Chapter Seven – Animal Health and First Aid

Chapter Seven – Animal Health and First Aid





The Animal Welfare Act states that an animal should be kept free from pain, suffering and disease and one of the best ways to do this is by taking preventative measures.


What is preventative care?


  • The dictionary definition of Preventative Care is: ‘When measures are taken to prevent diseases or injuries rather than curing them or,
  • Treating their signs and symptomsThree benefits of providing preventative care to dogs


1.       To prevent disease


2.      To identify potential problems & disease in early stages


3.      To provide quality of life to the dog.




How can preventative care be provided to dogs?


A surgical procedure for both dogs and bitches. Aside from preventing unplanned young in a world where there are already too many unwanted dogs, neutering can have many benefits. Neutering male dogs involves the removal of the testicles (sometimes called castration) and can greatly reduce the tendency to stray whilst looking for bitches and eliminates the chance of testicular cancers. It is thought to reduce dominant/aggressive behaviours and reduce the occurrence of prostate problems.

Neutering bitches (sometimes called spaying) involves the removal of the uterus and ovaries and can therefore rule out any chance of pyometra (pus in the womb) and other diseases of these organs. It also stops male dogs from bothering the bitch, eliminates false pregnancies (and the associated depression and lack of appetite that sometimes goes with it) and does not restrict exercise at certain points in the oestrus cycle. It is thought to reduce the chance of mammary tumours developing.

The disadvantages of neutering are few. It can cause weight gain but this can be controlled with careful diet (feeding approximately 1/5 less). It can also cause a change in coat texture.

It is not true that bitches should have a litter before being spayed. Most vets recommend waiting until 3 months after the first season to ensure that the bitches body has developed properly and hormone levels are back to normal.

Male dogs used at stud can often undergo character change and can spend all of their time looking for bitches in season and scent marking around the house.


2. Vaccination – Dogs should be routinely vaccinated against Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Canine Parainfluenza and Parvovirus. Dogs going/coming from abroad should be vaccinated against Rabies. Most boarding kennels will insist on dogs being vaccinated against Kennel Cough (administered by nasal spray). Vaccines should be done as advised by a vet as not all have the same length of effectiveness i.e. some are good for 2/3 years and others need an annual “top-up”.





3.Worming – Worming should be done on a regular schedule. The treatments advised by the vet will vary depending on the area of the country that the dog lives (and therefore the parasites it is exposed to) and the lifestyle of the dog. Usually the schedule will be either every 3 months (roundworm and tapeworm) or every month (to include lungworm etc).


4. Parasite Treatment – (see more about parasites in parasite section)


Flea shampoos
A shampoo, or “flea bath” is a good first attack on fleas for the pet that has a large numbers of fleas visible on its body. Cats can be difficult to bathe. It is important to realise that a flea shampoo is not intended for lasting control. Many people are surprised when they see fleas and it was “only a week ago” that the pet had a flea bath. Shampoos are only effective for a day or less. They leave little residual chemical on the animal when properly used.


  • Flea collars
    Flea collars work one of two ways – by emitting a toxic (to fleas, anyway) gas, and by being absorbed into the animal’s subcutaneous fat layer. The toxic gas is usually only effective in the immediate area of the head and neck. This type of collar is best used in the vacuum cleaner bags to kill any fleas vacuumed up. The collars that absorb into the subcutaneous fat are much more effective. Flea collars are effective for adult fleas.
  • Flea powders and sprays
    Flea powders and sprays offer short term (2-3 day) protection from fleas, and with some products, ticks and mites too. Powders and sprays have fallen out of favor recently with the newer spot-on treatments that are available. Most flea powders and sprays are only effective for adult fleas. Some offer additional flea protection by inhibiting flea egg and larval development.
  • Spot-on treatments
    Common brand names include: Advantage ™, Frontline®, and Bio-Spot® just to name a few. Please consult with your veterinarian for the best choice for your pet(s). These products are applied between the shoulder blades of the pet, and typically last about one month. Spot-on treatments are effective for adult fleas. Some include ingredients to inhibit the larva from emerging from the flea egg and some are active against larval development as well.
  • Oral medications
    Flea “pills”, such as Program® and Sentinel® work by stopping the larva from emerging from the flea egg. Program® is also available as an injectable medication for cats. Fleas ingest the blood of animals on these medications, and the female fleas then lay eggs that are unable to hatch. They do NOT kill adult fleas.


