Ask the expert… | Oct Nov 12

Dr KG 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 currently working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia.

Q: My dog loves to chew grass. Is it normal? How should I stop this habit?
– Sahana Sharan, Mumbai
Dr KG Umesh: Contrary to the common perception that grass eating is associated with observable signs of illness and vomiting, one study found that grass eating is a common behaviour in normal dogs unrelated to illness and that dogs do not regularly vomit afterward. Vomiting seems to be incidental too, rather than caused by plant eating. It is not uncommon for dogs to eat grass and is generally un-harmful to the dog providing the grass has not been chemically treated. The dog will often vomit the chewed grass with frothy saliva, not long after eating it. One suggestion for dogs doing this is to relieve an excess of digestive juices that accumulate in the stomach when it is empty. Some dogs will graze on fine grass and may even digest it to provide roughage in the diet. It is important that dog’s main diet is nutritionally balanced and the correct amount of food is being fed for the dog’s life stage. If the grass eating is accompanied by prolonged or persistent vomiting, and particularly if the vomitus contains blood, veterinary advice should be sought.
Q: My dog is one year old and has developed Wobblers Syndrome. Please suggest treatment.
– Karthik, Bengaluru
Dr KG Umesh: Cervical Stenotic Myelopathy (CSM) or Wobbler Syndrome or Cervical Malformation describes a syndrome of compression of the cervical spinal cord as a result of degenerative changes in the spine in neck region. Clinical signs include progressive incordination, weakness in all limbs and, sometimes, neck pain. Signs in the hind limbs are more severe than the front limbs. CT scan or MRI is required to diagnose these cases. It is recommended that dogs with neurological deficits are treated surgically, as this is a chronic progressive disease. Dogs who are non-ambulatory may respond to conservative management but surgery is strongly recommended. Conservative management includes treatment of pain with anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, and restriction of unmonitored activity combined with controlled exercise and physical therapy. Acupuncture can be useful for controlling chronic pain in some dogs.
Q: My pet Lafro is suffering from megaesophagus – she cannot chew food, she can only swallow food, so we have to give her liquid food only. What can be done- and how do we manage this condition in the long run?
– Ekta Kapoor, Mumbai
Dr KG Umesh: In animals, like in people, the esophagus is the tube that carries swallowed food from the mouth down into the stomach. Megaesophagus is a disorder characterised by decreased movement and dilation or distension of the esophagus. As a result, food does not pass from the mouth to the stomach appropriately and can sit in the esophagus or be brought back up through the throat and out the mouth (regurgitation). Pets with megaesophagus are at greater risk for developing pneumonia (lung infection), since food and liquids sitting in the esophagus or being regurgitated can be accidentally inhaled into the lungs (aspiration pneumonitis). The goals of treating an animal with megaesophagus are to eliminate the cause when possible, minimise the frequency of regurgitation, prevent overdistention of the esophagus, maintain a good level of nutrition and body condition, prevent or rapidly identify and treat complications, such as aspiration pneumonia, and improve the overall quality of the pet’s life. Food and water should be maintained in an elevated position (by placing food and water bowls on a table or stepstool) so that gravity can help move food through the esophagus, toward the stomach. Ideally animals are held in a sitting, upright position for as much as 10 to 15 minutes after eating or drinking, to help food and water flow down into the stomach. Some patients will require the placement of a temporary or permanent feeding tube in order to maintain an adequate level of nutrition. This tube allows for food and water to be administered directly into the stomach or intestines. Megaesophagus is a potentially serious and sometimes even life-threatening illness. The prognosis varies dramatically with the underlying cause of the disease, the presence of secondary complications.
Q: My German Shepherd puppy is having runny nose and not eating well. He is not active and seems to be lazy. Please do advice.
– Vipin Rana, Patna
Dr KG Umesh: Any puppy showing respiratory signs with poor appetite require immediate medical attention. The underlying cause could be serious viral infections like distemper in unvaccinated puppies to simple allergies. Please take him to your vet ASAP.
Q: Nawab – my Golden Cocker – has frequent ear problems. He keeps shaking and scratching his ears and sometimes there is a brown smelly discharge. We tie a loose band or ribbon when we give him food. Do help.
– Meghna, Pathankot
Dr KG Umesh: Otitis externa is inflammation of the outer ear canal. In pets with otitis externa, the skin that lines the outer ear often becomes red, itchy and painful. Pus, waxy material, and other debris can accumulate. Otitis externa can cause head shaking, scratching and rubbing, a foul odour, abnormal behaviour or even irritability, and hearing loss in long-term situations. There are many underlying causes that include allergies, parasites and endocrine disorders. Some pets like spaniels are predisposed which have narrower than normal ear canals and long, hanging (floppy) ears. Debris can accumulate more easily in these ears, creating an environment in which organisms (bacteria, yeast, fungi) can thrive and trigger intense inflammation. The treatment for otitis externa requires controlling the inflammation and then treating the underlying cause of the problem, if the cause can be determined. Depending on the cause, treatment of otitis externa can be nothing more than matter of placing medication in your pet’s ears and performing regular cleanings, or it can involve a long-term commitment to treating recurrent problems. Keeping your pet’s ears clean is important because it helps prevent an environment in the ears that promotes inflammation. Your vet can show you how to properly do this and which ear cleaning products are safe to use with your pet.