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Backing up our 2020 nomination and finalist award, we’re back for 2021!

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Paws, Claws and More Winter 2021

With the mouse plague continuing to cause havoc across NSW we need to be cautious and take precautions for our pets. As many of you may have heard, there has recently been an outbreak of leptospirosis (lep-toe-speer-o-sis) in some suburbs of Sydney within the last month. Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria. The spiral[1]shaped bacteria are found in infected animal urine and tissues. A dog that ingests infected animal urine or tissues or is exposed to urine in water sources or soil may then become infected. Bacteria can infect an animal or person through mucus membranes (eyes, ears, mouth) or open wounds/cracked skin. If conditions are right Leptospiral bacteria may live for months in contaminated soil or water sources. Symptoms of leptospirosis include, fever, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, petechiae (haemorrhages on skin or gums), blood in urine, increased thirst and urine output or even lack of urine production and jaundice (yellow tinged gums and eyes). The bacteria target kidneys and liver and can cause temporary or permanent damage. Diagnosis can be confirmed with specific testing of both blood and urine, however other diagnostics should be performed (blood work, urinalysis, x-ray and ultrasound) to rule out other or concurrent disease. Treatment involves aggressive supportive therapy and antibiotics. Environmental decontamination is also very important.

How can you prevent this deadly disease? Vaccinate yearly. The leptospirosis vaccine is recommended for any canine living in an area at risk (rural farm or high rodent density areas). While walking your dog prevent them from drinking out of stagnant water sources. You may also discourage rodent populations in your area with rat bait and sealed garbage containers. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT RAT BAIT IS TOXIC AND POTENTIALLY FATAL TO DOGS SO WE MUST BE VIGILANT TO PREVENT ACCESS. Please consider vaccinating your dog if you frequently travel to affected areas, such as Western Sydney, Blue Mountains or you have a large amount of mice and rats in the area that you live. Mount Hutton Pet Hospital currently has Leptospirosis vaccinations in stock. Please call to make an appointment to discuss with your vet.


Most Suitable Species

In previous articles I have discussed what type of reptile is most suitable for novice reptile keepers and in this edition I will make suggestions as to what actual species are the most appropriate. Without a doubt, any species that can be found in the wild around a keeper`s home will be an excellent selection. Species found locally are far easier to keep and require much less effort to maintain.

For example, if a new reptile owner in the Hunter Valley wanted a suitable python to keep then a Diamond python would be the obvious choice since they are the only python found in the area. They are well adapted to the seasonal changes in conditions and are far more hardy than a tropical species that needs a specific environment to survive. For similar reasons, another two NSW species, the Carpet and Children`s Python, would be good selections. In my experience, Diamond Pythons have a more docile temperament and are easier to handle than the other two pythons mentioned and this can be a big factor in choosing a first snake. Childrens Pythons are the smallest species and have a variety of colourations and Carpet Pythons are also seen in many colour morphs. All species eat readily available frozen rodents so if you have an affinity with mice and rats then don`t get a python. If you prefer a reptile that has leggs, then look no further than another two local species; the Bearded Dragon and the Blue tongued Lizard. Both are hardy and easy to maintain and readily adapt to domestic situations. They are full of personality and are easily handled and make great choices If children are involved. Their habitat requirements are easy to create and maintain and food is readily available. They can be quite long-lived but require daily feeding. The Bearded Dragon and Blue tongued Lizard have a well deserved reputation as easy care reptiles and readily accept handling. Both species enjoy world – wide popularity and there is a vast amount of literature available on their maintenance and husbandry needs. If you must have a tortoise then the Eastern Long neck or Broad Shell Tortoises would be most suited. Don`t forget the amount of work involved in keeping them and remember that they are also well adapted to land travel so can easily escape from outdoor enclosures. They are also less readily available for sale. In summary, any of the above mentioned species can be easily maintained in a suitable environment and provide years of pleasure to reptile keepers of all ages.

Be mindful of the pros and cons of each species and make a choice based on these considerations. Like all pets, they rely on their human owners to be happy and healthy and should only be kept if you are aware of your responsibilities in this regard.



