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The number of dog owners making grain-free or raw diets is higher than ever before. With the recent scandals around dog food, I totally understand why but I’ve seen dogs on some terrible diets.

If you prefer, click here to scroll down to my raw dog food recipe. However, I hope you can stay for an explanation first. This vet-approved raw diet should be better than most, but it’s different!

Should Dogs Eat Wolf Diets?

Most raw diets are based around the theory that dogs should be fed the diet of their wild ancestors.  While this is definitely good thinking, as a vet I have two concerns:

The diet I’m going to build will keep referencing wolves but also take into account the changes in domestic dogs. It will also make a great (but still not guaranteed!) effort to be balanced.

Homemade Diets For Puppies?

Many breeders are now selling puppies already on raw diets.  Personally, I’m uneasy with this and would wait until adulthood. The consequences of getting the diet wrong are worse for puppies, and raising puppies properly is complicated enough as it is!

Raw Diet Ingredients

So what should we put in a raw diet and why?

Meat Selection For Dogs

If feeding raw, red meats such as lamb and beef should be chosen over poultry. Read here why feeding raw chicken is hazardous to dogs and people. If you need more convincing, think about wolves again. They catch and eat mammals, not birds.*

It’s absolutely true that chicken is better tolerated by dogs, especially at high amounts. This isn’t telling you that chicken is better, just that you’re putting too much meat in. Wolves don’t fillet out the best cuts and discard the rest. Being a ‘whole prey’ feeder means just that: eating an awful lot more than just muscle.

You can just as well use goat, camel or kangaroo. However, and I am on record on this point repeatedly, Australia’s pet food industry is under-regulated. Until this is fixed, I would only buy feed raw meat to dogs if it was fit for human consumption. This does add a lot to the cost.

*(Cats, by contrast, do naturally hunt birds; read here how & why I feed raw chicken necks to cats.)

Grains In Dog Food

There’s actually no firm evidence against grains, but they aren’t necessary or especially healthy either, so I’ll avoid them. One exception is rice, which for a long time has been recognised as beneficial to dogs. We even use rice to treat some tummy upsets.

This is where my ideal wolf and dog diets will differ. You can use brown rice, which I fully support, but I’ll use Basmati rice as it has a similar or lower glycaemic index and is a lot easier to prepare.

Fillers In Dog Food

Fillers are bad, right? Yes, but remember what I said about high meat diets. You do need something to balance out the rich ingredients. In a wolf’s world, this would be all the stuff they scavenge between kills, like bugs, roots, and the lower-value parts of their prey like gut contents (ick!)

I really like using pumpkin as it’s more fibrous and less starchy. However, there’s nothing to stop you experimenting with whatever you can get by the box at the farmer’s market.

Raw Fruit & Veg

Any puppy owner who visits me knows I do go on a bit about raw fruits and veges. As long as you avoid grapes (onion too, but only an idiot dog would eat raw onion) they are great fun to try.

Add this after cooling to preserve the vitamins destroyed by cooking. Alternatively, you can do what I do and put a fresh bit from your own diet on each day’s meal. Dogs love a surprise ingredient. 

Calcium

Eating raw bone is natural for wolves. If you’re open to trying raw bone feeding, calcium should be no concern. Otherwise, adding a finely ground eggshell to the recipe will help. I believe you can make raw bone feeding low-risk by following these guidelines.

Despite what I tell my clients about never leaving a dog alone with bone, I trust my own dogs to be sensible so that they can chew on them when they desire. This keeps a steady mineral supply going in, firm poop coming out, and happy dogs throughout.

A Homemade Raw Dog Recipe

Serves the requirements of a 8kg dog for 4 days

  • 250g chopped beef or lamb, raw
  • 1 cup chopped carrots, raw
  • 1 cup chopped apple, raw
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1½ cups chopped pumpkin or squash
  • ⅔ cup brown or basmati rice (will cook to 3 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • 4g fish oil
  • Other ingredients? See below

Method: no need to get fancy.

  1. Cook the rice and pumpkin together until soft, and allow to cool
  2. Mix in the raw ingredients (dogs mostly also like their peas raw)
  3. Feed the required quantity per day, refrigerate the remainder
  4. Can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 2 weeks
Other Ingredients

Analysis of almost any homemade meal would show multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In practice, this may be tolerated by your dog but I recommend a vitamin and mineral supplement. Balance IT is designed for home-made diets and can be ordered from the USA. If not using, the following supplements can be ground together and mixed in the diet:

  •  1 Cenovis® Zinc Tablet (25mg)
  • 1 Trace Nutrients Copper Plus tablet (2mg)
  • 1 g Iodised salt
  • 1 Centrum® Advanced Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement

Most dog owners will have a favourite extra ingredient like chia or sardines. For me, each of my dogs gets fish oil. If you’re feeding something unusual it’s a good idea to check with your vet first. Also be careful with large amounts of oil due to the risk of pancreatitis.

How Much To Feed

Sorry! You’re going to have to do some maths. Using the diet above, 32 divided by your dog’s weight equals the number of days of food it will make. For example, if you have a 4kg Maltese, it will feed for 8 days. It’s up to you if you feed each daily portion in one meal or divide it into two or three.

Then watch the change in your dog’s weight and adjust the amount accordingly. No two dogs eat the same amount. Visit our page on how much to feed your dog for a longer discussion on the subject.

Finally, if you want the best and don’t mind spending $200, we have access to an excellent veterinary nutritionist who can design you a balanced homemade diet tailored to both your dog and your preferences. All you have to do is ask!

