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COVID-19 update: Client advice on what to do during the Coronavirus pandemic

Dog Advice

  • Vaccinating Your Dog
  • Key-hole Bitch Spays
  • Worms in Dogs
  • Cruciate Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Ear Infections
  • Cushings Disease
  • Heart Failure
  • Ears, Paws, and Rears
  • Pancreatitis
  • Dementia
  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Vaccinating Your Dog

How do vaccines work?

A vaccine is a liquid containing bacteria or viruses that is used to stimulate an immune reaction.

Because the immune system has memory, it will produce a quicker and stronger response to subsequent contact with the infection being vaccinated against.

The bacteria or virus in the vaccine is killed or altered so that it stimulates an immune reaction, but does not cause disease. Killed vaccines are less likely to cause disease, but also produce a weaker immune response.

What vaccinations can I give my dog?

Kennel cough

A combination of bacteria and viruses causing a cough, spread by close contact between dogs, not just in kennels. Annual vaccination, given “intranasally” (a liquid up the nose).

Leptospirosis

The bacteria causing “Weil’s disease” in people, spread by rats and dirty water. Causes kidney and liver disease. Annual vaccination necessary.

Infectious hepatitis

Viral infection, mainly affecting the liver, but can also involve lungs, intestines, and nervous system. Vaccination every three years.

Distemper

Causes respiratory and gastrointestinal disease (vomiting / diarrhoea) and can also cause nervous symptoms such as fitting. Vaccination every three years.

Rabies

Not given routinely in the UK, however, is required as an integral part of the Pet Passport Scheme. Vaccination given every three years.

Parvo

Very contagious virus causing diarrhoea and vomiting, especially in puppies. Vaccination as a puppy and first booster then every three years.

Core and non-core vaccinations

“Core” or essential vaccines are those vaccines that are advisable for any dog, no matter what the circumstances, due to the ease of spread and the seriousness of the diseases they protect against. Non-core vaccines are considered individually, based on age, life style, and contact with other dogs.

Non-core vaccines

  • Kennel cough
  • Coronavirus
  • Rabies

Core vaccines

  • Parvo
  • Distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Leptosporiosis

When can I get my puppy vaccinated?

All dogs will require an initial vaccination course of two injections, given three to four weeks apart. Puppies can start the vaccinations at six weeks, with the second vaccination at ten weeks. A final parvo booster is recommended at 14-16 weeks, as some puppies fail to respond fully to the earlier vaccines.

Are yearly boosters necessary?

After the first annual booster, parvo, distemper and canine hepatitis boosters are given every four years. Due to the short immunity of the leptospirosis vaccine, it is recommended that annual boosters are given for this. The kennel cough vaccine, if given, also needs repeating annually. While vaccines can be given less frequently, this increases the risk of infection. Strict adherence to the recommended vaccination frequency is also necessary for dogs going into kennels.

The booster consultations also provide an opportunity to discuss any healthcare issues you may have
and to give an annual health and weight check.

What risks are there?

Side effects of dog vaccinations are uncommon. Some swelling at the site of injection may be seen, especially at the first vaccination. This is not normally painful. Sometimes puppies may be quiet for twenty four hours following vaccination.

Vaccinations are generally very safe, and provide important protection against diseases that can be expensive to treat, and are potentially fatal.

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Key-hole Bitch Spays

When first introduced in human medicine, keyhole surgery was viewed with suspicion – however by the mid 1990’s it was in common use, with well-established advantages over conventional surgery including reduced pain, reduced complication rates and quicker recovery times. We now know that these same benefits apply to veterinary patients.

What is keyhole surgery?

Keyhole surgery involves the use of special instruments, inserted through 3-10mm holes, to manipulate internal organs. The procedure is viewed using a camera inserted through a similar sized hole, with the image displayed on a television screen.

Two or three “ports” (or holes) are usually necessary - one for each instrument, and one for the camera.

“Laparoscopy” is the name used for keyhole abdominal surgery. Gas is used to inflate the abdomen, and so create space to view and manipulate the organs.

Keyhole surgery is also referred to as minimally invasive surgery.

What are the differences between keyhole and conventional bitch spays?

