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Diary of a Puppy’s First Year

[caption id="attachment_292" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="The litter of puppies at 5 weeks old"]The litter of puppies at 5 weeks old[/caption] Choosing our pup We had decided the time was right to get a second boxer for all sorts of reasons. Most importantly, it was right for our older boxer to get a new companion while she was still young enough to enjoy her instead of finding her a chore. We chose a breeder who owned both parents of the litter and went to see them all when the pups were 5 weeks old. We met both parents and found them to be lovely dogs. We wanted a bitch puppy and were lucky enough to have 4 to choose from. Luckily we both liked the same pup best, so we paid our deposit and went home to prepare for her arrival. [caption id="attachment_308" align="alignright" width="293" caption="Tilly came to our house at 8 weeks old."]Tilly came to our house at 8 weeks old.[/caption] Tilly comes home We had decided as a family on the name Tilly, although her full pedigree name is Milkyways Mad Discovery! The middle name is particularly apt. Like most pedigree puppies who are Kennel Club registered, she came with 6 weeks pet insurance cover and we made sure to take out our own policy before this expired. Although I’m a vet myself, I want to be sure that even if she needs specialist treatment one day, she will be able to have it. House training We chose to use a crate for Tilly, which worked really well. The idea is that because the puppy will not soil its bed area, as long as she is taken outside every time she wakes and after each feed, she will quickly learn to toilet outside. It’s vital that the puppy does not think of going into the crate as a punishment; it must be a comfortable den which becomes the pup’s own space. Microchipping I implanted a microchip as soon as Tilly arrived, to make sure she was permanently identified. Although she was not going to be out of our sight, we weren’t taking any chances! It was painless and she was as good as gold. Feeding We chose a good quality proprietary puppy food and Tilly was a good eater from the start. Having another dog can encourage a healthy appetite! Vaccinations & Worming Tilly had her first and second puppy vaccinations at 10 weeks and at 12 weeks old. She had a full examination first and was completely healthy. She also continued her worming course, which is very important as most pups are born with worms even if the dam was wormed properly. [caption id="attachment_319" align="alignleft" width="293" caption="Tilly looks up to Martha and has learned a lot from her. Martha scolds her when she gets too big for her boots."]Tilly looks up to Martha and has learned a lot from her. Martha scolds her when she gets too big for her boots.[/caption] Training Classes A week after vaccinations were finished, Tilly could start exploring the outside world and get used to walking on a lead. She didn’t like it at first, but soon grew in confidence when she saw that Martha liked it. We enrolled her in a puppy training class because we think that all puppies benefit not just from training but from the socialisation that goes with it. The first few months are a very formative time in a puppy’s life and an ideal time to learn from new experiences. With this in mind she was taken for walks in the country, in town and on the beach. We took her on a train ride and visited a dog-friendly café. It was also important to us that she should get used to young children. Kennels We also wanted Tilly to be used to going into kennels from a young age. This was easy for us as we run our own kennels and we have made a point of boarding both dogs regularly. Luckily, she loves it. Sometimes when the kennel staff go back to work after tea breaks she tries to tag along with them! Neutering Tilly has not been neutered because we have not yet decided whether to breed from her. We will only do so if she has a suitable temperament and is free of hereditary conditions common in boxers, so she will be seeing a cardiologist before deciding. If anything is amiss we will not breed from her and will have her spayed. I would always recommend spaying a bitch which is not going to be used for breeding. Although spaying is a major operation, great care is taken to make sure that the risks involved are very small. The benefits are much greater than the risks. Spaying will prevent several serious conditions such as pyometra (infected womb), ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. It will also minimise the risk of mammary cancer and, importantly, will prevent unwanted pregnancies. First Birthday At one year old, Tilly has almost reached full adult size, but still behaves very much like a puppy. One minute we are very proud of her mature behaviour; the next she is chasing her tail like a whirling dervish, or doing a double take at her own reflection in the oven door. When the oven is opened, I think she half expects the dog that lives inside to pop out! We are looking forward to many more years of fun with Tilly. [caption id="attachment_327" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Tilly can’t understand how the cats manage to use this door "]Tilly can’t understand how the cats manage to use this door [/caption] [caption id="attachment_328" align="alignright" width="275" caption="She has just a few favourite toys at any one time, but they have to be close to indestructible"]She has just a few favourite toys at any one time, but they have to be close to indestructible[/caption] If you have any concerns about your puppy's health, please contact your vet or use the interactive dog symptom guide to help you decide what to do next.
