Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Benefits of neutering your pet

Here is some information to answer all your questions on neutering your pet, and hopefully put to rest some of the myths surrounding the procedure. There are many advantages to neutering your pet and most are directly related to the overall health of the animal. A pet owner must also remember that every animal is an individual and so changes that appear in one may not appear in the other. Here I will also outline what happens when your pet is left in for a neuter surgery. Neuter is a general term and the word spaying applies to females and castration is used for the males.You may neuter your male or female cat after 5 months. The general time for dogs is after 6 months although larger breeds will be a little later as they take longer to reach their full size.

Advantages of spaying a FEMALE dog (bitch)

  • Pyometra (nasty, potentially fatal infection of the womb)Mammary tumors, common in un-neutered femalesOvarian & uterine tumors – (spaying eliminates this)Unwanted pupsDecrease in possible UTI’sNo mess – no heat cycles and blood spotting

Disadvantages

  • Spaying can slightly reduce the metabolism in some bitches by about 10%. All this means is that you may reduce the amount of food she gets and keep an eye on her weight. 

Advantages of castrating a MALE dog

  • Stops roaming and injuries related to roaming and trying to get to femalesProstate problems – these are very common in older unneutered malesCalming – can make dogs relax in their surroundings and they don’t have to be constantly trying to get to females or fighting for mating rightsDecrease in UTI’sMay decrease aggression levels in some dogs

Disadvantages

  • Working or security / guard dogs can lose a slight bit of their ‘drive’. This is a possibility and not a guarantee. Talk to us if you are unsure whether to go ahead.

 

Procedure for your neuter;

An appointment is necessary to book in your pet for neutering and you can do this by calling us on 045 521 507 and we will suggest a time and date that suits you. Alternatively you may call into the clinic and arrange a date with one of our nurses. For the dog that is!A time and date will be arranged such as Tuesday morning if you could bring your pet in from 9am to 9.30. We will then ask you to sign a consent form for the procedure and therefore the anaesthetic. We will take your pet in and give it a nice comfy bed. We weigh the dog and make sure its heart is healthy and give it a full general anaesthetic so it doesn’t feel any of the procedure. In a bitch spay we remove the womb and the ovaries in what’s technically referred to as an ovariohysterectomy. In a male dog the testicles are taken away. These are fully surgically removed and the dog is closed up.Our team gives your pet its full requirement in terms of pain medication during the procedure so the dog wakes up comfortable. Our excellent nurses then clean and dress the wound and the dog is moved to our intensive care unit to wake up gently in a heated, peaceful, dark environment.The dog will be fitted with a buster collar (lampshade) over its head, and this needs to stay on until the dog has returned for its stitches to come out in 10-14 days. This is all included in the price of the surgery. This is important it remains on the dog as when the wound heals it becomes itchy, and even a good docile dog can go at its stitches as it is their natural reaction. This can cause contamination of the wound and worse, it can re-open as the animal can tear out the stitches. It is not a good idea to let any pet lick it’s spay wound.Once we are happy the dog is fully awake we will call you to let you know everything went well and give you a collection time when we are happy for you to pick up your pet. We will then go through any questions you may have and go through aftercare instructions.It is a very routine procedure and not one to be put off! All too often we get womb infections and tumors that can be fatal because the owner was ‘waiting for the right time to neuter’. Regardless of health benefits there are just not enough good homes to go around and thousands of animals are put down each year in pounds and dog homes. So do the responsible thing and neuter your pet.

Common Myths

It is untrue that letting your bitch have a first ‘heat’ is good for her. In fact this opens the possibility of a womb infection (pyometra). The same is said for letting her have a first litter of pups. Neither is necessary.It does vary with individual dogs but it can have a calming effect on some as they do not have to deal with the hormones relating to the heat cycle and for males vying for dominance and mating rights with females not to mention trying to get at a fertile bitch.As mentioned above, weight can be watched after the procedure. Having said this, if they are getting the correct amount of food and exercise, this shouldn’t be a problem! Come and speak to one of our nurses if you have any questions and we will be happy to inform you everything you need to know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Exotic Care #3 – Looking after a hamster, rat, guinea pig or gerbil

Is it the pet for me?

Guinea Pigs are an ideal first pet. They live up to 8 years and they are more social than other small furries, rarely scratch or bite. They are curious little creatures and love to be petted once tame.
Gerbils are quite active and love plenty of activities – this is a great chance for some DIY adventure courses made out of cardboard for creative pet owners. Active during day and night be aware of this when choosing where to put the cage. Their lifespan is a little shorter 3-6 years and as they naturally live on desert they eliminate a lot less. These are very curious and inquisitive creatures and good for older children.
Hamsters all an ideal all rounder for the older family. They need a little less room than the others. These are nocturnal animals which means they sleep during the day, and because of such are better suited to older children or teenagers as they will not always be active when small children want to play. Playing with them while they are sleepy may make them cranky, which is understandable! Their lifespan is between 2-3 yrs.
Rats are very intelligent and friendly and need a lot of attention. They are also sensitive and to be respected and therefore suitable for older teenagers and adults. They are one of the more active rodents and a couple of hours a day needs to be set aside to play and stimulate these pets.

Housing

All of these little rodents are very active at different times. Dawn and dusk is a guinea pigs activity time. Their activity level means that the bigger the cage the better for any of these creatures. Straw pellets or smooth wood shavings are ideal for bedding and a little cotton wool or similar material can be added so that the animal can nest, stay warm and hide itself when it wants some privacy. Cat litter is inappropriate. A insulated nest box is needed with a couple of exits and if they are housed outdoors this should be slightly raised off the ground.
These are all little prey animals so it is important they feel safe where they live and have plenty of nests and hidey holes. The cagr or hutvh should be situated in a well venitiated but dreught free area. You must choose if the pets are to be indoor or outdoor and if the latter more insulated hutch should be provided. Outdoor living should also A heavy food bowl is ideal and obviously fresh water should be available at all times from a upside down drip bottle. The cage should have a couple of levels so the pets can run around and keep fit. Exercise wheels are a great way to keep them trim and stimulated. Children and adults alike can ahve great fun together making fun adventure courses for your pet out of loo rolls, empty cereal boxes and the like .

Handling 

Any new pet will be shy for the first few days. It is important to establish a bond of trust with it and you may do this by spending a good quantity of time talking to it let it get used to the soft calm sound of your voice. Leave it in the cage the first few days and let it settle into its new surroundings with its new sights, smells, voices and faces. It is then time to offer small tasty treats from your hand to get it used to you and make the whole experience a positive one. When they are used to your hand you may pet them lightly. After they are used to this you may pick them up but fully support them front and rear. One hand to support their rib cage and the other hand to support their backside. If they feel secure they will not be likely to be scared and bite.

