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What is health? Putting the Principles of Holistic Care into Veterinary Practice

Are you and your pet healthy?

It’s an odd question, which you’ll probably answer depending on how you feel, especially if you’re suffering with, say, a cold or a broken leg. And if your pet is currently having treatment, it’s easy to say that he or she isn’t healthy, but would that automatically be the case? Is a contented cat with well-controlled hyperthyroidism any worse off than a depressed horse? Is a puppy with a rash any healthier than a very old dog without any obvious issues?

Defining health is like trying to catch fog in a net. To start, there are lots of different viewpoints of what it actually means, and it soon becomes apparent that perfect health is an impossible ideal, faced as we are by so many challenges every second of our lives. Unless you’re holding your breath, you’ll have breathed in a lot of germs just since you started reading this, one of which may make you ill next Tuesday. How depressing – unless, of course, you were hoping to avoid that work meeting next Tuesday, in which case the world is suddenly a brighter place.

Context matters with these things: a gut full of bacteria is normal; a lung full of bacteria isn’t. Worms aren’t something you’d want to have, but it’s not that long since diet pills for ladies contained tapeworm eggs

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Neutering dogs – Bitch spay operation: a step by step guide

Deciding whether to spay

Spaying or neutering a female dog is not a small operation, so owners should think carefully about all the pros and cons before deciding.

The main advantages of spaying are preventing pregnancy, preventing infection of the uterus (pyometra), preventing ovarian or uterine cancer and reducing the likelihood of mammary (breast) cancer, all of which can be life-threatening. It also prevents the inconvenience of having a bitch in season with unwanted attention from male dogs.

The main disadvantages are major surgery with associated risks, an anaesthetic with associated risks and the increased likelihood of urinary incontinence in later life. Fortunately, the risks involved in anaesthesia and surgery are very small indeed compared with the risks of the other conditions which are prevented by spaying. Urinary incontinence in later life is a nuisance but not very common, and can usually be controlled by drugs.

There is no medical reason to let a bitch have one litter before spay, in fact some of the benefits like protection against mammary tumours, are lost if the operation is delayed. Unless an owner is committed to having a litter, with all the work and expense that can be involved, and the bitch is also suitable in temperament and free of any hereditary problems, then breeding should not be considered…………..

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“No! Not on the carpet!” – Vomiting in Cats

I knew it was going to be a rough day when I walked in and saw that three of my ten morning appointments were vomiting cats.  Second only to the chronically itchy dog, vomiting cats can be one of the most frustrating things we have to deal with as vets because there are so many possible reasons why it can happen.  Anything from what the cat had for dinner last night to metabolic diseases that may have been brewing for years could be the cause, and distinguishing between them can take a lot of time, money and effort.  And that’s just for the vet – as the owner of a cat that vomits frequently myself, I understand how unpleasant it is to walk downstairs in the middle of the night and step in a pile of cat sick.  Be it on the new white carpeting or the beat up old sofa, it’s not pretty.  It may be a harmless hairball, but it can also be a sign of serious illness in your cat so it’s definitely worth getting it checked out by your vet.  If you are unlucky enough to have a vomiting cat, here are some things you may want to consider……..

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Jack and Zac

Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet’s Kitchen

Owning a dog is much more than simply looking after a pet to many people. To many owners dogs are literally one of the family and are involved in all aspects of family life, from everyday activities to holidays, travel and even, in some cases, work.
In my case my dog Jack is not just very much at the heart of the family he’s also at the heart of my pet food business Pets’ Kitchen. Jack comes into work at Pets’ Kitchen with me when I’m not in the surgery and spends his days patrolling the warehouse hovering up stray biscuits and generally keeping an eye on his pet food empire!
Having such a close relationship with my own dog definitely helps me empathise with clients at work who feel equally strongly about their own canine companions, especially when things get difficult. At times like these empathising with the owners can help me understand what they are going through and be more sensitive in how I approach their case, but it also has its downside as I can share their sadness and stress…..

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Microchipping Molly

Molly has moved house, and her owner wants her to have a microchip implanted in case she wanders off. Microchipping is an easy way to permanently identify an animal with details including the owner’s name, address and contact phone numbers.

The chip itself is about the size of a grain of rice and is coated in a special material which enables it to stay below the skin without being rejected. It is implanted through a needle and does not need any anaesthetic. It is often done at about the same age as puppy or kitten vaccinations are given (8-12 weeks of age), but can be done at any age.

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What is Pyometra?

