Compliance. It seems like such a simple concept but what does it actually mean and what can happen if you don’t “comply” with your dog’s treatment.
Complying means that you strictly follow the instructions given to you by your veterinarian for the treatment of any problems your dog may be having.
Have you ever been tempted to skip the last few tablets in the packet because your dog appeared to be getting so much better?
Have you ever been tempted to give your human medications to your dog if it is unwell?
I will give examples of some illnesses and explain to you why it is so important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions, advice and treatment plan.
Diabetic dogs are given insulin injection twice daily in conjunction with a carefully calculated diet. The dogs will have their blood glucose levels monitored at intervals specified by their veterinarian and in some cases have regular urine checks.
The dose and timing of the insulin is critical to control diabetes. Any alteration to the dose of insulin or giving the diabetic patient snacks or treats runs the risk of serious consequences such as a return to the unstable diabetic state that had been treated.
The most serious problem is a “hypo” state where the dog has been overdosed with insulin or did not eat its meal at the correct time. The blood glucose level plunges and the dogs collapse suddenly or may even go into a coma and die. Such patients require urgent hospitalisation and intensive care.
If the dog is given too much food or treats, or a dose of insulin is missed they will become “hyper” with a high blood glucose level. They will become weak and very thirsty again.
A poorly managed diabetic dog also risks developing cataracts and severe periodontal disease.
Arthritis affects one dog in five and is particularly prevalent in larger or more active breeds. With the modern medications it can be managed very well so that your dog can lead a longer and happier life. Common forms of arthritis treatment may include:
- daily anti-inflammatory medications
- a course of injections every six months
- weight control
- a mild exercise programme
- special diets
You must get your dog’s condition properly investigated and a treatment protocol prescribed by your veterinarian at the outset and follow the protocol to ensure the best outcome for your dog. Failure to do so will mean that your dog will continue to be in pain, will be unable to exercise and will be miserable. Don’t be tempted to relax with the treatment if your dog appears well. Be assured that the reason your dog is improving is because of the treatment it is receiving. If you stop the treatment for any reason, chances are your dog’s condition will rapidly deteriorate. Arthritis is unfortunately a life long condition which can be well managed with the correct treatment but can also be extremely debilitating if not managed correctly.
You must not under any circumstances use your human medications to treat you dog for arthritis as they often cause gut bleeding, liver or bone marrow failure.
Immune mediated diseases
The immune system is a finely tuned mechanism which maintains the health of your dog but on occasions it gets out of balance. The immune system may become overactive and begin to destroy red blood cells or platelets resulting in severe anaemia or bleeding which may become fatal.
These dogs require intensive treatment in hospital and will be given blood transfusions and medications to stabilise their condition.
At home, you will need to give them daily medications for the rest of their lives. The dosage of the medication is determined by regular check ups and blood checks. Any failure to closely follow the recommended treatment protocol will result in the dog bleeding, collapsing or in some more severe cases, sudden death. It is often tempting for owners of dogs with immune mediated disease to either change the medications or stop them altogether if they see the dog looking well. It is important not to make any changes because the results can be catastrophic.
It is recommended that your dog receive annual vaccinations to protect it from a number of serious infectious diseases for example, distemper, parvovirus and kennel cough. Unvaccinated dogs that are infected with distemper or parvovirus will often die. Kennel cough, which is similar to whooping cough in humans, can result in pneumonia which requires a long and difficult treatment programme.
Heartworm is a highly infectious disease of dogs which is spread by mosquitos. Infected dogs may die from heart failure or serious liver, kidney or lung complications. Treatment of dogs suffering from heartworm is very involved and, once cured, your dog may still remain weak from the deterioration of its heart. It is easily prevented by either an annual injection or a monthly preventative medication. If you elect to use the monthly medications be strict in your compliance because missing a dose can expose your dog to infection.
Fleas are a real menace for dogs and their owners. Dogs infested with fleas may suffer flea allergies, dermatitis, skin infections and will be miserable. The fleas can also spread throughout your home making you miserable. Fleas spend 10% of their time on your dog and 90% of their time in the environment. Strict compliance with flea control treatments is essential to keep both your dog and yourself happy.
In brief, flea control means:
- treat all of your pets every month of the year. Do not stop in winter. Just because the sun isn’t shining doesn’t mean the fleas go away.
- treat the environment including the house, dog’s bedding and kennel.
The simplest and most effective treatment is the applications of a topical insecticide which is applied to the dog on a monthly basis. Other treatments can include flea collars, sprays, rinses or powders. If your home becomes infested flea bombs may be required to kill the fleas and their eggs.
These are just a few examples of the importance of complying with your veterinarians instructions when treating your dog at home.
Please give the medications as prescribed. If you find it difficult to administer the medications or the dog appears to be sick afterwards you must contact your veterinarian. Do not be tempted to alter the dose or timing of any medication because the results can be catastrophic. Don’t be tempted to turn to the internet for a diagnosis or treatment as the information is often misleading or incorrect and may not address your dog’s particular problem.
Closely follow the instructions given to you by your veterinarian if your dog has been in hospital or has undergone surgery.
Communication with your veterinarian is very important to ensure a good outcome if your dog is unwell or has had surgery. Please keep up all follow up appointments and telephone your veterinarian if you have any concerns. Your veterinarian will not know if you are having difficulties if you don’t tell them. Your veterinarian and the veterinary nurses are the health care professionals who are happy to help you and advise you if you have any concerns no matter how small you may think the problem is. “Panic early” is good advice! Don’t wait to see if a problem will resolve itself in time as delay can make it worse.