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Feline CowPox_courtesy of Edinburgh University.001

UK warning of rise in “aggressive” Cowpox cases in Cats

Professor Danielle Gunn-Moore (Professor of feline medicine at the University of Edinburgh) has published an article in a veterinary journal (Veterinary Times November 14 2016, volume 46, no 45) as a warning to veterinary surgeons in small animal practice about a significant increase in the severity and number of Feline Cowpox (FPxV) cases diagnosed in the UK in the past weeks.

Professor Gunn-Moore’s concern was about vets’ health and the risks to the profession in getting exposed to this Feline Cowpox virus.  As the warning has been sent out to vets, I felt it necessary to extend the courtesy to cat owners in the UK.  Cases have been reported from practices across the UK.

This is one of those diseases that are classed as “zoonotic”.  In other words, this is a disease in pets that can be transmitted to people.  In this case it’s through contact with cats.

Prof Gunn-Moore said of the cases and images she’d seen sent in by veterinary surgeons: “I am worried because if people don’t recognise it might be pox, they won’t think to put a mask or gloves on, and it’s my job to protect my colleagues as well.  If you are not immuno-suppressed then it usually won’t cause anything more than a pock mark or two, which will scar.  Unfortunately, if you are asthmatic or atopic, if you’ve got eczema, then it can go systemic and yet it can kill”.  She went on to say that “owners of infected cats should be advised to wear gloves when handling them and seek medical advice if they develop lesions.”

Cowpox usually present as small, outlined and ulcerated skin lesions that resolve spontaneously.   It can also be associated with severe pneumonia.  However, severe cases are not consistent with these clinical signs.  “The strain of Cowpox this year is particularly aggressive.  I have never seen cowpox go neurological before nor have I seen these big necrotic eschars.”

Amplification in the bank and field vole population could be one of the reasons for an increase in cases.  A mild winter could account for a boom in the rodent populations, as could poor harvests.  Wood mice can also spread the disease.

Feline CowPox_courtesy of Edinburgh University.002

Picture(s) courtesy of Edinburgh University:  close-up of a lesion

cocker spaniel

New DNA Tests and IVF

New DNA testing scheme for Cocker Spaniels

The Kennel Club has approved a new official DNA testing scheme for Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) in Cocker Spaniels, following consultation with the Health Coordinator on behalf of the breed clubs.
This test is offered by Antagene ( and further details can be obtained directly from them. As the Kennel Club does not have an agreement in place for the direct receipt of results from this laboratory, results can only currently be recorded upon owner submission.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Kennel Club is constantly reviewing DNA testing schemes in conjunction with breed clubs to ensure that breeders are able to continue breeding healthy dogs.
“We are pleased to be announcing this new DNA test for Cocker Spaniels, which will help breeders make informed decisions when it comes to breeding, enable potential puppy buyers to be aware of issues which could affect their chosen breed, and ultimately protect and maintain the health of the breed.
“The Kennel Club continues to work alongside breed clubs and breed health coordinators, in a collaborative effort to improve the health of pedigree dogs. We are happy to accommodate a club’s request to add a new DNA test to its lists and would normally need a formal request from the breed’s health coordinator or a majority request from the breed clubs.”
Test results will be added to the dog’s registration details which will trigger the publication of the result in the next available Breed Records Supplement. The result will appear on any new registration certificate issued for the dog and on the registration certificates of any future progeny of the dog, and also on the Health Test Results Finder on the Kennel Club website. Results for dogs already tested can also be recorded, but owners will need to submit copies of the DNA certificates themselves.
If the owner includes the original registration certificate for the dog (not a copy) then a new registration certificate will be issued, with the DNA result on it, free of charge.

Please send any DNA test certificates to Health & Breeder Services, The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, London, W1J 8AB or scan and email copies of the certificates to

