Monday, March 26, 2012

Itchy and Scratchy...

If you have ever watched the Simpsons cartoon then you will surely know about “Itchy and Scratchy” the cat and mouse who entertain a very gore show that Bart loves to watch. What is the connection with what we are going to talk about today? None! Lool! Except that we are going to tackle some itchy and maybe scratchy stuff.

Upon recent public demand, I think that today we should talk a bit about dog allergic reactions...Yeap! Just like us humans, dogs do suffer from allergies...and the causes are just the about the same too; dust, pollen, molds, proteins in food, insect bites etc
So, what is an allergic reaction in fact? It is your body’s exaggerated reaction to a molecule that your immune system thinks it needs to fight off...and in so doing specific cells in your blood trigger the release Histamines. These work by increasing the permeability of your blood vessels and allow for your defence mechanism to "seep out" and tackle any allergen head on...but that is in ideal situations.
In an allergic set up, this reaction is exaggerated like ten-fold and results in the swelling, redness, itching sensations that we are all well familiar with. The face, lips, earlobes and eye regions are favourite swelling places for allergic reactions to develop (even if the animal has eaten an allergen or has been stung in the tail!!)

I have worked with and coached many vets and the first time they are presented with an allergic reaction, they always think of food as the source. While this might be the case in 15% of cases, a majority of allergies are cause by other things and the most common, in fact, is Flea bite allergy. The flea’s saliva is believed to cause the allergic reaction and the general “itchy and scratchy” episodes; with your dog sometimes biting itself to blood!
One commonly overlooked source of allergy for dogs is...cats in the same household. In fact, the allergen is not the cat itself but its saliva (again!). Whilst grooming itself, a cat leaves a significant amount of saliva on its fur that eventually dries up and scales off in the air...and hello sneezing, itching episodes in the doggy
The protein source of dog food is mostly derived from...plants; such as Soy, Wheat, Maize etc (yeah...not from meat as you would want to believe!) and some these cause allergies in certain types of dogs. Signs of such allergies include diarrhoea, vomiting and in chronic cases loss of fur and constant scratching.
In our tropical island, one other cause of allergies is fungus or molds.Animals living in constantly damp kennels, badly aerated and humid areas are most likely to develop allergies to molds. This is even complicated by the fact the the initial itching cause skin lesions that eventually get superinfested with other fungi. Skin becomes pink, has that typical yeasty strong smell and animal now spends his time licking that area (most common at its paws)
What about insect bites then? Huh! This one is of a more “violent” type and may even lead to death in some extreme cases. The body reacts quite rapidly to the “venom” or toxin and pour histamines in the animal’s system. This, in turn results in what we call in the vet jargon; Rubor, Calor, Dolor, Tumor.i.e. Redness, Heat, Pain and Swelling. If these inflammatory reactions occur in the face or on other parts of the body, it is manageable but if this happens in the airways, then your dog would be in serious respiratory distress and may die if not taken to the vet.

That brings us to the next question: What do I do in case of insect bite? First of all do not panic...because if you panic, your dog loses all his chances of getting proper immediate care. Just tell yourself: “ I have read Dr Sam’s blog and I know exactly what I should do!” Lool!
• Since you now know that blood vessels are dilating and becoming more permeable at inflammation site – apply cold compresses there
• Have some antihistaminic tablets (Piriton or Zyrtec)ready in your emergency pack. Phone your vet for the correct dose and give it to your dog
• Observe the breathing of your dog and note any difficulty in breathing, rales or wheezing sounds coming from his throat. If that is the case, it is a life-threatening situation and you should be rushing to the vet
• Take the animal to your vet for a consultation a.s.a.p; .as soon as animal is stabilised. He might need further injections for the pain and swelling to regress

While some reckon applying onions, lemons, vinegar or even toothpaste on the insect sting... this remain in the domain of folk remedies and moreover you might not be able to locate the initial stung area...and I doubt that your dog would like these smells too. The best chance for him is to have the above four points taken into consideration...and remember to phone your vet for dosages of antihistaminics because you do not want your dog to be dead of overdose now.

Alright, folks...enough for today...have a nice rainy evening!

Very BED weather since this morning...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Right Reasons...

I started writing about this on the Island Vet Clinic Facebook page but it turned out to be so long that I thought it would be better posted here.

So it's one of the "MYTH-BUSTER" series and today's topic is: On Sterilisatons

2.1 - Only females should be sterilised

How many times have I seen surprised faces when I proposed sterilising a male. In our culture, some firmly believe that the males should be left intact to roam and "enjoy"...a bit by projection of our sexist society? Well...surprise people!!In fact if the authorities and NGOs involved in dog population control wanted to have an impact, they should be emphasizing the sterilisation of....males! Yes! Males...Think about it...if you sterilise 1 female, its only that one female that would not breed, whereas if you sterilise a male...its about 15 - 20 females that would not get pregnant. This, coupled with the fact that it is much easier, quicker and cheaper to sterilise a male should have made people think but old, culture-driven ways of thinking are hard to get rid of...but I keep telling...just in case

2.2 - My dog will become dumb after sterilisation,

While sterilisation (male or female) seriously disbalances the hormonal system of your soon balances everything in a process called Homeostasis whereby the body adapts and compensates. While this may affect the aggressivity and hyperactivity linked with sex hormones, it has little to no effect on the dogs brain...In fact, when "freed" from its sexual drives the dog spends more time socialising with the owners and stays at home...which in itself makes the animal more sociable, responsive (what we affectionately call "intelligent") and a better member of the family

2.3 - I have to let my female have at least one litter before sterilising

This is based on the fact that people humanise animal's feelings too much, a well known phenomenon called "Anthropomorphism". The idea is that it is cruel to deprive the female from the joy of birthing and nursing pups. While this may seem compassionate and caring, it seriously puts the female at risk; as a surgeon having spayed thousands of animals, I can tell you that the longer you wait, the more complicated is the surgery and the greater are all the risks associated with it. Females (dogs/cats) should be spayed as early as 6 months of age. At this age, they can tolerate anaesthesia better and the uterus and ovaries are distinct enough to be successfully located and removed

2.4 - If I do not sterilise my dog it will get cancer

I have been hearing that a lot of times, in the days, from people who used that as a line to convince villagers to bring dogs for sterilisation...and I heard that from an "educated" person last week!
No scientific basis for this at all! While some unspayed animals (males/females)may catch a serious venereal tumour through copulation this does not mean that all of them will get cancer. Its like saying that everybody who buys a car will be involved in a car accident!
Same thing goes for some cancer of ovaries and testicles...whilst sterilisation removes that risk, it is wrong to say that if you do not sterilise, your animal will get cancer

Enough? Ok! One last for the road on sterilisations

2.5 - It's less dangerous to have my female on hormonal heat suppression each time than have her spayed

Can you see my angry face? Well, while this may be financially better for your vet, it is extremely dangerous for your dog!! 9 out of 10 dogs that come to me with serious infection of the uterus have been on heat suppression pills before. The risk comes from the fact that the hormonal pills suppress ovulation but create abnormal growths in the uterine wall and... keeps the cervix open for prolonged periods of time.When its not for natural reasons (ovulation, birth and menses), an open cervix is rarely good news for a female...this is an open gateway for all sorts of bacteria and fungi to travel up from the vagina into the uterus and when it eventually closes, its closing on all of this. The bugs then fester on the outgrowths and in no time the uterus is just a bag of pus!!...and if this is potentially fatal!
So get that dog/kitty sterilised once and for all, rather than putting her at so much risk by trying to be "kind".

Sterilisation is the way to go... but for the right reasons!