Hi Alex. I just heard you on ZB talkback radio on Sunday. I really need your help, my partner has just moved in with his female cat (who is fixed). She is aged 10yrs plus, and I have a male ginger cat aged 3yrs (also fixed). We have to keep them apart as my ginger cat “Bobby” is very angry towards “Lady” and we are at our wits end not knowing what to do. They are both lovely cats and we want to have both inside at the same time. Please, please help regards Betty.
Let’s try and reduce the pressure on him. Firstly reduce the competition for limited resources. Supply two litter boxes in different locations if possible, separate their food bowls and ensure they’re kept apart while feeding. For a short period of time I would give them both tons of anything they want so they associate the new arrangement with positive experiences. This includes lots of treats, one on one attention and brushing or play, very important for some cats.
I would also recommend a thorough vet exam or both cats. Any conditions such as dental decay will be hard to pick by you and can contribute to raise levels of grumpiness in our pets. Many times we’ve seen a marked change for the better in animal behaviour after dental or skin treatments at our clinic.
I would use some pheromone plug-in spray like “Feliway” in the rooms they frequent the most to reduce tension and anxiety levels in Bobby and Lady. If after a period of several weeks we’ve still got war of the roses going on we could treat one or both cats with a course of Clomicalm tablets. These are a very effective, safe calming treatment from which pets can be weaned off once they have become used to their new environmental stressors. Kind regards to Bobby and Lady, Dr Alex Melrose.
Baby On The Way
Hi Alex. My wife and I are expecting our first baby girl, Isabella, and we had a some doubts regarding the best way to introduce her to our menagerie of cats and dogs. What tips have you got for us, we have heard a few horror stories about cats smothering babies but don’t think our two Burmese or our Mastiff will cause any problems. Jason, Grey Lynn.
Hi Jason. Congratulations. It’s smart to make changes at home ahead of time. Real hassles are far and few between but there are some good policies to implement regardless. Before the baby arrives, expose your pet to the baby paraphernalia that you are rapidly gathering, such as strollers, swings, and noisy toys. Some dogs are especially anxious about things that roll. Reward your Mastiff with a favorite treat if it is able to sit next to these items calmly without reacting. Other pets are extremely sensitive to unfamiliar or loud sounds.
You can work on desensitizing to baby sounds by playing recordings available on CDs. Start by playing the sounds at a volume low enough that your pet doesn’t react. While the sounds are playing, use positive reinforcement techniques, such as giving treats, feeding meals, playing with toys, petting or brushing your pet. Over several sessions gradually increase the volume until your pet has no reaction to the sounds at normal volume.
Your pets should also get used to sleeping away from the bed before the baby arrives. Pets can be taught to sleep elsewhere by blocking their access to the bedroom with a baby gate (dogs) or by closing the bedroom door (cats). Move your cat’s food and water dishes and litter boxes to out-of-the-way locations and use covered litter boxes to limit children’s access. When your wife first comes home from the hospital don’t force an introduction, just let the pet be around the baby, dogs should have a leash attached.
Allow your pet to politely sniff at the baby, then draw its attention away with another activity such as playing with toys. If a dog seems overly fearful or anxious (flattened ears, tucked tail, yawning or lip licking) pick up the leash and walk the dog away from the baby, then reward the dog once calm and ignoring baby.
Pets should be fed in locations where it is easy for you to monitor what is in their bowls if children are nearby. Don’t leave food or treats down outside of meal times unless they are physically separated from the child. No dog should ever be left alone with a small child. Best Wishes, Dr Alex Melrose
Cat Harrased by Neighbouring Cats
Dear Alex, I took in a stray cat last year and had her spayed as she was showing signs of being in “season”. However, the vet phoned me during the operation to say she had already been spayed!!! He said he would make sure he removed any remaining tissue just in case the first vet had not done so properly. A year later and she is exactly the same. Tom cats are constantly “calling” and she never seems to stop being vocal......... Do you have any advice that might be able to help. She is obviously not a happy cat because of this and can never seem to settle – constantly meowing and spraying inside the house. She wets in the bath but it is not like normal urine, more of an orangey thick substance. Please, please help – we are at the end of our tether!!! Are there any hormone tablets she could take to calm her down? I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Tina.
Hi Tina. It sounds like there is now zero chance of any ovarian tissue remaining after two operations, so I think we can rule out hormonal triggers of her behaviour. The cats arriving on mass must therefore be doing this for reasons other than any pheromones from her. It’s more likely to be for companionship, curiosity, searching for food or trying to increase their territory. The constant meowing and indoor spraying from your girl would then be in response to this encroaching neighbouring cat pressure and have an anxiety (rather than sexual) origin.
There are definitely things we can do to help this difficult and stressful situation, for both her and yourselves. We need to examine her general health for any abnormalities, and obtain a urine sample to check for any urinary tract infections. We then have at our disposal safe, non-groggy calming drugs and pheromonal sprays and plug-ins to utilise. We’ll also need to look at ways to push those encroaching cats back e.g. remote water sprinklers, magnetic cat doors, buckets of water and discussions with neighbours. Let’s get her in smartly to our clinic and get onto dropping the stress levels for you guys in your home as quickly as possible. Regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
Cat Keep Crossing Road
Hi Alex. I am really hoping I can get some answers on how to stop my female cat crossing the road. I have tried a few times to talk to you on Newstalk zb, but never make it. I live in Christchurch, so that possibly gives you a clue of where I am headed.
After the September earthquake, my two cats were reluctant to go out and with every shake, if they were outside, they flew in and hid for many, many hours.
After the February one, my male was outside but swam through the liquefaction and came in late in the evening of the 22nd. I couldn't find the female anywhere. The next day, the female emerged from having been hiding in the lining of the couch and promptly shot outside, just as we had another big rattle. She then went missing for 3 weeks!
While she was away, I left the cat door open and a few days later, woke to find I had an extra two cats and a kitten asleep, covered in mud, on my couch.
When my female turned up again, she was petrified of the kitten and hid. As the kitten grew, my cat became pretty aggressive towards her.
Every morning I open the cat door and my female is out and gone for the day, this is scaring the heck out of me, as I live on a very busy main road.
I have now found a home for the kitten and young male and I am taking them up to Blenheim.
Is there any way I can stop my female cat from crossing the road, or do you think once I get the house back to as normal as possible, she will stop. I don't want to lose her, despite her antisocial aggressive behaviour.
Man it’s such a lot of stress for your pets to be under down there with all the aftershocks, just a terrible crazy pressure on all of you, I wish you all the best for the future.
