Pet Health Library

We’re always happy when we can put our experience and expertise to use for the good of our patients and their owners. Our goal is to become a valuable resource to our clients and the community as a whole. Please feel free to browse through our extensive online library of articles which covers a variety of topics that we feel may be helpful to you, from general wellness to medications to behavior and alternative therapies. Have a question or topic you don’t see here?  Let us know – we’d be happy to help!

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Brachycephalic Airway Disease

by Dr Hannah Van Wunnik
Published on: May 19, 2014

BRACHYCEPHALIC AIRWAY DISEASE

Brachycephalic airway disease is a condition that occurs in pets with flat, short nosed faces such as pugs, pekignese, bulldogs, shih tzus and boston terriers and persians. The condition occurs as the bones in the nose and face are shortened (to give the short nose appearance) and the corrosponding changes in the soft tissues leads to upper airway abnormalities.

The soft tissue changes with occur with brachycephalic airway disease are:

  1. Stenotic nares: abnormal narrowing or smaller nostrils restricts movement of air into the nose.
  2. Elongated soft palate: the doft palate (part of the roof of the mouth) is too long for the length of the mouth. The extra tissue blocks the entrance to the trachea/wind pipe
  3. Hypoplastic trachea: narrowing of the airways
  4. Everted laryngeal saccules: small sacs within the airways which evert and partially block the airways.

These changes to the airways cause increased airway resistance and difficulty breathing. For this reason dogs with brachycephalic disease often breath through their mouth instead of their nose. Mildly affected dogs will be normal most of the time but snort when exercised or excited and snore when relaxed or asleep. More severly affected dogs may be unable to exercise or collapse after exercise. Affected dogs may also sneeze, gag, cough or vomit. Signs are often worse in hot weather and in dogs with excessive weight. More severly affected pets will show signs earlier than more mildly affected pets. The condition usually worsens with time therefore signs progressively get worse.

Conservative treatment for mildly affected cases include weight management, limiting exercise and avoiding exercise during times of heat/humidity and avoiding stress. Using a harness when walking will eliminate putting pressure onto the affected areas. Some pets will require surgery. This includes surgery to open up the nostrils to allow easier breathing and surgery to remove the extra soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules.

Other issues with brachycephalic breeds can occur due to the shape of their skull. Their eyes are often more prominent than normal leading to increased chance of damage and corneal ulcers. Brachycephalic breeds often suffer from dental disease as they have the normal number of teeth (42 in dog) but smaller mouths leading to overcrowding. It is recommended that dogs with difficulty breathing not be used for breeding.


Cane toad poisoning (Bufo toxicity)

by Dr Megan Devlin
Published on: Sep 25, 2014 @ 3:48

Cane toads are a common pest in Queensland, and potentially very dangerous to our curious pets. Pets are often inclined to chase, sniff, lick and chew on cane toads which can result in their exposure to the ‘Bufotoxin’. When a toad is threatened the bufotoxin is secreted from their glands and coats their skin which our pets then come in contact with sniffing, mouthing or chewing on the toad. Pets do not need to actually eat any part of the toad as the toxin is readily absorbed through their gums. Tadpoles of the species also contain a high level of bufotoxin and ingestion of tadpoles can induce poisoning.

Symptoms of poisoning: Initially pets will salivate profusely on contact and for a period up to 20 or 30minutes thereafter. Some pets will experience vomiting. If toxin is absorbed into the bloodstream it can cause shaking, muscle twitches or fasciculations and in severe cases, seizures. Affected pets may be panting rapidly and have red coloured tongue and gums. The bufotoxin also is a cardiotoxin having a direct effect on your pet’s heart causing irregularities in heart rhythm (arrhythmia) which are life-threatening.

If you see your pet with a toad immediately begin cleaning their mouth to try to reduce the amount of toxin absorbed or ingested. Wash or irrigate across the mouth from one side to the other (not down the throat) using a low pressure hose or tap or syringes of water. Then using a damp cloth thoroughly rub the surface of the lips and gums and tongue, rinsing the cloth and repeating for a minimum of 5 minutes. This decontamination of your pet’s mouth is the single most important step to help limit or prevent toxicity. Monitor your pet very closely thereafter. If there is any sign of ongoing vomiting, excitation, panting, shaking or tremors contact your veterinarian or emergency facility immediately to have your pet examined.

