Shedding is one way an animal can adapt to its environment. Changes in the amount of sunlight and the external temperature are the two of the main factors that determine when major shedding will occur.
While hair shedding is a normal process for many breeds of dogs and cats, the amount and frequency of hair that is shed often depends upon their health and breed type. It can also depend on the season —
many pets develop thick coats in the winter that are then shed in the spring. However, pets who are always kept indoors are prone to smaller fluctuations in coat thickness and tend to shed fairly evenly all year rather than seasonally.
When should you be concerned?
• You notice significantly more shedding than usual.
• Development of bald patches.
• Dull dry hair that falls off when touched.
• Your pet is continually itching, scratching or biting itself.
What can you do about it?
• Make some notes about the intensity and frequency of the shedding and discuss this with your vet.
• Groom your pet very regularly with an implement that causes no pain and pair grooming time with a great treat for your pet. This will make grooming something the pet enjoys rather than suffers through.
Spring and Summer means fun outdoor times for many Australian families and their canine companions. Unfortunately with beautiful weather comes rapid growth of vegetation meaning grass seeds are out and about. These little suckers can cause lots of pain and suffering to our pets and their owners, they have a sharp tip enabling them to pierce the skin easily and can migrate through the body often bringing infection with them.
At Hall Vet Surgery the most common places we find grass seeds caught are in ear canals, in between toes, up nostrils, in eyelids or even behind eyeballs, underneath skin in various parts of the body and lodged in the vulva/penis.
Below are a list of symptoms, possible complications and what to do/not to do depending on the location of the grass seed.
A grass seed in the ear might make your dog shake their head, cry out in pain, hold their head to one side or scratch at their ear. Potential Complications: Grass seeds lodged in the ear canal can cause ear infection, rupture of the ear drum, loss of hearing or balance and even death if infection reaches the brain. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible. What not to do: DO NOT try to remove the grass seed yourself, the ear is likely to be very painful and sensitive and if your pets moves their head suddenly you could severely damage their ear drum. Do not put any ear cleanser down the ear, if there is a grass seed present you will push it closer to the ear drum making it more difficult and hazardous to remove.
Symptoms: A grass seed caught in your dog’s paw may cause a red, swollen and discharging lump on the paw, your dog may limp or lick/chew at their paw constantly. Potential Complications: Infection, migration of the grass seed into leg and possibly in between ligaments or tendons. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment. Keep area clean with warm salty water and where possible restrain your dog from licking – this can actually push the grass seed further into the skin and cause more damage. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required. What not to do: Do not try to remove the grass seed yourself.
Symptoms: Symptoms present when a grass seed has travelled into the nostril are often; sneezing, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and rubbing or pawing at face. Potential Complications: A grass seed in the nostril can cause serious damage to airways and if the seed migrates into the lung it can become a life threatening emergency. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible. Restrict exercise. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required. What not to do: Do not delay treatment.
Symptoms: Having a grass seed caught in the eye can be extremely painful for your dog, symptoms often seen are; eyes that are swollen closed, discharge from eye, visible third eyelid and some pets may paw at their eye or rub their face on the ground/furniture. Potential Complications: Ulceration of the eyes surface, if damage is severe enough eye removal can be necessary. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required. What not to do: Do not delay treatment.
Symptoms: You will often an oozing lump sometimes with a visible entry hole, you may also notice your dog constantly lick at a spot on their body. Potential Complications: Infection, migration of the seed through the body. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment. Keep area clean with warm salty water and where possible restrain your dog from licking – this can actually push the grass seed further into the skin and cause more damage. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required. What not to do: Do not try to remove the grass seed yourself even if the tail is visible.
VULVA / PENIS
Symptoms: Difficulty urinating, blood in urine, licking at the site and redness or swelling. Potential Complications: Infection, damage to structures, invasive surgery to remove. What to do: Ring your vet to make an appointment. If possible, try to catch a fresh urine sample and bring it with you to your appointment. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required. What not to do: Do not delay treatment.
