When is itchy skin a sign your dog should visit the vet?

Every dog loves a scratch, yes? Dogs itch, just like they bark at cats, shake after rainfall and growl at the postman. But when is a good scratch actually a bad scratch? Sometimes scratching belies a deeper problem that needs proper attention. Here’s what to look out for to prevent your furry friend from any skin-related stress.

Excessive scratching

Given your wet-nosed pal’s propensity to claw away at his coat, it’s easy to overlook the odd scratch, but you know your dog best. Observe how long they spend scratching and where on their body seems to be irritating them. Is it one place specifically? Is it causing them stress? Are they super focused on a specific area? That’s no ordinary itch!


Biting their legs/feet

If your dog is gnawing furiously at their paws or legs, chances are there’s a problem that’s literally skin-deep – and without treatment it’s only going to worsen. If their skin has dried out, it may be causing them pain, and nobody wants to see their dog in distress.

Skin blemishes

Noticed anything unusual just beneath the coat? Have a closer look through the fur to inspect for raw spots. Redness, flaky patches and bleeding means that their skin is damaged and needs attention. Providing your pet lets you, and isn’t already too sensitive from all the surface distress, have a good check through and see if there’s an obvious looking problem. A bath is a good time to inspect more thoroughly, but remember that if he is already suffering he might be even more reluctant than usual to participate.

(Too much) ear scratching or head shaking

Dog’s ears aren’t just a velvety accessory. They also act as a great antenna to transmit to you your barking buddy’s state of mind. They alert you to excitement, lethargy, sadness and the rest – the Greek chorus of canine kind, and a valuable asset to all dog owners to let you know how your four-legged friend is feeling. Same too with itchy skin. A dog’s ears are prone to excessive itchiness. Intense scratching or shaking their heads means there’s a problem to be addressed. Again, keep an eye on the ears. If he’s doing it for longer and with greater intensity, check for inflammation beneath the fur.



Your mutt will use whatever means they can to soothe that itch. If their skin is still prickly and burning, expect to see that long pink tongue rolling out to lick at the source of their pain. Again, keep a good eye on the amount of time they’re taking to attend to one spot. If they’re repeatedly returning to one area, then there may be an issue which may need medical relief.


What next?

Chances are, if your dog is itching excessively there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Observation is key. It’s easy to dismiss a scratch as part of their usual behaviour. But keeping vigilant about their scratching is key to winning the battle against uncomfortably itchy skin. It’s normal for dogs to scratch, but constantly chewing their feet, flapping their ears or biting their behinds definitely isn’t part of their usual behaviour. If you think you’ve identified excessive itchiness, a vet visit is advised strongly.


To learn more about how to treat your dog’s itchy skin visit: https://www.petdialog.co.uk/switch-off-itch.aspx


Itchy skin is a symptom of many different ailments, from infections to allergies to parasites and disease. Your vet will be able to treat the itch whilst they try to diagnose the problem and provide the medical cure that’s needed.

Young birds – Do they need our help?

Spring time means fledgling time!

Not only do we have our brown landscapes evolving into luscious green fields and beautiful flowers blossoming, we also have our wildlife creating their own new life, especially our birds who have now started nesting.

Among us there are many little creatures starting out in the world, most of which know exactly what they are doing, although a small percentage need a helping hand.
It is important to know when wildlife need help, as offering it when they do not can have a negative impact.

Most commonly, it is young birds that are affected. This is because fledglings found on their own are often thought to be in danger. It is normal for fledglings to be on their own, as this is the stage in their life in which they are learning to adapt and survive to their surroundings and building up the courage to perfect their flying ability. More often than not, the parents are close by and watching over these fledglings or out gathering food. It is important fledglings are left to continue their life training, as removing them from the wild should be the very last resort.

Only when they are visibly injured or have remained in the same area for over two days, should interfering be appropriate.

