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Pain explained

Older Golden Retriever Dog being petted.

Arthritis in dogs

Arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis, or OA) is an extremely common, painful disease that affects about 25 % of dogs. It doesn’t matter if the dog is young or old, big or small, purebred or mixed.

Unfortunately, OA is a painful, progressive disease that cannot be cured. But the good news is that pain can be managed with a prescription course, and your dog can be made more comfortable. We’re learning more every day about canine OA. So, let’s start with what’s known to-date about osteoarthritis.

‘Osteo’ means ‘bone,’ ‘arthra’ means joint, and ‘itis’ means inflammation. Altogether, osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition of one or more joints. OA is a result of poor joint structure from birth, traumatic injury or, most commonly, normal wear and tear on the joints as the dog ages. Obesity can contribute to OA pain or make it worse.

What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs?

  • Limping or lameness.
  • Stiff gait, likely to be worse after exercise and when first waking up.
  • Groaning or caution when laying down or getting back up.
  • Wary of you touching the joints affected.
  • Muscle wasting.
  • Tiredness.
  • Irritability.

The pain of OA is progressive: without intervention, it will worsen over time. But there are pain-management medicines made just for dogs. Most commonly, we will prescribe a canine nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Alternative treatments can be used including hydrotherapy which can ease pain. This will be discussed by your vet.

Bottom line: Your dog’s pain can be relieved. Remember, your dog’s history is key to determining an effective treatment plan, and YOU know a lot about your dog.

 

Cat yawning.

Why is my cat biting me?

Ouch! Cat bites can be very unpleasant and always best avoided. As natural skilled predators, cats have sharp teeth and a firm bite. A common question from pet owners is why their cat indulges in this behaviour towards their owner… and how they can avoid it! Bites from pet cats are not uncommon, but interestingly are often not a sign of true aggression.

Kitten biting

Kittens are naturally playful and mischievous, but are also budding hunters, which is a dangerous combination when it comes to nipping. Play biting is very important in kitten development. Alongside learning how to communicate and play with their litter mates and other cats, they are also acquiring vital hunting skills. Teething pain will also feature. This means there is a triple whammy of reasons for them to try out their teeth on any unsuspecting object… including you!

However, that doesn’t mean you have to just let them bite! Never play games with your kitten that involves them chasing and biting at your fingers and toes.

Play biting

Although strongest in kittens, the need to play continues in adult cats. This is easy to forget and therefore easy not to indulge. Indoor cats especially who have no access to practice stalking and pouncing behaviours in the garden may start using you, your furniture and your clothing as ‘prey’. As innate predators due to their carnivorous diet, behaviours such as biting, clawing and pouncing come naturally to cats. Encouraging these play behaviours is a good thing to satisfy your cat’s needs, but care must be taken not to encourage aggression.

The easiest way to navigate this fine line is to have lots of suitable toys available, make sure you take time for dedicated play sessions with your cat, but always allow them to ‘win’ before they get too frustrated. Let them catch and ‘kill’ the toy before they get so overstimulated that they may start biting anything that gets in their way. Remember, keep hands and feet well away and try to stop games before your cat gets too wound up.

Sudden biting when petting

The first thing to emphasise is: don’t take it personally! This is just a form of communication from your cat, it is not intended as aggression in the true sense. It has been shown that repetitive petting of sensitive areas, such as the base of the tail in cats, can lead to an over stimulation and ‘excitement’ effect in cats. Which can lead to adverse sudden behaviours such as biting. In essence, your cat is just telling you that they have had enough of the stroking, now.

Although commonly described as being unprovoked, most cats will actually give some warning that they are reaching their petting threshold. These signs are often just quite subtle. It can be very peaceful and soothing to stroke your cat’s beautifully soft fur over and over, but it is worth keeping an eye on their reactions. Small signs such as a gentle swish of the tail or a flattening of the ears may give you the heads up that they are becoming overstimulated and may react negatively soon. Learning to read your cat’s body language is really useful here. Behaviour can be quite variable between cats so a bit of time observing your particular feline will be needed.

Love bites

Some cats may gently nibble or bite their owners as a sign of affection. It is thought to be reminiscent of how a mother cat will groom her kittens with small bites and is more common in cats who have had litters. This is not usually a problem form of biting, but if the mother cat is a little too enthusiastic in their efforts, gently removing yourself from their ministrations is usually sufficient to deter them.

Aggressive biting

The most concerning form of biting is the true aggressive, intentioned bite. Cat bites can be deep and serious, and often get infected due to the bacteria cats carry in their mouths. This form of biting is often accompanied by aggressive body language from the cat:

  • hissing
  • spitting
  • defensive posturing, such as an arched back and fluffed tail.

The best way to avoid aggressive bites from cats is to learn to read these warning signs and stop doing whatever pre-empted this reaction. Try and avoid situations which can cause defensive fear, such as trying to pull them off furniture or being cornered without an escape route.

