Bull Mastiffs

The Bull Mastiff is a big, strong, intelligent dog that was originally bred from an English Mastiff and an Old English Bulldog in the 19th Century. Gamekeepers used them on large estates to help keep them free of poachers.

Even though Bull Mastiffs are big dogs they are sensitive, loving and can make good family pets because they are very loyal and protective.  They are great with children and will watch over them as well as being an excellent guardian of the home.  Bull Mastiffs are generally quiet and rarely bark, however, if they sense a possible threat they will make a lot of noise and will raise the alarm.  They are very territorial so will make natural guard dogs and they will protect you with their life.

When you read about Bull Mastiffs they sound wonderful. They are laid back, unless there is danger, faithful, eager to please, fearless and have unconditional love for people. However, there is one BIG messy downside………………SLOBBER!

These dogs are well known for their drool and slobber so you will need to have an old towel or rag in every room of the house. Also, have a few spare ones near the front door so you can give them to visitors who enter your home.  They do not discriminate when it comes to sharing the slobber.

Due to their size and stubborn nature, Bull Mastiffs need training from early on before they get too big. They need to be trained not to pull on the lead.  Also, it is good to socialise it with other dogs at an early age so it develops into a reliable and well behaved dog.

bull mastiff dog

Health Issues

As with most dogs there are certain types of hereditary problems associated with this breed such as Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Entropion, Hypothyroidism, Lymphoma Cancer, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Arthritis and Bloat.

For more information on some of these issues we have other blogs on our website and also our health advice pages. The links are below.  Also, as well as our main Facebook page we have a sister page which relates to our Orthopaedic Services and covers issues such as Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia.  Click here and it will take you directly to the page. Please click the “like” button so you can keep up to date with information about the subject.

If you have any questions about this please give us a call at the clinic where someone will be able to help you. Alternatively, you can leave a question on our Facebook page

Blog Links

Hyp Dysplasia Part 1 – Click HERE

Hyp Dysplasia Part 2 – Click HERE

Elbow Dysplasia – Click HERE

Cruciate Ligament Rupture – Click HERE

Arthritis – Click HERE

Bloat – Click HERE

Dogs and Car Travel

If you own a dog then you may, at some point, have to put him/her in a car. Whether it’s a trip to the vets or a longer journey there are several things to consider when it comes to the safety and comfort of your best friend.

Harnesses, Guards and Crates

We wear seatbelts and we make sure our kids are safely secured too. The same should apply to your dog.  They might be well behaved and sit quietly on the back seat. However, if you need to brake suddenly or if you bump your car, they could be thrown forward and get injured.  In a more serious bumb they could become a missile that will shoot forward and injure any of the people in the front of the car.

When deciding how to secure your dog, there are several choices available:

Dog Guard – This is a mesh which can be fitted between the boot and the back seat. This stops the dog from climbing over the seats. However, it doesn’t offer as much protection as your dog will not be protected from impact with the rear or side windows.  They need to be sturdy and properly secured in place to be effective as protection in case of accidents.

Crate – If you are going to put your dog in a crate you need to ensure, firstly, your car is big enough to hold it and secondly, the crate is big enough for your dog.  You need to make sure your dog is able to stand at full height and there is room for them to turn around and lie down in a normal position.  Make sure the dog can see out of the container and there is enough ventilation.  Also, by adding bedding to the crate it will help prevent the dog from slipping around.

Harness – If your dog is too big for a crate or you would prefer another option, then it’s worth considering a padded car harness that secures your dog by linking in with the seat belt system. Make sure to measure your dog to make sure you get the right size.  We have read these are not entirely safe as the straps can dig into the dog’s skin during an accident.

By choosing one of these options, it will ensure your pet has a safer journey. However, there are still other things to consider if you are going on a long journey:

Before putting the dog into the car, make sure they have exercised beforehand. This will help them settle as they will have burned off some excess energy.

