Welcome to our second addition of our practice quarterly newsletter. Building work for the practice extension progresses well, we are hoping to have our shiny new waiting room (with a separate cat waiting area) open for the beginning of November. This month (October) we welcome Emma, the vet, back, part time, after her maternity leave.
Sadly this month we say goodbye to Sophie the vet, it has been lovely having Sophie with us, even if it seems like only a short time, we wish her all the best for the future.
In this newsletter we thought it would help to look at some seasonal issues, firstly, fear of fireworks, which is an all too common issue for many of our dogs. Secondly, Alabama rot, an uncommon but often fatal condition of dogs, seen during the colder wetter months, although this condition is rare we feel owner awareness is still important. Finally we look at things to consider when buying a new puppy, as always, we at Holmer vets will be happy to discuss this and any other concerns you may have before you decide on which dog you plan to bring into your family.
Management Strategies for the firework Season
In the UK 49% of dogs show signs related to fear of sound, fireworks are the trigger for 38% of these dogs, 31% of cases are triggered by thunderstorms and 40% have multiple noise triggers. Typically symptoms of noise phobia progressively worsen over time, and a dog with a single noise trigger may become sensitised to multiple noise triggers. It is not always easy to relate a pet’s behaviour to noise, as the phobia can manifest in different ways in each individual e.g. separation related problems, destructive behaviour, self-mutilation or aggression. Worsening of sound sensitivity can be an indication of a medical issue, especially if the phobia develops in older animals or develops suddenly. For owners who are uncertain if their dog is noise phobic a simple questionnaire is available at www.adaptil.com
• Provide your dog with a suitable place to take refuge/den at times of anxiety.
• The den must be accessible 24/7 as it cannot always be predicted when the noise triggers may occur, and an inability access the safe place at times of stress can, in itself, lead to destructive behaviour.
• Consider if your dog has tried to take refuge during the firework season before, this could behind a sofa, in a bathroom, in a cupboard, under a bed etc. If you are able to allow your pet constant access to these places all the time then these are the ideal den area.
• If your pet has no preferential hiding place, or is prone to pacing when they are agitated by fireworks, then a bespoke den can be set up in a quiet, dark, secure place in the house, which your pet can be trained to use before the firework season, using treats or toys etc. to encourage use.
September/October is a good time to start den training. Soft comfortable bedding and a blanket, which the dog can hide under, can also add to the feeling of security for your pet. Gentle, calm music can be helpful, but if the sound of music in the house is unfamiliar to the dog or the wrong music is played then this can be detrimental. Pheromone therapy e.g. Adaptil calm used as close to the den as possible can increase the sense of calm in the hide out, these products are available from Holmer Vets or online.
Managing human interaction with your pet:
• The best way to respond to your dog when he/she shows signs of noise phobia is to be passively available, stay calm yourself so that your dog is signalled everything is ok, your dog may lay beside you or sniff you. Small circular stroking movements on the chest can help with relaxation.
• If your dog’s response to the fear is repulsion e.g. growling remain calm and allow your pet to have their distance.
• Allow your dog to use their chosen avoidance strategies i.e. get to their safe place and when they chose to come out/are calm reward him/her.
• Avoid well intentioned reassurance of your anxious dog as they may interpret your signals as a sign that the situation is indeed cause for concern and so inadvertently reinforces the behaviour.
• If the pet becomes too reliant on you, as an owner, to cope with the situation, it is unlikely that they will have access to you 24/7, so their fear response will be heightened if you, their coping strategy, are unavailable.
• Do not punish your dog for their fearful behaviour as this is detrimental, it can trigger a negative emotional response and result in worsening of symptoms.
• Medication is not a substitute for good management of your pets phobia.
• Medication is used to reduce the emotional response and help prevent relapse or worsening of fear.
• Some dogs exhibit extreme physical symptoms such as inappropriate toileting or vomiting when the phobia is triggered. Some medications, e.g. Selgian, can be beneficial for these dogs however they have a slow onset of action (up to 8 weeks). If you think your pet may benefit from their use for the upcoming firework season you should seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.
• For medication used during the firework period itself, some nutritional supplements, when used in addition to environmental management and pheromones, can be of benefit for milder cases.
• For dogs who are using their den successfully but need additional help to be calm Sileo is a licensed product available to use 30-60min before a noise event and lasts for 2-3 hours, it can be administered every 2 hours if needed and is given directly into the mouth, which means it is not suitable for use in pets whose response to their fear is aggression.
• For more severely affected dogs benzodiazepines given in advance of the known event, around 1 hour, can have an anti-anxiety effect for 6-8hours. The response of individuals to these drugs is highly variable so ideally we advise testing doses. Test doses should be trialled at least a few days before the fireworks are starting, when your pet is not anxious, this will help to find the most suitable dose for your dog. If benzodiazepines are given for more than a week then your pet should be weaned off gradually under the guidance of your vet.
• Please note that some of the drugs used for management of noise phobias are not licensed. ACP, a sedative, has fallen out of favour as it has been shown it can actually make the phobia worse in the long run.
Please contact us to discuss the most suitable treatment for your individual pet’s needs for this coming firework season.
Long term behavioural therapy/rehabilitation is the ideal goal for noise phobic pets and when the firework season is over sound desensitisation should be implemented. We at Holmer Vets will be happy to discuss and support you and your pet with noise desensitisation. We strongly recommend you visit www.dogstrust.org.uk where you can access a noise desensitisation program for free. For dogs with severe noise phobia or other behavioural issues we may recommend referral to a certified specialist.
Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV), commonly known as Alabama Rot
What is it?
• It is a rare and life-threatening disease affecting dogs that blocks and damages blood vessels in the skin and kidneys. This leads to affected dogs developing ulcers or sores on the lower leg and kidney failure.
What causes it?
• The cause of this disease is unknown. In the USA there are some reports to suggest a link to the bacteria E.coli, however there is no evidence of this for cases seen in the UK.
• Analysis done by alabamrot.co.uk found that 90% of confirmed cases, in the UK, have occurred in the months between December and May. Suggesting there is an increased risk during the winter and spring months.
• Although there is no scientific evidence it is thought the disease is possibly picked up by walking through muddy areas.
What are the symptoms?
• Ulcers or sores on the skin. The most common site is the legs and paws but they could occur anywhere on the body including the abdomen, head and tongue. The lesions can vary from areas of redness, to bruising to open sores.
• A raised temperature resulting in your dog becoming lethargic.
• Drinking more than normal, not wanting to eat, vomiting might be seen if kidney failure develops. Signs of kidney failure usually appear from around 3 days after the marks on the skin, but in some cases it can occur more quickly.
• If you are concerned your dog is showing any of the symptoms above please contact the vets for advice as soon as possible.
Which dogs are at risk?
• There is no link seen between sex, age or breed and the disease meaning all dogs are equally susceptible to it. Although anecdotally we have been aware of more cases in working spaniels.
How is the condition diagnosed?
• Whilst increases in blood kidney values and histological changes detected in skin biopsies can be suggestive of a diagnosis of Alabama Rot, sadly, at this time, the most definitive diagnosis is made post mortem.
How to prevent Alabama Rot?
• As the cause is currently unknown there is no specific advice for prevention. However the majority of cases seem to occur in dogs that have been walked in woodland, and occur during the wet months. So it is considered a sensible precaution to avoid really muddy areas if possible, and if your dog does get muddy then wash it off as soon as possible.
What to do if you suspect Alabama rot:
• Contact your vets as soon as possible. Survival rates are low, only 20-30% of cases will survive, these are generally animals who are only mildly affected at the outset, and treated early. Survival of dogs presented with kidney failure is poor, only a tiny number of cases presented with advanced disease have recovered with dialysis therapy, carried out at a referral practice.
• Whilst this sounds scary it is important to remember this is a very rare disease, and of the time of writing there has only been 13 confirmed cases across the whole of the UK in 2019 so far.
• There is a map of the whole UK that has recorded every known case of Alabama rot since 2012 to help try and identify areas at risk. You can view this map by clicking on this link: https://www.vets4pets.com/pet-health-advice/alabama-rot/ .
Important things to consider when buying a puppy
It’s certainly easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new puppy, often a cute and cuddly new addition. Buying a puppy is a long-term commitment that should be carefully considered, to ensure that it is the correct choice for both you and the puppy. To help you with the process of buying a puppy we have highlighted key factors to consider.
Is buying a puppy the right choice for you?
• Dogs need a lot of work and attention throughout their lives. Are you able to make a commitment to a puppy for what could be 12 or more years?
• Providing appropriate care and meeting the welfare needs of a puppy or dog does take time. Do you have the time to care for a new addition, including time for exercise, training and socialising?
• There are also the many costs of puppy and dog ownership to factor in. Expenses include anything from food, bedding and toys to veterinary fees and insurance.
Advice for buying a puppy
• The law now requires that puppies are sold from the place that they were bred and reared, no younger than 8 weeks old. Puppies should also be viewed with their biological mother.
• Never agree for a puppy to be delivered to you or meet the breeder somewhere other than their home.
• Ask plenty of questions regarding the health of the parents and the litter. For the mother’s welfare it is advised that she has between 3-4 litters in her life, from over the age of 1 year. A responsible breeder will not breed from their bitch to the point of exhaustion or into old age.
• Check if the litter have had health checks, vaccinations, parasite treatments and microchips. All certificates and paperwork should be given to you when you purchase or pick up the puppy (including Kennel Club registration certificate if the puppy has been sold as Kennel Club registered).
• It is now the law that all litters of puppies are microchipped and registered to the breeder before the age of 8 weeks, prior to sale.
• It is important to look carefully at whether the puppies and mum look healthy and well cared for.
• It is advisable to visit the breeder and litter more than once, to ensure that you have enough time and information to make your decision and to choose the best suited puppy for you.
• Puppies should be fully weaned by seven weeks. If they are not fully weaned, they could be younger than what the breeder claims.
• In cases where you have any doubts about the situation or the breeder, buying the puppy could be funding a possible illegal operation e.g. puppy farms and illegal importation. You should report them to the Trading Standards if any alarm bells ring.
If you have any questions regarding buying a puppy, please do not hesitate to ask a member of the Holmer Veterinary Surgery team. We also recommend that you visit the puppy contract website for further help and advice.
After you have purchased your puppy we strongly advise that you take out an insurance policy to assist you with unexpected veterinary fees. It is important to purchase a lifetime policy with a good level of cover in case your dog develops a life-long illness, or gets injured and needs complex surgery.