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The Importance of Castration

If you’re the proud owner of a little male puppy or kitten, you will have probably heard the word ‘castration’ mentioned at the vets. Many of you will have already had your dog or cat castrated, in which case, you are one step ahead of us! If you haven’t, you might be wanting to know more. Well, this article is for you; today, we are going to explain the reasons why castration is a procedure you really should be considering for your male dogs and cats.

A Lesson in Castration

Castration describes the removal of the male testicles – pretty simple! You may have heard it called a number of other terms, however; the most common is ‘neutering’, which actually refers to the removal of both male and female reproductive organs (neutering is a gender neutral term, whereas castration only refers to males). Castration is a surgery performed under general anaesthetic by a vet. It is a very safe and routine surgery, with very few complications, and we perform hundreds of castrations every year. The age of castration varies, but generally, it is performed under a year old (though it can be done at any age after this).

Biology of the Boys

Testicles are part of the male reproductive system, held within the scrotum at the back end of your pet, just under their tail. Testicles in dogs and cats perform similar functions to those in humans and other mammals. Their main role is the production and storage of sperm cells, for reproduction. These cells, mixed with fluid from glands such as the prostate, combine to form semen, which is deposited in the female during mating. The sperm will swim towards the female’s ovaries to fertilise an egg, making her pregnant and creating a litter of cute new puppies or kittens!

The testicles also have secondary roles, the most important of which is producing hormones (chemical messengers that travel in blood, and direct the body to start or stop certain tasks). The main male hormone produced in the testicles is testosterone. Testosterone is crucial for developing puppies and kittens inside the womb – testosterone tells the developing foetus to ‘become male’, allowing male characteristics and organs to develop. Without testosterone, a puppy or kitten will be born female. Although the testosterone levels of newborn puppies are very low, when they enter puberty a young male will produce and maintain high testosterone in their blood, which allows further development of male characteristics, behaviours, and sexual maturity. Throughout adult life, testosterone also tells the testicles to produce sperm, ready for reproduction.

So, now you’re all clued up on what the testicles are for in male dogs and cats, you might already have an idea of what castration will do to your pet, and why we advise it taking place…

Bye Bye Babies

The most significant change in a castrated dog is the inability to reproduce. A male without testicles does not produce sperm, so cannot get a female pregnant. Castration is thus highly advised for owners of multiple dogs that do not wish for more! We would particularly advise castration of animals living with their female siblings, to prevent inbreeding. Sadly, neither dogs nor cats have a problem with mating a sibling.

Both dogs and cats will still be able to functionally mate after castration (though you may find that they have less or no desire to do so) but there will be no risk of pregnancy. In outdoor cats, preventing randy toms and queens meeting can be difficult, so castration is all the more important. An attentive uncastrated dog owner can prevent accidental matings, but we still advise castration just in case.

As well as making life easier for you, preventing unwanted pregnancies in dogs and cats is also good for canine and feline populations as a whole. The UK has relatively few stray cats and dogs compared to other countries, but we are always trying to reduce this number. Having pets castrated will help prevent more stray kittens and puppies being born, should yours have an encounter with a lady stray!

Of course, if you wish to breed from your pet, castration would not be recommended. However, remember that castration can be performed at any age after puberty, so it is possible to castrate a male that is already a dad, should you wish.

No More Naughty Boys

The next reason to castrate your pet is to improve behavioural issues. These issues include mounting other dogs, people or furniture, spraying urine, and being aggressive. Uncastrated male cats will also tend to roam farther, and fight other males, which can lead to injury and disease. All of these issues are associated with a male’s desire to attract a mate, defend her and reproduce with her. In the wild, these behaviours are important, but for pet owners (and their carpets!), they are quite damaging.

Most of these behaviours are driven by testosterone, thus removal of the source of testosterone via castration will generally reduce the frequency of these behaviours. It is important to remember that castration will not turn a naughty dog or cat nice. Proper upbringing and training are far more important in having a well behaved pet, and castration is not a fix for a lack of these. However, castration should definitely be a consideration if you are dealing with any of the problems listed above.

