Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Tick Bites: When to worry, and how to prevent them

Ticks are widespread in the UK. They are actually arachnids rather than insects and, like spiders, adult ticks have 8 legs and vary tenfold in size from 1 millimetre to 1 centimetre. Ticks hatch from eggs and develop into larvae, then nymphs, and finally into adults. At each stage ticks have to attach onto and feed from an animal (their host), to develop into the next stage. The younger stages of ticks, like larvae, prefer to feed on small animals like birds and rodents. However, the older stages can attach onto and feed on larger mammals, such as dogs and cats, and also humans. For this reason, these unwelcome hitchhikers are something you should be aware of.

How do animals get ticks?

Whilst they could be found in some gardens, particularly in more rural areas, ticks are most commonly found in vegetation in areas such as woodland, meadows and moors.  When they are looking for a new host to attach to, they are described as ‘questing’ and will wait on low branches and leaves to attach to any animal brushing past.

Is there a particular time of year that my pet is likely to be affected?

Ticks are most active in spring and early summer, and then again in early autumn. They are generally dormant in cold weather. However, with global temperatures on the rise, they are likely to be active for a greater proportion of the year.

Why should I worry about ticks biting my pet?

The majority of the time, tick bites will not harm your pet. Rarely, bacterial infections or abscesses will develop at the site of a bite. This is more likely to occur if a tick has been improperly removed, with part of the tick being left in the skin. However, the main reason for wanting to prevent tick bites in dogs is that they have the potential to act as vectors (spreaders) of infectious disease.

What diseases can be spread by ticks?

In the UK the most common disease that ticks transmit is Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Dogs that are bitten by an infected tick do not always become ill. We know this because many dogs in the UK have antibodies in their blood to the bacterium, suggesting they have been exposed, without ever showing signs of being unwell. However, some dogs do become ill, and this can occur weeks to months after being bitten. Signs of Lyme disease in dogs can include painful swollen joints, a fever and lethargy. It can also go on to cause glomerulonephritis, a condition affecting the kidneys.

Lyme disease can also affect humans, often showing as a characteristic ‘bulls-eye’ rash in the area of the bite. This rash is not generally seen in dogs.  Humans can initially suffer from a flu-like illness, but can also be affected by heart rhythm abnormalities, neurological problems and arthritis. In some people, this can become a long-term illness.  Whilst there is no evidence humans can be directly infected by dogs carrying Lyme disease, dogs could bring infected ticks into your home and garden.

Babesia is another parasite that can be transmitted by ticks to your dog. It can cause damage and destruction of red blood cells in the bloodstream, sometimes causing severe anaemia (low red blood cell count), as well as bleeding disorders and organ failure, and can be fatal. Until fairly recently, Babesiosis was a disease only seen in the UK in dogs that had travelled from continental Europe. However, in recent years, several cases of Babesiosis have been seen in dogs in the South East of England that have never travelled abroad, sparking concern that this infection is now beginning to establish in ticks in this country.

Dogs and humans can also contract a disease called Ehrlichiosis from ticks, though this is also rare in the UK.

How can I prevent my pet from getting ticks?

It is important to check your dog daily for ticks and remove any that are found, particularly at times of the year when ticks are most active and when your dog has been walked in areas that are high risk. Be sure to check them all over, including their feet, groin and armpits. Cats can also be affected by ticks but are quite good at grooming them off. If your cat gets ticks, they are most likely to be found on areas of the body they cannot clean so easily, such as on the head.

There are a variety of preventative tick treatments available that will repel ticks, kill them once they have attached, or both. Infected ticks do not spread infections such as Lyme disease until they have been attached to the host for around 48 hours. Effective tick treatments will kill ticks much quicker than this, meaning they are killed before they can transmit disease to your pet. Many of these treatments also prevent flea and other parasite infestations. Our practice staff would be happy to discuss with you what treatment would be best suited to use for your pet as part of their routine parasite prevention, so please do get in touch!

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet?

The easiest way to remove a tick is by twisting it off using a special tick remover. Properly removing a tick in this way reduces the risk of leaving the tick’s mouthparts still attached.  Ticks should never be removed by squeezing or pulling, nor by being burnt.

If you are unsure or worried that your pet has a tick, book an appointment with your local Goddard vet.

Spring Dangers & Threats to Your Pet

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. 

Lily Plant

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.

Plant Bulbs

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

Slug pellets containing metaldehyde are extremely toxic – ingestion of even small amounts will cause severe seizures.

Adders

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. 

Ticks 

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. 

easter treats and foods harmful to pets

Food Dangers For Pets

Chocolate

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. 

Xylitol (E967)

The sweetener can be found in many confectionery items and causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels (and occasionally liver failure) in dogs.

Mouldy Food

If garden composting this Spring, keep pets away from mouldy food which can cause seizures and liver problems if ingested.

Other Dangers

Spring is not the only time of the year our pets are in danger. There are different threats to their health and safety throughout the year. Read our handy guide to keeping your pets safe at Christmas

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. 

SPEED to help pets against toxic

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.

 

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.

Dogs

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

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.

Christmas Pet Dangers

Do you know the pet dangers hiding on your Christmas shopping list?

