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Pet Advice

Advice for pet owners from qualified vets

  • Vaccinations
  • Dog Neutering
  • Cat Neutering
  • Worming
  • Fleas and Ticks
  • Guinea Pigs

Vaccinations

Vaccinations

In all mammals, antibodies in the mother’s milk protect them from becoming ill during the first few weeks of their lives. After the animal has stopped sucking from its mother, this immunity reduces and they must develop their own immunity.

Owners and vets have a responsibility and duty of care to protect the animals they care for against infectious diseases by giving them vaccinations. Your pet will require an initial course of two vaccinations and then yearly boosters to maintain levels of immunity.

Unfortunately, infectious diseases are still commonplace in domestic animals and leaving your animal unvaccinated is a big risk.


Dogs

Puppies have their first vaccination at 8 weeks of age and then a second vaccination two weeks after. They then require a booster vaccination every twelve months.

Dogs are vaccinated against:

  • Parvo virus
  • Distemper
  • Viral Hepititis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parainfluenza

We still regularly see puppies with Parvovirus and would advise you to see the mothers vaccination history to ensure she has been vaccinated and can therefore pass the immunity on to her puppies.

Dogs may also require a Kennel Cough vaccination if they are going into kennels or if they are likely to come in contact with infected dogs. This vaccine is ‘sprayed’ into the nasal passages by the vet and lasts for twelve months.


Cats

Cats receive their first vaccination at 9 weeks and then a second one at 12 weeks. They are vaccinated against:

  • Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (Cat Flu)
  • Feline Panleucopaenia (Enteritis)

You can also choose to include Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) in the vaccination. FeLV is a very slow developing disease so if you are rescuing an older cat we advise that you check it has been blood tested against this and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).

It is very easy to forget your pets yearly vaccinations or think “I need to save money so I will stop them”. This is a very risky decision as many of the above diseases are fatal and can be costly to treat if your pet contracts any of them.

Dog Neutering

Dog Neutering

Castration

Castration is the removal of the testicles. The operation is a one off procedure and is not reversible. Once your dog has been castrated he will never be able to father puppies. The normal dog has two testicles situated in the scrotal sac. It is not uncommon, however, for one or both testicles to fail to migrate down into the sac during early life.

This is known as Cryptorchism. Sometimes, the testicle can be felt in the groin, in other individuals the testicle(s) cannot be palpated as it is or they are fully within the abdomen

What are the advantages?

Dogs are castrated for a variety of reasons. For many owners the fact that he will not be able to father a litter of potentially unwanted puppies is the main reason for castration.

Reduction of dominance related behaviour
Many entire dogs cause problems through being overly dominant in the family hierarchy. This behaviour cannot only be a result of hormones but through a lack of training. Castrate can assist with reducing unwanted behaviour but it is not guaranteed.

Reduction in vagrancy
Some entire dogs have a tendency to wander and become a nuisance to neighbours, especially if there is a local bitch in heat. As the owner you are responsible for the actions of your dog and this could involve, for example, paying compensation should your pet cause a traffic accident.

Some entire dogs become very disturbed by local bitches in season and although they might not have the opportunity to wander, they can be a problem with howling at night and going off their food.

Reduction in excesses of sex linked behaviour
Many entire dogs can become a nuisance and embarrassment with excessive mounting behaviour.  Whilst many grow out of the behaviour as they mature and others are trained out of it by their owners, some are left mounting family members, visitors and furniture. Castration usually reduces this problem to a minimum.  This behaviour can also be due to excess energy and overexcitement, it is vital a dog has a good exercise regime and plenty of mental stimulation.

Prevention and treatment of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is far from rare in the older dog and is the main reason why we examine the testicles of your dog during a normal examination, for example at the time of the annual vaccination. When the testicles are in the scrotum, we can feel the vast majority of tumours without difficulty and we would recommend castration be done fairly quickly. Fortunately most forms of testicular cancer if diagnosed early are not life threatening and surgery is usually curative.

Where we do have problems is in Cryptorchid dogs. It is thought that there is a higher incidence of cancer in the retained testicle which does not make it down into the scrotum. When in the groin, we can usually feel if there are any problems. An abdominal testicle, however, would have to be greatly enlarged before it could be felt.  If your dog is Cryptorchid, we shall discuss this with you.

Castration can also prevent and treat male hormone-linked diseases. Certain anal tumours, perineal hernias (hernias around the anus) and prostatic enlargement can be helped or prevented by castration. If we do discover that your dog is suffering from any of these conditions, we shall discuss this with you.

What are the disadvantages?

Castration, although a routine procedure for small animal veterinary surgeons, is a theatre procedure, involving a general anaesthetic. A small number of animals have problems with anaesthetics, the operation itself and with post operative bleeding. This can result from too much activity, dislodging one of the internal blood vessel ties. Good nursing help and careful supervision does reduce the risk but that risk cannot be totally eliminated.

There are a higher proportion of overweight castrated dogs compared to their entire counterparts. There is no doubt that a castrated dog requires less food for a given weight and activity level. We suggest reducing the amount fed by 10-15% approx.

4 weeks prior to surgery.  It is easier to increase the food for dogs that lose a little weight than to diet those who have become overweight. We encourage regular weight checking and to weigh your dog at each annual vaccination so that fine tuning of food intake can be made. With proper management, there is no reason for any weight gain as a result of castration.

Some owners feel that the coat of some of the longer haired breeds can become excessively ‘woolly’ after castration. Whether this is a genuine phenomenon, or simply normal coat changes associated with ageing, is not clear.

When should I castrate my dog?

Castration can be performed from 6 months of age.  Smaller breeds of dog tend to carry out a majority of their development within the first 6 months so commonly a Vet will advise to book them in at this age.  Larger breeds can take up to 15 months to develop which may result in the Vet advising them to be slightly older when castrated.

We are always ready to discuss your individual requirements and feelings, to decide what is best for your dog.

For further information and advice please get in touch.


Spaying

The technical name for a bitch spay is an ovariohysterectomy, which means the removal of the ovaries and uterus. You will, more commonly, hear people saying that their bitch has been spayed, neutered or dressed.

The operation is a one off procedure and is not reversible. Once your bitch has been spayed she will never be able to have puppies.

What are the advantages?

The main advantage is that your bitch will not come into season every six months. This will save you any mess associated with the season and will stop the persistent amorous advances of the neighbourhood male dogs allowing you to exercise your pet freely, all year round, without running the risk of her getting pregnant and producing unwanted puppies.

Another advantage is a reduction in the incidence and severity of mammary tumours.

Mammary tumours or breast cancer is very common in the un-spayed older bitch and early spaying drastically reduces the risk. Mammary tumours (breast cancer) are almost never seen in bitches spayed before the first season. The risk is thought to be reduced by over 90% in bitches spayed between the first and second season. As time progresses the advantages decrease.

However, even in bitches spayed late, there does seem to be reduction in the malignancy of any tumours which do occur and often we recommend spaying if mammary tumours develop in older bitches to remove the “hormonal drive” that makes the tumours increase in size and malignancy.

Prevention of Pyometra is another major benefit of spaying. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus which occurs in later life, characterised by the filling of the uterus with pus and a bitch that rapidly becomes unwell.

Generally they start with excessive drinking and urination and go on to show profound depression and inappetence often as a result of liver and kidney damage. If this condition is not recognised and treated promptly they will develop septic shock which will result in death.

Fortunately a high proportion of Pyometra cases receive the correct diagnosis and surgery in time, to remove the infected uterus but the surgery is longer, more dangerous and the recovery time slower. A few are presented too late or are too frail to survive surgery and as a result die from the condition.

Ovarian Cancer is a relatively uncommon, but potentially fatal disease that is prevented by spaying.

Sometimes bitches are spayed to ‘settle their temperament’. It is a difficult subject to quantify, but some highly strung bitches do seem to improve after the operation.

What are the disadvantages?

Spaying, although a routine procedure for small animal veterinary surgeons, is a major operation and involves entry into the abdomen cavity. A small number of animals have problems with anaesthetics, the operation itself and with postoperative bleeding.

This can result from too much activity, dislodging one of the internal blood vessel ties. Good nursing helps and careful supervision does reduce the risk but that risk cannot be totally eliminated.

Another disadvantage is that there is an increased risk of urinary incontinence in spayed bitches compared to their entire counterpart. This is not particularly common and usually responds to diet and medicines and occasionally surgery.

There are a higher proportion of overweight spayed bitches compared to their entire counterparts. There is no doubt that a spayed bitch requires less food for a given weight and activity level.

We suggest reducing the amount fed by 10-15% approximately 4 weeks prior to surgery. It is easier to increase the food for bitches that lose a little weight than to diet those who have become overweight.

