World Heart Day – 29 September 2020

We celebrate World Heart Day today on 29 September 2020. This is the world’s biggest awareness-raising platform for cardiovascular disease (CVD) which is accountable for nearly half of all non-communicable disease deaths in humans.

Did you know that heart conditions affect our pets too?  Within our group of practices, we have cardiology specialists available who investigate all aspects of heart disease.

In the first instance, if you have concerns that your pet has symptoms, please contact us for an examination.  Here are some of the signs to look out for…

  • Stopping or slowing on walks
  • Difficulty breathing or not being able to catch their breath
  • Not settling down to sleep at night
  • Coughing, especially during or after exercise or if they’re excited
  • A bloated stomach (caused by fluid build-up).

If you find your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, please make sure you speak to us straight away. Unfortunately, heart disease cannot be cured, however it can be managed.

How to ensure your dog is a healthy weight

Dogs, like humans, can be prone to gaining weight. This in turn can cause health problems like diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart and respiratory problems, and could reduce your dog’s life expectancy. Here we look at some tips to help get your pet pooch in good physical shape.

How to tell if your dog is overweight

Sometimes you only need to look at a dog to see they’re overweight, but some breeds’ condition may be difficult to assess, especially if they have thick or heavy fur. When you cuddle or stroke your dog you should be able to feel their ribs. When you look at your dog you should see a waistline – a clear difference between their chest and stomach.

If your dog is overweight, it’s important to take steps to reverse the weight gain.  If you can identify a certain behaviour that has caused the weight gain, then great – you can reverse or change that behaviour.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have you or someone in your family been giving your dog more treats recently? Check that children aren’t sneaking them extra dog biscuits on the side!

Have you changed your dog’s exercise routine? If you’ve been walking your dog less than usual, they’ll be using less energy and therefore less calories from their food intake.

Does your dog have access to any additional food sources? Make sure they’re not being fed food scraps from the table or treats from neighbours when they’re out in the garden.

Next steps

If the weight gain seems out of the ordinary, or you think your dog needs a little help with losing some weight then it’s always best to get your dog checked by one of our nurses or vets.

Diet is the most vital part of helping your dog to reach their target weight. Bear in mind that different brands of dog food have different nutritional benefits, and not all commercially available food is the same, so if you vary between brands your dog’s calorie intake may fluctuate. If your dog needs to lose some pounds, you’ll need to be much more accurate with quantities, weighing and measuring each portion.

You can always contact us to get professional advice. Our nurses can weigh your dog, advise ideal weight and track their progress along the way. They can also check your pet’s physical condition if you’re considering increasing their levels of exercise, which is especially important in older dogs.

Introducing a new pet into the household

Getting a new pet is an exciting experience, and naturally, you are keen to get them back home to begin life as part of the family. However, for your new pet this can be a very stressful occasion, therefore it is important to ensure that you have fully prepared for their arrival and take things nice and slow to make their integration into your home a successful one. We have put together some top tips below that we believe will help you through the process:

1. GIVE THEM SPACE

Dogs

It’s important that your dog can settle in their new surroundings, and the best way to do this is to ensure that they have their own quiet space, where they will feel safe and secure and can use as their place to sleep. Undertaking some crate training could be a good idea, as the dog can associate the crate as their own personal den. Be sure to leave the door open to begin with so they can get in and out, and never use the crate as a way of punishment. Make this area more comfortable for them by covering their bed with an old duvet or blanket. A plug-in pheromone diffuser could also help – these imitate the chemicals that a mother dog would release, providing familiarity for your dog.

Cats

Set up a dedicated room in the house, before you collect your new cat, that includes everything they will need such as litter tray, choice of sleeping places, scratching post, access to high spots, separate food and water areas and selection of toys. Once home, allow your cat to explore their own area and when comfortable in their own space, and provided you have no other pets, you can allow them to explore the rest of the house of their own accord. Make sure windows and doors are closed so they cannot get outside, but always ensure they have access to their safe place in case they need to retreat.

