Ask the expert… | Jan Feb 13

Dr K G Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He has been a ask the expertlecturer in clinical medicine at Vet College in Bangalore for 15 years, and has won the ‘best teacher’ award in the year 2000. He is a member of European Society for Vet Dermatology and is currently working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia. Q. My dog Mumtaz, a seven-year-old Spitz, has been diagnosed with diabetes. She is on dog food; we also give her roti and curd. Please do advice food and medical care to be taken. – T Raghav, Coimbatore

Dr KG Umesh: Dogs generally develop type I diabetes which typically requires lifelong insulin injections. The goal of treating a diabetic animal is to minimise blood glucose fluctuations, eliminate the symptoms associated with high blood glucose levels (excessive drinking, urination and appetite), and improve the quality of the pet’s life. The most important factor in a diabetic animal’s life is routine. You have to follow instructions meticulously given on medications and diet. As in diabetic people, a good daily routine of eating and exercising for diabetic pets will help prevent irregular fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Diets that are high in simple carbohydrates (sugars), which can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, are avoided. Diets containing complex carbohydrates and fibre are preferable, in moderation. There are several different commercial prescription diets available that can meet the needs of all diabetic patients. Achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight is helpful in the treatment of both type I and type II diabetes mellitus. Once your pet has started any treatment for diabetes mellitus, monitoring for signs of low sugar levels (hypoglycemia) is also very important. Too much insulin/low sugar levels can cause disorientation, sluggishness, seizures, coma, and even death, if prolonged. If you notice that your pet seems disorientated or weak but is still responsive, offer food immediately. If your pet is unconscious (cannot be awoken despite loud calling and shaking), apply a sugary solution like corn syrup or maple syrup to the gums. In both of these cases, contact your veterinarian. Likewise, watch for general signs of illness, which can include changes in appetite, weight loss, decrease in activity, sluggishness, dull or poorly kept coat, and changes in behaviour such as hiding and aggressiveness.

Q. What are the main dog vaccines to give and what is their frequency in the life span of a dog? Do any of the vaccines have any side effects which can be harmful? – Karuna Sabharwal, Bareilly

Dr KG Umesh: In the past, infectious diseases, such as those caused by parvovirus and distemper virus, have been significant cause of illness and death in dogs, especially young animals. Vaccination against these and other diseases like hepatitis, influenza, leptospirosis (all in one) has proved to be a very effective means of reducing the incidence of these diseases. It is important to discuss a suitable vaccination programme including rabies and coronavirus with your local veterinarian. The vaccination will involve an initial course of injections (usually at six weeks of age), followed by booster injections at various times (every 2-3 weeks) until 20 weeks of age and then every year throughout your dog’s life. These booster injections help maintain his immunity, but they also provide a good opportunity for your veterinarian to carry out a full health check.

Q. Guddu, my GSD pup, is chewing everything in the house. Please help. – Karan Shukla, Agra

Dr KG Umesh: It is normal for puppies to be ‘mouthie’. Most chewing behaviour is seen in young puppies due to their strong desire to explore. As dogs mature, this desire decreases and they are less likely to be destructive. The dog will find it hard to distinguish between what it can and cannot chew; therefore having their own toys will help define suitable chewing items. There are many suitable toys for dogs and choose toys which have been manufactured using high-quality molded materials to increase durability. If the puppy does try to bite, command ‘NO’, and distract his attention with a toy. Many of these habits can be modified quite easily if done correctly and persistently. When the pup stops the bad behaviour, make sure you reward the pup with ‘GOOD (puppy’s name)!’ Prevent access to unacceptable chew items. Exercise and play with your dog regularly to alleviate excess energy and provide positive interaction.

Q: My 11-year-old Dalmatian named Silky has lost two front teeth. What do I do? – Madhu Ghosh, Kolkata

Dr KG Umesh: Just like people, they need to have their teeth brushed and cleaned. But the fact is, probably the number one health problem for dogs, apart from being overweight, is periodontal disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80 percent of dogs show signs of periodontal disease by the age of three. The accumulation of tartar and plaque and the resulting gingivitis can lead to more serious disease. Tartar accumulates, and eventually the healthy pink gum starts to look red, and swell. At this point, without medical intervention, gingivitis or inflammation of the gum takes over. This process leads to bad breath. And worse, it often leads to damage of jawbones, and loss of teeth. Please consult your vet if your pet has lost teeth due to trauma or any other disease.

You can lightly brush Silky’s teeth at least twice a week to remove plaque deposits. A child’s nylon toothbrush dipped in a toothpaste made for dogs should be used. Do not use toothpaste made for humans, which can cause nausea in dogs, if swallowed. An alternative to brushing is using a dental chew. Studies by Waltham have shown that certain specifically designed dental health chews (Dentastix) result in a significant reduction of plaque and calculus accumulation, gingivitis and malodour. Dry dog foods also help prevent dental plaque accumulation.

Q. I have adopted two St Bernards – Tipsy (female, three months) and Turvy (male, four months). I have adopted them from different breeders – need your advice how to bring two dogs up. Also, I will like to mate them, so when is the right time to do so? – Harpreet, Ludhiana

Dr KG Umesh: Pet parenting a dog is a big responsibility and giving your dog the best care and attention can help to improve the quality and length of your dog’s life. Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet is clearly necessary to keep him fit and healthy, and there is a whole variety of different types of products to choose from, including diets designed for specific stages of life and foods which deliver additional health benefits. Other activities such as exercise, training, grooming and regular visits to the veterinarian are equally important to keep your dog happy and healthy. May be one of the most important aspects to ensure a happy relationship between you, your family and your dog is to ensure that your dog’s requirements can be matched by your lifestyle and environment. Most vets recommend mating after first ‘heat’ or few months after they become adults. St Bernars are considered puppy until age of 24 months.

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