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Anton Vets Advice Column

How To Protect Your Rabbit From Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus

  • Written by Lucy

Anton Vets | How To Protect Your Rabbit From Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease VirusYou will have seen a lot on the news recently regarding a new variant of the RHD virus.

The classic form of RHD (RHD-1) is very virulent and has a rapid onset killing most of the infected rabbits very rapidly and often without any clinical signs before they die. Fortunately it has been quite rare in our area and the commercial vaccine is pretty effective.

RHD-2 has only emerged in the last couple of years. It is widespread on the continent and appears to spreading in the UK now. It differs from RHD-1 in that it is actually less virulent, killing approximately 20% (this is quite variable) of those infected. It has a longer incubation time and many rabbits will appear ill before they die- unfortunately, it is extremely hard to diagnose while the rabbit is still alive (we need to take liver samples at post-mortem to diagnose this). It will also affect much younger rabbits than RHD-1.

So, given that it is less virulent than RHD-1 why is everyone so much more worried about this virus? Firstly because the conventional vaccine doesn't protect against the RHD-2 virus. Secondly because ill rabbits can shed the virus and be infectious to other rabbits - the longer incubation period means the virus will spread much more rapidly. In addition, recovered rabbits may shed virus for up to a month after recovery.

The virus is spread in body fluids and from carcasses of dead rabbits. It is a very hardy virus and conventional cleaning will not necessarily kill it. It will also survive in the gut of scavengers that eat dead wild rabbits, so crows etc are also carriers of virus. Contaminated clothes, shoes and feeds (plants and hay) can be sources of virus....though fortunately feedstuffs are unlikely to be contaminated unless they have been in contact with a dead body.

So, how can you protect your rabbit?

  • Avoid contact with the virus
  • Indoor rabbits should be safe as long as you are careful to change shoes/ clothes after walking in areas where there have been infected wild rabbits.
  • If kept outdoors then your rabbits should be kept away from contact with wild rabbits and carrion feeders.
  • Do not give hay from unknown sources (commercial hay is fine) and make sure that fresh feeds are not collected from areas where there have been wild rabbit deaths.
  • Be very careful about contact with other rabbits, especially at shows, rescue centres etc- cleanliness is definitely the key! If you do take rabbits to a show make sure you keep these rabbits separate from others for a month after the show just in case they did meet the virus.
  • If getting a new rabbit do not mix with your other rabbits for at least a month just in case it is shedding virus. While quarantining your rabbits make sure you are very strict about not transferring materials from rabbit to rabbit, and also about disinfecting hands, clothes, shoes, etc
  • Vaccination. Fortunately there are vaccines available on the continent for this virus. They do have to be imported specially and at the moment stocks are low and hard to come by. We would recommend vaccination for:
    • rabbits going to shows, boarding, etc
    • outdoor rabbits where it is difficult to exclude contact from other rabbits or carrion birds The vaccine is a single dose followed by annual boosters. As it is not licensed in the UK it cannot be given within two weeks of the routine injections.

If you would like to have your rabbit vaccinated, please call us at the clinic where we will either book you in, or pop you on a priority list for when stocks of vaccine are in.

In the meantime, please remember the usual myxomatosis injections- myxi is still the most common infectious killer of rabbits.

 

Feline Urinary Disease

  • Written by Staff Writer

Feline Urinary Disease

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a term used to describe conditions that can affect either the bladder or urethra (tube from the bladder to the outside) of cats. It is thought to affect around 1-3% of cats each year, so is one of the more common reasons for them being taken to the vets.

Common signs cats may show include:

• Difficulty urinating (straining) or painful urination

• Increased frequency of urination, often producing small amounts and visiting the litter tray frequently.

• Blood in the urine.

• Urinating in strange places in the house.

• Over-grooming due to pain and irritation.

If your cat is straining to urinate and not producing urine, is distressed or unwell you should contact your vet immediately. We see this condition more commonly in cats that are young to middle-aged, neutered, overweight, mostly stay indoors, and who are fed predominantly on a dry diet, however any cat can be at risk. There are many different causes of FLUTD, but by far the most common cause accounting for around 60-70% of cases is Idiopathic cystitis.

