Awards winners.

Paws For Thought – Spring Petcare Roundup

White dog sat in a fieldSpring is here at last! 

At least, it’s close enough around the corner for us to get excited by the prospect of brighter weather and longer walks in the woods with our four-legged friends.

As the days get longer, the sap rises and the leaves get greener, we reckon it’s the perfect time for a roundup blog with exciting news on seasonal pet health issues, surgery services and special events and campaigns which will make March 2020 a month to remember.

Let’s get cracking! 

Pet Theft Awareness Week (14 – 21 March)

Each year, Pet Theft Awareness Week aims to spread the word on the budgie burglars, rabbit raiders, canine crooks and feline fraudsters that spread misery by pilfering pets from their happy homes.

Held between 14-21 March, this year’s campaign materials make for miserable reading, but they’re worth taking note of if you don’t want to see your beloved animal swiped, stuffed in a swag bag and sold on to someone who doesn’t know how to love or care for them appropriately. 

Pet theft is more common than you might think – figures from the police reveal 5-6 dogs are stolen every day in England and Wales. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because figures for ‘Theft by Finding’ are never included in official statistics and this could compound the problem even further. 

Remember that pet theft is a martini crime – it can happen anytime, anyplace, anywhere and dogs and other animals are stolen from gardens, houses, parks, kennels, outside shops and cars 24/7. Nowhere is safe and thieves are shameless. 

Furthermore, any breed can be targeted, but designer toy breeds and gun dogs are particularly attractive to sticky-fingered criminals. Incredibly, thieves even steal entire litters of puppies – causing untold heartbreak to the mother and her human carers.

Reward or ransom for return can be demanded, but most dogs are sold on to unsuspecting new owners, with some being used for breeding and worse, dog fighting. 

And although compulsory microchips mean dog owners can be traced, these devices aren’t in dogs GPS trackers. You can buy specific collars with integrated GPS which reveals your pet’s activity, but the following tips could stop your pet falling into the wrong hands in the first place – when it comes to pet theft, prevention is better than cure.

  • Don’t leave your dog outside a shop or supermarket
  • Don’t let your dog out of sight when it’s exercising
  • Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle
  • Make sure your garden, house and outside kennels are secure.
  • Regularly check gates and security lighting
  • Be careful who can see your pet’s photos on social media – make your account settings as private as possible.
  • Change your routine regularly – unpredictability makes you and your pet tougher for crooks to track.

Follow these tips and you can look forward to keeping your pet at the heart of your family for years to come – forewarned is forearmed!

National puppy dayVet is hugging a puppy

Wet noses, fab furry coats and cheeky personalities combine to possibly make puppies the most adorable denizens of the domestic animal kingdom.

So National Puppy Day on March 23rd is the perfect excuse (as if you need one) to celebrate everything that’s amazing about the junior canine in your family.

But did you know that we offer FREE puppy health checks? They’re always conducted by one of our vets and you’ll also be offered 4 weeks free pet insurance with Pet Plan. 

We’re also always happy to enrol you in our Well Pet Club, which spreads the cost of your pet’s booster vaccination, preventative health care and nurse clinics (nail clips, anal glands), as well as exclusive member benefits.

Did you know?

Did you know that we can check your pet’s microchip details for you? 

We offer this super service completely free and it only takes 5 minutes. 

Here’s how it works:

  • We scan your pet, enter their details into the national identibase and confirm that

 your details are correct. This ensures that our internal records match with those held by authorities.

  • Call us, email or pop in while you’re passing and ask if we can squeeze in a pet scan there and then or arrange one ASAP. If your pet was to go missing and your details were wrong, it is significantly more difficult to find you – this is a stitch in time that prevents untold heartache.

Having the following info on your mobile can fast-track finding your missing pet:

  • A clear photo of your pet, showing any distinguishing markings.
  • Your pet’s microchip number (If you don’t know this, just ask! As we’ve explained, scanning is swift and simple).
  • Local Animal Warden’s phone number.
  • Your vet’s phone number
  • Your dog’s microchip database phone number.

