We all know that as lovely as our dogs are at home where they feel secure, they can behave differently in stressful situations. And for many dogs, visiting the vets can be high on that list!
At Larkmead we offer Confidence Clinics with our nurses to help reduce your dog’s stress when visiting and we welcome owners to pop in if they are passing and just sit for a few minutes, chat to the team or use the weighing scales – all of this helps dogs to learn that visiting the vets isn’t always scary.
That being said, for some dogs the fear never wears off and it can easily turn into aggression during stressful situations (including those who dislike meeting other dogs).
For these owners and of course, those who own an XL Bully (or other similarly built dog), getting your dog used to wearing a muzzle in a relaxed way is a good idea, should one be needed.
On Tuesday 31 October 2023, the Government announced that the American Bully XL type dog has been added to the banned breeds list in England and Wales. To an owner who has an XL bully or any other similarly built dog as a pet, this is a major concern (please note that vets are not involved with enforcement of this law or defining the breed). As part of the requirements to fulfil the criteria outlined in the legislation, these dogs are required to wear a muzzle each time they are taken for a walk; and that alone is an upsetting prospect for some owners. Larkmead Vets aim to support their clients with dogs affected by this new legislation, to reduce stress and make the transition as simple as possible.
It is very important that the muzzle your dog will wear, becomes as familiar as using a lead. Putting it on should become a routine, stress free process before going out for a walk or into public spaces, including visiting the vets. To help with this, some dogs need to be trained to wear a muzzle.
Successful muzzle training takes time and patience, so it really helps to start as soon as you can. Muzzle training should be carried out at home or in a space where your dog is relaxed and feels safe. It evolves from being happy around the muzzle, to becoming comfortable wearing the muzzle without pawing at it to get it off.
For advice and a video on muzzle training please visit the Blue Cross website where you will find some very useful information.
The Dog’s Trust also offer a range of muzzle training options, including free muzzle training webinars providing information about the most suitable types of muzzle; how to ensure a good fit and how to teach your dog to enjoy wearing their muzzle.
If you need further support, please do not hesitate to book a video consultation to chat with one of our vets.
Finding a flea on your pet is horrible – but knowing the lifecycle of the flea can help you get rid of them, and also explain why you can sometimes see them on pets regularly treated with anti-parasitic medication.
Fleas only jump onto the pet to feed – the rest of their lifecycle is in the environment. Most flea products work when the flea feeds and will either kill the flea before it can lay eggs or stop any eggs laid reaching adulthood – whilst this is an invaluable tool in the fight against them, it is not the only response needed when you do see an adult flea on your pet.
Flea pupae can take up to 2 months (in ideal conditions) to develop into adult fleas so it can be normal to see adult fleas appearing on a correctly treated pet for 2-3 months after initial treatment.
So what should you do when you discover fleas?
1) Reduce levels of fleas in the home environment:
Wash all pet bedding weekly at a minimum of 50 degrees Celsius.
Invest in a good quality household flea spray but BEFORE you use it: increase humidity and vibrations (this will trigger pupal stage of flea life cycle to hatch) – this can be done by hanging up wet towels to dry overnight and vacuuming carpets thoroughly before spraying.
2) Ensure all household pets are treated with veterinary strength anti-parasitic medication and follow the dosage instructions provided carefully.
We also recommend that any pets found with live fleas are treated for tapeworm. Fleas can carry a bacteria (Bartonella) which is transmissible to humans causing ‘Cat scratch disease’ AND can carry tapeworm eggs. If any human members of the household start to feel unwell, it is recommended to see your doctor and mention flea infestation.
You may need to repeat all of these steps to ensure that all eggs are eradicated.
The recent unseasonable humid weather we experienced will have been an ideal breeding ground for fleas so remain vigilant and unfortunately with central heating, the danger never really goes away!
Is this your pup’s first firework season? Are you concerned about how they might react?Now is the time to act to get them ready – it is important that from an early age, as much as possible is done to help your pet associate loud noises with pleasant experiences such as their favourite game, chew toy or activity. These activities should be presented to your pet every time there are noisy events regardless of whether they seem stressed or not. Sound desensitisation is a key part of training your dog to accept unpleasant noises and not to be fearful. This approach to behaviour modification can be very rewarding but does require time and effort to achieve success so it is important to start early.
