Itch Scratch Cycle

Looking out of the window at the miserable gloomy skies it is good to remember that Spring and Summer are just around the corner. Many of us will be looking forward to the warmer weather and enjoying some sunnier dog walks. However the change in seasons can mean months of scratching and itching for many sensitive animals, particularly our dogs.

Although there can be many reasons for your pet scratching themselves, parasites and allergies are by far the commonest. We always recommend making sure your pet is up to date with their flea treatments, especially during the summer months when flea problems can quickly escalate.

Compared to people who develop hay fever when exposed to particular allergens or pollens our pets will start to scratch and over-groom. In some instances all that will be seen is a reddish-brown discolouration of the fur. Others will develop bald patches and some can enter an itch/scratch cycle where sores can develop due to the self trauma, which creates further itching and scratching, causing a very uncomfortable ongoing problem.

There are a wide variety of allergens that our sensitive pets can be affected by including some foods, environmental pollens, house dust and storage mites, even flea saliva! Identifying the particular culprit for each pet can be difficult, your vet might suggest a blood test or sampling of the itchy skin.

The best treatment for animals with allergies is to avoid the allergen itself. Unfortunately this is not always possible, or an exact allergen cannot always be found. In these cases medication can be given to reduce the itchiness and combat any secondary infection created by scratching or licking. If longer term treatments are needed there are some cases where it may be possible to make an immunotherapy vaccine to gradually desensitise your pet to the offending allergen. Alternatively there are medications that can be used to reduce the itchiness by altering the improper immune response created by the animal, these are designed to be used for longer periods when needed.

Although most allergies usually have to be managed rather than cured, please come and visit us if your pet is plagued by the summer itch as we can make them a lot comfier, and free to enjoy the warmer weather with you.

Ear Disease In Dogs

What do ears do?

Ears are very important organs for not only hearing but for maintaining balance and expressing behaviour.

Anatomy of the ear

The ear is split into three parts:

  1. External ear – ear flap (pinna) and ear canal
  2. Middle ear – ear drum (as well as eustachian tube and auditory ossicles)
  3. Inner ear – lies inside the skull

Symptoms of ear problems

Ear problems can be accompanied by many symptoms, including head shaking, rubbing/scratching the ears, excess wax or crusting, pain and redness of the ear, deafness, horrible smell, discharge from the ear and swelling of the ear flap (aural haematoma).

Causes of ear problems

Ear problems can be caused by many different things, the most common include:

  • Allergies – pets may show itching and sore skin in other places, and can be allergic to many things e.g. grasses, foods and mites
  • Excess wax production – similar to some humans, some dogs can produce too much wax and need their ears cleaned more regularly
  • Infections – the ear is a warm and moist environment which allows bacteria and fungi to thrive
  • Grass seeds – grass seeds can easily get stuck down a dog’s ear and travel further down the canal causing irritation
  • Ear mites – these are little parasites that live in the ear, particularly in young animals
  • Harvest mites – noticed as little orange specks of larvae on the ears, face and feet

As a result of head shaking and scratching, dogs can also get an aural haematoma, which is when the ear flap fills up with blood. This needs veterinary attention as often needs drainage or surgery to fix.

What can you do at home?

Not all pets will need their ears cleaned regularly, so it is a good idea to get your vet to check the ears at the annual vaccination to ensure the ear canals are clean. It is also important to use the correct equipment – NEVER use cotton buds.

Step by step guide to ear cleaning:

  1. Have a helping hand to restrain your pet
  2. Hold the ear flap with one hand so you can see the opening of the ear canal
  3. Squeeze a few drops of the cleaner down the canal, and gently massage the base until you can hear a squelching noise
  4. Use small balls of cotton wall to wipe away the excess wax that comes to the surface of the ear
  5. Reward your pet so they don’t associate ear cleaning with a negative experien

Hypoglycaemia in diabetic cats and dogs

One of the most important complications seen in diabetic pets on insulin treatment is a low blood glucose level.

Situations that may lead to hypoglycaemia are:

  1. Your pet receives the normal dose of insulin but has not received their normal quantity of food – they don’t eat it all, vomits up the meal or has diarrhoea.
  2. Your pet is abnormally active, leading to abnormally high energy (glucose) use.
  3. Your pet accidentally receives a dose of insulin that is too high
  4. Your pet’s insulin requirement has naturally fallen

Signs of low blood glucose

Low blood glucose can be fatal, so it is extremely important that you recognise these signs, which are often subtle in the early stages:

  • Restlessness
  • Trembling or shivering
  • Unusual movements or behaviour – some animals become very quiet and stop eating
  • Muscle twitching
  • Coma

