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

18-cat-dog-scale-300x140It 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.

Holiday Horribilis

dog-toilet-bowlA veterinary joke ’12 days of Christmas’ song was, unfortunately, more fortune-telling than funny for Levin & Horowhenua Vets over the Christmas and New Year holidays. From twelve sickly stomachs… seven foreign bodies… two hit-by-cars and … we really did see it all. Our knowing chuckles turned into serious discussions with long hours, upset clients, and some very sick pets. This is a timely reminder for those of you lucky enough to be on holiday over January.

Dogs and cats enjoy eating holiday fare but they are not well adapted to dealing with a sudden change in diet, and the consequences can be unpleasant. Many foods we enjoy are actually dangerous for pets. We should all now know that chocolate is extremely toxic, but things like onions, raisons and even the fat off the ham can make our pets extremely ill. Let your pet’s tummy stay peaceful and don’t share!

Toxicities aren’t just from food. Why pets choose to eat some things remains a mystery, but don’t underestimate your pets’ ability to get into something they shouldn’t. Curious pets can often get into prescription medications or recreational drugs which pose a serious threat. Ingested objects cause all sorts of problems requiring emergency surgery. The last thing we want to do is cause these problems ourselves. Keep that ham bone away from your pooch. Cooked bones are especially problematic – and expensive to treat if it goes wrong.

Changing environments, lots of people around and holiday activities can place our pets in harm’s way. Our pets enjoy the routine of a predictable life. Consider your pet’s wellbeing and safety if venturing away or you have lots of guests coming and going. Dogs especially run the risk of being hit by cars with so much extra traffic around. The beach, rivers and even the back yard have additional hazards at this time of year. Think about your pets as you would your children when considering the risks.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays, and take care of your pets.

Food for Thought

With the seemingly endless list of choices, selecting the best food for your pet can be a difficult decision to make. Catchy marketing, persistent myths, and the influence of the latest human trends and fashions all add to the confusion.

When choosing food for your pet, the most important point to remember is that any diet needs to be complete and balanced – it must contain the correct levels of nutrients to meet your pets’ needs. Several crucial factors need to be considered – the specific requirements of their species, their life-stage, lifestyle, and any medical conditions they may have, or are prone to.

Cats and dogs are not mini-humans.  Our pets do not have the emotional relationship to food that we do, and they have different criteria for determining palatability. They’re not interested in variety or how food looks, but they do care about smell, texture and taste.

Nor are they simply domesticated versions of their wild cousins. Aside from genetics, our pets live in a vastly different world to that of their ancestors. We want our pets to live long and healthy lives, not short lives based on survival and reproduction, so it makes sense that they may actually maintain better health on a more evolved diet.

Veterinary nutrition has advanced over time from foods that provide maintenance for survival to premium diets which target the age, size, reproductive status, and unique requirements of the animal. This continual progression of diets has allowed the formulation of diets that contain ingredients that actively promote health; diets aimed at preventing possible problems before they occur; and specialised prescription diets formulated to help in the treatment of certain diseases or health problems. These diets can significantly improve your pet’s quality of life.

The result of many years of research, these premium diets are constantly being tested and improved as our understanding of health problems and the role of nutrition grows. They contain consistent, high quality ingredients that are more digestible. This means more nutritional value per serving, less waste out the other end, and better value for money.

Lumps and Bumps

morethantwoFinding lumps or bumps on our pets can be a worry. There are many reasons for them to appear. They may be small or large, soft or firm, covered in normal skin, or be bleeding. They may appear suddenly, grow slowly, or grow rapidly. Although the majority of lumps and bumps are harmless, it’s nearly impossible to tell if a lump is serious just by looking at it. Don’t ignore them, wait for them to get bigger or to change before you see a vet. Most lumps cause few problems for our pets, however it is possible they may be irritating, painful, or be a sign of serious illness. Some lumps can be life threatening if left untreated.

After an examination your vet may want to perform a test on any suspicious lumps. This may involve a relatively simple fine needle aspirate (FNA) to collect cells, or a biopsy (surgical removal of a part or the whole lump) to be sent to the lab for a diagnosis. Ultrasounds or x-rays are sometimes required to see how the lump forms under the skin, or if it has spread to other parts of the body, as with some cancers. What we see on the surface may be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Lumps and bumps can also involve organs or bones.

Once the diagnosis is made your vet will be able to give you an appropriate treatment plan and prognosis for your pet. Your pet’s health and wellbeing will be considered in all cases. Many lumps will simply need monitoring; others will require extensive surgery to remove large areas of tissue.

Occasionally some pets will need medical treatment (chemotherapy) after surgical removal of the lump. Veterinarians are now even able to make special titanium implants to replace bone tissue removed because of a lump (tumour).

Regardless of the cause, most lumps and bumps can be successfully managed, so check your pet regularly, and if you find a lump or bump, book an appointment with your vet.

Itchies & Scratchies

catdogitchingThe warmer weather means the fleas are up and ready to bite; our pets are outside in the garden; and their winter coats are shedding. All good reasons to get itchy and scratchy. Make sure their flea treatment is up-to-date and give them a good groom. But what if they’re still itching or their skin is looking red or inflamed, or worse, and your pet is in discomfort? First book an appointment with your vet. Don’t jump to conclusions about what is causing your pet’s itchy skin.