2. MEETS & GREETS

Dogs

It’s understandable that you will be keen to introduce your new companion to family and friends, but this needs to be handled in the right way. It is important to socialise them with as many people as possible, however stagger any introductions so that they are not overwhelmed and, where possible, hold these in an open area such as your garden so that your dog doesn’t feel trapped and you are able to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Cats

You can start to introduce your cat to other family members once you feel that they are confident with you, but it is important not to overwhelm them with new people and experiences. If you have children in the house, ensure they remain calm when meeting the cat for the first time. Always allow your cat to come to them, and show them the correct way to gently touch and stroke it – as even the friendliest cats can react if they are pulled and pushed too much.

3. GIVE IT TIME

Dogs

This is a new situation for both you and your dog therefore allow plenty of time (usually four to six months) for them to settle in and re-adjust to being part of your world. They will need time to build that new relationship with you, so take things one step at a time, rewarding co-operation with a small treat.

Cats

Although the first few hours once bringing your cat home can affect how they accept their new life, be sure to be patient and never rush your cat in to doing things. It is always stressful for a cat when changing environments therefore expect for it to take at least a couple of weeks for them to feel relaxed in your home.

4. OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

Dogs

As well as settling your new pet in to your home, it is important to familiarise them with the surrounding areas that they are likely to encounter on their walks. However, before taking them out, make sure to check that their vaccinations are up to date to avoid any infections and that they are micro-chipped.

Cats

After about three or four weeks your cat should have adjusted to their new surroundings and be familiar with where their food is coming from. This a good time to think about letting them go outside to explore. Kittens should always be supervised, and you should not let your cat outside on their own until they have been neutered and micro-chipped. Until your cat is used to coming back freely, it is worth only letting them out when they are hungry so that you can tempt them back with food.

If your new pet is not your first, then the above tips can still apply, but more thought needs to be given about how both are kept separate and the best time and process for introducing them to each other. More information on this can be found at:

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/introducing-cats
https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-care/dogs-and-cats-living-together
https://icatcare.org/advice/helping-your-new-cat-or-kitten-settle-in/

If you would like to register your new pet with us, or have any questions about vaccinations or neutering, please contact us for friendly advice.

How to teach your dog to walk on a lead

Training a dog to walk on a lead comfortably and safely is one of the most critical skills that you will teach your dog as a responsible pet owner.

Before you start, make sure you have the right equipment for training your dog. We recommend that you speak to us about the best type of harness and lead suitable for your dog’s breed. By getting the right equipment, you will ensure you get off to the best start and make the training much easier for you both.

Basic steps to lead training your dog

These steps follow guidelines from the Dogs Trust, an animal welfare charity and humane society which specialises in the wellbeing of dogs.

Step 1 – Allocate sufficient time for training your dog, as patience is essential. When you start walking with your dog, the second the lead starts to tighten, stop walking. Simply stand still and don’t move forward again until the lead is slack, then walk onwards.

Step 2 – Think of ways to reinforce positive behaviour whenever they are walking next to you on a loose lead. Keep some treats handy but out of the way. As your dog gets better, you can cut down on treats and phase them out completely. Remember to keep walking forwards as you give your dog treats to avoid stopping and starting. Consistency is key.

Step 3 – Train in a quiet and peaceful area. Walk up and down with no distractions so that your dog can get the hang of it quickly. It’s much easier for your dog to learn new behaviours in quiet places where they won’t be easily distracted.

It’s advisable not to take your dog out for training if they are agitated.

There are no shortcuts to training

Remember that the best advice for training your dog is consistency and patience. Some dogs master lead training quickly while others take their time. There is no right answer to how long it should take to train your dog. The important thing is to stay calm and collected. By doing this, your dog will gain confidence in you and is likely to accept walking on the lead more quickly.