Idiopathic cystitis is essentially inflammation of the bladder without a known cause. In order to reach a diagnosis your vet may need to perform some tests such as looking at a urine sample or performing x-rays or an ultrasound.

For most cats it can be addressed by making some simple changes to their environment. Increasing water intake is very important to reduce the risk of this condition. Cats are incredibly efficient at absorbing water from their food, which is why many owners don’t really seem to see their cats drinking very much. Changing to a wet diet can increase water intake. Drinking water is also important, but cats can be incredibly fussy about how it is presented to them! Ceramic water bowls are often favoured over metallic, and also wide and shallow bowls so their whiskers aren’t repeatedly brushing on the sides. To cater to those who prefer a running water source you could invest in a cat water fountain, which provides water as a constant stream.

For some cats, living with other pets can be stressful, but they are good at hiding their true feelings and recurrent cystitis may be the only clue. Stress is now thought to be a big factor in many cases of idiopathic cystitis. If you have more than one cat in the house, it is important that each cat has its own food and water bowl, plus at least one extra bowl spare around the house. This also goes for litter trays, one per cat plus one extra is the recommendation, in quiet locations away from the hustle and bustle of the home. That way there is less competition for important resources, helping with harmonious feline living, after all we wouldn’t like to all eat off the same plate and use a dirty bathroom! Pheromone products are available which have shown to be very useful for helping cats feel relaxed in their environment. Feliway is a synthetic cat appeasing pheromone, available as a plug-in diffuser. The natural pheromone and this synthetic version has shown to help create a happy cat environment.

Happy cats = happy and healthy bladders!

Minimally Invasive Surgery at Anton Vets

  • Written by Editor

Anton Vets Focus | Minimally Invasive Surgery at Anton VetsThis is something we hear a lot about these days and has been held up as the future of surgery in both human and veterinary medicine for some time. What is it?

Essentially it is the art of performing internal surgical procedures using endoscopy. Generally these are rigid endoscopes where light and images are transmitted via glass tubes and fibre glass to video screens allowing magnification and producing extremely high quality images. Adding hollow “ports” and inflating the body with sterile carbon dioxide permits the entry of long thin surgical instruments and, hence, the ability to operate under direct visualisation. What are the advantages?

The main difference is that much smaller incisions are required. For example in a bitch spay we will use two 5mm single suture incisions rather than make a long wound to allow entry of the hands.

It also allows the surgery to be carried out “in place”. Again using a bitch spay as an example the ovaries are located and removed from their normal position. In classic open surgery the ovaries are removed once their ligaments have been stretched to allow them to pulled out of the body to be ligated and removed.

The net effect therefore is to produce less trauma, less bruising and therefore much less pain. Oh, and minimal wound care after the surgery! What can we do with this?

At the moment our main surgery is to perform laparoscopic bitch spays. In these we only remove the ovaries (unlike traditional spays where the womb is removed too- this is of no consequence to your pet as all the clinical evidence shows there is no advantage in removing the uterus unless it is diseased (eg a pyometra)). Heat cautery is used rather than suture material to stop any bleeding. This is much more efficient and we see little or no bleeding in laparoscopic spays. The main thing is the post-operative recovery where the lack of pain afterwards – they look amazing! In fact, there can be a problem keeping them still post-operatively but as they don’t have long incisions, that doesn’t matter either!

Minimally invasive surgery is also used to perform exploratory surgery where bizarrely the endoscope gives much better visualisation through a 5mm hole than you get with the usual bodylength incision. In addition it is really easy to take biopsies of internal organs if we are worried about tumours or liver failure- and because there is no long incision to suture, these surgeries are very quick and simple with no post-operative pain problems.

The disadvantages? The equipment is expensive! Our set up has cost over £35,000 which is why we do have to charge an extra £150 on top of a normal bitch spay price to do this laparoscopically. Then again, when you see the results we think you’ll agree it’s well worth the difference! If you are interested in your pet having a laparoscopic spay, please call us at the clinic on 01264 729165.

