How healthy is your dogs heart?

heart-disease-common-signs_enIt is estimated that heart problems can affect around 10% of all dogs in the UK. Some heart diseases may be present when the animal is born (congenital), however the majority of heart disease in dogs will develop in their adult years, with some breeds more likely to develop heart disease than others. The two most common types of heart disease we see in dogs are; Dilated cardiomyopathy and degenerative mitral valve disease. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle; the heart muscle becomes thinner and loses its pumping ability, this is most commonly seen in larger breeds. Degenerative mitral valve disease is the most common heart disease we see and is more commonly seen in smaller breeds. In this type of heart disease, the mitral valve in the heart changes shape and starts to leak which causes a heart murmur; this can be minor to start with but can develop into congestive heart failure over time. It is estimated that 90% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s have heart disease by the time they are 10 years old, 50% of boxers, Dobermans and Pinschers will by middle age develop heart disease and all small breeds of dog have a 75% chance of developing heart disease during their lifetime.

Signs of heart disease can include; coughing, fainting, collapse or hind limb weakness, a swollen abdomen due to a build-up of fluid, poor appetite, weight loss, no energy for exercise, laboured breathing and the gums may appear paler in colour. If you notice your dog showing any of these signs then contact your veterinary practice for a consultation with the vet, who may conduct further tests to work out if heart disease is the problem; with early diagnosis most dogs can carry on for many years with medications and regular check-ups. Even for dogs who are not routinely seen by the vet for vaccinations should ideally have a check-up with the vet annually, so heart disease and other health problems can be diagnosed and treated early to keep your dog living a long, healthy and happy life.

Seasonal Canine Illness

autumnWe have seen rising cases over the last few years of what appears to be ‘Seasonal Canine Illness’ in dogs during the months of August through to November. Although the cause is not yet known we do know that these dogs have been walked in woodland. Most of the cases are seen in our Bourne practice and a few these dogs had been walked in Bourne woods and Sandringham a few days before clinical signs were present – usually 24-72 hours.

Dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes can be affected by this mystery illness and sadly this can prove fatal in some dogs, especially those with compromised immune systems and the older or very young dog.

Clinical signs mainly include vomiting, diarrhoea, trembling, loss of appetite and lethargy; if you notice this in any dog especially one that has been walked in woodland then please do contact your veterinary practice immediately. There have been far less fatal cases of this in the last couple of years as people are hearing more about it and becoming more aware of the urgency to seek medical advice.

With the correct treatment which can sometimes involve a hospital stay; most dogs will recover well within a few days with intravenous fluid therapy and drugs to control the vomiting and diarrhoea, this sometimes takes about a week but sometimes a bit longer depending on the individual dog.

The Animal Health Trust in Newmarket has been conducting research into this illness for the last few years and we hope that soon they may be a step closer to finding out how we can prevent this. Until then if you are walking your dogs in woodland please keep a close eye on them and watch that they don’t pick anything up to consume. As we don’t know if this could be from a mite picked up in these areas it is a good idea to use a preventative topical preparation against mites, fleas and ticks; please contact your vet to be prescribed the best product for this.

For any further information please contact your veterinary practice to have a chat with a vet or a veterinary nurse.

Cat charities estimate 4.3m kittens born in UK this year!

kittens augIt’s kitten season again and we have had a few babies so far this summer bought into the practice after being found outside alone. It is so important to neuter your cats especially at this time of year when the females are in season and the males are out an about all the time. A female cat can give birth to around 5 kittens each time she has a litter and these kittens will next year also have kittens of their own if they are not spayed and castrated.

Most vets keep the cost of their neutering to a minimum to encourage owners to spay and castrate, there is also some help available through charities towards the cost if you are on benefits; this is not usually through the vets so you would need to contact them directly.

The procedure for both males and females is very quick; they are usually in and out of the vets on the same day. For males the procedure involves removing both of the testicles and he doesn’t tend to need stitches so after being kept in for a couple of days, he will usually be back to normal very quickly. For females the surgery is slightly more invasive and involves removing the uterus and ovaries, this is done by a small incision in the flank (side) of the cat but some vets prefer to make their incision on the underside of the abdomen. A small amount of fur clipped around where the incision will be made and some stitches will be in place, these are usually dissolvable but some vets still use non dissolvable stitches; these will then need to be removed in about 10 days. The females need to be kept indoors ideally until her stitches are removed and her exercise will need to restricted for a few days too.

