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Pet Watch.

Tens of thousands of pets are killed and injured each year as a result of airgun pellet injuries. It is estimated there are about four million low-powered air weapons that fall outside the licensing system for firearms, says PDSA, the UK's leading veterinary charity. It is urging pet owners across the country to be watchful and report any cases of airgun injuries to the local police, the Press and local vets to help raise awareness of the risk and hopefully save lives.

Cats have a higher chance of being shot than any other type of pet, probably due to their roaming nature, which unfortunately makes them easy targets, but dogs can also be victims.

An airgun pellet injury is very different from a bullet wound. The wounds inflicted depend on the amount of energy that is transferred from the airgun pellet to the body tissue.

As airgun pellets are slow-moving and small, they have less energy to transfer. This means there is less likelihood of the bones shattering if a pet is hit but this doesn't make them any less deadly than a bullet. As cats are relatively small compared with dogs, they have less tissue to soak up this energy and the internal damage is usually greater.

Owners often have no knowledge that their cat or dog has been shot as the wound will be hidden in the fur. Some airgun pellet injuries cause little harm and are sometimes only found when the pet is being X-rayed for another problem. Sometimes owners confuse the wound with a bite from another cat (which is a much more common injury).

An airgun pellet wound will have a distinctive hole with a reddened or burned edge and will be perfectly circular, about 1mm to 2mm across. The airgun pellet will almost certainly have dragged the cat's fur in with it ( often if you look carefully small tufts of hair are visible poking out through the penetrating wound. It is especially dangerous if the injury is to the abdomen, as this can lead to peritonitis because the pellet will probably have dragged in heavy contamination from the pet's fur and the surrounding area.

It is worth checking your pet over regularly for any injuries. The best time to do this is when you are grooming them. If you do suspect your cat or dog has been shot, always contact your vet as soon as possible for advice and treatment.

NFounded in 1917, PDSA is the UK's leading veterinary charity, providing free veterinary care to the sick and injured pets of those unable to afford private veterinary fees, through a network of 42 PetAid hospitals, four PetAid branches and some 311 associated private practices (known as PetAid practices).

PDSA PetAid hospitals provide more than 1.2 million free treatments each year, equivalent to more than 4,650 sick and injured pets being treated by PDSA vets and nurses every working day.

This year, PDSA PetAid services will cost more than pounds 35m. They are funded entirely by public support, mainly through donations and gifts in wills.

To be eligible for free PDSA treatment, a pet owner must live within the designated postcode area of a PetAid hospital, PetAid branch or PetAid practice and be in receipt of either housing benefit or council tax benefit.

More information on PDSA PetAid services is available by calling freephone 0800 731 2502.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 4, 2005
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