Category: Uncategorized

Once upon a grass seed…

In the summer months we routinely see seeds embedded in between pads, in ears and even up noses. Not a week goes by without an owner phoning to report that their dog has suddenly starting to shake their head after a walk, or that they’ve noticed a swelling in between their toes that their dog just won’t leave alone.

Grass seeds have pointed ends that allow them to easily burrow into a dog’s fur becoming stuck, causing irritation, inflammation and even infection. The team have been keeping a tally this season, and we have so far removed 31 grass seeds.

We have however seen a few challenging cases of late, which proved more troublesome to remove and treat in general practice. We have had to refer these dogs to a specialist centre, and this lovely Springer Spaniel Tilly was in fact one of them! Read on to find out more about Tilly’s story…

Tilly’s Story

Tilly first presented to us at the start of July. She was struggling to chew harder treats and her mouth was very painful. She was prescribed some medication to make her more comfortable and to revisit if the symptoms persisted or worsened. Unfortunately, a few days later, Tilly was no better and she had now developed a swelling on the right side of her forehead above her eye (see pictured below).

Tilly was admitted for further investigations with Charlotte, the vet on surgery that day. Tilly’s eye was examined, but no ‘foreign body’ (a technical term for anything that gets in where it shouldn’t be) was found under her eyelids or around her eye socket. The inside of her mouth was able to be visualised safely whilst she was under general anaesthetic and Charlotte noticed an area at the back of Tilly’s mouth was producing discharge. Often in the presence of a ‘foreign body’, the body will have an inflammatory reaction, causing swelling, pain, heat, redness and discharge, which I’m sure many of you will have seen if your dog has had a grass seed in between their toes before. 

Charlotte went on to perform an ultrasound scan of the swelling above Tilly’s eye and noticed an abnormality of around 1.6cm in length behind the eye. Due to the location of the grass seed being so close to the eye, with a lot of important structures around, it was advised that Tilly go for an emergency referral to the ophthalmology team at Dick White Referrals for treatment.

Tilly’s eye was examined by an ophthalmology specialist, and thankfully her eye was not affected in any way. She underwent an MRI and ultrasound of the swollen area, which confirmed the presence of an abscess, likely due to a migrating grass seed. She was referred internally to the soft tissue department for guided removal of the grass seed by ultrasound.

Here is brave Tilly on the way home once she was discharged from Dick White Referrals, she was feeling a little bit groggy, but hopefully a lot more comfortable! She was restricted to short lead walks only, and had to avoid running and jumping for the next couple of weeks.

Thankfully, Tilly was a star patient and made an amazing recovery, loving life, her fur all grown back, and with her eye looking a bit more normal! It’s amazing the trouble one pesky grass seed can cause!

Christmas Gifts

This time of year is all about spreading love and festive cheer. The team wanted to say a big thank you for all your well wishes, cards and gifts, they are always much appreciated. If there was one thing our team would really love for Christmas, it would be a review if you’ve appreciated the service you have received from us over the years.

We were so touched by the reviews that came through to us earlier in the year and wanted to send a huge thank you to those that left us one.  For those that didn’t receive an email requesting a review or didn’t have time to leave us one, we would be hugely grateful if you would take a few minutes to leave us one now.

As a big thank you please accept this Christmas gift from us (PS please remember pets are for life, not for Christmas)

Amputee cat care

There are a number of reasons which may necessitate the removal of an animal’s leg. The two most common of these are severe trauma, for example after a road traffic accident, or as management of a leg cancer. As a general rule, cats cope far better with amputation than people imagine they will. Humans of course only have two legs, so losing one leg means a reduction to only one. Cats have four legs so losing one still leaves them with three.

Owners often assume that cats experience the same emotions as we do, this may not be true. However, we do know that cats are supremely good at adapting to new situations. Vets with the most experience of managing cats who have undergone amputation consistently report that these animals do not show any signs of an emotional disturbance. Most cats that have a leg amputated do so for relief of a severe, often life-threatening, illness. Almost invariably these patients have an extremely painful condition affecting the leg that is to be removed. In many cases the patient is immediately happier and more relaxed after amputation.

It is extraordinary how quickly most animals become mobile after amputation of a leg. Patients that have no other mobility issues, for example osteoarthritis, should be mobile within their kennel within 24 hours of the operation. Young cats can be expected to start walking on three legs after only 12 hours.

Following amputation your cat will usually stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. The veterinary team will need to examine the patient regularly to ensure the wound is healing properly and to provide appropriate pain relief. During this time the patient will make their early adjustments to being three-legged. Within three days of surgery most cats would be able to jog for 5-10 metres.

For two weeks after surgery the cat’s exercise will need to be significantly restricted to allow the surgical wound to heal. During this time, patients should be allowed to potter about a garden or have lead exercise for a maximum of 5-10 minutes at a time for toilet purposes. The cat will begin to adjust and to train their muscles for moving in a different way.

Once your cat returns home after amputation they will have a large shaved area, with a line, or lines, of stitches or staples where the operation was performed. Often there is substantial bruising under the skin where blood may have trickled during surgery. This is not painful, like a normal bruise.

Surgery of course would be painful if appropriate pain-relief was not administered. Your vet will probably prescribe a strong pain-killer, such as methadone, in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain-killers. These drugs will normally be given before surgery to stop pain developing and then are continued after surgery. Typically the strong pain-killer is given for one to three days while the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain-killer is given for one to two weeks and therefore is continued at home once the patient has been discharged from the hospital. In some institutions additional pain relief is also provided using a local anaesthetic in the surgery site before surgery and for one to three days afterwards. This adds even further to the comfort for the patient.

Patients whose pain relief strategy is well thought-out and well-managed are very comfortable throughout.

Phantom limb pain is a debilitating condition affecting some human amputees. They experience an extremely uncomfortable pain, which their brain tells them affects the leg or arm that is no longer present. Importantly phantom limb pain has never been reported in animals. Clearly we could not rely on animals telling us that they are experiencing phantom leg pain for a diagnosis to be made, but if cats were in pain after the operation they would show some signs of this.

Owners should not expect to have to perform any significant wound management. You should check the wound every day to look for signs of inflammation or soreness. These include redness, swelling, heat, discharge and pain. This is because there is a risk of post-operative bleeding or infection with any operation and prompt recognition of the signs of either of these can mean that the consequences for the patient can be minimised.

If you are concerned about the appearance of your cat’s wound you should make contact with your veterinary team. It is better to ask and to find that there was nothing to worry about than to leave something and then learn you should have acted sooner.

Some cats are far from active before amputation and this does not change after surgery. The only modifications that might be necessary for them to enjoy a perfectly good quality of life might be to simply ensure that their favourite bed is removed from the sofa and onto the floor so that they do not encounter difficulties getting into it.

More active cats may require a little more imagination on the part of their owner to ensure that they can still enjoy a high perch in the house or garden. In the immediate short term, a few weeks after surgery, stools or boxes can be used as steps to assist the cat in climbing onto a favourite spot on the bed or the lounge furniture. Once they are more agile, some owners will construct imaginative wooden ramps that might provide a safe route from the ground to a favourite perch on the roof of a shed in the garden for example.

In most cats exercise is restricted for the first two weeks after surgery. During this time they adapt perfectly well to being three-legged and by the end of the two weeks they would be able to move satisfactorily about a single floor of the house. Slim cats without other complicating factors, such as other injuries, will be able to navigate up and down stairs after two weeks. Obese cats take longer to adjust; this may in part be a motivation issue. Both for their own emotional well-being and for the health of their remaining limbs, weight loss is a very important factor in their further management.

There is no doubt that once a patient has undergone amputation, the leg on the other side of the body has to do the work of two. Your cat will need to adjust the way it stands and moves and this results in a degree of redistribution of weight-bearing. Muscle or tendon injuries are exceptionally rare in amputees. Obese cats do have an increased risk of suffering other complicating medical complaints such as diabetes mellitus. Weight loss is a critical part of the post-operative management of obese feline amputees.

There are some patients who are simply not good candidates for amputation. In cats one should give consideration to the impact that amputation would have on their usual lifestyle and whether this would cause a significant emotional disturbance. Some cats derive their only pleasure from sitting on top of the shed roof. If they cannot realistically be expected to do this again, amputation might not be appropriate.

Osteoarthritis is frequently listed as a reason for not performing amputation but there are exceptionally good medications for arthritis and in the view of this author, arthritis alone does not constitute a valid reason for choosing not to perform amputation, particularly since the conditions we are treating by amputation are typically intractably painful and this pain can be cured by a single surgical procedure.

In order for a cat to cope well after amputation they do need to be able to adapt to life on three legs. Cats with spinal problems are usually unable to do this. Obese cats and cats that have diabetes mellitus are not good candidates for amputation but this does not mean they should not have surgery if it is required. However, it is critical that the veterinary team and the owners in such cases appreciate the importance of weight control or diabetes management.

It is sadly true that cancer is one of the reasons for considering amputation in cats. Some cancers of the bones do spread (metastasis) prior to the diagnosis of the lameness and many are actually spread from other body areas. Surgery must not therefore be regarded as a cancer cure.

Hamsters: housing

Proper housing is a major factor in maintaining healthy hamsters. The psychosocial well being of your hamster must be a primary consideration. Hamsters can be housed within enclosures made of wire, stainless steel, durable plastic or glass. The last 3 materials are preferred because they resist corrosion.

Wood and similar materials should not be used to construct enclosures because they are difficult to clean and cannot withstand the destructive gnawing of rodents.

Many pet stores sell durable coloured plastic enclosures that include attached horizontal and vertical tubes through which the hamster can crawl for exercise. These are suitable enclosures for hamsters.

The enclosure must be built so the hamsters cannot escape. This is an especially important consideration because hamsters are proficient “escape artists”. In fact, once free of their enclosure, they are very difficult to find and rarely return to it.

A hamster free to roam the house is a real liability because it will chew and gnaw on electrical and telephone cords, and household furnishings.

The enclosure you provide must be free of sharp edges and other potential hazards, and it must be big enough to allow normal behaviour/activities. A good 20 square inches of floor area per hamster is recommended, and a cage height of at least 6 inches. Hamsters seem to do best when housed in enclosures with solid floors, relatively deep bedding and plenty of nesting material.

The enclosure should be easy to clean, well lit, and adequately ventilated. Bedding must be clean, non-toxic, absorbent, relatively dust-free and easy to replace. Shredded paper, wood shavings and processed corn cob are preferred bedding materials. Cotton or shredded toilet paper makes suitable nesting material.

Hamsters are primarily nocturnal (night-active), though they may exhibit relatively short periods of activity throughout the day. During their active period, hamsters eat and exercise.

Hamsters seem to especially enjoy exercise wheels and other activities. Plastic enclosures equipped with horizontal and vertical tube-tunnels are highly recommended for this reason. Hamsters seem to really enjoy running through them. They also enjoy tin cans opened at both ends and boxes with multiple openings through which they can crawl.

Hamsters are usually housed singly – sexually mature females must not be housed together because of their inevitable aggressiveness toward each other. Breeding females are larger than males and tend to be aggressive towards them. For this reason, males must be removed from the enclosure after breeding has commenced.

The frequency with which the enclosure is cleaned depends on its design, the materials out of which it is made, and the number of hamsters in it. As a general rule of thumb, the enclosure and all cage “furniture” should be cleaned and disinfected once a week.

The food and water containers should be cleaned and disinfected once a day. More than one set of containers should be maintained, and the soiled set should be washed in a dishwasher, if possible. Vigorous scrubbing of the enclosure and furniture with hot water and soap and a thorough rinse should be followed by use of a disinfectant.

Aggressive rabbits

Rabbits have a reputation for being cute and cuddly, and certainly don’t give an outward impression of being capable of aggression. However, aggressive behaviour towards people can be a common problem amongst domestic rabbits, and has many possible causes, with treatment aimed at improving the trust between an owner and the rabbit.