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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!

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

 

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.

Chip, Check, Change

MICROCHIPS! REUNITING LOST AND STOLEN PETS…OR ARE THEY?

One of our favourite jobs at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is microchipping litters of puppies. We strongly support UK law, which requires all puppies to be microchipped by 8 weeks of age (12weeks for legally docked puppies) and before they are sold.

Microchips can be implanted by Vets, Vet Nurses, and by other pet professionals who have received appropriate training (a practical course before 2015, and a LANTRA regulated course since 2015). We offer the additional benefit of a basic health check for all puppies we chip.

Microchips are a very safe and reliable way to permanently identify a dog, they also provide a way of identifying the keeper of that dog. Since April 2015 the first registered keeper must be the breeder of the puppy, and the breeder must provide the buyer with paperwork which allows the buyer to register themselves as the new keeper. If a dog is given away or sold the ‘old’ owner must get a transfer code from their microchip registration company and give this to the ‘new’ owner. It is easiest to think of the microchip registration scheme as being very similar to the car logbook system which we are all familiar with.

Just like a car log book, being named as the keeper of a dog with a microchip registration database is not considered proof of ownership. There is no single document which proves ownership of a dog, though in disputes a receipt from the purchase, evidence of paying the food and vet bills, and Kennel Club registration papers will all be considered.

When buying a puppy, or an adult dog, you should ask for a transfer code or paperwork which shows that the dog is chipped and to allow your to transfer the dog into your keepership.

WHY DON’T MICROCHIPS ALWAYS GET PETS HOME?

CHIP

Don’t assume your pet is chipped! Although all puppies should be chipped before sale we still see a lot of pups where this hasn’t been done. Visit your vet soon after buying any pet to check if it is microchipped.

CHECK

Pet microchips are very simple, and therefore very reliable. But a few do fail or move (especially after trauma to the implant area). Movement should not prevent a pet being returned to its owner as pet professionals scanning a stray pet should ensure they scan the whole animal all over, and should use two different types of scanner if a chip isn’t found. Failed chips are obviously a disaster in terms of reuniting lost or stolen pets. Microchip companies monitor reports of failed microchips and several years ago one company discovered a faulty batch had been implanted with a high risk of failure. Keepers were advised to have their pet’s chips checked and a new chip inserted if necessary. Although a chip could fail at any time, it is sensible to get it checked at least once a year (perhaps at your pet’s Annual Health Check).

Remember that your dog must still wear a collar and tag when out in public, which must have your surname and address on. A mobile phone number is also very useful for a quick reunification.

We also recommend ear tattooing as a back up to tags and microchips. Both puppies and adult dogs can be tattooed in a quick and only briefly painful procedure. Tattoos can become harder to read over time, but even a faded tattoo can help reunite a dog.

CHANGE

The main reason it can be difficult to reunite lost pets with their keepers is that the keeper registration details are not kept up to date. If you buy a pet, or if you move house, or change your telephone number one of the first things you should do is to change the contact details held by the chip registration company. You should be given a transfer code/form by the seller, if you move you will be able to change the details online or by post. Some databases make a small charge for changing details, in other cases it may be free.

VETS (AND RESCUES, AND DOG WARDENS, AND GROOMERS) GET SCANNING!

It can be hard for very invested dog owners to understand why lost and stolen dogs aren’t scanned and returned to their owners really quickly. Whilst we know that not all veterinary practices are as diligent about scanning new patients for chips as they should be, the sad truth is, that many dogs go for years without visiting a vet. Lots of people don’t take their dogs for Annual Health Checks and only visit the vet if their dog is ill. We have been involved in cases where dogs have been bought from homeless people, a man in a pub, or from classified adverts and many months or years (9 years in one case!) passed before the dogs were taken to a vet. In these cases vets scanned the dogs, found a microchip, and checked the database for registration details. This has been made much easier in recent years with the introduction of Scanner Angel for Halo scanners which alerts us to pets reported lost or stolen. Buyers should be asking to see chip registration paperwork, and should be suspicious if this is not available. It is our hope that compulsory microchipping will make more dog buyers ask about chips and make it harder for theives to move stolen dogs on (reducing their value and therefore reducing theft).

CAN REGISTRATION DETAILS BE CHANGED WITHOUT PERMISSION? CAN DOGS BE RECHIPPED? CAN DOGS BE REHOMED WITHOUT SCANNING? CAN CHIPS BE REMOVED?

The answer to all of these questions should be ‘No!’. But incidents do happen, and recently some distressing cases have been shared on social media.

Microchip databases won’t change the registered keeper details without the transfer code, or other proof of change of keepership. This can make changing keepership difficult if the transfer code wasn’t provided or for strays where the previous keeper can’t be traced. In these cases the microchip databases will consider other evidence, including whether the original keeper reported a pet as lost or stolen, and will ask that efforts are made to contact the previous keeper before changing keepership. If the original owner decides to contest ownership in the future it is important to keep as much evidence as possible of the efforts made to find them, or proof that they sold the pet.

Pets will not be implanted with a microchip by a Vet, Vet Nurse, or trained implanter without being checked for a pre-exisiting chip. In rare cases pets may have two chips if one has failed. Sometimes these failed chips ‘come back to life’ which means either number can come up on scanning. If a second chip is implanted where one is known to have failed the keeper details should be kept up to date on both numbers. As previously discussed, anyone scanning strays, new patients, or implanting microchips should scan very thoroughly to try and identify pre-existing chips. We sadly do know of stories where pets have not been scanned properly when picked up as strays or handed in to rescue, leading to complicated situations later on. Only robust and easy to follow protocols for rescuers and animal wardens can avoid these mistakes.

Microchips are not as easy to locate and remove as social media might suggest. We are only aware of one confirmed case of a dog having its chip removed by theives. A shaved dog and a scar, not to mention the requirement for anaesthetic mean removal is quite unlikely.

Ultimately, microchips DO work. They do identify dogs positively for breeding health checks, vaccinations, and competition. They do help reunite lost or stolen pets with their owners. But we advise our clients to CHIP, CHECK, and CHANGE!

 

GOODBYE GOUDHURST

GOODBYE GOUDHURST VETS

Many happy years offering clinics at Goudhurst Vets and Equine Clinic in Goudhurst are coming to an end. 

Vicky will be concentrating on home visits for Acupuncture and Behaviour problems, and will continue to offer Holistic and Herbal medicine consultations at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne (01323 649315).

Existing acupuncture clients at Goudhurst will be transferred to vet Caroline Borer, who has recently undertaken acupuncture training. Repeat prescriptions of herbs can be delivered to Goudhurst by arrangement.

Vicky’s final clinic at Goudhurst will be on Thursday 4th January.

VETERINARY HERBAL MEDICINE UNDER THREAT?

RCVS THREATENS ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE!

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has released a statement in which it appears to threaten Vets who use ‘alternative’ therapies. It focuses on Homeopathy, but could lead to problems for Vets who prescribe herbs or use acupuncture too. https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/college-publishes-complementary-medicines-statement/

WE DON’T DO ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE

At the moment we are not concerned that the RCVS statement will affect our work at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care because we use herbal medicine, diet, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, and physical therapies to complement conventional diagnosis and treatment, or where no conventional medication is available or suitable. We only work on referral from your First Opinion practice and choose therapies which are supported by laboratory studies and clinical trials as well as case studies. 

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we don’t call our therapies ‘alternative’ because Vicky is first and foremost a qualified, experienced Vet. If she feels a pet needs conventional diagnostic tests such as a blood test or radiographs your pet will be referred back to your First Opinion practice, or these may be performed at Companion Care Vets Eastbourne if you are visiting the clinic there. Some cases may need conventional pain relief before starting acupuncture or physical therapy at home. The welfare of your pet is our primary concern at all times.

COMPLEMENTARY VETERINARY MEDICINE BACKED BY SCIENCE

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we choose to use treatments which are backed by laboratory research, clinical trials, and case studies.

Herbal medicines contain complex combinations of active ingredients, many of which have been extensively studied. We often use herbs with active ingredients which act on the same receptors as conventional drugs. Valerian, for example, contains valerenic acid which modulates GABA receptor function and reduces the breakdown of GABA, leading to sedation.

