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Q & A - Ask our experts
Use the panel to the right to ask a question of your own, or check the list below for previous questions our vets have answered.
My dog has very bad flatulence!
Excessive flatulence in a younger animal is usually caused by diet. To stop this, feed your dog a premium complete dry food and nothing else. In an older dog that is losing weight the cause is less likely to be food related. There are some medical conditions that can cause flatulence (along with weight loss), and many of these are treatable. Have your dog examined by your local veterinarian.
My dog constantly licks and gnaws at her hair, she seems to be in some discomfort.
It is highly likely that your dog has dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin. This can be caused by numerous things. Dermatitis can be a very frustrating problem to treat for both owners and often vets too!
One very common cause is fleas. This can be the case even if you cannot see or find fleas. In some cases, dog can have allergic reactions from just one bite of ONE flea! So ensure your dog is on a good flea treatment. See PawClub Health and Care for more information.
Itchy skin can also be caused by certain types of mites. These need to be diagnosed by your veterinarian, often after performing skin scrapings and examining them under a microscope.
Alternatively, itching may be the result of a bacterial or yeast infection. These infections can be the cause of the itching on their own or may be due to additional problems as well. Your vet may want to do a sticky tape preparation to diagnose the infection. Depending on what is found your dog may need to be given antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Many dogs suffer from itchy skin at certain times of the year. This can be due to allergies to pollens or other triggers in the air at that time of year. These allergens are breathed in and cause the itchy skin. It is similar to hayfever in humans, except instead of red eyes and runny noses, we see itchy skins in our dogs.
Someone stepped on my dog’s tail and it is now very sore at the tip, could it be broken?
Sometimes, when tails are stepped on, it can cause a fracture of one of the tail bones or pull the skin away from the bone. The tail can then look normal but actually be quite sore. The concern is that if you leave it, the tail break could set incorrectly and cause long-term pain. The tip of the tail may also “die” resulting in severe pain and infections. If your dog is in pain, it is recommended that you have your dog checked at your vet. They may want to take an X-ray too.
Why does my dog try to chase after thunder and fireworks?
Your dog could have thunderstorm or noise phobia, a fairly common condition. The first thing you need to understand is that your dog is actually scared of these noises. To help him feel more secure, try creating a dark, sound-proof enclosure for your dog inside the house. This could be a dog crate wrapped in egg-carton-type mattress foam to make it sound proof. You will probably need to train your dog to accept this new confinement area by throwing food treats inside and giving him rewards for going inside. Also, give your dog long massaging pats to try and sooth him.
Alternatively, make sure your dog is in a room that is as dark and as sound proof as possible whenever there is thunder or fireworks. Play a radio or music to disguise or drown-out the noise. Even 'white noise' (TV or radio static) can assist. Sometimes a CD of thunderstorm noises can assist some dogs in getting used to these strange sounds. Do something fun with your dog whilst thunderstorm noises so you desensitize them, so by associating thunderstorms with a fun and exciting and non-threatening activity.
If your dog still seems to need help there are medications and pheromones that can assist. Some are short-term medications and some work for longer. These are only available from your vet or a veterinary behaviourist.
I want to give my dog tinned food, which brand is best?
There are many different brands of tinned food, some are better than others. As a vet, I generally recommend that dogs are given dry food as the tinned food tends to get stuck between their teeth and cause dental disease. I don’t generally recommend specific dry food brands, but the premium brands do have better nutritional value.
My puppy won't come when called in the park and when other dogs are around.
Getting your dog to come when called is an essential part of obedience training and is important to keeping him safe. Start inside the house by running away from him and calling him with a high-pitched voice. When he chases after you, give him a tasty treat as reward and praise him with your voice and by patting. Do this as many times as you can throughout the day. Soon he will learn that coming to you means getting a reward. When your puppy is consistently coming when called, move the training to the backyard or frontyard where there are more distractions.
As a next step, take him to a quiet (on-lead) park. Put him on a long length of rope so he can’t stray far and continue teaching him the same way. When you are happy with his progress, you can move on to taking him off-lead. Remember, whenever you call your dog to come, always reward him when he does (eventually) come. Never punish your dog for taking a long time as this may reinforce disobedience.
Also, if you are about to go home and you call your dog, always give him something fun to do before you leave the park or he may associate coming to you with “the time that the fun ends”.
Why does my dog like to roll in the dirt, especially after having a bath?
Unfortunately, some dogs do not like to “smell clean”. Additionally, water, soaps and shampoos may irritate their skin. Many dogs love smelling “dirty” as this is their “natural” state.
