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Can I give painkillers to my dog?

This is a question that seems to be popping up an awful lot on the internet at the moment… People wondering if they can use paracetamol, or ibuprofen or aspirin as painkillers for their dogs, or giving any kind of painkiller to their cat. At the moment, of course, this is a really big deal - with so many vets on "emergencies only", it can be very tempting to try to medicate your pet at home. The short advice, though, is don’t try this at home. While there are some human painkilling drugs that can be used in dogs and cats, they all have potentially serious and even life-threatening side effects, and poisoning is sadly really common.

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Why is my rabbit not eating?

When rabbits stop eating, it’s usually serious. As prey species, they’re hard-wired to carry on as if nothing is wrong, to make sure they don’t look weak to a predator. Although there are lots of different reasons a rabbit may stop eating, they’re often very sick when this happens and I recommend taking them straight to a rabbit-savvy vet if you notice a drop in their appetite.
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Just stiff, or sore?

One of the most common conditions encountered in practice is arthritis, otherwise known as osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD). It may be underdiagnosed because many owners may see their older dogs ‘slowing down’ or ‘becoming stiff’ and consider it part of getting old. It’s often only picked up at routine examinations, such as during vaccinations. While common (thought to affect 20% of adult dogs) it is not normal and can significantly impair our ageing pets’ quality of life.
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My dog is panting excessively – What could be wrong?

For dogs, panting can be a natural reaction to exertion, heat, excitement, and fear. If the panting is excessive it may be a sign or symptom that something is wrong.
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My pet needs to see a vet… but is it an emergency?

Obviously, if you have any doubts - give your vet a ring! There’ll always be someone on duty who will be able to give advice over the phone, even if it isn’t an emergency that needs seeing right now. However, there are only thirteen or fourteen conditions that are genuinely life-or-death emergencies, and these need seeing RIGHT NOW. If your pet is suffering from one of the following conditions, they need seeing - as soon as possible. So, don’t delay - call your vet and then get in the car and drive!
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Communicating with pets: body language versus speaking English

One of the biggest challenges for vets is our lack of ability to have conversations with our patients. This isn’t always a huge problem: for example, if a dog has a broken leg, or a cat has an abscess, the problem is very easy to identify just by examining the patient. But we could still learn useful information from a verbal discussion. I would like to ask “How painful is it?”, or “Which cat attacked you?”. Treatment would also be easier to give if we could give our patients verbal instructions, such as “You must not chew this plaster cast off” or “You must let your owner bathe the sore area twice daily”. Pain is a specific area where communication would be particularly useful. An animal in pain does not usually yelp or miaow. This only happens if the sore area is touched. More frequently, pain just causes an animal to become dull and quiet. If you could ask them, they would certainly tell you about the pain, but in the absence of language, you need to learn to interpret the more subtle signs of pain. Dilated pupils, an increased heart rate and rapid shallow breathing are all indications that an animal may be in pain. A better understanding of the non-vocal signs of pain in pets has led to much wider use of pain relief for animals, especially after surgery. Over the years, vets have learned to understand the body language of their patients. If a dog holds his head to one side, he may have a sore ear. If a cat spends more time hovering near her water bowl, she is probably thirsty and may be suffering from kidney disease. A dog who stops wanting to go up steps will often be suffering from back pain. Close observation of animal body language can give plenty of information. Owners also become very tuned in to their own pets’ attempts at communication. I have often been told that an animal ‘would almost talk to you’. Dogs in particular learn that if they behave in a certain way, they will get what they want, and they can be very persistent. I know a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Chloe who always sleeps in the kitchen. Mrs O’Reilly, her owner, had recently started to put a big floor cushion on the tiled surface, to give Chloe a softer bed. After a few weeks, Chloe had learned the routine, and towards the end of the evening, Chloe recognised the signs that bedtime was approaching. The television was turned off, the doors were locked, keys were hung on the hook and finally Chloe’s cushion was put on the kitchen floor. Last week Mrs Reilly was away and her husband was doing the evening routine alone. He forgot about Chloe’s cushion! Chloe did her best to tell him that she wanted her cushion. Firstly, she followed him around, deliberately getting in his way so that he would surely know that she wanted something. When he did not understand, she went over to the cupboard where the cushion was kept, and she pawed at the door. He still did not get the message, and so finally she barked repeatedly at the cupboard door. Only then did the poor man understand what his dog wanted. As soon as he had placed her cushion in its usual place, Chloe contentedly lay down on it, and slept. Pets cannot speak but they are much better than humans at using body language. If my dog could talk to me, the first thing he might say would be: “Why can’t you humans understand the most basic body language?”
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