People with unusual face coverings.

What if my dog gets scared of face masks?


Life has changed dramatically both on a global scale and in our day to day lives over the past 3 months. Our pet’s lives have changed too. Many dogs are getting more exercise, health concerns previously unnoticed are being identified by pet parents, and our cats, well they just want their house back and you out of it. The increased exercise and focus on medical health is wonderful for our pet’s emotional health, but there is one change our fuzzy family may struggle to understand and that is the face mask.

The wearing of masks is a new normal. If we humans are still getting used to the appearance of the face mask in public, what do our pets thinks? Anything visually new or distracting can incite fear in our dog, cat, horse, pet bird, or other animal we socially interact with frequently.

Dogs may exhibit postures of fear, vocalize, move away, cower, or even growl. Cats may startle, run, vocalize, or hide. Our beloved pets’ level of confidence and security is in part linked to daily ritual. Changes in environment, caregiver, and appearance can be scary. We can help your pet adjust to that change and diminish the nervous behavior that a mask may cause.

For dogs, we want to start by showing your dog a mask and offering a treat reward. You can hold it up to your face then back to your lap while offering that favorite treat. If your pet exhibits nervous behavior, then slow the process down or even stop the training session. Eventually you want to be able to hold the mask to your face and remove it repeatedly. Follow this step until you are wearing a mask while petting your dog, with the goal of moving around your home and outdoors all while your pet is cool, calm, and collected.  Talking to them during this process can help reassure them that they still know you, even with the mask on.

Once your dog is used to this you can hit the streets. On walks have treats ready and your basic sit-stay training on point. If your pet is exhibiting nervous behavior when you encounter a mask wearer, put him or her in a sit, distract with a preferred treat, and allow that person to pass you. If possible, cross the street yourself before the sit and wait. Then with an energetic “good dog” proceed on your walk. This is the basic training tenant of all things that are big and scary for dogs.

For cats that may be more aggressively or fearfully reactive the training is similar. With cats, it may be more useful to start by wearing the mask. Periodically leave a high value treat near your cat while continuing your normal home routine. Let your cat investigate you. Do not force social interaction on your pet. Again, talking during this time will help the cat remember that it is still you under the new mask.

These are the very basic principles of desensitizing your pet to a visual stimulus. For a more thorough behavior plan contact us!


Christmas dangers for our pets

Christmas is a magical time but also a time that we need to be a little bit more alert to the dangers that the holiday can bring to our pets.


With households often full of chocolate (and food containing it) throughout the Christmas period, it is important to keep these out of reach of pets. Even if it is wrapped and under a tree, dogs can sniff them out and will gladly help themselves. Chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine which can cause seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities.

Christmas pudding, cake and mince pies

Raisins, sultanas and grapes are key ingredients to many favourite Christmas treats and these can also be deadly if eaten by dogs. Sultanas, raisins, and grapes can cause acute kidney injury, which can lead to kidney failure, if eaten by our four legged friends. As well as Christmas puddings, fruitcakes and mince pies, panettones and trifles are a Christmas-time canine risk.


With nut consumption peaking at Christmas times, there are associated risks for pets. The nuts and shells can be a choking hazard and can also cause intestinal problems. Macadamia nuts present an additional risk to dogs as ingestion has been associated with vomiting and weakness.


Bones from meat, poultry or fish present a dangerous threat to pets. Cooked bones are brittle and therefore can splinter when chewed. This can lead to the digestive tract being pierced or an obstruction. As well as not feeding scraps with cooked bones in, ensure pets do not tear open bin bags or scavenge bones from bins.


Sugar substitute sweeteners are not only used in tea and coffee but also in many tasty treats, such as cakes, biscuits, mints, jam and peanut butter. Most are non-toxic to pets but xylitol is one that is commonly used which can be life-threatening to dogs. Affected dogs present with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) and this can loss of coordination, collapse and seizures within half an hour of consumption. Liver failure can follow.

Onion (including gravy)

Onions and products containing onions, such as gravy and stuffing, can cause gastrointestinal upset and lead to red blood cell damage and anaemia in cats and dogs. The related vegetables leeks, garlic and spring onions can also have the same effects.

