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.

Phoebe

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.

pheobe

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.

How many of you have a new year’s resolution to lose a few pounds? How about helping your pets do the same?

I’m sure most of us are aware that obesity in people has been on the rise for some time, but did you know that our pets are showing a similar trend? As with humans, carrying too much extra weight can have a serious impact on our pets’ health – diabetes, heart disease, bladder stones and arthritis are all examples of conditions which can be caused or exacerbated by excess weight. The major difference is that while people are able to make their own informed decisions about their health, pets are entirely reliant on their owners to fulfil their needs and give them the best quality of life possible.

Several factors can influence an animal’s chances of becoming overweight; certain breeds seem to be more predisposed to weight gain (Labradors are a common example), age can often be a factor, and animals which have been neutered tend to require a lower daily calorie intake. So, the important questions – how can I tell if my pet is overweight, and how can I help them to slim down?

While it’s helpful to weigh your pet regularly to keep track of any changes, just looking at the kilograms or pounds might not always give the full picture. Some animals will be naturally thicker-set and heavier than others of the same breed, even when both are in perfect condition. Body condition scoring is a good way to assess whether an animal needs to gain or lose any weight by concentrating on the individual pet and how much of a fat covering they have at various points. For example, in most healthy dogs the ribs will be easily felt beneath the fur with very little fat padding over the top, and may be visible in some dogs when running or stretched out but generally cannot be seen in a relaxed position. Dogs and cats should have a waist, so that when viewed from above the abdomen has a narrower section between the ribs and hips, and when viewed from the side there is a definite difference between the depth of the chest and the more tucked-up belly.

Just like us, the key to weight loss for pets is diet and exercise, and this is something that the nurses at your veterinary practice will be happy to advise on. Use scales to weigh out every meal to avoid letting portions creep up unnoticed. If you like to give treats at certain times of day or to help with training, make sure to count these in the total daily intake and reduce the food given at mealtimes accordingly. Exercise is a great chance to have fun and bond with your pet – try getting all the family members involved in a dog-walking rota, take a trip to the beach, or join an agility class. Swimming is highly recommended, especially if your pet struggles with arthritis, as it gives the muscles a good workout without putting stress on sore joints – there are several local pet hydrotherapy facilities worth looking up. Cats needn’t be left out either – while they might not appreciate walkies or swimming, get them moving by playing with a favourite toy, chasing a laser pointer or even just moving their food bowl upstairs to give them a longer walk to dinner. Every little helps, and a slim and healthy pet will have a longer life expectancy and feel happier and more comfortable in daily life.

What happened to the Vets?

When I qualified as a vet 34 years ago ,it was recognised that the veterinary profession was probably the most trusted and respected of all professions. Our main aim was to treat and look after the animals in our care to the best of our ability.

Now I commonly hear things like ” all the vets are interested in is the money ” ; “the first question I was asked was is my pet insured” ; ” every time I go to the vet they try and sell me something” .We have lost much of the trust that we originally had. Most vets still really care about you and your pet , so what has changed ?

All veterinary surgeries are a business and they have to make enough money to be able to continue giving their services . When I qualified ,veterinary businesses could only be owned by veterinary surgeons but even in those times a small number of people came to realise the potential earning power of veterinary businesses and I believe this was the start

of when we became less trusted.

This situation worsened when non vets were allowed to own veterinary businesses and this began the start of corporate ownership. Presently two of the largest veterinary corporates were floated on the stock exchange.

This does not mean that the vets working in these situations care any less about animals or do not do their very best for you. However there is more financial influence . For a start the shareholders want a good return on their investment ,then the directors expect good salaries as well as the managers , and then finally the vets and nurses need paying .

This whole structure requires the vets to earn more as compared to privately owned surgeries ( unless the owner wants large houses ,expensive cars and a yacht!)

It is true that there are many more operations and procedures that can be performed now which are often expensive but this just leaves many people behind when they find they can not afford it and nobody will allow them credit to pay over a period of time .

Charging structures have changed and there has been a 40% increase in veterinary fees in the last five years in many places. Then there is the up selling and other business practices .

If we are not careful the next thing we will see is global ownership of veterinary business. We have to move with the times and we need to make sure we offer services that our clients want and benefit from but we need to keep an eye on why we do this job which is the love of the animals .

Travelling with your pet

Taking your pet on holiday with you within Europe is now easier than ever and more and more people are taking their dogs and cats abroad. To meet requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) your pet must be microchipped and vaccinated against Rabies. The pet must have a PETS passport completed and signed by an Official Veterinary Surgeon. There is a 21 day wait following the initial rabies vaccination before being able to travel abroad. For dogs only, on return to the UK there is a statutory need for a tapeworm treatment certified by a Vet 24-120 hours before your return to the UK. This is designed to prevent the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, which is dangerous to human health, from entering the UK.

The Pet Travel Scheme is designed to keep rabies and other disease out of the UK. However there are a number of other diseases that your pet could be exposed to whilst abroad that they would never encounter in the UK. It is important to ensure your pet is adequately protected whilst he or she is away.

Ticks are among the most important parasites when it comes to disease transmission in Europe. Ticks will attach and feed on the blood of your dog and cat. In doing so they can also transmit serious and potentially fatal diseases including Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis.

