Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Common Toxins Dangerous To Your Pet

Certain types of food and household items can be unknowingly toxic to your pet — read our list of the most common toxins dangerous to your pet below.

If you think your pet has ingested one of the following please contact your vet immediately. If you are concerned your pet has eaten something poisonous not listed please use our online poisons guide for advice.


  • Chocolate – causes heart rhythm abnormalities and nervous system signs (eg excitement, tremors, seizures). Just 15g of dark chocolate can be toxic to a 10kg dog.
  • Onions – cause anaemia by destroying red blood cells.
  • Garlic – believed to have a similar effect to onions.
  • Macadamia nuts – in dogs, cause weakness, inability to stand, vomiting, depression.
  • Avocado – fatal in birds and rabbits. Avocados contain a substance called persin which is highly toxic.
  • Grapes and raisins – can cause kidney failure in dogs.
  • Raw or undercooked meat – diarrhoea and/or vomiting (due to Salmonella or e.coli bacteria).
  • Fungal toxins (mouldy food) – diarrhoea, tremors, seizures.
  • Bread dough – disorientation, depression, weakness, coma.
  • Acorns – diarrhoea, kidney failure.
  • Lilies – have been shown to cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Brunsfelsia – (“yesterday-today-and-tomorrow”) – diarrhoea, seizures.
  • Oleander, rhododendron, azalea, crocus, foxglove, hyacinth bulbs – Heart problems.


  • Antifreeze – causes kidney failure, cats and rabbits need to ingest only very small amounts to show symptoms.
  • Tea Tree Oil – depression, weakness, incoordination, muscle tremors.
  • Pyrethrins, Permethrins – usually found in supermarket / pet shop flea products, toxic (especially to cats) if ingested; causes salivation, tremors, and seizures.
  • Paracetamol (panadol) – toxic to the liver and interferes with oxygen transport, can be very quickly fatal in cats.
  • Ibuprofen (nurofen) – depending on amount eaten, can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, kidney failure, and/or seizures.
  • Aspirin – can cause gastrointestinal ulcers.
  • Bleach and other cleaning products – many of these chemicals are highly acidic or alkaline, and can cause tongue and mouth ulcers when licked by dogs or cats.
  • Rat poison– causes blood clotting problems, seen most commonly as internal bleeding, or blood in stools or urine, or vomiting blood.

What is haemangiosarcoma?

Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive type of cancer which arises from cells that line blood vessels. In this blog we will focus on haemangiosarcoma in dogs as, although it can occur in other species such as cats, this is very rare.

Where do dogs get these tumours?

These tumours have a point of origin (primary tumour), but very often metastasise (spread) to other organs causing tumours elsewhere (secondary tumours).

As blood vessels are almost everywhere in the body, they can occur in many places. Primary tumours most commonly appear on the spleen, but they are also frequently seen in the heart, liver, skin and subcutaneous tissue.

Haemangiosarcoma is the most common type of tumour affecting the heart, accounting for around 69% of heart tumours. It is also the most common malignant tumour to affect the spleen. Much of this blog will relate to haemangiosarcoma of the spleen (splenic), as this form often creates the most discussion, concern, and questions.

Why did my dog get this?

We do not know why certain individual dogs are affected, although we know that, in skin, haemangiosarcoma is linked to sun exposure.

Certain breeds are predisposed. While German shepherds and golden retrievers are prone to the visceral (organ related) forms, whippets, dalmatians and bull terrier breeds are prone to the skin forms.

What signs might my dog have?

The signs depend on where the tumour is.

Haemangiosarcomas of the skin usually appear as a small red or bluish-black lump. They can also occur in deeper subcutaneous tissues, often sitting under normal looking skin.

Haemangiosarcomas located in the liver or spleen often grow rapidly, forming cavities containing blood, often only revealing signs when they rupture causing bleeding. This sudden blood loss can lead to weakness or collapse, and is the most common way dogs with this condition present to vets for the first time. Collapse can also be caused by disturbances in the rhythm of the heart, which can happen in primary heart tumours, but also those in the spleen. Occasionally these tumours are picked up early due to swelling of the abdomen or vague signs of illness. Because the tumour and blood loss can cause clotting issues, bleeding from the nose, or another area, may occur.

How will my pet be diagnosed?

The appearance of skin or subcutaneous masses may lead to our vets advising a biopsy, or removal of the mass. Samples sent to a lab can confirm a diagnosis.

