Feeding dogs raw chicken meat, particularly chicken necks, has been linked to a rare but potentially fatal type of canine paralysis.
A study led by the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital found the consumption of raw chicken meat increased the risk of developing the paralysing condition acute polyradiculoneuritis (APN) by more than 70 times.
Dr Matthias le Chevoir, chief investigator on the project said the cause of APN in dogs had baffled the veterinary community for a long time.
“It is a rare but very debilitating condition where the dog’s hind legs first become weak and then may progress to affect the front legs, neck, head and face. Some dogs may die from the disease if their chest becomes paralysed,” Dr le Chevoir said.
“Most dogs eventually recover without treatment but it may take up to six months or more in some cases. It can be difficult for owners to nurse their pet until the condition gradually improves.
“A better understanding of this condition is therefore very important, so our team was really pleased to have discovered that consuming raw chicken necks is an important risk factor for developing APN.”
Paralysis results from the dog’s immune system becoming unregulated and attacking its own nerve roots, progressively worsening over several days.
APN is the canine counterpart of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in humans, a condition that also causes muscle weakness and may require ventilation if chest muscles are affected.
Dr le Chevoir said the bacteria Campylobacter was now considered a triggering agent in up to 40 per cent of GBS patients, which is present in undercooked chicken, unpasteurised milk products and contaminated water.
“Our team at U-Vet Animal Hospital wanted to understand if consuming raw chicken could also be triggering APN in dogs. Many of our team have previously worked overseas and know that a raw meat diet is less common there, so were intrigued by this potential connection,” Dr le Chevoir said.
Dr Matthias le Chevoir, Head of Neurology (Acting) at U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital
The team studied 27 dogs with symptoms of APN and 47 dogs without, examining physical symptoms and interviewing the owners about recent behaviours and diet; focusing on the consumption of raw chicken meat.
The study’s lead author Dr Lorena Martinez-Anton said that when they examined faecal samples collected within seven days of the symptoms of APN appearing, they were 9.4 times more likely to have had a Campylobacter infection than the control group without APN.
“We predict that the microbe Campylobacter is likely to be the reason for the dysregulation of the dog’s immunity and therefore, the symptoms of paralysis,” Dr Martinez-Anton said.
“These bacteriological results were consistent with the hypothesis that the uncooked chicken meat was the source of the Campylobacter and as a result, triggered APN.
“We find smaller dog breeds are fed more chicken necks as they can’t eat larger bones.
In humans, it is proposed that the Campylobacter bacteria, which is commonly isolated from commercial poultry products, contains molecules similar in structure to part of the nerve cell. This
similarity confuses the immune system which attacks the body’s own nerves, resulting in paralysis.
Drs Martinez and le Chevoir said the fact that raw meat consumption could trigger such dramatic disease is concerning as there currently appears to be a growing trend for feeding dogs raw meat diets.
“A significant association is also found between APN and smaller dog breeds. Based on our clinical experience this seems to be because smaller dogs are more likely to be fed smaller bones like chicken necks,” the doctors said in the research paper.
“We would recommend that owners choose regular dog food rather than chicken necks until we know more about this debilitating condition.”
Full study can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jvim.2018.32.issue-1/issuetoc L. Martinez-Anton, M. Marenda, S.M. Firestone, R.N. Bushell, G. Child, A.I. Hamilton, S.N. Long and M.A.R. Le Chevoir. Investigation of the Role of Campylobacter Infection in Suspected Acute Polyradiculoneuritis in Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2018, Volume 32, Issue 1, pages 352–360. DOI: 10.1111/jvim.15030
Just like people, skin cancers are also common in dogs and cats, accounting for one-third of tumours in dogs, and one-quarter in cats. Most skin tumours in dogs are benign (70-80%) and do not spread, but enlarge over time. The majority in cats (50-65%) are malignant and can spread to other parts of the body.
Those that have short fur and light coloured coats who spend a lot of time outdoors are at higher risk of some kinds of skin cancer. To help reduce
the risk of skin cancer, at-risk animals should minimise sun exposure, use pet-safe sunscreen or sun-suits.
If your pet has new lumps, bumps, scabs or wounds that are not healing, is extremely important to get it checked by a vet early. While there are other
causes for skin lumps such as inflammation, infection, foreign matter entering the body or cysts, it may be cancer. The vet will often take a sample
and send the cells to a pathologist for examination. There are many options for skin cancer treatment in pets, including surgery, cryotherapy (freezing),
radiation, chemotherapy and other medications. While the likely outcome depends on its type, many are curable and have a great chance of recovery.
