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Parasite Protection

You can sign up to the Parasite Prevention Program, which sends you out monthly parasite control so you never forget an application!

Intestinal Worms

When it comes to intestinal worms in your pet, such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworm and tapeworm, prevention is much better than cure.
Intestinal worms are parasites, if your pet is not protected they can easily become infected resulting in serious illness. Some intestinal worms are also transmittable to humans, simply by patting your infected pet the parasites can infect you.

The worms affect your dog or cat’s digestive system, and only take a couple of weeks to mature from larvae to adult worms. Once the larvae have matured the cycle begins, the worms lay eggs which mature into adult worms etc.
It can be difficult to see symptoms of an intestinal parasite until the late stages, which is why it is important to have regular worm treatment in place.

Signs your pet could have worms include:

  • You may see worms in faeces or vomit
  • Your pet starts losing weight
  • A change in fur, becoming dry and coarse
  • Increased appetite, weakness and diarrhoea

If you notice any of these symptoms make an appointment for a consult, we will assess your pet and ensure the appropriate treatment is provided.
There are so many different worming and parasite protection products on the market, you can make an appointment to discuss the best option for your dog or cat with one of our nursing team.


Fleas are external parasites that live on the coat and skin of animals and survive by feeding on the blood of their host. What can start as 1 or 2 fleas can quickly turn into an infestation, and breaking the life cycle of the fleas can take months as the flea eggs can lay dormant for up to 6 months.
Initially, the fleas will cause small irritations from biting your pet, if not quickly treated this can lead to severe itchiness, secondary skin infections and even anaemia!

As with all parasites, prevention is the key. It is very important to discuss the best preventative treatment for your pet with us, there is a huge amount of options on the market. Some products are not cat friendly, others can vary in frequency of application, depend on the weight of your pet, and have options of spot-on or tablet treatments. We can recommend the best product to suit your lifestyle and send you reminders when your animal is due for their next treatment, ensuring you stay on top of the medication.


Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs and cats. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

The life cycle of the heartworm is complex and involves several stages. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up microfilariae, which are immature heartworms, along with its blood meal. The microfilariae develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito and are then transmitted to a new host when the mosquito bites again.

Once inside the new host, the larvae migrate to the heart and lungs, where they grow into adult worms. As the worms mature in the heart they can cause physical blockages and thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels, leading to a range of symptoms including coughing, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, heartworm infection can result in heart failure and death.

Fortunately, there are very effective preventative treatment options available including tablets, chews, spot-on’s and even an annual injection for dogs administered by one of our vets. If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, followed by a repeat test 6 months after commencing.

Regular heartworm testing is also recommended for dogs and cats, even if they are already on a preventative regimen. Testing can detect the presence of heartworms before clinical signs appear, allowing for early treatment and better outcomes.

Please call us to discuss the best parasite prevention for your pet

Dental Disease

Dental Disease

Just like humans, our pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. Alarmingly, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of three.
When there is a build-up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth plaque is formed. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line, it appears as a yellow-brown on the teeth, if not removed plaque will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus).
Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur, these can include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth. This same bacterial infection is also a source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidney, liver and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill.
Ultimately, dental disease results in many pets unnecessarily suffering tooth loss, gum infection and pain. It also has the potential to shorten your pet’s lifespan.

How do I know if my pet has dental disease?

Our vets can examine your pet’s teeth on a regular basis and discuss options with you, if necessary we can make a follow-up appointment for a professional dental clean.
The professional dental teeth clean is completed while your pet is anaesthetised, this allows our experts to carry out a thorough dental examination, and clean all teeth without distressing your pet.
A complete dental examination involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth. Our veterinarians will then remove the tartar above the gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste.
If the dental disease is not severe the procedure will end here, however, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary.
Once all dental work is complete, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease.  This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding raw meaty bones and/or a special diet. It is recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after dental cleaning to determine the effectiveness of your dental care routine.

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. The best way to begin this is to acclimatise your pet from a young age. Dental home care may include:

  • Pet Oral wipes to wipe over and clean your pets teeth daily
  • Brushing teeth daily using specialised pet toothbrush and toothpaste. DO NOT use human toothpaste as these may be toxic to your pet!
  • Feed specially formulated dental food
  • Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning biscuits
  • Regular and frequent attention to your pet’s teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic, and will also improve your pet’s overall health. 

Read more about Dental Malocclusions


Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is a relatively common degenerative condition affecting the joints, it is a widespread issue among dogs and cats. Arthritis leads to stiffness, reduced mobility and discomfort, while traditional treatments often focus on pain relief, recent breakthroughs in the Veterinary industry have paved the way for new and advanced arthritis management and treatment options.
Supplements such as Antinol Rapid and new monoclonal antibody injections are proven to suppress inflammation and significantly reduce pain, enhancing the well-being of our furry companions.

The Role of Supplements

Supplements including Antinol Rapid have gained popularity in recent times for their potential to support joint health. Packed with essential nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and some packing anti-inflammatory ingredients like green-lipped mussel and epitalis, supplements aim to promote cartilage repair and reduce inflammation.
Many pet owners have reported improved mobility and increased comfort in their dogs after incorporating recommended supplements into their daily routine.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

A recent and very exciting Veterinary Science breakthrough is Monoclonal Antibody (MoAb) therapies, these injections have shown great promise in managing canine and feline arthritis.
The MoAb injection works in a more direct way than traditional treatments, specifically targeting the inflammatory pathways. The treatment neutralises and blocks the nerve growth factor, resulting in :

  • Reduction in nerve sensitivity
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Alleviation of joint pain
  • Slowing of further joint damage
  • Minimising of side effects while maximising efficacy
  • Potential reduction in the progression of Arthritus

Combining Approaches for Comprehensive Care

Incorporating traditional supplements like Antinol with innovative Monoclonal Antibody therapies provides a holistic approach to managing arthritis in pets. The combination of these methods present a multifaceted approach to tackling inflammation, supporting joint health and enhancing overall well-being in arthritic canines & felines.

As veterinary medicine continues to evolve, the options available for managing pet arthritis will continue to expand. Innovations such as new and enhanced supplements, traditional medications and new Monoclonal Antibody therapies present groundbreaking approaches that hold the potential to revolutionise how we care for our furry companions. Consultation with a veterinarian remains crucial to tailor treatment plans based on individual pets’ needs, ensuring a personalised and effective approach to arthritis management.

Diabetes in Obese Pets

Diabetes in Obese Pets

Extra body fat can cause a variety of health problems in cats and dogs, including insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, obesity can lead to a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity in our pets, which can put them at a high risk for developing diabetes mellitus.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels. When a cat or dog is overweight, their body becomes resistant to insulin, meaning that their cells are unable to use the insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. This can cause a range of symptoms, including increased thirst and urination, weight loss, and weakness. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including blindness, kidney failure, and even death.

Weight management is especially important in decreasing a pet’s risk for the development of diabetes mellitus. If you have an overweight pet, it is important to work with your veterinarian to develop a weight loss plan that is safe and effective. This may involve changes to their diet, increased exercise, and other lifestyle changes.

In addition to managing diabetes, weight loss can also help improve overall health in cats and dogs. Pets that are at a healthy weight are less likely to develop a range of health problems, including joint problems, heart disease, and respiratory problems.


Obesity in Dogs and Cats

There are some medical causes of obesity in dogs and cats, however the vast majority of cases are due to overfeeding and lack of exercise.
The best way to help your pet lose weight is to control the amount of calories they are eating and increase physical activity. If you have tried this method and not seen a successful reduction in your pet’s weight it is best to make a consult with a veterinarian. Our vet will not judge you or the animal, but work with you to develop a weight loss plan that is safe and effective for your pet.

Common Issues with Obesity

There are a number of issues that are directly linked to obesity, more common ones are:

  • Joint disease including arthritis, cruciate ligament injury and spinal disease
  • Diabetes
  • Exercise intolerance and respiratory disorders
  • Reduced lifespan
  • Increased anaesthetic and surgical risks
  • Unwillingness to accept certain food and diets 

Medical causes of obesity:

Obesity is not always diet related, it can be a symptom of a medical issue such as:

  • Hormonal disorders – hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, growth hormone issues
  • Musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction causing inactivity
  • Some medications

If you suspect there could be a medical cause for your pet’s obesity, particularly if the weight gain has been sudden, cannot be explained by a change in feeding or activity levels, or you have noticed other symptoms, please make an appointment with one of our vets prior to undertaking a new diet or exercise regime.

