Monday, August 15, 2016

Dental Discussion - Secret Diseases that Dental Disease Causes

How seriously do you take care of your own teeth?

Some of us take it very seriously, and visit the dentist regularly as well as the oral hygiene steps at home.  Some of us winge about the cost of visiting a dentist, and do not see the benefit of it.

Would we complain so much if we really knew how important keeping your mouth healthy is to the overall health of your body?  Probably not!

As a vet, my primary focus is the care of your pet - every single part of them - from their mouth, skin, heart, kidneys, liver, intestines, brains - you name it.  I became a vet to keep animals healthy, and to help sick ones get better. 

I think of Dental Disease as a hidden disease.

It is a disease that likes to hide, but whilst it is hiding, it isn't silent in the pain and distress it causes our pets. Our pets feel it, but our pets do not complain about it (like we would).

Whilst they are eating normally, love us unconditionally, and show us how much they love us, all the while, in their mouths are evil bacteria which are plotting to eat away at the gum and bone, unknownst to us.

You do not need a vet degree to see the hard brown tartar sitting on the tooth surface, or to be able to smell the pus that is hiding between the gum and the tooth. 

That brown stuff on the teeth is not the hidden disease I am writing about today. 

There are some serious hidden diseases that dental disease has been linked to.  These are the diseases that you would not have thought would be even remotely caused by dental disease.

I am going to share the story of twi very lucky pets, because they were owned by three dedicated, loving pet owners, who (yes, I am biased), came in to see us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Immune Mediated Disease - in this case, eyelid disease (Blepharitis)

Our immune system is fascinating, and scary, and, well, overwhelming in how it can react to things.  I think of the immune system like an invisible army, with reserves, ready to go to fight any evil thing that wants to attack the body.

Sometimes, though, it attacks the body it is trying to protect.  Immune mediated disease (or Auto immune disease) is just that.

Blepharitis secondary to dental disease.
Something has stimulated or activated the immune system, and in its process, has triggered a response.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, which can affect the eyelids themselves, and/or the meibomian glands within it. There are many causes, such as mites, bacteria, fungal, and of course, the very own immune system of the animal.

Part of the treatment for Blepharitis is identifying what the potential trigger is - and in this case, it was considered to be the teeth.  The dog had not had any recent vaccinations (in fact she was overdue), no recent (past 6 weeks) medication, and there had been no other changes in the environment.  All blood work and urine tests were considered normal.

But, this one did have periodontal disease, which has been longstanding.

Aggressive dental therapy included identifying diseased teeth (with the help of dental radiographs were were able to find 3 dead teeth due to their widened pulp), as well as endodontic disease (tooth abscesses) that were hidden from view.

Future treatment will include regular (each six months) dental assessments and cleaning under a general anaesthetic, but the alternate to this is full mouth extractions (doable, but not preferred).

Kidney Disease
 It is well documented that ongoing severe dental disease will contribute to disease of our livers and kidneys.
Testing for Kidney Disease starts with a urine sample.

But it may surprise many people that if we are able to remove the disease in the mouth, in many dogs and cats, the kidney enzymes can actually go back to normal.

Why is it so?

There are many reasons why it can be so. What causes the damage to the kidneys  is the constant bacterial invasion through the blood stream from swollen bleeding gums that get trapped in the nephrons in the kidneys, ticking them off one by one.  
No surprise here about the bacteria and pus spreading from here through the blood stream

 Some nephrons can recover from the insult, and some decide that it is time to give up as they have been hit one time too many.

Once the disease in the mouth has been removed, then the ongoing onslaught to the traumatised nephrons stop - and the kidney is then able to repair (to some degree) the damage.  

How to prevent these problems? 

  • Understand that despite your best efforts, your pet probably has some degree of pet dental disease, which requires ongoing treatment, whether it is via you, or with our help.

  • Understand that you do not need to feel guilty if your pet suffers from these conditions - just trust your vet and take all steps needed to fix the problem.
We know that many pet owners are distraught to find out their pet has disease (often to the point of crying), we do understand that, but let us tackle this problem together, as both you and I want to help your furbaby.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  I am on a mission to improve the health of of our pets, one by one. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Responsible Pet Ownership in New South Wales 2016

The NSW Pet Registry has finally hit the 21st century! It is only 2016 after all!

 Update Note 10th August 2016 -  If you are local and need help, we are willing to help you - we will be available on Tuesday afternoons from 5 pm to 7 pm to individually help you as much as we can.  This will be available until November 2016.  By appointment only.

