Dogs and Car Travel

If you own a dog then you may, at some point, have to put him/her in a car. Whether it’s a trip to the vets or a longer journey there are several things to consider when it comes to the safety and comfort of your best friend.

Harnesses, Guards and Crates

We wear seatbelts and we make sure our kids are safely secured too. The same should apply to your dog.  They might be well behaved and sit quietly on the back seat. However, if you need to brake suddenly or if you bump your car, they could be thrown forward and get injured.  In a more serious bumb they could become a missile that will shoot forward and injure any of the people in the front of the car.

When deciding how to secure your dog, there are several choices available:

Dog Guard – This is a mesh which can be fitted between the boot and the back seat. This stops the dog from climbing over the seats. However, it doesn’t offer as much protection as your dog will not be protected from impact with the rear or side windows.  They need to be sturdy and properly secured in place to be effective as protection in case of accidents.

Crate – If you are going to put your dog in a crate you need to ensure, firstly, your car is big enough to hold it and secondly, the crate is big enough for your dog.  You need to make sure your dog is able to stand at full height and there is room for them to turn around and lie down in a normal position.  Make sure the dog can see out of the container and there is enough ventilation.  Also, by adding bedding to the crate it will help prevent the dog from slipping around.

Harness – If your dog is too big for a crate or you would prefer another option, then it’s worth considering a padded car harness that secures your dog by linking in with the seat belt system. Make sure to measure your dog to make sure you get the right size.  We have read these are not entirely safe as the straps can dig into the dog’s skin during an accident.

By choosing one of these options, it will ensure your pet has a safer journey. However, there are still other things to consider if you are going on a long journey:

Before putting the dog into the car, make sure they have exercised beforehand. This will help them settle as they will have burned off some excess energy.

Some dogs get motion sickness/car sick. If you know you are going on a long journey, don’t feed them before you travel. Leave it a couple of hours. Also, don’t give them food whilst travelling.  Keep them calm and give them a new toy to play with so it takes their mind off being in the car. If this is a problem then we do have medications that can assist with travel sickness and ease their stress.

Make sure you have plenty of water and take regular stops so your dog can stretch its legs.

Don’t let your dog stick its head out of the window.  It could result in injury. We have had dogs at the clinic that have done this and have had particles or small stones flicked up by tyres  that shoot into their eyes.  Also, some dogs may try to jump out.

Very Importantly, do not leave your dog in the car, especially on a hot day.  Whilst in the car, ensure the dog is not in direct sunlight.  Leaving a window open a crack is not sufficient as the inside of the car can get very hot and every year dogs die unnecessarily because they have overheated in cars.

These are a few hints and tips which we hope you will find useful. If you want more information, please call us at the clinic or leave a message on our Facebook page and someone will get back to you.

General health check for dogs

We were recently asked for hints and tips on checking a dogs general health. Whilst we are unable to give specific information we have listed below a few basic things you can look for to ensure your pooch is in good condition. Prevention is always better than cure and doing these basic checks monthly will help to keep your pet  a healthy and happy family member.

  • Body condition- running your hands over your dog you should be able to feel, and sometimes see the ribs with a slight covering of fat, see an hour glass shape at the waist and see the chest slope upwards towards the hind legs. By regularly checking your dog you will be able to notice any changes sooner rather than later
  • Ears- your dog’s ears should always be clean without any thick or discoloured discharge.  Make sure there are no signs of itchiness, redness or any odd smells.
  • Eyes- The eyes should be bright and clear without any signs of runniness, redness or soreness. If you notice your dog walking into things you should get them to the vets as soon as possible as there could be a more serious problem.
  • Nose- If the nose is healthy there shouldn’t be any signs of crusting and there should be no runny or thickened discharge.  Also, it’s worth noting that a healthy nose does not have to be cold and wet.
  • Mouth- bad breath can indicate underlying problems from digestive, kidney or bacterial infection. However, in a lot cases it could be a build of tartar or plaque which, if left, can build up and cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Skin and coat- your dog’s coat should be free of crusting, itching, scaling, infection, hot or inflamed areas. There should be no bald patches, dandruff or fleas.
  • Nails-should be smooth – if brittle and break easily they may need attention. Remember their dew claws if they have them
  • Digestion- always keep an eye on your dog’s appetite and what you are feeding them.
  • Waste – If you notice your dog’s toilet habits change or the consistency, this may indicate a problem.
  • Thirst- if your dog starts showing signs of increased thirst without exercise it may suggest an underlying problem.
  • Attitude- your dog’s general attitude and behaviour is always a sure sign as to how they are feeling.  If their head and tail are low and they seem quieter than normal then it could mean they are not feeling 100%

If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s health please call us at the clinic or leave us a message on our Facebook page.

Breaks and Fractures

At Cherrydown Vets one of the reasons pets are bought in to us is because of breaks or fractures to their bones.  It could be because of a car accident, a high fall, fighting, over exuberance or something more serious like bone cancer. There are two types of fractures, open and closed. An open fracture is when the bone breaks and pierces through the skin. A closed fracture is where the bone has broken but does not break the skin.

If your pet has had a heavy fall or an accident there are some things you can look out for to see if there is anything broken.

  • Your pet may hold the broken limb in an abnormal position
  • The limb will become very swollen
  • There may be an open wound with bone sticking through it.
  • You pet may be limping or is reluctant to put any weight on a particular limb
  • Your pet may hold up their limb and not put any weight on it at all
  • Your pet may not want the limb touched by anyone

Bones consist of an outer, hard portion known as the cortex and an inner area known as the marrow.  A fracture can range from a simple hairline fracture with little displacement of the bone to complex fractures where the bone has shattered into many pieces. If a fracture has taken place at a joint it can be even more serious.

If you believe your pet has fractured a bone you should take them to the vets immediately so they can be x-rayed. When the vet can see how serious the break is they can advise on the best course of action.

When it comes to transporting the animal, try to minimise movement of the affected area. If the bone is exposed cover with a clean, damp towel to protect the wound.  Also, be careful when moving your pet. No matter how friendly and soft they are, when animals are scared or in pain they may bite. If you have a dog it may be worth putting a muzzle on them.

The vet will do a thorough examination of the fracture and will also check for any other injuries. Once they have all the relevant information they will be able to decide what to do next. Each fracture is different but generally there are two types of treatment, depending on the fracture. The vet may recommend internal or external stabilisation.

External stabilisation – If your pet has a hairline fracture or something minor, the vet may choose to use splints, casts or padded bandages to keep everything in place.

Internal stabilisation – This involves surgery and your pet will be anesthetised It can be anything from inserting a metal pin lengthwise into the centre of the bone (like an internal splint) to metal plates, pins, screws and wires to hold together various pieces of bone or to fix a joint.  If it is a serious fracture your vet may refer you to an Orthopaedic Specialist.

There is no strict rule on the amount of time it can take to heal a fracture but generally, the younger the animal the sooner it will take.  You need to make sure you limit the amount of exercise your pet does during the healing process to ensure the bones stay aligned. If your pet has too much activity it could refracture the bone and delay the healing or your pet could have a deformed limb due to stress on a weakened bone.  During the healing period your vet may take further x-rays to ensure it’s healing properly and let you know when your pet’s limb is back to normal.

If you have any questions about this subject please call us at the clinic and someone will be able to discuss this with you. Alternatively, you can post your question on our Facebook page.

Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Like us, dogs have knees and there are two ligaments that help to hold and stabilise the knee joint. These ligaments are the cranial (anterior) cruciate and the caudal (posterior) cruciate and they cross over one another within the knee joint helping to secure the thigh bone, knee cap and shin bone together. Sometimes these ligaments tear and this is called a rupture.  When the tear occurs the tibia moves freely from under the femur and it is this movement and rubbing that causes the pain. You will probably have seen athletes or sportsmen or women pull up suddenly and be in considerable pain after a ligament has ruptured. It is very similar for dogs and they will usually show lameness in a rear leg.  Whilst not life threatening, it is extremely painful and needs immediate veterinary treatment. Failing to get treatment can cause arthritic changes that can lead to long term lameness.

So what causes a cruciate ligament to rupture and what can you do to help prevent it?

Sometimes it is just their sheer athleticism and over exuberance that can cause the tear. Healthy dogs might land wrongly from a jump, turn too quickly or just over stretch. Overweight dogs are at greater risk due to the excess weight carried and weakened joints. Over time degenerative forces acting on the knee joint can also lead to a tear.  Certain breeds are more prone to cruciate rupture so it is likely genetics play a part too.

So what will your vet do?

Initially your dog will be examined in a consultation and the vet will manipulate the leg to try to establish exactly where the pain is happening. Watching how your dog walks (its gait) will also assist in making a diagnosis for a cranial rupture. If your vet thinks it is a cranial rupture they will likely manipulate the femur and tibia to check for instability. Something they will look for is a cranial draw sign where the tibia moves forward independently of the femur. Also, a test called the tibial thrust will be performed. If the signs are not clear then your dog may need to have x-rays .

In the majority of cases cruciate injuries will require surgery, but your vet may consider a more conservative option first  with pain relief, anti inflammatory drug medication and a number of weeks of cage rest. The most common surgical treatment at Cherrydown is a TPLO (Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy) which is conducted by our orthopaedic specialist J.B. Lefebvre. It is a complex operation and involves altering how the knee joint works to allow it to function without the cruciate ligament. During the operation the tibial plateau is rotated and a metal plate inserted to keep the bone in its new position. Over several weeks and with the dog restricted to cage rest only, the bone will heal into the new position. Following cage rest, further examination and x-rays will be required to make sure the surgery was a success and the joint is healing properly. Successful surgery is usually long lasting and dogs can go on to lead a normal active life.

What are the costs?

Where surgery is required there are considerable costs involved due to the complexity of the operation. If complications occur this will add to that cost. At Cherrydown we aim to cap surgery prices in advance and you will be given a fixed price to better enable you to manage your finances. If you are a client of Cherrydown and your pet is insured then you may be eligible for Direct Insurance* where we will foot the bill until your insurance company pays out. Typically a TPLO operation will cost between £2500 and £3000 and this is one of the reasons we strongly recommend that pets are insured and that the policy will cover at least this amount. Cruciate ligament ruptures, hip and elbow dysplasia and fractures are fairly frequent occurrences among dogs and each of these can cost a significant amount for treatment. Without insurance would you be able to meet the cost to give your best friend the best chance of a full recovery?

Big Dog – Training and Socialising your Big Dog

Dogs are a lot of fun. They can be loving, energetic, mischievous, playful and can make you cry with laughter at some of the things they get up to. But equally, without the right training, socialisation & stimuli, they can be aggressive, destructive or fearful.

Training and Socialisation are two of the most important things you can do with your dog to make sure they fit into your life and that of your family.

Different breeds have different attributes and these need to be researched carefully before deciding which to get. Why do you want the dog? Who will it be around? Where will it be living and are there other pets there are all important factors when choosing your dog and training it.

Socialisation is the process by which a puppy learns how to recognise and interact with living things i.e. other dogs, people, cats etc. By learning how to interact with other animals the socialised dog develops important communication skills. If getting an older dog, it is important to know it’s background, any training it has already had and the sort of environment it is used to.

Habituation is a process by which the puppy becomes accustomed to environmental stimuli i.e. non living things e.g. cars, washing machines etc.

The most effective socialisation period is at ages 3-12 weeks. This is also known as the sensitive period. Appropriate experiences with people, dogs and the environment are essential during this 3-12 week period if your puppy is to develop into a suitable pet. Failure to receive this experience is a major cause of behavioural problems in dogs later in life.

The importance of socialisation in dogs has been shown in a number of experiments. One such experiment kept puppies in isolation and were introduced to people at staggered intervals:

-puppies introduced for the first time between 3 and 5 weeks were fine

-puppies introduced between 5 and 7 weeks showed increasing apprehension.

-puppies introduced at 9 weeks were completely fearful

-puppies kept in isolation until 14 weeks behaved like wild animals

Similar experiments have shown a similar time scale is applicable for habituation.

Training from an early age is also essential and the earlier you begin with simple commands, the quicker and easier they will pick it up. Training can be made fun and part of play where your dog can also learn basic social skills. This can progress to formal training at one of the many recognised dog training schools. Exercise and walks can also be used for training. Making sure your dog walks to heel and won’t dart off and drag you off balance are simple skills that they can easily be taught. Releasing a ball, sitting or laying down are things that can be practised in the home in a fun way that will benefit both you and your dog.

 

Is getting a big dog the right decision for you?

When we talk about a big dog, we are thinking of the following – GSD, Rotties, Doberman, Great Dane, Wolfhound, Mastiff types, Bull Dogs, Bull Terriers- English and Staffie, Labradors and a few others.

The first consideration when getting any dog is whether you have really thought the decision through carefully.

Dogs undoubtedly make wonderful companions but can you genuinely answer YES to all the following questions:

  1. Do you have time for a dog? Dogs (and particularly puppies) require an enormous amount of time and patience from their new owners. House-training, grooming, socialising, training, feeding, exercising etc take a long time to achieve. These are most successfully achieved if someone is with the dog most of the day at home. If you want a puppy and it is going to be on its own 8 hours a day while everybody is at work, then think again.
  2. Does everyone in the home want a dog?
  3. Can you afford a big dog? After the cost of buying the dog, there are feeding costs, veterinary costs, vaccinations, flea and worm control, bedding, toys, boarding kennels, collars and leads, training classes etc. Getting a big dog will be more costly than getting a smaller one in almost every way, are you prepared for this?
  4. Can you provide a safe and secure home for, possibly, 15 years plus? Remember, circumstances can easily change so think long and hard about this one.
  5. Have you fully researched what owning a large dog entails by speaking to other owners, visiting shows, talking to breeders/vets/dog trainers.
  6. Have you considered what breed to get? Some are better with children than others, some do not like being left alone & can suffer separation anxiety, some are more prone to certain medical conditions while others require more exercise or grooming.

A big dog comes with a big responsibility, but thankfully as with children, the enjoyment you get from a dog can make it all worthwhile. Owning a dog can be very rewarding,  help to keep you healthier and add another aspect to your social life. Training classes  and walks are a great way to meet like-minded people, swap stories, tips and ideas.