  • Conventional bitch spays require a larger wound (typically 30- 80mm, depending on the size of the bitch.) Keyhole surgery is carried out through two ports, 5-10mm long.
  • Conventional bitch spays involve removal of both ovaries and also the uterus (womb). In keyhole bitch spays we only remove the ovaries.
  • Conventional bitch spays use stitches to tie off the blood vessels and control bleeding. In keyhole bitch spays, the blood vessels are electrically sealed.

Why don’t we remove the uterus in keyhole bitch spays?

Traditionally, the uterus has been removed during spays to prevent the risk of uterus infection (“pyometra”) developing in later life. However, pyometra requires the hormonal influence of the ovaries on the uterus, and so having removed the ovaries, pyometra will not develop.

Removing the ovaries without the uterus is a quicker and less traumatic procedure. Removing the uterus would also require a third, and larger wound, as the uterus will not fit through the two standard ports used in a normal keyhole bitch spay.

Occasionally we will remove the uterus during a keyhole bitch spay, if we detect abnormalities in it at the time of surgery.

Benefits of keyhole surgery

  • The smaller wounds mean that the procedure is less painful.
  • Better visualisation of the internal organs means other abnormalities may be picked up.
  • Dogs seem to recover more quickly from keyhole surgery. They are usually more alert when they go home on the day of surgery. They can go for walks off the lead after three days - as opposed to ten days with conventional surgery.
  • There is less risk of wound swelling, wound infection, and wound breakdown, which are the most common complications of conventional surgery. There is also less risk of haemorrhage, as the internal organs can be directly visualised after the ovaries have been removed.

Disadvantages of keyhole surgery

  • Because of the specialist equipment and training required, the procedure tends to be more expensive.
  • A wider clip is required for keyhole bitch spays to enable access to the ovaries.
  • There is a risk of electrical damage to internal organs during the vessel sealing process. However this risk is usually very low.
  • Occasionally, there may be a need to convert to conventional surgery - if for example other abnormalities are detected.

Overall, keyhole bitch spays are associated with less pain, less complications, and a quicker return to normal activities. Most of us are aware of the benefits of keyhole surgery in people, and so the procedure is becoming increasingly popular in pets.

For more information on keyhole surgery, please contact the practice.

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Worms in Dogs

Most puppies are born with worms, and people are familiar with the importance of treating for these internal parasites. Symptoms can be vague and mild, especially with minor infestations. However the range of worms seen across the UK is increasing, due to climate change, increased overseas travel, and changing life styles. These newer worms can cause more severe disease, and many can also affect people, so regular worm treatment is more important than ever.

Roundworms

Roundworms are the most common internal parasite, and almost all puppies are born with them, as they are passed on by their mothers before birth, or in the milk. The worms live in the intestine, and pass eggs in the faeces which can survive in the soil for several years. These eggs then re-infest dogs. Mild infestations may cause no signs, but heavy infestations will cause diarrhoea, weight loss, and a pot belly. These worms also occasionally infest people, when they can cause damage to other organs such as the eye and brain - especially in young children.

Regular worming of dogs, especially when young, and standard hygiene proportions, will help to reduce the risk to children.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are the other common worms seen in dogs. They rely on an intermediate host for their life cycle. Eggs passed in faeces of the dog are eaten by the intermediate host. The dog then eats the intermediate host containing the immature stages of the worm. The most common tapeworm is Dipylidium - the flea tapeworm. The other common tapeworm is Teania - for which the intermediate hosts are farm animals, rabbits and rodents. Hence flea infestations and hunting increase the exposure to tapeworms. These worms cause mild signs (diarrhoea, weight loss) in dogs, but significant problems in the intermediate host, and so control is important to protect the agricultural economy.

Although these tapeworms do not affect people, a third tapeworm, called Echinococcus, will infest people causing potentially fatal damage to internal organs, especially the liver. Echinococcus is rare in the UK but more common in Europe.

Hookworm and Whipworm

Hookworm is uncommon in the UK, although the incidence is increasing due to the large number of urban foxes which carry the parasites. Eggs passed in the faeces are eaten, or can pass through the skin of the paws. The adult worms attach to the lining of the gut, and feed on blood, so heavy infestations can cause anaemia.

Whipworms are also uncommon in the UK, but more common on the continent. They live in the lower intestine, and may cause mild diarrhoea, although heavy infestations can cause severe bloody diarrhoea.