New DNA testing scheme for Alaskan Malamutes

The Kennel Club has approved a new official DNA testing scheme for Cone Degeneration (CD) in Alaskan Malamutes, following consultation with the Health Coordinator on behalf of the breed club.
To find out which laboratories the Kennel Club is able to record results from, and which labs will send results direct to the Kennel Club, please refer to the worldwide DNA testing list.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Kennel Club is constantly reviewing DNA testing schemes in conjunction with breed clubs to ensure that breeders are supported in breeding healthy dogs.
“We are pleased to be announcing this new DNA test for Alaskan Malamutes, which will help breeders make informed decisions when it comes to breeding, enable potential puppy buyers to be aware of issues which could affect their chosen breed, and ultimately protect and maintain the health of the breed.
“The Kennel Club continues to work alongside breed clubs and breed health coordinators, in a collaborative effort to improve the health of pedigree dogs. We are happy to accommodate a club’s request to add a new DNA test to our lists and would normally need a formal request from the breed’s health coordinator or a majority request from the breed clubs.”
Test results will be added to the dog’s registration details which will trigger the publication of the result in the next available Breed Records Supplement. The result will appear on any new registration certificate issued for the dog, on the registration certificates of any future progeny of the dog, and also on the Health Test Results Finder on the Kennel Club website. Results for dogs already tested can also be recorded, but owners will need to submit copies of the DNA certificates themselves.
If the owner includes the original registration certificate for the dog (not a copy) then a new registration certificate will be issued, with the DNA result on it, free of charge. Please send any DNA test certificates to Health & Breeder Services, The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8AB or scan and email copies of the certificates to

IVF Dogs

A team from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, led by Professor Alexander J. Travis, has announced that a litter of seven puppies delivered by caesarean section on July 10 are the first to be born through IVF.
The story has been widely reported in the media, and the procedure is being hailed as having the potential to save endangered dog species and help prevent breed-related genetic disorders.
The paper entitled Live Births from Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris) Embryos Produced by In Vitro Fertilization concentrates on describing the techniques used to but does also indicate possible ways in which this technique may be used in future and concludes by saying; “Successful IVF makes possible a variety of applications, including opening new opportunities for gamete rescue of endangered species or targeted propagation of domestic dogs of high genetic value. Importantly, the dog is also a preferred model for studies in stem cell transplantation and gene therapy, and has well-characterized breed predispositions to hundreds of traits and pathologies that also plague humans. But the full potential of dog genetics has not been realized because of lack of IVF/ART. Methods shown here enable new gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas to be applied to the dog in an efficient manner. This approach will allow genes identified as candidates to cause or predispose an individual to a pathology or undesired trait to be tested empirically. This in turn will facilitate both development of targeted treatments and genetic screening tests to be used to remove those genes from affected breeds, with broad positive impacts on human and companion animal health and welfare.”
The ability to carry out IVF raises not only technical challenges but also a number of ethical issues which relate not only to fertility treatment but also the use of gametes and embryos in research. In humans the primary purpose of IVF is to enable people who have fertility problems to have a baby, and although IVF for this purpose is well established it is nonetheless acknowledged that there are ethical issues raised by the treatment, which is why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority exists.
So, now that IVF is technically possible in the dog, the ethical issues raised will need to be considered. We are aware that the technique is already being used in other species and would appreciate your comments on whether you think that there are particular ethical issues in regard to the use of this technique in dogs.
Please send your comments to Dr Sally Everitt, Head of Scientific Policy for BSAVA –

Facebook_keep em coming

About Irish Whiskey and Spent Hops

You wouldn’t think that dogs would join in with the owners on having beverages but apparently they do!!

The VPIS said this about alcohol poisoning in dogs:

“Dogs will drink most forms of alcohol (e.g. beer, wine, spirits), but do seem to have a fondness for a particular brand of Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur ; indeed almost 20% of our canine ethanol cases with follow up involved this type of alcoholic drink.

The signs of ethanol intoxication are similar to those in humans with vomiting, depression, ataxia (walking all over the place), disorientation, vocalisation, drowsiness and coma. In severe cases there may be hypoglycaemia (low sugar), hypothermia (low temperature) and respiratory (breath) depression.

Treatment is supportive with warming measures, rehydration and nursing care. They are likely to be depressed and lethargic (or “hung over”) during recovery.”

Today, I was reading about hops and microbreweries and how spent hops tends to get a dog spent or worse!  This is what the VPIS sent in their article yesterday:

“Hops, humulus lupulus, are used to flavour beer, as well as in herbal products targeting stress and insomnia. Whilst herbal hops preparations, such as some sleeping aid tablets, rarely cause great concern, the VPIS has received calls reporting severe clinical signs after dogs have been exposed to spent hops from brewing. It is the flower cones of the female plant which are used in brewing. As the home “microbrewery” grows in popularity, owners must be advised of the risks to their pets.

