The Vet Nurse's Blog

Deborah Wilson is our Vet Nurse Technical Claims Advisor. In her blog she offers helpful hints and shares her experiences gained when dealing with all areas of veterinary practice and claims handling.

March 2015 - Chocolate and Pets

It's that time of year again! The Easter eggs are already back in the shops and we have only just had Christmas. Easter is a time where there is a lot of chocolate, decorative wrappers and cardboard boxes which are all brightly coloured and look attractive to your pet. Now we all know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs but do you know how much they have to eat in order for it to be classed as poisonous?

If you have a large dog they will need to eat a lot of milk chocolate in order for it to produce toxic effects. This is because in milk chocolate the level of the toxic substance Theobromine is quite low but for a smaller dog it could be quite toxic. The general rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate the higher the level of Theobromine and dried cocoa powder and cooking chocolate tend to contain the higher levels. On average it only takes 100-250mg of Theobromine per kilo of your pets body weight.

If you think your dog has eaten some chocolate and are worried about your pet is a good idea to call your veterinary surgery, try to have details of what and how much chocolate your pet has eaten so they can ascertain if the level is toxic to your pet. Usually the first signs of chocolate toxicity are severe hyperactivity followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. If left untreated it can cause muscle tremors, irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding seizures or heart attack.

If caught early enough your vet may want to induce vomiting to lessen any effect the chocolate may have. This can only be done within 2 hours of ingestion as after this the chocolate will be too far into the digestive tract for vomiting to work. There is no antidote to Theobromine poisoning so if inducing to vomit is not an option and your pet is showing the more severe signs then your vet will do supportive treatment until the substance is out of your pets system. If the toxicity is very high and the symptoms severe it can cause death.

It is not just the chocolate that causes problems but the wrappers and boxes that tend to get chewed and swallowed with the chocolate may get stuck within the digestive tract. This will require a surgical operation to remove the blockage if your pet cannot pass them naturally and this can be quite costly.

The best way is to prevent your pet from eating any chocolate. Keep Easter eggs out of reach of your pets or away in cupboards and if you think your pet has eaten anything they shouldn't have then contact your vet immediately.

January 2014 - Fleas

Ctenocephalides has the more common name of the Flea. Every pet owner is aware of the problem of fleas or has had to deal with them invading their home and had difficulty getting rid of them. To understand the importance of flea control it is a good idea to have an understanding of the Flea Life Cycle.

A common flea can lay between 30-40 eggs in one day and in her lifetime up to around the 200 mark. These eggs drop off your pet and land in the carpets, in their beds or even on your furniture.

After about 4-12 days the eggs then hatch and the Larvae appear. Larva are light sensitive so will move (sometimes as far as 20 feet) until they are deep in the bed and carpets. They feed on things like flea dropping and general dust particles. After about 7-18 days they cocoon themselves and turn into pupae.

Pupae again are deep in the carpets and bedding etc and the adult flea develops within 5-14 days. In the right conditions the adult flea will then emerge and jump onto the nearest host. If the conditions are not right they can survive as a pupae for up to 9 months. They are triggered to hatch by the vibration of a potential host moving close by or the carbon dioxide, which the potential new host breathes out. This is why you can have an empty house for months and when you enter a new flea infestation can happen.

Most common flea treatments work by killing the adult fleas that jump onto your pet. They normally act within 24-48 hours by which time they have had a chance to lay eggs and continue the cycle. If you see fleas on your pet it is best to treat both your pet and the environment as well in order to attack them from a few angles.

You can obtain flea treatment from a supermarket but from experience they often don't work and you still end up having to get flea treatment from your vets. Your veterinary practice will be able to advise you which flea treatment is best for your pet and circumstances. The majority of veterinary flea treatments will work on more than 1 stage of the flea life cycle but none of the treatment acts on the pupae stage so even after treating your home and your pet you may still see a few stray fleas as they hatch, this is normal and doesn't mean the flea treatment hasn't worked.