Veterinary treatment of bufotoxicity involves ongoing decontamination to reduce toxicity to your pet and often also involves intravenous fluid therapy and use of supportive medications as indicated including anti-nausea medications to control vomiting, sedatives and muscle relaxants for neuromuscular activity and anti-arrhythmic drugs if abnormal heart rhythm occurs.


Chemotherapy and my pet

by Dr Lisa Morgan
Published on: May 14, 2014

Chemotherapy and my pet

It can be stressful deciding whether or not to choose to treat your pet with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is recommend when your pet has been diagnosed with a cancer that has a high potential to spread. It may also be recommended as an adjunct therapy to surgery and or radiation. The goal of chemotherapy is to prolong your pet’s quality of life by either slowing down growth of the tumour or stopping it for a limited amount of time.

Chemotherapy means the treatment of disease with chemical substances (i.e. drugs instead of surgery). These drugs are cytotoxic which means that they kill rapidly dividing cells which include cancer cells. Certain cancers are more susceptible than others to cytotoxic drugs. There are many drugs used in chemotherapy all with different modes of action, and it is usually a combination of these drugs that can be most effective.

Cytotoxic drugs are not specific to cancer cells, they can kill any rapidly dividing cell and this is where majority of the side effects of chemotherapy arise. The most common areas affected are the bone marrow (increasing risk of infections, bleeding) and gastrointestinal tract (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea). A majority of pets (80-90%) receiving chemotherapy experience mild to no side effects, with a small number requiring medication or hospitalization. With less than 1% of side effects being life threatening. Other side effects are drug or cancer specific and will be discussed with your vet before starting any chemotherapy protocol.

Most animals are treated as outpatients meaning that they may require being in hospital for a few hours while the drugs are administered. Most chemotherapy medications are injectable with some being in tablet form meaning administration can be at home.

The cost of treatment depends on many factors including type of cancer, chemotherapy protocol, patient size, and duration of treatment and any additional procedures/hospitalizations or treatments. Protocols may also need to be amended throughout treatment depending on your pet’s response to treatment.


Dental Disease Part 1

by Dr Vanessa Escott
Published on: May 14, 2014

Dental Disease

Surely there can’t be a problem with my pets’ teeth – she is eating and drinking normally, and not complaining, right?!

You might be surprised to learn that many pets do indeed have significant dental disease, without any noticeable symptoms at all. While a large dental abscess or a fractured and/or loose tooth may cause your pet to act differently and thus alert you to a problem, the vast majority of dental disease is silent.

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition we see in pets, and is present in 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 2 years. Your pet will be affected by it, but learns to live with it and gets used to the discomfort. In our practice the owners of 9/10 pets that have treatment for significant periodontal disease (grade 2 or higher) report back to us that their pet is feeling better and acting younger than they were prior to treatment, a sure sign that the disease was in fact affecting their quality of life!

There are other hidden problems/consequences of dental disease in our pets: with every swallow harmful bacteria living in the plaque in the mouth are introduced into the pet’s system and can cause problems with distant organs – the heart, liver and kidneys to name a few.

In the mouth it can cause oronasal fistulas ( between the mouth and nasal cavity) , pathological fractures of the jaw, eye problems, osteomyelitis (bone infection) and increased risk of oral cancers.

Humans with significant periodontal disease can actually experience depression as a direct consequence of this disease.

We grade periodontal disease from 0-4, with 0 being a perfectly healthy mouth and 4 being the worst case – with infection, bone loss and extraction of teeth being required. Grade 1 and 2 stages of disease are reversible with treatment, grade 3 and 4 stages will have sustained some permanent damage.

