SANDYMOUNT PET HOSPITAL
Hi everyone, I’m Miriam, one of the vets at Sandymount pet Hospital. I hope you and your pet families are all keeping safe and well. I want to reassure you our team are here to help during this challenging time so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have concerns about your pets health.
Many of our wonderful clients have volunteered to collect pets of those who are cocooning for their check up. When you phone will inform you about how we will conduct your appointment within health and safety guidelines. We only take pets inside now while owners wait in the car or at social distance markings outside. This is to prioritise your safety and that of our team so we all remain at work to look after your pets. Over the next few weeks we will be posting some top tips for pets and running competitions for amazing goody bags we have put together.!! Stay tuned and stay pawsitive, we will get through this together.
1. HEAT STROKE
The weather is extremely hot at the moment- imagine if you couldn’t take off you coat! Know the signs of heat stroke, it can happen in minutes and never leave a pet in a hot car. Take a moment to read more about heat stroke signalers and prevention >>
2. PETS AND COVID 19
Here are the most frequently asked questions about pets and Covid 19, so below is the infographic its clear and concise and also a minefield of information compiled by our colleague at ucd vet hospital.
Read COVID-19 & Animals - Frequently Asked Questions >>
We hope this answers any questions you might have about your pets and the virus.
Well done everyone, we’ve made through several weeks of upheaval. There is a little bit more adjusting to do now as we go forward.
Many pets have been enjoying extra cuddles and walks during the pandemic and it is likely that from now on there will be a little more home alone time for some. Some pets have even been a little overwhelmed to have us all at home, we are all different, many will adjust very well to the new routines but there are a few things to bear in mind for those who need help adjusting. Separation anxiety is something that some pets will suffer and it can lead to destruction behaviours.
1) Try to prepare your pet gradually for being alone. This may be harder now that restrictions have been eased more quickly.
You can practice even when you are at home, prepare to leave , grab coat and keys so the pet recognises you are leaving but just pop out for 5 minutes and back again, your pet will relax more during short departures and it can prepare them. It seems a bit cold but it is better to play it cool With greetings when arriving back, normalise it for them. Of course you can greet and treat them a few minutes after you are in. We love to see each other so this is hard. I would say this is especially important for new puppies.
2) Establish a good early walk routine so they will take time for a snooze when you are away.
3) Try not to leave them unattended for too long. A check in at lunchtime is recommended, maybe a neighbour could do this even if you can’t make it back and don’t forget our wonderful community dog walkers. Make use of technology if your pet is indoors you could have a monitor set up. If you pet is in the garden you need to be sure they are not spending all day barking to get back in while you are out!
4) Keep them occupied. Keep an eye on them. There are many puzzle toys on the market that pets can enjoy getting food from slowly. Please ensure you have supervised your pet with these first incase of any potential danger, choose the right size so they are not swallowed whole! And that they are not destructible etc. We sometimes smear these with a little soft food or peanut butter and freeze them so there is prolonged enjoyment! Make sure there are no peanut allergies in the household! We can forget this when preparing for pets. Even without these you can hide food, they may we’ll find it in 5 minutes but it is more fun. Remember not to over feed, this is part of the daily allowance!! Pets may enjoy having the tv or the radio on, there is even cat tv with fish swimming onscreen!
5) If you notice evidence of stress, contact us. If you come home to find evidence of anxiety with lots of things shredded you made need additional measures. For cats stress can be altered toileting behaviour or excessive grooming, don’t ignore these. There are many non drug calming aids we can recommend.
We are here to help and we know most pets are very adaptable so try not to over worry about these things. We can get through them. We have just been through the first phases of a pandemic, Well done everyone. We are all adjusting. Be kind to yourself, your pet and others you meet whose battles you may not know.
