Green-eyed cat stands againts black background.

Is My Cat Stressed?

Just like humans, cats can get stressed out. While stress in cats doesn’t always materialise in the ways you might expect, if you know what to look for, it’s not too difficult to spot an anxious moggy. It is important to keep an eye out for signs of stress in your cat; a stressed cat is an unhappy cat, and recent studies have shown that chronic, ongoing stress can cause stress-related diseases in cats, including skin problems and urinary tract disease such as cystitis.

How can I tell if my cat is stressed?

Cats are notoriously good at hiding their emotions, but it isn’t impossible to spot signs of feline anxiety. If your cat is displaying any of the behaviours listed below, you may find that the culprit is stress:

  • Unusual toileting behaviour. Many stressed cats express their anxieties by urinating outside the litter box (or in the house, if your cat is an outdoor cat), or worse still in your shoes or handbag.
  • Over-grooming. Cats groom themselves to self-soothe, so a cat that’s over-grooming may be under stress. A sure sign of excessive grooming is bald or thin patches of fur, which can be anywhere they can reach, most typically on the belly, the inside of their legs or their sides.
  • More meow. You know your cat – if they’re meowing and calling to you much more than usual, they could be trying to tell you something.
  • Excessive scratching. Cats often scratch themselves more than usual when they’re feeling stressed. If your cat’s up to date with their flea treatments, doesn’t have an allergy and is still scratching like mad, this could be a sign of stress.
  • Cats aren’t always the most sociable creatures, but neither is it usual for them to be hiding themselves away all of the time.
  • Lack of appetite. Decreased appetite in cats can be indicative of many different issues, including stress. This is definitely not a sign to ignore.
  • Just like humans, cats can lash out when they are under stress, both at humans and other animals.

What is causing my cat to feel stressed?

Grey persian cat looking forward.If you can tick off more than one of the symptoms above, you may find you have got a stressed moggy. While anxiety in cats is reasonably common, it’s not normal, and the first step is identifying any possible causes for your cat’s stress. The most common causes of stress in cats usually boil down to one thing: change. Think hard to see if you’ve made any recent changes to your home or routine which might have affected your cat more than you think.

Remember; cats don’t like doing anything that wasn’t their idea!

New cats outside are a common cause of stress, even if your cat is an indoor cat, another one walking past the window can be enough to upset them.

A big change for cats is the presence of new animals in the home; if you’ve brought home a new cat or another pet, this can be a major cause of stress for other pets. New family members, such as a baby, can cause feline stress too. The key thing here is to make sure your cat knows he’s still your number one; lots of love, attention, and cuddles are in order here. Be sure to make sure your cat still has lots of space, too – if you’ve introduced a second cat, make sure their food bowls are kept apart, and try to keep a separate litter tray for each cat, the ideal rule of thumb being to have one litter tray per cat plus one extra in your home. Importantly ensure they all have plenty of water, ideally in different containers.

Other changes in your life can equally affect your cats. Moving to a new home may be just as stressful for your puss as it is for you; by keeping blankets, toys and furniture around that your cat already knows well, you can help to ease this transition and make your new house feel like home again. Even changing jobs could be the cause of your cat’s stress; cats are creatures of habit, and anything which changes your daily routine can throw a cat off. Try to keep your day as consistent as possible,  and find a routine that works for you both going forward.

How can I help my cat?

If you can pinpoint the cause of your cat’s stress, you’re already halfway to fixing the problem. There are some more general ways that you can help your cat to feel calm and to prevent your cat from getting stressed in the future, too.

A simple option is to try a synthetic pheromone diffuser or spray such as Feliway. When a cat marks its territory, it releases facial pheromones which make the cat feel happy, calm, and relaxed. Synthetic copies of these pheromones are available as plug-in diffusers and sprays that you can use around the house to help your cat feel calmer. These products might not work for cats who have a deeper cause of their anxiety, but for many it may just do the trick.

It is also worth ensuring that your cats have as much space as possible. Don’t overcrowd your home with pets, and make sure that your cat always has somewhere quiet to retreat to if they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. If you have got the space and you live in a safe enough area, getting your cats outdoors can do wonders for their mental health. Cats are naturally active, outdoorsy animals, and getting out into the wild is really how they love to spend their time.