Your cats behaviours are totally understandable, given the trying circumstances.
The three “new” cats that turned up obviously knew how to pick a loving home and you have gone above and beyond in your care of these guys, you are doing everything you can.
I firmly believe as soon as you re-home those two (though difficult it’s certainly the correct decision) and the total cat population pressure inside your place drops, she will stop running off.
Even without these disturbing quakes any cat household with 3 or more cats has a very high incidence of behavioural challenges such as running off, aggression or spraying.
On-top of that your girl is just programmed (from genetics and early life experience) to be pretty shy, some cats are just put together that, (like some people), and stay that way for life,
Best wishes and please keep us updated, kind regards Dr Alex Melrose
I am the owner of a six year old, male Oriental cat. We are having real problems with him spraying around the house. We have been living here eighteen months and this started two months ago. There have recently been other cats coming inside and we have fixed this problem by turning his cat door into a magnetic one. The house stinks and we are loosing our patience with him now. Help! What do you suggest we do? We are getting desperate.
The problem would have initially started with his territory being invaded by strangers.
He is marking his territory by spraying, advising them and reassuring himself, “this is my place”. That was a great move installing the magnetic cat door. Although you have stopped the initial trigger of the problem he is unfortunately now into a bad habit.
A urinary infection needs to be ruled out in these situations. This can be done by your veterinarian. The first thing you shouldn’t do is use any ammonia based cleaning products to clean the urine up. This will only encourage him to spray more in the same spot as cat urine itself contains ammonia. Vinegar and water works well and there are also a number of commercially prepared, odourless cleaning products specifically for this. The next step is to trick him into thinking he’s already marked your home with his scent. There is a product called Feliway available, which is a synthetic cat calming pheromone. This can be dispensed using a spray bottle or a plug in room atomizer (which will go undetected by the human nose).
It is 95% effective at reducing marking behaviour. Finally your vet has the option to prescribe a course of anti anxiety medication. A combination of these things will normally do the trick in the most difficult cases. Hopefully we will have your house smelling like roses once again, and everyone, human and feline, will be a lot happier.
Cat Spraying 2
Dear Alex, My cat Samantha keeps getting very restless and weeing against my furniture. She has been spayed but is she on heat anyway? Cindy.
Dear Cindy and Samantha, First let’s deal with the possibility of Samantha being on heat. Naturally, in a spayed cat this is very rare. Occasionally cats can have tiny pieces of an ovary accidentally left behind during their ovariohysterectomy.
Even less common are recorded instances of cats with ectopic ovarian tissue, tags of ovary and its associated eggs located away from their normal position at the end of the uterine horn. Both of these situations are highly unlikely and Samantha is more likely to just be displaying excited or anxious behaviour. As you have correctly implied it is unusual for cats, especially for females, to spray after they have been neutered. However, approximately 5% of them will still do it at certain times.
They are spraying small volumes of urine, primarily to mark their territory, usually against vertical surfaces or edges. Anxiety is usually the trigger for cats to start to spray. Samantha is probably attempting to ward other cats away from her territory and to reassure herself. The pheremones carried in her urine have a powerful calming effect on her. Essentially she is trying to tell herself that everything is o.k.
Of course in her mind it may not be and to stop any cat spraying we need to identify the stressor, such as a neighbouring cat coming in through a cat door. Then we can take steps like getting a magnetic cat door installed to allow only Samantha to pass in and out.
Veterinary pheremonal sprays and plug in diffusers are helpful in treating these problems. Occasionally we will even use anti anxiety tablets to temporarily reduce stress levels and help break bad habits. Let’s work on reducing Samantha’s stress levels, Dr Alex Melrose.
Kia Ora Alex, My wee cat is thoroughly enjoying the Cicada season at present. However I do wonder sometimes if too many Cicadas can cause harm. I have seen her, on a couple of occasions, devour four in the space of about 5 minutes flat. I sometimes try to rescue them and tell her I think she’s had enough for one day. Am I wasting my time here? Thanks, Kate, Eden Terrace.
Kia Ora Kate, Your wee cat is not alone, my nurse’s cats also chomp through a fair tonnage of these bugs. The news is all good, in 13 years of veterinary experience I have never had to surgically remove 1 Cicada from a cat’s stomach, and they are a good source of fibre and protein, yummy.
I’ve pulled out needles and thread, fish hooks and squash balls, and stomach pumped a few Labradors that have been responsible for eating TV remotes, cameras and 2kg of half frozen sausages, but never has an insect required surgical extraction. These hunting cats will however often develop varying degrees of gastritis, as can similarly occur when they eat mice and birds.
Cats with gastritis show signs of inappetance, mild abdominal pain, lots of intestinal gas and can be quite inactive. Depending on what they have devoured these signs may last for 1 to 2 days. Usually this will resolve by itself and reoccur occasionally when they pig out on too many prey. If the lethargy and other signs persist then see your veterinarian to check for infection or other unrelated health conditions.
Happy hunting, Dr Alex Melrose.
We have 3 1/2 year old wire haired fox terrier and just last weekend new neighbours moved in and they have a rabbit. Well needless to say Holly has found the rabbit very quickly and dug under the fence to "visit" the rabbit a few days after they moved in - not the best way to meet new neighbours.
Of course this is very tempting for Holly and normally she is free to roam in and out of the house to her hearts desire. The back garden is fully fenced, but she can of course dig under. At present every time she goes outside one of us goes with her to make sure she does not try and get under the fence again. She immediately goes to the fence and peers through sniffing the air. Any suggestions as to how we can help Holly overcome what is in her genes - to chase rabbits! It seems unfair that we may have to look at letting her go if we cannot help her to not see the rabbits as a meal.
G & A & Holly.
Hi guys. You’ve give me a tough one here. Normally we would discuss retraining and de-sensitise her to be calm around the rabbit with a combination of positive and negative reinforcement and non confrontational punishment. I think that would work well in a very young puppy, and I’ve certainly seen households where the rabbit, dog and cats all live happily together, often with the rabbit totally dominant, ramming the others when it doesn’t get its own way.
However I don’t like our chances now Holly is an adult, and being a Foxie, is built to dig and hunt small mammals. In some cases you can booby trap an area of ground next to the fence with partially dirt covered water balloons, upside down mouse traps or motion triggered water sprinklers. Again, I’ve got a feeling Holly will not be deterred by these. So let’s turn our attention to containment.
