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Northgate Queensland

Pet Health

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The Hidden Danger: Why Throwing Sticks Can Harm Your Beloved Dog

Playing fetch with our dogs is classic past time for most pet owners. However, what may seem like a harmless game of fetch with a stick can actually pose significant dangers to our furry friends. When dogs chase after sticks, they can easily trip, stumble or fall and when carrying a stick in their mouth the stick can splinter, causing sharp fragments that can pierce your dog’s mouth, throat or digestive tract. These injuries often require immediate veterinary attention and can result in pain, infection or even more severe complications.

"Thankfully there are numerous safe alternatives available that can provide equally engaging play experiences for your dog".

Opt for toys such as rubber frisbees, soft fabric toys or even a toy stick such as the Spunky Pup Fetch & Glow Stick that is made of a durable material that looks like a stick but is both soft and durable (Available for sale at Northgate Veterinary Surgery and St Vincents Vets).

Engaging in interactive play is essential for strengthening the bond between you and your dog. Use this opportunity to teach commands, reinforce training and promote mental stimulation. While throwing sticks may seem like a traditional and harmless game, it can be dangerous. It is crucial to prioritise their safety and wellbeing by opting for safer alternatives. Next time you’re heading to the park or beach don’t forget to bring your own safer toy and leave the sticks on the ground!

- Dr Emma Chester 

Posted in: Pet Health at 15 June 23

It's Not Long Until The Easter Bunny Arrives!


Whilst Easter eggs are a tasty treat for us, they are highly toxic to our furry companions!

Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine. Unlike humans, our pets are unable to metabolise this ingredient, causing it to reach toxic levels in their body!

The toxicity of this substance is dose dependant and while the affect differs according to the type of chocolate (dark chocolate being the most detrimental!), all forms are dangerous.

As an owner, it is important to keep your pets away from your Easter Egg stash! If your pet manages to find your Easter goodies, immediately seek veterinary assistance from us!

Signs to look for if you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Excitable
  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Seizures

​What to do if you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate:

  • Call our clinic immediately
  • Keep the chocolate packet and a record of approximately how much chocolate was eaten

What happens at the vet: 

  • The only way to make our furry friend’s feel better is to bring out what went in! Our Vets will induce vomiting to ensure that all of the harmful goodies are removed.
  • They may need to spend some time in our care. We will monitor them closely and administer any medication or fluids to assist in their quick recovery.

Posted in: Pet Health at 13 April 22

Why is my vet so busy?

Author: Australian Veterinary Association, 07 January 2022

Have you noticed your local veterinary clinic being busier lately, or it's more difficult to get an appointment?

Many veterinary clinics worldwide have experienced a significant increase in workload during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased work, combined with a requirement to meet health and safety guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and staff shortages, has meant that many veterinary clinics have struggled to keep up with the demand for services.

Higher workload

Veterinary clinics in many areas of the world have reported an increase in demand for consultations and medical/surgical care of pets. This is due to:

  • More new pets – many people decided to adopt or buy a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the latest Animal Medicines Australia survey, 69% of households own a pet, up from 61% in 2019. This has created more puppy and kitten checks and vaccination appointments, and more routine surgeries such as desexing.

  • Increased owner awareness – with more people working from home than ever, pet owners have spent more time hanging out with their furry family members. This has resulted in increased pet owner awareness of their pet’s normal and abnormal behaviours, and increased recognition of health problems.

Reduced capacity

Coupled with this increased demand for veterinary services has been a reduced daily veterinary teamwork capacity. This has occurred due to:

  • Social distancing limitations – during lockdown periods, contact between veterinary staff and pet owners was generally limited to drop-off appointments, where pet owners waited outside and communicated with the vet by phone or online chat. These procedures prevented the usual time-saving simultaneous examination and communication process of a normal consultation, often extending appointments to double the usual time period. As a result, this halved the number of total daily consultations vets could see!
  • Less veterinary staff on duty – due to the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant, the veterinary profession is experiencing critical staff shortages across their teams due to illness and quarantine requirements. To try and reduce the potential spread of illness within a veterinary team (and therefore keep clinics open as much as possible), many clinics made the decision to divide their staff into two or more set teams rostered on different days. This meant that shifts were often covered by a reduced number of staff.

