The Emergency Vet…

chris-learns-emergency-and-critical-care

Accidents can and will happen, most often when you are not expecting them, and medicine is not cheap. This is especially so when it happens when your normal vet is not open, as then you are often sent to a specialist emergency vet, which is almost like an A&E department for pets. The vets here are trained to save your pets life; in addition to specialist training they have access to the important equipment and drugs necessary to do this.

Over the next 4 days I have been invited to join Vets Now one of the UK’s leading providers of Emergency Centres for Pets that have been in accidents or are seriously ill. I’m excited to learn a lot of things to help with emergencies, yet I am apprehensive about how intense it will be and how little I know.

I’ve been invited into two different centres in two different cities so I can see a range of different patients and learn from several different vets.

The first centre I am at just for the weekend, expecting to be there from 12 lunchtime until 7pm Saturday evening. Then again all day on Sunday from 8:30am until evening again with night staff taking over to continue to provide the care needed.

The second centre I am on overnights on Monday and Tuesday from around 6pm until the next morning as the normal overnight shift is 15 hours long. This centre also takes patients from the PDSA charity so is expected to be a lot busier.

During this time I’ve been allowed to tweet – so keep an eye on my twitter feed @vetschooldiary for live updates from behind the scenes as it happens.

And off course I will be blogging my experience as well (potentially once I’ve managed to catch up on sleep!).

The Cat Owner’s Guide: Drawing The Line With Your Wild Feline

Keeping your cat happy

Cats are beautiful and fascinating creatures. They have minds of their own, and, whilst this is one of the many exciting and intriguing things about them, it does mean that cats have a tendency to wander off into the outdoor world without warning. Of course, this wild attitude is fine outdoors, but there have to be rules at home. You can’t let their untamed behavior go unnoticed indoors. Dragging in dead animals, scratching, and generally making a mess are all things which you can’t let slide. Here’s the cat owner’s guide to drawing the line with your wild feline at home.

House-train your cat.
It is possible to house-train your cat, no matter what the myths may say about cats being independent and free spirits who bow to no owner. First of all, cats can go to the toilet. You don’t have to just accept that they’re going to urinate everywhere; train them to understand the rules of the house. Think of a place that suits you; a litter box or perhaps the outside the world. Then, the next time your cat needs the toilet, take them to that place to go.

Make sure you praise your cat for doing a good job, as they’ll associate this affection with going to the toilet in the right place. Obviously, reinforcing good behavior goes for all forms of house training, such as getting them come home every time you call them from your garden or front porch. It’s all about your cat making mental associations to reinforce their good habits and diminish their bad ones.

Regular visits to the vet.
Your feline friend likely has mixed thoughts about the vet, but it’s important that you put your foot down and manage to get your cat to the vet regularly for check-ups on their health; they may like to venture off into the outdoor world to freely explore and do their own thing, but that’s all the more reason to get them checked out for infections, illnesses, and injuries. You’ll want to look out for cat worming because this is a pretty nasty intestinal parasite. Of course, even the small cuts and scratches, which are wounds your cat will pick up a lot in its outdoor excursions, are things you should check out; you don’t want a small cut to become infected and make your furry buddy sick.

Simple toys for cats

Keep them entertained.
Cats are wonderful pets when it comes to entertainment. A simple ball of string or a toy mouse can keep them happy for hours, but it is important that you give them toys. Animals are like humans; they become restless when they’re bored. A restless cat is sure to make you restless and cause a fuss around the house, so giving them forms of entertainment is a great way to ensure that they’re not going out of their mind and they’re not making you go out of your mind either. A happy household leads to a happy cat.

Over the rainbow bridge…

Euthanasia - Crossing the rainbow bridge

As the vet reaches for the cats leg to give the final injection the cat lies alone on the table. She has had trauma and is not in good way, and her parents cannot stand to see her in this way. I reach out to do nothing more than stroke her as she starts her onward journey over the rainbow bridge.

As the injection goes in I see her laboured breathing stop, she looks calm and relaxed as I stroke her and wish her a safe onward journey. The injection is in and the vet removes the needle before reaching out and stroking her as well briefly before they listen for a heartbeat. I’m sure she’s gone but it is important to check, sometimes it can be difficult to tell with all the noises that occur after death so sometimes can feel like you are listening a long time.

