Category Archives: Pet health care advice

No eggs-cuses for chocolate toxicity over Easter

Don’t under estimate the temptation of chocolate for dogs and keep it well out of reach especially at Easter. It’s not just a dodgy tummy that we worry about.

Chocolate contains theobromine which a dog cannot digest and so it becomes toxic to them. Theobromine affects the liver and in large quantities can be fatal. The higher the cocoa content of chocolate the higher the risk of liver problems so dark chocolate is more potent than milk chocolate.

Any chocolate can have toxic effects depending upon the size of your dog and the quantity they have consumed. If you think your dog has managed to eat any easter eggs do contact us for advice. The most important information we will ask for is the weight of your dog, the type of chocolate and the amount eaten.

If your pet does eat something it shouldn’t have, give us a call. Our 24 hour emergency service will be operating as usual throughout the Easter weekend so you will be able to contact an Avonvale vet at any time if your pet needs urgent medical attention.

Posted in General News, Pet health care advice |

Myxomatosis

Myomatosis is a disease that affects rabbit. It causes puffy, fluid filled swellings. They can get “sleepy eyes”, swollen lips and swellings around their rear ends. In some the swelling is so severe that it can cause blindness. Most rabbits will then stop eating and drinking and can develop breathing problems.

It is spread by blood sucking insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas, and also by direct contact between rabbits. Most infected rabbits die within 12 days.

There is no treatment for this disease but fortunately we are able to help protect rabbits by vaccinating them. A vaccine once a year can help keep them safe. Call us today to book your rabbit in for a health check and vaccination.

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Tips for healthy teeth

 

  • Regular tooth brushing is the best way of keeping your pet’s teeth clean. Both dogs and cats will generally allow tooth brushing once they are used to the idea but it may take a few weeks to establish a regular routine. It’s very important to use a pet toothpaste as human toothpaste can be dangerous for pets
  • Diet can be very important in preventing tartar build-up on teeth. Try to feed your pet good quality dry foods rather than soft foods, as the latter tend to stick to the teeth, allowing the rapid build-up of tartar. Some diets are especially formulated to help keep teeth in the best possible condition. If you are considering changing your pet’s diet, please speak to our vets and nurses for advice.
  • Start early as some pets can be a little shy of their mouth being opened. A gentle mouth examination should be part of your general puppy training (along with looking in the ears and looking at the feet – all sensitive areas) to get your pet used to this type of handling. Our nursing team will show you how to do this when you attend routine puppy checks or one of our puppy parties.
  • Regular check-ups with your veterinary practice are essential for your pet’s oral health.

Throughout March we are offering free dental checks with a qualified veterinary nurse who can check your pets teeth, give you advice on preventative dental care and provide you with a complimentary finger brush to help you get started.

If your pet requires further treatment, we are offering a 20% off dental treatment during March.

Posted in General News, Pet health care advice |

Dental Awareness Month

Our pets rely on us to make sure that their teeth and oral health are in good order. They are not able to brush their teeth twice daily and take themselves off to the dentist every 6 months as we do, so we must take care of their teeth for them.

Poor dental hygiene can be a source of chronic pain and discomfort for many pets. Most owners are unaware of this discomfort because most animals will not cry out in the presence of such pain – they just tolerate it.

If there is an infection in the mouth it can allow bacteria into the body via the blood stream and cause infections elsewhere. Kidney, heart, lung and liver problems can all be caused by poor oral health. Bad teeth can therefore just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

Any of the following may indicate that your pet has a dental problem: 

  •   Halitosis (bad breath)
  •   Sensitivity around the mouth / pawing at the mouth
  •   Loss of appetite
  •   Bleeding, inflamed and/or receding gums
  •   Tartar (brownish hard material)
  •   Loose or missing teeth.
  •   Difficulty chewing & eating food or dropping food

The first thing to do is to look in your pet’s mouth. Halitosis (bad breath) is caused by bacteria in the mouth, so this may alert you to the presence of dental disease.

Tartar is the hard brown accumulation which occurs on teeth. It is caused by mineralisation of plaque which in turn is caused by bacterial action against food particles in the mouth. The presence of tartar leads to gingivitis (gum inflammation). The gums become red, sore and prone to bleeding when touched. Tartar and gingivitis will eventually lead to periodontal disease where inflammation and infection cause destruction of the tissue around the tooth. Affected teeth loosen and may eventually fall out.

