Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

Can your veterinary nurses really help with my pet’s weight?

One of the many tasks that Goddard veterinary nurses can help you with is advice and guidance on your pet’s weight. Of course, humans can adjust their diets and eat healthily (or try to) but our four-legged friends rely on us to help keep them trim and a good weight. 

The problems with portly pets.

The news, it seems, is full of the problems with overweight humans and the health risks obesity carries. The same applies to our pets, having an overweight pet seriously increases the risk factor in a number of health conditions, including:

?     Arthritis and joint problems from carrying excess weight

?     Heart disease from the heart muscle having to work harder

?     Liver disease from Fatty Liver Syndrome

?     Cystitis

?     Diabetes

Also noticeable may be the pet’s fur, seemingly unkempt, even matted – this is because overweight pets have trouble reaching the parts they used to when grooming themselves. All this amounts to a very unhappy pet that can have a shortened lifespan.

Is there an ideal weight for my pet?

Having an ideal weight for your pet is not a simple as choosing a figure and sticking into that. Every pet is different! As an example, there are guidelines to say a cat should weigh around 4 to 6 kilograms or a Border collie no more than 20 kilograms. These are just guidelines as even pets of the same breed can be different, it is not so much an ideal weight as more a healthy weight! Factors including the sex of the animal also need taking into account – something our nurses will do during an initial weight check.

How do your nurses check a pet is a healthy weight?

Our nurses (and vets) use a system called a body condition score, This is because there is one healthy shape associated with many species.

During your pet’s weight check, our nurses will demonstrate how to check your pet’s body condition and the shape to look for. It is very simple and just means running your hands over their chest and back. Pets that have an ideal body condition will be able to have their rib cage felt easily with the tips of the fingers. That area should just have a slight fat layer covering, with the outline of one or two ribs possibly showing. Our nurses will also explain the shape of your pet from above and the side, and what you should be looking for.

How do I know my pets on the right diet?

That is another article in itself! There are hundreds of diets on the market for pets, including breed specific formulas. Ensuring that your pet gets the correct nutrition of carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals can be really difficult. If your pet is a rabbit, the correct amount of quality grass and hay also needs to be added to the equation.

The veterinary nursing teams at Goddard vets, are more than happy to assess your pet’s body score and talk to you about their dietary needs.

It is not a cliche about any species that has too many calories and not enough exercise – they will become fat! Pets can also become quite fussy eaters. How many different diets have you tried to feed your pets? Cats that totally ignore the food that they ate happily a few days before, or rabbits fed a muesli type mix that choose the tastiest and normally most unhealthiest bits to eat first. Our advice extends to them all.

And talking of exercise…

Pets can burn off those calories with a good amount of exercise. With dogs this is normally easy as they are usually happy to go for a walk or run, but with cats or bunnies it’s more difficult.

Some owners are brave and will put their cat or rabbit on a lead – but they are very much the minority, that means the best way for them to exercise is through play.

How many toys are there for cats and rabbits? Look around any pet store and there are shelves full of them. Cats love to chase and pounce using their natural hunting instinct and any ‘toy-prey’ will do – even paper balls. Rabbits like to climb, use tunnels, and even have their own toys. It’s up to owners to encourage them – and our nurses will support you with ideas and tips.

Keeping your pets at a healthy weight includes everything above and our nurses and vets are happy to support you with advice on weight and managing your pet when it comes to nutrition. Call your local surgery for more information and let’s help keep Britain’s pets healthy!


Why older pets can benefit from our veterinary nurse team

Compared to human years, animals at around the age of 8 are generally classed as senior pets. As they reach more mature years, it is important to recognise changes that may take place. Regular checks are important and our Goddard Veterinary Nurses can help and advise you on the types of things you may see with your pets as they get older. 

So what type of things can you advise on?


Just as in humans, when animals get older joint problems such as arthritis can develop, especially in cats and dogs. Have you noticed your pet being reluctant to move after a period of rest? Does your older cat seem uninterested in jumping up onto higher surfaces? These are things that are worth noting and mentioning during a senior pet health check.

With joint problems, movement can become harder for your pets and can start to affect their quality of life, by following advice from the nursing and vet team, there are ways to make movement that bit easier including:

  • Limiting exercise to a more appropriate level
  • Use of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Maintaining an ideal weight for your pet
  • Use of joint supplements
  • Use of hydrotherapy centres

Diet and appetite

Our nurses can give you advice on nutrition and dietary requirements for your pets, regardless of their age. Older pets can have changes to their needs, for example you wouldn’t want to feed an 8-year-old dog puppy food.

Different foods contain varying nutritional values and calorific content and our nursing team can help you decide the best for your pet. For example, older pets are generally less active, so would possibly require calorie reduced diets, thus helping to control their weight. Some breeds also have foods specifically developed by pet food manufacturers and tailored to your pets needs – we can advise on these as well.

