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.

Rolo refuses to roll over.

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.

What is a heart murmur?

How does my dog’s heart work?

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?

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?

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 down our 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 anaemia.
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?

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

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.

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?


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.


There are lots of factors we need to consider;


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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!’


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.


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:


Other diseases which can be caught in Europe


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.