Essex dog walkers urged to beware adders

Adder coiled on the woodland floor

A Basildon vet is urging pet owners to be on their guard after treating a dog badly hurt following an adder bite.

Amy Andrews, vet surgeon at Cherrydown Vets, which is based in Basildon and has practices in Wickford and Stanford Le Hope, issued the warning after treating Toby, a four-year-old Jack Russell.

Toby was out for a walk with his owner in Stanford marshes when he was bitten by an adder, resulting in significant pain and serious swelling.

He was taken to Cherrydown, where Amy treated him and administered anti-venom to calm the swelling after an initial 48-hour period.

Adders, which are the UK’s only native poisonous snake, hibernate over the winter and emerge during the spring. Due to the unseasonably cold weather in March and April, they are now starting the make an appearance slightly later than usual, putting dogs at increased risks.

Cherrydown, which offers 24-hour emergency care, is now stocking costly anti-venom but Amy is urging dog owners to be careful where they let their pets roam during the warmer weather.

She said: “This is the first adder bite case I have treated this year. Adders generally hibernate from October to April, waking up when the weather warms up and they can bask in the sun.

“Unfortunately, Toby unintentionally stumbled upon an adder while out for a walk and was bitten on one of his front legs. Luckily for him, it wasn’t on his face, which could have been much more serious.

“After administering the anti-venom, Toby’s now doing well. His swelling has gone down and his bloods and ECG were fine, so he can go back to enjoying his walks – just hopefully keeping clear of any more adders!

“Adders only tend to bite in self-defence, for instance when they are stepped on accidentally or disturbed by an inquisitive dog, but when they do, bites can be dangerous as they can induce lameness, vomiting and changes to the heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing rate.

“Visually, bites typically result in swelling which is dark in colour and which can quickly become severe. If your dog has been bitten by an adder you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.”

Statistics show most adder bite cases survive, with one study suggesting less than one in 20 treated dogs died as a result of a bite.

Cannabis Poisoning – Marley and Tula

Picture2Marley and Tula are lovely chocolate brown Labs, and as with most labs they love to forage whilst out on walks. Marley is 9 years old while Tula is smaller and just over a year old. On Tuesday they were out being walked by Chloe in Stanford Le Hope and were off rummaging about as they often do.

After their walk they come home and the family sat down for dinner. Shortly afterwards they noticed Tula was acting strangely. She started nodding her head, knocked over the water bowl stand and then slumped and collapsed. She was rushed in to see us at Cherrydown and our duty vet Josh examined her. She was fitting, barely able to stand, her pupils were dilating and constricting independently and she appeared to be under the influence of a toxic substance.

She was admitted into the hospital and put on to fluids while we did blood tests. The family went home and by the time they got there Marley was displaying similar symptoms so was brought in to Cherrydown as well. As her symptoms weren’t as bad Josh was able to make her sick to try to reduce the absorption of toxicity. Both dogs were put onto fluids, closely monitored and symptomatic treatment given.

A search was conducted of the area where the dogs had been foraging and a black bin liner was found with rotted down cannabis plants. This was disposed of so no other animals could be affected and the information put onto the Stanford-Le-Hope Facebook page.

We do occasionally see dogs that have been affected by cannabis. The most common signs that a pet has ingested cannabis are depression and listlessness, loss of motor coordination including loss of balance, vomiting and hypothermia. The eyes may dilate and constrict (sometimes independently) and they may suffer thirst and loss of appetite.

In addition the heart can be affected so it either slows (bradycardia) or races (tachycardia), the animal may be agitated, suffer diarrhea, vomitting, urinary incontinence and seizures. In very severe cases it can lead to coma and death.

The effects of cannabis do not occur immediately after ingestion but usually come on an hour or two afterwards. The effects can last 12 to 24 hours but getting the correct treatment as soon as possible will speed the recovery and the pet can be made safe and comfortable.

