Should you share your bed with your doggy?

We’re a nation of animal lovers. Around 53% of pet owners consider their four-legged friends to be a member of the family so it’s not surprising that so many of us choose to share the duvet with our pets. Even Queen Victoria is reputed to have shared her death bed with her Pomeranian! They’re our best friends, and a little terrier or collie can make a great hot water bottle in the winter nights, so why wouldn’t we want to cuddle up with them at night time?

Whilst it’s tempting to think that the best option for our pets is to cosy up with us our beds are getting higher whilst our doggies, well, they’re still the same height. The frames are taller as they are increasingly being manufactured to include storage drawers, and cosy mattresses are getting larger to accommodate our human needs, but the longer jump off of them can potentially hurt your pet’s paws. What’s best for humans unfortunately isn’t always what is best for man’s best friend.

From a dog training perspective, a lot of trainers advise that owners choose to offer a separate bed for their pet. This is because as the owner, it is important to maintain your position as pack leader, but dogs can perceive sharing a sleeping area to indicate that you are their subordinate. Whilst this may not be problematic if you’ve established yourself as the “alpha” of the family pack, if your dog is feeling anxious or aggressive these behaviours may be exacerbated by your sleeping arrangement and could mean that you’re at risk of a nip or bite.

Thankfully it isn’t all doom and gloom as adjusting to sleeping separately from your pet doesn’t need to be difficult or disruptive for you or your pet. There are a wide variety of affordable cushions and blankets that can be a comfortable alternative for your pet. The key to making the transition is that your pet understands they’re not being punished and that this new arrangement is just as comfortable as the old. Thankfully there is a wealth of advice available at the click of a button to help owners with implementing this change in their sleeping arrangements.

Having a special sleeping area for your doggy means that your sheets and fabrics are less likely to become full of rogue hairs and germs your pet will have brought in from the garden or their walk. That King Size you splashed out on from BedStar won’t be monopolised by Lassie (and her hairs!) so there will be more space for you to stretch out. You can treat yourself to some new bed linen and throw cushions knowing that little Bruno won’t be chewing on them during the night or leaving them full of fur. Sleeping independently from your pet won’t mean that you love them any less; hopefully it will mean a good night’s sleep for both of you, and less wear and tear on your bedding.

The hunt for a bullet…

Some days when I wake up with a feeling that I am going see something new and should get to surgery as quick as I can. Today was one of them, and within 20 minutes of waking I was in scrubs in the surgery building ready to help. Being Easter Sunday here it was quite with just a doctor, another student sent from a different department and myself.

The doctor has a patient in radiography after being shot… And we have a waiting room full so after we complete the survey images and confirm the bullet is still inside I start prepping the anaesthesia whilst the doctor continues with consults. We are hoping it is going be a really quick procedure to find and remove the bullet, radiographs make it look really easy and we hope that the bullet is in the tissue layer…

Taking the dog into surgery we gown and glove ready for the surgery, and start searching for the pellet in the area that the radiograph told us it would be. Looking through all the layers covering the ribs and between we cannot find the bullet. With this we move the surgery to xray so that we can get more images during the surgery and hopefully find it easier…

Unfortunately radiographs are a 2D imaging technique, and even trying to get bullet pinpointed against landmarks we cannot determine exactly where it is. And worse is that it seems to move with each image. Unable to locate the bullet, and without being able to get an accurate position with radiography after 2 hours of trying we decided to abandon the surgery as the anaesthesia risk increases with each hour.

Sometimes this can happen, it is not a good feeling, however it is in the patients best interest and the case will be discussed later and decisions made whether to make another attempt to find the bullet.

In the meantime I am left wondering how humans can be so evil as to shoot a poor defenceless animal that is also a family pet. Sometimes the world makes no sense…

A little about dealing with wounds in animals…

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Chart Stables

Recently I’ve been noticing a lot of pet owners posting online with a picture of an animal with a wound asking for advice. These have varied from a scratch through to a burn, however what all of these have in common is the massive list of comments with different treatments for it .