With the visceral (organ) forms, diagnosis can be challenging. Dogs we suspect of having a heart, splenic or liver haemangiosarcoma often arrive as an emergency, with severe internal bleeding. Suspicion may be increased by finding a mass via ultrasound scan of the heart or abdominal organs. However benign tumours, malignant tumours (such as haemangiosarcoma), or non-tumours can look similar on an ultrasound scan, but would all carry very different outlooks. If there is evidence of more than one organ being affected, metastasis is suspected, increasing the likelihood of haemangiosarcoma. There is currently no concrete way of confirming the mass type until tissue samples are examined after surgery. A recent study showed that 63-70% of dogs that present to the vets with abdominal bleeding (not caused by trauma) have haemangiosarcomas.

Occasionally a mass is picked up during an ultrasound scan for a different problem. This gives more time for decision making and surgical planning.

How are these tumours treated?

The skin and subcutaneous tumours can be surgically removed with margins of normal skin. As 30-60% of these tumours will metastasise, it is important to remove them. However they may have already spread at the time of diagnosis. Tumours extending into deeper tissues may benefit from chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs), or radiotherapy, in addition to surgery.

Treatment of splenic haemangiosarcoma involves surgery to remove the spleen, with an additional option of chemotherapy. These drugs are usually well tolerated but can sometimes have side effects like lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever. Mild to moderately low white blood counts occur in up to half of dog cases but usually do not require treatment.

Because splenic masses often present as an emergency, decisions regarding surgery often have to be made before a clear diagnosis, and thus prognosis, can be given. Removing the spleen is a major operation and can be risky, with some dogs not surviving the procedure. If the dog is subsequently diagnosed with haemangiosarcoma then the outlook is very gloomy.

Factors such as age, other illnesses and signs of spread must be taken into consideration with decision making. All situations are individual, but for some dogs euthanasia may have to be considered as a treatment option, especially if the outlook is poor.

What is the prognosis?

Skin and subcutaneous tumours, once removed, can be examined to give better information on the severity or ‘stage’ of the tumour. Stage I tumours just affect the skin and are associated with an average survival rate of 2 years, whereas stage II and III tumours that either involve the subcutaneous tissues or muscle have a worse prognosis if treated with surgery alone. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may improve this.

Sadly haemangiosarcoma of the spleen tends to carry a poor outlook. They are often malignant, and most individuals survive less than 3 ½ months with surgery alone, with very few living beyond a year. If there is no evidence of spread, or tumour rupture, and chemotherapy is used, there is an average life expectancy of around 8 months. If the tumour has ruptured, it can be expected to reduce to an average of 6 months.

Although haemangiosarcomas can be found in many places, the splenic form often creates most difficulties in decision making. Our team will be there to support you, talk you through all of the options, and help you through any difficult decisions. If you have any questions on what you have read, or need more information, please talk to one of our vets.

Reducing Roaming

One of the most common causes of death for dogs is, sadly, traffic accidents. However, entire male dogs are at a significantly higher risk than others. The reason is biological – but the risk can be dramatically reduced by neutering!

Why do we recommend neutering?

There are a number of advantages to having a dog neutered – eliminating the risk of testicular cancer, reducing the risks of prostate disease, some types of anal cancer, and unwanted behaviour such as humping and, crucially, “roaming”.

What is roaming?

When a female dog is in season, she releases pheromones that can be smelt by dogs for miles around. Male dogs are driven by instinct to seek out the bitch to mate. As a result, even well trained dogs will sometimes run away when lured by the attractive scent. This behaviour is sometimes called “roaming”, but in our modern built-up environments, this usually means crossing busy roads and potentially coming to grief.

What is the procedure?

Neutering of a male dog is a very straightforward procedure, involving the removal of both testicles under a general anaesthetic. Your dog will come in to us in the morning, have the procedure, wake up, and then almost always go home the same day. In fact, in most cases the procedure only takes 15 minutes or so! Without testicles, the dog no longer produces significant amounts of testosterone, and this instinctive behaviour is dramatically reduced.

If you want to know more, please get in touch and talk to one of our vets!

Whelping Survival Guide Part 1: All about Pregnancy

So, your bitch has met with the stud dog – hooray! But what happens next? What do you have to do? Is there anything to watch out for? No need to worry – read on for all the answers you need!

How long is her pregnancy?

The average pregnancy is 63 days from the first mating; however, the bitch’s season is quite long, sperm can survive inside for quite a while, and so there is always some natural variability. We certainly wouldn’t expect her to produce any puppies before 56 days, and if she’s reached 73 without anything, that suggests a problem with the dates, or uterine inertia.

How do I know if she’s pregnant?