The main concern in dogs post exposure is malignant hyperthermia, although the exact cause is unknown. Dogs can present with signs within 8 hours such as panting, abdominal (belly) discomfort, restlessness, tachycardia and tachypnoea. In severe cases, ingestion of spent hops can also lead to myoglobinuria (fast heart rate), metabolic acidosis, acute renal impairment, convulsions, respiratory distress and cardiovascular collapse. The case below demonstrates the potential lethality of poisoning:

A 23 kg, 4 year old Border collie lived on a brewery and became unwell after ingesting used hops. The owners noticed the dog was very hot and panting, but were not keen to bring her to a veterinary practice. They attempted to cool her down using a hose. She presented in practice 27 hours post ingestion with hypersalivation, panting, agitation and hyperthermia (41.8 °C). Once started on intravenous fluids, the dog suffered a convulsion and sadly died soon after. The body temperature following death was reported to be “off the scale”.
The VPIS advises gastric lavage in dogs that have ingested spent hops. This may still be of benefit several hours after the incident, with cases reporting of hops remaining in the stomach more than 6 hours post ingestion. Activated charcoal may also be of benefit. Vital signs should be closely monitored, in particular the temperature. Aggressive cooling measures, such as cool water baths and ice packs, may be required. IV fluids are recommended to ensure adequate hydration, promote urine output and prevent renal impairment.”

persian cat

The curse of a short nose…

I found this article on “short-nosed” breeds of cats & dogs (brachycephalic is the correct word)

BVA and BSAVA statement on brachycephalic breeds
Following recent calls urging veterinary surgeons and their professional associations to take action to address the health problems experienced by brachycephalic dog and cat breeds, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) have issued the following statement:

BVA and BSAVA’s members are seeing concerning trends in dog and cat health and welfare linked to the rise in ownership of brachycephalic breeds and we are unequivocal in the need for all those with roles to play – including vets, breeders, breed societies, the pet-buying public as well as others – to take action to combat the health problems that brachycephalic breeds experience due to extreme conformation. Both organisations are committed to using scientific evidence and data – now readily available – to understand and tackle extremes of conformation.

BVA and BSAVA both strongly recommend that animals which show extremes of conformation that negatively affect their health and welfare should not be used for breeding. Vets have a duty to always prioritise the best interests of their pet patients, which, for affected animals, can involve performing surgical procedures to correct conformational disorders. They have a concurrent duty, for example acting through professional associations such as BVA and BSAVA, to be part of initiatives that aim to address the health and welfare of a breed beyond the individual affected animal.

This is why BVA, at the recent BSAVA Congress, promoted the importance of vets submitting data on caesarean sections and conformation-altering surgery to the Kennel Club, to improve the future of dog health and welfare.

We recognise and take seriously our responsibility to develop and contribute to all such initiatives that aim to address the health and welfare of these animals and we will continue to work with all stakeholders who can positively influence and improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic breeds.”

So what does that mean then practically?  What is all the “fuss” about?

Short-nosed cat and dog breeds often suffer a few anatomical challenges, to say the least.  As the term states, short-nosed means lack of nose and lack of distance from front to back of nose.

There are a few structures in the nose that need to be considered in this.  First there are the nostrils.  Those are often “collapsed” or “narrowed” in short-nosed breeds, making it difficult for them to breathe.  That’s the front position.

Lets have a look at the middle position.  There is a duct running from the eyes to the inside of the nostrils and this duct lets the tears flow through a mini canal.  When that canal gets squashed, the tears have nowhere to go but “over the top”.  So you’re getting tear stripes and tear stains, wetness and possible fold eczema as a result of this squashed little nose.

Then there is also the back position to consider.  The soft palate has its length but the nose hasn’t.  This leads to a lot of flapping about of a loose bit of kit in the back of the throat.  That’s OK most of the time if you like to hear a bit of snoring at night.  But when it gets hot outside, things heat up for pets.  They’re relying on panting to get rid of heat as well as lying on cold surfaces.  They don’t sweat.  I have seen pets come in during an emergency, blue tongue, gasping for air and being short nosed.  That dog had been panting all afternoon, vibrating its super-long palate in the process.  This had caused the soft palate to swell up and block the entrance to the trachea, the air pipe.  No view of the trachea, the air pipe at all on inspection, just one big swollen blob!