So What Exactly is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is an inflammation of some or all of a tooth’s deep supporting structures. It starts when oral bacteria adhere to the teeth in a substance called plaque. Plaque is a biofilm, which is made up almost entirely of oral bacteria. Calculus (or tartar) is basically plaque which has secondarily become calcified by the minerals in saliva. Plaque and calculus may contain up to 100,000,000,000 bacteria per gram. If not removed, plaque will extend under the gum line into the area known as the gingival sulcus (between the tooth and gum). The bacteria in this subgingival plaque will secrete toxins and metabolic products. These in turn cause inflammation, which results in damage and destruction of the tooth’s attachment. Periodontal disease is broken up into two entities, gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the initial, reversible stage in which the inflammation is confined to the gingiva. This inflammation may be reversed by a dental cleaning and homecare (brushing). Gingivitis, if left untreated, may progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis is the active stage of inflammation of the deeper tooth supporting structures which results in their destruction. Periodontal disease is the irreversible (without surgery) loss of the supporting structures (bone and soft tissue) of the tooth. While it is irreversible, it is possible to arrest its progression with proper professional therapy and home care.

So What Can I Do?

So what can you do to keep your pet’s mouth comfortable and pain free? Well, if your pet has grade 1 or higher dental disease then have it treated. For all stages this will involve a general anaesthetic for your pet and a cleaning and polishing of the healthy teeth, for grade 2 and higher some subgingival scaling will be required, for grade 3 some extractions and grade 4 extensive extractions and possible reconstructive work. Grade 3 and 4 will need antibiotics and extra pain relief after the treatment for sure. It goes without saying that the lower the grade of disease, the less intensive the treatment is, thus making it easier on your pet, and your wallet!


Hip Dysplasia

by Dr Hannah Van Wunnik
Published on: May 14, 2014

Hip dysplasia is a condition that causes malformation and degeneration of the hip joint and ultimately leads to arthritis. It is a genetic condition that is affected by rapid growth, excessive exercise and diet. There is no cure for hip dysplasia, however there are many treatment options available to keep your pet as pain-free as possible.

Hip dysplasia can affect any breed of dog but predominantly occurs in large breeds especially Labradors, Kelpies, Great Danes and German Shepherds. The hip is a ball and socket joint. Hips dysplasia occurs due to laxity of the soft tissue surrounding the hip joint allowing “looseness” within the joint. With every step this looseness of the joint allows the hip joint to move in a way causes rubbing of the bones. Eventually this rubbing causes the “socket” to become shallower and the “ball” to flatten and become less spherical. This joint wear causes arthritis, pain, lameness and a steady worsening of the disease.

Early signs of hip dysplasia include hesitancy to stand up from lying down, swaying of the hips when walking or “bunny hopping” when running (running with both hind feet simultaneously moving together). Signs also include stiffness and pain in the hips and reluctance to run or jump. Early diagnosis is vital to ensure many treatment options are available. Signs may start in animals as young as 6 months.

There are many treatment options available and the best option for your pet depends on the severity of the dysplasia, pain level and level of changes already present withing the hip joint.

- initially, in young, large breed dogs with mild dysplasia, strict confinement and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. As a large breed dog continues to grow the joints may naturally “tighten”.

- Juvenile Pelvic Symphysiodesis: is available to puppies less than 4 months and involves fusing the pelvis to change the way in which it develops. As many puppies are not showing signs at this stage, this procedure is also used as a preventative method in breeds which have a high risk of hip dysplasia.

- Triple Pelvic Osteotomy: is available for puppies between 6-9 months of age. Generally done at a specialist referral practice, it involves breaking and repairing the pelvis to make the “socket” better cover the “ball” of the joint therefore stopping degeneration of the joint. This procedure can only be done in joints where there is no/limited changes to the shape of the joint and no arthritis within the joint. It is mostly used as a preventative procedure.

- Toggles: are used to artificially tighten the joint therefore stopping incorrect movement of the joint. This limits joint degeneration and therefore helps to limit arthritis development.

- Total Hip Replacements: are available at specialist referall clinics. Just like human hip replacements, it involves the placement of metal artificial joints. This can be used in dogs with any severity of hip replacement and can be used to stop the pain of arthritic joints due to hip dysplasia.

