Category Archives: Fact Sheets

Worms in cats


Worming your cat

Did you know that there are lots of types of worms that cats get.

The most common worms that we see in cats are roundworms and tapeworms. Signs of worms can include vomiting, weight loss, poor coat quality and irritation around the anus. However many cats that are infected with worms will not show symptoms at all.

Tape worms are long flat worms made of of many segments. Cats can get tapeworms from eating fleas infected with tape worms, or from hunting small rodents. Cats with fleas should be assumed to have tapeworms and vice-versa.

Round worms are very common, particularly in kittens. Some roundworms are passed on to kittens from the mothers milk. Roundworm eggs can survive in the environment for long periods of time and infect the cat when ingested. Cats can also contract roundworms by eating rodents.

What worming treatments to use.

There are many worming treatments available from pet shops, supermarkets and vets. However the problem is that often these treatments are ineffective. In our clinics we typically prescribe Milbemax for cats. These worming tablets are very effective against round worms, and tape worms. They are small, palatable and easy to swallow. One small tablet is sufficient for cats weighing up to 8kg (which covers most cats.)

We also use Advocate a flea and worm treatment which is applied to the skin on the back of the neck.

Advocate is a monthly flea and worm control. We typically recommend that Milbemax be given every 3 months, however it is best to seek advice from our vets about your own cats needs.

Pet identification and microchips


Almost every day we are presented with a lost dog or cat that has been found by someone in their garden or wandering the roads.

It is a legal requirement in Ireland that all dogs must wear a collar with a tag or disc bearing the contact details of the owner, failure to do this can result in an on the spot fine from the dog warden.

We would also advise a ‘safety collar’ with an identity tag for cats – special cat collars have release catches or are elasticated in case your car gets caught on a branch etc.

As well as a collar with tag we strongly recommend that you have your pet microchipped. This is a permanent form of identification which cannot be removed or lost. The microchip contains a 15 digit number which is then registered on a database that is accessible to vets, wardens and certain welfare groups.

The microchipping procedure is quick, relatively pain free and affordable. We offer low cost microchipping with registration on the main Irish database

If your pet is already microchipped please ensure that is registered with the correct details on a reputable database. Your vet can check this for you.

Before you get that dog. Vets advice


Purebreed puppy or adoption from a shelter?

Attitude to neutering pets has gradually improved in Ireland however there are still vast numbers of unwanted dogs in pounds and rescue centres throughout the country.

If you are looking for a dog the first piece of advice I would give is to consider adopting a dog if at all possible. A good place to start is the Dog’s Trust rehoming centre.

I know that many people have there heart set on a particular breed and are looking to buy a pure bred puppy.

If you are going down the purebred route please read the following advice carefully.

Common Misconception

1. A common misconception is Purebreed dogs are “better” or more likely to be healthy than a cross breed. The opposite is true. Crossbreed dogs have a larger gene pool and are less likely to suffer from hereditary problems. Years of irresponsible commercial breeding means that many of the more popular breeds in this country are plagued by genetic/hereditary problems.  Also kennel club papers are no guarantee of good health. Also one distant relative winning “best in show” does not guarantee your puppies good health!

2. Do your research. One benefit of a buying a purebreed dog is you can have a good idea how it will look and behave when it is older. Pick a dog that suits your lifestyle. Many people select a dog purely on looks but don’t consider its behaviour. An example of this is the increasingly popular Siberian Husky. This was bred to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. Don’t get one unless you are planning to walk at least two hours a day. The same can be said for many other working breeds.

3. Be aware of problems within the breed. Many breeds have known problems, try to find a breeder who is aware of the problems within the breed and is actively trying to breed puppies without these problems. Breeders like this are thin on the ground but there are some really dedicated people out there. Make sure you yourself have a good knowledge of the breed you are about to purchase – this way you can spot the dedicated breeder.

4. Go and see the puppies parents and conditions where the puppy was raised. A dog will be part of your family for anywhere up to the next 18 years. It amazes me how many people agree to meet a breeder at a petrol station half way between them and the breeder to save themselves a  drive. Most puppy farmers will offer to meet you half way. People who really care about their pups will usually want to know a little about where their pup is going to. They might even want to meet you more than once. For a really good quality dog you may even have to go on a waiting list.

