Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

How to have a Pet-Friendly Christmas

For most humans, Christmas is when we meet up with friends, celebrate with rich food and drink, put up sparkling decorations and have a wonderful time! However, for our pets, it can be really tough. Stress from strangers in the house, a change of routine, unexpected hazards from decorations and tasty foods that prove to have nasty toxic side effects. So, what can we do to make the festive season pet-friendly?


MINIMISE STRESS

“God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay…” But all those merry gentlemen certainly can dismay our pets! Almost all of them find the presence of strange people in the house stressful. Dogs may respond to this by aggression, destructive behaviours or hiding; rabbits freeze and try and stay motionless; whereas cats are more likely to start urine spraying, hide or just vanish for the duration. However, even an apparently excited and waggy dog may not be as happy as they seem – while some dogs genuinely do love company, others try and cope with the stress by being extra friendly.

Ideally, you should avoid putting your pet into a stressful situation at all. This means allowing them to have their own quiet space, away from people, minimising the amount of interaction with strangers (so those festive cat and dog costumes probably aren’t a good idea) and, as far as possible, keeping to their normal routine.

However, they aren’t going to be able to avoid the holiday season completely, so you will also have to look at managing their stress. For dogs and cats, the best approach is the use of pheromones – Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. Sadly, there aren’t any products designed specifically for rabbits, but if your pet is really suffering, whatever their species, bring them down to see us and our vets can prescribe anti-anxiety medications that are very effective in the short-term.

AVOID ORNAMENT INJURIES

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…” And fir trees, glass and plastic ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, lights and candles. All lovely to look at, all potentially dangerous! Cats often like to play with bright shiny things, but they can easily get themselves cut (on a broken glass bauble, for example) or burned by candle flames or hot fairy lights. Cats also love to play pounce with tinsel and ribbons, but if swallowed they can form a “linear foreign body”, cutting into the intestinal walls. find out more about what you can do with advice from Cats Protection

Dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to try eating things – and any ornament can cause an intestinal blockage, or break and cut the mouth or bowel.

Christmas trees are a particular threat, as to cats they are nice climbing frames (potentially resulting in it raining cats as well as needles), while to dogs they are a convenient urinal (which may result in electric shocks in a rather unfortunate location).

The simplest way to avoid injuries is by preventing pets from having any unsupervised contact with ornaments or decorations!

PREVENT POISONING

“So bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding and bring it out here…” Sadly, so many of our festive favourites can be toxic to our pets. Most people know how dangerous chocolate is for dogs (and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is). However, did you know that coffee, peanuts, Macadamia nuts, onions, and even raisins and dried fruit are all poisonous to dogs and cats? So no slices of Christmas pudding, mince pies, festive nuts, sage and onion stuffing for our pets! The Dogs Trust have created a Doggy Christmas Menu – especially designed with dogs in mind!

In addition, cooked bones are highly dangerous as they can splinter in the mouth or gut, leading to sharp wounds and even perforated bowels. So, watch out for left-over turkey carcasses!

Finally, be very careful not to give them too much rich food and treats – dogs and cats do not thrive on rapidly changing diets, and a sudden change can lead to nasty vomiting and diarrhoea. Likewise, rabbits shouldn’t have too many seeds and treats, but make sure they have plenty of good quality hay.


Christmas with pets can be great fun for both of you, but you do have to take certain precautions! If in doubt, contact your local Goddard vet for more advice.

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.

pet_diabetes_awareness_month_diabetes_in_cats_body

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!

5 reasons we should check your pets teeth

The first time that many pet owners know there is a problem with their pet’s teeth is when they catch a whiff of very smelly breath or, more worryingly, when their pet stops eating. Our veterinary nurses can check with your pets teeth and advise you what to do next. 


With their nursing skills, they can advise and demonstrate the best way to keep your pet’s teeth pearly white. Still not convinced? Here are five reasons to help change your mind.

Reason 1: Your pets teeth are under constant threat

Just like humans, your pet’s teeth are always being bombarded by bacteria, leading to the buildup of plaque and tartar. Even dogs from three years old can have periodontal disease which if left unchecked can cause pain and other serious health issues. Goddard veterinary nurses can give you excellent advice on cleaning your dog’s and cat’s teeth. It isn’t as difficult as you may think and the nurses will give you the best techniques to use. After all we clean our teeth every day, why shouldn’t our pets have clean teeth as well?