What to do        

If any of the above sings are present you will have to react quickly

  1. Provide food / glucose solution immediately
  2. If your pet refuses to eat, administer a glucose solution immediately.  Glucose solution can be made from glucose powers and tap water or a commercially bought product from your vets or honey.
  3. Administer the solution carefully in to the cheek pouch.  Only do this if you are sure that your pet can swallow.  Give the solution very slowly to avoid choking.  A clean syringe is useful for administering this.
  4. If your pet is unable to swallow normally, rub the glucose powder, glucose gel or honey onto the gums (especially under the tongue) BE CAREFUL THAT YOU ARE NOT BITTEN.
  5. As soon as recovery is evident give your pet a small amount of food.  Then keep an eye on your pet for several hours to ensure that the signs do not return and contact your veterinary surgeon.
  6. If your dog’s condition worsens (muscle twitching, unconsciousness) or you are unsure, call your veterinary surgeon immediately.

Alabama Rot CRGV

Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV or ‘Alabama rot’) is a serious disease which has only recently been recognised in dogs in the UK. It causes lesions on the skin and occasionally in the mouth, which can look like bites, sores, wounds or stings. Some dogs go on to develop life-threatening kidney failure. Any age, sex, or breed of dog can be affected.

The disease has been under investigation by Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists (working closely with a number of other organisations) for over 3 years. Many possible causes, such as common bacterial infections and exposure to toxins, have been ruled out.

What is CRGV?

CRGV is a disease caused by damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney. It causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue. In the skin, this causes ulceration; however, in the kidney it can lead to severe organ dysfunction (kidney failure)

What causes CRGV?

The cause at this time remains unknown but investigations are ongoing.

How do I stop my dog from getting CRGV?

Unfortunately, as the cause is currently unknown, it is very difficult to give specific advice about prevention. You may wish to consider bathing any area of your dog which becomes wet or muddy on a walk; however, at this stage we do not know if this is necessary or of any benefit.

Where should I walk my dog to avoid CRGV?

Cases of CRGV have been reported from across many different counties in the UK and we are not currently advising dog owners to avoid any particular locations. Although an environmental cause for this disease is considered possible it has not been proven with testing to date.

A map detailing all confirmed cases since 2012, is available at www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/

How will I know if my dog gets CRGV?

Unexplained redness, sores or swelling of the skin (particularly on the paws or legs but also the body, face, tongue or mouth) are often the first sign of this disease. It is important to remember that most of the time a skin problem will NOT be caused by CRGV; however, the lesions in CRGV can be difficult to distinguish from cuts, wounds, stings or bites, so if in doubt it is better to seek veterinary advice.

Even if the skin changes are caused by CRGV, many dogs will not develop kidney problems and will recover fully.

KEY MESSAGE: although CRGV can be very serious, the number of dogs affected with skin lesions and kidney failure remains low (122 confirmed cases across the UK between November ‘12 and Jan’18).

How is CRGV treated?

If your dog develops a skin lesion your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate management. Your vet will decide if your dog needs antibiotics and if the area needs covering. Some forms of painkiller (called non-steroidals) may be best avoided.

Dogs developing kidney failure (which is called acute kidney injury) will need much more intensive management and your vet may discuss referral to a specialist with you.

What can I do to help?

There are many ways in which owners of all dogs can get involved to raise awareness of CRGV and to participate in and fundraise for ongoing research

Fundraising

Research into new diseases requires a lot of funding. This pays for the development of new diagnostic tests, investigation of the causes of the disease and ultimately the development of more effective treatments

  • The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) is a National charity aiming to raise awareness and funds for Alabama Rot (CRGV) research: www.arrf.co.uk

Research

CRGV questionnaire: Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists (AMVS) worked with the Animal Health Trust to develop a questionnaire for dog owners. This can be completed by any dog owner and gives valuable information regarding whether or not there are differences between how dogs who develop CRGV live versus dogs who do not develop CRGV. This can be found at:

www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/aki.html

Samples: AMVS are currently running 2 studies to look at reasons why some dogs develop CRGV whilst others do not.

More information

Is CRGV the same illness as seasonal canine illness (SCI)? No – these are two completely separate illnesses causing different signs. SCI causes vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy with no ulcerative skin lesions

Can dogs get CRGV all year round? Over the last 3 years, more CRGV cases have been seen between November and May than between June and October, suggesting a possible Winter / Spring seasonality.

Does CRGV affect other animals or humans? CRGV has not been seen in animals other than dogs. Owners of dogs affected by CRGV have not been affected by this illness.

Please visit our website for further details, including links to the scientific paper on CRGV, which was published in March 2015: www.andersonmoores.com

Reproduced from Anderson Moores Website

Pyometra

What is a pyometra?

This is a potentially life threatening condition which requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Pyometra is an infection of the lining of the uterus which often occurs shortly after oestrus (heat or season). Following a normal oestrus, progesterone levels remain increased for 8-10 weeks to prepare the uterus lining for a potential pregnancy.
If pregnancy does not happen, the progesterone levels do not return to normal and the lining continues to thicken, forming cysts. These cysts produce fluid which creates the ideal environment for bacteria to develop.

The cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus, usually remains closed unless oestrus is occuring. While the cervix is open, bacteria which normally live in the vagina will enter the uterus. Normally these bacteria won’t survive, but in a thickened uterus with the ideal environment created for bacteria they will thrive. Due to the thickening of the uterus it is also unable to contract fully and expel the bacteria.

Pyometra can occur in any unneutered dog or cat. It is more commonly seen in middle aged to older dogs, although young dogs are also susceptible. It occurs rarely in cats.

Older dogs which have had many oestrus cycles without a pregnancy, have the perfect uterine wall to promote this disease. It usually occurs 4-8 weeks after oestrus.

Clinical signs

These can vary considerably so you should always seek veterinary treatment.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargic
  • Temperature

If the cervix is open allowing drainage you will see a pussy, vulval discharge which is usually foul smelling. Your dog will often be continually cleaning her back end. This is called an open pyometra.

If the cervix is closed the pus continues to build up without draining causing the dog to become seriously ill, extremely quickly.

Diagnosis

A full clinical examination is performed by your veterinary surgeon. Pyometra is often suspected if the dog is not neutered, drinking more and has a vulval discharge, 4-8 weeks after oestrus. A blood sample may be collected and X-rays or an ultrasound scan may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

The most recommended option for treatment is surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries- an ovariohysterectomy or spay. Depending on the severity of the infection, your dog may need to be stabilised first using intravenous fluids and antibiotics, prior to surgery. Although the surgery being performed is a neutering operation, the surgery is much more complicated due to the enlarged and weakened uterus. It must be removed without rupturing to prevent the pus from leaking into the abdomen. Additionally there is always an increased anaesthetic risk when the patient is unwell. This is one of the reasons why veterinary surgeons always recommend spaying your dog at an early age when they are young, fit and healthy!

Medical treatment for pyometra is possible using injections containing prostaglandins which reduce the progesterone levels. This causes the cervix to open and expel the pussy contents of the uterus. Medical treatment for pyometra can be expensive especially in large dogs. It is not always effective and surgery may still be necessary.

Medical treatment can be considered for young bitches from whom the owner would like to consider breeding from at subsequent seasons. It can also be considered for older bitches where general anaesthesia and surgery is considered inadvisable.

Your veterinary surgeon will discuss the best course of treatment for your pet. If you do not seek any treatment for your pet suffering from a pyometra the outcome will potentially be fatal.

Pregnancy In Cats

Before Breeding

Before attempting to breed from your pet, there are a number of points which we recommend you consider.

  • Can you afford the extra costs involved in maintaining a healthy pregnancy?
  • Should complications arise during delivery, could you afford an emergency caesarean section? Do you have the knowledge or experience required to recognise when complications are occurring?
  • Can you afford the initial vaccinations, flea and worm treatments that the new arrivals will require?
  • Do you have responsible owners who will purchase or rehome the kittens?        
  • Are you aware that after the costs involved with responsible breeding, there is very little profit to be made with the sale of kittens?
  • Is your queen in good health? Does she have any congenital defects? eg. a heart condition
  • Is your queen fully vaccinated and up to date with worm and flea treatments?
  • Can you afford the conditions that may arise from an entire queen? For example a pyometra (infection of the uterus) is potentially fatal if not treated. If presented with a pyometra your pet will generally require an emergency hysterectomy.

If you feel that the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions then please reconsider breeding from your pet.

Feline Reproduction

Female cats are ‘polyestrous’ which means that they will come into season periodically throughout the year until they are mated or neutered. Queens in season will be very vocal and they are likely to appear very friendly, overly rubbing around objects and rolling on the floor. As cats are generally allowed to roam freely a queen will very easily attract a ‘tom cat’ and will quickly become pregnant if not kept indoors away from unneutered male cats.

Pregnancy

Feline pregnancy can last for approximately 64 to 65 days but timings may be varied as much as 56 to 72 days depending at what stage of your queen’s cycle she was mated.

Signs to look for are:

  • Weight gain
  • Lack of appetite and vulval discharge (common in the first month)
  • Enlargement and reddening of the mammary glands (usually from around day 40)
  • On some occasions there is milk production (from day 40)

Care of the queen during pregnancy

The queen’s food intake will need to be increased from around day 30, not before as this will only cause unnecessary weight gain. She will need to be fed little and often due to the reduction in the queen’s stomach capacity by the pressure of her uterus. A good quality kitten diet will provide the extra calories she requires. At Cinque Ports Vets we recommend feeding the Royal Canin Nutrition range.

You do not need to supplement Vitamin D or Calcium as long as you provide a good quality diet.

Roundworms are transmitted from the mother to her kittens via her milk, therefore it is important to worm your cat to prevent infection of the kittens. The kittens should be wormed from 2 weeks of age and it is important to make sure the mother is wormed at the same time as the kittens until they are weaned.

Prepare a quiet, warm, clean and dry area for the queen to give birth

Signs of impending labour

  • The rectal temperature of the queen will drop from around 39°C to 37°C. It is good practice to keep a record of her temperature daily in the last week of pregnancy.
  • The queen will show signs of restlessness and nest making
  • There will be an increase in the discharge from her vulva
  • She will have a lack of appetite and may vomit, pant and shiver
  • As contractions begin fluid will leak from the vulva (waters breaking)

It can be as little as 10 to 30 minutes from the onset of contractions to birth. Once a kitten has been born the queen will begin to lick and remove the membrane surrounding it. Sometimes with first time mums encouragement may be required. Using a soft clean towel to rub the kittens often helps. The queen should also sever the umbilical cord. If this does not occur you will need to cut it with a clean pair of scissors around an inch from the kittens’ abdomen. Neonates cannot regulate their own temperature so you will need to ensure that mum and kittens are in a warm environment at all times.

After all the kittens are delivered it is normal for a greenish discharge to be present. This should decline after a week.

If you see any of the following things or you are at all concerned you should contact your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets.

  • If the queen’s rectal temperature has declined over 48 hours but with no signs of labour
  • If the pregnancy is lasting longer than 68 days from mating
  • If the queen is straining infrequently and then ceases
  • If there has been more than 45 minutes of contractions but no foetus has been delivered
  • If there is over a 2 hour interval between the delivery of foetuses
  • If a foetus presents with its rear from the vulva but with no hind limbs showing
  • If there is a black/green discharge before labour begins

Care of the queen and her kittens

After giving birth the queen can be offered a light meal, though she may have eaten the placentas and may have slight gastric discomfort. She will spend the next 2 weeks caring for her kittens constantly. From 3 weeks onwards the kittens will start to wander around and leave their mum for short periods of time to investigate and explore their surroundings.

Click on the video below to find out more about feeding your kitten.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis occurs in both dogs and cats. The pancreas is located between the stomach and the duodenum (part of the small intestine). It is an organ responsible for producing enzymes which aid in food digestion as well as producing hormones such as insulin which are secreted into the blood.

If disease or trauma causes these enzymes to be activated in the pancreas before they are released to digest food, they will begin digesting the pancreas. This causes severe inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis causing the abdomen to be tender and painful. Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (a long term problem).

Clinical signs

The signs can vary to include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Tender abdomen
  • Increased drinking
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • High temperature

Causes of pancreatitis

The exact cause of pancreatitis is often not known but there can be underlying factors.

  • Obesity-Many pets diagnosed with pancreatitis are overweight. Dogs are particularly susceptible to developing pancreatitis after eating food with a high fat content, especially human food.
  • Abdominal surgery or trauma to the abdomen eg. road traffic accident
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Infections
  • Small intestinal problems

Diagnosis of pancreatitis

Your veterinary surgeon will perform a full clinical examination and will require a thorough history. A blood sample is taken to test for pancreatitis enzymes present in the blood (amylase and lipase). A more sensitive and specific test will also be recommended called feline or canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity. This is tested for in-house for an immediate result of positive or negative. If a more accurate evaluation is required to determine a numerical level of pancreatitis enzymes present, the sample may be sent to an external laboratory for testing which takes a few days. Sometimes further investigation is required and this usually involves X-Rays and/or ultrasound. Diagnosis of pancreatitis in cats is more difficult as blood analysis does not always show the same abnormalities as in dogs. Cats do not always vomit with pancreatitis and may only show signs of anorexia, lethargy and abdominal pain.

Treatment of pancreatitis

Treatment of pancreatitis varies depending on the severity. Usually intravenous fluids are administered to correct dehydration and pain relief is given to keep your pet as comfortable as possible. Anti nausea drugs and sometimes appetite stimulants are required. Once stable your pet is encouraged to eat. If lack of appetite has been a problem then encouraging any eating by offering especially tasty food like chicken or white fish is vital. The patient is fed several small meals little and often throughout the day. Once their appetite is regained they should then only be fed on a special prescription low fat food containing highly digestible nutrients and a minimum amount of fat. Some patients will be recommended a special prescription low fat food for the rest of their lives.