Author Archive

Civil Defence: ‘Pet’ Ready, ‘Pet’ Through

Civil Defence: ‘Pet’ Ready, ‘Pet’ Through

When a disaster strikes, are you ready to care for ALL your family members?
If where you are isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your animals.

  • Tag
    Keep a collar and tag on your pet with your up to date phone number and/or address.
  • Chip
    Microchipping is one of the best ways to ensure you can be contacted in the event you are separated from your pet. A microchip inserted into the skin can’t be lost or damaged the way a tag or collar can be. Ensure your pet’s microchip is registered on the local council and national (NZCAR) databases with your up to date contact information.
  • Kit
    Create an animal emergency kit with essential items your pet will need that can be grabbed quickly if you need to evacuate.

Emergency Kit Essentials (per animal):

  • Food – five days’ worth of non-perishable food
  • Water – five days’ worth of water
  • Medicines – any medications that your pets require
  • Veterinary and vaccination records – in case you need to board your pet
  • First aid kit – talk to your vet about what items they recommend
  • Blankets, bedding and toys
  • Sanitation – e.g. litter trays, disinfectant, gloves if required
  • Carry crate/lead/harness/muzzle

NOTE: Keep the most essential, smaller items e.g. medications in a grab bag in case you need to leave quickly.

  • Plan
    In case you aren’t home when an emergency occurs, ensure a family member, friend or neighbour knows to collect your pet along with their emergency kit. Have a pre-planned meeting place so that you know where to find them.
  • Locate
    Know in advance where all your local veterinary clinics and animal shelters are in case you need to seek medical attention for your pet. Keep a contact list of these in your emergency kit. They are also the best places to start looking for your pet if they go missing.
  • Shelter
    Establish in advance a list of safe, pet-friendly locations that you can evacuate to or board your pet at if you have to leave your home in the event of an emergency.

Cruciate Injury and the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

The normal Knee Joint (also known as the Stifle joint), has multiple structures which are important to its function. This drawing shows a view from the front with the muscles removed. It is important to note that the Patellar Tendon, a vital structure in the joint has been removed, so that you can see “behind” it. The Patellar Tendon is a thick, tough band that runs from the Patella (green dot) to the Tibial Tuberosity (red dot).

 

Cruciate injury:

The most common knee injury in the dog is rupture of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL).  This injury can occur at any age and in any breed, but most frequently occurs in middle aged, overweight, medium to large breed dogs.  This ligament can frequently suffer a partial tear, leading to slight instability of the knee. If this damage goes untreated, it most commonly leads to complete rupture and possibly damage to the medial meniscus of the knee.  The meniscus acts as a cushion in the knee.  Complete rupture results in front-to-back instability, commonly called Tibial Thrust, and internal rotation of the lower leg, commonly called Pivot Shift. Untreated legs usually become very arthritic and painful from the instability.

A completely ruptured Cruciate Ligament can only be corrected by surgery, partial tears may also require surgery but management case by case is the best course of action with cruciate damage.

What are the options for Cranial cruciate repair in dogs?

Cruciate surgery is performed to repair a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the stifle (knee).CCL surgery is the most common orthopaedic surgery performed in dogs. Given that this is such a common injury, several procedures have been developed over the years to repair the ligament. Each technique comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

There are several things that should be considered when choosing the right surgery. Here is a list of things to consider:

  • Age of the dog
  • Size and weight of the dog
  • Activity level of the dog
  • Financial considerations
  • Post-operative care
  • Degree of joint disease (arthritis or other concurrent joint disease/injury)

In some cases, the anatomy and conformation of the stifle may make certain procedures not feasible or not effective.

