The Benefits of Organ Meats in Dog and Cat Foods

As veterinarians who are actively promoting the benefits of natural raw food diets, it is important for us to remember that raw meat and bones alone, does not constitute a balanced diet. Combining carbohydrates, vegetables and vitamin/mineral supplements goes a long way to creating perfect balance, but the addition of organ meats is the final step in re-creating the “ancestral” or “evolutionary” diet for dogs and cats.

Organ meats are highly prized in the wild environment, with carnivores actively seeking out the liver, internal organs and stomach lining and content in initial preference to the muscle meat and bones. Organ meats will make up about 20% of the “meat” content of a carcass, and offer a much higher nutritional value than plain muscle meat alone – they are the nutritional powerhouse of a prey animal

Liver contains more nutrients gram for gram than ANY OTHER FOOD. It is the most concentrated natural source of vitamin A, is high in B vitamins, especially B12, along with folic acid and iron. It also has tremendous levels of nitrogen containing compounds that are used to form DNA and RNA in the body.

Heart is also nutritionally rich, being the single biggest natural source of Co-enzyme Q10, along with high levels of collagen and elastin. Heart muscle is also high in vitamin B12, iron, potassium and has significant levels of selenium, phosphorous and zinc

Kidneys are low in fat, high in protein, and provide vitamin b12, riboflavin and iron, as well as useful levels of B6, folate and niacin.

The principle of Organotherapy, which involves feeding a specific organ meat to treat failure of that specific organ in a patient, is coming back into vogue after many years of neglect. By including a range of organ meats into our raw pet foods, we can rest comfortably that we are feeding our dogs and cats the absolute best formula, and one that is most closely matched to mother nature’s recipe.

This is why Vets All Natural’s new RAW kangaroo and RAW 76 range of meats have been specifically formulated to contain 20% organ meats, including liver, heart and kidney. This new addition has significantly improved the nutritional value compared to other plain kangaroo meats that contain only muscle meat, and represents a significant advancement in our formulation process. The organ meats are sourced solely from kangaroo (so we are not introducing any new protein species), and are fully inspected by government meat inspectors to ensure they are fit for consumption.

Protein in Pet Food

Puppies eating proteinThis essential ingredient in dog and cat food is perhaps the most manipulated of all components in processed pet foods. Dogs and cats are carnivorous, and they require significant levels of meat in their diet (60-80%meat), which includes muscle meat, organs, offal and bones. One of the most common substitutions for meat protein is the use of “meat by products”, these include many indigestible body parts like feet, feathers, hoofs and horns – which are rendered at high temperatures into a protein powder. Whilst this end product can “claim” to be high in animal protein, it is not biologically appropriate protein, and is not well utilised or assimilated by dogs and cats. When a pet food label is described as having “meat and/or meat by products”, you can almost bet the quality of the animal protein will be poor (and if the price is cheap, most likely the word “or” is most appropriate).

plant proteinThe second most common substitution is the use of plant proteins to boost up the overall protein levels in pet foods. If a dry pet food has 20% protein, just how much of that is animal protein (meat based or not) ? The use of cereals that are high in carbohydrate and also contain some protein is now very common in nearly all processed pet foods. Soy is a very common source of plant protein used in pet foods, and corn and wheat are also regular bulking agents. The problem with plant protein is that it is also not biologically appropriate for a carnivore, and it actually causes alkalising of the body fluids – most importantly of the urine (it loses its natural acidity) which can lead to crystal and stone formation, and repeated bouts of infection. In the stomach it also causes a loss of gastric acidity, which results in poor digestion (particularly of bones) and increased susceptibility to gastro-enteric bacterial pathogens like salmonella. Plant based ingredients are also high in natural phytates, which will bind dietary zinc, and cause a deficiency. Zinc deficiency leads to chronic skin disease and also contributes to early onset of degenerative joint disease (arthritis).

Meat based proteins are by far the most expensive ingredient in any pet food, and unfortunately, as a result, many companies look for ways to reduce the levels and quality of these ingredients. This is generally reflected in the price you pay for a commercial pet food, and by the protein level. A good adult dry food should have protein levels above 30%, and wet foods should be above 10-12%. One great advantage of fresh raw foods is that you can see exactly what you are getting, and what you are feeding, and there is little chance for any substitution – they may seem more expensive than some dry foods, but remember, you get what you pay for, and the long term health of your pets will be a direct expression of the food you choose to feed them.


