News Archive

Forres Gazette Article - Antifreeze - Claire Pearson, MRCVS

13th February 2014

When cats need vodka!
During the cold winter months we all start to take precautions, particularly when driving. We put winter tyres on our car, concentrate our screen wash and ensure the antifreeze is topped up. Sometimes our pets may come out to investigate what we’re doing. What many people don’t know is that the antifreeze we put in our car is highly toxic to animals. The main ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is sweet tasting. For some reason cats seem particularly attracted to its taste. Even the smallest amount can lead to kidney failure and death. It is a very painful and distressing illness.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning include lethargy, appearing drunk or uncoordinated, seizures (fitting), rapid breathing, vomiting, increased urination and thirst. They can show as soon as 30 minutes after drinking antifreeze. The sooner veterinary treatment is received, the better the chances of survival. Sadly if the kidneys are showing damage by the time of diagnosis the outcome if often fatal.
Interestingly, the treatment for antifreeze toxicity is alcohol! This competes for the same receptors on cells that the antifreeze uses, blocking damage until the toxin is removed from the body. We have special bottles of ethanol for this purpose but in an emergency situation we always have a bottle of vodka handy for this purpose (and not for our own use!).
When Ralph the 1 year old female (yes female) moggy returned home from a morning exploring her owners knew something wasn’t right. She was very lethargic, vomiting, crying and clearly in distress. They brought her down to Moray Coast Vet Group where her examination and bloods made us suspect she had ingested antifreeze during her morning wandering. Fortunately her blood kidney levels were normal which means it was caught early. Ralph spent 48 hours on a vodka drip then a day or 2 with a ‘hangover’ before making a complete recovery.
When you are topping up your antifreeze, please spare a thought for wildlife and pets and clean up spills immediately, no matter how small, and make sure pets cannot access the area until clean and safe. Dispose of antifreeze safely, you can contact your local authority for advice on this.
Hopefully this article will reduce the chances of pets becoming ill from antifreeze toxicity. But we will always keep a bottle of vodka handy just in case…

Forres Gazette Article - Dental Health Part 2 - James Kelly, MRCVS

13th February 2014

What’s in the mouth?

Dogs, rabbits and horses commonly suffer from a variety of dental issues. In a previous article we covered the problems with tartar build up and now we are looking at some other general teeth problems.

Puppies have needle like teeth and we understandably tend to avoid their mouths rather than having a good look inside! At the first vaccination the vet will inspect your pet’s mouth for an over or undershot jaw or teeth in the wrong place. If the lower canines are out of place they can cause problems digging into the roof of the mouth.

The deciduous or baby teeth are normally pushed out by the erupting permanent teeth but sometimes the permanent teeth come up to the side of the baby teeth and do not push them out. This problem can be picked up around six months of age and often these retained teeth are noticed when the puppy is booked in for neutering. The upper canine teeth are the most common ones to be retained and then it looks like your dog has too many teeth or you may notice that food gets trapped in the front of the mouth. The baby canines need to be removed under general anaesthetic because they disturb the roots of the permanent canines and the trapped food causes an infection of the gum.

Broken teeth are common if dogs have a habit of carrying stones in their mouth. Sometimes we hear some unfortunate stories of owners throwing a stone in to the water for fun and then their dog decides to catch it in their mouth!  A freshly broken tooth usually requires extraction if the tooth root is exposed. Occasionally we refer dogs with a broken tooth to a veterinary dental specialist to try and save the tooth. For example if a police dog breaks a tooth then the tooth can have a strong cap applied so the dog can still grab and hold.

If your dog frequently carries stones, sticks or balls in their mouth then they can in time wear down the incisors and canines. Excessive wear gradually exposes the pulp cavity but the natural healing response seals off the cavity with a dentine like material. This material is darker than the enamel and so you will see a dark mark on the tooth surface
Tennis balls are also great for wearing down front teeth because the felt type covering collects small pieces of grit or soil and acts like sandpaper on the teeth! So a smooth surface ball is much better.
We occasionally see dogs that frequently chew plastic bottles or hard plastic bones with their back teeth. The plastic is hard and wears down the enamel. If this happens excessively the cheek teeth are prone to developing root abscesses. In fact if your dog chews frequently on hard nylon bones you may want to restrict the chewing time to half an hour daily. Chewing is of course is great for gum health and preventing tartar from forming on the teeth and should in general be encouraged!

Rabbits of any age often have a problems with overgrown upper or lower front teeth. Rabbit’s teeth constantly grow during their life so if the upper and lower teeth do not meet correctly when the rabbit is chewing they grow past each other. Then the teeth are seen sticking out of the mouth or the rabbit stops eating.Most rabbits will tolerate being held firmly while the front teeth are burred or clipped. If this procedure needs to be done frequently the owner may consider having the front teeth removed. This option depends on the rabbit’s age and heath and needs to be discussed with your vet.

