Joe Inglis’s Pet Corner – May 17th 2012

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  • | by Kristian Dando

Top telly vet Joe Inglis is back to answer a second round of questions from our readers. Join us next Thursday for another batch. In the meantime, check out last week's instalment.

Dear Joe, I have a six year-old female English springer spaniel. Last year I found a lump on her back which was surgically removed. Luckily, it was found to be a follicular cyst and she has fully recovered. I had a pet insurance policy with Argos, which paid out for the surgery. However I now feel that I should have taken out a lifelong insurance policy with a specialist pet insurance provider but I didn't know that at the time. I am now facing a hefty renewal premium with my current company, or move to a specialist lifelong provider. But as the cysts as a pre-existing condition, they will not be covered. I have spoken to all of the insurers concerned and I don't know what to do for the best. Please can you advise me? Wendy Lawrence. Joe says…

This is a tricky question as the best thing to do really depends on the likelihood of the cysts returning and requiring further treatment which is very hard to know. Personally I would have a chat with your vet and discuss the issue with them and get some idea of what costs you might be facing if they needed to remove another cyst in the future. Then if you assume that you will need to do this at some point in the future you can weigh up the value of staying with your current insurer and paying the extra premium or moving and having to pay the vet fees yourself.

(Please note, the cover that policies provide for vets fees is subject to limits. For example, an insurer may put a limit on the amount that you can claim for one condition during a specified time period, or may limit the total amount that you can claim for in one year regardless of the number of conditions. It is important to make sure you consider each limit when making your decision. You should also remember that whilst these policies are often described as ‘lifetime’ policies the insurer can choose to withdraw cover, for example at renewal - ed)

Hi Joe,My five year-old Jack Russell dog Titch has just developed black patchy marks in both ears. They started off very pale but within a couple of weeks they had turned black. They look a bit like tattoos. They don't bother him and he doesn't scratch them. Any ideas what they might be? Many thanks.Julia ForrestJoe says…

Changes in pigmentation like this are rarely anything to worry about and can occur on many areas of the body. However they can be linked to other issues such as over grooming caused by itchiness which can lead to a gradual blackening of the skin and hormonal disorders. I think it is very unlikely to be caused by anything really serious such as cancer as this doesn’t typically present in this way and it would also be incredibly unlikely for a dog to develop a disease like this in both ears at once. It is feasible that these changes are caused by hormonal disorders such as an underactive thyroid or Cushings disease, as these can lead to symmetrical skin changes (although not commonly in the ears) but personally I think this is unlikely and there really is almost certainly nothing at all to worry about. Check with your vet, who could run blood tests if necessary, but more likely just reassure you that they are fine.

Dear Joe,My four year old Guinea pig Casper has a condition in which both his eyes are bulging a lot, and he cannot lubricate them properly.  He has been prescribed a lubricant to keep him comfortable, which it does.  This condition makes him prone to eye infections and he is now on the third in his left eye in five months.  The antibiotic eye drops are proving less helpful than with the last infection.  He is well enough, but not as good as he was - just frailer and tired but still cheerful, eating and drinking.  He lives with his two younger piggie girlfriends.The vets here aren’t sure what the condition is - though glaucoma is suspected and he is apparently developing cataracts.  In addition he has lumps under his tummy which appeared suddenly a few months ago, although I’ve told that these are hamless. We are not considering surgery or anything invasive because of his age and, at times, excessive thirst.Do you know what the eye condition might be?  Have you encountered this before? Other than giving him palliative treatment and keeping him happy, do you have any non-intrusive suggestions or comments?Thanks,Rosemary RowettJoe says…

This does sound unusual, but I have a few ideas as to what could be going on. Glaucoma, which is the swelling of the eyes themselves, is possible even though it is not a commonly diagnosed condition in guinea pigs. Another possibility that would account for this would be something behind the eyes pushing them forwards and making it appear as if they are swollen. This can be caused by abscesses or growths in the space behind the eyes and although it is more common to find this in one eye it is possible that something is affecting both eyes in this way.

Whatever the cause though, I don’t think there is much hope for a complete cure as any kind of mass behind his eyes is going to be almost impossible to remove, especially in an elderly guinea pig, and glaucoma is also going to be a challenge to treat in this kind of animal. It might be worth asking your vet to look into whether they could try using some glaucoma drugs designed for dogs as there are several eye drops that can work well in dogs and reduce the pressure inside the eye and may therefore help in this case.

Hi Joe,I have a dog, Rolly, who we rescued him from a field in Spain when he was about 4 weeks old. He is now three.  He has his doggy passport and has been chipped and so forth, and now lives with us in the UK.My problem is with regard to dewclaws. He has two on each his front legs and one on each of the rear.Our Spanish vet cut these for us regularly without too much stress, however, since we came back to the UK our local vet wants to sedate him to cut the dew claws, and I am not comfortable with this. I am not able to do them myself I am worried about cutting the quick and hurting him.Rolly is a very friendly little dog of about seven kilos, but he does not like having his claws cut and showssome aggression when doing so because I believe the last time the English vet cut them he hurt him. If a muzzle is fitted he becomes really agitated and the whole thing is very stressful for him, quite frankly he is terrified.Is it safe to sedate him, are there any risks in doing so are you able to offer alternative advice?  His claws are now quite long and will begin to give him discomfort if I leave it too much longer and as I do not return to Spain until mid-May, this issue needs to be resolved quickly. I hope you can help me. Kind regards,Val BillinghamJoe says…

The ideal solution to this problem would be to have his dew claws removed as this would prevent all the future issues and mean you don’t have to put him through the stress of having them cut every few months. It is a quick and relatively simple operation that is done under a brief general anaesthetic and is generally very safe and straightforward.

Alternatively ask your vet to show you how to cut them as it is really very easy and once you’ve been shown you can easily avoid the quick.