Ask a vet online- “My 9 year old GSD has a black disk like cataract in one eye. Can it be removed safely. Would this be expensive to remove? Is this usually done by my vet or a specialist eye vet?”

Question from David Keown
My 9 year old GSD has a black disk like cataract in one eye. Can it be removed safely and what’s the prognosis for a good recovery. Would this be expensive to remove? Is this usually done by my vet or a specialist eye vet? Thanks.

Answer from Shanika Williams MRCVS online vet

Hi David, thank you for your question about the black disc in your GSD’s eye (German shepherd dog).

Firstly I will describe what a cataract is; I do not think that your dog has a cataract but an iris cyst.

A cataract is an area of discolouration in the lens of the eye, the lens sits in the middle of the eye and is usually colourless and clear, it sits just behind the iris (coloured part of the eye). Usually a cataract can only be seen without the use of specialist equipment if it is very large or the lens has dropped out of its correct position and has fallen into the front chamber of the eye.

So what is the black disc?

The black disc that you are describing in your GSD’s eye is most likely to be an iris cyst. Iris cysts are fluid filled black discs of varying size that bud off from another part of the eye. They vary in size (usually few millimetres in diameter) and can move around or are fixed in position; they are usually found at the front bottom half of the eye. I have personal experience of this condition as our family GSD had several mobile iris cysts.

Does my pet need any treatment?

Ask a vet online – “My dog is drinking a lot, and seems to be starving to the point of raiding my Shopping bag. She has Arthrities and her back end seems to be wobbly.”

Question from Gurnos Tenants Residents

My dog is 14 and is drinking a lot, and seems to be starving to the point of raiding my Shopping bag, something she has never done before. She has Arthrities and sometimes her back end seems to be wobbly.

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS online vet

Thank you for your interesting question which has four parts, I will discuss one at a time.

Your dog is drinking a lot.

The first thing to do when you have noticed that your pet is drinking more is to work out the actual amount of water being drunk. This is most easily done by measuring out how much water you put into the water bowl, also how much is left each time you change the water. It is best to work out how much your pet is drinking over a few days as this will give an average amount per day taking into account differences on each day. We usually consider a dog to be drinking too much if water intake is more than 100ml/kg/day that would work out as around 2L for a 20kg dog (a medium sized dog). So when you discuss your pet’s water intake with your vet they will want to know the amount your pet drinks a day, its weight and if there have been any changes to your pet’s diet. Dry food diets tend to lead to pets drinking more water than wet food (tins or pouches).

Your vet will also want to know if your pet is passing urine as normal or if this has changed in amount or frequency, often it is helpful to collect a sample of urine in a clean container and take this to your vet for analysis.

Increased drinking is called polydipsia (PD) and can be an indication many conditions including kidney disease, infection, hormone imbalances and diabetes. It is really important to discuss any other symptoms your pet is showing with your vet so that the most appropriate urine and blood tests can be performed to find out the cause of your pets PD.

Your dog is raiding your shopping bags.

When a pet has an increased hunger we call this polyphagia (PP). It is normal for dogs to eat more food when their energy needs go up e.g. when the weather is cold, if they are more active than usual or during the later stages of pregnancy or lactation (milk production). So provided there is no obvious reason for your pet to be eating more this is definitely something worth discussing with your vet.

Ideally if your pet is weighed regularly and records have been kept of this any changes will help to make a diagnosis as to what is causing your pets PP. Some of the conditions mentioned for PD can also lead to PP……..

Protect your dogs: lock up your Easter Eggs

Easter is a celebration of the Christian faith, but in our modern secular world, it’s known more for the celebration of eating chocolate, in the form of Easter eggs.