Checking cheek teeth in a conscious rabbit can sometimes be difficult and so an anaesthetic maybe indicated. The sharp edges of overgrown teeth rub on the cheek and cause ulcers. Rabbits are also prone to tooth root abscesses that cause lumps to form along the bottom side of the lower jaw.

Horse’s teeth like rabbits continue to grow during their life but are obviously worn down with use. But this ongoing growth can lead to problems especially in older horses. The continual growth does help to tell the approximate age of a horse due to the expected wear patterns combined and the expected eruption times of the teeth.

Most horses will let you look at their front teeth but to inspect the cheek teeth a mouth gag is usually inserted to keep the mouth open and prevent the vet from getting his fingers crunched! As you can imagine quite a few horses and ponies are not keen on having a gag inserted and so will need a little bit of sedation. A sleepy horse is much easier to work with!

Often when the mouth is examined sharp tooth edges, irregular wear and missing teeth are detected.  A tooth rasp like a very strong metal nail file is used to file down the sharp edges and make the mouth more comfortable. Sometimes tartar has to be removed and even teeth extracted.

The proverb ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ in an interesting one because looking at a horses teeth can tell you a lot! Of course the meaning of the proverb is that if anyone is good enough to give you a gift, don’t get too fussy looking over the gift for problems or defects. Of course our job at the vets is the opposite - we look into your pet’s mouth and tell you what we see!

Forres Gazette Article - Dental Health Part 1 - James Kelly, MRCVS

13th February 2014

The perfect smile.

In this,  the first of two articles about teeth and dental issues we will consider dental hygiene in dogs and cats and in the next article will cover teeth problems in rabbits, guinea pigs, horses as well as more about dogs and cats.

As the owner of a new puppy or kitten you understandably spend your time trying to avoid their sharp white teeth rather than wanting to touch them. Some owners think that because the baby teeth fall out at 5 or 6 months they don’t need any attention. Also it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that because you are feeding dry food that your pet’s teeth will be fine!

Developing good habits.

Not only is it a good idea to get your new puppy or kitten used to having its mouth opened and the teeth brushed but you should also get them used to having their ears looked at and their paws inspected.
You may complain that it’s impossible to brush your cat’s teeth and that may be true if you didn’t start when your cat was a kitten. Likewise advancing towards your adult dog for the first time armed with a toothbrush is also unlikely to result in a successful outcome!
To brush the teeth, introduce a soft toothbrush between your pet’s cheek and the teeth and brush along the outside of the cheek teeth not forgetting the large canines and small incisors at the front. You normally don’t have to open your pet’s mouth to brush inside and if you try your pet will try and bite the brush and you will end up giving up. If you pet is pulling away and going into reverse you need to stand behind them or get someone else to help you.
Practical demonstrations on brushing forms a part of the puppy classes held at the practice. Fiona, one of our nurses brushes her dog Donan’s teeth every evening after doing her own! Fiona says “Donan gets quite excited when he sees the toothbrush coming out”. Every other day brushing is acceptable but why not brush every day if it’s fun? Just look at Donan’s photograph - he loves his clean teeth!
Using animal toothpaste helps make brushing more fun because your pet will most likely like the taste, but some pets make such an effort to lick the toothpaste that they wriggle around too much. Pushing the paste down into the bristles helps. Brushing just with water is still effective because the action of the bristles on the teeth and gums removes the build-up of plaque. Some toothpastes help soften the plaque making brushing easier.
Dental finger brushes can be useful especially the finger brushes that are finished with cloth rather than rubber material.

Diet and treats

Chewing on rubber or rope toys helps prevent plaque build-up, as does feeding dental sticks, raw hide chews, pig’s ears, raw carrots (given in a size that the dog has to make an effort to chew them) or half an apple.
If you dog seems to swallow a dental chew without chewing it and you film this event and play it back using a slow motion camera you will see that your dog is making multiple bites, and so the chew is still giving benefit. “The proof is in the pudding” so if you inspect the mouth regularly you will see if tartar is building up. Also keep an eye on your pet’s weight as chews are high in fat and you may have to reduce the amount of their normal food if they are putting on weight.
If you think just feeding normal dried food will keep your pet’s teeth clean will you will most likely be wrong! An average dry food kibble crumbles when crunched but a specially formulated dental kibble will stay together longer and have some cleaning action on the tooth surface.
There is no satisfactory alternative to the “gold standard” of brushing.

Forres Gazette Article - Seizures - Martina Balluff, MRCVS

13th February 2014

Its Monday morning 6am. A phone call wakes up our emergency on call vet. Wallace, the one year old male Border Collie is having a fitting episode.
His owner, Mrs McKay reports that he started having occasional fits once every month or two when he was only six months old. First, she started being woken up by him showing the typical signs of a seizure such as paddling with his feet, salivating a lot, a twitchy face and normally recovering within less than 5 minutes. Being familiar with the signs of seizures in humans, Wally’s mum made the right decision and monitored him at home initially. But then the situation suddenly changed that Sunday night. After the first seizure in the early hours of the morning it took Wally a lot longer to recover than usual and instead of going back to his normal self he started having another fit. It was time to contact the vets. When Wallace arrived at our practice in Forres he needed to be carried into the surgery, being disorientated and uncoordinated after another three fits in the car on the way here, and another one starting shortly after his arrival.
So what are the first steps in dealing with a fitting dog or cat at home? To react in an appropriate way one needs to understand that fitting episodes are nothing other than uncontrolled electrical activities in the brain. That means it is an overreaction of the nerve cells in special areas of the brain. Therefore it is important to minimise all stimuli from the environment to reduce the input to these nerve cells. Dim the light and avoid loud noises. Even avoid stroking the animal as they can be hypersensitive to the touch. Make sure your pet is in a safe place. As they are not aware of their environment they can easily fall down the stairs, fall off sofas etc. Pillows and duvets around the animal can help to prevent injuries when they are throwing their heads around or falling over. Most important, protect yourself. Always bear in mind that when having a seizure even the loveliest family dog and the nicest cat can be unpredictable.
Back to Wally. Once at the surgery, we gave him rectal diazepam, an antiepileptic drug, which helps calm the seizures. It works quickly but normally wears off after a short time. This gave us time to place a catheter into Wally’s leg in order that we were able to be able to treat him with intravenous medication. First line treatment is valium given intravenously, which can be given repeatedly until the dog settles down. In Wally’s case it took nearly 4 hours of intensive care from both vets and nurses until he stopped fitting and afterwards he needed to be monitored closely, knowing that the next fit could possibly start any second.
But he recovered steadily over the course of the next few days and besides still being a bit wobbly on his legs for the first few days and slightly confused, he was soon back to being the lovely, active and cheeky dog he was before, seeking for cuddles and attention and wagging his tail joyfully whenever anyone approached his kennel.
Once we have got past the initial emergency situation of stabilising the epileptic patient, it is important to establish if there is any medical condition underlying the epileptic behaviour. In Wally’s case, blood tests were performed, and thankfully his blood results came back normal, which ruled out any metabolic disease causing his seizures. Also there was no abnormality detected in his neurological examination. This gave us a diagnosis of “idiopathic epilepsy”, which is the most common diagnosis in dogs between one and five years old. He was started on oral medication as soon as he started eating. The long term outlook for Wally is good. He will have to stay on these tablets for the rest of his life to control the seizures but other than that, he will be able live a normal and happy life.

Forres Gazette Article - Helpful Medication or Dangerous Mistake? - Martina Balluff, MRCVS

13th February 2014

We are all familiar with the situation – it’s Saturday night, we’ve had a lovely day at the beach with the dog, and he’s come home and suddenly gone lame. Or the cat has come home from one of his adventures and is definitely sore. What should you do now?
Rather than taking the effort of taking them down to the vets, many people will have a look around in their cupboards checking whether they still have some human pain killers from their own last surgery or similar – assuming that what’s safe for them to take has to be fine for their beloved pets as well. But that could end up as a big disaster since most human preparations are not licensed for use in animals. This is for good reason, as often the dose rates vary considerably – a 25kg Labrador may not need the same dose as a 25kg child.  Many human drugs if used incorrectly can be dangerous and can cause severe problems like stomach ulcers or acute kidney or liver failure, and can even be fatal.
So why is a drug that is safe for my 10 year old child not safe for my 7 year old cat and what can be used in an emergency?
First of all, cats and dogs have different ways of metabolizing drugs compared to humans and to each other as well, depending, for example on what the active ingredients are, and how they get rid of the different components,  and also what other drugs are given at the same time.
One example is Paracetamol, a well-known human drug which is used for pain relief and against fever. It is safe to be used in low doses in dogs, but at higher doses can cause severe and permanent liver damage. In cats however it will always be toxic due to the fact that their bodies lack an enzyme required to process the drug. The typical signs Parecetamol poisoning in dogs are brownish-grey coloured gums, a swollen face, neck or limbs, vomiting, jaundice (yellow colour) and breathing difficulties due to the damage in the liver.
Another popular painkiller is Ibuprofen (Neurofen and various other trade names), which, in humans, normally shows a wide margin of safety and fewer side effects than Aspirin, for example In contrast, in dogs, cats and ferrets there may be many side effects at much lower dose rates, due to a much narrower margin of safety. Very low doses can lead to gut symptoms such as gastric ulceration and inflammation, vomiting, diarrhoea and blood in the faeces. Higher doses may cause kidney failure and brain related symptoms.
Aspirin works in a similar way, and can cause similar symptoms when given in high doses, especially in cats which can’t break down the active ingredient, which therefore accumulates in the body and causes problems even when given in moderate doses. Nevertheless it can be used for special reasons such as to prevent thrombosis in cats but only when under direct supervision of a vet.
So what should you do if you feel that you need to give pain relief to your pet, or when you are concerned that your pet has possibly accidentally received an overdose of such drugs (e.g. chewing a blister pack or opening the container containing Ibuprofen)? The first thing to do is to try to establish how much and what exactly your animal has picked up. Then phone your vet as quickly as possible. Even when the surgery is closed, the vets at Moray Coast Vet Group are available 24hrs a day in the case of such emergencies. Your vet will be able to advise you on what steps need to be taken. In a lot of cases, it is a simple matter of giving advice and reassurance over the phone, but in the case where the overdose is potentially serious, appropriate action can be taken before it is too late.
In the case of an overdose noticed within the first 2 hours of ingestion, drugs can be given to make the dog/cat vomit and that, in a combination with medicine given by mouth to settle the stomach, can prevent no more of the drug being absorbed .In severe cases where potential kidney damage is suspected, kidney function can be supported by giving intravenous fluids. Sometimes specific antidotes to certain drugs are available, for example in the case of Paracetamol poisoning.
Generally, it is always better to use one of the numerous veterinary pain killers that are on the market, but there are other preparations that can be used carefully in emergency situations. So please, if in doubt, do contact your vet to get specific advice – it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.