Obesity without medical causes is generally always within the control of the owner. There are very few situations where a dog or cat has unlimited access to food, and of course food is almost always the main contributing factor to pet obesity, as they don’t, and shouldn’t, do enough exercise to compensate for excessive calorie intake.

Australian Pet obesity levels study in 2005:

  • 33.5% of dogs were overweight
  • 7.6% of dogs obese
  • overall prevalence 41%
  • of these, approximately half were female, and 74.7% were neutered


Giving treats to your dog, particularly as a reward for good behavior or performing tricks or tasks that you have asked for, is a very important part of the human animal bond.
Receiving treats does improve your pet’s quality of life if it is associated with positive interactions, so it is important to consider the type of treats being fed.
Vegetables and some fruit can make tasty treats eg. Small cubes of pumpkin, sweet potato, frozen peas, small pieces of banana or apple. Alternatively, you could save a few kibble from the morning meal allocation, and give these to the dog as a treat throughout the day.
From personal experience, it pays to ask your pet to do something prior to receiving a treat, and to ‘schedule’ these interactions so that the dog does not learn to beg for food on their own schedule.

Always purchase products such as dried jerky-style treats including liver, and rawhide chews, from reputable sources. It is best to avoid cheap products made overseas as there have been incidences of contamination and toxicity including acute kidney failure reported in Australia.

Tools for Success:

  • Schedule 2 meals for the day – this spreads the calorie intake and keeps the metabolic rate elevated throughout the day; it improves satiety, and allows absolute control over the volume of food the pet consumes. Ad-lib feeding for most domestic dogs and many cats is not recommended
  • Commit to a diet designed for weight loss (prescription diets such as Hills Metabolic, or Royal Canin Obesity are fantastic) – the advantage of these foods is they are calorie-restricted, but still provide a complete balanced diet in a reasonable volume of food. By simply cutting back the volume of a normal adult dog or cat food enough to achieve weight loss, your pet may be missing out on essential nutrients, and be left hungry – this increases begging and scavenging behavior
  • Regular weigh-ins – these are essential; they provide an objective measurement of progress, which increases motivation levels, and allow us to adjust the diet once a healthy body weight has been achieved, or if results are not being seen.
  • Separate pets for meal time if there are multiple in the house
  • Prevent access to other food – eg. Put your dog outside when it is time to feed toddlers and children, this is a notorious source of ‘extra’ food being consumed by your dog (and some cats!)

Exercise/activity levels:

Regular walks are great for dogs and us! It is important if your dog has been previously inactive, or has medical conditions which may impact its ability to exercise safely that you seek veterinary advice prior to increasing your dog’s activity levels suddenly.

Regular play and interaction breaks the day up for your dog, and increases incidental exercise. Again for very overweight dogs, or those with respiratory or joint issues certain activities or games such as ball chasing, jumping may be dangerous so let us help you design an exercise/activity program which will be safe and effective.

Make them work for it:

Toys and games which increase activity levels when you are not present are also valuable – treat balls such as Kongs for dogs (and cats) are fantastic; treasure hunts for food left in the backyard, or food mazes for playful cats are also fantastic. If your lazy cat is spending the day indoors try scattering some of his daily dry food portion around the kitchen or hallway and encourage him to move for his breakfast. One of the best toys we have found for cats is the “Da Bird’, and its off-shoot, “Da Mouse”.  Call into the clinic for a demo. There are many ‘slow feeding’ products on the market, but one of the simplest is to divide your dog’s dry food into smaller portions such as in a muffin tray, then secure this to the ground. Eating slower improves mental and physical satisfaction.

Fireworks and loud noises

Fireworks and loud noises

Summer is full of celebrations, sometimes involving fireworks. Dogs and cats react to fireworks individually. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.

Many pets get lost, injured or killed during this time, so if your pet isn’t microchipped, this could be lifesaving prevention in order to get an escapee returned home. We can do this in a quick simple appointment on any working day. Its also a good idea for your pets to be wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number – although it may come off, if it doesn’t your pet can be quickly returned.

Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside, and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Try to be home or have your dog with you during fireworks events, as they will be less anxious if you are home. Bring outside pets inside, so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a toilet break during the fireworks, have them on a leash, even in a fenced yard.