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A New Year’s Resolution for Pet Owners

It is traditional at this time of year to make resolutions for ourselves. These often concern a healthier lifestyle, like exercising more, losing weight or giving up smoking. I know I make two out of those three every January, and if I was a smoker I would make all three. But we should also remember our pets’ wellbeing at this time. It is estimated that 25-35% of dogs and slightly fewer cats in this country are overweight. A very small number of those will have a medical problem as the cause, such as hypothyroidism (which would be tested for by your vet if your dog is unable to lose weight or has other symptoms) but the vast majority are caused by us, the owners. Overfeeding and under-exercising are the main culprits, in other words, calorie intake is greater than energy used up. fatcatonscalesIt can be very difficult to notice that your own pet is putting on too much weight because when you see them every day, you do not notice a gradual change. It is important to have your pet weighed regularly and take advice from your vet or vet nurse about their weight. Many surgeries offer free clinics to help owners to manage their pet’s weight correctly. They will weigh him/her, discuss the best diet and the right amount, discuss exercise, set realistic targets etc. They may also assess your pet’s bodily condition by a system called body scoring. Some take photos so you can see progress, some offer prizes for slimmer of the month! We all love to indulge our pets and it gives both pets and owners pleasure to give their animal a treat. But when a dog or cat becomes overweight it can lead to serious medical problems involving the heart, the joints, complications in diabetes, higher risks in surgical procedures and others. An obese animal, however well-loved, is not a well-cared for animal. In extreme cases obesity is a form of animal cruelty and animals have been removed from owners for their own welfare. Prevention is much better than cure, as in all things, so feeding the right amount of an appropriate diet from a young age is important. If the dog or cat then gradually puts on weight over the years, it is up to the owner to modify their own behaviour. Dogs are scavengers by nature and will eat when the opportunity presents itself. If it presents itself frequently, most dogs will not say no thank you. Cats are often better than dogs at regulating their own intake, but there are exceptions and of course many cats are confined indoors which greatly reduces their exercise. As we are in control of the food supply, we need to make sure it is the right amount. Unfortunately it can be difficult to accept that the obesity is the owner’s fault, not the pet’s fault. Seeking help with a good diet and exercise regime is the first step. Learning not to use tit-bits or treats as the main reward system or the main way of showing your pet affection is also crucial. Treats can be given but could be halved, or given half as frequently, or taken from the dog’s daily ration of food, or substituted with a healthier snack like a piece of carrot or something similar. Training yourself to offer praise and affection in place of tit-bits can be harder than training your dog. If we were offered a new miracle treatment for our pets which would make them live longer and cost no money, we would probably be sceptical. But for a quarter of UK pet owners there really is such a thing, and it’s not only free but will actually save you money. Supervised weight loss and regular exercise for overweight pets will make them happier, healthier and help them to live longer. For dog owners, the exercise may also play a part in helping us to keep our own fitness resolutions. Happy New Year!
