Taking Care of the Elderly

Once you adopt a puppy, you are amazed at how fast he grows up and becomes your most trustworthy and lovable pal. Like people, pet also go through life stages of growth, maturity, and aging. But, it is a hard thing to accept that dog’s lifespan is much shorter. The passage from one stage to another is often blurred, and owners must be on guard to recognize the signs that their lil’ darling is getting old or geriatric. As our pet ages, changes in his behaviour and physical condition will occur, taking care and understanding the needs of your pet under medical supervision is most important.

Signs of aging

Rate of aging increases with body size. Giant breeds tend to age early, for their life expectancy is generally less than 10 years. Large and medium-sized breeds have a life expectancy of 11-14 years, and small breeds can live 15 years or more. On an average, a dog or cat in the age group of 7-10 years is a senior dog. The senior years of life are marked by a progressive decline in organ function, immunity and physical and mental abilities.

Early warning signs

As your dog ages, a number of degenerative changes may occur and this can affect his behaviour. Following are the signs of aging and age-related diseases:

  • Change in appetite
  • Decreased hearing and vision
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of housetraining
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urine output
  • Difficulty in rising, walking or climbing stairs
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Persistent cough
  • New lumps or bumps
  • Change in sleep patterns

Preventative health care

While some age-related diseases may not be preventable, early detection and intervention is the key to successful management. Senior pets should undergo a thorough physical examination every 6 months, which will help in assessing your pet’s body condition and his dietary and exercise recommendations to help maintain his ideal body weight.

Dental care

Since dental disease can provide bacteria an entry way into your pet’s bloodstream, it can lead to infection elsewhere in the body. Hence, the teeth and gums of your pet should also be examined on a regular basis. Signs of dental disease include bad breath, plaque and tartar accumulation, red and swollen gums, difficulty in eating and tooth loss.

Dealing with overweight dog

Older pet are apt to gain weight as their body’s metabolism and activity level slows down. Therefore, food consumption must be balanced with the activity level of the pet.

Exercise for older dogs

Regular exercise is important to maintain bone strength, muscle tone and stamina. Daily walks and playing with your pet are excellent ways of promoting physical activity as well as enjoying their companionship. However, if your pet has difficulty standing up or walking, a degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, exercise may be a problem. Arthritis is a common problem in older dogs which often impairs their ability to stand or walk.

Grooming an older dog

Since your pet is getting older, it is important to know that skin problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic and does not repair itself as quickly. If it seems that your pet is losing more hair, it may be due to disease or because hair follicles are not as active as in the younger years. Grooming is an ideal time to look for external parasites as well as notice the general condition of the skin and especially the eyes, ears, mouth, paws, anus and genitalia. If you happen to notice any abnormal odours, discharges, swellings or lumps during grooming, report them immediately to your vet.


Health screening tests for senior pets

  • Complete blood count
  • Organ function and electrolyte profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Faecal exam for parasites
  • Chest, abdomen and hip X-rays
  • Dental exam

Our pets give us unconditional love and support and it becomes our moral duty to make their life comfortable in their older years. Most importantly, dogs thrive on love and in turn you will receive self-less love.

(Inputs from Dr. Afzal H Mohammed, Dr. S.M. Aravind Kumar and Dr. G.R. Baranidharan of The Ark, 24 hour veterinary clinic. Their emergency mobile no is 9841811445.)

Caring for overweight

Excess weight is a common problem for dogs. But, as with humans, it’s better and healthier for a dog to be of normal weight than to be overweight. A quick way to check if your dog is overweight is to feel his ribs with the flat of your hand. If you can only feel the ribs with difficulty, your dog probably needs to lose weight.

How dogs become overweight

Dogs nearly always become overweight from eating more food than they need, and then not getting enough exercise. Calories in the food they eat, which aren’t used for daily activities, are stored as fat. Overeating may result from greediness, boredom, or overfeeding. Feeding leftovers or giving frequent snacks or treats often contributes to the excess weight problem. Over-fed puppies tend to become overweight dogs, and also have a greater risk of developing orthopaedic problems. If you feed your puppy correctly when he’s young, he’ll be less at risk of having weight problems later in his life. Occasionally, metabolic disorders can also make a dog overweight. If your veterinarian suspects a metabolic disorder is causing your dog to gain weight, he or she will test for that disorder.

Why your dog should lose weight

Being overweight is a real danger to your dog’s well being. It may shorten his life, here are some of the problems an overweight dog may come down with or aggravate:

  • Problems of movement, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal disc problems and rupture of joint ligaments.
  • Decreased exercise tolerance.
  • Liver disease.
  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Surgical and anaesthetic risk.
  • Heat intolerance.
  • Poor coat and skin condition.
  • Lowered resistance to infectious diseases.
  • Respiratory disorders made worse.

