Month: August 2018

BVA-KC-ISDS eye testing scheme

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is a joint scheme between the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS). It was first set-up to help eradicate progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomaly (CEA) but now covers 11 inherited eye diseases in 59 breeds of dog.

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is the most popular inherited eye screening scheme in the UK and Ireland. Schemes in use in other parts of the world include those run by the ECVO (European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) and the OFA Eye Certification Registry.

The scheme was introduced to try to reduce the numbers of pedigree dogs affected by inherited eye diseases. Although the scheme was developed to test for inherited eye disease in pedigree dogs any dog may be tested.

Many of the conditions covered by the eye scheme can lead to painful and/or blinding eye conditions. Generally, dogs with hereditary eye diseases should not be used for breeding.

The scheme is updated on January 1st each year so it is important to check regularly whether new breeds or conditions have been added.

The routine eye test can be performed on any dog over the age of 12 weeks. It is important that the eye test is carried out prior to breeding and, because many of the eye conditions do not develop until later in life, it is recommended that actively breeding dogs are tested annually.

An additional test called gonioscopy is performed in those breeds at risk of primary glaucoma (high pressure within the eye). Gonioscopy can be performed from 6 months of age. Traditionally, the test was only performed once in a dog’s lifetime. However, because the condition can be progressive in the Flatcoated Retriever, it is now recommended every 3 years in this breed. It is likely that the advice for other breeds will change in time as more information comes to light about this disease.

Litter screening of puppies is also available under the scheme. This is best performed when the puppies are between 5-8 weeks of age. The litter screening looks for evidence of congenital hereditary eye disease.

The Panellists appointed by the BVA are vets with postgraduate qualifications who specialise in eye examinations (ophthalmologists). They are accredited on a regular basis to ensure they have the necessary experience and skills to perform the examination. Since they examine so many dogs’ eyes on a regular basis they are very familiar with all the possible appearances of eyes (whether normal or abnormal) and thus are best placed to perform the Eye Test.

The BVA provides a list of contact details for vets (Panellists) who are qualified to do eye testing in the UK and Eire. This list can be found on the BVA and the Kennel Club websites. You can make an appointment to see a panellists yourself – you do not need a referral from your vet. Alternatively, many breed societies organise eye testing sessions at dog shows. The cost of testing is fixed by the BVA and price lists can be found on their website.

As from January 1st 2010 permanent identification (usually microchipping, although permanent tattooing is acceptable) has been required for all dogs, other than Border Collies registered with the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), before they can be examined and certified under the eye scheme.

If your dog does not have permanent identification then it cannot undergo eye testing under the eye scheme. It is worth checking that your dog’s microchip is readable on a regular basis because, if it cannot be read by the Panellist, the eye test cannot be completed.

You will need to show your original KC or ISDS owner registration documents so make sure you take these with you. The Panellist cannot issue an Eye Test Certificate without checking and stamping these.You should also take along any previous eye certificates issued to your dog.

For the routine examination, drops need to be applied to dilate the pupils so that the back of the eye can be examined. The drops can take up to 30 minutes to take effect and you will need to wait until the eye test can be performed. The Panellist will examine your dog’s eyes with a range of ophthalmic equipment that allows them to examine in detail the structures within the eye.

In some breeds of dog that are at risk of developing glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) the vet will do an additional test before the routine examination and dilation of the pupil. This is called gonioscopy and involves placing a specialised lens onto the surface of the eye, following application of local anaesthetic eye drops.

The Panellist will tell you the results of the examination at the time of the test and you will receive a certificate of eye examination for each dog examined. The certificate consists of three sections. The first section records the details of the dog and owner, and requires an owner signature. The second section describes any eye abnormalities noted during the examination. The third section is a list of inherited eye diseases which will be ticked as either affected or unaffected for those known to affect the breed under examination. This section is only completed for dogs registered with the KC or ISDS and only for those with conditions currently certified under the Eye Scheme.

Your dog’s registration document will be stamped and signed by the Panellist. You will receive a copy of the certificate and additional copies will be sent to the Kennel Club, to your own vet and a copy kept by the ophthalmologist.

You are entitled to lodge an appeal against the results of an eye examination. This must be done in writing to the BVA within 30 days of the examination. You may then take your dog, along with the certificate in question, for examination by another Panellist (who will charge the normal fee for the eye test).

If the second Panellist agrees with the first, the appeal is deemed to have failed. In such a case, no further appeal is allowed. If the second Panellist disagrees with the first Panellist, the dog is referred to the Chief Panellist for further examination without an additional fee to the owner. The decision of the Chief Panellist is deemed final.

There are a growing number of inherited eye conditions for which DNA tests are available. An up to date list is included on the KC website (http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/14688/dnatestsworldwide.pdf). Many of these tests can be performed on material collected on a swab from the dog’s mouth, although others require a blood sample to be taken.

These tests are very helpful in breeding schemes, especially in the case of recessively inherited diseases as they are able to identify carrier dogs (i.e. those which do not develop the disease in question but can pass the underlying gene mutation to their offspring).

However, although these DNA tests are very accurate for detecting abnormal genes they are very specific. Each DNA test can only look for one condition whereas the eye examination covers all possible eye diseases and is critical in the detection of emerging inherited eye diseases. Thus, DNA tests will never replace the need for the eye examination.

Further information

Poisoning

Poisoning can occur if a poisonous substance is swallowed (solids or liquids), breathed in (gases) or absorbed through the skin (normally liquids). Poisons are substances that damage the cells in the body. In order to cause harm they must enter or come into contact with the body.

Many poisons are products we use every day and can be found in food, medications, household and garden substances. Accidental poisoning in dogs is usually caused by substances we commonly have around the house, e.g. human medications and pest control products.

Almost all cases of poisoning are accidental so the best way to prevent poisoning is to ensure that all poisons are kept out of sight and reach of your pets (and children):

  • Dispose of unwanted medicines safely.
  • Read the product label and follow the instructions for correct use.
  • Ensure lids are replaced correctly to prevent spillage if the container is knocked over.
  • Clean up drips and spills promptly.
  • Dispose of empty containers and waste food safely.
  • Put pest control products in pet-proof containers before putting them out.
  • Be vigilant when walking your dog to ensure it does not pick up any unusual things.

Younger animals are more likely to be affected as often chew strange objects.