  • Shortage of veterinarians – the pandemic has compounded pre-existing workforce issues which are affecting the veterinary profession, and leading to a relative shortage of veterinarians available to fill positions in veterinary practices. In addition, international and state border restrictions have limited the ability of veterinarians to easily move to new jobs. As a result, some clinics have been unable to recruit vets to work during these busy times. This has meant that in many veterinary practices, vets are overworked and struggle to manage the demand for their services – resulting in longer waiting times for pet owners.

What you can do to help

Global pandemic or not, your veterinarian is always aiming to provide the best health treatment for all the pets in their care. Reduced veterinary capacity has necessitated careful prioritisation of pet medical needs, with ill or urgent cases being attended to first, and non-urgent procedures, consultations or medication requests being completed later.

The most important ways you can help your veterinary clinic during this busy time are:

  • Phone to book advance appointments for non-urgent veterinary care.
  • Try to be patient with and appreciative of your veterinary team – vets are already under high stress, and the extra workload of the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened this.
  • Request prescription medication refills 4-5 working days prior to your pet running out – this gives the clinic time to process requests (which require veterinary review and approval), and order in the medication.

Please pack your patience, empathy and understanding when you visit the vet. With your understanding and cooperation, your veterinarian can continue to offer your pet, and many others, the benefits of experienced, thorough and kind medical care.

Posted in: Pet Health at 12 January 22

Bat Lyssavirus

Bats are starving and there’s a greater risk of contact with pets and people. That means a higher risk of exposure to Australian bat lyssavirus.

  • If you see a bat on the ground, don’t touch it and don’t let your pet near it.
  • Contact your local veterinarian if you suspect your pet has been bitten or scratched by a bat.
  • Take all reasonable steps to prevent you pets coming into contact with a bat. That may mean keeping them in at night and checking the yard before letting them out in the morning.

People and animals can be infected with Australian bat lyssavirus if bitten or scratched by an infected bat. Australian bat lyssavirus is usually fatal. If a bat needs help, contact RSPCA Queensland on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625) or a local volunteer wildlife care organisation to safely collect the bat.

Read more about Australian bat lyssavirus:

Seek advice from your vet

It is possible a bat could be infected with Australian bat lyssavirus and this could be transmitted to your dog. It’s never too late to seek advice from your vet so please contact your vet about the risk to your dog. If you haven’t already, it’s best to take steps to keep your dog away from bats particularly at night.

If you see a bat, dead or alive, don’t touch it.

Avoid handling a live bat yourself. Only rabies vaccinated people who are experienced in handling bats and using appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves) should rescue or examine a bat. 

Bats play a key role in the ecosystem and are protected in Australia. 

Australian bat lyssavirus is a virus endemic in Australian bats. It causes an invariably fatal encephalitis (infection and inflammation of the brain) in bats, humans and other animals. 

If you have occupational contact with bats or Australian bat lyssavirus, or if you are a wildlife carer, veterinarian or scientist working with Australian bat lyssavirus, seek medical advice about pre-exposure rabies vaccination.  For further medical information, please contact your local doctor, nearest public health unit, or the 13HEALTH information line (13 43 25 84). 

Safe disposal of bats

It’s better to avoid contact with a bat if possible, including leaving a dead bat where it is. We recommend not touching a bat even if it appears to be dead. If you decide to dispose of a dead bat, the following steps will assist with reducing the risk of exposure. Gently prod the bat first with a long tool (e.g. a shovel, broom or pole) to be sure it is dead. Wear gloves and use a tool to place the bat in a plastic bag that won’t tear easily. Double bag the bat by placing the first bag in a second, strong plastic bag. Dispose of the bag in accordance with your council’s waste disposal requirements. Contact your local council to find out what is appropriate in your area.

