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!

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

Thanks 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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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.

Lest We Forget

ANZAC

Hitting where it Hurts

In the vast majority of households, our pets are considered members of the family. Unlike for our human family, there is no pet public health system. Their every medical and health need has to be paid for. Veterinary clinics do not receive subsidies, and have to operate just like any other business whilst trying to do their very best for every patient they see.

Furthermore, technology and advancements in veterinary science have increased the options available for treatment. your vet may even wish to refer your pet onto a specialist. All this comes with increased costs.

Being a responsible pet owner requires regular preventative health care, and making difficult decisions at times of unexpected accidents or illness. Even the most conscientious owner can face a pet emergency and un-planned treatment costs can be difficult to cover at short notice. Owners want their pets to receive the best possible care regardless of the situation, but realistically this can put them in financial difficulty. When a decision has to be made, it’s not always easy to go with the ideal option.

Setting aside money or building up a credit at your veterinary clinic can be very useful but injuries or illness often happen before you’ve saved enough. Pet insurance is worth considering, smoothing the costs associated with caring for your furry family, and there are several companies offering pet insurance in NZ. There are also finance options available, and Levin & Horowhenua Vets are pleased to be able to refer clients to a veterinary finance company that may be able to offer clients a monetary lifeline.

Pets bring so much to our lives, but owning a pet comes with responsibilities. However you choose to do it, it’s important you have something in place for those unexpected expenses. Hopefully your pet will be healthy and never experience a serious illness or emergency – but regardless, the peace of mind in knowing you have a plan should something happen is worth it.

Weighty Matters

It is estimated that nearly 60% of our dogs and cats are overweight. Excess weight can reduce longevity and adversely affect our pets’ quality of life. Many diseases are directly or indirectly attributed to being overweight including breathing difficulties, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Life is not fun when playing or grooming is difficult or impossible.

Generally we are not very good judges of weight in our pets. One study showed that among clients with dogs defined as overweight by their vet, 39% thought their dogs were at an acceptable weight. We also believe that they’re ‘happy’ or content, when in fact they’re displaying signs of depression or anxiety. A panting dog is not smiling – he’s trying to cool down. A cat that doesn’t move off the couch isn’t necessarily just ‘doing what cats do’ – he’s possibly unwilling to move because it’s uncomfortable.

Whilst some medical problems can cause weight gain and require specific treatment, weight gain is usually caused by eating too much, especially when combined with lack of exercise. We’re in control of their food, so the solution lies with us.

Putting your pet on a weight management diet can seem daunting. Trying to do it with their normal food can be problematic. You may end up having to reduce the volume of food to the point your pet is left hungry. Many will need a special weight loss food to keep them satiated and ensure they still receive the nutrition they need. This will help with behaviour challenges like begging and looking hungry. Pets do not have the emotional relationship with food as we do. Satisfying their needs can be done without food. In fact, many of these behaviours aren’t about hunger. Your pet may be just as satisfied with play time or a cuddle as a treat. Did you know that dogs develop stronger bonds with people who walk them than with those who provide food?

Just like for our own weight management, it’s neither quick nor easy. There are many issues that come up, but there are solutions. Come and talk to us about your pets weight, and together we can come up with a plan to get them back to their best.