- Denervation: Involves severing the sensory nerves to the hip joint. This stops the dog feeling pain but doesn’t stop the motor nerves so the dog can still use its leg. This is a short term measure – the sensory function of the nerves will recover within 12months and surgery may need to be repeated. It also doesnt stop the progression of the disease so degeneration and arthritis will progressively get worse.

- Excision arthroplasty: is available if the above options are not possible. This involves removing the “ball” of the joint. The hind limb is no longer supported by the bones, but is supported by the muscles of the leg. This results in a different gait but means that the pain associated with hip dysplasia has been eliminated.

Mild hip dysplasia may not cause clinical signs in younger dogs but can cause early development of arthritis. Arthritis causes pain and limits pets activity. Arthritis treatment includes maintaining proper weight, glucosamine and condroitin supplements, anti-inflammatory medications and cartrophen injections.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition. Hip scoring of parent dogs allows breeders to limit the potential that the condition will be passed on to the litter. When buying a puppy ensure that the parents have been hip scored (the lower the hip score, the lower the risk that the pup will have hip dysplasia).

Prevention of hip dysplasia includes limiting exercise in growing puppies to play and short walks. Long walks should be limited while the puppies joints are still developing. Diet also plays a key role in prevention of hip dysplasia. Large breed puppies should be fed special large breed puppy diets. This has the appropriate balance of minerals for proper skeletal growth. Growing puppies should be monitored to ensure that they don’t grow excessively fast and remain in a lean body condition.


Luxating patella (knee cap)

by Drs Hannah Van Wunnik and Robert Williams
Published on: May 19, 2014

LUXATING PATELLA

Luxating patellas are a common knee issues in dogs, particularly in smaller breeds. Signs are often first noticed in pups 4-6months of age. Luxating patellas are graded from 1 – 4 and are based on wether the patella spontaneously luxates and returns to its proper location. In mild cases, the most common sign is a dog yelping midway through a run, followed by holding its hind leg off the ground for a couple of strides before running normally again.
The patella helps the quadriceps muscle of the upper thigh move normally. The patella normally runs in a groove in the lower section of the femur and moves as the knee joint moves back and forth. In dogs with patellas which luxate, the groove is too shallow allowing it to move out of its groove. Dogs will yelp with pain as the patella moves over the bony ridge on the inside edge of the groove.

Luxating patellas are a progressive disease. Over time the groove becomes narrower and forces on the bones cause them to bend allowing the patella to pop out more easily. This causes bone and cartilage damage that is irreversible. There is also a propensity for these dogs to rupture their cruciate ligament because of the abnormal strains on the knee joint. This makes the situation far worse.

It is always best to have a consultation with the surgeon performing the procedure as each patient is considered individually. There are many surgical options available depending on the degree of luxation, damage to the joint and if the cruciate ligament has ruptured. The cost of the surgery and, after care also varies according to the type of procedure performed so always discuss this with the surgeon.


Lymphoma- all you need to know

by Dr Lisa Morgan
Published on: May 14, 2014

Lymphoma and Dogs

Lymphoma occurs commonly in young to middle aged large breed dogs but can occur in any breed. The common presentation in dogs is one or more lumps rapidly forming especially in the neck without any other signs of illness.

Lymphoma is a multifactorial disease meaning that there is a combination of causes. These causes can be chemicals or environmental but there is also an important genetic factor as well. Most cancers including lymphoma begin with a small group of cells that have gone wrong. This occurs all the time in living cells but our bodies have many mechanisms to destroy or fix these abnormal cells before they get out of hand. Sometimes these abnormal cells escape our defense mechanisms and continue to propagate forming cancer. Lymphoma is a cancer of lymphoid tissues and therefore can occur anywhere in the body.

It is important to diagnose lymphoma, so that correct treatments can be suggested. To diagnose, initially a fine needle aspirate (a small sample of cells on a slide) of abnormal tissue is taken and sent for pathologist review, these most of the time will diagnose lymphoma, and occasionally a full biopsy is required. From here staging is required, so that a decision on treatment and prognosis can be made. Staging is usually done by physical exam, bloods, and imaging.