We offer two techniques for cruciate rupture repair:

  • Extracapsular Ligament Repair/Suture Stabilization Suitable for smaller dogs or when there are financial constraints
  • Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) SURGERY:

Unlike other procedures, the goal of this surgery is not to recreate or repair the ligament itself, but rather change the dynamics of the knee so that the cranial cruciate ligament is no longer necessary for stabilizing the joint. In this procedure, a linear cut is made along the length of the tibial tuberosity, which is the front part of the tibia. This cut bone is then advanced forward, and a specialized bone spacer is placed in the open space between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity. Finally, a stainless steel metal plate is applied in order to secure the bone in place. Because the patellar tendon attaches to this tibial tuberosity, once it is advanced, the tendon keeps the femur from sliding back and forth and therefore stabilizes the knee joint, and eliminates the need for an intact cranial cruciate ligament.

Additionally, rupturing the cranial cruciate ligament leads to instability in the knee, which can lead to damage to other structures within the joint, including meniscal tears. This is where appropriate diagnostics become important. Finding the extent of the injury will aid in choosing the correct procedure for your dog, and will increase the chances of a successful recovery

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) RECOVERY:

Regardless of which surgery you choose, it’s the post-operative care that will determine how successful the procedure is. Dogs that are non-weight bearing will quickly begin to lose muscle mass and range of motion in the affected leg. The sooner the knee is stabilized, the less muscle atrophy that occurs, and the faster the recovery post-op.

Current evidence suggests that TTA surgery allows for a more rapid return to full function than extracapsular repair. Recovery from a TTA differs from extracapsular repair in that follow-up radiographs (x-rays) must be performed to ensure that the bone is healing as expected, and that the implant remains in place. Dogs that have undergone TTA must be restricted in their exercise for 16 weeks, until healing of the bone is confirmed via x-rays. Once the bone is healed, more vigorous rehabilitation exercises can be used In the last 20 years, human physical therapy principles and techniques have been developed and adapted to help dogs recover properly after major orthopedic surgery. These exercises focus on safe weight bearing of the limb, combating muscle atrophy, and improving range of motion, while taking care not to damage the metal implant in the knee.

Keep in mind that like humans, not all dogs recover at the same speed. It is best to be conservative and consistent. Do not force your dog to do certain exercises if they are unwilling. It is always best to seek professional guidance if available. It is important to note that while recovery takes up to 16 weeks, it may take longer to have complete healing and return to function

Complications of Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) surgery.

One main complication in any cruciate surgery is rupture of the contra-lateral cruciate in the other leg. So strict adherence to rehab and exercise restriction is a must.

The long term prognosis for animals undergoing surgical repair of the cranial cruciate ligament is good, with reports of improvement in 85-90% of the cases. However, all surgical procedures carry the risk of complications. The most common complications encountered with this particular procedure are infection, lack of stabilization, and implant failure. The most common complication caused by a torn cranial cruciate ligament is osteoarthritis of the affected joint. Unfortunately, arthritis progresses regardless of treatment, but is much slower when surgery is performed and the knee is stabilized. It is important to realize that arthritis is a progressive disease and develops fairly quickly in an injured stifle joint.  Therefore, arthritis management and prevention and joint supplements are recommended for any dog with this injury, no matter which surgical procedure is chosen. Complications that can arise which are specific to TTA surgery include delayed healing of the bone, non-healing of the bone, healing in an incorrect position , fracture of the bone, and failure or breaking of the metal implants. Although they are uncommon, these complications can be serious and may require corrective surgeries.

 

Heart Disease and Your Dog

Heart Disease and Your Dog

Heart Disease in Dogs and the Benefit of Early Diagnosis

Heart disease affects up to 1 in 10 dogs over their lifetime, and 80% of these will be due to mitral valve disease.

Dogs over the age of 6 are at a greater risk, however they may show no clinical signs until the disease is quite advanced at which point we are limited in what we can achieve with treatment, compared to catching it early.

Stages of heart disease

There are 4 stages of mitral valve disease.  The early stages (A and B) don’t display any visible signs of illness, however early signs can be detected in a routine clinical exam by listening to the heart and finding a murmur. Once the dog progresses to stages C & D there are visible indicators of disease as the heart fails to function properly (ranging from a cough to full blown collapse and congestive heart failure).

