Holiday Horribilis

A 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.

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.

Pet Insurance

In 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.

Rat Bait Toxicity


As the weather gets colder, mice and rats start seeking shelter in warm locations like our houses. The start of winter means an increase in mouse and rat poisoning. As the use of these poisons increases so does the accidental poisoning of our pets from eating baits. Secondary poisoning, from eating poisoned rats or mice is not very common, but may occur with some types of bait.

Most rat baits available to the public contain anticoagulants. These work by preventing clotting of the blood. Symptoms often do not appear until several days after eating as it takes some time for the clotting factors to be depleted.

Signs of poisoning are variable and are caused by internal bleeding. These include:

  • Lethargy, depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from nose or gums

If you suspect your pet has eaten rat bait but is not yet showing signs, it is important to bring them into the clinic immediately.  If you know what brand of rat bait it is, inform the vet and if possible, bring the box with you to the clinic.

Unfortunately, rat bait is often ingested without the owner’s knowledge and an untreated animal can potentially die from blood loss.

Treatment is based on the presentation of the animal and the severity of the signs. If your pet has ingested the poison within the previous hour, the vet will give your animal something to make them vomit. Blood tests will be required, and most animals will need to go on a course of Vitamin K, the antidote to the poisons. Some animals will require hospitalisation. If an animal presented to the clinic has already lost a large amount of blood, they may require a blood transfusion.

If you know or suspect your pet has eaten rat bait or is showing any of the signs, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

No Bones About It…


Should you feed your dog bones? There is much debate around the issue, no bones about it, but we say no, and here’s why.

Bones can make your dog very unwell, and even be deadly. Bones get stuck in the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, and small intestine, and cause constipation. Any of these can prove fatal. It is also a costly and traumatic exercise to treat any of these problems.

Recently we have seen three cases of very sick and painful dogs with different problems due to eating bones. The constipated dog required several days in the hospital with repeated enemas; the dog with an oesophageal obstruction required urgent referral to the specialists at Massey; and the dog with an intestinal obstruction required urgent surgery in the clinic. Fortunately all of these animals were successfully treated. Unfortunately none of these issues are unusual.

Bones may help to clean teeth but can also wear them down faster and may cause teeth to fracture or break. The high fat content of marrow bones can cause pancreatitis, a very painful condition requiring hospitalisation; and raw meat can be a source of bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, and Giardia, which cause pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Dogs in the wild that eat bones are vastly different animals to our pets. In the wild dogs live much shorter, harder lives, and if a wild dog gets a bone obstruction or breaks a tooth there is no vet to care for them.

Come in to our clinic to see our range of recommended alternatives for bones suitable for your pet. If you have fed your dog bones, it seems uncomfortable or depressed, has vomiting or diarrhoea, or you suspect it is constipated, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Don’t wait for them to get better on their own, as they may get worse before you seek help.

Are You Prepared for Another 6 Family Members?

Thousands of unwanted kittens, cats, puppies and dogs that end up on our streets, in shelters and rescue facilities, with simply not enough people to take them home, are killed every year. No-kill facilities are placed under extreme pressure and become unable to accept new animals. We can help to save lives by preventing unwanted litters through desexing our pets.

Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies can be hard on pets, especially if they’re very young themselves, and they place enormous emotional and financial strain for their owners. Did you know that an unspeyed female cat can have up to 29 litters over 10 years, and one male cat can sire 2500 kittens in a single year? The cost of desexing a pet is a fraction of the cost of taking care of these unexpected lives.

Desexing also has important medical and behavioural benefits for your pet. It helps reduce roaming and fighting behaviours and eliminates or reduces the risk of a number of cancers and life-threatening conditions.

Desexing your pet will not change their personality, there is no benefit to your pet to have a litter before being desexed, and desexed animals generally live longer and healthier lives.

We recommend cats and dogs be desexed at around 4-6 months of age, prior to their first ‘heat’, but they can be desexed earlier or later, depending on the individual animal.

Pop in and request our Desexing pamphlet for more information about the benefits of desexing your pet, and the surgical procedure at our Best Practice clinic. 

WSD_2015_Logos_LowRes (2)Did you know, Tuesday February 24th is World Spay Day? We know that it takes more than a day to highlight the need to spey and neuter our pets. Keep an eye out on our pavement boards for upcoming offers for pets booked in for desexing.