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Cats

Behaviour

Cat with open mouth and claws extended

Aggressive cats

Living with a cat that loves nothing better than to ambush your legs, or attack you when you try to stroke it can be very unpleasant and often extremely painful! Treatment of aggressive behaviour can be very successful; however, it does require understanding of why the cat is motivated to show aggression.

Read Aggressive cats
Owner holding up treat for cat

Basic training for cats

Thousands of cats end up parting company with their owners every year, often due to behaviours that the owners consider problematic: such as scratching the furniture, jumping into places that owners would prefer them not to (e.g. the baby's cot) and scratching and/or biting their owners. Basic training with your cat may help prevent such problems and improve your relationship with your cat. For a long time, many people thought it was not possible to train cats, but in fact they can learn in the same manner as dogs.

Read Basic training for cats
Kitten sitting in grass

Cat behaviour

Cats are very special creatures and, despite the best efforts of humans, are not that far removed from their wild ancestors. They have a large range of behaviour patterns and a secret language of their own. So whilst we bring them into our homes and try to tame them they do tend to continue to know their own mind and 'do their own thing'! Understanding why they behave the way they do can help you develop strategies to persuade your cat to do things the way you want.

Read Cat behaviour
Kitchen scratching at sofa

Destructive cats

Does your cat scratch at the furniture, chew your belongings, dig up your plant pots or steal food? If the answer is yes, your beloved pet might be trying to get your attention, creating its own fun, or expressing anxiety. As there are many reasons for destructive behaviours, you must first understand why your cat is being destructive if you are to stop it.

Read Destructive cats

Firework fear

Although it appears to be rare in cats as compared to dogs, it is thought that they can often be afraid of fireworks. It is not surprising that animals are scared of fireworks since they are very loud (up to 150 decibels). Sounds this loud can be physically painful as well as inducing fear. Fear behaviour in cats is often more subtle (e.g. retreating and hiding) and may go unnoticed. However, hiding is an adaptive response for cats and allowing them to hide when they are stressed can make them feel better.

Read Firework fear
Scared cat hiding behind furniture

Noise phobias

If your cat is afraid of loud or sudden noises life can be miserable for both of you. Thunderstorms can become a major trauma and unless you live in a remote part of the country there is almost no way of avoiding fireworks. These loud sounds can turn your pet into a nervous wreck. There are some simple tips to make the whole experience more bearable for you both, but to find a solution to the problem you will need to seek some expert help.

Read Noise phobias

Scratching in the house

Claw scratching is a normal feline behaviour. However, the occurrence of this behaviour indoors can be very unpleasant for the owner as it can cause expensive damage. Scratching indoors may indicate that the cat does not feel completely secure in its surroundings. In order to stop this destructive behaviour the owner must first understand why their cat is scratching in the house.

Read Scratching in the house
Cat marking territory in garden

Spraying: urine marking in the house

Cats are usually meticulous in their toileting habits and seldom soil or mark indoors. It is not surprising that when your cat does do this you may be upset and unsure about what to do. Understanding why cats can sometimes soil in the house may help to tackle the problem. In most cases this occurs because the cat is anxious or unsettled.

Read Spraying: urine marking in the house
Stressed cat with arched back and raised fur

Stress in cats

A number of factors can cause cats stress. Such factors include moving house, a new member of the family (a new baby or a new animal joining the household) or something of shorter duration such as a visit to the vets. It is important to be able to recognise both potential stressors (things that cause stress) and the symptoms of stress in order to help prevent and alleviate it and keep cats happy.

Read Stress in cats

Bladder and kidney problems

British blue cat

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (AD-PKD)

AD-PKD is an inherited condition (passed from parents to their kittens) that can cause progressive kidney failure in cats. The disease has become particularly common in Persian and Exotic Shorthaired cats. In the future it may be possible to eliminate this potentially fatal disease by careful breeding from unaffected individuals. To assist in this International Cat Care has set up a register of AD-PKD negative cats from these breeds in the UK.

Read Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (AD-PKD)
Cat using litter tray

Cystitis (bladder inflammation)

As anyone who has ever suffered with cystitis (a sore bladder) will know, it is a very unpleasant condition. Although not usually life-threatening, cystitis can be very distressing for your cat. It is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible since most cases can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotic tablets.

Read Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
Cat drinking tap water

Drinking: increased water intake in cats

Drinking more is a common medical problem in cats, particularly older cats. This factsheet discusses how to tell if your cat is really drinking excessively, the causes - common and rare - and how the issue may be managed. The medical term for an increased thirst is polydipsia and for an increase in the volume of urine being produced it is polyuria. Vets often refer to the joint syndrome as PU/PD.

Read Drinking: increased water intake in cats

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a catch-all term used by vets to describe a number of conditions which cause cats pain and discomfort when trying to pass urine. These include different types of bladder stones, blockages in the tubes running from the bladder to the outside and inflammation of the bladder itself (cystitis). About three in every 100 cats will be affected at some stage in their lives and some can suffer recurrent problems. In extreme cases your cat may be unable to empty its bladder and may die without emergency treatment.

Read Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
Old cat

Kidney disease in your cat

Kidney failure is a common health problem in middle-aged and elderly cats. A gradual reduction in the ability of the kidneys to do their job is an inevitable part of the ageing process and occurs at varying rates in different animals. The damage is irreversible and will eventually be fatal. Your cat may still have many months of good quality life after diagnosis of kidney disease if it receives effective treatment and if you co-operate with your vet.

Read Kidney disease in your cat
Urine sample

Urine samples: how to collect

Tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill, which means your vet may ask you to bring in a urine sample (water sample) from your pet to help find out what's wrong with your cat. Urine samples are usually taken to check for diseases such as diabetes or cystitis. Urine samples are also often used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms; this allows your pet to be treated earlier and more effectively.

Read Urine samples: how to collect

Blood diseases

Green-eyed cat

Anaemia

Anaemia means a shortage of red blood cells in the circulation. Anaemia is not a disease but it is a sign that there may be something seriously wrong in the body. There are many different causes of anaemia in cats and in most cases your vet will need to perform a variety of tests to work out what is wrong. Severe anaemia can be life-threatening and requires urgent treatment.

Read Anaemia
Exotic cat

Feline Infectious Anaemia (FIA)

Feline infectious anaemia, also known as FIA, is an anaemia in cats that is caused by a parasite that lives in the blood. If your cat is unwell and pale, it may be that it is anaemic, but there are many different causes of anaemia in cats and FIA is just one of these. Early recognition and treatment of FIA is important to maximise the chances of full recovery.

Read Feline Infectious Anaemia (FIA)

Cancer

Close up of cat's face

Brain tumour or cancer

Brain tumours in cats are unfortunately as common as they are in people. Brain tumours can be devastating diseases and sadly cannot be cured in most animals. At present the only options for treatment are to improve the animal's quality of life and help them to live for as long as possible. Unfortunately all brain tumours are eventually fatal diseases.

Read Brain tumour or cancer
Woman cuddling cat

Cancer in your cat - possible options

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The speed with which a cancer spreads and the severity of the disease it causes depends on the type of tissue cell affected. As many as one in five cats are likely to develop one of the many different forms of cancer at some stage of their lives. The risk of developing cancer increases with age. This means that, as cats now enjoy a longer life expectancy through improved veterinary care, the number of animals with cancer has been increasing in recent years.

Read Cancer in your cat - possible options
Syringes

Chemotherapy for your cat

Although it can be frightening to learn that your pet has cancer there have been big advances in the treatment of cancer in animals. Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. If your cat is diagnosed with cancer it is possible that you will be offered some form of chemotherapy (perhaps alongside surgery or radiation therapy).

Read Chemotherapy for your cat
Hazardous substance symbols

Chemotherapy: safe handling

Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. In many people's mind the term 'chemotherapy' conjures up frightening images of people suffering with cancer (and the effects of treatment) - however chemotherapy in pets is usually very different.

Read Chemotherapy: safe handling
Vet ready to inject cat

Feline injection site sarcoma

Feline 'Injection Site Sarcoma' or 'Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma' is a rapidly progressive and aggressive cancer affecting cats. The true cause of the disease is not yet understood but it is definitely associated with the administration of long-acting injections like vaccinations. Vaccine technology has advanced since the condition was first reported in October 1991 and effective vaccinations now exist that have not yet been associated with this condition. Rapid appropriate action is required to give patients with this condition the best chance of a lengthy remission or cure.

Read Feline injection site sarcoma
Vet holding cat

Feline lymphoma

A diagnosis of cancer is always frightening. One of the most common forms of this disease in cats is lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymph nodes and can arise almost anywhere in the body. However modern treatment protocols can be highly effective in providing some control of the disease and it is possible for affected cats to have several years of normal life following treatment.

Read Feline lymphoma
Looking inside the mouth of a cat with squamous cell carcinoma

Feline oral squamous cell carcinoma

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is a nasty disease in cats. Frequently, these cancers are not identified until the lesion has progressed significantly with associated oral pain and halitosis due to bacterial infection.

Read Feline oral squamous cell carcinoma
A Siamese cat with lump on neck

Lumps and bumps

Finding a lump on your pet can be a worrying experience. Although most lumps are harmless it is impossible to tell what a lump is simply by looking at it. If your pet has a swelling that lasts for more than a few days always ask your vet to check it for you.

Read Lumps and bumps
Intravenous therapy

Lymphoma chemotherapy

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph cells and can arise almost anywhere in the body. Lymphoma is one of the most commonly treated forms of the disease. Modern treatment protocols can be highly effective in controlling lymphoma and affected cats can have several years of normal life with appropriate treatment.

Read Lymphoma chemotherapy
Giving a cat an injection

Radio-iodine treatment for thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer (hyperthyroidism or over-active thyroid gland) is quite common in middle-aged cats. If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid gland there may well be an effective treatment for your pet. The disease can often be successfully treated by surgery but a form of radiotherapy (radio-iodine treatment) is another option and this has fewer complications and a higher success rate than surgery or other forms of treatment.

Read Radio-iodine treatment for thyroid cancer
Radiotherapy machine

Radiotherapy for your cat

Pets today are healthier and, in general, living longer than ever before. However the increasing numbers of ageing pets mean that they are at increasing risk of developing cancer later in life. Radiotherapy aims to give a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells (doing maximum damage) whilst minimising the dose to the rest of the body.

Read Radiotherapy for your cat

Caring for your cat

Amputee cat

Amputee cat care

There are a number of reasons which may necessitate the removal of an animal's leg. The two most common of these are severe trauma, for example after a road traffic accident, or as management of a leg cancer. As a general rule, cats cope far better with amputation than people imagine they will. Humans of course only have two legs, so losing one leg means a reduction to only one. Cats have four legs so losing one still leaves them with three.

Read Amputee cat care
Abscess on cat's jaw

Cat bite abscesses

If you notice small lumps or swellings when stroking or brushing your cat do not be unduly alarmed. There are many possible causes: growths, cancers, infections, allergic reactions to flea bites or foreign bodies such as thorns or airgun pellets. Occasionally your cat may pick up ticks that swell up as they feed on cat's blood and can easily be mistaken for a skin lump. However, the most likely cause of a lump in your cat is an abscess.

Read Cat bite abscesses
Cat using cat flap

Cat flaps

Fed up with playing doorman to your cat, without a tip? A cat flap could be the solution, allowing your cat free or restricted access to the outside world.

Read Cat flaps
Acupuncture needles

Complementary therapies

Some forms of alternative or complementary medicine such as osteopathy and physiotherapy are widely used in veterinary medicine alongside conventional treatment. However, owners of dogs and other small animals are increasingly looking at other alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy to help with a wide variety of common complaints.

Read Complementary therapies
Cat licking while eating

Feeding your cat

The modern domestic 'moggie' is descended from wild cats that hunted for their living in the desert regions of North Africa and the Middle East. Although most pet cats are now fed entirely on tinned or packaged food, their nutritional requirements are exactly the same as their ancestors' centuries ago. So to stay healthy, a domestic cat must receive a balanced diet containing all the nutrients that would be found in the natural diet of a hunting cat.

Read Feeding your cat
Kitten licking while eating

Feeding your kitten

The adage 'You are what you eat' applies to cats as well as people - however more is not necessarily better. Over-feeding and over-supplementation with unnecessary nutrients and minerals can have serious consequences. If you are getting your first kitten make sure you ask your vet for advice on feeding them.

Read Feeding your kitten
Flea

Flea control

Fleas are the most common parasite in household pets and every cat is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. Fortunately, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your home. Your veterinary practice can give you advice on which flea control products to use, and how.

Read Flea control
Itchy cat

Fleas - an itchy business

Fleas are the most common parasite in cats and every cat is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. However, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your household. Your veterinary practice can give you advice on how to use these products effectively, so you can stop these nasty little insects making a meal of your cat and you!

Read Fleas - an itchy business
Cat retching

Furballs in cats

Most cat owners will have seen their cat produce a furball at some time. Although this can appear rather distressing it is a normal event for a significant number of cats so it's nothing to get unduly concerned about.

Read Furballs in cats
Empty medication packaging

Giving medicines to your cat

For most veterinary treatments it is important that medicines are given correctly. In the hospital, trained staff give medicines and it is important to ensure that you are able to continue to give the medicines once your cat has been sent home. If you have any doubts about how to give the medicine your pet has been prescribed, ask your vet or a nurse to show you.

Read Giving medicines to your cat
Cat looking at goldfish bowl

Indoor cats

Cats are increasingly being kept indoors, for many reasons. Owners may want to protect their cats from road traffic accidents, from sustaining injuries from fights with neighbouring cats, and theft. Alternatively, some owners may wish to prevent their cats preying on local wildlife. Despite increasing the average life expectancy of cats, can an indoor life lead to ill health and mental suffering?

Read Indoor cats
Syringe and vaccine

Injecting your cat

Administration of medicine by injection is often referred to as giving drugs by the parenteral route. The other main means of administering treatment is via the mouth and digestive system - the oral route. Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments and many medications are most effective when given by injection. Administration of medicine by injection is also essential for some drugs that are destroyed by acids in the stomach, e.g. insulin.

Read Injecting your cat
Baby with a cat

Introducing your new baby to your cat

Bringing a new born baby into the home can be a stressful and exciting time for parents. Spare a thought for your cat for whom it will seem that their whole life has been turned upside down. Not only will your cat be exposed to the baby's crying and smells, but it will also have to tolerate physical changes to its environment, i.e. new baby equipment and furniture. Inevitably, once the baby is born, you will not have the same time to give to your cat.

Read Introducing your new baby to your cat
Kitten

Kitten care

Cats are now our most popular domestic pet. Some people acquire a cat almost by accident but if you make a conscious decision to get one you should think carefully about what sort of cat you want - short or long haired, pedigree or ordinary 'moggie', etc. Although obtaining a kitten may be a particularly attractive proposition because of its playful and endearing personality, taking on a young cat also involves extra responsibilities.

Read Kitten care
Checking cat for a microchip

Microchipping your cat

Stray cats and dogs are a big problem in many countries. In the UK alone it is estimated that more than £250 million a year is spent by local authorities, police forces and animal welfare charities rounding up and looking after stray dogs and cats. It is much harder to calculate the emotional cost to both the owner and animal when a pet is lost. Microchips are a quick and efficient way to reunite owners with their lost pets, even across international frontiers.

Read Microchipping your cat
Two adult cats snuggling

Multi-cat households

The number of cats in the U.K. is currently on the increase and so is the number of cats per household. Cats had previously been thought to be solitary animals but, more recently, it has become accepted that some cats can live happily with others. Whether cats will share a household depends on the temperament of the cat, its previous experience with other cats, the household and surrounding environment and the number of resources available to the cats.

Read Multi-cat households
Cat nursing kitten

Neutering your cat

It is a sad truth that the number of kittens born every year is far greater than the number of good homes that can be found for them. As a result, thousands of healthy animals are destroyed and many unwanted cats are left to fend for themselves. Having your cat neutered will not only help to reduce these numbers, it is also one of the simplest, safest and most practical ways of safeguarding your cat's health and welfare.

Read Neutering your cat
Obese cat

Obesity

Cats are generally able to regulate the amount of food they eat but there is a trend for modern cats, like modern humans, to eat better food and take less exercise than their predecessors. Just as in people there is a risk that your cat may become overweight. Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat in the body - it does not just mean being overweight.

Read Obesity
Surgeon's gloved hands

Operations: caring for your cat before and after surgery

Most pets will have an operation at some stage in their life, e.g. for neutering (speying or castration) or to treat a disease. Nowadays most operations in cats are fairly safe but the success of treatment and recovery depends to some extent on the quality of care that the owner gives before and after the operation.

Read Operations: caring for your cat before and after surgery
Kitten with a bandaged leg

Pet insurance for your cat

In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of cats that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet's bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment could be thousands of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their cat becomes sick or has a major accident.

Read Pet insurance for your cat
Healthy cat

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your pet happy in order to maintain its health. Most owners know their pet very well and can quickly spot if it is feeling under the weather.

Read Routine health care
Tabby cat

Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

Some of our beloved pets are living longer and longer lives. This is due in large part to the amazing care we provide for them. As our time with them grows, so does our bond and devotion. As they approach the end of life, it can be a very challenging time filled with questions and concerns. When it becomes clear your pet's life is drawing to a close, you may face a painful and difficult decision about whether your pet should be euthanased due to unmanageable illness or advanced age changes. This factsheet is designed to help you understand euthanasia options and provide guidance to everyone caring for the pet. 

Read Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

Senior cat care

A kitten is endearing to everyone but kittens grow up all too fast. By a year of age cats of all breeds will be mature. Although individual cats age at different rates, most 10 year old cats can be considered to be in old age.

Read Senior cat care
Dog tick

Tick control

Custom intro

Read Tick control
Cat tick remover

Tick removal

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can affect your cat, especially if it goes out in the countryside or grassy areas during the Spring and Autumn months.

Read Tick removal
Pregnant woman holding a cat

Toxoplasmosis and risks to pregnant women

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease which can affect cats and all other warm blooded animals, including humans. In both cats and humans its effects are usually mild and the parasite is easily kept under control by the body's natural defences. However there are exceptions:

  • In pregnant women, the parasite may cause severe damage to the unborn baby.
  • In humans with a weakened immune system, the disease can sometimes be fatal.
Read Toxoplasmosis and risks to pregnant women
Vet ready to inject cat

Vaccinating your cat

There are a number of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases which can affect your cat. There is no treatment for many of these diseases and young kittens who catch them often die. However, for many of these conditions there is a simple protection in the form of vaccination. Ensuring that your cat completes an initial course of vaccinations and then receives regular booster jabs is important if you want to keep your cat fit and healthy.

Read Vaccinating your cat
Syringe and vaccine

Vaccination protocols and safety

For a long time all new kittens and puppies were given a standard vaccination, which protected them from a number of infectious diseases. Recently a number of new vaccines have been developed and pet owners and veterinarians have begun to question the value of routine annual vaccination for adult pets.

This has led to development of the concept of tailored vaccination protocols. If your pet is not likely to be exposed to a disease there is little point in vaccinating them against it. Your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate choice of vaccine for your pet weighing up the benefits of protection against any risk associated with the vaccine.

Read Vaccination protocols and safety
The life cycle of a cat worm

Worm control

All pets will be affected by worms at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worm control
An adult tapeworm in a petri dish

Worms - a wriggly problem

It can be alarming to discover that your cat has worms but it should not come as a surprise. All pets are affected at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Except in rare cases, worms are unlikely to cause serious harm. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worms - a wriggly problem

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Colourpoint cat

Epilepsy (seizures)

If you have witnessed your cat having a seizure (convulsion), you will know how frightening it can be. If your cat has had more than one seizure it may be that they are epileptic. There are medications that can control seizures, allowing your cat to live a more normal life.

Read Epilepsy (seizures)
Close up of cat's face

Epilepsy treatment

If your cat has recently been diagnosed as having epilepsy you may be concerned about the future. Discuss your concerns with your vet - it is important that you fully understand the goals of treatment right from the start.

Read Epilepsy treatment
Cat laying down

Fainting (syncope)

Fainting (syncope) does occur in cats but is less common than in people. When a cat faints it briefly loses consciousness and falls to the ground motionless but in most cases recovers within a few moments without treatment. It is important, but often difficult, to differentiate between fainting and fitting because the causes and treatments for the two conditions are very different. In addition, some other medical problems (for example, reduced blood levels of glucose, or certain diseases of the nerves and muscles) can cause episodes of weakness or collapse. If your cat collapses for whatever reason contact your vet immediately for further advice.

Read Fainting (syncope)

Dental disease

Cat having teeth cleaned by vet

Dental disease in your cat

Dental disease is very common in cats. Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten pets have some kind of tooth disorders. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the cat's teeth, gums and jaw bones. Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build up of plaque.

Read Dental disease in your cat
Vet checking a cat's teeth

Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Periodontal disease affects the area around the teeth and will eventually lead to tooth loss. Prevent this by brushing your cat's teeth, using the step-by-step guide included here. 

Your cat's teeth deserve as much care as your own!

Read Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Ear disease

White cat

Deafness in cats

Deafness is quite common in cats. Around three in every four white cats are deaf because of a defective gene that causes the inner ear to fail to develop normally. Some of these cats are deaf in only one ear and their owners will often not realise that there is a problem.

Deafness is also common in older cats, probably due to age-related degeneration in the inner ear, as seen in older people.

Other reasons for deafness are less common in cats than in people or dogs. Long-term ear infections, growths in the middle ear or external ear canal and medications given by veterinary surgeons to treat these conditions are probably all important causes. Head trauma and brain tumours are possible causes. However, deafness can result from anything that damages the conduction of sound waves from the ear hole through the ear canal and ear drum to the bones of the middle ear or which affects the conduction of impulses through the nerves to the brain.

Read Deafness in cats
Woman wipes her cat's ear

Ear cleaning

Ear disease is quite common in cats and you should make ear examination part of a weekly health check for your pet. If your cat's ears look red or sore on the inside, if there is a smell coming from the ears or if your pet is shaking its head excessively then contact your vet for advice. Ear disease can quickly take hold and is unlikely to get better without treatment. If left untreated it can cause permanent damage to the ear canals and make your pet more likely to have further problems in the future.

Read Ear cleaning
Close up of a cat's ears

Ear disease in your cat

A cat's ear is quite a different shape to ours. Humans simply have a horizontal tube that runs straight from the side of the head into the inner ear (auditory canal). In the cat, however, the outside opening of the ear canal is high on the side of the head. The canal runs vertically down the side of the head and makes a sharp right angle into the inner ear. Foreign bodies (usually grass seeds) can get stuck in the ear canal and infections may develop. Most often ear disease in cats is caused by a type of mite which lives inside the ear canal.

Cats can also get diseases that affect the skin of the ear flap. Solar dermatitis is an irritation caused by sun burn on the ear tips which causes crusting and scabbing. This must be treated early as it can lead to cancer of the ears later in life if left untreated.

Read Ear disease in your cat

Emergencies

Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Emergencies - what to do

Immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for an injured cat following all but the most minor of accidents. Getting your cat to your vet (where all the necessary equipment is on hand) is quicker and gives the cat a better chance than calling a vet out to the scene of the accident. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is - don't panic! - this could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.

Read Emergencies - what to do
Cat with cooling compress

Fever - is it serious?

Often when you put a hand on your cat it feels warm, particularly on a patch of bare skin. This is because the normal body temperature of a cat is higher than that in people. Body temperature is maintained within a fairly narrow range (between 38.1°C / 100.5°F and 39.2°C / 102.2°F) although it varies slightly during the day, with lowest temperatures recorded in the morning and the highest in the evening. Fever is simply an increase in body temperature and can be seen with many disorders in cats.

Read Fever - is it serious?
Upside down cat

Fitting in cats - an emergency?

If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious. They may show violent, rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not common in cats and some cats will have only one seizure in a lifetime. Remember your cat does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.

Read Fitting in cats - an emergency?
Kitten looking at vase of flowers

Poisoning

Poisoning can occur if a poisonous substance is swallowed (solids or liquids), breathed in (gases) or absorbed through the skin (normally liquids). Poisons are substances that damage the cells in the body. In order to cause harm they must enter or come into contact with the body.

Many poisons are products we use every day and can be found in food, medications, household and garden substances. Accidental poisoning in cats is usually caused by substances we commonly have around the house, e.g. human medications and pest control products.

Read Poisoning

Eye disease

Blind cat

Blindness in cats

Just like people, cats normally use their vision for getting around, as well as hunting and interaction with other cats. However, a cat with poor vision or even total blindness can lead a comfortable and fulfilled life.

Read Blindness in cats
Cataract

Cataracts in cats

Cataract is a disease of the lens of the eye in which the normally clear lens becomes opaque or white. You may see the whiteness of the eye when you look at your cat. This interferes with vision and can result in blindness. In some cases, if the cataract is causing significant problems, an eye specialist may be able to operate on the eye to remove the cataract.

