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.

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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

McDowall Vet Dog Behaviour 101 : Enrichment Ideas.

Mcdowall dog behaviourBoredom is by far the biggest cause of behavioural issues in our dogs! Do you have issues with barking, separation anxiety, digging or destructive chewing? Unfortunately, we see a fair amount of this in our patients at McDowall Vets and most pet owners have experienced at least one of these problem behaviours. It’s extremely common, especially as these days we often have less and less time to spend with our pets – inevitably, we all have to work or leave our pets alone at some stage. Altering these problem behaviours can seem like an impossible task, and it’s very difficult to know where to start. Enrichment is a perfect way to ensure they are not bored while we are away, and we can use it to curb boredom related behaviour in our dogs.
Enrichment describes the process of providing a stimulating environment to an animal to keep them busy and interested. This type of training has been used in zoos for many years, and ensures that the animals in captivity are kept stimulated and don’t become bored. Boredom in zoo animals leads to stereotypical behaviours – these are abnormal repetitive behaviours that animals lacking stimulation perform to amuse themselves. This includes things like pacing, weaving and destructive and aggressive behaviours. We see the same sort of stereotypical behaviours in our pets – barking, chewing, digging and escaping – the list goes on. So, if large scale zoos can manage to keep all of their animals entertained and busy using enrichment, surely it is doing something right! We have borrowed some of their great ideas and applied it to our pets to create a list of easy ways to keep them happy and stimulated.
Food puzzle toys
The key to enrichment is to find out what drives your dog – and most dogs love their food! There are endless products on the market which are food related and which your dog will play with for hours! The Kong is the most famous example of this type of toy. Fill these toys with Fido’s favourite titbits – kibble pieces, cooked chicken, canned food, doggy treats and even small amounts of cheese or peanut butter. You can even make your own toy, by taking an old drink or milk bottle and filling it with food. Your dog will push around the bottle until the food falls out of the opening. If you’re using food puzzle toys frequently, feed your dog a little less at meal times.

Hunting for dinner
Wolves and wild dogs hunt for every meal. Meal times for domesticated dogs are generally an unremarkable experience in comparison – we hand all of their meals to them in a bowl. We can make meal times more interesting for our pups by making them “hunt” for their food. This can be as simple as scattering biscuits along on the floor for your dog to gobble up, or as complex as hiding food in the backyard for your dog to sniff out. You can also give raw bones to your pup for them to chew – it can upset their belly however, so try to make this a sometimes treat.

An alternative to the hunting for dinner idea is the working for food idea. If your dog enjoys performing commands, feed some of their daily kibble in the form of rewards during training sessions. Remember, rewards can be given simply for being calm or not jumping up.

Enrichment in hot weather
In summer, use of ice and water in toys is great enrichment but also will help your pup stay cool. Adding ice cubes to their water bowl is a simple way of doing this. You can also turn your food puzzle toys into ice blocks by adding water with your treats and freezing them. If your dog really likes water, taking them to your local beach or creek is a great way to keep them active and stimulated! Swimming is perfect exercise for older dogs. If this isn’t practical for you, try giving your pup water to play with in the backyard in the form of a sprinkler, hose or a small wading pool.

Walking is not only good exercise, but is extremely stimulating for dogs – especially to their sense of sight and smell. Try to make it a habit to take your pup for at least a short walk every day. Not only is it enriching for both of you, but helps control weight and provides a bonding experience between you and your pup.

Social opportunities
If walking isn’t always practical for you, there are other ways to socialise your dog. Organise a puppy play date with a friend’s dog, or take your dog to your local off-leash area! Dogs are social animals, and will usually wear themselves out quite quickly playing with their friends. If you’re going for a drive to pick up the kids or through the drive thru to pick up dinner, a simple way to keep your dog stimulated is to take them along for the ride. This is also a good way to get nervous dogs used to the car! Remember, we always like to see our patients, even if it is just a social visit. Maybe stop by McDowall Vet on your drive so we can say hello!

Dogs that aren’t food motivated may be more interested in games as enrichment! Good games to play with your dog include active games like fetch or tug-of-war. Games like these are really great in terms of bonding with your dog, and also keep them happy and active. Use games as rewards for good behaviour, even if you only take 5 minutes out of your day for a quick game of fetch.

We hope that this has given you some ideas to help prevent boredom in your pets. Please feel free to call us on 3353 6999 if you would like to discuss any behavioural issues that your pet may be displaying.

Happy Enriching – McDowall Vets.

McDowall and Albany Creek Vet – Pet Technology Tips

Albany Creek vet pugWe spend an awful lot of time staring at our mobile phone screens and tablet devices – and excitingly, this technology can be very useful for you as a pet owner.  At McDowall and Albany Creek Vet we are always interested in using technology to help our clients and their pets, so we have compiled a list of our favourite pet related apps to share with you!

The “Finding Rover” app is run in partnership with the RSPCA, and is a new way to search for your dog if they become lost.  This free app uses facial recognition technology, and works when people upload images of their dog to their website. You are able to upload a picture of your dog to the app, and can see instantly if it matches any of the pictures registered to the database.  Whilst this will only work in theory if everyone has access to the app, it’s certainly a fantastic idea.  Pet lovers can keep the app active on their phone, and see if there are any missing dogs in their area to keep an eye out for.  Don’t worry – our feline friends haven’t been forgotten – there are plans to include a database for kitties later this year.

Pet Master Pro” is a great app where you can keep all of your pet’s records in one handy place.  Microchip details, insurance details, allergies, the list goes on.  It is very easy to use, and can be customised with pictures of your pets.  You can even set reminders for when your dog or cat’s vaccinations, flea treatments and worming treatments are due.  Although don’t forget- McDowall Veterinary Practice can send reminders to your mobile phone or email when your pet’s vaccinations and wormers are due too!

First Aid for Pets” is an Australian based app that provides tips for how to help your pet in various emergency situations.  Having this at hand can provide peace of mind and is a good reference for non-emergency situations such as itchy skin or lameness.  It is very comprehensive and is great because the poisons/toxins listed are specific to our country, such as cane toad toxicity and particular Australian poisons.

There’s nothing the internet loves more than a picture of a cute animal!  “PetSnap” is a picture taking app that combines a camera and a wide variety of different animal noises.  This brings your pet’s attention directly to your phone, resulting in some great snaps!  Don’t forget to send us your pictures; we’d love to see them!

CatFishing” is a game for your tablet device which has been specifically targeted towards cats!  Fish will swim past on the screen and your cat earns points every time they tap onto the fish.  There are more and more fish that will swim faster and faster as the levels progress.  This is a great game to play with your cat to entertain them- and yourself!

Weather Puppy” or “Weather Kitty” is a rather sweet app that shows a cute dog or cat every time you check the weather.  The picture changes depending on the weather and the time of day.  This is a great app if you can’t get enough puppies or kittens in your every day life!

The Petrek LT905 PetTracker is an amazing new product that is now available.  It is basically a GPS tracker that is small and fairly discrete and hooks on to your pet’s collar.  It comes with an app, which lets you know where your pet is at all times and will pinpoint the current location of your pet on a map.  It will even alert you as soon as your pet leaves your yard!  If you are interested in this product, we are able to order it in for you. Give us a ring on 3353 6999.

We hope you all can make use of some of these apps – and if you have any of your own favourite pet related apps, please share them with us!