For more information about your dogs diet please ring

Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic

9 Elizabeth St, Castlemaine VIC 3450
(03) 5472 5477

Holistic medicine and nutrition

acupuncture in dog

At Healthy Pets vet clinic we strive for total animal health, and that means looking at the “whole” animal, in terms of physical health, mental health, preventative health, lifestyle, and of course, nutritional health.

Holistic medicine, or perhaps better termed as integrative medicine, is a type of clinical practice that utilizes the very best of modern veterinary science, but also embraces lesser recognized modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine and holistic nutrition. In many cases, the amazing array of modern diagnostic tools allows us to make very accurate diagnoses, only to face a condition for which modern medicine has no easy answer for. Many chronic diseases, like allergies, organ failure, arthritis, and even cancer, can be very difficult to manage using a strictly orthodox approach, and quite often the treatments available can come with some unpleasant side effects. This is where a holistic approach can create many new options for treatment. Allergies can be particularly hard to manage with conventional medications, but they respond very well to dietary changes and combinations of herbs and nutraceutical supplements. A holistic approach is very much a way of working with the body’s own defence and repair systems – stimulate the immune system, remove toxins from the body, accelerate innate repair mechanisms – this is what herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic can all do. There is a vast amount of evidence based veterinary knowledge available on these modalities, and very often the results and outcomes are far superior to more traditional veterinary approaches, and often more cost effective as well.

acupunture, holistic veterinary medicine in horse

Holistic nutrition is very much the cornerstone of good health for all animals. It follows the simple principle that we are what we eat, and if an animal, or person for that matter, eats a highly refined, carbohydrate rich diet, then internal health will suffer. Modern processed dog and cat foods are exactly that – high in carbohydrate and highly refined and processed – and they are NOT the cornerstone of good health. Feeding a carnivore means supplying large amounts of good quality animal protein and fat, and just a small serve of carbohydrate, if any. At HPVC we have a large range of these types of natural foods, which are convenient, easy to feed, and very often cheaper than many of the processed foods available. The amazing bonus of feeding your dog and cat this way, is that they just stay healthy, from the inside out. I would not be exaggerating if I said that feeding a natural diet can eliminate 80% of the common reasons people bring their pets to the vet clinic – itchy skin, gunky ears, urinary tract problems, blocked anal glands, poor dental health….. Feeding a healthy, natural raw diet is the BEST advice I can give any pet parent, and will have more benefit to that animal than any medication or vaccination I will ever give. And its so simple and easy to do.

in horses

Make an appointment today to see one of our holistic vets to get your pet back to health

9 Elizabeth St, Castlemaine VIC 3450
(03) 5472 5477

Vets All Natural Food

The Natural Choice for Healthy Pets

40 million years ago the earliest prehistoric dogs began evolving on planet earth. For the next 39.75 million years they roamed the planet as wild beasts, catching prey, scavenging, hunting as packs and evolving into their modern counterparts. Man and dog first formed a friendship back in the cave man era (250,000+ years ago), forged by a symbiotic relationship of combined hunting skills, early warning of danger and protection, companionship, and the cleaning up of all mans food scraps and waste. “Mans best friend” has continued to provide this service throughout the history of mankind; his role as hunter, pest controller, scavenger and waste disposal provided the dog with its natural diet of raw meats and scraps. It was not until just over 30 years ago in Australia, that the first commercial cooked dog and cat foods were released onto the market….and with that, began the slow and insidious decline in health of modern day dogs and cats.

The average veterinarian today spends more than half his or her working day treating a virtual epidemic of skin diseases, allergies, arthritis, teeth and gum problems, ear infections, anal gland impactions, urinary tract diseases and a huge range of degenerative diseases and cancers previously only thought to occur in man.

It is this background of information that lead respected Australian veterinarian Dr Bruce Syme to begin searching for a solution to this health crisis that did not depend on the continuous use of drugs (like cortisone and antibiotics), and then the need for more drugs to counter the side effects of the original treatments.

“ It was simply out of frustration, as a vet, that lead me to look for a better answer to these problems. I was embarrassed every time my clients came back for more consultations and more drugs for the same old problems..itchy skin, ear infections, arthritis therapy etc..”

And the answer to all these problems…Nutrition !

Dr Syme, along with a growing body of vets, breeders, and every day dog and cat owners, and a wealth of scientific evidence, believes that it is the practice of feeding cooked and processed pet foods, especially those using cheap meat and cereal by-products, that has resulted in the dramatic decline in health of modern dogs and cats.

