Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Alabama Rot: What is it?

The autumn and winter are a risk time for Alabama Rot, or more properly CRGV, although there were still some cases being picked up in the summer. In this blog, we’re going to look at this mysterious disease in a little more detail.

What’s with the name?

Strictly speaking, Alabama Rot was a condition of racing greyhounds in the USA in the 1980s, and was linked to contaminated feed. However, you will commonly hear people using the term to refer to a modern disease in the UK. Technically, the condition being diagnosed in Britain at the moment is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy, or CRGV. However, because “Alabama Rot” sounds scary, it sells more newspapers and hence it’s the name the media have chosen! As a result, that’s what most people call it.

But what actually is it?

It’s a disease that causes blood clots to form in the small blood vessels – typically in the skin and in the kidneys. These clots prevent blood from flowing to the local tissues, so they become starved of oxygen and die, resulting in symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms are ulcers – non-healing wounds that open up without injury. They usually affect the lower legs, but occasionally are seen on the underside of the belly, on the muzzle, or even in the mouth. They can easily look like scrapes or cuts. In the more severe cases, within 7-10 days, the kidneys start to fail, resulting in lethargy, reduced urine production, dehydration, vomiting, a metallic smell on the breath, collapse, and ultimately – in all too many cases – death. This is technically termed “acute kidney injury”, or AKI.

What is the treatment?

The key to treatment is early diagnosis, and then supportive care to help maintain kidney function. This is typically with hospitalisation and aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, keeping affected animals on a drip and managing their symptoms. However, sadly, in many cases kidney failure develops, and often it is so rapid, as to be untreatable, and many of these dogs are put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

What causes it?

No-one knows. Similar conditions are seen with some bacterial infections (e.g. some types of toxic E. coli), but if so, the bacterial cause has not yet been discovered. It has been suggested that a fish bacterium (Aeromonas hydrophila) might be responsible, but this has not been confirmed. Other possibilities that have been raised include food contamination, viral infections, or even a toxin in the environment, but so far there’s no evidence for these.

How can it be prevented?

Again – as we don’t know the cause, we don’t know! Initially, some people were recommending bathing those parts of your dog which become wet or muddy on a walk, but although this will help you detect the ulcers early, we have no evidence to suggest that it would prevent the disease. Some people are also avoiding walking their dogs in certain areas – but although an environmental cause has been suggested, there is no firm evidence as yet that particular areas are transmitting the disease, and most of the dogs affected have walked in areas where hundreds of others go, without the others being affected.

What animals are at risk?

Potentially any dog could develop the condition. That said, if one dog in a household is affected, others seem to be at higher risk – but once more, we do not know why. Fortunately, the disease cannot jump the species barrier, and there have been no reports of cases in humans, cats or other animals.

Should I be worried?

Not unduly so, no. Although CRGV is a very unpleasant disease, from the start of the “outbreak” in 2012 to January this year, there were only 122 confirmed cases – despite there being about 9 million dogs in the UK! It’s a really rare condition, and not something to panic about – especially when we compare it to infectious diseases like Parvo, degenerative ones like heart failure, and injury from cars, which kill many thousands of dogs each year.

What should I do?

Check your dog regularly for unexplained redness or sores on the skin. While most of these won’t be CRGV (again, we’d like to emphasise that it’s really rare!), they are potentially a warning flag. Early diagnosis gives the maximum chance for a successful outcome, so be vigilant, but do not be afraid!

If you find any suspicious lesions, or you’re at all concerned about your dog’s health, give your local Goddard Vet a ring for advice!

Top tips to keep pets safe this winter

If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for your pet – that’s the key message from the British Veterinary Association (BVA)* as it urges pet owners to take extra precautions to ensure dogs, cats and other small pets are kept safe from hidden and potentially fatal hazards as snow flurries and icy conditions are forecast in many parts of the country.

As with humans, pets can fall ill upon exposure to extremely cold temperatures for extended periods. To avoid this, vets advise that dogs are walked for shorter periods of time than usual, but more frequently if required, and to consider putting a coat on old dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm. Keep older cats inside during an extremely cold spell and ensure that even healthy young cats have easy access to shelter and warmth.


When walking your dog in ice and snow, do not let it off the lead and avoid walking in areas where ponds or lakes may have frozen over – animals often don’t understand the difference between solid ground and ice and can fall through. In this situation, vets urge owners to call the emergency services for professional help rather than going in after their pet. Although distressing, it is never worth risking your own life as well as your dog’s. It’s also important to wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.


Cats are especially at risk of poisoning from antifreeze, which can be fatal for them even in small amounts, especially if veterinary treatment is not sought immediately after ingestion. Store and use antifreeze products carefully, clean any spillages thoroughly, and contact your vet immediately if your cat develops symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, such as vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, seizures and difficulty breathing.

Small Pets

Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs that usually live outdoors are vulnerable to the cold and damp despite their furry coats. Owners with outdoor hutches and runs should make sure that their pets’ living space is well-protected from snow, frost and winter rain and kept dry. Give rabbits and guinea pigs extra bedding to keep warm and check their water bottle or bowl regularly, as these can freeze when the temperature drops.