What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that’s needed. Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat. Also, having the TV on a bit louder than usual may help disguise the sudden loud noises associated with fireworks.

Synthetic pheromone products such as Feliway diffusers for cats and Adaptil diffusers or collars for dogs are worth trying. These products imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being. 

Some pets respond to pressure wraps, the most well known being  “Thundershirts”. The pressure around the body has a calming effect and works well in many dogs. A great benefit is that you don’t need to know exactly when the fireworks will be, you can put the Thundershirt on around the time they are expected and leave it on for days around festive periods like New Years Eve when fireworks may be sporadic for many hours.

Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards such as small pieces of cheese, meat or liver treats, offer your pet his favourite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards. 

You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends – usually the pet needs to choose their own safe place and the owner needs to ensure this space is available during frightening events. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!  Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behaviour when the fireworks are over. 

Drug therapies can be discussed with your vet for particularly severe or serious phobias (such as dogs breaking down doors). These can be very effective if the timing of use is correct and they are the right choice for your dog. Some can take weeks to be effective, so ensure you see the veterinarian well in advance of expected fireworks events

Grass Seeds on Your pet

Grass seeds in your pets fur

These nasty little awns can cause a lot of discomfort to your dog, and frustration for your vet and groomer. The very pointed end on a grass seed means it can easily become embedded in your pet’s skin, commonly in the paws, under the tail, armpit or groin region.  The ears are also very susceptible to collecting grass seeds, and also the eyes, as the dogs rub their faces in the grass.

Every vet you ask will have a ‘grass seed horror story’, of that one that got away and caused life-threatening damage, or even death, of a pet. This is because grass seeds can migrate through the body, tracking infection as they go. Dogs may also inhale a grass seed, with it lodging in the lungs and causing a severe chest infection. The body cannot generally break down a grass seed, so wherever it lands, it will eventually require removal. The best way to prevent damage from grass seeds is to find them and remove them as quickly as possible when they are close to the surface and easily accessible. If you suspect a grass seed is lodged too deeply, or there is no sign of a grass seed present but a lump, with pus or blood oozing out, then it is best to have it assessed by a vet straight away. Delaying this visit may result in more invasive surgeries to find and remove the seed. Most dogs will at least need to be sedated to find and remove grass seeds, and I personally have found up to 50 grass seeds in one unlucky dog.

The symptoms of grass seed infections in various locations are described in the following table.

EARS– Shaking of the head
– Redness of the ear
– Painful to touch
– Holding the head to one side

– Ear infection
– Rupture of the ear drum
– Permanent loss of hearing, or balance
– Death if infection reaches the brain
EYES – Swollen, red eye
– Excessive tear production
– Rubbing at the eye

– Ulceration of surface of the eye
– Penetration of the eye
– Removal of the eye if damage severe enough
– Licking at the toes
– Red, swollen area between the toes
– Swelling of the foot
– Limping or holding the leg up
– Migration of the seed up the leg,
between ligaments and tendons,
possibly into joints or into the chest
– Constant sneezing
– Bloody discharge from one nostril
– Rubbing face on the ground
– Difficult breathing

– Damage to airways
– Migration of the grass seed into the lungs;
this is usually life threatening

– Swollen, red lump, with blood or pus oozing out
– Dog licking constantly at the site
– Grass seed awns sticking out from the skin

– Migration into the chest or abdomen
– Multiple surgeries to try and locate and remove
– Occasionally CT scan may be required
to locate, as grass seeds are not visible on radiographs

– Licking at the site
– Difficulty or pain urinating
– Blood in urine
– Swelling and redness
– Invasive surgery to remove
– Permanent damage to structures

Prevention is the Best Cure

Taking these steps is the best way to prevent grass seeds creating issues for your pets

  • Regular (DAILY) checking of your dog all over, including in between each and every toe, and especially after a walk
  • Avoid long grass on walks, and keep your grass and weeds short at home
  • Keep long-haired dogs trimmed or clipped, and well-groomed, especially around their feet and ears. If trimming them yourself, be mindful of clipping the ‘top’ off a grass seed, possibly leaving the end still embedded in the skin. This makes it even harder to find.
  • Seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect a grass seed problem in any location on your dog. Do not expect your groomer to be able to remove these seeds, as they are often too embedded, or require antibiotic treatment once removed. Many times your pet will need to be sedated to ensure safe grass seed removal, so please be understanding of this.