Previously there has been no evidence that early treatment before clinical signs are seen (stage B) has any benefit in the long term, however a new study has shown that there are significant benefits to early treatment which is great news!

The key findings of this large multinational study are:

  • Early treatment can help slow the progression to a clinical stage (visible signs of illness) by up to 15 months.
  • Can delay the development of clinical signs of congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • 10% more life expectancy without signs that affect your dog’s quality of life.

All breeds can be affected however certain breeds are at higher risk.  Mitral valve disease is more common in small breeds, particularly at risk breeds include Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund, poodle, Schnauzer, Chihuahua, Fox terrier and Jack Russell Terrier. 

If your pet has a heart murmur a few tests can allow an accurate diagnosis and determine the best treatment for the stage of heart disease present.  This can range from herbal supplements to medications to help prolong the length and quality of life of your pet.

  

What is the mitral valve?

The heart has four chambers.

Each chamber of the heart has a one-way valve to keep blood from flowing backward. The valve between the left atrium and left ventricle is called the mitral valve.  Oxygenated blood flows from the lungs into the left atrium before flowing into the left ventricle. From the left ventricle, oxygen-rich blood is pumped throughout the body.

What causes mitral valve disease?

Because of the high pressure created when the left ventricle contracts and pumps blood out to the body, the mitral valve may begin to ’wear out’ and leak over time. This is known as mitral valve insufficiency (MVI) or mitral regurgitation and is often associated with a heart murmur. Other causes of mitral valve insufficiency include ruptured chordae tendinae, a condition in which the fibrous cords that hold the valve leaflets in position break, and heart valve infections known as endocarditis. Endocarditis may result from blood-borne infections or, more commonly, may be secondary to chronic oral infections (periodontal disease).

What are the signs of mitral valve disease? What are the consequences of it?

The earliest sign of a leaking mitral valve is normally a heart murmur. This is produced by the turbulence created when some of the blood goes backward through the leaking mitral valve into the left atrium. Dogs may develop a murmur from a leaking mitral valve as early as four to six years of age.

Initially, MVI is asymptomatic (produces no obvious clinical signs). As time progresses, the regurgitation becomes more severe and as more blood flows back into the atrium, the heart’s efficiency is reduced. Eventually, congestive heart failure develops. From the time a murmur develops, it may be a few months to several years until heart failure occurs.

A heart murmur does not mean that heart failure is imminent, but eventually congestive heart failure will occur. Dogs with a heart murmur do have an increased risk of sudden death.

When I took my dog for his annual health examination, my veterinarian told me he had a mitral murmur but said he was not going to treat it at this stage. Is this correct?

Veterinary cardiologists differ in when they recommend medical intervention for asymptomatic heart murmurs. Research has now shown newer drugs may have cardio-protective benefits in dogs similar to those demonstrated in people. Your veterinarian will carefully evaluate your pet’s condition and lifestyle and make the best treatment recommendations to preserve health and vitality.

How will I know if my dog has heart failure?

When the left side of the heart is not properly pumping blood, the blood slowly backs up in the lungs. This results in small amounts of fluid leaking out of the capillaries into the air passageways. This fluid collection produces the earliest signs of heart failure that include gagging as if trying to clear the throat, a chronic, hacking cough, and lack of stamina (your dog will tire more easily on walks). Dogs with heart failure are usually sick whereas dogs with heart murmurs may have few, if any, clinical signs until heart failure develops.

The degree of clinical signs is directly related to the amount of decreased blood flow that is occurring. This is why early diagnosis and treatment is essential in slowing the progression of heart failure.

What happens in congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure begins when the heart is unable to provide the tissues with adequate oxygen and nutrients. Without adequate oxygen, the body’s cells become distressed and trigger a series of responses. Various hormones are released in an attempt to increase blood oxygen levels and blood circulation. These hormones conserve fluid in an effort to increase blood volume and the output of blood and oxygen by the heart. For several months, these compensatory responses help the situation and the dog has few observable clinical signs.

