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Do you know when your pets are poorly?

It may seem like a silly question, of course you would know when your pets are sick wouldn't you? They share your life, your home and you know them really well, just as you do other members of your family. However, what many people don’t realise is that our animals are extremely adept at masking signs of illness and often by the time we realise there is a problem, they have been struggling for a while. This blog was inspired by a cat I saw last week. She was owned by some lovely clients; regulars with their other pets and they definitely have their best interests at heart. I didn't blame them for not noticing sooner this one was poorly because a) felines are notoriously good at hiding illness and b), you know, I'm a vet, so really I should be quite good at spotting when animals are sick but I don’t expect others to be. However, I think they may have realised they had left it a little long to bring her; several times during the consultation the husband mentioned that they had waited because she didn't seem in ‘distress’ and here in lies the nub of the matter for this cat, and for many of the pets I see. Animals are very, very good at hiding when they aren't feeling well or are in pain. You could say they are made of much sterner stuff than us humans, and they probably are, but in the main this characteristic comes from millennia of evolution; in the wild sick creatures are soon picked off by predators. This means that even when they feel dreadful animals will do their level best to behave as normally as possible or they may simply go off and sit quietly in a corner or curl up and sleep much more than usual. What they won’t do it moan or groan (or winge and demand tea and sympathy!), the most we might get is a reduced appetite or a limp. This is especially true of problems like arthritis, cancer or kidney failure, all of which are common in older pets. Sadly this little cat had the latter of these and I will tell you how this tale ends now; blood tests showed her renal function was so damaged the kindest thing was to put her to sleep. Many people would think it almost impossible to not notice a pet was so sick they were near death but this is not the first time I have dealt with a case like this and it won’t be the last. Obviously you don’t want to be dashing down to the surgery every 5 minutes when a pet isn't quite themselves but neither do you want to leave things too long. So what is best to do? My advice would be to always be aware of how your pets are and if they have seemed ‘off’ for more than a day, ring your practice for a chat. A good clinic should take the time to speak to you and help you decide whether there is really a problem or not or use the symptom checker on this website! Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS - Read more of her blogs at catthevet.com
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Ask a vet online – Why is my staffy rubbing his bum on carpet after his glands were done? – Anal gland problems in dogs.

Question from Jo Padfield Why is my staffy rubbing his bum on carpet after his glands were done. Pls Answer from Shanika Winters (online vet) Hi Jo and thank you for your question about your dog’s anal glands. I will explain a little about what anal glands are, where they are and why dogs have them followed by a discussion of what can go wrong with them and how these conditions are treated. What are anal glands? The anal sacs (commonly called the anal glands) are a pair of sacs found either side of the anus (bottom); they are around 1cm across and open via a duct (tube) in the anus. As with your dog the anal sacs often become blocked and or infected and this is called anal sacculitis. The substance inside the anal sacs is produced by glands that line the inside of the sacs, this smelly substance should be passed each time your dog does a poo, and leaves a scent marker to other dogs. What goes wrong with the anal sacs? Diseases of the anal sacs include anal sacculitis as mentioned and less often tumours. Other conditions around the bottom include anal adenoma (small non-cancerous lumps around the anus), anal furunculosis (cracked infected skin around the anus usually found in German Shepherd Dogs) and perianal hernia (where muscles weaken and separate either side of the anus allowing pelvic and abdominal contents to push through, seen in older uncastrated male dogs). It is really important to have your dog thoroughly examined by your vet to make sure that the condition has been diagnosed correctly so that the correct treatment can be given. How are blocked anal sacs treated? We usually treat blocked anal sacs by manually emptying them out, this can be done by inserting a gloved finger into the anus and gently squeezing on the sac to empty the contents into a piece of tissue paper. The anal sacs can be emptied from the outside but this does not allow the anatomy of the sacs to be examined as thoroughly. Some owners feel confident that they can learn to empty their dog’s anal sacs, this is something to discuss with your vet who can show you how to do this. If there is infection in the anal sacs then your vet might give your dog antibiotics, this can be given orally or put directly into the anal sacs after they have been flushed out. If the anal sacs are going to be flushed out, most dogs will need sedation or general anaesthesia to allow this to be performed, a small cannula (plastic tube) is passed into the anal sac via the opening of the duct on the anus and saline is then flushed in and the glands then emptied, the process is repeated until the glands appear clean. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory preparations can then be put into the anal sac. Sometimes steroids may also be given to ease the irritation caused by anal sacculitis. Anal sacs sometimes are not properly emptied if your dog has soft poo or diarrhoea; this usually improves once your dog’s poo is firm again and can be helped by a change in diet. When is surgical removal of the anal sacs an option? If there are severe repeated anal gland infections and the dog does not tolerate medical treatment and manual emptying of the anal sacs then surgical removal is considered. The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and does carry a small risk of disturbance to the dog’s ability to control passing poo. In most cases the lack of control when pooing is temporary but due the closeness of the nerves controlling continence to the anal sacs themselves there is this risk of them being damaged. Remember that your vet will discuss the pros and cons of a procedure with you so that a joint and informed decision can be made by you with the help of your vet. I hope that this answer has been helpful for you and that your dog starts to feel more comfortable soon. Shanika Winter MRCVS (Online Vet) If your dog has a problem with its anal glands please book an appointment to see your vet, or use our online symptom checker
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Difficult Diabetic Cat – Could Acromegaly Be To Blame?

