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Senior Clinics

We are so lucky that, with modern veterinary treatment, our cats and dogs are living longer and longer. However, just as in humans, this means that more and more of our “golden oldies” are living with niggling little health problems. However, it can be very hard to decide whether something is “just old age” or a subtle early sign of a health problem that needs addressing. That’s what our Senior Clinics are for!

What age does a pet become “senior”?

To some extent of course it depends on the breed – in general, for example, large breed dogs age faster than small-breeds. However, as a general rule, we’d say a dog is a “senior” once they’re over 7 years old, and a cat over 8.

What are the “diseases of old age” in dogs?

The most important are:

  • Arthritis – wear and tear of the joints leads to stiffness, reduced mobility, and reluctance to run, jump or play. This can be confused with “slowing down” and aging, but is actually due to severe pain and discomfort.
  • Dental disease – over 80% of elderly dogs (and cats, for that matter) have some degree of dental disease! This can make eating painful, and can even lead to kidney or heart problems, or even sepsis. So, your old dog may not just be “getting picky”, they may have serious dental health problems!
  • Heart disease – many older dogs have heart problems. In smaller and medium breeds, leaky valves (endocardiosis) are the most common, whereas larger dogs tend to develop a swollen heart (dilated cardiomyopathy). The symptoms include reduced ability to exercise and puffing or panting more – again, this can easily be mistaken for old age.
  • Cancer – as animals age, just like humans, the chances of an abnormal cell growth developing start to increase. In most cases, cancers are diseases of old age, causing a range of signs, including reduced energy levels, weight loss, lumps and bumps.

And what about cats?

Again, arthritis, dental disease and cancer are relatively common. However, there are two additional very common “old age ailments” in cats:

  • Chronic kidney disease – the kidneys filter the blood, but cats are at a significantly increased risk of developing long-term problems as their kidneys work less and less efficiently with age. This results in increased thirst and urination, weight loss, reduced appetite, and sometimes other changes such as anaemia.
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) – the thyroid gland (in the neck) controls the body’s metabolic rate. Older cats are at a relatively high risk of developing an overactive thyroid, leading to massive increases in metabolic rate. This puts a great deal of stress on their heart, circulatory system, and kidneys, and if untreated may result in sudden and unpleasant death. The early symptoms are weight loss, increased appetite, and “hyper” or “kittenish” behaviour.

But these are all incurable, aren’t they?

Not necessarily – some cancers are curable by removing the growth; overactive thyroids in cats can often be cured with surgery or iodine therapy; and dental disease can in many cases be resolved by a thorough clean and removal of the most diseased teeth. In many cases, though, yes – we cannot cure these conditions, but they can usually be managed!

What do you mean by “managed”?

Long term medication or treatment can allow your older dog or cat to live a long, happy and relatively healthy life untroubled by the symptoms of the disease. We can slow down the disease progression, and reduce the symptoms, allowing them to live with their illnesses for a happy retirement. For example, medications for heart or kidney disease and thyroid problems; painkillers, anti-inflammatories and changes in management for arthritis; and dental hygiene for tooth issues. These may not cure the underlying problem, but they allow your dog or cat to “be themselves” again!

So how do Senior Clinics help?

Well first things first – we need to know if your pet is “just getting older” or is showing signs of a more serious underlying health problem. Our expert nurses can help decide whether there’s something that the vet needs to investigate, and if so, one of the vets can pop in to perform any tests that may be needed. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can go from there!

Secondly, even if it is “just” old age, there’s an awful lot we can do to help – and our nurses will be able to guide you through any changes or alterations in routine that will help you pet to cope better.

Who will I see?

Usually, one of the nurses in the first instance – although if any problems are picked up, expect one of our vets to do the diagnosis and decide on treatment plans.

How much does it cost?

For a routine senior nurse clinic, the usual price is £21. However, if you’re on a Health Care Plan, it’s only £18.90! And of course, the Senior Health Plan also includes most of the routine “check ups”, such as blood and urine tests, so there would be no extra to pay.

Our older pets deserve good quality care – and the Senior Health Plan is a great way to give them that and save money too! Regular check ups are really important as pets age, so make an appointment to see one of our nurses for a Senior Clinic now.

Christmas is a fun and exciting time. We get to spend lots of precious time with our families, friends and pets. We exchange laughter, love and gifts so why shouldn’t we purchase gifts for our pets too? Below is a list of great presents you could buy for your pet over Christmas.