Lymphoma is staged into 5 categories depending on what part of the body is affected.

Stage 1: only one lymph node is involved

Stage 2: several lymph nodes in the same general area involved

Stage 3: all peripheral lymph nodes involved (most common in dogs)

Stage 4: all peripheral lymph nodes plus the spleen, liver, and/or anterior mediastinum in the chest involved

Stage 5: bone marrow involvement, skin or neurological involvement. (Poorer prognosis).

It does not usually matter what part of the body is affected as most lymphomas respond to some form of treatment even if for a short time. The most important factors affecting prognosis and treatment outcomes with lymphoma are Hypercalcaemia ( high blood calcium levels), whether the animal is unwell at presentation (i.e. anorexic, lethargic, vomiting) and whether the lymphoma is B-cell or T-cell. This former point is the most important in determining prognosis and response to treatment. T-cell lymphomas are less responsive to medications.

Chemotherapy is the treatment of choice for lymphoma. The goal of treatment is not cure but extending your pet’s quality and quantity of life. Remission times are dependent on what protocol is chosen, individual animal’s responses and stage/type of lymphoma. Combination chemotherapy protocols offer the longest and highest remission rates (expected remission times greater than 12months) but are also the most expensive. Single agent chemotherapy is less expensive and give expected remission times of 6 months. When lymphoma patients relapse clinical signs are usually similar to initial presentation (enlargement of lymph nodes). When this occurs it means that the lymphoma has become resistant, there are many protocols available to achieve additional remissions.


Mast Cell Tumours in dogs

by Dr Lisa Morgan
Published on: May 14, 2014

Mast cell tumors are common tumors of dogs and can occur at any age. They are most commonly found on the skin but can occur anywhere mast cells are found. They most commonly affect boxers, staffy’s, English bulldog and Boston terrier but can occur in any breed.

Mast cell tumors can look like anything; they can be red raised lumps above the skin or feel like small fatty lumps under the skin. Some mast cell tumors can be hard to notice until they degranulate and cause local swelling.

Mast cell tumors are an aggregation of abnormal mast cells. Mast cells are an important part of the inflammatory response to foreign invaders, they are found in the skin, respiratory tract and intestinal tract. Mast cells are granulated round cells that when attached to an invader releases their granules attracting other inflammatory cells and releasing histamine.

Mast cells cause the local swelling, pruritus and reddening of skin in allergic reactions.

Mast cell tumors being an aggregation of these cells are very unstable and will easily degranulate causing swelling and pruritus. They are notoriously invasive and difficult to treat.

Diagnosis of mast cell tumors can be done with a fine needle aspirate but a biopsy is required to ‘grade’ the tumor. The tumor grade and stage are important to know when it comes to treatment and prognosis. Some Grade 1 tumors can be benign with a survival time of over 5 years if singular and surgically removed correctly whereas grade 2-3 are classed as malignant and will require surgical removal plus extra treatment.

Staging mast cell tumors are important for any grade and helps work out prognosis and treatment plans.

Stage I: one tumor confined to the skin with no regional lymph node involvement.

Stage II: one tumor confined to the skin but with regional lymph node involvement present.

Stage III: many tumors or large deeply infiltrating tumors, with or without lymph node involvement.

Stage IV: any tumor with distant spread evident. This stage is further divided into sub stage A (no clinical signs of illness) and sub stage B (with clinical signs of illness).

In order to stage mast cell tumors aspiration of lymph nodes and other masses may be required. Blood tests are required as anemia and circulating mast cells are poor prognostic signs, and imaging ?(e.g. ultrasound) is also required to assess spread of disease.

Prognostic factors with mast cell tumors are the location, grade, stage and general health of animal. These also determine treatment. Tumors located near the nail bed, genital areas, muzzle, and oral cavity are usually high grade malignant tumors. Those that originate in deeper tissues such as liver and spleen carry a grave prognosis.

Treatment of mast cell tumors consist of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or combination of these depending on the grade, stage and location.