Finally, there is also the birthing to be considered of pets with big heads and short noses.  It hardly goes to plan in a natural way.  The heads are big, the bodies are small and the birth canal can only take that much.  Often the brachycephalic end up in elective caesarians and it’s not because they’re too posh to push.  There is often no way they’re going to pass.  So welfare in those breeds are a big issue and the checks are a must.


Dr Google, Dr Dog Walker and Dr Vet, which one to choose I wonder….

We’re not living in easy times and the trend I have noticed these days is the emergence of different client approaches to pet care.

A client might come to the surgery, starting to tell me what the problem is and I can see their eyes fill up whilst the client voices in a quivering way “I think he might have cancer.  I looked on Google and it said that it might be cancer!”.  Dr Google is free, Dr Google is not necessarily accurate nor able to examine your pet from the safety of its screen and parallel & serial processors… matter how fast those run.

Another scenario that’s on the increase is that of the new specialist on the block, Dr Dog Walker.  Recently a client came in with a dog with extremely red eyes.  Apparently Dr Dog Walker in the park, where she takes the dog for a walk, had volunteered the wisdom that she could use baby shampoo to bathe the eyes with.  It doesn’t harm babies so it shouldn’t harm dogs, right?  Shocking!!!

I agree, Dr Vet doesn’t always know what’s going on but then who has 100% knowledge?  Aside of the knowledge, who is then practical enough to do something about it or help the client make decisions from an informed point of view?  Again, not 100% fail proof.

However, it must be said that with 5 to 6 years of training, some vets go on to add quite a few more years to this initial training through specialisation, a trend I have increasingly witnessed during my 24 years as a veterinary surgeon and there are some amazing vets out there.  Can you tell one vet from another?

In my opinion, the importance really in veterinary medicine these days is not just what you know but also who you know and who you trust to give quality of care.

I don’t profess to enjoying orthopaedic surgery. I have done some orthopaedic surgery in the past at the expense of a few kg of sweat lost in the process.  It’s not easy!  To become a great orthopaedic surgeon in veterinary medicine, just as much as becoming an olympic champion, you have to put the hours in.  So, how may hours veterinary work has Dr Google and Dr Dog Walker?  That’s where “who you know” comes in.  I have a network of specialists whom I work with to refer clients with their pets to (if they wish), so that they can have access to the best care I can think of to come towards the client’s need if they wish to have their pet death with in this way.  At other times, I have enough experience if clients don’t want or can’t afford referral to help them make informed decisions for their pets.

Don’t take me wrong, Dr Google is great to have access to knowledge.  Where it starts failing is if you’re finding the wrong bit of information about what’s going on and start frightening yourself with it for days or weeks before going to Dr Vet with your worries.

Also Dr Google isn’t good at a practical approach.  It can’t cross-reference the symptoms, history of the sickness/environment etc, the possible diagnostics for the problem you’re facing, nor has a plan at hand on how to narrow it down.  That might change again in the future, who knows.  They’re already talking of approaching difficult law cases this way (using IT). Who’s to say that years down the line there won’t be an IT solution to find out what’s wrong with your pet.  For now, Dr Vet, unless recently qualified, has put the hours in seeing patterns, dealing with what’s common, finding out the rare & networking with colleagues to come to a solution for the pet and/or answers for the client.

I don’t know of many colleagues who are talking during a consultation about what they’re doing during the consultation.  For clients it may just look like we’re stroking animals and come up with something.  The process of a consultation usually runs as follows, even if the vet doesn’t talk you through this process.  Initially when you start with the consultation, the vet will try to find out what the issue is and in very common cases there can already be a suspicion of what might be going on at that point and some more directed question can be asked.  For more complex situations the list of questions might be a lot longer.  Once the questions are asked, the vet will then start with a physical examination.  This is something that has been taught extensively at University and is a sequential method for examining your pet by palpation and auscultation initially.  A lot of information will already be conveyed to the vet at that point about the general health of the pet and the information may at that point well be enough to reach a diagnosis.  If however the “gross” health of the pet is fine but the pet is not, if you see what I mean, then you will need some extra diagnostics to help to visualise what’s going on or to analyse through for example blood work.  Again, the type of presentation of symptoms will influence the “decision tree” that’s going to be taken and this usually will be discussed with clients at that point.  The vet starts talking again.  Following those investigations, which hopefully may have narrowed down the issue, then it’s time to make decisions on how to proceed forward if at all.  If at that point the vet is with their back against the wall (I am talking about general practice, not referral practice, they have different walls there), it may be time for referral.

