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Coronavirus Practice Update

These are unfamiliar and difficult times that we all find ourselves in during the current coronavirus outbreak. Here at Hampton Park, from an early stage we have been monitoring the situation and making changes to ensure the health and safety of both our clients and staff, whilst also continuing to provide essential care to our patients.

Regulations and guidance from the UK Government, WHO (World Health Organisation) and the various veterinary governing bodies (RCVS, BVA & WSAVA) form the basis of the measures we have implemented at the clinic.

New recommendations and rules are being introduced regularly, with increasingly stringent restrictions being imposed. We would like to thank our clients for their patience and understanding whilst these changes have rolled out over the past couple of weeks, and in advance for the weeks and months of disrupted service ahead of us. Just like every facet of our lives, we will adapt and get through this together.

The biggest changes imposed on veterinary clinics nationwide have come in the wake of the Prime Minister’s address on Monday 23rd March and the subsequent commencement of lockdown across the United Kingdom, except for essential services.

The way our clinic is now having to run and provide health care is very alien to most of our clients and as a result we have received a lot of similar queries. In response to this we have tried to lay out answers to the most common questions below. Naturally, guidance is subject to change, so please follow us on social media and check our website for any further updates.

Q. What services are currently being offered?

At present and until further notice we will only be offering non-routine and emergency appointments. These include:

  • Euthanasia
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe bleeding
  • Difficulties urinating
  • Non-weight bearing lameness
  • Severe vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Distended abdomen (particularly in large breed dogs)

Unfortunately, we will not be booking routine appointments such as vaccinations, anal gland expression, weight clinics etc. All routine surgery such as castrations, spays and elective surgical procedures are also being postponed. This is following both government and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) guidelines to stop unnecessary contact/journeys by members of the public. If you are uncertain as to whether your pet’s needs are routine, then call and we will advise you. The rules are not flexible and are there for everyone’s benefit, so please don’t get upset with our staff if they advise you that your request cannot be fulfilled.

Wherever possible and appropriate, we are offering video consults to further reduce unnecessary social contact. If you feel that your pet has a health concern then please contact us by phone. You will be triaged on the phone by a nurse or vet to decide whether your pet needs to be seen at the clinic or have a video consult with a vet arranged. If your phone call is for a routine consult, then you will be advised to call back when restrictions have been lifted.

What if my dog, puppy, cat, kitten, rabbit needs vaccinations?

At present we are unable to offer any vaccinations, except some primary courses for puppies, kittens on a case-by-case basis – call us for advice.

If your pet is annually vaccinated and they are currently due, then there is a 3-month grace period before the vaccinations are technically deemed overdue. During this time your pet is not at any increased risk of disease. Dogs can be walked normally but be aware of the lockdown and social distancing rules.

If your dog or cat is overdue vaccinations by 3 months plus, then their risk for contracting the diseases we vaccinate for increases if they go outside. Modifying your pet’s behaviour in this instance is recommended where possible. For cats that may mean keeping them indoors. For dogs it may mean limiting them to the garden only. If you do not have a garden or these suggestions don’t fit your circumstances, then a short walk close to home to an area not regularly frequented by other dog owners to minimise the risks is suggested.

Puppies and kittens that have never received vaccinations are at the greatest risk, and we recommend not letting them out, in the case of cats, and only into the garden for puppies. Strictly no contact with unvaccinated or unwell animals.

Those owners with unvaccinated rabbits or those with overdue vaccinations should consider keeping them inside. Rabbits can make good indoor pets with the right precautions.

If you need further guidance then contact the clinic to talk with a member of staff.

What if my pet is sick?

We ask that ALL owners contact the clinic by telephone prior to attending the clinic. Our staff will discuss the case over the phone and triage whether an emergency appointment at the clinic is needed, or whether a telephone or video consult with one of the vets would be more appropriate.

A video consult will typically last the same period as a regular in-clinic consult. The vet will take a full history and may ask for images of the pet to be shared. In some instances, the vet may ask you to check certain clinical parameters, such as a breathing rate. If you are uncomfortable with any request please advise the vet you are speaking to. Under new rulings medications can be prescribed where appropriate following a video/telephone consultation, meaning that your pet can still access treatment if needed.

However, non-urgent medications cannot be provided at present.