Helping your dog lose weight

Weight loss for most dogs involves increased exercise and eating food with fewer calories. It’s usually easier to feed normal amounts of a low-calorie diet than to feed much smaller amounts of a regular diet. Plus, your dog will not feel as hungry. Your veterinarian can help with advice and special diets, but achieving success is up to you and other members of your family. It will take effort and commitment, but this is well worth it in terms of the quality of life, health and companionship your dog and you will enjoy. Dieting for dogs

Blood transfusion

Blood transfusion

As a result of the growth in veterinary speciality services, the demand for blood transfusion has risen dramatically. However, blood and blood products are not readily available in most of the places in our country. Even in places where it is practical, there is a considerable delay in getting the donor, collecting and then transfusing. Non-availability of canine blood group antigens makes it difficult to type the blood groups of donor and recipient and give appropriate blood transfusion. Further, there are no referral blood banks dealing with whole blood and blood components in our country to cater to the needs of practicing vets.

What options are available?

The pet owner should arrange to get a donor dog from their friends or neighbours in most of the places. In cities like Bombay and Chennai, donor clubs are coming up which is a good thing for pet owners. Is blood transfusion needed? Undoubtedly blood transfusion makes a difference between life and death in cases such as trauma, surgeries, and anaemia caused by ticks, immune mediated diseases, Coagulopathies, Hypoproteinemia, Haemophilia A, Von Willebrands disease and blood loss.

What is blood component therapy?

Once the blood has been collected, it can be kept and used in its natural state or can be converted into a variety of components. These blood components are red blood cells, platelet rich plasma, platelet concentrates, fresh plasma, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate. Double, triple and quadruple blood bags (a single whole blood collecting bag with various satellite bags) are used for producing and separating components within a sterile closed environment. Blood component production is highly desirable for several reasons, particularly maximisation of the yield of products from a single blood donation and ability to use the optional products (in high concentration) for specific diseases. The most common blood components in western countries are whole blood, packed red blood cells, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate.

Do dog have blood groups?

The dog has eight different blood groups identified as day erylhracyte antigens (DEA). They are: DEA 1-1, DEA 1-2, DEA 3, DEA 4, DEA 5, DEA 6, DEA 7 and DEA 8. Transfusions of incompatible blood types DEA 1-1 and 1-2 can result in haemolysis (transfusion reaction). Transfusion reactions usually do not occur in canine patients unless he has been previously transfused with incompatible blood. The use of blood negative for DEA 1-1 and 1-2 (Universal donors) prevents the formation of antibodies against these determinants in the transfusion recipient. It is important to use these universal donors for patients who require multiple transfusion over a period exceeding 10 days. Those patients who receive single transfusion, can receive blood from all donors after conducting cross-match compatibility.

How to form a blood donor programme?

Recently, commercial canine blood banks and community voluntary donor programmes are coming up. Donor clubs can be formed at every city with the cooperation of vets and willing owners. Donor can be arranged by local vet hospital, clinics and breed clubs. We need to have a pool of 10-30 healthy large dogs who are temperamentally cool and can sit comfortably for a donation. For this, you have to screen a larger group of dogs (hundreds). Free vaccination, deworming, free food (reduced price) and free veterinary check ups can be given complementary for the blood donor clients.

Who are eligible as blood donors?

Regularly vaccinated dogs between 1 and 9 year age group and weighing atleast 50 pounds are eligible for blood donation. Donor should not be under any medication. In case of female donor, she should not be in oestrus.

How blood collection takes place?

In dogs, blood can be collected from the jugular, radial or saphenous veins under aseptic conditions, after clipping the hairs over the area. For blood collection, commercially available blood bags of 350 ml capacity having anticoagulant can be used in practice. According to the body weight of the donor, we can collect blood @ 10-15 ml/kg body weight. Repeated collection can be done in dogs at the interval of 3-4 weeks.

(Dr. A.P. Nambi, M.V.Sc. is a Professor of Referral Clinics at Tamil Nadu Veterinary & Animal Science University. He has over20 years of experience. He has won PZ Sharma Gold medal (national award) for canine medicine in 2002. His areas of interest include internal medicine and dermatology. He can be contacted at: 9380173660 or e-mail: nambi529@yahoo.com)

All about DHA

There has been a lot of awareness among pet owners about the diet of their pets. The use of nutraceuticals has proven improved quality of life in pets. DHA is one such anti-oxidant which is critical for the development of vision and the central nervous system in pets. With more and more pets living to a ripe old age, nutritional supplements for pets have become a fast growing business, as pet owners seek out health products for their furry friends that mimic those they use for themselves.

What are nutraceuticals?

The North American Veterinary Nutraceutical Council now defines a veterinary nutraceutical as a “non-drug substance that is produced in a purified or extracted form and administered orally to provide agents required for normal body structure and function with the intent of improving the health and well being of animals.”

Several years ago, veterinarians began using glucosamine and other nutritional supplements in the treatment of arthritis in the same way we use drugs or other pharmaceuticals. These “nutraceuticals” can make a huge difference in the long-term mobility and comfort of both animals and people. Thereafter more studies were conducted in search of these elements (nutraceuticals) which improve the quality of life by being organ specific and that to specifically influence vital organs. These are Taurine, Carnitine and group of antioxidants namely antioxidants (DHA, EPA, Vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids). There is a lot of ongoing work on the effects of antioxidants like DHA, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), Vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids etc.