Anton Vets Focus | Minimally Invasive Surgery at Anton Vets

Feeding Rabbits Advice from Anton Vets

  • Written by Staff Writer

Feeding RabbitsWith rabbit Awareness Week happening next month, it seemed appropriate to continue our rabbit theme!

Many of the problems we see in pet rabbits stem from their diet- often these are the results of long-term issues and so are almost impossible to correct. Fortunately, it does mean that these problems are often preventable

In particular, dental disease and gut stasis are commonly associated with dietary issues. Even fly strike risk is increased by poor diet resulting in failure to remove the edible faeces from round the back end.

A recent study performed by Edinburgh University confirmed these findings- different groups of rabbits were fed diets ranging from all fibre (especially hay) to all muesli concentrate diet. Unsurprisingly, those in the all-fibre group had the healthiest teeth and the healthiest guts.

They were also in best overall shape. Sadly some of those in the all-muesli group had to be removed from the trial as they began developing severe dental disease even in a few months: many of these rabbits also became clinically obese. Of the rabbits in the mixed diet group, there signs of dental disease developing and they were fatter than those having just fibre.

Are we surprised? Not really- rabbits evolved to eat fibre (ie. Grass and hay) so it makes sense that they are happiest and healthiest when eating these. Concentrate and muesli rations were basically developed for feeding production rabbits (ie those destined for food and fur) and are not designed for longevity. They have become popular amongst pet rabbit owners as they are so easy to feed.

However, it is becoming obvious that something must change- one major pet store now no longer stocks muesli-type diets, and as rabbit owners we need to be looking to give a much more natural diet.

If possible, this should be all-fibre- unlimited hay and grass should be the basis of all rabbit diets from as young an age as possible. Contrary to some advise, rabbits do not get diarrhoea if fed grass, unless they are suddenly given large amounts of fresh wet grass when they have never seen grass before: to avoid this? If your rabbit is unused to grass, then introduce it gradually over 5-7 days!

Greens should be added for interest- dandelions and garden herbs are excellent, but a range of dark green leaves and brassicas can be given. To avoid dietary overload, used mixed greens each day.

Carrots are not a staple of the rabbit diet but can be given in small amounts along with apple or pear as treats.

There are some situations where concentrate food is desirable- eg. growing rabbits; pregnancy/ nursing; and in the coldest parts of winter. In these cases, use one of the high fibre nuggets or a top brand pellet and do not exceed a level of 25g/kg bodyweight per day. Muesli diets encourage selective feeding as well as causing the problems described earlier, so should be avoided completely.

It would be wonderful if we could prevent dental disease in rabbits. While genetics do play some part, improved nutrition would make the biggest difference.

Anton Vets Raise Awareness on Pet Obesity

  • Written by Sub Editor

Anton Vets Raise Awareness on Pet ObesityIt is believed that as many as 50% of dogs and cats in the U.K are currently overweight or obese. This has many implications for their health and longevity and leads to an increased risk of Diabetes, Heart disease, Osteoarthritis and potentially even some forms of Cancer.

There is a distinction between being overweight and obese. Overweight can be defined as carrying levels of body fat in excess for those considered for optimal health. Obesity is being overweight to the extent that serious health effects become likely.

So what causes obesity?

  1. Overfeeding.
  2. Lack of Exercise
  3. Neutering is known to be a risk factor for gaining weight, with neutered animals requiring an estimated 25-30% reduction in calorie intake compared to an unneutered animal.
  4. Some diseases can cause obesity. These include underactive thyroids which decrease metabolism and activity levels, overactive adrenal glands which cause an increased appetite, and osteoarthritis which reduces an animal’s ability to exercise.
  5. Some medications can cause weight gain, especially drugs like steroids which will increase an animal’s appetite.

In the majority of cases however it is overfeeding and lack of exercise which are the main factors causing obesity.

So how can we change this?

