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Sometimes you have a question that doesn’t really warrant a consultation. But it’s still important enough that you don’t want to leave it to Dr Google. So here’s an opportunity to ask Elwood vet Dr Raquel Newman a question.

Here’s the deal

You can ask general or specific questions about cats, dogs, rabbits and rodents (not so much about large animals, birds, fish and reptiles!)

I’ll do my best to answer clearly and honestly within 24 hours. My answers won’t be a substitute for a consultation (where we spend 20 minutes gathering a history, performing a physical examination, making an assessment and creating a plan). But, I’ll always aim to provide useful info.

Because it’s rare that no one else has ever had a similar question, I’ll put the question and answer on the website so others can benefit. I’ll de-identify you and your pet to ensure privacy.

If your question is offensive or inappropriate, expect to be completely ignored.

And this isn’t the right place if you’ve got an emergency.

here’s the form you can use to ask a question

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Here are your questions (click the plus sign to read the answer)


+ My dog often gets red eyes. There is sometimes they water a bit but there is no swelling and he doesn't seem bothered. Could this be a sign of something?

When you say your dog gets red eyes, I'm assuming you mean the whites of the eyes look red rather than the pink part of the inner eyelids. The white part of the eye is called the sclera and there are several reasons why the sclera can look red, all of which tend to involve the blood vessels of this area of the body.

In some dogs, the blood vessels of the sclera dilate (giving a red appearance) due to simple things like tiredness or excitement. Breeds like Staffies and Boxers often get this. It can also occur if the eyes are dry or irritated from things such as sand/dust or swimming in salt water, with irritation, we can also see some watering of the eyes (this type of discharge is called epiphora). Generally, these versions of red eyes come and go.

There are some more serious inflammatory causes. Almost all of these involve a degree of pain, which dogs show by blinking frequently, holding the eye partially closed and/or rubbing at the eye. The most common inflammatory condition of the eye is conjunctivitis. Other causes include:

  • uveitis – this inflammation of the three parts of the eye that make up the uvea (iris, ciliary body and choroid). There are lots of potential causes of uveitis such as infection, trauma to the eye (eg scratches on the cornea), lens damage, immune-mediated disease, septicaemia
  • scleritis and episcleritis – these are relatively uncommon. The sclera may not just look red with these but can also look really swollen or almost like a growth

Another cause of a red eye is glaucoma. This is a condition of increased pressure inside the eye. It can sometimes occur in both eyes at the same time but more commonly starts in one.

Given the history you have provided, I think it's unlikely that your dog has any of the serious causes of red eyes. But if you do notice any signs of discomfort or the redness persists, then having the eyes checked by a vet would be recommended.

+ My dog (older female terrier) has Addison's disease – she's had a couple of crises but is now stable. Since she's been treated for Addison's we haven't given her any worm or flea treatment. I've got some Comfortis Plus at home, is it okay to give her this?

Short answer: Yes, you can give Comfortis Plus to a dog under treatment for Addison's disease.

Longer answer: There are two types of contraindications – absolute and relative. If a drug is absolutely contraindicated (say if used with another drug or in a certain situation like disease or pregnancy) then it is absolutely inadvisable to use this drug. This is not the case with Comfortis Plus and Addison's treatments (eg Florinef, prednisolone or Percorten).

If a drug is relatively contraindicated, then it's use could prossibly be problematic in some cases. There are some dogs that vomit after being given Comfortis Plus, so it could be considered relatively contraindicated in those dogs. While a vomit isn't necessarily a serious problem, if other medication is vomited up, we could have an issue.

+ My older cat has developed matted fur that's really hard (impossible!) to brush out. What clippers do you use to deal with this sort of issue and does it take a while to train cats to accept clippers?

We use a brand of clipper called Codos CP 800. They're small, quiet and cordless. Most cats don't mind being clipped on the top half, but if you need to do armpits, belly and thighs, I recommend recuriting a second pair of hands!

You can probably buy these clippers online but we can get them from out wholesaler for you (and no, we don't mark the price up).

+ My one year old dog is licking at his groin a lot and last night he peed on his bed – are these signs of a urinary tract infection?

The main sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) is increased frequency of urination (ie frequently passing or trying to pass small amounts of urine). Licking the genitals can be a sign. Bed wetting would be much less common.... unless he was going everywhere and the bed was just one of the places. If he is going to the toilet as per normal during the day, it's probably not a UTI.

It's also very uncommon for young male dogs to develop UTIs. They can get some local infections in the prepuce – this often presents as yellow or greenish discharge around the prepuce (sheath) opening – sorry to be gross! These look yuk but typically resolve on their own.

We definitely see licking around the groin area due to skin irritation such as from grass or grooming.

I can't give you a diagnosis based on the current amount of info, but would not be expecting a serious disease process. Happy to help further.

Follow up: dog had in fact been groomed recently and his groin area had been shaved, so some clipper irritation was the most likely cause.

+ My cat drinks a lot and pees outside her litter tray (after we change her litter). Is she sick?

The first thing we need to do is work out is how much your cat is drinking because:

  • if it's less than 60 ml/kg/day then that's a normal amount and we don't have to worry about it
  • if it's more than 100 ml/kg/day then that's definitely excessive (called polydipsia) and we'd need to investigate
  • if it's between 60–100 ml/kg/day then we need to consider other things to work out if it's excessive such as appetite, weight loss and food type

To measure the amount of water your cat drinks over a 24 hour period, fill up the water bowl then empty it into a measuring jug and record the volume. Put the water back into the bowl. After 24 hours, empty the remaining water back into the measuring jug and record that too. Take the first recorded amount and subtract the second recorded amount and then divide that number by your cat's weight. That's the number of ml/kg/day.

If you have more than one water bowl, do it for each. If you have more than one pet drinking from the bowl, then either try to separate them for 24 hours. If that's not possible, we can get an idea of whether drinking is excessive based on urine concentration (called urine specific gravity) – you'd need to either collect some urine and take it to your vet or take your cat to your vet and they'll take some urine.

If your cat is drinking more than 60 ml/kg/day, you should see your vet because she might be unwell. The three most common causes of excessive drinking in a cat are:

Blood and urine tests are needed to diagnose (or rule out) these diseases. For a list of other causes see Increased drinking and urination.

If she's drinking less than 60 ml/kg/day, we can move to the second part of your question – peeing outside the litter tray. If she's not drinking too much, it's unlikely she's producing too much urine (polyuria).

Let's then consider things that are more likely:

Hope this info helps

+ My dog has had a weepy eye for a week and has now developed a green discharge from her eye. What should I do?

There are several causes of weepy eyes: the most likely cause of your dog's eye discharge is conjunctivitis. It typically starts with some irritation of the eye (eg windy, 'polleny', dusty weather), which causes inflammation (redness and swelling) and tearing, and can then lead to a more mucoid type discharge (cream to yellow to green).

Now, before we talk about treatment, there is an important 'differential diagnosis' worth mentioning: corneal ulceration. There are things that we do in a consult to check for this but an important sign for you to look for at home is pain. Dogs show eye pain by:

  • holding the eye shut or partially shut (or doing a lot of blinking and squinting)
  • rubbing the eye
  • appearing subdued

Other signs of ulceration include a whitish appearance of the cornea, redness of the white part of the eye and a smaller pupil in the affected eye. If you're seeing any of these, then your dog should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

If there's no evidence of pain, you can try using green tea or camomile tea to wash the eyes. These teas don't irritate the eyes and have some anti-inflammatory/antiseptic properties. Using a tea bag, make a cup of tea in the usual way and let it cool. Soak a cotton pad (eg make up remover pad) in the tea and bathe the eyes twice daily.

If this is going to help, you'll see improvement within 2 days. A lack of improvement suggests that she might need some medicated eye ointment to control inflammation and infection (ie a trip to the vet).

For future reference, you can use antihistamine eye drops in dogs. But they don't tend to help once the discharge has become yellow or green.

