Sunday, May 30, 2010

The problem with Ivermectin and Collies....!

This morning in Sunday clinic in Portarlington I have treated two cases of suspected canine Lungworm infection. It's a minor epidemic at this stage. When new pathogens or parasites emerge in the animal kingdom they propagate with impunity until medical treatments, host immunity or preventive controls catch up.

Vets, Doctors and Scientists share a common culture of learnng and vigilance in the face of evolving pestilence.At this time we, the veterinary profession are winning the war against Lungworm. Round one. Advocate is the simple and effective treatment and prevention against the Angiostrongylus Vasorum parasite. There are no miracle drugs in this life however. Medicines are only as effective as the protocols underpinning their use. By this I mean, in the case of Advocate for example, the pipette used must be the right dosage for your dogs weight and must be used monthly to prevent parasites developing partial resistance.

If your dog has signs of Angiostrongylus infection such as anaemia and coughing Vets may use other drugs such as Ivermectin or Moxidectin which can both be administered orally and by injection as additional treatments to accompany the use of Advocate.

Ivermectin is one of the oldest drugs of a group called Anthelmintics which control internal and external parasites in animals. Ivermectin is still very effective and widely usd. There is however an unusual genetic exception to its use. Dogs of Collie blood mostly have a genetic intolerance to Ivermectin and its mistaken use in these dogs has had fatal consequences in the past. Dogs with this genetic intolerance to Ivermectin include Collies (Rough and Border), shetland sheepdogs, minitiature shelties, Australian shepherd dogs, old English Sheepdogs and any crossbreed of these.

Lets face it- using ivermectin in any but the sickest of dogs is risky because every Heinz 57 in Ireland has some collie blood in them somewhere. Even the ones who dont look the least like sheepdogs.

Moxidectin is a newer generation derived avermectin and is contained in Advocate. It has the benefits of its older relative without any risk to dogs carrying the susceptible gene.

I can reassure any concerned collie owner that Advocate is safe to use in all dogs even the bluest blooded collie.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When is a cough not just a cough? .

...When a Cough is more than just a Cough.

Climate change.Some of us are sick hearing about it.A growing number of sceptics are beginning to ask just what's all the fuss about. God knows we could do with a bit of global warming around these parts, since the ash cloud wont let us leave the island anyway. Eco-sceptics you could call these people(did I just make up that word?) who couldn't care less about the polar bears, the icebergs or the ozone layer. To these people however, I have two words of news today.
Angiostrongylus Vasorum.

Scientists love words of Latin mystery. Their own secret code to confuse the punters. The real mystery however is Nature. Just when Vets like me think we have the job sussed, Nature moves the goal posts. Or as in this case, moves the Climate. Angiostrongylus is what you and I can call Dog Lungworm. And it's here. It usedn't to be in Ireland , but it's here now.

Angiostrongylus was once known as French Heartworm and was confined to warmer regions. One more thing the French have given us;Sarkozy, Dog Lungworms and Thierry Henri (quel horreur!).This Lungworm which is carried by the Slugs and Snails in our gardens is now infecting greater numbers of Irish Dogs because wetter and warmer Summers have seen a massive recent rise in the Slug, Snail and Frog populations in Ireland.

French Heartworm which we now call Dog Lungworm has spread to Britain and Ireland as global warming has brought warmer weather allowing the Angiostrongylus Worm to survive further north. More Slugs, Snails and Frogs now carry the Lungworm and increasing numbers of dogs in Tallaght, Leixlip, Lucan , Wexford and Kildare have been reported by Vets to be infected with this sometimes fatal parasite.

So how do dogs become infected? Tell tale slimy Slug and Snail mucus trails which you find at this time of year on garden paths, on the dog's toys and feedbowls are full of Lungworm Larvae. Dogs are curious rummaging scavengers. Your lovable mutt with the palate and appetite of Homer Simpson may ingest Frogs, Snails, Slugs or even their mucus trail to become infected with Larvae which migrate through blood vessels to the Lungs where damage occurs.

YOU are not at risk from Dog Lungworm but your dog unfortunately is. Infected dogs can suffer fatal Lung Bleeding, Pneumonia, Anaemia and other clinical disorders. Infection begins with a cough, breathlessness or fatigue. Vets may then observe blood clotting anomalies and/or Anaemia.Severe cases can progess to signs of vomitting, seizures or diarrhoea. The good news is that this modern problem has a very modern prevention and cure.

A simple spot-on remedy which your Vet can prescribe will deal with infection. Importantly the same spot-on is recommended monthly by Vets like myself as prevention against not only Lungworm but also fleas, Lice, ear Mites and other creepy nasties. Advocate from Bayer, for example, is licensed to give just this peace of mind to dog owners. Vets all agree that prevention is safer than cure. If Angiostrongylus Vasorum are two words too many, then one word Advocate is enough. Just ask your Vet.
Des Groome,
Groome PetVets,
South Green road,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nine Lives; Part Two- The Naming of Cats!

