Welcome to our first newsletter of 2023. The year already feels well under way, Christmas is a distant memory. Seren, our newest addition to the nursing team, has now been with the practice just over a month and we are pleased she has taken to her role like a duck to water. On a sad note we will be saying goodbye to Sandie the vet, at the end of February, as she leaves us to take on new challenges. We will all miss her greatly but wish her all the best in her future endeavours.
The practice revamp is still very much a work in progress, keep an eye on upcoming posts to get an inside peak of some of the changes we have made so far.
In this newsletter we look at some of the important issues that need to be carefully considered when adopting a dog from abroad. Then, in what will be the first of a two part article on breeding bitches, we consider how prepare a bitch ready for mating and whelping. In the second article, planned for the summer newsletter, we will then look at what to expect during whelping, including when to call for help, and advice on caring for the bitch and puppies until they are ready to move on to their new homes.
If you have any questions relating to either of these subjects, or any areas covered in our previous newsletters, please do not hesitate to send your queries to email@example.com.
Adopting a dog from overseas, what you should know.
As a pet loving nation we Brits cannot bare to see animals suffer, when we see the plight of street dogs overseas, it is understandable that there is a draw to adopt them and bring them back to the UK. Over the last decade the numbers of dogs officially imported to the UK has multiplied nearly 10-fold, not including dogs imported illegally. However, we need to be careful not to let out hearts rule out heads. It is imperative that we understand the diseases that imported pets may carry, not only because they can have a devastating effect on the dog’s own health, but also can be a risk to human health and the health of other dogs. Until now, these exotic diseases have only been diagnosed in the UK, in dogs that have been imported or their close/direct contacts, as the vectors (ticks and biting flies) able to transmit the diseases further have not be able to survive. However, as the UK climate increases so does the risk of these vectors establishing, leading to the potential for them to rapidly spread all over the UK. It is, therefore, easy to recognise that importing dogs from overseas, without appropriate testing and disease control, risks the diseases threatening the whole of the UK dog population and posing a risk to human health (zoonosis).
What are the main diseases of concern in imported dogs?
- Rabies – is a life fatal disease which can affect all mammals. Affected animals must be euthanised. People with known exposure, through a bite from an infected animal, need prompt treatment to survive. Compulsory vaccination for dogs imported from Europe, and additionally blood testing for dogs imported from outside the EU, already exist to try and prevent the disease establishing in the UK. Rabies is a notifiable disease.
- Echinococcus multilocularis – is a tapeworm, the adult worm lives in the gut of dogs, and other canid species, if eggs are ingested by a human they form budding cysts, structures which can grow like tumours which are potentially life threatening. Currently this is the only other disease for which there are control measures in place, to help prevent the parasite being brought into the UK. Dogs coming in from affected countries having to be given a worm treatment 1-5 days before importation.
- Brucella canis– is a parasite which mainly causes reproductive problems in dogs, although other less specific symptoms may also be seen including weight loss, lethargy, lameness and/or lymph node enlargement. Brucellosis is zoonotic with the parasite causing flu like symptoms in humans, the disease being transmitted by direct contact with fluids the fluids of an infected animal. (See our winter 2022 newsletter for more details)
- Dirofilaria immitis – otherwise known as French heart worm is a parasite transmitted via a bite from an infected mosquito. Immature worms (larvae) travel though the dogs blood stream and adults mature in major vessels of the dog heart. Infection can result in the affected dog developing heart disease, which can be fatal.
- Ehrlichia – are a group bacteria which infect white blood cells, the disease is transmitted by the ticks. Clinical signs of Ehrlichia can develop soon after infection or months to years later, they can include fever, lymph node enlargement bleeding, neurological signs but can be mild and non-specific to life threatening. Ehrlichia can infect humans.
- Leishmania – are a species of protozoa affecting dogs, humans and other mammals, the disease is transmitted via the bite of a sandfly. Clinical signs can be limited to the skin or be more generalised including weight loss, increased thirst, vomiting, lymph node enlargement, thin hair on the face, fever, lameness, skin nodules, neurological signs to name but a few. Leishmaniasis can cause irreversible kidney and/or liver failure. The disease can be treated but the organism can never be fully cleared from the body.
- Babesia – are a species of protozoa transmitted by ticks which infect red blood cells. The severity of the disease varies depending on the species of Babesia. Clinical signs include anaemia, fever, weakness, anorexia. As with many tick borne diseases treatment is unlikely to completely eliminate the parasite.
- Anaplasma- are a group of bacteria which infect white blood cells, some species being transmitted by ticks. Clinical signs are non-specific and can include fever, depression, inappetence, lameness. The disease zoonotic.
- Hepatazoon canis – is a protozoal disease, dogs become infected when they ingest a tick which has fed on an affected animal. H. canis causes inflammatory lesions which often affect the kidneys. The disease can be treated but the infection never fully cleared from an affected dog.
How are the diseases recognised?
Because dogs carrying these diseases can be symptom free for weeks or even years, it is not safe to assume that an animal showing no clinical sign is free of disease. It is, therefore, important that all animals imported to the UK are blood tested on arrival and/or 6-9 months, ideally both. When testing on arrival it is advisable for the pet to kept in isolation until the results are back.
What else can be done to help reduce the risk of importing diseases from overseas?