Christmas presents for pets

There are many different gifts we can buy for our pets:

Toys – many pets love extra entertainment. You can get large chewy toys, squeaky toys or even hollow toys which you can hide food inside (kongs). Be aware when buying squeaky toys – their noises can get frustrating! Toys can be great over the Christmas period should you feel you do not have as much time as normal to play with your pets. Just make sure they’re safe – buy from a reputable retailer and make sure they don’t pose a choking hazard if they get mangled by an over-enthusiastic pet!

Food and water bowls – treat your pet and also your home to new, patterned bowls. You could match them to the rest of your home. These bowls could be self-designed or you could paint your own pattern onto a bowl making them extra special.

Leads – buying your dog a new lead could increase the amount of fun and fashion experienced on your walks. Extendable leads can be great for some dogs as they allow your pet to have more freedom whilst still being held securely, but it’s best to use them cautiously if you have a dog who tends to accelerate away quickly as they could hurt themselves when they reach the full extent of the lead.

Collars and harnesses – you could treat your pet to a new collar or harness, trying out different colours, patterns and even get it to match with the lead.

New jacket – if your pet enjoys going outdoors in the cold, a warm, waterproof jacket may be useful. You can even get “wicking” ones to help your pet dry off after a long wet walk… Be sure to get the correct size!

Bedding and blankets – dress your pet’s bed up… you can make your house look cosy and give your pet a place to snuggle in colder evenings. Absolutely ideal for older, stiffer pets who need their warm spot!

Grooming – many pets enjoy being pampered. You could bathe your pet or book them in with a trusted Groomer to make them smell divine ready for greeting guests…other pets hate being pampered so be careful if you select this as your gift as it may not be appreciated!

Which presents should I avoid?

You should avoid any toys with small parts which may fall off and get stuck in your dog’s throat potentially causing them to choke.

Dressing your pet up seems to be a popular thing to do over the Christmas period however this can cause irritation and anxiety for our pets. Should you decide to dress your pet up, you should keep a very close eye on them as they may get caught on obstacles and become uncomfortable.

Make sure they’re not getting stressed or anxious and if so – STOP and remove the costume.

Christmas dinner for pets

Feeding your dogs a Christmas dinner is a lovely way to get your pets involved in the Christmas treats. Treats can be bought for dogs which taste like Christmas dinner. Visit your local pet store if you seek these treats. You can buy special ‘dog chocolate’ from pet shops too if you really want to give your dog chocolate this Christmas!

Dogs and cats may have small amounts of lean meat from the Christmas dinner but large volumes need to be avoided. Make sure no bones are present as this could cause your dog to choke, or even damage the intestines.

Make sure you remember to let your pets outside on these busy days!

What food should I avoid?

Christmas day is not the time to be trialling out new foods on your pets. We do not know how they will react and in such a busy period, the risk of horrible stomach upsets isn’t worth it! If you feel tempted to treat your pet with food, give your pet foods they regularly eat and enjoy in a portion size similar to normal.

Cocoa is toxic to both dogs and cats so avoid giving them chocolate. The artificial sweetener xylitol is also highly toxic to dogs, so watch out for “low sugar” treats.

Many animals do not cope well with human foods. We eat very rich food groups which can cause stomach upsets in our pets. Even if you regularly feed your pet small amounts of leftover food, larger volumes can have disastrous effects on your pet’s insides.

Don’t feed your dogs or cats any grapes, or desserts containing raisins as they are toxic and can cause sudden organ failure. Anything containing onions, garlic or chives should also be avoided as they cause gastrointestinal irritation and may even lead to anaemia.

Should you be aware of any allergies your pet suffers from, be sure to check the ingredients list before giving the food. Giving too much of the wrong food could lead to sickness and diarrhoea… a Christmas present nobody looks forward to!

But if the worst does happen – give us a call! We’ll have duty vets lined up all through the holidays.

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Christmas for Pets

Christmas is a fun and exciting time. We get to spend lots of precious time with our families, friends and pets. We exchange laughter, love and gifts so why shouldn’t we purchase gifts for our pets too? Below is a list of great presents you could buy for your pet over Christmas.

