Category: Tips from the Vet

Fireworks – not much fun for many pets

Fireworks time will soon be upon us, and many of our pets will be affected by the unpredictable loud noises.

Sound fears are a very common problem. Many cats and just under half of the UK dog population shows a fearful response to loud noises.

Pets can show varied stress reactions to firework noise. They can withdraw into themselves and hide, soil in the house and sometimes even harm themselves whilst tryin to escape from the noise.

So what can you do if your pet is affected?

First of all, speak to your practice. We can give you good advice regarding how to cope on the night. For example how to react yourself and where to prepare a ‘den’ for your pet to hide in.

We can also advise whether your pet would benefit from taking something, and recommend a product which suits your pet. Some animals will need prescription medications but there are other options to consider.

One such option is Zylkene. Zylkene is a natural product derived from cow’s milk and can help support your pet in many common situations such as a house move or kennel/cattery stay. It can also help dogs and cats cope with fireworks season. Zylkene has not been associated with side effects such as memory loss and sedation.

It is also very easy to give – simply mix the palatable powder with food or a favourite treat.

The manufacturers also provide free information leaflets, giving practical advice and techniques to help pets cope throughout this stressful time.

Once fireworks season is passed, it’s time to think about long-term control of the problem. Fear of fireworks tends to get worse over time and can expand to include fear of other loud noises, such as thunder is ignored.

Sound desensitisation has shown to be a very effective way of managing the problem long term. It involves exposing the animal to firework noises in a controlled way however it must not be done during firework season.

The manufacturers of Zylkene have worked with the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group at the University of Bristol to produce the Zylkene Sound Desensitisation Programme to help owners find a long-term solution to this distressing problem. The programme includes clear written and verbal instructions and a practice track to help you get started and use the programme effectively. Uniquely, it includes component sounds, as breaking into components avoids overwhelming very sensitive pets. The CD contains tracks of common scary sounds – fireworks, thunder and lightning and gunshots.

For more information of this CD or to obtain a copy please ask at Reception.

Key Points to remember for Fireworks night:

  1. Provide your pet with a den or hiding place.
  2. Muffle the sounds of fireworks with the use of TV or radio.
  3. Keep pets inside.
  4. Stay calm and don’t over fuse your pet when they react.
  5. Don’t get angry with your pet.
  6. Discuss the problem with your vet.

By considering both the short and long-term aspects of managing this common problem, you and your pet should have a stress free fireworks season for many years to come.

Simon Robinson

Does my pet have epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the term used when an animal develops seizure type activity. There are many reasons why epilepsy can develop, but first perhaps some definitions would be useful:

Seizures are periods of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (convulsions).

Epilepsy is a disorder characterised by recurring seizures that originate from the brain.

This may be due to for example a brain tumour but most cases are:-

Idiopathic epilepsy of “unknown cause” with no evidence of any damaged areas in the brain. When vets say “epilepsy” then this is the type we are referring to.

We divide the causes of seizures into two areas, those involving the brain (intracranial) and those not involving the brain (extracranial).

Intracranial causes include cancer, viral infections such as distemper, trauma (e.g. a road traffic accident).

Extracranial include things like poisoning and low blood sugar such as a diabetic coma.

If a patient presents with a history of seizure activity we will almost always take a blood sample to screen the patient for a variety of diseases. We will perform a thorough clinical examination, paying special attention to the nervous system.

If the blood test is normal and the examination unremarkable, we generally assume that the cause of the seizures is related to the brain. So idiopathic epilepsy is a diagnosis made by excluding the other causes of seizure activity. In making a diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy the most important factors we look at are the age of onset and the pattern of the seizures. The first seizures usually occur between 6 months and 5 years of age. Dogs that start to seizure outside this range often have another identifiable cause.

Fortunately, many cases of idiopathic epilepsy are well controlled on daily doses of inexpensive epileptic drugs, although it can take several months to reach the level at which seizures cease completely.

Severe seizures that come on repeatedly (called status epilepticus) are medical emergencies and should be seen as an emergency. Should your pet have a seizure then prevent it from injuring itself on surrounding objects.