Healthier Pets

The final reason you should be castrating your pet is to improve their health; uncastrated pets are at greater risk of a number of diseases and conditions which are entirely preventable with castration.

In dogs particularly, there are two cancers which uncastrated males commonly get. These are testicular and perianal cancer. Both types of cancer become more common the older an animal gets, so even if you wish to breed from your pet, castration is strongly recommended after breeding, to reduce the risk of these dangerous and potentially fatal cancers. These cancers are much more uncommon in cats, but do occur. Removal of the testicles prevents testicular cancer (!) while the drop in testosterone levels helps to stop perianal tumours from developing.

Dogs also commonly get a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), where the prostate gland enlarges and presses on nearby structures. This can result in incontinence, excessive straining and anal hernias. Castration almost eliminates the risk of BPH, and thus the associated conditions, as without testosterone the prostate gland shuts down and shrinks away to almost nothing.

As mentioned above, male uncastrated cats are also more likely to fight each other. This can lead to stress, pain, injuries, and the spread of diseases like Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), both of which can be fatal. While castrating your cat will not guarantee they won’t still be a little scrapper, it can help reduce their desire to fight.

Finally, castration is always advised if your pet has retained testicles – this is where one or both of the testicles do not descend into the scrotum as a young animal, but remain inside the abdominal cavity, near the kidneys. Retained testicles are at a much higher risk of cancer than normal testicles, so should be removed as soon as possible. If your puppy or kitten does not appear to have two testicles in their scrotum by a few months old, it is worth us checking that they do not have retained testicles.

Final Thoughts Hopefully now you will have a better understanding of what castration is, why it is important, and why we recommend it in almost all pets. In general, if you have a healthy puppy or kitten that you do not wish to breed from, we would advise you to castrate in most cases – there are relatively few reasons not to in most animals, and the benefits of doing so are very important. If you have any further questions, or wish to book a castration, please do not hesitate to pop in and have a chat with us.

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Choosing your new puppy or kitten


When choosing your new puppy or kitten, there are many different factors to consider.  Welcoming a new pet into your home can be very exciting, but it’s also important to ensure you are both well suited to one another.

What breed should they be?

The breed can be very important when choosing a pet. As a general rule, specific breeds have different behaviours – although of course all animals are individuals, the breed tells you what to expect. Some breeds are more energetic than others and will need more exercise and attention in order to prevent potential misbehaviour.

Some breeds are also predisposed to certain diseases and health conditions. If you decide to purchase what may be considered a ‘higher risk breed’, such as a very short-nosed dog or cat, you need to take into consideration the price of vet bills and the life expectancy of the pet. If you want to find out more or have a chat with one of our team, you can contact us by clicking here!

Physical characteristics are also a responsible consideration to make when welcoming a new pet into your home. For example, certain breeds will shed their coat (moult), whereas others will not moult at all so are a perfect hypoallergenic option! If you or any member of your family suffers from allergies, non-moulting breeds may be preferable. The pet’s adult size will also generally depend on the breed. Think about the size of your house. Would a larger dog be able to move freely in the area or would they be knocking things over?

There may also be legal issues to consider. There are legal restrictions on some dogs breeds (e.g. Pitbulls) for numerous reasons, and some cat breeds (e.g. Savannah’s) need to be kept indoors at all times.

How old should they be?

Animals develop different skills at different times. Puppies go through an awareness period from 21-28 days. They should then socialise with other dogs from the age of 21-49 days as this allows them to learn from each other. Between 7 and 12 weeks, it is key to form a bond with your dog, as this is when your puppy is most sensitive to human socialisation and will therefore be the most effective time to train your puppy.

Puppy Parties

We are thrilled to offer Puppy Parties which are free and are held between 7-8pm. Please note your puppy must have had its first vaccination. They are a great opportunity to socialise your new puppy and also cover:

  • The foundations of training and socialisation.
  • Advice on worming, flea treatment, exercise, nutrition, feeding and any other questions you may have
  • Any veterinary topics the class wishes to cover
  • Help with house training and play biting
  • Lots of time for puppies to play and for you to ask questions.

