Sherborne (01935 816228):

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Pet owner awareness in May

Pet owner awareness in May is an important one as sadly, it’s not all flowers and sunshine! May – be the best month of the year? For me, certainly – there’s all the optimism for a good summer without the disappointment that comes when it doesn’t happen. Like last year. Still, all summers are preferable to the winter we’ve just had which seemed longer and darker than usual.  So I’m going to stay hopeful for sunny weather and heed the words of our financial guru, Mark Salter. He pointedly remarked “Mark, what you’ve got to realise is you have maybe 15 good summers left…”.  Good point although I’m hoping my 80’s will be autumn and not winter…


So a lot of stuff happens in May.  A new generation of parasites crawls forth to keep us on our toes. However, the veterinary profession is taking a more targeted approach to prevention.  This is a recognition that the habits of our pet cats and dogs differ widely. Exposure to risk from parasitic diseases is variable. 

Compare the lifestyle of an indoor cat to a working dog. It’s not only parasite treatments that differ, but vaccination requirements do also.  Vets and nurses will now make a risk assessment for each animal. From that, a recommended course of preventative treatment is written on the clinical notes.  Once this is done, clients can order worm, tick and flea treatments over the phone. If you are a member of the Pet Healthcare Plan (PHP), they will be delivered to your front door!

Environmental impact

I’ve touched on the environmental impact of powerful insecticides before. These concerns certainly colour our choices when it comes to choosing a spot-on product or a tablet.  In general, we avoid liquid spot-ons for dogs who love swimming. Just a few parts per million of the active ingredient in a water course could harm insect life.  And is there really any reason to treat for ticks outside the tick “season”? Possibly not. Although, Exmoor at just about any time of year (unless there’s a layer of snow) is a tick-fest experience.  

My last parasite plea concerns roundworm treatments for our pets.  Roundworm eggs are invisible except under the microscope so even the most diligent poop-scooper will never see any.  The fact is, almost every public park where dogs are allowed is heavily contaminated with this unseen menace. It’s hard to find a handful of soil that doesn’t contain roundworm eggs.  Children are most at risk of becoming infected. Probably due to playing on the ground and then stuffing fingers in their mouths!  So we recommend using an effective worm treatment monthly if your dog has close contact with children. Even if not, at least 8 times yearly. 

Our pet cats are really no better. They are indiscriminate in where they deposit their waste with no one at hand to do the cleaning up.  Regular worming every 2-3 months should help keep the tapeworm population down. It should also limit the spread of the feline roundworm. With the issues we all have persuading our cats to take tablets, a spot-on wormer is justified. Plus, not many cats like swimming.


Pet owner awareness in May often arises by an unpleasant reminder of hay fever! The pollen count rises steeply this month.  Weed, grass and tree pollens peak at slightly different times but overlap so much that the distinction is academic.  The canine form of hay fever is ‘allergic skin disease’, particularly affecting paws and muzzles with constant itchiness.  Anti-histamines (eg piriton) just might help but in general do little to relieve the irritation.  We see hundreds of cases of itchy skin disease in dogs over the summer. The poor things can get quite cranky unless the itch is soothed. Constant scratching traumatises the skin and allows secondary infections with bacteria and yeasts to become established, further driving the irritation.  A vicious little cycle which needs to be broken before it drives the owner to drink.  “Hair of the dog” might well be on the owner’s mind.


Antibiotics used to be the first thing we would reach for when a bacterial skin infection was suspected. However, like parasite treatments, modern medicine is trying to be more selective in its approach.  Superficial infections often respond well to antibacterial/anti-fungal shampoos once the irritation has been relieved. This allows clients to save money and makes bacterial resistance less likely.  The problem with allergies is they don’t go away. Even though they may wax and wane as the seasons pass, it depends on the nature of the allergen.  We adopt a variety of strategies to manage the life-long irritation that allergies can cause. Each time with the goal being the maintenance of a happy life on minimal medication.  I call it the “road map” when explaining to owners the routes we might take on this journey. Its a useful analogy as starting points differ between cases and we often change our course of treatment. 

There have been advances recently in allergy testing in dogs, cats and horses. It uses a technique that is more specific than the blood tests previously available.  Hopefully, this will lead to an improvement in the success rate of desensitisation therapy. A treatment using a vaccine cocktail made from the allergens identified.  Historically, this approach is successful in about 60% of allergy sufferers! Not a bad result but certainly could be better, especially as the whole process is expensive.  In fact, long-standing skin disorders are always expensive whether or not allergy testing is performed.  These costs can be drastically reduced with our PHP which gives free, unlimited consultations. Also with pet insurance that covers the cost of testing and treatment.  Do talk to us before changing insurance companies though. There are a few pitfalls to be avoided and remember pre-existing conditions are not covered by most policies. 

In summary

Pet owner awareness in May is also a year-round awareness!

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