Pet Care with Dr John

Skin Lumps and Tumors

Warts (papillomas) are common in older dogs.  Warts are small tags of skin which may be black or pink and are raised above the skin surface.  Warts are only removed them if they are large and unsightly.  Dogs under 12 months old can get numerous warts on their lips and inside the mouth – these disappear after a few months.


Lipomas are soft fatty lumps found under the skin.  Lipomas are not malignant and removal is only necessary if they grow to an uncomfortable size.  Sebaceous cysts are caused by blocked hair follicles.  They can often be squeezed to clear the cyst.  


Potentially dangerous skin tumors include squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumor. Skin sores which don’t heal properly or keep bleeding may be early stages of skin cancer.  Cats with white or ginger pigmentation on the ears and nose should be regularly checked.  (Use a normal sunblock cream for protection of these areas.)  Needle aspirate or skin biopsy may be required for diagnosis.  Any fast growing lump or skin abnormality should be checked by the vet.  Don’t be afraid to get a checkup as most of the tumors can be successfully treated if prompt diagnosis is made.


Bruces’ thought for the week:”Ask about Cartrophen injections if your old dog is getting stiff and arthritic.  Long lasting effective relief from arthritic pain”



Spinal Injuries and Disc Prolapse


One of our recent cases involved “Buster”, a 13 year old Ridgeback dog.  Buster snuck through the gate and decided he was still young enough to chase a car.  He twisted awkwardly trying to avoid the vehicle then made his way slowly back to the house.  A couple of hours later Buster couldn’t walk.  This hind limb paresis continued for a week and fortunately Buster’s condition improved and now he is walking again, although he is still unsteady.


The most likely cause for this injury is a prolapsed disc in Buster’s lumbar spine.  This is more likely to happen in an old dog but trauma at any age can cause a disc prolapse.  The disc is the “shock absorber” between the vertebrae. When a disc is pushed out into the spinal canal the pressure on the spinal cord causes partial or complete paralysis.  There are symptoms we can use to assess the severity of the spinal cord damage and give a prognosis for recovery.  Buster still had pain sensation in his toes and had enough strength in his legs to stand up, so his chances of recovery were quite good.  Normal X-rays usually don’t show where the disc is prolapsed - we need to inject dye into the spinal canal to isolate the lesion (myelogram).   In Buster’s case, rest and pain relief were sufficient for recovery.  More severe disc rupture requires decompressive spinal surgery.


Sometimes dogs have back pain from pinched or inflamed nerve roots at the point where they leave the spinal cord.  These dogs are reluctant to move and may cry when touched or manipulated.  They usually respond quickly to anti-inflammatory medication.  Back pain can mimic many other conditions so these cases are often a challenge for accurate diagnosis.





Bruce's thought for the week:  "Practice obedience when it's in your best interest."




We see many sick puppies at the clinic with gastroenteritis.  Some of these pups have Parvovirus (“Parvo”), but most have a less severe form of viral gastroenteritis.  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish Parvo from these other viruses.  There is a simple faecal test for Parvovirus, and this helps us to give a prognosis prior to treatment.  Parvo is the most severe of the vomiting/diarrhoea diseases.


The affected puppies are usually between 2 and 4 months old.  Symptoms are initially lethargy and lack of appetite, progressing to vomiting and diarrhoea.  We put these pups on an intravenous drip until they can hold down water and food.  This may take anywhere between one and five days.   Some patients do not survive despite intesive treatment


Pups that are appropriately vaccinated should not get Parvovirus.  It is essential to have a full course of 3 puppy vaccinations.  We often see Parvo in pups that received their 6 week vaccination but did not return for their second vaccine 4 weeks later, and they become ill at around 12 weeks of age.  Another important point is that Parvo is very rare in pups under 8 weeks of age because of antibody protection from the bitch.  This maternal protection starts to fade at 8 weeks so the best vaccination schedule for Parvo is 8, 12 & 16 weeks of age.


A common cause of illness in puppies under 6 weeks of age in Broome is hookworm infestation.  Prevention is easy – WORM YOUR PUPPY EVERY 2 WEEKS UNTIL 12 WEEKS OLD, then monthly to 6 months.  Easy to do, often overlooked!


Lilly's thought for the week:  “Be loyal.”


Coughing Dogs!


Coughing is usually caused by a pharyngeal (throat) infection and results in a dry hacking cough which can sound terrible!  The infection can be viral or bacterial and is easily spread between dogs by aerosol transmission.  Most owners think that their dog has something stuck in its throat but actually this is extremely uncommon.  Sometimes a bone or sharp object can scratch the throat during swallowing and cause irritation and coughing.


Immunisation for pups and dogs includes vaccination for “Canine Cough” (also known as Kennel Cough).  This is a contagious cough which can persist for weeks if untreated.   Annual vaccination is important to maintain protection against Canine Cough.  The vaccination also covers Parvovirus, Distemper and Canine Hepatitis.


Heartworm disease will cause coughing due to irritation from worms in the blood vessels of the lungs.  Dogs with heartworm typically try to clear their throat with a retching sound.  Other symptoms of heartworm disease are exercise intolerance and anaemia.  Heartworm disease can usually be treated successfully so get a heartworm test for your dog if you suspect the disease.  Here is the lifecycle of heartworm in dogs:


Heart disease and associated lung congestion can also result in coughing.  There are many causes of heart disease and a diagnostic workup is required before treatment can be started.



Lilly's tip for the week:  “Annual injection is the safest way to prevent heartworm.  No more forgetting pills! ”



The Story of 'Tidda' and 'Rogan'



Today we have Tidda in hospital because she is unwell.  Tidda is a little terrier who had 5 pups two weeks ago, and over the weekend became very unwell.  We needed to give Tidda a blood transfusion and Rogan the German Shepherd came to the rescue.  Rogan was at the clinic for a minor procedure and made an ideal blood donor being such a large dog.

We usually take about 500ml blood from the donor, but today we took a little less because Tidda is so small.  Tidda has stabilised during the day and is actually looking a little brighter now.  

Thankyou to Rogan's owners for being so generous with the donation!



Urinary tract problems:  Urinary incontinence in older female dogs is a common problem.  Owners notice their dog is “wetting the bed” or leaving small puddles where she has been lying.  This is usually caused by a hormonal imbalance and is easily controlled with weekly medication.


Cystitis, or bladder infection, occurs in both dogs and cats.  The infection is caused by bacteria in the urine.  Symptoms of cystitis are frequent urination, straining to urinate with no result (sometimes confused with constipation in cats), and blood in the urine.  Cystitis is more common in females.  Antibiotics are used to treat cystitis.


Cats often develop urinary tract problems if their diet is mainly supermarket dry food.  The symptoms are similar to cystitis but the irritation is caused by crystals which form in the urine from minerals in the diet.   Advance  premium quality dry cat foods, available at the clinic, will not cause this problem.  Male cats can form a plug of crystals which lodges in the penis and completely stops the flow of urine.  This can be an emergency situation and prompt treatment is required to unblock the urethra.


Case of the week: “Kimba” is a 9 year old boxer brought to the clinic because she was having extreme difficulty urinating and was in considerable discomfort.  X-rays showed that Kimba had numerous small stones in her bladder.  We removed at least 50 stones during surgery!  She is now on a special diet to help dissolve the remaining tiny stones and crystals in the bladder.



Lilly’s tip for the week:  Don’t stop tick prevention when your dog has no ticks – they will come back!