Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

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.

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!

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.

The Importance of Microchipping your Four-Legged Friend

Everyone has lost something at some point; your wallet, your phone, your keys. Some things however, are far more precious and it’s devastating if they go missing — we’re talking of course, about our pets. Hopefully this has not happened to you but sometimes, things out of our control mean that there is a possibility that our pets can run and often find themselves ‘lost’.


Thankfully, there are ways that help your pet find their way home should they find themselves in this situation and the most important of which, is getting them microchipped.

Pet Microchips

A microchip is a tiny glass capsule, about the size of a grain of rice, which is filled with electronic components giving a unique 15 digit number. Giving a pet a microchip is a relatively simple procedure. Microchipping is generally done by a vet, though there are other places that offer microchipping, such as Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and Blue Cross Centres.

The microchip is injected via a needle under the skin of your dog or cat, usually between their shoulder blades, so it does not move around. You and your pet’s details are stored in a microchip database along with the microchip’s unique 15 digit code.

When a missing pet is found, they will be scanned (usually by a vet or dog warden for example), revealing the microchip’s code and contact, the microchip database your pet is recorded with. The customer care staff will perform some security checks before releasing your contact details to the animal professional so that your pet can be reunited with you. It is your responsibility to keep these details up to date.

To help those who cannot afford microchipping, some of the charities listed above offer free microchipping. A pet can generally be first microchipped from a few weeks of age, or then any time after that, and it should last a lifetime.

Microchipping Laws

Since 2016, it has been mandatory to have every dog over the age of 8 weeks microchipped in England; Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar laws. There is a £500 fine if this is not done within 21 days of being identified by authorities. It is also mandatory to have your pet microchipped if you are entering or leaving the EU (though laws may change post-Brexit), so a non-microchipped pet cannot travel abroad. These laws were brought in to try and reduce the number of stray dogs who end up with charities, though they are naturally also helping to reunite lost dogs with owners.

Currently, it is not mandatory to have your cat microchipped. However, as we said above, it is always strongly recommended as many cats roam far from home, and many do not have any collars or other form of identification. Please do consider getting your feline friends microchipped at the same time as any canine ones, especially at this time of year where loud firework and bonfire noises, can easily frighten them away.

Does it hurt?

The needle is quite large compared to other needles, and some young pets can feel a little discomfort when it is implanted; however the vast majority do not notice. Occasionally, a pet can have a minor reaction to the injection, and the site can become temporarily inflamed. The microchips themselves are made to be non-reactive so should not be irritating, and it usually settles down in a day or so.

What’s important about that unique number?

Having a microchip means that anyone with a scanner can check a lost pet for a microchip, look up the number, and identify who the pet belongs to. This means if your pet is lost and brought into a charity or vets, you can easily be contacted and hopefully reunited. It can also help police track stolen animals and return them to their rightful owners. It is important that all details are kept up to date — if you move house, buy a new pet or give one away, make sure the database is updated, to make identifying your lost friend easier.

Final Thoughts

We all lock our doors, check our pockets for our phones, and keep track of our savings — people are generally very careful not to lose things. However, sometimes we forget to be careful with our precious four-legged friends, who are arguably irreplaceable! Every dog or cat microchipped has a much better chance of making it home, should the worst happen.

It is always heart-breaking to see separated owners and pets, so do your part by making sure your dog is microchipped, and seriously consider getting your cat microchipped as well. One small chip can mean a lifetime of security and peace of mind.