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Have you got a plan for your pet’s health?

If you’re trying to be a responsible pet owner, there always seems to something to do! Worming, flea treatment, annual vaccinations… the list can seem endless. And, of course, keeping your pet in good health isn’t always cheap - the most effective preventative medicines are often the more expensive ones. Yes it’s worth it for your pet’s continued good health, but is there an easier, more convenient, or (even!) cheaper option?

 

What is preventative health?

We use the term “preventative health” to describe all those things we do or give to a pet to reduce the chances of them developing diseases. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure - and it really is, plus it’s cheaper. Here at Hampton Park Vets, “preventative health” includes the following:

     Flea and tick treatment

     Prevention of roundworm, tapeworm and (for dogs) lungworm.

     Vaccination for dogs against Parvovirus, Distemper (Hardpad), Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, and Kennel Cough.

     Vaccination for cats against Cat Flu and Panleukopenia (Feline Infectious Enteritis).

     Neutering (to prevent prostate disease and testicular cancer in the boys, and breast cancer and pyometra in the girls).

 

Of course, there are other important elements of preventative health as well. For example, providing a balanced and nutritious diet, and regular checkups to make sure there aren’t any problems starting.

 

The trouble is that the cost can build up over a while...

 

Have you considered our Pet Health Club?

The Pet Health Club is a way of spreading the cost of preventative health treatments over the year. This means that instead of having to pay for things as they’re due, you have a regular, set, monthly payment that covers all the essential elements - vaccinations, flea, tick and worm parasite treatments, nail trims, and 6-monthly health check-ups. We’ll even send you convenient reminders of when to administer preventative treatments!

But that’s not all - the Club also offers you discounted neutering for puppies and kittens, and 10% off all pet food bought through the practice!

 

I have pet insurance - do I need it?

Yes - pet insurance doesn’t cover routine, preventative treatments. It’s there for accident or illness, but not for the regular things like worm or flea treatments, or vaccines. That said, many insurance policies are in fact void and will not pay out if you haven’t kept your pet’s vaccinations, flea and worm treatment up to date! So missing out these treatments and relying on pet insurance if your furry friend does develop an infectious or parasitic disease might backfire...

 

How much will it cost?

The prices are worked out based on your pet’s age and weight (their adult weight, for the puppy and kitten plans). So, there’s a Puppy or Kitten plan, an Adult Dog or Cat plan, and a Senior Dog or Cat Plan. On average, though, dog owners will save almost £114, and cat owners just under £67, every year.

You can see the full price breakdown here.

 

How do I join?

It’s really easy! Pop into any of our surgeries (Salisbury, Downton, or Ringwood) and talk to our friendly reception team. You’ll need to bring with you your bank details, but it’s just one form to be filled out, and then you’re all set!

 

Bottom line - is it worth it?

Prevention of disease is the way forward - although many infectious and parasitic diseases can now be treated, there are always some animals which don’t respond. It’s also a lot more expensive, and much, much more worrying and stressful for you and your pet. The preventative medications our vets recommend will be tailored for your pet, their life-stage and lifestyle, and will minimise the chances of illness.

You also save money compared to doing everything “a la carte” - so what’s not to like?!

 

Keeping your pet healthy is a huge responsibility - but the Pet Health Club can help make it more convenient and cheaper. It’s the savvy thing to do if you care for your pet and your wallet!

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Should We Insure Our Pets?

If your much-loved pet was to become suddenly ill or to have an accident and require urgent veterinary care would you be prepared for these unexpected veterinary fees? During this upsetting and stressful time, the last thing you want to be worrying about is how you are going to be able to pay the bill. Did you know that you can take out pet insurance for your pet to help cover veterinary fees in these situations? 

 

 

What is Pet Insurance?

 

Pet insurance is something that you can take out for your pet to provide cover for veterinary costs when your pet is unwell. There are many insurance companies that offer pet insurance and each policy offered will be different. They vary on the total amount of veterinary fees covered, whether behaviour consultations are included or even if hereditary conditions (conditions that your pet may have been born with) are covered, along with many more options. We would advise comparing different insurance plans carefully and making sure you are happy with the cover they will be providing for your pet. 

