Debunking myths about “rip off veterinary fees”

“Rip-off veterinary fees” were the subject of a recent poll on a vets-only website.
In answer to the question “How often does your practice receive complaints about the prices it charges?“, the results were:

  • All the time – 16%
  • Fairly often – 53%
  • Hardly ever – 30%
  • Never – 1%

So around 69% of vet clinics get regular complaints about their fees, and given that many people may feel irritated about fees without vocalising their concern to the vet, the true level of discontent is likely to be even higher. This is clearly an aspect of veterinary care that pet owners feel strongly about.

I always find this a difficult topic to discuss: as a vet, I can’t help feeling defensive, and it’s all too easy to write a self-justifying commentary. Sceptical readers may then brush off any of my explanations: “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”….

Information overload? – Trusting online pet advice

From the minute you bring a new pet home, as well as the companionship, fun and general entertainment there will always be a lot of questions and there will always be plenty of people more than happy to give you their advice and opinions. From your mother (always!) to the lady down the road that’s owned dogs for years, to the man in the pet shop, to your vet (listen to them!) and, of course, the internet. However, sometimes views vary wildly and it can be difficult to know who to trust.

With any health related issue a vet should always be your first port of call; either by booking an appointment or ringing for advice. A good clinic will always be happy to chat on the phone but in many cases will want to see your pet before giving you a definitive answer. This can sometimes put people off but if you are concerned enough to ring, very often your suspicions are correct and there is a problem. However, there are many simple queries that can be handled over the phone, so do pick it up! Even at night and weekends, with a single call you should be able to speak to a vet or nurse, as in the UK all practices are required by law to provide a 24 hour service.

Sometimes though, you might have questions that are more mundane or trivial or want the answer right now and that is when you will fire up Google! However, this is when things can get tricky. There are loads of brilliant sites out there giving excellent quality advice but there is also an awful lot of old wives tails, self-important pontificators and downright bonkers information as well! How do you decide which is which and what to believe?…

Are your cat’s kidneys crock? – The signs of kidney failure

Kidney failure is very common in cats, between 20% and 50% over the age of 15 will suffer to some degree. Unfortunately, it is often missed until it becomes advanced because the early symptoms are subtle and our feline friends are very good at hiding illness. However, the sooner it is caught the better

In most cases the cause for the kidney’s failing is unknown, it is just a gradual dying off of the tissue, particularly in elderly cats. If younger animals are diagnosed with the problem then can be a more obvious cause but it doesn’t often change the treatment plan.

The kidneys are the filtering organs for the blood. They remove all the waste products and toxins, sending them out in the urine. When they start to malfunction they become less efficient, these by-products stay in the body and, as they are effectively poisons, make the animal feel unwell and mildly nauseous. They are often mildly dehydrated, so it is not unlike a permanent hangover.

Feeling sick understandably means affected cats have poor appetites and to survive the body has to break down its own tissue. Unfortunately, this creates very high levels of toxic metabolites, which stay in the blood stream, make the cat feel worse, so they eat even less and so the vicious cycle continues. The toxins themselves also directly damage the kidneys, further exacerbating the problem….

Ask a vet online- ‘My 10 year old dog has a lump not sure if I should take him to the vet?’

Question from:

Sheree Lu

My 10 year old dog has a lump around the size between a 10-cent/20-cent (Australian) coin. It’s round, soft to touch and when I touch it, it didn’t seem to cause him any discomfort or pain. It’s located on one of his hind flanks, on his thigh-ish area. Like if he sits down, the lump would be on the ground but it’s not near his anus. I’m not sure if I should take him to the vet..?

Answer by Shanika Winters Online vet

Hi Sheree and thanks for your question, with any lump you find on your pet I would advise that you take your dog to be seen by your vet. I will try and explain in my answer some of the possible causes for the lump and how it can be monitored, treated or removed.

Why has my dog got a small soft lump?

A small soft lump can be caused by an infection, reaction to a parasite/foreign body, swelling in response to an injury/allergy, a tumour or a combination of these.

Infection tends to lead to an area of reddened/hot (inflamed) skin, which may then swell up as it fills with fluid/puss. An infected lump would usually appear over a few days, may be painful to the touch and might burst followed by crusting over. An infected lump may be due to a skin infection, where a parasite has bitten, where a foreign body (e.g. a grass seed or thorn) has entered or is trying to exit or maybe on top of an existing lump…

How to get your kids involved in your cat’s care

Everybody loves a kitten. They’re cute, they’re cuddly and they do lots of funny things which make great YouTube videos. Your kids may have been pestering you for years to get a kitten and at first, all eyes are on the new little ball of fluff. Over time, however, the children’s interest in the little critter often fades along with their promises to help with their daily care. Sure, you could easily care for the cat on your own, but don’t give in that easily – learning to care for another living creature is a lesson that not only your kids will benefit from, but your cat as well. Here are a few ways to get your children more involved in the care of your cat.

1. Have your child take responsibility for feeding the cat every day

Most children can learn to feed a cat, and many get great joy out of watching them eat their meals. Wet food can be fed in a different place every day – your cat will start to follow your child around the house as they choose the next spot, providing exercise and entertainment for everybody involved. Dry food can be scattered on the kitchen floor, to be chased and caught by the cat, or placed in a treat ball so they have to work at getting it out. This may sound a bit mean at first, but is actually closer to their natural feeding behaviours. Of course, you could just ask your child to put the food in the bowl every day, but that can get a bit dull after a while….

