Two veterinary practices in Sydney have had suspected outbreaks of feline calicivirus-virulent systemic disease (FCV-VSD). A number of cats, suspected of having the virus, died between December 2015 and January 2016.
Vets should watch for the following signs and symptoms: oedema (limb and/or head), ear-tip necrosis, crusted nasal sores, purulent skin ulcers, oral ulceration, fever, dyspnoea and jaundice. These signs are known to have presented in strains of FCV-VSD found in overseas epizootic outbreaks.
Commonly FCV is known to present upper respiratory signs, transient lameness and oral ulcers, yet the severity of VSD is characterised by hepatocellular necrosis and severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome, in combination with vasculitis. Vets should keep a watchful eye on adult cats, whose symptoms are more likely to present severely than those of kittens.
FCV is highly contagious, and can survive unaided for up to a month. Transmission can occur after contact with unwashed surfaces, including bowls, clothing, bedding, shoes and even litter boxes. Vet’s should notify any owners with cats that present FCV-VSD symptoms to take careful precautions and wash all items that may have come into contact with affected felines.
Even vaccination against FCV may not be enough to protect cats from VSD. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommended the following safety precautions: “Vets who see pyrexic, systemically unwell cats who may have the disease must keep them isolated from other cats, and employ effective barrier nursing, good hand hygiene and wash down surfaces to prevent spread to other cats. Effective disinfectants include sodium hypochlorite (1:32 dilution of a 5-6% solution) and potassium peroxymonosulfate (e.g. Virkon).”
Cats that have been infected with field strains of FCV and concurrently with feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) may have signs and symptoms that imitate FCV-VSD, so the AVA are also recommending testing for FPV as well.
The University of Sydney have begun researching those strains believed to have caused the current Sydney-based cases. If you believe you may have found another case, the AVA is counselling vets to contact Professor Vanessa Barrs (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Toilet training (and re-training) tips
- Pets usually urinate and defacate after sleep, exercise and after meals. Time your toilet breaks appropriately. It may help to keep a diary of when and where your pet toilets, to identify time and area preferences. In the initial phase of training, your pet may need to be taken out every 1 – 3 hours. If your dog does not toilet within 5 minutes, bring them inside for 10 – 20minutes then take them out again.
- Supervise your pet when they are outdoors to ensure that they are actually evacuating their bowels and bladder. PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE! when they go where you want them to! This is a very important part of toilet training. Praise must be given within a second of the elimination for it to be effective. Once your dog is back inside the praise is worthless. If desired you may give your dog a signal such as “toilet”.
- Prevention of further accidents – the more your dog toilets in a particular area, the more they’ll want to go back. Confine your dog to one area of the house, use a playpen lined with newspaper or use barriers to barricade areas of the house you don’t want them to go in. Only let your dog have free range when you are there to supervise. Crate training may be beneficial in this situation.
- Punishment is a no-no. In anxious dogs it may even aggravate the problem, or teach them to toilet in hidden areas. If you come home to an accident, ignore it and clean it up. Despite what many people thing your dog has no idea what it has done wrong and punishment after the fact is of absolutely no use. If you catch them in the act, you can startle them (ie with a clap) and then immediately pick them up/lead them outside and praise them once outside.
- Become familiar with signals that indicate your dog has a full bladder or bowel. These may include panting, pawing or staring at you, standing up or sniffing around the floor.
- Switching from free choice feeding to meal feeding may help to regulate defecation to 30 – 60 mins after eating. Exercise also triggers urination and defecation, twice daily walks may also be beneficial.
- Remember to be patient and ignore the any setbacks. Your dog is considered “toilet trained” when they have not had an accident in 6 weeks. It may take weeks to months of monitoring and training before your dog’s behaviour changes.
The problem with a new baby – from a fur baby perspective!
The arrival of a baby is a busy time and pet parents have their hands full with settling, feeding, nappy changing, bathing and cuddling the new addition. Fur babies can feel left out! Pet parents can often feel anxious about bringing a newborn home and pets can sense this. This can make pets feel anxious and unsure about the situation, and will link this negative feeling back to the baby. In addition, walks and meals may be missed or at an unusual time and new smells and sounds can cause anxiety and fear. This may lead to anxiety based behaviours such as house-soiling, destruction or vocalising, possessive displays and in very rare cases, aggression.
It is important that pets understand the boundaries and have established behaviours with reliable responses. Dogs need to understand basic commands ‘come’, ‘sit’, ‘bed’ on cue, and cats need to know the boundaries for adventure, such as, are they allowed to jump on the kitchen bench? All desired behaviour should be reinforced. Having these basics down pat means that pets can be easily controlled and involved in all things baby, so they too can enjoy this exciting time!
Before the baby arrives
With many months to prepare, pet parents can gradually introduce and adjust their pet to all the new baby things, so it isn’t a shock the day the baby comes. Pets must be rewarded for appropriate behaviour with treats, a favourite game or a rub on the belly! Here are some starting tips:
- Establish boundaries early. If the dog or cat will not be allowed in the nursery, install a screen or baby gate so they cannot enter. Staying out of the room should be positive, with a game or treat to follow. If they can enter, provide comfort with a favourite bed and a few toys, and teach them to stay calmly on the bed whenever the pet parents are in the nursery.
- Introduce the animal to the idea of a baby. Dogs must be taught to walk calmly beside the pram, and pets should be introduced to the baby carrier or car seat for car trips. Getting dogs used to a halter or harness can be helpful to enable better control of the dog when carrying the baby.
- Pets should be exposed to baby related smells early on. This includes creams and powder, and baby clothes from friends and family. Along with this, pets should be introduced to other babies and children as an important part of their learning.
- Once the new baby comes along, there will be a lot of new noises, particularly crying, which can be upsetting to pets. A great way to get pets used to the noises is to play a recording of a baby crying, initially softly, then louder, including at meal times or if they are trying to rest.
- Walking the dog or feeding dogs or cats at the same time every day are things pets come to rely on. A schedule will be harder to keep to when the baby comes along. Pet parents should start to alter their routine, skipping walks on some days and changing meal times (especially delaying meals!) before the baby comes along. This way, the pet won’t associate this change with the new baby.
- Before the baby comes along, it is important that the pet has an established rest area or ‘safe haven’ that is away from noise and commotion, particularly if this area will be different to where they slept before. There should be comfortable bedding and toys.
It’s a boy! It’s a girl!
- Before the baby comes home, introduce the pet to the smell of the baby. Bringing home some worn baby clothes or a blanket and allowing pets to become accustomed to the smell is important.
- It is a good idea for someone else other than the pet parents to hold the baby when greeting excited pets. A leash can be used to introduce dogs that are hard to control or jump, to reinforce calm, positive behaviour, and avoid negative reinforcement which the pet will associate with the baby being present. Pet parents must be relaxed around pets, so they don’t sense stress, which could make them fearful of the baby.
- The pet should be integrated into all things baby. Pet parents will need to multitask, carrying around treats and toys to engage their pet while attending to the baby. For example, when changing a nappy, a Kong® for the dog or a mouse on a string for the cat can associate the baby with exciting games. Treats can be offered when the baby is crying and pet parents can offer treats to encourage pets to sit calmly beside them when the baby is being fed.
- Licking, growling and hissing are normal pet behaviours. Pet parents can say ‘no’, but should not negatively reinforce or offer reassurance. While normal, these behaviours should be acknowledged and seen as a warning sign that the pet is unhappy. Changes need to be made to the situation, such as distancing the pet and baby, until the pet is more comfortable.
Quality time without the baby
Encourage pet parents to set time aside for one-on-one quality time with their pet, playing, grooming, patting and cuddling. This will prevent unwanted behaviours that result from a lack of attention and will provide mental and emotional stimulation. If pet parents are worried about not providing enough exercise, a dog walker a few times a week could take some of the pressure off.
The baby is starting to walk and crawl!
As the baby grows, they will recognise the pet and want to play. All play must be supervised, as rapid arm and leg movements, poking and tail pulling can be distressing for the pet. Children should be taught from an early age how to interact nicely with pets, and a quiet, child-free zone for the pet to escape to must be provided, to prevent other behaviours, such as biting, to make the child go away.
For unwanted behaviour, advise pet parents to seek specialist behavioural advice as soon as possible or to talk to their Vet about using pheromones and homeopathic remedies which help some animals. Depending on the age of the pet, underlying conditions, such as arthritis, could be a complicating issue so make sure pet parents take their fur baby to the Vet for a check-up so they can be treated/managed appropriately.
A reminder about zoonotic disease!
It is important to remind pet parents about the risk of zoonotic diseases to their family. A zoonotic disease is one which can be passed from animals to humans, and includes parasites (e.g. roundworm and tapeworm) and the infections parasites carry (e.g. bacteria such as Rickettsia or Bartonella transmitted by fleas). Children are most at risk as they are often in closest contact with pets and the outside environment which can be contaminated with worm eggs from the poo of infected animals. To minimise the risk to families, all pets in the household must be on regular parasite prevention, such as Advocate monthly, which protects against fleas and worms, or Drontal every three months, which controls intestinal worms. Additionally, everyone must wash their hands after play and before eating, sandpits need to be covered to prevent animals from using them as a toilet, and poo should be removed from the backyard regularly.
Easter Pet Safety Tips
Easter is just around the corner and it’s important that you know how to keep your pets happy, healthy and safe during the holiday season. We receive many calls this time of year from clients with pets that have ingested various toxins. Please find some safety tips below, or for more information view the Common Pet Toxins page:
1. Keep chocolate away from pets
Many curious dogs with a sweet tooth and strong sense of smell will discover leftover chocolate eggs, which can contain toxic components such as theobromine and caffeine. Side effects will vary according to the quantity consumed, early clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea and trembling.
2. Be careful choosing Easter decorations
Many families choose to decorate Easter baskets with artificial grass, which is often irresistible to dogs and cats, who love to chew on it. Ingestion of the string-like material can lead to a linear foreign body that causes gastrointestinal obstruction.
3. Table scraps can be harmful to pets
It’s always important to remind you and your families not to give any food or scraps to pets. The ingredients, spices and fat content can not only lead to an upset stomach, but also long-term side effects including obesity and behavioural problems.
Generally the medical treatment for these cases is supportive and may include IV fluids, emetics, activated charcoal, anti-seizure and cardiac medications. If you have any questions about these toxins, please don’t hesitate to call us.
Body Language of Fear in Dogs