Pet Health

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Pet first aid

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. 

 Wounds/Trauma/Bleeding.

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.

Summary

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

HISSING, SPITTING AND YEOWLING IN THE BACKYARD!

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

Dental care

DENTAL DISEASE IN YOUR PET

Dental disease is very common in our pets, although it often goes unnoticed (who wants to look inside a mouth full of slobber and sharp fangs!). Our pets can't tell you they have bad dental disease and in fact most dogs and cats will continue to eat despite having rotten and quite painful teeth. The only thing you may notice is a smelly breath. Dental problems are, however, very serious as they can lead to chronic pain, teeth loss and jaw fractures. Bacterial infections associated with dental diseases may also spread to internal organs such as the heart and kidneys and may be life threatening. While serious dental problems are more common in older animals they may also occur in quite young animals, with some pets as young as 5 years of age requiring many extractions because of advanced dental disease. It is very important therefore that your pets’ teeth are regularly checked and any dental problems are attended to, and that preventative dental care becomes a part of your pets daily life. 

PLAQUE, TARTAR AND GINGIVITIS

Dental disease starts in our pets with the formation of plaque, the soft furry build-up of bacteria on the teeth. An early warning sign of plaque build up is bad breath (which many people mistakenly think is normal in dogs and cats). Plaque then mineralises to form the hard "baked-on” deposits called tartar that eventually pushes up below the gum to cause inflammation and infection known as gingivitis. This can be seen as swollen, red gums above the brown or yellow tartar. Gingivitis is a reversible disease, however if left to progress, the disease goes deeper into the tooth root structure to cause periodontitis which is irreversible and leads to the more serious problems mentioned above.

PREVENTATIVE CARE

Stage 1 – Teeth Clean 

The first step towards a healthy mouth is a "dental scale and polish” done here at the Surgery. This should happen when tartar has built up sufficiently enough to cause mild gingivitis. (We will tell you if this is needed when your pet comes in for their regular health check). During a short anaesthetic we will scrape away the hard tartar and polish the teeth so the enamel is smooth and shiny again. We will check your pets teeth for more serious problems, and sometimes prescribe antibiotics for the gingivitis. Your pet will return home that afternoon with shiny white teeth and fresh breath. 

Just like us, a regular dental scale and polish is needed to stop our pets teeth deteriorating as they age, and should be done every 12 months. This also allows other preventative measures at home to be more effective.

Stage 2 – Home Cleaning 

Once the hard tartar has been removed, home dental care for your pet can begin. This consists ideally with daily brushing, and foods that will help to remove plaque from the teeth before it turns into tartar. Brushing is quite easy in most pets if you know how. You will need a pet "finger brush” and pet toothpaste (no Colgate please!) and the right technique. Please ask us for a demo, as it can be done without opening the mouth and risking a nasty bite. There are also a variety of treats for our pets that will help remove plaque. For dogs, a large raw beef "knuckle bone” is best, but ask your butcher not to saw it down the middle. For smaller dogs, raw chicken wings are also OK. Avoid any cooked bones, bones that are sharp or flat bones like ribs. Also avoid lamb shanks as these are more likely to crack teeth. There are also artificial bones and edible chews such as "Oravet" and "Greenies” that will help. For cats, chicken wings or large chunks of tough raw meat like chuck steak or ox heart are the best. Although we call dry food "crunchies”, regular brands do not have a cleaning role, but Hills Pet Foods have "Oral Care” and the more heavy duty "T/D Prescription Diet” which actively brush the teeth as well as providing one of the best sources of nutrition you can get, and should be a part of every pets’ home dental care program. We can advise you just how to introduce your pet to one of these excellent dental diets. 

ADVANCED DENTAL DISEASE

Cats and dogs that have more severe dental disease are still worthwhile attending to even if they are old, as the improvement in their quality of life afterwards can be astounding. We assess every tooth and extract those that cannot be saved and are causing pain and disease. The healthy teeth are cleaned and polished and we send your pet home with a plan to keep the teeth healthy from then on. Even if most of their teeth need removing, they will still be able to eat, and will thank you greatly for removing the source of their pain and disease.

