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Advice on pet health: A sneezing cat, dog with a corn, degu losing fur & more

Please note that advice in this section is for general guidance, and if your pet is very unwell you should contact your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible as this advice does not replace the need for a clinical examination of your pet.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier is aggressive towards other dogs

A reader asks if her dog - a Staffy like this one - will ever stop being agressive to other dogs

Q: How can I stop my six-year-old male Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog going for other dogs when out walking? This has always been a problem. We went to an animal behaviourist but they said all they could do is make him sit and stay and that he would never get out of it.

Angela Hutchinson, Wallsend

A: There are a number of causes for inter-dog aggression. This may be due to lack of appropriate socialisation as a puppy or a past experience such as a traumatic experience with another dog.

Fear, wanting to protect territory, social status and painful medical conditions are also common causes of inter-dog aggression.

The problem is most common between entire male dogs. Early castration before the hormones have had permanent effects on a dogs behaviour can help prevent this aggression, usually between six months and three years of age. As your dog is more mature, castration at this stage may help with training, but is unlikely to cure the problem.

Generally there is no real cure for inter-dog aggression. Treatment is aimed at controlling the problem and avoiding situations where the aggressive behaviour is most likely to occur. If your dog can be trained to sit and stay when other dogs are nearby when out walking, this should minimise the risk of any harm being done.

Ideally underlying medical problems should be excluded by your veterinary surgeon, who is best placed to refer you on to an accredited dog behaviourist if necessary. This behaviourist may be able to suggest other behaviour modification techniques. Be aware that there are many unaccredited animal behaviourists.

The treatment recommendation will need to be implemented over the entire life of the dog. Failure to do so will result in the severity of the incidents increasing again or becoming more severe.

15-year-old cat keeps sneezing

Q: My 15-year-old male cat, Felix, sneezes every day. I’ve taken him to the vets but they can’t tell me why he does it. Can you suggest why my cat sneezes so much? He eats well and is otherwise healthy but I am worried that he might be suffering.

Doreen Tinkler, Heaton

Vet Rory Thomson, from St. Clair Veterinary Care, in Blyth, with Oscar the Yorkshire Terrier.

A: Sneezing is a reflex triggered by an irritation to the nasal passages. If Felix is sneezing frequently, he has some form of irritation to his nasal passages.

This irritation may be something simple and easy to control, such as an aerosol spray or plug-in diffuser being used in the household.Simply removing your cat from the room containing the irritant may be curative. It may be a foreign body up the nose such as a small piece of grass; again removal may be curative.

There are also flu viruses that can cause nasal irritation and chronic sneezing. Swabs can be taken to look for these. Given the age of Felix, another space-occupying lesion such as a tumour would be a potential concern.

Exploring the nasal passages of a cat to get a diagnosis can be quite tricky in general practice as cats’ noses are so small. Referral for advanced imaging techniques such as CT scanning or rhinoscopy may be necessary to work out what the problem is.

Some cats have upper airway disease, resulting in inflammation of the nasal passages, which will also cause irritation and sneezing. A biopsy may be required to determine the exact cause.

Once a cause for the sneeze has been established, the prognosis and any treatment or management protocols can be discussed. It will be much easier to determine if Felix might be suffering and what can be done to prevent this if the possible causes are investigated with your vet.

Nine-year-old whippet has a corn on her foot

Whippets are prone to corns on their feet

Q: My nine-year-old female whippet has a corn on the third pad of her right foot and it is very painful for her. She’s had this for seven years and I would be grateful for any advice you may have to manage this horrible infliction.

I file it down and put Bazuka on it to keep it at bay but sometimes she limps and it hurts me to think she’s in pain. She finds it very painful to walk on hard ground and prefers grass.

Donna Mains, Blaydon

A: Corns on a whippet’s feet are not uncommon, yet poorly understood. There are three theories as to the cause:

a) A type of pressure sore

b) A foreign body reaction within the paw

c) A papilloma virus (verruca)

I am unaware of any evidence that papilloma viruses have been found in corn lesions when they have been looked for.

Bazuka is not licensed for use in dogs. However, if a papilloma virus were to be the cause, Bazuka would be a logical treatment. As the problem has persisted, there is no evidence of papilloma virus involvement and Bazuka is not licensed for use in dogs, I would advise against continuing with this treatment unless you have been recommended to do so by a veterinary surgeon.

If the cause is a foreign body within the paw, surgical excision may be curative. This would also be the case if it were a papilloma virus,
so the next step in my mind would be to attempt surgical excision.

Use of padded dog boots and keeping walks to soft ground may help prevent the recurrence post operatively.

Jack Russell with an itchy eye

Q: My seven-year-old Jack Russell is constantly scratching at his eyes and making them bleed. He’s been on Piriton from the vets and been wearing a cone since June. He’s still no better, as soon as we take the cone off he’s straight back to his eyes to the point he can’t even open them because he has them so sore! I’d love to get answers for him as he seems so down all the time.

Melissa Iley, Blyth

A: It is difficult to determine what the cause of the eye discomfort is without seeing the dog, so I would recommend taking him back to the vets to reassess. The following things are what I would be looking for:

1. Eyelid abnormalities – Some dogs have extra hairs growing into the eyes or a rolling of an eyelid into the eye, which causes irritation.

2. Foreign bodies – Something could be in the eye, possibly hiding under the third eyelid and could be a source of chronic irritation.

3. Tear function – some dogs get a decrease in tear function as they get older and as the eyes dry up they become more irritated.

4. Ulceration – a dye can be used to see if there are any scratches on the surface of the eye causing the irritation.

5. Lens luxation – Jack Russell dogs are very prone to their lens moving within the eye, and this can cause a form of glaucoma, which is very painful.

6. Parasites – There are sometimes mites around the eyes causing irritation and secondary infections.

7. Allergies – The absence of any of the above would increase my suspicion to an underlying allergy.

Once a cause has been determined, further investigations and treatments can be directed to make the eyes more comfortable and enable the cone to be removed.

Degu losing his fur

The degu is a Chilean rodent

Q: Why is my four-year-old male degu losing its fur?

Paul Leonard, Northumberland

A: Further information about the degu will be needed to determine this along with an examination of your degu by a veterinary surgeon to be able to determine the exact cause of fur loss. Skin problems represent about a third of all visits to the vets for pet degus so it is a common problem.

Usually the problem is either behavioural or due to parasites. Fungal skin disease has also been described. One of the mites they can get can also cause skin problems in humans. If you notice yourself getting a skin problem too, it may be worth a trip to both your vet and your GP. Your vet can carry out a skin scrape and look under the microscope for evidence of mites.

A hair pluck can also be cultured for fungal disease. Absence of an infectious cause would make a behavioural cause very likely (although there are rarer possibilities).

Degus kept alone or without optimal foraging opportunity can develop behavioural problems including self mutilation where they will chew their fur out (known as barbering). This is usually on their paws and inside of their legs but can affect other areas. Dominant behaviour from cage mates can also include chewing at their mate’s fur.

As most causes of hair loss in degus relate to the conditions in which they are kept, following diagnosis and treatment by a veterinary surgeon, future prevention would include:

  • Keeping degus in pairs.
  • Regular human companionship.
  • Tunnels and hiding places within the cages.
  • Loud noises and inappropriate lighting levels should be avoided.
  • A low-energy, high fibre diet should be provided comprising high-quality grass hay, fruits and tree branches with leaves, grass and pelleted foods for degus/chinchillas.

source By: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk

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