Many veterinary practices offer a free flea check. This is a free consultation where your pet gets a check over and it give you a chance to chat about flea treatment and work out which one is best for your pet.

November 2013 - Happy Howl-a-days

Christmas time always brings visions of gift giving, holiday spirit and of course, food – glorious, amazing food! It’s a time which we forget outright about our diets, saving all the worry until after New Year, unfortunately we often also forget about the dangers this time of year brings for our furry friends.

Let’s start with food, always a great place to start. Whether you’re choosing to have a traditional roast beef or being a little different and going for good ol’ goose this year with all your sides, it all equally holds a troubling card for your pet’s health. Over consumption of any type of food is dangerous for your pawed family members, but over consumption of rich, fatty and calorie laid food is even worse. Not only could they consume foods which are dangerous to them, such as grapes, onions or Macadamia nuts, but the quality or quantity of food could cause an obstruction, pancreatitis or vomiting and diarrhoea.

Pets have a different metabolism to humans and selective dietary needs so even the simplest of human foods could be poisonous or toxic for them. Signs to look out for if you think your pet has eaten any amount of human food can be, but not limited to: vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, retching, the inability to pass stools, not wishing to eat, or dramatic change in behaviour. Sometimes when a toxic food has been consumed the first signs might be drooling, agitation, twitching or seizures. In extreme cases coma or death could be the result if the first signs remain unseen.

We all love chocolate, especially around the Christmas season. Your pets, namely dogs, tend to want to see what all the fuss is about with sometimes not so wonderful consequences. The type of chocolate and the quantity plays a large role in how your pet is going to be affected. Some people believe chocolate is chocolate, and that is true in some regard, but different types have different cocoa content and that is the most important element when determining the level of toxicity your pet might have. It is namely the theobromine (a compound found in chocolate, tea and some sodas) which is the culprit in causing such distress to our pooches. Dark chocolate has the highest level of theobromine ingesting even just a very small amount will poison a dog - 25 grams is enough to poison a 20 kg dog. Degrading in theobromine level, the next highest is milk and then white chocolate, which has the least amount. It would take much more of the milk or white to be ingested by your dog to cause an issue, but that doesn’t mean it is safe to do. If your dog ingests any amount of chocolate you must seek veterinary advice, especially if is of dark chocolate. Make sure to note (if possible) the brand of chocolate; this may help your vets determine the theobromine level. Be aware of not only solid chocolate, but also cocoa powder and cocoa chippings (used in gardens) each could be potentially a problem if ingested.

Signs to watch out for with chocolate toxicity are very similar to the signs of other toxins. Mild signs are diarrhoea (which may contain blood), vomiting, restlessness, drooling, excessive drinking and/or urinating or hyperactivity. More serious signs are: Muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, heart-attack or coma. It is also worth noting that cats do have a lower tolerance level for chocolate than dogs, but they are not as commonly known to eat it.

Speaking of cats, the next Christmas item seems to be much more their fancy - decorations. Pets love to stare at the Christmas tree with all the lights and bobbles too, but for a slightly different reason. Anyone who has a cat in their household during Christmas time is probably very aware of the pitfalls in this situation. Cats love to climb the tree, mess with the lights and decorations all to the anguish of their owners. Sometimes this play can cause more than a little damage to the spruce’s needles. Felines would climb into trees can sometimes offset the balance of the tree and cause it to all come crashing down, cat included. Fractures, cuts and bodily damage can put your cat on the naughty list at the vets. When lights are concerned, careful caution is used for pets who like to nibble or taste a little too much. Puppies and kittens especially need to be kept away from these electric wonders as they are prone to getting use to their new world with their mouths. Dogs have been known to chew glass or plastic bobbles from trees or even eat the tinsel, given the chance. These can cause obstructions and devastating gastro issues, as you can imagine! A Christmas tree’s oil also isn’t very good in pet’s mouths, eyes or in their stomachs. Not only does the tree pose danger, but also a Christmas favourite Mistletoe, or Holly and Lilies, which are a toxic issue to cats year round.

