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

Barb's Bits

It seems that through my life I have been a magnet for bizarre events. The lid of an electric frypan I was cooking dinner in spontaneously exploded. A hot air balloon I was in crashed into power lines. A man I had just met suggested we get married so he could get a visa to live in Australia and do God's work.

A friend is visiting me in a few weeks, and she is a similar sort of magnet. When we are together, the earth must tremble in fear! That would explain our joint exploits - the lid of the blender somehow becoming blended into the cocktails; the torrential downpour which placed us at risk of electrocution; the truck losing its load in front of us as it went around the corner...  Hmmm, now I write it like that there seems to be some disturbing similarities!

So if there is an earthquake, or a lightning storm, or a tornado, don't panic - it's just because Salbo is in town!!

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Contents of this newsletter

01  Spring is in the air and so is itchy skin

02  Our top skin care tips for your pet

03  Rocky's secret

04  Anal glands issues

05  Keep your pet safe this spring

06  Lucy, Pet Focus of the Month

01 Spring is in the air and so is itchy skin

Itchy skin can cause absolute chaos and really affect your dog's quality of life. One of the most common and frustrating 'itchy skin' conditions we see in dogs is atopic dermatitis. This inflammatory condition is caused by a reaction to allergens in the environment (a bit like the common triggers of asthma and hay fever in humans). It is particularly troublesome in spring and summer but can occur all year round. 

Allergens that might cause a problem include: grasses, trees, plant pollen, dust mites, insects, and moulds.

The signs associated with atopic dermatitis generally consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, biting, and licking. They usually appear when your dog is between 1 and 6 years of age.

Common sites your dog may be itchy:

- Ears (recurrent ear infections are common)
- The feet and in between the toes
- The armpits
- The groin and anal glands
- Around the eyes

The itching quickly leads to self-trauma of the skin which causes secondary infections that require medication.

Diagnosis and management of atopic dermatitis relies on a good history of your dog's symptoms and a thorough physical examination. It is essential that all potential parasitic causes and food allergies are ruled out. Your dog may also undergo further allergy testing and these results can be used to formulate a unique de-sensitising allergy vaccine.

The good news is that there are some exciting new immunotherapy drugs available that have minimal side effects, and can greatly improve your dog's comfort and quality of life. 

If you would like more information about skin disease and your dog you should always ask us for advice.

02 Our top skin care tips for your pet

When it comes to managing the itchy pet, there is no simple magic solution. It's all about prevention of parasites and taking action before things get out of control. Here are our top tips for healthy skin:

1. Be vigilant with flea treatment all year round for all the pets in your family. Fleas are THE major cause of an itchy pet, and regular use of a flea treatment is easier and cheaper than trying to get rid of the itch. Ask us for the best flea treatment available for your pet, including those that provide protection for a few months at a time.

2. Hot skin is itchy skin - help keep your pet's skin cool by providing plety of access to shade, keeping them indoors during the hottest part of the day, and using damp towels and water sprays to cool them down.

3. A premium diet is essential to keep your pet's skin and coat in top shape. The vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids will provide a good barrier against potential allergens - ask us for a recommendation.

4. Always wash your dog in a pet-approved shampoo and conditioner. A product containing ceramides can help rebuild the epidermal barrier and reduce allergen exposure - ask us for more information.

5. Medication to help reduce the immune system's response to the allergen can greatly reduce an itch and these can be used during flare-ups and for ongoing management - we can provide you with more information so chat with us about what's suitable for your pet.

6. And finally, if you notice your pet is itching, licking, biting, or rubbing, you should arrange a check up with us ASAP. The sooner we settle the itch, the less likely your pet is to cause self trauma and secondary skin infections.

If you have an itchy pet at your house it is best arrange an appointment with us. We will help keep your pet happy, healthy and comfortable.

03 Rocky's secret

Last month we introduced you to Rocky the cat, and this month we'd like to let you in on Rocky's little secret ... he's allergic to fleas!

Fleas are a number one cause of skin problems in pets. When a flea bites your pet, their saliva leads to an intense reaction. Some pets are more sensitive to flea saliva than others, and poor Rocky is one of those pets! It only takes one or two bites for him to become itchy.

Yep, these little critters cause absolute havoc for Rocky, and we think you should know what to watch out for as you don't need to see fleas on your pet for there to be a problem. 

