Did you know that a third of our dogs and a quarter of our cats and rabbits are thought to be overweight? Are we ‘killing our pets with kindness’? Admittedly, there are many factors that can cause our furry friends to pile on the pounds, such as their amount of exercise, breed and whether they have had the ‘snip’. However, giving treats, excess food and tasty human tidbits from our plates, is a big part of the weight battle.
Interestingly, when we see pets that are underweight we instantly (and quite rightly) feel concern for that pet’s health, welfare and wellbeing. However, the same reaction does not occur when we see overweight pets, even though this is also a health, welfare and wellbeing concern!
With so many of our pets tipping the scales, seeing a cat, dog or rabbit that is at a ‘healthy weight’ has become the exception not the rule! This is causing our perception of what a ‘healthy body weight’ actually looks like to become skewed. Our overweight furry friends are slowly becoming the new ‘normal’, which is a problem. This is not helped by the fact that we often trivialise pets that are overweight by describing them as ‘cute’ or ‘cuddly’!
So, it’s time for us to take some action and help our pets to get back to being a healthy weight and staying there, by feeding them the right food and in the right amounts!
What are the health risks for obese pets?
More than just affecting their wellbeing, being overweight or obese can make our furry friends more vulnerable to developing serious and in some cases, life-threatening, health problems, including:
- Joint problems
- Breathing difficulties
- Skin problems
- Heart problems
- Diabetes mellitus
- Increased risk of developing tumours
Recent research in dogs has revealed that it can even shorten their lifespan. Did you know obese cats are 3x more likely to be affected by diabetes than a cat at a healthy weight?
How do I know if my pet is overweight or obese?
The best way to figure this out is to pop your furry friend down to see us for a quick weigh-in and check-up (covid allowing). From this we will be able to tell you what your pet’s ideal weight should be.
What’s it like being an overweight pet?
From your pet’s perspective, lugging all that extra weight around can make them feel lethargic, reluctant to run around, less enthusiastic to play and ready for another snooze.
Being overweight is no fun for your furry friend and it can impact on their enjoyment of life and wellbeing.
How can I help my pet to lose weight?
Here are some top-tips to help your furry friend shed the pounds:
Type of food
Feeding your cat or dog a food that has been specially formulated to help weight loss is a great idea. These foods are carefully balanced and are fewer calories dense. This means that you can feed your pet on a similar amount to before, which will help satisfy your pet and keep any hunger pangs at bay.
For Rabbits, avoid feeding ‘muesli’, as this has been linked to obesity in rabbits, as has feeding too much pelleted food. A healthy diet should contain:
- 80% grass or hay (a mound of hay at least as big as your rabbit is perfect)
- 15% leafy greens (an adult handful of leafy greens or veg in the morning and evening)
- Only 5% should be pelleted food (never muesli) (1-2 tablespoons)
Do make sure any changes to the diet are made slowly to give your pet’s tummy time to adjust to their new diet.
Measuring your food accurately
Avoid using cups, as these invite human error and research has revealed that you can end up feeding as much 80% over what you intend. So, grab a reliable set of digital scales and carefully weigh out each meal.
We understand that giving your pet treats is an important part of bonding with your pet, but they must be given in moderation. A general rule of thumb for cats and dogs is that treats should account for less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. If you are using treats for training, then take a little bit of food out of their meal to take this into consideration.
For rabbits, use their pelleted food as a treat; just make sure it is no more than 1-2 tablespoons per day!
Give them plenty of exercise
Introduce exercise gradually to your pet’s routine if they are not used to it and make sure older pets come to us for a health check first. You can devise fun and active games in the home for cats to get them more active. Dogs are naturally active animals so exercise alone will not cause weight loss but it certainly helps keep them healthy and happy.
For bunnies, make sure that they have permanent access to a large run every day, and grass. Tunnels, shelves and digging trays can also be great fun for your rabbits and will encourage them to exercise.
Weigh your pet regularly
Just like us, our pet’s weight can creep up so slowly that we may not even notice. After all, it’s not like our pets wear jeans and will suddenly complain that they can’t do them up! It’s up to us to spot it. So, feel free to join our free weight clinic or pop down to the clinic to weigh your pet.
Article courtesy of MSD Animal Health.
Having got covid safe and clients back in the building at the end of last year, we decided to split into two smaller teams and stop having you in the building with the advent of the new lock down. We know this is difficult for you (and us, not to mention your pets) but we thought it was the safest and right thing to do to keep contact to a minimum protecting you as well as ourselves. We have also decreased some of the non urgent work, however, in order to stop a backlog building up we will be running some vaccination only clinics to catch up at the weekends. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook pages for details.
At the tail end of 2020 we had a few staff changes and this year we have taken on an extra vet, Hannah, and another nurse, Emily. All the new staff members have fitted in extremely well and will make your experience with us more enjoyable and efficient.
After a prolonged covid delay we finally have our new kennels installed. They have individual heating and lighting control and are easy to use and clean. Your pets will be a lot more comfortable when they have to stay with us. We have also had our dental room improved so it can double as a consulting area when we are busy as well as making the space larger. Finally, because of breakins we have sadly had to upgrade our burglar alarm, have CCTV installed and our accessible windows now have bars put on them.
App and Healthplan
We are now using an app, PetsApp, download it and it allows you to talk to us, order repeat prescriptions, securely pay bills and book appointments. We will also be using it to keep you up to date when your pet is hospitalised with us. We are also having a renewal of our Healthplan. This plan makes your pet’s preventative care more affordable as well as giving you discount off all our services and products. have a look at our website.
This is a question we get asked a lot. The answer depends on lots of factors, the two flow charts in this article help make the decision that is best for your pet based on his or her lifestyle.
There are some important worming factors to remember
You can’t always see worms in your pets poo, they may only be passing microscopic eggs, small worms (which can be brown) which are very difficult to see or the worms may be ‘inside’ the poo and thus not obvious.
Fleas are one of the commonest ways tapeworms are spread so worming your pet.
Lung worms are spread by snails, slugs and their slime trails, remember some slugs can be tiny.
Many worm products do not cover all worms. Tape worms and lung worms in particular are often not covered by routine wormers. It is possible your pet doesn’t need cover for all worms as well, have a look at the attached charts.
Small worm burdens may have little effect on your pet but as they increase they can cause stomach upsets and poor condition. Lung worms can cause breathing and blood clotting problems and in severe cases these can be fatal.
Pets coming from abroad can harbour worms we are not familiar with in this country.
Round worms can infect people and, in rare cases, particularly in children, cause blindness or other eye problems. This risk is pretty much eliminated with regular worming and clearing up after your pets. Worm larvae that cause this problem have to be outside for a few days so fresh poo is not a high risk.
Don’t forget that rabbits, birds and other animals can all suffer with worms.
Click on the links below to see the risk category your pet is in.
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. 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
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
As always, we welcome feedback on our products and services so we can improve things further.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Meet Rolo, a very handsome one year old Jack Russell
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.