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At this exciting time of year when our houses fill with chocolate eggs and treats, it is important that everyone in the family is aware of the dangers and keeps their goodies well out of pets’ reach. Dogs can sniff out chocolate, rip off the packaging and devour it in no time at all.

If you suspect your dog may have eaten any type of chocolate always call your vet immediately for advice. Let them know which type of chocolate it is, how much you think they may have eaten, and preferably keep any packaging that might help the vet determine what has been consumed.

Chocolate contains theobromine which cannot be metabolised by dogs and is therefore highly toxic with potentially fatal side effects if not treated quickly.

Dark chocolate can be highly toxic even in small amounts

Knowing the type of chocolate can help to determine the seriousness of the amount eaten. Dark chocolate can be highly toxic if eaten even in small amounts. Milk chocolate has much lower levels of theobromine and is therefore less dangerous in small amounts, but this completely depends on the size of the dog. Small dogs are particularly vulnerable to toxicity from small amounts. White chocolate contains very little theobromine and is less likely to cause effects, however it is full of sugar, which has its own negative side effects, and still should not be fed to your dog under any circumstances.

Call your vet

All veterinary practices have a 24 hour emergency service so if, despite all your efforts, your dog does get hold of your chocolate and eat it, please call the emergency number straight away for advice. If you are a Highcroft client, remember the Hospital has a veterinary team onsite 24 hours a day – call 01275 832410.

On a brighter note, may we wish you and your pets a very Happy Easter!

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Housing & Bedding

Hutches and runs should ideally be placed out of the sun, sheltered from the rain and raised off the ground.

In winter, the hutch should be moved inside where possible.

Straw or shavings are ideal bedding and soiled material should be removed on a daily basis.

A complete strip out and scrub should ideally be done once a week and more in winter, when the guinea pig spends more time indoors.

Nutrition

Guinea pigs need fibre rich diets such as hay or grass, to help digest food and maintain healthy teeth.

This should be supplemented with a complete food designed especially for guinea pigs.

This is different to rabbit food as guinea pigs cannot produce their own vitamin C and they also require high levels of vitamin A.

Fresh vegetables can be given in moderation and water must be accessible at all times.

Dental

Dental problems are a major health issue for guinea pigs, they need to eat fibre to wear down their continuously growing teeth.

If teeth don’t get worn down enough this can cause drooling and lack of appetite.

Claw Clipping

It is advisable to clip the claws approximately once a month, however the more time the guinea pig spends on a hard surface, the less frequently they will need clipping.

Exercise

Regular exercise is important to keep guinea pigs fit and prevent boredom.

It is advisable to exercise pets in an outdoor run, the garden or house as often as possible.  Ideally for at least 4 hours a day.

You can make this time more fun by using boxes and tubes as tunnels and holes for them to hide in.

Grooming

Guinea pigs will groom both themselves and others, as it’s  a social activity.

Some long haired breeds will need grooming by their owners to remove loose or matted hair.

Company

It is recommended that guinea pigs are kept in social groups to encourage them to interact and socialise.

Neutering

Neutering females will prevent unwanted litters and behaviour problems.

Castrating a male guinea pig can prevent aggression.

Your vet will advise you on neutering your pet.

Handling

One your guinea pig is accustomed to feeding out of your hand and stroking him, they generally enjoy being handled.

Be sure to supervise children while holding a guinea pig and be careful of how they lift them.

Regular Health Checks

Your vet can carry out a nose to tail check, but by following the guidelines below,  you can keep an eye on your guinea pigs health, help him stay in tip top condition and live a long and happy life.

  • Look out for changes in food consumption, drinking and toilet habits.
  • Rub your hands over your guinea pigs body and check for lumps and bumps.  Check the quality of the coat and note whether any dandruff or hair loss is evident.  Is your guinea pig scratching, chewing or biting a lot?
  • Check the nose, eyes and ears for abnormalities or discharge.  Your guinea pigs nose should be moist, the corners of the eyes should be free of discharge and his ears clean.
  • Regularly examine the mouth for signs of disease and overgrown teeth.
  • Monitor your guinea pigs body condition by running hands over ribs and backbone.  If he is losing weight or is overweight, it’s advisable to visit your vet.