Here are some other top tips to keep pets safe this winter:

  • Provide a warm, draught-free shelter: Make sure your pet’s bed is in a draught-free, warm spot off the floor in the house. For outdoor pets, the hutch or run should be in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow at least 10 cm off the ground.
  • Take precautions during and after walks: Dogs need to be exercised; however, during the colder months, try to walk your dog for shorter periods. Wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.
  • Avoid antifreeze poisoning: Wiping your pets’ paws can prevent them from ingesting toxins that they may have stood in whilst outside. Antifreeze in particular is highly toxic for cats even in small amounts, with almost one in six vets (17%) reporting treating cats for antifreeze poisoning over the 2018 winter season. Apart from use in car radiators, some cases that vets saw were thought to be from ingesting diluted antifreeze used in ornamental water features to protect the pumps.
  • Temperature control for small pets: Keep the temperature of rabbit and guinea pig homes between 10?C and 20?C for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 5?C to 20?C for guinea pigs, avoiding too many fluctuations in temperature.
  • Provide extra bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs: Make sure your rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding to keep warm during colder weather – line hutches with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin. If the weather becomes very severe, consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise – but never place them inside a garage in use, as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits and guinea pigs.

If you would like some more advice on how to keep your pet safe this winter, contact your local Goddard vet.

*The BVA is the largest membership community for the veterinary profession in the UK. They represent the views of over 18,000 vets and vet students on animal health and welfare, and veterinary policy issues to government, parliamentarians and key influencers in the UK and EU.

Understanding the XL Bully type dog ban

The Government has confirmed that it is bringing in legislation banning American XL Bully type dogs with effect from 31st Dec 2023. It has published advice for owners entitled ‘Prepare for the ban on XL Bully dogs’.

We do of course understand this may be a stressful time for many dog owners. It is important to be aware that it is the pet owner’s responsibility to be fully aware of the legislation and comply if it applies, or may apply, to your dog. If you have any concerns or questions, please discuss this with a member of our team and we will do our very best to guide you through the changes.

Summary of the law

From 31st December 2023,

  • Breeding XL Bullies or mating other breeds to produce XL Bullies will become a criminal offence.
  • Buying or selling, advertising, rehoming, exchanging or giving away, abandoning or allowing an XL Bully to stray will all be criminal offences.
  • XL bullies must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public (i.e., in the presence of other people) and be kept in a secure place that they cannot escape from.

From 1 February 2024, it will become a criminal offence to own an XL Bully without a Certificate of Exemption which can be applied for through the Government website. In addition to the above, XL Bullies must be:

  • Owned by someone over 16 years old
  • Microchipped
  • Insured against causing injury to people (third-party liability insurance)
  • Neutered (with a proof of neutering form completed by the vet and returned to DEFRA)
    • By 30th June 2024 for all XL Bullies born before 31st Jan 2023.
    • By 31st December 2024, for all XL Bullies born after 31st Jan 2023.

If a Certificate of Exemption is requested by the police or dog warden, you must be able to produce it within 5 days. The standards used to define an XL Bully type are broad and owners must decide on an individual basis whether their dog needs one.

How do I know if my dog is an XL Bully

Unfortunately, there is no genetic testing to determine if a dog is an XL Bully and identification by an owner relies solely on the Government’s official definition.

Vets are unable to officially determine a breed and therefore will not be able to provide you with any written statement confirming breed or type. However, if we think your dog may fit the description of an XL Bully, we will advise you that you may wish to consider taking a precautionary approach and comply with the requirements of the new legislation.

The guidance relating to the legislation advises that a dog will be considered to be of a type “known as the XL Bully” if the dog has a substantial number of the characteristics set out in the Government’s official definition.

I think my dog is an XL Bully

If you own an American XL Bully type dog, you can continue caring for it as normal. Legislation will require dogs to be neutered, microchipped and muzzled in public places. Therefore, you can prepare by ensuring your dog is neutered, microchipped, and trained to wear a muzzle. You can also obtain third-party liability insurance, which is available at a reasonable cost to members of the Dogs Trust.

When the ban comes into force, you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Exemption to keep your dog and comply with rules around banned breed types.


The following timescales for neutering have been provided by the Government:

  • If your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024.
  • If your dog is older than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024.

Once the pet has been neutered, your vet will fill in the proof of neutering form and return to it Defra.

Please contact your local branch to arrange neutering and allow plenty of time to get this booked as some vets will have waiting lists or will need to refer you to one of our other practices.

To learn more about neutering your dog please visit our neutering information page.

Safety and muzzle training

In the case of XL Bully type dogs, it will be a legal requirement for owners to keep their pet securely muzzled in public and this includes at your veterinary practice. You should start to train your dog to wear a muzzle when in public and to walk on a lead before 31 December 2023.

