Veterinary Nurses – Katzenworld

Veterinary Nurses are sometimes the unseen workforce in practice and many pet owners still have no idea how important veterinary nurses are to their pet’s care and wellbeing whilst they are at the veterinary practice. Like human nurses, Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) are highly skilled professionals in their own right.

Animals and their caring owners are wonderful to work with and are a huge part of the job. However, some people seem to think that veterinary nursing is all about cuddling fluffy animals while the vet examines them; I can assure you it isn’t always that glamorous! RVNs work very hard caring for our patients, which includes dealing with poo, wee, snot, vomit, blood, body organs, parasites, nasty smells and the occasional challenging patient (& owner!) Veterinary nursing can be extremely emotional and is very often physically demanding, but all of the nurses I know, agree that it is also an extremely rewarding job.

RVNs work alongside Veterinary Surgeons to provide the highest standard of care and treatment for your pet.  The following are just some of the jobs that a veterinary nurse performs on a daily basis

  • Providing skilled supportive care for sick and injured animals
  • Ensuring that patients receive appropriate care while hospitalised
  • Monitoring vital signs, such as temperature, heart rate, pulse and breathing rate
  • Holding and calming animals while a vet examines and treats them
  • Post operative care and check ups
  • Monitoring and maintaining anaesthetics, to ensure your pet is safe and pain-free during his or her operation (Yes, that’s us & not the vets!)
  • “Scrubbing in” to assisting vets with operations
  • Performing minor surgery (minor lump removals, suturing wounds, abscess treatments, skin biopsies, needle aspirates etc)
  • Providing medical treatments
  • Administering medication in the form of tablets, liquids, injections or topical treatments
  • Taking blood samples
  • Calculating dosages, fluid therapy and nutritional requirements
  • Placing intravenous and urinary catheters
  • Administering intravenous fluids
  • Wound management and changing dressings
  • Taking X-rays
  • Recording ECGs
  • Assisting vets to perform diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound and endoscopy
  • Carrying out diagnostic tests for example, urine tests, blood tests, faecal tests and examining samples under a microscope.
  • Supporting pet owners
  • Maintaining and sterilising equipment and instruments
  • Cleaning up after the patients (and the vets!)
  • Keeping the surgery clean and tidy
  • Looking after the needs of and advising the pet owner about the care of their pet

RVNs also play a very important role in the education of owners with regard to good standards of patient care during their nursing consultations, over the phone, or via blogs and articles such as this one. They can support owners by providing advice and guidance on all aspects of animal care and by offering nursing clinics for services such as

  • General advice on things such as health, growth, training, aging, behaviour, housing, husbandry, weight management & dental care.
  • Nail clipping
  • Emptying Anal glands
  • Microchipping
  • Diabetic monitoring
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Nutritional and feeding requirements
  • Post operative checks and suture removals
  • Wound management and bandage changes
  • Taking routine blood samples
  • Giving medications
  • Cleaning ears
  • Advice before you get a pet and what you should be looking for in a good breeder.

The Skills Necessary To Be A Veterinary Nurse

A strong desire to work with animals and people: Just liking animals is not enough; at times being an RVN can stretch you to your emotional limits and your day to day work may include seeing animals in a great deal of pain, putting an animal to sleep, or dealing with horrific cruelty cases and at all times you have to do what is best for the animal. In just a few minutes you can go from receiving a hug from a client because you have spent that extra bit of time to explain what the problem is with their pet and reassuring them that everything will be ok, to putting an animal to sleep because there is simply isn’t enough money for treatment or it has no home to go to.

Sympathy, compassion and understanding: You need to be able to relate to the owners of the animals as well as understand the animals themselves. You have to remember that the animals you deal with are much loved by their owners and are their best (and sometimes only) friend in the world. If you don’t want to work with people this is not the job for you, you will have to deal with owners as well as their pets, so great ‘people skills’ are essential.

The ability to work hard and commit to your patients and their owners: As a veterinary nurse, if you are in the middle of an operation, dealing with an emergency or talking to an upset owner, you can’t just down tools at the end of your shift. This is not a normal 9-5 job and we often go home thinking about our patients or even end up popping into the surgery to check on them on our days off.

Patience and understanding: Your patients cannot tell you what is wrong with them and some will be in pain and frightened when they visit the practice. Patience is also a requirement when dealing with pet owners (and sometimes your colleagues!).

Intelligence: You will need to be good at maths because you will need to calculate drug and treatment dosages, fluid and nutritional requirements  several times a day. You must have the ability to communicate well with pet owners and colleagues verbally and through writing.

Initiative and problem solving skills: You need to be able to work under your own initiative to get things done – there’s no time for idling around in a busy veterinary practice. You will also need to be able to think of solutions to problems as quickly as possible.

A love of cleaning (yes, seriously!): A huge part of vet nursing is about cleaning; you must keep your patients and their environment clean to prevent the spread of infection and disease.