Picking a healthy pet;

This can be applied to all small furries. Firstly the eyes, ears and nose should be fully open, dry and clean with no weepiness or crusty lesions. Its teeth should not be excessively long and it should have a good appetite and have no trouble eating or chewing. The skin and fur should be soft and shiny with no bald patches or parasites or excessive scratching. There should be no odd lumps or bumps felt. The paws and nails should be soft and clean and the nails a normal length (not curling beyond the foot pad). The bum should be clean and free from any signs of diarrhoea. The animal should be alert and interested in its surroundings and sound on all fours.
Company
Guinea Pigs: These are very social creatures and you should always have two to keep each other company. This helps re-create their natural environment and promotes their well-being. A lone guinea pif could develop abnormal behavhious form lonliness. Owners must be aware that childrens excitemtn over a new pet can abate and it can be left on its own, an unfair environemtn for these social little creatures. It is always easier to house animals together that have grown up from a young age. Fighting can break out between males if there are kept with females around. If there are no close females male guinea pigs tend to get on fairly well as theres no on to fight over! The problem can also be eliminated if males are castrated before reaching sexual maturity (4-5 m old). As they behave differnently i would reccommend keeping rabbits and guinea pigs seperate.
Behaviour
If the pigs are leapfrogging and squealing it can indicate something is unwell, and you should take it to a vet asap.

 Feeding;

Guinea pig – these creatures are herbivores which means they are vegetarians. Help replicate a natural diet by providing fresh hay as the main staple. A tablespoon per pig is enough of pet shop pellets as they are quite rich. Supplement these foods by little treats of dandelions, lettuce, carrots, herbs, turnips, and small amounts of apples, pears, spinach, celery, tomatoes, gherkins, and green cereal are all suitable. The wrong foods can be unsuitable and cause fatal stomach problems. Do not introduce any sudden changes in diet for similar reasons. Such unsuitable foods would include starchy, sugary foods like silage, too much cabbage/spinach, or too much dark green leafy veg. If introducing fresh grass do it very slowly  and do it gradually in the Spring time.
Drinking water from an upside down water bottle should always be fresh and available.  A guinea pigs teeth will continuously grow and fruit tree branches or gnawing blocks should be provided to wear these down. It is normal for guinea pigs like rabbits to eat their droppings. This is a normal behaviour for this species unlike cats and dogs. They have a high vitamin C requirement and so it can be added to the drinking water and little treats of carrots and some citrus fruits including kiwis.

Friday, September 26, 2014

EXOTICS #2 bird care

These are great pets and are ideal for children over ten years old. They are trusting and lively creatures and can become very tame and can live up to 25years! They live in large groups and are social birds, so I recommend at least two together for their well-being. A lone bird that is meant to be social can acquire behaviour problems if made to live on its own. A mirror or plastic bird is not a suitable replacement for a live partner and can also stimulate unnatural behaviours.
Parrots, Macaws, African Grey’s and other bigger birds are a lot more demanding attention-wise and to house. These birds are attention seekers and extremely social and should not be bought or considered if there is not a lot of time to be spent with these pets. Saying this they have huge personalities and can make lifelong pets.

Housing;

The bigger the aviary the better as birds love their space and like to spread their wings without hitting off the bars of the cage. Birds are used to so much wide space naturally you should get as large a cage as you can accommodate – there is no “too large”. Trying to re-create their natural environment will keep them happy and healthy and prevent behaviour issues from forming.
It is ideal to keep the cage in a peaceful area of natural light so the bird can wake and sleep as naturally as possible. Don’t have them in a location that has false light 24/7. The area should be well ventilated with fresh air but draught free. If beside a window it must have shelter from direct sunlight and birds do not have a great tolerance to changes in temperature so a stable environment should be maintained. It must be protected from unhealthy fumes such as cigarette smoke, cooking fumes and any nauseating gases.
These birds are all quite active and need stimulation to keep them occupied or they can begin to self-mutilate; this is over grooming and can be caused by boredom and lack of stimulation. The bird will also need to fly around freely for several hours a day – it is cruel to keep them ignored or locked up without free flight. This will keep your pet happy and stimulate its natural behaviours. This should be done in a sheltered room or garden which is made safe – close all windows or doors and hide any cables or poisonous plants.
These are great pets and are ideal for children over ten years old. They are trusting and lively creatures and can become very tame and can live up to 25years! They live in large groups and are social birds, so I recommend at least two together for their well-being. A lone bird that is meant to be social can acquire behaviour problems if made to live on its own. A mirror or plastic bird is not a suitable replacement for a live partner and can also stimulate unnatural behaviours.
Parrots, Macaws, African Grey’s and other bigger birds are a lot more demanding attention-wise and to house. These birds are attention seekers and extremely social and should not be bought or considered if there is not a lot of time to be spent with these pets. Saying this they have huge personalities and can make lifelong pets.


Chew Toys;

Birds have a natural tendency to want to chew, as this action keeps their beaks in great condition and relieves stress and anxiety. Without a toy to chew, birds can resort to feather-plucking and other unhealthy behaviours. To keep your bird healthy and entertained, provide chew-toys, like cuttlebone and chew sticks
Plenty of perches should be provided – natural wood is fine as it prevents calluses. These birds are very inquisitive and need a lot of play things – such as ladders, ropes balls chew toys etc.
Birds do like to bathe several times a week. A suitable container to do this is essential and should be changed regularly. Some birds also enjoy spraying themselves with warm water.
Naturally the cage should be kept as clean as possible and droppings removed daily. Most problems with these creatures stem from poor husbandry and poor hygiene. It should be disinfected regularly with a suitable product and rinsed well afterward. Birds can be allergic to strong chemicals so a good rinsing is important.

Handling;

Trust is very important for any new pet and especially so your new pet bird. They are timid creatures and so patience shall be required. At the start keep your new pet in its house (up to 3 weeks) until they can settle quietly into their new home and get used to the surroundings, smells, sights and faces. During this period you may spend some time each day talking to them and feeding tasty little treats from your hand.
After establishing a bond you may let the bird out for free flight providing you have made it safe to do so. Draw the curtains the first few times so it can recognize where the window panes are. Do it when the bird is hungry and will return to the cage or your hand for its favourite tasty treat. If the bird is willing it may perch on your hand. Don’t startle it and make sudden movements , be calm and gentle.

Food;

Your bird will need a healthy and well balanced diet. There are different feeding requirements for each bird so pay particular attention to your species needs. Most will enjoy an approprieate feed mix from the petshop and to ensure a varied natural diet you may supplement it with fresh fruits, veg and maybe certain nuts. This will also keep the pet entertained and interested. Dandelions and lettuce are usually safe choice and fresh fruits. Birds can also require a grit which helps them digest foor- enquire which suits your bird best. Mineral mixtures and limestone can be obtained from your local vet or petshop.

