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

General Pet Advice

  • Fleas
  • The Pet Travel Scheme
  • Taking pets abroad
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pet Blood Bank

Fleas

Fleas are the most common parasite in cats and dogs, and one we are all familiar with. Although we may think our house is too clean for fleas, almost all pets will suffer a flea infestation at some stage - and the only way to prevent this is with regular flea treatment.

Flea facts

  • An adult flea can lay 50 eggs a day.
  • The eggs hatch into larvae, which live in dark cracks and crevices in the house - the backs of sofas, between floorboards, the edges of carpets.
  • The pupa is resistant to all flea treatments.
  • The flea life cycle can be completed in as little as two weeks - but fleas can also survive for up to two years.
  • 95% of the fleas will be living in the house rather than on your pet.
  • Although the main flea season is the summer, central heating means they can live and breed throughout the year. A single flea can produce approximately two million offspring through the summer!

Why is flea treatment necessary?

Although many cats and dogs will live quite happily with fleas, and show no signs, many animals will develop a flea allergy and severe skin irritation from fleas - in fact fleas are the most common cause of skin disease in pets.

They will also bite people - especially around the wrists and ankles - often causing very itchy lumps.

Fleas carry tapeworms - and so can act as a source of these parasites for dogs and cats.

Because fleas feed on blood, flea infestations can cause anaemia. With heavy infestations, particularly in young kittens and puppies, the anaemia can be fatal.

Fleas can also spread diseases such as myxomatosis in rabbits, and infectious anaemia in cats.

Has my pet got fleas?

You may see fleas crawling over your pet if you part the fur. However, cats and dogs will lick up and eat the fleas as they groom, so they may not be apparent. “Flea dirt”, or dropping, may also be seen in the coat as black specks or “comma” shapes. If brushed off onto wet white paper, the flea dirt will dissolve to leave reddish brown spots.

Because itchy animals will groom more, they will often remove the evidence of fleas - hence in houses with several pets it may be easier to see the fleas or flea dirt on the pets without skin problems. Remember to look on both cats and dogs - and remember also that most of the fleas will be in the house, not on the pet.

Treating your pets

Because of the difficulty of killing the pupa stage of the flea life cycle, getting rid of heavy infestations is very difficult, and regular treatment throughout the year to prevent infestations is preferable.

It is important to treat all cats and dogs in the house. “Spot-on” refers to the means of applying a treatment, and not the ingredient - all “spotons” are not the same.

The more recent, “prescription” flea treatments tend to be more effective, and last longer.

Using treatments which incorporate a growth inhibitor will help to control fleas in the house as well.

As most of the fleas are in the house, treatment of a flea infestation should always include treatment of the house.

Treating the house

Make sure the treatment is effective against the larval stages of the life cycle, as well as adults.

Sprays are better than “bombs”, as they can be directed towards the cracks and crevices where the flea larvae live.

However, a single treatment may not be sufficient, as the flea pupae are resistant to treatment. Long lasting treatments will help overcome this problem.

Hoovering before treatment will help - as the vibrations caused by the hoover stimulate the flea pupae to hatch.

Never use dog flea treatments on cats. They often contain permethrin, which is the most commonly reported cause of poisoning in cats, and can be fatal. 

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The Pet Travel Scheme

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is the process which enables free movement of cats and dogs around the European Union. It is designed to prevent the spread of various disease (rabies, tick borne disease, and tapeworm) across international borders within the EU. Recent changes to the scheme have made the process much quicker, simpler, and cheaper.

How do I get a pet passport?

The first step required for the pet passport is microchipping. This provides a permanent means of identification for pets enrolled in the pet passport scheme.

Following microchipping, pets need a rabies vaccination. Regulars rabies boosters are necessary to keep the passport up to date.

After microchipping and rabies vaccinations, a pet passport can be issued. Pets are eligible to travel to mainland Europe twenty one days after their rabies vaccination.

How long does it take?

Microchipping and rabies vaccination can be carried out on the same day. Pets can therefore travel twenty one days after starting the pet passport process.

In January 2012, the requirement for the blood test following vaccination, and the six months delay in travel, were removed from the pet passport scheme.

Although the PETS scheme has been extended to include some countries outside the European Union the requirements for these countries may be slightly different, and so specific advice for non-EU countries should be sought from the department for the environment, farming, and rural affairs (DEFRA).

What routes can I use?

Most of the ferry companies will take pets, but they will have to stay in your car for the journey. Pets can also be taken on the channel tunnel. Some airlines take pets, but you will have to check which routes are available.

Anything else I need to do?

Before you return to the UK, you will need to get your pet treated against tick and tapeworm by a registered vet. This must be done 24 to 120 hours (one to five days) before you embark on your return transport (train or ferry).

The requirement for tick treatment was removed at the beginning of 2012. However tick treamtent is still strongly recommended while you are abroad.

Pet Passport Check List

  • Microchip
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Issue pet passport
  • Find a vet abroad to provide tapeworm treatment
  • Go on holiday

In January 2012 the requirement for a blood test after the rabies vaccination was removed.

The pet passport scheme is designed to prevent diseases being brought back into the UK. It does NOT protect your pet from all the diseases it may be exposed to when you are abroad. For information on disease prevention while abroad, see our separate fact sheet “Travelling with your pet”.

For further information on the pet passport scheme, please contact the practice.

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Taking pets abroad

While the pet travel scheme (PETS) is designed to prevent the spread of diseases around Europe, it does not protect individual pets from disease. Our British pets, when taken abroad, are exposed to diseases that are not present in the UK. It is important to take precautions to protect them from these diseases as they will have no natural immunity.

The four most important diseases to consider are Leishamania, Babesia, Ehrlichia and Heartworm.

Leishmania

Leishmania is a parasite that infects immune cells, and it is spread by sand flies. It causes disease affecting the joints, skin, eyes, and kidneys, and symptoms include lameness, hair loss, skin scaling and weight loss. The disease is often gradual in onset, affecting dogs several months or even years after travel. Leishmania is seen in the Mediterranean basin – particularly Spain, Italy and Greece, although its distribution is spreading northwards.

Prevention

Use human insect repellents, and keep pets indoors at night. Fans will help to keep mosquitoes away.

Babesia

Babesia is a parasite that infects red blood cells. It is spread by ticks. The disease causes anaemia and jaundice due to red blood cell damage. Babesia is seen throughout France, Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean countries. Cases are also increasingly being reported in Germany, Austria and Belgium.

Prevention

Use of tick repellent. Frontline spray can also be applied weekly to face and legs. Check face and legs daily for ticks.

Ehrlichia

Ehrlichia is a parasite infecting white blood cells and platelets – the cells involved in blood clotting. Like Babesia, it is spread by ticks, and combined infections with Babesia or Leishmania are common. Symptoms include fever, bruising and internal bleeding. Ehrlichia is seen in North Africa, southern France Spain and Portugal, and the Mediterranean countries.

Prevention

Tick control, as for Babesia.

Heartworm

Heartworm is a parasite spread by mosquitoes. The worms migrate to the major arteries and heart, where they cause heart and lung disease. Symptoms include coughing, heavy breathing, and reduced exercise tolerance. Heartworm is seen throughout Spain and Portugal as well as southern and western France, Italy, and the eastern Mediterranean countries.

Prevention

Use human insect repellents and keep dogs indoors at night. Monthly treatment with a wormer or spot-on  starting one month before travel, and continuing for one month after travel, will also prevent the worms.

Are cats at risk? Cats are much less susceptible to these diseases than dogs, although infections have been reported. Deltamethrin (Scalibor, Advantix) must not be used in cats as it is toxic and potentially fatal. Tick control with weekly frontline, however, is safe. Monthly treatment is also advisable.

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Chemotherapy

What is chemotherapy?

Strictly speaking, chemotherapy means the use of a drug to treat any illness; however in recent years the term has been used to describe anti-cancer drug treatment. Chemotherapy can also be used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiotherapy in “combination therapy”. Chemotherapy has proved useful in the treatment of several types of cancer in dogs and cats

The aim of chemotherapy

In veterinary practice, we use chemotherapy in order to prolong your pets life, but more importantly, to maintain a good quality of life. Although we use the same drugs as used in human chemotherapy, we tend to use lower doses so as to reduce or (hopefully) avoid the side effects seen. We feel this is important because the animals do not understand that we are trying to help them.