What is DHA?

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is natural Omega-3 fatty acid. It is a major structural component of the brain as well as the most abundant fatty acids in the brain. It plays a vital role in the development of the central nervous system and retinal function in young mammals.

Where is DHA found?

DHA is abundant in seafood and sea plant, but it is not found in terrestrial plant. We take DHA first from the milk of mothers and later from some food that we eat. Certain animals like cow or mice can convert precursor of DHA found in grass and seeds into DHA, but dogs and humans cannot do this efficiently so we have to include in their diet for immediate accessible form.

What does it do?

DHA is a major building block of the brain and is a critical element in the development of vision and the central nervous system.

Why does my puppy or kitten need it?

The primary source of DHA is milk from your puppy’s or kitten’s mother. New generation of puppy and kitten diets keep supplying this brain-building element long after weaning.

What are the sources of DHA?

Common dietary DHA sources include fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna and other seafood, eggs, and organ meat. In pet foods, sources of DHA include fish, fish meal and fish oil. Prior to weaning, puppies get DHA from their mothers. Mothers, both human and canine, transfer DHA from their body tissues to their offspring during pregnancy and lactation.

What are the advantages of DHA?

Nutritional experts recommend having a one-to-one ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain optimal mental and physical function, because that is the exact ratio of those fatty acids in the brain. These antioxidants seem to promote joint health, general well being and most interestingly, mental alertness in older individuals.

There is an excellent controlled study showing that feeding a diet enriched with DHA, EPS and other nutritional supplements results in a substantial and measurable improvement in young dogs’ and arresting the rapid ageing process in older dogs’ improving their memory. Again, it’s impossible to make specific recommendations, but it seems safe to say that we can help our pets by insuring an adequate intake of these antioxidants.

Further several studies have shown that enhanced levels of DHA help with brain and vision development. All the new generation of premium brands of pet food has an enhanced level of DHA. The inclusion of DHA into various brands of pet foods shows commitment to enhancing and enriching your pet’s life by pet food manufacturer.

To get your pet off to the best start in life, the enhanced level of DHA in puppies and kittens diets can now meet their potential for body and mind development.

Studies have also shown that female dogs fed a diet with a 5:1 Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio (enriched in Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA) produced larger litters with fewer stillbirths. In addition, their puppies weighed more at weaning compared with pups from female dogs fed diets lower in Omega-3 fatty acids.

(Dr. Umesh Karkare has been practicing small animal medicine in Mumbai for last 20 years. He got his degree of Master of Veterinary Science from Bombay Veterinary College (gold medallist). He is member of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS), USA and a representative in India for World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and Honorary Secretary of Federation of Small Animal Practitioners in India. Apart from the routine treatment, he advises the owner on general management of their pet, with special emphasis on pet nutrition. He has keen interest in nutritional management of the clinically ill patients. He can be contacted at 9820147546.)

Healthy skin from deep within

An easy, regular routine can ensure that your dog has a beautiful coat and a healthy skin. The most common complaint that veterinarians face in their daily practice is skin trouble! Dry, itchy skin, redness, sores, little bumps, pustules, falling hair, typical ‘doggy’ odour are some of the usual signs. Owners tend to give a lot of importance to their pets’ skin and coat condition mainly because skin rashes and falling hair affect the appearance of the dog. What few people realise is that the skin often shows the first signs of ill-health. This, the first article of this series, will focus on internal problems that manifest as skin disorders.

Diet for good health:

Your dog’s diet affects every aspect of his health including alertness, skeletal and muscular development and general vitality, but the first and most common sign of nutritional deficiency is a dry, itchy skin. Unfortunately, Indian dog owners are yet to wake up to the fact that feeding a good commercial pre-formulated dog food is best for the dogs. Only when your dog is on a 100% diet of a good pre-formulated dog food (without any addition of home-cooked food) can you be certain that he is getting all his nutritional requirements in the correct amount and proportion. It is important to understand that feeding an imbalanced diet will lead to serious health problems, some of which may become evident much later in the dog’s life, and are often difficult to treat, like joint disease. Consult your vet on a regular basis to determine the most suitable dog food formulation according to his growth and life stage. How does diet affect the dog’s skin and coat? Simply put, certain nutrients in the daily diet are essential for maintaining a healthy skin and coat, mainly essential fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid), vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, calcium and biotin. Certain amino acids, the basic ‘building blocks’ of proteins, also play an important role in skin health.

Your next question may be that if your dog is on dog food alone, does he need additional supplementation? I usually do not recommend popularly prescribed supplementation of calcium + phosphorous + vitamin D. There is always a tendency to over supplement these minerals, resulting in some very serious, irreversible bone and joint defects. If you are feeding your dog on 100% dog food, your dog’s coat may still benefit from correct supplementation. Research done at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, UK, concluded that even dogs fed with 100% dog food show further improvement in skin and coat health when their diet is supplemented with certain nutrients. A good supplement enhances the coat softness and feel, increases coat gloss and helps in better coat scale.