Finally, if you know your pet finds these noises stressful and distressing, please book a video appointment to talk to one of our vets for further advice as there are things we can provide to help.
From 1st September 2023 some new guidance from the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – our governing body) comes into effect. It is important that you understand how these changes may affect you.
Vets will no longer always need to carry out a physical examination to take an animal ‘under their care’ and prescribe prescription only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs). The examination may take place virtually (via video or telephone consultation) rather than in person.
EXCEPTIONS to this are if:
NB: If the vet is unable to safely and accurately select the correct medication required on the basis of a virtual consultation then you will be invited to attend the practice.
1) A prescription for flea and worm treatment will be available for your pets for 12 months from the date of the consultation when the treatment is prescribed. Should you wish to change this treatment during the 12 month period, a repeat physical examination will be required. Please note, we may not dispense 12 months worth of treatment but you will be able to request more as needed over the following 12 months via our repeat prescription service.
We recommend always ordering your flea and worming treatments in advance via our website to ensure a vet is available to dispense them. We may not be able to dispense in branch without prior notice.
2) You will be able to use our video consulting service to obtain medication for minor conditions without seeing the vet in practice. Prescribing will be at the vet’s discretion based on the condition being treated. Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, anti-parasitics, and controlled drugs CANNOT be obtained via this route.
3) A physical consultation (usually every 3 months) will be required to obtain controlled drugs such as phenobarbitone.
Repeat medications can be ordered in advance via our website.
The heart is one of the most vital organs in the body. However, cardiac problems can be quite common in pets and can significantly impact their overall wellbeing.
Fortunately, advances in veterinary medicine have paved the way for early detection and effective management of heart conditions and here at Larkmead, we are able to offer many investigations in-house without the need for expensive referrals.
Heart disease can manifest in various forms such as heart murmurs, congestive heart failure and arrhythmias (abnormal heart beat). Detecting these conditions at an early stage allows us to implement appropriate treatments before the condition worsens. Routine check-ups can identify some signs, but they may not be sufficient to detect underlying heart problems. This is where heart scans, also known as echocardiograms or cardiac ultrasounds, play a pivotal role.
Echocardiography is a non-invasive and painless imaging technique used to examine the heart’s structure and function and can sometimes be performed without the need for a general anaesthetic. By using sound waves to create detailed images of the heart, we can assess the heart’s size, shape, and ability to pump blood effectively. Echocardiograms enable early detection of heart diseases, making them a valuable tool in ensuring our pets lead healthy lives.
At Larkmead we invested in a vivid IQ ultrasound scanner which allows us to get much clearer pictures of hearts and abdomens than a regular ultrasound machine.
If your vet suspects any cardiac abnormalities during a routine check-up, they may suggest a heart scan to get a clearer picture of your pet’s heart health.
Routine heart scans are recommended for certain breeds that are predisposed to cardiac issues, such as Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Maine Coon cats and they can also be recommended for older pets or those displaying symptoms of heart problems such as:
The primary advantage of heart scans is that they allow us to diagnose heart diseases in their early stages, increasing the chances of successful treatment and improved prognosis. With timely intervention, the progression of heart conditions can be slowed down or even halted, helping your pet enjoy a better quality of life for longer.
If you are concerned about your pet’s heart, please let us know as soon as possible so that investigations can be started.
Some of you may have seen the recent media reports regarding a significant outbreak in Cyprus of FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) caused by a type of coronavirus. It is important to understand that this Coronavirus is different from the one causing COVID and has therefore not been identified as a risk to humans.
Feline coronavirus is spread via faeces. FIP occurs due to the spontaneous mutation of a very common variant of coronavirus that is thought to affect up to 40% of household cats without causing any problems. In multi-cat households or colonies this number increases closer to 100%. It is thought that factors such as high cat density and stress, together with a change in an individual’s immune response can trigger the change in the coronavirus to one that causes FIP. The disease is mostly seen in cats under 2 years of age, with the majority affected being between 4 and 12 months old.
In many cats, signs may develop over a period of weeks to months. They may start with a fluctuating fever, lethargy and inappetence, progressing to breathing difficulties and a swollen fluid filled abdomen in some cases. Confirmation of the disease can be difficult as there is no single reliable test for FIP. Putting the clinical findings, age and typical changes on haematology together with PCR confirmation will however, give us a likely diagnosis.
Unfortunately, many cases of FIP have historically proven to be fatal. Since 2021 however, there has been legal access in the UK to an antiviral agent that has shown to be effective in successfully treating some cases. The drawbacks of this medication however are its very high cost (up to £6000) and the need for medication to be given daily for a total of 84 days. Some variations of this protocol exist but the drawbacks are still similar.
Try to source cats or kittens from small group environments. If you do have a multi-cat household (i.e. more than 4 cats) aim for a ratio of a maximum of 2 cats per litter tray. Keep the environment clean and freshen litter trays as soon as soiling is evident. Minimise stress.
From our knowledge of feline coronavirus, we know that FIP already occurs here in the UK. We also know that our feline population demonstrates a significantly different demographic here too. As yet, although there has been an increase in the number of cases of FIP reported in Cyprus between January to April 2023, there is no proven evidence to confirm why this is happening. Recommendations have been made to check coronavirus levels in all cats from Cyprus prior to entering the UK. This, together with the benefit of understanding of how FIP may arise, allows vets to monitor the situation and we can get a clearer idea of the risk to the UK cat population, if any.
If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We are excited to announce our new partnership with Pet Proactive pet insurance which directly benefits Larkmead customers.
As vets, we see pet insurance as a means for pet owners to budget for the unexpected, and if the worst happens, it enables us to carry out the most effective treatment.
However pet insurance can be frustrating with many terms & conditions or exclusions, meaning claims are often not paid in full which can leave you with an unexpected bill. On top of this our customers regularly complain of hefty price increases as their pet gets older, at the time when they are most likely to need insurance.
We have worked closely with Pet Proactive to create a new type of insurance that provides lifetime cover for treatment and referrals through our practice.
The policies are designed for customers who are happy to commit to using Larkmead as their main veterinary practice. We believe this is a much simpler type of insurance which not only removes the worry of unexpected veterinary bills but will also save money for most of our customers over their pet’s lifetime.
“We are delighted to be working with Larkmead Vets. Larkmead is an exceptional independent veterinary practice that puts the needs of their customers and pets first. This enables us to provide great insurance policies that reflect Larkmead’s in-house capability, fair pricing and gives their veterinary team complete freedom to do what is best.”
Elizabeth Graham, Chief Executive Officer Pet Proactive.
Pet Proactive offer cover from £4,000 to £12,000 per year, and whichever policy you choose comes with the following good to know features:
Pet Proactive can quickly provide prices for your whole pet family under 6 years of age – you just enter the mobile number or email address you have registered with us on their website and your prices are displayed.
And if you already have pet insurance, Pet Proactive’s free “switch check service” will confirm any pre-existing health conditions that would affect your policy before you buy, so you can have complete certainty of cover for you and your pet.
To take out a policy with Pet Proactive you must be registered with, and commit to your primary care with Larkmead Vets. Your pet must be less than 6 years old when taking out the policy – cover is then provided for life as long as you renew annually.
*as long as your pet does not already have pre-existing dental problems
Hypertension or high blood pressure can affect many older cats without causing obvious clinical signs. Any cat over the age of 7 may be affected. It is more common in cats who suffer from a pre-existing condition such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or diabetes, however it also occurs on its own as a primary condition.
If your cat has untreated high blood pressure there may be damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, brain and nervous system. This can appear as sudden onset blindness, seizures or breathing problems for example. Problems such as these are preventable with early detection and management.
Screening for hypertension is simple and painless and blood pressure measurements are taken using a cuff just like in humans. Owners are welcome to stay with their cats while they are having their check and can often help the vet or nurse by holding them comfortably. A minimum of three readings are usually taken to find an average. If your cat gets particularly stressed during travel, we can arrange for them to stay for a morning to settle down prior to checking.
