Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Stress-Free Vet Visits For Your Cat

Taking your cat to the vets can be a stressful experience for both you and your pet, but for some cats even just visiting us for a routine appointment can be an ordeal. If your cat is also ill or painful then it can be additionally stressful for them, but there are steps you can take to make it easier for them to cope. With a bit of planning ahead, a visit to our vets can be a much less traumatic experience for your cat.

Preparing for a vet visit

Cats like routine and can easily become stressed in new situations, especially if they have previously had a negative experience. However, there are things you can do to prepare your cat for a visit to our practice that will give them a more positive experience and reduce any future stress:

Familiarising your cat with their carrier

A pet carrier is essential for safely transporting your cat and should always be used when bringing your cat to us. However, if the only time your cat sees their carrier is when they are going somewhere stressful, then they will quickly learn to associate the carrier with negative experiences. It can then start to be difficult to get them to go inside.

To reduce any negative association that your cat may have with their carrier, you need to use the carrier as part of their daily routine, so they will become familiar with it. This means that the carrier needs to become part of your cat’s normal furniture. You may need to feed your cat inside the carrier, or let them use the carrier to sleep in, allowing them to become comfortable using it on a daily basis. It can take time to adjust to the carrier being part of everyday life but eventually they will become more comfortable using it, resulting in them being calmer when they need to use the carrier for travelling.

What to put in the carrier?

To make the carrier more appealing and familiar for your cat, there are items you can add to it. By lining the carrier with your cat’s favourite blanket or item of bedding, you can ensure that they have a familiar scent inside the carrier. Some cats are also comforted by their owner’s scent, so you could add an item of your clothing to give your cat extra reassurance. If your cat is being hospitalised with us then you can also bring along one of your cat’s blankets that we can add to their bed to make their stay more comfortable.

Feliway

Cats can communicate using pheromones which are released when your cat is happy and content. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that mimics the happy and content signal a cat will produce. This means it can be a useful product to use that will help settle your cat and keep them relaxed in a variety of situations. Before using the carrier it can be useful to spray the carrier and any bedding or covers with Feliway, 15 minutes before you need it. This can help keep your cat calm while in the carrier, during the journey, and while at our vets. You can also repeat the use of Feliway in the carrier if you are picking your cat up from us after a hospital stay. Using it in your home once you get back from your visit, to help your cat settle after their journey, can also be helpful. One of our team would be happy to discuss with you the use of Feliway and how it may be helpful for your cat.

Travelling to the vets

Now that your cat is familiar with their carrier and is ready for their visit to see us, it is time to think about how you can make your cat’s journey to the vets as stress free as possible. Cars are scary for a cat, with the noise and motion being upsetting for many individuals, but there are ways you can make the journey more comfortable for them.

Car journeys

Once your cat is inside the carrier, you should try to make them feel as secure as you can. Cats can become stressed by travelling and unfamiliar environments, so you can reduce this stress by covering the carrier up with a blanket or towel. Once in the car, the carrier should be secured so that it does not move around. Using a seat belt is a good way of keeping the carrier safe in your car. Cats also prefer the carrier to be kept level, so using extra towels to keep the carrier in a suitable position will also help keep your cat relaxed. If it is a hot day then make sure that the car is at a comfortable temperature for your pet. Be careful that they are not left inside the car by themselves for any length of time, as the car can heat up to dangerous levels very quickly. Remember to keep your cat secure inside the carrier throughout the journey and not to let them out inside the car. A scared cat may try and escape which can be dangerous for them in an unfamiliar environment.

At the vets…

The waiting room

The waiting room can be a very stressful place for your cat with all the different scents present and other pets that may be there. It is important to remember that meeting a dog will be very unsettling for your cat, so you should try to avoid any encounters with dogs if you can, particularly if your cat is nervous. Once in our waiting room try to sit separately from any dogs, and let one of our team know if this is not possible so we can help you.

Continue to keep the carrier covered over so that your cat still feels secure. Cats usually feel safer at a higher level so avoid placing the carrier on the floor and instead use one of the chairs to put the carrier on, to keep your cat more comfortable. For your cat’s safety keep them inside the carrier at all times while in the waiting room, where they will feel secure.

The consulting room

Once inside the consulting room, if the doors are secure, then it can be useful to let your cat out to explore, allowing them to adjust to their new surroundings. By giving your cat time to walk around the floor is a good way to let them settle. If your cat is visiting us for a procedure, such as a nail clip or blood test, then our vet may ask a nurse to help hold your cat to make the procedure as safe and comfortable for your cat as possible. If your cat is particularly nervous then one of our vets would be happy to give you advice on how to keep them calm.

We understand that visiting our vets can be scary and stressful for your cat, so we try to make the experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible. If you have any questions about how you can help keep your cat calm and settled during their visit, then one of our team will be happy to help you.

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!

What is ‘Lifestage’ Feeding and Why Is It Important For My Pet?

‘Lifestage’ feeding is a relatively new term that means feeding your pet what they need at each stage of life. This blog should give you an insight into the interesting world of nutrition, help you to determine what stage of life your pet is in and how to tailor their diet to that stage.

The life stages are:

  • Kitten/ puppy – this is the first 1-2 years of life, the major growth period. The larger the adult weight, the closer to 2 years this will be. For example, a large breed dog will be in this stage for 2 years whereas a cat or small dog will only be in the growth period for a year. Sometimes, this is divided into ‘puppy/kitten’ (the first half) and ‘juvenile’ (the second half, roughly analogous to the human teenager phase).
  • Adult – this is from the end of the kitten/ puppy stage and until their senior years.
  • Senior – in cats this is over 7-9 years old. In dogs, there is a bit more variation due to the big variation between breed life expectancy (small breeds have a longer life expectancy, so the senior period starts later than in larger breeds) but in general:
    • Small dogs – this stage begins at 12 years old
    • Medium dogs – this stage begins at 10 years old
    • Large dogs – this stage begins at 8 years old
  • Pregnant/ nursing – this stage is obvious, but it is very important that it has its own category. In the last trimester of pregnancy, and throughout the lactation period, there is a much higher demand for calories on the bitch/queen. If she is not fed to account for this, then she can lose a lot of weight and she may not be able to produce plenty of high-quality milk.

Now you know which stage of life your pet is in, let’s move onto the nutrition side of things.

Puppy/ kitten food is high in calcium and phosphorus which promotes good bone health. It is also high in calories which is needed for growing. These diets are perfect for a growing animal because they prevent any deficiencies and you know that they are getting everything that they need. They can also be used in the last trimester of pregnancy and lactation, as the extra calories make sure that Mum has all the energy she requires, and this diet gives her the extra calcium needed for milk production.

Adult food is a well-balanced diet that contains everything that a healthy adult cat or dog needs. This has fewer calories than the puppy/kitten food so that they can maintain a healthy weight. Neutered animals have lower energy requirements, so they may need to go on a ‘diet’ or “neutered pet’ food to maintain a healthy weight. It is worth the investment so that they don’t pile on the pounds during their adult life.

Senior food is usually reduced calorie but with a blend of vitamins, minerals and supplements to support the immune system and promote healthy kidneys and joints. The reduction in calories is because our senior pets are less active than they used to be, if we also reduce the calories this should reduce weight gain (and more importantly, excessive weight on old joints).

On a side note, for many conditions (such as liver or kidney problems) there are also specific diets. If your pet has any long-term conditions, ask one of our vets if they would recommend a diet to help manage the condition.

But the question you are all asking is – does it actually matter? Yes, yes it does! The most important stage is the growth (puppy/ kitten) stage; if you feed an inappropriate diet the animal will likely have stunted growth and some deficiencies. So, if you take anything away from this at all, feed your puppy/kitten right so they develop properly.

Maybe the question you should be asking is – why not? These diets are formulated to give your pet everything they need and support them in whatever stage of life they are in. If there is a diet better for your older pets, why not give it a try? Hopefully, you will see the difference it can make and never look back.

Our vets and nurses are always happy to discuss and recommend diets that would be best for your pet. Call us or drop in to discuss it anytime, we think nutrition is very important and will always make time to talk to you about it.