Veterinary surgeon Dr Neerja Muncaster looks back at the topics and conditions that stood out in 2018 and highlights the issues vets and owners should be aware of this year.
2018 saw vets and pet owners closely follow developments in the research into Alabama Rot, or idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) as it is medically known.
This disease has been around since the late 1980s. It can leave pets with skin lesions with or without kidney failure and we still don't know what causes it.
David Walker, from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, is the UK’s leading authority on CRGV and has this advice for owners: “Since December 2012 over 170 cases have been seen in the UK. Cases have been identified in many counties across the UK and more than 92% of cases are seen between November and May. Although unproven, an environmental trigger for the disease is possible.
“It is important to remember that only a very small number of dogs have been affected; most skin lesions will not be caused by this disease and most cases of kidney failure will have another cause. Early recognition of the disease and aggressive management is likely to lead to the best outcome.
“Although this is concerning for pet owners, case numbers are very low. If you are concerned about your dog please speak to your local vet.”
Read our guide to what dog owners need to know about Alabama Rot.
Pet food and diet
As people take more interest in their own diet, I’ve noticed pet owners are also paying more attention to what their animals eat.
Owners are keen to understand more about pet diets and are looking to explore both tailor-made commercial diets (such as Tails) as well as the raw food diets.
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) provides an abundance of advice as well as a list of companies that adhere to its guidelines. I would urge owners to research pet food options as well as discuss them with veterinary professionals who will be able to help them to make the correct nutritional decisions.
On the subject of diet, pet obesity continues to be an issue that vets and pet owners would like to tackle.
While obesity can occur due to an underlying medical condition, most of the time it is due to a combination of excessive consumption and not enough exercise.
However, a range of factors including breed type have also been found to influence canine obesity. It is important to recognise that our pets’ dietary requirements change as they get older and during the colder, wetter months, when both pets and owners venture outdoors less.
Obesity does increase the risk of health problems, for example, diabetes, orthopaedic problems and cardiorespiratory disease. These conditions will not only reduce the lifespan of pets but will also reduce their quality of life.
Most veterinary practices run regular weight clinics that are a great source of advice and support for pet owners.
In recent years, to reduce costs, an increasing number of owners have turned to online pharmacies to purchase prescription-only medication for their pets.
If you do buy medication online it’s important to make sure you’re using a registered pharmacy. Falsified and sub-standard drugs could be detrimental to your pet’s health.
While the majority of veterinary practices cannot compete on price with online pharmacies, they may be able to offer you a substantial discount, especially for ongoing medications. They, like you, want to ensure that your pet gets the right medication. Do not be reluctant to speak to your local vets.
Pet insurance continues to be a hot topic.
Continual advances in veterinary care and medicine have increased owners’ expectations of what can be done to treat pets and help them live longer. It can be devastating and frustrating for owners and veterinary professionals when the lack of insurance dictates the treatment options available.
There are a vast number of pet insurance policies available. There is a policy to suit every budget so it is worth researching what option suits your family’s needs best.
One key question to consider is whether a policy covers a condition for life. Many conditions, for example heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, will require lifelong treatment.
Policies that are described as ‘lifetime’ insurance can continue to cover a condition as long as the owner the renews each year and the condition occured after they had bought the policy. Most pet insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, although Bought By Many has a Pre-existing policy that can.
Although pet insurance doesn’t cover routine appointments, many veterinary practices run health clubs that can help spread the cost through the year of routine vaccinations, flea and de-worming products, and neutering.