I’m sad this cat I knew only for a short while at what is probably the worst point in her life couldn’t be saved, yet I take comfort in the fact she now gets to run free. We gently remove her IV cannula to go to the clinical waste, clean her, and then wrap her in her blanket to go home with her parents for burial.

She is not the first, and will not be the last; however she did not go alone. Even for those few minutes she took a piece of my heart with her, and she went on her final journey across the rainbow bridge loved and cared for. This is something her parents never saw and something maybe one day they will wonder about, however they should not worry. They have the memories of her running around the house not struggling to breathe unable to lift her head.

I will never judge a parent that cannot be there at the end, it’s one of those choices that is so difficult to make. There is rarely a right answer, and sometimes there is not even any time to even think about it properly. Yet these parents may say their goodbyes when it is time to bury her, I will never know. It is a choice that can only be made by you. Sometimes after trauma we will explain to parents what to expect to see as sometimes injuries look much worse after being shaved and cleaned so that the parent can make a choice.

Personally I believe saying goodbye is important, some vet practices even have rooms just for this so we can give as much time as parents need. Sometimes in a busy practice we do not have enough of these rooms so we make do with what we have. We will explain what will happen to you, and tell you what we are doing. We’ll never try to rush you, we’ll try to keep noise outside to the minimum, and we will all feel your pain.

EDIT
If you have lost a pet and are struggling with the loss then please do call the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Helpline – 0800 096 6606 (UK Only) – or visit their website for more information at  https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-loss. It is a traumatic experience, and there are people that have experienced it themselves who want to listen to you.

Sorry Chow Chow Owners, Your Pooch Just Isn’t The Best For Training

Are some dogs harder to train than others? Unsurprisingly, the answer is “yes.” Despite the fact that all dogs are descended from the same species, the breeding process has made some of them a nightmare to live with. While poodles might be relatively easy to train, chow chows and pugs certainly aren’t.

Here are some of the breeds of dog that are hard to train.

Beagles

Do you own a beagle? They can be loving dogs. Too loving perhaps. The problem with beagles is that their strong sense of affection can sometimes get the better of them. Often all their training goes out of the window, once their emotions start racing.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Beagles need authoritative owners. They need people who are willing to be consistent in their instruction, even if their dog might seem adorable sometimes. That mean no feeding at the table, relatively few snacks and treat, and a strict doggie timetable.

Mastiffs

Mastiffs are impressive dogs. Perhaps that’s why they always seem to feature in films. But these giants hounds are certainly a handful to keep under control around the home. There’s no doubt that Mastiffs are gentle giants. But their gentleness doesn’t mean that they’re particularly interested in training: far from it.

To really communicate with a mastiff, you need to have a firm hand. Mastiffs will respond to their owners, but their owners must put themselves in the dominant position. Submissive owners or owners who break the rules around feeding time will soon have an unruly mutt on their hands.

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If you can get mastiff training right, they can make great companions. But they need to respect you first.

Pugs

Pugs are among the strangest dog breeds out there. Owners of pugs are often approached by people who’ve never seen a pug before asking “what is it?” Even pug owners have to admit their dogs look strange.

Pugs, however, can be a problem dog, according to training specialists Royvon. It’s no so much that pugs are unruly or aggressive, it’s just that they’ve got more important things to do, it seems than obey their owners. Pugs just want to be left to their own devices to do their own thing, it seems, and that can make them particularly different to train. Unlike most dogs, they’re independent spirits.

It’s not impossible to train a pug. It just takes a combination of consistent training and confident instruction. Pugs can become bored quickly, so great discipline from the start is essential.

Afghan Hound

Afghan hounds are a beautiful breed, thanks to their fur and ears. They’re also surprisingly intelligent: almost in sheepdog territory. But unlike sheepdogs, Afghan hounds are not particularly easy to train. They have almost cat-like personalities according to some experts, meaning that they’re more interested in what they can get out of you, rather than actually doing anything you tell them to do.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Even if you do manage to train an Afghan hound, getting that training to stick is a big challenge. Afghan hounds have a tendency to forget the lessons they learn, which is why they need to be regularly refreshed. There’s nothing worse than an unruly dog!

Dalmatian

Dalmatians are incredibly cute: everybody agrees with that. But their cuteness has also made them cheeky and unruly. In fact, Dalmatians are extremely highly strung compared to more laid-back breeds like spaniels. Because of this, they’re almost impossible to control without vigorous, active training.

To keep a Dalmatian successfully, owners need to be constantly vigilant and engaged with their dogs. Dalmatians need regular walks in the park, perhaps twice a day. And they need a daily training ritual to let them know who the boss is. Without these, things can quickly get out of hand and Dalmatians can become disruptive in the home. Over time, a lack of owner interaction can cause them to disobey your instructions, even if they are trained.

Chow Chow

The Chow Chow likes to be the master of its own destiny. As a result, many owners find it difficult to control, especially around feeding times. To get the upper hand in your relationship with your chow chow, you need to establish a clear pecking order early on. It should be entirely clear who is the leader of the pack.

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In practice, this means being consistent. Just a small thing, like feeding your Chow Chow from the dinner table rather than out of its bowl can lead to disruptive behaviours, especially around meal time. Sometimes, Chow Chows can display aggressive behaviours. If this is the case, then you may want to consult with a specialist.

Ticks and Fleas spread diseases…

Ticks like this carry disease

I spent years learning about diseases, medicine and surgery to become a vet so I could help make animals better. Yet sadly there have been many times where I’ve either seen a dog die or be euthanised because of diseases that are preventable. For me it is heart-breaking to see a dog die like this, yet even worse are the owners crying because they did not know any better. I hope by writing this I can help prevent suffering to another dog and their owners.

Most people with a dog will probably have seen a tick or flea at some time or other. Whilst it is common to believe they may just be an annoyance to your pet, in some cases they can carry diseases which may be spread to your pet or in some cases even you.

Actually calling fleas an annoyance may not even be accurate as the itchiness that they cause can be extremely painful and lead to a dog destroying its own skin trying to get it to stop. However today I want to rather focus on ticks. In April this year I saw 23 dead dogs due to a disease carried by ticks. It is one that is relatively new to the UK; however it is very common where I studied as a vet in Slovakia.

This disease is caused by another parasite called Babesia which exists inside blood cells and is transmitted by ticks when they feed. When it enters a new animal the parasite spreads in the blood entering the red blood cells and then replicating inside it causes the cell to rupture and die. This process repeats until there are very few red blood cells left, it is treated, or the dog dies.

The symptoms vary, when the dogs I have seen suffering from this have arrived they have often been lethargic, the worse ones have been yellow with icterus and collapsed. The common symptoms are blood in the urine, lack of appetite, weight loss, pale gums and tongue, lack of energy and collapse. In fact the symptoms can be so non-specific that one of my teachers here actually once told me that if I cannot explain the symptoms by any other means then I should check for Babesia.

Checking for Babesia is generally easy with a blood test where a smear is examined under the microscope – if it is positive for Babesia then they will be seen within the red blood cells as in the dog below…

Babesia parasite inside a red blood cell
The dark puple “butterfly” in the middle circle is typically what Babesia looks like under a microscope © Chris Allen 2017

So we have the diagnosis, now for the treatment. Unfortunately this is where it gets complicated as although there is medication to kill the Babesia parasite, it can often be a battle to keep the dog alive long enough for the medication to work. Without enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout the body the organs cannot work, the heart starts working faster to try and move the few good cells it has around faster, and the waste is filtered into the urine. The regeneration of red blood cells takes a few days to really start, so one potential lifesaving treatment is a blood transfusion – however this often just buys more time as these red blood cells may then also be infected and destroyed by the Babesia parasite.

The next problem then comes with the cost of treatment as well; often these dogs need hospitalisation and intensive therapy which for some is unaffordable. It really can be a gamble as to whether or not they survive at all, even if treatment is attempted, potentially leaving a big bill and a dead dog vs the happy pet parent taking their dog home.

The main question though is why it is even necessary.  Although tick products are generally not licensed against tick borne diseases, to help prevent Babesia you should help protect your dog against ticks with a vet recommended treatment, remove any ticks you find as soon as possible, and especially make sure you do this if you travel into mainland Europe.

I fully support the Pet Parasite Action campaign – such a little thing as regular prevention could help save your dog’s life even though you may not know it. You don’t go out and leave your front door unlocked to avoid theft, why would you leave your pet unprotected against diseases such as this?

Click Below to Check You Are Protecting Your Pet…

Pet Parasite Action Protect your pet

The Best Marketing Tips for Veterinary Practices

Just like any business, a veterinary practice lives and dies by the customers it has. If you are not attracting enough clients to your practice, it could be because you aren’t marketing your clinic the right way. With that in mind, read on to discover the best ways to advertise your veterinary practice.

  • Focus on SEO – Search engine optimization is a must for all businesses today, veterinary practices included. Veterinary SEO involves using an array of different techniques to move your website up the search engine rankings. This is imperative in today’s digital age, giving your website plenty of exposure, and ensuring your business is at the top of the results whenever someone looks for a vet clinic in your area. After all, whenever people need to find a business today, they usually turn to the Internet!
  • Profile your team – When setting up your veterinary clinic, you may not have a big team of staff, but this does not matter, you should still create a profile for each member – it does not matter whether you are a team of two or ten. This is because people like to know who is going to be looking after their animals. By highlighting the accomplishments and talents of your individual staff members, people will feel more comfortable about leaving their pets in your hands.
  • Offer a reward for customer referrals – Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools today. You can give your customers a push to recommend your clinic by offering a reward if they do so. For example, for every new client that signs up through an existing customer, you could give the existing customer a 10% discount off his or her next vet bill.
  • Start a blog – Having a website is one thing, but you can take it to the next level by adding a blog. This is the way to show your veterinary expertise, setting yourself apart in the industry. You can share posts about veterinary news, customer stories, pet care tips, and anything else related to pet care and health. Create original, interesting, and engaging posts, which people will want to read. Not only does this show you as an expert in the industry, but it will benefit your SEO strategy too.
  • Get customer testimonials – Ask your satisfied clients if they will provide you with a testimonial. You will find that most will be more than happy to do so. You can use these testimonials in a number of different ways – from including them in magazine ads and brochures to social media and websites.
  • Be active on social media – This leads onto the last point perfectly; make sure you are active on social media. This gives people the opportunity to get closer to your practice than ever before, which harvests loyal customer relationships. Don’t simply post a string of promotional messages – engage with your customers and post interesting messages about the industry in general. You could also run a competition for increased exposure, with winners getting a pet basket, a bag of pet treats, or something else for their pet.

Great Ways To Integrate A New Dog Into The Home

bringing-a-puppy-home

Getting a new dog is an amazing experience, but it isn’t without its pitfalls. Sadly, not all pooches take to their new surroundings like a duck to water. In fact, some lash out like a hormone engorged, moody teenager. Of course, this is the last thing you want, especially if you have just been shopping or decorated. So, it’s important that you try and make the process as easy and simple as possible. To do that, you have to integrate the dog so that it feels like it is part of the family. If you don’t know how these tricks will come in handy.

Don’t Overwhelm It

Obviously, everyone will be excited at the prospect of adding a new member to the family. But, you can’t let the excitement boil over as it will overwhelm the dog. Instead, you have to act as if it is just another day in the household so as to smoothen out the process. With this in mind, there should be no welcome home parties or any functions of any kind. Also, refrain from crowding around and smothering the animal. Dogs, especially rescues, like their space and will bite back if strangers get too close.

Give It A Hearty Meal

Like men, the way to a dog’s heart is through food. Seriously, a good meal can do wonders because it shows your new pooch that you care. It is also a sign that this is its home. After all, not too many people feed pets that they don’t own. Snacks like chicken dog treats are also good for developing a bond. Indeed, you can use treats to for training purposes. If it does something good, reward it with a snack as positive reinforcement. There is a reason a dog is man’s best friend!

Walk It Around The House

There are lots of people that like to let a new canine wander around the house of its own volition. Although this is a smart move, so is introducing it the rest of property ASAP. That way, nothing will surprise the dog when it leaves the comfort of the living room or kitchen. Anyway, it has to go upstairs or outside at some time, and it may as well be sooner rather than later. If you are scared this will overwhelm it, don’t be as it only has to be a fleeting tour. After that, you can let leave it alone.

Establish A Routine

Dogs like to have a routine. Even though they don’t have cognitive reasoning, they do have instinct. As such, they know when something should happen, such as a daily walk. The quicker you establish a routine, the better for the animal. Then, there will be fewer surprises and less free time. As soon as it has something to do, it will take its mind off the move. And, when it does have some free time, it should be tired and go to sleep.

The process is never easy, but it isn’t as difficult when you follow the guidelines above.