5. Do not buy a puppy because it is in poor conditions and you feel sorry for it.

People often purchase a puppy despite finding it in poor condition. They will hand over money to a breeder because they want to “save” the puppy. While they are well intentioned they often end up with a problem dog.  Also the puppy farmer will quickly replace this puppy with another. If you are not happy walk away.

6. Ensure your new puppy has had its first set of vaccinations and a veterinary exam.

A good breeder will have no problem having their puppies checked over by a vet before selling them.  Vaccinations done at the correct time by a vet will usually mean that you can get your puppy out sooner. You will almost always have to bring the puppy to your own vet for further vaccinations after you buy.

7. Get your puppy to a vet as soon as possible after purchase.

I would have a vet check your puppy within 48 hours of purchase and make sure there are no visible health deficits. Also have the vet check the vaccination details and microchip details (if the pup has already had a microchip implanted).  A good breeder agree to take a puppy back if you are not happy. Do not accept an unhealthy pup because you feel sorry for it. It will just result in another unhealthy pup being bred to replace it.

8. Watch out for breeders offering more than one type of dog

This can be a classic sign of a puppy farmer. Also try to get an idea of how many pups your breeder is producing. Usually many bitches producing many pups equals less quality control. Again if you are not happy walk away. Again try to find the person with one or two bitches of a particular breed looking to improve their breed. Avoid people with multiple bitches or those who offer you a choice of breeds.

9. Timing

Timing is important – try to make sure you have some time off work to acclimatise your new puppy. Having said that, depending on the age of your puppy he/she may need to be kept in for a few weeks until vaccination courses are complete. So book your time off for when you will be able to take your puppy out and about with you.

Consider the cost

The purchase price is only the beginning of the cost of your new pet. Other costs you need to calculate are vaccinations, pet insurance, food, leads collars accessories, neutering, fencing, puppy crates, veterinary bills. Most of this will happen in year 1.

Ear Infections


Ear infections are one of the most common reasons dogs and cats come to see our vets.

Symptoms we expect owners to report are :

1. Scratching his/her ears

2. Rubbing his/her head along the ground

3. Shaking his/her head

4. Red or hot ears

5. Discharge visible in the ears

6. Smelly ears

7. Dogs with pendulous ears eg. the Cavalier King Charles or Cocker Spaniel are more commonly affected.

Some key points owner should know about ear infections:

1. The ear canal is very long in a dog and the cat. To fully examine it a vet needs to look into it using an otoscope. As well as being long and narrow, it is usually moist and has very little air circulating, so it is the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. Dogs and cats can also get ear mite infestations which make them very itchy- the vet will usually spot these tiny mites with the otoscope.

2.Ear infections need to be treated as soon as possible.  At the very least a long course of ear drops will be needed and often oral antibiotics and anti inflammatories are also required.

3. Ear infections take a long time to clear up- the average ear infection takes between 2 and 4 weeks to clear up but a severe infection can take up to 8-10 weeks. Therefore it is very important that any medication given by the vet is taken as instructed and  for the full duration.

4. Ear infections have a tendancy to re-occur, especially if not treated for long enough.  It is important that the vet examines the ear with otoscope when treatment is finished in case there is any residual infection deep in the canal- if there is,  more treatment will be required.

5. For dogs who have re-occuring infections, we advise the owners to clean the ears regularly using an effective ear cleanser. This tends to reduce the frequency of infections. Our vets and nurses routinely  show owners how to clean their pets ears effectively.

6. Occasionally re-occuring ear infections can be a symptom of an underlying allergy, especially if a dog is inclined to scratch other parts of his/her skin.

Arthritis in dogs and cats. Things you should know.

  • Arthritis is very common in older pets.
  • It is a painful condition.
  • The signs are not always easy to spot as dogs and cats are genetically programmed to hide pain.

Arthritis is caused by aging and wear and tear of joints, degenerative joint conditions, injuries. When we talk about arthritis in pets we usually are talking about osteoarthritis.

