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………..

Vestibular Syndrome – strokes in dogs

My twelve year-old collie, Juno had an attack of Vestibular Syndrome this week. These are what we used to call Strokes, but advances in imaging and investigation have led us to realise that they’re not quite the same, even though they appear just as suddenly and with some of the same symptoms.

Dogs can and occasionally do have Strokes, but they tend to be less serious than in humans. In humans, Strokes – or Cerebrovascular Accidents – refer to a bleed in the brain, so that an area loses its blood supply and is starved of oxygen. Damage quickly becomes irreversible and we all know how variable and tough the aftermath can be, for the sufferer and carers alike. Dogs can, rarely, go through the same events, but are more likely to have an episode where, instead of bursting, the blood vessel spasms and shuts down for a short period. Whilst there can still be damage, recovery tends to be quicker and more complete…………..

“No, Radioactive Iodine Therapy Will NOT Make Your Cat Glow In the Dark…”

I had to laugh as I answered my client’s child’s innocent question. But it certainly wasn’t the first time a cat owner had expressed surprise and concern when I first mentioned this treatment for feline hyperthyroidism (see my previous blog for more information on hyperthyroidism). Radioactive iodine therapy (RAIT) certainly does sound scary and this has resulted in some strange misconceptions, but actually it is a fantastic option for the treatment of what can be a frustrating long-term disease of older cats….

The Importance of Dental Care

There are two types of dental care for pets: that given by the owner at home, and that given by the vet in the surgery. Both are very important to the wellbeing of our pets.

It is thought that two thirds of dogs and cats over 3 years old suffer from dental disease. This is not a cosmetic problem, although the appearance and smell from an affected mouth can be very unpleasant! More importantly, it is a cause of pain and ill health.
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Allergic Skin Disease in Dogs

Probably the second most common skin condition I see in dogs (after flea-related problems) is allergic skin disease, or atopy.

Dogs can develop an allergic reaction to any number of things in the environment, or, less commonly, to their food. Common indoor allergens include house dust mites, detergents and carpet cleaning products. Common outdoor allergens include grasses and pollens. Food allergens include beef, pork, dairy products and wheat. And of course fleas themselves can cause allergic skin disease in some unlucky dogs.

An allergic reaction is caused when the immune system makes antibodies to common substances instead of to those which are “foreign” to it. The antibodies cause mast cells in the skin to release chemicals like histamine, which cause irritation and inflammation.

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.