Ask the Expert / Mar-Apr 2008

Dr. K. G. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He has been a lecturer 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 presently working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for south Asia

Q: I have an Alsatian whose age is 1 year and 2 months. I feel his growth is weak. Do give information about his diet and what his weight should be. – Ravi, Bangalore

Dr. K. G. Umesh: The growth of puppies involves the genetic potential of the individual (breed and sex), the environment and nutrition. German Shepherd generally becomes adult by 14-16 months of age with an average height of 66cm (26 inch) and may weigh between 30-40 Kgs in our country. A nutritionally balanced diet is crucial for the healthy growth and development of a dog in order to prepare him for an active, long, and healthy life. The provision of all essential nutrients in a diet like Pedigree along with accurate feeding will help to maximize their genetic potential to grow. Avoid overfeeding and do not use supplements like calcium while he is on a complete diet.

Q: I have a 5-month-old female Labrador. Her back right leg seems to be bending outwards. What could be the possible reasons and what can be done to cure her? – Amit, Hisar

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Skeletal problems are common in large breeds resulting from many causes (e.g. slippery floors, overweight). Over feeding or excess energy and /or excessive calcium during growth are found to be common causes of increased incidence of skeletal defects in large breeds like Labrador. Large breeds are less able to tolerate excess calcium. Therefore make sure that he is receiving balanced nutrition and no excessive supplements. His affected limb may require radiography to find underlying nature of defect and possibly specific treatment.

Q: My 10-year-old dog Nancy has been diagnosed by cataract in both eyes. Can I get her operated? Will a ten-year-old dog be able to withstand the trauma? – Ratna Gupta, Mumbai

Dr. K. G. Umesh: The outcome of the surgery depends on cause, rate of progression, location within the lens and patient’s age and health. Some causes are hereditary, spontaneous age related or diabetes, etc. Lenticular sclerosis which is normal ageing phenomenon; often mistaken for cataracts but does not cause vision loss. Before deciding to perform surgery, your vet will try to determine if another eye disease is present that may cause complications or blindness. Cataract surgery is often delayed until both eyes are affected. Phacoemulsification and intraocular lens implantation is now largely replacing the traditional surgery, as it is very quick, less invasive and more successful in dogs. Eye drop medications prescribed by your veterinarian must be administered as instructed if the cataract surgery is to be successful. Some animals will have improved vision immediately after surgery; others may require an adjustment period before the success of the surgery can be evaluated.

Q: What is a right age for a dog to be neutered. How long does the surgery take and what does it involve. What is the post-operative care and for how long? Also do let me know if I don’t get my 4-month-old Spaniel puppy neutered, will it be ok? – Vikrant, Raipur

Dr. K. G. Umesh: 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. Surgery is preceded by a fasting period and requires general anesthesia and hospitalization. Complications are unusual but may include post surgical hemorrhage, infection, tissue reaction to ligature material, and urinary incontinence. Post-operative care includes restriction of exercise for a week, protection of the incision from contaminants, and daily monitoring of the incision for inflammation or discharge. The incision must stay dry and suture removal is usually performed 7 to 10 days after surgery. There are also hospitals/clinics, which conduct spaying with Keyhole or Laparoscopy methods, with minimum invasive surgery and on out patient basis. 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. Routine early-age neutering is viewed as an important step in reducing the number of unwanted litters of puppies and also for minimizing behavioural problems. Long-term outcomes (Neutering at < 5.5 months of age) in a study found that early neutering offers more benefits than risks for male dogs, but increased urinary incontinence suggests a delay until at least 3 months of age for female dogs.

Q: My dog vomited after eating a rawhide chew. Is it safe to give him that? Also advice on how to keep his teeth clean? – Chavi Jain, Ambala

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Just like people, dogs need to have their teeth brushed and cleaned. Owners can lightly brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week to remove plaque deposits. A child’s nylon toothbrush dipped in toothpaste made for dogs should be used. Do not use toothpastes made for humans, which can cause nausea in dogs if swallowed. An alternative to brushing is using a dental chew. The chew suitable for pets must be tested for safety and benefits. Studies by Waltham have shown that certain specifically designed dental health chews result in a significant reduction of plaque and calculus accumulation, gum inflammation and malodor. Consult your vet who will be able to recommend specially designed dog chews and biscuits available in the market. Dry dog food may also help prevent dental plaque accumulation.