How do I potty train my puppy
You need to decide on an area that you want your dog to go the toilet. This could be outside or on a puppy pee mat inside. This is the area that you want him to go when he is older. There are 4 times when he is most likely to go to the toilet: 1. Just after eating 2. Just after playing 3. Just after waking 4. Just after release from confinement e.g. if he has been locked in the laundry while you have been out. At these times you need to place him on a lead and collar and take him to the spot where you want him to go. Stay with him by holding the lead! You may need to wait 20-30 minutes. When he does go then reward him immediately with a food reward and praise. If you are doing this and he is not going on the spot but rather perhaps when you are inside again then set a timer to go off every 30 minutes or so to remind you to take him out for a chance to go to the toilet. When the timer goes off, place him on the collar and lead and take him to the spot. Again when he goes reward him with a treat and praise. Cease all punishment of him for going to the toilet in the wrong spot. Rubbing his nose in it will not help - you just need to clean it up. If you catch him in the act of going then distract him with a loud clap or similar. Do not punish him but rather take him outside to the spot and then reward him if he goes in the correct spot. If you punish him for urinating in front of you then he may learn not to urinate in front of you because he gets punished. Then he learns to urinate when you are not looking or not around or behind the couch etc. When you are not home confine him to a small area with or without access to the toileting spot. If he does not have access to the spot then provide some newspaper or similar as a toilet in one corner of the room and place his food, water and bedding in another corner. Be sure to clean up the urine inside the house with products called Animal Odour Eliminator, Urine-off or Biozet laundry detergent. Do not use other chemical cl
Is there an alternative to buying dog toothpaste
Dog toothpaste is specially formulated for dogs in that it tastes nice, will not foam and has lower fluoride as compared to human toothpastes. I'll give you a tip though - it is the brushing of the teeth that cleans the teeth and the toothpaste is really nowhere near as important as the brushing component. So if you can't afford the toothpaste then just brush without it for the same result.
My dog is overweight - what can I do?
Weight loss is a simple equation of calories going in and calories being used with exercise. If she is eating too much and/or not exercising enough then she is putting on weight. The simple solution is to feed her less (including treats, tidbits and leftovers) and start exercising her more. When decreasing her food, you can bulk it up with fibre such as pumpkin or carrots so she does not feel hungry. Sometimes buying a smaller bowl can help with portion size. Some people like to continue to give treats etc. which is fine. What I recommend doing is putting all the food she is allowed at the start of the day into a bowl in the fridge and any treats she gets comes out of this. Once the bowl is empty she doesn't get anymore. Finally, there are prescription diets and often weight loss clubs run by your veterinarian that can assist greatly.
My dog does not respond to treats as a reward for learning tricks - what else can I do?
You need to find the 'incentive' that works for your dog. Some dogs prefer a pat or to play with a toy as their reward (e.g custom or police dogs and their wrapped up towel/tug toy). The other option is to actually restrict her food or only feed her food from your hand and never from the bowl. This means she must perform a behaviour or 'trick' before getting her meal.
My dog is always greeting strangers by sniffing around their crotch area, how do I stop this behaviour
Generally dogs do this because they know they will get attention e.g. pats, pushed away or sometimes some dogs see yelling as attention or a reward. You need to be training her to do a different behaviour e.g. sit for a food when greeting people. Linked to this you need to start totally ignoring her when she greets you in the groin. This means turning away from her and giving her not attention for it and then asking her to sit at the same time.
My dog is anxious about riding in the car, what should I consider?
Some dogs can be anxious of car travel. This can be a combination of the car motion, sound and sights. Even though your dog is not vomiting it can also just be caused by the nausea of the travel. Treatment that can assist is to very gradually get your dog used to travelling in the car. This means you need to take the process back many steps and take it VERY slowly for your dog. Start at a distance from the parked car. Reward your dog with food rewards for sitting as you get closer to the car. Do this several times daily for about 5 minutes for one week. Then move to opening the car door and rewarding your dog in the same manner for another week. Then move to placing your dog in the car (no engine running) and reward them with food rewards, pats etc for correct relaxed behaviour in the car. Then start the car and don't go anywhere. Do this for several weeks. Then move the car just down the driveway and that is it. Over a couple of weeks gradually increase the length of your trips. If at any time your dog shows anxiety then your need to take it back several steps and move through the steps more slowly the next time. It is not a short process.
Many dogs become aggressively protective of the car, and show this by barking. You can discourage this behaviour by ensuring your dog cannot see out of the windows of the car. Distract your dog by giving her a food reward in the footwell e.g. a bone. Or simply restrain your dog in the footwell so they cannot see.
