VHD2 – The new threat to rabbits

The short version:

Re: A vaccine is now available to help protect rabbits from a new strain of VHD.rabbit1

As most of you are aware – rabbits are vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemoraghic Disease (VHD) every year to protect them against these usually fatal diseases.

Over the last year a new strain of VHD has developed and is causing outbreaks in the UK. The current vaccine in the UK does not protect against this new strain.

We now have a vaccine imported from France which protects against the new strain of VHD.

Please see below for a summary of the disease written by our vet Becky, who has a special interest in rabbits.

Needless to say, we recommend vaccination against this new strain as soon as possible.

If you would like to see Becky at the time of vaccination, just ask when booking your appointment.



The more in depth version:

You may be aware that there is an increasing concern regarding a new variant of rabbit virus called Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 2 or VHD2/ RHD2. We already routinely vaccinate rabbits against VHD1 and myxomatosis.

This new strain of virus has recently been recognised as a significant cause of death in pet rabbits and wild rabbits. It is very resistant to cold temperatures and peak infections occur from October through to February. The virus was recognised in France as a mutation of VHD1 in 2010 and then in the UK in 2013.

VHD1 causes sudden death and internal bleeding. The new strain VHD2 causes variable and sometimes similar symptoms such as bleeding disorders and liver disease and causes death over a longer period of time.

The virus is spread by fomites and can be spread on shoes and organic matter such as bedding, hay and foraged foods such as dandelions. It can also be spread by biting insects, foxes and other rabbit predators.

Fortunately, we have a yearly vaccination called Filavac available at the surgery to help protect against this disease. We reappointmentimagecommend this is given to all pet rabbits.

Please contact the surgery to book an appointment, you can telephone or book online. This vaccine is given at least 2 weeks apart from the normal yearly boosters for Myxomatosis and VHD1 vaccines.

If you would like see me, please either ask when you call, or if booking online, select “Exotics Vet” from the “Appointment Type” drop down list.

Go to: www.pottonvets.co.uk


Interesting definition:

Fomite This is a non-living object or substance that can transmit disease by carrying germs or parasites.  Common examples are hay, grass, clothes and bedding.

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Babesiosis in dogs the UK

babesia_canisIt has been in the news that some dogs in Essex have been infected with Babesia Canis and become very ill. This is news because these dogs had not travelled outside the UK, and Babesia had not previously been endemic in the UK, although commonly occurring in Europe.


What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a tick borne disease which causes destruction of red blood cells resulting in anaemia and jaundice.  Acutely affected dogs appear depressed, weak and are disinclined to eat (anorexic).  They have pale membranes (e.g. lips, eye lids or tongue) and often have a fever.  The passing of very dark coloured urine is also frequently noted. The disease cannot be passed directly from one animal to another.  It is only spread by bites from ticks infected with the protozoan (one celled) parasite, Babesia.

Babesiosis is common in many parts of the world including large parts of Southern Europe.

What is the cause of the disease?

The disease is caused by protozoan (single celled) organisms.  Babesia canis is the most common type and is the variety diagnosed in Essex.

How does Babesiosis spread?

The parasite cannot survive outside the dog or the tick vector.  The tick implicated in the cases in Essex is Dermacentor reticulatus. This tick is variously named the ornate dog tick, ornate cow tick, meadow tick or marsh tick, reflecting its variety of habitats. In Europe it is found up to 1,000m above sea level on grasslands, pastures, fringes of meadows, and grassy paths in woodlands, along rivers and streams, banks of ponds, in marshy areas and peat bogs. It has been described in the sand dune systems and coastal pastures of West Wales and South-West England, particularly North Devon. It has recently been found in coastal South-East Essex presumed transported by sheep moved from Wales and would seem to be spreading in the UK and in Europe. It is currently not found in our area but is likely to spread this way in time.

Can we catch Babesiosis?

Unlike some other tick borne diseases (e.g. Lymes disease – Borreliosis), Babesia canis does not appear to be transmissible to man, in other words it is not a zoonotic disease. Some other Babesia varieties (Babesia gibsoni) can cause disease in humans and cats but this has not yet been diagnosed in the UK.

Is the disease very common?

Canine Babesiosis has an almost worldwide distribution.  It has always been prevalent in Southern Europe and appears to be spreading northwards across France and Germany. The disease occurs commonly in endemic areas. In these areas, animals develop some inherent immunity so the disease is more common in young or debilitated animals.

Is it important in Britain?

Until relatively recently Babesiosis was unknown in Britain except with animals in quarantine.  Relaxation of quarantine regulations with the introduction of the PETS scheme in 2000, resulted in the death of an elderly dog as a result of the disease after a visit to Southern Europe.  In subsequent years there have been several other cases confirmed in Britain in animals which have travelled. These cases in Essex are the first where the animals have not travelled outside the UK.

The disease is presently restricted to a small, well defined area in Essex, but now that it has entered the UK, it is likely to spread further.

Dogs in the UK have never been exposed to Babesiosis and will have no inherent immunity, and are more likely to be susceptible to contracting the disease if bitten by an infected tick.

Will I know if my dog has been infected?

If your dog has become infected, there may be no signs for 10-20 days, (i.e. during the incubation period).  Signs can vary from slight malaise (being a bit ‘off colour’) to serious haemolytic disease with lack of appetite, dark coloured urine, multi-organ failure and even death in 24-48 hours.  Some very mild cases may recover without treatment but may still be carrying the parasite and act as carriers.  The danger lies in the fact that certain ticks already resident in Britain may prove vectors for the spread of the disease from such animals.

Is there any treatment?

Drugs are available which are very effective provided a correct diagnosis can be arrived at without delay.  The disease is quickly diagnosed by doing a blood smear and finding the parasite in the red blood cells. Blood smears can be done in house to speed diagnosis. Chronic carriers can be diagnosed by serology or PCR. If your dog shows any signs of lethargy, pallor, jaundice or dark coloured urine, it is important that you consult your veterinary surgeon without delay as Babesiosis generally responds well to treatment if caught early, but can be life threatening if treatment is delayed.

Is there anything that can be done to prevent my dog becoming infected?

Babesia is only transmitted by the bite from infected ticks. Ticks are not able to transmit infection immediately upon first attachment. They need a period of 24-48 hours of initial feeding before the organisms are able to cross into your dog. This means that using effective tick control that repels ticks  to prevent them from biting, or kills them within 24 hours is a very effective means of preventing the disease.  There are a wide variety of effective tick control methods, including collars, spot-ons and tablets. Please talk to us find the best method for your pet. If you notice a tick on your dog, it should be removed immediately, using a tick removal tool.



Dermacentor reticulatus   Ornate dog tick, Ornate cow tick, Meadow tick, Marsh tick.

Urinary problems in cats – Villager Article March 2016

Dear Alan

My cat, Ronnie, has always been clean in the house but now he is very unsettled and urinates in the bath and on the carpet. What can I do? Claire



Dear Claire,

This is very common and can be caused by behavioural issues, lower urinary tract disease or kidney problems.


Kidney problems make the urine more dilute so he may need to toilet more frequently. Behavioural issues may cause him to mark in odd places. Lower urinary tract disease makes the bladder very sensitive so he feels like he needs to go all the time, even if his bladder isn’t full. Idiopathic Cystitis is an odd condition where the bladder gets sensitized to stress hormones and hurts when he is stressed (for whatever reason). Occasionally the urethra can block with crystals or debris causing the bladder to over fill, which can be very serious.


Different treatments are required for each of these conditions and good clinical examination, blood and urine tests can normally diagnose them. If the condition recurs or does not respond as expected, imaging (x-ray and ultrasound) may be needed.


More often than not we can help cats, like Ronnie, to feel much better with medication, diet and some behavioural help.

Photo by eva101

Keeping Chickens Healthy




As an owner of chickens myself, I wanted to pass on some of the tips and knowledge I’ve acquired over the years both as a vet and a chicken owner.