“Cooking food does a lot more than just destroy vitamins” Dr Syme says, “ it destroys essential fatty acids, denatures proteins and enzymes, damages minerals and micronutrients, and severely decreases the nutritional content and bioavailability of any food source. In short, cooking pet food

creates nutritional deficiencies, which are often worsened by the use of cheap ingredients of poor quality and nutritional value.”

Although many premium brand dry foods are now using far better quality ingredients, they are all still cooked, processed, and use some form of artificial preservatives. Despite the claims that processed canned and dry pet foods will supply all of your pet’s nutritional needs, research has shown that many common brand pet foods supply as little as 26 of the 72 macro and micronutrients required for good health, and there is no legal requirement for them to do otherwise.

It is now an accepted medical fact that the top 8 killer diseases in western society (which include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, alzheimer’s and autoimmune disease) are a direct result of the highly refined and processed western diet we consume. It is also an accepted and proven fact that the addition of high quality fresh fruit and vegetables, and some basic vitamin and mineral supplements (along with exercise), to the average western diet will dramatically reduce the chances of developing any of these top 8 diseases. The simple fact is, that the combination of intensive farming techniques currently used, and the high degree of food processing and refinement that follows, has lead to wide scale nutritional deficiencies.

At Healthy Pets Vet Clinic we stock a wide variety of Vets All Natural food. Please come and speak to one of our friendly nursing team about the food or for more information Click here

Raw Food Diets

By Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons)

Canines and felines have been evolving on this planet for millions of years. During all of that time they have been eating raw food, and it is common sense to see that they are not yet adequately designed to fully digest, process and absorb cooked foods which are purported to supply ALL their nutritional requirements.

In the wild dogs and cats eat the stomach content of the prey animal (vegetable matter), raw organs and muscle meat and then chew on the remaining meaty bones. This forms the basis of the perfect diet, formulated by Mother Nature herself over millions of years of evolution. Our domesticated canines and felines have the same genetic make-up, and the same digestive functions as their wild counter-parts, so this diet is logically also ideal for them.

Their mouths, teeth, stomach, intestines, organs and pancreatic enzymes have all evolved to masticate, digest and absorb the breakdown products of raw food. There is a growing stockpile of scientific evidence that links the long term consumption of cooked and highly processed pet foods, to the development of a vast array of common illnesses and degenerative diseases.

Skin disease and allergic dermatitis, teeth and gum disease, arthritis, renal failure and urinary tract disease, recurrent ear infections, obesity, reproductive failure, anal gland blockage can all be linked to improper nutrition, and can all lead to a poorer quality of life and often a reduced longevity.

Conversely, when an animal’s body gets what it needs, in the correct ratios and in the correct form, it thrives – improved health, longevity, fertility, energy, resistance to parasites and diseases and the distinct lack of degenerative diseases that we often just accept as part of our pets growing old.

Some dry foods and canned foods have greatly improved in quality over more recent years; however they are all still cooked at very high temperatures, include higher levels of poorly digestible vegetable proteins, and high levels of carbohydrates, and are topped up with synthetic vitamins and mineral to compensate for what’s damaged during processing, and to meet AAFCO standards.

For those of you committed to promoting high quality dry foods, I encourage you to at least recommend including a reasonable portion of balanced raw meat to assist overall health and longevity. As vets we place too much confidence in the fact that dogs and cats can live to their optimal health and longevity on a diet of total dry food, and I challenge this concept completely. I remain committed to the fact that a total raw diet is the best way to achieve optimal nutrition.

A vast and comprehensive study of cats by Dr Francis M Pottenger and my own observations over many years for both cats and dogs have shown that a variety of health improvements can be expected when they are fed a natural, balanced raw food diet.

Here is a summary of some observations :

Skin and Coat. Reduced skin disease, allergies, itchiness. Dogs and cats have a softer coat, more natural shine with no dandruff. I have also found that it reduces odour and reduces the need to bathe.

Oral Cavity. Vastly improved teeth and gums with reduced halitosis and significantly reduced need for veterinary teeth cleaning. The natural acids formed when eating raw food combined with appropriately sized raw meaty bones is natures tooth brush.

Gastrointestinal Tract. Reduced flatulence and solidly formed faeces. A balanced raw diet with appropriate indigestible roughage reduces anal gland blockage and can correct inflammatory / irritable bowel disease

Reproductive. Increased fertility and litter sizes. Reduced obstetrical problems and caesareans and healthier puppies with fewer litter mortalities

Urinary. Reduces chronic urinary tract infections and crystal formation, naturally acidifies the urine in dogs and cats. A raw diet reduces the incidence of renal failure by maintaining correct dietary fluid levels

Parasites. Reduced gastrointestinal worms and fewer fleas.

