For most humans, Christmas is when we meet up with friends, celebrate with rich food and drink, put up sparkling decorations and have a wonderful time! However, for our pets, it can be really tough. Stress from strangers in the house, a change of routine, unexpected hazards from decorations and tasty foods that prove to have nasty toxic side effects. So, what can we do to make the festive season pet-friendly?
“God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay…” But all those merry gentlemen certainly can dismay our pets! Almost all of them find the presence of strange people in the house stressful. Dogs may respond to this by aggression, destructive behaviours or hiding; rabbits freeze and try and stay motionless; whereas cats are more likely to start urine spraying, hide or just vanish for the duration. However, even an apparently excited and waggy dog may not be as happy as they seem – while some dogs genuinely do love company, others try and cope with the stress by being extra friendly.
Ideally, you should avoid putting your pet into a stressful situation at all. This means allowing them to have their own quiet space, away from people, minimising the amount of interaction with strangers (so those festive cat and dog costumes probably aren’t a good idea) and, as far as possible, keeping to their normal routine.
However, they aren’t going to be able to avoid the holiday season completely, so you will also have to look at managing their stress. For dogs and cats, the best approach is the use of pheromones – Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. Sadly, there aren’t any products designed specifically for rabbits, but if your pet is really suffering, whatever their species, bring them down to see us and our vets can prescribe anti-anxiety medications that are very effective in the short-term.
AVOID ORNAMENT INJURIES
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…” And fir trees, glass and plastic ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, lights and candles. All lovely to look at, all potentially dangerous! Cats often like to play with bright shiny things, but they can easily get themselves cut (on a broken glass bauble, for example) or burned by candle flames or hot fairy lights. Cats also love to play pounce with tinsel and ribbons, but if swallowed they can form a “linear foreign body”, cutting into the intestinal walls. find out more about what you can do with advice from Cats Protection.
Dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to try eating things – and any ornament can cause an intestinal blockage, or break and cut the mouth or bowel.
Christmas trees are a particular threat, as to cats they are nice climbing frames (potentially resulting in it raining cats as well as needles), while to dogs they are a convenient urinal (which may result in electric shocks in a rather unfortunate location).
The simplest way to avoid injuries is by preventing pets from having any unsupervised contact with ornaments or decorations!
“So bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding and bring it out here…” Sadly, so many of our festive favourites can be toxic to our pets. Most people know how dangerous chocolate is for dogs (and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is). However, did you know that coffee, peanuts, Macadamia nuts, onions, and even raisins and dried fruit are all poisonous to dogs and cats? So no slices of Christmas pudding, mince pies, festive nuts, sage and onion stuffing for our pets! The Dogs Trust have created a Doggy Christmas Menu – especially designed with dogs in mind!
In addition, cooked bones are highly dangerous as they can splinter in the mouth or gut, leading to sharp wounds and even perforated bowels. So, watch out for left-over turkey carcasses!
Finally, be very careful not to give them too much rich food and treats – dogs and cats do not thrive on rapidly changing diets, and a sudden change can lead to nasty vomiting and diarrhoea. Likewise, rabbits shouldn’t have too many seeds and treats, but make sure they have plenty of good quality hay.
Christmas with pets can be great fun for both of you, but you do have to take certain precautions! If in doubt, contact your local Goddard vet for more advice.
To reduce the environmental risk of the disposal of medicines in general waste we encourage you to return unused medicines to the practice for safe disposal:
Flushing medicines down the sink or toilet can lead to contamination of waterways
Putting them in the bin at home means they end up in landfill
We can arrange for safe and legal disposal of your unused or out-of-date medications to reduce this risk so please return them to your practice reception.
Responsible Use of Antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is recognised by WHO as one of the greatest risks to human health, and consequently, animal health.
Antibiotics cannot be prescribed to your pet without being examined by a Veterinary Surgeon and this includes topical products such as ear drops.
It is always important to use the course as directed by your veterinary surgeon and complete the course to the recommended length. Please speak to a member of the team if you have any problems administering the medication.
We may recommend tests to see which antibiotic is most effective for your pet’s condition and to check for antibiotic resistance and this may involve taking a swab to look at the bacteria under a microscope and grow – “culture” – the bacteria to test the antibiotics.
Preventing disease is a really important way to reduce the environmental impact of healthcare.
Vaccinating your pet against infectious diseases and preventing parasite infections is very important for animal welfare and to prevent illness in your pet. It is also much cheaper and has less environmental impact to prevent a disease than to treat it.
