Corwen Dog Show Sept 2014

I was asked to judge at Corwen carnival dog show last month. A potential minefield as most of the competitors and their owners would be known to me.
The first class was ‘Puppy in Best Condition’. There were only 3 entrants in this and I felt there was a clear winner. I wanted to award joint 2nd place to the other two but the organisers said I should separate them into 2nd and 3rd. Unfortunately that meant in effect choosing one to come last. This made me feel guilty as the owner looked rather glum.
‘Adult in Best Condition’ was more straightforward as there were more entrants so nobody came last. ‘Most Obedient Dog’ was easier still to chose 1,2,3. I asked that the dogs  be made to sit first of all and then stay. One dog managed both, another just the sit, and the third could do neither so deserved to come last!
I tried to share out the prizes as much as possible. In fact every class had a different winner until the ‘Best in Show’ where only the previous class winners took part. A lovely Labrador in excellent condition was the victor.
One of my staff had been thinking of entering her dogs with her children, but decided not to when she found I was the judge. She realised there was no way they were going to win without causing a scandal in the town! ‘I’ll enter them in Bryneglwys show,’ she said, ‘they’ve got a proper judge there!’


Feb 2013

I enjoy all forms of surgery as it involves using manual skills as well as my brain. Orthopaedic surgery involves the use of a drill, screws, screwdriver and metal pins, rather like carpentry. This month I dealt with a whippet which had escaped from the owner’s garden and been run over, sustaining a broken front leg.  The radius and ulna below the elbow had both broken and couldn’t be aligned so a plaster cast wasn’t a suitable method of stabilisation. In this case a rigid stainless steel plate about 1 cm wide by 10cm long by 3 mm thick with 4 screw holes along its length was attached along the length of the radius by 4 screws put through the plate into holes drilled through the bone, 2 each side of the fracture which had been pulled back into place during the operation. The patient can bear weight soon after such an operation and the fracture should heal in 6-8 weeks. Dogs and cats make good patients for such surgery because they have 3 other legs to do the work whilst the break mends.

One long term complication which can occur if the plate is not removed once the fracture has healed is weakening of the underlying bone because the plate is taking all the strain of day to day activity and the bone gets ‘lazy’. I could hardly believe it when less than a week after putting a plate in the one dog I had to remove an identical plate from another similar sized dog before problems occurred.

If only both dogs had come on the same day I could have taken the plate straight out of one into the other!!!

Tuberculosis testing season

Feb 2014

We are now at the peak of the tuberculosis testing season. This is done where possible whilst the cattle are housed and conveniently sited for the test, and there is always a rush now to get the bulk of the herds finished before lambing begins. Cattle are run through a device called a crush where they can be held still to receive injections of tuberculin into the skin, and we return three days later to look for any reaction which might suggest they have the disease.

For reasons of lack of space inside the sheds many farmers still site their crush outside in the yard. Of course this winter that has often made tb testing a rather damp experience. Earlier this month I was particularly fed up as a strong wind lashed the rain against us and I discovered my ‘waterproof’ coat was allowing the rain to soak through so that I was drenched before we finished. The next morning I called into Corwen Farmers and found a wonderful waterproof boilersuit with warm padding inside. They only had extra large size left so I now look like a green astronaut; but I’m lovely and cosy inside.

Unfortunately the Llangollen area has seen a resurgence of tb. It is of no danger to humans nearby, but it’s very sad for a farmer to lose a herd built up over many years.

Problems with technology at work

June 2014

The two printers in Llangollen were both

faulty so I fetched an identical printer from our Acrefair surgery and plugged it into the network. It didn’t work so I contacted our software suppliers who explained the different printer would have to be installed into the system. When they tried this some little black electrical linking box hiding under the desk appeared to break. Now we couldn’t print labels for prescription items either. The saga goes on for another week with with new linking boxes, new wires, lots of old fashioned writing things by hand, me tearing my hair out, before a visit by a technician at a cost of £200 finally sorted theproblem.

Today I’ve been trimming two pigs’ toe nails! The owner said they would be nice and quiet and they were – until I went into action with the clippers. Then of course they demonstrated how much stronger than us they were and how loud and high pitched a squeal they could make. The female, though smaller, was the most difficult – not the only species to which that rule applies – and had to be sedated. We needed a cup of tea after that I can tell you!