Overfeeding is usually the result of too many extra treats as well as not properly measuring out the required amount of food every day. Many people rely on giving what seems to be a reasonable amount of food to their animals, or even just allowing them to eat whenever and whatever they want. It is a common misconception that animals will only eat what they need. Most commercial diets will give a feeding guideline on the packet. Weigh out daily what is recommended. If treats are to be given during the day, then reduce the amount of food accordingly. It is also important to remember that these are only guidelines, and many dogs and cats will need less than the recommended amounts to maintain a healthy weight. If you have a cat that goes outside and is overweight despite controlling its food, you may need to consider that it is maybe eating elsewhere. It has been known for cats to sneak into other houses via cat flaps or open windows and steal food. Neighbours with good intentions may also offer food and treats if a cat spends a lot of time around their house.

As with humans exercise plays an important part in maintaining good health and weight. The average dog needs at least an hour walk a day, with many breeds needing more than this. Exercise is also important for cats, so look for ways to encourage your cat to move around more, such as providing climbing frames and toys to play with. If your vet suggests your pet may be overweight, don’t be offended instead see it as a positive step towards changing their diet and lifestyle for a happier, longer life.

 

Vaccinating your Rabbit

  • Written by Staff Writer

Vaccinating your RabbitThe arrival of Spring (at long last) and Easter often makes us think of our pet rabbits too. One important aspect of their care is to ensure they are fully and correctly vaccinated. Generally Spring brings higher levels of myxomatosis in the warmer weather as it is mainly spread by biting flies and fleas. In cold weather these insects are inactive, so disease outbreaks are much less common.

Without a long cold spell again this winter the rabbit fleas will come in large numbers this year (as will the flies) so the myxi threat has to be regarded as high this year. Myxomatosis is a killer- it causes swelling of the membranes in the body- mouth, ears, nose, genitals as well as internal membranes. Death is almost inevitable with generalised disease due to suffocation and/ or organ failure.

Some rabbits that either have a degree of immunity or that encounter a mild strain of virus may develop the skin form- large solid lumps on (usually) the nose and face. These normally do well with the lumps falling off after 4-8 months.

There is no treatment, therefore prevention is the aim. Fortunately a new vaccine launched a few years ago affords much better protection than the previous one. As well as being more protective against a wider range of strains, it also lasts a full year rather than six months as before. Better still, it can be given under the skin as per vaccines in dogs and cats rather than the fiddly and painful injections that used to be given into the base of the ear..

Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks old and are fully protected approximately 8-10 days after this.

The vaccine also protects against the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD-1) virus and appears to be very effective against this. Though it is not a current problem in this area (though the first outbreak many years ago was near Winchester!) it is a worthwhile bonus as part of vaccinating against myxomatosis.

A newer threat, though, is the RHD-2 virus. As implied by the name this is closely related to the RHD-1 virus though it does follow a slower course of illness. Nonetheless, it does appear to be usually fatal causing liver damage and internal bleeding. It is unclear if the normal RHD-1 vaccine provides some or any protection against RHD-2 though it is certainly obvious that it is not completely protective. However, there is a protective vaccine available in Germany and following advice from the Rabbit Welfare Association we have been looking at importing this vaccine. Sadly it appears the manufacturers have been overwhelmed with orders so the vaccine is not currently available, but we will keep a look-out and be in touch with our registered rabbit patients (and their owners!) as soon as it is. When we have it, rabbits will need two doses of vaccine to start with followed by annual boosters- these will need to be given two weeks away from the myxomatosis vaccine.

Fortunately, we do not appear to have this virus in our area at present, though we did see some cases in breeding units a couple of years ago.

The other essential part of a vaccine visit is the health check where we can look out for some of the other problems that often affect rabbits- especially the teeth and ears! It is also a good opportunity to discuss diet, companionship and any other concerns you may have. Ideally this should be done at least twice a year and at Anton Vets we are very happy to offer free six month checks with our nurses in between vaccinations.

Common Plant and Food Poisonings in Dogs and Cats

  • Written by Editor

Anton Vets Focus | Common Plant and Food Poisonings in Dogs and CatsOne of the most common phone enquiries is from owners whose pets have eaten something potentially poisonous. In most cases the side effects are mild and self-limiting but there are a few plants and foods that can cause more serious problems if not dealt with quickly. This often involves bringing the animal to the vets as an emergency so the problem can be addressed before clinical signs begin (by which time it can be too late) .

Below are a few of the more common poisonous plants and foods, but this list is by no means comprehensive!

DOGS

Anton Vets Focus | Common Plant and Food Poisonings in Dogs and CatsChocolate – Probably one of the most common things for dogs to eat especially around Easter and Christmas! The higher the percentage of Cocoa in the chocolate, the more toxic it can be. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, salivation, drinking lots, excitability, wobbliness, muscle tremors and convulsions.

Raisins, Grapes, Sultanas, Currants - The dried fruit are more toxic than the grape, but all can cause renal failure. The severity of poisoning does not seem to be related to the quantity eaten; even small amounts in some cases can prove fatal. This is a very individual reaction and it is worth calling your vet even if a single grape or raisin has been eaten.

Xylitol - also known as food additive E967, it is an artificial sweetener often found in chewing gum, and diabetic cakes and chocolate. It can cause very low blood sugar and liver damage.

Daffodil – The bulb is especially toxic, can cause severe vomiting and abdominal pain.

Autumn Crocus – not to be confused with the spring crocus which is far less toxic, the autumn crocus can cause severe vomiting, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, and bone marrow suppression.

Slug pellets- these are also extremely toxic to pets and may cause fits and even coma.

CATS

Poisoning in cats due to ingesting toxic plants or food is much less common than in dogs, as cats are generally fussier in nature about what they eat. However they can be much harder to treat.

Antifreeze - given how fussy cats are it seems strange that this should be such a problem. However, antifreeze is very sweet and pets (especially cats, but sometimes dogs) can get a taste for it. It is extremely toxic and often fatal. Antifreeze is very widely used (please don't add this to water in fountains in winter) and there is a current petition to make it law to add bittering agents to antifreeze - this can be signed at; 

https://www.change.org/p/uk-eu-parliaments-law-defra-ban-all-antifreeze-preparations-unless-they-contain-a-bitterant

Anton Vets Focus | Common Plant and Food Poisonings in Dogs and CatsLilies – ingestion of any part of the lily is extremely toxic to cats, including the pollen grains which can get on to the cat’s coat and be licked off when grooming. It causes kidney damage which can be life threatening if not treated quickly. Onset of toxicity can be in as little as 2 hours hence treatment needs to be quick to stop the development of kidney failure.

Onions, Leeks, Spring onions, Garlic – can cause severe anaemia. This is much more severe in cats than dogs.

Cyclamen, Poinsettia and Spider plants – can cause vomiting, excessive salivation and lethargy if eaten. Luckily no long term damage is done and the signs are self limiting as long at the cat is kept well hydrated in the meantime.

If you suspect your animal has eaten any of the above, or any other plant or food that you think could be poisonous, contact your veterinary surgery immediately for advice.

Here at Anton Vets we use the Veterinary Poisons Unit database. While this is not a free service, it is extremely valuable providing accurate and continuously updated information on possible poisonings.

Santa Paws is Coming to Town

  • Written by Staff Writer

Santa Paws is Coming to TownChristmas is almost upon us, time to get excited about trees, decorations, presents and food.

Let’s not forget though to make Christmas a fun time for our pets as well. According to an RSPCA survey it seems that many of us are already planning on doing this.

91% of people were planning on buying presents for their pets.

26% of pets could expect to have their own advent calendars.

55% would wake up on Christmas morning to their very own Christmas stocking.

15% of owners will make a Christmas card for their pet

26% will have their own special Christmas dinner cooked for them.

18% of people admitted to spending more on their pets at Christmas than on their Mother-in –law!

7% will spend more on their pet than their partner and 3% will spend more than on their child!

