Was I wrong to castrate my young male dog? And is it wrong to spay young female dogs?

I knew I wasn’t going to breed from my Hungarian Viszla so I made the decision to have him neutered which I did at six months old. Since then I have been told by the breeding fraternity that neutering at such an early age is a factor in dogs getting bone cancer. I cannot bear that I may have done something in good faith that could affect my beloved dog’s future health. What is the truth?

This question from a VetHelpDirect reader is an increasingly common query from pet owners responding to internet rumours and discussions that are doing the rounds. As is often the case, the truth is complicated: we still do not know everything about the impact of spay/neutering, but we do know that there are pluses and minuses to having the operations done……

Dog Vaccinations: are they really necessary?

Tomorrow is World Veterinary Day (WVD), an annual event that highlights the role of veterinary profession around the world. This year’s theme is the importance of vaccination to animal health. Over the past two hundred years, scientists have created vaccines that have prevented – and, in some cases, eradicated – diseases in humans and animals.

Yet if you talk to pet owners online, the question of the need to vaccinate is one that keeps cropping up. People worry that vaccines may even be causing illnesses, and sadly, they sometimes feel that they cannot trust the advice from their vet, because the vet benefits financially from the sale of the vaccine.

There is a danger here that pet owners may stop vaccinating their pets, and if they do, it’s likely that they will get away with doing so for a number of years. Vaccines have caused serious illnesses to become rare, so that there may not be an immediate threat to most pets. The problem is that if people choose not to vaccinate, there will be a growing population of unprotected animals that are vulnerable to viral disease if an epidemic does occur…..

High graduate debt, falling demand for pet health care & corporatisation. The veterinary profession is changing: is it for better or worse?

There’s a lot of debate going on right now about the future of the veterinary profession. Many vets are worried about the current trend which basically follows this path:

1) Huge demand to study veterinary, especially among young females (80% vet students are female)

2) Not enough places at vet schools: traditionally, the number of student places has been capped in order to avoid flooding the market with far more vets than jobs

3) The realisation by universities that there’s money to be made in teaching vet students, and that there’s a strong demand from students who don’t make it into the established vet schools. The first new vet school in over 50 years opened recently in the UK, and at least one more is planned. Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, veterinary courses are taught in English, offering entry to the vet profession with a lower academic barrier if students are prepared to pay the fees

4) This is linked to the rising cost of veterinary education, with students in England paying £9000 per year x 5 years plus living costs

5) The result is that new vet graduates are qualifying with large debts, in higher numbers than ever before

6) Meanwhile the veterinary market is contracting, with people spending less money on pets, and so there are fewer jobs for vets available

7) Result: increasing numbers of underemployed young female vets with large debts

8.) Next part of jigsaw: there are fewer young vets to buy into established vet partnerships, and an increasing trend for chains of vet clinics to go “corporate”, owned by shareholders whose main aim may be profit rather than the traditional broader professional view of a vet fulfilling a calling to earn a living

9) Result: vets become pawns in the animal care field, with young female vets desperate to pay back loans by working for corporations. As employees rather than part owners, they become subject to pressures common in other walks of life (“For your bonus, you need to sell so much food, book in so many dentals, see so many people every hour”)

10) The long term potential result: erosion of trust in vets as pet owners question whether something is recommended because it is really needed, or because the vet needs to reach a target. This erosion of trust has already begun in recent years, with consumers questioning everything that professionals do: the sequence that I’ve outlined above will exacerbate this trend.

This trend in the veterinary professions seems to be a global one, and as ever, the USA seems to be further down the path than the rest of us. An excellent article has just been published on this in the New York Times – read it here……………

Does your vets deserve to win our Best UK Vets 2013 award?

If so you can help…

What is the Best UK Vets 2013 award?

It’s a new award judged by us – VetHelpDirect.com – to find the best veterinary practice in the UK based entirely on reviews made by their clients (you!). We like to think of it as a pet-owner’s-choice-award and, as pet owners are the most important thing to vets, this award has created a lot of interest already!

We are holding the award presentation shortly after we announce the winning practice (on the 28th January) and every client that has left a review will be invited to celebrate!

How can I help them win?

