FAQ’s FOR OUR CLIENTS
WE ANSWER ALL YOUR IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Neutering your pet
For the general pet population, spaying or castrating is highly recommended.
Not only is neutering very effective at reducing the numbers of unwanted pets that are being put to sleep in overcrowded animal rescue centres, but it can also be beneficial for the health and wellbeing of your pet.
Benefits of neutering in females
* Greatly reduces the risk of them developing mammary cancer later in life. This is most beneficial if done before the first or second season, the effect starts to become more limited if neutered later in life.
* Eliminates the risk of them developing a life-threatening infection in the uterus termed a ‘pyometra’. This is a common problem with 20-25% of entire female dogs >10 years old being affected and usually requiring emergency surgery to treat. This is a hormonally driven condition so even if just the ovaries are removed (leaving the uterus in place) the condition is prevented.
* Prevents unwanted pregnancies. Some people believe that it helps their female pet in some way to develop more completely by letting them have at least one litter before spaying. However, this is not true. Becoming pregnant and having a litter can be stressful on the female both physically and mentally. In addition, not all pregnancies go smoothly; a difficult labour can lead to death of the young and sometimes the necessity for a Caesarean section.
* Some female dogs will develop a pseudopregnancy once or many times over their lifetime where the body’s hormones mimic a pregnancy without the dog actually being in pup. This can result in mammary development, presence of milk and sometimes marked unwanted behavioural changes. Neutering prevents this from occurring.
Benefits of neutering in males
* Helps to prevent a number of hormonally driven medical conditions including perineal hernias, perineal adenomas, prostatic abscesses and cysts, benign prostatic hyperplasia and hormone related alopecia.
* Castrating male pets can help to reduce certain unwanted behavioural traits such as spraying indoors, territorial marking, exerting dominance over family members or other pets, humping of legs, toys and cushions and reducing their desire to roam and go missing.
* Some dogs will have a condition called ‘cryptorchidism’ where one or, more rarely, both testicles fail to descend normally and remain either in their abdomen or in the inguinal canal. These retained testicles are up to 13 x more likely to become cancerous so we very strongly recommend castration in these patients.
When is the best time to get it done?
* In cats we recommend neutering from 4 months of age. Female cats can get pregnant from a very young age and male entire cats roam much further so are at higher risk of getting into trouble out and about. Because of this it is sensible to keep young cats indoors until they have been neutered.
* Dogs take longer to fully develop than cats and the larger the dog, the longer it takes. In small breed dogs we can neuter from 6 months of age but for medium and large breed dogs it is often best to wait until they are nearer 12 months and for giant breed dogs 12-18 months of age.
* In female dogs we have to time spaying to be approximately 3 months after their season. The prime time in most dogs is therefore 3months after their first season but in smaller breeds prior to their first season is also appropriate.
Some things to note
* Neutering does alter the metabolism of your pet so afterwards they will require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you have any queries regarding the best diets following your pets spay or castrate then our nurses would be happy to discuss this at the free post-op check.
* If you have a male dog who is very nervous and is having associated behavioural problems, then we will sometimes advise delaying neutering and seeking help from a behaviourist first.
* Placing a pet under anaesthesia is a very common concern many pet owners have. Although there is always a slight risk involved, as a practice we take numerous measures to minimise these risks including trained staff monitoring your pet and using high end equipment to check all of their parameters continuously. The medical benefits today of having your pet spayed or castrated far outweigh the slight risk involved with undergoing anaesthesia. Please feel free to talk to us if you have any concerns.
Vaccinations in dogs
What diseases do we vaccinate against?
• Canine Parvovirus
This is a highly contagious, potentially fatal viral disease. It is spread through infected faeces and can survive in the environment for several years. Symptoms include severe fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea.
Vaccination is the ONLY certain method of preventing this devastating disease. Unfortunately, we still regularly treat unvaccinated dogs with this disease but treatment is very costly and a number of dogs die despite the best treatment.
• Canine Distemper
This, less common, but highly contagious viral disease can be fatal. It affects the breathing, digestive and nervous systems and usually leads to death.
If they survive they can suffer from seizures, twitches and tremors for the rest of their lives. It is spread as an airborne infection and vaccination continues to be the only effective means of prevention.
• Infectious Canine Hepatitis
This is a viral infection that effects the liver and can cause permanent liver damage and sometimes death. It is fairly uncommon in the UK, but it still exists and can be fatal
This is a bacterial infection which targets the liver and kidneys leading to jaundice, kidney failure and death. This bacteria can be contracted from the environment, especially around waterways and areas exposed to rat urine.
It may also be transmitted to people causing an equally serious disease called Weil’s disease.
• Kennel Cough (Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis)
This is a highly contagious cough caused by a complex of both viral and bacterial infections. These infections cause inflammation of the dog’s voice box and windpipe resulting in a persistent dry cough. In some cases it can lead to secondary infections such as pneumonia or further lung damage.
Kennel cough can be spread through aerosols in the air, directly from dog to dog, or through germs on contaminated objects. Therefore if your dog is going into kennels or is in regular contact with other dogs we would recommend regular vaccinations
When do we vaccinate?
• Puppies should begin their vaccinations between 7 and 10 weeks of age. A second injection is given 2-4 weeks later to complete the course but the puppy must be at least 10 weeks old to receive their second vaccination.
Puppies should not be in contact with or allowed access to any place visited by unvaccinated dogs until 1 week after their second vaccination – we advise keeping your puppy in the house and/or your enclosed garden until then.
• Older dogs can be vaccinated at any age with two injections given 2-4 weeks apart.
• Thereafter, annual vaccinations are required to maintain immunity against these potentially fatal diseases.
At each annual vaccination your dog will receive a full health check up – this is important as early detection of diseases/conditions can prevent further suffering in the long term particularly as the dog ages.
Worming your dog
Worming your Dog
1. Intestinal Worms:
Dogs commonly harbour both roundworms and tapeworms. Most infected dogs do not show signs of having worms; however heavy burdens of worms can cause weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea, and failure to thrive.
It is also important to be aware some worms can be passed to humans (young children in particular are at risk) and on rare occasions can cause serious disease in people. For these reasons, regular treatment of dogs to prevent or eliminate worms is very important.
Tapeworm can be transmitted to your dog through ingestion of raw meat or fleas (fleas carry tapeworm). Therefore if your dog has fleas or has access to raw meat then it is possible they also have a tapeworm infection and it is therefore vital to worm your pet regularly if they are at risk.
When and how often should I worm?
The frequency you treat your dog against worms depends on their many factors including age, lifestyle, and environment.
In general we recommend:
Puppies: Roundworms are extremely common in puppies, and can cause serious illness. As they can be infected before birth and from the mother’s milk, it should be assumed they all have worms and you should start worming at an early age.
They should be treated with an appropriate wormer, normally starting when they are 14-21 days old, continuing at fortnightly intervals until two weeks after weaning and then monthly treatments to six months of age.
Nursing bitches should be treated concurrently with the first treatment of their offspring since they may have patent infections.
Adolescent and Adult dogs: Deworming every three months is the general recommendation, any less than this will not effectively reduce the number of worm eggs in the environment. Monthly treatment with a suitable wormer will minimise the risk of patent infections ( that is where the dog is passing worm eggs in the stools) and can be recommended in high-risk scenarios such as the pet living in a family with small children and with access to gardens or parks.
If you prefer not to use a worming treatment regularly then monthly or three-monthly faecal examination may be an alternative.
However low numbers of worm eggs will be missed on such examinations so this method is not as reliable in preventing seeding of the environment with worm eggs.
Types of wormers:
There are many different worming products available and while worming products are available in the pet shop and supermarket these are often old or less effective products, some of which can be less safe particularly in cats.
Wormers can come in tablet or spot-on formulation (some of which are combined with a flea treatment) – not all of these treatments cover all types of worms.
We have several options available for parasite prevention in your dog available in our clinic – please contact us to discuss the best options for your pet.
Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a parasite that infects dogs. The adult lungworm lives in the heart and major blood vessels supplying the lungs where it causes many problems.
It is carried by slugs and snails, and dogs become infected through eating these common garden pests – usually accidentally through eating grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor bowls, or playing with their toys.
Infection with lungworm can cause serious health problems in dogs, and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated. Infected dogs also spread the parasite in their faeces which increases the chances of other dogs becoming infected.
Currently, lungworm it is very common in some areas of Kent. The pattern elsewhere is that it spreads gradually to surrounding areas so you need to be aware of the risks particularly if you have slugs or snails in your garden.
Signs of illness:
Lungworm infections can result in a number of different signs which may be easily confused with
– Breathing problems – coughing, tiring easily
– Poor blood clotting – excessive bleeding from minor cuts, anaemia, nose bleeds
– General sickness – weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea
– Behaviour change – depression, lethargy, seizures
Keeping your dog lungworm free:
If you think your dog may be showing any signs of lungworm please contact us for advice – early diagnosis and treatment is key to be successful.
If you think your dog is at risk then it is important to consider prevention:
– Pick up faeces from the garden to help prevent slugs and snails picking up larvae and perpetrating infections
– Clean food and water bowls daily – beware of feeding outside as slug/snail trails can infect the dog
– Only certain worming products are effective in preventing lungworm:
Advocate – this is a spot-on treatment which can be applied monthly to prevent lungworm infection. (Advocate also covers fleas so it can be a very cost effective way to manage both issues at
the same time)
Milbemax/Milpro – this is an oral wormer normally given every 3 months for roundworm/tapeworm. However if your dog is at risk of lungworm, then this wormer can be given monthly to prevent infection.
If you are travelling abroad please speak to us for advice on parasite prevention. With the exception
of the UK, Europe has many diseases which are spread by parasites which we do not have here in UK.
Please speak to us about how best to protect your pet when travelling abroad.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of joints most commonly seen in older large breed dogs or following joint injury or disease. Any joint can be affected but arthritis most frequently involves the hips, stifles and elbows.
Clinical signs can vary widely from a mild stiffness to severe lameness. Owners may also notice reduced muscle over the affected area.
As a disease of older dogs the signs can often be mistaken simply for slowing down with age. In these patients a real improvement can sometimes be seen once treatment has started.
Each patient must be treated as an individual when managing arthritis as there are many issues to consider. These include severity of signs, bodyweight, number/ type of joints affected, age, activity levels and other concurrent illnesses.
For example a younger active Labrador with hip arthritis would be managed differently from an older dog with arthritis in all four limbs. In most cases a combination of treatments are used.
- Weight control – excess bodyweight can put extra strain on joints and so weight loss can make a major difference to mobility in arthritic animals. Recent studies have also shown links between excess fatty tissue and increased inflammation in joints.
- Controlled Exercise – Exercise is important to maintain muscle support for joints but should not be excessive. The amount of exercise each day should be fairly consistent and not cause excessive stiffness the following day. Activities like swimming can provide low impact exercise and some clients can be referred for hydrotherapy. Fast running and chasing toys can put extra strain on joints and should generally be avoided.
- Joint Supplements (glucosamine, chondroitin, essential fatty acids) – Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural building blocks of healthy cartilage and are needed for repair in arthritic joints. Essential fatty acids have been found to be most the useful, of this group of products, in helping to reduce joint inflammation. In some patients these can make a significant difference to clinical signs without the risk of major side effects. Although they are available for humans these preparations are not always suitable for or effective in animals. We would recommend animal licensed products only
- Anti-inflammatory Painkillers – The most commonly used type of painkillers for arthritis are Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). They block part of the inflammatory pathway involved in joint pain. In cases with moderate to severe lameness they can be a very important part of arthritis management. Within the broad category of NSAIDs there are several different drugs. The choice of which to use depends on the individual as some will respond better to one than another. Similarly some animals will develop side effects on one drug but will tolerate another well. Side effects are usually mild, including vomiting or diarrhoea, but in a small minority of cases the drugs can affect liver and kidney function. For this reason we usually recommend a screening blood test prior to use of long term anti – inflammatory medications.
- Other Painkillers – In patients that cannot tolerate NSAIDs due to side effects or other concurrent illness there are other classes of painkiller may be needed, for example paracetamol, tramadol, gabapentin and amantadine. Most of these have no animal licensed product for long term use but human preparations are widely used (off license) to provide effective pain relief. These drugs are also sometimes needed for additional pain relief in cases with severe clinical signs. Always seek advice from your veterinary surgeon before giving any human medications as doses may vary and some can be very toxic (for example ibuprofen).
- Complimentary Therapy – techniques such as acupuncture can have beneficial effects on mobility in some patients. Animals need to be referred to a trained veterinary acupuncture therapist for this.
- Physiotherapy – this can be used to improve mobility and maintain muscle tone
- Surgical Treatment – for some specific joints there are surgical options for treatment. Hip and elbow replacements are available for severely arthritic joints. Lameness from stifle cruciate injuries can be helped by surgery to stabilise the joint but eventually a degree of arthritis will develop. Some painful arthritic joints can benefit from debridement of the cartilage either by arthroscopy or surgical opening of the joint. In young dogs with lameness due to developmental defects in cartilage (OCD) arthroscopy can be used to remove painful bone fragments and cartilage flaps.
- Stem Cell Joint Injections – a new area being investigated for treatment is the injection of stem cells into arthritic joints. These are the precursor cells to producing the normal joint tissues including cartilage and can be harvested from the animals own fatty tissue. They are then multiplied in a laboratory and prepared for introduction to the joint. While good results have been achieved it is only of benefit to certain cases.
- Laser Therapy – there is anecdotal reports of this helping some patients but currently there is not much scientific evidence of benefits
- Monoclonal Antibody Therapy – this is a newly developed form of therapy where monoclonal antibodies are given by monthly injection under the skin. The antibodies target nerve growth factor in joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Trials have been very encouraging and suggest this may be a safe, effective alternative to more traditional treatments. The injection for dogs is called Librela.
All our pets will get some degree of dental disease unless the teeth are regularly brushed. A frightening statistic states that 80% of dogs and cats over the age of three need dental treatment.
Many owners are unaware of these lurking problems as the mouth can be very difficult to examine.
Dental disease in our pets is a health and welfare issue and it can trigger other serious health problems if left untreated. Toothache and pain may go unnoticed as animals carry on eating.
Inflamed gums and periodontal disease can lead to bacteria spreading via the bloodstream to kidneys, lungs and even heart valves all contributing to chronic ill health.
When we examine the mouth we are looking for signs such as recession and bleeding of the gums, bad breath, loose or cracked teeth, build up of tartar, pockets around the teeth, swelling of the gum or face and fur staining from drooling.
We strongly recommend DENTAL X-RAYS routinely for cats and as appropriate for dogs.
The tooth is like an iceberg, with most of the tooth being under the gum. Dental x-rays allow us to see the entire tooth. This is particularly important in cats who may develop HOLES or ‘Feline Resorption Lesions ’in the teeth below the gum line.
This can mean that despite the tooth being visible in the mouth, the root may have disappeared. Without an x-ray, the operator may spend time and effort trying to remove a root that has been resorbed. Dental x-rays in these circumstances will therefore reduce the dental time and will reduce trauma in the oral cavity.
Dental radiography allows for treatment planning and visualisation of any ‘periodontitis’ (the degree of inflammation in the tooth socket). It can also provide important information after tooth extraction on whether the entire root has been removed and whether missing teeth are truly missing or still in the jaw bone.
We feel strongly that although we must charge a fee for the radiography, by giving us a much better picture of what is happening in the mouth, there will be a better long term outcome following dental treatment.
Avoiding separation anxiety
All dogs, especially young puppies we are seeing, are at risk of developing separation anxiety.
These pets have been used to having their owners around 24/7 for over 2 months, enjoying extra treats, walks and cuddles.
When family routines change back to something more normal, the change from having this extra company, to being left at home alone, can be a risk factor for separation anxiety.Not all dogs will exhibit the signs of separation anxiety, but for some the change in routine may lead to excessive barking, howling, destroy/chewing things, lose control of their bladder/bowels or worse case, self-harm.
This may start as soon as their owners start to leave them again or for the first time with new puppies.
There are things you, as an owner, can put in place now to reduce this risk. Now is the time to act to try and avoid future problems:
- Encourage your dog to settle in their own bed while you work from home, cook dinner or watch T.V
- Spend time in another room away from your dog and in the garden with your dog inside.
If you can leave your house, e.g. food shopping. Leave your dog on their own (as you would have done pre-lockdown, if they tolerated being home alone) not with members of your household.
- Try and stick to a similar routine to the one you were in pre-lockdown and one you are likely to return to.
- Feed your dog the same times, let them have sleep time when you would have been out of the house and walk them roughly the same time as you did.
Think about the behaviour you want in an adult dog, this is how you must treat your puppy from day one. So if you don’t want your adult dog to jump up to greet you (or visitors) then discourage and ignore your puppy if it carries out that behaviour.
Likewise if you don’t want to share your sofa or bed with a fully grown Labrador (especially a bitch in season!) don’t encourage your puppy to snuggle up with you in those locations.
Or if you think it’s cute to have a puppy hang off the bottom of your trousers – think about a 20kg Collie doing the same thing!
For new puppies there is a good article with advice on the Dogs trust website:
Lumps and bumps on my pet! Should I be worried?
What could it be?
How can we find out what it is?
Can the lump be removed without identifying it?
Can we just monitor it?
What if it’s a cancer?
Lump removal surgery