Some dogs like to be in a carry crate in the car with all sides but one covered with a thick dark sheet. While they are in her give them a chew toy or a Kong lined with peanut butter etc to give them a positive association of going in the car.
How do I treat my dog's separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a difficult problem to treat and very hard for us to give you simple advice. Separation anxiety is anxiety of being separated from the owner i.e you. Some simple suggestions that may assist for mild separation anxiety are: Try changing to feeding your dog with food release devices (e.g. Kongs stuffed with food, Buster Food Cube, Busy Buddies etc). Give these as you are getting ready to leave (before they get anxious) and when departing. Some people even 'feed the chooks' by scattering the food in the backyard. The idea is that no longer is your dog fed from the bowl but rather from the food release devices. Give your dog a raw meaty bone daily to keep them occupied. Ensure your dog is getting adequate exercise. Teach your dog to sit and stay while you gradually get further and further away from it. This needs to be gradual over several weeks/months until you can be in another room and your dog sits waiting for you. Unfortunately, separation anxiety is a problem that, without treatment, worsens over time. Luckily, there is much more that can be done to assist a dog with this problem. There are even medications that can assist!
My dog is eating poo of other dogs, what do I do to make his/her stop this behaviour
Poo eating is called coprophagia. In puppies it is a normal behaviour and is thought to be copying the mother who often 'cleans up' after the puppies. Most dogs grow out this but unfortunately some dogs do not. Some dogs start eating their own poo if they are bored and lack stimulation in their back yard. It is not due to a deficiency in your dogs diet. Generally it will not make your dog unwell either - just ensure that they are regularly wormed. There is no treatment that consistently fixes this problem. You can try to train your dog to come for a food reward as soon as the they defecate enabling you to clean it up. If it is caused by boredom or a lack of stimulation. Try changing to feeding your dog with food release devices (e.g. Kongs stuffed with food, Buster Food Cube, Busy Buddies etc). Ensure your dog is getting adequate exercise. If possible some of this should be off-leash to provide both physical exercise but also lots of sniffing and socialising (as long as you and your dog are comfortable with being off-lead!). Rotate their dog toys daily to provide novelty.
What is the daily recommended intake of food for dogs
This is a very common question. How much to feed your dog depends on the type of food you are feeding! As humans if we eat salad everyday we could probably eat a lot without putting on much weight. If we ate the same amount of hamburgers then obviously we would put on weight. It is no different in dogs. Every brand and range of dog food has a different number of calories per cup. This can be even more complicated if you are cooking your own meals for your dog. Even if you are feeding exclusively dog food, there are usually treats and table scraps as well which can complicate the calculations. Some brands of food do have a guide on the side of their packets, others do not. This can further be complicated by how active or inactive your dog is. The best guide is to see if you can feel your dogs ribs. If it is difficult to feel them then possibly your dog is overweight. This can take some experience so it is often best to visit your veterinarian (or veterinary nurse) for their opinion.
I want to start leaving my dog outside when I'm at work, how do I best go about doing this
The best way is to gradually introduce him to being left outside for short periods of time and then lengthening this over time. Make sure that when you let him back inside that house that he is not barking or scratching at the door as this will teach him that this behaviour gets rewarded! Also when putting him outside, give him something very yummy to eat e.g. a rawhide, pigs ear, bone or Kong lined with peanut butter. This way he will learn to enjoy going outside as 'good things' happen there.
Why does my dog like to lick feet?
The answer to your questions is simply that your dog likes the smell and taste of certain foot odours, which is why you will find your dog will be more attracted to some feet over others!
When is the best stage/time to euthanase my elderly dog
Deciding when to euthanase a loved pet is a difficult decision. It is made even harder when they are like an 18 y.o. teenager in the family! You need to ask yourself is your dog having more good days than bad days. If it seems there are more bad days then it may be kinder to make the difficult decision. Other things to consider are: - Are they eating ok? - Are they able to get around ok? - Are they able to move away from their faeces and urine? - And are they still enjoying your company? Usually if it is no to any of the 1st three then they are probably not enjoying your company so much either. While euthanasia is a heart breaking decision, it is often one of the loveliest last gifts we can give to relieve suffering.
What meat bones are best for my dog?
Bones are actually not recommended to feed to dogs anymore! From a vet perspective there are several concerns: There is a high risk of a dog catching "food poisoning" bacteria or germs, such as salmonella or campylobacter, from raw meat. There is also the possibility of the humans in the household catching these diseases. The bones can cause injuries, tears or blockages in the intestinal tract from anywhere from the mouth to the anus, leading to bleeding, severe diarrhoea or constipation. Sometimes the blockages can be so serious and that require urgent surgery is required. Bones are also known to fracture teeth. You are much better off using dental chews, stick and dental dry foods.