I have 6 birds in total comprising of two strays, one ex-battery hen, a homebred hybrid, a Pekin and a home-hatched Silkie x Sussex cockerel.



Feeding and watering:

  1. keepingChickensHealthy2Layers pellets. I put these in a  “Grandpas Feeder” which the birds quickly learned to use. It’s weather proof and most importantly vermin proof; discouraging rats and mice which are common to find around the chicken coop. It has paid for itself already and will supply food for a few days for my 6 birds which saves me time.
  2. Mixed oyster shell/ grit, in its own bowl separate from feed and in a dry sheltered position will provide calcium for egg shell production. Some clean and washed pea sized gravel should also be provided spread about the run. The chickens can then use these to grind up their food in the muscular stomach called the gizzard.
  3. Raw green leafy vegetables are essential over the HealthyChickens3winter providing much needed vitamins and minerals. Cabbage leaves and kale are popular with my lock.  I do not recommend feeding to much fruit as it will cause diarrhoea. Feeding chickens kitchen scraps is prohibited by DEFRA due to the risk of spreading disease and can cause diarrhoea in the birds.
  4. Scratch is a mixture of wheat and cracked corn which you can sprinkle as a treat for the birds to scratch and eat. It is quite fattening and heating so in the winter I recommend a handful for 6 birds. Too much scratch will make the birds too
    fat and then they will stop laying eggs.
  5. HealthyChickens4Watering: Always provide plentiful fresh water. This year has been exceptionally mild so far but do remember to defrost water after a freeze. Chickens can be messy so nipple drinkers are the best type of watering system (I will write another post about how to do this at a later date), failing that hang drinkers so that they’re not on the floor as they will quickly get dirty. Clean any green slime that forms inside water containers as this will contain bacteria which
    will make the birds unwell. Adding a tablespoon of apple cider to the drinking water can be beneficial to the bird’s digestion.

Chicken house and run:

Run and house need to be fox proof. Birds need to be let out at sunrise and locked in a sunset. There are now some automatic doors on the market; these may allow owners a lie in although I have no personal experience of these products. There are many designs for chicken houses. Whichever style you choose, whether shop bought or homemade,  make sure it’s easy to clean, well ventilated and provides enough perching space for the number of birds you have. I use dust extracted wood shavings for bedding and recommend weekly cleaning of the coop though I find removing the worst of the dropping daily wearing rubber gloves keeps my house nicer for the birds and looking its best. If you find the run is getting muddy, I recommend small pea sized gravel as a base layer as it can be hosed down to keep it clean. I do not recommend bark as it can harbour a fungus called “Aspergillus” which can cause lung disease in the flock.

Preventative health care:

For small flocks vaccination is not usually needed unless you have a specific problem that needs addressing. Worms are very common in a free range flock. I recommend worming with Flubenvet every 3 months or faecal testing if you wish to worm less frequently. Please ask at the surgery for details.  Red mites are often a cause of anaemia and egg drop. Regularly inspect under your birds feathers and wings and if you see any lice or mites do contact us for advice. The house and the birds will need treatment.  Food grade diatomaceous earth can be mixed with water to make a paint for the inside of the house. Do this once a year/ if you discover a red mite problem after a deep clean of the house. Allow to dry thoroughly before allowing birds back in the house. Do be careful when using diatomaceous earth as its fine particles can be inhaled and a face mask and overalls should be used when using this product.


I will go into some of the above topics in more detail at a later date but please feel free to bring your chickens in to the surgery for wellness checks and I will be happy to discuss any husbandry or health concerns you have with regard to your birds.


Becky Lowten BVetMed MRCVS

Microchips and the law from 6 April 2016


The law is changing, it is becoming a legal requirement that all dogs over the age of 8 weeks are microchipped and registered on an approved database from the 6th of April 2016.


Up until now we have recommended microchipping as giving the best chance your pet being reunited with you if they go missing. This is still sound advice, but it is also becoming a legal requirement as a form of identification of dog and keeper.


Not only is it a will it be a requirement that all dogs are microchipped, but it is also a requirement that the owners contact details are registered correctly on the database.

There is a penalty of £500 if you do not have your dog microchipped or fail to keep your details up to date on the database.


So, it is time to get your dog chipped if it is not yet done so, and if it has been done please check that your details are up to date. We find people tend to forget to update their details when they move, or change their phone numbers.


On a related point, it is a requirement that dogs be identified with a tag that has the owners name and address when on “a public highway or place of public resort”.


Book a microchip appointment with our nurse online.

Prophylactic dental treatment – Dental scale and polish.


Dental disease is a very common problem in dogs and cats with most over the age of 3 having teeth and gum problems.

It is useful to recognise that dental disease in pets progresses in the same way ours does.

It starts with plaque (a sticky invisible infected film) that becomes mineralised (tartar).  Gums become inflamed due to the irritation of the plaque.

Gingivitis (inflamed gums) is seen as red or swollen gum margins. Gingivitis  can cause the gums to bleed (just like ours can when we brush our teeth).  Tartar is seen as the rough raised coating on teeth. Ongoing inflammation of the gums from untreated gingivitis eventually leads to loss of the periodontal ligament and the gums recede from the teeth (periodontitis). Eventually there will be loss of bone.

If we remove the tartar before the gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease it is completely reversible.  Periodontitis follows on from gingivitis and is not reversible.  So it is important to remove the tartar before the periodontitis starts.


If left untreated dental disease progresses and can result in:

  • Bad breath – Halitosis
  • Gum disease – Gingivitis
  • Supporting tissue disease – Periodontitis
  • Loss of teeth
  • Can cause and progress kidney disease
  • Liver inflammation and infection
  • Heart valve disease


Before the treatment:


After treatment:

dentalscale logo pre


How do we scale and polish teeth?

Cleaning the teeth properly involves an anaesthetic.  It is impossible to examine and clean the teeth properly without an anaesthetic.  Modern anaesthetics are very safe in otherwise healthy pets.

Once they are asleep we use an ultrasonic scaler, just like your dentist, to remove the tartar and plaque.  It is very important to scale beneath the gum line. If you’ve ever had your teeth scaled you will be aware that it is quite uncomfortable.  As our patients teeth are usually in a lot worse condition than yours would be – you can appreciate that it is important for them to feel no pain.

Once all the teeth have been descaled, a fine fluoride polish is used to smooth the surface of the enamel to make it difficult for plaque to stick to the surface.


What to do after the treatment?

Plaque builds up quickly afterwards so home care should be started as soon as possible.

We brush our teeth twice a day to remove plaque.  With pets this is a lot more challenging!

  • Brushing the teeth with a pet toothpaste.
  • Mechanical cleaning with dental specific foods.
  • Pet specific mouth washes, water additives, gels etc.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of products for dogs and cats that have been proven to make a difference in the development of plaque and/or tartar.

One of the most useful products we recommend is ESSENTIAL™ healthymouth™ anti-plaque water additive.  This has multiple VOHC seals of approval, proving it’s effectivity.  You only need to add it to your dog and cat’s drinking water, making it easy and convenient to use.  It is in stock at Potton Vets, and you don’t need a prescription.

More on dental disease.

How to brush my dogs teeth.

Spay your dog – the key hole surgery way.


Laparoscopic Spay:


Over the last few years we have performed over 60 of these procedures, owners who have previously had their pets spayed in the old open surgery are amazed at the improvement in recovery.  There is less pain and recovery is quicker.

Spaying or neutering female dogs is used to prevent unwanted pregnancy, prevent womb infections in later life, reduce the likelihood of breast tumours (by up to over 90%),  and stopping seasons.  The way this has been done is to surgically open the abdomen, pull firmly on the ovaries, tie them off , and then close the abdominal wall again.  Quite a complex and painful procedure.  This is a commonly performed procedure and is well practised by many vets making complications a relatively rare problem.

So , although this is a very effective treatment, there are ways to make this a much less painful experience.

