How to manage a long term illness

With all the advances in modern medicine and surgery it’s easy to think that most ills can be cured with a course of pills, an injection or two or through surgery.

Unfortunately this is not always the case.

Some illnesses are chronic which means they can’t be cured. They can only be managed through regular and ongoing medications and / or treatment.

The purpose of the medications could include alleviating any pain or discomfort, slowing down the deterioration process, normalising physiological functions and minimising associated side effects.

Some common examples of chronic illnesses include:

  • Arthritis
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Allergies
  • Diabetes Mellitus …… to name a few!

So if your pet is diagnosed with a chronic illness you’ll find yourself commiting to regular and ongoing trips to your vet. The purpose of these visits are to enable your vet to assess your pet’s condition and her response to the prescribed medication and / or treatment. If the condition has changed or she’s not responding to the medication as expected, the plan may need to change.

In some cases, blood or other tests may be needed to make sure the medications are working as planned.

Your vet will prescribe enough medication to see you through until the next scheduled visit OR depending on the time elapsed between visits a repeat prescription may be authorised.

As a general rule however: if you run out of medication – it’s time to make another appointment.

Please understand, your vet can’t authorise repeat prescriptions without examining your pet first or conducting the relevant tests. Regular examination of your pet is critical to providing your pet with the best possible care. Plus it’s against the law to dispense prescription meds without regular examination of the patient.

Time between recommended visits for most ongoing conditions vary depending on the condition and your pet’s response to treatment. It could be weekly (to begin with), monthly, quarterly or longer.

But – at the very least, expect to schedule a checkup every 6 months for any chronic condition.

Do’s and Don’ts of ongoing care:

  • Do – take your pet back for all the recommended revisits. They’re organised for good reasons.
  • Do – give all the medications as directed
  • Do – contact your vet if your pet is unwell between visits
  • Don’t – stop medications unless instructed by your vet
  • Don’t – play around with dose rates to make them last longer – changes to medications can cause serious setbacks!
  • Do – keep a diary to record your pet’s behaviours so you can report her progress at each visit
  • Don’t – pressure the clinic staff for repeat prescriptions in lieu of having your pet examined. You know we can’t do this.

The Amazing Disappearing Limp

Fido’s limping so your off to see the Vet. While you’re explaining his complaint at reception he proudly trots around the waiting room on all fours.

The limp has disappeared. It’s no longer there!

Embarrasing? Maybe.

But don’t worry. We see this happen quite often and the reasons are very simple.

Dogs, like most animals are survivors. They’re careful about communicating signs of pain as this shows up their weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the rest of the pack or – in the case of prey animals – their predators.

In the wild – the weak and injured are abandoned or eliminated quickly.

In the comfort of their own home dogs are more likely to display their true feelings. After all, they’re comfortable with you and feel they can “be themselves”. So it’s easy to know when Fido just isn’t himself or he’s done himself an injury. He trusts you not to do him harm because of it.

However, take Fido out of his “safe” zone in the car and into a totally unfamilar place such as the Vet and that’s when his survival instincts kick in. Fear and apprehension, even excitement trigger the release of powerful chemicals which can temporarily “cover up” the signs of pain until such time he feels safe again – (usually when he arrives back home and settles back into his routine)

What this means is that that for the duration of the visit to the vet, Fido seems surprisingly well.

On examination though, the painful areas can usually be determined no matter how hard he tries to cover them up so it’s always worth following through with the visit.

Limps can vary according to their cause. They could be temporary, intermittent, sometimes worse then – not so bad. In any case, all limping does warrant your attention and a checkup by your vet.

Tablet Splitting. Yes or No?

Some tablets can be split into halves – or even quarters and if that’s the case then this is indicated by a “score” mark on the tablet.

You might have noticed with some tablets, human ones as well as pet ones they have some indented lines on them. This might be a single line running down the middle or 2 intersecting score lines forming a cross like this: +

If that’s the case, these tablets can be split along those lines to allow for half or even quarter doses.

This deliberate mark which occurs during the manufacturing process indicates that the “active ingredients” are uniformly distributed throughout the whole tablet. This means that if the tablet is split in half, the dose of the active ingredients are also halved.

On the other hand, if no such score mark is present on a tablet – this tablet is not formulated for splitting under any circumstances.

So – never split an unscored tablet unless specifically advised by a professional.

Apart from the fact that your pet may not be receiving the correct dose of the actual active ingredients, there’re other reasons too why it’s inappropriate to break an unscored tablet.

  • The tablet may be protected by a special coating to preserve the active ingredients. Some chemicals, when exposed to air or moisture can actually become inactivated or decompose. So by splitting such a tablet you may render the remaining portion ineffective.
  • The ingredients in the tablet can’t be adequately bound together to allow a clean break to occur. Not all tablets can be neatly snapped in half. And if you attempt to do so, they’ll just crumble between your fingers.
  • The contents of the tablet may just be too horrible to taste so they have to be enclosed by a special palatable coating to avoid having them spat back out at you!

Now – what about the “chewy” tablets?

Manufacturers are always trying to come up with better ways to medicate your pets and so one of these innovations is to create a more yummy “chewy style” tablet.

The benefit of these tastier versions of a tablet is that your pet thinks it’s a treat and happily takes it from your hand. (Beats fighting to force a tablet between clenched jaws for sure!)

Many of these e.g wormers come packaged in foil or “blister” packs which keeps the chew nice and moist. Just like your pet wants it.

If these are broken in half, the unused portion quickly loses its moisture and turns into something pretty useless. Once dry it loses its treat appeal so you’re stuck with something your pet won’t accept freely and it’s too large to be swallowed like a tablet.

The only place this piece usually goes is in the bin. So in this case, give the whole chew as indicated by the bodyweight range. e.g a 10kg weight chew is equally fine for a 5kg dog as it is for a 10kg dog.

There are some chewable tablets however which are scored and can be split. They are not dispensed in individual foil packs.

This means moisture content is not essential to the palatability of the chew and they can be split as prescribed by your vet.

Please note: all the information we provide on our site, it is of a general nature and not intended to be a substitute for individual veterinary advice.

Please always consult your vet for advice on medications and other health concerns.

To Shampoo or not before a trip to the Vet?

If you’re one of those people who thinks like this then – thank you – but honestly, it’s not necessary.

A good brush to get rid of any loose hair and dirt will do just fine.

Now why on earth wouldn’t we prefer to handle a nice smelling patient over one in it’s “natural” state?

Well, because as part of an overall health check, we also examine your pet’s skin and coat. The skin is a very important organ and can tell us a lot about an animal’s overall health. Similarly, the condition of your pet’s coat can also provide important clues.

A bath before a visit can often remove evidence of a skin problem which means it can be overlooked. We might miss the fact that your pet’s skin is dry or scaly or inflammed – all signs of a problem that needs to be addressed. We may even miss the fact that the coat is dry and lacks shine. A shampoo will generally add some short term lustre to an otherwise dull or greasy coat.

A shampoo will also cover up any smelly odours which could also be evidence of some hidden skin disease. Yes – there is a distinct difference between normal “doggy odour”” and the odour produced by a skin infection.

There are numerous causes of a dull coat or a skin condition. They include diet, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections and allergies. And if they’re there – we need to do something about them.

We know for a fact that some people get embarrased bringing in a smelly pet. It’s as if it’s some reflection on their quality of care or hygiene standards.

Be assured – it’s not.

And to these people we say – Please don’t be embarrassed. Examining your pet “au naturalé” is just fine with us

So to avoid “washing away evidence” – don’t bath your pet in the days leading up to a trip to the vet.