Christmas presents for pets

There are many different gifts we can buy for our pets:

Toys – many pets love extra entertainment. You can get large chewy toys, squeaky toys or even hollow toys which you can hide food inside (kongs). Be aware when buying squeaky toys – their noises can get frustrating! Toys can be great over the Christmas period should you feel you do not have as much time as normal to play with your pets. Just make sure they’re safe – buy from a reputable retailer and make sure they don’t pose a choking hazard if they get mangled by an over-enthusiastic pet!

Food and water bowls – treat your pet and also your home to new, patterned bowls. You could match them to the rest of your home. These bowls could be self-designed or you could paint your own pattern onto a bowl making them extra special.

Leads – buying your dog a new lead could increase the amount of fun and fashion experienced on your walks. Extendable leads can be great for some dogs as they allow your pet to have more freedom whilst still being held securely, but it’s best to use them cautiously if you have a dog who tends to accelerate away quickly as they could hurt themselves when they reach the full extent of the lead.

Collars and harnesses – you could treat your pet to a new collar or harness, trying out different colours, patterns and even get it to match with the lead.

New jacket – if your pet enjoys going outdoors in the cold, a warm, waterproof jacket may be useful. You can even get “wicking” ones to help your pet dry off after a long wet walk… Be sure to get the correct size!

Bedding and blankets – dress your pet’s bed up… you can make your house look cosy and give your pet a place to snuggle in colder evenings. Absolutely ideal for older, stiffer pets who need their warm spot!

Grooming – many pets enjoy being pampered. You could bathe your pet or book them in with a trusted Groomer to make them smell divine ready for greeting guests…other pets hate being pampered so be careful if you select this as your gift as it may not be appreciated!

Which presents should I avoid?

You should avoid any toys with small parts which may fall off and get stuck in your dog’s throat potentially causing them to choke.

Dressing your pet up seems to be a popular thing to do over the Christmas period however this can cause irritation and anxiety for our pets. Should you decide to dress your pet up, you should keep a very close eye on them as they may get caught on obstacles and become uncomfortable.

Make sure they’re not getting stressed or anxious and if so – STOP and remove the costume.

Christmas dinner for pets

Feeding your dogs a Christmas dinner is a lovely way to get your pets involved in the Christmas treats. Treats can be bought for dogs which taste like Christmas dinner. Visit your local pet store if you seek these treats. You can buy special ‘dog chocolate’ from pet shops too if you really want to give your dog chocolate this Christmas!

Dogs and cats may have small amounts of lean meat from the Christmas dinner but large volumes need to be avoided. Make sure no bones are present as this could cause your dog to choke, or even damage the intestines.

Make sure you remember to let your pets outside on these busy days!

What food should I avoid?

Christmas day is not the time to be trialling out new foods on your pets. We do not know how they will react and in such a busy period, the risk of horrible stomach upsets isn’t worth it! If you feel tempted to treat your pet with food, give your pet foods they regularly eat and enjoy in a portion size similar to normal.

Cocoa is toxic to both dogs and cats so avoid giving them chocolate. The artificial sweetener xylitol is also highly toxic to dogs, so watch out for “low sugar” treats.

Many animals do not cope well with human foods. We eat very rich food groups which can cause stomach upsets in our pets. Even if you regularly feed your pet small amounts of leftover food, larger volumes can have disastrous effects on your pet’s insides.

Don’t feed your dogs or cats any grapes, or desserts containing raisins as they are toxic and can cause sudden organ failure. Anything containing onions, garlic or chives should also be avoided as they cause gastrointestinal irritation and may even lead to anaemia.

Should you be aware of any allergies your pet suffers from, be sure to check the ingredients list before giving the food. Giving too much of the wrong food could lead to sickness and diarrhoea… a Christmas present nobody looks forward to!

But if the worst does happen – give us a call! We’ll have duty vets lined up all through the holidays.

Autumn-

Autumn Hazards

For many of us, the months of September through to November are our favourite time of year. In September the sun still shines, but the air is crisp and fresh. It can feel like a month for renewal – the new school year, a blank page. It really signals the arrival of autumn for us all.

And whilst autumn is a beautiful season, it does mean that we as pet owners may have to manage some hazards for our pets which we don’t see at other times of the year.

