Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Can diet really affect my pets health?

Your pet’s diet has a big impact on their health and wellbeing. The wrong diet could lead to your pet developing health issues such as obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, allergies or dental problems — so getting it right is crucial!


DOGS

  • It’s important to feed your dog a complete, balanced, high-quality diet. High-quality commercial dog food will contain all the right nutrients and vitamins, and in the right amounts. The best way to recognise a decent quality diet is to take a look at the list of ingredients. The first item should be an animal protein e.g. chicken or pork. If the item is, for example, chicken ‘derivative’ or ‘meal’ this tends to imply a lower-quality diet. Avoid any diets where the kibble is a range of bright colours which means there are likely to be added colourants and additives. These are added to make the food look more appealing to you, whilst your dog doesn’t care what colour his food is!
  • It’s also key to feed a diet appropriate to life stage and age of your pet. As you can probably imagine, a Great Dane puppy has a completely different calorific and growth requirement compared to say, an elderly Chihuahua. You should feed a good quality puppy or junior food up to the age of about 1 year (sometimes longer for large breed dogs – usually to about 15-18 months), then gradually switch to an adult diet, then to a senior food from the age of 8.
  • If you have a large breed dog, then you should feed your dog a diet specially formulated for large breeds. This is because joint problems tend to be more common in larger dogs, so these diets contain additional joint supplements to support bone and joint health. Small breed dogs can be more prone to dental disease so generally diets suited to smaller breed dogs have a smaller kibble size and contain supplements to reduce tartar build-up (which can lead to dental disease).
  • Once your dog has been spayed or castrated, it’s a good idea to feed a neutered diet. These diets are calorie restricted to help prevent post neutering weight gain. It’s vital to maintain a healthy weight and body condition score (BCS) – extra weight puts your pet at health risks including diabetes, arthritis and heart problems. If your pet is a little on the porky side and is already carrying a few extra pounds, then special prescription weight loss diets are available.

CATS

  • Cats are obligate carnivores, so it’s important that they are dependent on their diet containing meat to thrive and survive. In a similar way to dogs, they should be fed a life stage-specific diet based on their age.
  • Most adult cats are lactose intolerant (they lack the main enzyme required to digest lactose in milk) so it’s best to not feed your cat milk.
  • Prescription diets are available for certain health concerns including – kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, overactive thyroid (cat), skin problems, urinary problems and cystitis, obesity and many more.

RABBITS

  • The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (fibre) or dark green leafy vegetables – a minimum of 80%. This should ideally mimic what a rabbit would eat in the wild. A small amount of dry concentrate food can be offered, usually about 1 tablespoon per rabbit.
  • It’s important to feed a complete pellet concentrate, as muesli mixes promote selective feeding and can lead to dental problems. Diet is particularly important for rabbits to wear down their teeth, which continuously grow. Feeding an unsuitable diet can lead to overgrown teeth, weight problems, fly strike and lack of grooming.

If you require further advice please contact to your local Goddard vet who can share details on what’s best for your pet.

Alabama Rot: What is it?

The autumn and winter are a risk time for Alabama Rot, or more properly CRGV, although there were still some cases being picked up in the summer. In this blog, we’re going to look at this mysterious disease in a little more detail.


What’s with the name?

Strictly speaking, Alabama Rot was a condition of racing greyhounds in the USA in the 1980s, and was linked to contaminated feed. However, you will commonly hear people using the term to refer to a modern disease in the UK. Technically, the condition being diagnosed in Britain at the moment is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy, or CRGV. However, because “Alabama Rot” sounds scary, it sells more newspapers and hence it’s the name the media have chosen! As a result, that’s what most people call it.

But what actually is it?

It’s a disease that causes blood clots to form in the small blood vessels – typically in the skin and in the kidneys. These clots prevent blood from flowing to the local tissues, so they become starved of oxygen and die, resulting in symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms are ulcers – non-healing wounds that open up without injury. They usually affect the lower legs, but occasionally are seen on the underside of the belly, on the muzzle, or even in the mouth. They can easily look like scrapes or cuts. In the more severe cases, within 7-10 days, the kidneys start to fail, resulting in lethargy, reduced urine production, dehydration, vomiting, a metallic smell on the breath, collapse, and ultimately – in all too many cases – death. This is technically termed “acute kidney injury”, or AKI.

What is the treatment?

The key to treatment is early diagnosis, and then supportive care to help maintain kidney function. This is typically with hospitalisation and aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, keeping affected animals on a drip and managing their symptoms. However, sadly, in many cases kidney failure develops, and often it is so rapid, as to be untreatable, and many of these dogs are put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

What causes it?

No-one knows. Similar conditions are seen with some bacterial infections (e.g. some types of toxic E. coli), but if so, the bacterial cause has not yet been discovered. It has been suggested that a fish bacterium (Aeromonas hydrophila) might be responsible, but this has not been confirmed. Other possibilities that have been raised include food contamination, viral infections, or even a toxin in the environment, but so far there’s no evidence for these.

How can it be prevented?

Again – as we don’t know the cause, we don’t know! Initially, some people were recommending bathing those parts of your dog which become wet or muddy on a walk, but although this will help you detect the ulcers early, we have no evidence to suggest that it would prevent the disease. Some people are also avoiding walking their dogs in certain areas – but although an environmental cause has been suggested, there is no firm evidence as yet that particular areas are transmitting the disease, and most of the dogs affected have walked in areas where hundreds of others go, without the others being affected.

What animals are at risk?

Potentially any dog could develop the condition. That said, if one dog in a household is affected, others seem to be at higher risk – but once more, we do not know why. Fortunately, the disease cannot jump the species barrier, and there have been no reports of cases in humans, cats or other animals.

Should I be worried?