Media release Biosecurity Queensland and Queensland Health, issued 23 September 2019

Posted in: Pet Health at 22 October 19

Guinea Pig Teeth


Dental disease is a common condition that affects guinea pigs. Guinea pigs teeth continue to grow throughout their life and can become overgrown if not properly maintained. Overgrown teeth can cause root impaction, abscesses and diseased gums leading to a loss of appetite, weight loss and excessive drooling. A guinea pig showing these clinical signs should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

The best way to prevent dental disease in guinea pigs is with an appropriate diet. Their diet should be 70% good quality high fibre this includes grass and hay (oat, timothy or orchard hay). A high fibre diet helps grind their teeth down to a healthy length. The remainder of their diet should include 20% fruit and vegetables and no more than 5-10% guinea pig pellets. A diet too heavy in pellets will lead to overgrown teeth and a painful mouth. It is also important to supplement guinea pigs daily with 25-50mg vitamin C for healthy gums.

Dental disease is a painful condition that can be difficult to treat so prevention is always much better than a cure. If your guinea pig is showing any signs of a painful mouth such as a reduced appetite, weight loss, drooling or matting of fur around their chin then they should see a veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital Dr Bob Donnelly;
Sydney Birds & Exotics Veterinarian Dr Alex Rosenwax;

Written by Dr Emma Chester BVSc(Hons)  © Northgate Vet Surgery, Queensland  2019

Posted in: Pet Health at 08 October 19

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs

Just as humans can suffer anxiety in situations like public speaking or from a fear of heights, dogs can experience similar feelings.

Anxiety and stress from separation is very common and occurs when a dog is separated from either a person or another animal. These feelings and behaviours can be addressed by one or a combination of actions designed to modify your dog’s behaviour, managing its environment and in some cases, daily medications to help with stress levels.

Behavioural signs of separation anxiety

Signs of anxiety can vary with the different degrees of stress:

  • Your dog may become quiet, 
  • Be reluctant to play or eat
  • Constantly licking of paws or other body parts
  • Vocalising, howling and barking continuously
  • Attempting to escape the yard by jumping over and digging under fences
  • Causing damage to your house, furniture and other belongings by scratching or chewing.

Unfortunately these behaviours can escalate and lead to serious damage to property, or nuisance and noise complaints and in severe cases, even be life threatening.

Do not punish your dog.

It’s very important for you to know that when your dog's fight or flight centre is activated, your dog is in a state of high stress and is panicking without thinking. He isn’t being naughty when he scratches the door or chews your shoes, he is responding to stress. Punishing in any way like yelling, hitting or exiling him will only make the problem worse.


Separation anxiety is neither a training issue nor an obedience problem. Just like in people, anxiety is a medical condition that requires a medical professional to put together an appropriate treatment plan. There are a number of treatments available which may include one or a combination of medication, behavioural modification, pheromone stimulation and calming therapy, and environmental changes. Separation anxiety can cause great distress for both you and your dog. At St Vincents and Northgate Vets, we work closely with Dr Cam Day, a veterinary behaviour expert, plus dog trainers - and we can assess your dog's particular needs and come up with a long term solution.

Written by Chantelle Ford Cert IV Vet Nursing  © Northgate Vet Surgery, Queensland  2019

Posted in: Pet Health at 14 August 19

How to keep your indoor cat happy and healthy

Keeping your cat indoors is the safest option for your cat lowering their risk of injuries, parasites and infectious diseases. If you decide to keep your cat indoors it is important that you are meeting all their needs to keep them healthy, happy and stimulated.


It is important to provide a safe and comfortable place for your cat to go to the toilet. Choose a sand-like, finely granular clumping and non-perfumed litter in an appropriate sized tray that is easy for your cat to climb into. There should be one and a half litter trays per cat in the house. Place the litter in a private area of the house. Make sure to keep the litter tray clean by scooping litter daily and washing and replenishing the litter weekly. Avoid bleaches and disinfectants to clean the litter tray as they may smell too strong for the cat.


