Children and Dogs – Practical Tips

It Can Be Great To Grow Up With A Dog In The Family and many children can benefit from sharing a home with a dog. Taking care of a dog can help older children learn to plan and be responsible, while exercising and playing with a dog at any age is an great way to release excess energy and keep fit. A dog can also give a child unconditional love and someone to talk to and there has also been extensive research into how dogs can help children with learning difficulties, ADHD, Asperger syndrome and Autism.

There is no denying that dogs make fantastic pets and companions, however, it is very important to recognise the potential hazards or dog ownership and try to minimise any risks where children are present.

The purpose of this article is to help you make sure that children are always safe around dogs (and Vice Versa!) we want people to be Mindful and Not Fearful of Dogs.

Copyright Clare Espley RVN

Sylas taking a well deserved rest, after an hour of playing at being a ‘police dog’ and catching imaginary criminals in the woods with his boy. They both had fun racing about at top speed.

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Problems In Dogs

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease or Injury is one of the most common causes of hind leg lameness that we see in dogs. The stifle (knee) is a hinge joint that allows the hind leg to bend and is also one of the joints in the body that is most prone to injury.

Inside each knee are two bands of tissue called the caudal and cranial cruciate ligaments which cross over each other inside and help to stabilise the joint. Problems can occur when the cranial cruciate ligament deteriorates and is torn or breaks completely. If it is left untreated it will not only cause pain and lameness in the affected leg, but will ultimately lead to irreversible degenerative joint changes.

Type Of Cruciate Damage

Traumatic Cruciate Damage is usually caused by a sudden and strenuous twisting of the knee joint when moving at speed and suddenly changing direction (similar to what happens in people during activities such as football, squash, rugby etc)

Cruciate Disease is a chronic (on going) problem that is often the result of general wear and tear such as everyday use during walking, running and jumping. This causes the ligament to deteriorate until it tears or ruptures completely (unfortunately it is not yet known what causes the canine cruciate ligament to deteriorate so fast in some dogs). This causes dogs to either become more lame over a period of time as the ligament deteriorates and tears or, to become very suddenly lame as the deteriorating ligament tears or ruptures completely (usually after engaging in strenuous activities or, in some dogs with severe ligament degeneration, the ligament may rupture after a small stumble or even when jumping off a sofa/chair). An important aspect of this gradual deterioration is that both knees are usually affected and 40%-60% of dogs with cruciate problems in one knee will develop problems in the other knee.

Which Dogs Are Affected?

Cruciate disease or injury can occur in a dog of any breed, sex or age, however it has been found to be more common in the following circumstances

  • Overweight dogs (more stress is put on the joints in general)
  • Unfit dogs who engage in sudden strenuous activity (weekend warriors!)
  • Dogs with conformational abnormalities
  • Dogs with poor body condition and muscle mass
  • Certain breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers, Staffies, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards and Akita’s seem to have a higher incidence of the problem, which suggests that it may be an inherited or conformational problem.

Symptoms of Cruciate Problem

Cruciate ligament disease may initially present as anything ranging from a mild, occasional limp to the sudden onset of complete lameness and is, in most cases, extremely painful. Symptoms of a problem can include one or more of the following

  • Lameness/Limping/weakness in one or both hind legs
  • Completely holding the hind leg up
  • Lameness that gets worse with exercise but improves with rest
  • Stiffness and/or difficulty getting up from sitting or lying down
  • Swelling around the knee joint
  • Reluctance to jump up or climb stairs/steps
  • Sitting at an odd angle
  • Abnormal posture when standing
A dog that is limping or holding it’s leg up will be in pain and should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Cruciate Problems

Initially the vet will physically examine the knee to check for any pain, swelling and looseness in the joint, an X-ray may then be taken to check for any other problems within the joint, such as arthritis. A CT Scan or Arthroscopy (keyhole procedure involving a tiny camera) may ALSO be performed if they are available,  so that the vet can assess the extent of the damage to the ligament and whether there are other factors to consider such as arthritis, meniscus damage etc.

