The scoop on Ringworm

There are more than a few organisms out there that can be passed from pets to people. One we often forget is the fungi better known as “ringworm”. Also referred to as dermatophytosis, ringworm can be spread from animals to people in addition to person-person and animal-animal transmission. On today’s blog we’re going to go over the most important things pet owners should know about ringworm.

What exactly is ringworm?

Even though it’s most widely known as a “worm”, ringworm is actually caused by infection with a fungus. 

Ringworm in pets is caused by one of two species; Microsporum canis or Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Both of these are zoonotic which means they can also infect humans. 

How do pets get ringworm?

Ringworm may be spread in several ways, but most commonly is by direct contact with an infected animal or infection from contamination in the environment. 

Ringworm is a major environmental concern, as the fungus can remain viable on fomites (inanimate objects that carry an organism) such as kennels, blankets, toys, etc. for several months. 

Ringworm is more common in young and immunocompromised animals, particularly those coming from high volume animal situations such as shelters, rescues, etc. These areas are more high risk because animals are housed close together and in confined spaces. This is why ringworm is particularly common in kittens, as young litters are often kept together in the same confined space.

What does ringworm look like in pets? In people?

Typically pets will experience areas of hair loss with scaling/crusting. It may or may not also be red at the site. Sometimes lesions are so mild hardly any changes are noticeable.

Pets with ringworm may or may not be pruritic (itchy). 

While ringworm can be seen anywhere, the most common locations where lesions are seen include the head/face and limbs/feet.

People often get the more classic “ring like” lesion on their skin, but it may be as simple as a red circular areas. The lesions are also typically itchy, but do not have to be.

Can it be treated? 

Ringworm can absolutely be treated, though it takes diligence on everyone’s part. Lesions on animals may be treatable with topical therapy alone including antifungal ointments and/or medicated fungal bathes. These are safe and effective, but can be challenging to do for cats. Oral antifungals may also be used for more severe cases. 

Treatment often needs to be continued for several weeks.

  • Treating the environment is just as important. 
      • Ideally infected pets should be quarantined for the first few weeks of treatment to an easily cleanable area such as a bathroom/laundry room. This will localize any shedding of fungal spores. These rooms also have surfaces that are easily bleached. Ringworm in the environment is very susceptible to bleach based cleaners.
      • Clean any areas possible with an appropriately diluted bleach based cleaner.
      • Vacuum carpeted areas. 
      • Wash any common bedding/blankets that your pet has come in contact with in hot water.
      • Wearing long sleeves and gloves when handling your pet, as well as good hand hygiene are also essential to decreasing chances of becoming infected yourself. 

Can it be prevented?

Avoiding exposure all together is unlikely, so good hygiene and environmental management is key in these cases. While this also falls on breeders, rescues, etc., it is important for pet owners and new adopters to be on the lookout for signs of ringworm. 

Healthy adults are at low risk of infection, unless spores have access to an open scratch/wound. Those at higher risk include the elderly, children, and immunocompromised individuals.

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you believe you have ringworm, please do not ask your vet for treatment. Contact your doctor at your local GP surgery to schedule a consultation or to get recommendations. 

Does my pet have osteoarthritis?

Is your pet slowing down? We hear pet owners say this often, especially as our pets age. While we understand that some changes are inevitable with age, “slowing down” isn’t necessarily a normal change for our pets. Often the changes that pet owners see are actually caused by pain. The most common source of this pain is osteoarthritis. In this blog, we are going to talk about some key points for pet owners when it comes to keeping our pets with osteoarthritis as pain free as possible!

Why “slowing down” isn’t normal….

In many cases, this slowing down owners see is because of the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. These may be signs your pet is uncomfortable:

  • Decreased activity and sleeping more
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficult with using the stairs
  • Hesitance/refusal to jump on/off things
  • Taking more time to get up/lay down
  • Behavioural changes – like not following you around

How does osteoarthritis cause pain?

The primary instigator of pain in pets with arthritis is inflammation. As cartilage becomes worn and more irregular, the forces acting in the joint space change. This wearing will cause progressive damage to the cartilage, which normally acts as a cushion with lubricant to help the joint move. When these features become diminished, abnormal force is applied within the joint and inflammation and joint capsule thickening occurs. Sometimes the surface of the bone itself can become irregular, form new bone fragments, and contribute to pain. 

What sorts of things predispose pets to developing osteoarthritis?

