PRACTICE CLOSURE 7th-28th October

CLOSED 7TH OCTOBER – 28TH OCTOBER!

Our vet Vicky has been invited to teach dog training and behaviour in the Falkland Islands!

The remoteness of this beautiful country and the time difference means that Vicky will be unable to respond to emails, phonecalls, or text messages.

It also means that we are unable to take on any new home visit clients until late October.

Vicky does have a few spaces left for existing clients, and at her clinics in Eastbourne on Mondays and Fridays.

WHAT NEXT IN DOGGY DIETS?

WHAT’S NEXT IN DOGGY DIETS?

Some of you may have noticed my brief appearance on The One Show earlier this year assessing the health of dogs on vegan or meat based diets. Environmental concerns are leading to more people investigating alternative diets for their pets, including feeding dogs vegan diets. Although the investigation by the show (in conjunction with Wanda McCormick at The University of Northampton) was on a very small scale, it found that homemade diets, both vegan and meat based were not providing everything the dogs needed for longer term health, but neither was the commercial vegan diet… you might also have read about grain free diets being linked to heart disease in dogs in America, raw meat diets being a health hazard to pets and their owners, and even insects being touted as the next big thing in pet foods…so…what’s going on?

GRAIN FREE DIETS AND DCM

At the time of writing the diet related dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) cases appear to be limited to North America. The affected dogs have been fed one of a range of grain free or exotic meat based diets. Although these diets contain adequate nutrition on paper, they seem not be support heart health in some dogs. The exact cause remains unclear but the use of legumes (peas and beans) as a significant part of the diet may be to blame. 

Take home message: small pet food companies may not be doing any testing to ensure they meet minimum nutritional guidelines. Those that do may only do computer balancing. Larger manufacturers do feeding trials to ensure a food can maintain health in dogs over a period of time. Look for food from PFMA members, or ask if the food meets FEDIAF guidelines.

RAW RISKS

There have been a number of papers published in the last few years highlighting the potential risks of raw meat based diets. Major areas of concern include the risk to owners from handling raw meat, and the potential for raw fed pets to shed harmful bacteria into their environment. Contaminated meat could also make pets sick, and there are numerous case reports of dogs requiring treatment for broken teeth or intestinal obstruction after eating raw bones. Studies have also shown that homemade diets may not be nutritionally balanced.

But…most of the papers on the risks from bacteria highlight a possible risk, rather than actual cases. With good hygiene practices, a raw fed dog should present very little extra risk over a kibble fed dog. After all, most dogs will eat cat faeces or roadkill given half a chance! Both raw and kibble diets have suffered recalls due to contamination in recent years. That said, caution should be taken if the household contains babies, toddlers, the elderly, or immunocompromised members, and the recommendation that PAT dogs should not be raw fed seems very sensible. Broken teeth and intestinal obstruction risks are present with raw bones, but also with many toys and chews. As with toys and chews, supervision and choosing appropriately sized bones is the key to risk mitigation.

For a balanced raw diet choose a commercial diet from a PFMA member who is meeting FEDIAF guidelines. Honey’s recently did a version of a feeding trial which showed their foods keep real dogs healthy. Alternatively, seek out the advice of a vet with raw feeding experience who can help you devise a home prepared diet for your dog.

VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN?

If you are cutting back on meat to save the planet, or have gone fully vegetarian or vegan, can your dog do the same? Dogs can survive on vegetarian diets, but may require supplementation of certain vitamins and essential amino acids. Vegan diets present a much harder challenge, especially as synthetic versions of key trace elements are removed from the market. There are several commercial vegan diets available, but if you read the small print all are described as ‘complementary’ meaning they are not designed to be fed as the only food. FEDIAF compliant complete vegetarian diets are available however, and can be useful in diagnosing and treating adverse food reactions.

BUGS!

