Q. Alex, I heard you on 1ZB talking about heat stroke in dogs and wondered why our canine friends are more prone to this than people? I’m always really careful to keep Bruce (my Doberman) out of the heat at this time of the year so thankfully he’s been fine so far.
A. Dogs don’t have sweat glands like we do. They rely on convection to loose excess body heat and this process is much more efficient with air moving across the animal’s body surface.
Most of the heat would be dissipated from Bruce’s ears and panting tongue. Obviously exercising in the hottest parts of the day can be avoided, and shade and water should be available at all times.
Never leave dogs in a car during the day, especially after exercise, as even in the shade they simply will not be getting enough air movement to cool down.
Straight after exercise dogs can be cooled off with a swim or water from a hose. Cold water will drop a dog’s body temperature quickly if they are starting to show signs of heat stress.
In more serious cases ice packs and drugs need to be utilized by your vet to save their lives.
I am hoping U might be able to help with a diagnosis..............
My 5 year old German Pointer suddenly showed a reluctance to put any weight on her front paw,
but showed no signs of pain when I examined toe pads & joints.
Just as things seemed to be getting better, she developed a nasal discharge & a huge fever. She refused to eat, was totally lethargic & I can feel a swollen lymph gland in the underarm of the affected paw. Not much change with regard to limping . Now there is a marked loss of muscle in that shoulder. Any thoughts come to mind? Denise, Auckland
Hi Denise, Please come in and get this seen to straight away. I am most suspicious of her having a foreign body trapped inside that limb, possibly moving its way up from the paw.
This time of year grass seed arrowheads commonly lodge themselves between the toes of dogs. They can sometimes leave only the tiniest of entry holes which can rapidly close over being difficult to then localise.
Individual dogs may then be quite stoic when the paw is poked and prodded despite not wanting to weight bear. The body then starts a strong reaction to this invader often characterised by swollen lymph nodes in the affected limb and fevers.
In worst case scenarios these can track right up the limb and into the chest or spine causing death. The longer they are present the harder they are for us to track down to remove.
We would also analyse a needle sample of the swollen lymph tissue to check for other causes of swelling such as neoplasia, or systemic disease.
Let’s confirm things with a thorough examination and get her onto some antibiotics, painkillers and track down this probable invader.
Dear Martin and Jay,
It’s great to get an animal question directly from the editor; this of course means you intently follow my advice every month. Tiger’s shakes may just be from very high adrenaline levels at certain times, as is common with many breeds like Jack Russell and Staffordshire Terriers.
However, there is also a well recognized congenital condition of Scotties that both Tiger and the infamous, internationally renowned Mr. Scottie may have shared (despite quite different lineage). It is widespread but fortunately does not present any serious health dilemmas. It is commonly called “Scottie Trembles” or “Scottie Cramp”.
Affected dogs are normal at rest but can show cramping or shaking when excited or stressed. Knowing first hand the incredibly stress-free life your dogs enjoy I am leaning toward option A, excitement. Common triggering stimuli can be exercise, aggression, courtship or playing.
The forelegs stance becomes wider, the lower back can hunch under and the hind legs can sink a little. Some affected dogs exhibit a “goose –stepping” gait and other Scotties temporarily find running a little too difficult at the time. Individual dogs will be affected to largely varying degrees.
This is not a seizure; there is no reduction in, or loss of consciousness. Instead it is caused by depletion of Serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter. The signal heading from the Tiger’s brain to his muscles becomes temporarily garbled. Interestingly it is as we pass in and out of sleep mode when serotonin levels alter drastically in our body.
Tiger will be going through these neurotransmitter fluctuations combined with sudden excitement at the prospect of heading outdoors early each morning. There is no pain, just shaking or varying loss of co-ordination.
If carried in a Scottie, this condition will have been present, though not always detected, since birth. As adults many dogs will cease to exhibit any signs. Highly wired personalities are more likely to continue to show symptoms (not pointing the finger at anyone in particular).
The great news is the condition never deteriorates to the point of affecting any of these dogs’s quality of life.
