The majority of vets during this time of year will treat a number of pets for eating items that are toxic for them. With chocolate remaining top of the list of ingested ingredients.
Cats have also been reported to be seen over this time also for cases of antifreeze poisoning and seasonal plant poisoning such as poinsettia, lilies and mistletoe.
It is also a good idea to be careful of festive decorations around our houses like tinsel and fairy lights as these can be hazards to both our cats and dogs.
Some ideas for a hazard-free Christmas with your pets:
- Must sure your pet does not have access to those festive decorations without your supervision – these items can be very appealing to our pets but can cause seriously harm is broken, chewed or swallowed.
- Give your pet toys not treats – too many of those yummy treats your pet enjoys will lead to obesity which can have detrimental effects on their health so why not consider a new toy to keep them active and in shape.
- Poison protection – make sure those festive treats are out of reach that can contain ingredients that are harmful to our pets including chocolate, sweets, raisins, xylitol, nuts, grapes or liquorice. As well as festive decorations and seasonal plants as poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.
- Make sure you know where your local veterinary is over this time. Sometimes accidents and emergencies may still occur, therefore be aware of your vet’s emergency cover provision and opening hours.
Christmas can be a very chaotic time of year and a more dangerous time for our pets as their usual home surroundings are filled with presents, decorations, trees and much more. We want to make you aware of potential toxins over the Christmas period in order for you to sit back, relax and celebrate this time of year.
Chocolate: In chocolate there is a substance called Theobromine which is poisonous to our pets. It can be found in all types of chocolate – white, milk and dark.
In the case, where your pet ingests any of the items above, it is best to contact the vet for advice. If you need to take your pet to the vet, please take any relevant packaging in order treat your pet.
Onions: All of the onion family, including leeks, garlics, chives and shallots whether they are cooked, dried or raw can be poisonous to dogs.
Christmas Cake and Mince Pies: Raisins, currents and sultanas, as well as grapes, are common ingredients and can be poisonous. Please take care in order to keep cakes and snacks away from your pet.
Blue Cheese: This cheese contains roquefortine C which animals are very sensitive to. Therefore is best to keep out of reach and dispose of any leftovers.
Bones: It is common for small, cooked bones (especially from poultry) to fragment easily into pieces with very sharp edges when chewed.
Artificial Sweetners: Xylitol can be found in chewing gums, mints, sweets and liquorice.
Alcohol: Most people are aware not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets, however alcohol poisoning in pets can be more common than you think!
Mould: Growth on food, in rubbish bins and sacks can hold toxins which will quickly attack an animal’s nervous system. Only a small amount of these mycotoxins can cause tremors and seizures.
Poinsettia, Holly, Mistletoe, Ivy, Lillies: Many flowers, house plants and bulbs that can be poisonous to our pets. We often bring seasonal plants inside the house or receive them as gifts.
Christmas Trees: If eaten it may cause mild stomach upset however the sharp tips may do more damage internally.
Christmas Decorations & Wrapping Paper: There is a high risk of gastrointestinal obstruction if the decoration is ingested.
Silica Gel: This may be found in a present in small sachets containing silica gel
An arthritic joint may be stiff to move or have a reduced range of movement and not be able to bend as much as it used to. It may be thickened, and in many cases will be painful. Exercise is often reduced and this can lead to muscle loss and weight gain, both of which are detrimental to the condition.
Arthritis is often a secondary change following an underlying joint condition. A dog may be known to have suffered from a condition such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia from a young age, or to have damaged the cruciate ligament in the knee, but in some cases the arthritis develops without any previously noted disorder.
Once arthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or “DJD”), develops, treatment is aimed at improving an animals mobility by reducing pain to ultimately improve their quality of life. Animals will not always display any signs to suggest they are in pain, but you may notice they are less keen to go for walks, are uncomfortable or struggle to sit or lie down, are no longer climbing up stairs or onto the sofa! There may be more obvious signs such as yelping if they slip or as they stand up from lying down.
Imaging may be required to assess a painful joint. Radiographs (“X-rays”) may show new bone formation to suggest arthritis or a malformed joint. Some subtle conditions require advanced imaging such as CT or MRI scans, and may even require arthroscopy (a camera looking inside a joint). In older animals, the assessment of a joint during a consultation with a vet may be enough to suggest trialing some treatment.
There are many ways that we can improve the situation for our pets, some of which don’t cost anything!
It is vital that animals are kept to a sensible weight. Sadly, many pets are overweight and this in itself can get worse if animals are less keen to exercise due to arthritic pain. Many animals will feel much more comfortable if their weight can be kept to a sensible target. Our nurses are happy to help with weight reduction programs and offer free nurse clinics at many of our surgeries. An overweight dog with arthritis will be significantly more comfortable once it has lost weight. Try running your fingers along the ribs of your dog, you should be able to comfortably feel each rib without there being a significant fat barrier over them!
Sensible exercise regimes are also beneficial, not only to help them stay lean (or reduce unwanted weight), but will also increase muscle that can help support a damaged joint. You may need to start with slow gentle lead walks several times a day before building up to longer ones. You may even find several short walks a day are more comfortable for your companion than a single long walk. If your pet is coming home more lame, then reduce the amount of exercise you are doing before seeing if you can gradually slowly increase it again in the future.
Hydrotherapy and physiotherapy are both useful aids to improving your pet’s mobility. This can be beneficial after a surgical procedure, as well as for long term management of an arthritic animal. We can advise you on local hydrotherapy and physiotherapy centres. You are likely to need consent from a veterinary surgeon to attend a centre, so you may benefit from an appointment with one of our vets to discuss whether this treatment would be good for your dog. If you have a pet insurance policy, your cover may allow a certain amount of complementary therapy.
Painkillers are often important treatments for animals suffering from osteoarthritis. They may just be required when there is an acute flare up of pain in some cases, but many dogs with arthritis will be more comfortable if they are on long term medication. Most painkillers used in animals are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). In the vast majority of cases, NSAIDs can be safely used in pets without significant side effects. The benefit nearly always outweighs the potential risks. The most common side-effects seen are usually gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea. There is a low risk of upsetting the liver or kidneys and running blood tests periodically on animals taking NSAIDs is a sensible precaution, especially in older animals that may have geriatric related liver or kidney problems that we would want to avoid making worse. An occasional simple urine test can also be useful to monitor for signs of problems in older animals.
There are other painkillers that we sometimes prescribe that have been used in people for a long time. Some of these are not currently licensed for use in pets so are prescribed “off licence”.
Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin and/or essential fatty acids may be helpful in animals with arthritis. It is often worth trialing them for a few months and seeing if they have any beneficial effect. They are not likely to provide an instant response as most of them aim to help support joint cartilage repair.
Some modern treatments are being trialed involving stem cells/regenerative medicine. This generally remains an experimental area, but some orthopaedic specialist centres are providing treatments. There are two main treatments currently available, one involves taking a blood sample and separating platelets that are then infused into a damaged joint. The other involves taking adipose tissue (fat) from the abdomen in one procedure and then this sample is treated to remove stem cells that are injected into a damaged joint at a separate procedure. These treatments may provide an anti-inflammatory response for a period of time when, if beneficial, the treatment can be repeated. Milton Keynes Veterinary Group can offer platelet therapy for clients interested in this area of medicine.
There are some situations when surgery may be recommended. If a dog has severe hip pain then referral for a total hip replacement may be considered. An animal with a ruptured cruciate ligament may benefit from surgery to stabilize the joint. Some animals may be more comfortable after salvage procedures such as fusing a joint that is painful or removing the ball part of the ball and socket hip joint.
Although people and animals can all suffer with painful joints, there are certainly some effective treatments available to help improve activity and happiness!
If you are worried your dog has arthritis, please make an appointment with one of our vets who will be happy to advise you on the best options to help.
During the month of November we are promoting health care for our golden oldies with FREE health checks with our veterinary nurses! Cats and dogs over the age of 8 and rabbits over 7 are welcome to clinics at Walnut Tree, Stony Stratford, Stoke Road and Willen.
Signs we as owners should look out for in our older pets include:
- Weight Loss: As animals get older, they may gradually lose a few pounds. However, if you notice any sudden or significant weight changes, we advise making an appointment for your pet. Weight loss with a good or even increase in appetite could be a sign of hyperthyroidism, a common condition in senior cats which have an overactive thyroid gland. Rapid weight loss may also be a sign of parasite infestation, or kidney or liver disease.
- Changes in Appetite or Thirst: If your pet seems constantly ravenous or is drinking more than usual, there could be a number of explanations. Cushing’s disease could be one explanation, a common condition is dogs caused by the body producing too much or the hormone cortisol. Loss of appetite could be related to behavioural issues, as well as kidney disease or blockage in the throat or intestinal track.
- Lumps and Bumps: Lumps and bumps are not uncommon, especially in dogs, but it is always advised to have them checked by your vet. While it could just be a cyst or infection, it could be something more serious, and early detection is vital for the best outcome for your pet.
- Lethargy and Behavioural Changes: In their older ages, your pet’s behaviour may change and you may notice them sleeping more in the daytime and less at night, or they may start showing signs of anxiety, vocalising at night or even aggression. These changes can be a sign of hearing loss, an indication of pain (from conditions such as arthritis), or of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). If you notice a change in your pet’s behaviour we recommend making an appointment with your vet.
The age at which a dog becomes geriatric will depend on the individual, and factors such as breed, but is generally about eight years of age. It is important to realise that geriatric dogs will be less active and rest more, this is normal healthy ageing. What we see with CDS are behavioural issues which may affect the pet’s welfare and the human-dog bond.
Possible symptoms include disorientation (sometimes the dog doesn’t seem to know where he is even though he is somewhere familiar) and reduced interaction with the family, which may lead to fear or irritation. Disturbed sleep, for example becoming restless at night and sometimes crying at night for no apparent reason. You may see loss of housetraining and an increase in anxiety levels. In severe cases these changes strongly resemble senile dementia in old people, and can be very distressing for the dog and owner.
What can be done to help? It is important to realise there is no such thing as a cure for CDS. However a number of things can help.
- Drugs – the most commonly used drug is Selegiline .This is an enzyme blocker which increases levels of helpful chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine
- Diet- there has been a lot of research into “healthy brain” diets. As the brain ages it becomes less able to use glucose as fuel. By suppling diets that are rich in certain fats called medium chain triglycerides, we can fuel the older brain more efficiently. Also correct levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B C & E and other ingredients such as Arginine can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and help reduce free radicals which damage the brain.
- Enrich the environment – It is important to give plenty of attention and interaction to geriatric pets. Most older dogs will still enjoy walks and play, although maybe not so energetically as they did in their youth. Make sure beds are comfy and warm as older dogs will spend more time in them. Puzzle type dog toys can also be useful just as Sudoku and crosswords are helpful in keeping our human brains active