While Vets are always conscious of giving the best possible value for money, there is no getting away from the fact that modern medical and surgical interventions can be costly and the requirement for Veterinary treatment is usually unpredictable, making budgeting difficult.
Pet insurance will cover your pet for those unexpected emergencies making budgeting much easier. Most pet insurance policies will cover the cost of Veterinary treatment as well as 3rd party liability. This 3rd party liability is a very important but often overlooked benefit. If your dog should escape from the garden and run in front of a car and cause an accident, you could be deemed liable. The risk of a substantial claim is demonstrated by the level of cover offered, with many policies providing liability cover up to a million pounds or more.
Most owners, understandably, focus on the cover for Veterinary treatment. Policies generally fall into 2 categories – 12 month and lifelong. A 12 month policy covers your pet for veterinary treatment of a specific condition for a year but if there is on-going treatment required after a year, further treatment would not be covered. A lifelong policy will cover on-going treatment for the duration of a pet’s life although the premiums are likely to be higher.
All policies will have an excess to pay. This is the first portion of the costs for treating a condition. Most insurers charge an excess every year for each condition claimed, and many insurers have increased the amount of the excess. This can substantially reduce the benefits you receive from the policy.
There are over 200 providers of pet insurance in the UK. Some Veterinary Practices such as Donaldson’s Vets have introduced their own insurance policies and these bespoke policies can offer major benefits over other policies, allowing for low excess payments that are only paid once a lifetime per condition, rather than annually. Some Practice branded bespoke insurance even includes discounts off the cost of routine treatments such as vaccinations, worming and flea treatment.
Christmas is a time of cheer and goodwill, with all the
family joining in the festivities. This will most likely involve your pet, who
is, after all, a member of the family. Unfortunately for our pets, Christmas
can be a challenging time; the complete change to routine, and exposure to a
variety of hazards which we as humans take for granted, all conspire to cause
problems at this time.
A little thought and planning on our part, can go a long way
to obviating these concerns, and ensure that a Happy Christmas is had by all!
Perhaps the biggest hazard, primarily to dogs, is chocolate.
Most of us know that dogs love chocolate, and that it is toxic, but perhaps we
are unaware that dark chocolate is 6 times more toxic than milk chocolate.
Baking chocolate (found in cakes and icing) is much more toxic still. As little
as 30g of dark chocolate may be poisonous to a dog of Labrador proportions! So,
gift wrapped chocolates left under the tree, or a corner from your chocolate
cake given as a treat, could have life-threatening implications for your pet.
Seek veterinary attention immediately, if you suspect your pet has consumed any
Similarly, vine fruits, especially in their dried forms of
raisins, sultanas etc are toxic to dogs and cats. Christmas cakes, and mince
pies are full of these. As few as 5 raisins have been known to be fatal to
‘Turkey Tum’ is the common sequel to your pet sharing your
Christmas dinner! Dogs’ and cats’ digestive systems are completely different to
ours, and they do not tolerate sudden changes to the diet. By all means allow a
small amount of turkey (or whichever roast you are planning for the family) as
a supplement to the diet, but beware: attempts to feed your pet a full ‘Christmas
dinner’ will most likely have dire consequences for your carpet by Boxing Day!!
Don’t forget to ration out any treats your pet may have received in his or her
stocking; they don’t all need to be eaten on Christmas Day!
Besides food, other hazards include fairy lights (the wires
in these seem to attract cats especially) which present an electrical hazard,
gift wrappings tapes and bows (ribbons and other materials are often swallowed
by both cats and dogs), and both childrens’ and inappropriate pets’ toys, which
can be chewed and swallowed (plastic soldiers seem particularly hard to
resist). Be aware that cats, and particularly kittens, enjoy scaling Christmas
trees, and may inadvertently ‘fell’ the tree; hopefully not into the fireplace!
Don’t leave boisterous pets unattended in the room if your tree could be a
Don’t forget about the trend for fireworks to be let off at
Christmas and New Year nowadays, and take steps at dusk if your pet is affected
finally, a few ‘DO’s!:
Do take your dog for the usual brisk walks over the festive period; he
needs his routine, and you need to walk off Christmas dinner!
Do consider donating to an animal charity in lieu of gifts
to family and friends. Charities such as the Dog’s Trust, Cats Protection League,
WWF etc would be grateful for your kind gift.