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Cat Eye Operation

Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet's Kitchen I often find myself sympathising with my patients, and feeling for their distress and pain when they are suffering from illnesses or injuries – and never more so than when their problem involves their eyes. There’s something about injuries and diseases of eyes that really affects me more than almost any other type of problem and I can really empathise with how my patient must be feeling. Having an ulcer or other injury to an eye must be horribly painful, not to mention the psychological impact of dealing with the loss of some or all of your sense of sight. When Sylvester the cat came into the consulting room last week and clambered miserably out of his wicker basket, my heart sank and I felt an immediate sense of shock and distress when I saw his problem. His left eye was barely recognisable, with a large grey ulcer dominating the cornea and angry red blood vessels invading the usually clear surface of the eye from the sides. This was not Sylvester’s first visit to the surgery for this problem, but it was the first time that I’d seen him, and I immediately knew that we needed to do something drastic if we were going to save his eye – and bring his obvious suffering to an end. Looking at his records it was clear that this ulcer had been grumbling on for a couple of weeks by this stage, and despite ongoing treatment with medicated drops it was getting worse rather than better. At this stage we had a couple of options to consider. One was to refer Sylvester to an eye specialist, but this was quickly ruled out by his owner on the ground of cost and lack of pet insurance cover. The second option would be to continue with medical therapy, taking a swab to find out exactly which bacteria were causing the ongoing damage and preventing the ulcer from healing and potentially changing the eye drops once these results were known. The downside of this course of action was that it would do little to alleviate Sylvester’s discomfort in the short term, but after talking to his owner and explaining that the only other option would be surgery to remove the eye, we agreed that we would try this first. So I took a swab from Sylvester’s eye and sent it away to the laboratory to see what they could tell us about the infection. While we waited for the results we did what we could to manage Sylvester’s discomfort with painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and then as soon as the results were in we started him on an aggressive course of antibiotics that were targeted specifically at the bacteria the swab had isolated. At this stage I was still optimistic that we could save Sylvester’s eye, but unfortunately things didn’t work out as planned and despite our new treatment regime, the ulcer stubbornly refused to respond and after a week of treatment it became clear to me that we were left with only one option – to remove Sylvester’s eye. Breaking this news to his owner was not easy, but she did appreciate that it wasn’t fair to let him continue to suffer as he was doing given the now very slim chance that we would be able to save his eye. After a couple of long – and emotional – consultations, we agreed to go ahead and last Friday Sylvester came into the surgery for his operation. [caption id="attachment_267" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Sylvester the cat under anaesthetic after the operation to remove his eye"]Sylvester the cat after the operation to remove his eye[/caption] Removing an eye is an operation I really don’t enjoy, as I can’t help but really feel for the poor animal that is losing such a crucial part of their anatomy, and the operation itself is also technically tricky and pretty gruesome. Sylvester’s operation went as well as I could expect, but it was not one that I finished with a sense of satisfaction – I felt good that we had brought Sylvester’s suffering to an end, but I also felt as though we’d failed him by having to resort to such a procedure. If you have any concerns about your cat's eye please contact your vet or use the interactive cat symptom guide to help you decide what to do next.

Top Tips For Tip Top Weight Loss for Pets

Cat is the vet for an on-line social networking site for pet lovers. fatcatAt this time of year a lot of us are thinking about our waist lines and planning a diet, but what about our pets? At least 20% of dogs and cats are thought to be obese. It is a problem which causes animals to be at risk of many other diseases, but can be easily treated with dietary control and exercise changes. So, I have compiled a list of ‘Top Tips’ to help you help your pet lose weight! 1. Encourage good eating habits from when your pet is young * Feed your pet only at meal times. * Use treats only as a training aid or a reward for good behaviour * Do not vary the food too much; this will encourage your pet to be fussy. * Do not encourage begging behaviour by giving in to it. Weigh out your pet's food2. Weigh out your pets food Never estimate the amount you feed your pet, always weigh it out. Alternatively, use a see though plastic container and mark it with the correct level of food. If you feed a mixed diet of dry and tinned food, remember to reduce the recommended daily allowances of each to ensure you do not overfeed. 3. Feed twice daily instead of once Feeding two small meals a day compared to one large one can really help to keep your pet feeling full, and stop them begging for treats when they get hungry. 