Bringing A Dog Home To A Safe Environment

Creating a comfortable, cozy and safe environment at home for your dog will help ensure they remain happy, healthy and content.

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” That age-old proverb applies to both humans and dogs. Just as your home is your refuge and your haven, so it is for your dog.

But just as you put effort into making your home safe and comfortable for the human members of your family, you can do the same for the canine members of your family.


Is your pet an indoor dog or an outdoor dog? Most dogs thrive in an indoor environment. Dogs are pack animals, and you are a member of your dog’s pack. So it can be stressful for your dog to be separated from you for long periods, as outdoor dogs tend to be.

But sometimes it just doesn’t work for the dog to live indoors. If that’s the case with your dog, make sure that its outdoor home consists of a structure that is dry and comfortable. The structure should be shaded from the sun, and sheltered from wind.

And keep an eye on the thermometer.

Cold weather is uncomfortable for dogs, just as it is for humans. The ideal situation for your outdoor dog is to provide it with a heated shelter. If you can’t do that, then consider bringing the dog inside during cold snaps. But hot weather can be dangerous too. Watch for excessive panting on hot days, provide plenty of water, and consider providing a plastic children’s pool for cooling off.

Indoor dogs obviously don’t have to face the same temperature extremes as outdoor dogs, but they still have specific needs. Your dog should have it’s own space, whether that’s in the form of a crate, a kennel, or a bed.

Both indoor and outdoor dogs need to have boundaries. No digging in the garden, for example, or crawling into an open dishwasher to lick the plates!

Physical barriers such as fences can help to enforce boundaries. But for indoor and outdoor dogs, boundary training can also be an effective means of control. For outdoor dogs, boundary training supplemented with physical restrictions like fencing will minimize the possibility of your dog venturing beyond its permissible bounds. And indoor dogs can very effectively be taught to remain clear of ‘forbidden’ areas with boundary training.


Whether your dog lives inside or outside, it likely shares its environment with many hazards that could threaten its health, or even its life. Be alert for potential pitfalls such as:

  • Human medications. Some common medications can be very dangerous for dogs. And some dogs can be very creative when it comes to opening a stray pill bottle. So be sure to keep all forms of medication physically out of reach.
  • Plants and flowers. Some of the plants and flowers that grow in your yard or decorate your house may be poisonous to your pet. Be aware of the plants that are within your dog’s environment, and do a bit of research to assure that they aren’t hazardous to your dog’s health.
  • Food. If your dog lives indoors, it may occasionally have access (or may constantly be attempting to GET access!) to people food. But there are foods that – though scrumptious to you – are deadly poison to your dog. Preventing all unintentional access to food will obviously eliminate that concern. But if you occasionally like to treat your dog with people food – better clear it with the vet first.
  • Toxic chemicals. Housecleaners, detergents, fertilizers, insecticides, weed-killer, antifreeze – the list goes on and on. Whether inside or outside, there’s a chance your dog could have a fatal encounter with a toxic chemical unless YOU make certain it can’t happen.


There really is no place like home. With a bit of effort and knowledge, you can make certain that that’s always the case for your furry friend – and in a good way.

Benefits of Cat Ownership

Many people feel that a house only becomes a home when a cat lives there. Here are some benefits to cat ownership which will surprise even the most devoted of cat-people.


If your family includes a cat, you’re in good company. Cats are popular pets and they bring much love and joy to their human companions. In fact, according to a recent ACAC study, more than two million of them share our homes across Australia.

Pet ownership in general, and cat ownership in particular can improve your quality of life. Dr. Bradley Smith, one of many scientists who study human-animal relationships, recognises these positive impacts as something he call the “Pet Effect.”


The most common reason to keep a pet is for companionship, so this benefit won’t come as a surprise to anyone. People who don’t have a cat in their lives often believe that cats are unsocial, distant pets. If you’ve ever been the recipient of an affectionate head-bunt from a friendly kitty, you know that the “unsocial” myth is indeed a myth. Cats are not the solitary animals that they had been believed to be.