Forres Gazette Article - Fireworks - Claire Pearson, MRCVS

13th February 2014

Firework season will soon be upon us. Whilst this is a time most of us really enjoy, it can be a stressful time for pets and their owners. A lot of animals become frightened by the loud bangs.
The long term solution to this problem is a desensitisation program which involves making a pet more tolerant of loud noises. This is usually a combination of training and CDs which play firework noises, and sometimes drugs or pheromone treatments. This takes time. If you have a pet that is fearful of loud bangs you should consider this for next year so that next season won’t be so unpleasant for him/her. CDs that play loud bangs and come with a training guide can be purchased from . Your vet or local animal behaviourist can also help you with this.
For this firework season, there is not enough time to start these programs. At our practice we are most commonly presented with a pet on the eve of Bonfire Night needing ‘something for the fireworks’. Short term measures to help are suggested below.
DOGS - when your dog is showing fearful behaviour due to fireworks it is important not to punish it. It is equally important to try not to fuss or reassure your dog as this rewards the anxious behaviour and he/she will then learn to continue behaving this way. Ignoring the noises yourself will show your dog that you are not bothered by them so they needn’t be either. Feeding your dog a starchy meal before the fireworks start can help to calm him/her eg. adding pasta to their dinner. Make sure your dog is in a safe secure environment so that it can’t bolt with fright. Make sure the curtains are pulled and play music, ideally with a beat to distract from the fireworks. If your dog prefers to hide away, let them, it is their way of dealing with the stress. Pheromone therapies such as ‘Adaptil’ can help – these come in the form of sprays, ‘plug-ins’ and collars and release a scent that comforts and reassures your dog. Only your dog can smell it! Other aids include ‘Thundershirt’ a special close fitting jacket that hugs your dog and makes him/her feel secure, herbal remedies containing skullcap and valerian specially formulated for animals and supplements such as ‘Zylkene’. Drugs such as diazepam (Valium) can be useful - especially in really fearful animals - speak to your vet if you think this may be needed. Once the firework season has passed, plan ahead for next year and start a desensitisation program.
CATS - keep cats indoors, play music and pull the curtains. Let them hide away if they prefer as this is their way of dealing with the stress. Cats also have a pheromone product called ‘Feliway’ and ‘Thundershirts’ available. As for dogs, consider a desensitisation program for next year.
SMALL PETS - rabbits and other small pets can all get upset by fireworks too. Bring hutches indoors, into a cool room, garage or shed. Provide extra bedding so they can burrow into it to feel safe. If you can’t bring a hutch indoors, turn it to face a wall, and covering the hutch with cardboard or hay bales will muffle the sounds. For indoor small pets, draw the curtains and play music to mask the outside noise.
Hopefully this will allow your firework season to go off with a (stress free) bang!