Eventually the increased fluid retention becomes a detriment as more and more fluid leaks out of capillaries and into the lungs, abdomen, and other body tissues. Fluid in the lungs is called pulmonary oedema, fluid below the skin is called peripheral or limb oedema, and fluid in the abdomen is called ascites. When these are present, congestive heart failure is present. Left-sided congestive heart failure (LS-CHF) is generally associated with MVI and most commonly results in pulmonary edema and coughing. However, within a short time, heart failure will continue to progress and bilateral heart failure will follow.

What tests are needed to diagnosis heart valve disease?

There are several tests that provide valuable information while looking at different aspects of heart function.

Physical examination will determine if there are other symptoms or underlying conditions that may complicate or be affected by heart disease.

Auscultation or listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope is the first step in diagnosing heart disease. Pulse quality and heart rate and rhythm are also assessed during auscultation. Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can often be detected with a stethoscope.

Chest radiographs (X-rays) are used to determine the size and shape of the heart and the presence of fluid in the lungs. Additionally, the lungs are examined for any abnormalities such as enlarged blood vessels (pulmonary hypertension).

Blood and urine tests are performed to give an indication of any other disorders in the body. Liver and kidney function are often decreased in dogs with heart disease.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be performed to measure the electrical activity of the heart and allow accurate determination of both heart rate and rhythm. Any abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) can be detected and evaluated. The presence of abnormal heart rhythm helps your veterinarian determine the prognosis for your pet’s condition.

Ultrasound examination (echocardiogram) utilizes sound waves to evaluate the heart’s contractions and to measure the amount of blood pumped by the heart. This test is the most useful one to assess the heart’s function, and serial (repeated) examinations are recommended to chart the progress of disease and the response to treatment.

The combination of all of these tests gives the best evaluation of the dog and its heart function.

Is there treatment for a leaky mitral valve and heart failure?

A leaky heart valve can be replaced surgically in people. However, this is usually not feasible in dogs. However, there are several drugs and treatments that will improve heart function, your veterinarian will discuss which treatment will most benefit your pet in an individualised approach.

 

All About Rabbits!

All About Rabbits!

Husbandary

The best information is available on the SPCA website. They have handling techniques, feeding requirements, hutch sizes and just an abundance of information to assist in caring for your beloved rabbit! To have an in depth husbandry list visit the spca website now.

Disease – What is Calici Virus?

Calici Virus is a haemorrhagic virus which can result in sudden death of the rabbit. It is a species specific virus meaning only rabbits are effected.

What should you look for?

Depression, anorexia, difficulty breathing, shaking, and death within one to two days.  Other signs may include a foamy or bloody discharge from the nose or anus, nervous signs or rapid death. Rabbits may appear to recover, then die several days later

Mild form – depression, anorexia followed by recovery. These animals become immune from re-infection

When should I vaccinate?

Vaccinations should begin at 8 weeks and will need to be boostered again at 12 weeks. If vaccinations begin at 12 weeks old they will need a single vaccination and then will require annual vaccinations. Only healthy rabbits should be vaccinated. There is a small risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine including skin reactions, inappetence and malaise. We require a minimum of 2 days notice for rabbit vaccinations to ensure stock levels will allow for the booking.

Control Measures for Unvaccinated Rabbits

  1. Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread.
  2. Remove uneaten food on a daily basis.
  3. Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible.
  4. Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits.
  5. Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide. 10minutes contact times is required, then rinse off.
  6. Limit contact with and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits.
  7. Use good biosecurity measures (e.g. wash hands, shoes and clothing) after handling other people’s rabbits.
  8. Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
  9. Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.

Helpful links:

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/long-term-pest-management/wild-rabbits/

https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/vertebrate-pests/biological-control-of-rabbits/faq

Kennel Cough

What is kennel cough:

Kennel Cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Dogs commonly contract kennel cough in places where large amounts of dogs socialise, such as boarding and daycare facilities and activity areas like walking tracks, the beach etc. Dogs can spread it to one another through the air (like a human cough), direct contact (e.g., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water/food bowls). It is treatable in most dogs but can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age and compromised dogs (eg sick or old).

