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Management

Anaesthesia

Why is it important?

Anaesthesia is essentially rendering the dog unaware of the surgery we're performing, in a safe and reversible way. Without it, we wouldn't be able to perform any surgical procedures in a safe and ethical manner - from elective operations like spays and castrations up to major procedures like spinal and orthopaedic reconstruction surgery, we wouldn't be able to perform any of them. We appreciate that an anaesthetic on your dog is a stressful idea at the best of times, so in this factsheet we're going to go through the procedure for you and explain what will happen, and why we do it.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. There are other types of anaesthetic (sedation, or local anaesthetic for example), but for most procedures, when we say "anaesthetic" we are talking about a general anaesthetic, where the dog is completely unconscious and unaware of what we're doing. This is in many ways the most useful type of anaesthesia, but there are definite risks associated with it - an anaesthetised dog is so deeply asleep that they cannot always maintain their own breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure. We have skilled nurses who will be monitoring these parameters, and more, throughout the procedure under the supervision of a vet, so any deviation will be rapidly detected and dealt with. Because of the way the drugs work, any anaesthetic is a balancing act between the dog going too "deep" (and potentially coming to harm), or coming too "shallow" (and potentially running away!). We work to keep them at a level of sleep called "surgical anaesthesia" where they are comfortably asleep but still safe.
  2. Anaesthetics in animals are very, very safe - severe complications in healthy dogs only occur in roughly 0.12% of anaesthetics (so less than 1 in 800), but if there are other disease processes, the dog is very sick, or is elderly, this risk is higher. As a result, we'll usually offer you a blood test, to rule out any underlying conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, or anaemia, that could adversely affect them under anaesthesia. If we find a problem, it doesn't necessarily mean we can't do the anaesthetic - just that we might need to take some extra precautions.
  3. So, what actually happens when your dog comes in for an anaesthetic?
  4. First of all, they'll be seen either by one of our nurses or one of the vets, who will give them a careful check over for any signs of something that might affect the anaesthetic - for example, a heart murmur or a fever.
  5. Assuming all is well, we'll then give them a premed - a combination sedative and painkiller to help them relax, and minimise any discomfort after their surgery (whatever it is). Using a premed also means that we can use a lower dose of anaesthetic, which reduces the risks.
  6. We'll move them into a quiet kennel to settle down and relax until we're ready.
  7. Once we're all set up for them, one of the nurses will bring them down to the prep area for induction, where we will send them off to sleep. This is usually done with an injection of propofol, but sometimes we may use an anaesthetic gas by face mask.
  8. Once the procedure is over, we'll turn off the gas and allow them to start waking up, now that they're breathing just pure oxygen.
  9. Once they start to swallow, we'll take out the breathing tube, and then move them to the recovery area where the nurses can keep a close eye on them until they're awake and ready to go home. It's quite normal for a dog to be sleepy or a bit off colour after they get home - it may take them a while to clear all the anaesthetic from their system, especially if they're a bit older - but if you're at all concerned, feel free to call us at any time.

In conclusion

Anaesthesia seems really scary, and people get very worried about the risks. However, except in life-or-death emergencies, we will have carefully prepared, and we wouldn't recommend an anaesthetic unless the risk of not performing the operation was much higher than the risk of carrying it out. All our vets and nurses are fully trained in anaesthesia - because as we're all taught at vet school, there's no such thing as a safe anaesthetic, only a safe anaesthetist!

Breeding

Why is it important?

Deciding to breed from your dog is a major decision - there are a lot of things that can go wrong, as well as a lot of important decisions that you'll have to make! It can be difficult, and heart-breaking, and expensive, and rewarding (often all at the same time!), so we've put together this brief guide to help you through the process

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Before you decide to breed, it's really important that you're fully prepared. Although actually getting the puppies is the highlight, to get to that stage, there are a lot of preparatory steps. So, before you commit, are you really ready? Is the bitch really suitable to breed from - does she have a good temperament, is she fit and healthy, is she old enough, and can you get all the proper health checks done (such as Hip- and Elbow scoring, and perhaps DNA tests)? Can you find a reputable stud dog, who's had all of his health checks too? Can you assist the bitch when whelping, and help her raise a litter (which could contain 12, or 14, or even more puppies!)? Can you care for the pups (worming, vaccinations, microchipping) and then find them all good, loving homes? Remember, not everything goes according to plan, either - so are you prepared to pay for a caesarean section, if it becomes necessary, bottle rear some or all of the pups, arrange for treatment of any that become ill, and take back any that the new owner decides they don't want?
  2. If the answer to every question is yes, then definitely consider breeding. If, however, you're in any doubt, remember how many dogs there are in pounds up and down the country waiting for a new home. So, if you do decide to breed, you'll need to make sure you're legally covered: if you are producing five or more litters per year, or if your Local Authority think you may be breeding for commercial gain, you will need a breeders license, so check with them before you proceed! In addition, you may want to check what your pet insurance covers - it often excludes any conditions relating to breeding.
  3. Your next step is to get your bitch well and truly checked over by one of our vets - they'll be able to recommend any additional tests you may need. Then you will need to find a stud dog - it's important to check that he's fully tested and healthy as well, and that he isn't too closely related to your bitch (inbreeding is a Bad Thing and we really want to avoid it). If he's not bred before, you might want to consider checking his fertility, especially if you're buying him for stud purposes, or paying a large fee! It's also worth thinking about legal contracts with the dog's owner, to avoid any misunderstandings.
  4. Once she's been mated, we can check for pregnancy from about three and a half weeks with ultrasound, but it isn't really totally reliable until about four weeks - and bear in mind is it NOT possible to count how many puppies there are in an ultrasound scan.
  5. Remember, if anything should go wrong, make sure that you call us! The commonest problems that dogs suffer during pregnancy are:
  6.  Eclampsia ("milk fever" or hypocalcaemia), which usually occurs at the end of pregnancy or within a couple of weeks of birth. It usually causes shivering and muscle tremors, but can progress to muscle rigidity, seizures and collapse.
  7. Dystocia, or an Obstructed Birth. This occurs when a puppy gets stuck in the birth canal, and is potentially fatal to the puppy and to the bitch. If the bitch is straining without result, or there's a prolonged gap between puppies, contact us for advice straight away.
  8. Weak or sickly puppies. There are a wide range of different causes for weak and puny puppies, but it's always worth getting the litter checked out if you have any concerns. Sometimes, even the smallest runts can be saved with appropriate care, so don't give up until we've had a chance to check them!