Being overweight is the most common contributor to developing arthritis in our furry family members. Excess weight adds extra pressure on the joints meaning more wear and tear over time. Certain breeds may be affected at higher incidences due to commonly bred joint conformation abnormalities such as hip dysplasia in large breed dogs (retrievers, shepherds, etc.). Prior trauma is another contributor. A common example of this is dogs that have torn their cruciate ligament in their knee. Because of the change in forces overtime, even if surgical repair is performed, these dogs are at higher risk for arthritis later on. Diet, types of routine exercise, and gender may also be contributing factors.

Don’t forget our kittens!

Cats often get forgotten in the world of arthritis, as older dogs tend to more overtly show signs of potential pain. Osteoarthritis is a major problem in overweight and older cats, and is frequently missed by owners. Cats may show the same “slowing down” type changes as dogs, but even things as simple as sleeping more might indicate pain. Sometimes older cats will urinate/defecate outside the litter box because it’s too painful for them to get into the box to go! It’s important to remember that cats are commonly affected by arthritis and may need joint support too.

How can I tell if my pet has osteoarthritis?

In conjunction with some of the signs at home mentioned above, a trip to the vet can help determine if your pet is suffering from joint disease. Your vet can check joint range of motion, look for pain on exam, and take x-rays to see if there are any visible changes to the bone itself. Sometimes x-rays may look relatively normal, but osteoarthritis is still present as inflammation itself is not necessarily seen on imaging. 

What can we do to support our pets joints and manage pain?

A few ways we can help support healthy joints earlier in life is by keeping pets at an ideal body weight, maintaining a regular exercise routine, and starting them on a joint supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin. In fact, we are more likely to support happy joints the EARLIER we start (i.e. before there are clinical signs of possible pain). This is particularly true for our larger breeds of dogs. 

As osteoarthritis becomes more progressive, with the help and expertise of your vet, the following may be used to help with joint disease:

  • Maintaining an ideal to just below ideal body weight to take additional pressure off the joints.
  • Monitoring daily behaviours at home and keeping a journal to better track any changes, especially if changes are becoming more frequent or worsening.
  • Regular low impact exercise is key, keep them moving!
  • Consider short daily walks, passive range of motion therapy, and water or hydrotherapy.
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications from the vet.

Don’t be scared of this one! If done responsibly and monitored appropriately by your vet, adding daily medication can significantly improve your pets pain and quality of life!

NOTE: HUMAN PAIN MEDICATION IS NOT SAFE FOR DOGS/CATS. Speak with your vet to determine if veterinary safe pain management is warranted.

Joint supplements can be excellent, and some of the following are used often:

  • Products that contain compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin. 
  • Products that contain green lipped mussel.
  • Products that contain omega three fatty acids. 
  • Joint supportive diets, particularly prescription joint diets as these are specifically formulated to target joint health.  
  • Holistic therapies including physical therapy/chiropractic sessions, laser therapy, acupuncture, etc.

We’ve come a long way in managing joint pain in our dog and cat patients over the years, and pet owners are becoming more aware of the signs. This means we’re all on the right track to keeping our pets as comfortable and healthy for as long as we can!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Check out our other range of blogs here

Why vet care doesn’t need to break the bank…

A Look at Parasite Preventative Costs

We know that vet care costs can add up quickly, which can surprise pet owners who aren’t expecting it. Just like your pets food or vaccines, we like to think of parasite prevention as part of your normal planned “monthly pet budget”. While parasite prevention is essential to happy, healthy pets – it doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. VetBox is on a mission to provide safe, effective, and cost conscious parasite prevention to as many pets as possible. 

Our baseline subscription includes a monthly pipette of flea/tick spot on treatment, and a dose of oral wormer every three months. 

For most pets, this combination provides good broad spectrum parasite coverage that is safe and effective. It also follows the current standard adult parasite preventative recommendations from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the European Scientific Council for Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP). 

For cats and small dogs, our subscription cost is just £6.49 per month. This includes the monthly spot on flea/tick treatment, monthly treats to reward your furry family member for getting their treatment, shipping costs straight to your door, and an oral worming tablet every 3 months. We looked into some other subscription companies/online vet pharmacies and found that the same service cost anywhere from £10.50 up to £14.49 per month. Using VetBox means our customers are saving 40 – 55% every month. 

These cost differences are similar as pet size therefore monthly cost increases, and in some cases showed even larger gaps between VetBox prices and other companies. Our XL dog subscription (dogs weighing 40-60kg) is still just £9.49 per month.

We know that our standard subscription might not work for everyone. Some pets need monthly wormer due to higher exposure level/risk level, some pets need lungworm coverage, and some pets might need a change in how their treatments are given (think about your kitties that hate tablets). Our other options for parasite preventatives have also been shown to be consistently more cost effective as well, or at the very least equivalent to other companies or your vets office. That being said, ours also includes shipment straight to your door each month, making it easier for you and your pet!

