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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?

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

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.

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


K-Laser – Effective treatment for arthritis

It was a cold winters day and Barley was snuggled up in his basket when he heard his dad return home from work. ‘Great!’ he thought, ‘walk time!’ and he tried to leap out of his basket as he always did.

However his back legs gave way underneath him and he struggled fruitlessly for several minutes. Eventually he made it up and walked rather stiffly to the door to greet his owner. After a few paces, it became easier and Barley was soon running and jumping on his walk.

He came back muddy but satisfied and he totally forgot about his earlier stiffness. He settled down into his basket to rest for a while. Later on he heard his tea being served and again had the same stiffness in his hind legs.

This time his owners watched and helped as he struggled to get out of his basket. They took Barley into Potton Vets who did several xrays and diagnosed arthritis in Barleys hip joints. The vets explained that although arthritis cannot be cured it can be managed.

Management can involve weight loss, regular exercise, K-laser treatment, joint supplements and/or pain relieving anti inflammatory medication. Barley’s owners had never heard of laser treatment and asked for more information. They learnt that Potton Vets is one of the few vets that have a class 4 therapeutic laser.

These lasers transfers energy via the laser light into the cells of the hip joint providing relief from the pain of arthritis and also slowing down arthritis progression. The laser can also be used on cats and small animals as well! For further information on arthritis, the class 4 therapeutic laser and Potton Vets Senior Health Clinics please talk to one of our clinical team, who would be more than happy to help you

Spay your Dog the Humane way with Laparoscopic Spaying

Puppies are about the most adorable organisms on the entire planet, but the fantasy of snuggling in a warm pile of little doglets can be quite different from the reality of having to care for ten of them at once. Thus, unless you’re an established breeder, it makes sense to spay your female dog.

Get it done ASAP

There is such a thing as too early, of course, but in most cases you’ll want to get your dog spayed sooner than you think. Dogs can first season as young as six months, and vets nearly unanimously recommend spaying them before their first heat, as this greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors. Plus, as any owner of a female dog can tell you, one heat is one heat too many.

Do it for yourself, your Dog, and other Dogs

There are many reasons to get your dog spayed, and hardly any not to unless you really are dead set on breeding it. As alluded to before, a pet being in heat can be an unpleasant, even traumatic experience for a pet owner. You’ll have every male dog in the neighborhood closing in from all sides, and if just one of them gets through you’ll have puppies in a few months. The UK has over 125,000 stray dogs (more than 5,000 of which are put to sleep every ear) and every new puppy that gets a home is taking the place of a dog that needs one.

Laparoscopic Spaying is the way to go

With the case for spaying your dog fairly airtight, there comes the question of which type of procedure you will elect to do. Laparoscopic spaying is a fairly recent development that greatly reduces the invasiveness of spaying. Spaying has always been more invasive for female dogs than neutering for male dogs, but laparoscopic spaying greatly moderates this difference and therefore reduces the short-term suffering involved for your girl. Thanks to the minimally-intrusive nature of laparoscopic spaying, pain and healing time are both greatly reduced. It’s more expensive than a traditional spay, so base your decision accordingly, but more and more pet owners are deciding that a little extra money is a small price to pay for their pet’s happiness.
Whatever type of procedure you choose, spaying is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Even though they can’t say so directly, your dog will thank you for it.
For more information visit www.pottonvets.co.uk or why not pop into the clinic in Potton market square.

Puppy vaccinations – current concepts

Having just picked up your new puppy, you are excited about your puppy and want to do the best for it.  Now where to go from here?

There are a number of topics to cover including worming, flea and other parasite control, socialisation, vaccination, nutrition, insurance and so much more.

Where do you go?

We believe that you are going to provide the best start for your puppy by coming to see us at Potton Vets. Our vet provides a full half an hour consult on your first visit, this time is used exclusively for a full examination, careful evaluation and advise regarding you and your pet specifically.  There really is no “one shoe fits all” solution.

One of the many confusing topics is puppy vaccinations, with contradicting information from vaccination companies, breeders, other vets, friends, dog trainers, groomers, the internet etc.

The importance of Vaccination and Socialisation:

Part of the confusion starts because there is a contradiction, what is best from a socialisation point of view (i.e. get them socialised as early as possible) is at odds with what is best from a vaccination point of view (keep them away from potential risk as long as possible).

There are, however, well established principles that help us make a sensible decision through the maze of confusion!

Maternally derived antibodies (MDA)

One of the causes of vaccination breakdown (i.e. the vaccine does not appear to work) is that if you vaccinate a puppy while it is still protected by its mothers antibodies the vaccination can be weakened or useless.  This protection from the mother is handed down through maternally derived antibodies (or MDA).  We cannot easily predict what these levels will be in an individual puppy, or when exactly the best time to vaccinate that puppy is.  We do, however, know that a puppy is extremely unlikely to have enough MDA to neutralise a vaccination by the time it is 14 weeks old. This is why we recommend a final primary puppy vaccination at or 14-16 weeks of age.

Other truths:

It is also true that the bulk of puppies will actually be protected by vaccinations finishing at 10-12 weeks.

Another truth is that we want puppies to go out and explore their environments, meet new people and dogs to become socially well adjusted from as young an age as possible.

