Category Archives: Pet Care

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

 

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

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:

dentalscalebeforelabeledlabel

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.

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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?

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.