Keeping your Dog Happy and Healthy
A Veterinary Guide
Fortunately, most dogs live largely healthy lives, with only a few minor incidences. Despite this an annual health check with your veterinary surgeon is extremely important, not only for routine procedures such as vaccination, neutering flea treatment and worming but also because it enables more insidious chronic conditions such as liver disease, skin disease, diabetes and cancer to be detected early and therefore have a more favourable outcome.
Many dogs, enjoy nothing more than eating scraps, raiding rubbish bins and finding horrid things to eat! The better prepared owners are at pre-empting potential problems, such as times of stress or disease challenge, the less likely that serious problems will arise. Feeding good quality food and maintaining a fresh water supply is essential. Feeding a probiotic such as PROBIO PLUS helps to maintain good intestinal health and may be particularly beneficial following courses of antibiotics or any time a dog has a reduced appetite or stops eating. Similarly, supplementation with vitamins and minerals using MULTIBOOST for Dogs which also contains echinacea to support the immune system during times of stress or disease challenge (such as kennelling and mixing with other dogs) is of benefit. Dogs that are long haired or inclined to have poor quality hair coats will benefit from receiving SUPERCOAT for Dogs.
Common dog health problems include:
Digestive upset in your Dog
Digestive upsets are common in dogs. One study demonstrated how common mild vomiting and diarrhoea are in the general dog population, with approximately 19% of the dogs vomiting and 15% having diarrhoea over a two-week period. Prolonged digestive upset can result in weight loss and ill thrift and requires veterinary attention to establish the underlying cause. Constipation is another cause of digestive upset in dogs.
Vomiting and diarrhoea are not only unpleasant for the dog but are extremely unpleasant for owners to manage and clean up, especially if the dog is an indoor pet. Owners understandably feel distressed seeing their pet unwell as they would be to see a family member unwell. Pet owners should be aware that some infectious causes of diarrhoea such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, can be transmitted to humans and are referred to as zoonosis.
The most common cause of digestive upset in dogs is usually dietary indiscretion which involves the dog eating something disgusting and/or rotten or eating too much and is often associated with raiding the rubbish bin. One study as reported above 40% of dogs were shown to scavenge. Other cause of vomiting and diarrhoea which are less common but more complicated to manage, include an obstruction in the intestine, intestinal inflammation caused by food allergies, certain drugs and tumours. Other diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes can all cause vomiting, and less frequently diarrhoea. Constipation can cause vomiting as the faeces distend the colon which applies pressure on the stomach causing vomiting.
Like humans, dogs have good bacteria in their intestines which aid in the digestion of food and they also synthesise many essential vitamins.
Any digestive upset, can negatively impact the numbers of good bacteria and may allow bad bacteria to become established. Similarly, antibiotic treatment may alter the balance between good and bad bacteria in the intestine and lead to digestive upset. Therefore, it is important to replenish the good bacteria in the intestines to aid digestion and to provide additional vitamin sources and energy sources until the condition resolves and the cat returns to normal digestive health.
PROBIO PLUS is a recovery gel containing a probiotic called Enterococcus faecium which plays a crucial role in digestive health. Enterococcus faecium acts as a defending barrier against invading bad bacteria, aids in the digestion of food and the harvesting of energy harvest from the diet. In addition, Enterococcus faecium provides nutritional support for the cells lining the intestines and stimulates the development of the intestinal immune system. Many probiotics such as Enterococcus faecium produce short chain fatty acids promote normal gut motility. Changes in the normal intestinal bacteria have been linked to chronic intestinal diseases in both dogs and cats. PROBIO PLUS also contains dextrose which acts as a source of energy, which is especially important if your dog is not eating and it also contains electrolytes to replace those that have been lost through vomiting and diarrhoea. PROBIOPLUS also contains a range of B vitamins to help to restore appetite and support normal metabolism and antioxidant vitamins E and C to counteract damage caused to intestinal cells.
DIAGEL has been specifically developed and formulated for dogs that experience diarrhoea or constipation. DIAGEL contains psyllium which absorbs liquids and toxins and helps to normalise the faeces in the case of diarrhoea. The ability of DIAGEL to absorb liquid, also helps to soften the stools and aid passing of stools in dogs experiencing constipation. DIAGEL also contains dextrose as an energy source and several B vitamins. The B vitamins are typically synthesised by the good bacteria in the normal health intestine, so their supplementation during times of digestive upset is very important.
Arthritis in your older/mature Dog
Arthritis is the medical term used to describe joint inflammation. Joint inflammation can result from a variety of causes, but most commonly it is a result of wear and tear of cartilage and bone in joints. In arthritis, the bone, cartilage and the joint fluid are affected and inflamed. As with humans, arthritis and joint wear and tear is more common in older dogs. Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to the development of arthritis such as Labradors, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies and Rottweilers but arthritis is by no means unique to these breeds or older dogs. Poor conformation and obesity also increase the likelihood of a dog developing arthritis. As many as 20% of dogs greater than one year of age are thought to be affected by arthritis, with the hips, elbows and knees being the most commonly affected joints.
Signs of Dog Arthritis
The signs of arthritis in dogs are often initially very subtle but become more pronounced as the disease progresses and the joints become more painful. Signs that suggest that your dog may suffer from arthritis include:
- An obvious limping or lameness especially following a period of rest.
- Reduced activity or exercise (no longer as enthusiastic about going for walks or no longer greeting you at the door).