If you are having some issues in lead training your dog, give us a call with the specific problem, and we will be happy to provide you with a few tips. Good training will make daily walks more fun for both ends of the lead.

Happy training!

Preparing your pet for firework season

Fireworks are used throughout the year to mark significant seasonal celebrations including Bonfire Night, Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Diwali.

Whilst they are enjoyable for humans to watch, pets can often get scared of the loud bangs and bright flashes. Preparing your pet early can make a significant difference and will help your pet cope throughout the seasonal events – start preparing now!

There are several precautions we can put in place to help our pets and to ease their stress when fireworks light up the skies:

  1. Purchase a pheromone adaptor
    Placed throughout the home, a pheromone spray, and/ or adaptor, can help ease your pet’s anxiety and stress. A pheromone is a natural chemical which triggers a social response in members of the same species, and often promotes a calming effect. Please contact us for advice on the best one to suit your pet.
  2. Provide hiding places within your home
    Ensure there are plenty of hiding places around the house for your pet, particularly for cats, e.g.:
  • Top of the cupboard – make sure it is safe and there’s ample amount of room for them to rest
  • Underneath a bed – make a small space, whilst ensuring it is safe
  • A raised shelf – clear a space on a bookshelf or on top of a chest of drawers
  • Inside of a box – you may have an old box in the garage or loft which you can dig out
  1. Stay at home with your pets
    Staying in with your pet will help calm their fears. Your presence and attention will comfort them and distract them from the background noise. If a pet is left alone and becomes stressed, they could become destructive or panic and injure themselves.
  2. Ensure your pet has access to freshwater
    You should ensure your pet has access to freshwater. Anxious dogs can pant more than normal, resulting in a greater thirst.
  3. Make sure your pet is microchipped
    It is important to ensure your pet is microchipped as, if spooked, they could run away. If your pet is already microchipped make sure your contact details are up to date so that you can be reunited if the worst happens.
  4. Close curtains, blinds, windows and keep doors closed
    Loud bangs and bright flashes can scare pets. By keeping your windows, doors and blinds closed, sounds can be can dampened. Also, if you have a cat and they are in the house, don’t forget to lock their cat flap to stop them getting outside.
  5. Walk your dog early
    If you usually take your dog out in the evening, or for a late-night stroll, you should avoid being out when fireworks start – switching up your routine ahead of forthcoming events, so it’s not a sudden change, will support this. You should also ensure they are kept on a lead, as startled dogs can run off without warning.
  6. Consider bringing small animals inside
    Loud noises can be stressful for small animals, particularly if they are living in hutches outside. If you have a rabbit or guinea pig, you should consider moving their hutches inside. This could be into the house, shed or garage space. If you are unable to bring them inside, you should consider covering their hutch in some blankets and a waterproof sheet to dampen the noise. If you are covering their hutch, please remember to leave a suitable gap for ventilation.
  7. Provide bedding for your pet to snuggle in
    If you have a small pet, in a hutch, put some additional bedding in with them so that they can burrow into it and hide.
  8. Don’t punish “bad behaviour”
    You should not punish bad behaviour if your pet is scared. Instead, you should stay calm and demonstrate to your pet that there isn’t anything to worry about. This will help restore normal behaviour.

For further information visit www.scottishspca.org/news/fireworks-advice

Senior Pet Focus

As we age, we begin to experience certain health conditions that are linked to getting older. The same is true for our pets; the only difference being that they are unable to tell us if they are not feeling well. That’s why it is important to be looking out for any signs and symptoms that could highlight that something isn’t quite right.

Below we focus on several of the most common conditions that might affect our senior pets and what this means for both you and them:

Arthritis in dogs
In older pets, the years of wear and tear on the joints can cause them to become inflamed – resulting in movement becoming sore and difficult. Osteoarthritis, or arthritis as we commonly know it, is usually prevalent in the hips, elbows and knees, but can appear in any joint.