A supportive network of family and friends: Veterinary nursing is not a very well paid job, despite the qualifications we have and the hard work involved. You may also have to work shifts and some of those could be overnight, on weekends and on bank holidays if your practice provides its own emergency cover.

Becoming A Student Veterinary Nurse

Training to become an RVN is intensive and takes between two and four years to complete. A large proportion of this time is spent gaining clinical experience by working in practice, with the rest spent attending college, completing assessments and coursework, many hours of personal study and, of course, passing the theory and practical examinations.

I strongly recommend that anyone who wants to be a veterinary nurse gains plenty of work experience of varying types with animals, prior to applying for a student nursing position or starting a degree course. Work experience can also be a valuable reality check for some people. Many students drop out in their first few months at a veterinary practice because they are totally unprepared for how hard and challenging the work can be.

There are two main routes to becoming a veterinary nurse in the UK and for both routes you will need to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade C or above which include Maths, English and a Science subject.

Vocational Training: If you want to start working in practice straight away, vocational training is probably best for you and will take two to three years to complete. During your training you will be working under the supervision of a clinical coach who may be an RVN or a Veterinary Surgeon and your time will be divided between work in practice (paid or unpaid) and attending college once a week or on block release (several weeks at a time). You will first need to gain employment as a student nurse at an approved training practice (a website link can be found at the end of this article) and they will then register you with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and at a training college. At the end of this type of training you will receive a level 3 diploma in veterinary nursing.

Higher Education: This is a degree course; it will take longer than a vocational qualification (up to 4 years) and is university based. This course is mostly academic but you will be required to undertake several periods of clinical work placement in an approved training practice.

If you haven’t got the relevant GCSE qualifications, don’t give up hope. It may be possible for you to start out as an Animal Nursing Assistant (also known as veterinary care assistants) in practice and, once qualified, you will have the necessary skills to move on to Student Vet Nurse training. Contact the British Veterinary Nursing Association for more advice (see below). Animal nursing assistants are important members of any veterinary team, they work alongside veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to provide vital care to the patients at the practice.

A Career As A Registered Veterinary Nurse

Many qualified nurses go on to specialise and develop interests in different aspects of animal health, for example surgical nursing, medical nursing, animal behaviour, exotic pet care, alternative therapies (physiotherapy & hydrotherapy), dermatology (skin disorders) and nutrition. Some RVNs also go on to achieve a Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, BSc Degrees or an MSc in their specialist areas of veterinary nursing.

RVNs may choose to embark on a career in nursing and work in small animal practice, equine practice, large animal practice, universities, specialist referral centres, zoos or wildlife centres. They may take on a veterinary practice management role, become practice owners, become pharmaceutical or nutritional company representative or follow a career in education and become college tutors and lecturers teaching the next generation of veterinary nurses.

Veterinary Nurse Salary

As I mentioned before, despite our qualifications and all of the hard work we do, it is not a job that is paid particularly well in some places. Salary for a qualified nurse tends to depend upon the size, type and location of the practice you work for. The average annual salary for an RVN is around £14,500 – £20,000*, although this may increase over time depending on your skills, experience and any extra qualifications you may gain.

The average annual salary for student VNs is approximately £14,000* a year, however this may not include your training, college or exam fees depending on the veterinary practice you work for and some training practices do not pay student nurses at all!

What Do The Different Uniform Colours Mean?

Traditionally qualified veterinary nurses wear bottle green tunics (or dresses), with student nurses in striped green and nursing assistants in lilac, however, many practices around the UK have their own colour schemes for uniforms (for example the PDSA nurses are usually in blue tunics) . 

How Do You Know If A Veterinary Nurse Is Qualified And Listed ?

Sadly the title of veterinary nurse is not yet a protected one, which means that anyone can call themselves as veterinary nurse, even if they have not trained or passed any exams! The only way you can tell if your veterinary nurse is qualified and/or registered is by the badge they wear and by checking to see if they are on the RCVS veterinary nurse register (a link can be found below).

Useful Links

  • For more information about training to become a veterinary nurse and what qualifications you will need please visit the British Veterinary Nursing Association website 
  • To find an approved training practice please visit the RCVS Website
  • For information about higher education routes into veterinary nursing please visit  the UCAS website
  • For more information about the Code of Professional Conduct that qualified veterinary nurses must adhere to please visit the RCVS Website
  • To check if your veterinary nurse is registered with the RCVS visit RCVS VN List
  • Not in the UK? We’ve got info for our Australian readers on vet nurse jobs and international listing here.

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Why worming is important – Katzenworld

Parasites are not something we really like to think about, but as responsible owners it is important that we safeguard our cats and our families against them. A heavy burden of worms can cause suffering and illness in our pets, so it is necessary to prevent this. Although it is rare, some types of worms also pose a risk to human health if the eggs or larvae are ingested. This is a follow-up to our initial post on parasites a few weeks ago!

There are two main types of worms affecting cats 


Dipylidium Caninum (the flea tapeworm)

  • These are long, flat worms with segmented bodies that attach to the wall of the small intestine and absorb nutrients as they flow past
  • Once tapeworms mature, they shed their segments which pass out in the faeces and look like tiny, mobile, grains of rice.
  • The segments dry up in the environment and then break open to release tiny tapeworm eggs.
  • The eggs are then eaten by flea larvae in the environment and and they continue part of their lifecycle in this host until it matures into an adult flea and jumps onto a cat.
  • If a cat accidentally swallows the infected adult flea while grooming, it will become infected with tapeworms again.
It is very important to regularly treat your pet for fleas to help prevent tapeworm infestation.

Taenia species

  • These tapeworms need intermediate hosts such as  rabbits, rodents and other animals that may be prey for our dogs and cats.
  • The prey species may ingest the tapeworm eggs from the environment and the tapeworm larvae then start to develop inside the intermediate host.
  • Once the cat has ingested it’s prey, the tapeworm latches on to the wall of the intestine and continues its life cycle in much the same way as the flea tapeworm.


Toxocara Cati 

  • These worms generally look a lot like small noodles or spaghetti strands and live in the intestine
  • Adult roundworms mature, mate and then shed lots of tiny eggs which pass out in the faeces.
  • The eggs have a very tough shell and can remain in the environment for a long time.
  • Animals ingest the eggs through normal grooming or eating an infesced host animal.
  • When the eggs reach the animal’s intestines they hatch and the juvenile worm then burrows out of the intestines.
  • If the host is not a cat then the worm encysts (or encloses) itself into other body tissues and waits until the host is eaten by a cat.
  • If the host is a cat, that has either ingested the worm eggs or has ingested a host animal, the juvenile worms migrate through the body until they reach the lungs; here they are coughed up and then swallowed so that they end up in the intestine again.
  • The worms mature in the intestines and eventually produce eggs which are passed out in the cat’s faeces to begin the life cycle again.


Picture from CDC Website

Toxascaris Leonina

  • These Roundworms do not migrate around the body in the same way as the Toxocara species do. The second stage larvae mature in the intestine over a period of  2 to 3 months before they start producing eggs again.


  • Lungworms live in the pulmonary arteries and a heavy infestation can be fatal
  • They are transmitted to cats that eat infected rodents, slugs, snails and frogs
  • For more information on Lungworm please see the links below
Microscopic views of worms (Courtesy of Novartis)

Other less common worm types in the UK


  • In addition to living in the animal’s small intestine, the hookworm larvae can penetrate skin (usually the feet) and cause infection.
  • Hookworms are thought to infect up to 68% of the fox population.
  • These worms rarely affect cats in the UK.


  • These worms are not found in the UK, but they do pose a big risk for animals travelling abroad.
  • They are transmitted by mosquitoes and live in the pulmonary arteries and heart of infected dogs and cats.

Signs that your pet may have worms

  • Small white segments (roughly the size of a grain of rice) may be seen around your cat’s bottom area or in the faeces
  • Your cat may cough up / vomit Roundworms if he or she has a heavy infestation
  • Itchy bottoms may cause them to ‘Scoot’ along the ground
  • You may see worms in your cat’s poo
  • Increased appetite
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of coat condition
  • Pot belly (kittens)
  • Fleas

You may not realise you cat has worms at all because not all cats will show these signs. Remember, prevention is easier than cure. There is a number of over the counter dewormer for cats available. Which ones will depend on your country.

The risk to humans

Toxocariasis is thankfully rare in the UK but can happen when Roundworm larvae are ingested by a human. Usually the larvae will just die off in the human digestive tract, but in some cases the larvae survive and can migrate and encyst in organs or they reach the eye and cause blindness. Children are at a much higher risk of infection as they are often close to pets and play in outdoor areas where parasites may have been deposited.

Keep your pet and the environment worm free

  • Use a veterinary recommended wormer: You should worm your pet at least 4 times a year, but more frequently if your pet hunts, likes to eat dead animals, or likes to eat poo. Be very careful about using ‘natural/herbal worming products’ as these products work by removing the worms from the animal’s digestive system but not necessarily killing the worms, meaning any eggs that are passed are still viable and will infect the next host.  (It is worth noting that commonly named ‘natural’ worming products such as Oregon Grape, Black Walnut, Wormwood, Garlic and Onions can all be highly toxic to pets if the dosage is miscalculated!)
  • Use a veterinary recommended flea treatment: Spot on treatments and tablets are usually given monthly and some veterinary recommended flea collars last for up to 8 months . Make sure you use a house-hold spray yearly to kill any flea eggs or larvae in the home environment.
  • Scoop the poop:Cat litter trays and outside toileting areas should be scooped out daily and properly cleaned at least once a week.
  • Good personal hygiene and making sure children wash their hands: Especially after stroking pets and playing outside.  Kissing your cat or letting him or her lick you will put you more at risk, especially if you are immunocompromised.
  • Speak to your veterinary nurse: He or she can advise you on the safest and most effective parasite treatments for your cat as well as how often you need to give them.

Useful Links 

For more information on the Flea lifecycle

For more information on Lungworm

Merial Parasite Information – Parasite Party

Novartis Worming information – Worm Patrol

Bayer Animal Health parasite information – Its A Jungle Out There

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Should You Have your cat Neutered? – Why & When – Katzenworld

The decision about whether to have your cat neutered or not is likely to be one of the biggest that you make as a pet owner. There is no doubt that neutering your cat can have really great benefits to their health and you will also be doing your bit to help the growing crisis of the thousands of pets already in rescue centres around the country, because there aren’t enough homes to go around. However, for many different reasons, not all pet owners will want to have their pets neutered and, as long as these unneutered pets are managed responsibly, this decision is fine.  This article will hopefully give you all the information you need to make your decision.

What is neutering?

Neutering is the general term used to describe the surgical removal of the sex organs in animals to prevent them from breeding. Neutering or de-sexing are terms that can be used for both male and female animals.

Spaying: When we spay a female cat (queen), we perform an ovario-hysterectomy , which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. this is usually performed via a small flank incision, unless the owner specifically requests an abdominal spay.

Castration: When we castrate a male cat (Tom) we completely remove the testicles to prevent reproduction. The surgery involves a small incision into each side of the scrotum in the cat. Sometimes male animals have a problem called cryptorchidism, in which one of the testicles has not descended properly, in these cases they may require abdominal surgery to remove the retained testicle.

The first image shows the operation site for female dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. The second image shows the operation site for female cats. The third image shows the operation site for male dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. The fourth image shows the operation site for male cats.

The reasons for neutering

There are many reasons to recommend that cats are neutered; it benefits their health and helps reduce pet overpopulation. So many animals end up in rescue centers, or are even put to sleep, because there are just not enough homes available for them. Each year, approximately 150,000 stray or abandoned animals are taken in by animal welfare organisations in the UK, such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who try to find homes for them.

The health benefits of neutering

Female Cats

  • Prevents “heat” or oestrus (also known as being in season)
  • Prevents unwanted litters
  • Prevents hormone fluctuations that cause false pregnancy
  • Prevents Pyometra, a serious and potentially fatal womb infection (this is more commonly seen in dogs, but does occur in cats)
  • Prevents mammary (breast) and ovarian cancer.
  • Prevents the urge to escape and find a mate during heat.
  • Prevents unsociable behaviour during heat (Think PMS!)
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Neutered female cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Enables some cats to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy

 Male Cats

  • Removes sexual urges and the need to escape or roam to find a mate. Entire male cats can have huge territories and are more likely to get into fights.
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Neutered animals are less likely to mark their territory with strong smelling urine.
  • Neutered male cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Enables some animals to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy

Problems that can occur in un-neutered animals

Pyometra: This is an infection of the uterus (womb) in female animals. The uterus fills with pus, and toxins quickly spread throughout the body causing the animal to feel very unwell. If this condition is not treated quickly it can be fatal.

Mammary (breast) Cancer: Mammary cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands and organs throughout the body. While any pet can develop mammary tumors, these masses occur most often in older female cats that have not been spayed.

Ovarian Cysts: The symptoms of ovarian cysts will depend on the type of cyst but can include; swelling of the vulva, due to the high amounts of estrogen in the body, vulvar discharges that may contain blood and occur outside the regular bleeding in the heat cycle, hair loss, irregular heat cycles or lack of heat cycles, extended heat cycles, abdominal swelling due to pus or fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity.

False Pregnancies: False pregnancy is a term used to denote a common condition in a non-pregnant female animal that is showing symptoms of pregnancy or nursing without producing babies. Symptoms usually occur after the cat has been mated but pregnancy has not occurred. Symptoms can include; behavioral changes, mothering activity, nesting and self-nursing, restlessness, abdominal enlargement, enlargement of mammary glands, vomiting, depression and loss of appetite (anorexia).

Testicular cancer  This is rare in cats however, if your cat has one or both testicles tucked up inside his body (cryptorchidism) he is far more likely to develop a testicular tumor compared to a cat with descended testicles; this condition can also be passed on to offspring so a cryptorchid cat should definitely be neutered.

Behavioural problems and injuries: Roaming is the main problem for both un-neutered males and females as they are likely to want to try and find a mate. This can lead to road traffic accidents, fighting with others and injury. Some animals will also demonstrate hormone-related aggression.

Common Neutering Myths

“It changes the pet’s personality”
The only behaviour changes are likely to be positive ones. Neutered animals often make better companions and are more affectionate. Pets are less likely to roam, which means less chance of getting lost or hit by a car, they are also less likely to mark territory or get in fights.

“Neutered pets become fat and lazy”
While it is true that a neutered animal needs fewer calories in the diet, it is ultimately overfeeding and/or a lack of exercise by the owners that causes obesity in animals. Make time for walks and play, and ask your veterinary nurse about reducing calories once your pet has been neutered.

“My pets are brother and sister so they won’t mate”
The fact that they are related to each other will make no difference to your pets, they will still mate and produce offspring.

“My pet is a pedigree and shouldn’t be neutered”
Your pet is a companion, not a financial investment or status symbol. Unless you are showing your pet and plan to breed, you should consider having it neutered. Remember that one in four animals handed in to animal shelters are pedigrees.

“I don’t want my male pet to feel deprived or less masculine”
You shouldn’t confuse human sexuality with an animal’s hormonal instincts. Neutering won’t cause any negative emotional reaction in your male pet. In addition, it greatly reduces the risk of FIV & FeLV and fight related wounds and abscesses.

“It’s too expensive to have my pet neutered”
The surgery is a one-time cost and a small price to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of life threatening illnesses, not to mention preventing more homeless animals. There are several animal charities that may provide assistance with the cost of neutering.

“Having a litter is good for her and it will be a great experience for the family”
Motherhood will not make your pet healthier or happier (and some animals make terrible mothers!). In fact, early spaying greatly reduces the likelihood of mammary cancer, and eliminates potentially life threatening infections.

If you are thinking about letting your cat have a litter, is important that you think things through properly and ensure that you make the health and welfare of your pet and its offspring an absolutely priority. Breeding because you think a male and female will produce cute offspring or because you think you will make some money is very irresponsible. Care must to be taken to ensure you can find good homes for the whole litter, that you will not be allowing genetic/hereditary problems to be passed on to the offspring and that you can afford to look after the mother and her offspring properly.
Before you let your pet get pregnant, think about the following things

  • Have you ensured that your pet is healthy, vaccinated and is not going to be passing on genetic or hereditary problems to the offspring? Have you had the appropriate health screening and virus testing carried out?
  • Is your pet’s temperament good? Do they have any fear or aggression issues?
  • Is your pet fully grown and mature enough to have a litter?  Usually between 18 months and 3 years old.
  • Can you find an appropriate mate? It is vitally important and you ensure that the mate is healthy and has also had the appropriate vaccinations and health tests. Just letting your female cat out to get mated by any roaming suitor is highly irresponsible, she may end up with disease or illness that can not only make her sick, but could be passed on to her offspring.
  • If your pet has difficulties giving birth you may end up paying for a very expensive caesarian operation. This could result in complicated surgery for the mother and you may end up with no babies or, worse, the mother could die too! (Pregnancy complications are not usually covered by pet insurance)
  • If the mother cannot or will not feed her litter are you prepared to hand-rear them and to give them food every 2 hours for 24 hours a day until they are weaned?
  • Food and care of the litter may be expensive until they go to new homes. Can you afford the cost of feeding, worming and possibly vaccinating them all? If the mother and/or her offspring become unwell can you afford the veterinary treatment that they will need?
  • Do you know how to look after your pet during pregnancy and raise, habituate and socialise the offspring properly, before they go to their new homes?
  • Can you find good homes for all of the litter? What will you do if you can’t find homes for them or if they are returned to you because their new owners cannot keep them? Are you comfortable with the fact that you could be adding to the many thousands of animals in rescue centres that cannot find homes?

So, should you have your cat neutered?

I do generally recommend that cats are neutered, unless you have a registered pedigree cat that you are planning to breed from. This is because the vast majority of cats cannot be ‘chaperoned’ in the same way that dogs are and, when they are let outside, they are generally left to their own devices; making pregnancy in females highly likely and also increasing the risk of disease transmission through sexual activity and wounds, as well as injuries from territorial fighting. So unless you can prevent this by keeping your cat indoors and well mentally stimulated, or by cat-proofing your garden to prevent your cat getting out and other cats getting in, then neutering is usually the best option for your cat.

I hope you find this article useful and informative. Please contact your veterinary practice if you wish to discuss neutering your pet.

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Fleas are a year-round problem – Katzenworld

Many pet owners think that seasonal and warm weather flea control is sufficient but contrary to popular belief fleas can and do thrive during the winter months; especially in modern homes where our lovely warm houses are the perfect breeding ground for fleas. These pesky blood-sucking parasites are definitely a year-round problem for our cats and they can really make your cat’s life miserable by causing symptoms ranging from minor irritation and scratching to hair loss and severe allergic reactions. (This is made even worse if they start biting the humans in the household as well!)

Fleas can be a huge problem for pet owners and once they are established in the home they can be quite difficult to get rid of, because of their complex life cycle. The adult fleas we see on our pets are only 5% of the problem – 95% of the flea lifecycle actually takes place in the carpets, floorboards and pet bedding in your home!

There are over 2000 species of fleas in the world, but thankfully only the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) are the main problems for our pets in the UK. We do however, tend to see more of the cat flea because despite the name, it is happy to infest dogs, ferrets and rabbits as well as cats.

A: Cat Flea B: Dog Flea
The Flea Life Cycle
  • The adult fleas live on and feed off the host animal.
  • The female flea begins laying eggs within 36-48 hours of her first blood meal. She can lay around 20 eggs per day and up to 200 eggs in her lifetime of a few months. The flea eggs are not sticky so they drop off the host into the home environment, such as carpets, bedding, floorboards and soil.
  • The flea larvae emerge from the eggs after 2-14 days (depending on the environmental conditions), and begin to feed off adult flea faeces and other organic debris found in the home. Flea larvae have 3 stages of growth and depending on the amount of food present and environmental conditions this stage lasts around 7-14 days (longer in some cases).
  • The larvae spin a silk cocoon and pupate; whilst in the cocoon the flea is at is most resilient and is resistant to insecticides.
  • The adult flea can emerge from its cocoon as early as 3-5 days or it can stay in the cocoon for up to a year, just waiting for the right conditions. Warm temperatures, vibrations and carbon dioxide emitted from passing pets and people will trigger them to hatch. Once hatched, they use their well developed back legs to get around and jump onto passing animals.
The entire life cycle of the flea can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 12 months (sometimes longer), which is why it is important to observe and treat your pets for fleas all year round.
Problems Caused By Fleas
  • Scratching and biting. Fleas are irritating and cause most animals to scratch as they run through their coats (I bet you are feeling itchy right now, just reading this!)
  • Hair loss. Caused by scratching or over grooming
  • Skin infections. Caused by scratching or self trauma (biting)
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Some cats are hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction when bitten. It can take only one flea bite to cause problems for these animals.
  • Anaemia. Fleas feed on blood and a heavy infestation can have a big impact on very young, elderly or ill animals
  • Tapeworms. Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. When cat’s groom themselves they can ingest infected fleas and become host to this parasite. If your cat has fleas you should also make sure he or she is treated for Tapeworms
  • Fleas biting people. Although humans cannot be permanent hosts for cat and dog fleas, it will not stop them biting us if the opportunity presents itself.
Fleas can cause real problems for our cats and transmit Tapeworm
How To Identify Fleas On Your Pet
  • Adult fleas are only a 1.5-3mm in length and can be tricky to spot if there are only a couple causing problems for your cat. Gently part the hair of your pet’s coat to look for fleas.
  • The best way to tell if your catt has fleas is by checking for flea dirt (which is actually flea faeces). Wipe a damp piece of cotton wool through your pet’s coat, going against the direction of the hair. This will hopefully pick up any flea dirt that is present. Because flea dirt consists mostly of blood, once it is transferred onto the moist cotton wool, it dissolves and turns a lighter shade of red.
  • Alternatively use a flea or fine toothed comb to brush through your cat’s coat and then transfer the brushings onto a piece of damp kitchen paper.

If there are only a few adult fleas present you may not find any evidence of flea dirt in your cat’s coat.

Preventing Fleas Is Far Easier Than Dealing With An Established Infestation

The degree to which you need to control fleas will vary depending on your cat’s lifestyle and the home environment. You might think that a cat kept entirely indoors would be at no risk of catching fleas, but don’t forget that it only takes a visit from one untreated animal, or a flea or flea egg hitching a lift with you, to trigger an infestation in your home, so even housebound cats may require flea control. Cats that routinely go outdoors will likely come into contact with fleas from time to time, and will require a more regular treatment regime.

Remember that only 5% of the flea problem will actually be on your cat, the rest takes place in your home!

        1. Use a prescription flea product regularly on your pet

  • Most flea treatments are given every 4-6 weeks, depending on the type but some injections for cats and Prescription flea collars can last for 6 – 8 months.
  • Speak to a veterinary nurse who can advise you on which type of product will work best for your cat.
  • Your cat should be weighed regularly to ensure the correct dose of treatment is being given each time.
  • Always make sure the flea product is suitable for your cat, double check that it is designed to be given to cats and that it contains the right dose for the weight of your cat.
  • NEVER use a flea product containing Permethrin on a cat
  • NEVER use a dog flea product on a cat, even at a smaller dose

        2. Use a veterinary recommended household flea spray

  • It is a good idea to treat your home once a year if you have pets that go outside regularly.
  • This will prevent the flea eggs from developing in the home environment.
  • Don’t forget to spray the car if you have one.
  • Household flea spray can be highly toxic to birds and fish, so make sure bird cages Some of these sprays will provide protection for up to a year.are removed and fish tanks are covered before you spray the room they are kept in.
  • Never use it on your animals!
Decide which type of flea product suits your cat best

The type of flea product you use will largely  depend on you, your cat and your home circumstances. Flea products are effective in different ways. Some products will kill fleas as they jump onto your pet, some only after the fleas feed on your pet and others don’t actually kill the adult flea but act like contraceptives to prevent flea eggs from developing.

There are many different types of flea products available for your cat and they all have their pros and cons, some include

  • Spot-on liquids: Prescription Spot-ons are effective, some also kill roundworms, they are relatively simple to apply and are usually given every 4-6 weeks. Some cat’s really don’t enjoy having a cold liquid put on their skin and a few may become irritated and distressed by the application. It is important to apply the treatment on the neck at the base of the skull to prevent them licking it off.
  • Sprays: Prescription flea sprays can be effective, but in order to be applied correctly not only do you have to spray your cat, you also need to rub the liquid through the coat to ensure he or she has a good covering (Good luck). On the plus side prescription sprays last up to 8 weeks, can also kill ticks and can be used in kittens from 2 days old.
  • Injections: These flea treatments for 6 months, they are effective but you will need to take your cat into the veterinary practice for the injection to be given.
  • Collars: Prescription flea collars can be very effective (unlike over-the-counter products) and will also protect against ticks, however many cat owners prefer not to put collars on their cats with good reason.
  • Tablets: Some prescription tablets do work well, however I do not think that I am the only cat owner that has a mad struggle to get my cat to swallow a tablet!
Why I Recommend Using  A Prescription Flea Treatment Rather Than A Non-Prescription Or Over-The-Counter Flea Treatment
  1. Your Vet or Vet Nurse can weigh and assess your pet and recommend a safe and effective product based on his or her individual requirements.
  2. Some flea treatments are HIGHLY TOXIC to cats. I see so many cases of avoidable poisonings every year because well-meaning owners have mis-read a label, been sold the wrong product, or given an incorrect dosage.
  3. The prescription products recommended by your veterinary practice have been thoroughly tested and we know them to be not only effective but safe too.
  4. Some over the counter products and ‘natural’ remedies contain ingredients that may not be as effective in the face of a flea infestation and in many cases, there has been no controlled research studies to prove that these products actually do what they claim to do.

It is worth remembering that you do not need to buy the prescription treatment from your veterinary practice if you don’t want to, you can ask your vet for a flea treatment prescription and buy the product online or from a pharmacy.

If you would prefer to use a non-prescription or ‘natural’ flea treatment for your pet, you can still check with a veterinary nurse regarding dosage and safety if you would like too.

NEVER use a dog flea product containing Permethrin on a cat.
Dog flea products are highly toxic to cats and can cause neurological damage, seizures and even death
For more information about Permethrin poisoning in cats visit ICatCare by clicking the picture

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Heart Disease: Symptons, Diagnosis And Treatment – Katzenworld

Our cats are susceptible to heart problems, just like we are and because they are living longer lives than their predecessors, heart disease is becoming increasingly more common. Heart problems can occur in any breed, age or sex of animal, but some cat breeds, such as the Persian, Maine Coon, Siamese and Ragdoll seem to be more susceptible to heart disease than others.

Heart problems may be present from birth (congenital), or may happen as our pets get older.

  1. Congenital: Heart conditions can be caused as the embryo develops in the mother’s womb or may be a hereditary (passed on from the mother or father). In this case the problem is present at birth but signs may go undetected for a while.
  2. Adult onset: These conditions occur as a result of damage to the heart which prevent it functioning properly and may be caused by
  • General wear and tear with age
  • Increased stress on the heart from concurrent illnesses, such as hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, taurine deficiency, poisoning and obesity
  • Hereditary conditions which do not present until the animal is fully grown.

How The Heart Works

Like all mammals, cats have a four chambered heart which is made up of three layers.

  1. Pericardium – a fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart
  2. Myocardium – a middle layer of muscle
  3. Endocardium – the inner lining

The right atrium and left atrium are the upper chambers of the heart and the right ventricle and left ventricle are the lower chambers. A muscular wall called the septum separates the right and left sides of the heart. Each of the chambers has valves in order to make sure that the blood flows in the correct direction.

The different sides of the heart have different functions.

  • On the left side of the heart, the upper chamber (left atrium) fills with oxygenated blood from the lungs. It is then pumped via the lower chamber (left ventricle) into the aorta and around the body to provide cells with the oxygen they need.
  • On the right side of the heart, the upper chamber  (right atrium) fills with oxygen-depleted blood from the body and pushes it via the lower chamber (right ventricle) and the pulmonary artery back to the lungs where it can be oxygenated again.

The heart muscle contracts to squeeze blood out of the heart

  • In the first stage the upper chambers (atria) contract at the same time, pushing blood down into the ventricles.
  • In the second stage, the ventricles contract to push this blood out of the heart to either the body via your main artery (aorta) or via the pulmonary artery, which leads to the lungs, to pick up oxygen.