5.Dental Health – If a dog has persistent smelly breath it should be taken to a vet for a dental check and overall health check (some diseases have smelly breath as a symptom). Daily cleaning by the owner with a proper dog toothpaste and toothbrush can help to slow the rate of plaque build up on a dog’s teeth but there are limitations to how effective brushing can be . At best, the owner will be able to clean the outside surface of the upper and lower canines, upper and lower incisors and perhaps the premolars. On most dogs it is not possible to brush the inside surface of any of these teeth or the front or back surface of the molars.



6.Correct diet – A balanced diet includes all the food groups in the required amounts for a dog to stay in good health. These include Water, Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat, Minerals and Vitamins. Most commercially available dog foods are complete, balanced foods and do not require the addition of supplements. In fact, adding supplements (scraps or vitamin/mineral tablets) can have a detrimental effect on the dog’s health as the diet becomes “unbalanced” with an excess of certain food groups.


The amount and type of food an individual dog requires will depend on many factors such as:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Breed
  • Activity level
  • Health



Two dogs of the same breed, size, age and activity level can have different food requirements. It is usual to start feeding any particular foodstuff according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and then modify the amount fed to ensure that the dog does not lose or gain weight.


Health Checking



Just because your pet may feel warm to the touch doesn’t necessarily mean he has a fever. Dogs normally have a warmer body temperature than humans do. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a temperature of 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius) is typical for pooches, whereas humans’ normal body temperature is just 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), with an average range of about 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius).



Some dogs may go off their food for a day and this will not harm them, but if a previously enthusiastic eater is rejecting food for more than twenty-four hours a veterinarian should be consulted as any changes in feeding habits may signify a problem. Similarly, drinking patterns should be observed. Any deviation from the norm, particularly an increase in water consumption, should be investigated



Watch the way the dog moves. Look for any signs of lameness and for any swelling on the legs or joints. Does he show any reluctance to jump into the car, walk upstairs, run, or play. Does he seem stiff when he gets up from a rest. Does he show any discomfort when touched on any part of his body. Arthritis is one of several causes of lameness and discomfort which can be alleviated by medication.



Observing the dog’s toilet habits may not be among the top 10 spectator sports, but it can provide valuable insight into the health of your dog. The number of bowel movements per day varies considerably from dog to dog. The important thing is that the evacuations are regular and of consistent appearance. Bear in mind that certain foods may change the colour of the faeces, e.g. charcoal biscuits will produce black faeces. Any chronic or acute diarrhoea or constipation requires veterinary attention, as does the presence of blood or mucus. If the urine appears dark, cloudy, or blood tinged, or the dog is urinating excessively or has difficulty in passing urine, again, consult your veterinarian.



Coughing, breathlessness, or excessive panting may indicate problems.



As with humans, dogs can be energetic one day and lethargic the next. However, any major fluctuation in normal energy levels lasting more than a couple of days should be investigated.



Grooming requirements depend upon the breed but most dogs require at least a weekly going over. This time can be invaluable for a general check-up. Run your hands over every part of the dog’s body to check for lumps, lesions and bumps. Examine the skin top to toe, stomach, armpits and under the tail for any cuts, scratches, inflammation, hot spots, parasites, dandruff, etc. Note any signs of discomfort when being handled and listen to the chest for wheezing.



Examine the feet carefully. Look and feel between the toes and between the pads for any soreness, grass seeds, cysts, ticks, or excessive hair. Over-long nails can cause problems so they should be kept trimmed as short as possible. Nails can be cut using specially designed clippers, or they can be filed. Be careful when shortening nails to avoid the quick as cutting this will result in bleeding and will cause the dog pain.


Signs of ear problem

Sensitivity to touch

  • Constant shaking the head or tilting the head to one side, usually with ears down
  • Itchy dog ears causing constant scratching
  • Rancid odour coming from ears (smelly dog ears)
  • Red, inflamed inside of ears
  • Bald tips or crustiness on tips of earsWhat are the most common causes of otitis in dogs?The six most common causes of infection and irritation are:

1.        Bacteria

2.       Fungi

3.       Trapped water,

4.       Ear mites,

5.       Foreign body in the ear,

6.       Allergy.



Secondary causes include hypothyroidism and an accumulation of earwax. In many cases, infections are preceded by inflammation. Scratching the pinna can sometimes lead to a secondary infection, but if yeast or bacteria are involved and allowed to multiply, infections can be expected to occur without the dog’s claws helping matters along.