In conclusion

Breeding requires a great deal of effort, not to mention expertise - but that should be the least of your worries, because you can always talk to us for any advice you need.

Castration

Why is it important?

In the wild, all male dogs remain entire and fertile throughout their lives. However, the price of that is an increased vulnerability to some diseases and injuries, and some behaviours that we, as owners, don't find attractive. Neutering is the most common surgical procedure carried out on dogs, and it is now commonplace. If you're trying to decide whether to get your dog "done", it's worth looking at the arguments for it, against it, and then looking at the procedure itself, so that you can make an educated and informed choice.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Let's start with the disadvantages: (1) more or less by definition, a castrated dog's fertility is removed, so you can't change your mind. (HOWEVER, remember that he may still have some sperm "left over" for several weeks after the operation, should he get the chance to "use" them!) (2) There is a very slight increase in the risk of some rare tumours (about 0.4% extra cases of prostate cancer, and 6 extra cases of bone cancer per 100,000 dogs). (3) There is an increased risk of orthopaedic injuries (double the risk of cruciate ligament injuries, possibly an increased risk of hip dysplasia, and because the growth plates in the bones are closed by puberty, they stay open longer meaning an increased risk of certain types of fractures). (4) Weight gain - castrated dogs need less calories than entire ones, so you need to feed them less or they'll put on weight! (5) Risk of surgery - perhaps 0.1% chance of a serious complication.
  2. There are, however, major advantages: (1) No unwanted pregnancies. (2) Reduction in behaviour owners often dislike, such as running off to look for bitches in heat (which increases their risk of road accidents), less sexual behaviour such as masturbation and humping (although it won't be entirely eliminated), and some types of aggression may be reduced in some dogs. (3) No risk of testicular cancer (no testicles = no cancer!) - this affects between 1.5% and 16% of entire dogs. (4) Massively reduced risk of other prostate diseases, hernias and certain cancers of the bottom. (5) Lifespan - a castrated dog will, on average, live 14% longer than an entire one.
  3. Ultimately, you have to make the decision, but we can support you with the facts!
  4. So, when you've made up your mind to have your dog neutered, what is the procedure? (Those of a squeamish disposition may wish to look away now...).
  5. Castrating a dog is a very simple surgery (unlike spaying a bitch), because his reproductive organs are conveniently located outside his body. In the procedure, his testicles are removed (so it is NOT the same as a vasectomy, where the testicles remain in situ but the tubes carrying sperm from them are cut) preventing him from making either sperm or testosterone - essentially returning his hormone balance to that of a prepubescent puppy. There is no evidence that dogs miss their testicles once they're gone, nor does castration per se have any effect on their personality or psychological development.
  6. The night before the procedure, it's important he be starved - talk to our nurses who will advise you on how long, but in general, no food after 6pm and no water after 10pm. When you bring him in the next morning, we'll carefully check him over for any problems that might affect his surgery, and then we'll give him a premed injection (a combination of mild sedative to help him relax and a painkiller for afterwards). Then, when we're ready, we will give him a general anaesthetic so he is completely asleep, and pass a breathing tube down his throat to help him breathe. The nurse will scrub the area around his scrotum (ball sack) while the vet scrubs up, and then they'll begin.
  7. It takes perhaps 15 minutes (a very quick procedure!) as a small incision is made in front of the scrotum, and one at a time the testicles are pulled out of this, clamped and cut off. The arteries and spermatic cords are then tied off with dissolvable stitches, and the skin sutured closed. Remember, the scrotum is NOT removed - it is normal for your dog to go home with an empty pouch of skin between their back legs.
  8. Then we'll wake him up, and as soon as he's awake he can go home with a collar on to stop him licking at the wounds until they've healed.
  9. Most dogs are completely back to normal in a day or so, but it is important to restrict their exercise until the skin stitches come out, roughly 10 days later!

In conclusion

Neutering of male dogs does prevent some unpleasant diseases, and increases lifespan by about 14%. However, there are arguments both ways, and you have to make up your mind about your own dog and what would be best for him.

Diet

Why is it important?

It's a common misconception that dogs in the wild live off meat - but of course that isn't true! They also eat vegetables and, more importantly, whole animals - meat, bone and internal organs. Putting together a properly balanced diet for a dog isn't actually as easy as you might think, so we've prepared this brief guide to help you!

Ok, lets look at the details

Although, like us, dogs are omnivores (meaning that they can eat both meat and vegetables), there are some important differences in what they require for a healthy diet. All animals need a number of components in their food, and the correct balance is essential for health.

  1. Energy (or calories). Dogs can get energy from fat, protein or carbohydrate. The amount a dog needs will vary depending on their level of activity, their life stage (for example, puppies and pregnant bitches need more than an older dog).
  2. Protein. An adult dog needs at least 18% protein in their diet, and a growing puppy or a pregnant bitch needs a minimum of 22% (much higher than we do!). However, not all protein sources are equal - animal protein is termed "higher biological value" than plant protein, because it has a healthier mix of essential amino acids for dogs (yes, really - this is why it's really, really hard to formulate a healthy vegan diet for a dog). In addition, dogs need unusually high amounts of the amino acid taurine (unlike humans, who can manufacture their own) in their diet. Without it, they will develop heart disease (cardiomyopathy).
  3. Fats and Oils. Fat provides calories, taste, essential fatty acids and vitamins (A, D, E and K) that are required for healthy skin, coat, hormone production, blood clotting, immunity and many other functions. Insufficient fat in a diet means that firstly, the dog won't want to eat it, and secondly, they will get progressively more ill as their reserves of these vital compounds are depleted.
  4. Carbohydrate - a useful source of energy, but not essential for dogs! The only exception is in a bitch who is producing milk, where she should be getting at least 23% carbohydrate in her diet to produce milk sugar to feed her puppies.
  5. Fibre. Unlike humans, dogs do not need fibre - about 5% is probably about right, more can (surprisingly) lead to constipation and other gut problems.
  6. Vitamins and Minerals - these are generally similar to human requirements, although a bitch needs proportionately more calcium when she is lactating (she's likely to have a lot more than one baby to feed!).
  7. There are one or two other differences too - for example, dogs can make their own Vitamin C.
  8. It's also important to remember that a dog's nutritional requirements will vary if they are ill or have a chronic health condition - particularly diabetes, urinary crystals, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease or skin diseases.

