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Ask a vet online-‘ My chinese crested wanted to stay outside, saw today his penis is hanging and the end skin colour pink’

Question from Samantha Mihlo Grobler: Hi. Hope you are well? My chinese crested wanted to stay outside for a week now which are very uncommen for him as he lies inside the whole day. Think somewhere in the block were a female in heat. Saw today his penis are hanging and the end skin colour pink. Could he have broken it or something??? Will send photo on request. Thank you Answer by Shanika Winters: Hi Samantha and thank you for your question regarding your male Chinese crested dog.  What you are describing sounds like a condition called Paraphimosis, this is where the penis cannot be retracted back into the prepuce (the skin in which it is normally found).  This condition is an emergency and your dog should be taken to your vet straight away. There is a bone in the penis of the dog called the os penis, this can break but is very unusual.  However the resulting pain and swelling if the os penis was to break could cause paraphimosis. Normally the penis is able to move in and out of the opening of the prepuce freely, this can however go wrong and the penis can be prevented from coming out Phimosis or from going back in paraphimosis. If the penis becomes stuck outside of the prepuce then the tissue can become damaged, infected, cause trouble with urination and be very painful to your dog. Why has my dog got paraphimosis? In order for your dog to be unable to retract its penis then either the opening of the prepuce is too small, the tissue of the penis has become excessively swollen or there may be nerve damage preventing retraction. In some cases we may not be able to identify a cause for the problem but your vet should be able to help relieve your dog’s discomfort and correct the position of the penis. How will the vet treat my dog? Firstly your vet will ask a detailed history on your pet’s general health including when he last ate, drank and went to the toilet. As this is an emergency situation your vet will also be physically examining your pet.  It is quite likely that your dog may need sedation or anaesthesia in order for your vet to be able to deal with the paraphimosis. As the condition is painful your dog will be given pain relief, usually in the form of an injection so that it will be quickly absorbed and start to help your pet feel more comfortable. In some cases the penis can be lubricated and gently eased back into the prepuce, as the condition may reoccur your vet might ask for your dog to be admitted to the practice for observation. If the penis cannot be replaced easily then sedation or anaesthesia may be required to allow a urinary catheter (thin flexible tube) to be passed to allow urine to be flow out, followed by decompression (reducing any swelling) of the penis, lubrication and then replacement into the prepuce with or without the need for surgery to enlarge the opening of the prepuce. It is likely the vet will send your dog home with antibiotics to treat/prevent infection, further pain relief, instructions on closely observing the penis for any further discharge/swelling and to closely observe that your dog can pass urine as normal. Can I prevent paraphimosis happening to my dog? Unfortunately there really is no way of preventing paraphimosis from occurring, the most important thing is to know what to look out for and to get your dog treated as soon as possible to minimise pain, distress and long term complications.  If the penis tissue remains outside of the prepuce and swells then its circulation may be affected and some of the tissue may become necrotic (die), which would then need surgically removing.  If your dog cannot pass urine for a long amount of time then this can lead to a backing up of urine from the bladder through the tubes (ureters) to the kidneys which can lead to kidney damage. What should I look out for? If your pet is paying extra attention to its penis, licking it, rubbing at it or there is any visible abnormal swelling, difficulty passing urine and or the presence of any unusual discharges then take a closer look. If you are in doubt then make an urgent appointment to see your vet. I really hope that your dog is well and comfortable and that the condition does not re occur. Shanika Winters MRCVS (online vet) If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

Hack, hack, hack – Hairballs! – Invaluable advice for cat owners

There’s nothing quite like being woken up at 2am to the oh-so-unpleasant sound of your cat producing a large hairball at the foot of your bed.  Or perhaps quite so unsettling as stepping in it the following morning.  Hairballs, also known by the fancy and somewhat horrifying name of ‘trichobezoar’, are something that most cat owners will have to deal with at some point.  But how do they form and how can we help prevent them?