How do I pick a healthy bird?

The bird should look healthy at first sight. It should have a clean shiny coat with no bare patches or lumps or bumps. No parasites should be visible and no weepy crusty lesions around eyes, ears, beak or bum. The beak should not be too long. It should be bright lively and interested in its surroundings, with a good appetite.  Be aware that most species of bird will moult a couple of times a year and that this is completely natural. A bird may find it difficult to fly at this time and can be helped by lots of peace and quiet, multi-vitamins and high quality protein food depending on your bird. Best of luck!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exotics #1 - Rabbit Care

Owning a pet rabbit.


Q. Is it a suitable pet?


Rabbits are good first pets. Recommended for children over 7, with adult supervision until the owner can care properly for their pet. They can scratch, bite or kick so due care is necessary. Decide if you want a short haired or long haired variety, taking into account if they will be indoor or outdoor pets. There are plenty of breeds to choose from. Bear in mind long haired will need a little extra grooming.

Q. How do i choose a healthy rabbit?


The rabbit should have a healthy soft coat with no fur patches missing; There should be no parasites anywhere on the skin. The eyes and ears should be clean and pink with no weeping and/or crusty lesions or bad smells. The rabbit should be able to chew normally. It should have a dry nose and the anus should be clean. The soles of its paws should be clean and soft and not stained with urine. The claws on the feet should be of average length and there should be no funny swellings. The rabbit should look lively and bright and take notice of its surroundings and have a healthy appetite.

Q. Where will they live?


Rabbits live in dens in the wild that they dig out themselves with plenty of hidey-holes to escape predators. They are very active and so naturally the biggest cage/hutch you can accommodate would be best. These animals are prey animals and so are given to flight - this means they should always have a couple of hiding spots that they feel safe in such as a closed nest box.

The floor of the hutch should be lined with such material as planed wood shavings or straw pellets. Sawdust may cause breathing problems and may be best avoided. Cat litter is also inappropriate. A heavy food bowl is ideal and fresh water should always be available ideally from a rodent upside down feeding bottle.

Choose weather they are to be indoor or outdoor. Indoor rabbits should be placed in a well ventilated (fresh air) area without droughts and out of direct sunlight. A relatively quiet area without too much excitement or loud noises. Outdoor rabbits will need shelter and adequate protection from the elements such as rain wind heat and cold. In winter the outdoor hutch and nest box should be insulated so they can stay warm. 

Rabbits love nibbling on grass and it is a good idea to let them do so or run around the house to prevent them getting stressed, fat or unwell. First you must ''rabbit-proof'' the house to prevent them chewing on cables or other dangers eg. poisonous plants. If  they are allowed on the grass you must check they cannot dig out of the garden! The outside hutch must also be protected from foxes and predators. Children can have great fun making adventurous runs for their pet out of loo rolls and other empty boxes etc.

The cage must be cleaned daily to prevent faeces and odours building up, which may also damage their lungs if not cleaned regularly. Smells and dirt will attract flies which can lay eggs and cause health problems. A triangular rabbit toilet can make this easier to clean. The hutch should be disinfected regularly to kill any bacteria and should be rinsed well afterward.

Q. What should you feed them?


Rabbits are naturally herbivores meaning they eat plant material and no meat. Fresh hay and herbs can form the most part of the diet. Pet food rabbit pellets are good but quite rich and one tablespoon per day is enough. Fresh water should always be available and changed daily. This main diet can be supplemented with foods such as lettuce, carrots, dandelions, and even some fruits such as apples.

Cabbage leaves should be avoided and starchy sugary foods also. Sudden changes in diet can lead to constipation and problems in the gut. When bringing your new rabbit home changes in his diet should be done very gradually (over 3 weeks) to avoid gut problems and it is a good idea to feed him what he is used to for a few days until gradually changing his diet to your own. If he is to nibble on fresh grass it is to be introduced very slowly.

Branches (willow, hazel and fruit trees), or special rabbit chew toys can be given so the rabbit can gnaw and wear down his teeth which grow continuously. Rabbits are one species which eat their own droppings and do not be alarmed. It is a normal trait for this animal.

Handling and restraint 


Always approach the animal from the front /side where they can see you. Talk to it and for a few days after purchasing your rabbit let it get to know your face and voice. Don't overload the rabbit at once and earn its trust by offering it a treat or two from your hand. This will just need patience and calmness so the rabbit knows you are not a threat. Every animal is different and it could take days to weeks for the animal to progress to feeding from your hand, to gentle stroking, to eventually be comfortable to pick up and let run around. Some are more aggressive than others and less socialised to human contact. You will tell from watching your pet, and how comfortable he is with your touch and presence. Don't try and do it all at once. You want to see him coming over to your hand, taking the treat, not running away or acting in a scared manner.

To move or pick him up stretch out your hand that he can see your intention (don't pick from behind where you could startle him) and grab the fur at the top of his back, gently but firmly. The other hand should be used to support its hindquarters. If the rabbit is at ease his body should relax in your arms.

Veterinary needs 


Rabbits don't need huge veterinary attention apart from a vaccination against myxomatosis and a yearly booster, and the unavoidable neutering. 

Most problems stem from poor husbandry and so shouldn't be taken lightly. Rabbits should be neutered as they are prolific breeders and they live a lot longer if de-sexed. 85% of female rabbits develop uterine cancer by age 4/5 and it greatly reduces the males fighting between each other and causing injuries. The procedure will not change their personality but if anything they will be more sociable an better company. It eliminates spraying urine and neutered rabbits can be friends as they are not fighting over each other. The last reason is overpopulation and there are already so many rescue rabbits needing loving homes that breeding pets prevents homeless rabbits getting another chance. Males can be neutered at 5 months when their testicles descend and females can be done at 6 months old.

Company 


Rabbits are very social as naturally they live in large families and hence it is much better for them to live in groups rather than on their own. I would always recommend to have at least two to keep each other company, and it is easier to keep rabbits together that have known each other from a young age.

It is vital that you neuter them at 5 months to prevent fights and accidents. It can be difficult to integrate an old rabbit with young and so ideally start both at a young age so they get on. With other pets supervision is essential and a young age also helps. There have been incidences of strange friendships - these are usually animals that have grown up with each other. Be very careful if introducing your rabbit and keep dogs and cats on a leash and make sure the rabbit has an escape. It is also not recommended for rabbits and guinea pigs to be housed together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Common diseases of Dogs and Cats’ EARS.

Common diseases of Dogs and Cats’ EARS.

I would like to talk about ear care and some common misconceptions regarding treatments. 

