Mark Pizarro

Mark Pizarro has 17 articles published.

A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

HEPATO PORTAL SHUNT / LIVER SHUNT AN EMERGING PROBLEM?

Over the last ten years there has been an emerging problem diagnosed in small breed dogs primarily, affecting Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, Shih Tzus and French bulldogs mainly but it can happen in any dog although pedigree dogs appear to be worst affected.

This problem is as a result in a fault in the development of the blood circulation that perfuses the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. The body is an intricate system and what seems like a minor circulation problem can have profound effects on the whole metabolism and health of an animal. Sometimes the clinical signs of this illness can be so obtuse that a clinician may have problems diagnosing this problem.

In a healthy normal animal, digestion of ingested food in the intestine results in the formation of ‘impure’ products and toxins that are absorbed into the capillaries in the intestine, these then enter the hepato-portal vein, a blood vessel that transports all these products in this ‘dirty’ blood to the liver. The liver is a fabulous organ, is filters all this blood, takes out all the toxins and potentially harmful by-products of digestion and then returns ‘clean’ blood via the hepatic vein to the caudal vena cava and thus the general circulation. This blood will now be full of nutrients, glucose, fatty acids, amino acids ,minerals, vitamins etc all the raw materials needed by cells throughout the body to survive.

There are complications when there is a fault in this system, what happens is that the animal is born with an abnormality, a fault that happens during the embryonic development of the animal.  The problem lies in that a blood vessel remains that feeds the blood absorbed from the intestine directly into the vena cava or the hepatic vein(general circulation) therefore bypassing the liver and the filter system. 

As a direct result of this unfiltered blood entering the general circulation the animal will develop a clinical illness.  Symptoms vary from animal to animal, in many cases there is not a complete shunt therefore clinical signs can be nuanced.

What one has to understand is that there is no abnormality in the actual liver or its function, the problem is that blood from the intestine enters the blood directly. What this means is blood feeding the liver via the hepatic artery will carry in these waste products so eventually the blood will be ‘cleaned’ but not after it has made various circulator passes throughout the body. This explains why the clinical signs can be varied as there are many different elements involved!!

Possible clinic signs:

• Weight loss

• Anorexia

• Polyuria/polydipsia ( drinking and urinating excessively)

• Cystitis

• Kidney stones

• Gall bladder stones/sediment

• Nervous signs, e.g head pressing, fatigue, depressed, not alert,  ( hepatic encephalopathy)

• Poor coat

• Seizures/ epileptic fits

Treatment of this condition tends to be very effective and rewarding with the animals leading a normal life. Surgery is an option in a small number of cases but the mortality rate is high so it is difficult to advise clients to go down this route. Even with surgery medical treatment is still required afterwards. Medical control to reduce the absorption and production of toxins in the intestine combined with a prescription diet and in certain cases liver supplements tends to be the treatment of choice.

With primary liver disease the symptoms can be similar but the prognosis is always guarded as opposed to pets with liver shunts. In  these cases the liver itself is not working properly and therefore medical treatment will not be as effective.

In summary if your pet is diagnosed with a hepato-portal shunt the prognosis is good for your pet . What is important to realise is that it does not have liver failure and therefore the condition can be managed well medically. Also do not fall into a false sense of security if all symptoms subside with treatment and therefore you decide to stop therapy. The condition will not go away, so if you ignore it then the problem will come back and bite you in the proverbial backside.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

in Animals & Pets

As a direct result of this increase in these breeds we are seeing a rise in cases of animals suffering from Brachycephalic Syndrome. What effectively this means is that there is an airway obstruction in these pets that results in these animals having to make more of an inspiratory effort when they breathe.

This is a medical condition that affects short snouted dogs and cats. Brachycephalic breeds are particularly common nowadays with a massive increase in numbers of French bulldogs, pugs and Staffordshire bull terriers.