There’s lots of options for parasite preventatives out there. It’s easy to get overwhelmed! Trust us, we’re all pet owners too and have gone through the struggles of picking the right preventatives for our own critters. If you’re looking for a way to appropriately protect your pet, be supported by a small dedicated animal loving staff, AND do it in an easy cost effective way – VetBox is your answer. 

Click here to start your VetBox journey today

Lungworm

It’s no secret there’s a new kid in town, and that’s Angiostrongylus vasorum, better known as lungworm. In all reality lungworm isn’t a new parasite to the community and its prevalence has potentially been exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies. That being said, this parasite can be dangerous and potentially fatal to your pet, so let’s take a quick look at what pet owners should know about lungworm.

The lowdown on lungworm:

Lungworm is a parasite that is found in both dogs and cats. They are species-specific. This means that dog lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum) infect dogs and cat lungworms (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) infect cats. These worms are not spread directly pet to pet, but instead through intermediate hosts. Just think of the intermediate host as the middle man. The intermediate host needed for completing the lungworm life cycle is a slug or snail. Your pet may consume a slug/snail (or even just their slime), swallows the lungworm larvae into the intestinal tract, where they develop and migrate through the body. The end target location are the blood vessels in the lungs (+/- heart). Here adults develop and make more larvae, which are coughed up, swallowed, and returned to the gut to come out in the stools. New slugs/snails consume larvae and the cycle starts again. It has been documented that foxes are becoming a major carrier/spreader of lungworm. Foxes become infected the same way dogs do, and then larvae are passed in the faeces to infect more slugs/snails that then can be consumed by our pets. 

Pets at higher risk are those that spend a lot of time outside and like to explore. These pets are more likely to come into contact with slug/snail slime or to consume them directly. It can even be as simple as drinking water or chewing on plants that have small slugs or slime in them! Another common culprit are toys or bowls that live outside and have touched an infected slug or snail. Cases of lungworm in the UK have been documented in higher numbers in the south, though it is anticipated cases in northern England, Scotland and Ireland will continue to rise. 

Check for signs:

Signs your pet is infected with lungworm can be variable. It may be as general as weight loss, vomiting, and decreased appetite. This can progress to coughing and even bleeding abnormalities. Your vet can do a few tests to diagnose lungworm. These include a special faecal test called a Baerman funnel, a blood test called an ELISA, x-rays of the lungs looking for damage, as well as a scope of the airways to collect a sample looking for larvae. Treatment is variable depending on how severely your pet is affected. Hospitalisation is needed in some cases, and as mentioned occasional cases can be fatal. 

One of my mantras when it comes to medicine is, PREVENTION is key. Prevention is always better than treatment in lungworm cases. What many pet owners don’t realise is that there is not one wormer that treats all types of worms. This is why it is essential you discuss your pets specific needs/risks with a vet to determine the best parasite preventative for them. Many products out on the market that owners know as “wormer” will treat the most common types such as roundworm or hookworms, but not tapeworms or lungworms.

Tops tips to prevent lungworm in your furry friends…

  1. Assess your pet’s risk with a vet. VetBox subscribers have free access to vet support.
  2. Monitor your pets when outside (try your best to prevent them eating slugs and snails).
  3. Pick up your pets poo and clean outside toys/bowls. 
  4. Be on the lookout for foxes in your area (primarily their faeces in your garden).

Get in touch with the VetBox vet team to discuss your pet’s specific risks.

For up to date expertise on small animal parasites, visit the European Scientific Council on Companion Animal Parasites website at: 

https://www.esccap.org/national-associations/UK+and+Ireland/11/

Why getting a microchip for your pet is best:

In today’s world it’s easy to find lots of fun and creative ways to ensure the world knows they’re yours. Personalised tags with names, phrases, and owner contact information are available far and wide. Collars in colours and patterns range from rainbow to fine leather. While these are encouraged for recognition in case you find yourself separated from your pet, what’s important to remember is the most reliable way to link your pet to you is a MICROCHIP! Here’s why choosing the chip is best:

It won’t get lost:

Once a microchip is inserted, it’s in there for good. Microchips are made to be inserted under the skin using a needle on an application device. The skin heals over the small hole and the microchip remains in the subcutaneous tissue for the life of the animals. These won’t fall off like a collar, and can’t be easily removed.

It’s easy and cost effective:

Microchipping your pets is quick and can be done at the vets in just a few minutes. Registering the chip with your name and contact information is just as simple, and can be done in under five minutes online. Once registered with the company who makes the chip, you can log on and change your information. This is especially useful if you move house or get a new phone number. Microchip accounts also allow you to put in the contact information of your vet! The process is also cost effective. Many chip application and registration fees can be as little as £15, and only have to be paid once during the life of the animal.

It’s reliable: 

All vets and rescues/shelters have a microchip reader that allows them to scan pets that come in for a chip. If your pet gets lost, runs away, or is stolen and is brought to a vet or rescue, the first thing they will do is check for a chip. This then allows for them to contact the microchip company, and in turn for the company to contact you! What’s just as essential is ensuring that the contact information registered on the microchip is up to date. There are many occasions when rescue staff are unable to return a pet to its owner because the contact information on the chip is old or inaccurate. Having your pet microchipped and with up to date information is essential to getting your pet returned to you safely.

It’s the internationally recognised method of animal identification:

Ever wanted to travel out of the country with your pet? Then they will absolutely need to have an active, readable 15 digit microchip in them for identification purposes. These are required, and if not able to be read, your pet may be refused entry or kept in quarantine at your travel destination. This may also apply if your microchip isn’t upto date.

RELATED – How to take care of your pets in hot weather

For these reasons, we strongly encourage people to microchip their pets. It’s a safe, quick, and reliable way to ensure you have the best chance of finding your pet if they ever were to be separated from you or if you ever plan to travel outside the country with them. Be sure to choose the chip! 

Ready to take the stress out of pet healthcare? Start your journey here

Caring for senior pets

Age is just a number, right? With all the advances in veterinary care over the years our pets are living longer healthier lives. That being said, it’s key pet owners are aware that the needs of your pet WILL change with age. Just because your pets are aging however, doesn’t mean they still can’t have a fantastic quality of life. Today’s blog is going to focus on important considerations for senior pet parents to help keep our golden oldies happy!

Regular vet visits are a must.

Pets are great at hiding problems, especially cats. While annual vet visits are important for pets of all ages, senior pets benefit from being seen more frequently. An exam with your vet every 6 months with your vet may be more appropriate for your senior pet. This allows for a good once over and potentially blood/urine testing to check organ function. 

Dietary needs change as pets age. 

Senior pets tend to require nutrients in different quantities than young and adult pets. Check that the food you are feeding is labelled for “senior” life stages or “mature adult”. Some products may also say best over a certain age like “7+”. There are even great diets out there that can support brain health in senior pets, particularly those with cognitive changes (see below). 

Weight management has always been key to good health, but it’s crucial for senior pets. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for pets of all ages, but in our senior pets it’s even more crucial we avoid excess weight. Any weight above your pets “ideal” body condition not only exponentially increases their risks for developing diseases like diabetes or cardiac problems, but also skyrockets the amount of pain and inflammation in their joints. Senior pets are much more likely to suffer from arthritis and chronic pain, with overweight pets experiencing discomfort at a higher level. 

Routine is our friend. 

Senior pets are often more easily stressed by change. New places, people, and schedules are a common source of anxiety. Sticking as best as you can to a daily routine helps decrease anxiety. This can include waking up/going to bed at similar times, feeding at the same time in the same place, and engaging in activity at the same times. 

Decline in mobility and chronic pain are a common obstacle.

Like we mentioned in the weight section, arthritis is an issue in many senior pets. This contributes to a decline in mobility and difficult performing tasks that used to be easy or normal. Even changes as simple as sleeping more, being slower to get up or lay down, or not following you around the house may indicate pain. 

We need to consider joint support much more seriously as patients age, which may mean interventions such as joint support diets, supplements, pain control, weight control, etc. This may also mean changing your home, such as laying down carpets on slippery floors, blocking off stairs, making a ramp/small stairs to get on beds/couches, and ensuring easy access to food/water/litter boxes. 

TIP: Consider low walled non covered litter boxes on each level of your home for senior kitties! They’re much more likely to use them if they are easy to get TO and get IN.

Is your pet ignoring you? It might be a decline in their hearing or vision. 

While I firmly believe my older golden retriever has “selective hearing” (i.e. ignores me when I call him to come inside, but comes running to the kitchen if I open a bag of cheese), your pet ignoring you may actually be a sign that they are losing their hearing or vision. Making adjustments to how we signal our pets can help them adjust to these changes.

  • For pets losing hearing, start training for visual cues for sit/stay/come. 
  • For pets losing vision, consider soft verbal cues with an associated touch for commands. 
  • Avoid moving furniture if you can for pets with vision loss, as they often memorize the location of things within the home and associate them in relation to surrounding objects and smell.

Changes in behaviour might be more than just “getting old”….it could be cognitive dysfunction. 

Some changes in behavior with age are inevitable, but disorientation, confusion, anxiety, and changes in sleeping patterns may indicate a bigger problem. Check out our blog on canine cognitive dysfunction for more detailed information about this neurobehavioral disorder, and the importance of discussing it with your vet. 

Regular, short, low impact activity is encouraged!

Older pets may have the inclination to not participate in activity as whole heartedly as they used to. This may simply be due to normal changes like increased sleep needs and lower energy level, but also can be related to chronic pain. Keeping our senior pets moving in a safe and low impact manner is strongly encouraged. This helps promote a healthy weight, happy joints, and provides mental stimulation. Short walks are an easy free way to keep your pet moving, but also things like hydrotherapy (water therapy) or chiropractic work with a vet can make a major difference in comfort level. 

Vaccinations and parasite prevention are STILL important.  

Just because your pet is older, doesn’t mean they aren’t targets of infectious disease and parasites. Their risk level for certain types of these may differ based on lifestyle, however age alone does not prohibit pets from picking up things like viruses or worms. Vets regularly see adult and senior dogs positive for intestinal parasites that are not receiving regular preventatives. Senior pets still require protection, and the needs of your pet should be discussed with your vet. 

Love them a little (or a lot) extra.

Even though our senior pets might not be quite as active or rambunctious as they used to be, they’re still our babies. They still rely on us to provide for them, and cherish our days together more so than ever. I encourage people to remember to give their senior pet a little extra love every day, and remember how many wonderful times you’ve shared!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Puppies: Neutering

There are fewer things that bring more smiles to the vet clinic than an owner bringing in their new wiggly, happy puppy. It’s an exciting time for families to be adding a new addition, but it can also be overwhelming too! We wish we had an hour to sit down with every family that comes in to go over some truly important puppy topics, but unfortunately that reality is not often possible. Because of this having resources for owners to read/keep has become a must. We’ve included top tips and considerations on puppy neutering here for new puppy owners!

There has been a lot of discussion about when you/should you have your pet neutered. The general consensus among the vet community is that neutering your pet is strongly encouraged for several reasons. This should always be a conversation between you and your vet.

TERMS: NEUTERING refers to the removal of gonads/reproductive organs. CASTRATION is the term used for males and OVARIOHYSTERECTOMY or SPAY is the term for females.

Why should you have your puppy neutered?

For male dogs, much of the interest in castration is to decrease behaviours that are related to the hormone testosterone. This includes aggression, territorial tendencies, sexual tendencies, and lifting their leg to urinate/urine marking. While these behaviors can continue AFTER castration, they are typically less likely to occur. Secondly, there are medical concerns. Intact male dogs are at increased risk for testosterone induced testicular cancers, prostatic abscesses/inflammation/cysts, and other types of testicular tumours. There remains the risk of unplanned parenthood, which despite many well intentioned owners often happens by accident when the dog is unsupervised. I can promise you that intact male and female dogs rarely care about the opposing breed, size of the dog, or any family relation – given the opportunity, breeding can occur. 

There is a bit more “urgency” when it comes to spaying female dogs. While there is also a behavioural component, the risks here more so reflect medical concerns. Intact female dogs will have heat cycles consistently during their life and tend to behave more excitably during this time. This means that they will bleed 1-2 times annually as long as female hormones are still being created by the ovaries. Medically speaking, vets’ primary concerns are going to be increased risk of malignant mammary cancer and potential to develop a life threatening bacterial infection of the uterus called a pyometra. For every heat cycle a dog goes through, the risk of developing aggressive mammary cancer later in life increases. One heat cycle does not increase this risk significantly, but 2 or more heat cycles can result in an exponential rise in risk. Similarly, intact females will be at risk for developing a pyometra, or a bacterial infection within the uterus where it fills with pus. This is most common about 6-8 weeks after a cycle or pregnancy and can be a surgical emergency. Pyometra can be fatal if not addressed in a timely manner. 

When should you have your puppy neutered? 

In general vets tend to tell owners any time after 6 months in a healthy pup is appropriate. This allows them to get a little bigger and more mature prior to general anesthesia. For females, spaying around this time allows for the surgery to be done prior to the first heat cycle. This makes the surgery slightly less challenging as the uterus and ovaries will be smaller and have smaller blood vessels to address. As pets become larger and go through heat cycles, spaying becomes more involved. 

I would be missing some newer studies if I didn’t mention that there has been conversation about increased risks of other cancers if pets are neutered too EARLY. One of those commonly discussed is osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in larger breed dogs such as labradors and shepherds. Similarly, there has been conversation about effects on growth and bone/joint formation in large breed dogs neutered early on in life. While these definitely have merit, the challenge becomes finding a balance in minimising risk overall. Many veterinarians are waiting longer prior to neutering large breed dogs for this reason. In many cases, vets and owners are waiting until closer to 12-18 months of age prior to neutering to facilitate growth. 

What’s the difference between a keyhole spay and a regular spay?

A keyhole spay (laparoscopic spay) is a newer way to remove the female reproductive organs and involves using laparoscopic equipment. This means that rather than making a larger incision into the abdomen to gain access, a few small holes are made for the camera/scope and the surgical equipment. This is more costly than a normal spay due to the expertise and equipment required, but also is associated with less tissue trauma and quicker recovery.  That being said, conventional spays are still a good standard of care and are completed often in general practice. Laparoscopy can also be used for cryptorchid castrations (when the testicles have not normally descended into the scrotum from the abdomen). 

Puppy neutering is a way for pet owners to embrace preventative health care, in addition to helping control the pet population. Chat with a vet about when is best for your pup!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Kittens: Neutering

A new kitten is one of the cutest and most unpredictable additions to a household. It’s an exciting time for families to be bringing in a furry member, but it can be overwhelming too! We wish we had an hour to sit down with every family that comes in to go over some truly important kitten topics, but unfortunately that reality is not often possible. Because of this, having resources for owners to read/keep has become a must. We’ve included top tips and considerations for neutering here for new kitten owners.

TERMS: Neutering refers to the removal of gonads/reproductive organs. Castration is the term used for males and ovariohysterectomy or spay is the term for females.

There has been much discussion about when you/should you have your pet neutered. The consensus among the vet community is neutering your pet is strongly encouraged for several reasons, but this should always be a conversation between you and your vet.

Why should you have your kitten neutered?

For male cats, much interest in castration is to decrease behaviors related to the hormone testosterone. Dogs typically tend to show more of these, but for cats it primarily involves urine marking and fighting with other neighborhood cats. There are also medical concerns including increased risk of cancer. Cats out fighting run an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases that impact the immune system such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukemia virus). 

There is a bit more “urgency” when it comes to spaying female cats. While there is also a behavioral component, the risks more so reflect medical concerns. Intact female cats will have heat cycles consistently during their life and tend to behave more excitably during this time, including increased vocalisation. They will cycle several times each year as long as female hormones are still being created by the ovaries. Medically speaking, vets’ concerns are going to be increased risk of malignant mammary cancer and potential to develop a life threatening bacterial infection of the uterus called a pyometra. For every heat cycle a cat goes through, the risk of developing aggressive mammary cancer later in life increases. One heat cycle does not increase this risk significantly, but 2 or more can result in an exponential rise in risk. Intact females will be at risk for developing a pyometra, or a bacterial infection within the uterus where it fills with pus. This is most common about 6-8 weeks after a cycle or pregnancy and can be a surgical emergency. Pyometra can be fatal if not addressed in a timely manner. 

Another issue is that because cats often spend time unsupervised outdoors, neutering in general is an important part of population control. Despite many well intentioned owners this often happens by accident when a cat is outdoors unsupervised. I can promise you that intact male and female cats rarely care about the opposing breed or any family relation – given the opportunity, breeding will occur.

When should you have your kitten neutered? 

In general vets tend to tell owners any time after 5-6 months in a healthy kitten is appropriate. This allows them to get a little bigger and more mature prior to general anesthesia. For females, spaying around this time allows for the surgery to be done prior to the first heat cycle. This makes the surgery slightly less challenging as the uterus and ovaries will be smaller and have smaller blood vessels to address. As pets become larger and go through heat cycles, spaying becomes more involved. Oftentimes, cats may be neutered prior to this age (such as those in rescue or adoption centers) because the organization wants them to be adoptable sooner and ready to go home with their forever family. 

What’s the difference between a keyhole spay, a flank spay, and a regular spay?

A keyhole spay (laparoscopic spay) is a newer way to remove the female reproductive organs and involves using laparoscopic equipment. This means that rather than making a larger incision into the abdomen to gain access, a few small holes are made for the camera/scope and the surgical equipment. This is more costly than a normal spay due to the expertise and equipment required, but also is associated with less tissue trauma and quicker recovery.  That being said, conventional spays/flank spays are still a good standard of care and are completed often in general practice. 

Laparoscopy can also be used for cryptorchid castrations (when the testicles have not normally descended into the scrotum from the abdomen). 