Growth and Development. Steady growth and maturation in all breeds and vastly reduced incidence of growth disorders like hip dysplasia and elbow OCD

Immune System. Improved immune function and disease fighting capabilities with a lower incidence of auto-immune diseases. I’ve also observed lower incidence of degenerative diseases and cancer and increased longevity

The cooking process has numerous negative aspects which contribute to reducing the quality and digestibility of food.

Denatures Protein. This means it changes the molecular structure of proteins. Sometimes this change is so small that the digestive system doesn’t recognise the change and absorbs the denatured protein across the gut wall, and these molecules can then trigger adverse reactions in the immune system and result in diseases like allergies. Seriously denatured meat proteins can be carcinogenic, and super heat-treated carbohydrates also form carcinogenic acrylamide.

Destroys Vitamins and Enzymes. Vitamins, needed for normal growth and metabolism, are proteins and are susceptible to the same denaturing as other protein. The relationship exists that the higher the cooking temperature, the worse the damage and loss of function of the vitamin or protein. This is especially important with regard to imported pet foods, that must super-heat treat products to meet AQIS import standards for Australia. It is also important to recognize that intracellular enzymes that are capable of digesting cell contents (eg capthesin), are destroyed by cooking. These enzymes must then be replaced by the animals own body exogenous supplies (pancreatic enzymes), at the animals own energy expense. This can lead to a higher incidence of pancreatitis and sub-clinical pancreatic insufficiency.

Decreases Digestibility and Bioavailability. By creating these changes some available nutrients are rendered useless and are not recognised by the intestinal villi to be absorbed as normal food molecules. This means that although an animal may be ingesting foods that are known to contain certain nutritional elements, the animal’s body may not be able to utilise them in the cooked form.

Dr Richard Malik, a highly respected specialist veterinarian with over 25 years experience, published an article in the Australian Veterinary Journal August 2007 about the association between poor diet and disease. The article titled “Feeding cats for health and longevity” noted several important points.

Referring to Premium pet foods and Prescription diets Dr Malik said, “I think it is time more common sense was brought to bear on this issue. Many experts believe that there is an association between the feeding of these diets and the sporadic development of hepatic lipidosis (and diabetes). The increasing prevalence in Australia seems to parallel the penetration of the Australian cat food market with these US style diets”

Dr Malik also said, “There is a re-emergence of the view that ‘natural’ foods are necessary for cats in Australia”. This is also true for dogs.

For more information talk to our friendly staff at Healthypets

9 Elizabeth St, Castlemaine VIC 3450
(03) 5472 5477 or go to

Change of name

Did you know that we have changed our name?

Dr Bruce Syme, our owner and senior veterinarian has decided to change the name of the veterinary clinic. After much consideration, we have chosen “Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic” as our new clinic name. We think it reflects what we strive to achieve everyday. The name change will commence from 1st July 2017 and be gradually phased in.

Don’t worry! The only change will be our name. Dr Bruce Syme remains the clinic’s owner and senior veterinarian working alongside the same great team you have come to know and trust.

Our vision statement “To be the leaders in holistic and individualised Veterinary care” is unchanged. You and your pets, will receive the same great veterinary and client care that we are renowned for, from the same dedicated and compassionate team here at Healthy Pets Vet Clinic.

If we haven’t seen you for some time, you may not be aware that the services we now provide include:

● Fully equipped and modern surgical theatre
● Digital xrays – including dental
● Ultrasound diagnosis and investigation
● Extensive “in house” diagnostics including fast turnaround on blood results
● Titre testing – testing your dog’s immunity to distemper, parvo and hepatitis, to prevent unnecessary vaccination.
● Farm visits for large animals of all kinds
● An Equine Centre
● Chinese and Western herbal medications
● Shock wave therapy, electro-acupuncture and laser therapy
● Tailored programmes – including “golden oldies” for senior pets, specialised diet and wellness plans
● Puppy pre school and pet grooming available at the clinic.
24 hour emergency care – 365 days a year
Weekend specialist emergency services available through Central Veterinary Emergency (CVE)
● Vetpay – line of credit available for Veterinary care (conditions apply)

Feel free to contact us at Healthy Pets (5472 5477) if you have any queries.

Laminitis in horses

Lameness in Horses in CastlemaineSadly, this amazing wet winter and Spring with all this lush growth is not good news for all. Ponies in particular are very prone to laminitis (also known as “founder”), and a season like we are having, is about as bad as it gets.

