Dry Eye in dogs

dry eye1dry eye2

Does your dog have sore looking eyes? Have you noticed a thick discharge from the eyes, especially in the morning?

I’m sure we can all imagine the discomfort and irritation caused by having dry eyes. If you have not experienced this, try not to blink for even 10 seconds and you can experience what dry eyes feel like. Every time you and your pet blinks, a film of lubricating tears is distributed over the surface of the eye. Tears are essential to the comfort of the eye by bringing their lubricating, soothing properties. But did you know tears are even more important than just providing lubrication? They also contain anti-bacterial proteins that help prevent infection of the eye and also serve to flush away any irritants and air-born particles that land on the eye on a daily basis.

Dry eye, or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) as it is officially known, is a condition in which there is a deficiency in the production of healthy tears by the eye. The reason for this is most commonly an immune mediated destruction of the tear producing gland tissue. We know that some breeds are particularly predisposed to this including Cocker Spaniels, Schnauzers and West Highland White Terrier dogs though all dog breeds can be effected.  Dry eye in cats is much less commonly seen.

If tears are not produced by the eye it does not take long for the eye to become infected and sore, the conjunctiva (pink tissue around the eye) will become red, and a characteristic thick gooey yellow discharge from the eye will often develop. Without treatment this disease can even lead to blindness. Most commonly at home you might notice that your dog is blinking more frequently, has red, sore looking eyes and has a thick discharge from the eye especially first thing in the morning.

Fortunately this disease is very easily diagnosed and managed at home. If we suspect a patient has dry eye we simply place a specifically designed thin piece of paper under the eyelid which measures the tear production over a minute. If we are seeing an insufficient amount of tears then a diagnosis is made and we can begin treatment.

Treatment for dry eye is an ointment given 1-2 times per day. Normally we would start our patients on this ointment and get them to come back in for a recheck in 3-4 weeks. If we have noticed a great response then we can reassess the dosing schedule and also discuss long term treatment which is in the form of continued eye ointments or drops.

So if you are concerned about your dog’s eyes, why not come in to have a check with any of our vets, and we can make sure that your dog has the clearest, most beautiful eyes in town!

Help! My dog has a toad!

As the wet season approaches, vets have warned dogs may become addicted to licking canetoads. Benny the Beagle checks out the Cane Toad. Pic Mark Calleja

With the onset of warmer weather, cane toads will be on the move and making an appearance in our backyards in the evenings.

Dogs (and in particular puppies and terrier breeds) are prone to poisoning as they enjoy chasing toads and will snap or mouth at them as they hop.  Cats can be equally affected by the toad’s toxin but tend to be more discerning in their hunting methods.

Cane toads are an invasive feral species.  They have no natural predators in Australia so their numbers are ever increasing.  They have large, poisonous glands behind the eyes and down the back.  These glands excrete a sticky, milky substance when the toad is threatened which is capable of spraying over a metre into the air.

The toad toxin is highly poisonous and is quickly absorbed through the membranes of the mouth.

Signs of toxicity in pets include:

Increased salivation/drooling Vomiting
Pawing at mouth Twitching/ shaking
Bright red gums Convulsions
Excitability or disorientation Heart beat irregularities and death


If you see your pet with the early symptoms, it is important to quickly try to remove the toxin from the gums using a soft cloth to remove the sticky substance and a lightly running hose/tap pointing out the front of the mouth (not down into the airways which can lead to inhalation of water and pneumonia).  Some dogs will recover uneventfully and can be kept calm and monitored closely.

If your pet is showing more severe symptoms such as twitching, convulsing or is not responsive, they should be brought straight to the vet.

Many dogs find toad chasing highly addictive and will not learn to stop even after a nasty case of poisoning.  The toxin is hallucinogenic so whether that is a contributing factor, or it is the thrill of the chase, we can’t be sure.

To avoid exposure of your pet to toads, it is important to keep them indoors at night.  They should be kept on a lead when taken outside to toilet before bed.

Reducing your local toad population is always beneficial and current RSPCA guidelines recommend a product called “Hopstop” which can be sprayed onto the toad for humane euthanasia and then the toad safely disposed of.   Take care to avoid exposure to the toxin yourself and use rubber gloves when handling dead toads.

