Advice and Offers

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What’s the point of senior diets and what should I feed my older pet?

Pets are living longer than ever – so much so that some breeds are now considered ‘senior’ for almost half of their lives. The signs of ageing in some pets are obvious – black Labradors seem to get their grey muzzle much earlier than they start to feel old! Some signs aren’t so obvious though, and one of the big ones we often miss as pet owners is the changes in digestion.

The most important thing for dogs is managing their calorie intake. Dogs often need fewer calories as they get older because they aren’t as active as they used to be (though there are always exceptions to this rule!). Being overweight has been shown to worsen arthritis and has been linked to a decreased life expectancy, so it’s extremely important to avoid feeding excess calories. However, we don’t want our senior dogs to be too lean either, because a healthy amount of fat will help them cope with any periods of illness. The appetite can also decrease as age really starts to advance, so we sometimes need to balance feeding the right amount of calories with how much dogs will eat. Finding this balance can be one of the trickiest things about feeding older dogs.

That’s not all though! Dogs’ ability to digest nutrients doesn’t change with age, but the digestion isn’t as adaptable, and it can’t cope as well with any deficiencies or, more commonly, excesses of nutrients. This means it’s vital to get the balance just right, and it’s especially important with protein.

Senior dogs tend to lose muscle mass. This is what makes older dogs look frail or delicate, and it can also make arthritic pain worse. Loss of muscle does happen in humans too – it’s called sarcopenia. To help combat this, we want to feed extra protein, but this can be complicated if the dog develops a health condition made worse by too much protein in the diet – like kidney disease.

We may also want older dogs to have extra antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. There is some limited evidence to say that these supplements may help prevent reducing brain function (dogs can develop dementia-like symptoms in very advanced age) and help with arthritis. These aren’t considered essential, but they’re worth considering for the majority of older dogs.

In cats, things are even more complicated – of course! Senior cats aren’t able to digest fat and protein as well as they used to, and their calorie requirements actually increase after 13 years of age. This is a huge problem when you’re a carnivore and these two nutrients are where you get all of your calories from, and you can suffer from loss of muscle in the same way as humans and dogs. We still need to balance calorie content carefully and make sure older cats aren’t overweight, but we do need to feed older cats more calorie-dense foods with higher-quality protein to help meet their calorie requirements. We can also include antioxidants and omega-3s to help combat senility – it’s common for very old cats to forget their house training.

Believe it or not, cats do need their joints looked after. Cats can and do get arthritis, and it’s believed to be one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in older cats. There are a variety of supplements we can add to the diet to help maintain joints, and finding the right mix for individual cats can make a big difference.

Who knew feeding senior pets was so complicated!

Luckily, this is where senior diets come in.

Pet food companies have already done all the hard work for us, and senior diets are specially formulated to meet all of these needs as closely as possible. As with all pet foods, it’s worth getting the highest-quality diet you can.

If you’re not sure if a diet is the right choice for your pet or you’re not sure if you’re feeding the right amounts, just get in touch! We can make diet recommendations, and take all the guesswork out of feeding your senior pet.

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Care of senior pets

As well as being a vet, I am also the owner of a 14 year old spaniel, so the care of older pets is something I am dealing with on a full-time basis!

When our pet is defined as ‘senior’ depends on the species and breed. In cats this is usually from 10 years old, in dogs from around 8 years old (younger in some giant breeds).

The most important thing to remember is that – age is not a disease!


While our pets are more prone to developing various diseases and conditions as they get older, they should still be able to live a comfortable and fulfilling life – so if you are noticing changes in your pet’s behaviour, it’s always worth getting them checked over by a vet.

For example:

‘Slowing down’

If your dog is slow on walks, or less interested in going out, this could indicate painful joints, heart or respiratory problems, neurological disease, hormone imbalance, anxiety… it’s usually not just a sign of ‘old age!’ In cats, ‘slowing down’ can be harder to notice, but if your cat is less playful or staying in one area for long periods, the same issues could apply.

Behaviour changes 

This could include toileting in the house/outside the litter tray, excessive vocalisation, pet seeming more grumpy or fearful than usual or less responsive to commands. There are a few medical issues that would cause these symptoms – one is ‘cognitive dysfuction’.

