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

Sadly, 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

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!

Allergy season


Spring and Summer can be a rough time for many pets, with the onset of the flea and allergy season. Itching caused by allergies can be very frustrating for all involved, pets, owners and veterinarians. Because allergies are an abnormal immune reaction, there is no single simple answer to them, much like it is with hayfever or asthma – sometimes the best we can hope to do is control the symptoms and minimise drug use.

At Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic we strive to provide a “minimal chemical approach” to managing allergies, and we can offer a wide range of options that include diets, supplements, topical treatments and medications.

The goal of allergy treatments is to settle the over-reactive immune system and prevent self trauma from itching and chewing.

please click on this link for more detailed information on natural approaches to allergies :



The Clinic offers a wide range of products and services that can assist in managing and alleviating the annoying symptoms of allergies. Your pet does not have to suffer hot, itchy skin, so make sure you book in to discuss treatment options for your dog or cat.