Water Accumulation Dogs that are taken for frequent swims or are bathed frequently are more prone to developing infections. The skin that forms the walls in the outer ear canal is naturally rather dry, even though it is lubricated by oils. If water becomes trapped in the horizontal segment of the ear canal, the combination of warmth and moisture can make the canal an ideal place for bacteria or fungi to thrive. The situation is likely to be even worse if the dog’s hearing organ is a floppy type, where the flap covers the external auditory meatus and does not allow it to dry out.


Bacteria and Yeast There is always a presence of bacteria and yeast in a dog’s outer ear, but they are both normally kept in check. If conditions allow them to multiply, or if some foreign pathogen enters the external auditory meatus, the result can be an infection. Malassezia is the most common type of yeast infection in a dog’s ears, while bacterial infections are usually caused by staphylococci and Pseudomonas.


Mites – Otodectes cynotis mites, or ear mites, are a fairly common occurrence in dogs. There are several different types of mites than can take up residence in your dog’s organ of hearing, but in most cases, it is O. cynotis that is the source of the problem. While these mites generally go about minding their own business by feeding on earwax and oil secretions, they have a habit of causing both irritation and infections. This usually results in a brown discharge, which, in some cases, can block the external auditory meatus. [8]


Why are some breeds more susceptible to ear infections?


Floppy Ears – The term used to describe a floppy type of ear is pendulous ear. Pendulous or floppy, the shape can create problems that have already been mentioned. The pinna covering the meatus can make it harder for any canine to dislodge foreign objects and will also tend to keep water that has accumulated in the auditory canal warm and bacteria or yeast-friendly. The longer the flap, the more prone the breed is to having a problem. Breeds having pendulous ears include Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Beagles, Irish Setters, Cocker Spaniels, and one breed that can spend a lot of time in the water, the Labrador Retriever.


Allergies – Almost any breed of dog can have an allergy or two, but there are some breeds that for whatever reason seem more prone to having them. These are mainly food allergies, but hay fever and food sensitivities can also be a cause of otitis. If you have one of the breeds that is prone to having allergies, the best protection is usually one of avoidance; keeping the animal away from whatever it appears to be particularly sensitive to. Breeds that are known to be prone to allergic reactions are Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds.


Hair in the Ears – Some breeds have a great deal of hair on the inside of their ears and other breeds have little or none. The obvious concern with hairy ears is that foreign bodies can more easily be lodged in the animal’s ear. Dogs having an abundance of hair around their sound-detecting organs can have a problem as well, but the breeds having hair in or at the entrance of the external auditory meatus are the ones that are most prone to ear infections, and these are Poodles, Schnauzers, the Bichon Frise, and the Lhasa Apso. [8]



Eye Care


Keeping dog’s eyes clean helps towards their health and well-being by preventing irritation and infection, which can be painful for the dog. Tears which lubricate and flush out the eye, and nasolacrimal ducts which help them drain, help keep a dog’s eye healthy.


Structure of the eye: 




Common eye conditions seen in dogs


Condition Symptoms & Cause Treatment/prevention
Conjunctivitis – inflammation of the eye Squinting or spasmodic blinking (blephora), redness of the moist tissues of the eye, discharge from the eye(s); it may be clear or may contain mucus and/or pus & swelling,

Causes – bacterial, viral, allergies, follicular conjunctivitis, immune-mediated diseases, tumours, dry eye, foreign body, irritation from dust or chemicals, ulcerative keratitis & glaucoma.

Seek veterinary advice
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) – Sometimes called dry eye syndrome, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is characterized by a deficiency of aqueous tear film over the surface of the eye and the lining of the lids. The result is severe drying and inflammation of the cornea (the transparent front part of the eye) and conjunctiva (the clear membrane that covers the sclera — the white part of the eye).