Symptoms:

If your dog is affected with kennel cough, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • a strong cough, often with a “honking” sound – this is the most obvious symptom
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite

Treatment:

A veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection to ease the symptoms and your pet will need to be well rested as well as quarantined from other dogs to prevent spread. If you notice your pet coughing or you want to try and avoid kennel cough all together speak with your veterinarian today as early treatment  (if required) will help keep your pets safe and healthy .

Prevention:

Vaccinate to prevent contracting this disease today! When vaccinated your dog may still contract a form of the disease but the symptoms are far more manageable and your dog will recover far sooner.

Parvovirus and You

Canine Parvovirus

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus or ‘Parvo” is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs but especially young puppies. It can cause devastating gastrointestinal  effects and is potentially fatal.

How is Parvo spread?

Parvo is spread by dog to dog contact and contact with contaminated people (on clothes, hands, shoes) and environments (kennels, food and water bowls, bedding). Dogs that have had the disease can shed the virus for weeks afterwards, even once they are well. It also is extremely good at surviving for long periods of time in the environment as it is not easily killed by heat, cold and dry conditions. Dogs can also incubate the disease for up to 2 weeks before showing any signs of illhealth.

What are the signs of Parvo?

Loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, severe or bloody diarrhoea, dehydration and collapse. Puppies can die within a very short time from the start of clinical signs, so it is important to seek veterinary treatment early.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis is often suspected based on the patients’ history, vaccination status and clinical exam by a vet. There is also a faecal sampling test available that can be done at the practice which can be useful to confirm diagnosis, although tests are not always 100% accurate.

Treatment usually requires intensive treatment in an isolation facility. It involves intravenous fluids, pain relief, nutritional support, gut medication and antibiotics for secondary infection. Severe cases of parvovirus may be hospitalised for several days or longer. The earlier the treatment is started the greater the chance of a successful outcome. If you are concerned that your dog might be showing any of the signs of Parvo, please contact the clinic as soon as possible and explain. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, please do not bring your dog into the clinic but make staff aware that you are here, then wait outside until our vet staff can attend to you.

How can Parvo be prevented?

It is vitally important that all puppies receive a course of vaccinations every 3-4 weeks with the final vaccination between 14-16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination should be given between 6-9 months of age. Adults that have never been vaccinated should receive 2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart. In addition to this, try and avoid contact with sick and unvaccinated dogs and faecal matter when out and about. If you are concerned that your dog is not fully vaccinated, please contact one of our clinics.

Tick-ed Off

Tick-ed Off

Ticks do exist in New Zealand BUT as much as they are awful they do not carry diseases, luckily! They do however cause a few issues on our dogs and cats. The common tick is the Cattle Tick. This tick loves warm blooded animals and is most likely to crop up from Spring through Autumn.

In our cats and dogs the signs of a tick issue are small black dots on your pet that simple grow as they feed on their blood until they are engorged. They can be found anywhere on your pet but will target areas close to the long grass, as well as around ears and nose if they keep their heads low on walks sniffing. These parasites live not only rural areas, but in urban parks and gardens too. They find a host, such as your cat or dog, by waving their forelimbs in the air – at the tip of vegetation – the tick will then latch onto your pet and bring them home to the family!

Ticks can cause irritation around the site but DO NOT PULL THEM OFF! If the head gets stuck this could  lead to an abscess. An infestation of ticks could also cause anaemia in unhealthy or young animals.

The Cattle tick also affects large animals.

How to Prevent and Treat for Ticks

The fantastic news is, although you cannot pull them off, you can treat with appropriate flea and tick treatments! Click here to find out more. If you have any more questions or concerns call us on 5445566 for Richmond or 5288459 for Motueka.

Flea and Tick Treatments – Only the Best Will Do

Livestock Products 

 

Bayticol 

Control of ticks on cattle, and an aid in treatment of ticks on deer. Bayticol is active against all 3 stages of the New Zealand cattle tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis. It also causes infertility of the ticks that survive treatment by inhibiting egg laying or by rendering eggs sterile. This action helps reduce contamination of pastures.