Feed your cat in a safe zone which is low traffic and easily accessible. Feeding them a premium quality cat food that is complete and balanced and specifically for indoor cats will help maintain a healthy weight, low odour stools and a shiny coat. Cats are natural hunters so it is important to make feeding time enriching for your cat. There are a number of puzzle feeders and feeding towers on the market but a plastic bottle with holes cut out of it with a portion of their biscuits placed inside also works well.


Scratching is an important behaviour to cats to sharpen their claws, and remove frayed worn out claws. Cats also scratch while stretching, to mark territory or during play. Choosing a large sturdy scratching post that your cat can stretch out at full length is important to ensure they will choose to use the post rather than your furniture. Marking the post with catnip or feliscratch to encourage your cat to scratch there is useful when introducing a new post. 


Cats love three-dimensional living, sitting in a high point in the house such as a windowsill, scratching post or climbing frame allows them to hide and survey without being seen. Providing your cat with one or two high points in your house will quickly become their favourite spot to sit and give them a place to relax. You could also consider providing your cat with a safe netted outdoor enclosure allowing them some outdoor access without the risks of being an outdoor cat.

Human Interaction

Spending time with your cat whether it is playing, supervised time in the garden on a harness, brushing them or just spending time patting them on your lap is really important for both you and your cat and will strengthen your bond. Spending at least half an hour with your cat every day just as you would walk your dog everyday will help expend their energy, stimulate them and is a great stress reliever for you. Studies show stroking a cat can actually lower your blood pressure!

Posted in: Pet Health at 07 August 19

Breed DNA Testing

DNA & Your Dog

Do you ever find yourself wondering if your beloved mixed breed rescue dog is part Kelpie or Border Collie? Do you have disagreements at the dinner table over what breed makes your puppy so fluffy? We offer a mixed breed DNA test that can identify the breeds of your dogs parents, grandparents and great grandparents and will put an end to all that guessing. Knowing your pets genetic background is not only interesting it can tell you a lot about your pet and help you better understand their behaviour. Different breeds have different behavioural traits, exercise requirements and personalities. Knowing your dogs breeds can also help you and your vet monitor for specific breed related diseases. Even though they are mixed breed they can be prone to specific breed related diseases inherited from their parents or grandparents.

Dr Emma’s rescue dog Eddie results came back and they discovered she is a Whippet x Mini Fox Terrier which explains her love of running like her whippet brother Bob and her bold fearless temperament typical of Mini Fox Terriers.

Ask your vet at your dog’s next health check about the DNA test.

Posted in: Pet Health at 31 July 19

10 Common Plants that are Toxic to Dogs & Cats

1. Lilies (including Peace Lily, Tiger Lily, Calalily)

Lillies are highly toxic and can cause kidney failure leading to death particularly in cats. Be careful of bouquets of flowers always check there are no species of lilies before displaying them in your home. Signs of lily intoxication include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and lethargy.


  2. Sago Palms or Cycads

Sago Palms or Cycads are highly toxic to dogs and can be fatal if any part of the palm is consumed. It is best to remove these plants from any part of the yard that is accessible to your pet. Signs to look for include vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.



3. Macadamia nuts

Macademia Nuts are not only toxic to dogs but the nuts themselves can become stuck in your pets mouth or obstruct their gastrointestinal system if they swallow the nut whole. Signs of macadamia nut toxicity include weakness, vomiting, depression, fever and twitching.



4. Ivy (English ivy, Golden Pothos)

Ivy is moderately toxic to pets. Ingestion of this plant can lead to irritation of the mouth and stomach, drooling, swelling of the tongue and lips, vomiting and diarrhoea.



5. Lantana

A common weed and houseplant is extremely toxic to pets. Signs of lantana toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, lethargy, paralysis or a swollen abdomen.



6. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow/Brunfelsia/Lady of the Night/Noon and Night

This plant is highly toxic to cats and dogs causing vomiting, difficulty walking/wobbliness, tremors and seizures.



7. Oleander

Oleander is highly toxic to cats and dogs causing an abnormal heart rate or cardiac arrhythmias, collapse, tremors, drooling, vomiting, seizures or even death.



8. Aloe Vera

While this plant is known for its healing properties in humans, in dogs and cats it is moderately toxic. It can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, loss of appetite and change in urine colour.



9. Wild mushroooms.

it is very difficult to identify mushrooms while some varieties are safe to eat others are highly toxic and can cause death. It is important to remove any mushrooms that pop up in your lawn before your dog or cat finds them.



10. Tulips & Hyacinths.

A popular flower in bouquets are moderately toxic to cats and dogs causing drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing and increased breathing rate.



What to do if your pet eats one of these?

If you spot your dog or cat eating any plant or flower it is important to contact your local vet, most plants have a level of toxicity to animals and some are much more dangerous then others. If you are concerned take a photo or a sample of the plant with you to your vet to be identified.

Posted in: Pet Health at 24 July 19

Canine Cough

With the cooler weather well and truly here -  we expect to see more cases of canine (or kennel) cough. If your dog suddenly develops a hacking, persistent dry cough it is possible he/she has this common infectious disease. In most cases, the disease is easily treated with rest, antibiotics and/or cough medication; but in a few instances it can became a serious condition, especially in unvaccinated dogs. So, if your dog starts coughing, ensure you take him/her for a vet check, keep him/her isolated from other dogs to reduce potential transmission and ensure he/she is up to date with vaccinations.

Canine cough is an infectious inflammatory condition of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (lung canals) of dogs. It is a very common cause of sudden coughing fits in otherwise well dogs. The disease usually results from the action of multiple infectious microorganisms (bacteria and virus) on compromised airways. Some environmental factors can predispose to the disease by either damaging the natural airway defences or by facilitating the propagation of the virus and bacteria. Some examples are:

Stress (e.g boarding, moving);
Cold temperatures;
Crowded environments (e.g. kennels, dog daycare);
Poor ventilation;
Smoke/dust exposure.

Canine cough is very contagious. The causative virus and bacteria can travel through aerosols and be inhaled by a susceptible dog or be carried on toys, food bowls, etc. An infected dog can shed the microorganisms to the environment for a couple of months, even in the absence of clinical signs. Hence, when we suspect a dog has canine cough, we always recommend isolating him/her from other dogs for a period of time. We also ensure all the surfaces he/she has been in contact while at the vet clinic are thoroughly disinfected.

Canine cough is usually a self-limiting and mild disease. Most dogs only have a dry hacking cough (sometimes described as “goose” cough), usually exacerbated by exercise or excitement. Sometimes the cough can be followed by a terminal retch, like the dog is trying to “clear up” his throat. Most animals have increased sensitivity when palpated at the trachea (windpipe). A few dogs can be a bit off their food or have mild serous (clear) nasal and eye discharge. In rare cases though, canine cough can be fatal, especially if more aggressive microorganisms are involved, in very young or old patients, in immunocompromised patients, or in unvaccinated dogs. In complicated cases, the disease can progress to pneumonia and the dog can become very sick with fever, difficulty breathing and severe lethargy.

Fortunately, we have vaccines available against the most common microorganisms causing kennel cough (the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, the Parainfluenza virus, the Canine Adenovirus and the canine Distemper virus). These vaccines are part of the routine immunisation protocol used at our clinics and can protect dogs from an early age. Some owners are surprised that their dog still gets canine cough despite being vaccinated. This happens because the dog can be infected by other microorganisms not covered by the vaccines or by different strains of virus. Regardless, most cases of kennel cough in vaccinated dogs are very mild, of shorter duration (usually lasting a couple of weeks) and do not progress to severe pneumonia like in unvaccinated dogs. In most dogs, rest and a short course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and/or anti-cough medication is all is needed to treat the disease.