Cats recover very well from these procedures and are usually much happier and healthier cats afterwards. For more information please contact your veterinary practice.

Stray Dogs

The law came into force in April 2016 that all dogs from the age of 8 weeks of age must be microchipped and the owner’s details must be up to date on the database that holds the microchip number for the dog. Ideally the breeder of the dog should be arranging to have their litter microchipped before homing them and their details should be the first details added to the microchip. The new owner will then add their details to the microchip as the ‘keeper’ of the dog.
We are still seeing a lot of dogs who are not chipped and having a few dogs handed into us as strays; without a microchip it can sometimes be hard to quickly trace their owners. When a stray dog is presented to our surgery we have a duty of care to that dog and we do our best to try and find the owners quickly. We feel that keeping the dog under our care is best in most circumstances as letting the dog leave again with a member of the public has in the past caused issues. If the owner of the dog comes to the surgery and we have let their pet go then rightly they will question why this was the case. Although it is lovely when people do want to take stray dogs home with them, they may not be easy to contact when the owners come forward, the dog may escape from their homes or something could happen to that dog accidently while in their care and ultimately if this happened the owners would be unhappy that we had let that dog leave the premises. If the dog is kept at the surgery for collection our staff can then microchip the dog when the owners come forward to avoid this happening again. We do understand that when a member of the public finds a stray dog they may be unhappy about leaving the dog at the surgery but we do feel this is the best for the dog and for the owner, if the owner doesn’t come forward and the person who presented the dog to the surgery wanted to take the dog home then we hand their details over to the dog warden and they are usually happy to arrange this. They have in the past carried out house visits so this can happen; this has to be a decision made by our local authorities and not by us as vets.
To avoid all this from happening and to avoid the possibility of a fine up to £500, please microchip your dogs!

The other side of the table

horseSeveral weeks ago one of our horses , an Arab called Sunflower, was diagnosed with sarcoids. She had quite a few of varying sizes in her pelvic and upper leg area . Sarcoids are common tumours in horses and are generally benign but can be locally invasive . One of these tumours was quite large and was getting bigger . In consultation with our horse vet we decided to have these masses removed by laser. This would require a sedation and a trip to the horse hospital.

As is the case for many people , this horse is very special to us, she really communicates and interacts with us and is very open to people. She had a fantastic upbringing at the stud that bred and backed her which has resulted in a horse that is not at all sceptical about any of life’s experiences.

We now had to hand our beautiful horse over to our vet and entrust her to his care. This reminded me that my clients do the same with me every day and the enormous responsibility that this is. Every animal I treat is somebodies special pet that we have to treat to the best of our ability .

We were very anxious during the wait for the surgery (we stayed with her before and after her operation ) and while she was being operated on. I have seen this same anxiety on the faces of my clients as the have waited for their pets surgery, now it was my turn.

All went well with her surgery and is now beginning to heal, she made it clear that this was painful for the first week and we had to extend her pain relief. Even though the treatment was needed we still felt upset that we had put her through all of this, which is a sentiment that many people feel after any traumatic surgery.

This whole experience has reinforced my understanding of what my clients experience when they entrust their pets to our practice.

(Photo for illustration purposes only)

Looking after our pets in the warmer weather

Heat stroke dogDuring the lovely weather we have been experiencing it is really important that we remember how the weather affects our pets. Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans; they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. In the hot weather please keep dogs cool, we don’t advise walking them until the weather has cooled down in the evenings and even then if it’s still quite warm then only short walks are advised. In the day time if you are outside with your dogs then have a paddling pool out for them to cool down and make sure there is plenty of space available in the shade. Temperatures in dogs vary but usually anything above 39 degrees Celsius is abnormal and organ failure can occur at around 41 degrees.

