Vaccinating Your Cat

Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting your cat throughout their life against many of the most serious infectious and fatal diseases.

These include:

  • Feline Panleucopenia (also known as Feline Distemper or Feline Infectious Enteritis)
  • Cat Flu (also known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis)
  • Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)

In the first few weeks of life, kittens are normally protected against disease by antibodies (immunity) from their mother’s milk. This decreases over time and has usually disappeared by 12 weeks of age.

Vaccination then protects your kitten against disease. They receive a course of 2 vaccinations, one at 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 weeks to ensure their immune system has the best chance of mounting a strong, protective response.

After 12 months the immunity levels drop and a regular, annual booster is required to maintain the highest possible level of protection against serious disease. This should be continued throughout your cat’s life.

Feline Panleucopenia

Feline Panleucopenia is characterised by:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Death especially in kittens and unborn kittens in an infected cat’s womb

The virus is a very serious disease with a high risk of death in infected kittens and young cats. The virus is very similar to the one that causes parvovirus in dogs. All unvaccinated cats at any age are at risk.

Infected cats spread the virus in their urine and faeces. The virus is extremely hardy and persists in the environment for many months or years.  Infection can occur by contact with an infected cat or environment or inside the mother’s womb by the virus passing across the placenta from the mother, if she is infected while pregnant.

Cat Flu

Cat Flu is characterised by:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and depression
  • Mouth and eye ulcers and excessive drooling are seen
  • Young kittens can have lameness and fever

Cat flu is still extremely common despite the important contribution made by vaccination. Despite it’s name the causes of cat flu are no relation to human influenza. Cat flu is caused by one or more  viruses, most commonly Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus.

Young kittens and elderly cats are at risk from developing severe pneumonia and dying from infection.

The viruses are relatively sturdy and can survive in the environment for several days. Common forms of infection are by direct contact, sneezing and inhaling infected droplets and direct contact with contaminated environment eg clothing and food bowls. Contact with a cat who is a ‘carrier’ of cat flu is also a source of infection. This is a cat which is not showing any signs of the disease but sheds the virus throughout it’s life.

Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)

Feline Leukaemia is characterised by vague and non- specific signs which can take months or years to develop:

  • Off colour
  • Poor appetite
  • Chronic or recurring problems such as diarrhoea
  • Slow to recover from minor infections
  • Tumour development
  • Anaemia

Feline leukaemia virus is almost always fatal and there is no cure. The infection weakens the immune system causing destruction of white blood cells, leaving your cat open to infection. Anaemia and eventually cancer usually develop.

The virus is spread mainly via saliva for example mutual grooming or sharing food bowls. Also fighting, mating or contact with urine and faeces containing the virus will spread the disease.

All cats are considered to be at risk especially young cats and kittens.

The vast majority of cats spend some time outside and are at risk of coming into contact with infection of any one of these diseases either directly or indirectly.

If your cat is a true indoor cat ie does not even venture out into the garden please discuss vaccination with your veterinary surgeon.
At your cat’s routine booster vaccination appointment, your vet will also perform a thorough healthcheck to ensure your cat is fit and well. These healthchecks are vital to allow us to spot any problems early on and to offer help with routine healthcare issues.

Useful links:
Vaccination and Your Kitten
Vaccinating Your Older Cat

Vaccinating Your Older Cat

Cats of all ages can and do become serious ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. It is a common misconception that immunity from their primary kitten vaccinations lasts for life or is less important as your cat ages.

Older cats are more prone to disease and as with everything prevention is always better than cure! Their immune systems become less efficient and weakened over time. Infections are picked up more easily and as a result, senior cats may not be able to fight off disease as well as they could when they were younger.

The regular annual visits for a booster vaccination, also allows your vet to perform a full clinical examination and check up. This enables us to spot the early signs of any disease conditions which may be developing. The onset of many of these symptoms are often subtle and easy to miss. For example weight loss, increased thirst or changes in appetite and behaviour can all be closely monitored by regularly attending healthchecks for your older cat. Many diseases and conditions are much better controlled when they are diagnosed early for example renal and dental disease.

At Cinque Ports Vets we offer Senior Clubs which offers you the opportunity to regularly attend check ups with your veterinary nurse. These help you monitor your pet’s health in between their annual or six monthly checks with the vet.

