Making your cat’s journey to the vet less stressful

The only time most cats are put into their carrier is when they go to the veterinarian, so it’s no wonder they get freaked out as soon as their carrier comes out of the cupboard. A lot of the stress that cats experience related to the vet visit happens before they actually see the vet. With a little preparation, you can help to ensure your cat (and you) have a stress-free visit to the vet.

Before you go to the vet

Make the carrier less scary. Chances are, the only time your cat sees their carrier is when you’re about to take them to the vet. You can make the carrier less scary by setting it up like a safe place they can hang out in on a regular basis. To entice them into their carrier, make it a comfortable place they want to spend time by putting a blanket, a toy, and treats inside (this also gives them a familiar smell of home). You can also feed them inside the carrier to get them more acclimated to being in it. Just by seeing the carrier in their everyday environment, your cat will become more used to it and avoid the dread they feel when it mysteriously shows up out of the blue.

Keep your cat calm. Calming pheromones can help your cat calm themselves in their carrier. Simply spray a spritz or two in their carrier the night before the appointment and again on the day of the appointment to allow the pheromones to calm your cat.

Consider catnip. This herb can relax your cat, helping them associate a trip to the vet something a lot more fun. Catnip’s effects typically only last for 5–15 minutes, but it doesn’t affect all cats. Occasionally, cats will become agitated when they smell catnip, so it’s a good idea to give your cat a trial dose first to see how (and if) they react before you ever need it for a trip to the vet.

Get your cat used to being handled. Practice holding your cat and examining them from head to tail. This will help your cat feel less stressed when the vet or veterinary technician gives them an exam.

Bring your cat on car rides. It’s likely that the only time your cat rides in the car is on the way to the vet. You can try to disassociate car rides with a trip to the vet to reduce their stress. Some cats will never get used to car rides, but others just need a few minutes in the car or a couple drives around town that doesn’t end up at the vets to help calm their nerves.

Consider visiting a cat-friendly vet. Did you know that our Stocksfield and Bellingham surgeries are Cat Friendly Accredited practices? This means our wonderful staff are trained to keep cats calmer and the surgeries have dedicated waiting areas for you and your  cat!

At the vets

Keep your cat in their carrier. When you get to the vet and are in the waiting room, keep your cat in their carrier. Keep the carrier off the floor to make your cat feel more secure (and prevent curious dogs from peeking in and frightening your cat). With many people and animals in the same room, most cats will feel safer and less stressed in their carrier.

Schedule visits during “quiet” times. We fully understand how stressed cats can get by coming to the vets. We encourage our clients to not be shy and feel free to ask us for an appointment when it may be a little quieter, like our first appointment of the day, or maybe our last. We are here to help, never be afraid to ask!

Bring something from home. An item in their carrier like a blanket from home can help bring your cat comfort while waiting to be seen. If your cat needs to spend a night at the vet, make sure to bring an item from home like their favourite blanket or toy to help them settle easier.

Consider medications and supplements. If your cat has a history of being stressed when visiting the vet or is still stressed after trying the steps above, chat with your veterinarian prior to your next appointment. They may be able to recommend medications and/or supplements that can help reduce your cat’s anxiety and allow them to do better with their vet visits. If you feel like this may be of help, then make use of our promotion at the moment of 10% off Feliway!

How to maintain a puppy or kittens weight

Orchard House Vets Top Tips

To keep on top of your little one’s weight, follow these tips:

  • Weigh out food portions every time
  • Feed an appropriate diet
  • Don’t go overboard on the treats
  • Encourage as much play time and exercise as possible
  • Check your furry friend’s Body Condition Score regularly.

What do Orchard House Vets do to help? 

At your vaccination appointments, our Veterinary Surgeons will weigh your pet and advise you on whether they are at a healthy weight. If not, they will offer advice on what to do. They may even refer you to one of our Registered Veterinary Nurses who will be able to give you a comprehensive guide on maintaining puppy or kitten diets!

We also have our Well Pet Club which will allow regular weight checks with our nurses included in the monthly direct debit. Please do note this is different to a weight consultation, which is much more comprehensive but a weight check is a brilliant tool for keeping on top of a pet’s weight!


We offer FREE puppy and kitten checks, so after a couple of days of bringing your furry friend, book in an appointment to see our Veterinary Surgeons and make sure you bring a list of questions to ask! It is the perfect time to do so. During your 15 minute appointment, the vet will do a thorough health check of your pet and we can then discuss our brilliant Well Pet Club, as well as offer you 4 weeks free insurance through Petplan. We encourage clients to make use of these outstanding services!

Grey Flemish Giant Rabbit.

Is my rabbit obese?

What Causes Obesity in Rabbits?
Overeating is typically the reason for obesity in rabbits but this factor alone may not affect a very active rabbit. Rabbits need to take in more calories than they are exerting in order to pack on the pounds and since many pet rabbits are unfortunately caged for the majority of their lives, obesity is a common problem when they don’t get the exercise they need.

Sugary treats are also contributors to the obesity problem in pet rabbits and are marketed as cute but the fact is your rabbit doesn’t care what their food looks like. But many pet owners give in to the gimmicks and want to give their rabbits whatever the pet store has to offer.

Being stationary is the main culprit for obesity in every species. Rabbits are made to jump and run but too often we keep them contained in small cages or only allow them to hop and binky for short periods of time. This lack of energy exertion can create a multitude of problems for your rabbit and also gives them nothing to do but eat, sleep, and gain weight.

How Can You Tell if Your Rabbit is Obese?
Being obese means that your rabbit has more body fat than is healthy for their body size. Each rabbit species has a different set of breed standards that tell you what a normal size and weight of that particular breed should be. These standards should be used as a guideline to help you and your veterinarian judge whether or not your rabbit weighs an appropriate amount.

By assigning a body condition score to your rabbit you will be better enabled to monitor your rabbit’s weight. A body condition score is a number that correlates to certain physical attributes and most body condition score scales are a one through five with three being ideal. A rabbit that you can feel but not easily see the ribs on is typically a three. The easiest way to tell if the ribs stick out too much (if they are too prominent it means your rabbit is underweight) is to compare feeling your rabbit’s ribs to your closed fist. Make a fist with your hand and then feel the knuckles. If the ribs feel like this your rabbit is too skinny. Now feel your fingers (where your rings would normally sit on your hand) while your fist is still clenched. This is what it should feel like on a rabbit that has an ideal body condition score. If you cannot feel your rabbit’s ribs or you have to push hard to feel them then your rabbit is overweight. We can help you with this process if you are not sure of it.


Remember, we are offering 50% off nurse weight clinics through January, so book your phone consultation today!

Christmas competition 2020

Thanks for entering our Christmas competition for 2020!

We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of our local businesses, who even in these most trying of times have still donated prizes to our competition. We cannot thank them enough.


Terms and conditions

All prizes are subject to booking with the venue stated in the prize. Prize winners will be contacted to organise a suitable date and time to collect. Due to Covid, we cannot allow clients inside our buildings but we can meet you outside our rear door. You must contact the premises to arrange your prize and please note their own terms and conditions, for example, some vouchers are not suitable for use in December.


Additional entry

If you would like to receive a second nomination then please sign up to our mailing list below. We use our mailing lists to keep clients up to date with events in the practice and any specific offers we have. We have offers every month so it is very worthwhile signing up!

Click here for an additional entry by signing up to our newsletter. 

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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.