My dog has shaky legs
There can be many reasons for shaking in the legs. This can be caused by arthritis, some muscular problems, some metabolic problems e.g. diabetes, and sometimes it can be 'normal' ageing. I highly recommend having your dog checked by your vet.
My dog is scared of thunder and lightning
Creating a sound proof enclosure for your dog inside the house can assist. This can be a dog crate wrapped in egg carton type mattress foam to make it sound proof. You need to train your dog to accept confinement in this area. This involves throwing food treats in here and giving your dog food rewards. This is likely to be required to be used long term.
Make sure the room they are in is dark and as sound proof as possible. Play a radio or similar to disguise the sound. Even 'white noise' can assist.
Give your dog long massaging pats to try and sooth them.
Sometimes a CD of thunderstorm noises can assist some dogs. A good resource is: Dr Cam Day’s “Frightful Noises” CD.
There is also medication and pheromones that can assist dogs greatly. Some of these are short term mediactions and some are longer term medications. These are only available from your vet or a veterinary behaviourist.
There is a foreign lump on my dog’s body
Lumps come in all shapes and sizes, and can be all sorts as well! This can range from injection site reactions, benign lumps, or in some cases, malignant cancers. As such, it really is best to bring your dog to your family veterinarian to get it checked out. They may run a few tests if needed. They may recommend surgery to remove the lump. They may also advise you to simply keep an eye on it. However, unless it is assessed by your family veterinarian, it is difficult for us to advise on lumps, just because they do come in all shapes and sizes, and could be just about anything!
How do I treat my dog’s dermatitis
Dermatitis can be very frustrating and complex for both pet owners and vets! The most common cause of itching is fleas. This can be the case even if you cannot see or find the fleas. So to start, make sure your dog is on a good brand of flea treatment every month, all year round, such as Revolution. If your dog is still itchy despite this and has dermatitis, then it is best to bring your dog to your family veterinarian for a thorough check-up, as there are so many possible reasons and so many different types of dermatitis. Your veterinarian will be the best person to assess your dog’s skin, lifestyle and develop the best treatment and management plan for you and your pet.
My dog is frequently licking her anal area…
There are a number of reasons why your dog would be licking its anal area and give out a strong fishy smell. This could range from simple, impacted anal glands (which is the most common reason), tapeworm infections or something even more serious, such as infections or cancer. The best thing to do is to have the anal area checked out by your family veterinarian, and they will also advise on the best management plan for your dog.
Do dogs dream?
When dogs are deep in sleep they can look like they are dreaming. They often move their eyes, grunt, softly bark, move their legs and move their whiskers and lips. Some people get scared by this and think their dog is seizuring. The difference is that a dog can be roused from sleep but not from a seizure. Science is unsure as to whether dogs dream or not. They certainly appear to and if Hollywood has anything to say about it then they certainly dream just like us!
Can dogs get anxiety?
Dogs, like people, can suffer from anxiety. Anxiety isn't always a logical thing and can be difficult to understand in your dog. Many dogs who are rehomed once or more often develop some form of anxiety, especially when there has been some neglect or abuse involved. The most common form of anxiety in dogs is called Separation Anxiety (SA). SA can sometimes look like bad behaviour or illness such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour, house soiling, escaping, loss of appetite, excessive coat licking etc. The difference is that for SA the behaviours happen when the owner is not around or is out of reach, such as behind a closed door. SA can often be a hard condition to treat but much success has been gained through using a behaviourist who comes into the home, assesses the situation and offers tips to lessen the anxiety. Sometimes medication is also used. Your local vet is the person to ask if you require this type of intervention.
How should I introduce my dog to the new baby?
You're expecting a baby! Congratulations! Many people worry about introducing a baby to the family dog and how the dog will handle it. The majority of the time this is a smooth happy transition and with a little preparation everyone will be ready. Start teaching your dog before the baby arrives which areas are restricted. Spend time with your dog and even do an obedience refresher course to reinforce rules and boundaries. When baby arrives don't leave the dog out so that jealousy isn't a problem that grows. Never leave the two alone even if you are convinced it's safe and remember that your dog is part of the family too and will become an important part of your new arrival's life in time.
What rewards are best for my dog?