Anal Glands

What on Earth are Anal Sacs?

Anal sacs (also called anal glands) are two small glands just inside your pet’s anus. The material secreted into these sacs is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling fishy. Most wild animals can empty these glands voluntarily for scent marking or in self-defense (like a skunk might do); however, domestic animals have largely lost their ability to empty these sacs voluntarily. Walking around and normal defecation serve to empty the sacs but some animals become unable to empty their sacs on their own at all. The sacs become impacted and uncomfortable.

Dogs with impacted anal sacs usually scoot their rear on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands. Some dogs will lick their anal area and other dogs will chase their tails. Cats often lick the fur off just under their tails. Some animals are simply vaguely uncomfortable, holding their tails down, shivering, showing reluctance to walk or hiding. Strangely, some animals seem to refer their discomfort to their ears and scratch and shake their ears as if an ear infection were present.

What to do about Scooting?

You should bring your pet into visit us at the clinic.  We can manually empty these glands by inserting a finger into their rectum and gentle expressing the material out of the gland.  This is often all that is needed to relieve the discomfort.

What if Scooting Continues?

If scooting continues for more than a few days after sac emptying, the sacs should be re-checked. For some individuals, it takes several sac emptyings in a row before the sacs stay emptied. If the sacs are empty and scooting is persisting, another cause (such as itchy skin, tapeworms, or even lower back pain) should be pursued.

What Happens if an Impacted Sac doesn’t get Emptied?

An abscess can form and rupture out through the skin. This is a painful, messy and smelly condition often mistaken for rectal bleeding. If an anal sac abscess forms, it will need immediate veterinary treatment.  We may need to flush the glands under sedation and antibiotics will be needed.

How often should Anal Sacs be Emptied?

This is a highly individual situation. The best recommendation is to let the pet tell you when the sacs are full. If the pet starts scooting again, it is time to bring him in.

What if My Pet’s Sacs seem to Require Emptying all the Time?

A non-invasive technique that helps some patients is a change to a high fibre diet. This will produce a bulkier stool that may be more effective in emptying the sac as it passes by.

Anal Sacculectomy

If the sacs need to be emptied every few weeks or more, you may opt to have the sacs permanently removed. This procedure is complicated by many local nerves controlling fecal continence, the fact that any change in the local musculature of the anal sphincter area can affect fecal continence, and the fact that with chronic anal sac problems anatomy is distorted. Draining tracts can develop after surgery if the gland is not completely removed. Still, despite these pitfalls anal sac removal is considered a relatively simple surgery by experienced surgeons.

Many people own pets for years without ever learning that anal sacs exist at all and the “wive’s tale” that worms cause scooting erroneously continues. If you have further questions about anal gland disease give us a call

Dental Malocclusions


By Dr Wayne Fitzgerald- Dental surgeon


“But it isn’t worrying him.” … we hear these words all the time and what do you say when you know this just can’t be true?
Our patients are very good at masking pain, especially chronic pain. People generally can’t ignore their own pain, but can be pretty good at it if it isn’t theirs!
Dental malocclusions do cause discomfort, even significant pain, and generally result in some sort of pathology.
“In people, the main reason for treating malocclusion is cosmetic; in veterinary medicine however, the reason for performing orthodontic correction is to enhance function and prevent disease.” (Jan Bellows, 1999)
Affected animals often become defensive around their head making examination difficult; however, given time these may progress to hard or soft-tissue pathology and even loss of function. Malocclusions are most often hereditary but some such as a tipped tooth may be acquired. Trauma or illness (during a growth period of the jaw bones) may also alter these relationships by changing growth patterns producing a wry mouth or altered functions.
Humans introduced line- or in-breeding, later, these became established types and hence ‘breeds’. Malocclusions are primarily the result of inherited dento-facial proportions governed by breeding for a desired head shape.
Malocclusions may be produced by inheritance in 2 ways:

1. Inherited disproportion between the size of the teeth and the size of the jaws producing a crowded or abnormal spacing of the teeth, or

2. Inherited disproportion between the size or shape of the upper and lower jaws causing improper occlusal relationships.