People have successfully fixed these scenarios before by using electric perimeters. A simple low voltage wire can be run along the bottom of that fence line. Even better is a perimeter wire that triggers a fitted shock collar when she approaches the boundary. These work well and can’t shock anyone else.
Rather than getting shocked all the time dogs usually learn very quickly to not approach that area. Although I’m hesitant to use shock collars, there are situations where they are necessary, effective and better than the alternative of “letting her go”.
Dear Alex, We have an interesting case for you that I hope you can help with. We’ve got a much loved 10 year old Dalmatian, Samson. He has been diagnosed with separation anxiety a few years ago, which we’ve so far managed to live with. Over the last few days he is seeing or feeling imaginary things on the bed where he sleeps and will now freak out over all kinds of things that don’t seem to be there. Yesterday he walked safely past our coffee table and then turned and snapped at it like it had attacked him or something and got stressed out. Wondering if you have any ideas? I thought he may be starting to lose his sight? He doesn’t seem disorientated and isn’t on any medication at all. Jody, Mt Eden.
Hi Jody. Good thought with the failing eyesight but if he was that easily fooled by shapes around him (which does happen) he would be bumping into things left, right and centre even when just walking down the hallway. Sometimes pain will cause a sudden change of behaviour with aggression as you have described but again their typically would be other signs and clues to this such as changes in stance or reluctance to jump up. When pain is located in the spine it is especially hard for animals to localise and they can behave as though being attacked by an invisible foe.
A careful examination at our clinic will confirm, or rule this out for sure. Certainly the separation anxiety is possibly involved and his natural high levels of adrenalin and proclivity to easily becoming stressed may be a factor in his condition, but not a recognised cause. There are some very interesting seizure type conditions that cause dogs to see things that aren’t there, typically “imaginary flies”.
The other possibility on our list for Samson is a vascular incident triggering these new behaviours, a type of stroke. As you can see Jody, we’ve got a lot of diagnosing to do when we examine him but I’m sure whatever becomes apparent we will be able to help you both. Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose. BVSc, MRCVS. VetCare Grey Lynn. 09 3613500. 408 Great North Rd.
Fireworks Anxiety Therapy
With Guy Fawkes rapidly approaching I thought it timely to discuss options for this most common of animal noise phobia scenarios. For severely afflicted pets this time of year can be very distressing and owners can similarly suffer, observing their pet’s fear, property destruction, soiling or running away.
Some noise phobias appear to be "hardwired" and more resistant to change through training, than some other fears. This is therefore a challenging problem that can require months of re-training and chemical assistance. I start by using response substitution i.e. instead of hiding or showing other signs of anxiety; encourage the pet to sit calmly to get rewards.
Ask for the behavior (sit or down) and then reward immediately, rather than waiting for spontaneous calming. To achieve this during noxious sounds you must first have a dog that responds to commands in a quiet environment. Work on those basic commands of “sit” and “down” until the response is consistent and rapid.
Getting the desired behaviour during problem time is the next step (perhaps using a head halter to get attention and focus) and rewarding with praise and treats. If the dog is food-motivated they could redirect attention to food-filled Kongs or chew toys specially saved for scary times.
Desensitizing CDs can help during the management program. These come with a range of sounds including fireworks and the volume and frequency of these sounds can be slowly increased over time as our pets learn to react calmly.
This training in the absence of distractions is critical so that the owner has a means of calming and settling during real events rather than responding to the anxious dog in a way that might inadvertently reinforce or aggravate the problem behaviour.
Confining the dog, especially while no one is at home can be useful to prevent damage to the dog or the property. If they are comfortable in a crate, that's terrific, but crates can also present obstacles to some nervous dogs panicking and trying to escape. Alternatively a "safe haven" somewhere, usually a dark, quiet area of the house the dog selects, closet, hallway, spare bedroom, can be gated off, and preferably not shut with a door.
Some dogs respond well to anxiety wraps i.e. being cuddled up and partially covered with their own throw, often referred to as “storm capes”.
Drugs may be necessary to help control some of the anxiety and a combination of valium, sedatives; TCA’s and Prozac are available to us as veterinarians. Where possible any drug therapy should be given or present before the noise event. Drugs alone will never be effective.
DAP diffusers which plug into a power socket are also available for both cats and dogs. Some animals do respond very well to these products which release natural calming pheromones. Some daily massage sessions, with a relaxation scent (such as lavender) can be valuable to reduce general reactivity levels.
Regular aerobic activity can also enhance serotonin levels and reduce baseline anxiety levels. Please seek veterinary assistance if your pets are struggling with this problem.
All of us humans are rushing madly along towards the holiday break, counting down the days. At VetCare we’ve got streams of cats and dogs (who are blissfully unaware of the silly season) coming in for last Minuit vaccinations before they head off for a holiday at assorted boarding kennels, including our own sumptuous cattery.
Our pets adjust surprisingly well to temporary holiday accommodation, becoming a lot less territorial when on neutral ground. Many really love the interaction with others in the communal area.
Whenever you are selecting their accommodation it’s a good idea to view a kennel or cattery yourself before committing to dropping off the furry kids. Steer clear of anywhere reluctant to allow inspections.
Check your pets will have plenty of space to exercise and play in, good spots to rest, and that the environment is very clean, well ventilated warm and secure. You can always drop off his/her bedding, toys and favourite treats to remind them of home.
Using a kennel or cattery attached to a vet hospital or with a strong working relationship with a nearby clinic is especially valuable for any animals with health conditions or ongoing medication. All good boarding premises will require current proof of vaccination.
With all vaccinations you want a minimum of 1 week between injection and potential challenge, so plan ahead. This period allows the body to pump out effective levels of antibodies to all the infections you’re trying to block.
Cats require at least a 3in1 vaccination; dogs require a 5 in 1, and a kennel cough jab. Up north here a Leptospirosis (spread by the Brown Rat) vaccination is also a good idea for our canine pets. If you’ve left booking a place too late or haven’t organized vaccinations then you could have a small dilemma on your hands. In this case, or if you have particularly unsocial pets, a good alternative is to get a pet minding service to look after the animal branch of the family tree.
“Wags to Whiskers” ( 0800 028 888 ) and other pet service providers do a great job coming to your house, one or more times daily, to feed and give some love and attention in your absence. They will even clear your mail, water plants and keep the place looking occupied.
This is a good option for homebody cats that don’t tend to take off on huge adventures. This service isn’t suitable for any significant length of time with dogs but businesses like “Homesit” (0508 HOMESIT) can be useful to place someone in your home for the whole period you are off at the Bach.
