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Jack and Zac

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. Owning a dog is much more than simply looking after a pet to many people. To many owners dogs are literally one of the family and are involved in all aspects of family life, from everyday activities to holidays, travel and even, in some cases, work. In my case my dog Jack is not just very much at the heart of the family he’s also at the heart of my pet food business Pets’ Kitchen. Our original brand of dog food, Joe & Jack’s, was named after him and he played a significant role in developing the recipe through tasting and approving various different versions during the testing phase of development. And even now we have moved on to develop a new range of food which doesn’t bear his name, he’s still very much involved in the whole taste testing and recipe development process. Jack comes into work at Pets’ Kitchen with me when I’m not in the surgery and spends his days patrolling the warehouse hovering up stray biscuits and generally keeping an eye on his pet food empire! Having such a close relationship with my own dog definitely helps me empathise with clients at work who feel equally strongly about their own canine companions, especially when things get difficult. At times like these empathising with the owners can help me understand what they are going through and be more sensitive in how I approach their case, but it also has its downside as I can share their sadness and stress when cases don’t turn out as hoped. A recent case involving a dog called Zac really affected me deeply as the dog was very similar in many ways to Jack – a middle aged collie-cross dog with plenty of character and a slightly shaggy black and white coat. His owners, Meg and Peter, had been coming to the surgery with Zac since he was a puppy and even though I’d only started looking after Zac a year or so ago I quickly developed a close bond with both patient and owners and was always very happy to see Zac bounding into the surgery for his boosters every year. A few months ago however I had to see Zac in very different circumstances. Meg brought him in looking very worried, and after saying hello to Zac, who was his usual energetic self, I asked her what the problem was. ‘I’ve found a lump in his neck,’ she answered, her voice quavering slightly. My heart sank at this news as I immediately thought of lymphoma, a particularly unpleasant form of cancer that tends to affect collies more commonly than other breeds and typically causes lumps in the neck. And as soon as I felt under Zac’s chin my worst fears were realised as I felt two firm, golf ball sized lumps. Breaking the news that I suspected that Zac had cancer was very difficult indeed and Meg was devastated – as I would have been had it been Jack. Over the next couple of months we confirmed the diagnosis with a biopsy and then started treatment with a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. Thankfully Zac has responded really well and the lumps in his neck have all but disappeared, which is an immense relief to all concerned – although we are all aware that this is likely to be remission rather than cure. Being a vet is always challenging and often difficult – but cases like this one which feel so close to my own pets and family are always the hardest to deal with of all. If you are worried about a lump or any other symptoms your dog may have, contact your vet or use our interactive Dog Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.
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Bringing Home Baby – How To Help Your Cat Cope With The New Arrival

Congratulations!  You’ve just found out that you’re pregnant and can’t help but share the good news with all of your friends and family.  Everyone is overjoyed, but then the questions start – How long will you be taking off work?  Do you have any names picked out?  And what are you going to do with your cat??  You’ve probably already received plenty of opinions as people offer advice about problems that you didn’t even know you had.  Fortunately, your feline friend doesn’t have to be a source of stress, and may in fact be one of your most faithful companions every step of the way.  Here are some tips to help ease the transition for both you and your cat and hopefully help separate fact from fiction... During Pregnancy
  • One of the things that often gets brought up when discussing cats and babies is toxoplasmosis.  A zoonotic disease (in other words, transmissible to humans) that is sometimes spread by the faeces of cats, toxoplasmosis results in many cats needlessly ending up in shelters each year through fear and a lack of education.  The disease can have serious effects on the unborn child if the mother happens to contract it during pregnancy, so do talk to your doctor about your concerns, but in reality the disease is extremely rare and easily prevented.  Avoid consuming undercooked meat or unpasteurised milk (another source of infection), which is common sense for pregnancy in general.  Wear gloves when gardening or handling anything else that may be used by cats as a toilet.  And if your cat uses a litter tray inside, it’s the perfect excuse to have your partner take over the charming task of cleaning it!
[caption id="attachment_1157" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Cats like somewhere soft to sleep! Just remove any fur they leave behind with a clothes brush or sticky roller."]Cats like somewhere soft to sleep! Just remove any fur they leave behind with a clothes brush or sticky roller.[/caption]
  • Babies require a lot of stuff, and all the new toys can be just as interesting for your cat as they will be for your future child.  To help your cat adjust to the changes in his environment, try introducing him to some of the new items as you set up your nursery.  Cats should be discouraged from sleeping in cots and prams (covering them with netting, crinkly plastic or aluminium foil can help), but it’s not the end of the world if you do spot them there.
  • You may also consider getting them used to the sounds and smells of a baby by using recorded baby noises and allowing them to sniff scented baby products, or having friends’ babies come around the house.  When introducing anything that the cat may find particularly stressful such as the sound of crying, start by playing it quietly and for short periods of time, gradually increasing until they have been conditioned to the new stimulus.  Lots of petting and small food treats can help keep the experience positive for them.  The more familiar they are with the baby’s environment, the easier the transition will be when you add the baby.
After the Birth
  • Although extremely curious by nature, cats are also creatures of habit and feel most comfortable when they have a routine.  It may be difficult in the first few months, but try to keep your cat’s routine as constant as possible.  Feeding times should stay the same, and don’t forget to fill the water bowl each day. If they’re used to brushing and play time, try to keep up with that as well, again don’t forget to enlist your partner for help!  Suddenly being ignored can be stressful and could lead to behavioural problems.  But at the same time don’t overcompensate and pay them more attention than they are used to as this can be just as confusing.
  • Let’s face it, babies are stressful and sometimes we just need to get away from it all.  Your cat is no different, so be sure to allow your cat plenty of alone time.  If they want to hide under the bed for the first few days or weeks, that’s OK, they will come out when they feel safe (but talk to your vet if their behaviour becomes alarmingly abnormal or they refuse to eat or drink).  If they are allowed outside, make sure they always have access to the cat flap or if they do stay inside, make sure there is a quiet space they can retreat to if they feel the need.
[caption id="attachment_1172" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Once your cat gets used to the new arrival they may begin to enjoy your little one's company - and vice versa."]Once your cat gets used to the new arrival they may begin to enjoy your little one's company - and vice versa.[/caption]

  • Most cats will view the new baby with interest and curiosity, and perhaps a bit of healthy fear.  It is extremely uncommon for cats to show outright aggression towards babies, but until you know how your cat will react, it is best to have their first meetings closely supervised.  As they become better acquainted, you may even find that your cat enjoys their company and will snuggle up with them as they would with you and that’s ok!  Some people needlessly worry about the cat suffocating the baby, but if you think about it, it’s nearly impossible though do certainly keep them separate during nap times.  And if your child is going to have an allergy to the cat you’ll figure that out pretty quickly, again not worth worrying about unless you happen to be one of the unlucky few that it affects.
As with any issue regarding members of your family, especially small children, if you have any concerns always seek the guidance of your GP.  Do also consult your veterinary surgeon, as they will likely have loads of advice on how to ease the transition.  Keep up to date with your cat’s vaccines and particularly deworming, as some types of worms can be spread to humans (particularly little humans that crawl on the floor and put less than desirable objects in their mouths...).  As your baby grows into a toddler and beyond, it is important that you teach them how to interact nicely and gently with your cat to avoid pulled tails and retaliatory scratches.  Of course by the time your child hits the terrible twos, the cat will be the least of your concerns!
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Help your dog or cat to overcome travel sickness.

Travel sickness, or motion sickness, can affect cats and dogs just like humans, and can make journeys unpleasant for pet and owner alike. There are several ways in which you can reduce both the fear and the nausea which some pets associate with travel. DOGS Start when your puppy is very young if at all possible. If your dog is already adult and still suffers from travel sickness, don’t despair. If you follow the same steps you will almost certainly help them, although it may take a little more time and patience. First of all you need to decide how your dog is going to travel in the car. It is important for their safety and yours that they are restrained in some way. This could be inside a dog crate, behind a secure dog guard, or clipped by a harness to the seat belt. Whichever you choose, the dog should have an area in which they feel secure and comfortable. Once you have made this choice, it is time to get the puppy used to its travel quarters so that they are not afraid. Start by sitting them in the car, in the place where they will normally travel, for just a few minutes each day without even starting the engine. Sit in the car with them but try not to make too much fuss as this can make them think there is something to fear. It would be OK to give a small tit-bit or have a favourite toy with them. When they are used to the car, start the engine without changing anything else. It is only when your pup is relaxed about being in the car with the engine running that it is time to start short journeys. To start with, journeys should only be a few minutes long, say just around the block. It is always best for your pup to travel with an empty tummy as this will reduce the chance of sickness. As you gradually increase the length of journeys, try to make the destination a pleasant one like a favourite walking place, and try to go regularly. If the only car journeys made are holidays or trips to the vets, when there is a lot of excitement or apprehension amongst the human family, then the dog will be more fearful. If the people can be calm and relaxed, the pup has a better chance of taking travel in its stride. Travelling on main roads, which tend to be straight, rather than winding back roads, can reduce travel sickness in pets, just as in people. Keeping the inside of the car at a comfortable temperature (not too warm) and ventilating well with fresh air can also help. You can also use a special collar which releases pheromones, which can help to relax your dog. Pheromones are a chemical released by lactating bitches which induce a feeling of safety and re-assurance in their puppies. A synthetic version of pheromones is available in several forms, the collar being particularly useful for travel when dogs are afraid of the car. There is a drug available from your vet in tablet form which can reduce nausea and sickness, so if other methods have failed or if you have to make an unusually long journey, have a chat with your vet or vet nurse in plenty of time. Other drugs can be used to calm anxiety and fear. Sedatives would be considered as a last resort if all else had failed, and only for occasional use. It is important to discuss this with your vet in plenty of time too, because these drugs are prescription only medicines, not available to buy “over the counter”. This means that your vet must by law be satisfied that your dog is healthy and has no conditions which might make sedation inadvisable. For example, if your dog had epilepsy, this would affect the choice of drug used. If your dog had not been seen by the vet for some time, they may need an examination first. If a pet is to be sedated for travel, they should never be left unattended in the vehicle. They are unable to regulate their body temperature as normal, so could become dangerously cold or hot with little outward sign of distress. In fact, it is best not to leave any pet unattended in a vehicle, whether sedated or not. CATS Cats tend to travel less frequently than dogs because they do not usually go for exercise by car, but they are just as likely to suffer from travel sickness. This causes drooling, nausea and sickness, and if frightened or distressed they also frequently urinate or defaecate. If you do intend to travel frequently with your cat then it is well worth acclimatising them to it gradually, as for dogs. Like dogs, it is important for safety reasons that cats are restrained, usually in a secure cat carrier. A loose cat could easily get under the pedals with disastrous consequences. Some cats seem happier in a basket where they can see out easily, and others prefer a very enclosed basket, or a blanket draped over it.Travelling with an empty stomach should help, so offer your cat a small meal several hours before travelling. A journey can be made less stressful for your cat by using a synthetic pheromone spray in the basket and inside the car. Like the dog version, this helps to relax and re-assure the cat. Your veterinary surgery will be able to give advice about its use. Drugs for calming cats or reducing sickness or for sedation are available for cats too, and it is a good idea to discuss these with your vet well in advance of any planned long journey if you think your cat will need them.
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