Archive for September, 2009

Pet Smile Month- Don’t forget the rabbits and rodents!

Rabbits and Guinea PigIt is pet smile month in September, a national initiative to raise owner awareness of the huge importance of caring for the dental health of their pets. Absolutely brilliant, but it focuses only on cats and dogs. It is easy for owners to forget to think about the dental health of their rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla.

These pets are unique, in that their teeth grow continuously throughout their life. In fact, their tooth growth is very fast at a rate of several mm per week in the rabbit, for instance. It is the grinding action of chewing food that prevents overgrowth and wears the teeth down to their normal length. Because the grinding action of chewing is so important, so is the diet that we feed these pets:

  • hay and other course fibre should be by far the largest component of the diet, followed by leafy greens (think grass and lettuce, rather than carrots). This will also help your pet’s digestive system to stay active.
  • pelleted food is nutritionally balanced, but actually changes the action of chewing and so may predispose your pet to unevenly growing teeth. It is recommended that this is used as a treat.
  • cereal based foods lead to selective feeding and are not good for any of the ‘small furries’- stay away!
  • root vegetables and fruit are high in sugar and should be used only as treats.

It is also thought that Vitamin D may play a role in rabbit dental disease- especially in house rabbits that don’t see much sun!

It is important that your pet is brought in to the vet for regular dental checkups. Conscious examination will pick up only about 50% of dental disease in these herbivorous pets. The other 50% is picked up only under general anaesthesia, which would be performed if dental disease is suspected on the basis of the history and physical examination. Signs to look for include not eating, drooling, elongated front teeth, bumps under the jaw, discharge from the eyes, diarrhoea, weight loss and general ill-health. Sometimes you won’t find these symptoms until dental disease is very advanced. Chinchillas in particular will pretend to be healthy until they are very ill indeed.

Guinea pig eating lettuce

Overgrown cheek teeth can grow spurs, lacerating the tongue and cheeks, which is extremely painful (no wonder they stop eating!). These will need to be burred away. The roots can also grow too long, creating abscesses that are very difficult to treat and blocking the tear duct. These pets will alter how they chew and eat, upsetting their digestive system. In the worst cases, the problem can be fatal.

So do keep an eye on your pet’s teeth, and have a good chat about diet and dental health at your next appointment at the vet. Your pet will thank you for it!

Our X-ray Machine

Our x-ray system at Molly and Max is very special and we thought you might want to know why….

Firstly, it is a very powerful machine, which means that we can take excellent quality radiographs of all sizes of animals, from hamsters to Mastiffs and Great Danes. Lower powered machines can struggle to take good x-rays of larger dogs.

Xray- dog's hips

Secondly it is digital, allowing us to store all our x-rays on our computers; view them around the practice; put them on a disc for owners to take home; and even email them to specialists, who can then deliver a report within hours. We can also zoom in on small areas, enabling us to see more detail on areas such as toes and animals such as hamsters and guinea pigs.

Not all digital x-ray systems are equal. Ours is a DR system, which means that we can take x-rays in the same manner that you take a digital photo: the result is instantly available and we can take a series of x-rays in much shorter time. What usually takes 60 minutes takes us 10 minutes, shortening the length of time that your pet is sedated or anaesthetised, and thus can be safer for your pet. Because we can get the results faster, we can make decisions more quickly when pets are critically ill, which is a huge advantage. Many digital systems are CR, which still requires processing (like film) and therefore still takes a long time.

Our x-ray system is also able to adjust when the exposure isn’t perfect, providing a high quality picture every time. This means fewer non-diagnostic x-rays and therefore fewer repeat exposures, so your pet is less exposed to radiation, another great safety feature. The quality of the resulting x-rays is much higher than you would expect with a film processed x-ray.

With digital x-ray, we can see good detail in all parts of the x-ray, instead of just the small bit we focus on, increasing its diagnostic ability. We can also look at bone and soft tissue on the same film, instead of having to take more than one.

All this leads to better and safer treatment for your pets, so that we can help them to get well as quickly as possible!

Opening Day Announced!

Kitten Sleeping

Molly and Max can now announce our opening date, which is set for the 25th January. We really can’t wait to see our first patient come through the door!

Preparations are underway, with building work currently progressing at the premises. It is very exciting. The practice really is spacious, with a large waiting room and large consultation rooms, and the treatment rooms and wards are impressive as well. The underfloor heating has been put in so we will be ready for winter- all our patients will be warm and cosy in their beds. Our aim is to ensure that our patients are as relaxed as this kitten- dogs and cats sleep in separate rooms, so that they aren’t disturbed by each other.

Fireworks Season Approaches

Jack Russell Terrier in AutumnWith those leaves starting to fall from the trees, it is fast approaching fireworks season. Now is the time that you can intervene to prevent your young dog from becoming scared of fireworks and other loud noises. In November,  it really is too late- the best we can do is try to manage the problem.

Many dogs are petrified of loud, sudden noises. Unfortunately, this problem tends to get worse as the pet gets older, not better. A dog may be mildly affected as a puppy, but severely phobic by middle age. Dogs that have noise phobias become extremely distressed, and can do huge damage to themselves and to your house trying to escape from the noise. Some dogs have been known to jump through windows- it really is that extreme.

If your dog is already very scared of loud noises, the best option is to see a behavioural specialist as soon as possible. The behaviouralist will work with your dog to reduce the fear and negative associations with loud noises (desensitisation), and to try to start to create positive associations instead (this is known as counterconditioning).

If your dog doesn’t have a phobia, or the phobia is very mild, then it is much better to prevent the problem than treat it. The first step is to introduce your pet to these sounds at low levels. A CD of sounds is used for this purpose (for example, CLIX sounds CD which is available from The Company of Animals or Amazon). Treats and praise are used to reward calm and happy behaviour. It is very important that you do not verbally or physically reassure your pet when they show signs of fear, as this will just reinforce the fear. Start with the CD on a very low volume. As your pet shows complete relaxation with each sound, you can gradually increase the volume. Praise your dog for being relaxed, and give it treats. You should be able to build up to the sound being really quite loud indeed, with your pet still being relaxed. Doing this training now will prepare your dog for loud noises in future, and you should have a much more relaxed November!