Ask The Vet

Your Questions Answered by Veterinary Surgeon Christina Diaz-Madronero, PgC(SAD) MVB MRCVS RCVS.

Cristina came to speak with us at CRUFTS dog show. She is devoted to dog welfare and health and wanted to know more about Tuffies. Cristina has now tried and tested Tuffies beds. As a canine specialist we asked her to answer some relevant questions that we are often asked by our customers and we are delighted to have real expert advice here. Here are the Q & As:

Arthritis:  My dog has signs of arthritis. What is the most important feature to look out for when I buy him a dog bed?

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a progressive and chronic condition that affects most dogs as they grow older. However, it can also occur at various ages depending on previous injuries, infections, type of breed, lifestyle and genetic makeup.

 Dog’s joints have three parts: bones, cartilage and synovial fluid. The bony parts of the joints are covered by a lining of cartilage that acts as a cushion and facilitates the smooth movement of the joints aided by the synovial fluid (lubricant). Due the daily wear and tear, the cartilage starts degenerating over time, leading to friction between the bony parts of the joint and causing inflammation and pain. With time, new bone formation occurs, making these joints thickened and less flexible, and restricting the range of movement and affecting the dog’s mobility as it hurts them when they move.

 Dogs are stoic creatures by nature. Generally, they tend to cope well with the first stages of OA, but as the latter becomes worse, it can affect their quality of life dramatically. Some of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  •   Consistent licking on the joint/s affected.
  •   Altered sleep patterns.
  •   Discomfort/pain when raising after being asleep.
  •   Stiffness and muscle weakness.
  •   Reluctance to run, play, climbs stairs.
  •   Slowing down when on a walk or stopping and wanting to go back home.
  •   Occasional or permanent lameness.
  •   Difficulty in finding a comfortable position when resting.
  •   Pain/heat in the affected joint/s.
  •   Change in personality (grumpy when previously affectionate)


If you are concerned that your dog is displaying some or all of these symptoms, please go to your Vet for advice. Your Vet will perform a thorough clinical and orthopaedic examination and might suggest further tests to rule out other causes of pain and lameness. X-rays are the most common method to rule out the latter and diagnose OA, although in occasions, more advance imaging techniques such as CT, MRI etc., are necessary to reach this diagnosis.

 If your dog has been diagnosed with OA unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are various treatments that, when used in combination, will help your dog to be able to better cope with this condition:

 •    Anti-inflammatories and painkillers: OA can cause severe pain when in the advance stages, and some dogs will need long-term medication to help them maintain a good qualityof life. Please discuss with your Vet a long-term management plan to monitor for possible side effects and manage this condition safely.

 •    Weight control: Often underestimated, optimal weight can slow down the progression and reduce the pain associated with OA.

 •    Exercise: Gentle and regular exercise tailored to each patient, can help to control your dog’s weight, keep them fit and reduce joint stiffness.

 •    Joint supplements: Glucosamine, chondroitin and green lip mussel have been clinically proven to protect the lining of the joint and help to slow down its progressive degeneration. There are a large variety of products in the markets of different qualities and strengths. Please do your research and ask your Vet for advice.

 •    Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods and supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids provide an additional natural anti-inflammatory action that is beneficial to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with this condition.

 •    Physio/ Hydrotherapy: These treatment modalities are very useful in preserving and building the muscle mass and supporting the joints in the process.

 •    Surgery: This option is only considered in specific cases, and when all previous therapies have failed to improve the patient’s quality of life.

 Additionally, if your dog suffers from OA, there are a few things you can do at home to help them out. These will include regular short walks, using rugs, carpets or non-slip mats around your home to help their grip when they walk and using bedding made with a thick and supportive mattress that is kind to the joints. As we all know, a night of restful sleep does make one feel like a million dollars!

 For more information on this subject and lots of additional tips, please check



My dog is very elderly and is beginning to become incontinent. What can I do to make his and my life easier?

