Stiffness and Pain – Don’t Ignore the Signs

Stiff and painful joints can have a big negative impact on your pet’s general health and quality of life and, although it is seen more commonly in older pets, it can affect pets of any age. If you can spot the signs you will be able to take action and help reduce discomfort and pain and improve your pet’s mobility.

Is your pet showing any of the following signs?

  • Slowing down a bit
  • Stiff on rising or after resting
  • Lame after going for a walkold beagle
  • Lying down for a rest part way through a walk
  • Reluctant to exercise
  • More reluctant to jump onto furniture or down from your lap
  • Sleeping more often
  • Withdrawn or out of sorts
  • Unable to curl up properly – changes in the way they sleep
  • Not grooming as much and becoming matted or scruffy
  • Scuffed nails
  • Grumbling, Hissing or snapping when touched in a certain area

These are all symptoms which are often put down to ‘old age’ by owners, but in most cases (just like in people) these symptoms are actually caused by specific problems such as arthritis or degenerative joint disease which, if treated, can relieve the signs of aging and lead to a much happier and more agile pet.

Some animals are very good at hiding any signs of discomfort; cat’s and rabbits especially, will rarely cry out or limp if they are in pain, preferring to shy away from contact and go off by themselves, so you may need to observe them closely for a few days to spot the signs.

older cat 1

Common causes of joint pain and/or stiffness can include

  • Natural wear and tear that occurs with age (this comes to all of us over time!)
  • Arthritis – A term meaning inflammation of one or more joints in the body, it is often used to describe general inflammation and stiffness. It can also be classified as Osteoarthritis which generally refers to a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by deterioration of joint cartilage within the body.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is the progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints in an animal’s body over a long period.
  • Hip or Elbow Dysplasia
  • Old injuries such as previously broken bones or cruciate ligament (knee) damage
  • Spine injuries

senior kittizens Rock

Please don’t just brush these signs off as ‘old age’

If your pet seems to have stiff joints, is limping or has difficulty getting about, then he or she is likely to be in some pain and there are ways you can help them lead a happier and more comfortable life.  Some of the treatments available include,

Nutritional supplements or Nutraceuticals for animals with pain or stiffness usually contain vitamins, glucosamine, chondroitin, and/or green lipped mussel; These ingredients can help support and maintain normal joint function in dogs and cats, but need time to build up in the body so results usually are not seen until after the first 5-6 weeks.  Neutraceuticles may come in tablet, suspension or diet food form. Your veterinary nurse can advise you on the best supplements for your pet and they are definitely worth trying in pets that seem to be just a little stiff on rising and after walks. Be careful about which ones you buy as many are not regulated and may not contain the right ingredients – if you are unsure, ask. If your pet is on treatment for other conditions, do check with your vet before starting him or her on supplements as some may interfere with your pets medication. 

Prescription Medication such as anti-inflammatory tablets or suspensions can only be prescribed by your vet. They are usually given once or twice daily to relieve the pain and help your pet feel much more comfortable. The vet will give your pet a thorough examination and assessment, which may also include a blood test before prescribing any medications. These are more expensive than the over-the-counter supplements and nutraceuticals, but your vet can also give you a prescription so you can buy them online or from the pharmacy.

Physiotherapy can help maintain joint movement and strengthen the muscles around the joints so that their is more support. Physiotherapy should always be provided by a qualified animal physiotherapist that you have been referred to by your vet.

Hydrotherapy can help your pet to exercise without putting pressure on sore joints, while building up the strength in supporting muscles. Hydrotherapy should always be provided by a qualified animal hydrotherapist that you have been referred to by your vet. Hydrotherapy may not suit all pets as some do not like water however, many animals start to enjoy their sessions including cats!

Acupuncture can be very effective at helping animals in pain and is a service offered at Castle Vets. Animal Acupuncture should always be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon. Acupuncture has worked well for many of our patients and can even help reduce the amount of medication they have to take.

