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    Microchipping Law – is it working?

    It is now two years since the “Microchip Law” - actually, The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 - came into force. The aim was definitely laudable:   “Not only will this mean the UK’s 8.5 million dogs can be returned to their owners more quickly if they wander too far from home, but it will also make it easier to track down the owners of dogs that carry out attacks on people.”

    DEFRA, 6th April 2016

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    Homoeopathy is less likely to kill animals than refusing to take a pet to the vet

    A social media war is raging in the veterinary world

    An unnecessary war is raging between non-believing and believing members of the veterinary profession. No, I am not talking about religion, but the beliefs I’m talking about are held as passionately as if this was a fundamentalist versus atheist war. The topic is homoeopathy, and the latest battle in the war has been prompted by an infographic written by a vet that’s being widely shared on social media, provocatively titled “Homoeopathy Does No Harm: Really?”. This lists a number of anecdotal incidents where animals have allegedly died when homoeopathy was used in the place of conventional veterinary medicine.

    Medicine Safety… A real issue for us as well as pets!

    Licensed veterinary medicines are, generally, fairly safe. Before receiving a license and being marketed, they must be very thoroughly assessed for effectiveness and safety by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in the UK, or their equivalent organisations elsewhere in the EU. While it is true that adverse reactions and side effects may occur, if used appropriately the balance of risk to benefit is very much in the patient’s favour. This, though, is something I’m hoping to come back to in a future blog… For today, I want to look at the other side of the coin - the potential risk to both animal and human health from accidental misuse of veterinary products.
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    Easter Dangers – 4 pet poisons to watch out for over the holiday

    Easter break is finally upon us! However, while it’s a holiday for us - and for many of us, a time to celebrate with Easter Eggs and family gatherings. However, there are some serious seasonal threats to our pets - in this blog, we’re going to look at 5 important poisons to be aware of at this time of year.   Chocolate Hopefully this is well known now… but vets across the country still see a surge in poisonings over Easter (all those eggs and bunnies…). Cocoa beans contain the active ingredient theobromine, as well as a smaller amount of caffeine. These two chemicals are collectively referred to as methylxanthines, and although harmless to humans, are toxic to both dogs and cats. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by restlessness and anxiety. In more serious poisonings, convulsions, hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) and heart rhythm abnormalities may follow, which may in severe cases prove fatal. Dogs are at the highest risk of poisoning because they often have a “sweet tooth” and are quite capable of chewing through packaging to get to the treat inside! Cats are just as susceptible to the toxic ingredient, but don’t usually like the taste of chocolate - so clinical poisoning is much rarer. Of course, as the toxic methylxanthines are present in the cocoa solids in the chocolate, not all forms are equally dangerous - the higher the cocoa solid level, the more toxic. White chocolate generally has the least, with more in milk, then dark, then cocoa powder. The more “pure” the chocolate is the more dangerous - but don’t discount even cheaper milk chocolates as poisoning is still perfectly possible! The best treatment is for your vet to induce vomiting before symptoms appear, and get rid of the poison before it’s absorbed. In some cases, activated charcoal may be used to “mop up” any left over. If symptoms have started, anti-vomiting drugs, anti-seizure medication, and heart drugs are used to control the symptoms. If symptoms are severe or progressing rapidly, your dog or cat would normally be admitted to the hospital for intensive care and intravenous fluids - a very expensive chocolate egg! Our advice for prevention is to keep any chocolate in a secure place, well out of reach of curious (or greedy) pets!   Lilies There are a wide range of plants called “Lilies” - some (like Peace Lily) are largely harmless, some can affect the heart (like Lily of the Valley), but many are lethally toxic to cats causing acute and often fatal kidney failure. Although the exact toxin is still uncertain, it is present in all parts of the plant, and even a tiny nibble at a leaf can be dangerous. Cats have even been poisoned by grooming themselves after lily pollen dusted onto their fur! The toxin damages the kidneys, leading to increased thirst and urination (“polyuric kidney failure”), and then complete kidney shutdown with the inability to produce urine at all (“anuric failure”). Kidney failure is commonly associated with vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, collapse, dehydration, convulsions and finally death. Treatment with intensive care and aggressive intravenous fluid therapy can be effective before symptoms appear, or even in the early stages of poisoning, but cats that stop producing urine have a very poor prognosis. Prevention is much better than cure, and we recommend that houses with cats in should never contain lilies as well! If you’re not sure which ones are poisonous, its those belonging to the Lilium and Hemerocallis groups - but if in doubt, if it’s called lily, it’s better off being given to a cat-free friend!   Daffodils Yes, daffodils are poisonous to a wide range of animals, including both cats and dogs! However, the toxic components - chemicals called lycorine and phenanthridine alkaloids - are concentrated in the bulbs, and poisoning is usually only seen in animals (or, occasionally, humans) who eat the bulbs. Most cases are relatively mild, with excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea, as the alkaloids irritate the gut lining. Occasionally, more severe symptoms are seen, including abdominal pain, tremors, and heart problems, but this is rare. Treatment is usually symptomatic - rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, anti-sickness medication if needed, and anti-convulsants or heart drugs if required. Fortunately, most cases are fairly mild, and in some cases, symptoms may never be noticed.   Flea Treatments Spring is finally springing… and so are the fleas! This is traditionally the time when everyone starts treating their pets for fleas (which is, I’d like to emphasise, always a good thing - even though nowadays fleas tend to be active all year round). However, it is VITAL to remember that cats, dogs and rabbits are all different species, with different tolerances for different medications. The typical example is a cat who is treated by their well-meaning owner with a pyrethroid or permethrin flea treatment. These spot-on drops are very safe and effective in dogs and rabbits, but lethal to cats - they cross into the brain and cause convulsions, seizures, and are usually fatal. However, there is another problem - fipronil treatments used in rabbits. We now know that this drug can cause delayed poisoning in rabbits - with symptoms including tremors, seizures, diarrhoea, and death. However, in many cases symptoms do not appear for several days or even weeks after dosing. To avoid problems or accidental poisoning, ALWAYS make sure you use the right product on the right animal, and if in doubt, talk to your vet for specific advice! If your pet has eaten any of these poisons, we always recommend that you ring your vet for advice, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms yet. You can find a local vet here, too!

