Junior is a 12 year old Japanese Spitz

Junior is a 12 year old Japanese Spitz

Junior’s an older dog now, at twelve years of age, but he’s still a quick-moving, nimble creature, trotting around the place rather than walking. His recent problem started in the winter months. All of a sudden, he started to carry his left back leg, hopping around on three legs. When he tried to go upstairs, he wasn’t able to manage the staircase, and Eric had to carry him. At first, Eric thought that he might be having tweaks from arthritis, a common problem of old dogs. The weather had been cold, and Eric wondered if this could be aggravating his joints. Junior was a bit better the next day, but he never quite returned to normal, continuing to carry his leg from time to time. When he had still not made a full recovery a month later, Eric brought him to see me. As a vet, the first thing to do with a lame dog is to identify the precise location of the problem. Lameness can be caused by pain, by damage to nerves, and by unstable joints. A careful physical examination is the best way of sorting out which of these is causing the lameness. I started at Junior’s toes, and worked up his body to his hip, twisting and tweaking each joint. Junior didn’t mind me doing this at all, so I knew that his lameness was not caused by pain. I then checked his reflexes, and they were all normal, confirming that it wasn’t caused by a neurological problem such as a “trapped nerve”. Finally, I tested the stability of his leg, by putting firm pressure...
Charlie the 4 year old Cocker Spaniel

Charlie the 4 year old Cocker Spaniel

Charlie has had a huge appetite since he was a puppy. Chris has always tried to be strict about feeding him nothing but a standard diet, but Charlie has a way of looking at him with big eyes, and it’s just so easy to give in. Charlie slowly began to gain excessive weight as a young adult, and the situation came to a head one Christmas. Charlie had a particularly greedy festive season, and when a visitor pointed out that his health would soon be at risk because of his obesity, Chris brought him to see me to discuss what could be done. The first thing that I did was to put Charlie on the scales. He weighed in at just over 27kg (around 60 lbs). A Cocker Spaniel is meant to weigh up to around 15kg (33 lbs), which meant that Charlie was heading for twice his optimal weight. To put this into human terms, he was like a ten stone person who had ballooned to almost twenty stone. I gave Charlie a thorough physical check-over, and he was in perfect health. There was no hint of any of the metabolic diseases (such as an underactive thyroid gland) that can contribute to obesity. The problem with Charlie was simple: he was eating too much food and not getting enough exercise. The answer to his problem was equally simple in theory: feed him less and exercise him more. Chris immediately started giving Charlie energetic walks twice daily, but the food aspect was more challenging. Regular reweighing is the most useful tool in weight loss programmes, and Charlie was given...
Bruce the 1 year old Pug developed an eye ulcer

Bruce the 1 year old Pug developed an eye ulcer

There’s something about Pugs that’s particularly adorable. Psychologists tell us that their circular faces, flattened noses and prominent eyes make them resemble human infants, which gives them a special appeal. They’re known for being charming little clowns. Bruce was playing in the back garden when the accident happened. He’s an energetic, excitable dog, and he was dashing back and forth, chasing a leafy branch held by a friend of the family. Suddenly, he yelped and stopped playing: he’d bashed himself on the face, and he’d hurt his left eye. At first, he seemed to get over the injury rapidly, starting to play again, and behaving normally in every way. It wasn’t till two days later that things deteriorated.  He started to rub his left eye with his paw, whining, yelping, and in obvious distress. He couldn’t open his eye properly; it was swollen, and a discharge trickled down from the corner, like a yellow tear drop. He was brought down to see me. He wasn’t an easy dog to examine, wriggling and grumbling as I tried to get a close look at the sore eye. The surface of his eye was cloudy and after I’d applied drops of a special dye, I could see what was wrong: he’d scratched the front of the eye and it had become infected. The surface of the eye has multiple microscopic layers, like the skins of an onion. If the surface of the eye (known as the “cornea”) is scraped or scratched, the delicate deeper layers are exposed, a problem known as a “corneal ulcer”. Aggressive bacteria can move into the injured area,...
Tips the 15 year old cat developed mega-oesophagus