If an animal is mistreated before 12 weeks old, there is a chance this behaviour could affect the animal for the rest of its life. We recommend training starting at 8-10 weeks old in order for it to be effective. However, dogs and cats continue learning through life, so adopting an older dog isn’t a problem even if you want to teach them lots of new tricks!

You should consider how long the pet will live for. If they are likely to live longer than their new owner, it is sensible and responsible to have a plan should this scenario occur such as a new home at the ready. Smaller dogs generally live longer than larger dogs.

How much do you want to pay?

Pedigree breeds tend to be more costly. If you know the exact breed or age of puppy or kitten that you would like, then you will probably need to pay more. Some breeds are much more expensive than others so do your research first to see what a normal price is.

Rescue pets are normally free, other than maybe a donation or adoption fee, which will support the charity and enable them to carry on their amazing work.

Do you want to rescue an animal?

Many pets need forever homes. They are just as friendly and loving and can make amazing pets! They are often less expensive than pets bought from breeders and often need a home in order to save their lives.

That said, buying from a breeder means you have the potential to gain more information regarding your pet’s history and genetics.

How much free time do you have to exercise your pet?

Every pet needs exercise but in general larger pets will need more. If your dog is not walked frequently enough or at a high enough intensity, the excess energy may lead to your pet misbehaving. We recommend walking dogs 3 times a day if possible; however you will get to know your own pet and their needs. Toy breeds need much less walking than working dogs so you can select the breed of dog that will best suit your lifestyle.

Do you have enough time to give attention to your young pet?

Young pets require more attention than older pets. They need to be handled regularly in order to get used to human touch. They need to be toilet trained – this takes lots of time and persistence.

As they grow older, they will still need daily attention, daily food and water. You need to be committed to your new pet.

Do you want your pet to live indoors or outdoors?

Some cats are ‘indoors cats’ and cannot be left to live outdoors. Dogs need time outside whether that is spent in the garden or outdoors walking. It is up to you whether you choose to house them indoors or outdoors but their home needs to be sufficient for their wellbeing

Do your research

There is lots of information online for each breed so do your research before committing to a new pet.

You should ask about the parents of the animal you plan on purchasing – their age, breed, disease history. Never, every buy a puppy or kitten without seeing their parents; and be very cautious of internet adverts, except through an official breed society or rescue charity. If a breeder has lots of different puppies or kittens for sale, it is likely that they are a “puppy farmer” or “kitten farmer”, raising animals in poor conditions. These puppies and kittens are likely to have medical and behavioural problems – we do not recommend buying from such a place as it supports the trade and encourages the owners to keep breeding in these conditions.

Welcoming a new pet into your home can be a wonderful experience and we are on hand to help you make an educated decision. So if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

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Foreign Holidays with Dogs – 10 Top Tips for Travellers

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Although most people leave their dogs in kennels, with friends or family, or with a pet-sitter, an increasing number of owners are taking their pets abroad on holiday with them. And who can blame them? What better way to relax than to take your WHOLE family with you! However, it’s important to remember that there are legal and practical issues to bear in mind when travelling outside the UK. In this blog, we’re going to run through our 10 Top Tips for Travellers!

PETS Passport

If you’re going abroad and then coming back, your pet will need a PETS Passport. If you don’t have one that’s fully up to date, your dog will not be allowed back into the UK and will need to spend time in quarantine. Not every vet can issue your dog with a Passport, but most of our vets are registered OVs who have the official stamp and are allowed to make you one.

Do this as soon as possible before travelling – usually at least a couple of months, in case of any delays.

Microchip

It’s essential that the passport can be linked to a specific dog – so your dog has to have a microchip that works. It is of course illegal for any dog NOT to have had a microchip inserted, but it’s really important to make sure it’s still working before you travel, and certainly before your dog’s rabies vaccine.

Ask one of our vets or nurses to double check – a failed chip can mean that the  passport is rejected and your dog has to spend time in quarantine.