Remember that even if your pet is barking and twitching, it is unconscious and so will not respond. If you are worried that your pet may be displaying any type of seizure activity please contact the clinic as soon as possible.

Simon Robinson

How old is your dog in human years?

This is a question that I am asked on a regular basis! The answer to this is largely dependent on the size of your dog. This is because small dogs generally live significantly longer than giant breeds.

For example, a 15 year old Jack Russell Terrier weighing less than 9kg would be considered to be around 75 – 80 human years old. For a giant breed dog such as a St. Bernard, then this age in human years would be reached when the dog is only 9 – 10 years old.

The reason why there is such a considerable variation in the longevity of different size dogs is unclear but is undoubtedly partly related to breed factors.

However, one thing is sure and that is ageing is inevitable. The signs will differ between individual dogs dependent upon which bodily functions or organs are affected. These changes can then result in a reduced quality of life for you and your dog. The management of ageing dogs is important because the population of older dogs in the U.K. is increasing with at least 30% of dogs in the U.K. being over 8 years of age.

So, would your dog say “yes” to any of the following questions?

1. I am less keen to exercise than I used to be.

2. I have slowed down and do not want to play much anymore.

3. My personality has changed. I am often grumpy and feel like an ‘old’ dog now.

4. I am less keen to get out of my bed in the morning and am generally less agile.

5. I get out of breath quickly.

6. I feel less bright or alert.

7. I just do not seem to feel like the same dog I used to be.

Any of these signs could be due to age related changes, and veterinary attention may be able to help.

During the month of February, Strathmore is offering a free initial health check for any dog over 10 years of age that is either no registered with us or which has not had an examination by a vet in the last 12 months.

Simon Robinson

A socialised puppy is a happy puppy!

Have you got a new puppy?

Choosing a pup and bringing it home is so much fun, and then you’ve got to think about feeding, vaccinations, insurance, house training, and everyone in the family’s lack of sleep!

But while you are considering your pup’s physical development it’s important to also bear his mental development in mind. Puppies learn more about life before the age of 16 weeks than ever afterwards. As well as learning commands in his early weeks, it is important to expose him to as many positive experiences as possible to prevent him becoming fearful of different people, dogs and places.

You may not realise it but there are a number of phobias that occur frequently in dogs, which are often associated with poor socialisation and inadequate exposure to different environments and sounds. Early socialisation allows puppies to easily acclimatise to loud and unfamilar sounds, often making them much less likely to develop fears and phobias as they mature. Common phobias include loud noises such as gunshots, fireworks and thunder. Affected dogs show signs of anxiety including restlessness, panting and whining with some dogs resorting to destruction and self mutilation in severe cases.

In many cases there is often treatment avaliable to reduce phobias with many dogs benefiting from a desensitisation programme. This allows the dog to build up tolerance of their phobias, and sometimes cope best if this is combined with a course of medication that reduces anxiety. Although there are a number of options in the treatment of phobias, prevention still remains paramount which ultimately is based upon the puppy’s early experiences or socialisation.

Puppy parties provide a vital source of early socialisation as it allows puppies to learn positive experiences in a safe, controlled environment. Here at Strathmore Veterinary Clinic we hold monthly puppy parties which aim to socialise your puppy to allow them to become well mannered confident puppies. Parties also allow puppies to develop vital social skills allowing them to interact with other dogs appropiately. Early exposure to the veterinary clinic environment also allows your puppy to familiarise itself with the sounds and smells of a clinic during this important learning phase. This can often help to greatly reduce fears and anxiety which some dogs associate with the vet.

For more information regarding socialisation or to sign up for the next month’s party please contact the clinic on 01264 352323.

Jo Bond RVN

Holidays can be stressful – for pets!

As holiday time approaches, many pet owners spend as much time thinking about how their pets will cope while they are away as choosing a destination.

Holidays can be stressful for pets – a stay in a kennel or cattery, a new house-sitter or a changed routine can all be unsettling.  Many owners coming to the clinic tell staff that the thought of leaving a pet makes them worry whilst they are away, and in some cases makes them think twice about going on holiday in the first place.