Useful links:
Vaccinating Your Cat 
Caring For Your Older Cat

Vaccinating Your Kitten

This information sheet contains advice regarding vaccination of kittens to ensure that they are protected from major diseases.

Your kitten’s first visit to the vet

When you first get your new kitten, your vet will need to perform a health check to make sure that they are fit and well. Your vet will be able to give you advice and discuss vaccination in particular, as well as parasite control, insurance and diet.

When your kitten is 8 weeks old

Your kitten is now old enough to start their vaccination course. Kitten vaccinations are very important to protect against a number of diseases and to limit the spread of diseases in the cat population. Vaccination has been very successful in decreasing the number of animals we see suffering from these diseases. At your kitten’s vaccination appointment you will receive a free kitten pack containing information on how best to care for your kitten.

Your kitten vaccination course

The kitten vaccination course requires two injections: the first at 8 or 9 weeks and then a second injection at 12 weeks of age. These protect against Feline Panleucopenia, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Cat Flu), Calicivirus and Feline Leukaemia.
Kittens get some short term immunity to infections from their mother’s first milk (maternally derived antibodies). These antibodies can interfere with their response to vaccination but by 12 weeks of age most kittens will have low enough levels of these antibodies to allow a good immune response to vaccination.

Socialising your kitten

This process usually starts from around 2 weeks of age, when your kitten is still with their mother and they are most responsive up to 7 weeks of age. Therefore it is important to remember that if your kitten has not had the opportunity to be well socialised they may be fearful of new experiences. It is important to regularly play and interact with your kitten.
At home your kitten should only mix with other cats in the house which are fully vaccinated and up to date with their vaccinations. They must stay indoors until at least 7 days after their second vaccination or ideally until they are neutered, between 4-6 months of age. Annual boosters are required to maintain your kitten’s antibody levels and protection against diseases.

We hope you enjoy looking after your new kitten.

Useful links:
Caring For Your Kitten

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline Leukaemia Virus is a viral infection of cats which is common in stray and unvaccinated cats. The virus infects immune system cells (white blood cells) leaving the cat vulnerable to secondary infections which would not be a problem in normal, healthy cats. Cats which contract the virus are at risk of developing severe illnesses such as anaemia and eventually cancer (lymphoma).

There are a wide range of symptoms but they can include a fever, lethargy, weight loss and poor appetite. Although an infected cat may remain healthy for several years, the disease will eventually prove fatal.

How is the virus transmitted?

The most common way is from the saliva of an infected cat. This can include being bitten by an infected cat or grooming, and sharing food bowls. It can also be passed via contact with the urine or faeces and mating with an infected cat.
Another way infection is possible is via a queen to her kittens either when they are in the womb or via milk once they are born. However abortion or resorption of the kittens is common in infected FeLV cats.
The disease is not transferable to humans.

Diagnosis of FeLV

If your veterinary surgeon suspects FeLV, a blood test will be performed to detect the proteins of the FeLV virus. Sometimes several blood tests are required to determine the result. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is often tested for as well, as many of the clinical signs are similar.

Treatment of FeLV

There is no cure for FeLV once your cat has become permanently infected. The treatment focuses on symptomatic and supportive treatment to maintain quality of life and manage the effects of the infection such as immunosuppression, anaemia and cancer.

If a sick FeLV positive cat is diagnosed then the prognosis is usually very poor and euthanasia is the kindest option. If the cat is healthy at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is guarded. They will be likely to develop fatal FeLV related diseases but the time frame for this to happen varies from months to years.

Prevention of FeLV

Vaccines are available to help protect your cat against FeLV infection. This should be routinely included in your cat’s vaccination course as a kitten and kept up to date yearly with an annual booster. All cats should be vaccinated against FeLV especially if coming into contact with other cats either in a multicat household or having access to roam outside. Vaccination against FeLV does not interfere with the result of an FeLV blood test.

It is unwise to knowingly have an infected cat in the household, mixing with an uninfected cat. Close contact with other cats in the household means they are at a very high risk of contracting the disease from mutual grooming or feeding bowls. An FeLV infected cat should also be kept indoors to reduce the spread of the infection to other cats in the area. This can be difficult if the cat was previously used to being an outdoor cat and quality of life as well as risks to other cats should be taken into account.
It is also advisable to know the FeLV status of a cat if for example you are introducing a new cat to the household.