Rabies Vaccination

Of course, the main reason for the existence of the passport scheme is to prevent rabies from coming into the UK. Your dog MUST have a rabies vaccine given after the microchip was inserted and the Passport was issued; the vaccine MUST also be boosted and up to date. If the vaccination lapses by a single day, they’ll need to go into quarantine before returning to the UK.

You need to allow 21 days AFTER the initial vaccine before you can re-enter the UK (or enter some other countries), to allow the vaccine to “take” – so make sure you get your Passport and rabies jab at least a month before travelling!

Rabies Blood Test

If you’re travelling inside the EU, or to certain other countries known as “Listed Countries” (see here), then you no-longer need a blood test to prove that the vaccine has worked (this is because experience has proved how reliable the vaccine used in the UK is). If, however, you’re going to any other country, you will need to get a blood test done and a certificate to say that their rabies antibody level was at least 0.5 IU/ml.

Other Health Documents

Some countries, e.g. Australia, have very, very strict disease prevention regulations, and may require additional vaccines, treatments, tests and paperwork before your dog is allowed in. In addition, your dog may require extra tests before returning to the UK from some countries (e.g. Malaysia).

As soon as you know where you’re going on holiday, contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency for advice! Our vets will also be able to help if needed.

Tick and Sandfly Protection

Although it isn’t a legal requirement, there are a lot of nasty diseases in other parts of the world that are spread by ticks and sandflies (e.g. Leishmania).

ALWAYS make sure your dog is protected with the most effective treatments available – talk to our vets for advice.

Travel Booking

Remember, not every airline (or even ferry!) will take pets – so sort out your booking as early as possible…

Remember too, that the cheapest isn’t always the best… If in doubt, get one of our vets to check the paperwork for you.

Sun and Heat Awareness

Dogs do not cope with heat as well as us (remember, they’re basically arctic animals), and can easily develop heatstroke, especially if suddenly whisked to a hot climate with no chance to acclimatise. Remember the importance of sunscreen too – dogs can get sunburnt, especially on their ears, noses and bellies.

Talk to one of the vets before going for advice about the climate you’ll be visiting!

Cultural Sensitivity

Sadly, not every country is as dog-friendly as the UK. In some places, dogs may be seen as unclean, or dangerous. In some areas, it may be a legal requirement to keep certain dogs on a lead, or wearing a muzzle – so make sure you understand the culture of the country you’re visiting.

If in doubt, check out the website of the country’s tourist board, or contact their UK Embassy or High Commission.

Tapeworm Treatment

1-5 days before returning to the UK, you’ll need to get a local vet to administer an authorised tapeworm treatment to prevent Echinococcus multilocularis getting into the UK. The vet will need to sign your dog’s Passport to say that this has been done. This doesn’t apply if you’re returning from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway, as the parasite isn’t found in these countries.

If in doubt, pop in and talk to one of our vets. Above all, though, have fun – you and your dog!

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Flea treatment is year round and prevention is better than cure

 

Fleas. Did you know they can jump 30,000 times without stopping? How about that they can lay up to 1,500 eggs in their lifetime? Pretty incredible! One tiny little flea on your pet can become 1,000 fleas on your pet and in your home in only 3 weeks! Maybe that is more disturbing than interesting…

The flea’s life cycle starts as a tiny egg which hatches into a larva, this pupates (goes into a cocoon like a caterpillar) and then hatches as an adult flea. The only part of the life cycle that is on the animal is the adult flea, this means that most of the flea population is in the environment (i.e your house!).

Contrary to popular belief, not all animals that have fleas are itchy! Some animals are extra sensitive to fleas (something we call flea allergic dermatitis) and they will be itchy. Dogs and cats can show itchiness in different ways: chewing, rubbing, overgrooming (cats) and scratching. Fleas can also bite humans so you may find bites on yourself too.