1 in 10 pets will also be watching the queen’s speech.

With an estimated 300 million pounds expected to be spent in the U.K on festive presents for pets, what would make a good gift? There are plenty of innovative and fun toys available for pets these days, many of which provide mental stimulation as well as exercise. Climbing frames for cats with hiding spaces and scratching posts included are great, especially for cats that are mainly indoors.

These can help provide activities to reduce stress and increase exercise. Treat balls are good for both mental and physical stimulation, you can even use them for pets that tend to eat too fast, place the dried food in the ball and it takes much longer for the meal to be devoured! There are also puzzle toys for both dogs and cats, in which they have to figure out a series of actions to release a food reward.

You may want to buy a ball or soft toy for your pet, just remember to chose one that is of an appropriate size and material. Balls which are too small present a choking hazard, and if your dog is a chewer then softer toys may not last too long with the risk of squeakers or stuffing being swallowed as the toy is chewed up. You don’t have to spend a fortune on toys either you can easily make fun toys from empty kitchen rolls or toilet roll tubes.

For cats you can cut holes in them big enough to put a paw through and hide treats inside then stuff the ends with paper. For dogs just stuff the rolls with treats then fill the ends with paper to pull out. You can even decorate the cardboard rolls with a Christmas theme!

As well as the presents a huge part of getting into the Christmas spirit involves eating festive foods. Unfortunately many of the treats we like to enjoy ourselves are toxic to our pets, especially those containing chocolate or dried fruits such as raisins or sultanas. But there is no need for them to miss out. There are lots of festive food treats to buy for your pets, but if you’re feeling up to the challenge there are also plenty of recipes for homemade biscuits and other tasty nibbles. If your pet has a dietary intolerance though, be sure to check the ingredients first. Our pets are part of our families and so it is only fair they should be included in our celebrations. Merry Christmas.

Tortoises Party on With Anton Vets

  • Written by Editor

Andover Pets Corner | Tortoises Party on With Anton VetsAnton Vets hosted a Tortoise Wake Up Party on Saturday 28th March 2015, at Burghclere Down Community Centre in Andover.

Vet, John Chitty, was ably assisted by staff from Anton Vets conducting the post-hibernation checks to the creep of tortoises.

10 Fun Tortoise Facts

1. A tortoise is a turtle, but a turtle isn't a tortoise.

A turtle is any shelled reptile belonging to the order Chelonii. The term "tortoise" is more specific, referring to terrestrial turtles. (Of course, there's always an exception. In this case, the land-dwelling box turtle.) Tortoises are usually herbivorous and can't swim.

2. A group of tortoises is called a creep.

But you won't see a creep very often. Tortoises are solitary roamers. Some mother tortoises are protective of their nests, but they don't care for their young after they hatch.

3. Tortoises inspired the ancient Roman military.

During sieges, soldiers would get in testudo formation, named after the Latin word for tortoise. The men formed rows and held shields in front or above them to completely shelter the unit.

4. Charles Darwin and Steve Irwin cared for the same tortoise, a Galapagos gal named Harriet.

Darwin is said to have collected and named Harriet back in 1835. She was sent to England and eventually wound up at Australia Zoo, founded by Steve Irwin's parents. She finally passed on in 2006, the same year as the Crocodile Hunter's fatal encounter with a stingray.

5. Tortoises have an exoskeleton AND an endoskeleton.

The shell has three main parts: the top carapace, the bottom plastron, and the bridge that fuses these pieces together. You can't see them, but every tortoise has ribs, a collar bone, and a spine inside its shell.

6. The scales on the carapace are called scutes.

Made of the same keratin found in fingernails and hooves, scutes protect the bony plates of the shell from injury and infection. The growth rings around scutes can be counted to determine the approximate age of wild tortoises.

7. The lighter the shell, the warmer the origin.

Tortoises from hot places tend to have lighter-coloured shells than tortoises from cooler areas. The light tan sulcata originates from the southern part of the Sahara Desert.