In cases where interference is required, handling should be kept to a minimum and they should be placed in a dark box, with ventilation to reduce stress as much as possible. These fledgling(s) should be left alone and taken to an appropriate establishment, such as a Veterinary Practice, a Wildlife Centre or the RSPCA, as soon as possible for the best chance of survival.

Nature is far better at caring for these fragile little birds compared to the less experienced, but well intended care of us humans. So please think carefully before removing a fledgling from the wild as it is not always the best option.

Beware Adder Bites

Although it may not feel like it yet… warmer days are coming!

March is the month we are all happy to welcome back after dealing with the cold, dark days of winter. With this in mind, we have now to be aware of our native venomous snake – the Adder.

Adders live in woodland, moorland and heath-land habitats. Emerging from their hibernation since October, March is when they start appearing to bask in the sun or mate with a partner. The female will then go on to incubate her eggs, protecting her off-spring with her life.

Adders are shy snakes and do not attack unless they feel threatened. This can come about if a dog accidentally stumbles across an Adders nest or an individual snake feels like your pet is a threat.

To reduce the risk of your pet potentially being bitten by an Adder, is it sensible to keep your pet on a lead when walking through these habitats where Adders may be living.

Not only do we want your pet to be safe, but we also want to be respectful to our native creatures and allow them to feel safe in their own environment. Adders are protected here in the UK and should not be injured or killed.

What to do if your dog is bitten by an Adder

Bite wounds are very painful and the wound may start to swell very quickly and have a dark colouration.

  1. Remain calm – easier said than done, but very important as your dog will pick up on your anxiety.
  2. Keep your dog as still as possible – This is to reduce the speed at which the venom will travel around the body.  You can carry your dog if possible, or you can walk them very slowly back to your car.
  3. Seek treatment from a vet as soon as possible.
  4. DO NOT try to suck out the venom or to tourniquet the bite wound, this may cause further complications.

Prognosis is usually good if treated promptly, however it is possible for your dog to have an anaphylactic reaction if it has been previously bitten.

How important is the antibiotic resistance crisis?

How many of you are aware that the efficacy of antibiotics is reducing? Are you aware of what would happen if antibiotics no longer worked?

■ Antibiotic resistance is the biggest threat to global health
■ Although it occurs naturally, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the threat
■ Antibiotics DO NOT treat viral infections and will enhance resistance if used in this way

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, they kill, inhibit or reduce the growth of specific bacteria.
Antibiotics are a vital health resource which need to be protected.
Resistant antibiotics are antibiotics that no longer work as effectively (or at all) against an infection that it once treated. This occurs when the bacteria mutate and change their DNA to survive against the specific antibiotic.
There are also concerns that if new strains of bacteria emerge our existing antibiotics will be unable to treat them.

The veterinary industry is able to limit and prevent this threat by carefully following guidelines on prescribing antibiotics. We need our clients to come together and help us also. Please be patient with us and understand that we cannot prescribe antibiotics to your pet unless we definitely need to.

We need to work together to limit the spread of resistance. What YOU can do to help:
📚 research antibiotic resistance and become aware of the facts
💊 only take antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional and NEVER demand antibiotics
🖊 always follow the medications instructions and always complete the antibiotic course (including pet medication!!!)
🛀 practice good self-hygiene by washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact when ill, preparing food safely

Please visit this link to find out more:

Healthy trends for fluffy friends

Prevention is Better Than Cure is the motto of my university, the RVC, and is a motto I live and work by. Considering health and well-being throughout our companions lives, results in happier pets who live for longer (as well as saving us money!) There are many steps we can take toward this goal, highlighted in this column, to improve your little friends quality of life! Following on from last seasons focus on   canine vaccinations, this time we are looking how we vaccinate our cats and rabbits!

