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Accidents and Illness

Helpful information

Fleas and Worms

Flea Vet

Flea infestations are no longer a seasonal issue.  They are now an all year round problem, because our pets spend much of their time in centrally heated houses. Prevention is easier than treatment. Many people do not realise that just 5% of the total flea population is on their pet, while 95% is on the carpet, curtains and sofas, so in addition to treating your pet, the house should also be done.

The warmer weather during the summer heralds an increase in the demand for flea control for our pets, although these small creatures can feed and reproduce throughout the year in our centrally heated houses. They are extremely successful parasites and have been with us for thousands of years, and even before we started to think of living in caves.

You will recall from your schooldays that the Black Death (bubonic plague), which killed one third of the population of Europe, was transmitted from rats to humans by fleas. Happily, nowadays, we have cures for such diseases and, in addition, there are simple methods to reduce the household flea population including rendering the female flea sterile.

Consideration must be given to fleas that are not attached to your pet – 95% of them, in fact – so it would seem prudent to tackle the furniture as well.  Female fleas lay eggs after a blood meal, which are intended to survive until climatic conditions are suitable for hatching; they are tiny but resistant to all sorts of assault – one of the reasons why they remain so numerous.

We can supply all your requirements for effective flea control. If you need further advice please telephone one of our Veterinary Nurses on 01291 672637.

Worm Vet South Wales

Worming Advice

Worms are internal parasites that are common in both dogs and cats. Most pets pick up worms while out and about and it's not always easy to tell if they are infested as often there aren't any outward symptoms of ill health. However, in sufficient numbers worms can cause your companion to lose weight and/or have sickness and diarrhoea. They also pose a potential risk to human health, which is why prevention is so important.

There are two groups of worms most commonly found in dogs and cats: these are roundworms and tape worms.


Our pets pick up roundworms by eating their larvae and the adult worm then develops inside the animal's body, with worms and eggs being passed out in faeces. These eggs then develop into larvae and the cycle starts again. The most common species of roundworm in dogs is Toxocara canis which can also infect people; children are particularly vulnerable as eggs can be picked up in contaminated soil. Once ingested by children, the worm larvae can migrate through the body and, if they reach the eyes, they may potentially cause damage to eyesight. This highlights how vital it is to 'pick up' after your dog.


Although a roundworm, the immature parasite needs to develop within an intermediate host such as a slug or snail before taking up residence in the lungs or heart of a dog (or fox), which can be fatal to that host.  Because infested slugs and snails can be quite small, the dog may be unaware that it has eaten them whilst rummaging in the undergrowth or drinking from an outside water bowl.


There are several different species of tapeworm that can affect your pet, each with a unique method of infection. The most common species is acquired by swallowing fleas carrying larvae, when grooming. Once inside the animal's gut, the larva develops into an adult worm that can grow up to 5 metres in length. Other species are acquired by eating infected rodents/rabbits or through uncooked meats.

From the information above it's clear that preventing worm infestation is better than to wait until there's a problem. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) recommends that dogs are wormed at least every 3 months. More regular treatment of young puppies and kittens is particularly important. Please speak to the nurse or vet about specific worming programmes and products for the new addition to your family.

For more information on worming your pet or for advice on setting up a worm control programme please contact one of our Veterinary Nurses on (Usk) 01291 672637 or (Caerleon) 01633 430053.

Joint Disease in Pets

Joint disease is common in pets and can be caused by age-related changes, injuries, developmental abnormalities and over-exercise. It leads to pain and debilitation. Dogs with joint disease may appear lame, unwilling to exercise, lethargic or even aggressive if they are very painful.  Cats tend to be less mobile, interactive and have difficulty in moving around. Joint supplements play an important role in the management of joint disease, and there are many available.

If you are concerned that your pet might be suffering from joint disease or would like to discuss options available please contact us and make an appointment to discuss with one of our vets on 01291 672637.

Dogs Eating Muck

Every so often we get asked why someone's pet, lovely in so many other ways, engages in the distasteful habit of eating faeces; sometimes thier own, sometimes those deposited by other animals: dog, sheep, cow, horse.  Was it born like it? Is there something lacking in the diet? Can it cause harm? The answers are no, no, and yes! Coprophagia in certain species is quite norma l-  for rabbits and guinea pigs, it is an essential way of enjoying a balanced diet, but in dogs this is neither necessary nor normal.

Why do they do it?

Young animals learn by copying: the dam of a newborn litter of pups will naturally clean up after them, using her tongue; removing and swallowing everything they produce.  If this continues after their eyes open, the pups will observe it and register it onto their consciousness.  Pups are naturally inquisitive, and, if kept in an enclosed environment for long periods where their faeces are not removed, will look for things to do, exploring everything in that environment.  They will taste and eat by way of investigation, and continue to do this in an absent-minded way if there's nothing else to do.

