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Caring for your dog as he/she gets older

There is nothing more stressful than seeing your pet in pain and unfortunately at some point in their life this is often the case.

Animal physiotherapy is a non-invasive complementary therapy, used to aid the natural healing of musculoskeletal conditions. All animals, whether they are a family pet or a top agility competitor can benefit from physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy can be used to help your animal when they are suffering from injuries, degenerative diseases, when they require pre and/or post-operative rehabilitation, conformation abnormalities or to enhance their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Physiotherapy encourages your animal to heal naturally and efficiently using Manual therapies, Electrotherapies and Remedial Exercises.

Below are two cases that featured in Paws & Hooves Summer newsletter. Both are older dogs who have benefitted significantly from physiotherapy.

Harry is a thirteen year old Golden Retriever who was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) three years ago. IVDD is the protrusion of the intervertebral disc into the spinal column compressing the spinal cord.


Veterinary Specialists were amazed at how he was still walking with the severity of his discs. Surgery was considered however was not recommended so Harry was prescribed with Gabapentin, an analgesic which is most effective for treating neuropathic pain. Harry improved though still struggled on his hindlimbs and his owner was now looking at ways to improve Harry’s mobility so Milton Keynes Veterinary Group referred Harry for physiotherapy. Harry’s owner was reluctant as she herself found physiotherapy useless and she was afraid that it may make Harry’s symptoms worst. Harry started having physiotherapy in October 2013 and has regular sessions every 4 weeks to keep him moving comfortably. These are a few words from Harry’s owner: “What a surprise. She was very gentle and Harry for the first time was able to walk up the ramp to my car easily without me lifting him. Every session seems to improve him even more. He started running when on short walks and when we were training our other dogs he wanted to join in. He also decided to start jumping into chairs which we are trying to stop. I just couldn’t believe it especially when he was chosen as a replacement for the Rally Obedience team at the N.E.C. in December. He was brilliant in the practice and enjoyed every minute. I don’t think Nisha realised what happened after his last session. He refused to leave the waiting room and come home with me. The receptionist and I were laughing especially when he tried to scratch the door to get back for more. I think Harry scratching the door is the best recommendation.” – Ms Neale

Rama is an 11 year old Labrador Retriever who started having physiotherapy in September 2013 when his hindlimbs suddenly became very weak. Rama has arthritis in some of his joints which causes stiffness and sometimes lameness.


After his first session of physiotherapy involving massage, range of movement, phototherapy and pulsing electromagnetic field therapy his owner noticed a significant improvement in his mobility. Rama started by having weekly sessions which then became twice a month and now he is currently having physiotherapy every 6 – 8 weeks to keep him moving with ease. In addition to his regular sessions he has a home treatment plan involving massage and range of movement exercises which his dedicated owner does with him every day. Rama is also taken on short walks and if he’s not up to it he spends the day resting.

A few tips which will help to improve your dog’s mobility:
  • Your dog may love their really long walks in the woods however have you noticed when they come back they tend to settle somewhere quiet and have a really long rest. Older dogs do sleep more often though it is a good idea to shorten their walks and take them out more frequently. This will give their joints and muscles time to recover which will keep them fit.
  • If your dog is struggling with steps into the house or out to the garden, lift them in and out if possible without causing them discomfort or try fitting a ramp or another step to make it less steep for them.
  • If you have a dog that pulls on the lead, try them with a harness instead. This will put less pressure on their neck and back making their walk/experience more comfortable for them and you.
  • Try to walk your dog on soft ground such as grass rather than pavements so concussion is limited on their joints.
  • If possible provide your dog with a deep/orthopaedic bed which will prevent pressure sores and keep them comfortable through the night.
  • Easier said than done this one, where possible discourage your dog from jumping on and off the furniture. Instead assist them on and off or place something in between which they can use as a stepping stone.
  • Give your dog a good rub in the mornings when they get up to stimulate their muscles warming them up for the day ahead. As part of any physiotherapy treatment I design a home treatment plan which may include massage, range of movement and/or exercises which I will show you how to do.
A canine physiotherapy session

Palpating along the back to feel for areas of stiffness and muscle spasms followed by feeling the whole body for heat and lumps.