The ear is a delicate organ and very important especially in our pet animals. A dog’s hearing is about 40 times greater than that of our own. The main function of the ear is hearing but it also plays a vital role in balance.

Recently we have had a lot of ear cases (some severe) needing treatment and in some circumstances the owner of the dog was wrongly treating an ear problem and had incorrect advice. Fingers crossed it is something superficial and easily treatable – but in more and more cases resistance occurs and so it is vital we treat correctly at the start.

Chronic ear infections are ones which come on slowly and stay for a long time.
The three most common products you can buy for otitis in a vet clinic after veterinary advice are;
 1. Surolan
 2. Canaural
 3. Otomax
 4. Ubavet

While these are great medicines, they do not cover every ear problem or infection. Talk to us if you are worried about your pet’s ears and we will point you in the right direction. One of the most common nasty bacteria is Clostridium. This is caused by dirty stagnant water and/or livestock. It is extremely resistant to all three medicines listed above and also worryingly to most anti-biotics. Another worrying bacteria called Pseudomonas is resistant to most antibiotics, is diagnosed only after tests and like clostridium will need antibiotic tablets as part of the cure. It is also usually resistant to the 4 ear drop medicines listed above.

A recent severe case of otitis Externa in an Irish Red Setter which we investigated by sample ear swabs proved to be a Clostridium perfringens infection and which we treated at our clinic. Our Swab results showed up Only two anti-biotics out of twelve having the desired killing effect on this nasty bug.

The crucial advice is to come in for a check-up and so we can do an ear swab. This means with lab results we can immediately start to treat it accordingly with the correct drugs and anti-biotics, and will save you time and money in the long run. An ear swab is a very simple procedure in which we take some ear cells on a cotton bud and send it to the laboratory for a culture test – to see what bacteria lies in the murky depths.

This is necessary as certain drugs kill certain bacteria. Hence there is no point giving drugs or anti-biotics if you are not attacking the appropriate strain of germs. This is worse than doing nothing, as effectively what you are doing is offering the bug higher levels of resistance and your poor dog’s immunity may suffer.

 Don’t assume any medicine from the chemist will be effective! We are seeing more people coming in with hastily bought products; For example Bingo our case study;

 Case Study: Bingo, 5yo female golden Labrador
(with a great appetite for getting into trouble.) She came in with a two extremely swollen ears and a barely visible ear canal. She had been treated with ear cleaner, canaural, surolan, and others. None of these had any improving effect on poor Bingo and her hearing and balance was also impaired not to mention very sore. We all know how excruciating a bad ear infection is. If we had of seen Bingo at the beginning she could have saved two whole years of trying inappropriate treatments. In some severe cases and in hers, surgery may be unavoidable. She had to undergo ‘Zepp’s procedure’ which is partial ear canal resection as a result of chronic scarring to the ear tissue due to two years’ worth of painful infections. Don’t let this be you!

Common ailments of the ear; 
1. Ear mites
2. Infections
3. Otitis
4. Swollen ear/s

 1-Ear mites can be treated with canaural or surolan. Stronghold spot on will also kill this nasty mite. Clean the ear first with damp (not soaked) cotton wool. Remove excess dirt then apply a few drops of liquid and then squish the dog’s ear around before letting the dog shake. They are indicated by dark brown crumbly material in the ear and head shaking and scratching. Careful the dog doesn't scratch at the ear or he may create a wound and introduce infection.
 2-Infections will need to be seen by the vet to diagnose which the best drugs to treat are and if an ear swab culture is necessary. These can be smelly and dirty looking. The dog might also shake its head. Your pet may tilt its head.
 3- Otitis / inflammation – inner ear will look red, inflamed and hot, and may have infection also. This may lead to swelling.
 4- Swollen ear is a common ailment that may be caused by ear mites, which leads to the dog shaking its head which eventually becomes swollen. This may need an aural haematoma, a procedure in which the fluid in the ear is drained. Careful the dog doesn’t scratch at the ear or he may create a wound and introduce infection.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Moving to wordpress!

This blog is transferring to wordpress and from now on can be accessed directly on the homepage of www.kildarevet.ie

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fight Club- Nearer than you know.

The term pitbull is usually used to refer to a type of dog rather than a specific breed. A Pitbull terrier generally describes any crossbreed of the American PitBull, English Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier which has been bred or trained for the purpose of fighting another dog in a ring. These dogs are not naturally any more or less aggressive towards Humans than other dogs and it is acknowledged that these breeds arent dangerous when raised properly.

Pitbulls are valued by performance, like racehorses and greyhounds. Top fight winners can be valued as stud dogs at up to $20000 in the US where pit bull fighting is a growing underworld activity. Pups from fighting bloodlines of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier change hands in Ireland for more than double the price of a non-fighting Staffordshire pup. At 12 to 15 months prospects will be trialled and potential game dogs selected and trained. A rejected dog deemed unsuitable for fighting may find its way to an animal shelter and be adopted as a pet from there. Or they may be used to bait other dogs.

Staffordshire bull terriers and other pitbulls can make excellent companion dogs as they are loyal and intelligent.But their perceived menace is often a source of conflict between neighbours in built-up areas. Owners of other breeds of pet dogs in housing estates often speak of feeling intimidated by the presence of pitbulls in the area. Behind the perceived menace there is also an unknown menace if a pitbull terrier has been bred from fight winners' bloodlines or "rescued" from a dog fight trainer.

Companion animals learn boundaries and their role and place amongst people by process of socialisation as pups. Just as greyhounds and police dogs are not raised as pets, rescued fight dogs can not be relied on to have the same conditioning as dogs which have been treated as pets since birth. In the US escaped fighting dogs have killed children. Many are simply too aggressive and damaged to be rehabilitated as pets and must be euthanased.

This week in a midlands town near one of my clinics Gardai were called to a house after neighbours reported a man for keeping large numbers of dogs in confinement. Gardai found a number of pitbulls in cages along with equipment for training these dogs such as chains, treadmills and weighing scales. They found anabolic steroids which were being given to the dogs for muscle development. There were also a number of dead dogs of assorted breeds which were believed to be stolen pets used to bait the fighting dogs during their training. A freezer contained body parts of various dogs. These were believed to be pets which were stolen to feed the fighting dogs.

My wife asked me not to write a piece on dog fighting. I will limit the tags on this blog entry so that it is not picked up by anyone other than the usual few who read here. Her fears are not misplaced because the details in that house are the outward trappings of a darker capability. Those who become exercised by the animal welfare and cruelty issues of dog fighting are missing the real point. One of my recent posts on this weblog ( Tokyo Kittens and Urban Cowboys) cited research about varied types of behaviour which are considered "signposts" of sociopathic and psychopathic disorders. Animal cruelty is considered a "gateway" behaviour. We are familiar with the idea of a gateway drug. Theoretically some habits lead to more harmful ones. Psychologists believe exposure to and practice of animal abuse causes erosion of empathy. Violence towards humans is the next step forward, just across a fragile moral barrier.

