Ditch the Itch!

ApoquelThe occasional itch is a fact of life for dogs, but excessive itching isn’t. Not only is it very irritating, it is very important to take the scratching seriously. The longer they scratch, the worse their skin condition becomes, and the harder it is to control.

There are many causes for itchy skin. Sun exposure, parasites like fleas and mites, bacterial, yeast or fungal infections, contact allergies, food allergies, metabolic, hormone and immune diseases can be responsible. A correct diagnosis is essential and your vet will often recommend testing, which can mean taking samples directly from your pet’s skin, and occasionally also blood samples.

Skin issues as a result or one of more allergies – flea, food, contact or atopic dermatitis (caused by environmental allergens) create a vicious cycle of itching and scratching. The great news is a new medication has become available that is specifically designed to rapidly control itching associated with allergic skin disease in dogs.

APOQUEL is a new drug that very quickly lessens your dog’s itch and their desire to scratch, and also decreases any associated redness and swelling in the skin.

Unlike other treatments, APOQUEL targets the itch signal in the nervous system and has minimal negative impact on the immune system. APOQUEL acts fast, reducing itch within 24 hours and providing effective and sustained relief for your dog.

APOQUEL is unlike any other current anti-itch medication. It is a new class of drug that has fewer side effects than can be expected with other medications. It is well tolerated and can be used for both seasonal and life-long allergic skin diseases. APOQUEL allows your veterinarian to continue to diagnose underlying causes of the irritation while providing your dog with relief.

Talk to us today if you are concerned about your dog’s excessive itching. We can assess if APOQUEL may be suitable for your dog. For a short time, APOQUEL is available on a free 7 day trial.

Frightening Fireworks

Many people love the sights and sounds of fireworks, but for our pets and other animals, fireworks can be extremely frightening and distressing. Most vet clinics and SPCA’s around the country encounter a number of lost, injured and even abused animals following fireworks. With some preparation and awareness, however, it is possible to get through the fireworks season with minimal fear and stress.

Always make sure your pets are safe and secure. They should be microchipped, or at least have a collar with contact details in the event that they run off from fright. Make sure runs, cages and bird aviaries are secured and covered.

Cats and dogs are best to be kept inside. Make sure the windows are covered, doors shut and secured, and have the t.v. or radio on to help cover the sounds of fireworks. Your pet may have their own safe spot – it may be their crate, or perhaps a certain bedroom, whilst others may prefer an area created for them that is dark and quiet. Let them use this, and make sure it remains a positive place for them to retreat.

If your pet hides in a cupboard or under a bed, don’t try to get them out – this may distress them further. Scared animals can be unpredictable. Stay safe. Just reassure them you’re there and let them come out on their own.

Some pets seem naughty when they are in fact scared or distressed. Do not get cross with your pet. They will not understand. Fear is an emotion, not behaviour; so comforting your pet when they’re scared may help them feel less scared, it doesn’t reinforce the fear. Very importantly, remember to also pat and praise your pet when they are relaxed.

Considering getting some Adaptil (DAP – dog appeasing pheromone) or Feliway (synthetic feline pheromone) from your vet that can be used in the home as a spray or diffuser to provide comforting scent specific for dogs or cats. This should be started at least a few days prior to an event, and in the area where they are most likely to find refuge.

There are compression coats such as the ‘Thundershirt’ that can be used on cats and dogs to reduce anxiety. These can be ordered online or through your vet clinic. There’s also music available on You Tube or CD that may help your pet feel calm. Search for Relax my Cat, Relax my Dog, Through a Cats Ear, Through a Dogs Ear and Music for Cats. Use the music when everything is calm, before using it during a stressful event. There are also desensitising sound CDs available. Search for Sound Therapy for Dogs.

If your pet has previously reacted badly to fireworks, discuss with your vet whether medication is suitable to get them through the season. Once it’s over an individual training plan can be designed to desensitise your pet to make it easier next time.

Don’t forget outside pets and livestock. They should be secured safely in their enclosures and paddocks, preferably in the quietest area of the property. Stay safe! Don’t try to stop large animals if they’re panicking. Just ensure they remain safe and secure at a distance, and reassure them once they calm down.

If you’re not going to be home during a fireworks display, perhaps have someone come and stay with your pets if you know they get particularly distressed. Alternatively it may be preferable to have them stay at a boarding facility in a quiet area.

The best way to see fireworks is at an organised display. If you’re planning on having a fireworks display, please consider the animals in your area. Let your neighbours know in advance so they too can keep their pets safe. Better yet, reconsider.

