This week has been a very distressing week for everyone at the Maple Street Surgery as we have had to deal with two dogs which died very suddenly after a suspected poisoning while out on a walk.
On Saturday afternoon, the owner was walking his two dogs in Hall Heys Wood between Meltham and South Crosland. Both dogs were very suddenly taken ill and started convulsing. The owner called his wife, who met them in the car and they were immediately rushed to the surgery but were pronounced dead on arrival.
It all happened very suddenly and the owners of the dogs were absolutely distraught. Both dogs were young, fit and healthy and so there was immediately a strong suspicion that they had eaten something poisonous.
Post-mortem examinations were carried out on the dogs and samples have been sent for toxicology reports to establish cause of death. The area has been searched but nothing has been found. West Yorkshire Police and Natural England have been informed and are carrying out investigations into the incident.
Our Vets and the owner of the dogs remain concerned about the possibility of further animals being affected. If a wild animal were to consume the poison, it could be that the original source is spread over a wider area and it is a popular area for dog walkers.
Please be careful when walking your dogs in the area. Seek immediate Veterinary attention if you think your pet may have come into contact with anything suspicious or comes into direct contact with any dead wildlife in the area. If you see anything suspicious or know anything that may assist, please contact Donaldsons Vets on 01484 421512 or Dc Bryan Butterworth who is the West Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Officer on 01484 436565
One of the benefits of being part of a larger Veterinary Group is that we have a number of vets with special interests in certain areas of veterinary medicine or surgery. The ethos of Donaldson’s has always been to ensure that all of our Vets can turn their hand to all aspects of Veterinary work but inevitably, while medicine and surgery become more advanced and specialized, individual clinicians will develop a deeper knowledge in some areas of special interest.
Within the Practice, we tend to refer some specialist cases to the Vets who are most suited to deal with them. This provides a high standard of care and also maintains and grows the knowledge and experience of the Vet.
We also try to ensure that the knowledge is disseminated from the Vet with the special interest to the other Vets within the Practice. We do this by holding regular “Clinical Club” meetings. One such meeting was held at our Birchencliffe Surgery last Thursday.
After evening surgery finished at 7.00pm, the waiting room was transformed into a lecture theatre. Vets, nurses and receptionists from across the group met for a bite of pizza and two clinical lectures given by two of our vets on areas of special interest they hold.
Celeste Lopez Plantey is a Vet who has recently joined our Practice having worked alongside one of the most respected Veterinary Dentistry specialists in the country. While able to tackle all aspects of mixed veterinary practice, Celeste has a special interest in dentistry and she gave a fascinating lecture on dental X-rays and advanced tooth extraction techniques.
Celeste’s lecture was followed by a lecture from Vet Rhona Warnock who works at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre at Birchencliffe Surgery. Rhona is fully qualified in Veterinary Acupuncture and she gave a most interesting lecture on the science behind acupuncture and its clinical applications.
The evening proved to be a great educational and team bonding exercise, and helped to raise awareness of these advances among all the clinical staff.
In addition to the bulk of our caseload for individual animal owners, Donaldson’s Vets provide veterinary services for a number of kennels, catteries and rehoming centres in the region. We also do a lot of work with the RSPCA and the Kirklees Dog Warden Service.
Our work with the RSPCA falls largely into two categories: the services that we provide for the RSPCA Inspectors and the services we provide to the “Huddersfield and Halifax RSPCA” which are our local branch.
The local branch of the RSPCA is now based at The Animal Home in Halifax. The local branch deal with stray animals and do a tremendous job of rehoming animals, many of whom have been living rough or have been neglected, to loving homes. Despite their limited resources, the local branch do a great job of vetting prospective owners to ensure that all animals go to homes which can serve their needs so that the cycle of straying and rehoming is not repeated. We are often called upon to health check, neuter and vaccinate these animals to ensure that they are fit for rehoming and that they do not suffer from unwanted pregnancy that could add to the population of strays.
Our workload with the RSPCA Inspectors is varied. The Inspectors are often asked to deal with stray and injured wild and domestic animals and so we see everything from injured birds, rabbits and cats to badgers, foxes and deer.
