Vet Watch, May 17


We tend to worry about the risks of horrifying events like shark attack in Australia, at least on the coastal fringes. However, the difference between actual risks and perceived risks is often pretty stark. This also goes for the risks our pets face in our coastal environment.

Here’s a rough breakdown of human deaths in Australia due to encounters with various animals over the last decade:

Horse/Pony = 77 deaths (falling off or getting stomped)

Cow/bull =  33 (getting stomped, gored or crashing into)

Dog = 27 (mainly bites and mainly under 4 year olds or the elderly, although 3 were dog-caused car accidents and 9 people just fell over a dog)

Kangaroo = 18 deaths (mainly car accidents)

Bee = 16

Shark = 16

Snake = 14

Crocodile = 9

Emu = 5 (cars again)

Other = 39 (including  jellyfish, cats, pigs, spiders, ticks, camels. One person died by tripping over a cat.)

So the figures are a bit different than you might expect! As for what critters pose the most threat to our pets locally, here’s a short list:

Paralysis tick, especially in spring. We see several cases a day when things are hectic, and Lennox Head sees only a fraction of the cases that would be seen in areas like Billinudgel and Mullum. Tick paralysis has about a 10% mortality even if treated aggressively and early by your vet.

Snakes – primarily brown snake and black snake bites. Mostly in warm weather, but not exclusively. Dogs are slightly more frequently affected, especially the usual suspects such as Jack Russels and working dogs, since they can’t resist the lure of a tasty snake. Most clinics keep anti-venom, and treatment is intensive and expensive, and not always successful.

Cane Toads – a source of common life-threatening intoxication in dogs (cats are less keen on chewing toads). Some of these cases die. There is no specific antidote and treatment is symptomatic.

Other dogs and cats – we regularly see severe wounds caused by fighting and/or roaming pets. Some of these wounds are horrific (and very traumatic to the owners as well as the pets) and not uncommonly fatal. The number of roaming dogs in Lennox is particularly frustrating, and people often don’t seem to realise what harm they can cause, or run into.

Preventable Viral or Parasitic Disease  I’m talking here of Parvo Virus and Heartworm disease in dogs, and Feline Aids, Flu and occasionally heartworm in cats.

I mention all these because sometimes people get a little complacent about things over the autumn and winter months, only to get caught out at the end of winter by something like tick-paralysis. Make sure you keep all your routine preventive care and vaccines up to date, and understand when you should be more vigilant regarding your pets potential misadventures.

Cheers for now, Evan Kosack BVSc

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