As we move towards Bonfire Night, Diwali and New Year’s Eve, our love for fireworks has created an entire season of celebrations. While it’s exciting to have multiple opportunities to revel in the festivities, we must keep in mind that not everyone shares our enthusiasm. Our beloved pets, for instance, may not enjoy the noise and commotion caused by fireworks. To ensure the safety of your cats, dogs, and other pets during this firework season, we’ve compiled a list of ten helpful tips in this blog.
TIP 1: DESENSITISE YOUR DOGS AND CATS
If your pet is afraid of the loud noises, start desensitisation therapy as early as you can. Try downloading firework sound effects from Dogs Trust and play them very, very quietly. Reward your pet for staying calm, and over weeks or even months, gradually increase the volume so they get used to the sound.
TIP 2: MAKE SURE THEY ARE MICROCHIPPED
Panicking pets tend to run, but they’re not so fussy where they run to! If they DO escape and are microchipped you can be sure you’ll be reunited again.
TIP 3: USE PHEROMONES
There are pheromone products available for cats and dogs such as Feliway and Adaptil. They are very effective at reducing stress and anxiety levels. Start using them at least 2-3 weeks before fireworks season starts if possible.
TIP 4: TRY OUT SOME CALMERS
There are a wide range of herbal and nutritional calmers on the market; some of which we stock and can recommend. Although the evidence for Zylkene isn’t conclusive, we think it really can help settle animals down if given over a prolonged period!
TIP 5: BUILD A NICE NEST
Your pets need to be kept safe and secure, with a suitable nest or den to hide in. This is especially important for dogs and cats, but also applies to rabbits and small furries kept in open cages or hutches. Make sure they can hide themselves away when the displays start!
TIP 6: KEEP YOUR ANIMALS SAFELY INDOORS
It may be a little tricky but make sure your cat and dog are safely inside. Not only will it stop them escaping (and then potentially coming to harm), but it will also muffle any scary sounds and frightening lights.
TIP 7: LIGHTPROOF AND SOUNDPROOF HUTCHES, CAGES AND AVIARIES
If possible, rabbits and other small pets in cages or hutches should also be brought inside — or at least, away from sight and sound of the fireworks. For example, a large hutch can usually be moved into a garage or shed. For cage birds, the aviary isn’t usually movable, but the bright flashes can panic birds into a smother. As a result, we recommend carefully covering the aviary (while leaving lots of air-holes!) to minimise any risk.
TIP 8: KEEP TO A NORMAL ROUTINE
Many pets are very sensitive to changes in routine and timing and can put them on edge. So as much as possible, keep everything the same. You really don’t need any extra stress — and neither do they!
TIP 9: DON’T REWARD FEARFUL BEHAVIOUR
Of course, if your dog is afraid, your cat is scared, or your rabbit is terrified, it’s only natural to try and comfort them. However, you need to be careful. Excessive fuss and treats can reinforce the fearful behaviour — as they learn this is what they need to do to get your attention! As a rule of thumb, make a moderate fuss of them if they come to you, but don’t go to them, or dramatically change the way you react. Remember, pets can pick up on our stress levels as well as vice versa, so it can spiral out of control!
TIP 10: COME AND TALK TO US
If your pet is really, really stressed and you’re worried they’ll hurt themselves — come and talk to us. Not only can we give you personalised and tailored advice, but our vets can, if necessary, prescribe anti-anxiety medications to relieve short-term stress, fear and panic.
Can you recognise the seven common signs of poor pet eye health? We are taking part in National Pet Eye Health Awareness Week (18-24 September) in partnership with TVM UK who have shared the most important things to look out for.
Careful observation of the way your pet looks and acts and what is classed as ‘normal’ for them is the first critical step for responsible pet care. Regarding eye health, any perceived changes in your pet’s eyes can be a good indication of whether or not a trip to your vet is warranted. Do both eyes look like each other, are the face and head symmetrical when comparing right to left?
Do they both look shiny and clear, not dull, cloudy, or dry?
Are the pupils the same size and shape?
Is one eye squinting?
Is one eye runny with watery or sticky discharge?
Is the colour the same? Does one look red? Has the iris suddenly changed colour?
Eyes are extremely sensitive and easily irritated – did you know that the cornea has around 20-40 times more nerve endings than the tooth root? And most of us know how painful toothache is…
If you believe that your pet is suffering from eye irritation you should contact your vet for advice as irritation can be a sign of eye pain or itchiness.