The other aspect of the RSPCA Inspectors work which calls on our services is with regard to suspected cruelty cases. If an Inspector visits an animal and is concerned that its welfare needs are not being met, they will often require the opinion of an experienced Vet to confirm the best course of action. As you will imagine, this can be difficult and harrowing work. We are often required to treat and rehabilitate these cases and we are also required to act as expert witnesses and to state our opinion in court, should the RSPCA decide to proceed with a prosecution. While clearly a troubling part of the job, this work can be amongst the most important that we perform.
This week is national RSPCA week and the RSPCA has released figures showing that nationally the number of convictions for animal cruelty has risen over 15% in the last year. The RSPCA receive no public funding whatsoever and are entirely dependent on charitable donations to carry out their vital work.
After a very long period of consultation and a huge amount of lobbying by the Veterinary profession, it has been announced that the use of wild animals in travelling circuses will soon be banned.
The proposals to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England were published this week and will come into effect on 1 December 2015.
It has been argued by the Veterinary profession that there is no place in today’s society for wild animals to be used for our entertainment. The draft Bill will make it illegal to use wild animals in circus performances.
Vets have been of the opinion that the welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus, especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour. It is felt that the kind of facilities that can be offered to these animals with the kind of mobile set up that a traveling circus entails, cannot serve their needs adequately and is now out of step with the standards that should be expected.
Initially, there was a proposal that there should be a licensing scheme which would have provided better controls but would not have addressed the fundamental issues. Together with the Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society and the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Society have urged the Government to do all it can to introduce a complete ban as quickly as possible.
Although it only affects a small number of animals – currently there are twenty wild animals performing in two licensed circuses in England – this is an issue that has been increasingly shaped by public opinion and concerns over animal welfare.
Circuses can still put on a fantastic family show without using wild animals but the proposed ban at the end of 2015 still seems a long way off. Vets hope that the public will vote with their feet until then and only support Circuses that do not use wild animals as part of their show.
Anyone with livestock (or even a garden lawn) will tell you that there is not much sign of grass growth yet. This is causing great problems for farmers who, after a poor summer for grass growth last year, are continuing to have to use the last scraps of their fodder crops while they wait for the first of the grass to appear.
There is also a concern that when the grass does start to grow, it is likely to come in a rapid flush and this too can be associated with problems for grazing animals.
Cattle will generally only eat a certain mass of food in a day. The spring grass is lush and juicy but contains a very high percentage of water. This means that when cows ingest the lush grass, they consume a large amount of fluid but the amounts of solids actually decrease.
When we consider the solid component of a foodstuff versus the water content we talk about the dry matter content of the feed and in the spring, this is at an all-time low.
While the spring grass may be very tasty when lush and green, its low dry matter content leads to exceptionally low mineral contents. As a result of the low mineral ingestion levels, the blood concentration of these minerals can drop. When blood magnesium levels drop, we see a condition called “Grass Staggers”. The low magnesium levels affect the ability of the cow’s muscles to contract and so the cow is unable to stand and presents as a “downer cow” in other words a cow who is collapsed. If it is untreated, eventually the respiratory and cardiac muscles are affected and the cow will die.
We can see cows with staggers at any time but it is especially common in Spring. Although it is potentially fatal, it can be treated. We can administer a solution containing a high concentration of magnesium and we often see a very speedy response with the cow breathing more easily within a very short time of administration of the magnesium. Within an hour or so, a cow that looked to be on the point of death, can be up and about as if nothing has happened!
Last week saw the largest event in the diary of the Veterinary Industry with the annual British Small Animal Veterinary Congress in Birmingham. A trip to Congress has become a tradition that I look forward to each year.
Considering the relatively small size of the UK Veterinary industry, with practicing Vets in the whole of the UK totalling only about 18,000, it always amazes me to see the scale of the congress event.
Held over 4 days, Congress attracts around 8,500 delegates. Congress takes over the whole of the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham where over 300 lectures are held over the 4 days with lectures from key opinion leaders from across the world on all manner of clinical topics. It is essential that Vets maintain their knowledge to keep up with the rapidly changing clinical environment. With new medicines, equipment and thinking emerging all the time, congress is a vital source of information for the profession.