- Difficulty standing up and a reluctance to play, run or jump.
- Reduced flexibility of the effected joints and sometimes excessive licking around the painful joints.
- Lagging behind on walks
- Soreness when touched and yelping or whimpering
- Changes in personality, such as acting aggressive or withdrawn or flattening ears against their head
Arthritis in dogs is often quite advanced by the time it is diagnosed; however, the early signs of arthritis may be very subtle behavioural changes or may be incidentally picked up during a veterinary examination. The earlier arthritis is detected the more likely that therapeutic interventions will be helpful. Many dogs will require anti-inflammatory drugs to help to control the pain and inflammation, but there are several other things that owners can do to assist their dogs with arthritis and mobility issues.
In the early stages of arthritis, dogs may benefit from nutritional supplementation and in advanced cases nutritional supplements in conjunction with painkillers will also benefit dogs. Weight control has been demonstrated to have a very positive effect on the management of arthritis in obese dogs.
ELITEFLEX FORTE for Dogs contains several elements which are beneficial to joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are the building blocks of cartilage and supplementation may help to repair damaged cartilage. Vitamins E and C are antioxidants and will help to counteract the oxidative damaged caused by inflamed and dying cells in the joints. Hyaluronic acid is an important component of joint fluid and contributes to the lubrication and thickness of the joint fluid. Arthritic joints often have decreased amounts of hyaluronic acid because of inflammation. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a natural sulfur-containing compound produced by kelp in the ocean and is reported to have an anti-inflammatory effect as well as an effect on increasing the strength of the ligaments, tendons and joint capsule that surrounds the joints. ELITEFLEX FORTE for Dogs also contains the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which have been demonstrated to be of benefit in dogs with arthritis.
ELITEFLEX FORTE for Dogs is available in paste and liquid formulations. The liquid formulation should be mixed into wet food. The paste formulation can be administered either directly into food or smeared on the dogs’ lips or feet, so they lick it off.
In all cases of arthritis in dogs it is enormously beneficial for the dog to modify its environment to minimise the demands made on painful joints. Examples of environmental modification include introducing soft beds and placing them near radiators; considering ramps to facilitate the dog accessing its favourite sleeping place (e.g. the couch); considering the placement of food and water bowls to minimise jumping, reducing; moderating exercise to a little and often regime (arthritic dogs should never be exercised to the point of exhaustion or lameness) and undertaking more frequent grooming, cleaning and nail cutting.
Liver disease in your dog
The liver is the largest and one of the most complex organs in the dog and has many vital functions. It is involved in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. The production of protein and storage of glycogen, triglycerides, bile and the metabolism and storage of some vitamins and minerals also occurs in the liver. In addition, the liver is responsible for the metabolism and clearance of drugs, chemicals and the by-products of metabolism. The liver also synthesis many important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting.
The liver has huge reserves and a great capacity for regeneration if liver cells are damaged or die, therefore by the time signs of liver disease occur, there may be very little functional liver remaining.
Because the liver performs so many functions there are several causes of liver disease including drugs, toxins, cancer, metabolic diseases and infections. Many older dogs which have advanced arthritis live good quality lives because of the pain relief that they experience from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) prescribed by their veterinary surgeons. All NSAIDs are metabolised by the liver and the potential for liver toxicity though not common, should not be ignored. Signs of liver toxicity are often observed during the initial three weeks of treatment with an NSAID but can be observed at any time. NSAIDs are often administered daily in dogs for extended periods of time and in many cases years. Many vets recommend the dose be reduced to the minimum effective dose and treatment supplemented with alternative therapies such as nutraceuticals, physiotherapy and restricted exercise. The likelihood of NSAID toxicity of any sort (including intestinal, kidney, blood or liver) is increased in dogs with impaired liver function (e.g. older dogs) and it is also recommended that other drugs that are also metabolised by the liver are not administered at the same time as NSAIDs. Potential liver toxicity during NSAID administration can be monitored with regular blood testing.
Signs of Liver Disease in Dogs
The signs of liver disease are often very subtle initially and may only be detected by your vet on clinical examination or following blood test. The importance of an annual health check with your vet cannot be overemphasised because it enables conditions such as liver disease to be detected early. Signs that a dog may have a problem with its’ liver which should alert the owner include:
- A decreased or complete loss of appetite
- Increased drinking and thirst and increased urination
- Weight loss
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- A yellow tinge to eyes, tongue or gums (jaundice)
The treatment of liver disease depended on the underlying cause if it can be identified. Nutritional strategies such as the use of LIVERPAK for Dogs which help to reduce the burden on the liver may also be beneficial.
LIVERPAK for Dogs contains SAMe and silymarin (derived from the milk thistle plant) which have been demonstrated to have liver protecting properties (so called “hepatoprotectants”). LIVERPAK for Dogs also contains artichoke which has been used for many years in herbal medicine. Extracts from artichoke have been used to protect the liver by increasing bile output and as a diuretic and lipid-lowering agent. LIVERPAK for Dogs also contains carnitine which helps to clear fat from the liver. By supplementing carnitine it spares the dog having to use its’ own skeletal muscle as a source of carnitine and thus reduces muscle wastage. LIVERPAK for Dogs also contains vitamins E and C which have very strong antioxidant effects and help to protect liver cells from the effects of disease and inflammation.
LIVERPAK for Dogs is formulated as a paste should be administered under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.