Signs to look out for in dogs

  • Difficulty rising after rest
  • Lying down or resting more than usual
  • Stiffness after exercise
  • Very slow particularly at start of a walk
  • Limping
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or getting into the car

Cats get arthritis too. Because cats are small and agile they are better able to cover up the signs. Because you know your cat best you are well placed to spot this condition

  • Reluctance to jump up or down from furniture/ through the cat flap
  • Watch for a cat that is sleeping more and is stiffening up
  • Look out for scruffy matted coat.
  • Changes in behaviour – often cats with arthritis are less tolerant around people.

What you can do at home to help

  • Maintain activity – try to continue with gentle exercise in dogs- just don’t over do it.
  • Make food, litter trays, beds etc. easily accessible to dogs and cats.
  • Get the best most comfy bed you can afford.
  • Avoid slippy floors for dogs, and keep them from going upstairs.
  • Control their weight.

What your vet can do to help

  • x-rays can be used for diagnosis.
  • Arthritis is a painful condition – so your vet may want to prescribe medications that relieve inflammation in the joints and relieve pain.
  • Joint supplements can be helpful.
  • Special diets are useful.
  • Sometimes surgery can be helpful – dogs can have hip replacements, they are expensive and they require a specialist but they can be done!

Costs for arthrititis medications vary widely – however for an average dog weighing 20kg medication would probably cost about €25 per month, perhaps another 10 -12 euro on supplements and maybe special diets. Add to this the cost of check ups and blood tests.

In our clinic if we have a patient with severe arthritis we would try a wide range of treatments to help them.

Ideally for an arthritic patient we would treat with a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (relieves pain and inflammation in stiff and sore joints). We would also use a joint supplement Arthri-aid which helps to nourish the fluid in the joint. We would feed the dog on Hills Science Plan j/d – a prescription diet which is helpful in dogs with arthritis. We would examine the patient  twice per year and do blood tests to help assess liver and kidney function. Sometimes we will recommend swimming, hydrotherapy or surgery.

Heavier animals cost more to treat as they need more medications (medications are given by weight.) Also you could expect to visit the vet twice per year for check ups.

There is a wide variation in the severity of the condition. For worse cases more careful management is needed. You the pet owner are the best person to assess your pet as you are with them every day. Your vet will help you with a diagnoses and a treatment plan if you are concerned about arthritis in your pet.

Lungworm in dogs. A potential killer


Lung worm – could your dog be affected?

A new deadly parasite has swept across Europe and the UK and is now effecting dogs in Ireland. Angiostrongylus Vasorum is a lung worm which dogs can infect dogs. The most common symptom is coughing however infected animals can present in many different ways as we have recently seen in our own clinic.

A case of lungworm….

A 2 year old female labrador presented to us with very vague symptoms initially. She deteriorated over a few days and was brought back having had a seizure. Blood tests and chest x-rays showed no abnormalities. Poor blood clotting alerted our excellent vet Jenny to the possibility of a lungworm infection and faecal samples proved her hunch was correct. Luckily our labrador made a great recovery – however this could have been fatal and it is so easy for vets to miss this condition as it imitates many others.  We have seen other suspect cases. There have been a number of deaths reported due to Angiostrongylus in Ireland over the past few years. It is possible that wetter warmer summers have increased the slug and snail population increasing incidence of this disease… read on…

How dogs get lungworm…

The most common route for lungworm infection in dogs is through eating slugs and snails that are carrying the worm. Often ingestion is accidental and dogs can become infected by ingesting slime from a slug or snail. Frogs are another potential carrier of this parasite.

The slug or snail is digested by the dog and this releases lungworm larvae into the intestine. The larvae goes through several moults and the adult worm works its way through the dogs body until it reaches the pulmonary blood vessels. From there its larvae make their way to the lungs where it causes most of its pathogenic effects.

Dogs with lungworm cough up larvae and then swallow them. The larvae are release into the environment from the dogs stools and from there enter into the slug and snail population – and so the cycle continues.

Signs of lungworm infection include

  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lethargy
  • Poor blood clotting
  • Behavior changes
  • Seizures

These signs can of course be caused by many other disease processes, and this is definitely something for your vet to figure out.


We have changed our worming protocol recently and are recommending to clients that they use a monthly spot on flea and worm treatment to prevent fleas, mites and lungworm.

Make sure your dog’s food bowl is washed and that there is no food left out for slugs and snails. We do not recommend using slug pellets as these are toxic to pets – so be warned!

