Welcome to the first addition of our Holmer Veterinary Surgery quarterly practice newsletter.
Here we hope to give you practice news updates and articles on current veterinary issues, with a seasonal focus where possible. Articles are available for you to download as a PDF. We hope you find the newsletter of interest and if there are any subject areas you would like to see covered in future issues please contact us with your request at firstname.lastname@example.org for us to consider.
If you have been to the practice in the last 6 months you cannot have helped but notice the extension being built. The building work is to extend out waiting room, including a separate cat waiting area, with a view to striving to attain a cat friendly status in the future. The extension will also add an additional consult room to help us fulfil the ever increasing demand for veterinary care. Upstairs will see the development of a new cat ward and cat operating theatre, the space freed downstairs allowing more dog kennels and a new dog surgical area. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding during the building process, but we know that ultimately the improvements will be to the benefit of our patients.
What is an allergy?
Pets, just like us, can show symptoms of an allergy when their immune system misrecognises everyday substances, that are usually harmless, as foreign. This leads to the pet having an allergic response which in some cases can be extreme. One of the most common organs to show signs of allergy is the skin.
Common signs and symptoms:
- Itching and red skin
- Shaking and scratching ears with or without recurrent ear infections.
- Chewing feet and base of tail
- Constant licking
- Skin infections which can lead to hair loss, scabs and or crusts.
Some common allergens:
- Allergens in food
- House dust mites
- Flea saliva
- Fungal spores
What should I do if I suspect my pet has an allergy?
Allergies can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to diagnose. Depending on the cause of the allergy it may present as a seasonal problem, i.e. when a specific pollen is in the air, or all year round, i.e. if it is an allergen in your pets food. If your pet is showing any suggestive symptoms and has a history of recurrent problems taking them for a consultation and skin examination is the best first step. The vet will talk you through the various options appropriate to your pets individual case. It is also important for pets who are suspected of having an allergy that secondary infections are treated, that ectoparasites (fleas and mites) are ruled out by keeping treatments up to date, to make sure there are no concurrent complicating factors whilst assessing your pet for allergy.
My pet has an allergy what do I do next?
There are 2 main ways to try and control allergies, the first is avoiding exposure to the allergen. This is usually the best option especially if it has been possible to identify the allergen responsible. For example if it is a food allergen it may be possible to get your pet onto a diet lacking in the allergen which should then prevent an allergic response. When undergoing a dietary trial the elimination diet must be fed exclusively (no other food stuffs just water available to your pet) for 10-12 weeks to be able to assess the benefits.
In some cases your pet’s allergy may not be identifiable or it may react to more than 1 allergen which makes it very difficult to avoid all the allergens causing the symptoms. Where this is the case then the second way to try and manage an allergy is by targeting the immune systems response with medications. There are a range of drugs available that act in different ways, broadly they can be separated into: steroids, immunotherapy and immunomodulators. Antihistamines can sometimes be used but usually once signs of an allergy are present their effect is negligible.
Steroids work by producing an anti-inflammatory response and by suppression of the immune system, the advantages of steroids are that the allergens don’t have to be identified, they are relatively cheap and work reliably. The disadvantages are they do have side effects ranging from increased thirst and weight gain to liver damage, therefore where possible they should be avoided for long term use.
Immunotherapy can only be used where the allergens responsible can be identified, it works by attempting to desensitise the immune systems to these allergens. It is usually given by a series of injections starting with small frequent injections which are then maintained with treatment at monthly intervals (an oral form is also available). Immunotherapy has to be formulated specifically to an individual animals needs. The advantage of immunotherapy is the lack of need to manage your pet’s exposure to the allergens and avoiding the need to give other medications with potential side effects. The disadvantages are it is relatively expensive and is only effective in around 50-80% of pets.
Immunomodulators work by blocking a specific part of the immune systems response during an allergic reaction. They block the message sent from the skin sends to the brain about feeling itchy, therefore your pet feels a lot more comfortable, so that the pet doesn’t self-traumatise the skin and avoids the skin damage which leads to secondary infections. The advantages of immunomodulators are that they work quickly, the allergens don’t have to be identified and they have very little side-effects so are good for pets that need long term management. The disadvantages are they are relatively more expensive in comparison with steroids and in some individuals have a lack of response.