The animal’s body is not able to break down a grass seed so when a grass seed is embedded it generally requires surgical removal. In the case of surgical removal your pet will usually have a general anaesthetic whilst we extract the offending grass seeds. General Anaesthesia allows the procedure to be painless for your pet and allows your vet to thoroughly investigate the area – we usually find more than one grass seed in any given case so it is important that we are able to have a really good look. Delaying the initial vet visit may result in more invasive (and more expensive) surgeries to find and remove the seed.
Prevention is the best cure
Here are some ways you can prevent the risk of grass seeds to your dog:
Avoiding long grass when out walking/exploring (this also helps to minimise the risk of Snake Bites)
Keeping the grass in your yard tidy and mowed
Clipping the fur of long haired dogs. If your dog is prone to grass seeds in the ears or between the toes then we recommend regular clipping of these areas to keep the hair short at all times
If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms please give us a call on (02) 62302223.
Its two months now since Gov’nor, the bravest and sweetest of Whippets, presented to us collapsed after being severely attacked by a new foster dog. The skin on his chest and between his forelegs was punctured and pulled away from the underlying pectoral muscles which were also severely damaged. After initial emergency treatment overnight, he arrived at Hall Veterinary Surgery for ongoing care, still suffering from shock and having difficulty breathing.
Over the next few days, Gov’nor responded to treatment for shock which included intravenous fluids and nasal oxygen therapy. To manage his pain, he received a constant infusion of pain relief in his drip as well as intravenous antibiotics as his bruised skin was a prime target for infection.
X-rays of Gov’nor’s chest and blood tests showed that the injuries were confined to the skin, however as the days passed, it became clear just how large the affected area of dead skin had become. All of the skin between his forelegs and also behind and in front of his elbows turned grey and smelt of dead tissue bereft of blood supply due to the severe trauma of the attack.
Gov’nor’s loving owners agonised over the decision whether to proceed with treatment to remove all the dead skin, given the severity of the damage, and concern about what Gov’nor was going through.
We talked about the amazing healing capacity of skin and that Gov’nor’s youth, general fitness and calm temperament would help him to recover and cope with the treatment of the huge wound. We all decided to give him a chance.
Dr Lesa anaesthetised Gov’nor and removed all of the dead tissue and cleaned the wound. There was no option to suture the remaining skin closed over such a large area of skin loss. So we applied sterile dressings to protect the healing granulation tissue underneath and continue pain and infection control.
This was the large, open wound left behind after surgically removing all of the dead skin and tissue on Gov'nor's chest.
Twice a week, for these last 2 months, Gov’nor has patiently complied with dressing changes and wound cleaning. He would shuffle out after each session sporting a new brightly coloured vest of bandages that held his dressings in place.
The colourful bandage vests help to hold his wound dressings in place.
It has been amazing to witness the speed with which his skin is covering over the massive wound. On the home stretch now, his loving family are seeing the fruits of their efforts and Gov’nor is nearly back to his old self again.
2 months later, Gov'nor is well and truly on his way to feeling like his old self again.
Is your dog constantly itching, rubbing, or biting at their skin? Does it feel like you have tried everything?
Your pet may have atopic dermatitis, or atopy, an inflammatory, chronic skin disease. Like hay fever in humans, dogs can be allergic to pollen, grasses, dust mites, and other environmental allergens that cause this unpleasant reaction.
Dogs suffering from atopy can be itchy in one area of their body or all over. Often the itchy rash affects the armpits, groin, face, feet and ears. Dogs normally begin to show signs between 3 months and 6 years of age. Often these signs progressively worsen over time due to exposure to new allergens with age. Initially the itchiness may appear seasonal with flare ups occurring more in spring or summer, however these periods can become longer and seem year-round.
Atopy has been diagnosed in dogs for years and it has been difficult to manage. Veterinarians turned to steroids, such as prednisolone, to treat atopy, although many did not like prescribing a medication that can have serious side effects if used long-term. Luckily there is a new breakthrough steroid-free drug called Apoquel for treatment of allergic dermatitis.
It has increasingly become a first choice treatment option because it is safer than steroids and fast acting. Clinical trials found dogs treated with Apoquel had a marked success rate versus those who were given placebos. It is a tablet given twice a day for two weeks, then once a day for maintenance. It may be the alternative long-term approach we have been looking for.