New Kitten checklist



When does my kitten need to be vaccinated?

Your kitten can be vaccinated from 9 weeks old. He/she needs to have 2 vaccinations at least 3 weeks apart. The second vaccine can be given at 12 weeks of age. Until your kitten has finished its primary vaccination course it is important that it doesn’t mix with other cats that are not vaccinated; this usually means keeping your kitten indoors for the first few weeks. It is also important to vaccinate annually as immunity wanes 12 months after vaccination.

What diseases does the vaccine protect him/her from?

The standard kitten vaccination course includes a three-in-one vaccine against the two main viruses that cause ‘cat flu’; these are a herpes virus and a calicivirus. The third component of the vaccination protects against feline parvovirus infection. A relatively new vaccination again feline leukaemia virus is available also and is recommended for all kittens along with the three-in-one injection.  Cat flu and feline leukaemia are the most commonly seen diseases in Ireland and both can cause serious long term illness and often death.

How often should I worm my kitten?

The worming protocol practised by our Veterinary Clinics is as follows:

Worm every 2 weeks until 3 months old

Worm every 4 weeks until 6 months old

Worm every 3 months for life.

We recommend using an oral worming dose, i.e. a tablet or powder. Remember as your kitten grows so too will his worming dose. Make sure to weigh him regularly.

What worms can my kitten get?

Cats most commonly are infected with roundworms, tapeworms and less frequently lungworms. Roundworms are more common in kittens and can cause a potbelly, vomiting/diarrhoea and weight loss. All kittens are born with roundworms as they are passed through their mothers milk. Tapeworms can affect a cat at any stage in life and can be related to flea infestations. Both roundworms and tapeworms pose a risk to human health.


What should I feed my kitten?

Your kitten should be fed a complete dry kitten food and water. You can also add some good quality wet food (tins or pouches) on occasion but dry food is much better overall for teeth and digestion. When kittens are weaned from their mother they no longer need milk and feeding a kitten cows milk often results in diarrhoea; as a treat special lactose free cat milk is available.  It is important to change from kitten food to an adult food once your kitten has finished growing- at this stage they no longer need the increased calories in kitten food. Of course occasional treats are allowed – in moderation!

Should I treat my kitten for fleas?

Fleas like a warm environment so are usually more prevalent in the milder months of the year. However with more Irish pets sleeping indoors or even in beds we are now seeing fleas all year round! Their bite causes your cat to itch and often can result in a severe allergic reaction. A spot on treatment can be applied to the skin on the back of your cat’s neck to treat or prevent fleas. Generally these treatments last one month. Fleas also lay thousands of eggs in carpets/beds/rugs etc so it is important to treat the environment as well as your pet.

When should I neuter my cat?

We advise that both male and female cats should be neutered from 5 months of age. Neutering prevents females coming into season and becoming pregnant and can reduce urine spraying and inter-cat aggression in males. For both male and female cats neutering also has the benefit of preventing many illness and certain types of cancer.

Should I get my kitten insured?

We do recommend insuring your kitten. Veterinary medicine has become more advanced in recent years. More sophisticated medication and equipment are being used to treat pets and therefore costs have increased substantially. Bills can run into several hundred or even thousands of euros. Insurance allows a vet to carry out his/her job to the best of their ability without financial constraints. Insurance not only covers illness/accidents, it also covers referral to specialists if needed and treatment for ongoing/ lifetime conditions e.g. heart disease/diabetes/arthritis.  Sadly it is unlikely your pet will be 100% healthy throughout his/her life.

Should I microchip my cat?

A microchip is a tiny device about the size of a rice grain. It is usually inserted under the skin in the neck or shoulder area and remains there for life. When your cat is scanned by the vet its unique microchip number appears on the screen. When he/she is microchipped he/she is also registered on a pet database. This means that if your pet ever gets lost and someone brings it to a vet or rescue agency/shelter they will be able to contact you. It is not a tracking device but it certainly helps re-unite missing pets with their owners.

Pet MicroChip Identification


We see so many lost and stray pets these days. The best advice we can give to pet owners is make sure your pet has an identity tag and a microchip.

What is a Microchip?