A common thing people say is “I haven’t seen any fleas on my pet so there isn’t a problem”. If you see a flea on your pet there is a big infestation. Fleas like the dark so will often not be spotted until there are so many they can’t hide on your pet anymore. The only way to be sure your pet hasn’t got fleas is to treat them regularly with a product that works.

 

Tackling a flea infestation:

       Flea treatment – this only kills the adult fleas when they bite your pet. This is essential to remove an infestation. Buy a product you can trust – prescription products are the most effective treatments we have, you can only get these from a vet. Older products can be bought from the supermarkets or pet stores, but unfortunately fleas are unlikely to be killed because these older drugs are less effective. Always check the packet before you put the flea treatment on your pet – only use a flea product designed for the right species (do not use dog products on cats as this can be fatal!)

       Removing fleas from the environment – vacuuming in all the cracks and crevices (this is where the pupae like to hide), wash all bedding on a hot wash and use a house spray that stops the eggs from hatching and the fleas from developing. This house spray needs to be applied every 6 weeks as it will stop working after this – you can buy this from the vets or a pet store.

       Treat all the animals in the household at the same time to make sure that all the fleas are being killed in the house. Otherwise once the flea treatment wears off the fleas will jump right back onto your pet and the problem begins again.

An infestation can be very difficult to get rid of! The pupae are very hardy and are not killed by the spray until they hatch, they can stay in their cocoons for a long time and can hatch up to 4 months later. This means that you must continue to treat the house and your pets for at least 5 months to make sure you have got rid of them all.

 

Prevention is better than cure!

Fleas are only around in the summer though right? Not right! Our houses are warm in the winter so fleas can survive all year round. This means it is important to treat all year round to make sure your pet is fully covered and your home stays flea free.

A flea infestation is not the home accessory that anyone wants! Regular flea treatment is the only way to avoid this. There are lots of options. There are tablets or spot ons, those that last 3 months or one month and even flea collars. Some products give tick protection and some can kill internal worms too. If you want to discuss the options you can book an appointment with one of our vets and they can help you choose the product that is right for your furry friend. To be able to dispense flea treatment for your pet we will need an up to date weight so bring them along. We can also send you reminders when your pet is due another treatment and all you have to do is call in to pick it up.

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Can cats get the flu?

 

In short, yes!

In cats, we use the term ‘cat flu’ for respiratory infections in cats that cause signs similar to what you would expect in human flu. The situation in cats is more complex as signs can be caused by multiple pathogens, not just one virus as in the case of humans. 90% of cat flu cases are due to infection with either feline calicivirus (FCV), feline herpes virus (FHV or FHV-1), or both viruses together. Both the bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis, can also cause flu-like symptoms. A mish-mash of these organisms can occur, making this disease far from simple for vets and owners to understand.

 

How can my cat catch flu?

Cat flu is not infectious to people. Cats are infected via direct contact with infected cats, or their nasal discharge, tears or saliva in the environment. A cat’s sneeze droplets can travel several meters and the virus remains in the environment for up to 10 days. It can be carried around on clothing so indoor cats may be infected too. Cats kept in large groups such as breeding colonies, feral colonies or catteries and rescue centres are very susceptible as the virus spreads easily.

There is another route of infection making things more complex. Cats that survive herpes virus infection remain ‘carriers’ for life. Usually they show no signs of illness but shed the virus as above. Many don’t shed enough virus to cause infection, but some will during times of stress. They may show mild signs such as runny eyes or sneezing but more often appear healthy. In this way, a healthy looking cat, stressed by the new arrival of another cat, may shed in enough volume to infect its new companion. It might be wrongly labelled a vaccine failure, or brought in by the new arrival. A cat that is having kittens may shed the virus, infecting her kittens at a very vulnerable time. Even a trip to the vet’s may induce shedding.

With FCV, most cats will also remain carriers, but usually only for weeks, or months, and most will eliminate the virus eventually.

 

What symptoms might I see?

Some signs of viral infection are similar to those that we expect with a cold or flu-like virus in humans and include:

             Nasal discharge.

             Sneezing.

             Fever.

             Sore and runny eyes.

             Lethargy.

