ANAL GLANDS

Dogs and cats have these, though dogs have more problems. Often called "scent glands" they are two in number and situated just under the skin, below the anus, at 4 and 8 o'clock, when looking from the rear! They produce a very smelly secretion all the time and they are emptied, through short narrow ducts by pressure, when a motion is passed. Pets have no voluntary control over these. If a duct becomes blocked, then, because the secretion is produced constantly, they fill up, becoming tight and the dog (usually)  feels irritation, sore and itchy. They will rub their rear on the ground, lick intensely or suddenly jump and look round at their rear. These are usually simple blockages, often caused because the duct is too narrow and all that is required is that they are emptied manually. With pressure, the secretion squirts out, as the ducts are just at the edge of the skin. This is normally done by us, though a few clients can manage to do this themselves. If left, rubbing and licking causes extreme skin inflammation and a raw perineum, leading to infection in the glands and occasionally abscess formation, with the abscess bursting out through the skin, just below and to one side of the anus. A boil on the bum is rather sore!

Some are partly blocked and these will fill up but leak out when they should not, with the owner noticing an unpleasant smell in the house (often like rotten fish).

Those that become infected, need antibiotic cream inserted into the glands, often under sedation. This may need done 2 or 3 times with 10 days in between to cure fully. 

Animals like deer use the scent glands to mark territory and do this by squirting some secretion on trees in their area or territory. Skunks have developed them as a defence and can spray them at will, or at you!

ARTHRITIS

This means "inflamation of a joint". This results in extra, rough bone being laid down around the edges of the joint, as well as thinning and sometimes ulceration of the smooth cartilage bearing surface. All this causes pain or discomfort so a pet will try to keep some weight off that leg, so it is shown by a lameness. Arthritis of the back can also show as a lameness but more commonly the pet has back pain which causes stiffness, slow to rise, unwilling to run or go up stairs and jump into the car. Cats can be quite subtle at showing pain and often the "old" cat which you presume is just "getting on" is actually sore due to arthritis and its life can be greatly improved by treating this.

Arthritis is treated using anti-inflammatory drugs, which can make a huge difference to pain and mobility. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed by weight loss, medication and shorter, more frequent walks as well as complimentary medicine like acupuncture.

A pet with arthritis may be X-rayed to see the extent of the problem. Elbows are commonly affected as well as hocks and to a lesser degree, the knees, or stifles. Hips will develop arthritis if hip dysplasia has been present, indeed many elbow cases of arthritis are secondary to elbow dysplasia, where the anatomy of the joint is poor and leads to abnormal wear causing arthritic changes in the joints. Spondyolosis is a type of arthritis - see the article under "Interesting Cases"

BACK PAIN

We see this mostly in dogs but some cats will injure their back too. Back pain gives seemingly bizarre symptoms but understandable when explained. Most cases are due to injury to soft tissue, not noticed at the time but after a period if rest and swelling builds up due to inflammation, the pet will get a "spike" of pain when he tries to move. This upsets him and he may not rise or move away from us and lie on his own in an unusual place. He seems dull, looks dull and will walk if encouraged, slowly and deliberately, often refusing to go up steps and jump up. He will usually eat, but some are so worried by the intermiitent twinges, that they are put off their food. Occasional yelps when touched are common. Not due to the touch but due to the dog moving in reponse to the touch, causing pain by doing so. A very acute spine is sore with any movement and a dog (especially) will stand with an arched back and refuse to move. If a disc ruptures, a dog may be paraplegic, off the hind legs or very weak at the rear, walking with a wobble and needs more urgent attention.

