Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Lungworm – what are the risks?

Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasitic worm that can cause serious health problems and can 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.

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. 

Working with StreetVet to help homeless pets

Have you ever heard of StreetVet? Perhaps not – but we’re sure you’ve noticed how many of London’s homeless community have pets to keep them company. Have you ever wondered who looks after them when they get ill or are injured? Because someone has to! For many homeless people, their pet is their only companion, but of course, they would struggle to access normal veterinary services. That’s where StreetVet step in – and we’re proud to support them!


Who are StreetVet?

StreetVet are a charity, set up by two vets in 2016, to provide free and accessible veterinary care to pets whose owners are homeless. In cities across the UK, vets and vet nurses volunteer their time to care for these animals. In London alone, they have 50 volunteers, and operate a regular “drop-in” clinic in Camden, as well as covering Soho, Shoreditch and parts of Hertfordshire. They vaccinate and microchip, treat for fleas and lungworm; prescribe pain relief and antibiotics; perform surgeries; and sometimes just sit and talk. 


How do Goddard fit into this?

As the biggest veterinary group in London, we feel it’s important to help all the pets on our patch. So, Goddard have pledged to support SV with £1000 of vet fees across their branches in 2019. This means that we pay for investigations, surgical operations, medications, nursing and emergency care. 

In 2018, we averaged 10 cases per month treated free of charge for StreetVet – they need the support and we have the facilities plus the staff willing to help out! We hope it’s a win-win situation for everyone.


Meet Belle

Belle is a Staffie, belonging to Rob. After a series of strokes, Belle helped him to rebuild his confidence and supported him throughout his recovery. Regularly visiting the StreetVet outreach station in Hackney, she was popular with all the volunteers!

However, in November last year, she was badly spooked by fireworks, ran onto the railway line and was hit by an oncoming train. Although she wasn’t killed outright, she suffered severe and life-threatening injuries. After emergency stabilisation by the RSPCA, she was transferred to our Wanstead Hospital for treatment.

She had suffered severe injuries to her right side, her right leg, and her skull and jaw, which was fractured. Sadly, our surgeons couldn’t save her leg or her right eye, but we were able to repair the rest of the damage and wire her jaw back together. Incredibly, she was up and walking only two days after her operations, and was able to be reunited with Rob after only two weeks of hospital care.

We’re really proud to have been able to support Rob and Belle through StreetVet, and at the last report, she’s still going strong and is something of a Hackney celebrity now!


How can I help?

The service StreetVet offer is completely free to the people they serve. However, food, bedding, toys, and medications have to come from somewhere, and this does cost money. You can donate food or other pet supplies directly to them by purchasing from their city-specific Amazon Wishlists – see their website for ideas. However, to make it easy, we have collection boxes in most of our branches – ask our receptionists for more details!


Of course, some things, like medications, need to be purchased from licensed suppliers. So, donations of money and fundraisers are also really important to keep them on the road. You can donate to support StreetVet on their Golden Giving page.


Please help the homeless and their animals this summer! We are, and we’d urge you to do the same.

Ten tips for keeping your pet safe this summer

We know you want to do all you can to keep your pet healthy and happy this Summer. There are a few things to think about to keep them safe from harm – we’ve listed our top ten tips below!

Number One: Barbeques

  • 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!

Number Two: 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.

Number Three: 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.

Number Four: 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.

Number Five: 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!

Number Six: 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.

Number Seven: 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.

Number Eight: 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.

Number Nine: 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. 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.

Number Ten: 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).


We’d like to wish all our patients and their owners a very happy and safe holidays!



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 have any concerns, one of our veterinary surgeons or nurses will be happy to help.

The trouble with tapeworms

Tapeworms are a common problem. The infection can be caught from multiple areas and environments; however, some conditions make them more likely to be transmitted.

What is a tapeworm?

They are long, flat worms that live in your pet’s intestines. Most species can be infected and the larvae are often ingested by dogs while they groom, or from the soil or grass. They travel to the intestine where they attach to the mucous lining, using their strong mouthpieces, and grow into adults. They can grow up to 8 inches in length and, when mature, produce proglottids (segments) which grow from the end of the worm. Tapeworms are made from lots of segments, all of which have their own reproductive parts allowing their numbers to multiply rapidly as they constantly reproduce. These segments become gravid (pregnant with a pack of eggs encircled in a membrane) and are passed in the pets’ faeces, where they burst releasing tapeworm eggs onto the grass or material beneath them. These eggs are ingested by an intermediate host (normally a flea or a rodent), which is then eaten by your pets. The eggs are released and hatch into tiny tapeworm heads, which mature into adult worms inside your pet over 2 months or so.

Is my pet likely to get tapeworm?

There are lots of different types of tapeworm, each with different intermediate hosts, meaning tapeworm can be caught from various sources. The tapeworm eggs can live in the environment in grass and soil, carpets and dust, so it is hard to eliminate the process of infection as we cannot keep this permanently clean. The flea is a common intermediate host, so keeping your pets away from any fleas, or areas where you know there will be a high flea count can help to prevent your pet from becoming infected.

Fleas commonly live on cats so if your pets spend lots of time with cats they are more likely to pick up the infection. Fleas thrive in areas which are moist, humid and shaded. If your dog has fleas, they will be itching excessively so they may appear to have bald patches, redness of the skin, and potentially wounds, or even blood. Regularly treating your pet for fleas would be a good preventative treatment for this type of tapeworm. Reinfection can occur if a new flea (also infected) is ingested, so one preventative treatment will not usually be enough.

Mice and rodents can be carriers too so, if possible, reduce the access your pets have to areas which may be infested. If your cat likes to hunt or rummage through bins, they are more likely to pick up tapeworm from these sources. If you know an area is likely to be habituated by rodents, try to keep your dog on a lead whilst walking through these areas. This allows you to have more control over your pet, helping to prevent them from eating infectious material.

What are the symptoms of tapeworm?

Tapeworms can cause lots of different health problems. If your pet is infected, you may see small white objects, that look like grains of rice, around the tail or in the faeces. They may even be moving! These segments stick to bedding or rugs where your pet spends a lot of time so if you suspect an infection, be sure to investigate these locations and clean them thoroughly. Your pet may itch their rear end a lot as the larvae become stuck in the area, irritating it. If the burden is much larger, weight loss may be seen.

If your pet has worms living inside the intestines, they may show weight loss and have lower energy levels compared to normal. This is because the worms are stealing their nutrients. You may notice a difference in eating habits, as they often lose their appetite and then quickly become very hungry again. Their coat may become duller looking. Blood may be seen in the faeces, so careful investigation of the stool using gloves could be useful – or just ask us about it if you prefer! You may see worms or white eggs in the faeces. The heavier the worm burden, the more serious the symptoms become; it is therefore very important to treat this infection as soon as possible.

If any symptoms are seen, please call or visit the practice for more specific information on treatment and we can help return your pet to normal health as soon as possible!

Unfortunately, lots of animals show no symptoms.

Can I catch tapeworm from my pet?

People are rarely infected by tapeworm, but these infections do occur. You cannot catch the infection directly from your dog. The human infection occurs when the human ingests a flea carrying the infection. Fleas often live on animals, so if people are commonly in close contact with animals they are much more likely to become infected. This is more common in children compared to adults.

Summary – DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TAPEWORM, but DO TREAT IT. It is very common and treatment is available. If you notice a sudden change in behaviour or weight, contact one of our vets!