Provides protection against reinfestation for 3–6 weeks.

Pet and Working Dog Products

Seresto 

Seresto is not your average flea and tick collar. It has been developed using a novel blend of materials, which means it can release active ingredients in controlled, very low doses – giving your dog and cat up to 8 months of protection against fleas and ticks. Seresto is an easy to apply collar which is safe as well as efficient. For more information visit www.seresto.com

Nexgard and Nexgard Spectra (Dog Only) 

Nexgard Spectra combines two active ingredients to offer broad spectrum control of the most common external and internal parasites of dogs in one convenient monthly treat. 
This new soft, beef-flavoured chew represents the next generation of the popular Nexgard Spectra Chewables for fleas and ticks, now with the added benefit of treatment for roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
Nexgard Spectra  is a monthly treatment in the form of a highly palatable chew that is readily consumed by dogs when offered as a treat. Created with soy proteins and braised beef flavouring, Nexgard Spectra  features a beefy aroma that dogs love; and, because it is vegetable-based it won’t trigger beef allergies. 
Nexgard Spectra is safe for all breeds and puppies from 8 weeks of age and 2kg or more.
Please note – for those needing to treat hydatids/sheep measles/ tapeworm you will need to use an all wormer containing praziquantel.

Frontline Plus 

For the treatment and prevention of fleas, flea allergy dermatitis, preventing the development of flea eggs and flea larvae.  Kills ticks and biting lice and prevents reinfestation.

FRONTLINE Plus completely breaks the flea lifecycle.  The active ingredient Fipronil (kills newly acquired adult fleas) has been combined with the trusted insect growth regulator (S)-methoprene, which kills flea eggs, larvae and prevents pupae development.

FRONTLINE Plus attacks more stages of the flea lifecycle providing your dog or cat with the best treatment for flea control.

We have available more products in clinic – give us a call and we can provide you the best pest protocols that suits you, your pet and your lifestyle. 

 

Laser Therapy

We are incredibly happy with our Class 4 K-Laser and the variety of uses this wonderful machine has! We have used the Laser on wound management, arthritic cases, post op wounds, post op orthopedics, physio and acupuncture to name a few! As well as the machine being portable so being ideal to treat equine patients, the laser treatment itself also is pain free and non invasive, so perfect for you and your pet to keep treatment as stress free as possible!

What is Laser Therapy?

Laser Therapy, or “photobiomodulation”, is the use of specific wavelengths of light (red and near-infrared) to create therapeutic effects. These effects include improved healing time, pain reduction, increased circulation and decreased swelling. Laser Therapy has been widely utilized in Europe by physical therapists, nurses and doctors as far back as the 1970’s. Now, after FDA clearance in 2002, Laser Therapy is being used extensively in the United States.

Has effectiveness been demonstrated scientifically?

Yes. There are thousands of published studies demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of Laser Therapy. Among these, there are more than one hundred rigorously controlled, scientific studies that document the effectiveness of Laser Therapy for many clinical conditions.

Cellular Effects of Laser Therapy

During Laser Therapy the infrared laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level, and metabolic activity increases within the cell, improving the transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. This initiates the increased production of cellular energy (ATP) that leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, increasing cellular function and health.

Laser Therapeutic Effects

During each painless treatment, laser energy increases circulation, drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function is restored and pain is relieved.

What is a Class 4 therapy laser?

Lasers are classified according to their output power. A Class 4 laser has more than 500 milliwatts of power. Higher power means it can deliver more energy per unit of time – which means your Veterinarian can treat a very large area on your pet in just a few minutes.

Ryegrass Staggers

Ryegrass Staggers

Ryegrass Staggers is a neurological impairment of cattle – particularly of weaned calves and heifers – as well as sheep, deer, horses and alpacas. Horses can be permanently impaired.