Have you ever heard of the Quokka? This curious cutie is a native to Rottnest Island where unfortunately population is very low. Quokka’s are currently classed as vulnerable due to bushfires, introduced species (cats and foxes) and habitat loss. On Rottnest Island you can see Quokka’s bounding and hopping along the ground, they have also been seeing climbing trees if required. They are mainly nocturnal. This means that it is mostly active at night, preferring to rest or sleep in the shade during the day. Quokka’s sit on their hind legs to look around and with use its front paws to search and pick up food. They eat leaves, stems and bark of many plants in addition to grass. If necessary, they can survive for long periods of time without food or water by living off the fat stored in their tails.

Fun fact; Quokkas are such show-stealers, their entire home is named after them! Dutch captain Willem de Vlanmigh named the island ‘t Eylandt Rottenest (Rat’s Nest Island) in 1696, mistaking the quokkas for giant rats!


Case study: I first met Menzies, a male neutered German Shepherd, in December of 2015 when he presented for sudden loss of function in his back legs.

On physical exam his heart was fast (likely due to pain), his reflexes to the hind legs were absent and he was lacking deep pain (when you pinched his toe he didn’t feel it). This last symptom had me very worried. Menzies’ presentation was consistent with something causing compression of the spinal cord in the lumbar region (lower back) and interrupting the nerve signal from the brain to the back legs. In terms of diagnostics, x-rays showed that Menzies did not have any back fractures or dislocations. I recommended he be referred for a CT or MRI to evaluate the spinal cord. His dedicated owners loaded him into the car and drove straight down to the University of Sydney Teaching Hospital. With loss of deep pain, time is against you as the longer the spinal cord is compressed the less chance of recovery. Menzies had a CT, which showed the problem was a disk that had slipped. Intervertebral disk degeneration (IVDD) is a problem because the disks between the bones of the spine herniate due to trauma or degeneration and cause compression of the spinal cord.
The first symptom of mild spinal compression is loss of proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space) so dogs will often get wobbly on their legs. Moderate spinal compression leads to wobbliness and reduced reflexes. Severe compression causes those signs plus loss of deep pain. Since Menzies owners were so prompt with getting him veterinary care, he was a good candidate for surgery. Unfortunately, even with surgery, there was no guarantee that his nerves would recover. His owners decided to take a chance and went ahead with the surgery. Fast forward a few weeks and Menzies was able (with assistance) to walk out of the veterinary clinic.
Today, if you look very closely you might notice Menzies has a mild ataxia (a little bit wobbly) in his back legs but he gets around just fine. His recovery was long and slow, but with the dedication and love of his owners, he beat the odds and made a full recovery.

TICK ALERT We have recently treated 2 animals with Tick Paraylsis. While ticks are less common in the cooler months, these two cases remind us that you should be using preventative all year round to keep your pets safe. Come in and see our friendly staff and we’ll tailor a schedule specific to yours and your pets needs.

Favourite of Queen Elizabeth the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is full of personality.

They are immediately identifiable by their short stature, prick ears and foxy face. Pembroke Welsh corgis are known for their quick intelligence and forceful will. They are active, animated dogs and do not ever want to be left out of the action. In their own minds, they are big dogs in small bodies. Corgis can be prone to excessive alarm barking and to digging or chewing if left alone too much or not entertained. Exercise is a must, both for mental health and to keep the weight under control. Corgis are people oriented and thus love to work with them and enjoy training. Perhaps because of their small stature, corgis seem to be attracted to high places and may occasionally be found on the back of the sofa or in the middle of the kitchen table. Corgis do need a firm but kind hand in training. If left to their own devices, they can be manipulative and will take charge themselves. Most corgis are fine with other pets and children if they have been raised with them. Beware that they will sometimes chase small running children because of their herding instincts. They require only a quick, weekly grooming except in times of shedding. As a bonus fact did you know that the Queen received her first Corgi (named Susan) as a present for her 18th birthday?

Meet Stephanie, or Steph as she prefers. She has a keen interest in pocket pets, like rabbits and Guinea Pigs. She owns two rescue guinea pigs Fat tony and Rodger. They were rescued at around the 2 years of age and are very demanding with food. She has one dog Harry, a Jack Russell cross having lost her other beautiful dog Lexi earlier this year. Steph graduated from Kurri Kurri Tafe with her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in July 2020. She has been working as a nurse at Mt Hutton Pet Hospital for 6 months.