12th April 2016
Fairly frequently our vets will be asked to give talks or presentations to cubs, brownies or classes of primary school children, Having done a number of these myself you start to notice a bit of a pattern developing in the question and answer session - when first asked if there are any questions 20 eager hands will shoot up but as soon as you acknowledge out of the audience they develop immediate and comprehensive stage fright and say nothing.
Asking if any of our audience have a pet is actually a question fraught with danger, "I did have a hamster, but you killed him last" As their confidence grows you are asked, "Have you ever been bitten by a dog? (yes) "a cat" (yes) " a horse, cow, snake, ferret, vole, lizard,fish?" (yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes, yes) !"What's the heaviest animal you've treated ?" (30 tonne fin whale) " The lightest?" (2 gram crested gecko) " The most dangerous?" (tricky - is it a bull, a stallion a 20 foot python or a particularly cantankerous corgi ?)
One of the most challenging questions to be asked is "what is the oldest animal you have treated?" with this question I tend to win out over my colleagues. Whilst they lay claim to a 23 year old Jack Russell, a 26 year old cat or a 38 year pony - those ages are relatively juvenile when compared to a number of the tortoises that I see that have been handed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms. The difficulty in answering the "how old" question thought, is that there is invariably a degree of ambiguity......."we don't know how old Shelley is but grandpa bought him from a man on the beach in Greece 45 years ago!"
Significantly more certainty exists regarding the age of one of my more elderly patients and that was a wonderful sulphur crested cockatoo by the name of Peanut. I only recently received the sad news that Peanut had passed away peacefully at home amongst his feathered brethren. We all have tales of the hen that survived the fox's assault on the coop or the budgie that lived through an altercation with a cat but Peanut went one better - he survived the second world war - not as a passive observer but as an active member of the armed forces. Peanut was the mascot of the fleet air .....! Admittedly Peanut was not exactly flying wingtip to wingtip with a Hawker Sea Hurricane Fighter or perched in the cockpit of a Fairey Barracuda bomber. No, Peanut resided in the club house of the fleet air arm, an environment that no doubt presented it's own dangers to our heroic birds well being. Indeed, after the war, when Peanut was passed from the fleet's steward into private ownership rather than , a brilliant persil white, his plumage was universally bronze so severe and dense was the cigarette smoke in the club house. Such exposure to toxins would have killed many a lesser bird, but not Peanut, who thrived until recently - finally succumbing at the grand old age of 78. Peanut was a fantastic bird, much loved and fondly remembered and we salute him as we do all our elderly scaled, feathered and furry companions.
29th February 2016
Diseases of the respiratory tract are common in captive snakes. They can be triggered by numerous factors, like poor husbandry or lack of adequate hygiene, and can become severe or even life threatening.
One should be aware that snakes generally mask ailments, until they become so severe that they can’t be hidden anymore, whereupon the clinical symptoms become apparent to the carer.
Symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, nasal discharge, or audible breathing noises can indicate respiratory distress. A snake holding its head and upper body at a 45 degree angle or vertically, displaying open mouth breathing, or pale bluish gums is clearly struggling for air. The vertical positioning of head and upper body facilitates breathing, whereas bluish gums are evidence of oxygen deprivation.
Multiple factors, alone or combined, can be responsible for, or trigger respiratory diseases:
1. Non-contagious causes
Incorrect temperature or humidity, as well as nutritional imbalances can predispose snakes for respiratory infections. Incomplete shedding, heart disease, foreign bodies, abscesses, tumors, or other internal space occupying masses can also be responsible for respiratory symptoms.
Paramyxovirus: Snakes can catch this virus from other infected snakes. It can affect all snake species. Paramyxovirus causes nasal and oral discharge, and sometimes neurological symptoms, like disorientation, abnormal curling, stargazing, head twists, or swaying.
Inclusion body disease: Named after the proteins the responsible virus leaves behind in the cell after replicating, so called “Inclusion bodies”, this disease is equally feared by snake owners. Pythons and boas are the main affected species. It is not clear yet, how snakes get infected, but snake mites are a suspected vector, which means that they might carry the virus, and pass it on. Symptoms in infected individuals are regurgitation of food, weight loss, pneumonia, or neurological symptoms (as above).
There is no current treatment for either of the viral diseases above, and so far vaccines have proven to be ineffective. So quarantine (for at least 3 months), and strict hygiene are strongly recommended before introducing a new snake into an existing collection.
There are numerous bacteria that can affect a snake’s respiratory system. A bacterial infection can appear secondary to an already existing viral infection, because the immune system is already busy with fighting the virus, which makes it easier for bacteria to infect the body. Depending on which part of the respiratory tract is affected, a bacterial infection can cause nasal discharge, inflammation of the mouth or windpipe, or pneumonia.
Fungal infections of the respiratory tract are rare in snakes. They can occur in individuals with an impaired immune system, or when they are overexposed to fungal spores. An incorrect temperature or humidity in the vivarium can suppress the immune system and predispose the animal to fungal infections.
Female lung worms produce eggs within the lungs. The eggs are then transported up the trachea, swallowed, and leave the snake with the feces. They develop into larvae in the environment, and reinfect the same individual or other snakes when ingested or by penetrating the skin.
Some gastrointestinal worms spend a part of their life cycle in the lungs, and take the same way as lung worm eggs to leave the body. They cause lesions during their migration through the body, which gives way for secondary bacterial infections of the lungs.
Once diagnosed, treatment is usually effective, and successful. Similar to viral, and bacterial infections, sufficient length of quarantine for newly acquired snakes, and good hygiene are crucial factors when trying to get rid of parasites.
25th February 2016
Should We Feed Our Dogs Raw Food Diets?
I was asked this question in a consultation yesterday, and I realised that this is a topic that is coming up more and more often.
