Our pets age at a rate five to seven times faster than we do. Ideally pets should be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year and if elderly or, if they have existing medical problems, generally twice a year. Regular health checks provide an opportunity to detect early signs of disease. Finding problems early can save money in the long run, and may improve your pet’s quality of life.
During a Pet Annual Health Check the following will be assessed:
- recording body weight and body condition
- assessing health of gums and teeth
- checking eyes for early cataract formation
- inspecting ear canals for signs of infection/inflammation
- assessing skin health and checking for lumps
- assessing the heart for murmurs and abnormal rhythms, checking circulation
- assessing the respiratory system and checking for abnormal lung sounds
- checking peripheral lymph nodes for enlargement (indicating underlying problems)
- palpating abdomen for swellings
- recording rectal temperature
- trimming nails where needed
- updating vaccination where needed
- arthritis check (for older pets)
- addressing any concerns you may have regarding your pet’s health e.g. you may be concerned that your pet is drinking more than usual
In addition a blood test or urine analysis may be required depending on the physical findings.
6 – 8 Weeks: 1st vaccination
10 – 12 Weeks: 2nd vaccination
14 – 16 Weeks: 3rd vaccination
Puppies and kittens are temporarily protected against many diseases by antibodies received through their mother’s milk. These maternal antibodies decline in the first few months of their lives. Maternal antibodies can also interfere with puppies or kittens developing their own antibodies in response to vaccination. For these reasons a series, rather than a single vaccination is necessary for puppies and kittens.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) guidelines state that:
“Core vaccines should be administered to all animals to protect them against severe, life-threatening diseases that have a global distribution”. The AVA believes that in most cases, core vaccines need to be administered to adult dogs and cats once every three years. There may be exceptions to this based on geographical location and the individual animals circumstances.
Adult Dogs and Cats
The immunity gained from puppy and kitten vaccination weakens over time and your pet may become susceptible to life threatening diseases. Annual health checks and booster vaccinations, as required, will provide the best protection throughout your pet’s life.
Core Vaccines (every 3 years)
- canine distemper virus
- canine adenovirus (infectious hepatitis)
- canine parvovirus
Non-Core Vaccines (annually)
- parainfluenza virus
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Leptospira interrogans
Core Vaccines (every 3 years)
- feline parvovirus
- feline calicivirus
- feline herpesvirus
Non-Core Vaccines (annually)
- feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
- Chlamydia felis
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect dogs of any age with young puppies being at highest risk.
Symptoms vary but can include fever, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of appetite, depression, muscle tremors, seizures and paralysis. Treatment is usually ineffective and the recovery rate very low. Dogs that do recover may have permanent brain damage.
Canine Adenovirus (Infectious Hepatitis)
Canine adenovirus is a viral disease which, like distemper, is extremely contagious and often fatal. Dogs of any age can become infected however, dogs up to one year of age are most at risk. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice, pale faeces, swollen lymph nodes and a painful swollen abdomen. In severe cases death can occur within 24 to 36 hours.
Nearly every mammal species, humans included has its own special parvovirus. Canine parvovirus is a disease that affects dogs of all ages but is most serious in young pups and more elderly dogs. The virus attacks the intestines causing bloodstained diarrhoea, uncontrollable vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Dogs often die from severe dehydration despite intensive veterinary care.
It is not necessary to have direct contact with other dogs for the disease to be spread. The virus is so persistent that the infected dog’s environment needs to be cleaned with a potent disinfectant to prevent spread to other dogs. Outbreaks occur regularly throughout Australia, especially in summer.
Parainfluenza Virus and Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Canine Kennel Cough)
Canine Kennel cough is a condition produced by several highly infectious agents. It can be spread easily wherever dogs congregate, such as parks, shows, rescue shelters, obedience schools and boarding kennels. Affected dogs may have a hacking cough (dry or moist) often followed by retching, low grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy and a loss of appetite.
Canine leptospirosis is a serious disease risk in some areas and can cause high death rates. It is spread by the urine of rats and is usually transmitted to dogs by contaminated food and water, or by rat bites. Leptospirosis is an animal disease that can be passed to humans who may then suffer a persistant ‘flu-like’ illness.
Feline Parvovirus (also known as feline panleucopenia or Feline enteritis)
Feline Parvovirus is very contagious and the death rate is high, especially in cats under 12 months of age. Pregnant cats may lose their young or give birth to kittens with abnormalities. The virus mainly attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract causing internal ulceration. Symptoms are depression, loss of appetite, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea, often with blood and severe abdominal pain. Cats that do recover may continue to carry the virus for some time and infect other cats.
Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus (also known as Feline Respiratoy Disease or Cat Flu)
Feline respiratory disease affects cats of all ages, but especially young kittens. It is highly contagious and causes sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and tongue ulcers. Recovered cats can continue to carry and spread the infection for long periods, and can show signs of the disease again if they become stressed.