Laminitis; is an inflammatory condition that affects the feet of ponies and horses/donkeys,  and is caused by high levels of sugar in the green grass. The inflammation process begins mildly at first, and may just be seen as your pony sitting or lying down more often. It will then progress to constant weight shifting in the front feet, and then finally to extreme discomfort where the pony extends the front feet out forward to try and take weight off. The inflammation process can be very severe, and is driven by continued access the green grass with high sugar levels…..unfortunately, ponies just keep on eating and eating and make the problem worse and worse. Laminitis can get so severe that the attachments of the bones inside the hoof become damaged, and the bones literally separate  and collapse downwards – this will usually result in permanent and fatal changes, that end up requiring euthanasia – so naturally, we need to do everything we can to prevent this terrible disease.

If you pony has a history of laminitis – even it happened only once many years ago, you must assume the worst, especially this year with such amazing grass growth. Locking your pony up in a small yard and controlling feed intake is the first and most important step. Limit access to green grass to a maximum of one hour per day, first thing in the morning, when the sugar levels are at their lowest (grasses convert sugars to complex carbohydrates overnight). Then feed basic old pasture hay for the rest of the day – or chaff etc. They need a constant source of fibre/food, NOT just the green grass.

I also like to make sure they have a good quality mineral lick, to make sure the dietary restrictions don’t impact on their nutritional needs. If you are really stuck for finding a paddock with no feed (the “Jenny Craig” paddock), then you can also consider using a feeding muzzle, which stops the ponies from being able to eat the grass 24/7, and gives you control of when they can eat.

Step 2 in laminitis prevention is excellent hoof care – these ponies feet grow very quickly at this time of year, so you need regular farrier visits to ensure that the hoof is trimmed correctly, and maintains support to the frog (the soft wedge part of the sole of the hoof). Veterinary intervention to provide pain relief and advice, blood tests, xrays and advanced hoof care is often a sign that the disease has already progressed quite far, and is not always curable.

Laminitis is VERY painful, so you must take it seriously and provide expert care for these ponies. If you suspect your pony may be showing signs, there are simple blood tests that can confirm this, and corrective farrier work and dietary changes that can stop the disease- but PLEASE, act sooner, not later, as time is critical, and this year, it is definitely going to be a tough one, as we are already seeing many cases and the sun is hardly shining yet.

Dr Bruce Syme.

De-sexing of pets – a new approach

Traditionally, vets have advised de-sexing pets (both dogs and cats, male or female) at an average of 6 months of age. This is very much based on historical habit, rather than on any scientific facts. Due to the emergence of early de-sexing (as young as 12 weeks of age), there has been some good scientific research done on the effects of de-sexing, both at young ages (12 weeks), and at 6 months of age. The research information has given us reason to re-think our general advice on the age of de-sexing.
Early de-sexing has been linked to an increased incidence of growth deformities like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, particularly in the larger breed dogs. It has also shown an elevated risk of certain types of cancer – particularly Lymphoma, Osteosarcoma and haemangiosarcoma. All of these findings were still present when large breed dogs were de-sexed at 6 months of age.
These findings have led us to now advise owners of large breed bitches to wait until they have their first season (age from 9 months up to 18 months) before desexing, and for male dogs, to wait until they reach sexual maturity (again, age is relative to breed size – 14-18 months old).
Another more recent option available is to perform an ovary-sparing spey procedure, where the ovaries are left intact, and only the uterus is removed ( so performing a hysterectomy rather than a full ovarian-hysterectomy).
In male dogs, you can also do a vasectomy, which leaves the testicles intact, but removes fertility, but this does leave dogs with some perhaps less desirable masculine traits – fighting, inter-dog aggression, wandering and escaping – as well as issues with both testicular and prostate cancer in later life. So, we do advise a full castration once the dog has reached full maturity.

Dental hygiene

Dental disease is one of the most common reasons that your dog or cat may require costly surgical and medical treatment. Recent statistics in Australia have shown that 60% of pets over the age of 3 have some degree of dental disease that will require veterinary attention – and veterinary dental treatments generally involve a full general anaesthetic. These procedures are not only costly (anywhere from $250 to $1000), but also involve an inherent risk, albeit minor, from the anaesthetic. So the big question is – why do we need veterinary dentistry ? Why are dogs and cats getting rotten teeth and gums in such large numbers ?