4. PET POISONING
Hi everyone, I thought you might like to hear a story with a happy ending. This week at Sandymount Pet hospital we were able to save two little wild kittens who had been trapped in setting tar. Luckily a man spotted them and brought them straight down to us. The first one on Monday was wedged deep in the tar, it was very difficult to remove but after a lot of hard work by the vets and nurses a little Tom cat emerged, he was very relieved to be able to move again and wasted no time getting down to the business of playing. The next morning his sister arrived in, she was not in such good shape, she was very weak and her skin was scalded, we needed to do a lot of resuscitation on her but I am delighted to report she made it through Against the odds and was reunited with her brother. I am pleased to announce they have also found a forever home.
This brings us on to the topic of substances around the household and neighbourhood that can be harmful to pets. A few years ago we lost two beautiful cat patients to poisoning, you will see them at the start of the article: Pet poisoning >>
5. PUPPIES & KITTEN CHECKLIST
Hi everyone, I hope you are all keeping well & enjoying the long summer evenings. There has been a pandemic of cuteness at Sandymount Pet Hospital with the arrival of many new baby puppies and kittens! I thought I would put a quick check list together:
1) Vet check and vaccination: It is always best to take a new arrival to the vets within 1-3 days. The reason for this is to plan the immunity program. Some breeders advertise their animals as vaccinated but this is not a full course and a full core vaccine program is needed taking at least two weeks to complete. Time can be lost here by waiting and we want to get your puppy safe to go out and about as soon as possible. They should not be on walks in public places until vaccination is complete.
2) Worming: This will be done every two weeks to 14 weeks of age and monthly thereafter. Puppies and kittens are often born with a burden of roundworm Passed through their Mother’s milk, they can be very serious for the animal but also for children, you might have heard of the threat of blindness to children in some cases. Good hand hygiene and regular working keeps the risk of this at bay. Remember, even if there aren’t children in your household, your dog/cat will pass poop in a public place so regular worming is an important public health concern.
3) Nutrition: Weaning from milks to solids and moving to a new home can often cause dietary stress and occasional loose faeces for a few days. Always communicate this to the vet so they can assess if it is just nutritional stress or an infection requiring further attention. Abrupt diet changes are best avoided as the gut needs time to adapt. If you can adjust slowly from what they have been eating to what you intend to go forward with. There is lots to consider here, the main thing is that you will feed a paediatric food be it puppy or kitten for the first year. Dry food is better for dental health than wet food as it sticks to the teeth. Commercial pet foods will be balanced so don’t over supplement them. A little boredom may set in after a few weeks and often requires a little preservation to continue but don’t give up, your pet will have better teeth in the long run and we would recommend brushing of adult teeth from 6 months onwards! We will do dental advice in a future segment. People often ask how much to feed, this depends on the age and weight of the pet and the type of food so we can’t issue a set gram amount without those details. Pups and kittens between 8-12 weeks will generally require 4 daily meals reducing gradually to three between 12-16 weeks and between 5/6 months they will manage well with morning and evening feeds.
4)Training : Simple commands can be achieved with lots of praise and a little food reward for puppies. Get your pet to come to his/her name and to sit for you. A crate can be a useful safe haven for a puppy in a busy household and can make it easier to establish routine for them. Remember they won’t be able to hold their bladder all night before 10 weeks, after that routine will help establish toilet training. Kittens have an instinct to dig and bury their waste so need little toilet training!
5) Pet insurance: It is really worth considering pet insurance for cases of injury or illness that come unexpectedly. The policy needs to be taken out before an illness occurs. They will have an excess and that is per condition so it is important to know about your cover. We would say insure your youngster at the very least for the first year because if something establishes within the year the insurance company won’t cover that condition. Young animals often eat objects that can get lodged in the intestines requiring major surgery! Their youth often puts them at greater risk of running off into traffic and getting orthopedic injuries again requiring major surgery. So all in all do make sure to pick up a policy with your pup.
6) Microchip and license: You will require both by law for dogs but we do recommend microchips for identification of cats as they like to roam! Remember to get your chip registered to the database so you can be phoned if they roam, the chips are not currently GPS enabled, they require your pet to be scanned, usually by a vet and then you are phoned so an id collar with your number is a good idea too.