In conclusion

In practice, the best approach is usually to feed a reputable, balanced, commercial diet. For example, taurine-deficiency cardiomyopathy is nowadays only seen in those who follow an inappropriate home-cooked diet; whereas calcium imbalances are most common in those who follow a "raw-meaty bones" type diet. That said, it is perfectly possible to formulate a healthy home-cooked diet; however, before you do, make sure you talk to a properly qualified canine nutritionist - don't try to make it up as you go along, or follow a fad internet diet! Our vets will be able to put you in touch with someone if you wish.

Euthanasia

Why is it important?

We look after our dogs, let them into our home and our hearts, and love them dearly. In the end, though, all too often it's us who have to decide when to call it a day and let them go. In this short guide, we'll talk about how and when to make that decision, preparing yourself and your family for it, and then the procedure itself.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Sadly, it is quite rare for dogs to die peacefully in their sleep at home; more commonly, they will struggle on, suffering more and more each day. We can (and should) prevent this, and one of the worst mistakes you can make is to leave it too late - a decision you are likely to regret. Making the decision that it's time to put your dog to sleep is never easy - and it shouldn't be.
  2. However, there are ways that you can prepare, to make it a little less difficult when the time comes:
  3. When your dog is healthy and well, make a list of all the things they most love doing - those things that, for them as an individual, life wouldn't be worth living if they couldn't do.
  4. Then, make a list of all the things your dog hates most.
  5. When they become old, or ill, take out those lists and compare them to their current life. Are they still getting to do things they love? Are they having more good days than bad? Or are they uncomfortable or in pain most of the time; having to constantly do something they hate just to keep going?
  6. When you have made the decision, it is important that everyone in the household is on board with it - if there is significant disagreement, come in and have one of the vets check your dog over and talk to you about the options. If there are children involved, it is all the more important to make sure that they are kept informed - don't try to spare their feelings by making up a story, as it may be harmful in the longer term. You can check out some excellent information on dealing with the issue here: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-loss-support-children-missing-my-friend.
  7. When the time comes, it is best to book an appointment in advance - it means we can make sure that there are both the time and the staff to have everything go smoothly. We may give your dog a sedative, if they seem distressed, and then we will clip a small patch of fur, usually on the foreleg. A veterinary nurse will hug your dog and raise the vein, and the vet will give an injection of an anaesthetic (it's not a poison or anything nasty, just an overdose so they go quietly to sleep and don't wake up). If you would like to stay with them, that's absolutely fine; if not, that's fine too.
  8. Finally, the vet will perform some checks to make sure they've gone. Don't be alarmed if they seem to move, or even gasp after death - this is due to reflexes, it's quite normal, and isn't a sign that anything's gone wrong. There are usually a number of options for dealing with their remains - talk to one of our staff for details.
  9. Afterwards, it's quite normal to feel grief, anger, or depression - don't let anyone say "it was only a dog", because they were your dog, and part of your family!

In conclusion

Although it can be the hardest decision in the world to make, it's even harder to live with the fact that you left it too long, and allowed a beloved pet to suffer unnecessarily. If you need to talk to anyone, please feel free to give us a ring.

Exercise

Why is it important?

Obesity is a real threat to dogs (and people!) in the UK, and how better to manage it that with a fitness programme! But do you know how much exercise your dog needs? How should you modify it if they're old, or ill, or very young? In this guide, we'll talk you through the details of best to exercise your best friend.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Dogs need exercise to build and maintain muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, and to reduce (or at least control) the amount of fat they're carrying around. In addition, exercise will strengthen bone, ligaments and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. A fitter dog is a healthier dog, and is likely to cost you less in vets bills (!), and they will also be a happier dog if they're getting out and about rather than being cooped up indoors all day long.
  2. That said, excessive exercise (especially in an unfit dog) can be harmful - although it is unlikely to lead to a heart attack, it can result in musculoskeletal damage. In particular, we see muscle tears, strains and sprains much more commonly in unfit, overexercised dogs. Usually these are relatively minor, but torn ligaments and tendons can also occur which take much, much longer to heal.
  3. So, you'll have to carefully calibrate how much exercise you give your dog, and how hard you work them. To work this out, there are several factors you need to take into account:
  4. Their breed. Some dogs need more exercise than others - Setters, collies and Spaniels, for instance, need much more activity (to keep them sane if nothing else!) than Greyhounds (for whom a "mad half hour" once a day is usually sufficient). Some dogs, like Labradors, are mentally happy with very little exercise, but need to be encouraged to do more; and others (like Jack Russell Terriers and Chihuahuas) tend to be underexercised (just because they have short legs doesn't mean they don't need as much exercise time as other dogs- it just means they won't cover as much distance in that time!).
  5. That particular individual's fitness; an unfit animal should have a gradually increasing exercise programme, rather than starting cold and doing too much. Likewise, a very fit dog will need more exercise to maintain that fitness.
  6. Their age. In general, a young dog needs more exercise than an older one, although there are of course exceptions.
  7. Their personality - some dogs love exercise, some not so much! Ironically, the dogs with a tendency to laziness probably need to be given more organised exercise, as they won't do it themselves...
  8. Any disease conditions they may have. For example, a dog with heart or lung disease may require controlled exercise; and a dog with arthritis needs little-and-often to keep their joints supple.
  9. How hard you exercise your dog is also a bit of a debate - madly running around and chasing toys burns more calories than a gently bimble in the park, but also puts more strain on joints, ligaments and muscles. Overall, a mixture of fast and slow work is probably best for most dogs.