Is the future eating bugs? The first dogs treats and foods based on insect protein are hitting the shelves and are said to offer an alternative which is better for the planet than pets consuming large amounts of high carbon footprint meat. But, pet food is made from the by-products of human meat consumption. Despite the pretty illustrations on the packaging, your dog’s dinner is not made from prime cuts of meat, but from the parts people don’t want…tongue, tendons, fascia, skin, tripe, old animals, and meat recovered by mechanical means from the bones. If this ‘waste’ didn’t become pet food it would be truly wasted… if humans significantly reduce their meat intake perhaps there won’t be enough to go around for our pets, and then we may need to look at alternatives. Personally, I think I’ll get my protein from plants rather than bugs, but a kibble made of insects will look (and I presume taste!) very much the same as one made with meat so it could be a way forward for pets. However, the problems with grain free/ exotic meat diets in the US gives me cause for concern. More work is needed to ensure insect protein provides the nutrition dogs need when fed as well as on paper.

Where does this leave us as dog owners who just want to do the right thing by our pets, the planet, and our wallets? I think we should investigate new ideas in pet feeding with an open, but enquiring, mind and we should ask pet food manufacturers large and small how they are ensuring diets are safe and nutritious for our pets to eat.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we take an, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to pet diets and never ask a pet owner to change for the sake of it. However, diet can be used to treat a range of conditions and our vet Vicky will work with clients wanting to use commercial, homemade, or raw diets. Email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for more information.

PRICE RISES

PRICE RISES

Sorry folks, but it’s that time of year when we have to review our costs and our prices, so you will see a few of our headline prices have risen. Inmost cases this is after several years of static prices for our clients while out costs have risen.

We hope you agree we are still pretty good value for money!

EMAIL MELTDOWN!

EMAIL MELTDOWN!

WE HAVE NO EMAIL! WE ARE AWARE THAT PEOPLE HAVE TRIED TO SEND US THINGS WHICH WE HAVEN’T RECEIVED.

PLEASE BEAR WITH US AS WE TRY TO FIX THINGS!

In the meantime please text 07958142959

WHAT *THIS* VET WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT *THAT* EUTHANASIA POST

WHAT THIS VET WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT ‘THAT’ EUTHANASIA POST

Over the last month an upsetting post has popped up on my Facebook wall again and again. In various slightly different guises it suggests that a “tired, broken-hearted vet” told the author that 90% of owners don’t stay when their pet is brought in for euthanasia, and that the pets “search for you when you leave them behind”. It goes on to call owners who don’t stay with their pets “cowards”.

Personally, I think the post is bull. I don’t think a vet wrote it, I don’t think a vet even said those things. The post simply doesn’t chime with my own experience of pet euthanasia.

PET EUTHANASIA: SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

I feel that the decision to stay with your pet or leave it with the veterinary staff is one that only the owner can make. I would never consider someone who felt unable to stay a coward. There are many reasons why staying might not be the right decision for some, or all, family members. The truth is that whether you stay or leave, you pet will soon die peacefully. Only you can decide if you will be haunted by seeing your pet die, or whether you will be comforted by the memories of being there in the last moments.

The exact procedure for euthanasia varies; sometimes a sedative injection is given into the muscle first, sometimes a cannula is placed in a leg vein, and sometimes the euthanasia drug is given straight into the vein. The veterinary staff may need to take your pet to another are to place a cannula or to give sedation. It is a good idea to discuss the procedure with your vet before the day so you know what to expect. With small pets such as rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs it is usual to anaesthetise them with anaesthetic gas first; for health and safety reasons you may not be allowed to be present for this part.

If you stay your pet will be settled on a comfy blanket with a nurse supporting them. It may be possible for you to hold your pet, or the veterinary team will make sure you can stroke your pet and comfort them. The euthanasia solution is painless and quickly causes unconsciousness before stopping the heart. The vet will check that the heart has stopped and will let you know that your pet has passed away.

If you choose not to stay…exactly the same thing happens. A nurse will take your place and cuddle your pet and offer treats and make sure that they aren’t looking around for you. Remember; your pet does not know that this is a euthanasia appointment and that you won’t be back together in just in tick.

If you don’t want to see your pet euthanased, but would like to spend time with their body afterwards that can also be arranged.