7) Neutering: Neutering is an important population control measure and it can often help make a companion animal more manageable from a behaviour point of view though it is not a cure for all behaviours, training is your most important tool for that. Female will have a reduction in mammary cancers and womb infections while males will suffer less with prostate and testicular issues as they age if they are neutered young. Timing is generally around 6 months for smaller dogs and cats but 1 year to 14 months for larger and giant breed dogs.
Next week we will discuss older pet wellness. I hope that everyone stays safe and gets out for lots of nice walks.
6. OLDER PET WELLNESS
Hi everyone, today we are going to talk about older pet wellness. As you know pets age faster than we do so it may come as a surprise that we consider a smaller dog age 8 to be mature and for a giant breed that is old. Pets are living longer with modern medicine so it’s no surprise to find pets in their mid teens enjoying the park with their juniors and many well able to keep the pace.
Let’s discuss what the vet is looking for on the older pet health check.
We will ask you about how your pet is regarding eating and toileting. Appetite and thirst changes are indicators of many diseases of aging such as diabetes or kidney disease (common known cats). Changes to digestion may also be seen as a pet gets older the colour and consistency of what is passed tells us a lot about It is helpful to have an idea how many pints of water your pet generally drinks so we know if changes are a problem. Little leaks of urine are common in older girls dogs and we can treat that successfully so don’t suffer in silence. The male dogs suffer prostate disease too!!
Dental disease is very common in older animals. 70% of pets will have dental disease. We do recommend daily tooth brushing (we will go into detail on that next week) A mouth check will tell us a lot then we can recommend the necessary course of action. Pets will often continue eating with very bad teeth so you might want to look in the mouth at the level or tartar or bad breath present. Cats can suffer cavities that are very painful. Dental treatment in pets requires anaesthetic but there is no need to overly fear this. We commonly have older pets requiring anaesthetics for all sorts of reasons from tumour removal to tooth removal. There is lots we do to ensure your pet is safe. Pre anaesthetic blood tests can be done to identify organ health and that helps us decide the types of anaesthetic drugs we will use. We take other precautions such as using a drip to keep the pet warm and the organs perfused with under anaesthetic, constant monitoring by a veterinary nurse along with specialist equipment gives us a very good outcome. Some pets with heart murmurs may need teeth treated too, this is because both are a disease of old age, bad oral health can further compromise the heart and kidneys so don’t make the assumption that nothing can be done, we are here to help.
Mobility: slowly up or limping is often a symptom of arthritis in dogs, cats however cat experience more subtle signs, you may notice reduced grooming or reduced overall movements. We can treat arthritis. Neither the vet nor the owner wants the pet assigned to medications without good reason but we will tailor a program to suit individual needs. Arthritis management involves weight management and exercise management too! Drugs are only a help and sometimes joint supplements can help too.
Lumps and bumps: Always get lumps vet checked. Skin tumours are common in dogs and can be nasty, a simple fine needles test done consciously at our in-house lab can help us decide the course of action for lumps. Some lumps will be benign fatty lumps that need no more than monitoring. It is a good idea to have a mental map of your dogs lumps. Boxer dogs are very prone to nasty lumps so always get those checked promptly. I would also urge cat owners to have lumps check promptly as they tend to get more problematic lumps than dogs. Cancerous lumps can form deep in the abdomen too so the vet will feel the abdomen during checks.
Vision and hearing: both of these senses deteriorate with age. It is very important to check eyes to distinguish age related eyes changes from something more sinister. Nuclear sclerosis causes blueish appearance in dogs eyes and can look like cataract, it is important to know the difference. Even though vision and hearing reduce, dogs still manage well because of their keen sense of smell. Vision changes in cats are much more urgent as they can be due to blood press changes.
All pets will be fully checked at annual vaccination, for an older pet it is a good idea to upgrade to six monthly check as ageing is occurring at a faster rate. Screening blood tests are a good idea to help keep tabs on the internal performance of your furry friend.