There isnt a lot of Irish research on this issue. We have an ambivalent attitude to animal abuse. We prioritise more immediate interventions. We have an inadequate and reactive approach to dealing with institutional child abuse and providing support to the vulnerable. Proactive interventions to target animal neglect and abuse arent even on the social agenda. But maybe they should be. The Humane Society of the US has convincing evidence linking dog fighting and pet abuse with child and spousal abuse. Since July 2008 when a famous American footballer was convicted of organising a dog fight club, many states have amended the RICO statutes to give prosecuters a greater range of charges with which to target dog fight organisers. The famous Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisation act recognizes that where you find dog fights there will be other violence, drugs, money laundering and illegal gambling.

Dispersal of a single fight kennels this week in the midlands scratches at the surface of these issues. Like a brief glimpse under a heavy rock, lifted then dropped. Unprecedented numbers of family pets have gone missing in recent months. Owners of missing small dogs can presume the worst. We must also presume there are other fight kennels in the region.The Law in Ireland lists dangerous breeds- American PitBull, Bull Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, English Bull Terrier,German Shepherd, Japanese Akita, Japanese Tosa, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweilar and crossbreeds of same. These dogs must be muzzled and kept on a lead in public and cannot be owned by anyone under 16. We also have dog licence laws which apply to all dogs. Our dog laws could be an effective instrument for Gardai to target and link criminal patterns of behaviour as the US RICO statute now does. But dog laws that arent implimented are pointless and a list of breeds without a register of either the breeder or the dog itself is an unenforceable list.

A Proactive approach to animal welfare would recognize that greater policing of animal welfare will benefit society, deter abusers, impact favourably on other violent crime rates. First and foremost we need stiffer penalties and more forceful interventions which recognize the "gateway" behaviour phenomenon. A proactive approach would also acknowledge that dispassionate coordination between Vets, Gardai, Dog pounds and animal welfare groups is needed. There needs to be firm criteria to decide which dogs to rehome and which to euthanase.I believe if a dog on the dangerous breed list is brought to a pound, it should be euthanased. Otherwise what's to stop anyone selling an impounded pitbull back to a dog fighting enthusiast?

A few days ago a sullen character of about 25 turned up at another of our clinics with a hungry British Bulldog suffering from Dermatitis which he had been given from the pound. The ISPCA paid its Vet's bill and had given him this dog even though he was unemployed and had a Staffordshire already to look after.I pointed out that this dog, having Dermatitis, would be high maintenance and require regular Veterinary attention. I had a concern about the new owners limited ability to pay for the upkeep of two big dogs and the ramifications of bringing a second dominant alpha type into a house with a Staffordshire. The ISPCA local volunteer whom I then spoke with, was motivated by the usual compassion but used no rationale for rehoming this dog other than to avoid its euthanasia. From a broader social perspective euthanasia of THAT dog would be my choice.

We need a new approach to animal welfare which recognizes how animals integrate with and impact on humans. Veterinary scientists now approach farm animal health, welfare and hygiene from the standpoint of food security, food hygiene, human health and safety. Beyond the isolated political footballs of stag hunting and dog breeder levies we need proactive and comprehensive companion animal legislation for all society's benefit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dog Breeding bill falls victim to Reality Politics!

The term REALPOlITIK is one I remember from history class in school.It conjures up images of shady negotiations across the iron curtain where ethics and ideology came second to preservation of uneasy alliances. REALPOLITIK is the difference between what we would like to do and what we need to do. The German term defines a form of politics based on practical and material things. That's not to say it is a bad form of politics. Idealism doesn't buy the dinner,address the national deficit,or placate the trade unions.

Our coalition government is preserving an uneasy alliance. The Greens have a left-centric secularist,post-modern and pro-environmental view of the world,Bless them. Fianna Fail's nationalist core is tempered by three generations of power broking, global hustling and prioritising commercial growth over moral absolutes. Dog Breeding Legislation is well down the list of priorities for a party which used to draw votes from affording special status to Ireland's racing, coursing, hunting tradition. Fianna Fail will reposition our country in a global marketplace as a pro-enterprise economy. In return the Greens will impliment civil partnership reform, animal welfare reform, carbon offset credits, water upgrades and support fiscal austerity measures which international bondholders want.And Social advancement will ultimately emerge from difficult compromise.

The full text of the 2010 Dog Breeding Legislation is well crafted political reality, combining as it does measures to raise significant revenue from the dog industry and measures to satisfy the ideals of dog welfare and population control. Department of Finance needs revenue. The black economy in Ireland in 2009 was estimated at six billion euro. Insiders like me know that the dog trade exists in this black hole of untaxed cashflow. Now in our hour of discontent, it's time to tax some of this black hole while simultaneously reforming one of Ireland's animal welfare problems, namely the hitherto unregulated puppy farm problem

The Croke Park agreement is a good example of REALPOLITIK in that it at least keeps the country functioning and our civil servants off the streets. Brian Lenihan's last budget was a brilliant example of REALPOLITIK. His first budget most definitely was not. Being politically tactless and badly prespun it elicited protests until its most austere penuries were reversed. But the most recent budget which was full of fiscal austerity and brought reduced prosperity to one and all was grudgingly accepted with barely a whimper of protest. And such is our understanding that the country needs reality politics that we have already resigned ourselves to the next budget of expenditure cuts.The Santa Claus politics of "fantasy benchmarking" and "who wants to be a millionaire social partner" are over.

The British always applied the logic of REALPOLITIK to their colonial rulings. Better to swiftly slaughter a few hundred unruly gurkhas and indulge the Maharajah's fetish for victorian china than destabilise an entire area strategic for tea, rubber or slaves.The history of Ireland's famine is a legacy to REALPOLITIK. As Ireland's wheat and beef left to feed the empire, Westminster's awkward quandary about what to do with a starving peasantry was solved by their cheap and easy exit on fetid ships.

As a small ungovernable colony, the Irish learned politics from a Machiavellian empire which once ruled half the globe. Surprising then, that Britain's new Con-Dem government has launched straight into the minefield of electoral reform, headlong into disagreement over how and what way a lukewarm electorate should vote next time. Shrewd politics would be to focus all energy on the depressed economy and all reformist enmity on Labour's wasteful expenditure. At least for the first full year. Instead Nick Clegg's overreach towards the holy grail of proportional representative voting will end in tears as Prime Minister Cameron hasnt even the tact to support his coalition partner in public. Survival instincts in Irish politics are stronger. Cameron could learn a litle reality politics from Cowen and Lenihan's handling of our banks, trade unions, the ECB and our US investors over the last 18 months.