    Spring into danger… poisonous flowers for cats

    There are a wide range of plants that are potentially toxic to cats (check out this list for more details!). However, for most plants, poisoning is relatively uncommon because most cats are sensible enough not to try eating them! There are, however, a number that are important, either because cats can be exposed in other ways, or because the plants are so common that poisoning is seen more than very occasionally - and in this blog, we’re going to look at some of the more important plants that are poisonous to cats.   Agapanthus (also known as African Blue Lily). Although not a true lily (see below!), this plant is also toxic, as when the rhizomes (root bulbs) are damaged they exude a sticky and highly irritant latex-like sap. If licked (for example, if it gets onto the cat’s paw, or if they nibble on the plant from curiosity), symptoms include sudden onset pain, swelling and pain to the gums and mouth, and excess salivation. The tongue and throat then become swollen, and eventually diarrhoea occurs; in very severe cases, the swelling of the throat may make breathing difficult, and this can even be life-threatening.   Agapanthus plants also contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which are found in many other plants (e.g. Anthurium, or Flamingo Lily). These crystals are also highly irritant to the gastrointestinal system, causing drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea, but as they are not adhesive like the Agapanthus sap, the effects tend to be a little less severe, and poisonings are less commonly seen.   Chrysanthemums As a good cat owner, you probably know not to use dog or rabbit flea products on your cat - because they often contain pyrethrins as their active ingredient, and can cause convulsions, seizures and often death. Well, pyrethrins come originally from chrysanths, and if eaten, the flowers (as well as other parts of the plant) can have the same lethal effects. Lower doses may also result in vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by incoordination.   Daffodils A beautiful symbol of spring! However, daffodils - especially the bulbs - contain toxic chemicals called lycorine and alkaloids. If nibbled - and we do occasionally see cats who like to try a taste! - the symptoms are unlikely to be severe, but may include vomiting, salivation and diarrhoea. It is very rare for a cat to ingest enough for more serious symptoms, which can involve heart problems and even tremors or convulsions.   Amaryllis, Hyacinths and Bluebells are quite closely related and contain similar toxins, so again, if your cat has an inordinate interest in them, consider rehoming the plants!   Lilies This is the big one - the true lilies, Lilium and Hemerocallis (day-lilies), are lethal to cats. The exact toxin is uncertain at the moment, it is highly destructive to the kidneys. It can be absorbed by nibbling the plant (as little as one nibble of a flower can be fatal), or even grooming after being dusted by pollen from the plant. The initial effect is called “polyuric kidney injury”, where the cat becomes thirsty and urinates profusely. They become depressed, lose interest in food, may start vomiting, and become progressively dehydrated. Then, unless they have absorbed only a tiny, tiny quantity, they progress to “anuric kidney failure” as the kidneys shut down completely and the cat stops producing urine. This results in collapse, sometimes seizures, and then death. If treatment can be started before symptoms of kidney failure appear - and certainly before the kidneys completely shut down - the chances are best, but this is a very nasty toxin, and sadly once anuric kidney failure occurs most cats won’t make it even with intensive care. In general, cats and lilies are a bad mix - and probably should not be living together in the same house!   Lily of the Valley Convallaria majalis is, again, not a true lily. However, it does contain a wide range of toxic chemicals, including irritant saponins that leach into the water - a major problem can be cats drinking water from vases in which flowers have been put. The symptoms typically include the usual drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea; however, the toxins also damage the heart and can lead to rhythm disturbances. In many cases, the onset of symptoms is significantly delayed after ingestion, and poisoning can in many cases be fatal without early treatment.   Poinsettia Lots of people know about poinsettia. This plant oozes a sticky milky sap which is highly irritant to the gums and intestines. This can lead to excessive salivation and vomiting; however, it’s rarely severe, and poisoning isn’t reported to cause fatalities.   Rhododendron While rhododendron poisoning is more commonly seen in sheep and goats, as the pollen is also toxic, toxicity is possible in cats who are dusted with pollen and then groom themselves. This is a really nasty set of toxins, and within hours of ingestion of a toxic quantity (roughly 4g of pollen), symptoms develop. These typically start with excessive salivation, crying, and then vomiting and diarrhoea. This progresses to difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, convulsions, coma, and ultimately death.   If you think your cat might have been exposed to any of these poisonous plants, give your vet a ring for advice. In many cases, treatment before symptoms appear will give the very best chance of a full recovery.
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    One Health – a new approach

    Have you heard of the “One Health” movement? If not, you will be soon! As we learn more and more, we’re realising just how connected human health, animal health, and environmental health are. As a result, in recent years vets, doctors and environmental scientists have started working more and more closely… to study the problem and hopefully find some solutions.
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    Does my cat need company?

    This is a question vets hear a lot - people who are worried that their cat will be lonely, or need a companion. So in this blog, we’re going to look into it in more detail for you!
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    Top Tips: Caring for Animals in the Cold

    While anyone who was completely surprised by the freezing weather and snowstorms of the last couple of days obviously wasn’t paying attention (!), I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us were startled at how bad it actually got. Down here on Dartmoor, we haven’t seen weather like this for a decade or more. So, I thought it was a good idea to put up a quick blog on caring for animals in the snow.
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    Best UK Vet 2018!

    What are the Best UK Vet Awards? When you are searching for a vet practice, you want to be assured that you’ll be going somewhere with top customer service, which often comes through personal recommendation, or more importantly these days through online reviews. The Best UK Vet Awards recognise this, and are based on genuine pet owner reviews of veterinary practices, rewarding dedication to excellent customer service. This is something very close to our heart, which is why this is our sixth year of sponsoring the awards. Pet owners are encouraged to leave reviews on and, using a star system to rank the practice (one star for very poor and five for excellent), plus any comments to explain the ranking given. We then tot up all of the four and five star reviews for participating practices, from the past 12 months, to find our winners. Winners receive a certificate and trophy at an awards ceremony and a party budget to allow them to thank all of their lovely clients. The 2018 results are finally in….and….the winners are…
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    Did you know that February is Neutering Month?

    This is a rather strange one (and I have to say I think it’s rather unfortunate it falls over Valentine’s Day!), but neutering is a major issue in animal health. There are three reasons for this - it’s widely carried out, there are population-level health benefits, but there are both advantages and disadvantages to neutering on the individual pet level.
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