Ask the Expert : July Aug 12

Q: I am taking care of a dog who met with an accident in November 2011. He had a fracture in lumber region near pelvic girdle but now he is walking. He is suffering from ask the expertanal fistula and urine and stool problem. He is trying to pass stool and urine but in an uncontrolled way. He urinates while walking, sleeping, climbing steps, etc. But when he tries to urinate, he cannot. Please advice.
– Jaya Iyer, Nagpur

Dr KG Umesh: There is a possibility that your dog’s previous injury has resulted in progressive damage to disk material in the area surrounding the spinal cord and/or spinal cord/pelvic injury/inflammation. This may cause weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs and loss of bladder or bowel control depending on location and severity/nature of the damage. To confirm spinal disorder (also rule out other causes) and to determine the location of the lesion, your vet may run blood test, spinal fluid tap, radiographs, CT scan or MRI. Based on the diagnostic tests and neurologic assessment, your veterinarian will determine a prognosis, which is an anticipated outlook for recovery. Dogs vary tremendously in their ability to recover, and in many cases, the only way to know for sure whether recovery is possible is to proceed with treatment (including surgery, if necessary) and nursing care and observe any progress over the next two to six weeks. The spinal cord can take weeks or months to recover. You must be prepared for a long-term commitment if you choose to treat the injury. Perianal fistula is a severe, chronic disease of the area around the anus. Multiple draining tracts are present, which are deep fissures in the skin surrounding the anus. The anal sacs themselves are not involved. Many dogs are affected for no apparent reason. There are no preventative measures to guarantee that the problem never returns. There are medical or surgical options available to manage and cure this problem. Please contact your vet.

Q: My two-year-old male Pomeranian barks excessively, especially when I leave home, when the door bell rings, when the maid picks up the broom to sweep, when somebody new comes in, dogs, etc. Do let me know the reasons for his behaviour and how can I control it.
– Shikha Saxena, Jaipur

Dr KG Umesh: Reasons why your dog barks excessively can be complex and must be determined before you can begin fixing the behaviour. Those reasons vary from dog to dog, but include greeting, play, territory and self defense, sight of other animals, separation from family (anxiety), to get attention and a sudden loud noise. Try identifying what triggers the behaviour and use systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning techniques. Unfortunately, pet parents often attempt to silence their dog by shouting at him, but because the dog’s communication skills don’t extend to understanding your language, he simply assumes the pet parents are barking too and continues undeterred, or even redoubles the effort. Other dogs discover barking makes their pet parent pay attention to them, if only to shout ‘Quiet!’

Eventually the dog may seem to develop an imagination, and bark at nothing at all, just to get a response from his pet parent. However, the main reason dogs learn to bark excessively at every person who passes their territory is the simple fact that most of those people go away again. The dog doesn’t realise they didn’t want to come in. He thinks he has successfully chased them off.

Some tips to control or reduce excessive barking include socialisation of your pet with other animals and people. Reward is, of course, the best motivation of behaviour, so it’s important to praise the dog while he’s doing the right thing, not afterwards. Exercise and play with your dog regularly. Try to increase non-vocal play (for example, fetch) and exercise. Counter-conditioning is an effective way to stop nuisance barking. That is, create a new, more desirable response to the stimulus, like playing with a chew toy rather than barking. If your dog is defending his territory, try blocking visual/hearing access to intruders on or near territory. Your dog might have anxiety related barking, if so, medication should be considered. Please consult your veterinarian regarding medications that may be useful for your situation. As always, we strongly recommend enrolling your dog in obedience classes. With the knowledge from the classes, teach them a ‘settle’ or ‘quiet’ command to use during desensitisation.

Q: I want to adopt a Great Dane. Please advice me about health problems to watch out for.
– R Kapoor, Mussoorie

Dr KG Umesh: The amount of time taken for a growing puppy to achieve adult bodyweight varies considerably, with larger breeds having a longer growth period (20-24 months) than smaller breeds. Excess feeding/energy and excessive calcium during this growth are associated with an increased incidence of skeletal defects like Hipdysplasia and Osteochondrosis. Great Dane is also susceptible to gastric dilatation-volvulus and dilated cardiomyopathy. Some of the problems may be inherited/congenital, which include atrioventricular valve dysplasia, Subaortic stenosis and Wobbler syndrome. Well, these problems should not discourage anyone to keep this most adorable breed as a family member.

Q: My dog Turbo, a Cocker, continuously scratches and injures himself. On checking, I saw black specks which seemed like flea dirt but could not spot the fleas. How should I manage this?
– Avinash Gulati, Indore

Dr KG Umesh: There are several causes of itching in dogs from infection to parasites. Flea bite allergy is a common cause of itching in pets. It occurs when a flea bites an animal who is allergic to proteins in the flea’s saliva. Non-allergic animals usually develop very mild itchiness at the site of a flea bite for only a brief time after the flea bite. However, animals with flea bite allergy can develop intense itchiness anywhere on the body (most common at lower back). Evidence of fleas consists of finding adult fleas, ‘flea dirt’ (brown-black specks that consist of flea excrement containing digested blood) and/or flea eggs (white specks) on the affected pet or other pets in the household. Animals with flea bite allergy often have only a few fleas or sometimes no fleas on them at all at the time of examination because the fleas are often dislodged as a result of the animal’s excessive scratching, chewing and licking of the skin. Treatment and prevention of flea bite allergy requires the elimination of fleas from the flea allergic pet, the pet’s immediate environment (yard, house), and other dogs and cats in the household with products that kill the adult flea (adulticide therapy) and prevent fleas from reproducing (insect growth regulators). Nowadays, oral or topical (applied to the skin) prescription anti-flea products are given to the pet at home once or twice a month and are very effective. Be sure to use the treatments exactly as prescribed; misuse, or using over-the-counter (nonprescription products) are common reasons for failure to eliminate fleas.

Q: I have a two-month-old Lab. What is the right age and method to neuter him?
– Ashok Rai, Mangalore

Dr KG Umesh: This has been an area of debate for several years. Associations between medical or behavioural conditions and early-age neutering ( 6 months). Today, many shelters and high-volume shelter clinics perform sterilisation surgeries in puppies as early as six to eight weeks of age. The most common surgical methods of contraception are spaying in female dogs or castration in male dogs. Spaying/castration is an irreversible means by which a dog is rendered sterile. The procedure entails complete removal of the uterus and ovaries in females and testicles in male. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what exactly is involved with the operation and also on the best time for it to be performed.

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