Symptoms that may suggest that your pet is suffering from eye irritation:
Pawing/rubbing at their eye/s
Squinting or excessive blinking
Excessive tear staining
Sticky or runny discharge
Swollen skin around the eyes
Dullness or cloudiness of the eye
Different pupil sizes
Some common reasons which may cause eye irritation in your pet:
Foreign object in the eye
Irritants – smoke, shampoo, etc
Dry eye (poor tear film)
Eye problems can be very painful and go from bad to worse very quickly so don’t delay in seeking advice and treatment from your vet!
Like us, pets often experience gradually failing eyesight as they approach their senior years and due to compensation using their other, superior, senses like smell and hearing, gradual sight loss may not be easily noticed by pet owners.
However, there are many other conditions that can cause your pet to go blind relatively suddenly at any age, so it is important to be vigilant of sudden changes or symptoms.
Symptoms of acute eyesight loss you may notice are:
Changes in the appearance of the eye
Clumsiness – bumping into things
Easily startled or nervous
Slow and cautious movement
Getting lost outside
Unable to find toys, food dishes, water, etc.
Not wanting to go out at night
Conditions causing blindness are serious and need urgent treatment if there is any remaining chance to prevent total, permanent vision loss. Blindness can also be a result of many systemic diseases which can be damaging to other organ systems so it is extra important to get your pet checked and treated.
Conditions that can cause blindness:
Tumours in the eye
Brain disease – Aneurism, Stroke, Seizures, Tumours, or Infection
General Disease – e.g. diabetes, hyperthyroidism
Cataracts – more common in Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers, and Siberian Huskies
Inflammation inside the eye
4. Tear Staining
Tear stains are those reddish-brown marks that can appear on the fur around your pet’s eyes. These stains can be unsightly and noticeable, especially on pale fur.
Dog and cat tears naturally contain high amounts of porphyrins – these are iron-containing compounds derived from red blood cell breakdown in the body. When tears sit on the skin the porphyrin staining will intensify in the presence of light.
Not only that, when tears sit on the skin around the eye, they make it damp which favours local bacterial growth – some bacteria can produce their own porphyrins, therefore, contributing to tear staining.
Tear staining is more likely to occur in certain breeds where tears find their way onto the face more easily, rather than draining normally down the tear ducts. For instance, this may be due to the shape of the face, abnormalities of the tear ducts, or small hairs around the corners of the eye that wick tears onto the face.
In most cases tear staining is largely a cosmetic problem and your pet will lead an otherwise normal life, however, some patients with tear stains may have underlying eye problems which means they overproduce tears due to ocular irritation. These tears can then spill over onto the face resulting in tear staining. It is important to ensure underlying reasons for tear staining have been ruled out by a vet as, if ignored, the underlying problem may progress and be harder to treat.
Your pet’s eyes are as sensitive as your own and are just as susceptible to irritation, allergies, injury, and disease. One of the earliest signs of many eye problems is a red eye. If your pet’s eyes appear visibly red or swollen get them checked ASAP by your vet as some causes of a red eye are not only painful but can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated (such as glaucoma).
Common causes of redness:
Allergies or irritants
Foreign object in the eye
Uveitis (inflammation inside the eye)
6. Dull, Cloudy, or Colour Change
Healthy eyes should be bright, clear, and shiny — if your pet’s eye suddenly looks cloudy or opaque this is a sure sign of an eye problem that needs to be examined by a vet!
Most often cloudiness is noticed in the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) or the lens- vision may be affected to varying degrees depending on the underlying cause.
Conditions most likely to cause cloudy or opaque eyes:
Uveitis- inflammation inside the eye
Pannus- autoimmune inflammation in the cornea, German Shepherds are predisposed
Injury or damage to the eye/s
Corneal ulcers or scratches
Nuclear Sclerosis is considered a normal ageing change in older pets where the lens takes on a cloudy or blueish haze – it doesn’t affect vision but can often be confused with cataracts at first glance. Your vet can easily distinguish between the two conditions by doing an eye exam.
7. Runny or Sticky Eye
Eye discharge is a common problem in pets. Some types are completely normal, while others may be associated with potentially serious health concerns. In order to determine when you need to take your pet to the vet, you’ll need to understand the various types of eye discharge and what each may mean.
