Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Are wild mushrooms harmful to dogs?

Ultimately, of course, it depends on the mushroom! However, with an increasingly warm and wet autumn climate, mushroom populations are soaring. In fact, in September 2018 the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) actually issued a warning about the problem. Read on to find out if wild mushrooms are harmful to dogs and what signs to watch out for. 

If you think your dog may have eaten an unknown wild mushroom, contact us IMMEDIATELY for advice.


What is a wild mushroom?

This sounds really easy —  but do you actually know what those bulbous masses are? Fungi are a kingdom of life all of their own, as different from plants as plants are from animals. Most fungi live in the environment and form networks of fine fibres growing through the soil. The mushrooms we see are their fruiting bodies, part of their reproductive cycle, which develop spores and then distribute them into the wind to spread where they will.

These fruiting bodies are high in protein and often very nutritious, so make a nice snack for any passing critter. Most fungi accept this as one of those things that, as a non-mobile fungus, one must put up with. However, there are a number that resent their unborn offspring being gobbled up by animals, and produce a range of really quite nasty poisons to deter peckish beasts.


What do wild mushrooms do to dogs?

The majority of the 4000 or so species of UK mushrooms are harmless – they might not taste nice, but they aren’t actually dangerous. However, there are a number that produce toxins called mushroom poisons (interestingly, although very similar poisons produced by moulds are called mycotoxins, the term is not usually used for those produced by the mushroom fruiting bodies themselves). For centuries, if not millennia, the properties of these fungi have been known by healers, botanists and shamens, and used for a range of uses.

In dogs, we tend to see three groups of clinical effects:

Early onset vomiting and/or diarrhoea

These are usually the least harmful types of mushroom – as a general rule of thumb, the earlier the symptoms appear, the less dangerous the mushroom is. This is because it triggers vomiting and purging that remove any unabsorbed toxins from the dog’s system rapidly. If the dog is violently vomiting within six hours of eating the mushroom(s), then although they need to be seen by one of our vets (dehydration and salt imbalances from profuse vomiting can be dangerous in itself), the prognosis is usually fairly good.

Neurological effects

The most famous example is, of course, Psilocybe semilanceata, the “Magic Mushroom”, but there are a number of different psychoactive fungi in the UK. Unfortunately, dogs do not cope well with the effects of the active ingredients and may develop abnormal behaviour (well, of course!), self-injury, abnormal heartbeats and even seizures. In some cases, death may occur due to trauma while under the influence of the hallucinogen (for example, jumping from windows or running into solid objects), while in severe poisonings, the seizures may result in hyperthermia which may cause death from internal overheating (although fortunately this is relatively rare).

Liver and/or kidney damage

Sadly, many of the most dangerous mushrooms do not give easy tell-tail signs of poisoning until much later – possibly too late. These damage may damage the liver or kidneys, typically resulting in symptoms such as lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination (in kidney failure) and jaundice (in liver failure). Treatment requires intensive supportive therapy and often hospitalisation and the prognosis is guarded.


How do you know if a mushroom is safe or not?

The bottom line is that it’s very hard to tell – many harmless varieties have a poisonous twin that is almost indistinguishable. As a result, we strongly advise you not to let your dog eat wild mushrooms – full stop!

Top 10 tips for pets this firework season

From Bonfire Night to New Year’s Eve, over the years we’ve created a whole season of fireworks. Now, we’re all in favour of this, the more chances we get to celebrate, the better! But sadly many pets don’t feel the same way. In this blog, we’ve outlined our top 10 tips on how to keep your dogs, cats, and other pets safe this firework season.


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.

Ten tips for keeping your pet safe this summer

We know you want to do all you can to keep your pet healthy, happy and safe this summer. There are a few things to think about to keep them from harm — we’ve listed our top ten tips below!

Tip number 1: Barbecues

  • Burns are common in both dogs and cats. Make sure your pet can’t get near the barbeque until it has cooled down.
  • Skewers and chicken bones in leftovers or in the bin are a big problem for dogs if they get to them. They may not even realise they have eaten them with the meat but they can do massive internal damage. To prevent this, make sure that skewers or chicken with bones aren’t left in your dog’s reach, or are put in a container. It’s also wise to take the bin out straight away to stop them from getting to any meat and skewers left in there. We know they’ll sniff them out otherwise, given the chance!

Tip number 2: Heatstroke

  • Hot cars are a common cause of heatstroke in dogs, which can be fatal. Never leave a dog in a car in hot weather, even if it is shady and you only intend to be 5 minutes. It isn’t worth the risk.
  • Shade and water is key at this time of year to prevent heatstroke. All of your pets should have this at all times in hot weather. If you are going out with your dog consider taking an umbrella and a pop-up water bowl so that they can rest in the shade and have a drink wherever you go.

Tip number 3: Hot pavements

Hot pavements can burn dogs’ paws. Ideally only take your dog out for a walk in the morning or evening when it is cooler. Also, you can try and walk on the grass instead. If you are unsure if it is too hot, follow the 7 second rule – you will soon know if it would burn their paws! Place the back of your hand on the pavement for 7 seconds, if it’s too hot for you – it’s too hot for them.

Tip number 4: Summer travels

It’s very important that when you are going away, your pet will be safe — if they’re coming with you or not!

  • If your pet is on regular medication, then make sure that you come to see us before you go away so you don’t run out.
  • If your pet is coming with you on holiday and you are travelling by car, then you need to schedule in lots of breaks (ideally at least once an hour) so that your pet can get out of the car, go to the toilet and just stretch their legs. Always make sure there is plenty of water for them to drink. Be prepared for travel sickness, many dogs and cats get travel sick. If they are beginning to look unwell then pull over at the next services to let them get some air and start to feel a little better. A long journey can be much more stressful than we can imagine, you can use pheromone sprays to reduce stress – get in touch with our team if you’d like more advice.
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Tip number 5: Staying in the cattery or kennels

Make sure your pet is fully vaccinated, flea treated and wormed before they go in, you don’t want them to come out sick or infested! If your dog is going to stay with a sitter, or dog walker it’s advised that your dog gets the kennel cough vaccine, which is a quick and painless spray up the nose.

Tip number 6: Going abroad with your pet

If you plan to take your pet abroad then you will need to come in and see us in advance of your trip. Pets must have an Animal Health Certificate to travel and to qualify they will need a rabies vaccination and wormer in advance of the trip. Our vets will also give you advice about travelling and others risks when abroad.

Tip number 7: Flystrike

Rabbit owners, this one’s for you! Flystrike is where flies lay eggs on moist areas (often the back end), which then hatch to become maggots. This is very painful, as the maggots eat their way into the poor rabbit’s flesh. Any rabbit in the summer is at risk of flystrike, especially those with a wet or dirty back end as this attracts the flies. If you notice your rabbit has flystrike, ring us straight away. To prevent this, you need to check your rabbit’s bottom every day and clean it up. This should stop the flies from being attracted to that area and means you can catch it early if there is any flystrike.

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Tip number 8: Fleas

Fleas are very common at this time of year and if you have a pet that goes outdoors then it is inevitable for them to get fleas. You can’t always see fleas on your pet when they have them, so it is always best to treat whether you can see them or not.

  • It is important that you treat your pet regularly (once a month normally but check the product you are using) and ideally with a prescription-strength product bought from us – that way you can be sure it is safe to use and is going to work!
  • If your pet already has fleas your house will also be infested. You will need to wash all bedding at a high temperature, hoover thoroughly including crevices in sofas and treating the house with insecticidal flea spray.

Tip number 9: Ticks

These little bloodsuckers carry some very nasty and potentially fatal diseases such as Lyme disease and, more recently, babesiosis. This is mostly a risk for dogs that go walking through long grass (don’t forget about those pesky grass seeds either!). To prevent diseases from ticks, you can regularly treat for ticks (you can get a combination product with the flea treatment) and check your dog over every time you come back from a walk. We can always give advice on tick removal and there are specific tick removal tools, this allows you to be sure you have removed it all and have not left the mouthparts in.

Tip number 10: Suncream

In the summer months, the UV rays from the sun can be a problem for our pets, just like us. There is a form of skin cancer that can be caused by too many UV rays, especially in our white (or pink nosed) pets. You can buy pet-friendly sun cream at most pet supermarkets and this only really needs to be applied to the nose and ears (especially important in cats).

How to protect your dog from grass seeds

At this time of year grass seeds are a common problem and can pose a real threat to dogs if left unfound or untreated as the seeds can work their way into the skin and become infected or cause lameness. The tops of long grass stems found in gardens or parks can become very dry during the summer months and will easily attach themselves to your dog’s fur as they walk past, without you even noticing. Paws, ears and under the armpit are the most common affected areas, so what can you do to protect your dog from grass seeds?


How do I tell if my dog has an issue with a grass seed?

Your dog may show signs that it is being irritated by a grass seed such as:

  • excessively biting or licking the affected area, especially in between the toes
  • shaking their head if there is a grass seed in the ear, or pawing at the head
  • sneezing excessively if there is a seed up the nose
  • a closed, uncomfortable eye

If the grass seed has pierced the skin, you may notice swelling around the affected area.  Occasionally, the only sign of a grass seed infection might be lethargy or loss of appetite if the grass seed has penetrated into the internal body cavities of the chest, throat or abdomen.

Are all dogs affected by grass seeds?

Yes, all dogs can be affected by grass seeds, but especially those breeds that have longer fur and feathered toes. It is best to check your dog over as soon as you get home from your walk to catch any stray seeds that may have attached themselves and dispose of them.

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What if I cannot remove the grass seed?

A grass seed that is seen on the surface of your dog’s fur is easily removable, but if you notice the grass seed has burrowed its way into the skin or if you think you dog has a grass seed in their eye or ear, contact your local Goddard Veterinary Practice immediately.

How can I protect my dog from grass seeds?

  • Try and avoid letting your dog roam or jump around in long grassy areas
  • Check your dog over with your hand when back at home, paying attention to the feet, the inside of the ears and the armpit
  • Brush out any seeds you may find and dispose of them in a bin
  • Look out for any signs that a grass seed may be irritating your dog
  • Have your dog regularly groomed if the coat is prone to matting, or has a long coat.

Long grassy areas are also a haven for ticks and fleas, so be sure to keep your preventative treatment up to date and dog protected.

I need more advice, what should I do?

Call and speak to one of the team for advice or book an appointment. We’re here to help.

Neutering Your Female Dog (Spaying)

Why is it important?

There are many reasons to consider neutering your female dog (spaying) and studies in the USA have shown that neutered female dogs (bitches) live longer than unneutered bitches.  Neutering does come with some risks and we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages below and let you know what to expect with the surgery and the recovery from the procedure.  There are a lot of people and websites who will tell you that you must have your bitch spayed, or that you mustn’t. In this guide, however, we’ll look at all the pros and cons, so that you can make your own mind up.  There is also no ‘one size fits all breeds’ and we recommend discussing the procedure and the timing of it for your dog with your veterinary surgeon.

What is spaying?

Spaying a bitch is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthetic where the ovaries (and, usually, the uterus or womb) are surgically removed. It’s a fairly big operation though young dogs tend to recover remarkably quickly from the procedure.  

So, what are the advantages – why do people do it?

Advantage 1

Ending her cycles. Most bitches will come into season roughly every six months (although it may be longer for large and giant breeds) and the season usually lasts for 3 weeks. When they’re in season, or ‘in heat’, they pass a bloody discharge from their vulva, which can be really messy. In addition, every male dog in the vicinity is likely to be queuing up at your back door trying to mate with her! Some bitches also undergo quite dramatic personality changes, and they may suffer from ‘False Pregnancies’ in the couple of months following the season and even start to produce milk. If they get ‘caught’ by a dog, it’s likely to be a real pregnancy and then you have to look after and find homes for all the puppies! Spaying completely removes her cycle (it cannot occur) and she cannot become pregnant.

This means you’re not going to be part of the overpopulation problem, with dogs stacked up waiting for rehoming in shelters and rescue centres.

Advantage 2

Reducing the risk of reproductive tumours: Spaying bitches before the first or second season, or before the age of 2.5 years, may be associated with a reduced risk of developing malignant mammary tumours later in life. This reduction in risk appears to be most marked in the bitches spayed before their first season, followed by those spayed before their second season.  Vaginal tumours are almost exclusively seen in unspayed female dogs over the age of 10. Ovarian tumours and uterine tumours can also occur in unspayed female dogs and are difficult to detect before they become untreatable.

Advantage 3

Eliminates the risk of Pyometra – a serious infection of the womb which, in the majority of cases, requires emergency surgery. If untreated, it is usually fatal. Two-thirds of unneutered bitches over the age of 9 will develop endometrial hyperplasia and these dogs have a higher risk of developing pyometra. 

Advantage 4

Lifespan – research in the USA that looked at the health records of over 2 million pets showed that neutering had a significant effect on the lifespan of neutered bitches, with neutered dogs living on average 7 ½ months longer than unneutered bitches.

Disadvantage 1

Urinary Incontinence occurs in approximately 0.7% of dogs and the incidence is significantly higher in neutered bitches.  Some breeds are more prone to urinary incontinence and there is a greater risk of developing urinary incontinence within two years of neutering if neutered before 6 months of age. Overweight dogs are at greater risk of developing incontinence. Urinary incontinence can be managed medically but will need lifelong treatment.

Disadvantage 2

Weight gain.  After neutering, dogs will be more prone to put on weight. It is important to ensure they are being fed an appropriate diet and not being overfed. Obesity can increase the risk of a number of diseases including joint problems in large breed dogs and breathing problems in flat-faced breeds.

Disadvantage 3

Hormonal coat changes.  A few dogs also show a change to the quality of the coat – this is actually pretty rare and usually really minor.

Disadvantage 4

Orthopaedic disease. Some large breed dogs which are prone to joint disease may have a higher risk of joint disease if neutered.  This is particularly a concern with early neutering and we recommend, if you have a large breed dog, discussing the age of neutering with your veterinary surgeon. 

Disadvantage 5

Risks of the surgery – a bitch spay is a very commonly performed procedure however it does come with some risk of complications.  The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons surveyed practices in 2018 and 75% of procedures were complication-free, with the majority of complications being minor and either require no intervention or some additional medication.  Only 1% required further surgical intervention and there was a 0.2% rate of loss of life (compared to 0.1% in male dogs).

Age at Neutering

In most dogs, particularly small and medium-sized breeds we recommend neutering from 6 months, before their first season. With some large breeds, we may recommend waiting until they have had a season or reached skeletal maturity. This is best discussed with your veterinary surgeon.

Can I have my dog spayed when she is in season?

Unfortunately, there is an increased risk of bleeding when a bitch is in season and also of her developing a phantom pregnancy.  Therefore, we need to wait 10-14 weeks after the last day of her season before performing surgery. 

How is it done?

Unlike neutering a dog, which is a very simple operation (his reproductive organs are easily accessible!), spaying a bitch requires entering the abdomen. In most cases, this is done as an ‘open’ surgery, where she will have a general anaesthetic, then the surgeon will open her abdomen and remove her ovaries and uterus. There is an increased risk of bleeding internally from a bitch spay, and they can require greater post-operative monitoring. However, most dogs will be home with you on the evening of the surgery.

A female dog will need to be closely confined for the first 3 days post-surgery with no leaping, jumping or climbing stairs and lead walks only for 10 days. For a more detailed description of what to expect on the day of the surgery please see our page on neutering male dogs.

Laparoscopic Spays

An alternative to an open spay is the laparoscopic bitch spay, where we use keyhole surgery just to remove her ovaries – this has a much faster recovery time and seems to provide all the advantages of traditional surgery.  We do not recommend laparoscopic spays for dogs under 5kgs or bitches that have had more than five seasons as they have an increased risk of pre-existing uterine disease which would require removal of the uterus.  Laparoscopic spays are performed on a referral basis at our Veterinary Hospitals and are more expensive than a regular spay.

In conclusion…

Spaying your dog is an important decision – there are hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs in the UK, so reproductive control is really important. It also genuinely does save lives. However, there are disadvantages too, so it’s important that you make up your own mind. If you would like to discuss this further with your vet, get in touch.

Don’t forget, ProActive Pets members, receive 20% off routine neutering!