Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

Grief is a topic that is rarely discussed and usually avoided. People often feel they don’t have the ‘right’ words to say and therefore say nothing at all. Unfortunately grief is often experienced when you have pets as it is highly likely that you’ll outlive your pets. In this sense, grief is expected when you own pets, however it is never easy when the time comes.

Grief is a completely natural and normal emotion. It is okay to express sorrow and there is no right or wrong way to do so. Grieving can take weeks or many months depending on the person and the relationship they had with the lost pet. Everyone’s bereavement journey will be different, it will take time to adjust to being without the beloved pet. The lost pet is often more than just a ‘pet’ they are a companion, a family member and a friend. They have given unconditional love and provided comfort and support to you throughout their life. However, people often feel that their grief is not appropriately acknowledged by others in the community who perhaps don’t appreciate the loss.

It can also be difficult to deal with the loss of a pet when children are involved. It is important to let children see your feelings as well as be allowed to express their own. Having an honest conversation about what has happened is critical to the children’s understanding of the situation. There are more and more resources available to assist with the grieving process. Grief and bereavement counselling is one good option.

Our other pets also have close bonds and suffer from grief. Signs your pet is suffering grief can include; behaving in a withdrawn manner, lack of interest in play or anxious behaviours such as pacing, not settling at night or scratching at doors. They may also have changes to their appetite, spend time looking for their lost animal friend or seek more physical contact from their owners.

To help support your pet it is important to keep up normal routines including walks and feeding times. Seek veterinary advice if your pet appears unwell or there is no improvement in appetite and anxious behaviours remain. Medication may be required until they adjust to the new situation.

Dealing with the loss of a beloved pet is difficult for owners, families and other pets alike. If we let ourselves grieve properly, our hearts will allow us to love another pet in the same way we did with the one that has passed over the rainbow bridge


Written by Caity Thomson

Petfocus Vetcare

An update on Canine Vaccination in Albury-Wodonga

An Albury-Wodonga Update on Vaccination and your Pets
With the growing concern of infectious disease, especially parvovirus in dogs in the Albury-Wodonga area, it is a good time to talk about pet vaccination. Part of owning a pet is the responsibility to maintain their preventative health care via vaccinations. As a young puppy or kitten, a course of vaccines is required to give them protection against potentially deadly diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. These initial vaccinations are time sensitive in that they need to be given after the first eight weeks of life and boostered at monthly intervals, for a further two injections. Prior to eight weeks, the puppy or kitten is protected from disease via their mother’s immunity which is passed on via her milk.
Vaccinations are recommended annually to maintain protective immunity throughout your pet’s life. They are also essential for entry into boarding kennels and participation at many puppy classes and kennel clubs. Vaccinations in breeding females should be kept up to date in order to pass this immunity onto their offspring.
There have been a couple of recent cases of gastrointestinal upset, diagnosed as parvovirus on in-house diagnostics, in fully vaccinated animals. One would assume that these animals would have been protected against this disease, but have still become ill, just not as severe as an unvaccinated animal would have. This suggests that the disease is changing and evolving over time and can still impact even vaccinated animals although with much reduced severity.
Specific testing is available to see if your animal has developed a level of protective immunity and thus does not require vaccination during that particular year’s annual check up. Called titer testing, it is conducted when there is a reasonable suspicion of adequate immunity after a consistent vaccination history over a number of years. If inadequate protection is identified, vaccinations are then given as required. The disadvantage with titre testing is that it is only measuring one of the many parts of immune defence required to insure protection against the disease.
It cannot be denied that the first line of defense against disease is regular vaccination. The outcome of disease in an unvaccinated pet could be deadly, whereas less severe and usually prevented, in vaccinated animals.
Written by Dr Caitlin Thomson
Petfocus Vetcare

Epilepsy in Dogs

Epilepsy in dogs in usually seen in patients between the ages of one and three years of age. It can be primary (cause unknown) or secondary (acquired). Epileptics typically exhibit seizures. These seizures generally have four stages. The first stage which can start hours beforehand, the second stage known as an aura which is minutes beforehand and the Ictal (during) and post (after the seizure). During the first, second and third stages, behavioural changes in your pet may be noted. During the Ictal phase, loss of consciousness and muscle convulsions may occur. Seizures can be further classified as focal or generalised. Some patients will have focal seizure activity that will progress if left untreated. During focal seizures, only a single side of the brain is affected, whilst in the generalised form, both sides of the brain are involved. Focal seizures usually present as involuntary facial movements. Consciousness is not always affected. Generalised seizures are usually characterised by involuntary movements and loss of consciousness. Seizures can occur in small clusters or go on for a prolonged amount of time (grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures).