The main point here is don’t suffer is silence, there are so many ways to help older pets to enjoy a good quality of life and for us in turn for us to enjoy their company for many many years.
7. DENTAL HYGIENE WITH YOUR PET
Hi everyone, today we will discuss the importance of looking after your pet’s dental health. We’ve all heard of dog breath but cats suffer from dental disease too! And did you know that three quarters of all pets over three years of age have dental disease. Traditionally it may not have been known that pets should have their teeth brushed but modern day pet care is very different, in those days many pets would have been fed table scraps and no less we know the benefits of feeding a balance commercial diet. We always recommend dry pet food over wet because the wet food sticks to the teeth promoting plaque build up and gum disease. The one exception I would point out would be indoor neutered male cats who tend to suffer with urinary issues as a group and we find wet food helps with hydration. We also recommend soft food for two weeks after tooth extraction but let’s rewind and try avoid getting all the way to extraction.
Can you imagine if we simply never brushed our teeth? Well the exact same process happens in your pets mouth. A plaque layer forms after eating, this is not visible but if left to mature it will turn into tartar which is the brown deposit seen on teeth. To prevent its build up we ideally need daily brushing to occur. There is good news and bad news here!! The bad news is it requires a little bit of practice and patience from you and your pet. Some pets will naturally object and you do need to be careful working around the mouth, especially with a very nervous dog or cat, you don’t want to risk getting bitten or scratched.
At the concept of just looking into the mouth first, lift the lips and reward them. Gradually introduce the brush. You can also use a finger brush or even a little rag. Rather than spending a long time brushing every surface as we do with human teeth, it will suffice to simple lift the lips and brush the side that you see, a quick gentle scrub each side should take no more than 1 minute and the job is done. You can build up your time and routine with practice. I brush my dogs teeth every morning before her breakfast. That routine is something she has come to know now and at age 8 her teeth are like new. I know it’s hard in a busy household to remember the pet's teeth as well but it is definitely worthwhile trying if you can.
Some pets will object more than other too, really persist at this with the youngsters. Sometimes it may help to swaddle your cat gently in a blanket on you lap and practice working on teeth. The rewards are huge. Daily dental care really can keep the dentist away. At Sandymount Pet Hospital we examine the mouth of every pet and can advise if intervention is needed. We do full mouth dental treatments everyday at the clinic and I would say dental health has improved greatly over the years. We require a short anaesthetic in order to complete the task and protect your pet’s airway. Full mouth cleaning and tooth assessment will alert us to exposed roots and infections. Unlike us pets will often continue to eat with sore teeth making it harder to know when there is a problem. Unfortunately advanced periodontal disease leads to loosened teeth which become painful and infected, these teeth often need extracting to provide comfort and cannot be saved. Fillings are rarely done in pets and require the use of special equipment. Cats get spontaneous cavities in their teeth called resorption lesions (nothing to do with sweets!) this can be very painful and requires tooth extraction. They also tend to suffer with gingivitis which can be difficult to control.
We almost forgot the good news! The good news is home dental care can significantly reduce and often eliminate future dental problems and it costs nothing! You don’t need fancy toothpaste, a wet brush will do but some people find meaty toothpaste can help the pet enjoy the process more. Never use human toothpaste, it contains xylitol which is highly poisonous to pets. If your pet suffers with gingivitis (mainly cats) we may recommend a special mouth paste which cleanses the mouth but this is for special cases. Dental sticks are okay but they don’t do as much as we would like and certainly nothing like brushing, as many of us know they are gone in a second so not really hanging around to clean teeth for very long, also be cautious of them in pets who tend to gain weight, pets who get digestive upsets and pets who might tend to get cross in the process of hiding them from other household members!!
All in all I cannot overstate the benefits and importance of regular tooth brushing, if you give it a go you will definitely see improvements that will last into old age.
Best of luck,
8. FEEDING YOUR PET
Hi everyone, I hope you are all keeping well as we make our way slowly back to a different world.
Today I want to talk about feeding your pet. This is a huge subject and with one enormous scope ranging for a regular healthy pet right up to a pet requiring a prescription diet for a medical condition such as pancreatitis. It is important to note that if your pet has a specific medical condition you should always take the advice of the vet who is taking care of them. If you intend make any changes to your pet's diet you should transition slowly over 1 to 2 weeks so they have time to develop the enzymes necessary to process that diet, otherwise a nutritional diarrhoea can result and you may unfairly brand that diet a disaster! We all associate wellbeing in ourselves and in our pets with a good healthy appetite. As pet lovers we like to see our pets enjoying their food. For us a dry commercial pet food can look so boring and sometimes a pet may appear to get bored and prefer to beg for what the humans are having which of course makes us feel bad! It's those puppy dog eyes, and the persistence!! We all know pets have special skills for getting us to listen even when they can't speak! We spoke last week about dental health and how dry pet food can help us to achieve. We spoke about special circumstances such as indoor neutered male cats who should get some wet food to increase their water intake a little to avert urinary problems. So it is easy to see that the veterinary community at large recommend dry commercial pet food. These are well balanced and adapted to life stages such as puppy, senior, overweight or extra active.
As for how much to feed? This is a question I get asked a lot and because the answer varies so much from pet life stage, to activity levels to breed etc the only clear advice can be to consult the guidelines on the packet. This is because every pet food weighs differently so a cup of one may be two cups of another etc. depending on how it is formulated. Growing animals or those with digestive problems may need several meals per day where as a regular healthy pet will do well with a morning and evening meal. I prefer to feed morning and evening in normal circumstances, there was a time when once daily feeding was considered the norm. It is likely however to have come from a time when pets did more free roaming and were not confined to the house for long periods. We need to take special care with late evening feeds for giant breed dogs as they risk getting bloat and a twisted stomach can be the result in an emergency. Some people use free feeding where the food is available all day, this is fine for a very active animal but generally it leads to gradual weight gain. Cats also much prefer fresh food and they really don't like their water to be beside their food despite the arrangement of many pet food dishes!. This comes from evolution in the wild, they would not eat their food beside watering hole because it would put them at risk from other predators who might take their food. Also they prefer shallow plates to drink from and not deep bowls so they can observe their surroundings while they drink, again, carried over from the wild.
Paying attention to natures ways in this regard can be of great benefit to us and yet there are times when we have improved on nature and learned from scientific research on how we can improve health outcomes and lifespans of our pets. On this subject I will discuss two recent trends to develop that are of some concern to the veterinary community. Firstly the use of raw food and secondly the grain free movement. We know that our pet's ancestors killed and ate raw meat to form most of their diet but we also know that those meats would be fresh and consumed immediately. We know that in the wild life spans are not equivalent to out pets today and the reasons being parasitism as well as gastrointestinal and dental injury from ingested bones etc. In recent years raw food seems to have gained popularity on a commercial level. There are strong opinions on this form those who uphold it but I must highlight important considerations and reasons why I do not recommend raw feeding. Raw meat and dairy can carry serious pathogens like e-coli, listeria and salmonella which can not only cause serious illness in pets but in people too. A pet eating a raw diet can infect the family by licking them as the bacteria and parasites are contained in saliva and faeces. Sometimes the pet may not even be unwell but can shed disease causing organisms. This is especially of concern if someone in the house hold falls into the category of being young, old, pregnant or immunosuppressed. There is the potential for cross contamination of utensils used for the preparation of raw food that further propagate the problem. The bottom line is there are no proven health benefits to raw diets but there are clear risks. Nutritional deficiencies, spreading of disease to humans and risk of injury form bones fill the book of evidence on this.
Another trend that seems to have flourished without an evidence base is that of grain free diets. Unfortunately some pet food companies have jumped at the chance to market this. We know that many humans suffer dietary issues with foods containing grain and gluten. This may be why it seemed to make sense when we see pets with itchy skin and diarrhoea suggesting underlying intolerances. Grains are actually uncommon causes of food allergies in pets and most pets with allergy are reacting to animal proteins. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in pets having been documented only in Irish Setter dogs and possibly Border terries but never in cats. The problem is further confounded by anecdotal evidence (a story where someone perceived an improvement) lack of simple tests and unfortunately a range of unreliable tests purchased from the internet. The most reliable way to trial for these intolerances is to preform a dietary elimination trial using only a hydrolysed protein for a period of up to 3 months. Currently researches are investigating the link between grain free diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs that are not genetically predisposed to this heart condition. While investigation is ongoing, diets low in protein, taurine and sulphur-containing amino acid precursors have been associated with taurine deficient DCM. Taurine is also an essential amino acid in cats and because it can only be found in animal based foods (meat and milk) is the main reason why cats cannot be vegan. They are known as obligate carnivores. Cats with taurine deficiency can develop DCM also.
If you are worried that your pet has a dietary intolerance consult your vet for advice. There are many other dietary issues that are beyond the scope of this article but again if your pet has a medical condition stick to the guidance of the vet who is taking care of them. Nutrition is a complex subject and for the most part a good commercial pet food diets will offer a balanced and healthy lifestyle for your pet.
9. HOLIDAYING WITH YOUR PET
Well, it’s looking like staycations are in order for this summer at least. I love going on holidays with my dog, let’s looks at a few considerations.
*Pet friendly accommodation is a little harder to come by in Ireland than the uk so make enquires early to void disappointment, some places might be flexible if you offer a cleaning fee.
*Some pets may be anxious in the car or suffer motion sickness. There are certain medications that can help with these symptoms but are only issues on a case by case basis, so speak to your vet to ask about the suitability of these. We don’t generally advise sedating pets for travel for safety reasons but in some circumstances a small amount of sedative gel, of suitable, may take the extreme stress away for all concerned.
This article is mostly aimed at staycation, but just to note: If you are planning of going abroad with your pet they will need a valid rabies vaccination (given 21 days before travel if it is their first vaccination rabies) a micropchip, and there may be regulation regarding a special parasite treatment schedule, it is very important to check this detail before preparing to travel, department of agriculture websites of the relevant countries will advise & indeed phone your vet. Certain countries have very stringent requirements and they may take many months to prepare for, missing steps in this price could incur hefty quarantine costs! Always double check with your vet. A pre-travel check is often required within 5 days of travel to ensure your pet is healthy and will be able to withstand transport to the destination.
*Make sure your pet is up to date with parasite treatments and vaccinations before you go, and indeed if they are staying at a kennel facility try to get these medications done at least two weeks before entry so the immune system has time to prepare. Be especially careful of ticks, they are a big problem for pet and human health in relation to limes disease, ensure your parasite treatment includes them and is given in time.
It is recommended to wash down dogs after muddy woodland walks to reduce chances of developing an unusual skin condition called Alabama rot. While rare, and there is lots we don’t know about this disease but it has been documented in Ireland. There is no need to avoid woodland, just take the precaution of a wash down to care of as much risk as we can seem to control. This is about being informed rather than unduly scared.
*When you are moving into your holiday accommodation please make sure someone is watching over the pet!! They will be excited and in new surroundings, they might run off exploring and could get themselves into harm!
*Google the number of local vet clinics just to have an idea if there was to be an issue with your pet while away, especially if they are on medication, get your prescriptions in order etc. Some vet clinics may not have the exact medication you need so try to plan ahead.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here but it goes without saying to be very conscious of cleaning up after your pet on holiday. This is what leads to a bad reputation for dogs at holiday homes. If walking your dog off lead just keep an eye on them regarding poop!
*put an Identification tag with your phone number on your pet and just double check that the microchip is registered to you (not the breeder as happens a lot!) Even if you haven’t got much time to prepare write you number in the collar!
*Pack your own pet dish and bed if you can, it will help them settle into a new home.
*Remember to take lots of photos, make the memories & you will have to cherish for a lifetime.
Bon Voyage !