A happy cat is a healthy cat

Veterinarian hugging a cat.

If your cat is getting stressed, try not to beat yourself up about it. It is impossible to avoid all stress triggers all of the time; as a pet owner, all you can do is your best to make your pet’s life as happy and healthy as you can. If you have tried all of the above suggestions and your cat is still displaying the symptoms of stress, we would advise it is important to take them for a veterinary check-up to rule out any medical causes of their symptoms and to make sure that your cat’s anxiety isn’t making them ill. Vets have other ways, including medicines, that can help as well.

 

Article and photos courtesy of Zoetis Animal Health

Pug shakes off water.

How to Shampoo Your Dog

Like humans, doggies can get smelly. Sweat, muck and all the rest – so bathing your dog is a necessity. But it’s not as easy as taking your car to the jet wash. Your four-legged dirt-machine can be a tricky, sensitive and even snappy kind of terrier once they’re in the tub (and we don’t mean the snappy dressing kind). Let’s sort out the does and don’ts of dogwash. Bring a towel. Or three.

Brush before use

Give their coat a good going over prior to getting in the bath or shower. May as well minimise the amount of fur you’ll be unclogging from your plughole later on.

Dog on bathtube.

Make it fun

Tempt your pup into the tub with their favourite squeaky toy, or even a treat. Standing in a giant acrylic container of water is a fairly alien concept for a hound, so you’ll need to lure them in and keep the sensation a pleasant one, where possible. Remember to stay calm (your pooch picks up on your emotions) and even try a few taster sessions of them in the tub with no water to get them truly familiar with the location. Last thing you’ll want to do is make them associate the experience with stress, so leave any anxieties at the bathroom door.

Cool hand luke

When you’re confident of running the water, make sure it’s lukewarm. Not scalding, not freezing. Us humans like the luxury of a soaring temperature in the tub, but dogs have a higher body temperature than us. Anything approaching hot will come across like we’re trying to make dog stew. Err on the side of cooler.

Dog washing.

Shoulders, knees and toes (not head!)

Using either the showerhead (on light spray, your dog won’t react kindly to a fire-fighter’s hose-down) or cup, gently massage the water into the fur from the shoulders all the way down. Whilst many adore a good tummy rub, some poochies are very precious and snappy around their stomachs, so be cautious. Same goes for their tail. You should hopefully have already established your boundaries, so build on that trusting relationship.

Avoid the ears

As well as being seemingly woven from the softest candyfloss in the universe, a doggy’s ears are worryingly delicate. They’re prone to infection and used for pooch’s balance, so treat the ears and head as a water exclusion zone!

Get the right shampoo

Most importantly, don’t use human shampoo. It’s not formulated for canine kind (think diesel in an unleaded, only much more valuable and furry). Use a vet-approved medicated dog shampoo that moisturises your panting pal’s coat and skin, instead of stripping away precious oils. A bad choice can either lead to or aggravate an existing skin condition. Poor pooch will be scratching like a doggy possessed if you buy the wrong product.

Natural ingredients such as oat-based products are preferable. And make sure the suds are out before the bath is over. Consult your vet on which brand best suits your breed. They may recommend a coal tar-based product, which can alleviate itchy skin, but it all depends on the breed and frequency of the wash. There’s still debate about exactly what ingredients should comprise your pup-wash, so again, ask your doggy doctor for advice.

Face facts

A simple wipe down with a wet flannel will do. And whatever you do, don’t absent-mindedly suck the flannel afterwards or accidentally use it to wash your own face. Ew!

Fearful dog taking a bath.

Drying off

A hairdryer is best avoided, given your wet-nosed pal’s higher body temperature. Grab a towel or two and give your pup a gentle rubdown. Emphasis on the word gentle.

So there you have it. You’ll have your four-legged chum sparkling and keen to get twice as filthy in no time. Happy sploshing!

Article and photos courtesy of Zoetis Animal Health

Company logo.

Withy Grove News August 2020

Staff Changes

Sadly, Charlotte Noy has left the practice to seek her future elsewhere, she has moved to a practice in Wales and we wish her every success.

She has been replaced by a Veterinary Nurse, also conveniently called Charlotte – although she would prefer to be known as Lottie, who has moved to us from another local practice. Lottie is particularly interested in behaviour and we hope to develop this further over the coming months.

Regan has also returned from maternity leave and is now back working full time, both her and Sophie are studying for specialist certificates which necessarily had to have a break over the last few months but they will pick them up again now.

Social Distancing

After working as a small team on emergency shifts, then as two teams on 12 hour shifts, then as two teams in the same building but with the building divided in two, we are now all back working as one team with social distancing in place.

We are not allowing clients in the building at present, the nature of our work means that if you hold your pet while we are treating it, we will be closer than is currently advised and we would do this up to sixty times a day. The risk to us and to you is too great at the present time so we are still keeping you out of the building. There are a few exceptions to this, if you do come into the building for any reason you must be wearing a facecovering, covering your nose and mouth.

Staff will be wearing facecoverings when talking to you, or be behind plastic screens. Please maintain your distance.

 

Practice Upgrades

Plans to extend the practice have been put on hold owing to the current situation, but some things will go ahead this year. They include new dog and rabbit kennels both with integrated heated floors and LED lighting, a new ultrasound machine as well as assorted minor upgrades to our building and facilities.

 

Video consults

Like the situation with human GPs, we have been using video consults whilst all this has been going on, they are still available now on this link. If you are isolating or if your pet doesn’t like coming to the vets, then they are an ideal way to access a consultation from your home.

Our Vet Shop

We have launched an online practice shop, you can have a look at it here, currently the stock is limited to worm and flea treatments but more products will become available and eventually you will be able to order and pay for repeat prescriptions directly through this facility.

Home delivery banner.

Feedback

As always, we welcome feedback on our products and services so we can improve things further.

Sad dog's face.

Cat lying sideways.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

About Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism was not recognised as a problem in cats until 1979. It is now considered a common disease of cats. Both male and female cats are equally affected. It is thought that Siamese and Himalayan cats have a decreased risk of developing hyperthyroidism.

What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?

 

Cat thyroid gland.The thyroid gland is divided into two lobes, one on either side of the windpipe in your cat’s neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone (thyroxine). In normal cats the gland cannot be felt.

The hormone produced by the thyroid gland is essential for the normal growth of the skeleton and brain in young animals. It also has a wide variety of functions in adult animals:
→ Involved in the control of metabolism
→ Effects heart rate
→ Helps control the breakdown of fatty tissues
→ Involved in red blood cell production

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland makes and secretes very high levels of thyroid hormones. This is caused by abnormal changes or tumors in the gland. These abnormalities are usually benign and can be treated successfully. In rare cases, hyperthyroidism can be more complicated to treat. The cause of the abnormal changes in the thyroid tissue is not known.

Signs of Hyperthyroidism.

 

Cat with hyperthyroidism symptoms infographic.

Hyperthyroidism is a progressive disease with a slow, subtle onset, becoming more obvious with time. Early signs may be hard to recognise because the increased appetite and high levels of activity often seen are not always recognised as abnormal. The gradual deterioration in coat and body condition can also be wrongly attributed to the “normal signs” of aging.

Thyroid hormones control the speed of your cat’s metabolism, but when in excess, can cause a range of signs. The more thyroid hormone produced, the higher the metabolic rate and the more calories your cat burns.

Not all of these signs will occur in every cat with hyperthyroidism.

Poor body condition is a common sign of hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroid cats might be nervous or aggressive.
An enlarged thyroid gland is sometimes visible but more often can be felt.

Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism

Your vet will diagnose that your cat is hyperthyroid from the history that you give, a thorough physical examination and laboratory tests.

Conditions such as kidney disease and heart problems are also common in older cats. It is important to check for concurrent diseases, this can influence the choice of treatment and prognosis for your cat.

To confirm the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism your vet will take blood samples to measure the levels of thyroid hormone circulating in the bloodstream and to evaluate your cat’s general condition and make sure it is not suffering from any other diseases.

In some cases, even although your vet strongly suspects that your cat is hyperthyroid, as the tests may not be conclusive.

This can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Your cat may be at a very early stage of the disease
  • Thyroid hormone levels can fluctuate and can even be normal at some point in hyperthyroid cats.
  •  Other diseases can influence thyroid hormone levels.
  • Your vet may need to repeat the blood tests after a week or so.

In some cases in might be necessary to carry out additional tests as well.

These tests could include:

  • Special tests to evaluate thyroid gland function
  • Diagnostic imaging (e.g. nuclear scintigraphy, ultrasound) of the thyroid, particularly before radio-iodine therapy or corrective surgery is done.

Treating Hyperthyroid Cats

Hyperthyroidism is usually manageable and there is a good chance that your cat will return to normal. The aim of treatment is to reduce the level of and ultimately the effects of excessive thyroid hormone.

Cat meets hedgehog.

It is very important that cats diagnosed with hyperthyroidism are treated as soon as possible. The longer a cat is left untreated the more detrimental the effects of the excessive thyroid hormones. Your vet will discuss your pet’s treatment plan with you and together you can decide on the best option for your cat.

The most common treatments options are:

• Medical treatment: Medical treatment is used for long term management of hyperthyroid cats and prior to radioactive iodine treatment or surgery. Drugs that block the manufacture of the thyroid hormones are used to reduce the levels of these hormones back to normal.

• Radioactive Iodine: Radioactive iodine treatment requires specialised facilities and hospitalisation. It is the most effective treatment in cases with malignant thyroid tumors. It can however result in hypothyroidism – which may require supplementation of thyroid hormones.

• Surgery: Surgical thyroidectomy involves the removal of one or both lobes of the thyroid gland. Cats usually undergo 2-4 weeks of medical treatment to improve their condition and minimise the potential complications, such as heart irregularities.

Dog lies on the carpet.

Rolo refuses to roll over

Meet Rolo, a very handsome one year old Jack Russell

Dog lies on the carpet.

Rolo gets ill

Rolo came to us with diarrhoea and vomiting whilst we were in ‘lockdown’. During this time we are not letting clients in the building and maintaining social distancing, so we had to get his story outside (fortunately in the sunshine!) whilst standing 2m from his owner. Rolo has been known to chew stones and the odd toy. After we had discussed his condition, we took Rolo inside the practice to give him a full examination and administer treatment. We are still seeing the tailend of the sickness bug that has been with us most of the winter and Rolo looked very much like he had caught this. However, despite treatment he didn’t improve and became quiet, hiding away and the diarrhoea continued, now with blood in it.

Rolo is hospitalised

Rolo came back to us as he hadn’t improved and we decided to admit him and put him on a drip. We ran blood tests and took x rays but everything seemed reasonably normal. He continued to go downhill, with more vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. We were worried there might be a foreign body (e.g. one of his toys he might have eaten!) in his gut at this point. There are only two ways to be sure of this, we could either send him for a scan or take him to surgery to have a look. Because there was little sign of improvement, we decided to perform exploratory surgery as an emergency as we were getting concerned about his condition. Again we found nothing apart from a sore gut! It was a relief there were no chewed up toys or stones inside Rolo, and with further treatment (and lots of TLC!) he showed some improvement and we let him go home.

Rolo get ill again

A few days later poor Rolo became quiet and ill again, he now had a wound infection.

Luckily, Rolo responded well to treatment and is now happy and back to normal at home.

Rolo leaves his mark

We are running on a skeleton staff, everyone doing a bit of everything so we all got involved with, and very attached to, this lovely dog. Throughout his illness, Rolo was calm and happy, he let us do all we had to do without so much as a flinch. When we medicated him he would wag his tail and happily let us do what needed to be done. One of the nurses wrote on his hospitalisation sheet ‘Enjoyed a good fuss!’. Once he had improved, on each visit we had to take him all round the practice to say hello to all the staff as we had all connected so well with him, He is a special dog.

This case illustrates one of the problems we often face, without our pets being able to speak and tell us how they feel and what they have been up to, and without the array of services and tests available to people, we often never know for certain what illnesses our pets have and we have to treat the symptoms. Because animals don’t understand what we are doing and can find the trip to the vets very stressful so it is lovely to have a dog who is so chilled about life. We wish Rolo and his family all the best for the future.

Dog on the carpet.

Brown labrador beeing petted.

What is a heart murmur?

How does my dog’s heart work?

Dog with a heart toy.

Your dog’s heart pumps blood around its body. Each heartbeat delivers fresh blood, rich in oxygen and nutrients, to all of the vital organs and tissues. Inside, the heart is divided into 4 separate chambers.

There are valves between the upper and lower chambers, which open and shut in sequence so that blood only flows in one direction.

When a vet listens to the heart of a healthy dog with a stethoscope, they can hear a strong, healthy heartbeat.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound that is heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. It is caused when blood flows the wrong way through the heart.

What is MVD?

Setter dog is looking at you.Mitral valve disease (MVD) is the most common heart disease in dogs. The disease is encountered in all breeds, although it is most common in small- to medium-sized dogs from middle age.

In MVD, the valve between the two chambers on the left side of the heart becomes thick, lumpy, distorted and leaky. With each heartbeat, blood is forced through the damaged valve in the wrong direction.

There are two phases of MVD: a long silent phase (asymptomatic MVD) where your dog will not have outward signs of a problem; and a shorter symptomatic phase (heart failure) where the heart can no longer cope and your dog will have symptoms associated with their heart disease.

If your dog is small to medium sized and your vet detects a heart murmur, it is most likely due to blood flowing the wrong way through leaky valves

What is heart failure?

MVD is a progressive disease that worsens gradually over time. A dog with a leaky, damaged mitral valve can live for many years without showing any symptoms apart from a heart murmur.

However, for many dogs, the leak gets worse over time. As more blood flows the wrong way through the heart, the murmur gets louder and more pressure is put on the heart. To compensate, the heart must grow larger and pump harder.

Eventually, there comes a point when the heart cannot cope with the additional strain any longer, and fails to pump enough blood around the body. This is known as heart failure.

Signs of heart failure include:
• Increased breathing rate
• Tiredness
• Difficulty exercising
• Coughing
• Difficulty breathing
• Fainting/collapse
If you recognise any of these symptoms in your dog, please speak to your vet urgently as dogs in heart failure require medication

Will my dog develop heart failure?

Running dog in leaves.

Not all dogs with MVD develop heart failure.

Dogs with MVD who go into heart failure are normally those who have developed an enlarged heart. These dogs will usually develop heart failure within 2 years.

Why is it important to find out if your dog’s heart is enlarged?
Finding out whether your dog has an enlarged heart is very important, as this will allow your vet to:
• Slow down and monitor the progression of your dog’s disease
• Provide you with a more accurate prognosis (a forecast as to what might happen)
• Design a management plan for your dog
• Identify when treatment should be initiated

Dogs with MVD need to be checked regularly by their vet in order to monitor the progression of their disease and have changes made to their management and treatment plan

How can my vet tell if my dog’s heart is enlarged?

There are currently two ways to tell if a dog with MVD has an enlarged heart:
• Chest X-rays
• Ultrasound scan

Both tests can be used to detect an enlarged heart; your vet will discuss with you which tests will be right for your dog. Neither test is painful but they may require your dog to go into the practice for a few hours or see a heart specialist.

If your dog has an X-ray or an ultrasound scan and their heart is of normal size, this is a good sign. This means that your dog is at lower risk of developing heart failure within two years. However, MVD is a disease that gets worse over time. Therefore, your vet will recommend that your dog has these tests repeated regularly (often yearly) to monitor how their heart disease is progressing.

It’s Winter, Do I Still Need To Treat For Fleas?

As we snuggle up on cold, winter nights, we may be surprised to find a problem with fleas. This is because low levels of fleas on our pets can remain undetected and infest our homes. Each female flea can lay up to 20 eggs a day on your pet’s coat – that’s up to a whopping 500 eggs in her lifetime and these eggs fall off wherever your pet lies. These flea eggs can then lie dormant in the environment for some time, hatching out when the conditions become right!

What makes pet fleas hatch out?

• Fleas need a warm environment to hatch out. Their ideal temperature is around 21⁰C – which is why we see then hatch out when we switch on our central heating, or when temperatures rise in the summertime.
• They love a humid environment too
• And they are also sensitive to vibrations. This is why we find fleas hatch out when we move home to a house which has been empty for a little while

What signs will I see if my pet has fleas?

Fleas seen under micsoscope.Fleas can cause our pets to scratch and itch. In some animals this itching can become intense leading to skin infections, hair loss and broken hair, scabs and sores. In young or old animals heavy flea burdens can even cause anemia.
If your pet is itching or scratching or you see dark coloured dirt on your pet’s coat you should check for fleas. You can do this by combing the coat with a flea comb. This is a comb with narrow teeth so that it catches small items in the coat (we sell these in our reception area)). You can also put some of the dirt onto a piece of white paper, and add some water, flea dirt smears red.
Sometimes, particularly in cats, we can see signs of hair loss particularly over the back near the tail but not find any fleas. This is because cats can be very allergic to flea saliva, but because they are so keen on grooming they clean away the evidence of fleas. As well as excellent flea control these cats need treatment to stop them itching in order to solve the problem.
Although fleas generally live on our pets, and bite them to get a blood meal, they’re not too fussy so will bite us as well.
Fleas can also spread a tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum so if your pet has fleas you should worm them regularly for tapeworms too.

What should I do if I have a flea problem?

A cat sitting next to window.

Prevention is always better than cure, so ensuring that you keep your pet’s flea treatment up to date all year round is the best way to stop a problem happening. If you do discover you have a flea problem it is important both to treat your pet and the surrounding environment. This can be undertaken using tablets, spot-on preparations and some flea collars (many flea collars are not very effective – ask us for advice) Flea shampoos and powders are not effective. We recommend using products which kill adult fleas before they can breed and which give sustained protection. In practical terms this usually means a tablet or a spot-on preparation depending on your pet’s lifestyle – for instance whether they swim or not and what you want to protect against.
You may also need to use a spray to treat the environment depending on how big the problem. While some of the products available to treat fleas on our pets can also treat the environment, you may need to use a spray specifically designed for this purpose. Always follow the instructions on these sprays carefully. Flea eggs can be hard to kill so increasing temperatures in the rooms you treat and boiling kettles to increase humidity can encourage flea eggs to hatch out allowing them to be killed more effectively.

Which products should I use to keep my pet safe from fleas?Flea life cycle in animals.

We believe that your pet deserves the best in flea and worm prevention, which is why our VIP (Very Important Pet) Health Club combines the most up-to-date parasite protection to ensure they are kept safe.
If you would like to discuss a personalised flea control plan for your pet, then please come in to talk to one of the Withy Grove team.

Dog Pug looking backwards.

Should I have my pet neutered?

There are three questions;

Should we get our cats and dogs neutered?Persian cat by the window.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

How old should they be when they have the surgery?

There are lots of opinions on the above topics, but what are the facts?

Cats

 

For cats that roam free the main reason for neutering is population control. There is already a large stray and feral cat population and one un-neutered queen can be responsible for over a hundred kittens in just one year! This large cat population often suffers with poor nutrition and care as well as harbouring diseases such as feline leukaemia. There are other benefits of neutering including less urine territory marking for the boys and cessation of repetitive seasons for the girls as well as decreased cancer risk.

White poodle posing.

Dogs

There are lots of factors we need to consider:

Pyometra

Between 30% and 60% of un spayed bitches will get a womb infection, (pyometra), as they get older. This is a life threatening condition and on its own is a enormous benefit of spaying.

Behaviour

We do know that castrating male dogs decreases their enthusiasm to roam and exhibit aggressive, dominance behaviour but these are multifactorial behaviours and it is wrong to castrate dogs for purely behavioural reasons. If your dog has no behavioural issues then neutering is fine, early socialisation (we run puppy parties) and good training obviously produce better adjusted dogs.

The most important factor affecting a dog’s behaviour (male and female) regarding neutering is their experience at the vets when the operation is taking place. Most young dogs come from homes where they are loved and comfortable in familiar surroundings. Being left in a kennel, the strange noises and people, the different handling and the discomfort and experience of coming around from anaesthesia are all critical experiences. Vets must make this day as stress free as possible; warm clean kennels, plenty of lovely staff attention, effective pain control and getting the pet home as soon as possible are all vital (At Withy Grove we strive to achieve all these things). Keyhole surgery spays have a lot less pain associated with them than conventional surgery.

Surgical risk

As with any surgery there are risks, wound infections and discomfort are the commonest and these are usually easy to sort. There is an anaesthetic risk but in a young healthy animal with routine surgery this is about as a low an anaesthetic risk as it is possible to get.

Prostate

Castration dramatically reduces the risk of prostatic hypertrophy (increase in size) in older dogs. It does, however, increase the risk of more serious prostatic disease such as cancer but this is a very rare cancer.

Hormone problems

Many of these, such as hypothyroidism in dogs, are associated with too early neutering, particularly an American problem. In America it has been considered ‘bad practice’ not to neuter your dog and this alongside very early pre puberty neutering has led to a lot of the reported problems. Neither of these issues are in the UK. Remember a proportion of non neutered dogs and particularly older dogs, will develop these problems anyway.

Cancers

Some cancers are totally removed by neutering such as testicular, ovarian and some venereal tumours. Mammary (breast) cancer rates are also dramatically reduced, in queens malignant mammary cancers are reduced by 91%! In Dog lying on the couch.dogs the risk is also very much reduced but the neutering has to be carried out before any tumours develop. In German Shepherds, Dobermans and Yorkies (all high risk breeds), spaying before the second season dramatically reduces occurrence of mammary tumors (of which 50% are malignant). There was one study done in Rottweilers that showed if they were neutered before 12 months old there was an increased risk of bone cancers but this is not a scientifically proven study. We do know some cancers are increased in neutered dogs but most of this data is from America where their breeds are a different genetic strain and shape (e.g. an American Golden Retriever looks different to a UK one) and there has long been a tradition of neutering animals at very young ages which we do not do in this country. There was one study that showed that neutering increased the risk of haemangiosarcoma (a blood cancer) in Vizlas but that this did not affect the average lifespan of these dogs!

Lifespan

It is a fact that in both sexes neutered dogs live longer, usually by 2-3 years and in animals whose lifespan is 10-15 years this is a significant extra time to have your pet. It is true these animals are more likely to develop cancer but it is unclear whether this increase in cancer is due to neutering or just to the fact that they are getting older. They have lived up to 30% longer – we know the older you get the higher your risk of cancer. Strangely this increased cancer risk doesn’t seem to include Labradors!

Joint Disease

There is some evidence that German Shepherd dogs neutered before 6 months of age are more prone to joint diseases but, again this is American data and I like to think we never neuter these dogs at such a young age in this country Again this trend doesn’t seem to occur in Labradors!

Urinary Incontinence

The bitch’s breed, weight, water intake and urinary infections are important risk factors in whether this condition may occur. There is an increased risk after spaying but it is non-life threatening (unlike pyometra) and treatable condition. Between 4% and 5% of spayed bitches will develop incontinence and it is commoner in larger breeds, un-spayed bitches can also develop this condition. The risk is lower in larger breed dogs if they are spayed at an older age.

Hair coat changes

It is true that after neutering some breeds will grow a ‘fluffier’ coat. If you are concerned about this you should discuss it with your vet.

Obesity

This is a massive problem, particularly in older animals. Being overweight shortens a pet’s lifespan and puts pressure on joints, heart and body organs. Neutering does make it easier for the body to lay down fat but it is totally diet and exercise dependent and can be corrected.

So what should we do?

Veterinary nurse holding a cat. dog.On balance neutering has more benefits than not, but we need to do it in a sensible and scientific way, so my recommendations would be;

Only neuter dogs after they have reached skeletal maturity.

Cats should be neutered before they reach puberty.

Make the experience at the vets as smooth, stress and pain free as possible.

Discuss the benefits and risks with your vet in an open way beforehand.

In males there is the option of vasectomy, this will produce population control but not have any of the other benefits of neutering and dogs will still roam more looking for bitches in heat. Owners who can keep their male dogs totally under control may find this a better option but we must not restrict a dogs quality of life, they love to run free!

Kitten scratching fabric sofa.

Why does my cat scratch the furniture?

 

Cats scratch for two main reasons, to keep their claws in good condition and scratching releases a unique scent which is a marker for them as well as for other cats. Bored cats, or cats that like attention will learn that if they scratch the sofa they get more attention from the owner than using a scratching post and this will encourage them, even if this attention is being chased off!

Why indoors

Most scratching should take place outside where the cat is marking its territory, however, cats that don’t have access to the outdoors or who are feeling insecure will scratch more indoors. Indoor scratching for claw conditioning tends to be at one or two preferred sites. Typically this site is vertical with a vertical weave. A sofa is ideal for your cat but less ideal for you!

Cats that scratch in areas of access such as door frames and wallpaper in corridors, will be doing so for communication and security reasons. Other cats and stressors around the house can increase this behaviour.

Kittens

When a new kitten arrives in the home, it is an exciting time for all but you have to have one eye on the future and persuading your new companion not to scratch the furniture can be successfully done at this age.

Start with your kitten in one room. Protect the furniture you don’t want your kitten to scratch with plastic sheet (which isn’t attractive to scratch).  You can stick double sided tape down vertical arm rests etc (but be careful of damaging the fabric!). Install a scratch post (you can treat the post with Feliscratch to encourage use). If you catch your kitten scratching where it shouldn’t, wave a cat toy at it, move it to the scratching post and give it a treat to eat.

Adult cats

Once the behaviour is developed it is harder to stop. Using the same techniques as for kittens helps, covering the area with plastic and then placing the scratching post next to it is a good idea.  (Feliway classic sprayed onto where the cat is scratching will deter use of that site, whilst Feliscratch sprayed onto the scratch post will encourage use). Placing food around the post and praising the cat and stroking it when it uses the post will encourage good behaviour. Once the post is being used, it can be slowly moved to a more convenient position. If the damage is caused to a doorway or other marking site, it is worth seeing if it is possible to find out what is bothering your cat and remedying this cause. Just covering the area won’t work because the cat will move its anxiety to another site. It can be difficult to work out why a particular area is being used, if it is around a window or external doorway then it may be another cat outside that is the problem. In multicat households the site may well be where cats frequently pass each other and your cat feels threatened in this area. Shouting at a cat will just make it more anxious and the behaviour worse.

 

Which scratch post is best?

There is an enormous selection of different scratch posts and toys. Rope, cardboard, horizontal, vertical. To a certain extent which post is best for you will depend on your preference, the space and room area of you have and, importantly, your cat’s preference. Whichever post you use, it is best to site it near your cat’s bed and/or on his or her regular ‘route’ around your house. The post must be stable and allow the cat to stretch up to its full height, including extended paws. A vertical weave is more comfortable for the cat to use as it won’t snag its claws in it. Some posts will dispense food when scratched, giving your cat a ‘reward’.

Other options

Feliway make a selection of products to encourage cats to scratch or avoid certain areas.

If all the above fails , and the damage is a problem, then contact your vet, there may be some medicines which would help or they can put you in touch with a qualified behaviourist.
Profile picture Brussels griffon.

Why is my pet drinking more than normal?

It’s a common occurence. Your cat or dog starts drinking a bit more, should you be worried?

You may have just noticed having to fill the water bowl more often, or you may have come downstairs in the morning to find a puddle on the floor. The first thing we need to establish is that your pet is actually drinking more. Some pets will urinate more frequently because they have a urinary tract infection or similar. Indoor/outdoor cats can be difficult as well becauuse they may drink and urinet outside as well as in the home.

 

How much is abnormal?

British cat drinking from a glass.The first thing we need to do is work out how much a pet is drinking. A healthy cat or dog should drink between 20 and 40mls of water per kilogram body weight. per day. Cats may be drinking a bit less, they originally came from desert conditions and can manage with less water. We have to be careful because drinking quantity can vary for ‘healthy’ reasons. Such as if the weather is hot, the animal is extra active or has had a dry or salty meal.

Generally a sustained increase in thirst is the most significant and we are looking for a doubling of drinking as the most significant (so over 80mls/kg/day in dogs or 45mls/kg/day in cats).

If you can measure your pets drinking accurately then that is the best approach, if you can’t (because you have more than one pet or your cat goes outside) then a urine sample can often give as an idea because we can measure how concentrated it is.

 

What to do next?

If you suspect your pet is drinkg more than normal then a vet visit is necessary. If you can get a urine sample to bring in as well then that is very useful. We may want to run blood tests or other diagnostic procedures to find out what is going on. If you do collect a urine sample, remember to bring it to the vets in a sterile container (your vet will be able to give you one). Even a well cleaned out jam jar will have enough sugar in it to make the sample look as if it is from a diabetic!

Possible causes

Everyone know the common causes of excess drinking; diabetes, kidney or liver disease, but there are over twenty possible disnoses and they range form the easily treatable to the more serious, but with virtually every diagnosis we can help.

Keep an eye on your pet’s thirst, it can be an early sign of a problem and the earlier we see them the better.