Allergies are a common cause of skin conditions in dogs and cats. The main difference between us and pets is that they tend to get skin conditions, rather than runny eyes and noses. Itching, scratching, chewing, biting, licking, or rubbing the skin can all be signs.

There are three main types of allergies related to skin conditions in our pets. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), Food Allergy and Atopy. A pet may have one or a combination of these conditions.

Fleas are a common cause of skin allergies, especially in cats. Even if you do not see fleas on your pet, treating year round is vital for any pet with FAD.

The least common cause of skin allergies is food allergy. The vast majority are caused by an allergic reaction to proteins. Most of the symptoms involve itchy skin, but can also cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Gastrointestinal signs are more common in cats. Determining a food allergy can be

complex and requires consultation with your vet.

It is estimated that up to 15% of dogs have atopy, a genetic predisposition to react to allergens such as pollen, house dust and mites, mould, grasses, trees and shrubs. The allergens can be inhaled, pass through the pads of the feet and even ingested. Preventing exposure to these allergens is extremely difficult. Atopy tends to be progressive with each allergy season.

Allergies can be hard to control and are chronic in nature. This can be very frustrating for pet owners. It’s vital to see your vet, get a proper diagnosis and get started on the appropriate therapy early.



Fireworks and your Animals


Fireworks Safety Tips for Pets

From Visually

Many people love the sights and sounds of fireworks, but for our pets and other animals they can be frightening, sometimes to the extreme. 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 a behaviour, so comforting your pet when they’re scared may help them feel less scared; it doesn’t reinforce the fear. Give them a treat and tell them it’s ok, acting as normal as you can. Remember to pat and praise your pet when they are relaxed.

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.

It’s not too late to get some Adaptil (DAP – dog appeasing pheromone) or Feliway (synthetic feline pheromone) from your vet that can be used in the home as a collar (dogs only), 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 also products such as the ‘Thundershirt’ that can be used on cats and dogs to reduce anxiety. This is a compression coat that can help our pets feel safe and secure. Ask us if you’d like to order one now.

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 dog 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 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.

If you see an animal in distress or harmed by fireworks, please let the authorities know immediately.

Slug & Snail Bait Toxicity

Spring often means a burst of activity in and around our homes to get things fixed and spruced up. It’s a great time to do the same for our pets. Book them in for their annual health check, get onto flea and worm treatment, and perhaps a new brush to get rid of the winter coat. Unfortunately there’s also a lot of things around the house that could be dangerous for our pets, especially in the garden. Keep pets away from garden sprays, fertiliser and compost, and tools or machinery.

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 a toxin called metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours.

Signs of poisoning are usually progressive:

  • Anxious behaviour
  • Mild twitching
  • Uncoordinated walk
  • Salivating or excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia

If you know or suspect your pet has eaten slug & snail bait but is not yet showing signs, bring them into the clinic immediately.  If you know the brand, inform the vet and if possible, bring the box with you.  Unfortunately, slug and snail bait is often ingested without the owner’s knowledge.

There is no antidote. 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. Your pet will be hospitalised. Signs may continue for 24 hours or more.

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

Mouth Matters

dog cat toothbrushingThe health of your pet’s mouth matters. By 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. As a result, many cases of oral disease escape detection and pets suffer in silence. Very often the problem is advanced by the time we notice anything is wrong, and treatment becomes more difficult and costly.

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.

During a dental procedure, you pet is anaesthetised and an evaluation of their teeth and gums is performed, including radiographs of the tooth roots if indicated. Each tooth is then thoroughly cleaned above and below the gum line with a sonic scaler and polished to create a smooth surface that is more resistant to plaque build-up. Sometimes teeth need to be removed, or other oral issues may become evident at this stage.

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 pet’s mouth stays in excellent health. Your pet may need to be referred to a vet, or suitable at-home measures such as specialised dental diets, dental chews or toys, teeth brushing or additives for their drinking water may be recommended.

During August we’re focusing on your pet’s dental health, so give us a call to arrange an appointment for their free dental check with our Community Nurse!

Pet Insurance

sick doggyIn the vast majority of households, our pets are considered members of the family. Unlike their human family, pets cost money to care for, as there is no pet public health system. 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. Owners want to be able to pay whatever is necessary to make their pet well in the best possible way, 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 to help smooth the costs associated with caring for your furry family, and there are several companies offering pet insurance in NZ.

There are two mains types of cover available; comprehensive and surgery-only. Surgery-only cover will only contribute towards the surgical costs of your pet’s illness or injury. This can be a cost-effective way to meet unexpected surgical costs, but it is important to note that most policies have an annual maximum limit that can be claimed on particular procedures.

Comprehensive cover will contribute towards both any surgery caused by accident or illness as well as associated medical costs. Some policies cover routine vaccinations and annual health checks.

It’s important to assess exclusions and limitations related to age, breed and pre-existing conditions that may relate to your pet.

Ultimately the right pet insurance for you will depend on your budget, the type of pets you have and the level of cover you wish to be insured for. As with all insurance though, the best advice is to take your time, shop around and always read the fine print.