Goodbye to our American Vet Geoff

April 2014

At the end of April we are sadly saying goodbye to our American vet Geoff. He is having problems with his back and moving to a job he hopes will be less physically demanding. We will miss his “Hey Dude!” and “Awesome!” but wish him well along with his wife Ana, son Luke and new baby when he arrives.

The good news is that, replacing Geoff, Becky Rowe is rejoining the practice. She first worked here from 2006 for 5 years with a break in the middle to go travelling. Since then Becky has gained good experience elsewhere but now wishes to return to Llangollen because she’s never found anywhere quite as nice!

We’ve had a busy lambing period this year. Last spring the farmers were too busy pulling the sheep out of snowdrifts to have the time to bring problem cases to us. Strangely the good weather has coincided with a higher rate of malpresentations and large lambs. The students we’ve had on work experience have witnessed all sorts of outcomes from happy endings for mother and babies to gory deliveries with dead lambs. It’s all part of the job!

Wonderful weather for dog walkers lately

March 2014

Spring has sprung! It’s been wonderful weather for dog walkers lately. My two lurchers love to run and chase each other in the sunshine, whereas in the rain Mabel plods along looking depressed. Even the farmers have been happy about the weather as the ground has been drying out though they won’t get too excited until the good weather has lasted through lambing time. After the horrendous experience in the heavy snow right at the peak of lambing time last year some delayed putting the rams in this year. They may yet come to regret that decision as those who have lambed early have been laughing!

Lumps and bumps have featured heavily this month. We had three dogs with multiple enlarged lymph nodes. Two were diagnosed as lymphoma, a cancer which is always fatal but which can often respond to chemotherapy to extend life for a few months. In pets we don’t use chemotherapy which is likely to make them feel very poorly as that wouldn’t be fair. We stick to a limited range of drugs unlikely to cause side effects and safe for the owner to administer. The third dog, fortunately for her, just had reactive lymph nodes, probably secondary to a chronic skin condition.

‘What do you think of this lump’ is a  common reason for pets to be presented to us. Sometimes we can make a diagnosis just by looking and feeling. Other cases may need some lab work, and sometimes we just go on gut feeling to advise either ‘watch and monitor’ or ‘remove straight away’ if we are concerned. It’s always safest to have a vet check a lump. Being so scared of cancer that you don’t seek advice is rarely helpful!

Recent incidents of dogs

January 2014

A few incidents recently of dogs overindulging on chocolate. In one case the offender pulled lots of foil covered chocolate decorations off the Christmas tree and ate them including the foil! Other cases involved raiding boxes of chocolates. All such cases tend to have some impact on the digestive system; diarrhoea or difficulty passing the wrappers when they reach the other end! Boxes of chocolates with sweet centres don’t usually cause anything more serious than this, but the higher the chocolate content the more serious the problem. Plain and cooking chocolate are the worst with only a few squares needing to be consumed by a toy breed in order to cause unwanted effects. Symptoms include trembling, inco-ordination and salivation.

In a couple of cases of exessive consumption this year we injected an emetic – a drug to induce vomitting. This drug is not cheap but it’s almost always effective, though it needs to be given within an hour or two of ingestion of a poison to be worthwhile or the stomach will already have emptied. If it’s too late for the emetic then treatment is ‘symptomatic’ – i.e. as with most poisons there is no specific antidote, but we use nursing and drugs to reduce the severity of symptoms along with intravenous fluids to ‘flush out’ toxins.

The most frequent poison we have to deal with in dogs is rat bait – usually in the form of a blue grain which stops blood clotting so that the poisoned animal bleeds to death via small internal injuries which would usually cause no symptoms. In this case there is a useful antidote – vitamin K – which restores the blood’s ability to clot, though it needs to be given for several days.

In the case of cats I suspect the most frequent cause of symptoms due to poison ingestion is antifreeze. This causes kidney failure, but, as there are other causes of the same problem, combined with the fact that most owners do not know what their cats are getting up to when they are out and about, confirmation of the cause is not easy some time later when the poor cat is dying.