Best wishes for the holiday period. Dr Alex Melrose.
Sam sounds like a thoroughly normal, well adjusted cat who likes to be command of his surroundings. You really have two main options for solving this vacation dilemma.
Firstly you could place him in a cattery, like the one we have at our VetCare clinic here in Grey Lynn. Although he is stubborn most cats will adjust surprisingly well to temporary cattery accommodation, becoming a lot less territorial when on neutral ground, some of them love the interaction with other cats in the communal area.
It’s a good idea to view a cattery before committing to dropping Sam off. Check he will have plenty of space to exercise and possibly play in, good spots to rest, and that the cattery is very clean, well ventilated warm and secure. You can always drop off his own bedding, toys and favourite treats to remind him of home. Using a cattery attached to a vet clinic is especially valuable for any animals with health conditions or ongoing medication.
The other good option for less social or home-body cats is to get a pet minding service to look after Sam while you are away. Wags to Whiskers ( 0800 028 888 ) and other pet service providers do a great job coming to your house, one or more times daily, to feed Sam and give him some love and attention in your absence. They will even clear your mail, water plants and keep the place looking occupied. This is a good option for cats that don’t tend to take off on huge adventures around the neighbourhood, preferring to hang closer to home.
Emma, feel free to drop in and inspect our cattery here at the clinic and I hope I have managed to allay some of your concerns, Regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
How much does owning a pet cost?
New Zealand is regarded as having one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world and a check of most homes will reveal at least one dog or cat in residence.
New Zealand is a nation of pet lovers. A majority of New Zealand households have at least one cat or dog. In 2008 there were 1.1 million pet cats and 652 thousand pet dogs. These pets are more than animals sharing our homes, they are often considered as members of the family.. Breaking these statistics down, more than 53 percent of homes have at least one cat and 18 percent have two, while just over 35 percent of households own a dog. (http://www.petfoodnz.co.nz/index.htm)
Many pets are regarded as integral members of the family and a lot of time and money is spent keeping them well-fed, entertained and healthy. So it makes sense to take steps to ensure your pet has a long and healthy life without breaking the bank; including feeding them quality nutrition and keeping them up to date with annual wellness checks and vaccinations.
Alex Melrose says pet related expenses begin as soon as you purchase your pet. Having bought the animal, it then needs a full course of vaccinations, a health check, spaying or neutering, and, if a puppy, micro chipping and registering. And that’s before you consider the general set up costs of basket, food bowls, toys, and the on-going expense of food.
Actual costs vary hugely between cats and dogs and, for dogs, breed. In 2007, Consumer Magazine calculated the costs of having a puppy versus a baby, with a baby being only marginally more expensive than the puppy at $4111 compared with $3577. Other figures estimate that food for a dog will cost up to $5 a day depending on the breed and the product purchased, annual vaccinations and health checks up to $200, on-going worming and flea treatment up to $400, and registration up to $200 a year, adding up to nearly $3000 a year. A cat could cost up to $80 for annual vaccinations and health checks, up to $150 for on-going worming and flea treatment and up to $1a day for food, a little short of $650. Add to these basic costs the expense of placing your pet in a cattery or kennel while you are away, toys, and unexpected visits to the vet, and the annual cost can reach well into the thousands.
When considering the annual cost of owning a dog or cat, another thing to add into the calculation is the average lifespan of the animal you are choosing. On average a cat lives 12 to 13 years. A really old cat can live around 20 years. Little dogs tend to live longer (13 to 15 years) - than medium dogs (10 to 13 years) and large dogs (six to 10 years).
Vetcare works closely with several pet insurance companies in New Zealand and strongly recommends you take out a basic cover for your pet while they are young and healthy. This will prevent you struggling to pay a large vet bill if your beloved pet should have a mishap or get a serious illness. Ask any of the staff for advice. We can all tell you stories about how valuable pet insurance was to our clients and took one of the major stressors away when they were very worried about their pet recovering from surgery or major illness.
Alex says the most important year of a pet’s life is its first year when it’s growing and developing. “I always say to people, the one time you shouldn’t cut corners on nutrition is when they are growing. You need to make sure their skeletons grow properly.”
“The science of nutrition is advancing on a daily basis,” he says. “It’s fascinating and there is a lot of science-based evidence to back it up. There are so many disease conditions you can control with diet alone. Obesity is one.” Prescription diets, which are available only on the prescription of your vet and which will be regularly monitored, can go a long way to helping pets with a range of health issues including joint problems, obesity, skin conditions, gastro-intestinal and even neurological conditions. Other food varieties that can be bought over the counter at your vet clinic are advisable at different stages of your pet’s life (puppy/kitten, lactating, senior, etc) or help with issues such as hairball control and dental care.
And while premium foods may appear at first to be expensive, their quality and the concentrated smaller amounts required each day can actually make them competitively priced compared with cheaper brands. Your veterinarian can help you decide which premium food is right for your pet’s requirements, with products now available to help with weight loss, dental care, mobility, skincare, gastro-intestinal problems, as well as brain, and special biscuits for life stages (i.e. kitten, puppy, lactating, senior, etc).
For those pet owners who lovingly prepare home-made meals for their pets, Alex advises to think again. He says while cooked vegetables, meat, past and rice may be wolfed down by your cat or dog, the nutritional balance cannot be accurately determined and may mean your pet is missing out on vital minerals and other nutrients.
Having sorted out your pet’s diet, the next essential to keeping your pet healthy at reasonable cost is its annual wellness check. Alex says these are crucial as they allow vets to pick up any potential health problems early enough to deal with them before they become serious and expensive.
From about four years old, we are picking up dental disease and obesity in pets,” he says. “These are classic routine problems we can do a lot to prevent if we see them regularly and give advice on diet and lifestyle.”
As pets get older, the potential for more serious health problems develops and mature or geriatric pet health checks become important for those animals seven and over.
Many have sub-clinical disease,” he says. “They’ll have an illness ticking along that the owners are not aware of. In cats it’s particularly diabetes, kidney disease and overactive thyroid. They may be drinking more but their owners may not notice because the cat is drinking outside. If you pick this up early we can help slow and prevent ongoing disease<
Other common diseases picked up during routine health checks include arthritis and heart disease. Failure to pick up disease early can lead to irreversible damage to the animal’s health and may even result in the distressing decision to have a beloved family pet euthanased. But early detection can make a huge difference to a pet’s life, enabling them to live much longer and in more comfort than they would have.