In many cases of poisoning the owners are aware that their pet has eaten, or been in contact with, something unusual before signs of illness develop. You should be worried that your pet might have been poisoned if they suddenly develop severe clinical signs, or if they become ill with breathing difficulties, seizures or severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

Every poison produces different effects and a poisoned pet may show a number of signs such as:

  • Restlessness or drowsiness
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Salivation or drooling from the mouth
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Muscle tremors, twitching or seizures
  • Confusion, changes in behaviour or an abnormal reaction to sound or light
  • Hallucinations
  • Wobbly gait (ataxia)
  • Changes in gum colour to blue, pale or even very red
  • Unusual odours or smells (either on the breath or from contamination on the skin)
  • Bite marks – poison can result from a bite or a sting
  • Burns to the mouth or the tongue
  • Irritation or inflammation of the skin
  • Foreign material passed in the stools

A rapid response is critical in cases of poisoning. If you suspect that your dog may have been poisoned:

  • Protect your pet and remove it from the source of the intoxication
  • If you can do so safely, remove any suspect material from the pet’s mouth
  • Don’t let other people handle your pet (disorientated or frightened animals may become aggressive and other people may be contaminated with the poison)
  • Allow your dog to drink water, which may dilute ingested poisons
  • Contact your vet for further advice and be prepared to take your pet and the suspect material or product to the hospital

The sooner a poisoned animal receives treatment, the higher its chances of recovery. If you think that your pet has been poisoned then contact your veterinary emergency service immediately; your pet’s life may well depend on it. It is always better to phone in advance to warn the surgery that you are on your way. This will give them time to prepare everything they need and for you to check that there is someone available at the surgery to help you.

In most cases the best course of action is to get your pet to the veterinary surgery as soon as possible. However, in some cases you may be advised to give some immediate first-aid treatment at home. If your pet is already showing signs of poisoning do not attempt to make it vomit or drink anything but seek immediate veterinary care.

If your pet has a toxic substance on its skin or coat the worst of the contamination may be washed off to reduce further absorption. Protective clothing must be worn and only water should be used. Make sure you do not get contaminated in the process.

If a poison has been eaten in the last 2 hours it may be possible to remove it from the stomach by making the animal vomit. If your pet has swallowed a corrosive or petroleum-based substance, e.g. some solvent-based paints, some toilet cleaners, some drain cleaners, petrol, turpentine substitute (white spirit) do notinduce vomiting (as this may cause further damage to the throat if the substance is brought up). Instead wash the mouth and face with water and give milk or water to drink (within 10 minutes of your pet swallowing the substance).

It is only safe to make your pet vomit if it:

  • Is conscious
  • Is alert or only mildly depressed
  • Has an intact gag reflex, ie gags when you place your fingers at the back of its throat
  • Is known not to have ingested corrosive (caustic) or petroleum-based substance

Never induce vomiting if your pet:

  • Has already been sick
  • Is unconscious, very sleepy or depressed
  • Has eaten a corrosive (acidic or alkaline) product (highly corrosive products can do more damage if vomited up)
  • Has eaten a petroleum-based product (volatile products can do more damage if vomited up)

Do not try to make your dog vomit (unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet), particularly if the agent or timing of exposure is uncertain. If you are able to make your dog vomit or it has already vomited, collect a sample and take it to your vet in case it is required for identification of possible intoxicant.

Never give salt water to make your dog vomit; this is potentially very dangerous and can cause salt poisoning. Washing soda can be used on the advice of your vet – give as big a piece as you can get down the animal’s throat. Place the crystal over the back of your pet’s tongue so that it is swallowed. Your pet should vomit within 5 minutes – if not you can repeat this once. If your pet will not be sick do not keep giving further doses as soda crystals can themselves be poisonous.

Note: It is essential to use washing soda (soda crystals) and not caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) as this is very corrosive and will cause serious injury.

If you have any doubts – do not make your dog vomit.

On arrival at the veterinary surgery someone will assess your dog immediately and make sure that its condition is stable before any other treatments are instigated. Your vet will want to know:

  • If your pet has known access to possible poisons
  • If so, what poison – is a sample or container available?
  • When your pet had access to the poison – how long ago?
  • How much was eaten or drunk – how much is missing from the container?
  • Has your pet shown any signs of being unwell?
  • If your pet is receiving any medication or has any pre-existing medical conditions?

If you are able to take a sample of the poison or any packaging associated with it then this may help your vet to provide the best care for your pet.

One of the most common causes of accidental poisoning in dogs is owners giving human medication to their pet for pain relief. Never give medication to your pet unless instructed to do so by your vet.

Ibuprofen

Although this painkiller can be bought in any chemist for humans it is extremely toxic to dogs. Just one tablet can cause stomach ulceration, liver damage, kidney failure and death. It is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs.

Paracetamol

In overdose paracetamol cannot be broken down safely and toxins quickly build up to dangerous levels.

Slug pellets

The most common active ingredient in slug pellets is metaldehyde. Dogs often find slug pellets attractive and will wander around the garden hovering up pellets from treated areas. The poison causes excitement and seizures followed by depression and collapse. Avoid the use of chemicals in the garden if you have pets or confine your pets indoors or fence off treated areas.

Rat poison

Many rat poisons contain anticoagulants (such as difenacoum or bromadialone). Dogs often eat the poison directly but can also be poisoned by eating dead or dying rodents. Animals remain well for several days after eating the bait as the poison takes effect. Repeated small doses are more toxic than a single large dose. Signs include depression, weakness, breathing problems, and prolonged bleeding from any minor wounds or abrasions. Poisoned animals can bleed to death without treatment.

Cannabis

Dogs quite commonly eat cannabis, and although they can show signs of toxicity for several days, it rarely causes serious side-effects. Most affected dogs become excited and may salivate a lot. Sometimes affected pets will seem disorientated and may hallucinate. Just as in people, appetite may be increased.

Food stuffs (Raisins, Onions and Chocolate)

Pets can be poisoned by human foodstuffs and these poisonings can be fatal. Raisins (and sultanas, currants and grapes) cause damage to the kidneys, chocolate poisoning affects the brain and the heart, and onion poisoning can cause anaemia. In animals which are susceptible to these poisonings even a small amount (a piece of fruit cake, a few squares of dark chocolate) can have serious effects.

