Swadlincote Vets's home page
Swadlincote Surgery 01283 213707
Melbourne Surgery 01332 863732

Pet Advice

Swadlincote Vets' advice for pet owners

  • New Puppy
  • New Kitten
  • Vaccinations
  • Worming
  • Fleas
  • Neutering
  • Pet Passports
  • Insurance
  • Heat Stroke
  • Lameness
  • Fly Strike
  • General Diseases
  • Dog Diseases
  • Cat Diseases
  • Time to Say Goodbye

New Puppy

Congratulations on your new puppy!

Congratulations on your new member of the family. Whilst this is a very exciting time for you, keep in mind that it is a unnerving time for your puppy as they are in unfamiliar surroundings. This fact sheet should help you prepare for everything they need.


Sleep is an important activity for puppies. A bed for your puppy should be arranged somewhere quiet and out of the way; a place where your puppy can be left alone. Some people like to invest in a puppy crate/cage. These are a good idea but should be treated as a relaxing place for your puppy, and never be used as a punishment.

Toilet Training

The easiest way to do this is to be consistent and praise your puppy when they do their business in the garden. The times your puppy will need to go out are:

  • After eating
  • After Sleeping
  • After playing/any excitement
  • Every 1-2 hours

Basic Training 

We recommend puppies attend training classes, even if you have an idea on how to train your puppy, as it is good for socialisation (more on this later) and you can meet other new owners (we also hold puppy parties here, which are also great for socialisation).

Another good thing to do on a daily basis whilst still a puppy is doing a ‘vet check’ at home regularly. This includes looking in their eyes, ears, mouth, running your hands over their body and touching all their feet. This gets them used to having these areas examined.


Many puppies will come home with their own food that they have been fed whilst still with the breeder. When it comes to what to feed your puppy there is not one perfect diet for all, it’s what works best for you and your puppy. Any change in diet should be done gradually, introducing a small amount of the new diet to the current food until the previous diet is phased out. On average this normally takes a week. Amounts to be fed vary on the diet, check the back of your feed packaging for details.


It takes three weeks for full immunity to develop following the second injection. Puppies can start to socialise from one week after their second vaccination but are advised to avoid water logged/soil areas until the three-week period has passed. Please can you adjust this on our website.

The initial puppy vaccinations are two vaccines two weeks apart, the first usually at 8 weeks old and the second vaccination at 10 weeks of age. We advise pups are kept in for 1 week after the 2nd vaccination, to allow for full immunity before going out.

This primary vaccination course is topped up yearly in a booster vaccination, at which point we will also do a thorough health check. We also offer a vaccination against Kennel cough and Rabies vaccinations. Please call the surgery if you have any questions.

For more details see under vaccinations.


Microchipping is now a legal requirement for all dogs. If your puppy has not yet been microchipped we can do this anytime from their second vaccination.

Flea Treatment 

Fleas are known to cause irritation to all pets however are particularly a concern in young puppies, a heavy burden can cause anaemia.  There are a few different products available so please ask for advice on the best product for you and your puppy.

For more information please see the fleas section.


A regular worming regime should be started as soon as you collect your puppy. We advise worming every 2 weeks with a suitable wormer up to 12 weeks of age, then continuing monthly from 12 weeks to 6 months. After which 3 monthly is usually sufficient for roundworm and tapeworm (wormer dependent). You should discuss the best regime for your dog with your vet.

For more information please see our worming section.


Socialisation is very important for puppies. There is a period up until about 16 weeks of age, where puppies are more tolerant of experiences and therefore more likely to enjoy and learn from them, and less likely to be afraid. Puppies should be gently and carefully exposed to as many experiences as possible, both inside and outside the home. It is important that this socialisation is done carefully, to build up the puppy’s confidence and stopping if the stimulant starts to frighten him. A pup that does not receive adequate socialisation can develop unwanted behaviour traits.

Socialisation is actually very simple; it’s just a case of making sure the puppy has as many good experiences with as many new people/things as possible when young.

When a puppy arrives at its new home, it should be left alone for short periods of time, in order to learn how to behave when left. It should also experience short and regular car journeys.


When you take charge of your new puppy, he may be insured for a short period of time under the breeder’s cover. We highly recommend you take out insurance and keep them ‘Insured For Life’, rather than a 12 month policy. If your breeder has not provided any insurance we can organise 4 weeks free with Pet Plan when you next visit us, who will then contact you regarding the continuation of cover.

For more information please see our pet insurance section.

New Kitten

Congratulations on your new kitten!

Congratulations on your new member of the family. Whilst this is a very exciting time for you, keep in mind that it is a unnerving time for your kitten as they are in unfamiliar surroundings. This factsheet should help you prepare for everything they need.


When it comes to what to feed your kitten there is not one perfect diet for all , it’s what works best for you and you kitten. Once weaned, milk is no longer required and water should be encouraged. We recommend feeding dry foods over wet food. Do not feed cats anything other than cat food as cats have specific dietary requirements.


The initial kitten vaccinations are two vaccines three weeks apart, the first usually at 9 weeks old and the second vaccination at 12 weeks of age. Although fully vaccinated we advise kittens are kept inside until neutered, to prevent unwanted litters.

This primary vaccination course is topped up in a yearly booster vaccination, at which point we will also do a thorough health check.

For more details, please see our vaccination section.


A regular worming regime should be started as soon as you collect your kitten. We advise worming every 2 weeks with a suitable wormer up to 12 weeks of age, then continuing monthly from 12 weeks to 6 months. After which 3 monthly is usually sufficient for roundworm and tapeworm (wormer dependent). You should discuss the best regime for your cat with your vet.

For more information, please see our worming section.


Unless you plan to breed from your cat, we recommend that you have your cat neutered at 6 months of age. Neutering your female cat will reduce the incidence of mammary cancer, eliminate womb infections, false and unwanted pregnancies. Neutering your male cat helps to reduce the kitten numbers. It also reduces them wandering, fighting, spraying, and inevitably transmission of disease.

For more information, please see our neutering section.


Microchipping is strongly advised, should your cat go missing or is found, they can be easily traced back to you. We recommend doing this when they are neutered at 6 months.


What is a vaccination?

A vaccination is an injection administered by a vet, usually under the skin although some can be given via a spray up the nose. The injection then works by training the body to recognise the harmful viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine so that if the body meets it again it can fight it off.

We routinely vaccinate against some highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases. There is often little to no treatment for these diseases and any puppy or kitten contracting them can die. Vaccination is a simple way to protect your dog or cat and keep them healthy.

Dog vaccinations

What do we vaccinate against?
Canine infectious hepatitis (adenovirus 1): Canine infectious hepatitis is a disease whereby the adenovirus attacks the liver causing liver failure in some cases. Animals that succumb to the disease often die, those less severely affected can still be very sick with the disease. There is no specific treatment but the vaccination provides good protection.

Canine distemper (hard pad): Canine distemper virus causes a very serious, often fatal disease. Signs of the disease can include coughing, discharge from the nose, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions and hard foot pads (hyperkeratosis). Animals recovering will continue to suffer illness for the rest of their lives. The vaccination is very effective.