Useful links:
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
www.icatcare.org

Caring For Your Older Cat

You can do a lot to ensure that your cat’s senior years are also golden ones. Your cat will be classed as senior from approximately 8-10 years old.

As your cat grows older it is important to be more observant about their behaviour. Start keeping an eye on them for any indications that they are beginning to feel ready to start taking things more steadily. Age related changes can creep in stealthily and may initially be quite subtle. It can be easy to miss them when you see your cat on a daily basis. Often it is when someone who hasn’t seen your cat for a while, comments on a change in their behaviour or appearance. This often happens when your vet sees them for their annual booster appointment.

Common signs of ageing:

  • Less active
  • Sleeping longer and more deeply
  • Less enthusiastic playing games
  • Reduced or loss of hearing
  • Impaired vision or blindness
  • Coat condition deteriorates
  • Muscle loss
  • Weakness in back legs

Joint Problems

Arthritis is relatively common in older cats although they do not often show the lameness signs we associate with dogs suffering from arthritis. This is because cats are relatively small and agile and they can hide and cover up mobility difficulties caused by arthritis.
Instead, affected cats are more likely to show subtle changes in lifestyle and behaviour. It is thought 20% of the UK cat population shows signs associated with arthritis. Because you know your cat best you are well placed to keep an eye out for the signs of this painful condition.

Freedom from pain can make a huge difference and this can be done using many different methods including anti inflammatories (pain relief), joint supplements, weight loss, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, acupuncture and physiotherapy.
Comfy beds are also important. Older cats tend to prefer to stretch out and may need an extra ‘step’ to help jump onto chairs or beds. They also prefer their beds to be in a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of the house.

Litter trays should always be provided in the house, but an older cat may need extra trays as some control of bladder and bowel movements may be lost with age. Reduced mobility may result in a reluctance to walk too far to go to the toilet. The trays should always be large and shallow for easy access. Some have a dip at the front so cats can just walk in and out of them. Soft litter also tends to be better for older cats than wood pellets as it can be uncomfortable for cats to stand on.

Eating And Drinking

Older cats require a senior diet to help support them during their ageing process. Many cats lose weight and condition as they age. Sometimes this is due to deterioration in their sense of smell and taste but often it can be a sign of an underlying chronic disease like hyperthyroidism or kidney disease. Older cats often have increased water requirements and feeding wet food aswell as biscuits can help with this.
Fresh water should always be available. Sometimes an older cat will start to drink more than usual and in many cases this can be a symptom of kidney problems or diabetes. If you notice any of these changes you should arrange an appointment to come and see us.

Vaccination And Worming

Older cats immune systems become less efficient and weakened over time. Infections are picked up more easily and as a result, senior cats may not be able to fight off disease as well as they could when they were younger. We advise regular annual boosters in senior cats. Regular worming is also advisable, both for your cat’s health as well as your own.

Kidney Disease

Due to the ageing process important organs such as the kidneys may not function as well as they used to. It is important to detect these signs early and the warning signs are often increased thirst and urine production. Cats are three times more likely to develop kidney problems than dogs but most do not show signs of chronic kidney disease until 75% of the kidneys have been damaged. Regular check- ups by your vet along with urine and blood testing are vital to help detect the onset of kidney disease and we can help take steps to slow down the progression of the disease, allowing cats a longer and better quality of life.

Dental Disease

Dental problems are very common in older cats. Warning signs are smelly breath, reddening of the gums, salivation or chewing to one side. If left, it can lead to periodontal disease and loss of their teeth. The bacteria in plaque can even spread to other parts of the body and have been linked to heart, liver and kidney disease. If you notice any of these problems you should make an appointment to see your vet.
If severe dental disease is diagnosed, generally a general anaesthetic is required to scale and polish the teeth and remove any diseased ones. Many people worry about the risk involved with older pets having a general anaesthetic but although every anaesthetic carries a small risk, advances have been made in anaesthesia and it is now much safer. Intravenous drips and blood testing prior to anaesthesia also help. Many owners are amazed with the improvement of their cat’s quality of life once the pain of toothache has been removed.