The core vaccinations (recommended for all cats) protect against Feline Rhinotracheitis (also known as Feline Herpes Virus) and Feline Calicivirus. These two viruses are responsible for a complex known as Feline Respiratory Disease Complex. These viruses, together or alone, can cause inflammation of the nasal and sinus linings,   conjunctivitis, fever, excessive tear production, salivation and mouth sores. There is no cure for either of these viruses, and once recovered from the initial infection, may lay latent in the immune system until a time of stress, when symptoms are likely to recur.

We also routinely vaccinate all cats against Feline Panleukopenia Virus, which is a highly contagious and often fatal disease of cats. The disease is most commonly seen in cats <1 year of age (but can be seen in cats of any age), and may cause death with little or no warning. Cats often develop a fever, depression and stop eating. They may also vomit or develop diarrhoea.

We also recommend vaccinating again Feline Leukaemia Virus for all cats who have contact with other cats (multi-cat household and outdoor cats). This is because the virus is passed between cats in saliva, during mutual grooming, sharing of food dishes or litter trays and during cat fights. Cats infected with leukaemia virus can develop anaemia, cancer of the lymph nodes or leukaemia,      suppression of the immune system (increasing their risk of other infections), severe inflammation of the mouth and problems reproducing.

Our vaccination protocol for cats is a primary course of two injections (3-4 weeks apart) followed by yearly boosters. Injections may be given in the back of the neck, or underneath the skin on one of the cats hind limbs. We will also perform a general health check on your animal each year at their vaccination consultation.

In <1% of vaccinations of cats, we see side effects, most of which are mild and temporary (usually lethargy with or without a fever) which subside without treatment. However, if you do have any concerns about your animal post-vaccination, please do give us a call and let us know.

All rabbits (indoor and outdoor) should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). There are two strains of RHD, and for this reason, rabbits must receive two vaccinations each year at least 2 weeks apart. Both cause death fairly rapidly after infection and are rarely treatable. Myxomatosis is also a fatal disease which causes blindness and in-appetence – some rabbits will die within 48 hours of showing signs of illness.

All of these disease are preventable, annual vaccinations are a critical part of maintaining good health in your fluffy friend. If you have any further questions about vaccination, please feel free to discuss them with a vet, nurse, or member of the reception team.

Written by Jazzmin.

To spey or not to spey?

An ovariohysterectomy, also known as speying, is a common procedure throughout the veterinary industry. An ovariohysterectomy involves the removal of the ovaries and uterine horns to prevent reproduction. It is an invasive surgery which requires a laparotomy (surgical incision into the abdominal cavity) and a period of strict rest and supervision following the surgery. Speying is a controversial subject which has many points to consider when contemplating this procedure.

Indications to Spey

Prevention of pregnancy.  Unwanted litters put a lot of pressure on owners, as well as re-homing centres and public health where stray dogs and cats are a concern. Caring for a litter of puppies/kittens carries a lot of responsibility and expense, which should be thoroughly researched prior to birth to ensure the best care is given. The pregnancy process itself also puts a lot of pressure on the mother and can cause problems such as mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland), metritis (inflammation of the uterus) or eclampsia (calcium deficiency). Most animals can give birth naturally, however complications during birth can occur and a caesarean operation may be necessary.

Prevention or treatment of diseases in the reproductive tract. These include tumours in the ovaries or uterus, as well as the development of an infection within the uterus (pyometra). In a pyometra, the womb becomes infected, filling with pus and can either be open (draining out from the vulva) or closed (not draining and at risk of rupturing). A pyometra if left untreated can cause kidney failure, peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining) and death. Statistics show that as high as 50% of entire bitches develop this infection in later life. Surgery to remove the toxic uterus is the best possible outcome for bitches with a pyometra and prevents it from reoccurring. This surgery to treat this condition and after-care are often very intense and costly. Speying bitches prior to this potential infection ensures the female will not be at risk of a pyometra in her life time.