Vaccinations are also an important annual cost to consider. Like humans, vaccinations need to be regularly updated. Puppies and kittens require the full course of vaccinations in their first year, just as human babies do, and dog vaccinations for diseases like parvo virus in dogs and cat flu in cats are essential if you are considering placing the animal in a boarding kennel or cattery. Other vaccinations against kennel cough and leptospirosis help prevent distressing and sometimes fatal diseases.
Owning a pet inevitably costs money, but with close attention to your pet’s nutrition and ensuring annual health checks, you can help prevent unexpected and expensive emergency visits to your veterinary clinic. Please remember that owning a pet is a privilege not a right and that you need to plan carefully about which pet suits your lifestyle and your budget.
...So what do you do if you want the best for your pet without the worry of being unable to afford expensive treatment? Pet insurance is the answer. By taking out pet insurance, you’re not only helping to cushion the costs of expensive veterinary procedures but also ensuring that your pets will get the treatment they need.
“With pet insurance, everybody wins,” says veterinarian Alex Melrose of the Vet Care Animal Hosptial in Grey Lynn, Auckland. “It makes a big difference to the clients who are not of high income to be able to do what you really want for a member of your family without cutting any corners or going through the anguish of not being able to afford any proper treatment. And I’ve seen the reverse, where everybody loses.
For example, where people don’t have income that can afford pet treatment, you’re going to have to euthanize 7 out of 10 road traffic accidents. The pet loses because it’s dead, the owner loses because he’s got a dead pet and you lose as a veterinarian because you’re not able to do what you were trained to do and what you want to do.”
In fact, Melrose feels strongly that pet insurance should be an essential part of being a responsible owner. “If you’re going to have an animal, you should look after it to a certain level – that’s part of the responsibility of choosing to have one right from the start. Pet insurance just provides that compulsory saving – putting aside money which will cover costs that you’re going to incur in having a pet over several years – it’s part of being a responsible owner.”
Unlike other parts of the world, especially the UK, pet insurance has not been common in New Zealand: despite having some of the highest pet ownership levels per capita, less than 2% of the country's pets are insured. This might be due to under-exposure to the concept (Kiwis simply don’t know or think of insuring their pets, whereas the average British pet owner considers pet insurance as normal and standard) – or a misconception that pet insurance is only necessary for expensive pedigree breeds.
“Yes, certain breeds are predisposed to having a lot more problems – such as any of the brachycephalic breeds,” says Melrose. “But to be honest, you can give me any breed and I can say something that’s more likely to go wrong with it. Even with mix-breed dogs and cats, there can still be a lot of issues not connected to breed, such as abscesses, problems with its teeth as it gets older, wounds from fighting, possibly allergies, skin conditions or diseases from socialising – these are things we see all the time, plus the injuries and accidents that no-one planned for.”
And although larger breeds will generally cost more as many treatments are calculated based on weight, it doesn’t mean that if you have a small dog, you can safely skip on insurance either.
“These toy dogs and toy-dog crosses that everyone’s getting now – they’re in the clinic all the time!” laughs Melrose. “They’ve got crowded mouths, squashed faces, can’t breathe that well, injure their eyes a lot because they’re quite protruding; often they’re carried a lot so they’re dropped – drop injuries – a whole subset of things that are unique to small breeds.”
New Zealanders’ attitudes to pet insurance are changing though. Interest has been growing, with increased marketing activity from pet insurance companies giving the industry a much-needed boost.
“In the last 12 months, a lot of new clients coming to the clinic have been asking if there is such a thing as pet insurance and whether we have any info on it...certainly a year or two ago, that wasn’t happening at all,” observes Dr Melrose, adding that they recommend pet insurance to all their new pet owners.
I am getting asked more and more frequently about insurance for pets. Frankly I think it’s a great thing for all new pet owners to get.
I emphasise new owners because insuring older animals may not be as beneficial with any pre existing conditions being excluded. These exclusions are much more likely to mount up later in a pet’s life. I was lucky enough to work over in Europe for 2 years and pet insurance was well established there even back then.
I’m glad it’s becoming more established and affordable now here in NZ. The way I see it is that everybody wins. Pet insurance invariably leads to more serious health problems being fixed, to less euthenasia and to fewer corners having to be cut because of cost restrictions.
The furry patient wins because difficult problems such as compound road traffic fractures or cancer can be planned out and treated thoroughly right from the get go, leading to much better outcomes and quality of life. The client wins because they have a live, healthy cat and haven’t gone into large amounts of debt to achieve this.
They also haven’t ended up horribly stuck between a rock and a hard place deciding between euthanasia and an unaffordable bill. As a vet we win because we can use all our skills and knowledge to the full and get the satisfaction of providing the very best in pet care.
Three main companies now offer comprehensive, lasting pet insurance here in Auckland. Prices start from $2 a week for cats and $3 a week for dogs, covering $6000 worth of care in a calendar year. Not bad for massive peace of mind.
There are discounts for multiple pets and coverage can include vaccination, chipping, neutering, boarding, right through to major surgery and even advertising for lost pets. The next time you’re in at VetCare Grey Lynn or at your own vet grab a pamphlet and check out the benefits for yourself.
Kind Regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
I’m writing to you as I have gone through a pretty traumatic and unusual experience with my young dog “Star”. I would like to know about micro-chipping to try to reduce the chance of this problem reoccurring. Star was taken from my property several weeks ago, I had been at work and returned to find her missing from my yard with a suspicious trail of dog treats scattered around by the front gate, which was securely closed.
I started searching everywhere nearby, all the time with a sinking feeling of loss. I put up numerous flyers and contacted all the local Vet Clinics, the SPCA and the Dog Pound and some radio stations. While checking the pet section in the local paper I noticed a young dog offered for sale that matched Star’s description.
I phoned and arranged a time to meet the “owner”, suspiciously, at a park rather than at their home. Standing in front of me was a big rough looking guy and my Star. After a fair bit of uncomfortable banter along the lines of “she’s my dog”, retorted with “prove it”, I decided to just pay the $150 and get her back. Man was I lucky. The police indicated that this happens dozens of times a week throughout Auckland. Would a microchip help in these situations? (Lucky) Star and Steve, Grey Lynn.
Hi Steve, great effort in getting her back, you covered all your options really well. It’s shocking to hear that this type of theft is common practice for some idiots. I would still emphasise that it is still a good idea for all pets to be wearing a pet tag on their collar with your contact number.