December 2013

First I would like to apologise to any pupils at Dinas Bran who wanted

A chat with me at their careers evening but missed me. I was there for half an hour but then got called to an emergency; a dog bleeding internally from a ruptured splenic tumour. The dog had to have an immediate splenectomy and is now doing well – some out of hours calls could safely be left until the following morning but this one couldn’t.

A seasonal tale: we had a phone call one morning from the house manager at Cwrt Glan Y Gamlas, where Bryn Melyn garage used to be; there was a turkey in the back garden! I have to say we were somewhat incredulous about this but Carol and I went along in my truck and sure enough there was a turkey strutting about. Carol recognised it as a ‘posh’ Norfolk Bronze. We caught it without too much trouble and put it in a dog kennel. We were baffled about where it had come from as we could not think of anybody in Llangollen who rears turkeys.

There was of course the option of the staff Christmas party where a turkey would come in very useful. Nobody was keen on this idea! I thought about taking it home to keep as a pet in the garden. However we had a phone call from Gareth Williams who looks after the turkeys on the Rhug estate: apparently he had been delivering 19 turkeys to somewhere in Cheshire but when he arrived a hatch was open and one was missing! I can just imagine this bird flapping out the top of the pickup to find itself at the end of Llangollen bridge. It must have toddled along the pavement and into the garden. I suppose anybody catching a glimpse of a turkey wandering down the road would probably put the sighting down to too much seasonal tipple!

I thought the story was going to have a sad ending but I hear the brave turkey’s life has been spared.

Seasonal itches

October 2013

Seasonal itches have kept us busy since the hot weather started. A combination of heat, allergies, fleas and harvest mites have been driving our pets mad! A surprising number of people still start by using pet shop spot-on insecticides before turning to their vet when these don’t work. They are generally very old , relatively ineffective products with a poorer safety record than the modern drugs. We still sell quite a lot of Effipro (alternative name Frontline) as a preventative, but there are increasing reports of resistance to this – it has been around for over 25 years. We stock a product called Activyl which is very effective and safe because it’s not converted to an insecticide until it passes into the flea’s body. Also vital in controlling a flea infestation is the use of a household spray containing a ‘birth control’ to prevent flea eggs and larvae from developing into adults. Harvest mites are not insects but have 8 legged adults more like spiders than fleas and need particular miticides to kill them.

An unusual cause of irritation last week in a cute little male puppy was found to be a boiled cola sweet firmly stuck to the fur in rather delicate area. I had to carefully trim the fur all around the sweet without accidently castrating the wriggly fellow!

On the subject of careful trimming we’ve also had a run of badly matted longhaired cats. These are often bad tempered and won’t allow their owners to groom them. Eventually the fur gets tangled and matted and there is no option other than to anaesthetise them and clip them virtually completely – what Geoff refers to as a lion-head clip, because usually the only part that doesn’t get matted and can be left intact is the head. Owners have to be gently briefed beforehand to stop them going into shock when they see the results of our efforts!

Warm weather

July 2013

Warm weather with some sunshine:- it’s better than this time last year. It makes you feel more cheerful and, for reasons I’m unclear about, always makes us busier. I don’t see why pets should become more ill in good weather. Perhaps they get out more and therefore come across more diseases. They are also more likely to get injured when out and about – either exploring by themselves in the case of a cat, or with their owners in the case of a dog.

We’ve certainly had a run of anterior cruciate ligament ruptures in dogs these last few weeks. This is always a common injury, particularly in Rottweilers, Labradors and Jack Russells, as it is in footballers, but we’ve done several a week recently. One of the strong bands of tissue which joins the femur to the tibia across the knee joint snaps when put under unusual strain – perhaps when a paw goes down a pothole when running. In all but the smallest or most infirm patients this is tackled by surgery. In smaller patients we use a piece of nylon rather like fishing line, whilst in bigger dogs we transplant a strip of the patellar tendon from the front of the knee. In the 100kg Great Dane both of whose knees I have operated on I used 2 lengths of 100lb strain nylon and the patellar ligament in both knees. A bit of a challenge! But then I did a Chihuahua last week:- the varied life of a veterinary surgeon!