If you are aware your pet has ingested cannabis or displays any of the above signs then you need to get your pet to the vet as quickly as possible. Be honest with your vet and tell them if you know your vet has ingested cannabis so they can give the best possible treatment. Getting your pet well again is all that really matters to them and you can guarantee it’s probably not the first case the vet will have seen.

Tula and Marley have both recovered well enough to go home and they will be monitored for any further signs of illness.

If you have any questions about this subject please leave a comment or send a private message via our Facebook page 


Ethel’s Story

P1010012Ethel first came to see us as a puppy for her free puppy check. She was very lively and an adorable little pup, who seemed very healthy and full of beans! Ethel’s mum, soon noticed she seemed to be urinating frequently and not quite herself and a urine sample diagnosed a urinary tract infection. She improved initially with antibiotics but her mum was sure she wasn’t right. However, when Kim saw her, she seemed so lively and was growing well, it was like nothing was wrong at all. But 24 hours later, she came back and this time, the lively puppy we knew was quiet and not very active. Blood tests revealed a liver abnormality and, due to her age, it was suspected she had a portosystemic or liver shunt.

This is where the blood vessels that should carry nutrients from the intestines to the liver for processing are not properly formed and often results in high levels of unprocessed protein reaching the brain. This can cause head pressing (usually walking head first into an object and pushing against it) and even seizures. Due to the inability to process the nutrients properly, puppies often appear very stunted in growth and often lack energy. They also drink and urinate excessively, with very dilute urine making them more likely to get a urinary tract infection. Some dogs present when they are older with a particular type of bladder stone due to the inappropriate way they process protein, which is then filtered in to the urine through the kidneys.

Apparently, Ethel had not read the text book and so she didn’t show these signs at all! It was only her mum’s knowledge of her puppy that led us to run the blood tests and the result was completely unexpected.

She was referred to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis, but said that the blood vessels had such a rare and abnormal pattern that surgery to correct the defect would not be possible. Usually, the blood vessel bypassing the liver is closed encouraging the smaller vessels going to the liver to get larger and perform the role of those that should have been there in the first place – transporting food nutrients from the bowel to the liver for processing into energy and the body’s building blocks.

Instead, Ethel would have to remain on lifelong medication – antibiotics to reduce excessive bacterial growth in the gut, a drug to reduce unprocessed proteins getting to the brain and an anti-convulsant to prevent the potential seizures and other neurological signs. A diet low in protein but containing high quality protein is also required to reduce the pressure on the liver. In some patients, this is the most appropriate course of action for the owner and dog and can give a good life expectancy, although it is often reduced.

Ethel’s mum naturally wanted the best for Ethel and scoured the internet, managing to locate a specialist surgeon from America who was working at the royal vet college at that time. Unfortunately for us, we can never know every specialist in every field but will always try to support owners that discover an avenue for treatment we were unaware of, when appropriate. We referred her there and she underwent her first surgery. The abnormal blood vessels couldn’t all be closed at once as their pattern was so abnormal it led to loss of blood supply to the intestines and spleen and would have killed Ethel if closed completely. Instead it had to be done in stages.

Ethel recovered well from her first surgery and recently underwent her second. Surgery is fraught with significant risks – the closed blood vessel can increase the blood pressure in the liver and affect its function and lead to potentially fatal seizures. There is also a risk of haemorrhage during the procedure amongst other risks. Thankfully, Ethel is an exceptionally strong little dog and we recently saw her after her second (and final) surgery. She has recovered exceptionally well (possibly too well, its difficult to stop her bouncing and no one has told her she is supposed to be recuperating)! She will no longer need her medication or her special diet and she can go on to live a normal life.

Shunts often have an inherited component and therefore these animals should not be bred from, although many breeders will be unaware that a particular mating will lead to this condition and there are other factors involved in creating shunts. Some may be acquired later in life due to blood pressure changes in the liver causing some blood vessels to essentially become blocked. Shunts are more commonly seen in dogs than cats.