What to expect/do if asked to visit the clinic for an appointment?

In light of government advice, we have made some changes to how we are running in clinic consults:

  • Only 1 owner per pet. Please leave children at home.
  • When you arrive please wait in the car and call reception. We request that you wait outside the practice or in the car until we are ready to see you.
  • We may opt to examine your pet without you present. Be prepared to hand over your pet at the car or reception if requested and for the history/plan to be relayed over the phone.
  • We are currently only accepting card payments over the phone rather than cash or chip and pin, to protect you and our staff.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available in the clinic. Please use it, especially if directed by a member of staff.
  • If you do come into the clinic please maintain social distancing rules where possible.
  • If you are unwell, self-isolating or have been in contact with someone who is, then see the advice below and inform a member of staff prior to the coming to the clinic.

What should I do if I am self-isolating or at risk of COVID-19 coronavirus?

Are you …

  • At an increased risk of COVID-19 due to your age or underlying health issues?
  • Self-isolating?
  • COVID-19 positive?

Please advise a member of staff during the initial phone call if you are in any of these 3 categories. You will initially have a video/telephone consult with a vet to decide on the best course of action. We will make every effort to avoid an in-clinic consult, but if it seems unavoidable we will discuss what additional precautions/steps will be needed.

If you are COVID-19 positive or self-isolating then you should not be leaving the house under any circumstances. You will need someone who is not in any of the 3 categories above to bring your pet in your absence.

Can my pet catch/spread COVID-19?

There are multiple strains of coronavirus that can cause illness in dogs and cats (including canine respiratory coronavirus which causes kennel cough, feline enteric coronavirus which causes diarrhoea). However, these are different to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

There is currently no evidence that pets can become unwell with COVID-19, or spread the disease to other pets or humans.

There are reports of two dogs in Hong Kong owned by owners infected with COVID-19 who have tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus. Neither dog showed any clinical signs and there is no evidence to suggest that they were the source of infection to their owners. Sadly, one of the dogs has since died. However, the dog was 17 years old, and the cause of death is not proven to be related to the COVID-19 coronavirus. There are also early reports of an infected cat in continental Europe; however, infection has not yet been confirmed.

The virus COVID-19 is known to be able to persist in the environment and this potentially could include the fur of animals. So, there is a potential risk for people contracting coronavirus after touching the coat of a pet owned by a COVID-19 positive patient. The solution is hand washing after touching any animal and avoid touching your face.

We would like to thank all our clients for their support at this difficult time; remember, we are only a phone call away if you need us.

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All About Vaccinations

Vaccinations are a vital component of preventative healthcare for our pets, as they are for ourselves. Vaccinations work by encouraging the immune system to produce antibodies and immune cells against a disease which help fight off infection. Without vaccination, our pets are vulnerable to infection with serious and often life-threatening illnesses. This is becoming even more important in recent times due to a proportion of pet owners choosing not to vaccinate their pets, which is having a detrimental effect on the herd immunity of the pet population.

What is Herd Immunity?

If a sufficient proportion of individuals within a population are immune to a disease, the spread of the disease is reduced and the non-immune members of the population are protected from infection. This is the principle of herd immunity. Widespread vaccination enables us to achieve this by creating a high proportion of immune individuals within the pet population.

The same concept applies to human preventative medicine, and insufficient uptake of vaccinations in children has resulted in breakdowns of this herd immunity in humans. This has been well-publicised recently due to an increase in the number of cases of measles in the UK.

It is important for us as pet owners to keep our pets up to date with their vaccinations in order to avoid a similar situation with outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases affecting our cats and dogs. One way in which we are helping our clients to do this is through a vaccination amnesty.

What is a Vaccination Amnesty?

Pets which are overdue for their annual booster vaccination may need to start from scratch with their vaccination program, meaning that they require a course of two vaccinations, rather than just the usual single booster.

For March only, we are offering a vaccination amnesty which makes it more affordable to get back on track, by offering this course of two vaccinations at a reduced cost*, if your pet’s vaccinations have lapsed.

If your pet is only overdue their booster by a short time, this may not be necessary – we can help check this with you when you book your appointment.

*Amnesty cost: £30 for the course of two injections (Usual cost: £63.30 for dogs; £71.95 for cats)

Vaccinations for cats

The core vaccinations we recommend for all pet cats are:

  • Feline Herpes Virus (FHV)
  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV)

These are the viruses responsible for causing ‘cat flu’ and infectious enteritis, and are widespread in the UK cat population.

We also advise that cats are vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) which can cause cancer in cats. This is especially important for cats that have access to the outdoors and cats that are able to mix with other cats, as this virus is mostly transmitted by cats sharing food or water bowls, sharing litter trays, mutual grooming or fighting.

In addition to these vaccinations, we also offer optional vaccination against:

  • Feline Chlamydia (Chlamydophila felis), a bacterial infection which causes conjunctivitis and respiratory disease, particularly in colonies of cats or breeding groups.
  • Rabies, for cats that require a pet passport and/or are travelling outside of the UK.

Vaccinations for dogs

Our recommended core vaccinations for dogs include:

  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis

These diseases are all life-threatening to our dogs. Widespread vaccination has significantly reduced the number of cases of these diseases that we see in practice, however recent years have seen a reduction in uptake of vaccination by pet owners, which is allowing these diseases to become more prevalent again. All four diseases are frequently fatal, and Leptospirosis can spread and cause disease to humans as well. This means that it is currently even more important to protect your dog using vaccinations. 

We also advise vaccination against ‘Kennel Cough’, an upper respiratory infection which can be caused by several different bacteria and viruses. The vaccination protects against the most common and most severe strains of the disease, meaning that if a vaccinated pet is exposed to the infection, they are likely to experience a much milder illness or no illness at all. This vaccination is especially important for dogs which are regularly exposed to groups of other dogs, such as at kennels, training classes, dog shows or walking groups.

Rabies vaccination is offered for dogs which will be travelling outside of the UK and/or require a Pet Passport.

Call us now to book an appointment for your cat or dog to update their core vaccinations and take advantage of our vaccination amnesty offer available for March only.

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General Care for Puppies and Kittens

New things are always exciting, but is there anything better than bringing home a new puppy or kitten to the family? We don’t think so! But while these little bundles of fluff and cuddles seem so small and simple, there’s actually quite a lot to think about before you introduce them to your home; everything from where to actually get one, how to train them, veterinary care and insurance. It can certainly get complicated! So whether you’re a first time pet-parent, or a long-time owner, read our article below for tips on how to care for your new little friend.

Does the Stork Bring Puppies and Kittens?

Sadly, you can’t keep looking to the skies for a puppy or kitten to arrive, you must go find one yourself! Before you go get a new puppy or kitten however, it is worth doing a little research into what kind of animal you want. Dogs especially vary hugely in their size, temperament, ease of care and more, and you need to think what works best for your lifestyle. For example, if you work long hours a day, you might not be suited to a full-of-beans Labrador, or if you live in an apartment, a cat may not be so happy. We also advise not to just get a dog or cat based on trends, what’s popular, or just because they look cute – unfortunately, many of these animals are quite difficult to care for, despite what Instagram might show…

If you now have an idea of what you want, or aren’t too fussy, you can start thinking where you can get one from? There’s a lot of options out there: private breeders, charities, strays brought into vet practices, or friends who have just had a litter! Again, it is worth doing some research here – animals from organisations like Cats’ Protection will usually be well cared for and have had a health check and all necessary paperwork filled in. Registered breeders (such as those registered with the Kennel Club) too will usually be on top of this. Buying online or from a friend can be risky – there is no guarantee where the puppy or kitten came from, if it is healthy, if all its documents are legal and so on. This can be especially risky when importing a pet from abroad (not to mention more difficult to bring them into the country). We recommend starting with local kennels and catteries first, as the little puppies and kittens there would love to have a new home.

When you go to visit your prospective puppy or kitten (and always visit first – never agree to taking one without first seeing it), there are a few more things to consider: make sure it looks healthy, bright and alert. You should be wary if the animal looks ill or unthrifty. If at a breeder’s, you should also ask to see the mother, and father if possible, and check they look healthy as well. A healthy mum and dad will usually mean a healthy baby.