I know, it’s kind of a funny sounding word. But if you have a diabetic cat that your vet just can’t seem to stabilise, it’s definitely not a laughing matter. Acromegaly has recently been found to affect up to a quarter of diabetic cats in the UK, many more than previously thought, so it’s worth talking about. It’s also probably underdiagnosed, which means your vet may not think to look for it, so if you’ve been told that your cat’s diabetes is particularly difficult to control, read on! What is acromegaly? The name acromegaly actually comes from human medicine, because in people, it causes abnormally large hands, feet and facial features. Although you can see similar signs in cats (a broad face with a protruding lower jaw and larger than normal feet), it’s much less common so another term you may see used is ‘hypersomatotropism’ which literally means an excessive production of growth hormone. It’s caused by a benign (ie, unlikely to spread to other tissues) tumour on the tiny pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland secretes lots of useful hormones that control all sorts of functions in the body, but in this case it’s growth hormone produced in huge quantities by the growing tumour that causes the problem. The majority of affected cats are males unlike in dogs, where acromegaly is usually caused by changes in the mammary gland and is therefore seen almost exclusively in females that haven’t been spayed. What’s the connection between acromegaly and diabetes? Too much growth hormone floating around the body decreases its sensitivity to insulin, which is the hormone that controls sugar metabolism. If the body doesn’t respond very well to insulin, the blood sugar gets too high and the cat becomes diabetic. This causes the typical diabetic clinical signs of drinking a lot and urinating a lot, along with a greater than average appetite. Despite the big appetite, a normal diabetic cat will often lose weight until their disease is controlled. However due to the other effects of growth hormone, cats with concurrent diabetes and acromegaly tend to gain weight even if their diabetes isn’t well controlled. And because the acromegaly makes insulin less effective, it often takes huge doses of insulin injections to bring the diabetes under control (some normal cats can be controlled on 1-2 units of insulin twice a day, while cats with concurrent acromegaly may require up to 35 units twice a day!). Even with that much insulin, they may never be well-controlled and are much more likely to suffer from frequent episodes of ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that occurs when the body is simply overwhelmed by too much blood sugar. What are some of the other signs of acromegaly? In addition to the effects on sugar metabolism mentioned above, excessive growth hormone also causes a rise in something called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). This IGF-1 causes excessive tissue growth, not just in the face and feet mentioned above, but also in internal tissues such as the throat (causing breathing problems) and the heart (causing a murmur). It may also cause the internal abdominal organs to feel bigger on the vet’s exam but this can be really difficult to detect. Cats with acromegaly also seem prone to high blood pressure, and rarely, the tumour itself can grow so large that it causes changes in behaviour or other neurological signs. Interestingly, it can also affect the joints so arthritis symptoms can be seen. Sadly, the effects on the heart can sometimes be so severe that the cat develops congestive heart failure. How is it diagnosed? Despite the fact that acromegaly is quite common in cats, there is currently no simple test to prove that a cat has the disease. Your vet may start to suspect it if your cat is gaining weight despite the fact that their blood sugar is not under control, or if your cat requires larger than average doses of insulin to stabilise. If acromegaly is suspected, there is a blood test for the IGF-1 peptide, however the results of this test can be misleading especially in the early stages of the disease. A more expensive and complicated but perhaps more accurate test would be a CT or MRI scan of the brain, which may be able to show the tumour on the pituitary gland directly, but even this isn’t a perfect test. It is important to try to distinguish between acromegaly and another condition called hyperadrenocorticism which can have similar symptoms and even look the same on a scan. How do you treat it? So diagnosing acromegaly is difficult, and unfortunately treating it isn’t any easier. Because it’s caused by a tumour, the choices are the same as many other tumours and include an intensive (and expensive) course of radiotherapy or specialist (ie, also expensive) surgery to remove the tumour itself. With treatment, the tumour can shrink and the diabetes itself can even resolve, along with preventing some of the other common side effects of the disease. However there isn’t currently any way of predicting how well a particular cat will respond to treatment or for how long the recovery will last. If no treatment for the pituitary tumour is given, the only other option is to continue treating the resulting diabetes as best as you can, with large doses of insulin and frequent check-ups with the vet to discuss progress and quality of life, similar to cats that were never diagnosed in the first place. But it’s worth finding out if your cat has the disease, as you’ll be more prepared to diagnose and treat the other side effects such as joint pain, high blood pressure and heart disease. Cats with concurrent acromegaly and diabetes don’t tend to respond as well to routine treatment and may be euthanized sooner as a result, although some cats may do well despite their disease. Because we have only recently realised how common the condition is, new testing and treatments are being developed as we speak and hopefully our options will improve as time goes on. If your diabetic cat isn’t responding well to their treatment and you think they may have acromegaly, you should speak with your vet about it, bearing in mind that many of us don’t know much about the condition because it used to be considered so rare. Diagnosis and treatment aren’t easy, but they are possible and could potentially result in a happier, healthier cat. Hopefully a few years from now the story will have an even happier ending!
