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An unusual tumour below the eye

[caption id="attachment_465" align="alignleft" width="310" caption="Skitzo under anaesthetic, showing the tumor on the edge of his bottom eyelid"]Skitzo with the tumor on the edge of his bottom eyelid[/caption] Vets are very used to dogs, cats and small furries developing growths on various parts of their anatomy. We very often take a small sample of the growth by means of a needle (known as a fine needle aspirate or FNA) before deciding what action to take. In most cases the growth is removed surgically. Skitzo was a 9 year old cat with something of an attitude to being handled by vets (and sometimes his owner). A fast growing lump had come up beneath his right eye and was very close to the edge of the eyelid. A fine needle aspirate was impossible in this case without him being anaesthetised so we decided to remove the lump and send it off to the lab for the pathologists to tell us what tissue type we were dealing with. The most important thing they can tell us is whether the tumour is benign or malignant. Sometimes growths can seem to be benign but still cause problems by recurring in the same place they were removed. The worst type of tumour is one which is malignant and which has the potential to spread (metastasise) to the lungs or other organs via the blood stream. Skitzo’s tumour was a surgical challenge because it was so near to the margin of the eyelid. If too much tissue is removed, the lower lid will turn outwards (called ectropian) leaving a gaping pocket and encouraging infection, inflammation and an overspilling of tears. On the other hand, cutting too close to the growth risks tumour cells being left behind and the growth returning very quickly. [caption id="attachment_478" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Skitzo after the operation, still under anaesthetic"]Skitzo after the operation, still under anaesthetic[/caption] Dissolving stitches were used because Skitzo was never going to let us take them out when he was awake. We fitted him up with an Elizabethan collar so that he could not scratch or rub the stitches out. The plastic collars look unwieldy and owners are often tempted to take them off as soon as they get home but most animals adapt to them very well and it’s only a relatively short time before the stitches are removed and life returns to normal. Nylon stitches are usually removed in 8 to 10 days after the operation but this can be extended if the skin is especially thick, under tension or if the animal is receiving steroid treatment. Skitzo’s tissue sample came back as a benign growth and there is every prospect that the surgery has been a complete success. Fortunately Skitzo’s pet insurance company paid the bill for the surgery and the laboratory tests which were needed. If you are concerned about lumps or any other problems with your cat, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.
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Getting a good nights sleep – Helping your new puppy to settle in

Cat is the vet for an on-line social networking site for pet lovers. Bichon FriseThis afternoon I had a consult with a women who had recently bought a Bichon Frise puppy and was at her wits end.  The pup was refusing to settle at night and she hadn't slept properly for several days.  But, she wailed, as soon as she cracked and took the pup upstairs to bed with her, she settled down quickly and slept though the night with no problems. And there in lay the problem. Leaving the litter and their mother is a very stressful time for a new puppy; not only have they been taken on by a completely new set of people and moved into a new home, it is also likely to be the first time they have ever been left on their own.  So, it is very common for them to not settle well for the first few nights.  However, there are several things you can do to help them; the most important of which is to NOT give in!  It may seem unkind, leaving the pup to cry but trust me, if you go to them just once, the whole process will be much harder and you may end up with a dog who never sleeps alone.  It might be cute to have a small puppy sharing your bed but just think what it will be like when they are fully grown and have been out in a muddy garden all day! One of the most successful methods for getting pups to settle is to use a puppy crate.  These can be easily purchase from pet stores and come in various sizes.  They should be big enough for a bed, a water bowl, and a clear area for them to toilet if they need to.  Position the crate in a downstairs room, the kitchen is usually best, and leave the door open during the day.  The crate should be the pup's own space, somewhere where they will go when they want to rest and somewhere where they feel safe and secure.  Encourage them to use it from day one by showing them the bed and giving treats and praise when they use it.  It is very important you never send a pup to the crate as a punishment, it must always be a positive space for them.  Crates help the pup to learn independence as they are on their own when they are in there and they can also be very helpful for toilet training as dogs will naturally try to not toilet where they sleep.  They are are very useful for you as an owner as you know when the pup is shut in the crate, they are safe when you leave them. Another product which can be used very successfully to help puppies to sleep at night, or to settle whenever they are left are DAP diffusers.  DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone, it is a synthetic pheromone identical to the once which a nursing bitch releases from her mammary glands.  For a dog of any age, but particularly a pup, it is an extremely comforting and reassuring scent which makes them feel relaxed and secure.  DAP comes as either a plug-in diffuser (just like the ones containing household scents) or an impregnated collar.  The plug-ins should be positioned somewhere close to where the pup rests and last for about 6 weeks.  Humans cannot detect the smell so don't worry!  The collars are also very effective for pups and research has shown that they can help them be more confident and out-going in all areas of their life, which can really aid their development into happy and well balanced adults.  Both the plug-ins and collars are available from your vet or larger pet stores. All pups will give you some sleepless nights at the beginning, they are only babies after all and it is all part of the experience of being a new dog owner.  It is very important at these early stages to start as you mean to go on and this means, unfortunately, leaving them to cry if you want them to sleep alone.  Giving in, even once, will make things much harder as then the pup will know there are other options and, as dogs don't have much concept of the passage of time, they will be able to keep crying for a very long while if they know that eventually you will come for them!  Also, learning to be independent and to cope on their own is an extremely important skill for a young pup and the dogs that never master this are often the ones which suffer from over-attachment and separation anxiety.  So, stay strong, right from the beginning, make sure everyone in the family knows the rules and it won't be long before you are back to a full nights sleep.  However, it might be worth investing in some ear plugs, just for the start! For more advice on how to look after your dog, please visit our Pet Care Advice pages. If you are worried about any aspect of your dog's health, use our interactive Dog Symptom Guide to help decide what to do next.

