Defor works as a drug sniffer dog for the Irish Customs service

Defor works as a drug sniffer dog for the Irish Customs service

Sniffer dogs have been used by the Irish Customs service since 1984. There are now about twenty dogs around the country, at ports and other centres. The dogs are an important part of the battle against illegal imports of drugs, explosives, tobacco and cash. Geraldine joined the Customs Service ten years ago as an Enforcement Officer. She found herself working alongside a sniffer dog team: she had grown up with dogs, and she was fascinated to see the dog in action. When there was an internal competition for a new dog handler position, she applied and was successful. She was issued with her first dog, Alfie, after two months training: he was a fully trained sniffer dog, so the two of them became an instant working team. Alfie was a drugs detector dog  who had been trained to sniff out Class A drugs — herbal and resin cannabis, heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. He was involved in many big seizures throughout his working career, with his final one of €1.2 million worth of Herbal Cannabis only a  few weeks prior to his retirement. He was nine years old when he retired: he still had a good sniffing nose but he was beginning to slow down. He now lives as a pet at home. Geraldine’s new dog, Defor, an 18 month old English Springer Spaniel arrived at the beginning of October. They had two weeks training together, and then they were ready to go. Defor had already been trained by a private dog training company in the UK. He a “dual scent” dog: as well as sniffing out drugs, Defor can pick out cash...
Maisie the Golden Retriever puppy broke her tooth

Maisie the Golden Retriever puppy broke her tooth

Maisie is the latest addition to the household, and she’s become an enthusiastic playmate of Ted, the two year old Corgi. The two animals burn up energy by wrestling over toys together, often playing tug of war with a favourite object. The dogs growl noisily as they do this, but it’s all good-natured fun, and they never have a serious fight. One Sunday morning, the dogs spent time playing on the beach. Shortly after they returned home, Chris noticed that Maisie had developed a swelling over the front right side of her muzzle. He thought that it was some type of sting: perhaps she had played with a jelly fish or something odd like that? Over a couple of hours, the swelling grew bigger, and Maisie started to whine. The area was painful to touch, and it was getting worse rather than better. The family decided to take Maisie to the emergency vet. After a careful examination, the vet made the diagnosis. Maisie had fractured her right upper canine tooth: the long pointy one. This had probably happened during a tug of war with Ted: Maisie still had her “baby” teeth, which aren’t as strong as Ted’s permanent teeth. She was given injections of pain relief and antibiotics, and an appointment was made to see me the following day for more detailed dental care. There is no such thing as a “dentist” for pets: all vets are trained in basic dentistry. While it is possible to have your pet referred to a vet who specialises in complicated dental procedures (such as root canal fillings), your local vet is always the first...
Trixie the terrier started to collapse and have a fit

Trixie the terrier started to collapse and have a fit

Orla was just six years old when Trixie arrived into the family household: she can barely remember life before Trixie. Up until recently, Trixie has been in good health, enjoying the typical busy lifestyle of a town dog, with regular walks in local parks and the surrounding countryside. The first sign of a health issue was around three months ago, when Orla noticed that Trixie was behaving differently: she started to pace up and down in the garden, walking restlessly, and not sitting or lying down at all. She began to pick at her food, rather than wolfing it down in her usual ravenous style. The final indication that she was suffering from a serious problem happened more recently. Trixie normally runs ahead of Orla when going upstairs, sitting at the end of the bed while they watch television together. Last week, Trixie bounded up the stairs as usual, but when she reached the top landing, she fell over, rolling around on her back. At first Orla thought that she was just playing, but then she started to howl, and she refused to stop when Orla called her name. That was when Orla realised that Trixie was having some sort of seizure. She stayed with Trixie, and after a few minutes, the little dog returned to normal. Orla brought her up to see me the following day. When I examined Trixie, she seemed like a healthy, active, older dog. She doesn’t like visiting the vet, and her heart was racing, but otherwise there was little abnormal to find. I ran a blood panel which showed that her internal metabolism was...
Squirt the cat had a broken jaw

Squirt the cat had a broken jaw

Squirt featured on the Nine O’Clock News when he was just a kitten after he had been saved from drowning. A man had fished out a bag containing three kittens from the Dodder Canal. Two of them were dead, but the man carried out life-saving emergency treatment on the remaining one. The kitten was named Squirt because when his chest was massaged during the rescue, water squirted out of his mouth. Valerie was the lucky one from over a hundred people who offered him a home. She volunteers to raise funds for Cats Aid, the busy cat charity based in Dublin. For the past four years, Squirt has lived the contented life of a suburban Irish cat. When Valerie saw Squirt last Sunday afternoon, she knew at once that there was something wrong . He was crouching outside her house, under a car, and when she called him, he refused to come up to her as he would normally do. When she went closer to have a good look, she noticed that his lower jaw looked wrong . He was holding it oddly, and it seemed swollen. Squirt was not his normal, friendly self: he was nervous and seemed disorientated. Valerie didn’t know what was wrong  – she thought perhaps he had been poisoned. She took him in to the Pet Emergency Hospital at once. The emergency vet made the diagnosis: Squirt had a fractured lower jaw.  The left side of his lower jaw had separated from the right side, in the midline.  It was as if a blade had been placed vertically on his chin, and the bones...
Penny the Shetland Sheepdog had foul smelling breath

Penny the Shetland Sheepdog had foul smelling breath

Many people might not notice if their pet’s breath gets a bit stinky, but Penny has a particular behaviour that meant that Marie couldn’t avoid noticing when Penny developed halitosis. Penny weighs 20kg – around three stone – but she behaves as if she is a teacup-sized puppy. She’s far too big to be a lap dog, but this doesn’t stop her trying. When Marie is sitting in an armchair reading the newspaper, Penny clambers up around the side, pushing her way into Marie’s lap. She then sits there, squashed into the small space behind the newspaper, pushing her nose right beside Marie’s face, as if she is also trying to read about what’s going on in the world. It was when Penny was sitting beside her like this that Marie received a full-on blast in the face with Penny’s dog-breath. The smell was so bad that at first Marie thought that Penny must have rolled in something rotten, but after checking her, it was clear that the smell was coming from her mouth. She knew at once that there was something wrong with Penny’s dental health: no normal dog should have breath that smelt so unpleasant. Marie brought her up to see me for a dental check up. When I examined Penny’s mouth, I found the typical dental problems that are often seen in older dogs. She had a build-up of tartar on her teeth, with a dark brown accumulation of caked-on material around her tooth roots. This was pressing on her gums, causing inflammation and infection. She also had infected tooth roots, and some of her teeth were...