Some dogs get motion sickness/car sick. If you know you are going on a long journey, don’t feed them before you travel. Leave it a couple of hours. Also, don’t give them food whilst travelling.  Keep them calm and give them a new toy to play with so it takes their mind off being in the car. If this is a problem then we do have medications that can assist with travel sickness and ease their stress.

Make sure you have plenty of water and take regular stops so your dog can stretch its legs.

Don’t let your dog stick its head out of the window.  It could result in injury. We have had dogs at the clinic that have done this and have had particles or small stones flicked up by tyres  that shoot into their eyes.  Also, some dogs may try to jump out.

Very Importantly, do not leave your dog in the car, especially on a hot day.  Whilst in the car, ensure the dog is not in direct sunlight.  Leaving a window open a crack is not sufficient as the inside of the car can get very hot and every year dogs die unnecessarily because they have overheated in cars.

These are a few hints and tips which we hope you will find useful. If you want more information, please call us at the clinic or leave a message on our Facebook page and someone will get back to you.

A close call at Christmas

One of the joys of having a dog is their playfulness. When they are happy and bounding around it cannot fail to put a smile on your face. However there are rare occasions where their exuberance can result with an injury.

Just before Christmas we had had an incident where a dog was bought in with a Christmas decoration lodged in its eye.  We spoke to owner to find out what happened.

Ruby 4


My wife and I were preparing for Christmas by getting all of the decorations from storage in the garage. Our chocolate Labrador, Ruby (always inquisitive), also joined us in the garage. However, she just got in the way. We shooed her out but unfortunately she knocked against a crate holding decorations and a branch type decoration that had eye loops at the end caught her on the head as she was moving out and the end lodged into her left eye socket. She darted away yelping loudly through my wife’s legs and the free end of the decoration caught in her trousers causing the decoration to become firmly hooked into Ruby’s eye lid. I then grabbed Ruby securely holding her to prevent her paws from aggravating the injury, whilst my wife unhooked the decoration from her trousers. My wife ran to get the pliers from my tool box in the kitchen. I cut the decoration to remove the majority of it. We were unable to remove the wire that was firmly fixed in Ruby’s eye lid. We then got ourselves ready and departed to the vets.

Ruby 2When Ruby was bought in Kim Woods, the duty vet, could see the 2 inch piece of metal poking out from the dog’s eye. Kim quickly realised it was hooked under her upper eyelid. As Ruby was quite distressed she was sedated and Kim had to cut the metal piece further as it was so curved and manoeuvring it further would have risked damage to the eye. Kim managed to get the piece of metal out but it left a hole in the conjunctiva, however, this healed well with the aid of antibiotics and pain relief. Luckily and almost unbelievably the eye itself was undamaged and there should be no permanent effects from this close call.



Ruby 3Ruby 5Over Christmas and New Year we have had to deal with many different types of pet injuries. They have been bought in to us inside and outside of normal working hours. Luckily, as we offer a true 24 hour service, our own vets and in-house nurses have been able to help no matter what time of day or night it has been. We think this is an important service as the pets and owners deal with people they know and trust.  Remember, if you and your pet need us we will be here for you 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Breed related diseases in Dogs – Labrador

Breed related diseases in Dogs.

Welcome to our new series of blogs on breed related disease in pedigree dogs. Unfortunately, certain pedigree dogs are prone to certain diseases. We thought these guides would be helpful for people who own the breeds so that they can be more aware of some of the diseases their pet may suffer from and will be able to pick up the symptoms of disease more rapidly. We also thought they would be useful for people thinking of buying a specific breed so that they can be aware of some of the problems that may exist.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all the diseases that each breed can get- just the more common ones that we see regularly.

So, to start with, let’s look at the Labrador Retriever:

  • Allergic skin disease including Atopy and Food allergies
  • Hip dysplasia (animals used for breeding should be screened for)
  • Elbow dysplasia (animals used for breeding should be screened for)
  • OCD of hock and shoulder
  • Cruciate ligament rupture
  • Lipomas
  • Entropion
  • Cataracts
  • Congenital eye defects such as Generalise progressive retinal atrophy (animals used for breeding should be screened)
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Ectopic ureters

If you have any questions about any of the above, please feel free to contact the staff to discuss them.