Canine parvovirus (‘parvo’): Canine parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea which is often bloody. Young puppies are often affected and many will die as a result. If a bitch is affected whilst pregnant it can result in growth deformities in the puppies. Vaccine protection is usually very good. It is important that the second vaccination given to puppies is when they are at least 10 weeks old otherwise the antibodies given to the puppy from its mother can affect the vaccines effectiveness resulting in the puppy catching parvo despite being vaccinated (Rottweiler’s especially)

 Leptospirosis (Weils disease): Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacterium that is usually spread by rats which pass the bacteria in their urine. The bacteria needs a moist environment to survive therefore dogs spending a lot of time around water are most at risk. The disease can cause liver failure and jaundice and can be spread to both other dogs and people. Vaccination is very good but only lasts 1 year, dogs at higher risk need vaccinating more often.

Kennel Cough (infectious tracheobronchitis): Kennel cough is caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses including canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus 2 and Bordetella. Kennel cough is not serious in a healthy dog but it does cause a harsh hacking cough that can last several weeks. It is also highly infectious and spreads rapidly through dogs coming into close contact e.g. in kennels.

Rabies: Vaccination against rabies is unnecessary in the UK as we are free from Rabies. However, if you plan to travel abroad with your dog you will need a rabies vaccination, this now means that quarantine is not always necessary when travelling with your dog.

When should my dog be vaccinated?
Puppies are protected from infectious diseases by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, once these antibodies reduce the puppy will make their own antibodies to protect them against disease. Some puppies do not have good protection from their mother and so benefit from early vaccination.

For most puppies, the first injection is given at 8 weeks old with the second vaccination at 10-12 weeks old (10 weeks old is the earliest a second vaccination can be given). Puppies need both injections to be fully protected.

The protection given by each vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your dog remains safe.

Do vaccines always work?
Vaccines offer very good protection however on some occasions an individual dog may not get full protection from the vaccine. This is usually because the dog was already ill or stressed at the time of injection. The vet will examine your dog before they give the injection and any concerns from the owner should be raised at this time.

Most dogs are protected against infectious disease by regular vaccination. Your dog MUST receive regular vaccinations to be fully protected against these diseases.

Cat Vaccinations

What do we vaccinate against?
Feline Panleucopaenia (feline distemper/feline infectious enteritis): Feline panleucopaenia virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea leading to a potentially fatal dehydration within 2-3 days. Kittens and young cats are particularly at risk. The virus is spread in infected faeces but vaccination provides good protection.

Cat Flu (feline viral rhinotracheitits caused by feline calicivirus and herpes virus): The effects are similar to humans with sneezing, runny nose and eyes and often mouth ulcers can occur. It is rarely fatal except in those otherwise unwell, elderly or very young. Cats affected often recover but can carry the viruses lifelong and often show signs when stressed. This means they pose a risk to any unvaccinated cat.

Feline Leukaemia (FeLV): Not all cats infected with the virus get the disease but those that do often die. The disease destroys the cat’s defences against other disease and can lead to cancer which is often fatal. The virus spreads by direct contact with other cats so any cat going outside is at risk.

Rabies: Vaccination against rabies is unnecessary in the UK as we are free from Rabies. However, if you plan to travel abroad with your cat you will need a rabies vaccination, this now means that quarantine is not always necessary when travelling with your cat.

When should my cat be vaccinated?
Kittens are protected from infectious diseases by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, once these antibodies reduce the kitten will make their own antibodies to protect them against disease. Some kittens do not have good protection from their mother and so benefit from early vaccination.

For most kittens, the first injection is given at 9 weeks old with the second vaccination at around 12 weeks old (12 weeks old is the earliest a second vaccination can be given). Kittens need both injections to be fully protected.

The protection given by each vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your cat remains safe.

Do vaccines always work?
Vaccines offer very good protection however on some occasions an individual cat may not get full protection from the vaccine. This is usually because the cat was already ill or stressed at the time of injection. The vet will examine your cat before they give the injection and any concerns from the owner should be raised at this time.

Most cats are protected against infectious disease by regular vaccination. Your cat MUST receive regular vaccinations to be fully protected against these diseases.

Rabbit Vaccinations

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Luckily, a vaccination is available to protect your rabbit against the 2 most prevalent. It is essential that your rabbit receives regular booster injections to ensure they are fully protected.

What do we vaccinate against?
Myxomatosis: A disease caused by a virus that only affects rabbits. The virus causes a very severe swelling of the lips eyelids and genitals. Wild rabbits suffering from the disease are most at risk of being caught by predators. Pet rabbits can sometimes recover with very intensive nursing if the disease is caught early. Insects transmit the virus between rabbits including flies and rabbit fleas. Cats can sometimes carry the rabbit flea so a house rabbit is still at risk of catching the disease.

Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD): A disease caused by a highly contagious virus. It causes massive haemorrhage (bleeding) from the internal organs leading to a rapid death. The virus is spread rabbit to rabbit but also on contaminated equipment, clothing and feed; insects’ rodents and birds may also transmit the virus.

When can we vaccinate?
A combined Myxomatosis and VHD vaccination can be given from 10 weeks of age. The protection given by the vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your rabbit remains safe.


What types of worms are there?

There are 3 types of worms in the UK:
Roundworm: Resemble strands of spaghetti. Puppies and kittens are exposed from their mothers. Roundworm larvae are a serious human health risk and if transmitted to children can cause blindness.

Tapeworm: Look like strings of flattened grains of rice. The larval stages are carried in other species eg rabbits and mice but also in fleas. Pets may become infested by hunting/scavenging but also by grooming and ingesting a flea containing a larval stage.

Lungworm: The early stages of this parasite affect the lungs and severely infected dogs may show signs ofcoughing however other signs are more common. Lungworm is carried by slugs and snails. The parasite survives in the blood vessels and releases substances which affect the clotting of blood making infected animals more prone to bleeding disorders.

Why is worming important?
Regular worming treatment is an essential part of responsible pet ownership to protect the health of our pets. Large infestations can make pets clinically unwell, especially young animals. It's also to protect family and members of the public, and to protect livestock - tapeworms in dogs can be passed to sheep causing fatal brain damage.

When should you worm?
Worming programmes vary with age and individual animal and it is important to remember not all worming products treat all worms.

  • Puppies and kittens under 12 weeks (it is recommended to worm every 2 weeks)
  • Puppies and kittens between 12 weeks and 6 months (it is recommended to worm every month)
  • Pets over 6 months old (this depends on the product used, our routine wormer is Milpro, which is recommended once every 3 months)

If your pet is pregnant, please call the surgery for the most appropriate worming protocol for your pet and their litter.

For the best worming protocol for your individual pet, please contact the surgery to speak to one of our fully qualified veterinary nurses.


What are fleas?

Adult fleas are reddish-brown insects with compressed or flattened bodies, from side to side. While visible to the naked eye, they are small and can be difficult to detect. Although wingless, they can jump a long way. This enables them to jump easily from ground level onto your pet.

Fleas feed on blood, and female fleas consume about 15 times their body weight each day. Incompletely digested blood is excreted from the flea and dries to form what is commonly referred to as “flea dirt”. This is seen as little black flecks in your pets coat. This serves as food for developing flea larvae and is one way veterinarians and pet owners can identify an infestation.

Whats is the flea life-cycle?

The adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. The eggs laid then fall off your animal in other areas of the house such as the bed, living room, sofa and car. In the following few weeks the eggs develop into larvae which feed on flea faeces which is laid by the adult fleas and on skin scale. The larvae are very tough little creatures and can live in the environment for long periods of time (up to two years). The larvae also love the dark and will burrow into any dark area available including the carpet, soft furnishings and the floor boards. The larvae then develop into pupae which hatch into adult fleas when the conditions are warm, humid or in response to vibrations. The life cycle is now complete and the adult flea is ready to hop onto your pet for its first blood meal.