Genetic isolation and uniformity as seen in wild dogs, rarely produce instances of malocclusion. When this group carries the same genetic information for tooth and jaw size, there is little possibility of individuals inheriting discordant characteristics. Genes that introduce disturbances into the jaws would tend to be eliminated from the population. The ‘typical” specimen has a normal scissor occlusion and tooth/jaw size discrepancies are infrequent as each tends to have the same jaw relationship.
When cross-breeding between distinct breeds occurs, malocclusions may develop. In 1941, this genetic problem was demonstrated by cross-breeding dogs and recording their body structure. It was believed that malocclusions occurred in cross-bred dogs more from jaw length or width discrepancies than from tooth/jaw size imbalances.  However, the miniature dog breeds were examined where the latter is common.  This research confirmed that “independent inheritance of facial characteristics is a major cause of malocclusion and the rapid increase in malocclusion accompanying urbanisation was probably the result of increased out-breeding.”  That is, breeding between dissimilar dogs such as Basset Hounds and English Bulldogs, and we have seen the emergence of such ‘designer breeds in the last few decades.

Itching and Allergies in Dogs

Itching and Allergies in Dogs

Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience for you, the pet owner, and can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond.  Persistent scratching and chewing by the pet can also result in damage and infection to the skin.  Below are some of the more common causes of itching and scratching in our pets.

The Most Common Causes of Chronic Itching

The common causes fall into two groups: external parasites and allergies.  The external parasite that most commonly causes chronic itching dermatitis is fleas.   We always recommend stepped-up flea control and monitoring for fleas, as flea infestation can really make allergy worse! Different products work better in certain situations so always ask your vet for advice on the best product for your pet.

What are Allergies?

Allergy is a state of hypersensitivity in which exposure to a harmless substance known as an allergen induces the body’s immune system to “overreact.”  The incidence of allergies is increasing in both humans and their pets.  People with allergies usually have “hay fever” (watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing) or asthma. While dogs can rarely also have respiratory allergies, more commonly they experience the effects of allergic hypersensitivities as skin problems.  Though there are a variety of presentations, this can often be seen as redness and itching, recurring skin or ear infections, and hair loss.  This is sometimes called eczema or atopic dermatitis. 

What are the Major Types of Allergies in Dogs?

Flea Allergy

Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats.  For the flea allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential for the pet to remain symptom-free. 

“But doctor, I never see fleas on my pet.”   You may not see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  The allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to induce the problem.  Also, the itchy pet often scratches so much that adult fleas are removed, making them hard to find. 

“If fleas are the problem, why is my pet still itchy in the winter?”  In warm climates or in our homes, fleas may survive in low numbers year-round.  Because flea allergy is so common, we recommend that complete flea control be instituted before proceeding with diagnostics for other allergies and that year-round flea control be maintained for all allergy patients.

Food Allergy

Some pets develop specific hypersensitivities to components of their diets.  The allergen usually is a major protein or carbohydrate ingredient such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat, or soy.  Minor ingredients such as preservatives or dyes are also potential allergens.  The diagnosis of food allergy requires that we test your pet by feeding special strict diets that contain only ingredients that he has never eaten before. This is often achieved by feeding a prescription diet for a period of 10 to 16 weeks.  If the signs resolve, a challenge is performed by feeding the former diet and watching for a return of the itching.  If this occurs, a diagnosis of food allergy is confirmed. 

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an inherited predisposition to develop skin problems from exposure to variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances including the pollens of weeds, grasses and trees, as well as house dust mites and mold spores.  Diagnosis of AD is made based on the results of intradermal skin testing or by in vitro blood testing.  Evaluating the results of these tests helps us compile a list of allergens for a “vaccine” to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.  Sometimes multiple skin and/or blood tests are necessary to accurately assess the patient’s allergies.

Secondary Infections

Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and/or ear infections.  Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can cause an increase in your pet’s level of itching. Long-term treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing programs.

Can Allergies be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergy and it is usually a life-long problem. We seek to control allergies and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet.  We will formulate the best program of management that suits all involved with your pet’s care. 

Can I have the Itching Treated without the Expense of Diagnostic Testing?

Symptomatic drug therapy can help to reduce itching.  Steroids, such as prednisone tablets in particular, are often employed to stop the itch.  However, without addressing the underlying cause, the itching will return.  Long-term use of steroids can result in many health problems.  This is the reason that we encourage diagnosis of the underlying cause of the allergy and more specific or less potentially harmful treatments.

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