Walking your dog safely in autumn and winter

The nights are getting darker and there’s a chill in the air, but your dog still needs regular walks in order to stay fit and healthy. Here are some suggestions to keep both you and your pet safe whilst exercising during the coming months.

Make yourself visible
Lack of daylight sees an increase in traffic accidents, and that includes those involving pedestrians too. Consider wearing a high vis jacket or reflective strips on shoes so that you’re more visible to motorists and invest in a reflective collar or harness and lead for your dog.

Dress appropriately
Autumn weather can be changeable – setting out in the early evening sun can mean getting home in the cold and dark. Wear layers and comfortable shoes. If your dog is a short-haired breed, they may benefit from a winter coat. We’re happy to advise if you need further information.

Be contactable and alert
It’s always a good idea to be able to quickly and easily contact someone in case you need assistance – whether for yourself or your dog – when you’re out walking alone. Ensure your phone is charged before you leave home. Be aware of your surroundings so you can listen for traffic, or other dogs; avoiding headphones and music.

Check underfoot
Look out for items on the floor which could be dangerous to your dog – broken glass underneath leaves, acorns, or conkers which can cause illness when ingested, and holes or obstacles which could injure you or your pet. Stick to known routes and footpaths.

Cardiomyopathy in cats

There are a number of different heart diseases that can affect our cats; however, cardiomyopathy is the most common. But what is it and how do you know if your cat has it? We explore further below:

What is cardiomyopathy?

The term cardiomyopathy covers any disease that affects the heart muscle. There are different types of cardiomyopathies and they are classified according to the effect they have on the function of the heart muscle. The main ones are:

  1. hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
    most common form caused by increased thickness of the heart’s muscular wall, reducing blood volume and preventing heart muscle from relaxing between beats
  2. dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
    where the heart enlarges and the muscular wall becomes thinner, with the heart muscle unable to contract effectively
  3. restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM)
    heart chambers are unable to fill normally due to the inelastic and stiff nature of the heart’s wall caused by fibrosis
  4. intermediate cardiomyopathy (ICM)
    where there are changes that are consistent with more than one of the disease classifications – e.g, signs of both hypertrophic and dilatation exist.

What are the signs a cat may have cardiomyopathy?

Symptoms of heart disease may not display easily. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your cat has regular check-ups with us so that any early signs of heart disease can be detected and treated accordingly. We may be able to pick up on:

  • a heart murmur (listening to your cat’s heart using a stethoscope)
  • a gallop rhythm (where an additional third beat is heard with each contraction cycle)
  • increase or decrease in heart rate.

There may be other signs that could indicate the onset of heart disease in your cat, including:

  • breathing difficulties/rapid breathing
  • cold extremities, suggesting poor circulation
  • signs of fainting (although relatively uncommon).

If in any doubt, it is always best to get your cat seen by us. On detection of a heart murmur, there may be further tests required to confirm the diagnosis.

If you have any concerns about your cat, please get in touch. More information about cardiomyopathy can be found on the International Cat Care website, here.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in dogs

There are many different heart conditions that can affect our dogs; however, mitral valve disease (MVD) is by far the most common. But what is MVD, and how do you know if your dog has it?

We explore further below:

What is mitral valve disease (MVD)?
Also referred to as degenerative valve disease, MVD involves the degeneration of the heart valve separating the two chambers on the left side of the heart. As a chronic progressive disease, it will worsen over time.

The heart has four valves, one of these being the mitral valve. The purpose of the valves is to control the flow of blood around the heart each time it beats. When the heart beats, the valves allow blood to pass through then close to stop any blood leaking back into the initial chamber. MVD causes the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle to thicken, resulting in the valve not being able to close properly and blood leaking back through as a result. This leak is heard as a heart murmur.

The knock-on effect is that greater pressure is put on the heart to work harder and pump the blood around the body. The heart also enlarges due to the need to pump harder to compensate for the loss caused by the initial backflow (‘regurgitation’). The heart may be able to cope with this over a long period; however, at a certain point, the pressure becomes so high that blood accumulates in the blood vessels of the lungs causing fluid to leak into the lungs – the result is congestive heart failure.

How severe is MVD?
We already know that MVD is a chronic and progressive disease, with the worsening effects outlined above, but that doesn’t mean that all dogs with the disease go on to develop heart failure. The various stages of the condition have been classified as below:

STAGE A – Breeds prone to MVD with no current symptoms or murmur
STAGE B1 – A murmur is present but there are no symptoms and no evidence of heart changes on imaging
STAGE B2 – A murmur is present with signs of enlarged heart but no heart failure
STAGE C – Showing signs of heart failure such as coughing, breathing problems, exercise intolerance, or collapse.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of MVD may not display easily and in some cases, affected dogs can live their entire lives without showing any signs of the disease. The main symptom for diagnosing MVD is the presence of a heart murmur – this will only be picked up during a routine examination by one of our vets where they can listen to your dog’s heart.