Why worry about fleas?

Not only can fleas make your pet miserable, but depending on his age and overall physical condition, fleas can pose a serious threat to his health.

  • Fleas can cause severe discomfort for pets, including scratching, chewing, biting and restlessness
  • Fleas are the source of flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a very common skin condition especially in the cats (see below)
  • Severe flea infestations can cause anemia, especially in young pets
  • Ingested fleas also can transmit tapeworm to pets when ingested during grooming

Fleas also raise human public health concerns. Humans too are often bitten by fleas and can also cause similar health issues in humans. Fleas can be a major problem for pets and their owners. Even if they never leave the house, pets can be exposed. Preventing flea infestations is the best protection against them.

Why are fleas so hard to control?

Once in your home, a female flea can produce up to 50 eggs per day, so even a few fleas can quickly turn into an infestation. Flea pupae, are more impervious to flea control products. Adult fleas erupt out of their pupal stage and jump onto your pet. This is why it’s important to treat fleas as quickly as possible and to make sure your pet is protected, even before flea infestation has occurred.

What you can do to control flea infestations
Even with flea protection for your pet, you still want to be sure your household is rid of fleas in the egg, larva or pupa stages when you treated your pet. It is easy to understand now why both your pet and the environment must be treated to successfully eliminate fleas. There are a variety of veterinary products available for treating your pet and the staff at the veterinary clinic are more than happy to advise you on which one is most suitable. Sprays to treat the environment are also sold over the counter at the clinic.

The veterinary products available at the clinic are safe and effective and should be used routinely. These products are included in our Pet Health Plans.

In summary, preventing infestation is much easier than eliminating an infestation, if you discover fleas in your home:

  • Eliminate fleas on your dog
  • Eliminate fleas in your home
  • Prevent future infestations

What is flea allergic dermatitis (FAD)?

FAD is a common skin complaint, which is more often seen in cats. It is caused by an allergic reaction to flea saliva which is injected into the skin when the flea bites. This reaction can be caused by a single bite.

What are the symptoms?

  • Itching
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs (miliary dermatitis)
  • Excessive grooming

Control and treatment of FAD?

  • Good flea control (such as monthly flea treatment) using veterinary products (do not use dog products on your cat)
  • Removing fleas and flea dirt from the environment (regular vacuuming, washing of bedding/soft furnishings, use of household flea sprays)
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Antihistamine treatment
  • Cyclosporine treatment may be considered in very severe and non-responsive cases (this treatment is very expensive and can be difficult to administer)

It is very important to remember that your pet has an allergy which will require a long-term management and may require on-going treatments. It is for this reason that regular flea treatment and environmental control is kept up to date.


Neutering your pet

Neutering is strongly advised unless you are planning on breeding from your pet, this is to:

  • Prevent unplanned, unwanted and costly offspring
  • Reduce risk of certain types of cancer and diseases
  • Possible reduction in aggression, straying, spraying and other anti-social behaviour

When can my pet be neutered?

Your pet can be neutered from 6 months old, however, each pet is an individual so discussing your and your pets specific needs with us is recommended.  

What will happen?

This procedure is called a ‘castration’ during which the testicles and spermatic cord are removed. This stops your pet from producing sperm and therefore cannot father any offspring. Neutering males removes the risk of:

  • Testicular cancer
  • Reduces the risk of prostate problems

This procedure is called a ‘spay’ during which the ovaries and uterus are removed. This stops your pet from coming into season and are unable to become pregnant. Neutering females removes the risk of:

  • Phantom pregnancies
  • Pyometra (an infection of the uterus that can be fatal and requires emergency surgery)
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Reduces the risk of mammary (breast) cancer later on in life

False PregnancyFalse pregnancy, also known as a phantom pregnancy or pseudopregnancy are all terms that refer to the combination of maternal behaviour and physical signs that can develop following oestrus (heat/season) in an entire female dog, that is not pregnant. A false pregnancy usually develops within 4-9 weeks of the season ending, however they may occur later than this.  A false pregnancy can develop if a dog is mated or not and they can develop a variety of symptoms including – mammary gland development, milk production, reduced appetite, anxiety, nesting behaviour, lethargy.  It is advised that dogs do not have an ovarian hysterectomy (spayed/neutered) during a false pregnancy as there is a risk of prolonged symptoms and continued milk production. All dogs to be spayed will have an assessment prior to admission for their procedure. If a phantom pregnancy is suspected or if there is any evidence of milk production the surgery will be postponed to allow time for the symptoms to resolve.  Milk production may resolve by itself but some cases do require medical treatment, which will be discussed during the consultation. 

Please note
Neutering does not cause weight gain - it does however lower your pet's metabolic rate and with appropriate feeding your pet will not gain weight, for further information please contact the surgery.

Your pet does not need to have a litter before being neutered.

Before the operation

Dogs and cats
On the evening before the operation, your pet must not eat after 7pm, but may drink water. If you forget, or suspect your pet may have eaten something please let a member of staff aware and it may be advised to reschedule the procedure. This is for the safety of your pet as an empty stomach reduces the risk of anaesthetic complications. Please give your pet the opportunity to go to the toilet before coming in to the clinic.

Rabbits and guinea pigs
Rabbits and guinea pigs do not need to be starved before their operation. Please bring some of your pet’s normal food with you to encourage them to eat once they are awake.

Pet Passports

Pet passport for cats and dogs

A valid passport is required if owners are planning on taking their pets on holidays outside of the UK. A passport is valid in all EU countries and Scandinavia, it allows owners to take their pets on holidays without a quarantine on return to the UK.

How do I get a pet passport?

There are a number of requirements needed to be met in order for your pet to be issued a passport:

  • The pet must be 3 months of age
  • The pet must be microchipped prior to administration of the Rabies vaccine
  • The pet must be vaccinated against Rabies
  • A passport will be issued after all the above requirements have been met

Please note: The pet passport/Rabies vaccination must be acquired a minimum of 21 days prior to travelling.

Requirements prior to re-entry into the UK

Your pet must be wormed against tapeworm using a certain type of wormer 24-120 hours (1-5 days) prior to re-entry into the UK. The wormer must be given and the passport must be signed by a veterinary surgeon.

For further details, please see the Defra website if you are considering travelling abroad with your pet.


Why insure your pet?

Pet insurance is designed to help cover unexpected veterinary fees should your pet need. A good policy will take away the financial constraints and worry when your pet needs medical attention. It also covers you for third party claims should your pet cause an accident or injury to another party.

One in two insured dogs make a claim and one in four insured cats make a claim each year.

What types of insurance policies are there?

There are wide range of insurance companies availble and within these companies difficerent levels of cover.

12 month schemes
These policies will pay out for the first 12 months only, even if the limit is not reached, after which any further cost incurred are your responsibility. These policies are cheaper than some other options however be aware that ongoing costs can be substantial.

Please be aware that as a result of being a 12 month policy, any condition see may be excluded the following year. This includes any lumps/bumps found, any skin complaints, ear disease, etc.

This policy is not recommended as it does not give your the best cover available.