Click here for the Dogs Trust guide to muzzle training

If you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour at the veterinary practice or they are anxious when coming to the vet please see our blog ‘Guide to anxious dogs when visiting the vet clinic‘.

I will be unable to care for my XL Bully type dog after the ban

Under the ban, it is not possible to rehome an XL Bully and, if due to personal circumstances, the only option for some owners will be the need to say goodbye to your XL Bully through euthanasia. We understand this will be a difficult time and will assist you in this in compliance with the law.

If you choose or are unable to keep your XL Bully dog, then you will need to approach a veterinary practice to have him or her euthanised by 31 January 2024.

If you would like to know more about saying goodbye to your pet, please contact your local branch for a copy of our booklet ‘Saying Goodbye to Your Pet’ and we recommend a pre-euthanasia appointment to discuss the procedure and your options with the Vet.

  • Owners can claim £200 compensation towards the costs of euthanasia. The owner and vet will need to fill in a compensation form to make a claim. The owner must apply by 15 March 2024. In this circumstance, your vet will be required to recognise that the dog is likely to be or have been an XL Bully type.

Whilst no vet is obliged to carry out the euthanasia of a dog upon an owner’s request, we will make every effort to offer the appropriate/required support and treatment regarding the overall welfare of the dog and its owner in the context of this law.

Vet Visit: Guide For Anxious Dogs

Managing your dog’s anxiety when visiting the Vet

A visit to the veterinary clinic can be quite stressful for some dogs and we aim to help you to reduce this fear by using a number of measures to reduce the risk of your dog becoming anxious.

Once a dog becomes highly anxious or fearful, there is a greatly increased risk of your dog biting either you, a member of your family or a member of your veterinary team. Due to the potentially serious nature of dog bite wounds leading to serious injuries or infections, please follow this guidance to reduce this risk.

Reading a dog’s body language helps us to know when your dog might be inclined to reach the top level of anxiety or fear, which can result in biting. If treatment is not urgent, we can rebook an appointment to allow time to plan a different approach.

Routine or non-urgent examinations

  • When booking an appointment, please let us know if your dog has a fear of the veterinary clinic or of other dogs.
  • Request an appointment at a quiet time of the day when the waiting area is not full, such as the first appointment in the afternoon and when you and your dog are less likely to encounter other waiting patients.
  • You may wish to wait outside the clinic until it is time for your appointment – please let us know that you are waiting.
  • We can offer an extended consultations to allow time for the examination to proceed more slowly and with particular attention to your dog’s individual anxieties. Please ask at reception for the price of an extended consultation.
  • Use natural pheromones to reduce anxiety. These are calming molecules that activate calming centres in the brain – your branch may recommend Adaptil® Collars or Sprays, or Pet Remedy®.
  • Consider nutritional supplements, which, when used over a period of time, may help to reduce anxiety and help with learning new behaviours. Our team can recommend particular supplements or diets.
  • In some cases, it may be advisable for your vet to prescribe anti-anxiety medications that can be given a couple of hours before the visit to the practice. This will reduce their anxiety in the short term to help with short procedures such as a clinical examination, vaccination, taking blood, clipping nails or examining ears. Your vet can recommend an appropriate medication for your dog.
  • Our veterinary team can also refer you to an animal behaviourist to help reduce your dog’s fears and anxieties.

If an examination is needed and there is a risk of injury, then please always follow the directions of our veterinary team to keep you, your dog and our team safe.

Some dogs are actually easier to examine when you, or your family, are not in the room as they feel they need to protect you. The veterinary team may ask you to wait in reception while they examine or treat your dog and then discuss their findings with you.

Using a muzzle

In some cases, our team will recommend that your dog is muzzled on visits to the practice, in order to be able to examine and treat your dog safely. Muzzling doesn’t just keep you and our team safe; it also improves treatment outcomes for your dog.

The thought of a dog muzzle may might make you feel a little anxious. However, many dogs will feel calmer in a muzzle, especially if you can train them to wear one at home and if they have positive associations, such as receiving special treats, when wearing one.

Muzzling a dog is not just for dogs that are fearful, but they are also common for Greyhounds due to their high prey drive and for dogs that are prone to scavenging which can have potentially serious consequences for their health.

Choosing a muzzle

There are lots of types of muzzles. Choose a muzzle that your dog can eat, drink and pant through. It needs to fit comfortably without obscuring their vision or digging into their face and needs to be secure and as comfortable as possible. If it’s rubbing, you can try wrapping a non-irritant fabric around the inside of the nosepiece.

What if I need to use a muzzle before my dog is ready, such as for a veterinary examination?

If you’ve started your training and you need to fully muzzle your dog for any reason, such as a visit to the vets, use a completely different style of muzzle. Your practice will have a range of muzzles for use in the practice. Using a different muzzle for this short time will minimise disruption to training with your dog’s own muzzle.

Click here to visit Dog’s Trust step-by-step guide on muzzle training

For further helpful information on dog training and behaviour, visit

How to Have a Pet-Friendly Christmas

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.


“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.