Posted in: Pet Health at 17 July 19

Indoor vs Outdoor Cats - The Great Debate

When you first adopt your kitten or adult cat it is best to decide from the very beginning whether you would like to keep them indoors or allow them to roam. Making the decision early in their life means you can prepare them for an outdoor life with the appropriate vaccinations and parasite prevention or help them adjust easily to an indoor lifestyle through diet choice, housing and litter options.

Kittens adjust well to an indoor lifestyle and if never allowed to roam freely will be used to being confined to your home. Newly adopted adult cats may take some time to transition to becoming an indoor cat, however they should always be kept inside during the settling-in period to stop them from running off or becoming lost.

There are several benefits and drawbacks for an indoor or outdoor lifestyle for cats. Outdoor cats while very mentally and physically stimulated are exposed to many more risks than indoor cats and consequently have a much shorter lifespan of 5 years on average. Indoor cats  live considerably longer, up to 18 years as they have much less exposure to infectious disease and trauma.

The biggest risks posing outdoor cats include:

being hit or run over by a car
being attacked by a dog
fighting with neighbourhood cats
contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from stray or neighbourhood cats
picking up deadly paralysis ticks
being bitten by venomous snakes
eating poisonous baits intended for other animals
increased UV exposure leading to skin cancer

Some of these risks can be reduced by ensuring your cat is vaccinated against FIV and is regularly treated with parasite prevention. Outdoor cats as well as indoor cats should also be desexed and have a microchip with up to date contact information.

Most of the risks facing outdoor cats are out of the control of the owner particularly as many cats have quite a large roaming territory. Recent studies by the National Geographic tracked domestic cats travelling as far as 1.2km from their home base. Even if you think your cat only spends time in your backyard if tracked you may be shocked to see how far they travel!

Outdoor cats also pose a serious threat to native wildlife. ccording to a recent study from ornithologist John Woinarski from Charles Darwin University cats in Australia kill more than a million birds a day. This is catastrophic to the survival of some endangered Australian native species.

Indoor cats live longer safer lives than outdoor cats. They tend to be more affectionate as they bond strongly with their owners. however if not properly cared for they can be prone to boredom, obesity and anxiety. These issues can be managed or prevented with appropriate diet, play and providing all the necessary items to meet your needs.

For more information about how to keep your indoor cat happy and healthy please click the link below:

Written by Dr Emma Chester BVSc(Hons) © Northgate Veterinary Surgery Queensland 2019

Posted in: Pet Health at 10 July 19

Atopic dermatitis or atopy

Scratching DogAtopic dermatitis is a very a common cause of itching in dogs and cats, especially in Queensland. In this condition, the animal’s skin reacts to a variety of allergens in the environment, like trees, pollens, grasses or insects. 

Most affected animals have a genetic make-up that makes them susceptible to develop the disease, usually between the ages of 1 and 5 years old. Most of the times, the itch follows a seasonal pattern but in a few animals the condition becomes year-round. 

Usually, we see skin lesions (redness, hair loss, “pimples”, scratches) in the extremities, muzzle, ventral belly and neck but some animals can have lesions on the whole body. Recurrent ear infections or conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) might also occur in these animals and might be the only sign; as well as persistent feet licking.  

The animal’s itch is usually aggravated by secondary infections due to trauma of the skin (from scratching, biting, etc), particularly by bacteria and fungus. The diagnosis of atopy is based on the exclusion of other possible causes of itchy skin in these animals, including flea and food allergy, parasites and bacteria and fungal infections. 

Unfortunately this a chronic disease which, if left untreated, can be very debilitating and have a serious impact on the animals’ quality of life. Similarly to human allergies, skin testing can be done in dogs to identify the allergens causing the disease and vaccines can be formulated against those allergens to relieve the symptoms; however the efficacy of the vaccines is variable. 

In very rare cases the dog/cat will react to a single allergen in the environment which makes avoidance possible. 

