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Supporting The Brooke Animal Hospital and equine welfare

There are few professions that can carry such a range of emotions, than that of working with and caring for animals. Almost all animal charities will tell you of the amazing successes they have with cases, for animals of varying species. They can also tell you of the heart breaking decisions they have to make, on a daily basis. Recently Vet Help Direct supported one such organisation, The Brooke Animal Hospital, with a cash donation. The Brooke is the UK’s leading overseas equine welfare charity and helps improve the lives of horses, donkeys and mules in some of the poorest parts of the world. Sometimes the team of vets and animal health workers at the Brooke face the harsh reality that some animals cannot be helped, despite their best efforts. Here is a touching story from the charity, discussing how bringing a peaceful and dignified end to a hardworking life, can alleviate suffering in our equine friends. Click here for the full story...
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Blacks Vets – Best UK Vets 2015 Award Ceremony

Blacks Vets – Dudley Hospital Veterinary Practice in the West Midlands has been crowned the Best UK Vets 2015 thanks to the outstanding reviews left online by their clients. With 262 reviews of four or five stars, Dudley Vets topped the review charts of all 3500 vets on and Any-UK-Vet directories over a 12 month period. [caption id="attachment_4214" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Winners Best UK Vets 2015 Blacks Vets Winners Best UK Vets 2015 Blacks Vets[/caption] Chosen by pet owners themselves, the Best UK Vet Awards, are a genuine reflection of the excellent client and patient care provided by UK vets. Comments from Dudley Vets’ clients online include: · “They have always been there when I've needed them & have gone beyond the call of duty so many times.” · “Fantastic service and always friendly to us as humans and as animals.” This is our third year of judging this Award, the team was overwhelmed by the growing number of reviews left on vet practice websites. It shows that owners are increasingly turning to the internet to say online what they were saying aloud! This in turn demonstrates the growing significance of an online reputation for vet practices looking to promote their business. Blacks Vets commented: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been voted Best UK Vet by the pet owning public. The team here work incredibly hard in our Accredited Veterinary Hospital, staffed by our own nurses and vets 24/7, 365 days a year, to meet the needs of our clients, constantly striving to improve pet care in our local area. To be recognised by our clients for the veterinary care, surgical and referral work we do, as well as the day to day preventative care in our Healthy Pet Club means everything to us. We are so very privileged to have fantastic clients and pets who have taken the time to nominate us, thank you so so much, we are truly overwhelmed.” Blacks Vets have already featured in the local press If you are a pet owner and would like to help others find a good vets you can leave a review here VetHelpDirect. If you are a veterinary practice and would like more information on the Best UK Vets Award, please email In the Photo, from left to right John O'Flynn MRCVS MVB Cert AVP (Dermatology), Blacks Vets, Girlish Thakral MRCVS BVSc AH Cert VC, Blacks Vets, Brian Hogan MRCVS MVB Cert SAS, Blacks Vets, Valerie Marsh, Practice Manager, Blacks Vets, Simon Gubbins MRCVS MVB, Blacks Vets, Susie Samuel MA VetMB MRCVS, Founder
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Ask a vet online-‘How do you stop your dog jumping?’