Heartworm and Lungworm

There are two types of heartworm. Dirofilaria is found on the continent, and is spread by mosquitoes. Infestations cause heart failure, and regular treatment of animals going abroad is advisable. Angiostrongylus is found in the UK, and is becoming more common. Infestation occurs when dogs eat slug and snails, which are the intermediate host. It causes heart and lung disease, as well as bleeding due to damage to the blood clotting system. Cats are not affected by heartworm.

Lung worm infests the airways of the lungs, and can cause coughing and breathing problems. It is spread when pets eat infested faeces.

Head of a hook worm showing teeth used to attach to the intestine lining.

Treatment

There is no treatment that is 100% effective against all these worms. Treatment should therefore be based on the relative risk and seriousness of the different worms. For example, treatment against tapeworms is important for hunting animals, while dogs going to France regularly should have routine treatment against Dirofilaria.

Frequency of worming also depends on risk of exposure, but we recommend treatment every three months on average.

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Cruciate Disease

Injury to the cranial (or anterior) cruciate ligament is the most common cause of lameness affecting the hind legs in dogs. The condition usually causes progressive arthritis in the affected joint, however appropriate treatment will significantly reduce pain and improve mobility in most dogs.

What is the cruciate ligament?

The cranial cruciate ligament is a ligament in the middle of the “stifle” (knee) joint. It prevents the top of the tibia (or shin bone) from sliding forward on the femur (or thigh bone). Damage to the ligament causes the tibia to slide forward - this is called the “cranial draw” movement.

What causes cruciate ligament damage?

In people, damage to the cruciate ligament usually occurs as a sporting injury. In dogs, sudden damage to the ligament can occur from twisting the leg. However, more commonly, it is seen as a gradual “wear and tear” injury occurring over months or years - rather like the strands of a rope snapping one at a time. Some breeds of dog - such as Labradors, Rottweilers, and Boxers, are more commonly affected. It is also common in overweight dogs.

What are the symptoms?

Affected dogs are noticeably lame on one back leg, due to instability of the joint, and developing arthritis. The lameness may develop suddenly, or more gradually with the “wear and tear” injuries. A clicking noise is sometimes heard due to damage to the cartilage. 

How is cruciate disease diagnosed?

The presence of cranial draw movement confirms a complete tear of the cruciate ligament, however in large dogs, this may only be detected under anaesthesia. With incomplete tears, cranial draw may not be apparent, however the presence of arthritis in the stifle joint, either on x-ray or on clinical examination, is strongly suggestive of cruciate disease - as cruciate injuries account for over 95% of stifle arthritis.

Treatment of Cruciate disease

Several treatments have been described, and none of them are entirely successful. Arthritis is likely no matter what treatment is used. Smaller dogs can often be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory pain killers. Larger dogs usually benefit from surgery. Surgery has also been shown to slow the development of arthritis.

The main surgical procedures used today are the fabellotibial suture, and tibial osteotomy.

Fabellotibial suture

This technique depends on placing a thick loop of nylon around the fabella bone at the back of the femur, and through a tunnel drilled in the tibia, to replace the torn cruciate ligament. The nylon usually snaps after six to twelve weeks - however by this time scar tissue stimulated by surgery and arthritis helps to stabilise the joint.

Damaged cartilage and ligament are also removed during surgery.

Tibial oseotomy

In this technique, full thickness cuts are made through the tibia, to realign the joint. This redistributes the forces acting through the joint, so that the ligaments, tendons and muscles surrounding the joint replace the role of the cruciate ligament. The cuts are stabilised using a bone plate and screws. Again, damaged cartilage and ligament are removed during surgery.

There are four variations to this technique. Hawthorne Lodge Veterinary Practice currently uses the tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) technique.

Surgical complications

The most common complication is infection. Usually this can be controlled with antibiotics, although sometimes removal of the nylon or bone plate is necessary.

Excessive activity following TTA can cause loosening of the bone plate.

What is the prognosis?

No matter what treatment is used, some degree of long term intermittent lameness is common. The success with a fabellotibial suture is more variable than with TTO.

Arthritis is inevitable following cruciate injuries, but with appropriate long term management, most dogs will cope well.

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Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (also called arthritis, or degenerative joint disease) is a common problem in older dogs – but it can also affect cats, and on occasion younger dogs as well. The signs may be subtle, and easily put down to “old age” – however it can be a painful condition – so early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your pet's quality of life.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Arthritis can be caused by increased stress on joints (for example through injury, obesity or “wear and tear”). It can also be caused through abnormal joint development during growth – “hip dysplasia” and “elbow dysplasia” will both lead to arthritis.