Please make sure your animals are safe and secure during the up-coming fireworks season and if you see an animal in distress or harmed by fireworks, please let the authorities know immediately!

Itching to see the vet

catdogitchingSkin is the largest organ of the body. It interfaces with the environment and is the first line of defence from the external world. It protects us from a barrage of daily insults, but we tend not to think too much about it until something goes wrong: your pet starts itching, scratching, rubbing, chewing; their skin may become red, sore, moist, weepy, greasy, flaky or smelly.

Don’t assume the cause of your pets’ skin problems. A number of different diseases can cause the same symptoms. Sun exposure, parasites like fleas and mites, bacteria, yeast or fungal infections, contact allergies, food allergies, metabolic, hormone and immune diseases can be responsible for skin conditions. In other words, anything on, in or under the skin!

Although skin conditions are some of the most common health problems in pets, they can often be difficult to diagnose. However, a correct diagnosis is essential, and to do so your vet will often recommend testing, which can mean taking samples directly from your pet’s skin, and occasionally also blood samples.

Some conditions are seasonal, but these should still be investigated and treated to avoid worsening. Some conditions are life-long, such as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) and Atopy (a type of allergic skin disease), requiring vigilant lifetime treatment. Chronic conditions can be very frustrating for pet owners and although it is, unfortunately, not always possible to “cure” your pet’s skin problem, we can manage their symptoms and thus minimise their discomfort.

The current approach to treating skin conditions is to limit the amount of drugs we use and increasingly rely on topical treatments and diets specifically designed for skin health. There are also many supplements that can assist in the treatment of skin problems. A combination may be required for your pet. However, it’s very important to use pet specific and veterinary approved products and understand that human treatments may be inappropriate or even dangerous for our pets. In addition, treatments for one problem can exacerbate another if used incorrectly.

If you suspect your pet has a skin issue, please make an appointment with your vet now.

October Specials!

October Skin Month

Beware the Garden!

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Brunfelsia

Spring is upon us, and many of us will be looking forward to the joys of better weather and getting stuck into our gardens. Unfortunately this means exposing our pets to a myriad of dangers, from fertiliser and compost, to slug baits and toxic plants. Are you aware of the dangers your garden poses to pets?

One of the most common dangers at this time of year is slug & snail bait toxicity. Dogs especially like to eat it, either straight out of the box, or from the garden. Most contain metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system.

Fertilisers, including blood & bone can cause gastrointestinal upsets to serious neurological toxicity, depending on the ingredients.

Compost is especially dangerous as the decomposing organic matter can contain fungi which produce neurotoxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins. These toxins can be present in rubbish or other sources of mouldy food – such as old bread. Fallen walnuts are another common cause of poisoning.

There are also many toxic plants, including Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) which is highly toxic to dogs.

All of these produce neurological signs and are usually progressive: anxious behaviour, mild twitching, uncoordinated walk, salivating or drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, seizures and hyperthermia. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours. Unfortunately, many of these toxins are ingested without the owner’s knowledge. If you know or suspect your pet has eaten any of these substances, bring them into the clinic immediately.

There are no antidotes. Treatment is aimed at managing the clinical signs and getting rid of as much of the toxin as possible through making your pet vomit, gastric lavage (”stomach pump”), and enemas; supportive care with IV fluids, medications or anaesthesia to control the tremors or seizures; cooling the body; and charcoal to help absorb any toxin that remains. Signs may continue for over 24 hours and your pet will have to be hospitalised until all effects of the toxins have stopped. Some animals do not survive.

As with all emergencies, the sooner they get to the vet the better the chance of a positive outcome.

Tooth Truths

catdogBy the age of just three years, up to 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have signs of dental disease. An unhealthy mouth can cause bad breath, chronic pain, reduced quality of life, and can even lead to heart, kidney or liver disease.

Unfortunately pets can’t tell us that their teeth or mouth hurt. Dental disease is not always easy to detect, as lesions can develop under the gum line, and animals can change their eating behaviour and food preferences to avoid pain. Sometimes changes in behaviour, such as pet becoming grumpy may be the only sign something is wrong. As a result many cases of oral disease escape detection and pets suffer in silence.

Obvious signs that your pet may have a problem and require a vet visit include bad breath, facial swellings, dribbling or drooling, having difficulty eating or going off their food, weight loss, pawing or rubbing their mouth, or lack of grooming. However, the presence of dental tartar and reddening of the gums with no other signs is enough to suggest that your pet may need a dental.