One example springs to mind.  Kiko, a beautiful Akita, was brought in one evening as he was screaming in pain.  I could feel something in his abdomen and I decided to get the ultrasound people in to investigate it the same night as the dog was in agony.  They came and they went and even thought there was something felt in the abdomen, the main issue was a tumour in the chest, very very close to the heart.  I checked with the client what he wanted and he wanted to do anything he could for his beloved dog.  I checked with one referral centre who told me it wouldn’t be worth doing this, not the attitude I was looking for.  I went back to another, more remote referral centre I had used before because of it’s excellent treatment of client/pet when open chest surgery was needed to remove a tumour.  Off he went to the referral clinic and underwent surgery and now is undergoing 3 weekly chemo sessions at Cambridge.  The client is happy and the dog is doing really well. Cooperation between vets is key and so is communication with all parties involved.

What follows is a list of problems we encounter in practice and for which I would strongly recommend that you take your pet to Dr Vet first before going to Dr Google.  Don’t even bother talking to Dr Dog Walker for advise with these ones!

  1. Male cats straining in the litter box.  Male cats sitting in a litter box and straining to urinate – and not passing urine-  are an emergency situation.  With female cats, this is usually not the case.  Male cats can have a “plug” or a small stone sat in the urethra, blocking the exit for the urine.  Not dealing with this emergency can lead to kidney failure or even bladder rupture & death.  I’ve seen both in practice.  With females you have a little more time to have her bladder issues seen to but with male cats, often larger neutered male cats, it’s very important to check the bladder within a few hours of noticing this, especially if no urine has been produced at all and the cat is getting increasingly vocal, depressed, anxious or even aggressive.  I don’t tend to see this issue much in dogs but it’s also possible if they’re having crystals/stones in the bladder and one blocks the exit.
  2. Laboured breathing.  Snuffles are different from laboured breathing.  With laboured breathing I mean that a pet is straining to breathe, may refuse to move because it’s struggling to breathe, is open mouth breathing.  With those pets you will often see that the normal flowing breathing pattern of the in-breath effortlessly flowing into the out-breath and back to the in-breath is changing into a more jagged pattern of “forced” breathing.  At the beginning when they’re starting to do this, it’s not always easy to spot when you’re not used to looking for it.  Often when pets start to open mouth breathe in distress, it’s not a good sign.  Often we see “pleural effusions”, which means that fluid (can be gas/air after a traffic accident with fractured ribs or perforating wounds) is building up between the chest wall and the lungs.  This can have several causes but the initial approach is to help the pet breathe before investigating further.  There could also be fluid on the lungs with heart failure etc.  The most critical case I have dealt with and needed referral was a Nocardia infection in the chest cavity of a cat.  For non-vets, the best I can describe this is like taking a sample from the “fluid” in the chest in a  syringe and smelling like you’ve hit a sewerage pipe big time.  This pet needed a referral to Liverpool University and for weeks was fitted with about 4 tubes, two in each side of its chest to drain the pus out and flush, a tube into its stomach to feed it and one in its bladder to monitor urine output.  The treatment plan was intense and the cat only just pulled through from this.
  3. Seizures.  I admit, if you’re not used to seeing a seizure in a pet and you’re a pet owner witnessing this for the first time, it’s awful!!!  Your pet may collapse on its side, convulse, go rigid, may vomit afterwards or void bladder/bowels.  It usually lasts a few minutes.  That may be the only one your pet is going to have and in that case it’s not an emergency. Monitor closely and have your pet checked out soon at the vets.  If however, your pet doesn’t seem to be able to come out of the fitting or partially comes round to have another round of it, it is an emergency and will need to be seen immediately.  Some poisons can start fitting, some neurological issues but also some non-neurological diseases.  Continuous fitting is dangerous to the pet and for that reason needs treating immediately.
  4. Persistent vomiting.  As pet owners, you’ve all seen your pet go to its dish, gulp all its food in Guinness Record speed, only to throw all of it back up again in the most inconvenient place.  That’s just a pet being plain greedy and not been able to hold the greediness.  It’s different however, when a pet starts vomiting persistently and with that I mean in the same day.  Each time a pet vomits, it’ll bring up stomach juice which is acid.  Doing so will start causing an imbalance in pH in the body and the pet will deteriorate.  Those pets will need help and this help will depend on what they’ve been doing.  Treatment for vomiting during cancer treatment is different from treatment for vomiting when a pet has eaten a foreign body (such as a stick/bone).  It needs checking.  The most bizarre case I have seen both in a dog and cat (they must have been exchanging notes as they belonged to different owners) was vomiting after ingestion of a cassette tape.  I only found out on opening the mouth of the Boxer & cat involved and finding some of it strung around the base of the tongue.    Giving medication to stop it from vomiting wasn’t an option and the surgery to remove this “foreign” body was quite lengthy as multiple openings had to be made throughout the intestinal tract to “thread through” this cassette tape.
  5. Bleeding.  I guess this one is self-explanatory.  If you see blood pumping out, you don’t wait.  If not sharp objects are lodged in that area, apply pressure and go to Dr Vet.  There are other types of “bleeding” that are more hidden types.  If a pet collapses and you check the inside of the mouth, i.e. the gums, and they’re very pale, your pet may be bleeding on the inside.  Another one that clients wouldn’t necessarily think of is that if pets have a huge amount of fleas/ticks, they’re also taking blood from your pet and your pet may become anaemic through that experience of parasitic infestation.
  6. Staggering and stumbling.  It’s difficult to know for clients whether pets need seeing when they find their pets staggering and stumbling.  The causes are multiple from an over controlled diabetic, an anaemic pet, neurological problems such as for example disc problems, muscular problems to name but a few.  Best policy is to have your pet checked as some of these issues can pretty quickly escalate.
  7. Lameness where the pet is not putting a limb down at all (non-weight bearing lameness).  A full-on refusal or inability to put a limb down needs to be investigated. Hobbling a bit may well be from a sprain or some mild issue and if not improving then be investigated.  However, if the leg is just “hanging & dangling”, it might well be a fracture, a dislocation or a ligament tear.  With fractures, undue delay in dealing with the fracture may also delay healing or result in non-union of the bones.
  8. Any symptom that lasts for more than 48 hours or gets persistently worse.  This mops up the rest I’ve forgotten to mention.  I guess it’s pretty self-explanatory.  If it lasts a day and a bit and is improving, there may be no need to see Dr Vet but you do when it start off with a bit of a snuffle, then it progresses into coughing and vomiting.  A final note as well on weight loss and water intake.  If pets over a short period of time start loosing weight, have it checked.  Not uncommonly I will have clients bring in pets that have lost a “bit” of weight.  That then turns out to be around 30% of their body weight as we’re keeping track of pet’s weights as they’re coming through the door.  Again, multiple reasons why and it just needs to be checked.  The same with water intake in pets.  I often ask clients to measure the water intake of their pets and if the amount they take in per 24 hours exceeds 50ml/kg pet per 24 hours for cats and 75ml/kg pet per 24 hours in dogs, it’s time to start investigating.

