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 & 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 SWEETENERS: 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
CIGARETTES: Nicotine is toxic to animals therefore keep out of reach of pets
It may seem odd to talk about firework phobias just after the main firework period has passed. However, I know that recent problems you may have experienced with your dogs will be very fresh in your mind, often painfully so. Recent studies show that the majority of dogs will react to fireworks in some way, and often we see this as acceptable. Yet for approximately one in ten dogs, they will develop a true phobia. Equally, many dogs tend to show progressively distressing behaviour towards fireworks year on year. Dogs initially showing mild to moderate fear may progress to severe phobias later in life unless proactive measures are taken as soon as possible. To take action NOW is the key to dealing with this distressing condition.How scared is my dog of fireworks?
The first step in managing a firework phobia is to identify if it truly exists. Over the years Behavioural Specialists have developed and refined a Sound Sensitivity Questionnaire. This questionnaire is now available free of charge – CLICK HERE. This will help you identify if your dog has a true phobia to fireworks and outline how to manage the level of fear that exists. This will then help prevent your dog’s level of fear increasing over time. Now is an ideal time to take the questionnaire while your memories of what your dog experienced are fresh. By completing the questionnaire repeatedly over time you will also be able to assess if your dog’s behaviour is in fact improving.
A long term goal should be to generally improve our dogs’ reactions to fireworks. One of the proven techniques to achieve this is Sound Desensitisation and Counterconditioning. The tools required for this are now available free of charge on www.dogstrust.org.uk. There are free downloads for the sounds required and very thorough instructions on how to undertake this type of therapy. This technique has strong evidence in helping dogs with firework phobias (and can in fact be extended to other noise phobias such as storms and gunshot noises), but should only be started once all chance of fireworks happening have passed. The complete program should be expected to take from three to six months and needs to be undertaken thoroughly. To undertake the full program takes time and commitment, yet should truly help your dog long-term.
Long term therapies
For some of our dogs a firework phobia may be just the tip of the iceberg. It may be part of a more generalised phobia or anxiety condition. If your dog shows severe responses to firework noises, or perhaps is fearful of every day noises, such as doors slamming or traffic, then it may be sensible to speak to one of our vets to discuss approaches which may help with broader behavioural concerns. These can take several months to be take effect, so again now is the best time to consider these type of treatments.
Most dogs will be aware of and react to fireworks. Many have developed their own ways of coping with them. Yet for others they have no way of coping with the extreme noises from fireworks. This will often result in our dogs frantically pacing around the house in a very distressed manner, or they may simply try and hide, often unsuccessfully. One proven technique for helping our dogs to cope is the combination of providing a safe den, alongside the use of either an Adaptil collar or plug in. Details on how to provide these, as well as advice on how we should behave, are available on www.adaptil.com. Remember, there is good evidence that these techniques significantly help dogs with firework phobias. Again, we should consider “training” our dogs to feel positive about using a den, and so they should be put in place at least one to two months before the fireworks start, and to positively reward our dogs for using them. The den itself can even be used throughout the year to act as a coping mechanism for other phobias such as thunderstorms.
Short term therapies
For pets where we have not had enough time to undertake the above strategies, then we may need to use medications to help at the time of the fireworks, for example New Year’s Eve. The aim of these should be to reduce anxiety and fear rather than to simply sedate. For some of these medications there is no predictable dose for each individual dog. Therefore, they will need to be tried before the time of the fireworks as a change of dose may be required depending on how your individual dog responds.
In summary, we need to plan ahead with dealing with firework phobias. This is not a problem to be dealt with on the 5th of November! Take action NOW to really make a difference for this truly distressing condition which many of our pets suffer with. Take the first step at home – complete the Sound Sensitivity Questionnaire. It is easy and free of charge. If after this you need any help or guidance, please contact us for an appointment.
Everyone knows that ear ache is often very painful. Unfortunately, our animals are very good at hiding pain and as owners we often cannot see or choose to ignore signs of problems.What does a normal ear look like?
Human ear canals are fairly simple with a straight tube from the opening to the ear drum. Cats and dogs are more complex, both having a vertical canal and a horizontal canal. The vertical canal is a bit like an ice-cream cone shape that opens by the ear flap (pinna). This joins to a horizontal canal that is similar to the human canal, running from the base of the vertical canal to the ear drum.
The colour of normal skin is not really pink, it is more of a grey colour. Pink skin in animals is often a sign of inflammation. An animal with mild ear problems may just have slightly pink ear flaps or a pink ear canal.
A normal ear canal has very little ear wax. In fact, the majority of animals with normal ears have no visible wax down their canals. It is likely that an animal producing lots of ear wax has an underlying cause.
Normal ear canals have very smooth edges and the ear flaps are thin skin covering cartilage. As changes occur, the canals and ear flaps can start to get thickened and scarred. Over time, if left untreated, these changes will become permanent and can leave animals in constant pain even if they appear happy.
Some animals with sore ears may traumatise their ear flaps that result in swellings filled with blood. These are called aural haematomas and can sometimes be treated by simple draining, but may require surgery to correct.
Signs of Ear diseases
As stated already, many pets with ear problems will not show clear signs. However aside from looking for inflammation or excessive wax production, there may be other signs.
Some animals with a sore ear may scratch at it, shake their heads or react (e.g. growl) if you approach or touch the sore ear.
There are many nerves that pass through or around the ears. These control the position of the eyes, the head, balance, ability to blink and the size of the pupils. Animals with ear problems may present with neurological signs.
Common Causes of Ear Problems in Cats
The most common ear condition in cats is probably ear mites. These mites are usually found in kittens and cause irritation of the canals that produce excessive wax. They can be easily treated with medicated ear drops or some flea preparations.
Cats with white ear flaps are susceptible to sunburn (called solar dermatitis), that can turn develop into a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Applying a high factor sun cream to white ear flaps can reduce the risk if your cat enjoys sunbathing.
Some other skin mites (such as demodex), or foreign bodies (such as grass seeds), can on rare occasions cause ear problems and infections.
There are several growths that can affect cat’s ears. These vary in severity from benign polyps to more aggressive cancers, and in these cases cats may require major surgery to treat.
Common Causes of Ear Problems in Dogs
Puppies, like kittens, may have ear mites causing irritation and excessive wax production. As with kittens, these can be easily treated.
In the summer time, we often see animals with ear problems due to allergies or foreign bodies. Spaniel-type dogs appear particularly susceptible to ear foreign bodies, commonly grass seeds. These usually present with a fairly sudden onset of a painful ear. They may require sedation to assess a sore ear due to the discomfort.
Skin allergies often show up in the ears, as they have a warm environment that bacteria and yeasts like to grow in. In early stages of a skin allergy, the skin becomes inflamed and this makes it more susceptible to becoming infected. The combination of inflammation and a warm environment like ear canals (also feet and armpits!), makes infection in these areas worse. Allergies may be related to pollens or chemicals in the air causing skin conditions in pets (or hayfever in people!).
Dogs that swim a lot may be more susceptible to ear infections due to dirty water getting into the canals.
Ear infections are usually the result of another cause that give bacteria and yeasts the opportunity to grow, and are rarely the primary cause of ear disease on their own.
Treatment of Ear Problems
The immediate treatment of ear disease may require pain relief and often antibiotics. Topical ear treatments (i.e. ear drops) are usually more effective than tablets, but sometimes we may recommend both.
It is important to treat ear infections fully to reduce the risk of recurrence as soon as the treatment finishes. Antibiotic ear drops should be used as complete courses, and should never be used to apply just on an occasional basis. Occasional use of an antibiotic ear drop is likely to lead to resistant infections that are very difficult to treat.
The long term aim is to restore an ear canal to its normal state. Ear canals will change with time if the underlying problem is not treated, resulting in an end stage canal that can only be treated by surgical removal. Animals can be significantly more comfortable after ear canal removal, and this should not be ruled out as a treatment option in severe cases despite the severity of the surgery.
Allergies are a common cause of skin and ear diseases. There are many tests and treatments available to try to determine the allergy and/or treat the condition. Unfortunately, skin allergies are usually long term conditions that require lifetime treatment.
The use of ear cleaners may be beneficial. We would not recommend regular cleaning of a normal ear, as it may cause irritation. Animals that have excessive wax build up will often benefit from regular cleaning. Many cleaners are slightly acidic that can change the environment in the ear canal to reduce the risk of infections. It may be useful to clean dog’s ears after swimming to remove any dirty water.
Some animals benefit from examination and flushing of ear canals under sedation or anaesthesia.
We recommend a check up after completing a course of ear treatment to check that the canal is back to normal. Some animals require several treatments to restore the ear canal back to a normal state.
If you would like to learn how to clean your pet’s ears effectively, our nurses will be happy to demonstrate this for you so you can be confident in keeping their ears healthy at home. If you are concerned about your pet’s ears and think there may be infection present, please contact the surgery to make an appointment with one of our vets to assess.
Visit our Pet Health Care page to see full details of what our scheme includes.
Our fixed cost scheme will save you money over the year.
For example, using our Healthy Pet Care scheme for a Small Dog would save you £57.22 and using our Healthy Pet Care scheme for a Extra Large Dog over 40kg would save you £138.90. *This is according to our 2016 prices
Our brave canines have collected 46 units of blood during 2017 which will help to save 184 of their canine friends.
What a great job they are doing and we can’t thank them enough!
To find out more information about the Pet Blood Bank, please visit www.petbloodbankuk.org.