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Vet's Corner

June 2017

Dental Disease

Recently several of our vets across the country, were given the fantastic opportunity to go to a Practical Dentistry Workshop in Australia. They learnt from passionate professionals, who shared with them an extensive amount of knowledge of the complexity of dental disease, surgery and dental X-rays.

They were introduced to the latest and greatest dental equipment and X-ray machines which were super easy to use and maintain while also giving such a huge benefit to any team undertaking a dental.

At VetEnt we see dental issues on a daily basis and approximately 80% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age have some degree of disease! Dental pain can present in a number of different and sometime subtle ways so it is often missed by owners. Dogs and cats will tend to suffer in silence to avoid showing signs of weakness. Most animals will carry on eating until the pain is so severe that they would rather starve! Not only are animals with dental disease in pain, they are also exposed to infection that can spread via the blood to vital organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart.

Dental disease is progressive. If caught early enough the process is reversible and simple to treat with a ‘Scale and Polish’ to clean away plaque and tartar (liquid and calcified pus!). However, if the pus remains in contact with the gum, the disease can progress causing irreversible damage to the tooth’s supporting ligaments and bone. In this case, dental extractions are necessary to alleviate the pain and prevent recurrence of infection.

Many of our vets find dental procedures really interesting and rewarding. Our nurse Jasmine from Havelock North describes “You start with such a terrible smelly attack of tartar and plaque and finish with sparkly pearly whites!”

The biggest stress for Jasmine with dental procedures, has been the unknown lurking beneath the gum line which she likens to “the titanic iceberg!” Ordinarily less than 1/3 of the tooth (the crown) is visible for our vets to examine. The remaining 2/3 of the tooth (the root) lies beneath the gum line embedded in bone. Often what may first appear to be a simple scale and polish, could turn into a full mouth extraction once the probe has sunk beneath the surface!

Due to the positive feedback which was relayed about the training in Australia, VetEnt has invested in a number of Dental-X-ray machines for a select number of clinics. Our new dental X-rays have uncovered the mystery of what’s lurking beneath. Our vets can now step into a dental surgery fully prepared with a plan for each tooth, as they know what to expect!

These X-ray units differ from standard X-ray machines as they allow our vets to take high definition images of your pet’s mouth, which in turn provides a much more accurate diagnosis and understanding of the extent of your pet’s dental disease.

The dental X-rays also gives our teams the opportunity with future dental procedures, to compare how quickly the tooth has degenerated or maintained with time. This is now another tool to give our clientele the best possible service with the latest technology.

June 2016

Nitrate Toxicity

Nitrate toxicity is a potentially fatal condition that can be avoided with good pasture management and an awareness of when our cows are at greatest risk. The consumption of excess nitrate causes a series of events to occur which limits the ability of the blood to transport oxygen which can lead to death.

So what do we need to know to avoid our cows being at risk?

Risk factors for nitrate accumulation in plants: Nitrate concentrations are the highest in annual pasture, young plants and regrowth. Low light, overcast conditions, over application of nitrogenous fertiliser and excessive application of farm effluent can lead to increased nitrate levels.

Plants at risk of high nitrate levels: ryegrass, cereal grasses (oats, barley, maize, wheat), Brassica spp. (turnips, kale, rape) and sorghum.

Signs to look for in your cows: Sudden death, salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, in-coordination, muscle tremors, muddy-brown mucous membranes, collapse and convulsions.

How to minimise the chance of toxicity: If you suspect the pasture is high in nitrates the best thing to do is take a sample to assess if the levels are safe to feed. Samples may be brought in to the clinic to be sent away for testing or alternatively, on farm nitrate test kits can be purchased from your local VetEnt clinic.

To decrease the chances of your herd being at risk:

- Don’t allow hungry animals on at risk pasture, supplementary feeding or a break of safe pasture prior to grazing is recommended.

- Restrict grazing during danger periods such as straight after cold, foggy weather and in warm overcast conditions.

- Restrict grazing time on at risk pasture and ensure to check cows regularly (clinical signs are usually evident within the first 4 hours).

Most importantly, nitrate toxicity is a veterinary emergency and you should contact us immediately if you are concerned your animals are affected.

For further recommendations, to find out about pasture testing or to get more advice, feel free to contact any of our vets at the clinic.

September 2015

Spring Stings

Spring has arrived and because of their inquisitive natures, dogs and cats often come across a bee or wasp only to find out the hard way what the results can be. Bites and stings usually tend to be on the head and mouth area. There may be significant pain in the first hour and your pet will often yelp at the time of the sting.

Other typical signs include redness and swelling and your pet may rub the affected part with their paws or rub their head along grass attempting to relieve the discomfort. At the time you should make sure the stinger has been removed, bathe the area that has been stung with a solution of baking soda and water and then apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling.

What to watch out for:

- Some pets can react quite markedly with an asthma type of reaction.

- Any animal showing severe swelling, signs of weakness, disorientation or breathing difficulty should see a veterinarian as soon as possible for the administration of fast-acting injectable forms of medications such as antihistamines, steroids or adrenaline.