Rock salt (grit)

The substance used to de-ice roads and pavements commonly called grit contains sodium chloride (salt), which can be hazardous to pets. If dogs and cats get it on their paws or fur their inclination will be to lick or chew it off, but this poses a risk. Ingestion of salt by pets can result in a high blood sodium concentration and this can lead to vomiting, lethargy, convulsions and kidney damage. If your pet has been walking on grit, then it is a good idea to wipe their feet and clean any exposed fur (such as on their legs or tummy). Dogs might also consume it by drinking puddles of melted snow.

Tinsel and ribbons

Given the chance, cats and kittens will play with ribbons used to wrap presents. These can be swallowed and become entangled in the cat’s intestines, causing life-threatening blockages. Playing with tinsel can cause the same problems in cats and other animals, including ferrets.

Christmas trees, baubles and fairy lights

Many cats and kittens will feel compelled to climb Christmas trees, endangering themselves. It is advisable to ensure trees are securely based so that they are less likely to be felled by a curious cat. Limiting access to rooms containing a tree when unsupervised is a good idea. Pet ingestion of pine needles can cause stomach upsets and intestinal problems.

Baubles are of particular fascination to cats. Glass baubles can shatter, creating sharp shards dangerous to animals and children. Dogs have been known to chew baubles and other decorations. This can lead to lacerations in the mouth or intestinal blockages.

Fairy lights pose the possibility of pets getting tangled up in wires, which can cause an animal to panic and injure themselves. If swallowed, bulbs can pose threats to pets.

Edible decorations are always going to be of interest to pets, and even placing them out of their eye-line won’t stop them from investigating further.

Other plants

Some plants brought into the house at Christmas, including holly, ivy and mistletoe, can be toxic to pets and lead to vomiting. If you do have them around the house it is best to keep them out of reach.


A dog might take an interest in a toy long after a child has discarded it. Small parts can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockages and larger toys may be chewed up and lead to the same problem, as well as mouth lacerations. Keep an eye on where children leave new toys and put them out of reach from pets. Puppies and younger dogs are far more prone to eat first and ask questions later, even if it is not food.


With lots of new toys and gadgets around, there are likely to be more batteries around the home than normally. If chewed and swallowed they can cause an obstruction, chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. Even small coin-shaped disc batteries are a threat to dogs as they can damage the oesophagus.

If you think your pet has ingested any of the things mentioned above, contact your local vet immediately.


Dark Chocolate.

Chocolate and my dog

Christmas is on the horizon and chocolate will be in abundance! But what should we do if the worst happens and your dog manages to eat some? How can we be prepared for this if it happens?

What does chocolate do to dogs?

Chocolate contains Theobromine. Humans can break down Theobromine easily as we have the correct enzyme, but our dogs can’t. This means it builds up to dangerous levels in the blood.

Theobromine acts like caffeine, so essentially dogs who eat chocolate have a massive caffeine overdose. Mild toxicity includes vomiting/diarrhoea, tremors and high heart rates. Large doses ingested can result in seizures, heart arrhythmias and even death.

My dog has eaten chocolate, what now?

  1. Check if the dose was toxic

Dogs can have a small amount of chocolate and still be fine, but it depends on the type of chocolate and the size of your dog. Contact your vet with this information and they will be able to advise you.

  1. Get help where it is needed

Depending on the level of toxicity, you will need to act differently:

No treatment necessary

  • If the dose of Theobromine ingested is less than 20mg/kg, your vet can help you work this out.
  • The amount ingested by your dog is not enough to cause any major concerns.
  • If we want to be extra safe then giving activated charcoal (Carbodote) will bind any chocolate already in the stomach/intestines rendering it harmless. It can be mixed into food, or syringed into the mouth.

Emergency treatment advised

  • If the dose of Theobromine ingested by your dog is greater than 20mg/kg, your vet can help you work this out
  • The amount ingested could be potentially toxic. It is important you contact your local vet immediately and get your dog seen.
  • They will likely give an injection to cause your dog to vomit up any chocolate that is still in the stomach. They likely will also recommend activated charcoal to be used after this (Carbodote). In severe cases, your dog may be hospitalised.

