Forrestfield Veterinary Hospital
313 Hale Road
Wattle Grove, WA, 6107
Phone: 08 9453 1290

High Wycombe Veterinary Hospital
548 Kalamunda Road
High Wycombe, WA, 6057
Phone: 08 9454 6915
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Summer and snakes tend to go together & that is certainly the case at Forrestfield & High Wycombe Vet Hospitals this spring. Our unseasonally hot spring weather this year has snakes moving possibly sooner than normal & we have had a spate of  Snake Bite  Envenomation cases over the last month or two, & it warrants a warning to watch out for snakes with your pets.

Forrestfield & High Wycombe Vets have had 10 cases of suspected Snake Bite already this spring alone. Of these, four required intensive care & the administration of Anti-venom, three had apparent sub-lethal bites & recovered, but sadly three of the cases had died before the owners were even able to get them to the hospital. Importantly almost all of these cases were in suburban backyards, so snakes are not just a risk on a bushwalk.

In Perth, the 2 main Snakes that bite pets are  Brown Snakes (Dugites mainly) & Tiger Snakes . In general, Dugites are the most likely to be seen in backyards or on a bushwalk, while Tiger Snakes tend to be near wetlands, or rivers. Although the different snake venoms have actually slightly  different affects on the animal, BOTH do have similar symptoms that you, as the pet owner, will see : Initially , collapse, excess saliva, urine or faeces passed,  & fast breathing  can be seen. Sometimes the pet may appear to recover, before a short time later progressing to worsening weakness & wobbliness, then paralysis, wide pupils of the eyes, salivation & breathing difficulty. Death comes rapidly due to the paralysis of the muscles needed to breathe. Not all symptoms are seen with every case and there are lots of variables, like how much venom was in the snakes venom sacs at time of the bite, that effect what you may see.

The most important message is that “TIME is of the ESSENCE”. If you “think” that your pet may have been bitten by a snake, DON’T WAIT  til the signs are seen, as by then it’s often too late. The sooner we see your pet, the sooner we have a chance of administering Anti-venom & the greater the chances of saving a life if snake bite has actually occurred.

The problem for us as vets is that Snake Bite Envenomation is one of the most difficult  things for us to diagnose, as many of the symptoms are seen with many conditions & sometimes its only the pet themselves that know they have been playing with a snake !!!  and unfortunately they tend NOT to tell us !! 

Unless, of course, you are “Thor”,  the Russian Blue feline,  one of our recent cases, who made it a bit easier by bringing  the baby snake into the house to “show mum” after playing  with it.  We’re happy to report that a rapid trip to Forrestfield Vets on seeing the snake by Thor’s wonderful owner, meant Anti-venom treatment was able to be administered, just as Thor started to “crash”. Happily  with good response to Anti-venom & intensive care, he made a full recovery over the next 36hrs  and lived to create a new myth of “Thor vs Snake”. Thor is still very handsome as you can see, but  now finds it harder to plan his next adventure confined to the house.

Thor Photo

"Thor" thinks toy cars are almost as much fun to play with as Snakes !!

Watch out for Dugites

Contents of this newsletter

01  Ditch the itch this Christmas

02  Scratchy bottom

03  Prevent a crisis this Christmas

04  Charlie's itchy ears

05  AIDS - is your cat protected?

01 Ditch the itch this Christmas

Without doubt, the best gift you can give your pet this Christmas is comfort. And we don't mean a king sized bed or a back massage! The most simple way to make sure your pet is comfy is to prevent itchy skin. 

Allergies to fleas, grasses, trees, plant pollen, dust mites and moulds as well as certain foods can all set off an attack of the itches. 

Itchy dogs will bite, lick or scratch with their legs whereas a cat will constantly lick at particular areas, causing hair loss. 

Itching quickly leads to self-trauma of the skin and this can cause secondary infections that require aditional antibiotic treatment.

Top tips for preventing an itch: 

  • Be absolutely vigilant with flea treatment all year round. Fleas are THE major cause of an itchy pet and regular use of a flea treatment is cheaper and easier than repairing the damage. Ask us for the best flea treatment available
  • Keep your pet's skin and coat in top shape to provide a good barrier from allergens - ask us for a premium diet balanced in essential fatty acids 
  • Wash your dog in pet approved shampoo and conditioner - ask us for a recommendation
  • Some pets may find relief with an antihistamine or a medication to help reduce the immune system's response to the allergen - we can provide you with more information so enquire now

If you have an itchy pet at your house call us for advice. We will make sure your pet is as comfortable and itch free as can be! 