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI):

Seasonal Canine Illness is a disease which affects dogs, most commonly during the autumn. SCI seems to be most common in a few areas – East Anglia, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, and Warwickshire. While it’s less common round here, it can happen anywhere, so it’s worth being aware of. Dogs with SCI become sick, and have signs such as vomiting, and lethargy, diarrhoea, a sore stomach, a high temperature, and tremors. SCI can be life threatening and affected dogs need to see a vet quickly for treatment; with prompt treatment the majority of dogs do make a full recovery. Dogs often seem to have gone for woodland walks prior to becoming unwell, and often have tiny red mites called harvest mites on their skin, but the cause of SCI has yet to be found, so there is no specific test for it yet.

Fireworks and Loud noises:

The big events of the autumn season are Firework displays celebrating Diwali, Guy Fawkes night, and Halloween.

This year the 5 day festival of Diwali starts on the 25th of October, but some celebrations are likely to start as early as the 13th of October. Guy Fawkes night is the 5th of November, but celebrations often run from the weekend before that date (this year the 2-3rd) or the weekend after (the 9-10th).

Fireworks can be a very frightening experience for many of our pets. It can cause them to panic, try to hide or run away, which are obvious signs of distress. Panicked pets may also show more subtle signs however, such as drooling excessively, trembling or shivering, being clingy, vocalising, showing toileting trouble, or in rabbits in particular, stamping or “freezing” i.e. appearing motionless.

Being aware of the dates we are likely to expect fireworks can help us prepare to minimise any distress they may cause our furry family members. A range of strategies can be used, from managing your pets home environment and routine, to training with noise soundtracks, dietary supplementations, plug in pheromones, and even if necessary medications but almost every single one relies on starting early, weeks before any likely events.

Talk to a member of our team today if you’ve noticed signs of firework phobia in any of your pets, as there are lots of ways we can help both you and them.

Sweets and Chocolates:

Of course, around the same time of year we also celebrate Halloween – and that usually means visitors and sweets!

Many people are aware that chocolate can be toxic to our canine companions, but did you know that a substance called Xylitol – which is used as a sweetener in many food products is also very dangerous and poisonous? It can be found in some peanut butters, in a selection of chewing gums and sugar free sweets. Eating these sweet treats unfortunately can be very dangerous to dogs, so make sure to keep them out of reach!

Poisons:

Other substances can cause poisoning issues through autumn and winter too. As the season changes, so do the leaves and plants around us, with some species being potentially dangerous. Some examples include the autumn crocus, ragwort, oleander, amaryllis and chrysanthemums. Both conkers and acorns can be toxic to dogs, as well as causing physical blockages in the intestines if eaten. Lilies, whilst not a wild blooming autumn flower, can be bought all year round and the pollen is highly toxic to cats.

As the temperature drops we often check on our cars, and top-up the anti-freeze in our engines. Anti-freeze can contain a compound which is very alluring for cats, but also dogs and other animals. Sadly even licking a small amount of spilled or leaked anti-freeze can have rapidly fatal consequences for our pets. Take care when topping up your car for leaks or spillages and ensure these are cleaned up thoroughly.

Temperature and weather hazards:

Many of us will sympathise with older pets, who just like us can suffer from arthritis – which can flare up and worsen with changes in the weather. Take extra care of older pets at this time of year, or talk to one of vets for advice on management strategies in the colder months.

Ice can be a slip hazard for both man and beast, but you may not know that the rock salt used to “grit” paths and roads can be a hazard itself! It can become stuck to furry feet causing them to become sore or chapped, and if licked off can make pets sick. So make sure to check your pets paws after a walk outside.

Rabbits and other outdoor pets will also need special thought and planning to prepare for when cold weather comes. Runs and housing may need extra insulation so they have a draft free, warm dry area. Don’t forget that water bottles can freeze solid too so will need regular checking to ensure our pets stay hydrated!

Whilst we’ve talked about a range of potential hazards for the season in this post, if anything that you have read worries you, or you have questions please do not hesitate to contact our team. We will be happy to talk to you, and do all we can to help you and your pet enjoy the autumn season as safely as possible.

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The Benefits of Nurse Clinics to You and Your Pet

It can be easy to forget when you take an animal to the vets that there is a whole team of people, beyond the veterinary surgeon, working to help you and your animal. One you should be familiar with is a veterinary nurse. However, you may not be familiar with nurse clinics, a separate consultation from a purely veterinary one. These clinics fulfil a very different role to that of veterinary clinics (though they often work in tandem), and can offer a more personal chat about your animal and their welfare. Today we will run through what our nurse clinics do, their roles, and some things to consider before you book a nurse clinic. The next time you have to bring your pet into us, consider whether a nurse clinic would be more helpful to you.