Cover for life schemes
These policies cover a condition for the life of the pet. They will pay only for the initial diagnosis and treatment, and any long term medication. With each rolling year, as long as the policy is maintained, no exclusions will be placed.

Such schemes are naturally more expensive because they have to budget for possible payments over many years. Cover for life schemes either offer a maximum figure that can be spent per condition, or a maximum figure that can be spent per year.

Cover for life schemes are by far the best option for most people.

What is an excess?

All companies requires the policy holder to pay for the first part of a bill, this is called the excess. The excess may be a one off amount usually £50 - £110 per condition.

Some companies also require the policy holder to pay percentage of the total bill. This varies with each company, be sure to check your policy what you are required to pay if a claim was required.

What conditions are not covered?

Routine preventative treatment is not covered, as it is considered as part of the ownership of a pet. These include:

  • Vaccinations
  • Flea products
  • Foods and diets
  • Neutering operations
  • Congenital problems (in some policies)
  • Dental work (unless as a result of an accident, some policies may also cover acute conditions such as a tooth root abcess)

A note about specific exclusions:
All insurers will impose additional specific exclusions on conditions that existed prior to the policy being taken out. On your application form, you will be required to give details of all previous illnesses or those within a certain time scale. If you do not declare a problem then you may find your policy will not pay out if a similar but unrelated problem occurs. In the event of a claim the insurer will ask us for full medical details and we have to declare them, so that could put us in a awkward position and you may find your claim is rejected.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke develops when normal body mechanisms are unable to keep the body’s temperature within the appropriate range. Animals can overheat very easily as they are unable to sweat like humans and they do not have very efficient cooling mechanisms. Normal temperature for a dog varies from 37.7°C - 39°C. It will take a dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature 40°C - 41°C) stroke approximately one to two hours to recover if adequate first aid and prompt veterinary care is provided. Severe heatstroke occurs when the body temperature exceeds 41°C and can be fatal if immediate veterinary attention is not sought. It is also important to note that heatstroke can be fatal despite the best efforts of the both the owner and veterinary team.

Symptoms of heatstroke

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red/pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shock
  • Coma

First aid treatment

  1. Remove the dog from the hot area immediately
  2. Place cool damp towels on your dog, if the dog is very small use lukewarm water only. Do not use water that is too cold as it important to cool the dog gradually, as rapid cooling can cause other medical problems
  3. Contact your veterinary practice and let them know that you are on your way so that they can prepare for your arrival
  4. If you have a thermometer, take your dog’s rectal temperature and it should be checked every 5 minutes during the cooling process. Once their temperature is less than 39.5°C stop the cooling process and thoroughly dry your dog
  5. It is essential that your dog is assessed even if he appears to have made a full recovery as they may have other complications including dehydration that will need to be corrected

Veterinary care

Your vet will fully assess your dog and continue the cooling process if is necessary. It may be advised that your dog has intravenous fluids therapy and oxygen therapy. Your dog may also have a blood sample taken to assess kidney, liver and clotting functions. In addition your dog will be monitored for signs of shock, respiratory distress and any other complications that may develop secondary to the heatstroke.


Dogs with moderate heatstroke can make a full recovery without any long term complications. The prognosis for severe heatstroke is guarded as it can cause organ damage that may require on going treatment.

Please note that a dog that has experienced heat stroke is at higher risk of suffering from heatstroke in the future.

Prevention of heatstroke

  • Do not leave your pet in the car during warm periods, the temperature in a parked car can reach extreme levels very quickly
  • Make sure that your pet always has access to shade
  • Provide access to fresh water at all times
  • Restrict exercise on hot days and do not take your pet exercising with you
  • Muzzles should not be worn in hot conditions as they stop your pet from panting, which is a heat loss mechanism for them. It is your responsibility to control your pets behaviour and adequate measures must be put in place to ensure safety at all times if they normally do wear a muzzle
  • Wetting your dog intermittently can help to keep them cool. Do not use very cold water, especially in small animals

All dogs should be considered high risk of heatstroke in hot conditions but more care should be taken with certain breeds including brachycephalic (short faced dogs), obese and those with heart conditions.


What causes lameness?

There are many causes of lameness, in both dogs and cats. These include, but not limited to:

  • Broken or overgrown nails
  • Cut pads
  • Thorns or grass seeds stuck in the pads
  • Clumps of hair inbetween toes
  • Abcesses (particularly in cats)
  • Over exercise resulting in sprains or strains
  • Developmental problems
  • Overweight
  • Ligament damage
  • Fractures
  • Neurological disorders
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Poor nutrition in young dogs (less likely with a well recognised commercial diet)
  • Breed predisposed conditions (elbow/hip dysplasia in Labradors, or patellar luxation in small breeds)

Does my pet need to be seen by a vet?

As always, if you think the lameness is causing distress or any discomfort to your pet, or you have any concerns, please do call us, and we will always ensure we can see you as soon as possible.

If your dog develops a sudden onset lameness after a walk, it is always worth checking the nails and feet in general, looking for broken nails, cut pads, or thorns/grass seeds stuck in the pads, or the hair between the toes. Similarly in the cat, overgrown nails, and cat bite abscesses are very common.

How will the cause be diagnosed?

Given the wide range of possible causes of a lameness it will start with information obtained through a history and clinical examination. It may be neccessary to aid diagnosis by using our digital X-ray where your animal will require a sedation or general anaesthetic.

How will it be treated?

This depends on the findings above however may include one or both medical and surgical options, from fracture repair, to TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement, a complex, but very successful method of repairing ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in the dog).

Fly Strike

Fly Strike in rabbits

Fly Strike is a very distressing conditions that can affect any animal but rabbits are particularly suscepitible. Overweight and debilitated rabbits are at an even greater risk as they are not able to clean themselves properly.

What causes Fly Strike?

Flies tend to lay there eggs on dead animals and they hatch into maggots which eat the flesh. However, flies are also attracted to the smell of blood, faeces and urine and will lay their eggs on a live animal that is dirty and injured. They will commonly lay their eggs on the rear ends of rabbits that are not clean and unable to groom themselves. When the eggs hatch, the maggots bury into the fur and start to eat the flesh, eventually creating cavities in the skin and muscle. Maggots can eat flesh very quickly and infestation can be fatal.

Risk factors

  • Obesity prevents adequate cleaning and inability to squat
  • Urinary tract infection cause leakage of urine onto the fur
  • Painful dental problems will make a rabbit reluctant to clean itself
  • Inadequate amount of fibre in diet leading to soft stools gathering around bottom
  • Poor husbandry is also a key factor underlying the development of fly strike (soiled bedding and litter must be changed daily)


It is the responsibility of the owner to check their rabbit several times every day to ensure that do not have a dirty bottom. If they do, it may be an indicator that they need to see the vet as there may be an underlying problem (see list above).

It is important to wash their bottom with warm water and gentle pet shampoo, then dry thoroughly.

If the problem persists seek veterinary advice however if there is any evidence of fly strike your rabbit must be seen immediately.

Rear Guard can be used as a preventative measure but it does not act as a replacement for regularly checking of your rabbit and their environment.

For more information on how to reduce to the risk of Fly Strike in your rabbit, please see the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.

General Diseases

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

What is it?

Vomiting occurs when the stomach contents are forcefully ejected via the mouth. It is important that we distinguish vomiting from regurgitation; regurgitation is a passive process whereby undigested food is brought back up, usually very soon after a meal.

