Cost of Vets – A sad story but an important message

This week I was in a situation which made me feel angry, sad, frustrated and powerless all at once. I wanted to share it because I think it highlights a really important issue about vets, pet care and cost. However, I will warn you it doesn’t have a happy ending.
There was an appointment in evening consults for a euthanasia, which in itself isn’t unusual, but this one was for a Staffie who was only six and who hadn’t been seen for a year. The history we had was brief, she had last been seen for an ear infection but not since. So, I didn’t know why her owner’s had decided to put her to sleep; I was thinking that maybe she had been under the care of another vet for a problem which had become terminal or that this was a behavioural problem like aggression.

However, when she arrived it was quite clear what the issue was. The poor dog had a terrible skin problem; she had sore and swollen feet, a nasty infection in both ears and in places has scratched herself red raw. Despite this she was lovely, happy, friendly girl, desperate for a good fuss. It transpired that she had been like this since she last came to see us, over a year ago, but her owner hadn’t brought her back or taken her to another vet because ‘the treatment hadn’t worked’ and it was ‘too expensive’, meaning that the poor creature had been itchy and painful for all this time.

I did try to speak to the man about her condition and how we might help her. Itchy skin is a common problem in dogs and although it can be difficult to find the underlying cause, most cases will respond to treatment, which is usually inexpensive. Like many illnesses we can offer different options for investigation and treatment depending on what an owner wants and the funds available but the outcome is generally an itch-free happy dog who can go on to lead a normal life. However, in this case the owner wasn’t interested in any treatment at all. He had decided he wanted her euthanased and nothing would persuade him to change his mind…………….

Baldness in Dogs (Alopecia)

I’ve been seeing a number of bald dogs in the consulting room recently, and it made me wonder how common a problem it is – and how many conditions there are that can lead to a dog losing his hair!

Baldness (or alopecia, to give it its technical name) isn’t generally a disease in its own right – it is almost invariably a symptom of an underlying disease condition. So, when I’m faced with a poor, balding dog in the consult room, my first task is to try and define what the underlying cause is. With a symptom with so many possible causes, what we do to narrow down the possibilities is to work out a differential list – a list of all the possible conditions that can cause baldness – and then eliminate them until we come to the actual cause in this specific case.

So, in no particular order, here are the more common causes of hair loss in dogs, along with their other major signs or symptoms…..

Vaccination in Cats – Why Should We Bother?

As the current economic situation continues to squeeze the family finances, I have noticed an increase in clients who would prefer not to vaccinate their cat. There are probably many more who are simply not showing up for their yearly exam so we don’t even have a chance to discuss the issue with them. Now, there are certainly times when I would accept that a cat should not be vaccinated, and in fact I often have to convince my clients NOT to vaccinate their pet if they are ill in any way. Vaccines are part of a preventative medicine protocol, and should in most cases only be given to healthy pets when the benefit of having the vaccine on board outweighs the risk of giving it. In most cases, however, the benefit far outweighs the risk, and therefore responsible vaccination is highly recommended. I’ll discuss what ‘responsible’ vaccination means in greater detail in my next blog, but first I thought I might explain a bit more about why vaccination is so important.
What diseases are cats routinely vaccinated against?
Feline vaccinations are generally separated into ‘core’ (those that every cat should have) and ‘non-core’ (those that only high-risk cats should receive). The four core vaccines that should be given to every cat are parvovirus, herpesvirus, calicivirus, and rabies. The rabies vaccine, however, should only be given in areas where rabies is a concern (for example, in the United States). The UK is currently rabies-free, therefore British cats are not routinely given the rabies vaccine unless they will be travelling to other countries. If you would like more information about the rabies vaccine, please speak with your vet. There may very well come a day when we are also required to vaccinate for rabies in the UK, but for now I’ll concentrate on the first three diseases.

Cassie the diabetic Retriever

Cassie the retriever dog was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus last year, and has twice daily treatment with insulin. Apart from her injections, and regular blood tests, she is able to lead a normal life and do all the things she enjoyed before she became diabetic. Cassie is just 6 years old, but with good management of her condition she has every chance of enjoying a full life.

Diabetes is an illness where the animal has a lack of the hormone insulin, or the body does not respond normally to its own insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas, a gland which lies close to the stomach. Usually, insulin helps keep the level of glucose in the bloodstream stable. When the dog’s blood sugar levels start to rise, insulin is produced to halt this rise in a number of different ways: it increases the uptake of glucose into body tissues, it stimulates conversion of glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver, and it stops glucose production from metabolising fat and protein. Without insulin, glucose levels in the blood go on rising (hyperglycaemia), causing a variety of symptoms. When it reaches a certain level in the blood, the kidneys can no longer filter it out so glucose appears in the urine (glycosuria). This creates ideal conditions for bacteria to live and multiply, so urine infections can result.

The symptoms of diabetes in dogs or cats include drinking more …………….