So final food for thought, rule of thumb, if you were to feel or look like your pet  right now, would you go to the doctor or A&E?


To vaccinate or not vaccinate, that’s the question……

When I was writing our client information letter and vaccinations in cats and dogs, I came across quite a few sites on the internet attacking the veterinary profession for advising vaccinations.  The arguments were aimed at the financial aspect of charging for services in providing vaccinations and didn’t really seem to address the diseases as such against which vaccinations are given.

There are pros and cons to everything you decide in life and on balance, as a vet, I am still recommending vaccinations in pets.

Looking at what’s going on in Leeds, there are several outbreaks reported of Parvo virus in dogs.  For those guys on the internet who are not vets and seem to know everything there is to know about vaccinations, I can assure you that it’s heart breaking dealing with an animal that has contracted Parvo and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it or cure it.  It’s there, it’s ripping the lining of the guts of those poor dogs and they’re in agony, awaiting certain death.  With over 20 years in practice, I’ve only been able to nurture one Parvo case through its disease and I have been fortunate enough not to see many cases over the years.

But then with the recession, client being strap for cash, a more detached attitude towards pets and prevention and we’re back to increasing number of outbreaks of diseases that we haven’t seen much of for a while.  In the practice we’ve had two cases in the space of a few months coming in, one dead on arrival, the other wanting emergency treatment which didn’t work (at the Emergency Vets).