We’re not in the scaremongering business at Orchard House Vets – we’re sharing this advice with our customers because it’s our business to care about animals as much as you do. 

And if there’s anything we’ve missed, please let us know – we encourage all of our client community to share ideas and tips and we’ll publish the best in our blog.

Flea and Ticks

April isn’t just about Easter eggs and cute bunnies – unfortunately it’s also when we see a spike in flea and tick activity. Dog with a tick.

But luckily for you and your pet, we provide the very best flea and tick treatment – and with our Well Pet Club, you can spread the cost over 12 months.

Fleas can lay up to 1,500 eggs in their short lifetime (which ranges from 14 days to 12 months), they enter your house various ways and don’t even have to directly attach to your pet – they can simply be attached to your clothes!

Ticks are also rife at this time of year and we have already seen a number of pets presenting with them.

If you’re a member of our Well Pet Club and see a tick on your pet, pop into the surgery and a nurse will remove this for you in two shakes of a lamb’s tail – yet another great membership perk.

Ticks can cause serious health problems – it’s well documented by organisations like RSPCA that they can cause Lyme disease and that’s why it’s so important to keep up to date with preventative treatments.

National veterinary awards.

National Veterinary Awards

You may remember last year that our Student Vet Nurse Zoe Pickering and our Assistant Practice Manager Graham Skelton were both finalists in the prestigious national veterinary awards.

We’ll soon hear if we have any finalists for 2020 but regardless, we are overwhelmed at the number of nominations we have received this year – 20 in all, which beats our previous practice record of 19.

Thank you so much for your nominations and fingers, toes and paws crossed that we can report more finalists for 2020 soon!

Final thought

Remember that you can book a pet care appointment online – if you’re on the move, it’s often more convenient than calling and takes a few seconds to complete.

Whew! That’s all the news from the pet health frontline here at the moment, but we can’t wait to catch up with you all again soon.

Need to chat about any pet health issues? Contact Us today!

Dog covering it's nose with it's paw.

Coronavirus in dogs

Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring!

This is just a brief message to reassure you that the alarmist headlines in some of the newspapers this weekend are just that, alarmist. There is no evidence that dogs transmit the Covid-19 virus.
A dog in Hong Kong belonging to an owner with the infection had the virus in its nose and mouth. It had no symptoms. It probably licked up or sniffed its owner’s sneeze – you know what dogs are like!
For proper, informed information on Covid-19 and your pets, go to the WHO website or WSAVA. 
Be informed. Feel free to telephone the practice if you have any concerns. And wash those hands!
Tim Pearson, MRCVS

Vomiting Bug

There have been reports of a vicious vomiting bug in the UK and our Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Jill Crawford, discusses everything you need to know.

What is this vomiting bug?

You may read in the press about a particularly severe vomiting bug which is being seen in the UK currently. Vets at Liverpool University are working hard to try to identify the cause, and vets in practice are able to send samples to them, under certain terms and conditions.

My dog is vomiting, how can I tell if it’s this and not something else?

If you have a dog which vomits for a prolonged period (over 24 hours) we advise you to phone the surgery to make an appointment. It is reported that the affected dogs are vomiting in spells of 4 to 8 times over 10 minutes and throughout the day. The vomiting may stop overnight but then start again in the morning with the same ferocity. However we would always recommend any prolonged spells of vomiting or diarrhoea be checked by a vet.

Are there other symptoms?

The symptoms are severe vomiting, which is prolonged , a loss of appetite which can persist for several days and a ‘gravy like’ diarrhoea.

What can I do if my dog is affected?

Treatment will depend on many factors relating to the individual but in some cases may involve fluid therapy, blood tests and other medication to control the vomiting.
Not all vomiting dogs will have this condition, and there is no known risk to people. If you have a dog which vomits for a prolonged period (over 24 hours,) we advise you to phone the surgery to make an appointment, and if feasible, keep your dog in the car until your appointment is called to avoid spreading it to other pets. If that’s not possible, let our staff know so they can let you wait in a separate area.

How many cases have been reported?