Forres Gazette Article - Food for Thought - Amy Smith, MRCVS

13th February 2014

Last month I returned home to find my kitchen had been ransacked. Our greedy Labrador has recently discovered the joys of the kitchen and had helped himself to the basket of vegetables and some butter. It could be argued that he was preparing dinner for me but he’s not that good with the oven. Thankfully all he actually ate was a raw sweet potato and some butter but it made me think about all the human foods that can cause serious harm to our beloved furry friends. Surprisingly there are many foods we consider very tasty that are dangerous for our pets. With the festive season rapidly approaching we need to be even more wary of these “toxic foods”.
Chocolate is probably one of the most well-known “toxic foods” and many of us will have boxes of chocolates under the tree. A greedy dog is more than capable of unwrapping a present and demolishing the entire box. The toxic substance in chocolate is theobromine and ingestion of toxic quantities can results in big trouble for your pooch. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, heart abnormalities, seizures and even death. It is also important to remember that chocolate toxicity isn’t just confined to ingestion of chocolate but cocoa and cocoa products as well, even those delicious brownies could create problems for you dog. Darker chocolates, including baking chocolate and powder contain more theobromine than milk or white chocolates so are more dangerous.
Another food to watch out for over the Christmas period is grapes and raisins which can cause renal failure. Christmas pudding, cakes and mince pies are absolutely full of grapes and raisin so pose a very high risk to any dog. The actual mechanism of toxicity is unknown, as is the toxic dose. Some dogs seem to be able to eats lots without side effects whilst others have developed renal failure after eating only 7 grapes so it’s best not to risk it. The current recommendation is that all cases of grape or raisin ingestion be treated as soon as possible.
With all the Christmas roasts we also need to be aware of onions and cooked bones. Ingestion of onions, garlic, chives and other members of this plant family can cause a gastrointestinal upset and damage red blood cells leading to a severe anaemia (low red blood cells). So please don’t feed left over onion gravy or onion stuffing to your pets. Although cats are actually more susceptible to onion toxicity, we tend to see the problem more frequently in dogs as a large amount needs to be consumed and dogs are typically less discriminate about what they eat. Some pet foods or treats contain very low doses of garlic and onion, this is unlikely to cause a problem but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.
Cooked bones can cause serious problems for your pet. Cooked bones are more likely to splinter or fracture than raw bones. There is the potential for these bony fragments to cause lacerations to the mouth, oesophagus and stomach. If the bones make it further through the gastrointestinal tract they can perforate the small intestine leading to a life threatening infections or cause severe and painful constipation.
One of the less commonly known “toxic foods” is Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in chewing gums, candy, baked goods and toothpaste can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in your canine companions. Early signs of poisoning include vomiting, lethargy and lack of co-ordination. This can progress to seizures and liver failure can occur within days of ingestion.

Rotten or mouldy foods can produce nasty toxins so left overs that are passed there used by date should not be feed to your pet. We have seen mouldy foods cause sudden onset convulsions, tremors, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to sounds and touch and in some severe cases either liver or kidney failure. Whist on the subject of left overs, fatty food should also be avoided as they can cause pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of toxic foods. Other foods to watch out for include macadamia nuts, peanuts, avocado, alcohol and certain mushrooms.
In any case of suspect toxicity please contact your vet immediately. We are available for emergencies 24 hours a day. Treatment will depend on the toxin but early intervention results in the best outcomes.

Forres Gazette Article - Stick Injuries in Dogs - Amy Smith, MRCVS

13th February 2014

Stick it! Why it is best to stop playing fetch with sticks.
Many of us are guilty of it, and we usually do it with the best of intentions. But we were recently given a stark reminder of how dangerous throwing sticks can be for your dog. Fetching games with sticks are all too common but sometimes playtime can go horribly wrong. We regularly see stick injuries at the clinic.  It is one of the most common emergencies that we see throughout veterinary practices with Labradors, collies and retrievers being seen most frequently.
Stick injuries can range from a minor scratch to a serious penetrative wound, haemorrhage and potentially death. The most common injury we see is when a dog impales itself on a stick either through the skin or more commonly the mouth, where the tissue is more delicate and millimetres from vital blood vessels, nerves and important structures such as the oesophagus and windpipe. The force at which some dogs run onto a stick can cause horrific injuries. Sticks have been known to damage the spinal cord leading to paralysis or enter the abdominal cavity or chest. Impalement injuries are extremely painful and usually accompanied but lots of swelling, bruising and bleeding.
The problem with sticks is they are sharp, they splinter and they are dirty. Small splinters can lead to big problems and expensive veterinary bills.  Not only do sticks carry nasty bacteria, yeast and fungus they usually enter the body through a bacteria laden site, the mouth, and these bacteria from the mouth are carried into the wound. Subsequent infections can be acute or chronic and splinters and small pieces of wood can migrate to various parts of the body and set up infection in tissues which were not involved in the original injury. These cases can be particularly challenging if the initial injury has gone unnoticed, which often is the case. A study by the Royal Veterinary College found that the most lethal problem associated with stick injuries was infection. Several dogs in the study died as a result of their stick injuries and these cases almost always involved resistant bacteria. This study also found that most dogs presented within 48 hours of the initial injury still had fragments of wood in their wounds, highlighting importance of getting the wound treated immediately and ensuring that all fragments are removed.
The most recent stick injury seen at the clinic was dog who had been playing fetch and had run onto a stick forcing it down his oesophagus. Because sticks are not smooth objects it got stuck, very stuck, and the dog entered the clinic with around 30cm of stick poking out of his mouth. It was very painful and we had to anaesthetise him to fully examine the mouth and to determine the extent of the injury. The stick had snapped in two just after he arrived at the clinic but the remaining 10cm was lodged firmly in his oesophagus He was very lucky it had not penetrated his windpipe. We managed to remove the stick, but establishing the extent of the damage to the oesophagus was more difficult. After xrays, endoscopy and at least an hour under general anaesthetic we were finally able to give him the all clear, and wake him up for recovery. This dog was lucky, but some are not.
Stick injuries are not only potentially life threatening to your canine companions. They can also be very expensive to treat.  There are a plethora of horrific stories of stick injuries in dogs. The frustrating thing is that they can be avoided. It only takes one badly timed catch to spell disaster. Thankfully there are numerous safe alternatives to sticks, specially designed rubber toys, Frisbees and even the humble tennis ball. So please think again before you throw that stick.