Read Cataracts in cats
Close up of a cat's eye

Conjunctivitis in cats

If your cat has a sore or red eye, or there is discharge from the eye, then it is important to contact your vet. Your cat may have an infection in the eye, but a discharge can also be caused by a foreign body (such as a grass seed) caught under the eyelid. It is important that diseases of the eye are treated quickly to prevent any permanent damage being done.

Read Conjunctivitis in cats
Winking cat

Corneal ulcers - a sore eye

Although cat's eyes have a number of differences which improve night vision, the basic structure is much the same as a human's. Consequently cats can suffer a similar range of eye diseases to humans. Because the eye is complicated, delicate and very sensitive, all eye problems require immediate veterinary attention. One of the most common eye problems in cats is a corneal ulcer.

Read Corneal ulcers - a sore eye
Nurse putting drops into cat's eye

Eye medication: how to give to your cat

Eye problems in cats are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home.

Read Eye medication: how to give to your cat

Gastrointestinal disease

Cat using litter tray

Constipation in your cat

Cats are often secretive about their bowel habits and it can be difficult for owners to notice problems. However, if you suspect that your cat is having difficulty toileting or shows a reluctance to go to the litter tray you should make an appointment with your veterinary surgeon. Simple constipation can sometimes be easily treated but it is common for constipated cats to be distressed, significantly ill and permanent damage to the bowel occurs easily. Constipation should always be taken seriously. Also, very similar signs can be seen in cats suffering from lower urinary tract disease which itself is distressing and potentially very dangerous.

Read Constipation in your cat
Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)

Almost all cats will suffer from diarrhoea at some point in their lives. In most cases this lasts no more than a few days and cats generally get better without any treatment. However, in a few cases the diarrhoea is due to a more serious underlying cause and does not resolve. EPI, although uncommon in the cat, is a condition that can cause chronic diarrhoea.

EPI results in a reduced ability to digest food this means that an affected pet will suffer from chronic diarrhoea and be significantly underweight. Cats with EPI have a good appetite but despite consuming lots of food they are literally starving.

Read Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
Cat with Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Liver problems in your cat

Liver disease is quite common in cats and can occur at any age, from kittens to old age. Usually the signs of liver disease, like many diseases in cats, are a bit vague; affected cats are often just quiet, have reduced appetite and lose weight. Jaundice is quite often seen and if your cat has this you may notice yellowness in the eyes, mouth or skin or the urine being darker than usual.

Read Liver problems in your cat
Cat

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a condition which ranges in severity from almost no clinical signs to severe abdominal upset and even death. It can therefore be very difficult to know if your cat is suffering from pancreatitis Your vet is best placed to advise you on any illness in your pet so if you are worried about your pet's health a visit to the vet's surgery for a check over is always warranted.

Read Pancreatitis
Poorly cat

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea are common in cats. Both are symptoms of other conditions rather than diseases in their own right and there is a vast range of cat diseases in which diarrhoea and/or vomiting may occur. In many cases the problem may be successfully treated without ever pinpointing the actual cause. However, the information that you give your vet may be vital in deciding whether the case is serious enough to need further detailed investigations.

Read Vomiting and diarrhoea

Heart diseases

Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease affecting the heart muscle. There are two main forms of the disease - hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). HCM commonly affects middle-aged cats and is more common in male cats than females. Cardiomyopathy is commonly associated with signs of heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Read Cardiomyopathy
Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Congenital heart diseases

Bringing a new kitten into the family is an exciting time and should a time of great joy. It can be particularly distressing to find that your new arrival has a problem. It is important that you get your new kitten checked over by your vet so that any obvious problems can be identified before you become too attached to it.

Read Congenital heart diseases
Pale foot pads on a cat with an aortic thromboembolism

Feline aortic thromboembolism

Cats may be struck 'out of the blue' by a blood clot resulting in dramatic signs (sudden onset of lameness and pain) and potentially devastating damage. The back legs and the right front leg are most often affected and may be paralysed. This is an emergency - if you suspect that your cat has suffered a blood clot, you must seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Read Feline aortic thromboembolism
Close up of cat's face

Heart disease in your cat

Heart disease is increasingly common in cats, probably because their average life expectancy has increased due to improved veterinary care. Some heart defects may be present from birth (congenital heart defects) but only show symptoms as the cat gets older. Other diseases develop later in life as a result of the effects of ageing or damage to the heart. The most common heart disease which develops later in life is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Read Heart disease in your cat
ECG

Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)

There are many different heart problems that can affect cats. Some of these affect the rhythm of the heart beat and one such condition is atrial fibrillation. This is most commonly seen in association with severe heart disease. Atrial fibrillation does not cause any specific signs so it is unlikely that you will identify this as a cause of illness in your pet. Signs of heart disease can also be hard to recognise in the cat but may include excessive lethargy, inappetence and rapid or laboured breathing. However, any heart disease should be taken very seriously and an early visit to your vet can help to achieve the best outcome.

Read Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)
Measuring a cat's blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has long been known to be a problem in people and is being increasingly recognised in pets. Hypertension is very common in older people and is often associated with smoking, or with stressful living. In animals, hypertension is almost always caused by an underlying disease.

Read High blood pressure (hypertension)
Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Investigating heart disease

It is important that your vet can recognise the early stages of heart failure (and therefore when to begin therapy, if necessary). Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy. Heart disease and heart failure are not the same thing. In the early stages of heart disease most animals are able to cope although their heart is not working as well as normal. Animals can live with some forms of heart disease without showing any signs of illness at all. Heart failure occurs when the heart disease is more severe and signs of malfunction (usually coughing or breathlessness) develop. Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy.

Read Investigating heart disease
Woman cuddling cat

Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is one of the more common congenital heart defects in cats. It is sometimes referred to as a 'hole in the heart'. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy cats by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Hormonal diseases

A cat showing signs of acromegaly

Acromegaly in cats

Acromegaly is a relatively rare condition, caused by excessive hormone production in the brain or in mammary gland (breast) tissue. It is more common in cats than dogs. Affected cats can develop gradual changes in their appearance but because the disease develops over a long period of time owners may not notice any problems. Some cats become extremely hungry or start drinking and needing to use the litter tray more frequently. Often it is the vet who notices the change in a cat's appearance, when cats are presented because of the changes in appetite or increased drinking and may recommend further investigation. It is important to get a diagnosis as early as possible if treatment is to be effective.

Read Acromegaly in cats
Black cat

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

Cushing's disease (also called 'hyperadrenocorticism' by vets) is rare in cats. Although it is a severe disease it causes subtle changes in the early stages. Many owners do not recognise the signs of Cushing's disease in their pet, instead confusing the changes caused by the disease with ageing.

Read Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
Vet ready to inject cat

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a relatively common disease in older people and is being recognised more frequently in older pets. If untreated the disease has serious effects and will ultimately result in the death of your pet. The good news is that the majority of diabetic animals can now be treated and may live normal, happy lives if you are prepared to invest time and money in their care.

Read Diabetes mellitus
Cat with untidy fur

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a disease caused by an overactive thyroid gland, an organ found on either side of the windpipe at the base of the neck. This gland produces thyroid hormone which helps to regulate your cat's metabolism, or rate of bodily activity. When the thyroid gland produces too much hormone, your cat's 'internal motor' effectively goes into overdrive. Untreated this would eventually be fatal but the condition can now be successfully treated.

Read Hyperthyroidism

Infectious diseases

Cat kennels

Bordetella

Bordetella is not particularly common in the average pet cat but can be a significant problem where a number of cats live in close contact particularly in breeding establishments and catteries. It is very easily spread from cat to cat. It is rarely fatal, but can be a real problem because the symptoms may be very difficult to clear up. Prevention is far better than cure - if your cat needs protection make sure she is fully protected by regular vaccinations.

Read Bordetella
Cat with severe cat flu

Cat 'flu'

Cat flu is very common in unvaccinated cats and is very easily spread from cat to cat. It is rarely fatal, except in young kittens, but can be a real problem because the symptoms may be very difficult to clear up. Prevention is far better than cure - so to protect your cat make sure she is fully protected by regular vaccinations.

Read Cat 'flu'
A cat hunting in grass

Cat pox

If your cat is a keen hunter they may be at risk of catching cat pox from their prey. Cat pox is a viral infection that is also known as feline cow pox. Most cases recover without treatment but in a few cases the disease can be much more serious and veterinary advice should be sought. It can also infect humans which is important to be aware of.

Read Cat pox
Close up of a cat's claws

Cat scratch disease

Cat scratch disease is a disease of people carried by cats. Infected cats usually do not show any sign of illness but the disease can be passed to humans via a bite or scratch from the cat.

Read Cat scratch disease
Cat washing kitten

Chlamydia disease

Chlamydia is not particularly common in the average pet cat but can be a significant problem in cats in close contact. It is very easily spread from cat to cat. It is rarely fatal, but can be a real problem because the symptoms may be very difficult to clear up. Prevention is far better than cure - if your cat needs protection make sure she is fully protected by regular vaccinations.

Read Chlamydia disease
Stray cats

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

As its name suggests, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is closely related to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) responsible for causing AIDS in people. There is no cure for either disease and the virus causes the gradual destruction of the white blood cells needed to protect the body against infectious diseases. However, the two viruses will only survive inside normal host species - in other words, there is no risk of humans catching FIV from a cat, or vice versa.

Read Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Hearing that your cat has Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is one of the worst bits of news you can get from your vet. The disease is almost always fatal, although treatments can make your cat's remaining time more comfortable. If you have more than one cat in your home, taking sensible precautions and following your vet's advice can help to reduce the risk that your other cats will be affected.

Read Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Cat licking its nose

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is probably the most important virus in cats. About one in three cats that come into contact with the virus develop a permanent infection which is almost always fatal. FeLV infection causes a wide range of symptoms and by weakening their immune defences it can also make cats more susceptible to other infections. The effects of the virus on the immune system are similar to those that occur in humans with AIDS, but FeLV only affects cats. It cannot affect humans or other animals, such as dogs.

Read Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
Cat

Feline panleucopenia (Feline infectious enteritis)

Feline panleucopenia is a very serious disease of cats which, before vaccination, was commonly fatal. Even today, with good nursing care, between a quarter and two-thirds of all affected cats will die from the disease.

Read Feline panleucopenia (Feline infectious enteritis)
Stray cat

Rabies

Rabies is a very serious disease, killing more than 30,000 people around the world each year. There are few reported cases of recovery from confirmed infection. If you plan to take your pet abroad then they will need protection against this deadly disease.

Read Rabies

Ringworm

Ringworm is the common name given to a fungal infection also known as dermatophytosis. Ringworm is not uncommon in cats and if your cat has skin problems it may have ringworm. The disease is highly contagious and can be passed on to humans so if any signs develop it is important that you seek veterinary advice immediately.

Read Ringworm

Lameness

Old cat

Arthritis

Arthritis is a familiar problem for most vets. An increasing number of cats are diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis simply means an inflammation of joints and animals with arthritis usually suffer with pain and stiffness in their joints. Arthritis is typically a problem in older pets. However, many animals with arthritis will have had signs of disease from an early age if their arthritis is caused by problems with joint development.

Read Arthritis
Cat laying down

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis (MG) literally means grave (gravis) muscle (my-) weakness (asthenia). It is an unusual cause of generalised weakness in cats.

Read Myasthenia gravis
Old cat

Myositis

If your cat suddenly finds it difficult or painful to take exercise they may have myositis. Myositis is an inflammation of the muscle. It can be a serious and painful condition and may be an early indicator that your pet is ill in some other way. A veterinary examination is important to try to identify a cause of the problem so that appropriate treatment can be given.

Read Myositis
Cats climbing on fence

Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

Back problems are not common in cats - they are generally lighter and more athletic than dogs. A slipped disc (also known as intervertebral disc herniation) is the most common cause of paralysis in dogs but cats are much less often affected.  No-one really knows why this is but it may be that discs are made slightly differently in cats.

Read Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

Neurological disease

Vet holding cat examines x-ray

Inflammatory CNS disease

Animals with brain disease may show sudden, dramatic signs and become very poorly extremely quickly. In other cases the signs are more vague and it may be some time before your vet gets to the bottom of the problem. Diseases affecting the brain are not limited to brain tumours and include conditions affecting the blood supply (stroke), causing inflammation (meningitis or encephalitis), trauma or malformation of the brain. Many of these diseases can be treated (or at least managed successfully) to give your pet a good quality of life, so it is very important that conditions are investigated and an accurate diagnosis made so that the best treatment can be given.

Read Inflammatory CNS disease
Examining a cat with a stethoscope

Ischaemic myelopathy

Back (spinal) problems are not common in cats. If your cat has a spinal problem they may have neck or back pain or show a variety of signs including difficulty walking, jumping, using one or more legs or even complete paralysis. These signs may occur suddenly (acute spinal problem) or more progressively (chronic spinal problem).

Many different spinal problems (slipped disc, fractured spine, spinal infection, spinal tumour, ischaemic myelopathy) can cause similar signs. Ischaemic myelopathy is only occasionally seen in cats but comes on very suddenly without warning and can be very frightening. If you suspect your cat might have a spinal problem (especially an acute one) you should make sure your vet checks them over as soon as possible.

Read Ischaemic myelopathy
Close up of cat's face

Neuro-diagnostic tests

If your pet is unwell it can be a confusing time trying to make sense of what your vet is doing and why. There are many tests commonly used in veterinary practice that help your vet to work out what is wrong with your pet. This information sheet explains what we are looking for when they perform tests to investigate an animal with a disease affecting the nervous system. Some of these tests can be done in general practice, but others are more difficult to perform or interpret and your pet may need to be referred to a specialist for these.

Read Neuro-diagnostic tests
Young girl brings cat to the vet for a check up

Neurological examination

A neurological disease is one that affects the brain or the system of nerves running throughout the body. The signs of illness can range from very mild (a weakness in one leg) to very severe (the inability to stand). In order for your vet to investigate the disease they need to know where the problem actually lies.

If your pet has difficulty walking this may be because of a problem with the nerves in its leg, pressure on the nerves in its spine (like a slipped disc) or a problem in the brain. Only by careful examination can your vet identify where the problem is likely to be in order to perform the most appropriate tests.

Read Neurological examination
Cat laying on its side

Paroxystic events

A paroxysm is a sudden uncontrollable attack and in people is often applied to events like a fit of giggles. In animals a paroxystic attack is more serious and describes a disorder that starts suddenly but also resolves quickly. A one-off event like this may be nothing to worry about but if the experience is repeated you should contact your vet immediately for advice. Attacks may occur at home or at exercise and the most important concern initially is to make sure your pet cannot hurt themselves during the attack. There are many causes of these attacks and your vet will need to investigate further in order to find out what is causing the attacks so that appropriate treatment can be given if any exist for this type of attack.

Read Paroxystic events
Abyssinian cat

Pyruvate kinase deficiency

Pyruvate kinase deficiency is an inherited disease that was first documented in Abyssinian, Somali and some domestic short-hair cats in the early 1990s.

Read Pyruvate kinase deficiency
Black cat

Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

Until recently, it was thought that strokes were very rare in domestic pets. In the last few years, with the advance and increased availability of more specialist tests, strokes are being recognised more often in pets. The thought of your pet suffering a stroke may be frightening - but you should not be alarmed as strokes are often not as debilitating in animals as they are in people. With appropriate care your pet may do very well.

Read Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
Upside down cat

Vestibular syndrome

Vestibular syndrome refers to a group of diseases that affect the balance system also known as the vestibular system. Common signs of vestibular syndrome include loss of balance, falling, rolling over, abnormal flickering of the eyes and general wobbliness. The signs of vestibular disease often come on very suddenly and if your pet develops these signs it can be very frightening. Many people mistakenly think that their pet may have suffered a stroke. However, most affected animals recover over a few weeks.

Read Vestibular syndrome

Reproductive problems

Kittens

Birth control in the queen

Most responsible cat owners want to prevent unplanned breeding and the production of unwanted kittens. Most forms of birth control prevent the heat cycle of queens, and so mating and conception does not occur. The cycle can be controlled permanently or temporarily. Pregnancy prevention is also possible after an unplanned mating has occurred.

Read Birth control in the queen
Cat nursing kitten

Breeding from your cat

A female cat (queen) can produce several litters of kittens every year throughout her life. If you don't want the responsibility of finding good homes for the kittens you should have your queen neutered. Keeping an un-neutered queen indoors is not a good answer to the problem. A calling queen will keep you and your neighbours awake and will do her best to escape at every opportunity. There is also a risk of infection developing in your cat's uterus (pyometra) if she is neither neutered or bred from, and cancer of the mammary gland (breast cancer) is more common in un-neutered cats. If you decide to breed from your cat there are various things to consider to make sure that both mother and kittens are strong and healthy.

Read Breeding from your cat
Pregnant cat

Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)

Pyometra is a common disease in un-neutered female cats and dogs that requires major surgery to cure. Though potentially very serious, many animals respond well to the treatment and can expect to make a full recovery. The best way to protect your female pet against pyometra is to have her neutered.

Read Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)
Feeding a kitten by hand

Rearing orphan kittens

Hand rearing a kitten or kittens can be an extremely rewarding experience but it is not a job to be taken on lightly. The task ahead is difficult, exhausting and there is no guarantee of success. However hard you try, you are a poor substitute for a kitten's natural mother and despite the best efforts of human volunteers the death rate among orphaned kittens is often high.

Read Rearing orphan kittens

Respiratory problems

Cat with nebuliser

Feline asthma

If your cat has a persistent or chronic cough thay may have asthma. Asthma is the most common cause of coughing in cats. In many cats the signs are relatively mild but it can also cause life-threatening breathing problems.

Read Feline asthma
Cat's face

Nasopharyngeal polyps

Nasopharyngeal polyps are not common but they can cause significant distress to affected cats. A polyp grows from a small stalk but can become quite a substantial size. Nasopharyngeal polyps can grow into the back of the throat obstructing the breathing passageways. Signs such as sneezing and difficulty breathing are common. Surgical removal of the polyp can provide a complete cure.

Read Nasopharyngeal polyps

Skin disease

Cat with acne on its chin

Feline acne

Some cats, like some people, are unfortunate to suffer from acne. The condition in cats is generally mild and since cats do not worry about their appearance the condition rarely causes serious problems. However if your cat has any skin changes you should make an appointment to see your vet - skin disease may sometimes be a sign of something else more serious.

Read Feline acne
Cat with eosinophilic plaque on roof of mouth

Feline eosinophilic granuloma complex

This syndrome describes a group of skin conditions in cats. Most cases are caused by an underlying allergy and can be effectively resolved by treating the allergy. In a few cases more invasive or prolonged treatment is required. Whatever the cause, it is important to seek veterinary advice early to have the best chance of resolution. If your cat has any itchy or sore looking patches on their skin or ulcers on their lip which refuse to heal you should make an appointment with your vet immediately.

Read Feline eosinophilic granuloma complex
Malassezia-associated dermatitis in a cat

Malassezia

If your cat has a greasy hair coat or recurrent ear problems they may be suffering from Malassezia. This fungal/yeast infection of the skin can be mild or extensive and may indicate that there is an underlying health problem. If your cat has any skin lesions you should make an appointment to see your vet - it may be that the skin disease is an indication that something more serious going on.

Read Malassezia
A cat grooming itself

Over grooming (feline psychogenic alopecia)

In the hurly-burly of our modern lives we ask a lot of pets. Fortunately most cats adapt well to all the changes and excitement around them, managing to fit into our hectic schedules and, in doing so, enrich our lives. Unhappily, there are some cats for whom the stress of modern living is just too much and these poor creatures show us their unhappiness in a variety of ways.

Read Over grooming (feline psychogenic alopecia)
Black cat

'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Cheyletiella infection is a form of mange that is also known as rabbit mites and walking dandruff. This is an itchy skin condition caused by small parasites living on the skin surface. The mites can be found on many animals including dogs, cats and rabbits and can be transmitted from pets to people. Early recognition is important as the condition can be simply treated.

Read 'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Travel

Kitten in carrying cage

Choosing a cattery

It would probably be less traumatic for our pets to have 'cat sitters'; enabling them to remain in their home environment when we go away or are on holiday and have to leave them in the care of another. The majority of cat owners, however, have to rely on boarding catteries for the care of their animals while they are away. The experience is always going to be variably traumatic for your cat but by taking care in choosing a cattery, the stress can be minimised, ensuring that your pet returns to you fit, happy and healthy after its stay.

Read Choosing a cattery
Woman carrying cat in a carrier

Moving house with your cat

Moving to a new home can be stressful for both you and your pets. Cats are highly territorial animals and are often as closely attached to their surroundings as they are to their owners. So not surprisingly many cats try to return to their old haunts after their owners change address if it is nearby. Some simple precautions can help to reduce the risk of your cat becoming permanently lost.

Read Moving house with your cat
Pet passport

Pet passports

Pet passports are part of the European Union (EU) Regulation on the movement of pet animals. Certain non-EU listed countries may also issue a passport. Cats travelling on Pet Passports must be treated against tapeworms before entering the UK from most countries. The treatment will be recorded in the passport.  

Read Pet passports
Cat laying on suitcase

Taking your pet abroad

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows for limited movement of pets between the UK and some European countries under controlled conditions.

Read Taking your pet abroad
Cat sleeping in carrier

Travelling with your cat

Travelling can be a stressful experience for human beings and it is probably equally so for cats, although for different reasons. While your cat is not going to be worried about arriving at its destination on time it will have been plucked from its familiar territory, put in to a container and subjected to an array of strange sights, sounds and smells. A frightened animal is likely to panic and so care has to be taken to make sure it arrives safe and well at its destination.

Read Travelling with your cat
Cat kennels

Travelling: leaving your pet behind

International travel is becoming increasingly common for pets and the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which even allows limited movement of pets through Europe and the UK, is now fully operational. However, many pet owners still prefer to leave their pets behind when they go away.

Read Travelling: leaving your pet behind

Veterinary procedures

Endoscope

Endoscopy - the inside story

Sometimes it can be really helpful to look inside an animal to see what is going on. There are many ways of examining the insides of an animal: blood tests, imaging techniques (like X-ray and ultrasound) and sometimes it is necessary to operate to find out what is going on. Endoscopy is an alternative to some forms of surgery. Endoscopy is increasingly being performed in general practice and your vet may suggest it for your pet if it has a breathing problem or bowel trouble.

Read Endoscopy - the inside story
Urine sample

Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your cat to be treated earlier and more effectively. A very important use is to test that your cat's kidneys and liver are working properly before a surgical operation.

Read Samples and tests - how they help your vet
MR scanner

Scanning - the inside picture

The term 'scan' is often used to describe the method of obtaining an image of the inside of the body. This may be done with ultrasound (details of which can be found in a separate factsheet), which is often available in veterinary practices and may be performed at your vet's surgery. Recently, more specialised scans (MRI and CAT scans) have become widely available for pets - however it is likely that your pet would need to travel to a specialist centre for one of these scans.

Read Scanning - the inside picture
Vet reviews x-ray

X-rays and ultrasound

Veterinary medicine has made many advances in the last 10 years and many local veterinary practices are now able to perform x-ray and ultrasound examinations.

Read X-rays and ultrasound

Dogs

Behaviour

Dog barking in the snow

Barking

Custom intro

Read Barking
Dog training

Basic training for dogs

A dog owner is responsible for their pet in public places, so if your dog misbehaves you could be in trouble. A poorly trained dog can also be a danger to itself. Imagine the consequences if your dog ignores you and runs across a busy road. In order to have the perfect pet you will need to start training when your dog is very young. The rewards of this are clear – there is perhaps no greater pleasure than owning a well-behaved dog.

Read Basic training for dogs
Dog with ball in mouth

Boredom

Dogs, just like people, can get bored if they do not get enough mental stimulation. In the modern world pet dogs are often left alone at home for longer periods of time and in some animals this can cause significant problems.

Read Boredom
Dog chewing a child's toy

Destructiveness and chewing

Having a young puppy in the house brings much pleasure but puppies also bring with them many undesirable behaviours. Early training is important to ensure that your puppy grows up understanding the rules in your house and fits in with your lifestyle. All dogs chew at some point in their life and this is only recognised as problem behaviour when chewing affects objects you would rather weren't chewed!

Read Destructiveness and chewing
Firework display

Firework fear

Firework fear is a common problem in dogs. It is not surprising that animals are scared of fireworks since they are very loud (up to 150 decibels). Sounds this loud can be physically painful as well as inducing fear. The noise from fireworks also lacks a clear pattern, with the source of the noise not identifiable and sounds occurring in short repeated bursts. The unpredictable nature of the sounds can make even normal animals react fearfully. Animals may become more sensitive with repeated exposures to the noise. In some animals a true phobia exists and these animals cannot get worse with time since they are always fully reactive to the noise.