Surgical removal is recommended for any grade mast cell tumor but can be difficult as large margins are required to ensure complete removal. They also hold many surgical and post-surgical complications, the release of histamine and inflammatory cells can cause a drop in blood pressure during surgery and local irritation leading to wound breakdown after surgery.

Radiation is sometimes suggested and used in treatment options when the tumor is too large to remove or when the tumor arises on the extremities. Radiation is used to shrink the tumor before surgery or to clean up poor surgical margins.

Chemotherapy is used for systemic mast cell tumors it is also used in high grade tumors with successful surgeries to reduce chance of spread or to slow down development of new tumors. Combination chemotherapy protocol offers the best survival rates.


Osteochondroitis dessicans

by Dr Hannah Van Wunnik
Published on: May 31, 2014

Osteochondroitis dessicans or OCD is a painful joint disease of young growing dogs.

OCD occurs due to defective formation of the cartilage of the joint. The small area of affected cartilage separates from the underlying bone and either cracks or completely detaches to allow small sections of cartilage to float within the joint. OCD is generally found in large and giant breed dogs and normally occurs during times of rapid growth (4 – 10months) but can occur in older dogs. Male dogs are more often affected then females. OCD is most often seen in the shoulder joint but can also be seen in the elbow, stifle or hock joint. 30% of dogs will be bilaterally affected (ie both the left and right shoulder joint has OCD). It can be seen in any large or giant breed dog but has a higher incidence in greyhounds, border collies and bull terriers. Signs of OCD include limping or lameness on the affected limb.

When bilateral joints are affected (ie both left and right shoulder joints) the dog may show signs of stiffness or reluctance to play or exercise. The lameness is generally worse after exercise and improves with rest. Diagnosis requires radiographs to be taken of the affected joints. The same joint on the unaffected leg is also radiographed for comparison and to check for bilateral OCD.

Treatment for OCD is either conservative or surgical. Conservative treatment involves strict rest for 4-8weeks along with anti-inflammatory pain relief. Sometimes conservative treatment will not work and surgical treatment will still be required. Surgery involves arthroscopy of the joint to remove the affected cartilage. Shoulder OCD has a good prognosis. In other joints such as the elbow, prognosis is more guarded due to the early develop of arthritis. There is no single cause of OCD. Genetics, rapid growth, nutrition and trauma are all implicated in the development of OCD. Therefore to prevent OCD it is important to feed large and giant breed puppies a puppy food specially designed for slow sustained growth. Strenuous or excessive activity, especially jumping, should be avoided through the growth phase. Dogs with OCD shouldn’t be used for breeding.


Snake Bite in Australia

by Drs Hannah Van Wunnik and Robert Williams
Published on: May 31, 2014

SNAKE BITE

Despite our deepest fears, snakes are actually quite shy creatures. They prefer to be left alone and are rarely aggressive. Snakes bite only when threatened or injured. Dogs’ persistent curiosity makes them susceptible to snake bites. Many snakes present in Queensland are venomous. A dog which has been bitten, or has been near a snake, needs to be taken to the vet immediately as snake bites are a life threatening emergency.

The most common and deadly snakes in Queensland are the Brown snake and Red bellied Black snake. Both are potentially lethal.

It is important to get treatment for your dog as soon as possible. If the snake is dead, it can be brought into the clinic for identification. Venom from different snakes act differently on the body – black snake venom primarily affects the muscles and causes tissue destruction. This is toxic to the kidneys and produces brown urine , Brown snake venom primarily stops the blood from clotting effectively followed by a progressive paralysis. Identification of the snake is required prior to treatment as antivenins are specific to each type of snake venom. If the dead snake isn’t available for identification, a blood test and snake detection kit can be used.

Initial treatment is rapid intravenous fluid therapy. This treats both shock and protects the kidneys from damage. Antivenin is administered into the vein to reverse the effects of the snake toxins. Antivenin administration can have side effects so medications are given prior. The dose of antivenin required depends on the amount of venom that was injected into the pet.

Treatment is VERY expensive and most dogs will stay in hospital for several days, even after antivenin is administered as on going fluid therapy and blood tests can be required.