Here’s hop(p)ing for a safe summer for our pets!

We All Love a Glossy Coat!

dog coat 4We all love the look and feel of a healthy, shiny coat on our pets, but as with our skin in winter, there are times when our furry friend’s coat can become dry and flaky.  In more severe cases, the skin can become very inflamed and there may be hair loss and infection.

To understand how to best look after our pet’s skin and coat it is important to first understand how the skin behaves and what it is made up of.

The skin is vitally important and often gets taken for granted – it is actually the largest organ on our pet’s body!  As well as being a protective barrier, it also regulates body temperature and provides the sensation of touch.

Now for the scientific part …………There are three layers to the skin:  The epidermis (outermost layer) , the dermis (middle layer) and the subcutis (innermost layer).

The epidermis provides protection from dehydration, trauma, infection and toxic insult. It is made up mainly of toughened cells called keratinocytes, which are continuously formed in the lower layer of the epidermis and shed from the top layer. It takes 7 days for dogs to replace all of their keratinocytes! These cells connect together to provide a strong barrier. If these cells are damaged the skin loses its protective effect. Another cell in the epidermis, the melanocyte, provides pigment in the skin and coat and protects against UV rays.  Langerhan’s cells are the immune cells of the skin. They are often over stimulated in animals with allergies.  Merkel cells provide sensory information about touch, temperature and pain.

All of these cells lie over a basement membrane which connects the epidermis to the dermis and provides another protective barrier. This layer is often damaged in immune mediated diseases such as pemphigus.

The dermis provides nourishment for the outer layer of the skin and has a network of connective tissue containing blood vessels, nerves, sweat and oil (sebaceous) glands and hair follicles.  Collagen and elastin which provide elasticity of the skin are made in the dermis.   Variance in dog and cat’s coats can be attributed to a variable number of hair follicles and the type of hair.  Hair follicles contain both a guard hair and several under hairs.  Guard hairs are courser and thicker while under hairs are finer and softer.  The hair coat provides important insulation against the cold and heat as well as providing physical protection from trauma and the sun.

The subcutis contains muscle and fat.  The muscle is often observed as a skin twitch when touched and the fat provides insulation and nourishment for the skin.

Changes to the skin and coat can often  give us early clues of underlying diseases elsewhere in the body. Inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) can be a symptom of parasitic infestation, bacterial or fungal infections. Unfortunately, much like with us humans, we also can see cancerous change happen frequently in our pets skin. That is why it is so important to get any nrw or growing lumps and bumps examined and checked as soon as you notice them.

dog coat 2dog coat1

With all the different pet breeds and variations in coat types, it can get confusing as to what is the best way to care for your pet.  The good news is that the basic requirements are the same for all animals.

The cornerstone of all animal health care is a good quality diet. In particular, a diet with the correct ratio of Omega -3 to Omega-6 fatty acids is very important.  Most premium diets have been formulated to maintain a healthy skin and coat but in some cases, additional supplementation with Omega-3 is required.  Before considering adding anything into your pet’s diet, it is a good idea to see us to confirm the best product to use and the dose required.

Another important part of your pet’s health is to make sure all external parasites have been eliminated.  Fleas in particular, are one of the most common causes of skin disease we see, particularly through the warmer months.   Thankfully, there are many new and convenient products available for both dogs and cats so there is really no need for our beloved pets to suffer from fleas ever again.

cat coat 1Grooming is also something that should be part of our routine for our pets.  For a short-haired dog or cat, this can be as simple as a weekly brush to remove loose hair.  Longer-haired pets will require more frequent maintenance and specific tools to remove their undercoat, while the non-shedding breeds need regular haircuts to keep them in optimal condition and looking their best.

Bathing should be performed every 7-14 days depending on the breed of dog ( cats generally dont need bathing as they are so fastidious about their own cleanliness!) When washing your dog, don’t forget to use a soap-free shampoo that is specifically formulated for animals.  Many medicated washes can dry out our pet’s skin so please check with us to find out the best option for your pet’s skin type.