Ideally pets being imported to the UK from overseas, even those who have only be away on holiday, should be treated against ticks a few days before coming to the UK, to limit the risk of bringing these potential carriers of exotic disease in. All dogs arriving in the UK should be checked for ticks regardless, starting with the head and neck then checking the legs and belly/chest area. If any tick are found they should be carefully removed, and ideally sent (free of charge) to the tick surveillance scheme, for identification. A thorough vet check is recommended to check for any signs of disease.
What is the take home message?
Adopting a dog can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience, but when deciding to adopt a pet from overseas, it is important to understand the full commitment and risks. Familiarise yourself with the disease risk particularly common in the area from which you are adopting the dog, to help you be prepared for issues that could develop. Check what, if any, tests have been carried out before you acquire an animal from overseas, being prepared/budget to have tests carried out yourself if they have not already been done, if not immediately then 6-9months later. Arrange a vet check as soon as possible to check for any signs of illness or the presence of ticks. It is also important to remember that for many dogs being adopted from overseas it is a massive change in lifestyle, it is not uncommon for them to suffer behavioural issues so requiring additional patience and understanding, time and resources. When adopting a dog from abroad we all need to play our part in optimising the health of these dogs as well as minimising the disease risks to ourselves and other animals.
Pregnancy and whelping in dogs (part 1)
What do I need to consider if I am thinking about breeding from my bitch?
There are many factors to consider when breeding dogs to ensure the best health of the bitch and her puppies. It is important to remember that pregnancy and whelping is not without potential risk to the bitch’s health. It is not true that breeding from a bitch has any health benefits for her so there should be another reason to decide on having a litter from her. It is important to ensure a bitch is in good health and has a good temperament suitable for breeding. Many medical conditions including epilepsy, skin disease, hip dysplasia etc. can be inherited by the puppies bred from affected parents. Similarly, puppies bred from anxious bitches often will suffer anxiety and behavioural problems themselves.
What can I do if my bitch is accidentally mate?
Two injections given 24 hours apart ideally after the bitch’s season has finished, but before day 20 after the mating, offers a safe reliable way to terminate/prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
How should I prepare my bitch for pregnancy?
A bitch should be fully grown and an ideal weight to breed. She should be up to date with her vaccinations. Some breeders, usually those who’s bitches have previously lost puppies to a condition known as fading puppy syndrome will use an additional vaccine against Canine Herpes virus, after the bitch has mated and again just before mating. Some breeders will have their bitch blood tested from around day 9 of a season to try and identify the optimal time to mate, however this is not essential.
How can I tell is my bitch is pregnant?
Ultrasound imaging can be performed by a veterinary surgeon by day 28. Exact numbers shouldn’t be given as puppies can hide behind one another and foetus’s can be reabsorbed before day 35. Causes for reabsorption can vary from- overcrowding, uterine diseases, genetic abnormalities, infectious causes such as CHV and low progesterone levels.
Physical changes in a pregnant bitch usually include enlargement of nipples by day 30 and mammary gland enlargement is usually obvious by day 35. Mucoid vulval discharge can be seen from day 30. Increase in weight and circumference from day 40.
When will she be due?
Pregnancy is consistently 63 days +/- 24 hours from ovulation regardless of when she mated/ inseminated. If mating was prior to ovulation she may appear to deliver the pups late (up to day 70) and if she was mated after ovulation she may appear early (from day 57). The size of the litter however can affect the timings. No matter how mating's occurred, all puppies will be born during a single whelping.
How should I care for my pregnant bitch?
Pregnant bitches should be fed on complete diet for the first few weeks then they can be moved onto puppy food at 5- 6 weeks, to increase calories and nutrition as the bitch prepares to whelp. Feeding a raw diet is not recommended. Supplements including folic acid can be used which can significantly reduce the risks of cleft palates, raspberry leaf tablets have been suggested to improve uterine tone. Calcium should NOT be supplemented if the bitch is on a balanced diet, unless advised by your vet. Some breeders worm their pregnant bitches daily from day 40 of pregnancy until post whelping to try and help reduce the risk of the mothers passing worms to their offspring. A pregnant bitch can be exercised,, as is normal for that individual but jumping, twisting and exposure to extremes in temperatures should be avoided.
What can I do in readiness for the whelping?
A bitch will chose a place to whelp where she feels safe, ideally she should be introduced to a whelping box prior to giving birth. A whelping box offers an area that can be easily cleaned and disinfected, away from drafts and pests, where the temperature can be controlled (30- 32C for first few days then no less than 26C until the pups are 3 weeks of age after which it can be gradually turned down to 21C). The area should allow the bitch and pups to move safely around each other, including the ability for the bitch to climb out for toilet breaks etc. whilst the pups remain safely enclosed.
Equipment that can be useful to have ready for when the bitch whelps include: heat pads; hand towels to revive and dry off the puppies; milk substitute and bottles (always handy to have if puppies don’t latch on or if mum isn't maternal); a thermometer; bulb syringes (to clear fluid from the pups mouths when they are born); umbilical clamps (although the bitch will usually chew the umbilical cords herself, if she does not these can be place approx. 1 inch from the pup before severing the cord on the mothers side of the clamp).
What signs might I see when my bitch is getting ready to whelp?
Some breeders will check their bitches temperature near term as it usually drops around 1C within 24hrs of whelping
A bitch may show some signs that she is going to whelp a few days prior. She may appear restless and start nesting. Her stomach may ‘drop’ as her muscles begin to relax. The mucous plug sealing the cervix will come away and she will have a thick, creamy discharge. Some bitches may also go off her food and vomit.