Cats might not need much exercise, compared to dogs and rabbits, but they do like to play with their human companions. Tossing a toy mouse around the living room can get you moving a bit, too.


People sometimes accuse their friends of turning their pet into a substitute child. By replacing a child or younger sibling as “something to nurture”, a pet often does serve that need. In today’s smaller families, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everybody needs somebody to love, furry or otherwise.


It might be noticed more with dogs, but children who grow up with cats appear to have more practice with considering what other people are thinking and feeling. This experience ofempathy helps children learn to relate to other people, and to consider their actions in light of how those actions will affect others.


Petting a cat who’s curled up and purring on your lap is a great way to lower stress and blood pressure. In fact, recent studies have shown that the frequency (or the “pitch”: how high or low the purr sounds to you) of a cat’s purr helps bones and muscles to heal after an injury.


Earlier discharges from the hospital, fewer times when visits to the doctor’s office are needed, and lower levels of stress overall are some of the benefits that some researchers have found. Having a cat might also lower your risk of heart disease more than going on a low-salt diet would do, if current research proves to be true.


Even when social status, income level, and location are taken into account, many studies still showed a measurable advantage to having a pet such as a cat.

Of course you wouldn’t adopt a cat only because you know that keeping a pet is good for your health. A cat is a big responsibility.  These benefits are just more reasons for you to love that pet.

Dog Teeth Cleaning & Dental Care

Does your dog have bad breath? Are their teeth clean? We take a look at the importance of proper dental care for your dog and share some tips to help ensure their mouth stays clean and healthy.

Statistics suggest that over 80% of dogs have some degree of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. Your dog can’t tell you when he has a toothache, so it’s essential that you take steps to keep his teeth clean. While your veterinarian does play a role in keeping your dog’s sparkly whites in good health, there is much you can do at home to prevent dental disease.


When you bring your new canine family member home at 8 weeks of age, he’ll have a full mouth of sharp baby teeth. There isn’t anything you need to do for these teeth, but it’s a good idea to get your pup used to having his mouth examined and his teeth cleaned. Make a game of opening his mouth, looking at his teeth and giving them a gentle rub with a soft toothbrush.

His temporary teeth will start to fall out at around 4 months of age and by 7 months he’ll have all of his permanent teeth in place. This is when you need to get serious about dental care, because these teeth need to last him for the rest of his life.


One of the first indicators that your dog’s teeth need attention is that his breath smells bad. As his dental disease progresses, he may drool and paw his mouth, and he may have trouble eating.

There are a number of things you can do to keep your dog’s teeth and gums in good condition. Bearing in mind your pet uses all his teeth for different purposes, sometimes using a combination of things works best. Not all teeth will accumulate tartar at the same rate and this can be dependent on factors like how your dog chews and whether there is good alignment of the teeth.


Dogs use their large, pointy canine teeth (fangs) at the front of the mouth for grabbing a hold of something (eg. a prey item if they were hunting, or a big bone or toy), but don’t use them for chewing. The best way to look after canines is with brushing, as these are the easiest to get to.INCISORSThere are 12 incisors in total. These are those little single-rooted teeth at the front and are mainly used for grooming and sometimes for delicate chewing (or snipping off a mouthful of grass). These are also very easy to brush and can also be kept clean with water additives.PREMOLARSBehind the canines are the sharp premolars. These multi-rooted teeth are used for cutting large food items. They number 16 in total (4 on each side top and bottom). You will notice that most dogs move larger food items to the back where the cutting teeth are. The best way to keep these clean is by brushing and using a dental food or chew.MOLARSThe larger 10 flat molars at the back are ideal for grinding up hard dry food. Using dental biscuits keeps these healthy and clean, they can be a bit tricky to brush since they are so far back.


Water Additives

There are various additives you can add to your pet’s drinking water that can reduce tartar formation. They do work best as a preventative, so should ideally be introduced when your dog is young or just after a dental clean. We recommend using one that has the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, like Healthy Mouth.