Another aspect to note is the claims sometimes made by people that a particular vaccine has killed their pet.  Vaccination reactions do occur and they’re very very rare.  The reactions can be as mild as pets appearing more sleepy, having softer motions for a few days, to having an itch where they’ve been injected and scratching to the most severe form of an anaphylactic reaction which can be fatal if not dealt with.  You can have an anaphylactic reaction to anything that goes into the body that doesn’t belong to the body, be it an antibiotic, an anaesthetic agent, a vaccine, a bee sting or anything else.  To then make sweeping comments that vaccines are useless & dangerous is about just the same as stating that bees shouldn’t exist either and are equally as useless & dangerous!  Just drawing some comparisons here in an out of the box way.

We still see Parvo cases in practice and there have been cases just South of Leeds of Leptospirosis like there have been in Europe.  When those dogs, once they had passed away, were sent for autopsy as the vets couldn’t find the cause of the disease, they were found to have Leptospirosis.  It wasn’t however, the usual type of Leptospirosis but new variants that were causing the problem.  The newer type of Leptospirosis is not as easy to diagnose, is not as obvious as the previous two better known variants and what a lot of clients also don’t know is that Leptospirosis is a zoonosis.  This means that the disease can be passed on to PEOPLE!!!  The “vectors” are changing with this new variants and it’s no longer mainly rats that are transmitting the disease to dogs in the first place.  When a dog’s owner cleans up urine for example in the house, if the dog is infected then the client can also become infected on skin contact with the urine.  Not something you would think of is it?  As a practice, even though a lot of neighbouring practices are using the L2 vaccine, we have decide to upgrade ours to the L4 vaccines.  We’ve never gone for the cheapest option.  We care about our clients and their pets and I give my pets the same vaccines as I offer my clients.  Why cut corners with cheap vaccines if you can get one where you get a much better protection?  We also have a fair number of clients with Passports for their pets so they can travel to Europe.  Again, as we are using the L4 (leptospirosis vaccine with 4 Serovars included), they will have the best protection available for travel abroad in Europe aside from the regular Rabies vaccinations.

The following was published in a professional article:

” Reaction to Nobivac L4 article.  Veterinary organisations respond to claims about leptospirosis vaccine

The VMD, WSAVA and MSD Animal Health have responded to a recent Daily Telegraph article which claimed ‘thousands’ of dogs in Britain are reported to be dying or suffering severe allergic reactions after receiving the Nobivac L4 vaccine.

Published online on Saturday (2 July), the article stated that, according to reports made to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) by pet owners: ‘More than 120 dogs are feared to have died after receiving a dosage in the three years the product has been on the market. In the last two years, regulators have received 2,000 reports of dogs having suspected adverse or fatal reactions.’

Responding, the VMD said the incidence of adverse reactions to Nobivac L4 is 0.064 per cent. Or, in other words, for every 10,000 doses administered, the VMD has received six adverse reactions. The overall incidence is therefore classed as ‘rare’ by regulatory authorities.

According to the VMD, the majority of the most commonly reported clinical signs are linked to allergic type reactions, which are recognised as potential side effects of any vaccine, and warnings are included in the product information.

‘It is important to note, as vaccination against leptospirosis rarely occurs in isolation it is very difficult to interpret which adverse reactions are attributable to Leptospira vaccines,’ the directorate said in a statement. ‘Many vaccines providing protection against leptospirosis also contain components for prevention of other diseases, such as distemper, parainfluenza and parvovirus.

‘In addition, many dogs are vaccinated concurrently against other diseases, such as kennel cough and/or rabies, and other products (e.g flea and worm treatments) may be administered at the same visit. Therefore the clinical signs observed may be related to any of the products used or they may be unrelated.’

MSD Animal Health, which manufactures the vaccine, was more recently asked to add additional warnings to the product information, to state that, in very rare cases, there have been reports of immune-mediated reactions, including immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia and immune-mediated polyarthritis.

The Daily Telegraph article also claimed that the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) ‘is urging owners not to use Nobivac L4 vaccine on puppies under 12 weeks old.’

In a statement, WSAVA called the claims ‘blatantly untrue’.

‘The WSAVA would never “urge owners” and would never make recommendations about individual named commercial products…’ it said.

‘The current 2015 WSAVA recommendation for Leptospira vaccines is that when these non-core vaccines are chosen for an individual dog (on the basis of national or regional knowledge about the prevalence and risks of leptospirosis) they should be given from 8 weeks of age in puppies, with a second dose 2-4 weeks later and then an annual booster vaccine.

‘On the subject of generic L2 versus L4 vaccines, the VGG states that “When a Leptospira vaccine is used in high risk dogs, the commercial vaccine that contains all of the serogroups that cause disease in the dog in that region, if available, should be used.’

Following the article, the VMD said it does not currently intend to remove the vaccine from the market but is working closely with the European Medicines Agency, other European agencies and the marketing authorisation holder to assess the data and the benefit versus risk balance of the product.

Meanwhile, the VMD advises vets to ‘make a clinical judgement of the benefits for an individual dog, based on their knowledge of the local epidemiological situation and risk of leptospirosis, versus the potential risks as outlined in the product information before administering a vaccine.

‘Careful consideration should be given as to whether the additional protection provided by vaccines containing four serovars of Leptospira versus those containing two are necessary in each individual dog, depending on their individual circumstances.’

MSD Animal Health commented: ‘As a responsible animal health company, we take every adverse reaction report seriously and investigate thoroughly. Whenever possible, we work with the pet owner and attending veterinary surgeon to assemble as much clinical information as we can to help determine the cause of a pet’s health issue, and whether or not the product may have been involved. The overall frequency of all pharmacovigilance reports received for this product is what regulatory authorities classify as “rare”‘.”


Flea Facts

It’s that time of the year again!   As the weather is getting warmer, we are starting to see fleas again in the coats of pets.  I have attached our Flea and Worm Newsletter 2015, which explains the different products available in the UK to eradicate fleas and the different legal categories of flea and worm products.

Another great informative site is It’s a Jungle, which is accessible by following the link.  It’s an informative site with impressive pictures of parasites if you are interested in those kind of things :-)

For the UK, as a practice we usually recommend a POM-V (see newsletter) product for both worming and flea prevention from April to October according to manufacturing recommendations.  This should then allow for a 6 months POM-V free period from November to April.


Chocolate Poisoning in Pets

With Easter around the corner and the chocolate shopping increasing in the run up to Easter, I thought of writing a short article on chocolate poisoning.  The VPIS (Veterinary Poison Information Service) wrote an article at the end of last year about the revised treatment doses for chocolate.  This is what they wrote:

“We have recently reviewed and revised our treatment doses for chocolate. The revised doses are based on case data analysis (of over 700 cases where the dose of chocolate eaten was estimated or known) and analysis of original sources where the theobromine content of chocolate products was measured.

Toxic effects in dogs occur at theobromine doses of 20 mg/kg, with severe signs at 40-50 mg/kg and seizures at 60 mg/kg.

We now recommend the following:

treat for > 3.5 g/kg for dark chocolate
treat for > 14 g/kg for milk chocolate
White chocolate is very low in theobromine and is not likely to cause theobromine toxicity.

It is also worth noting that the amount of theobromine in products varies due to natural differences in cocoa beans and the formulation of products, and that there may be some genetic susceptibility to theobromine toxicity in some dogs. In addition, approximately half of the cases reported to us remain asymptomatic.

Although chocolate can make dogs unwell, it is very rarely fatal; indeed, out of the 1,000 canine cases with follow up on our database, we have only recorded 5 fatal cases. We are however aware that numerous cases of chocolate toxicity go unreported.”

So if your pet ends up stealing and eating chocolate, the amounts above give you an indicator whether a vet visit is due or not.  With large amounts ingested I would recommend that your vet is contacted as the theobromine in the chocolate can cause seizures.

Tick mouth

Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in the UK

The news hit the Vet Times about a week ago and the media today that there are new tick-borne diseases discovered in the UK, which hadn’t been seen in pets before.

The discovery was made in the South of the UK.  The link to the website with the news is here.

Those pets in which the disease had been discovered didn’t travel abroad and somehow still contracted a tick-borne disease previously not seen in the UK.

Last year, MSD asked vets around the country to collect ticks from dogs and send them to Bristol Veterinary University.  The purpose was to study the diseases the different types of ticks were carrying and to get a distribution map for the UK.  Bristol University became overwhelmed with a large number of ticks sent to them by vets all over the country and the research is still ongoing.  They anticipate to publish their findings sometime in summer 2016.

MSD also provided vets with a video link to educate clients on what ticks carry, what they do, where you find them, how they transmit, how to find them on your pet and in which way they can make your pets ill with the diseases they carry (previously mainly Lyme disease) and how they even can make humans ill by passing on Lyme disease.  The video link can be accessed here.

For more information on the Big Tick Project by MSD, click here.