National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month – November 2013

pet diabetes month 2013

November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month. To raise awareness of this condition we are offering free diabetic awareness clinics with our veterinary nurses and a free urine test for your pet.  To be eligible for this offer please go to the my pet online website to claim your voucher for this event. The link is available at the end of the article.

What is pet Diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose (or sugar) in the blood, dogs and cats become diabetic when their bodies do not make enough insulin or if the body is unable to use (is resistant to) the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Diabetes in both dogs and cats is usually caused by a loss or dysfunction of the cells of the pancreas, meaning that it cannot produce insulin properly.

When an animal eats, the food is broken down into very small components that the body can use some of these components are converted into several types of sugars including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, it then travels to cells in the body where it can be absorbed and used as a source of energy. Insulin is responsible for converting the glucose to energy in the cells; without insulin, the glucose cannot enter the cells and just builds up in the bloodstream (hyperglycaemia). This may lead a pet to act hungry all the time and eat constantly, but still be malnourished because its cells can’t absorb glucose for use in the body.

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Georgie was diagnosed with diabetes in March 2012

Which pets are at risk of diabetes?

Diabetes affects between 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 cats and dogs. It has been diagnosed in cats and dogs of all ages, both sexes, neutered and un-neutered, and all breeds. It is, however seen more frequently in middle-aged to older pets and un-neutered bitches.
Whilst we do not know the exact cause of diabetes in pets, experts believe that it can be linked to several different factors including

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Pre existing medical conditions; Pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism for example
  • Genetic tendencies or predisposition; certain breeds are thought to be more likely to suffer from diabetes including Poodles, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Beagles, Dobermans, Retrievers and West Highland Terriers, but this may just be because they are more popular breeds and so are seen more often by vets. It has also been noted that Burmese cats may have a higher predisposition than any other breed.

Alfie Mace

What signs might indicate a pet has diabetes?

If your pet shows any of the following signs speak with your veterinary surgeon about the possibility of diabetes:

  • Drinking more water
  • Urinating more frequently or has “accidents” in the house especially at night
  • Always hungry or has changes in appetite with weight gain or weight loss
  • Lethargy or sleeping more
  • Thinning, dry or dull coat
  • Has cloudy eyes (cataracts)

clinical signs of diabetes

How is diabetes diagnosed?

To test for diabetes the vet will thoroughly examine your pet and then examine a urine sample which will show us if any abnormalities are present, such as glucose or ketones. If the urine test shows that there is glucose and/or ketones present, then the next step is to take a blood sample from your pet. A blood sample will show the vet how much glucose is present in your pet’s blood as well as how well the other organs in your pet’s body are working, in order to rule out any other diseases or problems. A diagnosis of diabetes only becomes definite when glucose is found in the urine and at a persistently high concentration in the blood.



How is diabetes treated?

Although we cannot cure pet diabetes, we can treat it successfully and many pets can lead long and happy lives providing their diabetes is kept under control. Treatment will take a lot of commitment from you as the owner, as well as regular check ups for your pet with the vet. A fixed routine for your pet is the key to successful management of diabetes and any sudden changes in diet or exercise must be avoided.

Medication – Your pet may need once or twice daily injections of insulin in order to help keep the diabetes under control. This is not as scary as it sounds and owners can be shown how to do this properly and safely by a veterinary nurse. Some diabetic cats go into clinical remission and no longer need insulin after a few weeks or months of treatment, and they can often be managed on diet alone.

Diet – What your pet eats is extremely important in the successful management of diabetes. Food has a big effect on the amount of glucose in the body and how quickly it is utilised. Your pet will need to be fed exactly the same food at the same time every day. Titbits and treats can be given but again they must be the same every day. An ideal diabetes diet is usually restricted in fat content, has a high complex carbohydrate content and is high in fibre.

Exercise – This can also have a huge impact on glucose and energy levels. As with the diet, exercise should be consistent and given at the same time each day in order to avoid sudden changes in energy or glucose requirements.

Regular monitoring – Your pet will need regular monitoring by you and your vet to ensure that the diabetes is controlled and your pet stays healthy. As well as giving any medication, you will need to monitor your pet daily for any signs that he or she is unwell. Your vet will monitor your pet by giving them health checks and taking regular blood samples in order to make sure that he or she is receiving the correct treatment at the right dose.


Medication must be given at the same time every day

Complications associated with diabetic pets

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)

Hypoglycaemia can be caused by

  • The pet receiving a normal dose of insulin but not eating its normal quantity of food (Not eating, vomiting the meal, or having diarrhoea).
  • The pet being abnormally active or having more exercise than usual, leading to abnormally high energy (glucose) use.
  • The pet accidentally being given too much insulin by injection (human error).

Hypoglycaemia can be fatal so it is extremely important that you are able to recognise these signs which may be some or all of the following

  • Restlessness
  • Trembling or shivering
  • Unusual movements or behaviour – some animals become very quiet and may stop eating.
  • Muscle twitching
  • Coma

If your pet is showing any of the above signs, you need to act quickly and get some glucose into the pet. This can be achieved by feeding, syringing a glucose solution into the pet’s mouth or by rubbing glucose powder onto his or her gums.

Hind Leg Weakness in Cats
High concentrations of glucose in the blood may cause damage to nerves resulting in weakness and muscle wasting, usually of the hind legs.

High blood glucose levels cause changes in the lens of the eye and water diffuses into the lens causing swelling and disruption of the lens structure. When the lens of the eye becomes opaque, blindness results in the affected eye or eyes. Cataracts in dogs with diabetes are seen far more often than in cats with diabetes.


Dog with a cataract

If you would like to book a free diabetic check please contact Castle Vets on 01189 574488 to book your pet in with one of our veterinary nurses.

For more information on pet diabetes please visit Cat & dog diabetes 

If you are already registered with castle vets and would like a voucher for a free diabetic check, please go to this website and click the link that says free diabetes check



If you are not registered with Castle vets and would like to find your nearest participating vets visit My Pet Online 

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Fleas are small, blood-sucking, insects that infest our pets and feed on their blood. They are a real pest and can make your pet’s life miserable; causing symptoms ranging from minor irritation and scratching to hair loss and severe allergic reactions in our pets. This of course is made even worse if they start biting the humans in the household as well.

Fleas can be a huge problem for pet owners and once they are established in the home they can be quite difficult to get rid of because of their complex life cycle. Did you know that the adult fleas we see on our pets are only 5% of the problem and that 95% of the flea life-cycle takes place in the carpets, floorboards and pet bedding in your home?

There are over 2000 species of fleas in the world, but thankfully only the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) are the main problems for our pets in the UK. We do however, tend to see more of the cat flea because despite the name, it is happy to infest dogs as well as cats.

A: Cat Flea     B: Dog Flea

A: Cat Flea B: Dog Flea

The Flea Life Cycle

  • The adult fleas live on and feed off the host animal – usually dogs and cats but we starting to see more house rabbits affected too.
  • The female flea begins laying eggs within 36-48 hours of her first blood meal. She can lay around 20 eggs per day and up to 200 eggs in her lifetime of a few months. The flea eggs are not sticky so they drop off the animal into the home environment, such as carpets, bedding, floorboards and soil.
  • The flea larvae emerge from the eggs after 2-14 days (depending on the environmental conditions), and begin to feed off adult flea faeces and other organic debris found in the home. Flea larvae have 3 stages of growth and depending on the amount of food present and environmental conditions this stage lasts around 7-14 days (longer in some cases).
  • The larvae spin a silk cocoon and pupate; whilst in the cocoon the flea is at is most resilient and is resistant to insecticides.
  • The adult flea can emerge from its cocoon as early as 3-5 days or it can stay in the cocoon for up to a year, just waiting for the right conditions. Warm temperatures, vibrations and carbon dioxide emitted from passing pets and people will trigger them to hatch. Once hatched, they use their well developed back legs to get around and jump onto passing animals.

The entire life cycle of the flea can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 12 months (sometimes longer), which is why it is important to observe and treat your pets for fleas all year round.

Problems caused by fleas

  • Scratching and biting. Fleas are irritating and cause most animals to scratch as they run through their coats (I bet you are feeling itchy right now, just reading this!)
  • Hair loss. Caused by scratching or over grooming
  • Skin infections. Caused by scratching or self trauma (biting)
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Some animals are hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction when bitten. It can take only one flea bite to cause problems for these animals.
  • Anaemia. Fleas feed on blood and a heavy infestation can have a big impact on young, elderly or ill animals
  • Tapeworms. Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. When pet’s groom themselves they can ingest infected fleas and become host to this parasite. If your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms
  • Myxomatosis. This is a serious disease in rabbits which can be spread by fleas.
  • Fleas biting people. Although humans cannot be permanent hosts for cat and dog fleas, it will not stop them biting us if the opportunity presents itself.
flea problems

Problems include scratching, hair loss, infection and tapeworms

How to identify fleas on your pet

  • Adult fleas are only a 1.5-3mm in length and can be tricky to spot if there are only a couple causing problems on your pet. Gently part the hair of your pet’s coat to look for fleas.
  • The best way to tell if your pet has fleas is by checking for flea dirt (flea poop). Wipe a damp piece of cotton wool through your pet’s coat, going against the direction of the hair. This will hopefully pick up some flea dirt if it is present. Because flea dirt consists mostly of blood, once it is transferred onto the moist cotton wool, it dissolves and turns a lighter shade of red.
  • Alternatively use a flea or fine toothed comb to brush through your pet’s coat and then transfer the brushings onto a piece of damp kitchen paper.

spotting-fleas copy

Preventing fleas is easier than a curing an established flea infestation

The degree to which you need to control fleas will vary from pet to pet. You might think that a pet kept entirely indoors would be at no risk of catching fleas. But don’t forget that it only takes a visit from one untreated animal, or a flea hitching a lift with you, to trigger an infestation in your home, so even housebound pets may require flea control. Pets that routinely go outdoors will likely come into contact with fleas from time to time, and require regular treatment.

        1. Use a prescription flea product regularly on your pet. 

  • Most flea treatments should be given every 4-6 weeks, depending on the type.
  • There are many different flea products available for your pet including spot-on liquids, tablets, injections and collars. Some products will kill fleas after they feed on your pet and some act like contraceptives and prevent flea eggs from developing. Speak to a veterinary nurse who can advise you on which type of product will work best for your pet.
  • Remember that what your vet can prescribe for your pet can be much more effective than the products you can buy over the counter in a pet shop or super market.
  • Your pet should also be weighed regularly to ensure the correct dose of treatment is being given.
  • Flea treatments are available for rabbits and ferrets, so please ask at your veterinary practice for advice on suitable products for these smaller pets.

        2. Use a household flea spray.

  • This will prevent the flea eggs from developing in the home environment.
  • Some of these sprays will provide protection for up to a year.
  • Don’t forget to spray the car if you have one.
  • Household flea spray can be highly toxic to birds and fish, so make sure bird cages are removed and fish tanks are covered before you spray the room they are kept in.
  • Never use it on your animals!

NEVER use a dog flea product on a cat. Dog flea products are highly toxic to cats and can cause neurological damage, seizures and even death.

If you would like any more information or advice regarding fleas or flea products please contact us on 01189 574488

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Advice on dog vaccinations

Advice on dog vaccinations

Yesterday we were asked an important question on our Facebook page

 “I’ve read a great deal about yearly booster injections for dogs not being necessary and the harmful have side effects. Do you offer any alternatives – titre tests, less frequent boosters etc?” 

and here is our answer. …

At Castle Vets we offer a thorough and comprehensive annual health check which is important for your pet in order to ensure he or she is in full and good health. During these annual health checks, vaccination is always discussed but not always given depending on the individual’s circumstances.

Providing that the dog has had its two initial (puppy) vaccinations and its first year booster, Castle Vets will only give the full booster vaccination for Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus every three years. We do recommend an annual booster for Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza, because studies have shown that immunity to these viruses does not last very long. This of course is always based on the individual dog’s needs and circumstances.

Why we recommend vaccinations

Vaccinations are one of the most important weapons in the fight against infectious diseases and many diseases have been virtually eliminated through vaccination control programs. Vaccination is necessary in order to protect our pets against life threatening disease and is the only proven method of doing this. In the past many animals became severely ill because of diseases which, thanks to vaccination, are now rarely seen. Although these diseases are less common, they have not been completely eradicated and if the number of pets protected by vaccines drops our pets could be at risk from an outbreak of infectious diseases (this is similar to the human measles outbreak that has been seen recently in the UK, because so many children were not vaccinated.) When you vaccinate your pet, not only are you protecting them from these diseases but you are preventing the spread of disease to other animals.

Remember that there are no specific cures for diseases such as Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus, and that these diseases are often fatal. In the case of Leptospirosis, treatment is available but can be extremely expensive and it may not always be successful.

It is worth noting that most boarding kennels require proof of annual vaccinations before admittance. Some pet insurance companies also insist on annual vaccinations, but more are now moving towards an annual health check which we fully endorse.

Blood testing antibody levels

It is possible to perform blood tests to check for the levels of antibodies in the blood, which will show us how well an animal is protected against a certain disease. Some owners request these tests so that they know whether or not to have their pet’s annual booster vaccination. Castle Vets are happy to do this for you if your wish, but because of the prices charged by the laboratories few owners take up this offer.

What about harmful side effects?

Serious side effects such as anaphylactic shock and vaccine associated fibrosarcoma are extremely rare. Very occasionally an animal may have a localised reaction such as, swelling or irritation at the site of vaccination, or they may have systemic affects such as fever, loss of appetite or lethargy. These symptoms can occur within minutes to 1 week after vaccination but usually disappear on their own.
The very small risk of a vaccine side effect is greatly outweighed by the benefit of protection against serious disease. This point has been endorsed by the Working Group set up by the government’s independent expert Veterinary Products Committee who undertook a thorough review of all UK licensed dog and cat vaccines. An independent and scientifically peer reviewed study carried out by the Animal Health Trust, has produced the clearest evidence yet that routine vaccination of dogs in the UK does not increase frequency of illness.

Homeopathic vaccines

There is no independent evidence to show that these vaccines work in protecting pets against disease. A few properly designed trials have been carried out using homeopathic vaccines and have shown no evidence of protection.

Further information

Do not be worried about asking your vet questions when you bring you pet to see us. If you have any concerns or would like to know more about vaccination or any aspect of your pet’s health and care please discuss this with one of our vets who will be happy to advise you.

Much of the above information has come from the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) and we would urge you to visit their website if you would like more information on vaccines.

You can also visit our WordPress site and see our previous article on the importance of vaccination and how vaccines work 


Dental Care For Dogs And Cats

ImageDid you know that by the age of 3 years, 80% of dogs and 70% cats have some sign of dental disease? If left untreated, dental disease can lead to premature loss of teeth and gum tissue. The bacteria in plaque can also spread to vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys leading to infection and further problems.

At Castle Vets in Reading we see a huge number of pets every month with some form of dental disease. Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition and affects both dogs and cats. Infection and inflammation of the gums is caused by the bacteria in plaque and calculus (tartar) on the teeth.

Common signs of periodontal disease include

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating well
  • Rubbing the face
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of coat condition
  • Bleeding gums (gingivitis)
  • Inflamed gums (gingivitis)
  • Receding gums
  • Plaque or staining visible on the teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Missing teeth
Some examples of dental disease

Some examples of dental disease


Prevention of dental disease is much better for your pet than treatment and it is important to remember that most dental disease is preventable; it is a good idea to start preventative health care as soon as possible in order to help avoid putting your pet through lengthy dental surgery when he or she is older. As with humans, daily brushing will keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy and help prevent bad breath.

  • Brushing can be started at any age but should always be introduced slowly.
  • Remember to reward your pet after brushing his or her teeth.
  • Always use a pet toothbrush because they are designed with the shape of your pet’s teeth in mind, so will do a much better job than a human toothbrush.
  • Always use pet toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be harmful to pets.

How to brush your pet’s teeth

Gradually build up the following stages over a period of 1-2 weeks until your pet is happy with the procedure. It is really important that you remember to reward your pet after each session to encourage acceptance.

Stage 1 – Without using a brush, gently stroke the outside of your pets cheeks with your finger and try lifting each lip slowly for about 30 seconds.

Stage 2 – Repeat stage 1 and also offer your pet a small amount of pet toothpaste on the end of your finger or a toothbrush and let them lick it off. (At Castle Vets we recommend C.E.T. Toothpaste and Logic Oral Hygiene Gel for tooth brushing)

Stage 3 – Repeat stage 2 but this time start to gently run your finger or toothbrush, with a small amount of toothpaste, over your pet’s teeth for about 30 seconds. Don’t press hard onto the teeth or gums, just use light forward, backward, up and down motions.

Stage 4 – Repeat stage 3 with the toothbrush, adding another 15 seconds to the time spent brushing. You can now start to add in circular motions over the teeth and gums with the toothbrush.

Stage 5 – When your pet is comfortable with tooth brushing, you can build up to 1-2 minutes a day on each side of the mouth. If your pet wont stay still for that long you could try doing one side in the morning and the other in the evening.

brushing teeth

Hints and tips for successful brushing

  • The daily brushing procedure should be and enjoyable experience for your pet. If you follow up each brushing session with a really good reward your pet is more likely to accept the procedure. For cats this could be a bit of tasty fish or a cat treat, for dogs you can use food treats or follow brushing with a walk or a play session.
  • Take things slowly with your pet when you initially start brushing. If your pet becomes uncomfortable with a stage, go back to the previous stage and try again. If your pet becomes distressed at the procedure, stop. If you continue or force your pet the whole procedure will just become more difficult.
  • Try to choose a time of the day when you can spend a few minutes of relaxed contact with your pet, rather than trying to fit it in when you are rushing about.
  • Find a position that is comfortable for your pets. With dogs you could try lying them on their side with their head on your lap so you have easy access. With cats sometimes less restraint is better; a cat that enjoys the taste of the toothpaste may just let you raise the lips and brush.
  • The small teeth at the front of your pet’s mouth (incisors) tend to be more sensitive than the rest of the teeth, so don’t start brushing these until your pet is comfortable with having the rest of their teeth brushed.
  • The outer surfaces of the upper teeth are the ones that tend to attract the most plaque, so these should be given the most attention – fortunately they are also the easiest to get to.
  • You don’t necessarily need to brush the insides of your pet’s teeth as your pet’s tongue and the toothpaste will do a fairly good job.
  • Make sure you include the gums when brushing teeth as the gum line is as important to keep clean as the teeth.
  • Some cats hate the idea of finger brushes. With these cats try a small piece of gauze over your finger, it should be abrasive enough to clean the teeth but will be far less invasive.
  • We recommend you use a finger brush or a piece of gauze for tooth brushing because you will be able to feel exactly where the brush is going and the pressure you are applying. Long handled toothbrushes can bump and bruise gums which will upset your pet. We don’t recommend the use of electric toothbrushes on your pet as they can be too harsh on the teeth and gums.
  • If your pet wont tolerate brushing at all, please come in and have a chat with one of our veterinary nurses about alternative methods. Nothing is as good as brushing but some of the alternatives are better than doing nothing at all.
Toothbrush types

There are many different types of pet toothbrush available for pets. Ask one of our veterinary nurses for advice on the most suitable one for your pet.

Think about what you feed your pet

You pet’s diet can play a major role in the development of plaque and calculus. Soft or sticky foods should be avoided, especially if you cannot brush your pet’s teeth. Commercial dry pet foods are not enough, simply because the biscuit just crumbles when the animal chews so they do nothing to clean the teeth. A specially formulated ‘dental’ diet called Hills t/d is available at Castle Vets. Hills t/d has a special fibre matrix structure that grips the tooth all the way to the gum-line when the pet bites into it. These fibres scrub tooth surfaces to remove bacteria-laden plaque as the pet chews. The biscuit size is also larger than most pet foods to encourage chewing instead of just swallowing the biscuits.

Hills td diet

Alternatives to brushing

Although nothing beats brushing, we understand that some pets will just not tolerate it. Fortunately there are a few of other ways that you can help your pet including dental gels and mouth washes, special diets and dental chews (dental chews can contain a lot of calories, so your pet’s usual food should be reduced accordingly).

Logic oral hygiene gel is a medicated dental gel that helps prevent the formation of dental plaque and fights bad breath. The multi-enzyme system in Logic Oral Hygeine Gel supplements the animal’s own defence mechanism to help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth. The gel also contains a surfactant which ensures that the active ingredients remain in contact with the teeth and gums and mild abrasives that help break down existing plaque. Logic is ideally used as a tooth paste with brushing but, in the case of a pet that won’t accept brushing, it will still be beneficial due to the abrasive and enzymatic properties.

C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Rinse is a dental mouthwash and breath freshener for cats and dogs. It provides antibacterial action and plaque prevention and is effective in helping maintain oral health when used daily with or without brushing.

ProDen Plaque Off is a supplement that can be added to the pet’s food once daily. When the unique agents of Plaque Off reach the saliva they effectively prevent oral bacteria from producing plaque and tartar. Existing tartar becomes porous and loosens by itself or is easily removed through normal brushing of the teeth. Improvements are normally seen within 5-8 weeks. Plaque Off is also made from 100% natural ingredients. (Plaque Off may not be suitable for use in animals with hyperthyroidism or other diseases due to the iodine content).

Alternatives to toothbrushing copy

Just a few of the brushing alternatives available for cats and dogs.
If your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing, ask your veterinary nurse which alternative product may help you keep your pet’s teeth clean.

Dental Chews: Chewing produces saliva, which can help protect your pet’s teeth and some types of dental treats can significantly reduce tarter build-up and plaque. Rawhide chews, dental chews, dental biscuits and chew toys are all helpful as long as they encourage sustained chewing. Watch out for the calorie content of these products though as they can range from 30 kcal to 200 kcal per product, so your pet’s normal food should be reduced accordingly. You should also consider the size of the chew as well; if your pet can swallow it in one bite, it’s not really going to help keep his or her teeth clean.

There is a huge range of dental chews available for cats and dogs. But not all of them will work for your pet

There is a huge range of dental chews and toys available for cats and dogs

We hope you enjoyed this article on dental care.

Please make a free appointment to see one of our veterinary nurses about your pet’s dental health. The veterinary nurse nurse will give your pet a dental check and advise you on how to keep your pet’s teeth and gums in tip top condition. We also have some free step by step guides to brushing your pet’s teeth available at the practice or on our website.

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