Pyometra is a condition affecting unspayed bitches (and less commonly cats) where the womb, or uterus, becomes infected. In mild cases it can come on fairly slowly with only slight changes in the uterus, but the worst cases happen very quickly and the womb becomes swollen like a balloon, but filled with pus. These are urgent and life-threatening.

Pyometra happens when the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) changes under the influence of the bitch’s hormonal cycle. It nearly always happens a few weeks after she has been in season and is more common in older bitches.

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Vet Panorama Program – It shouldn’t happen at a Vets

I’m not looking forward to Thursday’s vet Panorama program ‘It shouldn’t happen at a vets’ . The headline ‘Pet owners who take best practice on trust are in for a shock’ makes my heart sink, most pet owners do take best practice on trust but I believe they do so with very good reason. The overwhelming majority of vets and vet nurses I have met are caring, professional and passionate about the science and best practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.

Throughout my career I have seen colleagues going far beyond the call of duty to help patients and clients on a daily basis: from nurses popping around to a client’s house to administer eye drops every day to vets dropping off bags of food and medication to clients without transport; vets sleeping on dog beds to keep checking on a critical patient throughout the night, charging only for routine hospitalisation

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Cute little face vs. Wisdom and grace – why you may want to consider adopting an older cat

I walked into the house after a particularly long day at work and was greeted by the shredded roll of toilet paper that lay strewn across my living room floor like some sort of white paper carpet laid out to welcome me. I followed the bits through the house and into the bathroom, where my kitten was proudly finishing off the cardboard roll. Right then and there I swore I would never get a kitten again. But then she looked up from her kill and gave me the most loveable little meow with a face that just oozed how happy she was to see me. I was almost fooled but quickly regained my senses as I remembered that that was my last roll of toilet paper….

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The dilemma of Gizmo’s leg tumour

Gizmo was a lovable cat who had been known to the practice for many years. In fact she had reached the tremendous age of 21 years with no major health problems until his teeth started to loosen and he had difficulty eating. We are always extremely cautious with giving anaesthetics to aged cats so we took some blood tests for organ function which came back completely normal. He came through his dental with flying colours.

A couple of months later she came back with a very painful leg, swollen around the left knee (stifle). When we X-rayed the leg our worst fears were confirmed: Gizmo had bone cancer….

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Keeping up to date

I recently spent a long weekend at the London Vet Show, which is a conference and commercial exhibition for vets. Events like this are held in various places in the UK, in fact all over the world. They offer vets a chance to attend lectures on the latest advances in veterinary medicine, learn about new drugs, new equipment and new techniques in surgery. In the commercial exhibition there are stands run by drug companies, charities and the sellers of all kinds of pet related items. It is also a great way of meeting up with old friends and colleagues.

Although it took me as long to navigate one third of the M25 as it took me to get to the M25 from Devon, it was well worth the trip. I stayed with an old friend from my student days and met other friends, some planned and some a surprise. We had several nice meals out, but no time for sight-seeing on this visit.

Back at the conference, there was a choice of lectures all day, given by speakers who are renowned in their particular field. Many different subjects were covered, including cardiology, parasitology, dental disease and abdominal surgery. Every minute of the day was filled with opportunities to learn new facts or revise known ones.

Veterinary medicine is changing and advancing very rapidly. Many of the techniques which have been available in human medicine for a long time are becoming possible or even routine in animal medicine such as hip replacements, chemo-therapy and MRI scans.

Although all UK-trained vets have studied for a minimum of 5 years, and vets from overseas must have a recognised qualification to practice in the UK, we would very quickly become out of date if we stopped learning on graduation. Practical skills are learned all the time, with new graduates now undergoing a supervised process of gaining skills called the Professional Development Phase. This has to be a good way of easing the transition between student and vet, compared with days gone by when a newly qualified vet could be “thrown in at the deep end” in their first job. Looking back, I think I was quite lucky with the supervision and support I received in my first job. Without support or experience, the first few months could be terrifying.

All vets also have an obligation to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout their working lives. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for vets, recommends a minimum of 35 hours per year. Many vets will do a lot more than this, especially if studying for a further qualification in an area of special interest. As well as formal conferences, CPD can consist of online learning, home study, small meetings within a practice or shadowing colleagues with particular skills. All CPD hours have to be recorded and can be checked by the RCVS at any time.

During my London visit I spent enough time on the underground to last me a whole year, but I enjoyed my trip and gained some useful hours towards my required CPD. I came home with a lot of new knowledge and ideas which I know will be useful sooner or later. …

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