Please remember that a diagnosis of atopy is one of “rule-outs” from other causes of itchy skin including fleas, mites and skin infections that are treated differently. Call us to book a time for us to confirm the diagnosis and see if Apoquel is right for your dog.
Itchy skin is a common problem for many animals. A dog with itchy skin will excessively scratch, lick or bite its skin, and the skin will become hot and lose its hair. If the scratching is severe, it might even have cuts and scabs, or a bad odour. The itching can be confined to just one area, or affect the dog’s entire body. This can make a dog absolutely miserable and understandably quite irritable.
What are the causes of itchy skin?
Itchy skin is not a condition in itself, but a sign of some other disease. The most common causes in Canberra are allergies. Atopic dermatitis is an allergy to airborne particles such as pollens, moulds or grasses, and causes itchiness of the face, armpits, groin and feet. The cause may never actually be isolated, or it may be widely dispersed in the air and therefore unavoidable.
Mites can also cause itchiness when they wander over the skin, bite it or burrow into it.
Yeasts and bacteria often compound the problem as they infect inflamed skin, increasing the itch.
Many dogs have itchiness due to fleas. When a flea bites a dog its saliva can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction, and just one flea bite can cause itchiness for weeks! Flea allergy dermatitis usually affects the dog’s rump.
Some dogs will have itchiness due to endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism.
Things to think about in itchy dogs.
Age. If your dog is young, it may have a congenital tendency to skin disease. If you have an older dog, it might be predisposed to another illness that could cause itchiness as a result.
Other animals in the environment. Whether in the house or wildlife, other animals can act as a source of fleas, mites, yeasts and other infectious agents that can cause itchiness.
Diet. Some animals become allergic to components of their diet, often this is the protein source for that diet.
Breed. Some breeds are more predisposed than others to contracting skin disease.
Seasonality. Some conditions are more commonly seen in certain periods of the year. For example, flea populations increase in warm and humid weather, and atopic animals with allergies to pollens can experience an allergy flare when spring and summer grasses flower, much as we do with hay-fever.
What tests can the vet do?
The first thing the vet will do is physically examine your dog, looking for any rashes, scabs or inflamed areas. A flea comb may be used to look for fleas and other skin parasites. Smaller agents such as mites, bacteria and yeasts can only be seen under a microscope, so samples from the skin may need to be taken. This could include a swab, a sticky tape test (where the skin is gently squeezed and sticky tape is pressed against it), a skin scraping (where a scalpel blade is scraped against the superficial skin layer) or an impression smear (where a slide is pressed directly against the skin). Blood tests are required if endocrine disease is suspected.
How is itchy skin treated?
Fleas are treated by using regular preventative flea treatments on all animals in the house at the same time and by removing fleas from the dog’s bedding and environment. Vet branded monthly top spots or tablets are proven to be more effective in removing fleas from the dog than those found elsewhere. Mite infestations require a combination of medicated shampoos and oral medication for some months. Food allergies are diagnosed by exclusion diets and treated by avoiding the offending food. Allergies are managed with medications that reduce the itch, as well as treating the secondary bacteria or yeast that colonise the inflamed skin and aggravate the irritation. Omega 3 supplements, medicated shampoos, cortisone and other medications that reduce itch are often helpful too. Endocrine diseases are treated with hormonal supplements. Recheck appointments are valuable to monitor progress and ensure your pet has maximum comfort whilst minimising the side effects of medications.
Fleas are out in force this summer because of the warmth and humidity. People complain that flea treatments on their pets are not working, but if the fleas are jumping onto the pet as fast as the treatment is killing them, we can’t blame the treatment.
Fleas spend most of their lives OFF dogs or cats, so we must attack them off the pets as well as on them.
Look at flea control for some suggestions on how you can get rid of the pesky pests.
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 still scoots or 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 near 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.
Demodectic mange is caused by the demodex mite, Demodex canis, which lives in normal skin and is present in small numbers in all dogs. Humans have their own demodex mites (D. folliculorum, D. brevis) and the dog demodex mite never affects humans.
The entire life cycle of the demodex mite is spent on the skin. It lives in hair follicles and feeds on cells, serum and epidermal debris.
Transmission of mites from bitch to puppies occurs during nursing in the first 2 days of life.