Babesia destroys the red blood cells; animals affected by Babesia develop severe anaemia which can lead to sudden death. Ehrlichia is also widespread in Europe. Affected animals develop fever, difficulty breathing and neurological problems.

Pets, like us, are also at risk of bites from Mosquitoes. These can transmit Heartworm. The larvae grow in the lungs and heart. It can take years for signs of heart failure and breathing problems to develop. Sandflies are a similar biting insect. They can transmit Leishmaniosis to both animals and humans. This can cause skin problems, liver and kidney disease and can be extremely difficult to treat. Sandflies only come out at night, so even with appropriate preventative treatments it is   advisable to keep your pet indoors from sunset to dawn during summer months.

Heartworm and Leishmaniosis are endemic throughout Central and Southern Europe. There are a number of Veterinary products available to repel Mosquitoes and Sandflies and to help control Ticks. For example a ‘Scalibor’ collar will repel both Mosquitoes and Sandflies and will help    control ticks for up to 6 months. Alternatively there are a number of Veterinary spot-on preparations and oral tablets which will provide cover.

Your vet will be able to give you advice on potential risks and devise a parasite protection plan suited to the individual requirements for you and your pet.

It is important to note that there may be additional requirements for pets travelling in and out of some EU countries. Please ensure that you check all up to date rules with DEFRA before travel.

October 2016

Although not as common these days in the UK as it was years ago this disease is still being seen in general practice and it’s the canine parvo virus (CPV), this is a highly contagious viral illness usually affecting puppies but can also affect adult dogs.

CPV can be vaccinated against and puppies will usually have their first vaccination against this at 8 weeks old and a second one at 10 weeks although some may have a first vaccination given sooner. This particular vaccine is then given a year later and is then given during the leptospirosis vaccines but only every 3 years. The virus can take two different forms; the first being the intestinal form which is characterised by vomiting, severe diarrhoea (usually with blood), weight loss, lethargy, fever and lack of appetite. The intestinal form of CPV affects the body’s ability to absorb fluids and nutrients so the dog will suffer with dehydration and become very weak. The gums and eyes may become very red and the heart may beat very fast. Dogs that have contracted CPV may instead have a very low temperature rather than a fever and will usually have abdominal discomfort. The less common form is the cardiac form which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies and this will usually lead to death.

The virus can either be transmitted by direct contact of an infected dog or by contact with faeces from an infected dog; this can be by the dog sniffing the faeces or you can bring the virus in to the dog’s environment on your shoes. The only way to kill the virus on your shoes is to clean them with a disinfectant known to kill off CPV, rescue homes and veterinary practices use these routinely in their cleaning protocol.

CPV can be diagnosed from blood and faeces testing but the treatment for the symptoms of this are the same whether it’s a negative or positive result. Dogs showing these clinical signs must be placed in isolation to stop the spread of the virus and the veterinary surgeon will treat the dog symptomatically; this may include intravenous fluids, nutrition therapy, antibiotics, and antiemetics. Puppies have a less developed immune system so it’s sadly very common for them to suffer shock and sudden death.

This is a condition that can be prevented so please always have your puppies vaccinated and keep your adult dogs up to date with their injections too. If you have any questions please contact your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse.

Hyperthyroidism in cats

One of the most common diseases we are seeing these days in practice is hyperthyroidism in cats. Hyperthyroidism is a disease of the endocrine system mainly in our feline friends that occurs when the body produces too much thyroxine. This is so common that in the UK that it is estimated that 12% of cats over 9 years old will suffer from this, it’s hard to say if this disease is becoming more common or if we just manage to diagnose it much easier than we did years ago.

So what do we need to watch out for? Well most of these cats come in to us after their owners call us worried that their cat is always hungry, a really ravenous appetite and it’s usually got to the point where owners are almost tearing their hair out that no matter how much they feed their cat they’re always asking for more. These cats are also not gaining weight from their ravenous appetite, usually continuously losing weight which is a big indicator that their metabolism isn’t quite right! These cats will also have a much higher heart rate as this will affect their cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure and consequently will have an impact on other organs such as the liver and also the digestive system causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Most of these cats will also have a poor coat, sometimes fur loss and generally a look of ‘wear and tear’ about them!

So how can we help these cats? As with all diseases the sooner it’s diagnosed the easier it’s treated. We are very lucky that with the advances in veterinary medicine this disease can usually be treated very effectively. Usually it’s treated very well with tablets and most cats stabilise very quickly and owners notice a big difference in their friend over just a few weeks of treatment, although this is a life long medication for the cats to keep them stable. For some cats surgery can be considered which involves removing the thyroid gland but this surgery does pose risks and so not all cats will be candidates, this should be discussed in great detail with your veterinary surgeon. Radioiodine treatment can be used but this is only available in certain veterinary hospitals in the UK and is quite a pricey treatment!

A lot of cats are unfortunately suffering from quite a few issues by the time this disease is diagnosed but when stabilised these cats generally do very well and by the time we see them back for a check up we usually see a much healthier cat and a much happier owner!

If you are concerned that your cat is showing these symptoms then please do discuss this with your veterinary surgeon, a quick blood test is all it takes for diagnosis and with treatment you will have a much happier healthy cat.