Ask a vet online-‘my cat has suddenly lost weight, she was fine a few weeks ago’

Question from Gemma Loopylou Moorey:

I has my cat suddenly lost weight I can even fill her ribs now she was fine a few weeks ago. Even her mood is changed she meows loudly when I talk to her in a bad mood way

Answer from Shanika Winters online vet:

Hi Gemma and thank you for your question regarding your cats sudden weight loss and change of temperament. I will discuss in my answer some possible cause for the changes you have noticed in your pet. I would advise that you take your cat to see your vet as soon as possible.

A sudden loss of a significant amount of weight can be very dangerous for your cat, regardless of the cause of the weight loss in the first place such changes can lead to organs failing and your cat being in need of emergency veterinary care.

An average cat weighs between 4 and 6 kg so even a change of a few 100g of weight is significant on such a small animal. Ideally your vet will weigh your cat each time they are seen; it is easy to keep track of your cat’s weight at home too, weigh your cat carrier empty and then with your cat inside and the difference is your cat’s weight…

Zoonotic diseases – what could you catch from your pet?

Zoonosis is any disease that can pass from animal to human. Although most are easily treated, some of them can be serious and even fatal. Below are several zoonotic diseases that can be passed from dogs and cats, sometimes via other organisms that use the dog and cat as their host.

Toxocariasis

These are the roundworms of the dog and cat (and other species). They can be transferred to humans via their eggs which are left in soil after infected animals have defecated. Children are more predisposed to ingesting the eggs as they might play in the soil and not wash their hands. Adults can also ingest the eggs from eating raw vegetables that have not been washed properly.

If the infection is heavy or repeated, it can cause the disease ‘visceral larva migrans’. This is when the worm larvae move through the body and causing swelling to the major organs and affecting the central nervous system. High-temperature, coughing even pneumonia are various symptoms. The disease is also known to cause ‘ocular larva migrans’ when the worm larvae enter the eye….

June bugs – stopping parasites from bugging your pets!

Hurrah, it’s June! Which means the weather is (hopefully) warming up and summer is just around the corner! However, just as we enjoy the sunny conditions, so do the bugs and beasties that live on our pets. A little forethought and treatment now, can save a whole lot of trouble (and maybe some vets bills!) in the future.

Fleas

These irritating little creatures are the ones everyone thinks about as the weather warms but here’s an interesting fact; actually the worst time of year for fleas is the Autumn. Then the few fleas our pets have picked up over the summer move into our centrally heated houses and have a party. However, what that means is by protecting our pets over the summer, we not only keep them from getting itchy bites now, we can stop a house infestation later!

It can be surprisingly difficult to know if an animal has fleas….

Ask a vet online- ‘I have been using frontline every four weeks but still find the odd flea’

Question from :Marilyn Ann Faulkner

‘ I have a small but bulky pug cross jack Russell, who has had a problem with fleas, I have been using frontline every four weeks but still find the odd flea on him, have also treated the whole house with Acclaim household flea spray. Thinking of perhaps changing to advocate spot on. My dog weighs in at 10.5 kilos, so should I use up to 10kg size or maybe change to 10-25kg. This probably sounds like a silly question, but would hate to think that if I used the higher dose it would have a detrimental effect on my dog. Can you advise please.’

Answer from: Shanika Winters

Thanks Marilyn for your question regarding flea control on your dog. It sounds as though you are doing all the correct things by treating your pet with a flea preparation regularly as well as having treated your home. It is really frustrating for both dog and owner when the fleas just do not seem to be going away.

What are fleas and where have they come from?

Fleas are a parasite that lives on our pet and in our homes, the adult fleas need to feed on blood from your pet in order to survive. It is important to be aware that adult fleas are not the only thing we need to get rid of, the flea life cycle involves eggs, which hatch into larvae, these then turn into pupae from which emerge the adult fleas….

Ask a vet online-‘I have shih pooh bitch shes 16 months she always asks out for pee pee but on the other hand the pooh side shes not good’

Question from : Anne Docherty

‘I have shih pooh bitch shes 16 months she always asks out for pee pee but on the other hand the pooh side shes not good at all i do take her out a lot and she gets into trouble when dirting carpet i never hit her but when she does it she knows ots wrong’

Answer from: Shanika Winters

Thank you for your question regarding toilet training your 16 month old bitch. Toilet training dogs can sometimes be a challenge, some dogs just get the idea and others take longer. It is good that your dog is able to hold her urine (wee) and ask to go out for this but a shame that she is struggling with faeces (poos). Most dogs will be toilet trained for both urine and faeces somewhere between 6 and 12 months of age but some are quicker and others slower. It is really important to always be positive and reward good behaviour rather than punishing them for bad behaviour or mistakes.

What do we expect our dogs to do once toilet trained?

By the time an owner would consider their dog to be toilet trained we would expect them to not pass urine or faeces in the house, to ask to be let out to toilet when we are there and to hold their urine and faeces when we are not there. When you list what we expect of our dogs then you can see that toilet training involves our pet learning a lot, and it is our responsibility to help them and give then the correct cues as to what we want form them….

More Useful Information

Examining your pet

Simple ways to check the health of your pet. Vets use these techniques as part of their clinical examiniation.

Medicating your pet

Arming you with the same simple techniques for stress free pill giving.

Worming & Flea Treatment

Information and advice in treating your pet for worms and fleas.