Adder bites

The only native venomous snake in the UK is the European Adder. Snake bites are most common in late spring and summer when the snakes are active. Dogs can become unwell very quickly after an adder bite with pain and progressive local swelling. Treatment often includes administration of antivenom.

Anti-freeze (ethylene glycol)

Antifreeze is palatable to dogs. The initial signs are very non-specific (vomiting, wobbliness/weakness, thirst) and are easily missed. These are followed by kidney failure, seizures and coma. Treatment with an antidote may be possible but only if started very soon after ingestion.

Toad poisoning

In the UK the common toad is relatively harmless but all toads have glands in their skin which secrete unpleasant substances. Animals that have put toads in their mouth show excessive salivation and may paw at their mouth. Usually the signs resolve without treatment (pets may appreciate having their mouth washed out with a hose). In more severe poisonings signs include weakness, limb swelling and seizures.

Heat stroke

We have all heard that ‘dogs can die in hot cars’ – the frightening thing is how quickly this can happen. A healthy dog can suffer fatal damage from heat stroke in only a few minutes in a car. The interior of cars can also reach damaging temperatures on days that do not seem very hot so great care should always be taken before leaving your dog in a car. Heat stroke also happens to dogs outside of cars. Whenever it happens it is a true emergency and veterinary attention must be obtained immediately.

A dog’s body temperature is normally maintained between 37.8°C / 100°F and 39.3°C / 102.7°F

In warm environments dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. If they cannot lose heat fast enough, their body temperature will rise. A rise in body temperature of just 3 degrees (to a temperature of 40.6°C / 105°F) can be very serious for your pet. If body temperature increases to 42.2°C / 108°F, the important organs like the heart, brain, liver and kidneys become damaged. Even immediate treatment and effective cooling can leave the dog with internal damage that may affect long term health.

Leaving your dog in a hot car is a sure way to bring on heat stroke as temperatures inside the car can rise to fatal levels within a few minutes. However, car temperatures can rise to dangerous levels even on days which appear cool. Whilst being locked in a hot car is an obvious cause of heat stroke dogs can be affected in other ways too. A dog left outside in the heat without adequate shade, or exercised in hot/humid conditions is also at risk.

Large dogs, especially those with heavy hair coats, understandably find it more difficult to lose excess heat and are more at risk of getting overheated. Brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses), e.g. boxers and bulldogs have inefficient panting mechanisms and may be more affected by environmental temperatures than other breeds.

Recognition of the early signs of heat strokes is very important. Initial changes include:

  • rapid breathing
  • dry mouth and nose (drooling can be seen later)
  • unsteadiness
  • fast heart rate
  • dull greyish or red gums
  • vomiting and diarrhoea are not uncommon

This is an emergency!

Even at the earliest stage of heat stroke, you may be fighting for your dog’s life. You must get your dog to a vet as soon as possible. These signs can be followed in minutes by collapse, seizures (fits), coma and death.

Do not delay in contacting your vet, but you may need to take steps to cool your dog whilst awaiting veterinary attention. Move the dog from the hot environment and start cooling by placing cool, wet towels over the back, neck and tummy/groin and also by applying cool water to the ear flaps and paws. Directing a fan onto the dog can also be helpful.

Do not use cold water or ice or overcool your dog – it is best to use water at cool tap water temperature.

Seek emergency veterinary help as soon as you can. Ask someone else to call the vet while you start to cool your pet.

Your vet will need to admit your dog for treatment. In the early stages the most important action is to reduce your dog’s body temperature. This can be achieved with cooling baths and fans and administration of cool fluids into the blood and cool enemas.

Once the body temperature has been reduced any additional problems caused by the overheating need to be addressed. Your vet will need to do many blood tests to monitor the function of organs such as the kidneys and liver.

Dogs that survive the initial few hours following over heating will often need to be in intensive care for many days. Clotting disorders are very common in the aftermath of heat stroke and your vet will want to monitor your pet closely.

Heat stroke is a very serious condition and sadly many dogs do not survive. However with prompt treatment some dogs will make a full recovery. Others may survive but may be left with permanent damage. Prevention is definitely the safest option!

Heat stroke is a very frightening condition and can kill a healthy animal in as little as 20 minutes. Prevention is your best protection but if you do suspect heat stroke in your dog then immediate veterinary attention is essential. If you have any questions regarding this or any other aspects of your dogs health please contact your vet for advice.

Fitting in dogs – an emergency?

If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious. They may show violent, rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not uncommon in dogs, but many dogs have only a single seizure in their lifetime therefore do not be unduly alarmed if you witness your dog having a seizure. Remember your dog does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.

The most important thing is to stay calm. Remember that your dog is not in pain or distressed during the seizure itself. The seizure is likely to be more distressing for you than your pet. Ensure your dog is in a safe place, i.e. not at the top of a flight of stairs and then do not intervene further or you may get hurt.

It is a good idea to have a plan that you can enact every time your pet has a seizure. If everyone in the family knows what to do in advance they will be less alarmed when a seizure starts. Print out the seizure plan and pin it in a prominent place in the house so everyone can access it in an emergency.

During the seizure keep notes as these may be helpful to your vet later on – write down the time the seizure started and finished and what your pet did during the seizure.

If your dog stops seizuring within 5 minutes allow them time to recover quietly. Immediately following the seizure your pet may show some strange behaviours and may be abnormal for minutes to hours after. If this is the first seizure your dog has had you should contact your vet and let them know. Your vet may ask you to bring your dog into the next routine appointment for a check and some routine blood tests. It is far better for your dog to recover quietly at home rather than be bundled into the car and carted off to the vet right away.

If your dog continues to have an active seizure as described above for more than 5 minutes or fails to recover fully before another seizure starts, or has repeated seizures within hours of one another, then you should contact your vet immediately.

Your vet will give some advice over the phone. If your dog has a history of seizures your vet may have given you medication to keep at home for emergency use. Some drugs (diazepam or valium) can be given per rectum or nasally (i.e. up the nose) and this can be given during a prolonged fit and/or after individual seizures if the dog is predisposed to severe clusters. If you have to give medication by mouth wait until your dog is fully recovered and never try to put tablets in your dog’s mouth while it is still dazed. Your dog may not be sufficiently aware to swallow properly and you may get bitten.

If your dog has more than 3 seizures in a day you should contact your vet for further advice.

