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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Alabama Rot – a new disease all dog owners should be aware of

Alabama Rot, or CRGV (Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy) is a disease first described back in the 1980s in a number of Greyhounds in Alabama, USA – hence the name. However since 2012, more than a hundred dogs across the UK, have been identified as having the same, or a very similar, disease.

The majority of dogs will initially show skin lesions, typically appearing as ulcers or erosions on the lower limbs, tummy or around the mouth and nose. A few days later, the kidneys go into rapid failure, and the pet will suddenly show signs of severe illness, with 80% of dogs going on to die, despite their vets’ best efforts at treatment.

The kidney failure that occurs is thought to be a result of inflammation and damage to the lining of the blood vessels that supply the organs. This leads to widespread formation of tiny blood clots, and consumption of platelets, leading to a low platelet count in most cases. Anaemia (low red blood cell count) and changes in white blood cell and bilirubin levels may also be identified on routine blood tests. However there is no specific blood test that can be performed to detect CRGV, as the cause is not yet known. Therefore sadly, the only way to diagnose it is post-mortem, when samples of kidney tissue may be examined under the microscope, to identify the characteristic changes that occur.

If you take your dog to the vet with a skin lesion, they will be able to assess it and decide on the best course of action. Treatments may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, ointments and protective dressings, depending on the nature of the lesion. However they will not be able to tell if the lesion is due to CRGV. Should your dog go on to become unwell, they will advise performing further tests to investigate, along with more intensive treatment. Sometimes referral to a Specialist veterinary centre (where vets with additional qualifications, experience and facilities see unusual cases or very poorly pets), may be advised, in order to give your dog the best chance of recovery possible.

Predisposing factors
A wide range of breeds have been identified with CRGV in the UK, suggesting the disease does not solely affect greyhounds here. In fact, there does not appear to be a breed, body weight, sex or age predilection. Neither does there seem to be a particular geographical distribution for the disease, as whilst initially most cases were seen in and around the New Forest, many other cases have now been identified across the whole of the UK. However there does appear to be a seasonality to the disease, with most cases being identified between November and May ie. the Winter months. Muddy walks – often unavoidable at this time of year – may be a significant risk factor.

What can dog owners do?
With the cause of CRGV currently unknown, the best advice is to be vigilant and seek veterinary advice if you have any concerns about your pet. In particular, be on the look-out for any skin sores not known to have been caused by injury, especially below the elbow or knee. Reduced appetite, vomiting and increased tiredness in your pet should never be ignored, and with these symptoms we would advise that the sooner you take your pet to the vet, the better. This is because these symptoms are non-specfic, which means they may be indicators of a whole array of diseases and disorders, ranging from mild disease due to an upset tummy, right through to very severe disease including kidney failure and CRGV.
With a link to mud (or something in it) being hypothesised, it would also seem prudent to make sure to wash-off your pet thoroughly, especially after muddy walks.

Future research
Investigations into CRGV are ongoing, with the referral centre Anderson Moores, in Hampshire, leading the way. They organised a conference earlier this year, at which leading experts in kidney disease, from both the veterinary and human medical fields, met to discuss the disease and how they could collaborate going forwards. The Alabama Rot Research Fund is a National charity that has been set up with the aim of raising awareness and funds for Alabama Rot research www.arrf.co.uk.

Elly Pittaway is Veterinary Surgeon and owner of Broad Lane Vets, an award-winning, family-run practice established in 1969, and with sites at Balsall Common, Broad Lane and Radford Road in Coventry. For more information about the practice please visit www.broadlanevets.co.uk. You can also like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Monday, 16 October 2017

It's firework season again

Remember, remember fireworks aren’t just in November - How to prepare for the Firework season?

It is estimated that approximately 45 per cent of dogs become stressed and fearful while fireworks are going off, yet many owners are unaware of how to help their dogs with firework fears and the precautions that can be taken to help them cope with their fear of loud noises.