If you would like to know more about looking after your guinea pig, please call your surgery and ask to speak to one of our nurses.

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According to research carried out by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) in 2016, 60% of UK vets said that obesity was the biggest health and welfare concern. 

In addition to putting your pet on the weighing scales, we use body condition as an indicator of healthy weight. Explained simply, this involves checking for waist definition, palpable ribs and an abdominal tuck.

Why not have a go at checking your pet’s body condition. Does your pet have a visible waist? Can you easily feel their ribs when you run your fingers over them? Ribs should not be clearly visible but they should be easy to feel and have minimal fat covering them. The waist should be easily observed when viewed from above and the abdomen tucked up when viewed from the side.  If the waist is not visible, the abdomen is rounded and ribs are difficult to palpate (feel) under the skin, your pet is highly likely to be overweight. On the other hand, if your pet’s ribs are clearly visible and their abdomen highly tucked, your pet is probably underweight.

Your pet’s weight can have a significant effect on their health and quality of life. 

In fact obesity can lead to a number of serious health issues and significantly reduce lifespan. Therefore, understanding your pet’s ideal weight, and body condition, could improve their quality of life and keep them with you for longer.

It is worth asking a member of your veterinary team to show you how to check your pet’s body condition.  Once you know what to look for it will be easy to keep an eye on them. Our practice nurse would be happy to help you with this, simply call your surgery.


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Cats are known as solitary survivors yet a recent survey found that 44% of cat owning households had more than one cat.

Cats in general prefer not to fight. Instead they use visual and audible communication to avoid physical confrontations, and social structures to adapt to living in a group.

Sharing a home can be difficult for cats and can result in stress-related behaviours (such as urine marking) and/or inter-cat aggression. 

Space restrictions in our homes can make it difficult for cats to avoid each other which is why it is important to ensure that each cat has access to feeding and water bowls, litter trays and exit/entry points to the home, without having to interact with each other.

Cats can show aggression subtly such as blocking each other, staring, spending most of the time up high or hiding, changes in food consumption, grooming changes or stress-related behaviours, as well as physical interactions.  

Aggression can often be seen in cats newly introduced to each other or between cats that have previously been friendly but an event has resulted in aggression. These events can include changes in the home (such as renovation) or when a cat returns from time away (such as at the vets). 

Aggression can also be as a result of pain or an underlying medical problem, so it is advisable for cats to be examined by their vet.

In addition, when a new cat is brought home and introduced to a resident cat, aggression can be due to territorial and/or fear related issues.

What can I do if my cats are aggressive to each other?

Firstly, cats should be separated to prevent injury and further damage to their relationship. Avoid punishing the cats for fighting as arousal, anxiety and the risk of injury increases.

Cats use scents known as pheromones to communicate with each other and to reassure themselves. By scent swapping, you can reacquaint each cat without any physical contact. 

This involves rubbing a cotton cloth on the chin of one of the cats (an area that produces pheromones) and then leaving it in the room with the other cat and vice versa. 

During this time, each cat should have access to their own feeding bowl, water bowl, litter tray etc. 

The use of a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone can help if a cat is displaying stress-related behaviours. This will help the cat to be comfortable in their own space whilst being introduced to the other cat’s smell and pheromones.

The door that physically separates the cats can then be used to encourage peaceful coexistence. Over time, controlled contact between the cats should be increased, e.g. cats on harnesses, highly palatable food at separate ends of a large room. Gradually reduce the distance between the cats, assessing the cats for any reactivity towards the other. 

Once there is no tension when they are relatively close, try to allow the cats to have monitored free access to each other. 

It can be difficult to predict how well the cats will get on and sometimes the relationship will not be repaired so it may be best for one of the cats to be rehomed.