Neutering your pet is a way for pet owners to embrace preventative health care, in addition to helping control the pet population. Chat with a vet about when is best for your kitten!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

How to make vet trips less stressful:

We know that not all pets love hopping in the car and realising they’re headed for the vet. This especially rings true for cats. That being said, is there anything you can do to make these trips a little less stressful for everyone involved? Yes! Today we’ll cover a few trips to make your vet visits their best. 

Take a breath and relax.

If you’re anxious, it’s likely your pet will be anxious too. Animals are excellent at picking up on our emotions and behaviors. If you are calm, on time, and prepared for the visit it can make a huge difference in your pet’s anxiety levels. 

Bring your pet HUNGRY!

Our pets love treats, so bring your pet to the vet hungry! Not feeding your pet prior to a vet visit allows for rewarding pets with treats as they are more likely to show interest. This helps create a more positive environment for your pet, and also allows for successful recognition of desired behaviours.

BONUS – many blood tests at the vet are better done fasted (on an empty stomach). Not feeding your pet within 6-12 hours of your visit may also help your vet if they need to do these tests. We know this can’t always be planned for as some problems are booked for an appointment the same day. However, when given the chance, an empty stomach can be helpful for many reasons.

Get your pet used to car trips.

If the only time your pet gets in the car is to go to the vet, no doubt they’ll be less than thrilled to hop in. Get your pet used to riding in the car over time. This will help ease anxiety and also break any direct correlation in their mind between the car and the vet! This is just as true for cats as it is for dogs. Short, frequent trips to places they enjoy, like the park, can help them learn the car is not so scary.

Get your pet used to handling. 

If you have the opportunity to get your pet used to handling, the earlier you start the better. It makes vets jobs so much easier to examine your pet if the pet is used to having their bodies touched. This means regularly touching your pets feet, tummy, head, ears, etc. This is also true when it comes to looking in your pets mouth. Get them used to lifting up their lips to look at their teeth.      

Their crate should be a safe place. 

Similarly to the car, if the only time your pet goes into a crate/carrier is to go to the vet, of course it can become a nightmare getting them into it! We strongly encourage getting your pet used to their crate/carrier as early as possible. If you don’t have a place to leave the carrier out all the time, we suggest leaving it out for a week or so before the appointment in a place where your pet can go in and out as they please. Make the crate a place of comfort! Putting their favourite blankets, toys, or treats in the crate helps make it safe and desirable. It also makes it more likely they will not fight against you to go in the crate when the time comes to go to the vet. 

Keep things familiar.

Take things that smell or remind your pet of home with you to the vet. This includes blankets, toys, and treats. It helps retain some form of routine for them, as we know our pets are absolutely creatures of habit. 

Wait in the car. 

If you know your pet is anxious, ask your vet if you can wait in the car or an area outside rather than in a potentially noisy waiting area. This is extremely important for nervous creatures, particularly cats. The longer they sit in a scary environment PRIOR to their appointment, the harder the actual exam/treatments will be for them. Even if your pet is NOT normally anxious, a busy waiting room with other animals can be stressful and overwhelming for even the best behaved pets. 

Don’t be afraid of supplements, and in some cases – prescription medications. 

Consider using nutraceuticals/supplements that help with anxiety for your trip to the vet. We love the pheromone spray Feliway for cats. Spraying their crate prior to leaving, as well as a towel or blanket to put OVER their carrier can help. Decreasing visual stimulation for cats can significantly decrease anxiety. Additionally, some very nervous pets can benefit substantially from prescription medications from your vet for anxiety. This may be something they take regularly if anxiety is an issue at home, but there are also safe and successful options that can be given just prior to trips to the vet to take the edge off. Ask your vet if they think this option would be right for your pet!

Reward, reward, reward.

Animals respond and learn best when we reward a positive behaviour with a positive reward. This means that when our pets do a behaviour we desire at the vet, rewarding them is all the more important to encourage these repeat behaviours in the future. 

Go to the vet occasionally even when your pet doesn’t have an appointment scheduled.

This can be challenging for cats because they are so easily stressed, but for dogs there is more of a unique opportunity to visit your vets. Even if it’s solely to get a treat and some loving attention from the staff! This helps your dog associate the vet with more positive experiences, not just going for vaccinations or when they are sick. 

Your pet relies on both you and your vet team to provide the support and training for their vet trips! Going to the vet is an important and inevitable part of being a pet owner, so let’s make the trips easier for you, your vet team, and most of all our beloved pets.

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Want to get your pet’s parasite prevention sorted today? Click here to get started.