It is caused by a naturally occurring ryegrass endophyte (fungus). The fungus produces a toxin that is concentrated in leaf sheaths and seed heads. When ingested the toxin affects the nervous system of grazing animals.

It occurs throughout NZ as far south as Otago, mostly during dry spells (January to late April) when pasture is likely to be in short supply and is being grazed closer to the ground.

Ryegrass Staggers is not the same as grass staggers or hypomagnesemia – a deficiency of magnesium in the blood that can seriously affect cattle.

Symptoms: 

An early sign of ryegrass staggers is that an animal will be unusually anxious when approached. An affected animal will likely show a slight trembling of the head. Skin on the neck, shoulder and flanks will twitch and flicker when the animal is disturbed.

Symptoms progress to head nodding, jerky movements, swaying while standing and staggering movements. A deterioration is evidenced by stiff-legged and jerky movement, short prancing steps and eventual collapse, sometimes with rigid spasms lasting several minutes.

Calves usually remain upright on their briskets with their legs splayed while sheep tend to roll on their sides with head extended and limbs rigid.

  • Affected stock cannot be disturbed without risk of their collapse. This makes it difficult to move them to the next feed break or to a yard.
  • Affected animals lose physical condition and do not drink sufficient water.
  • An immediate economic consequence for dairy farmers is loss of milk production. Affected dairy cows are also at risk of injury when falling in the race and falling on concrete in the dairy shed, yard or milking area.
  • Although not fatal in itself, ryegrass staggers can lead to stock losses through ‘misadventure’ – animals staggering into waterways and drowning, falling into an electric fence or other obstacle and being injured, falling down a bank, or into a ditch or swamp and becoming stuck.

Research:

A DSIR test in NZ showed a correlation between the relief of ryegrass staggers and dosing with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) and potassium chloride (McColl & Orchard, 1981).

A preventive course of action was indicated in the results of a North Canterbury farm trial with seaweed-based trough treatments for 236 bull calves over a 10-week period (McKenzie, 1985).

Fungicidal spray is an option to suppress potential endophyte build-up in ryegrass pasture.

Long term options for severely affected farms are pasture replacement with an endophyte-resistant grass or livestock replacement with animals bred for ryegrass staggers resistance

Pasture management options aim to:

  1. provide fresh breaks into leafy ryegrass where toxicity is naturally lower.
  2. provide pasture that has a low endophyte count or is ryegrass-free.
  3. provide pasture that includes legumes such as white clover, which dilute toxin uptake.
  4. provide ‘safe pasture’ such as lucerne, red clover, chicory, brown top, kikuyu and annual ryegrass (as opposed to perennial ryegrass).
  5. make available summer forage crops and supplements such as grain, hay and silage.

Stock management options aim to:

  1. leave affected animals mostly undisturbed.
  2. move stock slowly and patiently without the stress of bikes, dogs and overcrowding.
  3. postpone any non-essential yarding and stock movements.
  4. avoid leaving stock in paddocks with natural hazards such as ponds, ditches and bluffs.
  5. make allowance for recovering animals now mobile but still lacking normal coordination.
  6. implement a weekly drench programme prior to and during the period of risk.

Dairy management options aim to:

  1. minimise the distance walked to the dairy yard.
  2. milk affected cows only once a day and drench once or twice weekly with a preferred drench formulation that will help reduce the incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers.
  3. dry-off badly affected cows to lessen their physical stress.

Vetpack Summer “Tonic” is a mineral-rich, seaweed-based formulation administered to animals as a ready-to-use feed supplement or drench, which is especially formulated for summer feed conditions.� Farmers claim that their on-farm experience with Vetpack Summer Tonic, when used correctly, is that it can greatly assist in reducing the incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers. It is manufactured by Independent Veterinary Supplies Ltd and distributed through Veterinary Clinics to be used as required or as directed by a Veterinary Surgeon

NOTE:

We suggest you take the appropriate action to ensure your animals’ welfare is safeguarded during the period of risk. We also recommend that you consult your local Veterinarian for up-to-date information on ryegrass staggers in your area.

For further information, please contact us