Common ailments in pets
Here are some of the more common ailments which affect pets, together with some practical advice for helping your pet through them and avoiding them in future. Please note this is intended as general information only and we would always recommend you contact the practice if you are concerned about your pet.
Ageing pets (like humans!) often suffer from arthritis, and all mammals (including rabbits and guinea pigs) can be affected, although it may be easy to miss signs of pain and stiffness in our smaller pets.
Arthritis in older pets is generally a consequence of cartilage wear over the years, causing pain and inflammation.
Signs are often subtle in the early stages, so it is worth keeping the following signs in mind as your pet ages:
- Difficulty in turning round to groom and subsequent matting of fur or dirt accumulation (especially in cats and rabbits)
- Reluctance to jump, climb stairs or get into cars (cats and dogs)
- Generally increased irritability and reluctance to play
- Repeated licking of a particular joint
- Sleeping a lot more than in previous years
At later stages of arthritis, pets may show stiffness and lameness, especially after getting up from sleep or at the beginning of a walk or exercise.
Although stiffness is often seen as part of getting older, we can often help pets to become more comfortable, and you might see a dramatic change—we do hear the phrase “S/he’s like a puppy/kitten again!”
Management of arthritis might include painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, a special diet, cartilage support supplements, weight loss, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy, and a tailored exercise regime. If you think your pet might be suffering from arthritis, please book an appointment with one of our vets.
Cat bite abscesses
Due to the type and large amounts of bacteria in a cat’s mouth, it is very common to get a localised infection (abscess) following a cat bite.
Often people notice that their cat is limping or may have a swelling somewhere on their body. Sometimes this swelling may burst and leak a smelly fluid. Your cat may seem otherwise fine, or could have a temperature and be lethargic.
To treat these we usually need to lance the abscess, and additionally your cat may require pain relief and antibiotics.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva (the pink tissue surrounding the eye). You may notice your pet has a red eye, some watery or mucoid discharge, and they may rub the eye or hold the eye closed.
Often in dogs this can be bacterial in origin and a short course of antibiotic eye drops will remedy the problem. However, there are other causes of sore eyes, and with any eye condition we would always advise prompt veterinary attention rather than trying to treat at home.
Ear disease (known scientifically as otitis) is a common problem we see in dogs, less often in cats, and it can be very painful.
Who is at risk? Dogs with floppy ears, hairy ear canals, allergic skin disease, or those that swim are the most prone to ear disease but it can occur in any dog or cat.
The signs you are most likely to notice in your pet are:
- ‘Itchy’ ears- manifesting as headshaking, scratching at the ears or rubbing the head along the carpet
- Red ears, or ears that feel hot to the touch
- A bad or sometimes ‘musty’ smell coming from the ears
If you notice any of these signs we advise you book an appointment to have the ears checked as left untreated ear infections will worsen over time.
An overactive thyroid gland is one of the most common conditions we see in middle aged – older cats. It is caused by an increase in thyroid hormone production by the thyroid glands.
The most common signs seen:
- Weight loss despite usually a good or increased appetite, because the excess hormone burns up the body’s energy supply too rapidly
- An increase in drinking
- A poor and unkempt hair coat
- Increased activity levels, vocalisation or irritability
- Less commonly- vomiting and/or diarrhoea
Signs that often will only be picked up on at the vets include an increased heart rate, a heart murmur, and a nodule in the neck
Quite often the disease may not be diagnosed until it is at an advanced stage. This can be in part due to the insidious onset of signs, and also as the more common symptoms such as weight loss may just be put down to an ageing change. Additionally, the increased appetite is often interpreted as a sign of good health by owners.
A simple blood test is usually sufficient to diagnose the disease, and fortunately there are several options for treatment. If you notice any of these changes in your cat, please bring them down for a consultation, as if the disease is left untreated for long periods of time it may cause permanent damage to many body systems.
Itchy skin can have a wide range of causes from skin parasites like fleas and mites through to bacterial infections or allergies. As well as itching your pet may have a rash.
As causes are diverse we would usually recommend an appointment to examine your pet. However if the skin itching is very mild and your pet is not up to date with flea treatment or you have seen fleas on your pet, it may be worthwhile speaking to a member of our veterinary team to see if it is possible to collect and apply a suitable flea control product prior to making an appointment.
A common misconception is that your dog has to stay in kennels to get kennel cough- they don’t, they can contract it anywhere they meet another infected dog! Kennel cough is similar to a human cold: dogs can catch it from sneezes, coughs, sharing food or water bowls, or from licking or playing with infected dogs. There are different bugs that may be involved, and because of this the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t guarantee complete immunity.
Severity varies, with some dogs barely affected and some having a distressing hacking cough. Many dogs’ immune systems take care of kennel cough without help, however sometimes antibiotics may be required.
Affected dogs can be made more comfortable by cleaning their faces if their nose or eyes are running, or if very congested, by putting them in a steamy bathroom.
Vaccines are available against some of the bugs involved in kennel cough, and most boarding kennels ask for proof of these vaccinations. Although your dog can still get kennel cough after vaccination, the severity and length of illness is usually reduced. It is worth considering getting your dog vaccinated if he or she goes to shows or regularly plays with other dogs.
Obesity is on the increase in our pet population and can have many knock on effects on general health and mobility. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, contact the practice to enquire about booking a free of charge appointment at one of our nurse run ‘weight clinics’. We can chat through some issues regarding weight loss and formulate a practical plan to achieve the target weight for your pet.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Tummy upsets are very common, particularly in dogs, and can have a wide variety of causes including viruses, parasites, bacteria, and eating things they shouldn’t in the park!
If your dog has had one or two isolated incidents of diarrhoea or vomiting, and is otherwise bright and keen to do normal activities then it is reasonable to feed them a bland meal i.e. boiled chicken and rice and see if the problem resolves over 24 hours. However if the problem is lasting for more than 24 hours, your pet is dull, depressed or you are otherwise concerned then we would recommend an appointment.
With cats we would recommend you call for advice or an appointment as they are less likely to be ill from ‘scavenging’ and may be more likely to have a problem that needs veterinary attention.
If you are concerned about your pet and would like to discuss this with one of our vets, please get in touch.