As only tiny holes are made through the abdominal wall, and we don’t need to pull on the ovaries, it is a much less painful experience than the traditional method described above.  By further using a combination of pain relieving modalities such as medical pain relief (pethidine, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) and K-laser treatment we believe the procedure is now much more comfortable.

Simply put, if you needed surgery, would you choose keyhole surgery over having a large abdominal wound?  Your dog will thank you for choosing keyhole surgery for her spay.


What does it cost?

Pet Passports

Rules on taking your pet abroad to most EU has become more far more relaxed. Taking your pet with you on holiday is now far easier.

However, a word of caution before rushing off to France with Toby, getting it wrong can result in serious consequences at border control if the rules are not carefully followed.

Foreign diseases for which our pets may have little or no immunity are also something to be aware of.  Be especially wary of external parasites which can act as hosts of numerous diseases.

A summary of the process:

  • Book an appointment.
  • Microchip (if not previously done).
  • Vaccinate for rabies.
  • Pets passport (documentation).
  • Pets can travel after 21 days.
  • Dogs must be dewormed between 1 and 5 days before returning to the UK (vet certified).

A few things to be careful of:

  • Double check with DEFRA which countries are included.
  • Check rules carefully before travelling.
  • Remember different diseases are present in different areas of the EU, and your pets are at greater risk than local pets.

Useful Links:

Information on Rabies

Defra – Owner information

Defra – Main site


What is neutering and why should my pet be neutered?

Neutering is a procedure whereby the reproductive organs are surgically removed and the pet is therefore no longer able to breed. Unless planning on breeding from your pet neutering is always recommended. Not only does it reduce sexual behaviours but it also has significant health benefits, for example removing the risk of ovarian/testicular cancer and reducing the risk of mammary cancer and prostatic cancer.

There are several misconceptions about neutering – one is that neutering should be performed after the first season. In America, neutering is routinely performed in animals less than a couple of months old with no more adverse effects than neutering at a later age. Indeed, the neutering procedure can be more difficult in older animals which tend to have higher levels of fat, other concurrent conditions and possible reproductive tract disease. Also recent scientific studies have found that the risk of mammary cancer is dramatically reduced by neutering before the first few seasons.

What does the procedure entail? Will my pet have to stay overnight?

At Potton vets we admit patients in the morning and take a blood sample. This ensures that your pets organs are working normally before any drugs are given. A premedication is given once the blood results are obtained. This helps to calm the patient and provides pain relief ready for the surgical procedure.

The patient is then anaesthetized and prepared for surgery. Before, during and after surgery your pet is monitored carefully by one of our highly qualified nurses.

When fully awake we offer food, water, toileting and a stress-free recovery environment.

We aim to let everyone know when their pet is awake and usually book an appointment to go home around 4pm the same day. We like to recheck your pet the day after to ensure full recovery from the anaesthetic and again at 10-14 days time to ensure the wound has fully healed.

Recently, we have acquired a k laser – a class 4 therapeutic laser which when applied to the wound reduces pain and stimulates healing. We have had great results so far and our patients definitely feel better more quickly after laser treatment.





Ticks, fleas, worms and mites all make the majority of us squirm just thinking about them. However, most pets with these parasites show no obvious signs and the parasites are rarely seen. Out of sight and out of mind these creatures can multiply rapidly on our pets causing irritation and stress that often goes unnoticed. Some can also cause serious long term diseases, for example dog lungworm reduces the number of clotting factors within the blood. This goes unnoticed until the dog is exposed to trauma (surgery, accident etc) causing massive bleeding as the blood cannot clot adequately.

The worm Toxocara usually causes no signs in adult dogs but can cause blindness in young children and can cause death of puppies by blocking the intestines. The pet health club can help protect your pet from the parasites commonly found in the UK and the horrible diseases they can cause in both our pets and ourselves!

To discuss appropriate parasitic care for travel to other countries with one of our clinical team please call 01767260007 or come in for a chat – we will all be more than happy to help!