Apart from diet, other internal factors also affect the condition of the dog’s skin and coat, which have been summarised in the form of a table.

Deworming do’s and don’ts:

A dog who is not dewormed regularly also suffers the same problems as a dog with nutritional deficiencies. Internal parasites ‘eat away’ certain nutrients from the dog’s digestive system. The deworming schedule that I recommend is once a month for pups up to the age of 7 months, every two months for pups between 7?and?12 months and thereafter, every three months. Dogs fed home-cooked food, especially meat, will need to be dewormed more frequently. It is best that you consult your vet for a deworming schedule specifically designed for your dog.

The ‘itch-scratch’ cycle:

The reason why skin conditions take so painfully long to treat, is because of the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. Any of these conditions can make a dog feel ‘itchy’ dry skin, allergy, the presence of loose hair, ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, mange, etc). Every time the dog scratches, he causes mild to severe abrasions or scratches on his skin and also introduces infection-causing organisms into the layers of the skin. As these abrasions and scratches on the skin begin to heal by the process of granulation, it causes an intense itching sensation, which starts the whole vicious cycle all over again. Therefore, when treating any such skin condition, it often becomes essential to give the dog a good anti-histamine for a few days, only to break the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle and give the treatment enough time to start acting. It may become necessary to give an antibiotic. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your dog. A beautiful skin and healthy coat starts from inside. No amount of external applications with the best products can give a healthy lustre to an unhealthy dog.

Next issue: Maintaining the lustre, which focuses on bathing and grooming the correct way.

(Dr. Freya Javeri, BVSc & AH (Bombay Veterinary College), MVS (University of Melbourne, Australia) is a member of the prestigious Dog Writers’ Association of America. She was the former editor of Canine Review, the official publication of the Indian National Kennel Club. She is a qualified judge, with a diploma in dog judging from the Animal Care College, UK. She has been judging all-breed championship dog shows since ’98. She is currently practicing as a veterinary surgeon and animal behaviour consultant, specialising in small animals (dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets) with two clinics of her own in Ahmedabad. She can be contacted at 9824433227, email: dr.freyajaveri@yahoo.com)

Ticking off ticks

Dr. Deepa Katyal briefly reviews the pathogenesis, clinical signs, diagnostic approach, and treatment of two tick-transmitted diseases in dogs. Two of the most prevalent tick-transmitted diseases in dogs are Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, which are also a fairly common cause of morbidity and mortality in South Asia.

While Babesiosis is caused by either of the protozoal parasites Babesia gibsoni or Babesia canis, Ehrlichiosis is caused by infection with a rickettsial organism, Ehrlichia canis. Both diseases have a common vector, the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, which thrives in warm and humid environments. It is not uncommon for a dog to be infected with both organisms at the same time.

But the greatest challenge in battling tick-borne diseases lies in detecting and accurately assessing the signs. In most cases, the early signs are very subtle, and very often mimic those caused by other diseases.

Canine Babesiosis:

It is an infectious blood disease, and progressive (haemolytic) anaemia, or destruction of the red blood cells, is the primary factor in the development of its symptoms. Also known as ‘Biliary fever’, this ailment in dogs has a lot in common with malaria in man. The process of transmission of parasites (Babesia canis) takes place 2-3 days after the tick attaches itself to the dog. The parasites migrate from the tick’s salivary glands into the host’s circulatory system, causing the tick bite fever. The parasite then enters and destroys red blood cells.

Clinical signs: Most dogs usually suffer from the acute or sub-acute forms of the fever, which can be recognised by the dog being listless or lethargic, losing his appetite, and running a temperature. However, when the fever reaches the per-acute (sudden and severe) form, it causes death within a few hours, since treatment at that stage is of little avail.

As the disease progresses, it may affect the spleen, liver, muscles, and circulatory, lymphatic, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. It also interferes with the replication of life sustaining cells in the bone marrow, as a result of which the immune system of the dog is severely reduced. Depending on which system has been most severely affected by the Babesia organism, infected dogs display a variety of symptoms such as?destruction of red blood cells, protein in urine, oxygen deficiency in the tissues, free haemoglobin in the urine, laboratory finding indicative of jaundice, reduction in the blood platelet count (which predisposes the dog to prolonged or spontaneous bleeding episodes), abnormalities in lymph system, kidney failure and liver disease.

Treatment and balanced diet?:?However, treatment should be given only after a positive diagnosis has been made by means of a blood test. Severely anaemic dogs should be given oxygen therapy and whole blood transfusions in addition to specific anti-babesial drug therapy. Imidocarb dipropionate at 5mg/kg of body weight by intramuscular injection is the drug that works in such cases. The treatment must be repeated after 14 days. Though the drug is generally tolerated well, sometimes there are side effects, which include transient vomiting, salivation, muscle tremors, and restlessness. If they occur, these signs can be controlled. However, the judicious use of glucocorticoids along with liver and vitamin supplements helps in speedy recovery. And while the treatment is on, it is important to avoid fatty foods, and the balanced diet should be imperatively supplemented with a tonic. A follow-up treatment may also be required if the dog does not appear to be responding to the initial treatment.