The best rewards for your dog are ones that are palatable, low fat and calorie and can be broken into small pieces. Some dogs can be sensitive or allergic to certain foods so this needs to be taken into consideration. Some common rewards that are appropriate are: dried liver treats, single kibble pieces from their regular food, vegetable pieces such as carrots or even small pieces of chicken, no skin). Rewards are an important part of a dog's training as they reinforce what you have taught them and they learn faster. But remember the best reward is usually a cuddle and praise straight from the one they love the most-YOU!
How do I know if another dog is going to be friendly to my dog?
In short, you don't. Dogs can be hard to read and little things can change the dynamics between 2 dogs who don't know each other. Generally though, good signs are tails wags, relaxed bodies, smiley faces and no growling. Always try and ask the owner of the other dog how they interact with strange dogs before allowing close play. Walking with leads, meeting dogs you know and watching for problems in advance can really help reduce unwanted interactions. Also, well socialised puppies generally become well socialised adult dogs, so get the training in early. Puppy preschool is a great group to attend at your local vet.
How do I stop my puppy from play biting or nipping?
Puppies love to nip a lot in play and their young sharp teeth often hurt and scratch very easily. Aside from the pain factor, a nipping puppy that does not learn to curb this behaviour will often grow into a dog that uses his mouth for rough play. Dogs love to play tug of war and our natural instinct to pull away during nipping emphasises this type of play. By starting young, you can easily teach your puppy or young adult that mouthing is just not acceptable. Here are a couple of techniques to try:
1. Try and reverse the instinct to pull away from your puppies mouthing and gently pushing into the mouth a little. This isn't designed to hurt your puppy just confuse his play. While the puppy is expecting the usual ‘tug' away, instead the game is broken and they learn that that type of play isn't rewarding.
2. Simply get up and remove yourself from the puppy and cease interaction. Your puppy longs to get attention from you and if a behaviour removes this attention swiftly then they soon learn not to do this again.
Why does my dog eat grass?
The most common reason dogs eat grass is because they like it. A common misconception is that they have a nutrient deficiency or are trying to make themselves sick. Grass is an irritant to the stomach in large amounts and can cause vomiting. Large amounts of grass eating can also cause blockages in the stomach and intestine as they form a clump during digestion. It is best to keep your dog away from long grass to eat but keep them on a lead during walks or by keeping gardens well manicured. This will also prevent any problems with grass seeds during the spring/summer seasons. If you feel your dog is vomiting/eating grass excessively please visit your local vet for a check up.
What is the best collar and lead to walk my dog with?
Halter-type collars will give you the best control over your dog and are the most comfortable to wear. They give you control of your dog's head and when you have control of the dog's head, you have control of the dog. These collars work on the same principle as a horse halter. Even a smaller person can have good control over a large strong dog without hurting them. When you pull on the leash, the dog's head will either be pulled down or to the side - this makes it virtually impossible for the dog to move ahead or pull you forward. This also means you can control who your dog listens to by enabling you to make eye contact with your dog and draw their attention from distractions around them.
How do I clean my puppy’s ears?
You generally do not need to clean your puppy's ears regularly unless they get very dirty. This can be due to a normal waxy discharge, or abnormal discharges due to an underlying infection (e.g. earmites, bacteria, yeast). If your puppy is shaking its head very frequently, scratching at its ears and appears distressed when you try to touch its ears - it may have an infection. In this case, your puppy will need to see a veterinarian for the appropriate treatment.
If it is just a small amount of normal waxy discharge, just like in people, where the ear is not hot, inflamed or painful, simply use a dry tissue to clean off the wax on the outside areas of the ear. Do not wash the ears with water as this can actually lead to an infection. Be careful when you are bathing your puppy as well, to make sure water doesn't get into the ears. If you wish, there are special ear washes available from your veterinarian to ensure that your puppy's ears stay clean and healthy. These can be used after swimming or bathing.
If your puppy has hairy ears, which is common in some breeds (e.g. poodles), plucking the hairs out of those ears is not recommended at all, unless there is already an infection at the time. In a normal ear, if the hairs are plucked out, this will lead to oozing and bleeding (and is painful for your puppy too!). The oozing and bleeding can actually lead to an infection due to the moisture present in the ears. However, if your puppy's ears are infected, then the hairs may be removed to get all the discharge out of the ears and help get the medications into the ears properly. If in doubt, speak to your local veterinarian for advice.
Why can’t I use human shampoos on my puppy?
Puppy skin is different to human skin, and the main difference is that puppies do not produce as much oil (or sebum) compared to people, and are therefore very sensitive to soapy human shampoos that are designed to strip the oils off. As a result, your puppy may develop dry, sensitive skin when human shampoos are used. Ideally, use a shampoo specially designed for puppies or dogs. Dog or puppy conditioners are also available to improve the appearance of their coat.