Brain Changes

Older cats can suffer from signs of dementia and reduced brain function-cognitive dysfunction. Some of the first signs that can point towards senile changes are:

  • uncharacteristic aggression
  • confusion
  • staring into space
  • a reduced ability to cope with stress or changes in their routine
  • frequent and sometimes loud vocalisation
  • urination or defecating in inappropriate places
  • memory loss

It is thought over 50% of cats over 12 years old show signs of cognitive dysfunction.

We can support and hopefully improve the brain function by medication or dietary supplements so it is important you book an appointment to see your vet if you start to notice any of these signs.

Play should also be encouraged for an older cat as this provides exercise and mental stimulation. The games may not be quite as energetic as when they were a kitten but will be very beneficial for your cat.
Also make sure your cat is microchipped in case they become disorientated while out and about and cannot find their way home. If this is a problem consider trying to keep your cat indoors.

Grooming

Regular grooming can be helpful especially if your cat suffers from arthritis as this can make it painful for them to groom themselves. It also allows you to regularly check for any lumps and bumps and seek prompt veterinary attention if you are concerned. Regularly nail trims will also be required as older cats nails tend to grow thicker and longer. They are also less able to retract their claws and therefore more likely to become stuck in carpets.

Even if your older cat seems fine it is essential to take them to the vet a minimum of twice a year, instead of just the usual annual booster check up. This will aid in the early detection of problems as a lot of changes can happen in 6 months to an older cat. Blood and urine tests will also help to check all their vital organs are functioning properly. If you do spot anything, don’t put off booking an appointment because you are worried about what the vet may find. It is important problems are detected early to aid in treatment. Constant low grade pain reduces quality of life considerably and many owners are always amazed at the improvement of their cat’s wellbeing once their problem has been alleviated or controlled.
Early warning signs of health problems:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urine output
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Difficulty in movement
  • Incontinence
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual lumps and bumps
  • Behavioural changes
  • Discharges
  • Unpleasant odours
  • Hairloss
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Senility with associated loss of memory

Our veterinary nurses also offer senior club appointments to help ease your pets into their mature and senior years as comfortably as possible. Why not answer our Senior Pet Questionnaire and come along and see us.

Click on the videos below to find out more about Cognitive Dysfunction and Caring For Your Older Cat.

Useful links:
Feeding Your Older Cat
Cognitive Dysfunction
www.royalcanin.co.uk

Caring For Your Kitten

1.Feeding:
From weaning age we recommend feeding a complete and balanced good quality kitten food until your kitten is at least six months of age. After this your cat can move onto an adult food to continue their optimum development. We recommend the Royal Canin range which is available from the veterinary practice and we will be happy to advise you on a suitable diet for your cat throughout their life. The food is specifically designed to provide the correct levels of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for a growing kitten. The diets are fully balanced but always ensure there is a constant supply of drinking water available.

2.Vaccination:
This consists of a course of two vaccinations– one which is given at 8-9 weeks of age and the second which is given at 12 weeks. These protect against Feline Influenza, Feline Infectious Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia. To maintain your cat’s immunity against these diseases (which in some cases can be fatal) a yearly booster is required. We will send you a reminder when it is due but please make sure you keep their vaccination certificate in a safe place and make a note on the calendar when it is due!

3.Worming and Flea Control:
This  is necessary  for all  cats  throughout  their  life  not just when they are kittens. They should be wormed with a veterinary supplied broad spectrum multiwormer. Often supermarket and pet-shop wormers will only treat one or two types of worms so will not always be effective. Your kitten should be wormed every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks and then once every 3 months thereafter. There are spot on treatments available for easy administration as well as tablets. To help you remember we will send you a reminder when the next dose is due!
We advise regular treatment for fleas all year round to prevent infestations. This is easily achieved by using a treatment available from the veterinary practice. Please feel free to ask for advice on the products which best suit your kitten’s situation.

4.Microchipping:
This is an extremely important way of identifying your kitten should they ever go missing. It is a permanent form of identification, which is especially important if your cat does not wear a collar or ID tag. A small microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) is inserted in the excess skin of your kitten’s neck. This chip contains a unique number which is read by using a scanner. This number is registered along with your contact details with the microchip database. It is important to inform the database if your details change. All stray animals are scanned and on reading the chip, the database would be contacted and you would be reunited with your cat as quickly as possible. Without this permanent method of identification your cat may not be traced back to you and may even be re-homed.