Overcrowding and competition for food predisposes some to coprophagia when the hungry and less robust pups will eat something - anything - while the others are tucking in at meal times.  Very hungry dogs will seek out alternative sources of food, and some highly processed diets offered to dogs produce faeces with a strong scent that may be appetising.  These are all reasons that reinforce the habit in  he impressionable first 8 weeks of a pup's life, and when it grows older and the opportunity presents itself, the dog sees nothing wrong with eating muck and is surprised and confused when its owner makes a fuss.  In some relationships, where there is an unhealthy strong attachment between owner and pet, dogs can suffer separation anxiety when the owner leaves the house, the stressed dog may react by defecating and /or urinating soon after the separation and could then spend the next 8 hours next to the mess, which it decides to eat.

Making it worse Inappropriate owner intervention may inadvertently reinforce the habit in two ways: a) the chastised dog interprets scolding as competition; it thinks the owner wants the faeces for him/herself and endeavours in future to get there first, and b) any act that attracts the owner's attention, whether it is good attention or bad attention, in the dog's mind is better than no attention at all.

What harm does it cause?

Pups are born with a worm burden, having acquired them in utero: worms are also consumed with mum's milk and, of course, by eating each other's faecal waste.  Worms are a serious threat to puppy health and measures should be taken to minimise this burden including worming the bitch in the latter stages of pregnancy, and the pups several times pre-weaning.  Worms can also be injurioius to people when ingested, so it is inadvisable to allow dogs to lick you face, especially after eating faeces.

A depraved appetite can upset the gastric mucosa and alter the normal bacterial flora in the stomach. This may induce vomiting and diarrhoea.  Some dogs harbour pathogenic bacteria, which the host dog has become used to but which may cause disease in a naive animal.  Unvaccinated dogs can spread disease in their faeces.

What to do?

Behaviour modification: instead of instinctively launching yoruself verbally or physically at the pet, use distraction: go for walks with a squeaky toy or throw a ball and congratulate the play.  In addition, the use of aversion therapy will assist: special collars that emit a citrus scent, which can be operated remotely, are useful when combined with a warning bleep.  Some guidance is required for the successful use of this device to prevent the dog understanding that it only works when you are around.

If you would like any further information about your pet's behaviour then telephone one of our Veterinary Nurses on 01291 672637.

Poisoning Small Animals

Certain common household items are very poisonous to pets, for example: slug pellets, chocolate, antifreeze, raisins, lilies, liquorice, human medicines.

Preventing poisoning in the home

  • Keep all medicines out of reach – preferably in a locked kitchen cupboard
  • Keep human and veterinary medicines separate
  • Never give animals medicines intended for human use – only medicines prescribed by your vet
  • Some foods (for example, chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, sultanas, avocados, certain nuts, liquorice, xylitol-sweetened foods and sweets) can be toxic. Do not allow animals access to foods intended for human consumption. Pets should only be given food and treats formulated for animals
  • Some plants are hazardous (for example, lilies to cats, daffodils) – keep houseplants and floral displays out of reach of pets
  • Restrict access to cleaning, DIY and car products (for example, fuels, antifreeze, white spirit and lubricating oils).

Preventing poisoning in the garden or open spaces

  • Prevent access to gardens where pesticides or fertilisers have recently been used, especially slug pellets and rodent baits. Placing them in narrow tubes etc can reduce access to such baits.
  • Keep pesticides/herbicides in a safe and inaccessible place – away from all pets
  • Never leave buckets or watering cans full of mixed chemicals
  • Do not allow animals to drink from ponds/puddles that appear oily or otherwise polluted
  • Be careful not to leave plant bulbs lying around.

What to do if you think your animal has been poisoned

Don’t panic – remember, few cases have fatal outcomes and few poisons act very rapidly.

  • Remove your animal(s) from the source of poison – protecting yourself if necessary
  • Contact your vet for advice immediately, especially if your animal is unwell, and be ready to provide information on when, where and how poisoning occurred, as well as the quantity consumed
  • If instructed to go to the practice, take a sample of the poison and the packaging with you
  • If the skin is contaminated then wash thoroughly with WATER
  • DO NOT try to make your animal vomit – unless you are instructed to do so by your vet.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned arrange to transport your pet to our surgery immediately.  If you can, telephone us on 01291 672637 and let us know what your pet may have taken so that we can be prepared to treat your pet with the minimum delay.