The dilemma of Gizmo’s leg tumour

[caption id="attachment_429" align="alignleft" width="282" caption="Gizmo and his vet, Reg."]Gizmo and his vet, Reg.[/caption] Gizmo was a lovable cat who had been known to the practice for many years. She was one of those vocal Orientals who sounded like a baby crying. In fact she had reached the tremendous age of 21 years with no major health problems until his teeth started to loosen and she had difficulty eating. We are always extremely cautious with giving anaesthetics to aged cats so we took some blood tests for organ function which came back completely normal. She came through his dental with flying colours. A couple of months later she came back with a very painful leg, swollen around the left knee (stifle). When we X-rayed the leg our worst fears were confirmed: Gizmo had bone cancer. We took further X-rays and there was no sign of spread to any other part of her body. Bone cancer in dogs is highly malignant and has often already spread by the time the diagnosis is made. Although chemotherapy and amputation are options, survival time can be very poor. Cats are a slightly different proposition and their form of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) tends to stay more confined and is slower to spread. My instinct with Gizmo being 21 was to recommend her being put to sleep but her owner was determined that we should do everything possible for her providing that he did not suffer. Prior to the surgery we were having great trouble keeping Gizmo free of pain and at home she was on strong oral pain relief every couple of hours. I agonised over the decision to operate but was eventually persuaded to go ahead by his owner’s dedication to him and the fact that Gizmo behaved like a cat half her age. [caption id="attachment_431" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Gizmo after amputation of a hind leg."]Gizmo after amputation of a hind leg.[/caption] The surgery went well and Gizmo recovered very quickly and was much more comfortable with the leg removed and surprisingly mobile. She lived on for another seven months when unfortunately the cancer returned in his pelvis and reluctantly at this point we had to admit defeat. Looking back, my colleagues thought I had lost my reason undertaking this surgery on such an old cat but I think the extra quality of life which Gizmo went on to have justified going ahead. Anaesthetics and pain relief are so much better these days than they were twenty years ago. She was certainly one of those cats who seemed to inspire the old folklore about a cat having nine lives and she will never be forgotten by all of us who knew her. If you are concerned about pain, swelling, lumps or any other problems in your cat, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next. For more information about insurance which could ensure the cost of operations like this one are covered, please see our pet insurance pages.

Fox hit by car

One recent morning, in the middle of the snowy weather, it was a real struggle to get to work. The main roads were open and gritted, but the side roads were hazardous with patches of snow and ice. After a difficult journey, I was surprised to find that the nurse was already checking in a patient. A motorist had found a seriously injured fox which had been hit by a car. He hadn’t seen the accident happen, so he did not know how long the fox had been lying by the road, and we can only hope that no-one was injured in the accident. All the cars in front of him had pulled out round the fox, but he had stopped. On finding the fox was still alive, he picked it up and put it in his boot and brought it to the surgery. Great care should be used if handling an injured wild animal because, understandably, they are liable to panic and to bite if frightened and in pain, and will not understand that you are trying to help them. In most cases it is better to telephone for advice first from either your local veterinary surgery or the RSPCA. If the animal is to be moved, it is much safer with the right protective clothing and equipment. However, this fox offered no resistance. We examined the fox and found it was a young adult male which was in reasonable condition before the accident. Unfortunately it was barely conscious and had at least one hip fracture. A more detailed examination and x-rays would be needed to find out what other injuries it had, but as our fox was not yet well enough he was given pain relief by injection and placed in a warm, quiet, kennel in a darkened room. Unfortunately this particular story does not have a happy ending because our fox died later in the morning. However, I am glad that he was not left to suffer and to freeze slowly to death by the side of the road. If he had survived the initial trauma of the accident, decisions about further treatment would have been made based on what was in his best interests, including whether he could make a successful return to the wild after a period of recovery. Different veterinary practices may have different policies on the treatment of wildlife. Some may offer treatment in the practice, while others may refer animals to nearby treatment centres such as the RSPCA or other charities, depending on the facilities in the area. Often there are local people known to practices who may take in particular types of wildlife for rehabilitation such as injured birds, hedgehogs, badgers etc. In coastal areas there are specialist charities which deal with injured or stranded dolphins, seals and whales, and with oiled birds. Some wild animals or birds which appear to be in difficulties may be best left where they are rather than being moved. Fledgling birds in particular are often still under the watchful eye of a parent even if they appear to be abandoned, so if you find one and are not sure what to do, try to get some telephone advice before moving or handling it. If you are worried that your dog or cat may have been hit by a car, contact your vet or use our Interactive Pet Symptom Guide for advice on what to do next.