Tick Paralysis

by Drs Hannah Van Wunnik and Robert Williams
Published on: Jun 8, 2014 @ 5:35

Tick paralysis is caused by a tick called Ixodes holocyclus. It is different species of tick to the common brown dog tick, bush tick or cattle tick. Ixodes holocyclus can be differentiated from other ticks by the placement of its legs. The legs which are red and white are all located at the front of the body. Also the groove around the tick’s anus is pear shaped. Ixodes holocyclus are a native tick of Australia and bandicoots are their natural host. Ixodes holocyclus are found along the east coast of Australia and across northern Australia.

Ticks are more active in spring and summer but can be found all year round.

It is the female adult which attaches to our pets. As she feeds on the blood of her host she injects a toxin into them. The toxin affects the nerves of the host from working properly causing paralysis.

Initial signs of tick paralysis are often a change in voice/bark as the nerves to the larygnx are often paralysed first. Also, early effects of tick paralysis are unsteadiness and weakness in the hind legs. Untreated, the signs of tick paralysis get progressively worse. The pet will be unable to stand using their hind legs, followed by paralysis of their front legs and paralysis of the diaphragm and the respiratory muscles. Tick paralysis kills dogs and cats.

Removal of the tick stops the tick from injecting more toxin into the host but, this doesn’t stop the host from getting sick. In fact, the signs of tick paralysis can get worse for up to four days after the removal of the tick. This occurs as the toxin slowly moves from the blood stream and attaches to the nerves, stopping them from working.

Treatment of dogs with tick paralysis needs to start as soon as possible. Tick antiserum is administered to the affected patient. It is a blood product made in other dogs so premedications may be used to help prevent adverse reactions. Tick antiserum can only stop the toxin still in the blood vessels from attaching to nerves. The tick antiserum doesn’t make the toxin separate from the nerves to which its already attached.

While the toxin is slowly removed from the nerves by the hosts body, your pet will need supportive care. As the laryngx is paralysed your pet cannot be allowed to eat or drink as this can result in serious aspiration pneumonia. Therefore you pet may need intravenous fluid support. Dogs and cats which are paralysed in the hind legs are unable to walk or empty their bladder. Patients usually stay in hospital until they can eat, drink and walk.

In serious cases your pet may require oxygen support , suction to clear the airways and, even mechanical ventilation in some instances. This becomes very expensive and the prognosis becomes progressively more guarded. Early intervention is ALWAYS more likely to have a successful outcome so, please contact one of yur surgeries if you notice and of these symptoms or find a tick on your dog or cat.

Once you pet gets discharged from hospital they require special care at home. Eating and drinking should be monitored for several days after treatment. If choking or difficulty swallowing is noticed, take the food or water away and contact your vet immediately. Tick toxin can also affect the muscles of the heart. As it is currently unknown how the toxin affects the heart, or if these effects are neutralised by the antiserum, it is important to keep your pet quiet for 3 weeks after he gets home.

Most importantly tick prevention should be used year round in the areas where Ixodes holocylcus can be found. Tick collars and spot ons such as frontline and advantix help prevent ticks from attaching. Daily checking of your dog for ticks is also important as it allows the removal of ticks before they inject toxi


Ultrasound and your pet

by Dr Robert Williams
Published on: May 19, 2014

Ultrasound is an important method of Diagnostic Imaging that helps your vet look inside your dog or cat. This can help in the diagnosis of liver or kidney problems, pancreatitis, pregnancy diagnosis, problems at birth, gastrointestinal disease, kidney and bladder stones and also more sinister issues such as cancer. Ultrasound not only requires good quality expensive equipment but is highly ‘user dependent’ meaning the skill of the veterinary surgeon.

Both Arundel Veterinary Surgery and Companion Care Veterinary Surgery have access to top of the range ultrasound equipment and all our vets have experience using ultrasound. Dr Robert Williams not only performs ultrasounds for other clinics on the Gold Coast, but teaches vets throughout Australia. If you have any questions about having an ultrasound performed on your pet please phone either of our surgeries to talk to one of the vets.

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