The winning vet practice can be any of the practices listed in our directory. If you’re not sure if your is, just follow this link and pop in your postcode: www.vethelpdirect.com/practices If your vet comes up in the search results then follow these steps:
1. Click on your vet’s listing.
2. You’ll see a box on the right, just underneath their map, called ‘Overall Rating’, click on the link that says ‘Review this vet – click here’.
3. Tell your vet what you think about them and give them a star rating out of five.
4. Submit your review…and that’s it!

The award will be given to the practice (or branch) with the highest number based on this formula: Number of Reviews x Average Star Rating.

When will the winner be announced?

You don’t have long! We are only counting reviews left before Monday 28th and announcing the winner the same day. The presentation will take place soon after the 28th.

What if they don’t win?

There is a lot of competition for this award but, if your vets doesn’t win it, there is a great commiseration prize – all the lovely reviews from their clients!

Online Reviews

Our online review service is intended to give a fair reflection of veterinary practices across the UK. Therefore if you wish to leave a negative review, they can be left in the same way as above. All reviews are read by a member of the VetHelpDirect.com team and defamatory comments will not be published online, but your star rating always will be.

Think before you throw… The trauma of canine stick injuries…..

Who “wood” have thought that playing with a simple tree branch or stick could result in such life threatening injuries?

With such a vast selection of toys available today for our canine companions it is a wonder why the simple tree branch / stick is still so widely used as an interactive “toy” for dogs to chase , catch and retrieve. Often so freely available after a windy winters day the selection of the most suitable stick can be so tempting, often dogs will help themselves with an overzealous approach attempting to carry a tree branch much larger than their own body length or owners simply pick up a small stick that would be much easier to throw, fly through the air further and with the added advantage to float in water too!

But do you ever stop and think of the implications of throwing a stick? And the serious life threatening injuries that can result?

Dogs are natural athletes often with a desire to do everything with such speed and with an abundance of enthusiasm during play. Mid-air acrobatics during stick catching is often considered part of the “fun” but severe trauma can result ; I have even nursed a dog that have caught the stick and then ran into a tree resulting in a cervical fracture in the neck!

The hidden “minor” injuries that occur through playing with sticks can often go unnoticed for a period of days, often lacerations occur under the tongue, in the laryngeal area, or stick fragments become lodged in the roof of the mouth which cannot be seen. Often symptoms of excessive salivation and reduction of appetite might be the only indication of oral damage……

How to walk your dog safely in the dark months of winter

As the clocks go back next Sunday (28th October) at the end of British Summer Time, millions of dog owners in the UK will be walking their dogs in the dark when they come home from work. Road casualty statistics show that there is an 18 per cent rise during the winter months in the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in road accidents: it’s darker, wetter and windier out there.
Road traffic accidents – RTA’s – are the most common cause of serious injury to pet dogs. While it’s true that many accidents happen when dogs are out on their own, a surprising number happen to dogs that are accompanied by their owners. And even more surprisingly, dogs can even be hit by cars while on the leash. I remember one case, where an owner was walking on a narrow footpath, with their dog on one of those extendable leashes. It was a dark evening, with poor visibility. Cars were swooshing by at speed. A cat darted out of some bushes beside the road, and the terrier leapt after it without thinking, straight into traffic. The oncoming car braked heavily, but couldn’t avoid hitting the dog. The unfortunate owner was left shocked, with a badly injured dog at the end of his leash.
It’s important to take steps to ensure that you – and your dog – are as safe as possible during those evening walks in the winter. The UK’s biggest dog charity, Dogs Trust, has put together some useful tips to help.
Keep control of your dog and don’t let him off lead unless you are in a safe area which is well lit
Wear high visibility clothing such as jackets, vests or reflective strips on your clothes so you can be easily seen by motorists
A reflective collar and lead or a high visibility coat or flashing collar will also increase your dog’s visibility in the dark
Work out a winter dog walking route which, in urban areas, includes both wide pavements and bright street lighting
If there is no pavement, walk against the flow of the traffic and keep your dog on the side farthest from the road
Carry a torch which will help you be seen and also enable to you see to pick up your dog’s mess. Or, consider a head torch so your hands are free
Walking in groups can be safer than on your own
If possible, take your dog in the car to a place where you can walk away from the roadside. Many parks and sports fields have lighting but always check that dogs are allowed first
Make sure your dog is well trained and responsive to commands. For helpful tips on training, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk
With some thoughtful planning, you can make dog-walking a safer, more enjoyable activity, for both you and your pet. Take care out there this winter.