Not unduly so, no. Although CRGV is a very unpleasant disease, from the start of the “outbreak” in 2012 to January this year, there were only 122 confirmed cases – despite there being about 9 million dogs in the UK! It’s a really rare condition, and not something to panic about – especially when we compare it to infectious diseases like Parvo, degenerative ones like heart failure, and injury from cars, which kill many thousands of dogs each year.

What should I do?

Check your dog regularly for unexplained redness or sores on the skin. While most of these won’t be CRGV (again, we’d like to emphasise that it’s really rare!), they are potentially a warning flag. Early diagnosis gives the maximum chance for a successful outcome, so be vigilant, but do not be afraid!


If you find any suspicious lesions, or you’re at all concerned about your dog’s health, give your local Goddard Vet a ring for advice!

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.

Lungworm: What are the risks?

Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasitic worm that can cause serious health problems and even be fatal to dogs. It was first seen in 1975 and used to be confined to certain areas of the UK. It has now been re-labelled an emerging disease. The risks of infection are higher in the south, but it has now spread throughout much of the UK. On a positive note, if caught in time, it is treatable, and can also be prevented. 


What is lungworm and why is it so dangerous for my dog?

Lungworm is a type of parasitic worm affecting dogs, and also foxes, who are often implicated in spreading the disease from area to area. With the number of urban foxes in London, it means there is a relatively high risk of infection. 

Once infected, adult lungworm live in the host dog’s heart and the major blood vessels supplying the lungs, where they often cause a host of potentially serious problems. The developing larvae cause inflammation of the lung tissue leading to coughing as well as less specific signs such as lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea. Presence of lungworm can lead to clotting issues signified by nosebleeds, bleeding within the whites of the eyes or skin, or blood in the urine or faeces. If not treated it can be fatal. This type of lungworm thankfully poses no risk to humans.

How do dogs get lungworm?

Only snails and slugs carry the infectious late-stage larvae. When a dog (or fox) eats a snail or slug (either on purpose or accidentally), the larvae migrate from the gut wall through the liver tissue and into the bloodstream on its way to the heart (the right ventricle and pulmonary arteries, to be precise) where they mature into adults. There they breed, and their eggs hatch into larvae which enter the airways. From the lungs, the larvae are coughed up, swallowed, and passed within faeces, finally infecting passing slugs and snails. 

Slime trails can also contain larvae, making anything the snail or slug has crawled over a risk. This includes bowls, toys and grass, which a dog may eat. Young dogs may be more at risk, purely because they may be more curious. 

Although a dog cannot directly catch lungworm from another dog or fox, an infected fox (or dog) in the area can infect local snails and slugs, thus increasing the risk for everyone in the locality. 

How common is it?

Once rare in the UK, it has spread into new areas and now cases are being reported across the country, including the Midlands, north of England and Scotland, as well as expanding in the already established hot spots in the south of England and Wales. You can check your local area using Bayer’s Lungworm Map.

Researchers have recently found that while the number of infected foxes has grown rapidly in Britain, the growth was most significant in Greater London, with approximately three in every four foxes found to be carrying lungworm. Land type, dog density and climatic factors may be involved, but the simple presence of foxes locally increased the risk of lungworm infection in dogs five-fold. 

It is not just Greater London where lungworm prevalence in foxes is on the rise. Bristol University published a study in 2015 which found 18.3% of foxes across the UK were found to be carrying lungworm. This was more than double what was found in a similar study published 7 years before.

These foxes infect local slugs and snails, putting our pet dogs more at risk. Not all slugs or snails contain lungworm larvae, but according to an almost unbelievable Countryfile statistic, an average British garden is home to more than 20,000 slugs and snails. The risk of a dog encountering a lungworm host is therefore high.

It’s also thought that more people now travel around the UK with their pets, spreading this parasite further and further to local fox populations and thus, if preventative measures are not taken, also to the local dog population. It is now accepted that it is endemic across much of the UK. Wider recognition, vigilance and testing throughout the veterinary profession may also explain some of the increase in reported cases. Ticks, fleas and canine lungworm are all likely to benefit from milder winters and warmer summers, thus climate change may be another factor in the emergence of this disease. 

One in five practices in the UK have reported at least one case of lungworm. Importantly, as lungworm can be difficult to diagnose, confirmed cases may not represent all cases actually seen. Our vets may recommend using blood, faecal or lung fluid samples to look for evidence, alongside tests to check for other causes of signs such as a cough or bleeding. We can get false negatives with these tests so sometimes we recommend treating for lungworm to cover all bases.

How is it treated?

Thankfully, lungworm often does not require invasive or costly treatment if caught early. It may be as simple as changing from one anti-parasite product to another (moxidectin-based spot-ons will kill the parasite, and both moxidectin and milbemycin spot-ons and tablets will prevent it from developing). However, if the symptoms are advanced or the level of infection is severe there is a greater likelihood of permanent damage.

How do I reduce the risks?

  • It’s advisable to add an anti-lungworm preventative into your anti-parasite routine wherever you live, but especially here in London. Not all wormers prevent this type of worm, and treatments are a prescription-only medication, needing to be given monthly to successfully prevent infection. Please speak to a member of our team for more information on protecting your pet. 
  • Remove snails and slugs in your garden when possible, and try to prevent your dog from swallowing them. Don’t leave toys out overnight as your dog may inadvertently eat a hiding slug or their slime. Wash outside water bowls regularly and always pick up your dog’s poop to limit the spread of disease. 
  • It’s not advisable to use slug bait as certain types of slug bait are very toxic to dogs if eaten.
  • There are many conditions in dogs that cannot be prevented, so despite its potentially serious nature, the silver lining with lungworm is that it’s risk can be removed relatively easily.

If you require further advice of information, please contact your local Goddard vet today.

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.