cats would share the same home range but not necessarily come into contact very often because they have different habits. Fights between cats will often occur if one of the individuals does something out of the ordinary e.g. someone left the cat flap open and your cat ran out for a midnight stroll and came nose-to-nose with Socks from next door on the borders of their territories.

Sexually intact animals are also more likely to get into fights. Intact males will compete with each other, by fighting if necessary, in order to get the opportunity to mate with a female in season.

Much of the caterwauling and spitting is a deterrent by which individuals try to stave off having to get into a real fight, however if one feels particularly threatened or aggressive and lashes out, a full on scramble with claws and teeth may ensue.

What happens if my cat gets in a fight?

Most cat bite wounds look fairly innocuous at first – just a small little puncture wound – surely nothing too serious can come from that? Actually, bite wounds are a bit like icebergs – the major damage is below the surface! Canines are dagger-shaped and are the teeth responsible for most of the trauma in fights. As they penetrate the skin and move into the soft tissue below they rip and pull the skin away leaving a much deeper pocket in the subcutaneous tissue in which oral bacteria are seeded and start to multiply. Usually the pocket is below the opening of  the skin wound so any debris stays in the wound instead of draining out. This warm, dark moist pocket is perfect for growing bacteria and within a few days it is filled with trillions of them swimming in a revolting soup of pus – an abscess! Sometimes these abscesses will burst, other times they just grow in size, occasionally so big that the overlying skin is stretched so much that it’s blood supply is disrupted and the skin dies. This results in a much more difficult and prolonged healing of the skin as well as other possible complications like septicaemia and multiple organ failure.

Apart from the immediate injuries associated with a fight, a more stealthy microbe can also be transmitted in a fight – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FiV) also known as Feline Aids. Unlike in HiV, FiV is transmitted in saliva through cat fights where the virus passes from the infected cat’s saliva directly into the bitten cat’s bloodstream.

What do I need to do if my cat gets in a fight?

It sounds pretty obvious, but, get your cat to the vet to be checked out. Often if the wounds are cleaned and flushed out properly (not just wiping the surface clean!) and a course of antibiotics started straight away, the wounds will heal up quickly without any complications. If you’re unaware that you cat’s been in a fight and suddenly notice an unusual lump growing, don’t hesitate to bring them in. Sometimes abscesses can be drained and antibiotics started without having to surgically clean them out. More often though, your cat would have to be anaesthetised, the abscess lanced and the wound cleaned, flushed and a drain placed in order to facilitate healthy healing. Antibiotics will also be prescribed with instructions on how often they need to be administered and for how long. This antibiotic therapy is really important – do not forget to dose your pet and make sure you complete the course. Too often owners stop the antibiotics too soon and this leads to a resistant bacterial population against which we have no defence – once again, complete the course!

Other injuries from cat fights may include: nail scratches to your cat’s cornea, torn toe nails, lacerated foot pads and other injuries sustained while trying to escape.

Can cat fights be prevented?

We can take precautions to prevent fights. Keeping your cat exclusively indoors will prevent it from coming into contact with others and hence prevent fights. If you do allow your cat out, having a special run or keeping them indoors at night will also reduce the incidence of conflict. Desexing pets further reduces the incidence of contact with other cats and vaccinating against FiV reduces the chance of your pet contracting this deadly virus.  

Written by Dr Bronwen Thompson for Northgate Veterinary Surgery

​© Copyright 2016. Northgate Veterinary Surgery, Queensland. All rights reserved.

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18