Summertime Pet Care, Health Checks and Holidays


With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather. 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.

To help keep your pet cool
  • Provide fresh water at all times. It is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary. 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 if he or she wants too
  • Move cages and runs away from windows and/or direct sunlight
  • Place a wet towel on the ground for them to lie on if there are no cool tiles available
  • Use a fan but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow and can’t chew the cable
  • Exercise dogs early in the morning and late in the evening when it is slightly cooler
  • Pets with white ears and pink noses can suffer with sunburn so apply a pet sun block to these areas
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car (see our heatstroke article)
  • Some dogs like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised
Summertime Hazards

Barbecues are on the agenda for a lot of households, but while they are fin for us they are a scavenging hazard for pets! 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 is another 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 can and do get affected too.  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 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

Summer dangers
Holidays and Pets

With the summer holidays upon us once again, you may already have your holiday arranged, but are your pets ready for that “restful” break you are planning? We all love our holidays because they are a break from our normal daily routines, but it can be a very stressful time for our pets who may find a change to their normal routine very unsettling and this may present itself as behavioural changes and a loss of appetite.

Your pet will deal with their change in routine far better if they are fit and healthy. A veterinary check beforehand can be helpful in spotting any problems that may arise whilst you are away, it is also a great idea to let your veterinary practice know that you will be on holiday in case they need to see your pet in your absence or discuss your pets clinical notes with another vet. If your pet needs to take regular medication you will need to make sure that you have enough to last.

Kennels and Catteries

If your pet will be staying at a kennel or cattery, make sure that you arrange to visit it beforehand; You should be able to inspect it for cleanliness and see how happy the other boarders are. You will also be able to discuss the individual care your pet will receive and what their daily routine will be.

Many pets don’t mind going into kennels and there has been recent research that suggests some dogs find it really exciting. Some pets, however, really do not like the extreme change and sometimes noisy environment of a boarding kennel or cattery and can be very distressed by the whole experience.  Before you leave, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date as they will not be allowed to stay in kennels if they are not, it is also a good idea to treat your pet for fleas before they go in to kennels.

Kennels and cattery

Pet Sitters

Some pets cope much better if they are looked after in their home environment and many companies now offer pet sitting services. Someone will either pop in to see your pet once or twice daily or move into your home until you get back to provide 24 hour care. these services are becoming more and more popular with pet owners and are a great alternative to the stressful kennel environment.

Dog sitters

Another option for dogs is that they go and stay in someone’s home until you get back from your holiday. After a chat with you about your dog’s requirements and favourite things a host or carer takes your dog into their home for the duration of your holiday.

Pet Sitter

Whichever type of care your choose for your pet, make sure that you let your veterinary practice know how long you will be away for and that you give permission for someone else to authorise treatment for your pet in case they cannot get hold of you in an emergency.

Taking your pet with you 

If you are lucky enough to be taking your pet on holiday, remember to take food, toys, bedding and insurance details with you. Ensure your dog or cat  is wearing an id tag with your contact details on it at all times, in case he or she gets lost,(or update your pet’s id chip details to your holiday address and contact number. It is also a very good idea to know where the local veterinary practice is and their phone number in case of emergencies.

Dog owners should make sure that they know of any local rules and regulations regarding where and how dogs can be walked – this is especially important on beaches and protected areas.

Remember not to leave your pet alone in a caravan, especially on a hot and sunny day as they will get far too hot.


For more advice or an appointment please contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488 or visit our website


Kidney Disease and Renal Failure

Castle Vets No Text PHCKidney disease and renal failure are general terms used to describe problems with the kidneys and their ability to function properly. Kidney disease is one of the most common problems we see in pets at Castle Vets in Reading.

The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the normal composition of the blood by filtering waste products from the body such as urea, ammonia, drugs and toxic substances. They also keep the volume of water in the body constant, help regulate blood pressure, maintain calcium levels and produce a hormone that encourages red blood cell production. The kidneys filter waste through thousands of tubes known as nephrons; if these become damaged it makes it more difficult for the kidneys to filter out the toxins from the blood stream which will make the pet feel very unwell and cause symptoms such as

  • Increased thirstKidney function
  • Changes to urination – increased, decreased or toileting in the house
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hunched position (pain)
  • Poor coat

If your pet is showing any of these signs then you should have him or her checked by a vet as soon as possible; it is also a great help if you can get a fresh urine sample from your pet, as this simple and inexpensive test can give your vet information about how well the kidneys are working.

Common causes of kidney disease

One of the most common reasons for kidney disease and deterioration is the age of the animal, but kidney disease may also happen very suddenly (acute kidney failure), depending on what has caused it to happen.

Chronic kidney disease: A loss of kidney function that occurs over time, that may be caused by old age and general wear and tear, disease causing deterioration, or a previous problem of acute renal failure.

Acute kidney disease or failure: The function of the kidneys is affected very suddenly and may be caused by an infection, heatstroke, snake or insect bites and the ingestion of toxic substances such as raisins, lilies or antifreeze.

Hereditary/Congenital Problems: These are present at birth, but may not always be discovered until the animal is older. Examples of these problems include,

  • Renal dysplasia – One or both kidneys are small in size and do not mature or function properly.
  • Polycystic kidneys – The kidneys are bigger than normal and develop cysts inside them

Infections: Bacteria entering the blood streams via infections or from dental disease, can cause problems in many organs including the kidneys

Stress on the kidneys: This is usually as a result of other illnesses or problems such as hyperthyroidism, heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, urinary tract problems, cancer and trauma such as a road traffic accident or kick.

How kidney disease is diagnosed

Examination: The vet will give the animal a thorough examination, taking into account any of the clinical signs and symptoms listed above.

Urinalysis: This relatively inexpensive test can give the vet an idea of how well the kidneys are functioning and indicate a problem, but is not sufficient in itself to diagnose kidney disease.

Blood Test: This can give the vet a really good idea of how well the kidneys are functioning. Blood tests are repeated frequently in animals with kidney problems so that the vet can monitor for decrease of function.

Ultrasound and/or X-ray: The vet will be able to look at the size and shape of the kidneys on both X-ray and ultrasound. Ultrasound may also be used to see the density of the kidney and to guide a needle for a biopsy of the kidney.

Routine treatment of kidney disease

Fluid Therapy: An animal with kidney damage or failure can’t concentrate their urine, which means that too much fluid is passed out of the body. Initially the animal may need to stay at the practice to be given extra fluids via an intravenous (into the vein) drip over a couple of days, in order to rehydrate them and also so that the vet can monitor urination. Once the animal is more stable he or she may just require fluid boluses subcutaneously (under the skin) on a regular basis; at Castle Vets we like to teach pet owners how to do this, so that the animal is able to stay in the comfort of their own home when receiving treatment (If this is not possible then it can be done during a nurse consultation instead).

Veterinary Diet Foods: These are often recommended by the vet because they are specially designed to aid renal function. They are often lower in protein, phosphorus and salt than regular pet foods, which reduces the stress on the kidneys and they contain extra fatty acids to help combat the increased body acidity that may occur with kidney problems.

Medications: Your vet will recommend specific medications to help with kidney function and to treat underlying infections and side effects such as nausea and vomiting; they may also prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to replace what is being lost by the body. It is vitally important that you discuss any ‘over the counter’ supplements that you want to give your pet with your vet as some may not be suitable at all and may even cause more damage.

Regular Monitoring: your vet will ask to see your pet on a fairly regular basis in order to monitor your pet’s condition and make adjustments as necessary to fluid therapy, diet and medications. Blood tests and blood pressure monitoring and weight checks will be necessary to ensure that your pet is doing well on the prescribed treatments.

Other possible treatments for kidney disease may include

Stem Cell Therapy – This is a fairly new therapy to the UK, although it has been available in other countries for a few years. The idea is that the adult stem cells help body organs to regenerate and repair. The procedure involves giving a general anaesthetic to the patient in order for the vet to harvest fat from the abdomen; this fat is then sent to the laboratory where the stem cells are isolated, concentrated and then returned to the veterinary practice. The stem cell therapy is then administered to the patient intravenously. We have recently started using stem cell therapy for one of our feline patients at Castle Vets.

Dialysis – This is process that cleanses the blood of toxins and is commonly used in human patients. The dialysis machine filters the blood and rids the body of harmful waste, extra salt, and water. Dialysis is an intensive and expensive procedure that is not widely available in the UK at the moment, although some veterinary hospitals may be able to provide treatment.

Kidney transplants – This is a very expensive procedure that has been shown to be more successful in cats than dogs. Although it may extend the life of the animal for up to 3 years, little more than half of the cats that have the transplant survive for 6 months after surgery. There is also a big question about whether it is and ethically acceptable procedure because the donor and recipient animals are unable to give consent. Kidney transplant treatment is not currently available in the UK.

The outlook for a pet with renal disease

Advances in veterinary medicine and treatments mean that there is now a lot that vets can do to help a pet with kidney disease to feel better and means that many pets with chronic kidney disease go on to live for several more years after their initial diagnosis, of course this may also depend on the cause and severity of the kidney damage before diagnosis. With early and intensive treatment, some forms of acute renal failure may even be reversible.

If you would like to book your pet in for a health check or have any concerns about his or her health, please contact us on 01189 574488 or visit our website

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Why worming is important

Parasites are not something we really like to think about, but as responsible owners we need to safeguard our pets, and our families against them. A heavy burden of worms can cause suffering and illness in our pets, so it is very important that we prevent this. Although it is rare, some types of worms also pose a risk to human health if the eggs or larvae are ingested. .

There are two main types of worms affecting dogs and cats 


Dipylidium Caninum (the flea tapeworm)
  • These are long, flat worms with segmented bodies that attach to the wall of the small intestine and absorb nutrients as they flow past.
  • Once tapeworms mature, they shed their segments which pass out in the faeces and look like tiny, mobile, grains of rice.
  • The segments dry up in the environment and then break open to release tiny tapeworm eggs.
  • The eggs are then eaten by flea larvae in the environment and and they continue part of their lifecycle in this host animal.
  • If a dog or cat accidentally swallows a flea when grooming it will become infected with tapeworms again.
dipylidium Caninum Lifecycle

It is very important to regularly treat your pet for fleas to help prevent tapeworm infestation.

Taenia species
  • These tapeworms need intermediate hosts such as  rabbits, rodents and other animals that may be prey for our dogs and cats.
  • The prey species may ingest the tapeworm eggs from the environment and the tapeworm larvae then starts to develop inside its immediate host.
  • Once the dog or cat has ingested it’s prey, the tapeworm latches on to the wall of the intestine and continues it’s life cycle in much the same way as the flea tapeworm.


Toxocara Cati & Toxocara Canis
  • These worms generally look a lot like small noodles or spaghetti strands and live in the intestine
  • Adult roundworms mature, mate and then shed lots of tiny eggs which pass out in the faeces.
  • The eggs have a very tough shell and can remain in the environment for a long time.
  • Animals ingest the eggs through normal grooming or eating and infected host animal.
  • Roundworms can also be passed from mother to puppies or kittens during pregnancy or while nursing.
  • When the eggs reach the animals intestines they hatch and the juvenile worm then burrows out of the intestines.
  • If the host is not a dog or a cat then the worm encysts (or encloses) itself into other body tissues and waits until the host is eaten by a dog or a cat.
  • If the host is a dog or a cat, that has either ingested the worm eggs or has ingested a host animal, the juvenile worms migrate through the body until they reach the lungs; here they are coughed up and then swallowed so that they end up in the intestine again.
  • The worms mature in the intestines and eventually produce eggs which are passed out in the dog or cat faeces to begin the life cycle again.

Picture from CDC Website

Toxascaris Leonina
  • These Roundworms do not migrate around the body in the same way as the Toxocara species do. The second stage larvae mature in the intestine over a period of  2 to 3 months before they start producing eggs again.

Other worm types 

  • These worms mainly affect dogs in the UK and rarely cats.
  • In addition to living in the animal’s small intestine, the hookworm larvae can penetrate skin (usually the feet) and cause infection.
  • Hookworms are thought to infect up to 68% of the fox population.
  • These worms live in the dog’s large intestine. (they don’t affect cats)
  • Dog’s become infected by ingesting eggs in the environment that have been passed in faeces of infected dogs.
  • These worms are not found in the UK, but they do pose a big risk for animals travelling abroad from the UK.
  • They are transmitted by mosquitoes and live in the pulmonary arteries and heart of infected dogs and cats.
  • Lungworms live in the pulmonary arteries and an infestation can be fatal
  • They are transmitted to dogs and cats that eat infected slugs, snails and frogs
  • For more information on Lungworm please see the links below


Signs that your pet may have worms

  • Small white segments (roughly the size of a grain of rice) may be seen around your pet’s bottom area or in the faeces
  • Your pet may cough up / vomit Roundworms if he or she has a heavy infestation
  • Itchy bottoms may cause them to ‘Scoot’ along the groundWorms
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of coat condition
  • Pot belly – usually only seen in puppies or kittens
  • Fleas

You may not realise you pet has worms at all because not all pets show these signs. Remember, prevention is easier than cure.

The risk to humans

Very occasionally, worms can infect humans and cause problems if the larvae migrate and encyst in organs or they reach the eye and cause blindness. Children having a higher risk of infection as they are often close to pets and play in outdoor areas where parasites may have been deposited.

Kids and pets

Keep your pet and the environment worm free

  • Use a veterinary recommended wormer. Prescription worming products are usually more effective than over the counter products. You should worm your pet at least 4 times a year, but more frequently if you pet hunts, likes to eat dead animals,  or likes to eat poo.
  • Use a veterinary recommended flea treatment. Prescription flea treatments are usually more effective than over the counter products. Spot on treatments and tablets are usually given monthly and some veterinary recommended flea collars last for up to 8 months . Make sure you use a house-hold spray yearly to kill any flea eggs or larvae in the home environment.
  • Scoop the poop;  This is important both on walks and in your on garden – it is also against the law to leave  your dog’s faeces in public places. Cat litter trays/toileting areas should be scooped out daily and properly cleaned at least once a week.
  • Encourage children to wash their hands, especially after stroking pets and playing outside.
  • Speak to your veterinary nurse. He or she can advise you on the safest and most effective parasite treatments for your pet as well as how often you need to give them.

Useful Links 

For more information on the Flea lifecycle

For more information on Lungworm

Bayer Animal Health parasite information – Its A Jungle Out There


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Keeping Ears Healthy

Ears are very sensitive organs that are not only necessary for hearing, but are also responsible for maintaining balance and in some animals they play a very important part in communication.

Ear  problems can be accompanied by a number of symptoms; if you see anything out of the ordinary you should contact your vet as soon as possible, because if the cause of the problem is not found and treated quickly there is a risk of secondary complications, including ruptured eardrums and middle-ear infections.

Common signs of ear problems areear diagram
  •  Head shaking
  • Scratching or rubbing the ears
  • Redness of the flap/pinna and also the ear canal
  • Crusty buildups on the ear flap or in the canal
  • Excessive wax – usually thick and brown in colour
  • Deafness
  • Discharge from the ear canal
  • Yeasty or unusual smell
  • Swelling up of the ear flap (aural haematoma)

If your pet is showing any of the above signs it is a good idea to have their ears checked by a vet as soon as possible

Common causes of ear problems

Ear problems in pets can occur for a variety of reasons, but some of the most commonly seen problems are caused by:

  • Excessive wax production: Some animals, like humans,  produce too much ear wax which causes discomfort and pain. Once your vet has checked that the problem is just excessive wax production, you may be advised to clean your pet’s ears a few times a week with a special pet ear cleaner.
  • Poor Air Circulation: Dogs with long or hairy ears can be prone to lots of ear problems. The hair on the inner ear flap can be clipped short and the hair inside the ear canal can be plucked out by yourself, or a dog groomer, to allow more air to circulate; however, care needs to be taken to avoid making the ear canals sore.
  • Ear Mites: These tiny little mites live in the pet’s ears and are fairly common, although we tend to see them more in younger animals. Signs of ear mite infestation include scratching and dark reddish-brown or wax throughout the ear canal which can have a similar appearance to coffee grounds.
  • Grass Seeds: These are commonly seen in pets and can be a real nuisance.  The seeds get lodged in the pet’s ear and can gradually work their way down the ear canal and further in some cases; they can casue a lot of discomfort and pain to the pet and need to be removed quickly  (see our Grass Seed article for more information)
  • Allergies: Skin allergies in pets will often include the ears. Pets can be allergic to many things but the most common are dust mites, storage mites, grasses, trees and dietary. Fortunately there is a lot your vet can do to relieve allergic symptoms in your pet, including special medications and immunotherapy vaccines.
  • Infections: Bacterial and fungal ear infections can happen for many different reasons. Bacteria and fungus thrive in warm, moist environments like ear canals and are often seen in pets who have very hairy ears, narrow ear canals and pets that swim a lot.
  • Aural Haematoma: Sometimes the ear flap is damaged and this allows the flap to fill up with blood. This is usually the result of ear scratching or head shaking because of an ear problem, rather than being the cause itself. Aural haematomas can be very painful and need immediate veterinary attention.
 Cleaning your pet’s ears

It is a good idea to check your pet’s ears every couple of days to ensure they are free from wax and dirt. If necessary you can clean his or her ears using pet ear wipes or a pet ear cleaner and cotton wool – never put cotton buds into your pet’s ears!

Get your ear cleaning equipment ready; you will need

  • Pet ear cleaner
  • Cotton wool balls/pads or a soft cloth (muslin cloth used for babies works well)
  • Cotton buds (if necessary)
  • Tasty pet treats to reward your pet afterwards.
  • Small towel
  1. Have someone else gently restrain your pet if necessary.
  2. Gently hold your pets ear flap with one hand (you can fold ear flaps back on long eared dogs).
  3. Squeeze a few drops of ear cleaner into the ear canal.
  4. Gently massage the base of the ear canal for a minute or so  (it is normal to hear a squelching noise from the liquid).
  5. Using a small ball of cotton wool or a piece of cloth wrapped around your finger, wipe any wax away from the parts of the ear you can see. You can add a few more drops of cleaner to the cotton wool or cloth if necessary.
  6. You can use a cotton bud to clean wax out of any crevices on the ear flap but NEVER push a cotton bud into the ear canal as not only do you risk loosing the end of your cotton bud down there, but you may also  impact any wax at the bottom of the canal and/or damage the ear drum.
  7. Let your pet shake his or her head to get rid of any excess cleaner and wax in the canal; you may want to do this outside or you can have a towel up next to your pet’s head to catch anything that flys out!.
  8. Reward your pet with lots of yummy treats or a game.
  9. Clean the other ear.

If you would like to make a free appointment with one of our veterinary nurses, they will be happy to demonstrate ear cleaning for you and talk to you about appropriate ear cleaning solutions.

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