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Darwin’s Journey with Hampton Park Vets

Darwin is your typical Fox Terrier and perhaps a brave choice for a first dog, given the tenacious intelligence of the breed.  But Darwin’s owners have enjoyed the challenges he has given them and the fun that he has brought to their lives, describing him as:


“Very smart and with ‘selective hearing’ at times, but a very loving family pet’


So when, on one of his daily walks, they noticed that his urine was dark, almost red, they were understandably concerned. Of course they contacted us for an appointment straight away where Darwin was examined by vet Maria.  Darwin was seemingly well in every other way, so his owners were sent off with some antibiotics for Darwin and a urine pot, tasked with obtaining a urine sample.  His owner remembers this undertaking saying:


            “It’s quite entertaining if you’ve not done it before.  The neighbours were wondering why we were chasing Darwin round the garden with a plastic pot!”


Fortunately Darwin was “surprisingly cooperative” and we were soon able to test the urine which was remarkably normal except for the evidence of blood.  In the meantime, Darwin’s owners were getting increasingly concerned that there was something sinister going on and were stricken with worry at the thought of losing their beloved pet.  The antibiotics hadn’t cleared the issue so five days later ultrasound imaging was the obvious next step.  Darwin stayed in with us for the day so that Maria could visualise his urinary bladder and the associated structures using ultrasonic waves.  What she saw was a lesion within the bladder which needed further, surgical investigation and a cystotomy was planned.  Cystotomy refers to the surgical opening of the urinary bladder.  It is a process which takes great skill so as not to allow urine to leak and infect the abdomen as this could result in peritonitis.  Fortunately, we have some very skilled surgeons, one of whom is Maria.  So back Darwin came for surgery and at this point his owners in their own words thought:


            “This is it; it’s some kind of awful bladder cancer”


What Maria and the team found were numerous ‘polyps’ or small lumps attached to the walls of the urinary bladder.  She painstakingly removed a dozen of them as well as some bladder stones.  As a skilled surgeon, she sutured (stitched) Darwin back together and sent these structures off to an external lab for expert analysis.  Our working diagnosis for Darwin’s troubles is that these structures developed secondary to an infection, which is reassuring for his owners who have been extremely worried.


The whole process doesn’t seem to have fazed Darwin and he still pulls his owners into the practice as soon as he is out of the car.  His owners put this down to our team…


            “…having looked after him so well, knowing him by name, giving him lots of fuss and treats.”


 We are just delighted that Darwin has recovered well from his ordeal and should live a long and happy life.  His owners agree that he has made a good recovery saying:


            “He looked funny in a baby grow which kept him from removing his own stitches.  He has healed really quickly and is very resilient. After two weeks he had his stitches out and after three weeks he’s running around, right as rain.”


Longer term management of Darwin’s health should be relatively simple. A dietary change is likely to be the only real difference in his routine.  Depending on the laboratories analysis of his stones, we will recommend a diet whose constituents are specifically designed to reduce the chances of the stones reforming.    


To top off Darwin’s smooth recovery, we have recently tested another urine sample from him which confirmed that there was no longer any blood detected in it.  Darwin’s owner described Maria as being “extremely excited to deliver the news” as were they to hear it.  All in all his owners describe the surgery as a “resounding success”.


Obesity in our pets

We are all acutely aware of the negative impact that being overweight can have on our health, but how many of us consider the same implications for our pets? In fact, it is quite typical for the media to misguidedly portray ‘chubby’ pets as healthy ones; just look at the cartoon kitties Garfield and Pusheen. We know that, just as in people, animals that are carrying extra pounds tend to have a shorter lifespan and will be more predisposed to a wide range of health conditions throughout their life, which is why we want to work with you to keep your pet a healthy weight.

Clinical research has shown that obese bunnies are more prone to gut stasis and fly strike. Similarly, fat cats are much more likely to get diabetes in their lifetime while fat dogs often suffer with osteoarthritis and mobility problems in later life. This short list of obesity-related ailments is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more potential implications that are simply beyond the scope of this blog.

Luckily, obesity is something that can be swiftly addressed and once animals reach a normal body weight, their risk of developing weight-related issues plummets.

First off, it is important to be able to identify if our pet is overweight or not, something which may not be as simple as it initially seems. To assist owners, the ‘Body Condition Score’ system has been developed, which allows us to assign a tangible number (ranging from one to nine) to each animal. While our vets and nurses will happily assess your animal with you, you can also do this at home by accessing the chart online. A low number (1-3) indicates an animal that is underweight, while a high number (6-9) tells us that weight loss is needed. Ideally, we are aiming for a 4 or a 5, with these animals usually having a few ribs that are just visible, a discernible waist and a tucked-up tummy. Of course, it can be more difficult to assess those animals with long or thick fur or those that have dense muscling, so we are always happy to help.

Once it has been established that your pet is chunkier than average, the fun can begin!

The first area to address, is their nutrition. A prescription weight loss diet will often give the best results as they have been developed to reduce hunger and increase metabolic rates. Remember to always feed your pet the amount recommended for their ideal weight rather than their current weight. Use a kitchen scales to provide accurate measurements and remember to deduct anything else they have eaten that day from their calorie allowance. While the odd bit of boiled chicken or carrot should not cause any major issues, steer clear of calorific foods such as rawhide chews, cheese, bread etc.

For rabbits, keep in mind that grass and hay should make up around 90% of their diet, with veggies, fruit, herbs and a small portion (around one to two egg cups) of pellets accounting for the rest.

Though it may take several weeks to start noticing the effects of a calorie-controlled diet, the effort will eventually pay off. Attending ‘weight clinics’ with our nurses, where your animal’s weight can be recorded every few weeks, is a super way to determine how the plan is going and to adjust things accordingly. Weight clinics are also a great time to bring in the packets of those foods and treats that you are giving and to discuss any food diaries that you have been keeping. Your animal’s weight will be recorded on our computer system each time you come in, so we should soon start to see their progress.

As well as diet, it is vital to provide enough exercise for your pet. This not only keeps them trim but provides much needed mental stimulation. Cats can be encouraged to move more with laser pointers and wind-up mice. Consider hiding portions of their dry kibble around the home, like a rewarding game of ‘hide and seek’. Dogs benefit from consistent walks, though caution is advised in geriatrics who may find a sudden increase in activity challenging. Discuss any new exercise programmes with our staff who can help point you in the right direction.

With just a few simple lifestyle changes, you can dramatically improve the quality of life of your pet, ensuring that they are around for as long as possible.