I suppose the idea behind raw diets is that all dogs hail from wolves, and these animals eat raw meat diets – so therefore they must be the best for our canine pals, too, right? And a handful of biscuits in a bowl just doesn't look as satisfying as meat, does it? Well, I am not so sure.
While undoubtedly I have a couple of clients who say that their dogs have had sensitive tummies in the past and are much better on raw food diets, I still feel the majority should be fed standard dog food, and I have several reasons for this.
Firstly, our dogs are not wolves. They are genetically different to wolves - having about fifty differences if DNA is compared. Dogs have been domesticated for about ten thousand years, and during this time have been fed diets prepared by humans. Raw meat is likely to have bacterial contamination, and possibly parasitic contamination as well. Wild animals are thought to cope with these relatively well after generations of natural selection – something our pets (and us owners) don't have, as we mainly breed for looks or purpose. Rawhide chews are also raw animal materials, so take care with hygiene after handling these. This may also be more relevant in immunosuppressed animals, or the young and old who may have a reduced ability to fight off infections.
Looking at wild animals, they have to be fit. They are generally very lean, living on a nutritional knife edge and normally killing to avoid starvation. As vets, we have learned that lean animals live an average of two years longer than pets that are slightly heavier, but wild animals tend to have a shorter lifespan than our pets. This is definitely due in part to domestic dogs having a more sedentary lifestyle, but could it also be due to the nutritional benefit of complete dog food?
It is also worth remembering that dogs are not carnivores. They do not need meat to survive (unlike cats) and can live healthily on a balanced vegetarian diet.
So far, no studies have been completed that compare raw and commercial food diets, or that look specifically at the nutrition provided by raw diets, so no direct comparison between nutritional benefits can be confirmed. Both types of diet seem palatable and well accepted by our canine pals. However, bones should never be fed to dogs as these can lead to tooth fractures, and also intestinal blockages – often requiring surgical removal. Also, studies definitely can confirm that commercial completed dog food diets are appropriate nutrition for our pets and can be very carefully balanced to cater to specific needs.
If you are considering feeding your pet a raw food diet, please ensure that the diet is balanced. In particular, meat diets are deficient in calcium, but also other nutrients may be lacking, depending on the meat used and the individual pet's requirements. It is best to use an approved website for this if possible.
So, should we feed our dogs on raw food diets? The honest answer is we don't really know, but in the meantime I, personally, am going to leave them for the wolves.
5th February 2016
We had a well attended social evening on Thursday night when we held an entertaining and popular equine quiz
We had six rounds including famous horses, music, picture and veterinary rounds, with lots of prizes after each section and a prize for the overall winning team.
The team who won the overall prize was a combined effort from Red House and Gloucester Lodge, so well done to the team for winning a hamper packed with horsey prizes.
We raised £70 for the B.H.S. funds and thank everyone who attended and gave so generously.
We have more equine meetings planned so please follow us on Facebook and check the website.
3rd February 2016
The farm team at Robson & Prescott are busy preparing for lambing. In the minds of many it is a time of joy - lambs playing in the first warmth of summer. Sadly if rain and even worse snow arrive it can be extremely busy and stressful time! The weather recently has not been kind but we are all hopeful that the storms stop and the ground finally gets a chance to dry.
Scanning ewes is important so feeding can be targeted to these who need it. If more than 2% of ewes are empty at scanning it is worth investigating the cause - poor tup fertility, liver fluke, poor condition, thin, old or non-cycling ewes. Infectious diseases are all responsible for high barren rates. Toxoplasmosis and Border disease are often to blame. MSD run a subsided blood testing for Toxoplasmosis.
Blood testing ewes to check energy and protein levels 4-6 weeks before lambing is valuable to prevent pre-pregnancy problems such as Twin lamb disease. 10% of lamb growth occurs in the last 8 weeks of pregnancy and an expanding uterus puts pressure on the rumen.
The quality of colostrum and volume of milk a ewe can produce is dependant on her having the correct protein ad energy levels. Checking these well before lambing gives plenty of time to adjust feeding levels. We sample 6 triplets, 6 twins to get a picture of what is going on.
Lambing lists are available at the practice - contact Julia Tym if you have not received one and she will be able to email it to you.
January is always a busy month for the puppy parties and thanks to our nurses, in particular Helen, Tuesday nights in the practice are bursting with puppies. All puppies that have received their second vaccination with us are eligible to come. These free parties give owners and their puppies a chance to socialise. There are short presentations on walking, feeding, training etc. The parties are informal and fun and a mop and bucket is always on hand ! If you have been in for second vaccination make sure you register at reception to come along.
Lastly a reminder to all dog owners - by law - all dogs must be micro chipped by the 6th April 2016. Please call us if you still need to get your dog chipped.
22nd January 2016
The husbandry and management of some animals has altered greatly over the last 2 decades. With the exception of specialist breeders of ornamental poultry or 'fancy fowl' owners of hens would historically have looked upon them primarily as a source of eggs (and maybe meat) but more and more frequently they are acquiring pet status, being furnished with names and their individual traits and personalities recognised. Likewise the perception of a rabbit as an easy-care children's pet, to be abandoned in solitary confinement in a hutch, has thankfully evolved to an understanding that they require at least as much attention as a cat and benefit from the companionship of another rabbit.
A third species, the care of which has advanced significantly over the last decade, is the ferret. The ferret remains a popular animal to own, particularly in the North of England, but more and more commonly this is as a pet, rather than as a functional "rabbiter". Despite their reputation for nipping the fingers of unsuspecting vets, ferrets do make very rewarding companions. Irrespective of pet or huntsmans tool, however, the female ferret's reproductive system presents the owner with the same management challenges.
A female ferret comes into season in the spring but will remain in oestrus until she mates. Whilst, as a reproductive strategy, this is a successful means of propagating the species, it does come with some very real health problems. The longer a jill (the female ferret) goes without being mated the greater her risk of developing a life threatening anaemia. A common misconception is that anaemia is as a consequence of prolonged oestral bleeding but, in truth, is a result of the effect of elevated sex hormones in suppressing the formation of red blood cells in the ferret's bone marrow. Ferret keepers have long recognised the problems of jill anaemia and the commonest control method has been the introduction of a vasectomised hob ( male ferret). The vasectomised hob will still mate with the jill (a castrated hob will not) and as such stop the oestrus, without the production of unwanted ferret kits. The surgery involved in a ferret vasectomy requires the identification and resection of a pair of tubes less than 1mm wide deep with the patient's groin (when working in New Zealand I was once offered a contract to vasectomise 100 ferrets a week - I decided that my job satisfaction might be diminishing by the time I located the 200th tube of the week and as such declined )!
An alternative approach to hob vasectomy is to inject the jill with drugs to suppress her hormonal surge - the so-called 'jill jab'. Unfortunately neither of these approaches is without complication and neither is 100% effective. Neutering the jill is rarely considered an option because of a strong association very problematic adrenal gland disease in later life. The ideal control method is now considered to be the insertion of an anti-hormonal implant under the skin of the jill in the spring. The implant is safe and effective but relatively costly and temporary - working for no more than 2 years.
Control of jill anaemia in you pet ferrets is essential and spring is the time to discuss it with your vet.
21st January 2016
Contact Robson and Prescott for an appointment today!
As of 6th April this year it will be law in the UK to have your dog microchipped and that chip registered to you before your dog is 8 weeks of age. If your dog is found not to have a chip after this date a notice will be served giving you 21 days to comply or you will be liable for a £500 fine.
A microchip is a small electronic chip about the size of a grain of rice that is implanted under the skin, usually in the back of neck in cats and dogs, or into the ligament on the left side of a horse's neck. The chip has a unique serial code which is registered on a national database with the owners contact information, linking the animal to their owner. Unlike the more traditional methods of identifying pets such as collars and branding/tattoos, a microchip cannot usually be felt or seen, lost or removed and is therefore a tamper proof and permanent way of identifying your pet.
A chip can be implanted at any time and is a very safe procedure. Often it is done at the same time as other routine veterinary visits such as vaccinations, neutering or when issuing a passport. Once implanted the chip can be easily read with an electronic microchip reader. Robson and Prescott use Petlog microchips - the best type of microchip available.
There are many benefits to microchipping dogs (and other pets).
The main benefit of a microchip is the assurance that should a pet be lost or stolen it is more likely to be returned to you safe and sound. Whenever a lost pet is brought to any local authorities, ie vets, police, dog warden, RSPCA etc then they are checked for a microchip so we can contact its owner and reunite them. Without a microchip we have no way of knowing who the pet belongs to and no way of letting them know we have their pet. If a pet has not been claimed after a prolonged period of time, it will often be re-homed if we cannot trace the original owner.
A microchip enables veterinary surgeons to contact pet owners for emergency procedures. If an injured pet is taken to the vets then we can contact the owner for legal permission to treat said pet promptly. Sadly if an injured animal is taken to the vets without its owner vets are limited to administering first aid treatment or preventing further suffering. Heroics without an owners permission are not really possible, and especially with the likes of cats it can often be more than 24 hours before owners are alerted to the pets absence and start looking for them, by which time a lot of critical decisions may already have been made. Similarly in the very sad instances of a pet being found dead, a microchip enables us to inform owners.
Microchipping also has many other welfare benefits including:
- Identifying stolen pets if they are sold on or presented to a vet or authorities elsewhere. Without a chip it is often unlikely that a stolen pet be relocated or reunited with its owner.
- Deterring pet theft
- Reducing stray animals and allowing tracing and educating of owners whose pets stray
- Enabling easier identification and subsequent prosecution of owners culpable of animal cruelty
- Allowing identification of pets in properties in emergency situations to so they can be moved and reunited with owners more quickly
In addition it is very important to remember that even if your pet is already microchipped you need to update your contact details regularly with the microchip database. Almost more frustrating than having a pet brought in to us without a microchip, is having identified a chip in an animal only to find that the owners contact details are no longer valid, they have moved house, changed telephone number, re-homed the pet etc. It also part of the new legislation that a chip be kept updated. Petlog, the UK's largest database for microchipped pets has easy to follow instructions for updating your pets microchip at www.petlog.org.uk
On at least a weekly basis we reunite pets with their owners from their microchips when they're found and brought in to our surgeries.
On 30th December George, a young Tabby cat was brought to our Whorral Bank surgery having been involved in a road traffic accident. Due to him having a microchip we were able to contact his family immediately to let them know of his condition and get permission to treat him. George was stabilised, treated for shock, internal bleeding and hypothermia and had X-rays showing he had a fractured pelvis. George was successfully treated and after a week long stay in hospital is thankfully now back home and well on his way to recovery, a very lucky boy. Even if your pet is not injured and brought in to us, having a chip avoids the distress of being separated from their family for longer then necessary, and also saves you a trip to the local cat and dog shelter to collect them.
My own dog Alfie has a microchip which thankfully I have never had to rely on as yet, and I ensure that it is checked annually when he gets his booster vaccination and keep all the relevant contact numbers up to date.
In addition to the more mainstream pets here at Robson and Prescott we also regularly microchip exotic pets such as tortoises, snakes and parrots and more.