5.Neutering:
Our policy is to neuter both male and female cats from 4-6 months of age before they become sexually mature. This significantly reduces the number of unwanted litters and helps to eliminate medical and behavioural problems associated with entire male and female cats. Once your cat has been neutered you may need to reduce the amount of food they require as it is quite common for neutered cats to gain a little weight due to the change in hormones. There is a diet lower in calories available for neutered cats at the veterinary practice and we will be happy to advise you.

6.Dental Care:
We clean our teeth several times a day and have regular check ups with a dentist. Imagine what our mouths would be like if we didn’t- Cats are no exception! It is important to develop a dental care regime for your kitten at an early age, which you can continue throughout their life. The gold standard of dental care is to brush your kitten’s teeth once a day (usually at bedtime) with a special cat toothbrush and toothpaste.  Human formulas are not suitable as they require rinsing. Cat toothpastes are available in a range of flavours and your cat will probably regard it as a treat! These kits and other dental products, including  dental biscuits are available from the veterinary practice. We will be happy to advise you on the most suitable products for your kitten.

7.Pet Healthcare Plan:
Cinque Ports Vets Pet Healthcare Plan enables you to pay monthly for your preventative veterinary treatments. We all want to use the best products available for our pets and at Cinque Ports Vets we want to make preventative healthcare easy and affordable to help give you and your pets the best care possible. You also receive an overall saving on your pets’ vaccinations, healthcheck, worming and flea treatment as well as many other discounts as a reward for joining our scheme. The plan is available for dogs, cats and rabbits from any age and the monthly payment plan will be dependent on the bodyweight of your pet. Please see Pet Healthcare Plan or contact us for more information. Please be aware this is not an insurance policy but a preventative healthcare plan to help spread the cost of routine treatments which insurance does not cover.

8.Insurance:
Pet insurance is an essential requirement to help cover the cost of unexpected veterinary fees. Accidents can happen especially with inquisitive kittens! These can be expensive but being insured means you can have peace of mind. There are a variety of policies available to suit you and your budget and it is always important to read the small print!

9. House Training:
Most kittens will now have a good basic understanding of appropriate toileting behaviour. Their litter tray should be placed in a quiet corner of a room. A covered litter tray may be preferable to your kitten if they are shy and may be more inclined to use a private area. It is normal for your kitten to have accidents but it is important to remember not to tell them off. A variety of litter and litter trays are available. If you are concerned please feel free to ask for advice.


10. Grooming:
Handling your kitten regularly will improve their confidence and your relationship with your kitten. This allows you to look in their ears, check their teeth, open their mouth and examine their paws with ease which will become very important later on in life if medication is required for any problems. Grooming your kitten regularly (on a daily basis if long haired) will prevent their coat becoming matted and allow you to check for any problems.

Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is a complex, highly infectious respiratory disease. It is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis. It circulates in the dog population all year round and is easily spread when there are many dogs in one place. Despite the name, less than half of the recent outbreaks recorded in a survey arose in kennels. Your dog is as likely to contract Kennel Cough in the park, the street, at dog shows, in training classes or from next door’s pet.

Although many factors can be involved, the two most likely are a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica and Canine parainfluenza virus.

What are the symptoms?

Once your dog has been infected, it takes 3-10 days before symptoms are seen.
These are usually a persistent, dry, retching, ‘ honking’ cough, fever and sometimes a nasal discharge. In serious cases, without treatment, pneumonia and sometimes death can occur in puppies and dogs with a weaker constitution. Usually recovery from the symptoms is complete in two to three weeks.

Veterinary treatment should be sought if you suspect your dog has Kennel Cough.

Dogs that have received their annual vaccination are more likely to be suffering from Bordetella and may respond to antibiotics. Cough suppressants may also be given

Dogs that have not received their annual vaccinations within the last 12 months may develop Kennel Cough due to the Parainfluenza virus and may not respond well to antibiotics. In these cases duration of symptoms are likely to be much longer and coughing may take several weeks to resolve.

How is it contracted?

Kennel cough is spread from minute droplets in the air which are inhaled or from direct contact with an infected dog. As well as being infectious during the incubation period of around 10 days, it is still spread for up to 10 weeks after the coughing has stopped.

How can it be prevented?

Every dog is at risk, however healthy.  Routine annual vaccinations will protect against Parainfluenza virus. Protection against Bordetella and Parainfluenza virus can be achieved with an intranasal kennel cough vaccine.

Most kennels will request that your dog is vaccinated against Kennel Cough as well as their annual vaccination due to the increased risk of contracting the disease. The intranasal Kennel Cough vaccination is usually given at a separate time to the annual vaccination and should be administered at least 1 week before going into kennels.

For more information please read ‘Kennel Cough Owner Information Leaflet.’

Useful links:
www.future-of-vaccination.co.uk/kennel-cough-dogs.asp

Vaccination And Your Older Dog

Dogs of all ages can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. It is a common misconception that immunity from their primary puppy vaccinations lasts for life or is less important as your dog ages.

Older dogs are more prone to disease and as with everything prevention is always better than cure! Their immune systems become less efficient and weakened over time. Infections are picked up more easily and as a result, senior dogs may not be able to fight off disease as well as they could when they were younger.

The regular annual visits for a booster vaccination, also allows your vet to perform a full clinical examination and check up. This enables us to spot the early signs of any disease conditions which may be developing. The onset of many of these symptoms are often subtle and easy to miss. For example weight loss, increased thirst or changes in appetite and behaviour can all be closely monitored by regularly attending healthchecks for your older dog. Many diseases and conditions are much better controlled when they are diagnosed early for example renal and dental disease.

At Cinque Ports Vets we offer  Senior Clubs which offers you the opportunity to regularly attend check ups with your veterinary nurse.  These help you monitor your pets health in between their annual or six monthly checks with the vet.

Useful links:
Vaccinating Your Dog

Caring For Your Rabbit

1. Feeding:

Rabbits are herbivores- animals that need a plant based diet. The most important part of their diet which they require to stay healthy is fibre. If the wrong diet is fed, one that is low in fibre and high in carbohydrates, for example a commercial muesli mix, problems such as dental disease, facial abscesses, obesity, diarrhoea and furballs may occur. The best diet for your rabbit should consist of at least 99% grass and good quality meadow or timothy hay which should be available at all times. Greens such as broccoli, cabbage and watercress are also essential. Some rabbits fed on mainly commercial muesli mixes (high in sugar and starch) will only pick out the unhealthy, sweeter pellets of the mix leading to potentially fatal health problems.We recommend the Supreme Science Selective feeding range. This product is veterinary recommended because it contains the same amount of high quality nutrients in each individual nugget, eliminating the problem of selective feeding. Rabbits should only be fed a maximum of 25g of nuggets per kg per day as the nuggets are a complementary food. The bulk of their diet should be made up of hay and grass. We will be happy to advise you on a suitable diet for your rabbit.

2.Vaccination:

Your rabbit should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) (both strains RHD and RHD2) regardless of whether it is a house rabbit or not. These diseases can be fatal within several days of your rabbit becoming ill. Myxomatosis is spread by bloodsucking insects such as mosquitoes or rabbit fleas. Once infected, fluid filled swellings occur around the head and face leading to blindness. Swellings around the genitals and ears along with eye infections are also common. Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is spread by direct contact between rabbits (wild and domesticated) and also via fleas, people, shoes and other objects. The vaccine is given from 5 weeks of age and a yearly booster is then required to maintain immunity.

A second strain of RHD has also been discovered, called RHD2. Rabbits infected with the RHDV2 virus typically DO NOT show the symptoms that are common with the original RHD virus so it is far more difficult to diagnose.

Fatality from RHD2 occurs later and over a longer period of time than RHD. Although RHD2 is less virulent than the original strain of RHD, its difficult early diagnosis actually means it is more challenging given rabbits can carry the disease for a longer period of time without any visible signs of infection. At present as we are not in a high risk area for RHD2 we are recommending yearly vaccination against the new strain. This can be given 2 weeks after the Myxomatosis and RHD  vaccination.

We will send you a reminder when the vaccination is due but please make sure you keep their vaccination certificate in a safe place and make a note on the calendar when they are due!