Chocolate is a popular treat for humans, but it’s also the most common poison to affect dogs: in the UK, there are nearly 2000 cases reported every year.
A small dog can die after eating a single Easter egg. The chemical in chocolate that gives humans a pleasant buzz – theobromine – has a highly toxic effect on dogs, rapidly poisoning the heart and brain.
A small chocolate indulgence that would be an enjoyable treat for a human can kill a dog, and the toxic dose is surprisingly small. Half a small bar of dark chocolate – around 50g (2 ounces) – is enough to end the life of a little terrier weighing 5kg. Milk chocolate is less dangerous, needing twice as much for the same effect. A standard Easter egg may weigh around 200g, which means that half an egg can be enough to kill a small dog.
Small dogs are much more at risk: the toxic effect is dose-dependent, so a 50kg German Shepherd would need to eat ten times as much chocolate as a 5kg terrier to be affected………..

Ask a vet online – ‘Can any vet perform a liver biopsy or should my dog be seen by an expert?’

Question from Anita Bates

Can any vet perform a liver biopsy or should Spud Theduff dog be seen by an expert?

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, Online Vet

Hi Anita and thank you for your question regarding liver biopsy. I am assuming that your dog has already undergone some tests e.g. blood tests, x-rays and or exploratory surgery which have pointed in the direction of liver disease.

So what is a liver biopsy?

A biopsy is when a small sample of a body tissue is taken to be analysed. The liver is a large organ that is found in your pets abdomen (belly) just behind the chest. The liver has many functions which include processing and filtering all the nutrients absorbed from the gut after digestion, production of bile which helps with fat digestion, production of vitamins and storage of iron.

Why would your vet advise a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is advised to determine the exact type of disease that might be going on in your pets liver. As mentioned earlier liver biopsy is usually discussed after the findings of blood tests, x-rays or ultrasound scan which suggest liver disease. Diseases of the liver include infections, tumours, inflammation and storage disease to mention a few.

How is a liver biopsy performed?

There are two main ways of collecting a liver biopsy either by opening up the animals abdomen and cutting a small sample directly from the liver or using a special biopsy needle that is inserted through the skin under the direction of an ultrasound scan……..

The Spleen: What does it do and how will my dog manage if it has to be removed?

The spleen is one of those organs of the body that most people have heard of but many are uncertain where it is and what it actually does. Although it has several important functions, dogs can manage to live a normal life without a spleen if it has to be removed. The most common reasons for removal (splenectomy) are if the spleen has ruptured (usually after a road traffic accident), or if it develops a tumour. Both of these can lead to very sudden illness which needs fast diagnosis and treatment to save the dog’s life.
Biggles the Springer Spaniel has recently had his spleen removed and is recovering well. Although I am not his vet, I helped to care for him during his convalescence, and with his owner’s permission I would like to tell his story.

Biggles is a typically lively spaniel, who enjoyed a normal Sunday romping around with his companion. On the Monday morning, his owner found him collapsed and weak and had to rush him straight to his vets. After examination, blood tests and x-rays, his problem was diagnosed as a tumour of the spleen and Biggles was operated on the same day. Unfortunately his tumour was large and ulcerated which meant Biggles had lost a lot of blood from the circulation into his tummy, so he needed several days of intensive care including fluids by drip and drugs to prevent vomiting and infection.

After several days of hospitalisation at the vets, Biggles began to feel so much better that the challenge was to stop him from doing too much. After major surgery he had to take it very easy, which was hard for him. Very short walks on a lead, away from his boisterous friends, were all that he was allowed during his recovery, but now he is beginning to get back to normal gradually.

Biggles the Springer Spaniel has recently had his spleen removed and is recovering well. Although I am not his vet, I helped to care for him during his convalescence, and with his owner’s permission I would like to tell his story.

Biggles is a typically lively spaniel, who enjoyed a normal Sunday romping around with his companion. On the Monday morning, his owner found him collapsed and weak and had to rush him straight to his vets. After examination, blood tests and x-rays, his problem was diagnosed as a tumour of the spleen and Biggles was operated on the same day. Unfortunately his tumour was large and ulcerated which meant Biggles had lost a lot of blood from the circulation into his tummy, so he needed several days of intensive care including fluids by drip and drugs to prevent vomiting and infection……….

