Veterinary Care - Dogs
We all understand that to maintain healthy teeth and gums, a combination of daily brushing and regular visits to the dentist is essential. The same is true for our dogs. Research shows that more than 80% of dogs show some signs of gum disease by the age of five. So it is really important that your pet receives both professional dental care form the Veterinary Surgeon and care from you at home.
The Importance of Preventative Care
During each check up your dentist thoroughly cleans your teeth and removes plaque, which can build up causing serious oral problems. Plaque forms naturally and continuously on teeth and gums and is the cause of bad breath, which is an early symptom of poor oral health. If the plaque is left untreated, inflamed gums or "gingivitis" can result. In time, this disease can lead to periodontitis (which is disease of the tissues which support and attach the tooth) and tooth loss. That is why it is important to start a preventative dental care programme, as soon as possible.
Try this three simple step programme for your new puppy or dog.
Step one: Professional examination
An effective programme of dental care begins with a visit here, and we will assess your pet's oral health and may recommend cleaning, polishing and other preventative measure.
Step two: Home care
Plaque should be removed mechanically everyday and until recently daily brushing of your dog's teeth was the most effective way to do this. It is best to start this as early on in your dog's routine as possible. There are many specialised toothbrushes and Doggie toothpaste available to assist you in this routine (It is advised not to use human toothpaste as this can potentially detrimental to your dogs health). Fortunately, there are now special daily diets available from Royal Canin through Abbey Vets which provide the same dental benefits as weekly brushing and actually clean teeth and freshen breath on every bite. Please consult the Veterinary Surgeon for advice on all of these procedures.
Step three: Regular Check-ups
Just as people need to see their dentist regularly, dogs also need regular check-ups. At each oral examination, your Veterinary Surgeon will look for any signs of plaque build up and gum disease.
When we bring a new dog into the family, we love and care for them the same way as all of the other members of the family and the love and fear we feel for them is no different. So if your dog was lost, strayed or worse still stolen, and your pet was not identified it would be very difficult to trace you and be returned.
There are different ways of identification such as collars and tags or tattooing. Unfortunately both of these methods have their drawbacks. Collars can become lost and tattooing is a painful process, which over time becomes illegible.
However a quick, simple, permanent process is now available, which is no more stressful, than a routine vaccination.
What is Micro chipping?
Micro chipping is an up to date electronic technology, which is a tiny microchip containing a unique 15 digit code. This code will be linked to your Pets details for life on a database. The database is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it can identify your animal, the your name, address and telephone to ensure you and your dog can be reunited in the shortest time possible.
A special scanner is then used by a number of authorities to read the microchip, including:
- Local authorities
- Veterinary Surgeons
How does it work?
Your dog will attend the Veterinary Surgery for the micro chipping implantation to take place the same way as you would for a normal vaccination.
The Microchip is injected under the loose skin at the back of the neck. It is usually no bigger than a grain of rice. We will then fill in all of your details and send it to the database for life.
For more information, please contact your Veterinary Surgery for advice.
Neutering is routinely performed by many Veterinary Surgeons on a daily basis. The decision as to whether to have your dog castrated or your bitch spayed should be carefully considered and discussed with the Veterinary Surgeon. Below we give you some guidelines as to what the procedure involves and some of the points to consider during the decision process. The Veterinary Practice will advise you on the most appropriate time for this to be done.
Castration for dogs.
This is considered to be a form of contraception for male dogs, unlike heat control in the bitch. It is a permanent procedure, so should not be undertaken if you wish to mate from your dog. It involves a general anaesthetic and is a sterile surgical procedure performed by the Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Castration
- To make the dog sterile, so he cannot father puppies.
- To stop adult dogs roaming after bitches on heat.
- To remove the testicles if testicular cancer is diagnosed.
- To help with the problem of hypersexual behaviour, which is still present after puppy hood and into adulthood.
- To help with aggression towards other dogs.
The procedure involves complete excision and removal of the testicles from the scrotal sac. The scrotum is left behind and will naturally look a lot smaller after the operation. There may be some swelling in the scrotum immediately post operatively. If this persists, please consult the Veterinary Surgeon.
If you are planning to have your dog castrated for behavioural reason, it is worth considering that sometimes the problems may disappear overnight. Sometimes the traits are as a result of learned behaviour and because of this, they may not subside for a few months.
Please note: Castrated dogs may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with the Veterinary Practice.
