When it is time to say goodbye – Pet Euthanasia

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Euthanasia, or “putting a pet to sleep”, is one of the hardest decisions we ever have to make as pet owners. In the seemingly short time that they spend in our lives our pets become much loved and cherished companions; they are part of our family and for some people they are a best friend, so saying goodbye is always going to be a really hard thing to do.
Most of us fear the day when our pets just cannot go on any longer and we hope that when they do die, they will pass away peacefully in their sleep, in their own bed and in their own home, but sadly for many of us this does not happen and, in these cases, euthanasia is the kindest thing that we can do for our pet to prevent unnecessary suffering and pain.

When Is The Right Time?

Every pet and owner and situation is different. There is no hard and fast rule about when a pet may need to be euthanased because each circumstance is individual. The most important fact to take into consideration is your pet’s quality of life – is it good or not?  Ask yourself

  • Can my pet walk to the food/water bowl, to the litter tray or out into the garden without pain and/or lots of assistance?
  • Can my pet eat and drink normally on his or her own?
  • Can my pet pass urine and faeces normally?
  • Is my pet in pain or does he or she have a debilitating condition that is not going to get better?
  • Can I cope with my pet’s problems and needs?

Many of us just don’t know when to make the decision or we just can’t accept that it is time, especially when we have a pet that goes back and forth between having really bad, painful days where they look depressed and can’t get around, to having relatively OK and happy days. To help you be objective

  • Ask your vet for advice about your pet’s health, condition and pain levels; although he or she cannot make the decision for you, they can advise you of how much pain your pet is in and what, if anything, can be done.
  • Sometimes we are too close to our pets to see or admit to what is really going on. Get advice from a relative or friend who is not as emotionally involved, they can help make things clearer.
  • Keep a daily diary about your pet as it will help to show you how many good days and bad days your pet is having. Examples of things to keep a note of include
  1. Behaviour – happy / wagging tail / grumpy / snappy / lethargic/slept all day
  2. Eating – wolfed down the lot & asked for more / ate nothing / ate a bit when hand fed
  3. Drinking – increased / decreased / drank nothing / drank milk
  4. Pain levels – good / bad / can hardly move / ran down the garden
  5. Mobility – slow / managed a short walk / went in garden for 10 mins / couldn’t get up without assistance / fell over/ couldn’t get upstairs / walked fine once helped up

If the quality of life for your pet is not acceptable and your vet is unable to help with treatment or medication, then it may be time for you to make your decision.

You can make an appointment with a vet to give your pet a check over and discuss your options or you can make an appointment with a veterinary nurse for a chat in person or over the phone and they can talk everything through with you, before you come in.

cat

The final days

With the exception of a few sudden injuries and acute conditions, for most pet owners the decision to euthanase is not a sudden one. When you have made the difficult decision you will need to think about final arrangements.

You may find it a nice idea to give your pet a final few days of being spoilt rotten with favourite foods, or by taking them somewhere they and you have really enjoyed in the past. It is also an opportunity for any family members and close friends to come to terms and say their goodbyes. Some owners also like to take a nice photo of the pet on his or her own or with the family, keep a lock of their pet’s hair, or even make a paw print or cast to remember their pet by.

Where Can Euthanasia Be Carried Out?

It is possible for a vet and nurse to visit your pet at home and many owners prefer this because their pet is in his or her home environment. However, this does not suit everyone and is not a suitable option for every pet. A home visit will need to be arranged in advance and will usually be late morning or early afternoon on a weekday.

Euthanasia is most commonly carried out at the veterinary surgery. At Castle Vets you are welcome to use our Quiet Room, which is a non-clinical environment, so can be much less stressful for your pet. We also make sure that you are not rushed and can spend as much time as you wish with your pet after euthanasia is carried out.

What Happens During Euthanasia?

It is possible to say your goodbyes and leave your pet with us prior to the procedure being performed, so please do not feel embarrassed or guilty if you don’t feel able to stay with your pet. However, should you wish to remain with your pet, as many owners do, it is important that you know what to expect.