Generally, the management of atopy requires a combination of topical (on the skin) and systemic (oral or injections) medications.  Many animals with atopy have a deficient skin barrier so the addition of fatty acids supplements (added to the diet or applied directly on the skin) can greatly improve their condition. Most dogs will also require special shampoos/conditioners that help with soothing the skin or clearing the secondary infections. In a few percentage of dogs (less than 50%) the use of antihistamins can be enough to control mild signs of itching. The most popular anti-itch medications are corticosteroids (e.g prednisone) and cyclosporine.  Recently, these have been replaced by relatively safer and likely-as-efficient drugs, like apoquel (a daily tablet) and cytopoint (a monthly injection).  

Posted in: Pet Health at 15 May 19

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease in Dogs

Heartworm is found in numerous locations across Australia.

Heartworm has recently been diagnosed twice in our practice in inner North Brisbane in the Autumn of 2019.

Heartworm is an often-deadly parasitic disease of dogs spread by mosquitos. Larvae are picked up by mosquitos after biting an infected dog, before being transmitted to a healthy dog via another mosquito bite. After six months the larvae have grown into adult worms that live in the heart and vessels around the lungs.

Left untreated, heartworms can reproduce and grow, causing blockages of the major vessels and serious disease. Fortunately, there are effective means of preventing this disease.


Fortunately, there are many effective heartworm preventatives on the market. In Brisbane, you need to ensure your dog is on heartworm prevention medication year-round, as even one missed dose can put them at risk of heartworm disease.

The two main types of preventatives; a yearly injection plus monthly preventatives that come in a spot on, tablet or chew form (often combined with other types of worming and flea medications). Research shows the injection to be the most effective.

At Northgate and St Vincents Vets; we can help you with the best preventative plan for your pet. Many pet owners manage the risk of heartworm disease with the yearly injection, as this removes the risk of forgetting a dose of preventative medication. Your veterinarian can administer this injection as part of your pet’s regular health check along with vaccination(s).

Symptoms of heartworm disease

When dogs are infected with larvae after being bitten by an infected mosquito, they don’t usually show any clinical signs of the disease. However, once adult worms have grown and reproduced, disease associated with blockage is often seen.

Symptoms of clinical heartworm disease include:

  • Low exercise threshold (exercise intolerance)
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • A dry and persistent cough
  • Weight loss

In more severe cases, when the heart and lungs have been extensively damaged by the worm burden, symptoms include:

  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Sudden collapse
  • Blueish tinge to gums
  • Sudden death (particularly after exercise)

Diagnosis and treatment of heartworm disease

Diagnosing heartworm disease in dogs involves a couple of steps. After six months from the first infected mosquito bite, adult heartworms can be detected on a rapid bedside test from a drop of blood. At Northgate and St Vincents Vets we will look at your dog’s blood under the microscope too, looking for worm larvae.

Once confirmed on a blood test, we can stage the infection by taking chest X-rays and conducting further blood tests to check the degree of damage caused by the infection. Treatment can be risky and prolonged, so prevention is definitely the best cure in the case of heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease in cats

Heartworm can infect cats as well as dogs. However, the disease is very different in cats. Most cats that are bitten by infected mosquitos only have a short, limited infection, as their immune system kills the larvae before they can grow into adult worms.

This also means that heartworm disease in cats is more difficult to diagnose in cats. Although the infection is usually self-limiting in cats, it can cause an allergic reaction and immune response that damages the lungs.

Symptoms of feline heartworm disease can often mimic feline asthma, another respiratory condition of cats. If your cat is showing signs of feline asthma, we might consider testing for heartworm, even though it’s a rare condition in cats.

Fortunately, there are monthly tablets and spot-on treatments for cats which protect them against heartworm disease; and as with dogs, prevention is always better than cure.

Source Material: Vet Voice, a publication of The Australian Veterinary Association

Posted in: Pet Health at 17 April 19

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. 


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


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 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. 


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.


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. 


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.


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


  • 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

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

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