The basic truth is that we no longer feed dogs and cats their natural diet. Instead of raw meat and bones, we are feeding high levels of carbohydrate rich dry and tinned food, which results in the accumulation of significant levels of plaque on the surface of the teeth, which in turn calcifies to become tartar. The tartar contains literally billions of bacterial colonies that invade the gums causing painful gingivitis, and ultimately erodes the tooth root attachment, resulting in damage and tooth loss.

Many pet owners still mistakenly believe that feeding dry food actually prevents dental disease, but the truth is quite the opposite. There are only a couple of prescription veterinary foods that have been proven to assist with preventing dental plaque formation, and they can be very expensive….but, there is a very simple and inexpensive solution

A natural, raw food diet, based on fresh meat and raw bones, will maintain your pets’ teeth and gums in pristine condition. Not only does the raw meat diet not lead to plaque formation, but the physical effect of chewing raw bones will massage gums and scale teeth of any deposits or build up. A simple policy of raw food, and twice weekly feeding of soft raw bones (see this link for all the information you need on how to feed raw bones safely to your dog or cat – can maintain your pets’ teeth for a lifetime, and literally save you thousands of dollars, not to mention saving your best friend from a lifetime of sore teeth and doggy breath. Rotten teeth and gums are a

modern disease caused by inappropriate diets, and the flow on effects include pain, infection, immune suppression, kidney, liver and heart disease, just to name a few. Why on earth would you want to risk this, when it is so simple to avoid – just follow Mother Nature’s wisdom and feed RAW, for a long and healthy life for your pets.

Chocolate toxicity in dogs

It is hard to believe for many people that something as yummy as chocolate, which is generally so harmless to people, can be quite toxic, and indeed lethal to dogs. The toxic agent in chocolate is theobromine, and it can cause both neurological and cardiac toxicity to dogs when ingested in sufficient quantities.

Theobromine is most concentrated in raw cocoa bean, and is at much higher levels in pure dark chocolate, and in lower levels in milk chocolate (there is none in white chocolate). Toxic doses will depend on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog, but for a 5kg small breed dog, as little as 10g of pure dark cooking chocolate can cause toxicity.

There is no antidote, and veterinary supportive care is critical to treat toxicity, so if in doubt, contact your vet if you think your dog has eaten chocolate. Christmas and Easter are often times when we see more cases, as dogs will sniff out chocolate in presents under the tree, or from post Easter chocolate feasting.

Anal gland problems

Anal glands are two small scent glands, located under the skin on either side of the rectum. They are present in both dogs and cats. They are designed to empty their secretion onto the animal’s bowel motions, being stimulated to contract by the stretching of the anal sphincter muscle when faeces are passed. If your dog has never had a problem with them, you are unlikely to know they even exist.

In the canine world, dogs mark out their territorial boundaries using their urine (which is also scented), and faeces. The unique scent produced by each dog’s anal glands sends out a clear message as to “who’s turf you are on”. This is also the reason why when unfamiliar dogs meet, they always indulge in session of tail lifting and bottom sniffing….the canine equivalent of a hand shake and formal introduction.

Anal gland blockage, or infection, is a common problem in domestic dogs, and occasionally in cats. The classic signs of anal gland problems in dogs, is “scooting” when a dog drags its bottom along the ground. This is commonly mistaken as a sign of worms (tapeworm infestation can occasionally cause scooting), but is far more likely to be anal gland irritation.

Expressing, or unblocking, the gland(s) is an unpleasant job, for both dog, owner, and veterinarian. It is achieved by physically squeezing the glands, either externally, or per rectum, and manually removing the secretion build up. It can be quite painful for the dog, if the glands are very blocked, or infected. And the smell…aaaagh !! ….it doesn’t get much worse, and I’ve smelt some pretty bad things, as a vet!

Once the glands have been expressed, the signs of irritation will usually disappear quickly, unless they are all ready infected. But it is unfortunately common that they can be blocked and full again within months. With chronic blockage, the sacs can form abscesses, and sometimes will require surgical removal.

            Like most diseases, prevention is better than cure. But even for the badly affected dogs out there, there are a few simple tricks that can help enormously. The principle cause of dysfunction is improper emptying of the glands. It is a lack of stimulation to the glands, to fully empty. This, quite simply, is caused by a lack of faecal bulk. Without correct faecal bulk, the anal sphincter muscle is not stretched, and the glands are not forced to empty. The change to processed foods and the lack of scavenging by dogs has led to a significant softening of normal dog faeces – wild dogs eat a vast array of indigestible material like sticks, fur, feathers, fruit stones etc, which create “normal” bulky faeces.