Common signs of stress shown by an animal in an unfamilar and stressful situation include frequent pacing, changed appetite, reduced interaction with people or other animals, repeated vocalisation (some dogs are hoarse after a stay in kennels) and also some behavioural problems such as overgrooming.

Cats, more commonly than dogs, may withdraw into themselves and stop playing and socialising until they adapt to the change in their routine or their owners come home.

So what can you do to make holidays as stress-free as possible for pets? Firstly, make sure you are using an approved kennel or cattery – the local council can provide a list and assocations such as the Feline Advisory Bureau offer guidelines for choosing the right cattery for you.

However, a stay in even the best cattery or kennel is a big change for pets and some may need additional support during their stay. Zylkene is a natural product, proven to help pets manage stress in many common situations e.g. moving house or the arrival of a new pet. It can also help dogs and cats at holiday time – whetehr during kennel or cattery stay or to help them feel more confident with the person feeding them at home. Zylkene is also easy to give – the palatable powder can be mixed with food or a favourite treat, avoiding any struggles.

It is important your pet’s vaccinations are also up to date. Dogs should also be vaccinated against Kennel Cough. This is not always included as part of the annnual vaccination, so please ask us if you wish for this vaccination.

So if you are planning a holiday and are worried about your pet while you are away, please feel free to contact the clinic to discuss how to ensure a happy holiday for all the family.

Simon Robinson

Aliens in the South

Neotrombicula autumnalis can be a troublesome little creature on cats and dogs at this time of year, particularly in the southern half of the U.K.

It is more commonly known as “Harvest mite” and is a small creature related to spiders (arachnids). It is very small and bright orange in colour – about a dozen or so would fit on a pin head.

These creatures appear in the harvest fields, chalky downland, meadows and gardens from mid July onwards, and usually make their living foraging in these areas.

However, they seem to be attracted easily to dogs and cats and can sometimes cause great mischief. Harvest mites prefer to attach to areas with little fur, so they are often found around the nail beds, ear flaps, and in between the toes. Whilst they do not feed on animals directly, their activities often cause intense localised irritation and inflammation.

Although Harvest mites are killed by many modern flea treatments, because of their predilection for areas at the margins of the body, many survive for long periods of time.

Treatment to reduce the inflammation is usually very effective, but some animals seem to have a worse attack each year. Indeed, in some cases, we would look to start anti inflammatory medication before the mites become active.

Come the first frosts, the Harvest mites are killed off.

So if your cat or dog seems to be suffering from skin disease at this time of year then Harvest mites, as well as fleas, should always be considered as a possible cause.

Simon Robinson

It’s ok to give my pet human medicine isn’t it?

Over 78% of vets in a recent survey had treated animals that had ingested human medication in the past year. In addition, 25% of these vets had dealt with cases where owners had deliberately given human medicine to their pet.

The most common medicines ingested were paracetamol and ibuprofen, but diabetic and heart medication, contraceptive pills and anti-depressants were also frequently given.

Whilst I am sure the vast majority of these pet owners were well meaning, there are numerous risks associated with human medicines. For example, paracetamol given to cats is invariably fatal because a cats metabolism is unable to break down the drug. In one case, an owner gave her cat one quarter of paracetamol tablet every day in an attempt to stop pain, which instead resulted in the cat dying.

In another case, a Husky accidentally consumed a packet of 40 ibuprofen and did not receive veterinary attention for 16 hours with the result that the dog died from liver and kidney damage.

It is certainly the case that many people turn to the internet now for all kinds of information including when they have a sick animal. So the temptation to self-diagnose and medicate your animal’s condition can be very real for some people.

So, although the intention of giving pets human medication may be well meaning, many human drugs are strong poisons and can cause severe illness and even death. Of course, you must also make sure that human medications are stored safely well out of reach of your pets.

The bottom line is always seek proper veterinary attention when your pet is unwell – after all, we are just a phone call away!

Simon Robinson

Make sure your pet stays worm free!