Read Firework fear
Puppy near kitchen roll, bucket and rubber gloves

House training your puppy

House training is the term we normally use for the process of training a puppy to go outside to urinate or defaecate (toilet) rather than toileting in the home. Once puppies have been house trained they should remain clean in the house throughout their life. If your dog has been house trained and then starts to mess in the house again you should consult your veterinary surgeon. A loss of toilet control can be caused by health problems and emotional disorders such as anxiety or fear.

Read House training your puppy
Dog covering ears

Noise phobias

If your dog is afraid of sudden noises then life can be miserable for both of you. Summer thunderstorms can become a major trauma and unless you live in a remote part of the country there is almost no way of avoiding fireworks. There are some simple tips that can help to make the whole experience more bearable for both of you, but to find a solution to the problem you will need to seek some expert help.

Read Noise phobias
Dog chewing fabric

Pica

Dogs sometimes eat things that are not food. Pica is defined as the persistent chewing and consumption of non-nutritional substances that provide no physical benefit to the animal. It can be a sign of distress or anxiety. There are many potential causes of this anxiety including changes in the social or physical environment or because of an internal oddness in how the animal perceives or interacts with the world.

Eating objects, such as rocks, can also be very dangerous for your dog, as these can be stuck in the stomach or intestine. Sharp objects, such as sticks, can cause damage to the delicate lining of the intestinal tract. It is therefore important that you know more about this behaviour to understand how to manage it appropriately.

Read Pica
Puppy with its owner

Separation anxiety

We ask a lot from our dogs when we expect them to fit into our hectic modern lives. Happily most dogs adapt to our lifestyle with ease but there are a few dogs out there for whom the modern way of life can get a bit too stressful at times. Some of these dogs turn to destruction as a way of releasing their feelings. Living with these dogs can be very stressful for owners.

Read Separation anxiety

Bladder problems

Old golden retriever

Cystitis (bladder inflammation)

As anyone who has ever suffered with cystitis (a sore bladder) will know, it is a very unpleasant condition. Although not usually life-threatening, cystitis can be very distressing for your dog. It is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible since most cases can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotic tablets.

Read Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
Jack Russell Terrier has had a toileting accident

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence means the loss of ability to control urination and can be caused by a variety of diseases. Incontinence is quite common in dogs but is usually more of a nuisance to the owners than a cause of distress to their pet. Urinary incontinence is more common in females than males because of the anatomical differences in the urinary tract especially the shorter urethra in the female.

Read Urinary incontinence
Urine sample

Urine samples: how to collect

Tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill, which means your vet may ask you to bring in a urine sample (water sample) from your pet to help find out what's wrong with your dog. Urine samples are usually taken to check for diseases such as diabetes or cystitis. Urine samples are also often used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms; this allows your pet to be treated earlier and more effectively.

Read Urine samples: how to collect

Blood diseases

Small dog

Anaemia

Red blood cells carry vital oxygen around the body. A shortage of red blood cells in the circulation is called anaemia. There are many different causes of anaemia in dogs and in most cases a variety of tests will be needed to diagnose the underlying problem. Severe anaemia can be life-threatening and requires urgent treatment.

Read Anaemia
German Shepherd dog

von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

This is the most common inherited bleeding disorder in dogs. It causes defective blood clotting due to reduced amounts of von Willebrands factor (vWF). This is a protein which helps tiny blood cells called platelets stick to each other and form an effective blood clot in the body.

Many breeds may be genetic carriers of this trait, but problems are most likely to be seen in Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd dogs and Labrador Retrievers. Both sexes are affected equally.

Read von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

Cancer

Spaniel

Anal sac gland carcinoma

Anal sac gland carcinoma (also known as apocrine gland carcinoma of the anal sacs and anal sac adenocarcinoma) is a malignant tumour of the anal sacs of the dog. It is a relatively uncommon tumour but it is seen with increased frequency in English Cocker Spaniels in particular and other spaniels to a lesser degree.

Read Anal sac gland carcinoma
Dog with sad eyes

Brain tumour or cancer

Brain tumours in dogs are unfortunately as common as they are in people. Brain tumours can be devastating diseases and sadly cannot be cured in most animals. At present the only options for treatment are to improve the animal's quality of life and help them to live for as long as possible. Unfortunately all brain tumours are eventually fatal diseases.

Read Brain tumour or cancer
Sad Golden Retriever

Cancer in your dog - possible options

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The speed with which a cancer spreads and the severity of the disease it causes depends on the type of tissue cell affected. As many as one in five dogs are likely to develop one of the many different forms of cancer at some stage of their lives. The risk of developing cancer increases with age. This means that, as dogs now enjoy a longer life expectancy through improved veterinary care, the number of animals with cancer has been increasing in recent years.

Read Cancer in your dog - possible options
Old golden retriever

Canine cutaneous mast cell tumors

Mast cell tumours are common tumours of the skin in dogs. Whilst many mast cell tumours can be cured by appropriate management, dogs that get one mast cell tumour can frequently develop other separate mast cell tumours elsewhere on their skin at other times in their life.

Read Canine cutaneous mast cell tumors
X-ray of dog's abdomen

Canine insulinoma

Insulinoma is a cancer of the pancreas, which can cause affected dogs to have a poor exercise tolerance or even collapse. Early diagnosis of this condition is essential to provide the most effective therapy.

Read Canine insulinoma
Sad black retriever

Canine lymphoma

There are many different forms of lymphoma in the dog, just as there are in humans. Some types of lymphoma are associated with better outcomes than others but most types respond favourably to the administration of chemotherapy. There are some that do not and it is important to attempt to identify these cases as other treatments may be indicated.

Read Canine lymphoma
Irish wolfhound

Canine osteosarcoma

An osteosarcoma is cancer of the bone. It usually arises in the bones of the limbs but can develop in the bones of the skull, spine or ribcage and there are rare cases of this cancer arising in non-bony tissues like mammary glands and muscle.

Read Canine osteosarcoma
Syringes

Chemotherapy for your dog

Although it can be frightening to learn that your pet has cancer there have been big advances in the treatment of cancer in animals. Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. If your dog is diagnosed with cancer it is possible that you will be offered some form of chemotherapy (perhaps alongside surgery or radiation therapy).

Read Chemotherapy for your dog
Hazardous substance symbols

Chemotherapy: safe handling

Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. In many people's mind the term 'chemotherapy' conjures up frightening images of people suffering with cancer (and the effects of treatment) - however chemotherapy in pets is usually very different.

Read Chemotherapy: safe handling
Vet examines a puppy

Lumps and bumps

Finding a lump on your pet can be a worrying experience. Although most lumps are harmless it is impossible to tell what a lump is simply by looking at it. If your pet has a swelling that lasts for more than a few days always ask your vet to check it for you.

Read Lumps and bumps
Intravenous therapy

Lymphoma chemotherapy

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph cells and can arise almost anywhere in the body. Lymphoma is one of the most commonly treated forms of the disease. Modern treatment protocols can be highly effective in controlling lymphoma and affected dogs can have several years of normal life with appropriate treatment.

Read Lymphoma chemotherapy
Radiotherapy machine

Radiotherapy for your dog

Pets today are healthier and, in general, living longer than ever before. However the increasing numbers of ageing pets mean that they are at increasing risk of developing cancer later in life. Radiotherapy aims to give a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells (doing maximum damage) whilst minimising the dose to the rest of the body.

Read Radiotherapy for your dog

Caring for your dog

Three-legged dog relaxes with companion

Amputee dog care

There are a number of reasons which may necessitate the removal of an animal's leg. The two most common of these are severe trauma, for example after a road traffic accident, or as management of a leg cancer. As a general rule, dogs cope far better with amputation than people imagine they will. Humans of course only have two legs, so losing one leg means a reduction to only one. Dogs have four legs so losing one still leaves them with three.

Read Amputee dog care
Bulldog with bottom in the air

Anal sac disease

Anal sac problems are very common in pet dogs and something frequently seen by veterinary surgeons. In most cases, the conditions are easily treated, though they can sometimes recur. This factsheet provides information on the location and function of anal sacs as well as discussing common conditions and their treatment.

Read Anal sac disease
Dog receiving acupuncture

Complementary therapies

Some forms of alternative or complementary medicine such as osteopathy and physiotherapy are widely used in veterinary medicine alongside conventional treatment. However, owners of dogs and other small animals are increasingly looking at other alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy to help with a wide variety of common complaints.

Read Complementary therapies
Dog catching flying disk

Exercise - for a healthy, happy dog

All animals need exercise to be happy and healthy. Exercise improves general fitness levels and helps to prevent obesity. If your dog isn't able to work off their energy by exercising outside, they may do so inside! Taking regular exercise together will alleviate boredom and also strengthen the bond between you.

Read Exercise - for a healthy, happy dog
Dog eating from bowl

Feeding your dog

Although most pet dogs are now fed entirely on tinned or packaged food, their nutritional requirements are exactly the same as their ancestors' centuries ago. So to stay healthy, a domestic dog must receive a balanced diet containing all the nutrients that would be found in its natural diet. Dogs are adapted to eating a wide variety of food and can survive happily on an almost vegetarian diet, which would make a cat very ill.

Read Feeding your dog
Puppy eating from bowl

Feeding your puppy

The saying 'You are what you eat' applies to dogs as well as people, however more is not necessarily better. Puppies and young dogs suffer from a variety of bone and joint disorders. Especially important are those diseases caused by the incorrect feeding of puppies and young dogs, since these can be avoided. Over-feeding and over-supplementation with unnecessary nutrients and minerals can have serious consequences. If you are getting your first puppy make sure you ask your vet for advice on feeding them.

Read Feeding your puppy
The life cycle of a dog flea

Flea control

Fleas are the most common parasite in household pets and every dog is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. Fortunately, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your home. Your veterinary practice can give you advice on which flea control products to use, and how.

Read Flea control
Itchy dog

Fleas - an itchy business

Fleas are the most common parasite in dogs and every dog is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. However, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your household. You veterinary surgeon can give you advice on how to use these products effectively, so you can stop these nasty little insects making a meal of your dog and you!

Read Fleas - an itchy business
Empty medication packaging

Giving medicines to your dog

For most veterinary treatments it is important that medicines are given correctly. In the hospital, trained staff give medicines and it is important to ensure that you are able to continue to give the medicines once your dog has been sent home. If you have any doubts about how to give the medicine your pet has been prescribed, ask your vet or a nurse to show you.

Read Giving medicines to your dog
Wet dog with towel

Grooming your dog

Grooming your dog accomplishes much more than just making your pet's coat look nice and shiny. It will provide you with the opportunity to spend some "quality time" with your dog, combing, brushing, bathing and generally bonding with him.

Read Grooming your dog
Syringe and vaccine

Injecting your dog

Administration of medicine by injection is often referred to as giving drugs by the parenteral route. The other main means of administering treatment is via the mouth and digestive system - the oral route. Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments and many medications are most effective when given by injection. Administration of medicine by injection is also essential for some drugs that are destroyed by acids in the stomach, e.g. insulin.

Read Injecting your dog
Bee on a flower

Insect stings

On a warm summer afternoon when your dog is playing in the garden they are at risk from inadvertently disturbing the local wildlife. Wasps and bees are the most common cause of insect stings in UK pets. However ants may also bite (or sting) pets. Bees and their cousins, bumblebees, wasps, hornets and ants, do not usually sting unless stepped on, touched, or molested. They are usually not active at temperatures below 13°C or on rainy days. Most stings therefore occur in midsummer around August.

Read Insect stings
Dog being microchipped

Microchipping your dog

Stray dogs and cats are a big problem in many countries. In the UK alone it is estimated that more than £250 million a year is spent by local authorities, police forces and animal welfare charities rounding up and looking after stray dogs and cats. It is much harder to calculate the emotional cost to both the owner and animal when a pet is lost. Microchips are a quick and efficient way to reunite owners with their lost pets, even across international frontiers.

Read Microchipping your dog
Dog with puppies

Neutering your dog

It is a sad truth that the number of puppies born every year is far greater than the number of good homes that can be found for them. As a result, thousands of healthy animals are destroyed and many unwanted dogs are left to fend for themselves. Having your dog neutered will not only help to reduce these numbers, it is also one of the simplest, safest and most practical ways of safeguarding your dog's health and welfare.

Read Neutering your dog
Fat Rottweiler

Obesity

In the wild dogs generally regulate the amount of food they eat. However, there is a trend for modern dogs, like modern man, to eat better food and take less exercise than their predecessors. Just as in people, there is a risk that your dog may become overweight. Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat in the body - it does not just mean being overweight.

Read Obesity
Surgeon's gloved hands

Operations: caring for your dog before and after surgery

Most pets will have an operation at some stage in their life, e.g. for neutering (speying or castration) or to treat a disease. Nowadays most operations in dogs are fairly safe but the success of treatment and recovery depends to some extent on the quality of care that the owner gives before and after the operation.

Read Operations: caring for your dog before and after surgery
Bandaged dog on treatment table

Pet insurance for your dog

In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of dogs that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet's bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment could be thousands of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their dog becomes sick or has a major accident.

Read Pet insurance for your dog
Puppy

Puppy care

Puppies are cute and it is very tempting to acquire one almost by accident. Taking on a puppy is a big responsibility - remember it will not stay a puppy for long. Within a year you will have an adult dog which may be expected to live for 10 years or more. Before getting a puppy think about whether you are able to make a long-term commitment and, if you are, what kind of dog will best suit your lifestyle.

Read Puppy care
Shaggy dog

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your pet happy in order to maintain its health. Most owners know their pet very well and can quickly spot if it is feeling under the weather.

Read Routine health care
Old dog

Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

Some of our beloved pets are living longer and longer lives. This is due in large part to the amazing care we provide for them. As our time with them grows, so does our bond and devotion. As they approach the end of life, it can be a very challenging time filled with questions and concerns. When it becomes clear your pet's life is drawing to a close, you may face a painful and difficult decision about whether your pet should be euthanased due to unmanageable illness or advanced age changes. This factsheet is designed to help you understand euthanasia options and provide guidance to everyone caring for the pet. 

Read Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia
Senior dog out walking

Senior dog care

A puppy is endearing to everyone but puppies grow up all too fast. By one to two years of age dogs of all breeds will be mature. Although individual dogs and some breeds age at different rates, most 10 year old dogs can be considered to be in old age, and many breeds show signs of ageing much more quickly.

Read Senior dog care
Dog tick

Tick control

Ticks are common external parasites (ectoparasites) affecting dogs in many areas of the world. Environments suitable for tick development include forest, grass and moorland vegetation, close to wild mammals or birds on which they can feed during their immature stages. Dogs and cats most commonly become infested with ticks when they are in walking, working or hunting in these areas. Some specialised ticks can develop in kennel environments. The risk of tick bites may vary with the time of year; dogs appear to be more at risk during the Spring and Autumn periods but this varies with geographical region and tick species. Ticks may cause several problems when they bite, many of which can be difficult and expensive to treat. For these reasons, if there is any risk, it is very important to use tick control and prevention.

Read Tick control
Removing a tick from a dog

Tick removal

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can affect your dog, especially if it goes out in the countryside or grassy areas during the Spring and Autumn months.

Read Tick removal
Vaccinating a puppy

Vaccinating your dog

There are a number of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases which can affect your dog. There is no treatment for many of these diseases and young puppies who catch them often die. However, for many of these conditions there is a simple protection in the form of vaccination. Ensuring that your dog completes an initial course of vaccinations and then receives regular booster jabs is important if you want to keep your dog fit and healthy.

Read Vaccinating your dog
Syringe and vaccine

Vaccination protocols and safety

For a long time all new puppies and kittens were given a standard vaccination, which protected them from a number of infectious diseases. Recently a number of new vaccines have been developed and pet owners and veterinarians have begun to question the value of routine annual vaccination for adult pets.

This has led to development of the concept of tailored vaccination protocols. If your pet is not likely to be exposed to a disease there is little point in vaccinating them against it. Your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate choice of vaccine for your pet weighing up the benefits of protection against any risk associated with the vaccine.

Read Vaccination protocols and safety
The life cycle of the parasitic worm Toxocara Canis

Worm control

All pets will be affected by worms at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worm control
Dog roundworm (Toxocara canis)

Worms - a wriggly problem

It can be alarming to discover that your dog has worms but it should not come as a surprise. All pets are affected at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Except in rare cases, worms are unlikely to cause serious harm. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worms - a wriggly problem

Collapse

Dog with tongue out

Epilepsy (seizures)

If your dog has had a fit (convulsion) you will know how frightening it can be. Fits are not uncommon in dogs but many dogs only ever have a single fit. If your dog has had more than one fit it may be that he has epilepsy. Just as in people, there are tablets for dogs which can control the fits and allow your dog to live a long fulfilling life.

Read Epilepsy (seizures)
Dog prone on floor, eyes closed

Fainting (syncope)

Fainting (syncope) does occur in dogs but is less common than in people. When a dog faints it briefly loses consciousness and falls to the ground motionless but in most cases recovers within a few moments without treatment. It is important, but often difficult, to differentiate between fainting and fitting because the causes and treatments for the two conditions are very different. In addition, some other medical problems (for example, reduced blood levels of glucose, or certain diseases of the nerves and muscles) can cause episodes of weakness or collapse. If your dog collapses for whatever reason contact your vet immediately for further advice.

Read Fainting (syncope)

Dental disease

Dog's teeth

Dental disease in your dog

Dental disease is very common in dogs. Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten pets have some kind of tooth disorders. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the dog's teeth, gums and jaw bones. Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build up of plaque.

Read Dental disease in your dog
Cleaning a dog's teeth

Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Periodontal disease affects the area around the teeth and will eventually lead to tooth loss. Prevent this by brushing your dog's teeth, using the step-by-step guide included here. 

Your dog's teeth deserve as much care as your own!

Read Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Ear disease

Hearing-impaired dog

Deafness in dogs

Deafness is quite common in dogs, particularly in older dogs and dogs with a white hair coat and blue eyes. Although deafness may cause a dog some problems most deaf dogs can be helped to live a happy life.

Read Deafness in dogs
Cleaning a dog's ear

Ear cleaning

Proper ear cleaning is essential in the management of ear disease. Debris and secretions can accumulate in the ear and this may prevent treatment from reaching deep inside in the ear and some medication may not work in the presence of secretions. It is also necessary to keep the ear canal clean so that your vet can examine your dog's ear properly if there is a problem.

Read Ear cleaning
Vet examines a terrier's ear

Ear disease in your dog

Ear disease is quite common in dogs and you should make ear examination part of a weekly health check for your pet. If your dog's ears look red or sore on the inside, if there is a smell coming from the ears or if your pet is shaking its head excessively then contact your vet for advice. Ear disease can quickly take hold and is unlikely to get better without treatment. Ear disease left untreated can cause permanent damage to the ear canals and make your pet more likely to have further problems in the future.

Read Ear disease in your dog
Grass seed heads

Grass seeds - down in the meadow

The grasses have now flowered and their seeds are all around. These seeds can get into any crack or crevice such as ears and eyes and will make these sore until they are removed. If your pet has a smelly ear, a weepy eye or keeps sneezing, a trip to the vets is in order to make sure they don't have a hidden grass seed.

Read Grass seeds - down in the meadow

Emergencies

Great Dane

Bloat (gastric dilation)

Gastric dilation, or 'bloat' as it is often known, is a very serious condition mainly affecting large breed dogs with a deep chest. Dogs with bloat are restless and unable to settle, they may drool saliva and vomit frothy foam. If you suspect that your dog has bloat you should call your vet or emergency service at once. Time is of the essence (bloat can kill in less than an hour). Your vet will want to see your dog immediately but try not to turn up at the practice unannounced - if you call ahead they will be ready for you when you arrive.

Read Bloat (gastric dilation)
Puppy with bandaged leg

Emergencies - what to do

Immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for an injured dog following all but the most minor of accidents. Getting your dog to your vet (where all the necessary equipment is on hand) is quicker and gives the dog a better chance than calling a vet out to the scene of the accident. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is - don't panic! - this could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.

Read Emergencies - what to do
Dog with thermometer and cooling compress

Fever - is it serious?

Often when you put a hand on your dog it feels warm, particularly on a patch of bare skin. This is because the normal body temperature of a dog is higher than that in people. Body temperature is maintained within a fairly narrow range (between 37.8°C / 100°F and 39.3°C / 102.7°F) although it varies slightly during the day, with lowest temperatures recorded in the morning and the highest in the evening. Fever is simply an increase in body temperature and can be seen with many disorders in dogs.

Read Fever - is it serious?
Dog laying on grass

Fitting in dogs - an emergency?

If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious. They may show violent, rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not uncommon in dogs, but many dogs have only a single seizure in their lifetime therefore do not be unduly alarmed if you witness your dog having a seizure. Remember your dog does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.

Read Fitting in dogs - an emergency?
Dog in car waiting for owner

Heat stroke

We have all heard that 'dogs can die in hot cars' - the frightening thing is how quickly this can happen. A healthy dog can suffer fatal damage from heat stroke in only a few minutes in a car. The interior of cars can also reach damaging temperatures on days that do not seem very hot so great care should always be taken before leaving your dog in a car. Heat stroke also happens to dogs outside of cars. Whenever it happens it is a true emergency and veterinary attention must be obtained immediately.

Read Heat stroke
Dog vomiting

Poisoning

Poisoning can occur if a poisonous substance is swallowed (solids or liquids), breathed in (gases) or absorbed through the skin (normally liquids). Poisons are substances that damage the cells in the body. In order to cause harm they must enter or come into contact with the body.

Many poisons are products we use every day and can be found in food, medications, household and garden substances. Accidental poisoning in dogs is usually caused by substances we commonly have around the house, e.g. human medications and pest control products.

Read Poisoning

Eye disease

Blind retriever dog

Blindness in dogs

Some causes of blindness in dogs, such as cataracts, are treatable. Other causes, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), are not. If there is any doubt as to whether the blindness is treatable, then referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended.

Read Blindness in dogs
Border collie

BVA-KC-ISDS eye testing scheme

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is a joint scheme between the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS). It was first set-up to help eradicate progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomaly (CEA) but now covers 11 inherited eye diseases in 59 breeds of dog.

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is the most popular inherited eye screening scheme in the UK and Ireland. Schemes in use in other parts of the world include those run by the ECVO (European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) and the OFA Eye Certification Registry.

Read BVA-KC-ISDS eye testing scheme
Dog with cataract

Cataracts in dogs

Cataract is a disease of the lens of the eye in which the normally clear lens becomes opaque or white. This interferes with vision and can result in blindness. Many owners confuse a less serious problem of older dogs eyes with cataract. In some cases an eye specialist may be able to operate on the eye to remove the cataract.

Read Cataracts in dogs
Beagle with red eye

Conjunctivitis in dogs

If your dog has a sore or red eye, or there is discharge from the eye, then it is important to contact your vet. Your dog may have an infection in the eye, but a discharge can also be caused by a foreign body (such as a grass seed) caught under the eyelid. It is important that diseases of the eye are treated quickly to prevent any permanent damage being done.

Read Conjunctivitis in dogs
Corneal ulcer in a boxer dog

Corneal ulcers - a sore eye

The basic structure of a dog's eye is much the same as a human's eye. Consequently dogs can suffer a similar range of eye diseases to humans. Because the eye is complicated, delicate and easily damaged, all eye problems require immediate veterinary attention.

Read Corneal ulcers - a sore eye
'Dry eye' in a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

'Dry eye' (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

If your dog has recurrent problems with their eyes or has a sticky discharge that does not seem to go away you should contact your vet. It may be that they have a problem with tear production in the eyes. Lack of tears leads to dry eyes which are sore and often become infected or damaged. If this condition is recognised and treated early on it may be possible to control the condition and prevent permanent damage to the eyes.

Read 'Dry eye' (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
Vet putting drops into puppy's eye

Eye medication: how to give to your dog

Eye problems in dogs are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home.

Read Eye medication: how to give to your dog
Close up of a dog's nose

Progessive retinal atrophy (PRA)

There are many causes of blindness in dogs and if you suspect that your dog's eyesight is deteriorating you should contact your vet immediately. Some of the causes of blindness can be treated and vision can be retained. Sadly, other causes like PRA cannot be treated but your vet may be able to help you cope with living with a blind dog.

Read Progessive retinal atrophy (PRA)

Gastrointestinal disease

A sad dog

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)

Almost all dogs will suffer from diarrhoea at some point in their lives. In most cases this lasts no more than a few days and dogs generally get better without any treatment. However, in a few cases the diarrhoea is due to a more serious underlying cause and does not resolve. EPI is one of the conditions that can result in chronic diarrhoea.