Bones and Chews

Chewing can really help to keep your pet’s teeth healthy, particularly those premolars. But we do want to recommend safe chewing. There is certainly much debate on the safety of bones in dogs and as vets we probably see the what goes wrong with bones, more than what goes right.  We see countless broken, chipped and damaged teeth from dogs chewing bones. A bone that is strong enough to hold up a 1 tonne animal (cow), or even a 100kg animal (sheep) is pretty tough. And raw chicken bones are a huge choking hazard and with intensive chicken farming practices a great way to get a salmonella or e.coli infection.

The only chews that has the VOHC seal of approval are Greenies. Rawhides or pig’s ears and dehydrated chews are safer than bones, but may not do a particularly good job of cleaning teeth for many pets. Whatever your pet chews, they need to be able to sink their teeth right up to the gum line, so usually things like Kongs and Nylabones are not a good way to prevent periodontal disease (even though they are good for other reasons!).

Dental Diets

There are a number of diets now available to help prevent tartar formation. They help by mechanically brushing the teeth, as they are formed with larger pieces. They also have ingredients that help prevent gingivitis and the build-up of plaque. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription dental diet like T/D. Dental diets are best fed as sole-diets, but there is still some benefit in mixing them in with your pet’s regular food. There are a number of diets that make claims to prevent dental disease, however to ensure they do what they say, we recommend choosing a diet from the VOHC list to ensure the claims are backed up by evidence.


If your dog is accustomed to having his mouth examined, your vet can examine his teeth every 6 months during a physical exam. It may not be possible to probe around the teeth with a dental probe to check for pockets between the tooth and gum, but your vet can assess for tartar accumulation, gingivitis and tooth fractures.

Your home care will help to prevent plaque and tartar from accumulating on your dog’s teeth but it won’t get rid of what’s already there. Even with regular brushing, as humans we need to visit the dentist every 6 months. The same goes for our pets.

A regular dental scale and polish every 6 – 12 months is the key to keeping all your pet’s teeth and avoiding unnecessary and costly dental extractions.

Once teeth have disease around the gums and significant pockets of infection around gum line, the damage to the ligaments holding the tooth in the jaw is usually irreversible, which is why sometimes teeth need to be removed. If damaged teeth aren’t removed they will just serve as a source for further infection down the track.


When we go to the dentist we are happy to sit back in the chair, keep our mouths open and we would most likely not bite our dentist as they work. Unfortunately pets are designed a little differently, their mouths do not open as wide and even the most well behaved dog will not allow a full dental exam and clean. It is impossible to properly clean your pet’s teeth without having them under anaesthesia and safely intubated to protect their lungs from inhaling stray bits of tartar and bacteria during the clean.

When your vet cleans your pet’s teeth, the steps involved are:

  • Your pet is anaesthetised and an endotracheal tube is placed to ensure no plaque, bacteria or fluid gets into your dog’s lungs.

  • Each tooth and the surrounding gum is checked with specialised probe to ensure there are no deep pockets between the gum and tooth.

  • Any teeth that have periodontal pockets of more than 3mm are xrayed to check the bone around the tooth.

  • The teeth are scaled with an ultrasonic scaler, like what your dentist uses.

  • Should any teeth be found to be unhealthy (and therefore painful) they can be removed at the same time using a local anaesthetic block, sectioning and gentle elevation to remove the tooth with minimal trauma.

  • All teeth are polished to ensure the surface is smooth and less likely to attract plaque.

  • Your pet is recovered from anaesthesia safely with continual nurse observation.


For most dogs, they are significantly more comfortable after having diseased and damaged teeth removed. Even if all their teeth are gone, they will have no trouble eating, in fact we find most dogs have a new leasee on life once those teeth that have been aching for years have finally been treated.

Lets face it, many pets do very little chewing anyway, dogs have evolved to get that food down fast, with just the bare minimum of mastication.


Root canals and crowns are now a regular part of veterinary dental care. Dr. Christine Hawke from Sydney Pet Dentistry regularly repairs damaged teeth with advanced dental methods that your normal GP may not be able to perform. Perhaps pet braces are also in the future for those pets with the less-than-perfect smile.


