in Animals & Pets

Pets are companion animals, adding one to your household should be a well thought out process where the pros and cons are carefully weighed. Purchasing or acquiring animals on a whim often leads to a spate of unwanted animals soon after and also to many deaths of pets through sheer ignorance of people who do not know the requirements and costs of looking after animals. 

An animal acquired as a pet has many requirements that the new ‘care provider’ has to adhere to. The animal will need shelter, food and water and someone to care for it every day, they don’t know it’s a weekend or you are away for a couple of days etc etc. 

Christmas Pet Safety Tips

 Christmas is a wonderful time of year – but not always for your pets! Here are some tips for keeping your pets out of danger.

Food to avoid giving your pet at Christmas

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate (can be toxic to pets especially dark chocolate and cocoa powder)
  • Coffee
  • Mouldy or spoiled foods
  • Salt
  • Chicken or Turkey bones (they can splinter)
  • Raisins and grapes have on rare occasions caused acute irreversible renal failure in dogs, so be aware of this. 

Avoid giving your pet any of your leftovers as this can cause diarrhoea. This is particularly the case with dogs that are used to a dried diet, owners often feel that their pet has to partake in the Christmas binge and this can result in acute gastroenteritis.

 Also keep your pet away from cooked bones: they can splinter or get lodged in your pet’s throat or can cause serious damage by puncturing the intestinal tract.

Pet hazards around the Christmas tree

  • Fallen Christmas tree needles are very sharp and can easily get stuck in your pet’s paws or throat. Sweep tree needles up regularly.
  • Do not hang your chocolates from your Christmas tree: they can be toxic and your pet will be tempted if he can see and smell them.
  • Cover up electric cords and flashing tree lights so your pet can’t chew them and electrocute himself.
  • Try using fairy lights that don’t flash as some pets when up close can get very scared by these.
  • Christmas tree decorations can cause a nasty accident or be fatal to your pet. Cats, and young pets especially, will show a great interest in decorations hanging from your tree. Try to use unbreakable decorations and nothing too small. Avoid tinsel or ribbons as these are dangerous to the gastrointestinal tract if your pet swallows them. I have on numerous occasions had to perform lifesaving surgery on cats who have swallowed long strands of tinsel. 
  • Be very careful with any balls purchased for your dog to play with, if they are large enough to swallow but too small to pass through the intestines they will cause an obstruction.
  • Make sure your tree is well anchored so your pet can’t pull it over.
  • Cats have a fetish for eating tinsel, on many an occasion I have to operate on cats as a result of this. On one occasion the client waited too long before presenting the cat for surgery and sadly the animal died

Other Christmas dangers to pets

  • Remember loud noises will panic your pet, such as Christmas crackers, poppers, balloons, and champagne bottles.
  • Remove your Christmas wrapping paper (and toys) from the floor to avoid your pet chewing or swallowing it.
  • For your pet’s safety this Christmas always buy your pet’s presents from a reputable outlet.
  • In many households this is often the only time of year that your pet is exposed to large gatherings of noisy excitable people and children. This can scare your pet, and this may result in unusual behaviour, placid dogs have been known to get aggressive in this scenario. Therefore make sure your pet has some place where it can find a degree of sanctuary.
  • Locally lilies and poinsettias are seen as common Christmas decorations; these are poisonous to pets and must be kept well out of reach.

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A Vets Insight

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Fishing hooks and your dog

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 


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Pet cats can live to a ripe old age, with better awareness of diseases and good use of prophylactic medication we can possibly get your feline to live that bit longer so that you can enjoy its kneading on your bed sheets and the morning wake up call for an extended period.

As with all illnesses/diseases the sooner the condition is diagnosed then the better the prognosis and the more effective any medication will be. Sometimes only the smallest physical or behavioural change can be an indication that some organ is not quite functioning at 100%.

These are the most common symptoms that could indicate that something is not quite right:

A slight increase in drinking and
urination, polyuria/polydipsia

• Weight loss or gain

Abnormal behaviour, e.g defaecating outside litter box, increased vocalisation

• Decreased vision

• Difficulty eating 

Different illnesses can cause several of the symptoms described above, so a visit to the veterinary clinic is essential. It is our job to get you an accurate diagnosis, your pet could be suffering from renal disease, high blood pressure, diabetes , liver failure , etc , thankfully at the clinic we have a complete selection of diagnostic tools to help get your cat diagnosed rapidly and effectively . The sooner treatment is started the better the long term prognosis, we have had cats living well into their 20s thanks to this.