The microchip is a tiny computer chip which has an 15 digit identification number programmed into it. The whole device is small enough to fit inside a needle and can be simply injected under the skin of our pets, where it will stay for the life of the pet. This provides a permanent identification which cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed – a safe, simple and inexpensive way to protect your pet against loss. When your pet is implanted with a microchip it is essential that you register the pet’s details to a suitable database. The vet who implants your pet with microchip should supply you with a registration form for a database. If you are unclear about whether your pet’s microchip details have been correctly registered check with your local vet.

A microchip that is not registered with your details to an easily accessible database is useless.

My pet has had a microchip – is there anything else I should do?

Yes – a microchip contains a 15 digit number which is unique to your pet. It is essential that this number is registered on a reliable database along with your contact details.

If you have purchased, or adopted a dog with a microchip it is essential you make sure that it is registered on a reliable database. Check with your vet.

Any pet that is has a microchip implanted in our clinics is registered with  This database allows pet owners to update their contact details as well as medical information about their pet – this gives a much greater chance of safe return of a pet in the event it is lost.

If you have purchased a dog that is registered with the Irish Kennel Club, you should send in your change of ownership form, complete with your contact telephone number. This form is on the back of your IKC certificate.

We frequently see stray dogs at our veterinary clinics that have microchips but are still registered to a breeder who may have sold the dog years previously. In many such cases it is impossible for us to identify the correct owner. This is very sad as often owners are unaware that their details are not registered, and will assume if their pet is found it will be returned to them.

I am not sure if my pet’s microchip details are registered on a database – what should I do?

Bring your pet to your vet and have them scan their microchip number. They should be able to check that the correct details that are registered. If the details are incorrect it is essential that you get them updated.

The main databases in Ireland are Fido, Animark and Pettrace. Fido ( is probably the best as owners can update their contact details easily and it is affiliated with europetnet ( Avoid other databases such as Canine Ireland, as their information is not easily accessible to vets, shelters and rescue agencies.

How does a Microchip work?

A scanner passed over your pet will trigger a radio signal from its chip. The scanner then picks up the unique code for your pet.

Is a microchip a tracking device?

No, a microchip is not a tracking device. Someone must scan your pet to find out if it has a microchip. This is common practice in veterinary clinics, pounds and animal rescue centres. Provided that your pet’s microchip is registered there  is every chance your pet will be returned safely to you.

How long does the Microchip last?

In short the microchip should last a lot longer than your pet. Ask your vet to check it every year at your pet’s annual check up.

What is the youngest age a pet can be identified?

Animals of any age can be injected with a Microchip. Many puppies and kittens are chipped during their initial vaccine series. Birds, horses and exotics can be identified at any time.

My pets never leave my yard. Why should they be identified with a Microchip?

No one plans to lose their pet but it happens all the time. There were 10,000 stray dogs put to sleep in our pounds last year. Many more were re-homed both in Ireland and abroad.Theft is also a common occurrence. While a microchip will not prevent theft it greatly improves your chance of recovering your pet. One of our client’s dogs was stolen and eventually turned up in a rescue centre in London a year later. Staff there managed to track down the original owner through the microchip.

Does my pet have to be sedated for the injection?

No! Injecting a Microchip is just like any other injection or vaccination. Anaesthesia is not required, however we often will implant a microchip when an animal is under anaesthetic for other reasons.

Does it hurt?

Not at all. The injection creates only a slight discomfort – most pets don’t even react to it.

Could my pet be allergic to the Microchip?

The Microchip is inert and biocompatible. There is virtually no chance of the body developing an allergy or trying to reject the microchip afterwards.

How do I know the shelter will be able to check for the Microchip?

It is common practice for veterinary surgeons, dog wardens and rescue organisations to scan stray animals for microchips. If the animal has a microchip and it has been registered on a reliable database then it should be straightforward to locate the animals owner.

Where is the microchip implanted?

For most animals (dogs, cats) the chip is implanted in the scruff of the neck (the loose skin between the animal’s shoulder blades).

Can the microchip be easily removed?

No, it would require a veterinarian to surgically remove the microchip.

I strongly recommend you microchip your pet and make sure that it is registered.

Looking after your older cat


Cats  are living longer and longer these days…..

There is a combination of factors involved, mostly better nutrition, vaccination and neutering and better care from their owners.

