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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.

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.