Posts Tagged ‘health’

Castrating Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Why is it important?

In the wild, all male dogs remain entire and fertile throughout their lives. However, the price of that is an increased vulnerability to some diseases and injuries, and some behaviours that we, as owners, don’t find attractive. Neutering is the most common surgical procedure carried out on dogs, and it is now commonplace. If you’re trying to decide whether to get your dog “done”, it’s worth looking at the arguments for it, against it, and then looking at the procedure.

What are the disadvantages?

  • More or less by definition, a castrated dog’s fertility is removed, so you can’t change your mind. (HOWEVER, remember that he may still have some sperm “left over” for several weeks after the operation, should he get the chance to “use” them!)
  • There is a very slight increase in the risk of some rare tumours (about 0.4% extra cases of prostate cancer, and 6 extra cases of bone cancer per 100,000 dogs), although this may be more important in dogs already predisposed to these conditions.
  • There is an increased risk of orthopaedic injuries (double the risk of cruciate ligament injuries, possibly an increased risk of hip dysplasia, and because the growth plates in the bones are closed by puberty, they stay open longer meaning an increased risk of certain types of fractures).
  • Weight gain – castrated dogs need less calories than entire ones, so you need to feed them less or they’ll put on weight!
  • Risk of surgery – perhaps 0.1% chance of a serious complication.

And the advantages?

  • No unwanted pregnancies.
  • Reduction in behaviour owners often dislike, such as running off to look for bitches in heat (which increases their risk of road accidents), less sexual behaviour such as masturbation and humping (although it won’t be entirely eliminated), and some types of aggression may be reduced in some dogs.
  • No risk of testicular cancer (no testicles = no cancer!) – this affects between 1.5% and 16% of entire dogs.
  • Massively reduced risk of other prostate diseases, hernias and certain cancers of the bottom.
  • Lifespan – a castrated dog will, on average, live 14% longer than an entire one.

How do I decide?

Ultimately, you have to make the decision, but we can support you with the facts! Talk to your vet if you want personalised health advice for your dog.

So, when you’ve made up your mind to have your dog neutered, what is the procedure?

Castrating a dog is a very simple surgery (unlike spaying a bitch), because his reproductive organs are conveniently located outside his body. In the procedure, his testicles are removed (so it is NOT the same as a vasectomy, where the testicles remain in situ but the tubes carrying sperm from them are cut) preventing him from making either sperm or testosterone – essentially returning his hormone balance to that of a prepubescent puppy. There is no evidence that dogs miss their testicles once they’re gone, nor does castration per se have any effect on their personality or psychological development.

So, what actually happens?

The night before the procedure, it’s important he be starved – talk to our nurses who will advise you on how long, but in general, no food after 6pm and no water after 10pm. When you bring him in the next morning, we’ll carefully check him over for any problems that might affect his surgery, and then we’ll give him a pre-med injection (a combination of mild sedative to help him relax and a painkiller for afterwards). Then, when we’re ready, we will give him a general anaesthetic, so he is completely asleep, and pass a breathing tube down his throat to help him breathe. The nurse will scrub the area around his scrotum (ball sack) while the vet scrubs up, and then they’ll begin. It takes perhaps 15 minutes (a very quick procedure!) as a small incision is made in front of the scrotum, and one at a time the testicles are pulled out of this, clamped and cut off. The arteries and spermatic cords are then tied off with dissolvable stitches, and the skin sutured closed. Remember, the scrotum is NOT removed – it is normal for your dog to go home with an empty pouch of skin between their back legs.

How long will it take him to recover?

As soon as he’s awake he can go home with a collar on to stop him licking at the wounds until they’ve healed. Most dogs are completely back to normal in a day or so, but it is important to restrict their exercise until the skin stitches come out, roughly 10 days later!

In conclusion…

Neutering of male dogs does prevent some unpleasant diseases and increases lifespan by about 14%. However, there are arguments both ways, and you have to make up your mind about your own dog and what would be best for him

Spaying Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Why is it important?

If you are not planning on breeding your bitch, there are a few reasons to consider spaying her. Entire bitches are at an increased risk of a number of disease conditions, some of which are potentially life-threatening. These diseases can be prevented, or at the very least, the risk reduced, by spaying (neutering). However, this is a surgical procedure, and obviously, it does involve some risks in and of itself, as well as having other consequences (never having any more puppies being the most obvious!). 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.

What is spaying?

Spaying a bitch is a surgical procedure where the ovaries (and, usually, the uterus or womb) are surgically removed. It’s a fairly big op (although dogs seem to cope and recover really well), but it’s still an optional surgical procedure with a one in 1000 risk of significant complications. 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). When they’re in season, or “in heat”, they pass a bloody discharge from their back end, 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 get to her! Some bitches also undergo quite dramatic personality changes, and they may suffer from “False Pregnancies” in the couple of months following the season. 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 get 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. About 7% of unspayed bitches will develop a mammary tumour (breast cancer) in their lifetime; if spayed before the second season, the risk drops by 92%; if spayed before her first, it’s down by 99.5%. Spaying an older bitch has progressively less effect. This protective effect extends to other reproductive tumours – a dog without a uterus or ovaries cannot, for example, develop uterine or ovarian cancer!