Whatever the cause, the inflammation caused by arthritis causes further damage to joint structures – particularly joint cartilage – setting up a “vicious cycle” of progressive joint destruction and pain.

Signs of arthritis

  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Reduced level of activity
  • Slower on walks
  • Limping
  • Personality change
  • Licking or biting joints
  • Slow to get up, or stiff
  • Difficulty jumping up

In cats, reduced activity, reduced grooming, and reduced appetite can all be seen with arthritis.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

The symptoms are often suggestive of arthritis. On examination, joint pain and thickening can usually be detected. X-rays may be used to confirm the diagnosis, particularly if lameness is severe, or sudden in onset, or if more than one joint is affected. Further tests, such as joint fluid samples, are sometimes necessary to rule out other causes of joint pain, such as infection.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

  • Weight control is important as excess weight puts extra stress on the joints.
  • Regular exercise will prevent the joints from stiffening up - however too much exercise will cause cartilage damage. “Little and often” is ideal.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs have been consistently shown to be effective in increasing mobility and reducing pain associated with arthritis.
  • Chondroprotective treatments such as glucosamine are available as supplements, pharamaceutical grade medicines, or incorporated into diets. There is limited scientific evidence as to their effectiveness, but they seem to benefit some cats and dogs.
  • Hydrotherapy (controlled swimming) is an effective way of exercising without damaging joint structures.
  • Complementary therapies such as acupuncture and magnetic collars seem to help some animals, although again there is little scientific evidence to support their use.

Regular check-ups are important for all animals on long term medication, to assess the progress of disease, and to monitor for other conditions that might affect treatment choices. This is particularly true in older patients, where multiple concurrent diseases are not uncommon.

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Ear Infections

Infection of the ear canal is a common problem in dogs and cats. Not only is it painful, but it can spread to the deeper parts of the ear, causing problems with balance and hearing, and damage to nerves and other structures surrounding the ear. Once established, ear infections can cause permanent damage, and can prove difficult if not impossible to clear.

Signs of ear infection

  • Unpleasant smell from the ear
  • Scratching or rubbing the ear
  • Holding the head to one side
  • Shaking the head
  • Black or yellow discharge
  • Loss of balance or hearing
  • Redness, heat or scaling of pinna
  • Pain on touching the ear

Causes of ear infection

  • Skin allergies
  • Ear mites
  • Hormonal diseases
  • Foreign bodies (grass seeds)
  • Tumours and polyps

Infection is more likely in dogs with pendulous (floppy) ear flaps, or with hairy or narrow ear canals, however these factors will not cause ear infection on their own.

Whatever the initial cause of an ear infection, the inflammation it causes sets up a viscous cycle of wax production, and ear canal thickening, that causes the infection to persist. Breaking this cycle is essential in getting infection the infection under control.

Factors affecting ear infection

  • Allergies
  • Grass Seeds
  • Mites
  • Tumours
  • Ear Shape
  • Hairy ears
  • Hormonal Disease

Treatment of ear infection

  • Ear drops containing antibiotics are usually used in the treatment of ear infection.
  • The antibiotic used may be based on analysis of swabs taken from ears.
  • In severe infections, antibiotic tablets may also be necessary.
  • Ear washes are commonly used to remove wax and debris from the ear. In long-standing infections, the ears may be syringed under anaesthesia.
  • Sometimes, if repeated courses of treatment are unsuccessful in clearing infection, surgery may be the only way of solving the problem.

How to administer ear drops to your pet

  • Make sure your pet is firmly but comfortably restrained. You may need help to do this.
  • Lift the ear flap and hold it over the top of the head.
  • Gently place the nozzle of the bottle into the lowest opening of the ear, aiming downwards and a bit forwards.
  • Squeeze the bottle to empty some contents into the ear canal.
  • Massage the ear canal below the ear flap to distribute the liquid within the ear canal. You should hear a sloshing sound as you do this.

Because ear infections may be associated with life long skin conditions, long term treatment is often necessary to control infection and prevent recurrence. This can include regular cleaning with antiseptic washes, and removal of hairs growing in the ears.

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Cushings Disease

What is Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s disease is overproduction of the steroid cortisol by the adrenal glands, which are situated next to the kidneys.

Cortisol production is stimulated by ACTH, which is produced by the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain.