Canine Ehrlichiosis:

Canine Ehrlichiosis is also an infectious blood disease in dogs caused by a tiny rickettsial parasite (Ehrlichia Canis), which is injected into the dog’s bloodstream through tick bites. These parasites not only destroy red blood cells but also suppress the bone marrow functions. Additionally, the severe depression of the immune system caused by the disease, opens the door to secondary bacterial infections and other complications. Clinical signs?: In the acute phase of infection, Ehrlichiosis appears much like any other viral infection, with a reduction in cellular blood elements being its primary characteristic. Although the organism lives and reproduces in the white blood cells (leucocytes), it has a particularly devastating effect on the lymphatic system. And it ultimately affects the respiratory, circulatory, and central nervous systems, as well as the kidney, brain, liver and spleen. When affected, the dog often runs a temperature, may lose his appetite, and/or act depressed. Even the eyes may begin to have a glassy appearance.

Right diagnosis?:?However, the biggest failure has been to recognise and test for the disease. If the dog shows any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is most advisable to take blood for a routine Complete Blood Count as well as Platelet Count. Blood smear testing will also give a clear picture in some cases. Serological tests such as the Indirect Fluorescent Antibody or IFA test, which looks for the presence of antibodies produced by the dog’s immune system, is also a good diagnostic aid.

Timely treatment?:?Even the vets should be cautioned against the use of steroids in a dog that may have Ehrlichiosis. Although some chronically infected dogs may need treatment with steroids, this should always be administered in conjunction with doxycycline and only as a last resort. In cases where the vet feels that the dog may have more than one disease, then Ehrlichiosis should be given first priority.

Most cases respond well to the treatment with the tetracycline family of antibiotics. Doxycycline is the preferred drug as it has less potential side effects. Inoculation as well as injectable antibiotics should not be administered to a dog suspected of having Ehrlichial infection, as there have been reports of reactions after this.

Another drug, Imizol, has also proved very effective in treating Ehrlichiosis. Due to the high dosage, it is advisable to administer vitamin B and K supplements since the dog’s ability to synthesise those vitamins in the large intestine is greatly reduced.

However, since there is no vaccine available against Ehrlichiosis, we should rely on reducing the dog’s tick population. This can only be done by regular use of approved tick control measures that may be recommended by your veterinarian.

(Dr. Deepa Katyal, MVSc (Mumbai), MVSt (Australia) is a vet from Chembur, Mumbai. She is the CEO of K-9 Klub for dog lovers. She can be contacted at 9819742557.)

When should a pet be vaccinated

As you all know, prevention is always better than cure. To ensure that your pet is healthy and is geared up to fight against infections, ensure that your loving canine is duly vaccinated.

Do you know that we are constantly attacked by millions of micro-organisms which inhibit our world? Thus, some means of protection is required for survival for not only humans but also our canines.

Defence mechanisms:

Healthy bodies are always equipped with several defence mechanisms, which are in operation all the times. The skin is a barrier to invasion by microbes, the mucous membrane in the nose traps foreign bodies that are breathed in and the cough reflex comes into play when throat and larynx are irritated to prevent germs getting into the lungs. Stomach acidity kills invaders which get that far and the mucous produced by the small bowel acts as a barrier to infections. Liver also detoxifies the toxins harmful to the body. These defence mechanisms and the immune systems are very active in healthy body but they are very weak when there is stress on the body.

Importance of vaccination:

Immune system in young ones is not fully developed to fight with the invaders and is also not capable of producing antibodies as compared to adults. Nature has arranged some protective antibodies, which a puppy gets from her mother, and these are called passive antibodies. These antibodies pass to puppies while they are in the uterus and also through mother’s first milk — the colostrum. The antibodies which the mother passes to her puppies are against those diseases which she herself has encountered or been vaccinated against. The passive immunity in the puppies fades off early, so the puppy must develop her own immunity either by encounter with disease or by vaccination, to live a healthy and long life. Since we do not want pups to endure an episode of disease to develop their own protection, we turn to creation immunity by vaccination.

Types of vaccine:

Nowadays there are many types of vaccines available with your vet. There are attenuated live vaccine, killed vaccine, toxoids and mixed vaccines. Protection created by vaccines is generally not long lasting as natural immunity, thus boosters are periodically needed and different intervals are advised for different diseases and different products.