With the right home care and support from your veterinarian, your dog will enjoy a clean, healthy mouth and fresh breath. Dental care for pets has advanced significantly over the last few years and your dog can enjoy similar treatments to those available to you. The link between dental disease,  kidney and heart disease has long been recognised in humans. A pet with healthy teeth has the best chance of avoiding chronic illness and living a happy, healthy life full of sweet smelling doggy kisses.

Desexing Your Cat

Cats are capable of reproducing at a rapid rate, particularly during the summer months. Desexing can prevent the production of many kittens that may not find a home and it is an important part of keeping your cat healthy.


Most cats are desexed at around 6 months of age, before they develop any unwelcome behaviour such as spraying urine or wandering. The procedure to desex a male cat is extremely straightforward, with the testicles removed through two tiny incisions in their scrotum that don’t need suturing. Female cats have both ovaries and uterus removed through a small incision either on their abdomen or on their flank.


Tom cats are territorial, and their territory doesn’t stop at their fence line. They wander the neighbourhood in search of a girlfriend and in the process get into fights with other cats intent on defending their own turf. The result is bite wounds and painful abscesses and the chance of being infected with feline immunodeficiency virus, or feline aids. They may also be hit by a car, or get into a tussle with a dog; in both cases they are not likely to come out on top.

Spaying can protect your female cat from breast cancer and unexpected pregnancies. You can expect your feline friend to reach puberty anytime from 5 months of age. She’ll be on heat for about a week and if she doesn’t become pregnant, she’ll be back on heat again in 2-3 weeks. While she is on heat, she will yowl and roll and be extra affectionate, and you’ll have stray tom cats fighting for her affections in your garden. If your cat is mated and falls pregnant, she can be on heat again as soon as a week after giving birth, and may become pregnant again. You can see that before long, you could have your hands full with more kittens than you know what to do with.


Your cat can have dinner as usual the night before his desexing, but he shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink on the morning of his surgery. This avoids him inhaling food or water should he vomit at any time.

After his surgery, he will wake up in a comfortable hospital cage and when he is back on his feet, he’ll be able to go home with you.

When he arrives home, you can offer him a small meal but don’t worry if he isn’t interested. He may be feeling a little nauseous after his anaesthetic. You can expect him to be more interested in food after he’s had a good night’s sleep.

Male cats recover from desexing surgery very quickly and are back to normal within a day or two. Females have had a more invasive procedure and need to be kept quiet for 10 days to allow their incision to heal. This isn’t easy at all, as they feel just fine and want to run around and play. If they are too active, their surgical site can swell and become painful. Skin sutures can be removed by your vet after 10 days.

During the post-operative period, your vet will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your cat’s recovery. If you have any concerns, they are just a phone call away and will be able to set your mind at ease.

Pet cats, both male and female, should be desexed not just to prevent unwanted litters and to avoid illness or injury, but to avoid the less pleasant behaviours associated with their reproductive cycle.

Arthritis in Cats

We explore the common causes of arthritis in cats and methods for ensuring your feline senior citizen remains comfortable and pain free.

It’s not always easy to tell if your elderly cat is suffering from arthritis because the symptoms are subtle and slow in onset. He’s not likely to show an obvious limp, so you need to look for other indicators that he’s having trouble with mobility. You may notice that he won’t jump up as much, and he may be less enthusiastic about being stroked or brushed. He may even start to go to the toilet outside his litter box if he finds it hard to climb over the sides.


While dogs are quite happy to have their legs manipulated to identify where it hurts, cats are much less so. This can make it harder to identify which joints are painful. X-rays can help but this isn’t always accurate either. Some cats with severe arthritic changes on x-ray are quite comfortable, while those with minimal disease can be very sore.  Your vet will diagnose arthritis in your cat based on your description of his behaviour, x-rays and by ruling out any other medical causes of his symptoms.


When it comes to treating arthritis in your cat, you need to be careful. Cats are very sensitive to many drugs, and they can cause more harm than good. Any drug that you give your feline best friend must be registered for use in cats, and must be used exactly as prescribed. Never give your cat any medication that has been prescribed for your dog or for yourself.

There are other ways you can ease your cat’s pain and make him more comfortable.