Forres Gazette Article - Myxomatosis - Michelle Nesbitt, RVN

13th February 2014

Myxomatosis is an extremely serious disease in rabbits. Many people, unfortunately, will have seen wild rabbits with the tell- tale red, swollen eyes and runny nose during the summer and autumn months.
Unusually, at Moray Coast Vet Group, we have been seeing a number of cases of myxomatosis recently. This is very late in the year for the disease to be active.
The disease is caused by a virus, which is spread from one rabbit to another either by direct contact, or indirectly by flies. Wild rabbits live in large groups within their burrows, and this close contact means the disease can spread rapidly within a group. However, it is NOT exclusively a disease of wild rabbits. Pet rabbits can also be affected, even those who live in more urban areas. Wild rabbits will travel a long way from their burrows, and will often pass through gardens on their travels, looking for food or new places to live. Flies, attracted to discharge from runny eyes, can then carry the virus from wild rabbit to domestic pet. This poses a risk to our pet rabbits.
Myxomatosis is a very serious disease, and sadly very few rabbits survive it. The early symptoms , as mentioned before, are the swollen red eyes and runny nose. The rabbits eyes will eventually deteriorate until they go blind and at this point they will become very disorientated, and will often sit hunched in one place. The disease has a major effect on the respiratory system, making it harder and harder for the rabbit to breathe. The affected rabbit will deteriorate extremely quickly and usually die.
*****The good news is that there is a vaccine available against myxomatosis , and it is very successful against the disease.  Occasionally, vaccinated rabbits who have been exposed to large doses of the myxomatosis virus, can show some symptoms of the disease. However in these situations the symptoms are much milder, and the rabbit has a much higher chance of survival.
The vaccine is given once a year, and also protects against viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD), which is another life threatening disease in rabbits.
VHD is also very easily spread among rabbits, but can also be passed on by anything that has come into contact with an infected rabbit, for example dishes, bottles, bedding, people’s clothes or shoes. The symptoms of VHD include lethargy and depression, the rabbit will seem slow moving, uncoordinated and unresponsive, and he will be uninterested in food. Also a runny nose which can be blood stained and/or frothy. Diarrhoea can also be a presenting sign, and in the most severe cases, the rabbit can pass away suddenly with no warning.
The cases of myxomatosis seen lately have been unusual, this late in the year, but highlight the importance of vaccinating you pet rabbits, even at this time of year.  If you would like to have your pet rabbit vaccinated, please call us at the surgery and we can arrange an appointment for you.

Forres Gazette Article - Obesity in Dogs - Michelle Nesbitt RVN

13th February 2014


It is a well-known fact that the UK is a ‘nation of pet lovers’. This is a label to be proud of, but unfortunately, this love sometimes leads to overindulgence and at times, over-humanising of our pets.
Sadly obesity in our pet dogs is ever increasing, and some would describe it as an ‘epidemic’. It is estimated that between 30 and 60 % of pets are overweight, and many of these pets are dogs. As a result of such a huge number of pet dogs being overweight, it has become ‘the norm’. People are used to seeing overweight dogs out and about, and are sometimes surprised or even shocked to see a fit, lean dog being exercised.
These overweight dogs do not belong to uncaring owners. Rather their owners have a misconception regarding their pet’s condition, and are in fact killing them with kindness. Often this overindulgence is seen as showing love and affection, but the treats are more often than not totally unsuited to the animal’s needs. Our pet dogs are hugely important in so many ways, they provide companionship, they can be our confidantes and are often our lifelines. For this reason it is so important to do our best to keep them in optimum health so we can enjoy them being with us for as many years as possible. Obesity can result in the life expectancy of our dogs being reduced by approximately 2 years.
Dogs naturally eat whatever and whenever they can. This is something that is still within them from their wild ancestry, when they never knew when the next meal would become available. Dogs would not necessarily eat every day, not all hunts were successful, so the dog would eat as much as possible when opportunity arose. It should be noted too, that like us, dogs get into bad habits! If they are used to getting tasty treats, they will look at their owners with ‘those’ eyes! This is not hunger, it is habit!
Obesity in dogs can be disastrous to their health and wellbeing. It can affect them in many different ways. Being overweight can cause general discomfort, lethargy, diminished quality of life, breathing difficulties, heat intolerance, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, lower resistance to infectious disease, spinal problems, skin problems, joint disease such as arthritis, dental disease, diabetes and heart disease. It can also have an effect on the dog’s temperament; they can become irritable due to any of the conditions listed above.
There are some medical conditions which can cause weight gain, but these are rare. Neutering can make dogs more prone to weight gain. This is due to the metabolism being slowed. This must be taken into account, and as a general rule of thumb, neutered dogs literally need about a third less food than before they had the surgery. This change within them is far outweighed by the benefits of neutering.
Weight gain happens when energy intake is greater than energy output. Many overindulgent owners are guilty of feeding their pets human snacks and treats. It must be remembered that these snacks provide far more calories and fat to a dog than they would to humans. For example one biscuit would be equivalent to a bar of chocolate, and slice of buttered toast would be the same as a burger.
Exercise is also an important factor. All dogs, both large and small, need exercise to maintain physical fitness and good general health. Some breeds of dogs need more exercise than others, and it is the owner’s responsibility to do their research to discover how much exercise their prospective companion will need. Exercise is also hugely important to the mental and emotional wellbeing of our pet dogs.
Another aspect that obesity affects if that of finances. The cost of owning a pet, like many other parts of life, is going up, and medical costs are included in this. By avoiding letting a dog becoming overweight, owners can significantly reduce the risk of being faced with the cost of treating one or more of the many medical conditions associated with obesity.
Weight loss for dogs can be a long process. It requires patience and dedication , and usually requires real lifestyles changes for the dog, and often the owners too! At the end of the day, our pet’s lives are in our hands, and it is our responsibility to provide a healthy diet and lifestyle for them.
Pet owners, whether they own a dog, cat, rabbit or any other animal are always welcome to come to Moray Coast Vet Group for advice regarding their pet’s weight and diet. We have walk on digital scales, and our Veterinary Nurses are happy to have a chat and help you provide the best for your friend.