Did you know that, unless you worm your pet regularly it is often difficult to avoid them acquiring worms? Here are the major ones to treat:

Tapeworms are long segmented flat worms, living in the small intestines where they shed mobile segments containing eggs, which pass out in the faeces. The eggs may then be eaten by an intermediate host, including small rodents and fleas. Cats catch and eat small rodents and pets swallow fleas as they groom, reinfecting themselves with tapeworms.

Roundworms, resembling white pieces of string, also live in the small intestines. They shed thousands of tiny eggs, which pass out in the faeces and pollute the environment. Dogs and cats are re-infected by unwittingly eating eggs in the environment. These eggs also pose some risk to humans if inadvertently swallowed.

Lungworm caused by Angiostrongylus vasorum, is becoming more and more widespread over time. It only infects dogs and can cause problems ranging from heart failure, to clotting problems and blood loss in affected dogs. It is also spread by intermediate hosts – in this case slugs and snails, so dogs that eat molluscs are at risk.

To control worms in your pets and the environment you need to: worm your pets regularly, use regular flea control, and try to prevent dogs eating slugs and snails and clear up faeces.

We will be happy to advise you on the most suitable worming and flea control regime for your pet, so please call the clinic if you would like any further information.

Simon Robinson

A new disease in the New Forest Area

There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about a new disease of dogs that seems to be linked mainly to the New Forest area.

This disease is believed to have killed 13 dogs in the last year. Some of these cases have been from other areas including Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham – a wide geographic spread.

The most frustrating aspect of this disease is that despite exhaustive testing, a cause has yet to be identified. One thing is for certain however and that is the Environment Agency have ruled out contamination of water supplies as a cause. However, veterinary experts now think that this disease is linked to so called ‘Alabama Rot’ which is the proper name for Idiopathic cutaneous glomerular vasculopathy. Now that is quite a mouthful!

Idiopathic means that we do not know what the underlying trigger is. Cutaneous means that skin lesions are present, whilst the remainder means that the kidneys are affected.

Indeed, many cynics would say that the longer the name of a disease, the less we really know about it!

However, the course of the disease when examined under the microscope is very similar to a human disease called ‘haemolytic uraemic syndrome’ or Alabama Rot.

In a proportion of these people, it is triggered by a toxin produced by a bacteria called E-Coli. However, this toxin has not yet been identified in dogs.

The main clinical signs of this disease are non healing ulcers on the legs and sudden onset collapse. Affected dogs appear to go into sudden life threatening kidney failure and require immediate veterinary treatment such as intravenous fluids, antibiotics and pain relief.

Please remember that this is still a very rare disease.

If your dog has skin wounds on its legs after a walk that do not seem to be healing, or indeed is suddenly unwell, make sure that you make an urgent appointment with the clinic.

Simon Robinson

Don’t break the bank! Is your pet insured?

Have you thought about insuring your pet? We’d like to encourage you to do so!

Unfortunately there is no NHS for pets. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that we can offer an incredibly high level of care to your pets, but this does not come without costs, and some conditions – particularly those that require referral to a specialist can be very expensive to treat.

Accidental injuries such as broken bones, torn ligaments and wounds can happen in an instant, and conditions such as cancer, medical problems and infectious diseases, can crop up out of the blue.

The good news is that pet insurance offers owners and vets the peace of mind that the most appropriate treatment can be offered in each case, without cost becoming a major issue. However without pet insurance it can sometimes be hard to afford unexpected vet bills, and decisions on treatment may have to involve economic considerations, which is never ideal.

Also, we owners are legally responsible for our dogs’ behaviour, and claims against dogs are being increasingly made following bites, jumping up incidents, and accidents which can sometimes be very costly. Personal liability insurance is advisable and is included with most pet insurance.

We strongly advise insuring your pet with a reputable company, and to make sure your pet has an adequate level of cover. Ideally, pet insurance should also include life-long cover so that pets don’t run out of insurance after a year, or once a certain amount of money has been spent.

For more information about pet insurance why not visit our pet insurance page?

Simon Robinson

Please contact a member of our team if you would like any further information on the benefits of pet insurance!