What should you feed your elderly cat?

Cats thrive on diets that are high in moisture (canned or fresh), relatively high in meat protein and fat, and balanced in essential minerals and nutrients. Pet food manufacturers and nutritionists rely on the specific research in formulating commercial diets and all brands are quite similar in their nutrient analysis. Cats do not, by nature, thrive on carbohydrates or plant-derived proteins.

Don’t feed your cat generic or house brand because their low price dictates that their ingredients be low quality. Mid or average priced cat foods tend to have better quality ingredients and most brands market top-of-the-line premium formulas that are likely to be a bit better. Those are the brands I suggest. 

Should I Feed A Diet Formulated Especially For Senior Cats?

Based on research, most “senior diets” have increased amounts of vitamin D and B6, calcium and fiber, with some added antioxidants and omega fatty acids thrown in for good measure.

Older cats do seem to have a reduced ability to digest fat and protein. Studies found that 50% of cats 15-25 years old are underweight. Perhaps that is due to their reduced sense of smell and taste, decreased intestinal absorption, bad teeth or a side effect of one of the common chronic diseases of older cats. Several of these “Senior Diets” have fewer calories than those marketed for midlife. Be careful about using those if your cat is already thin. 

If your elderly cat has a tendency to constipation, the extra bran fibre might be helpful. If you believe in the protective power of antioxidants, you should see to it that your pet receive them for its entire life. If your cat needs added fibre because it has diabetes, the added fibre might be helpful, however their senior formula is too high in carbohydrate for that use. Their increased glucosamine might help old cats that have arthritis. But the amount they consume will be less than with many joint supplements. 

So, if you plan to offer your cat dry diet, a “Senior Formula” is a good food. But there is not much science to back up the slight formula modifications that have been made. 

Another problem with “senior” formulas is their one-size-fits-all caloric content. Many older cats tend to be too chubby until they reach about 12 years of age. After that, many become too thin. Some gain or lose too much weight somewhat earlier or later. Overweight cats need a diet formula that is less caloric while underweight cats need just the opposite.


The simple answer to this question is yes.

Cat’s metabolism is totally different to dogs; they cannot go more than 3 or 4 days without eating, especially if they are obese/overweight at the start. 

A cat that does not eat for a few days is prone to developing fatty liver, a potentially fatal disease if not diagnosed early and if not treated aggressively. This is a condition commonly seen in the elderly obese cat that may go off its food for another problem (but can affect cats of any age), but the anorexia then results in the liver developing serious disease.

In summary your elderly feline may require a lot of tender loving care as the years progress, be aware of any small changes in behaviour or feeding habits etc as they may be a warning that not all is well. We are now running a Senior Wellness Plan for our older patients at the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic. With advances in veterinary care we are able to help the older sick animal but the earlier the diagnosis the more we can do. 

For more information please phone Gibraltar Vetinary Clinic on
200 77334

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Cystitis how serious it is?

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder wall; it is multi-factorial in origin, it can be caused by a simple bacterial infection, bladder stones, tumours, polyps. 

The cause of the problem very much decides its prognosis, I shall try to go through the symptoms and its treatment bearing in mind that it can be a medical emergency in certain cases.

The most common symptom that patients present with is increased straining and frequency of urination. The animal in question has the urge to go to the toilet more frequently because of the bladder irritation, therefore clients notice behaviour changes, often these animals are very clean animals that have never had an accident in the house, but as a consequence of the cystitis they cannot control the urge to urinate. It is important that they are not told off when this happens, they cannot control the need to urinate, and scolding the pet could actually compound the problem. Often there is blood in the urine and the animal may spend excessive time licking their genital areas.

In the more elderly animal a bacterial cystitis is more common, usually as a result of an ascending infection; therefore a short course of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics is usually sufficient to treat the condition. However if the problem starts to recur then it is important that the condition is worked up properly as one of the other causes might be a factor.