This is similar to dementia in humans.
There isn’t a cure, but there are a few medications and diets that can help support mental function in our pets – for example, Nutramind. These supplements can safely be used in older pets even if they have no symptoms, to help promote a healthy brain.

Loss of senses

We often observe loss of sight and hearing in older pets, as they age. Many times, this is due to old age and your pet can still live a happy life. However, sometimes these changes can occur as a result of other problems – for example, cataracts could be a sign of diabetes, and sudden blindness can result from high blood pressure.

Change in appetite

Studies have found that appetite does decrease in animals as they age, so you may find your dog or cat doesn’t eat as much as they used to. Again, it’s important to make sure they are regularly checked by a vet to look for other signs of poor appetite, such as dental disease, pain or gastrointestinal issues. It’s worth making sure your pet is being fed a senior diet, which is nutritionally balanced to meet their needs.

To discuss your pet’s diet, pop in or make an appointment with our vet nurse Robyn who can advise what is most appropriate.

So, it’s really important to have your senior pet checked regularly so we can spot any health issues and help them live life to the fullest! We would recommend a health check every 6 months for older pets. We then may advise blood tests, urine testing and/or blood pressure measurement – which can all be done at the practice. To help you get started, we are offering a free senior health check for eligible pets in October 2018 – give us a call if you would like to book.

Katy Anderson BVMS MRCVS

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Rabbit dental health

In a consult the other day a very astute little boy asked me why his rabbit only had four teeth.  I was impressed by his observation skills, considering his age, but reluctantly had to tell him that they have a lot more teeth than that but they are very difficult to see without looking with a special torch.

Rabbits actually have 28 teeth and their teeth are quite special, in that they grow throughout their entire life.  This is very useful in the wild but unfortunately in pet bunnies can lead to dental issues.  Therefore, it is very important to have your bunny on a good quality pellet diet as well as plenty of roughage consisting of a good quality hay.  Bunnies love to chew…admittedly this can be a little annoying when they destroy your newly bought wooden hutch but it does serve a purpose in wearing down their constantly growing teeth. Providing them with wooden chews is a really good idea in addition to their diet.

Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, some rabbits are just prone to dental problems. The most important thing to do, is to watch out for any problems and seek advice if needed.  Early signs of dental pain include inappetence, drooling and difficulties in chewing – especially the harder food.

Later signs include weight loss, lethargy and tooth grinding – which is also a generalised sign of pain. Please seek veterinary advice if you do see any of the above signs.

The only way to access the rabbits mouth is to look at the molars with a special scope and light. Even then, when the rabbit is chewing and conscious, it can be difficult to see the full extent of the problem but there are usually clues like spikes on the teeth or small ulcers at the side of the mouth where the teeth have been rubbing.

Dental work needs to be carried out, in most cases, under general anaesthetic. This is obviously a worrisome prospect for most owners but a necessity for your rabbits’ health. It is also much easier to fully access every individual tooth under anaesthetic conditions.

Once a rabbit has developed an issue, it is more likely to need repeated treatment going down the line, but don’t worry there is lots of help and advice we can give you.  Please feel free to phone the practice should you need us.


Kirsty Marshall BVMS MRCVS


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Have you ever thought about acupuncture?

In 2010 I decided to enrol in a course to learn how to do veterinary acupuncture.  At the time my friends and colleagues were a little amazed.  I love science, I love facts and figures, this just wasn’t a subject area that most people saw me being interested in. The reason I wanted to learn, was because of my experience with acupuncture in the past.  As a child my brother had chronic leg pain, numerous specialist did little to alleviate this and then out of desperation my mum took him to an acupuncturist. Within 2 months he was better. I hear the sceptics out there saying ‘Well that could have happened anyway’. Let’s face it, it could have, yet a year of specialists and waiting did nothing. I don’t know if acupuncture definitely cured him but over the years, as I saw animals in chronic pain, I couldn’t help thinking of my big brother.

Acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles. It looks at pain and illness as a sign that the body is out of equilibrium and the aim of treatment is to restore the balance of the body. Ultra-fine needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points, dependent on the clinical condition, which triggers the body’s natural healing response. As I write this, I still struggle with the concept that the process behind acupuncture is little understood. That being said, over the years I have treated a number of animals and do I think acupuncture works? – Yes. Do I understand why it works? -No.