4. Feed an appropriate diet for your pet * Consider switching to a ´light´ diet if your pet is over weight, or prone to gaining weight. *There are now specific diets for neutered pets which are lower in calories and help prevent other health problems. *Don’t feed working breeds, such as Labradors and Springer Spaniels, a working breed food unless they are actually used to work, as these are very high in calories. 5. Cut back on treats * Treats and ´extras´ can really add calories to your pets diet, try to cut back on them as much as possible. * Only reward your pet when they have done something worth rewarding. * Remember, your attention and fuss is just as important to your pet as a treat. * When you do treat your pet, look at what is in your hand and break it in half, instantly halving the amount of calories they take in! * Try treating your pet with carrots instead of biscuits. 6. Use a ´daily food tub´ * Keep the plastic container with your pets daily food allowance on the side. Use the biscuits out of that to treat them or give them extras. * When the tub is empty, you know your pet has had their daily allowance, and they shouldn´t have any more. * This is particularly good for families where more than one person feeds or treats your pet, as everyone knows when the tub is empty, that’s it for the day! 7. Do not give table scraps! * Table scraps are one of the biggest culprits for encouraging your pet to gain weight and if they need to go one a diet, they should be cut out completely. * Human food is often loaded with calories, and many animals stomachs cannot cope with its richness. * If you cannot resist your pets pleading eyes at the table, then remove them from the room while you are eating. dogexercise8. Increase your pet's exercise * This is vital if your pet is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. * Dogs should have at least 1 hours off the lead exercise every day. * Encourage cats to play, or let them outside. 9. Make sure they are not getting fed elsewhere This is particularly relevant for cats, who will often pop to the neighbour’s for a second breakfast! However, many dogs will often spend the day with family or friends while their owners are out at work. Make sure everybody knows that your pet is on a diet and not too feed them any extras. 10. If you are concerned about your pets weight, take them along to the vets. All vets will have scales they can stand on and you will be able to find out their ideal weight. You shouldn´t need an appointment for this and most vets and vet nurses will happily advise you on how to help you pet shed a few pounds without any charge.  Click here to find your nearest vet. Click here for more information about what to feed your dog and feeding your cat
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Keeping up to date

I recently spent a long weekend at the London Vet Show, which is a conference and commercial exhibition for vets. Events like this are held in various places in the UK, in fact all over the world. They offer vets a chance to attend lectures on the latest advances in veterinary medicine, learn about new drugs, new equipment and new techniques in surgery. In the commercial exhibition there are stands run by drug companies, charities and the sellers of all kinds of pet related items. It is also a great way of meeting up with old friends and colleagues. Although it took me as long to navigate one third of the M25 as it took me to get to the M25 from Devon, it was well worth the trip. I stayed with an old friend from my student days and met other friends, some planned and some a surprise. We had several nice meals out, but no time for sight-seeing on this visit. Back at the conference, there was a choice of lectures all day, given by speakers who are renowned in their particular field. Many different subjects were covered, including cardiology, parasitology, dental disease and abdominal surgery. Every minute of the day was filled with opportunities to learn new facts or revise known ones. Veterinary medicine is changing and advancing very rapidly. Many of the techniques which have been available in human medicine for a long time are becoming possible or even routine in animal medicine such as hip replacements, chemo-therapy and MRI scans. Although all UK-trained vets have studied for a minimum of 5 years, and vets from overseas must have a recognised qualification to practice in the UK, we would very quickly become out of date if we stopped learning on graduation. Practical skills are learned all the time, with new graduates now undergoing a supervised process of gaining skills called the Professional Development Phase. This has to be a good way of easing the transition between student and vet, compared with days gone by when a newly qualified vet could be “thrown in at the deep end” in their first job. Looking back, I think I was quite lucky with the supervision and support I received in my first job. Without support or experience, the first few months could be terrifying. All vets also have an obligation to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout their working lives. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for vets, recommends a minimum of 35 hours per year. Many vets will do a lot more than this, especially if studying for a further qualification in an area of special interest. As well as formal conferences, CPD can consist of online learning, home study, small meetings within a practice or shadowing colleagues with particular skills. All CPD hours have to be recorded and can be checked by the RCVS at any time. During my London visit I spent enough time on the underground to last me a whole year, but I enjoyed my trip and gained some useful hours towards my required CPD. I came home with a lot of new knowledge and ideas which I know will be useful sooner or later.
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