There may be other signs that could indicate the onset of MVD, including:

  • coughing (after lying down or sleeping, and often worse at night)
  • slowing down on walks or displaying low energy in general
  • breathing quicker than usual, with breathlessness and/or panting
  • weight loss
  • fainting or collapsing.

If in any doubt, it is always best to get your dog seen by us. On detection of a heart murmur, further tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Are certain breeds of dogs at higher risk?
MVD can affect any dog, but it is most common in small to medium-sized breeds, and dogs that are middle-aged to senior. When it comes to individual breeds, it is once again more common in the:

  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Papillon
  • Poodle
  • Chihuahua
  • Shih-Tzu
  • Pomeranian.

Can MVD be cured?
As it currently stands, there is no cure for the condition. But the advances in modern medicine mean that if the condition is caught early, there is a good chance that dogs can lead happy lives using a combination of drugs to both control the disease and prolong life. Valve replacement surgery is possible in a small number of cases.

If you have any concerns about your dog, please get in touch

Preparing your pet for a change in season

As we move from one season to another in Hawick, we think about the number of layers we need to wear and whether we need to alter our daily routine to cope with the changes. Whilst we consider the alterations we need to make; it is important to ensure that we also prepare our pets for the season ahead.

Below are five things to consider as we head into autumn and winter:

Exercise
Even though the nights are drawing in and there’s a chill in the air, it is important to still exercise our dogs to ensure they stay fit and healthy. However, older dogs and puppies can be more sensitive to the colder weather so it may be worth keeping them inside more and looking at other ways to keep them active (e.g. interactive toys). If you still venture out for your regular walk, ensure that your dog is suitably prepared for the season, whether that be a warm coat for the cold or a reflective collar for those darker nights.

Diet
The change in season could also bring about a change in your pet’s nutrition. Food portions may need to be altered to align with their exercise regime to control their calorie intake and body weight.

Grooming
Your pet’s fur and coat act like that ‘winter coat’ we put on to keep ourselves warm; therefore, ensuring it is kept in good condition is crucial. In addition, having clean fur helps to hold air just like when you layer clothes!

When returning from a walk, a handy tip can be to have a bowl of warm water and some towels available so that you can wipe your dogs’ paws, as this helps to remove any mud, salt, or other substances they may have picked up whilst out, that can be an irritant or make them unwell.

Chemicals
With the temperature starting to drop as we transition through the seasons, we can experience colder nights and the occasional frosty mornings. As such, there is an increase in the use of chemicals such as antifreeze, coolant, and screen wash – all of which can be poisonous to your pet if ingested. Always ensure they are kept out of reach from inquisitive animals and clear up any spills promptly!

Housekeeping
Many of the points above relate to your pet being outside; however, it is equally important to ensure that you are prepared for seasonal changes inside the home. Be mindful that certain floor types that are tiled or uncarpeted can become cold, creating an uncomfortable environment for your pet to sleep on. Ensure they have a nice warm bed to cosy up into for sleep, away from the cold floors and any drafts, and avoid using portable heaters to provide that extra warmth as this can pose a hazard to your pet.

Please contact us for further information

Hawick Vets practice update

Whilst visiting us, we’re here to provide you and your pets with the best experience, in the safest way.

Our practice, as always, have extensive hygiene measures in place. We are still encouraging social distancing, face coverings and contactless payments. However, we are very happy to be welcoming you into our consulting rooms and reception areas.

At some of our locations, we are operating with the following additional measures in place:

  • 1 person per appointment wearing a facemask.
  • limited numbers in waiting rooms
  • To help encourage social distancing, you may be asked to wait outside if the waiting room is too busy

Thank you for your continued understanding.

We look forward to seeing you soon. Please contact us for further information.

Learn how to identify and reduce worry, anxiety, and stress in your pet

Just like humans, our pets can experience worry, anxiety, and stress. Since we know how these emotions make us feel, we certainly want to help alleviate our pet’s distress where we can. However, our pets cannot voice their feelings, so how can we tell they are experiencing these emotions? The signs in pets are often subtle.

Do you know the most common events that your pet may find stressful?

  • Addition of new members to your household, such as another pet or a baby
  • Moving house
  • Loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Drastic changes to their routine
  • Trips to the kennels, cattery, or vet

 What do worry, anxiety and stress look like in pets?

  • Hyperactivity or stillness
  • Drooling
  • Urination or defaecation
  • Baring of teeth, lunging or biting
  • Excessive sniffing
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive grooming
  • Cowering or hiding away
  • Tense muscles
  • Raised hackles
  • Tight lips
  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Flattened ears
  • A lowered tail that may be wagging in a short arc

Stressed dogs can startle easily, jumping at the slightest noise or movement. Some shake and shiver excessively or drool. They may use self-calming techniques, such as yawning, lip licking, excessive grooming, or spinning. Dogs may become uncharacteristically aggressive, start growling or snapping.

As for cats, you will need to look for more subtle signs, such as overgrooming, increased vocalisation, or hiding. If your cat is not using a litter box or your dog is urinating inside your home, these could be signs of stress. For many pets, stressors can lead to relapse on previous training because they solely focus on their source of anxiety and stress. For cats, stress can cause feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), which is bladder inflammation. Inflammation in the bladder causes the need to urinate more frequently and often will result in urinating in places other than the litter box.

Short-term stress and anxiety can change your pet’s interest in food because chemicals such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, which causes an increase in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

When this happens, appetite is reduced (fight or flight response).

If you think your pet is experiencing the above, please contact us.

 What impact does it have?

Chronic worry, anxiety, and stress can negatively impact your pet’s immune system, making it more likely for them to get sick from a range of illnesses and slow their healing process. Stress hormones cause a decrease in the production of some white blood cells that create antibodies and fight off bacteria and viruses.

How can we overcome worry, anxiety, and stress in pets?

There is no single answer that can overcome all issues. Often, it is a mixture of strategies that work best. We have detailed some tips below.

  • Find a new mentally stimulating outdoor exercise with your dog. Playing with your cat is essential in reducing their anxiety and stress, even if they spend all their time indoors.
  • Interact with your pet to stimulate their mind. Using a toy that you can both engage with will also help form a stronger relationship with your pet. Consider something you could throw, drag or swing to get their attention and maintain their interest.
  • Introduce new toys and rotate existing ones; there are lots of interactive indoor and outdoor toys available for both cats and dogs. By rotating new and old toys, you will keep your pet interested in what they are playing with. Whether a hide and seek mouse game or an IQ treat-dispensing puzzle, there is bound to be something available for your pet.
  • Give your pets places to escape for a break, especially if you have a lot going on in your home. Designate their favourite spot as a place where others don’t bother them. This will help your pet build its resilience and ability to cope with unusually high levels of social interaction.
  • A safe place to go during a storm and firework season is essential. When pets are afraid, they go where they feel the safest: the closet; under the covers in the bed; or a crate. Background noise such as a television, fans, or soft music can help block out other sounds. Music therapy can help calm pets.
  • Canine and feline pheromone products can help relax your pet in strange or stressful situations. They are available as a spray or a plug-in diffuser, like an air freshener. They are best used for a few days before fireworks start and help to encourage your pet to relax.

There is lots of evidence that a mentally and physically stimulated pet is happier and healthier. By knowing your pet and observing changes in their behaviour, you will spot whether their mental wellbeing is being impacted.

If you have tried several of the techniques we’ve suggested and are concerned your pet is exhibiting signs of distress, contact your vet who will be able to offer more advice. After ensuring that your pet’s behaviour does not have a medical basis, we may refer you to a veterinary behaviourist to evaluate stress-related issues. We may also prescribe anxiety-reducing medications if appropriate.

If you need help with any behavioural issues, please contact us.

Preparing your pet for firework season in Hawick

Fireworks are used throughout the year to mark significant seasonal celebrations in Hawick 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.

Contact us at one of our offices. For further information visit www.scottishspca.org/news/fireworks-advice 

How to prepare your cat ahead of fireworks season

We understand that noisy celebrations in Hawick such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas, and New Year can cause nervousness in pets. However, by taking the appropriate steps to plan ahead of these scheduled events, you can minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety for your pet.

Signs of anxiety to look out for in cats

  • Hiding
  • Scratching furniture
  • Urine spraying
  • Overgrooming (can lead to hair loss)
  • Pacing
  • Vocalisation


Top tips for cats

✓ Make sure your cat is microchipped to increase the chance that you will be reunited if they do get scared and decide to run away

✓ Ensure your cat is safely indoors well before dusk and that all windows, doors, and cat flaps are securely closed

✓ Close curtains to reduce the impact of flashes

✓ Provide a litter tray in a quiet area of the house. Do this well before the day’s fireworks are expected, so they become familiar with it

✓ Turn on the TV or radio to drown out the noise of fireworks

✓ Don’t disturb your cat if they find somewhere to hide when the fireworks are going off. Cats find a good hiding space comforting

✓ Try to ignore any reactions your cat makes to the fireworks – they may see this as a sign that you are worried about the noise yourself


What products are available to support my pet

There is a range of products available to purchase in practice to help elevate stress for your cat, from pheromone diffusers to calming food supplements.

If your cat starts to show significant signs of anxiety, please contact us to discuss all the options available to you to ensure they remain as calm as possible.

How to prepare your dog ahead of fireworks season

We understand that noisy celebrations in Hawick such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas, and New Year can cause nervousness in pets. However, by taking the appropriate steps to plan ahead of these scheduled events, you can minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety for your pet.

Signs of anxiety to look out for in dogs

  • Pacing
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Trembling
  • Abnormal vocalisation (barking or whining)
  • Panting
  • Pacing or circling the room
  • Excessive yawning or lip licking
  • Need to stay close to their owner
  • Soiling the house
  • Refusing to eat


Top tips for dogs

✓ Start to walk your dogs before dusk – ensure they are back indoors before fireworks begin

✓ Ensure all windows and doors are shut

✓ Close curtains to reduce the impact of flashes

✓ Make a den/retreat, so your dog has somewhere they feel safe and secure

✓ Turn on the TV or radio to drown out the noise of fireworks

✓ Make tasty treats or toys available as a distraction

✓ Try to ignore any reactions your dog makes to the fireworks – they may see this as a sign that you are worried about the noise yourself.

 

Why not make a dog den/refuge?

Make the den a few weeks before the expected fireworks to allow time for familiarisation.

  • Choose a room your dog is used to and preferably one you will be in during firework times
  • Use bedding they already have so it has a familiar smell
  • A puppy crate is an ideal starting point if you have one
  • If you do not have a crate, an enclosed area of the room is helpful, for example, a gap between the sofa and the wall
  • Use blankets to cover the den to create an enclosed and darkened area
  • Now that you have made a safe place, you could offer food or lay a treat trail so that your dog gets used to their den and associates it with pleasurable things

There is a range of products available to purchase in practice to help elevate stress for your dog, from sprays to calming food supplements.

If your dog starts to show significant signs of anxiety, please contact us in Hawick to discuss all the options available to you to ensure they remain as calm as possible.

Autumn dangers in Hawick

To ensure you know the dangers associated with autumn in Hawick, we have compiled together some guidance to ensure you all stay safe as we transition between seasons.

 

Clocks changing

The changes brought about with the clocks going back next month bring an increase in pet-related road traffic accidents and catfights. The change in routine as a result of the time difference can unsettle our pets, who often prefer routine, therefore, altering your routine a few weeks before the change can ensure your pet will be less affected and experience less routine disruption.

Leaves

Piles of leaves are fun to jump in, but once they start to decay underneath, they harbour large amounts of bacteria and mould.

Conkers

Although they may look appetising to dogs, conkers are toxic if chewed or ingested, and can cause blockages if swallowed.

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

This liquid is sweet-tasting to pets and if ingested it can be extremely dangerous. The liquid is rapidly absorbed and can cause severe kidney damage. In one study involving 25 cases, 96% of those affected by antifreeze sadly died. Make sure your cats have access to fresh water, and don’t allow dogs to drink from puddles where cars may have parked.

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae is mainly present from late spring to early autumn and looks like a blue-green layer on the water. Dogs who swim are most at risk but be sure to avoid known infected waters, or avoid letting your dog swim or drink from lakes or ponds.

Arthritis

As the seasons start to change and we see the cold creeping in, we start to see pets suffering from arthritis become stiffer and less mobile. If you’ve noticed any change in your pet during the colder months, we can assess them to see how we can help them feel more comfortable. We will also be dedicating November to our older pets – giving you all the latest information and advice for caring for your older companions so keep a look out for further information in the coming weeks.

Fleas

It’s a good job our health plan covers the cost of prescription-strength flea treatment and wormers because even during the winter months, we still see pets with fleas.  They like the warmth, and with households keeping the heating on during cold spells, this can keep those pesky fleas breeding in the house. Keep them at bay by making sure you’ve collected your pet’s treatment this month.

If you have any worries or concerns during the autumn time, please don’t hesitate to contact us in Hawick.