The vast majority of missing pets can then be returned by honest people with a heart. Micro chipping obviously helps in situations like this where theft has occurred, or where tags have been lost. The grain of rice sized chip sits under the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades and carries a one-off individual code.
Any vet or animal shelter will have a scanner to read this number and thereby retrieve all your contact details from a central registry. A micro-chip would have allowed you and the police to prove a theft had occurred. Chipping is planned to become compulsory for all new dog registrations from this April this year to clarify dog ownership issues.
I would strongly recommend getting this done by an accredited vet clinic with the most up to date chips and that are part of the Australasian wide registry organization. The chips can be inserted with local anaesthetic or during a general for some other procedure, neutering being an opportune time.
Multi Pet Households
It sounds like you have a fantastic menagerie at your house. I can envisage a place that Gerald Durrell, the exceptional naturalist and explorer, would be proud to call home.
Let’s take it from the beginning. Top marks for your families love of animals, and for the plan to save a life by adopting from the SPCA. I’m betting that the Border Collie would be fine, she is just exhibiting instinctive territorial aggression in guarding “her” section from cunning marauding cats, and probably enjoys the mental tussle with them.
A cat introduced as part of the family shouldn’t trigger this response. A kitten would be a safer option for introduction to a multi-pet household, not having learnt any fear of dogs and adult cats previously, and therefore being less likely to run and trigger a chase response from your bitch.
A kitten is also less likely to cause competitive aggression from either of your cats. It sounds as though the queen would be unlikely to do anything other than eat more, and then grow correspondingly. I’m assuming the jealous tom is neutered as not doing this would have lead to some spectacular disasters long before this. He would be the main problem.
There would be a real possibility of him attacking a new cat, and damaging a little kitten. If this did not occur the chance of him starting to spray inside or just taking off completely is pretty high. Households with 3 or more cats are much more likely to have to endure any number of these behavioural problems.
The bottom line is you wouldn’t know until you tried, but it could create some real stress amongst the three cats and their human servants. The Border Collie would just get on with being super smart and taking the world one day at a time. Good luck juggling everything, Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Alex. I want some advice please about my Blue Heeler “Jazz”. She was a rescue dog that I’ve had for 6 months now and she has fitted in just so well at our home, she’s a real joy. However, despite quickly becoming part of the family she is still very jumpy and over reactive to sudden movements and loud noises, even though nothing bad ever happens to her these days. She particularly hates when we take off in the car, leaving her by herself. What can we do to improve things with Jazz having had such a hard start to life? Jess, St Mary’s Bay.
Hi Jess and Jazz. Great work giving this lucky Blue Heeler a happy home, it’s crazy and very frustrating to think of her previous owners not being able to do that when we all know how much pets unconditionally give back to us. Unfortunately there will now always be some permanence to the mental scars that formed as she was growing up. Love and attention is obviously making a big difference but also make sure you set very firm boundaries for her. Boundaries make dogs feel more secure. Being a pack animal dogs want to be very clear about their role, even if that role may be right at the bottom of the order! If they know clearly where they are at all times they won’t waste anxious energy trying to be anything else. They get security from very clear and consistent signals, training and commands.
You can also try de-sensitising her to some of her stress triggers. The process involves breaking these cues down and reward her for not reacting to each step. Make sure you have good basic commands and training in place firstly then you can begin. Start with jingling the car keys and reward her for sitting calmly. Lying down is even better as it’s a very passive state and it’s pretty hard for any dog to be moving around much nervously while in this pose. Next add walking into the carport starting the car engine then turning it off and giving her a treat for staying down.
Similarly you can expose her to an ever increasingly loud or dramatic noise and reward her for sitting or lying calmly. At the same time maximise the enrichment of her home environment with play toys stuffed with biscuits, chews, and radio to allow her to amuse herself more when you guys are all out. It takes time and effort but will lessen the anxiety reaction. Best wishes with your continued re-programming efforts, keep up the great work. Kind regards Dr Alex Melrose.
We have a 14 year old Miniature Pinscher. Some noises have recently started making him behave as though they are painful to him, or upset him in some way - when we cough (have both just had the flu), when the TV is on (he used to sleep almost in front of it and now leaves the room), the car radio (he cowers in the corner of the back seat until I turn it off).
Sam appears otherwise healthy, and is on Vivitonin 1/4 tablet twice daily and still barks at anyone with the audacity to walk along the road, and helpfully lets us know loudly if the phone rings. Thanks, Hope you can give us some ideas,
Hi Sue. First of all I think Sam needs a thorough ear examination (sometimes requiring sedation) to look at any possible changes to his ear drums. A blood screen would be next to search for internal diseases which are recognized as sometimes causing behavioural changes.
Liver and kidney function deterioration, and endocrine diseases such as Cushings, have all been shown to induce some pretty strange actions from pets. All of these can also cause Alzheimer Type II degenerative changes over time in cat and dog brains.
If tests give the all clear then I would trial bringing him off the Vivitonin. It is a drug which dilates microvasculature in the brain, usually to good effect in senior animals. I wonder if in this case its central neurological effects are altering his processing of sound signals.
Another potential cause could be high calorie; high protein diets precluding Sam to a more easily excitable state. If there have been any changes in his diet lately, or he is on some pretty rich food I would try some good quality, low cal, “senior” dog food.
Unfortunately, right at the more sinister end of the scale, noise sensitivity is also commonly associated with brain masses. I hope that there is a simple remedy to help Sam with his unusual situation, kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Alex. We have two wicked Burmese brothers who are about 1 and 1/2 yrs old. One of them, Charlie has a huge “meow”. Every time he walks in to a room he yowls. It is piercing and it is real loud! It is worse at meal time but not isolated to then. Is there anything we can do to train him out of this or is it just part and parcel of him? Basically, do we have to endure many years to come of him howling at six am every day? Cheers in advance, Ra and Charlie.
Hi Ra. The honest answer is that you will never “train” that aspect of his personality right out of him, it’s too inherent to him as an individual. He’s announcing his presence to the world. While my Burmese aren’t too loud we have a lot of clients with very loud Siamese (The Yodelling champions of the cat world) so you are not alone. Here’s a few things you can try to reduce the force and frequency with which Charlie expresses this part of his big character.
A plug-in Feliway pheromone diffuser will help to reduce any anxiety triggers. Rotate lots of toys so there is always something "new" to keep both of them entertained, these oriental breeds of cats need lots of play! Provide a specific relaxation place for him, such as his own cubby with a pet electric blanket. This can help some cats settle snugly for the night. You may be accidently reinforcing the yowls by feeding him straight away at meal times. Instead stick to the meal times it suits you to offer, and “reward” his demands by forcing him to take some time-out instead.