  • The urinary tract in dogs has of four parts: the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and the urethra. Canine urinary incontinence can be explained as the involuntary passing of urine. Your dog could become incontinent due to various conditions which could present at different stages of their life. Some of them include:
  • Hormone-responsive: This occurs in some neutered pets of both sexes. The urination pattern can be considered normal, but they leak urine while asleep or resting. It can happen years after your dog has been neutered.
  • Urinary Infections: A urinary tract infection (or UTI) is commonly caused by bacteria growing inside the urinary tract, usually in the bladder. This can lead to pain and discomfort and an urge to urinate in the case of acute infections, to frequent urination due to long-standing damage to the bladder lining in those cases affected by chronic infections. It can be confused with incontinence, but in these cases, your dog will be conscious that it is urinating at all times.
  • Ectopic ureters: The ureters are very fine tubes that carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder. If during the embryo development, one or both of the ureters bypass the bladder and abnormally connect to other organs (such as the urethra or the vagina), your dog may dribble urine regularly. It is commonly seen in puppies, particularly females, and young dogs and can be solved with surgery.
  • Blockage; A partial blockage of the urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to the outside) by a stone or tumour, can lead to the bladder being so dilated that the urine will be forced to flow around the blockage by pressure, leading to urine leakage and an absence of a normal urination pattern. This is a real veterinary emergency and can have fatal consequences if not attended to immediately.
  • Age-related incontinence: Usually, as dogs grow older, their bladder control tends to deteriorate due to weakening of the sphincter muscles that hold the urine in the bladder, leading in some occasions to wet their bedding. This occurrence is usual in older dogs and can be aggravated by those additionally suffering from senility.

As you can see, there are many reasons why a dog can suffer from incontinence throughout their life. If your dog is elderly, please take them to your Vet to have a full clinical examination to rule out other conditions, such as an UTI or partial blockages. Having a thick and supportive mattress that is easily wipeable or that can be washed frequently will make them feel more comfortable and help to maintain hygienic conditions.

From Tuffies: Our Wipe Clean products will satisfy the need for easy cleaning. The mattress style bed are the easiest to clean on a regular basis as they simply hose off and can be towel dried:
The Wipe Clean Nest is also practical, but not quite as quick to clean as the mattress:

My dog has allergies. How can I eliminate allergens as much as possible from his environment, especially in terms of his bedding?

Allergy, also known as hypersensitivity, occurs when the immune system does not recognise harmless substances, such as pollens and certain types of proteins, and launches an attack towards them. The body reacts in various ways, ranging from an acute and immediate reaction within minutes (hives) to delayed reactions observed within hours or days. Anaphylactic shock, the most acute and critical response, it is a real emergency as can be life-threatening, but fortunately is rarely seen in animals.

The most common sign observed in pets suffering from allergies is pruritus (itchiness). Other symptoms include skin inflammation and redness, ear disease, conjunctivitis and gastrointestinal problems amongst many others. Pruritus can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual. Pruritus can be worsened by the self-trauma caused by the sufferer, trying to relieve the intense itchiness leading to additional trauma to the skin. Additionally, pets suffering from allergies are prone to develop secondary skin infections, which will intensify the pruritus, making their life a misery.


What are and where can these allergens be found?

Environmental allergens are everywhere, and they vary in nature and concentration throughout the year. Some pets are sensitised to allergens that are typically found in higher levels during the winter, such as moulds or house dust mites, and they are ok during the summer. Others, react to allergens typically present during the spring and summer, such as pollens, and are ok in the winter. Sadly, a large percentage of pets are sensitised to all of them and suffer from clinical signs all year round. Because of the latter, treatment to address the clinical signs can vary depending on if their presentation is seasonal or occurs continuously throughout the year.

So, how can you minimise your pet’s exposure to these allergens?