How does it work?

Most cancers are caused by rapid, uncontrolled growth of cells. Anti-cancer drugs interfere with the normal process of cell growth, and so “kill” rapidly growing cells. We rely on the rapid growth of tumour cells to target cancers. In many cases, using a combination of drugs that interfere with cell growth in different ways will increase the effectiveness of treatment while reducing the risk of side effects.

How is chemotherapy given?

Most drugs are given either by mouth (orally) or by injection. Some drugs can be injected under the skin but others need to be given into the vein, as they can be very irritant to skin and muscle. Occasionally, we may need to sedate pets to give the drugs by “slow intravenous infusion”.

How long will treatment last?

The length of time and frequency of treatment will depend on the cancer, and the treatment used. Treatment may be given daily, weekly, or monthly, and may be tailored to individual cases depending on response and any side effects. Tablets can usually be given at home, but injections will need to be given at the practice for safety reasons.

Are you at risk of exposure to these drugs?

As with all medication, precautions should be taken to keep orally administered drugs out of the reach of children and pets, in child-proof containers. Most oral chemotherapy drugs have a protective coating, but we recommend that you wear gloves when administering the medications. Tablets and capsules should not be split or crumbled.

It is also important to avoid unnecessary contact with urine and faeces of animals receiving treatment, especially in the first week after a drug is given. Normal hygienic precautions should be adequate. If your pet uses a litter tray or has an accident in the house, wear gloves to clean it up.

Will your pet experience side effects?

Steroids are often used at quite high doses in the initial stage of chemotherapy protocols and side effects may include increased thirst and appetite, and panting.

We try to use drug combinations and doses to minimise the risk of side effects, however the following side effects may also be seen:

Fever - Most dogs with a high temperature are miserable and refuse to eat. If your pet has a fever, it may be necessary to prescribe antibiotics, and occasionally to give intravenous fluids (a “drip”).

Vomiting and diarrhoea - Vomiting once or twice without signs of fever should be monitored, but does not usually require treatment. Withholding food for 24 hours may be helpful. If it continues for more than 24 hours please contact us. Diarrhoea without vomiting or fever is usually self limiting and can be managed by feeding a bland diet.

Cystitis - Signs of bladder discomfort or bloody urine are occasionally seen with cyclophosphamide treatment. To reduce the risk of this, make sure water is freely available at all times.

Heart disease - Doxorubicin has been associated with heart problems in dogs. With the doses currently used in dogs, this is not usually a problem.

Hair loss - Pets do not usually lose hair through chemotherapy; however hair that has been clipped (for surgery or injections) may be slow to grow back. The coat of long haired dogs may change in texture.

The above list of potential side effects sounds very alarming – but most animals show no or only minimal effects of treatment. There are recommended doses for all treatments, but these serve as a “starting point”, and we may adjust treatment according to how your pet is responding. If you have any concerns about the way in which your pet responds, either before or during treatment, please ask us.

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Pet Blood Bank

Pet Blood Bank Uk is a charity that collects blood from generous donor dogs from across the United Kingdom. The blood is then either used whole or broken down into parts and used by vets to save the lives of other dogs. At Hawthorne Lodge Vets we are a registered collection site with collections made by the pet blood bank at regular intervals.

Uses of blood products:

  • Transfusion for Blood Loss
  • Von Willebrands
  • Clotting Disorders
  • Low Blood Protein
  • Parvo Virus Treatment
  • Anemia

Become a donor

To become a donor, dogs must meet certain criteria.

  • Aged between 1 and 8
  • Weigh more than 25 kgs
  • Not travelled abroad
  • Good temperament
  • Up to date vaccinations
  • Be fit and healthy

For dogs the appointment will last 30-40 minutes at a " Blood Drive". Dogs receive a physical examination, first time donors are blood typed screened and if they have not already been microchipped this is done for free.

A small area is clipped on the neck and about 450 ml of blood is collected, once this is done the dog moves to the refreshement area and takes it easy. All dogs receive a Pet Blood Bank Goody Bag

For more information and to register call 01295 259446.

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