Like many people, dogs and cats don't complain or ‘go on' when they are feeling slightly off. What is more, there are many diseases which show little or no clinical signs early in their course.
This is why, at the Lagos Vet Clinic, we have created a number of in-house health programs.
Pets age around 7 times faster, meaning that we consider a 7 year old dog as a 50 year old person. As we know it is unusual to not get regular checks on many indices at this age e.g. cholesterol, blood pressure, PSA, thyroid checks.
Every year when you come in for a vaccination for your pet, we are undertaking a health screen, via a thorough physical examination. During these times we can easily take a small blood and urine sample and check the function of the liver and the kidneys and do a blood count.
Health screening is the key to early detection of disease in these animals and means we can take steps to manage and even reverse the problem before irreparable damage is done.
Animal Health Screening is a simple and effective way of monitoring your older pet's health. Early detection of pet disease means early intervention and in many cases this will mean successful treatment and prevention of medical problems.
Pre-emptive pet care helps to ensure your pet will be healthy and active for as long as possible. We think it is a wonderful way of ensuring that your companion and family member does not leave you prematurely.
We don't want you to find yourself in a situation that could have been prevented just by taking a simple test.
Pets over 7 years of age have a greater chance of harbouring underlying disease in the ageing process.
As we all know pets cannot tell us how they are feeling and additionally disease processes can start well before symptoms arise. This may mean your pet is unwell without you even knowing it.
For example, did you know that over 75% of kidney function is lost before there are any external signs of renal failure? We cannot reverse damage to kidney cells as they do not regenerate, however the good news is that if we identify the problem early we can save many of those cells that would otherwise have been lost.
We have designed several health plans for special patients. Membership to the plans cost nothing and they are designed to keep good contact between owners and the vet clinic so that together we help your pet live a long and happy life. Consults also involve discussions on different nutritional requirements, dental health and parasite challenges to older patients.
As the old adage tells us, prevention is better than cure…
Geriatric Plan 1 includes regular health checks and consults. It also includes:
All these examinations are done for under 100€ (including repeat consults).
Geriatric Plan 2 includes all of the GP 1 plan plus:
• Abdominal Ultrasound.
A complete abdominal ultrasound will visualise all of the structures and organs in the abdomen. It can find tumours and cysts that were not known about. Ultrasound-guided biopsies can be taken at the same time.
Many dogs' lives have been saved at LVC because we found benign tumours on the spleen with a routine ultrasound exam. These splenic masses will grow and one day spontaneously rupture, killing the animal through internal blood loss. If it sounds a bit dramatic – it is.
Finding splenic tumor on ultrasound is very rewarding to us at the clinic. It means we can remove the tumors surgically before they rupture and haemorrhage.
• Thoracic Radiology
The main organs in the chest are the lungs and the heart. Chest Xrays can find an enlarged or misplaced heart which is causing subclinical disease. Undiagnosed heartworm disease may also be noted on looking at the heart shape on an Xray. This can then be treated before it kills the dog.
Also the lungs may harbour pathology. From primary or secondary cancers, to bronchitis, to lungworm, to asthma conditions; a lot can be learnt from viewing the right and left lungs on an Xray.
The Geriatric Plan 2 costs just under 160€
Both plans are discounted to over 30% of the normal costs of all the procedures and analyses, to encourage people to undertake these checks.
Remember early detection and intervention is the key to successful treatment. Anything we can do to help prolong a healthy happy life of our best friend is time well spent.
Another Pet Plan group is the Obesity Club.
Without being funny, obesity takes its toll on your pet's body. Diseases laid more prone in obese animals include Diabetes, Pancreatitis, Skin infections.
Of course any animal with arthritis or back problems will suffer more with every step.
Pet owners know (and on a personal note, love) how ‘young' dogs and cats remain throughout their lives, playing and running free almost till the day they die. An obese cat or dog might be cosy on the sofa but it mean there are things in life they´re missing out on.
Obese animals die younger. Either from secondary diseases mentioned above or they are euthenased because their hips or spine cannot bear their weight anymore.
On entering the plan animals are checked for organ disease that may be underlying the weight gain problem e.g. low thyroid hormone levels. Blood pressure and a full examination are all undertaken.
Overweight pets in the plan come in regularly for free check-ups and weight checks. All pets are given a chart to measure their movement through the plan.
We recommend ALL non breeding animals to be neutered at the age of 6 months.
The cardiovascular system is mature by the age of 5 months and ‘puberty‘starts between 9 and 18 months of age (sometimes younger).
Mammary cancer in bitches is greatly influenced by the age of neutering:
Incontinence is not where you are if you are doing your weekly supermarket shop, but rather urine leakage from decreased tone in the urethral/bladder sphincter tone.
It is often mentioned as a reason to not neuter (or spey) a bitch, here are the real facts:
This issues are relevant (but not as strongly associated) in cats as well.
Neutering male (dogs and cats) is recommended for:
We encourage all responsible animal owners to sterilise their pets unless they are going to breed from them.
It reduces the risk of cancer as well as other diseases and it decreases social problems.
If you feed a stray cat or dog, we can sterilise him or her for you at no cost to you. Just email or phone and we can arrange this for you.
Part of our veterinary services is also gelding of horses... FYI.
If you want any more information about neutering of pets, please contact us.
Fleas are a serious health problem to both dogs and cats. Flea bites cause pain and irritation, suck blood, spread parasites and can also lead to a serious skin problem known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis. In fact, fleas cause more skin problems in dogs and cats than all other causes put together. And your pet may be suffering from flea-related dermatitis even if you think they have no fleas!
Flea control is possible. It just takes an understanding of the life cycle of the flea, and how you can stop it.
It starts with an egg...
Within just a few days, a small hairy larva will hatch from the egg. The larvae live deep in the base of the carpet/grass/bedding, feeding on organic material like crumbs and flea faeces.
They later form a pupa (cocoon) in which the new adult flea develops.
The pupa provides protection for the flea, where they can survive up to 6 months, hidden deep in the carpet or grass and impervious to insecticides.
Under the right conditions a new adult flea will emerge from the pupa. This requires warmth, humidity and vibration - created by the movement of animals or people. The new adult flea detects a passing animal and jumps on.
Effective long- term flea control involves:
It's vital to treat all dogs and cats in the household (even if they don't appear to have any fleas).
We'll first discuss the various types of products that can be used to achieve these two goals. Then we help you to gauge the severity of your flea problem and recommend which product(s) to use in your situation.
Immature stages in the environment can be very difficult to kill. The pupa are resistant to all chemicals.
It helps to wash your pet's bedding regularly.
Hanging out bedding and cushions in sunlight (UV) will kill ALL stages of the flea.
The most effective products are safe and have a long residual action (which means they continue to kill fleas long after they are applied).
These products also help to control the environmental stages. Small amounts shed with the hair kill some eggs and larvae in the bedding.
Unfortunately no insecticide is 100% effective.
Many people kick their cat or dog out of the house once they see a flea problem. But a pet with one of these products on it will attract fleas to jump on them and then die. Like a walking Venus fly (flea) trap.
These have residual activity to decrease the re-emergence of adult fleas from pupa.
Products that we do not generally recommend include: Flea powders; wool-wash, any shampoo or rinse containing organophosphates, eucalyptus or tea-tree oils; and tablets containing cythioate or garlic.
We can tailor a flea control program using the best product(s) to suit your needs and your budget. The following are our most common recommendations.
Bravecto® every 3 months or Advantix®/Advantage®/Activyl® applied every month to the back of the neck.
Bravecto® every 3 months or Frontline® or Advantage® monthly.
The above treatment plus:
Vacuum the house thoroughly including all carpets, crevices and furniture fabrics. Then treat the house with flea "bombs" or surface sprays. Be sure to treat under the furniture and behind the sofa and the cushions (if you have a lucky pet!). Most surface sprays have little residual activity, so either re-spray weekly for 3-4 weeks or use a spray available from us called Staykill, which has activity for several months to eliminate the emerging fleas from the environment.
Important things to remember:
As for children (especially babies) the first few months in a dog's life are the formative ones and the ones where they are most vulnerable to disease and parasitism. As we grow, our immune system develops and responds to the environment around it. Young animals haven't had much exposure to pathogens in their environment. This, coupled with their small size, makes them more vulnerable to disease
At Lagos Vet Clinic we have the knowledge and all the prophylactic medicines to work with you in giving your pet the best start in life. If you have any questions regarding this article, you know that the staff here will be happy to talk you through them.
We look at canine health from the very outset, as diseases for older dogs can be prevented when addressing them early in life. All the following categories are relevant for all dogs.
Dogs can become sick and indeed die from the viral infections that we vaccinate against. Pups being immunologically naive are much more likely to die (even with supportive treatment) if they contract these infections.
We routinely vaccinate against Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, and Parainfluenza viruses and the Leptospirosis bacteriae.
Vaccination courses start from 8 weeks of age and finish after 12 weeks. If parvo virus exposure is a particular concern (e.g. at times of outbreak or in certain areas) vaccinations are started earlier (6 weeks of age).
Vaccinations must be given yearly to maintain immunity to these diseases.
Annual rabies vaccinations are a legal requirement for all dogs who belong to anyone who has residencia in Portugal.
Rabies vaccination is also essential for obtaining a pet passport for those wishing to travel internationally with their dogs.
Leishmania vaccination and Heartworm protection are also strongly recommended for all dogs in Portugal. Pups can receive these injections at 6 months of age.
Kennel cough vaccines are available and recommended prior to boarding your dog. Some kennels insist on this vaccination before accepting dogs for boarding. The vaccine we use at Lagos Vet Clinic is shown to be effective in as little as 3 days after administration.
There is also a vaccine against Babesia canis. This is a red blood cell parasite and causes serious anaemia and eventual death if left untreated. Babesia is a tick-borne parasite and is one of the causes of ‘tick fever'. There are four different parasites which cause tick fever, unfortunately Babesia is the only organism which you can vaccinate against.
Pups have very important nutritional requirements from adults.
They differ not only in protein and carbohydrates for growth, but in calcium, phosphate, iron and vitamins, including folate. Also these foods need to be more concentrated as young animals have smaller stomachs. Pups should be fed three times a day until 3-4 months of age and then twice daily up to 6 month of age. Puppy food shouldn't be fed beyond six months of age.
We strongly advise feeding your dog a highly nutritious diet throughout all of their life, but it is even more important to do so at this formative period in life. There are a number of growth problems that can arise from feeding your dog a poorly balanced diet early in life. The market leaders in canine nutrition are Royal Canin (whom we work with at the Lagos Vet Clinic) and Hills. Feeding your pup a high quality food not only minimises growth disease risk but gives it the best start in life as it's immune system and organs develop.
Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms are the four main types of intestinal worms that cause ill-health in dogs.
Roundworms can be transmitted from dam to pup whilst in utero. The larvae are also excreted in the bitches milk, thus pups are exposed whilst feeding. Roundworm causes severe anaemia and hypoproteinaemia in infested pups. Without medical intervention, this eventually leads to death.
All dogs need to be wormed regularly but because of their minimal exposure to worms, pups need to be wormed more frequently.
The recommended worming regime for pups is at 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age. Then every month until they are 6 months old. After 6 months of age, they are wormed as adults. This recommendation is every 3 months. However, as dogs age, they develop their own innate immunity to worms and worming frequency can be modified, as appropriate to the individuals environment/exposure.
It should be noted that older dogs tend to suffer from whipworm infestation more often. This is seen as blood in the dog's droppings and often accompanied by loose motions and weight loss.