The Vets Says – Dry Eye


The medical term for Dry Eye is Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, usually abbreviated to KCS and is where insufficient tears are produced leaving the eye drier than is usual. It is also seen in cats, but is more common in dogs. Imagine getting grit in your eye & not having tears to help wash it away. Tears are not just water, but are actually quite complex in structure, and serve several functions.  They lubricate and flush the eye, provide nutrition and oxygen to the cornea, and also have a role in preventing bacterial infections of the eye.

Any dogs can be affected, but these breeds are generally more susceptible to it – Collies, Labradors, Bulldogs, Yorkies, Jack Russells, Westies, Lhasa Apso, Shi Tzu, Cocker & KKC Spaniels. We particularly see the problem in Westies.


Conjunctivitis & inflammation of the inner eyelids are the earliest symptoms. Although conjunctivitis tends to respond to antibiotic drips, the Dry Eye will usually reappear after that course of treatment ends. Mucous threads can appear on the surface of the eye or build up around the lower eyelid.
If left untreated the condition can lead inflammation of the cornea or front of the eye. At this point the eye will lose its shine and anything reflected in the eye will appear indistinct. The dog may feel discomfort & rub the eye with corneal ulcers often appearing. Over time, the cornea becomes scarred and pigmented and eventually lead to reduced vision or blindness – both of which are irreversible.


The commonest cause is a fault of the dogs immune system where it identifies the dogs own tear glands as foreign, and attempts to destroy them. This results in tear production being reduced or lost altogether.
Some dogs are born with defective tear glands. Viral infections such as Canine Distemper or Feline Herpesvirus can lead to Dry Eye or a hormone imbalance from an underactive thyroid gland.


There is a specific test for Dry Eye called the ‘Schirmer Tear Test’ and involves placing a strip of paper between the lower eyelid and the eyeball  for 1 minute and seeing how far a tear travels. Movement of more than 15mm is normal and under 10mm is abnormal.


There is currently no cure for Dry Eye, but it is a condition that can be effectively managed with medication or through the use of artificial tears used to wet the eye.

The medication used is Cyclosporine which is available in an ointment called Optimune. The ointment is usually applied twice daily & acts to prevent the immune system from destroying the tear glands. Where the condition is in an advanced stage & the tear glands have already been destroyed, this treatment is ineffective. In less severe cases though, a one month course of treatment is usually sufficient to increase tear production.

Artificial tears are slightly viscous drops that wet the eye and have to be applied at least once every two hours to be effective. Although cheaper, they require much greater involvement of the owner, which is not always possible with people’s busy schedules.

Surgical treatment can also be undertaken where the output of the salivary glands is moved to the eye. This surgery requires a specialist eye surgeon, is expensive and also has its own problems. As a result it is usually only ever a last resort after other treatment options have failed.


The outlook for the dog is dependant on the underlying cause and how long the dog has been affected. It is therefore important that owners check their dogs eyes on a regular basis and get them checked by a vet if they notice any mucus threads or apparent signs of conjunctivitis.

The Vets Says – Elbow Dysplasia


Elbow dysplasia is another developmental problem some dogs can be prone to. German Shepherds, Labrador Retreivers,Rottweilers and Bassett Hounds are some of the breeds we see most commonly with this condition.

Normal Elbow Anatomy
The elbow joint is formed where the 3 long bones of the foreleg meet; namely the humerus (runs from shoulder to elbow) and radius and ulna (run from elbow to carpus or wrist). All bone ends are covered in smooth articular cartilage and the joint is surrounded by a tough joint capsule. The synovial membrane lines the joint and produces the lubricating synovial fluid.
The ulna has a number of bony prominences on it.These include the anconeal process and the coronoid process.

Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal development of the elbow joint. Elbow dysplasia is a group of diseases that include osteochondrosis, fragmented coronoid process (FCP) and united anconeal process(UAP). Basically, some of the normal bony prominences that develop in the elbow are diseased.  There is strong evidence of a hereditary component in the German Shepherd dog and FCP and UAP are particularly common. As with hip dysplasia Xrays of potential breeding stock is recommended to screen for the disease. This appears to be done very infrequently despite the fact that like hip dysplasia mildly affected dogs can appear normal most of the time.

Dogs with elbow dysplasia show signs of front leg lameness. This may be in one or both legs as the disease often affects both elbows. Often there are signs of stiffness after rest. The lameness often gets worse with exercise. Often a relatively minor trauma to the elbow can flare up clinical signs.

On examination the vet may feel thickening of the elbow joints and pain on movement. Assessment of foreleg lameness can be very difficult if both legs are affected.
Xrays are the next step. They usually need to be done under general anaesthetic as perfectly positioned xrays are needed to recognise characteristic changes that are often very subtle.
Even then, a definite diagnosis may not be possible from xrays. Often the only changes visible are those caused by arthritis that usually occurs in dysplastic elbows very early on in the disease. Immature dogs with evidence of elbow arthritis often have elbow dysplasia.
Sometimes arthroscopy (looking directly into the joint with a special piece of equipment) is needed to diagnose elbow dysplasia. With this equipment the cartilage surfaces and bony prominences can be directly viewed.

The major part of the decision making process in treating elbow dysplasia is whether to operate or not. Due to the abnormal development of the joint and so abnormal forces going through the bones osteoarthritis is an envitable sequel to elbow dysplasia. The decision is whether osteoarthritic change will happen faster with or without surgery.
Medical treatment is aimed at managing the secondary osteoarthritis.Often surgery is needed. Surgical removal of diseased bone and cartilage usually results in improvement in the lameness. This may be done via the arthroscope or by opening the joint up surgically. Arthroscopy (sometimes called keyhole surgery) is less traumatic than opening the joint up completely but it is more difficult to view all the areas of concern. Ultimately it is the surgeon’s choice.

Despite surgery, arthritis will tend to continue and ongoing medical treatment is likely.

Elbow dysplasia is a common and serious disease affecting many dogs. Radiographic screening programmes are becoming more widely available to detect affected dogs. Dogs affected with elbow dysplasia should not be bred from.


An In-Depth Look at Arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)

Arthritis strictly means inflammation of the joint and there are many possible causes of this. When we talk about arthritis we are usually talking about a specific type of arthritis called degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis.

DJD is the commonest joint disease seen in many different breeds of dogs and cats and is often a major reason for euthanasia. DJD affects the movable synovial joints such as the elbow and hip joints. Synovial joints are formed where the ends of two bones meet. The ends of the bones are covered in very smooth ARTICULAR CARTILAGE. The SYNOVIAL MEMBRANE lines the inside of the joint capsule and produces SYNOVIAL FLUID which lubricates the joint. The tough JOINT CAPSULE covers the outside of the joint. Articular Cartilage is made up of :

  • water
  • cartilage cells called chondrocytes
  • the matrix ( material that fills the gaps between the cells). This is made of collagen fibres and a ground substance rich in substances called proteoglycans such as chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, keratin sulphates and glycosaminoglycans. Articular cartilage is translucent and glass-like to the naked eye.


  1. The main biochemical change that occurs in cartilage when DJD is present is loss of proteoglycans. This is due to the proteoglycans in the cartilage matrix being broken down by enzymes. It is unclear whether these enzymes are produced by the chondrocytes within the cartilage or come from outside the joint. The major role of articular cartilage is to provide a smooth, friction free movement between the bone ends. Due to this proteoglycan loss the cartilage loses the ability to do this. Furthermore, the cartilage becomes eroded away because it loses its normal structure.
  2. Synovial fluid production reduces further reducing joint lubrication.
  3. New bone forms around the joint. These are called osteophytes.
  4. Synovial membrane is sometimes inflamed (called synovitis)
  5. Surrounding joint capsule becomes thickened (fibrosis)
  6. Bone ends underneath the cartilage becomes thickened (sclerosis)

Causes of DJD

1.Primary DJD is a disorder of ageing. Cartilage degeneration occurs but the cause is unknown. 2.Secondary DJD much more common in animals. Secondary DJD occurs as a result of a number of problems including: -abnormal loading of the joint due to the joint not developing properly eg hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia -due to instability in the joints e.g cruciate ligament rupture -as a result of infections or immune mediated damage to the joint -due to joint fractures

Clinical Signs of DJD

Clinical signs vary depending on the severity of the DJD and the number of joints affected. Stiffness (especially after rest) and reduced activity are very common. These signs are often attributed to getting old and as a result treatment is often not given. Animals who are stiff and lame are in pain even though they rarely cry out or complain. Affected animals may be lame on one or a number of legs depending on how many joints are affected.


Examination by the veterinarian may reveal pain, crepitus (clicking or crunching), swollen joints. Xrays are the best way to diagnose DJD and there are a number of characteristic findings. As secondary DJD is most common it is important to look for underlying reasons for the DJD e.g hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia etc. Xray changes and clinical signs sometimes do not always agree e.g changes may be mild on an Xray but the dog may be very lame and vice versa. Treatment is based on clinical signs rather than Xray changes.


DJD is usually progressive regardless of treatment. Identifying an underlying cause e.g FCP in the elbow may mean that surgery is required to deal with the initiating cause. Most cases of DJD are treated as follows:

  1. Weight control. The importance of this can not be over emphasised. Many dogs and cats are overweight and even a small amount of extra weight can make a major difference to the forces put on the joints e.g during the movement of going from sit to standing a force that is nine times your pets weight is loaded throughout each knee. Therefore, if your pet is 5kg overweight there is an additional 35kg on each knee just when standing up !!. Furthermore, obesity is now recognised as an inflammatory condition. Obese animals have higher levels of inflammatory products in their blood stream and these may aggravate the DJD.
  2. Exercise Put simply, too much exercise is as bad as not enough. Excessive exercise will cause pain and lameness in dogs with DJD. This may manifest itself as lameness during exercise or, more often,  as stiffness after rest after exercise. Little and often gentle exercise is much better than long walks irregularly. On the other hand , too little exercise means that joint mobility and muscle tone is adversely affected. Swimming, especially controlled hydrotherapy, is an excellent exercise for dogs with DJD. Also, physiotherapy can be hugely beneficial
  3. Drugs a)    NSAIDs. The cornerstone of DJD treatment is Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). They have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killing) effects. All NSAIDs have the potential to cause side effects in some animals. These include: –       Gastro-intestinal side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea can occur. More seriously ulceration of the gastro-intestinal tract can occur. This causes vomit with blood in it, black tar like faeces (malaena), and can be fatal if left untreated. –       Exacerbation of degradation of the articular cartilage by increasing cartilage breakdown or by reducing glycosaminoglycan synthesis. Thus, the drug that is most commonly used for treating DJD has been shown to speed up the progress and deterioration of the disease. –       Kidney toxicity. Nsaids can be damaging to kidneys especially where there is existing kidney disease or when there is risk of low blood pressure such as dehydration, heart disease, general anaesthetic –       Affect blood clotting –       Liver toxicity especially if there is pre-existing liver disease. Occasionally bizarre liver reactions occur. Therefore, as with all drugs they must be used carefully and under strict veterinary supervision. Despite these potential side effects thousands of  dogs and cats are safely treated with NSAIDS. b)    Steroids. Steroids will help to reduce joint inflammation but have many side effects making them generally unsuitable for treating DJD c)    Surgical treatment to correct underlying problems. Also joint replacements such as hip replacements. d)    Polysulphated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAG). This is a compound that is used to try and reduce cartilage degeneration in the the joint i.e it slows down the progress of DJD. PSGAG is administered via an injection. The proposed way that it works is by inhibiting the enzymes that breakdown the cartilage and stimulating the production of lubricant in the joint. There have been a number of laboratory studies showing the effect of PSGAG on reducing the activity of the degrading enzymes. There is nota huge amount of clinical trial data to prove the efficacy of PSGAGs but clinical experience suggests that there is a benefit in certain individuals. Dogs that have cancer should not be treated with PSGAGS because it can cause bleeding in such dogs. e)    Nutraceuticals include chondroitin, glucosamine, and magnesium ascorbate. The theory behind using these products is that they provide precursors for the repair of damaged articular cartilage or at least slowdown the degeneration of the cartilage. There is anecdotal evidence they work but no high quality clinical trial data. They have very few reported side effects but they may not have any effect at all! Also, because they are not highly regulated the purity and composition of some of these products cannot be verified. f)      Fatty acids may reduce inflammation in DJD by reducing the production of a substance called prostaglandins. Long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid seem to be effective. g)    Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E may also have beneficial effects in DJD. Again clinical data in dogs is scarce but there are possible benefits demonstrated in mice experimentally.

The Vet Says…Curiosity killed the dog: Lungworm – know the facts

Unlike most worms that dogs can become infected with in the UK, lungworm is potentially fatal. Lungworm is on the increase in dogs in the UK, it has spread over large areas over the UK, including Essex. We believe this may be due to increases in the urban fox population and increases in the slug and snail population due to climate change.

It was initially thought that lungworm was only caught by dogs that actively ate slugs and snails, now there is evidence that it can be caught by dogs eating grass where slugs and snails have been.

Please be aware that very few wormers available in the UK have any effects against lungworm. Please check with a member of staff that the wormer you are currently using is effective against lungworm and will protect your dog against this growing threat.

If you’re concerned that your dog is not protected against this threat please call us for further information on 01268 533636 or visit our website www.cherrydownvets.co.uk

“The Vet Says….” Fly Strike in Rabbits Part 3

This is part 3 of our The Vet Says series on fly strike in rabbits – you can read part 1 here and part 2 here. The wrong diet can increase the risk of your rabbit suffering from fly strike in a number of ways. If they are fed too much food they will become obese which means they will not be able to groom themselves properly. Also, the wrong diet greatly increases the risk of them developing dental disease which again can lead to failure to groom and a soiled perineum. Finally, simply overfeeding can result in rabbits not performing caecotrophy and getting a soiled back end. As well as fly strike, many of the problems we see in rabbits every day is caused by poor diet. So what constitutes a good diet for your rabbit? Remember that domestic rabbits are no different from wild rabbits in terms of their digestive system, so mimicking a wild rabbits diet is a good place to start. The most important component of their diet needs to be hay. Rabbits in the wild are grazers and only eat grass and other plants. They are designed to eat lots of low quality, high fibre food. This is vital for the health of their digestive system and helps to wear down their teeth, that grow continuously throughout their life. You should feed your rabbit at least its own body size in hay each day. They also can eat grass but must never be fed lawnmower clippings as these can make them ill. Secondly, you should feed your rabbit fresh vegetables. A handful morning and evening is about the right amount. In the wild, rabbits do not eat fruit or root vegetables. Green vegetables are the best to feed such as broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, kale, celery leaves, parsley, spinach. Despite the common idea that rabbits should eat carrots, they are high in sugar and should only be fed sparingly. The green carrot tops are ideal though. There are some plants that are very dangerous to your rabbit and must be avoided. These include: Amaryllis, Bindweed, Bracken, Elder Poppies, Foxglove, Laburnum, Yew, Lily-of-the-Valley, Lupin, Most evergreens, Oak leaves, Privet, Ragwort, Rhubarb leaves. If in any doubt ask your vet. Finally, you can feed some commercial rabbit food. What are the different types of commercial rabbit food you can feed? Find out next time!