Also ensure that you don't reward the vocalisation with attention, i.e. ignore him totally when he is acting like that (this can be challenging!). Sometimes, if people are being driven bonkers we will use a low dose of a valium (on the cat) followed by a highly digestible meal, so he doesn't cry from hunger after dosing , given right at bedtime, again to help him sleep through. Over time it’s possible to reduce the dose and wean him off. Keep me posted. Kind regards Dr. Alex Melrose.
Hi Dr Alex, my beautiful Chihuahua is about to become a first-time mother! We mated her several times over 3 days, about 1 month ago and since then she’s been growing steadily and eating for many. As this is a first time experience for me also I was hoping you could offer some advice on what to do to get Ruby ready for the big day. Thank you for any assistance, Eliza and Ruby, Grey Lynn.
Hi Eliza, so Ruby has 5 weeks to go, exciting stuff. Just to differentiate the pregnancy from a false one, or a case of food-worship, I suggest a simple blood test to confirm her condition. This test is accurate from 3 and ½ weeks into gestation.
Ruby will require regular de-worming and flea control while she is pregnant, with parasite control products that are safe to use during this critical time. A bitch in good physical condition will have fewer problems delivering her pups so Ruby will benefit from regular exercise.
Weight control is important because more delivery problems are seen in overweight dogs, so allow her to put on some extra condition but don’t overdo it. Switch her onto high-quality balanced puppy formula dog food. Its higher calcium and protein content will assist foetal development and milk production.
Gradually increase the amount of food during pregnancy so your dog’s caloric intake reaches 1.5 times its normal amount. You may need to offer several small meals each day as pregnancy reduces the amount of food her stomach can hold. During pregnancy, you may notice vaginal discharges.
Occasional mucus discharge is normal. If the discharge contains fresh blood or pus, contact us immediately because it could indicate serious complications. A few weeks before delivery, carefully select a safe and secluded area and provide a cut-down box with an edge that your dog can deliver her puppies in.
Allow Ruby to become used to it. And line the box with washable rugs or blankets to give puppies good footing for nursing and crawling, which helps their legs and feet develop properly. You should also examine her mammary glands regularly.
Firm or painful mammary glands may indicate mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland which requires immediate treatment. Swing in with Ruby shortly and we will confirm her condition and grab the best food and parasite treatments for her
Dear Alex, We have an interesting case for you that I hope you can help with. We’ve got a much loved 10 year old Dalmatian, Samson. He has been diagnosed with separation anxiety a few years ago, which we’ve so far managed to live with.
Over the last few days he is seeing or feeling imaginary things on the bed where he sleeps and will now freak out over all kinds of things that don’t seem to be there. Yesterday he walked safely past our coffee table and then turned and snapped at it like it had attacked him or something and got stressed out. Wondering if you have any ideas? I thought he may be starting to lose his sight? He doesn’t seem disorientated and isn’t on any medication at all. Jody, Mt Eden.
Hi Jody. Good thought with the failing eyesight but if he was that easily fooled by shapes around him (which does happen) he would be bumping into things left, right and centre even when just walking down the hallway. Sometimes pain will cause a sudden change of behaviour with aggression as you have described but again their typically would be other signs and clues to this such as changes in stance or reluctance to jump up.
When pain is located in the spine it is especially hard for animals to localise and they can behave as though being attacked by an invisible foe. A careful examination at our clinic will confirm, or rule this out for sure. Certainly the separation anxiety is possibly involved and his natural high levels of adrenalin and proclivity to easily becoming stressed may be a factor in his condition, but not a recognised cause.
There are some very interesting seizure type conditions that cause dogs to see things that aren’t there, typically “imaginary flies”. The other possibility on our list for Samson is a vascular incident triggering these new behaviours, a type of stroke. As you can see Jody, we’ve got a lot of diagnosing to do when we examine him but I’m sure whatever becomes apparent we will be able to help you both. Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
I have 3 cats in our household. Two are 4 year olds who arrived in May last year. Since their arrival the female of this pair has been very aggressive to our older female cat. She has frequently urinated through the house and attacked the older cat making her life miserable. Last June I began using a Feliway diffuser which gave good results. It is now not as affective and the young cat is again becoming aggressive. Do you have any advice?
Hi, the Feliway is an excellent pheromonal spray and will improve cat misbehaviour in 95% of cases. When the initial triggers of the bad behaviour haven’t been removed it’s often not enough on its own. Keep using it, focus in spots where the aggressor spends the most time.
I would also add a naturopathic calming product like Sedapet or Biopet to the cat’s water daily. Retraining options follow two paths. Firstly you could make the new, aggressive dominant cat feel more secure in her position at the top.
Try separating the older cat’s bed, food and water bowls to another area of the house. Ensure the new female gets tons of attention whenever the older cat is around and that it receives unlimited, preferred food on demand to reduce competition.
The flipside to this would be to try to reduce dominance in the cat. This is difficult. Cut her nails. A water-pistol can be employed every time she shows any aggression and a course of Clomicalm tablets will often assist in breaking undesirable behavioural patterns.
Time-out can work with some individual cats; usually those who value human contact the most. Like any retraining it must be immediate and consistent. This unhappy dynamic is very common in households with three or more cats and re-homing, despite understandable reluctance, can sometimes be the only option
Spraying Spayed Female Cat
Dear Cindy and Samantha,
First let’s deal with the possibility of Samantha being on heat. Naturally, in a spayed cat this is very rare. Occasionally cats can have tiny pieces of an ovary accidentally left behind during their ovariohysterectomy.
Even less common are recorded instances of cats with ectopic ovarian tissue, tags of ovary and its associated eggs located away from their normal position at the end of the uterine horn. Both of these situations are highly unlikely and Samantha is more likely to just be displaying excited or anxious behaviour.
As you have correctly implied it is unusual for cats, especially for females, to spray after they have been neutered. However, approximately 5% of them will still do it at certain times. They are spraying small volumes of urine, primarily to mark their territory, usually against vertical surfaces or edges.
Anxiety is usually the trigger for cats to start to spray. Samantha is probably attempting to ward other cats away from her territory and to reassure herself. The pheremones carried in her urine have a powerful calming effect on her. Essentially she is trying to tell herself that everything is o.k.