DIARRHOEA and VOMITTING (D and V)

Tummy upsets are common in dogs and will result in sicknes or diarrhoea or both. Some are caused by eating something horrible (!) which causes mild food poisoning, with D and V for 24 hours then OK. Others will become infected and just when you think the signs are stopping, they get worse again. Diarrhoea with sickness is much more serious than just diarrhoea, as the patient will dehydrate quickly and often needs fluids by intraveinous infusion (drip). Some diarrhoea has a lot of mucous and may develop to seeing blood in the brown mucous. This is usually a colitis and the dog will strain due to the inflammation present, but there is nothing more to pass. All these are treated using anti-inflammatories, antibiotics (not always) and often zantac to reduce nauseousness. Other anti-emetics are sometimes used too. If your dog is like this STOP normal food and feed either scrambled eggs, fish or chicken :: with boiled pasta or rice. Scrambled eggs with cooked macaroni is an ideal meal in this situation, especially for diarrhoea. Sickness can have many causes, even generalised disease and objects stuck in the bowel and if it is persistent and frequent, the pet needs seen at Parkside. Some digestive problems cause diarrhoea and will be associated with weight loss. Pups can have persistent diarrhoea and we may need to send off samples. Call us if in doubt. It costs nothing.

EARS

Ear infections are common in dogs, less so in cats, though cats are more prone to ear-mite infections. A sore ear will cause your pet to scratch the affected ear, often hold the head to the sore side. You will often notice a unpleasant smell from the ear, which, if you look inside, will be inflamed (red) and usually with a dirty looking waxy discharge. This needs to be treated with lotions especially made to treat ear infections, which we can provide after seeing your pet. Treatment usually takes at least 2 weeks to ensure the infection has completely gone. See a video of how to medicate a dog's ear HERE, ignoring the advertising!

GINGIVITIS

This means inflammation of the gums. This is caused by a bacterial infection and you will notice that your pet has halitosis (bad breath). A course of antibiotics will cure this, but it is usually associated with tartar build-up and will simply recur unless we perform a dental procedure by scaling the teeth to remove this tartar. Dogs and cats need an anaesthetic to carry this out and we use ultrasonic scalers to ensure a spotless result. We may prescribe antibiotics prior to a dental procedure as well as afterwards. Any loose teeth are extracted. Because pet dogs and cats do not need to chew food, they do not need any teeth to survive, as long as the food is small enough to swallow, so don't worry if some teeth have to be extracted.

ITCH

An itchy dog or cat will try to relieve an itch by licking or scratching, which causes self-mutilation, showing as bald areas and inflamation or even weepy sores. There are many causes. Parasites, especially fleas are common. These are easily prevented or cured. Allergies, especially in the summer months are also common, necessitating pets to be on treatment at that time of year. Some allergies are best treated with desensitising vaccines, especially if the itch is constant and not seasonal and this is commonly done, especially with dogs. Dogs with infected ears will also scratch but the ear needs treated as it is the cause. A few pets have a condition called Atopy, where the dog (usually) produces inflammation and itch, but there is no external cause. These dogs may be on long-term steroids, not ideal due to side-effects, or newer drugs which gain control without the side effects, though these are expensive.

LAMENESS

Due to their exuberant behaviour dogs commonly injure a muscle or ligament and will limp - often next day after inflammation builds up. If severe we often treat these with NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-unflammatory drugs) after we find out what is the problem. Dogs can rupture the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, becoming 100% lame very suddenly and this needs an operation to fix. Hereditary problems like hip and elbow displasia can cause lameness in the young, but more commonly arthritis develops and the main problems are when they are older. Back pain in the shoulder area may cause a foreleg lameness while an injury at the bottom of the spine (lumbo-sacral area) may cause referred pain in a hind leg, which is shown by lameness in this leg, though more commonly this causes acute back pain and the dog is scared to move or may yelp when touched or lifted. Fractures are more dramatic, though a cracked toe may look like ligament damage, but does not respond to treatment and often ends up being X-rayed to see what's going on. Remember, X-rays only show up bony damage and not damage to muscles or ligaments. Some lamenesses need quite a lot of investigation and X-rays are common as an aid to diagnosis. Occasionally we need to look into a joint and we use a video-arthroscope for this which allows us to see deatils through a small punture wound and make repairs with special tools. This is common in younger growing dogs. Cat lamenesses are frequently caused by infected bite wounds from other cats on the paws or below the elbow commonly. These may develop to an abscess and you become aware of it when this bursts and the cat grooms the area excessively.

