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Ask a vet online-‘what age do seasons stop?’

Question from Julie Wilshaw: at wot age do staffies.stop having seasons? Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Julie, you have asked an interesting question for all owners of entire (unspayed) female dogs.  In short entire bitches (female dogs) do not stop having seasons.  I will discuss what seasons are, signs that your bitch is in season, when seasons tend to start and what happens as your bitch gets older. A season is what we call the time when a bitch is able to get pregnant (reproduce).  An average season lasts approximately three weeks, during this time the vulva (outside part of the bitches vagina) becomes pink and swollen, there is often a bloody discharge for around 9 days, this is followed by ovulation (eggs being released from the ovaries) and after this time things start to settle back to normal. Bitches usually have one to two seasons a year.  During a season bitches give off pheromones which attract entire male dogs from a long distance away, also at or near the time of ovulation the bitch may stand with her tail held up and to the side to allow herself to be mated.  Some bitches can become aggressive during their season others more clingy.
  1. Anoestrous - not in season, around 6-8months
  2. Proestrous - around 9 days, vulva swells, vaginal bleeding
  3. Oestrous - around 9 days, usually stop bleeding allows mating
  4. Dioestrous - around 2-3months, high levels of the hormone progesterone which can sometimes lead to false pregnancies
The above is just a simple example of an average season, there can be lots of variation in how a bitch behaves and shows its season and of the length of the individual parts of the season. Seasons usually start at around six months of age but can be as late as one year to eighteen months.  It is often thought that small bitches usually start their seasons sooner than larger bitches of dog as they take longer to mature. As your bitch gets older it seems reasonable to assume that they will stop having seasons, in humans what we call the menopause.  However in the case of bitches this does not happen; female dogs continue to have seasons for their entire lives and therefore could potentially get pregnant. So why do so many dog owners think that their bitches have stopped having seasons?  This is because as bitches get older they do not always show the external or behavioural signs that they are actually having a season, this can sometimes be referred to as a ‘silent season’.  It is important to remember that even though your bitch may not be showing signs of being in season that she could still get pregnant if mated by an entire male dog. Why is it worth considering getting your older bitch spayed (neutered)? The obvious reason would be that you did not intend to breed form your bitch but it is also worth considering hormone related disease processes that can happen in older entire bitches; such as pyometra9(womb infection), uterine cancer(womb tumours) and mammary tumours(breast cancer).  The diseases mentioned are all influenced by the female sex hormones which will still be produced on a regular basis if your bitch is entire. A lot of dog owners are worried about having surgery carried out as their dogs become older, this should always be discussed with your vet or veterinary nurse and all the risks weighed up against the potential benefits to your dog. I hope that my answer has helped to explain why even though it may seem like your bitch has stopped having seasons that she actually is still having them and will continue to do so for the rest of her life. 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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Ask a vet online-‘treatment for feline herpes virus’

Question from Carmen James: Best treatment for feline herpes virus flare ups? Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Carmen and thank you for your question regarding feline herpes virus, I will discuss what the virus is, the disease process and possible treatment options. So what is feline herpes virus? Herpes is a virus that we are familiar with in people as it is associated with cold sores, herpes viruses are specific to a species that means human herpes viruses only affect people and feline herpes virus only affects cats. Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) can affect any cat, it is spread in discharges from eyes, nose and mouth. FHV is usually associated with cold like symptoms which include runny eyes, sneezing, coughing, corneal ulcers (ulcers on the surface of the eye) and general signs of illness such as increased temperature, weakness and appetite loss. How do I know if my cat has FHV? If your cat seems unwell and is showing any of the signs listed above then it is important to take him to your vet for a full examination. A combination of the signs listed and blood tests or PCR test (tests done on discharge samples from your cat at a laboratory) can confirm that your cat is likely to be suffering from FHV. Herpes viruses can remain in your cat even when they seem well and this means that your cat could spread the disease (your vet may refer to the virus as being latent). At times of stress the virus can be shed by your cat and this may also mean signs of illness appear. The severity of the signs of illness will depend on your cats level of stress and how strong its immune system is (that is its body’s natural defence against diseases) Can my cat be vaccinated against FHV? Routine cat vaccines offer protection against cat flu and FHV is one of the components of the cat flu part of the vaccine. Vaccinations give your pet protection against disease but this cannot account for factors such as your cat already being exposed to the virus before vaccinations. Why do cat with FHV get flare ups? The reason for flare ups in cases of FHV is due to the nature of herpes viruses, they remain in the cats body and when your pet is well