In conclusion

As a bare minimum, almost every dog needs 30 minutes of exercise per day - and some need a LOT more!

First Aid

Why is it important?

It's really scary when you find your dog suddenly injured or hurt - but if you know how to respond immediately (in the minutes before you can get them to us), that can make all the difference to whether they survive or not. So, here's our guide to emergency first aid!

Ok, lets look at the details

There are a series of basic steps you can take that will allow you to work through most types of injury and give your dog the best chance, If at any stage, however, you're unsure what to do or you're worried about your dog - CALL US!

  1. Are you in any danger? If you become a casualty yourself, you aren't helping your dog! Key things to watch out for are traffic (stop the traffic or at least make sure the road is clear before running to your injured pet); deep water (don't go in out of your depth); electricity (make sure the power is off); and sharp drops or cliffs (don't fall over yourself!). In addition, frightened or painful dogs are much more likely to bite or snap, even without meaning to. So, make sure you can hold your dog's muzzle, and consider using a tie, a belt or a strip of bandage as a temporary muzzle.
  2. Does your dog need CPR? This is the good old ABC - Airway (can they breathe? If not, extend their head and neck and try to clear any obstruction), Breathing (watch for the movement of the chest and feel for airflow from the nose or mouth), and Circulation (feel their heartbeat behind the left elbow, and their pulse in the groin). If they're not breathing or have no pulse, CALL FOR HELP, then start CPR until it arrives. To breathe for your dog, hold their mouth shut and breathe into their nose until you see their chest rise - usually about 10 breaths per minute. If they have no pulse, you must perform chest compressions - just like in humans, 100 compressions per minute.
  3. How bad is the injury? Assuming they aren't actually dying, check your dog over and try to work out what other injuries they have. At this point, concentrate on things that might be fatal - severe bleeding, chest or head injuries, or crushing injuries.
  4. Stop the bleeding. If a major artery is cut, a dog can bleed to death in 2-3 minutes. So, if there is significant bleeding from anywhere, stop it. As a general rule of thumb, if it oozes, it's unlikely to be dangerous; if it trickles, try and stop it, if it gushes or spurts, it needs to be stopped NOW! The best way to stop bleeding is by applying firm pressure to the injury, ideally through a clean cloth or pad to spread the pressure. DO NOT remove your hand or the pressure until 5 minutes after you're certain the bleeding has stopped, or you may pull the clot away and make it start again.
  5. Manage any wounds. Open wounds that aren't bleeding dangerously should be covered with a sterile dressing if possible, and a clean cloth if not; and then left until we can assess them. If there's a foreign object embedded in the wound, DO NOT pull it out unless we tell you to - it may be controlling the bleeding. Burns need to be managed differently - cool the burn with lots of water, and then wrap it in cling film to protect the area.
  6. Stabilise fractures. Most of the time, if your dog has an obviously broken bone, leave it well alone! However, if a limb is wobbling dramatically, you may need to put a splint on it. Don't do this until you've spoken to us, and we'll talk you through the process if needed.
  7. Get them to us so we can work on them! There's a limit to what you can do “in the field” as it were. The best place for any injured dog is at the surgery, where we have the staff and the equipment to treat them properly. The best thing you can do, therefore, is bring them to us. If they aren't able to walk on their own, try and lift them on a rigid board or plank rather than a bendy blanket (which can worsen spinal injuries) - we'll be able to advise you if necessary.

In conclusion

If your dog survives to reach us at the surgery, there is a good chance we can save them - but what you do in the first few minutes after an accident or injury can make all the difference.

Flea control

Why is it important?

Fleas are the biggest cause of skin disease for UK pets - even now, with so many great products on the market, they're still present living on dogs across the country! There are two reasons they're hard to get rid of - firstly, they can jump from dog to cat to rabbit to human to dog and so evade us; and second, 95% of the fleas aren't living on the animal, but hiding away in your home, waiting for their chance.

Ok, lets look at the details

There are a number of phases to getting your home "Flea Free", but they sit easily into two categories. Firstly, kill the adults, then break the life-cycle!

  1. Herbal and homeopathic remedies. Herbal flea remedies are notoriously unreliable - what works in one dog fails completely in another. This is particularly true of that old favourite, garlic, which typically results in a flea-ridden dog becoming a smelly, flea-ridden dog! Unfortunately, we cannot recommend homeopathic remedies, as there is no evidence that they are effective against fleas.
  2. Over-the-Counter Flea Drops and Powders. There are a wide range available, at very cheap prices. However, remember that, with medicines as with everything else, you get what you pay for. Over-the-counter products from pet shops or supermarkets are unlikely to be as effective as prescription-only or vet/pharmacist only products - not least because these often do not need to prove their effectiveness.
  3. Prescription Flea Spot-Ons. There are a lot of different spot-on medications, containing different ingredients, but they all work by killing the fleas. The most common contain fipronil, selamectin or imidacloprid, but there are others as well. These medications have to prove their effectiveness before being given a license; however, remember that many aren't waterproof and will wash out if you give your dog a bath or they regularly swim. On the other hand, these are often effective against other parasites, such as ticks or mange mites. Of course, you can only get these from, or with a prescription from, your vet.
  4. Flea Tablets. There are a number of different brands, and different active ingredients available now; these have the advantage that they cannot be washed off, and some will also treat for ticks as well. They do still need to be repeated periodically though - like all medications, they won't last for ever! Some over-the-counter tablets only last for 24 hours, whereas some of the prescription-only products may last 3 months.
  5. Medicated Collars. Available in prescription-only and over-the-counter forms, once again, the prescription-only or vet/pharmacist only forms are the most effective. These ones kill adult fleas, and may also treat or repel ticks, mosquitoes or even sand-flies.
  6. Environmental Control Medications. Some flea products contain ingredients called Insect Growth Regulators, that effectively put the fleas on the pill so they only lay non-viable eggs. Others contain ingredients that directly act to kill flea larvae in the environment. These are invaluable for preventing a household infestation, but may not completely control one that is already established (or at least, not quickly).
  7. Environmental insecticides. These can be sprayed onto soft furnishings throughout the home to kill larvae and eggs. Bear in mind that, although generally effective, you need to follow the label instructions, as some can be toxic if you overdose! In addition, flea pupae are immune to any form of chemical warfare we can practically employ!
  8. Vacuuming. Yes, the humble vacuumed cleaner is your secret weapon in the war on fleas! It will suck up eggs, and the flea-droppings that the larvae feed on, but more importantly, it will stimulate the pupae to hatch, releasing new hungry adults. In this state, they an easily be killed with an insecticide spray!