Prevention or treatment of tumours in the mammary gland. Entire bitches are much more likely to experience malignant mammary tumours compared to speyed females. The risk of mammary tumours is greatly reduced by speying, especially if done under the age of 4. If they occur, these tumours need to be surgically removed to increase survival chance. If the tumours are not removed, they will spread and cause further problems.

Post-spey complications

Surgical complications. These are rare due to the routine nature of the surgery. An example of this is excessive bleeding during surgery, however the risk of this is reduced by good surgical technique and speying bitches between seasons. Other complications can include wound infection or a reaction to the suture material.

Rare anaesthetic complications. Factors such as breed, age, weight and health are always considered closely before putting an animal under anaesthetic. These risks are low, with only 0.5% of healthy dogs reported to have an adverse anaesthetic event.

Obesity. Weight gain after an ovariohysterectomy is a proven factor. It is estimated that a reduction of 30% of calories is needed after surgery to reduce the risk of weight gain. Obesity in animals is a disease in itself and is very common. Obesity can cause health problems such as diabetes mellitus, joint problems and cardio-respiratory issues. Diet management is an important point which needs to be carefully considered.

Urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence can occur in 5-20% of bitches that undergo an ovariohysterectomy. New research suggests that specific canine breeds, age and weight are contributing factors to urinary incontinence after speying and this should be considered by both the owner and veterinary surgeon when discussing the procedure.
Breeds such as Boxers, Hungarian vizslas, Dobermans and Weirmaraners are more at risk of this complication post-surgery.  Older bitches which are over nine years old are more likely to develop urinary incontinence, and bitches weighing over 10kg are more likely to develop this condition compared to bitches weighing under 10kg. In addition, bitches weighing 30kg or over are three times more likely to develop urinary incontinence when compared to lighter bitches. This post-spey incontinence, if it does occur, is often well managed on long-term medication.

In summary, there are many advantages and disadvantages to performing an ovariohysterectomy, not all factors are listed here and there are more to consider. The main points have been highlighted in this article, offering owners unbiased and informed literature to guide their decision

Image Credit: Well Pet Coach  https://www.wellpet.org/

Foreign bodies – what do we do?

We all love our house to be clean, but sometimes this can present a hazard to our pets as well as ourselves! Plastic bottles of cleaning products can look like fun chew toys to dogs, however they can have residual product in them that can be very harmful. Bleaches can burn mouths and skin and can be very damaging if they get into eyes. Emergency treatment involves washing products off skin and out of mouth and seeking urgent veterinary attention.

By Spring your dog will have probably managed to get that squeaker out of their new Christmas toy. Some dogs can be daft enough to swallow those squeakers or any other small items! We refer to these as foreign bodies. You may not notice these things being eaten or missing so often these pets will present with lethargy and persistent vomiting (because the foreign object is blocking the way through the stomach or the guts). We usually advise x-rays in these cases because often we can see clues for a blockage. If the blockage does not look like it will pass we usually have to perform surgery to remove the offending articles. It is most usual for dogs to eat abnormal non-food items, however the author’s first “foreign body surgery” was to remove a small conker from a cat’s intestine!

If your animal is brought to a veterinary surgery within 4 hours (as soon as possible) of swallowing something abnormal we will usually induce vomiting to try and get as much of it out as possible. (There are some exceptions to this rule). The drug that is used to make dogs vomit can also cause them to feel drowsy afterwards. The author has even seen dogs fall asleep in between vomiting! If we are satisfied most of the foreign material has come out and it has been very recently ingested we will usually discharge your animal with some activated charcoal. Activated charcoal mops up any toxin that might be left to prevent it from being absorbed. If we are concerned the toxin has been absorbed we usually advise hospitalising your pet for a minimum of 24 hours on fluid therapy to help “flush out” the toxin. There are rarely any anti-toxins so treatment is usually symptomatic and supportive. All vets have access to a Veterinary Poisons Service where there is a huge database of all potential toxins. In cases of unusual intoxication we can ring this service for advice.