the virus is ‘latent’. At times of stress however the virus is shed(released again) and this can lead to signs of disease again or a ‘flare up’. How can the flare ups be treated? Firstly it is really important to try and avoid flare ups of FHV by ensuring your cat is well, calm and up to date with his or her vaccines. However even with the best possible cat care flare ups will still occur. There is no licenced antiviral treatment available for cats with FHV, there are a few human antiviral medicines in the form of tablets, creams and ointments which have been tried on cats with some success. Most commonly it is antibiotics which are used to treat FHV signs, this is because when your cat has a viral infection they are more prone to bacterial infections on top of the viral infection. Antibiotics are effective against the bacterial part of the infection, and once this is cleared your cat will hopefully feel better, have less discharge from its eyes /nose and feel like eating and drinking. If it is only the eyes that are affected then treatment can be focused on the eyes alone, this avoids giving medications that may have side effects on the whole of your cat. How to minimise flare ups? Prevention of flare ups can be helped by keeping your pets environment calm, having a regular daily routine, strict hygiene when it comes to food dishes/water dishes and the litter tray. Isolate cats showing signs from other cats. Keeping your cat’s the eyes and nose clean and clear of discharges. The correct use of antiviral and or antibiotic drugs can also help keep flare ups to a minimum and shorten the lent hog episodes. I hope that my answer has helped you to understand how FHV works and that in order to keep flare up under control there are things you can do at home as well as with the help of your vet. 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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Ask a vet online –‘after the vet said she had gone she gave out a cry and her body jolted’

Question from Diane Stirk: I had to have my little blind girl put to sleep Friday, she was 13 and had all symptoms off dementia, but after the vet said she had gone she gave out a cry and her body jolted, y did she do this does it mean she wasn't gone, I'm heatbrocken over this, Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Diane firstly I am very sorry that you recently lost your pet, having a much loved pet put to sleep is always a very difficult decision.  I will try and explain what happens when a pet is put to sleep and to explain what can happen afterwards.  I hope that this can help to ease your upset over what happened with your pet. The reason we call euthanasia of a pet putting them to sleep is because your pet is actually given a very high dose of anaesthetic (drugs which are normally used to bring us to sleep for an operation).  The dose of anaesthetic given will cause your pet’s heart to stop beating; they will also stop breathing which results in them passing away. The anaesthetic drug is usually given by an injection directly into your pet’s blood stream.  With cat and dogs the injection is usually given into a vein on one of the front legs.  A small area of fur is first clipped away, the skin is then cleaned, and your pet’s leg will be supported by an assistant to enable your vet to put the injection into your pet’s vein.   You are still able to hold or hug your pet while the injection is being given if you want to.  In the case of rabbits the injection is often given into a vein on the ear, some smaller pets are given anaesthetic gas first followed by an injection. In some cases if the blood stream cannot be accessed, as your pet may have a collapsed circulation then the injection may be given into the kidney or liver.  The anaesthetic will then be absorbed into the blood stream a little slower than when injected directly into a vein. If your pet is distressed or generally frightened at the vets then they can be given a sedative before the anaesthetic injection.  The sedative is to calm your pet and reduce anxiety, which should hopefully make the process of losing your pet less stressful for both pet and owner.  Use of a sedative does however mean that the process will take a bit longer as the sedative will take time to work.  The sedative can be given as a tablet or injection into the skin or muscle. Once the anaesthetic reaches the correct concentration in your pet’s blood stream, this will cause your pets heart to stop beating and them to stop breathing.  Your pet will no longer react to sounds or touch; your vet will listen to your pet’s heart, feel for its pulse and may check its reflex by gently touching the eye.  This is all to confirm that your pet has passed away. After a pet has passed away as the muscles relax the bladder and bowels may empty, some pets also give a gasp as the air leaves the lungs.  In some animals there are jerky movements after death, called agonal movements.  These movements do not mean that your pet is alive or suffering.  The agonal movements happen as chemicals leak out of the body cells and allow muscle to contract.  Normally when alive these chemicals are kept in place until the body needs to use its muscles. Understandably it can be very distressing for a pet owner to see or hear sounds coming from their pet after he/she has been put to sleep.  If you have any concerns either before or after losing a pet then make sure you contact your vet or veterinary nurse.  We will make time to discuss things with you and do our best to help put you at ease with this very difficult situation. I hope that this answer has helped a little to explain what happened after you lost your pet and that your worries have been eased. Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online vet)
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Ask a vet online – ‘my dog has been weeing blood could it be infection or something more’

Question from Sharon Harris: My dog aged 10 has on a couple of times been weeing blood he does one long one which is ok then just walks round weeing bits but that's when the blood starts he is wanting to go out more often than he usually does ,drinking more still eating and his usual self but have noticed a lump that is inside lower stomach but has lumps all over his body but many wiems have these lumps could it be infection or something more Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Sharon, thank you for your question regarding your 10 year old dog who is passing blood in his urine (wee) this symptom is called Haematuria. It sounds like your dog is still bright and happy in himself, it is possible that his haematuria is due to an infection but can also be related to bladder disease, kidney disease or prostate disease.  It is really important to get your dog examined by your vet as soon as possible. What will happen when I take my dog to the vet? Your vet will ask a lot of questions to form a history of what is going on with your dog, including drinking and urinating habits which you have already listed in your question.  It is very helpful to bring in a urine sample in a clean container when the condition relates to the urine.  It can be tricky to catch a urine sample from your dog, especially if they prefer to wee when off the lead but a clean bowl and some perseverance should eventually mean you can get a sample.  Your vet can collect a sample by passing a urinary catheter (long thin soft plastic tube placed into the bladder) but this can be uncomfortable and may require sedation/hospitalisation for your dog. Your vet will also take into consideration whether or not your pet has been neutered(castrated) as in older male dogs the influence of sex hormones(produced by the testicles) can affect the prostate gland which can lead to haematuria.  The prostate gland is found in male dogs around the neck of the bladder and it produces various secretions which go into semen (the liquid sperm is in).  The prostate gland is usually small and inactive in neutered male dogs, but in entire male dogs the prostate can become enlarged, infected and or cancerous.  Many of the diseases of the prostate gland can lead to haematuria.  Your vet can often feel the shape and size of your dog’s prostate gland by examining your dog internally and externally. The kidneys are the organ which actually produces urine, your dog has two and they filter his blood to remove toxins and waste products which are then lost in the urine.  So haematuria could be blood coming from the kidneys either due to infection, kidney stones or cancerous changes in the kidneys or the tubing from the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters). The bladder is a stretchy bag made of muscle and lined with a delicate membrane (layer) which stores the urine produced by the kidneys and empties out through a tube called the urethra.  Haematuria could be blood from the bladder or urethra due to infection, stones, polyps, trauma (accidents) or cancerous changes. Your vet will thoroughly examine your dog paying extra attention to the back end of the abdomen, will also check your dog’s penis and likely examine your dog internally (via his bottom).  This helps to give information about the kidneys, bladder and prostate gland. What will happen to the urine sample? The first thing your vet will do is look at the colour of the urine sample, this may or may not show visible blood, sometime only tiny traces of blood are present in the urine sample and can be picked up on a dip stick. A urine dip stick is a card strip that has lots of little coloured patches on it; they each detect different chemicals and substances in the urine and give a quick result.  Most veterinary practices can also examine urine samples under the microscope to look for unusual cells and or crystals. If the result and rest of your dog’s examination suggests infection then your vet may suggest trying a course of antibiotics.  If however your vet thinks there may be more going on a carefully collected urine sample may be sent for laboratory analysis which involves culture and sensitivity, this looks at what bacteria are present and which antibiotics are likely to work on them. What further test might my dog need? Your vet may suggest blood tests to check that your pet has not lost too much blood, how its general health is and how well its body organs are functioning.  Blood tests do not always show up a lot of changes but this still gives us information as to how your dog is. X-rays may be taken conscious or under sedation or general anaesthesia, this gives a picture of what is happening inside of your dog, in the case of the bladder and prostate gland we sometimes add a contrast (chemical or air) to help show up details of the tubing and bladder lining. Ultra sound scans are another way of looking more closely at what is happening inside your dog, in order for these to be performed an area of fur will be clipped away, the skin cleaned and then a gel placed onto it to help p the ultrasound probe to make good contact and pick up details.  Ultrasound scans can be particularly useful for looking at the kidneys and bladder. What possible treatments might my dog need? The exact treatment your dog has will depend on what disease process is found in in what part of your dog it is. Urine tract infection: This is usually treated with a course of antibiotics and repeat urine samples tested to see when the infection has cleared. Bladder stones/urine crystals: This can be treated using special diets to reduce stone/crystal formation, surgery to remove stones, medications to help dissolve stones/crystals along with antibiotics and pain relief as required. Bladder growths/polyps: These can be surgically removed and analysed to give an idea of they are likely to return or cause further problems. Kidney infection:  This is usually treated by intensive antibiotics along with intra venous fluid therapy (drip line into your dog) to help keep the kidneys flushed through and functioning. Kidney growth/abnormalities: If the growth is cancerous and might spread then the kidney might be surgically removed. If the kidney is diseased e.g. polycystic then it will be left in place and your dog given medications and diets to help preserve what is left of its kidney function. Prostate enlargement/growths: If your dog is entire then surgical or chemical castration might be advised along with surgery to de bulk the growth if appropriate. I hope that my answer has helped you to understand how complex something as simple as blood in the urine can be.  Hopefully with your vets help, your dog will be on his road to recovery soon. 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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Ask a vet online- ‘my Bichon friese keeps goin for his side and making bald patchers’

Question from Shell Cottam: My Bichon friese keeps goin for his side and making bald patchers, we are have in to keep his cone on to stop it, is there anything you can recommend to stop him doin this please Answer from Shanika Winters: Hi Shell and thank you for your question regarding your dog going for his side.  I will discuss some possible reasons for your dog’s behaviour and then possible ways to tackle these. From what you are describing it sounds as though your dog is biting and or scratching at himself to the extent that he is losing his hair.  I am sure that both you and your dog would be a lot happier if he did not have to keep a cone on his head long term to prevent his hair loss.  The first think we need to do is find out the history of how your dog is in general and how long the condition has been going on.  Your vet will ask you some of the following questions: Is your dog generally well? By this we mean is he eating, drinking, toileting, happy to exercise and generally acting as normal other than the condition you have brought him in for.  We ask this as underlying illnesses can sometime show up in unexpected ways, so something you may not at first think is linked to the hair loss could be.  An example of this would be if your dog was generally listless and not as keen to exercise along with hair loss this may suggest an underactive thyroid gland. How long has the condition been present and has it changed? Your vet will want to know when the condition first started and if there were any particular changes at this time e.g. getting a new pet, change of food, starting a new job all things that can help us to work out why your dog is losing hair and if the situation is stable, improving or getting worse.  It is really important to tell your vet if you have already tried any treatments even if these are over the counter shampoos or anti parasitic treatments. What are some possible causes for the biting and hair loss? Top of the list is always parasites; they can sometimes be tricky to spot at first.  We would consider fleas(both cat and dog fleas) and mites(sarcoptes and cheyletiella) as possible causes, these can be diagnosed by examining your pet, and sometimes we need to take skin scrapes, hair combings or hair plucks to look at under the microscope. Bacterial infections can sometimes lead to irritation and hair loss, this may be seen in the form of spots, scabs, crustiness and or areas of raw wet skin.  In some cases we would take swabs or biopsies from the skin to make sure we were treating with the correct antibiotic and for the correct length of time.  The samples can be looked at by your own vet but are sometimes sent away to a laboratory to be analysed. Allergies can cause a dog to lose hair, these can be to something your pet has been in contact with such as shampoo/new bedding/plants, something your pet has eaten such as a new food or scavenged items or something inhaled such as pollen and dust (we call this atopy). Hair loss can be due to a behavioural problem such as boredom or stress. Hopefully the questions your vet asks will help narrow down the list of possible causes for the hair loss and will point to the answer or at least the most appropriate tests to carry out. What tests will they do on my dog? After the basic examination and history taking your vet may suggest doing skin scrapes, hair plucks or combings to look for parasites as mentioned above.  If examining the sample in house(at your own vets) did not give enough information they may ask if the samples can be sent away to an external laboratory, the results may take days to week to come back.  Blood test and or biopsies can give us information as to what is happening in your pet’s body/skin e.g. certain white blood cells are increased in cases of allergies, there may be bacteria present in the blood and or infection fighting cells. Specific blood tests to look for allergies and or hormone imbalances which could be causing the hair loss can also be useful.  Special diets, shampoos or medications may be tried and then the how well your dog responds to these can help us to work out the cause of the problem and if we are on the right track. What treatments are there? If parasites are suspected or detected then routine flea and mite treatment will be advised including treatment of the home environment. For some bacterial infections shampoos are very effective but they may need to be used in combination with the appropriate antibiotics also. Allergies can be treated by avoiding the substance if possible, anti-allergy drugs, special diets and special vaccines or a combination of these. Behavioural conditions may need treatment by retraining your dog, strengthening the pet owner relationship, making the home environment more stimulating and sometimes the use of behaviour modifying drugs. I hope that my answer has helped you to understand that we need to take a logical step by step approach to helping your dog, this would most likely start with ruling out parasites followed by a thorough examination and diagnostic work up by your vet. 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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