When should a pet be vaccinated:

Every pet owner aims to stimulate the production of active antibodies by vaccination, as early as possible in a puppy’s life. Unfortunately, this is not easily achieved, since maternally-derived antibodies not only protects against disease, but also prevents a proper response to vaccination. There is an immunity gap during which puppies will not have enough maternal antibodies to protect them against infection, but sufficient to prevent effective vaccination. Many efforts have gone into to keep this vulnerable time to minimum. The personal immunity of a pup varies from other brothers and sisters from the same litter depending upon the colostrum taken from their mother and personal immune system development. Orphan puppies who have no colostrum, can theoretically be vaccinated at birth, but it is wiser to wait until 3-6 weeks of age to allow the immune system to develop properly. Thus, the puppies should be vaccinated at the age of 6-8 weeks of age against Canine Distemper and Canine Parvo viral infections. But it is advisable to contact your vet who will calculate the optimum time for vaccination in the light of local disease conditions and the history of the kennel in which the puppy was born. Finally in this connection, it has to be remembered that there will always be a proportion of dogs whose bodies fail to respond to vaccine given to them. The booster for Canine Distemper, Parvo virus, Leptospirosis, Adenovirus type-1 and type-2, infectious Canine Hepatitis, Panleucopenia (DHLPP) should be repeated after 12 weeks of age and vaccine of anti-rabies after 13 weeks of age vaccine against canine corona virus (not very prevalent in Asian countries) should be given after second booster of DHLPP.

Side effects of vaccination:

Vaccination does not usually affect behaviour or appetite. Some dogs may feel off colour for a day or two after the vaccination and few may show mild local reaction at the site of the injection.

(Dr R. T. Sharma is a Veterinary Surgeon President of Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), associated to RSPCA, London, UK and Animal Welfare Board of India, practising in Delhi since 1990. He can be reached at 9810036254.)

Healing Herbalism

More and more pet owners are now resorting to herbal treatment for some common ailments. Dr. Pandey informs how herbalism works and its benefits.

Since the past few years, herbalism is gaining importance as an “alternative system of medicine that applies the medicinal values of plants for the maintenance of health.” Herbalism, the holistic approach of treatment, identifies and treats the root cause rather than only the symptoms. This probably gives it an edge in the present day pet health care since both vets and pet owners lay emphasis on the permanent cure of disease rather than temporary suppression of symptoms. Herbal remedies are better suited for the ailments connected to skin, digestive, liver, kidney and immune functions making them complimentary to synthetic medicines.

What makes herbalism unique is its basic principle of disease management that is very different from the synthetic medicines.

Pro-host approach–Rather than killing the infection, herbalism talks about improving the fighting capacity of the body and its various systems to uproot the infection. Herbal remedies thus control infection without any stress to the body organ/system.

Holistic approach–Rather than only controlling the infection, herbalism focuses on treating the disease in totality. Disease is an outcome of compromise in body functions complicated by the presence of disease causing organisms. Thus a rational therapy should combine improvement of the organ functions along with the control of infection.

Poly herbal approach–Herbal remedy is a combination of multiple herbs. This provides multiple benefits, synergistic effect and neutralises the undesirable effect, if any. Common pet ailments Skin health?–?Skin problems originate because of suppression of skin health. Several herbal oils like Cedrus deodara, Azadirachta indica, Eucalyptus globulus, Pongamia glabra, Acorus calamus provide positive effect on skin health, apart from having anti-microbial action.

Digestive health–Any digestive problem alters the intestinal functions. Herbs like Berberis aristata, Acacia catechu, Plantago ovata, Aegle marmelos kill the infection involved during these disorders to improve the intestinal functions. Herbal remedies also take care of malabsorption syndrome that is often encountered as a sequel to digestive disorder.

Liver health–Liver health is compromised due to sluggish activity of liver cells. Herbs like Phyllanthus niruri, Boerrhavia diffusa, Emblica officinale are known to have an excellent liver cell rejuvenation effect.

Immune health–Good immune status keeps the pet away from infections. Herbs like Withania somnifera, Ocimum sanctum, Mangifera indica, Phyllanthus emblica have well documented and scientifically proven immunomodulatory action.

Myths about herbalism

Safety–It’s not true that all the herbal formulations are safe. Herbs can be contaminated with various infectious agents, toxic compounds or can even be poisonous. The right selection, quality assurance and processing can only assure safety.

Un-scientific approach–Often it is believed that the herbal remedies are unscientific in terms of product efficacy testing. The companies dedicated to herbal research have suitably addressed this challenge. Today’s herbal remedies are screened and tested as per scientific protocol.

Herbal remedies for pets Quality assured herbal medicines provide?:

Tonic action–Herbal remedies are better suited as health tonics since they influence the functioning of vital organs : liver, kidney, heart, skin and immune system. The prophylactic use of herbal remedies will ensure perfect health status. Unmatched safety?–?Herbal remedies are safe for use in any stage of pet’s life.

Freedom from adverse affect–Herbal remedies does not result in adverse affects in the process of treating the disease.

Freedom from the disease recurrence –Due to its approach of treating the root cause, use of herbal remedies prevents relapse. Eco-friendly–Herbal ingredients are non-hazardous to user, pet and environment.