PET EUTHANASIA: AT HOME OR AT THE VETS?

Home euthanasia visits can be beautiful. I have sent dogs on their final journey in gardens as the sun sets, and given cats their final injection as they purr in front of a fire. But it isn’t always such a nice experience. A home visit may not be suitable for a dog that doesn’t welcome strangers in their home, and nothing is more upsetting than desperately trying to find a cat that has hidden. Again, think about yourself too…will passing the place where Rover was euthanased upset you every day? If you do choose home euthanasia make sure there is good light to allow the veterinary team to to their job, as well as finding a spot where your pet will be comfortable. Home euthanasia may not be readily be available in an emergency at night or at the weekend, so have a back-up plan.

Most pets still go to the vets for their final visit and veterinary practices try hard to make this experience as nice as possible for everyone, including the pet. The practice may book your appointment at a quiet time of day, let you enter and leave through a back door, and may have a special room so you aren’t rushed. You might like to bring a favourite treat, and a blanket which smells of home. If your pet is very afraid of the vets but can’t have a home visit either, your vet may be able to prescribe relaxing medication to give before you arrive.

PET EUTHANASIA: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Whether your pet is euthanased at home, in the clinic, or dies at home your will need to make arrangements for their body. Home burial is only an option for smaller pets, or if you have a large space. Consider where there might be watercourses or underground obstructions, and also how your would feel if you left your home and pet’s body behind.

Vet practices usually have an arrangement with a pet crematorium to collect deceased pets. Options offered include communal cremation where a group of pets are cremated together before their ashes are interred at the crematorium and individual cremation where your pet is cremated on their own and ashes can be returned. Ashed can be returned in a variety of containers from cardboard ‘scatter tubes’ to wooden caskets or pottery urns. You can even have ashes incorporated into jewellery or placed into a photo frame or cast model of an animal.

Some pet crematoriums offer a collection service from your home or vets, and may even offer a same day cremation and ashes return service.

WHY EUTHANASIA DOESN’T UPSET THIS VET (MUCH)

It might sound odd, but I don’t get tired and broken-hearted by pet euthanasia. I see it as the last best thing I can do for pets who I can’t help further with surgery, or medication, or complementary therapy, or behaviour work. It is hard to see families so upset at losing their pet, but heartening to see what that pet meant to them, how it was part of their lives. I never judge on whether the family want to stay, or not, and if they can’t stay my team step in to make sure the pet knows it was loved right to the end. And we tell them that you’ve just stepped out and will be back any second. They always go knowing you loved them.

FAT DOG SLIM

FAT DOG SLIM

Lose the puppy fat!

WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR OUR PUPS TO SHED THEIR PUPPY FAT?

Our vet Vicky recently went on a course about how dogs move, but the research teams had found out about more than just the mechanics of dog locomotion.

Dogs are incredibly good at trotting. Tracking their close relatives, wolves, in Germany showed that packs covered over 30miles a day! They hunt their prey by slowly wearing it down, only going in for the kill when the prey is exhausted. Wolves can do this because trotting is incredibly energy efficient, and because they have a type of muscle fiber that doesn’t tire in the way our does. Our dogs have inherited these traits, which is why most dogs won’t tire on a walk or run before you do!

The efficiency with which dogs move may have caused a problem though. An adult dog walking 5-7miles a day uses just 5-10% of his daily calories for that exercise! Over 70% of the calories he eats are used in maintaining a stable body temperature, and the rest for digestion, repair etc. This means it is easy to overestimate how much food our dogs need. If a 30kg Labrador who gets two 45minute walks a day needs 200g of a complete dry food, he would need less than 20g extra food if he started going for two 90minute walks! And it gets worse…an overweight dog has more fat to insulate the body so less calories are needed to maintain body temperature.

Obesity is a huge problem for pet dogs. Being overweight predisposes pets to joint and mobility problems, diabetes, even some cancers. Aim for your dog to have a body condition score of 4-5. If you think your dog is overweight consult your veterinary practice for advice.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary care we can help support those who want to feed a raw or homemade diet, as well as those who choose prepared foods, and we can advise on safe and fun exercise plans. Contact us for more details.