Treating the patient with red light phototherapy/Photizo Vetcare, which helps to increase vasodilation and also helps to warm the muscles up in preparation for massage.


Massaging specific areas of the body to treat a condition or a full body massage to relieve aches and pains. When required whilst massaging the patient they can lie on the pulsing electromagnetic field therapy mat, which helps to improve the blood supply, quality of cartilage in joints and relieve pain. It can also be placed over a specific area of the body if the patient is reluctant to lie down.

Range of movement exercises to reduce stiffness and improve mobility of joints.

Treatment techniques which I usually use on older dogs:

Manual Therapies
  • Warm muscles, stimulating tissues and increasing muscle tone
  • Build a bond between animal and physiotherapist
  • Release endorphins, providing the animal with a natural pain relief
  • Help to break down scar tissue and adhesions
  • Increase circulation ensuring an abundant supply of oxygen and nutrients to a specific area
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase lymphatic drainage
  • Encourage the removal of metabolic waste products

Range of movement (ROM) both passive and active helps to build and strengthen muscles, improve proprioception, mobility, strength and stamina. ROM can be maintained through exercises such as flexion and extension, adduction (moving a limb in towards the body) and abduction (moving a limb away from the body), protraction (moving a limb forwards) and retraction (moving a limb backwards). ROM can either be performed manually whilst the dog is recumbent, or remedial exercises can be structured in such a way to encourage ROM.


Pulsing electromagnetic Field Therapy(PEMF) can be applied at various settings to achieve different therapeutic outcomes:

  • Pain relief – by inhibiting the pain signal and reducing inflammation
  • Inflammation – it is particularly effective at reducing chronic inflammation in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints
  • Maintenance of muscles specifically when reduced range of movement, neurological conditions and debilitating injuries are present

Phototherapy/Photizo Vetcare is red light/infra-red which increases vasodilation at capillary level, stimulates epithelial cells to reduce scar tissue and also helps to relieve pain. I regularly use this at the start of a session as it prepares the muscles for manual techniques and encourages the release of endorphins.

Milton Keynes Veterinary Group is pleased to offer your dog a complimentary trial session with our Physiotherapist, Nisha Tosar of Paws & Hooves Animal Physiotherapy.

Your complimentary session at our Stoke Road surgery will involve an assessment of your dog, and a demonstration of the techniques and equipment used during a typical session. Lasting twenty minutes, Nisha will determine if your pet would benefit from Physiotherapy long term to help improve and maintain their mobility.

To book a session for your dog please call 01908 397777 and speak to a member of reception or call Nisha direct on 07866 508677.

Nisha Tosar BSc (Hons) PgD A.Phys is a member of IAAT and ASSVAP, both of which are recognised by Pet Insurance Companies.

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FIREWORKS it’s that time of year again!

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, it can be a very distressing time of the year, for both pets and their owners. Over 40% of dogs in the UK are reported to suffer with a fear of fireworks. It should also be remembered that cats will also suffer with the fireworks.

Animals who do differ with firework phobias will display a range of problems, varying from those animals who simply bark at the fireworks to try and make them go away, those that hide from them, those that show obvious signs of distress, right through to those that appear to freeze. For us as owners, these signs can be greatly distressing to see. Yet for the animals this fear will not only cause emotional trauma, but often lead to physical injuries as well.

So what do we, as pet owners, do to try and reduce the problems our animals suffer due to firework phobias? Simply put, there is not one simple solution. Yet, by adopting numerous strategies, we should be able make this time of year easier for our cats and dogs.

The following strategies may apply to a greater or lesser extent to certain individual situations, and often many different approaches need to be taken at the same time.

1. If at all possible avoid the fireworks, which is easier said than done these days. If you do have a friend who lives in a remote area consider spending time with them on the worst of the fireworks, for example when the local display is on. Sadly, we all known that now firework night seems to last many weeks.

2. To reduce the impact of the sound of fireworks you can try to create competing noises such as loud music. Remember not to play this too loudly as this noises itself may end up causing anxiety. In extreme cases noise-cancelling headphone can be used. Mutt Muffs are available through www.safeandsoundpets.com

3. It may seem obvious, but do close blinds and curtains well before any fireworks start to reduce the effects the sights the fireworks have on our animals.

4. Absolutely avoid any form of punishment. This will simple lead to more anxiety and even cause your pet to become aggressive.

5. Comforting you animal when they are scared is a controversial area. Definitely try to be at home during any known firework events. Although you shouldn’t pet or over fuss your animal when they are worried, as this can reinforce the fearful behaviour, it may help some pets to hold them firmly and lean into them, while using long, form massaging strokes, rather than normal petting.

6. Create a safe haven cover an indoor crate with a blanket and put their bedding and one or two familiar toys inside. This will become a darkened den for them in which to hide, but it’s a good idea to try to get them used to this area before firework season.

7. In many situations the most helpful method to help control firework phobias is through the use of a technique called desensitisation and counter conditioning. Essentially, this is getting your pets used to the sounds of fireworks by playing a CD at a volume that doesn’t provoke a fearful reaction, and rewarding them for this non-reaction. The volume is gradually increased, and a strict programme followed over several weeks to months. This needs to be, therefore, started well before firework season and should not be undertaken if fireworks are likely to start soon. One of the most successful programs is Sounds Scary and is available through www.soundtherapy4pets.co.uk for less than £10. If your pet suffers from firework phobia we would strongly recommend purchasing this now and to start the program in the New Year once all the fireworks have finished, and to then consider repeating the program next summer.

8. Various medications are available to reduce our pets anxieties. These medications are used alongside a behaviour modification plan such as the desensitisation and counter conditioning described above, and need to be started weeks or months prior to the fireworks starting. Often at the hospital we asked at the last minute to supply something to help to calm pets. Medications are available that reduce anxiety in the short term, and will help at the time but have no lasting effect as your pet will again suffer with the same fears next year. A key point for owners is not to be scared to use these drugs. By not medicating animals when appropriate we may be simply prolonging their suffering.

9. Pheromone treatments area available such as Adaptil. These are available as a plug-in, collar and now a tablet and may help some dogs, but not all.

10. Dietary supplements such as omega-3 supplements, zylkene and calmex again may help some dogs with mild phobias.

11. It is now possible to purchase a tight fighting wrap such as an Anxiety Wrap which is design to apply constant pressure to help relax muscles. Studies suggest these may help some, but not all, dogs. They are available through www.anxietywrap.com.

12. To date there has been no study which has successfully shown any definite beneficial effect for behavioural change for any homeopathic treatment studied in companion animals.

The expected outcome for helping animals with firework phobia should be good if we follow and commit to a thorough desensitisation program. This will take time and patience. It has also been recognised that many animals who suffer with firework phobia also experience other behavioural issues such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder or Separation Anxiety. If you feel this may apply to you and if you are truly committed to your animal’s emotional well-being, there are many qualified people to help both you and your pet. Don’t be frightened to ask for help!

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Gastric Dilation Volvulus – A True Veterinary Emergency

This can also be known as Gastric Torsion, stomach twist or GDV. This is a condition that requires EMERGENCY treatment and the sooner it can be treated, the more likely it is that your dog will survive. It can occur in any breed but it is more common in large and giant breed dogs that have a deep chest, for example, Red setters, Boxer, Doberman’s and Great Dane’s. It is a condition that causes severe shock to the dog’s body and can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Symptoms that your dog may have a GDV:
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Increased effort/rate of breathing
  • Vomiting white froth or unsuccessfully trying to vomit
  • A later sign is the abdomen becoming enlarged, very pale gums and an increased heart rate and eventually collapse!

If a dog is presented with a GDV then it is likely he/she will be rushed straight through for the vets and nurses to get to work immediately! They will be put onto fluid therapy, and straight away in most cases, X-rays will be taken and action to decompress the stomach as soon as possible. Once the patient is stable they are taken in to surgery to explore the abdomen and reposition the stomach and spleen if displaced and to fix the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent further twisting.

Once surgery has been successfully performed the patient is still critical for around 24/48hrs post-surgery and food and water is very slowly introduced. Returning to a normal diet is between 3-5days as long as there are no complications! You will be taking you dog home with either a buster collar (lamp shade/cone of shame) or with a Medical Pet Shirt, which people prefer as they are less invasive for the patient.