So the simplest answer to correcting anal gland dysfunction is to replace  faecal bulk. Raw bones provide an excellent natural source of faecal bulking. The digestion of raw bones produces those characteristic hard “white” dog motions you often see. If you feed bones every other day, your dogs are extremely unlikely to get anal gland problems. The other very simple form of faecal bulk I use, is whole grain oats and vegetables. Whole oats and vegetable fibre are indigestible, and will pass through a dog’s digestive tract and appear in the faeces . Using a natural diet or even adding a tablespoon of whole oats (husk and all) to any soft food diet, will create good firm stools at the other end. The end result, pardon the pun, will be normal functioning anal glands.


Annual vaccinations – are they really necessary ?

For the many years the veterinary profession has been staunch advocates of a yearly vaccination protocol for dogs and cats, and this has been fundamentally driven by the pharmaceutical companies that produce the vaccines. The vaccines that have been produced have only ever given a 12 month efficacy statement, and it is this fact that has under-pinned the science of annual vaccination.

In more recent times, efficacy testing on vaccines has been heavily researched in the USA, and has lead to some contentious findings. By performing antibody tests (which are available from your local vet), it is possible to determine if a pet has adequate protection from the diseases we vaccinate against. The US studies demonstrated that many pets had lifelong immunity from the first few vaccines, and in the worst case, most were protected for at least 3-5 years. This information was relevant to the very nasty groups of diseases – distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus, but did not prove true for the kennel cough vaccines, which struggle to last even 12 months.

When this information is combined with an ever increasing body of evidence that links over vaccination to a number of current diseases (feline vaccine sarcoma, canine hypothyroidism), it has created much debate about the ethical nature of advising yearly vaccines.

When challenged on the question of why vaccines have only been given a 12 month efficacy level, the answer has been that that was all the pharmaceutical companies were required to demonstrate to gain registration for the vaccines. The fact that they last much longer was not deemed relevant.

In light of this new information, Australian vets are now able to advise their clients to safely adopt a 3 yearly vaccination protocol for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus. Kennel Cough vaccines must still be given annually, but this mainly applies to dogs that go to kennels on an annual basis. Remember, kennel cough is not a deadly disease, and most dogs will recover from it with no treatment at all. There is now also a registered 3 yearly vaccine, which has slightly higher levels of antigen. But the reality is, your regular yearly vaccine is going to be very adequate for 3 years regardless.

At our clinic in Castlemaine, I have been advising 3 yearly vaccinations for over 12 years, and have not had a single problem. I recommend puppy and kitten vaccines (6 and 12 weeks) and the first annual vaccination, then every 3 yrs. We advise kennel cough vaccines only for dogs that are going to be kenneled within 6 months. I also offer antibody testing for those clients that just want to know if their pets really do need a top up vaccination. I also advise not vaccinating older pets (over 10-12 yrs old) if they have a good history of vaccination –in my experience, true acute vaccine reactions are rare, but chronic diseases that “may” be triggered, or aggravated, by vaccinations are more common in older pets.


Obesity in pets

Obesity is caused by two prime factors – excessive intake of calories, and reduced activity (burning of calories). Dogs are certainly less active than they were 20 years ago, when roaming the streets (and turning over the odd rubbish bin) was standard practice. These days dogs are confined to the yard, and exercised on lead (which hardly gets the heart rate up for a dog). Add to this the availability of high calorie dry foods (most people just don’t realize how energy dense dry foods are), and you have a recipe for obesity. Mix in the “food equals love” issues that plague most pet owners -“he just always seems hungry”, and we can explain the alarming statistic that 40% of dogs over the age of 4 are overweight.
Getting weight off your pet can be a struggle, but there are some very basic rules you can follow. Feed a moist diet, preferably raw (this will make your dog feel full = satiation) with plenty of vegetables, feed in the morning (not at night) and feed only once daily. Weigh your dog regularly to ensure you are winning – slow and steady is the best way to go. Increase activity levels where possible, but do this gradually over time (we don’t want your mate doing an ACL)

Feeding cats a natural diet

The Cat family (felids) have evolved closely along side their canine counterparts, but have developed their own unique dietary requirements as a result of their own unique dietary intake. Cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores, which means they must have meat in their diet to live (dogs can live on a vegetarian diet). Cats require significantly larger amounts of protein in their diet, as well as fats, and less carbohydrate and vegetable matter. Cats must have a dietary source of the amino acid taurine, which is only naturally found in meat (but easily destroyed by cooking), and the essential fatty acid arachidonic acid, also found in animal fats.

