Remember Remember Your Pets This November

With Bonfire Night fast approaching it is worthwhile thinking about how our pets cope with fireworks and other loud noises. Fireworks are no longer limited to Bonfire Night, the firework season now lasts well past Christmas and into the New Year, so it is important to think now about how this impacts our pets.

Loud, sharp noises such as thunderstorms, gunshots and fireworks which occur without warning can be incredibly traumatic for some pets. They do not understand where the sound comes from, or that it can’t harm them, and many develop phobias of sound or being outside in the dark. This can progress over time to more severe reactions, or reacting to other loud noises such as traffic. You might be able to tell if your pet is afraid if they display any of these signs:

  • Hiding
  • Cowering or shaking
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Barking excessively
  • Clinging to their owner
  • Trying to run away
  • Soiling the house

If your pet displayed any of these signs last year, now is an excellent time to prepare for the firework season. The following tips will help make your pet feel safe and secure, and will hopefully reduce their signs of fear.


Safe Haven: Provide your pet with a den or secluded area where they can hide, ideally somewhere quiet and away from windows. Make it safe and secure by adding blankets, cover all the sides except one and put their toys, food and water in with them.

Stay Indoors: keep cats indoors and don’t take dogs out for walks whilst fireworks are being let off. Being outside at this time can be very distressing for our pets, and may make their phobias worse. Closing windows and doors will reduce the noise and prevent pets from bolting.

Microchipping: Loud noises may cause fearful pets to bolt. In the event that they are lost it is much easier to reunite them with their owners if they are microchipped. Ensure your details are up-to-date with the microchip company.

Distractions: turn the tv or radio up louder to try and mask the noise and distract your pet with new toys or a chew.

Give your pet confidence: although we naturally want to comfort our pets when they are afraid, this will actually tells them that there is something to be afraid of and may make things worse. Our pets are very sensitive to our emotions so if we are confident and relaxed it tells our pets to be confident and that there is nothing unusual to be afraid of. It can be very frustrating if fearful pets are destructive or soil in the house, but remember never to scold or punish a fearful pet, it will make their phobia worse.

Pheromones: Synthetic pheromones can help relax and reassure worried pets. These are plug in diffusers which release a specific scent that only the dog or cat can smell and tells them they are safe. They are also available in collars (dogs only) and sprays.

Food Supplements: these natural, non-medicated supplements can work very well in some pets, encouraging them to relax. 

In the event that the above tips are not enough to relax your pet and prevent their fearful behaviour, veterinary advice should be sought. It may be that anti-anxiety medication is required and can be prescribed in appropriate patients. In the past, sedatives were prescribed to help pets but this is no longer recommended as it does not remove their fear. Sedatives prevent anxious pets from going to their safe haven and expressing normal behaviour, and can lead to more dangerous fearful behaviour such as biting.


Looking forwards

The best method to reduce noise phobias longer term is by using desensitisation. CDs which play a range of sounds are available to be played in the home, initially very quietly until the dog becomes used to the noise. The volume can be gradually increased, with praise and treats to reinforce that the noise is nothing to be worried about. We recommend also using these to socialise puppies and prevent noise phobias developing.

Please feel free to call the surgery on 01606 880890 for more information, or to discuss your pet specifically.


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Mushroom Toxicities

Mushroom’s and toadstools are the fruit bodies of fungi. They develop throughout the Autumn in warm and wet weather, which we have had ample of over the last few weeks!  When ingested, mushrooms and toadstools have the potential to be toxic and can cause a variety of different problems dependent on the type of mushroom they have eaten.

Some mushrooms cause relatively little effect , some induce gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea whilst others can have behavioural, neurological or hallucinogenic effects. Unfortunately, some can be extremely toxic resulting in a delayed development of kidney and liver failure. 

As a result, it is really important to find out which mushroom your pet has eaten. This helps us to determine how serious the potential consequences might be and therefore how best to target our treatment.

The problem we face is that there are thousands of different types of mushroom and toadstool and it can be difficult to identify the specific species. Often expert knowledge is required to do this and it is important to provide us with as much information as possible.






Here are some factors which can help us to identify the type of fungus:

  • What type of habitat was the fungus  growing in, what was it growing on and what type of tree was it growing near? .
  • The size, shape and underside features of the mushroom
  • The consistency and texture of the flesh 

Therefore, to help provide more information it is extremely helpful to take pictures of the mushroom in-situ and close up. Once this has been done digging up a sample and taking it with you to the vets is highly recommended. If your pet has eaten the only mushroom present then remnants in their vomit might also be helpful. Please handle mushrooms carefully and wash hands after touching.  


Mushroom Toxicities at Hollybank

Recently we have had a number of inquisitive pets who decided to sample some mushrooms. For each pet the type of mushroom(s) were identified with the help of a mycologist.  


Oscar is a beautiful Ragdoll who decided to bring home a mushroom following his daily expeditions, of which, of course he had sampled! Oscar appeared fine but within the next few hours began to excessively salivate and froth at the mouth. On presentation with us he was distressed and his breathing was faster than it should be. The mushroom Oscar had eaten was identified as one that causes gastrointestinal signs and is commonly referred to as ‘The Sickener’. Oscar’s signs were associated with nausea and he responded really well to an anti-sickness injection and TLC. Oscar’s experience didn’t deter him from eating another of these mushrooms a few weeks later! Unfortunately, mushrooms can come up very quickly and due to the free roaming nature of cats it can be very difficult to stop them eating things they shouldn’t.



Archie is a lovely English Shepherd dog who came to us at Hollybank due to intermittent vomiting. Due to the warm weather there had been mushrooms growing in the garden and there was the possibility that he had eaten them. There were a number of different types; luckily two were identified as non toxic and one was associated with low levels of nausea. The mushroom therefore may or may not have been related to Archie’s clinical signs, being a one year old inquisitive dog he could have licked, chewed or eaten anything! However, it is always important to check. Archie recovered well with symptomatic treatment and despite the sudden flourish of mushrooms he and his owner are managing to avoid them.


Otto is a gorgeous Hungarian Vizsla puppy who of course at his age is intrigued by everything and anything! Otto quickly swallowed a mushroom from the garden before his owners were able to get it out of his mouth! He began vomiting not long after and on presentation to Hollybank had also developed diarrhoea and abdominal pain. 

The mushroom Otto had eaten was known to cause vomiting and diarrhoea however could also be more serious. In dogs, the toxin can affect cells in nerves and in muscles. This meant it had the potential to cause muscle tremors, a dangerously low heart rate and in some cases, be fatal. A drug called Atropine to help counteract the slow heart rate was recommended. Otto was a very lucky puppy and never progressed to show any of these symptoms. We managed his gastrointestinal signs with supportive treatment and he soon felt much better. Otto is doing really well after his mushroom escapades but is still managing to keep his owners busy.


**Please do not try to match mushrooms to the ones shown in these case reports, an expert has helped in the identification of each species and subtle changes and features will separate each type.

If your pet has eaten a mushroom then please follow the above advice and phone us on 01606 880890


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Autumn Toxins!!

It is officially Autumn! The nights become darker but the weather is still relatively warm so we are still active and outdoors. As a result there are a few Autumn risks we would like to warn you about.

Acorns and Conkers: both of these can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and in large quantities have the potential to cause a blockage and obstruction in the gut. Acorns in some cases may also cause swelling and itching of the eyes and lips

Berries and fruits: there are lots of different ones, most cause gastrointestinal upset but others can have more serious toxic effects. If your pet has managed to eat something they shouldn’t it can be helpful to collect a small sample too in case we need to identify them. 

Bulbs: its the time of year to plant Summer bulbs including those of Daffodils, Tulips and Snowdrops. If ingested by your pet they can cause gastrointestinal upset so keep your pet clear whilst planting and store safely.

Mushrooms and Toadstools: there are a variety of mushrooms and toadstools and whilst some may only cause vomiting and diarrhoea others can affect behaviour, cause hallucinations and the very toxic ones can result in liver or kidney failure. It can be difficult to distinguish between mushroom and toadstool species but it is really important for us to find out. If your pet ingests a mushroom it is important to carefully bring a sample with you. Please keep an eye out for our next post on mushroom toxicities in more detail. 

Halloween treats and toys: glow sticks and glow in the dark novelty toys are on the shelves at this time of the year. These should be kept safely away from our pets. If chewed they have a bitter taste which can cause them to salivate excessively and on occasion vomit. The experience for them may also be unpleasant or distressing. Washing their mouth out immediately and offering something to eat may be helpful but if vomiting occurs then it is best to visit the vets.

Fireworks and Sparklers: Ingestion of an unused firework can have the potential for toxicity (there are lots of different components) although this is rare and often vomiting and diarrhoea is the biggest risk. A used firework is unlikely to cause any significant signs as the chemical components have been used up during the display. Sparklers if chewed or touched whilst hot will of course cause burns and if ingested will cause gastrointestinal upset too. 

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any doubt or concerns about something your pet has ingested please do not hesitate to call us on 01606 880 890

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