What can you do to reduce the risk of a GDV occurring in your dog:
  • Avoid feeding large meals
  • Always leave at least an hour, before and after exercise, before you feed your dog
  • Not allowing your dog to take in massive amounts of water in one go

Contrary to common belief, feeding a dog from a raised food stand actually increases the risk of bloat, so avoid doing this and feed from the floor as usual.

One of our Nurses, Jess, went through this with her Doberman only a few weeks ago. It highlights that no matter how careful you are it can always still happen to your pet and if you pick up on the signs early enough it can save your dog’s life. Thank you Jess and Westwood for letting us share your story!

Westwood’s emergency

Westwood had had his usual dinner, fed an hour and half to two hours after his walk on Friday evening. Westwood was quite settled after eating and was sitting on the sofa. He did get up and drink quite a bit of water, which I did take away temporarily so he didn’t take too much water in after his meal. Westwood got back on the sofa and did not show any symptoms till a good three hours post eating.

Firstly, Westwood just seemed a bit restless. He kept getting up and down from the sofa, as though he couldn’t get comfortable. He then spread out on the floor. He was still reasonably bright other than being a bit restless but instinct and being aware of the condition (GDV) made me know that he was probably starting to bloat. Being a nurse I knew that this could lead to the stomach twisting which is an emergency. Westwood didn’t appear bloated at this point but he started to seem a bit uncomfortable in his abdomen. He then stood up in a hunched position and was drooling. He then started to deteriorate quite quickly. I rang Vets Now at our Walnut Tree Hospital, to make them aware of the situation. As I was on the phone giving our details, Westwood started extending his neck right out and started retching but nothing came up. We immediately left the house and drove to the surgery. It was less than a ten minute drive but Westwood continued to retch unproductively, and once at the surgery he lay on the floor, he was obviously very unwell. Westwood still did not look bloated visually, although all the other signs were there, so I would urge owners not to wait until the abdomen appears distended. The Vets Now team were brilliant and immediately took an x ray of Westwood’s abdomen which did show lots of gas. Blood tests were taken and Westwood was placed on two drips and given pain relief.

Luckily, Westwood’s blood levels were normal apart from being dehydrated. Dogs that are not bought to the surgery soon enough go into shock and their vital organs are compromised. Once Westwood’s pain relief had started to take effect, a stomach tube was passed consciously. Some food and liquid came through the tube but it could not be fully passed which indicated that his stomach was twisted. He was anaesthetised and quickly prepared for surgery. Westwood continued to receive intravenous fluids and intravenous antibiotics while he had his operation. His stomach had twisted at the top (the pylorus) and his spleen had flipped onto the wrong side. Some dogs require the spleen to be removed if the blood supply has been cut off, but Westwood was very lucky. The Vets Now surgeon passed the stomach tube again to empty the stomach fully and then repositioned it. She then performed a gastropexy, a procedure which involves suturing the stomach to the abdominal wall so it cannot twist again. Westwood continued to have fluids overnight and strong pain relief and over the weekend. Vets Now kept us updated with how he was progressing and we brought Westwood home late Sunday afternoon once he had started eating was more comfortable. Westwood has now made a full recovery. We are so grateful to Vets Now, but also to Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, who also looked after Westwood on Saturday morning to the afternoon before Vets Now took over his care again.

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Cat clinics at Stoke Road

In September 2013, we introduced a new Cat Clinic at Stoke Road in Bletchley. Held on Tuesday afternoons, this allows us to cater specifically for your cats needs and minimise the stress they may experience when visiting us.During the clinic times, we have a strict ‘no dogs’ policy, giving your cat a peaceful wait for their appointment. We will also use plug in ‘Feliway’ diffusers in our reception area, further promoting a calm atmosphere for your cat. All of our staff are trained to handle cats in a quiet and confident manner, and if you would prefer a nurse to help you hold your pet in the consulting room, they are always eager to assist. In the waiting room, there is a cat carrier tree. This is so that they can be up off the floor, so in turn they feel more secure and can survey their surroundings.

On Saturday 14th June 2014, we will be hosting a “Cat Clinic Client” Event. We are inviting guest speakers to talk about most things feline! Your invitation will follow in due course – save the date!

