Importance of Pet Insurance

We believe that pet insurance is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Owning a pet is hugely rewarding, but it can also be expensive if they are to suffer an illness or injury.

Having a good pet insurance policy allows you to concentrate on what’s best for your pet while knowing help is there for the cost of unexpected treatment should they become ill or are injured.

People tend to think it’s only older pets that get ill and therefore, younger pets don’t need pet insurance, but we know from the patients we see each day that that is not the case.

The younger your pet is when you insure them, the better as it means you are less likely to have any existing conditions, which the policy may not cover, and you can then receive more help covering the cost of any future treatment your pet needs.

It is important to note that not all pet insurance is the same. There are many different types of policy available, and the level of cover provided can vary considerably. The four main types of policy are as follows:

  • Accident: provides cover for accidents only and no cover for illness
  • Time-Limited: provides cover for a set amount of time (usually 12 months) and after this period, the condition is excluded
  • Maximum Benefit: provides cover up to a maximum amount of money per condition and once this limit is reached, the condition is excluded
  • Lifetime: provides a set amount of money each year which is refreshed each time you renew your policy, allowing you to continue to claim for ongoing conditions

As you can see from the information above, the type of policy you choose can have implications for the veterinary care of your pet and the costs you will face, so it’s important to choose the right cover.

Sometimes, the cheapest insurance can cost you more in the long run. Therefore, when shopping around for a policy, we suggest that you ask the following questions to allow you to compare the overall value you are getting, not just the price:

Does this policy cover congenital, hereditary, hip-related, dental, and behavioural conditions?

Is there a time or monetary limit on how long this policy will cover ongoing conditions?

If I file a claim, will my premium increase?

Unlike other forms of insurance, it is not always easy to switch pet insurance in the future as any pre-existing conditions your pet has are likely to be excluded, so it’s important to do your research and choose the right cover from the start.

antibiotics

Help us to keep antibiotics working…

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develops mechanisms to reduce the effects of the antibiotic. These mechanisms evolve through mutation and adaptation. Mutations can be good or bad for bacteria. In some cases, the mutation kills the bacteria and it may provide the bacteria with a survival advantage. The survival advantage may include resistance to antibiotics. In the presence of antibiotics, this resistance becomes an advantage and the resistant strain becomes dominant.

In pets, just like in humans, it’s normal to have bacteria in the bowel and on the skin. These bacteria, just like any other, can develop resistant mechanisms, so using antibiotics can kill other non-resistant bacteria, allowing the resistant bacterial strains to dominate and thrive. As a result, overusing antibiotics or use of an antibiotic over an extended period can affect the ‘good bacteria’ and cause more harm than good.

Antibiotics are only effective against some types of bacterial infection and will not work against viral infections. Therefore, veterinary surgeons need to determine what kind of infection a pet may have to treat and help them recover quickly and safely as appropriate. Following your veterinary surgeons’ advice on medication, it’s essential to ensure long-term access to antibiotics that work.

Why do we need to alter the overall attitude towards antibiotic use?

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a One Health concern. If this important class of drugs becomes ineffective, it will have a serious impact on the health of both humans and animals.

For years now, alongside other infection control measures in human and veterinary medicine, antibiotics have been a core feature of providing effective medical treatment for bacterial infection. As a result, infections that were once fatal are now treatable and surgical procedures have become more advanced due to our ability to treat infections.

In recent years, however, the medical and veterinary professions have identified that the effectiveness of antibiotics against some bacteria has changed. We know this because the bacteria which can resist antibiotics are seen more often. To slow down the evolution of resistant bacteria and protect the efficacy of the drugs, medical professionals have had to review their approach to using these antibiotics, whilst research to find new antibiotics is ongoing.

How does antibiotic resistance occur?

After Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, work was undertaken with his colleagues Florey and Chain to make the molecule useable as a drug to treat infections in people. Fleming himself noted in his early observations that bacteria could become resistant to penicillin, even if used appropriately.

Understandably, given its significant impact on healthcare, penicillin was initially prescribed widely, but it became less effective over time.

A combination of factors has contributed to this. Some of these include:

  • Bacterial multiplication, mutation and evolution (natural processes)
  • Use of antibiotics for non-infection control reasons
  • Prescribing antibiotics ‘just in case’ for illnesses may speed the development of resistance
  • A significant reduction in the availability of novel antibiotic classes.

What does this mean?

Research for new antibiotics is an area of focus that has Government support. However, the development and approval process for any new drug takes time. While this research is ongoing, we need to take measures to slow down the evolution of resistance and protect the drugs’ efficacy.

This means that, as some antibiotics are no longer as effective as they used to be, healthcare and veterinary professionals have had to adapt their approach to administering antibiotics to help preserve the efficacy of those that currently still work. This work has resulted in significant drops in antibiotics used. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate reported a reduction in antibiotics in food-producing animals in the UK of 52% in six years (between 2014 and 2020).

We should also be aware that any new antibiotics discovered may be reserved for human use instead of antibiotics for our animals.

Why is it important for veterinary medicine?

As antibacterial resistance is a growing concern in both human and animal medicine, there is pressure to preserve the medical use of certain antibiotics. This has implications for animal health and welfare. Veterinary professionals, therefore need to use antimicrobials responsibly. Using antibiotics only when appropriate also reduces the chances of drug side effects and reduces the carbon footprint of treating diseases.

 

In both human hospitals and veterinary practices, it is common to find recommendations for infections or conditions where antibiotics are not required. This is called Antibiotic Stewardship.

Our practice supports the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the Small Animal Medicine Society (SAMSoc) ‘PROTECT ME’ principles. Their core principles are as follows:

Prescribe only when necessary

Reduce prophylaxis

Offer other options

Treat effectively

Employ narrow spectrum

Culture appropriately

Tailor your practice policy

Monitor

Educate others

pet christmas hazards

Christmas Hazards

We wish you and your pets a very happy festive period. With lots to think about it can be easy to forget the risks that are associated with Christmas and our pets. Most of the risks are present all year round, however, we do see an increase in pets eating hazards materials or foods. Our guide below covers the main hazards that are encountered during the festive period.

What are the hazards to pets during Christmas?

General Christmas hazards include:

  • christmas tree pine needles
  • tinsel
  • glass baubles
  • fairy lights
  • salt dough ornaments
  • gifts under the tree (if contain hazardous foods)
  • batteries
  • silica gel (found inside packaging)
  • Potpourri,
  • lilies
  • ivy

Food hazards include:

  • chocolate
  • mince pies
  • artificial sweeteners (which can be found in cakes or desserts) xylitol is one of the hazardous sweeteners that is found in cakes and chewing gum
  • roast potatoes
  • sausages
  • stuffing
  • onions
  • cheese (especially blue types)
  • grapes
  • crisps
  • christmas cake
  • sultanas
  • pigs in blankets
  • gravy
  • cooked bones

We hope that you shouldn’t need us during the festive period, however, if your pet does happen to ingest any of the listed hazards, please contact your practice where the team can assist you in the next steps that need to be taken.

We wish you a happy and healthy festive season.

Better to check…

Finding lumps and bumps in our pets can be worrying. Read more

important-information

Important Information

We have recently carried out a review of our prices. These changes will be implemented from 29 November 2021.

Please note that all existing quotes prior to 29 November will be honoured for four weeks.

If you have any questions, please speak to a member of our team.

Thank you for your continued support.

Cardiomyopathy in cats

There are a number of different heart diseases that can affect our cats in Hawick; however, cardiomyopathy in cats 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 in Hawick; 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 heartbeats, 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

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.

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.