Summertime Pet Care

summer

With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather (when it occurs!) Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

How To Keep Your Pet Cool On Warm Days

  • Provide fresh drinking water at all times. Of course you are doing this already, but it is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary as your pets will likely be drinking more in the warmer weather. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you.
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun. Watch out for pets who may be sun-worshipers and try to encourage them into the shade if possible. Make sure hutches and runs are moved to shaded areas too. If it is too hot outside bring your pets inside.
  • Use pet-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn. This is especially important for pets with white ears, pink noses and/or hairless tummies.
  • Think about ventilation and air cooling. Make sure hutches and cages are well ventilated. You can use a fan to cool and move the air in a room (placing a bottle of frozen water directly behind it, will help even more) but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow, cannot touch the fan and cannot chew the electrical cable.
  • Think about the best times for exercising dogs. Early in the morning and later in the evening will often be slightly cooler. A good rule of thumb is if the pavement is too hot for you to touch your wrist to for more than a half a minute, it is too hot for your dog’s paws.
  • Move cages containing indoor pets away from windows and/or direct sunlight, these can soon heat up to unbearable temperatures.
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car, caravan or conservatory (see our heatstroke article)
  • Use water to help your pet cool down. Some pets will really appreciate some water to cool off in, dogs especially like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised.  Some pets may like a gentle spray with some water to help keep them cool but if your pet does not like it, don’t do it.

  • Provide cooling places and objects such as a wet towel on the ground for pets to lie on or access to nice cool kitchen tiles. You can freeze water in plastic bottles or ice packs and wrap these in a towel then place near to your pet – rabbits and dogs love lying on or against these in the hot weather (just make sure the icy surface is not directly next to their skin. (Make sure your pet is not going to chew these objects though – especially ice packs as they may contain chemicals) You can also use ceramic tiles that have been chilled for small animals to lie on.
  • Check Habitat Temperatures Carefully for tropical fish tanks and reptile vivariums as these may get too hot if the external temperature rises.
  • Watch your pet for signs of heatstroke. This can happen to any species of pet, but is more common in animals that are overweight, senior, hyperactive even in hot weather, short nosed breeds, or animals that have existing health problems with their heart or lungs. Symptoms of heatstroke can include Rapid or frantic panting, Excessive thirst, Anxious behaviour, Rapid heart/pulse rate, Dizziness and/or disorientation, Collapse. See our article on Heatstroke for more information
  • Don’t forget the wildlife. Small, shallow bowls of water dotted around your garden will help out greatly.

Summertime Hazards

Barbecues and Parties

These will be on the agenda for a lot of households but, while they are fun for us, they are a scavenging hazard for ourpets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.

Flystrike

This is another common summer problem. It occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets including dogs and cats can and do get affected. The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.

Grass Seeds and Plant Awns

These can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article)

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s care or would like any advice then please contact the practice on 01189 574488 or through our website

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Problems In Dogs

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease or Injury is one of the most common causes of hind leg lameness that we see in dogs. The stifle (knee) is a hinge joint that allows the hind leg to bend and is also one of the joints in the body that is most prone to injury.

Inside each knee are two bands of tissue called the caudal and cranial cruciate ligaments which cross over each other inside and help to stabilise the joint. Problems can occur when the cranial cruciate ligament deteriorates and is torn or breaks completely. If it is left untreated it will not only cause pain and lameness in the affected leg, but will ultimately lead to irreversible degenerative joint changes.

Type Of Cruciate Damage

Traumatic Cruciate Damage is usually caused by a sudden and strenuous twisting of the knee joint when moving at speed and suddenly changing direction (similar to what happens in people during activities such as football, squash, rugby etc)

Cruciate Disease is a chronic (on going) problem that is often the result of general wear and tear such as everyday use during walking, running and jumping. This causes the ligament to deteriorate until it tears or ruptures completely (unfortunately it is not yet known what causes the canine cruciate ligament to deteriorate so fast in some dogs). This causes dogs to either become more lame over a period of time as the ligament deteriorates and tears or, to become very suddenly lame as the deteriorating ligament tears or ruptures completely (usually after engaging in strenuous activities or, in some dogs with severe ligament degeneration, the ligament may rupture after a small stumble or even when jumping off a sofa/chair). An important aspect of this gradual deterioration is that both knees are usually affected and 40%-60% of dogs with cruciate problems in one knee will develop problems in the other knee.

Which Dogs Are Affected?

Cruciate disease or injury can occur in a dog of any breed, sex or age, however it has been found to be more common in the following circumstances

  • Overweight dogs (more stress is put on the joints in general)
  • Unfit dogs who engage in sudden strenuous activity (weekend warriors!)
  • Dogs with conformational abnormalities
  • Dogs with poor body condition and muscle mass
  • Certain breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers, Staffies, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards and Akita’s seem to have a higher incidence of the problem, which suggests that it may be an inherited or conformational problem.

Symptoms of Cruciate Problem

Cruciate ligament disease may initially present as anything ranging from a mild, occasional limp to the sudden onset of complete lameness and is, in most cases, extremely painful. Symptoms of a problem can include one or more of the following

  • Lameness/Limping/weakness in one or both hind legs
  • Completely holding the hind leg up
  • Lameness that gets worse with exercise but improves with rest
  • Stiffness and/or difficulty getting up from sitting or lying down
  • Swelling around the knee joint
  • Reluctance to jump up or climb stairs/steps
  • Sitting at an odd angle
  • Abnormal posture when standing
A dog that is limping or holding it’s leg up will be in pain and should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Cruciate Problems

Initially the vet will physically examine the knee to check for any pain, swelling and looseness in the joint, an X-ray may then be taken to check for any other problems within the joint, such as arthritis. A CT Scan or Arthroscopy (keyhole procedure involving a tiny camera) may ALSO be performed if they are available,  so that the vet can assess the extent of the damage to the ligament and whether there are other factors to consider such as arthritis, meniscus damage etc.

Surgical Treatment Of Cruciate Ligament Problems

The aim of any surgery is to stabilise the knee joint to prevent further damage (and pain) and improve mobility. The type of surgical procedure carried out will often depend on whether it is a straightforward (singular) problem i.e. just the cruciate ligament, or whether there are other complications to be taken into account e.g. a luxating patella or meniscal damage (these are the cartilaginous shock absorbers in the knees). It may also depend on the size and activity levels of the dog.

Because the surgery can be quite costly, especially for larger breeds of dog, it will be important to check that the surgery is covered by your pet insurance before your vet proceeds with the operation; this is usually done via a pre-authorisation claim between your vet and your pet insurance company.

The two most common procedures performed today are the Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO) and the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA); Both of these procedures alter the conformation of the joint and the way that forces are transmitted in the moving knee joint. The TPLO and TTA procedures greatly reduce the need for the cruciate ligament to stabilise the joint.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Replacement Surgery may be performed to stabilise the joint and reduce rotational instability, by either replacing the torn or ruptured ligament using a graft (rarely performed nowadays) or by replacing the ligament with an extracapsular ‘non absorbable’ line and crimps. This is usually only suitable for small to medium sized dogs.

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Some veterinary practices such as Castle Vets, may have an orthopaedic or specialist vet who is able to carry out these procedures, but other practices may need to refer their patients to another practice, especially if there are concurrent problems in the joint such as a luxating patella, meniscus tears, arthritis, bone spurs or bone fragments.

 After any of these surgeries it is vitally important to follow the veterinary surgeon’s advice regarding,
  1. Exercise and activity: in most cases your pet’s activity will need to be severely restricted for the first six weeks after surgery.
  2. Physiotherapy: your dog will need physiotherapy and often hydrotherapy to help with building up their muscles and mobility. This is also vital for maintaining the stability and strength in the other knee.
  3. Weight Management: It is vitally important that your dog is at his or her correct body weight to ensure no extra stress is placed on the joints.

Non-Surgical Options For Cruciate Problems

Surgery is usually the recommendation and the best course of action for dogs with cruciate problems, especially those over 15kg in body weight,  except when a general anaesthetic and surgery may put the patient’s life at risk (e.g. severe heart disease, immune related conditions).

A non-surgical approach to treatment may be tried in the case of a torn cruciate ligament. The dog will need a very strict  and severely restricted exercise plan, proper weight management, medication/pain relief, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy; they may also require veterinary acupuncture, nutraceuticals and possibly, platelet-rich plasma therapy . We advise that if you want to try this option for your dog that a treatment plan is discussed thoroughly with your vet to ensure that you understand what is involved to best help your dog.

How You Can Help Lower The Chances Of Cruciate Injury

Unfortunately, there is no definite way to prevent  a cruciate injury but you can help lower the risk if you 

  1.  Avoid sudden strenuous activities by ensuring that your dog has a good warm-up walk for at least 10-15 minutes before going off-lead to play with other dogs or chase balls etc. and by making sure that your dog starts chasing toys/balls from a standing position rather than from a sit or lying down position.
  2. Give regular, moderate exercise every day
  3. Ensure that the dog does not become overweight as this will add to the strain on his/her joints. If you need advice on your dog’s weight, please speak to one of our veterinary nurses.
  4. Feed a good quality diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age, size and activity levels.

Rabbit Nutrition – Rabbit Awareness Week 2017

Rabbit_eating_carrot

Nutrition plays an enormous part in rabbit health and at Castle Vets we find that a poor diet can be responsible for many problems in pet rabbits including bad teeth, weight gain, poor gut motility, tummy upsets and bad skin.

Rabbits have cleverly evolved over thousands of years to extract all the nourishment they need from the poor quality vegetation available to them in the wild. This means that our pet rabbits require a diet that is low in calories and very high in fibre. If a rabbit is fed on a diet that is high in calories and low in fibre it can lead to problems with obesity, soft stools or diarrhoea, bone and tooth problems.

In order to look after your rabbits nutritional health you will need to provide the following things

Water

Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Even if your rabbits eat a lot of greens and may appear not to drink much, water must always be available. It can be provided in gravity bottles or in bowls (although bowls tend to become soiled very quickly). Bowls and bottles should be cleaned regularly and bottles should be checked for leakage.

Food

The following three foods are listed in order of importance:

FEEDING HAY/DRIED GRASS – low in calories, high in fibre.
FRESH VEG – medium calories, medium fibre.
DRIED FOOD – high in calories, low in fibre.

1. Hay/Dried Grass

Hay (feeding hay) is the staple diet of your rabbits and should be fed AD LIB (as much as your rabbits will eat) and should make up at least 85-90% of a rabbit’s daily food intake. The fibre that is in hay is extremely important as it helps keep the food moving through the gut. It also contains other essential proteins and nutrients. Rabbits eat small amounts of food several times throughout the day and good quality grass hay must be available in unlimited amounts at all times. Alfalfa hay should be avoided, as this can contain excessive calcium.

You can use the good quality feeding hay that is sold in bales to feed horses or you can buy dried grass and hay from pet shops which will come in a variety of different types and ‘flavours’. Nice long strands of hay and dried grass are preferable because rabbits have to spend more time chewing the long fibres and this is better for their teeth and digestion. If you do buy large quantities of hay, make sure you store it carefully to prevent it becoming damp or mouldy – we find it lasts longer and stays fresher when stored in a plastic bin or box rather than in plastic bags.

The best way to offer fresh hay to your rabbits is by using a hayrack. This keeps the hay clean and eliminates much of the waste through hay getting trampled or soiled. As a rule there should be a small amount of hay left over each morning, then you know that you have made enough available for your rabbits.

2. Fresh Foods

Vegetables – Vegetables should be given to your rabbits daily. The hay can lose some of its vitamins when the grass is dried, therefore it is important to supplement the hay diet with fresh greens. A minimum of 3 types of fresh vegetables should be given daily alongside the hay. Variety is the key so try and offer small amounts of several items. Young rabbits should be introduced to new foods gradually, a small piece at a time.

A carrot or other root vegetable can be suspended from the hutch roof; this helps to increase feeding time and also enriches the rabbit’s environment and creates an interesting feeder toy.

The following are some examples of vegetables that can be given, but care should be taken not to feed large quantities of leafy greens or calorific veggies such as carrots and sweet potato.

  • Artichoke leaves
  • Asparagus 1 or 2 spears
  • Beetroot (small amounts)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts 1 or 2
  • Cabbage (Pak Choi / Spring Greens) 1 or 2 leaves
  • Carrot (only give leaves occasionally)
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac (peeled)
  • Celery (including leaves)
  • Chard
  • Chicory
  • Courgette & flowers
  • Cress
  • Cucumber (few slices)
  • Fennel
  • Kale (small amounts ½ a leaf)
  • Lettuce (small amounts only)
  • Parsley (few sprigs)
  • Parsnip
  • Pepper (bell) (Not seeds or stalks)
  • Pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Runner beans
  • Spinach (1/2 leaf only)
  • Squash (peeled)
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato (small amounts peel 1st)
  • Sweetcorn (baby) 1 or 2
  • Turnip (peeled) small amount occasionally

Fruit – Fresh fruit should only be given in small quantities due to the increased sugar content. Too much can lead to tooth decay and obesity problems.

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Nectarines
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes cherry or vine (NOT the leaves or stalks)

3. Dried Food

If a dried food is to be offered then a nutritionally balanced food, presented in a pellet or nugget form, can be offered every day. We don’t recommend a muesli or mixed flake diet because rabbits fed on these diets can become picky about which bits they eat and therefore may not receive a balanced diet. A pellet or nugget diet prevents picky eating and will ensure your rabbits are getting the right amount of nutrients.

A maximum of 20g per day is enough to feed a pair of adult rabbits of approximately 2.5kg bodyweight and it is important to accurately weigh the amount of food to be fed. The aim is to keep adults at a constant weight so regular weighing of your rabbit is essential. Do not estimate the amount you should be feeding – overfeeding of dried food is one of the main causes of health problems in rabbits seen by veterinary surgeons. If your rabbit starts to put on too much weight, the amount of dried food he or she is receiving should be reduced. Vitamin supplements should not be necessary if your rabbits are getting a balanced diet and an indiscriminate usage of vitamins may lead to overdose and serious disease.

Nugget-type food may look unappetising to us, but it is much better for your rabbits than the muesli-type food

Food and Enrichment Toys

There are many food and boredom breaker toys available for rabbits. Some of these are made of tightly packed grass or hay and others are made from fruit wood. You can also by little ‘cages’ or containers to put fruit and vegetables in so that they hang from the top of the cage. Food toys will ensure your rabbit has lots of variety and provide mental stimulation.

Natural Food and Grazing Opportunities

A run or grazing ark is essential to provide exercise and grazing for a few hours each day, weather permitting, preferably at dawn and dusk when rabbits are more naturally active. If a garden is enclosed and rabbit proofed then your rabbits can be allowed free run of the garden. However, it is important to ensure protection from predators, either wild animals or other domestic pets. Safe plants for rabbits such as Clovers and vetches can be planted for your rabbits to nibble on and can help provide variety to the diet. Please also be aware that some plants can be poisonous to rabbits, so make sure they do not have access to these.

Plants that are safe for rabbits and toxic to rabbits (PDF)

  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Camomile
  • Chickweed
  • Clover (leaves and flowers)
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Comfrey
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Goose grass
  • Lavender (not while pregnant)
  • Mallow
  • Mint (peppermint)
  • Nasturtium
  • Nettle
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Plantain
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Sow Thistle
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

rabbits

How To Change Your Rabbits Diet

It is extremely important never to change your rabbit’s diet suddenly. Gradual changes should be made over a period of at least 2 weeks. This is to allow the rabbit’s digestive system time to adjust to the changes being made. Give your rabbit a healthier diet by introducing hay, grass and greens and change the dried food to a high fibre one as discussed above. Grass and greens should be introduced gradually to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea.

Mix the new dried food in the same feeding bowl with the original food in a ratio of 1 measure of the new food to 3 measures of the original food. Feed this for 3-4 days to ensure your rabbits are eating all of it. Watch carefully for signs of loss of appetite, abnormally runny droppings, bloating and any changes in behaviour and demeanour as these may indicate that your rabbits are not adapting well to the new diet. If everything is normal, increase the quantity of the new dried food and decrease the quantity of the original food to give a ratio of half of the new food and half of the original food, again feeding this for 3-4 days and watching for any problems as before. If all is ok then increase the ratio to 3 measures of the new food to 1 measure of the original food for another 3-4 days, and finally 100% of the new dried food.

Useful links for rabbit care

Action For Rabbits

Rabbit Awareness Week

RSPCA Information Sheet

House Rabbit Society

Best4Bunny

Free Rabbit Advice Clinics

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Rabbit & VN

The veterinary nursing team at Castle Vets offer FREE rabbit clinics for advice on rabbit care and welfare for any rabbits that need it all year round (by appointment only). During the month of June we will also be offering Free rabbit nail clips to those that need it as part of our Rabbit Awareness Month.

Our veterinary nurses are happy to chat to anyone who is thinking about getting some rabbits about how to look after them and the costs that may be involved.

If you would like any information on rabbit health or have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Are You Thinking About Getting A Pet?

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The prospect of getting a new pet can be very exciting and it is a wonderful feeling to be a proud owner. Anyone who has taken on a pet will know that within a matter of hours you are completely hooked, but there are a few things to think about before your commit to and bring home your new bundle of fun and cuteness.

Cost

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This is not just the cost of actually buying the pet (which can be anything from Free to thousands of pounds!). Can you afford the costs necessary to give your chosen pet the correct care? The average annual costs of owning a pet can be quite high and have been estimated at £1000 – £2000 for a dog (depending on size), around £1200 for a cat, £400 – £500 for a ferret, £500 for a rabbit and £400 for a guinea pig and Chinchilla. (For cats and dogs that amounts to approximately £10000 – £31000 over a lifetime!) You will need to think about the costs of providing good quality food, bedding, housing for small animals, boarding kennels or pet sitters, routine vet bills for things such as parasite control and vaccinations, as well as the cost of vet bills should your chosen pet become poorly and require treatment.

Pet Insurance

This will cover your pet for any injuries or illnesses he or she may suffer from. Most types of pets can be insured, including rabbits, rodents and reptiles. The policy premium (the amount you pay in monthly or annually) will vary depending on the different cover levels and different animal breeds, so a very basic level of cover may be as little as £5.00 a month but a premium level of cover may be as much as £40.00 a month. It is also worth noting that many insurance companies now exclude certain types or breeds of pet from their policies, so check that your desired breed of pet is able to be insured. If you would like to find out more about pet insurance and what to look for in a policy, please read our pet insurance article.
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Pet Allergy Week 2017

Just like humans, our pets can suffer from allergies to things such as foods, mites and pollens, with the allergens entering the body through the skin or when your pet eats or breathes them in.

Pet allergies are one of the more common problems that we see in practice with symptoms ranging from scratching and itching to hotspots, hair loss, infections and open sores. While allergies are more common in dogs, we do see quite a few cats with the problem as well.

Allergies can manifest themselves in many ways in our pets and generally cause them to scratch, rub, lick or nibble at the affected area. Some of the more common signs that a pet may have an allergy are;

  • Licking, nibbling, bottom scooting
  • Reddened, inflamed and sore skin, ears flaps, ear canals and gums
  • Rashes and lesions or hotspots
  • Wet Eczema
  • Crusts on the skin or in the ears
  • Excess of ear wax
  • Discharge from the eyes and/or ears
  • Red and sore eyes and conjunctiva
  • Eye watering and/or gunky discharge
  • General itchiness – Scratching or rubbing at or near affected area
  • Hair loss or thinning patches
  • Dull, dry or brittle coat
  • Yeasty or odd smell from the coat, ears or skin
  • Diarrhoea (food allergy)
  • Vomiting (food allergy)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating (food allergy)
  • Respiratory problems (usually cats)
  • Repeated Anal Gland problems or infections
  • Behavioural changes – often due to being uncomfortable and itchy

 

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A pet with allergies is often in discomfort and pain, so if you see any of these symptoms you should make an appointment with your veterinary practice.

How Pets Develop Allergies

Allergies are an overreaction of the body’s immune system which normally protects the body from viruses and bacteria by producing antibodies to fight them. During an allergic reaction, the immune system starts fighting the invading substances that are usually harmless, such as dust mites or pollen, because it has mistaken them for substances/allergens that are trying to attack the body. The first time the body encounters an allergen, the cells create an antibody specific to that allergen which attaches to the surface of the cells. The next time the body is exposed to this allergen, the cells activate their defences and release histamines, prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are what trigger the symptoms associated with allergies.

Allergies often start to develop when the pet is between one to three years of age, but sometimes they develop when the pet is older. For the majority of cases the pet will have been exposed to the allergen for some time before an actual allergy is developed (with the exception of something like an insect bite, which may develop after only a few bites), the pet’s immune system then starts to react to the allergy. It is also possible for a pet to have allergies to many different things, so over the years the symptoms may get worse. Although any breed, age or sex of dog or cat can develop an allergy, some allergies may also be passed on through generations making some breeds more likely to have an allergy for example West Highland Terriers, Golden Retrievers and Bulldogs.

Common Types of Allergies

Allergies, Atopy or Atopic Dermatitis are the broad terms for an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Our pets can be allergic to a variety of things in the environment such as Pollen from trees, weeds, flowers and grasses or Moulds and Fungi (both indoors and outdoors), food, parasites, yeasts, bacteria and contact with substances or materials.

Weed, Tree and Mould Allergies: Many pets develop allergies to the pollen of certain trees, weeds and grasses as well as spores from moulds and fungi. These can be very difficult (if not impossible) to avoid contact with and cause allergy flare ups at certain times of the year.

Food Allergies: It can take a great deal of detective work to work out exactly which ingredient in a pet’s diet is the cause of the allergy, for example it could be the meat or it could be a cereal ingredient, or even one of the additives used to preserve the food. Symptoms of food allergies can include tummy upsets as well as general itchiness, skin and ear problems and also behaviour problems. They should not be confused with food intolerances, which only affect the gastrointestinal system (vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss) and not the skin.

Flea Allergy: In some animals one bite from a flea can leave them itchy and sore for 2-3 weeks and they may get a secondary infection because of all the scratching, nibbling and licking they are doing. For animals allergic to flea saliva (Flea Allergic Dermatitis) it is vitally important that flea treatments are kept up to date both on the pet and in the home.

House Dust Mite Allergy: These tiny mites live in the home in carpets, bedding, mattresses, upholstery and even cloth toys. They feed on human skin scales, bacteria and fungi in the environment. They are a common cause of allergies in people as well as pets. Frequent vacuuming and washing of the pets bedding and near environment can help keep these allergies under control, but pets with Dust Mite allergies often need immunotherapy vaccines to help them.

Storage Mite Allergy: These microscopic mites are attracted to dry foods, grains and cereals. The storage mite’s body and its faeces can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs and cats. These can be difficult to avoid and it is sometimes necessary to change an allergic pet to a wet food instead of a dry one. Pets with Storage Mite allergies often need immunotherapy vaccines to help them.

Contact Allergies: These are usually caused by contact with certain carpet materials, cleaners, plastics or rubber. They often show as red itchy bumps or blisters on areas of skin that are not covered with a good layer of hair such as the tummy, feet, or muzzle.

Secondary Conditions

Pets with allergies will often have what we term secondary skin problems, and these are usually related to a bacterial or yeast infection. The allergy causes the initial skin irritation and the cycle of scratching and licking at the skin then leads to a secondary infection. Treatment given for these secondary infections can often seem initially to ‘cure’ the problem, but the underlying allergic cause remains and so the problem will reoccur. This is why we strongly recommend a full investigation if a pet has recurring problems so that we can fully understand the problem and limit its return.

Diagnosing Allergies

Allergies are diagnosed using a variety of methods, depending on the suspected cause of the allergy. Your pet will initially have a thorough examination which may include blood tests in order to rule out any illnesses and diseases that may be causing symptoms; hormonal disease such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease and bacterial skin infections can all affect the skin and coat. An allergy work up may include some, or all of the following;
Dermatology Consultation – with an aim to find out your pet’s daily routine and exactly what your pet eats, where you take them for walks, and his or her sleeping and resting areas in the home etc. to see if we can identify possible allergic causes.

  1. Skin scrapes and hair plucks – These can be examined under a microscope, either in practice or at an external laboratory and can show us whether the pet has a bacterial or fungal infection or mite infestation. Ruling these causes out can go a long way to confirming an allergy.
  2. Allergy Blood tests – these are sent to a laboratory where they can be examined and exposed to various allergens such as pollens, mites and fleas. A report is then sent back to the vet telling them which of these the pet is allergic too. (Sadly we cannot use this for food allergies)
  3. Food Exclusion Trials – The only way that a food allergy or intolerance can be properly diagnosed is with a strict food elimination trial for 3 – 10 weeks (depending on the pet’s symptoms) and then the re introduction of the original diet. The choice of which diet to use for elimination trial is very important and t has to contain ingredients that the pet has never eaten before. It is often not as simple as changing from a chicken based pet food to a fish based one.

Treatment of Allergies

Once an allergy has been diagnosed and the cause has been found, treatment can be recommended; we cannot cure an allergy, but we can help make the body less responsive to an allergen and sometimes it may even be possible to prevent the pet from coming into contact with the allergen at all. Allergy treatment may include.

1. Removal and/or Avoidance Techniques: Some allergens can be removed completely if we know the allergen in question; cleaning products can be changed and allergic materials can be removed or avoided. In some cases such as flea, mite or mould allergies we may not be able to completely remove the source but there are several avoidance techniques that can be employed such as

  • Keep pets out of room for several hours during and after vacuuming
  • Use a plastic cover over pet’s bed
  • Wash bedding in very hot water
  • Avoid letting pets sleep on furniture
  • Avoid or regularly wash cloth toys
  • Keep pets in uncarpeted rooms
  • Run an air conditioner during hot weather
  • Keep pets indoors when the lawn is mowed
  • Avoid dusty low quality pet foods or switch to a wet food
  • Use of airtight containers for food that are cleaned thoroughly between batches
  • Use of specific food bowls that are cleaned thoroughly between uses
  • Use dehumidifiers
  • Avoid large numbers of houseplants
  • Rinse the pet off after walks in high grass and weeds during times of high pollen
  • Ensure that parasite control both on the pet and in the home is kept up to date

2. Topical Treatments: These usually offer immediate and short term relief for the pet and may be in the form of creams, ointments, drops, lotions or shampoos that may be used to treat specific areas such as skin lesions, ears or eyes.

3. Prescription Medications: These are usually in the form of tablets or injections

  • Corticosteroids – These are very effective at relieving severe itching and inflammation. They are usually given daily for a set period and then the dose will reduced. For longer term treatment the pet will have the dose reduce to the minimum therapeutic level. Some pets experience side effects when on steroids (as with any drugs) such as increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite and diarrhoea. Very long term steroid medication is usually avoided because of the potential of more serious side effects.
  • Cyclosporine – This medication specifically targets the immune cells involved in the allergic response and blocks the release of inflammatory molecules such as histamines which cause the allergic symptoms.
  • Antihistamines – These are widely used in both humans and animals to provide allergy relief. They have been shown to be effective in controlling allergies in up to 30% of dogs and 70% of cats and are especially effective when used with omega 3 fatty acids and avoidance therapies. However, just like in people, every animal will respond differently to each of the different antihistamines. So the vet may have to try a few types before an effective one is found. Antihistamines should only ever be given to pets under veterinary guidance as some have severe side effects including sedation, hyperactivity, constipation and a decreased appetite.

4. Immunotherapy Injections: Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune response using the causal agent. An Immunotherapy Vaccine is given to the pet in the form of an injection and will stimulate the body’s immune system (in a similar way to vaccinations against disease in people and animals). Each Immunotherapy vaccine is designed specifically for an individual pet and contains small doses of the allergens that the pet is allergic to. The dose of the vaccine increases in the amounts and concentrations of the allergen each time it is given, which will eventually decrease the body’s sensitivity to the allergen, meaning that the pet will develop fewer and less severe symptoms when they are exposed to the allergen in the future.

Do not confuse immunotherapy with homeopathy – immunotherapy vaccines are precisely made up by the veterinary laboratory for each individual pet and contain exactly the substance(s) that causes the allergy in your pet at the correct dosages. They work by stimulating a response in the animal’s immune system.

5. Acupuncture:  Acupuncture is a therapeutic process in which a veterinary practitioner inserts fine needles into certain points on the pet’s body to help control pain and ailments. Veterinary acupuncture has been shown to help ease the symptoms of inflammatory conditions in some dogs and cats. This treatment should only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon – At Castle Vets this is Christel Van Veen and you can find out more by visiting our website.

6. Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids have been proven to have a therapeutic benefit in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory conditions. In some animals they can help reduce the itchiness and inflammation in the skin because of their natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative agents. You should always seek veterinary advice regarding dosages before you start to supplement your pet’s diet though.

7. Surgery: Occasionally a pet suffering with allergies may need surgical treatment to help alleviate the symptoms. This is usually ear canal surgery carried out on dogs with repeatedly swollen and infected ears due to their allergies.

Homeopathy

The central idea behind homeopathic remedies is “like cures like” – a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. A second central principle is based around a process of dilution and shaking, called succussion – Homeopathic practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left. Another problem with homeopathic remedies is that they are given orally and because of this most of the ingredients never make it past the acid in the stomach and what little does get through is too diluted to have any effect.

“A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are “scientifically implausible””

However, if you feel that homeopathic remedies can be used to help your pet then no one will mind you using them – but do let your vet know which remedies you are using.

homeopathy

 

Rabbit Awareness June 2017

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Rabbits are now more popular in the UK than ever before and we now have many devoted bunny owners visiting the practice each week. They make wonderful pets in the right hands and come in many different sizes and colours, so there is something for everyone; in fact the British Rabbit Council recognises 50 different breeds and over 500 varieties!

Rabbits are social, intelligent and inquisitive creatures who need loving, devoted and patient owners who are prepared to spend plenty of time with them, provide plenty of space and lots of opportunities to play. Although rabbits are not generally expensive to buy, they are not cheap to look after properly and often cost at least as much as a cat or small dog in terms of routine healthcare and vaccinations; they can also live for 8–12 years so they are definitely a long-term commitment.

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High Blood Pressure In Cats (Feline Hypertension)

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a fairly common but potentially severe problem for older cats. Over the past few years the importance of monitoring blood pressure in older cats has been recognised and monitoring equipment is now readily available in most veterinary practices.

What is Blood Pressure and Hypertension?

The blood pressure is the force that is exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels. A certain amount of pressure is needed to enable the heart to effectively pump blood around the body in order to deliver oxygen and energy to the various organs, muscles and tissues. When an animal (or person) becomes hypertensive, the blood is pumped with greater force than normal which puts extra strain on the vessels, arteries and heart.

What Causes Hypertension?

Hypertension in cats may be caused by (or be a side effect of) another disease, illness or problem such as Kidney disease, Heart Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes and Obesity. However, many older cats can develop hypertension without having other illnesses or disease, or even showing any other clinical signs. Sadly if it is not detected early on and is left untreated, it can cause serious and sometimes sudden consequences, including the following illnesses and symptoms

  • Kidney problems
  • Heart problems
  • Neurological (Brain) problems such as seizures or disorientation
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Dilated pupils (large pupils that do not get smaller in the light)
  • Blood spots/bleeding in the eyes
  • Blindness
  • Respiratory problems

If your cat is showing any of the above signs, please make an appointment for your cat to be examined by veterinary surgeon.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is measured in cats using the same method that is used for humans.

In humans, two values are taken into account, the higher one being the blood pressure in the arteries that is recorded when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and the lower value, when the heart rests between beats (diastolic pressure). These two values are recorded one above the other, separated by a slash mark; Normal human blood pressure is around 120/70-80 mmHg (which stands for millimetres of mercury). With cats, we tend just focus on the systolic blood pressure reading which is typically higher than humans, at around 120 to 170 mmHg.

Sphygmomanometer Dial

How Is Hypertension Diagnosed?

The vet will make a diagnosis by using the Sphygmomanometer as mentioned below, but also by taking into account any other clinical symptoms that your cat may have.
Because hypertension is often associated with other conditions such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism it may be tested for if these illnesses are present, or, if hypertension is the initial problem, blood tests may be performed to check for these other illnesses.

Sometimes the vet may need to take 2 or 3 readings over 2 to 3 weeks to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension. Factors such as the cat being anxious, distressed or even excited can give ‘false high’ pressure readings which is why your vet may recommend several measurements over the course of a few weeks.

Blood pressure monitoring

Monitoring the blood pressure in cats is a non-invasive and relatively straightforward procedure that can be carried out by a vet or veterinary nurse at the practice (as long as the cat is cooperative and happy to sit still for a while!). The procedure is very similar to human blood pressure testing and is measured with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer.

  1. A small cuff attached to the sphygmomanometer is wrapped around the cat’s leg (or occasionally the tail).
  2. A Doppler probe is used to listen for the pulse in the cat’s lower leg, near the main stopper pad. The probe is a handheld diagnostic device that emits ultrasonic waves into the body; it picks up the sound of the blood flow (pulse) and enables the vet or veterinary nurse to hear it.
  3. The cuff is gently inflated with a pump until the pulse can no longer be detected, then a valve is opened to slowly deflate the cuff.
  4. The reading on the sphygmomanometer is recorded when the pulse can be heard again as the cuff is deflating.
  5. The measurements are taken 3-6 times and the vet will use an average of the readings as the blood pressure measurement.
Sphygmomanometer#2

Sphygmomanometer & Cuff

Treating Hypertension

Medication is available to treat hypertension and fortunately, with appropriate monitoring and treatment, feline hypertension is usually manageable. Early diagnosis means that treatment can be started as soon as possible, which reduces the risk of damage to the body from persistent high blood pressure. Occasionally, if the underlying disease or illness is treated, the hypertension may resolve on its own, but most cats will need to be on medication for life after diagnosis. Many cats may also be on medication for other conditions at the same time.

How often should blood pressure be monitored?

We usually recommend that any cat over the age of 8 years old is tested annually to make sure they do not have hypertension. In healthy cats this will be a record of what is normal for them and the offers the possibility of detecting hypertension early on before other signs are present.
If the vet has diagnosed hypertension, they may initially recommend monthly monitoring until it is under control. This may then be reduced to a test every 3 months or so.

BP1

The aim is to keep cats as calm as possible during the monitoring procedure to avoid the ‘white coat effect’ of blood pressure being raised due to anxiety.  Some cats will be better away from their owners and some cats will prefer to stay with their owners.

 

If your cat is already showing any of the clinical symptoms mentioned above, you should book an appointment for him or her to be examined by the veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.