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Ask the Expert / Sep-Oct 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: My Lab takes homemade food, please, do let me know, is this diet right and how can I train him? – Ayush Bissa, Jodhpur

Dr. K.G. Umesh: Our research indicated that most home made diets/baby foods fed to dogs in our country are inadequate and do not meet recommended nutritional requirements. Prepared pet foods from reputable pet food manufacturers like Pedigree come with a guarantee of nutritional adequacy, quality and safety. Remember that it is not possible to feed your dog a consistent and adequate home-prepared diet without considerable time, effort, and expertise. It is difficult even for an experienced breeder to prepare balanced diet for dogs. There is no need to feed any supplements like calcium or home diet while he is feeding on balanced food like Pedigree except clean fresh water. Therefore, continue feeding only recommended quantity of the prepared pet food.

Effective training should be a combination of information: what you want the dog to do; motivation: a reason for your dog to do it; and timing: when to reward a good action. Therefore, the most important thing in dog training is to reward good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour.

Q: I have an eleven-year-old Labrador – Max, who does not respond to his name or commands. We think he is becoming hard of hearing. What tests can we get done to confirm, if he is going deaf or is there some other problem? – Suman Arora, Jhansi

Dr. K.G. Umesh: Dogs health problems related to advancing years are similar to our own. This might involve deficits in brain functioning, total or partial loss of hearing, eyesight, or sense of smell. Due to these changes, a senior dog may begin to appear to be ignoring commands, appear disorientated or have a reduced appetite. Early detection can help in disease prevention and can minimize suffering. If left undetected, many diseases can put your pet’s health at risk. The best approach to caring for your senior pet includes preventive diagnostics such as establishing baseline blood work, identifying existing health problems and monitoring progress during treatment. Visit your vet who will advise suitable tests for impaired hearing (BAER) and schedule regular health check-ups. Meanwhile, make sure that he is fed on suitable balanced diet that matches his age, dentition and energy requirement.

Q: My 3-year-old dog, Tipsy (Spitz) mated around the first week of June. She had three puppies on the 9th of August at home. All the three puppies did not survive. Could you tell us what possible reasons this could have happened? – Bijoy, Noida

Dr. K.G. Umesh: The failure to thrive in newborn puppies or neonates, known as fading puppy syndrome, can occur from birth to nine weeks of age. The causes of fading puppy syndrome can be broadly put into genetic, environmental or infectious agents groups. Hypothermia, herpes virus infection and maternal neglect resulting in poor nutrition are frequently reported causes. Affected neonates can decline quickly and die, so immediate detection and treatment are keys to survival. Therefore, always observe all the neonates’ behaviour and be on the lookout for key signs. Neonates or puppies that lie away from the group, cry constantly, are restless, or fail to nurse should be examined at once. Timely veterinary attention provides the best chances for saving these neonates’ lives. Because the exact causes of fading puppy syndrome are often not immediately apparent, your veterinarian will initially focus on supportive care and diagnostic evaluation. Your veterinarian will also ask about the dam’s ease of delivery, appetite, diet, vaccinations, mothering skills, and medications, etc that may help to prevent such problems next time.

Q: I have a Doberman who is one year old with an undescented testicle. Please, advise. – Kumaran, Mangalore

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Generally testes in dogs descent to final scrotal position by 2-4 months of age and may occur later in some dogs. The incomplete descent of one or both testes into the scrotum is called Cryptorchidism. This condition is believed to be inherited and is rarely associated with signs of illness. However, the risk of testicular cancer is thought to be approximately 10 times greater in affected dogs than in normal dogs. Castration is recommended practice before four years of age. Breeding of such dogs should be discouraged.

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.