Somewhere in the region of ten years ago, not long after marriage but well before the arrival of our children, Glenda and I decided we needed a cat. In so far as one ever needs an animal around the place we needed a cat. Perhaps as a counterfoil to the dog. Perhaps as a comforting presence on the windowsill. An urbane symbol of domesticity and settlement. But practically, rodent control was also a factor for consideration in a house beside a stable yard full of horses, full of horse feed and full of mice.

Friends in Newbridge had a litter of kittens delivered to them by their own queen.We went to visit and found four bundles of snotty matted taggly meowing catflu in our friends' kitchen."Pick the sickest one; You'll be able to treat it" said Glenda.We took home a jetblack Tom Kitten. We named him Ted. Our two dogs were Dougal and Jack. Around that time we also rehomed a terrier named Mrs Doyle. Dermot Morgan's bizarre TV show about the priests on Craggy island was popular in our house. Not least because our house itself with leaking roof, wind-tunnel corridors and telephone number heating bills resembled Fr Ted's parochial house in a field. Thus the black kitten became Ted.

Ted grew and thrived.He was the biggest young tom I had seen by the time he was a year old. After Neutering he grew even bigger. And being wormed regularly and fed sparingly he developed the sleek coat and body lines of a miniature cougar. He was allowed indoors rarely, perhaps at feeding time or on a particularly wet night. He curled up most nights in the stableblock with one or other of the horses and patrolled the loft above, ruthlessly maintaining it rodent-free.

He was regularly fed but hunted whether hungry or not. True to the independence of his species, he reserved the feral rights of his ancestors to come and go as he pleased. He would disappear for a day or two. Then reappear dragging a large dead rat, rabbit or misfortunate young bird. These he would drop at the back door.I regularly teased Glenda "He is doing you a favour- bringing you food. He feels sorry for you that you're not able to hunt for yourself". She fondly wrote "Ultimate Killing machine" in the space for "breed" on Ted's vaccination card. Though she was also conflicted.She felt a pang of sorrow at the feathered confetti he nonchalantly left as evidence. Proud that Ted kept our house and yard rat-free while appalled at his callous, sanguine approach to killing for fun. This was the dichotomy of nature. Feral cruelty alongside urbane hygiene in a species on the edge of domesticity.

The writer TS Eliot was a cat lover. But you dont have to love cats or admire them to respect them. Cats are a species of contradictions and retain some primeval mystery. The dog is man's best friend and in creeping close to stone age camps for warmth and food, formed an alliance with huntergather man which has endured the millenia. Cats were slower to trust, to be taken in. The cat is nobody's fool. Eliot's poem "the naming of cats" whimsically points out the elusive nature of cats "The naming of cats is a difficult matter, it isnt just one of your holiday games, you may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter, when I tell you a cat must at least have three names"... The meaning I take from Eliot's fun poem is that you may name a cat but you'll never really own one.

Ted disappeared early one winter a few years ago. We turfed him out after his supper to his regular night's hunting and that was the last we saw of him. Glenda blamed herself. He had wanted to stay in that night but as the mother of a sick baby which refused to sleep Ted was now a lower priority. I had also begun a boarding kennels at the surgery which I reckoned was a barking indignity to Ted's sensibilities. Ted had probably exercised his prerogative as a cat of means, by no means and hit the road. That winter we were plagued with mice and paid a pest control firm for the first time ever.

Last week,some three years since Ted was last seen,a new customer brought a chronically ill old neutered tomcat to me for treatment. His admittance forms and record card labelled him with some name which shall remain nameless and by which this lady client knew him. But I knew Ted and he knew me. He was in a critical state of viral infection, needed a battery of tests and IV fluids but I smiled as I explored his familiar ear scars and skin folds, knowing that Ted had come to the right place to have his new life,or the next one, saved. I also took my hat off to the poise, resourcefulness and self-mastery of a cat who finding himself in a life of barking stress and waning appreciation, had simply taken off to make a new life.

It is people and not cats who struggle to make new lives. Look around today at a jaded Ireland and see the human detritus of unravelled lifestyles. Some angry at lost business, collapsed equity or that collapsed house of cards. Others bewildered at lost identities, certainties, not to mention lost livelihoods. A feeling of being tossed out- like the cat on that cold winter night. Most of us are survivors. Some of us like the cat with nine lives, can reinvent, cope, move on. Those whose identity is wedded to a house, job, place or status will struggle.The hard part of coping with extreme change and upheaval is to retain an inner equilibrium of self,of moral compass, of identity and pride,of cherishing family and priority. And to shrug off lesser things before moving on. That's the trick of survival of the cat with nine lives.

When Ted came off the IV drip and gained some weight again I imagined I could see his inner equilibrium return.I called him Ted. His new owners called him something else. Glenda cried when she came to the surgery to see this surprise,the proud independent tom who had adopted a new family years ago and miles away. Like all cats he probably doesnt much care what anyone calls him. He knows who he is. A survivor. TS Eliot finishes the peom thus " when you notice a cat in profound meditation,the reason I tell you is always the same, his mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation, of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name, his effable ineffable,
deep and inscrutable,
singular name.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Cottontail's wire-meshed Shawshank.