We would consider cats older than 7 to be senior and cats over 12 to be in the geriatric category. This is a complete generalisation of course – a cat doesn’t suddenly become old on its 7th birthday. The oldest cats I have treated were 23 and 24.

Common problems in older cats include

  • arthritis
  • kidney disease
  • hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid glands)
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • cancer
  • weight loss
  • dental problems


Arthritis is a very common painful condition in older cats which is very often missed. The reason owners (and vets) fail to recognize arthritis is the changes can be very subtle. Cats are small and agile and can cover up mobility issues caused by arthritis. They tend not to limp like dogs.

To spot arthritis in your cat look out for

  • Hesitance or reluctance to jump
  • Sleeping more and stiffening up particularly after rest
  • Poor coat quality (they may be grooming less)
  • Change in daily routine

If you have she may have arthritis – you can talk to your vet at her next health check about treatment options

At home you can make the following changes…

  • Maintain activity and play – gentle exercise is best.
  • Make food, water and litter tray access easy.
  • Control weight
  • Help your cat to groom
  • Provide deep comfy bedding in a warm easy to reach place
  • Make sure cat flaps etc are easy to access and can be pushed open easily

Kidney disease

Early detection is key. Watch out for decreased appetite and increase drinking or urinating. Routine blood tests at your vets will allow us to pick up signs before you notice any changes in behaviour – this enables us to begin treatment early and reduce associated problems such as high blood pressure. High blood pressure in cats with kidney disease is common and can result in sudden onset blindness. If this occurs emergency treatment is necessary to save sight.

A blood pressure check for a cat requires specialised equipment and we usually prefer to keep them in veterinary hospital for an hour or two to allow them to settle down.

Specialised kidney diets can make a huge difference to cats with kidney disease. Ther are also medications we can give to help. Regular blood testing helps to monitor this condition.


Very common in older cats. Watch out for

  • excessive eating, drinking and urination with weight loss
  • scruffy coat or appearance
  • change in temperment – often become hyperactive

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and blood testing. Initially treatment involves medicine, however removing the thyroid glands can result in a permanent cure.

Heart Disease

Hyperthrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common type of heart disease in cats. This can be caused by overactive thyroid glands – see above. If this is the case treating the thyroid disease can resolve the problem. In other cases chest x-rays may be helpful and medication will be required to treat this. Cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy risk blood clots – which can result in hindlimb paralysis. Urgent treatment is required in these cases.


Common in older cats – particularly those infected with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukaemia virus). Watch out for  weight loss,lumps or bumps on skin or any unusual swellings. Cats with white ears are prone to getting tumours on the tips of the ears. Sunblock can help prevent this.

Dental disease

Common in older cats. Watch out for increased salivation, cats that appear interested in food but don’t eat. Cats that drop their food. Check for bad breath and sore gums or lots of plaque on teeth.

Brushing cats teeth is usually not too easy so we general descale teeth with an ultrasonic scaler, followed by high speed polish. If there are any rotting or sore teeth they are removed – the transformation in an animal that had been suffering from tooth ache is unbelievable!

Caring for your older dog


First question – what age is old for a dog?

That depends a lot on breed and size, as a rule of thumb giant breeds have a shorter life expectancy, most giant breed dogs will be lucky to see their 10th birthday. In general smaller dogs tend to live longer, however there are some exceptions. Generally cross bred dogs will live a little longer than pure bred dogs, and neutered dogs tend to live longer than un-neutered dogs.

We would generally consider dogs over 7-8 to be “senior” and have changing needs, while 11-12 and over would be considered geriatric patients.

Some  of the most common old dog problems are

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Eye sight and hearing problems.
  • Dental problems
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney and liver problems
  • Heart disease

A check up once a year is advised for all pets, but it is essential for older pets. It is the equivalent of visiting your doctor every 7 years. Some senior dogs will require health checks every 6 months or more often depending on their problems.

Important things to look out for….


Is your pet stiff, sore or slow to get up after rest, lame or reluctant to exercise – any of these signs could indicate arthritis. Arthritis is extremely common in older pets. It is often a painful condition, however a dog’s instinct is to mask pain rather than to show it – so you need to know what to look out for.

