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!


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.

Halloween sweets and other dangers

Halloween poses a number of health and welfare risks to dogs, from eating foods that can be toxic to man’s best friend, such as chocolate and some sweets, as well as objects like decorations!


Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs, as well as other animals such as cats, rodents and rabbits. Generally speaking, the darker and more expensive the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more poisonous it is. White chocolate contains very little theobromine and so is unlikely to cause chocolate poisoning, but is still very fatty and can make your dog ill. Chocolate can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but is a stimulant and so can cause your dog to become excitable, as well as develop muscle twitching, tremors, fitting and life-threatening problems with their heart.


If available in large quantities, some dogs may gorge themselves on sugary sweets kept aside for, or collected by, trick or treaters. After eating lots of sugar, or even lots of fat, dogs can develop pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas), which may cause them to be off their food, develop vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and go into organ failure.

Sugar-free sweets

Some sugar-free sweets and chewing gums contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which can be very poisonous to dogs. Xylitol is more commonly found in food products in America, but is beginning to appear in sugar-free products in the UK as well. Xylitol can cause an otherwise healthy dog’s blood sugar level to drop to dangerous levels and can also cause liver failure.

Obstruction risks

If eaten, sweet wrappers, lollipop sticks, food containers/boxes, or even small parts from a Halloween costume can all cause an obstruction in your dog’s gut. This can be very dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an obstruction may include your dog being off their food, vomiting, lethargy and not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.

What to do if your dog has eaten something it shouldn’t

  • Call us immediately
  • It is important that we make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be clinically assessed or treated. Where possible please make sure you have the following information to hand:
    • what your dog has eaten
    • how much has been eaten
    • when it was eaten
  • Do not try and make your dog sick – trying to do this can sometimes cause other complications, which can make your dog unwell

Our dedicated vets are on call 24/7, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have eaten sweets we highly recommend calling us as this can be a potentially fatal situation.


Brexit and pet travel

How to prepare for travel with your pet to any EU country after the Brexit Transition Period has finished on Jan 1st 2021.

Brexit has seemingly been temporarily forgotten due to Covid-19 but with the deadline approaching, you must prepare for pet travel in the EU and be aware of what you need to do.

When the UK leaves the EU, it will become a third country. In the EU Pet Travel Scheme, there are 3 categorisations of third country:

  • Unlisted
  • Part 1 listed
  • Part 2 listed

Pet travel requirements will change depending on what category of third country the UK becomes on the day the UK leaves the EU. Third countries can apply to the European Commission to be listed. The UK is likely to be treated as an unlisted country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme if it leaves the EU without a deal.

Pet Travel if the UK is an UNLISTED country.
A current EU pet passport issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU.

You’ll need to take the following steps:
You must have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.

  • Your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its last rabies vaccination. Your vet may recommend a booster rabies vaccination before this test.
  • Your vet must send the blood sample to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory.
  • The results of the blood test must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  • You must wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you travel.
  • The vet must give you a copy of the test results and enter the day the blood sample was taken in an animal health certificate.

You might find that the blood test result is not successful despite your pet being up to date with its rabies vaccinations. If this happens you’ll need a repeat vaccination and blood test taken at least 30 days after the repeat vaccination.

Dogs travelling from the UK to EU listed tapeworm free countries (Finland, Ireland and Malta) should be treated for tapeworm before travel.

You will not be able to travel with your pet if you have not completed these steps.

You will also need to obtain a new Animal Health Certificate (AHC)
You will also take your pet to an official vet no more than 10 days before travel to get an animal health certificate.

You must take proof of:

  • your pet’s vaccination history
  • your pet’s microchipping date
  • a successful rabies antibody blood test result
  • tapeworm treatment if travelling to Finland, Ireland or Malta
  • Your pet’s animal health certificate will be valid for:

10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU onward travel within the EU for 4 months after the date of issue re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue.

On arrival in the EU, pet owners travelling with pets will need to enter through a designated Travellers’ point of entry (TPE). At the TPE, you may need to present proof of microchip, rabies vaccination, successful blood test results and tapeworm treatment (if required) with your pet’s health certificate.