If your dog is still having an active seizure after 5 minutes your vet will probably want to see it straight away. Always call your vet’s practice before driving there to be sure that there is someone on hand who can help your pet.

Immediately after a seizure your dog may be very confused and could show strange behaviour such as aimless pacing, wobbliness or a desire to eat and drink excessively. You must be very careful during this time as they can become aggressive.

Most of the time epileptic dogs recover perfectly well after a seizure. A very small number of dogs die as the result of an injury that has happened because of a seizure. In some cases, dogs do die during a seizure without any obvious explanation. Sudden unexplained death in epilespy (SUDEP) also occurs rarely in people affecting 1 in 1000 epileptics. Non-one knows how rare this is in dogs.

These directions will help you manage your pet in a safe way during and after a seizure.

Before Seizure

1. Write your vets contact number here so you have it to hand

  • Vets contact details………………………………………….
  • Emergency contact number………………………………..

2. Know where emergency drugs are stored.
3. Instruct all adult members of household how to administer these drugs correctly.

During Seizure

1. Ensure your dog is in a safe place and if necessary move them away from hazards such as the top of stairs.
2. Ensure that any other household pets are shut up away from the seizuring dog. Other animals can become distressed seeing a companion having seizures and may get hurt if they go to investigate. In some cases dogs will attack a seizuring companion.
3. Write down start and finish time of seizure. If seizure lasts more than 5 minutes call your vet for advice.

After Seizure

1. Keep other household pets locked away from seizuring dog until it is fully recovered.
2. Keep human contact to a minimum until pet is recovered.
2. Immediately after seizure dogs may be hungry, thirsty or need to go out to toilet.
3. Allow animal to fully recover in a quiet peaceful environment but you should expect that your dog may be restless or agitated and may move around a lot so it is important that you provide a safe environment for this.

Fever – is it serious?

Often when you put a hand on your dog it feels warm, particularly on a patch of bare skin. This is because the normal body temperature of a dog is higher than that in people. Body temperature is maintained within a fairly narrow range (between 37.8°C / 100°F and 39.3°C / 102.7°F) although it varies slightly during the day, with lowest temperatures recorded in the morning and the highest in the evening. Fever is simply an increase in body temperature and can be seen with many disorders in dogs.

Body temperature is kept constant even when the dog is exposed to wide changes in environmental temperature. Any change in body temperature is detected by specialised receptors (thermoreceptors) that send signals to the body organs that are able to lose or generate heat.

If the body temperature goes up, blood flow through the skin increases so that heat is lost from blood flowing near the surface of the dog. In hot conditions the dog will pant and seek out a cool place to lie.

When the environment is cold shivering occurs (because muscle activity increases heat production), dogs curl up in a ball and their hair coat becomes erect to trap warm air against the skin.

Since body temperature is so closely controlled in the normal dog a fever is an indicator that something is wrong. In some diseases short fever ‘spikes’ occur (where the temperature is suddenly raised for a short period of time only to drop to normal and then rise again later). In other diseases persistent fever occurs and the temperature is always above normal.

A dog with a fever is usually depressed and may not want to eat but short-term moderate fever does not do any permanent damage to the body. If the fever gets very high (above 41ºC / 105.8°F) body tissues can be damaged and it is important to try to bring the body temperature down. Soaking the coat with cool water and using fans may help but veterinary advice must be sought immediately.

Fortunately it is very rare for body temperature to rise this high and such high temperatures are more often the result of heat stroke or serious seizures (fits) than infections.

Fever is caused by the action of ‘pyrogens’ – substances which change the level at which the body temperature is maintained. Once the ‘normal’ body temperature has been reset, the animal now tries to keep body temperature at a higher level. Pyrogens include bacteria, viruses, toxins, some drugs and natural substances released by the body in response to inflammation.

In many cases a moderate fever can be a good thing. Bacteria may not grow so quickly at higher temperature and so raising body temperature gives the dog a better chance of dealing with the infection. It is not always wise to suppress a fever without trying to find out what has caused it, and it is always better to try to treat the underlying cause if possible.

If you suspect that your dog has a fever you can check their temperature to be sure. Digital thermometers are easy to use and fairly reliable. If your dog’s temperature is high check it again a few hours later (if the temperature rises above 40ºC / 104°F or is persistently higher than normal contact your vet).

Occasionally a falsely low temperature reading is recorded if the thermometer is accidentally inserted into faeces in the rectum – if you think this might have happened check the temperature again after your dog has just passed a motion.

  • Turn on the thermometer (usually by pressing the button on the side).
  • Dip the end of the thermometer into vasoline or similar lubricant.
  • Lift your dog’s tail gently and slowly insert the thermometer into the rectum.
  • Keep the thermometer in place until a steady temperature reading is recorded (most digital thermometers will automatically ‘bleep’ when temperature has been recorded).
  • Remove the thermometer and read the temperature displayed in the small window.
  • Turn off the thermometer and wipe clean before storage.
  • Record the time and date that the temperature was recorded.

Most fevers in dogs are caused by infections of some kind. Body temperature usually returns to normal spontaneously or with the help of antibiotics to control the infection. In some cases fever persists and despite simple tests no obvious cause of the raised temperature is found – in this case the condition is given the name Fever of Unknown Origin or FUO. There are many different diseases in which the only abnormal finding is a fever.

If your dog’s temperature remains high after a few days of treatment your vet may want to undertake further tests to try to identify the cause of the problem. Investigation of an unexplained fever will usually require blood samples, X-rays, and ultrasound, but there may be many more tests that need to be run.

Some tests will have to be repeated a number of times in order to confirm or rule out particular diagnosis. Unfortunately investigation often continues for several weeks, may cost many hundreds of pounds, and there is no guarantee that a specific diagnosis will be found. However once certain conditions have been eliminated from the checklist it may be possible to try medications to reduce the fever even if the diagnosis is not known.

Never give medications to your dog without veterinary advice because you may mask the signs of a more serious disease and make it harder for your vet to find out what is going on, and many human drugs can be toxic to pets unless used correctly.

In some dogs with unexplained fever the fever may resolve without treatment but may then recur months or years later, again with no apparent cause.

Emergencies – what to do

Immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for an injured dog following all but the most minor of accidents. Getting your dog to your vet (where all the necessary equipment is on hand) is quicker and gives the dog a better chance than calling a vet out to the scene of the accident. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is – don’t panic! – this could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.

If it is your own dog that is injured then you should take it to your own vet if possible. However, if the incident occurs when you are away from home you will need to find the nearest veterinary practice. If there are no passers by or local residents to help, find a telephone box and call directory enquiries or ask at the closest police station, post office, village shop, etc.

Whether you are near home or away, always telephone the veterinary surgery first as many practices have branch surgeries which are not open all day every day. Alerting the practice staff means that they can give important advice and are ready to deal with your dog immediately upon arrival, which may greatly improve its chances of survival.

Any dog in pain is likely to be unpredictable and aggressive. If it can still walk it will probably try to run away and hide. A proper travelling box of plastic or fibreglass is the best way to transport small dogs securely and prevent them escaping.

However, an animal which has collapsed or has been involved in an accident (and so may have spinal injuries) should be moved as little as possible to avoid causing further damage. A sheet of wood, heavy card or even a blanket held taut can serve as a makeshift stretcher. The dog should be lifted gently on to the stretcher and put carefully into the back of the car.

If the vet clinic is within easy walking distance, or if there is no way of getting there by car, it may be possible to carry a small dog with only minor injuries. However, it is very important to avoid getting injured yourself as a dog bite can be serious. Wrapping the dog in a blanket or coat will help to restrain it. If a dog is small its body should be held with one arm, supporting its weight with your forearm, while using the other hand to hold it firmly but gently beneath the chin. Two people will be needed to lift larger dogs securely.

The aim of any first aid is to keep your dog alive and comfortable until it can receive proper veterinary treatment. The most important tasks are to ensure that your dog can breathe comfortably, to keep it warm and to control any bleeding.

If the animal is unconscious, check its mouth for any obstructions such as chunks of food and pull the tongue forward. Be very careful not to get bitten while your fingers are in its mouth. Wrapping the animal in a blanket will prevent it losing body heat, but if no suitable material is available newspapers or kitchen foil, etc may be used instead.

Serious bleeding is more likely to occur inside the dog’s body and will therefore be invisible. Paleness in the membranes around its mouth and eyes will show there is a problem. Bleeding from a skin wound should be minimised by applying a pressure pad with a bandage and cotton wool. A tourniquet may help stem the flow of blood from an injured limb or tail. However, unless someone has some training in first aid, the injury may be best left alone until the dog arrives at the veterinary surgery.

Any accident or injury which threatens the dog’s life will constitute an emergency but three possible problems are:

Road accidents

If you see a dog hit by a car and it is still lying in the road the immediate job is to prevent it from being run over again. Despite the risk of causing further damage, the dog should be moved to a safe place although avoid putting yourself at risk (remember that it may be difficult for drivers to see you at night). Approach the dog slowly and deliberately to avoid scaring it even more.

Not all road accidents are witnessed but if you see a dog which is limping, dishevelled, possibly with oil marks on its fur it may have been in such an accident. It may have suffered severe internal injuries and need urgent veterinary attention.

Poisoning

Sudden attacks of violent vomiting and/or diarrhoea, dribbling from the mouth, staggering and sudden collapse are all possible indications that a dog has been poisoned. If you believe that you know what the dog has eaten, it may help to take the packet, a sample from the plant, etc. with you to the vets.

If you do not know what caused the problem, scrape a sample of vomit or diarrhoea into a jar and take it for tests. Keep the animal warm and quiet until you can get it to a veterinary surgery.

Burns and scalds

The damage caused by fire or hot liquids can be reduced by soaking the wound in plenty of cold, clean water to cool the skin as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to treat the injury with ointments etc.Get the dog to a vet as quickly as possible since delays can increase the pain and the risks from shock and loss of bodily fluids.

To prevent unnecessary suffering in animals, it was made illegal many years ago for unqualified people to carry out veterinary treatment. Therefore, dog owners can only carry out first aid on their animals to save life or prevent further injury until the patient can be cared for by a vet. However, it is sensible for a caring dog owner to keep a first aid box at hand to deal with minor scratches etc or to save time in a genuine emergency. This could contain:

  • a range of bandages and dressings of different sizes
  • a blanket
  • a length of soft cord
  • scissors
  • disposable gloves.

Unless instructed by your vet, it is not advisable to treat wounds with ointments or TCP as dogs will often lick off anything applied to the skin and can make themselves ill swallowing distasteful substances.

Ear disease in your dog

Ear disease is quite common in dogs and you should make ear examination part of a weekly health check for your pet. If your dog’s ears look red or sore on the inside, if there is a smell coming from the ears or if your pet is shaking its head excessively then contact your vet for advice. Ear disease can quickly take hold and is unlikely to get better without treatment. Ear disease left untreated can cause permanent damage to the ear canals and make your pet more likely to have further problems in the future.

A dog’s ear is quite a different shape to ours. Humans simply have a horizontal tube that runs straight from the side of the head into the inner ear (auditory canal). In the dog however, the outside opening of the ear canal is high on the side of the head. The canal runs vertically down the side of the head and makes a sharp right angle into the inner ear. Additionally, some dogs have an ear flap which can partially cover the canal opening. As a result, the ear canal can become very hot and sweaty.

There are a variety of things which may irritate your dog’s ear. Foreign bodies (usually grass seeds) can get stuck in the ear canal and infections may develop. There is even a type of mite which lives inside the ear canal. Often it is difficult to find the original cause of the ear disease but because your dog’s ear is itchy, he scratches at it and sets up an infection.

Ear disease rarely goes unnoticed when it is severe. Your dog will probably shake his head from side to side, and may be forever stopping to sit down and scratch his ears or rub the side of his head on the ground. Sometimes a dog will shake their head so much that they burst a blood vessel and develop a swelling in their ear flap – a haematoma. If this happens your dog will probably need an operation to drain the swelling. In many types of infection there is a smelly discharge or the ear canal may be full of black wax. Sometimes, dogs with sore ears will just sit with their head tilted to one side.

Even if your dog has repeated problems with his ears there is no guarantee that each episode is caused by the same thing. It is very important that your vet looks inside your dog’s ear with an instrument called an otoscope, to check for damage deep within the ear, and to look for foreign bodies such as grass seeds.

The inside of the ear is very sensitive and many dogs will not let your vet do this unless they have been sedated or even anaesthetised. Failure to remove a foreign body can result in permanent damage to the ear.

Once ear disease starts your dog will need some treatment to stop the irritation. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the problem. Obviously a foreign body will have to be removed, and specific treatment may be required for mites or nasty infections. Your vet may need to take samples from your dog to decide which is the best treatment to give.

Your vet will probably prescribe ear drops and possibly also some tablets. However, unless the ear is clean the ear drops cannot work. It may be necessary for your vet to admit your dog to the hospital and flush out its ear canals before treatment starts. In less severe cases, your vet will show you how to use an ear cleaner on your dog.

Always make sure you follow your vet’s instructions carefully. You must complete the treatment course even if the ears seem to be much better within one or two days.

No! Never put anything into your dog’s ear without first consulting your vet. Even if the drops were prescribed for your dog in the past they may do more harm than good on this occasion. Many types of ear drop ‘go off’ once they have been opened, or it may be that the ear problem is caused by something different this time. Remember that ear disease is very itchy and can be very painful – you must always seek veterinary treatment sooner rather than later for the sake of your pet.

It is unlikely that the ear disease will get better on its own. The longer you leave it before starting treatment the harder it becomes to clear up the irritation. Each time ear disease develops, more damage is done and eventually the walls of the ear canal may become thickened. This makes further infections more likely as fresh air cannot get to the bottom of the ear canal. When ear disease keeps coming back, surgery may be needed to remove part of the wall of the ear canal so that treatment can get to the site of infection.

Unfortunately some animals are just more prone to ear problems than others. Dogs with long dangly ears like spaniels seem to have particular problems. This is probably because it is difficult for air to circulate in the ear canal. The ear becomes hot and sweaty, providing the ideal breeding ground for bugs. These types of dogs often have a lot of hair growing up the ear canal and this can become matted with wax and ear drops making the problem worse.

Dogs which spend a lot of time in water may also get regular ear infections. The water in the ear canal allows some bugs to grow more readily than normal.

Also, dogs with allergies frequently have recurring ear problems. The lining of the ear is like the skin on the rest of the body and can become itchy and inflamed in an allergic dog.

Unfortunately it is impossible to prevent ear disease coming back in some dogs. In fact, if your dog has had one ear infection, it is highly likely that they will have repeated bouts. You should check your dog’s ears regularly and contact your vet if the ears become red or sore looking.

Regular ear cleaning can be helpful in removing debris and wax within the ear, but excessive cleaning may damage the inside of the ear and make infection more likely. Unless advised otherwise by your vet, clean your dog’s ears about once a week. If your dog has hairy ear canals the hair should be plucked to allow good ventilation.

In most cases of ear disease the symptoms will clear up within a few days of treatment starting. Unfortunately this is not the end of the problem. It is highly likely that the problem will come back at some stage in the future and you should be on your guard for it. If the problem recurs, seek advice from your vet as soon as possible because if the disease is allowed to go untreated for any length of time, permanent damage may result.

Exercise – for a healthy, happy dog

All animals need exercise to be happy and healthy. Exercise improves general fitness levels and helps to prevent obesity. If your dog isn’t able to work off their energy by exercising outside, they may do so inside! Taking regular exercise together will alleviate boredom and also strengthen the bond between you.

The amount of exercise required to satisfy your dog will depend on your dog’s age, breed and health. A puppy needs less exercise than an adult dog and too much exercise in a young puppy may damage the developing joints.

Some breeds need more exercise than others, spaniels, for example, have very high energy levels and can become difficult to manage in the house if they cannot burn off some energy. Toy breeds, bred for companionship, often have much lower energy levels.

Generally, if your dog has very high energy levels, it may need up to 30-60 minutes of exercise 2-4 times a day whereas dogs with low energy levels may be satisfied with only 10-20 minutes 1-2 times daily. Most dogs fall somewhere in between these.

Although regular exercise will help to keep your pet active for longer, inevitably as dogs get older their ability to exercise will decline. Take note if your dog seems unable to complete their usual exercise regime, if they are lagging behind on walks, or seem more out breath than normal. These can be signs of other problems rather than just old age so always visit your vet if you are concerned – there may well be a simple solution to resolve the problems and allow your pet to fully enjoy their walks again.

Exercise should be varied – your dog will enjoy a walk more if the route is varied and if you add some games and challenges. A ball or Frisbee will provide a fun and challenging activity for your dog but avoid throwing sticks as the wood can splinter and sharp pieces of wood can damage the throat or stomach.

Some dogs prefer sharp bursts of exercise, e.g. terriers, and others e.g. pastoral breeds enjoy canine sports. Some breeds of dogs such as pointers need wide open spaces where they can roam in order to burn off energy; others such as retrievers often like to stay closer to their owners but may like to romp and play with other dogs. Contact the Kennel Club – www.thekennelclub.org.uk – to find out about your dog’s instinctive exercise preferences.

Dogs should be allowed off leash only in safe areas where regulations permit but make sure that your dog is well-trained and you can be sure it will come back when called.

Young puppies only need a small amount of exercise (a few minutes at a time to start with). Exercise can be built up to adult levels as the puppy matures and this will vary from breed to breed.

Dogs need regular exercise, whatever the weather conditions, and although some dogs may show reluctance to go out if it is cold or raining, once out they will usually enjoy the walk. Some breeds of dog have unsuitable coats for certain weather conditions. Breeds such as whippets and greyhounds do not have particularly warm or weather proof coats and these breeds definitely appreciate being able to wear a waterproof coat in winter. Dogs designed to live in cold climates such as malamutes can find hot weather quite distressing.

If the weather is very hot do not exercise your dog during the middle of the day – try to take them out in the cooler parts of the day and stay in the shade where possible. Avoid giving your dog vigorous exercise (such as running or chasing after a ball) immediately after mealtimes.

Never force your dog to take exercise that leaves it exhausted, struggling to breathe or stiff. If your dog is not fit you should start with a gentle exercise regime and gradually build up the time and speed of the exercise at a rate that your dog can tolerate. Some breeds of dog (particularly those with short faces such as pugs and Pekingese, boxers and bulldogs etc.) may find it difficult to breathe at rest let alone when they are asked to exercise. If your dog has particular medical or physical problems, ask your vet for advice on an appropriate exercise programme.