  • Weight loss. Obesity can make arthritic symptoms worse, purely because your cat’s sore joints have to carry extra weight. If you are going to put your cat on a diet, make sure his weight loss is slow and steady because rapid weight loss in cats can cause hepatic lipidosis. This is a dangerous condition.
  • Sodium pentosan polysulphate, or Cartrophen, has been used to ease the symptoms of arthritis in both cats and dogs. It is given by injection and is very safe. Talk to your veterinarian about a food Hills prescription diets like Metabolic or R/D or other diets.
  • Consider acupuncture for your cat. It can help with arthritic pain, and it is safe with no side effects.
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel extract may slow down cartilage degeneration and relieve symptoms of arthritis. There are no studies to prove this, but there is anecdotal evidence that they help. There are no side effects associated with using these products so there’s no harm in trying them.
  • Essential fatty acids such as those in fish oil can have a natural anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Manage your cat’s environment. You can remove part of the side of his litter box so he can walk into it easier. Give him a bed that’s at ground level, or build a ramp or some small steps to his favourite resting spot, so he doesn’t have to jump. If the weather turns cold, he’ll appreciate a heating pad or hot water bottle in his bed.

Many people think their cat is less active because they are just getting old, but in fact they may actually be in pain due to arthritis. If your elderly cat is reluctant to jump, is grooming himself less and would rather not move around too much, he may have arthritis. The right treatment could quickly put a spring back in his step.

Dog Vaccinations

Vaccination is a routine part of preventative health care for all dogs, but it can be confusing. There are a number of vaccinations available for dogs and a range of vaccination schedules. Learn which vaccines your dog needs and how often.

Your dog’s immune system is an amazing thing. It is designed to keep him healthy by destroying the bacteria and viruses that can make him ill. It also has a very good memory, and this is why vaccination is so effective.

When your dog is vaccinated, he is injected with the actual organisms that cause disease. These organisms have been killed or modified to make them less infectious. Some vaccines don’t contain any organisms but instead contain structural proteins that have been isolated from them.  Even though the vaccine won’t cause disease, your dog’s immune system will respond to it. Should your dog ever become naturally infected, his body will quickly mount an immune response and is more likely to be able to fight the disease.


The vaccines recommended for dogs can be divided into core and non-core vaccines.

The core vaccines are those that should be given to all dogs, because they protect against serious and potentially fatal diseases that affect animals all around the world. They include

  • Distemper – a viral disease that causes a runny nose, vomiting and diarrhoea, and twitching. It is often fatal and dogs that survive usually have ongoing health issues for the rest of their life.

  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis – this too is a viral disease that causes fever, bleeding disorders and liver disease.  It is highly contagious and the virus is able to survive in the environment for months. It can also be shed in the urine of recovered dogs for up to 6 months, which can spread the disease throughout a neighbourhood.

  • Canine Parvovirus – Commonly known as parvo, this virus causes vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, dehydration and death in dogs of all ages. The organism is very difficult to kill; it survives freezing and hot temperatures, and can remain infectious in the ground for up to 7 months.

Non-core vaccines protect dogs against diseases that may not be life threatening but still cause illness. They are usually only given to dogs that are at risk of those diseases, either because of their physical location or their lifestyle.

The non-core vaccinations in dogs are:

  • Canine Parainfluenza Virus and Bordetella Bronchiseptica.These two organisms are responsible for causing kennel cough, a contagious respiratory illness that can last for several weeks. It spreads readily where dogs congregate. If your dog is going to places such as dog parks, obedience clubs or boarding kennels, it’s worth protecting him against it.

  • Leptospirosis. This isn’t a common disease, but when it occurs, it can make a dog very ill with kidney disease. It can occur where there are large numbers of wild rats, and dogs are exposed to rat urine. Dogs that live on sugar cane farms or other places with large rat populations may benefit from being vaccinated for leptospirosis.


How often you vaccinate your dog varies with the type of vaccine and the manufacturer, but there are some general guidelines to follow.