A synthetic pheromone can a very useful extra tool for you. This is a copy of the natural cat appeasing pheromone which is released by a queen when she is nursing her kittens to encourage a feeling of safety for them and also a bond between them. A synthetic copy of this pheromone (Feliway Friends) is available as a diffuser which should be plugged in the area where cats spend most of their time (usually where they sleep) and has been shown to reduce signs of aggression between resident cats.

If your cats are aggressive towards each other and you would like more information, please do hesitate to contact your practice and ask to speak to a nurse.

For more information on Feliway Friends cat pheromone, please visit www.feliway.com

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Increasingly popular at celebrations, fireworks can be very traumatic for our pets. Some simple changes around the house can help reducestress for both dogs and cats. Dogs should be walked before dark so they’re home before any fireworks start, and cats should be kept in the house. Make sure identity tags and microchip details are up to date so that if pets do run off they’re able to be reunited with you. When fireworks do start try and act as normally as possible.  Keep curtains drawn to block flashes of light and play the television or radio to cover some of the noise.

Both dogs and cat may appreciate a den to hide in. A dog crate is ideal; cover with a thick blanket containing a comfy bed and one or two favourite toys.  Make sure outdoor cats are provided with a litter tray when kept inside overnight.

Can medication help?

Canine and feline pheromone products (such as Adaptil and Feliway) can help relax your pet in strange or stressful situations. They’re available as a spray (great for around a den) or a plug-in diffuser. They’re best used for a few days before fireworks start and can help to encourage your pet to relax.

Your vet can a recommend a product to help. If your pet is frightened of fireworks and you would like more advice, please contact your surgery.

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Now that warmer weather is upon us, all rabbit owners need to be hypervigilant for flystrike in order to keep their rabbits safe.

Flystrike is an incredibly distressing and painful condition caused by flies laying eggs on your rabbit. If left undetected, the hatched maggots will literally eat your bunny alive! This is a veterinary emergency and your rabbit should be seen straight away.

Flystrike is caused by Blue and Green Bottle fly larvae. These flies lay hundreds of eggs at a time in smelly, moist areas (e.g. your rabbit’s bottom). Warmer weather means that the eggs can hatch within 1-2 hours and the maggots will begin to eat away at the rabbit’s flesh.

As the skin is eaten by the maggots it gives off a smell that attracts more flies, leading to even more maggots.

How can I prevent flystrike in my rabbit?
  • Check your rabbit a MINIMUM of twice daily
  • Use a recommended flystrike prevention treatment

      - Applied to rabbits bottom

      - Lasts 10-12 weeks

      - Stops fly eggs from hatching

      - Available from your vet

  • Discuss other tips for high-risk rabbits with your rabbit savvy vet
What should I do if I find flystrike on my rabbit?

Rabbits that have flystrike are often initially lethargic and reluctant to move around and eat. If you find fly eggs(white clusters on the hair) or maggots on your rabbit, you should contact your vet ASAP and make an emergency appointment made.

DO NOT wash your rabbit, this will make it very difficult for your vet to shave the area and could affect correct treatment. If left wet, it will also increase the risk of further infestations from the smell.

Flystrike can, and often does, kill very quickly. We cannot stress enough how important it is to get your rabbit to a vet immediately if you notice any sign of infestation.

Is your rabbit at risk of flystrike?

All rabbits are at risk of developing flystrike, however, certain rabbits will be more prone to attracting flies if:

  • They suffer from dacrocystitis
  • Faeces build up around their bottom easily
  • They suffer from urinary tract infections
  • They are kept in unclean environments
Rabbit Awareness Week 17th – 25th June 2016 10% off flystrike prevention

As part of Rabbit Awareness Week we are offering a 10% discount on flystrike prevention. Also, FREE health checks for all rabbits throughout the week.

Book an appointment now by contacting your surgery.

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If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke seek veterinary advice as a matter of urgency.

Cats and dogs are not very good at regulating their temperature as they only have sweat glands in their paws and around their nose. This can lead to overheating and heat stroke on hot days.