Do consider travel arrangements (eg motion sickness
medications, regular stops) if you are travelling to be with relatives over
And finally, DO have a wonderful Christmas, and remember
that your vet is available, as always, 24/7 throughout the festive period.
Another busy weekend on-call has passed! It’s a challenging time for most vets, not knowing what to expect next. This weekend has been no exception, with a broad mix of cats, dogs, horses, cows, and a selection of ‘small furries’, as we often call them. We even had a request from West Yorkshire Police, following reports that an escaped lion (yes, lion!!) had been spotted in Shepley on Sunday (the sighting was supposedly close to one of the local pubs, altho’ I’m sure this was coincidental!!). To my relief, one was never found, and the busy workload continued.
The burden of on-call work is often a great one, and many practices find that longer working hours, and the public’s demands for ever higher standards during those hours, drives them to seek alternatives. Smaller practices find it impossible to recruit young vets, who may be asked to work every other night and weekend on-call, in addition to working 10 hour days, or longer.
This tends to mean that many smaller practices ‘farm out’ their on-call to centralised emergency teams, often based in neighbouring towns and cities.
One such situation arose late on Saturday night: a client of a neighbouring practice had an elderly dog, which started to bleed badly from a tumour. The owner found her much-loved pet deteriorating rapidly, and was shocked to discover that her own vet’s emergency services were now provided by a centre in Leeds, which she was told she must drive to in order to be seen (and then by a veterinary surgeon who had never seen her or her pet, and had no access to it’s medical records).
The dog and owner were clearly very distressed, and in this desperate situation, I agreed to make a home visit, where sadly, we had to euthanase the patient in order to prevent further suffering. This was a very distressing situation for all, but I know the owner felt some consolation in the knowledge that her loyal companion had died peacefully in the comfort of her own home.
Our ethic as a practice is such that we greatly respect the strong bond between pet and owner, and feel it is so important that in an emergency, we can provide our own vets and nurses, (who know the history of you and your pet), in our own premises, to ensure the best possible care for your pets.
We intend to continue to do so.
Morning surgery was well underway the other day. The appointment book was full with the usual selection of booster vaccinations, scratching dogs and vomiting cats. It had been a typically busy surgery with all three consulting rooms being occupied until one vet had to leave to start his list of large animal visits leaving just myself and my colleague to finish surgery before starting on the operating list.
road traffic accident…..
I had just started explaining the benefits of our in-house insurance policy when the door of my consulting room opened and a worried looking receptionist peered round the door. “Excuse me” she said “Please could you come straight away”. I made my apologies and followed her into the waiting room and then into the vacant consulting room next door.
A distraught young couple were in the room hugging a bundle of blood stained fleece material. Inside the fleece was a small black and white cat which was wide eyed and breathing rapidly through an open mouth.
Quickly, the story was recounted: while driving to work, the couple had spotted the young cat at the side of the road and recognised that it was distressed. They stopped, scooped up the cat and rushed it down to the surgery. On examination, it had splintered claws on all four feet; this is often an indication of a road traffic accident. Feeling down the legs, I could not detect any obvious breaks but the cat was certainly dangerously shocked as it was very pale, its heart rate was over 200 beats per minute and it was breathing at over 50 breaths per minute. That level of shock is very dangerous and we had to act quickly.
As I examined the cat, one of our nurses scanned the cat for a microchip, as happens in all such cases, where the ownership of a patient is unknown. Fortunately, the scanner bleeped indicating a chip was found. A quick call to the microchip database and the owner was identified; 2 minutes later, the owner had been contacted and brought fully up to date. The cat was placed on an intravenous drip to treat the shock and when stable, was X rayed and treated successfully before being re-united with her owner.
Identifying the owner quickly is essential in such instances; the microchip allowed us to contact and inform the owner, enabling us to get consent to treat this cat rapidly, alleviating great suffering, and ensuring the best possible outcome. I am pleased to say she has made a full recovery!
As the evenings draw in and the weather turns colder and wetter, preparations are under way to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night.
Celebrating the 5th November is part of welcoming winter and is great fun for children and adults alike but it can be a very stressful time for animals.
Cats and dogs have much more sensitive hearing than we do and are able to hear fireworks that we can not. When we are at home and we hear fireworks outside, we understand what is happening but for our pets it can be a very confusing time and the noise made by fireworks can trigger a strong stress response.
