Your pet questions answered with Heath Vets Cardiff

Chris Troughton of Heath Vets addresses your pet concerns

There have been reports of the so-called babesiosis, where dogs are at risks because of ticks. I’m not too sure on what dangers it poses to dogs and whether you could shed any light on it.

Babesia is a blood parasite that causes severe anaemia which can be fatal. It is very difficult to treat. Dogs become infected by bites from one particular kind of tick called Dermacenter.

In the UK, Dermacenter ticks used to be rare, but with the warmer wetter climate we seem to be having, it is spreading and has now been found in most parts of the UK – certainly in South Wales. Ticks are usually found in rough grassland. Traditionally, they were only a problem in early summer and autumn, but with the changing climate we now see tick activity all year round.

Until recently, the Babesia parasite has only ever been seen in UK dogs after they have travelled in Europe. However in March there was a report of several dogs in Essex that had never travelled abroad having been diagnosed with Babesia anaemia. This has prompted a careful search for the source, and infected Dermacenter ticks were identified in woodland where these dogs exercised. It is believed the ticks got the parasite from biting dogs which had travelled in Europe. Research is now ongoing to see if Dermacenter ticks elsewhere in the UK might be carrying Babesia as well, but so far none has been found. However, it is likely to be only a matter of time before this nasty disease does spread.

So at the moment, the risk of your dog catching Babesia in South Wales is very small indeed, but I fear it will become more of a problem. However, Lymes disease is also spread by ticks, so it is best to avoid ticks if possible. Some dogs seem to pick them up a lot, and you should always check your dog over carefully after walks in the country, paying particular attention to the face, legs, armpits & groin. If you do find a tick, DON’T just pull it off. You need to use a special tick-removing instrument to grip it properly and ensure the whole tick is removed (the jaws can break off and remain in the skin, causing sores).

There are now a number of very effective treatments for ticks that you can apply to your dog or give orally – talk to your vet to see what is best.

I’ve recently started sending my dog to day care but the people there said that the kennel cough vaccine only covers one strain of the disease and so isn’t too effective. I wanted to ask an expert on whether this was correct or not as my little dog doesn’t particularly like having the nasal spray done.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious cough illness that can be caused by a number of different infections; coughing is the main sign but sometimes only a runny nose and bit of snuffling is seen. It is rarely dangerous, although occasionally it can lead to more serious chest infections and the severity of the cough can sometimes exacerbate other chest problems a patient already has – for example windpipe problems in miniature breeds.

Some of the causes of kennel cough are covered by routine inoculations – for example, para-influenza virus. One of the other causes is Bordetella bacterium, and there is a nasal spray vaccine for this. So it is correct to say the kennel cough vaccine only covers one strain, and vaccination will not guarantee your dog is safe from the illness. However, it might protect him, so you have to make a judgement about whether it is better to leave your dog completely unprotected, or to do your best to protect him, but recognise that he might still catch it. It depends how much he hates the nasal spray!

Why does my cat insist in eating grass? Is it normal or should I seek advice?

Eating grass is quite a common behaviour for cats. Usually it does not signify any ill-health or deficiency. If fact some people recommend growing a seed-tray of grass for indoor cats to munch on! It might be providing some vitamins or dietary fibre.

Quite often, cats will be sick after eating grass, and seem none the worse for it. However, if this happens any more than occasionally, it might be because your cat has a gastric problem and you should get him looked at.

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