Posts Tagged ‘health’

Are wild mushrooms harmful to dogs?

Ultimately, of course, it depends on the mushroom! However, with an increasingly warm and wet autumn climate, mushroom populations are soaring. In fact, in September 2018 the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) actually issued a warning about the problem. Read on to find out if wild mushrooms are harmful to dogs and what signs to watch out for. 

If you think your dog may have eaten an unknown wild mushroom, contact us IMMEDIATELY for advice.


What is a wild mushroom?

This sounds really easy —  but do you actually know what those bulbous masses are? Fungi are a kingdom of life all of their own, as different from plants as plants are from animals. Most fungi live in the environment and form networks of fine fibres growing through the soil. The mushrooms we see are their fruiting bodies, part of their reproductive cycle, which develop spores and then distribute them into the wind to spread where they will.

These fruiting bodies are high in protein and often very nutritious, so make a nice snack for any passing critter. Most fungi accept this as one of those things that, as a non-mobile fungus, one must put up with. However, there are a number that resent their unborn offspring being gobbled up by animals, and produce a range of really quite nasty poisons to deter peckish beasts.


What do wild mushrooms do to dogs?

The majority of the 4000 or so species of UK mushrooms are harmless – they might not taste nice, but they aren’t actually dangerous. However, there are a number that produce toxins called mushroom poisons (interestingly, although very similar poisons produced by moulds are called mycotoxins, the term is not usually used for those produced by the mushroom fruiting bodies themselves). For centuries, if not millennia, the properties of these fungi have been known by healers, botanists and shamens, and used for a range of uses.

In dogs, we tend to see three groups of clinical effects:

Early onset vomiting and/or diarrhoea

These are usually the least harmful types of mushroom – as a general rule of thumb, the earlier the symptoms appear, the less dangerous the mushroom is. This is because it triggers vomiting and purging that remove any unabsorbed toxins from the dog’s system rapidly. If the dog is violently vomiting within six hours of eating the mushroom(s), then although they need to be seen by one of our vets (dehydration and salt imbalances from profuse vomiting can be dangerous in itself), the prognosis is usually fairly good.

Neurological effects

The most famous example is, of course, Psilocybe semilanceata, the “Magic Mushroom”, but there are a number of different psychoactive fungi in the UK. Unfortunately, dogs do not cope well with the effects of the active ingredients and may develop abnormal behaviour (well, of course!), self-injury, abnormal heartbeats and even seizures. In some cases, death may occur due to trauma while under the influence of the hallucinogen (for example, jumping from windows or running into solid objects), while in severe poisonings, the seizures may result in hyperthermia which may cause death from internal overheating (although fortunately this is relatively rare).

Liver and/or kidney damage

Sadly, many of the most dangerous mushrooms do not give easy tell-tail signs of poisoning until much later – possibly too late. These damage may damage the liver or kidneys, typically resulting in symptoms such as lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination (in kidney failure) and jaundice (in liver failure). Treatment requires intensive supportive therapy and often hospitalisation and the prognosis is guarded.


How do you know if a mushroom is safe or not?

The bottom line is that it’s very hard to tell – many harmless varieties have a poisonous twin that is almost indistinguishable. As a result, we strongly advise you not to let your dog eat wild mushrooms – full stop!

Looking after your new kitten

Why is it important?

To grow and develop properly kittens need the right nutrition, socialisation, and preventative care. Follow our guidelines on how to look after your new kitten and give them the best start to life possible.

Vaccinations

In kittens, vaccinations are vital to prevent many severe diseases. They will usually need 2 vaccinations 3 weeks apart with the first one being at 8-9 weeks of age. If you get your kitten from a rescue centre it is likely that they are already fully vaccinated and should come with their vaccination record so your vet will be able to tell you if everything is up to date.

Microchip

We would recommend getting all cats microchipped as they often tend to wander and get lost. When you pick up your kitten if they are already microchipped you will need to change the details to be in your name. If they haven’t been microchipped already, you can do this alongside the vaccinations, or when they are being neutered.