Advantage 3

Eliminate the risk of Pyometra. This is a serious and, if untreated, usually fatal infection of the uterus (womb). An astonishing 23% of unspayed bitches will develop a pyometra by 10 years old. The risk is essentially zero in spayed bitches.

Advantage 4

Lifespan – once you factor all of these risks together, you can expect a spayed bitch to live 26% longer than an entire one.

Disadvantage 1

Urinary Incontinence. Neutered bitches are reportedly 8 times more likely to become incontinent in later life (although this statistic has recently been questioned). This can usually be controlled easily with medication but is an annoyance. Estimates for the number of affected bitches range from 5-20%.

Disadvantage 2

Hormone changes – weight gain, coat alterations. After neutering, most dogs will be more prone to put on weight – but that doesn’t mean they become fat because of neutering. They become fat because their owners overfeed them! A few dogs also show a change to the quality of the coat – this is actually pretty rare, and usually really minor.

Disadvantage 3

Orthopaedic disease. There’s been a lot of research done into the effects of spaying on certain bone and joint disorders. There is good evidence to suggest that there is a slightly higher risk of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in spayed bitches (unspayed bitches have a risk of 0.006%, spayed bitches 0.012%). In addition, spayed bitches have a higher risk of growth plate injuries, and seem to be at slightly higher risk of cruciate ligament injuries.

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. A more modern alternative 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 the traditional surgery. Both are done under general anaesthetic, but we’d expect her to go home the same day in most cases.

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.

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.

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!

Looking after your new kitten

Why is it important?

To grow and develop properly kittens need the right nutrition, socialisation, and preventative care. Follow our guidelines on how to look after your new kitten and give them the best start to life possible.

Vaccinations

In kittens, vaccinations are vital to prevent many severe diseases. They will usually need 2 vaccinations 3 weeks apart with the first one being at 8-9 weeks of age. If you get your kitten from a rescue centre it is likely that they are already fully vaccinated and should come with their vaccination record so your vet will be able to tell you if everything is up to date.

Microchip

We would recommend getting all cats microchipped as they often tend to wander and get lost. When you pick up your kitten if they are already microchipped you will need to change the details to be in your name. If they haven’t been microchipped already, you can do this alongside the vaccinations, or when they are being neutered.

Feeding

Kittens grow fast so they need lots of energy and minerals to reach their full potential. A balanced or “complete” kitten diet has everything your kitten will need. As a result, they should be on that until they are one year old to ensure they have done all their growing before going onto adult food. Read more advice on caring for your kitten through each development stage via Royal Canin.

Flea treatment

In young kittens a flea infestation is not just an annoying itch, it can be life threatening. The fleas suck their blood and kittens can quickly become anaemic. Both to prevent and treat this you can use a flea product from your vets, this will ensure it is safe and effective as many products cannot safely be used in young kittens. Shop bought flea products often are not meant for such small kittens, so it is usually best to go to your vet for advice.

Worm treatment

High worm burdens in kittens cause them to lose weight and get a ‘pot belly’. It is important you stay on top of worming treatment, especially in the first year of life because the immune system is not fully developed, and the kitten is more susceptible to worm infestations. Getting a product from your vet will ensure that the product is safe and effective.

Neutering

With the stray cat population ever increasing in the UK we would strongly recommend neutering your cat, boy or girl. In most cases, you can book in neutering for your kitten any time from 4 months of age. The benefits are not only that there are no accidental kittens but also that they are less likely to fight and pick up feline aids (FIV). Also, this may calm any behavioural spraying or other territorial behaviour.

Training

Litterbox training

Kittens learn very quickly and can be quickly litterbox trained in most cases. It is important that the litter tray is kept as clean as possible otherwise the kitten may refuse to use it. Also keep the litter consistent, otherwise this can lead to confusion and them stopping using the litter tray. Positive reinforcement is needed, so treat your kitten when they use it successfully. Cats are private creatures so having the litter tray slightly out the way, away from their food and water bowls, and possibly hidden or sheltered, will often make it more comfortable for them to use it.

Socialisation

When they are young, kittens explore the world with curiosity and not fear. This ‘socialisation window’ is when they learn what to be afraid of and what is safe. Generally, this is before 12 weeks of age. It is important that you expose your kitten to as much as possible in this time with positive experiences. In the same vein also reduce bad experiences, so if there is a dog that is not cat friendly do not try to introduce them.

Environment

You want your kitten’s home environment to feel safe and secure. Cats unlike dogs need alone time so plenty of hidey holes in cardboard boxes and beds in several places around the house is a must. When they feel scared, cats and kittens will try and take refuge higher up, if there is a place for you to put a cat bed on a higher surface then most kitten will appreciate that. Take care with children and make sure they give the kitten plenty of breaks. A scratching post is a must if you don’t want them to scratch your furniture! This is a natural behaviour so you must allow them a place where they can display that behaviour.

Insurance

Of course, we never expect anything to go wrong with our kittens but unfortunately accidents happen, and they do sometimes get sick. Please consider if you want to get your kitten insured if anything were to happen, many vets will give you 4 weeks free cover whilst you make up your mind in case anything goes wrong in the meantime.

What do I do if I want to know more?

To find out more, use this link to find details of your local branch, then just contact your local Goddard vet. Don’t forget, you can save money with your new kitten by signing up to our ProActive Pets preventative health plan.