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Weigh-in Wednesdays

Help your pet’s health with the Friends for Life campaign and Weigh-in Wednesdays.
Pet owners are often not aware of any problems with their pets, but research has shown a shocking statistic that almost half the pets seen in practice by vets are overweight.
There seems to be plenty of media coverage about human obesity and weight problems, but what effect does excess body fat have our pets? Not surprisingly many of the same health issues as humans. These include heart disease and circulatory problems, the increased risk of diabetes, joint disease and a poor respiratory system. Signs of these problems in an overweight animal could include not wanting to walk very far, pain on movement, breathlessness and coughing. Many pet owners are aware of these common problems, however, there are far more health issues associated with having an overweight animal: There can be poorer immune response, difficulty in giving birth, incontinence, heat intolerance and fatty changes can cause liver problems for cats.
If an overweight pet needs an operation, there is an increased risk of surgical complications, as there is in humans. An increased anaesthetic risk, slow wound healing and a greater risk of wound infection are some of the extra problems the veterinary team might face.
Because of these issues and the high number of overweight pets in the UK, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PMFA) launched the ‘Friends for Life’ campaign in May 2013, with a fresh promotion in August. Working with leading experts in the field of pet food the constant focus is on helping the U.K.'s pet owners (and potential pet owners) improve the health and well-being of their animals.
The campaign encourages owners of dogs, cats, rabbits even birds to contact their vet or pet care specialist each Wednesday throughout August, to get advice on weight management and to keep a check on their pets health. These days are called Weigh In Wednesdays!
But the campaign doesn't stop there – it can be ongoing at the vet surgery with regular checks on the pet's progress. By monitoring the pet’s body size and health, research shows they could potentially increase the pet’s life expectancy by up to 2 years.
The Weigh In Wednesday campaign starts on 7th August and both pet owners and pet professionals can download all the tools they need from the PFMA website . The pet owner pack consists of a food diary, the pet pledge and a weight and condition log.
By working with the vets and pet health specialists, owners can make a real difference to their pets lives.
David Kalcher RVN
Help your pet’s health with the Friends for Life campaign and Weigh-in Wednesdays. Pet owners are often not aware of any problems with their pets, but research has shown a shocking statistic that almost half the pets seen in practice by vets are overweight. There seems to be plenty of media coverage about human obesity and weight problems, but what effect does excess body fat have our pets? Not surprisingly many of the same health issues as humans. These include heart disease and circulatory problems, the increased risk of diabetes, joint disease and a poor respiratory system. Signs of these problems in an overweight animal could include not wanting to walk very far, pain on movement, breathlessness and coughing. Many pet owners are aware of these common problems, however, there are far more health issues associated with having an overweight animal: There can be poorer immune response, difficulty in giving birth, incontinence, heat intolerance and fatty changes can cause liver problems for cats. If an overweight pet needs an operation, there is an increased risk of surgical complications, as there is in humans. An increased anaesthetic risk, slow wound healing and a greater risk of wound infection are some of the extra problems the veterinary team might face. Because of these issues and the high number of overweight pets in the UK, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PMFA) launched the ‘Friends for Life’ campaign in May 2013, with a fresh promotion in August. Working with leading experts in the field of pet food the constant focus is on helping the U.K.'s pet owners (and potential pet owners) improve the health and well-being of their animals. The campaign encourages owners of dogs, cats, rabbits even birds to contact their vet or pet care specialist each Wednesday throughout August, to get advice on weight management and to keep a check on their pets health. These days are called Weigh In Wednesdays! But the campaign doesn't stop there – it can be ongoing at the vet surgery with regular checks on the pet's progress. By monitoring the pet’s body size and health, research shows they could potentially increase the pet’s life expectancy by up to 2 years. The Weigh In Wednesday campaign starts on 7th August and both pet owners and pet professionals can download all the tools they need from the PFMA website . The pet owner pack consists of a food diary, the pet pledge and a weight and condition log. By working with the vets and pet health specialists, owners can make a real difference to their pets lives. David Kalcher RVN
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