There are four main anatomical deformities that cause this constriction:

• Stenotic nares

• Elongated soft palate

• Everted laryngeal saccules

• Narrow(hypoplastic) trachea

• Stenotic nares

This problem is visually obvious and can be seen in a normal consult. Looking at the nose the nasal folds are collapsed inwards, as a direct result of this the animals have a constricted airway, it would be like trying to breathe through your nose whilst pinching your nostrils.

Elongated Soft Palate

At the back of the mouth on the dorsal aspect behind the hard palate lies the soft palate, a tissue that acts like a valve preventing food going up the back of the nasal cavity. In these problematic breeds there is often a problem where the soft palate is too long and fleshy and this results in a restriction of air flow through the pharyngeal area.

Everted laryngeal saccules

At the entrance to the trachea in the larynx there are laryngeal saccules. Due to negative  inspiratory pressure in animals suffering with  stenotic nares and the elongated soft palates this often results in eversion of the saccules , this in turn further compounds the narrow airway. This element of the condition can be prevented in many cases if surgical correction of the nares and palate are tackled early.

Narrow hypoplatic tracheas.

This is pretty much self explanatory and there is nothing much that can be done with these cases. These animals will also always have a respiratory problem.

Consequences of these issues be catastrophic for the animal. The increased respiratory effort over a long period of time has knock on effects on the cardiovascular system, and long term will cause heart failure and chronic respiratory problems.

Signs/ Synptoms to look out for:

• Loud inspiratory noise

• Mouth breathing

• Very little exercise tolerance/collapse

• Narrow nares

• Sleep apnoea

• Snoring

• Regurgitation /choking/vomiting

• Cyanosis(blue tongue)

Treatment

With advances in veterinary medicine and equipment surgery of the nares and the elongated soft palate can be done with very little risk to the pet. It is very important that this is done early when the dogs are still young as this will mitigate long term damage to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. THIS IS NOT A CONDITION TO IGNORE UNTIL ANIMAL GETS OLDER. Surgery is not 100% curative due to the major anatomical problems but they will alleviate symptoms and will extend the life of your pet.

At the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic we have invested heavily on a laser machine to undertake laser surgery  , this means that soft palate  surgery is as safe as spaying your pet, this is practically no bleeding and there is very little damage to the surrounding tissue. Therefore there is hardly any post operative swelling; this was often the problem with the older more primitive techniques.

In summary Brachycephalic Syndrome is a common ailment of brachycephalic breeds that if left will substantially decrease the lifespan of your pet. If you feel your pet is suffering from the above please phone the clinic on 20077334 and make an appointment to discuss your case, don’t ignore it, surgical correction could extend your life’s pets.

A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

Heartworm is this a problem you should be worrying about?

Heartworm is a disease of dogs and cats, it rarely causes illness in cats but can be a significant problem in canines.
Is it endemic in Gibraltar? 

Cases of heartworm are few and far between , therefore it is not a disease that is endemic in our local pet population but there are sporadic cases. The cases that I see tend to be cases in animals that have travelled and have spent time in regions in Spain where the disease is prevalent.

Heartworm, Dirofilariaimmitis, is a parasite where the adults live in the right ventricle and pulmonary arteries of the heart. The female worm once fertilised releases its offspring, tiny juvenile worms, microfilariae into the blood stream. These microfilariae circulate around the body where they reach peripheral capillaries under the skin. They can circulate in the blood for up to 2 years.

Mosquitoes that may happen to feed on the animal will take on this parasite along with the blood that it imbibes. Once in the mosquito the parasite goes through a development phase before migrating to the mosquito’s salivary glands. This development can only occur when the ambient temperature is over 14 degrees centigrade. Once the mosquito is carrying the microfilariae it will infect any further dog or cat that it feeds on. When an animal is infected the microfilariae migrate to the muscles where they go through another phase of their development before finally entering the circulatory system to reach their final destination, the pulmonary artery and right ventricles. The final development stage into an adult occurs here with females measuring up to 30 cm in length. The whole process of infection to fertile adults in the heart, the pre-patent period, is between six and seven months.

Diagnosis of this disease is a fairly simple affair; historically it could only be diagnosed by taking a blood sample from a peripheral blood vessel and then examining the sample microscopically. This method unfortunately can lead to a lot of false negatives for many reasons so we do not rely on this method now. Blood samples are now tested directly for parasite antigen and/or antibody and these tests are extremely reliable.

Heartworm can be a fatal disease with dogs presenting with clinical signs of congestive heart failure. However the symptoms might be varied, weight loss, anaemia, weakness, anorexia, ascites(fluid in the abdomen).

In cats symptoms might be more subtle, asthma type symptoms, weight loss , but often the only symptom is sudden death/ collapse.

With advances in medicine there are various safe alternatives now to treat this illness with a complete resolution of the disease. As long as the illness is diagnosed early enough. 

There are various alternatives to prevent the illness too. My preferred method is to prevent the mosquito from infecting your pet in the first place; there are some really effective parasitic treatments to do this. Personally I do not like the vaccination against heartworm , it has been reported to cause severe anaphylaxis and death in some cases. There are a number of effective preventative treatments , most of them combine to treat other parasites too. 

In summary, in the summer keep your animals protected with one of the many parasite treatments that are available and if by any chance you feel that your animal may have been exposed then get your pet tested. However as Sergeant Wilson used to say , ‘Don’t Panic’!

A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

Heat the Risks

Heat and problems with exposure of your animal to extremes of temperature can be life threatening for your pets and you should take precautions always especially when in doubt.

Always remember what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. This means that different pets require care which in many cases has to be tailored individually.

I will try to summarise the main areas of problems:

• NEVER leave your pet unattended in a car.  In warm weather even an overcast day can still lead to high temperatures in cars in a very short period of time. 

• Avoid walking your dog on hot surfaces. One very common injury I see are burnt pads on dogs where they have been exercised on roads/pavements. This injury is unlikely on grass verges but there are not many of those around in Gibraltar

• Extreme caution has to be taken with brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, bulldogs etc. These animals are not designed for exercise in hot atmospheres. These animals tend to have very narrow airways; therefore an increased respiratory rate can lead to inspiratory stridor, difficulty in breathing, and can lead to collapse and death.

• Similar precautions have to be taken with dogs with cardiac conditions, avoid exercise in hot weather; this may lead to extra stress on the circulatory system and can lead to cardiac failure. If your pet suffers from a heart condition keep a very close eye on its respiratory rate, an increased rate could indicate that your animal is decompensating and could be going into heart failure.

• Swimming. Loads of dogs love swimming especially in the warmer weather. Again be careful with brachycephalic breeds, these tend to not be as efficient at swimming as the longer nosed breeds. Make sure that they you are close at hand just in case they come into difficulties.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a condition that results from hyperthermia (an elevation in body temperature). This increase typically occurs as a response to a trigger, such as inflammation in the body or a hot environment. When a dog is exposed to high temperatures, heat stroke or heat exhaustion can result. Heat stroke is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is precious little time before serious damage or even death can occur.

Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans; they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. Once the dog’s temperature reaches 42 degrees centigrade, damage to the body’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible. Unfortunately, too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided. Learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your dog.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:

• Increased rectal temperature (over 40 requires action, over 42 is a dire emergency)

• Vigorous panting

• Dark red gums

• Tacky or dry mucous membranes (specifically the gums)

• Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up

• Collapse and/or loss of consciousness

• Thick saliva

• Dizziness or disorientation

What to Do if You Suspect Heat Stroke

If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you must take immediate action.

• First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.

•Begin cooling your dog with cool water. You may place wet rags or washcloths on the foot pads and around the head but replace them frequently as they warm up. Avoid covering the body with wet towels, as it may trap in heat.

• DO NOT use ice or ice water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 39 stop cooling. At this point, your dog’s body should continue cooling on its own. However keep monitoring in case temperature starts to rise again.

• Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog’s mouth. Try not to let your dog drink excessive amounts at a time.

• Call or visit your vet right away – even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).

Summer is upon us

in Animals & Pets

The weather has warmed rapidly and with this comes the resurgence of the insects and the parasitic ones that can cause disease in your pets. Protecting your pet is of vital importance , otherwise your best friend could suffer chronic illness for the rest of its life . Today I will revisit a couple of the diseases. 

Locally the most significant problem and one that can cause serious illness in your pet is canine leishmaniasis

This disease is caused by a flagellated protozoa that is injected into dogs by Sandflies (phlebotominae), looks like a tiny mosquito. The female of this biting fly feeds on blood that it requires for egg production, however at the same time that it feeds it can infect the host with the protozoa, in a similar way that malaria is spread by mosquitos.

The protozoa can cause devastating damage to a dog, but the illness is a slow insidious disease that can damage pretty much any organ in the body, broadly speaking they can be divided into two types, the visceral type infecting the internal body organs, or the cutaneous one that infects the skin. This is a bit of a simplification as it can affect any body system and therefore can sometimes it can be a challenge to diagnose. One common complaint is that the dog ‘isn’t right’. In some cases the illness is asymptomatic until the animal becomes suddenly seriously ill , in some of these cases the dog has gone beyond the point of no return and does not respond to medical therapy.

Confirmation of the disease is done by doing a simple blood test, generally you can have the results back in under quarter of an hour. 

There are various treatment regimes used in the medical therapy of infected dogs, depending on their body condition, the body system affected and on the finances available. Sometimes the dog does not respond to one treatment and may need an alternative.

What is very unfortunate about this disease is that in the majority of cases after treatment the animal goes into remission and the parasite cannot be eliminated, it remains dormant in some hidden recess of the body, usually in the lymphatic system or the bone marrow. Thanks to medical progress we can now actually look for DNA of the protozoa in the blood, so that we can check the level of infection in treated animals to make sure the parasite does not make an unwelcome reappearance.

Evidently prevention of leshmaniasis is by far the best option. Now not all dogs are at the same risk of contracting this disease so you can tailor your prevention strategy depending on the your particular circumstances.

There are two ways of protecting your pet, one is to vaccinate your pet and secondly to prevent its infection by the Sandfly.

Vaccination is a fairly recent option, it is more expensive than your standard vaccine, but be aware that the manufacturers do not recommend that you stop using ecto-parasite treatment to stop the vector.

However all pets do not require the same level of protection, the highest level must be for those dogs that are outside in gardens during the times of highest risk, dusk to dawn. Those dogs living in flats in highly urbanised areas are at a smaller risk but there is never any guarantee that a female Sandfly will not sneak in and infect your family pet, do not become complacent.

The other main ectoparasite of concern at this time of year is the common flea. Although they do not carry serious illnesses they can cause many chronic skin complaints. The exception to this is a blood parasite in cats that is spread by fleas and this can kill your pet if not diagnosed early enough.

If an animal with a flea allergy dermatitis isn’t treated they the problem can snowboard and the condition can become serious and very expensive to treat. In this day and age there is no excuse for your pet suffering from a flea problem; there are a multitude of decent products out there to prevent your pet from being infested with these blighters. 

In summary go and out get your pets protected NOW!

Ears and my Pet

in Animals & Pets

A frequent question that I get from clients is if what maintenance does my pets ears require. There are loads of products out there to treat and clean ears but in the majority of cases my advice is if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

In the main your pet’s ears do not require anything done to them. If there is some debris on the inner side of the pinna (ear flap) then just wipe it with some wool or gauze, do not start putting drops in the ear unless you are advised to do so by a professional. If you irrigate an ear and don’t do it properly you could end up doing more damage than good. You could push a plug into the ear canal that could then become infected if moistened by an agent and then we could have a problem. 