In conclusion

No one medication or intervention will control a severe infestation - instead, you'll need to attack them on several fronts, usually with an adult-killing medication, and environmental control spray or medication, and spotless hygiene in the home. If you need advice, feel free to call us!

Giving medications

Why is it important?

It's all very well for us vets to say "give these tablets twice a day, next patient please!" - but how easy do you actually find it to give medication to your dog? In this brief guide, we'll look at some common medications, and easy tricks to help you get them into or onto your pet!

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Different routes of medication are used for different conditions in dogs; however, there are a few common ones we'll look at here. Remember, whatever the medication is, always follow the directions that came with it. If you can't read something, or can't understand them, or if they seem wrong - don't make it up, call and ask us!
  2. Tablets. Tablets or capsules are the most common forms of medication, and can be among the trickiest to administer. In many cases, they can be hidden in food (typically inside a chunk of wet food or hidden in their bowl) - however, make sure that giving it with food won't alter how well it works. If they won't eat it in their dinner, try giving it in a little bit of chicken, ham or cheese as a special treat. If they still won't fall for it, or if it is a medication that cannot be given with food, you'll have to give it by hand. The simplest way is to sit your dog down, and then point their nose towards the ceiling. Open their mouth, and put the tablet as far towards the back of their mouth as you can (without getting nipped!). The close their mouth and hold it closed, gently rubbing their neck until they've swallowed. After swallowing, they'll try to lick their lips, at which point they've almost certainly swallowed the tablet - but remember to check, a few dogs are quite cunning at hiding tablets in their cheeks!
  3. Oral Liquids. These are usually given with or on food, and can just be measured out onto or into the food. Usually, it's easier to administer them in a strong-smelling or particularly tasty type of food, but most are designed to taste quite nice by themselves. If you have to give an oral liquid in the absence of food, or the dog won't eat the food with it on, the trick is to use a syringe (obviously without a needle on) and gently inject it between their teeth. The best technique is to sit them down, close their lips with one hand and then insert the syringe through the gap between their cheek teeth, then GENTLY syringe it into them (not too fast or they might choke on it). Once it's in their mouth, hold their mouth closed and rub their throat until they swallow.
  4. Spot-Ons. Most commonly used for flea, tick and other parasite treatments, spot-on medications are increasingly popular. They should be applied to the back of the dog's neck (i.e. where they can't reach it to lick!). Part the hairs carefully, and then deposit the liquid on the skin directly. If the volume of liquid is too great, split the dose between 2 or more sites. Make sure it's completely dries before you pet the dog or allow any other pets to lick them!
  5. Ear Cleaners. Used to clean the ears, so don't confuse these with ear drops (containing medication for treating ear diseases). To apply an ear cleaner, have the dog sitting or standing upright, and lift the dog's ear up (which will straighten the ear canal). Then apply a suitable amount of cleaner directly into the canal but DO NOT force the nozzle into the ear, or you may damage the sensitive structures inside. Instead, insert the tip of the nozzle just into the canal before squeezing. After filling the canal with the cleaner, find the firm "trumpet" of cartilage below the ear, and give it a good massage - you'll usually get a lovely squishing sound as you move the cleaner around inside the ear, and most dogs love this bit (because it scratches the itchy bits inside!). Then use a cloth or cotton wool to wipe away the liquid and dirt that comes back out of the ear (again, DON'T stick anything down inside). Beware afterwards - most dogs will shake their heads violently, spraying the room with cleaner and liquid ear wax, so probably better do this away from any soft furnishings!
  6. Ear Drops. These should be applied in exactly the same way as a wash, but not wiped away afterwards - the quantity is usually too small to need it.
  7. Shampoos and Washes. There re all sorts of different shampoos and washes, for many different conditions. Each needs to be made up in a different concentration and left on for a different amount of time. Basically, READ THE LABEL before you start! In general, however, you need to wet the dog all over (this might be easiest in the bath using a shower attachment, or outside in a tub with the hosepipe!). Then apply the shampoo (remember, you may need to wear gloves for some) and lather it up. Allow the dog to stand for the required amount of time before rinsing thoroughly with lots and lots of fresh water, and then allow them to dry off naturally (towelling and using hair dryers are usually a bad idea, for various reasons).
  8. Eye Drops. Medicating a sore eye can be really difficult - dogs don't like you poking at their eyes (understandably), and the muscle that closes the eyelids (orbicularis oculi, if you're interested is, for its size, the strongest in the whole body. The tick with eye drops is not to try to apply them directly to the surface of the eye (the dog's blink reflex is often too fast for that!) but into the lower eyelid. So, allow the dog to stand or sit upright, and then with one hand gently CLOSE the affected eye. Use your thumb to carefully open just the lower eyelid, so it sticks out, and apply the required quantity of drops onto the INSIDE of the lower eyelid. Then, allow the eye to close, and the drops will be transported onto the surface of the eye. Easy!

In conclusion

Giving medications can be tough, but it's usually straightforward once you know how! If your dog really resents it or you're finding it really hard, don't struggle on and risk getting hurt, or hurting your pet. Instead, give us a call and we'll be able to show you how (or suggest a different option if even we can't get them to cooperate!).

Obesity

Why is it important?