The Irish do REALPOLITIK very well. We have a history of coalition governments held together by tenuous promise and bartered favour. The ultimate exponent of REALPOLITIK was the most cunning of them all whose singular defining triumph was to deliver the Good Friday agreement. The boy republican from Drumcondra who gave the Reverend Paisley a gift of a Jacobite Musket on the battlefield of the Boyne, finally stalled sectarian conflict in Ireland by doing what politicians often need to do as a means to an end. Real political success is the acheivement of impossible compromise. Ahern, the son of a Cork IRA man acheived that one great thing on Good Friday 10th April 1998 by painstaking brokering and building relationships to dilute ideology. Fianna Fail have always done REALPOLITIK very well; progress by process and by compromise.

But the Dog Breeding Legislation? Now watered down by default so that opprtunities of revenue gathering, regulation and welfare improvement are lost for now. Fianna Fail are hardly dealing with the UVF this time.Romantic Ireland is dead and gone surely. But REALPOLITIK is with Ahern back in St Lukes, Drumcondra. Have there been Paramilitary Continuity Dog coursers and Beagle baiters darkly threatening backbenchers lest the 400 euro six bitch levy pass into law? Will we have to summon John De Chastelain to Ireland's potholed rural seats of greyhound power to clamber into battered transits and up to Paddyjoes to check who has seven bitches and who has only five OR who bought their own microchips CHAPE off the vanman at the dogtrack last night? The party that wore down the provos have given in to the dogmen!

During todays debate in the Seanad I heard one remark amidst the confusion over breeding bitches and civil partners "Anyone would think Tipperary was full of homophobic, guntoting, deer hunters". Its not, of course. The country has changed. The appetite for regulation of hunting, for conservation debates, for animal welfare advancements has fanned out across the eastern seaboard into the midlands of Ireland with the migrations of the last ten years. Bord na GCon or should that be Bord Na Con have pulled a two fold conjob. They have convinced the government by vocal lobby that their view is still a majority view in rural Ireland and they have successfully pleaded the poor mouth to avoid paying taxes which the rest of us may well now have to pay. An opportunity lost. government TDs? You've been Bord Na Conned!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Dog Breeding Establishment Bill 2010

I read today that RISE which are the group representing the Ward Union Hunt spent 100k on their PR campaign before the wildlife amendment bill. In my view they got poor value for money. Not once in the months of publicity did we hear figures on exactly how many jobs depend on the Ward Union or just how much in tourist revenue does the Ward Union generate each year?I expect the outlawing of the live chase will not greatly inconvenience the ward union in reality as the hunt will continue in drag form which the vast majority of riders to hounds will equally enjoy. I believe that in a few years time we will marvel that it was ever legal to chase a 400 kg farm animal across suburbia with horses and dogs.

The shadowboxing of back bench TDs purporting to represent " Rural Ireland" will gather pace over the next few days as the government seek to pass a piece of legislation known as the puppy farming bill.

This bill will enforce an annual fee of 400 euro on breeders owning six or more bitches of breeding age.Local Authority Vets will be regulated to inspect licensed dog breeding premises annually or as warranted. Bitches will be restricted to three litters every two years. All pups will be microchipped by law. As I write there are indications that greyhound premises may acheive an exemption. This would be bad news as Vets and others in the animal industry know that the greyhound sector has a significant over production problem. The effect of traceability, regulation and a registration cost would be a reduction of puppy numbers at the cheaper end of the market which is where overcrowding and animal welfare issues are most likely to arise.

It is convenient for FF rural TDs to characterise animal welfare bills as part of a Green agenda or Green conspiracy. In fact this Dog Breeding Bill was put together in 2006 by Dick Roche in the previous Fianna Fail government working with the ISPCA, Veterinary Ireland and the Dept of Agriculture. My own profession want puppy farms reduced in number and size and subject to inspection. The desired end product will then be a healthy, well socialised pet with fewer genetic defects. A reduction of puppy numbers will be an important side effect of regulation in a country where over 10000 unwanted dogs are euthanased in council pounds each year.

Mattie McGrath reckons the Greens want to ban "the pussy cat from catching the mouse". Mattie is the one playing Cat and Mouse as a game of party politics. The real underlying issues are discontent with An Taoiseach's appalling retreat over the last couple of years into morose pedestrian communications, the government press office's bull in china shop relations with journalists and Fianna Fail members' real hunger for clear out and clamour for reform of party culture. Foremost though in Mattie's intentions will be the tight rope between clientalist management of his Tipperary voters and not burning his bridges completely within his party machine.

The loudest opponents of the dog breeding bill are hunt kennels and the greyhound fraternity. Hunt kennels are loss-making and rely on membership subscriptions. Traditionally kennels provided farmers with an essential service of fallen stock disposal. This source of revenue has now declined prompting hunts to seek exemption from the costs which are central to this bill. But microchipping can be done as cheaply as tattoeing. If this bill allows exemptions then we may as well admit loopholes.

Greyhound racing is seen as the poor relation of horse racing. As such it is heavily subsidised by government and no doubt this group will plead the poor mouth in the houses of the Oireachtas this week. However any insider will tell you the breeding and sale of greyhounds remains a thriving cash based trade. Declared revenues within this industry are only the tip of the iceberg where pups travel between UK and Ireland on pound note transactions. Bord Na gcon have their PR people but it is notable that there is an absence of greyhound trainers or breeders sticking their heads up to plead penury. This sector may acheive its exemption but is in fact best able to pay the modest levies proposed.

The greyhound racing industry would benefit most from Local Authority regulation for a number of reasons. DSPCA survey showed that of over 10000 dogs destroyed in council pounds in 2009, 10% were greyhounds. There are too few outlets for unwanted greyhounds which have retired or are simply too slow. The best remedy to oversupply is to discourage breeding from poorer quality bitches by imposing a cost and an inconvenience.

I and my colleagues hope this bill is passed in its entirety. Our current laissez faire animal legislation is anachronistic. In common with the now outlawed spectacle of riders on horseback following dogs in pursuit of farmed deer across suburbia I believe we will marvel in a few years time that anyone who saw fit was allowed to breed and sell dogs without regulation or licence.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tokyo Kittens and Urban Cowboys.

The words and phrases we use tell a lot about how we think about our pets. I meet owners whose fluffy bundle of joy has come from a "rehoming centre". Pets in these centres get a second chance because animal welfare advocates, in theory match animal to owner. A "rehomed" dog is implicitly part of the family."Adoption centres" are widespread. "Adoption" has a legal-sounding tone with connotations of responsibility and provision of care. "Dog Pounds" have austere echoes in our minds. They are the last chance saloon,akin to prison's death row for strays in which searching owners are in a race against time.Ten days is the usual grace period given in Ireland's crowded pounds before a dog is euthanased unless claimed.

