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Dietary Dilemmas- let us help you fix them!

“What is the best food for my pet?” is one of the most commonly asked questions we are asked. There are so many opinions and so much choice, how do we chose? The breeder recommends one thing, the trainer recommends something else, your friends pet has another food altogether.   Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase “you are what you eat” is applicable to our pets as well as ourselves. Good quality nutrition begins at birth. Of course, it is usual for puppies and kittens to be fed with mum’s milk, the most natural and balanced nutrition available. But after weaning, it is up to us to provide the best we can to ensure healthy growth and development, and a diet specifically made for youngsters fills the requirements for them as they grow. These usually cover the period from weaning to approx. 1 year old. spRelaunchIMCPageImg35 As they approach the one year old mark, the dietary requirements change. They no longer need the energy dense food to grow, but instead we should be trying to ensure good long-term preventative health. Adult food should be less calorific with appropriate levels of protein and fat to maintain an ideal weight.  This is particularly important for dogs, for whom excess weight can cause mobility issues. A good quality dog food will provide the building blocks of healthy joints – glucosamine & chondroitin. Cat food should help maintain a healthy urinary tract through controlled levels of minerals and pH, in addition to having safe levels of sodium and phosphorus to support healthy vital organ function, particularly the kidneys. vetessentials_redesign_stage_selector_cat And as our babies move into their golden years, good nutrition is as important as ever, but the requirements change again.  Mature adult dogs need just the right balance of nutrition to keep healthy. Staying active and fit – and young at heart! – requires healthy bones and organs, strong immunity, healthy teeth, and more. Feeling great means feeling younger and avoiding conditions which can lead to disease. Additionally, some older cats don’t need as many calories to maintain their ideal weight, so they run the risk of gaining weight more easily. Over time, excess weight makes them prone to other related health conditions, making it imperative to keep cats fit and slim after neutering. Other cats may lose weight due to underlying medial conditions, for which a specialised diet may be more appropriate.  Easy to digest food with the right fibre blend keeps cats’ digestive systems running smoothly, and high antioxidant levels help bolster natural defences for a long, healthy life. 13599857_1210936398938118_6646775325547855093_n This Friday, 15th July, we have invited Nikki Morgan RVN, Nutritional Advisor and territory manager for Hills Pet Nutrition to stay with us for the day at Walnut Tree to meet with anyone who would like to discuss their pet’s nutritional needs. It will be an informal day, from 9.30 to 4.30, no appointment required. Please feel free to bring your dog or cat along to be weighed and to show you how to check their Body Condition Score, an important way of monitoring obesity or weight loss. Further information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1125803034109689/ And here: http://www.hillspet.co.uk/en-gb/vetessentials/index.html
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Fun at the Big Doggie Do

On Saturday 28th May, some of the Milton Keynes Veterinary Group team had a great day out at the Parks Trust’s “Big Doggie Do” event at Willen Lake.

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This year it was our priority to spread the microchip message, and we diligently “checked the chip” on over 100 dogs.

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The doggie inspired event hosted a variety of fun activities including a variety of stalls, displays, competitions and entertainment. Highlights includes dog dancing displays, obedience demonstrations, and a dog show.

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As you can see, a great day was had by all, and we look forward to sponsoring the dog show again next year.

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Photographs used with thanks to Kelly Cooper Photography.
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Microchip Mania

Following the flurry of activity in April to get dogs up to date on the microchip database, we can take a breath and look at what has changed.

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What is a microchip?

A microchip is a tiny device the size of a grain of rice, which is implanted under the skin in an animal’s neck. It holds information about the pet and owner electronically. But it is only as good as the information it holds.

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What has changed?

Legislation changed in April to make it a legal requirement that all dogs in England are microchipped and their registered details are up to date. This is to enable stray dogs to be returned to their owners, to encourage responsible ownership and to help the fight against puppy farming. If your dog is found to be wandering without you and is picked up, the dog warden must be called. If there is no microchip, or the details are out of date, you could be liable for a fine of up to £500 but initially, you will be advised that you have 21 days to get your dog chipped and/or registered.