Obesity is a real threat to dogs (and people!) in the UK, and how better to manage it that with a fitness programme! But do you know how much exercise your dog needs? How should you modify it if they're old, or ill, or very young? In this guide, we'll talk you through the details of best to exercise your best friend.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Dogs need exercise to build and maintain muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, and to reduce (or at least control) the amount of fat they're carrying around. In addition, exercise will strengthen bone, ligaments and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. A fitter dog is a healthier dog, and is likely to cost you less in vets bills (!), and they will also be a happier dog if they're getting out and about rather than being cooped up indoors all day long.
  2. That said, excessive exercise (especially in an unfit dog) can be harmful - although it is unlikely to lead to a heart attack, it can result in musculoskeletal damage. In particular, we see muscle tears, strains and sprains much more commonly in unfit, overexercised dogs. Usually these are relatively minor, but torn ligaments and tendons can also occur which take much, much longer to heal.
  3. So, you'll have to carefully calibrate how much exercise you give your dog, and how hard you work them. To work this out, there are several factors you need to take into account:
  4. Their breed. Some dogs need more exercise than others - Setters, collies and Spaniels, for instance, need much more activity (to keep them sane if nothing else!) than Greyhounds (for whom a "mad half hour" once a day is usually sufficient). Some dogs, like Labradors, are mentally happy with very little exercise, but need to be encouraged to do more; and others (like Jack Russell Terriers and Chihuahuas) tend to be underexercised (just because they have short legs doesn't mean they don't need as much exercise time as other dogs- it just means they won't cover as much distance in that time!).
  5. That particular individual's fitness; an unfit animal should have a gradually increasing exercise programme, rather than starting cold and doing too much. Likewise, a very fit dog will need more exercise to maintain that fitness.
  6. Their age. In general, a young dog needs more exercise than an older one, although there are of course exceptions.
  7. Their personality - some dogs love exercise, some not so much! Ironically, the dogs with a tendency to laziness probably need to be given more organised exercise, as they won't do it themselves...
  8. Any disease conditions they may have. For example, a dog with heart or lung disease may require controlled exercise; and a dog with arthritis needs little-and-often to keep their joints supple.
  9. How hard you exercise your dog is also a bit of a debate - madly running around and chasing toys burns more calories than a gently bimble in the park, but also puts more strain on joints, ligaments and muscles. Overall, a mixture of fast and slow work is probably best for most dogs.

In conclusion

As a bare minimum, almost every dog needs 30 minutes of exercise per day - and some need a LOT more!

Operations

Why is it important?

It's always worrying when your dog has to come in for an operation - but it's really useful to know what will happen and how to prepare for it! In this guide, we'll explain what will happen, what the options are, how best to prepare your dog, and how to help them recover afterwards.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. If your dog is coming in for an emergency operation, then the preparation bit isn't so important (if it's an emergency, we'll work with whatever state they're in!). However, most operations are either elective (in other words, you choose to have it done, like neutering) or at least pre-booked (like orthopaedic surgery).
  2. Starve your dog! If their stomach is full of food, there's a high risk they'll vomit under anaesthesia, which is not only messy but potentially dangerous. We would usually recommend that dogs have no food after 8pm the night before, and no fluids after midnight (if this doesn't apply to your dog we'll tell you!). For unweaned puppies, however, it is very risky to starve them for this long, so we recommend checking with one of our vets or nurses.
  3. Get them clean. There's nothing worse than having to remove matted hair, mud and brambles from a dog before we can perform an operation - and it makes it REALLY hard to keep the site sterile too! Even if it's just running the hosepipe over them if they're really muddy, it's better than nothing... For some operations, we may recommend bathing in an antiseptic skin disinfectant - talk to the vet or the nurse when booking in if you think this might be necessary.
  4. Remember to tell us any medical history the dog has when you come in, especially if it's something we might not know (like episodes of vomiting recently, something that happened at a previous vets, or any odd reactions to medicines). Although we'll probably have it on our records anyway, it's much safer to double check...
  5. Think about blood tests. We offer pre-operative blood tests to all dogs undergoing surgery. If your dog is more than 7 years old, we strongly recommend it, as it can pick up problems that we don't know about, such as kidney or liver issues that might affect the surgery.
  6. Remember to ask us any questions BEFORE we admit them!
  7. After the operation is completed, we'll usually keep your dog in with us for a few hours, or possibly overnight, until they're ready to go home. This does NOT, however, mean that they have fully recovered!
  8. Look after them once they get home. Most dogs will want to go to their bed and sleep, but some may still be a little wobbly and struggle to get around normally. It is not uncommon for dogs to develop diarrhoea in the 24 hours after an operation, so be prepared... As a result, we recommend offering a light meal of boiled chicken or fish and rice, or a commercial intestinal diet, on the night after the operation and possibly the next morning. Then they can go back onto their normal diet.
  9. Your dog will have been sent home with medications and instructions - follow them! The medications we prescribe are usually painkillers and, sometimes, antibiotics, both of which can be potentially dangerous if you don't follow the instructions. In addition, make a note of any recheck times - we'll usually want to see them again in 3 or 4 days to check all is well, and then in 10-14 days to take any stitches out. Don't forget!

In conclusion

We will walk you through every step of the way, but if there's something you don't understand, or you're at all worried about your dog - call us and ask!

Spaying

Why is it important?