Cat clinics are open to all our feline friends, for vaccinations, repeat prescription check-ups and general health checks, and everything in between. Our computer system is linked across all of our surgeries, so even if Stoke Road is not your normal branch, we are able to access your cat’s previous notes and treatment details, and reception staff can make appointments from any site.

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Choosing the right cattery

It’s the time of year that everyone starts to dream of sunnier climates. The weather is cold, generally gloomy, mostly wet, and we all end up day dreaming of the most elusive thing in the UK – Sunshine. So you book your holidays, daydream about what you’ll pack and gladly think about the most difficult choice being to sunbathe by the sea or by the pool. But while you’re dreaming of your perfect escape, who’s going to look after the family member who won’t be coming with you? Choosing the right cattery can be a daunting decision, leaving behind a family member in the care of a relative stranger is no easy task. So how do you know which to pick? We’ve put together a small guide for you on what to look out for to make sure that your cat’s holiday is just as amazing as yours.

1) General considerations
  • Know your price range – Catteries will range in price depending on their location, and services available. As with all things, generally the more you pay, the better the service provided will be. In the MK area prices will range from £8.50 to £15 per day, with some discounts for multiple cats!
  • Inspections – If the cattery you’re interested in doesn’t allow any prior inspections, then seek somewhere else. Meeting the people who will be looking after your family member while you’re away is really important and shouldn’t be underestimated.
  • Websites – If they have a website then it’s worth looking into all that they offer, and if there are any specific terms and conditions you must abide by before lodging your cat there.
  • Testimonials – On their website is great, but those on a hosting website e.g. yell.com are better as they’re not controlled by the cattery owners and so not subject to bias. This means you can get a real idea of what other cat owners before you have really thought about the cattery.
2) Accommodation
  • Housing – Your cat shouldn’t be housed with cats from other households, so individual housing should be available. That being said, if you have multiple cats, it would be better for them to be housed together and so “family accommodation” or cat flaps opening up several individual pens to one another should be available. The housing should also be heated, even in the summer the British nights can get chilly, its important that your loved one stays comfy and cosy so they can enjoy their holiday.
  • Environmental Enrichment – At home your cat will have access to a range of different environments to play around in, a cattery should ideally provide facilities for play and scratching around to ensure that your cat doesn’t get bored during their stay.
  • Outdoor Access – It is important for cats to have the access to the outdoors that they are used to but in a safe environment. Ideally the cattery should have an outdoor run providing a safe area for cat’s to have the outdoor exploration they are used to. Also some catteries may offer outdoor access ad lib, so your cat may come and go as he/she pleases.
  • Safety Passage – Should your cat prove to be a bit of a Houdini, a safety passage should be in place so that if an escape attempt is made, they can be caught and returned to the safety of their pen, quickly and without any problems.
  • The Surrounding Area – If your cat isn’t used to dogs, then ideally the cattery shouldn’t be in range of a doggery, or any noisy neighbours!
3) Cattery requirements
  • Vaccinations – A good cattery will require that your cat is fully up to date with their vaccinations before entering the cattery to ensure that there is no spread of disease at all.
  • Flea and Worming treatment – Most good catteries will also ask that your cat is treated for fleas before their stay, and some may also ask for up to date worming treatment.
4) Additional considerations
  • Prescription/special diets – Catteries should either offer most diets themselves or be happy to deal with feeding special prescription diets.
  • Medications – Some catteries will be happy to administer medications, its worth checking if they will do this and if there is any extra cost incurred.
  • Grooming – Long haired cats will need grooming on a regular basis, you will need to check if the cattery will provide this service and if there is any additional cost involved.
  • Veterinary arrangements – These should always be sorted BEFORE you leave for your holidays, you will need to give the cattery your consent for veterinary treatment if it is necessary. Checks should also be made as to which veterinary surgery will be used in the event that your cat does require attention.
  • TLC – Your cat is used to having a loving, caring owner at home and so should be spoilt with love and affection whilst on holiday too! Ensure that there are provisions made for time to be spent fussing your cat.

Happy Cattery hunting, and Happy Holidays from all of us at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group.

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