Now I’ve been fortunate to have attended lectures by wound management specialists such as Georgie Hollis (amazing speaker that if you get the chance you should see!). I’ve also been lucky enough to learn from some top surgeons about the surgical techniques that can complement the management of wounds. Along with my knowledge of the body and physiology and pharmacology I am often left shocked by the advice that I have seen given.

Now a wound is any breakage of skin, this can be from surgery or from trauma, yet the goal is for it to heal so the animal returns to normal functionality and with a satisfactory cosmetic outcome. In fact wound management is becoming pretty much a speciality within veterinary surgery with some amazing results for catastrophic wounds.

One of my textbooks describes wound healing to that of the performance of a symphony orchestra, when each instrument plays it part in conjunction with the other instruments at the appropriate time beautiful music is the result. The same is true of wound healing, when each component performs its function at the correct time uncomplicated wound healing occurs. Going back to the symphony however, if we got a conductor that only understood violin and drums then the music would suffer.

This is the same in wounds, to get the best result we need to know where in the process we are, and then we need to understand what is happening, and what will happen next. To look at wound healing in simple terms there are 4 stages, however these stages do overlap a lot so often it is not possible to define them completely:

Inflammation
During the inflammation stage the body attempts to stop the bleeding from the wound by constriction and clot formation, shuts down the lymphatic system to that area to keep the inflammation local and stop spread of bacteria. There is then microscopic widening of the spaces between tissue cells to allow the spread of cells involved in immunity and repair to reach the place they need to be (hence the swelling of the area). The start of a fibrin clot framework starts, and when exposed to the air this clot forms a scab under which the repair continues.

Debridement
This is the arrival of cells such as neutrophils and macrophages into the wound which remove any dead tissue and kill bacteria. As the lymphatic system from the wound area is shut down, plasma and other fluids leave the area through the wound helping wash any nasty stuff away. Some of the same cells such as macrophages act as a bridge to the repair stage by sending signals causing the growth of new cells within the wound.

Repair (proliferation)
This is where the forming of granulation tissue occurs with the creation of new blood vessels and skin cells over the wound. This stage occurs around 3 – 6 days after the start of wound healing and creates a barrier against infection. It is also important as the granulation tissue here will contract the wound and bring the edges closer together as well as let other cells use it as a transport system.

Maturation & Remodelling
This is where the wound starts to regain its strength, under the right conditions this can start as early as 24 hours of injury, however the strength is not significant until around day 6 of this process. It continues to gain in strength between days 5 – 15, however the final stage is not reached until around day 21 with no disturbance.

Now this is a really simplified summary (there are textbooks on this!), however just with this it is possible to see how bad management can affect the outcome. Take for example some common antiseptic products; a lot of these are cytotoxic so they kill cells. Now by using these in the repair stage you are simply killing the new repair cells that the body is producing. The use of these in the inflammation and debridement stage however may be beneficial.

Bandaging during the debridement stage can be both good and bad, and a vet takes a lot into account in making a decision here. Bandaging can trap the bacteria next to the wound, however it also gives a way to remove the bacteria and moisture whilst stopping outside contaminants entering the wound. In the granulation stage however a bandage is less important as the granulation tissue provides a barrier against infection.

Something I’ve seen mentioned a lot online is honey. Sadly this is something where a little knowledge is a bad thing. There are certain types of honey that are good for healing (Manuka is one of them), however commercial honey brought in supermarket generally contains bacteria that whilst safe for us to eat in the quantities allowed is not good for wounds. When looking for Manuka honey you need to make sure to get medical grade which is specially produced with sterilisation to ensure that it is 100% pure with no bacteria.

Again another thing I’ve seen mentioned is sudocream, when used correctly it can be great, however using it at the wrong stage can increase the work to debride the wound for example – this is a foreign substance, and is water repellent which while it stops stuff getting in, will also impact bacteria being washed out. It also contains an alcohol, now alcohol used to be used loads for preparing surgery sites… However more recently it does have less use here.

I’ve barely touched the surface, however I hope that I have helped people realise that wound management is not as simple as looking at a picture and asking what cream to use. For those that would like to learn more (plus see some awesome case studies) I would refer you to Georgie Hollis and The Veterinary Wound Library.