We encourage weight checking and weigh your dog at each annual vaccination so that fine tuning of food intake can be made. With proper management, there is no reason for any weight gain as a result of spaying.

Where bitches are spayed before their first season, the vulva can remain very small. As the rest of the body increases in season, the vulva can occasionally become partially hidden behind a fold of skin, which can lead to urine spraying onto the legs. This can be corrected by weight reduction and sometimes surgery.

Some owners feel that the coat of some of the longer haired breeds can become excessively ‘woolly’ after spaying. Whether this is a genuine phenomenon, or simply normal coat changes associated with ageing, is not clear.

When should I spay my bitch?

Small and medium breeds generally carry out most of their development by 6 months of age and so neutering at this age is recommended. For large breed dogs we recommend spaying 3 months after their first season to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence later on in life. We cannot spay bitches who are in or who have just finished a season as there can be a great increase in bleeding during and after surgery.

Older bitches are similarly spayed midway between seasons.

We are always ready to discuss your individual requirements and feelings, to decide what is best for your bitch.
 

For further information and advice please get in touch.

Cat Neutering

Cat Neutering

Female cats start coming into season about 5-6 months of age depending on day length.

They will “call” every 3 weeks for 2-3 days until mated or spayed, crouching down and crying out - a sign often mistaken by owners for pain.

They can become pregnant from about 5 months of age which is why it is very important not to let your cat outside until after she has been spayed.

Only rarely do we see weight increases in spayed cats.

Please get in touch for any further advice or to book an appointment.

Worming

Worming

The worms that affect cats and dogs can be broadly divided into two main groups:

  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms

Puppies, unlike kittens, are born with an existing burden of roundworms which have crossed over from their mother, whilst the puppies are developing, within the uterus.

Careful worming of bitches, whilst pregnant, as detailed below, can reduce this worm burden by as much as 98%, thus allowing puppies to be for with much reduced roundworm numbers. We recommend that puppies are wormed, starting at the age of two weeks.

Recommended worming protocol for puppies:
Start at 2 weeks of age and then repeat at 5 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. This should be carried out using “Panacur”, as a course lasting 3 days, at each worming. If fleas are seen it is wise to worm against tapeworms too as their lifecycles are interlinked.

Once puppies are 6 months old they should start their adult course of worming.

Recommended worming protocol for adult dogs:
At 6 months old puppies should start their adult worming programme. This should consist of wormer effective against roundworms and tapeworms and should be given at 6 monthly intervals, or more frequently. If, for some reason, you need to put your dog into kennels then it is recommended that they should be wormed after they have left the kennels.

Recommended worming protocol for pregnant bitches:
It is advised that bitches should be wormed from day 40 of pregnancy to 2 days post whelping. By performing this daily dosing regime the migrating worm larvae can be killed in the bitch, thus cutting the worm burden in the puppies by 98%.

This in turn means that the puppies have a considerably better start in life and that the amount of worm eggs (a very important public health risk) shed into the environment is reduced considerably.

Recommended worming protocol for kittens:
Because kittens are not born with an existing worm burden, we recommend that they start being wormed at 5 weeks old and then continue as you would a puppy, with 3 day courses of treatment.

Recommended worming protocol for adult cats:
Adult cats need to be wormed against round and tapeworms at least 3 (and preferably 4) times a year, i.e. every 3 to 4 months. We can advise you in practice which product is effective against round and tapeworms.


For further information and advice please get in touch.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas

Fleas can make life miserable for pets and their owners with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching. They can carry tapeworms and cat scratch disease, which can affect your family as well as you pet.

Before you can prevent and treat fleas effectively you need to understand their lifecycle.


The Flea Lifecycle

Adult Fleas: These hatch from pupae in the environment and jump onto your pet. They live on your animal and lay up to 50 eggs per day.

Eggs: These fall off of your animal after they have been laid and fall onto your carpets, wood floors, sofas and pet beds.

Larvae: The eggs hatch into larvae which move away from the light, deep into your furnishings, carpets and floor boards.

Pupae: The larvae spin a sticky cocoon and become pupae. These cannot be killed by home insecticidal treatments. They hatch when they sense warmth, carbon dioxide and vibrations.

Therefore the fleas that you see on your pet are only 5% of the total flea problem in your house.

Do not feel ashamed if your pet has a flea problem, it is very common. Your pet has to just pick up one sticky egg on its coat and bring it into your home to cause a problem.


