Intervertebral disc disease in dogs is a degenerative process that can lead to serious back pain and even paralysis. Discs are like soft cushions located between each spinal vertebrae. Before a disc ruptures it becomes stiff or even calcified and then pushes up between the vertebrae compressing the spinal cord. This results in pain and reduced nerve function to the back and/or front legs. Certain breeds of dog are more predisposed to disc disease, including Dachshunds and Pekinese and most affected dogs are middle aged. Signs may appear slowly over days to weeks or occur very suddenly. Back or neck pain is something to be assessed urgently by your vet to check for any nerve deficits and provide immediate pain relief. X-rays may assist the diagnosis but can sometimes appear normal if the disc material has not calcified. If the diagnosis is in doubt or if surgery is to be performed, specialised CT scans are indicated. Treatment depends on the severity of the dogs clinical signs. In mild cases, medical treatment includes anti-inflammatories and strict rest for several weeks. In severe cases, or if there is no improvement with medical treatment, major surgery by a veterinary specialist can be performed to remove the disc material from the spinal canal. Prognosis following surgery depends on the time since the rupture, and if the spinal cord has incurred permanent damage. Even if there is not a full recovery, a paralysed dog may recover sufficient function to allow it a good quality of life. This is Axel the Rottweiler who has had xrays at our clinic for neck pain.
Spring is here and so is cat breeding season again. This means litters of abandoned kittens are sadly at risk of being euthanased by overcrowded shelters. It also means increased cat fights and spread of diseases such as Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). The answer lies in responsible cat ownership, in particular desexing of both male and female cats. Cats are able to breed from as young as a few months of age, and females can become pregnant again only weeks after having a litter. The result is multiplying numbers of unwanted kittens and unhealthy stray cats on our streets. We advise that kittens be kept strictly indoors until desexing is performed at 4-6 months of age. Desexing cats also provides other health and behavioural benefits such as reducing the incidence of spraying, fighting, viral diseases and reproductive cancers in cats. Our vet clinic and the Wyndham Council promote desexing of both cats and dogs at a reduced fee if vaccinated, microchipped and registered. Wyndham pet owners should contact us for more information on a voucher to put towards desexing their pet. This is “Pixie” the 11yo Devon Rex who lives indoors and was speyed as a kitten.
Skin disease is such a prevalent problem in both dogs and cats and can often be very frustrating for the pet, their owner and the vet. Itchy skin can often be due to an underlying allergy with a secondary infection from the pets scratching and licking making the itch even worse. The most common allergy we see by far in pets is flea bite allergy. Dogs can chew at their rump and inner thighs for weeks following a single flea bite, while cats tend to over-groom or get small scabs through their coat. The ideal treatment for fleas is a new three monthly chew for dogs or a monthly topical spot on for cats. Be sure to treat every pet in the family and to not miss a dose. Atopy is the term for allergies to environmental factors such as pollens, grasses and dust mites. Signs include pets licking their feet, rubbing their abdomen and armpits and scratching their ears. An option for younger pets is to have a veterinary dermatologist perform skin testing to confirm the allergen and develop a vaccine. Alternatively treatment with antibiotics, shampoos and anti-itch drugs can be prescribed by your vet to make your pet comfortable. Food allergy can also occur in pets and has very similar symptoms to atopy. Strictly feeding a special hypoallergenic diet can improve the skin in affected pets. Your vet may also diagnose other causes of itch besides allergies. Primary bacterial or fungal infections can affect the skin including the feet and ears. Hair loss due to mange is common in young puppies while ringworm, a type of fungus, can spread to new kittens as well as their owners. The list of different skin diseases is long but don’t hesitate to see your vet for advice if your cat or dog is keeping you awake with their itch!