02 Scratchy bottom

Have you ever witnessed your dog dragging his bottom along the ground? This strange doggy dance is known as 'scooting' and may be an indication that your dog has irritated anal glands.

The anal glands are located on either side of your dog's anus. Each gland holds a small amount of a foul smelling brown liquid that is released as your pet does a poo. This custom scent is left on the poo and this is used as a doggie calling card.

Most dogs won’t have a problem but if the glands are not sufficiently expressed they  sometimes become impacted and uncomfortable. Your dog will try to relieve the irritation by rubbing his bottom along the ground. 

Dogs that suffer from allergies and itchy skin may also be itchy around the bottom & do similar scooting behaviour. 

Warning signs to watch out for:

  • Licking or chewing the bottom, turning around suddenly
  • Rubbing bottom on the ground especially after defecating
  • A foul odour (some describe it as a 'fishy' smell)

If you notice any of these signs, the glands need to be manually checked and expressed by us, and  checked that infection is not present.  Sometimes a premium diet can also help reduce anal gland problems so ask us for a recommendation.  

03 Prevent a crisis this Christmas

Here are our top tips to help prevent a Christmas catastrophe and keep your pet healthy and happy this Christmas.

Keep leftovers off the menu!

Don't be tempted to feed your pet leftovers. Christmas dinner is notorious for causing upset tummies and nasty episodes of painful pancreatitis in our pets. Never feed cooked bones and watch out for skewered meat that falls from the BBQ - we don't want to have to remove one of those from your dog's stomach!

Be on hazard watch

Be on the look out for hazardous things your pet might find interesting. Cats love Christmas ornaments, electrical wires, ribbon, string and wrapping paper but all of these can cause major problems if ingested. Candles and burning oils are also dangerous. Remember that ingestion of stems, stamen or the flowers of Christmas lilies can cause kidney failure in cats.

Make festive plans for your pet

Give your pet plenty of love and attention over Christmas - it is a busy time of year and your pet will pick up on this. Make sure you plan out some fun for your pet on Christmas Day and remember to keep them safe and secure during festive fireworks.


04 Charlie's itchy ears

This common scenario is played out  everyday at vet hospitals : Charlie the chocolate labrador was shaking his head and using his foot to have a old good scratch around his head. He was wearing a new collar and his owners thought this was the culprit, but when he started to smell a bit funny he came in for a check up. 

An examination revealed hot, red and itchy ears. There was black 'muck' at the opening of his ear canals and his ears smelt terrible!

Using an otoscope (a fancy tool with a light) the canal was examined all the way to the ear drum. There was no sign of a foreign body (such as a grass seed) but the ear canals were very inflamed and there was lots of abnormal discharge, indicating an ear infection.

Ear infections are very common at this time of the year. We like to think of the ear as a 'mini environment'. If this environment is upset in any way (such as moisture from swimming or itchiness from an allergy) bacteria and yeast start to have a party in there! The result is a very unhappy ear canal and an uncomfortable pet. 

Sometimes the infection can be treated with drops alone, other times there is so much discharge that having the ear cleaned first under aneasthetic is required, but almost all can be treated successfully.

If you think your pet might have itchy or smelly ears arrange a check up with us ASAP. The longer you leave an ear infection, the harder (and  sometimes , the more expensive) it becomes to treat.

If your pet suffers from recurrent ear infections you should ask us about some of the medications we have available to help prevent ongoing problems. 

05 AIDS - is your cat protected?

It's World AIDS Day on 1st December so now is as good a time as ever to alert you to the fact that your feline friend can also develop the disease. 

What causes Feline AIDS?

Feline AIDS is caused by the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) which affects the immune system of cats. FIV acts in the same way as the human form of HIV, destroying the immune system and leaving a cat susceptible to infections, disease and cancers. Once a cat has been infected, FIV can then progress to feline acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, also known as Feline AIDS.

How is FIV spread?

The virus is most commonly spread from cat to cat through saliva (via a bite wound) but can also be transmitted by a mother cat to her kittens across the placenta or through her milk. Close to 30% of cats in Australia are thought to be FIV positive. Any cat that ventures outside and has contact with an infected cat is at risk. Thankfully FIV cannot be transferred to humans. 

Can I prevent the disease? 

There is good news for cats and cat lovers as there is a vaccine available to help prevent FIV infection - ask us about the vaccination program available to help protect your cat. Given that a successful vaccine has been developed against FIV, there is hope that an effective vaccine against HIV will be developed in the future.