You should be aware also that larvae found in dog's faeces from worms can infect people either orally or even by being absorbed through the skin. These larvae can migrate through a human's skin and vital organs causing serious disease. Once again it is the young (our children) which are most at risk from these larval migrations
A final note on worming: Any dog travelling to the UK and Ireland needs to be wormed (by a vet) before they travel. This is to prevent spread of the hydatids tapeworm, Echinococcus granulosus. Hydatids is not as prevalent as it was, but if accidently consumed by a person, cysts form in vital organs, including the brain.
The scope of this topic extends well beyond this article, and there are different view points from many different people. Here we will outline some basic points, however.
Pups are the young of ‘pack animals'. When they are young, it is important that they learn that they are the lowest on the ranking of (your) pack. This is includes your children and any of your friends. A dog is happy with this relationship, as long as it is made clear early on. If your pup grows up thinking they are number one it WILL lead to any number of aggression problems; be that between other dogs or with people or children.
You are the pack leader, and it is your attitude towards a situation which will influence your pup's responses. When a pup is frightened by a non-threatening situation, it is important that behave in a relaxed manner, neither trying to calm the animal, nor chastise it. Any such behaviour will only encourage the fear response next time. Pups will copy what the pack leader does. As much as you want to tell them what to do...they will never really learn English. Or Swedish. Or Portuguese. I know, I've been trying with my dogs for years.
So it is only through experience that your pup will learn. It is thus important that your pup socialises with other canines when they are young. Being mindful of other pups' vaccination status, if you can do this at 8 – 12 weeks of age, your puppy will understand inter-dog relationships better as it grows. The best meeting place for 2 new dogs (or pups) is on neutral territory where no-one feels like they're ‘on their turf'. Once again, your attitude to the situation is important. If you are worried, your pup will follow suit. So be positive, calm and try not to pay too much attention to them, because they will play up to you, just like children do.
As I mentioned at the start this is potentially a very expansive topic. But the key to having a well behaved dog is for it to understand that it is the lowest in the pack hierarchy and to have a calm approach to all social encounters.
Not too different from people, really.
A common topic for discussion in the consult room is diet for pets. With so many pet foods on the market, it can be a confounding decision for caring pet owners. I often say to people that pet food is like a bottle of wine...to get the best one, you will need to spend a bit more money.
You are what you eat and while cheaper pet foods may meet most of your pet's nutritional requirements, they may also contain a lot of filler ingredients which may not be healthy for your pet. Artificial colours and sweeteners can cause ill health and altered behaviour patterns.
We see many older pets in the clinic with serious diseases of the liver and kidneys or diabetes, who would not be ill, had they been fed a good quality pet food.
The most important consideration in your pet's diet is age. Pups and kittens have very important nutritional requirements. They differ not only in protein and carbohydrates for growth, but in calcium, phosphate, iron and vitamins, including folate. Also these foods need to be more concentrated as young animals have smaller stomachs.
Pups (and kittens) should be fed three times a day until 3-4 months of age and then twice daily up to 6 mths of age. Puppy food shouldn't be fed beyond six months of age.
Older pets often require less protein and carbohydrates and more fibre in their diet. This is because their metabolic rate slows down and the intestinal tract loses a lot of its tone. If the brand of food you buy doesn't have the specific diets for your pets age requirements, it probably doesn't do enough nutritional calculations to be worth your money.
Like people, more active animals need more calories and protein in their diet, including the older ones. Those that are less active should have a restricted calorie diet to prevent obesity.
Obesity is a very common problem in domestic pets and shouldn't be considered as ‘cute'. There are many diseases directly linked to obesity, namely diabetes, respiratory disease, pancreatitis, liver disease, arthritis and dermatitis. These aren't cute.
Some people chose to make their pets food for them. To meet your pet's nutritional requirements, this is harder than you may think. There are many essential minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins to be included in a complete diet . If you chose to do this, please consult your vet for advice on nutritional requirements.
Personally, I love instant noodles, but I know if I make them the basis of my diet, my coronary arteries would soon explode. So too, your dog's taste buds aren't necessarily the best judge of what his diet should be. Fatty lamb chops off the BBQ have killed many dogs, but not because they weren't tasty.
