Follow up on APVMA review of adverse reactions in veterinary products.

The alarming tone of Rosslyn Beeby’s front page article in the Canberra Times 29th December, sent me to the source of her information and statistics, the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s 2009 review of adverse reactions.

The Canberra Times claims were highly inflated. Beeby says:

“According to a report published last week by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the deaths of more than 60 dogs in 2009 were associated with commonly used veterinary chemicals and vaccines.”

I found one canine death as a result of the use of imidacloprid (Advantage, Advantix, Advocate) and one from moxidectin microspheres (Proheart SR12). Consistent counts of around ten deaths for each component of a C5 vaccine, lead me to believe that around ten to fifteen deaths occurred due to C3 and C5 vaccinations (by far the most common). I am at a loss to find the other deaths reported in the Canberra Times.

Reported feline deaths due to vaccines are as low as 2-6. Again, most feline vaccinations are polyvalent, and so are over reported.

In all of the major vaccination adverse reaction reports, canine and feline, the APVMA added:

Due to the low number of reports when taking into consideration the large number of dogs (or cats) vaccinated each year, no further regulatory action is required other than continuing monitoring for future adverse effects.

Parvovirus infection is rife in the puppy population at the moment and many are dying of it. Distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus are often fatal, even with intensive treatment, and always painful and debilitating.

Australia wide usage of vaccines in 2009 is probably one to two million doses. Hall Veterinary Surgery alone gave more than 1000 canine vaccinations in 2009. Compared to the adverse reaction death rate, the death rate of dogs contracting hepatitis, distemper or parvovirus is very high. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

Hall Veterinary Surgery recommends triennial immunisation with the core vaccines for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus in dogs, and an annual vaccination for cats. One of the components of the cat vaccination, the herpesvirus, doesn’t guarantee three years of immunity. Dogs visiting boarding kennels or in constant contact with other dogs at dog parks, obedience trials, on walks etc require annual kennel cough boosters. Feel free to discuss all these aspects with your vet at your pet’s next annual check up.

There were no reported deaths in either cats or dogs with the use of fipronil, one with moxidectin (Proheart Sr12) and one with imidacloprid. The APVMA concluded that:

Given the very high sales volume, the incidence of adverse reactions is low. Therefore no regulatory action is required …( for imidacloprid) and

Due to the low number of reports when taking into consideration the large number of dogs treated each year, no further regulatory action is required.. (for moxidectin)

The Canberra Times article went on:

Several over-the-counter flea sprays and spot-on treatments contain chemicals that have been banned in Europe for more than a decade

The author didn’t say where she found this information, but it would appear the APVMA hasn’t banned them here because they are considered safe enough if used correctly. Veterinary advice is important even for over the counter products. We see deaths due to paralysis tick toxicity regularly and flea infestations are uncomfortable and unhealthy.

The Canberra Times goes on:

In one instance cited in the APVMA report, a flea treatment containing the insecticide imidacloprid prompted 255 reports of ”adverse reactions” in dogs, ranging from nerve inflammation, skin irritations, vomiting, seizures and difficulty in walking. The chemical was banned in France more than a decade ago after it was linked to the death of billions of bees.

Imidacloprid was withdrawn as a sunflower seed treatment in France in 1999. There is still scientific debate as to whether this withdrawal was justified or not.

The Canberra Times also reports:

The report reveals another commonly available flea treatment containing the insecticide fipronil was linked last year to 42 reports of adverse reactions in dogs, and 38 in cats. Fipronil is banned in France, Uruguay and China, but the chemical is widely used in Australia to control fleas, ticks, cockroaches, ant infestations and crop pests including locusts.

Fipronil is subject to review but the APVMA reports no deaths with the use of this insecticide and the low probability that fipronil itself causes adverse reactions. Sometimes the carrying agent of insecticides causes skin reactions.

Permethrin is toxic to cats and is should only be used in cat-free households.

Ask at the Hall Veterinary Surgery for instructions on how to safely apply these products.

The Canberra Times article has left us scratching our heads. Our reading of the APVMA report left us in agreement with the APVMA that the incidence of adverse reactions – and fatalities in particular – was relatively low in all the products mentioned. Whilst all of the products contain a risk in their usage, the benefit when the products are used as recommended far outweighs the risk.

Please discuss any concerns that you have with your vet. All of our vets are keeping up to date with developments within the industry, trying to find safer products and protocols for your pet.

Exaggerated and irresponsible article in today’s Canberra Times

An article on a report published by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (AVPMA) in the Canberra Times today magnifies adverse effects in some animals to veterinary vaccines, flea treatments and other chemicals. It fails to mention the sickness, suffering and death prevented by these treatments in the vast majority of animals.

