A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets


Cats and dogs are different on this front, with dogs tooth decay etc is a preventable problem whereas in cats with teeth problems there is often a genetic element to it . Dogs and cats are more susceptible to dental conditions because they are carnivores and therefore the pressure they can exert with their teeth is much greater than omnivores or herbivores. What this means is that any minor damage to teeth in these animals can escalate very rapidly.

With dogs dental decay is primarily due to the animals not chewing enough. Puppies have to be taught from a early age to chew hard objects so that they continue doing this for the duration of their lives. 

The actual grinding and chewing action of their teeth on hard chews keeps the teeth clean of plaque and dental decay. 

The dog that does not chew sooner or later has problems. The softer the diet the more rapid the onset of periodontal/ gum disease, accumulation of plaque, tooth decay and eventually tooth loss. If a dog doesn’t chew plaque starts to accumulate on teeth, the foreign material then start to irritate the gums, bacteria build up on the plaque. This hastens the receding of the gums, at the same time the plaque and bacteria damage the integrity of the enamel layer. Once this starts it is a domino effect, the infection gets worse, and the dog ends up rotten teeth. When the upper molars are contaminated this can result in abscesses that appear as swelling below the eye on the maxilla. In severe cases the infection can spread into the bone and cause osteomyelitis!! When dogs have this extent of tooth decay there is a high risk of bacteria embolising into the blood and lodging in the liver and in some cases on the heart valves. The latter can then cause murmurs and heart failure. The pain at this stage is substantial and the halitosis is enough to impregnate the atmosphere. To allow your pet to get to this stage is almost tantamount to neglect. 

If your dog doesn’t chew then it will need regular dentals where the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic descaler and polished. This will have to be done at least once a year, otherwise the above will happen. So I can’t emphasise how important it is to get your dog to chew from an early age. Prevention is always better than cure. 

Cats are different , there is often a genetic, allergic or infective element that contributes to tooth decay. In the wild cats hunt and the actual act of eating their prey has a cleansing effect on their teeth . High quality diets tend to have incorporated a harder texture in the pellets so mimic eating prey , softer and wet brands all the time could predispose your cat to dental disease. 

In summary look after your pet’s dental health, he will thank you for it by living a longer healthier life .

For more information please phone
Gibraltar Vetinary Clinic on
200 77334

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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)


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.

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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’!

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A Vets Insight

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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).

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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!

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