Body Condition Chart from Royal Canin

 

GARLIC: HERB OR HAZARD?

GARLIC: HERB OR HAZARD?

We’ve been asked several times later if garlic is toxic to dogs. The internet gives conflicting advice with recipes for dog treat which contain garlic, but posters listing garlic as a potential poison…so today our blog is an attempt at the truth about garlic!

Herb or Hazard?

IS GARLIC A HERBAL MEDICINE FOR DOGS AND CATS?

Yes, it is! Garlic has a very long history of medicinal use. It is useful topically crushed in water to reduce infection in wounds (something done by Roman soldiers!). Taken internally it reduces the tendency of blood to clot and improves circulation so may be suggested for older animals. Garlic has been shown to help control internal parasites, and to improve cardiovascular health. Certain garlic compounds may even have anti-cancer properties. Garlic is a great appetite stimulant so is often added to homemade treats such as liver cake, and many holistic vets recommend making garlic a regular part of dogs diets.

IS GARLIC TOXIC TO DOGS AND CATS?

Garlic is definitely toxic too, as are all members of the onion family (Alliums). These plants contain sulphur compounds which cause oxidative hemolysis if there are more of them in a red blood cell than the antioxidant metabolic pathways in the cell can cope with. Dog red blood cells have low antioxidant activity, and the haemoglobin in cat red blood cells is two to three times more susceptible to oxidative damage than the haemoglobin in other species. Certain dog breeds, especially Japanese breeds, can have genetic differences in their metabolic pathways which make them more susceptible to the toxic effects of onions and garlic. Dogs and cats with an inflamed stomach lining may also be at higher risk of toxicity.

Symptoms of Allium toxicity are initially quiet vague with vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and lethargy. After a few days gums may be pale, or even yellow due to the breakdown of the red blood cells. Anaemia will cause weakness, a high heart rate, and high respiratory rate. There is no specific treatment, but some dogs and cats recover with supportive care and anti-oxidant supplements.

Garlic should be avoided in pets on anticoagulant drugs, and should be introduced carefully to diabetic pets. Garlic should be stopped a week before planned surgery.

HERBAL OR HAZARD: IT’S A QUESTION OF DOSE

Consumption of  5 g/kg of onions or garlic for cats, or 15 to 30 g/kg for dogs can be toxic. An average garlic clove weighs 3-4g, so your dog or cat would need to eat quite a lot in one go to become sick. There have been cases of toxicity where pets have eaten garlic or onions at lower doses over long periods of time. These have included pets fed human foods where concentrated onion powder is often added for flavour.

If you are using herbal supplements containing garlic ensure you choose one designed for cats and dogs so that you know you are giving a safe dose, and never exceed the recommended dose.

If using fresh garlic a clove (3-4g) appears to be safe for a 20-25kg dog. I usually recommend giving garlic 5 days a week to reduce the risk of long term toxicity.

Dried garlic appears safe given at around 10mg/kg, but always consult a vet before adding any herb or supplement to your pet’s diet.

HOLIDAY

HOLIDAY!

Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is CLOSED from 7pm Thursday 21st June until 10am Monday 9th July.

We will not be answering calls, listening to voicemail messages, checking texts, looking at emails, or monitoring the Facebook page!

Please email health@holisticvetsussex for any non-urgent queries which will be dealt with from 10th July onwards.

For urgent pet health problems please contact your Primary Care Practice.

HYPOALLERGENIC HYPE?

DOG FOOD – HYPOALLERGENIC HYPE?

There has never been more choice in diets for dogs. There are complete raw diets, lightly cooked diets, grain free pouches and kibbles, gently cooked nuggets, freeze dried raw food…not to mention any number of books and websites teaching you how to make your own home cooked or raw diets. Many of these diets claim to be hypoallergenic, but what does that mean, and does your dog really need a hypoallergenic diet?

