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Aberfoyle Hub Veterinary Clinic
Hub Professional Centre
Aberfoyle Park, SA, 5159
Phone: 08 8270 5155

Barb's Bits

Later this year Ian and I are visiting extended family in China, and we have set ourselves the challenge of learning (spoken) Mandarin Chinese. It has surprised me how simple the Chinese language is – the main complexity is the different sounds and intonations.

English is widely regarded as one of the hardest languages to learn – not only are there different intonations leading to different meanings (think live/live; tear/tear; bow/bow), but we also have different spellings with the same sound (fair/fare; their/there/they’re) and complex grammatical structure (I went/go/will go/am going/have gone).  Wow! I am very grateful to be a native English speaker in Australia and I am sure a month in China, feeling very much the odd one out and struggling to communicate, will only deepen my appreciation of the difficulties faced by those living here from a non-English speaking background!

Struggling to communicate can happen even when you speak the same language. Being mindful of the impact of our words and tone is essential, but it is hard work. Goodness knows I have failed that test many times, both personally and professionally, and this is one of my continuous rather than “New Year’s” resolutions for improvement.

Have you made any resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise? Will you keep them, and are they worth keeping? Just remember – often the growth comes from the journey, not the destination!

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Contents of this newsletter

01  Another Baby for Hub Vets

02  We 'ear you've got a problem!

03  Jake's odd looking ear

04  Summer hazards

05  Snake bite - what to watch out for

06  Keeping cool

07  Ruby - Pet Focus of the Month

01 Another Baby for Hub Vets
Jasmine Williams petpack

Beautiful Jasmine Paige Williams

Another baby has been added to our Hub Vet family – our vet nurse of 16 years, Lauren (Loz), gave birth to Jasmine Paige Williams on December 30th, after 2 days (!!) of labour. In spite of her slow entry to the world, Jasmine is doing wonderfully well. Of course, Shannon is enjoying being a big sister, and Loz and Evan are proud and delighted parents. For those of you who have followed Lauren’s story over the years, and even for those of you who have not, we are sure you share with us in extending our deepest congratulations to all concerned.

02 We 'ear you've got a problem!

Ear problems are common at this time of the year so if you've noticed anything out of the ordinary with your pet's ears, it's important we take a look.

The ear canal is its own mini environment and this can be disturbed by heat, moisture, allergies and foreign bodies (grass seeds are a major culprit).

A change in this mini environment allows bacteria and yeast to flourish resulting in a very unhappy ear canal and a miserable pet.

You should look out for:

  • Discharge - often smelly and may be black, white or yellow in colour
  • Hot and red ears
  • Shaking of the head or a head tilt
  • Rubbing ears along the floor or furniture (dogs love to rub on the back of the couch!)
  • Itching behind the ears 
  • Flicking of the ears (mostly cats)

If your pet has a suspected ear problem, we will need to examine the canal with an otoscope. This allows us to rule out the presence of a foreign body and inspect the canal for signs of irritation and infection.

To identify if bacteria or yeast are present, a sample should be taken and stained with particular chemicals and examined under a microscope.  This enables us to prescribe the correct medication for your pet and gives the ear the opportunity to heal as quickly as possible.

Really nasty ear infections and foreign bodies such as a grass seeds may require your pet to be sedated or undergo a general anaesthetic. This allows efficient flushing of the ear and safe removal of a foreign body.

If you think your pet has an ear problem you should arrange a check up with us ASAP. The longer you leave an ear infection, the more painful the ear becomes and the harder (and more expensive) it is to treat.

03 Jake's odd looking ear

Jake the boisterous cocker spaniel presented with a strange swelling on one of his ear lobes. It was 'soft and squishy' and painful to touch. He had been shaking his head over the previous week and his ear smelt canal smelt like old footy socks!

Following an examination a diagnosis was made. Not only did Jake have a nasty yeast infection, the odd swelling on Jake's ear was diagnosed as an aural haematoma. This phenomenon can easily be explained when you understand the structure of the ear lobes.

Your pet's ear lobes (pinnae) are made up of cartilage and this is covered by the layers of skin. In the connective tissue between the skin and the cartilage there are lots of blood vessels and nerves. An aural haematoma is a collection of blood from these blood vessels (simply a big blood blister).

What causes it?

Damage to the blood vessels in the pinnae lead to the accumulation of blood between the skin and cartilage. The damage often occurs following trauma or when when your pet shakes their head. Ear infections, allergies or foreign objects (such as grass seeds) are common reasons your pet may shake their head.

Dogs with long ears are more prone to aural haematomas but any breed can be affected.

Surgery is the best and most effective way to treat an aural haematoma. The blood is drained and the skin is sutured back on to the cartilage. If the pet has an underlying infection, this also needs to be treated, and any foreign bodies removed.

Jake underwent surgery and was given an ear medication to treat the yeast infection. He also had to wear an elizabethan collar to stop him rubbing at the ear and the sutures. He recovered beautifully and once the hair grew back on his ear (it was clipped for the surgery), it was difficult to tell there was ever a giant blood blister there in the first place!

We recommend you check your pet's ears regularly and if you notice any changes you should arrange a check up with us ASAP. Prompt treatment of any problems will, in many cases, help to prevent an aural haematoma occurring.