Question from Jacky Brosnan: How do you STOP your dog jumping up when anyone comes in or when we come back in Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Jacky, thank you for your question about your dog's jumping behaviour when anyone comes into your house.  To answer your question I will try and give you several strategies to put into place to try and improve your dog's behaviour as regards the jumping up at people. Why is my dog jumping up? Most dogs that jump up at people are doing this as they are excited to have company but there can also be an element of dominance in jumping behaviour.  It is important to try and reward the good behaviour your dog does and try to play down or ignore the unwanted behaviours.  In order to help reduce an unwanted behaviour we need to look at the whole of your dogs day and what it involves. A typical day for a dog Most dogs will start their day with their owners waking up, letting them out to toilet and then giving them their breakfast.  This is usually followed by some form of exercise and then the owner leaving to go to work or on the school run.  At some point later in the day the owners will return and again let the dog out to toilet, which may also involve some exercise.  If your dog is fed twice daily then they will have another meal, followed by another toilet outing before everyone settles down to bed/sleep. Some dogs are very happy with their own company or that of another animal or people.  However not all dogs get enough mental stimulation with a typical day as described above.  It can really help a dog's behaviour to have more mental stimulation. How do I provide my dog with mental stimulation? Even if your dog is now an adult dog going over basic training such as sit, stay, down, recall and fetch can be a very effective way to stimulate them as well as strengthening the bond between dog and owner.  A simple ten to fifteen minutes a day of training behaviour can soon make a big difference to your dog's behaviour.  For those owners who have the time then agility or flyball are other excellent ways to train your dog and stimulate them at the same time. Toys and sounds can also help to stimulate a dog, sounds can be provided by having a radio on in the back ground when no one is at home with your dog.  Toys come in many varieties, hard chews through to soft squeaky ones.  If you are leaving your dog alone with toys make sure that they are safe and cannot pose a risk if swallowed or parts are eaten. Rewarding good behaviour When anyone enters the house it can be helpful to have some treats which are out of the dogs reach.  When you enter, ask your dog to sit, when he or she is sitting nicely then gently offer him a treat along with praise for his/her good behaviour.  If this is repeated each time someone comes into the house, hopefully your dog will soon learn that good behaviour leads to praise/rewards.  Eventually you will not need to use treats and the praise alone will be enough reward for your dog.  At times your dog may go backwards in his/her behaviour and use of treats may be necessary again.  If your dog is very excitable then it may be the case that as well as asking them to sit, someone will need to hold them gently in the sitting position to encourage them. Try your best not to shout at your dog for his/her unwanted behaviours, it is best to try and ignore them, play them down or substitute them with a good behaviour. The problem otherwise can become a cycle of bad behaviour being reinforced through owner reactions even if the reactions are bad.  The dog will just see that he/she is getting a reaction from his/her owner. I hope that my answer has given you a few ideas of how to try and discourage your dog from jumping up and that they are soon behaving in a much happier and better way. Shanika Winters MRCVS ( online vet) If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.
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Vets are now doctors (in a strictly veterinary sense, that is….)

Did you know that your vet is now a doctor? The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons  has just changed the rules. Vets are not obliged to call themselves "Doctor", but we now have the option to do so, if we wish. Traditionally, vets were called "Mr": the logic was that as "veterinary surgeons", we fell into the same (slightly superior) category of medical personnel as medical consultant surgeons, who were also "Mr". Dentists (dental surgeons) were also called "Mr" for the same reason. In the past thirty years, two factors have moved against this traditional nomenclature.

The veterinary profession has been feminised.

In the 1960's, over 80% of veterinary graduates were male. The gender ratio moved to 50:50 in the 1980's, and it's now changed so that a high majority of new graduates are female, 57% of the total profession in practice are female. Why is this relevant to the "doctor" issue? Well, "Mr" may be a handy title for male vets, but there's a dilemma for females: there's an awkward choice between Miss ("young and single?"), Mrs ("married") or Ms ("feminist?"). The term "Dr" is gender neutral, which suits our politically correct era.

Most vets around the world are "doctors"

The second, and probably more significant, reason for change in terminology is to keep the UK within international norms. In nearly every other country in the world, vets are known as "Dr". So when British vets travel overseas, it causes mild consternation if they try to stick to the "Mr" title from home. And when foreign vets visit the UK, they naturally expect to be called "Dr", leading to some confusion for members of the public ("Are they better qualified than British vets?")