What are those little claws on the inside of my puppy’s hindlegs?
In some puppies, they are born with what we call vestigial dew claws on the inside of their hindlegs. Not all puppies are born with them, and it can be unpredictable which puppies will have them and which puppies won't.
These vestigial dew claws on their hindlegs don't serve any function, and can range from being very small and unattached, or be well attached to the underlying bone. The main issue that can arise from those dew claws is that they can get caught in things and the claws get torn off, and those claws also often overgrow and grow into itself. Both cause pain and discomfort.
They are usually surgically removed as part of an elective procedure during the puppy's routine desexing procedure, under general anaesthetic and with pain relief.
I have a fluffy dog: do I need trim the hair around her face?
In many fluffy breeds, such as maltese crosses, there is often a lot of fur growing around their face. This may look really cute but their facial fur often rests onto their eyes and causes a lot of weeping. When the weeping becomes excessive, the "gunk" tends to accumulate on the fur on the lower eyelid and nose area, becoming a thick scab that causes an underlying dermatitis - which is very uncomfortable and painful for the puppy.
The fur around the eyes needs to be trimmed regularly so that the fur doesn't get into your dog's eyes. Use blunt-ended kid's scissors and trim slowly and carefully, taking your time to make sure you don't distress your dog and don't accidentally hurt her. If you are still not sure as to how to do this, speak to your local veterinary clinic and they will be able to show you how to do this safely.
Over time, your dog will get used to the trimming procedure and the process gets easier each time. Many groomers will also offer this service as part of the grooming job.
If your dog's eyes are still very weepy and "gunky" in spite of this - there may be other eye conditions that need further veterinary treatment - speak to your local veterinarian about this if you are worried.
When can I start training my puppy?
Rightaway! Dogs are never too young or too old to train!
Effective training methods are taught by dog trainers at many dog obedience schools and puppy preschools at veterinary clinics. Lessons range from basic commands such as sit, stay, drop etc. to more advanced classes involving agility training and fun tricks.
Harsh punishments such as hitting and rubbing noses into their poo and urine is often very ineffective and counter-productive; it makes training in the future even more difficult. Positive reinforcement, using treats and praise, is the cornerstone behind successful puppy training. Please ask your veterinarian or dog schools for more details on training classes.
A successful training program will not only help you train your puppy quickly and effectively, but it will also enormously improve and develop the bond between you and your puppy!
When can I bring my puppy out for a walk?
Allowing a pup out in public before 12 weeks of age depends on the risk of infection from parvovirus and other diseases in your particular area. If the risk of parvovirus is low where you live then it is important to get your dog out and socialising before 12 weeks of age as this is a critical socialisation period in your dog’s life. It is important for a dog to try and meet as many different people and dogs as possible in non-confronting ways during this time.
What should I feed my pup?
The best diet you can give your puppy is actually premium brand puppy food and water only, once they have been weaned fully. Once your puppy has been fully weaned, they no longer require milk, so you do not have to give them puppy milk at all. The dry form of puppy and dog food is the most economical and is also better for your dog's teeth, compared to the canned foods.
As much as we love to spoil our puppies with table scraps, treats and snacks, and make our own home-cooked meals for them, the nutritional balance in such diets is often not very good and it may lead to nutritional deficiencies in your puppy.
All premium brands of pet foods have been carefully and scientifically prepared to ensure the best nutrition for your puppy, and it may seem bland to eat the same thing day-in and day-out, but rest assured that you are really doing the best for your puppy.
Moreover, if you don't ever feed them human foods, they will not develop a taste for them, and thus may prevent future begging behaviour, obesity, vomiting and diarrhoea, anal gland problems etc. And they will be very happy with their dog food for the rest of their lives!
How do I wash my puppy?
Use an appropriate puppy shampoo that is specially made for puppies or dogs. The water temperature should be the same water temperature that you would comfortably shower in.
You can shampoo your pup just like you shampoo your own hair, and rinse it off after lathering.
Alternatively, you can also fill a small bath with warm water and some shampoo and drench it over your puppy. If you have used a lot of shampoo, then a final rinse is recommended.
Make sure you don't get any shampoo or water on your puppy's face, eyes and ears. Some shampoos can be irritating to eyes and water-logged ears can lead to ear infections in your dog.