04 Summer hazards

Long summer days and balmy nights mean we are often out and about with our pets more than other times of the year. Here are a few summer hazards we always like to remind you to watch out for:

Heat exhaustion:

It can be easy to over-do it in the heat and our pets are super susceptible to heatstroke. Keep an eye out for excessive, exaggerated or noisy panting, drooling, weakness or collapse. If you think your pet might have heat stroke, bring your pet to us immediately (or seek emergency veterinary care). It's best to place your pet in front of the air conditioner or a fan while you are in the car. You can also place wet towels on hairless parts of the body (footpads and groins).

Hot underfoot:

Many people forget that footpaths, decking, tin roofs and bitumen roads get incredibly hot during the summer. Even sand can sometimes be too hot to walk on. This can cause painful burns to your pet's paws so be extremely careful in the heat. If it is too hot for you to walk on in bare feet, it will be too hot for your pet!

Grass seeds:

These pesky little beasts can wreak havoc. Certain types of grass seeds are shaped like a pointy arrow with a sharp tip and once they are caught in your pet’s fur they can start to burrow aggressively into your pet’s skin with no way of escaping. If the seed does not exit, a painful abscess can form and this may lead to the need for surgery to remove the seed or remnants. Keep an eye out for a lump or swelling (particularly between the toes), excessive licking, pain or bloody discharge from a small wound.

We are here to help keep your pet healthy and comfortable over the summer months. If you are worried about your pet you should always ask us for advice. 

05 Snake bite - what to watch out for

With changing weather patterns as well as a wet start to summer for many parts of Australia, snakes are being seen in urban areas previously thought to be 'snake free'.

It's a good idea to remind yourself of what to watch out for when it comes to snake bite.

Remember that different species of snakes possess different types of venom so these can cause varying symptoms that appear anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours after a bite.

Watch out for: 

  • Salivation (drooling)
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Hind limb weakness or paralysis
  • Lethargy

Tips to help your pet survive a snake bite:

  • Seek veterinary attention immediately, even if you only suspect your pet has been bitten. It is better that your pet is checked over rather than wait until it's too late
  • Keep your pet quiet and still - this is critical to help reduce movement of the venom around the body
  • Do not attempt treatment options such as cold packs, ice, tourniquets, alcohol, bleeding the wound or trying to suck out venom in place of getting your pet to the vet - they are a waste of precious time
  • NEVER attempt to kill, handle or capture the snake as you risk being bitten too

Keep pets inside from dusk (snakes like to hunt at night). Keep your back yard as clear as possible, and always be vigilant and supervise your pet when they are off leash. Be aware that dogs CAN get bitten on extenda-leashes too! Be particularly cautious of off-leash areas around rivers and dams.

Click here to see a one very happy dog enjoying the long grass (we probably wouldn't recommend letting your dog do this in the Australian summer!)

06 Keeping cool

The summer heat can really affect our pets so how do you best keep your pet cool this summer?

Air flow is key to keeping cool 

While shade is a non-negotiable essential, there may be some extreme days where you need to bring your pet inside and place them near a fan or air conditioner to allow the air flow to help keep them cool. Wet towels on the floor (or a cooling mat) can also give your pet a comfortable place to rest. 

Ensure there are multiple supplies of water as it is very easy for one water source to be spilled or evaporate.

You can also try some of these easy ideas:

1. Create a giant ice block 

Half fill an ice-cream container with water and freeze - place a number of broken up treats (liver and kangaroo chews work well) then fill to the top with water and freeze again. You'll have a giant flavoured ice-block that will provide hours of cool entertainment.

2. Wading pool

Buy a children's hard plastic wading pool (they are very cheap!) and half fill with water. Float a few of your dog's favourite toys in it and you'll have yourself a pooch pool party!

Finally, don't forget about our wildlife

Our native wildlife really suffer in the extreme heat. A few bowls of water placed around the garden (keep them off the ground away from predators) can literally be life savers. Just remember to place a rock or stick in the  container to prevent any drownings.

07 Ruby - Pet Focus of the Month
ruby keen potm

A trim, happy Ruby

Ruby, a 12 year old Border Collie X,  had been a healthy happy dog with some “middle-aged spread” until only a few months ago, when something subtle changed.  Ruby’s owner noticed that she had just started drinking more, was becoming a little incontinent with her urine, and seemed a bit weaker. Nothing concrete – just something wasn’t right. These signs in an older animal can occur for numerous reasons, including kidney disease, metabolic and hormonal changes, and  infection, so a full blood test was run. Ruby was diagnosed with early diabetes, along with mild liver and pancreatic changes.

Ruby’s diabetic stabilisation took a little while to get the insulin dosing right as those extra few kilos made it a little tricky at first. Now, though, she has lost that extra weight and she is trim and stable in her diabetic management.

Even well-managed diabetes, though, puts a lot of stress on the rest of the body making it prone to seemingly unrelated problems. Over the Christmas break a mass was found in Ruby's spleen, requiring urgent removal. Several days after this, a (very) large sore developed on Ruby's shoulder. This was treated initially as an open wound, until it healed sufficiently to allow us to close it surgically.

Fortunately for Ruby, she has healed really well and is back to her normal (diabetic) self again. But her challenges, and those facing the many animals and people diagnosed with diabetes, is a reminder that diabetes can have dire impacts on the body’s well-being if not constantly monitored. Well done Ruby, and a special well-done to Ruby’s owner, for picking up the subtle changes that have allowed Ruby to do so well!