Puppy Love! How to Look After your New Puppy

Puppy Love!

There are few things more exciting than bringing home a new puppy. No matter how big they eventually get, they are all cute bundles of fluff with wobbly legs and wagging tails in the beginning! The experiences and care a puppy receives in it’s early weeks have a massive impact on the rest of it’s life & behaviour, and it’s your job as their owner to ensure they grow up into happy, healthy and well adjusted individuals.

A pup’s introduction to the world around them begins from the moment they are born. The bitch and litter must live in the home, surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of family life; not in a shed or outhouse. Once they become more independent they should be handled regularly, allowed to meet different people, given a variety of toys and plenty of opportunities to play and explore. Finally, and most importantly, they should not leave the breeder until they are 8 weeks old. Although they will have been quite independent for some time by this age, they will still be learning vital social skills and doggy behaviour from their mum and littermates. A good breeder will understand all this and ensure their pups have the best start. They will also, if they are breeding pedigrees, have completed all the relevant health tests on the parents & have registered the litter with the Kennel Club at birth, meaning you will be given all the paperwork when you collect them.

Once you have your new pup home, allow them a couple of days to settle in before inviting everyone round to meet them! Ask the breeder what they were feeding and keep this the same for a week, after which you can change their diet but make sure it is good quality puppy food. This is also the time to instill good sleeping habits. It might be cute having a little pup curled up in bed with you but it won’t be so nice when they are fully grow and spent the day splashing in puddles in the park! Most pups will cry when they are left alone for the first few nights but they soon learn to settle and it is very important dogs learn to be on their own, otherwise they can develop serious problems such as separation anxiety. I am a big fan of using crates for young pups. You can shut them in at night and when you go out; the pup will feel safe and secure in the small, enclosed space and you know they are safe. Leave the door open when you are at home and then they can take themselves off to bed when they feel tired.

Ask a Vet Online – ‘I have a border collie he has progressive retinal atrophy and now he has a cateract, is there anything that can be done for him?’

Question from Anne Wood

I have a border collie 5 years old. Hes a very frightened dog but he is completly blind in 1 eye and partly blind in the other the vet told me it was progressive retinal atrophy and now he has a cateract on top of his blind eye, is there anything that can be done for him please and thank you for taking the time to read this.

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

Hi Anne, thank you for your question regarding your dog’s eyes and behaviour.

So what is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)?

As the name suggests it is a condition where there is gradual degeneration of the retina (layer lining the back of the eye). PRA is usually an inherited condition and sadly there is no cure for it, however on the positive side it rarely causes pain. There is no treatment for PRA at present, there have been some trials of using antioxidants to slow down the degenerative process but the results of this are as of yet inconclusive.

Cataracts are a common finding along with PRA; a cataract is cloudiness in the lens of the eye. The loss of vision caused by the PRA itself means that cataract surgery is rarely advised as there will not be much improvement to vision as a result of the surgery.

How would I know that my dog has PRA and how is it diagnosed?

Owners usually notice a loss of vision in the pet, most noticeable in low light conditions, their pets pupils may appear more dilated with an increased glow/shine (tapetal reflex) from the back of the eye.

A diagnosis is usually made when your vet or ophthalmologist examines your dog’s eyes and notices the damage to the retina.

What can I do for my dog with PRA?

Sadly there is no treatment for PRA itself but as it is a painless condition then it is more a case of trying to help your dog to adjust to his gradual loss of vision. Generally the other senses smell, hearing, touch and taste increase to try and compensate for the one that is deteriorating.

You can take steps to make your home environment easier for your dog with poor or no vision to get around. Keep large pieces of furniture in the same place, use stair gates to block off dangerous areas, when out and about use lots of vocal and physical clues to let your dog know where you are and to provide reassurance.