Towel-dry your puppy once it is all done. Leave-in puppy or dog conditioner can now be applied for a nicer shinier coat. In warmer climates, it is often not necessary to blow-dry your puppy. If you need to blow-dry your puppy, make sure the hairdryer is on low heat and is constantly moving, so that you don't accidentally burn your puppy's skin.
My dog needs 2 teeth removed. Can you suggest an animal dentist?
Most veterinary clinics are able to offer dentistry services involving tooth extraction/removal. If you are wanting your dog to visit a specialist veterinary dentist, you will need to ask your normal vet for a referral.
My dog has the embarrassing habit of twice a day or so, dragging her anus along the ground, despite her being wormed and well fed, what is the issue?
This behaviour where your dog is dragging her anus along the ground is commonly referred to as "scooting". Scooting indicates some sort of bottom irritation.
The most likely cause is an anal gland problem: Every dog has two anal glands or sacs (1 gland on each side of the anus). The secretion from these glands enables the dog to mark its territory and to identify each other. The anal sacs are normally expressed (emptied) during defecation. The secretion from the anal glands is a pungent, brownish liquid, although it can become thick, yellowish or creamy looking. The anal sacs can also be emptied when the dog is frightened. If the anal glands don't empty regularly, they can become impacted - the secretion becomes thicker and more difficult to empty; sometimes an infection in the anal gland will result. This can be irritating for the dog and the dog will scoot in order to relieve the irritation the impacted anal glands are causing. Impacted anal glands can be treated by manually expressing the glands. Your vet can do this for your dog, and if it is a common problem for your dog, you can learn to do this yourself. Occasionally, impacted anal glands can block totally, and surgery is required.
I think my dog has a yeast ear infection. What is this and what should I do to treat it?
This type of ear infection involves a yeast called Malassezia. This yeast is part of the normal skin flora, but can under certain conditions, multiply and cause clinical signs of an ear infection - red, itchy ears sometimes with a discharge. Commonly, bacteria are also involved in causing the clinical signs of an ear infection. It should be noted that certain breeds are predisposed to overgrowth of Malassezia.
If you suspect that your dog has any type of ear infection, you should take your dog to the vet to have it diagnosed and appropriately treated. Your vet will determine the extent of the ear infection, work out what is causing it and prescribe treatments that will specifically and appropriately treat the infection. Some products for ear cleaning are available over the counter, but if used when the dog has an ear infection, especially if it involves a ruptured ear drum, can be dangerous.
My dog eats bird seed that my cage birds flick out of the cage onto the ground. Is this bad for my dog?
Dogs are believed to be non-obligate carnivores, meaning that a dog is not dependent on meat-specific protein in order to fulfil its basic dietary requirements. Dogs are able to healthily digest a variety of foods, including vegetables and grains, and in fact dogs can consume a large proportion of these in their diet. In the wild, dogs not only eat available plants to obtain essential amino acids, but also obtain nutrients from vegetable matter from the stomach and intestinal contents of their herbivorous prey, which they usually consume.
As such, I do not think there should be much harm in your dog eating small amounts of bird seed that your cage birds flick onto the floor. (It also saves you having to sweep it up!)
My dog has heart disease. Do we need to make any changes to his diet?
Whilst heart disease is usually not curable, as a pet owner you can incorporate some simple dietary changes that when used in combination with medical therapies can ensure your dog has a good quality of life.
Sodium restriction is usually the first dietary change that is recommended for patients with heart failure because the condition tends to lead to salt and water retention. Typically, many commercial brands of pet food have relatively high salt levels. Pet treats can also be high in salt and should be avoided. Other minerals important for heart health include potassium and magnesium. It is important to supply the correct levels of these essential nutrients in the diet for optimal effect.
Protein should not be overly restricted in dogs with heart disease and the kilojoules content of the food needs to be appropriate to maintain your pet's ideal body weight. Excess body weight results in increased work requirements for the heart, while too little energy is also deleterious.
Omega-3 fatty acids may be useful in some patients with heart disease as they may help to reduce inflammation which may ultimately reduce the risk of muscle wasting and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Whilst there are some important dietary changes you can make for your pet suffering heart disease, it is important that such changes are done in the context of providing an overall palatable and nutritionally balanced food. There are a variety of commercially available therapeutic diets available through your veterinarian, which are specifically formulated to meet all the nutritionally requirements of particular medical conditions. Speak to your vet about any specific dietary changes you may need to undertake to maintain your pet's health.
Where do I purchase a dog from?
It's better to visit the dog first; to see it in person so you know what its nature is like first hand. If you don't mind what breed, you may be able to find a dog that suits you through a pound or rescue agency. If you're after a particular breed, you will need to seek out a breeder. Do your homework and use trusted breeders whenever possible.