If you would like more information on microchipping or would like to arrange an appointment to have your pet microchipped contact Robson and Prescott today on 01670 512275
11th January 2016
The continued wet weather and the resulting horrible muddy conditions have resulted in an increase in several conditions in the horses we've been seeing over the past few weeks. We have seen more cases of pus in the foot, this is an extremely painful condition in which the horse can become non-weight bearing lame in a matter of hours in some cases, with wet weather the horses foot capsule expands and with continued wet and muddy conditions this allows dirt to track up between the interlocking finger-like laminae of the hoof wall and cause infection and resulting in an abscess. This condition can be so painful that the horse refuses to put any weight on its foot and so often looks like its broken its leg, so we have been receiving several calls from distressed owners fearing the worse for their animal. Thankfully, treatment in most cases is achieved by paring the abscess out and applying a poultice, this allows drainage and in most cases full resolution. In some cases the abscess can be so deep that it travels up the hoof wall to then burst out at the top of the hoof wall, the coronary band. Thankfully in most cases this condition is easily treated, the other cases we're seeing more of, not unsurprisingly, is mud fever. This is a bacterial condition mainly affecting the white areas, which are non-pigmented, of the lower part of the leg. This again can be painful in most cases the bacteria that causes it doesn't survive in air so multiplies under the scabs produced, the aim of the treatment therefore is to gently soften and lift the scabs off. The biggest quandary faced by most owners is to whether to wash the mud off horses legs when they come in or to let it dry then brush it off. Whatever anyone chooses to do the main principle should be to remove the mud. There are many products available to protect legs against this condition, providing a barrier as well as many different types of boots and bandages which aim to protect the legs. Hopefully this weather will soon improve and the ground starts to dry up, and we can look forward to a better spring. On a lighter note to try and cheer up these dark winter nights, we are holding a horse related quiz, not just medical conditions, but general knowledge questions related to horses. So anyone is welcome to come along. We are holding it at the surgery at Whorral Bank on Thursday 4th February at 7pm if you would like to join us please let the surgery know, there'll be light refreshments available.
24th December 2015
A lot has been made of the recent plummet in milk prices, particularly in the UK, but it is not just milk where farmers in the UK are being hit. Beef, lamb and pork prices are all way below they were last year and prices appear to be dropping rather than rising. This is a pressing issue for the British farming industry and it is an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence that more and more farmers are packing it in.
Morrison’s recently introduced the milk for farmers’ scheme which as an idea was fantastic, for every bottle bought of the marked promotion an extra 23p was supposed to be going to back to the dairy farmers. This equated to 10p extra per litre if this wasn’t a slightly misleading promotion. It turned out that in fact the extra 23p is going to Arla which is one of the world’s biggest milk producers. The profit made from this milk is then split between all the farms within the EU that provide Arla with milk. Of these farms just over 20% are based in Britain meaning that in reality only a tiny proportion of British farmers are benefitting from the scheme. What was or could have been in essence a fantastic idea to help bolster our flagging dairy industry is in fact only helping very few and with benefits only being around £1 a day hardly even helping those!
Lamb is another area where farmers are being hit particularly hard, frequently when I go to supermarkets the shelves well stocked with a variety of lamb, often the problem I find is that it is all from New Zealand! What I can’t understand is why? At the current time of year many farmers’ are sending fat lambs in to be butchered ready for our consumption so why is it that supermarkets see the need to import so much of a product that is readily available? With prices per kg of lamb being around 20p (or more) cheaper than they were at this time last year and retail price only being around 10p lower it seems ridiculous that shops can get away with this.
We need to support our beleaguered farming and agricultural industry within the UK. This article barely scratches the surface of the struggles that a lot of our farmers face in today’s society but I implore you to consider where your food is coming from. Next time you are in the supermarket have a look at the label on the pack of lamb or beef that you are buying and see where it has come from. Better still go to your local butcher as they will often be able to tell you which field the cow spent most of its life grazing in! Buy milk that is British, and although Morrison’s scheme isn’t ideal it still does help some of our farmers. Britain has always been a country that farms and it would be a shame to lose more of them.
17th December 2015
As the wet weather continues and the fields become more and more muddy we are seeing an increasing number of cases of mud fever in horses. Mud fever is also know as pastern dermatitis as it tends to affect the lower limb. It is caused by the bacterium dermatophilus congolensis which thrives in muddy conditions. This bacterium is a normal inhabitant of the horse's skin but when the skin is subjected to prolonged wetting or damage then it can cause infection.
Factors predisoposing to mud fever include damp, mild conditions, standing in mud or soiled bedding, constant washing of limbs without drying, skin trauma, white limbs possibly associated photosensitisation damage and chorioptic mange infestation.
During an infection the area around the pastern develops crusts which adhere to the hair. Underneath the crusts the skin is inflammed and may ooze. Skin cracks may also be evident. This may or may not be accompanied by swelling of the affected area.
Once a horse develops mud fever treatment involves keeping the horse clean and dry. For this reason the horse must be stabled for a period of time to avoid the mud. The bacteria live underneath the crusts therefore initial treatment involves removing the scabs. The scabs may need to be softened with warm, soapy water in order to remove them. This can be painful for the horse and in severe cases they may need sedating. Once the area is clear of scabs the skin should be cleaned with an antibacterial solution such as dilute chlorhexidine (hibiscrub) or iodine. This should be left on for 10 minutes then rinsed off and and the skin dried thoroughly with a clean towel. Once dry a moisture repellent cream should be applied such as sudacrem. In severe cases systemic antibiotics may required on the advice of your veterinary surgeon.
As is the case for many conditions, prevention is better than cure. Obviously in this country it is almost impossible to completely avoid mud and rain. This means that preventing mud fever completely can be difficult. There are however ways to reduce the frequency and severity of cases. A good start is to ensure that heels and pasterns are cleaned and dried thoroughly every day. Oily based barrier creams can also be used topically to aid prevention. Vaseline is ideal for this. Another useful combination is that of 50% baby oil and 50% vinegar. The baby oil prevents the skin from cracking whilst the vinegar changes the pH of the skin so the bacteria are less likely to be able to grow. Be sure to test this on a small area of skin 24 hours before full application a few horses may be allergic to baby oil. Waterproof leg wraps are an alternative to barrier creams. Rotating the paddocks ensures that the ground doesn't become too muddy. Some people find adding an area of hard standing to the field can help.
Ultimately it is important that you remain vigilant for signs of soreness or scabs so that appropriate treatment can be initiated early to prevent the condition worsening.
13th December 2015
This year saw our beloved pets, over the space of 2 months, drop from a chaotic threesome to one lonely Lurcher. He moped around the house, head hung low and took to his bed. Not even his ball could coax him out to run as he used to. We decided that the incumbent dog, as he was still young, would probably take to a pup. As it happened we had had to cancel our trip to the States to our nephew's wedding due to illness in the family, but we had kept the holiday time. A good opportunity to get a pup settled in we thought-every cloud has a silver lining! So we rang around various contacts and did what everyone else does, trawled the Internet. Eventually we found a multicoloured litter of lurchers relatively local and so took possession of a broken coated brindle lurcher girl we called Freyja-the Old Norse word for 'lady' and the goddess of love, beauty, war and destruction which seemed to sum up a lurcher quite well! Now most people would expect a vet to go armed with stethoscope and thoroughly examine a pup prior to purchase. This was not the case, our intended, the only bitch amongst the litter, firmly bonded herself to me and it was not until half way home that I noticed the tip of her ear was missing! Having had the honour to own an amputee and a one-eyed cat, an odd eared Lurcher was not really an issue-and better with a vet than a 'normal' owner anyway! The resident lurcher was initially a bit put out by the new arrival. It took 3 days for him to soften but now they are the best of friends. As with many of our clients it's been many years since we had a pup, especially as the last 2 dogs were rescues with their own inherent problems, so we had to go back to scratch again. Thus, armed with a socialisation chart, we have been trying to expose her to all types of people including children, various modes of transport both in an alongside, housework noises such as the vacuum cleaner, and been gently getting her used to being handled especially ears, mouth and feet. Now fully vaccinated Freyja has enlisted her humans on a training course, aka a puppy class. We come away with our homework every week and it is a revelation to see how easy, even with dog behaviour knowledge, it is to send out mixed messages without meaning to. It's a great opportunity for her to meet other dogs and new people. Other commitments have been put to one side to work on the training while she is still at this impressionable age so that an opportunity isn't lost. We are certainly looking forward to our doggy holidays next year with renewed enthusiasm, having 2 fit young dogs again, assuming, after the recent storms, that we still have a caravan in the Lake District!
7th December 2015
With the festive season well and truly upon us, I thought I'd use this week's article to highlight some of the potential dangers lurking for our pets at this time of year.
Christmas trees themselves can be the cause of a few problems. If chewed, mild vomiting and diarrhoea can result. Falling pine needles can also get stuck in pads, and if swallowed whole can irritate the intestines. Decorations can also be a source of problems- baubles can smash and cause irritation of the guts or blockages, and although tinsel is not particularly toxic, if eaten in a long strand can lead to a nasty blockage of the intestines. The hazards of Christmas lights I feel goes without saying!
Whilst holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are very pretty for us to look at, they can cause mild symptoms such as drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea if chewed, so ideally should be kept out of reach of pets where possible- difficult with cats I know! Also be aware of any floral arrangements containing lillies- they are highly toxic to our feline friends!
Most of us are aware of the dangers of chocolate. The main component of chocolate that causes problems for our pets is theobromine; small amounts can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, with larger amounts causing erratic heart rates and in very severe cases can be fatal! Dark chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, with white chocolate containing barely any. For an average 20kg dog, approx 30g of dark chocolate or 240g of milk chocolate is enough to cause unpleasant symptoms for your pet. Raisins are also commonly found in may Christmas items, such as Christmas Pudding, Mince Pies and Christmas cake. Raisins can be highly toxic to the kidneys, and even small amounts can cause very severe problems. Christmas pudding and Christmas cake also may contain nuts, with macedamia nuts also a hazard for our pets.
Presents under the tree look attractive to both us and our pets; although we may have forgotten what we've wrapped, our dogs certainly haven't! Make sure any food related presents are placed high up away from the keen snout of any passing canine companion. Another present related hazard to be aware of are batteries, and both dogs and cats are at risk here. If the battery is chewed or pierced in any way before swallowing, they will cause chemical burns and/or heavy metal poisoning. Batteries that are swallowed whole will eventually degrade and cause problems, but they can also cause obstructions.
Please please please regardless of what joint you've chosen to eat on Christmas Day, make sure your pet doesn't steal (or get given!!) the cooked bones!! Cooked bones are very prone to splintering, so can cause a nasty obstruction of the intestines and can also pierce them, leading to peritonitis! If you have a pet that's prone to emptying the dustbin, place any bones etc. straight into the outside bin away from eager noses! Although it can be very tempting to give us four legged friends their own Christmas dinner, they find it hard to cope with the relatively high fat content, and this can lead to a very painful bout of pancreatitis, which usually requires a hospital stay.
Whilst not strictly a Christmas poison, we have seen quite a few cases of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) toxicity already this year, which unfortunately have all had the same outcome. Antifreeze is highly toxic to the kidneys, and cats are particularly prone to poisoning as it's sweet tasting. Aggressive early treatment is needed for any chance of success, so please be very careful with antifreeze, and if you suspect your pet has ingested some please contact us as soon as you can.
If your pet manages to get into mischief over the festive period, we are, as always, on the end of phone for any advice needed. Merry Christmas!
27th November 2015
With Winter around the corner, it's worth remembering our pets in the colder weather. They generally don't seem to get the coughs and colds that we get, but cats, dogs and rabbits all need extra care in the colder months.