Other areas which pose some danger can be lit candles, for obvious reasons. Jumping pets could either injure themselves, you or happen to knock over a lit candle when someone isn’t looking. Not only harmful to your pets unwatched lit candles could be dangerous to you and your family as well. Wrapping ribbon is something which makes an ordinary present into a special one, but this is also an issue with regards to pets. Pets are a popular gift around Christmas (this is a debatable issue in itself!) but often they can be found with a pretty little bow tired around their necks, waiting to be picked up and cuddled on Christmas morning. While it makes for a great presentation, ribbons around pets necks is a sometimes a hazard waiting to happen. Ribbon has not break away, once it is caught on something, like, say a new puppy’s playful mouth, it can be restricting. If the pet isn’t being watched, they can struggle and sometimes injure themselves, if not cause respiratory distress. It is better to buy a fancy collar which has a clasp that breaks away from itself under any stress. These types of collars are recommended for cats that go outside. Ribbon can also be ingested by pets, often disregarded from early morning present opening your pet might find the item an interesting toy. Ingested ribbon can cause choking or an internal blockage for your pet. The last thing you want to be doing is making a trip to the vets on Christmas day.

You think all this new information has you feeling a little bit daunted by the fast approaching Christmas season? Don’t worry; think of this as a little lesson in how to have a pet friendly Christmas. Simple knowledge and preventable measures can help you and your pets have a safe, happy and enjoyable Christmas for this and many years to come.

September 2013 - Grass seeds

A common problem for many dogs and occasionally cats is grass seeds! When we get into the warmer weather, and are taking our dogs for nice long walks where they can enjoy running through the long grass, this can unfortunately lead to a painful problem.

The grass seed is the perfect shape for getting itself tangled into your pets fur. When it is firmly stuck, and your pet begins to move about, the grass seed’s sharp point can puncture your pet’s skin and become lodged inside. Your pet will normally show discomfort by over grooming this area, and depending on where it is stuck may limp. If this remains untreated, the area can become infected and an abscess may form. If you think that your pet may have a grass seed lodged in his/her skin then veterinary treatment should be sought, where it can be removed and any pain and infection can be treated.

Another problem with grass seeds is when they get lodged inside your pet’s ear. This can move its way down and lodge itself out of reach. It causes a lot of discomfort and irritation to your pet and again could lead to infection. Your pet may paw at his/her ear and shake his/her head. Again, your pet should be taken to your vet where they can identify and treat the problem.

A good way to try and prevent these problems is to have your pet’s coat clipped shorter, in area’s that are likely to rub. Such as the hair in between their toes, just behind their ears and under the armpits. Another good tip is: After walking in a ‘high-risk grass seed area’, simply brushing your pet would hopefully remove any grass seeds your pet could have picked up.

Any discomfort our pets suffer is distressing enough, unfortunately along with the upset we go through when our pets are having to visit the vets, we often have to worry about where the money is coming from to pay for the treatment. This is why insurance is so important, as it can help you to cover these unexpected bills.

June 2013 - Your pet’s dental health

What would happen if you didn’t brush your teeth daily and go to the dentist at least yearly? You could end up with teeth very similar to many dogs which have never had their teeth brushed, covered in plaque, gum disease and a very sore mouth.

Many people don’t think about their pet’s teeth until they have very smelly breath or go off eating their food. But if you think about it when you first bring your pet home, then you could prevent your pet from suffering dental health problems, as well as avoiding some unwanted vet bills!

The dental health of our pets is becoming of more interest in the veterinary world, as we are understanding the importance of preventative treatment. There are different methods and products we can use to keep our pets smile shining.

Brushing the teeth: There are special toothbrushes designed for dogs and cats, along with specifically made toothpaste. It is important that the toothpaste used is for dogs and cats, not just human toothpaste. This is because your pet is very unlikely to spit the paste out after brushing, so it needs to be safe for your pet to swallow. Also the toothpaste designed for pets is often chicken/beef or fish flavoured which helps your pet to tolerate the whole procedure. It helps to get your pet used to having his/her teeth brushed daily from when he/she is very young. However it is not impossible to get a pet of any age to adapt to having this done. As long as there are rewards and lots of praise your pet should eventually get to enjoy the attention.

Dental treats: If you find that your pet really won’t tolerate the toothbrush then there are dental chews and sticks that are designed to ‘brush’ the teeth while being chewed. However it is important to remember, these are food, so they need to be given with a thought to your pets weight. There are usually guidelines on the packet as to how many should be given daily.

Diets: Pet food companies are putting a lot more re-search nowadays into the structure and ingredients of their pet food. Because of this there are many dental diets, this food is designed to meet your pets daily requirements, but it is designed to help keep your pets clean at the same time.

Food supplements: Some food supplements are designed specifically to help your pets teeth. Some can be added to your pet’s food daily, the supplement loosens the plaque on the teeth so when your pet chews the biscuit the tartar falls off.

With any product you purchase for your pet, it is important that your read the instructions and if you are unsure as to how to correctly use it, you should ask your veterinary practice for guidance.

January 2012 - Choosing a Rescue Dog

Ever visited a rescue centre and had your heart strings pulled at by the adorable dog in need of a home?

Ever been put off at the thought of taking on a potential ‘problem pet’?

Here’s some advice and considerations when looking for that new family member.

• Do your research - Particularly if you are looking to rescue a specific breed; research is essential in order to gauge an idea of the requirements and temperament. But remember a dog’s breed doesn’t necessarily dictate its personality.

• Size matters - In this current financial climate, cost needs to be a consideration. The appeal of a larger dog, sometimes for protection, often draws prospective owners. However these bigger breeds are more costly to feed and look after. Far to often these dogs end up in the shelter, as their owners are no longer able to pay for they’re up keep.

• Right for you - It is important that your dog suits your lifestyle and requirements and also vice versa. Do you enjoy a very active life or take things at a more leisurely pace? Choose a dog that has energy levels matching yours.

• History - Dogs in kennels often have a history. This information may give you an insight into the temperament the dog. Ask the kennel staff questions such as: Why is he up for re-homing? Does he have any pre-existing conditions (either medical or behavioural)? What does he act like at mealtime? How is he with staff and other dogs? What is he like with children/ other pets? Although this may provide the basis for understanding your potential pet, it is important for it not to colour your decision entirely. A dog unsuitable for one person, maybe perfect for you.

• Test run - Dogs in kennels often have pent up energy and frustration that can manifest into seemingly boisterous behaviour, sometimes even aggression. However to assess your dogs true personality, a ‘test run’ is almost essential. Ask the shelter if you can take him out for a walk and possibly socialise him with other dogs. Not only is this a great opportunity to see how he interacts with you but also once some of that pent up energy has been spent, it may only be then you see your dog’s true temperament.

Shelters can be a heart breaking place to visit but try not to let your emotions influence your decision. Dogs need to be re homed on a basis of suitability not pity as this will not benefit him or you in the long run.

June 2011 - Cuts and Grazes

As the weather starts to get warmer we tend to get a bit more active and may take our dogs out for more/longer walks and our cats may start to be more adventurous. This normally isn't a problem and many pets enjoy the warmer weather but can bring about some problems with cuts and grazes. A lot of pets, mainly dogs, come in to veterinary surgeries with cut pads, wounds and grazes that they have obtained whilst out on walks. This is often as a result of dogs investigating thorny bushes but other causes include broken glass or barbed wire being left about.

A small wound or graze may not need veterinary treatment and can simply be cleaned using cooled boiled water and left to heal naturally. If the wound is large, bleeding a lot, or looks red, swollen and angry around the edges, it may require stitching by a veterinary surgeon and even antibiotics. If you are unsure then contact your veterinary clinic, they may advise you to come in so they can assess the wound and advise you on the appropriate treatment. If the wound needs stitching, it normally requires a general anaesthetic or sedation so the vet can clean the area properly and stitch it without the pet wriggling. It is important not to let your pet lick at these wounds and your vet may give you a buster collar to prevent this. Stitches normally are left in for about 7 to 10 days depending on the area. Sometimes if wound healing is slow or it is on a very mobile area like a joint or pad then they may leave them in longer to make sure the wound has healed sufficiently and won’t re-open once the stitches have been removed.

Buster collars are an effective way of preventing your pet licking at a wound, but many pets don't like having them on. This is because it can impair their vision and feels strange to them. If you have been given a buster collar try and persevere with it as your pet will soon get used to it. They will probably walk backwards and shake their heads about, and some pets may just sit there with the collar on almost like they cannot move. Remember to raise their food and water bowls up so they can place the collar around the bowl and still get to the food and water.

Wounds can be costly to treat, especially if they require anaesthetics, bandages antibiotics etc, and our pet insurance can help to cover the cost of the treatment.

January 2011 - Stereotypical Behaviour

In the summer it is lovely to take your dog outside for a nice walk, however come the winter I don’t think that many people are as keen to take their dogs out in the wet and the cold for some vital exercise. Although your dog may seem happy when you are there, it is still very important for many reasons that they still get their walks.

Stereotypical behaviour is something most people have heard mentioned, commonly regarding wild animals in captivity such as lions and parrots. It is a repetitive compulsive behaviour, which can sometimes be difficult to break. Although most people do link this behaviour to captive wild animals, it is a behaviour that is common in domestic pets also.

It can occur as a result of many different factors, and it can present itself in different forms.

If your pet is confined to the house and the garden all day, then it is very likely that he/she will not be mentally stimulated enough. As a result of this your pet is likely to become stressed. It is usually a stressful situation that will trigger stereotypical behaviour. A behaviour, which is common in these situations, is self-chewing, your pet may start nibbling at his/her feet, back or tail. You will usually notice bald patches in one area. As this behaviour continues, it may get worse and turn into a form of self-mutilation.

Other forms of stereotypical behaviour are:
• Barking
• Over grooming
• Tail chasing
• Jumping up the wall
• Chewing furniture

So how do you stop this behaviour? The initial cause needs to be resolved, so if your pet is kept indoors for a long period of time you will need to arrange to take your dog for more walks. Prevent your dog from becoming bored, introduce new toys and begin a rotation system so he/she doesn’t have the same each day.

After the initial cause is removed it is the habit that needs to be broken, you need to reward the good behaviour but its important not to reward the stereotypical behaviour by giving attention.

If you are worried about your dog and how to resolve the problem, then you should speak to your vets for advice.

October 2010 - Mushrooms

Now that autumn is upon us this means that there are going to be more mushrooms and toadstools about. Mushrooms can be difficult to identify, but this is very important, as although some are edible, some are very poisonous!

Unfortunately many of our dogs love having a bite to eat when they are having a nice walk through the woods. This means they have quite a high chance of accidentally eating a toxic mushroom.

The poisons and effects of the poisons do vary. Some may give a bad but short-term gastric upset. However others can be more serious and lead to death.

In most cases the affects of mushroom poisoning can take a little while to show after being ingested. This can make it difficult to pin point what has caused the problem.

Symptoms to look out for:
• Vomiting
• Diarrhoea
• Salivation
• Perspiration
• Difficulty breathing
• Lethargy
• Anorexia

If you know that your dog is a bit of a scavenger and you are aware of an abundance of mushrooms in an area that you go for walks, then it is a good idea to avoid that area, or keep your dog on lead. If your dog isn’t a scavenger then when walking in an area with a large number of mushrooms then it’s still a good idea to keep a closewatch of what he or she is doing.

If you are worried that your dog has been eating mushrooms and is showing these symptoms then you should go straight to your veterinary surgeon for tests and treatment.

As with all conditions, the sooner treatment begins then the better the prognosis.

May 2010 - Puppy Feeding

Choosing a food to feed your new puppy can seem like a daunting task, especially when faced with row upon row of brands all claiming to be the best.

When you collect your puppy you will usually be informed what he has been fed with the breeders, this can sometimes be a confusing list of anything from scrambled egg to rice pudding and is not always completely balanced in the vitamins and minerals that your puppy needs.

Your best option is to choose a food that has been formulated to contain the correct nutrition and to use the feeding guide on the pack to ensure your puppy is getting enough food for his size.

Puppies grow quickly and lack of good nutrition early on can cause painful bone conditions that could potentially need treatment for the rest of your dog’s life. Large breed puppies that will weigh more then 25kg as an adult, such as Labradors and Golden retrievers are especially at risk and will require a food designed for large breeds. Most good quality brands will have a food specifically for large breed puppies.

Many veterinary surgeries have a nurse run clinic where you can discuss your puppies nutritional needs and have regular weight checks to check on his or her progress.

March 2010 - Gardens and Pets

As the weather starts to get warmer we tend to spend more time out in our gardens enjoying what is normally brief spring and summer months. Most pet owners are aware that gardens can be potentially dangerous places for cats and dogs and precautions need to be taken to avoid accidents.

In the spring we may lay down special fertiliser to help our plants grow and as we are outside in our gardens more there is more chance of our pets coming into contact with them. Make sure that the fertiliser you choose is pet friendly as some of them are toxic to cats and dogs. Another common problem is slugs and snails and you may be tempted to put down some slug bait to stop them getting to your plants. Unfortunately most slug bait is poisonous to cats and dogs as it contains a substance called Metaldehyde. Slug bait normally looks like a small kibble and is sweet tasting to attract the slugs, but also attract your pets, and even the smallest amount can cause problems. Where possible try to use slug bait, which is pet friendly, ask at your local garden centre, as they should be able to recommend a specific product.

Some of our favourite springtime plants and flowers such as daffodils and crocuses have parts which are toxic for pets if eaten. The list of plants is quite long and it is impossible to list them all so if you have pets and are looking to get a new plant for your garden it is best to ask at the garden centre as they may know if the plant is poisonous to pets or check online before you buy the plant. It is not always the leaves or flowers that are poisonous, it may be the bulbs or other parts of the plant and in some, such as Azalea, every part of the plant is toxic. It has been advertised recently in the news and other articles about lilies being poisonous to cats, it is only certain lilies so be careful when buying them for your home or garden.

Think about where your pet is when you are mowing the lawn, particularly if you have a new puppy or kitten who is likely to be inquisitive about everything. They may enjoy chasing the lawnmower around the garden but you should discourage this behaviour from the start and lessen the risk of a very serious accident occurring.

January 2010 - Microchipping

Animal rescue centres face a constant problem where they have more stray animals needing homes than they have places available. This is probably due to many different factors but one of them is because when a stray animal comes in they cannot re-unite them with their owners, as they have no identification.

The control of dogs act 1992 states that all dogs when in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner. This needs to be either engraved or written on. This is the minimum that dogs should have and if your dog or cat goes missing and is taken to a rescue centre where it remains unclaimed for 7 clear days the rescue centre is then able to re-home the pet and any claim the original owner had ceases.

There are times when the collar system fails for example a cat wearing a collar might get it snagged on something and it breaks off or your dog is around the home so you decide to take his collar off and he gets out of your home and runs off. It is these times where a microchip is invaluable. All rescue centres and local dog wardens will automatically scan any stray animal for a microchip. If the pet has one they will call the national database Pet Log and obtain the owners information and re-unite them with their lost pet.

It is important that if you have your pets microchipped you keep the information up to date. This will involve a phone call to either Pet Log or the company who made the microchip and may involve a small charge. The people who implanted the microchip do not have access to the database so you will need to call them separately.

Microchipping is a simple procedure. It involves an injection into the scruff at the back of the neck, but uses a bigger needle. Most animals cope fine with being microchipped but occasionally an animal has a low pain threshold, these times it may be best to wait until they are under a general anaesthetic being neutered.

Ask at your veterinary clinic about microchipping.

November 2009 - Noise Phobia

Now the nights are getting darker earlier firework season is just around the corner. If you have a fearful dog now is the time to prepare.

Never punish your dog for fearful behaviour; it is a normal and instinctive emotion that prepares a dog for action in dangerous situations. It is only when harmless situations cause over excessive response that you need to take action.

Many dogs develop extreme reactions to loud noises such as fireworks and the instinctive reaction is for you dog to run and hide from it or to show aggression this is known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response. It is impossible for domestic dogs to flee so they need to find other ways to cope.

The two most affective treatments for noise phobia are: Desensitisation and Anti-Anxiety Remedies.

Desensitisation takes time and patience; this involves using a CD of firework sounds to get a dog used to the fearful noise and gradually allows the dog to become less fearful and more relaxed about the sounds.

Anti-anxiety remedies will help if your dog has reached the stage where his fear has become extreme and is used to control; or at least reduce his anxiety levels. These can include pheromone plug in diffusers and herbal medication.

If you are concerned about noise phobia please see you vet to discuss the most affective treatment for your dog.

October 2009 - Vaccinations

Many people are aware that puppies and kittens need vaccinations in order to be protected from the main infectious diseases, but they often let the booster vaccinations lapse. Puppies and Kittens require a set of 2 injections separated by about 3 weeks to insure they get the maximum immune response. This normally occurs when the puppies are around the 7 week mark and for Kittens 9 weeks (please check with your veterinary surgeon when they recommend to start the vaccinations). They are generally started around this time, as this is when the maternal antibodies from the mother start to drop. After the initial vaccinations they will need yearly boosters in order to keep the high level of immunity.

The infectious diseases can often be fatal and all insurance companies don’t cover the cost of treating your pet for these conditions as they can be vaccinated against it. Therefore prevention is better than cure.

Dogs can be vaccinated against 4 infectious diseases and many owners are aware of them. They include Parvo Virus, Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, and Leptospirosis. Dogs can also be vaccinated against Kennel Cough, which is normally separate from dog’s routine vaccinations. Cats can be vaccinated against Cat Flu, Enteritis as a routine but can also be vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia.

Whenever an animal is given a vaccination they will be given a health check at the same time to make sure they are fit and healthy before having the vaccination. The health check also enables the vet to pick up any other problems quicker and hopefully treat them.

If you have any questions about vaccinations and what your pet should have contact your veterinary Surgeon.

July 2009 - Dental Checks

It is a good idea for your pet to have a yearly dental check - you will find most veterinary practices will have free nurse clinics. Dental disease is one of the most common problems to affect our pets and can lead to other health problems. Infection and toxaemia from the teeth can affect and damage the digestive tract, heart and kidneys, for example endocarditis (bacteria affecting the heart muscle).

The first signs that your pet requires a dental would be bad breath and a sensitive mouth. More progressive signs could be loss of appetite, bleeding and receding gums, pawing at mouth, missing teeth, tartar on the teeth, drooling and stomach upsets. At this stage your pet will need dental treatment from your veterinary practice.

But as always prevention is better than cure. There are dental chews and food that can help to prevent the build up of tartar on the teeth. But the best way is to start brushing your pet’s teeth. You will need special toothpaste designed for animals, as human toothpaste is toxic and a finger brush or toothbrush, which you can obtain from pet shops, or veterinary practices.

Start slowly and gently and stroke your pet’s cheek with your finger and lift the lip for 20 seconds. Then let your pet sample a small amount of toothpaste from your finger. The next day repeat as above and once your pet is happy with this start by introducing the toothbrush/finger brush over your pet’s teeth gently for about 30 seconds. The next stage is to gradually build up to brushing a minute on each side of the mouth this will probably take a week but can take longer. If at any stage your pet is not happy please stop and seek veterinary advice.

You will need to praise and reward your pet so it becomes a happy experience for them and hopefully you can regularly brush their teeth.