This cat has skin cancer affecting its ears. Image by Dr Brian Husbands. Even small lumps or bumps can be early skin cancer – circles outline several skin cancers on this dogs abdomen.
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Obesity is the most common form of malnutrition seen in pets. It is defined as an excessive accumulation of fat in the body which eventually leads to adverse effects on health and your pet’s life span. 41 per cent of dogs and 32 per cent of cats were overweight or obese according to 2013 figures from Animal Health Alliance (Australia).
Obesity leads to:
Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations
Cardiovascular disease (lung and heart issues)
Reduced tolerance to exercise and heat
Joint and mobility problems
Increased risks if your pet undergoes surgery or anaesthesia
Reduced quality of life
Possible increased risk for certain forms of cancer.
Obesity is usually caused by a combination of an inactive lifestyle and eating too many calories. Very rarely, certain hormone diseases can also lead to obesity.
It is important that your pet has a healthy, active lifestyle and is fed strictly controlled portions to prevent your pet from becoming overweight and obese.
Is your pet overweight?
Ideally, if your pet is a healthy weight you should be able to feel the ribs of your pet through a small fat layer.
If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs or if they have lost their waist line, they are overweight.
If your pet is overweight
Weight loss is vital to the health of your overweight or obese pet, unless there is an underlying cause to your pets’ weight.
If you suspect that your pet is overweight, it is always best to seek veterinary advice.
Below are three important factors to guide you in helping your pet lose weight:
1. Behaviour modification Avoid feeding your pet high-calorie table scraps and frequent feeding of dog biscuits and treats. It may be surprising to know that bones have a very high calorie content.
Do not encourage or allow begging during meal times.
This can be achieved by keeping your pet out of the kitchen during meal time preparation and gradually decreasing the amount of treats given. You can also substitute treats with attention, cuddles and play instead. Ensuring your pet is fed at the same time each day can also aid in preventing begging.
2. Exercise regime
Increased activity contributes to energy use that is necessary for weight loss.
Always start with slow and low intensity of exercise especially if your pet is used to a sedentary lifestyle.
As a general guide, 10 minute walks every day or every second day is a good start which should eventually lead to increased time and frequency.
Walking, running, playing fetch and other games are recommended forms of exercise, though ensure to start slowly.
3. Diet management
The aim of dietary management is a restricted calorie diet. Manage your pet’s diet with the following steps: Weigh your pet and set a goal for weight loss.
Next, calculate your pet’s caloric requirement for maintenance of body weight (this can be discussed with your regular veterinarian). Feeding a diet that provides 60-70 per cent of the calories necessary for maintaining current body weight usually results in weight loss.
Do not attempt to severely restrict calories as this can cause a rebound in your pet’s weight due to the effects of severe calorie restriction on the body’s metabolic rate.
It is important to feed a well-balanced diet such as commercial pet foods that are formulated to contain adequate amounts of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. You can obtain prescription commercial diets that are aimed at weight loss as they contain fewer calories either being low in fat and high in digestible fibre and carbohydrates.
Alternatively, you may trial reducing the amount of food in your pet’s current diet. Reduce the amounts provided in each meal by one-third, and supplement with low calorie fibrous foods such as pumpkin or carrot.
If you feel the need to feed the odd treat, most dogs and cats like pieces of carrot or broccoli stalks which are low in calories.
Athena is a 7-month-old Devon Rex kitten who went on a bit of an adventure.
While she was playing at home, she accidentally swallowed the rubber stopper from the end of her toy. She came into U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital
with trouble breathing and on her chest X-ray it was seen that the stopper had become lodged in her airway.
An object which is in a place it's not supposed to be, such as the airways or intestines, is called a foreign body. The foreign body was removed via
endoscopy by our internal medicine team.
Endoscopy can be used in animals, like it is in people, to allow us to see inside the airways and remove objects or collect samples without surgery.
Athena made a full recovery and is now back to her normal playful self.
Image: Athena’s chest X-ray
A clip from the endoscopy: the rubber stopper that was lodged in her airway is being removed
Image: Athena under anaesthesia with the removed foreign body next to her Image: U-Vet’s happy internal medicine team at 6am having removed the foreign body
The Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital has been purchased by the University of Melbourne to enhance the clinical experience in equine medicine, surgery
and reproduction for students completing the internationally recognised Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.
The Hospital will continue to operate in its existing structure and under the current managers and specialist veterinarians, Dr Jim Vasey and Dr Angus
University of Melbourne veterinary students will gain experience in all aspects of equine practice by undertaking rotations with leading specialists
and veterinarians at the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital.