Noise Phobia

Helping your pet deal with Bonfire Night fears

Fireworks are not only for Bonfire Night these days.  Lots of celebrations end with fireworks, weddings, New Year’s Eve, birthday parties.  If you are pre-warned about an event then there is lots you can do to make the noise less stressful for your pet. It is advisable to introduce your dog or cat to loud noises from a young age, passing traffic, the hoover and washing machine are a good start.  Up until 16 weeks of age your new puppy or kitten will not experience fear of the unknown so this is an excellent time to accustom them to new situations and sounds.   In a noisy situation such as a thunderstorm, even if you are nervous yourself, do not show your fear to your pet. Comforting your pet can have an adverse effect in reassuring him that there IS something to fear!

Pets may not show obvious signs of stress but heart rates rise, blood cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase and pets can search frantically for a place to hide. Sedatives can work but do not reduce fear they merely suppress the reaction.  They are short-term remedies that create a drowsy pet and can have side effects.Pheromones can settle cats and dogs but need to have been used for weeks in advance. Desensitisation CDs of pre-recorded sounds also need to be used well in advance to have full effect. Natural medications are also available, please contact us for more information.

Pets react to their owners fears too, if you can stay calm and confident in noisy stressful situations your pet will take the lead from you and hopefully ignore it too.  If you are concerned that your pet may become distressed then contact us and discuss the best option for your pet.

If you are faced with a noisy firework display at short notice then possibly the best course of action is to close the curtains, turn up the television or music to disguise the noise. Small animals may appreciate being moved into a shed or garage although take care that there is no danger from exhaust fumes.

Some pets appreciate a safe haven to hide away, perhaps a covered crate or a quiet corner under the stairs – a treat of chews or a favourite toy may distract your pet.  Make sure the cat flap is fixed shut so that cats cannot escape – they can run a long way if frightened.

If you are aware of an event in advance then try to keep to your normal routine but perhaps prolong play time or exercise to ensure your dog is particularly tired – you never know – he may sleep through the whole event!

Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice or more information by telephoning 01291 672637.

Travel Sickness in Pets

Tinker is a lovely, well cared for, eight year old tabby who remains aloof (as many cats do) from the two Springers who share his home. He enjoys climbing and has a passing interest in wildlife, but is usually back for tea aound 5pm. Life is good, and would be great were it not for the occasional trips in the car to cattery or vet. I see him each January for his annual health check and vaccinations, but he emerges from his cat basket a shadow of his real self: salivating, subdued and occasionally smeared with stomach contents.

Roxy is a sleek-coated black labrador born twelve months ago, who loves the seaside, romping in the hills and bouncing around with ever-energetic mum (now spayed). Roxy's difficulty, as with Tinker, is getting to her destination without suffering nausea and vomiting. They suffer from motion sickness, which can be compounded by anxiety, and is more prevalent in cats and younger dogs, which can persist into adulthood.

The vestibular (balance) apparatus in the inner ear sends messages to higher centres in the brain which conflict with those coming from the sensory cortex, which responds by activating the vomiting centre. These messages can be modified by the use of medicants, which have traditionally been directed at subduing the response: sedatives and antihistamines, which cause drowsiness. Herbal remedies have also been used, but there is now a product that has been licensed recently for dogs in this country that will help prevent travel misery without the unwanted side effects; the use of this should be discussed with your veterinary surgeon as it is not appropriate for dogs suffering from cardiac or hepatic (liver) disease, and there is a correct protocol that should be followed.

It is useful also to help reduce the anxiety of travel by a process of desensitization. Remembering that in many instances the first car journey a young puppy or kitten ever made was when it was separated from mum, its siblings and all that it ever knew, the association with cars can be strongly negative. In addition, the cat carrier is only brought out of the cupboard when Tinker and his tribe are going to be cooped up and made to go somewhere they don't want to.  Desensitizing involves creating positive associations with these things: leave the cat basket out as part of the furniture, even feeding in and around it, possibly also using pheromonal sprays to promote 'well-being' next to it.  Put your pet in the car for a few minutes without going anywhere, then release it for a positive experience - a game with a ping-pong ball, a walk, something to chew on. Next turn the engine on with pet in situ, still without driving anywhere, and repeat the positive association. Then travel short distances and repeat. This process may take a few weeks, but patience brings its own rewards.  Gradually lengthen the journey, driving slowly along straight roads, possibly also with the window open and someone else in the car.

Feeding immediately before travelling is not such a good idea, however offering a fat-free meal about 3 hours beforehand can be beneficial. When long journeys are necessary, stop every 2 hours for some exercise and a drink. Before too long you will have given the Tinkers and Roxys of this world one of the best presents ever.

If you would like further information about treating your pet for travel sickness please contact one of our Veterinary Nurses on 01291 672637.