Dogs should have a safe haven or den to retreat to in the home; an area that they feel secure in. The den can be a place that the dog already uses and adapted to be as comfortable, dark and quiet as possible, or a manmade temporary option such as a cardboard box or crate. Preparing a den in advance allows the dog to get used to the area and accept it as a safe place. A towel or blanket can be placed over the den to dim the sounds and lights of the fireworks.  The dog should have access to the den at all times.

The dog appeasing pheromone ADAPTIL® has been shown to reduce anxiety and help dogs cope with challenging situations, including firework events. ADAPTIL® is easy to use and it is available as a diffuser, collar and spray. It reduces the intensity of the dog’s fear response and using an ADAPTIL® diffuser or collar from October can help to combat any anxiety build up the dog experiences in the run up to the fireworks event. Using ADAPTIL® spray on the dog’s bedding can offer additional support during stressful events.  

Consider using a natural calming agent such as Zylkene, Calmex or Yucalm. Talk to your vet about these.  

Anti-anxiety medication may be necessary in some cases, but should only be used under veterinary supervision. Again talk to your vet about this treatment. 

Further tips for dog owners
     Ensure dogs are taken out for a walk/to the toilet before it gets dark to avoid the         need to be taken out later during the fireworks
    Soothing or punishing the dog may increase the intensity of the experience or reward inappropriate behaviour. Instead consider distracting them with a chew, toy, puzzle feeder or a game. Having a meal before the fireworks start can also help as a dog may not want to eat during the event if they are too anxious
     Ensure the dog has access to their water bowl as anxious dogs can pant more
     Keep curtains closed, have the TV or music on and keep the dog company
     Dogs with a more severe reaction to noises should be taken to the vet, as it may be that they need medication in order to cope with the firework season
     Be aware that older dogs may find fireworks more challenging than they have before, as they can start to find changes to routine difficult. Alternatively, those dogs which start to develop hearing loss as they age can find fireworks easier to cope with.

Long term support
In the long term, desensitisation and counter conditioning have been shown to be safe and effective methods for treating sound sensitivities; the ‘Sounds Scary’ (https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets) is a good home tool to recommend for customers. However, the dog needs to be relaxed during this training, which means that it needs to be done after the party fireworks season has passed.

Exposing puppies to many different stimuli during their socialisation period can help prevent fears in adult life. There is a different version of the sounds recording which can help with this process – Sounds Scary/Sounds Sociable.

What about cats?
Cats are not thought to show sound sensitivities as dogs do, however they will be frightened by the loud bangs and flashes of fireworks. Therefore, during the firework season owners are advised to keep their cats indoors. This change in routine and confinement to the home can sometimes cause cats to become upset and show unwanted behaviours such as urine marking, inter-cat tension and vertical scratching. 

Owners can help their cats cope with these changes by providing enough litter trays throughout the house and ensuring all of the cats in the household have safe places to hide in. These often are up high, for example on the top of cupboards, but could also be under a bed or in a box. Once a cat has found a safe spot for the night, leave it alone and do not try to coax it out, as this refuge is where it feels most secure.  Plugging a FELIWAY® CLASSIC diffuser into the room where a cat spends most of its time or where its safe place is, at least 48 hours before the festivities begin, will help to ensure it feels as safe and secure as possible. There is also a FELIWAY® CLASSIC spray which can be applied to a cat’s bedding on the night of the event to provide additional support.

What about other pets?
Small pets
Small animals and birds all need to be treated with special care as these animals are easily frightened. Hutches, cages and enclosures should, if possible, be brought into a quiet room indoors, or into a garage or shed. Providing extra bedding for them to burrow down in can help the pet feel more secure. Aviaries should be covered with thick blankets to block out the sight and sound of the fireworks, but care should be taken to ensure there is enough ventilation in the aviary.

