Hollybank Veterinary Centre
- We are an RCVS Small Animal Hospital, an ISFM Gold Cat Friendly Practice and a RWAF Rabbit Friendly Practice!
Christmas is an exciting time of year, with lots of new food, gifts and decorations around the house. Many of us are familiar with common toxins but, during the busy festive period, it can be easy to leave them lying around for our curious pets to investigate!
Christmas Comfort Food. Everyone enjoys over-indulging at Christmas but, for our family pets, many treats we enjoy are hazardous to their health. Stick to pet treats and keep the following well out of reach to avoid illness over Christmas!
Chocolate contains a substance called Theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine. If ingested it can cause agitation, excitability, tremors, convulsions and problems with the heart. The concentration varies with the level of cocoa, only a small amount of dark chocolate can be very dangerous. Don’t hang chocolates on the Christmas tree. Put presents containing chocolate high and out of reach, not under the Christmas tree
Grapes, Raisins, Sultanas and Currants are toxic to dogs, causing severe kidney failure. The amount required to cause failure varies from pet to pet, the smallest amount can potentially be fatal. Mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding should be kept well out of reach. Beware of leaving baked goods to cool in places pets can reach
Onions, Leeks, Garlic and Shallots can cause gastro-intestinal upsets including vomiting and diarrhoea. They can also result in damage to red blood cells causing anaemia several days after ingestion. Sage and Onion stuffing or Onion gravy are common culprits
Macadamia Nuts cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness in dogs. Other nuts are less toxic but may cause gastro-intestinal upsets.
Leftovers can potentially contain mould spores which are not visible to the naked eye. Ingestion of mouldy food can cause vomiting, tremors, a high body temperature and convulsions.
Alcohol can cause similar signs as seen in people after a few too many! Pets have a lower tolerance to alcohol, a small amount can make them wobbly and drowsy. In severe cases there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma.
Most plants commonly found around the home at Christmas time are inedible so, if ingested, cause signs of gastrointestinal upset and salivation. Plants to watch out for include:
- Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
- Holly (Ilex species)
- Mistletoe (Viscum album)
- Christmas trees
- Ivy (Hedera species)
- Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera species)
Lilies can quickly cause kidney failure in cats, especially the pollen. If your cat has come into contact with lilies please seek veterinary advice.
Decorations; Tinsel and ribbons are often ingested, particularly by cats, and can cause obstructions. Pot Pourri can cause significant gastro-intestinal upset and abdominal pain for several days
Toys; mall toys may be ingested causing an obstruction. Batteries are often lying around with so many toys, and pose a risk if chewed or swallowed
Wrappings; Wrapping paper or ribbons may be ingested causing an obstruction. Silica gel – sachets found in some gifts e.g. handbags or electronic goods may swell in the stomach if ingested and also cause an obstruction
Anti-freeze often contains Ethylene Glycol, which causes kidney failure. Cats are particularly susceptible, and subtle signs may not be apparent until hours after ingestion. There is an antidote available but must be administered quickly to be effective. Please see the International cat care website for more information on anti-freeze toxicity.
Rock Salt is often used to salt roads and prevent them freezing, getting in paws and on fur easily. Ingestion can cause elevated sodium levels in the blood leading to diarrhoea, vomiting, lethargy and thirst, severe amounts can cause convulsions and comas. Wash paws after walking if they are licking salt off their paws.
If you think your pet has ingested a poison:
- Remove the source of the poison
- Contact our emergency line on 01606 880 890
- Do NOT try to make your pet vomit
- Try to collect a sample of the poison to bring to us
Heart murmurs in dogs can be due to a number of reasons. We can try and characterize the type of murmur by the way it sounds and when it occurs. This, coupled with the age, breed and current health of the dog can then help narrow down the list of likely causes. Ultimately however, we cannot be certain about the exact cause without visualising the heart itself. An ultrasound scan of the heart is the best way to do this as it shows the real time movement and structure of the heart. This includes how the heart contracts and relaxes, the movement and integrity of the heart valves and the direction and pressure of blood moving through it. For some patients, further tests such as x-rays and blood tests can help to get a complete clinical picture.
In between Roxy’s annual booster appointments her heart murmur had become louder in nature. Although Roxy was as lively and happy as ever, it was due to this progression that we decided to investigate further.
Determining the exact reason for a heart murmur before the issue starts to affect the patient can be very beneficial; in some instances there are procedures available to help improve the condition and in others early introduction of medications has been shown to improve survival time. Knowing the exact cause and stage of the problem can then help to guide how often we repeat imaging and if medications haven’t already been started it helps to pinpoint the optimal time.
We booked Roxy for a heart scan with our visiting cardiologist, Hannah Stephenson. Roxy’s scan showed a condition called pulmonic stenosis. This means narrowing of the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery is the big vessel leaving the right hand side of the heart; it takes de-oxygenated blood to the lungs where it is oxygenated and returned back to the heart. Pulmonic stenosis is often a congenital condition meaning it is likely Roxy was born with it. The condition can get worse up to the age of 2 years at which point it tends to stabilise; this explains why Roxy’s murmur had become louder.
The stenosis usually arises due to abnormal development of the pulmonic valve or in some cases due to physical narrowing of the pulmonary artery itself. There are varying degrees of severity and in very mild cases the disease may never affect the individual. However, dogs with severe pulmonic stenosis are likely to develop signs of their disease at some point in their lives. The most common sign is fainting after excitement or exercise but sudden death and ultimately heart failure can occur.
Roxy’s pulmonic stenosis was characterised as ‘borderline severe’. In such cases, a procedure called balloon valvuloplasty is recommended. This involves the placement of a special catheter into the heart. The catheter has the ability to be inflated to create a rounded balloon type swelling. This region of the catheter is positioned in the abnormal valve so that when inflated it acts to burst open the abnormal valve and reverse some of the stenosis. Despite a non-invasive technique it is not without it’s risks and her owner’s had a big decision to make. They elected to go for the surgery.
Roxy had her BVP surgery at Liverpool Small Animal Teaching Hospital (SATH). The surgery was deemed a success and within approximately one week I saw Roxy bouncing back into the surgery as loving and happy as ever. She had a small wound on her neck where the catheter was inserted and only three small stitches to remove. So far so good, but Roxy would be due a repeat heart scan in a few weeks to assess her progress. In some cases re-stenosis can occur and it is important to monitor for this possibility.
Despite some small changes on her heart scan Roxy’s condition is now characterised as ‘mild pulmonic stenosis’ which is brilliant news! This means her risk associated with this condition has markedly decreased. She will still require some tablets to help provide her with the best long term outcome but Roxy takes these absolutely fine.
Her owners report Roxy has even more energy post-operatively and is still doing 3 mile walks every day! We are sure you agree that the lovely Roxy deserves our brave pet post!