If you are bitten, wash the wound thoroughly and seek medical advice. Do not punish your cat – they use biting as an extreme form of communication when they feel they have no other option. They will not understand any punishment given, and in fact, it may only worsen certain behaviours. If your cat bites frequently, or you are struggling to recognise why, seek advice from a qualified feline behaviourist.

Know your cat!

Hopefully this post will have helped some understanding of why cats may bite, and how you can help prevent it. Remember to get to know your cat’s body language and preferences… Then provide plenty of suitable toys for them to play roughly with (not fingers or toes!). Above all, remain consistent: allowing cute nibbles to your arm but shouting when they nip your ankles is confusing! Learn to read your cat, and give them consistency in return and your relationship will be strong, loving – and bite-free!

 

Rabbit and Osteoarthritis

Understanding Rabbit Mobility Issues – Osteoarthritis

 

Just like their human owners rabbits can develop mobility problems as they age with one of the most common being Osteoarthritis. It is important to note, however, that whilst osteoarthritis is more frequently seen in older rabbits it can also occur in younger rabbits.

Osteoarthritis is a painful and progressive disease that causes inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the joints and can have a significant impact on mobility. Unlike dogs and cats, due to the fact they are prey animals, rabbits will often hide pain until it becomes overwhelming; as a result of this arthritis in rabbits is frequently missed.

 

Rabbits are more at risk of osteoarthritis if: 

  • They have had a previous injury affecting one or more joints
  • They are overweight
  • They are considered a ‘giant breed’ (e.g. Flemish Giant, Giant French-Lop)
  • They are genetically predisposed to joint problems

 

One of the first signs that your rabbit may be suffering from OA can simply be that they appear to be ‘slowing down’; they may sleep more, or perhaps they’re just not as active as they once were. Other signs that your rabbit may be suffering from OA may include some (or all) of the following:

  • You may notice your rabbit keeps getting a dirty back end especially underneath or around the tail region. Due to stiffness and discomfort, osteoarthritis may prevent your rabbit from cleaning themselves adequately.
  • You may notice urine soaked fur around the rear end, underneath the tail and between the hind legs. This can occur if Osteoarthritis prevents your rabbit from getting into the correct position to urinate and can cause pain and inflammation in areas of skin that are exposed to the urine (known as urine scalding).
  • Your rabbit may begin to develop knots/tangles in areas of fur where they cannot comfortably reach to groom themselves – this may be more pronounced in breeds with long fur.
  • Your rabbit may appear to limp, show signs of stiffness or ’wobbliness’; this is often worse after they have been lying down.
  • Your rabbit may appear to have difficulty jumping on or off raised areas that they previously had no issue with.
  • Litter trained rabbits may have difficulty getting into or out of their litter trays.
  • Your rabbit may generally seem to be less active/move around less, especially when the weather is cold and/or damp.
  • Your rabbit may develop a reduced appetite.

If your rabbit shows any of the above symptoms it is important to get them checked out by your vet as soon as possible. It is also important to remember that some of the signs mentioned are not specific to osteoarthritis and can also occur in other disorders that may affect your rabbit. Once your vet has confirmed that your rabbit is suffering from osteoarthritis they may prescribe pain relieving medication.  There are also lots of simple changes you can implement at home to help make life more comfortable for your rabbit. Your vet can discuss this with you at your appointment.

 

Cat abscesses

Even if cat’s are best buds they sometimes like to release their inner Mike Tyson! But fighting cats can turn into biting cats, and those bites can easily get infected with bacteria and turn into skin infections and abscesses. Here’s what you need to know about cat bite abscesses and how to treat them.

The basics of cat bite abscesses

When one cat sinks their tiny razor-sharp teeth into another cat, they make a puncture wound that leaves bacteria from the mouth deep into the skin and muscles. The skin rapidly heals over, leaving the bacteria to multiply and infect the deeper tissues. The result is often an abscess, which is an infected wound that can swell up, ooze pus and even burst. Abscesses are very painful for cats and can cause a fever.

If the cat is fighting with a cat that is infected with certain diseases, such as feline leukaemia virus or rabies, they are also at risk for getting those diseases.

It’s not easy to find a bite wound or abscess under all that fur, and the early warning signs are subtle. But here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Skin irritation/redness
  • A bald spot or matted fur
  • A lump or swollen area
  • Limping (if the bite wound is on a leg)
  • Hissing, scratching, or biting when being petted
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive grooming
  • An unusual odour

Where cat bites show up

Cats typically bite each other in the head/neck, forelegs, or on the back legs. If you’re cat is limping then it would be a good idea to cautiously check your cat for a wound.

Treating cat bites and abscesses

The bite area needs to be examined and cleaned, and your cat might need antibiotics, pain medication, or possibly even surgery if the wound is serious enough. Earlier veterinary treatment typically results in the best outcome for your cat. This is unfortunately not something that will go away on it’s own.

How to prevent your cat from being bitten

Neutering your cat can decrease the possibility of them being bitten, but it may still happen because cats are territorial and will fight to defend their property. If your cat is an outdoor cat, or goes outdoor, then you will unfortunately always have a risk of your cat being bitten in a fight.

If you suspect your cat may have an abscess or an injury always call us immediately for advice.

Cat leaning on a dog.

Arthritis

Arthritis is where one or multiple joints are inflamed and painful – something which is most commonly due to aging. It’s not just our pet dogs that are affected either; in one study 90% of cats over the age of 12 had signs of osteoarthritis on x-ray.

How do I know if my pet has arthritis?

Early signs can be very subtle. Your pet might not want to walk as much, could be slowing down generally, or have difficulty getting up from lying down. Cats may have difficulty jumping or seem more lethargic than normal. In the later stages you may see your pet noticeably limping or vocalising in pain when moving the affected joint.

We don’t have to just let this happen. There are many easy ways to prevent this occurring in your pet, and also ways to help them stay comfortable if they already have the condition.

1) Joint supplements

  • These have ingredients that help with normal joint repair and function. It is best to choose a comprehensive supplement that contains multiple ingredients proven to help the joints.
  • In the early stages of arthritis this may be enough to control the disorder alone.
  • It may also help prevent the problem occurring and is worth starting from an early age if you want to do all you can.

2) Pain relief

  • If joint supplements alone aren’t enough, then consider adding in pain relief.
  • Ideally this is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). These reduce inflammation in the joint.
  • Other medications can also be added if this isn’t enough.

3) Physiotherapy

  • It is good to keep the muscles around the affected areas active and strong. This helps to keep the joint in shape and takes some of the pressure off it.
  • Continue walks with your dog, but reduce the frequency or stop your dog running as much if they are often sore afterwards.
  • If you can, try hydrotherapy or physiotherapy with a specialist. Swimming helps your pet use and grow their muscles, whilst not putting pressure on the joint and worsening the disease. Your vet will be able to advise on local contacts.

4) Weight management

  • Ideally your pet should be a normal weight as excessive weight will predispose them to arthritis.
  • If your pet has arthritis, then keeping them slightly underweight is ideal. Weight adds pressure to the joints and worsens the disease.

Arthritis in our pet’s, just like in humans, can be painful and change the way our lives are shaped. For our four legged friends, they can’t always tell us what is wrong. If you suspect your pet may have arthritis then please do get in touch. There are many ways we can help your pet!

 

Flop eared Rabbit.

Fly strike

Summer is when our pet rabbits love the warmer climate and longer days this brings. Unfortunately so do flies with the warmer months being their prime breeding season. The larvae they produce can actually be deadly to our pets, which is why we’ve outlined steps on how to keep your pet bunny safe!

What is Fly Strike?

Flies naturally lay their eggs in warm, moist conditions in piles of faeces or rotting material. These eggs hatch into maggots within days, which then start eating their surroundings. If your bunny has any faecal material stuck to their fur then this can be a perfect site for the flies to lay their eggs. Once the maggots have eaten the faecal material they will then start burrowing into your rabbit’s skin – something that will be extremely painful within a short matter of days. At best this often requires surgery to fix by flushing the maggots out. At worst it can cause severe infections and death.

How do I prevent Fly Strike?

Luckily Fly Strike is easy to keep on top of! Just follow the steps below:

Examine your rabbit routinely

    1. It is good to get into the practice of handling, picking up and examining your pet rabbit.
    2. You can check for any faecal material this way. The rear is a commonly affected site, and is impossible to examine unless your rabbit is picked up.
    3. It is recommended to check your rabbit all over ideally daily during the hotter months.

 

Clean your rabbit

    1. If you notice any faecal material, remove it straight away.
      1. Ideally this should be done by your vet/vet nurse, as rabbit skin is very thin and easy to damage.
      2. If you attempt to remove it yourself then do not use electric clippers. Use blunt ended scissors and go very slowly.
      3. You can wash small areas of faeces off with warm water. Ensure you dry your rabbit thoroughly afterwards, as flies like moist environments.
    2. This is especially important in rabbits who do not have a companion, or are overweight. Both of these reduce the chance of your rabbit being able to clean itself properly.

Apply preventative fly repellents

      1. These repel flies from laying eggs and you should only need to use them during the hotter months.
      2. Rearguard is the licensed preventative for fly strike. It will repel flies for up to 10 weeks once applied.
      3. You can use insecticide sprays too, however these are not guaranteed to prevent the condition.

Follow the above steps and your pet bunny should be safe from Fly Strike! If you ever think your pet has the condition then contact us immediately so they can help you get your bunny the treatment they need.