Feeding

Kittens grow fast so they need lots of energy and minerals to reach their full potential. A balanced or “complete” kitten diet has everything your kitten will need. As a result, they should be on that until they are one year old to ensure they have done all their growing before going onto adult food. Read more advice on caring for your kitten through each development stage via Royal Canin.

Flea treatment

In young kittens a flea infestation is not just an annoying itch, it can be life threatening. The fleas suck their blood and kittens can quickly become anaemic. Both to prevent and treat this you can use a flea product from your vets, this will ensure it is safe and effective as many products cannot safely be used in young kittens. Shop bought flea products often are not meant for such small kittens, so it is usually best to go to your vet for advice.

Worm treatment

High worm burdens in kittens cause them to lose weight and get a ‘pot belly’. It is important you stay on top of worming treatment, especially in the first year of life because the immune system is not fully developed, and the kitten is more susceptible to worm infestations. Getting a product from your vet will ensure that the product is safe and effective.

Neutering

With the stray cat population ever increasing in the UK we would strongly recommend neutering your cat, boy or girl. In most cases, you can book in neutering for your kitten any time from 4 months of age. The benefits are not only that there are no accidental kittens but also that they are less likely to fight and pick up feline aids (FIV). Also, this may calm any behavioural spraying or other territorial behaviour.

Training

Litterbox training

Kittens learn very quickly and can be quickly litterbox trained in most cases. It is important that the litter tray is kept as clean as possible otherwise the kitten may refuse to use it. Also keep the litter consistent, otherwise this can lead to confusion and them stopping using the litter tray. Positive reinforcement is needed, so treat your kitten when they use it successfully. Cats are private creatures so having the litter tray slightly out the way, away from their food and water bowls, and possibly hidden or sheltered, will often make it more comfortable for them to use it.

Socialisation

When they are young, kittens explore the world with curiosity and not fear. This ‘socialisation window’ is when they learn what to be afraid of and what is safe. Generally, this is before 12 weeks of age. It is important that you expose your kitten to as much as possible in this time with positive experiences. In the same vein also reduce bad experiences, so if there is a dog that is not cat friendly do not try to introduce them.

Environment

You want your kitten’s home environment to feel safe and secure. Cats unlike dogs need alone time so plenty of hidey holes in cardboard boxes and beds in several places around the house is a must. When they feel scared, cats and kittens will try and take refuge higher up, if there is a place for you to put a cat bed on a higher surface then most kitten will appreciate that. Take care with children and make sure they give the kitten plenty of breaks. A scratching post is a must if you don’t want them to scratch your furniture! This is a natural behaviour so you must allow them a place where they can display that behaviour.

Insurance

Of course, we never expect anything to go wrong with our kittens but unfortunately accidents happen, and they do sometimes get sick. Please consider if you want to get your kitten insured if anything were to happen, many vets will give you 4 weeks free cover whilst you make up your mind in case anything goes wrong in the meantime.

What do I do if I want to know more?

To find out more, use this link to find details of your local branch, then just contact your local Goddard vet. Don’t forget, you can save money with your new kitten by signing up to our ProActive Pets preventative health plan.

Tips on keeping your dog safe in warm weather

With the weather warming up it’s important to understand the potential dangers heat can cause our four-legged friends. Just like humans, dogs can get heatstroke when they overheat — follow these steps to keep your dog safe.

Tips on keeping your dog safe during warm weather

How do I look after my pets dental health?

Here at Goddard Vet Group, we see a lot of dental problems in both cats and dogs, and in fact dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases throughout the UK. But is there any way to prevent this horrible disease? And how can we help your pets?


Dental Diseases in Pets

Dogs can have a variety of dental problems throughout their lives. When they’re young, problems with the deciduous (‘baby’) teeth can mean they’re left with too many teeth in their mouths. This leads to food becoming stuck and causing gum disease. Some dogs are mad chewers – they’ll break teeth or wear them down, which is not only painful but may result in a tooth root abscess. Most commonly, though, dogs suffer from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease affects dogs of all ages, although it’s more common in older dogs as it takes a while to occur. It’s also more common in some breeds – generally the smaller breeds. Bacteria in the mouth live on the teeth and gums in the form of plaque, and over time they eat away at the gum and get down beneath the gumline. Here, they start to affect the periodontal ligament, which is the connection between the teeth and the jawbone. When this ligament is damaged the teeth become wobbly, which inevitably results in tooth loss.

Cats also get periodontal disease, but they’re also prone to resorptive diseases. This is where the body, for a currently unknown reason, breaks down and re-absorbs the tooth root, resulting in a painful tooth very prone to breaking.

How Can I Prevent Dental Disease at Home?

Whilst resorptive lesions are hard to prevent, some simple changes to lifestyle can make a big difference to the other diseases. Since worn and fractured teeth are a result of dogs chewing on abrasive or hard materials, talk to one of our nurses about appropriate chews that are less likely to cause dental problems. Baby teeth that fail to fall out should be removed under general anaesthetic. They’re often still firmly attached and great care needs to be taken not to damage the root of the nearby adult teeth. This can often be done at neutering or as a separate procedure.

Tooth Brushing

Brushing the teeth is the single most useful thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease. Toothbrushing removes plaque before it has a chance to harden into tartar and cause gum disease. It’s also a great excuse to check your pet’s teeth daily (yes- daily!) for any problems. We always recommend trying to introduce tooth brushing to pets as soon as possible, and to start slow and build up – just like with anything new. Don’t forget, never use human toothpaste (it’s not good for our pets!). Our nurses are fantastic at giving you top tips for tooth brushing, so if you think you can make time in your day to brush your pet’s teeth, please give them a call or book in for a free dental check to go over it.

Dental Dog Chews

Some dental chews have been shown to reduce the level of plaque in the mouth. However, there are a lot of brands out there that may not have the same benefits. We recommend choosing from the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products, or talking to our nurses. Don’t forget that these chews contain extra calories which should be accounted for in your pet’s daily allowance to avoid obesity.

Can Water and Food Additives Help?

Water and food additives to prevent plaque build-up do exist and some even have evidence that they help. Whilst they’re not going to be as good as tooth brushing, they’re a good added extra, especially in pets that won’t allow anything else. Again, the VOHC have a list of accepted products, so choose from this list or discuss with one of our nurses at your next dental check.

Diets for Dental Disease

For those animals very prone to dental disease, specific diets have been created to reduce plaque and tartar through a combination of ingredient choice and kibble that breaks up in a particular way. These diets are prescription diets, so if you think you’d like to try them please have a chat with our team.

How Can my Vet Help?

Despite doing some, or all, of these things at home, it’s still possible that your pet will suffer from periodontal disease. This is especially true if your pet is genetically predisposed or has already lost teeth to the disease.

Regular check-ups with your veterinary nurse can keep track of the level of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth and allow an early-warning sign if disease is starting. However, our animals are masters at hiding the signs of disease and sometimes a dental check-up under general anaesthetic is necessary to allow us to do a more thorough exam.

Problems such as fractured teeth, exposed pulp, wobbly back teeth and resorptive lesions can be missed on a conscious check-up, especially if your pet objects to the examination. Putting them under a general anaesthetic allows us to examine more thoroughly and even test the teeth for problems using a dental probe, just like a human dentist. And during the check-up, just like at the dentists, they’ll also get a scale and polish. This enables us to remove any tartar build up from the hard to reach places before it starts to cause a major problem.

For most pets, a scale and polish are necessary every 6-12 months. After all, we humans brush twice daily, but we still miss spots and need a professional clean at least annually. Whilst it is theoretically possible to clean the teeth conscious, the most important area to clean is under the gum line. This is uncomfortable for pets and the majority will not tolerate it without an anaesthetic, meaning that cleaning without anaesthetic results in a sub-standard clean.


When was the last time your pet had a dental clean? If they’re overdue, why not book for a check-up with our vet team and we’ll talk it all through with you!

Can diet really affect my pets health?

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


DOGS

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

CATS

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

RABBITS

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

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