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All posts in July, 2011

Today, when I was in the woods with my dogs and children, we walked into a clearing and found a young rabbit wandering in circles.

The dogs couldn’t believe their eyes and of course jumped in, thinking it was dinner time. I managed to grab them, but this left me with a dog in each hand, and no way of attending to the poor bunny. Eventually, I got both dogs onto their leads and tied them up.

Of course the kids were hysterical by this time, and the rabbit was in a bad way. Its eyes were swollen shut and it had lumps all over its body. It had myxomatosis.

This is a horribly contagious disease that can kill up to 90% of rabbits that it infects. It is sometimes spread by contact with infected animals, or by exposure to something that has been in contact with a sick bunny. But more frequently it is spread by an insect, such as a fly or mosquito, that has landed on a rabbit with Myxomatosis. If this insect lands on your rabbit’s food or bites it, your bunny can get sick.

Sometimes rabbits with Myxomatosis will survive but most often they die, even with careful and expensive medical treatment and nursing. If a rabbit is presented with signs of this disease in summer, with no history of vaccination, then most vets will recommend euthanasia on humane grounds.

If you have a pet rabbit, please make sure it is vaccinated against Myxomatosis. Some vaccinated bunnies still get ill but it’s a much milder form of the disease and they rarely die.

Using Advantage or Xeno100 on your rabbits will help prevent flea infestations and bites from mosquitoes.

And if you live near a lake or pond, then mosquito control is more important and it is wise to use a mosquito net to cover the hutch during  summer evenings. Dry bedding also discourages mosquitoes, so make sure you  keep your rabbit’s home clean and dry.

We were walking in Bayhurst Woods, which are part of Ruislip Woods in Hillingdon. If you live nearby and your rabbit hasn’t been vaccinated in the last 6 months, you should contact your vet and arrange an appointment now.

If you live elsewhere, there is also a good chance that a wild rabbit colony near you is harbouring Myxomatosis. Don’t hedge your bets when it comes to your family pet, get them vaccinated against this fatal disease.


Many thousands of cats get hit by vehicles on our roads every year in the UK. In the last weeks I’ve heard about a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) on an online forum I frequent, and also had one of my clients contact me to take their now deceased pet off my books.

At least 4 cats owned by either me, or my family while I was growing up, were killed by cars and another three were badly injured but survived. But that was in NZ, here in the UK RTA’s do seem to occur less frequently.

About half of cats hit by cars will die from their injuries; many more survive but are permanently damaged having lost a leg, hip or tail. A few lucky felines recover completely from their injuries but most RTA survivors  become very wary of vehicles and roads for the rest of their lives. Of course, there are always exceptions.

It’s true that once you let your cat out of the house you have no control of where it goes but there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of your pet being run over or hit by a car.

1/ Consider keeping your cat as a house cat. A house cat never gets to go outside, and as such is not at risk of being run over. The downside to having an inside cat is that you do need to work a bit harder to look after your pet. You will have to change litter trays and make sure your cat gets enough exercise and doesn’t get bored. And if a house cat ever escapes outside, they will not be very streetwise so are probably in greater danger of being hit by a car than a cat allowed to roam freely.

Variations on the theme of keeping a cat indoors permanently include

a/allowing them outdoors only on harness and lead a few times a day

b/Building them a cat run so they can get outside but not roam free.

2/ Keep your cat in overnight. Most RTA’s happen at night so if you keep your cat in from dusk to dawn, you reduce the chances of your cat becoming a statistic. There is a very clever cat door that can sense when it’s night and when it’s day and locks itself at night!

3/ Have your cat neutered. Neutered cats roam less so are less likely to get run over.

4/If you move house, consider the road your potential house is on. A very busy road is less of a danger than one where traffic moves along it intermittently. Cats see a constant traffic flow as a kind of wall to be avoided, whereas a quiet road is seen as safe place to cross. Just because you have a large garden out the back doesn’t mean cats will never go out the front.

5/ Don’t allow your cat to lie or climb on stationary cars. Use a water pistol to train them not to sleep under cars or walk near them. If you come home and find your cat sitting in your driveway, shoo it away before you drive towards it. Putting the car in neutral so it can’t move, flashing lights and revving your engine can help persuade your cat that cars are scary, and should be avoided.

If you think your cat has been hit by a car, even if it seems fine, you should visit your vet for a check up.

And if you run over someone else’s cat, please stop and see if you can find the owner. A lot of cats manage to get themselves off the road when they are hit, and run for a short period of time but will collapse nearby. These cats will probably die without urgent veterinary attention so it’s probably more important to get them to a surgery than find an owner.

Number 2.

Suzie Cantlay.

Please contact me with your details, so I can get your prize to you.


It used to be that some worming tablets every 3 months, and Frontline or Advantage drops on the back of the neck every month was considered enough to keep the beasties that would live on or in our dogs, away.

But now there is Angiostrongylus vasorum (also known as French Heartworm) . The adult worm lives in the heart and lung’s blood vessels of infected dogs where it can cause a worryingly diverse range of symptoms.

This parasite has only became a serious problem in the South West over the last decade but now, if you live anywhere in the UK, and own a dog, you should be aware of it. Infected dogs have been found as far north as Scotland and cases in the Midlands are not unknown. A warmer climate has been cited as a reason for this spread.

Whatever the reason, it’s time dog owners took a good look at whether their parasite control is up to the job.

Angiostrongylus vasorum is passed onto dogs when they eat slugs or snails infected with the larval stages of this parasite. The lungworm larvae travel through your dog’s body and eventually end up in the heart and arteries of the lung. If the infection is left untreated, adult lungworms develop, causing a range of signs that can include breathing difficulties, lethargy and coughing. Infected dogs will infect local slugs and snails by contaminating the environment with their faeces, and the life cycle begins again.

At this point you may be thinking ‘My dog doesn’t eat slugs or snails, so he’ll be ok.’ Perhaps he will. It is true a large percentage of dogs that are infected were known slug-or-snail eaters. But others weren’t.

Maybe your dog eats grass, or drinks from ponds or chews on toys that are left outside in the garden overnight? It’s quite possible a dog could ingest an infected mollusc this way. And some dogs  have become infected through eating frogs, which can carry the lungworm.

Most infected dogs make a good recovery with the right treatment if given early enough, so any coughing dog should be checked out by a vet sooner, rather than later. Other signs to watch out for are weight loss, lethargy or breathing difficulties.

If left untreated, A.vasorum can cause more serious signs of ill-health including bleeding internally, or even into the brain. French Lungworm can kill.

As always, prevention is best. Your usual flea or worm treatment probably does not protect against lungworm.

Advocate is a spot-on treatment that is applied monthly and is effective against fleas, heartworm, gastrointestinal worms (hookworm, roundworm and whipworm), sarcoptic mange, demodicosis and ear mites. It is a Prescription-only medicine is available from your vet.