Whether managed surgically or with medication, shunts can be very costly to treat, even when only one surgery is required. Thankfully for Ethel, she has a very doting and dedicated mum who is however extremely thankful that she took out insurance with Pet Plan as they covered £4,000 of the £8,000 cost for all the treatment.

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The dangers of dogs and sticks

Ask any vet and they will tell you not to throw sticks for your dogs.  Whilst you may see it in pictures and films, it can be incredibly dangerous.  There have been occasions where sticks have splintered and have got stuck in an animal’s throat with tragic consequences.

On this occasion a stick wasn’t thrown but it does highlight the danger.  Jess Mallott is a gorgeous 12 year old Staffy, and though she’s getting on in years she still loves her walks and to play. Unfortunately when she was out yesterday she decided to play with a stick and part of it split in her mouth and got lodged between each side of her jaw. She tried to paw at it but she was unable to get it out, and her owners were naturally worried about trying themselves and hurting her more. She was brought in to us and had to undergo an anesthetic so we could remove the stick and clean the gums around where it had been lodged. The stick was about 3 inches long and is clearly visible in the photo.


Following the operation she recovered well and was able to go home late yesterday evening. There should be no lasting effect but she was in considerable discomfort when brought in and needed pain killers afterwards. We wish her a speedy recovery and hope she is back out on her favourite walks again very soon.


Sticks and bones can both be dangerous for dogs and we recommend that when out for walks you have purpose made toys to throw and play with.

If you have any questions regarding this subject please call us at the clinic and someone will be able to help you.  Alternatively, leave a question on our Facebook page and you one of our staff members will answer it for you

Minnie’s Story – Ruptured Diaphragm

The owners tale…..

On Friday 29th November Minnie was last seen around 4.30pm and we realised she was missing at about 8.30pm. That’s not generally a long time for a cat to be missing but for Minnie this was unusual. We got up in the middle of the night to call her but to no avail. On Saturday morning I put notes through neighbours doors asking them to check their sheds & garages etc. On Sunday afternoon we told our children & they were devastated but we all tried to stay positive. My husband & I both felt something dreadful had happened because it was so unlike her not to come home. On Monday morning however I found Minnie sitting on the front doorstep looking poorly. She was covered from her chest to her bottom in poo,  so I cleaned her up and left her to rest.  Later I realised she wasn’t taking any food or water and had maggots around her tail and bottom so I brought her to Cherrydown where Minnie was seen by vet Hayley Giles.


Vet Hayley Giles takes over……

Minnie came in as an emergency and during the clinical exam it was quite clear that her respiratory rate was increased and it was taking a lot of effort for her to draw in each breath. She was also very dehydrated from being missing and was covered in tiny maggots. I admitted her and she was cleaned and rehydrated with intravenous fluids. The next day she was a little more stable and we were able to xray her so we took xrays of her whole body as we had no idea what had happened while she was missing.

The x-rays showed she was suffering from a ruptured diaphragm and the hole was allowing abdominal organs into her chest cavity which was causing the breathing difficulties.  These sort of injuries are common secondary to blunt trauma such as in a road traffic accident. She was taken to surgery and we pulled her stomache, liver and intestines gently back into her abdominal cavity before suturing the hole in her diaphragm.


Cursor shows approx furthest extent abdominal organs should extend to.

Since the surgery Minnie has recovered well and her breathing has returned to normal. I saw her again recently for a check up and to have her stitches out and she looked wonderful. I’m so pleased for Minnie and her family that she has made an excellent recovery from what could have been quite a serious situation had she not returned home.

Cherrydown hope that she continues to improve and we look forward to seeing her again soon.

The Maisie Oliver Story

Maisie Oliver came in to us on 23rd November. Here is her story.

IMG_7177Maisie, an 18 month old cat, was brought in by her owner because she wasn’t eating very well and it was initally thought that her brother was bullying her from her food. Hayley examined her and felt a soft mass in her belly, which felt a little bit like a furball, and so gave her some katalax to help move it along, the owner would separate the two cats during feeding and she would come back in 2 weeks for a check.