I have seen animals fall asleep when I put the needles in, I have seen animals that have responded in good to great ways after the course of treatment.  Acupuncture does not always work but when it does, it’s great.

My most successful case to date, was a lovely old Labrador that was really struggling with osteoarthritis pain in multiple joints. There was no pain relief or anti-inflammatory left for him to try and a colleague sent him to me for acupuncture.  The owners were at a point that they were considering euthanasia but the dog responded beyond anyone’s expectations and went on to live a further 8 months.

The great thing about acupuncture is that it is so safe and does no harm. I have in the past mainly treated dogs and cats with osteoarthritis and other chronic pain conditions. I am happy to discuss its use in different animals and for different conditions. Please feel free to contact me in the practice if you have a pet or a condition that you wish to discuss.

For those animals that it has helped, I feel it has been invaluable and I am happy to continue to be a practicing acupuncturist. To my big brother, I may not understand exactly why, but I’m just glad you got better.


Kirsty Marshall BVMS MRVCS

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Anxiety – does my pet need help?

How can I  tell if my pet is anxious?

Anxiety is a very common issue for our furry friends. In fact, tens of thousands of animals in the UK suffer from anxiety and noise phobia in particular.

Around this time of year fireworks displays are common, and these can cause severe anxious behaviour to surface.

 Here are some common symptoms of anxiety that your pet might display:

  • Hiding away, cowering
  • Trying to escape
  • Chewing, digging, or destroying things
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Pacing
  • Howling, barking or generally vocalising more than usual
  • Drooling more than usual
  • Scratching excessively
  • Urinating or defecating inappropriately
  • Eating their faeces

If your pet is displaying these signs, be sure to bring them in to have them checked over and discuss the situation with a vet.


How to help your pet’s anxiety:

Dogs suffer from anxiety for a multitude of different reasons.  Noise phobias are quite common in our pups, which can make days  like Guy Fawkes night and Hogmanay incredibly stressful for pets and owners alike.

There are many ways you can help to manage your pet’s anxiety however, which can make this time of year much less stressful for you and your pet.

  • Preparation:
    • Plan ahead! Check out when fireworks in your area are scheduled.
    • Walk your pet before sunset to avoid having them out during the fireworks display.
  • Setting up a safe space for your pet:
    • Create a den for your pet to seek comfort in (see our information sheet on our website!). Be sure to introduce the den prior to bonfire night so your pet can get used to it.
    • Put the den in a quiet area of the house, away from windows. If there are any windows, be sure to close them and the curtains.
    • Provide access to you, the owner! It’s best to stay in on fireworks night to offer reassurance to your pet if they seek you out and to ensure they don’t injure themselves.
    • Give your pet a big distracting treat or chew like a kong with peanut butter and kibble frozen inside.
    • Turn music or television on.
  • Non-prescription remedies:
    • Adaptil, pet remedy sprays or plug ins. – these are available to buy in the practice and help calm your pet using essential oils and pheromones
    • Nutracalm supplements. – these are gentle calming supplements which you can buy from us without coming in for a consultation
    • Thundershirt or compression shirt.
  • Prescription remedies: Occasionally we find that despite our best efforts at home, pets still suffer from their noise phobias. In these instances we always recommend bringing your pet in for a consultation to speak to a vet.


Cats are special! How to tell if your cat is anxious:

  • There is a lot of focus on dogs during Guy Fawkes, but cats get anxious too! Cats are adept at hiding their anxiety, so it is important to be aware of any behaviours they might display to suggest anxiety. Some common signs include:
    • Overgrooming
    • Trembling
    • Hiding or trying to escape
    • Reduced activity
    • Diarrhoea
  • Preparation:
    • Plan ahead! Check out when fireworks displays in your area are scheduled.
    • If you have an outdoor cat, keep them indoors if there are going to be fireworks.
  • Manage your cat’s anxiety:
    • It’s best to stay in on fireworks night to offer reassurance to your pet if they seek you out, and to ensure they don’t injure themselves.
    • Non-pharmaceutical therapies:
      • Feliway or pet remedy – a plug in diffuser or spray to help calm your cat which you can buy from us
      • Nutracalm – this is a calming supplement which you can buy from us without having to come in for a consultation
      • Royal Canin Calm food – this food has special ingredients in it which calm down an anxious cat
    • In severe cases:
      • Potential referral to a veterinary behaviourist.
      • Prescription medication may be required


Signs of anxiety














If you have any questions or are worried about your cat or dog, please come in and chat to us.