Euthanasia is usually performed by the injection of a concentrated anaesthetic liquid into a vein in the pet’s front leg. In most cases it is performed via a needle and syringe and we encourage you to stroke and talk to your pet throughout. If you would prefer to hold and cuddle your pet, if there a few family members present (especially children) or if your pet is anxious, we can place a catheter into the vein prior to the procedure and in this case a nurse may take your pet to another area to do this. It is then usually possible for you to continue to hold, cuddle and talk to your pet during their last moments.

In rare cases, a pet may have very low blood pressure and it may not be possible for the vet to raise a leg vein for injection, in this case the injection may be given directly into a kidney. This does not cause pain to your pet, but may be distressing to witness if you are not forewarned.

With very small mammals such as birds and rodents it is just not possible to give an injection into a vein and in these cases the pet is often given an anaesthetic gas until they fall asleep and then we may give the final injection into their heart. They do not feel this injection because they are under an anaesthetic.

Once the injection has been given, your pet will rapidly lose consciousness, stop breathing, and finally his or her heart will stop. This whole process usually takes a few seconds, but in older pets with poor blood pressure and circulation the heart may continue beating for a few minutes.
Although your pet may feel the initial needle scratch (as with receiving any injection), the injection itself is not painful. Some pets may also get distressed because they are being held.

After euthanasia muscles and limbs may tremble and your pet may gasp a few times, which are reflex actions and not signs of life; this is perfectly normal but can be upsetting to see. Your pet’s eyes will remain open after death and sometimes the bowel and bladder will empty. After the vet has examined your pet and confirmed his or her death, you will be able to stay with your pet and say your goodbyes if you want to, for as long as you need to.

Please don’t feel embarrassed to show your emotions, everyone at the surgery understands exactly what you are going through.

What Happens To My Pet Afterwards?

It is a good idea to have a think in advance about what you would like to happen once to your pet after he or she has passed away. If you can let the veterinary practice know this when you make the appointment, it can take away the need to make more difficult decisions at the time of euthanasia when you are going to be very emotional. If you cannot bring yourself to make your decision in advance do not worry; if you need a day or two to decide we can keep your pet safe for you while you decide on final arrangements.

Private/Individual Cremation
This is by far the most popular choice for many pet owners as it means that your pet will be cremated and their ashes will be returned to you in a way of your choosing; examples include a casket or an urn to keep or bury, a pouch or container so that you can scatter your pets ashes at home or in a favourite place or a pretty memorial stone, wooden carving or photo frame containing your pets ashes.
You veterinary practice will be able to recommend a local pet cremation company for you. At Castle Vets we recommend Dignity and CPC pet crematoriums because they offer a wide variety of options for pet owners at this difficult time. You can take your pet to the crematorium yourself if you want to and you can personalise all of their available options to whatever it is that you want, to help you remember a special pet in your own way.
Routine Cremation
Your pet will be cremated alongside other pets and no ashes will be returned. Rest assured that your pet will still be treated with the same dignity and respect as he or she would be if having an individual cremation.
Home Burial
This option is private, personal and less expensive than other alternatives; however, you must own the property and give thought to what might happen if you ever move away. Your pet’s grave will need to be at least 3-4 feet deep and away from any watercourse for health reasons. You may not be able to bury your pet at home if he or she died of a disease or illness that could be transmitted to people or other animals.
Burial at a Pet Cemetery
There are only a few places in the UK where it is possible to bury your pet at an official Pet Cemetery, you could contact the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria to find out where these places are.

It is entirely up to you which option you choose for your pet, so do what feels right for you and your family. Whichever option you decide on, you can be assured that the staff at Castle Vets and the cremation service providers will treat your pet with the utmost dignity and respect whilst they are in our care.

Options

There are many options available, but do what feels best for you.

Coping With The Loss Of A Pet

When a pet dies, it is a very difficult time for all the family, because of the strong bond that develops between people and animals as they interact with each other. The loss of a much-loved pet can be a very traumatic experience and it is natural to encounter a variety of emotions depending on how strong a bond you had and what your pet meant to you; you may experience emotions ranging from disbelief and denial to despair, anger and very often guilt, before you get to acceptance and the ability to grieve properly. Should you wish to talk to someone at any stage we can offer support by phone or in person. Alternatively, the Pet Bereavement Support Service has set up a telephone help line to help you through this difficult time.