HYPOALLERGENIC?

Hypoallergenic means ‘low in allergens’ or ‘unlikely to cause an allergic reaction’, but in dog food terms it is fairly meaningless. It is usually used to describe food which don’t contain the most common ingredients which cause allergy or intolerance symptoms in dogs. These food usually have a fixed formula (meaning the same ingredients are used in every batch), and restrict the sources of protein. However, they can still cause illness in food allergic or intolerant dogs. If a dog is sensitive to turkey, then a ‘hypoallergenic’ food based on turkey won’t actually be hypoallergenic for that dog! The most common causes of food allergies in dogs are chicken, beef, dairy, and egg but rather than there being something special about these ingredients, it is simply that they are the most common ingredients in pet foods (because pet food use the leftovers of the most common human foods). Feeding a diet based on ‘exotic’ meats like kangaroo, wild boar, or goat doesn’t mean they will be less likely to develop a food allergy, but they would develop it to the exotic meat instead of chicken.

DOES MY DOG HAVE A FOOD ALLERGY?

Food allergies happen when  the immune system misidentifies a protein from food as a threat and launches an immune response. Food allergies in dogs can cause gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhoea) or skin problems (itching, ear infections, skin infections). Food allergies are actually not that common in dogs; vomiting and diarrhoea are far more likely to be caused by a dog eating something it shouldn’t (high fat foods, rubbish, spoiled food etc.) or by a bacterial or viral infection. Dogs can have an intolerance to certain ingredients or diets which physically irritate the gut (the diet might be too high in fibre or fat for instance), but in these cases there is no immune response. Allergies to fleas, house dust mites, food storage mites, and pollens are the most common causes of allergic itching.

GLUTEN FREE? GRAIN FREE?

Grains are a less common cause of food allergies than animal proteins, despite the trend to feed grain free diets. Gluten intolerance is also very rare in dogs, though there is a gluten sensitive enteropathy reported in Irish Setters, and paroxysmal gluten-sensitive dyskinesia (canine epileptoid cramping syndrome/ Spike’s disease) in Border Terriers. Recently grain free diets have been linked to cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers. The diets involved have been high in legumes (peas and beans) and it is theorised that this may be reducing the uptake of taurine in affected dogs.

DIAGNOSING AND TREATING ADVERSE FOOD REACTIONS IN DOGS

Blood, saliva, and even hair sample testing are offered to identify the foods which your dog reacts to, but research in both humans and dogs now suggests that these tests are not particularly accurate or useful. If tests aren’t the answer, what will your vet do to diagnose a food allergy?

In the past vets used to recommend home-made elimination diets based on a single novel protein and carbohydrate source. Unfortunately it is getting more difficult to find truly novel ingredients as ‘exotic’ meats such as wild boar and kangaroo, and even alternative carbohydrates such as quinoa or tapioca can be found in mainstream pet foods and treats! Dogs might have to be on elimination diets for up to 3 months and vets did see poor compliance by owners who got bored of cooking, and dogs who got bored of eating the same thing every day. Such a restricted diet also risks nutritional deficiencies if continued long term, however this option can be followed if owners do not want to use processed foods. Care must be taken to avoid contamination of the diet with other ingredients.

We now have access to diets where the proteins (and sometimes carbohydrates) are hydrolysed. The hydrolysis process breaks the protein into pieces which the body can no longer recognise as being a potential threat. Imagine someone builds a Lego chicken, then smashes it up…if you hadn’t seen the completed chicken you wouldn’t guess what the bricks had been; that’s how hydrolysis works. For gastrointestinal symptoms feeding a hydrolysed diet for 2 weeks should improve symptoms. For skin reactions improvements may not be seen for up to 12 weeks. To make a definitive diagnosis you should then feed the original diet to see symptoms return, but understandably owners often skip this step.

It is vital that when using an elimination or hydrolysed diet that your dog eats absolutely nothing else! This might even mean avoiding palatable medicines and worming tablets as these might have meat based flavourings.