Hope this helps

+ My cat is crying a lot and can't urinate. I've taken him to an emergency centre and they say he has a urinary blockage – I need some advice about next steps

Firstly, great work on seeking emergency care. Untreated, a urinary obstruction can be fatal.

While I don't know exactly what the situation is at the emergency centre, I worked in that setting for 16 years, so can run you through some generalisations. This info will hopefully help you understand what has already happened, what is currently happening and what needs to happen in the future.

What is a urinary blockage?

A urinary blockage tends to refer to an obstruction in the in urethra, meaning the bladder can't empty. Less commonly, there may be an obstruction in one (or both) of the ureters, which are the tubes that take urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

A urethral blockage in a cat is called obstructive feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD). It's really common, making up almost 10% of all feline emergency cases. It's also extremely serious. If the body cannot get rid of urine, it can't get rid of certain toxins (such as excess potassium).

Who develops a urinary blockage?

Theoretically, obstructive FLUTD may occur in male and female cats. In reality, it's almost exclusively a male disease. This is mostly because their urethras are narrower.

There doesn't appear to be any breed or age at greater risk. Indoor cats might be at an increased risk, but it's also possible that it's more recognised in indoor cats because their toilet habits are observed more easily/closely.

What causes obstructive FLUTD?

There are many different causes and/or contributors to obstructive FLUTD. The most common of all these is idiopathic feline cystitis (FIC) – this makes up around 60% of all FLUTD cases.

Other causes include:

  • bladder stones (uroliths) – these make up between 6–28% of obstructive FLUTD cases. The most common uroliths in cats have been known to be struvite and calcium oxalate. These can be detected on X-ray or ultrasound but stones need to be analysed (at the University of Minnesota urinary stone lab) to determine their type. Previously, surgery has been the recommended treatment. Currently, special (dissolution) diets have come (back) into favour. These diets can take 2–4 weeks for effect, and in the meantime, ongoing risk of re-obstruction is likely
  • urinary tract infections – these make up 12–33% of cases. We can usually detect these by analysing urine in-house, but sending urine off to a lab for a urinary culture and sensitivity is needed for definitive diagnosis. Even if a patient doesn't have a urinary tract infection to start with, an indwelling urinary catheter can lead to an infection, especially if left in for more than 72 hours
  • crystals – having crystals in the urine is common in cats with both non-obstructive and obstructive forms of FLUTD. The most common two crystals reported are struvite or calcium oxalate. It is completely normal for cats to have some crystals in their urine, especially if the urine is extremely concentrated. It is also important to note that these crystals can also form after the sample is taken. Specific diets, such as Hills C/D® Multicare Feline and Royal Canin® Urinary S/O, are the prescription food of choice for these patients
  • urethral plugs – these are described as a matrix of material consisting of mucus, inflammatory debris and minerals (ie struvite or oxalate crystalline material). The mucus is secreted in response to bladder and urethral irritation or inflammation. These plugs most often obstruct the distal tip of the penis. We often find that once a patient with a urethral obstruction is sedated, these plugs can gently be massaged out of the tip of the urethra
  • strictures (ie narrowings) – these are usually only present in cats who have had recurrent urethral obstruction causing scar tissue. They can be suspected when a patient's urethra is easy to catheterise but they still have trouble peeing. An X-ray using contrast material injected into the urethra can be performed to aid in recognition. Treatment depends on where the structure is
  • neoplasia of the urethra and bladder – is rare in cats and is usually associated with chronic urinary signs
  • functional urethral spasm – this is a condition where no mechanical obstruction is confirmed at urinary catheter placement, and symptoms usually resolve with time and anti-spasm medication

How is obstructive FLUTD diagnosed?

This can usually be diagnosed by history and physical examination.

Other diagnostics include imaging (X-ray or ultrasound), urinalysis, blood tests (renal biochemistry and electrolyte panels). A blood chemistry panel, while helpful in obtaining baseline renal values, is not useful as a predictive factor for prognosis; thus, if it's not able to be obtained, it will not result in inappropriate care.

How is obstructive FLUTD treated initially?