Tips the 15 year old cat developed mega-oesophagus

Lisa had been away from home travelling overseas. When she returned, she noticed that Tips’ breathing seemed different. He was struggling to catch his breath, he made a hoarse noise when he breathed, and he coughed occasionally. At first she presumed this was a cold or due to old age, but it gradually got worse and his breathing became rougher, as if he was constantly snoring. He had also become needier than his usual self. He’d always been prone to attention-seeking, but he’d become even more demanding, jumping onto people, or attempting to climb up their legs for a hug if they stood anywhere close to him. Lisa brought him to my clinic for a check up, and initially, he was given a course of antibiotics, to rule out the possibility that he’d just picked up a chest infection. He didn’t improve on this treatment, and further investigations were needed to look into his problem in more detail. Blood samples were taken and when they didn’t show up any abnormalities, he was booked in for x-rays. The x-ray pictures confirmed that Tips had an unusual problem known as “mega-oesophagus”. The oesophagus – or gullet – is the tube that carries food from the mouth down to the stomach, through the chest. It’s normally a narrow tube, with a strong muscular lining that pushes food along like a cylindrical conveyor belt.  In mega-oesophagus, the muscle loses its tone, becoming soft and floppy, and no longer contracting properly. The oesophagus becomes more like a floppy, relaxed shopping bag than a narrow, active living hosepipe. For Tips, this meant that when he...
Ross the blind terrier and Silky his ‘seeing’ friend

Ross the blind terrier and Silky his ‘seeing’ friend

Ross is a rescue dog. He was originally found wandering in Newbridge, Co Kildare one Christmas Eve when he was taken in by the PAWS animal sanctuary. After Christmas, the family visited the sanctuary to get a puppy, only to discover that they were too early for the post-Christmas glut of unwanted animals. While they were visiting, most of the rescue dogs were jumping up and down, bustling around the visitors, vying for attention. Ross was different. He was sitting back quietly on his own. He was already blind, due to serious eye disease, but at that stage, his eyes were still intact, so he looked fairly normal. The family felt sorry for him and took him home with them that day. As well as being blind, Ross had physical problems with his sightless eyes, and as time passed, they continued to deteriorate. First he developed cataracts, and then the cataracts dislocated inside each of his eyes, causing serious pain and discomfort. The family were faced with difficult choices: first one eye had to be surgically removed, and then, a year later, the other eye. They knew that he’d look odd with no eyes, but they also realised that he couldn’t see anyway. As far as Ross was concerned, his eyes had become a painful nuisance. Ever since the operation was done, several years ago, Ross has been completely pain free and comfortable. Ross is a calm, relaxed and friendly dog, and Caoimhe says that he’s “always happy”. Other dogs might whine when they’re on their own, or bark at other dogs, or get into trouble by chewing things...
Cassie a 4 year old Bichon Frise and her pup Max

Cassie a 4 year old Bichon Frise and her pup Max

Mary had originally planned to have Cassie spayed when she was young. She realised that there were already far too many pups in Ireland: thousands of unwanted dogs are euthanased every year in local authority dog pounds across the country. If every owner had their female dog spayed before her first season, the huge problem of stray dogs would be solved. As Cassie grew up, somehow it never seemed like quite the right time to get the operation done. When she met a lovely young male Bichon Frise, who belonged to a friend of the family, the idea of letting her have just one litter began to appeal. Mary had often thought of having two dogs, and she adored Cassie. Why not let her have just one litter, and then keep a pup for the long term? Mary made sure that she planned the pregnancy properly, having both Cassie and her male friend checked to make sure that they were fully healthy, without any inherited defects that could be passed on to the pups. Everything went according to plan, apart from one surprise: in the end, Cassie had just one pup. Mary had expected up to eight puppies, but she was delighted with the singleton: he was named Max, and she decided to keep him as a long term friend for Cassie. Cassie has turned out to be an excellent mother, dedicating herself to caring for Max, all day, every day, for the past month. He’s grown rapidly, and at just one month of age, he’s already over a quarter of her body weight. He’s been a hungry pup,...