Entire bitches are at an increased risk of a number of disease condition, some of which are potentially life-threatening. These diseases can be prevented, or at the very least, the risk reduced, by spaying (neutering). However, this is a surgical procedure, and obviously it does involve some risks in and of itself, as well as having other consequences (never having any more puppies being the most obvious!). There are a lot of people and websites who will tell you that you MUST have your bitch spayed, or that you MUSTN'T. In this guide, however, we'll look at all the pros and cons, so that you can make your own mind up.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. Spaying a bitch is a surgical procedure where the ovaries (and, usually, the uterus or womb) are surgically removed. It's a fairly big op (although dogs seem to cope and recover really well), but it's still an optional surgical procedure with a one in 1000 risk of significant complications. So, what are the advantages - why do people do it?
  2. Ending her cycles. Most bitches will come into season roughly every six months (although it may be longer for large and giant breeds). When they're in season, or "in heat", they pass a bloody discharge from their back end, which can be really messy. In addition, every male dog in the vicinity is likely to be queuing up at your back door trying to get to her! Some bitches also undergo quite dramatic personality changes; and they may suffer from "False Pregnancies" in the couple of months following the season. If they get "caught" by a dog, it's likely to be a real pregnancy, and then you have to look after and find homes for all the puppies! Spaying completely removes her cycle (it cannot occur), and she cannot get pregnant. This means you're not going to be part of the overpopulation problem, with dogs stacked up waiting for rehoming in shelters and rescue centres.
  3. Reducing the risk of reproductive tumours. About 7% of unspayed bitches will develop a mammary tumour (breast cancer) in their lifetime; if spayed before the second season, the risk drops by 92%; if spayed before her first, it's down by 99.5%. Spaying an older bitch has progressively less effect. This protective effect extends to other reproductive tumours - a dog without a uterus or ovaries cannot, for example, develop uterine or ovarian cancer!
  4. Pyometra. This is a serious and, if untreated, usually fatal infection of the uterus (womb). An astonishing 23% of unspayed bitches will develop a pyometra by 10 years old. The risk is essentially zero in spayed bitches.
  5. Once you factor all of these risks in together, you can expect a spayed bitch to live 26% longer than an entire one. So what are the disadvantages?
  6. Urinary Incontinence. Neutered bitches are 8 times more likely to become incontinent in later life. This can usually be controlled easily with medication, but is an annoyance. Estimates for the number of affected bitches range from 5-20%.
  7. Hormone changes - weight gain, coat alterations. After neutering, most dogs will be more prone to put on weight - but that doesn't mean they become fat because of neutering. They become fat because their owners overfeed them! A few dogs also show a change to the quality of the coat - this is actually pretty rare, and usually really minor.
  8. Orthopaedic disease. There's been a lot of research done into the effects of spaying on certain bone and joint disorders. There is good evidence to suggest that there is a slightly higher risk of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in spayed bitches (unspayed bitches have a risk of 0.006%, spayed bitches 0.012%). In addition, spayed bitches have a higher risk of growth plate injuries, and seem to be at slightly higher risk of cruciate ligament injuries.
  9. Unlike neutering a dog, which is a very simple operation (his reproductive organs are easily accessible!), spaying a bitch requires entering the abdomen. In most cases, this is done as an "open" surgery, where she will have a general anaesthetic, then the surgeon will open her abdomen and remove her ovaries and uterus. A more modern alternative is the laparoscopic bitch spay, where we use keyhole surgery just to remove her ovaries - this has a much faster recovery time, and seems to provide all the advantages of the traditional surgery. Both are done under general anaesthetic, but we'd expect her to go home the same day in most cases.

In conclusion

Spaying your dog is an important decision - there are hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs in the UK, so reproductive control is really important. It also genuinely does save lives; however, there are disadvantages too, so it's important that you make up your own mind.

Vaccines

Why is it important?

Your dog is constantly at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease. Distemper, Parvovirus, Infectious Canine Hepatitis - they haven't gone away, they're still out there. The reason we don't see them as commonly as we used to is that most dogs are vaccinated to protect them; without vaccination, any dog is at risk. There are also some rarer or less severe diseases we can vaccinate against - such as Kennel Cough and Leishmania. Vaccination is a very low risk way to protect your dog - and the other dogs around you - and we strongly recommend it!

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. We offer a wide range of vaccines against different diseases, and we'll look at each of the more important ones in turn. Vaccines work by "teaching" the immune system how to fight a particular infection. They do not "weaken" or "strengthen" it, but they do make it better able to fight particular diseases. Some vaccines (like the Parvo Vaccine) contain a weakened but still live form of the disease agent - these often give longer lasting immunity (3 years) compared with those containing inactivated or dead organisms (like Leptospirosis, which only lasts a year or so). It's also important to remember that, unlike in humans, vaccines for dogs do NOT last for life - the manufacturer's recommended repeat dose dates are based on the time interval that will protect 99% of dogs vaccinated. It is true that some dogs' immunity does last longer, and for some disease, you can do antibody tests to see if the levels of antibody are still high. However, for most disease (especially Lepto, for example), this test is unreliable because the vaccine does not produce protection using antibodies but other components of the immune system. Fortunately, there is very little evidence of any significant risk to healthy dogs from vaccines - "over-vaccination" is a theoretical rather than a real risk.
  2. Distemper. This is a very serious disease that, although closely related to measles, is much more dangerous. It is estimated that 50% of unvaccinated dogs who are infected will die, even with treatment. Typically, it causes a runny nose and eyes, vomiting and diarrhoea, pneumonia, seizures or fits, hardening of the footpads and ultimately death. Even in dogs who recover, encephalitis (causing dementia or fits) may occur as a result months or even years later. The vaccine requires 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart, then a booster a year later. It is repeated every three years.
  3. Infectious Canine Hepatitis. ICH is caused by a canine adenovirus that attacks the liver. Infected dogs become severely jaundiced, have a high fever and lose their appetite; in severe cases, bleeding, fits and death may occur within hours. Even after recovery, infected dogs will often excrete the virus in their urine for many months. The vaccine requires 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart, then a booster a year later. It is repeated every three years.
  4. Parvovirus. Also known as "Parvo", this virus is probably the most commonly seen fatal infection in dogs. Although vaccination is very effective, puppies face a short gap of vulnerability after their mother's immunity wears off and before their vaccines kick in - this is why it is vital to keep as many dogs as possible vaccinated to minimise the risk of transmission! Older dogs can also develop Parvo too, though - it's not just a disease of puppies. They virus attacks the intestines causing vomiting, diarrhoea and then severe, bloody diarrhoea, dehydration, septicaemia, shock and death. Even with intensive care nursing and treatment, at least 30% (and often more) will usually die. The vaccine requires 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart, then a booster a year later. It is repeated every three years.
  5. Leptospirosis. Also known as Weil's Disease, this is caused by a group of bacteria that are transmitted in urine (from rats, dogs and cattle). It can also infect people, and it is able to invade the body even through intact skin. It damages the kidneys and the liver, and in severe cases may be fatal. There are a wide range of different "serovars" or strains of the bacterium; traditional vaccines are available against 2 of these strains, but some newer vaccines will protect against 4. The older vaccine needs only 2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart, and then an annual booster. The newer (L4) vaccine requires 3 doses, 2 weeks apart in a puppy, and then annual boosters. The vaccines DOES NOT last more than a year, and CANNOT be tested with "titre tests".
  6. Kennel Cough. The two most important causes of Kennel Cough are Parainfluenza and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. The symptoms are a honking cough, which may persist for months, and often a low fever, lethargy and loss of appetite; however, in severe cases, pneumonia may occur which can even be fatal, especially in very young or very old dogs. There is an injectable vaccine against Parainfluenza (which can be given along with the Lepto vaccines), but it's effectiveness is limited. The full Kennel Cough vaccine is given up the nose and gives protection against both types. Vaccinated dogs do sometimes develop kennel cough (it isn't a perfect protection), but it is milder and much, much less infectious than if they had been infected without the benefit of vaccination. For maximal protection, the dog requires one dose annually.
  7. Rabies. Although not (yet) present in the UK, rabies is a highly dangerous disease which can infect any mammal, including humans. Once symptoms occur, the disease is almost 100% fatal. Any dog wanting to visit mainland Europe (or most other non-UK countries) MUST be fully vaccinated before they leave. Infected dogs usually become hyperaggresive and will run around biting people and frothing at the mouth (the virus is transmitted in the saliva) before having seizures and dying. There is no treatment, and infected dogs must be put down to prevent their suffering and to protect the public. The vaccine requires a single injection (no requirement for blood tests any more) and must be repeated every 3 years.
  8. Leishmaniasis. This is a fairly exotic disease, not yet native to the UK. We do, however, see it in dogs that have returned to the UK from southern Europe, where it is fairly common. It is spread primarily by sand-fly bites, although direct dog-dog transmission can also occur. Leishmania usually causes a scaly, scabby skin lesion, which gradually spreads; however, it can also cause severe internal damage as the parasites attack the gut (causing vomiting and diarrhoea), the muscles (causing muscle pain and lethargy) and the kidneys (causing increased drinking and urination). Most dogs will also suffer weight loss, and although the disease can be managed, it cannot be 100% cured. The vaccine requires 3 injections, 3 weeks apart under the skin and boosted annually for at-risk dogs.