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

Ear infections

Shaking his Head, Scratching his ears, Rubbing his face… What's wrong with Pete?

“Polly’s ears smell terrible!” “Rascal’s been rubbing his face like mad.” “Mutley’s got brown crumbly stuff coming out his ears.” “Mischief’s been scratching his ears a bit and all of a sudden this morning, he’s wobbly and can’t stand up straight. What’s wrong and what can I do?” These are some of the complaints we hear from our clients with pets that have ear infections. Ear infections are a relatively common problem in pets.  

Photograph © Elanco Animal Health

Clinical Signs:

Clinical signs can vary depending on the cause, severity, species and individual animal. Here are some of them:

  • Scratching their ears, shaking their heads, rubbing their ears or heads along the ground or on other objects. They may have hair loss and scabs around their faces, ears and necks as a result of severe scratching and rubbing
  • Holding or tilting their heads to one side
  • Sensitivity when touched on their ears or heads
  • Smelly ears
  • Red or swollen ears
  • Discharge in the ears – wet appearance, pus or more solid material
  • Loss of balance or disorientation
  • Deafness
  • Depression and irritability.

So, what do I do now?

Get your pet checked by a vet. The vet will do a general clinical exam, checking the rest of your pet’s coat and skin as well as his ears. She will examine his external ear flaps (pinnae), ear canals and ear drums.

Sometimes the cause is easy to diagnose (e.g. a piece of grass stuck in the ear canal) and other times more complicated. It may be necessary to take a sample and do a smear to examine it under the microscope for any microbial causes. If the cause is not immediately clear or it’s an ongoing infection that does not seem to be responding to therapy, further tests may be required e.g. cultures, skin scrapings or biopsies, blood tests, food trials, allergy tests or X-rays. 

Photograph © Elanco Animal Health

What causes ear infections?

There are a number of different causes of ear infections with certain animals being more predisposed depending on their breed, age, environment and general health.

Here are some of the causes and perpetuating factors which may lead to secondary ear infections:

  • Ear mites and other parasites e.g. fleas, ticks, Sarcoptes or Demodex mites, flies and lice.
  • Allergies: food or environmental.
  • Ear anatomy: some breeds have deep or very hairy ear canals that tend to collect a lot of moisture resulting in secondary infections.
  • Lots of swimming and humid climates means that ear canals don’t get a chance to dry out resulting in secondary ear infections.
  • Yeast infections: usually secondary to an underlying problem e.g. allergy.
  • Bacterial overgrowth: usually secondary to an underlying problem e.g. allergy.
  • Over-production of ear wax may result in secondary ear infections.
  • Foreign bodies: grass awns, small twigs etc.
  • Fungal Infections.
  • Trauma: cat scratch, dog bite or even over-enthusiastic cleaning of the ears.
  • Growths or polyps in the ear canal.
  • Immune system disorders or other systemic disease.

How are ear infections treated?

Treatment is based on what the vet diagnoses as the cause of the ear infection. If there is a bacterial, yeast or fungal infection, the vet may prescribe antibiotic ear drops or oral medication. Very often extra cleaning of the ears is required. The vet will demonstrate how to do it, give instructions on how often it must be done and the duration of treatment (i.e. the number of days). Occasionally, there is so much debris in the ear canals or they are extremely painful, that thorough cleaning under general anaesthetic is required. Sometimes food trials and other treatment trials are required to rule in or out certain allergies and causes. If a foreign body or polyp is found, surgical removal under general anaesthetic and histopathology lab tests may be necessary. Trauma wounds may need to be surgically flushed and treated under general anaesthetic. Specific medications may be required for treating underlying systemic disease and disorders.