This condition is relatively common in dogs, particularly cocker spaniels, bulldogs, West Highland white terriers, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih-tzus. In addition, there is some suspicion that females may be more predisposed to KCS than males. [10]

Excessive blinking, swollen conjunctival blood vessels, chemosis (swelling of the tissue that lines the eyelids and surface of the eye), prominent nictitans (third eyelid), discharge of mucus or pus from the eye, corneal changes (chronic disease) in the blood cells, with pigmentation and ulceration, severe diseasecan lead to impaired or complete loss of vision

Immune-mediated adenitis (inflammation of a gland that is brought about by abnormal activity of the body’s immune system) is most common, and is often associated with other immune-mediated diseases, congenital in pugs and Yorkshire terriers, sporadically in other breeds, neurogenic – disease of the central nervous system is occasionally seen after traumatic proptosis (eyes displaced from their sockets) or after a neurologic diseasethat interrupts the nerves of the tear gland, often a dry nose on the same side as the dry eyes, drug induced – general anaesthesia and atropine cause transient dry eye syndrome, drug toxicity – some sulfa-containing drugs or etodolac (an NSAID) may cause transient or permanent condition, removal of the third eyelid may lead to this condition, especially in at-risk breeds, systemicdisease – canine distemper virus, chlamydia conjunctivitis – bacterial, chronic blepharoconjunctivitis – long term inflammation of the conjunctiva (lining of the eyeball and lids) and eyelids & breed-related predisposition

Seek veterinary advice
Glaucoma – is a condition in which pressure is increased in the eye, caused by inadequate fluid drainage in the eye. If the condition becomes chronic or persists without treatment, it will eventually cause permanent damage to the optic nerve and retina, resulting in blindness.

Glaucoma is common in certain dog breeds that are genetically predisposed, such as Samoyeds, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Chow Chows, and Siberians. Unfortunately, 40 percent of dogs affected by glaucomawill become blind in the affected eye within the first year, regardless of medical or surgical treatment. [11]

High pressure within the eye, blinking of the eye, the eyeball may recede back into the head, redness of the blood vessels in the whites of eyes, cloudy appearance at front of the eye, dilated pupil – or pupil does not respond to light, vision loss

Long-term, advanced disease:

Enlargement of the eyeball (buphthalmos), obvious loss of vision, advanced degeneration within the eye.

High pressure in the eye occurs when the normal outflow of fluid in the eye is impaired due to a primary eye disease such as the improper development of the eye’s filtration angles, or secondary to other eye diseases such as primary lens luxation (slipping of the lens in the eye), inflammation of the tissues of the eye, eye tumour(s), or blood collection in the front of the eye from injury. In dogs, secondary glaucoma is more common than primary glaucoma.

Seek veterinary advice
Entropion – is a genetic condition in which a portion of the eyelid is inverted or folded inward. This can cause an eyelashes or hairs to irritate and scratch the surface of the eye, leading to corneal ulceration or perforation. It can also cause dark-coloured scar tissue to build up over the wound (pigmentary keratitis). These factors may cause a decrease or loss of vision.

Entropion is fairly common in dogs and is seen in a wide variety of breeds, including short-nosed breeds, giant breeds, and sporting breeds. [12]

In toy and brachycephalic breeds of dogs, excess tears (epiphora) and/or inner eye inflammation (keratitis) are common signs of entropion. However, in giant breeds, it is more common to see mucus and/or pus discharge from the outer corner of the eyes. In other breeds of dogs, eye tics, discharge of pus, eye inflammation, or even rupture of the cornea are the usual signs of entropion.

Facial shape is the primary genetic cause of entropion. In short-nosed, brachycephalic breeds of dogs there is more tension on the ligaments of the inner eye than would normally be seen. This, along with the conformation (shape) of their nose and face can lead to both the top and bottom eyelids rolling inward toward the eyeball. Giant breeds have the opposite problem. They tend to have excess slack in the ligaments around the outer corners of their eyes. This permits the outer edges of the eyelids to fold inward.

Repeated bouts of eye infections (conjunctivitis) can cause spastic entropion, which can lead to functional entropion. This can also be caused by other types of eye irritants and is generally the case in breeds that do not normally exhibit entropion. Lastly, inflammation of the chewing muscles or severe weight loss can lead to loss of fat and muscle around the eye socket, which may be another cause for entropion.

Seek veterinary advice

As entropion is usually caused by a genetic predisposition, it cannot really be prevented. If the dog is of a breed that is known to be affected with entropion, prompt treatment is your best option once it is diagnosed.