Testing for epilepsy in your dog is often a process of eliminations and may include blood tests, spinal fluid analysis and advanced imaging for the brain (CT or MRI). A tentative diagnosis and response to treatment can be used in some patients with idiopathic epilepsy. It is still unclear if there is a gender predisposition, with some clinical studies showing that males are most commonly affected. There is a known genetic basis in some breeds including Keeshonds, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Labradors and Golden Retrievers. General epilepsy is more difficult to control in large breed dogs. Anticonvulsant therapy is the treatment of choice for Idiopathic episepsy and multiple therapies may be needed in some patients. Routine blood tests and ongoing monitoring is required. Patients with epilepsy can live a long and happy life, however require ongoing managment, medications and dedicated owners.

Written by Dr Alice Edwards
Petfocus Vetcare

Common Cat Toxins

Cats, unlike humans and dogs are particularly unique in things that they are sensitive to.
Here is a quick overview of some common toxins that affect our pet cats.
Lilies- all parts of the lily- stem, flower, leaf and even the water in the vase are toxic to cats. Not much has to be ingested for intoxication to occur. The plant causes acute renal (kidney) failure and can affect cats very quickly. The first signs are often intestinal- including vomiting and diarrhoea, the cat then seems to get a bit better but 1-2 days the kidneys begin to fail. Symptoms at this time are increased thirst, painful abdomen and extreme dehydration. Sometimes the damage can be irreversible. It is very important to bring you cat straight to the vet clinic if you suspect they have ingested any part of a lily plant.
Permethrin- a substance that is common in flea and tick prevention for dogs. Intoxication can occur if the product is placed on a dog and the cat snuggles up to or grooms the dog. Sometimes people accidently put the wrong prevention on their cat. Permethrins cause cats to have muscle tremors, shaking and jitters which can lead to seizures. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet before putting any treatment on your cat.
Paracetamol- an over the counter pain relief that is quite popular for people but is very toxic to your cat. Cats metabolise these tablets in a different way and as little as 1 tablet can affect them. Paracetamol changes the haemoglobin in a cat’s blood; this means that they are unable to get oxygen to their tissues and organs. It is very difficult to treat once symptoms have started.
It is important to check with your vet before giving any new product to your cat. Also be sure to contact them straight away if you suspect any toxicity or poisoning.
Have a great week!

Heat Stroke in Pets

With the hot weather coming in hard and fast again this week, overheating in pets is a big concern for pet owners and vets.
The syndrome ‘Heat stroke’ is caused by an inability for the body to dissipate heat. Heat stroke is commonly seen in pets often as a result from being left in a hot car. Young, old and pets with health conditions are often the individuals hardest hit. Unfortunately, heat stroke can be fatal within minutes. Unlike us dogs don’t have sweat glands (with the exception of on their paws) and instead cool themselves via panting. As their body temperature rise, they start to pant in an effort to dissipate heat. Blood is channelled to the extremities such as the membranes in the mouth which will appear red (rather than pink). Dehydration and low blood pressure develop quickly and this leads to compromised delivery of oxygen to the body. As the body temperature continues to increase the blood begins to clot and inflammatory factors are released causing a cascade of damage to multiple organs throughout the body. Quickly, multiple organ dysfunction and failure occurs with damage to the kidneys, lungs, muscle, gut, nerves, and blood all occurring within minutes. As you can imagine heat stroke is incredibly stressful, painful and life threating for our companion animals. If you dog is overweight, has difficulty breathing or has a heart murmur it is at a greater risk of developing heat stroke. To decrease the risk of heat stroke, exercise in the early morning or evening and avoid strenuous exercise if it is humid. Always have fresh water available and under no circumstances leave your pet in a car or a cage in the sun. If you are concerned your pet has heat stroke, seek veterinary attention immediately. Avoid using ice for cooling and do not resort to putting your pet in a cool room or freezer as rapid cooling can lead to further complications. Wet towels and a fan are best used while transporting your pet to the Vet Hospital.