Rabbits that are housed outside are at real risk of hypothermia. The temperatures drop and they are less active – meaning they generate less body heat. It is useful to make sure they have lots of bedding materials – straw and hay are best – and sometimes covering hutches with sheets or blankets for extra insulation can make a real difference. They should be checked on at least a couple of times daily every day, and it should be ensured that they have a good supply of water – water bottles can freeze quickly in Winter months, leaving our pets cold and thirsty. As an aside, if you have a pond with fish in your garden, it is advisable to make sure it doesn't completely freeze over – make a hole in the ice to ensure that the fish can breathe.
Cats also feel the cold – they are naturally desert animals and are not designed to cope well with harsh weather. If they spend a lot of time outdoors always make sure they have access to a cat flap or source of shelter from the elements. It is also very important to be careful with antifreeze. It is well known that this chemical has a sweet taste which cats seem to find very palatable. Ingestion inevitably leads to rapid kidney failure and normally death, so please try to avoid any spillages if you can.
Dogs generally cope well with most weather, but house pets and older animals may feel the cold weather more than younger and/or kennelled pets. If there is snow or ice on the ground check your dog's paws after a walk and ideally give them a rinse and dry with some warm water – its not uncommon for dogs to get sore paws, either from the cold or possibly as a reaction to salt on the pavements.
All pets that are affected by arthritis will feel more sore in the colder and damp weather. It is a great idea to buy a coat for an older dog, to try and keep the joints warm. Also keeping our pets moving with small amounts of frequent exercise is really helpful. If you see your dog, cat or rabbit appearing to struggle or appear more stiff, don't hesitate to visit your vet – if appropriate a pain relief medicine can be prescribed to keep your pets mobile and pain free.
You would hope that the plus side to cold weather would be that fleas would not thrive, but unfortunately as soon as we turn on our central heating they are very happy! With this in mind, make sure that you don't stop your prophylactic flea control as we see flea problems just as commonly in winter as we do in summer.
So wrap up warm and enjoy the beautiful winter weather – great for cosy cuddles with your furry friends!
16th November 2015
After several years of taking in as much theoretical information as possible, every veterinary science
students gets to the point of finally being allowed to do some practical stuff(work, tasks, learning).
This comes in the form of mandatory work placements, but where we take these placements is
entirely our decision. So here is the chance to dive deeper into the fields one developed an interest in
during the past courses at university.
Since I have been particularly interested in working with exotic animals and wildlife, and wanted to
return to my favourite destination - Australia, I applied for a placement at the Australia Zoo Wildlife
Hospital in Queensland. In case you haven’t heard of it, The Australia Zoo was called into existence
by Steve Irwin, the famous “Crocodile Hunter”, who died in 2006 after being stung in
the chest by a sting ray. The zoo is an incredible place, huge, with a lot of thought put into different
themed departments, and amazing shows. A place which entertains people, young and old, and
educates them about our natural world.
The Australia Zoo and Wildlife Hospital (AZWH for shorthand) is built on the grounds adjacent to the
Australia Zoo. Its aim is to conserve Australia’s native animals, and again, to educate. Under their
care are mainly koalas, which were for example hit by a car, burnt in a fire, attacked by a dog or
suffering from eye and/or bladder infections. The two latter diseases are unfortunately very common
in koalas, for 70% of the koala population suffers from Chlamydia infection. It is this infection, which
can make females infertile, might impair their vision by chronic eye infections, dehydrate them by
chronic cystitis, and finally make them so weak, that they are unable to climb a tree, and therefore
won’t be able to feed. If you see a koala sitting on the ground, it’s likely to have a problem because
although they have strong limbs with long claws, they are not the best fighters, and quite vulnerable
So to care for up to 150 koalas, the AZWH provides 5 outdoor wards with 12-14 enclosures each, a
quarantine ward, an intensive care unit, and a big piece of land as a pre-releasing facility.
Besides koalas, the AZWH has several different sized pools for turtles, many of which suffer from
injuries caused by motor boat propellers or fishing nets, or floating syndrome. This syndrome can be
caused by a parasitic infestation, which will lead to gas building up in the turtle’s body and keeps it
from diving. A turtle that isn’t able to dive cannot feed, will dehydrate and deteriorate over time, and
either be washed up on the beach or die. One of my favourite patients was Gemma, an adult Green
Sea Turtle, weighingover 80kg. I had been lucky to assist when she had to have an operation done,
during which I learned that sea turtles have green fat tissue! It was a great success, when after
staying at the hospital for about half a year, Gemma was able to be released into the wild again.
Well, I would like to tell you much more about what I experienced during my time at the AZWH, but
unfortunately there is only so much space for the Robson & Prescott article in this newspaper.
However, these experiences are part of the reasons why, now that I’m a vet, I want to specialise in
exotic animal and wildlife medicine. I hope you enjoyed reading about Australia’s wildlife, and that
you will keep an eye out for our native wildlife, it might be in need of your support.
7th November 2015
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a vet. At the age of seven I announced this fact to my dad and uncle, who took great pleasure in asking me whether I really wanted to stick my hand up the back end of cows for the rest of my life. Not to be deterred, my childhood love of animals and the outdoors developed from ‘saving’ frogs and climbing trees, to reading James Herriot and helping on a local farm. On the farm I suspect I was initially as much use as a chocolate fireguard, but I like to think that seven years down the line I finally have something of use to offer. In the mean time I studied the necessary subjects at school and spent the remainder of my holidays doing work experience in order to gain a place at University. In September 2010 I began the veterinary medicine and surgery course at Nottingham University. It was a brand new course and very practically orientated, soon to be declared as the best veterinary course in the UK. Five years of intensive studying and placements with a select group of people resulted in the formation of very close friendships, and although I was thrilled to be one of the first new graduates recognised as a Dr, I was also sad to be leaving so many good memories behind.