Since the Companion Animal Act came into being in 1998, with the compulsory microchipping of dogs and cats, it has been, in my opinion, poor implementation of a great idea.

Where did the faults lie?

Where do I begin...

  • Litter microchipping in the breeders name  (if it was about reuniting with owners, then the microchipping should've been in the new owners name).
  • Many pets not "transferred" to new owners at point of sale or give away (triplicate paperwork, with breeders and new owners confused as to who was responsible for the transfer, with often weeks, even months before it is done).
  • Many pets not microchipped at all  (some pet owners claimed it was the cost or that their pet never escaped, therefore didn't need it.  For some pet owners, they didn't want the responsibility or cost of claiming their pet at the pound).
  • Many pets microchip details were not kept up to date when owners moved or changed address (many owners felt the address was automatically updated when they notify council of change of address at the time of the house purchase, or that when a vet scanned the chip, that our databases automatically updated the government one). 
It's not all the owner's fault - the system made it difficult and painful to update. It required phone calls to Council, who often didn't update it, then requiring further phone calls, or at the last resort a visit.  Whilst I personally had no problems in updating my pet's details, I have had many clients claim that they did have major problems.

Sometimes the paperwork just went missing, and the pet never made it on at all.  Or the pet was bought from interstate, and thus, had a microchip, but not on a NSW database.

I have great hopes for the new NSW Pet Registry, as it puts the control in the pet owner's hand.

The Official Launch of the Pet Registry was on 7th of August 2016 at the Sydney Dog Lover's Show. 
So, what do you need to do? 

EVERY pet owner needs to now create a user profile, and then "Claim" their pet's microchip number.

To get started...
Make sure you have a copy of your pet's microchip paperwork, which includes the contact number and your pet's microchip number.

Create a user profile by visiting the pet registry website.  Click here.

Click on Register to create the profile.

Once you have your profile, you can then log in, to "Claim" your pet.

To do so, you will need your pet's microchip number and the phone number you had used as your best contact number (for most pets it will be the mobile phone number).

At the time of writing, make sure the mobile number is in the following format 0000 000 000, with spaces after the first four digits and the next three digits.  (It is a current quirk in the database matching, which they hope to rectify).

For a user guide, Click here.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  If there is anything we can help you with, please let us know.  You can make an appointment to see us online at or you can call us during business hours on 42845988.

Don't forget that you can email us any questions too, with the email address on our website.

We are for Happy, Healthy Pets.... Always!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Highlights of the Sydney Dog's Lover Show 2016 with Dr Liz, Tegan and Dirk

This year was the third time Dirk, Tegan and I went to the Sydney Dog's Lover Show.  We had purchased the tickets online back in March, but we will make a point next year to wait for the Mother's Day sales of tickets (as even though we bought the early bird tickets, we could've got them at an extra discount, and saved even more). 

From back to front - Dirk, Dr Liz and Tegan - We have arrived

The morning started with no Sunday morning sleep in, as we wanted to get there fairly early - for ease of parking, and in the hope of avoiding the big crowds (it was a shoulder to shoulder crush last year).  Our plan worked!

There are two halls packed with stalls and displays.  I wanted to check out GPS trackers, novel protein diets (as Piper is food allergic), as well as find out what was new in the dog lover's world.

Needless to say, my wallet was a little bit lighter, and the car boot filled by the time we left in the afternoon.

We were impressed to see several large maps of Sydney, listing all of the dog friendly places available.  If we were to do a similar list for the Illawarra region, I can guarantee it would be a very very short list. 
"There's a great place near Appin", says Tegan. No 72, Mary Bates Reserve.
Another place to add to our "Dog friendly places to visit"

We stopped by many stands, and spoke to many people, but will share highlights from a few. It is surprising the pet focused technology that is out there, such as GPS trackers, 360 degree interactive web cameras including some which do laser pointing games with the cats, to automatic tennis ball throwers, plus much much more. 

So what do I think about these things?  Technology is great, but I do think that it should be used to improve interactions, rather than to replace them.  I can see that with some people, they will use this to justify not taking the dog for a walk, or spending time with them at home.

 As for the laser pointing for the cats - a great point that was made to me was that the cats need to be rewarded with a successful hunt after such a game (a treat/reward), otherwise it will only increase their frustration/anxiety rather than reduce it.  In these situations, then, watching the cats only gives us enjoyment in flicking the laser out of the cat's way, rather than stimulation for the cat itself. We didn't see anything that would allow remote control release of treats/rewards.