If the blood pressure reading is found to be high, medication can be started immediately. This is readily accepted by most cats and stabilisation is often achieved in the first few weeks after beginning treatment. Further checks to rule out a cause for the hypertension will be discussed with you and regular follow-ups arranged to make sure your cat is responding well to treatment.
If you would like to book your cat in for a blood pressure check, you can book online (make sure you choose the appointment type ‘blood pressure check’) or give us a call.
We understand that many pets get anxious when coming to the vets so please mention it when booking if you think this applies to yours. We can provide useful tips and anxiety reducing medication if needed to help make their visit as relaxing as possible.
The Larkmead team is pretty unique in that we have a lot of skills in-house that other vets may need to refer patients to specialist vets for. This usually means better prices and of course the familiarity and care from the Team at Larkmead, particularly for post-op follow up care.
Several of our vets have undergone post-graduate training in specific disciplines and we are fortunate to have clinicians who are RCVS Advanced Practitioners in both surgery and medicine. This means we can offer treatment for more complicated cases than many other practices.
Comprehensive investigations and treatment are possible for a range of conditions including cardiology, dentistry, internal medicine, emergency and critical care, neurology, oncology, soft tissue and orthopaedic surgery.
In order to provide this service, we continuously re-invest in modern diagnostic aids such as ultrasound scanners, endoscopes, X-ray machines and laboratory equipment to give you accurate rapid results. At Didcot we also have a purpose-built Orthopaedic suite.
Should patients need to stay with us for any period, we have separate dog and cat hospitalisation facilities at both our Didcot Park Road and Cholsey branches. Our own vets and nurses provide 24-hour care for any patient admitted to the practice.
Booking your pet in for surgery can feel worrying but we are happy to answer any questions you may have and will explain what you will need to do before and after their procedure.
Should the vet recommend any procedure for your pet, please feel free to ask any questions (including an estimate of costs) – we want you to feel comfortable with what is going to happen and know that we are going to take good care of them whilst they are an in-patient with us.
Brachycephalic or ‘flat-faced’ dogs are popular family pets that include Pugs, English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs. If you or someone you know owns a brachycephalic dog, you may have heard talk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) which refers to the group of conditions resulting from breathing difficulties caused by the short nose and narrow airways of these breeds. Research suggests more than 40% of English bulldogs, 50% of French Bulldogs and 60% of Pugs would benefit from surgery to help treat BOAS and widen their airways.
Short noses mean that the soft tissue that usually sits comfortably inside a dog’s nose and mouth, has to fit into a much smaller space. This results in very narrow airways inside the nose and an over-long soft palate (the roof of the mouth) which can obstruct the back of their throat and causes snoring and snorting sounds commonly heard in these dogs. Other signs of BOAS include difficulty breathing during exercise, poor tolerance to heat, retching/vomiting and sleeping with a toy in their mouth or with their head propped up.
If left untreated, over time, the narrow airways and breathing difficulties can result in secondary respiratory, digestive and heart diseases which further worsens the BOAS. This why early intervention is key to minimising the effects of BOAS and stopping disease progression. Some dogs may only need lifestyle changes to manage their BOAS, such as keeping slim and avoiding hot weather. However more severely affected dogs may require surgery to widen their airways and improve their ability to breathe.
The most accurate way of knowing which dogs would benefit from treatment is by doing a non-invasive respiratory function assessment in which a vet listens to a dog’s breathing sounds before and after an exercise tolerance test. We recommend that all brachycephalic breed dogs have an assessment starting from one year old as if needed, airway surgery can greatly improve their quality of life. The cost of an assessment is the same as a standard veterinary consultation and are free to Lifetime Care Club Gold Members, with 20% off for LCC Kite Members.
Booking an Exercise Tolerance Test is very easy – please give our Reception Team a call. You should allow half an hour for your visit as you will be asked to complete a short-survey upon arrival as well as the 20 minute test itself. Appointments are available at Cholsey, Didcot Park Road or Great Western Park.