So far 474 cases have been reported to SAVSNET. The main locations are throughout England and Wales, however a few cases have been noted in Northern Ireland and a few in Scotland.

How serious is it? Could my dog die?

Most of the 474 reported cases have made a full recovery but 4 dogs have died. Do be aware that SAVSNET can be sure if the 4 dogs died because of this bug so whilst we exercise caution, we do not recommend panic, this is just for our clients attention to be vigilant.

Veterinary lab test machine.

Alabama Rot

Whilst very rare, cases of Alabama Rot have appeared in the UK. 12 cases have been confirmed so far this year and it is worth knowing the symptoms

Our vets have lots of advice on how to spot the early signs of the illness and the steps you can take to protect your dog if the disease has been reported in your area.

If you think your dog is showing signs of Alabama Rot, speak to your vet immediately

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is a potentially deadly disease which damages dogs’ blood vessels. This can cause skin sores and sometimes kidney failure (when the kidneys stop working and can’t clean the blood properly).

The disease only affects dogs. Nearly all cases occur during winter and spring (between November and May) and is often reported in dogs that have been walked in muddy or woodland area.

Signs and Symptoms:

Alabama Rot causes tiny clots to form in blood vessels that damage the skin and kidneys. Symptoms often include:

  • ulcers and sores on paws, legs, face or mouth
  • being sick
  • not wanting to eat
  • lethargy (sleepiness and having much less energy than usual).

If your dog seems under the weather and has any of these symptoms, speak to your vet right away.

Not all dogs who have skin sores go on to have kidney problems but early treatment by a vet is important. If you notice any sores on your dog, speak to your vet immediately to rule out Alabama Rot.

How can I stop my Dog getting Alabama Rot?

Vets still aren’t sure what causes the disease or how to prevent it. However, there are some simple things you can do to that may protect your dog or help you spot the symptoms early:

  • If Alabama Rot has been reported near you, avoid walking your dog in muddy woodland areas.
  • Washing any mud off your dog after a walk might help, although this hasn’t been proven. It won’t harm your dog and might help keep your mind at ease if you’re worried about the disease.
  • Check your dog regularly for signs of redness or sores, especially on their paws, legs and face.

If you notice any health problems with your dog or a change in their behaviour, speak to your vet.

Puppy looking into the camera.

Raw Diets

Raw diets are becoming very popular currently and are available in most pet stores, usually marketed by promising better dental health, shinier coats and improved vitality. In much the same way that shampoo adverts always feature beautiful people with beautiful hair, the marketing shows dogs who look marvellous. That’s marketing! They are usually meat based and due to the high protein content can be very palatable, however before jumping on the bandwagon, please consider carefully.

Raw foods can contain food poisoning bacteria, including salmonella, campylobacter, E coli, toxoplasma and clostridia. Campylobacter is present in 65% of raw supermarket chicken, and we are all aware of how important it is at home to clean chopping boards, knives and our hands after handling it! In the UK pet food manufacturers are legally obliged to test their end products for E coli and salmonella, but this may not apply to imported foods.

These foodborne pathogens can affect pets, but more worryingly in many ways, the people in the home who are caring for them. This can be devastating if they have a weakened immune system e.g due to pregnancy , or health problems where people are being treated with immunosuppressive medication.

Our advice is to feed a good quality diet, ensure it is complete and if you do want to prepare your pets food at home, use a properly formulated cooked diet.

Cat laying down.

Caring for your elderly cat

Elderly cats can seem to have the ideal life; snoozing in a cosy bed, eating when they fancy and occasionally demanding attention. They can appear so content, it is easy to assume that they are well in themselves, but their peaceful appearance can be deceiving! In their twilight years, our feline friends are vulnerable to many illnesses, but are extremely good at hiding the signs. So, we have to be super vigilant to ensure they don’t suffer in silence. Regular health-checks are a good way of helping to keep your cat in top shape and pick up medical conditions early, when they are easier to treat.
Here is a list of things to keep an eye on:

Sore Joints:

One of the most common problems for geriatric cats is painful arthritis. The vast majority will suffer with it to some degree but spotting the problem is a challenge. Cats are natural athletes, so they will still be agile to a certain degree, they will jump, climb and play, but with less freedom and frequency. You may notice they don’t sleep in a previously preferred spot, if it is higher up, and they hesitate before jumping both up and down. Perhaps they are sleeping more, don’t put a lack of activity down to age, it could be pain or illness. Is your cat a little more grumpy? Less keen to play or interact with the family? Not grooming themselves? Contact us to arrange a check-up.

Eating habits:

Dental disease is very common in older cats and can be extremely painful. Older cats with dental disease may become fussy with their food, chew on one side, or refuse dry food. However, in many cases they will show no signs at all, making regular dental-checks vital. If your cat becomes fussy with food, contact us to make an appointment.

Weight loss:

Notice your cat looking slimmer? In senior felines, weight loss is often a sign of underlying illness, but in many cases, the gradual nature of the drop makes it difficult to spot. We are very happy to weigh your cat, and this is a great way to monitor their health if you can’t weigh them at home. You can also monitor their ‘body condition score’, so ask us how to do this to keep an eye on their level of fat and muscle. A common cause of weight loss in older cats is thyroid disease. An overactive thyroid will cause your cat to lose weight despite a ravenous appetite. The good news is that thyroid disease can be diagnosed from a simple blood test and there are a range of treatment options to manage this condition.

Drinking more:

Drinking more than usual may be an early sign of some medical conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes, both of which are fairly common in older cats. Cats naturally drink very little, so if you see your cat constantly at the water bowl, please get in touch for a check-up. Equally, if the litter tray suddenly seems heavy or your cat is urinating in the house, let us know.


We hear about this debilitating condition in humans and it can also affect cats. Affected cats may yowl in the night (this can also be a sign of other problems such as high blood pressure), seem confused, interact less with the family or start to urinate or defecate in the house. If your cat starts keeping you up, please let us know. A few health tests and some treatment can often get you both back to having restful nights.

If you notice any of the above signs, please get in touch to book an appointment for a health- check. The good news is that modern diagnostic tests, combined with an expanding range of treatments, can greatly improve the quality of life of your elderly pet.

With so many choices on the market, it can be quite a minefield finding the ideal diet for your pet. The most important thing is that the diet for your pet needs to be balanced and in the correct quantities. To help with this, many pet foods have a selection of age ranges, such as puppy or kitten, junior, adult and senior.

These are to help tailor the calorie and nutritional contents. Some also have specially designed breed types or breed sizes, such as giant and large breed dogs. It is very important that your pet stays a healthy weight to reduce illnesses in later life. Neutered diets and lower calorie diets are available to help maintain a balanced weight.

Complete diets can be in wet or dry forms, so you can choose what is best for your pet depending on their tastes. Some diets (or kibble) are designed to help with dental disease, which can be a complete diet or fed as a supplement. If your pet has an illness, a specific veterinary diet may help with your pet’s condition.

Kidney diets are low in some toxins and waste products to reduce the chemicals your pet’s body needs to eliminate. Intestinal diets are designed to help with short and long term digestive issues. Special hydrolysed diets mean that specific proteins have been broken into small pieces so that they can help reduce symptoms from skin allergies. With diets designed for fur balls in cats, diabetes and liver disease, the choice is endless. If you need any advice regarding your pet’s diet, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Cat next to a window.

Bringing Your Cat to The Clinic

It can be quite challenging bringing a cat to the surgery. Cats are independent and territorial so being taken out of their familiar environment can be enough to turn even a placid moggie into a quivering wreck – or a tiger! Very different from dogs, who are usually very used to going on outings with their owners.

We want everyone to stay safe, so here are a few tips to help, and of course our staff are able to give more advice if you are struggling.

Firstly, make sure you have a good, sturdy cat carrier -‘top loaders’ are easiest. Ones with a small ‘port hole’ at the front are not ideal, if you can only get the cat in , or out by that route. We find that cats often don’t like the ‘holdall’ type, partially due to the flexible nature of them and also the zip noise is frightening for them!

Use the carrier at home as a sleeping or feeding place, then they are much less alien and scary for the cat.
If you gently wipe round your cat’s face with a cloth, then place the cloth in the carrier , the scent will be comforting .

Make sure there is some soft, comfortable bedding in the carrier , a fleece blanket is ideal, or a towel, but leave enough room for the cat! Bring a plastic bag and some spare bedding if you have a very poor traveller, we will make sure it’s a clean basket for the return trip.

Carry the basket carefully, don’t let it bump into walls or doors, and if it’s a bit heavy for you , just ask and one of us will happily help you.

The assurance of insurance: Is your pet insured?

Knowing that your dog, cat or rabbit is insured can be a weight off your mind, especially if your pet has a sudden accident or illness and you are faced with an unexpected vet bill.

There are different types of cover to choose from. The top cover is a lifetime policy where your pet is covered for a condition for life, usually up to a certain amount of money per year. A time-restricted policy means that you can claim per condition, usually for 12 months only.

If your pet has an on-going condition such as diabetes or arthritis, the cover expires after the time period. A condition-restricted policy means that you can claim up to a certain amount per condition. Accident only insurance is a basic cover only.

Insurance won’t cover a condition if it has occurred before the policy was started. This means it is useful to choose a good cover for your pet as soon as possible.

We highly recommend insuring your pet since there are a huge number of surgical and medical conditions that can be very costly to treat.

Pets commonly swallow items which require surgery to remove them, however it’s not every day that a dog swallows a fish hook! Happily, surgery resolved the issue for this young dog.

In addition to the need for unexpected surgery, many medical conditions (such as skin infections, ear disease, kidney or heart disease – to name just a few!) can also be very costly to treat.

Fish hook inside a stomach.

Swallowing Dangers

We all know about the dangers of certain foods, plants and toxins but what about objects?

Betty is a lovely French bulldog cross who was enjoying a stroll on the beach before (assumedly) picking up a dead fish.

Unfortunately, this fish had a hook caught in it!

Betty was seen with the hook by her lip and then it disappeared!

Bettys very quick thinking owner ran us immediately and an x-ray revealed the hook!

Betty underwent an Endoscopy and was absolutely fine but this served as a timely reminder that objects are just as dangerous as toxins!



Black Labrador looking sad.

Worms are the worst!

We all know that we should worm our pets regularly, but it doesn’t always seem important, especially when our pets appear perfectly fine! However, worms aren’t always obvious and can cause a great deal of damage and general ill health.

So what are the major types of worms we need to be aware of?

Roundworms and tapeworms inhabit your pet’s intestines, interfering with food absorption and may also be a cause of gut inflammation, weight loss and diarrhoea. Roundworms are spaghetti-like worms that are brown to white in colour.

Many pups and kittens are born infected with roundworms because they cross the placenta and are also in the milk. Infected adult dogs show very few signs of roundworms but they can make young pets very poorly. The eggs are also shed in the faeces and are easily picked up on walks. Roundworms can also infect people and have the potential to cause serious health problems, especially in children. Occasionally you might see roundworms in your dog’s vomit or faeces, looking like strings of spaghetti.

Tapeworms can be seen in faeces as white flat segmented worms in dogs and cats. They cause a failure to thrive in young animals, and symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting. Tapeworm eggs may be eaten by intermediate hosts these include fleas and small rodents. This is why cats that catch a lot of mice will commonly be infected by tapeworms. Pets swallow fleas by grooming themselves and become infected in this way.


This parasite is becoming increasingly common in our dog population. Dogs are infected by eating slugs or snails carrying lungworm larvae, or even just eating grass that has slug or snail slime on it. Lungworm are swallowed as tiny larvae which migrate to the right side of the heart where they develop into adult worms. Here they produce eggs which hatch out into larvae which migrate to the lungs causing coughing. The larvae are then coughed up, swallowed and passed out in the faeces. Lungworms can also cause life-threatening clotting problems.

The good news is that we have a range of tasty treats and simple spot-ons that will help in the fight against these pesky parasites! Please ask us for more information!