Even if your pet seems fine, watch them carefully for 24 hours and call your VetEnt veterinarian if you are concerned at all.

March 2015

Pulpy Kidney

Determining Your Trace Element Status

Pulpy Kidney (PK) is a Clostridial disease that has caused problems in New Zealand sheep for over a hundred years, and before vaccines were developed in the 1950’s caused large epidemics on better developed farms.

Vaccination for Clostridial diseases with 5-in-1 and 10-in-1 products is considered “normal practice” now, but we still see deaths due to tardiness of vaccination. Most ewes are vaccinated pre-lamb, which protects them by giving them “active” protection, but more importantly gives their lambs “passive” protection, mainly against tetanus and pulpy kidney. This passive protection can protect lambs for up to 12 weeks, which coincides with weaning on most properties. After this point the lambs need their own active protection – the only way to do this is to give a Clostridial vaccine.

Standard practice then is to give lambs a sensitiser at weaning, with a booster 4-6 weeks later. Some properties will require this lamb vaccinating protocol earlier than weaning due to either their lambs being at very high risk of PK (on rocket fuel feeds like Lucerne), or if weaning is further out than 12 weeksfrom pre-lamb injections.

The causative bacteria for PK is Clostridium prefringens type D. It is a toxin produced by this bacteria that damages the blood vessels, mainly in the brain, lungs and heart. This bacteria is found in all healthy lambs intestinal tracts, but normal passage of food through the gut keeps the numbers of bacteria, and hence toxin, low. If there are sudden changes to the diet, especially an increase in food consumption, then the gut can get overloaded and the movement of food slowed down, which can lead to a huge growth in the bacteria and high levels of toxin.

Lambs are usually found dead with bloody froth at the mouth or nostrils. Frustratingly, these are normally your big, healthy-looking lambs that are chewing through the most tucker, and therefore doing the best growth rates! On post-mortem there is an increase in fluid with clots in the heart sac and the kidneys are mushy compared to other tissues, thus the name Pulpy Kidney. A good at home test on these freshly dead lambs is to take the kidney out and jet a hose onto the kidney surface, a normal kidney will bead the water off the surface, a PK kidney will start to turn to mush under the pressure of the water.

December 2014

New Zealand’s Most Common Occupationally Acquired Disease



The incidence of human Leptospirosis in New Zealand is amongst the highest in the world. Increasing awareness and regulation of health and safety on farms, means that you are responsible for managing the risk of human Leptospirosis infection on your farm.

The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are shed in the urine of many animals, including dairy cattle. It then is transferred to humans through the mouth, nose, eyes and cuts or abrasions in the skin. The bacteria can survive for a long time in a wet environment.

Working with dairy cows puts you, your family and workers at risk. As well as anyone has contact with cow urine on a regular basis. There are plenty of opportunities for any one of them to become infected with Leptospirosis.

Despite widespread vaccination, there are still a significant number of farms with adult dairy cattle shedding the bacteria in their urine. The most likely reason for this is that calves are not vaccinated early enough. Vaccinations need to occur before the calf is exposed to any Leptospirosis bacteria. Sheep and beef and deer are mostly not vaccinated and provide a source of Leptospirosis for young calves.

Preventing Leptospirosis and managing the on farm risk of Leptospirosis has three key areas.

1. Vaccination of Cattle: Vaccination prevents urinary shedding of the Leptospirosis bacteria.

The vaccines are very effective providing they are given at the correct time.

We recommend:

- Calves are vaccinated when the youngest calf is three months old, November or December.

- A booster vaccine is given four to six weeks later, December or January. They should also be vaccinated for BVD at this time.

- R2 heifers/herd will also require an annual booster.

- Heifer/herd are vaccinated at the same time as the calves receive their second vaccine, January or February.

2. Education of Staff: It is your responsibility to make sure that all staff are aware of the risk of Leptospirosis, how they might become infected, and the measures they should take to decrease the risk of becoming infected.

3. Reducing the Contamination of Leptospirosis Bacteria: Waterways and effluent ponds need to be fenced. Adequate drainage at the shed, on races and around feed storage is important. Rats need to be controlled. Many of the human cases of Leptospirosis seen in dairy farm workers are caused by a strain of Leptospirosis (L Ballum) that is shed in the urine of rats.

If you have questions regarding the timing of vaccinations on your farm, or if you have any questionsabout Leptospirosis risk management, please give the clinic a call and speak with one of our vets.

We can make a plan for Leptospirosis vaccination that suits your farm.

September 2014

Grass staggers

Grass staggers

Grass staggers is a nutritional disorder associated with low levels of magnesium (mag) in the blood.

Signs of low magnesium range from poor milk production to muscle tremors and increased aggression through to stiff movements, seizures and sudden death. In cases of sudden death a sample of the cow’s eye fluid can be tested for magnesium. With more extensive operations the only sign may be fewer cows and calves at calf marking.

