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Vet Panorama Program – It shouldn’t happen at a Vets

I'm not looking forward to Thursday's vet Panorama program  'It shouldn't happen at a vets' .  The headline 'Pet owners who take best practice on trust are in for a shock' makes my heart sink, most pet owners do take best practice on trust but I believe they do so with very good reason. The overwhelming majority of vets and vet nurses  I have met are caring, professional and passionate about the science and best practice of veterinary medicine and surgery. Throughout my career, in which I've worked in a variety of different types of vet practices, I have seen colleagues going far beyond the call of duty to help patients and clients on a daily basis: from nurses popping around to a client's house to administer eye drops every day to vets dropping off bags of food and medication to clients without transport; vets sleeping on dog beds to keep checking on a critical patient throughout the night, charging only for routine hospitalisation and countless puppies, kittens, wild animals and birds nursed through the night by nurses without charge. Sure there have been times communication has broken down, staff have been less than charming to a client with a similar attitude, animals have not recovered etc  but I honestly can't think of a single time I have seen a vet or vet nurse treat an animal carelessly or harshly. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon receive 700 complaints a year, that is one complaint for every 15 years of practice for each vet. Considering how many patients a vet will treat in that time and that only a fraction of these are upheld it certainly doesn't paint a picture of  a profession deserving of such a general headline. Maybe I will be pleasantly be suprised by the balanced reporting in the Panorama program but I am concerned at the sensationalist way it is being advertised.  Medivet released a statement a few days ago indicating that they are the practice in question.  They have not been allowed to see any of the footage and have several complaints about the way in which the program was filmed. They claim that the Panorama journalists harassed their clients and have some interesting letters and video footage from some of the clients involved on their website. Watch this space...

Grissom survives cat flu.

[caption id="attachment_900" align="alignleft" width="291" caption="Grissom at 3 months old"]Grissom kitten 1 crop[/caption] This handsome fellow is Grissom, a lively 3 month old kitten. Like the TV character he is named after, he is extremely inquisitive and tenacious. Grissom belongs to a good friend of mine and enjoys all the luxuries that a cat-loving household can offer. But unfortunately he had a very bad start in life when he succumbed to cat flu as a young kitten in a rescue cattery. Cat flu is a viral illness which can affect cats of any age and breed, but the very young are most susceptible. Kittens born to unvaccinated mothers are especially vulnerable as they do not start life with good levels of immunity. The main strains of cat flu are feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus, but there are other viruses and bacteria causing similar symptoms. The signs of cat flu are very similar to flu in humans (although it is not caused by the same viruses). Cats will sneeze and have runny noses and sticky eyes, go off their food and generally look unwell. They are likely to have a raised temperature and become lethargic. Some strains also cause mouth ulcers. As a result of not eating and drinking they can quickly lose weight and become dehydrated. Longer term effects can include damage to the eyes or chronic snuffles. Most cats will get over the illness in 2-3 weeks, but unfortunately some will die of cat flu, sometimes in spite of receiving all the treatment possible. After infection, some cats will become carriers, which means they will intermittently shed virus, acting as a reservoir of infection for other cats. Known carriers should be isolated from other cats. Flu viruses spread very easily between cats as virus particles are shed in the saliva and the secretions from the nose and eyes. They spread when the cat sneezes, and they can also survive on bowls and litter trays, and on the hands and clothes of people dealing with them. Disinfection is an important part of prevention of spread, and in a multi-cat household or a cattery, any affected cats should be isolated. [caption id="attachment_906" align="alignright" width="300" caption="2 weeks of constant nursing care were essential to Grissom's recovery"]Grissom kitten 2[/caption] Viruses themselves are difficult to treat and anti-viral drugs are not generally available, but most cats with cat flu will also have secondary bacterial infections of the chest, throat or eyes, which can be helped with antibiotics. In serious cases they may also need to be given fluids by a drip. Nursing care is extremely important to their recovery. I don’t think Grissom would be here today if he hadn’t had round the clock nursing care, first of all at his vets and then at home, for nearly 2 weeks. This includes cleaning the eyes and applying drops, syringe feeding, steam inhalation to clear airways and general TLC. All of this has to be done in isolation from other cats. Now that Grissom is better, he is a very well-socialised cat who enjoys human company. Routine vaccination against cat flu is the best way to prevent it. There isn’t a 100% guarantee because of the different strains involved, but it will greatly improve the odds.  Rarely, vaccination itself can have some unwanted side effects, but I believe that the small risks involved in vaccination are outweighed many times over by the benefits. Kittens can be vaccinated from about 9 weeks of age, with the primary course requiring two injections a few weeks apart, and then an annual booster. Boarding catteries and breeding catteries have to be particularly careful to prevent outbreaks of cat flu, which happens much more commonly where many cats are housed together. It is preferable to house cats in smaller numbers, with solid “sneeze barriers” between them to prevent spread. Boarding catteries will not accept cats which have not been vaccinated. Cat flu is still one of the most common viral illnesses of cats and can be very serious and unpleasant. It is well worth taking all possible steps to prevent it. If you are worried that your cat may have cat flu, or any other symptoms, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.

Heatstroke in Pets

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_925" align="alignleft" width="270" caption="Hot weather can be a problem for pets as they struggle to cope with extreme temperatures."]Hot weather can be a problem for pets as they struggle to cope with extreme temperatures.[/caption] It’s been scorching here in Gloucestershire recently, and while the hot weather has been enjoyed by most of the population, it has not been so welcome for all, particularly for pets who find it difficult to cope with such extremes of temperature. In the surgery recently I’ve seen a few pets suffering from the effects of too much sun – a dog with mild heatstroke, a cat with sunburnt ear tips, and then there was Harry the bunny who was brought in last Friday in a real state by his owner, an elderly lady called Miss Jones. ‘I’ve been out all day and when I got home Harry was just lying on the ground,’ explained Miss Jones who was obviously very distressed by what had happened, ‘I don’t know what can have happened to him.’ By this point Harry had obviously improved a little and was sitting up in his cage, but he was still definitely not right, breathing heavily and looking decidedly dull and lethargic. I gently lifted him out of the cage and as soon as I did so I could tell what his problem was as his skin was burning hot to the touch. ‘He’s got heatstroke,’ I said to Miss Jones, ‘I need to get him cool quickly so I’ll take him out the back and get him in some water.’ After quickly checking his temperature (which was 3 degrees above normal) I carried the baking hot rabbit through to the back of the surgery and ran some water in a sink. I lowered Harry gently down into the refreshing water and he immediately lay down and let the cool water lap around him, obviously enjoying the experience. After ten minutes his temperature was down to just a degree above normal and he was clearly feeling much brighter so I wet down the rest of his fur and returned him to Miss Jones, who was very relieved to see him looking so much better. ‘You need to be really careful in this weather,’ I told Miss Jones before she left, ‘rabbits can easily overheat if they don’t have shade and plenty of water, so make sure he can get out of the sun and get himself wet when you are out.’’ I hope she heeds my advice, as although Harry pulled through this time, he was very close to being dangerously overheated and I suspect if he’d been left for another half hour or so in the hot sun he might have gone too far to help. Heatstroke can rapidly be fatal and I’ve seen a few cases in my career when pets have simply got too hot to treat and they have died which is always a tragic experience to deal with. The most important thing for owners to understand is the importance of shade, fresh air and water – provided pets have access to these three essentials, heatstroke shouldn’t be a problem. If pets do overheat, the best thing to do is to get them out of the sun and wet them using cool water (but not ice cold as this shuts down the circulation to the skin). If you are worried about heatstroke or any other problems in your pet, please contact your vet or use our Interactive Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.
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