Bichon Frizse puppy with red bow.

Ears, and how to look after them

Ear problems in cats and dogs are common. They can be distressing for the pet, owners can find scratching and head shaking irritating and there can be a bad smell!

What causes ear disease?

There can be multiple causes but we basically split them into two types, primary and secondary. Primary ear problems are things that directly affect the ear such as ear mites, foreign bodies, growths and allergies. Secondary causes are those things that come in after the ear is damaged by a primary cause and make things worse.Dog refuses taking syrup. These are bacterial infections and yeasts but also the damage done by scratching and head shaking.

To make things worse, once the ear has been damaged it never fully recovers and the permanent changes make it easier for future ear problems to happen, so it becomes a bit of a viscious cycle. On top of all this there are breed differences. The original canine ear was like that of a wolf, upright and pointed, but breeding has changed the shape significantly, compare that to the ear of a spaniel for example. Some breeds are prone to allergy which shows itself in the ears, in fact a dog can be allergic to house dust, for example, but only show it by having one itchy ear. Dietary allergies can also cause sore ears.


Signs of ear disease

It is important, if your dog shows signs of a sore ear, usually head shaking or scratching, to get it treated as soon as possible. The ear can look red and sore. Early treatment decreases the chances of long term changes having taken place as well as stopping your pet from having a painful ear. Once ears get very bad, we can always help but it may be impossible to get a cure and we look more at managing the problem.

Care of your pets (normal) ears

A inside normal canine ear.

A normal canine ear

If your dog or cat doesn’t have an ear problem then it is best to leave them alone.

You can wipe off any excess wax that appears at the outside of the ear and if your dog is groomed, keeping the hair short around the entrance to the ear canal is a good idea.

I am not a fan of regular hair plucking from normal ears, it is painful and regrows within about 6 weeks. It can also contribute to your dog scratching at the ear as you make it sore. Regular ear cleaning (apart from wiping excess wax as above) is also not a good idea, pretty much any ear cleaner can cause the ear to get a bit sore.

Treatment of ear disease

If your pet develops a sore ear then it is essential to find out what primary and secondary factors are responsible and deal with them. this can involve ears drops, pills, cleaner, taking samples to be examined, sedation and ear cleaning, and, in advanced cases, surgery to make the ear more comfortable.

Chocolate chopped up

Chocolate Poisoning In Dogs

It’s a little late for Easter, but this article, courtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition is always relevant.

Dog jumping in a meadow

Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? The answer is yes. The hazard to your dog however, depends on the type of chocolate, the size of dog, and the amount consumed.

The component of chocolate that is toxic to dogs is called theobromine. Whereas humans easily metabolise theobromine, dogs process it much more slowly allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.

Size matters

A large dog can consume a great deal more chocolate than a small dog before it will suffer ill effects. It’s also worth remembering that different types of chocolate have different levels of theobromine. Cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate have the highest levels while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest.

A small amount of chocolate will probably just give your dog an upset stomach. He or she may throw up or have diarrhoea. Large amounts though, will have a more serious effect. In sufficient quantities, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, or a heart-attack.

What to look out for

The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

Don’t worry if your dog has eaten a single milk chocolate or helped himself to the last square of your bar, because this won’t provide a large enough dosage of theobromine to hurt him. If you have a small dog though, and he has eaten a box of chocolates, you need to get him to the vet immediately. And if you’re dealing with any quantity of dark or bitter chocolate, err on the side of caution. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate means it takes only a very small amount to poison a dog; just 25 grams may be enough to poison a 20 kg dog.

Dog walking in a field The usual treatment for theobromine poisoning is to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. Charcoal can be used to limit absorption and in severe cases fluid therapy, or sedation may be needed.

If you are worried that your dog may have eaten chocolate do not hesitate to call your vet. Time will be of the essence. Vets have access to up to date guidance on how much chocolate is a problem for different sizes of dog. It is helpful if you know what type of chocolate your dog has eaten, how much was eaten, how long ago and roughly what your dog weighs.

Lungworm, a real and present threat

Most of us will have heard of lung worm in dogs (there is also one in cats although it doesn’t cause as serious a disease).

The worm

Dogs catch lung worm from snails and slugs, they can pick these up just from general rummaging around in the garden, but also they can swallow them from drinking dirty water, eating grass or because the snail or slug is on one of their toys. We think of slugs being those big horrible slimey things we see after rain but many are very tiny so we don’t notice them, but they are just as infectious to our dogs and much easier to be swallowed by mistake. It has also been shown that the lung worm larvae can be in the slime trails left by snails and slugs making this another potential route for infection.


A cough or some breathing diffculties are the most common signs but there can be no signs at all or in the worst cases the parasite can cause a bleeding disorder which can be fatal. The worst symptoms are usually in young dogs, partly because their lifestyle makes them more likely to pick up slugs and snails and partly because as dogs get older they develop an immunity to infection.

Treatment and Prevention

There are currently very few effective treatments available. Most routine wormers DO NOT cover against lung worm. There is a pill and a ‘spot on’ that do both work, they are both used monthly. We would treat most coughing dogs with one of these products routinely just in case the cause is lung worm. Obviously your dog’s lifestyle will make it more or less at risk from this nasty parasite so we always tailor our anti parasite treatments to the individual pet. There is a map of where lung worm has been positively identified available here. You will note that  there aren’t any immediate positives in Preston, but remember, the problem is nationwide and this map is only of laboratory tested positives. Many coughing dogs will be given treatments and get better without ever being tested!  The big worry for us is the small number of dogs that can die from this condition.


As ever, please ask us for more information about preventing lung worm in your dog. More information is also available at


Platelet Enhancement Therapy – it’s a Cracker!

At Withy Grove we have started using Platelet Enhancement Therapy (V-PET) to help dogs with painful joints and ligaments. This therapy has been used all over the world but is now becoming more popular.

Our first patient was Cracker, a Labrador with sore arthritic elbows, wrists and toes. She had had various pain killers but we were struggling so our vet, Suanne, decided to give V-PET a go.

Cracker waiting for the exit door to be opened at the surgery.

What is it?

Platelets are in the bloodstream and they help with blood clotting and tissue repair. We know they contain over 5000 ‘growth factors’ which are used to enhance healing and repair so we can use these to help the body ‘heal itself’. By using your dog’s own platelets there are no side effects and no drugs involved, it is using nature to heal itself

What do we do?

We take a small sample of your pet’s own blood and filter out and concentrate the platelets from it. Then we re inject these platelets back into the sore joint or area.  The platelets are activated at the site of the injury, releasing the growth factors which then accelerate healing, regenerating tissue and helping new blood supply to come in too. The whole procedure is done on one day so your pet doesn’t have to come back. We usually use our therapeutic laser at the same time to further stimulate the body’s reaction.


The blood sample drawn up.






The instructions!







The sample being filtered before being injected back into the dog.

What are the results?

We have only done a small number of dogs but the results have been excellent with increased mobility and significant pain reduction in all the cases. The idea is to get your dog off medication but it can be used alongside conventional medicines and supplements too. We also have an in house Physiotherapist who can help your pet with exercises.

Ask us about Platelet Enhancement Therapy or pop in to pick up a leaflet – a natural choice for treating lameness in dogs!


Ollie Gets Dragged Through The Fence!

Ollie was sniffing around his yard when he heard another dog outside. So, being an inquisitive sort of canine he stuck his nose through a hole in the fence to have a smell of the new comer. Unfortunately the new comer was not as friendly as Ollie had hoped. It was a cross bred who was not very well mannered and proceeded to grab the newly exposed bit of Ollie’s nose and pull him through the fence.


Ollie was very lucky in that he could pull himself back through the hole with the help of his owner and he was safe. When he came to us he had a cut under his left eye, his lip was torn through on the left side and he had puncture marks on the right side of his nose. Under anaesthetic we clipped and cleaned the area and stitched the lip and eye wounds. Dog bites always inject bacteria under the skin so Ollie had to go home with antibiotics and pain killers. he has since made a full recovery.

Ollie’s bites to his eye and lip


Both Ollie and his owner were lucky, dogs that get attacked in the open often cannot escape and can end up with horrible injuries (and even be killed). There is also the risk of humans getting badly bitten and requiring hospital treatment if they try to separate the fighting dogs. Of course it is human nature to try and rescue our dogs. often the dog that is attacked is a friendly, trusting animal and there can be lifelong psychological changes to dogs that have been attacked.

The wounds stitched up

Enjoying his recovery

Early socialisation and firm training will nearly always stop a dog being aggressive. If an owner has any suspicion their dog is aggressive to other dogs they have a duty of care to make sure their dog is exercised safely, either by keeping it away form other dogs, keeping it on a lead or even using a muzzle when the dog is out and about.


Parvovirus – an update

Parvovirus is still common around Preston, we see cases on a regular basis. This is a distressing and often fatal disease so information about treating it and, more importantly, prevention is vital.


Parvovirus is (not surprisingly) caused by a virus, or to be more precise, several variants of a virus. It is a worldwide problem, the most serious strain is called CPV2 and this also has various variants which differ in distribution and seriousness. There is evidence that the virus is still developing new strains so we have to keep our vaccines up to date to ensure protection. CPV1 usually causes just mild diarrhoea.


These include;

  • Sudden onset diarrhoea and vomiting. Diarrhoea is often bloody.
  • Raised temperature.
  • Depression and dehydration.
  • Death, particularly in young dogs. (Puppies 3-8 weeks old, and occasionally older dogs, can just die suddenly with no signs at all as the virus damages the heart muscle).


We have an in-house (faeces) sample test at Withy Grove which gives us a diagnosis in minutes.


Parvovirus is a very resistant virus. It can survive high temperatures, drying out, acids and can live for years in the environment. It is killed by many (but not all) disinfectants. Ask us for advice about what is best to use. There is evidence that cats can act as a reservoir of infection (one of the theories is that canine parvovirus actually began as a mutation of the cat parvovirus). Infection is by ingestion of virus from faeces or the environment. Infection is much more likely from the environment than from contact with an infected dog. This infection is usually via food or water contaminated by faeces containing the virus. Incubation period is from 2-6 days.

Disease Progression

The virus strips the lining from the gut wall which can then allow secondary bacterial infection to take hold. The virus can cross the placenta in pregnant bitches which can cause abortion or foetal infection. Massive amounts of virus are excreted in the faeces and after recovery this excretion can continue for up to 8 weeks so the dog is a source of infection to others). Damage to the gut wall can mean it takes months for a dog to fully recover.


The mainstay of treatment is keeping the dog alive and assisting his or her immune system. This involves aggressive fluid therapy (in isolation of course to prevent infection spreading), drugs to help kill the virus, antibiotics against secondary infection, pain killers and medicines to control the vomiting and diarrhoea. We have isolation facilities and the nurses are trained in how to care for your dog and keep the isolation effective. Treatment can be costly and sometimes the disease is fatal whatever we do. Pet insurance covers treatment costs.


VACCINATION!! The parvovirus vaccination is very effective and protection lasts for some years (at Withy Grove our vaccination protocol boosts parvovirus protection every 3 years). Any antibodies in the mothers milk will stop a vaccine working so it is vital that the last puppy vaccination is given after 10 weeks of age when these antibodies will have all gone. Prompt cleaning with a disinfectant that is effectives and removing faeces and vomit as quickly as possible helps.

Parvovirus is a very important infection, the virus can change over time so revaccination with up to date strains is vital as is making certain all dogs are vaccinated. If the percentage of dogs vaccinated falls then the chance of our canine friends catching this distressing disease increases. Contact us to discuss this further.

Wallace and Vomit

Meet Wallace. He is a happy little six-year-old West Highland White Terrier and he was presented to us because he was vomiting but still pretty happy in himself. This vomit was more like regurgitation, he was hungry but brought back any food or water pretty much immediately he swallowed it. This usually means there is a foreign body somewhere in the upper part of the digestive tract. In the early stages these dogs are still quite bright (unlike in a severe infection, for example).

X Rays

Radiographs showed there was something stuck just where his oesophagus enters the stomach. There is a natural constriction in the oesophagus here so it is easy for objects to get trapped in this spot. The problem we have is that anything stick here is difficult to get at. The oesophagus is a very unforgiving organ to do surgery on, it heals very badly and incising into it can often end up with complications which can be fatal.

wallace the westie's x-ray at withy grove vets

Wallace’s X-ray. The piece of bone is circled.


We tried to see and remove the object with our endoscope. We have a camera and some grasping forceps, we pass these through his mouth and down to where the blockage is, it looked like a piece of bone but it was too firmly wedged for us to remove without causing excessive damage.

wallace's endoscopy at withy grove vets

The piece of wedged bone as viewed down our endoscope


The next option was surgery, we operated on Wallace, opening up his stomach and trying to pull the bone through into the stomach from the inside. It was still firmly wedged, we eventually managed to get it out with one vet pulling from the stomach and another pushing it using a stomach tube passed through Wallace’s mouth.


Removal left a lot of damage to the oesophagus, we can see this with our endoscope so aftercare for Wallace was critical. He was fed and watered entirely intravenously for 2 days to give the damaged area a chance to recover. Pain relief is also vital and we usually use an anti-acid drug to stop stomach acid being refluxed into the oesophagus and causing more irritation to an already damaged area. Wallace has since made a full recovery.

wallaces throat after surgery


Bones and Dogs

Every year we see a steady stream of problems caused by dogs eating bones, they include constipation, stomach upsets, vomiting, gut blockages, broken teeth etc. Many can be sorted out but they can be fatal problems too.

Dogs love chewing on bones but they don’t need them. there are many safer chews out there. They also don’t do much to keep teeth clean. You should also remember that although ‘wild dogs’ eat bones, they are much bigger which means the chances of a piece of bone getting stuck are much reduced, they also chew their food differently from domestic dogs.

If you feel you have to give your dog bones then get the right sort, from a pet shop, don’t give bits of bone left over from cooking.

Anyway, we wish all our clients and pets a happy and successful 2018 from all of us at Withy Grove Vets!



Happy Christmas To All Our Animals!

Be Careful this Christmas

Watch out for potential hazards to your pets this Christmas, as findings released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal that in the North West 80% of vets saw at least one case of toxic ingestion in pets during the last festive period.

Across the UK, chocolate poisoning in dogs remains the most common cause of toxic ingestion at Christmas, with 74% of vets seeing at least one case. Raisin or sultana poisoning is also prevalent (54%), with vets reporting a significant increase in cases over the last two years.

Several vets in BVA’s ‘Voice of the Veterinary Profession’ survey said that, despite owners’ best intentions, their pets had been poisoned after gifts or festive treats containing chocolate or raisins were placed under the Christmas tree, with the owner unaware of the potential peril for their pet lurking beneath the wrapping. Many cats also suffered toxic ingestion last Christmas, with a quarter of vets treating cats for antifreeze poisoning.

BVA President John Fishwick said:

‘Christmas is typically a fun and chaotic time for families, but the presents, treats and decorations can often prove dangerous for our pets if we are not careful. Many pet owners are aware of the risks of chocolate or other festive foods being toxic for their pets but, as our survey shows, it’s easy to be caught out by a kind gift left under the tree which curious animals can find hard to resist. Our advice is for present-givers to tell owners if there is anything edible in gifts and to keep such presents safely out of reach of your pet. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something it shouldn’t, please contact your local vet immediately.’

Keeping your pets safe

To keep Christmas merry for the whole household, Withy Grove recommends you ensure your home is safe for four-legged friends by following these five simple tips:

  1. Protect your pet from poisons – a number of festive treats and traditions are toxic to cats and dogs. They include;
  • Chocolate and liquorice (common Christmas gifts)
  • Raisins and sultanas (used in Christmas cake recipes)
  • Certain nuts (especially peanuts and Macadamia nuts)
  • Xylitol-sweetened foods
  • Onions, avocados and grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Plants including poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, lilies (and daffodils)
  • Cleaning and DIY products such as white spirit and lubricating oils
  • Car anti-freeze
  • Human medicines

Substances with low toxicity that could cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea include:

  • Blu-tack or other similar adhesives (used to put up decorations)
  • Charcoal and coal
  • Cut-flower and houseplant food
  • Expanded polystyrene foam (used for large present packing)
  • Matches
  • Wax candles and crayons
  • Silica gel (found in packaging)
  1. Keep decorations out of reach – ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can all prove irresistible to cats and dogs but can be very dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as, if ingested, they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.
  2. Forget festive food for pets, we all enjoy a richer diet over Christmas, but fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared. They can trigger, sickness and diarrhoea or other conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Bones including turkey bones should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract (see my next blog for an example!). Make sure any bones are disposed of in a bin that your dog won’t be able to access.
  3. Give toys not treats, we all want our pets to share the fun and many of us include a gift for our pet on the shopping list. But too many treats can lead to fat pets which can have serious consequences for their health, so consider opting for a new toy, or a long walk (usually enjoyed more by dogs than cats!) if you want to indulge your pet this Christmas.
  4. Know where to go, even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Make sure you’re prepared, all vets must have a 24 hour emergency cover, phone our normal number , 01772 330103, if you need assistance and you will be put through to our on call service. The only two days we don’t have a surgery at Withy Grove are Christmas Day and Boxing Day. If you are away from home, use the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons ‘ Find a Vet’ facility at

For more information on pets and poisons download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘Pets and Poisons’ leaflet at

withy grove vets - rogue the greyhound

Removal of a Rogue tooth

Rogue looking a bit worried before the operation.

Rogue is a two year old Doberman. She came to us recently because her owner had noticed that she had a fractured tooth. This tooth is the main chewing tooth at the back of the mouth, there is one in the upper jaw and one in the lower jaw and they are known as carnassials and are particularly useful for chewing meat. Dogs don’t look after their teeth like we do so tooth fractures are not uncommon if they chew stones and sticks etc. If the root cavity of the tooth isn’t damaged then we can often leave the tooth in place, it will always be more prone to future decay as the enamel has been damaged but as long as we keep an eye on it to spot early signs of progressing disease it can stay where it is.

In Rogue’s case she had opened the root cavity so we have to remove the tooth. It was probably painful but cats dogs and cats are remarkably good at disguising this sort of pain and keeping eating. If left the decay would have got into the gums and bone and caused more pain.

Tooth Removal

Rogue duly came in and the tooth was removed under general anaesthesia. The carnassial tooth is particularly well attached as it needs to be for it’s use, it has three roots, two at the front and one at the back. Taking out a three rooted tooth is extremely difficult and the chance of doing excessive damage to the surrounding bone, or worse of fracturing the root and leaving a bit behind is high. To get round this problem we cut the tooth on half with an air pressure driven burr and then take the tooth out as two teeth, one with one root and one with two roots.


After, the tooth removed.

Before, the offending tooth is the large one on the upper jaw.

It can still be difficult to remove but we have a very powerful air-driven dental machine that helps enormously. After we had removed the tooth we scale and polish the rest. We always do this after any dental procedure to keep the teeth and gums as healthy as possible, this is particularly important as we have to anaesthetise animals to perform a scale and polish (as they won’t sit still with their mouth open!).



Anyway, Rogue made a full recovery assisted by some pain relief and is now ready to resume her superhero duties.

The offending tooth, cut in two to remove. The front portion on the right has two roots and the back portion, one.

Does your dog enjoy a trip to the vets?

One of the day to day issues we have to think about is that a lot of dogs just don’t like coming to the vets!

A survey of owners found that 38% said their dog hated trips to the vets and 26% said they got stressed thinking about taking their canine friend!

Obviously, if your dog is ill then we need to see it, it is easier for us at the surgery where we have all the kit we need, and trained staff, rather than doing a house visit. So we all have to make visits as stress free as possible for dogs and owners alike. Dogs learn easily so if they have had a previous bad veterinary experience it re-enforces unease.

Anxious Canines

You can leave your anxious canine in the car until we’re ready to see you, just come in and tell reception you’ve arrived. We can see your dog outside the surgery, at the side of the building for example. You can request an appointment at the beginning or end of surgery when there should be few other animals around. Bringing more than one person with each dog helps, dogs draw reassurance from ‘their’ pack. It also allows one person to care for the dog whilst another deals with our staff.

Dogs want to co-operate but they have a basic drive to succeed and survive which can override co-operation. They also like to have a choice, not always the case at the vets!


If a dog feels threatened, it has four responses, usually done in order;

‘Freeze’ to hope the threat passes.

‘Communicate’ to ‘make friends’ with the threat.

‘Avoid’ the threat (this isn’t possible in a vets!).

‘Actively Avoid’ the threat. This involves running away (difficult in a vets) or in extreme cases, aggression. If aggression works (i.e. it makes the vet go away) then a dog remembers this as a success!

Dogs that are excited when they come to the vets (straight from daycare for example), or in pain (a reason for coming to the vets) tend to react worse. This is one reason why sometimes we don’t examine a dog on the first visit, just give pain relief then see the next day.

Your dog might be very well behaved away from the vets but when he or she is here they may struggle to cope as their training is no longer appropriate. Dogs in a vets may release ‘alarm’ pheromones which are designed to survive all weathers so can be difficult to clean away. There are new smells (disinfectants etc), new sounds (often ones we can’t hear)and new social situations. With this lot it is no wonder your pet can be distressed!

Nerves and anxiety are genetic so we can help to breed them out . Puppies under 6 weeks old don’t have a ‘fight or flight’ reflex (they would be protected by their mum in the wild) so it is an ideal time to introduce them to new situations which they then accept as they get older

Some dogs won’t take treats from a vet, but if told to sit by the owner they then will as they have been given reassurance and guidance.


Every time a vet or nurse handles your dog we shape their behaviour. We have to recognise signs of distress in our patients and work to allay them as much as possible. We offer a complimentary health check for any new pet and free puppy parties which let your pet experience the surgery in a situation where nothing ‘bad’ happens.

We try and make all visits as enjoyable as possible, please tell us if you think there are ways we can improve.