During the senior pet health check (or at any time) if you have noticed your pet is going off their food or treats, please let us know. There are several reasons this might be happening and should be investigated by our vets. A simple blood test can help determine the problem. Alternatively if your pet has massive appetite, this can also be a sign of diabetes or thyroid problems as well as others, so again please let us know!


Older pets tend to not wear their toenails down so quickly because they might exercise less. An active younger dog may run around lots on hard ground, naturally wearing down their toenails, whereas older dogs may be walked on softer ground for shorter distances.

Older cats may not use scratch posts as much (or the furniture!) to keep their claws short. Dew claws can cause a particular problem as they can curl around and dig into pads, causing soreness and even infection.

Our nurses can check nails and claws to make sure they are not getting too long, trimming them where necessary to keep your pets comfortable.


Coat changes can happen in senior pets and it’s not always just part of them getting older, Sometimes there is a reason behind it. For example matted fur can mean your pets are unable to groom themselves and this can be for reasons such as a sore mouth (which could mean dental treatment), or they simply cannot reach the area to groom, and this can be due to joint pain.

Our nurses are happy to look at any coat changes you are concerned about, referring back to the vets if necessary. Also the team can advise on a number of supplements, as well as shampoos to help improve the coat, especially if greasy or flaky.

These changes can be subtle or quite visible, so it is definitely worth speaking with our nursing team who can liaise with the vets, should your pet need further treatment.

Does my cat have epilepsy?

It depends on what you mean by “epilepsy” – your cat can have seizures WITHOUT being epileptic! 

What do you mean? Aren’t fits and epilepsy the same thing?

No, there’s an important difference – a fit, or seizure, is the result of abnormal, uncontrolled electrical activity in the cat’s brain (it’s sometimes referred to as an “electrical storm”). Epilepsy technically means ANY disorder resulting in repeated seizures.

However, most people use the word “epilepsy” to refer to “Idiopathic Epilepsy” (IE), a specific disease (complicated, isn’t it?!). This is a fairly well understood genetic disease in dogs (and people) causing epileptic seizures in the absence of any physical disease process – and this does not occur in cats.

Cats can, though, develop “Epilepsy of Unknown Cause” (EUC), which appears similar but does not have a genetic cause and is probably due to microscopic damage to brain tissue (but no-one’s certain if it’s just one disease or several very similar ones). It may occasionally be referred to as “Primary Epilepsy”.

OK, so what DOES cause seizures in cats?

Seizures can be caused by a wide range of different conditions:

Structural Lesions – 47% of seizures in cats are caused by physical damage to the brain tissue, such as:

  • Strokes (a bleed or a clot in the brain, starving brain cells of oxygen, typically associated with high blood pressure in older cats)
  • Tumours (even benign tumours can cause seizures as they press on the brain tissue)
  • Meningitis (caused by infection or an abnormal immune response)

Metabolic Disease – 31% of seizures occur in cats whose brains are basically healthy, but other diseases are affecting the brain’s ability to function normally. Such diseases include:

  • Kidney failure (as toxins build up in the body because they aren’t being filtered by the kidneys)
  • Liver failure (as ammonium builds up in the blood because the liver isn’t breaking it down)
  • Diabetes (abnormally high or low blood sugar levels)
  • Poisoning

EUC is responsible for only 22% of cases.

What do seizures in cats look like?

There are two types of seizure in cats:

Generalised seizures are the most obvious, although they are less common. Typically, the symptoms include:

  • Initially, changes in behaviour (the Pre-Ictal stage, not shown by all cats)
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness
  • Violent shaking or convulsions
  • Chewing or twitching of the facial muscles
  • Salivating
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • In recovery (the Post-Ictal stage, which may last minutes or hours) the cat is often disorientated, confused or even appears blind
  • Full recovery is expected within a few hours

Partial seizures occur when the electrical storm only affects part of the cat’s brain. They are more common than generalised seizures in cats, are very variable in appearance and duration, and are often difficult to recognise. Possible symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Twitching
  • Vocalisation
  • Abnormal posture
  • Abnormal behaviour

How long does a seizure last?

Usually only a couple of minutes – essentially, the brain then realises something’s wrong and “reboots” itself. In cluster seizures, there may be repeated seizures over a few hours or a few days, then a prolonged period without any.

When is a seizure an emergency?

Any cat who suffers a seizure should be checked over by one of our vets. However, if a seizure lasts over five minutes, or two seizures occur without complete recovery in between, your cat needs to be seen right NOW. This may be “Status Epilepticus” which is usually fatal without immediate veterinary treatment.

What can be done about seizures?

In cats, it’s really important to determine the underlying cause if possible. Then treatment can be aimed at managing that condition, preventing further seizures. If this isn‘t possible, there are a range of anti-epileptic drugs that our vets can use (although not as many as for dogs) to reduce the risk and severity of future seizures.

If your cat has had a seizure, make an appointment for them to be checked over by our vets within 24 hours if possible. If they’re still fitting, get them to us NOW.