Preparing for the Newest Member of the Family

So you’ve chosen the most perfect puppy or kitten there is, and they’ll be home soon! What now? Well you should make sure you have everything you need first, and prepare the house. New puppies will need food (you shouldn’t take an animal that is still suckling from their mother) and food bowls, blankets and bedding, a carrier to transport them, a collar, toys and cleaning products. Cats will want the same, as well as scratching posts, a litter tray and litter and possibly somewhere to hide or climb up high.

Around the home, you won’t need to make too many preparations. Remove or cover anything obviously dangerous, but you will find most houses are relatively safe for puppies and kittens. A stairgate may be useful if you plan on keeping them upstairs, and you may also want to cover things you don’t want to be scratched or soiled. It is best to slowly introduce your new pet to the house one room at a time, so pick one to be their first home, and make it extra comfortable for them.

Teaching What’s Right and Wrong

Your little ball of cuteness is finally in their new forever home, and no doubt the whole family is super excited! Your new pet will be excited too, and probably a little nervous. Good first impressions count, so it’s important to make your pet’s first few weeks at home as comfortable as possible. Bad behaviour in later life almost always comes from poor care and training as a puppy or kitten.

As said above, introduce your pet to the house slowly. Stay with them and keep things calm. Try and avoid loud noises that could scare them. Let your pet explore at their own pace; puppies will usually be more inquisitive, while kittens may be more nervous and hide more. You may find that they have a few ‘accidents’ at first. Don’t get angry, and clean them up straight away. Kittens will usually learn to use a litter tray by themselves. Puppies can be a little more tricky – start by taking them outside regularly every 2 hours, and keep meals regular. You will work out when they need to toilet, and can time it to be outside. When they toilet outside, reward them. If they make a mistake indoors, do not punish them for it. Positive reinforcement is much better. If you’re still having trouble with toileting, or indeed any behaviour, pop into see us and ask for some advice.

Vet Visits

Once your new friend has settled in, you should probably start thinking about registering them with us for their future health care (and we hope you choose us!). As soon as you can, it is worth bringing your new puppy or kitten into see one of the vets, so we can check them over. We’ll check to make sure your pet is healthy, and free of any congenital problems. This is also a great chance to discuss training and behaviour. Once they are definitely in tip-top condition, vaccination, flea treatment and worming can be discussed. First impressions count, so we will try and make their first time at the vets as comfortable as possible, making future visits easier.

Vaccines are hugely important for young animals, as many of the nastiest diseases affect them quite severely. In puppies, we vaccinate against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis routinely, and in cats we vaccinate against cat flu and panleukopaenia. A young animal will be protected for the first few weeks of life by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, but after this, they need vaccines to boost their immune system. We usually recommend a first vaccine around 8-10 weeks old. As your kitten or puppy will not be fully protected until after their second booster a few weeks later, you should keep them indoors and away from any unvaccinated animals at this time (which is why it is crucial any other animals in the house are fully vaccinated too!).

Worming treatment should have been started by the breeder (puppies and kittens often contract worms directly from their mother either during pregnancy, or in her milk). Flea treatment should also be considered once your pet is old enough to go outside (so after their second vaccine injection). As with the diseases we vaccinate for, worms and external parasites often affect younger animals worse than older ones, so protection now is really important. There are many different products you can buy to protect your pet from these nasty critters, but some aren’t suitable for the babies, so discuss it with us the next time you visit.

Once your pet is fully vaccinated and treated for external parasites and worms, it is safe to take them outside. For dogs especially, this period of their life is crucial for socialisation, so they become a well-behaved animal – puppy classes, dog walking groups and other events with plenty of new friends to meet are perfect for outgoing little puppies.

You should also make sure your pet is microchipped by this period – in the UK, it is mandatory for all dogs to be microchipped, and we strongly recommend cats are microchipped as well. This way, should your pet ever go missing, we can help them find their way home.

Insurance and Checkups (The Boring Stuff!)

Unfortunately, having a new puppy or kitten is not all excitement and playtime. There are a few other important things you should remember as they get older. The first of these is to have regular check-ups with the vets and nurses. Your pet will still be considered juvenile and growing for the first year or so of their life, and this stage is important to become a healthy adult. By having regular check-ups, we can make sure they are developing properly, anti-parasite products are working effectively, and there are just generally no problems. As above, use this visit as an excuse to discuss any worries you may have, or just generally chat about your perfect little friend!

Finally, it is worth at this point considering insurance for your pet. Veterinary care can be expensive, and having a good insurance scheme can help make sudden costs, due to accident or disease later in life, easier to manage. Many will also offer perks as well, such as cheaper routine care or discounted products. There are many different types, so please discuss with us what might be a good scheme for you and your pet. This is, of course, entirely optional, but it can be a great weight off the shoulders to know that your pet will be able to get the best care possible, should anything unfortunate happen.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to think about when getting a new puppy or kitten, and we hope this article helps to make it a little less overwhelming. Just remember that we will be with you every step of the way, offering advice and care, so that your new kitten or puppy will grow up to be a happy, healthy friend for life.

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Senior Pet Checks

While it seems everyone knows the importance of having puppies and kittens checked over by the vet, not everyone is aware of just how vital it is to bring our elderly pets to the clinic, whether they seem well or not. The annual vaccination is a good time for a full nose to tail check, but older animals should usually be examined more regularly than this; at least every six months. This allows for their weight to be recorded, any concerns you may have noticed to be discussed and for any underlying issue that may be present to be detected quickly.

The Vet Visit

It is in their old age that an animal’s health will generally begin to fail and they will need veterinary assistance more so than ever. Remember, not every ailment is easy to spot and many senior pets will suffer in silence with conditions such as heart disease and arthritis going undetected. In fact, often when an animal slows down or loses weight many will wrongly assume it is all part of the normal aging process, which is rarely the case.

During the visit, the vet can check for any issues such as matted fur or overgrown claws; common ailments in the elderly patient that can be quickly and easily dealt with. The vet may also discuss changing on to a senior pet diet, which may be more appropriate for some.

A thorough veterinary examination will also identify those issues that are tricky to pick up on at home, such as a rotten tooth or abnormal lump, and the best plan of action going forward can then be agreed. While some worry that treatment may not be an option for their senior citizen because of their age, this is rarely the case. Most older pets can have diagnostic tests and surgeries performed and can undergo sedation or anaesthetic; age alone should never be a barrier to treatment.

Diagnostic Tests

It is generally a good idea to perform some basic tests every year or so when an animal is in their golden years, as not every illness can be easily detected from the outside. This can mean a general blood and urine analysis as well as perhaps a blood pressure screen. These simple tests can be performed during a routine consult and results are usually available within a day or two. Performing these checks gives us the opportunity to pick up on illnesses when they are in the early stages, allowing us to start medication or initiate lifestyle changes that can have the potential to improve a patient’s prognosis dramatically.

Below are some examples of issues we frequently diagnose during a senior pet check:

Kidney Disease

In our feline friends, one of the most common diseases we see as they age is chronic kidney disease. Those cats with kidney disease will suddenly become very thirsty and may urinate a lot more than they used to. They may seem ‘scrawnier’ than before, due to a reduced muscle mass, and will usually have a poor appetite. Kidney disease is easy to diagnose in both a blood and urine sample and it is important to run these tests as there are other illnesses, such as cancer, which can mimic kidney disease. While there is no cure, we can slow down the progression of the illness. We should offer those affected more water and change them on to a more suitable diet. Some may need medicine to control their blood pressure, while others will require treatment to reduce the protein they lose through their urine. When managed well, cats can live happily for several years with chronic kidney disease.

Arthritis

A very common diagnosis in older dogs is arthritis, especially in larger breeds and in those with pre-existing issues such as hip dysplasia. As the condition progresses slowly, it is not always obvious to an owner that there is something wrong. Many dogs will benefit from daily medication to improve their mobility and reduce their pain, and the difference we see in some animals can be really quite amazing. In cats, the condition is also common, but is hugely underdiagnosed. If your cat is struggling to climb or jump, it may well be arthritis making it painful to do so.

Growths

Lumps and bumps are common in the older animal and, while most will be benign growths such as fatty lumps (lipomas), there is always the chance that a new lump is cancerous. Lumps that grow quickly, are firmly attached to the muscle below, change or bleed are more likely to be cancerous, but the only way to know for sure what a new growth is, is to take a sample of it for analysis. Those that do turn out to be cancerous can be removed and the earlier that this is done the better.

Frequent visits to the veterinary clinic can ensure that our pets have the opportunity to age gracefully and that any illness they may develop can be detected early. So, don’t delay, book your senior citizen in today!