Signs of heat stroke in cats and dogs

  • Fast and heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Dark-coloured (red or purple) gums or tongue
  • Excessive thirst
  • Very high body temperature
  • Weakness, unsteady or collapse
  • Seizures or unconsciousness

All dogs can suffer from heat stroke, however, if your dog is overweight or a flat-faced breed (e.g. French Bulldog, Pug, English Bulldog etc) they are particularly susceptible to overheating. 

Cats are less likely to suffer from heat stroke and there are a number of possible reasons for this: they don't go for walks with humans, they don't chase balls, they don't tend to get left in cars and they are generally smaller and more agile than dogs and find it easier to search out cool places to sleep.  

How to cool your pet

If your pet is displaying signs of heat stroke, move them to a shaded area and call your vet urgently.

The vet will advise you of the best way to cool your cat or dog before transportation. This is usually done by placing cool wet towels across their body and/or placing them next to a fan. NEVER immerse your pet in very cold water as this can lead to shock.

Allow your pet small amounts of water to drink and continue to cool them until their breathing starts to settle. Take your them to the vet immediately for further treatment.

NEVER LEAVE A DOG OR (OR CAT) IN A HOT CAR!

It can take as little as 15 minutes for a dog to die in a hot car. Please do not, under any circumstances leave your pet unattended in a car during a hot day.

For more information about heat stroke, please call your surgery.

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A year in a pet’s life is the equivalent to up to 7 years in a human’s life – a lot can happen in that time! Ideally we would like to see your pet every 6 months for a health check - and this does not necessarily have to be with a vet.

Annual health check with a vet

Our pets are good at hiding health problems so seeing your vet on a regular basis will help pick up problems before they become serious health issues.

We always advise that a vet examines your pet at least once a year. This usually ties in with their annual vaccination. However, even if you choose not to vaccinate your pets, we would still recommend at least an annual health check with a vet.

Dental disease, lumps and bumps, changes in bodyweight, lymph node size, joint stiffness and/or changes in the ability to move are some of the many things we can pick up during a health check. Some issues occur so slowly we don’t even notice them.

Also, by law, we cannot prescribe veterinary parasite control treatments if your pet has not been seen by a vet within the last 12 months.

6-monthly health check with a nurse

A year is still a long time for a pet, which is why our nurses offer health checks in between – usually free of charge. Nurses can give your pet a general health check, and offer you advice on life-stage changes, signs to look out for, and answer any questions you may have.

Older pets are more susceptible to illness, so it’s even more important that they are seen every 6 months. Remember, an 8 year old dog could be equivalent to a 56 year old human (breed dependent) or more!

If your pet is unwell

Of course, if your pet is showing any signs of illness or injury, you should see your vet as soon possible. Vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, depression, lumps, lameness, obvious weight loss, or anything out of the ordinary, should not be ignored.

Prevention is better than cure

Preventing disease is easier than curing it – and a lot cheaper! So calling in on a regular basis will be more beneficial than waiting for illness to occur.

Call your surgery for more information or to book a health check now.

Healthy Pet Club

Keep your pet up to date with all their preventative health care by joining the Healthy Pet Club! Find out more here.

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As important members of the family, it is becoming more and more popular to take pets away for a holiday. Whether you’re off on a ‘staycation’ in the UK or heading to sunnier climates abroad, there’s a lot to consider if you’re taking your pet along too. We advise that you start the process of organising your pet’s holiday at least six weeks before you go.

Staying in the UK
  • Make sure your accommodation is pet friendly and find out what facilities or policies they have in place before you book.
  • Research the area where you are going – is it suitable to take your dog on holiday? E.g. where you can go for walks, beaches, pubs or restaurants.
  • Check with your vet that your pet is healthy and safe to travel. If they need medication, take this with you. Ensure vaccinations, flea and worm treatments are up-to-date.
  • Ensure your pet is microchipped and that the contact details are up to date.
  • Find out where the nearest veterinary practice is, in case your pet requires emergency treatment.
  • If travelling by car, make sure your pet is safely restrained, has plenty of toilet breaks and access to water. If your pet suffers from travel sickness, speak to your vet beforehand for advice.
  • Take some of your pets ‘home comforts’ such as their own bed, toys and blankets.
  • Try to keep their routine as normal as possible whilst you are away. Change can be very stressful for animals, so it is important to continue their food and exercise regime as usual. Try not to leave them for prolonged periods of time in unfamiliar surroundings either.