BEVA Congress 2012 – How Horse Vets Keep Up to Date

As vets, we’re always trying to do the very best for our patients. However, veterinary medicine is constantly changing – every year, hundreds, even thousands of new papers are published, new drugs become available, and new machines and tools come on the market. What was the “gold standard” of treatment for a disease ten years ago might now be proven to be more harmful than helpful! At a recent conference (BEVA Congress – see below for more on that…), John Walmsey, one of the foremost and best respected members of the profession, gave the plenary lecture talking about the massive changes that have taken place in equine veterinary care in the four and a half decades since he graduated. The drugs we have now are far more effective, the machines and tools more robust and more useful. Even ten years ago, MRI in the horse was really rare and (to be honest) unreliable; now it’s a standard tool in working up a complex lameness. As a result, with the field of knowledge constantly changing, it’s more important than ever for vets in practice to keep up!
The process of keeping up to date is known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development), and we are expected to do at least 5 days a year. It can be made up in a number of ways, including lectures, seminars, webinars, practical courses and reading journals and papers. Like most equine vets, I receive the big journals Equine Veterinary Journal and Equine Veterinary Education, which (respectively) publish papers on equine science and equine surgery and medicine. I also try to attend relevant courses and lectures as often as I can.

In September, I was at the BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association) Congress in Birmingham. This is one of the biggest gatherings of horse vets in the world, and I try to go most years. Congress lasts for three days of lectures and seminars, as well as a large commercial exhibition. It’s a great place to go to pick up the latest ideas, new treatments and medicines, and catch up with colleagues from across the country. I sometimes think we learn almost as much from talking over cases with colleagues as we do in the lecture theatres!

This year was notable for…

A new trend: pets with human names

A survey of the most popular pet names of 2012 has just been released by Co-Operative Pet Insurance, and there seems to be an interesting trend: people are beginning to call their pets the same names as their children. The most popular dog names are are Alfie, Molly and Poppy, with Charlie and Max following, whilst the most popular cat names are Charlie, Molly and Poppy closely followed by Oscar and Alfie. The survey shows that pet owners are moving away from traditional pet names such as Rover and Whiskers, and are now choosing human names. The top two pet names also appear in the recently released top 10 children’s names.
This is something that I’ve noticed in practice as a vet: some people are even using names that can’t be shortened into handy “calling” names, such as Christopher, Andrew and Margaret.
This new approach to pet names reflects a change in the way that people view their pets: they are now often seen as members of the human family. Many people see themselves as “pet parents” rather than “owners”, so it seems natural to use children’s names rather than animal versions. The humanisation of pets has become visible in veterinary consult rooms too…………….

Is the government serious about tackling irresponsible dog ownership?

The government has fudged the dog laws again. A written ministerial statement from the Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs was released today, with the promising title “Tackling Irresponsible Dog Ownership“.

A statement had been widely anticipated but its content had only been guessed at. In the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, Germaine Greer called for stricter controls on dog ownership, including a licence for humans to have dogs. I wrote a counter-piece, suggesting that such a radical change was not needed. My own choice would be to follow the suggestions of the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club, who have suggested simple measures such as universal microchipping of all dogs, along with new legal instruments such as Dog Control Orders which could be used to force irresponsible dog owners to smarten up.

So did the government say? You can read the full statement for yourself, but it seems to me to come down to three main actions:

1) The extension of the Dangerous Dogs Act to include private property. While this will bring some relief to postmen and other casual visitors to doggy households, intruders should be aware that this specifically excludes “trespassers”. It seems that dogs can continue to bite burglars’ bums without fear of being sued.

2) The police will no longer automatically seize and kennel dogs that are accused of being “dangerous” pending the outcome of court proceedings. This will be a great relief to owners of Pitbull-look-alikes that ran the risk of being impounded because of a mischievous complaint from a neighbour. The civil servants in charge of police budgets will be relieved that they no longer will need to pay for months of boarding for dogs “awaiting trial”.

3) The government has announced its intention to “introduce regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on microchipping to promote animal welfare by making it easier for local authorities and rescue centres to quickly re-unite stray dogs with their owners.” And this is where the fudge comes in: a decision has not been made on how to do this. The government is going to have “a further consultation to give the public an opportunity to give their views”.

Four possible methods of introducing microchipping are listed:…………..

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