What is a hairball anyway? A hairball is pretty much what it says on the tin – a ball of hair.  Except it isn’t often in the shape of a ball, more cigar-shaped due to its passage through the oesophagus on the way out.  They’re usually quite small, a few cm in length, but can be quite impressive at times.  Cats have tiny barbs on their tongue that are perfect for picking up dead hairs in the coat.  When the cat grooms itself, it swallows a significant amount of hair which usually passes without issue in the stools but sometimes accumulates in the stomach instead.  Hairballs are, as one might expect, more common in long-haired cats and older, more experienced groomers who have more time to spend cleaning themselves each day.  They also tend to occur seasonally, at times of increased shedding.  Sounds like a pretty normal process, and in fact, it’s not uncommon for most cats to have a hairball once or twice a year (a spring clear-out of the stomach if you will...).  But are they really ‘normal’? Are hairballs a cause for concern? If they happen infrequently and the cat seems to pass them without issue, then there isn’t much to worry about.  However, there are some medical conditions which can cause more frequent furball production:
  • Pain or stress can cause cats to overgroom, leading to increased hair ingestion
  • Flea infestation can lead to increased grooming as the cat tries to get rid of the little critters and the itch they leave behind
  • Allergic skin disease also causes itchy skin that cats are more likely to lick excessively
  • Gastrointestinal disease can alter the speed at which material moves through the intestinal tract, resulting in less hair making it out in the stool and more getting trapped in the stomach.
But even with the above conditions, the increased hairball production can usually be managed and treated accordingly.  Of much greater concern are the hairballs that DON’T get coughed up and instead stay in the stomach, getting larger and larger until they’re too large to come back out.  In this case, it will either stay in the stomach until it is so big that it causes significant other symptoms, or try to pass into the intestines and cause a life-threatening obstruction.  The only treatment is surgery to remove the blockage, and reports of hairballs the size of a grapefruit are not unheard of! Is there anything we can do to prevent them? Cats will always swallow their own fur, but there are some things you can do to minimise the impact:
  • Groom your cat regularly.  By brushing them you remove a lot of the dead hair that they would otherwise be ingesting.
  • Long-haired cats with significant hairball problems can have their coat clipped a few times a year to minimise the fur load.
  • Feed small meals frequently, instead of one or two large meals a day, to help move things through the intestines more quickly
  • You could consider changing the diet, as any diet change can affect gastrointestinal function.  There are special hairball diets out there but in most cases there is little scientific evidence to say that they work.  Speak with your vet before changing your cat’s diet.
  • Your vet may prescribe various medications, which can include oils such as liquid paraffin or other hairball remedies which can help lubricate the hairballs, enabling them to pass through the intestines more easily.
One final word of caution – sometimes people mistake a coughing cat for one that is trying to bring up a hairball as the noise is very similar.  If your cat ‘hacks’ like it’s about to produce a hairball but nothing ever appears, speak with your vet as coughing in a cat can actually be a sign of a serious illness such as asthma or occasionally heart disease.  And like any other medical problem, if your cat does get frequent hairballs, don’t wait for it to get worse, ask your vet for advice and get it sorted before it becomes an even bigger problem. Amy Bergs DVM MRCVS  - Visit The Cat Doctor website by clicking HERE If you are worried about any aspect of your cat's health, please book an appointment with your vet or use our symptom guide.
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Ask a vet online-‘How often should an 8 week old kitten be using the litter tray’

Question from Janine Anne-Ruby Law: How often should an 8 week old kitten be using the litter tray, I got my kitten on Saturday afternoon and she has only pooped twice is this normal? She seems to have settled in really well but I am a bit concerned about this help please? Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Janine and thank you for your question regarding your kitten and toilet training.  From what you are describing how well your kitten is settling into her new home and the fact that she is using her litter tray you probably have very little to worry about. Cats and kittens will pass faeces (poo) when they receive a signal from their bowel (large intestines) that faeces are present and ready to be passed. The exact frequency with which faeces are passed will depend on each individual, their diet, and if they are stressed or have any underlying problems such as bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. It is normal for kittens to pass faeces as often as they are fed a meal, so at eight weeks old your kitten is probably being fed 3-4 times a day and could, therefore, be expected to pass faeces up to four time a day, however as your kittens digestive system becomes more efficient and dealing with food and waste products this may well decrease down to once or twice a day.  An adult cat would usually pass faeces once or twice a day. More important than how many times a day your kitten is passing faeces is whether the faeces look normal, are passed easily and without any pain or distress.

What might cause my kitten problem passing faeces?

If your pet has a change of diet her digestive system might take some time to adjust to this change, the result may be an increase or decrease in the number of times they pass faeces and changes to the consistency( harder or softer). If your kitten is not drinking enough water or getting enough moisture from its diet then the faeces may become dry and more difficult to pass, leading to less frequent passing of faeces, straining and discomfort passing faeces and possibly the passing of some blood with the faeces. Infection of bacterial and viral causes can lead to soft faeces with or without blood/mucous being passed more often than normal. Parasites such as roundworms are a common finding in the digestive tract of kittens; this can cause constipation, diarrhoea with or without vomiting.  Most kittens are wormed( treated for worms) before you collect them and further worm treatment will be advised by your vet either in the form of paste, liquid, granules, tablets or spot-on treatments. Lack of an opening at the anus is a very rare condition which can prevent a kitten from being able to pass faeces or a lack of the development of part of the intestine which means the faeces cannot get to the anus.  This is usually detected in very young kittens prior to weaning and can sometimes be treated surgically by your vet. Blockages of the digestive system such as a foreign body, hairballs and even tubes of gut stuck into it (intussusception) can all lead to abnormalities in faeces production. In conclusion, it sounds as though you have a healthy kitten that is using her litter tray well and regularly, so long as this continues then you should not need to worry.  I hope that what I have discussed in my answer gives you an idea of how many different factors can affect how often your kitten will pass faeces.  The most important thing is to look at how your kitten is in themselves if they appear bright, are eating, drinking, and toileting normally then do not worry. If there are any changes which worry you, then ask your vet for advice. Shanika Winters MRCVS Online vet