Spaying your Bitch
If you are not considering breeding from your bitch you may want to consider having her spayed. This is considered to be a form of contraception and heat control. There are also long term health benefits to having this procedure performed. Again this is a permanent procedure and it involves a general anaesthetic. This is also a sterile surgical procedure performed by a Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Spaying
- To make the bitch sterile, so she cannot have puppies.
- To help reduce the chances of your bitch getting mammary tumours, uterine problems like pyometritis and prevent false pregnancies.
- To increase the enjoyment of owning a bitch by preventing her coming on heat and all of the issues associated with bitches on heat for at least 3 weeks, twice a year.
Unlike human sterilisation in women, most Vets perform a complete Ovariohysterectomy in the bitch, which means removal of the womb and the ovaries. This is because the hormones produced to trigger pregnancy and heat are excreted from the ovaries. Your bitch may be left with a small scar along the centre of her tummy, which should not be seen after the fur grows back.
Please note: Spayed bitches may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with our Veterinary Practice.
Fleas can potentially pose a very real threat to your dog's health and the well being of your family. Few creatures can inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than fleas. A flea infestation at one time or another has affected many dog and cat households. These tiny, almost invisible pests are much more than an annoyance. They make life miserable by disrupting your household with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching, and can cause flea allergy dermatitis in some dogs.
Where do fleas hide?
Fleas hop onto your dog to feed on his/her blood; they then lay their eggs, which can be up to 50 a day. The eggs are not very sticky, so they quickly fall off your pet. The fleas and their eggs can be found in a number of flea friendly locations, such as:
- The Car
- The animals' own bedding
- Vacuum cleaners
These areas should be treated, when treating your dog for fleas.
The fleas life cycle
The life cycle of a common flea can last as little as three weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of their surroundings. It is little wonder that with the introduction of fitted carpets and central heating to a lot of homes, the flea problem has increased over the years. However, it is important to note that fleas can also live in wooden floor boards so always be alert for the presence of fleas, even if you don't have carpet flooring.
For more information, please contact the Veterinary Surgery for advice.
The Egg Stage
A female flea lays as many as 50 eggs per day, they quickly fall off your dog and hatch in two to five days. A female flea lays around 2,000 eggs in his lifetime.
The Laval Stage
After hatching, the larvae head toward dark places around your home and feed on "flea dirt" - Excrement of the partially digested blood of your dog. The larvae grow; moult twice, the spin cocoons, where they grow into pupae.
The Pupa Stage
The length of this stage averages 8 to 9 days. Depending on weather conditions, population explosions typically occur five to six weeks after the weather starts to warm up.
The Adult Stage
The adults emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide indicating that there is a host nearby. Once they hop onto a host, the adults mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The entire life cycle can be as short as three to four weeks.
Identifying flea infestation
The warning signs:
Black specks on your dog or his/her bedding could be flea dirt. Which are the faeces of partially digested blood from you dog, excreted by the adult fleas. They can often be found around the neck area and the base of the dogs tail.
There are two easy ways to check for flea dirt:
Using a metal flea comb, available from the Veterinary Practice. Run the comb over your pet, making sure the comb reaches the dogs skin through the coat. If there are black specks on the comb they may be flea dirt.
Place a white paper towel beneath your dog and rub your hands across the fur. If black specks appear on the towel, they may be flea dirt.
With both of these methods, to confirm if the speaks are flea dirt. Place the specks on a white piece of paper, sprinkle a few drops of water on the specks and if after a couple of minutes a reddish, brown stain is seen in the water. It will indicate that the dirt contains, partially digested blood from your dog. This is flea dirt.
Your dog may exhibit nervous or annoyed behaviour coupled with excessive scratching and or grooming, your dog may even start to bite himself, which not only confirms the presence of fleas, but also may indicate that the presence of fleas may be affecting your dogs health. (See ailments below)
Fleas may affect your dog in the following ways:
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)
When a flea bites your dog, it deposits a small amount of saliva into the skin. Your dog can develop FAD in reaction to this saliva, which causes severe itching. The condition can cause excessive, scratching, biting, redness, soreness and even hair loss and scabby regions especially over the dogs, neck, back, and the base of the tail. You and your family may also suffer from flea bites.
This may occur in young, older or ill dogs if too many fleas suck their blood. The symptoms of anaemia include pale gums, weakness and lethargy in your pet.
Treatment and prevention
There are many flea treatments sold today, but not all of them can be effective or appropriate for your dog, and although it may appear to be cheaper, you may end up spending more in the long run. Today however, products sold by Veterinary Practices to treat flea infestation are extremely effective and safe, (if the manufacturers instructions are followed). There are a number of presentations available including: Sprays, spot-on's or oral treatments.