If the disease is severe, affected animals may eat on one side of their mouth, lose weight or generally fail to thrive. Older cats especially may start to look rather tatty as they may start to groom themselves less enthusiastically.

When dental disease is suspected you should seek veterinary advice.

Throughout March we are offering free dental checks with a qualified veterinary nurse who can check your pets teeth, give you advice on preventative dental care and provide you with a  complimentary finger brush to help you get started.

For pets requiring further treatment, we are offering 20% off dental treatment during March.

Keep an eye out for further tips and advice on dental care on our website and Facebook page.

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Arthritis in older pets

Now the nights are starting to draw in and the temperature is dropping, it’s important to keep our older four legged friends in mind. The colder weather can be hard on your pet’s joints, especially if they already suffer from joint disease such as arthritis.

Arthritis usually affects older animals and is caused by wear and tear on the joints, causing the cartilage which lines the joint to wear away. This causes pain and lameness, but the signs can also be more subtle. If you have an older dog, keep an eye out for stiffness, slowing down on walks and difficulty climbing the stairs or jumping into the car. In our elderly feline friends, we usually see difficulty jumping on to high surfaces and a reduction in activity levels, among other subtle changes.

imageIf you are worried that your pet may have the early symptoms of arthritis, make an appointment to see your vet who will be able to examine each joint for signs of stiffness and pain, and can prescribe medications to help reduce the inflammation and make your pet more comfortable, and supplements to improve the health of their joints. As well as medication, or instead of it in early stages,  weight control, physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy can be extremely useful.

If your pet has been diagnosed with arthritis, there are several things you can do at home to help. When it’s cold and wet outside, take extra care to thoroughly dry your dog after walks, and consider using a coat to protect them against the worst of the weather. Allow cats access to the indoors and provide plenty of soft, warm bedding for your pets- hard floors can be harsh on older joints. Orthopaedic mattresses are widely available and can really help older pets. Lastly, the sporty among you will know the importance of warming up and warming down and it is no different for your dog- use 5 minutes at the start and end of a walk as a warm up and warm down period, where your dog is on the lead and not doing anything strenuous- controlled but regular exercise is best for dogs with arthritis.

If you have any concerns about the effects of aging on your pets and what you can do to help, pop in to your local branch and chat with a member of our staff, who are always happy to help.

-Becky Smith MRCVS

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Eyesight in Older Pets

As animals age, just as for people, there are normal changes that occur. By far the most common of these is a condition called nuclear sclerosis.

You may have noticed that, as your pet ages, the normally dark pupil starts to look cloudy. This may be more obvious in low light when the pupil is larger and more of the cloudy lens is visible.

imageThe lens is made up of layers of cells arranged somewhat like the layers of an onion. As animals (and us!) get older, the cells become packed together more tightly as new layers are added to the outer lens surface. The increased density of the lens causes it to look cloudy in dogs over about 7 years of age and the lens will continue to appear cloudier over time. Nuclear Sclerosis is easily mistaken for a cataract, a different problem that also causes the lens to become cloudy. While a cataract is an abnormality that can cause blindness and inflammation inside the eye, nuclear sclerosis is normal for an older dog, and the condition has minimal effect on vision.

Just as for middle-aged people who need reading glasses, a dog with nuclear sclerosis will not be able to see well up close. Going down stairs and catching a small treat may be more difficult, but they will still see that rabbit or football in the distance.

This and some other age-related changes in the eye are normal, very slowly progressive and should never cause significant problems. If you notice a major change in your dog’s vision, please give us a call.

-Mark Taylor MRCVS

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Chronic kidney disease in cats

Today is World Kidney Day, so today’s blog is about a very common problem we see in older cats- Chronic Kidney Disease. The kidneys’ job is to filter waste products from the blood. In cats, the kidney function deteriorates slowly over time, eventually leading to Chronic Renal Failure.