We are happy to help you prepare for the fireworks season  or to talk about any other anxiety issues your pet may have.


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Senior Pets

We are focusing on senior pets this month!








Our older cats and dogs can suffer from many similar conditions to older people.

The most common complaints are arthritis and achiness in the joints but we also see many other changes such as sleeping more, coat changes and behavioural changes.

Older animals are more likely to succumb to issues such as kidney failure, liver issues and lumps and bumps.

Fortunately there is lots we can do to help them so please bring them in regularly for check ups. The sooner we find any problems, the more there is that we can do to help.

In October 2017 we will be offering free health checks to any senior pets that we haven’t seen in over a year so if that’s you please take the opportunity to come in and see us. Also let any of your friends and relatives know if it applies to them so that we can help our older animals be happy and pain-free for as long as possible!

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Thyroid Complaints!

Lets talk about the thyroid glands and what they do for your pet.

The thyroid gland is located in the neck and divided into two lobes lying on either side of the windpipe. The thyroid gland serves several important roles in keeping your pet healthy by regulating metabolism, fat and carbohydrates. It ensures normal growth of cells, which have specific roles in the body. The thyroid gland is also important for the consumption of oxygen and regulating heat production. As such, an imbalance of thyroid hormones can affect the whole body and if left untreated it can lead to serious illness.









Thyroid disorders affect both dogs and cats, although in many different ways.

Our feline friends usually suffer from an overproduction or HYPERTHYROIDISM whereas in dogs it is an underproduction of thyroid hormones or HYPOTHYROIDISM.

If you suspect your pet may be affected stay on the lookout for some very common signs and ensure you contact us and come in for a check up.  Your pet will undergo a physical examination, a blood test to check and confirm thyroid levels and appropriate treatment started.

Since most cats and dogs with thyroid disorders are older, it is recommended that your pet also have other blood test to assess organ function and make sure they do not suffer from any other underlying problems. As other conditions can develop alongside hypo or hyperthyroidism that may affect the successful treatment and outcome.

Things to be on the look out for:

  • Cats
    • Weight loss despite a good or even ravenous appetite,
    • a scruffy dull coat,
    • vomit and or diarrhea, using the litter box more often,
    • changes in behavior such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness and aggressiveness.
  • Dogs
    • Weight gain,
    • lack of energy or, lethargy,
    • weakness,
    • not wanting to exercise as often,
    • changes to the coat and skin such as “rat tail”,
    • recurrent infections,
    • constipation or diarrhea,
    • neurological signs or neurobehavioral changes (aggression, fear, irritability, excitability or submissiveness and changes temperament).

If you see any of these signs in your cat or dog then please make an appointment to see us!


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Neutering….. should I or shouldn’t I do it to my dog?








Rio 11 months

Continuing the story of Rio…. He had his neutering or castration operation last week so I know exactly how our owners feel when they drop their little one off on the morning of their operation.

It’s an emotional time worrying if they are going to be ok and if you have made the right decision in putting them through it.

Here at Ashley Vets we believe that for most pets it is the right thing to do however all our pets are individuals so we are more than happy to discuss the pros and cons and the timing of the operation and we will respect any decision you make for your pet.

For Rio, I opted to wait until he was a little more mature but we can castrate male dogs from 6 months old. This often catches them before they become too ‘randy’ so for many families it is a good decision to go ahead at this time.

There are good medical reasons for neutering.

For the boys it prevents

  • Testicular tumours
  • Prostate issues
  • Anal ademonas (tumours around the anus)

As well as of course reducing sexually motivated behaviours, male to male aggression and roaming.

For the girls it prevents

  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Pyometra (an infection in the uterus)
  • Greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumours

As well as not having the practical inconvenience of regular seasons and hormonal changes.

The operation is carried out here at the practice as a day procedure.

