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The Trouble with Anal Glands

One of the most common problems small animal vets see in dogs, almost daily, is anal gland trouble. Although cats have anal glands too, they rarely cause trouble. All dogs have two anal glands (or anal sacs) situated just inside the rectum, one on each side. The cells which line the glands produce a foul-smelling substance which dogs use as a territory- marking device. When the dog passes faeces, the anal glands get squeezed and the scent is deposited as well. The normal anal gland is about the size of a pea in a small dog or a grape in a larger dog, depending how full it is. The anal gland secretion travels down a short tube or duct to enter the rectum. It can be liquid or more like a paste in texture. [caption id="attachment_219" align="aligncenter" width="600"]The arrows show the position of the anal glands The arrows show the position of the anal glands[/caption] When everything is working properly, the anal glands empty naturally and cause no trouble. Unfortunately it is quite common for the glands to become over-full or for the duct to become blocked, and then they cause discomfort. When they do not empty naturally, they are described as impacted and the condition is called anal gland saculitis. The dog will then try to lick at the area or will “scoot” their bottom along the ground in an attempt to relieve the irritation. This may well make things worse and allow infection to enter, leading to an abscess. If things get this bad, the main sign will be pain, or a blood-stained discharge if it bursts. Dogs who suffer from this problem regularly will tend to show similar symptoms each time. As well as scooting or licking under their tail, dogs which cannot easily reach the area may chew themselves on their back or their feet instead. Sometimes the first sign of trouble is a distinctive and very unpleasant fishy smell. Owners will usually recognise the signs in their own dog and have the glands emptied promptly by their groomer or vet. Luckily the anal glands can be emptied fairly easily once the knack has been acquired, and as long as there is no infection present, this will be all that’s necessary. If an owner feels confident to do this job themselves, they could ask the vet to show them how to do it. It is not the nicest job in the world, because of the smell and because of the uncanny ability of the contents to squirt in unexpected directions! On the other hand, it is quite rewarding to bring almost instant relief to the dog in most cases. If an abscess forms, it may have to be lanced and flushed out, and antibiotics will be needed. Pain-killers may also be advised as an abscess is very painful. When anal glands cause repeated problems it is sometimes advisable to have them surgically removed under anaesthetic by your vet. Like any other operation, the advantages of this type of surgery need to be weighed up against the possible risks. It would not be recommended in cases where symptoms are mild and easily sorted out by manual emptying. Prevention may be possible by changing the diet or increasing the amount of fibre to make the dog’s stool firmer, for example by adding bran to the diet. Anything which causes a soft or runny stool can cause anal gland problems. Further advice can be obtained from your own veterinary surgery. Jenny Sheriff BVM&S MRCVS
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Cat Pelvis Operation – Vet Orthopaedics