There are two forms of Cushing’s disease.

1. Pituitary dependent Cushing’s, in which a small tumour in the pituitary gland stimulates excess cortisol production due to increased levels of ACTH.

2. Adrenal dependent Cushing’s in which a tumour of one or both adrenal glands produces excess cortisol, without increased ACTH levels.

Most cases of Cushing’s disease are pituitary dependent.

What does cortisol do?

Cortisol is normally produced at times of stress, and prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response. It has wide-ranging effects on several parts of the body, including the immune system, liver and kidneys. Long term overproduction of cortisol causes damage to these body systems.

Signs of Cushing’s disease

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Weight gain
  • Pot belly
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle wastage
  • Increased urination

Cushing’s disease usually occurs in older dogs, and is more common in toy breeds.

How is Cushing’s disease diagnosed?

Cushing’s disease can be diagnosed by determining the level of cortisol in the blood. Because of the normal variation in cortisol levels, an ACTH stimulation test is used, to test the maximum amount of cortisol the adrenal glands can produce.

Routine blood tests, and sometimes urine tests, are usually run first to rule out other causes of the symptoms.

Ultrasound scans may be carried out to look for adrenal tumours, and a blood test for ACTH levels can also be used to test for pituitary dependent Cushing’s.

How is it treated?

Cushing’s disease is usually treated using capsules which block production of cortisol by the adrenal gland. The capsules are given daily, by mouth.

Close monitoring of treatment is important to ensure the appropriate dose rate of treatment - as underdosing will fail to control the disease, while overdosing can cause heart and kidney problems. Blood tests are used to ensure the correct dose, and to check kidney function. An initial blood test is carried out ten days after starting treatment, and thereafter blood tests are recommended every one to three months, depending on the response to treatment.

What is the prognosis?

With close monitoring and appropriate treatment dosing, most dogs with Cushing’s disease will lead a normal life for several years. Dogs with malignant adrenal tumours carry a poor prognosis as the tumour tends to spread - however these account for less than 10% of cases of Cushing’s disease.

Occasionally the brain tumour in Pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease can cause behavioural problems, however this is not common.

The key to successful treatment is close monitoring and veterinary supervision.

Left untreated, Cushing’s disease tends to cause several problems over time, including diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.

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Heart Failure

Heart Failure is a general term used when the heart is not pumping blood efficiently around the body. This can cause high pressures to build up in the heart which can cause dilation of heart chambers and impair the normal passage of blood in the blood vessels. There are two main mechanisms that result in heart failure in dogs.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This condition occurs mainly in larger dogs such as the Doberman, Boxers and Labradors. The wall and muscles of the left ventricle become weak and dilate. This reduces the efficiency of the heart to pump blood causing dilation of the left atrium and possibly an abnormal heart rhythm.

Mitral Valve Disease

This condition is more likely in smaller breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Terrior breeds. There is leaking of the valve between the left atrium and ventricle. This causes the left atrium to dilate and impedes the blood drainage from the lungs.

Other, less common forms of heart failure include conditions that affect the lining of the heart, the ‘pericardium’ and also conditions causing abnormal heart rhythm.

Signs of Heart Failure

  • Coughing
  • Less active
  • Breathlessness
  • Fast breathing rate 
  • Cold extremities
  • Swollen tummy

Diagnosis of Heart Failure

Heart failure is confirmed with chest x-rays to show typical changes such as enlargement of the heart. An ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiogram) assesses the functioning of the heart. If there is an abnormal heart rhythm, an ECG (electrocardiogram) can show where the abnormal rhythm is occurring and which medication is needed.

How can we manage heart disease?

Once heart failure is confirmed, your dog will need medication for the rest of their life. This medication will not cure the condition, it will only help reduce the signs such as coughing and prolong a good quality of life.

  • Furosemide - This is a diuretic which reduces the fluid build up on the lungs, this can increase thirst
  • Pimobendan - This drug improves the efficiency of the contraction of the heart and dilates blood vessels to allow blood to flow more easily
  • ACE Inhibitors - This drug also helps to dilate blood vessels to allow easier blood flow
  • Spironolactone - This drug helps to reduce the pressure build up in the left atrium and slow down further dilation of this chamber
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs - There are a variety of antiarrhythmic drugs which help to return the heart rhythm back to normal

Before long term medication is started it is advisable to have a blood test to assess kidney function as some of the drugs use to control heart failure can aggravate kidney problems.