My response to the Daily Mail pet food article

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 [caption id="attachment_395" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Feed your pets ready made food which has been prepared with good quality ingredients."]Feed your pets ready made food which has been prepared with good quality ingredients.[/caption] As you may have seen there was an article in The Daily Mail recently about pet food and the dangers some processed foods can potentially pose to pets' health. I was interviewed briefly for this and I'm quoted talking about the problems that artificial additives can cause. The rest of the article is not so great though, pedalling many of the myths and un-scientific arguments that are put forward by people who believe that all commercial pet foods are terrible and the cause of all ill health in pets. In particular the arguments that feeding foods containing carbohydrate is responsible for urinary and renal disease in cats, something which has been clearly shown not to be true, and the claim that the only healthy way to feed a pet is on raw chicken wings. To set the record straight, here are a couple of paragraphs from my forthcoming book 'Your dog and You', which is due to be published this summer, which deal with these issues: Carbohydrates “There have been many scare stories about this subject and the internet is awash with unfounded allegations claiming that the feeding of carbohydrate to cats and dogs is responsible for all manner of diseases, including urinary diseases, diabetes, cancer and many others. However, none of these issues are backed up with any credible evidence, and a recent meta-analysis of all the data surrounding the issue of feeding carbohydrate to pets by Dr Buffington of Ohio State University Hospital concluded that, and I quote, "Current published evidence thus does not support a direct role for diet in general, and carbohydrates in particular, on disease risk in domestic cats." Dr Buffington goes on to explain how genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors (such as indoor-only housing of cats) play a far more significant role in many of the diseases in which effects are attributed to carbohydrate-rich diets. So I am happy that the scientific evidence strongly refutes any link between the feeding of carbohydrate to pets and health problems and would recommend that this is not an issue that you should be worried about - far better to make sure the food you feed your dog is made with good quality ingredients, including good quality carbohydrates such as rice and oats, and is free from artificial additives which we know can cause harm.” Raw feeding There are many people who advocate feeding dogs on a diet that replicates as closely as possible their 'ancestral diet' - primarily raw meaty bones and scavenged scraps. There is logic in this argument, as evolution has worked over many hundreds of thousands of years to perfect the canine digestive tract to suit this kind of diet, so one could therefore easily assume that a raw diet based on this evolutionary history would be the best possible. But there're also flaws in the argument, and one of the main ones is the assumption that just because a dog evolved to eat a raw diet scavenged from left over carcasses that this is the best diet it could possibly eat. The only reason dogs ate raw scraps was because that was all there was available and they developed their niche role as scavengers - but that does not mean that their digestive tracts have evolved in such as way that other foods might not be even better than scraps. It's a bit like saying that our eyes evolved to spot predators and find food and therefore that is the best way to do those things - whereas most people would agree that modern technological advances such as binoculars or cameras or computers can help us to do these things better by working with our naturally evolved attributes. I believe that while our dogs undoubtedly evolved to eat raw scraps scavenged from carcasses, we as their modern human companions can do an awful lot better than simply feed them the same subsistence diet they would get in the wild. To put it in other terms, would you prefer a modern cooked diet prepared using all the nutritional knowledge we've gained as an advanced society, or the same diet your stone-age ancestors used to eat? Assuming the answer is a modern diet, then I hope you can see the parallel for our dogs and the reason why we should not be persuaded by emotive arguments from the often passionate raw feeding lobby that only an ancestral diet will do. I hope these articles help counter some of the bad science put forward in the article in the Mail! For advice on appropriate diets for your dog or cat, please visit our Dog Diet and Cat Diet pages. If you are worried about your pet's health, use our Interactive Symptom Guide to help decide what to do next.