For more information please refer to official government guidance. 

Older Golden Retriever Dog being petted.

My dog is getting older

Caring for older dogs
On average dogs live for around 12 years, although many live for much longer. Over the years you can expect your dog to change, not just physically but mentally also. What once interested, may no longer do so. How do you cope with the changes?

Keeping your older dog comfortable
Older dogs may need more rest. Somewhere quiet where they won¿t be disturbed in a soft, cosy bed away from draughts. They may need to go to the toilet more frequently. Incontinence or changes in how often they go to the toilet should be discussed with your vet.

Make sure everything your dog needs is easily accessible so they don’t have to go too far to find their water, food, toys and bed. Smooth, slippery floors can be difficult for older dogs to walk on, so put a rug or carpet down to give them something to grip.

Feeding a senior dog

As they get older a dog’s dietary requirements change. It varies with breed and size, but at around seven your dog might benefit from gradually moving onto a diet designed for senior dogs. A vet can advise what’s best.

Monitor how much your pet is eating and drinking – mention any changes in their eating habits or weight to your vet as there could be an underlying medical reason.

If you have other, younger dogs in the house, make sure your senior dog can access their food without having to compete.

Changing needs of older dogs
Although they may be slowing down, senior dogs still need regular exercise and mental stimulation – walking them little and often will help keep their weight down and toys and puzzle feeders can keep them entertained. Wearing a coat when out and about can help keep them warm and dry.

Gentle grooming can help you spend quality time with your dog which also gives you the chance to check for lumps and bumps, aches and pains.

If your dog seems stiff or has trouble with things like getting out of bed and going upstairs, your vet may advise some treatments that can help.

Health and welfare
Older dogs may have poor hearing and/or sight, so ask the family to avoid sudden loud noises so that they don’t get startled. If your dog appears to be ignoring you it could be because their hearing has deteriorated. Ask your vet to check them over.

Senior dogs may need their nails trimming more often if they’re exercising less. This is something your local vet can do for you.

If you have any concerns about your older dog, always check with a vet. Changes in behaviour may be signs of underlying issues, not just down to `old-age’ – so make sure to take them for a regular health check.

Whats coming up at Orchard House Vets

2020 has been a very peculiar year for everyone and not always for the best. We don’t want to dwell too much on the negatives so we have been working behind the scenes to come up with some fantastic prizes for our Christmas competition this year. So far, it is looking really good! We will be announcing our prizes and how to enter the competition in November, so watch this space!

So … Whats coming up at Orchard House Vets?

Website video 

You may remember at the start of 2020, we had a filming crew at our surgeries who were making a film for our website. We are delighted to announce in the next couple of weeks we will be releasing the footage! You may spot a few familiar faces ..

Christmas competition 

Last year our winner received an afternoon tea for 2 at The Beaumont Hotel, £50 cash and a pet hamper worth £35. This year we are going even bigger and offering multiple winners multiple wonderful prizes! Keep a close eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates. We will be revealing the competition in November.

Christmas card competition

We will be posting on our Facebook and Instagram pages for you to share the best pictures of your pets. We will be selecting 12 runners up who will have their pets feature on our Christmas card, and one lucky winner will receive a prize of a one hour pet photo shoot with professional photographer, Ed Charlton. Ed will provide digital copies of the photographs taken and we will shortly be announcing details of how to enter this competition!

Laparoscopic keyhole surgery 

We introduced Laparoscopic keyhole spay surgery in 2019 and have had wonderful feedback from the service. The feedback has been so good that we have decided to run more regular surgeries! Details will follow later in the year but this is a very exciting time for us as so many of you have used this service so far.

12 months of promotions

In 2021, we are going to offer specific promotions every month. We will be releasing more information in December but we are very excited to offer our wonderful clients discounts throughout 2021 and to promote the very best care for your pets.

Orchard House Vets awards 

We will be holding our own awards in 2021 and we couldn’t be more excited about this! We will be asking for nominations from clients for some of our categories and our team will vote for some of our categories also. The categories will be as below and will be announced in mid 2021!