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Ears, Paws, and Rears

Does your dog get repeat ear infections?

Repeat ear infections are more likely in dogs with pendulous ears as the aeration of the ear is reduced therefore bacteria are more likely to thrive. Dogs that enjoy swimming are more prone as the water can contain bugs that can start an infection. These dogs may benefit from using a regular ear cleaner to help promote an optimal ear environment and prevent infection occurring. Ear infections can be due to parasites such as mites; using Advocate every month can prevent against these.

Does your dog chew or lick at their feet?

Chewing/Licking feet dogs can lick at their feet due to infection with bacteria, fungus or parasites. Particularly during summer months dogs can get ‘foreign bodies’ such as grass seeds in their feet which can cause irritation. Dogs can also lick their feet due to muscle or bone pain in that area. Licking can also be a behavioural problem.

Does your dog rub their back end on the ground?

Dogs can rub their back end along the ground if they have problems with their anal glands. These glands are found inside the anus and can get full or impacted due to a bout of diarrhoea or inflammation of the sac itself. Rubbing of the back end can also occur due to a general itching problem.

If your dog gets recurrence of any or a combination of these problems there may be an underlying reason.

Some common underlying problems are:

Endocrine conditions – this is the imbalance of active substances in the body.

Allergic – allergies to food, the environment or infectious agents - more common in Westies, Terriers or Labradors.

Diagnosis of underlying problems

Endocrine

Abnormalities of the level of active substances within the body can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Allergies

When allergies are suspected from the signs your dog is showing it is important to treat any parasites such as mites (mange) or any infections first. A hypoallergenic diet trial will determine if the condition is related to the diet.

Blood test

A blood test can be taken to test your dog’s unique reaction to common environmental agents such as pollens, grass and dust mites. The blood test is sent to an external lab which provides an individual immunotherapy ‘vaccination’ for your dog.

Skin testing

This is similar to the blood test but the agents are injected into the skin to see your dog’s reaction to them rather than from the blood. This is usually done at a referral practice.

If there is an underlying problem which is not treated your dog may get repeat infections or itching. Medications such as antibiotics, shampoos and steroids can help manage the secondary problems.

If a diagnosis of an underlying problem is made then treatment specific to that condition can be started. This may involve tablets to correct any imbalances your dog has.

If there is an allergic underlying problem, treatment can involve:

Avoiding agents – this is usually difficult, especially if pollens cause the problem but boil-washing bedding and regular vacuuming can help reduce house dust mites.

Immunotherapy – this helps to normalise your dogs reaction to agents it is allergic to. Steroids – help to reduce the body’s reaction to allergic agents. They are best used for seasonal problems as long term use has side effects.

Ciclosporin – reduces the body’s reaction to allergic agents and can be given long term.

Anti-histamines – these are used in combination with other treatments as they are not usually effective on their own.

Essential Fatty Acids – help improve skin and coat health.

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Pancreatitis

Role of the pancreas

The pancreas is an abdominal organ which is involved in digestion and regulation of the blood sugar level. Enzymes are released from the pancreas which enter the digestive system and help with absorption of dietary nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. This occurs when enzymes released from the pancreas act on the pancreas itself. This causes pancreatic damage, the organs surrounding the pancreas can also become inflammed.

The initiating cause of pancreatitis is often unknown however it has been associated with ingestion of a fatty meal. Dogs usually have very rapid onset of pancreatitis and become unwell quickly however, it is possible for it to present as a more long term problem.

Clinical Signs

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Inappetance
  • Diarrhoea

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis

The signs of pancreatitis are quite vague and non-specific therefore ruling out other causes of abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea is important. Other common causes of this presentation are ingestion of a foreign body, infection/inflammation of the intestines and other organs acting on the digestive tract. A generalised blood test to look for any indication of other organ involvement is often the first step. There is a specific test for pancreatitis which can be done in the laboratory at Hawthorne Lodge. Your vet may also suggest either a ultrasound scan of the abdomen or an xray to look for a foreign body and assess the pancreas.

Treatment

This depends on the severity of the clinical signs can how long they have been present. Dogs may be treated as home if the condition is not and doesn't require fluids.