Long Ears is a blue and white cotton-tail inhabitant of a large well-made hutch of wire mesh and steel behind the back door of the Groome family abode. He moved in with us over a year ago after a client who had taken in a labrador puppy brought a young traumatised rabbit to me and shared a tale of prey and predator incompatibility. He had lost some weight,was refusing to eat and in a state of chronic stress(the rabbit that is- not the client).

Predator and prey species frequently do not mix. It goes against the natural order to attempt to make a rabbit and dog coexist as domestic pets. Remember the old looney tunes cartoons of the tomcat thwarted by tweetie pie or terrorising the goldfish? There are exceptions such as when socialised together from a few weeks of age, but in general natural urges supercede conditioning. When we have rabbits, hamsters, parrots, other prey species or exotics to stay at KIlDARE VET SURGERY we isolate them from our inpatient dogs and cats for this reason. Its not fair on either to mix them.

Thus Long Ears was adopted by the Groomes. Daniel,(7), James (5) and Tom (3) are too young yet to care for a dog or cat. A rabbit is an excellent first pet. That is until Dad, yardman Lar and grandad Tom get left to do everything. This winter in fact was so harsh that Long Ears shamefully was left in his outdoor hutch and coop largely to interact only with the adults.

A few days of snowman building and snowballing being memorable exceptions, the three boys spent the winter in the playrooom as engineers on the Island of Sodor or roadbuilders in Radiator Springs. Long Ears was sorely in need of some attention as rabbits need constant handling and interaction with people to ensure they remain socialised, do not revert to semi-feral and can be managed or cared for by a young owner. More importantly constant interaction is necessary so that the relationship between child and pet is wholesome and stress-free for BOTH.

Recently when the bikes were polished off and the boys started using the garden again they resolved to get Long Ears out to play. The first few episodes of manhandling led,not unexpectedly, to the rabbit wriggling and leg-thumping his way to freedom. Tom discovered that bunnies can have a nasty nip when startled. But after a week or so of handling, boys and rabbit became friends and played a sort of tag or hide-and-seek game in our enclosed side yard. Each day Long Ears would agree to be enticed by lettuce back to his hutch until the next time.

One day however our bunny found a new spring to his step. The time came for supper and to return Long Ears to lockup. But I looked out to find three boys of varying size and athleticism galloping around the yard trying to turn and corner a now fitter and confident Long Ears. It was definitely a Looney Tunes version of a Clonmel Hare coursing contest. At one stage as Long Ears paused for a breather and turned sharply to unbalance his twolegged pursuers,he looked across at me and I almost heard him say " Whats up Doc?".

That pursuit ended on Long Ears terms, when he decided he was tired of the chase and returned himself to barracks. But the next morning I looked out from upstairs to see his run empty. I spotted something beyond the back garden some 100 metres away and opened the window to get a better look. There he was in the long meadow keeping the pony company. Ears forward, aloft on hind legs with a blade of grass between his paws. No doubt smelling the sweet breeze of freedom.I laughed at the joie de vivre of our cotton tail, this time definitely less Looney Tunes and more Shawshank Redemption!

The boys' Mum warned darkly of the grim fate that could befall this fluffy innocent abroad in the long grass. A capture party was thus swiftly dispatched and soon Long Ears was reincarcerated to stare at the four small wire sides of his prison. As the old sage "Red" in that great movie said from his cell "Same old shit, different day!". We repaired the never before eaten-through wire meshing.

But something had changed. Long Ears escaped again. And again. And Lar the yardman nodded one day and said "he's got the taste of freedom now. Only the crows will scare him. He will breed with the wild ones and there'll be blue and white little lads everywhere!". Lar was our "Red"; the Morgan Freeman character who watched Andy in Shawshank always trying to escape in the 1994 movie and provided the slow voiceover "I have to remind myself that some birds aint meant to be caged, that's all".

Here's the thing. Long Ears hutch hadnt changed.But his attitude had. Now he could escape because he wanted to. For the previous year the blue and white cottontail had languished behind a wire mesh wall he himself held the power to breach. Held captive only by a barrier in his bunny brain.A taste of freedom had empowered him. The smell of free air had shown Long Ears the possibilities of life. Now escape was as easy as his dreams of a new reality!

There's some work to do tomorrow in mending that hutch.It will be no laughing matter for three little boys if a certain cotton tail meets a sad ending in the long grass. For now though remember "Shawshank" brought to you by eternal optimist and escapologist Andy Dufresne, AKA Long Ears. What imaginary prisons hold any and each of us back? A negative equity mortgage holding you back from a fresh start or a re-education? Fear of failure holding back that germ of a business idea? Unemployed, bankrupt or squeezed by the weight of institutional credit? Feel the failure if you need to- and let it liberate you.

I will leave the last word to Andy Dufresne who finally did escape."Dear Red. If you're reading this it means you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further.Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies".