Animals

A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

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

in Animals & Pets

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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A Vets Insight

in Animals & Pets

Heat stroke  – The risks

I have covered this subject before. But as summer arrives I feel that I should remind pet owners of the seriousness of heat stroke. 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).

For more information please phone
Gibraltar Vetinary Clinic on
200 77334

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Heartworm and your pets

in Animals & Pets

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 isn’t yet endemic in our local pet population but things might be changing!!

I have had my first case of heartworm in a local dog that has only left the territory once to be kenneled in Spain about 3 years ago.

This is a worrying turn of events so the advice has to change.

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 alternatives now to treat this illness with a complete resolution of the disease. As long as the illness is diagnosed early enough. However treatment is a longwinded process taking several months and can prove to be quite expensive. In rare cases there can be an anaphylactic reaction when treated so prevention is by far the preferred option.

Prevention can take one of three routes:

  • An annual vaccination against heartworm. Before the vaccine available often caused allergic reaction but the new products on the market are a lot safer
  • Ectoparasite treatment to prevent the infected mosquito biting your pet. These work but there one has to be careful. You must use effective collars and spot-on treatments but the owner must remember to keep applying the products and be aware that is the animal is washed or bathes regularly there will be a reduction in protection
  • There are monthly tablets that can be administered that kill any microfilaria if infected by a mosquito 

Personally where there is high risk to your pet I would advise using two of the options listed above, best to ‘be sure to be sure’.

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A Vets Insight

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Spring has sprung

With the onset of spring there are certain medical conditions and pests that come to the fore as the climate becomes warmer. 

The Processionary Caterpillar, is an insect that can  cause hives in people and even death for pets. The caterpillars are covered in very fine sting hairs that can cause nasty reactions and in pets that might try and eat them can cause nasty mouth lesions with tongue necrosis being the most common symptom. 

The Processionary  caterpillar has an annual cycle, so it will be seen every year. The cycle begins in summer, where eggs are laid. With the arrival of the cold, they build the nests in the pine forests. When the temperature begins to rise, it accelerates development until they become caterpillars that descend down the trunk to the earth in procession, one after another and forming long lines until they bury themselves and form a chrysalis.

N.B . they are insects, have 6 legs, might have prolegs or little hocks which may appear to be legs. 

In addition, allergies are more frequent in spring (like humans, atopic allergies are increased by the presence of allergens in the environment such as pollen). In Gibraltar this combined with the perpetual cloud of builder’s pollution that has engulfed Gib for years leads to a massive increase in allergies in our pets. The most common symptoms are itching in dogs and asthma in cats.

 Leishmaniasis is another warm weather illness that is spread by the bite of the Sand-fly and is more frequent during the spring and summer months. It is caused by a protozoa and once your dog has contracted this illness it is for life. It can be controlled and managed but rarely is it eliminated.  Among the symptoms we find are weight loss, hair loss, long nails, nose bleeds and lethargy. 

During the warmer months there are more insects that can cause result in a nasty bite like bees and wasps. Not much you can do to prevent this, they are always accidents where a pet is at the wrong place at the wrong time. If reaction is severe then seek veterinary assistance.

In addition, there are also more fleas and ticks that could affect the health of our pet, as they feed on blood they can cause itchiness and infections and can also spread disease. Proper ecto-parasite protection is essential, consult your veterinary surgeon for what works best for your pet. Prevention is always better than cure.

 Grass seeds will also be a problem over the next few months, the aerodynamics of the seed make them easy for them to imbed in your pet’s coat and then migrate into the skin causing ulcers, abscesses and infection. 

On a more positive note the weather is better, time to get out walk your companion animals, get some exercise, enjoy the sun and build up those Vitamin D levels.

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