This morning we admitted an unvaccinated pup into hospital with parvovirus gastroenteritis. He is very dehydrated and is suffering severe abdominal pain. His chances of survival are 60:40. If he had been vaccinated he would not have developed this nasty disease. The vaccine is close to 100% effective in preventing parvovirus disease and only has to be administered once very 3 years to adult dogs.

Many hundreds of thousands of dogs are vaccinated every year and only a handful suffer any side effects. Most often the side effects are mild, a swelling at the site or of the face.

This summer is the worst for fleas and ticks in many years because of the high rainfall. Tick antiserum is in short supply and it is imperative that all dogs travelling to the coast are treated with a tick preventative and searched daily for ticks.

Advantix, permethrin spray and Frontline are the most effective tick prevention available. Compared to the number of dogs treated we see very few side effects. They are usually mild skin irritation or hair loss, and usually reversible.

Dogs infested with ticks die without tick antiserum and intensive treatment. Tick antiserum is far more likely to cause serious side effects than any of the preventative chemicals. Tick prevention is far better than cure.

Fleas and flea allergy dermatitis cause far more discomfort in far more dogs than the occasional side effect to any of the flea preventatives. Millions of doses of fipronil, imidacloprid and permethrin are applied every year but, as the APVMA reports, only a few cause side effects.  The benefits of flea prevention far outweigh the risk of side effects.

Each individual cat should have a tailored vaccination programme. Specialists from around the world debated the frequency of immunisation in cats at this year’s veterinary immunology conference. Factors affecting our recommendation for your cat include whether she goes outdoors or to boarding catteries, or how many other cats live in the household. We have not seen significant adverse effects to the vaccines in any of our patients but we often see very sick unvaccinated cats.

Feline AIDS caused by the cat immunodeficiency virus circulates in our outdoor cat population. It is incurable and reduces affected cats’ ability to fight off common infections and afflictions.  We see fever in the occasional cat on the day following the AIDS vaccination.

We see unexpected but occasional side effects with many things we give our pets. This article exaggerates the APVMA’s report and the likelihood of serious problems If you have concerns about any treatments you currently use please discuss the costs and benefits with your veterinarian first.

Snakes in the grass

Miss Lucy found a snake this morning. After all the rain there is plenty of long grass for snakes to slither through. Jack Russells are notorious snake killers so snake envenomation was top of our list this morning when Lucy came in wobbly and shivery. Although Lucy lives in the suburbs snakes feel quite at home in our sprawling city. They wander in to our yards from nearby paths and paddocks in the warm weather surprisingly often.  Usually we don’t notice them. It is only when a dog like Lucy finds them that we even know they are there. Keep your grass cut and your dogs on leads when out walking so that they don’t end up in hospital like Lucy.

PS Lucy has had a dose of snake antivenom and is recovering well!

Itchy bottom?

Dogs scoot their bottoms along the ground when they have anal gland problems, tapeworms or allergies.

If you catch your dog rubbing along on the carpet, worm him with a good quality wormer such as Drontal or Milbemax that covers all worms, especially tapeworm.

If he is still irritated or if he seems off colour then bring him in to the surgery. Many small dogs suffer from anal sac problems. The gland fills up with material too thick to empty through the small ducts in the anus. Usually we just express them and all is well.

Sometimes the material gets infected and the glands become swollen and painful.  Your dog might have trouble defecating or lick the area a lot. The glands may break through the skin and discharge foul smelling fluid. At the surgery we clip and clean them as well as starting antibiotics and pain relief. If your dog has repeated anal gland infections we recommend surgery to remove them.

In spring and summer many allergic dogs rub, lick and scratch all over including their bottoms. Some dogs allergic to food proteins also rub their bottoms on the ground. Treatment for the allergies usually stops the rubbing and licking.

Ear infections

Ear infections are very common in dogs, especially breeds with long or hair ear canals like Poodles, Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers. Often they are the first or only sign of doggy hayfever (also known as atopy).  Sometimes the infection is secondary to a grass seed.

Dogs with ear infections flap and scratch their ears. The ears are red, have a yellow or black discharge and often smell offensive.

Your vet will inspect the ears with a special scope and take a sample of the discharge to determine the cause of the infection.

Your vet can then prescribe the appropriate ear drops.  The cause is commonly yeast or less often bacteria – either cocci or rods.

Occasionally we find ear mites in young pups or their household friends.

Cat registration and regulation

Frequently asked questions about cat registration.

