Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Tips on exercising your pet

In order to be happy and healthy, pets have needs that can be broken down into 5 areas: health, behaviour, companionship, diet, and environment. Owners need to provide these needs. It is not only ethically right to do so, but also our legal responsibility. Follow our tips below on exercising your pet.


Exercise fits into 4 out of the 5 welfare needs…

  • It helps maintain our pets’ health. It’s estimated that 46% of dogs seen in practice and 34% of cats are overweight or obese. Interestingly, research shows only 15% of owners describe their dogs as overweight and 54% of cat owners don’t know their cat’s weight.
  • Exercise is essential for pets’ mental health too, providing them the ability to carry out natural behaviours. This can help prevent unwanted behaviours that can otherwise build up.
  • To allow your pet to carry out their natural behaviours they need to be given plenty to do. This is known as enrichment. Providing a safe and enriched environment is our responsibility.
  • Many of our pets prefer to exercise and live with company. In some cases companionship is actually essential for wellbeing.

Tips for dogs

ALL dogs need walking daily, but statistics say 13% are not. Different breeds, ages and personalities need varying amounts of exercise. Our team can recommend what your pet needs. A fit Labrador needs at least 2 hours of exercise daily whereas a Yorkshire terrier may only need 30 minutes. Puppies and elderly or debilitated dogs will need special consideration.

Time off-lead gives opportunities to sniff and explore which is important for mental health. Dogs appreciate a varied route for different experiences but if recall is an issue, a large garden or enclosed play area is ideal. Always keep dogs on the lead in built-up areas and use high-vis jackets during the dark nights.

If your pet is getting tired you have done too much. If they are full of energy then you may have not done enough. Dogs love human companionship, so playtime indoors or outdoors is also important. When alone, you can keep dogs occupied and exercised by using puzzle feeders. Sticks can cause serious injuries so perhaps instead throw a ball (but one that is big enough to not be swallowed).

Tips for cats

Outdoor cats scratch, stalk, pounce and batt outdoors, but it’s still important to provide opportunity for these behaviours indoors. If cats are indoors this is essential. Cats all have individual preferences. If your cat doesn’t want to play, try different toys. Interactive toys provide companionship and bonding time, and you can change the pace and speed of play. Cats exercise in short bursts, so 5-10 minutes frequently throughout the day is better than one long period. As cats naturally hunt at dawn and dusk they may prefer these times for play.

Putting part of your cat’s food ration inside food puzzles can keep them mentally amused and exercised when alone. Research shows puzzle feeders can reduce stress, contribute to weight loss, decrease aggression towards humans and other cats, reduce anxiety and fear, and eliminate attention-seeking behaviour and inappropriate toileting problems. You can buy puzzle feeders or make your own – try putting kibbles inside plastic bottles with holes cut in them. The cats can then roll them around and retrieve; or perhaps within a constructed toilet roll tube tower for your cat to reach into and grab.

Tips for rabbits

The more space rabbits have, the happier they are. Outdoor runs should let them sprint and stand up without touching their ears on the bars so should be at least 3 x 6 x 10 ft. This space includes an attached enclosure (6 x 2 x 2 ft) so they can enjoy the outdoors and run about when they want. Rabbits like to play and dig so make sure they have lots of toys.

Wild rabbits spend 80% of their waking time foraging. Food can be hidden and dispersed to encourage exercise. Research shows rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone and rabbits love to play and exercise together. They actually value companionship as much as food. If you have a single bunny, talk to us about finding them a buddy.

Tips for small pets

Hamsters travel great distances at night in the wild. They need as large a cage as you can provide (at least 60 x 30 x 30cm). Many breeds dig, so an area of deep sawdust will satisfy this need. Most love climbing on different levels, but make sure levels are not too tall as a fall may cause harm. Hamster wheels should be solid as spokes can cause injury, and wide enough so the hamster doesn’t bend its back when moving. Restricting access to wheels to 3-4 hours ensures they don’t keep going until they are exhausted.

Hamster balls with no way to escape may also cause exhaustion, so always supervise if using these. Food can be hidden to promote foraging behaviour through the night and boxes, tubes and ladders provide stimulation for exercise and climbing opportunities. Remember, although many breeds of hamsters like company, the Syrian hamster does not. Syrian hamsters are happy to exercise alone, or with their humans.

For guinea pigs, RSPCA recommendations are minimum size hutch of 4ft by 2ft but, like rabbits, the bigger the better. Like rabbits they also need companionship, and ideally constant access to a large grassy area so they can decide when they want to go out. Hiding food can increase exercise through foraging and, like any pet, toys will increase exercise and mental stimulation.

Rats’ cages should be at least 50 x 80 x 50 cm and they need at least an hour’s playtime outside their cage per day, in a safe rat-proofed room with no cracks or wires to chew. Boxes or tubing provide extra entertainment and, although they enjoy human company, it’s unfair to keep them alone.


As all pets have different needs, do speak to us to ensure yours is getting the right amounts of the right exercise.

Pet Diabetes Awareness Month: Diabetes in Cats

What is it?

Diabetes mellitus is a common disease where sugar (glucose) in the blood is unable to enter the cells of the body due to problems with insulin. This means the cells have no energy and feel like they’re starving even though there is plenty of sugar available. Cats usually get insulin resistant diabetes (equivalent to Type 2 diabetes in humans). This occurs when, although the pancreas is making insulin, the cat’s body cells are not responding normally to it. The result is that the blood sugar levels climb and climb, but the cells cannot use it.

Why is it important?

Untreated diabetes will eventually result in coma and death, either due to brain damage from cerebral dehydration (hyperosmotic coma), or metabolic collapse (diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA). Cats that are treated and stabilised have a good prognosis. If the underlying cause of insulin-resistance can be resolved cats can go into remission, meaning they no longer need treatment.

What’s the risk?

Diabetes is more common in middle-aged to older, male, indoor/inactive and Burmese cats. It has also been linked to long-term steroid medication use, chronic pancreatitis, acromegaly, and Cushing’s disease. However, obesity is probably the most important single risk factor.

What happens to the cat?

Classic symptoms for diabetes include weight loss despite an initially good appetite, increased drinking/urination, walking flat footed (like humans) and smelly breath. In later stages, untreated cats can enter diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which causes anorexia, vomiting, lethargy and eventually a coma which can lead to death.

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How do you know what’s going on?

Your vet will be suspicious of diabetes based on the history and clinical signs you tell them as well as their examination. One single test alone, however, cannot usually be used to diagnose diabetes and sometimes repeated testing over several days is required. This is because there are many other factors, including severe stress, that can lead to a temporarily high blood glucose level.

To check for diabetes, your vet will perform a blood test to assess the blood glucose level. If this is high, they will often then check for sugar in the urine (glucosuria) which should be negative in a healthy and non-diabetic cat. A further blood test called fructosamine can be used to check the average blood glucose level for the last couple of weeks to make sure your cat has consistently had high sugar levels indicating diabetes. The urine will also be assessed for signs of ketones which are found in DKA and some vets can also test for ketones in the blood.

Urine may need to be cultured to check for a secondary infection which is common due to the high sugar content. Other diseases can cause and be associated with diabetes and these may also be checked for, particularly if your cat is not responding well to treatment. These include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), acromegaly (a growth hormone tumour) and Cushing’s disease (steroid producing tumour, although this is rare in cats).

What can be done?

Diabetic cats that present with ketones in their blood/urine usually require hospitalisation for intravenous fluid therapy (a drip) and treatment with short-acting insulin to stabilise them. Once stable, diabetic patients can be treated at home provided the patient is compliant and the owner is willing.

Diabetes can be treated with long-acting insulin injections given under the skin 1-2 times a day. There are different types of insulin and methods of injecting insulin available and your vet will go through the options with you. Many owners find the idea of injecting their cat daunting, however, your vets and vet nurses will go through the process and practise with you until you feel confident. It is important that you follow a strict routine, giving the insulin and feeding your cat at the same time every day.

Food is typically given at the time of injection and not in between as this can result in poor control. In many cases, weight loss and a low carbohydrate diet are beneficial and can improve the chances of your cat going into remission. Response to insulin is monitored using blood glucose tests/curves and fructosamine (see above) and your cat’s dose will be adjusted accordingly.

Cats with poor control of their diabetes will show symptoms as described above. Cats that are too well controlled because of too much insulin or going into remission can show signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This includes lethargy, trembling/twitching, wobbling when walking, and depression. In severe cases, hypoglycaemia can result in seizures and a coma. If you are worried your cat is hypoglycaemic then give them something to eat if they are able to swallow, if not then rub some honey on their gums and seek veterinary attention immediately.

Achieving good control of diabetes within the first six months markedly increases the chance of remission. However, cats that have gone into remission can still become diabetic again in the future.

How can I protect my pet?

You can help decrease the chance of your cat getting diabetes by minimising the risk factors where possible. Try to keep your cat slim and active, as overweight cats are over 4.5 times more likely to get diabetes. Feeding a diet which is lower in carbohydrates can help prevent obesity and often results in lower blood glucose levels after eating, compared to many commercial diets.

If you have any questions please get in touch with your local Goddard practice!

Does my indoor cat need vaccinations, flea and worm treatment?

It’s a really good question, and one we’re asked quite often. As usual, of course, there are a couple of caveats… firstly, it does depend to some extent on the pet. And secondly, it depends how “indoors” an indoors cat is (we’ve seen people with “indoor cats” that are allowed out on special occasions before!). However, as a general rule, yes… and here’s why.


Vaccinations

The vaccinations we recommend as routine for cats are against Panleukopenia (also known as Feline Infectious Enteritis), Cat Flu (Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus), and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV). Now, these diseases are primarily spread cat to cat, so you might think that indoor cats would be entirely safe, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.

While the Feline Leukaemia virus breaks down rapidly in the environment, the Herpesvirus can last a day or so, the Calicivirus a month or so, and the Panleukopenia virus for over 6 months (possibly even over a year). As a result, when you come in and out of your house, there is a very real possibility that you’re bringing in active and infectious virus particles that will infect your cats – whether or not they ever go outdoors.

The only effective way to protect cats from these diseases are either by making them live in a hermetically sealed bubble (NOT good or nice for them, we think!) or by vaccination, to protect them – wherever they live.

Flea treatments

Similar problems exist with fleas. Once in a house, fleas can lie dormant for months or years as pupae in the dust, in the carpet, or between the floorboards. However, even if they aren’t in your home (or you’ve rooted them all out!), invasion of the house by fleas being carried on vermin (mice and rats), or even on your clothing is quite possible.

Now, for most cats, the few that will enter the house this way are unlikely to be a major problem – but of course it only takes 1 pregnant flea to infest an entire house when her 3,000 or so eggs start to hatch! More of a worry, though, are those cats unlucky enough to have a flea allergy (Flea Allergic Dermatitis, or FAD). This is very common in cats, where their immune system goes into overdrive when exposed to flea saliva after a bite. Unfortunately, it only takes one bite to set them off scratching, causing self-harm and hair loss.

We think that, in general, you and your cat are both better off safe than sorry!

Worm treatments

Cats are subject to a range of different worms – including roundworms and tapeworms. Now, it is indeed true that many cats become infected with worms by eating live prey (especially the Taeniafamily of tapeworms); so, cats who don’t hunt are at much lower risk.

And of course, mice and rats do occasionally invade even the nicest of homes, and even the gentlest of cats are prone to supplement their diet with a nice crunchy morsel if available…

However, more importantly, many cats are in fact infested with worms within a few hours of birth, which they contract through their mother’s milk. So, we must remember this possibility – of roundworms hiding away in the muscles until the cat is sick or old, and then reactivating. Even more importantly, though, the common tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) is spread by fleas… so even one flea in the house could mean a tapeworm infestation!

Are there risks from regular preventative treatment?

Significant harm from use of appropriate medications, at the right dose, in the animals they are prescribed for, is very, very rare. However, the harm from parasitic infestations, even in indoor cats, is very much greater. On balance, then, in most indoor cats, most of the time, we strongly recommend regular preventative treatments.


Want to know more? Want to see what’s the best answer for your cat as an individual? Make an appointment to have a chat with one of our vets!

How do I look after my pets dental health?

Here at Goddard Vet Group, we see a lot of dental problems in both cats and dogs, and in fact dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases throughout the UK. But is there any way to prevent this horrible disease? And how can we help your pets?


Dental Diseases in Pets

Dogs can have a variety of dental problems throughout their lives. When they’re young, problems with the deciduous (‘baby’) teeth can mean they’re left with too many teeth in their mouths. This leads to food becoming stuck and causing gum disease. Some dogs are mad chewers – they’ll break teeth or wear them down, which is not only painful but may result in a tooth root abscess. Most commonly, though, dogs suffer from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease affects dogs of all ages, although it’s more common in older dogs as it takes a while to occur. It’s also more common in some breeds – generally the smaller breeds. Bacteria in the mouth live on the teeth and gums in the form of plaque, and over time they eat away at the gum and get down beneath the gumline. Here, they start to affect the periodontal ligament, which is the connection between the teeth and the jawbone. When this ligament is damaged the teeth become wobbly, which inevitably results in tooth loss.

Cats also get periodontal disease, but they’re also prone to resorptive diseases. This is where the body, for a currently unknown reason, breaks down and re-absorbs the tooth root, resulting in a painful tooth very prone to breaking.

How Can I Prevent Dental Disease at Home?

Whilst resorptive lesions are hard to prevent, some simple changes to lifestyle can make a big difference to the other diseases. Since worn and fractured teeth are a result of dogs chewing on abrasive or hard materials, talk to one of our nurses about appropriate chews that are less likely to cause dental problems. Baby teeth that fail to fall out should be removed under general anaesthetic. They’re often still firmly attached and great care needs to be taken not to damage the root of the nearby adult teeth. This can often be done at neutering or as a separate procedure.

Tooth Brushing

Brushing the teeth is the single most useful thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease. Toothbrushing removes plaque before it has a chance to harden into tartar and cause gum disease. It’s also a great excuse to check your pet’s teeth daily (yes- daily!) for any problems. We always recommend trying to introduce tooth brushing to pets as soon as possible, and to start slow and build up – just like with anything new. Don’t forget, never use human toothpaste (it’s not good for our pets!). Our nurses are fantastic at giving you top tips for tooth brushing, so if you think you can make time in your day to brush your pet’s teeth, please give them a call or book in for a free dental check to go over it.

Dental Dog Chews

Some dental chews have been shown to reduce the level of plaque in the mouth. However, there are a lot of brands out there that may not have the same benefits. We recommend choosing from the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products, or talking to our nurses. Don’t forget that these chews contain extra calories which should be accounted for in your pet’s daily allowance to avoid obesity.

Can Water and Food Additives Help?

Water and food additives to prevent plaque build-up do exist and some even have evidence that they help. Whilst they’re not going to be as good as tooth brushing, they’re a good added extra, especially in pets that won’t allow anything else. Again, the VOHC have a list of accepted products, so choose from this list or discuss with one of our nurses at your next dental check.

Diets for Dental Disease

For those animals very prone to dental disease, specific diets have been created to reduce plaque and tartar through a combination of ingredient choice and kibble that breaks up in a particular way. These diets are prescription diets, so if you think you’d like to try them please have a chat with our team.

How Can my Vet Help?

Despite doing some, or all, of these things at home, it’s still possible that your pet will suffer from periodontal disease. This is especially true if your pet is genetically predisposed or has already lost teeth to the disease.

Regular check-ups with your veterinary nurse can keep track of the level of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth and allow an early-warning sign if disease is starting. However, our animals are masters at hiding the signs of disease and sometimes a dental check-up under general anaesthetic is necessary to allow us to do a more thorough exam.

Problems such as fractured teeth, exposed pulp, wobbly back teeth and resorptive lesions can be missed on a conscious check-up, especially if your pet objects to the examination. Putting them under a general anaesthetic allows us to examine more thoroughly and even test the teeth for problems using a dental probe, just like a human dentist. And during the check-up, just like at the dentists, they’ll also get a scale and polish. This enables us to remove any tartar build up from the hard to reach places before it starts to cause a major problem.

For most pets, a scale and polish are necessary every 6-12 months. After all, we humans brush twice daily, but we still miss spots and need a professional clean at least annually. Whilst it is theoretically possible to clean the teeth conscious, the most important area to clean is under the gum line. This is uncomfortable for pets and the majority will not tolerate it without an anaesthetic, meaning that cleaning without anaesthetic results in a sub-standard clean.


When was the last time your pet had a dental clean? If they’re overdue, why not book for a check-up with our vet team and we’ll talk it all through with you!

I’ve found a stray cat, what should I do?

RSPCA figures show Greater London takes the top spot for most cats rescued, with 2,350 cats coming into RSPCA care last year. Whilst it is commendable to try and help our feline friends, first we need to decide if the cat is indeed a stray in need of help.


How can I tell if it is feral?

Feral cats are usually the offspring of stray, feral or abandoned cats that have missed out on early socialisation with humans, making them very wary of us. If they are adults already, they will not make good pets. If the cat is not friendly and approachable, it may be feral. These cats often (but not always) live in colonies rather than alone. They won’t come close, even with encouragement, and will avoid human contact. They may have a part of the ear tip missing indicating they have been trapped, neutered and released by a charity in order to keep feral populations down.

So long as a feral cat is healthy, they will live happily outside. They should be largely left alone. However if they appear injured or ill, then contact the RSPCA. Various national charities have neutering schemes so if you see a colony of cats without ear tipping, contact your local RSPCA or a local charity such as the Celia Hammond Trust for more advice.


I don’t think it’s feral – what do I do now?

If the cat is alone, approachable and friendly, it may be a cat that belongs to someone, that has strayed. Some owned cats will stray further from home than others, so we must take care not to mistake an owned cat out on their constitutional, for a lost cat. Cats may be greedy and take advantage of a well-meaning neighbour for an extra meal. They may be on a special diet at home that they’re less than pleased with, so in search of a tastier supper.

However, if you are regularly being visited by the same cat, looking for food and shelter, then action is needed.

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What can I do?

Firstly check the cat for a collar. If there is one it clearly has had an owner. If the collar has a contact number on it, then get in touch and explain your situation. There may be an owner frantically searching for their missing feline friend.

If there is no collar or contact details, then you could pop the cat in a basket and take it along to your nearest vet to be scanned for a microchip.

A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification implanted subcutaneously under the skin between the shoulder blades. Each chip has a unique number, detected using a microchip scanner. The microchip number is recorded on a microchip database with details about the animal and owner. In the majority of cases, the microchip is registered to an owner and, hey presto — a reunion ensues.

If taking this cat into your nearest vet is not possible, there is no chip found on scanning, or the chip is not registered to an owner then next you could try:

  • Speaking to neighbours. News spreads fast. Word of mouth is often the best way of reuniting pets with owners.
  • Using a photo of the culprit and make a ‘found’ poster, putting them up in the local area.
  • Posting the kitty on on local social media sites and lost and found sites. This immediately magnifies your search.
  • Listing the cat on national websites such as Pets Located and the National Pet Register and look through the lost cat sections. You can list a found cat on the Battersea website here.
  • Contacting us and other local vet practices. Often owners missing their pets will think the worst and contact local vet practices first. Practices often keep a list of missing cats should one matching the description turn up.
  • Creating a homemade paper collar that you can attach around the cats neck (if you can get close enough). Ensure the fitted collar allows for two fingers to be placed between the collar and cat’s neck, to make sure the cat isn’t harmed. Write your contact telephone number on the collar strip and something along the lines of: Your cat has been visiting me and I am concerned it is a stray. Please contact me if it belongs to you.

None of this has worked, so what can I do now?

If there is still no sign of an owner then you could consider keeping the cat yourself. This is a big commitment of a potential 15 years or more, though, so must be thought about very seriously. If you are new to cat ownership, get in touch with us and we can run through the basics of cat care and what to expect so you can decide if it’s for you.

If you are not able to keep the cat then, unlike dogs, local authorities do not take in stray cats. Try contacting one of the charities below:

If you do not have any luck we may be able to provide more local charity details.


Is the cat injured or ill?

If you’re worried about the health of the cat, call the RSPCA on its emergency number 0300 1234 999 (UK). A lost cat might be nervous, especially if sick and injured, so approach them with caution. The safest way to move the cat is to carefully cover it in a blanket before picking it up. This keeps the cat safe as well as shielding you from claws and teeth.

If the cat is seriously injured, take it to your nearest veterinary practice immediately.