Vets, vet nurses and the public voted for vets to be doctors

The decision to change to "Dr" was democratic: the RCVS carried out a consultation process, receiving the opinions of over 11000 people, 74% from vets, vet students and veterinary nurse, and 26% from the public. Overall, 81% were in favour of vets becoming "doctors", 13% were against, and 6% did not mind either way. The RCVS has placed some stipulations about how vets use the term "Dr", to avoid the risk of misleading people about our qualifications. The two possible misapprehensions are first, that we have earned a doctorate (PhD), and second, that we are medical doctors. To avoid the risk of this happening, vets have to do one of two things. First, add the word "Veterinary Surgeon" as a post-script to our names ("Dr Pete Wedderburn, Veterinary Surgeon") or second, add our post-nominal letters our names ("Dr Pete Wedderburn MRCVS"). This is a clear way of defining that we are "vet doctors" rather than "doctorate doctors" or "doctor doctors". I'm sure it seems like trivial stuff to most members of the public, but to those folk who are concerned about these details, it's very important to get it right. And it is important, that when people consult a professional, whether online or in person, that they have a correct understanding of that individual's qualifications. I never thought I'd be a doctor, but all of a sudden, I've become one without even trying. A doctor, veterinary surgeon, or a doctor, MRCVS, that is, of course.  

Ask a vet online- ‘what is this on my dog’s paw?’

Question from Keagan Palardy: Does any one know what this is on my poor doggies paw?:( paw Answer from Shanika Winters: Thank you for sending the photo of your dog's paw along with your question as to what it might be.  I will discuss some of the possibilities for what a lesion (growth/diseased area) similar to the one on your dog's paw could be, how we would try and make a diagnosis and then treatment options. What is this on my dog's paw? The first thing we need to do is find out more details about your dog, your vet will ask you a lot of questions to from what we call a history, this includes information about your dog's:
  • Age Breed Sex Eating Drinking Toiletting General Health
  • How long the lesion has been present .  Has the lesion grown/how quickly
  • Does it cause any irritation to your dog/is he chewing at it
  • Has your dog had anything like this before?
Your vet will then come up with a list of possible diagnoses for the lesion which in the case of your dog's paw would probably include:
  1. Histiocytoma
  2. Mast cell tumour
  3. Other growths/tumours
How do we find out what it is? In combination with the history your vet will put together and examining your dog's paw, your vet may suggest taking samples from or removing the entire lesion itself and then analysing the tissues as a laboratory.  The results of the analysis will hopefully tell your vet exactly what the lesion is and how it can be treated along with the likelihood of recurrence. Histiocytoma Is probably top of the list of things that the photo of your dog's paw look like, they are a benign ( non cancerous) type of growth that are usually found in young dogs, they rarely cause any pain and can sometimes go away after a few months by themselves.  If however your dog is bothered by the growth, or diagnosis cannot be made without full removal of the growth then surgery may be the best option. Mast Cell Tumours Are another type of growth which can look similar to the photo of your dog's paw, but can also have many other appearances.  These are generally a more aggressive type of cancerous growth, there are several different types of them and the chances of successfully treating them varies which each type.  Mast cell tumours are more likely in older dogs and can change in size/shape due to release of a chemical called histamine. Other growths/tumours There is a very long list of other types of skin lesions such as ulcers, burns and other tumours that can cause lesions on the paws and close examination with/without sampling may be the only way to determine what the growth on our dog's paw is. What should I do next? Make an appointment to see your vet, give them as much information as you can about your dog's paw.  Your vet will then suggest a plan of action, in some cases this will be to recheck after a set length of time or it may be to book your dog in for sampling/surgical removal of the lesion followed by laboratory analysis. Once the results are back in then both you and your vet will have a much clearer idea of what the lesion is, how to treat it ( if further treatment is needed) and the chances of the lesion coming back. I hope that my answer has helped you to understand some of the possibilities for what might be happening with your dog's paw.  With the help of your vet I hope that your dog is soon on the road to recovery. Shanika Winters MRCVS ( online vet) If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

Murder mystery after Crufts: what to do when malicious poisoning is suspected as the cause of death

It's rare for the death of a dog to make international headlines. Jagger was a good-looking three year old Irish Setter who died in Belgium, the day after returning from Crufts, where he had won a prize for being second in his class. The reason for the interest from the mass media was this: Jagger's owner claimed that his death was caused by deliberate poisoning.

Jagger died soon after returning from Crufts

The day after competing in Crufts in Birmingham on Thursday, Jagger had travelled back to his home in Belgium by train, arriving around midnight on Friday. His owner then prepared food for him, but when she called him, he collapsed and started shaking, before going into a coma, then dying. She called her vet immediately, and an autopsy was carried out. It was reported that the dog's stomach contained "cubes of meat - some sort of beef-like steak - that had been sewn up with poison inside". At the time, the suggestion has been made that the dog had been fed the poison bait on Thursday, in a formulation designed to be released slowly. Samples were sent to the toxicology laboratory for analysis, and two poisons were identified - carbofuran and aldicarb. These are fast acting agricultural toxins, illegal in the EU, which would cause severe clinical symptoms to occur within half an hour to three hours, meaning that it was not possible that the poison bait had been eaten the previous day.

Poisoning is common in daily veterinary practice

As a vet in practice, I've often been called to assist in episodes of suspected malicious poisoning. There are three types of incident which fall into this category.

Unexplained sudden deaths

First, the unexplained sudden severe illness and death of a dog, where a grief-stricken owner is desperately looking for a reason for their pet's demise, and perhaps someone to blame. There are many possible reasons for sudden death, from brain haemorrhage, to heart failure, to an acute viral infection, to an internal catastrophe such as the twisting of an abdominal organ. When an owner witnesses such a death, poison is often at the top of their personal list of likely causes, but in reality, it's exceptionally rare. The only way that it can be ruled in or out is by carrying out a detailed autopsy, but even this is often not conclusive. Many causes of sudden death (as listed above) leave surprisingly scanty physical evidence, and it isn't as easy as you'd think to carry out a "poison analysis" on samples from the digestive tract. Each poison needs to be searched for specifically, and there are dozens of possibilities. Each individual test costs money, so it would be easy to spend many hundreds of pounds fruitlessly checking for poisons. Many cases of sudden death remain a mystery, with no definitive answer.

Accidental poisoning

The second type of suspected malicious poisoning happens when a dog shows classical signs of poisoning rather than the vaguer signs of just "sudden severe illness then death". Examples include neurological signs (such as staggering, fitting and collapse), digestive signs (such as vomiting and diarrhoea), respiratory signs (such as difficulty breathing) or signs linked to poor blood clotting. Sometimes a clinical work up can be fairly definitive that a poison is the cause, and an owner's automatic response is often that it must be deliberate. In fact, most poisonings are accidental rather than planned: dogs investigate the world with their mouths. Many poisonous substances are left within a dog's reach (e.g. rat poison, slug bait, and weedkillers) and this is the most common reason for dogs to be poisoned.

Deliberate malicious poisoning

The third type of suspected malicious poisoning is the real thing: when somebody deliberately leaves out poison bait for a dog. In thirty years of vet practice, I have only come across this on a handful of occasions. In most cases, several dogs have been affected and often the owners have actually witnessed their dogs taking the bait. In one case, the owner brought the remainder of the bait with them to the vet: it was very obviously poison mixed with meat. The signs of poisoning usually start within minutes or hours of the poison being taken. A specific poison is usually suspected from the signs shown by the dog, so only one test needs to be done in the laboratory, making it easy to have the cause proven. In most cases, there was an obvious motive for the poisoning (e.g. history of dogs chasing sheep in a rural area, complaints about dogs barking in a neighbourhood). Such cases are exceptionally rare, thank goodness.

What was the cause of Jagger's death?

Jagger's death definitely fits into the third category: deliberate malicious poisoning, but there is still a mystery over how exactly this happened. The timing of it - over 24 hours after leaving Crufts - means that it cannot have happened at the dog show. It seems far more likely that the dog picked up the poison bait in his home country, during the two or three hours prior to developing signs of toxicity. Was it a bait left out specifically for this dog? Or was it a bait left out for foxes in the neighbourhood that Jagger picked up by accident? Perhaps we'll never know the final answer to this well-publicised mystery. If your dog shows sudden signs of illness and you're not sure what to do, use the VetHelpDirect symptom checker: the chances are that you will need to call your vet at once, but this quick-to-use guide may reassure you that you are taking the right course of action.