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Mira Mar Veterinary Hospital
58 Cockburn Rd
Albany, WA, 6330
Phone: 08 9841 5422

Hi everyone!  Welcome to our March newsletter.

Sadly at the end of February we said goodbye to one of our wonderful veterinary nurses, Clare.  Clare is moving on to travel and pursue other interests, and we wish her all the best on her next big adventure!  We will miss you Clare.

March is Polite Pets Month in Australia, so this newsletter edition is all about behaviour!  There are some common issues in dogs (barking and separation anxiety) and cats (urine spraying) that we can help you with. 

There is also an article on keeping chickens as pets, cataracts as a cause of vision problems in dogs, and more information on helping out those vets who are working hard in bushfire areas all across Australia.


Clare and Roxy small2

We will miss you Clare!

Contents of this newsletter

01  Recent Puppy Preschool Graduates

02  Why does my dog bark?

03  Separated and sad

04  Spray away!

05  Could my dog have cataracts?

06  Keeping chickens as pets

07  Support the vets who are supporting pets (and all animals)

01 Recent Puppy Preschool Graduates
PPS both group collage small

It's been a busy time at Puppy Preschool!  Nurse Andrea has recently graduated two classes of gorgeous puppies, with another class running at the moment.

Congratulations to our Tuesday class:  Chip, Ginny, Rory, Coco and Benji

and our Wednesday class:  tala, Buddy, Grace, Marli, Skuda, Shelby and Smoothie

What a bunch of little legends!

Please call the clinic on 98415422 if you would like to register your new puppy for our next class.

02 Why does my dog bark?

A barking dog can be helpful and comforting especially when it comes to alerting you about possible intruders. Unfortunately, barking can also be frustrating and disruptive and excessive barking can even be considered a behavioural problem.

Dogs vocalise in many different ways. They may bark or whine and some may even howl. The most important point is that these are all normal behaviours, they just may be occurring at an undesirable time (6 am), at an undesirable object (the postman) or for an undesirable amount of time (for many hours while you are at work).

Before you can attempt to improve your dog’s inappropriate or excessive barking, you need to determine why your dog is vocalising in the first place.

Common reasons for barking include:

  • Warning or alert
  • Excitement
  • Playfulness
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Responding to other dogs or people

In some cases, it may be necessary to change your dog’s environment. For example, if your dog always barks at people walking past the front gate, you need to restrict your dog’s access to the front of the house.

Believe it or not, actually teaching your dog to bark on command can help. You can also teach your dog to be quiet on command during this process. You can ask us for more information and instructions on how best to do this. Dedication and persistence will be required!

We are here to help you so if you have any questions about your dog’s behaviour you should always ask us for support.

03 Separated and sad

Dogs are social creatures and they form strong bonds with people. While most dogs cope well with daily separation from their owners, unfortunately, some dogs become very distressed and even destructive, a problem known as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioural problems seen by veterinarians.

Signs of separation anxiety include:

- Barking, whining or howling
- Destruction and scratching at barriers, doors and windows
- Excessive chewing, digging and pacing
- Inappropriate toileting (e.g urinating and defecating in the house)

In some cases, the separation anxiety can become so severe that dogs will destroy property and even seriously injure themselves and so separation anxiety can be a very distressing behavioural problem for owners.

Top tips to help reduce your dog’s anxiety:

- Take your dog for a walk before you leave the house
- Don’t make a huge fuss when you leave your dog or when you return
- Start small and only leave your dog alone for five minutes extending to twenty minutes then an hour, then longer
- Leave your dog with plenty of stimulating toys, chews and mind games
- Leave the radio or television on for company
- Consider crate training as this can help some dogs feel more safe and secure (speak to us for more information as this is not suitable for all dogs)

If you think your dog might be showing signs of separation anxiety you should speak to us. In some cases, medication can be prescribed to help reduce your dog’s anxiety and you can rest assured knowing that we will be able to work with you and your dog to help manage the issue.

04 Spray away!

Urine spraying is a unique activity where a cat stands with their tail in the air and delivers a squirt of urine against a vertical surface. Most of the time, you won’t even notice your cat spraying but this behaviour can become a ‘behavioural issue’ when a cat starts to do it inside (on the curtains!).

Why do cats spray urine?

Urine spraying is a normal cat behaviour and is considered a form of scent-marking. The urine spray holds information about sex, age, hormones and general health and it may also deter other cats from coming into a cat's territory. Both male and female cats will spray and cats that are not desexed may spray more often.

Cats will also spray when they are upset or feel threatened by another cat - strangely a squirt of urine can make a cat feel a greater sense of security in his or her territory!

Most cats won't spray indoors as they feel sufficiently comfortable. Cats are, however, fastidious creatures and sometimes simple changes to their routine may leave them feeling frustrated and unsettled and more likely to spray.

Why might a cat start spraying indoors?

  • The arrival of a new pet or baby in the family
  • A new cat in the neighbourhood
  • Changes in the home area such as a new couch
  • Noise caused by renovations
  • A change in litter tray set up

Medical problems such as urinary tract inflammation can also cause a cat to spray and urinate inappropriately and this is why it is essential to get your cat checked with us if they suddenly start urine spraying.

Thankfully we have some tools available to help reduce your cat’s anxiety and reduce urine spraying. Medication and the use of a pheromone diffuser may be required so you should ask us for more information and advice, we are always here to help.

05 Could my dog have cataracts?

It’s not uncommon for a client to ask us if their dog has cataracts.They notice that their dog’s eyes have become ‘cloudy’ and they are worried about what might be going on.

A cataract is a cloudy lens and if dense, is seen as a white pupil. Old age, breed predisposition and diabetes are the most common reasons for cataract development in dogs. Other causes for cataract development include retinal diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy. The presence of a cataract will cause a loss of vision in the affected eye.

Whilst cataracts are something we do see in some patients, a far more common cause for a cloudy looking eye is a condition known as senile nuclear sclerosis.

Nuclear sclerosis is common in dogs (50% of dogs over approximately 9 years of age have the condition) but in contrast to cataracts, nuclear sclerosis does not cause a noticeable loss of vision.

It’s important that we make the distinction between cataracts and nuclear sclerosis so we correctly manage the condition. Cataracts may cause further problems such as painful inflammation and lens-induced uveitis or glaucoma. Cataracts may also be indicative of an underlying disorder that needs to be identified and treated such as diabetes. Cataracts may be corrected by surgical removal and vision is generally restored. Your pet will need to be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for cataract surgery. Nuclear sclerosis doesn’t cause any secondary problems and so treatment is not indicated.

To correctly diagnose cataracts or nuclear sclerosis, we will need to examine your pet’s eyes more closely and will need to dilate their pupils to allow good visualisation of the lens. We will discuss this process with you in more detail if it is required. 

If you are ever worried about your pet’s eyes you should call us. Eye problems can be serious, painful and change quickly so it’s always best to ask us for advice.

06 Keeping chickens as pets

Keeping backyard chickens as pets has become more and more popular in both urban and suburban areas.

There are plenty of benefits when it comes to keeping chickens:

  • They are relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain (when compared to most other pets)
  • They produce eggs that are fresh and nutritious
  • They provide chemical-free bug and weed control
  • Their droppings are a fabulous fertiliser
  • They are entertaining and fun 
  • Keeping chickens is educational for children

Our top tips for keeping chickens as pets:

  1. Check with your local council on the rules on keeping chickens in your area (how many, can they be free-range?)
  2. Housing needs to be dry and draft-free, with good ventilation and a place to nest and stay safe from predators
  3. You must feed the right diet for your type and age of chicken. Complete and balanced food can be purchased at most farm supply stores. These commercial feeds are formulated differently for broilers (meat chickens) and layers (hens used for egg laying)
  4. Grains, such as oats and barley, as well as leafy greens and veggies should be fed in moderation and should not make up more than 10 per cent of the diet
  5. Chickens that do not get a balanced diet will be more prone to disease
  6. Chickens will lay about one unfertilised egg a day and this is stimulated by exposure to daylight. Egg laying will occur regardless of the presence of a rooster

Don’t forget that it is important to accept the responsibility associated with owning chickens. With good care and no major health problems, chickens can live as long as eight years! 

Ask us for more information or if you have any other questions about keeping chickens as pets. 

07 Support the vets who are supporting pets (and all animals)

Make a donation on behalf of your pet to support veterinarians financially-impacted by the bushfires.

Our veterinary colleagues have been undertaking some brilliant work to help injured wildlife, livestock, horses and pets during this unprecedented bushfire season. Now they need your help!

As bushfires began to ravage large areas of Australia’s east coast, many vets headed straight into the crisis zones to do what they could to help. Much of their work was provided pro-bono, using up their own medical supplies to a financial loss. Other vets worked hard to treat injured animals, while their own homes were threatened by fire.

The Australian Veterinary Association has now set up a Bushfire Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to these vets. Your singular contribution will greatly support the altruistically-devoted work of vets across the country, so that they may continue to help these animals and their devastated communities. 

We encourage you, on behalf of your pet, to make a donation for the affected vets, pets and all animals in fire-damaged communities today.

Share your support! If you've made a donation, or helped out fire-affected vets in some other way, then head over to our Facebook page and let us know!