Sometimes we have data from clinical trials in animals, other studies may only have been done on cell cultures, so we interpret the results with great care. We don’t promise miracle cures, but we try to choose therapies which will improve your pet’s quality of life.

PRICE RISES

PRICE RISES

We endeavour to keep the costs of treatment, visits, and medicines at an affordable level. Our prices for herbal medicines have not changed for several years, but unfortunately our supplier has had to increase their prices significantly due to increasing manufacturing and shipping costs…so we have to pass this on to our clients. Below are the new costs for our most commonly prescribed botanical medicines. Herbal medicines remain great value with most formulas coming in at under £1 a day for a 30kg dog and around 30p a day for a cat.

100g dry herbs £7.50

200ml herbal tincture £23

500ml herbal tincture £ 47

HERBAL MEDICINE SAFETY

IT’S NATURAL, SO WHAT HARM CAN IT DO?

It’s frustrating, as a vet who has undertaken extensive training in physiology, conventional pharmacology, and then studied herbal pharmacology on top, to read the advice of all the ‘experts’ on the internet. Today, a post popped up on my Facebook feed all about the benefits of turmeric which included this gem, “I take it three times a day. It’s natural, what harm can it do?”

The answer is that if there are chemicals present in a herb that can do good, there is also the potential for harm.

Obviously, some herbs are well known for their toxicity. Although foxgloves and lily of the valley contain chemicals that can be used to treat heart disease, we don’t use them because the risk of poisoning and death is too high. But there are many herbs that we do use that can be therapeutic at one dose, but poisonous at a higher dose. A good example would be garlic; small doses can be very useful, but even moderate doses over the long term can cause blood disorders in some animals, especially cats. Some herbs can irritate the nose, mouth, or gut if given in large quantities, or if not mixed well into food.

Whilst we’re on cats, they are very tricky creatures! There are differences in how cats metabolise drugs…and herbs…which make them far more toxic than they are to humans or dogs. Worryingly several herbal preparations are sold over the counter for arthritis in dogs and cats which contain willow bark. Willow bark contains compounds similar to aspirin which can be toxic to cats if given in even moderate doses over a period of time. And although nobody is suggesting lilies as a botanical medicine, these pretty plants can prove fatal to cats if they ingest even a small amount of pollen.

Next comes the problem of giving herbal medicines without your vet’s knowledge when your pet is on medication. Almost everything taken into the body, drug, food, or herb, will be metabolised. Much of this metabolism happens in the liver, where a limited number of enzymes get to work on a huge variety of natural and artificial compounds. Some compounds compete for the same enzyme which slows down their metabolism. Other compounds may slow down or speed up the activity of an enzyme which metabolises another drug. Turmeric has many of its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects through inhibiting enzyme reactions…but this also means it could slow down the metabolism of other drugs. This may be a benefit, leading to a greater effect, but could also lead to toxicity. St John’s Wort is well known for increasing the activity of certain enzymes, meaning other drugs are cleared more quickly from the body. In humans progesterone in contraceptive pills is a concern, but in animals clearing antibiotics too quickly would be a concern. St John’s Wort also works to reduce the reuptake of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, hence its usefulness for depression in humans. But if given with other medications (especially antidepressants) which also block neurotransmitter reuptake there is a high risk of side effects, including the sometimes fatal serotonin syndrome. And it’s not just herbal medicines; broccoli and sprouts can increase specific enzyme activity, and grapefruit can inhibit enzymes.

Finally, I am always concerned about the quality and safety of herbal medicines. Even where a particular herb is safe, and should be effective, buying the right tablet or tincture is essential. Very few companies make herbal medicines with the attention to detail that they should and this can lead to ineffective, or unsafe products. Research done by the BBC last year found that most over the counter herbal products contained little active ingredient. Some contained no active ingredients, and some…unknown compounds. Herbs may be incorrectly identified before processing, poorly stored, or have grown in poor conditions meaning they contain less active compounds. With dried ground herbs, such as turmeric, the method of drying and grinding can significantly affect quality, and where a herb contains essential oils, drying can remove many of these.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we love herbal medicines. But we strongly believe they should only be used after consultation with a vet who is trained in their use. In addition we only use herbs from companies which perform sufficient quality control.