The benefits of exercise to dogs are similar to those in people. In addition to helping to keep your dog fit and healthy, regular exercise is fun and stimulating for your pet. Exercise can reduce the risk of undesirable behaviours associated with boredom such as digging, excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity. The shared experience of walking and playing with your dog will help to build confidence and trust between you. After exercise your dog will feel more relaxed and sleepy when at home. Walking with your dog will also make you fitter and gives you a chance to unwind.

Exercising your dog does not have to be all about walking. Some people like to take their dogs with them when they are jogging, roller-skating or cycling. If you jog with your dog on a leash, be careful not to overestimate his abilities and go too far. If your dog is stiff, sore or exhausted for hours after exercise, scale back next time.

If your dog forges ahead, pulls to the side or lags behind, this can result in you constantly pulling on the leash which can damage your dog’s throat so you will need to teach your dog not to pull on the leash.

Some breeds of dog are natural swimmers but it is best not to allow your dog to swim in rivers with strong currents, deep water or areas where it may not be easy for them to climb out. Dogs can be fitted with a canine life vest or you can use a long nylon lead to prevent your dog swimming too far out.

Canine sports such as agility, flyball etc. can bring a whole new world of fun exercise and competition for you and your dog. To find out more about the various activities that you and your dog can take part in, visit http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/activities/.

Owning a dog is a big commitment in so many ways, but with the huge variety of dog types to choose from there is no excuse for not finding a pet that suits your lifestyle. Before getting a puppy consider what its exercise needs will be and whether you are able to fulfil these for a lifetime. The Kennel Club and dog breeders are ideally placed to advise you on the exercise requirements of your chosen breed.

Complementary therapies

Some forms of alternative or complementary medicine such as osteopathy and physiotherapy are widely used in veterinary medicine alongside conventional treatment. However, owners of dogs and other small animals are increasingly looking at other alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy to help with a wide variety of common complaints.

Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing, likely to have originated in Tibet or India but developed extensively by the Chinese. It is one of the oldest therapies in the world and is essentially the stimulation of specific points on the surface of the body, either by using needles, laser or local pressure (acupressure).

The Chinese recognise that these points have a direct relationship to some of the main internal organs and with the muscles, nerves and skeleton. These points lie on specific energy channels called meridians which link all the points associated with a particular organ together. Stimulation of the points results in physiological changes which can help resolve illness, relieve symptoms and change body energy, allowing it to flow more freely, in effect re-balancing the body. Acupuncture is also used to diagnose and prevent disease, as well as treat symptoms.

Conditions in small animals that respond well to acupuncture include back and neck pain (including disc prolapse), muscle spasm, arthritis (DJD), lameness issues, injuries in general, nerve paralysis and nerve injuries, urinary incontinence, weakened immune system, lick granuloma as well as support for all the major organs of the body.

In the UK, only vets can perform acupuncture treatment on animals as the use of needles is an invasive procedure which, by law, only a vet is permitted to perform. If anyone other than a vet gives an animal acupuncture treatment they are committing a criminal act. Vets who perform acupuncture are properly trained and, ideally, should be members of the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncture (ABVA).

Useful website:

  • Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists – www.abva.co.uk

Herbal medicine is essentially the art of using plants to heal. It is not a new form of therapy; in fact it is an ancient system of healing which is undergoing somewhat of a revival in the light of modern analytical methods and new-found knowledge and understanding of exactly how plants work.

Practical knowledge of herbal remedies was once ingrained in folklore and backed up by scant evidence of efficacy, but now many plant based medicines can be prescribed backed up by a sound knowledge of plant chemistry and botanical therapeutics, which can explain how plants are able to interact with the body allowing it to heal. We now know that plants are complex mixtures of compounds which support and augment each other in helping to resolve a particular health problem.

Herbal medicine has a worldwide presence, not only as represented by the use of healing plants in Western culture, but as being an integral part of Indian Ayurvedic medicine and combined with acupuncture as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. In recognition of the growing importance of this type of treatment, herbal medicine is more often referred to by a much more appropriate term – phytotherapy.

Herbal remedies for domestic animals are widely available commercially and sold as nutritional or food supplements. However, an increasing number of vets are undertaking training, and using herbal remedies within their practices. So, for more complex health issues, or where a customised or individual prescription is needed, owners are urged to seek qualified veterinary advice.

Useful websites:

Homeopathy is a form of natural medicine that has been in regular use worldwide for over 200 years. Based on a principle that was discovered by the Greeks, and developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century, it is based on the principle of “like cures like”.

Using infinitely diluted medicines it seeks to address the patient as a whole on a constitutional, historical or pathological basis. By carefully matching the presenting signs and symptoms to a remedy, homeopathy aims to gently ease or cure signs of illness by working energetically through the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Currently the mechanism by which homeopathy works is not understood, although ongoing research suggests that it is linked with quantum physics and the ability of water molecules to remember or store energetic vibrational imprints.

Homeopathy can be used for a wide range of conditions in small animals, including arthritis and lameness, skin problems such eczema, dermatitis and allergies, recurrent ear infectionsepilepsy, behavioural problems, digestive problems such as diarrhoea and colitis, liver, bladder and kidney disease as well as chronic conditions affecting many other areas of the body.

In the UK, vets who practice homeopathy are registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and must retain their professional membership of this body in order to practice. Ideally, they should also be registered with the Faculty of Homeopathy and have undergone suitable training. It is illegal for anyone to treat animals homeopathically if they are not a qualified vet.

Useful websites:

This evidence-based discipline is used to deal with the assessment and treatment of a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders. It can also be applied to the rehabilitation of animals after surgery or injury as well as in a preventive role.

Physiotherapy can help animals suffering from a wide range of conditions, including back pain, sprains and strains, injuries, gait abnormalities, reduced performance and a number of other conditions, such as changes in behaviour that can be linked with these problems. It can be used to improve the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system and in rehabilitation after surgery.

Techniques employed using manual therapies include manipulation, massage and mobilization, as well as machine based treatments such as laser therapy, ultrasound, pulse magnets, H-wave, shockwave, spa treatment and hydrotherapy.

In the UK, a veterinary physiotherapist will have undergone several years of training with a recognised school of physiotherapy to become a ‘chartered physiotherapist’. Animal physiotherapists must see practice with veterinary practices and become a member of either the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT), or the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (NAVP), to be able to treat animals.