Surgical Treatment Of Cruciate Ligament Problems

The aim of any surgery is to stabilise the knee joint to prevent further damage (and pain) and improve mobility. The type of surgical procedure carried out will often depend on whether it is a straightforward (singular) problem i.e. just the cruciate ligament, or whether there are other complications to be taken into account e.g. a luxating patella or meniscal damage (these are the cartilaginous shock absorbers in the knees). It may also depend on the size and activity levels of the dog.

Because the surgery can be quite costly, especially for larger breeds of dog, it will be important to check that the surgery is covered by your pet insurance before your vet proceeds with the operation; this is usually done via a pre-authorisation claim between your vet and your pet insurance company.

The two most common procedures performed today are the Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO) and the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA); Both of these procedures alter the conformation of the joint and the way that forces are transmitted in the moving knee joint. The TPLO and TTA procedures greatly reduce the need for the cruciate ligament to stabilise the joint.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Replacement Surgery may be performed to stabilise the joint and reduce rotational instability, by either replacing the torn or ruptured ligament using a graft (rarely performed nowadays) or by replacing the ligament with an extracapsular ‘non absorbable’ line and crimps. This is usually only suitable for small to medium sized dogs.

Copyright Castle Vets Pet Healthcare Ltd

Some veterinary practices such as Castle Vets, may have an orthopaedic or specialist vet who is able to carry out these procedures, but other practices may need to refer their patients to another practice, especially if there are concurrent problems in the joint such as a luxating patella, meniscus tears, arthritis, bone spurs or bone fragments.

 After any of these surgeries it is vitally important to follow the veterinary surgeon’s advice regarding,
  1. Exercise and activity: in most cases your pet’s activity will need to be severely restricted for the first six weeks after surgery.
  2. Physiotherapy: your dog will need physiotherapy and often hydrotherapy to help with building up their muscles and mobility. This is also vital for maintaining the stability and strength in the other knee.
  3. Weight Management: It is vitally important that your dog is at his or her correct body weight to ensure no extra stress is placed on the joints.

Non-Surgical Options For Cruciate Problems

Surgery is usually the recommendation and the best course of action for dogs with cruciate problems, especially those over 15kg in body weight,  except when a general anaesthetic and surgery may put the patient’s life at risk (e.g. severe heart disease, immune related conditions).

A non-surgical approach to treatment may be tried in the case of a torn cruciate ligament. The dog will need a very strict  and severely restricted exercise plan, proper weight management, medication/pain relief, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy; they may also require veterinary acupuncture, nutraceuticals and possibly, platelet-rich plasma therapy . We advise that if you want to try this option for your dog that a treatment plan is discussed thoroughly with your vet to ensure that you understand what is involved to best help your dog.

How You Can Help Lower The Chances Of Cruciate Injury

Unfortunately, there is no definite way to prevent  a cruciate injury but you can help lower the risk if you 

  1.  Avoid sudden strenuous activities by ensuring that your dog has a good warm-up walk for at least 10-15 minutes before going off-lead to play with other dogs or chase balls etc. and by making sure that your dog starts chasing toys/balls from a standing position rather than from a sit or lying down position.
  2. Give regular, moderate exercise every day
  3. Ensure that the dog does not become overweight as this will add to the strain on his/her joints. If you need advice on your dog’s weight, please speak to one of our veterinary nurses.
  4. Feed a good quality diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age, size and activity levels.

Babesiosis in the UK – Is your dog at risk?

Babesiosis in the UK – Is your dog at risk?

UK Dog owners have recently become concerned about news reports of an ‘outbreak’ of Babesiosis; a disease usually only seen in parts of continental Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. National newspapers are reporting that one dog that has already died from the illness and that 3 more dogs are being treated by vets.

Vets are urging dog owners not to panic as so far these cases seem to be confined to the same area in Harlow, Essex.