Consulting our Veterinary Practice with regard to the best treatment for your dog.
Only 5% of the flea population will be on your dog, so separate environmental treatment of wherever your dog has been is also vital in preventing re-infestation.
Other preventative methods, include:
Vacuuming frequently, wherever your dog has been, especially around any carpeted area of the home, in your car and in around your dogs bedding and your bedding, if he sleeps with you. This will help to clean up as many immature fleas (eggs, larvae and pupae) as possible. Also treating your vacuum cleaner's nozzle, dispose frequently of the bag or treat inside the cleaner with environmental treatments.
Washing your dogs bedding, blanket and other washable items frequently in the hottest water cycle available.
Dogs may suffer a general loss of condition, rough, dry, coat, anaemia, vomiting, diarrhoea and or constipation with potentially serious consequences. In case of a mild infestation, you may simply not know, and this is one case where you may remain unaware. The majority of worms pose no threat to human health. However there are some which can be potentially transmitted to people e.g. The roundworm Toxocara canis, can be transmitted to children where it can cause potentially permanent eye damage, the results could be serious.
Can a healthy dog get worms?
Frankly, it may not always be easy to tell when a dog has worms. In severe cases, of course symptoms are obvious.
Dogs may suffer a general loss of condition, rough, dry, coat, anaemia, vomiting, diarrhoea and or constipation with potentially serious consequences. In case of a mild infestation, you may simply not know, and this is one case where you may remain unaware.
The majority of worms pose no threat to human health. However there are some which can be potentially transmitted to people e.g. The roundworm Toxocara canis, can be transmitted to children where it can cause potentially permanent eye damage, the results could be serious.
How could my dog get worms?
The short answer is "all too easily". Even the most cared for, well fed, happy and healthy dog, can become infested with worms.
Even though you cannot see it, other dogs may have left behind worm eggs and larvae. These eggs and larvae can remain infectious for months, even years. These can be picked up on your dog's coat, muzzle or paws and are ingested during grooming. In this way, worms can then infect your dog, home and garden.
Types of Worms
There are a dozen different species of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms, which may infect the dog in the UK.
Fortunately there are very effective ways to control these and minimize the spread of infection.
Roundworms - The life cycle
The term roundworm also includes, hookworms and whipworms. It is helpful to look at the different lifecycles.
- It grows up to 180mm in length and can be transmitted in several different ways:
- Transfer of the immature worms (larvae) across the womb to the unborn pups, so they are already infected at birth.
- Transfer of worm larvae to the pups as they feed on the mother's milk.
- A nursing bitch may be re-infecting the pups while cleaning them.
- Dogs in the environment may accidentally pick up roundworm eggs.
- An adult dog may eat birds, earthworms, or mice that may be harbouring roundworm larvae.
- Roundworm eggs are great survivors; they can remain infective for several years.
Unlike the roundworm, the tapeworm requires a third party called an intermediate host, to develop in before infecting your dog.
The two tapeworms found commonly are The Taenia species and the Flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum.
- Some types of tapeworm can grow up to 5 metres in length.
- Tapeworms look like strings of rather flattened rice grains.
- Dipylidium caninum has a small head, which attaches itself to the wall of the small intestine, with hooks and suckers a long segmented body, which grows continuously.
- The oldest segments, containing the eggs are shed one or more at a time. It is these segments that we commonly see passing out of the anus.
- These segments can contain many thousands of eggs.
There are many preparations available sold on the market, we recommend routinely worming your puppy and adult dog with the most effective preparations, which are sold by your Veterinary Surgeon. It is only by working with your Veterinary Surgeon that the correct advice, preparation, dosage and routine can be given to your dog.
However effective the wormer, it cannot prevent re-infestation. There are a number of steps we can take to reduce the spread of worms, including:
- Effective flea control on the animal and in the home, to help reduce the transmission of the Flea Tapeworm.
- Training your dog to defecate on the gutter or an approved dog toilet.
- Using a poop scoop to clean up after your dog.
- Avoidance of raw offal or unsterilised pet food.
A large range of safe, efficacious, vaccines are now available to vaccinate your puppy and adult dog against the five major infectious diseases, which they can potentially suffer from, including:
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Distemper
- Canine infectious Hepatitis
- Kennel Cough
Some commonly asked questions about Vaccination:
What is immunity
Immunity to disease simply means that an individual (animal or person) is highly resistant to a particular disease. A fully vaccinated dog, provided that it has responded to vaccinations, should be capable of withstanding normal exposure to those diseases against which it has been vaccinated.
