Richard has been writing for the Sidmouth Herald as part of their Pets Practice page for a few months now, we thought we would start adding them all here too just in case you miss an edition!
Richard writes from the heart and from the head as he uses his vast knowledge and experience from over 22 years as a small animal vet to guide us through some tough topics as well as re educating us on some age old ones too!
If you have a suggestion as a topic for Richard to cover in one of the Heralds editions please comment below and you may see your idea covered in print.
Large Vet companies…..
Historic blogs -
Euthanasia is a very vexing and contentious topic but one which is one of the cornerstones of Veterinary medicine.
As a new graduate I have to swear an oath to alleviate suffering to any animals presented to me and if all other avenues have been exhausted then euthanasia can be performed.
With the progression of modern medicine we are able to perform procedures we didn’t dream of twenty years ago and animals are living longer and longer but at some point there is nothing more we can do. At this point sadly I have to discuss our final option . The actual timing varies from person to person and I think this is where the Vet’s experience comes into play about trying to advise the client because hopefully the vet can give a more objective view of the situation.It is inevitable that this decision will be considered very late in the game as the last thing a client wants to do is pick up the phone and request that their beloved pet be put to sleep just as much as it is the last thing that the vet wants to perform…Too many times clients have reported huge regret about” hanging on too long” and again I think it is our job to try and ensure this doesn’t happen. If the vet has all the relevant information then hopefully the right decision can be made at the right time.
I think we are very lucky as vets to have this option that our human counterparts don’t. Many clients have watched loved ones die slowly and often in a great deal of discomfort and say they wish these people had the same options as their pets, and most clients will report to me a sense of grief but at the same time a feeling of relief as they realise they have put a stop to any suffering their pet was undergoing.
Obviously at this hugely distressing time, it is essential to try to make the whole process as stress- free as possible.
Often I will perform the procedure at the client’s house as a home environment will cause less distress to the animal.
I also prefer to lightly sedate to pet beforehand because the actual injection to euthanase the animal has to be given intra venously which in itself can be stressful so sedation alleviates this.
The injection itself is like an overdose of anaesthtic agent and should only take a matter of seconds so hopefully again the animal is completely unaware of what is going on and simply falls asleep next to the owner.
Euthanasia is one of the worst aspects of our job but if performed properly and with sensitivity it should be considered a great boon.
Feeding the birds……
Puppy Socialisation and it’s importance……..
The last thing you want as a new pet owner is an antisocial dog. Like children, dogs are not born with the social skills to live in our homes and know how to interact with people and all other animals and objects.
Socialisation is the process that all new puppies should undergo as early as possible to prepare them for their lifelong journey ahead, ensuring that they become happy, confident and relaxed in all aspects of their environment and understand how to communicate and interact with other dogs in a social group as well as the other pets within the family home.
Socialisation, simply means “learning process”. Early and ongoing socialisation is the key factor to a happy and well rounded family pet.
As soon as your puppy has settled into it’s new home, it is vitally important to introduce them to as many new stimuli as possible but ensuring that all interaction is done in a measured and pleasureable way and kept as fun as possible so that these memories instill a happy and relaxed approach to all things future encountered.
This involves meeting and spending play time with adults, children, the veterinary surgeon, groomer, all types of people including those with beards, wearing hats, crash helmets or carrying umbrellas. Meeting all other animals including walking past fields that have farm animals and horses so that the puppy becomes familiar with the sight of these bigger animals from the start. Careful and gentle exposure to everyday situations, such as, hoovering, travelling in the car, traffic noises, cyclists, television, children shouting loudly and all other sights and sounds that you are aware your puppy will be exposed to throughout their life.