Your dog's diet must be healthy AND balanced.
There are a few no-no's as well.
Do not feed dogs:
Cats have even more specific nutritional requirements, mainly because they are almost obligate carnivores . As they told us at university 'cats are not little dogs'. Make sure to feed your cat good quality cat food (not dog food!) or speak to your vet about your cat's dietary requirements.
Making a diet for cats can be more finicky, be careful to consult a vet if you wish to feed your cat this way.
As a rule, the best pet foods you can buy are sold at vet clinics. The market leaders (namely Hills, Royal Canin and Specific) all make diets that they sell exclusively to vet clinics. These are aimed at not only optimal nutrition but also in preventative medicine by nutrition. The growth formulas minimise bone growth diseases and aid in dental health, bladder stone prevention, weight control, food allergies. Some are breed specific and aimed at minimising breed related problems. As with vaccination, prevention is much better than disease treatment. These food companies also do specific foods aimed at managing diseases and play a vital role in treating a range of problems such as kidney, liver, bladder and skin disease to name just a few.
Your vet will prescribe the appropriate diet that your pet may need.
Finally a comment on teeth: In the wild, animal’s teeth are cleaned by the abrasive action of chewing bones. Soft foods offer no such dental cleaning and animals exclusively on these diets WILL develop dental problems. Dry food in the diet helps clean teeth, and specific dental foods are even better.
A lot of chews commercially available offer no benefits to dental health, however we have sourced chews with enzymes which act to keep the teeth clean and stop tartar adherence.
There is also 2 new products which are plankton-based. They are powders for the dog’s food and concentrate in the salivary glands. When the dog chews, the chlorophyll-rich chemicals concentrate in the mouth and stop plaque forming on the teeth.
Ask your vet if you suspect dental problems in your pet, as dental disease has far ranging implications on many organs in the body. Unhealthy gums bleed easily and millions of bacteria in diseased mouths will flood into the blood stream and can localise anywhere in the body. This can create serious, life-threatening diseases in other organs such as the heart. Finally, to mention that animals with organ disease (e.g. kidney disease) will become worse with these bacteria floating through the blood stream and lodging in these compromised organs.
If you want your pet to be a happy and healthy companion for you AND you want less vet bills, feed them good quality pet foods and look after their teeth. SIMPLE.
Lagos Vet Clinic has a mobile equine service for our clientele. We service most equine needs, ranging from vaccinations to emergency colic calls, from eye lacerations to gelding surgery. Below is some information on common problems encountered in our practice.
Wet winters present a number of foot issues for your horse. Constantly standing in wet muddy conditions predisposes the hoof to a number of ailments. Much like when you've been in the bath for too long (if that's possible) and your fingers go all wrinkly; the horney tissues of the hoof become ‘macerated'.
The horney layer of the hoof is made up of the same tissue type as that of your fingers, namely keratin. So, on a much lesser scale the horn tissue becomes soft and (very slightly) folded. This means that there is a compromise to the natural defence mechanisms of the hoof wall. I will touch on a few conditions that this can lead to.
The compromised horney tissues become less resistant to bacterial invasion. This can come via the smallest of holes that may be created when the soft sole steps on something sharp and hard. It can also occur through clinch tracts via the white line (the white circumference around the wall of the foot); this is usually the way toe abscesses form.
When shoes are removed during sodden conditions, the horn tissue around the clinch lines can be too weak to resist colonisation by opportunistic bacteria.
Horse will go particularly lame very quickly with foot abscesses.
A skilled practitioner must cut out the abscess, making sure that the hole left is large enough to not close back over and have the abscess reform. A poultice or ionic (salt) bandage can be placed to aid in (osmotically) drawing out inflammatory fluid. It can be very difficult keeping foot bandages on in wet conditions and the use of hoof boots is particularly helpful in these circumstances.
The bacteria which cause these infections are generally always penicillin sensitive, so a 3-5 day course of penicillin injections aids in the rapid recovery from foot abscesses.