3.Worming and Flea Control: 

We recommend worming your rabbit with a veterinary supplied wormer available from the veterinary practice. This helps protect your rabbit against worms and a parasite called E.cuniculi. It can cause symptoms similar to that of a stroke leading to blindness, kidney failure and death. Not all rabbits that carry E.cuniculi show any signs of illness but they are still capable of infecting other rabbits that live with them either by their urine or passing it from mother to babies. Please ask for more information.
We advise regular treatment for fleas all year round once your rabbit is over 10 weeks of age. This helps  prevent infestations and helps protect against the spread of Myxomatosis. It is easily achieved by using a spot on treatment available from the veterinary practice. These are applied to the back of your rabbit’s neck and will treat any flea infestation for up to one week.

4.Neutering:   

Male and female rabbits can be neutered from four months of age before they become sexually mature. It is important to have your rabbit neutered if you are keeping both male and females together or if there are any behavioural problems such as dominance or aggression. Please see our information sheets on neutering for more information.

5.Dental Care: 

Rabbits teeth grow continuously as much as 10-12cm every year. Rabbits which are not fed a suitable diet are more prone to suffer from dental disease in the form of overgrown teeth, malocclusion (incorrect alignment of teeth) and tongue ulceration. This can be due to a lack of fibre in their diet to gnaw on. Regular dental checks by the veterinary surgeon are essential for early detection of these problems. Your rabbit’s nails can also easily become overgrown and should be closely monitored.

6.Flystrike: 

During the summer months your rabbit is at an increased risk of having Flystrike. This is caused by flies which lay their eggs on your rabbit usually in the hindquarters area. These eggs then hatch into maggots in as little as 12 hours burrowing into your rabbit’s skin and eating it away. The fly season generally runs from April to October so your rabbit could potentially be at risk most of the year. High risk rabbits are those that suffer from obesity, dental disease, diarrhoea, arthritis and those kept in dirty hutches that attract flies. It is always important to check your rabbit daily but during the summer they should be checked at least twice a day. If Flystrike is not treated early enough it can be fatal. Your rabbit can be protected from Flystrike for up to 10 weeks by applying a product available from the veterinary practice. We will be happy to advise you on the suitable treatment.

7.Pet Healthcare Plan:

Cinque Ports Vets Pet Healthcare Plan enables you to pay monthly for your preventative veterinary treatments and medication. We all want to use the best products available for our pets and at Cinque Ports Vets we want to make preventative healthcare easy and affordable to help give you and your pets the best care possible. You also receive an overall saving on your pets vaccinations, health check, worming and flea treatment as well as many other discounts as a reward for joining our scheme. The plan is available for dogs, cats and rabbits from any age and the monthly payment plan will be dependent on the bodyweight of your pet. Please see Pet Healthcare Plan or contact us for more information. Please be aware this is not an insurance policy but a preventative healthcare plan to help spread the cost of routine treatments which insurance does not cover.

8.Insurance: 

Although insurance is most commonly thought about for cats and dogs, insurance is also available for your rabbit. Pet insurance can be essential to help cover the cost of unexpected veterinary fees and there are a variety of policies available. Please ask for more information.

9.Grooming: 

Grooming is an important part of looking after your rabbit especially if they are long haired! Regular grooming will aid in early detection of problems such as Flystrike and also enable your rabbit to become accustomed to being handled and examined. Older or overweight rabbits may have difficulty in keeping themselves clean and become matted around their bottom. It is normal for rabbits to eat their softer droppings (caecotrophs) usually at night as this is also an important part of their high fibre diet. If they become overweight or unable to groom then problems will occur with their digestive system and veterinary advice should be sought.

10.Poisonous Plants: 

Although feeding greens and plants to your rabbit adds variety and interest to their diet it is important to remember that some plants can be very harmful if eaten, causing illness or in some cases death.
The following plants are poisonous to rabbits and should be avoided-
Carnation, Buttercup, Foxglove, Clematis, Deadly nightshade, Lobelia, Woody nightshade, Elder, Yew, Rhododendron, Privet, Geranium, Ivy, Lily of the Valley, Lupin and Iris.
Please see www.supremepetfoods.com for a more comprehensive list.
For more information please read ‘Caring For Pet Rabbits’ and ‘A Comprehensive Guide To Caring For Your Rabbit.’