Investigating and managing skin allergy can be a long and frustrating process, the condition is not curable, management/treatment likely to be needed for the rest of your pets life.
What is it?
- When flies lay their eggs onto an animal, the eggs hatch into maggots which then start eating the animals flesh
- The maggots will start feeding as quickly as 12 hours after hatching, which can cause toxic shock and death in a short time if untreated
- Flies are attracted to smelly, warm and moist environments to lay their eggs in
- Flystrike is particularly common in rabbits during the summer months
- Rabbits who have loose faeces, are aging or overweight have a higher risk of flystrike
- Flystrike is recognised as an emergency, so call the veterinary surgery immediately if you notice any maggots or fly eggs on your rabbit
- The veterinary team clip the fur away from the affected area, the maggots are removed and any wounds are cleaned
- Pain relief and antibiotics are administered
- If Rabbits are in toxic shock they are put onto a drip
- Check around your rabbit’s back end and underneath their tail daily, we would recommend checking twice a day throughout summer
- Keep your rabbit clean and dry
- Clean where your rabbit toilets every day
- Clean your rabbits hutch and change their bedding at least once a week
- It is important that your rabbit is fed the correct diet and is not overweight. This will help prevent diarrhoea, making it is easier to keep them and their environment clean
*Top Summer Tip*
It is important that your rabbit’s hutch or run isn’t in direct sunlight at any time. This is because rabbits cannot pant or sweat to cool down.
Heatstroke is a preventable condition which is too commonly seen in practice throughout the summer months. Unlike human’s dogs are unable to sweat, instead they use panting to try and regulate their body temperature, however sometimes panting isn’t enough to regulate their temperature and keep them from overheating. Although in some cases the condition can be treatable, heatstroke can lead to serious conditions and may be fatal.
What causes heatstroke in dogs?
- Exposure to hot/humid conditions
- Exercise in hot conditions
- Housing environments in direct sunlight
- Inadequate shade
- Inadequate drinking water
- Breeds with short noses (Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Boxers) are particularly susceptible to suffering from heatstroke, because of their very short noses they have trouble breathing which makes it difficult to cool themselves
- Take extra care if your dog is unfit, obese or suffering from cardiac or respiratory problems as they will be more sensitive to the heat
What are the signs of heatstroke in dogs?
- Excessive panting / breathing difficulty
- Excessive drooling
- Acting lethargic, drowsy or unbalanced
Prevention of heatstroke
- Do not allow your dog to lay in direct sunlight
- Exercise early morning or late evening when it is cooler, if you are unsure if the conditions are too hot it is safer to choose not to walk your dog. Although some owners feel guilty for choosing not to walk their dog in the heat, this one decision could be enough to save their life
- Allow plenty of cool drinking water throughout the day and night and encourage your dog to drink
- Provide a cool, well ventilated space for your dog
- Dogs housed outdoors should always have access to a shaded area
- Particularly hairy breeds will benefit from being clipped, regularly wetting their coats will also help
- NEVER leave your dog in the car as temperatures soar very quickly
When considering exercising your dog in the heat remember Tarmac can be very hot in the sun – try the 7 second check; place your hand on the tarmac for 7 seconds, if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot for your dog’s feet What to do if you suspect heatstroke in your dog Move your dog out of sunlight immediately Dogs suffering from heatstroke need to have their body temperature lowered and controlled, this process needs to be done gradually or they are at risk of going into shock. If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke contact the surgery immediately, some minor cases may be treated by an owner at home, however most cases will need to be seen for treatment at the surgery which is usually deemed an emergency. It’s important to remember although heatstroke is most commonly seen in dogs, other animals are also at risk of heatstroke. Remember to take into consideration pets which are housed in hutches or runs outside and ensure they are provided with a shaded cool area and have access to plenty of drinking water.
DOGS IN HOT CARS
Never in any circumstance leave your dog alone in a hot car. Dogs control their temperature by panting but when its very hot panting is not enough to stop them from overheating.
In warm weather the temperature inside a car rises very rapidly and can even double within an hour making it hotter than the outside of the vehicle and leaving it unbearable for your dog inside. Even if windows are left open and water is provided this is not enough to protect your dog from heatstroke.
Dogs left in hot cars are unable to cool themselves, they can become dehydrated and distressed very quickly leading to heatstroke and too often leading to death.