Treatment of affected cows with magnesium sulphate given under the skin and a calcium/magnesium mixture given slowly into the vein is only effective if given in the early stages of the disease and often requires follow up treatments. Prevention is the key and is based on increasing the cow’s daily magnesium intake. The most common options for prevention are:

- Dusting pasture with magnesium oxide

- Mixing magnesium oxide into a slurry and feeding with hay or silage

- Administering magnesium bullets

The uptake of magnesium in the diet is very complex and is related to many factors including:

- Feed intake (low feed intake = low mag intake)

- Grazing lush spring herbage (typically low in mag and passes through the gut quickly reducing time for mag absorption)

- Rough weather, handling, yarding and trucking (all cause low feed intake)

- Fertiliser practices (recent applications of N and K fertiliser reduce mag absorption in rumen)

- Age (heifers are lower risk than cows, older cows are higher risk)

- Body condition of cow (light and over-fat cows are higher risk than average BCS cows)

- Physiological state (late pregnant and lactating cows are highest risk)

A risk assessment can be done for your cattle which involves assessing the animal risk – body condition and blood testing for magnesium levels, and assessment of feed intake and factors which interfere with mag absorption in the rumen. Ideally this assessment should be made 4-5 weeks pre calving when the energy requirements are rising because of the onset of lactation. A plan can then be made to minimise the risk of grass stagger.

July 2014

Winter has arrived and it’s time to consider the changing needs of your dog

Winter has arrived

Whether your dog is a puppy, adult or mature dog, each has its own special needs and this varies for each breed too.

Health check

If you have a puppy or senior dog, it’s worth taking them for a health check with your vet, just to ensure that they are fit and healthy. Make sure they are up to date with injections, flea and worming treatments and ask your vet to check for any signs of arthritis.

Keeping warm

As the temperature drops, it’s natural for us to put on extra layers and warm clothes. It’s also worth considering this for your dog too. Even though they are covered in fur and hair, the cold affects them the same way it affects you. If you’re cold, the chances are your dog is cold too.

Bigger and heavier dogs can stay warm for longer, as they have more body mass and fat to insulate them. However smaller, shorthaired breeds and greyhounds don’t have the body fat or hair to help them stay warm, so it’s worth buying them a special coat.

Cosy nights

If your dog sleeps outside, now’s the time to ensure they have adequate shelter and warmth. Raise any outdoor shelter off the ground and ensure the entrance is turned away from the wind. You might want to consider putting down extra bedding – and check the bedding every day to ensure it isn’t damp, wet or mouldy. Even if your dog normally sleeps inside, make sure their bed isn’t in any draughts and is somewhere nice and warm.

Feeding time

If you leave food outside for your dog, check it a couple of times a day to make sure it’s not too cold – this applies to water too. If fresh water isn’t available, it’s more likely that your pet will attempt to drink from other sources – which may be contaminated by household cleaners or road salt.

Mobility and arthritis

Older dogs can be greatly affected by cold weather. If your dog has arthritis, it is more than likely to get worse in cold weather, so it may be worth asking your vet for advice. Don’t forget the right nutrition rich in fish oil like Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d can help your dog’s mobility, too. j/d is clinically proven to help dogs walk, run and jump better in as little as 21 days. And finally, ensure the bed has sufficient cushioning to help them sleep comfortably – and that it’s positioned so that they can rest while keeping an eye on household activity.

May 2014

Beware of rapidly growing grass and crop with grazing stock

Nitrate Toxicity

The recent weather conditions have resulted in very fast pasture growth rates and consideration needs to be taken into account when grazing rapidly growing lush crops of grass due to the possibility of high nitrate levels.

High nitrite in feeds can cause toxic levels of nitrate in the blood, nitrate diminishes the ability of the blood to carry oxygen around the body and ultimately causes death due to a lack of oxygen to the vital organs. Sheep, cattle, deer and goats are all susceptible to nitrate poisoning.

Multiple factors contribute to the accumulation of nitrite in plants, including; the first grazing of new grass, high use of nitrogen (urea) fertiliser and specific plant species such as Tama & Concord ryegrass varieties, Sorghum, rape and oats amongst other factors.

Initial signs of nitrate toxicity in stock include staggering stock, depressed-looking or down stock, these symptoms will usually occur within four to five hours of ingestion of toxic plants. Despite signs sometimes taking four to five hours to present, high levels of nitrate can cause rapid death much sooner and suspected high nitrite feeds should always be managed accordingly. Best practice procedures to reduce the risk include providing stock with supplementary feed before putting onto suspect pasture to ensure cattle are not hungry, allow no more than 1 hour of grazing time and check cows regularly for signs of toxicity.

If you observe any of the above signs then you should contact a vet immediately and quietly remove the animals from the pasture. Nitrate toxicity can be treated successfully if recognised early. The testing of the nitrate content should always occur before grazing suspected crops and grasses. This can be done using a home testing kit available from VetEnt or alternatively you can bring a bread bag size sample into the clinic for us to test.

If you would like more information, please contact Michelle Godber at Veterinary Enterprise Group or email at

Veterinary Enterprise Group
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