Kim saw her because she still wasn’t eating and on examination, the mass had become very hard and felt approximately 20cm long and 5 cm diameter and she had lost 400g – dropping from 2.5 kg, to only 2.1kg – very underweight for her size! A scan was performed which confirmed the mass was within the small intestines and the decision was made to open her up immediately. She was very weak and there were risks associated with the surgery but without it, she would die. She was placed on a drip, given a strong pain killer and anaesthetised. On opening her abdomen, a part of the small intestine was seen to contain a foreign body and were massively distended beyond their normal size. The intestine was opened up and impacted straw, wood chip and grass was found within. It was so hard, the material would not come out as a single entity and had to be manually broken down intra-operatively. The intestines were sutured closed, the rest of the abdomen was explored but, thankfully, there were no other obstructions identified.

OrgansMaisie recovered very quickly from her surgery and wanted food within 20 minutes of waking up to make up for lost time! Danielle and Megan, our nurses on duty that day, cared for her, keeping her warm, feeding her littke and often and giving her lots of cuddles. She was able to go home next day and is doing well.

It is unusual to find this type of material in a cat and it may have occurred due to a behavioural compulsion to eat strange objects but can also be seen in cats with inflammatory bowel diseases, so with dietary modification, and the owner keeping a close watch on her, we hope she will not try to do the same thing again. Due to the nature of cats spending so much of their time outside, Maisie was never seen to have any vomiting or diarrhoea, however, these are often noted in an animal with an intestinal obstruction, in addition to weight loss and loss of appetite.

One of the pictures shows Maisie all wrapped up nice & warm in the ‘bear hugger’ recovering after her operation. The other shows her intestines and you can see how distended one is.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) – Part 2

Lola Newton – a good news story of a pup we treated in September 2013 with Parvovirus.

Her owners story by Hayley Newton…………….

I woke up on the Saturday and realised Lola wasn’t her normal self. My boyfriend was put on dog watch during the day keeping me updated on how she was. He phoned me at 1pm on the Saturday worried that she was still not herself. That is when I made the phone call to Cherrydown vets. I spoke to Sarah Lacey told her Lolas symptoms and she made the call that she needed to come in. If Sarah hadn’t of recommended Lola to come in she probably wouldn’t be here today.

lola3I came into the clinic with Lola and met Chris the vet. He was very worried about Lola as she is only a puppy and she wasn’t acting how a normal puppy should. He gave her a thorough look over and decided she needed to stay in for further tests.

At every point through the diagnostic stage I was informed by Chris. Even when Chris went on annual leave he told me that Jonathan was now going to look after Lola.

Lola was treated like a baby and everyone soon fell in love with her. It was like a roller-coaster ride one moment she was up then rapidly spiralled downhill. The one phone call I dreaded was made by Jonathan asking me what he wanted me to do with Lola as she was really poorly. He suggested that we could carry on with the treatment as she wasn’t in pain or I could end the treatment. I couldn’t give up on Lola at this stage and my boyfriend was still hopeful that she would get better. My boyfriend made the decision to carry on with the treatment and little did we know at that point that it was the right thing to do.

Joanne Barnes the new receptionist got very attached to Lola and made a fuss of her at every opportunity. The other veterinary nurses also made Lola feel important and loved. The smallest improvement that Lola made we were informed. The nurses got excited when Lola ate the smallest piece of white fish!!

The diagnosis soon came through and Lola had got parva. Where she is still so young, Jonathan, was unsure what damage may have been caused internally.

She soon became one of the Cherrydown family and when it was time for her to come home it was the best phone call that we could have got.

We would both like to say a massive thank you to all of the team at Cherrydown vets for saving our Lolas life and not giving up on her. She is now a happy little lively puppy and is doing better each day.

The Vets Story………

Lola presented to Cherrydown Vets Limited as an emergency on Saturday afternoon. Christopher Mortemore was duty vet The owners had noted that she was very quiet and off her food. Lola had not been vomiting or passing diarrhoea.

lola4Although Lola’s symptoms were vague, Chris was very concerned about her. Therefore, he admitted her for 24 hour observation and ran some initial diagnostic tests. He also put her on an IV drip as she was not eating and drinking. X-rays on Saturday evening revealed slightly a slightly gassy abdomen and Chris was concerned that this may indicate a gut obstruction, although the signs were not typical. To be on the safe side, he emailed the images to senior vet Jonathan. He was happy there was no obstruction visible on the X-rays and advised Chris that supportive care was the best way to go until further symptoms became evident.  During the initial 24 hours in hospital Lola deteriorated. She started vomiting and passing bloody diarrhoea. Faecal samples were collected but, as Lola had been fully vaccinated, parvovirus was not considered the most likely diagnosis.

Despite strong drugs to stop her vomiting, Lola continued to struggle. She was under intensive 24hour monitoring and the nurses worked tirelessly to look after her. Even though she was vomiting we had to get nutrition inside her as she was so young.So every couple of hours she was syringe fed small amounts of high energy liquid food. She was on constant IV fluids, a multitude of different drugs and regular monitoring blood tests to check her electrolyte levels. During the next two days Lola’s condition failed to improve and the prognosis became worse by the day. On Tuesday morning, the decision was taken by Jonathan to add in additional drugs that we would not usually use for puppies due to the risks but at this stage we had nothing to lose.  Later on Tuesday, the faecal results arrived and the diagnosis of Parvovirus with secondary coccidiosis was confirmed. The diagnosis surprised everyone. There was nothing additional that could be given at this stage and all everybody could do was hope and continue the intensive supportive care

Suddenly by Wednesday, Lola started to improve. Her vomiting stopped and she even started showing interest in food. Thankfully, her recovery then gathered pace and , although the prognosis was still guarded, medications could slowly be stopped. By the following weekend she was on oral medication only and was able to be discharged one week after admittance. She continues to make excellent progress especially her singing voice that she perfected on her last couple of days in hospital!

Boss and the Snake Bite Scare

Boss Wood is a lovely friendly two and a half year old Staffie. Helen Wood and her partner Max look after Boss while their son Gary is at work. Yesterday they took him out for a walk near the fishing lake at Lee Chapel Lane in Basildon. They were walking along a path near the lake with Boss off the lead when suddenly they saw an adder curled up on the path with Boss approaching it. In a split second the snake lunged at Boss but they were initially unaware that Boss had been bitten. They both had mobile phones and took photos of the snake as it disappeared off into undergrowth.


After a few minutes Boss became woozy and they realised he had been bitten. Max picked Boss up & ran a mile or so with him in his arms while Helen ran ahead and got the car. They rushed Boss into us at Cherrydown Vets where our vet Kim Woods saw him immediately. Boss was a bit wobbly and his foot was beginning to swell. Because they had pictures of the snake we were able to confirm it was an adder bite rather than an allergic reaction which can present with similar signs. Boss was put on a drip & given steroids to reduce the inflammation as well as an antihistamine injection to prevent an allergic reaction to the venom. He was also given antibiotics and pain relief to make him more comfortable. Despite this treatment the leg continued to swell above the elbow, so it was decided to give him anti-venom. Anti-venom itself can often make an animal very ill by inducing an adverse reaction so it is only used if an adder bite can be confirmed & the animal does not respond to the initial treatment.

Boss responded well and after staying with us overnight he was sent home on antibiotics. We will however need to see him regularly over the next few days as adder bites can cause tissue necrosis (cell death) in the immediate area surrounding the bite, which may require further antibiotics.