Will my allergies be affected by certain dogs?
They definitely can be, so do some checking before you buy a certain breed. It might take some time to discover whether or not you are allergic to a particular breed.
You can be allergic to the shed dog skin, hair, saliva, or even their urine. Some of the reactions include nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and serious asthma attacks.
One way to see if you - or your child - develop a reaction is to visit a breeder. Hug the dogs and rub your nose into their fur. Let them lick your bare skin, especially on your neck and inside your arms where the skin is sensitive.
What are the best breeds for kids?
There's no definitive answer to this question because almost any dog has the potential to get along well with kids. Saying that, certain breeds do have a reputation as naturally kid-friendly such as Labradors, beagles, terriers and collies.
Ideally, you want an intelligent dog with a good temperament and medium energy level.
You might also want to consider the age and size of both your kids and the dog. Toddlers can be knocked over by a gangly, awkward puppy. Bigger kids could accidentally do damage to a small dog.
For more ideas and help in selecting the perect breed for you and your family, have a look at our puppy selector.
My dog’s ears omit a bad smell. Why is this?
Any dog can have smelly ears, but especially floppy-ear breeds where the ear flap covers the ear canal and traps moisture inside. On the other hand it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health disorder such as ear mites, a yeast infection or a bacterial infection. You should get your vet to do a check for you.
You should also regularly clean your dog's ears. Here's the easy way to do it:
1.Grab some vet-recommended dog ear cleaner, cotton balls or cotton pads, Q-tips and dog treats.
2. Sit your dog in a comfortable setting, and sit right next to him or her so they can't back up and squirm away. You may need another set of hand sto help you do this.
3. To get rid of the wax and gunk, dampen a large cotton ball or cotton pad with the canine ear cleaning solution and wipe the ear. Then do the same on the other ear.
4. Then dampen the Q-tips with the ear cleaner to get rid of remaining ear wax from the nooks and crannies and the outer ear canal. Whatever you do, don't insert the Q tip into the ear canal - make sure that you can always see the tip of the Q tip; only use it for cleaning the outer parts of the ear.
5. Offer praise and treats along the way to keep your dog in a buoyant mood and make ear cleaning something to look forward to.
How do I know my dog’s vision is fine?
It's important to do weekly eye checks on your dog. To give them a good eye-balling, face them in a brightly lit area and look into their eyes. They should be clear and bright, and the area around the eyeball should be white. The pupils should be the same size, and there shouldn't be any discharge, tearing or crust in the corners of his or her eyes.
You'll also want to roll back the lower eyelid with your thumb and look at the lining to make sure it's pink, rather than red or white.
Other things to look out for include a protruding third eyelid, closed eye/s, cloudiness, change of eye colour and tear stains on their fur around the eye.
My Labrador retriever seems to shed an awful lot of hair. Is this normal?
Yes, very normal. A Labrador coat is very thick and dense and when they go through their seasonal moult, they lose hair in alarming amounts.
Why is my dog not eating?
Most dogs love food, so when a dog isn't eating, it usually indicates that they are not well. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Why is my dog putting on so much weight?
It could be a number of reasons. It may be due to eating too many doggy treats, feeding by a friendly neighbour, a change in diet, not enough exercise, part of growing or, they could be pregnant.
How do I know if my dog has food allergies?
Common symptoms of food allergy are tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and/or skin problems with rashes and itchiness. You might notice that these signs occur when your dog eats a certain food; but then avoiding this food, the signs might not return. If you are concerned that your dog has food allergy and can't work out why, consult your veterinarian.
How do I punish my dog?
Getting angry doesn't usually solve anything. You will get better results and bigger changes using positive reinforcement.
Why does my dog tear up the house when I am not there?
The most common reason is separation anxiety (SA). This simply means they are scared of being apart from their owner and alone. It can also be a result of pure boredom. So keep your dog entertained by placing some of their favourite toys around.
What are the most common fears/anxieties experienced by dogs?
Most dogs are scared of unfamiliar objects/beings (including other species of animals) and loud sounds. Thorough socialisation when they are young can minimise this.
I’m concerned my dog may have a joint problem, will this require surgery?
The size of your dog usually plays a role in whether or not a joint problem is the real issue. Bigger dogs put more weight on their joints, which can do more long term damage. Treatments such as physical therapy and swimming may help to manage joint problems. If your vet thinks that your dog has a joint problem, they might recommend radiographs to image the joint and see what’s going on. Surgery is usually only required for more serious problems that can’t be managed otherwise.