Lectures this year covered a huge range of topics of clinical relevance for Vets and Nurses. This year’s hot topics included a series of lectures on innovative techniques in fracture repair as well as new implants that have been developed for elbow replacement surgery.
There are a number of new treatment regimens for treating heart disease in dogs that rely on early diagnosis and so there were a number of interesting lectures on identifying dogs with heart problems early.
In addition to the lecture based scientific program, there is also a commercial exhibition which is held in the National Indoor Arena (NIA) which is next door to the ICC. A covered walkway links the ICC and the NIA and delegates tend to visit the exhibition between lectures and at lunch time. The commercial exhibition comprises over 300 stands where suppliers to the veterinary industry promote their wares. Everything from the latest laboratory and surgical equipment, to medicines, pet food, computer systems and X-ray machines are on display.
In the exhibition, I was particularly interested in equipment for key hole surgery. There have been a number of manufacturers who have developed new surgical equipment to allow minimally invasive surgery. This is an area of surgery that I am particularly interested in progressing. The equipment required to perform that type of surgery is a huge investment and Congress is a fantastic environment to compare different suppliers equipment and make important purchasing decisions.
Congress also has a very active social program with old friends meeting up each year to catch up. In the evening, it feels as though every hotel lobby and every bar in Birmingham is packed with Vets discussing their Practice and reminiscing with old University friends.
The Veterinary industry is a very friendly industry and Congress epitomises the profession with a tradition of mixing progressive clinical thinking, state of the art equipment and friendly camaraderie.
I am already looking forward to next year’s Congress.
Last week, we were in the depths of drifting snow and blizzards. This week, the air is still cold but the clocks have gone forward and there is some blue sky and watery sunshine. Surely spring is round the corner now.
After 10 days with our buildings jam packed with sheep and lambs while the snow fell and the winds blew, suddenly there is light at the end of the tunnel. Easter Sunday saw an improvement in the weather and a big push at the Paterson household to get the sheep and lambs outside.
At a couple of days old, and while their neurological systems are too immature to convey pain messages, a band is put on their tails to remove most of the tail. This is essential to keep their bottoms clean in the summer when flies and maggots can be a real danger. The males are castrated so that they can continue to run with their female siblings as they get older.
We like to keep them in for a couple of days to make sure that the ewe has sufficient milk and to ensure that they ewe and lamb form a close bond but this year they have had to stay in longer than anticipated because the weather has been so bad. There is always the concern that infection may accumulate while lambs are kept in. Maintaining sufficient air circulation in a building when lots of ewes and lambs are housed is always a problem. We have had to ensure that they have had lots of fresh bedding several times a day to minimise the risk.
The last job before turning them out was to number lambs to make sure that we can keep track of which lamb belongs to which ewe. This is obviously very important if they were to get separated in the next few days. Because all our sheep are pedigree, it is also important that we can register each lamb knowing its parentage. When the lambs get larger, they will have an electronic tag fitted to their ear but for the time being, we spray numbers on their flanks and carefully record each number alongside the mother’s details.
Then we took them, one by one, out to the field to let them pair up. It is amazing to see the ewe and lamb calling to each other and then run towards each other and, although the grass is still pretty grey and lifeless, the sight of lambs springing around in the field as they get their first opportunity to run around can’t help but make you feel optimistic that winter is now behind us.
This time of year is absolutely critical for sheep farmers as most are in the midst of lambing or have just come to the end of their lambing period and have young lambs out in the field.
Although I only have a small number of sheep, our animals are in a particularly exposed position and I can vouch for how hard the last few days have been.
We started lambing about 10 days ago. We tend to watch the sheep very closely, lamb them outside, then move them into indoor lambing pens as soon as they have lambed. This reduces the risk of infection when lambs are born inside. With the severe weather forecast at the end of last week, we changed our plans and got all of the sheep that were still due to lamb indoors.
We usually try to get lambs outside after a few days but obviously with the forecast of snow, we kept them all in. This has avoided any losses due to hypothermia but means that our buildings are pretty crowded.