Another common cause of cystitis in dogs and cats are urinary calculi, these are crystals that are formed in the urine that often coalesce to form larger stones. These crystals can be formed as a result of a metabolic anomaly in the patient or secondary to a primary infection. In the male dog and the tom cat this can lead to a medical emergency, the male urethra is narrower than in the females therefore as a direct result of this a urinary stone can cause an obstruction. If this obstruction is not removed then the animal will deteriorate rapidly, develop kidney failure and die a slow agonising death. This problem is seen more commonly in cats, so if your cat is spending excessive amount of time on the litter tray then it is important that you get him to a vet immediately.

The most common cause of cystitis and urethral obstruction in cats is stress related, so if there are any changes in the cat’s environment then be aware that this may set off a bout of cystitis and often a urethral obstruction too.

Polyps are seen infrequently, but bladder tumours in dogs are seen more commonly, transitional cell carcinoma is seen relatively frequently and unfortunately carries a very poor prognosis, it tends to affect most of the bladder wall so surgical excision is not an option, they can only be managed medically.

If you have your dog or cat presenting with symptoms of cystitis then get it treated promptly. Personally I ultrasound all of my patients, an ultrasound tends to be used as the first diagnostic tool, it is better at picking up stones,(some stones do not show up on x-ray). The ultrasound is also better at accessing the bladder lining, therefore polyps and tumours can be picked up earlier   and treatment can be implemented and therefore the prognosis will be improved.

In summary cystitis in your pet can be treated easily in the majority of cases but can become complicated if ignored and may carry a poor prognosis if the underlying cause is serious or the condition is not treated promptly and efficiently.

For more information please phone Gibraltar Vetinary Clinic on
200 77334

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Allergy season is upon us

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The dry season is upon us where dogs and cats suffer most from allergic reactions and we must do our utmost to alleviate any discomfort your pet might have.

With dogs the primary clinical manifestation of allergies is skin disease. The primary clinical sign is pruritus or itchiness and it is imperative that your pet is given relief as soon as possible. If they do not the actual act of scratching or licking leads to a secondary infection, bacterial and fungal, this then results in further pruritus and therefore you get a domino effect where the infection causes more itching and the problem escalates. Neglected skin allergies will lead to brown stained fur, thickened skin and often deep skin infections.

Treatment is going to vary depending very much on the severity of the problem, the sooner it is treated the quicker it will resolve and the cheaper it will be. 

What you must be aware off is that skin allergies are unlikely to be resolved long term with one treatment. In the majority of cases they are seasonal and likely to be a persistent problem for the whole of the season. In some animals it becomes a problem that is there the year round.  With seasonal pruritus the best treatment involves taking prophylactic medicine throughout the season and then stop it when the weather turns and it is cooler and there are not so many allergens around. 

With pets where the skin condition persists throughout the year there are other options such as monthly injections or allergy testing so that a vaccine can be formulated specifically for the requirements of that individual animal. This has success in certain cases. 

Cats also suffer from allergic skin dermatitis but the primary symptom for felines is asthma. It follows a very similar pattern to human asthma, the cat develops respiratory distress with increased breathing rates and diaphragmatic breathing, and in most cases coughing. With cats, coughing is nearly always associated with asthma, in dogs on the other hand it is usually associated with heart failure. 

Treatment of cats with asthma should be as rapid as possible, there is nothing worse than respiratory distress and the feeling that you can’t get enough air into your lungs. This will involve aggressive steroid treatment to bring the condition under control. With recurring episodes of this disease there has to be some prophylaxis put into place, the best option is using an aero chamber with an inhaler, again similar to humans. The only problem I have when I advise this is client and pet compliance, some animals can be difficult to treat this way so this can sometimes be an uphill battle. 

Dogs can sometimes suffer from asthma type symptoms but in the majority of these cases there is usually another factor that complicates the problem. The most common being that the owner is a smoker and this results in damage to the animals lungs due to passive smoking, so don’t smoke in the vicinity of your pet especially in enclosed spaces or better still don’t smoke. 

In summary for allergic conditions , treat early and aggressively  and be prepared to give your pet prophylactic treatment throughout the season, that way you can all enjoy the summer.

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