             Lack of appetite.

Some infections are mild and may even go unnoticed. However, in very young, very old or immunosuppressed cats (due to medications or illnesses such as FeLV or FIV), the symptoms can be severe. Dehydration and lack of nutrition can cause cats to spiral downhill.

It is impossible to tell the two viruses apart just from signs. However FHV tends to be more severe and more commonly causes sore eyes (from corneal ulceration), a sore throat and a cough. FCV is often milder, with less of an effect on the eyes, but can cause mouth ulcers which lead to drooling. It also affects the joints in kittens, causing ‘kitten limping syndrome’. A more serious form of this virus called virulent systemic FCV (vs FCV) can occur, which may sadly be fatal – but is fortunately quite rare.

Secondary bacteria can contribute to the complexity of this disease. Bordetella bacteria (which can also cause kennel cough in dogs) often causes sneezing, a nasal discharge and coughing. Damage of the delicate nasal structure can result in a permanent runny or stuffy nose known as rhinitis. Chlamydophila usually causes eye problems (conjunctivitis), which can be very severe. Pneumonia can also be a very serious complication often due to secondary bacterial infection.

 

How is cat flu diagnosed?

Usually the signs lead to a diagnosis of cat flu. Swabs can be taken from the mouth to look for viruses. However this is rarely done given the limited treatments for viruses, thus the treatment is usually not changed by identifying which virus(es) is/are the culprits.

 

Is there anything I can do?

Yes! Simple nursing of poorly cats; making sure they are warm, bathing sore noses and eyes is very important. This may be done at home, or if very ill, in a hospital environment.

Using tasty, smelly foods, warmed gently may help stimulate the often poor appetite. Steam inhalation or nebulisers may help any nasal congestion which may help smell return, with appetite following. Very occasionally, tube feeding is needed. If dehydration is present, intravenous fluids are needed.

Although antibiotics do not treat viral infections, if the vet suspects a secondary bacterial infection, they are used.

Interferons are proteins made by the body in part to help fight viruses. Synthetic versions of these interferons are sometimes used as antivirals. There is only weak evidence for their effectiveness and they are expensive, so are rarely used. They may be of benefit if given early in the disease. There are antivirals to help treat FHV related eye disease, and the eye drops can be quite effective.

 

Can cat flu be prevented?

Yes. Widely available vaccines to the viral components are recommended for both indoor and outdoor cats. They usually prevent disease, although disease may still develop but in a much milder form. There is only one strain of FHV, but there are several strains of FCV so the vaccines may not be effective against all of them. Remember the FHV vaccine will be ineffective if your cat is already a carrier, which is very hard to tell. So even vaccinated cats can be carriers. Ideally, vaccinate new cats early and keep them separate until the vaccine is deemed effective. There are vaccines available for some of the bacterial causes, mainly useful for breeders, rescue homes, and cats attending cat shows, where there are a lot of cats together.

Ideally, keep any infected cats isolated with separate food, water and litter trays, and use 5% bleach to disinfect the area regularly (take care to rinse well as it is an irritant to cats). Be aware that although you can’t catch these viruses you may carry the virus to other cats on your clothes and shoes etc.

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Spring Plant Poisons

The evenings are getting brighter while the days are getting warmer and it is truly starting to feel like winter is behind us. Spending more time outdoors and getting to see gardens and local green spaces spring back to life is a wonderful sight – the trees are getting greener and colourful plants are starting to break through the soil. However, despite their pretty colours and delicate petals, not all plants are as innocent as they first look. Many spring plants can make your pets very poorly and even be fatal. Hopefully, we can help you keep your pet safe at this time of year by pointing out a few plants to avoid and giving some advice on what to do if you do encounter them.

Daffodils are often associated with the start of spring. As the days get warmer the green shoots pop up from the soil and bloom into the recognisable pretty yellow flowers. However, daffodils can be very harmful to your pet if eaten, particularly the bulb. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. These signs may appear any time, from 15 minutes up to a day after eating the plant. In serious cases severe dehydration, tremors and convulsions may develop. With crocuses, tulips, azaleas, sago palms and rhododendrons, consumption can also result in similar symptoms.