Shih Tzu Breed Traits
Hi Alex,I am looking to purchase a companion dog and keep coming back to the Shih Tzu. Do you have any insight you can give me from a medical & personality point of view from your experience treating Shih Tzu?
In particular, I know they can be susceptible to eye injuries due to their flat face. Do you see a lot of these types of injuries? There are also many Shih Tzu crosses out there – in particular, the Shih Tzu/Maltese cross. Do you have any experience or insight regarding the crosses?
Any advice would be appreciated, Regards, Gina Hi Gina. Great questions, good to see you doing research at the right time, before you get the puppy. Shih Tzu are a great breed, gentle, very friendly, awesome personalities, and super social.
Yes, we do see eye problems. These brachicephalic (shortened-face) breeds with forward eye positioning are more prone to physical eye injury and also to irritants getting into their exposed conjunctiva and causing infection.
They can also suffer from dermatitis in their exaggerated facial skin folds, and from snoring/snorting and gagging (hard to sleep next to) as their relatively elongated soft palate gets caught against their squashed up epiglottis. All of these conditions are minimised by keeping them at a slim healthy weight.
You’ve got to realise that for every breed you name I could list a particular weakness so please don’t let that put you off a great little dog. The proliferation of crosses is a new phenomenon but we see many Shih Pekinese and Maltese and Lhasa Apso crosses and all seem to work well and to retain their great personalities. Personally I think it’s a great family pet choice.
Best wishes, Dr Alex Melrose.
Skipping on Hind Legs
Something strange is going on with my dogs back legs. He has been having episodes of running along fine then suddenly yelping and holding up one back leg. He hops along for a minuit then places it back down on the ground and runs around as if nothing has ever happened.
The strange thing is it can be in either back leg, and when I’ve examined him carefully afterwards everything looks fine. By this time he’s not showing any pain at all. It happens mainly when he’s tearing around like a maniac at the park chasing balls and playing with other dogs.
Although he is a small Bijon Frise he is pretty hardy and I doubt he would just be putting it on. He has just turned 2 years old so it couldn’t be arthritis, could it? What’s prompted me to get your advice is that the problem is becoming more frequent. Can you please offer some suggestions and help little Casper the friendly Bichon?
Hi Steve and Casper,
It sounds like you’ve been pretty thorough in checking him over for foreign bodies, obvious wounds or grass allergy dermatitis so I think it’s likely that the problem is something else. It would be possible for Casper to have arthritic joints at such a young age if he had been born with some congenital problems so we can’t rule that out. However, the signs you describe are classical for patella luxation.
This is especially common in small breeds of dogs where the shape of the hind limbs tend to be bowed. As Casper is racing around and twisting at the knee he can temporarily pop his knee cap out of its groove in his femur. As you have observed these little guys will often recover quickly afterwards when the patella pops back into place, sometimes with minimal residual pain. E
very time this happens it gets a little easier to repeat. The groove that holds the patella in line gradually becomes worn down and the surrounding ligaments get stretched. Casper needs a thorough physical from your vet who can confirm this diagnosis by assessing the ease and extent of luxation of his knee cap. X-Rays can give valuable information about any possible degenerative changes or poor conformation of his knees.
If Casper’s problem is worsening he may need surgery to deepen the bony groove and tighten the supporting tissues.
Surgical correction provides good return of function and prevents further joint damage, luxation and pain. With the proper veterinary care Casper has a great chance of being able to run around happily for many more years to come. Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Martin and Jay,
Amazingly when I spun the barrel full of mail for this month yours was the letter that popped out, totally randomly of course. So let’s get on to the intricate workings of Scottie dogs.
If Tiger was simply favouring that leg when walking on grass I’d think it likely he had some pododermatitis. That is inflamed and possibly infected skin in between his toes and pads. It is common and as the grass blades push upwards into these areas often dogs with this condition get worse on this kind of surface. However, I think the “knuckling over” you describe is a little different.
It is possible that there is some residual damage to this paw from past trauma. If Tiggy Boo has scar tissue present or slight osteoarthritis it may prevent him from flexing that paw as easily, fully or quickly as he would normally. He may change his gait on uneven surfaces and may try lifting his paw higher; exposing the variation.