The final and possibly most important point to note is that the environment of these infections is perfect for the colonisation of Clostridium tetani. Animal species vary greatly to the effects of the tetanus poison. Horses are considered the most sensitive to the tetanus condition. It causes complete rigidity of all muscles in the body and horses which contract it need to be euthanized.
Horses need to be vaccinated annually against tetanus to have sufficient antibodies to stop the diseases taking hold. Portugal does not stock tetanus antitoxin, an injection to mop up the poison in unvaccinated horses. This makes it doubly important to make sure your horses tetanus vaccination status is up to date.
As the horney tissue of the sole soften they become less resistant to blunt trauma. When there's mud everywhere it's hard for your horse to avoid ‘submerged' stones. Put the two together and a sole bruise will soon ensue. Solar bruises tend to occur towards the sides of the foot. Cleaning away the sole, one can often see a tinge of red underneath the surface of the sole (unless the horn is black, of course).
Horses tend not go quite so lame from this as from an abscess.
Hooves can be hardened by various chemicals. We make a preparation which contains formalin for such purposes. Painted on daily it cross links the collagen in the hoof wall to harden the horney tissues.
These are infections that spread up the white line from the bottom of the foot and can spread write up to the pastern, occasionally bursting out over the coronet band.
Veterinary attention is needed to resolve these infections.
Regular checking of the bottom of the foot (once scrubbed clean) can help catch these conditions early.
Although not technically an infection of the hoof, this condition is caused by infection into macerated tissues under wet conditions (namely the back of the foot).
It can cause lameness to a lesser degree.
Regular cleaning with iodine can resolve superficial infections, but a course of penicillin injections is needed in advanced cases.
For any questions about hoof care, please contact us.
As temperatures rise with the onset of summer, the Culicoides and other biting flies begin to emerge and look to pester your horses. But you don't need me to tell you that.
Sweet itch, or Queensland itch as I learnt it at university in Sydney is a ‘type IV' hypersensitivity reaction to the bite of these flies. It presents as a very pruritic or itchy dermatitis. Most of the clinical signs are a result of the horse rubbing itself on... almost anything it can find. It is usually worse in the height of summer, but if the horse is particularly sensitised then it will sometimes show these dermatitis signs throughout the year.
Skin lesions are usually worse over the tail base and along the withers, below the mane and along the shoulders. Obviously the lesions can be located anywhere, other common locations are the side of the head, the legs and in between them.
Horses can have variable temperaments when thus affected and those that are particularly sensitive to the bites become very restless when flies are buzzing around them. No surprises there either.
It is a frustrating disease for all involved: horses, riders, owners and vets. Deterring the flies from biting is the best defence. This can be achieved by rugging or stabling horses during the dawn and dusk, when the flies TEND to be more active. Flies are persistent though.
Minimising exposure to the flies can also be done by avoiding marshy areas and rotting vegetable matter where the flies breed. Favouring windy areas will help as the flies are less air bound in high winds.
There are various insect repellents that work. Different people seem to find different products are better than others. Certainly mosquito repellents, ‘Switch', ‘Swift' and citronella products have been found to work in the authors experience. Be aware that any topical product can cause a reaction in your horse (be it a synthetic one like DEET or a natural product like tea tree oil), only trying them will you find out.
Horses that have very bad reactions will benefit from cortisone injections as prescribed by your veterinarian. Unfortunately these are only temporary relief givers and ideally are not intended for long-term use.
At Lagos Vet Clinic, I have tinctured an oil which works well on open wounds and decreases the attractiveness of them to flies. It has anti-pruritic and antibiotic properties. Anecdotally, paraffin applied to the more sensitised areas also decreases the incidence of flies landing and biting.
Finally I will mention that the author has seen that the feeding of saltbush leaves to horses in Australia tends to decrease their attractiveness to the biting flies. Of course this is also anecdotal but I am looking into sourcing saltbush leaves as fodder in Portugal. If you come across any, let me recommend it to you for sweet itch in your horse... and please let me know where you have found it.
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