Follow-up appointments may be necessary to check that the ear canals are healing up well. Please don’t skip these – often a pet will show marked improvement in the first couple of days, the owner then thinks it’s all cleared up and stops the treatment early, does not return for a follow-up appointment, only to have a more severe and more resistant infection start up again within a few days or weeks. Also remember that like skin infections, ear infections may take several weeks to clear up, even if there is a simple cause without any complications – don’t give up too soon!

What happens if an ear infection is neglected?

Complications can arise from external ear infections that do not get the correct attention. These include:

  • Haematomas and ‘cauliflower’ deformation of the external ear flaps
  • Middle and inner ear infections which may be characterised by vestibular disease (vertigo and disorientation), facial paralysis, dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) and deafness
  • Stenotic ear canals where the ear canals become so inflamed that they can only be treated by surgical resection.

What do I do now?

If you suspect your pet may have an ear infection, please give us a call on (07) 3266 9992 to arrange an appointment as soon as possible. As well as examining your pet, prescribing any necessary medications, we will demonstrate cleaning and treating their ears and discuss your pet’s unique circumstances and treatments that may be required for prevention. Even if we’ve seen your pet many times, we are always happy to answer any questions or assist with treating if you need help.

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

Heat stress


What is Heat Stroke?

Hyperthermia, or heat stroke, as it is commonly referred to is a term used for severe overheating and an increase in temperature above the normal range for a canine which can lead to health issues.

How can my pet get heatstroke?

Any activity which can cause an excess of overheating such as walking, running and agility training can lead to hyperthermia, however the most common reason patients are admitted for treatment is due to owners leaving their pets in hot cars or yards without shaded areas.

Symptoms:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive  salivation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Blueish or brick red gums
  • Dizziness and stumbling
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death.

Prevention:

  • Provide plenty of water in the warmer months and increase the areas of access
  • Provide plenty of shaded areas in the backyard
  • Avoid walking your pet between the hours of 9am-3pm
  • Provide some stimulating activities such as shell pools filled with water or ice
  • Provide shade for dogs that travel in ute trays
  • NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG LOCKED IN A HOT CAR.

First aid:

  • Immerse pet in cool water (ensure the water is not cold or icy)
  • If possible check temperature and heart rate
  • For transport wrap your pet in a wet towel
  • Transport to the closest veterinary clinic as soon as possible and inform them of the situation prior to arrival
  • NEVER FORCE YOUR PET TO DRINK WATER.

What treatment will my pet receive at the vet?

Once your pet reaches the veterinary clinic, a nurse of veterinarian will check the vital signs including temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. The patient will have an intravenous catheter placed into its forelimb and intravenous fluids will be administered to lower the patient’s temperature and rehydrate. Some oxygen may be provided if required. Other methods of cooling may be used such as wet towels and air conditioning, once the patient is deemed stable by a veterinarian a nurse will continue to monitor your pets temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate to ensure firstly, the patient is stable and secondly, the patient is not being cooled down to much which can cause hypothermia. Depending on the severity of heat stroke your patient may be discharged within a few hours, other patients may need to be kept hospitalised for a period of time deemed suitable by the veterinarian.

Written by Jessica Albertson, Veterinary Nurse 

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

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

The itchy pet

MY DOG/CAT IS SO ITCHY BUT HE DOESN’T HAVE FLEAS!

So ‘Scruffy’ has suddenly started scratching like a mad thing: waking you up in the middle of the night, not spending any time chasing his favourite toys but rather looking as though he’s dementedly about to chew his toes off or scratch his armpits out of existence. You get your magnifying glass out and search for those little jumping parasites, but try as you may, there just aren’t any and there’s no trace of flea dirt either? ‘Scruff’ is only 8 months old, so it can’t be a skin allergy? Or can it….

As has been noticed in the human population in first world countries, animals appear to be developing more and more allergies. Most commonly in animals, we see these allergies expressed in skin conditions which vary remarkably on clinical presentation. This group of conditions is broadly referred to as Atopic Dermatitis/Allergic skin disease.

So, why has my dog/cat got atopy?

Well, there are a couple of factors which culminate in an animal developing atopy. Firstly, they usually have a genetic predisposition i.e. they have to be genetically prone to developing a problem. Secondly, they have to be exposed to the particular substance (antigen) in order to mount an allergic immune response. This means that not all animals that are genetically predisposed to developing an allergy will always develop one. For example, a dog that is genetically predisposed to developing an allergy to a particular washing soap can not develop an allergy if it never comes into contact with the soap itself or fabric washed in that soap.

Furthermore, a single allergy on its own may not always cause an obvious reaction but in combination with another allergy or other irritation e.g. bacterial skin infection may cause a severe clinical disease.

So, what does atopy look like?

In dogs, it’s usually a very itchy skin condition mostly focused on the face, feet, belly and armpits and around the bottom. In cats, it can be a bit more variable but the itchiness usually involves the face, ears, neck, feet and underside of the body but could involve the skin all over the body. Your pet may be so itchy that he/she chews its skin until it bleeds; they may pull their hair out or rub their faces raw. They may have patches of fur missing and develop secondary bacterial or yeast infections. Some animals will have pink or red patches, some will have lumps and bumps, some may have drier scales or weeping wounds.

Atopy is most classically diagnosed in animals between 1-3 years old but can occur in pups and kittens as young as 6 weeks or adult animals older than 7 years old. It’s often seen as a recurring skin or ear problem that may flare up at a particular time of the year. There may be opportunistic secondary infections causing smelly feet or ears.

How is atopy diagnosed?

Unfortunately, atopy is not always a quick and easy diagnosis to make, but along with the vet’s physical exam of your pet, any information that you give will provide clues as to whether it’s atopy or something else. Some of the questions you may be asked include:

  • Is this the first time your pet has had this or has he had a similar condition in the past?
  • Does it recur at a particular time of the year?
  • Has it improved with medication in the past? What medication was used?
  • Where does your pet scratch itself?
  • Does the itching wax and wane or does it seem to be pretty consistent?
  • Do you use flea preventatives? How often?
  • Is it worse when your dog eats a particular type of food?

Sometimes other conditions need to be excluded first e.g. a skin scraping may need to be done to exclude a mite infestation. A food trial may be warranted and sometimes a biopsy may be necessary to rule certain things in or out too. A medication trial may be required to see how the condition responds in order to confirm the diagnosis.

How is atopy treated?

There is no quick fix for atopy/allergies. Because it’s usually difficult to identify the specific allergen, treatment is usually focussed on managing the condition rather than curing it. Your vet will formulate a long-term plan tailored specifically to your pet depending on the clinical signs and occurrences of the itchy episodes. The plan may include clearing up any secondary infections with a course of antibiotics;  identifying any concurrent flea or food allergies; dietary supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids; washing with a special shampoo; avoiding irritants; using anti-inflammatories and possibly even immunotherapy.

So, what’s the next step?

Most importantly, give us a ring (07 3266 9992) to make an appointment to see your dog or cat. It’s not normal for a pet to itch all the time! Even though these conditions do not usually completely go away, your pet’s quality of life can be improved significantly, which in turn improves your relationship with your little pal too. There have been recent significant exciting developments in the treatment of itch in dogs so come and talk to one of our vets!

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

lost pets

There are few things as distressing to a pet owner as coming home to an empty house instead of being greeted by your enthusiastic four-legged friend. There are several thousand pets that go missing each year whether they’ve found a hole in the fence, the gate’s been left open or they’ve pulled out of a collar while on a walk. So what can be done to ensure you get your little friend back as soon as possible?

Microchips

It is law in Queensland that all dogs and cats older than 12 weeks need to be microchipped before being sold/given to a new owner. Why is this so important? A microchip is always with the pet – it can’t fall off! If your pet is found and taken to a vet surgery, RSPCA or other welfare organisation or collected by your council he/she can be scanned and the chip number is instantly available. The code stored on the chip is unique to your pet, and provided you keep your details up-to-date with the registry, it is very easy to contact you to get ‘Banjo’ back as quickly as possible. A microchip needs to be inserted by an authorised implanter (usually your vet) and the owner’s details sent on to the registry. The registry should send out a confirmation letter within 6 weeks to confirm your animal’s registration. If you do not receive a letter, please contact the implanter and registry to confirm your pet’s details. Remember to update any changes to address or telephone numbers if any of these should change.

Pet Collars and Identification (ID) Tags

Pets with collars and ID tags make it quick and easy for anyone to contact you if your dog or cat has gone astray. If you have up-to-date contact details with telephone numbers (try to include at least one mobile and landline) anyone can ring you to let you know where your little friend is and how you can get them home again. All dogs in Queensland must be registered with the local council. Check with your local council whether your cat must be registered. Registered pets have special tags with unique registration numbers attached to their collars. Once again, this makes an easy reference for the council to contact you should your missing pet be found. Ensure these registration details are also kept up-to-date.

Contact ‘Lost and Found’ Services

Call your local council, call your local RSPCA and any vet surgeries in the vicinity where your pet went missing. There are also specific ‘Lost and Found’ services that you can contact such as the Brisbane North Lost Pet Register who have a Facebook page and network to help locate lost pets.

Please provide the following information:

  • your name and contact details
  • your pet’s name
  • your pet’s registration number
  • a description of your pet
  • where and when your pet was last seen
  • your pet’s microchip number.

Here is a list of contact numbers:

  • Queensland RSPCA: Lost & Found / Pet D Tect 1300 363 736
  • Brisbane City Council: 07 3403 8888
  • Queensland Lost Pet Register: 0403 745 647 (8am – 2pm) or 0438 882 466 (2pm – 8pm)

You can also contact the Animal Shelters in your area to check whether they have collected your pet. In Brisbane, they are the Warra Animal Shelter in Bracken Ridge on the Northside and Willawong Animal Shelter in Willawong on the South.

New Technology:

Although it is not very widely used at this stage, there is new GPS technology which is allowing pet owners to know the precise location of their pet at any one time. These are particularly useful for pets that spend a lot of their time going bush walking and camping. One example is the TrakaPet unit available through the RSPCA.

Put up posters in your local area:

Although this is ‘old’ technology, someone walking past a poster at your local coffee shop may recognise your pet. Ensure your contact details are clearly displayed along with a recent photograph and description. Always remember to ask permission from shop and business owners first.

Please contact us on (07) 3266 9992 if you need any further help or information on microchips, ID tags and locating your lost pet – we’ll be happy to help re-unite your family!

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

Pet Insurance

Affording the Best Veterinary Care For Your Pet

The words "bargain” and "veterinary care” really do not go together, or if they do it means cutting costs and providing substandard care to provide a cheap service. This is now more important than ever as newer technologies like MRI scans are being used, and specialist services supplied by highly trained veterinarians, in state-of- the-art hospitals are commonplace. Even your local vets like The Northgate Veterinary Surgery, which is more comparable to a regional base hospital than to your local GP, cannot provide quality treatment without charging for it, and while there are many low cost diagnostics and treatments performed, it is common for bills to become substantial even in these non-specialist clinics. See the following examples of veterinary costs for some common conditions. 

Case 1 : 8 year old female Labrador with a ruptured cruciate ligament

(Treatment over 4 month period)
Initial assessment, x-rays and pain relief $370
Referral to specialist with surgical repair $3650
Rechecks, antibiotics, additional pain relief $390
Total $4410
Outcome: Very happy dog back to full use of leg after 6 months.

Case 2 : 3 year old male cat in motor vehicle accident at 10pm at night
(treatment over 1 month)

Emergency afterhours treatment $780
X-rays, wound repair and ongoing care at regular vet $670
Tail amputation performed at local vet due to nerve paralysis 1 month later $590
Total $2040
Outcome: Alive and well, and getting used to his new look.