Another consideration is he may have gotten an unusual response from you guys one day when at the park and could be repeating the paw lift to garner even more attention than is already understandably lavished on him. I still think the shaking of the same paw means previous lasting trauma is number one on the list and he may feel a little stiffness in that joint at times.
A thorough exam with full manipulation of the joints in all directions, and a comparison of range of motion, thickness and degree of resistance to the other limb would be invaluable.
Radiographs of both front paws and carpals would give tell us about any bony joint deterioration, bone chips, or unusual joint spacing. Sounds like I’ll have the pleasure of your company in at VetCare again shortly so we can get to the bottom of this.
Hi Alex, I think I’ve hurt Mac! I accidentally stood on his tail one morning last week, (in the dark) and he squealed a bit but definitely didn’t run away or show any distress. Then last night, my husband noticed as he stroked him over his back right on the base of his tail ... he yelped! Now we have taken even more notice of him, he’s definitely dragging his tail and not lifting it at all! I’M BAD! I THINK it must have been me.
Is this something we need to bring him in to you to look at or do we just watch him? He shows absolutely no sign of distress or being in any discomfort, unless you push right at the base of his tail. There’s no loss of appetite or anything else unusual about his behaviour!
Look forward to your reply and thank you, Simone & Mac.
Ooooopps, now you’ve done it. Damn those 5am gym starts in the dark. Look on the good side of things Mac is in minimal pain. While it can be hard to detect pain in cats (their survival instincts mask it amazingly well), a big smooch-ball like Mac would at least show you (his parents) something like loss of appetite, grumpiness or a change in routine. This means you do have the luxury of waiting and watching for a short while. There are two main possibilities;
1/lots of deep bruising and therefore Mac won’t tense his tail muscles as it hurts, cats injured like this will voluntarily let their tails hang, usually this will only be for a few days then bruising subsides.
2/ that the trauma has severely traumatised or severed the tail nerves and Mac has no feeling in his droopy tail. This usually won’t improve at all, and presents with lack of all reflexes and even deep pain sensation (tests we can perform carefully at the clinic). Usually this type of injury is caused by the cat’s tail going under a car tyre or being shut in a door, i.e. something requiring a lot more force. In these cases we usually end up amputating because the tail starts to die off or becomes continually injured. Even in this worst case scenario cats do cope fantastically well.
I’d give him 48 hours more, obviously hoping for option one, if no improvement (or if he is suddenly unhappy) bring him in for us to see, assess and treat.
Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose. VetCare Grey Lynn. 408 Great North Rd. 09 3613500 www.vetcare.net.nz
Wobbly Hind Legs
Hey Alex, how are you, just wondering if I can bring Maxi in one day this week, around lunch time, as I am really worried about him. I’d like to get his back legs and hips x-rayed.
Everyone thinks he has got something wrong as he is struggling to stand straight at times and lost a lot of strength. Also, is there is a supplement he can go on to get his legs stronger. I know he’s getting old (12 next month) but this seems to have happened quite quickly so just want to rule anything out. Hopefully he doesn’t have to get knocked out for the above but let me know how drowsy he'll be. Thanks, C of St Mary’s Bay.
Hi guys, good plan to get some pictures, will give us plenty of information on why he is rapidly dropping back-end strength. We will be able to look for arthritis, disc degeneration, cartilage damage, bone spurs and chips, and vertebral bridging.
Despite how well behaved Maxi is, to get good x-rays of this area we will need to give him a general anaesthetic to allow proper positioning and get full muscle relaxation. We need him dropped off early in the morning, with no breakfast. An empty stomach removes the risk of possibly aspirating some stomach contents while under GA, as well as us having cuffed tubes in place in Max’s airways.
Supplement wise we want him on Fish or Flax seed oil for its inflammatory modulating EFA’s, and also Glucosamine to assist joint surface repair. We also have a range of very safe non steroidal anti-inflammatory arthritis meds we can choose from.
While he may be getting on at age 12 I’m sure there’s many things we can do to assist Max’s mobility and comfort for the next few years of his pampered life, we have loads of patients here at the clinic many years older than that (21 is the eldest!). See you and Maxi soon, kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.