Diarrhoea occurs as a result of a disturbance to the normal function of the intestines, it is usually a problem with the large intestine. The large intestines main job is to reabsorb water so if it is not working properly then faeces become more fluid = diarrhoea.

Both vomiting and diarrhoea are common in dogs occurring as a sign of an underlying condition rather than a specific disease itself. The causes can include changes in diet, stress or excitement, toxins (poisons or chemicals), infection (bacteria, parasite or virus), blockages or damage to the digestive tract or other body organs.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, you can call the Animal Poison Line on 01202 509000. The service offers advice for pet owners and the charge is £30 per case.

What do I need to do?

Short term (acute) conditions lasting 1-2 days usually resolve on their own without the need for any treatment or veterinary care. A longer term problem is usually more serious.

Initially, starve your dog for 24 hours, feeding them nothing but leaving plenty of fresh water available and then give them small amounts of cooked chicken or fish with rice. If the problem persists for more than 24 hours, despite fasting, then take your dog to the vet.; there is a risk that they could become dehydrated.

Contact the vet sooner if there is blood in the vomit/diarrhoea or if the faeces are black and tarry (a sign of internal bleeding) and for puppies they become dehydrated very quickly and should not be starved.

Never treat your dog with human medicines - some drugs are poisonous!

What does the vet need to know?

It is important that any questions asked by the vet are answered to the best of your knowledge so they have the best chance of making your dog better.

Some important questions the vet will likely ask you :

  • When did the problem start and when was the dog last normal?
  • Has your dog eaten any different foods? Do they scavenge for food?
  • Is your dog a chewer, i.e. do they chew toys/sticks/bones and are there any missing?
  • Is he or she dull or depressed?
  • What is the appearance of the vomit/diarrhoea; colour, smell, consistency?
  • Are any other dogs in the household affected?
  • Has the dog been given any medication or had access to any sort of toxic substance?

What will the vet do?

The vet will take a thorough history and then perform a clinical examination of your dog.

Initial treatment usually involves 24 hours of fasting, unless your dog is dehydrated in which case they will be given fluids and essential electrolytes by mouth or directly into the vein. The vet may prescribe medication to help settle their stomach and protect it. In some cases antibiotics will be given, but not all; antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria so can do more harm than good in some cases.

If the problem persists for more than a couple of days then the vet may perform further tests. These can include:

Faecal samples: To check for bacterial and parasite infections.

Blood tests: To check for infection, pancreatic, liver or kidney disorders.

X-rays: To look for any abnormalities within the guts.

Ultrasound scan: This can show the finer details of each organ in the abdomen (compared to x-rays).

Endoscopy: Camera passed into the stomach and intestines to look for any abnormalities and take biopsy samples of the intestine for examination.

Surgery: Sometimes it is necessary to perform surgery to assess the abdominal organs and remove or sample anything abnormal.

Digestive upsets are unpleasant for you and your dog but most cases will be better within 1-2 days. If your dog is not improving after 24 hours, or you are at all worried, make an appointment with your vet.

Hyperadrenocorticism ‘Cushings’ Syndrome

Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC) or Cushings syndrome is one of the most common hormonal disorders diagnosed in dogs. Cushing’s syndrome is more commonly seen in older dogs.

There are two types of Cushings:
Pituitary-dependent Cushings: This is the most common form of the disease (80% - 85% of spontaneous cases), and is often caused as a result of benign tumour of the pituitary gland. This tumour causes the pituitary gland to produce large amounts of a hormone called ‘ACTH’ which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce excessive amounts of cortisol.

Adrenal-dependent Cushings: This form is less common and occurs when a tumour develops on one or both adrenal glands and produces excessive amounts of cortisol.

The symptoms of Cushings syndrome develop when excessive amounts of cortisol are circulating around the body. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the a part of the adrenal gland called the cortex. Cortisol plays an important role in the normal body function including the following:

  • Mobilising nutrients
  • Aiding the body’s response to inflammation
  • Activating the liver to raise blood sugar levels
  • Help control the amount of water in the body

Symptoms of Cushings Syndrome

However, excessive levels of cortisol in the body can cause numerous symptoms including most commonly:

  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Pot belly due to muscles becoming thinner
  • Hair loss, which is often symmetrical
  • Lethargy
  • Recurrent skin infections
  • Excessive panting


Cushing’s is diagnosed by measuring the level of cortisol in the body. There are several tests which your vet may recommend if they are suspicious your pet has Cushing’s syndrome.

  • ACTH Stimulation test
  • Low-Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test
  • Urinary Cortisol: Creatinine Ratio

Treatment options

If the symptoms are being caused by a tumour on the adrenal gland, it can be managed surgically. However, a tumour on the pituitary gland is often impossible to treat surgically and needs to be managed medically.

Medical management involves administering your pet a tablet called ‘Vetoryl’ which contains the active ingredient Trilostane. Trilostane blocks the excessive production of cortisol. It is important to note that your the aim of treatment is to manage the condition successfully, which will enhance your pets’ quality of life.

Your pet will have to have regular bloods tests to monitor there cortisol levels as it is important that levels are not overly suppressed by the medical treatment. The efficacy of treatment is also assessed by monitoring changes in clinical symptoms, and monitoring electrolytes, urea and creatinine levels. At the start of treatment blood tests will be done at 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 12 weeks after starting therapy and thereafter every 3 months.

Kidney Disease

What is chronic kidney disease or failure?

Kidney disease develops when there is an abnormality present in the structure or function of one or both kidneys. Clinical symptoms of kidney disease develop when kidney function has deteriorated a significant amount (up to 75%), as a result it can progress for some time without being noticed. Blood and urine tests are used to detect kidney disease.

What are the functions of the kidney?

  • To filter and eliminate waste products from the blood
  • Produce hormones
  • Control of red blood cell production
  • Maintain hydration through water and electrolyte balance

What are the types of kidney disease?

Acute: Sudden onset and develops over a few days. In some cases can be reversible.

Chronic: Insidious onset, may be present for months to years and is irreversible. Treatment of chronic kidney disease is aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease. It is also important to note that the underlying cause of chronic renal disease is often unknown as the disease tends to be present for some time before diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of chronic renal disease?

Symptoms of kidney disease result partially from the inability of the kidneys to concentrate urine. As kidney function declines further the ability of the kidney to elimate waste products from the body declines and these start to build up in the body – this is called uraemia and the toxins are referred to as uraemic toxins. This helps us to understand the variety of clinical symptoms that develop which are listed below:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urine volume
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hair coat
  • Reduced/selective appetite
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Anaemia
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth ulcers

What test are performed?

Urinalysis: This will let the vet know how well the kidneys are concentrating the urine. As kidney disease progresses urine becomes more dilute. Any signs of a urinary tract infection can also be detected. Urine protein levels may be checked also, levels increase as disease progresses.

Biochemistry: Allows the vet to check the levels of urea and creatinine which are two waste products produced by the body that the kidneys should eliminate. The levels of urea and creatinine increase as kidney disease progresses.

Haematology: Assess degress of anaemia. The kidney produces a hormone called erythropoetin which is involved in red blood cell production. As kidney function declines, hormone production and red blood cell levels also decline.

Phosphorus, potassium and calcium: Levels of all three are monitored as they can change.

Blood pressure measurement: High blood pressure can lead to further decline in kidney function.

Ultrasound and x-ray: May be done to evaluate the structure of the kidneys.

Further tests may be performed to evaluate kidney function further, which your vet will discuss with you if they think they are necessary. This include blood urea nitrogen and creatinine concentrations.

Treatment of kidney disease

Treatment of kidney disease depends on the severity of the condition at the time of diagnosis.

  • Diet: low in protein, phosphorus and salt (these diets help to reduce clinical symptoms and delay progression of the disease)
  • Good hydration
  • Manage blood pressure, anaemia, electrolytes imbalances if present with oral treatments
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Often required to treat the uraemia (the build up of toxins in the system)


Diabetes Mellitus

What is Diabetes Mellitus (DM)?

DM occurs when the pancreas fails to produce or respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin is required by the body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins from the diet.

What causes diabetes mellitus?

DM may occur spontaneously for no obvious reason, however certain factors can increase its incidence:

  • Age: Diabetes is more often seen in middle aged to older dogs and cats
  • Gender: Female dogs appear to be more predisposed than males
  • Hormones: It is not uncommon for female dogs to become transiently diabetic during a season
  • Obesity: Animals that are overweight will be predisposed to developing diabetes mellitus
  • Drugs: Certain drugs such as corticosteroids can trigger DM, usually following long term use

What are the signs of Diabetes Mellitus?

Without insulin, sugars from the diet accumulate in the blood and spill into the urine. This is often reflected in the clinical signs we recognise in our pets.

Excessive thirst: Sugar in the urine causes the pet to drink lots of water, and pass large amounts of urine.

Increased appetite and weight loss: Appetite is controlled by levels of sugar in the brain. If the brain becomes deprived of sugar our animal may seem constantly hungry, yet may lose weight due to improper use of nutrients from the diet.

Untreated diabetic pets are more likely to develop infections and commonly get bladder, kidney, or skin infections.

Rapid onset cataract formation are commonly seen in diabetic dogs, and rarely cats.

Less common signs of diabetes are weakness or abnormal gait due to nerve or muscle dysfunction.

How is it diagnosed?

DM is usually diagnosed by first examining a urine sample to determine if there is glucose in the urine (glucosuria or glycosuria) and/or a urinary tract infection. A simple in house blood sample can then be taken to determine the glucose (sugar concentration) in your pets blood.

How is DM treated?

There are two different types of DM:

Type 1: Seen in nearly all dogs and some cats. This is “classic” diabetes where the pancreas stops producing insulin. Treatment involves supplementing the animal with insulin by daily injections. The dose required to control each animal can vary enormously and so the initial stabilisation phase can be quite time consuming while a correct regime is established.

Type 2: Seen less frequently, and is more common in cats compared with dogs. This type of diabetes is where the animal is producing insulin normally, but the cells in the body stop responding to the hormone. This is usually treated with a combination of diet, weight loss and insulin.

What happens once my pet has been diagnosed?

When your pet is diagnosed with DM we will book you in for an extended consultation with one of our nurses. During these consults they will explain various aspects of diabetic pet care, including feeding, correct storage of your insulin, and what to do if your pets glucose drops too low. We will also give you a teaching session on how to measure insulin dosages correctly and how to inject the insulin safely, with minimal discomfort to your pet.

It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have.

A common concern is that clients may not recognise if there pet is having a hypo/episode of low blood sugar.

If this does happen your pet may become weak and wobbly, and become quite vacant and stare into space. If blood sugar drops very low they may collapse.

What to do if your pet does have low blood sugar episodes

If your pet is showing signs of having a hypo it is important to rub a sugary substance such as honey or jam on their gums. If they are conscious and able to swollow some sugar water can be poured directly into their mouth. It is always advisable to seek veterinary advice if there are any concerns of a hypo occurring.


What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a small glandular organ which is located next to the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. The pancreas has two roles:

1. Production of digestive enzymes that go into the small intestine and help break down food into smaller components so that the gut can absorb them. These enzymes are packaged into a single unit and only release the enzymes once they are in the intestines. The lining of the gut is protected from digestion by a thick mucus lining, this ensures that the enzymes only work on the food present.

2. It produces the hormone insulin which regulates blood sugar in the body.

What is pancreatitis and what are the symptoms?

Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas and can be caused by a variety of factors, however the cause of it can also be unknown (idiopathic pancreatitis). Any of the causes listed below lead to damage and inflammation of the pancreas:

  • Recent ingestion of a fatty meal
  • Obesity
  • Infection, which can ascend from the small intestine via a duct to the pancreas
  • Pancreatic tumour

Any of the above lead to the enzymes that the pancreas produces being prematurely released into the pancreas itself. This results in digestion of the pancreas, pain and inflammation. All three of which can be very severe.

The symptoms of pancreatitis are very variable and may include one or more of the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • High temperature
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Sudden onset diabetes
  • Abdominal pain (may see your pet in a stretching ‘prayer position’)

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on history taking, clinical examination and laboratory tests.

Haematology: Assess for signs of infection and dehydration.

Blood Amylase and Lipase are measured: These are two enzymes that the pancreas produces and there levels increase.

Canine/Feline specific pancreatic lipase snap test: This is a highly sensitive test that provides information on pancreatic function and can be run in-house.

Canine/Feline pancreatic trypsin-like immunoreactivity: This is a very sensitive test that determines if the pancreas is not working properly or if there is pancreatic damage present. This test is performed at an external lab.

Imaging of the pancreas may be advised, but is not always warranted.

Treatment of pancreatitis

Treatment needs to be instigated immediately and generally quite aggressive as the condition can progress quickly. Treatment includes some or all of the following:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Intravenous antibiotics
  • Anti-vomiting medications
  • Gastroprotectants
  • Pain relief (modality is dependant on severity of pain)
  • Nil by mouth for a short period of time may be recommended to try and reduce the production of enzymes by the pancreas.

Your vet may recommend repeat blood tests to monitor response to treatment.

Prognosis for pancreatitis

Prognosis for pancreatitis is dependent on the underlying cause, age and severity of the condition at the time of presentation. Mild cases are more likely to respond to treatment, however severe cases with a severe underlying problem carry a very guarded prognosis and are associated with higher fatality rates due to secondary complications including organ failure and septic shock.

Long term treatment of patient that have had or suffer from pancreatitis flare-ups. Animals that have had pancreatitis in the past are considered at risk of future pancreatitis episodes. They are also at greater risk of developing diabetes. Management of diet, weight, lifestyle and medication can help reduce the risk of further attacks, which need also need prompt veterinary attention if they do occur.

Cruciate Ligament Disease

The stifle/knee joint is a hinge joint, involving the femur which articulates with tibia and fibula below it. Between the femur and tibia/fibula there are two cartilagenous structures called menisci that act as shock absorbers when stress is applied to the joint. The entire joint is held together by ligaments, which help it move in the correct direction smoothly.

What are cruciate ligaments?

There are two cruciate ligaments, they are called the cranial and caudal cruciate ligaments and they prevent inappropriate forward and backward movement of the femur in relation to the tibia. The collateral ligaments prevent any unwanted side to side movement of the bones relative to each other.

What is cruciate ligament disease?

This is the term used to describe damage or injury to the cruciate ligaments, and damage can be either a partial tear or a complete tear/rupture. It tends to affect the cranial cruciate ligament. Injury to the cruciate ligament leads to instability in the joint, allowing the femur to move forwards over the surface of tibia leading to pain, discomfort and inflammation. The constant movement and trauma to the cartilage surface of the bone and menisci leads to lameness, which is often non-weight bearing in the dog.

How does cruciate ligament injury develop?

Generally it is associated with some sort of trauma such as slipping on a floor, jumping over a fence, falling from a height, jumping off a sofa. In older dogs it may be naturally weakened and more prone to damage. Larger, overweight and older breed dogs tend to be affected, but it also seen in smaller breed dogs.

What are the signs of cruciate ligament disease?

In sudden on set cases, the dog tends to become suddenly lame on a back leg and is reluctant to put full weight on the leg. This is often referred to as ‘toe-touching’. Chronic cases tend be associated with a gradual onset of lameness and change in gait. Heat and swelling may also be associated with the joint.

How is cruciate ligament disease diagnosed?

Initial diagnosis is made based on history and clinical examination. If the vet is concerned that your pet has damaged a cruciate ligament further tests will be advised, including assessment of joint stability under sedation or general anaesthetic and imaging (x-rays) of the affected joint. X-rays are important as they allow the vet to assess if there is any evidence of arthritis in the joint, which may affect the long-term prognosis and approach to management of the case.

Treatment and management of cruciate ligament disease

Mild cases and small breed dogs may be able to be managed conservatively and may include one or all of the following - anti-inflammatory medication, controlled exercise program, body weight management and physiotherapy/hydrotherapy. However, if the cruciate disease is determined to be severe then a variety of different surgical options are available which your vet will discuss with you.

1. The lateral suture
This is were a prosthetic ligament is placed around the outside of the stifle joint. It therefore stabilises the joint and allow normal movement to occur again. Return to normal movement can take an averagy time of 2-3 months, and it may take several weeks before your dog will want to put weight on their limb. All animals go home with pain killer, an exercise program and are advised to start supplement such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. Hydrotherapy is also highly recommend to aid recovery.

2. Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
These are complex procedures which involve altering the geometry of the joint so that movement of the femur down the tibia is limited and the cruciate ligament is no longer required. Return to normal walking tends to be quicker with this surgery and anti-inflammatories, a controlled exercise program and physiotherapy/hydrotherapy will also be advised.

Possible post operative problems

As with any surgery success is not guaranteed and complications may be develop. The factors outlined below increase the risk of a problem post-operatively.

  • Degree of damage to the menisci (associated with residual pain)
  • Degree of arthritis already present
  • Age of dog (older dogs at greater risk of arthritis)
  • Obesity (increased pressure on joint and surgery site)
  • Temperament (rest post-operatively is encouraged and this can be difficult in very active/bouncy dogs)

It is important to note that dogs with cruciate ligament disease often have arthritis already present and may require a long term management plan.


What is Pyometra?

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus and is a common condition in female dogs that have not been neutered. It is more commonly found in older females but can present in younger dogs also. Cats can also develop a pyometra but is not as common as in dogs.

Why does pyometra develop?

Female dogs have a season approximately every 6 months, and during this period she will have all the hormonal changes associated with normal pregnancy. This occurs regardless if she is pregnant or not. The risk of pyometra developing becomes greater with each season that your bitch has. Pyometra tends to develop anywhere from 4-12 weeks post season. Certain injections used to stop a season or prevent an unwanted pregnancy can also increase the risk of pyometra developing.

What are the signs of Pyometra?

  • Licking at vulva/back end
  • Lethargic
  • Increased drinking
  • Reduced appetite
  • Discharge from vulva (yellow/brown creamy discharge)
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

If any of these signs are present please make sure to contact your veterinary practice to make an appointment to have your dog assessed. A dog with pyometra will continue to deteriorate if left untreated.


Your vet will take a full history and give your pet a full clinical examination. An abdominal ultrasound will be recommended to confirm a pyometra. Bloods tests will also be advised which will not only provide information on the presence of infection but will also provide essential information regarding over all health - including kidney and liver function. The combination of a clinical examination and blood tests will allow the vet to judge if your dog is a suitable candidate for surgery.


The treatment of choice is surgery to remove the infected uterus. If the uterus is not removed the infection will get worse and your pet will deteriorate further. During surgery your pet will have intravenous fluid therapy, pain relief and antibiotics. This surgery is essentially the same as a routine spey, however it carries much higher risk of complications - these will be discussed at the time of surgery.

Prognosis and prevention

Prognosis depends on how ill your pet is on presentation. If presented and treated early most dogs will make a full recovery from a pyometra. Speying your dog is the only way to prevent pyometra from occurring.

Dog Diseases

Hypothyroidism in dogs

This is a condition most commonly caused by an immune-mediated attack of the thyroid gland, reduced production of the thyroid hormone ‘thyroxine.’ This hormone controls the body metabolism and reduced production results in a slower metabolic rate.

What are the symptoms?
The classic signs of hypothyroidism may include one or all of the following:

  • Weight gain
  • Slow heart rate
  • Lack of energy
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss

How is the disease diagnosed?
A blood sample is taken to assess thryoid hormone levels. However, this can be sometimes be low due to other underlying problems. Therefore the levels of the hormone that stimulate thyroxine production also needs to be tested, this hormone is called ‘thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).’

Unfortunately approximately 35% of dogs will have a false negative result and further tests may need to be performed.

Hypothyroidism is generally quite easy to treat. Your pet will be treated with replacement hormone therapy in the form of a tablet. Regular monitoring of thyroid levels and clinical symptoms are necessary to ensure adequate control.

False Pregnancy

What is a false pregnancy?

This can occur in some entire female dogs after they have finished their season. The hormones produced after a season are the same whether or not the animal is pregnant, therefore a false pregnancy is normal occurrence.

What are the symptoms of a false pregnancy?

Not every dog will show signs and the severity may vary. Symptoms include:

  • Mammary development and milk production
  • Carrying toys around
  • Nesting
  • Lethargy
  • Grumpiness
  • Inappetance

Signs may become increasingly severe with each season.

How to manage?

The majority of bitches do not require treatment and symptoms will spontaneously resolve. Take away toys that she has become fixated with and try to minimise nesting behaviour.

Bitches that are producing excessive milk can be treated with Cabergoline, which is an oral medication. It is important to check mammary glands for any signs of mastitis, which might include heat/ swelling/ discomfort/ abnormal discharge from mammary glands.

Recurrence can be prevented with neutering. Neutering can not be performed whilst clinical signs are present.

Cat Diseases

Hyperthyroidism in cats

Hyperthyroidism is a common condition of older cats and most commonly due to an enlargement of the gland. The thyroid gland produces a hormone called Thyroxine that controls metabolism. Excess production of the thyroid hormone makes cells and organs work harder and faster. Hyperthyroidism is a common condition of older cats and very variable in its presentation.

What are the symptoms?
The classic signs of hyperthyroidism may include one or all of the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Increase in appetite
  • Increase in water intake
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Blindness
  • Increased activity
  • Increased vocalisation

How is the disease diagnosed?
Bloods to test Thyroxine levels (T4), which are elevated in Hyperthyroid cases.

Concurrent diseases
Concurrent diseases may also be present, particularly as this condition is mostly found in older cats. It is therefore common to carry out further tests, these will vary from case to case but may include assessment of kidney function, blood pressure and eye examination.

There are various options which include the following:

Medical management with tablets which work by inhibiting the production of the thyroid hormone. This form of management is life-long, and regular blood checks are required to ensure adequate control, particularly at the initiation of treatment. Each animal will requires a unique regime and it may take several months to achieve adequate control.

Surgery removal of the thyroid gland which produces the hormone. Surgery has the potential to resolve hyperthyroidism. There are several risks associated with surgery included the general anaesthetic and damage to the parathyroid glands which controls calcium. This may be a temporary problem and can be managed with long term supplements.

Radioactive iodine is another option. The radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and destroys the thyroid cells. This method can of treatment can also lead to permanent resolution of hyperthyroidism. Additional information on radioactive therapy is available at the clinic.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

What is FLUTD?

This is a condition used to describe a group of clinical signs in a cat. This include:

  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating in abnormal places
  • Not passing any urine or very small drops of urine frequently
  • Crying when urinating

It is a medical emergency if no urine or very small amounts are being passed and veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

Possible causes and predisposing factors of FLUTD

In most cases, for younger cats a cause cannot be determined - this is called ‘idopathic’ disease. Other causes included:

  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Low water intake
  • Inactive cats
  • Bladder stones/crystals
  • Bacterial infection
  • Bladder tumour

Diagnostic tests

This would start with history taking and performing a clinical examination. A urine sample is required for analysis. If the urinalysis is normal and there is frequent reoccurence, further investigation is indication.

How is FLUTD managed and treated?

Reduce stress levels
Extra litter trays, Feliway products, cat-nip, increase activity levels.

Increase water intake

  • Extra water sources (bowls/fountains) particularly if a multicat household.
  • Add water to food
  • Palatable fluids – chicken/fish stock
  • Keep water seperate from litter trays

Dietary management is essential if your cat is diagnosed with crystals as the underlying cause of FLUTD. Dietary management may be required long-term, this is dependant on the type of crystal present. In a multicat household it is important that the diet is not fed to cats with no underlying FLUTD. Weight control is also important.

Medical treatment
The aim of medical management is too help reduce and control the symptoms, they will NOT cure the cat.

Pain relief: To reduce inflammation and pain

Antibiotics: Only indicated if bacterial infection is the underlying cause of the problem. In older cats they may be prescribed as bacterial infection is more likely, particularly in females, cats with dilute urine and cats that have been catheterised.

Supplements ‘poly sulphated glycosaminoglycans’: These are used to help build up the integrity of the lining of the bladder wall.

In very severe cases behavioural modifying drugs may be considered, your vet will discuss this option with you if they think it is necessary.

It is very important to note that it is a medical emergency if no urine or very small amounts are being passed and veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

Time to Say Goodbye

How do I know it is time?

As pet owners, we endeavour to make sure that our faithful companions stay fit and healthy, enabling them to live to an old age. Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as us and at some point, we will have to prepare to let them go. Sadly, few of our pets pass peacefully away in their sleep. Therefore, we all wish to do the right thing at the right time, fulfilling our responsibility and commitment in their final days. We hope these words will help you and your family in a time of conflicting emotions.

Nobody knows their pet better than you and your closest family and friends, so let them help and share in making a reasoned judgement on your pet’s quality of life.
Indications that things may not be well may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • A reluctance to play and move around as normal
  • Restlessness or becoming withdrawn from you

When the time is right to put your pet to sleep, you may see evidence of a combination of all the above indicators and your pet may seem distressed, uncomfortable or disorientated within your home.
Is there nothing more I can do?

As your vet, we will discuss all treatment options available for your pet to relieve their symptoms, but there will come a time when all forms of treatment have been exhausted, we have discovered the disease is incurable, or you feel your pet is suffering too much. You and your family may wish to talk with your Veterinary Surgeon to help you all come to this final decision; in this case, we will arrange an appointment for you.
When and where can we say goodbye?

We hope this section will help you and your family understand your pet’s end-of-life journey. This is known as ‘euthanasia’ but often referred to as ‘putting to sleep’. After discussing with your family and your vet, and having decided that the time has come, you can contact your surgery and make an appointment. We will always try to make this appointment at a time that is convenient for you – usually at a quieter time of the day.
It is also possible to arrange this appointment to be performed in the comfort of your own home. If this is an option you would like, we will do our best to arrange a home visit. In these cases, a vet and a nurse will visit your home. When they have put your pet to sleep, they will either take the body back to the surgery for cremation or leave them with you to bury at home. Additional charges will apply for this service and certain times of day may be restricted.
Will I be able to stay with my pet?

Being present when your pet is put to sleep will be both emotional and distressing, but the majority of owners feel that they give comfort to their pet during their last moments, and can make their final goodbyes. But this is not comfortable for everyone; we understand if you do not want to stay in the room with your pet but make your goodbyes afterwards. We will always make time for you and your family to do this.
What will happen?

Initially, your vet or another member of our team will ask you to sign a consent form to give us permission to put your pet to sleep. You may have already discussed with your vet what you then wish to do with your pet’s body, but we will confirm this on the consent form.

Many owners are surprised by how peaceful euthanasia can be. Euthanasia involves injecting an overdose of anaesthetic into the vein of your pet’s front leg. Some of our vets would have previously inserted a catheter into the vein or sedated your pet if they are particularly nervous or uncomfortable.
After the anaesthetic has been injected, your pet’s heart will stop beating and they will rapidly lose consciousness and stop breathing. Your vet will check that their heart has stopped beating and confirm that they have passed away. On occasion, the pet’s muscles and limbs may tremble and they may gasp a few times, these are reflex actions only – not signs of life – but may be upsetting. If they occur, they are unavoidable. Your pet’s eyes will remain open and it is normal for them to empty their bowel or bladder as the body shuts down.


What happens next?

There are several options available for your pet. Your Veterinary team can discuss these with you and give you an idea of costs involved.

  • Communal Cremation – Leave your pet with us to be cremated with other pets. With this type of cremation, no ashes will be returned to you. For the majority of our clients, this is the most appropriate form of closure.
  • Individual Cremation – A private cremation for your pet at our nominated crematorium company, Pet Cremation Services (PCS). Your pet’s ashes will then be returned to you in either a sealed casket of your choice or a scatter box, for you and your family to scatter their ashes in a location of your choice. Our team will have several options you can choose from.
  • ‘Taking them home’ – You can also take your pet home for burial, but please bear in mind this may not always be practical.
  • Some surgeries also have a local pet cemetery company that will arrange everything from collecting your pet from the vet, preparing a grave and performing the burial. Our practice team will be able to give you further information.

When will I need to decide?

We would encourage you and your family to discuss these options before your pet is put to sleep, and to let your vet know. We will keep a note of your wishes with pet’s notes. However, in some cases the euthanasia may have occurred after an accident and you will need more time to make this decision. It is possible for us to keep your pet for a short time afterwards, to give you and your family time to reflect before making a decision.
Coping with the loss

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. When grieving for a much-loved pet, you or other members of your family may experience a range of emotions from shock, denial, disbelief and, very often, guilt. Should you wish to talk to anyone at your Veterinary surgery, we can offer support and advice.

If, after reading these pages, there are still facts you would like to know, we will be more than happy to help. Please contact us at the surgery.

The following organisations can provide further help and support:

My Family Pet - Coping with the Death of Your Pet

My Family Pet - Helping Children Understand Pet Loss

The Blue Cross also offer a bereavement support line if you would like to talk to someone. The number is 0800 0966606.