Ensure that they are encouraged to play and become involved with other dogs and people from the very start. When meeting new dogs and puppies, encourage them to say hello to big dogs, small dogs, dogs with flatter shaped faces, with long coats, short coats and of all different colours. At every stage of positive interaction, always reward your puppy with praise and/or a treat. Up until approxiamately 16 weeks of age, puppies will take on board all new experiences with gusto and although shy, should not be fearful, after 16 weeks of age, they can become more weary as the learning and development stage has passed, which is why early socialisation is key. If your puppy looks shy when exposed to new stimuli and wants to be picked up, resist the urge to do this or mollycoddle them as this gives your puppy the wrong signals and instills in them a fear of that new stimulus because you have effectively removed them from it telling them that it was something to be afraid of as they learn from you and your actions. Allow the puppy to stay by your feet or on your lap but ensure that they can still be exposed to the new object, person or sound without you cuddling or holding the leash too tight, they will want to check out the new object but in their own time and they then understand there is nothing to be fearful of.
After your puppies first vaccinations, normally around 8 weeks of age, it is best to get your puppy registered with a local puppy class, we run our own here at the practice for example, free of charge, which exposes them to new sights and sounds in a controlled and measured environment where all the puppies are of a similar age and experience. In this environment they can learn together and a trained behaviourist can help answer questions and queries you may have and help you to understand some of the behaviours your puppy may be exhibiting, as well as discussing toilet training, basic obedience and general aspects of new puppy care, including all areas of socialisation and when to start setting boundaries. Puppy classes are so important and helpful as each week your puppy will be introduced to new sights, sounds and objects as well as learning how to socialise and interact with other dogs of various breeds, and people in an appropriate and controlled way.
They will also learn the importance of quiet time too and how this is all too easy to miss in the excitement of a new puppy, but by missing this key aspect out, the dog thinks everything is always a game and will not settle when you are around, they must learn to be calm around you too. Part of the socialisation process is also about touch, getting your puppy used to being held and handled around the feet, ears, face, mouth and tail, areas we tend to forget about until their first veterinary trip and then it is all very strange and the instinct of fear sets in. Getting them used to this from the start keeps the process relaxed for the puppy as well as for you. Having puppy classes held at the veterinary practice also ensures that the puppy sees the practice as a fun place to visit and will love coming back.
If your puppy is exposed to all new things early and in a controlled manner, and this is continued throughout your young dogs life, you will be rewarded with a well rounded, well behaved best friend to share your home and life with.
Should I let my bitch have season before it is spayed?
There is no scientific evidence to support this theory . Reasons for delaying spaying usually incorporate the words “balancing hormones”. Hormones don’t need and can’t be balanced, and there are good reasons to actually spay your bitch at a young age. The primary reason in my view is that it greatly reduces the risks of developing mammary cancer, as the number of seasons a bitch has is directly proportionate to mammary cancer incidence. In addition the operation is much easier , less likely to carry perioperative complications and recovery is quicker.
I have to restrict the amount of exercise my puppy can do.
Many owners worry that any type of moderate exercise will damage their puppy’s joints. This theory has been existent for as long as I can remember and again there is no evidence to support this. Almost all joint problems suffered by juvenile dogs are inherited such as hip dyspasia and another condition called osteochondrosis. By restricting your puppy ,you can often end up with a bored and frustrated dog that develops behavioural as a result. There is even some evidence now that by restricting exercise muscle development over the hips becomes poor and that in itself can become a problem. So I recommend allowing your puppy to exercise as much as it likes as long as you don’t have to carry it home!
Cats regulate their food intake.
Even 25 years ago I was taught this at University, but it is clearly not true. I see many overweight cats which leads to many health problems ,among them diabetes.This may be due to the advent of dry foods but it is well worth weighing out your cats food before you hand it out.
I need to feed my new puppy and kitten milky meals and cereals.
This is again unnecessary as if your new pet is on a good quality pet food it will have the necessary nutritional elements already in it. Your pet will probably like it but lactose intolerance is quite common in dogs and cats and cows milk can often cause diarrhoea so I would stick to pet food and water from the outset.
Castration will change my dog to the detriment.
Most often asked by male members of the family , it is again not true. It is the undesirable characteristics such as roaming ,dominance and aggression that will be changed in your dog. He will still be just as ebullient and lively and in addition will be less likely to be afflicted by prostate, testicular and anal cancers ,so it is well worth taking the plunge.
Old age in pets…….