What is a Nurse Clinic?

A nurse clinic is (obviously!) a clinic operated by one of our veterinary nurses. Unlike a vet, who is usually seen when your animal is poorly, our nurse clinics are focussed on preventative care. This means that the nurses will work with you to devise the optimum healthcare, welfare, environment and life for your pet, to prevent the sort of diseases that require help from a veterinary surgeon. This is best started from when you first get your animal, and continued until they are elderly, as care requirements will change as your animal gets older. Common areas focused on are weight gain/loss, helping maintain mobility in elderly patients, advice for first time owners, care of puppies or kittens, behavioural training, keeping up flea and worming, and improving dental hygiene.

As well as looking at your animal’s life when they’re healthy, our nurses can help you adjust to when they aren’t – post-surgery, or during illness, for example, our vets may ask you to change your pet’s feeding, exercise, or environment, as well as to administer drugs. This can be a lot to take in, so visiting a nurse clinic regularly after seeing a vet can help make sure you are doing the best you can to get your pet well again. Regular reminders to administer medication too are always useful, and any questions you may have on welfare can be answered by our nurses.

There are a number of minor procedures our nurses can perform as well, including clipping nails, removing matted fur, giving microchips, emptying anal glands, treating parasites, and so on. If you are only bringing your pet in for one of these, ask if a nurse could do it instead, to save the time of the veterinary surgeons, and to give you a chance to check your animal’s welfare.

The Benefits of Nurse Clinics

Visiting our nurse clinics has a number of benefits to you and your pet, the biggest being that you can have a double check that everything you are doing is suitable for your pet, and if not, what you can do to improve things. Our main goal is always to improve animal welfare, so having a nurse work with you as an individual owner to improve welfare will always yield some results. Even experienced owners may find something they can change, or discover new ideas.

Furthermore, nurse clinics offer a friendlier, more personalised approach to healthcare that you may not get from a vet – of course, we know that our vets are friendly, but they have a lot to squeeze into a short appointment, and you may not get a chance to have a chat about anything beyond the reason you are there. A nurse clinic gives you time to relax, chat and discuss your pet. Hopefully this will make you and your pet more comfortable with visiting the vets in the first place, so you may be happier phoning up the next time you have some concerns.

As mentioned above, nurse clinics are also great for post-operative care. It may be a lot to take in during a veterinary consultation, post-operation, so seeing one of our nurses soon after means you can ask about anything you are unsure of, and discuss a plan to manage healthcare from that point. Nurses can also administer drugs that have been prescribed by a vet, so if you are having trouble getting those tablets down a grumpy cat’s throat, a nurse clinic may help you learn the best technique. During this stressful time, regular care may be forgotten in favour of the postoperative care, so seeing a nurse who can talk about maintaining walks, grooming or anything else may make the job easier.

A Nurse vs a Vet – Some Considerations

While nurse clinics are a great and essential part of our veterinary practice, there are a few considerations you should make before booking one. The main thing to remember is that a nurse is not a vet – as such, they cannot legally diagnose your animal. If your animal is looking unwell, or injured, a nurse can only advise you see a vet, so it is better to see a vet in the first place. Should a nurse notice something during their consult, they will also refer you to the vet. Try not to push for an answer from them, as their role is not to diagnose illness.

A nurse also cannot prescribe drugs, meaning you cannot bring your sick animal into a nurse clinic and expect to receive drugs afterwards – in this case too, a vet must be seen. This extends to regular patients who might want to change a drug or dose. A nurse cannot change a prescription without seeing a vet first. By all means, discuss the drug, what it does, the best way to administer it, and so on. However, just be aware any changes will have to be made by a vet.

Final Thoughts

Every member of staff at our practice works incredibly hard to keep your animal fit and well – part of this means avoiding illness and maintaining high welfare standards. Our veterinary nurses and nurse clinics excel at this, so if you are ever unsure about your pet’s care, want some advice on a new or old animal, or just want a friendly chat about some new welfare ideas, consider calling us up for a nurse clinic. You should never have to feel unsure about looking after your best friends.

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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

Dogs on the beach

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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