All parts of Bluebell and Lily of the Valley plants are also extremely toxic to pets if eaten. In addition to vomiting and diarrhoea, ingestion of these plants can lead to serious heart problems, such as slowing heart rate and arrhythmias (irregular or abnormal heart rhythm). Seizures may also result.

Lilies make a beautiful and elegant addition to any room, however all parts of the plant of highly toxic to cats, causing severe and sudden onset kidney failure. Some species may cause other toxic effects even in dogs, varying from stomach upset to skin problems, or even organ failure. If you do have lilies in the house it is recommended that they are kept completely out of reach of all pets – and remember, even the pollen is toxic to cats!

Ivy is not only toxic when eaten but also can cause problems when in contact with the skin and eyes. Signs of ivy contact may include conjunctivitis (inflammation around the eye), itchiness and skin rashes.

So what should you do?

If you see your pet eating any of the plants mentioned above, your first port of call should be to immediately give us a call! Take note of what it was they were eating, which part of the plant, what time and how much you think they ate if possible. If you can, it may be useful to bring a part of the plant in as some varieties of the same plant can be more dangerous and require more intensive treatment than others. Also carefully watch out for and note down any symptoms that they may start to develop. Even if no symptoms develop it is better to be safe than sorry, if you suspect your pet may have eaten any of the plants mentioned.

If your pet develops any of the symptoms and you know they may have had access to any poisonous plants, then again a trip to see one of our vets is the best course of action. Note down the symptoms, what time they started and any poisonous plants that you suspect they could have been in contact with.

Prevention is the best course of action to avoid plant poisoning in your pet.

This can be trickier to achieve in outdoor cats, as they may travel further than you can control and are often unsupervised. If you know your pet has a habit of eating certain plants you may want to grow them in raised pots that are out of reach or fence of areas to prevent access. When out and about, just keep an eye on them so you can quickly step in if you think they may be heading towards any dangerous plants.

Flowers aren’t the only thing popping up in spring. With more sunshine and fresh spring showers, the grass is starting to shoot up too. Although regular grass may not be poisonous some cats may enjoy eating long blades of grass that can cause problems if they get stuck in the nose or throat. Signs such as excessive coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite and nasal discharge could be symptoms of a stuck grass blade in an otherwise healthy cat. We will usually be able to rapidly diagnose and fix this problem.

Although poisonous plants are a concern in spring they should not stop you and your pet enjoying the outdoors at this time of year. Equipped with the right knowledge you can keep your pet safe throughout the spring and into the summer. If you have any questions or concerns about poisonous plants then our vets will be happy to have a chat anytime.

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The Importance of Neutering

Neutering is the process of removing the testicles (in males) or the ovaries (in females) in order to remove the hormones that these organs produce and prevent the animal from reproducing. However, it also has other important health benefits. Whilst it is always a decision that needs to be made in the best interests of each individual animal, there are lots of things to consider when deciding whether (and when) to neuter your pet, so we thought we’d give you a quick run-through.

The language

There are lots of terms used to describe neutering, and they can often be used interchangeably, which can lead to some confusion. Neutering and de-sexing are the same things, although de-sexing is more commonly used in America. Castration refers only to males and involves the removal of the testicles. Vasectomy is also a male procedure – it is rarely done in dogs or cats as it involves leaving the testicles and all of the associated hormones intact, which massively reduces the benefits. The female equivalent is the spay or ovariohysterectomy. Most vets remove the ovaries and the uterus during a spay procedure, but vets abroad and those doing laparoscopic surgery may only remove the ovaries – this is still called a spay.