We can help our pets to cope by closing the curtains and turning up the volume of the TV or radio to help to drown out the sound. Make sure that your pets are indoors while fireworks go off. It is important to do this at dusk before the fireworks start as it is less effective once the stress levels have already risen.
We can unwittingly make things worse by fussing our pets when they become anxious. This re-inforces the stress behaviour in their minds. Fussing them confirms in their minds that there is something to be concerned about. It is best to try not to respond to their anxiety.
Finally medication can help to make them less anxious and there are a number of options now available. Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats is available from Vets and creates an environment creating a scent hormone which conveys a message of security and reassurance. It is very safe for you and your pet.
Another option is a tablet medication which helps your cat or dog to smoothly and quickly adapt to changing situations and can be used prior to firework stress.
Neither of these options make your pet drowsy but do often help them to cope more effectively.
As ever, planning early is essential. These products take some time to work and so seeing your vet and getting organised now is important.
Last week I wrote about conditions in older cats which caused appetite and weight loss.
This week, I would like to explain about another condition in older cats where they also lose weight but with this condition there is a noticeable increase in appetite.
The condition results from an overactive thyroid gland and is known as hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck – just below the adam’s apple. It produces a hormone called thyroxine which controls the rate of metabolism. Cats are prone to getting a benign tumour in the thyroid gland which makes the gland swell. The swelling in the neck can often be felt by the vet. Normally the production of thyroxine by the thyroid gland is controlled very strictly by part of the brain but the tumour in the thyroid acts outwith the bodies normal control mechanisms and excessive volumes of thyroxine are produced.
The excessive thyroxine means that the bodies metabolic rate is increased. Cats eat more because their metabolism is increased but they often lose weight because they burn up their food even faster than they can take it in. Often hyperthyroid cats are restless and hyperactive. Sometimes they can become aggressive and their heart rate is increased.
Over a period of time, the increased stress on the metabolism can lead to secondary heart, liver or kidney problems.
Hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. At Donaldson’s we have a lab analyser which can measure thyroxine so we can often get results from a blood sample within an hour.
Most cats with hyperthyroidism can be treated very effectively with medication. Despite the fact that they are often old cats and sometimes they can be very thin because of the thyroid problem, they usually respond very well to tablets.
In cats where daily tablets are difficult, we can operate and remove the offending part of the thyroid gland. Operating on such old cats is always a difficult dilemma but the results tend to be very good.
The secondary heart, liver or kidney problems can be very much more difficult to treat so prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential.
As cats get older, they often start to lose muscle and look thinner. This can be part of the normal ageing process and is very common. When an older cat’s weight loss is combined with other tell-tale signs, it can indicate a medical problem which requires Veterinary treatment.
An increase in thirst while losing weight is commonly a sign of either kidney or liver problems or diabetes.
Cats kidneys are hardworking organs throughout their life. The kidneys are prone to fatigue as cat’s age and weight loss, increased thirst and lack of appetite are often the result. The kidneys filter the blood less efficiently and the blood toxins, such as potassium, increase. The toxins make cats feel ill and suppress their appetite. The body recognises the increasing levels of toxins in the blood stream and drinks more in an attempt to dilute them.
Kidney disease can often be controlled effectively for years. We can use drugs which increase the blood flow through the kidneys to improve their filtering capacity. Drugs which absorb potassium from the diet can be used to lower the absorption from the food into the blood stream. Specialist diets can be used to decrease the demands on the kidneys.
While we may not be able to cure old cats kidney problems, if we catch the problem early in its course, we can often manage it effectively for many years.
Diabetes is an increasingly common problem in old cats and also produces an increase in thirst, decrease in appetite and weight loss. In cats, diabetes can often be managed through feeding a low carbohydrate diet, though some cats require insulin injections. Often diabetes can be managed quite straightforwardly.
Again, management of diabetes, just like kidney disease is often more successful if the condition is diagnosed and treatment is instigated early. If your older cat is losing weight and his appetite is suppressed, contact your vet immediately.
Next week I hope to talk about a common condition in older cats where the cat looses weight despite having a strong appetite.
Veterinary medicine, just like human medicine, has been subject to a colossal amount of change over the last few decades.
One of the areas of medicine where there has been the greatest change is that of non-invasive diagnostics. Non-invasive diagnostics means techniques for investigating the cause of an illness without resorting to surgery. There are obvious benefits for critically ill patients, very elderly patients or very young patients, if we can diagnose the cause of an illness without resorting to general anaesthetics and surgery.
