Whiskey developed a swelling under his tail

Whiskey developed a swelling under his tail

Whiskey may just be the age of a human teenager at nearly 18 years of age, but in dog years, he’s ancient: the old formula of one-human-year-to-seven-dog-years would make him almost 126 in dog years. A more accurate formula recently developed by scientists takes factors into account such as size of dog, type of breed etc. This makes him 88 “dog years” old, which is more realistic: Whiskey is elderly, but he’s still very active. Two months ago, Whiskey developed a large soft lump under his tail and his owners brought him in to see me to have it checked out. It’s impossible to tell the difference between “harmless” and “serious” lumps by just looking at them: a sample needs to be collected and analysed. I pushed a needle into Whiskey’s lump, and watery fluid gushed out. It was a pale yellowish colour, and at first I thought it might be urine. Sometimes the bladder can get flipped back on itself, herniating through the abdominal muscles and appearing as a swelling under the tail. There was a simple way of determining whether or not the swelling was Whiskey’s bladder: I took a sample of the fluid from it, and I compared it with a sample of urine which I collected from him via a catheter. The two types of fluid looked similar, but when I carried out laboratory measurements on the samples, they were quite different. His urine was much more concentrated than the fluid, and the protein levels in the fluid were much higher than the urine. Once I had ruled out the possibility of the lump being Whiskey’s...
Socks the rabbit had stopped eating

Socks the rabbit had stopped eating

Donal bought his first rabbit last summer: a female called June. He heard that rabbits are social animals which are meant to be kept in pairs or small groups, so in the autumn, he bought a male rabbit, named Nova. Each rabbit has a separate hutch of their own, but he lets them out to free-range in the garden together. The two rabbits didn’t get on well at first: Nova seemed nervous about June. But as time passed, nature followed a predictable course, and shortly after the New Year, June had her first litter of baby rabbits. Three  kittens (that’s what baby rabbits are called) were born. It’s common for up to a half of a litter to die, so Donal was delighted when all three of the new arrivals survived, suckling their mother and growing rapidly. Donal houses the three young rabbits with their mother, in her hutch. He has not been feeding them separately: young rabbits usually start to eat small amounts of their mother’s food, gradually transitioning from an all-milk diet to the normal adult diet of a rabbit. Donal was pleased to see them all tucking in to the muesli-type diet that he feeds to his adult rabbits. When one of the kits, Socks, became dull and stopped eating enthusiastically, he brought her to see me. She was still very small, weighing less than 200 grams, and it does not take long for a little animal like this to become dangerously ill from dehydration and lack of nutrition. I could not find anything serious wrong with her, so I gave her a general treatment, with...
Ruby brings live mice into the house

Ruby brings live mice into the house

If anyone is unlucky enough to get a mouse or rat infestation in their home, one of the obvious suggestions to control the pests is to “get a cat”. Unfortunately for Amanda, the reverse situation has taken place. She didn’t have a problem with mice, but she did have a cat. And thanks to the cat, 3 year old Ruby, Amanda’s home developed a problem with residential mice. Ruby has a strong hunting instinct. Amanda can see this from the way that she plays with toys. If Amanda dangles a string with a feather on the end in front of Ruby, she’ll stalk it, crouching along the ground as she moves slowly towards it. Then she’ll pounce, grabbing the feather in her mouth. Despite her love of the feathery toy, she’s shown no interest in hunting birds, but she has learned to enjoy hunting mice. She waits patiently outside their nests, pouncing on them as soon as they appear. She carries the live mice around by the scruff of the neck, occasionally dropping them to play with them, batting them backwards and forwards with her front paws, then picking them up again in her mouth. She also enjoys bringing them back into the house through the cat flap, so that she can play with them some more in the company of her owners. Amanda is horrified when this happens, and she does her best to take the mice off Ruby, releasing them outside while locking Ruby up until they’ve made their escape. I’m often asked why cats bring their prey back into the house: it’s something to do with...
Bailey chews the daily post to shreds

Bailey chews the daily post to shreds

Bailey is a lively, bouncy animal, and even though Jim takes him for three good walks every day, he’s always bursting with energy. He’s a well-behaved dog in almost every way: he’s good-natured, fully house trained, he never barks in an annoying way, and he’s well trained when out on walks. There’s just one problem, and it’s a difficult one to solve: he loves chewing. Jim gives him plenty of toys and treats, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to chew other objects. And his special passion is something that Jim really doesn’t want him to chew: the daily post. Bailey has learned the precise morning routine: he hears the postman approaching from several doors away, and he starts to whimper. As the postman gets closer, he gets more excited, starting to howl in an eerie wolf-like way. He then bounds down the stairs at full tilt, timing his approach perfectly, leaping at the door and grabbing the post delivery at the exact moment as the postman pushes it through the door. He always grabs just the post – he has never caught the postman’s hand.  He then rushes off to a quiet spot in the house so that he can settle down and chew the post to shreds. When Bailey first started to do this, Jim had a real problem. He’d come down in the morning to find the post completely destroyed. Bank statements, bills and personal letters were as comprehensively torn apart as if they’d been through a shredding machine. Sturdier objects such as plastic bank cards were distorted with tooth marks so that they were...
Tess the Border Collie became lame in her back leg

Tess the Border Collie became lame in her back leg

Ilona was impressed by a demonstration of working sheepdogs on a farm in County Kerry while on holiday. She wanted an energetic, active dog, and a working collie seemed to be the answer. She asked the farm to let her know when a puppy became available, and six months later, the call came in. She collected Tess when she was an eight week old pup. Ilona is an enthusiastic athlete, going on regular training runs, and she’s now often accompanied by Tess, who has matured into a confident adult Collie. She attaches her to a long, stretchy, bungee-type leash, and the two of them go running for up to ten kilometres. Tess also loves exercise off the leash: Ilona takes her out into local fields, where she enjoys chasing and retrieving balls and other toys. Two weeks ago, when Tess woke up in the morning, she carried her back right leg for a few minutes, refusing to touch it to the ground. This lameness gradually improved as Tess walked around, and within half an hour, she seemed to walk normally again. Ilona checked her foot and leg, but couldn’t see any obvious cut or injury. She decided to rest Tess, in case it was a sprained joint that needed time to heal. When she was no better a week later, she brought her to me for a check up. Even though she was not carrying her leg when I examined her, she moved away in pain when I tweaked her knee: it was obvious that it was sore. Lameness in dogs is common, and Ilona had done the right...
Kirby squealed in pain when passing urine

Kirby squealed in pain when passing urine

Kirby’s problem started two months ago. He’s normally an active, playful guinea pig; when he became dull and quiet, Jay knew that there must be something wrong. He watched him carefully, and noticed that Kirby was in pain when passed urine: he squealed shrilly. When Jay brought him in to see me, Kirby seemed bright and active, scurrying around normally. An examination of a guinea pig is similar to a dog or a cat: I checked his ears, eyes and mouth, listened to his chest with a stethoscope, and took his temperature. Everything seemed normal until I palpated his abdomen, gently squeezing his tummy to feel for any abnormality. He was relaxed at first, but when I moved my fingers to press over the area of his bladder, Kirby squealed loudly: there was definitely a focus of pain there. The principles of most diseases are the same across all species. In guinea pigs, just as in humans, pain on urination can be caused by a number of conditions, including kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Kirby passed urine while I was examining him, which was useful: I was able to have it checked in our clinic laboratory. His urine was cloudy to look at, and at first I thought that it might contain crystals and tiny stones. However, when I examined the urine under the microscope, there was no sign of these. Instead, I found large quantities of white blood cells: Kirby was suffering from a serious urinary tract infection. I took xray pictures of his abdomen, and these confirmed that there was no sign of kidney or bladder...