Effective first aid therapy– Because of safety, efficacy, affordability and broad spectrum of activity, herbal remedies can serve to be an effective first-aid therapy.

(Dr. S.K. Pandey, M.V. Sc. (Medicine) is the Marketing Manager with Ayurvet Ltd., a company specialising in herbal formulations. He can be contacted at : 9811299055.)

For the pawfect million dollar smile

Canine dental care is often overlooked, but pets can suffer the same kinds of dental problems as humans, including severe pain, infection and tooth loss. You can help prevent these problems by learning about the basics of pet tooth care from your veterinarian. You should take advantage of recent advances in veterinary dentistry, including implants, braces, ultrasonic scaling, root canals, bonding and brightening. Many veterinarians also believe – although the evidence is not conclusive – that bacteria associated with tooth and gum disease can spread to internal body systems and contribute to infections in organs like the heart, liver and kidney. If so, a dental prevention programme could even help extend a pet’s life.

Dental check-up with the veterinarian

Dogs should have periodic check-ups. The frequency depends on their age: Puppies : You should have your pet’s mouth examined as early as possible and again at every vaccination appointment up to four months of age. Another dental examination should be performed at six months, including an assessment of your pet’s bite. Some do not lose all their baby teeth when they should, and their permanent teeth can be pushed out of line. If that happens, your vet may have to pull the stubborn baby teeth.

One to three years?: At this age, dental examinations should be done annually, unless you notice problems or your veterinarian has developed a custom examination programme.

Four to six years?: If your pet has perfect teeth and you brush them daily, annual examinations may suffice. However, many dogs in this age group require examinations every six months.

Seven years and up?: Dental examinations should be performed every six months. A dog suffering from dental problem may show following symptoms: change in eating habits, pawing of mouth, abnormal salivation, oral hypersensitivity, facial swelling, bleeding from mouth, sneezing, nasal discharge and abnormal behaviour.

How bad breath develops

Sour milk odour accompanying periodontal disease may result from bacterial population associated with plaque, calculus, unhealthy tissue, decomposed food particles retained within oral cavity. Normal lung air or stomach will never contribute to persistent bad breath. As plaque gets older and infected, it inflames the gingival (the junction between the teeth and the gum), further causing inflammation of the bone and bone loss takes place. Over a period of time, if attention is not given to the plaque, the aerobic gram positive bacteria changes to anaerobic gram negative bacteria. The rough surface of tartar attracts more bacteria, which irritates the gums, creating pockets at the gingival junction, which starts housing food debris, leading to tooth decay. Breeds like Pomeranian, Poodles, Lhasa Apso are prone to oral disease, thus proper dental hygiene needs to be maintained. Other diseases like diabetes, advanced renal failure, skin disorder like lip fold pyoderma can cause a foul smell to the breath.

How to brush your dog’s teeth

Ideally, brush your pet’s teeth daily, but brushing at least three times a week will go a long way in helping to prevent dental and related problems. Your pet may dislike the process and resist strenuously. If so, proceed slowly and with care.

  • Use a soft toothbrush. A child’s toothbrush for small dogs is ideal; an adult size should be used for larger dogs. Rubber finger caps with bristles are also available at most veterinarian offices and pet supply stores. Brushing with “Dentapaste” is ideal.
  • Start slowly by lifting up the lip and running your finger or a damp washcloth wrapped around your finger along the gums and teeth. Talk to and praise your pet to keep him calm while you are doing this.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time you work in the mouth daily. Concentrate on the outside surface of the teeth. Very little periodontal disease develops on the inside surface of the teeth since the tongue keeps this area clean.
  • Use toothpaste formulated especially for pets. “Dentapaste” has tree tea oil and other compounds best for this purpose, available at pet supply stores or your veterinarian’s office. Regular toothpaste is usually objectionable to them.
  • The best time to clean your pet’s teeth is after the evening meal. Your pet will become more cooperative over time if you establish a routine. For example: First feed your pet, next clean the teeth, and then play with him. Most dogs adapt to this routine surprisingly well.

How to avoid dental decay

Dog food, treats and chew bones?: Some pet foods have been developed to enhance oral care by having an abrasive action that is designed to scrape tartar from the teeth. There are also numerous treats and chew products available that may be helpful. High fibre contents of chews give massage to the gums and remove debris of food which reduces plaque formation. Mouth wash and sprays?: Veterinary hospitals and pet supply outlets sell chlorhexidine sprays and mouthwashes that contain enzymes that dissolve plaque and help reduce bacteria. They are not nearly as effective as brushing the teeth but are better than no home care.

How to remove tartar

Manual tartar removal?: If your pet has a placid temperament, it is not difficult to scrap the tartar from the teeth and clean under the margins of the gums. Many pet professionals perform excellent tooth cleaning , eliminating the need to have their pet anaesthetised at a veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian or a pet supply catalogue is a good source for a tartar-scraping tool. The best ones are double ended, one end suitable for the right and the other for the left side of the mouth. Ultrasonic cleaning?: The whine of the ultrasonic machine is distressing to most dogs, this procedure is performed with general anaesthetic or heavy tranquillisation. Older patients who have heart disease and need this procedure are given very light anaesthetic.