EPI results in a reduced ability to digest food this means that an affected pet will suffer from chronic diarrhoea and be significantly underweight. Dogs with EPI have a good appetite but despite consuming lots of food they are literally starving.

Read Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
Dog eating from bowl

Food allergy

We probably all know people who are unable to eat strawberries or nuts due to an allergy but it isn't only people who can react to their food. Whilst food allergies are not common in dogs they can be affected too. Food allergies can produce many different symptoms, some of which can be quite distressing for your pet. No allergy is pleasant, but at least with a food allergy it is usually possible to avoid the cause of the symptoms so that your pet can lead a normal life.

Read Food allergy
Vet holding a dog

Oesophageal foreign bodies in dogs

Some dogs are very greedy and any dog that thinks it is under threat of having a tasty bit of food taken away from it may swallow something without chewing properly. Dogs that scavenge are at particular risk of picking up and swallowing something they should not eat. Often scavenging merely results in an upset tummy but sometimes a piece of foreign material can become lodged in the throat. This is a potentially very serious condition and if you think your pet may have something stuck in its throat you should contact your vet immediately.

Read Oesophageal foreign bodies in dogs
Bulldog bowing

Pancreatitis

Almost all dogs will have a tummy upset at some point in their lives. In most cases this will get better over a few days without any treatment. Occasionally vomiting may be a sign of something more serious in your pet. One such disease which can cause vomiting is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition with a huge range of severity from almost no clinical signs to severe abdominal upset and even death. If you are at all worried about your pet's health please make an appointment with your vet.

Read Pancreatitis
Dog vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea are very common in dogs. Both are symptoms of other conditions rather than diseases in their own right and there is a vast range of dog diseases in which diarrhoea and/or vomiting may occur. In many cases the problem may be successfully treated without ever pinpointing the actual cause. However, the information that you give your vet may be vital in deciding whether the case is serious enough to need further detailed investigations.

Read Vomiting and diarrhoea

Heart diseases

Listening to a dog's heart beat

Aortic stenosis

Aortic stenosis is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

If your vet identifies a heart murmur in your puppy it is essential to have further investigation to establish the cause of the murmur so that appropriate treatment can be given early.

Read Aortic stenosis
Dog among autumn leaves

Canine heart testing schemes

Congenital heart diseases are not uncommon in puppies and some of these are inherited. Pedigree dogs have many inherited diseases and different breeds each have their own problems. Many dog breed societies employ testing schemes to detect individuals affected with certain conditions at any early stage of the disease at an early age. Early detection is important, not only to ensure appropriate treatment for affected dogs but also so that these animals can be excluded from breeding programmes to prevent them passing on the disease to their offspring.

Read Canine heart testing schemes
Sleeping Labrador puppy

Congenital heart diseases

Bringing a new puppy into the family is an exciting time and should be a time of great joy. It can be particularly distressing to find that your new arrival has a problem. It is important that you get your new puppy checked over by your vet so that any obvious problems can be identified before you become too attached to it.

Read Congenital heart diseases
Boxer dog

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease affecting the heart muscle. It is the second most common heart disease in dogs (after mitral valve disease). In DCM the heart is unable to contract normally and as the muscle stretches the heart gets larger. DCM affects mainly middle-aged large and giant breed dogs and some spaniels. Small breeds of dog are occasionally affected. Male dogs are more likely to be affected than females. Animals with DCM usually develop signs of heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Read Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dog laying on grass

Heart disease in your dog

Heart disease is increasingly common in dogs - probably because their average life expectancy is increasing due to improved veterinary care. Some heart defects, e.g. hole in the heart, are present from birth (congenital heart defects) but only cause signs as the dog gets older. Other diseases develop later in life as a result of the effects of ageing or damage to the heart. The most common heart diseases in the dog develop as the dog ages and its heart starts to wear out.

Read Heart disease in your dog
Tablets

Heart disease: drug treatment

Heart disease does not necessarily mean heart failure. Many dogs with heart disease have no outward signs of illness and are able to lead relatively normal lives without any medication. However, most heart diseases will get worse and once symptoms start, treatment will probably be required for the remainder of your dog's life.

Read Heart disease: drug treatment
ECG

Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)

There are many different heart problems that can affect dogs. Some of these affect the rhythm of the heart beat and one such condition is atrial fibrillation. This is most commonly seen in large and giant breeds of dog but can be seen in smaller dogs associated with heart disease. Atrial fibrillation does not cause any specific signs so it is unlikely that you will identify this as a cause of illness in your pet. However, any heart disease should be taken very seriously and an early visit to your vet can help to achieve a good outcome.

Read Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)
Sad Golden Retriever

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has long been known to be a problem in people and is being increasingly recognised in pets. Hypertension is very common in older people and is often associated with smoking, or with stressful living. In animals, hypertension is almost always caused by an underlying disease.

Read High blood pressure (hypertension)
Vet listening to dog's heart beat

Investigating heart disease

It is important that your vet can recognise the early stages of heart failure (and therefore when to begin therapy, if necessary). Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy. Heart disease and heart failure are not the same thing. In the early stages of heart disease most animals are able to cope although their heart is not working as well as normal. Animals can live with some forms of heart disease without showing any signs of illness at all. Heart failure occurs when the heart disease is more severe and signs of malfunction (usually coughing or breathlessness) develop. Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy.

Read Investigating heart disease
Vet listening to dog's heart beat

Mitral valve disease

Mitral valve disease is the most common cause of a heart murmur in dogs. Many cases are detected by a vet after a routine examination (such as before vaccination) before dogs show any signs of illness. If your dog has been diagnosed with mitral valve disease your vet will offer advice on when (and whether) treatment is necessary. Many dogs with this condition live long and happy lives.

Read Mitral valve disease
Vet holding a dog

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
Jack Russell Terrier

Pulmonic stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Pulmonic stenosis
Old golden retriever

Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. It is sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Hormonal diseases

Poodle

Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism)

Although Addison's disease can be a very serious disease the changes it causes can be very subtle in the early stages. The signs of the disease are variable and often vague. It is important to get an early diagnosis because, with treatment, affected animals can lead a normal and full life.

Read Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
Dog with Cushing's disease

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

Although Cushing's disease is a severe disease the changes it causes can be quite subtle in the early stages. Many owners do not recognise the signs of Cushing's disease in their pet, instead confusing the changes caused by the disease with ageing. It is important to get an early diagnosis for this disease because, with treatment, affected animals can lead a normal and full life.

Read Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
Injecting a dog

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a relatively common disease in older people and is being recognised more frequently in older pets. If untreated the disease has serious effects and will ultimately result in the death of your pet. The good news is that the majority of diabetic animals can now be treated and may live normal, happy lives if you are prepared to invest time and money in their care.

Read Diabetes mellitus
A Dachshund with hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism (Thyroid hormone deficiency)

Thyroid hormone is produced by a small organ in the neck. A lack of this hormone (hypothyroidism) may cause a whole range of problems. Dogs with this disease are often mistakenly thought to be just getting old. It is worth looking out for this disease because treatment is simple - with daily tablets to replace the missing hormone your dog could be given a new lease of life.

Read Hypothyroidism (Thyroid hormone deficiency)

Infectious diseases

MRSA culture on a petri dish

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections

MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a nasty bacterial infection that has been widely reported in the media. It has been in the news for the sometimes fatal infection of people and has been dubbed 'the superbug' and 'flesh eating bacteria'. MRSA can also occur in pets; however, dogs more commonly can be infected with a different, although similar infection: MRSI (meticillin resistant Staphylococcus intermedius) or MRSP (meticillin resistant Staphylococcus pseudointermedius).

Read Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections
Homeless dog

Distemper disease

Distemper is a serious viral infection, most often seen in dogs less than one year old. Highly effective vaccines have ensured that distemper is rarely seen in vaccinated pet dogs. It is still a problem in the UK in unvaccinated pets, particularly in urban areas. In other countries the disease is still a big killer of dogs.

Read Distemper disease
Black Labrador puppy in long grass

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a serious parasitic infection of dogs, transmitted by ticks in warm or tropical regions and occasionally elsewhere. The most serious form of the disease has a long course of many months to years and usually proves fatal. Ehrlichiosis may be seen in dogs in non-tropical countries if the animals have travelled from areas where the parasite is common.

Read Ehrlichiosis
Mosquito

Heartworm disease

This potentially serious parasitic disease can cause heart failure and other complications. In most countries where the disease occurs, preventative treatment is given to pet dogs to ensure they do not become infected.

Read Heartworm disease
Young dog rolling in the grass

Infectious hepatitis

Infectious hepatitis is a serious viral infection, most often seen in dogs less than one year old. It primarily causes damage to the liver. Although dogs with mild disease usually recover, the disease is often fatal in severely affected animals. Recovered animals can shed infection for many months and may be a risk to other dogs. An effective vaccine is available that can protect your dog from the disease.

Read Infectious hepatitis
Dogs in boarding kennels

Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis)

Kennel cough is not a serious disease in most otherwise healthy dogs. However, it is very contagious and will spread rapidly around the dog population. As its name suggests, it causes coughing that can go on for a month in some cases.

Read Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis)
Dog with leishmaniosis

Leishmaniosis

Leishmaniosis is a potentially fatal disease of dogs that can also affect other animals including humans. It is spread between animals by sand flies. Unfortunately domesticated dogs harbour the infection and your dog may catch it especially in countries around the Mediterranean, e.g. southern France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and the Middle East. Leishmaniosis is not uncommon in the UK because of the number of infected dogs travelling here. However, the sandfly that spreads the parasite between individual dogs, has not been identified in the UK yet.

Read Leishmaniosis
Working Labrador Retriever in water

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection affecting the gastrointestinal tract or liver and kidneys of young dogs. Until recently the disease was uncommon as a result of an effective vaccination programme in the UK. However, we have recently seen development of infections caused by new types of leptospira not covered by the old vaccine.

Read Leptospirosis
Vet examines a puppy

Parvovirus disease in your dog

Parvovirus enteritis is a serious viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract of young dogs. The virus attacks the cells of the gut resulting in vomiting and profuse diarrhoea. Parvovirus also suppresses the immune system and causes a profound decrease in the white blood cell numbers circulating in the blood. The management of parvoviral enteritis includes intravenous fluids and supportive treatment.

Read Parvovirus disease in your dog
Dog foaming at the mouth

Rabies

Rabies is a very serious disease, killing more than 30,000 people around the world each year. There are few reported cases of recovery from confirmed infection. If you plan to take your pet abroad then they will need protection against this deadly disease.

Read Rabies
Ringworm infection on a German Shepherd dog

Ringworm

Ringworm is the common name given to a fungal infection also known as dermatophytosis. Ringworm is not uncommon in dogs and if your dog has skin problems it may have ringworm. The disease is highly contagious and can be passed on to humans so if any signs develop it is important that you seek veterinary advice immediately.

Read Ringworm

Lameness

Old dog

Arthritis

Arthritis is a familiar problem for most vets. A large number of dogs are diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis simply means an inflammation of joints and animals with arthritis usually suffer with pain and stiffness in their joints. Arthritis is typically a problem in older pets. However, many animals with arthritis will have had signs of disease from an early age if their arthritis is caused by problems with joint development.

Read Arthritis
German Shepherd dog

Back problems (Cauda equina diseases)

Back problems in dogs are not uncommon. Many breeds are affected by disk disease but diseases of the spinal cord itself are also a problem. These diseases are painful and affect a dogs mobility. Medical management may help some dogs, but in severe cases surgery may be needed.

Read Back problems (Cauda equina diseases)
Two puppies laying back to back

Bone problems in young dogs

Puppies continue to grow and develop for months or years after birth. Giant breeds may not reach full adult size for 18 months or 2 years. During this growth period they are at particular risk from bone and joint disorders. Some of these are inherited such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Damage can also result from traumatic injury.

Read Bone problems in young dogs
Labrador dog

BVA/KC elbow dysplasia scoring scheme

Elbow dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club (KC) introduced the elbow dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read BVA/KC elbow dysplasia scoring scheme
X-ray of a dog with hip dysplasia

BVA/KC hip dysplasia scoring scheme

Hip dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club (KC) introduced the hip dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read BVA/KC hip dysplasia scoring scheme
Dog with lame leg due to cruciate ligament rupture

Cruciate ligament rupture (torn knee ligaments)

Cruciate ligament rupture is the famous knee injury of professional footballers. It is surprisingly common in dogs too. If the ligaments are damaged they need to be replaced during an operation on the knee. After the operation most dogs return to full athletic fitness.

Read Cruciate ligament rupture (torn knee ligaments)

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club introduced the elbow dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read Elbow dysplasia
Labrador dog

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors.

Read Hip dysplasia
Young dog jumping

Joint problems in young dogs

Puppies continue to grow and develop for months or years after birth. Giant breeds may not reach full adult size for 18 months or 2 years. During this growth period they are at particular risk from bone and joint disorders. Some of these are inherited such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Damage can also result from traumatic injury.

Read Joint problems in young dogs
X-ray of a dog with a realigned kneecap, showing the use pf pins and wire

Luxating patella

Owners of some dogs may notice that they often 'hop' on one of their back legs carrying the other. This strange behaviour may be caused by an unstable kneecap or 'patella'. Although most common in small breeds of dog any breed of dog can be affected. Most dogs show clinical signs of lameness less than one year of age. The condition can be mild and occasionally can be managed conservatively but the majority of animals will need an operation to correct the problem if they are to have a normal, active life.

Read Luxating patella
Basenji

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a condition that was first described in people in Lyme, Connecticut, USA in the 1970s and discovered in dogs in the 1980s. It is an example of a tick-borne disease (see below) and is one of many diseases that are passed between animals using intermediate hosts or vectors.

Read Lyme disease
Close up of a dog's nose

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis (MG) literally means grave (gravis) muscle (my-) weakness (asthenia). It is an unusual cause of generalised weakness in dogs.

Read Myasthenia gravis
Dog with sad eyes

Myositis

If your dog suddenly finds it difficult or painful to take exercise they may have myositis. Myositis is an inflammation of the muscle. It can be a serious and painful condition and may be an early indicator that your pet is ill in some other way. A veterinary examination is important to try to identify a cause of the problem so that appropriate treatment can be given.

Read Myositis
Dog with tongue out

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders in pets can be very frightening for owners. Apparently healthy animals may collapse at exercise or become paralysed over a period of a few hours for no apparent reason. An accurate diagnosis is important as, with appropriate early treatment, many conditions can be managed such that the animal makes a full recovery over time.

Read Neuromuscular disorders
Vet examines a black Labrador

Pain management

Long term (chronic) pain is as debilitating in animals as it is in people. Constant pain significantly reduces pleasure in life and can lead to sleeplessness and a poor appetite. Simple measures to control even mild pain can result in a happier, healthier pet.

Read Pain management
Vet holding a dog

Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

A slipped disc (also known as intervertebral disc herniation) is the most common cause of paralysis in dogs.

Read Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

Neurological disease

Empty medication packaging

Bromide

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from nerve cells in the brain. Bromide suppresses seizure activity by reducing the electrical charge within these cells.

Read Bromide
Dog with tongue out

Epilepsy (seizures)

If your dog has had a fit (convulsion) you will know how frightening it can be. Fits are not uncommon in dogs but many dogs only ever have a single fit. If your dog has had more than one fit it may be that he has epilepsy. Just as in people, there are tablets for dogs which can control the fits and allow your dog to live a long fulfilling life.

Read Epilepsy (seizures)
Labrador dog

Facial paralysis

Facial paralysis is quite common in dogs, particularly in middle to old-age. The term is simply the description of drooping of muscles in the face, which is caused, not by damage to the muscles themselves, but to the nerves supplying them.

Read Facial paralysis
Jack Russell Terrier

Inflammatory CNS disease

Animals with brain disease may show sudden, dramatic signs and become very poorly extremely quickly. In other cases the signs are more vague and it may be some time before your vet gets to the bottom of the problem. Diseases affecting the brain are not limited to brain tumours and include conditions affecting the blood supply (stroke), causing inflammation (meningitis or encephalitis), trauma or malformation of the brain. Many of these diseases can be treated (or at least managed successfully) to give your pet a good quality of life, so it is very important that conditions are investigated and an accurate diagnosis made so that the best treatment can be given.

Read Inflammatory CNS disease
Labrador dog

Ischaemic myelopathy

Back (spinal) problems are common in dogs and some breeds of dog may be particularly at risk of particular types of spinal problem. Affected dogs may have neck or back pain or show a variety of signs including difficulty walking, jumping, using one or more legs or even complete paralysis. These signs may occur suddenly (acute spinal problem) or more progressively (chronic spinal problem).

Many different spinal problems (slipped disc, fractured spine, spinal infection, spinal tumour, ischaemic myelopathy) can cause similar signs. Ischaemic myelopathy is a disease that comes on very suddenly without warning and can be very frightening, however most affected dogs recover. If you suspect your dog might have a spinal problem (especially an acute one) you should make sure your vet checks them over as soon as possible.

Read Ischaemic myelopathy
Close up of a dog's nose

Neuro-diagnostic tests

If your pet is unwell it can be a confusing time trying to make sense of what your vet is doing and why. There are many tests commonly used in veterinary practice that help your vet to work out what is wrong with your pet. This information sheet explains what we are looking for when they perform tests to investigate an animal with a disease affecting the nervous system. Some of these tests can be done in general practice, but others are more difficult to perform or interpret and your pet may need to be referred to a specialist for these.

Read Neuro-diagnostic tests

Neurological examination

A neurological disease is one that affects the brain or the system of nerves running throughout the body. The signs of illness can range from very mild (a weakness in one leg) to very severe (the inability to stand). In order for your vet to investigate the disease they need to know where the problem actually lies.

If your pet has difficulty walking this may be because of a problem with the nerves in its leg, pressure on the nerves in its spine (like a slipped disc) or a problem in the brain. Only by careful examination can your vet identify where the problem is likely to be in order to perform the most appropriate tests.

Read Neurological examination
Spaniel

Paroxystic events

A paroxysm is a sudden uncontrollable attack and in people is often applied to events like a fit of giggles. In animals a paroxystic attack is more serious and describes a disorder that starts suddenly but also resolves quickly. A one-off event like this may be nothing to worry about but if the experience is repeated you should contact your vet immediately for advice. Attacks may occur at home or at exercise and the most important concern initially is to make sure your pet cannot hurt themselves during the attack. There are many causes of these attacks and your vet will need to investigate further in order to find out what is causing the attacks so that appropriate treatment can be given if any exist for this type of attack.

Read Paroxystic events
Tablets

Phenobarbital

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from nerve cells in the brain. Phenobarbital suppresses seizure activity by reducing the electrical charge within these cells.

Read Phenobarbital
Pug

Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

Until recently, it was thought that strokes were very rare in domestic pets. In the last few years, with the advance and increased availability of more specialist tests, strokes are being recognised more often in pets. The thought of your pet suffering a stroke may be frightening - but you should not be alarmed as strokes are often not as debilitating in animals as they are in people. With appropriate care your pet may do very well.

Read Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Syringohydromyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS)

Syringohydromyelia, also known as Chiari-type malformation (a reference to the human disease) and caudal occipital malformation syndrome, is a common disease in dogs. Affected dogs develop a cyst-like lesion in their spinal cord and this causes pain, and movement abnormalities. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) are genetically predisposed to develop this neurological abnormality but it can also be seen in other breeds. The diagnosis of syringohydromyelia can easily be confirmed using MRI which is now readily available for veterinary patients.

Read Syringohydromyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS)
Dog laying on grass

Vestibular syndrome

Vestibular syndrome refers to a group of diseases that affect the balance system also known as the vestibular system. Common signs of vestibular syndrome include loss of balance, falling, rolling over, abnormal flickering of the eyes and general wobbliness. The signs of vestibular disease often come on very suddenly and if your pet develops these signs it can be very frightening. Many people mistakenly think that their pet may have suffered a stroke. However, most affected animals recover over a few weeks.

Read Vestibular syndrome
Great Dane puppy in water

Wobbler Syndrome

This condition is encountered most frequently in large and giant breeds of dog, and especially Dobermans. It causes progressive difficulties in movement and an abnormal gait. Investigation and surgical treatment is usually carried out by specialist veterinary orthopaedic surgeons or neurologists.

Read Wobbler Syndrome

Reproductive problems

Pregnant Labrador bitch

Birth control in the bitch

Most responsible dog owners want to prevent unplanned breeding and the production of unwanted puppies. Most forms of birth control prevent the heat cycle of bitches, and so mating and conception does not occur. The cycle can be controlled permanently or temporarily. Pregnancy prevention is also possible after an unplanned mating has occurred.

Read Birth control in the bitch
Golden retriever puppies

Breeding from your dog

A bitch (female dog) can produce 1-2 litters of puppies each year. If you are not intending to let your bitch have puppies then you might consider having her neutered. However, if you do decide to breed from your bitch there are many things to consider to ensure that both mother and puppies are strong and healthy.

Read Breeding from your dog
Puppy showing its tongue

Cryptorchidism (retained testicles)

When a male puppy is in the womb its testicles are drawn up inside the body. After birth the testicles begin a journey from inside the tummy (abdomen) to the scrotum. Both testicles should have descended to the scrotum by six month of age and be easy to palpate. If testicles do not end up in the scrotum by this age they are said to be 'retained'. Retained testicles are a relatively common occurrence in male puppies, particularly in certain breeds. If your puppy has retained testicles we will probably recommend an operation to remove them (castration).

Read Cryptorchidism (retained testicles)
Pregnant bulldog

Eclampsia (puerperal tetany)

Canine eclampsia, also sometimes wrongly called  "milk fever", is a dangerous condition brought on by low levels of calcium in the blood stream. It is also called hypocalcaemia and puerperal tetany and needs emergency veterinary attention.

Read Eclampsia (puerperal tetany)
Retriever with toy in mouth

False pregnancy

Some unneutered female dogs develop changes several months after a season. This is often referred to a 'false pregnancy' or 'pseudopregnancy'. In most animals this is not a serious condition but it can be inconvenient for the owner and disturbing for the animal. Usually the condition resolves without any treatment but if you are not thinking of breeding from your pet then it is worth considering neutering to prevent this condition.

Read False pregnancy
Handling a newborn puppy

Hand-rearing puppies

Fortunately it is very unusual for a mother to be unable to rear her puppies herself. Taking on the task of bringing up a litter of puppies is rightly daunting and it requires considerable dedication for the first 4 weeks. If you are placed in the situation of having to rear puppies by hand you should contact your veterinary practice for advice.

Read Hand-rearing puppies
Small dog

Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)

Pyometra is a common disease in un-neutered female dogs that requires major surgery to cure. Though potentially very serious, many animals respond well to the treatment and can expect to make a full recovery. The best way to protect your female pet against pyometra is to have her neutered.

Read Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)
Chihuahua with puppies

Whelping - potential problems

Just like it is for women, giving birth is a completely natural process for bitches. In most cases the delivery will go smoothly and your bitch will manage better without any interference. However, you should keep a watchful eye on proceedings as problems can occur. If your bitch is having problems then early intervention could save her life as well as that of the puppies.

Read Whelping - potential problems

Respiratory problems

Pug

Brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome (BUAOS)

If you are considering buying, or already own, a dog with a short nose such as a Pug, Boston terrier, Pekingese or Bulldog then you need to be aware of the welfare issues surrounding brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome.

Read Brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome (BUAOS)
Yorkshire Terrier

Collapsing trachea

If you have a small dog that coughs every time it gets excited or pulls on its lead it may be suffering from tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse results in narrowing of the airway and, if left untreated, can progress over time causing severe consequences for your pet. If your dog develops a cough that does not get better after 2 weeks you should make an appointment to see your vet.

Read Collapsing trachea
Poorly dog

Coughing in dogs

It is not uncommon for dogs to cough occasionally. However, if your pet is coughing frequently or has persistent episodes of coughing then you should seek veterinary advice. There are many causes of coughing and many of these can be treated successfully. Some dogs occasionally cough when they get excited or pull on their lead. Many causes of coughing if left untreated, can progress over time causing severe consequences for your pet. If your dog develops a constant cough, an intermittent cough that does not get better after 2 weeks or becomes at all unwell then you should make an appointment to see your vet.

Read Coughing in dogs
Coupage

Coupage for dogs

If you think your pet has a respiratory condition that might benefit from coupage, seek advice as soon as possible from your veterinary surgeon or veterinary physiotherapist.

Read Coupage for dogs
Brittany spaniel

Laryngeal paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis causes respiratory (breathing) noise and exercise intolerance in medium and large breeds of dogs. The disease is very slowly progressive and may start very subtly, so by the time you notice significant breathing noise or inability to exercise it might be quite far progressed. If you notice these changes in your dog you should seek veterinary advice and have a vet check your dog for possible associated problems or diseases.