What to do?

So bearing in mind there is no completely risk free option, we recommend a final puppy core vaccination at 14-16 weeks, and expose your puppy to other vaccinated dogs in safe areas from a young age.  Avoid high risk areas (e.g. parks – where you cannot possibly know if the area is contaminated) until fully vaccinated.

I hope this has helped in understanding the challenges of the not so “simple” primary vaccinations, we encourage you to discuss this further face to face at your first vaccination  with our vets (half and hour), or with our nurse (half an hour) at the second vaccination.

Below is a link to the BSAVA and WSAVA guide to vaccination – an interesting bed time read! Enjoy.


————————- ———————— ———————– ————————- ————————– ——————– —————–

WSAVA – Vaccination guidelines

“We should aim to vaccinate every animal with core vaccines, and to vaccinate each individual less frequently by only giving non-core vaccines that are necessary for that animal.” WSAVA

Pup Vaccination and the 12 Month Booster

“Most pups are protected by MDA in the first weeks of life. In general, passive immunity will have waned by 8–12 weeks of age to a level that allows active immunization. Pups with poor MDA may be vulnerable (and capable of responding to vaccination) at an earlier age, while others may possess MDA at such high titres that they are incapable of responding to vaccination until ≥12 weeks of age. No single primary vaccination policy will therefore cover all possible situations. The recommendation of the VGG is for initial vaccination at 8–9 weeks of age followed by a second vaccination 3–4 weeks later, and a third vaccination given between 14–16 weeks of age. By contrast, at present many vaccine data sheets recommend an initial course of two injections. Some products are also licensed with a ‘10 week finish’ designed such that the second of two vaccinations is given at 10 weeks of age. The rationale behind this protocol is to permit ‘early socialization’ of pups. The VGG recognizes that this is of great benefit to the behavioural development of dogs. Where such protocols are adopted, great caution should still be maintained by the owner – allowing restricted exposure of the pup to controlled areas and only to other pups that are healthy and fully vaccinated. The VGG recommends that whenever possible a third dose of core vaccine be given at 14–16 weeks of age.

In immunological terms, the repeated injections given to pups in their first year of life do not constitute boosters. They are rather attempts to induce a primary immune response by injecting the attenuated virus (of modified live virus [MLV] vaccines) into an animal devoid of neutralizing antibody, where it must multiply to be processed by an antigen presenting cell and stimulate antigen- specific T and B lymphocytes. In the case of killed (inactivated) vaccines, MDA may also interfere with this immunological process by binding to and ‘masking’ the relevant antigens. Here repeated doses are required.

All dogs should receive a first booster 12 months after completion of the primary vaccination course. The VGG redefines the basic immunization protocol as the ensemble of the pup regime plus this first booster. The 12 month booster will also ensure immunity for dogs that may not have adequately responded to the pup vaccinations.”



Chocolate poisoning – what you should know


Chocolate poisoning in dogs.

Dogs are susceptible to chocolate poisoning.  This is because they are more sensitive to the poisonous ingredient (theobromide), they are relatively small compared to humans, and they can very quickly eat a lot of chocolate (or whatever else they can get hold of!)

Charateristics that make poisoning more likely:

Small dogs have a lower body weight which makes them more susceptible.

Type of chocolate: Bakers chocolate, dark chocolates and cocoa powder/beans/shell mulches contain far more theobromide than the refined chocolates (milk and white chocolates).


Gastrointestinal symptoms are common (vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea), as is increased drinking and urinating.

Later, or if large amounts are eaten, symptoms may include muscle tremors, seizures, irregular heartbeats, internal bleeding and possible heart failure.

How much is too much:

This is not always easy to answer, but one or a few milk/white chocolates are unlikely to cause any problems in healthy dogs.

With a dark or bitter chocolate however, as little as 25g can cause symptoms in a 20kg dog.Chocolate

Symptoms normally start within 2 hours, but can take up to 24 hours.

If in doubt, rather take a cautious approach early on and contact us for advice.

Prompt treatment is essential in overdose cases.  We do provide 24-hour emergency cover for our clients, so even if you have a chocolate guzzling monster late at night – please call.

Symptoms can continue for up to 3 days.


By far the best treatment is to medically cause vomiting (ideally within half an hour of ingestion, but up to 2 hours, or even a little longer will reduce the amount of theobromide absorbed).

This is best done at the practice with an injectable drug that causes vomiting, reliably.

Lethal dosages and the numbers:

The lethal dose of theobromide is 100-500mg/kg of body weight.

Cocoa powder (20mg/g) and plain dark chocolate (15mg/g) contain the highest levels of theobromide.  Milk chocolate has around 2mg/g and white chocolate very little at 0.1mg/g).

Therefore, 100g of dark chocolate (1500mg theobromide) could kill a 10kg dog (1000mg potential lethal dose).

To get the same amount of theobromide from white chocolate this dog would need to eat 15kg of chocolate!

Put another way treatment is needed if your dog eats more than:

Ø  9g/kg of milk chocolate (the light brown one)

Ø  1.25g/kg of dark chocolate (dark brown/cooking chocolate)

Please note: these figures are not absolutes, please call for advice.