If a food allergy is diagnosed and controlled using an elimination diet or hydrolysed diet, a less restricted diet can be introduced slowly – perhaps one of the ‘hypoallergenic’ diets so you aren’t introducing too many potential allergens all at once.

COULD FOOD REACTIONS CAUSE BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS IN DOGS?

This question is what prompted this month’s blog. 

We know that diets with insufficient animal protein can result in a dog lacking essential amino acids which are precursors of neurotransmitters and that this can lead to problem behaviour and difficulty in learning new tasks. Dietary manipulation can be used to make the essential amino acid tryptophan more available for uptake into the brain, this in turn raises the levels of serotonin.  But there may be even more exciting links between diet and behaviour on the horizon. There is currently a lot of research being done into the gut microbiome and the gut-brain axis. A diverse gut microbe population may be important in maintaining normal tryptophan metabolism and healthy functioning of the behavioural, central nervous, and gut processes which serotonin controls. Inflammation in the gut cause by a food intolerance, as well as antibiotic use, and even a failure for the gut to get a healthy bacterial population in the first days of life could all cause a poor gut microbiome and predispose to a range of health and behavioural problems. At the moment we don’t know exactly how to manipulate the microbiome to improve physical and mental health, but finding a diet which does not cause inflammation and which supports healthy gut flora seems a sensible start.

For more information on the serotonin raising diet please look here: http://www.breakthroughdog.co.uk/

A good diet is the foundation of health and diet should always be considered when looking for ways to treat chronic physical or behavioural problems. Sadly the answer may not be as simple as grabbing a bag of the latest trendy dog food, or switching to a raw diet.

If you would like to discuss the potential impact of diet on your dog’s physical or behavioural health please book an appointment!

DATA PROTECTION

NEW DATA PROTECTION RULES

(AND HOW WE ARE TRYING TO FOLLOW THEM…)

The new General Data Protection Regulations are probably A Good Thing. They are designed to reduce the risk of your personal details getting out, and give you control over the data that companies hold about you. Unfortunately they are written with tiny Holistic Veterinary Care practices in mind. But here is information on what data we hold on our clients, and how we do (and don’t) use it. 

If you are current or past client and you are in any way concerned about data we hold, please email us on health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk bearing in mind that we are unable to amend clinical notes.

 

Client data including name, address, email address, and telephone numbers is held on a GDPR compliant cloud based network. This is password protected and can only be accessed by Vicky Payne BVetMed MRCVS

Animal Details and clinical records are held on the same network. You have a right to request your pet’s clinical history but we retain ownership of the records. Records must be kept for a reasonable length of time in case of claim or complaint. We will consider removal of clinical records on request 5 years after the death of a pet. Records made prior to our use of the secure cloud based system will be removed 5 years after the death of a pet, or 5 years after the average age of death for that species (12 years for dogs, 15 years for cats).

Clients may contact us to make appointments or to discuss cases by email, telephone, text message, or through Messenger. We will reply using one of these methods. We do not use your postal address, email, phone number, or messenger accounts for any reason other than to discuss your pet’s health care or for reasons associated with visits. We do not give your contact details to anyone else.

As we offer referral services, we do need to share information relating to your pet’s healthcare with your primary care vet, and sometimes with other vets or paraprofessionals involved in the case. If you do not give this permission we will not be willing to treat your pet. We must also provide a full clinical history when requested to your insurance company when making a claim. We may also be asked to supply clinical history in criminal cases or where an insurance claim is made against your pet.

Your data is kept on a secure cloud based system on a password locked home computer with up to data virus and malware protection software. The office is locked and access restricted. Paper records (microchip forms, consent forms, printed referral histories) are also kept in this locked office. Some data (phone numbers) is kept on a mobile phone used for personal and business use. This is locked when not in use and protected by relevant anti-virus software. The cloud based records are occasionally accessed by this mobile phone, or by a similarly secured tablet. Basic contact details are written in a paper day book to allow visits to take place.

Payments are usually by cheque or cash. We do not store client bank account numbers or credit card numbers.