Taking your pet abroad

If you are holidaying abroad you will also need to get a Pet Passport.

A Pet Passport can be issued by an LVI registered veterinary surgeon. During a Pet Passport appointment, the vet will perform a thorough pre-holiday health check to ensure your pet is fit for travel and ensure they are meeting all legal requirements.

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) states that, if travelling within Europe, your pet must be:

  • Microchipped
  • Vaccinated against rabies – this must be performed at least 21 days prior to re-entry in to the UK, so make sure you vaccinate your pet well in advance of your holiday.
  • Treated for Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm – the treatment MUST be administered by a vet within 24 to 120 hours BEFORE re-entry to the UK. Ensure you have found a suitable veterinary practice abroad so that this can be performed.


Advised additional parasite control

Although it is not legally required, it is important to use a suitable tick prevention product on your pet. There are many different species of ticks abroad that do not reside in the UK and carry nasty diseases e.g. babesiosis.

Prevention against sandflies is also advised as they can carry the disease Leishmaniasis. Certain products will protect against both ticks and sandflies, and should be applied every two weeks. Start treatment at least 3 weeks before going abroad.

Leaving your pet in kennels

If you’re not taking your pet away and have decided to leave them in Kennels, or a Cattery, whilst you are on holiday, there are still factors you must consider.

  • All kennels and catteries require your pet to be fully vaccinated.
  • Dogs must also be vaccinated against Kennel Cough at least 3 weeks before their stay.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of home comforts with them to make them feel more at ease.


If you would like to find out more information about taking your pet on holiday, or to book an appointment for a Pet Passport, call your usual surgery now.

We hope you and your pet have a fun and relaxing holiday this year!

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A rabbit’s teeth are open rooted, meaning they are constantly growing. If not worn down or treated regularly, this can cause some serious problems for your rabbit.

Diet can affect a rabbit’s teeth

Diets high in fibre, i.e. diets high in grass and hay, high fibre forage items and a pelleted based food are best for keeping your rabbits teeth as healthy as possible.

Diets that have inadequate hay, too much fruit, veg or muesli mixes will allow the overgrowth and eventual malocclusion (when the teeth do not meet properly) of the teeth.

Overgrown and maloccluded rabbit teeth

Over grown teeth can lead to spur formation (spikes on the teeth). These spurs dig in to the soft tissues of the mouth causing pain.

Maloccluded teeth apply abnormal pressures on each other which will often lead to inflamed and sometimes elongated roots. These can be painful and can eventually lead to the formation of dental abscesses.

Symptoms of dental disease in rabbits

There are a number of tell tale signs to look out for that might mean your rabbit has dental disease. These can include subtle symptoms such a change in eating habits, grinding of the teeth (bruxism) or bad breath.

More obvious signs can include:

Dribbling (under chin and inside of front legs)


Runny eyes


Runny nose


Faecal clagging around back end


Lumps on the face (due to dental abscesses)


Overgrown incisors


Dental treatment for rabbits

 Once teeth are maloccluded and have spur formation, the rabbit is unlikely to have normal teeth again. However, they can have a good quality of life if they receive with regular dental treatment and pain relief.

Dental treatment should be performed under general anaesthesia by an experienced rabbit-savvy vet.  Dental disease in rabbits should never be ignored and regular dental check-ups at your vets are recommended to catch problems early.

If you notice these changes or see the above signs you should contact your Rabbit savvy vet as soon as possible.

Rabbit Awareness Week 17th-25th June 2017

Book your rabbit in for a free health check during Rabbit Awareness Week in June. You will also receive 10% off vaccinations, Rearguard, Fenugreek and Hay products.

Find out more here.

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