Kidney disease
Your pet relies on its kidneys to perform important tasks such as removing toxins from the blood, preventing water loss and regulating blood pressure and acidity levels. When they are not able to perform these tasks properly, this condition is known as kidney failure (or renal disease). Age can be a factor in developing kidney disease, with symptoms and severity differing greatly between cases.



High 
blood pressure in cats
Although high blood pressure can occur on its own, the commonest causes are kidney, heart and thyroid disease. As the body is working harder to circulate blood, this can lead to complications with the kidneys, eyes, heart and even the brain.

In all cases it is important to ensure that your pet has regular check-ups with us. If you are concerned that your pet may be showing any signs or symptoms mentioned above, then please contact us immediately for advice.

The importance of vaccinations

Do you ever wonder why your pet needs an annual booster vaccination?

You’re probably aware that getting a new puppy or kitten means a few trips to the vets for vaccinations, parasite control and other preventative treatments. However, to maintain your pet’s health and wellbeing, regular trips to the vets are recommended. Annual vaccinations (boosters) are important to protect your pet against preventable diseases. Here we explore some of the common questions and myths surrounding vaccinations…

My pet only had a primary vaccine course, is that okay?

Your pet’s primary vaccination course protects your pet against many diseases but this immunity doesn’t last for life. Over time, protection against these diseases wanes so regular boosters are needed to make sure your pet is always protected. .

Our priority is your pet’s health so we recommend annual vaccinations for that reason alone. We don’t advocate annual boosters for commercial gain or because of pressure from pharmaceutical companies.

How do vaccines work? 

Did you know, vaccines don’t actually fight diseases themselves?

Vaccines stimulate your pet’s immune system to recognise specific disease-causing viruses and bacteria. If your pet comes into contact with these diseases, antibodies (disease fighting cells) are produced. These antibodies send chemical signals to the disease-fighting cells of your pet’s body and an immune response (attack against the disease) is activated.

Our pet’s produce different levels of immunity to different diseases. For example, the leptospirosis vaccine protects dogs for a year whereas the distemper vaccine protects dogs for three years.

We follow a vaccination protocol that ensures your pets only receive the elements of the vaccine they need that year; this means we never give vaccinations that your pet doesn’t need.

Which diseases do vaccinations protect my pet from?

We vaccinate dogs against:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Infectious canine hepatitis
  • Canine parainfluenza virus

We vaccinate cats against:

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (cat flu)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline panleucopaenia
  • Feline leukaemia virus

It may take up to a few weeks after vaccination before your pet is fully protected against disease; we can advise you on this during your appointment.

Is my pet protected for life?

Just like us humans, the very young and elderly are more vulnerable to disease and illness. Regular vaccinations help protect your pet throughout their life, even when their immune system doesn’t function as well as it used to.

Helping the wider pet community

By vaccinating your pet you’re also helping to protect all pets in your local community. The more vaccinated animals there are, the less likely it is for disease outbreaks to occur. Most boarding kennels, catteries and dog walkers insist that your pet is vaccinated when accessing their services.

In the UK, pets have been part of vaccination programmes for many years so outbreaks of serious diseases occur less often. These disease outbreaks are only controlled because we continue to vaccinate our pets yearly.

 

Protect your dog against Kennel Cough

Does your dog come into regular contact with other dogs? Maybe out on walks, at the park, or when they’re staying in kennels? If so, we’d highly recommend a Kennel Cough vaccine or booster. And, with our new oral vaccine, it’s now even easier to protect your dog.

Kennel Cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a very contagious respiratory disease. It’s transmitted by close contact with an infected dog and can be associated with boarding kennels, therefore it’s especially important to ensure your dog is covered if you’re planning a trip away.

Contact us today to arrange an appointment

What are the symptoms of Kennel Cough?

The primary sign to look out for is a deep hacking cough, which can sometimes lead to retching, sneezing, snorting, gagging or vomiting.  In some cases, you may only notice your dog starting to cough after excitement or exercise and you may also notice a discharge coming from your dog’s eyes or nose. Some dogs may get a fever, and in very rare cases may progress to pneumonia.  Symptoms will start after three to 10 days – and can go on for up to three weeks.  Often the cough is worse at bedtime causing sleepless nights all round.

How is Kennel Cough diagnosed?

Diagnosis is often based on the clinical signs and the history given by the owner, also if the dog is housed together with lots of other dogs that are all presenting similar signs, it makes the diagnosis of kennel cough more probable. If a gentle palpitation of the throat causes a retching cough, Kennel Cough is likely.

What treatment is available for Kennel Cough?

There is no specific treatment for viruses involved in Kennel Cough, but antibiotics are sometimes used to treat bacterial infections. Infected dogs should be rested and isolated from other dogs for around 14 days. In most cases, dogs will recover from Kennel Cough within three weeks. Ensure they are living in a well-ventilated area and avoid the use of a lead and collar. To aid recovery, your dog may be prescribed cough suppressants or anti-inflammatories. Sometimes antibiotics may be required to target Bordetella Bronchiseptica.

What’s the best way to prevent Kennel Cough?

The best way to prevent Kennel Cough is through vaccination. The vaccine is a quick and painless procedure for your dog in the form of a nasal spray or your dog may benefit from the new oral solution that we now have available.  The oral method is easier to administer and therefore may reduce stress for your dog and you as the owner.

The Kennel Cough vaccination is given once a year. Depending on individual circumstances it may not be given at the same time as their annual booster. Please contact us if you’d like more detail.

If you’re going on holiday, it’s important that your dog is vaccinated against Kennel Cough, otherwise kennels may not accept your dog. Prepare in advance as the vaccination should be given at least one week before their stay for the nasal method and three weeks for the oral method.

If you are concerned your dog may have caught Kennel Cough over the summer and is presenting symptoms, speak to a member of our team for advice.  Alternatively, if you would like to arrange a Kennel Cough vaccination for your four-legged friend, just give us a call.

 

 

Basic First Aid for pets

Whenever your pet becomes ill or injured, it is always a stressful situation for both you and your companion. That is why we wanted to provide you with some guidance on how you can act, and what you can do to help, when these incidents occur.

The following is always important to remember in any emergency:

  • Always assess the situation before acting – as your pet is most likely in pain, and as a result frightened, they may act differently to usual if you try to touch the injured area (such as trying to bite).
  • Always contact us as soon as you can – we are best placed to provide you with any immediate action you may need to make.
  • Never administer human medicine to your pet as in most cases this can be harmful.

There may be occasions where you might need to provide basic first aid to your pet before they are seen by us.

Dealing with bleeds

  • Keep your pet quiet and calm
  • Stem any bleeding with pads and dressings
  • If advised by us, you can apply a bandage to the wound. If on a limb then the foot should also be included to avoid swelling.

Dealing with broken bones

  • If any serious bleeding, then this can be controlled as above.
  • You should not apply a splint as this can cause more pain to your pet and worsen the injury.
  • The best action (after phoning us) is to keep the animal confined ready to get to our practice as soon as possible.

Dealing with burns/scalds

  • The best action is to run cold water over any burn for at least five minutes before calling us, ensuring you keep your pet warm.
  • Do not apply any creams or ointments. However, a saline dressing could be applied if there is likely to be a delay in you getting to the practice.

Dealing with Heatstroke

  • Place your pet in a cool area that ideally has a draught and wet their coat with some tepid water (do not use cold water as this can slow down the heat loss process).
  • Offer your pet a small amount of water.

 

As mentioned, the best action is always to contact us as soon as possible if you have concerns about your pet, so that we can advise you on the next steps and ensure that your animal receives the treatment it requires.

We are always here to help, therefore please do not hesitate to contact us