Treating For Fleas

By the time you see fleas on your pet your house is probably already infested.

To get rid of an infestation:
Treat with a suitable ‘spot-on’ treatment as advised by one of our vets, nurses or qualified staff.
To treat the environment either use a ‘spot-on’ treatment that includes an active ingredient to prevent any eggs laid by the fleas from hatching. Alternatively use a household insecticide that comes in a spray form.
Vacuum regularly and wash all your pets bedding above 60C to help remove some of the eggs, larvae and pupae.

Treat all pets in your household.

Treating an infested house can take 3 – 4 months to control the flea problem.

Preventing an infestation:
We recommend that you treat your pet with a spot-on flea treatment that contains an ingredient to kill adult fleas and an ingredient to prevent any eggs produced from hatching.

You must treat for fleas all year round and not just the summer months.


Ticks

You may have seen the news and radio reports regarding dogs that have contracted the tick-borne disease Babesiosis. These cases are confined to a small area in Harlow but pet owners are obviously concerned and have been contacting the clinic for advice.


What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis in dogs is an infection caused by the single celled parasite called Babesia.

The parasite infects dogs red blood cells which then damages the cells and also causes the bodies own immune system to attack the red blood cells.

This then leads to a severe anaemia which can be life threatening, but can be treatable.


How can my dog contract Babesiosis?

The main way Babesiosis is transmitted to dogs is through tick bites. When an infected tick attaches and starts to feed on a dogs blood a transfer of the parasite occurs. This usually takes place 24 -48 hours after the tick has attached.

Until recently, species of tick found in the UK were very unlikely to carry Babesia, however, with the increase in animal movements throughout Europe the risks of European species of ticks (which carry the disease) entering the UK have increased.


How can it be prevented?

Prevention is based on the regular use of anti-tick products. There are various products on the market and different products will be suitable for different dogs.

Dogs should be checked regularly for ticks, especially after walks. If you see a tick on your dog it should only be removed using a special tick hook.

Our nurses are available to remove any ticks if required. If you do remove a tick on your pet please bring the tick into our surgery so that we can send it away for analysis to identify the type of tick.


Please contact us for complimentary advice from our qualified staff on the correct way to prevent fleas before you purchase any flea treatments.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs

With proper care and attention, your guinea pig can live for up to 10 happy years and sometimes longer, 4-5 years is typical though for a domestic guinea pig.

As children are their main owners, they should grow into teenagers having learnt all about caring, cleaning, nurturing and finally having to say goodbye and learn about death.

All these are such valuable lessons in life and how lucky some children are to be given the chance to have a guinea pig to learn all this from. It is vital though that your little pet is cared for properly, so here are some guidelines.

Guinea pigs are friendly, chatty and very responsive to caring owners. They each have their own character which makes them endlessly fascinating. They are herd animals and would naturally live in large groups.

They are also known as cavies as they originate in caves and rocky areas in South America where they live in colonies as a form of defence against ever present predators. All they have in their defence is their speed.

As they are so gregarious, they do get lonely and it is best to keep at least 2 together, but beware the speed with which a mixed pair will breed. If you do want to breed, the sow must be between 5 and 9 months before she has her first litter. You can keep any number of females together.

Males or boars are best kept in pairs - if a younger male is introduced to an older one, he must have a tube or pipe he can hide in initially to hide from his bigger new hutch mate.

Do not keep guinea pigs and rabbits together if they have not already been used to each other from a very young age. Rabbits have strong back legs and uncontrollable urges in uncastrated males to mate. This may lead to sometimes potentially fatal wounds in your guinea pig.

Ensure that the hutch they live in is large enough for your guinea pig to stand on its hindlegs without its head touching the roof. Outdoor hutches should have a sloping roof with an overhang to protect it from bad weather and covered with roofing felt to prevent it leaking. It should be away from draughts and direct sunlight and it should be raised off the ground and have mesh with holes that are very small to prevent mice from entering. This happens commonly as mice are attracted to your guinea pig’s food. They can spread disease.

Guinea pigs are heat and cold sensitive so never keep them in greenhouses. Do not keep their hutches in garages that house cars as they may be affected by the car fumes. Their enclosure can be brought indoors if it gets too cold but keep them away from other pets, the TV and radiators. They will need an enclosed outdoor run - the tent-shaped varieties are very good as predators such as cats and foxes are unable to enter.

Ensure that there is always somewhere it can hide - a tube or drainpipe is adequate just in case it sights a predator.