Does my cat need to be registered? No – but they do need to be microchipped. Yes – by 6 months, microchipped by 12 weeks.
Do I have to microchip my cat? Yes, by 12 weeks old. Yes, it is Step 1 of the registration process.
Do I have to get my cat de-sexed? Yes. If your cat is born on or after June 21, 2001, and you wish to keep it sexually entire, you will be required to apply for a permit to keep your animal sexually entire after 6 months of age. Vets must tattoo the animal’s ear unless the owner asks for it NOT to be done. No, but large discounts in registration for desexed animals
Do I receive a discount as I am a pensioner? N.A. Yes
For more information: Domestic Animal Services or phone 13 22 81 NSW Dept of Local Govt Companion Animal pages or phone 4428 4100

Vaccinating your Cat

Kittens are due for their first check up and vaccination at 8 weeks of age. A booster at 12 weeks protects against enteritis and cat flu for 12 months.
Feline Enteritis causes vomiting and diarrhoea and is usually fatal.
Cat flu caused by Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus and/or Feline Calicivirus is not often fatal. Early signs of cat flu are sneezing and watery eyes. Later, affected cats go off their food, lose weight and may develop chronic snuffles.   Flu is contagious to other cats and cats with signs of flu cannot enter boarding catteries.  Flu vaccination minimises signs of disease but does not guarantee full protection against infection.
Cats beginning the vaccination schedule after 12 weeks of age receive one booster a month later.
Your cat will need a booster vaccination 12 months after the initial course, and then yearly.
Vaccines work best in healthy cats, so a full examination is mandatory before each vaccination.

In summary:

1st Shot 2nd Shot And then…
At 8 weeks if possible 4 weeks later 12 months later and annual thereafter

Sunloving pooches beware!

We have seen an upsurge in dogs with sun induced skin cancers in the last month or so.  Most of these are on the bellies of  Staffies or Jack Russells that love to lie on their backs in the sun.These cancers can be difficult to remove completely if they are not caught early and will recur if the sunbaking continues.

The types of skin cancers include squamous cells carcinomas which look like scaley skin in the early stages and cancers of the tiny skin blood vessels which look like bright bruises or red areas in the skin.

If you find a suspicious area on your dog’s belly ask us to check it out earlier rather than later.

Doggy Doos and Don’ts

Some frequently asked questions about dog ownership in the ACT and NSW.

Does my dog need to be registered? Yes– at 8 weeks.It must wear the tag provided. Yes – by 6 months, microchipped by 12 weeks. Must wear its registration tag and phone/name tag
Do I have to microchip my dog? Yes, by 12 weeks old. Yes, it is Step 1 of the registration process.
Do I have to get my dog de-sexed? Yes. If your dog is born on or after June 21, 2001, and you wish to keep it sexually entire, you will be required to apply for a permit to keep your animal sexually entire after 6 months of age.Vets must tattoo the animal’s ear unless the owner asks for it NOT to be done. No, but large discounts in registration for desexed animals
I have 3 pets and I want to get another. Are there any special considerations? Yes. You require a licence to own 4 or more dogs or cats over 12 wks of age. No. Any number of animals so long as they are all properly cared for and do not pose any nuisance, health or safety risk.
Do I receive a discount as I am a pensioner? Yes, for registration and permission to keep an un-desexed animal. Yes 
Do I receive a discount as I have an obedience trained dog? No. Only trained assistance dogs. No
Do I have to pick up my dog’s droppings? Yes. And , you also need to carry appropriate equipment to pick up and carry the droppings. Yes.
Where can I exercise my dog? In both the ACT and NSW, dogs are forbidden from being within 10 metres of children’s designated play areas, in school grounds without permission, public swimming areas,  childcare centres, National Parks and other reserves which forbid dogs. The ACT also excludes dogs from sporting fields whilst sport or training is in progress. Otherwise, your dog may accompany you on a leash.
Where can I exercise my dog off-leash? Maps are available from
Domestic Animal Services and ACT Shopfronts outlining areas where dogs can be exercised off-leash. Or check out our own summary maps.
Yass Council, Ph. (02) 6226 9235
What about tail-docking? Tail docking of your dog is now illegal throughout Australia unless performed for medical purposes by a veterinarian.There is no breed standard recognised by the Australian Canine Association that requires a docked tail to be entered into any competition.
Can my dog ride on the back of my ute? Yes, if secured. Make sure that the lead is short enough to prevent the dog going over the side of the vehicle.
For more information: Domestic Animal Servicesor phone 13 22 81 NSW Dept of Local Govt Companion Animal pagesor phone 4428 4100