8. They can't swim, but tortoises can hold their breath for a long time.

They're extremely tolerant of carbon dioxide. Tortoises have to empty their lungs before they can go into their shells. You'll often hear them exhale when they're startled and decide to hide.

9. Tortoise shells are sensitive to touch.

Shells have nerve endings, so tortoises can feel every rub, pet, or scratch ... and sometimes they love it.

10. Sulcatas are one of the most popular pet tortoises — and one of the biggest.

Sulcatas are the third largest tortoise species in the world, behind the Galapagos and Aldabra giant tortoise. They can live more than 100 years and weigh up to 200 pounds.

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Remember Remember the Fifth of November

  • Written by Staff Writer

Remember Remember the Fifth of NovemberFirework season is fast approaching here’s some advice on how to help your pets during the oncoming invasion.

How do I know if my pet has a firework fear?

With some pets it will be obvious however others are more discrete, some common signs of fear include -

Shaking, shivering or trembling

Barking, whining, crying or howling

Hiding behind or under things

Going to the toilet unexpectedly or in strange places

Restlessness salivating or panting excessively

Why does my pet get so worried?

Many pets have what on the surface may appear to be an irrational fear of fireworks, do not worry it does not mean you have been a bad parent. When you think about it in more detail the reasoning’s behind the fear are completely logical. Due to the survival instinct inherited from the wild, animals are blessed with senses much stronger than your average human. Therefore the loud noises, bright lights and the smell of gun powder are amplified and some dogs may find this alarming.

How can I prepare for fireworks?

There are some feel good products which can help to relax your pet, Adaptil This is for dogs and comes in a collar, spray or diffuser.

It works by mimicking the pheromone a mother releases when she is feeding her puppies. Therefore reminding the dog of a time when it felt relaxed and protected.

This would need to be started at least a week before the event.

Feliway This is the cat version of Adaptial and it comes as a spray or diffuser.

If you watch a cat in its house it will rub its cheeks against household items. As they do this they mark the items as their home and indicate a safe and secure place by leaving a facial pheromone behind. Feliway is a copy of this pheromone therefore making the cat feel like it is in a safe secure environment.

Like with Adaptil this needs to be started at least a week before the event.

Royal Canin calm diet

• This is a pre prepared dry diet made by Royal Canin available for cats and dogs.

• When a mother feeds her puppies or kittens the milk she produces contains certain proteins, some of these proteins are also found in the Calm diet. Therefore when the cat or dog eats it the protein reminds them of the time when they were far more relaxed encouraging a calming influence.

• This diet needs to be started 10 days before the stressful event is due to start and the manufacturer claims the effects will remain for 2-3 months after finishing the diet. Zylkene

• This is a capsule which is given daily for a calming influence. The capsule can be opened and the contents sprinkled onto something tasty for difficult to medicate animals.

• The science behind the capsules is similar to the calm diet as the capsules contain caesin which is found in milk protein. Therefore once more reminding the cat/dog of how he/she felt after having a feed from its mother (calm and relaxed).

• Zylkene needs to be started a few days before the fireworks (or cues that the season is coming) start in order to have its full effect.

• The dosing for Zylkene is weight dependent, so if you are considering Zylkene its best to contact your vets who will able to discuss its use with you in more detail. Thundershirts or calming vests

• As the name suggests these are vests/t-shirts for dogs and come in a variety of sizes. They wrap around the dog creating a similar feeling to that of a baby being swaddled.

• If you decide to use one of these vests however it is vital that the vest is put on the dog whilst he or she is calm. Putting the vest on when he or she is already worrying will not help and may cause the dog to associate the vest with fear.

What can I do to help my pet cope on the night?

• The best thing you can do is have a night at home in front of the TV with your pet. The TV will reduce the sound of the fireworks and if you are calm and relaxed your pet will be too. Close the curtains or blinds to limit the bright lights created by the fireworks.

• Behave as normally as you can, do not attempt to reassure your pet and ignore any strange behaviour however irritating it may be. This may seem illogical, but by attempting to reassure your pet or correct unwanted behaviour you are reinforcing the message that all is not well, so it’s time to panic!