Rocky's symptoms:

- After a flea bites Rocky he becomes intensely itchy and starts over-grooming via licking. His coat starts to thin out and he gets lots of little scabs along his back; a tell tale sign of flea allergy dermatitis.

- Rocky is an indoor cat but it is likely that a pesky visiting canine is the source of the fleas. 

- His constant licking causes trauma to the skin and a secondary bacterial infection, so treatment includes antibiotics and some medication to help break the itch cycle.

Rocky is now on regular flea treatment and will be year-round (his canine friend visits regularly). His bedding is also washed and a good vacuum of his living quarters (the couch!) is performed to pick up any residual eggs.

If your pet isn't protected against fleas, now is the time! Ask us for the best flea treatment for your pet.

04 Anal glands issues

Have you ever seen your dog dragging his or her bottom along the ground? This peculiar act is known as 'scooting' and can indicate your dog has irritated anal glands.

The infamous anal glands are located on either side of your dog's anus. Each gland holds a small amount of a smelly brown liquid that is released as your pet does a poo. This custom scent is left on the poo and is used as a doggie calling card.

If the glands are not sufficiently emptied they can become impacted and uncomfortable. Dogs that suffer from allergies and itchy skin are also very susceptible to irritated anal glands.

Watch out for:

- Rubbing bottom on the ground especially after defecating
- A foul odour (some describe it as a 'fishy' or metallic smell)
- Licking or chewing the bottom
- Turning around suddenly
- Soft stools or diarrhoea - the glands can become impacted following a bout of diarrhoea

If you notice any of these signs, the glands need to be manually examined and expressed, so please call us for an appointment. 

05 Keep your pet safe this spring

Spring is here and we want to keep your pet happy and healthy. Here are some spring hazards you should be aware of:

Bee and wasp stings can lead to pain and swelling at the site of the sting. Some pets can have an anaphylactic reaction to a sting and this can be life threatening. If you notice severe facial and/or neck swelling, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, or collapse, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.

Snail and slug bait is very attractive to pets. Ingestion of small quantities can be rapidly fatal. Products that claim they are 'safe for pets' generally aren't - they have a bitter taste and this only acts as a deterrent. Some pets will still eat these highly toxic baits, so consider whether they are absolutely necessary in your garden. 

Fertiliser: Pets love the smell and taste of some fertilisers, and if eaten, they can prove rapidly toxic or even fatal. You should seek veterinary advice if ingested.

Poisonous plants: Lilies (such as the tiger, asiatic and easter variety) can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. The leaves, stems, stamen, and even the water the lilies are stored in can all be poisonous. Rhododendrons and azaleas, daffodil bulbs and daphne can also all cause a problem if they are eaten. 

Hot cars: It doesn't have to be that hot outside for a car to dramatically heat up inside. Keep this in mind as the days are getting warmer, and remember that it only takes a few minutes for a pet to begin to suffer from heatstroke. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows down doesn't help either, so don't risk it.

Parasites: With the warmer weather comes fleas, ticks and mosquitoes so it's essential your pet is up to date with their parasite prevention. You should ask us for the best prevention for your pet.

If you have any questions about your pet's health you should always ask us for advice, we're here to help!

06 Lucy, Pet Focus of the Month
Lucy in the car

Lucy enjoying her ride home after surgery

Lucy is a 15 year old Kelpie who is starting to show her age - she has arthritis and mobility issues, anxiety, lots of fatty lumps and some dementia. In spite of waking the owners up every morning at 3am for breakfast, she is a much loved member of the family. 

It was alarming to recently find a rapidly growing lump on Lucy's forearm. A fine needle aspirate suggested a low grade cancer, and the question became - do we remove it, or not? The risk of removing it meant Lucy might suffer a reduction in mobility, or even death, from the general anaesthetic. The risk of NOT removing it meant that the lump might continue to grow and then ulcerate, which might lead to euthanasia. 

There is no absolute right or wrong in this circumstance. Some owners would rather take the chance to fix something, while other owners would not. Surgical removal of lumps is quite time sensitive, especially on the leg where there is a limited amount of skin, so a decision had to be made quickly. After running some bloods on Lucy to check that everything was working well on the inside, Lucy's owners opted to have the lump removed.

We tailor all anaesthetics to each animal's needs - age is not the issue so much as the health problems the animal has. In Lucy's case we combined general with local anaesthesia and a carefully planned surgical approach to maximise the chance of a quick recovery.  All went according to plan and Lucy was back on her feet and barking again in no time, with one less lump to call her own! Well done old girl!