What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a dog illness caused by Babesia Canis or Babesia gibsoni , a protozoal parasite(1) that is transmitted by ticks; it infects red blood cells and can cause severe anaemia and immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia. Babesia is usually only found in the warmer climates of North America, continental Europe, Africa and Asia. Continue reading

Barking Dogs

Barking Dogs

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Although barking is a normal dog behaviour, it can be a real nuisance if you have to listen to it for long periods. Dogs may bark, howl or cry when left alone for a variety of reasons, but most often because they are bored, frustrated or distressed, so it is important to try and find out the cause of your dog’s behaviour if possible.

Complaints often arise about dogs that bark too much and especially, about those dogs that are left at home alone for long periods and bark once their owners have left the house. The most recent PDSA PAW report   estimates that around 2.3 million dogs are left at home for 5 hours (or more) on weekdays, but unfortunately many owners have no choice because they have jobs to go to.

If your dog is upsetting your neighbours, the first thing to do is talk to them and above all stay calm. Remember that any type of continuous noise can have a really negative impact on people’s lives and you have no idea how bad the problem is, because you are not there to hear it. Ask your neighbours to tell you and/or make a note of when the barking happens and for how long, as this may help you identify triggers (such as the postman or school children walking by) and enable you to provide distractions for your dog during those times.

Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, excessive and continual barking of dogs may be considered a Statutory Nuisance, and local authorities can take action to stop it, which can include a hefty fine for the owner, so it is important that you make every effort to prevent your dog barking and keep the peace with your neighbours.

Tips To Prevent Barking

  1. Only leave your dog for short periods and try to start this routine from home alone 2an early age; Get your dog accustomed to being left alone for short periods and gradually increase the length of time that he or she is left alone. Don’t leave adult dogs for more than 3-4 hours and puppies should only be left for an hour or so – if you are at work ask someone to check in on your dog during the day and let them out or walk them for you.
  2. Dogs often respond well to having stimulating and fun toys, such as a stuffed Kong or Puzzle Feeder, to occupy them whilst you are out and some even start to look forward to you leaving if it means they have access to a Kong with their favourite stuffing!  Make sure that you initially supervise your dog with any new chews or feeding toys so that you know they won’t be swallowed whole or cause choking! Please do not leave your dog unsupervised with bones or rawhide-type chews.
  3. Exercise your dog properly and well before you leave; this will ensure he or she is tired and ready to settle down when you go.
  4. Try creating a den for your dog as it will help them to feel more secure while you are out.
  5. A radio tuned to a talking or classical music station can provide company, soothing background noise and also help block out any noises from outside, this is especially useful if you have a dog that is worried by loud and unexpected noises.
  6. A pheromone diffuser or collar such as Adaptil can help reduce anxiety and provide a calming environment for your dog.
  7. Don’t shout at your dog for barking – you are just joining in and may make the situation worse.
  8. If your dog is barking at particular occurrences every day, such as the postman or milkman, try to distract them at this time with a game or some treats.
  9. Some owners use webcams to monitor their pets. These can be a great idea and the ones designed for babies and small children often work over wifi and have a speakerphone so you can chat to your pet; this will depend on the individual dog though, as some may be even more distressed if they can hear you but can’t see or smell you!
  10. If your dog gets very distressed about being left enrol him or her into a doggy daycare club or with a dog walker so that he or she has company all day.
  11. Vary your leaving routine and the amount of time you spend away from home if possible. Get rid of the predictive behaviour that can really get your dog worked up and distressed, for example putting your coat on and grabbing the car keys, but then sitting down and having a drink before taking your coat off again.

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PLEASE DO NOT USE ANTI-BARK COLLARS WITHOUT CONSULTING A FULLY QUALIFIED CANINE BEHAVIOURIST FIRST; PUNISHMENT OFTEN MAKES THESE SITUATIONS WORSE AND YOU COULD SERIOUSLY AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DOG. SHOCK COLLARS SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON ANY ANIMAL WITHOUT FULL AND PROPER SUPERVISION FROM A QUALIFIED DOG BEHAVIOURIST.