Prescription diet Hills j/d has been proven to help with stiffness and joint pain in dogs and cats and can even help to prevent problems in susceptible pets. For more information you can visit the Hills Pet Food website.

Regular exercise is really important as it helps prevent joints getting stiffer and maintains mobility. Speak to your vet or nurse about a suitable exercise regime for your pet.

Maintaining a healthy weight can have a huge impact on your pet’s health, fitness and wellbeing. Being overweight vastly increases the stress on the body’s joints and we often find that pets with arthritis can improve drastically after losing their excess weight. Helping your pet lose weight is not as difficult as you think and often can be done on their current diet. We offer free Healthy Weight Clinics at Castle Vets and veterinary nurse Clare Espley can give you lots of advice and support with your pets weight loss.

Being overweight will put more pressure on joints

Being overweight will put more pressure on joints

We are here to help your pet

If you are concerned that you pet may have joint pain or stiffness then please contact us and arrange for him or her to be seen by a vet. Our veterinary consultations are 15 minutes long, so you will have plenty of time to chat through your concerns with your vet and discuss all of the treatment options available for your pet.

Our veterinary nurses offer free consultations and can give you advice on exercise routines, available treatments and which nutraceuticals may help your pet.

Contact us on 01189 574488 to make an appointment for your pet or visit our website for more information on the services we can provide.


Pyometra In Un-Neutered Dogs and Cats

What Is Pyometra?

Pyometra literally means pus in the womb/uterus and is one of the most common life-threatening conditions seen in female dogs and occasionally cats. Sadly this condition is still seen all too often at the veterinary practice despite the raised awareness about neutering.
This condition can affect un-neutered female dogs (bitches) and cats (queens) of any age and is usually seen after they have been in season (in-heat).

Pyometra is one of the biggest reasons why vets advise that bitches and queens are neutered, because this condition can be fatal if it is not treated and can be very expensive to treat successfully.

What Causes Pyometra?

Pyometra may be caused by a one or a combination of factors including hormonal imbalances, infection, and/or problems with the womb lining as the animal gets older.

Clinical Symptoms

Pyometra only occurs in un-neutered animals.
Clinical symptoms are usually seen 1-3 Months after a season in bitches and 2-8 weeks after a season in queens.

  • Licking/cleaning genital areas more frequently
  • Off Colour
  • Off Food
  • Drinking More
  • Urinating More Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swollen (Often Painful) Tummy
  • Fever
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Collapse

If the Pyometra is an ‘Open Pyometra’, you may also see a discharge from the animal’s vulva because the infection/pus that has built up in the womb is leaking out. However, if the bitch or queen has a ‘closed Pyometra’ there will be no discharge seen.

Sadly, if the Bitch or Queen is not treated quickly, eventually the symptoms become worse and she will die from the toxin build up in her blood and shock.

Lethargy & depression are common signs that something is wrong with your pet.

How Is Pyometra Diagnosed?

If the dog or cat has an ‘open Pyometra’ diagnosis is usually obvious to the vet due to the vulval discharge, however, if it is a ‘closed Pyometra’ there will be no discharge and diagnosis may require an ultrasound scan to examine the womb/uterus and confirm a diagnosis of Pyometra.
A blood test will also be performed so that the vet can determine if the infection and toxin build up has affected any other organs or body systems.

How Is Pyometra Treated?

The vast majority of bitches and queens will need to be admitted and given intravenous fluids and intensive nursing, to help combat shock, dehydration and stabilise their condition.
Surgical removal of the infected uterus (Spaying the animal) is advised as soon as she is well enough to have an anaesthetic because this will completely remove the source of the infection. This operation can be a tricky one for the veterinary team as the infected tissue is often fragile, may break down easily and there is a risk of abdominal contamination from the pus in the uterus; the good news is, that the removal of the infected uterus is usually curative and should result in the patient making a full recovery.
The patient will also require pain relief and antibiotics as well as lots of home care and tlc from the owner.

Is There A Non-Surgical Treatment Option?

Medical treatment of a Pyometra might occasionally be tried if the bitch or queen’s reproductive potential is of great importance to the owner (usually this only applies to pedigree dogs and cats from ‘valuable lines’).

It is important to know that medical management is not always successful and will never be recommended in a very ill animal. Unfortunately, due to the amount of infection/pus in the uterus, any antibiotics given will rarely be able to treat the infection effectively and even if they do the condition is may well recur, especially if it is caused by hormonal imbalances and/or problems with the lining of the uterus.

How Can Pyometra Be Prevented?

Pyometra is completely preventable, it only occurs in un-neutered animals so if you have your bitch or queen neutered when recommended by the veterinary team, she will never have this problem.

If you have decided not to have your bitch or queen neutered for breeding purposes, please remember to stay vigilant and watch for the clinical symptoms after their season.

Further Information 

If you would like to know more about the pros and cons of neutering your pet, please read our article ‘Should you have your pet neutered?’ for more information.

Why Training Is Important & How To Do It

Why Should We Train Our Pets?

We all know that basic training for dogs is a necessity, but did you know that training is great for all types of pets? Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, birds and horses and more can all be trained in some way. Not only can it be lots of fun, but it is also mentally stimulating, a great form of exercise and it can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. New tricks are a great way of showing off how clever your pet is to other people and also a brilliant way for children to be involved with pet care.
Continue reading

Kidney Disease In Pets

Kidney Disease In Pets

Kidney (or Renal) disease or 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. Continue reading

Fireworks and Your Pet

None of us really want to think about the winter holiday season in September, but it is fast approaching and with it comes the bright lights and extreme noise of fireworks. The 2017 firework season in the UK will start with Diwali celebrations on the 19th October and end on New Years Eve (although that doesn’t mean that people won’t find a reason to let them off outside of these times!). There are many things that you can do to help your pet get through this season and we are here to help and advise.

Some pets are absolutely terrified of fireworks and display behaviours ranging from hiding away,  to refusing to go outside and even completely destroying items of furniture if they are left alone in the home. Every year during the firework season, the staff at Castle Vets receive many phone calls from owners about their distressed pets. Continue reading

Pet Emergencies & First Aid Tips

We all hope our pets will never need emergency treatment, but sadly some will and emergencies always seem to happen at the most inconvenient time.

The first and most important thing in an emergency is to check that it is safe for YOU to help the animal. You will do no good if you are injured, while trying to help. Remember that

  • Animals in pain or shock, or animals that are frightened, may bite, scratch or kick whoever is trying to help (even their much loved owners)
  • If your pet has been involved in a road traffic accident, make sure it is safe for you to go on to the road.
  • Don’t jump into water after a pet, unless you are sure it is safe to do so. Many pet owners get themselves into serious trouble and often need rescuing themselves, after jumping into water when trying to rescue pets – pets which usually manage to get themselves out of difficulty with a little encouragement from dry land!
  • If your pet has been attacked by a dog or another animal, make sure you are not going to get bitten as well.

Continue reading

Puppy Awareness Week 2017


The kennel club is working hard to raise awareness about buying puppies by holding it’s National Puppy Awareness Week (PAW) from 4th to the 10th September 2017. It aims to make sure that puppies live healthy, happy lives with suitable owners. The aim is to educate potential puppy owners, in the hope that they will buy puppies from reputable breeders or rescue centres and not from puppy farms. Puppies from puppy farms are bred with no regard for their health and well-being and are kept in appalling, unsanitary conditions.

Kennel Club research (*) shows that shockingly

  • 49% of puppies that are purchased online or from newspaper ads, without being seen first, fall sick and around 1 in 5 of those puppies end up with serious gastrointestinal problems.
  • One in five people who bought a puppy online or from a newspaper advertisement are forced to spend between £500 and £1,000 on vet bills in the first six months of the puppy’s life – this is often more than the original cost of the puppy
  • 37% (over one third) of people who ended up with a sick puppy after buying online or from newspaper adverts experienced financial problems due to the costs of having their puppy treated by a veterinary practice in order to help it get better.
  • 37% of puppies that were bought online or from a newspaper advert without being seen first, were bought as a spur of the moment decision, with almost two thirds being bought solely because of the way they looked.
  • Buying a puppy from a responsible breeder can cost owners 18%  less in unplanned veterinary fees and more importantly, the puppies are less likely to need to visit the vet for an illness in the first few months.

* Source 


What you don’t see when you buy a puppy without seeing it with it’s mother and siblings.

Pup Aid 2017

This event will be held at Primrose Hill, London, on Saturday 2nd Pup AidSeptember this year from 10am until 5pm

Each year this very special day gives the dog-loving public, the golden opportunity to help raise awareness about the UK’s cruel puppy farming trade by attending this amazing celebrity judged fun dog show. It will be a fun day out for the whole family and a chance to get to know other dog lovers.

For more information check out the link at the bottom of this article or #PupAid2017 on twitter.

Before buying a puppy do your homework first and ask yourself

  1. Can you afford to look after a puppy, purchase pet insurance and pay the vets bills? – Research has shown that a dog can cost approximately £12000 or more in it’s lifetime. It is unfair to expect animal charities to cover your vets bills if you can’t afford to look after a puppy.
  2. Do you have enough time to devote to your puppy? – It will need quality time for exercise, training and socialisation every day of it’s life. Puppies should never be left alone for more than an hour or two and adult dogs should not be left alone for longer than four hours.
  3. Who will look after your puppy when you are on holiday or if you get sick? Kennels and dog sitters are expensive, costing around £8.00 – £20.00 per day.
  4. What breed of dog you are looking for and is it right for your lifestyle? If you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle then active breeds such as Huskies, Collies, Spaniels and Labradors may not be the right choice for you. If you have children at home careful research should be done into your breed of choice.
  5. Do you want a pedigree dog with papers or just a certain breed or crossbred or ‘designer breed’? If you are thinking of buying a ‘designer dog breed’, remember that they often come with a hefty price tag despite just being crossbreeds (and there are often many of these breeds in rescue centres already). The aim of these breeders is often to get a cute looking dog with no regard for the fact that they may be breeding hereditary problems or bad traits from both parents into the puppies. Labradoodles for example, are often bought by people because they’ve been told that the breed does not shed fur and so are great for allergy sufferers. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing for sure if the puppy will not shed much fur (like a Poodle), or will shed a great deal of fur  (like a Labrador).

When buying a puppy  

Even if you are buying a crossbreed puppy you still need to do your research

  • Try to visit several breeders so that you can pick the best puppy for you.
  • Always visit the breeder’s home to meet the litter.
  • See the mother interacting with her litter
  • See the mother feeding her litter
  • Ask to handle the puppies if they are over 4 weeks old (wash your hands first)
  • Check that the puppies and mother are looking healthy, lively and happy
  • Handle the mother so you can get an idea of her temperament  and a good idea of how big the puppy will grow. It is not always possible, but if you get the opportunity you should meet the father too.
  • Ask about how the puppies will be socialised and what experiences they will have had before they come home to you (will they have seen lots of people, travelled in a car, experienced household noises such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner).
  • Ask about the type of food the puppies will be weaned on and where you can get it from.
  • Ask whether the parents have been routinely vaccinated, flea treated and wormed. A puppy with un-vaccinated parents or a heavy parasite burden is much more likely to be susceptible to illness.
  • Don’t become overwhelmed by the cuteness of the puppies in the first litter you visit! If things don’t feel 100% right to you walk away.
  • Be prepared to wait for the right puppy it will be worth it.
  • Never buy out of sympathy for the pups or the conditions they are being kept in your purchase will just make a space for the next puppy and continue to fund this process.

See mum nursing her pups

For pedigree puppies (and designer crossbreeds) 

  • Ask about any genetic/hereditary problems in the breed and what tests have been done to ensure that the parents don’t have these. A good breeder will have no problems discussing these issues with you and will have had the appropriate tests done on the parents.
  • Expect to pay more for a well bred puppy, whose parents have had and passed all the relevant tests for their breed. At least you will know that your puppy is less at risk of certain breed related problems and hereditary illnesses.
  • Ask around to find out how much you should be paying for a puppy with a good pedigree. As a general rule you get what you pay for so if that price tag seems too good to be true it probably is!
  • You will need to obtain a pedigree certificate and a contract of sale when you take your new pet home with you. If a puppy does not come with kennel club papers you should not be paying top price for it.

Whatever type of puppy you are buying, you should expect to be asked lots of questions about your home and lifestyle from the dog breeder. This shows that they care about where the puppy are going and how you will look after it.

A good breeder will also ask you to spend time with adult dogs of the same breed and chat to other owners so that you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for! This is particularly important if you have chosen one of the less common breeds.

See mum interacting with her pups

Puppies from rescue centres

If you get your puppy from a rescue centre the above requests and questions may not apply. Often puppies have been abandoned so the staff may not know any background history, and may only be able to give an educated guess at the breed and likely temperament. Most of the larger rescue centres do a great job of matching puppies to owners and often perform behavioural assessments on puppies, so don’t be put off by the lack of history here. You may also be surprised to hear that there are many pedigree and desirable crossbreed puppies and youngsters that have found their way into rescue centres.

Labrador pup

All puppies should be microchipped – it is the law in England

All puppies must now be microchipped and registered on an approved database by the time they go to their new homes. Ensure that the breeder/rescue centre gives you all of the relevant paperwork when you collect your puppy, so that you can transfer the ownership.


Don’t buy from Pet Shops or Garden Centres, they will almost certainly come from puppy farms

Avoid falling into the ‘puppy farm’ trap

  • Remember that no responsible, caring breeder (whether of pedigrees or crossbreeds) would ever sell their puppies through a third party such as a pet shop or via websites like Gumtree.
  • Never buy from any breeder that has more than two bitches with puppies at any one time. With this many animals they cannot possibly cater to every puppy’s individual requirements, socialisation and habituation needs.
  • Always buy puppies that have been raised in a household environment rather than a shed or barn. Outdoor puppies will not have been used to much human contact or common household noises and events, which can make them fearful and nervous and can lead to behavioural problems.
  • Always see the mother interacting with the puppies – if you cant see the mother with the puppies how do you know the dog they are showing you is the mother of that litter?
  • Never accept excuses about the mother being out for a walk or sick – if you don’t see the mother how do you know that she has a good temperament?
  • Never let the breeder bring the puppy to you – if they offer this how will you know anything about the environment they have grown up in or the temperament of the parents?
  • Don’t buy puppies from pet shops or garden centres – these puppies are usually from puppy farms and you will have no idea about their history, temperament or if their parents suffered from any genetic disease or conditions. They will also have been placed in a very stressful environment during their sensitive socialisation period, which is not the best start in life.




Click this image to visit the kennel club PAW site

At Castle Vets in Reading we offer free clinics so that you can get the best advice from one of our veterinary nurses on where to look for a puppy, what breeds might be suitable for you and what costs may be involved in keeping a puppy. We are also happy to discuss this over the phone. Please contact us for an appointment or if you would like advice on any aspect of pet care.

Further Information

Thinking Of Getting A New Pet – Our guide to what you need to think about first

How to look for your new pet – our guide to how to find the right pet and what you should look out for

Puppy Awareness Week – Kennel Club Information Page

PupAid – Pupaid events 2017