Your little one will need to be starved on the morning of the operation because they will be having a general anaesthetic.

They will be admitted to the hospital and given a thorough check over before a pre-med sedative is given. A blood sample may be taken at this time if you have requested it to check that their internal organs are working correctly.








Rio feeling sleepy after his sedative

Once the sedative has taken effect, they will be placed under general anaesthetic in our theatre and a tube will be placed down their throat. They will be monitored at all times by the veterinary nurse while the vet is performing the surgery.










Rio under general anaesthetic











Rio was constantly monitored while under the anaesthetic











The surgery to remove his testicles







Stitching up the wound

Once the surgery is complete they will recover in a cosy kennel and will be monitored by our team of nurses and animal care assistants until they are fully awake.

They will of course be given pain killers to keep them as comfortable as possible.









Cuddles with Robyn once the surgery is over

They will be ready to go home on the same day by late afternoon and they will have a wound with some stitches in it which stay in place for approximately 10 days. During that time, they will need a little more TLC at home than normal and will need to be rested and stopped from licking their wound.

We will see them back for a check-up which is usually 5 and 10 days after surgery.

Rio was feeling much better by the day after his surgery and his wound is now fully healed and the whole experience hasn’t put him off coming to work with me!







Rio snoozing happily under my desk while I work.

If you want to have a chat about neutering your pet please give us a ring on 0141 959 6100 or arrange to come in for a free appointment with Robyn our veterinary nurse so that you can discuss the details and she can answer any questions for you.

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The Importance of worming in puppies…..

Roundworms can spread to pups from their mother before they are born so even when they are very young and have never been outdoors, they can be harbouring a belly full of worms! That’s why it is so important to treat them for worms from such a young age.

Many breeders will have wormed your new puppy before you have brought him home so we recommend you ask your breeder for the details of when this was done and what worming product was used. You should bring this information along to your first appointment with us.

We will advise you of exactly the best protocol for your pup when you come in but basically all puppies should be wormed at least every month until they are 6 months old. This can be done using tablets or spot-on products and we will discuss with you whether or not you would also like to protect against fleas or other parasites such as ticks.









Rio aged 10 weeks


How would I know if my pup has worms?

If your pup has a lot of worms then they may have a pot-belly and be quite thin. It is possible that you could see worms passed in their poo or vomit.

However, for the majority of puppies, there may be no outward signs of the worms so it is important to treat them regardless.


Why does it matter if my puppy has worms?

Roundworms can spread to humans and cause a disease called toxocariasis.

This is most important for children who will often play outside where dogs may have been and then put their hands into their mouths without washing them.

For most people, an infection with these roundworm larvae causes no symptoms and the parasites die within a few months.

However, some people experience mild symptoms and in very rare cases, the roundworm larvae infect organs such as the liver, lungs, eyes or brain and cause severe symptoms.

(for more information see








Toxocara sp. roundworms

We all want our puppies to be able to play with the whole family without worrying about the spread of parasites so please talk to us and we will come up with the most suitable worming regime for your puppy  and to suit your family!










Rio and his big brother!


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Puppy Vaccination – why is it so important?










Rio 12 weeks old

If you have a puppy, you have probably heard that they need some injections while they are young before they go outdoors but what are they, why do they need them and when should they get them?

The injections are vaccines against the most common and serious diseases which your pup is likely to come into contact with such as parvo virus, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and we also recommend the vaccine against kennel cough.


If their mother was vaccinated then the puppy will get some protection from her which last for the first few weeks of life but by the time your pup is coming home to you this maternal protection will be running out. That is why they need to have the injections themselves.

Your pup will need 2 separate injections and these are usually given at 8 and 10 weeks old but this can be adjusted if necessary for any reason. We can advise you about this when you call.

Until they have had the full course of the vaccines, we recommend that you do not take your puppy out for walks on the ground or let him be in contact with any dogs that you don’t know or are not vaccinated. However, don’t forget how important socialising your puppy is so whenever you get the opportunity you can carry him around to let him get the sights and smells of outside. Have a look at our previous blog for more information on socialisation.

Please get in touch with us as soon as you get your puppy to check what vaccines they need and if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call on 0141 959 6100 for a chat!

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