Case 3 : 9 year old male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with heart disease (treatment over 14 months)

Treatment for acute effects of congestive heart failure over 3 days $420
Specialist cardiac assessment $480
Ongoing medications at $170/month $2380
Regular rechecks and blood tests $594 
total $3874
Outcome: Much cherished pet living with no significant signs of disease for another 14 months from point of diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Greatly missed by devoted owner, but thankful for the substantial increase in life expectancy from new cardiac drugs.

If we take a moment to think about it, all quality medical services, be they human or veterinary, are very expensive to supply. They involve expensive equipment and medical drugs, as well as the premises to house them. There is also the human capital – the dedicated staff required to tend to sick patients. While we do not see most of the cost of human health services, thanks to heavy government funding through our taxes, many of us still use private health insurance to cover those medical expenses that we cannot get for free. 

Veterinary expenses on the other hand are all private expenses.  There are no taxpayer funded animal clinics, no bulk billing and no pet pharmaceutical benefits scheme. There is no public alternative when your pet gets sick or injured, yet rates of pet insurance uptake in Australia is still quite low.

We all hope our pets do not become ill or require treatment for accidents, but if they do, it is much easier for both the pet owner and the veterinarian, if affordability is less of an issue, so that the appropriate tests and treatments are offered. Contrast this with a situation where treatment is started without a diagnosis, or a cheaper substandard treatment is offered. In some cases, the only option is to choose no treatment at all, with the pet either living with a degree of chronic pain or sickness, or alternatively having to be euthanased if the suffering would be unacceptable without treatment. This is the very real situation which owners and vets face every day and we ask you to consider what you would do, and how you would feel if one of the examples above happened to your pet.

When discussing the financial responsibilities of a new pet, we say to owners that it is entirely possible to expect that at some time in their life, their pet will have an illness or injury which could leave them with a bill for veterinary fees of up to a few thousand dollars and quite probable that fees ranging from several hundred to just over one thousand dollars will occur. Therefore it is worth either having those funds set aside or to have their pet insured. In reality, most people don’t have enough ready cash to set up this sort of bank account for their pet, which then leaves pet insurance the only option.

While we can't tell you which health insurance is the best for your pet, we would advise to get a "stand alone” policy rather than one that adds a small amount of cover (usually about $500) to your home insurance, as we find that while cheap, the cover is often inadequate. We also advise to get a policy that covers for illness as well as injury, as many diseases are not due to accidents and you can find yourself still not covered. In general, you can get a good policy for about $10 a week for dogs and less for cats. Important things to compare include:

  • Amount of annual cover
  • Whether an excess is applicable
  • The percentage of veterinary fees that are covered (some are 100% with a small excess)
  • Whether excess or cover is affected by age of the pet or the age at which cover is first provided
  • Whether things like congenital or hereditary conditions are covered, and if there are specific exclusions such as the treatment for hip dysplasia or dental treatment.

Information on insurance policies can be found on an internet search for "Pet Insurance” and we have brochures from several companies at the clinic. The final word about Pet Insurance is that we advise that if you are thinking about it then please do not delay. You cannot get insurance after the event and there are many stories of pets getting sick or injured before an owner has had time to get cover. Also, injuries such as a anterior cruciate ligament ruptures that might cause chronic arthritis, or illnesses including diabetes which require ongoing treatment, or even chronic skin allergies that cause recurrent skin infections will often be covered, but not if they are pre-existing and have been treated before insurance is purchased.

We do not endorse any one particular insurance company but here is a list of some of the popular ones:

  • Bow Wow Meow - www.bowwowinsurance.com.au
  • Prosure - www.prosure.com.au
  • Medibank Private - www.medibank.com.au/pet-insurance
  • Pet Plan - www.petplan.com.au
  • Pet Secure - www.petsecure.com.au
  • AFS Pet Med - www.afspetmed.com.au

Written by Dr Bernie Bredhauer for Northgate Veterinary Surgery

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

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

Pet pop-offs!

WOW BUSTER! YOUR POP-OFFS ARE OVER-WHELMING!

Ever been suffocated by stinky dog or cat flatulence? Battled to breathe while you’ve imagined he gets a little grin on his face?

Flatulence occurs when there’s a build up of gas in the colon. This is a normal occurrence when bacteria in the colon break down undigested food – the gas being produced is a by-product. Whilst it can be unpleasant to experience, it’s rarely an indication of a serious health problem.

So, what causes flatulence?

The usual cause of gassy explosions is dietary. Pet foods that are high in cereal and low in good quality protein are more likely to produce gas problems. These ingredients cannot be digested and absorbed properly in the animal’s small intestine, so more is available in the colon for the bacteria to utilise, thus producing large volumes of stinky gas.

Feeding table scraps or pets getting hold of spoiled food in the bin, are other common causes of digestive upsets resulting in an imbalance of the intestinal bacteria.

Some pets have allergies and intolerances e.g. many cats and dogs are lactose intolerant. As puppies and kittens get older and they’re no longer suckling from their mums, their intestines stop producing lactase and so can no longer digest lactose in dairy products. The lactose then passes through the small intestine and into the colon where the normal bacteria utilise it and produce large amounts of gas – stinky gas! This type of scenario can occur with many different food types, so if you notice your pet has an upset tummy or has a lot of flatulence after something you’ve fed, stay away from it in future.

Another common cause is when pets eat so quickly that they swallow a lot of air in the process. This is often the case in breeds that are enthusiastic eaters e.g. Labrador and Golden Retrievers and sometimes in shelter pets with an uncertain past that are anxious about where their next meal is coming from.

Sometimes medications can cause an imbalance in the normal balance of bacteria in the intestine e.g. a pet may have had a skin wound that needed a long course of antibiotics.

Very occasionally persistent flatulence can be an indication of an underlying medical problem.

What are the signs of over-production of intestinal gas?

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Grumbly sounds from your pet’s tummy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.

How can flatulence be reduced or prevented?

Feeding a high quality diet consistently is the best way to reduce and prevent flatulence in pets.

Feed a highly digestible food with all the required nutrients in the correct ratios. Premium foods tend to have the correct amount of high quality protein and be low in gas-producing cereals. We are very happy to discuss a food suited to your pet according to her breed, age, activity level and other health requirements – visit us or give us a call (3266 9992).
Do not feed table scraps. A once off ‘treat’ may be enough to set-off a tummy upset that lasts for weeks.
If your pet guzzles down his food, try feeding smaller meals more frequently or use a special feeding bowl. There are some bowls with a raised centre that makes your pet take smaller mouthfuls more slowly thus reducing the amount of air they swallow.
Be aware of your pet’s intolerances and allergies, and keep them away from those foods.
Ensure your pet is not able to get hold of old or spoiled food in the garbage.
Make sure your pet gets regular exercise. This can sometimes be surprisingly important in keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy.

When is it time to see the vet?

  • If your pet has a bloated or painful abdomen. There are some life-threatening emergencies where the only sign is that your pet’s tummy is sore and bloated – they need to be seen AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
  • If your pet’s appetite seems to be decreasing, they’ve started vomiting or had a bout of diarrhoea.
  • If they’re becoming listless or lethargic.
  • If they’re scooting or scratching at their bottoms.
  • If there is blood in their stool.
  • If the flatulence persists and you haven’t changed their diet or fed them anything out of the ordinary.

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

Winter pet care

During the winter months, we all rug up and keep warm inside near the heater or fire. During this time, we spend more time indoors and may forget about keeping pets' vaccinations up to date or keeping parasites under control.

In Queensland, it is especially important to ensure that we don't have gaps in treatments since our winter climate is milder than the southern states and many viruses and parasites are able to survive here or even continue multiplying. This means that come summer time, the intestinal worm, flea or tick populations can be very high and cause major problems.

Mosquitoes are also able to exist over winter here, so the threat of heartworm transmission to your pet is a year-round, life-threatening concern.

Ensure that vaccinations are always up-to-date. These dangerous diseases can be contracted at any time of the year.