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How much does it cost?

For the small price of only £10, your dog can be microchipped at any of our branches.

Once registered, you will be invited by Petlog to upgrade to their Petlog Premium service. This upgrade costs £16 but provides flexibility to amend your records as many times as you need. More details can be found here – https://www.petlog.org.uk/upgrade-to-petlog-premium/

What if I don’t know my dog’s microchip number?

Simply bring your dog to one of our branches and we can scan them and give you the chip number and contact number for Petlog. It’s a good idea to get the chip checked whenever you are in the surgery for your own peace of mind. We can give you the microchip number and telephone number so that you can check your details are up to date. Or you can look it up on this website – http://www.chipitcheckit.co.uk/

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In conclusion, the law has changed, and the fact remains that this law must be adhered to. It is still a legal requirement for dogs to wear a collar with an identity tag when in a public place. We want to help you and your dogs keep safe.

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Cardio blog: Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Welcome to cardio blog! In this blog I plan to describe some of the interesting cases of heart disease that we see here at MK Vet Group. My thanks go out to all the owners who have allowed their companions to feature in these blogs. I would like to also thank all owners who show such dedication to allow their pets to lead happy and fulfilled lives whilst suffering from heart disease.

In this first blog I am going to be talking about dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM for short. This is a disease of the heart muscle which occurs in many large breed dogs. The heart muscle becomes weak, and unfortunately the heart is unable to pump properly. This leads to dilation of the heart and eventually heart failure. DCM is usually seen in large purebred dogs such as Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds. Dogs often present at the vets once heart failure is beginning to develop and may have signs such as fatigue, reduced appetite, weight loss, breathing problems and an irregular heartbeat. Cats can also get DCM, but it is much rarer. It was historically associated with a nutritional deficiency in cats, but cat food is now supplemented to prevent DCM from developing.

A recent study in Dobermans has shown that early treatment with a drug called pimobendan before the onset of symptoms can extend the survival time for dogs with DCM. For this reason we are currently offering a free of charge blood test for a heart blood marker called proBNP. High levels of this marker raise suspicion for heart disease and allow us to pick up early cases before they develop symptoms. We have written to all owners of Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, who have animals aged over 3 years old to invite them to come in for the blood test.

G’s Story

Here is a lovely photo of G. He is a beautiful 7 year old Great Dane. He was blood tested for proBNP and was found to have very high levels. He was admitted to our hospital for an echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound) and an ECG.

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G is a very worried dog at the vets so to minimise his stress we performed his ECG in a quiet room away from any noise. He was perfectly behaved for both his diagnostic procedures, he truly is a gentle giant! The ECG is a simple but very useful test of the heart’s electrical activity. It involves attaching a lead to each of the dog or cat’s legs and recording the electrical activity of heart on a special machine. The worst bit is the squirting of a little spirit at the lead attachment sites, which can be quite cold. A tasty treat at this stage usually helps as a distraction. Here is a photo of G’s ECG trace as seen on the ECG machine. Although it is very fast due to him being worried, it is nice and regular. It is not uncommon for us to detect an irregular rhythm called ‘atrial fibrillation’, which may require some additional medications to slow the heart rate.

Here is a photo of G’s ECG trace as it appeared on the ECG machine:

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The next stage was to perform a heart ultrasound or echocardiography. We are able to use an ultrasound probe to image the heart in real time. The moving heart can be paused at certain points to allow measurements of the heart to be made. From these measurements as well as a general overall impression of the heart we are able to make a diagnosis of the underlying heart disease and make a treatment plan. We lie the animal down very gently on a specially padded table which allows the ultrasound probe to examine the heart from the underside. This gives a better picture and we find that most animals relax quite nicely during the scan (they have been known to nod off!). If they do become agitated, we use treats or a squeaky toy to distract them.

