Archive for the ‘Rabbit’ Category

Can your veterinary nurses really help with my pet’s weight?

One of the many tasks that Goddard veterinary nurses can help you with is advice and guidance on your pet’s weight. Of course, humans can adjust their diets and eat healthily (or try to) but our four-legged friends rely on us to help keep them trim and a good weight. 

The problems with portly pets.

The news, it seems, is full of the problems with overweight humans and the health risks obesity carries. The same applies to our pets, having an overweight pet seriously increases the risk factor in a number of health conditions, including:

?     Arthritis and joint problems from carrying excess weight

?     Heart disease from the heart muscle having to work harder

?     Liver disease from Fatty Liver Syndrome

?     Cystitis

?     Diabetes

Also noticeable may be the pet’s fur, seemingly unkempt, even matted – this is because overweight pets have trouble reaching the parts they used to when grooming themselves. All this amounts to a very unhappy pet that can have a shortened lifespan.

Is there an ideal weight for my pet?

Having an ideal weight for your pet is not a simple as choosing a figure and sticking into that. Every pet is different! As an example, there are guidelines to say a cat should weigh around 4 to 6 kilograms or a Border collie no more than 20 kilograms. These are just guidelines as even pets of the same breed can be different, it is not so much an ideal weight as more a healthy weight! Factors including the sex of the animal also need taking into account – something our nurses will do during an initial weight check.

How do your nurses check a pet is a healthy weight?

Our nurses (and vets) use a system called a body condition score, This is because there is one healthy shape associated with many species.

During your pet’s weight check, our nurses will demonstrate how to check your pet’s body condition and the shape to look for. It is very simple and just means running your hands over their chest and back. Pets that have an ideal body condition will be able to have their rib cage felt easily with the tips of the fingers. That area should just have a slight fat layer covering, with the outline of one or two ribs possibly showing. Our nurses will also explain the shape of your pet from above and the side, and what you should be looking for.

How do I know my pets on the right diet?

That is another article in itself! There are hundreds of diets on the market for pets, including breed specific formulas. Ensuring that your pet gets the correct nutrition of carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals can be really difficult. If your pet is a rabbit, the correct amount of quality grass and hay also needs to be added to the equation.

The veterinary nursing teams at Goddard vets, are more than happy to assess your pet’s body score and talk to you about their dietary needs.

It is not a cliche about any species that has too many calories and not enough exercise – they will become fat! Pets can also become quite fussy eaters. How many different diets have you tried to feed your pets? Cats that totally ignore the food that they ate happily a few days before, or rabbits fed a muesli type mix that choose the tastiest and normally most unhealthiest bits to eat first. Our advice extends to them all.

And talking of exercise…

Pets can burn off those calories with a good amount of exercise. With dogs this is normally easy as they are usually happy to go for a walk or run, but with cats or bunnies it’s more difficult.

Some owners are brave and will put their cat or rabbit on a lead – but they are very much the minority, that means the best way for them to exercise is through play.

How many toys are there for cats and rabbits? Look around any pet store and there are shelves full of them. Cats love to chase and pounce using their natural hunting instinct and any ‘toy-prey’ will do – even paper balls. Rabbits like to climb, use tunnels, and even have their own toys. It’s up to owners to encourage them – and our nurses will support you with ideas and tips.

Keeping your pets at a healthy weight includes everything above and our nurses and vets are happy to support you with advice on weight and managing your pet when it comes to nutrition. Call your local surgery for more information and let’s help keep Britain’s pets healthy!


Why older pets can benefit from our veterinary nurse team

Compared to human years, animals at around the age of 8 are generally classed as senior pets. As they reach more mature years, it is important to recognise changes that may take place. Regular checks are important and our Goddard Veterinary Nurses can help and advise you on the types of things you may see with your pets as they get older. 

So what type of things can you advise on?


Just as in humans, when animals get older joint problems such as arthritis can develop, especially in cats and dogs. Have you noticed your pet being reluctant to move after a period of rest? Does your older cat seem uninterested in jumping up onto higher surfaces? These are things that are worth noting and mentioning during a senior pet health check.

With joint problems, movement can become harder for your pets and can start to affect their quality of life, by following advice from the nursing and vet team, there are ways to make movement that bit easier including:

  • Limiting exercise to a more appropriate level
  • Use of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Maintaining an ideal weight for your pet
  • Use of joint supplements
  • Use of hydrotherapy centres

Diet and appetite

Our nurses can give you advice on nutrition and dietary requirements for your pets, regardless of their age. Older pets can have changes to their needs, for example you wouldn’t want to feed an 8-year-old dog puppy food.

Different foods contain varying nutritional values and calorific content and our nursing team can help you decide the best for your pet. For example, older pets are generally less active, so would possibly require calorie reduced diets, thus helping to control their weight. Some breeds also have foods specifically developed by pet food manufacturers and tailored to your pets needs – we can advise on these as well.

During the senior pet health check (or at any time) if you have noticed your pet is going off their food or treats, please let us know. There are several reasons this might be happening and should be investigated by our vets. A simple blood test can help determine the problem. Alternatively if your pet has massive appetite, this can also be a sign of diabetes or thyroid problems as well as others, so again please let us know!


Older pets tend to not wear their toenails down so quickly because they might exercise less. An active younger dog may run around lots on hard ground, naturally wearing down their toenails, whereas older dogs may be walked on softer ground for shorter distances.

Older cats may not use scratch posts as much (or the furniture!) to keep their claws short. Dew claws can cause a particular problem as they can curl around and dig into pads, causing soreness and even infection.

Our nurses can check nails and claws to make sure they are not getting too long, trimming them where necessary to keep your pets comfortable.


Coat changes can happen in senior pets and it’s not always just part of them getting older, Sometimes there is a reason behind it. For example matted fur can mean your pets are unable to groom themselves and this can be for reasons such as a sore mouth (which could mean dental treatment), or they simply cannot reach the area to groom, and this can be due to joint pain.

Our nurses are happy to look at any coat changes you are concerned about, referring back to the vets if necessary. Also the team can advise on a number of supplements, as well as shampoos to help improve the coat, especially if greasy or flaky.

These changes can be subtle or quite visible, so it is definitely worth speaking with our nursing team who can liaise with the vets, should your pet need further treatment.

Rabbit anaesthesia for neutering. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

In the past, the risks of surgery have put a lot of people off neutering their rabbits – however, this has led to an awful lot of unnecessary deaths of older bunnies with severe health problems. As a result, owners are often in a quandary, trying to decide which is best – to neuter or not to neuter? In this blog, we’ll explore some of the risks and benefits, and look at some of the factors that will help you come to the right decision for your rabbit.

How are rabbits neutered?

For bucks (males), neutering is called castration, and it’s a very simple procedure – under general anaesthetic (so he can’t feel anything), the scrotum (sac) is cut open, the testicles are removed, and the wound glued shut.

For does (females), it’s a bigger and more complicated procedure, called spaying, with an incision in the abdomen (belly) and the ovaries and uterus (womb) removed. Again, this occurs under general anaesthesia, and the wound is glued shut at the end.

So, what are the risks?

The biggest concern is the anaesthetic itself. In the past, many rabbits died as a consequence of anaesthesia; however, with modern drugs and skilled vets, the risk isn’t that much higher than in cats. Sometimes, you’ll hear people talking about the “1 in 70 mortality rate” from surgery in rabbits, but this is very misleading – this includes old and sick bunnies, as well as those who have to undergo emergency procedures, as well as routine operations like neutering. If we only look at healthy rabbits, the rate of severe complications drops to about 0.7%, and this is improving all the time as newer and safer drugs and procedures are introduced.

Other risks include hernias (in bucks), bleeding, and other surgical complications. Nowadays, however, these are very rare, as vets are much more experienced in performing rabbit operations than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Sounds scarily high – why should I put my rabbit through it?

Because of the other risks that you’ll be avoiding by having them neutered!

Firstly, there’s the disease risk. Studies show that up to 80% of entire does will develop cancer of the uterus by the age of 5; whereas a neutered doe cannot develop this disease. In addition, she is much less likely to develop mammary tumours or reproductive infections (like a pyometra). This is less of an issue in bucks, but (like dogs and humans), they can develop testicular tumours and prostate disease if not castrated.

Secondly, there are pronounced behavioural improvements in many neutered bunnies. Entire bucks and does will mark their territory by spraying and leaving faecal pellets around, which although not harmful, is decidedly unpleasant for the rest of us. In addition, rabbits of both sexes usually become less aggressive after neutering and are more relaxed about the company they keep (which means they can live with friends ). As social animals, it is quite cruel to keep rabbits on their own; however, it is risky to keep entire bunnies with anyone else – all too often they’re constantly trying to either mate with or kill one another. As a result, a lot of entire rabbits spend their lives essentially in solitary confinement.

This leads on to the third benefit – no more litters! Left to their own devices, a pair of entire rabbits can have a litter (averaging about 6) every month from sexual maturity (at roughly 6 months, but as little as 4 months for miniatures such as the Netherland Dwarf). Over 7 years this means that, in theory, a single entire pair and their descendants could produce over 180 billion rabbits in a mere 7 years… Would you want to try and find homes for them all?!

There’s no right answer for every owner or every rabbit; so give us a ring if you want to talk about options.

5 reasons we should check your pets teeth

The first time that many pet owners know there is a problem with their pet’s teeth is when they catch a whiff of very smelly breath or, more worryingly, when their pet stops eating. Our veterinary nurses can check with your pets teeth and advise you what to do next. 

With their nursing skills, they can advise and demonstrate the best way to keep your pet’s teeth pearly white. Still not convinced? Here are five reasons to help change your mind.

Reason 1: Your pets teeth are under constant threat

Just like humans, your pet’s teeth are always being bombarded by bacteria, leading to the buildup of plaque and tartar. Even dogs from three years old can have periodontal disease which if left unchecked can cause pain and other serious health issues. Goddard veterinary nurses can give you excellent advice on cleaning your dog’s and cat’s teeth. It isn’t as difficult as you may think and the nurses will give you the best techniques to use. After all we clean our teeth every day, why shouldn’t our pets have clean teeth as well?

Reason 2: Extra teeth are not good

A full-grown dog should have 42 teeth, whereas a fully grown cat has 30 teeth. Of course, before these teeth can grow, the deciduous (baby) teeth need to fall out. Sometimes you will see these teeth scattered around the floor, however there are times when they don’t fall out and this can cause problems. Retained teeth, commonly the canine teeth, can cause gum irritation and an extra build-up of tartar.

Regular checks with our veterinary nurses can make sure these teeth are doing what they are supposed to, especially as your puppy or kitten becomes an adult. Some breeds are also more prone to retaining teeth such as Chihuahuas.

Reason 3: It’s not just dental health

You may think that a bit of smelly breath (halitosis) is okay to put up with, however poor teeth and dental hygiene can result in other much more serious health problems. An infection in the mouth can cause bacteria to enter the body via the bloodstream, causing infections elsewhere in your pet’s body.

Major organs can be infected by poor dental health, including the kidneys, heart, lungs and liver.

This means a simple check can help stop the infection before it starts. If there are signs of infection already around the gums, our nurses can flag this to the vets, who can begin appropriate treatment.

Reason 4: Pets can be secretive

You might not realise that your pet has dental problems, especially if you don’t get very close to their mouths. Most animals can be very secretive, even if their mouths are causing them pain. Many pets will not cry out, but simply tolerate it. As humans, we know how bad toothache can get, but at least we can do something about it! Another reason regular dental checks are so important!

If you do see any of the following signs, it may indicate dental discomfort:

  • Reluctance to eat – especially hard food such as biscuits
  • Their coats becoming unkempt or matted – where they feel reluctant to groom
  • Wetness around their face, chin and mouth – or even drooling
  • Some animals even ‘paw’ at their faces/mouth areas

If you witness any of these signs please bring your pets to see us as soon as possible, so we can start to treat them.

Reason 5: Early intervention can save you money!

Like any disease, the earlier it is discovered the easier it is to treat. Dental disease is no different. Would you much rather our vet nurses check your pet’s teeth regularly and advise when they need treatment – such as a scale and polish, or ignore any issues and eventually leave no alternative for your pet but lots of extractions, potentially being expensive?

By checking your pet’s teeth regularly throughout their lives from very young to their senior years you can save both money and discomfort. Our nurses can advise on the types of brushes available, toothpastes (never use human toothpaste in pets), brushing techniques, dental biscuits and chews. The initial outlay and time can save a lot of heartache further down the line.

So what next?

If your pet hasn’t had a dental check in the last six months, take advantage of the skills of our veterinary nurses and let them offer a check and advice for your pet’s dental health. It may be your pet’s fangs are fine, they may need a clean, but even if they need more invasive treatment, you now know that you are doing your best by them when it comes to their pearly whites!

Call your nearest Goddard surgery for more information, or to speak to one of our veterinary nurses about any pet dental concerns.

What is Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) , and why should I be concerned about it?

RHD is a serious and fatal disease in rabbits. It is also known as VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease) and RCV (Rabbit Calicivirus). Until recently, the only strain of the virus present in the UK was RHD-1; however, a new (and potentially more dangerous) form of the disease has recently become established here, called (imaginatively) RHD-2. 

Why do I need to protect my rabbit?

Because the disease has a mortality rate anywhere between 50% and 100% – in most outbreaks, we see between 90% and 100% of unprotected rabbits dying. It is a highly contagious disease, and one infected rabbit will rapidly spread it to others in the area. We do not know why a (very) few infected rabbits survive, but it’s probably due to a slight difference in the way their immune system responds to this particular infection.

How is it spread?

The virus is passed from rabbit to rabbit by direct transmission and is present in all the bodily fluids (so maybe coughed, urinated, dribbled or defecated out!). However, it is very stable in the environment (it is estimated to last about 100 days at room temperature, and longer if it’s cold – plus, it is resistant to freezing). As a result, the main route of transmission between colonies of rabbits is by passive transfer – the virus particles stick to the feet of a bird, rodent or human, who then carries them to new and vulnerable bunnies. In the case of pets, not even house rabbits are safe, because the virus particles may be carried in on your shoes, clothes or even your skin. Short of full biosecurity precautions (foot dips, disinfectant washes and showers, complete changes of clothing) every time you visit them, there’s always going to be a chance you’re carrying this deadly disease into the house.

In a rabbit who has been fantastically lucky, caught the disease and recovered, they will shed the virus for at least six weeks (and possibly longer) so must be kept in quarantine for a prolonged time to protect other bunnies.

What are the symptoms?

To some extent, the symptoms depend on the strain of the virus, although the two are very closely related and therefore cause similar clinical signs. The most common symptom with RHD-1 is sudden death, often (but not always) with bleeding from the nose and mouth immediately afterwards. Sometimes, rabbits may last a little longer, perhaps even a couple of days; if so, they will be very feverish, depressed and lethargic,

be prone to bleeding from nose, mouth and anus, and often will develop bruising under the skin or a rash (like in septicaemia). They will usually die within 48 hours of first developing symptoms.

RHD-2 is often slower (although sudden death does occasionally occur), with rabbits living for up to nine days before succumbing – the overall mortality rate, however, seems to be roughly the same. However, the problem with RHD-2 is that, because the rabbits live longer, they spread more of the virus around.

What is the treatment?

There is no treatment for RHD-1 or -2. Because the outcome is so unlikely to be good, and the severe suffering this disease causes, we may have to recommend that affected rabbits are put to sleep if they develop the disease. This is important on welfare grounds (the rabbit is very unlikely to recover, and will suffer unnecessarily), and also to minimise the risk to other rabbits.

Occasionally, a rabbit will have only very mild symptoms – these are likely to be those rabbits whose immune systems have been partially successful in combating the infection. In these cases, supportive care with pain relief, fluid therapy and antibiotics (against secondary infections) may be helpful.

Can it be prevented?

Yes, fortunately! There has been a vaccine against RHD-1  and Myxomatosis available for many years, which is highly effective in preventing the disease. Unfortunately, it is not very effective against RHD-2, hence the recent outbreaks, but a new European vaccine against RHD-2 has just recently become available.

Other measures may also reduce the risk of infection, such as double-walling outdoor hutches to prevent any contact with wild rabbits, birds or rodents; or moving rabbits indoors. However, these should be seen as adjuncts to vaccination, not a replacement for it.

If you want to talk about RHD protection, call us and talk to one of our vets.