Warmer weather top tips:

It’s no secret that there are fewer things than spells of warmer weather that put a giant smile on our faces here in the UK. The clouds scatter, the rain stops, and the sun lights up the green fields of the countryside. We’ll take any chance to get outside, and so will our pets! Our dogs love to walk with us, and even our kitties want to spend more time exploring (or napping) outdoors. Don’t forget that it can get TOO warm for our pets in the summertime! Today we’re going to share our top reminders for pet parents to keep in mind when the sun comes out. 

Bring water for everyone:

When you’re outside in the warmer weather walking, hiking, or playing in the fields with your dogs – make sure to bring water for your pups! Access to water in warm weather helps dogs maintain a normal body temperature. Collapsible rubber reusable bowls are a great way to pack lightweight and keep your pups hydrated. These are widely available on sites such as Amazon. 

Shade is everyone’s friend:

When it’s truly warm out, providing a break for your dogs in the shade is another easy way to give their internal body temperature a chance to normalize. Dogs don’t sweat like people do – so giving them shade and a chance to pant helps dissipate heat. This is an excellent opportunity to offer rest and water.

Top tip: You don’t have to bring an umbrella if you’re packing light. Shade under any tree or wooded area is usually plenty.

Sunscreen isn’t just for humans:

For dogs with areas of thin to minimal hair coat, you may want to consider doggy safe sunscreen. It’s not uncommon for dogs with little fur on their tummies/underside to get a sunburn! This is especially true for those who like to sleep on their backs in the sun. Common breeds affected include staffordshire terriers, terrier crosses, dachshunds, etc. as these breeds often have little to no fur on their undersides. Haired areas are typically protected enough and do not require sunscreen.

Pet sunscreens should not include zinc oxide or PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) as these are toxic if ingested. They should also be waterproof, just like human sunscreens.

Do not leave your doggos in the car!

Even in temperatures that don’t seem warm to us, temperatures inside a locked car can rise exponentially in as little as 15 minutes. When the outside temperature is a moderate 20°C, the inside of a car parked in the sun can quickly reach 35°C and higher. 

It’s common for people to feel that temperatures of 17-20°C are mild, but cars in direct sun in these temps can easily get too hot for pets. Each year there are several deaths as a result of dogs left in hot cars, and these are 100% preventable. 

Surfaces (especially black paved ones) can burn dogs’ foot pads:

Paved surfaces in direct sunlight can also get hot quickly! Keep this in mind as pets can easily burn their paw pads on these surfaces. A way to check the temperature is to put the back of your hand on the surface. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pup. 

If your pup burns their paw pads and you notice the pads tearing, blistering, or peeling – contact your vet as your dog may need cleaning, bandaging and medications to help prevent infection and treat discomfort. Raw paw pads are painful!

Parasites are on the prowl:

The only group that loves the warm weather more than us are the BUGS. Parasites are particularly happy in moderate temperatures, meaning that regular parasite prevention is particularly important in the spring and summer. Fleas and ticks, while they are present year round in the UK, definitely prefer warmer milder temperatures. With our dogs spending lots of time outside with us in the warmer weather, don’t forget to stay diligent on your flea/tick treatments each month. 

Because people and pets are out more, this also means the spread of intestinal parasites like roundworms and giardia are more frequent. Anywhere that dogs poo has the potential to spread these parasites.

Toxicities/poisoning are more likely:

Since the number of people out and about is higher when the weather is good, it also means that unfortunately the amount of garbage, particularly food left out at parks and other public places is greater. Despite most people doing their best to clean up after themselves, there is a higher possibility of waste to be left behind. 

Keeping a close eye on your dog whether they are on or off the lead is the best way to avoid them eating rubbish or leftover food that didn’t make it to the bin. Don’t forget, it’s not just rubbish/food potentially causing an intestinal obstruction or toxicity, but certain plants can as well. 

Party on! But beware of loud noises:

Summer is a common time for loud music, more cars on the road, and events that may include fireworks. Consider leaving your pup at home if you are attending events with loud noises that could spook or stress your pet. 

Microchip microchip microchip:

While we are out and about with our pups in warmer weather, it also means more opportunities for our pets to get lost. Make sure your pets are microchipped AND the chip is registered with your information, so that if something DOES happen, it’s significantly more likely for them to be returned to you!

Collars with tags are definitely helpful, but dogs and cats can very easily slip out of their collars. Collars can also easily be removed. Microchips are a permanent, easy, and safe way to link your pet to you. 

New to VetBox? Check out how we can keep your pets safe over the summer and beyond with our monthly subscriptions.

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS