Douglas needs an inhaler to control his bronchitis

Douglas needs an inhaler to control his bronchitis

Douglas is a nine year old Beagle. He first started to cough when he was just one year old, during the summer months. Initially, he was given a general treatment to rule out a simple respiratory infection and lungworm, but when the problem failed to respond, a detailed investigation was carried out. X-ray pictures were taken of his chest, and a sample of fluid was collected from his airways while he was under general anaesthetic. The results showed that he was suffering from a type of allergic bronchitis, similar to asthma.  He was treated with a short course of anti-inflammatory steroids,and his cough cleared up completely. When the cough came back the following summer, he was given the same treatment, and again, he recovered. At that stage, it seemed like a seasonal problem, only happening during the summer, probably caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, similar to humans with hay fever. Douglas remained cough-free for the next six years, even in the summer time. Then last June, he started to cough again, and it was worse then ever. X-rays confirmed that the allergic bronchitis had come back again. He was treated with the anti-inflammatory steroids, and as before, he responded promptly, with the cough clearing up quickly. This time, however, when the course of steroids finished, he started to cough again. He was referred to the UCD Veterinary Hospital,where the next level of diagnostics were carried out, using fibre-optic endoscopes to collect biopsy samples from deep inside his lungs. The work-up confirmed that he had an unusually dramatic type of allergic lung disease that would need a prolonged...
Sunny the Collie had a painful left front foot

Sunny the Collie had a painful left front foot

A couple of weeks ago, Sunny’s left forefoot swelled up to twice its normal size, and he stopped putting weight on it. Katrin brought him down to see me at once. When I examined him, I could see a large swelling, like a plump grape, on the underside of one of his toes. Dogs are prone to standing on sharp objects, and although their feet are tough, they sometimes end up with small cuts that get infected. On other occasions, sharp items like pieces of glass, thorns or grass awns can penetrate the underside of the feet: this can also set up nasty infections. The end result is the same: an infected foot that swells up and becomes painful. The main challenge for a vet is to try to work out if there is still an object lodged inside the sore foot. Sometimes this is obvious: I have seen dogs with the tip of a thorn or the end of a piece of grass protruding from the swollen area. In these cases, it’s just a case of pulling the object out. In other situations, it’s hard to know if there’s still something stuck in there and that was how it was with Sunny. He just had a swollen, infected foot, and the reason was not clear. I gave him a sedative injection, and when he had become sleepy and relaxed, I examined his foot carefully. I used the sharp tip of a scalpel blade to lance into the swollen area, half expecting a grass seed or some other object to pop out as I made a small incision. As...
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...