Last year’s lambs are in a field about a mile from our house and on Saturday morning, I was conscious of the need to check them. The snow drifts were 5 to 6 feet deep by then and getting out in a vehicle was just impossible so I set off on foot with a rucksack full of concentrates. After 2 hours of walking and crawling over drifts I finally made it to the field in an absolute blizzard. The drifts were over the top of the gateway. A very kindly neighbouring farmer leant me a bale of hay which I pushed over the top of the drifts and in to the grateful sheep. Although very iced up, they gratefully tucked into the concentrates and hay and looked much brighter when I left for a return 2 hour battle against the elements to get home.
Return trips on Sunday and Monday reassured me that, although pretty miserable, their thick winter fleeces were doing their job. Although lambs are very fragile, adult sheep are incredibly hardy.
As I write this on Tuesday lunchtime, we are still completely cut off with 10 to 12 ft high drifts and the council having made no attempt to clear our road. A couple of farmers are making valiant attempts to dig through the drifts. All our Sheep are safe and well either inside or outside with full stomachs.
My small numbers of sheep have proved very difficult to deal with in the last few days and we must feel for those farmers who have been overwhelmed with the battle against the elements and have lost livestock in the last few days.
If the weather finally improves and we can ever venture into the garden again, please support your local British sheep farmer by putting locally sourced lamb on your barbeque and make all his struggles over the last week worthwhile.
Budgies originally came from Australia. In the wild they may fly many miles each day. Because they need plenty of exercise and the opportunity to fly, the best way to keep pet budgies is in a large aviary. If you keep your budgies indoors you should use an indoor aviary. Many budgies are kept in cages that are far too small. Tall, circular cages are not recommended since they provide very little flying space. Birds often feel most secure if their cage is in the corner of a room. Birds have sensitive respiratory (breathing) systems, so must be kept away from tobacco smoke or cooking fumes.
If your budgies are tame and need to live in a cage it is a good idea to let them fly free in a safe room, for exercise. They should always be supervised when out of the cage. Make the room safe by closing all windows and doors, turning off any extractor fans and removing any other pets from the room.
Budgies are very social birds and need the company of other budgies. Birds of the same sex should be kept together and ideally should be acquired at the same time.
You should feed your budgies with good quality, commercially available budgie food. Complete pelleted foods are recommended because they contain the right amount and type of essential nutrients. In addition, fruit and vegetables can be offered in small quantities. Because birds don’t have teeth many, including budgies, need to eat suitable bird grit to help grind their food in their stomach and aid digestion. Grit suitable for pet birds is available from pet shops. Budgies need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water drinker, available from pet shops.
As well as having plenty of space, budgies need toys and objects to keep them occupied and prevent boredom. This is called ‘environmental enrichment’. Many budgies like rope ladders and swinging perches. You should offer different toys in different weeks so your budgies stay stimulated and don’t get bored.
If you care for your budgie well, it will live a happy and long life, often exceeding a decade.
Just when it started to feel as though the first signs of spring were on their way, we have been plunged back into the depths of winter.
Wildlife can find cold weather particularly hard at this time of year as they have used up their body reserves and have little to fall back on. In winter, birds may have difficulty finding normal food. An extra titbit from your kitchen will help to keep them going.
If you have a pond, make sure you check it every day for ice, as toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond. These may kill fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water straight onto the pond or break the ice with force, as this can harm or even kill any fish living there.
Keep a close eye on outdoor pets, such as guinea pigs and rabbits. Put extra bedding in their home and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter whilst the weather is cold. Don’t house small animals or birds in greenhouses as they can be prone to extreme changes in temperature. Caution must be taken if small animals or birds are housed in conservatories – they must be maintained at a suitable temperature (i.e. heating may be required) in the winter and sufficiently cool and well ventilated in the summer.
Try to maintain a regular routine with your dog. You may not feel like taking your dog for a walk on dark wintry evenings, but the exercise will keep your pet happy and healthy and will help to keep you fit as well! Always wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible when walking near roads in the dark. And don’t forget your pets too – fit your dog with a reflective collar.
If horses and ponies are kept outside during the winter they must have access to shelter at all times. They also need a constant supply of fresh water (check that ice hasn’t formed on it) and some horses my need a rug to protect them against the cold and wet. Extra food will be needed too, as winter grazing provides very little nourishment.