Dental care such as brushing, dental diets, and chews are useful before problems develop, and after their teeth have been cleaned. None of these measures will help an animal with advanced dental disease. Prevention and early detection of dental disease is more cost effective and safer for your pet, rather than lengthy anaesthetics and tooth extractions as dental disease progresses.

Dental care is an important part of maintaining your pet’s overall good health and we are committed to helping you achieve the healthiest life possible for your furry friend. Regular dental checks can help make sure your pets mouth stays in excellent health. Your pet may need to be scheduled for a dental procedure, or maintained at-home with specialised dental diets, dental chews or toys, teeth brushing or additives for their drinking water. Give us a call to arrange an appointment to check your pet’s teeth.

Oldies but Goodies

Hund und KatzeThanks to increased rates of desexing and vaccinations, improved diets and advancements in veterinary care, pets are living longer now than ever before. Nevertheless, cats and small dogs are considered seniors at only seven to 10 years of age. Large and giant breed dogs can be a senior as young as five. Our pets’ bodies age and change much faster than ours and one consequence of living longer is an increase in age-related conditions.

Regular check-ups are essential to your pet’s health, and become even more important as your pet ages.  Pets develop many of the same problems seen in older people – dental disease, cancer, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even senility. Age-related changes can be subtle, pets express their pain and discomfort in ways we may not readily recognise, and early symptoms may be easy to miss. Many pets suffer unnecessarily in silence. Those ‘grumpy’ or ‘lazy’ old pets may actually be trying to tell you something…that they’re distressed, unwell or in pain.

It’s important not to dismiss changes as simply ‘normal aging’. Although many age-related conditions cannot be cured, their progression may be slowed and their effects managed and minimised. Through regular exams and blood tests, your veterinarian can detect changes before conditions become advanced. When they do, monitoring and managing their health regularly can help maintain your pets’ dignity and quality of life.

In addition, there are many things you can do at home to help your aging pet. Ensure they are on an appropriate life-stage diet; provide a warm, comfy bed to sleep on; provide ramps or steps when pets can no longer jump or access important areas; and most importantly, make sure they remain a valuable member of your family. The oldies have given you so much joy and love through their younger years and now that they are slowing down they need you even more.

July Specials!

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Cold and Creaky

arthritisThe cold weather has arrived and it might not just be us that finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, generally slowing down or getting a bit grumpy. Very often this is a sign of age related degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as simply ‘arthritis’.

DJD mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another, and absorbs energy from movement. In DJD, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone may grow on the edges of the joint and pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing further pain and damage.

Most often we see DJD in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy). But just because age related changes are normal, doesn’t mean our pets should suffer in silence. There are many ways we can manage DJD, including specialised diets, supplements and various types of medications that help to slow down the damage and manage the pain. It’s very important that high quality products, designed for our pets, are used. The type, source, and quality of ingredients are crucial. Never give your pets human pain medications. They metabolise drugs differently to us, and in most cases human medications are unsafe or deadly to pets. One measure you can take at home is ensuring your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on.

Your veterinarian will assess what stage your pet is at and offer the most suitable options for managing their condition and maximise their quality of life. As with any health issue, the sooner we see them the better.

Look out for July’s specials on bedding, diets, supplements and more that may help your senior pet through winter, and beyond.

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It’s a Catastrophe

Cats may well have an independent nature, but they rely on us totally for their wellbeing. Cats left to fend for themselves very rarely thrive. They face starvation, injury, illness, and suffering. If they’re not de-sexed they face further hardships and contribute to the ever increasing overpopulation of unowned cats. Along with every other animal welfare agency and vet clinic in NZ, we bear the brunt. Approximately 80,000 cats go into shelters every year. 40,000 to 60,000 are euthanased. Many more remain to suffer and die on the streets.

Levin & Horowhenua Vets have, in the last few months, received several stray cats and kittens, some in a shocking state requiring immediate euthanasia on welfare grounds. Many appear to be once-loved pets. None of them have been microchipped. Without identification, we’ve little chance of getting them home. In-fact, studies show that only 4 out of 10 will be reunited with their owners.

If these cats have been deliberately abandoned we’ve no way of identifying the culprits and bringing them to account.

Most owners don’t assume their cats will go missing. Do you know where your cat goes when it leaves the house? Could your cat be chased or attacked by a dog, hit by a car or get lost? Could your cat be mistaken as an unowned cat? Many unidentified loved pets that have gone missing may have been euthanased as unowned animals. In many cases being able to find owners quickly would have meant treatment to save their lives, not end them.

95% of microchipped and registered pets return home.