We hope this information is helpful. Remember it is always safest to contact your vet if you are concerned in any way about your pet. They can give you the most tailored advice for your individual dog.


Veterinary Receptionists

Anyone who has ever worked in a Veterinary practice will testify that Veterinary receptionists are the glue that holds the practice together. They are the first voice a client hears, they are also the first face the client see’s as they walk through the door. That contact could be for a number of reasons and Veterinary receptionists are so versatile and provide the first line of care and comfort for all kinds of situations. Be it a very serious emergency and comforting a client who is understandably hysteric, to welcoming a puppy or kitten into the practice with cuddles.

We shout from the rooftops about how incredible our receptionists are and we get so much good feedback from our clients. So, what do veterinary receptionists do? We welcome you into the rewarding world of the Veterinary receptionist and give you an insight into a typical day! (Please note – we made this news article before Covid-19, our practices are currently not allowing clients into the building)

I started my shift at 8am and prioritised having the kettle boiled for the rest of the staff coming in! Next, I have to make sure our till is correct and the reception area is tidy for the first appointment at 8.30am. I then go through to see if the nursing team need any help with our medication order, or if I can set the consulting room ready for the Veterinary Surgeon. Once everything is ready to go, we open the door to the first client and welcome their pet into the practice!

By 9am, I have taken 25 phone calls which included a query on insurance, making appointments, a query regarding a passport and a serious emergency. This may seem like a varied morning but it is quite normal. By 11am, I have seen 15 clients and now have 8 insurance claim forms to submit!

We had a new client with their very nervous dog come in to the practice at 11.30am. I got cover for the reception desk and sat with the lovely dog, I even brought a few treats with me. I sat for around 10 minutes with treats in my hand and talked to the client about how they are finding a new dog, why is the lovely dog nervous and generally comforting them, as it can be equally stressful for a client if they have an anxious dog. After 10 minutes, the lovely dog came over and offered me a paw for the treats that he had been sniffing out. I gave him one treat and that seemed to spark a “best friend reaction”. He then wouldn’t leave me alone! I don’t know if I am a dog whisperer, or if they were just seriously good treats! I am happy, the client is also happy and hopefully next time the lovely boy will happily walk in and see us. If not, no problem – he can have another few treats and some time to settle in with us!

Our emergency has unfortunately turned fairly serious and we must refer her to a 24 hour care centre in Newcastle. My task is now to complete the admin work for a referral using an online portal and then liasing with the referral centre to confirm E.T.A. I have printed off directions and an insurance claim form for the client to take with them. I hope everything is okay!

1.30pm – Lunch! Not as exciting as it seems, I think I have a cheese sandwich and an apple..

3.30pm – We start consulting again and I am super excited because we have 8 puppies coming in for their first vaccination and at the same time we have a kitten and a puppy from the same household! They are joining the Well Pet Club, so I will have to remember the various amounts of benefits they get and also fill in the digital paperwork for them! The best part is when they need to read the declaration, 9 times out of 10 that means I “have to” hold their puppy or kitten 😀

6pm – Nothing but routine appointments this afternoon. 86 phone calls for me today and 22 emails! It has been fairly busy and I have just finished my 13 insurance claims Now it is time to close and get everything ready for the next day!

6.15pm – I spoke too soon! A poorly cat is coming down, so I am going to stay as we only have a vet and a nurse left and they may need some help, at least with cleaning!

7.25pm – The lovely cat is comfortable and we have just finished cleaning. Time for home!


There we have it! Tomorrow will be very different for our Veterinary receptionists, as will the next day. And as always, they will do it with a smile on their face and comfort in their voice. Veterinary receptionists – We salute you!


Cat scratching it's head.


Pyoderma literally means skin infection with the formation of pus. This can occur in all pets and is uncomfortable and irritating. The cause can be simple, for example a bite or scratch or more complicated and signify hidden disease.

What causes pyoderma?