• Ensure your pet is indoors for the night and exercise dogs before it gets dark. If you have pets which are housed outside and unable to be moved attempt to sound proof and darken their enclosure as much as possible. A good way to do this is by covering the enclosure in blankets or towels.

What can I do if my pet is still fearful?

All is not lost!

There are a number of supplements and medications which can also help you pet. If you contact your vets they will be able to advise you on what would work best for you and your pet. How can I be prepared for next year?

There is a CD available called "sounds scary" it has a number of sounds pets can become scared of one of which is a firework. It allows your pet to get used to the sounds in a controlled environment. The CD comes with a booklet which tells you how best to use it. This kind of treatment needs to be started several months before the event in order to be effective.

If you have a puppy or kitten it is also a good idea to introduce the Sounds scary CD when they are still young to help with this year or in preparation for next year, puppies and kittens are much more comfortable with things they have encountered from a young age. By doing this at their most receptive age next year will be much easier for both of you.

Anton Vets Focuses on Dental Disease in Rabbits

  • Written by Editor

Rabbit eating hay with Anton Vets in Andover

Dental problems are extremely common in pet rabbits. Sadly, once established they are impossible to cure and almost always require lifelong management and regular dental procedures. Not only is this expensive, but a lot of rabbits experience dental pain.

Ideally, we would like to prevent this from happening and, as ever, prevention relies on understanding why these problems occur.

The rabbit's teeth grow continuously throughout life in order to cope with constantly grinding food. This applies to both incisors and molars. Overgrowth of just the incisors may occur (especially in young rabbits). However, in most cases incisor overgrowth reflects problems in the back teeth as well.

Molar overgrowth often results in sharp dental spikes piercing the tongue (lower) or cheek (upper), causing painful ulcers stopping the animal from feeding. As in all pets, if they can’t eat properly there will be other problems throughout the body.

The two major reasons cited for these problems are

1. Congenital problems- short-nosed breeds are more likely to develop problems because of the shape of the skull. However, the main reason is diet and with an excellent diet even sensitive breeds can be protected from dental disease.

2. Dietary deficiency – lack of either fibre or calcium (or both) will results in failure to wear down teeth (fibre) or soft bones (calcium). The former will result in overlong teeth with impaction of the roots while the latter will allow these teeth to move in the sockets thus altering the way they meet and facilitating entry of bacteria.

Basically, rabbits have evolved to eat grass! This will be fresh grass in summer and dried grass (hay) in winter. In addition they will eat weeds and opportunistically take fruit or roots as they find them.

Modern “muesli-type” diets were originally developed for fast-growing short-lived production rabbits. They are high in protein and low in fibre and minerals. Naturally rabbits love them and can obtain their daily calories without much chewing. Studies have shown that even if you give hay and grass with these foods, selective feeding by the rabbit will ruin the diet. It is therefore important to give large quantities of hay, grass and dark green leaves (cabbage, dandelions, etc) and top-up with a commercial ration (extruded diets are best as they have a higher fibre content). A maximum of 25g/kg bodyweight per day pellet should be fed. Many rabbits will not require even this amount provided they have sufficient fibre.

It is important to have regular dental checks. For healthy rabbits this can be once a year at the time of vaccination. At Anton Vets we also recommend a free check with the nurse six months after vaccination. Unlike the incisors it is impossible to see the molars without using an auriscope which is why it is impossible to keep a regular check at home. Even then it is not possible to see all the teeth and when we suspect dental disease we like to perform a full examination under anaesthesia. Treatment for molar disease involves regular trimming or grinding of hooks or overlong crowns under anaesthesia. This is, of course, stressful for the rabbit and obviously carries a (very!) small degree of risk.

John Chitty at Anton Vets in AndoverAnd this is why we are so keen on encouraging a healthy high fibre diet and regular exposure to sunshine to promote Vitamin D production…a healthy set of teeth means a healthy rabbit!

John Chitty BVetMed CertZooMed MRCVS