Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Travelling with your pet

Are you planning on travelling with your pet? From 1st January 2021, post-Brexit rules have changed the way you can travel with your pet.

Please do familiarise yourself with the most up-to-date requirements issued by the Government here.

It is important to note that if travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland a current EU Pet Passport issued in Great Britain will no longer be valid from 1 January 2021 onwards and an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) will be required instead.

The other steps are similar to the current process for taking your pet to the EU and the process will be:

  • You must have your dog, cat, or ferret microchipped.
  • Vaccinate your dog, cat, or ferret against rabies. (Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated.)
  • Wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel.
  • Then book an appointment with one of our Official Veterinarians (OV) to get an AHC issued for your pet, no more than 10 days before travel to the EU.

Please do therefore ensure you plan ahead and speak to your vet well in advance of your planned travel date.

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.

Christmas Pet Dangers

Do you know the pet dangers hiding on your Christmas shopping list?

Human Medication

In the run up to Christmas, many of us may be reaching for the ibuprofen or paracetamol to cure a fuzzy head. Make sure to keep human medication away from your pets — dogs and cats are very sensitive to the effects, much more so than us. Many over the counter and prescription drugs, whilst beneficial for us, can be very harmful or even deadly to pets even in small doses. Always consult your vet for advice before giving any medication to your pet.

Xylitol

Could your good intentions be unintentionally harmful to your dog?
Xylitol is often used in baked goods around Christmas time in an effort to fight the festive flab. However, it is extremely toxic to dogs if ingested, even a small amount can be fatal. Xylitol (also known as E967) can be found in many products including sweets, baked goods, jams, peanut butter, dental hygiene products, chewing gum, etc. Ingestion in dogs causes a rapid drop in blood sugar which can lead to lethargy, wobbliness, confusion, vomiting, collapse and tremors/seizures. Some dogs may also go on to develop acute liver failure. Cats luckily do not appear to be affected.

Batteries

It’s time to wrap those Christmas toys and gadgets – don’t forget the batteries! However, pets are inquisitive and may think nothing about swallowing batteries, which can cause significant damage to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract! Large, chewed or punctured alkaline batteries often require intervention, and the lithium disc or ‘button’ batteries pose the greatest risk of all. Always contact your vet if you think your pet may have ingested a battery.

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Mouldy Food

Mould ingestion can be lethal to pets. It usually happens when dogs raid the kitchen waste recycling caddy, so keep them out of reach this Christmas period where there is likely to be an increase in food waste. If your pet ingests mouldy food seek treatment without delay. Symptoms can occur rapidly and include:

  • restlessness
  • panting
  • excessive salivation
  • whole-body muscle tremors
  • hypersensitivity to touch/noise
  • seizures

Plants

Many Yule time plants can be hazardous to pets if chewed — luckily in the majority of cases symptoms are mild and self-limiting and may include salivation, oral irritation and vomiting/diarrhoea. To be on the safe side, keep plants out of reach of inquisitive pets and consult your vet if ingestion does occur.

Decorations

If you are decorating your Christmas tree this weekend beware of the potential dangers to your pet. Pets can be attracted to shiny lights, tinsel and baubles! Swallowed or chewed decorations can lead to cuts or intestinal blockages, and chewed fairy lights can pose an electrocution risk.

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Salt

Homemade salt dough decorations are pretty but poisonous! You might be decorating your Christmas tree this weekend, but these decorations can be hazardous for inquisitive pets. Due to the high levels of salt needed to make salt dough, ingestion of just one of these homemade decorations is enough to cause serious poisoning. Symptoms can range from vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst or urination. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible. Please avoid putting these around your home at Xmas if you have pets.

Onions and Garlic

Did you know that onions and their relatives are toxic to dogs and cats?
The Allium family (onions, garlic, spring onions, chives, leeks etc) cause red blood cell destruction in cats and dogs — which can result in lethargy or collapse. Even 1 or 2 garlic cloves can be enough to cause serious problems in a cat. Exposure can also occur chronically i.e. small amounts every day can build up to cause an issue. Gravy is often a sneaky culprit at Christmas time — instant gravy can contain a high amounts of onion/garlic powder, so avoid giving it as a treat!

Nicotine

The weekend is here and it’s Christmas party time! However, our own bad habits can be bad for our pets too. Nicotine poisoning can occur in pets so keep cigarettes and vapes out of reach — the flavoured liquid used in E-cigarettes can be particularly attractive to dogs. With significant ingestion, symptoms occur quickly and include drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, excitability/agitation and neurological signs. Always visit your vet if you think your pet has ingested any nicotine.

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Chocolate

Keep those Christmas chocolates out of your pets reach! Chocolate is poisonous to pets, and dogs are usually the main culprits. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which dogs and cats are unable to process properly. Theobromine acts as a stimulant leading to clinical signs of:

  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • increased thirst/urination
  • hyperexcitability/agitation
  • rapid heart rate
  • seizures

The darker the chocolate the higher the theobromine content therefore the more toxic it is. White chocolate is safe however it may cause gastrointestinal upset due to its high fat content.

Alcohol

With the Christmas season in full swing what happens if your pet gets their nose into your alcoholic tipple? Alcohol should not be consumed by pets as their livers are not equipped to break down alcohol as easily as human livers are. We all know how awful we can feel after a heavy night, but our pets are much more prone to alcohol toxicity with potentially life-threatening consequences.  Alcohol toxicity can also occur from ingestion of unbaked bread dough — as the yeast ferments in their stomach, alcohol is created and is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Grapes and their dried fruits

Grapes and their dried fruits such as raisins, currants and sultanas (whether raw or cooked) are known to cause fatal kidney failure in dogs — so keep Christmas treats such as mince pies, puddings and cakes out of reach. Even ingestion of just a few grapes is enough to cause severe illness so always consult your vet if your dog ingests any amount.

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If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested any of these items, get in contact with your local Goddard vet or hospital as soon as possible. 

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.

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.