If your dog’s barking is causing complaint and/or upset, I recommend you contact a suitably qualified canine behaviourist who will work with you to try and solve the problem. The Pets In Practise team are local to the Reading area, or you can also look for qualified behaviourists on the Association of Pet Behaviourists website

Pet Diabetes Awareness Month 2015

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November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month. 

Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose (or sugar) in the blood; dogs and cats become diabetic when their bodies do not make enough insulin or if the body is unable to use (is resistant to) the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Diabetes in both dogs and cats is usually caused by a loss or dysfunction of the cells of the pancreas, meaning that it cannot produce insulin properly. Continue reading

How To Help Your Pet Cope During Fireworks Season

How To Help Your Pet Cope During Fireworks Season

Alginon HeaderNone of us really want to think about the winter holiday season in October, but it is fast approaching and with it comes the bright lights and extreme noise of fireworks. The firework season in the UK usually starts with Diwali celebrations in late October or early November and ends on New Years Eve. There are many things that you can do to help your pet get through this season and we are here to help and advise.

Some pets are absolutely terrified of fireworks and display behaviours ranging from hiding away,  to refusing to go outside and even completely destroying items of furniture if they are left alone in the home. Every year during the firework season, the staff at Castle Vets receive many phone calls from owners about their distressed pets. Continue reading

Summertime Pet Care

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With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

How To Keep Your Pet Cool

  • Provide fresh water at all times. It is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you.
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun if he or she wants too, watch out for pets who may be sun-worshipers and try to encourage them into the shade if possible. Make sure rabbit hutches and runs are moved to shaded areas too. If it is too hot outside bring your pets inside.
  • Use pet-friendly sun cream on your pet to prevent sunburn. This is especially important for pets with white ears, or pink noses or hairless tummies.
  • Provide cooling places and objects such as a wet towel on the ground for dogs to lie on or access to nice cool kitchen tiles. You can always freeze water in plastic bottles or ice packs and wrap these in a towel then place near to your pet – rabbits and dogs love lying on or against these in the hot weather (just make sure the icy surface is not directly next to their skin. (Make sure your pet is not going to chew these objects though – especially ice packs as they may contain chemicals)
  • Use a fan to cool and move the air, but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow, cannot touch the fan and cannot chew the electrical cable.
  • Good Ventilation and air flow is very important for outside hutches and pens as well as indoor pet cages.
  • Think about the best times for exercising dogs. Early in the morning and later in the evening will often be slightly cooler. A good rule of thumb is if the pavement is too hot for you to touch your wrist to for more than a minute, it is too hot for your dogs paws.
  • Move cages containing indoor pets away from windows and/or direct sunlight, these can soon heat up to unbearable temperatures.
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car, caravan or conservatory (see our heatstroke article)
  • Use water to help your pet cool down. Some dogs like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised and heavy exercise should be avoided during the hottest part of the day. Some pets like a gentle spray with some water to help keep them cool but if your pet does not like it, don’t do it.
  • Check Habitat Temperatures Carefully For tropical fish tanks and reptile vivariums as these may get too hot if the external temperature rises.
  • Don’t forget the wildlife. Small, shallow bowls of water dotted around your garden will help out greatly.
  • Watch your pet for signs of heatstroke. This can happen to any species of pet, but is more common in animals that are overweight, senior, hyperactive even in hot weather, short nosed breeds, or animals that have existing health problems with their heart or lungs. Symptoms of heatstroke can include

Rapid or frantic panting

Excessive thirst

Anxious behaviour

Rapid heart/pulse rate

Dizziness and/or disorientation

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See our article on Heatstroke for more information 

Summer Time Hazards

Barbecues and Parties

These will be on the agenda for a lot of households but, while they are fun for us, they are a scavenging hazard for ourpets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes  distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.

Flystrike

This is another common summer problem. It occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets including dogs and cats can and do get affected.  The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.

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Grass Seeds and Plant Awns

These can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we  see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article)

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s care or would like any advice then please contact the practice on 01189 574488 or through our website