  • Anti-sickness injection ΓΌ Restricting food for 12-24 hours only - it is important to keep feeding animals through this condition as the cells of the intestinal tract need energy to function and this is provided via food from the gut
  • Fluids via a drip - this is given if dehydration has developed
  • Pain relief
  • Antibiotics - there is rarely a bacterial infection in pancreatitis but if this is suspected antibiotics will be given

Canine pancreatitis can often recurr. As mentioned previously the initiating cause is not fully understood. There is evidence that a low fat diet and ensuring optimum body weight are factors which reduce the risk of recurrance.

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Dementia

Dementia in dogs

It has been estimated that nearly a half of dogs over eight years of age suffer from a degree of “cognitive dysfunction”, or dementia. The symptoms are often put down to old age - at least initially - but it can be distressing and disruptive for dogs and their owners. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression and significantly improve the quality of life, of affected dogs.

What are the symptoms?

  • Disorientation - affected dogs may appear confused, and less able to cope with change or unusual surroundings. They may bark for no apparent reason
  • Less interaction - dogs may be less inclined to play, and show less interest in strangers or other dogs. They also show less interest in their surroundings
  • Altered sleep patterns - dogs may spend much of the day asleep but be restless or bark at night
  • Loss of house training - urinary and faecal accidents are common

These symptoms may just be put down to old age, or other problems such as arthritis

What causes cognitive dysfunction?

The cause of cognitive dysfunction is not fully understood. The condition is associated with brain lesions closely resembling Alzheimer’s in people. It is through that the brain’s high oxygen requirements, and limited ability to heal, make it particularly prone to damage from free radicals.

How is it diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on the behavioural changes seen with the condition. A thorough clinical examination is used to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis, or eyesight problems that might cause similar symptoms. Blood tests may also be used to rule out potential causes of the symptoms.

How can we treat cognitive dysfunction?

  • The use of special diets containing both antioxidants and alternative energy sources, to reduce oxidative damage, have been shown to reduce the symptoms associated with cognitive dysfunction.
  • There are also medications which increase blood flow to the brain, and increase the levels of natural chemicals in the brain, so improving brain activity.
  • Increased stimulation through walks, play, and interaction with other dogs will help keep the brain active, and healthy.
  • Don’t ignore other problems - painful joints may cause reluctance to exercise and increase apathy. Steps will make it harder for old dogs to get outside for toileting.
  • Avoid change - as this is likely to confuse and distress dogs with cognitive dysfunction - and make the problem worse. Stick to a routine.

What is the prognosis?

Canine cognitive dysfunction is a progressive condition, and so symptoms are likely to get gradually worse. However, the specific treatments listed above will often produce an initial improvement, and slow the progress of the disease. Supportive measures and general attention to the needs of an older dog, will also help to improve the quality of life of affected dogs.

For further information on cognitive dysfunction in dogs, please speak to one of the practice vets.

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Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

What is BOAS?

BOAS is the name given to the breathing difficulties experienced by some short-nosed (or “brachycephalic”) breeds of dog (and cat) such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzu’s. In these breeds the bones of the face do not fully grow, but they still have the normal amount of soft tissue in their mouth nose and throat and this can obstruct the passage of air as they breathe.

My dog snores, is this normal?

Because these breeds have compacted faces and skulls their nasal cavity is often squashed and therefore their noses (nares) can be pinched (stenotic). The tissue at the back of the throat called the “soft palate”, is too long and thick for their flat face, which makes it obstruct the back of the throat, leading to a loud snoring noise, and sometimes to severe breathing difficulties. This is not normal but is common in brachycephalic dogs.

What are the symptoms?

  • Increased breathing effort
  • Pinched nostrils
  • Heat intolerance
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Increased respiratory noise
  • Regurgitation or vomiting
  • Frothy/Foamy mouth
  • Exercise intolerance

What can you do if you think your pet may have BOAS?

  1. Keep them the correct weight. Carrying extra weight can hugely impact on any pets breathing but our brachycephalic patients are affected adversely a lot more.
  2. Ensure they do not over exercise, especially in heat.
  3. Speak to one of our nurses about changes to lifestyle and home aids that may help.
  4. Surgical options are available at the practice such as soft palate trimming and Rhinoplasty (widening of nares).

Most brachycephalic dogs will live a long and happy life with appropriate management; however they are more prone to life threatening emergencies such as heat stroke and respiratory distress which require urgent veterinary attention.

For more information on BOAS please speak to a member of our practice staff.

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