Signs of heat stroke or hyperthermia may include panting, salivation, a reddening of the gums, rapid heart rate, collapse, vomiting, muscle tremors and vomiting. If you are concerned that a dog may be suffering from heat stroke then it’s very important to get to your vet as soon as possible, wrap the dog in cool wet towels to try and lower the temperature on the way. Never leave dogs in cars on hot days, the temperature in a stationary car can get very high in a very short space of time, although it’s common knowledge not to do this sadly a few people still do. If you see a dog left in a car that you feel is in distress then call 999.

Dogs are not the only animals that can suffer in the heat, all animals can overheat and our small furies must not be forgotten about. Rabbits and guinea pigs living outside should have their cages moved into the shade and wrap their water bottles in something to keep them cool. A blanket can be used to put over the cage to keep them out of the sun and if they are in a run then again there should be plenty of space for them in the shade.

White cats can be prone to sunburn on the tips of their ears so you can use a little bit of sun cream as protection if they are out and about. Cats are usually quite good at regulating their temperature and will find shade when they are hot but they should be monitored and if they are showing any signs of heat stroke then immediately contact your vet and try and cool them down.

Enjoy the weather and if you have any concerns then contact your veterinary surgery who will be happy to help.

The wolf that lives with us

sheepLambing time is now coming to an end .It is lovely to see them in the fields around us. It’s always an uplifting sight and part of the joy of spring. Unfortunately there has also been an increase in the number of dog attacks on sheep in recent years .This has terrible consequences for both the sheep and possibly the dogs and owners.

I had first-hand experience of this several years ago. I was called out by the RSPCA to a field along the edge of the river Glen near Spalding. This field was long and thin. When I entered the field I could see a group of sheep huddled together right at one end. As I began to walk along the field I could see bodies of sheep littered around the field .There were also many bodies floating in the river where sheep had jumped in to escape but had drowned due to their heavy fleeces. The injuries were severe. Some of these poor creatures were still alive and had to be put to sleep. One I particularly remember was a lamb with half its face missing. As I came to the far end of the field I found two dogs laying resting on the ground .They were pleased to see me and happily allowed me to attach them to a lead .As far as they were concerned they had had a great time.

It is not the dog’s fault when these situations occur. We must always remember that there is a bit of wolf in all our dogs. It should come as no surprise that most of our much loved and friendly pets would chase sheep and even attack them if given the chance. It goes without saying that dogs must be kept under control near sheep .However many of these attacks are carried out by dogs that have escaped from their gardens while their owners are out. It is very important that your dogs must be kept in a secure environment. Farmers are allowed to shoot dogs that are worrying sheep. Also if a dog is seen attacking sheep the owner will be eligible for up to a £2000 fine and the dog will be taken away and put to sleep.

THIS IS NOT THE DOGS FAULT. The dog is only following an instinct. Many people do not believe that their dogs are capably of such a thing but many of them are. It is up to us as owners to take care and protect our pets from these situations. It does not just apply to sheep . Over the years I have seen distraught owners when their much loved dog has attacked chickens or pet rabbits or killed a muntjac deer while running in the woods. We have also heard of those horrible cases where babies are attacked. All these things are our responsibility and we must understand the wolf that lives with us.

Looking after our elderly dogs and cats

elderly dogDogs and cats are considered to be ‘geriatric’ by the time they hit around 8 years of age although for some large breeds of dogs this will be earlier. As our pets age it is important that we monitor them closely for signs of illness which is not always obvious to see. As we become older a lot of us will suffer from arthritis and this is no different for our dogs and cats, if you notice that dogs are starting to slow down on walks, taking a little bit longer to get out of their bed, and cats are maybe not as willing to play or jump on furniture as they used to be, then these could be signs that they could do with some joint support. As a starting point, over the counter products that contain green lipped mussel, glucosamine and chondroitin can help ease some joint pain; sometimes these are not enough and your pet may require some prescription treatment from your veterinary surgeon.

Older animals can also suffer with dental problems, as they begin to get older it is a good idea to get their teeth checked in case they need any tarter removed or extractions. If this is the case then your vet may want to do a blood test before they go under the anaesthetic to check their liver and kidneys, this test will also check for diabetes.