What is significant about the words rehoming and adoption is their link to children. They have a borrowed use in animal welfare where it is understood that animals,like children inhabit our world and are our dependents. But the commonest term used in animal welfare,"rescue" is the most emotive of these words. Whether a "rescue dog" or a "rescue centre",there are negative connotations about the animal's previous relations with humans. Rescue dogs which are saved into new homes from neglect, abuse or euthanasia,are a growing phenomenon because animal abuse and neglect remains part of society.

In some countries vets encountering non-accidental injury such as obvious cruelty or neglect to an animal are legally obliged to report this.The reason why was illustrated this week by a story in the New York Times linking animal abuse to same household abuse of family members. Youngsters with "aggressive conduct disorder"(sic), according to research the NYT cited, become desensitised to cruelty and suffering by practice of animal abuse. Researchers looked at MRI scans of groups shown images of pain and suffering. Troubled youngsters within the study exhibited heightened activity in the brain's "reward centre" while viewing cruelty and abuse. The report concluded that some people have impaired systems of empathy and crucially that part of the brain involved in self-regulation switches off as empathy is eroded.

This report is not the first of its kind.Many serial killers began in their childhood with animal cruelty. Animal abuse is now in fact proven to be gateway behaviour which on a continuum of sociopathic relations with sentient beings is a stage towards cruelty to humans. There are also hopeful studies that have shown how empathy can be rekindled by caring for animals. Learning to relate to sentient beings such as horses can improve damaging behaviours towards humans. Equine therapy programs where teenagers muck out, groom horses and learn to ride are now common in urban areas all over the world including Ireland and form part of accepted interventions for troubled teens.

Why then are punishments and sentences for animal abuse and neglect not more severe? Animal life is valued so much less than human in our value system and perhaps rightly so. But proof of a behaviour gateway to murder, rape, domestic violence and child abuse strengthens the argument for severe addressing at source of sociopaths and violent criminals. This approach is an auhoritarian view of crime and punishment. But consider the problem from the liberal perspective. If you believe that most abusers can be rehabilitated, deserve a second chance and that early interventions can and do work, the question becomes this.Why are equine therapy programs,empathy building programs involving animal companionship, NOT a widespread and integral part of our legal justice system? The reason why not is because that debate is ongoing and unresolved. Prison rehabilitates some, if not others. Intervention programs help some also, if not others. And the most draconian penalties, even the ultimate capital penalty fail to provide an ultimate deterrent to some perpetrators of heinous violent crime.

I believe piecemeal interventions and a prison service which attempts rehabilitation in an authoritarian environment are only reactive answers to violent crime. We know animal contact helps us learn moral behaviour and build empathic relationships therefore schools should provide pet interactions or even contain small pet zoos. Young offenders institutions could teach dog grooming and animal training. Prisons could incorporate responsible pet care as therapy for recovering addicts and for those most socially disconnected. Meanwhile new large stable yards as equine therapy centres in the worst urban areas of the country should be properly funded. The urban cowboys of West Dublin, Ballymun, Limerick city have a culture already of horse ownership which it would be easy to officially endorse and build on. The earlier the young bareback riders of deprived urban areas can be helped swap kalashnikov for saddle and whip the more likely that cycles of feuds and poverty can be broken.

The case for rehabilitation by animal therapy is more than a liberal do-gooder delusion.There is a need in people which animal companionship can satisfy.Peata is an Irish organisation which brings pets on visits to nursing homes, hospitals and hospices where patients are shown to benefit medically from regular contact with dogs. Peata can be reached through the DSPCA.

Overcrowded urban living paradoxically enforces isolation. The need for animal companionship can be as powerful as the need for contact with other humans. In the city of Tokyo where cramped apartment dwelling is the norm, pet ownership is problematic. To fill the void Kitten Cafes have sprung up which are "staffed" by cats and kittens ready to play with customers who pay by the hour. Kitten Cafes can also provide customers with a "doggie date" as they can rent you a dog for an hourly-rated walk or play date.This type of pet ownership by proxy is a Japanese solution to an urban Japanese problem.What void would a "doggie date" fill in a Tokyo commuter's life? Perhaps the gunslingers of Moyross and Southill experience the same void and could be helped by equine or pet therapy interventions.Make love not war or trade ponies not bullets?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Urban foxes and Urban legends.

The story of twin girls in a UK suburb who were savaged in daylight by a fox while asleep in their cots in an upstairs bedroom, filled a large slot in the news cycle this week. Urban foxes are part of the landscape and fauna of Britain nowadays. Recent wildlife census estimates a population density of 30 foxes per square mile in urban Britain. This is significantly higher than some population densities in the wild. In cities we now hear of humans and foxes interacting in closer and closer ways. Our relationship with this native wild species is thus changing.

Foxes are large predators who live on worms,beetles, mice,voles,birds and by scavenging.They are known to avoid human contact and are normally nocturnal in their habits. In the urban landscape foxes have no natural predator,if human hunters and pest control are taken out of the equation. Their habitat has dramatically altered in 100 years or so of urban sprawl.The British whose landscape once was parkland, forest and farmland are now essentially an urban people. How rapidly has the fox evolved to adapt to this change?

Perhaps our expectations about fox behaviour need to change to take into account its evolved lifestyle, instincts and even diet in an urban landscape. Householders in the UK now put food out for foxes at the end of their gardens and are forced to weigh down wheelie bin lids. Disposable nappies,filled with human excrement are a favoured target. Foxes are now known to enter kennels to eat dogfood, kitchens to eat catfood. Fast food outlets which throw out vast quantities of food are favourite gathering places for urban foxes.If they no longer fear humans as predators then it may not be long before the fox sees us as prey.

In common with foxes, urban living has separated humans from our predators. On first hearing of this fox attack on human babies I doubted it's veracity. The likelihood is that a young fox was attracted by the smell of freshly soiled nappy into the sleeping babies' cot. The injuries probably occurred as the startled fox struggled to leave the cot after the babies woke. But to have entered through patio doors, crept upstairs into a bedroom and then to climb into a cot, undeterred by human scents? This scenario implies an individual fox lacking the inhibition expected of its species. Is it hysterical to fear this mix of new brazenness and native cunning?

Foxes do not have a genetic history of centuries of coexistence on the edge of domesticity with humans as feral cats do.Domestic felines revert to feral with ease when survival instincts dictate.Dogs of course are wholly domesticated.Our pampered pooches, even the macho ones, bear little resemblance to the wild pack animal which was their ancestor. Yet even pet dogs can sometimes attack and even kill humans. Attacks which occur often when humans neglect to train their dog and assert the proper pecking order.