This is the examination table and ultrasound machine.

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This is the echo probe. It’s quite small to allow it to be able to fit between the animal’s ribs without causing any discomfort.

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G’s heart showed enlargement of both the left atrium and ventricle. The atrium is the top chamber of the heart which receives blood before pumping it into the ventricle. The ventricle pumps the blood around the body. The heart is measured in both the long and short axis. Measurements made of G’s heart showed its ability to contract was reduced.

This is a short axis (cross section) frozen picture of the left ventricle with a measurement being made. You can see that the inside of the ventricle makes a mushroom shape due to the papillary muscles poking into it. The papillary muscles anchor the valve that sits between the atrium and the ventricle.

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Here is a video showing G’s enlarged left ventricle which is not contracting properly (opens in new window):

After I had discussed G’s condition with his owner, he was prescribed a medicine which helps to increase the force of contraction of the heart. This medicine is called pimobendan, which is given twice daily on an empty stomach. As his condition progresses, G will probably need to take more medicines to help reduce the accumulation of fluid in his body.

It is a sad fact that the long term prognosis for dogs suffering with DCM is not good and many dogs pass away within a year of starting treatment. However we try to make their quality of life as good as possible after diagnosis and they enjoy every day that is given to them. You can’t meet better patients than dogs and cats. For dogs that are caught earlier in the disease process, like G, starting treatment early can help to extend their life span.

Many thanks for reading this blog and I hope you have found it interesting.

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Babesia infection in dogs

What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease caused by a microscopic parasite (Babesia Canis). The parasite is carried and transmitted by ticks.

What has changed?

Babesiosis has been diagnosed in UK dogs before but in all those cases the dogs contracted the infection abroad. For the first time there is an outbreak of Babesiosis in the UK. Four dogs in Harlow, Essex, with no history of foreign travel have contracted the disease. Unfortunately, one of these dogs has died.

How is it transmitted?

Babesia Canis is predominately transmitted by the Dermacentor reticularis tick (Ornate Cow tick). In warmer climates (Southern Europe) it is also transmitted by the Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick (Brown Dog Tick).
It is the D. Reticularis tick that was implicated in the recent outbreak in Essex. Importantly, D. Reticularis is not widespread in the UK, with only very limited confirmed populations in isolated areas in the UK.
The Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicehalus Sanguineus) is not currently established in the UK but there are reports of dogs returning from abroad carrying it and subsequently establishing in households.

What are the symptoms of Babesiosis?

The infection results in anaemia following destruction of the patient’s red blood cells. Signs of infection include pale gums, high fever, weakness, red urine and collapse in severe cases.

How is it diagnosed?

Vets can in most cases diagnose the infection by looking at a blood smear. There is also a PCR blood test available if the blood smear results are inconclusive.

How is the disease treated?

There is effective treatment for the infection. It normally consists of two injections given two weeks apart. More severe affected cases might need supportive care, which can include blood transfusions.

How can I protect my dog?

Regular control of ticks by using an effective product is the best way to protect your dog. It takes at least two days for the tick to transmit the parasite to a dog, so we advise you examine your dog carefully after walks, particularly in woods or fields. Any ticks found should be removed with a tick remover to ensure all parts are removed successfully.

Can the disease be transmitted to humans?

The is no risk to humans from Babesia Canis.

What is the prognosis?

Early diagnosis is the key. With appropriate treatment 85 to 90% of patients should recover from the infection.

Should I be worried?

It is very important to point out that the tick implicated in the outbreak is at the moment only found in very limited areas in the UK. You can find an up to date distribution map here.

What will we do?

We will monitor the situation closely and keep you up to date on any new developments in the outbreak. Milton Keynes Veterinary Group has recently taken part in the ‘Big Tick Project’, run by Bristol University. In total vets across the country have collected 6, 372 ticks for analysis for tick borne diseases, including Babesiosis and Lyme disease. The results of this study will be available later this year and we will update our clients on the results.

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