This will be in addition to the students’ training with the specialists at the University of Melbourne Equine Centre in Werribee, which will retain
its focus on equine medicine and surgery, performance and lameness management, sports medicine, rehabilitation and emergency and critical care, with
access to advanced diagnostic imaging.
Professor John Fazakerley, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences said that the Faculty was keen to work with the Goulburn Valley
Equine Hospital because of its strong reputation as a world-class centre for equine practice.
“Through the hospital, we will be able to expand learning opportunities for students, increasing their exposure to first opinion and reproduction
cases including working with mares and foals,” Professor Fazakerley said.
“As the Goulburn region has a high resident horse population, students will also have the opportunity to visit clients in the region. This is limited
at the University’s Equine Centre in Werribee due to its suburban location. The Hospital will compliment services offered by the Werribee Equine Centre
and strengthen the faculty’s international reputation in veterinary education.”
Ross McPherson, University of Melbourne Deputy Chancellor said that the investment reflected the University’s commitment to strengthening its relationships
in the Goulburn Valley, a region of importance for University engagement.
“Our association with the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital builds on our presence in the region which includes the Dookie agriculture campus, the Rural
Health Centre and Academy of Sport, Health and Education, and it will increase our student population within the community,” Mr McPherson said.
“We look forward to strengthening our existing relationships and enterprises in the Goulburn Valley, to enrich our learning, teaching and research
by building closer ties in the region.”
Media enquiries: Nerissa Hannink | 0430 588 055 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday 11 December WYN FM – Life and Style with Rob Richardson
Listen to Dr Claire Cannon, oncologist at U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital, speak to Rob Richardson at WYN FM about cancer in pets, particularly in dogs
and cats, the treatment options available and future research and clinical trial opportunities.
Dr Cannon advises that if there is something out of the ordinary with your pet such as lumps and bumps on their skin or body, it is important to get it
checked out by a vet.
While there are different cancer treatment options for pets including chemotherapy and surgery, she emphasises that the goal of cancer treatments in pets
is so that they can live their normal lifestyle without significant side effects.
13 December 2017 ABC Radio Sydney – Breakfast with Robbie Buck
Listen to Dr Leonie Richards, Head of General Practice, U-Vet Veterinary Hospital, University of Melbourne explain why cats are obsessed with Christmas
trees during her interview with Robbie Buck, ABC Radio Sydney.
With cats being particularly fascinated with Christmas trees, Dr Richards said there are dangers of cats knocking items off the trees, chewing off strings
on baubles and swallowing tinsel. She noted that strings and tinsel can be swallowed into a ball and act like a plug in the intestine which can cause various
problems and if stuck, it will need to be retrieved at the vet using an endoscope, or in extreme cases, major surgery. She added that dogs are not as fascinated
with glittery things though they may be more inclined to create havoc with the presents under the tree.
Reuben with his owner Sharon and his oncology vet Dr Claire Cannon
Did you know that cancer in dogs and cats is as common as it is in people?
Reuben the rottweiler began limping on his left front leg in September. After being diagnosed with a type of bone cancer, he received surgery to his leg
and chemotherapy. While his owner Sharon recalls the first couple of weeks being tough, he is now functioning well with three legs and began chemotherapy.
Bone cancer is common for dogs, especially in large breeds like rottweilers. Amputation is an important part of treatment as it removes the source of pain.
Though it might sound frightening, most dogs and cats adjust well with three legs. Reuben is a good example of how well dogs can adapt to their new ‘tripod’
life and do most of his normal activities.
X-ray of Reuben’s left lateral humerus
Reuben is a six-year-old rottweiler who presented to the U-Vet Surgery service for evaluation of suspected osteosarcoma. He initially presented to his
regular veterinarian for left forelimb lameness, which was becoming progressively worse over the last two months despite medication with NSAIDs.
Radiographs were concerning for an aggressive bone lesion in the left proximal humerus. Chest radiographs showed no evidence of gross metastasis. Fine
needle aspirate of the area was attempted, and cytology was inconclusive. Most of the cells were consistent with relatively normal osteoblasts though there
were some larger more atypical cells present.
On orthopaedic examination at U-Vet, pain was localised to the left shoulder region. Given the classic breed, location and radiographic appearance and
the absence of evidence of inflammation, infection or secondary neoplastic processes on cytology, a presumptive diagnosis of osteosarcoma was made Reuben
went on to have a left forequarter amputation and histopathology confirmed the diagnosis of osteosarcoma. Reuben is getting around well on three legs and
has started chemotherapy treatment with the U-Vet Oncology service.
Many vets are unsure if they need a definitive histopathologic biopsy diagnosis before proceeding to amputation surgery. A presumptive diagnosis of primary
bone tumour can be made based on typical signalment (breed, age, anatomic location) and typical radiographic findings (mixed lytic – productive pattern).
Osteosarcoma represents approximately 80% of primary bone tumours in dogs. For cases of suspected bone tumour, the biggest things to rule out prior to
surgery are those where amputation may not be recommended – i.e. secondary tumours (carcinoma being the most common tumours that metastasise to bone),
or infectious diseases. These can often be largely ruled out based on history, physical examination, radiographic appearance, and ideally cytology.
FNA cytology can be a useful diagnostic test to determine neoplasia versus non-neoplastic disease, which can allow owners more comfort to proceed with
a major surgery such as amputation. If an adequate sample can be obtained, useful information is gained from cytology in the majority of cases. Choosing
the most lytic area of the lesion based on radiographs and moving the needle around until you feel it ‘sink’ into the bone can help with getting a diagnostic
Ultrasound can also help to directly identify areas of lysis and guide FNA. In lesions where there is minimal or no cortical lysis then FNA may not be
as useful a test. ALP staining on cytology slides can be used to confirm osteoblastic origin Performing a bone biopsy requires general anaesthesia and
results can be expected to take a minimum of 7 days to be available which delays definitive treatment, and there is a potential increased risk of pathologic
Most dogs, including large and giant breed dogs, function extremely well after amputation. Relative contraindication for amputation include other concurrent
orthopaedic disease (e.g. cruciate disease, moderate to severe OA), obesity or neurological conditions (e.g. lumbosacral disease. degenerative myelopathy).
Chemotherapy is recommended following amputation in canine osteosarcoma, and usually starts about 2 weeks after amputation. The most commonly used drug
is carboplatin, but combination protocols with doxorubicin are also used. Usually a total 4-6 treatments are given at 3 week intervals. Again, most dogs
tolerate chemotherapy very well with minimal side effects. The addition of chemotherapy as part of a multimodality treatment approach to osteosarcoma increases
median survival time from 3-5 months with amputation alone to 10-12 months in dogs without visible metastatic disease at the time of amputation. A novel
treatment for canine osteosarcoma using HER2 targeted immunotherapy in combination with surgery and chemotherapy is showing great early promise and is
currently in development in the USA – no information as yet on when or if it will be available in Australia, but it is an intriguing area of research!
Providing them somewhere safe to retreat to, playing some music or TV to provide background noise (not too loudly), draw the curtains/blinds and most
importantly seek veterinary attention or advise beforehand if your pet is nervous or has displayed anxiety towards fireworks or loud noises. Prevention
of stress is much easier than treating the symptoms.
Make sure that food is not left unattended at BBQ functions. Pets can become very unwell if they gain access to leftovers or rubbish bags containing leftovers.
Don’t leave food on the front edge of the bench or on low tables. We’ve seen dogs grab fully wrapped turkeys, eat all the turkey meat and the plastic
wrap! In these cases, the wrapping is as big a concern as anything else.
Festive food treats are not necessarily treats for pets. Ham is very salty and fatty, chocolate is toxic and like with us, too much of anything is not
Don’t give your pet the left-over bones from the roast as cooked bones fracture and can block the intestinal tract.
Gifts and the Christmas tree
Choose safe gifts for your pets.
Be careful with placing Christmas decorations at “pet height”. We know they are inedible, but a surprising number of pets don’t.
Don’t leave food gifts under the tree. We can’t see what they are, but animals don’t need to see to smell what is inside.
Leaving your pets home alone
IF you are spending Christmas day away from home, make sure your pets are in a secure place with plenty of shelter and water. Be sure water bowls can’t
be accidentally knocked over.
Never leave your pets in your car, even on a mild day.
When planning to walk your dog, be sure the footpath is not too hot for their paws. You should be able to leave your hand on the concrete for 5 seconds
without any discomfort. If you feel discomfort, the path is too hot.
Protect your pets from heat stress and avoid long walks or extensive playing, even on mild days, especially if your dog is not used to it. Ensure your
pets always have access to water and if you can, bring them inside on hot days.
Be sure your gates and doors are secured to ensure your pets aren’t accidentally let out by your guests.
Keep your dog on a lead around waterways and bushy over-growth to protect them from snakes.
Most importantly – if in doubt, call us for advice. We’re always happy to help any time, day or night.