Petrek 3G is a GPS Pet Tracker that caught my eye last year.  It is small, fast charging unit, that you can automate updates to your phone on where your pet is.  It is a "watch this space" as we research GPS trackers (this one as well as  few others).  As many of the lost pets we see are regulars, we do see GPS technology a huge help.

Where is the best doggy daycare? or dog boarding place for your loved baby?  Even for us, it has been trial and error for Piper.  That is always a hard one for us to answer, as each of us have personal preferences on what we like and don't like about places.  And I admit to being a shocker - I cried the one time I had to drop Piper off (I was the same with my human kids too at preschool), so now only Dirk or Tegan drop her off at doggy daycare.

We caught up with  a review site for pet boarding and doggie daycare places, to help pet owners
narrow down their choices, based on other loving pet owners. 

My opinion on review sites are that I will only leave positive ones -  If I have something negative to say, I will say it directly to the business involved. 

Tegan filling out a review on a local Doggy Daycare!  She gave it a high score (positive reviews are the best) 

There were lots of stands that sold pet food, pet treats and pet clothing.  When we visited stands that sold supplements, it surprised me how similar the stories were - "my pet had xyz condition, I researched abc, and came up with the this amazing one of a kind product which my vet claims should not work but it did. It has cured my pet.  " with the suggestion that if we spend $59.95 purchasing the shampoo/multivitamin/lotion it can do to the same thing for our pet.

I have to admit, though, we did purchase some of these as we are the frustrated owners of a very itchy dog, who is under exceptional control when she is on medication, but if she misses a few days, is extremely itchy.  It might well be the thing that forces us to develop something for Piper ourselves.  Sheer frustation of what hasn't worked has been the inspiration for others, Piper is worth our efforts to find the right thing for her.
Tegan choosing the right sized antler to try for Piper - I admit I am not a fan, but will remain open minded on this one.

It was interesting for us to note the number of food stands that had boxes of fresh food in a box - a box filled with carrots, kale, parsley, blueberries (and more) to indicate the freshness of their food. It was interesting to see how many put a claim in for being biologically appropriate, yet few advertised themselves as nutritionally complete (which means that it could be fed exclusively). 

One of the foods though, that we are interested in, is a novel protein one, developed with a veterinary dermatologist. Their BARF diet, however, would not work for Piper as she is allergic to fish, but the novel protein rolls look like they are worth trying out (to give some variety to her currently restricted diet).
Dr Liz and Vet Nurse Tegan with the novel protein rolls of dog food.

On to a more positive note - we visited a book stand, and bought some more books for the animalclinic library, including a signed copy of a recipe book on cupcakes for dogs.  I will go through the book tomorrow, and find out which ones we can do for Piper, and will share some online too (only the ones with the author's permission).
"Stand, Stay" said this dog's Handler.  Very well behaved dog (for a statue) 

Serious faced Tegan with her sunglass wearing military dog (in the safety of Sydney).

The military working dog stand is always a highlight for us, as we in awe of the dedication of all of our animals that have gone to war in the past, and support our soldiers now.  We were introduced to a new (only 5 years old) rescue group that rehabilitates dogs and matches them with diggers and their families, especially those who suffer from PTSD.  

And I cried. I know of many people with PTSD, and know first hand how our animals help them cope through they unswerving, unconditional, love.  Of course we made a donation, and they are now on my radar for future fund raising efforts.

I caught up with the Department of Local Government Stand, and am pleased to announce the official launch of the NSW Pet Registry website.  We have the brochures, and free pet tags at the vets for everyone (whilst stocks last).

 Finally, pet microchip databases in NSW has hit the digital age - its been a long time coming, but hopefully, it will mean that more pets make it back home (and that the errors of the previous system are rectified).
Pet Registration goes digital - all pet owners now have online access to their pet's microchip information!

It is interesting as a veterinarian, to look at things from a pure pet owners point of view.  Alot of the stands sold products that focused on joint pain, digestive health and itchy pets. I agree that these are serious problems, but there were no stands with any focus on dental care, which is consistently in the top 3 of diseases affecting our pets (of all types - dogs, cats, horses, rabbits etc).

We were there for hours.  My wallet was a bit thinner by the end of the day, and the boot of  my car filled with bags of goodies, most for the vet hospital (and some for Piper).  As a person who doesn't actually like shopping, I never mind spending money on my vet hospital and my animals (and yes, my kids too).
Shopping spree, animal lover style.

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet.

I went to the Dog Lovers show with a specific thing in mind - to see what "off the general veterinary radar" products are there, that are targeted towards you (and me) as a pet owner.

 Looking forward to next year's Dog Lover's Show (and wish there was a cat one!).