If you dog has hairs inside its ears then these need to be plucked, cutting them makes them grow back with more vigour, so it important to pluck these ears regularly, with regular plucking the procedure becomes less uncomfortable for your pet. Common breeds with this problem are poodles, waterdogs and schnauzers. 

Your pets ear canal has two sections, the more exterior vertical canal and the inner horizontal canal which is separated from the middle chamber of the ear by the ear drum (tympanic membrane). If anything nestles in the horizontal canal it could be become plugged, at this juncture the problem could escalate dramatically. 

If your animal’s ears start to smell then get it seen by a vet sooner rather than later. Depending on the problem the ear could be treated with a variety of products and in severe cases will need a course of systemic antibiotics and painkillers. Getting shown on how to clean your pet’s ears properly and thoroughly is the first step in getting those ears back to normal soonest.

Some dogs and cats are prone to ear infections. In the majority of cases these are allergy based. The external ear canal is an extension of the animal’s skin. If the dog is susceptible to allergies then allergens that come to rest inside the canal will cause an allergic reaction, ears will become inflamed and produce some serous fluid,  bacteria and yeast will find this fantastic medium to grow in!!!

These pets will need regular ear cleansing with proper washes; the type will depend on your specific problem and which infections your animal is prone to. Regular cleansing, and proper drying will clean out allergens from the external ear, in this way there will not be a secondary inflammatory reaction and the chances of an infection decrease dramatically. 

An untreated external otitis will lead to a rupture of the tympanic membrane and will lead to a middle ear infection, connecting the middle ear to the inner ear are three small bones, if the infection damages these bones then your pets hearing will be damaged irreversibly. 

In summary, don’t touch your pet’s ears unless there is a problem, if this is the case seek veterinary attention sooner rather than later, your pet’s hearing could depend on this!!!

Anaesthesia and your pets

in Animals & Pets

Justifiably clients are always worried about putting their animal under anaethesia, this article is geared to hopefully reassure clients and to show how veterinary medicine has grown in leaps and bounds to reduce anaethetic risk to your pet. 

Animals live for a comparatively short time , they have to compress the equivalent of our 70/80 years into around 15 years. The majority of us will undergo a surgical procedure at some point of our lives, the equivalent is the same for our pets. 

Pre-anaethetic checks?

All our animals are thoroughly checked prior to anaethesia. Vaccine history, lifestyle, and any medications all influence how your pet may respond to anesthesia. We recommend a pre-surgical examination and diagnostic tests that help identify any underlying conditions that should be addressed before your dog undergoes anesthesia.

Recommended diagnostic tests usually include:
Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
A complete blood count (CBC) to rule out blood-related conditions

Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance

Additional tests may be added on an individual basis.

In addition to blood tests, we may recommend the following:
The placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter as part of the anesthetic preparation. The catheter can be used to provide anesthetics and intravenous fluids to keep your pet hydrated; additionally, if needed, it would serve as a pathway to directly administer life-saving medications, should a crisis arise.


ntravenous fluids to help maintain hydration and blood pressure. IV fluids also help your pet with her recovery process by aiding the liver and kidneys in clearing the body of anesthetic agents more quickly.

How your dog is monitored during anesthesia?

Several safeguards are put into place to help reduce your dog’s risk during anesthesia.

They include:
The surgical assistant/veterinary nurse: A nurse or assistant is present during the anesthetic event to monitor your dog’s vital signs and to help adjust anesthetic levels, under the direction of the veterinarian.


A heart rate monitor counts your pet’s heartbeats per minute. Anesthesia and other factors, such as surgery itself, can affect heart rate. By monitoring your dog’s heart rate, your veterinarian can make anesthetic adjustments quickly.


An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors your dog’s heart rate and heartbeat pattern. It can detect abnormal heartbeats called arrhythmias. If an arrhythmia is detected, your veterinarian can make suitable changes in anesthesia.


Core body temperature may be monitored, especially if your dog is undergoing a prolonged surgical procedure. Changes in body temperature can cause dangerous complications. 