Forres Gazette Article - Farm Animal On Call - Mark Pearson, MRCVS

13th February 2014

When the phone rings at 3.30am, it sometimes feels like you were part awake, waiting for the call. It’s harder when you’ve only just fallen asleep, and the ring tone drags you from the depths. On large animal call you know that it’s unlikely you’ll have to ring the client back, they’ll have told the phone answering service they just want you out, as soon as possible.
“Hello there, it’s your answering service, are you ok to take a call?”
Am I? I’m still not really awake. ”Yeah, go ahead”
“The caller is a Mister ….. of …… Farm, he’s got a difficult calving and needs a visit. Do you want a phone number?”
By now I’m already doing some quick calculations. Which way will I turn from my drive? Faster on the back roads, or go along the A96 for some of it?
“No that’s fine thanks, bye”. I always thank them, for spoiling my sleep.
Fumble into chilly clothes, trying not to wake my sleeping partner, past the snoozing dog, into boots, pick up keys, out to the car. It’s cold and I’m shivering as I set off, still bleary eyed and resentful at being up at this hour. Thinking about how long the drive is, how long the job might take, then the drive home. Will it be worth going back to bed for a bit? Depends how long the job takes. The farm I’m going to is pretty good, they can manage most calving’s themselves, so there’s a fair chance that this will be a caesarean. That’s an hour’s work, if all goes smoothly.
Lights on full beam, there’s another car, so I dip them. It always surprises me that there are other people out and about at this time. That reminds me to stop feeling sorry for myself. For me this is an occasional occurrence, for these other drivers, and for the farmer I’m driving to, this is part of their normal routine.
As I pull into the yard, the last of my tired reluctance has faded. Hat on, into wellies, waterproof trousers already over them. Short-sleeved waterproof top on, still a bit damp from being washed at the end of my last job. That’s an unwelcome clammy and cold feeling. I manage to meet the farmer with a smile,
“Morning! What’s the story?”
“Sorry to drag you out” (that sorry always goes a long way, although this situation is no-one’s fault). “Did I wake you up?!” (The humour registers and my smile widens) “I just can’t work it out, there’s a head and three of four feet, but it’s all a tangle”.
That means this is likely to be twins, which means it’s unlikely to be a caesar, which means with a bit of patience, and some careful work up to my armpit in this cow, I might be home in time to get another hour of sleep.

Thirty minutes later I’m washed off, out of waterproofs and driving back home. There’s more cars on the road. The sky in the east is just starting to brighten, and that’s always a beautiful sight. Back home, boots off, keys down, past the snoozing dog who offers me a lazy wag, clothes off, sneak in alongside sleeping partner. I compare the time on my clock to when my alarm will go off. Just an hour, and now I’m wide awake! My mind is busy with what I’ve just done, how those two calves will get on and what’s in store for me at work today. In an hour. Unless the phone rings first.

Forres Gazette Article - Introduction to our column - James Kelly, MRCVS

13th February 2014

This article is the first from Moray Coast Vet Group in a new regular column. Most of the articles will be topical, all of them hopefully interesting, and some even entertaining! This first one is by way of a general introduction and we can consider requests for articles on specific pet health topics.

The Forres surgery has been located in the Greshop Industrial Estate for the last 14 years. Three other surgeries also form part of the Moray Coast Vet Group and are located along the Moray Coast at Lossiemouth, Nairn and Balloch.
The staff in Forres includes seven qualified nurses, three receptionists and three administration staff with nine veterinary surgeons circulating between all four surgeries.
The Moray Coast Vet Group logo shows all types of animals and that reflects the service that we are proud to provide. Although you may see the occasional horse, calf or sheep arriving at the back of the Forres surgery most of the large animal are visited on farms or liveries, sometimes up to as much as 50 miles from Forres.
Forres is equipped to provide up to date and intensive small animal care with an in house blood analyser, ultrasound and digital X-ray machines, endoscopes, dental and orthopaedic equipment.
But as you know the health care of your well loved pet requires more than just fancy equipment! It means we need to work as a team and you as the owner are included in that team.
When a seriously ill pet arrives at the surgery it will be admitted, investigated, treated and discharged and this involves many different staff members working closely together. An animal that requires extensive surgery not only needs a skilled surgeon but also expert nursing staff to monitor the anaesthetic and attend to recovery. You as owners need to be updated and involved in decision making as part of the team and this allows you to trust that you beloved pet is in the hands of a professional team.
You may see a light on at the Forres surgery at any time during the night as our dedication does not stop when our heads hit the pillow! While no one likes to be woken up in the small hours of the morning you can rest assured knowing that both nurses and vets will respond within minutes to any out of hours emergency.
Of course a large percentage of our work does is not dramatic and life saving, but is routine and supportive. The health care for your new puppy or kitten or the routine check ups and monitoring of your senior pet is all part of our daily work. A simple weight check, urine analysis or routine spey should be a pleasant, friendly experience for you and your pet at any of our surgeries.
This article is hopefully a welcoming introduction and over the weeks you will get to know more about us as well as learning about common heath issues. In a fortnight the skilled and essential job of the veterinary nurse will be highlighted.

Forres Gazette Article - A New Puppy - by Fiona Macrae, RVN

13th February 2014

Socialising a New Puppy

Getting a new puppy is a very exciting time for owners. A puppy can bring many joys to families by encouraging a healthier lifestyle, improve sociability and most importantly provide valuable companionship. However, there are various questions you have to ask yourself before getting a puppy, for example:

1. Can I afford to have a dog? There are ongoing expenses such as food, pet insurance, veterinary treatments and preventative treatments (such as flea/tick and worming).
2. Can I make a lifelong commitment to a dog? A dog’s lifespan is generally upwards of 10 years, with some breeds living much longer. Where will I be in 10 -15 years’ time, and will I still be able to look after a dog then?
3. Is my home big enough for a dog? Do you live in a one bedroom flat or four bedroom house?
4. Do I have the time to exercise a dog at least twice a day?
5. Will there be someone at home all the time? Puppies can get anxious and lonely if left alone.
6. Do I have the time to train/groom and socialise my puppy?
7. What breed is suitable for my lifestyle? For example, Border collies and Springer spaniels generally have high energy requirements; therefore require a lot of exercise.

Once you have said “yes” to the above questions and your have acquired your puppy, it is then important to give consideration to how you are going to ensure that he grows into a confident and well socialised adult.

You may be asking yourself what is socialising and why do we need to socialise our puppy? When a puppy is between 12 and16 weeks of age it is crucial to allow them to be exposed to as many different experiences as possible. This will have a major influence on its developing personality and how well it gets on with people and other animals when it grows to adulthood. To socialise your puppy successfully, it needs to be introduced to all the things it will encounter later in life. Experiences can vary from meeting different people (children, adults and elderly), different animals (FRIENDLY dogs, cats, farm animals, horses etc), different smells (babies, veterinary surgery, kennels, people, household etc), gentle handling (ears, neck, face, paws and tail) and experiences with different places and transport (town, country, car/van ride, passing trains/bicycles and motorbikes. The list goes on!

The nurses at Moray Coast Vet Group can help your puppy begin its socialisation by attending our Puppy Parties! Puppy Parties are a great way for your puppy to have fun and meet new people and puppies (they also allow new owners to meet with other new owners). It is also a positive experience for your puppy visiting the vets being able to play with new friends (including the nurses!) and not associate every time they come to the surgery with being administered an injection. If your puppy is between 11-16weeks it may attend our puppy parties. Puppy Parties are carried out in 2 week blocks, generally on Tuesday evenings. During these sessions, we have discussions about various veterinary healthcare topics such as vaccinations, neutering, diet and growth, common poisonings, dental care, worming, fleas and ticks and the Moray Coast Vet Group Healthplan.

Once your puppy has completed its socialisation period and can encounter a variety of experiences and not become frightened or confused, then you as an owner will have succeeded in having a confident, well socialised puppy. As an owner, you will find that time spent on socialisation while your puppy is young, will be well rewarded as you see your puppy maturing into a well adapted adult dog.
For more information on Puppy Parties at Moray Coast Vet Group, please phone the surgery and speak to any of our nurses, who will be able to advise.

Forres Gazette Articles

13th February 2014

Some of you may have noticed that MCVG have been writing fortnightly articles for the Forres Gazette. Staff members are all taking it in turns to write about things that are important to us, whether it be describing our day to day work or highlighting health issues in animals. We will place copies of these articles on these pages for you to (hopefully) find enjoyable and/or informative.