5 most common types of eye discharge:
A little ‘gunk’ or crustiness – generally made out of dried tears, oil, mucus, dead cells, dust, etc. Typically, clear or a slightly reddish-brown colour that accumulates at the inside corners of the eyes. Most evident in the morning and is perfectly normal, with the amount produced each day being relatively constant. It should be easily removed with a damp cloth or eye cleansing solution made for pets. The eyes shouldn’t be red and shouldn’t exhibit any signs of discomfort.
Watery Eyes – Excessive eye watering (AKA epiphora) is associated with many different conditions that can range from being relatively minor to more serious. Below are some of the common causes of watery eyes in pets:
Foreign body in the eye
Anatomical abnormalities (e.g. rolled in eyelids)
Blocked tear ducts
Glaucoma (increased eye pressure)
Your pet may have simply received an eyeful of pollen or dust, and the increased tearing is working to solve the problem. If eyes continue to water or your pet develops red, painful eyes or other types of eye discharge, make an appointment with your vet.
Reddish-Brown Tear Stains – many pets, especially those with light-coloured fur, develop a reddish-brown discolouration to the fur near the inner corner of their eyes. This occurs because tears contain a pigment called porphyrin that turns reddish-brown with prolonged exposure to air. In most cases tear staining is cosmetic and can be removed with eye cleansers however sometimes it may be due to an underlying disease causing excess tearing so it is advisable to get tear stains checked by a vet.
White-Grey Mucus – This can be a sign of Dry Eye (AKA keratoconjunctivitis sicca), a condition where the tear film becomes inadequate. A normal tear film is vital for good eye health so the body tries to compensate by making more mucus to try and lubricate the eyes. Left untreated Dry Eye can result in severe discomfort and potentially even blindness.
Yellow or Green Eye Discharge – pets whose eyes produce yellow or green discharge often have conjunctivitis or an eye infection.
If you have any concerns, get in touch with your local Goddard vet for advice, or make an appointment online.
Spring is an exciting time of the year. The weather is improving and the prospect of enjoying time outdoors with your pet is becoming more of a reality after months indoors.
It is important for all pet owners to know the potential dangers springtime can bring to their pets and the best ways to avoid harmful accidents. Read some of our helpful tips on keeping your furry friend away from danger.
Outdoor Pet Dangers
There are many items that can be found in your garden during spring that can be highly toxic and in some cases deadly, to your pet – even in the smallest of quantities.
Any part of the lily plant can cause kidney failure in cats, so think twice about having them in your home if you are a cat owner.
Many plant bulbs can be toxic to pets if chewed or eaten so be careful if planting them this Spring. We would much prefer to see some photos of your blooming garden than a necessary trip to one of our practices with your pet.
Slug pellets containing metaldehyde are extremely toxic – ingestion of even small amounts will cause severe seizures.
While seemingly less likely than the other outdoor threats, Adders need to be considered by all pet owners whether in their gardens or out on walks. As the weather gets warmer, Adders wake up from their winter hibernation. Our overly inquisitive pets can encounter the UK’s only venomous native snake in many different scenarios and can attract a nasty bite if you aren’t too careful.
One of the most problems you will come across as a pet owner is Ticks. As our pets begin to go outside more in the spring it is easy for them to pick up tics in woodland, vegetation or even your garden. As spring is the most common time of the year for ticks, they are worth watching out for.
Probably one of the most well-known dangers to pets from food. Chocolate is a common pet poison – the higher the cocoa content, the more danger it poses! As chocolate becomes plentiful around Easter be wary of your pets inquisitive nature to hunt out treats. Make sure it is stored away properly and children know it can harm pets.
Raisins, currants and sultanas
Similar to chocolate, raisins, currants and sultanas can be found in a variety of Easter treats. These can cause kidney failure in dogs. While there is no defined dose that will prove deadly to your canine member of the family, it is important to ensure their contact with any dried fruit is significantly limited.
The sweetener can be found in many confectionery items and causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels (and occasionally liver failure) in dogs.
If garden composting this Spring, keep pets away from mouldy food which can cause seizures and liver problems if ingested.
It is also important to keep your pet’s health under consideration as the weather gets warmer into the summer months. Look at our tips for keeping your dog cool in the warmest part of the year.
There are many things around the house that are poisonous to our pet friends, use our Poisons Guide if you think your pet has eaten something poisonous that is not listed above, or get in touch immediately with your local Goddard vet.