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline Leukaemia virus attacks the immune system and may be associated with a lack of appetite, weight loss and lethargy, pale or yellow mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhoea, reproductive problems, increased susceptibility to other infections, leukaemia and tumours. Many cats may be infected and show no signs at all. About one-third of infected cats remain chronically infected and may shed the virus in their saliva, tears, nasal secretions and urine. As with other contagious diseases, this virus can be transmitted by sharing communal feeding areas, litter trays and toys and by mutual grooming.
Feline chlamydiosis or chlamydia is an infection caused by a bacterium-like organism. It is an unusual bacterium because it lives and multiplies inside the body cells of the cat whereas most bacteria live outside cells. The bacterium primarily infects the conjunctiva (the delicate membrane lining the eyelids and covering the edges of the eyeballs) causing inflammation (conjunctivitis).
One or both eyes may be involved. Affected cats initially develop a watery discharge from the eyes that later becomes thicker and is usually a yellow or greenish colour. The eyes are uncomfortable and cats often keep the affected eye(s) closed. Most cats remain bright and otherwise appear normal, but some may develop a fever or lose their appetite. Occasionally, sniffles and sneezing may also occur.
This bacterium can be a cause of upper respiratory disease in cats, but is mainly a problem where cats are kept together in large groups such as rescue shelters and some breeding households.
Infection usually results in mild sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge and fever. Symptoms typically last 7-10 days. However, occasionally, (especially in young kittens or with severe stress) infection may be more severe and can sometimes result in life-threatening pneumonia.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Feline AIDS is a disease caused by infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and affects cats immune system. This disease is not transmissible to humans. FIV is almost always transmitted by bites from infected cats. The virus that causes the disease is present in saliva. While some infected cats show no sign of disease, others may display initial symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as weight loss, sores in and around the mouth, eye lesions, poor coat and chronic infections may occur. Eventually, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections and diseases. As a result the cat may die from one of these subsequent infections.
Heartworm disease is a life-threatening condition that is challenging to treat. Prevention is the best approach for the wellbeing of your pet. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes so our sub-tropical Brisbane climate means the potential for infection with heartworm is always present. There is no maternal protection against heartworm therefore prevention should start at 2-3 months of age. The best prevention is either a yearly injection or monthly medication.
Testing for the presence of heartworm is an important part of a Heartworm Prevention Program. If you think your pet may have been infected with heartworm a simple blood test will be recommended. If you are unsure about your pet’s heartworm prevention treatment, a blood test is advised prior to commencing a prevention program.
A microchip is a permanent method of identification. Each chip has a unique number that is recorded on a central database registry along with the pet’s details and your contact details. The chip sits under the skin just between the shoulder blades and can only be inserted by a certified implanter. Veterinarians, councils and animal shelters scan all found pets. If your pet has a microchip your contact details can be easily accessed and you and your pet can be reunited as soon as possible.
Young animals have relatively poorly-developed immune systems. This means that they are more likely to become infected and suffer more severe effects from internal parasites compared with adult animals.
Types of gastrointestinal worms include hookworm, whipworm, roundworm and tapeworm.
Some parasitic worms can be passed on before birth and if not treated can result in weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and anaemia. It is important to start treating your puppy or kitten for worms during the early stages of their life and continue treatment throughout their adult years.
Puppies and kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then monthly until 6 months of age. Treatment should then be every 3 months for life.
If you are concerned that your pet may have a worm burden, we can collect a small faecal sample to check for worm eggs and parasites.
Unfortunately many dogs suffer from skin and ear conditions. Long thick coats and floppy ear conformation predispose some dogs to yeast and other skin infections. Our humid Brisbane climate can also contribute to moist skin conditions that bacteria and yeasts thrive in. Parasites such as fleas and mites can trigger severe itching and skin can become traumatised leaving it vulnerable to bacterial infection. A skin scrape or an ear swab can be collected and analysed to help diagnose the underlying problem for your itchy pet.
Some pets have allergies to food, plants and or fleas. A well-structured approach to managing allergies in your pet includes taking a thorough history of your pet’s diet, any treatments your pet may have received and how they responded, as well as an assessment of your pets’ environment to help identify potential allergens such as certain plant species.
Routine blood tests can provide valuable information about how your pet’s internal organs are functioning. As veterinarians we also use blood tests to diagnose a number of diseases and to monitor conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus, anaemia and kidney failure. A small volume of blood is collected from your pet’s vein and the sample is sent to a Veterinary Laboratory for analysis. Pets usually tolerate the procedure well and results are generally available within 24-48 hours. All tests results will be explained to you and any questions you may have will be addressed.
Just like us our pets sometimes develop skin lumps. Some lumps are harmless while others can be life threatening such as melanomas. Without a proper diagnosis it is impossible to tell which lumps are dangerous for our pets. If your pet has a skin lump that needs investigating a simple biopsy can be performed using a fine needle to extract a sample of cells. This is a fairly non-invasive procedure that pets tolerate well. The sample is sent to the laboratory for analysis. Sometimes a bigger sample is needed and in these situations a small piece of tissue can be removed using a small biopsy punch. This procedure is done under sedation and local anaesthetic and may require a small suture in the skin.
Some cuts and wounds require stitches. Others heal well with just daily cleaning or bandaging. It is important to remember that all wounds should be thoroughly cleaned to minimise infection. Many human antiseptics are not suitable for pets and may cause irritation to their skin. Pets naturally lick wounds to help clean them. Using a non-animal antiseptic may result in ulceration of the tongue and mouth.
Outside cats are at risk of injuries including wounds from cat fights. Bite wounds from cats are very painful, may become infected and can often develop into abscesses. These are painful pocket of pus due to infection within the tissues. Treatment for cat fight abscesses usually involves draining the abscess and prescribing a course of antibiotics. Cat fight abscesses on the limbs can be so painful that cats may be reluctant to bear any weight on the affected limb.
If you are unsure whether your pet needs veterinary attention for a wound please call me to discuss it.
As our pets age they are more susceptible to certain illnesses and conditions such as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is usually caused by general wear and tear to joints, but may also result from an injury such as a fracture or sprain. It is a painful condition where the protective cartilage that covers the ends of bones is lost. This results in bone rubbing directly on bone.
Pain is caused by movement and can lead to:
- a reluctance to move as freely as before
- changes in your pet’s toileting habits such as difficultly maintaining toileting positions or soiling inside the house
- stiffness on rising or a reluctance to sit
Cats are notorious at keeping their pain hidden. A clue that your cat may be suffering with osteoarthritis is the appearance of an unkempt hair coat. Cats avoid grooming when they are unwell or when it causes discomfort.
Fortunately there are a number of treatment options to assist pets suffering with osteoarthritis. If you feel your pet may have osteoarthritis, please call me to discuss diagnosis and treatment options.
Some things you can try at home to help your arthritic pet are:
- ensuring your pet has a well cushioned warm bed that is easy to access
- low impact exercise such as leash walking and swimming for dogs (this is a great way to help maintain mobility)
- providing assistance such as a step or ramp for your pet as they get in and out of the car
- arrange furniture to make access to favourite resting spots such as beds, tops of cupboards or chairs easier
Pets nutritional needs vary with life stage, physical and environmental stress and disease.
Did you know that there is a range of highly digestible and palatable prescription diets for pets? These diets specifically address health concerns such as diabetes, renal disease, weight management, allergies and more. One of the biggest challenges to many pet owners is maintaining a healthy body condition in their pet. Just as obesity in humans increases the risk of developing heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and certain cancers, our pets are also at risk.
Our very special companions deserve optimal nutrition to help support a long and quality life.
Keeping pets nails regularly trimmed is all part of maintaining healthy foot care. If left untrimmed nails can grow to excessive lengths and cause painful deformities of the toes. Most pets tolerate nail trimming well but there are those pets who may require a mild sedative to keep them relaxed during the procedure.
We’ve all seen the comical sight of pets “scooting” along the ground. Scooting can be a sign of worms causing anal itching. It can also be due to impacted anal glands where a build-up of secretion causes discomfort and irritation. Anal glands may require expressing, this removes built up secreted material and helps relieve the irritation. At times anal glands may become infected. In these cases antibiotics will usually be recommended.
Our pets have much shorter life spans than we do and chances are, at some point as pet owners, we will be faced with the decision of when to humanely end our pet’s life. Understandably this can be a traumatic and distressing time. Knowing when is the “right” time can be very difficult for pet owners. If it would be helpful to discuss your pet’s quality of life, please call me. If you have already made that decision and feel that the best place for you and your pet to say goodbye is in your own home, or if you would like to discuss the idea of home euthanasia please call me. I can assist with questions you may have regarding home euthanasia, including cremation and burial services.
There are times when pets need specialist care.
Just like your GP, I can refer you and your pet to the appropriate specialist to ensure they receive expert care.
- emergency and critical care
- internal medicine
- diagnostic imaging (x-rays/ultrasound/CT scans/MRI)
The Australian Veterinary Association strongly supports pet insurance. Pet insurance generally provides cover for veterinary fees if your pet is injured or becomes ill. It may give you peace of mind knowing that you are in a position to afford all the veterinary care that your pet might need.
Cover provided by different pet insurance products may vary considerably. If you are contemplating pet insurance please ensure you read all terms and conditions of the policy, or speak with a qualified insurance advisor about the type of product and the level of cover that would best suit your needs. pet insurance products