A blood pressure monitor measures your dog’s blood pressure. When used in conjunction with other monitoring equipment, it provides detailed information on your pet’s cardiovascular condition.


Pulse oximetry will be used to monitor the amount of oxygen in your dog’s blood and her pulse rate. Any decreased oxygenation of the blood for a prolonged period can cause irreversible organ damage. 

Carbon dioxide (C02) is monitored together with oxygen, as it helps determine if your pet is receiving the right amount of oxygen during anesthesia.

Monitoring after surgery

Immediate care post surgery is just as crucial. After all surgeries our team closely supervises your pets, any postoperative complications, rare as they are, are picked up promptly. Recent improvements in anesthetic agents allow for a quick recovery, and your pet should almost be back to normal when you pick it up after the anesthetic event. It will be quiet for some time after the surgery but this is mainly dependent on what procedure it has undergone, for example a castrated dog will recover a lot faster than one that has gone through a laparotomy.

IN SUMMARY

All the above is possible due to serious investment by the clinic where we are constantly upgrading the quality and care provided to our clients. Your pet’s safety during surgical procedures is paramount; a nurse is always assisting, monitoring the animal so that the veterinary surgeon can concentrate on the surgery. Our new anaesthetic machine will measure the concentration of exhaled anaethetic gases and will also ventilate your pet to give your treasured friend that extra level of protection. Anaethesia should not be taken lightly, there is always a small risk but this is mitigated by the quality of care.

Fishing Hooks and your dogs

in Animals & Pets

This year we have had quite a few cases of dogs swallowing fish hooks. My article this week will be quick guide on what to do when confronted with this problem.

Obviously prevention is better than cure. With lockdown and our travel and movement restrictions there have been many instances  where people walk  their dogs in areas where people are fishing. Personally I would avoid walking my dog off the leash when passing fishermen, the risk of your dog picking up a bit of bait with a hook attached are quite high. 

First thing you must never do if your dog picks up some bait is pull the fishing line and try and retrieve the hook this way.  The hook is designed to travel in one direction only, you will not be doing any favours by trying to hold onto a fishing line, just cut it and let the dog swallow the fishing line. 

95% of swallowed hooks pass through the intestine and out naturally without causing any problems whatsoever. It is important to follow the passage of the hook through the GI tract with x-rays daily in the off chance that you are you unlucky and the hook gets caught up in the intestine.  I strongly advise that if you take your pet to your vet and there is a fish hook in the stomach or intestine, DO NOT ELECT FOR SURGERY until you have monitored the hook for at least 48 hours, if it hasn’t moved by then, then you will have to go to surgery. Abdominal surgery is quite routine and any experienced vet should be able to find and remove the hook. 

Problems arise when dog owners pull on the fishing line or it gets caught and the dog pulls back on the hook. If the hook gets caught in the oesophagus especially in the thorax then the plot thickens and its removal can prove problematic. Locating the hook with an endoscope is simple enough but if it is lodged in the thoracic oesophagus and it can’t be removed then the dog will require thoracic surgery where its chest is cut open to try and remove the hook, this is evidently surgery that is fraught with potential pitfalls. 

So the takeaway from all this is 

DON’T PULL ON A FISHING LINE!!!

Pets and Coronavirus

in Animals & Pets

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

As we live through this awful pandemic that has caused some much heartache and disruption across our lives there has been so much fake news and scaremongering across many media platforms. 

I will try to add reason to some of the stories, in many cases fables that contaminate social media platforms.

First thing that has to be acknowledged is that most of the species we come into contact with us are very different genetically to us.  Evolutionarily we have common ancestors with dogs and cats about 100 million years ago, in the case of primates, our common ancestor  was roughly 60 million years ago. The Great Apes have a common ancestor to us that is quite recent and that is approximately between 5 and 8 million years ago.