Cataracts – there are many medical reasons that dog may develop cataracts. Cataracts result from a diseaseprocess affecting the lens of the eye, causing the lens to lose its transparency and thus impairing vision; in some cases, cataracts can cause blindness. The lens of the eye becomes thick and opaque, resulting in a whitish/ grey area in the centre of the eye. Cataracts may progress slowly or rapidly, depending on their underlying cause. A bluish, grey, or white layer in the eye A sudden reluctance to climb stairs or jump on furniture, clumsiness, eye irritation/redness, discharge or blinking Rubbing or scratching of the eyes.

There are a number of reasons your dog may develop cataracts. The most common cause is genetics. Diabetic dogs are also especially susceptible to developing cataracts. Other causes include diseases, nutritional disorders from puppyhood, eye injury, or infection. Most cataracts develop with age, but shouldn’t be confused with nuclear sclerosis, a normal change of the lens in pets over 7 years of age, which causes the lens to appear somewhat whiter or greyer but does not seem to impair the dog’s vision.

Seek veterinary advice

Routine eye exams as part of the dog’s yearly physical will help in monitoring the eye health. If there is an underlying cause, treating the underlying disease may improve the dog’s prognosis.

Cherry eye – Prolapsed gland of the eyelid refers to a pink mass protruding from behind the animal’s 3rd eyelid; it is also called a “cherry eye.” Normally, the gland development is anchored by an attachment made up of fibrous material.[13] The most common sign of “cherry eye” is an oval mass protruding from the dog’s third eyelid. It can occur in one or both eyes, and may be accompanied by swelling and irritation.

Cherry eye” is most commonly associated with a congenital weakness of the gland’s attachment in the dog’s eye. However, it is not known whether the condition is inherited.

While this medical condition can occur in any breed, it is more common in Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus.




The nose should be cool and damp to touch it should not be too dry or cracked. Green or yellow discharge is a sign of infections.





Examine the teeth and gums. Gums should be pink, any redness may indicate a problem. Check for growths on the gums. Make sure that there are no broken or loose teeth and that the teeth are clean and have no brown accumulations of tartar or trapped food particles. Check the tongue for sores, cuts, growths. Check the lip folds for any accumulation of food. Smell the breath. If there is a foul odour this could be a sign of bad teeth, gum problems, or digestive problems.





Examine these for discharge or swelling. Is the bitch in season. If so there are potential problems this could cause.


Does the dog have a waist? You should be able to feel the ribs but not the spine. Obesity is the cause of a great many problems in the dog.


There is an old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, if you have any concerns at all about the health of a dog in your care then let the owner know and suggest that they consult the veterinarian promptly. Quite often early diagnosis of a potential problem will result in a quicker, more effective, and less costly, cure.




Parasites come in many sizes, shapes and levels of “severity” for our pets. This collection of parasites are those commonly found on dogs and other species, sometimes affecting humans (called a zoonotic disease).

There are two different types of parasites:

1. Ectoparisites

2. Endoparisites



What’s an Ectoparasite?


An ectoparasite is a parasite that lives on the outside of a dog’s body rather than on the inside. There are many different varieties of ectoparasites but we will focus on just a few species of fleas, ticks and mites. The picture on the right shows just a few examples of common ectoparasites.



What are the clinical signs of skin parasites in dogs?


All skin parasites can cause pruritus (itchy skin). Depending on the type and number of parasites involved this can range from an occasional scratch to continuous and extreme itching and self-mutilation. Partly due to the parasite and partly due to scratching, other clinical signs develop, including hair loss, red spots, pustules, scales and crusts and sore areas of skin. Very often bacteria grow on the affected skin and cause a secondary bacterial infection, which aggravates the situation and confuses the issue, making diagnosis more difficult. Some animals can become generally unwell.


Even if the parasite cannot readily be seen, the pattern of affected areas on the body and/or the changes of the skin can occasionally point towards a diagnosis.  However, further tests are usually necessary to determine what is going on. Ticks are an exception – they are usually very obvious once they have filled with blood.





Parasite How they are transmitted and what are the signs. Treatment and prevention

Fleas are the most common skin parasites found on dogs, in fact it is almost impossible for a dog not to be infested with fleas at some point during his or her lifetime. Adult fleas live on the dog and feed on blood. Each female flea lays up to 50 eggs per day and these fall off the dog into the surrounding area. The development of the next flea generation then takes place in the house, the car or anywhere else that the dog has access to