Dogs are incredibly resilient animals and adjust very well to changes especially when they are gradual. I hope that this answer has helped you to understand a little bit about PRA and how both you and your dog can still lead a happy life together………

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……………

VetHelpDirect Best UK Vets 2013 – Based on Online Vet Reviews

Last night over 60 clients and the local press turned up to see Barton Lodge Vets being awarded their trophy & prize for winning Best UK Vets 2013!


Barton Lodge Vets pose for photographs with some of their clients (and a few of the pets they treat!) From left to right: Roger Wickenden, Cory and owner, Cathy Wickenden, Susie Samuel (MD of VetHelpDirect.com).

The evening kicked off with a formal presentation where one of Barton Lodge’s patients, Cory, helped present the award to the practice. After practice tours for clients the celebrations continued at a local hall, where clients shared their happy Barton Lodge experiences.

The hosts of the award, VetHelpDirect.com, said “The sincerity of the comments made by clients tonight reflects exactly Barton Lodge’s online reputation through their reviews. A good online reputation is so valuable to both local people looking for a service and to business owners. That’s why online vet reviews are at the heart of our vet directory.”

Best UK Vet 2013 - VetHelpDirect


Roger Wickenden, joint director of Barton Lodge, stated that he and all of the team had been very touched by the reviews left and were honoured to be awarded a prize that their clients were responsible for giving through the heartfelt reviews they’d left.


Roger Wickenden, joint director of Barton Lodge, says a few words of thanks.

The Background

Barton Lodge competed with veterinary practices across the UK to win the award which was judged based on the quantity and quality of reviews left on VetHelpDirect.com. Seventy-two of Barton Lodge’s clients went out of their way to leave a review for the popular practice.

“First Class, Patient and Understanding”, “5 Star service” and “The best in town by far” were just some of the comments received from their clients. Congratulations Barton Lodge Vets!

The Award & VetHelpDirect.com

The VetHelpDirect.com Best UK Vet awards 2013 are based on reviews left by owners over the course of the year 29/1/12 – 28/1/13. The number of reviews and average star rating was used to determine the winner.

At VetHelpDirect we are determined to provide a fair reflection of the vet practices in their directory, all reviews are subject to rigorous tests of authenticity, all are checked for duplicate IP addresses, email addresses and some reviewers are asked to provide evidence that they are recent clients of the practice.

They are soon launching the new and much improved Find Any UK Vet website Any-UK-Vet.co.uk which will also include reviewing functionality for every British veterinary practice, to aid animal owners in finding a trusted, local vet more easily.


Urban foxes – could your pet cat be the next victim?

Following reports of another attack on a baby by an urban fox in London, many people have been worried about the risk not just of foxes attacking children, but also pets. Cats in particular often spend much of their time outside, in the same areas as foxes. Is there a real risk of cats being attacked by foxes and what can owners do about it?
When someone asked me this question, my instinctive answer was that fox attacks on cats are exceptionally rare. Foxes are generally shy creatures that do their best to avoid contact with humans or other animals. I have heard more stories about cats chasing foxes out of gardens than cats being victims.
I have come across only two instances where foxes were seen to prey upon cats. In one case, a young kitten was snatched by a fox, around twenty yards away from her owner, and in another instance, a thin, elderly cat was grabbed. To me, the risk to adult pet cats seemed minimal but I decided to look further, to see if I could find some hard facts about the risk to pets from fox attacks.
Up until now in the veterinary world, it’s been difficult to find out the true incidence of problems like this. The good news is that a new database, VetCompass, has started to accumulate real, up to date information about health issues affecting pets in the UK. VetCompass is a collaborative not-for-profit research project run by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, in collaboration with the University of Sydney. The project aims to investigate the range and frequency of small animal health problems seen by veterinary surgeons working in general practice in the United Kingdom and to highlight major risk factors for these conditions. This is being done via the routine capture of first opinion clinical data via electronic patient records held with practices’ computerised Practice Management Systems. VetCompass now shares health data on over 400,000 companion animals from over 200 practices across the UK………….

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