A-Z of gundog health: D is for...
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From canine deafness to diabetes, there are plenty of illnesses and coditions which can affect our gundogs. Gundog vet Vicky Payne lists those beginning with D
Many gundogs start to lose their hearing as they get older. Studies have shown that being housed in a noisy kennel can affect hearing in the same way as loud noises can affect human hearing. The effect of gunshot on dogs has not been studied, but as the noise can cause hearing loss in humans it seems likely dogs can be affected too. Peg dogs are probably at highest risk as they are closest to gunshot.
Temporary hearing loss can occur if the ears become blocked with infection, ear mites, or wax. Ears should be checked once a week for discharge and smell. Untreated infections can cause rupture of the eardrum or infection of the middle ear which could lead to permanent deafness.
Some puppies are born totally or partially deaf. This congenital deafness is most often associated with dogs with white ears and unpigmented skin.
Deafness can be difficult to spot in dogs as they are usually reacting to multiple cues when we give them commands. Home tests for deafness include clapping or rattling food in a bowl out of sight of the dog and getting a friend to observe if the dog reacts. BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) testing can confirm deafness or be used to screen puppies and is available in some veterinary hospitals.
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Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is relatively common in dogs. It is usually seen in middle-aged or older dogs and often in dogs who have been overweight. It can also occur after treatment with steroids, or with Cushing’s disease (see last month: C). Labradors, golden retrievers, and English springers may be at higher risk.
In diabetic dogs, the pancreas can’t secrete enough insulin to send glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This high blood sugar, and the reduced supply of glucose to cells, results in symptoms including lethargy, weight loss, excessive drinking and excessive urination. Advanced cases can develop cataracts and nerve problems, and diabetes can be fatal if untreated.
Your vet can diagnose diabetes through blood and urine tests, and management will usually include changes to their diet and insulin injections.
Diabetic dogs can still work, though careful management of their food intake and insulin dose on working days is required.
Normal faeces should be sausage-like and easy to pick up. Dogs vary in how often they go each day, so learn what is normal for your dog. If the faecal consistency becomes soft and is passed more frequently than normal, this is diarrhoea.
There are many causes of diarrhoea including stress, hard work, changes in food, bacterial infections from bad food or water, viral infections and systemic diseases. By far, the most common causes are stress/hard work – and eating disgusting things!
If your dog is well, and the faeces are formed but soft, try a probiotic paste before you head to the vet. The best ones combine ingredients to bind toxins and dry up the diarrhoea with pre- and probiotics to restore healthy gut bacteria. If your dog is lethargic, the diarrhoea continues for more than three days, or the diarrhoea is watery or bloody contact your vet immediately.
Diarrhoea is more serious in puppies and older dogs who may become dehydrated quickly. Parvovirus is a potentially fatal cause of profuse watery bloody diarrhoea in puppies; ensure breeding bitches and puppies are appropriately vaccinated to reduce the risk.