Especially in cats we see a lot of cases of hyperthyroidism, this is when the body produces too much thyroxine and your cat will usually show signs of weight loss, eating a lot more than usual and a very high heart rate. This can be diagnosed by a blood test which will check the T4 level and if this comes back high then cats can be treated with tablets or a cream given daily.

Kidney problems are another common problem in older cats, if your cat appears to be losing weight, drinking more, urinating more often, off food or vomiting then they need to be seen by a veterinary surgeon. When caught early, kidney problems can sometimes be managed for a number of months, sometimes years with medication although this will depend on the individual case.

Moving your dog or cat onto a senior diet can help as they get older, try not to change the brand of food your pet has as this could cause an upset tummy but changing from an adult diet to a senior diet will help keep them at their best as they approach their golden years.


On the 23rd of February when storm Doris was heading our way, we went to feed our horses early so we could avoid much of the bad weather. While we were out my son, who was at home, rang to say there was something wrong with our Chihuahua’s (Phoebe’s) eye, he said it was twice its normal size and very red.

We raced back home. While driving I was hoping that my son was exaggerating and this was just a sore eye and not what I feared it might be. When I got home I could see immediately that she had prolapsed her eye (the eye had come out of it’s socket) and that she had been rubbing at the eye. This can happen in this breed with a bang to the head and she had been playing with one of our other dogs.

We took her to our surgery in Bourne where I immediately gave her an anaesthetic and assessed her eye. It is normally possible to replace the eye if there is immediate surgical intervention. Sometimes to achieve this you have to take some fluid out of the eye and collapse it temporarily to help replace it, I was unable to do this as she had bled into the eye. I had to make the decision to remove it, her anaesthetic was unstable during this whole process.

As Vets we are often so busy just dealing with emergency in front of us that we either forget or just haven’t experienced the raw trauma involved in these situations for the owners. There is the pure horror of seeing your much loved pet severely damaged and the fear of what will happen next.

What I also find frightening is how quickly these accidents happen and that things are never the same afterwards. Your day starts off in its normal fashion and then suddenly everything is different. My experience here is relatively minor in that the outcome is that we have a one eyed dog who can live her life quite normally.

This was a difficult experience for me in that it combined the stresses involved in dealing with an emergency with the trauma of seeing my own pet injured, a situation I am hoping not to repeat.


Please think twice before buying bunnies as presents this Easter

With Easter approaching, the sale of rabbits from pet shops usually increases. Rabbits can be lovely pets to have but a lot of people don’t always realise the responsibility that goes with owning one.

Rabbits need a lot of space and really shouldn’t be kept in small hutches, they are very active and like to be out and about so a large cage for overnight is needed and lots of outdoor space during the day to run around. Rabbits are also very sociable animals and don’t like to be on their own so should ideally be housed in pairs. There is a saying ‘at it like rabbits’; they breed very quickly so make sure that when they are in pairs that you make sure they are neutered if they are apposite sexes.

They need lots of access to fresh good quality hay all day long and their diet should be made up of about 90% hay, only small amounts of rabbit pellets and greens should be fed and fruit only as a treat. Rabbits must have access to fresh water and food at all times, their guts are constantly moving and can stop working if they are starved; this is a medical emergency.

Rabbits can also suffer from teeth problems; this is very common as their teeth are constantly growing. The front teeth can be burred by your vet to keep them trimmed down but when the back ones become overgrown and get spurs on them then the rabbit needs to be put under a general anaesthetic to have these dealt with; this can be costly when it’s ongoing.

As with dogs and cats it’s important to make sure your rabbit is vaccinated, rabbits can contract viral haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis, they require injections every year to keep them protected.

In the summer months you need to be checking your rabbits bottom at least twice a day for fly strike, when it gets warmer the flies can be attracted to your rabbit and they can lay their eggs which again is a medical emergency and you must see your vet ASAP.

easter bunny Rabbits can make such lovely pets but as with any animal, before considering buying one you should take the time to research. If you have any questions, please talk to your veterinary practice staff, who will be happy to advise you further.

We wish you all a very happy Easter.