The most common and often first noticed sign is increased thirst. You may notice that your cat starts drinking from more unusual places such as taps, sinks and water butts. If your cat uses a litter tray in the house, you may see her using the tray more frequently too. Other signs can include a reduced appetite, vomiting and general malaise. 2012-04-24 14.05.36 copy

If your vet suspects kidney disease, they may suggest running a blood and urine test to confirm the diagnosis and also to check for any other problems such as an over-active thyroid or high blood pressure.

If your cat has been diagnosed with kidney failure there are many things we can do to help to slow the disease progression. The first thing we suggest is changing your cats diet to a special prescription food which helps support the kidneys. Medication can be used to treat secondary problems such as nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, poor appetite and urine infections.

Unfortunately, signs of kidney disease in cats often don’t occur until the disease is at a fairly advanced stage, so if you have any concerns about your cat’s health please give as a call to arrange an appointment with one of our vets.

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Ageing and our pets

This month we will be looking at some of the health problems that can affect our pets as they become older.

Pets over the age of 8 years old are generally considered to be ‘senior’, and require particular care. This may seem quite young, but consider this; our pets’ fast metabolism means that they age approximately 7 years for every calendar year, so an eight year old pet will have the physical condition equivalent to that of a fifty six year old person.old-dog-sitting-1545519-1279x1705

Common problems seen in older pets include-

  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumours
  • Heart disease
  • Eyesight problems
  • Dental problems
  • Senility
  • Liver disease
  • Overactive thyroid (in cats only)

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and some of the problems can occur in younger animals too.

Advances in modern veterinary medicine mean that many predominantly age related illnesses can be managed successfully to maintain a good quality of life for your pet when they are diagnosed early and treated effectively.

As changes in condition can happen relatively quickly we recommend that older pets have a physical examination every six months and that some diagnostic screening of urine and/or blood is considered to establish any early signs of deterioration of internal organs, such as the heart and kidneys.

Appropriate medication, regular health monitoring, supportive therapies and understanding care from a vet who sees you and your pet regularly can help to prolong a full and active lifestyle.

 

 

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Leptospirosis

We have recently seen and treated two dogs with leptospirosis infections. Both dogs are thankfully doing very well but these cases highlight the importance of awareness of this disease.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease with several strains causing severe liver and kidney damage. It can be spread by rats, dogs, horses and pigs in their urine and is common around water courses both in towns and countryside alike. Leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, sometimes with fatal consequences. The signs of leptospirosis in dogs can be very variable, and in some cases dogs don’t show any obvious signs at all. When symptoms do occur they can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and jaundice (yellow tinged gums).

Leptospirosis is treatable, but it is much safer to ensure your dog is vaccinated to give protection. This year we have introduced a new and more advanced dog vaccine. This provides broader protection for Leptospirosis covering four, rather than the usual two, strains of this widespread disease. To upgrade the Leptospirosis protection your pet will need an L4 Upgrade injection 3-4 weeks after the usual booster to establish immunity. After this a single combined booster each year will maintain the complete protection. You will be offered the choice to do this at your booster appointment. If you have any questions about our new vaccination protocol please don’t hesitate to ask a member of staff.

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Body condition scoring

Our final weight loss blog is on body condition scoring.

Weight alone can be misleading because dogs vary so much in size- a Great Dane will obviously weigh a lot more than a Yorkshire Terrier! For this reason body condition scoring can be really helpful.

Body condition scoring was developed as a way to standardise the assessment of whether animals are underweight or overweight. It is based on a scale running from 1-5 where 1 is an emaciated animal and 5 is grossly obese. The place on the scale on which the animal falls is determined by assessing several criteria. These are:

– How easily felt the ribs are
– How obvious the waist and abdominal tuck are – How much excess fat is beneath the skin
– How much muscle mass is present

 It has been shown that the body condition score, or BCS,  is related to the percentage above which dogs and catsare overweight and consequently can be used to suggest a target weight for dieting overweight pets. Since even within individual breeds there are a range of shapes and sizes that dogs come in, body condition score allows target weights to be tailor made rather than just suggesting the breed average. Once on a diet, body weight is used as a precise measure of the progress you pet is making.

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy Hill’s Pet Nutrition®

This diagram gives the basic principle of how to body condition score your pet. If you are unsure, or would like to discuss your pet’s BCS, please talk to one of our nurses.

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