Cats have evolved as a fine tuned hunting machine, which parallels their need for fresh meat and animal fats in their diet. The structure of their bodies, teeth, claws, and digestive tracts are finely tuned to catch and process live prey. Cats, unlike dogs, will rarely touch carrion (old dead meat/carcass), and will not scavenge like dogs. They always prefer fresh meat/prey, and as such, are rarely poisoned or take baits. This is also why they can be fussy eaters, and will rarely be tricked into taking medication mixed in their food.

They have evolved to exist in the most arid environments, which is why they thrive in the Australian bush. Their urinary system has evolved to enable them to conserve water very effectively, producing a highly concentrated urine (the strong smell we all know well) and requiring only minute amounts of water each day. They do this by absorbing up to 80% of their water requirements from their live prey, and hence they need to drink very rarely. This is why I believe that the practice of feeding dry food rations to cats is totally wrong, and results in the high levels of urinary tract disorders and renal failure we see in cats today. Unless cats adapt quickly, and dramatically increase their water intake to compensate for the lack of moisture in the food, their urinary system is forced to produce more and more concentrated urine, which results in crystal formation, PH imbalance, and renal overload.

Cats are unable to properly cope with long term dry food intake, and will not live to their full potential on this type of ration, no matter how good or expensive the product.

So what should a modern cat eat ? A diet based on high levels of fresh raw meats (high in protein and fat), with a correct balance of carbohydrate and vegetable matter. Because raw meat does not equal an entire carcass, complete with organs, digestive tract, bones and fur or feathers, additional supplements are required to “top up” the basic diet. Additional yeast, kelp, lecithin, calcium, and vitamin C can provide all the extra natural elements (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements) found in a natural live prey diet. It is important to remember that cats do ingest grass and other green matter as part of their natural diet, so this must be accounted for also, in the form of vegetables and wheat grass.

All these elements and necessary supplements are provided for in Complete Mix for cats. The feeding chart is calculated on the higher need for raw meats and fat, and the mix itself is balanced to provide all the additional elements in the correct amounts. Naturally, many cats may put up a fuss if their regular food is changed, but if you are serious about good health and long life for your cats, persevere with the new diet and you will eventually convince your feline companions that fresh is best.

Note : for really fussy cats, try soaking the mix in chicken stock, and mix a few sardines in with the whole meal. Get them used to eating raw meat first, and add the mix gradually, over a week or so. You  can always come and have a chat with our healthy pets team for more information.

Christmas time for pets

What to get your pets for Christmas ?

Many people like to spoil their pets for Christmas, and why not, they are members of the family too. Giving your pet a special treat is great, but what about a gift that keeps on giving – what about pet insurance ?

Have you thought about what you would do if your pet is bitten by a snake, and you are faced with the need to make an immediate decision on spending up to $1500 to give them anti-venom treatment and supportive care ? Or what about a car accident, with broken bones and a referral surgeon that could cost $5000? Or even just a nasty grass seed up the nose, with a general anaesthetic, fibre-optic scope and a $400 bill.

How nice would it be to know that your pet is covered by pet insurance, and you can say “yes” without thinking. Accidents, emergencies and severe illnesses are a reality of pet ownership, but many of us never plan for them to happen, and can be faced with very difficult and heart wrenching decisions when faced with sudden, un-expected vet bills or treatment costs.

For as little as $10 per week, you can have total peace of mind, so don’t wait for trouble to strike your furry family, why not sign up for pet insurance.

Things to beware of at Christmas !

Christmas is a time of fun and family, but it does present a few new dangers to be aware of. Feeding left over Christmas lunch or dinner to dogs is a common cause of Boxing day blues – rich fatty foods like pork crackling, sausages and ham can cause a nasty upset tummy or even pancreatitis, which can be severe and even fatal. And left overs often include toxic foods like onion, sultanas, grapes or macadamia nuts, which can cause severe illness. Chocolate is another common danger at Christmas, and don’t think that dogs can’t tell what is wrapped up in a pressie under the tree – they have a keen sense of smell thousands of times greater than us mere mortals.

Cooked bones like ham bones and turkey left overs are another common cause of danger, and I have seen first-hand what problems can arise from giving Rover a special treat like this. As much as it may pain you to throw away those tasty morsels, it is far better than an un-expected trip to the vet with a vomiting dog and a potential bowel obstruction !

Wishing you all a fun and safe Christmas this year from Dr Bruce and all the team at Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic!