Summer Sun & Practice Updates!


Well, summer is definitely (finally?) here! Most of us – and our pets! – love the warmer weather, but it does bring its own challenges and particular problems. Here are a few tips to help keep your pet fit and well, cool and comfortable in the hot weather!

Heat Stroke is, of course, a big worry in the higher temperatures and is an extremely serious and, sadly, potentially fatal condition. Although all dogs are at risk, some pets are in particular danger:

  • Long, thick, or double-coated dogs, e.g. Huskies, as heat is trapped all too efficiently by their coats.
  • Short snouted breeds, e.g. Pugs or Bulldogs, as they struggle to cool down efficiently.
  • Overweight dogs of any breed, as the fat traps heat but also makes it harder to pant and cool down.

To prevent problems, avoid exercising in the midday heat, and make sure they don’t over-exert themselves, especially if it’s humid. Make sure they always have access to shade and fresh, cool water. If you’re concerned, move them into the cool shade, offer water, and call us immediately for advice. Heatstroke kills, fast, without appropriate first aid and treatment.

Remember the sunscreen! Many cats are of course sun-worshippers, which isn’t usually a problem… unless they have white ears or pink noses. These areas are vulnerable to sunburn because the thinner hair and paler skin allow the ultraviolet radiation to damage the underlying cells. Sunburn is painful itself, but can also trigger malignant skin cancers in pets, just like people. To protect your pet, in sunny weather apply a pet-safe waterproof sunscreen to the vulnerable areas (ears, noses, bellies in thin coated dogs). While it’s easier said than done sometimes, it really will protect them.

Grass seeds are another summer problem. The sharp awns of meadow grasses easily stick in the coat, especially of dogs. They then migrate and become lodged in the sensitive tissues between the toes, down the ears, even in the eyes and nose. Once in, they tend to burrow deeper because of their barbed shape, which is very painful and potentially dangerous. Always carefully groom your dog after a walk, and make sure there aren’t any sharp seeds or tender spots.

Beware the BBQ! Nice weather and long, warm evenings mean lots of people break out the barbeque. Dogs (and occasionally cats!) then have a lovely time hoovering up the leftovers… however, these can be harmful, or even deadly. Tummy upsets from too much rich food are messy, but bones and sweetcorn cobs can cause a blocked intestine that needs emergency surgery. Used kebabs can even puncture the stomach; and many barbeque favourites are actually toxic to pets, such as onions from the hot dogs. Keep pets away from the barbeque with their own (safe!) snacks!

Allergy Alert… if your pet has a tendency to allergies, the summer can be a nightmare. All the flowers and grasses thrive in the warm weather, releasing clouds of pollen that your pet’s immune system overreacts to. Dogs and cats will often break out in itchy skin rashes, especially on the feet, tummy and ears; while cats sometimes develop “hay-fever” type symptoms (allergic rhinitis) which are not necessarily caused by the pollen, but are often exacerbated by it. If your pet is affected, please come and see us – there are lots of treatments available to mitigate the symptoms. And nowadays, we can sometimes even address the underlying causes.

Also… don’t forget to stay up to date with anti-parasite treatments! Not only do fleas, in particular, love the warmer weather, but every bite can worsen an allergic pet’s already itchy skin.

So, enjoy the summer, have fun, and keep your pets safe! Remember, we’re always here to help, so if you’d like any more information or advice on avoiding summer hazards, please do ring us, or pop in and ask a member of staff. If you have any concerns on any of the topics raised in this blog, call us on 01908 611637.


Summer Update


Please be advised that our Saturday opening is changing from the previous 33 years of 9am-5pm, to 9am-2pm from August 2019.  We have found that routine appointments are not really needed on Saturday afternoons as most people are out for the day or enjoying their weekend, and staying open 9am-2pm enables most people to come to Astonlee when they want to for their vet appointments, nurse appointments and to collect supplies.  This also means that our vet and nurse team can attend to emergencies in the afternoon continuing our 24-hour service without the occasional interruption from non-urgent enquiries.  Our Sunday morning surgery 11 am to 12 noon will continue unchanged.


Rabbit Health Requirements

Did you know that rabbits are the third most popular furry pet in the UK? And at Astonlee, we appreciate that they are just as important to the family as any other pet! Like dogs and cats, rabbits make a strong bond with us, and that makes dealing with critical illness emotionally draining. I know this myself – I remember being heartbroken when a rabbit, my first pet, died suddenly and without warning when I was 8.


But compared to our carnivorous pets, rabbits have very specific health requirements. In this blog, we’re going to explore two key elements to rabbit health: gut health, and parasite control.


Rabbit intestines are… different

They have a complicated digestive system that is essentially an enormous fermentation chamber, allowing them to break down the cellulose in their diet. This always needs to be working properly because it can produce too much gas (leading to bloat and discomfort) or become static (called ileus). This results in blockages and the resultant release of toxins send the rabbit into acute shock, and can rapidly be fatal.


Care of the gut is important

Getting the feeding right is essential. Not only is long-fibre important for gut health, it also maintains dental health – and unlike many other pets, poor dental health in the rabbit will inevitably lead to poor gut health, and ultimately, catastrophe. The teeth are a vitally important part of the digestive system, breaking down that high-fibre diet (hay and grass) that rabbits need for health. When the teeth don’t work properly – because they’re overlong, or have ground down in an abnormal way – the gut doesn’t work right either.


If the gut stops working, going into “gut stasis” or ileus, rabbits deteriorate very quickly. This is why if your rabbit stops eating or stops pooing, or if they seem bloated or uncomfortable, get them to us as fast as possible!


What care can you provide?

Well, as always, prevention is better than cure… so every time we see your bunny – for a vaccine appointment or anything else – one of our team will carefully check their teeth for any problems, and have a good feel of their abdomen. If hospitalisation is needed (for example, after an operation; or if they are showing signs of tummy problems) we provide 24/7 care in our hospital with our own team. That includes team members going out to find and cut fresh dandelions to tempt them to eat again!


Care from the Outside In

OK, so that’s the tummy issues… but sadly rabbits carry their own external menaces as well! I’m referring, of course, to mites. Whilst fleas tend to cause a myriad of problems in dogs and cats (and rabbits do get them too!), mites are often a common problem in rabbits. It can be difficult to spot them but the symptoms they cause tend to be quite obvious. There are two main groups of nasty mites…


Fur Mites:

The most common mite found on rabbits is called Cheyletiella but it is much easier to say ‘Walking Dandruff’, its common name! This is because the mite is quite large and if you comb them out onto a dark surface, although they look like skin flecks, you can see them moving. They cause a thick scurf to form on the skin, patchy hair loss and they can be very itchy; affected rabbits can scratch themselves raw. It is often not possible to identify where the mites came from, but it is often a bad batch of hay or bedding. Also, there is a variation in how sensitive rabbits are to the mite and often one in a group will be very badly affected but the others fine.


Ear Mites:

As the name suggests, they live in your rabbit’s beautiful long ears, and cause severe itching! They can cause very severe problems in rabbits, as infestations can be in one or both ears. The main symptoms are a thick, flaky crust in the ear and a great deal of discomfort.


How do we treat mites?

The treatment for fur mites is a spot-on preparation, applied every fortnight for 6 weeks to fully clear the infestation. If there is skin damage, antibiotics may also be required. You should also clean out the hutch thoroughly after each treatment.

Ear mites can be treated using similar spot-on drops, but also with injections or ear drops.


What else do we offer for rabbits?

Well, we want to make looking after your rabbit as easy as possible. That’s why we’ve set up our Pet Care Monthly scheme to allow you to provide them with the best of care, and save money too! Pride of place in the scheme is our vaccination protocol (all included in the price!) that will protect your pet against the killer diseases –  Myxomatosis, Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 1 and even RHD 2 as well.


So, if you’re worried about your rabbit, inside or out, give us a ring on 01908 611 637 and we’ll do everything we can to help get them hopping about again! Or, click here to learn about our Pet Care Monthly scheme to save on all your rabbit’s essential healthcare…

rear guard

Fly Strike Season

Fly strike, also known as ‘myiasis‘, occurs when a fly lays eggs on your rabbit, which then hatch into maggots. Unfortunately, this conditions is an emergency as these maggots can hatch in hours and eat your rabbits flesh, causing death in a very short time. If you notice any signs of maggots on your rabbit, bring them into the practice immediately.

Prevention is much better than cure in this condition, and between the months of April till October we advice you to apply RearGuard to your rabbit rear end every 10 weeks. We also recommend checking your rabbits bottom twice daily and keeping the area clean as dirty bottoms will attract far more flies. Keep their environment clean, and remove any soiled bedding daily.

If your rabbit has an unusually dirty bottom, it may be worth a visit to the vet. This can occur for a number of reasons, including a change in diet, digestive upset, arthritis, obesity, and many more.

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Getting the Best for your Animal

The relationship between a client and their chosen veterinary practice is a unique one that requires understanding on both parts of what we expect from each other to achieve the best care for your pets. The RCVS have produced a very useful poster detailing this partnership, helping us to understand each others expectations.
“By stating the expected parameters around which the client-practice partnership should be based, the poster helped to remind clients about their own responsibilities as animal owners, whilst reassuring them as to the standards of service and professionalism the practice team provided.- Director of Communications RCVS Ian Holloway
Thank you for putting your trust in Astonlee.


Easter Bunnies!

It’s coming round to that time of year where we all love to celebrate the cute and cuddly bunny, but please do not succumb to temptation and purchase a rabbit as an Easter gift!

Whilst rabbits can make lovely pets, they require a lot of care and understanding to look after them correctly. They are not always the ‘child friendly’ pet people assume they are.

We really encourage that you think long and hard before ever buying anyone a live pet as a gift, but especially a rabbit for Easter.

If you are genuinely considering buying a rabbit (we must insist you get 2 for company!) then please read our Guide to Getting a New Rabbit for information on their habitat, diet, preventative healthcare and environmental stimulation.

We are very proud of our Rabbit Friendly Award here at Astonlee Veterinary Hospital and look forward to seeing you and your bunnies soon!

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Weight Management

Our nurses operate free “weight-clinics”, where practical and realistic advice is given to help your pet get into the ideal condition.
Once we find the plan that works best for your pet, we encourage regular free clinics to have “weigh-ins” so as to check your pets progress, until he gets to the ideal body condition.
By joining our fight against obesity, you can help decrease your pet’s risk of future weight—related health issues and the medical costs associated with treating them.

Even just a little extra weight, as little as 20%, can affect the general health of pets, as well as predisposing animals to some diseases that can shorten their lives.
Such as;

Exercise intolerance
Heat intolerance
Liver disease
Respiratory distress
Heart disease
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Increased surgical risk
Weak immune system
Increased risk of developing malignant tumours
Feline lower tract disease (cats)
Decreased quality of life

Book your pet in for a FREE Weight Management Clinic and receive discount on any Metabolic diet*


*Whilst stocks last


Pre Anaesthetic Blood Testing

We recommend a Pre Anaesthetic Blood Test for all our patients, but critically for those over 7 years of age. The aim of the blood test is to detect things that a full examination by the vet may not find. We test kidney function, liver function and other parameters that help us evaluate the health status of your pet. This allows us to tailor the anaesthetic protocol specifically to each patient, making sure they have the most appropriate drugs and closer observation and monitoring if required.

It may also help in the future when looking at changes over time. It provides a ‘baseline’ from which we can identify even early changes that may occur at a later date, therefore allowing us to identify any potential health conditions earlier, giving them the best chance.

A blood test that is ‘normal’ isn’t a waste of money, it confirms your pet is healthy and gives us confidence that the risks of the anaesthetic have been fully assessed. #optYESforthetest


Dog Attacks on the Increase

In recent weeks Astonlee has seen a number of injuries resulting from dog attacks. Most cases are dog-on-dog attacks, but we have also seen a few cats with dog bite injuries.

The majority of dog attacks occur when the attacking dog is off the lead and consequently not under the owner’s control. Very often the dog that is attacked has done nothing wrong, and has not aggravated the attacking dog. This type of attack is most upsetting for both the dog and owner, and most frustrating for the vets who see it happen time and again! In one case a harmless un-suspecting dog was even attacked in its own enclosed garden by a vicious dog that was not kept under control and was allowed to roam free. Who knows what would have happened if it had been a child in the garden…

Whilst it is perfectly legal for dogs to be off the lead in public, there are laws to protect responsible dog owners and their dogs. It is an offence for a dangerously out of control dog to be in a public place. In fact, the police are within their rights to take action BEFORE such a dog has bitten anybody. If the dog acts in a way in which someone thinks they will be attacked, then an offence has been committed and the owner/dog walker fined or even imprisoned for a short time. Magistrate can also order the dog to be destroyed.

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that ALL dogs must wear a collar and an identity tag whilst in a public place (there are exceptions for working dogs), even if they are microchipped. The ID tag must show the name and address of the owner (a telephone number is not sufficient). Any animal without such identification can be treated as a stray, and can therefore be rehomed (or even destroyed) after 7 days.

If you are fearful of a dog that appears to be dangerous and out of control, we advise that you contact the police immediately. Do not approach the dog, just keep an eye on where it has gone and warn other dog owners of its presence, until you are happy that it is under control. Ensure your own dog is adequately identified with a collar and ID tag. If you do know of a potentially dangerous dog that is regularly off the lead in your area, do not feel afraid to inform the police. Better safe than sorry!

Being able to recall your dog on command is also important. If you see a potentially dangerous scenario ahead, you can recall your pet back to you for safety. This also applies to dogs near roads, where an out-of-control dog can cause an accident. Don’t forget that if your dog is out of control and causes an accident on the road, you may be help legally responsible for the consequences. This is another reason why pet insurance is useful, as most companies also include third liability insurance for such cases.

Finally, if your dog is unlucky enough to be involved in a dog attack, please do the responsible thing and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. What looks like a small puncture wound in the skin could be worse under the skin, and untreated wounds can become infected.[/ffb_param][/ffb_paragraph_0]


We’re a Cat Friendly Clinic

Astonlee has been awarded the Gold Standard as a ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’. You can read more about this by clicking on this link:

We are delighted to receive this award which recognises the practical ways in which we provide standards of care that really matter to our feline friends and their owners.

This is a really interesting new piece of research on facial expressions of cats which is of special interest to vets, vet nurses and cat owners:


Nutrition : the best diets for your pets

The health of your pet does depend at least in part on the food you feed them. ‘You are what you eat’ is a phrase which does have meaning, although there are obviously many other things that contribute to our own or our pet’s health.

At Astonlee we have worked closely with Hills Nutrition for over 25 years because we believe the health benefits we have seen in many of our normal active patients as well as those who are ageing and many with various illnesses. Having the most appropriate diet can make all the difference to the health of your pet.

Quality of nutrition includes the proivision of all the essential ingredients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins and roughage) in the correct proportions, with the presence of small but essential elements such as minerals and omega 3 oils which help our bones, joints and other organs.

The quality of the ingredients especially the protein source is very important for the quality of the food, and this is one key reason why the cost of low quality food can be significantly less than high quality food.

In addition, Hills have created a new food called Vet Essentials which incorporates technology which uses a large centriguge to spin the food down so that all the fibres are aligned in the biscuit which makes the dog or cat have to bite all the way through the dried food before it breaks, and therefore the teeth are cleaned and kept healthier as a result.

The first of the special diets that I ever introduced to the practice was Hills Feline Kd which I recommended rather tentatively and sceptically to the first client with a cat with severe kidney problems. I and the owner were delighted that the cat lived anotyher 2 years, and the cat clearly must have heard us talking about the alternative of euthanasia if the cat did not eat the food because he enjoyed an extra 2 years of happy life that would almost certainly not have happened without the benefit of the special food.

Another case where diet was very helpful was a 46 kg labrador who was always haveing difficulty walking, with arthritis and needing pain killers. I managed to persuade the owner that buying a concept of ‘thin air’ was more beneficial; ie: I meant that buying weight loss was more effective than buying pain killers. Sure enough, the owner managed to get the dog to lose 6kg bodyweight on the Hills RD diet, and therefdter the dog did not only not need pain killers, but was much better at walking and running than he ever was being overweight and on the pain killers.

Many clients have seen many and varied benefits with these quality foods and diets, and as a very special offer for 6 months from June to December 2011, Astonlee is having a massive SALE with special offers on the prices of HILLS DIETS so that those who are buying it already can benefit more with cost savings, and those dog and cat owners who might like to try the Hills diets for the first time can have a significantly enhanced opportunity to see the benefits of buying these diets from Astonlee.

Our team has been well trained in advising on the best nutrition in ths comprehensive Hills range, so we hope you will take advantage of this service and our special offer.