Just because they’re still eating doesn’t mean their teeth don’t hurt! Dental Disease in Cats – Part 1

“ Sure his teeth are a little dirty but he’s still eating so they can’t be that bad, right?” This is one of the biggest myths in veterinary medicine yet it is sadly repeated almost daily by my clients. It’s certainly understandable though – if we have a toothache, we tend to alter our diet rapidly to find foods that are suitably easy to chew and then book ourselves in to see the dentist as soon as possible. Cats (and dogs, but we’ll focus on cats in this article) would probably do the same, if they could, but I can’t recall the last time I saw Fluffy order her own meals or pick up the telephone! Cats are still in many ways wild animals with natural instincts, and those instincts tell them that if they don’t eat, they’ll die. For the same reasons, they are masters of hiding their pain, illnesses or anything that might make them seem vulnerable. Therefore a cat with a toothache will probably act and eat very much like a cat without a toothache, suffering in silence. Sure, there are some dental conditions that will cause a cat to stop eating, but by the time this happens they are usually so severe that they have become systemically ill……

Pain Part 2: Getting rid of pain

Pain and pain relief are massive topics which can – and do – fill several textbooks. It’s way beyond the scope of a blog to go into all of the detail surrounding the use of painkillers, and so all I really want to do is to outline some of the different types of pain control that we can use, both in the surgery and as day-to-day treatments.

Pain relief is one of the great success stories in medicine, and it’s no coincidence that some of my favourite drugs of all time are painkillers. Our advances mean that pain in our patients shouldn’t be accepted, and although sometimes we fail to control it, we should never stop trying.

We use a number of different types of painkiller:

* Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
* Steroids
* Opioids and opioid-like drugs
* Others

NSAIDs

These are the most widely-used type of painkiller and include (for humans) aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol. They act by stopping inflammation…….

Gastric Torsion in Dogs

Also known as Bloat, Twisted Stomach, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus or GDV, this condition is one of the most serious emergencies in small animal practice, and it can make all the difference to the outcome if it is recognised immediately.

There are two parts to this condition, the bloat and the torsion. Bloat is when the dog’s stomach fills up with gas, fluid, froth or a mixture of all of these, to a far greater size than normal. Torsion (volvulus) is when the whole stomach twists inside the abdomen so that it is closed off at both its entrance and its exit, just like a sausage which is twisted closed at both ends.

They may both occur together, or one may lead to the other. If bloat occurs first, the enlarged stomach is at greater risk of torsion. If torsion occurs first, bloating will definitely result….

Pain in animals part 1: what is pain?

Pain. Everybody knows what it feels like, and – apart from a few determined individuals – we tend to avoid it. But what is it? The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines it as:

“an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”

Or, in other words, when you damage yourself it hurts. And if you’re feeling down already, it hurts more. And if you’re not feeling down already, then pain may make you feel down. And then it will hurt more.

The IASP mainly looks at pain in humans, but it’s a long time since we stopped trying to pretend that animals either don’t feel pain like we do, or else don’t get upset about it. They do, and their inability to communicate pain effectively (or else our inability to properly listen) means that for a lot of animals, pain is a chronic, miserable constant in their lives, despite help being close to hand.

There are tiny pain receptors all over the body, inside and out, attached to nerve fibres. When a tissue is damaged, they’re triggered to send impulses up to the brain, which senses them and registers the feeling we call pain. Hard to describe, but we all understand what it is and we’ve all got experience of it. Pain receptors are usually well embedded in tissues, and usually need a fair bit of triggering – otherwise, any form of touch would be painful.

Chronic Diarrhoea in Cats – Could it be Tritrichomonas foetus?

Marla is an older cat who has recently had the displeasure of becoming a frequent visitor to our practice. She was adopted not long ago from an animal shelter and now lives with a lovely woman who thankfully has a lot of patience!

Marla first came to see us because she had developed diarrhoea and a red, irritated rear end. She had a type of diarrhoea called ‘colitis’ (which simply means inflammation of the large intestine or colon), that caused her to strain frequently to produce small amounts of sometimes bloody stool. She was treated with antibiotics and her diet was changed to something that was bland and easy to digest, and although sometimes her symptoms seemed to improve a little they continued. A standard stool sample was run but this was negative for all worms and harmful bacteria. After nearly a month of problems and after trying every routine treatment out there, we decided to try one last and wouldn’t you know, it came back positive!…..

Pet Emergencies Happen When You Least Expect Them

The most common injuries which arise when out and about are things like cut pads, bite wounds, stick injuries and of course road accidents. Many illnesses can also have a fairly sudden onset, sometimes needing an out-of-hours visit to the vets.

Carrying a small first aid kit with you can help with emergencies such as cuts, bites or torn nails. If bleeding is part of the problem, then a temporary bandage applied just until you can get to the surgery can save a lot of mess but could also stop your dog from losing so much blood. A hankie or a sock can be very useful substitutes for a bandage, or anything clean with which you can apply pressure for a few minutes.

However, there is a risk of making matters worse if a bandage is too tight or applied for too long. The circulation may be reduced so much that tissue starts to die, so just use a bandage as a first aid measure until bleeding stops or you can get to your vet’s surgery.

The other thing that can reduce the stress when the unexpected happens is having your pet insured………..

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.