Should I have my pet neutered?

There are three questions;

Should we get our cats and dogs neutered?

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.

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 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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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. They have a useful website; www.feliway.com

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.

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?

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.

Practice News September 2019

Staff Changes

We welcome two new receptionists to Withy Grove, Steph and Louise. We’ve not had a dedicated receptionists role before, hopefully the appointment for these two will improve the experience for you are your pets. Louise is an experienced veterinary receptionist and Steph has a wealth of customer experience in other fields.

We had to say goodbye to our vet Fiona who has taken some time out to go travelling, but we are delighted to have replaced her with a local vet, Alice Pinder. Alice qualified from Liverpool university this year and has only been working for a few weeks but has settled in nicely and is very popular with staff and clients.

On top of all this, two of our vets are taking some time out to become mums! Zoe his already off on maternity leave and Regan will be going later this year. We wish them both a happy and healthy time looking after their babies. We will cover some of these two vets’ shifts by using locums this autumn and winter, Iliyan and Matteo are both locum vets who live in the Preston area and we also welcome back Catherine who has locumed for us previously.

Keyhole surgery

Suanne continues to perform a multitude of keyhole surgeries, particularly bitch spays. This method of spaying a bitch produces smaller wounds with a more rapid and less painful recovery. Please ask for more details of this procedure. Here’s what one happy owner said;

‘I just wanted to thank you, Suanne and the team for the great treatment you gave Pickle. She has made a full recovery now with no side effects and is actually a lot more energetic and brighter than she was before the operation! We are keeping an eye on her diet to ensure she doesn’t put on weight and she is having regular short exercise four times a day, although I think she would like to do more given the chance!’

Buildings

We are investigating extending our building at the rear to generate another consulting room, more kennel space and another operating theatre. We will keep you posted on how this progresses.

And finally, some hedgehog photos

As always at this time of year, we have a steady throughput of hedgehogs that we care for, treat and either release back to the wild or send to charity care and rehabilitation centres. Our nurses and vets are building up useful experience in looking after these little creatures and getting them well enough to be released. We have a donation box in reception to help pay for the care of these animals.

Hedgehog in a blanket being held.

Hedgehog on the vets table.

Hedgehog being held in a blanket.

 

 

 

 

 

Many of our hedgehogs are infested with parasite such as worms, fleas and ticks, we make sure they are all treated before release, here is a picture of some worms (capillaria) from a hedgehog taken down our microscope this week.

Microscope image of hedgehog with worms.

What Treats Should I Feed My Dog?

If you have a dog or are thinking of bringing a new dog into your home, you’ve likely heard a lot of training advice, either from books, magazines or television programmes. Expert dog trainers agree that dog treats are an effective and appropriate training tool and a great way to say “well done” in terms that your dog clearly understands.

But did you know that treats are also important to bonding with your canine friend? Dogs are a social species, just like humans. Both four-legged and two-legged friends can benefit from the social aspect of treats – a display of love and affection from one individual to another through sharing.

When and where to give treats

Be sure to think outside of your usual routines when giving treats to your dog. Bonding can happen at any time, and your dog should learn that any moment spent with you is a positive one. Surprise them with a delicious treat while you’re both curled up on the sofa or when you come home from work. Make these kinds of treats a randomly timed surprise, and be sure not to encourage treat-seeking behaviours or give potentially harmful human foods.

During training sessions, give treats promptly when your dog has done something well, whether you are at home, in the dog park or in the town. In this case, you will be rewarding proper dog behaviour within any given environment, which should be the goal. Aromatic treats are best for training. The appealing scent will be positively associated with the new skills helping to build on the training results.

If you want to condition your dog to like a new location, such as the vet’s surgery or your new home, giving treats and lots of praise and attention in those places can help them feel at ease. At Withy Grove we usually have a bag of open treats at recepetion and in each consulting room to make the experiience as pleasurable as possible

Carefully consider the circumstances before you give a treat, and stay on guard for potential training traps. Giving treats to your dog while you are sitting at the dinner table may simply teach them to pester you every time you sit down for a meal. This will require paying close attention at first, but it will soon become second nature.

Give treats only when your dog is calm and acting in a way you want. If jumping up or barking to demand a treat, you can end up rewarding naughty behaviour by giving in.

Not all treats are created equal

Giving human foods or low-quality pet treats can give your pet a tummy full of unhealthy fats, sugars, flavourings, or excess salt, all of which can easily cause digestive upset or worse. Some human foods are even poisonous or toxic for dogs, especially chocolate or anything containing onions, raisins or caffeine.

Too many treats, or inappropriate treats, can significantly impact a dog’s weight and overall health. Canine obesity is a serious health issue that’s best prevented. Obesity can even shorten your dog’s lifespan and lower quality of life. Be sure your dog is getting healthy treats that won’t cause weight gain or compromise the weight loss goals you’ve already set.

Here’s a little comparison chart to show in human terms just how unhealthy some commonly fed dog “treats” can be:

15kg dog (854 kcal/day)   Average adult (165cm tall, 2000kcal/day)
28g cheese = 1 hamburger
1 cookie = 2 scoops of ice cream
2 slices of salami = 4 cookies
1 dental stick = 1 chocolate bar

The best treats for your dog are those that are not only tasty but also support their overall health. Some treats offer health benefits beyond being simply a tasty snack, so check labels carefully and also choose treats that have no added artificial preservatives, salt, flavours or colours. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dogs daily calorie intake.

Some treats are easy and cheap like carrots, some will help dental health. Always be awre of the extra calories treats will give your dog. Be careful of bones, dogs love them but we see lots of problems with them, some are life threatening if a piece of bone gets stuck in the gut. They can casue constipation and diarrhoea too.

At Withy Grove we always have a selection of healthy treats, some are hypoallergenic, some are low calories, some are designed for dogs with delicate stomachs and aome help keep teeth healthy. Pop into our reception to have a look and talk to one of our nurses.

Choose your treats – as well as the time and location of giving them – wisely, and you’ll help reinforce a deeper bond along with better behaviour and better lifelong health in your beloved dog. A treat indeed.

 

Travel, Ticks, Tapeworms and Treatments

Travelling abroad with your pet dog (and in some cases, cat) is great fun for them and you, but there are risks.

Ticks

A tick

A recent survey, The Big Tick Project, showed that 76% of dogs travelling abroad returned with ticks.  This highlights the real threat of dogs travelling to the Continent coming back with a tick. Ticks have been found to be carrying diseases such as babesiosis which can also infect humans. Babesiosis causes lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, jaundice, raised temperature and anaemia. It can also affect cats but is less commonly reported. Babesiosis is endemic in mainland Europe but outbreaks have been reported in Essex and Hertfordshire – highlighting the importance of remaining vigilant for ‘exotic’ tick species and associated disease. These reports come from untravelled dogs.

There are other tick born diseases to watch out for too……

Ehrlichiosis produces signs of fever, weight loss, bleeding disorders and nervous problems.

Tick Treatments

So if you are taking your pet abroad it is important he or she is protected. A flea and tick killer is essential and we would recommend a pill rather than a spot on which can be washed off if your pet gets wet. There are pills that last a month but also one that lasts 3 months.

Travel and Brexit

With the Brexit extension, granted in April 2019, existing rules for pet travel are still in place which means that cats, dogs and ferrets from the UK can still travel to all EU countries and some additional countries and return to the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

For PETS the pet must have a microchip implanted; be vaccinated for rabies (not before 12 weeks of age); and have a PETS passport. Following the initial rabies vaccination there is a 21-day wait period before the pet can travel (this waiting period doesn’t apply to booster vaccinations).

For dogs only, there is also a requirement for a veterinary certified tapeworm treatment 24-120 hours before return to the UK.

Uncertainty still exists on the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, and to keep up to date with the most current Brexit situation visit:

www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit

Other diseases which can be caught in Europe

Heartworm

This is a worm that can cause coughing, exercise intolerance and difficulty breathing. It is spread by mosquitoes and sandflies. This disease used to mainly be found in southern Europe but is now spreading to the north-eastern and central European countries.

Prevention is by keeping pets indoors at peak fly feeding times, such as early evening and there are collars that will repell the sandfly and mosquitoes.

A monthly worm pill treats this disease but only some worm pills cover against this parasite, make sure you have the right one.

Rabies

We all know about this disease which can cause excitability, seizures and paralysis, however the more common form is called dumb rabies and signs include progressive paralysis, distortion of the face and difficulty in swallowing. It is spread by the bite of an infected animal. Vaccination is the best way to prevent this terrrible condition.

Leptospirosis

This disease is also common in the UK, signs can be vague but can produce acute kidney and liver disease as well as vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. These bacteria are viable in soil or water for over 6 months and infection is transmitted through contamination with urine or eating infected mice/rats etc.

Prevention is by vaccination. There are different strains of letpospirosis on the continent so make sure your pet is vaccinated appropriately.

Leishmania

Leishmaniasis is a disease which kills over 65,000 people each year globally and is being seen with increasing frequency in the UK in travelled dogs. It less commonly affects cats. This year there have also been cases of leishmaniasis diagnosed in untravelled dogs within the UK.

Clinical signs are ulcers, arthritis, anorexia and bleeding. Sandflies are the only known way this disease is spread. To reduce the risk of dogs developing this disease various things can be done;

  1. Reduce the chance of the dog being bitten by sandflies and contracting the infection by using a special treated collar..
  1. Vaccination can also be carried out against this disease.

Echinococcus (tapeworm)

This is a very serious disease and infectious to humans too, it is found in dogs and foxes and spread by small rodents. Dogs rarely get clinical signs but it can cause serious disease in humans. This disease is not in the UK but is present in Europe. Prevention is by worming and returning dogs have to have a veterinary-certified tapeworm treatment 24-120 hours prior to embarkation back to the UK. The disease can take one month to develop so we recommend monthly treatment whilst abroad and also one month after returning to the UK.

So…..

It is important to consult your vet well in advance of travel but we also recommend a post-travel check on return from holiday. This allows pets to be checked for ticks and to ensure adequate worming treatment is given 1 month post-travel.

 

Laser Therapy Reduces Pain and Speeds Healing

Withy Grove is excited to offer our clients Companion Laser Therapy. Laser therapy provides a non-invasive, pain-free, surgery-free, drug-free treatment which is used to treat a variety of conditions and can be performed in conjunction with existing treatment protocols.  Relief and/or improvement is often noticed within hours depending on the condition and your pet’s response.

Whether your pet is rehabilitating from trauma or injury, healing from wounds, or simply aging, your companion can benefit from this innovative approach to treating pain.

Applications for laser therapy include:

  • Treatment of arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or hip dysplasia
  • General pain management (sprains, strains, and stiffness)
  • Post-surgery pain (spays, neuters, orthopaedics, and other surgeries)
  • Skin problems (hot spots, lick granulomas, infections)
  • Dental procedures
  • Fractures and wounds (bites, abrasions, and lesions)
  • Ear infections

How does it work?

Laser therapy stimulates the body to heal from within. Non-thermal photons of light are administered to the body for about 3 to 8 minutes and absorbed by the injured cells. The cells are then stimulated and respond with a higher rate of metabolism. This results in relief from pain, increased circulation, reduced inflammation, and an acceleration of the healing process.Dog being treated with laser therapy

What can my pet expect during a laser therapy treatment session?

Simply put, it provides relief. As the laser is administered, your pet will relax and enjoy the treatment. The almost immediate relief of pain will allow your pet to be comfortable and any anxiety that your pet initially experiences will dissipate.

Occasionally, angry cats will start to purr and canine companions will actually fall asleep during their therapy session. Frequently, after therapy, we hear: “He’s acting like a puppy again” or “She can actually jump onto the chair again.” Pain relief is provided in just a few minutes of therapy and that alone improves the quality of life for your companion.

What are the signs that my pet can benefit from Companion Laser Therapy?

Many of our laser therapy patients are older animals with musculoskeletal ailments. Some signs that your senior companion is experiencing pain or discomfort are:

  • Abnormal sitting or lying posture
  • Circling multiple times before lying down
  • Restlessness
  • Whining, groaning or other vocalizations
  • Limping, unable to get up or lie down
  • Difficulty getting into car or downstairs
  • Lack of grooming
  • Won’t wag tail
  • Licking or biting area
  • Lack of appetite
  • Trembling

Dog's leg getting laser treatment

 

Contact our practice today to schedule an appointment or obtain additional information.

Could your dog or cat be suffering?

FREE arthritis checks and 33% off Synoquin joint supplements for the month of April!!

We all know arthritis is a painful and joint stiffening condition, but could you tell if your cat or dog had the same problem?

Signs in Cats and Dogs.

Older pets may limp, be stiff when they first get up, struggle to get up steps or jump into a car. Cats may have trouble getting into litter trays which can lead to them urinating or defaecating in unusual places.
We assume our pets ‘slow down’ as they get older, but cats or dogs that spend more time sleeping or don’t want to walk very far may have arthritic pain. This is especially true with cats who may spend a lot of their day asleep anyway!
Pets can also shift the weight around their four legs making lameness harder to spot.
Once treated an arthritic pet can become ‘younger’ again as they are brighter and happier!

Often the only way to tell if your pet has arthritis is to put him or her on painkillers and if you see them brightening up and happier then that is the diagnosis!

For the month of April we are offering FREE arthritis check ups for your pet as well as 33% off Synoquin Joint supplements.

Treatments

Many older pets may have other conditions so it is essential before setting off on a course of treatment that a full clinical examination is carried out.
There are many drugs available (pills, injections and liquids) but also nutraceuticals (such as Synoquin), specially formulated diets, weight control, exercise and laser therapy as well as treating any other problems.
We have a physiotherapist, Donna, who comes into the practice, and can help with mobility problems.

Don’t let your older pet be uncomfortable, give us a ring for an appointment, we can check them over and advise on treatment options and lifestyle changes if required.

Why does my dog bark when I leave the house?

Most dogs live happily in our lifestyles but sometimes they will bark when left alone, either if we go out or we leave them in another room, for example. A more severe version of this is they can get destructive, chewing up furnishings. Another unpleasant problem can be urinating or defaecating in the house or compulsive licking or chewing at themselves. These are all examples of separation anxiety.

An unstressed dog.

What is separation anxiety?

This disorder is caused by distress at being parted from their owner. It seems to be more common in some breeds than others and may partly be the result of poor socialisation in puppyhood. Dogs are naturally pack animals and don’t like being separated from their ‘pack’ (that’s you!).

The condition is more common in dogs that have been repeatedly re-homed or moved to new owners when they were less than 1 year old, probably because these animals feel very insecure. The problem becomes worse because when someone re-homes a dog from a kennel and finds out it is destructive, the poor dog is often returned to the kennel for re-homing again which makes the problem worse.

What triggers separation anxiety?

The problem can start after a period of separation e.g where the dog has been in kennels and then returns to the house. Dogs are also more likely to show separation anxiety when their owner returns to work after a long period at home, e.g. after maternity leave or the school summer holidays. The poor dog has been used to plenty of attention and company and all of a sudden he is alone in a quiet empty house. It is a more common problem in young dogs who can start to get anxious when they sense their owner is about to leave.

When their owner returns many dogs are submissive and cringe amid the debris because they have previously been punished by an angry owner coming home to the mess.

Is there treatment to help my dog?

There is help at hand but you must be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into helping your dog overcome his or her fears. Never punish your dog if you come home to a mess – this will only make the problem worse. Your dog is destructive because he is anxious about being left alone. If you punish him he learns to associate the combination of you and the mess with punishment. When you are gone he is left in the house alone and becomes destructive. Now he is alone with the mess and becomes more anxious because when you appear and there is mess he is punished. Basically, treatment is aimed at gradually getting your dog used to longer and longer periods alone. Your vet will be able to give you advice about managing the problem and, in particularly tricky cases, may recommend that you and your dog talk to a qualified dog behaviourist. With personal advice and some effort most dogs improve over time.

There are drugs that your vet can prescribe to help your dog overcome his anxiety. These drugs can make treatment with behavioural management work more quickly.

 The idea is to reduce your stress levels as well as your dog’s!

Pyometra, what’s all the pus about?

Pyometra means ‘pus in the uterus’. Infection gets in (usually when the bitch has a season) then festers away for some weeks until a large abscess is formed in the uterus. There are two types of pyometra, a ‘closed’ one means the pus stays in the uterus, this is dangerous because as the volume of pus increases and the walls of the uterus become devitalised by the infection, the uterus can rupture creating a life threatening peritonitis. The other form is an ‘open’ pyometra. In this form the cervix at the entrance to the uterus opens up so pus drips out of the dog’s vulva. All very unpleasant. This form can also be fatal if left untreated as the infection gradually creates a septicaemia.

Which dogs are more prone?

Older bitches are usually more likely to get this condition, as are bitches that have never had a litter, but it can occur in any bitch. We usually see signs a few weeks after the bitch was in season. Pyometra also occurs in cats but is rare as most cats are spayed when young.

Signs

An open pyometra is usually obvious from the discharge. In the closed ones (and the early open ones) the bitch will be quieter, usually drinking more as toxins from the infection damage the kidneys (this damage is usually reversible if the condition is treated). Vomiting, diarrhoea and a high temperature are all possible too. Without treatment both forms of pyometra are usually fatal.

Diagnosis

The signs give us a good idea, a blood test will usually show kidney damage as above and an increased white cell count as the body’s reaction to the infection. A blood test is also important to identify if there are any other problems in the bitch which may affect the treatment we choose. An ultrasound scan usually confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment

The best treatment is to spay the bitch, thus removing all the infection. This is obviously a more risky operation than in a young fit animal; the cases are usually older, usually ill, usually have kidney damage (see above) and may have other age related conditions. Also, we are removing an infected abscess from the bitch. However, the surgery is successful in the majority of cases. There is a hormone injection that helps the uterus to improve and this, in combination with antibiotics will help, and in some cases, cure the condition.

Obviously, having the bitch spayed at a young age totally prevents pyometra from occurring.