Allergen avoidance can be a useful tool for some pets suffering from allergies. However, preventing exposure to these allergens is more complicated than it sounds. In particular, if your dog’s allergy symptoms are caused by exposure to environmental allergens, this can be particularly difficult, because pollens are ubiquitous. However, if house dust mites have been found to be the main culprit, there are a few things that can easily be done at home to reduce the house dust mite burden and ease your pet’s discomfort. These will include:

  • Choose a bed made with tightly woven covers or human-made materials. These types of materials will help to maintain a hygienic environment and prevent mite penetration, therefore, helping to minimise exposure to the allergen overall.
  • Ventilate your house daily to reduce humidity build-up.
  • Intense-vacuuming flooring and dusting at least once weekly.
  • Regular washing of flooring and adjacent surfaces. Steam-cleaning can be useful in reducing the house dust mites’ numbers in the environment.
  • Wash toys at 60C regularly. If this is not possible, place if the freezer for 48 hr to kill mites.
  • If possible, keep your dog out of bedrooms as this is where the highest house dust mite levels can be found.

Allergic skin disease is complex and no single treatment is perfect, being a multimodal approach the best way to manage this condition. Allergy is a lifelong disease and sadly, can’t be cured. However, learning how to manage this condition long term can make a big difference to your pet’s quality of life. I would encourage you to discuss with your vet all the available treatment options and help to keep your pet as comfortable as possible through their lifetime.

From Tuffies: Our Wipe Clean products will satisfy the need for easy cleaning and the impenetrable surface of this fabric means that house dust mites cannot hide or breed in the material. The mattress style bed are the easiest to clean on a regular basis as they simply hose off and can be towel dried:
The Wipe Clean Nest is also practical, but not quite as quick to clean as the mattress:

My dog chews and ate a piece of the bedding. This cost me a fortune in an operation. How can I avoid this happening again?

Chewing is a natural dog behaviour. Dogs usually chew their treats and in cases some toys, which helps them to relax and feel content. However, some dogs become obsessed with this behaviour and, consequently, can become destructive, being the bedding one of their main targets.

The obsessive chewing behaviour can, on occasions, have fatal consequences if one or various pieces of the chewed object are swollen. In some cases, and depending on the size and nature of the material, the object can move along the gastrointestinal tract and come out without causing lasting damage. However, on some occasions, the object gets lodged into the small parts of the intestine. When this happens, the object can initially cause a myriad of gastrointestinal signs, from vomiting to severe abdominal pain, eventually leading to a rupture of the gut with fatal consequences if the blockage is not attended to immediately.

If you feel your dog has become an obsessive chewer, there are a few things you could do that can help to minimise this behaviour. These would include identifying any possible stressors that can lead them to destroy their beds (and moving the bed to a different and much calmer place in the house), to increase their daily exercise, and using synthetic pheromone products and indestructible food-stuffed toys to keep them occupied when you are away.

It is also advisable to discuss this issue with your trusted vet to rule out any possible physical causes of their behaviour, such as change of dentition, and consider referral to a qualified canine behaviourist if simple measures don’t help to resolve the issue. In the interim, using a bed that is made using a durable, thick-woven and virtually unbreakable material, will reduce the chance that your dog can chew and destroy it, preventing health problems and saving you money in replacing their dog bed regularly.

From Tuffies: Dogs that chew are somewhere on the scale from true crocodiles to just the occasional chewer. If you have a real croc, you may like to know that at Tuffies we produce the only insulated, soft, guaranteed chewproof bed on the market:

If your dog is just an occasional chewer or a dedicated digger and scratcher, our Durasoft products may be enough to stop you finding any more destroyed beds. The Durasoft is a 1000 Denier Texturised Nylon, which is the toughest material available. Although not guaranteed chewproof, many customers have found it to be the solution:


The New Pet Parent Book is an educational guide, compiling the most common questions new pet parents may have when they welcome a dog to their family for the first time. Cristina's aim is providing new pet parents with the knowledge necessary to give them their best care, without having to spend countless hours surfing the web and wondering what is the best thing to do!

Through various topics, and from a veterinary perspective and fellow pet owner, Cristina provides the reader friendly, honest, accurate, and non-biased advice just as if they were talking to their Veterinarian as a family friend.


Take a look at her new book "The New Pet Parent Book"