LUMPS and BUMPS

As pets grow older, it is common for then to develop a lump of some kind. Younger dogs may develop a small fleshy nodule (anywhere) on the surface of the skin which needs removal. These are most often benign lumps called hystiocytomas, which just appear and usually in youngsters. Older dogs commonly develop lypomas, or fatty lumps, felt under a normal skin, often on the side of the chest or breast bone. These also are benign (= do not spread) and usually are left. The rule is, if it keeps growing we remove them and the only way to give an accurated name is to send the tissue off for histopatholgy, which identifies the growth and gives us a prognosis. Dogs and cats may develop lumps in the mammary tissue down the chest and abdomen. These are much more common in un-spayed dogs and cats and because most pets are spayed nowadays, we see these much less frequently than we used to. These are usually removed and sent off for a diagnosis. Mammary carcinomas have the poential to spread elsewhere (metastasize) and we would recommend removal. Lumps within the skin (rather than below the skin) are more likley to be a type that may recur or spread and we always take away a wide margin with these to help avoid this happening. In general, allow us to see your pet to asess the growth and we will advise accordingly. Most really are not a worry but to help the ones that could be, don't delay!

MANGE

This is cause by a tiny mites which lives in or on the skin, depending on the type. Scabies is "Sarcoptic Mange" - we have our one, dogs have their one etc though it is thought there could be some cross over. It causes an itch with a rash and rapidly causes hair-loss due to scratching, with skin thickening and even scabbing of the skin. Another is Demodectic mange. This lives much deeper, at the bottom of hair follicles and is seen in young animals and those whose immunity is lowered by disease or even drugs. Skin scrapings are taken to diagnose these conditions when we look for the mites under a microscope. Many need washes, topical liquids or both. These work from the outside and through the blood stream. Demodectic mange is very difficult to clear and often relapses. Cats can also develop mange but it is rare, though often very extensive if, for example it is found progressing in a stray cat.

Ringworm is not mange and it is not a worm either. It is a fungal infection of the skin and causes hairloss with a dry scaley thickened skin in places. This is cured by washes or oral preparations and it is quite infectious to people too. It gets the "ring" in its name from the circular appearance it produces in man. This is diagnosed by sending off hair samples/scrapings to our lab, where they grow the fungal infection from the samples.

NAILS/CLAWS

Most dogs are active and heavy enough to wear down their nails as they grow and will never need their nails cut. We often trim young pups' nails as the fine points scratch easily and can become caught in clothing. Older dogs may need their claws cut as they overgrow due to the dog being less active. Cats claws can overgorw when they are old and it is important to ensure that they do not curve round and grow into the pad of the toe - not nice! Cats do not walk on their claws and keep them in great shape because they are weapons. A cat's claws will grow back to being extremely sharp within a month or so of being cut. This is not to say they need trimmed, but it is easily done (usually!) if, for example, they are destructive in the house, damaging furniture and carpets. It is illegal to de-claw cats in UK while in the USA it is still sometimes done at neutering.

SMELLS

My dog smells! A common complaint with many causes, mostly treatable.
Dogs have lip folds on the lower lip, at the side, especially floppy faces like spaniels. Infection in between the lip folds can cause a horrid smell enough to fill a room! These need washes and creams and occasionally antibiotics.
Ear infections often stink - have a look and a smell to check. The ear will be inflamed and usually dirty looking with discharge. These often need antibiotic therapy.
Skin allergies cause the production of excess sebum on the skin (greasy secretion) and along with bacteria on the skin will "ferment" to give the classic doggy pong - stale and musty. These need bathing to wash away the excess sebum and may need treatment for infection (pyoderma).
Mouth infections cause halitosis, which is only cured ater a dental and treatment of gingivitis. Commonest smell in cats is from a dirty mouth. (apart from litter trays!)
The most common nasty smell from cats is from a dirty mouth, apart from their litter trays!
Wind from the rear can be putrid in some dogs and is usually associated with something they have eaten previously. If it persists it may be worth gradually changing the food to another brand. On some extreme occasions, oral therapy is needed
Anal Glands which are over-full may leak when indoors (they should empty when they pass a motion). When they leak they produce a very strong rotten-fishy smell, which you cannot miss. These dogs need the blockage cleared.
Food - certain foods seem to make some dogs smell. Not breath or wind, they just seem to smell all over. It's not common, but if you rule out other things, try changing the food.