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Friends and family week

New for 2021, we are excited to announce our newest incentive of “Family and friends of the Well Pet Club”.

What does family and friends week mean?

If you are a member of our Well Pet Club, you can share your benefits* with friends and family! Further more, as a member yourself, you will get an additional 10% discount on our discounted items and if any of your friends or family sign up to our Well Pet Club (WPC) during this week, you will both receive a £10 credit on your account!!

Benefits during Well Pet Club family and friends week

WPC member  Friends and family 
20% off Kennel Cough vaccination 10% off Kennel Cough Vaccination**
20% off neutering (including Laparoscopic spay) 10% off Neutering (including Laparoscopic spay)**
20% off rabies vaccination 10% off rabies vaccination**
20% off dietary products 10% off dietary products**
£10 credit for any friend or family who join our WPC 50% off a Nurse appointment**
 £15 off a veterinary consultation**
 Free puppy or kitten health check***
 £10 credit for joining our WPC during this week.

Family and friends week could save you and your friends or family up to £150 off the usual price of each benefit. We pride ourselves on offering the best service and the best products. Family and friends week is an opportunity for us to give something back to our loyal WPC members and to extend our reach to your family and friends.

Dates are to be confirmed so please check back every month for further updates! In the meantime, please read the terms and conditions below.


Terms and conditions.

The benefits stated can only be used once per benefit per pet that is registered to our WPC. If you are interested in joining our WPC so you can offer these benefits to your friends and family, just give your surgery a call and we can sign you up over the phone! It takes around 3 minutes and all we require is your direct debit details and then for you to complete the email that is sent to you. Benefits are instant to you as a member and during friends and family week you can extend your subscription to benefit those closest to you. Note, the additional benefits and benefits to your family and friends are only valid during our family and friends week. 

*The benefits you will receive are stated in this post and do not apply to veterinary checks. 

**We must register your friends and family to our practice to receive these benefits. It is required by veterinary law that we have a full clinical history of the pet in our care. If your friend or family is travelling a distance or out of the area to use these benefits, they could in theory register with our practice to receive these benefits then go back to their usual vet. We would simply send the history back to their registered vet. 

***If your friends or family are registered at another vet then we must request a clinical history before we can see the pet. However, if they are not registered at a vet then we can see the pet. This offer is for a health check, any medication or treatment will be a separate charge and that will be made clear upon the appointment. 



Post-operative client feedback

12 months, 12 offers

New for 2021, we are delighted to announce 12 months, 12 offers.

Every month of 2021, we will be offering discounts on services or products. We constantly try and promote the very best treatment for your pets and we proud of the work we do. To help with the cost of premium health care we will be offering over £1,000 in savings throughout the year! Stay posted each month to find out what the specific offers are and how much you could save!

Month Promotion 
January Weight awareness
February Dental awareness
March Puppy and Kitten awareness
April Parasite awareness
May Microchip awareness
June Adopt a cat month
July Adopt a dog month
August Immunization month
September Animal pain awareness
October Firework awareness
November Pet diabetes month
December Anxiety and Christmas


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.


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 admin@orchardhousevets.com


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.