Diagnosing pregnancy in the bitch is not as easy as in humans. This is mainly because the bitch’s body prepares for pregnancy after every season, whether or not there are actually any pups present. So, a progesterone test (for example) is essentially useless – the bitch thinks she’s pregnant anyway, every single time! There is one slightly dubious and two reliable and widely available methods we can use to determine pregnancy:

Palpationan experienced vet can sometimes feel the puppies between 25 and 30 days after conception – however, a fat, tense or anxious, or large breed bitch can make this really difficult. As a result, you can get false negatives, and occasionally even false positives. We do not, therefore, recommend it!

Relaxin Blood Test although progesterone tests are useless, there are other hormones in pregnancy! The Relaxin test is reliable and accurate, and can be used from 25-30 days post conception.

Ultrasound Scan this is the most common and most reliable method. It is first reliable at 25-30 days and at this time the heartbeats can usually be seen quite clearly. In the hands of an experienced vet, sometimes it’s possible to say that she is in pup from three weeks, but it’s impossible to say with certainty that she isn’t at this age. Ultrasound scans also allow us to measure the size of the puppies, and work out how old they are. This can help us narrow down the due date if a bitch was mated several times! However, the ultrasound scan can only give you a rough idea of the numbers – an accurate count of foetuses is not possible.

Are there any health precautions I need to take?

You want the puppies to be as healthy as possible, so making sure she has a good diet and suitable preventative care are really important.

Dieta suitable fully balanced diet is ideal; we’d generally recommend against a raw food diet in pregnancy as it’s very hard to get the nutrient levels right. We also STRONGLY advise against giving any calcium supplementation – doing so, ironically, increases the risk of eclampsia (see in Part 2). In terms of volume, she doesn’t really need any more calories until the last 2 weeks or so and, if you overfeed, there’s a risk that she’ll be too fat, or the pups will be too big, for her to give birth normally. Of course, after birth, she needs more or less as much as she can get to make milk for her puppies!

Vaccination puppies are protected for the first 4-6 weeks of life by their mother’s immune system, so it’s important that she is fully up to date with vaccinations, ideally before she gets pregnant. If her vaccination status will lapse during her pregnancy, you can give her a booster, but it’s probably better to boost her 3-4 weeks before she goes to the dog. If Canine Herpes (a nasty infection that is usually fatal to puppies) is a problem, there is a short-acting vaccine given in pregnancy that will protect them – but we don’t think it’s usually necessary.

Wormingsome nasty roundworms can invade a puppy through the placenta, and also through the milk. During pregnancy, dormant worms may wake up and become active, so worming with a puppy-safe wormer during pregnancy is vitally important. Talk to us for advice on the dosage because it’s a bit different from normal 3-monthly doses!

How should I prepare as she gets near her time?

In the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, introduce her to the area where you want her to whelp. Remember, she’ll only whelp down somewhere she feels comfortable, safe and secure! Ideally, a box she can hide away in, with comfortable bedding (towels are good – they’re going to get messy! – and newspaper underneath is a must), nice and warm and free from draughts.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the whelping process itself.

If you’ve got any other questions, feel free to call us for advice. If you think something’s going wrong, call us any time, 24/7, and talk to one of our vets.


Pet Insurance

People tend to think it’s only older pets that get ill and therefore younger pets don’t need pet insurance but we know from the patients we see each day that that is not the case.

In fact, the younger your pet is when you insure them the better as it means you are less likely to have any existing conditions, which may not be covered by the policy and you can then receive more help covering the cost of any future treatment your pet needs.

It is important to note that not all pet insurance is the same. There are many different types of policy available and the level of cover provided can vary considerably.

The four main types of policy are as follows:

  • Accident : provides cover for accidents only and no cover for illness
  • Time-Limited: provides cover for a set amount of time (usually 12 months) and after this period the condition is excluded
  • Maximum Benefit : provides cover up to a maximum amount of money per condition and once this limit is reached the condition is excluded
  • Lifetime: provides a set amount of money each year which is refreshed each time you renew your policy allowing you to continue to claim for ongoing conditions

As you can see from the information above, the type of policy you choose can have implications for the veterinary care of your pet and the costs you will face so it’s important to choose the right cover. Sometimes, the cheapest insurance can cost you more in the long run.

When shopping around for a policy, we suggest that you ask the following questions to allow you to compare the overall value you are getting, not just the price:

  1. Does this policy cover congenital, hereditary, hip-related, dental and behavioral conditions?
  2. Is there a time or monetary limit on how long this policy will cover ongoing conditions for?
  3. If I claim, will my premium increase?

Unlike other forms of insurance it is not easy to switch pet insurance in the future as any pre-existing conditions your pet has are likely to be excluded so it’s important to do your research and choose the right cover from the start.