If you suspect your dog has arthritis there are lots of things you can do to help, these include pain/anti-inflammatory medication (need a trip to the vet), joint supplements, special food (we are seeing great results a new prescription diet from Hills (j/d).  Weight loss also can be of massive benefit to dogs with arthritis and can reduce the amount of medication required. Typically if we diagnose arthritis in your dog we will give a programme of treatment to help keep him or her pain free and mobile. We also recommend regular blood tests for dogs that are on long term arthritis medication.


Cancer is common complaint in older dogs – keep an eye out for lumps and bumps and get them checked out early. Mammary cancer is common in females  – however neutering your pet early in life greatly reduces the chances of this. Neutered male dogs are less likely to suffer from prostate problems, and obviously neutering eliminates testicular cancer. Skin lumps can very in severity, many are harmless however some can be very serious.

Ears and Eyes

Ear infections are very common in dogs. Many older dogs can suffer from chronic infections and inflammation in their ears. Check ears regularly, watch for scratching, head shaking, red skin inside the ears, or ears that smell or discharge. Regular cleaning is advisable, particularly for dogs with long floppy ears.

Naturally the sight begins to fail in older dogs. Often this is irreversible however there are many changes that can be prevented. Dry eye (a failure to produce enough tears), glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) and cataracts can be treated if detected early. Diabetic dogs are very prone to cataracts.

Heart problems

Certain breeds such as Cavalier King Charles and Doberman are prone to cardiac conditions. However any dog can develop heart problems. It is relatively rare for dogs to get heart attacks, a slower type of heart failure is more common. Symptoms of heart disease in the dog include coughing, reduced ability to exercise, breathing difficulty, swollen abdomen. Vets will diagnose heart disease on clinical exam as well as with x-ray and ultrasound (echocardiogram). Although heart disease and heart failure is bad news for dogs, recent improvements in medicines mean that dogs with heart disease have much improved quality of life and live longer. Always get your pets heart checked at their annual vaccination.

Diabetes (mellitus)

Common in dogs. Signs include include increase appetite coupled with weight loss. Also these dogs tend to drink loads and urinate more. If your dog appears to have lost toilet training diabetes could be the cause. Diabetic dogs frequently suffer from cataracts. Diabetes is treatable, however treatment does require a lot of commitment.

Kidney and Liver problems.

Symptoms can include excessive thirst, decreased appetite and weight loss. If suspected your vet will require blood and urine tests to confirm diagnosis. Ultrasound or x-rays can be helpful also. Prognosis varies with stage of disease.


About 40% of older pets are obese. Exacerbate heart disease and arthritis and can lead to diabetes. If you are concerned about your pets weight talk to your vet nurse. She can start a weight loss programme.


Bad breath? Have a look at the teeth – if you went 12 years without brushing your teeth you’d need a trip to the dentist too! In general many dental work will require a general anaesthetic in your pet. Don’t worry anaesthetics are very safe, even in the older pet.

Ho w to help your pet at home ….

Remember old age is not a disease – if your animal is behaving differently there may be something wrong and there may be lots of things you can do to help.

Food – you are what you eat. Dogs, cats and rabbits are living longer now due to better nutrition. There are prescription diets available for arthritis, kidney disease, liver disease and weight loss.

Around the house – changing needs – you may need to change the environment. Bedding, crucial – take a look at where its positioned, make sure it is soft and comfortable, big beds for old arthritic dogs and cats so that they don’t have to curl up too tight.

Flooring – slippery floors are a nightmare for arthritic dogs. Also investing in a few stair gates or a car ramp can make life that bit easier.

If your dog is blind – don’t move furniture about keep things the same. I would walk him along the same route every day. Leave different textured mats before steps etc – he will feel them under his feet and this way he will know his way about. Make sure he has a tag on his collar saying “ I am blind” and also with his address on it.

Grooming – older pets may not be able to groom themselves so well and fur can become matted causing skin problems. This is an area where you can give some extra care.

An annual trip to the vet for an older pet is the equivalent of a trip to the doctor every 7 years – a very good idea…..however you must get value for money, insist that your vet checks teeth, eyes  and ears, listens to heart and lungs, weighs your pet and comments on its weight. Examines any lumps and bumps and takes notes!  If you have noted any changes in your pets behaviour let us know – it might be important!