It is possible for immunity to develop in a non-vaccinated animal, but for this to happen, the animal must first encounter the disease and then survive the encounter. For the potentially life-threatening diseases that we routinely vaccinate against, this is not a serious option.
So immunity does not just happen and yet in many ways nothing could be more natural....
Maternally Derived Antibody (MDA)
Nature has equipped the bitch with the ability to pass on some of her own immunity (in the form of antibodies) before and shortly after giving birth (these are called Maternally Derived Antibodies) Whilst some of this immunity passes across the placenta to the young in the later stages of pregnancy, most is passed on in the first milk, known as colostrums. It is important that puppies suck early because MDA levels in the colostrums are at their highest at the time of birth. Furthermore, the newly born puppy is only able to make best use of MDA at this time; the ability to absorb antibodies directly from the gut into the bloodstream is lost.
So if all goes well the young puppy will have received adequate "natural" maternal immunity from their mother to enable it to resist disease for a period of some weeks.
However, the extent of the protection depends on the immune status of the bitch (as she cannot pass on what she does not have) and how quickly and how well the puppies have sucked.
In turn, the immune status of the mother is nowadays highly dependent on whether she has been properly vaccinated up to date. The better protected the bitch, the more opportunity she has of passing good levels of immunity to her offspring.
How long does "natural" maternal immunity last?
Some puppies levels of MDA vary from pup to pup, even in the same litter. MDA is also know as "passive" immunity, (which you may be familiar with) it is not actively produced by the puppy, thus it decays over a period of some weeks.
It is possible to predict the point where the puppy is no longer protected, by a blood test, but this is not practicable, on a routine basis. Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation of may owners, a leading pharmaceutical company in the UK called Intervet has researched, (with the assistance of independent laboratories) and examined over 3,000 dogs to help to establish the timings of MDA decay for various diseases.
It is important to understand these timings because:
- It provides a guide to the "average" age at which a puppy is no longer protected by the bitches immunity and is therefore at risk.
- It gives an indication of the best time to start the vaccination course.
How do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce it's own defence against infection. One of the key components of this "defence" is antibody. Whilst MDA protects the young puppy, MDA can actually interfere with successful vaccination. This is because, although a vaccine is a modified harmless form of the disease, it is seen by MDA as an invader. MDA therefore assumes it's protective role and neutralises the vaccine.
Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the puppy respond to vaccination andther's role in providing protection.
When to give the first vaccination?
In general the earliest age for vaccination of puppies is between 6 and 12 weeks.
It is important to note that the primary course always consists of two or more vaccinations. This is because: -
- Timing for effective vaccination varies from puppy to puppy (because of unknown MDA levels)
- Some vaccines, such as Leptosproisis need to be administered twice in order to achieve high enough level of immunity.
Based upon local experience, the Veterinary Surgeon will advise you on the best schedule to adopt, but the aim will always be to provide your pet with the best possible protection.
Why give regular boosters?
As MDA in the puppy declines, so too does the protection produced as a result of vaccination, only more slowly as this is "active" immunity.
A dogs "active" immunity can be topped up in two ways:
- By exposure to disease.
- By means of a booster vaccination.
The first, goes without saying is an impractical way of ensuring continued immunity, especially nowadays.
Vaccines today, are very effective and have are remarkably high safety record, Millions of doses are used annually in the UK alone. The use of live, modified vaccines in particular have brought about levels of disease control, against for example Canine Parvovirus, that would have been almost undreamt of a little more than a decade ago.
Because of the incidence of these diseases has fallen as a direct result of widespread use of efficacious vaccines, the chances of an adult dog encountering them have also been reduced. Paradoxically, this is a dangerous situation for the pet which has not had a booster on a regular basis, because of the dog has not met all of the diseases on a regular basis, it may be unprotected. Sooner or later an encounter with a massive disease challenge could prove fatal.
What if my dog's booster has lapsed?
If you have forgotten to take your dog back for a booster, seek advice and guidance from the vet straight away, as the longer the delay, the more at risk your dog will be. The added benefit of regular boosters are the preventative health checks given by the Vet at the time of vaccination. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns about your pets well being.
If you have any further concerns about vaccination, speak to the Veterinary Surgeon or visit: www.noah.demon.co.uk, which is The National Office of Animal Health. They have two briefing documents available of dog and cat vaccinations.