 

There are two main types of pet insurance; 12 months cover and lifelong cover. A 12 month cover policy will pay out for veterinary fees for 12 months and then after the 12 months (or when the veterinary fees limit is reached) that condition will be excluded for the rest of your pet’s life. This means that you will have to pay for any further veterinary fees for that particular condition. A policy offering lifelong cover will renew your veterinary fees limit every year and will continue to pay out for a condition or recurrent illness each year for the rest of the life of your pet. You must continue with your policy for this to happen and you will need to pay your excess every 12 months for any ongoing claims. 

 

Once you have taken out an insurance plan there will usually be a short waiting period before you can start claiming. This means that a policy needs to be taken out before your pet becomes unwell, although usually any accidents will be covered during this time. It is also worth bearing in mind that insurance companies will often exclude any of your pet’s previous injuries and illnesses, meaning that these conditions will not be covered by the insurance policy. 

 

Who can I insure? 

 

When thinking about pet insurance you are probably aware of insurance policies for dogs and cats, after all there are adverts on television that show these policies are available, but did you know that you can also take out insurance on your other pets too?

 

There are increasing numbers of insurance policies available for rabbits. Rabbits may seem like low maintenance, easy to keep pets but they are prone to certain illnesses which can require intensive veterinary treatment to treat. Over recent years the diagnostic and treatment options available for rabbits has improved greatly, which is good news for our rabbits but it does mean that there are additional veterinary costs involved. This is where insurance policies can be invaluable, as it gives you peace of mind that if your rabbit does become ill then you are able to proceed with investigations and give your rabbit the best chance of recovery. 

 

Alongside rabbits, there are also a small number of insurance policies available for rodents, exotics and birds. These pets often require referral to specialist exotic vets for treatment and the cost of this can quickly add up. 

 

What are the benefits of pet insurance?

 

If your pet was to have an unexpected accident, such as a broken leg, then pet insurance can be invaluable. Sometimes emergency veterinary treatment will be needed which can be lifesaving, though often an unexpected expense. For injuries such as a broken leg, treatment often means repeat x-rays, surgery (sometimes at an orthopaedic specialist) and follow up care. The costs of these treatments can add up and are unexpected and hard to plan for. Having pet insurance in place can give peace of mind that if an unexpected veterinary cost arose, you have appropriate cover, allowing you to concentrate on your pet’s recovery. 

 

Pet insurance can also be invaluable for long term illnesses that require repeat veterinary visits, repeat tests and long term or even lifelong medication. For example, a dog that has been diagnosed with diabetes will require lifelong insulin medication. They will also need regular blood and urine tests to check for stabilisation. These dogs are also prone to certain illnesses so may require more comprehensive tests and additional treatments from time to time. Again, a considerable cost will build up over a period of time with veterinary fees continuing monthly for the life of your pet. Unfortunately, the owners of some diabetic animals are unable to afford continued veterinary treatment, resulting in euthanasia of their pet. Pet insurance may be one way to avoid this situation as some pet insurance plans will give continued cover for life long conditions. 

 

The range of veterinary treatments available is growing and this often means a referral to a specialist for access to the latest developments in treatment. This can be an additional expense, and often your pet insurance will cover this referral. This means the most up to date diagnostic tests and treatments can be used to enable the best possible outcome and care for your pet, without the financial worry that comes with it. 

 

Why we recommend pet insurance

 

We care for every one of our patients as if they were our own and want to give every animal the best possible care and treatment available. While improved diagnostic tests and treatments are great for your pet and make a successful outcome more likely, unfortunately, this does come with increased costs. We want to be able to give the most up to date treatment for your pet and find that this is more likely to happen for insured pets. 

 

We understand that with the number of pet insurance policies available that it can be very daunting to find the ideal policy. If you have any questions then a member of our team would be happy to talk to you about different types of policy. 

 

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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”.

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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.

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Why is dental health so important?

Dental health is incredibly important because most pets only have one set of adult teeth! Dental health can affect the health of the rest of the body and vital organ function which is why it is key to maintain good oral health. Dental screening and regular checking of the mouth can highlight changes in bodily health.