While lab work should be performed, it is not necessary to await those results before starting the unblocking procedure. Basic treatment usually involves:

  • sedation – most cases can be treated without gas anaesthesia (if the right combination of anaesthetic protocol is used), but intravenous sedation is usually needed.
  • urethral retropulsion – which means flushing the blockage back up into the bladder. This is done under sedation (as above). After appropriate preparation of the prepuce and penis, a urinary catheter is placed into the tip of the penis and a 5- or 12-ml syringe with sterile saline is attached and used to 'pulsate' the obstructing material while the catheter is gently advanced forward. After successful advancement of the catheter into the bladder, a urine sample is collected (for analysis) and the bladder emptied. This catheter may be removed if the patient is being treated as an outpatient. If inpatient care is selected, the catheter should be sutured to the prepuce. This indwelling urinary catheter is then connected to a 'closed collection system' which should be checked at least every 6–8 hours to make sure all connections are patent and no kinks or obstructions are in the line
  • fluid therapy is highly recommended (especially in those cats who have blood work derangements). After the release of a urinary obstruction, most cats will experience 'post-obstructive diuresis' whereby they pee a lot and can become more dehydrated unless fluid is rapidly replaced

Acute management also may include:

  • medication to manage high potassium levels (high potassium can cause the heart to slow down and even stop)
  • pain relief (eg buprenorphine sublingually)
  • antispasmodic medications for the urethra (eg phenoxybenzamine or prazosin) Antibiotics are not needed for the initial management of most obstructive FLUTD cases.

What ongoing management is needed?

Ongoing long-term management varies depending on the cause.

For cats with the most common cause (FIC), there is no curable treatment and efforts are focused on:

  • altering the diet (especially in those cats with crystals in their urine) – things like Hills C/D or Royal Canin Urinary S/O have been shown to decrease recurrence of the disease
  • environmental enrichment – there are lots of ways to do this and we're happy to help!

Hopefully that this helps you make decisions about your cat's care. We're happy to help in anyway we can.

+ My cat has chin acne. Does this need treating or does it heal up by itself?

Thanks for your question about chin acne in cats. Whether of not your cat needs treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Let me explain...

What is chin acne?

Chin acne is known by several different names: feline acne, chin folliculitis and chin furunculosis.

It's a disorder of follicular keratinisation – which means that the hair follicle cells don't just shed away like they're supposed to and instead they stick around and cause blockages. Why this happens is still unknown. Plenty of theories have been proposed including poor grooming habits, abnormal sebum production, stress, localised skin defects, viral infections, immunosuppression, and various allergies/irritants. None of these has been proven.

Who gets chin acne?

It can occur in cats of any age, breed or sex. It's not a disease of adolescence like acne in people (and dogs).

What are the signs?

The main sign is the presence of comedones – these are like blackheads (small dark bumps that contain thick material). Most cats with these don't seem bothered by them at all (ie they are asymptomatic). However, the comedones can become pustular if a secondary bacterial infection occurs. Sometimes, there can be lots of oozing/crusty lesions with swelling and redness of the whole chin area, this may be quite painful.

How is it treated?

This depends on the severity. If your cat has asymptomatic comedones, you probably don't need to treat at all. If there is a secondary infection, this will likely require some sort of therapy.

There are a couple of treatment approaches.

  • Topical – the most commonly used topical treatments are washes/shampoos that contain active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These are used every 12–24 hours until the problem resolves (which can be really challenging as cats typically hate their chins being washed). Topical antibacterials can be used too if symptoms are mild. Anything containing an antibiotic will be prescription only, so your vet would need to see your cat. Some people have success using warm compresses that contain magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) – mix 2 tablespoons into a litre of warm water, soak a face washer and hold it against the area for a few minutes to soften the comedones and promote drainage. Clipping fur away from the chin tends to help with topical treatment
  • Systemic – this generally means giving antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection. In some cases, we may need to also give anti-inflammatory medication.

What's the prognosis?

Again, this depends on severity. Many if not most cats experience persistence or recurrence of comedones. Regular washing can help reduce recurrence. With severe cases, there can be considerable scarring and cyst formation.


+ I'd like to have my female dog desexed and would like to know what's involved. Her breeder suggested having a gastropexy done at the same time, could you please provide some advice about this too?

What's involved in a spay procedure?

Here's the rundown of a spay (female desexing), in probably much more detail than you had in mind (hope you're not squeamish!) The admission process:

  • she would be admitted between 8 and 9 am (having had no breakfast)
  • during admission, one of our nurses gives you options such as pre-anaesthetic bloods (probably not necessary in a healthy 11-month-old dog, but your choice) and whether you want her to have an ear tattoo signifying that she has been spayed

The pre-anaesthestic process:

  • after admission, she is given a pre-anaesthetic examination
  • she is then given a pre-med injection (under the skin), which includes a sedative and an opioid-based pain killer
  • once the pre-med has taken effect, an IV catheter is placed in one of her front legs and she is hooked up to IV fluids, which continue throughout the surgery and post-op period

The anaesthetic induction and surgery preparation:

  • an intravenous anaesthetic agent is injected through the catheter until she is sleepy enough for us to place a tube through her mouth into her airway (this is called an endotracheal tube or ET yube)
  • the tube is connected to the anaesthetic machine, which delivers a combination of oxygen and gas anaesthetic into her lungs (a nurse will continue to monitor her throughout the anaesthetic)
  • she is then placed on her back and her belly is shaved and surgically prepped
  • the surgeon then covers her with sterile drapes, leaving only the surgical field exposed

The surgery itself involves:

  • making a skin incision in the midline of her belly (just below the belly button and probably around 6–8 cm long in a dog of her size – this varies)
  • making another incision in the abdominal wall, allowing access to her abdominal cavity
  • locating one of her ovaries (usually using an instrument called a spay hook) and lifting it out of the abdomen, which requires loosening the ovarian ligament through gentle pressure
  • the blood supply to the ovary is clamped and then ligated with strong suture so that it can be freed from the body without bleeding
  • the same is repeated with the other ovary
  • the ovaries are free from their attachment, but still connected to the uterine horns, which are followed until the point where they join (the body of the uterus)
  • the uterus is clamped just above the cervix and then it and its blood supply is ligated – the technique varies with size of dog – the uterus is then cut through, freeing the whole reproductive tract
  • the abdomen is then closed in 3 separate layers (the wall, the subcutaneous fat and the skin)
  • before waking, another pain killer is given (an anti-inflammatory this time)

The post-op period:

  • the gas is turned off and she is allowed to wake up
  • once she can swallow, the tube is removed
  • she is then taken back to her cage where a nurse sits with her until completely awake

Usually, around 1–2 hours after the surgery, she would be taken out to the toilet and offered some food.

Going home: She would be discharged from the hospital in the late afternoon/evening with 3 days of pain relief. Most people are surprised at how fine their pets are when they come to collect them.

The overall recovery period is 10–14 days – that's when the skin sutures are removed (or if there are internal sutures, when we'd consider the wound completely healed and things like bathing/swimming can resume). That said, during that period, the vast majority of dogs feel fine and want to resume normal activity – and that's typically the challenge!

What is involved in a gastropexy?

The type of gastropexy your breeder is talking about is a prophylactic gastropexy, where the stomach is stitched to the abdominal wall to prevent it rotating during 'bloat'. The other type is an emergency gastropexy to treat a dog who is a experiencing life-threatening gastric dilation and rotation (also called volvulous, hence the name GDV).

A gastropexy is a relatively simple procedure, inasmuch as it involves creating a superficial 'wound' on both a section of the stomach outer surface and on the inside of the abdominal wall. The two wounds are brought together and then stitched together – this is called a 'kiss pexy', which is the most common technique.

As the stomach is located in the front of the abdomen, we would need to make a longer abdominal incision. This is the main deviation from the procedure I outlined above. The recovery time is about the same, although there can be a bit of discomfort at the pexy site for a few days. Most dogs still eat happily and go for toilet walks etc.

Let me know if you need any further info. And sorry if I've I given too much!