Cats

Neutering all cats not intended for breeding is highly recommended. Male cats that are not neutered are much more likely to roam out of their territory to find females. This results in a higher chance of accidents as well as increased fighting, which can be painful and spreads diseases. Neutered cats have been found to be more likely to be friendly to people and other animals in the house. Males can undergo the neutering procedure from four months of age, and we recommend doing them as early as possible if they share the house with unneutered females.
Female cats should be neutered from four months of age if not being used for breeding. Again, they will try to escape and roam when they come into season, which puts them in danger. Seasons can be loud – they ‘call’ for a mate with a loud yowling that sounds as though they are in pain – and they can become ill with it if they refuse to eat properly and get no rest. Pregnancy puts the cat and her kittens at risk, especially in young, inexperienced mothers. There is a social responsibility to consider too – cats are prolific breeders and one female can have 40,000 descendants in 5 years. If we don’t want a world overrun with cats, getting them neutered is essential.

Dogs

Dogs are a little more complex. Although it is still generally advisable to get both male and female dogs neutered, the ‘when’ is a little more difficult to decide.
For male dogs, the proven benefits to neutering are multiple. Without testicles, the chance of testicular cancer is nil; the chance of prostate issues is reduced; and lumps around the rectum and certain types of hernia are fewer in dogs that have been neutered too. Most of these problems occur in old age though, and there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to neutering before a certain age. It’s better to get it done, but it doesn’t have to be when they are very young. In fact, some studies in Labradors suggest not neutering until they are fully grown at 18 months or so, and for other large breed dogs this may be sensible.
There are also concerns about castrating in order to control a behavioural problem. Unfortunately, in some cases, it can make it worse, so if this is your motivation for castration we recommend booking an appointment with one of our vets for an examination and discussion – we may suggest referral to a behaviourist, or a temporary medical castration in order to assess their response. From a population control point of view, dogs are less of a concern as they’re usually under some control, but if you have a dog that is prone to roaming, or an unsecured garden, it makes sense to get them castrated before they impregnate next door’s young female!
Which brings us to the ladies – we advise neutering all females for their own health. Like female cats, when it comes to pregnancy and puppies, the ladies carry all the weight and risk – and it can be a big one. Accidental litters of mismatched breeds are the second most common reason a caesarean is needed, so if you don’t want the responsibility and cost of pregnancy it’s best to get her done… accidents happen!
There are also the health benefits, of course. Bitches neutered before their first or second season are much less likely to get mammary tumours – and they’re much less likely to be nasty ones, too. Unneutered bitches are also extremely prone to a uterine infection called a pyometra, which can be fatal, and the risk of this rises with every season they have.
Again, the timing of neutering is a bit more confusing in dogs – there’s some evidence in larger breeds that allowing them to have at least one season is sensible, although in smaller breeds that mature more quickly this probably isn’t so important.

So should I neuter?

Yes – it’s definitely better to neuter. But every pet is an individual, every family situation is different, and sometimes the why and when can be a little more complicated than at first glance. If you want your dog or cat neutered, please call reception to book in.

However, if you’d rather have a consultation with one of our vets so that we can discuss the pros and cons for your specific situation, then we’d be more than happy to advise – just call reception and book in.

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Why weight clinics are so important

We offer weight clinics because we are passionate about keeping our four-legged customers healthy and happy, and because we want to maximise their quality and length of life. We know how being overweight or underweight can negatively impact a pet, affecting their internal organs and joints, as well as their mental wellbeing. To educate owners about these things, and to explain how attending weight clinics with our knowledgeable nurses is the best way to help your pet reach their healthy weight, we have put together this article which explains why weight clinics are so important.

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Helping your pets cope with fireworks

Autumn is the season for fireworks – which can be a common source of stress to your pets. Around 50% of dogs show some fear of fireworks studies have shown.

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Keeping your pet’s teeth pearly white!

You may be asking yourself why you should keep your dog’s or cat’s teeth pearly white. Well, just like with us, toothache is very painful and poor dental hygiene can lead to further health complications. It is very hard for our pets to tell us when they are in pain, so they can suffer with this for a long time before it is noticed. Shockingly, by the age of 3 the majority of dogs and cats have dental disease. Even worse is that dental disease is completely preventable – this blog is to help all owners to be aware of how you can prevent this condition in your furry friends.