Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

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, take your shoes off and try walking or standing on the pavement – you will soon know if it would burn their paws! 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 they are fully vaccinated (you can get the extra kennel cough vaccine for your dog), flea treated and wormed before they go in, you don’t want them to come out sick or infested! We have our own Kennel and Cattery in Chingford, East London for peace of mind.

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. Pets must have a passport 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).

Spaying or neutering your cat

Why is it important?

In just 7 years, two cats can (given ideal conditions) produce 40,000 offspring – no wonder, then, that cat rehoming centres are full to bursting. In addition, unneutered cats are prone to a number of annoying and unpleasant habits, which can be easily prevented by neutering. In this guide, we’ll look at the advantages of spaying or neutering, and then briefly discuss the procedure and aftercare needed.


What are the benefits?

As well as rendering them infertile, neutering (unlike a vasectomy or hysterectomy) also stops cats from making sex hormones (oestrogen in the queens, testosterone in the toms). This can have important impacts on their behaviour and health.

Reproductive

The main advantage of neutering is, of course, the fact that a neutered cat cannot reproduce. With the world cat population being as healthy as it is, there is no good reason to breed from your cat unless they have excellent genetics that should be preserved. If not, neutering will make your life (and theirs) much less crowded!

Behaviour

  • Aggression: Sex hormones drive aggression in both toms and queens; once neutered, you can expect cats to be more friendly and less aggressive. This is especially marked in toms!
  • Calling: When in season, queens cry out in a high-pitched voice, and roll around on the floor. People often think they are injured or in pain, but actually they’re calling for a mate – something they won’t do once neutered.
  • Urine spraying: Tomcats tend to mark their territory by spraying foul-smelling urine up every available surface. Once neutered, this hormone-driven behaviour (and also their pungent male odour) will stop.

Health

Mammary tumours (breast cancer) and pyometra (womb infections) are much less common in neutered cats. There is also some evidence that diseases like FeLV and FIV may be rarer, and cat bite abscesses are less likely to occur as neutered cats tend to fight less.

Are there any risks?

There is always a small surgical risk, although it isn’t considered a significant threat to health. There is some evidence that neutered cats are at higher risk of FLUTD, and possibly blocked bladders (although this is being challenged nowadays). Certainly, neutered cats are more likely to be obese, unless their owners realise the risk and feed them a little less.

How do I prepare my cat for spaying or neutering?

When your cat is booked in for spaying or neutering, it is important to make sure they’re properly prepared. In general, this means that if at all possible they should be starved (no food after 6pm and no drink aft midnight the night before). Then bring them to the practice in the morning and the nurses will admit them for the day for their procedure.

What happens – Queens (the girls)

In females, the procedure is called Spaying. This involves a general anaesthetic and a clipped patch surrounding a small incision (perhaps 1cm long) on one flank. Through this “keyhole” the vet will remove the cat’s ovaries and uterus (womb) before tying off the blood vessels and stumps, and then closing the incision with stitches or, sometimes, glue. You can normally expect her to go home the same day.

What happens – Toms (the boys)

For tomcats, the procedure is called castration, and involves surgical removal of both testicles. Once under anaesthetic, the vet will pluck the hair from his scrotum (“ball sack”) and then make two small incisions in it, one on each side. Through these, the testicles are removed and then snipped off, and the cords tied. Often, the incisions are left open to drain, but it is sometimes more appropriate to close them with glue or sutures. This is a much easier procedure than spaying (the testicles being much more accessible than a queen’s ovaries) and you can usually expect him to go home the same day.

What happens afterwards?

After the procedure, your cat will usually go home with an Elizabethan collar (or cone) on. This is to prevent them from licking at their surgical wounds – licking and nibbling will pull out stitches and will introduce infection. It takes about 10 days for the skin to heal fully, and during this period they must NOT be allowed to interfere with the wounds. At the end of this time, the practice will often ask to see them again, to remove any stitches and give them a final once-over before signing them off!

In conclusion…

Spaying or neutering may seem like a big step, but it genuinely does improve cat welfare – by reducing population pressure, and making our pets much easier to live with!

What do I do if I want to know more?

To find out more on spaying or neutering, find details of your local branch, then just contact your local Goddard vet. Don’t forget, ProActive Pets members receive 20% off routine neutering!

 

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!

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.

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.