Summer’s here… and along with all the good times it brings, there are a few not-so-fun things, such as mozzies, sunburn, and sleepless nights. As South Australians, we take for granted our familiar and entrenched summer survival techniques, but we need to remember that our pets depend on us to make their summers comfortable and safe. While we’re enjoying trips to the beach, barbecues and spending time outdoors, summer heralds the start of many hot weather hazards for our pets, and two key sources are what they’re on and what they’re in.
We all acknowledge the importance of water, as it affects all facets of life. Without it, there would be no vegetation, no oxygen, and it wouldn’t be possible for us to survive. But how much of this valued and precious resource should our pets drink and what are the signs of dehydration? In this week’s blog, we provide some advice to help dog and cats owners get the balance right for their pets.
Why is water important?
Water is an important part of your pet’s daily dietary requirements and overall nutrition, and a particular balance is required in order to keep your pet healthy. Water is the primary component of the body’s healthy living cells and without it, neither we nor ours pets, would be able to function properly. One of the reasons a balanced diet is important to hydration is that is food also provides some moisture.
Water’s role is to carry and transport important nutrients into and out of the body’s cells. Water helps digestion and assists the body to absorb nutrients, and is also important in maintaining normal body temperature as it helps to cool the body. Water aids movement by lubricating and cushioning joints, and internal tissues and the spinal cord are also cushioned by moisture. The removal of waste from the body through urination and bowel movements, is also dependant on water.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a small gland located near the neck of the urinary bladder, it has two symmetrical lobes. The purpose of the prostate is to produce and store the fluids found in semen. The urethra (the tube connecting the urinary bladder to the outside world) passes through the prostate.
What are the clinical signs of prostatic disease?
- Straining to urinate or defecate (pass faeces)
- Blood in the urine
- Changes to the shape of faeces
Immunodeficiency is a medical term that refers to the body’s inability to develop a normal immune response, therefore feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) refers to a complex retrovirus that causes an immunodeficiency disease in cats. FIV is in the same class of viruses as HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, the causative agent of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). FIV is estimated to infect between 14-29% of the Australian cat population.!
FIV is a retrovirus, and retroviruses replicate by inserting a copy of their genetic material into the DNA of a host cell. As it spreads throughout the body FIV destroys the body’s immune cells. Lentiviruses represent a genus of slow viruses with long incubation periods, and being a lentivirus like HIV, FIV can take months or even years of lying dormant in a cat’s body before causing symptoms. Most cats infected with FIV are asymptomatic, but have an increased susceptibility to developing other infections and some types of cancer.
Most of us know what it’s like to sustain a bee sting... That sharp jab, the immediate stinging sensation, and then the fire in our veins, yeeooow! It’s exactly the same for our pets. With the warmer weather and the abundance of flowering plants, the chances of our pets being stung are greater and it’s important that we know the signs of bee sting and what to do.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease in dogs and cats, that can produce a life-threatening illness. In dogs the virus manifests in two different forms; intestinal and cardiac (heart), with the former being much more common, and the latter attacking the hearts of puppies, often causing death. Canine parvovirus is sometimes incorrectly referred to as distemper, and while there are several symptoms common to both these serious health conditions, they are different viruses.
In cats, parvovirus is more commonly referred to as panleukopaenia (because it can cause a low white blood cell count which is what panleukopaenia means).However it is not caused by the same viruses that cause distemper or parvovirus in dogs. The viruses cannot be transferred between animals and humans, and dogs cannot get parvovirus from cats, however a strain of canine parvovirus can infect cats.
Trying to understand the differences can be confusing, therefore the most important thing to remember is that all are life-threatening and a dog or cat who shows signs that they could be infected with any of these viruses requires immediate veterinary attention.
Being an animal owner means that you constantly need to keep an eye out for dangers. Spring presents more that its fair share, and a common hazard is the lowly grass seed. Every year, animals present to their vet with problems caused by them, and spring and summer’s warm and wetter conditions are perfect for grass-growing, and consequently an abundance of grass seeds.
The grass seed - or awn - is a bristly growth on the flower of many types of widely growing grasses. They have a sharp tip, and then fan out into a wedge – their purpose being to secure themselves to surfaces so that they can spread their seeds to other areas - but the sharp tips are also perfect for piercing through skin. Once lodged in the skin the fanned awn allows the seed to only move forward, similar to the tip of a fish hook.
Most of us wouldn’t question the value of dog parks. They’re a place for dogs to exercise, and they’re increasingly in demand as more people choose to live in apartments and keep dogs as pets. While the benefit they offer of allowing dogs to romp and stretch their legs is undeniable, there are some risks associated with dog parks that should also be considered.
In addition to finding space for dogs to exercise, some owners view dog parks as a place for dogs to socialise, and while they certainly offer this opportunity, it’s one that could create some hazards. Some dogs behave aggressively towards other dogs, and it’s not always clear to owners how, or whether, they should address it.
Problems can arise because dog owners don’t consider the pack structure that applies to canines. When a new dog visits a park that is frequented regularly by other dogs, the new visitor can be seen as an intruder rather than a possible new pal. This can lead to aggression due to issues of dominance or fear, and if a new dog is released into a dog park without a leash, things can quickly get out of control.
In groups, dogs will instinctively establish a rank order and fights can occur as this rank is determined. Most dogs don’t want to be leaders; They’re happy with their human owner playing that role and expect their owner to protect them if there’s trouble. If their owner takes a passive approach it increases the chance that their dog will fight or take flight.
The 13th of October is Vet Nurses Day, an initiative to raise awareness of the importance of veterinary nurses to both the public and to the veterinary industry. It is a day to celebrate and recognise the contributions of veterinary nurses to the Australian veterinary team.
Those of us who have pets will be familiar with the important role Vet Nurses play as vital members of the veterinary medical team. We entrust our beloved pets with them knowing that, not only will they receive specialised medical care from these highly trained professionals, but also receive the softer skills of empathy and compassion. Vet nurses take a variety of learning pathways, but have all attained qualifications in Animal Studies which are awarded after several years of experience and study.
Veterinary nurses perform a range of different tasks every day, depending on the practice and the types of animals it cares for. Daily tasks include providing assistance during consultations, administering medications, maintaining medical records, and managing and sterilising equipment. Of the most important requirements of their role is patience, the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, and being able to work in a high-pressure environment. Vet nurses also require excellent communication skills, and of course, a natural love of animals.
Heartworm is a severe and potentially fatal disease that affects pets (and in rare cases humans), in many parts of the world including Australia. It is caused by blood-borne parasites that infect the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels, causing organ damage and failure. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and other mammal species, such as ferrets, foxes, and dingoes.
Heartworm in dogs
Heartworms that live inside dogs grow into adults, mate and reproduce. Dogs are ideal host for heartworm, so when untreated heartworm numbers increase, and it is possible for dogs to harbour large numbers of heartworms which live in the major blood vessels from the heart to the lungs. The damage caused by heartworms is long lasting and can have a significant impact on a dog’s long-term health and quality of life. Prevention is therefore of utmost importance, and if heartworm disease is detected then prompt treatment is essential.