These isles which were thronged with wolves, bears and even large cats are now home to just one species of feral canine-the fox. Other indigenous wild species died out over thousands of years of whittling numbers and changing environment. Yet the fox has thrived through seismic habitat changes wrought in a mere 200 years since the onset of the industrial revolution.To survive these changes the laws of natural selection infer that today's fox must have evolved into a very different species from its pre-industrial forebearer. Our relationship and assumptions about foxes are formed from our tradition as farmers and hunters where the animal's fear of people is the key dynamic. If we no longer hunt the fox and we domesticate ourselves beyond recognition, surely that fear dynamic which works to OUR advantage could crucially alter.

We now live cocooned in concrete and no longer kill by our own hand to survive. Instead we rely on remotely processed produce which we eat from plastic. We forget that natural eco-systems are not stopped by the city lines.We dont live in a bubble. After hurricane Katrina, crocodiles were caught in the flooded streets of New Orleans. Alligators are said to live in the sewers of some cities in the deep south of USA. When pet owners die in locked homes their hungry pets will eat their masters to survive.In April this year a particularly brazen fox crossed a frozen lake, scaled a fence and entered an island compound to kill 12 flamingoes in Helsinki Zoo.Wild foxes are showing exceptional ability to evolve and adapt to whatever environment and food sources are available.

As a Vet I have taken an oath to work for the care and welfare of the animal kingdom. I am however a farmer's son. My link with my rural past is only one generation broken. All farmers know there are inherent dangers in working with horses, dogs, cats or in close contact with livestock. Indeed any Vet would agree that the wild instincts of all companion animals should be treated with caution. In our interactions with nature we rely on a pecking order that we impose on animals, not by brute force but by millenia of conditioning and control. The majority of people now in the UK are six or more generations removed from rural life and the familiarity with animals that rural living gives. Those who put food out for foxes at the ends of their gardens are part of an altering dynamic,an evolving natural order and are sending mixed messages to this wild animal on the edge of domesticity. Sending mixed messages will have mixed results.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Epileptic Boxers and Tripping Cavaliers- a word about seizures.

We have seen unusually high numbers of dogs presenting to us at both clinics in recent weeks either during or after seizure episodes. Full-blown seizures are dramatic and sudden in onset. This lack of warning and the violence of the convulsions mean that pet owners are often as distressed by the time they have reached Kildare Vet Surgery as the dogs themselves.

Epilepsy,a word we are all familiar with, is used to describe the syndrome of repeated seizures. It is often genetically inherited in dogs and can occur at almost any age but usually manifests between one and three years old. Secondary epilepsy is the term used to describe seizures triggered by any underlying cause such as liver disease, cardiac disease, metabolic disorder or other neurological disease such as meningitis or meningoencephalitis. Not all seizure cases will be epileptic. Nor indeed will all primary epileptic dogs develop full blown seizures especially if diagnosed early.

As I write this I am conscious that these paragraphs diverge from my usual style of(hopefully) accessible and not too reverent commentary and stray into the jargon of the science journal. This tends to happen when so-called experts are discussing topics of which quite a lot remains unknown.A great word we love to use is idiopathic which literally means "we dont know". In fact the next time you hear a scientist,politician,banker or economist baffling your eardrums with corporate esperanzo you can be sure they either dont know what they're talking about or dont want you to know.

So why would cases of seizure be any more common now than usual? One reason is certainly that we know seizures are triggered. Stress of any sort and changes in weather have both been identified as trigger factors. It's not too fanciful to think that animals in the current zeitgeist have picked up on some of their owners stress. During the recent good weather I have seen cases of latent primary epilepsy triggered by this heat wave and have also found that heat stroke can present to us as a kind of pseudo-seizure.

Precise data on the incidence of epilepsy is not available. But best estimates cite figures of between 1 percent and up to 5 percent of dogs suffer from epilepsy. Figures at the higher end definitely apply to some breeds. As much as 5 percent of Boxers are believed to suffer seizures. While the unfortunate Cavalier King Charles breed which has been the subject of controversy over selective breeding for it's unnatural head shape also have an above average incidence of seizures, epileptic or otherwise.

Treatment protocols for true epilepsy in animals are more limited than the human equivalents. But are relatively simple and successful. Once a diagnosis is confirmed we can often reassure pet owners by giving a quite favouable prognosis. The work will be ongoing. Treatment is continuous and dosages of medication will be modified regularly in the first year after diagnosis. We will be guided by both quarterly blood tests and the feedback we get from owners on how their pet has responded to the meds.

The tests we need to undertake to rule out a whole range of possibles before diagnosing primary idiopathic epilepsy are in themselves the best advert for Pet Insurance. At the end of all that ruling out our drug options generally narrow down to three namely valium, potassium bromide and phenobarbital. The trick however is often in the dosage and in the mix of all three. After that it's down to you the owners to live with your epileptic dog. Become good at giving pills!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The problem with Ivermectin and Collies....!

This morning in Sunday clinic in Portarlington I have treated two cases of suspected canine Lungworm infection. It's a minor epidemic at this stage. When new pathogens or parasites emerge in the animal kingdom they propagate with impunity until medical treatments, host immunity or preventive controls catch up.

Vets, Doctors and Scientists share a common culture of learnng and vigilance in the face of evolving pestilence.At this time we, the veterinary profession are winning the war against Lungworm. Round one. Advocate is the simple and effective treatment and prevention against the Angiostrongylus Vasorum parasite. There are no miracle drugs in this life however. Medicines are only as effective as the protocols underpinning their use. By this I mean, in the case of Advocate for example, the pipette used must be the right dosage for your dogs weight and must be used monthly to prevent parasites developing partial resistance.

If your dog has signs of Angiostrongylus infection such as anaemia and coughing Vets may use other drugs such as Ivermectin or Moxidectin which can both be administered orally and by injection as additional treatments to accompany the use of Advocate.

Ivermectin is one of the oldest drugs of a group called Anthelmintics which control internal and external parasites in animals. Ivermectin is still very effective and widely usd. There is however an unusual genetic exception to its use. Dogs of Collie blood mostly have a genetic intolerance to Ivermectin and its mistaken use in these dogs has had fatal consequences in the past. Dogs with this genetic intolerance to Ivermectin include Collies (Rough and Border), shetland sheepdogs, minitiature shelties, Australian shepherd dogs, old English Sheepdogs and any crossbreed of these.

Lets face it- using ivermectin in any but the sickest of dogs is risky because every Heinz 57 in Ireland has some collie blood in them somewhere. Even the ones who dont look the least like sheepdogs.

Moxidectin is a newer generation derived avermectin and is contained in Advocate. It has the benefits of its older relative without any risk to dogs carrying the susceptible gene.

I can reassure any concerned collie owner that Advocate is safe to use in all dogs even the bluest blooded collie.