Of course in her mind it may not be and to stop any cat spraying we need to identify the stressor, such as a neighbouring cat coming in through a cat door. Then we can take steps like getting a magnetic cat door installed to allow only Samantha to pass in and out. Veterinary pheremonal sprays and plug in diffusers are helpful in treating these problems.
Occasionally we will even use anti anxiety tablets to temporarily reduce stress levels and help break bad habits.
Let’s work on reducing Samantha’s stress levels, Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Alex. We have an 11 month old kitten – Chappie, who looks a lot like your rescue cat Whitefoot. This is Chappie's story. He was born around this time last year, we found him in the rain.
Chappie weighed only 240g, and was dying. We gave him kitten milk formula and just like Whitefoot Chappie never gave up! We put him in a warm cat bed and with A LOT of TLC Chappie is one happy cat … despite having one eye blind. We recently decided to adopt another stray.
We got Patrick from where he lived at a cat foster home with 7 other kittens. He is about 6 months old and very friendly. Our problem is that now Chappie doesn't want to sleep inside the house or even come in to eat. At night we have to get him, lock him in our bedroom and put his food next to his sleeping basket, kind of like room service.
We let Patrick outside at night and mornings and the two play and chase each other happily on the grass. How can we get Chappie to accept him inside as well? Kind Regards, Whitefoot fan.
Hi, wow what a great story. I guess in hindsight Chappie feels his space has been invaded. It's a great start that they get on outside where he feels less cornered. His reduced eye sight would predispose him to some lack of confidence.
I think it’s a similar occurrence to many dogs being much more friendly to other dogs when off-lead, but then getting their heckles up when they are on-lead, feeling boxed in.
Because he hasn’t mellowed by himself after a couple of weeks I would shut Chappie inside with Patrick and a separate litter tray, non-stop for 1-2 weeks. With no inter-cat aggression present I think this is a safe option, basically forcibly pushing Chappie to be constantly reinforced that contrary to his fears, he’s not in any danger when in a confined space.
Anti-anxiety products like Feliway and Clomicalm would help smooth this process.
I have an eight year old Bearded Collie, Max. I have recently discovered that he loves to watch dog shows and vet programmes on television! I have often wondered how dogs see, and how they take in information. What is he responding to? Does he see the same image as us humans? I’m curious and would love to know more.
Alan Chambers of Freeman’s Bay.
Contrary to popular belief Max is in fact taking in a lot of visual information while he watches your T.V. He is probably also responding to the noises of the animals.
Dog’s like Max can see some colour. They see colours in the blue spectrum pretty well but are red-green colour blind having only 2 types of cone cells at the back of their eye, compared with humans who possess three types of cone, and at 10 times the density.
Their ability to see fine detail is estimated to be about 1/6th that of ours, lacking a fovea which is an area of the retina consisting of 100% cones that all people have. This gives them acuity of about 20/75 vision, meaning they will see an object from 20 metres away as well as a human standing 75 metres away.
They are much more adept at detecting movement and focus well on the edges and outlines of the animals they’re watching on the screen which is important considering so much of dog social interaction relies on postural movements.
Certain breeds such as Labradors have better eyesight than others. Instead of a fovea all dogs have a tapetum, which is a reflective area of the eye which boosts the brightness of light hitting the retina. They also have more rods at the rear of their eye than we do and these two features allow much better night vision.
They can’t judge distances as well as us, due to a more lateral position of their eyes but they have better peripheral vision.
Cats see a little more range of colour in the blue, green and yellow spectrums when compared with Max, but see very little reds. They have better depth judgment in the nearsighted range, see similar definition as humans and have even better night vision than their canine friends, aided by their elliptical, faster adjusting pupil.
Cats process visual information much faster than the rest of us and to their eyes older 50 Hz television sets will usually appear to be flickering. They would much prefer to watch a set with a 100 Hz picture frame rate.
I guess to help Max enjoy his viewing you should turn the brightness right down and pick out shows with lots of fast moving action scenes where everyone is wearing blue or stripes. I’m thinking a prison show, the smurfs or some underwater 007 scenes would be the go.
Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
Training an Adult Dog
Dear Dr Alex,
I need your help so much. A friend has moved to Europe to live and she gave me her 12 year old King Charles spaniel to keep. My first problem is that she won’t come when you call her. When I take her for a walk I can’t let her off the lead as she wanders off and ignores being called back.
My second problem is that if it’s fine she goes in and out her dog-door to the toilet with no problems. If it has been raining she would rather do her business somewhere inside which is most annoying. I am very house proud and with winter coming I need your help badly. What can I do? Thanking you, Cindy, Freeman’s Bay.
It’s fantastic that you have provided a loving home for this gentle little breed of Spaniel. One of the most common difficulties for any pet owner taking in an adult dog is the inheritance of pre-existing behavioural difficulties.
“Old” dogs can be taught new tricks but require a lot more commitment to get results than in a puppy. Central to retraining is the establishment of what are the particular rewards that motivate each animal. For some it is attention from favorite owners, for most King Charles it clearly is food.
I can attest to this having once had a 32kg Cavalier brought in to me, an atrocious scenario considering their target weights are around 10kg. He couldn’t even walk halfway to the letter box until we started a regular program of exercise and restricted diet. For training purposes a strong food motivation is a blessing. Let’s tackle the first problem of not returning back to you when called.
Get hold of some dried liver treats and keep a plastic bag of those in you pocket at all times. Don’t put them through the wash! Initially I would start the training at home. Call her to you in a super happy clear tone and then when she comes to you immediately give her a small piece of treat and make a big fuss. As she improves her returning, because you have upped the stakes for her to do so, you can gradually increase the distance between you and gradually apply the same training to her when you are off your section. Initially make sure you reward her every single time you call her.
After several weeks or months of training you will be able to reduce the frequency of the rewards. Also make sure not to use the same command prior to confining her, or putting her to bed. If you are going to do that then just go and grab her. You must not associate the call command with any negative experience, similarly if she has a relapse don’t tell her off when she finally comes back, just start again.
We can apply similar knowledge to your second problem. Every time she has eaten or drunk, first and last thing in the day, and whenever she gives you any signals like circling or vocalizing, physically pick her up and take her outside to do her business.
Stay out there with her. Choose one particular spot, and give her a single word command if you wish (“widdles” seems to be popular). Reward her immediately with a treat when she has been. Do this very time, even when it’s dry. Raising the stakes like this will get her over her mild discomfort of walking on the damp ground.If there is one particular room or area of the home where she has been going you should try to shut off or block access to this and make sure you have cleaned and neutralized the smell thoroughly. All the best with her and please let me know how you go