In conclusion

Vaccination will reduce the chance that your dog contracts the disease, the severity if they do contract it, and the risk of them spreading it. Not all dogs can be vaccinated effectively (for example, dogs on certain medications won't respond properly to vaccines), so you are protecting these dogs as well as your own by vaccinating. If you want to know more about a particular disease or vaccine, give us a call!

Worming

Why is it important?

Dogs are naturally host to a range of unpleasant internal parasites. The most important of these are roundworms and tapeworms, but hookworms and pinworms are also a problem for many dogs. Some roundworms pose a very real threat to human health as well - their larvae (present in and around dog droppings) can invade the gut if poor hygiene is followed, and may even crawl in to the liver, brain or eyes (we call this visceral larval migrans, and it's most significantly a problem in children). The best way to control these parasites is with an effective worming programme for your dog.

Ok, lets look at the details

  1. It is important to make sure that whatever wormer you're using covers all the major groups of worms - tapeworms, for example, aren't sensitive to most conventional wormers, so modern products usually contain an ingredient such as praziquantel which will put an end to them. However, with so many options out there, it's important that you understand what is available:
  2. Herbal and homeopathic remedies. The use of garlic and wormwood to control intestinal worms is an ancient practice; however, it is not ideal in dogs. These products may have some effect on roundworms, but they are also both toxic to dogs, so only very low doses can safely be used (this is probably why the effect on the worms seems fairly limited). Homeopathic remedies, meanwhile, have been extensively studied but sadly, there is no evidence that they are effective against worms of any type.
  3. Pet shop or supermarket worm tablets. There are a wide range of different active ingredients available in these products, but the vast majority contain piperazine or nitroscanate. These products are effective against some kind of worms, but nitroscanate in particular is notoriously toxic in high doses, so you have to make sure the dose is very accurate! In addition, these products are usually only effective against a narrow range of worm species.
  4. Vet or Pharmacist over-the-counter worming liquid. These liquids (suitable for nursing mothers and young puppies) contain fenbendazole, a very safe, gentle wormer that is effective against roundworms and some protozoal parasites.
  5. Vet or Pharmacist over-the-counter worming tablets. These are combination tablets, with several different active ingredients. By combining them (typically, pyrantel, oxantel and praziquantel), the tablets are able to combat all the common worm species.
  6. Prescription worming tablets. Again, these are combination drugs, but containing more potent active ingredients (such as milbemycin), meaning they are often effective against an even wider range of parasites. However, they can only legally be purchased from your vet, or with a veterinary prescription.
  7. Prescription worming spot-ons. There are an increasing number of spot-on products that kill fleas and also some worms (often based on selamectin or moxidectin). In general, these are effective against roundworms, sometimes hookworms or whipworms, but not tapeworms. Again, these can only legally be purchased from your vet, or with a veterinary prescription. There is also an increased risk of harm (at overdose) in Collies and other herding-type dogs. Normal doses are safe, but these drugs should NEVER be given at more than the recommended dose; or in combination with other treatments such as milbemycin, as they can cause fits, or even death, in susceptible dogs.
  8. The next question is WHEN to worm, and HOW OFTEN. Regarding WHEN, it is important that most dogs are wormed regularly, to prevent the parasites "building up" in their system, and to stop them from completing their life-cycles. In particular, it is vital to worm bitches when they're in pup (some worms can invade the puppy even before birth, and also in the bitch's milk). Similarly, young puppies should be frequently wormed, even before they get their vaccinations - talk to one of our vets for details.
  9. HOW OFTEN is a slightly more complex issue. Worms may be transmitted by eating live prey or fresh meat; by sniffing around in the park; or even by fleas. As a result, all dogs are at some risk of worm infestation. In general, we'd recommend worming every 3 months; but if your dog has a habit of eating roadkill, or catching rabbits, for example, more frequent worming (every 6 or even every 4 weeks) would be advisable.

In conclusion

Our dogs will always be at risk from worm infestations, but with a regular worming programme, they can be controlled. Talk to us for more details.

Practice information

Runnymede Surgery

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Chobham Road Surgery

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