Read Laryngeal paralysis
The life cycle of parasitic lungworms

Lungworms in dogs (Angiostrongylus)

Referring to Angiostrongylus vasorum as a lungworm is quite misleading. Although the early stages of the parasite do affect the lungs and severely infected dogs may show signs of coughing, other signs are far more common. These lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum) are also known as the French heartworm.

This is a parasite where the adult worm infects dogs but the young stages are carried by slugs and snails. The parasite itself may not cause the dog any problems unless present in very large numbers. However, in order to survive in the blood vessels the parasite releases substances which affect the clotting of the host's blood. Thus infected dogs are more prone to bleeding than normal dogs. This bleeding can pose a life-threatening risk to an affected pet. Thus this parasite is can be more dangerous to a dog than the more common worms that live in the intestine and it is very important to take precautions to prevent infection.

This disease used to be confined to dogs living in the South of the country (especially the South East, South West and South Wales). However, in the last ten years the disease has become much more common and has been seen in dogs as far North as Scotland. All dogs in the UK should now be considered potentially at risk.

Read Lungworms in dogs (Angiostrongylus)
The life cycle of parasitic lungworms

Lungworms in dogs (Oslerus osleri)

There are several species of worms that can infect the airways of dogs and these are termed lungworms. One of these, Oslerus osleri (previously known as Filaroides osleri) is a parasitic worm with the adult worms found in the upper airways (trachea). Infection is not common in most of the UK and generally affects dogs in kennels (such as racing greyhounds).

Read Lungworms in dogs (Oslerus osleri)
Sneezing bulldog

Sneezing dogs

All dogs, like people, sneeze sometimes - this is completely normal and should not cause you any concern. However, if your dog cannot stop sneezing, shows signs of distress while sneezing or continues to sneeze intermittently for more than a week you should contact your vet for advice. Sneezing is not a disease in its own right but can be an indicator that something is wrong with your pet.

Read Sneezing dogs

Skin disease

Acral lick granuloma

Acral lick granuloma

Lick granulomas are moist, fleshy pink sores usually on a dog's legs. They are caused by excessive licking at the site and are frequently caused by an underlying disease that needs to be properly diagnosed and treated. If you suspect that your dog has a lick granuloma you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Read Acral lick granuloma
German Shepherd dog

Anal furunculosis (perianal fistulas)

Anal furunculosis (also called perianal fistulas) is a distressing condition commonly affecting German Shepherd dogs and occasionally other breeds. The problem is one of chronic deep infection, inflammation, discharges and ulceration around the tail base and anus. The condition may progress to involve a large area around the back end of the dog. It can be very difficult to cure or control but recent advances in treatments are proving encouraging.

Read Anal furunculosis (perianal fistulas)
Corgi wearing a protective collar after a veterinary procedure

Atopy

Living with an itchy dog is no fun - but being an itchy dog must be worse! Atopy affects around 1 in 10 dogs to some degree. In dogs the condition can cause a variety of signs: skin disease, runny nose, itchy eyes and (very rarely) asthma. If your dog persists in licking its feet or has recurrent ear or skin infections, it may have atopy. As a general rule itchy skins do not resolve without treatment; so if your dog is scratching an early visit to your vet is advisable. Itchiness is not normal, nor is it a habit.

Read Atopy
St Bernard dog

Hot spots (wet eczema, pyotraumatic dermatitis)

Sometimes dogs develop a sore spot on the skin which oozes and irritates. Often this develops over the space of just a few hours. The critical step in managing these spots is to stop the dog worrying them but veterinary attention should be sought to ensure there is no underlying condition that needs treatment. In most cases early treatment results in a rapid resolution of signs.

Read Hot spots (wet eczema, pyotraumatic dermatitis)
A West Highland white terrier with deep pyoderma

Skin fold pyoderma

Pyoderma means bacterial infection within the skin. Usually this occurs within the top layers of the skin (superficial pyoderma), and is a common medical problem in dogs. Deep pyoderma, when infection penetrates further into the skin, is much more serious and may take months of intensive treatment to cure.

Read Skin fold pyoderma
Boxer dog

'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Cheyletiella infection is a form of mange that is also known as rabbit mites and walking dandruff. This is an itchy skin condition caused by small parasites living on the skin surface. The mites can be found on many animals including dogs, cats and rabbits and can be transmitted from pets to people. Early recognition is important as the condition can be simply treated.

Read 'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Travel

Dogs in boarding kennels

Choosing a boarding kennel

It would probably be less traumatic for most dogs to be looked after by an experienced and reliable 'pet sitter'. Pet sitters are individuals who come to your home and stay there when you are away. They look after your dog in his or her normal environment. The majority of dog owners, however, have to rely on boarding kennels. Pet sitters are more expensive and some people may have concerns about relative strangers in their home. Taking care when choosing a boarding kennel can minimise stress for your dog, ensuring that they return home fit, healthy and happy.

Read Choosing a boarding kennel
Dog by the sea

Disease risks when travelling to continental Europe

An increasing number of owners are taking their pets with them on holiday when they travel to continental Europe. This factsheet provides information on the more important novel diseases that your dog may come into contact with abroad.

Read Disease risks when travelling to continental Europe
Pet passport

Pet passports

Pet passports are part of the European Union (EU) Regulation on the movement of pet animals. Certain non-EU listed countries may also issue a passport. Dogs travelling on Pet Passports must be treated against tapeworms before entering the UK from most countries. The treatment will be recorded in the passport.  

Read Pet passports
Dalmatian poses in a suitcase

Taking your pet abroad

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows for limited movement of pets between the UK and some European countries under controlled conditions.

Read Taking your pet abroad
Dog and owner enjoying a coastal view

Travelling with your dog

For most family dogs travelling is an exciting and often enjoyable experience. Dogs like to be included in whatever their family is doing and quickly learn that a car journey often leads to a walk. Unfortunately a few dogs find travelling very stressful because they feel frightened or travel sick. When taking any pet on longer journeys it is important that you are properly prepared.

Read Travelling with your dog
Dog at home

Travelling: leaving your pet behind

International travel is becoming increasingly common for pets and the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which even allows limited movement of pets through Europe and the UK, is now fully operational. However, many pet owners still prefer to leave their pets behind when they go away.

Read Travelling: leaving your pet behind

Veterinary procedures

Endoscope

Endoscopy - the inside story

Sometimes it can be really helpful to look inside an animal to see what is going on. There are many ways of examining the insides of an animal: blood tests, imaging techniques (like X-ray and ultrasound) and sometimes it is necessary to operate to find out what is going on. Endoscopy is an alternative to some forms of surgery. Endoscopy is increasingly being performed in general practice and your vet may suggest it for your pet if it has a breathing problem or bowel trouble.

Read Endoscopy - the inside story
Urine sample

Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your dog to be treated earlier and more effectively. A very important use is to test that your dog's kidneys and liver are working properly before a surgical operation.

Read Samples and tests - how they help your vet
MR scanner

Scanning - the inside picture

The term 'scan' is often used to describe the method of obtaining an image of the inside of the body. This may be done with ultrasound (details of which can be found in a separate factsheet), which is often available in veterinary practices and may be performed at your vet's surgery. Recently, more specialised scans (MRI and CAT scans) have become widely available for pets - however it is likely that your pet would need to travel to a specialist centre for one of these scans.

Read Scanning - the inside picture
Vet reviews x-ray

X-rays and ultrasound

Veterinary medicine has made many advances in the last 10 years and many local veterinary practices are now able to perform x-ray and ultrasound examinations.

Read X-rays and ultrasound

Ferrets

Behaviour

Curious ferret

Behaviour

Ferrets make wonderful pets because of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature. They can also be easily trained to use a litter tray because they tend to habitually urinate and defaecate in the same places.

Read Behaviour

Caring for your ferret

Ferret eating

Feeding your ferret

Ferrets have unique feeding requirements. They are carnivores and are unable to obtain nutrients from vegetable matter; the food they eat also passes through their digestive system very quickly. For this reason their diet needs to be high in animal protein, fat and low in fibre. A ferret thrives on a varied diet, so the more varied you can make your ferret's diet, the better.

Read Feeding your ferret
A ferret suckling

Neutering your ferret

Neutering your ferret not only prevents unwanted or accidental pregnancies - it is a fact that every year many litters of unwanted kits are born. It is also important when considering other factors such as breeding, accommodation and health.

Read Neutering your ferret
A group of young ferrets

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your ferret happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

Read Routine health care

Miscellaneous health problems

Ferret laying down

Canine distemper in ferrets

Ferrets are highly susceptible to canine distemper - a disease normally seen in dogs that is transmitted through moisture droplets. Dogs usually pick it up when sniffing where infected dogs have been, and since the incubation period can be as long as three weeks, it is usually too late to vaccinate once any outbreak has begun.

Read Canine distemper in ferrets
A ferret being examined by a vet

Miscellaneous health problems in ferrets

Two medical conditions of ferrets that demand special mentions are the ferret's extreme susceptibility to canine distemper and the unusual consequences of female ferrets coming into heat. These are therefore covered in separate factsheets.

However, there are other medical conditions that affect ferrets that are briefly covered here.

Read Miscellaneous health problems in ferrets
Albino ferret

Parasitic diseases in ferrets

Most of the external parasites of domestic dogs and cats (fleas, mange, ear mites, etc.) can cause disease in ferrets. However, less is known about the ferret's susceptibility to the more common internal parasites (roundworms, etc.) of dogs and cats.

Read Parasitic diseases in ferrets
A ferret

Viral and bacterial infections in ferrets

Ferrets are prone to a number of viral and bacterial infections. There are vaccines available to prevent some of these, but good management practices go a long way to lower the risks of infectious disease in ferrets.

Read Viral and bacterial infections in ferrets

Owning a ferret

Close up of a ferret's head

Ferrets: a history

The ferret, also known as Mustela putorius furo (which in Latin means 'bad smelling weasel') comes from the 'Mustelidae' family and is a domestic pet, not a wild animal. However, ferrets are descendants of the European polecat (weasel) and are, therefore, close relatives of skunks, mink, otters and badgers.

Read Ferrets: a history
Holding a ferret in two hands

Handling your ferret

When awake, ferrets generally exhibit constant activity. However, they can be easily picked up and gently restrained by using both hands to support their weight and provide security from falling and injury.

Read Handling your ferret
A snug ferret

Housing your ferret

Ferrets make wonderful pets because of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature. Housing is important for your ferret, whether you keep them inside or outside.

Read Housing your ferret

Guinea pigs

Caring for your guinea pig

Guinea pig eating a pepper

Feeding your guinea pig

Guinea pigs come from Central and South America and live in extended family groups in areas of long grass. They make runs or pathways through the tall vegetation and eat as they go! In an ideal world, we would keep our guinea pigs in an uncut hay meadow, but then we'd never see them... and the average back garden is not a hay meadow!

Read Feeding your guinea pig
Vet examines a guinea pig

Health checks: how to examine your guinea pig

In order to keep your guinea pig in the best possible condition, you will need to handle him daily, check him over for signs of illness and injuries. Because they are a prey species, guinea pigs are very good at hiding signs of pain and illness so it is important to know their usual routines and check them regularly.

Read Health checks: how to examine your guinea pig
Cuddling a guinea pig

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your pet happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

Read Routine health care

Dental disease

A guinea pig with overgrown teeth

Dental disease

Malocclusion of the teeth (also known as slobbers) is a common problem in guinea pigs who are not fed the correct diet or who have jaw joint problems or trauma to the face. In guinea pigs, their front incisors and back molar teeth grow constantly, so if they are not worn down correctly (by constantly eating hay) then they can become overgrown. When the teeth become excessively long and not worn, then the back teeth can bridge over the tongue leading to the inability to swallow any food at all.

Read Dental disease

Gastrointestinal conditions

A guinea pig

Sensitivity to antibiotics

Guinea pigs as a group are unusually sensitive to certain antibiotics, whether they are given orally or by injection. Potentially harmful antibiotics include ampicillin, penicillin, bacitracin, erythromycin, lincomycin, gentamicin, clindamycin, streptomycin, vancomycin and sometimes tetracycline. Interestingly, even certain antibiotics used topically may produce lethal effects.

Read Sensitivity to antibiotics

Miscellaneous health problems

Guinea pig with more than the usual number of incisor teeth

Miscellaneous health problems in guinea pigs

Two medical conditions of guinea pigs that demand special mentions are dental disease (teeth malocclusion) and pneumonia, therefore these are covered in separate factsheets. However, there are other medical conditions that affect guinea pigs that are briefly covered here. There are many new emerging diseases seen in guinea pigs so this list is not exhaustive and covers the most commonly seen diseases.

Read Miscellaneous health problems in guinea pigs
An x-ray of a guinea pig with pneumonia

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the most common bacterial diseases of pet guinea pigs. A number of potential disease-causing bacteria may inhabit the respiratory tracts of otherwise normal guinea pigs.

Read Pneumonia

Owning a guinea pig

Pregnant guinea pig sow

Breeding from your guinea pig

The single most important breeding consideration is that female guinea pigs should be first bred before 7 months of age. If the first breeding is delayed beyond this time, serious (sometimes life-threatening) problems with delivery are encountered. Females should be first bred between 3 and 7 months of age, and males should be 34 months old at their first breeding.

Read Breeding from your guinea pig
Guinea pigs being raised in the traditional way in Peru

Guinea pigs: a history

Guinea pigs are hystricomorph rodents (related to chinchillas and porcupines) that originated from the Andes Mountains region of South America. Traditionally, guinea pigs were used for ceremonial meals by indigenous people in the Andean highlands, and it continues to be a major part of the diet in Peru.

Read Guinea pigs: a history
Vet holding a guinea pig

Handling your guinea pig

Guinea pigs rarely violently struggle when they are being picked up but they sometimes make a "squeal of protest", which sounds pig-like to many people. Nevertheless, great care should be taken not to injure them when picking them up. Due to the size of their rotund belly, their spines and hindquarters should always be supported when handling.

Read Handling your guinea pig
Indoor housing

Housing your guinea pig

Proper housing plays a major role in the maintenance of healthy guinea pigs. The well-being of the animals must be a primary consideration.

Read Housing your guinea pig

Skin disease

A severe case of mite infestation in a guinea pig

Parasitic skin diseases

Lice and mites are the most common external parasites of guinea pigs. Lice are tiny, wingless, flattened insects that live within the hair coat; both the adults and their eggs are found attached to individual hairs. A mite similar to the scabies mite of people causes serious infestations in pet guinea pig.

Read Parasitic skin diseases

Horses

Behaviour

Aggressive horse

Aggression

Equine behaviour can be difficult to understand, especially aggressive behaviour. If you want to understand more about why your horse exhibits certain aggressive behavioural traits, this information should shed some light on them!

Read Aggression
Woman riding a horse

Bolting

Bolting is the term used when a horse gallops off out of control and the rider is unable to stop it. In addition to being very frightening for the rider, this can also be very dangerous for the horse, rider and others around them.

Read Bolting
A box walking horse

Box-walking

Box-walking is a repetitive behaviour problem that is most commonly seen in stabled horses. It may reflect frustration of their motivation to move and exercise and can be treated and/or prevented by providing plenty of forage, turnout and social contact.

Read Box-walking
Hypersalivation - saliva froth

Bruxism

Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, is a commonly observed problem in horses, and is often a sign of physical or psychological discomfort. Sudden onset of bruxism should be investigated in relation to clinical problems, as this is likely to be due to pain. Longer term bruxism can lead to other problems such as wear of the molars and other oral problems that could lead to pain and/or feeding issues.

Read Bruxism
Bucking horse

Bucking

Bucking is the term used for when a horse kicks out with both hind legs at the same time. Bucking can often unseat a rider, especially an inexperienced one. It is can be dangerous to ride a horse that bucks, therefore it is useful to know why a horse bucks and how to deal with it.

Read Bucking
A clicker

Clicker training

There is an increasing interest in the use of positive reinforcement techniques for training new behaviours in horses. The use of secondary reinforcers to establish a new behavioural response was originally used with performing sea mammals. One commonly used form of conditioned reinforcement is called 'clicker training'.

Read Clicker training
A horse that has had its coat clipped

Clipping problems - how to deal with them

As with many animals, horses grow a thicker coat in winter. The thickness of the winter coat varies depending on the breed of horse or pony and whether they are stabled or turned out in the field during the colder weather. This thicker coat can cause horses to overheat and sweat during exercise and owners often clip their horses to prevent this.

Read Clipping problems - how to deal with them
Horse training

Common training problems and how to deal with them

Sadly, horses often develop problem behaviours that affect the relationship between horse and handler. A recent study of horses presented in a slaughter house in Europe identified that the most common reason for horse destruction was not due to physical problems but was due to behavioural problems. The following information outlines some common problem behaviours and possible treatment methods. As with all behaviour problems, the advice of a vet and a behaviour specialist should be sought before modification is attempted.

Read Common training problems and how to deal with them
Crib-biting and wind-sucking behaviour

Crib-biting/wind-sucking/wood-chewing

Crib-biting, wind-sucking and wood-chewing are repetitive oral behaviours that are most commonly seen in stabled horses. Crib-biting and wind-sucking are similar behaviours and may reflect digestive discomfort, whereas wood-chewing may simply reflect re-directed feeding behaviour. Nonetheless, all may be treated and prevented most effectively by providing the horse with natural grazing and increased forage.

Read Crib-biting/wind-sucking/wood-chewing
A headshaking horse

Headshaking

Headshaking is a problem seen in horses all over the country. If your horse is affected it is important to try and find out the cause of the problem so that appropriate treatment and preventive methods can be put into place. Horses can be severely distressed by headshaking as it is a response to pain or irritation of the head.

Read Headshaking
A horse rearing

Rearing

A horse may respond to certain circumstances by rearing. This may range from small rears with the front feet raised only a couple of feet off the ground, to a full rear where the horse is standing vertically on its hind legs. A full height rear poses risks to both the rider and the horse. In addition to unseating the rider, the horse may lose balance and fall over backwards.

Read Rearing
A horse crib-biting

Vices - why and how to manage them

Horses have to put up with a lot! In years gone by horses were left to roam the plains free to do what they liked. Now they are expected to live in small stables and graze in small, enclosed areas. No wonder they look for other things to do, to occupy themselves. Unfortunately many of these actions turn into vices which can cause, at times, disasterous effects.

Read Vices - why and how to manage them
Inside stables

Weaving

Weaving is a common problem found in horses that are stabled for prolonged periods of time without any stimulation or social contact. Dealing with weaving is simple and common sense management will help to manage weaving in the majority of cases.

Read Weaving

Cancer

Close up of a horse's eye

Cancer in horses

Although cancer (neoplasia) is not common in horses, they can occasionally develop a local or generalised form. Common cancers in horses include sarcoids, melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

Read Cancer in horses
X-ray of a horse's foot showing a keratoma

Keratoma - foot tumor

The horse's foot is a complicated structure and we've all heard of the saying "no foot, no horse" - well this is true of keratomas. They should be treated as an emergency and prompt treatment is essential for a successful outcome and future athletic soundness.

Read Keratoma - foot tumor
Nodular sarcoid

Lumps and bumps

Skin diseases are common problems in the horse. The causes of skin disease in the horse can vary from allergic reactions and infectious diseases to tumours. Some skin diseases can cause the horse significant discomfort but others may not bother the horse at all.

Read Lumps and bumps
Sarcoid near a horse's eye

Sarcoids - what you need to know

The equine sarcoid is a skin tumour that affects horses, donkeys, mules and other equids (including the zebra) throughout the world. The disease is problematic because it is very unpredictable and also very difficult to treat. There is a close association with a virus that affects the skin of cattle (bovine papilloma virus). Whilst the disease can seriously affect the skin, it does not spread into the internal organs, so while many horses are badly affected, it seldom "kills" the horse. However, many horses lose value or are destroyed because of the disease.

Read Sarcoids - what you need to know

Caring for your horse

Azoturia - 'Tying-up'

Azoturia is popularly known as 'Tying-up' but it is also known as 'Set fast', 'Monday morning disease' and 'Exertional rhabdomyolysis'.

Read Azoturia - 'Tying-up'
Bandaged horse

Bandaging - the do's and don't's

There may be a number of occasions when you will need to bandage your horse's legs. Bandaging can be used for protection, support and injury. Correct leg bandaging is essential - applied incorrectly, bandages may cause discomfort, restrict blood flow and even cause injury. Learning the correct bandaging techniques can save your horse from potential damage.

Read Bandaging - the do's and don't's
Diagram of a horse's skeleton

Basic equine anatomy

If you own a horse it is useful to have a basic understanding of the horse's anatomy. Having this basic knowledge will enable you to spot problems or diseases your horse may have at a much earlier stage, and will enable you to communicate effectively with your vet.

Read Basic equine anatomy
Vet with a client and her horse

Choosing a vet for your horse

Everyone who owns a pet will, at some point, need to take it to see a vet, whether it be for routine treatment, for an illness or an emergency. Horse owners are no exception, but in most cases, your vet will come to see your horse rather than you taking your horse to see the vet. If you own a horse it is best to be prepared, so make sure you are registered with a practice that specialises in the treatment of horses.

Read Choosing a vet for your horse
Horse shoe tacked to a door

Coping with the loss of a pet

Pets often become beloved members of the family, and when they die, the loss can be very traumatic. From hamsters, to cats, dogs, horses and everything in between, no matter what the animal, losing a beloved pet is never easy and it is only natural to grieve.

Read Coping with the loss of a pet
Lacerated heel

Emergencies - when to call the vet

Every owner will at some time have to deal with an emergency involving their horse. It is essential to know how to deal with such emergencies before they arise and to know who to call when they do. Although concern is understandable when you think your horse is unwell or in pain, if your horse is ill at night your vet will appreciate it if you can wait until the morning to call them unless the condition is an emergency.

Read Emergencies - when to call the vet
Long, curly coat of a horse with ECD

Equine Cushing's disease

Equine Cushing's disease is a condition of senior horses (over 15 years of age) of all types - ponies commonly seem to be predisposed because they tend to live longer. It is also known as ECD, hyperadrenocorticism and pituitary adenoma. It is sometimes called Cushing's syndrome, suggesting it is a disease with a variety of symptoms some of which may be present at any one time. Equine Cushing's disease is notably different in many respects from the condition with the same name in dogs and humans. It can't be cured, but treatment is sometimes effective and can prolong and improve the quality of life for affected horses.

Read Equine Cushing's disease
Dressage horse

Exercise intolerance/poor performance testing

If your horse isn't performing to the best of its ability, there may be an underlying problem that will need to be investigated by your vet. Exercise intolerance can have a number of causes and finding out what it is can be a lengthy process, but more often than not, treatment will be available to get your horse back on top form.

Read Exercise intolerance/poor performance testing
Close up of a horse's eye

Eye problems

The horse's eye is large and lies in a prominent and somewhat unprotected position in the skull. Given the horse's propensity of flight under circumstances of fright, trauma to the eye is not uncommon. Also, given the many varied occupations of horses in some rather harsh environments, it is not unexpected that the horse incurs a moderate amount of eye disease. The eye is an extremely delicate and specialized structure, and any eye problem should be dealt with immediately to prevent any permanent damage that may impair vision and affect the horses safety to be ridden.

Read Eye problems
Microchip scanner

Identification - keeping your horse safe

Owning a horse is a big responsibility and just like any pet, they soon become part of the family and it would be terrible if they got lost or stolen. Without positive identification your chances of finding a missing horse or pony are slim, within a very short period of time, your horse could be hundreds of miles away from home. There are various ways you can have your horse permanently identified, to help prevent theft and to assist in the search for horses that are lost or stolen.

Read Identification - keeping your horse safe
Vet examines a horse with her stethoscope

Normal parameters and vital signs

Knowing what your horses normal vital signs are is very important as these can be a very good indicator of how your horse is feeling and if he needs veterinary attention. You should check your horses vital signs on a regular basis - once a week is ideal as well as when you think your horse might be off colour.

Read Normal parameters and vital signs
A horse with a nosebleed

Nosebleed (epistaxis)

Epistaxis means bleeding from the nose and is relatively common in horses. If your horse has a nosebleed dont panic! The nasal passages are full of blood vessels, so it can look like a lot of blood is coming from the horses nose. Most minor nosebleeds stop within 15 minutes, so any bleeding that lasts longer than this should be seen by your vet.

Read Nosebleed (epistaxis)
Surgeon's gloved hands

Operations: caring for your horse before and after surgery

There may be an occasion when your horse will need to undergo surgery, this may be for emergency or for an elective procedure such as castration. Whatever the reason, you need to know how to care for your horse before and after surgery to ensure the surgery goes as smoothly as possible and to ensure a successful recovery afterwards.

Read Operations: caring for your horse before and after surgery
Flowering ragwort

Poisonous plants - what to look out for

Many plants that are poisonous to horses cause neurological and liver damage, which can be life-threatening. Unless you have a good general knowledge of poisonous plants it is unlikely that you will be able to easily identify which plants are poisonous to your horse or not. There are some plants that you will be familiar with, e.g. ragwort, but others that you may not be familiar with, e.g. charlock. It is useful to familiarise yourself with the most common plants poisonous to horses so that if you see some in your horse's field you will know that it needs removing.

Read Poisonous plants - what to look out for
Horse's head

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy horse is a happy horse" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your horse happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your horse you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

Read Routine health care
Girl hugging horse's head

Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

This is a very sensitive subject but it is important for you to be aware of the reasons for euthanasia, the options available and the possible arrangements for disposal of the body. Learning about euthanasia now will enable you, should it become necessary, to say goodbye to your horse in a dignified and peaceful way.

Read Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia
Old horse

Senior horse care

It's not only humans that are living longer our horses are too! Improvements in diet, management and veterinary care mean that horses and ponies can easily live into their 20s and 30s. The average age for a horse is about 24 years. Just like young animals, older animals need special care to keep them happy and healthy. Here's some good advice on how to care for your ageing horse.

Read Senior horse care
Hosing down a horse

Sheath washing - to wash, or not to wash!

Regular washing of a gelding or stallion's sheath and penis is something that horse owners debate on a regular basis. The following information should make the decision "to wash, or not to wash" an easy one!

Read Sheath washing - to wash, or not to wash!
Vaccination record for horse passport

Vaccinating your horse

Horses are susceptible to a number of serious infectious diseases, e.g. influenza (flu). Fortunately, vaccines are available for some of these common conditions.

Read Vaccinating your horse
Horse in stable yard with a person holding a syringe

Vaccination protocols and safety

Development of vaccinations has resulted in there being protection available for an increasing number of infectious diseases in horses. Recently concerns have been raised about potential 'over vaccination' of people and animals and this has led to development of the concept of tailored vaccination protocols. If your horse is not likely to be exposed to a disease there is little point in vaccinating them against it. Your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate choice of vaccine for your horse weighing up the benefits of protection against any risk associated with the vaccine.

Read Vaccination protocols and safety
A horse with weight loss due to a pituitary condition

Weight loss

Horses usually maintain a good body condition if offered a good quality diet of hay and pasture. Young horses or horses in hard work may require additional concentrates to meet their nutritional needs and old horses often require a 'senior' feed because wear and tear on their teeth no longer allow them to graze sufficiently. If you notice your horse has lost weight it is important to assess your horse's health and management.

Read Weight loss
Strongylus vulgaris (large strongyle): infective larvae

Worm control

Every horse owner has heard about the danger of worms but without some knowledge it is hard to understand the full impact of a worm infestation (or burden). Intestinal worms can seriously damage your horse and in some circumstances can kill it, even if the burden is not life-threatening your horse may lose condition. Implementing an effective worm control programme is one the greatest responsibilities of a horse owner.

Read Worm control
Redworms in horse faeces

Worms - a wriggly problem

Every horse owner has heard about the danger of worms but without some knowledge it is hard to understand the full impact of a worm infestation (or burden). Intestinal worms can seriously damage your horse and in some circumstances can kill it, even if the burden is not life-threatening your horse may lose condition. Implementing an effective worm control programme is one the greatest responsibilities of a horse owner.

Read Worms - a wriggly problem

Footcare/Lameness

Joint distension in a horse with bog spavin

Bog spavin

Joints are complicated structures that are prone to a variety of disorders. Bog spavin is one such condition that is most commonly seen in young horses with osteochondrosis, where cartilage and bone around the joint fails to develop normally. Early detection of bog spavin is important, as the condition can have an important impact on the horses future athletic capabilities.

Read Bog spavin
Bruised sole of a horse

Bruised sole

A bruised sole is very common in horses. Both shod and barefoot horses are susceptible, and they can range from minor bruising that heals quickly, to more severe bruising causing lameness which may need veterinary attention.

Read Bruised sole
A capped hock

Capped hock

A capped hock represents a swelling over the point of the horse's hock (tarsus). If you look at your horse from the side, the point of the hock is located on the back of the hock where the tendons turn the corner and then head down the lower leg.

Read Capped hock
A shod horse

Corns

Humans aren't the only ones who can get corns, horses can suffer from them too! Dry corns, moist corns and infected corns are all causes of lameness seen in shod horses.

Read Corns
A horse with a flexural deformity

Flexural limb deformities

The most commonly seen flexural deformities are contracted tendons and joint hyperextension. There are a number of causes, but in all cases, prompt treatment is required for the best possible outcome and future soundness of the horse.

Read Flexural limb deformities
Horse hooves

Footcare

Foot problems are one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. However, the care of horse's feet is often overlooked by owners. Neglected feet can develop many conditions which, if left untreated, can result in severe lameness with loss of use of your horse. Maintaining your horse's feet in good condition is of primary importance. It is also necessary that you are aware of the conditions that can affect your horse and how to recognise them.

Read Footcare
Cleaning a horse's hoof

Footcare - the barefoot option

The term 'barefoot' is closely associated with more than just the care of your horse's feet. It is an integral part of a new movement that not only looks at the condition of the horse's feet, but also the way in which horses are managed, including diet, environment and exercise.

Read Footcare - the barefoot option
X-ray of a middle phalanx fracture in a horse

Fractures

If you have ever been around horses, you will be aware of the frequency with which horses injure themselves compared to other pets. This may be partly related to the flight rather than fight response horses have to certain situations. They also have a large body mass (often in excess of 500 kg) on a relatively thin support structure (limbs) which is poorly protected by muscle coverage. Horses are athletes and these factors combined, make severe injuries in the horse inevitable. Fractures represent a serious, potentially life-threatening injury in the horse.

Read Fractures
A shod horse

Horseshoes

Foot problems are one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. However,footcare is often overlooked by owners. Neglected feet can develop many conditions which, if left untreated, can result in severe lameness with loss of use of your horse. Maintaining your horses feet in good condition is of primary importance. Ensuring your horse is seen by your farrier on a regular basis will make up part of your foot care routine. Your farrier will be the best person to decide which horseshoes are best for your horse.

Read Horseshoes
An x-ray showing the spinous processes

Kissing spines

Kissing spines is a colloquial name for over-riding spinous processes. The spinous processes are the vertical projections of vertebral bones in the horse's spine, which run the length of the back and are tallest in the area of the withers.

Read Kissing spines
Horse with an asymmetrical pelvis due to a fracture

Lameness

Lameness is the most common reason for horses needing veterinary attention. Athletic horses place huge stresses on their limbs and injury is common. Although complete prevention is not possible some good management will reduce the risk of horses developing lameness problems.

Read Lameness
Fetlock flexion test as part of a lameness exam

Lameness examinations

Unfortunately, lameness in horses is very common and it is one of the most likely reasons that a horse will require veterinary attention. As a horse owner you can help in the evaluation of your horse's problem by being observant and by keeping good records.

Read Lameness examinations
The typical stance of a horse with laminitis

Laminitis - the facts

Laminitis is a common but often poorly understood disease. It is usual for owners to believe it only occurs in spring in small ponies. This is not always the case and it is important you understand the consequences of an episode of laminitis.

Read Laminitis - the facts
A horse with an injury to the annular ligament

Ligament injuries

Ligaments are soft tissue structures that connect bone to bone in the skeleton. Injury of these supporting structures is a common cause of lameness in the horse. The severity of lameness and prognosis varies greatly according to the location and degree of ligament injury. Ligaments generally take a long time to heal and gradual return to exercise plays an essential part in the management of these injuries.

Read Ligament injuries
Farrier shoeing a horse

Nail bind/nail prick

Foot problems are a common cause of lameness in the horse, accounting for 90% of all forelimb lameness problems. However, the importance of meticulous care of horses' feet is often overlooked by owners. Neglected feet can develop many conditions which, if left untreated, can result in severe lameness with subsequent loss of use of your horse. Maintaining the hooves in good condition with the help of your farrier/hoof care practitioner is of primary importance in the overall health and welfare of your horse.

Read Nail bind/nail prick
X-ray showing the navicular nursa

Navicular bursitis

The navicular bursa is a small fluid-filled structure in the foot that acts as a cushion where the deep digital flexor tendon passes over the bone and changes direction. A bursa has many properties similar to a joint or a tendon sheath. Bursae are lined with a membrane which produces synovial fluid. Other common bursae in the horse include the calcaneal bursa at the point of the hock, the bicipital bursa over the point of the shoulder, and the supraspinous bursa over the top of the withers.

Read Navicular bursitis
Elevated heel horse shoe

Navicular disease

Navicular disease cannot be cured, but there are various treatments available that can relieve the symptoms to a certain degree. Your vet will discuss the treatment options with you.

Read Navicular disease
Administering a nerve block injection

Nerve blocks - the lame horse

Lameness is a common problem in horses of all ages and types. It can be frustrating, expensive and time-consuming trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Unfortunately horses, unlike people, cannot tell us the source of pain; hence the need for a variety of diagnostic tests accompanied by often multiple imaging modalities in order for an appropriate diagnosis, treatment plan and prognosis to be made.

Read Nerve blocks - the lame horse
Osteoarthritis of the stifle

Osteoarthritis - the facts

Osteoarthritis (also known as 'arthritis' and 'degenerative joint disease') is a progressive, degenerative condition of joints resulting in cartilage erosion and inflammation. A common cause of lameness in horses, there is no cure but it can be managed. Articular cartilage has very limited ability to repair so the condition is irreversible. Any joint injury or insult can result in osteoarthritis. Most cases are due to wear and tear. Horses are large animals and put huge forces on their joints. Injuries to ligaments or bone (chip fractures) and inflammation resulting from infection are also causes.

Read Osteoarthritis - the facts
Horse stifle showing osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis (OCD) is a failure of normal cartilage and bone development at the joint surfaces of long bones. This leads to bone fragmentation or subchondral bone cysts which are common causes of lameness in the horse. Young horses are most frequently affected and the condition can have an important impact on the horses future athletic capabilities.

Read Osteochondrosis
X-ray showing a foreign body in a horse's foot

Penetrating foot injuries

As every horse owner knows, the horse's foot is a very complicated structure. It may not look it from the outside, but within the hoof wall are many elements and sensitive structures that form the foot. A penetrating injury to the sole of the foot should be treated as an emergency.

Read Penetrating foot injuries
Coronary band: discharge - quittor

Quittor

As every horse owner knows, the horse's foot is a very complicated structure. It may not look it from the outside, but within the hoof wall are many elements and sensitive structures that form the foot. Quittor is a condition that affects the lateral cartilages in the foot, however it is relatively uncommon.

Read Quittor
The sole of a barefoot horse

Seedy toe

Good hoof care is essential in avoiding conditions such as quittor. Regular trimming and/or shoeing to ensure all the feet are balanced and are free from cracks is essential. If your horse is shod, they should fit properly, therefore avoiding any nasty tread injuries.

Read Seedy toe
A farrier shoeing a horse

Shoeing problems - how to deal with them

Problems with shoeing are most commonly due to horses not being willing to pick up their feet or having them handled, rather than being due to the shoeing itself. These horses are also unlikely to pick up their feet for their owners for daily hoof care, this risks these horses developing problems with their feet.

Read Shoeing problems - how to deal with them
X-ray showing lateral cartilage calcification

Sidebone

Sidebone is the name given to the ossification (bony formations) of the flexible collateral cartilages of the distal phalanx (coffin bone) in the foot. These are found either side of the coffin bone in some horses protruding very little and in others, protruding up towards the level of the pastern joint. These lateral cartilages support the hoof wall and provide support and cushioning to the heel. Sidebone is a frequent finding in horses that undergo radiography (x-ray) of the feet and is most commonly seen in the front feet.

Read Sidebone
Stem cell implantation via injection

Stem cell therapy

Tendon, ligament and joint injuries are common occurrences in horses, and up until recently an injury involving one of these may well have meant the end of a horse's competitive career. But now, with advancing technology, stem cell therapy could give your horse a second chance!

Read Stem cell therapy
Sole defect - an opened subsolar abscess

Subsolar abscess - pus in the foot

A subsolar abscess, or pus in the foot, is an infection beneath the sole of the foot. Subsolar abscesses cause severe pain to your horse due to the buildup of pressure under the hoof capsule that cannot expand. The pain can probably be compared to an infection or blood blister under your fingernail, with the additional problem of the horse having to bear weight on the hoof capsule.

Read Subsolar abscess - pus in the foot
The sole of a barefoot horse

Taking your horse barefoot

Are you thinking of taking your horse barefoot?  If so, here is some useful information before you go ahead. But to start off with, some words of warning!!!

Read Taking your horse barefoot
Digital sheath: tenosynovitis

Tendon injuries

Tendon injuries are a common occurrence in the athletic horse. Although injury can occur in any tendon in any type of horse and age, the superficial digital flexor tendon of the lower limb is most frequently affected, particularly in the racehorse and event horses. It is characterised by heat, pain and swelling of the limb with variable lameness. Management of the injury in the early stages is imperative to achieving a favourable outcome.

Read Tendon injuries
Canker of the frog

Thrush and canker

Maintaining your horse's feet in good condition is of primary importance. Neglected feet can develop many conditions which, if left untreated, can result in severe lameness with loss of use of your horse. Thrush and canker are two conditions of the foot which owners of horses should be aware of. Daily cleaning of your horses feet will help identify these conditions in their early stages when treatment is often simpler and more effective.

Read Thrush and canker

Gastrointestinal disease

A horse showing signs of abdominal pain

Colic - a serious belly ache

Colic is a word that every horse owner dreads. Unfortunately, most horses will suffer from colic at some point and it is essential for you to know how to identify the symptoms and what to do next. Although the majority of colic cases resolve with minimal help, getting veterinary attention at the right moment can mean the difference between life and death for your horse.

Read Colic - a serious belly ache
Normal teeth of an 8 year old horse

Dental care

Equine dental care is often neglected. As humans we are always off to the dentist for our 6 month check-ups. Horses are just like us, they can get tooth ache, cavities and gum disease. So... why shouldn't your horse get regular check-ups too? Knowing what goes on in your horse's mouth will help you prevent any discomfort for your best friend.

Read Dental care
Chronic diarrhoea

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is relatively common and a potentially serious condition that affects horses of all ages. In all but the mildest cases it is wise to call your vet to ensure prompt treatment is initiated and more serious conditions are identified before they worsen.

Read Diarrhoea
Horses feeding

Equine gastric ulcer syndrome

Equine gastric ulceration syndrome (EGUS) is a common condition seen in many types of horses, but is often missed as the cause of a variety problems, including reduced body condition, changes in appetite, and behavioural and exercise-related issues. EGUS has many causes and can be complicated in nature, so if you think you horse may be suffering from gastric ulcers, call your vet immediately.

Read Equine gastric ulcer syndrome

Getting started

Girl petting a horse

Buying a horse

Owning a horse is a big responsibility that requires great commitment, time and money. Before buying a horse or pony you need to make sure you can provide everything your horse needs. Buying a horse is a time-consuming and lengthy process. You will need to do some research and visit different horses before you make your final decision.

Read Buying a horse
Blanket clip

Clipping your horse

Before you think about clipping your horse you need to establish why and ultimately what sort of clip you need to give your horse. Clipping ensures your horse remains healthy and comfortable. Make sure you know when you should start clipping your horse and continue to maintain his clip for the correct period of time.

Read Clipping your horse
Fork in a stable

Essential equine management

Day-to-day management of your horse is very important. There are many factors that horse owners must consider to ensure their horse's health and safety. Vigilance towards these factors is essential for a beginner and the experienced owner.

Read Essential equine management
Examining a horse at auction

Examining a horse at an auction

When a pre-purchase examination cannot be performed by a qualified equine vet, following these guidelines for examining a horse at an auction.

Read Examining a horse at an auction
Horse riding

Exercise - keeping your horse fit and happy

Routine exercise is very important for you and your horse. General exercise and mental stimulation helps to keep you and your horse fit and happy. A combination of schooling, riding out, jumping and going to shows will keep your horse active and mentally interested in what he is being asked to do.

Read Exercise - keeping your horse fit and happy
Saddle on a horse

Fitting a saddle - why it's so important

It is not easy for a horse owner, who has not been specifically trained, to make sure that his or her horse's saddle fits properly or to more than suspect that it is causing trouble.

Read Fitting a saddle - why it's so important
Insurance paperwork

Insurance - do I need it?

Horse and pony ownership is a costly business and carries with it a weight of responsibility, whether your involvement is purely pleasure, is competitive or is commercial. You may own a livery yard, riding stables or stud. Insurance is a service. It exists to help protect you, the owner, against the unpredictable costs that can be associated with ownership. Insurance companies are not charities, they aim to make a profit and therefore to insure your horse or pony will cost you money - it is up to you to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of insurance and make the decision whether or not to purchase it.

Read Insurance - do I need it?
Pasture

Pasture management

Regular pasture management ensures your horse's grazing remains in good nutritional condition; it is also one of the main ways of achieving effective parasite control in your horse. Effective pasture management, along with faecal egg count monitoring and use of a regular deworming programme, should ensure your horse benefits from nutritious grazing and remains free from internal parasites.

Read Pasture management
Horse

Pre-purchase examinations

Once you have made the decision to buy a horse, it is advisable to identify a vet that can carry out a pre-purchase examination of the horse. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but your insurance company will also very likely request a copy of a recent pre-purchase examination certificate prior to insuring the horse.

Read Pre-purchase examinations
Horse riders wearing high visibility gear

Riding and road safety

It is well known that our roads are getting busier and busier, making riding horses on the road more and more dangerous. Horse riders have as much right to use the roads as anyone else and should be able to enjoy riding without fear from other road users. According the British Horse Society figures, each year in the UK there are on average about 3000 accidents involving horses, resulting in a number of fatalaties and injuries to riders. If you ride your horse on the road, make sure you stay safe; dont be another statistic.

Read Riding and road safety

Heart diseases

Vet listening to horse's heart beat

Heart disease

Although the presence of heart murmurs and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm) are not uncommon in horses, they rarely cause any signs of actual heart disease in most horses. The most common type of abnormalities detected are abnormalities of the valves between the heart chambers or between the heart and the arteries, and some arrhythmias.

Read Heart disease
ECG

Heart murmurs

Heart murmurs are quite common in horses and are often detected during a routine veterinary examination or at pre-purchase examination.

Read Heart murmurs
An echocardiograph indicating a ventricular septal defect of the heart

Investigating heart problems

Although heart disease is rare, heart murmurs and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm) are commonly detected in horses, and their significance must be determined. In many cases a thorough examination of the cardiovascular system is all that is required to assess the relevance of an abnormal finding, but sometimes more advanced diagnostic procedures such as electrocardiography (ECG) or echocardiography may be necessary.

Read Investigating heart problems

Infectious diseases

Close up of a tick on its host

Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection

Also known as equine granulocytic anaplasmosis (EGA) or equine anaplasmosis. This is a relatively new disease, first described in the United States in 1969 but now increasingly recognised both in the US and Europe.

Read Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection
Close up of a tick on its host

Babesiosis (piroplasmosis)

There are a number of tick-borne diseases that can affect horses, including babesiosis. It is useful to know how to prevent infection, especially with increasing international horse movement, and the possible effects of global warming.

Read Babesiosis (piroplasmosis)
A horse laying on the floor with signs of botulism

Botulism

Botulism is one of the most potent toxins known, and unfortunately horses are extremely susceptible to it. There are three types of botulism recognised in horses, all of which can be easily prevented.

Read Botulism
Horses feeding from a trough

Disease control

Horses are susceptible to many different diseases which can be passed between them. Horses are traveling and mixing with other horses at shows and events more and more and this increases the risk of them catching different infections. Disease control is very important in order to minimize the risk of disease spread and keep our horses healthy.

Read Disease control
A pregnant mare grazing

Equine herpesvirus (EHV)

Horses can suffer from a number of viral diseases, EHV is just one of many. If you are considering breeding your horse you should be aware of this disease and how it can affect breeding status as well and your horse's general health and well-being. EHV is the most commonly diagnosed cause of infectious abortion in pregnant mares.

Read Equine herpesvirus (EHV)
Pair of horses

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA)

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) is a disease of horses, mules and donkeys. Also called swamp fever, this disease has been present since the early 1800s, and has been reported worldwide. It remains a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in endemic areas to this day and the disease carries significant economic considerations.

Read Equine infectious anaemia (EIA)
Nasal discharge in a horse with 'flu'

Equine Influenza - 'flu'

Horses are susceptible to a number of serious infectious diseases, eg influenza (flu) and tetanus (lockjaw). Fortunately there are vaccines available for some of these common conditions.

Read Equine Influenza - 'flu'
A horse drinking

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM)

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a common neurologic disease in horses in the USA. It is not generally seen in the UK, except in imported horses.

Read Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM)
A foal

Equine viral arteritis (EVA)

Equine viral arteritis (EVA) is a contagious disease of equids (horses, donkeys, mules) caused by equine arteritis virus (EAV) that is present in many equine populations worldwide. The disease, referred to in the past by a variety of clinically descriptive terms, is believed to have afflicted horses in Western Europe for centuries. Although not considered life-threatening in otherwise healthy, older horses, EVA is of industry concern because it can result in economically significant outbreaks of abortion in pregnant mares and very infrequently, death in young foals, as well as establishment of a long-term carrier state in stallions.

Read Equine viral arteritis (EVA)
Rubbed

Pinworms - an unwanted irritation

Although pinworms are not generally considered harmful, they are a nuisance and irritating for the horse. If your horse is particularly itchy around its tail and anal region then it might be suffering from a pinworm burden.

Read Pinworms - an unwanted irritation
Swelling in the neck of a horse with strangles

Strangles (Streptococcus equi infection)

Strangles in a highly contagious infectious disease and can be serious or occasionally even fatal as a result of late diagnosis. Know what to look out for and you will almost certainly avoid the unnecessary suffering of your horse and others.

Read Strangles (Streptococcus equi infection)
The typical stance of a horse with tetanus

Tetanus - 'lockjaw'

Horses are susceptible to a number of serious infectious diseases, e.g. tetanus (lockjaw) and influenza (flu), fortunately there are vaccines available for some of these common conditions.

Read Tetanus - 'lockjaw'
Mosquito

West Nile Virus - what owners should know

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease previously only seen in Africa, western Asia, and southern Europe. Now it can also be found in the Middle East, Mediterranean region of Europe and the US. Prevention is the name of the game, so make sure you are one step ahead and protect your horse from this life-threatening disease.

Read West Nile Virus - what owners should know

Nutrition

An obese horse

Body condition scoring

Body condition scoring is used to evaluate a horse's general condition or fat cover. Body condition scoring enables you to keep an eye on your horse's weight over the changing annual seasons and can alert you to any change in condition which may indicate the need for a change in diet or an indication of disease. Using the 1-9 body condition scoring scale, a healthy, fit horse should maintain a body score of between 5 and 6.

Read Body condition scoring
Grazing horse

Equine grass sickness (EGS)

Grass sickness affects the horse's nervous system and is often fatal. The disease occurs almost exclusively in horses with access to grass but the cause is unknown. Until the cause is known, it is difficult to give sound advice regarding prevention, however, the more you know about the disease, the better your chances of preventing it.

Read Equine grass sickness (EGS)
Abnormal fat accumulation in a horse with EMS

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)

This condition describes horses that are obese, have insulin resistance due to increased tissue production of cortisol, and have recurrent laminitis. The disease has received different names in the past, particularly Peripheral Cushings Syndrome, but the most appropriate term is Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS).

Read Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)
Close up of a horse's teeth while grazing

Feeding the older horse

Horses are living longer mainly due to their evolution from working animals to pleasure animals and advances in equine medicine. As the horse gets older various physiological changes occur that require careful management.

Read Feeding the older horse
Two foals feeding

Feeding the young horse

Feeding the foal or young horse can be tricky and will depend on individual circumstances, compliance of the mare and quality of the mare's milk. Nutrient requirements of young horses are extremely high, compared to those of adult horses, owing to their very fast growth rate. Protein requirements are high as a result of the rapid growth of muscle, connective tissue and other body parts. Calcium and phosphorus requirements are also high owing to rapidly growing bones. Carbohydrates are in high demand owing to the foal's high metabolic rate and energy requirements. These nutrient sources are all present in the mare's milk.

Read Feeding the young horse
Horse muzzle

Nutrition - keeping your horse on top form

The combination of the right diet and correct workload should keep your horse in good condition. A horse's condition will vary depending on it's breed, age and workload. Before you can begin to decide what to feed your horse, you need to check if he is already in good condition or if he needs to lose, or gain weight.

Read Nutrition - keeping your horse on top form
Walk on scales

Obesity - the fat horse

Much like their human counterparts, many of today's horses are working less and eating more (both in quantity and type of food), and as a result they are becoming fat. Obesity is a serious emerging problem in the domestic horse. Obesity involves serious disease implications as well as the more obvious problem of reduced athletic ability.

Read Obesity - the fat horse

Reproductive problems

Newborn foal with mare

Abortion

Abortion is the term used to describe the loss of a foetus before term, in the horse this means that the mare loses the foal before 300 days. After 300 days the loss of the foal tends to be termed still-birth, prematurity or dysmaturity. If the abortion occurs very early in the pregnancy (less than 100 days) there may be no signs that the mare has aborted, she may just come back into season.

Read Abortion
A pair of foals

Bladder rupture

Rupture of the urinary bladder is one of the most common conditions of the urinary tract affecting new born foals and is a potentially life-threatening condition so early recognition is essential.

Read Bladder rupture
A horse being castrated

Castration

Castration is one of the most commonly performed equine surgical procedures. Most operations go well and wounds heal uneventfully, with your horse returning to work within a month of the operation. There are various options to consider before your horse has the operation and you will need to speak to your vet to decide what is best for your horse and your situation.

Read Castration
Mare and foal

Contagious equine metritis (CEM)

In the UK, isolation of the Contagious Equine Metritis Organism is notifiable by law. This is a statutory requirement under the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987, and any positive samples must be reported by the testing laboratory to a Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who will investigate all cases.

Read Contagious equine metritis (CEM)
Collecting a blood sample from the jugular vein of a horse

Dourine

Dourine, also known as covering sickness or genital glanders, is a serious condition that can result in mortality; the mortality rate is thought to be over 50%. No vaccine is available, therefore prevention is extremely important.

Read Dourine
A foal suckling

Failure of passive transfer

When your mare is having a foal it can be a very stressful time for you and the mare. It is important that you know what to expect so that you can pick up any problems early on. Foals can become sick very quickly so it important to watch them closely and consult your vet if you are at all concerned. If your foal fails to stand or suck within 2 hours of birth this is a serious problem and you should call your vet immediately as this may result in failure of passive transfer.

Read Failure of passive transfer
Mare cleaning membranes from newborn foal

Foaling - what you need to know

Breeding from your mare is both an exciting and anxious time. It is important that you are able to recognise the start of foaling (labour) and its different stages. You can then enjoy the experience, reassured that you know what to do if problems occur.

Read Foaling - what you need to know
A foal

Fostering

Sometimes, unfortunately, a foal needs to be fostered on to another mare; this can be a difficult time for all concerned. The main reasons why this might be necessary are; the mare is very ill or dies shortly after giving birth, the mare rejects the foal or the mare does not have sufficient milk to feed the foal. If any of these situations occur it is very important for the foal's health and well being that an appropriate foster mare is found quickly.

Read Fostering
Helping a weak foal to stand

Neonatal problems

When your mare is having a foal it can be a very stressful time for you and the mare. It is important that you know what to expect so that you can pick up any problems early on. Foals can become sick very quickly so it important to watch them closely and consult your vet if you are at all concerned.

Read Neonatal problems
A pregnant mare

Pregnancy in the mare - health and well-being

As with human pregnancy, the first few days are the most critical. During the first month, there is a 10-15% chance that the embryo will be resorbed. Early embryonic loss can be caused by the following problems:

  • stress
  • illness
  • uterine infection
  • hormonal abnormalities
  • twins

Following conception, the pregnancy can be confirmed by ultrasound or transrectal palpation at approximately 30-35 days. It is wise to have this re-confirmed at 45, 60 or 90 days.

From here on in, regular deworming, vaccinations, exercise and a balanced diet will help ensure a healthy pregnancy and successful birth.

Read Pregnancy in the mare - health and well-being
Horses mating

Preparing your mare for breeding

There are many factors to consider before you breed from your mare. It is important to consider the costs, time and expertise required to breed a mare and look after a foal.

Read Preparing your mare for breeding
A foal

Rotavirus

Horses can suffer from a number of viral diseases, infection with Rotavirus is just one of many. If you are considering breeding your horse you should be aware of this disease and how it can affect breeding status as well as your potential foal's general health and well-being. Rotavirus is the most commonly diagnosed cause of viral enteritis in young foals.

Read Rotavirus

Respiratory problems

A horse feeding

Choke - oesophageal obstruction

Every owner will at some time have to deal with an emergency involving their horse, so it is essential to know how to deal with such emergencies before they arise. When you think your horse is unwell or in pain make sure you call your vet immediately. If your horse chokes it should be treated as an emergency - you should learn to recognise it and deal with it appropriately.

Read Choke - oesophageal obstruction
Flexineb nebulizer in use

Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO)

Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), previously known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and commonly knows as heaves or broken wind, is a common chronic respiratory disorder seen in horses and ponies. In less severe cases the problem may go undetected, but may worsen over time if not treated. If exacerbated by high exposure to moulds or dust it may present acutely as respiratory distress.

Read Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO)
A resting horse with flared nostrils, indicating increased respiratory effort

Respiratory problems in your horse - not a good wheeze!

Horses and ponies can be susceptible to a number of conditions that affect the respiratory tract. The causes of these can be very varied - from infections and allergies to anatomical defects. The seriousness of the conditions also varies: some conditions will resolve without veterinary treatment but others are life-threatening. Many respiratory conditions lead to coughing, others result in a nasal discharge from the nose or abnormal respiratory noise. If there is any change in your horse's breathing it is always advisable to contact your vet.

Read Respiratory problems in your horse - not a good wheeze!
Endoscopic view of a horse with severe RLN. The cartilage on the right side of the image (left side of the horse) will not open fully

Whistling and roaring

Many horses of all types and ages have been observed to make an abnormal noise upon exercise. These horses and ponies are often referred to as whistlers or roarers. The noise produced can vary from barely audible to a loud roaring noise and is due to turbulent airflow through an abnormal airway. This finding is common in racing Throroughbreds and can be a cause of poor performance in athletic horses. In less severe cases, the problem may go undetected and may have no effect on the average horse's athletic capabilities.

Read Whistling and roaring

Skin problems

A horse showing hypersensitivity to dermatitis

Common skin problems in the horse

Although the skin is the most visible of the horse's body structures it is also the most easily overlooked! The skin provides a strong barrier to challenges from outside the body and plays an important role as part of the immune system. It also helps control body temperature and makes vitamin D. In certain parts of the body the structure of the skin changes to perform specific functions, for example the hoof, chestnut and ergot are modified skin structures and the skin of the eyelids is much thinner than on the back.

Read Common skin problems in the horse
Lice on a horse

Lice infestation

Also known as pediculosis and nits, lice infestation is a parasitic skin disease in horses. Biting and sucking lice can infest a variety of hosts, including cats, dogs, horses and people. Lice are host-specific, for example dog lice only affect dogs, and horse lice only affect horses! This means that humans can't be infested with lice from animals.

Read Lice infestation
A mud rash

Mud fever

Preventing your horse from infection with mud fever can be challenging, but twice-daily checks can ensure you are one step ahead. Prevention is definitely the name of the game!

Read Mud fever
Granulation tissue

Proud flesh

Wounds should be treated as soon as possible because untreated wounds are more likely to become infected or develop excessive proud flesh, preventing wound healing.

Read Proud flesh
A horse with rain scald

Rain scald

Rain scald is similar to mud fever at is involves infection of the skin with the same bacteria, however it isn't normally as complicated a problem to deal with as mud fever, it is easy to treat, and the outcome is generally much better.

Read Rain scald
Signs of sweet itch

Sweet itch - an itchy business

Sweet itch is the most common cause of itching in horses leading to hair loss, especially from the mane and tail, with crusting and scab formation. Preventing your horse from developing sweet itch can be challenging, but regular checks and the use of preventative measures can ensure you are one step ahead. Prevention is definitely the name of the game!

Read Sweet itch - an itchy business

Travel

Example horse passport: identification

Equine passports

If you are unsure about the requirements for equine passports then read on. Passports contain important information about your horse, including details of who owns the horse, identification (including identification number) and much more.

Read Equine passports
Horses in transit

Taking your horse abroad

Transport of horses is a common practice, involving groups of horses over long distances. Transporting your horse abroad is a very complicated and sometimes very traumatic experience. Advanced preparation is vital for a smooth and stress-free journey. The most important thing is that you both arrive safely at your destination.

Read Taking your horse abroad
Horse transporter

Travelling - bad weather conditions

Travelling with your horse in bad weather conditions should be avoided. If, however it is unavoidable, e.g. in the event of a medical emergency, then your main priorities should be to maintain your horse's health and safety. Planning ahead is the name of the game!

Read Travelling - bad weather conditions
Horse being loaded onto transporter

Travelling - loading problems

The horse differs from other large domestic animals in that it may be transported many times in its lifetime. Successful transportation of horses requires awareness of the horses behavioural and physical needs.

Read Travelling - loading problems
Horses in a transporter

Travelling - safety first!

Transport of horses is a common practice, involving individuals and groups of animals over short, medium and long distances. When you travel with your horse, the most important thing is that you both arrive safely at your destination. Preparation before you travel will ensure you both travel safely and confidently.

Read Travelling - safety first!

Veterinary procedures

Veterinary team positioning a horse for anaesthesia

Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia is used for a variety of veterinary procedures, including surgical, diagnostic and dental procedures. Anaesthesia will ensure your horse is kept pain-free during these procedures.

Read Anaesthesia
A horse receiving acupuncture treatment

Complementary therapies

Some forms of alternative or complementary medicine such as osteopathy and physiotherapy are widely used in veterinary medicine alongside conventional treatment. However, horse owners are increasingly looking at other alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy to help with a wide variety of common complaints.

Read Complementary therapies
MRI scan of a horse's foot

Diagnostic imaging

There are a variety of different imaging modalities used every day in equine veterinary practice. They are used to assess the type and severity of injury in both bone and soft tissue structures of the musculoskeletal system. Most equine practices have radiography and ultrasonography equipment available. Larger clinics and referral centres often have more advanced imaging modalities such as gamma scintigraphy, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Read Diagnostic imaging
Muscle histopathology

Diagnostic tests

In order to reach a diagnosis when attending to your horse, your vet may need to take some samples such a blood, urine, skin scrapings, biopsies or faeces. If your horse requires further diagnostic tests more samples may be taken such as fluid from the lungs or the abdomen. But what happens to all these samples and how can they help your vet reach a diagnosis?

Read Diagnostic tests
IRAP sample collection kit

Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) therapy

IRAP stands for interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein, which is an anti-inflammatory product that the body produces. IRAP is known to counteract inflammatory damage in joints that is caused by osteoarthritis. IRAP can be manufactured from a horse's blood, which is processed in a laboratory, before it is injected into a joint of the same horse.

Read Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) therapy
A horse with tendinitis

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is an autologous biological product made from the horse's own blood. It can only be used in the same horse that has provided the blood sample. PRP contains a higher concentration of platelets than blood, and platelets are rich in various growth factors that benefit tissue healing. The idea behind using PRP is that the growth factors from platelets can aid repair of damaged tissues when injected directly into the damaged area.

Read Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy
Analysing a sample under a microscope

Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in sick animals. Increasingly they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your horse to be treated earlier and more effectively. Tests may be used to show whether a horse is carrying infections that could pose a threat to other horses it comes into contact with. Samples may be taken before a general anaesthetic is administered to check for any problems that may increase the risks of the procedure.

Read Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Rabbits

Behaviour

Hopping rabbit

Aggressive rabbits

Rabbits have a reputation for being cute and cuddly, and certainly don't give an outward impression of being capable of aggression. However, aggressive behaviour towards people can be a common problem amongst domestic rabbits, and has many possible causes, with treatment aimed at improving the trust between an owner and the rabbit.

Read Aggressive rabbits
Rabbit in garden

Chewing

The fact that rabbits chew is obvious. On walks in the country you can see the evidence of rabbits having chewed the bark of young saplings, or the crop in the field. At home your pet rabbit may have nibbled his hutch, or worse your furniture, books or electric wiring. What is less obvious is why rabbits chew and what you can do about it.

Read Chewing
Rabbit show jumping

Keeping your bunny amused

Does your rabbit have toys and objects to play with to keep him amused? Or have you never really thought about giving him something to play with?

Read Keeping your bunny amused

Caring for your rabbit

A lumpy tumour on the skin of a rabbit

Cancer in your rabbit

Sadly, from time to time, rabbits can be affected by cancer, which can take many different forms. Some cancers are more common than others and this factsheet will aim to look at those more commonly seen in pet rabbits.

Read Cancer in your rabbit
A vet holding a rabbit

Emergencies - what to do

Unfortunately, rabbit owners may have to deal with an emergency involving their pet. It is essential to know how to recognize and deal with such emergencies before they arise and to know who to contact when they do. Immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for a very sick or injured rabbit. Getting to the veterinary clinic, where all the necessary equipment is on hand, is quicker and gives it a better chance than calling the vet out to your home. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is - don't panic! - this could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.

Read Emergencies - what to do
Two rabbits in a hutch

Exercise - for a healthy, happy rabbit

Exercise is vital for the health of the rabbit. Well meaning but poorly informed people may describe rabbits as easy to keep because they can be caged and don't take up much space. This idea has led to many rabbits being caged most of their lives resulting in both physical and behavioural disorders.

Read Exercise - for a healthy, happy rabbit
Rabbits feeding

Feeding your rabbit

The phrase 'you are what you eat' has never been truer for the rabbit. Recent research by veterinary surgeons and rabbit food companies has shown that most of the common illnesses that rabbits suffer from could be prevented by feeding them a healthy diet. Unfortunately, many pet rabbits are being fed a diet that is the rabbit equivalent of 'junk food'. Feeding your rabbit the correct diet is not difficult - simply follow these guidelines.

Read Feeding your rabbit
A rabbit receiving liquid medication via a syringe

Giving medicines to your rabbit

Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments. In many cases Veterinary Nurses are responsible for administration of medicines to hospitalised patients. It is also important to ensure that you are able to continue medicine administration once your rabbit has been discharged from hospital. Veterinary Nurses may be able to demonstrate administration techniques to you when your rabbit is discharged.

Read Giving medicines to your rabbit
A rabbit on an examination table

Giving your rabbit a health check

It is important to give your rabbit a thorough health check every so often to ensure they are healthy and so any problems can be detected early and treatment commenced as soon as possible. Problems that are treated early stand a much better chance of being resolved, are generally cheaper to treat and mean that the rabbit doesn't suffer unnecessarily.

Read Giving your rabbit a health check
A rabbit chewing a grass stem

Grass and hay

To help promote normal dental wear and provide the high-fibre diet which is essential, rabbits should have access to 'graze' for 4-6 hours a day - this should include hay, grass and wild plants. This is the best way to help ensure that your pet stays healthy and happy.

Read Grass and hay
Grooming brush

Grooming your rabbit

Grooming your rabbit is important to avoid matting of the fur and maintain a healthy shiny coat. It also helps to build a relationship with your pet and provides an opportunity for you to examine your rabbit to check for any signs of illness.

Read Grooming your rabbit
A rabbit with overgrown incisor teeth

How to check your rabbit's teeth

Small dental problems often go undetected in the early stages but as rabbit's teeth grow continuously (2-3 mm per week), small problems can quickly become major problems. It is therefore important to check your rabbit's teeth frequently - perhaps on a weekly basis.

Read How to check your rabbit's teeth
A rabbit having its claws clipped

How to clip your rabbit's claws

Clipping your own rabbit's claws may be something that you feel you would like to do instead of taking your rabbit to the vets and asking your vet or nurse to do it for you. If your rabbit is known to be nervous or flighty, then it is safer to get someone to help restrain your rabbit whilst you are clipping their claws.

Read How to clip your rabbit's claws
Close up of a rabbit's head

How to give eye medication to your rabbit

Eye problems in rabbits are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home.

Read How to give eye medication to your rabbit
Rabbit near burrow entrance

Hyperthermia - overheating

With their dense fur, healthy rabbits in a sheltered environment are tolerant of low temperatures, but cannot tolerate damp or draughty conditions. On the other hand, they cannot pant effectively and don't sweat, therefore are susceptible to overheating. Unfortunately, even with treatment, the prognosis for rabbits with hyperthermia is guarded to poor.

Read Hyperthermia - overheating
A rabbit receiving veterinary treatment

Illness: caring for a poorly rabbit

At some point it is highly likely that you will have to look after an ill rabbit. Rabbits are often stressed in a veterinary environment, so when your vet feels that your rabbit is well enough to go home they may want you to continue with their nursing care at home. Knowing how to do this, and when to be concerned, will help you to confidently provide them with the best care possible.

Read Illness: caring for a poorly rabbit
Rabbit being given an injection

Injection techniques

Administration of medicine by injection is often referred to as giving by the parenteral route (this means that the treatment does not enter the body via the gut). Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments and many medications are most effective when given by injection. Administration of medicine by injection is essential for some drugs that are destroyed by acids in the stomach.

Read Injection techniques
A dog and a rabbit sitting on the grass

Introducing your rabbit to other pets

Introducing other pets, such as cats and dogs, to your pet rabbit needs to be done gradually and in such a way that the dog or cat learns that the rabbit is not overly interesting and certainly not something to be chased, and eaten. Rabbits, are prey animals and dogs and cats are predators. From the rabbit's point of view a dog or cat is a threat to its well-being, indeed to its life.

Read Introducing your rabbit to other pets
A clean litter tray

Litter training your rabbit

An increasing number of people have moved away from the traditional idea of keeping a rabbit in a hutch by bringing it into their home. When considering a houserabbit the most frequently asked question is "but won't it use the whole house as a toilet?" Much to the surprise of some people, rabbits can be easily trained to use a litter tray. The natural instinct of a wild rabbit to use one area as its latrine is still true in our domestic pets. In addition, rabbits are coprophagic, consuming the first production of soft faeces to re-digest the matter and produce hard, dry pellets.

Read Litter training your rabbit
A houserabbit

Living with a house rabbit

More and more rabbit owners are bringing their rabbits to live indoors and become part of the family like a dog or cat. To make the smooth transition from a hutch rabbit to a house rabbit, you first need to prepare your house and then gradually introduce your rabbit to living indoors.

Read Living with a house rabbit
Microchip scanner

Microchipping your rabbit

Various techniques can be used to identify your rabbit. Microchips are a safe and permanent method of identification and have many advantages over more traditional techniques such as the placement of metal leg rings or ear-marking with tattoos. Microchips provide a quick and efficient way to identify a lost rabbit and reunite it with its owner.

Read Microchipping your rabbit
Newborn rabbits

Neutering your rabbit

Everyone knows that rabbits breed like, well... rabbits! The number of pet rabbits born each year is far greater than the number of good homes that can be found for them. As a result, thousands of rabbits find their way to re-homing centres where they wait for adoption. Responsible rabbit owners realise that neutering (sterilising, castrating, spaying) will not only reduce these numbers, but will also safeguard their rabbit's health and welfare for the future.

Read Neutering your rabbit
An obese rabbit

Obesity

Wild rabbits engage in a range of activities that require significant energy expenditure. They have to forage for food and remain constantly alert to danger, when they will flee to the nearest burrow for shelter. They will also use up energy just keeping warm during the colder months. By contrast, the average pet rabbit does not have to forage for food and is indulged with treats. Coupled with the fact that pet rabbits exercise little, this predisposes them to fat gain. The deposition of fat reserves can lead to a rabbit becoming overweight. Further fat deposition may start impacting on a rabbit's health, at which point the rabbit is said to be obese.

Read Obesity
A rabbit prepped for routine surgery

Operations: caring for your rabbit before and after surgery

Many rabbits will have an operation at some stage in their life, e.g. for neutering (spaying or castration) or to treat a disease. Nowadays most operations in rabbits are fairly safe but the success of treatment and recovery depends to some extent on the quality of care that the owner gives before and after the operation.

Read Operations: caring for your rabbit before and after surgery
Close up of a rabbit's head

Pet insurance for your rabbit

In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of cats that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet's bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment could be thousands of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their cat becomes sick or has a major accident.

Read Pet insurance for your rabbit
Daffodils

Plants - safe or dangerous

The bulk of a rabbits diet should be made up of fibre grass and hay, with vegetables and other plants making up a smaller proportion of the overall intake. However, whilst some plants are safe to feed, others should be avoided and knowing which category each falls into can be confusing.

Read Plants - safe or dangerous
White rabbit outdoors

Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

The life expectancy of a pet rabbit is generally much longer than that of a rabbit living in the wild. On average a pet rabbit may live for about 6-8 years and some even survive past 10 years. But at some stage it may become obvious that your rabbit's life is drawing to a close. It is then that you will face a painful and difficult decision on whether your pet should be taken to your vet and put gently and painlessly to sleep.

Read Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia
A young boy taking his rabbit to the vet

Senior rabbit care

Contrary to common wisdom, many well kept rabbits live long and happy lives. With better owner education, improved diets and husbandry, and better medical care, more rabbits are living into their senior years.

Read Senior rabbit care
A rabbit with long ears

Summer safety

By now we are all well aware of the dangers that too much sun can cause to our health, but it's not just the sun that can pose many potential problems for rabbits during the warmer months.

Read Summer safety
Syringe feeding a rabbit

Syringe feeding your rabbit

Syringe feeding (or force feeding) your rabbit is a very important part of recovery from gastrointestinal stasis (gut stasis), and in some cases is the most important part of recovering from surgery or illness. If you need to continue syringe feeding your rabbit following surgery or illness your vet will discuss this with you and will show you how to do this before you take your rabbit back home. It is important to be gentle and persistent with your rabbit, as providing an adequate intake of food can be the turning point of recovery.

Read Syringe feeding your rabbit
Pet carrier

Travelling with your rabbit

A visit to the vet or travelling on a longer journey may be stressful for your rabbit. Make sure that you are properly prepared to avoid your rabbit being frightened.

Read Travelling with your rabbit
Syringe and vaccine

Vaccinating your rabbit

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Fortunately vaccines have been produced that will protect your rabbit against two of these - myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (strains 1 and 2). To ensure that your rabbit is fully protected it is essential that it receives regular booster injections.

Read Vaccinating your rabbit
A rabbit outside of it's cage in the garden

Why does my rabbit... ?

Unlike dogs and cats, which are hunting animals, rabbits are prey animals and so their natural behaviour is very different. It is part of the responsibility of owning a pet that you learn to understand what your pet's behaviour means - this will help you to know when your rabbit is happy, when it is frightened or when it is ill.

Read Why does my rabbit... ?
A rabbit in the snow

Winter care for your rabbit

Rabbits have evolved to be able to withstand the winter weather we get in the UK, but whether or not you keep your rabbit as a houserabbit or outside, they do require some special care and considerations throughout the colder months of the year, to ensure they remain happy and healthy.

Read Winter care for your rabbit

Dental disease

X-ray of a rabbit showing elongated molar teeth

Dental disease in your rabbit

Rabbit's teeth are open-rooted, meaning that they continuously erupt and grow throughout its life. If a rabbit has congenital or acquired dental disease, then the teeth may overgrow or grow distorted, which can cause life-long problems. This factsheet aims to discuss the common causes and treatments for dental disease in rabbits.

Read Dental disease in your rabbit
Rabbit with severely overgrown incisor teeth

Overgrown teeth

The incisors, premolars, and molars of rabbits grow throughout life. Rabbits do not possess any canine teeth, but do have peg teeth which sit just behind the upper incisors. The normal length is maintained by the wearing action of opposing teeth. Malocclusion (mandibular prognathism, brachygnathism) probably is the most common inherited disease in rabbits and leads to overgrowth of incisors, premolars and molars, with resultant difficulty in eating and drinking. However, malocclusion can develop in later life due to incorrect diet, especially one lacking in the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio or through trauma to the teeth or jaw.

Read Overgrown teeth

Gastrointestinal conditions

A rabbit with head tilt

Cerebrospinal nematodiasis

Cerebrospinal nematodiasis is an invasion of the central nervous system by nematode (roundworm) larvae and a cause of neurological disease in rabbits that have access to the outdoors. Infected rabbits may show a variety of clinical signs. These can also be attributed to many other disease processes.

Read Cerebrospinal nematodiasis
Rabbit drinking from a container

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a dysfunction of the pancreas. The pancreas is an endocrine organ that possesses clusters of cells known as islets of Langerhans. These secrete insulin into the blood circulatory system in order to control the glucose level in the blood, and stimulate absorption of glucose into cells. Diabetes mellitus is an entirely different condition to diabetes insipidus, which this article does not focus on.

Read Diabetes mellitus
Rabbit eating pellets

Diarrhoea

In adult rabbits, diarrhoea is quite uncommon. Several conditions can cause diarrhoea, with infections more common in young rabbits (kits/kittens). It is important to check your rabbit daily for diarrhoea as it could be due to a rapidly-progressing disease that requires early treatment or could lead to other problems such as flystrike.