Human Medication

In the run up to Christmas, many of us may be reaching for the ibuprofen or paracetamol to cure a fuzzy head. Make sure to keep human medication away from your pets — dogs and cats are very sensitive to the effects, much more so than us. Many over the counter and prescription drugs, whilst beneficial for us, can be very harmful or even deadly to pets even in small doses. Always consult your vet for advice before giving any medication to your pet.

Xylitol

Could your good intentions be unintentionally harmful to your dog?
Xylitol is often used in baked goods around Christmas time in an effort to fight the festive flab. However, it is extremely toxic to dogs if ingested, even a small amount can be fatal. Xylitol (also known as E967) can be found in many products including sweets, baked goods, jams, peanut butter, dental hygiene products, chewing gum, etc. Ingestion in dogs causes a rapid drop in blood sugar which can lead to lethargy, wobbliness, confusion, vomiting, collapse and tremors/seizures. Some dogs may also go on to develop acute liver failure. Cats luckily do not appear to be affected.

Batteries

It’s time to wrap those Christmas toys and gadgets – don’t forget the batteries! However, pets are inquisitive and may think nothing about swallowing batteries, which can cause significant damage to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract! Large, chewed or punctured alkaline batteries often require intervention, and the lithium disc or ‘button’ batteries pose the greatest risk of all. Always contact your vet if you think your pet may have ingested a battery.

christmas_pet_dangers_medicine_chewing_gum_batteries

Mouldy Food

Mould ingestion can be lethal to pets. It usually happens when dogs raid the kitchen waste recycling caddy, so keep them out of reach this Christmas period where there is likely to be an increase in food waste. If your pet ingests mouldy food seek treatment without delay. Symptoms can occur rapidly and include:

  • restlessness
  • panting
  • excessive salivation
  • whole-body muscle tremors
  • hypersensitivity to touch/noise
  • seizures

Plants

Many Yule time plants can be hazardous to pets if chewed — luckily in the majority of cases symptoms are mild and self-limiting and may include salivation, oral irritation and vomiting/diarrhoea. To be on the safe side, keep plants out of reach of inquisitive pets and consult your vet if ingestion does occur.

Decorations

If you are decorating your Christmas tree this weekend beware of the potential dangers to your pet. Pets can be attracted to shiny lights, tinsel and baubles! Swallowed or chewed decorations can lead to cuts or intestinal blockages, and chewed fairy lights can pose an electrocution risk.

christmas_pet_dangers_mould_plants_decorations

Salt

Homemade salt dough decorations are pretty but poisonous! You might be decorating your Christmas tree this weekend, but these decorations can be hazardous for inquisitive pets. Due to the high levels of salt needed to make salt dough, ingestion of just one of these homemade decorations is enough to cause serious poisoning. Symptoms can range from vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst or urination. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible. Please avoid putting these around your home at Xmas if you have pets.

Onions and Garlic

Did you know that onions and their relatives are toxic to dogs and cats?
The Allium family (onions, garlic, spring onions, chives, leeks etc) cause red blood cell destruction in cats and dogs — which can result in lethargy or collapse. Even 1 or 2 garlic cloves can be enough to cause serious problems in a cat. Exposure can also occur chronically i.e. small amounts every day can build up to cause an issue. Gravy is often a sneaky culprit at Christmas time — instant gravy can contain a high amounts of onion/garlic powder, so avoid giving it as a treat!

Nicotine

The weekend is here and it’s Christmas party time! However, our own bad habits can be bad for our pets too. Nicotine poisoning can occur in pets so keep cigarettes and vapes out of reach — the flavoured liquid used in E-cigarettes can be particularly attractive to dogs. With significant ingestion, symptoms occur quickly and include drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, excitability/agitation and neurological signs. Always visit your vet if you think your pet has ingested any nicotine.

christmas_pet_dangers_salt_onion_nicotine

Chocolate

Keep those Christmas chocolates out of your pets reach! Chocolate is poisonous to pets, and dogs are usually the main culprits. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which dogs and cats are unable to process properly. Theobromine acts as a stimulant leading to clinical signs of:

  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • increased thirst/urination
  • hyperexcitability/agitation
  • rapid heart rate
  • seizures

The darker the chocolate the higher the theobromine content therefore the more toxic it is. White chocolate is safe however it may cause gastrointestinal upset due to its high fat content.

Alcohol

With the Christmas season in full swing what happens if your pet gets their nose into your alcoholic tipple? Alcohol should not be consumed by pets as their livers are not equipped to break down alcohol as easily as human livers are. We all know how awful we can feel after a heavy night, but our pets are much more prone to alcohol toxicity with potentially life-threatening consequences.  Alcohol toxicity can also occur from ingestion of unbaked bread dough — as the yeast ferments in their stomach, alcohol is created and is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Grapes and their dried fruits

Grapes and their dried fruits such as raisins, currants and sultanas (whether raw or cooked) are known to cause fatal kidney failure in dogs — so keep Christmas treats such as mince pies, puddings and cakes out of reach. Even ingestion of just a few grapes is enough to cause severe illness so always consult your vet if your dog ingests any amount.

christmas_pet_dangers_chocolate_alcohol_grapes

If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested any of these items, get in contact with your local Goddard vet or hospital as soon as possible. 

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?


MINIMISE STRESS

“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!

PREVENT POISONING

“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.