Related reading: Food Allergy and Elimination Diets | Healthy Treats For Dogs

A disclaimer: this diet, like most homemade raw diets, has not been analysed or tested. It is impossible to guarantee that it is nutritionally complete or that bacterial contamination will not occur. Use of this diet is at the dog owner’s own risk. Cooking the meat is safer and will not alter the diet significantly.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.
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‘At A Glance (Details Below)’

What Is Cat Flu?
  1. Cat flu isn’t influenza or a cold, it’s either a herpesvirus or calicivirus
  2. Symptoms include fever, anorexia, and eye or respiratory infection
  3. Many infected cats become virus carriers or have lifelong problems
  4. Rarer conditions caused by cat flu include arthritis, gingivitis, eye damage, stillbirths & abortion
Now dive deeper.

XX is a stray kitten found in a backyard a few weeks ago. Like most people do, her finders never hesitated to give her a home. Straight away, however, they knew something was wrong.

That’s her pictured above and below. She’s obviously miserable, but it’s the second photo that shows what’s really going on. This is ‘cat flu’.

You probably diligently vaccinate your cat against flu but do you know what it is? Cat flu is nothing like what most people think. For a start, it’s not flu!

Common Symptoms Of Cat Flu

Cat flu looks like a severe cold until you take a closer look. It causes:

Mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis and nasal discharge in a poor kitty with cat flu
  • Fever, lethargy and not eating or drinking
  • Clear or yellow-green discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Ulcers on the mouth, tongue and occasionally the eyes

But that’s not all. These nasty viruses sometimes do a lot more damage. Other important effects can be:

  • Arthritis
  • Viral pneumonia
  • Stillbirth, abortion or birth defects

And yet, there’s still even more. Most of the time it doesn’t go away…

How Long Does Cat Flu Last?

For a simple, uncomplicated case of flu, a cat might be back to normal in seven days. However, in most cases, secondary bacterial infection of the eyes, nose, sinuses or chest increases both the severity and duration of the illness.

Cat flu is treated by:

  • TLC, fluid and nutrition support
  • Antibiotics and eye ointments for secondary infection
  • Bathing and steaming to reduce buildup of secretions
  • More TLC

Most of these cats will still make a full recovery, although they suffer quite a bit in the process. For many, though, and especially the young or neglected, long-term problems persist.

Long-Term Effects of Cat Flu
  • Chronic rhinitis is a nasal infection that persists for life
  • Stunted growth is common in infected kittens
  • Stomatitis-gingivitis complex is a severe mouth infection
  • Most cats who get infected will carry the virus for life

If there’s just one thing I want all cat owners to understand about flu, it’s this last point about carriers.

How Cats Catch Flu

Cat flu is spread in the saliva of apparently healthy carrier cats. Nearly every cat who got cat flu once will carry and spread the virus for life. Carriers are estimated to represent around 30% of all cats.

It’s not their fault. It’s up to all of us to know where the real risk is and stop it. Here’s what I do…

How I Prevent Cat Flu

The viruses spread both directly from cat to cat and indirectly via objects, people and the environment.

  • I assume that every cat I see could be a carrier
  • I wash my hands between each cat and change my coat regularly
  • I use an isolation room for known infected cats
  • I clean and disinfect all equipment after every cat I see
  • I change my clothes when I get home
  • I ask breeders to test their breeding stock for carriers
  • I get my kittens from trusted sources like good breeders or the Animal Welfare League
  • Read here how I vaccinate my cat annually against cat flu
  • I never use substandard cat boarding

I hope now you understand why a good cattery never mixes cats or uses anything that can’t be disinfected.

I’m sorry if this all sounds a bit like a scare story. It’s all gospel truth but we’re in danger of forgetting how things once were. If you want to read more, visit this old page where I featured three cats with rare consequences of cat flu.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

The post Help! My Kitten Has Cat Flu appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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Walkerville Vet by Andrew - 2w ago

There’s a new sound in the suburbs of Adelaide at night. I hear it most evenings in my gum tree. It’s the sound of fruit bats.

With them comes a new danger. It’s not bad enough to cause any lost sleep or start an anti-bat movement. It’s just something we South Australians now need to know.

In a nutshell, it’s this:  only experienced and vaccinated carers should handle bats. Why that is I’ll explain below, and afterwards I’ll tell you who to call if you find a bat. Pay attention! There’s a quiz at the end. 

The New Bats In Adelaide

Grey-headed Flying-foxes established their first permanent camp in Adelaide in 2010. Currently it numbers around 10,000.

The colony is mostly comprised of immigrants, coming to Adelaide as part of a bigger movement southward in Australia. Just like Rainbow Lorikeets once did, flying foxes have moved in to take advantage of the food trees and shrubs planted by us. They’re here to stay.

However, we’re at the limit of their tolerable climate range. During harsh summer temperatures, many adults and young pups are found on the ground with heat stress. These are mostly the bats you might find and want to help.

The Danger From Bats

Bats carry viruses that can infect and even kill people. The chance of infection from handling a single bat is very low but you need to know the risk.

Australian Bat Lyssavirus

ABL is a rabies virus carried by most bat species, including microbats. It is transmitted by bites or by secretions such as tears or saliva. Three people are known to have died from ABL in Australia, the last in 2013.

Wild animals look cute, but they don’t want to be handled and will bite. If you get bitten by a bat, wash and disinfect the area well, and contact your doctor. You will probably need post-exposure rabies immunoglobulin injections. This, by the way, is the same if you get bitten by any animal in countries with ‘regular’ rabies, such as Indonesia.

Hendra Virus

Hendra virus has killed at least four people, all of whom had close contact with infected horses. Two were vets, Dr Ben Cunneen in 2008, and Dr Alister Rodgers in 2009 who attended the sick horses.

Hendra virus has been found in bats but not yet in people here in South Australia. It’s probably spread to horses grazing underneath trees where bats feed or roost. The horses can then get a severe disease with respiratory or neurological signs, and 70% mortality.

Since 2012, an equine Hendra virus vaccine appears to have had great success in reducing the number of fatalities. All 19 affected horses since that date were unvaccinated. Therefore, if you have a horse within 20km of Adelaide:

  • Ask your vet about vaccination
  • Avoid feeding or grazing horses under fruiting or flowering trees

Bat faeces and urine are probably not directly hazardous to humans, dogs or cats.

What To Do If You Find A Bat In Adelaide
  •  Do not attempt to handle the bat, especially flying foxes
  • Call Fauna Rescue SA’s bat helpline on 0474 204 617 or their 24-hour Helpline on 8289 0896
  • Another alternative is Adelaide Bat Care on 0422 182 443
  • If advised, microbats may be picked up with thick gloves as their teeth are quite small
  • Veterinary care is best arranged through the rescuer as your local vet is unlikely to be vaccinated
Where to see Bats in Adelaide

Bats are cool, and no danger if we leave them alone. Would you like to take a look?

The next time you’re at a game on a warm evening, watch the buzzing insects around the lights. You’ll see something flitter and flutter through the beam. These are one of around 8 species of insectivorous bats, or microbats, quietly going about their job of keeping bug numbers down. If you listen closely you can just hear their echolocating squeaks.

Flying foxes are even easier. The Adelaide parklands colony can be found in the pines near Frome Road south of the Zoo. They’re hanging upside down, high up, and resting far away from danger. Each evening they head out in search of food. Then, like me, you may hear their chattering in the trees or see a dark shape flap overhead. That’s no bird.

Quiz Time!

Q: What’s the best way to pick up a bat?

A: By the handle, of course!

Sorry. I’ve been told I don’t do enough puns.

Interested in what other diseases we share with animals? Visit our page on what you can catch from your pets.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.

The post Bats In Adelaide appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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If the only way you could have a certain puppy was if they were already desexed, would it be a deal-breaker for you? It would be for me.

It’s not a trivial issue. Many breeds in Australia come already desexed by the breeder. I can see why they do it, but as a vet, it makes me uncomfortable. What’s the big deal?

Disadvantages of Early Age Desexing

The evidence shows that certain disease conditions are more common when desexing is performed too early. Possibly the most important are:

  • Joint disorders such as hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament tears
  • Urinary problems such as incontinence

I’ve already written about the best age to desex a dog to avoid joint problems. It’s especially important for large breed dogs of both sexes where desexing should be delayed to over one year of age.

What about bedwetting? This affects mainly females of all sizes and may be an even bigger problem. We don’t like to face it, but studies show that inappropriate urination is a leading cause of surrender at shelters. Even in the best cases, incontinence can still prevent owners having a close relationship with their dog, or require lifelong medication.

Does Desexing Cause Incontinence?

The largest study to date shows that desexing roughly doubles the risk of incontinence to over 3% of female dogs. This is desexing at all ages, so what happens when we do Early Age Desexing at 8 to 12 weeks?

The answer is that incontinence is even more likely. There is a sliding scale where decreasing age of neuter is associated with an increasing incidence of urinary incontinence. Females speyed before 3 months of age appear to be at highest risk.

We have to be careful, as up to now there’s only been one study comparing this group with traditional ages of desexing. However, I’ve read the paper and there’s no reason to doubt the findings, especially as the authors were pro early desexing, not anti.

Breeds At Risk Of Incontinence

The age of desexing is likely to be even more important for at-risk breeds. Have a look at the rates for these dogs:

  • Irish red setter 32%
  • Dobermann 22%
  • Bearded collie 17%
  • Rough collie 16%
  • Dalmatian 16%
  • Weimaraner 11%

In general, the risk of incontinence is higher for larger breeds and heavier dogs. That’s very similar to the effect of desexing on joint development.

Help! My Dog Is Incontinent!

So what happens if your dog starts leaking urine? Don’t worry, it’s more of a disappointment than a disaster.

First, there are a lot of causes of incontinence in dogs other than desexing. Visit the link to learn more.

Then, even if it’s related to desexing, it can usually be treated with either of the drugs phenylpropanolamine or oestrogen.

Recommended Desexing Ages

Here’s how to reduce the negative effects of desexing on dogs.

  • For dogs of both sexes with an adult weight over 25kg, desex after one year of age.
  • For breeds who will be between 10 and 25kg the risks are probably on a sliding scale so a slight deferment to 9 months may be best.
  • For small dogs, 6 months remains the best age for desexing.
  • Early age desexing before 5 months is rarely in the best interests of a dog or their owner. There’s the known risk of incontinence in females, but it’s also likely that joint development will be affected for both sexes even in small dogs at this age.

The big exception is in rescue shelters, where early desexing prior to sale is essential, and the benefits to dogs and society far outweigh the risks. Early age desexing appears perfectly fine in cats, too.

If you’re looking for a puppy, talk to the breeder about your concerns. Offer to sign a legal agreement if that’s what it takes. Hopefully, information like this can help encourage everyone to make the decision that’s best for your pup.

Further Reading

O’Neill, D. G., Riddell, A., Church, D. B., Owen, L., Brodbelt, D. C., & Hall, J. L. (2017). Urinary incontinence in bitches under primary veterinary care in England: prevalence and risk factors. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 58(12), 685-693. (I can supply a copy on request)

Spain, C. V., Scarlett, J. M., & Houpt, K. A. (2004). Long-term risks and benefits of early-age gonadectomy in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 224(3), 380-387. (Full text available at Google Scholar)

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.

The post Early Age Desexing and Incontinence appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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‘At a glance’ (details below)

Why Dogs Yelp, Cry or Shake Suddenly
  • Acute pain is the cause of most yelping ‘for no reason’
  • The majority of unexplained cases have neck or back pain
  • It can happen when moving, when touched or even while sleeping

Now dive deeper…

I’m sorry about the comic picture above. Yelping is no laughing matter. Dogs can go on for years before their suffering is recognised.

This is Chi Chi. I don’t expect you to see it yet, but this dog is clearly in terrible pain. At home he would suddenly yelp without obvious reason, and shake all over. An internet search didn’t give the right answer, so let’s set the record straight…

Why Dogs Yelp When Touched Or Moved

A dog that yelps without an obvious reason usually has neck or back pain. Almost all other causes of yelping show other symptoms such as limping or a poor appetite.

I have yet to see an exception to this simple rule. When I see these dogs, what always surprises me is that no matter how terrible they look, the answer to my question about appetite is always, “he’s eating fine.”

Perhaps the only condition that might be sometimes confused with pain could be anxiety.

Signs Of Neck or Back Pain

Have a look at Chi Chi again. The first thing to see is that unusual head posture. No matter what, he keeps his head bent down and tries to only move his eyes to look around. This is a classic sign of neck pain.

Back pain is harder to see, but there is usually some degree of back arching. together with a rock-hard abdomen. For both necks and backs, dogs will be reluctant to move and probably not be jumping up at all. Remember, they should be otherwise fine.

Warning: dogs don’t usually yelp while you examine them, so you can easily do a lot of harm without realising. All a vet looks for is the subtle difference in muscle tension between these dogs and normal patients. Here’s why it matters…

The Dangers

Visit our page on back problems to see a dog who could easily have died if his owners didn’t react properly. Many cases of spinal pain have unstable intervertebral discs that can rupture into the spinal cord. It’s up to us vets to recognise which ones these are and take immediate action.

Treatment of Neck & Back Pain

Vet care usually starts with x-rays. Just like spinal pain in people, not all cases are serious. Treatment will always involve good pain control, but some dogs also need either immediate specialist referral or cage rest.

But not Chi Chi. His case, despite the severe pain, was suitable for home care  and he made a full recovery. Only time will tell if his problem will come back, and we’ll be there if it does.

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Dr Andrew

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

The post Help! My Dog Yelps & Shakes For No Reason appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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‘Emergency Care’ (details below)

How to Tell Reverse Sneezing from Choking
  • Reverse sneezing causes minimal distress and gums remain pink
  • It can usually be stopped if you call or distract a dog
  • The dog is 100% fine immediately before and afterwards

Now dive deeper…

Reverse sneezing is dramatic and scary. Many times a dog in the middle of a bout has been rushed to me for choking. That’s not an unreasonable thought when you see what it looks like.

However, while certainly unpleasant to the dog, reverse sneezing is virtually harmless. Since most dogs will do it at some time, it’s important for dog owners to understand.

What Is Reverse Sneezing?
Reverse Sneezing Chihuahua - YouTube

Reverse sneezing is repetitive sucking of air through the nose, accompanied by a harsh grunting, snorting or gagging noise. It can last anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds, during which the dog stands with outstretched neck, lips drawn back and a ‘far away’ expression.

Reverse Sneezing Dog - YouTube

The noise is created by air passing between the nasal passages and the soft palate. When you watch these dogs in the videos, it looks like they do it to itch the throat or nose. I believe they deliberately push the soft palate against the back of the throat in order to create the vibration that we hear.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is never normal. It occurs due to irritation of a part of the throat called the nasopharynx up behind the nasal passages. Common causes of throat irritation are:

  • Pollens and dust from sniffing dusty areas
  • Infections such as kennel cough
  • Seasonal allergy
  • Reduced airspace in short-faced and small breeds; affected dogs include the Pug, French Bulldog, Chihuahua and smaller Terriers

For most dogs, an occasional reverse sneeze is acceptable and no cause for alarm. However, if your dog has started reverse sneezing constantly or is getting worse then you need to help.

How To Stop Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is a semi-voluntary behaviour, so anything that distracts or disrupts your dog will often stop it. This might include picking a dog up, rubbing the throat, pinching the nostrils or even a tasty treat. However, just like any other itch, you aren’t fixing the underlying irritation, just suppressing the symptoms.

To stop reverse sneezing properly, you need to recognise and treat the cause.

Treatment of Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is treated by reducing the irritation to the airways. Always start with a diagnosis from the vet of the likely cause.

  • Mild cases may be best left untreated.
  • Infections are usually treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
  • Seasonal allergy can respond to antihistamines or may need a vet to give cortisone. However, even if it responds to drugs like Benadryl or Phenergan, you should find out why.
  • Dogs with short faces can get into a vicious circle of inflammation and worsening signs. These ‘brachycephalic’ dogs need a cortisone injection to settle airway swelling and reduce distress and may benefit from more permanent surgical solutions.
What Else Causes Dogs To Cough?

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you of more serious diseases that can be confused with reverse sneezing.

  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is the correct term for all the effects on the airways caused by short facial shape in dogs. Too often I see dog owners not taking this seriously enough. If your dog breathes noisily even at rest, it’s not cute, it’s a cry for help.
  • Collapsing Trachea is a common cause of a goose-honk or hoarse cough of older small breeds. Again, without specific treatment it is very serious.
  • Left-sided Cardiac Disease causes fluid accumulation in the lungs that can result in shortness of breath or coughing.
  • Infection is rare these days other than, of course, kennel cough. When I was a young vet, heartworm disease was the leading cause of coughing in dogs.

Want to know more? Read here about the heartworm epidemic in Adelaide in the 1990’s.

Dr Andrew

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

The post Reverse Sneezing in Dogs appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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As a grumpy cat lover, I’m embarrassed to say what gets under my skin. It’s when a cat is so much fun to be around that someone says, “he’s like a dog.” Although it’s meant as high praise, to me it says a lot about how we risk seeing cats.

As ‘not-dogs’.

This is why cats are said to be ‘low maintenance’ when they are anything but. Yes, cats can tolerate solitude better, and don’t need as much training, but what about the things they need more? A lot of the time we don’t even recognise what those things are.

It’s the same way goats are said to ‘eat everything’ when in fact they just don’t eat the same things as sheep. Or the way rabbits are ‘easy pets’ when in fact they are possibly the hardest domestic animals to look after properly. When we don’t understand something fully it always looks simpler than it really is.

So here are the ten most common mistaken assumptions I see cat owners make. Getting these wrong can result not just in stressed, unhappy cats but also scratched and bitten owners. Who knows, the reason your cat isn’t as friendly as you hope may be found here!

Cats Don’t Like People

Genetic mutation has given domestic cats a natural affinity to humans that not even total neglect can remove. Cats aren’t wildcats any more than dogs are wolves. Take any feral kitten in Australia, add TLC and, hey presto, the only thing ferocious is the purr. Even feral adult cats can become house cats.

Just like in people, personality varies, but an average cat is waiting at the door when you are due home, seeks you out and even prefers cuddles over food. We may joke that we are just slaves to our cats, but the reality is a complex, nuanced relationship.

Cats Don’t Need Attention

Many cats I see with psychological or mental issues are simply starved of attention, but their owners don’t even know. Each cat varies, but most need a significant time each day in physical contact with a person. Some want ‘action play’ but most just prefer to sit or lie peacefully nearby. Which, by the way, is great for our blood pressure.

My previous cat, The Puss, needed people to the extent that she pulled her hair out if we didn’t spend enough time with her. That’s as good a cry for help as you ever get. You’ll also see this sort of ‘overgrooming’ or fur pulling with stress or boredom.

Dogs Are More Intelligent Than Cats

My ‘pet’ hate. How dare researchers design experiments using human intelligence and expect cats to perform the same as dogs. Dogs have a social learning environment much like people and the dice are therefore loaded in their favour. Design a test adapted for cat intelligence and see what happens now.

Doors and windows are a good example. Ask anyone who has both a cat and a dog which one worked out the latch first.

There isn’t one sort of intelligence any more than there’s one type of animal. What’s fun about cats is the unpredictable nature of their intelligence when viewed from ours. As in, “what’s that crazy cat doing now?

You Can’t Train Cats

You absolutely can train cats, just not like dogs most of the time. If you want to train a cat, the best way is to let them think it was their idea. Just like some people.

My cat comes when called (feeding kitty treats helps), and has a regular playdate when I get home (not sure who trained who here) but I haven’t tried anything else. Other cats I know are trained to use a human toilet, or fetch, or find certain things or toys.

I Can Stop My Cat Doing That

No, you can’t. Ignore all those websites claiming success and accept the reality of the cat. Even celebrate it if you can- loving cats means being selfless enough to accept a free spirit into your life, chaos, counter-surfing and all.

The best you can do is offer a better alternative, like a good scratching pole instead of furniture. However, if a cat is motivated to do something, you won’t persuade them not to. All you may do is stop them while you’re around, or worse…

A Squirt Of Water Is OK

Punishment is completely unacceptable to cats as much as it is to dogs. If it works, it will only be because you made your cat anxious when you are around. They just do not understand why you would do that. Punishment is only a ‘human’ concept.

Even worse is ‘scruffing’. No cat should be held by the scruff ever. Mum may have done it to her 3-week kittens, but it’s stressful and painful for adults.

Cats Love Rough Play

Classic scenario: a couple come in with their cat. The husband complains that he’s getting attacked by the cat, and shows me the scratches and bites. The wife says she’s perfectly fine.

Aussie men love to roughhouse cats, and to some extent, the cats do enjoy it. However, be prepared for the play to get very rough and serious. These are predators with teeth and nails honed to perfection. Far better to play games using toys than hands.

Cats Are Unpredictable

The biggest mistake I see is thinking that cats are always the same. Cats, as any cat lover knows, have moods. Sometimes they want cuddles, sometimes they are grumpy, and other times they are going to bite any hand that comes near them. Not out of spite, just because.

I hate to be callous, but it’s up to you to recognise the signs and back off when the time isn’t right. It goes back to cats being independent spirits. Just like us, they don’t always feel like doing something. When they do, at least you know they mean it.

If you asked cats, they would say it’s us who are unpredictable. The reason Grendel prefers my lap is that I never do anything like jumping up and shouting “goal”. He knows he can trust me. This, by the way, is why cats prefer people who ‘don’t like cats’; they are very still when a cat sits on them.

Cats Can Live Anywhere

The other great difference between cats and dogs is territoriality. You and I don’t even know what it feels like to be so attached to a place. To a cat, territory is life and death, quite literally. Without it there’s only starvation and danger.

Territory needs to be safe and secure, and full of hiding places for time out. Think jungle. No cat likes wide open places. Food, water and litter need to be in places where your cat feels safe. House moves need to be done with great compassion and understanding of the trauma involved.

Mental Illness? What Mental Illness?

Anxiety is both a killer and a cause of significant suffering, but most people won’t see it. Many of its causes you’ve already heard: mismatches between what a cat needs and what they get. More than once I have seen anxiety in cats caused simply by ‘modern’ interior design.

If a cat feels that they can’t get away when they want, they are going to be more anxious and less affectionate all the time. It’s the same if a cat has to deal with threats from other cats, dogs, strangers or children. Ditto for house moves, punishment, neglect and impatient or rough owners.

So good luck and thanks for reading. I finish this as I started, with Grendel having forced his way between the laptop and the lap. Ah well, at least he’s happy.

Related: Ideas to make a cat-friendly house | Best feeding plan for kittens

Dr Andrew Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.

The post The Top Ten Mistakes Cat Owners Make appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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As a grumpy cat lover, I’m embarrassed to say what gets under my skin. It’s when a cat is so much fun to be around that someone says, “he’s like a dog.” Although it’s meant as high praise, to me it says a lot about how we sometimes see cats.

As ‘not-dogs’.

This is why cats are said to be ‘low maintenance’ when they are anything but. Yes, cats can tolerate solitude better, and don’t need as much training, but what about the things they need more? A lot of the time we don’t even recognise what those things are.

It’s the same way goats are said to ‘eat everything’ when in fact they just don’t eat the same things as sheep. Or the way rabbits are ‘easy pets’ when in fact they are possibly the hardest domestic animals to look after properly. When we don’t understand something well it always looks simpler than it really is.

So here are the ten most common mistaken assumptions I see cat owners make. After you’ve read these, you’ll be well on the way to speaking ‘cat’. If you knew these already, please add some more in the comments below!

Cats Don’t Like People

Genetic mutation has given domestic cats a natural affinity to humans that not even total neglect can remove. Cats aren’t wildcats any more than dogs are wolves. Take any feral kitten in Australia, add TLC and, hey presto, the only thing ferocious is the purr. Even feral adults can become house cats.

Just like in people, personality varies, but an average cat is waiting at the door when you are due home, seeks you out and even prefers cuddles over food. If your cat doesn’t, or is even aggressive, you might find the reason here!

Cats Don’t Need Attention

Many cats I see with psychological or mental issues are simply starved of attention, except their owners don’t even know. Each cat varies, but most need a significant time each day in physical contact with a person. Some want ‘action play’ but most just prefer to sit or lie peacefully nearby. Which, by the way, is great for our blood pressure.

My previous cat, The Puss, needed people to the extent that she pulled her hair out if we didn’t spend enough time with her. That’s as good a cry for help as you ever get.

Dogs Are More Intelligent Than Cats

My ‘pet’ hate. How dare researchers design experiments using human intelligence and expect cats to perform the same as dogs. Dogs have a social learning environment much like people and the dice are therefore loaded in their favour. Design a test adapted for cat intelligence and see what happens now.

Doors and windows are a good example. Ask anyone who has both a cat and a dog which is the escape artist. A truce is needed: there isn’t one sort of intelligence. What’s fun about cats is the unpredictable nature of their intelligence when viewed from ours. As in, “what’s that crazy cat doing now?

You Can’t Train Cats

You absolutely can train cats, just not like dogs most of the time. If you want to train a cat, the best way is to let them think it was their idea. Just like some people.

My cat comes when called (feeding kitty treats helps), but I haven’t tried anything else. Other cats I know are trained to use a human toilet, or fetch, or find certain things or toys.

I Can Stop My Cat Doing That

No, you can’t. Ignore all those websites claiming success and accept the reality of the cat. Even celebrate it if you can- loving cats means being selfless enough to accept a free spirit into your life, chaos, counter-surfing and all.

The best you can do is offer a better alternative, like a good scratching pole instead of furniture. However, if a cat is motivated to do something, you won’t persuade them not to. All you may do is stop them while you’re around, or worse…

A Squirt Of Water Is OK

Punishment is completely unacceptable to cats as much as it is to dogs. The difference is that it will also make matters worse. If it works, it will only be because you made your cat anxious when you are around. They just do not understand why you would do that. Punishment is only a ‘human’ concept.

Even worse is ‘scruffing’. No cat should be held by the scruff ever. Mum may have done it to her 3-week kittens, but it’s stressful and painful for adults.

Cats Love Rough Play

Classic scenario: a couple come in with their cat. The husband complains that he’s getting attacked b the cat, and shows me the scratches and bites. The wife says she’s perfectly fine.

Aussie men love to roughhouse cats, and to some extent, the cats do enjoy it. However, be prepared for the play to get very rough and serious. These are predators with teeth and nails honed to perfection. Far better to play games using toys than hands.

Cats Are Unpredictable

The biggest mistake I see is thinking that cats are always the same. Cats, as any cat lover knows, have moods. Sometimes they want cuddles, sometimes they are grumpy, and other times they are going to bite any hand that comes near them. Not out of spite, just because.

I hate to be callous, but it’s up to you to see if they want it first. It goes back to cats being independent spirits. Just like us, they don’t always feel like doing something. When they do, at least you know they mean it.

If you asked cats, they would say it’s us who are unpredictable. The reason Grendel prefers my lap is that I never do anything like jumping up and shouting “goal”. He knows he can trust me. This, by the way, is why cats prefer people who ‘don’t like cats’; they are very still when a cat sits on them.

Cats Can Live Anywhere

The other great difference between cats and dogs is territoriality. You and I don’t even know what it feels like to be so attached to a place. To a cat, territory is life and death, quite literally. Without it there’s only starvation and predation.

Territory needs to be safe and secure, and full of hiding places for time out. Think jungle. No cat likes wide open places. Food, water and litter need to be in places where your cat feels safe. House moves need to be done with great compassion and understanding of the trauma involved.

Mental Illness? What Mental Illness?

Anxiety is both a killer and a cause of significant suffering, but most people won’t see it. Many of its causes you’ve already heard: mismatches between what a cat needs and what they get. More than once I have seen anxiety in cats caused simply by ‘modern’ interior design.

If a cat feels that they can’t get away when they want, they are more anxious and less affectionate all the time. It’s the same if a cat has to deal with threats from other cats, dogs, strangers or children. Ditto for house moves, punishment, neglect and impatient or rough owners.

So good luck and thanks for reading. I finish this as I started, with Grendel having forced his way between the laptop and the lap. Ah well, at least he’s happy.

Related: Ideas to make a cat-friendly house | Best feeding plan for kittens

The post The Top Ten Mistakes Cat Owners Make appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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‘Emergency Care’ (details below)

What To Do If A Dog Eats Chocolate
  1. Chocolate is a nervous system stimulant & causes seizures in dogs
  2. Death is more likely with dark or cooking chocolate & smaller dogs
  3. See a vet ASAP to have the chocolate vomited and signs monitored

now dive deeper…

This Easter there will inevitably be a lot of dogs exposed to chocolate. Get ready by understanding the risks and what you can do if your dog gets poisoned.

How Much Chocolate Is Toxic to a Dog?

It’s the dose that makes the poison. Risks are higher for chocolate with high cocoa levels and when body weight is lower. For supermarket products, around 100g dark chocolate can kill a 5kg dog, or 250g of milk chocolate. The amount will be lower for high-quality products like Lindt, Haighs or Ghirardelli.

Below I’ve listed the amounts of common chocolate-containing foods such as chocolate cake and biscuits that would be poisonous.

Smaller doses will still cause symptoms such as hyperactivity and agitation. I have seen these first hand in my Jack Russell Terrier after even tiny amounts. The fat content of chocolate products also often causes gastrointestinal upsets or pancreatitis.

That’s why I recommend that all dogs exposed to chocolate be made to vomit as soon as possible after ingestion.

How Long Does it Take for Chocolate to Affect a Dog?

The timeline from eating chocolate to symptoms is reported to be anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. This is wrong. The true onset of signs could be as little as 30 minutes after ingestion.

The speed of onset will depend on the form in which the chocolate is eaten, and how much food was in the stomach already. Times will be shortest if a dog has an empty stomach and eats a highly concentrated form such as chocolate milk flavouring.

The Signs of Chocolate Poisoning

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, abnormal heartbeat, excessive urination, restlessness, excitement, unsteadiness, muscle tremors, seizures and coma. Chocolate contains a substance related to caffeine, called theobromine, and these signs are exactly the same as caffeine poisoning.

Even if you are too late to get your dog to vomit, chocolate poisoning can still be treated. The only deaths we have seen occurred when dogs gained access to chocolate while their owners were asleep or away.

Is There Dog Safe Chocolate?

Carob is a safe alternative to chocolate as long as the treat it’s in is low-fat. White chocolate is also free of theobromine but is not recommended due to the high fat content. But why are we assuming dogs want the same things we do? My dogs would always prefer a juicy raw bone or watermelon.

Dog Chocolate Calculator

To work out if your dog has eaten a toxic dose, multiply the ‘Toxic to 1kg’ for the food eaten by your dog’s weight. If your dog ate this much or more, get help immediately.  Visit this page for dog breed weight guidelines.

These amounts are a guide only and we don’t have information about products like Mars or TimTam either. We recommend all dogs who may have eaten chocolate see the vet.

Food Theobromine Toxic to 1kg dog
Dark chocolate 4.41 mg/g 22g
Milk chocolate 1.88 mg/g 53g
Cooking chocolate 5.65 mg/g 17g
Choc chips 1.50 mg/g 66g
Cocoa (no sugar) 20.3 mg/g 5g
Biscuits choc chip 1.79 mg/g 55g
Brownie 1.42 mg/g 70g
Cake 1.62 mg/g 61g
Cake (iced) 3.56 mg/g 28g
Coco Pops 0.70 mg/g 142g
Custard (infant) 0.22 mg/g 454g
Flavoured milk 0.23 mg/g 434g
Fudge 6.55 mg/g 15g
Milk powder 2.66 mg/g 37g
Muesli bar 1.36 mg/g 73g
Pudding 0.62 mg/g 161g
Pudding mix 2.28 mg/g 43g
Syrup/Topping 2.12 mg/g 47g

Related: How much onion is toxic to dogs?

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

The post Help! My Dog Ate Chocolate appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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You’ve got a dog needing treatment and you’ve even got some of your own meds nearby. Can you use them?

The use of non-veterinary drugs is a common question from pet owners. When is it a good idea to give your dog human medications? Sometimes, surprisingly, it is. Just not that often.*

Here are the top over the counter (OTC) drugs you can give, and a few you definitely can’t! Plus some guidelines for safe and appropriate use. See full disclaimer below.

Antihistamines for Dogs

The following antihistamines sold in Australia appear safe in dogs.

Antihistamine Estimated Dose
Phenergan (promethazine)* 1 mg/kg twice daily
Polaramine (dexchlorpheniramine) 2-12 mg twice daily
Benadryl (diphenhydramine)* 2 mg/kg twice daily
Telfast (fexofenadine) 5-10 mg/kg once daily
Claratyne (loratadine) 5-20 mg once daily
Zyrtec (cetirizine) 1 mg/kg once daily
*possible sedation

These doses are empirical and often scaled down from human doses.

Bad stuff: We don’t know why, but dog allergies respond very poorly to antihistamines. Even the best (cetirizine) only helps 20% of dogs. The response may improve if combined with EFAs (see below) and it’s worth trying a few before giving up.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, Naproxen for Dogs

Bad Stuff: Please don’t use these drugs at all. Human anti-inflammatory medications are almost universally toxic to dogs. A single dose of Nurofen or Voltaren can be fatal, and survivors are left with permanent organ damage. Even aspirin, although used in the past as a blood thinner, is not recommended.

The veterinary pain medications are the only safe option. They include carprofen, meloxicam, firocoxib, etodolac, and robenacoxib. If your dog has taken any human anti-inflammatory, contact a vet immediately. See also paracetamol below.

Carsickness Treatments

Motion sickness in dogs can be treated with Phenergan or Benadryl antihistamine tablets which may also cause mild drowsiness. Ginger products used for people also appear safe.

Bad Stuff: Most dog owners don’t see much success. Nowadays the only good drugs for car sickness are prescribed at the vet. Dramamine was great but was taken off the market due to problems with human abuse.

Cough Suppressants

Dextromethorphan is an ingredient found in many human dry cough treatments. We often use it to comfort dogs with kennel cough at a dose of 5, 10 or 20mg depending on the dog’s size. Just make sure that the product you use contains no other drugs.

Bad Stuff: You need to be 100% sure that the cough can be safely suppressed. If it is caused by lower airway infection, heart disease or a foreign body then suppressing it is very dangerous. Even when the diagnosis is confirmed to be kennel cough, antibiotics usually work faster so please see your vet first.

Diarrhoea Meds

PAW Digesticare is a veterinary probiotic and prebiotic food supplement. It helps restore the normal gut bacterial flora and can assist with some diarrhoeas. We supply either sachets or you can purchase a whole tub.

Various products can help reduce the obvious symptoms of diarrhoea. These include bismuth sub-salicylate, kaolin or montmorillonite. All are fairly harmless; which compound you use will depend on local availability. (ironic fact: montmorillonite is the stuff in some of those food sachets that say “ do not eat”).

Bad Stuff: Home treatment is only appropriate for bright and happy, fully vaccinated adult dogs with mild diarrhoea of no more than a few days duration. They need to also have a good appetite and no blood in the stool. Although I understand why frustrated owners may resort to it, there is no place for Imodium in canine medicine. If symptomatic treatment doesn’t work, it’s off to the vet.

Ear Drops for Dogs

There are two useful ear medications for dogs but both should only be used under veterinary instructions. Epi-otic and similar non-prescription ear cleaners are an essential part of good preventive management of problem ears. Aqua ear can be used to dry the ears of frequent swimmers and prevent infection.

Bad Stuff: OTC ear drops are over-used and frequently abused. None will fix even the mildest problem so don’t be fooled by your dog’s ‘improvement’. They are just learning to live with the pain. Most ear drops permanently damage hearing if the eardrum is ruptured, and are always painful in diseased ears.

Eye Drops for Dogs

Human artificial tears and OTC antibiotic eye ointment can be used in dogs.

Bad Stuff: The use of these products without a diagnosis masks serious disease and could lead to loss of the eye or loss of sight. Glaucoma, dry eye or corneal ulcers look the same as conjunctivitis without testing.

Glucosamine for Dogs

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for arthritis can be given to dogs with a very low risk of side effects.

Bad Stuff: There is next to no evidence that glucosamine works in pets. Read here about the caregiver placebo effect and more effective arthritis treatments for dogs.

Laxatives for Dogs

Lactulose is a safe and effective laxative suitable for prolonged use in most dogs. It is sold as a liquid in pharmacies and given at approximately one teaspoon per 5kg body weight. The dose is then adjusted to give a faecal consistency neither firm or sloppy.

Paraffin oil can also be used at similar doses but must be mixed with food, and is much less suitable for long-term use.

Bad Stuff: For every five dogs that owners think are constipated, only one really is. Unless you’re certain (e.g. your dog always gets bound up after chewing a bone) it’s best to confirm the diagnosis first and rule out more serious problems. Severely bound up animals will need a proper enema, and I don’t mean Microlax.

Melatonin for Dogs

Melatonin is commonly advocated as a mild and safe sedative for dogs.

Bad Stuff: Evidence is sorely lacking for its efficacy, and the only ‘melatonin’ sold without prescription in Australia is homeopathic. How they can even claim it’s really melatonin is beyond me.

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

There’s very solid evidence for the benefit of omega 3s in dogs. They are proven to reduce signs of dermatitis and may play a role in reducing cardiac arrhythmias. They are safe and often well-tolerated by dogs at a dose of 1 g fish oil per 4-5 kg bodyweight.

Bad Stuff: Although they are useful, omega 3 fatty acids do not exert a strong effect in most dogs. They should be avoided in dogs prone to pancreatitis.

Pain Relief for Dogs

So what can you give a dog for pain? The best of a bad lot is paracetamol, which is given at a dose of 10 mg/kg.

Bad Stuff: My strong advice is to avoid paracetamol unless it’s impossible to get to a vet. Paracetamol is nowhere near as safe or effective as pain meds made for dogs.

Skin Creams

Hydrocortisone 0.5% cream (e.g. Dermaid) is available without prescription. It can be used for areas of minor irritation or allergy.

Many antifungals (e.g. Canesten) can be used in pets.

Bad Stuff: Do not use creams on broken skin, and always be aware of how much is being swallowed by pets. You could easily reach a toxic dose by reapplying creams that are licked off. It’s best to fit an elizabethan collar if using and see your vet if there isn’t rapid improvement. Prolonged use can cause skin damage.

Fungal infections in dogs are very unlikely. If it looks like ringworm, it’s usually bacterial in dogs. The best thing for this is our magic pink chlorhexidine disinfectant scrub (also OTC).

Vomiting Suppression in Dogs

Bad Stuff: Antiemetics & antacids should never be used in dogs without veterinary advice. If your dog is vomiting, there is probably a good reason, and suppressing the vomiting is probably not the best answer. Antacids are used commonly in people but have almost no place in canine medicine.

Disclaimer

None of these drugs has been properly tested for safety in animals so pet owners need to accept that there may be unknown and possibly serious adverse effects. Always check first with your vet if these medications are suitable for your dog and be very careful if you pet has any other health problem or is on other drugs. Doses in mg/kg are estimates only.

*Why Are Vet Drugs Different?

There are four reasons why most animal drugs don’t get used in people and vice versa.

  1. Different diseases: many of the common problems of dogs or cats are rare in humans
  2. Different drugs: even when the disease is the same, another medicine may work better in animals
  3. Different metabolism: many drugs successfully used in people have a ridiculously impractical half-life or dose, or actually are toxic
  4. Different legislation: for reasons lost to me, but possibly related to points 1, 2 & 3, companies often release separate drugs onto the veterinary market than the human one

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet and is not guaranteed to be accurate. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

The post What Human Drugs Are Safe For Dogs? appeared first on Walkerville Vet.

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