Read Diarrhoea
A pair of rabbits

Dirty bottom syndrome

There are a variety of reasons why rabbits may suffer with a dirty bottom, either with faeces or urine, both of which are potential attractions for flies, especially in warmer months of the year when flystrike is a common occurrence.

Read Dirty bottom syndrome
X-ray of a rabbit with gastrointestinal stasis

Gastrointestinal stasis

When a rabbit's digestive system is compromised, because of illness, pain or stress, then their hydration and food intake is likely to be reduced. This can lead to a reduction in gut motility – known as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis.

Read Gastrointestinal stasis
Rabbit hairballs

Hairballs in rabbits

Rabbits are very clean animals and groom themselves constantly, which means the stomach contents always contain hair. This hair is normally passed through the digestive system and excreted with the faecal pellets.

Read Hairballs in rabbits
Rabbit nibbling at its paw

Intestinal obstructions in rabbits

Rabbits are frequently diagnosed with gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. However, some of these rabbits may be suffering from an intestinal obstruction, which has an acute onset and requires rapid and very different treatment to GI stasis in order to have a chance of a successful outcome. Although intestinal obstruction is rare in pet rabbits, it is considered an emergency and should be addressed promptly.

Read Intestinal obstructions in rabbits
Rabbit doe with her young

Mucoid enteropathy

Enteropathy refers to any condition affecting the intestines. There are several types of enteropathy, but the most common type that seems to affect rabbits is referred to as mucoid enteropathy. Despite having been around for decades, the condition remains confusing and is still not fully understood.

Read Mucoid enteropathy
Rabbit x-ray showing a gastrointestinal obstruction

Peritonitis

Peritonitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs. Peritonitis can be very severe in rabbits and life threatening in many cases. For this reason it is essential to identify and treat the cause as soon as possible.

Read Peritonitis

Miscellaneous health problems

X-ray showing arthritis in a rabbit

Arthritis

Arthritis is a well-known, documented condition affecting humans, cats and dogs. R rabbits can often be affected too, especially as they get older, and sometimes this can go un-noticed.

Read Arthritis
Rabbit with an eye abscess

Eye abscesses

Abscesses develop when bacteria enter a part of the body. It is the body's natural defences to try and 'wall off' infection to stop it spreading elsewhere within the body. This can lead to problems when the abscess is located within the region of the eye, since the location is hard to successfully operate on, and the case is frequently difficult to cure.

Read Eye abscesses
Hopping rabbit

Hip luxation

Luxation (dislocation) is defined as 'dislocation of a joint so that there is no contact between the articular surfaces'. Rabbits have very delicate skeletons, and as their muscle mass is large relative to their skeleton injuries to joints can easily be caused through trauma or abnormal or excessive sudden movements. In addition, congenital abnormalities are also seen in rabbits and therefore hip luxation may be commonly encountered in pet rabbits.

Read Hip luxation
Rabbit in garden

Muscular dystrophy and other muscular conditions

Generalised muscle weakness in rabbits has numerous causes, many of which are extremely rare or have never been conclusively diagnosed in rabbits, but are important to discuss. By its definition, muscular dystrophy is defined as a degeneration of muscular tissue sometimes caused by faulty nutrition. This has been seen to occur in rabbits as well as other mammals.

Read Muscular dystrophy and other muscular conditions

Owning a rabbit

Cuddling a rabbit

Choosing a rabbit

Choosing a new pet is a very exciting time but you should take care not to make decisions about a new rabbit on impulse!

Read Choosing a rabbit
Rabbits sitting behind wire fence

Housing your rabbit

Whether your rabbit lives indoors or outdoors it needs somewhere to call home. Hutches and runs come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one is important to ensure that you have a happy rabbit.

Read Housing your rabbit
Toddlers with a rabbit

Is a rabbit right for me?

Rabbits are now the third most popular pet animal in the UK. TV programmes like Pet Rescue and Animal Hospital and organisations like the British House Rabbit Association are educating people about responsible rabbit ownership. This is resulting in a change in attitude from the rabbit as pet confined to a hutch at the bottom of the garden to one which is as much a part of the family as a dog or cat.

Read Is a rabbit right for me?
A pair of nuzzling rabbits

Rabbit companions

Rabbits are social animals; in the wild large groups will live happily together, providing company, security and physical grooming to each other. Company of their own kind is just as important for pet rabbits too. However, to ensure that the bonding process is as trouble-free as possible, there are some simple, but important guidelines that should be followed.

Read Rabbit companions
Trailing socket with several plugs

Rabbit proofing your home

Living with a house rabbit isn't something that happens with little or no preparation, and one of the most important things you need to do before moving a bunny into your home is to make the environment safe for them. Remember that chewing and digging are natural behaviours for rabbits and they generally aren't fussy about what they test their teeth and claws on, so it is up to you to ensure you possessions are rabbit proofed.

Read Rabbit proofing your home

Infectious diseases

A rabbit with head tilt due to Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection

Encephalitozoon cuniculi

Encephalitozoon cuniculi was virtually unrecognised as a cause of disease in pet rabbits until a few years ago. Nowadays it is much more widely diagnosed amongst pet rabbits, with owners of affected rabbits wanting to learn as much as possible in order to give their rabbits the best care possible. However, the disease isn't a straightforward one, and there is still a lot that we don't understand about it, so it does take some explaining in order to understand what it is, what it does and how it is currently treated.

Read Encephalitozoon cuniculi
Rabbit laying near the entrance to its burrow

Herpes virus infection

The order of herpes viruses is known as Herpesvirales; it is a large group of viruses that includes various strains that infect humans and many types of animals through direct contact with body fluids. The herpes virus is highly contagious and is characterised by latent and recurring infections. It inhabits the cells of the body and lies dormant until it is triggered to re-emerge. It is typically a life-long infection due to the viruses' ability to evade detection by the host's immune system.

Read Herpes virus infection
Rabbit with myxomatosis

Myxomatosis ('myxy')

Italian microbiologist Sanarelli first reported myxomatosis in 1896, when a laboratory rabbit colony he had imported into Uruguay for public health research suddenly died of an extremely infectious disease. The virus was identified in the 1930s and has subsequently been used in the biological control of rabbit populations in Australia and France in the 1950s. It spread from France to the UK in 1953 where it decimated the European wild rabbit population and is now widespread both in wild and domestic rabbits in the UK.

Read Myxomatosis ('myxy')
Rabbit resting among some trees

Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD)

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD or HVD) is one of the most common. There are two strains of VHD (VHD1 and 'new variant' VHD2). VHD1 was first discovered in China in 1984 in rabbits that had been imported from Germany, and it arrived in the UK in 1992. VHD2 was first recognised in France in 2010 and soon after came to the UK. To ensure your rabbit is protected against these diseases, vaccination is essential.

Read Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD)

Respiratory problems

Close up of rabbit's face

Nasal discharge

Discharges from the nose can be clear fluid, mucus, pus, blood or a mixture of substances. The discharge can originate from the nasal area or from deeper in the respiratory tract, e.g. the lungs. There are several causes of nasal discharge, not all of them are infections. The prognosis varies depending on the cause the extent of disease when treatment is sought.

Read Nasal discharge
A yawning hare

Snoring

Rabbits cannot breathe through their mouth if their nose is blocked. Attempted mouth breathing is a sign of respiratory distress and is often accompanied by a blue tinge to the lips and nose. This is a serious and life-threatening condition that needs emergency attention by your vet. However, anything that obstructs the rabbit's nasal passages or causes a narrrowing may mean that the rabbit emits a 'snoring' noise when breathing. This can sometimes be caused by the rabbits' breed, a foreign body or bacterial infections, and some rabbits may also truly snore!

Read Snoring
Rabbit in a tree hollow

Snuffles - the facts

Snuffles is a condition in rabbits that every owner dreads. Once a rabbit develops snuffles it is usually a life-long problem. Fortunately, recent research suggests that it can be prevented just by providing your rabbit with a healthy, balanced diet. Here are some guidelines on how to look after a rabbit with snuffles and also how to protect your rabbits from developing the condition.

Read Snuffles - the facts

Skin disease

A normal moulting rabbit

Alopecia - hair loss

Alopecia is also known as hair loss, and it typically means partial or complete hair loss on areas of the body where hair is normally found. Alopecia can occur in virtually all animals with hair and is normal in some situations (such as baldness in human males). In most animals, however, it is usually an abnormal condition which can come on suddenly or progress over time, depending on the cause. Alopecia can be unsightly and reduce the insulating and protective capacity of a rabbit's coat, potentially leading to increased stress and/or development of other conditions for the animal.

Read Alopecia - hair loss
A rabbit in a field

Biting and nuisance flies

The most common flies that affect rabbits include green bottles, house flies, face flies, stable flies, horn flies, horse flies and blow fly species. Some species, like blow flies, are attracted to moist decaying environments in which to lay their eggs. Other fly species such as face flies, flesh flies, screw worm flies and bot flies target living animal flesh, including drinking the tears of live animals, biting the animal for a blood meal, or reproducing by laying eggs under the animal's skin.

Read Biting and nuisance flies
Ear canker in a rabbit

Ear canker in rabbits

Ear canker can be a painful and irritating condition for your rabbit. Signs of this condition tend to appear 2-3 weeks after the animal is first infested with mites, therefore early detection of the mites that cause ear canker is important when trying to prevent this condition from taking hold.

Read Ear canker in rabbits
Rabbit in a tree hollow

Flystrike in rabbits

Vets know that with the arrival of the warmer months, comes the common problem of rabbits affected by flystrike being presented to them. This is a deeply distressing condition for owners, the veterinary team and especially the rabbit, which is literally being eaten alive. However, with some simple preventative measures, hopefully your bunny will never have to endure this condition, or if they are unlucky enough to be affected, you will be able to act quickly enough so they are one of the lucky ones who can be saved.

Read Flystrike in rabbits
Flea/lice infestation on a rabbit

Lice infestation

Rabbits can host a variety of parasites on their fur and skin. These are termed as ectoparasites, since they live on the outside of the rabbit. Lice fall into this classification and can be a problem for pet rabbits.

Read Lice infestation
A sore rabbit hock

Pododermatitis in rabbits - sore hocks

Disruption of the normal stance or locomotion in rabbits may lead to pressure sores on the base of the feet, known as pododermatitis. Starting as a skin problem, this condition progresses over time to affect deeper tissues and can be extremely debilitating.

Read Pododermatitis in rabbits - sore hocks
Female Cheyletiella mite

'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Cheyletiella infection is a form of mange that is also known as rabbit mites and "walking dandruff". This is an itchy skin condition caused by small parasites living on the skin surface. The mites can be found on many animals including rabbits, dogs and cats, and can be transmitted from pets to people. Early recognition is important as the condition can be simply treated.

Read 'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Urogenital problems

Rabbits

Excessive drinking and urination

Drinking and urinating more than normal is medically called polydipsia (poly = many; dipsia = drinking) and polyuria (poly = many; uria = urine). Thirst and urine production are a delicate balance controlled by interactions between the brain and the kidneys. Increased urination stimulates thirst, as the body's overall hydration decreases and stimulates thirst mechanisms in the brain. Sometimes the opposite can be true when excess thirst triggers urination, as can be seen with diseases like diabetes when the body tries to dilute toxins by drinking more and the diluted blood then stimulates increased urination.

Read Excessive drinking and urination
Grey rabbit

Kidney problems

Like other mammals, rabbits possess two kidneys. The kidneys are essential for filtering out toxins from the body and excreting them via the urinary system. There are many potential problems which can affect the kidneys, with varying degrees of severity.

Read Kidney problems
Rabbit kittens

Rearing orphan rabbit kittens

Handrearing a rabbit kitten or kittens can be an extremely rewarding experience but is not a job to be taken on lightly. The task ahead is difficult, exhausting and there is no guarantee of success. However hard you try, you are a poor substitute for a kitten's natural mother and despite the best efforts of human volunteers the death rate among orphaned kittens is often high.

Read Rearing orphan rabbit kittens
Bloody urine sample

Red urine

Bloody urine is rare in rabbits and rodents. Cases of bloody urine in rabbits often turn out to be normal rabbit urine which is simply a deep red colour due to the extretion of plant pigments within the diet. True cases of blood in the urine (haematuria) are often due to stones/sludge within the urinary tract, cystitis, uterine adencarcinoma, polyps or abortion.

Read Red urine
Struvite stones

Urolithiasis

Urolithiasis is the formation of calculi in the urinary tract, also called kidney and bladder calculi or stones, or urinary tract stones. The stones are rock hard crystal aggregations of all shapes and sizes. Sludge is the name given to the thick, almost toothpaste consistency deposit that can build up in the rabbits bladder or kidneys.

Read Urolithiasis
Hair plucking in a female rabbit with pseudopregnancy

Uterine problems

The female rabbit's reproductive tract varies greatly compared to dogs and cats. Although there is a difference in the anatomical make-up of rabbits, they can still experience some of the diseases that affect dogs and cats.

Read Uterine problems

Veterinary procedures

Urine sample

Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your rabbit to be treated earlier and more effectively. Tests may be used to show whether a rabbit is carrying infections that could pose a threat to other rabbits it comes into contact with.

Read Samples and tests - how they help your vet
MR scanner

Scanning - the inside picture

Until a few years ago, diagnostic imaging was limited to radiography (x-rays), ultrasound and endoscopy. Although these are still very useful diagnostic tools, there are now far more advanced diagnostic imaging methods, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT), that are being more commonly used in rabbit medicine.

Read Scanning - the inside picture
Vet reviews x-ray

X-rays and ultrasound

Veterinary medicine has made many advances in the last 10 years and many local veterinary practices are now able to perform x-ray and ultrasound examinations.

Read X-rays and ultrasound

Rodents

Chinchillas

A grey chinchilla

Chinchillas: feeding a healthy diet

When chinchillas were first imported from South America - into the United States initially, and then into Europe - people found it really difficult, at first, to keep them alive in captivity. This was mainly because of a lack of understanding of what wild chinchillas eat. Chinchillas are entirely herbivorous (they only eat vegetable matter) and where they live in the wild, most of the vegetation is quite fibrous and dry, not lush and juicy! They eat grasses and other low-growing greenstuff, and chew the bark off trees.

Read Chinchillas: feeding a healthy diet
Chinchilla with a miniature log bridge

Chinchillas: routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your chinchilla happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

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Gerbils

Gerbil peeking out of a hole

Gerbils: a history

Gerbils, i.e. Mongolian gerbils, are small rodents with long furry tails that have a tuft of fur at the end. They are larger than mice, but smaller than typical hamsters (syrian hamsters, not dwarf hamsters).

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A pair of gerbils

Gerbils: behaviour

Gerbils make nice pets and are fascinating to watch. Gerbils are very social animals, and it is not a good idea to keep them singly. Pair bonded or family units of gerbils are usually quite affectionate with each other.

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Close up of a gerbil

Gerbils: epilepsy

Gerbils can suffer from spontaneous epileptiform seizures (epilepsy). These seizures may be precipitated by sudden stress, handling or introduction to a novel environment. Incidence of this syndrome is about 20% in natural populations.

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Gerbil eating a piece of carrot

Gerbils: feeding a healthy diet

In the wild, gerbils live partly on dry seeds, but these are emergency rations for when something more nutritious is not available. Gerbils need some animal protein in their diet, so they will eat insects; but also eat fresh vegetable material.

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Duprasi fat tailed jird in a tank

Gerbils: housing

In the wild gerbils live in burrows and spend the most of their time foraging for food, so you should try to mimic this environment for your gerbil when creating a home for him. Your gerbil will need plenty of room to eat, sleep and run around.

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Holding a gerbil

Gerbils: how to give a health check

Gerbils are generally very healthy robust little creatures who never have a day's illness in their lives, however just occasionally they do suffer from various ailments. If recognized early, your vet can treat most of these successfully. Gerbils are incredibly healthy compared to most other pet rodents, and 90% of them never need veterinary treatment. If you spend a lot of time with your pets, then it is likely that you would soon notice if anything were wrong.

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Holding a gerbil

Gerbils: how to handle

Generally, frequent handling will keep your gerbil quite tame. If your gerbil is difficult to handle, and all else fails, bribery with their favourite food, for example sunflower seeds, can help make a gerbil more amenable to handling. Gerbils are particularly difficult to catch if they escape from their cage, so bribery with their favourite food will definitely help in this situation!

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Offering a gerbil a treat

Gerbils: how to tame

Taming a gerbil requires some patience to gain their trust, but it will make handling your gerbils much easier and it is also extremely rewarding.

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Gerbils

Gerbils: miscellaneous health problems

Two medical conditions of gerbils that demand special mentions are nasal dermatitis and Tyzzer's disease, therefore these are covered in separate factsheets. However, there are other medical conditions that affect gerbils that are briefly covered here.

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Close up of a gerbil's nose

Gerbils: nasal dermatitis

Nasal dermatitis is also known as "sore nose", "facial eczema" and "facial dermatitis". Incidence of the disease is higher in weanlings than in adults, but is a fairly common condition seen in gerbils.

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Two gerbils huddled together

Gerbils: parasitic diseases

Luckily gerbils generally don't suffer from parasitic diseases, especially if they are kept in a clean, dry, warm environment. However there are some that you should keep an eye out for, just in case.

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Gerbils with a toy house

Gerbils: routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your gerbil happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

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Gerbil near burrow entrance

Gerbils: Tyzzer's disease

Gerbils can suffer from a number of health problems, but Tyzzer's disease is a very serious infectious disease that affects the liver and is usually caught from mice. Good hygiene, the use of good quality bedding and burrowing material will help prevent this disease.

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Hamsters

A hamster in a box

Hamsters: a history

Hamsters are small, virtually tailless, velvet-furred rodents with enormous cheek pouches. They originated in the Middle East and south eastern Europe. The most common and popular breeds, both as pets and laboratory animals, is the golden or Syrian hamster.

Color and hair-type varieties of the golden hamster include cinnamon, cream, white, and "teddy bear" (the long-haired variety). Most of the hamsters sold as pets or used in research are the descendants of 3 litter mates domesticated in 1930.

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Empty medication packaging

Hamsters: antibiotic sensitivity

Hamsters as a group are unusually sensitive to the potentially lethal effects of certain antibiotics, whether they are given orally or by injection. Potentially harmful antibiotics include ampicillin, penicillin, erythromycin, lincomycin and streptomycin.

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Hamster drinking from a water bottle

Hamsters: bladder stones

Hamsters are susceptible to the formation of stones within the urinary tract. The bladder is the only location within the urinary tract in which stones would likely be detected on physical examination by your vet.

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A hamster with her babies

Hamsters: breeding

The sex of adult hamsters is easy to determine. Males have very large, prominent testicles. In fact, owners unaccustomed to seeing them are often astonished at these anatomic peculiarities.

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Hamster peeking through cardboard

Hamsters: cancer

Cancer is very common in pet hamsters. The incidence increases with age, as is the case with most animals, and is higher among females than males because of the variety of cancers that involve the female reproductive tract.

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Close up of a hamster showing the teeth

Hamsters: dental problems

Hamsters' incisor (front, gnawing) teeth grow continuously throughout their life; as is true for all rodents. The incisors receive continuous wear as the uppers and lowers contact each other, preventing overgrowth.

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A hamster eating broccoli

Hamsters: feeding a healthy diet

You should ensure your hamster has access to good quality food and fresh, clean water at all times. The exact nutritional requirements of the hamster are not known, but in the wild they are 'omnivores' meaning that they eat both vegetarian food (plants, fruit, vegetables and seeds) and animal protein (usually insects). Unfortunately, most hamster mixes are entirely vegetable matter, without any animal protein; many of these mixes are also very low in some vitamins and substances called 'essential fatty acids' that are especially important for a healthy skin and coat.

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Hamster in a toy plastic house

Hamsters: housing

Proper housing is a major factor in maintaining healthy hamsters. The psychosocial well being of your hamster must be a primary consideration. Hamsters can be housed within enclosures made of wire, stainless steel, durable plastic or glass. The last 3 materials are preferred because they resist corrosion.

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Holding a hamster

Hamsters: how to handle

Hamsters handled frequently from a very young age usually remain docile and rarely bite. Those with docile temperaments and a history of not biting can simply be picked up by using one or both hands, and then held in both hands or in one hand held against the body.

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Hamster laying on its side

Hamsters: miscellaneous health problems

Two conditions of hamsters that demand special mentions are their susceptibility to bladder stones and dental problems. Therefore, these are covered in separate factsheets. However, there are other medical conditions that affect hamsters that are briefly covered here. Because hamsters are very small, nocturnal (night-active) and not closely observed, the early signs of illness are frequently overlooked or not noted at all. Hamster owners must be constantly vigilant for signs of illness and must seek immediate veterinary assistance when illness is suspected. Sick hamsters often become irritable and frequently bite.

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Hamster grooming

Hamsters: parasitic diseases

Both external and internal parasites are commonly seen in hamsters. A common external parasite problem of hamsters is caused by mites. Hamsters also frequently harbor intestinal tapeworms and, less commonly, pinworms.

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Holding a hamster

Hamsters: routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your hamster happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

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Hamster peeking out of a hamster ball

Hamsters: traumatic injuries

Hamsters are easily injured. They are frequently dropped while being handled (especially by children), or after they bite. Pet hamsters allowed "freedom of the house" (even for very short periods) are often stepped on or kicked and seriously injured or killed.

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Sleeping hamster

Hamsters: viral and bacterial infections

Hamsters are susceptible to numerous infections, here are a few that you should keep an eye out for.

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Mice and rats

Mice

Mice and rats: a history

Domestically raised mice and rats are popular pets these days; they are readily available, relatively inexpensive and easy to care for, and usually enjoy human handling.

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Rat eating a piece of cheese

Mice and rats: feeding a healthy diet

The mice we keep as pets are the same species as the house mouse. They live alongside human beings nearly all over the world, eating what they can find. Rats are designed to eat plants, e.g. seeds, roots, nuts and fruit. The cheek teeth of the rat are more like our own than the teeth of rabbits or guinea pigs. They don't keep growing throughout the animal's life, but like ours, they erupt when the animal is young and have to last it all its life. The incisors are constantly growing and wearing against each other to form the characteristic chisel shape. Rats like to gnaw to keep their teeth in trim and because their natural diet would demand it; do not chop or grate vegetables too finely but let them gnaw pieces off themselves.

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Overhead view of a tank ready for housing rodents

Mice and rats: housing

Proper housing is a major factor in the maintenance of healthy mice and rats. The psychosocial well-being of the animals must be a primary consideration. Mice and rats can be housed within enclosures made of wire, stainless steel, durable plastic or glass.

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Holding a rat

Mice and rats: how to handle

Domestic mice and rats generally tolerate gentle handling, though both may bite if startled or handled roughly. Mice are more likely to bite than rats under these circumstances. In fact, mice housed alone are more likely to be aggressive with a handler than those housed in groups.

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Obese rat

Mice and rats: miscellaneous health problems

Two medical conditions of mice and rats demanding special mention are their susceptibility to tumours and Tyzzer's disease. These are covered in separate factsheets. However, there are other medical conditions affecting mice and rats that are briefly covered here. Only purchase rodents from reputable sources, and never purchase an obviously or even suspiciously ill rodent. It is never wise to purchase an animal that has been in contact with one that seems ill, even if the intended purchase appears perfectly healthy. Strict quarantine or isolation of all newly acquired rodents for at least 4 weeks greatly helps prevent disease among pet mice and rats. This recommendation is especially important for pet rodents because of the severity of certain diseases that they may harbor without showing signs of illness.

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Two mice grooming

Mice and rats: parasitic diseases

Rodents are susceptible to skin disease which can be caused by numerous infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Cage mates may be responsible for hair loss and/or wounds to the skin.

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Vet holding a mouse

Mice and rats: routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your rodent happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

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Vet examines a rat

Mice and rats: tumours

Both mice and rats are very susceptible to formation of tumours. Rats over 2 years of age are reported to have an 87% chance of developing one or more types of tumours. Mice frequently develop tumours representing a wide variety of tissue types. The tumours may be external or internal.

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Mouse peeking from a knitted tunnel

Mice and rats: Tyzzer's disease

Mice and rats can suffer from a number of health problems, but Tyzzer's disease is usually seen in mice, although rats are also susceptible. It is caused by the bacterium Clostridium piliforme (formerly called Bacillus piliformis), which is usually transmitted by eating contaminated food or water.

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Sleeping rats

Mice and rats: viral and bacterial infections

Mice and rats suffer from a number of viral and bacterial infections. Here are some of the more commonly seen infections that you should keep an eye out for.

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