Puppies acquire antibodies to disease from the colostrum, or first milk, so they have some level of immunity from a very young age. However, these antibodies vary in both their level and duration, so you don’t know when your pup is no longer protected by them. If there are high levels of these antibodies in your pup’s bloodstream, they will reduce his response to the vaccine and it won’t be as effective.

To take this into account, pups need to be vaccinated two to three times between 6 and 16 weeks of age.  A booster vaccination is given one year later.

Core vaccines need only be given every 3 years, but non-core vaccines often need a yearly booster to maintain your dog’s protection. This doesn’t mean that you should only take your dog to the vet every 3 years when his shots are due. A yearly health check will catch any medical conditions before they become too serious, and it will give you a chance to chat to your vet about any issues that are concerning you.


Vaccination is important in controlling a number of serious, contagious and potentially fatal diseases of dogs. All dogs should be vaccinated with the core vaccines, 2 to 3 times as a puppy then 3 yearly as an adult. Whether or not your dog should be vaccinated against non-core diseases is something to be discussed between you and your veterinarian.

Arthritis in Dogs

Many canine senior citizens become stiff and sore in their joints as they age. However, there is much you can do to slow the development of arthritis and to manage the symptoms if they occur.

The word ‘arthritis’ comes from two Greek phrases ‘arthro’ which means joint, and ‘itis’ which means inflammation, so arthritis is inflammation of the joints. There are many causes of arthritis in dogs, from infections to immune mediated diseases.

However the type of arthritis most people think of when they hear the term is the age related disease that causes stiff sore joints in canine senior citizens.


Arthritis starts when the joint cartilage that covers the ends of the bones deteriorates. Over time, this cartilage is worn down to expose the bone beneath. As the disease progresses, new bone is laid down in and around the joints, and the joint fluid becomes thin and less cushioning.  The result is pain and difficulty in moving around.

Why does the cartilage deteriorate in the first place? There are several causes:

  • Congenital diseases of the joints such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
  • Joint or ligament injury that makes the joint move in an abnormal way.
  • Age and obesity. Older dogs are more prone to joint degeneration, and if your canine best friend is carrying excess weight, it will accelerate this process.


If your dog starts to develop arthritis, the first thing you are likely to notice is that he is limping. He will try and avoid moving the sore joint. The limp is often worse when he first gets up in the morning, or when the weather is particularly cold.

As the disease progresses, he will be less likely to enjoy his usual activities. He won’t jump up on the couch for a cuddle or chase his ball, and he may be unwilling to walk too far. There can also be wasting of the muscles on the affected leg, so it will look thinner than the corresponding one on the other side. Some dogs even bite at their sore joint to get relief, and this can be mistaken for a skin problem.


The two parts to managing canine arthritis are firstly to relieve pain and secondly to return the joint to as healthy a state as possible. There are several treatment options that can help your dog.

  • Most dogs are prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for pain relief. These work well and your dog will be more comfortable very quickly.  For those dogs that can’t take these drugs, tramadol and fentanyl are useful.  Never give your dog any drug that hasn’t been prescribed by your vet, because they could make him very sick.
  • There are many supplements that are thought to help dogs with arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin are ones that people are usually familiar with. They are thought to help protect the joint cartilage and slow its deterioration. While supplements aren’t likely to do any harm, there are few studies that confirm their effectiveness.
  • Polysulphated glycosaminoglycans such as sodium pentosan polysulphate are substances that are involved in cartilage production. Your vet can give your dog a course of injections of these substances, and many dogs show great improvement in their arthritis symptoms. The advantage of this treatment is that it is very safe.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, may reduce inflammation and ease pain.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet like Hills J/D.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to help many dogs with painful joints.
  • Gentle exercise, massage and physiotherapy will keep his joints moving freely and help to prevent stiffness.
  • Look at your dog’s environment to see if there are changes you can make so life is less difficult for him. For example, if you have stairs leading into your house, give him a ramp so he can walk up it easier.

Arthritis is a progressive condition with no cure.  In spite of this, your dog doesn’t need to suffer from painful joints. A combination of weight loss, medication, supplements and modification to his living environment will allow him to enjoy a good quality of life.