Occasionally a puppy’s immature immune system allows the mites to multiply abnormally and mild localised skin disease results. A small proportion of affected pups have a more depressed immune system and generalised demedicosis develops.
The signs of localised demodicosis include patchy hair loss and mild scaliness on the face. Sometimes the skin is mildly red but in the early stages it is usually not itchy. Most cases occur before 6 months of age and heal spontaneously.
Up to 10% of affected dogs progress to the generalised form. It usually starts during puppyhood. With generalised demidicosis we see hair loss, inflammation and enlarged glands. Secondary bacterial infections cause scratching, redness, swelling and crusting of the skin.
Dogs with chronic generalised demodicosis have depressed immune T-cell responses. Eradication of the mites results in restoration of the T-cell function.
Breeds predisposed to generalised demodicosis include the Old English Sheep dog, Afghan Hound, Collie, German Shepherd, Staffordshire and Pit bull terrier, Doberman, Dalmatians, Great Dane, English Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Dachshunds, Chihuahua, Boxers, pugs, Sharpeis, Beagles and Pointers. Pure bred dogs have a much higher incidence than mongrels. There is evidence that it is an inherited problem.
To diagnose demodectic mange we scrape affected areas with the side of a scalpel blade and check for mites under the microscope.
We usually do not treat mild localised demidicosis as 90% of cases will clear spontaneously.
If the hair loss spreads and the skin becomes red, itchy or crusty then we treat the pup with a miticide. Regular skin scraping monitors the progress of eradication. Treatment is continued for at least a month after a negative skin-scraping.
Secondary bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics and antiseptic shampoos as they arise.
Infection of the external ear canal is very common in dogs especially those with allergies or who have long or hairy ear canals like Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, Golden Retrievers or Old English Sheepdogs.
How do I know that my dog has an ear infection?
Dogs with ear infections flap and scratch their ears. The inside of the ear flap is red, inflamed and smelly. A black or yellowish discharge often develops.
Yeasts are the cause of most ear infections. They affect swimmers and those with long, narrow or hair filled ears that stay moist. Dogs with allergies to food or pollen also have warm, moist, inflamed ears that favour repeated infection.
When chronic ear infections are inadequately treated, more resistant bacteria can survive in the ear and are difficult to clear.
What about ear mites?
Ear mites cause a black discharge, scratching, and head shaking. They usually affect puppies or in contact adult dogs.
Can’t I just collect some medication?
There are several kinds of bacteria and at least one type of yeast that cause ear infections. Without knowing the kind of infection present, we do not know which medication to use.
Foreign bodies, like grass seeds, and tumours in the ear canal cause irritated ears, too. Treatment with medication alone will not resolve these problems.
The dog must also be examined to be sure that the eardrum is intact. Some medications result in loss of hearing if the eardrum is ruptured.
We examine a sample of the material from the ear canal under a microscope (cytology) to find which organism is the cause of the infection.
How are ear infections treated?
If there is a foreign body in the ear canal, we sedate the dog and remove it.
If there is a heavy build-up of debris we anÃ¦sthetise the dog and clean the canal.
We choose ear drops based on the type of organism we see in the discharge from the ear.
Capstar or Comfortis tablets kill fleas and paralyse flea mouthparts preventing deposition of saliva.
Monthly applications of Advantage, Advocate, Advantix, Frontline, Revolution, or Comfortis throughout the year keep flea numbers as low as possible.
Flea powders, sprays, and shampoos kill the fleas present on your dog at the time of application but have little residual effect.
Control fleas IN the dog’s environment:
Professional fumigation of the house and yard will control egg, larval and pupal stages of the flea life cycle most effectively.
If you spray or flea bomb yourself repeat the application in 3-4 weeks to catch the next hatching of pupae.
Some products also contain growth regulators that prevent flea maturation.
Wash bedding in hot water and dry in the sun.
Vacuum carpets and furniture often.
Rake up leaves in shady places and provide outside kennels or hidey holes off the ground.
Flea larvae love dust so provide working dogs with concrete runs.
Do not be too quick to blame kennels for fleas on your dog. When your pets are gone pupae remain in their cocoon because the house is quiet and empty. When they return the vibrations, heat and light stimulate the emergence of adult fleas. They jump on dogs, cats, and even people looking for a blood meal.