Hopefully this has helped to clarify a few things about our pets coats and skin and will help you to optimise their health. If you ever need any further advice or information on your pet’s coat – please feel free to call in and see us, or give us a ring on 3353 6999.cat coat2

When is a skin lump something serious?

dog with lump

It is easy to be uncertain about what to do with skin lumps and bumps that appear on our pets. The good news is that this is one area of our pet’s health that we can keep a close tab on, as changes are visible and easy to monitor (unlike internal organ disorders like liver or kidney disease).

About 50% of skin masses in cats and dogs are malignant (cancer that will spread elsewhere in the body). With these types of lumps, it really is a case of “a stitch in time saves nine!” Just as with us and skin cancer, by finding out what the mass is and taking early action, we often stop the cancer there and then, before it has had a chance to spread more widely.

Our vets are all skilled in cytology – which means that we can take a sample in the consult room and look at it under a microscope straight away, giving you an immediate idea as to what the mass is, without having to send the sample out to an external laboratory , saving expense and time. During the month of June we shall be discounting this process even further by not charging for in house cytology for any lumps and bumps. So, now is the best time ever to get those suspect lumps looked at.

Generally, a good rule of thumb is:

lump size

Robs Ramblings: Mirror, Mirror on the wall…… Who is the most toxic of us all?



Red bellied blackCone Shell Funnel web spider Irukandji jelly fish   paralysis tick






Box jelly fish

poisonous snake





How many of the above poisonous creatures can you identify?
As far as deadly toxins are concerned, we are spoilt for choice locally with the following all being pretty nasty:
Box jellyfish,
• Irukandji,
• Inland taipan,
• Stonefish,
• Funnel web spider,
• Common death adder,
• Cone shells,
• Red back spider,
• Red bellied black snake
• Lionfish.
But size for size the Paralysis Tick gives them a run for their money! Unfortunately, every year we see many dogs who have been struck down by these small but toxic parasites.
E mail us at admin@mcdowallvets.com.au if you would like us to send you a free e book on tick paralysis which will tell you all you need to know about this nasty disease.
The Australian Geographic has a great article on Australia’s most poisonous animals. It is amazing that any of us make it to adulthood!!

Dr Robs Ramblings: It’s Raining Itchy Dogs and Cats!

Itchy dog Albany Creek vet     Itchy dog McDowall vet






What a beautiful weekend we have just had. It was wonderful to feel the sun on my skin and the warmth in the air as I took Roxy for a walk. The kids were ahead on their bikes and all was right with the world! The Jasmine is flowering, filling the garden with a beautiful scent. Spring is definitely in the air!
Unfortunately, for many people this statement is met with dread as it signals the start of hay fever season. Did you know that many of our pets are similarly affected? However, instead of sneezing, and having a runny nose and eyes (although occasionally we see these symptoms), dogs usually develop itchy skin. In animals these inhaled or contact allergies are called atopy and we are seeing a tonne of them at the moment.

Itchy skin Everton park vet

For many it will start with itchy feet. You may find that your evenings are being disturbed with the constant licking and slurping noises made as they try to relieve the irritation. The symptoms can rapidly progress to generalised redness and even ear infections.dog ear infection Bridgeman Downs vet It is really important to stop this irritation in its tracks before it causes secondary skin infections, so if yours is an itchy dog, prone to grass allergies, now is the time to make sure that they restart low doses of their anti – allergy medication to prevent a flare up.

Itchy dogs and cats can be very frustrating to treat and live with, as it can often be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause without undergoing dermatological testing. I recommend keeping a diary of your pets itch score and their diet, exercise patterns, time of lawn mowing and bathing as well as any other variables that may play a role in the allergies. Often you can start to see a pattern develop and then avoid the most troublesome allergens or at least plan in advance for next year.

So, to summarise, if your pet is a chronic “foot licker”, he or she is likely suffering from allergies. The good news is that we can certainly help to control these and there are lots of different options available now days. Hopefully, with the correct treatment, we can ensure that you both return to getting a peaceful night’s sleep!Dog pain McDowall vet