Fireworks can be difficult for many pets to cope with but there is a lot that can be done to support them through this troubling period.  For further information please contact us at Broad Lane Vets on 02476 464789

Sheppard, G. and Mills, D.S. (2003) Evaluation of dog appeasing pheromone as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks. Vet Rec. 152 (4): 432-6

Monday, 9 October 2017

Hedgehogs in October by Kay Bullen (BHPS Trustee)

Time is getting on and just as we might prepare early for Christmas so the hedgehogs must prepare to hibernation.  When birds are flying to warmer climates, squirrels and Jays are building up food stores, hedgehogs are also building up their food stores; but theirs will be internal fat.  One type of fat to live off and another one to kick start their waking processes.

This extra fat must be sufficient to see them through the whole of the winter.  If they do not have enough fat stored they will not be able to survive the winter and may have to delay going into hibernation.  However, as the weather gets colder so their natural food will disappear, this produces a vicious circle, they are searching for more food and that food is less abundant.

This is why extra food can be a life saver.  A dry nest box in which to make their hibernation nest would be a bonus.  Provided they have plenty of food and a dry place to sleep in, they can hibernate later or may even survive the winter without hibernating.  It is not the cold weather that kills them rather the lack of food it brings.  Having said that if their nest is in a cold damp environment and their bedding is damp then they will struggle against hypothermia.  The young, weak, sick and elderly hedgehogs will be the most vulnerable.

A dish of water should also be provided especially if you are feeding them dry foods.  If the food and water can be place inside a feeding station this would give them a certain protection from the frosts and would also keep the hedgehog dry when it is feeding in the rain or snow.

For more information about Autumn Juveniles visit the BHPS website and view the leaflet section for the “Autumn Juvenile” leaflet.  If you need advice about a particular hedgehog it would be helpful if you could weigh it before calling, as this helps us to give the most appropriate advice.

If you are concerned about your local visiting hedgehog contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact.  Contact them on 01584 890801 or for general advice visit their web site www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.   

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Springtime Hedgehog Advice

Hedgehogs in March

Spring is here and hedgehogs are starting to wake from hibernation.  They will be sleepy and very thirsty and will head for the nearest water.  Although good swimmers many die in ponds because there is no way out for them.  By putting some green plastic coated wire netting down into (not across) the pond we can provide a ladder for them to use should they fall in. 

It is not only hedgehogs that are out and about but gardeners as well.  Whilst the hedgehog is the gardeners' friend the gardener is not always the hedgehogs' friend.  Many of the jobs we do in our gardens can affect and even harm the hedgehogs.  So please take care when tidying up, pulling down sheds (a favourite nesting site) and strimming long grass and brambles. 

Hedgehogs are not territorial; they tend to have home patches.  A females’ home patch will be just big enough to support her and her hoglets.  A males’ patch will be much larger in the breeding season as they wander long distances searching for females.  Once the autumn comes their home patches will become smaller.  So if you see a hedgehog on a regular basis in the springtime it is more likely to be a female.   If you are able to leave food out each night then this will encourage any females to stay around and eat your slugs and snails.  However males, as I mentioned above, will have other priorities and will move away – they are more nomadic in the breeding season.

The following are a few suggestions for feeding stations that can keep the food dry and deter cats from stealing the food.  Try a paving slab on bricks (leave a gap between 2 of the bricks as an entrance hole) OR a box with a small hole cut into it OR a large box upside down with a brick propping up one end OR a rabbit hutch with its door wedged partly open OR an upside down pet basket OR an upside down toy box with the hand holds cut away.  As a final suggestion, try to get one of those blue plastic mushroom boxes.  Cut a 5"x5" hole in one of the short sides so when the box is upside down the hole becomes an entrance.  Put the food at the far end and weigh the box down with a stone.  Sometimes a brick needs to be placed 4-5” away from the entrance so if a cat has tried to reach in with a paw the brick should make it more difficult.

To find out more about hedgehogs visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s web site at www.britishhedgehog.org.uk   Do remember that hedgehogs are nocturnal and usually only come out in the day when they are in serious trouble.  If you find a hedgehog needing help, or if you need more advice, call the BHPS on 01584 890801.