If you're not sure of your pet's vaccination status or which products to use for parasite control, please pop-in or give us a call and one of the vets or nurses will give you a programme tailor-made for your pet and household.  

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

Helping a baby possum

It is a common occurrence for joeys to be brought into the veterinary clinic.  When a baby possum is found alone, most of the time it is because they lost their grip from their mother. Always look around to try to find the baby’s mother. Possums are very territorial and if she is still alive she will most likely remain in the area searching for her baby. Before going near the joey, ensure that the mother is not in sight. If you see the mother, it is best to leave the baby possum where you found it. If you find a dead female possum, check the pouch to ensure there are no joeys inside. If there is a joey attached to the teat, do not pull the joey off as it may damage the joey’s palate, which will eventually kill the joey. It is best to bring the deceased mother, with the joey still inside the pouch, into the veterinary clinic.           

Identifying the Type of Possum:

Ringtail Possum (above photo)

  • Long, thin tail with a white tip
  • Small, rounded ears
  • Brown to black fur
  • Pale fur on belly

Brushtail Possum (below photo)

  • Long, furry black tail with a hairless strip
  • Large, pointed cat like ears
  • Thick grey to brown fur

What to do:

  • Remember where the joey was found
  • It is best to use gloves to pick up the possum
  • Place the baby possum in a dark pouch such as a sock
  • Place the joey inside a small box or carrier with towels to keep the joey secure
  • Do not hold the joey unless necessary
  • Use either body temperature or a hot water bottle to keep the possum warm
  • During transport, ensure the possum is safe
  • Transport to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible

What happens next?

Once the possum is brought to the veterinary clinic, the veterinarian will assess the joey, checking for injuries. If injuries are present, the veterinarian may choose to either treat the possum in clinic or transfer the patient to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital for treatment. If the joey shows no signs of injury, a Wildlife Carer will be called to collect the possum. It is best for the Ringtail joey to be with a Wildlife Carer as they do much better in pairs or small groups. Ringtail joeys are more delicate than Brushtail joeys and require more dedication to care for. It is still best to have the Brushtail joeys in a Wildlife Carers care, as they are more familiar with the requirements the joey needs. Once the joey is at an appropriate age, they will then be released back into the wild. 

Written by Natasha Jones, Veterinary Nurse

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

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18

Chocolate toxicity

What happens if my dog eats chocolate?

THE EASTER BUNNY IS COMING!!! HOORAY!!! Who doesn’t love chocolate? Even dogs will eat it any chance they get. However, it is recommended that you do not give chocolate to dogs in any form. Chocolate can be very harmful / poisonous to dogs. Chocolate is made from cocoa, which contains a substance called theobromine that can be poisonous to dogs, resulting in severe illness. The level of toxicity depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, as well as the size of the animal. Different types of chocolate contain different concentrations of theobromine. The darker and the more bitter the chocolate: the more theobromine and the more toxic for the animal. For example, high quality dark or cooking chocolate contains more theobromine than milk chocolate. White chocolate contains very little theobromine. 30g of dark cooking chocolate may potentially poison a 20kg dog; yet 225g of milk chocoate would be required to cause problems.        

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may take a number of hours to develop and include:

  • Restlessness
  • Over-excitement/agitation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nervousness 
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Possible Death.

What to do if your dog has or is suspected of consumed chocolate:

  • Take the chocolate away ASAP ( and dont eat it yourself in this instance)
  • Try to figure out an approximate amount of chocolate consumed by your dog
  • Call Northgate Veterinary Surgery for advice and for an appointment as soon as possible
  • The sooner the chocolate is removed from your dog and your dog is stabilised, the better his/her chances of escaping serious problem.

What happens on arrival to the Vet Clinic?

  • The Veterinarian may administer medication to induce vomiting and may also administer activated charcoal to reduce further absorption of chocolate from the gut. 
  • Your dog may require admission into hospital for monitoring and supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy and management of seizures, irregular heart beats or other complications if they occur. 

Written by Natasha Jones, Veterinary Nurse

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

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18