The significance of this is that the majority of diseases tend to be very species specific, therefore there is low risk of contagion between species in the majority of diseases . There are always going to exceptions to the rules, such as rabies, but that is the rule of thumb. The closer a species is to us evolutionarily the higher the probability of zoonosos and reverse zoonosis.  For example if your dog has kennel cough you are not going to catch it. In many cases you can isolate pathogenic bacteria from different species but in most cases even the same type of bacteria has become so specialised that it cannot cross species. 

So we come to Covid 19, in principle the animals most at risk from this disease are any of the other Great Apes, e.g  chimps, gorillas, bonobos  and the orang-utans. As they are relatively close to us evolutionarily there will be susceptible to this disease and it is critical that we do not have contact with these majestic animals, not to protect us but to protect them. 

The animals we come into regular contact on a daily basis are not significant with regards to infection to humans. Animals, felines, have tested positive for Covid, but with minor if any clinical disease and with the virus load so small  there is a miniscule risk of zoonosis.  Stories going round that pets will have to vaccinated against Covid 19 are a nonsense. 

A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

2020 has been a good year for pets but will 2021 be one too?

Our lives have been totally disrupted and put on hold over the last year with Covid, with Brexit looming and an incompetent self serving Tory Government it has been pretty much an annus horribilis. 

However it has been an excellent year for our pets!!  Pets have never had us at home for such extended periods of time; families have been able to spend quality time for their pets. From a veterinary point of view, we have been able to pick up clinical disease earlier as clients have noticed problems at a more seminal moment. 

More people have taken on homeless dogs, in some cases fostered but in most cases as a ‘forever home’.  This is great as there will always be pets out there that will need a home. 

As we move into 2021 and  as the population is vaccinated against Covid things will slowly go back to normal .( please don’t be sucked into the conspiracy theories  about vaccinations , when they come get vaccinated asap)  With that people will go back to their normal work ,recreational and holiday patterns will return to normal , sooner than later people are forecasting  in my opinion. This will bring problems at home with our pets!!

My main worry is the separation anxiety that I am sure will become apparent in our pets as soon as the normality returns. Our dogs and cats have been used to having us around the house for extended periods and many will become stressed and disorientated when suddenly they are left ‘abandoned’ at home. 

  • Separation anxiety can be manifested in many ways:
  • Destructive behaviour when left alone
  • Aggressiveness , especially with other pets 
  • Urinating and defaecating in house or not using litter tray
  • Howling and barking when left alone 
  • Become excessively attached when you return home after a period away
  • Eating disorders, can lead to excess  or reduced eating . Coprophagia in some cases . 
  • Panting , trembling and pacing 

What owners need to do is try and mitigate and any problems that may arise over the next few months by starting to take action now.

 Primarily start getting the animal to spend periods of time on its own. Don’t let your pet follow you around the house 24/7, keep them in rooms separate to yourself even when you are in the house, get them used to time alone.  Maybe put on a radio or telly on for them so that there is some distraction. 

Don’t let your pets sleep in the same bedroom as yourselves; make sure there is a separation between yourselves and them. 

Don’t submit to their requests; for example, don’t feed them when they ask. Feed them on your terms. 

Change dog walking patterns to ones more in tune to what will happen when life returns to normal. This will also help with toilet issues in the future. 

The other major problem that I see arising over the next year and beyond will be unwanted pets that have been taken on over lockdown. This genuinely worries me and I see this being a future issue. 

When life returns to normal people will start to travel again, weekends away, more nights out etc etc . These pets that have been a lifeline to a lot of people and have kept many individuals sane and accompanied over Covid will suddenly become an encumbrance and a cost, often cases will be closely linked to separation anxiety issues. I have seen this many times over my career , I have heard all the excuses known to mankind, sudden ‘allergies’ develop, suddenly house gets too small, suddenly the dogs doesn’t get on with the owner , etc , the list is endless.  I just hope that we don’t see too many of these cases over the next year.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a much better year than the one we are coming out off,  wishing you all health and happiness , and TAKE THE COVID VACCINE  so that life returns to a semblance of normality the soonest possible.

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