[caption id="attachment_211" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Joe the TV vet performs difficult pelvis surgery on a cat."]Pelvis_surgery[/caption] Cats lead dangerous lives, dodging traffic, fighting over territory and being chased by dogs, so it is not surprising that we vets spend a reasonable proportion of our working lives patching up the results of their adventures. Whether it’s repairing serious damage caused by road traffic accidents, or patching up less severe injuries from bite wounds, cats that have been in the wars certainly keep us vets busy everyday of the week. Most of the time these injuries are not too severe – cat bites, and bruises and strains from over-energetic leaping and climbing usually heal well and require nothing much more than antibiotics and painkillers to help the cat recover. Sometimes, however, cats are less fortunate and that is when things get much more serious and the outcomes can be less positive. Road traffic accidents are by far and away the main cause of these more serious injuries, and repairing the damage that a tonne of car can do to 5 kilos of fragile cat can be a very involved and difficult process. Thankfully there are now many highly specialised vets who can offer amazingly hi-tech operations and treatments that can quite literally put broken cats back together. A friend of mine from university, Toby Gemmill, is now an eminent orthopaedic surgeon in Birmingham and I truly believe that provided the pet’s head and chest are in one piece, there’s not much he couldn’t put back together successfully. Using all manner of techniques, including external fixators (metal frames that hold shattered legs back together from the outside rather than the inside), bone grafts and much more, vets like Toby can work wonders on even the most severely injured animals. There is a problem though, and that’s the age-old issue of money. The state-of-the-art treatments that Toby and other orthopaedic vets carry out are understandably expensive with costs often reaching many thousands of pounds. This puts them out of the reach of many pet owners, unless of course they have pet insurance, leaving them faced with some very difficult decisions – should they try to beg, borrow or steal the money required for a potentially life-saving operation? Or should they simply call it a day and opt to have their pet put to sleep? These are terrible decisions to have to make, and it is one of the reasons why vets like myself, who are general practitioners rather than specialists, end up tackling complex operations that are well outside our comfort zone. Take Portia the cat underneath the drapes in this picture for example. She was hit by a car and suffered severe injuries to her pelvis and back legs, and required a major orthopaedic operation if she was going to have any chance of surviving. However, her owner had no pet insurance and could not afford to consider visiting a specialist – but she was desperate to try and save her beloved cat, so I offered to try my best and have a go myself. The operation Portia required was something I have attempted before, but it really is not something I’m that comfortable with, so it was a very long and stressful operation. The end result was pretty good – definitely not as good as if Toby had done the procedure, but a whole lot better than nothing and I think there’s every chance that she will pull through as a result. In fact it’s me that I’m more worried about – I need a stiff drink and a lie down to recover from the stress! Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet's Kitchen

The nightmare before Christmas…

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, all those presents and decorations, not to mention the yummy food!  However, there are problems we see commonly with pets around the holiday season that are directly connected with the festivities and this blog is about recognising and helping to prevent them.

Chocolate chocolateChocolate is poisonous to dogs and there is often a lot more of it around at this time of year!  The basic rule is the posher the chocolate, the worse it is, as the more expensive brands contain higher percentages of cocoa solids.  The cocoa solids are ingredient which is dangerous and they can cause agitation, palpitations and damage both the heart and the kidneys.  If your dog has eaten chocolate and you are concerned, call your vet and keep the packaging, so you can tell them the cocoa solid percentage.  Chocolate poisoning is treated by making the dog sick, putting them on a drip and giving them sedatives.  Ensure during the festive period that all treats are kept well out of reach of dogs (don’t forget the ones on the tree!) and that the only chocolate they are given is especially for dogs. christmas dinner Christmas dinner It is tempting, when we are tucking into a fabulous spread for Christmas lunch, to share this with our pets.  However, their bodies are less able to cope with unusually rich food than us and nobody wants to be clearing up vomit and diarrhoea on Christmas day.  If you do give your pet a treat, stick to small amounts of lean meat and vegetables, avoid rich gravy or dressings.   Also, NEVER feed cats or dogs turkey bones.  These can cause huge damage to the guts and sometimes require expensive surgery to remove them. Another thing to avoid is giving Christmas pudding or cake to your dog, as raisins are very toxic to dogs. baubles Tinsel and decorations Cats find tinsel fascinating and will often play with it if they get the chance.  However, this can cause problems.  The way cat’s heads are put together means they are prone to getting things stuck around the back of their throat.  The small fronds of tinsel are just the right size to get caught here, especially if the cat has been chewing at them and they usually require an anaesthetic to remove them.  You should also take care to keep any delicate or glass decorations or baubles out of reach, as they could cause a pet significant damage if they are broken or eaten.  Sometimes, especially if your animals are young or lively, it can be best to dispense with the posh Christmas decs until they are older or calm down and stick to the ordinary plastic ones instead! dog_sleeping Visitors Christmas is a time for socialising, which often means a regular supply of visitors to the house.  Most animals will cope with this fine and enjoy all the extra attention, but some will find this very stressful.  If you know your cat or dog dislikes having people in the house, ensure they have the means to escape from them and don’t force them to be sociable.  Also, stick as close to their normal routine as possible, which help them feel more settled. fireworkFireworks A great many pets find fireworks with their bangs and flashes very frightening and  they are commonly set off at this time of year.  It is important you deal with this fear correctly to ensure that you do not inadvertently make it worse.  Firstly, prepare a 'den' for your pet somewhere in your home where they feel safe.  It should be warm and cosy with a covered top as pets will feel most secure being completely surrounded.  Try using the DAP or Feliway diffusers to calm pets, these release comforting pheromones which can help your pet feel much more secure.  When the fireworks are happening, keep the curtains closed, play the TV or radio to drown out the noise and, hard though it is, try not to comfort them when they are scared as this will only praise the behaviour and can make them worse.  Finally, consider starting a desensitising programme to help your pet cope with the fireworks once the season is over, your vet will be able to advise you on this and provide CDs of firework noises to play.

If you have questions about this, or any other pet related subject, you should contact your vet.

Cat is the vet for an on-line social networking site for pet lovers.

Beware of Slugs and Snails and Angiostrongylus (lungworm)

snailTo a gardener, slugs and snails can be a nuisance because they eat your plants, but to dogs, they can pose a serious health risk because they act as an intermediate host for one of the most serious types of internal worms. The worm called Angiostrongylus Vasorum is sometimes referred to as lungworm or heartworm (although other types of lungworm and heartworm also exist). It affects dogs and foxes, and in the last few years, it seems to have spread across most of Northern Europe including the U.K. I have seen two cases in the south-west of England in the last year. I am pleased to say that both dogs survived but they were both very ill for a time. The life cycle of this parasite takes place partly inside the dog (the host) and partly inside the snail or slug (the intermediate host). An infected dog or fox will have adult worms in the lungs and blood vessels, which produce eggs. These worm eggs are coughed up and swallowed by the dog, and then passed out in the faeces. They are then eaten by the slug or snail, which completes the cycle of infestation when eaten by another dog. dog_drinking_puddleIt can be easy to see, or hear if your dog eats a snail because of the crunching sounds, but it is much harder to know if they eat slugs. Unfortunately, some of the slugs are quite small and any dog which grazes on grass or drinks from puddles could be swallowing tiny slugs. The symptoms of infection with this parasite can be quite varied. The effects on the lungs may cause coughing or breathlessness on exercise. Various bleeding disorders can be caused by the blood failing to clot, which may show as nosebleeds or bleeding in the mouth or eyes, or unexpected bleeding after surgery. Less commonly the brain, kidneys or central nervous system can be affected. All of these are serious and can be fatal. Diagnosing the cause of the problem is by a combination of a physical examination, blood tests and faecal tests (to identify worm larvae). Other tests such as x-rays or ultrasound imaging may be necessary in cases where the symptoms are less clear cut, to distinguish this from other conditions. The good news is that treatment is available with a number of drugs available from your vet. Some commonly prescribed worm tablets and some commonly prescribed flea treatments will kill this parasite (when used as directed by your vet, which may be more frequently than for other parasites), and this is just one reason why all dogs should follow a suitable parasite treatment regime. Dogs with more serious symptoms will require intensive care and possibly blood transfusions and other drugs. The best advice to dog owners to avoid this problem is:
  • Ask your vet which is the most suitable product to use for routine worm and flea treatment, and use it regularly, even if you don’t suspect that your dog has any parasites.
  • Try to stop your dog eating slugs and snails if you can.
  • Pick up your dog’s faeces and dispose of properly.
  • Don’t be tempted to use slug bait, as this can be very poisonous.
Please ask at your veterinary surgery if you would like more information or advice on this very unpleasant parasite. Jenny Sheriff BVM&S MRCVS 3/12/09 If you are concerned that your dog is coughing or having nosebleeds use the interactive dog symptom guide to find out what you should do.