Helping Children Cope With Pet Euthanasia

The relationship between children and their pets is unique and the loss of a pet can be very traumatic to a child. It can be very hard for parents to deal properly with their child’s emotions, especially if they are feeling the same way about a much loved pet. Children need to know that it is ok to feel sad and that grief is a normal and necessary process, they may also need to be told that the pet did not die because of what they did or did not do.

Be open and honest – If your pet is ill or elderly and euthanasia is necessary or death is imminent, tell your children early on so they will hear it first from you and not from someone else. If possible (and age appropriate) involve your children in the discussion about your pet’s health and decision to euthanase.

Offer explanations and answer questions – you may need to explain what dead means for example ‘The body stops working completely’ and why euthanasia is necessary for example ‘Barney is in a lot of pain and his body has stopped working properly, there is nothing anyone can do to make him get better and feel well’

Avoid using substitute terms – children can be easily confused by the terms we use to soften things, such as

  • ‘Put to sleep’ – this could imply that the pet will wake up at some point or it may even trigger problems of sleep anxiety.
  • ‘Passed away’ and ‘gone to another/better place’ – could imply that the pet has gone on a trip and may return.
  • ‘Left us’ – could imply that the pet didn’t want to be with the family/child any more.
Should A Child Witness Euthanasia Of A Pet?

Only you as a parent can decide if this is appropriate for your particular child. Children do not necessarily need to be there for the actual procedure (it could lead to injection phobias in very young or sensitive children), but seeing their pet afterwards can help with closure. If you chose to let your child witness the procedure it will be important that you talk to them about exactly what will happen. Please also consider the effect it will have on your pet as a very upset child could distress your pet during the procedure.

The bond between a child and their pet can be very strong

Will Other Pets In The Household Grieve?

Unfortunately our pets cannot really tell us how they feel and we can only judge their mood by their behaviour, which is something we may overlook if we are grieving ourselves.
There is much debate in the animal world about how much emotion pets show and perceive, but regardless of this it is well documented that the sudden loss of a companion of the same species can be difficult and cause some behavioural changes in remaining pets, it is also possible that the pets are perhaps picking up on the emotions of their owners.

You may notice that your pet is not as keen on interacting and hides or wants to be alone (particularly in cats). A decrease in appetite, which can lead to weight loss may also occur. Some dogs may be restless or more vocal and may even seem like they are searching for their lost friend. Don’t be alarmed if you notice the complete opposite of these things, such as the remaining pet suddenly seeming to have a new lease of life, being happier and more outgoing than before; this may be because the remaining pet is getting more one-to-one time with you or it is often seen in cats when the cat that has died was at the top of the pecking order.

To help your pet cope you can try to increase the time spent and activities you do together. This can be play time, walks, training sessions or grooming. You can also use pet pheromone diffusers such as Feliway for Cats or Adaptil for dogs as it will help them to feel more secure in the home.

Should You Let Your Pet See His Or Her Companion After Death?
There is no evidence to suggest it is either good or bad for the remaining pet, so we will leave it up to you to decide. If you have your pet euthanased at home, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t let the other pets see, sniff and spend some time with your pet after death. However, if the procedure takes place at the veterinary surgery this may not be practical at all, especially for cats as it may distress the remaining cat further to have to visit the practice, again the decision is yours. The staff at Castle Vets are happy to arrange this with you if you would like your pets to visit after the procedure.
Should I get another companion for my pet?
Whether to get another pet to ‘fill the void’ is a difficult decision and should be thought through carefully. Just like people, pets will deal with their loss in their own way and will adjust in time. Dogs can still be socialised in the park and on walks so that they are not missing out on canine companionship. The many cats may actually be better off without a new companion, as it can take a lot of time and effort for them to adjust to a new cat in the household and you will may find that they will never get on as well with the new addition. The exception to the rule is that Rabbits and Guinea Pigs do have a need for companions of their own species, so in these cases it is often best to find them a new friend, especially if they live outside.

If you do decide to introduce a new pet to the household, do it gradually and carefully over a period of a few weeks to ensure they get on well together. You can always contact us for advice on introducing a new pet.

rabbit friends

Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and some other mammals need the company of others of the same species.

Remembering Your Pet

Some owners like to plan a memorial for the pet and this may be a particularly good idea if you have children as it can provide them with an opportunity to say goodbye in their own way. Some nice ideas for pet memorials include

  • Placing a memorial stone in the garden
  • Visiting a favourite place that was special to you and your pet
  • Scattering your pet’s ashes in a favourite place.
  • Planting a tree or scattering wild flower seeds over a pet’s grave or just as a memory
  • Keeping a picture of your pet
  • Lighting a candle to remember them
  • Children may like to draw or make pictures of their pet or keep a photo of them with their pet
  • Many owners like to keep their pet’s collar, they may keep it somewhere safe or pass it on to their next pet.

Do what you feel is right for you and your family and don’t worry about what anybody else says or thinks.

Useful Resources

The Blue Cross pet bereavement support line 
Dignity Pet Crematorium
CPC Pet Crematorium
Books and Poetry

Rainbowbridge poem

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Kidney Disease & 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.

urinalysis-large
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. Most veterinary practices could, in theory, provide stem cell therapy to feline patients, however, it is not a commonly used treatment due to the invasive procedure and the very high cost of the treatment.

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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Eye Health

Your pet’s eyes function in the same way that your own do and are made up of the same components including

  • Cornea, the transparent outer covering of the eye
  • Pupil, the circular membrane in the center of the eye that lets light from the environment enter the eye
  • Iris, the pigmented membrane that surrounds the pupil and contracts or expands to regulate the amount of light that can enter the eye
  • Lens, a transparent structure that adjusts its shape as needed to focus
  • Retina, a sensitive membrane that lines the interior surface of the eyeball. The retina receives the focused light impulses that have entered through the lens and then sends them to the brain,as visual information
  • Optic nerve, this sends signals to the brain
Picture Courtesy Of the Hills Atlas Of Veterinary Anatomy

Picture Courtesy Of the Hill’s Atlas Of Veterinary Anatomy

Keeping Eyes Clean

Cleaning away any discharges or tear-staining from around the eye area may be necessary for your pet, especially if your pet is short-nosed (brachycephalic breed), has slightly protruding eyes, has light coloured fur that is prone to tear staining or has an eye infection or problem.

  1. Wash your hands so that you do not introduce any dirt or infection.
  2. Care should always be taken not to touch or contaminate the surface of the eye.
  3. We recommend that you use either a sterile solution of boiled and then cooled water on some cotton wool pads or pet eye wipes (available from most pet stores).
  4. Always wipe from the inner corner of the eye towards the back of the head or down and away from the eye, using a different side/piece of the cleaning pad each time you wipe.
  5. Make sure you always use a separate piece of cotton wool or eye wipe, for each eye to prevent cross-contamination if an infection is present.
  6. You may need to ‘soak’ any particularly stubborn eye gunk to make it easier to wipe away.  Just gently hold your damp cotton wool pad or eye wipe onto the area.
  7. If there are just tiny bits of gunk/sleep at the corners of the eye – you can wash your hands and then just use a finger or your thumb to remove/wipe this away easily.
  8. If your pet is particularly hairy, you may need to trim some of the fur away from his or her eyes. Always do this carefully, using round ended scissors and if you are any doubt ask a groomer or vet nurse to do it for you.
Do Not use anything in your pet’s eye that you wouldn’t put in your own eye and Never use a salt water solution in or near the eye!  

Cleaning the eye

Some of the more common eye problems that we see in pets can include

Cataract: Opacity in the lens in the eye. Similar to humans, this problem can occur with old age, trauma or disease.

Cherry Eye: This looks like a small red, inflamed mass in the corner of one or both of the eyes. It is caused when the third eyelid/nictitating membrane of the eye does not attach properly, which leads to a prolapse and allowing the membrane to flip up and over. It can be quite common in young dogs and is occasionally seen in cats and some breeds of rabbits.

Conjunctivitis: This happens when the lining inside the eyelid becomes red, inflamed and very painful. It may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, injury, allergic reaction or a foreign body in the eye or conjunctiva.

Dry Eye: This is also known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca and is caused by inadequate tear production, which may be initially be due to trauma or infection, Symptoms of dry eye include a thick, yellowish discharge and chronic infections because the lack of tears means that the eye is not able to flush away bacteria and particles such as dus and pollen.

Ectropion: A condition (usually inherited) where the eyelid rolls outwards; giving the impression of ‘droopy eyes’. This can cause they eyes to become very dry which can be very painful.

Entropion: A condition where the eyelid rolls inwards, which causes irritation to the eye and its surrounding tissues because the eyelashes and hair rub against the surface of the eye. This condition may be an inherited problem in some breeds.

Foreign Body: Occasionally foreign objects such as tiny pieces of grit,  thorns or other plant substances may become lodged in the eye or the surrounding tissues, causing pain and irritation.

Tear duct obstruction: the ducts that normally drain tears from the eyes become blocked resulting in tear overflow onto the face. This may be caused by an infection or be the result of a dental problem. Rabbits and very short-nosed breeds of dogs and cats can be particularly prone to this problem.

Tear overflow: Tears may leak from the corner of the eye, causing staining to the hair in light coloured animals or a build up of crusty “eye gunk” that gets caught up in the animals hair. If the eye area is persistently wet or the gunk is in contact with the eye itself it can lead to inflammation and infection.

Ulcers: The surface of the eye can become damaged or ulcerated following injury or infection.

Tear Overflow & Eye Gunk

Tear Overflow & Eye Gunk

How To tell If Your Pet Has An Eye Problem

Eyes are very delicate and sensitive organs and when problems occur they 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.

  • You pet is blinking more
  • Your pet seems to be squinting or the eye looks half closed
  • Your pet is rubbing the eye (either with a paw or rubbing against something in the house)
  • The eyes are producing more tears than usual
  • The eye or surrounding area looks red or inflamed
  • The eye itself looks to have a scratch, mark or something in it
  • There is any discharge (clear or gunky)
  • The eye looks cloudy or discoloured
  • The eye is bulging
  • Your pet has started to bump into things

How Eye Problems Are Diagnosed And Treated

Eye problems are diagnosed with a thorough eye examination by a veterinary surgeon. They may use one or more of the following

Physical Examination – Sometimes eye problems can be linked to or caused by other illnesses and disease within the body, such as herpes virus, Feline Leukaemia, cancer and diabetes.

Ophthalmoscope – used to examine the inside and outside of the eye. The ophthalmoscope consists of a light source, mirror, and view hole through which a circular series of convex and concave lenses can be used to examine different parts of the eye.

Tonometer – measures intraocular pressure

Fluorescein Stain – this is a dye that can be applied to the eye which will stain any areas of injury such as ulcers and scratches or foreign particles.

Schirmer’s Test – this is a small paper strip that is used to measure tear production.

Opthalmoscope

The treatment of eye problems depends on their cause; some pets may need a short course of antibiotic drops to clear up an infection, while those with problems such as Dry Eye may require ongoing treatment with eye drops and lubricating solutions. Pets with problems such as ingrowing eyelashes may require surgery to correct the problem.   In all of these cases it is very important that your pet cannot cause further damage or irritation to the affected eye, so a buster collar may be necessary to prevent this.

How to Apply Medication or Eye Drops To The Eye

Your pet may need to have eye medication in the form of drops or a cream at some stage and giving this medication should be relatively simple if you follow our guide. The key thing with pets is to be prepared, have everything to hand and, most importantly, Don’t Faff About – Be direct and quick!

  1. Get the medication ready and within reach
  2.  Wash your hands, you do not want to introduce infection to an already sensitive area
  3. It may be necessary for someone else to hold your pet for you while you apply the medication. For smaller animals we recommend placing them onto your lap or on a table.
  4. Gently clean any discharge / gunk away from your pet’s eyes (as mentioned above). You may have to skip this step if your pet’s eyes are too painful.
  5. Gently pull down on your pet’s lower eyelid and up on your pet’s upper eyelid and drop the medication onto the eye or onto the inner part of the lower lid as directed by the vet . I often find this easier to do if you are positioned behind the pet, rather than from the front as it helps to prevent your pet moving their head back and away from your fingers.
  6. Make sure that the medicine container does not touch the surface of the eye or any surrounding tissues
  7. Try to hold the eyelids open for a few seconds as this will help prevent the medication from being blinked out .
  8. Reward your pet with a really tasty treat and/or a game of something fun. This is especially important if your pet will need to have eye medication regularly.

Opening the eyeEye Medication

Cat Eye Med

If your pet has an eye condition that requires eye medication our veterinary nurses will be happy to demonstrate how to do this for you. You can make a free of charge appointment by contacting the practice. We are also happy to help if you cannot manage to medicate your pet at home, so please contact us for advice.

For more information about eye care or if you have any concerns or questions about your pets health, please contact us at Castle vets on 0118 9574488.

Ticks and Harvest Mites

Tick & Harvest Mite

Ticks and Harvest Mites are small parasites that survive by feeding on different animal hosts, including mammals, birds and even humans if they get the opportunity. They can be a real nuisance for affected pets, often causing irritation, inflammation and sometimes infection and disease.

Ticks

There are many tick species in the UK but the ones that commonly cause problems by feeding off our pets are the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus).

Ticks are mostly found in areas with long grasses, in woodlands or in heathland but they can be found in gardens if they have been transported by wild animals during their larval or nymph stages. They can attach anywhere on the animal’s body but are usually found around the head, neck and ears. Owners often mistake ticks for wart-like growths on their pets because of their size and colour.

Ticks locations

Tick facts
  • Ticks transfer saliva into their host and remove blood as they feed.
  • The tick body swells up as it becomes engorged with blood.
  • Ticks are usually active in the spring, summer and autumn months.
  • Larval ticks have 6 legs and are so small they look like specks of dirt.
  • Nymph ticks have 8 legs and are about the size of a poppy seed, and are the most likely stage to bite humans.
  • Adult ticks also have 8 legs. The female is much larger than the male and grows to about pea-size when fully engorged with blood.
  • Ticks will happily feed off humans if there are no other convenient food sources available.
  • Never be tempted just to brush or pull off the tick – any mouth parts left in your pet’s skin may become infected, resulting in an abscess.
  • Ticks can transmit many diseases through their saliva including Lyme Disease in the UK and Erlichiosis and Babesiosis in other countries.
  • Ticks can carry several different infections at the same time.
  • Localised infection may occur at the site of attachment without causing other symptoms in the animal’s body
  • If an animal has a really heavy tick infestation it could become anaemic

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Tick Life Cycle
  1. Larval ticks hatch from the eggs and the following spring or autumn they crawl onto grass stems and seek out small rodent hosts using the sensory organs on their front legs. The larvae feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into nymphs (In the UK this stage usually takes a year to complete)
  2. Nymph ticks seek out slightly larger hosts this time – usually rabbits, and feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into adult ticks (Again, taking about a year)
  3. Adult ticks climb up onto taller vegetation to seek out a host. They usually feed off larger animals such as sheep, deer, dogs and cats. The adult female feeds for up to two weeks and then drops off into the environment and can lay several thousand eggs before dying.
  4. The whole life cycle can take up to 3 years to complete in the UK.

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Common Ticks found on dogs and cats in the UK
Ixodes Ricinus
  • Also known as the sheep tick, castor bean tick or deer tick. Despite its name it will feed on any mammals or birds and lizards.
  • Its preferred hosts for the larval and nymph stages are small animals (rodents then rabbits and birds) and for the adults, large animals such as sheep and deer on which it has the greatest reproductive success.
  • It is the most common tick to be found feeding on dogs and humans in it’s nymph and adult stages. This is likely due to the fact that it searches for a host by climbing up to the top of tall vegetation, so passing pets are easy targets.
  • It only feeds once at each developmental stage.
Ixodes Hexagonus
  • Known as the hedgehog tick.
  • It is often the most common tick found on cats and the second most common tick on dogs.
  • The larvae are mainly found on hedgehogs (hence the name) and also other smallish mammals that have nests/dens such as stoats, weasels, foxes and badgers.
  • Pets are accidental hosts because hedgehogs commonly live in parks and gardens
How to remove a tick from your pet

We recommend that this is done using a specially designed ‘tick hook’ (pictured), these are readily available from veterinary practices, pet shops and on-line. If you are unsure how to use one, bring your pet to the practice and one of our nurses can show you how it’s done.

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How NOT to remove Ticks

If any part of the tick is left in your pet’s skin it may cause infection, abscess or the transmission of disease. In order to avoid this

  • DO NOT pull the tick off your pet, using fingers or tweezers
  • DO NOT burn the tick off your pet;  you could seriously injure your pet.
  • DO NOT use alcohol  on the tick; It wont make the tick drop off and we feel that alcohol has better uses!
  • DO NOT use Vaseline; whilst it  will eventually smother the tick, it will take 24-48 hours to work.
Tick Prevention

Fortunately there are now several really great products that repel ticks (and fleas) available for your dog and cat. These products are only available from your veterinary practice or can be obtained from a pharmacy if you have a prescription from your vet.

Castle Vets only recommend tick products that actually repel the ticks and prevent them from attaching to your pet for a meal. It is really important that you check any products and read the labelling carefully before you buy them. Most products that state they are for treating ticks, only kill the tick AFTER it has attached to your pet and drank blood.

WARNING – Never use dog flea or tick products on cats. The active ingredient used in some dog products is highly toxic to cats and can cause seizures and death

Harvest Mites

Adult harvest mites feed on plants and tiny insects, but their first stage larvae feed on the blood of mammals and will happily attach themselves to our pet dogs, cats, and rabbits for a meal.The harvest mite larvae swarm in large groups on dirt, long grass, vegetation, low bushes and plants while they wait for a suitable host. When a suitable host passes by they climb on and gather in areas where there is not much hair and the skin is quite thin.

Harvest Mite Facts
  • Harvest mite larvae are a problem in late summer until early winter
  • They are active during the day, especially if it is dry and sunny
  • They are very small but can just about be seen by the naked eye as bright orange dots,
  • The mites often attach to ears or paws, but may also be found on the pet’s chin, lips or tummy.
  • The larvae feed by injecting a fluid into the skin which liquifies the skin cells. These liquid skin tissues are then ingested by the mite.
  • Harvest Mite saliva can cause irritation, inflammation and crusting of the skin and, if the pet then scratches, licks or nibbles these areas, it can make the inflammation worse and can sometimes result in a bacterial infection.
  • The Animal Health Trust is investigating a possible link between Seasonal Canine Illness and Harvest Mites.
Harvest mites in a dog’s coat
Harvest Mite Life Cycle 
  • Eggs are laid by an adult female in or on the soil or in ground debris and plant matter.
  • Approximately ten days later the six-legged larvae emerge. These larvae need to feed on mammal hosts for approximately 2-10 days, in order to develop and survive.
  • The larvae then return to the soil and after 5-6 weeks further develop into the 8 legged nymph. Which develops twice more before becoming an adult harvest mite.
  • The adult mites feed on plants and tiny insects.

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Harvest Mite Treatment and Prevention

There is no official licenced preventative treatment for Harvest Mites in the UK but Fipronil spray treats some other mite effectively and is thought to have an effect on the harvest mite. Fipronil spray is a prescription medication that is available from most veterinary practices (alternatively you can ask your vet for a prescription so that you may buy it elsewhere).

Harvest mites are only active during the day, and most infestations occur when pet’s lie in long grass on warm sunny days. If you find that your pet is particularly sensitive you could restrict outdoors access to early morning and the evening to avoid them.

Further Information

Please contact us at the practice if you would like advice on parasite prevention and treatments or to make an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses who can show you how to remove ticks safely. You can telephone us on 0118 9574488 or visit the Castle Vets website

 For more information on ticks and parasites you can also visit http://www.itsajungle.co.uk/

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