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Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Firework Phobias – It may be too late but it is never too early

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.

Behavioural therapy
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.

Coping strategies
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.
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Ear Problems in Dogs and Cats

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.
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Fighting Fractured Teeth

Fractured teeth are a common injury in cats and dogs, with the majority involving fractured canines of the upper jaw. Damage is commonly caused by falls, running into objects, clashing teeth and road traffic accidents. In dogs, other objects that can damage teeth include raw hide, bones, sticks/branches, rocks, ice and other hard objects.

The radiograph to the right shows a case of pulpitis in a cat. The pulp cavity is the hollow area inside a tooth filled with sensitive pulp tissue (blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue). This commonly occurs when the tip of the tooth is fractured, allowing bacteria to enter the pulp cavity. Swelling of the pulp tissue prevents blood entering the root canal and the result is ‘death’ of the tooth. On the radiograph we can see widening of the pulp cavity compared to the normal tooth on the right, with evidence of an abscess at the apex of the root. On this occasion the affected tooth was extracted. It is important to note that this problem was found during a routine dental, and the patient did not show any obvious mouth pain at the time, but the owner reported marked improvement in his demeanour and appetite following surgery. Due to high pain threshold and other instinctive behaviours, our patients rarely shows signs of pain and will often hide pain very well.

It is therefore important to never ignore a broken tooth in your pet.
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Does your pet have bad breath?

This could be a sign of dental disease. Dental disease in pets is very common, however it is a disease that can be prevented.

We are focusing on Dental Disease and Prevention during the month of September.

Signs of dental disease can include:
  • Bad Breath
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Red or inflamed gums
  • Brown discoloured teeth
  • Facial swelling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Mobile teeth
We are offering a FREE DENTAL CHECK* for your cat or dog with one of our Registered Veterinary Nurses who will examine your pet’s teeth and discuss about prevention of dental disease. Appointments are available at our Walnut Tree Hospital, Stoke Road Surgery and Willen Surgery.

Our practice has dental facilities at our Walnut Tree Hospital and Stoke Road Surgery including dental radiography. Dental x-rays allow us to detect hidden disease within the teeth and below the gum line to ensure your pet gets the maximum benefit from their procedure.

* If your pet is found to be ill during the free dental check, treatment costs will be incurred. Dental treatment will be chargeable.
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Meet loveable Jasper….

Milton Keynes Veterinary Group would like to introduce you to Jasper, the beautiful blind dog. Jasper started life as a Guide Dog, but after losing both his eyes to Glaucoma, he was forced to retire at just six years old. Being blind doesn’t stop Jasper from leading a full and happy life with his owner, Janyce, and they have learnt to cope together, building new skills for Jasper and exploring his new world. Read on for Janyce and Jaspers story in her own words

“Jasper worked for my son’s father, David, so I have known him for years. He had to retire, aged 6, when he lost his right eye to glaucoma. I said yes when David asked if I’d like to give Jasper his retirement home, knowing that there was a possibility Jasper could lose the other eye too, which he did, just six months later. He’s been with me since last September. He’s a lovely dog. Very polite, very friendly and good natured with everyone, and so affectionate. I was very worried he’d lose that when he went blind, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope and I’d have to give him back to Guide Dogs, but it has been fine. We have learned together. The people at Guide Dogs were brilliant, making sure Jasper saw a specialist and got the very best treatment, and that what was done was right for him. Jasper was more confident walking on his car harness, so I bought him a Ruffwear Webmaster harness at the start (a strong harness with a handle). I think that has been a really good investment for him. We had a couple of dodgy weeks at the beginning, when he was very reluctant to move around. Guide Dogs are trained not to move when there might be danger and he lost all his confidence. He became very focused on me, leaning up against me as we walked and almost tripping me up. Gradually he became more confident, walking to the end of a lead and stopping leaning on me as we walked, but he was very hesitant and would come back after a few paces. He’s had to learn a lot of new skills and unlearn the guide dog rules. His guide dog training has helped him to be a confident blind dog as he is so obedient and he listens to me when I give commands. But he also gets overconfident sometimes, and he’s very strong and pulls really hard when he recognises his mates (human and canine!). I’ve met a lot of partially sighted and blind dogs in person and through the Blind Dogs Facebook group, who cope brilliantly. Jasper gets a lot of attention when he’s out, he’s very good at making friends. He has a BLIND DOG collar and leash, people often don’t realise he is completely blind as he manages so well. He’ll say hello to a dog, find their human, sniff out the treat pocket and then sit next to it. He knows how to work his disability, usually smiling at the human until they give in and give him one of their treats. Jasper’s a bright boy and picked some things up very quickly. For example, the word “watch” will stop him in his tracks and he’ll turn around and return to me. He knows his way around the house, and when we are out walking he’s usually off the lead, but he doesn’t go very far from me. But I was concerned Jasper wasn’t getting enough exercise. He was healthy but he’d become quite unfit, now he’s getting more exercise with his ball. Just after Jasper went blind, I met another Lab who was blind from cataracts and who was retrieving a ball on a rope, so I knew it was possible. We tried fetch on and off without any kind of enthusiasm from Jasper, although he’d find his squeaky toys and bring them to me at home. I was quite worried about boredom and that everything was focused on food. Then he started going to scent classes a couple of months ago, at the suggestion of Guide Dogs, and he’s really enjoyed it. The other weekend, I thought we’d have another go at retrieving, and it finally clicked with him. He’s moving quickly and confidently and really enjoying it. I’ve not seen him so enthusiastic about something for quite some time, he’s loving it. He even does a version of the excited doggy dance before I throw it again, and he dances in circles when he’s found it. He’s a Lab with a ball, he’s got a job and purpose again. He’s very pleased with himself and a very happy dog.”
See more videos of Jasper on our YouTube page – Milton Keynes Veterinary Group.

Credit to Janyce Quigley

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