Reason 2: Extra teeth are not good

A full-grown dog should have 42 teeth, whereas a fully grown cat has 30 teeth. Of course, before these teeth can grow, the deciduous (baby) teeth need to fall out. Sometimes you will see these teeth scattered around the floor, however there are times when they don’t fall out and this can cause problems. Retained teeth, commonly the canine teeth, can cause gum irritation and an extra build-up of tartar.

Regular checks with our veterinary nurses can make sure these teeth are doing what they are supposed to, especially as your puppy or kitten becomes an adult. Some breeds are also more prone to retaining teeth such as Chihuahuas.

Reason 3: It’s not just dental health

You may think that a bit of smelly breath (halitosis) is okay to put up with, however poor teeth and dental hygiene can result in other much more serious health problems. An infection in the mouth can cause bacteria to enter the body via the bloodstream, causing infections elsewhere in your pet’s body.

Major organs can be infected by poor dental health, including the kidneys, heart, lungs and liver.

This means a simple check can help stop the infection before it starts. If there are signs of infection already around the gums, our nurses can flag this to the vets, who can begin appropriate treatment.

Reason 4: Pets can be secretive

You might not realise that your pet has dental problems, especially if you don’t get very close to their mouths. Most animals can be very secretive, even if their mouths are causing them pain. Many pets will not cry out, but simply tolerate it. As humans, we know how bad toothache can get, but at least we can do something about it! Another reason regular dental checks are so important!

If you do see any of the following signs, it may indicate dental discomfort:

  • Reluctance to eat – especially hard food such as biscuits
  • Their coats becoming unkempt or matted – where they feel reluctant to groom
  • Wetness around their face, chin and mouth – or even drooling
  • Some animals even ‘paw’ at their faces/mouth areas

If you witness any of these signs please bring your pets to see us as soon as possible, so we can start to treat them.

Reason 5: Early intervention can save you money!

Like any disease, the earlier it is discovered the easier it is to treat. Dental disease is no different. Would you much rather our vet nurses check your pet’s teeth regularly and advise when they need treatment – such as a scale and polish, or ignore any issues and eventually leave no alternative for your pet but lots of extractions, potentially being expensive?

By checking your pet’s teeth regularly throughout their lives from very young to their senior years you can save both money and discomfort. Our nurses can advise on the types of brushes available, toothpastes (never use human toothpaste in pets), brushing techniques, dental biscuits and chews. The initial outlay and time can save a lot of heartache further down the line.


So what next?

If your pet hasn’t had a dental check in the last six months, take advantage of the skills of our veterinary nurses and let them offer a check and advice for your pet’s dental health. It may be your pet’s fangs are fine, they may need a clean, but even if they need more invasive treatment, you now know that you are doing your best by them when it comes to their pearly whites!

Call your nearest Goddard surgery for more information, or to speak to one of our veterinary nurses about any pet dental concerns.

Fireworks and Your Pet

Fireworks season is fast approaching and although we may enjoy it as humans, it may be a little stressful for our furry friends. See below our advice on keeping your pet happy and safe during this time, or have a look at our top 10 tips on keeping your pet safe this firework season. 


ALWAYS

  • Keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off.
  • Close all windows and doors and block off cat flaps to stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. Draw the curtains, and if the animals are used to the particular sounds of TV or radio, switch them on.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped so should they run away you are more likely to be reunited with them.

NEVER

  • Walk your dog while fireworks are going off.
  • Leave or tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
  • Take your dog to a firework display. Even if your dog does not bark or whimper at fireworks it doesn’t mean they are happy.
  • Shout at your pet if they are frightened as this will only make them more distressed.

DOGS

To further minimise distress, we suggest you install an Adaptil® diffuser in your home. The Adaptil® diffuser works like a plug-in air freshener, continuously releasing an odourless natural pheromone which helps to keep your pet feeling safe and calm. The diffuser contains a natural solution and there is no sedative effect. Xylkene® is an oral tablet which can also be used to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs. In severe cases we may need to prescribe a sedative. Please discuss this with one of our veterinary surgeons.

CATS

A Feliway® diffuser is the feline equivalent to the Adaptil® diffuser. Feliway® releases feline facial pheromone, mimicking the cat’s own pheromones, helping to create a state of calmness and well-being, allowing reactions to stressful situations to be better controlled. Xylkene® can also be used in cats to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs.

SMALL ANIMALS

Rabbits and guinea pigs living outside should not be forgotten. They can also become very stressed from loud noises. Bring small animals indoors or into an outhouse to muffle the sound of the fireworks, helping them feel safe and calm.


If you are concerned or would like further advice, please speak to your local Goddard vet soon.

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.

If you are unsure or worried that your pet has a tick, book an appointment with your local Goddard vet.