All skin is covered in a layer of bacteria. Healthy skin acts as a physical barrier to stop these bacteria entering the skin. Skin also has an effective immune system to manage any bacteria that enter the skin layers. Pyoderma occurs when the bacteria enter the skin and overwhelm the protective measures and cause infection.

There are many possible causes of pyoderma ranging from the very simple to more complex:


A sharp object, splinter, bite wound or scratch can penetrate the skin allowing entry of bacteria. Burns strip away protective upper layers of skin, in older or poorly mobile animals skin can be burnt by urine scalding. Pressure sores can also become infected in immobile animals. Dirty, matted coats can create areas of skin trauma and overgrowth of bacteria. Skin folds and other areas where haired skin chafes, such as the between the toes, can cause microtrauma to the skin.


Any animal with a condition that causes itching is likely to cause wounds by scratching, biting or rubbing against objects. Many conditions cause itching.

  • Parasites – most commonly, flea or mite infestations.
  • Fungi – ‘ringworm’ is the most common fungal infection in pets.
  • Allergies – usually fleas, food or allergens in the air such as pollens, house dust mites.
  • Anal gland impaction
  • Ear disease


Malnutrition affects the ability of the skin to form a protective barrier. A balanced diet with adequate calories is important for skin health. Low levels of specific nutrients, for example, Zinc deficiency can also cause skin ulceration.

Diseases affecting hormonal balance such as an underactive thyroid and Cushings disease also result in skin disease

Autoimmune disease occurs when the animal’s own immune system damages an organ. The skin can be a target for autoimmune disease often resulting in pyoderma.

Suppression of the immune system with drugs such as chemotherapy drugs or steroids can affect the immune function of the skin. Long term illness such as cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, chronic viral infections can also compromise skin health.

Young animals

The immune system of young animals is not as well developed as in the adult. Their skin is also thinner. For example in puppies pyoderma (sometimes called impetigo) can spread more quickly and cause more severe disease than in the adult dog.

What does pyoderma look like?

There is a vast spectrum of signs of pyoderma, from a ‘hot spot’ to generalised hair loss and scaling. A hot spot is a small area of inflammation, it may look like ulcer which appears almost overnight. Animals do this when a condition is extremely itchy. It is an area of self-trauma. This is often seen with anal gland disease, fleas or ear disease.

In other cases, the skin appears red and inflamed. This is often seen most clearly where skin is poorly haired and thin, so on the belly, groin or in the ‘armpits’. A rash or pustules (pimples) may be seen. There is often hair loss or the hair is sticky as the skin crusts at the base of the hairs. There may be skin ulcers, craters of skin loss, varying in depth and a foul smell on the skin.

What can you do if your pet has pyoderma?

If a small area of skin is broken by a simple injury then clipping the hair away and cleaning twice daily with a weak salt solution will be sufficient. However, if your dog is scratching and uncomfortable or a large area is affected or you see pustules or smell pus, then visit your vet.

Superficial pyoderma

As we have seen pyoderma can occur for simple reasons. In these cases after your vet examines your dog they may choose to use a topical antibacterial gel, cream or shampoo. These cases are usually called superficial pyoderma as they affect only the top layers of skin. Sometimes other treatments are required, parasite treatments, medications to stop the itch-scratch cycle (anti-itch drugs) or antibiotic tablets. Superficial pyoderma should resolve in 2-3 weeks.

Deep pyoderma

If your pet has a deep pyoderma or your vet suspects an underlying condition causing the pyoderma then investigations may be required. Usually a bacteria called Staphylococcus causes pyoderma but sometimes other bacteria are involved. A tape strip test can be used to initially identify the presence and type of bacteria. Your vet may also send samples for culture to the laboratory. This means that the correct antibiotic can be used. Yeast infection is often identified at this time and may require treatment. A skin scrape can be used to identify parasites. Samples of hair and skin can be sent to the laboratory to check for fungal infection.

Complicated deep pyoderma

If no obvious cause is found then a skin biopsy and blood tests may be needed to rule out underlying disease or allergy.

Deep pyoderma will need a long course of antibiotics, these can be oral medication and shampoos or gels as well. Your vet may suggest a dermatology diet or a diet designed to remove foods your pet may be allergic to. Dietary supplements, such as omega 3/6 fatty acids may be recommended. Just as in superficial pyoderma, parasite control, anti-itch medication and other medications for underlying conditions may be required.

Pyoderma can be a frustrating condition for you and your pet but with perseverance and the correct care most cases will resolve completely.



Vets have had X-ray machines for many years, and X-rays are very useful – we can take a snapshot of the insides of our patients and look at bone and even (on a good day!) some of the soft-tissue structures, e.g. the size of the heart, or the lungs.

However, it has significant disadvantages. X-rays use ionising radiation, so although a one-off exposure of a cat or dog is fine, our vets and nurses dare not be in the room at the time except in the direst emergency, or we risk radiation injury (usually in the form of cancer developing). If we do have to be in there, we’ll be wrapped up in hot (and very, very heavy) lead gowns. Yes, of course we’ll do it if the patient needs it – but we’d much rather avoid it!

Finally, X-rays cannot distinguish between fluid and solid tissue. As a result, we cannot measure the internal diameter of the heart chambers, or look at the gut wall to see if it is thickened, or turned inside out (an intussusception). We cannot easily assess a tendon to see if it’s just stretched or if it’s torn all the way through and other reasons.

Ultrasound changes all that..

So, what is an ultrasound machine?

Essentially, it is a high-tech dolphin. Yes, that is what I mean, it isn’t some weird glitch on the webpage – it’s an electronic whale.

Ultrasound is sonar – like the whales squeak out high pitched sound and listens for the echo, the ultrasound machine emits ultra-high frequency sound waves (way, way higher than a dog, whale, or even a bat, can hear) which can pass harmlessly through the body. The patient won’t feel a thing and there is no detectable risk to them either. When these sound waves pass from one type of tissue into another, some of the wave is reflected back – and the ultrasound probe detects the echoes as they come in. A clever computer then puts them all together as an image on the screen, in real time.

There is just one major disadvantage to ultrasound – the sound is so high pitched, it doesn’t carry through air (or even through bone). As a result, the probe has to be exactly on the skin, and we use an “acoustic coupling gel” to get good contact with the skin and therefore a good quality image. However, this means that it is almost impossible to scan through a fur coat! That’s why we will often have to shave a small patch to scan through – the fur traps bubbles of air and even if we wet the area with spirit, we can’t always get a good enough look inside.

So, what do we use it for?

Well, there are four main uses for ultrasound in veterinary medicine.

Firstly, just like in humans, we can use it to look at the uterus – for example, at the puppies and kittens living there. This allows us to see whether a bitch or a queen is pregnant at a very early stage, and assess how healthy the babies are (by looking at their little hearts beating!). Even more importantly, we can examine the uterus in a sick bitch to determine whether or not she has a pyo (a potentially fatal womb infection). Here, we’re looking for two black circles (sometimes called “shotgun barrels!) which are the two horns of the uterus when they’re filled with fluid.

Secondly, we can examine other abdominal organs – the intestines, the kidneys, the bladder, the spleen and the liver. This way, we can check for tumours, twists, and other injuries, without having to open up the patient in surgery. We can even use the scanner to see if there is free blood or fluid inside the abdomen that might indicate internal bleeding; or guide a biopsy needle to a suspicious lump, without needing surgery.

Thirdly, we can examine tendons and ligaments. This is occasionally useful in dogs and cats (for example, in Achilles tendon injuries), but is usually more an equine vet thing!

Finally, and becoming increasingly important, we can look at the beating heart of a dog or cat. We can measure the amount of blood backing up in the atria (a marker of heart failure), see how thickened or thinned the walls of the heart are, measure the speed of blood passing through a narrowed vessel, or see blood leaking through a damaged valve. This has genuinely revolutionised cardiology for dogs and cats, and with more and better scanners always coming onto the market, it’s going to be more and more important.

So, why do we still have our X-ray machines?

Well, as we said, the ultrasound machine can’t look through air (so it’s useless for lungs) or bone (so it’s fairly rubbish for looking at fractures). It also can’t be used to count how many puppies or kittens there are in a patient – we still need X-rays to count them (and yes, it is safe for them as long as it’s only a single exposure).

Put together, though, the two machines can diagnose over 99% of the lesions, injuries and diseases we need to look at in practice – not bad!


Worms and my pet

How to get rid of worms in pets

Healthy looking animals can carry worms, so it’s important to worm pets regularly. We have preventative treatment in all of our surgeries and our Well Pet Club spreads the cost of preventive treatment in a monthly fee!

Worms can cause suffering, illness and even death. Some types of worms can be spread between pets and people and can cause diseases.

Worm treatment for pets

  • Maintain a regular worm treatments – ask your vet for the best treatment and method to deworm your pet
  • Treat pets for roundworm from a young age and, when they’re adults, tapeworms also
  • Different worms may need different treatments – ask your vet which treatment is safe and suitable for your pet
  • Prevent tapeworms by using a flea treatment regularly, as fleas can carry tapeworm eggs

How to prevent worms in pets

  • Disinfect food and water bowls regularly
  • Ensure housing is regularly cleaned and disinfected, but only use a disinfectant that is safe for animals
  • Good pasture management is required for horses, ponies, donkeys and rabbits to prevent them from eating the larvae and eggs of worms. This may involve removing droppings and rotating which areas your animal has access to
  • For rabbits, avoid collecting greens from areas where wild rabbits and rodents have been and if kept outside, place housing so that exposure to wild rabbits and rodents is minimised
  • Pregnant animals should only be wormed under the supervision of a vet
  • Clean up after your pet and dispose of faeces carefully
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.

Signs of worms in pets

It may be difficult to see any symptoms of your pet having worms but it’s important to have a regular worm treatment in place, as advised by your vet.

If your pet does have the parasite, you may see worms in faeces or vomit, or around your pet’s bottom. Wrap any worms you find on or near your pet in damp cotton wool and take them to your vet, so they can advise the best worm treatment.

Other signs your pet could have worms

  • Your pet starts losing weight.
  • Their fur is becoming dry and coarse
  • Increased appetite, weakness and diarrhoea
  • In severe cases, infected puppies and kittens can have a distended abdomen or ‘pot belly’.

Why do pets get worms?

Animals can pick worms up in a variety of ways, from:

  • other infected animals
  • eating the larvae or eggs of worms (e.g. in infected faeces or in grass)
  • eating raw meat, infected prey animals or infected parasites.

Starting from £14.95 a month, our Well Pet Club covers Flea, Tick and worm treatment, as well as many other benefits!

Laparoscopy benefits chart.

Laparoscopic keyhole spay

“I made the decision to have my dog spayed by laparoscopic surgery rather than the traditional method. I am very pleased that I did. I have had many dogs and always booked a week off work to care for them after a spay but with this laparoscopic surgery, she was back to herself in just a couple of days!” Miss E, Hexham

“For peace of mind and a quicker recovery, I was more than happy to pay a little extra for this expert service. As always, everyone at Orchard House was brilliant.” Mr L, Prudhoe

“I could not recommend Orchard House Vets highly enough anyway but this service is fantastic and they are the only vets for miles who offer this service. Top class.” – Mrs H, Bellingham/Hexham

That is what our clients have to say about Laparoscopic keyhole surgery, but what is it exactly?

What is a Laparoscopic spay?                         

A laparoscopic spay is an alternative to the traditional method. It is less invasive and allows faster recovery time.

In a laparoscopic spay, your female dog will have her ovaries removed with a camera and vessel sealing device through a keyhole incision (ovariectomy). If your dog were to have a traditional spay, this involves an operation whereby a long incision is made on the midline of the tummy. The uterus and the ovaries are stitched with thread and are removed through this larger hole. The technical name for this operation is ovariohysterectomy


 What are the benefits?

The main benefits of a laparoscopic spay are less pain and a faster healing time than the traditional spay operation.


Are Laparoscopic spays more expensive than traditional spays?

Laparoscopic surgery costs more than traditional neutering because it is carried out by a specialist surgeon and requires specialist equipment. Laparoscopic surgery equipment is also costly to purchase and maintain, it takes extra training, experience and a higher level of surgical expertise.

The cost for Laparoscopic keyhole spay surgery is £495.00 all inclusive, regardless of the size of your pet. This includes a post-operative consultation and all medication relating to the procedure.

Can all vets perform Laparoscopic spays?

Laparoscopic surgery requires both specialist equipment and an experienced surgeon to carry out the procedure. Compared to human laparoscopic procedures, a very small portion of pet surgery in the UK is performed laparoscopically. We use a very experienced vet who has over 10 years’ experience and extra qualifications who comes to our practice every month to perform the surgery. And coming very soon we are delighted to announce that our very own very Alex Hirst will complete his certificate and will be able to offer more frequent Laparoscopic keyhole surgeries.

Who will be performing the Laparoscopic spay for my dog?

Laparoscopic spays are carried out by Dugie Gemmill BVMS CERTVR GPCERT (ENDO) MRCVS of Vetscopic.

Dugie was among the first vets in the UK to obtain a brand new qualification in the field, GPCert(Endo), in 2009. Having ten years of laparoscopic experience, Dugie established a surgical consultancy as VetScopic to offer procedures such as laparoscopic neutering to the wider pet owning public at their own veterinary practices. To find out more about Dugie and Vetscopic, please click here 

How can I book an appointment for this procedure for my dog?

We would strongly advise a pre-operative consultation with one of our vets before booking the Laparoscopic keyhole spay. You can do this by either booking an appointment online (click the link below) or give us a call on 01434 607677.

We will happily answer any further questions that you might have, please email us at


Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an airway infection that causes a dry hacking cough in dogs. Similar to human flu, kennel cough can be caused by a number of different germs (viruses and bacteria). It’s most common in areas where lots of different dogs gather (such as walks, kennels and dog events) and can survive in the environment for several weeks. Kennel cough spreads by direct contact between dogs, in the air and on surfaces (such as food bowls and leads). Dogs with kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs and public spaces while they are coughing, and for two to three weeks afterwards.

Coughing is the most common symptom of kennel cough, but in more severe cases, it can cause symptoms such as a high temperature or a reduced appetite.

Symptoms of kennel cough
Symptoms of kennel cough usually take 3-14 days to develop and then last for 1-3 weeks. Most dogs develop a hacking cough and stay otherwise quite well, but puppies, older dogs, and poorly dogs can develop more serious symptoms such as:

  • A reduced appetite
  • Low energy (lethargy)
  • A high temperature (fever).
  • Illustration showing spread of kennel cough
  • Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread in the air. Click to enlarge.

When to contact your vet
There are many different conditions that can cause coughing so it’s a good idea to have your dog checked by your vet if they have a severe cough or have been coughing for more than a few days. We have to follow strict protocols when we suspect a pet has Kennel Cough but you will be advised of this when calling to make your appointment.

How much does the vaccine cost? 

Firstly, it is not a “vaccination”. We can administer and oral solution or a nasal spray, depending upon what your dog may tolerate better. For members of our Well Pet Club, the cost is £28.01. For non members the cost is £35.00. Just like the booster vaccination, your dog will be protected for 12 months.

Black and white image of a dog.

Is my dog depressed?

The awareness of depression and mental illness in people is finally getting more attention in humans but we are often asked the question – is my dog depressed?

The suggestion of a dog being clinically depressed is likely dismissed by many, after all, dogs are the wagging tail and friendly face we all love to see?

But give it a second thought … Is the idea really that unexpected? We share so much in common with our social canine counterparts, why wouldn’t they also suffer from some of the same mental issues which we are so easily challenged by?

What are the signs of dog depression?

Well unfortunately they can be rather vague and many of the clinical signs are also seen with plenty of other fairly common diseases. So just because your pet may be doing one or more of the things below doesn’t instantly mean you have a depressed animal. Speak to your vet and see what steps you could take to narrow down what may be the problem. This could include ruling out depression.

  • Behaviour change – no longer interested in previous enjoyable activities – playing, exercise. May start to have urine/faecal accidents in the house.
  • Appetite change – picky eating/loss of appetite
  • Sleeping more than previously
  • Over-grooming/licking
  • Hiding – no longer interacting with owner/other animals in the household

What causes dog depression?

Many factors play a role in a dog’s mental well being, including changes to their environment, social interactions and routine.

  • Environmental changes – most dogs are at their most confident in their own environment. Changes to this including moving house, building work etc can make your dog less certain of their environment. This can cause them to feel anxious and uncertain.
  • Social changes – dogs are pack animals, so changes to their social group (human/animal pack) can affect them significantly. This can include a bereavement, divorce/separation, or children leaving home. Changes in work hours meaning your dog spends less time with you than usual can also affect them significantly.
  • Boredom – Some dogs, particularly working breeds, need mental stimulation/physical exercise.
  • Physical illness – importantly, certain conditions, particularly those that cause your dog to feel painful or nauseous can have an effect on their mental wellbeing. This can result in signs of depression.

What other things can make my dog look sad?

It is important to note that many other conditions can cause your dog to look sad. Don’t assume they are just depressed! Multiple medical conditions can cause your dog to have appetite/behaviour changes. These include:


Often animals who are in pain will choose to reduce their level of exercise to reduce discomfort. This is often seen in pets with arthritis, but any cause of pain can result in behaviour changes in your dog.


A hormonal condition where the thyroid glands produce less thyroid hormones which are important in controlling your dog’s metabolism. This is more common in certain breeds (Golden retriever, Cocker spaniel, Irish setter amongst others) but any breed can be affected. Affected dogs tend to become more sluggish/lethargic, gain weight (often despite a reduced appetite) and often have thinning of the coat on their flanks.

Other hormonal conditions including Addisons, diabetes and multiple other hormonal conditions can also be seen in dogs. Often they initially present with vague clinical signs that can include appetite changes and loss of energy. Importantly, these two can both be potentially life threatening if untreated.


Just like us, if your dog has a fever due to infection, this will often cause them to be less active and have a reduced appetite.


Weight gain has a number of negative effects on your dog’s health and wellbeing. For some animals, carrying the extra weight makes it harder for them to exercise. This means that they are less keen to go for walks/play.

Kidney/liver disease

Both the liver and kidneys play an important role in removing toxic substances from your dog’s blood stream. Disease of the liver or kidneys can result in these toxins accumulating. This causes what can initially be quite vague signs of listlessness and reduced appetite.


Insufficient red blood cells or haemoglobin in your dog’s blood means that they are less able to provide as much oxygen to tissues and organs around the body. There are multiple causes of anaemia. Often mild anaemia may not cause any obvious clinical signs. However, as anaemia progresses, you may note that your dog is quieter/more lethargic amongst other signs.

Heart disease

In the early stages of heart disease, your dog’s body is often able to make adjustments to compensate, meaning that minimal clinical signs are seen. However, as heart disease progresses into heart failure, the body’s ability to compensate is overwhelmed and you will start to see clinical signs. These can often be vague – reluctance to play/exercise, sleeping more, reduced appetite. Other signs may be seen which are not associated with depression – coughing, increased breathing rate, swollen belly.

What can I do?

If your dog is low in energy and not quite themselves, get your dog checked out by a vet for underlying medical conditions that could be causing their behaviour change.

Thankfully, most dogs are resilient and will bounce back from depression with a little extra fuss. Once you have ruled out a health condition, try to consider what may have brought on this episode of depression and whether a solution can be found for this (for example, would taking your dog to doggy day care be appropriate if you have had to increase your hours in work?). Try to engage your dog in activities he previously enjoyed – exercise, treats, games. Try and create a regular routine as this can increase your dog’s sense of confidence.

It is natural to want to make a fuss of your dog when he appears depressed, but remember, too much attention can reinforce this behaviour. Try not to treat your dog when they are showing their sad behaviour, but instead reinforce any sign of happiness – a tail wag, running to the door for a walk.

If none of this is successful, referral to a dog behaviourist may be recommended. After all, a happy dog is a happy owner and vice versa.