Unlike many of my friends, I was fortunate enough to land myself a job in my home county, Northumberland. Robson and Prescott is a practice I did placement at during my final few years at University and I was delighted when they offered me a job.
I began work in September, and so far it has been a whirlwind of experiences. I am a ‘mixed’ vet, which means I deal with everything from cats and dogs to cattle and horses, with the occasional parrot and lizard thrown in the mix. As well as working a normal working day, for one night a week I also deal with any emergencies that may occur. For someone who’s always needed eight hours sleep a night, I’ve suddenly realised I can actually survive on three… with the help of lots of coffee and chocolate!!
It would be impossible to deal with the stresses of life as a veterinary surgeon if you weren’t surrounded by a good team. The staff at Robson and Prescott are fantastic, they immediately included me as one of them and their support and sense of humour helps carry me through each day.
The satisfaction in seeing that you are improving the quality of life of animals is immense, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time a client requested to specifically see me again. Next stop… my first thank you card and box of chocolates (hint hint)! I look forward to meeting many of you in the future… and to any budding young vets out there, don’t let anyone put you off!
26th October 2015
Bonfire night always holds a certain magic for me, the memories of wrapping up warm with soup around a big fire and being enthralled by the whizzes, bangs and bright lights of fireworks. Since getting my current dog however, these upcoming few weeks bring a certain dread. He is terrified of all the sounds and smells that for me bring back comforting memories.
Socialisation from a young age is crucial to help cats and dogs learn that the experiences are nothing to be afraid of, but in some cases this isn’t enough, or for those animals who have been rehomed past the crucial socialisation period.
For these animals preparation is key.
Firstly identify an area where your pet feels safe and can go to hide, ideally in a quiet room with few windows and near the centre of the house. Use this area to create a refuge. Either install a pheromone diffuser or use a spray (Feliway or Adaptil) which mimic the chemical also produce by the dam to calm and relax newborns. For full effect these need to be installed and switched on constantly for at least 1 week prior to the anticipated event. There are also oral relaxants available which can act in conjunction and help your pet feel more relaxed, confident and better able to deal with a stressful situation.
Put old blankets and an item of your clothing in the refuge to give them something to burrow and hide in, and they will get some reassurance from the familiar smells. Provide food and water, and a few special treats and toys which may help to act as a distraction. If your pet is not interested then don’t force them.
Get your pet used to using this refuge in the run up to Guy Fawkes and New Year and give them a treat whenever they are in there.
On the day try to take your dog for a good long walk during daylight hours, and play with your cat. Well exercised dogs are more likely to relax in the evening. Close windows and curtains, if possible these should be thick to block all light and as much noise as possible; if this isn’t the case try hanging blankets at the windows for a few nights.
Moderately loud rhythmic music with a good base a can be effective in masking the sounds so if your pet is used to music this is can be useful.
Make sure your dog has no opportunity to bolt and escape; ensure all gates and fences are closed and they are on a lead when out and about. Try and avoid walking phobic dogs after dark.
If your pet is not prone to stomach upsets and your know a firework display is imminent then a large stodgy, carbohydrate rich meal such as pasta or mashed potato can make them calm and sleepy. If your pet has been prescribed any medication to control the signs of anxiety these should be given exactly as directed – usually 1 hour before the onset of darkness.
Once the noises start encourage your pet into the refuge. Do not be tempted to get cross with them for being frightened and it is equally important not to try to soothe your pet as this reinforces the opinion there is something to be frightened of. As soon as they start to relax you can reward them with some attention and affection. Try to ignore the noises yourself and act relaxed and unconcerned.
Nothing will be a quick fix, but I hope this makes it easier for both you and your pet.
9th October 2015
For some the winter months hold no appeal and the idea of bedding down somewhere dark and quiet only to emerge in spring is attractive. However, if not managed correctly, our hibernating tortoises will, rather than living the dream, be suffering a nightmare.
There is a very common presumption that because a tortoises hibernation has been managed in a certain way for year after year and that same tortoise is still with us then, evidently that is an appropriate approach to their winter sleep. It should, however, come as no surprise to anyone, that tortoises do nothing quickly and that includes succumbing to illness. It is quite possible that year after year a tortoise is becoming a little bit more unwell with each badly managed hibernation and only decades later do symptoms become evident. It is extremely important, therefore, that a tortoises hibernation is carefully planned, appropriately implemented and responsibly monitored.
The first fact to appreciate is that hibernation is by no means appropriate for every species of tortoise. Whilst a period of hibernation is important to the on going health of the temperate species of Eurasian and North African tortoise such as the Hermann's Horse field and Greek spur-thighed, more tropical species such as the Leopard, Red-foot and Indian star tortoise should not hibernate.
Having determined that hibernation is appropriate for a given species of tortoise the next stage is a health check with an experienced vet. The check is likely to include an examination, measurement and faecal screen for parasites but may also, if there are any points of concern, include diagnostic tests such as bloods and radiographs. During hibernation all of a tortoises bodily functions slow down including the immune system and as such it is important that it is not suffering significant disease at this time or it could easily become overwhelmed.
Another of the body systems to slow down during hibernation is the gut. It is imperative that foodstuff is not left static, rotting in the gut for months and as such a tortoise should not have eaten for a period of 2-4 weeks prior to the onset of hibernation.
Hibernation in tortoises is triggered by environmental factors including reducing day length and light intensity and a drop in temperature. Because in the North of England these changes can occur in early autumn there is a risk of an overlong hibernation if a tortoise is left to its own devices outside. Provision of artificial heat and light sources in the form of a tortoise table of vivarium can guard against this. Gradually reducing the temperature by 1 celsius/day will trigger a natural reduction in appetite and a general slowing down. Having a good thermostat is essential in achieving this.
The tortoise should be bathed daily in water at an equivalent temperature to the environment. This encourages gut emptying and guards against dehydration. Once the tortoise temperature has dropped to 15 celsius it should be inactive and ready to hibernate. The favoured method of hibernation is in a fridge with a temperature controlled and monitored between 4 & 7 celsius. It is essential that the temperature does not fall to freezing. The tortoises should be weighed 2 times each week and woken up if it appears to be active or has lost 2% of its body weight over a 1 month period.
Duration of hibernation of 6-8 weeks in juveniles and 3-4 months in adults would be typical. This approach should result in a healthy tortoise ready to emerge in the spring of the new year.
6th October 2015
Just like in the human world, obesity is an ever increasing problem in our pets, literally they are getting bigger! From dumpy dogs to chubby cats, rotund rabbits and hefty horses, the obesity crisis is a challenge we vets are facing daily. With one of the biggest challenges being that people are now so used to seeing fat pets that they fail to recognize when their own pet is overweight, the so called Fat Gap or normalisation of obesity.
Sadly just like in people, being overweight can contribute to a multitude of health problems in animals; including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, breathing problems, high blood pressure to list a few, and it will shorten a pets life in the long run. Sadly a lot of these conditions do not manifest until later in life, by which time its often too late to rectify. An overweight Labrador will happily run about at 2 years old, unfortunately by 10 its joints will have paid the price.
It is always a sensitive subject in the vets consult to broach the fact of a pet being overweight, and we do our best not to offend, but sometimes it seems unavoidable, and sadly the people responsible for obesity in pets is their owners and theirs no real way to sugar coat that.
Be it too many treats and tit-bits, overfeeding of their normal diet, the pet scavenging or stealing food of its own accord or under exercising, the basic reason behind obesity is too much energy being taken in and not enough being used up.
The most common things I hear on a daily basis when mentioning a pet being overweight is that he or she "barely eats anything". A statement which in most cases cannot be true. If a pet barely ate, it would not be fat. People often just don't realise how much their pet is actually eating, or how much they should (or shouldn't!) be eating. In many cases owners evaluate a pets eating in human portions, when they do not require comparative feed amounts to us, and so well meaning owners give much more food that a pet actually needs. And one chocolate biscuit to a dog is like us eating a whole packet!
Another common excuse for a pet being overweight is because the pet was neutered. Unfortunately neutering can slow baseline metabolism, however it is peoples indiscriminate feeding of said neutered pet that leads to the weight gain, not the neutering itself. If fed appropriately there is no reason for a neutered pet to be a fat pet, and if a pet is gaining too much weight after being neutered then cut back their ration.
Another trend that is becoming more common is clients with pets of a normal and healthy weight coming in concerned that there pet is underweight, sometimes having been stopped on walks by well meaning individuals telling them their dog is too thin! People are so used to seeing fat pets they now think the normal ones are too skinny.
Here at Robson and Prescott our dedicated nursing team run free weight clinics to help people manage their pets weight, and we offer a multitude of diets and incentives to help with weight loss. There is no set weight that a specific pet should be, but more a healthy weight range that they should sit within, and our staff are happy to advise on this.
We also have a fantastic hydrotherapist Nikki whose hydrotherapy tank with treadmill is an excellent way of exercising dogs and burning calories, especially if they have mobility issues preventing normal exercise.
There is no set weight that a specific pet should be, but more a healthy weight range that they should sit within
If you are at all worried about your pets weight, or if you just want to weigh in, don't hesitate to pop in and use the scales or book an appointment at any of our branches.
17th September 2015
For most harvest is hopefully drawing to a welcome conclusion and the weather is becoming more and more autumnal, now is the time to turn thoughts to various diseases which can affect cattle.
The change in temperature and increase in rainfall means that fluke is something that should certainly be on our radars. The forecast is for this year to be a lot higher risk for fluke than last year where we managed to get off relatively lightly. Even over here in the wonderfully dry North-East there is still a reasonable risk of this disease. Things to look out for are weight loss, chronic scour and oedema under the chin. Diagnosing fluke is relatively simple, we can look for fluke eggs on faecal samples with reasonably accuracy but multiple samples may be required. There is a laboratory test that can be run on blood but this is more expensive and less simple. For beef cattle treatment is easy, use a flukicide containing triclabendazole at housing to kill all adult and immature fluke present in the cow, this should be sufficient to see them through the winter. If it is a particularly high risk winter then a second dose may be required 8 weeks after the first dose.
Other diseases to keep a close eye on are respiratory problems, particularly around housing these diseases are amongst the most costly problems for cattle farmers. There are both viral and bacterial causes of pneumonia, most of these we are now able to vaccinate against. There are vaccinations available for BRSV, IBR, BVD and PI3 which are all viral causes of respiratory disease, we also have vaccinations available against Pasturella and now Histophilus somni as well, unfortunately we do not have a vaccination against mycoplasma which can cause severe outbreaks of pneumonia. There are a number of ways that farmers can help to reduce the impact pneumonia has on their farm. Vaccination is the most obvious method and is highly effective in a lot of cases. At housing try to reduce the stress impact on calves/beasts, any particularly stressful procedures should be done either before housing or after 6 weeks post. Lower stocking densities and increased ventilation of housing is important to help airflow through the building thus reducing the risk of exposure and disease. If you notice any signs of pneumonia amongst calves it is essential to treat them as soon as possible, Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are necessary in the majority of cases and if a beast is showing particularly severe signs it is advisable to call us so we can try and differentiate the likely cause. We can use blood samples to try and distinguish the pathogen but often the best way is unfortunately via a post-mortem. If there are large numbers affected, it is better to identify the exact cause of the problem, as if it is a virus rather than a bacterium then antibiotics can be unnecessary. Call your vet if you have any worries!
Morpeth Whorral Bank
Staithes Lane Branch
Kirkley Hall - Ponteland