A code of professional conduct for animal physiotherapists has been agreed between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, and they are bound by the Veterinary Act. However, non-chartered physiotherapists, i.e. people that have no formal training, are still allowed to use the title ‘physiotherapist’, so be sure to check the qualifications of any therapist you intend to use.

Useful websites:

  • Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy – www.acpat.org
  • National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists – www.navp.co.uk
  • Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists – www.irvap.org.uk
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy – www.csp.org.uk

Osteopathy is an established science and system of healing using manual techniques, in order to remove tension and restriction and encourage structural and physiological harmony. Treatment is aimed at improving mobility and reducing inflammation using gentle, manual osteopathic techniques on the musculoskeletal system, i.e. joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Osteopathy is useful for a number of problems, including loss of mobility, joint, neck and back pain, muscle stiffness and to help recovery from injuries. Veterinary osteopaths are trained to recognise and treat many causes of pain with their hands, using a variety of different techniques, including soft massage, stretches, and various joint movements.

By law, an osteopath will need to get permission from your vet to undertake any treatment, and you should always consult your vet before having your animal treated. It is an offence for anyone to treat your pet without referral from a vet first. Many insurance companies will cover osteopathic treatment but only if the animal has been referred by a vet.

Always make sure that the osteopath you are going to use is a qualified therapist and has the appropriate insurance to allow them to practice.

Useful website:

Chiropractic is a healthcare discipline using manual techniques that emphasise diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, in particular the spine. It focuses specifically on the biomechanical dysfunction of the skeleton, muscles, tendons and ligaments and its effects on the nervous system and general well-being of the whole body.

Chiropractic is useful for treating chronic musculoskeletal disorders, e.g. lameness, tension and stiffness, and pain in general; it is also used in a preventive role to maintain fitness and soundness, and to enhance general well-being.

Currently, it is only possible for vets and human chiropractors to become qualified veterinary chiropractors. You should always check that a practitioner has recognised qualifications before you allow them to treat your animal.

Useful websites:

Radiotherapy for your dog

Pets today are healthier and, in general, living longer than ever before. However the increasing numbers of ageing pets mean that they are at increasing risk of developing cancer later in life. Radiotherapy aims to give a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells (doing maximum damage) whilst minimising the dose to the rest of the body.

Radiotherapy uses radiation (like a powerful type of X-rays) to damage and destroy cancer cells. The radiation can be administered in a number of ways but when it contacts cells it causes permanent damage. Most commonly radiation is delivered from an external source for a short period of time on a regular basis (external beam therapy). Radiation delivered in high doses can do damage very rapidly so a short exposure to the radiation beam will damage the cells which die off over the next few days.

The aim with radiotherapy is to give a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells (doing maximum damage) whilst minimising the dose to the rest of the body.

It is quite expensive to have radiotherapy and you will probably have to travel to a specialist centre to get treatment so your vet will not recommend the procedure unless they think it is likely to help in the treatment of your pet.

Cancers can be treated using surgery, drugs (chemotherapy), radiotherapy or often a combination of these. Each type of cancer is best treated in a particular way and if your vet has recommended one form of treatment it is likely that this is the best option for your pet. However, if you are concerned about the treatment then discuss your worries with your vet.

Radiotherapy is usually given as a course of treatments. It is very important that all treatments in the course are given at the right time so make sure before agreeing to treatment that you can take your pet for every session. The damage to cancer cells caused by radiotherapy builds up over time so each treatment kills off cells missed by the previous one. The time between each treatment in the course allows the normal healthy tissues to recover and grow. So the course maximises the damage to cancer cells whilst reducing the risk of side effects.

Many owners are worried by the idea of radiotherapy for their pet because they have heard of the side-effects suffered by human cancer patients. In people the aim of cancer treatment is to kill all cancer cells and cure disease doses of radiotherapy are therefore high and side-effects such as vomiting and hairloss are relatively common.

Although it does sometimes cure cancer, the aim of cancer treatment in pets is to prolong a good quality of life (rather than necessarily trying to cure the cancer). This means that treatment sessions are designed to have the maximum beneficial effect without causing severe side effects. Your pet should remain well throughout the course of treatment.

If your pet is having external beam radiotherapy the radiation does not stay in their body so they are able to come home between treatments. However, it is very important that the treatment is delivered at regular intervals and so if the treatment interval is short (e.g. alternate days) your vet may recommend that they stay in hospital so that you do not have to keep travelling back and forward.

It is essential that your pet remains still throughout the whole treatment as this must be directed at a very specific area of the body. Severe damage can be caused if the radiation beam strikes the wrong tissue during the procedure.

Modern anaesthetics are very safe and your pet will probably recover more rapidly from an anaesthetic than any form of sedation. As radiotherapy is usually performed at specialist centres it is likely that your pets anaesthetic will be monitored by a vet with a special interest in anaesthesia and the anaesthetic will be very safe. You will usually be able to take your pet home as soon as they have recovered from the anaesthetic unless they are receiving further treatment.

As your pet will be having an anaesthetic your vet will ask you not to feed your pet the evening before the day of the treatment. Occasionally drugs are given before treatment to increase the effect of the radiation on cancer cells if your vet gives you specific instructions make sure you follow them carefully.

There is a small risk associated with repeated anaesthetics, but your pet’s health will be closely monitored and modern anaesthetics are very safe.

Radiotherapy is a very powerful treatment and the aim is to give a dose that will destroy most of the cancer cells whilst allowing the normal tissue to recover between treatments. Some cells are very sensitive to the effects of radiation so when treatment is planned your vet will try to avoid particularly sensitive areas (such as the eye).

After treatment the area of skin around the tumour may become red or sore looking. Your vet will prescribe tablets if they are concerned about your pet, but if you are worried make sure you voice your concerns at your next visit. Long term problems are usually changes at the site of the treatment such as bald patches or white hair regrowing (where it should be coloured).

If your pet has had an anaesthetic they should be fully recovered by the time you get home. Offer a light meal at tea time but do not be alarmed if your pet does not want to eat until the following day. Often a course of radiotherapy is given after a cancer has been removed if your pet has stitches keep a close eye on these as the radiation treatment may delay healing and the wound could open up.

If your pet is receiving medication for other conditions check with your vet that you should continue these throughout the radiotherapy course.