The heart then relaxes. Blood fills up the heart again, and the whole process, which takes a fraction of a second, is repeated.

Symptoms Of A Heart Problem

In the initial stages of a heart problem the body often learns to cope with the changes, so many cats don’t show clinical signs until the heart problem is quite advanced (cats are also very good at hiding illnesses!) Some of the most commonly seen symptoms include

  • Tiredness
  • Increased respiratory effort and rate (heavy breathing / panting)
  • Weight loss
  • Appearance of weight gain (due to fluid building up in the chest and abdomen)
  • Cold extremities (paws)
  • Collapse / fainting
  • Behavioural changes
  • Stunted growth (kittens)

If you see any of the above symptoms in your pet, or you are concerned about his or her health for any reason, please take them to see your vet.

Types Of Heart Problems

Heart Murmur: This is caused by turbulent or fast blood flow within the heart or associated vessels. There are lots of causes for heart murmurs; some are not associated with any structural heart disease and can be caused by stress or high temperatures, other murmurs can be caused by abnormal blood flow associated with a variety of cardiac diseases, including abnormal heart valves and different congenital defects. If murmurs are not associated with heart disease they often disappear in a few months.

Valvular Disease/Insufficiency: Heart valves normally form a perfect seal when closed. However, in valve disease one or more of these valves “leak,” allowing blood to be pumped backwards.

Bacterial Endocarditis: This is caused by a bacterial infection of the heart valves or of the membrane lining the cavities of the heart.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: The muscle of the heart becomes thinner and gradually weaker, causing the heart chambers to stretch, which prevent it from pumping blood around the body as effectively as it should.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: The heart muscle becomes thicker, resulting in a reduction of chamber volume, which means that the heart pumps less blood around the body. This is the most common form of heart disease found in cats.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: Caused by fibrosis (scarring) of the heart muscle, which results in a chamber that can no longer expand in the normal way.

Feline aortic thromboembolism: A blood clot (thrombus) develops in the heart chamber and can then move on to block blood flow in small arteries. This may occur as a result of existing heart problems because the blood is not flowing normally through the heart.

Congestive Heart Failure: This is unfortunately the usual end result of most heart conditions. As the heart loses its ability to pump blood around the body properly it becomes congested, resulting in fluid build-up in the abdomen and chest cavities, which lead to abdominal enlargement and interference with the other organs. If fluid builds up in the lungs it results in coughing and breathing difficulties.

How Heart Problems Are Diagnosed

This will vary from patient to patient and will also depend on the clinical signs, but usually two or more of the following tests are performed

  • Auscultation: The vet will listen to your pet’s heart with a stethoscope to detect any murmurs or irregular rhythms.
  • Ultrasound: Allows the vet to examine the heart while it is in motion. It can be used to measure the chambers and walls of the heart and see the heart valves, so can provide a very accurate diagnosis.
  • X-rays: these can show your vet if the heart is enlarged or has changed shape and show if there is any fluid in chest or abdominal cavities.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): Shows the electrical activity of your pet’s heart to measure and diagnose abnormal heart rhythms
  • Blood and urine tests: These are done to assess general health and ensure that there are no problems with other organs in the body, for example the kidneys or liver.
As well as listening to the heart, ultrasound, blood tests and X-rays may be necessary

Treatment For Heart Problems

In early stages of heart disease there may be no clinical symptoms and your cat may just need an adjustment to diet and exercise along with regular check ups by your vet. If there is a concurrent illness, treating that may help the heart problem as well. Medication can be given in the later stages and will depend on the heart problem and associated symptoms . Recommended treatment may include

  • Changes to your pet’s lifestyle, for example more controlled exercise and activities to prevent over exertion.
  • Medication to improve the strength of the heart beat or change the heart rate and, if necessary, to help remove excess fluid from the chest and abdominal cavities.
  • Dietary changes may be recommended by your vet depending on the type of heart disease present, especially if your pet is currently overweight.
  • Some congenital heart defects can be corrected by surgery so your vet may recommend this.

How To Keep Your Pet Healthy

ensuring your cat is fit and healthy is not only a great way of helping to prevent heart disease but it can also help pets that have been diagnosed with heart problems to stay healthier for longer.

  • Make sure your pet is eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, this is as good for your pet’s heart as it is for yours.
  • Watch your pet’s weight; being overweight makes the heart work much harder. You are responsible for the amount of calories your pet eats and it is down to you to help your pet maintain a healthy weight! If you are unsure whether your pet is overweight and how much he or she should weigh, ask your veterinary nurse for advice.
  • Make sure your pet receives regular, good quality exercise; this will improve overall health and fitness in your pet and prevent excess weight gain.
  • Take your pet for annual check-ups with the vet (twice yearly for senior pets). Early detection will improve your pet’s chances.

If you have any questions about heart problems or any concerns about your pet’s health, please contact your veterinary practice for advice.

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