Removal of diseased teeth?: Once the ligaments that fasten teeth to the bone of the jaw have been damaged by periodontal disease, ultrasonic cleaning will not heal them. Mildly loose teeth can sometimes be preserved by cleaning and several weeks of doxycycline therapy either with oral tablets or oral patches. Severely loose teeth are best removed. So gear up and make your lil’ friends smile – SHINE!!

(Dr. Hatekar is a practicing veterinary surgeon in Pune. He has been trained in Germany and France for small animal orthopaedic surgery. He also writes for The Times of India, Indian Express and The Deccan Herald. He is member of World Small Animal Veterinary Association and can be contacted at: 020-25463352, Mobile : 09823288110, e-mail?: petaid1@yahoo.com)

What is CRF – Chronic Renal Failure?

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is the most common kidney disease found in old dogs. Dogs are considered old above the age of 7.5 years. However, in the case of large dogs (above 20 kg) and giant dogs (above 40 kg), old age appears earlier than 7.5 years. An awareness of different aspects of this disease leads to early detection.

Role of kidneys?: The role of kidneys is to form urine, excrete waste products, regulate the volume and composition of fluids in the body and act as an endocrine gland.

Old age and kidney disease?: A dog’s vulnerability to kidney disease increases with the appearance of old age. This does not mean that a younger dog will not get this disease but the incidence is very low among them. Our observation in respect of dogs coming to our clinic during the last 10 years is that 95 percent of the incidence of CRF has been in old dogs and compared to various other diseases appearing in old dogs, this disease is very prevalent.

What is chronic renal failure?: Chronic renal failure (CRF) is the term applied to the persistent impairment of renal function of such severity that the kidneys can no longer maintain a healthy internal environment and if not detected, treated and managed properly, death of the dog is inevitable. CRF is a progressive condition and appears in four phases.

Phase-1: Loss of renal reserve?: During this phase, there is loss of renal reserve. The reserves of nephrons (a nephron is the basic functional unit of the kidneys) are lost as the kidney ages. Despite the losses, the kidneys maintain the ability to concentrate the urine and excrete waste products. The affected dogs do not show any signs of illness or abnormality.

Phase-2?: Renal insufficiency?: During this phase, two-thirds of the total nephrons are lost.

The ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine becomes less, but still there are no clinical signs except an increase in the frequency of urination and quantity of urine output.

Phase-3?: Renal failure?: As the CRF advances to this phase, three-fourths of the nephrons are lost, the dog loses his urine concentrating ability and there is accumulation of waste products in the blood and this is manifested as lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Phase-4?: Advanced renal failure?: This is the final stage and a return from this stage to normalcy is extremely difficult. In this stage, more than nine-tenths of the nephrons of the kidney are lost leading to retention of excessive quantities of protein metabolic by-products leading to a uraemic state. The affected dogs in this stage show oral ulceration, profound weight loss, continuous vomiting and total loss of appetite. Nervous signs such as incoordination and inability to stand are also seen. Most of the affected dogs also become very anaemic and develop other complications such as pulmonary and gastro-intestinal tract diseases. Uraemic coma (dog goes into coma because of high urea level in the blood) follows, ending in death/euthanasia. The parameters of kidney function are elevated several times the normal values especially, blood urea nitrogen, serum creatinine and phosphorus.

Prevention of CRF?: Early detection of the disease is crucial for preventing the disease from progressing to stage of renal failure. To be successful, the disease should be detected before the beginning of the third phase. An old dog showing excessive urination without any other symptoms (including diabetes) could be a case of advanced renal insufficiency progressing to renal failure and merits a detailed examination by the vet including a detailed lab examination of blood and urine and treatment depending on the findings. This followed by sound nutritional management can halt/slow down the progress of the disease. Aim of nutritional management is to reduce the accumulation of protein waste products by reducing the percentage of protein, phosphorus and sodium levels. A phosphate binder such as calcium acetate or carbonate in the daily feed can reduce absorption of the dietary phosphorus. Prescription diets, specially formulated for CRF cases are also available.

Practical difficulties in prevention of CRF?: Unfortunately, the disease is seldom detected at an early stage. By the time the owner takes his pet to the vet, the stage becomes critical.

General therapeutic and managemental measures to deal with chronic renal failure?: Therapeutic measures are aimed at controlling infections, discontinuing injurious drugs, correcting fluid, acid-base balance and metabolic problems. The vets will assess the case and a therapeutic regimen will be decided to suit the needs of the particular case. An awareness of the different aspects of this disease will help the owners to be on the lookout for early signs and getting it examined by the vets including laboratory tests.

(Dr. J J Rappai and Dr. K V Rappai can be contacted at JRG Vet Clinic, 24 Damodar Shopping Complex, Sector-37, Noida. Ph : 95120-2430521)