A range of techniques are available in the modern veterinary surgeon. At Donaldson’s Vets, we have facilities at each surgery which allows us to run blood tests, X rays, ECGs and ultrasounds.
Ultrasound scanning is a fantastic technique which allows us to visualise the inside of the body by doing nothing more invasive than clipping an area of fur, applying a water based gel and resting the scanner head against the skin. We have recently upgraded the Ultrasound Scanner for our surgery at Birchencliffe which allows us to even map the flow of blood within the heart.
The technology is called “Doppler ultrasound” and it uses the same technology as a traffic police radar gun. A pulse of harmless ultrasound waves is sent out from the probe into the heart. If it bumps into blood which is moving towards the scanner, it bounces back more quickly than if it bounces into blood which is moving away from the probe. Just like the police when checking the speed of your car, we can assess the direction of flow of the blood within the heart and also its speed of flow.
Being able to see not only the muscles of the heart and its valves but the flow of blood within the heart can be invaluable. We can use Doppler ultrasound to investigate conditions like leaking heart valves older animals and hole-in-the-heart defects in puppies and kittens.
It is only a few weeks since I wrote an explanation of the mechanics of the Pet Passport on these pages. In the last week or so, the scheme has been revised and some significant changes have been introduced which streamline the system.
The scheme, which was introduced some years ago required animals to be microchipped, vaccinated against Rabies and blood sampled to prove that they had acquired sufficient immunity from the vaccine. A 6 month wait was then required to prove that the animal was not incubating Rabies then the pet could travel between other countries who had signed up to the scheme.
From 1st January 2012, dogs will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against Rabies however a blood test will not be required. It has been proven that the vaccine is so efficient at stimulating immunity that is no longer felt necessary to check with a blood test. It is also now felt that a 6 month wait is draconian and that 21 days after vaccination, the animal should be fully protected and is free to travel. It will still be very important that the pet receives Rabies booster vaccinations to maintain immunity.
The veterinary profession has, by and large, been comfortable with these changes as they maintain safety but speed up the passport issuing process and reduce the costs to pet owners.
The Pet Passport has always required owners to have their pets treated for ticks and tapeworms prior to re-entry into the UK and the requirements for the new scheme in this regard are less clear at present. There is some talk within Europe that this requirement is restricting free travel. The view held by many within the veterinary profession is that it is essential that this protection remains. A parasitic disease called Echinococcus is endemic in Europe but is not currently found in the UK. Echinococcus is a condition which can affect pets and even be fatal when passed to people and the veterinary profession is lobbying hard that the requirement to treat animals before re-entry to the UK is maintained to prevent introduction to this country.
With the summer solstice looming, many of us are making plans for our summer holidays and it is important to make plans for the family pet.
With ”staycations” becoming more popular, many of us are choosing to holiday in the UK and take our pets with us but for many, it will be a time when we have to put the cat into a cattery or the dog into kennels. Often, this is the only time in the year when pet and owner are parted and it can be a stressful time for both.
Choosing the right kennels or cattery can be very important to ensure your pet enjoys their summer break as much as you do. There are a great many kennels and catteries in the area and so it pays to look into what is on offer closely.
Most establishments will be happy to show you around if you ask them for an appointment. Obviously you want to check the quality and cleanliness of the accommodation. Will your pet have the privacy they may need? If your pet is on regular medication or a special diet can the kennels or cattery deal with that? Who will be looking after your pet and how experienced are they? Does someone live on-site and if not, what time is the last check performed at night and the first check in the morning?
What procedures do the kennels or cattery have in place if your animal should become ill? At Donaldson’s Vets, we provide Veterinary services for the majority of the kennels and catteries in the area but you should make sure that you are comfortable with the Veterinary Practice used by your chosen kennels or cattery.
Finally cost does play a part in the decision of which cattery or kennels to use. Running a kennels or cattery is a competitive business but the level of service and quality of the accommodation can vary considerably and so the fees charged can vary. Some establishments can now offer double glazing, rooms with TV’s and top-up cuddles and walks although the costs can start to mount for that level of service and you may feel that you want to leave enough in your bank account for the odd ice-cream while you are away!
Having chosen your kennels or cattery, next week I hope to talk about the healthcare preparations your pet will need before their summer trip.