Because Boss was brought in to us so quickly it will reduce the chance of any long term effects from the bite. Adder bites are painful, often cause swelling but in rare instances if left untreated, can result in clotting defects, kidney failure and even death. With the start of the warmer weather dog walkers need to keep an eye out for snakes in the undergrowth or basking on paths. We usually see a few dogs each year that are bitten by snakes and we have a blog on our website for further information and advice

What to do if your dog is bitten by a snake – Click HERE

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Jasper Hodgett’s Story

On the 2nd April 2013 Jasper Hodgetts was in a road traffic accident while his owners were away.  He was bought into us and we were able to identify him by his microchip which meant we were able to contact the owner straight away and let them know what had happened.  Jasper was treated by our vet Hayley Giles and this is what she had to say:

“Jasper was brought in to me after being found huddled in a hedge in Billericay by a passer-by. At presentation he was in shock with a swollen jaw and his breathing and heart rate were very elevated. We immediately stabilised him with fluid and oxygen therapy and administered pain relief. We scanned him and luckily he had a microchip which enabled us to contact his owners without delay. After a little while we took a catogram – an xray of the entire body to highlight any injuries. It was clear to see that he was suffering from a mild pneumothorax, a collection of air outside of the lung tissue which, if it accumulates to a large amount, can prevent the lungs from being able to expand and contract for normal breathing. This however was a very mild pneumothorax that would resolve with cage rest over a few days. Jasper’s left hip was also luxated, meaning the ball of the hip joint was not sitting nicely in the cup joint. This required surgical correction which was carried out a few days after when Jasper was feeling much better. Luckily Jasper’s swollen jaw was not due to any fractures or dislocations; he had however fractured one of his teeth. Jasper has made a brilliant recovery from his injuries and I and all the staff at Cherrydown are pleased to hear how well he is doing at home” 

Since the treatment we have heard Jasper is recovering well and his owner, Emma Hodgetts, has been kind enough to tell us her side of the story:

“Two years ago my friends cat had kittens, 2 ginger toms, 1 long haired and 1 short haired- Jasper and Ralph, I decided to have both. I brought them home at 12 weeks, registered them with a vet and got them insured. At 6 months old I got both the cats micro-chipped and neutered, both cats go out regularly especially during the summer when they enjoy playing in the garden and sleeping in the sun.

On Easter Monday I got home from a long day at work to a voice-mail saying that Jasper had been taken to Cherrydown after being run over by a car and was receiving treatment. I called straight away and the nurse who took my call explained the situation, current treatment, what was going to happen over the coming days, she was able to reassure me while being honest about what to expect when I visited the next day.

I was upset to see Jasper looking how he did but the nurse had prepared me well and it was obvious he was in good hands. All the staff were exceptional in their care not only of Jasper but of myself whilst I was there. Everything that was going to happen over the coming days was clearly explained, as well as what would happen depending on the outcome of the investigations.

Staff made visiting as easy as possible offering flexible visiting when needed as well as showing kindness, compassion and an obvious love for the animals in their care, I was happy to leave Jasper there knowing he was in the best possible hands.

Thankfully Jasper is micro-chipped meaning I was contacted soon after the incident, and being insured the whole process was made even easier by the direct insurance scheme which meant the cost of insurance will be collected directly from the insurance company, meaning I could concentrate on Jasper’s recovery rather than worry about covering the cost of treatment. After spending 8 days at Cherrydown Jasper is now at home and recovering well.” 

It’s not often we get the chance to hear both sides of story, but it does show the importance of getting your pet micro-chipped and insured.  Also, with our Direct Insurance service, a lot of stress was taken off Emma so she could concentrate on Jasper.  If you would like more information on Direct Insurance please click HERE to visit our website or call us at the clinic on 01268 533 636

Below are a couple of pictures of Jasper looking a lot better after his ordeal.  We would like to thank our vet, Hayley, and Emma for telling their story.

If you have a story about your pet and your experience at Cherrydown and you would like to share it, please send it to and it might be published on the website and shared on Facebook