  • Orchard House Vets staff of the year
  • Orchard House Vets patient of the year
  • Testimonial of the year
  • Pet friendly business of the year
  • Pet service of the year (kennels/catteries, groomers, dog walkers etc)

Orchard House Vets – a day in the life 

We will be giving clients a backstage pass to our surgeries so you can see first hand the hard work and dedication that goes into our veterinary practices, and what goes on as soon as the consulting room door is closed. We will be shadowing different members of the team, having interviews with them and also asking clients to be involved by sending in questions which our staff will answer directly.

Orchard House Vets – in the community

At the moment, it is a little hard to predict the future and what we will be (and won’t) able to do. However, before lockdown we started planning for our practice to be out in the community. We will be approaching local charities to see how we can help them and our staff will be undertaking fundraising events, so watch this space!


We want to connect more with our clients and we are passionate about the care we provide our patients. We want to do even more and are always happy for suggestions on our services and our community presence. We would like to share the ways you can connect with us.

Our mailing list 


Contacting us directly with suggestions, feedback, testimonials and any events you may have planned.

Chocolate Labrador puppy.

Dogs are for life, not just for lockdown

Nearly one in four people who have bought a puppy during the coronavirus pandemic has admitted their pet may have unintentionally been purchased from a puppy farm. The Kennel Club has released new statistics illustrating the number of people who have bought puppies in the past few months.

According to the research, which was released as part of the Kennel Club’s #BePuppywise campaign, two in five people who bought a puppy during the pandemic admitted their main reason was to have a lockdown companion and of the 2,622 dog owners surveyed in July 2020, more than a quarter said they paid money for their new puppy before actually meeting their pet in person.

Just over four in 10 did not see the environment in which the puppy was bred in real life or via video call, and 83 per cent were not asked any questions by the breeder about how suitable they were as owners.

An even more worrying statistic is that 2 in 10 puppies bought during lockdown have been given to charities, who are already overstretched. This is heartbreaking for the puppies but it is also worrying for many animal professionals.

Does this news mean no-one should get a puppy? No, of course not, but we cannot stress enough to follow the well advertised advice on purchasing a puppy.

As we come out of lockdown but continue to face uncertainty, we cannot stress enough to do as much research as possible before making such a commitment. A dogs average lifespan is 12 years and the first 18 months of your dogs life is so important and defines the dog that will grow with you.

Before purchasing or adopting a dog, remember to be a part of the C.L.U.B 

Can you afford vet bills and food? –  Your pet bills can be very large in a worst case scenario. Have you budgeted for food? Vet bills? Preventative treatments? Training? Products? Grooming?

Lifestyle – Does your lifestyle allow time for a dog? Don’t think about today, think about tomorrow and what your long term plans are.

Understanding – Have you researched insurance companies? Dog trainers? Do you understand what is involved in caring for your pet?

Breeder – No amount of research is too much research. You need to know everything you can possibly know about a breeder and no question is a stupid question. If it doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t right!

The RSPCA have a brilliant section on their website which gives great advice on purchasing puppies but also on rescue dogs. You can find this link here.





Rainbow dog paw.

Orchard House and the “New Normal”

There is a Chinese expression that translates as “Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.”  We have seen a degree of chaos recently, as most of you will have noticed. But we hope that, to the dogs, cats, rabbits and occasional other patients, Orchard House has maintained a sense of tranquility. We do feel a bit like the swan serenely gliding over Bolam Lake whilst frantically paddling under the surface.
How Things Change
In the long distant past, at the start of the lockdown, the way we worked at the vets changed massively. Our professional bodies (the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association) decreed that only emergency, acute and urgent cases could be seen. We had to cease face-to-face contact with clients. We centralised all care at Hexham, supplied scrubs to the NHS, offered equipment and oxygen supplies, whilst retaining sufficient supplies to care for your pets. We were seeing A&E cases and postponing any less urgent care. Where possible we started video and telephone consultations, though the limitations of both became starkly apparent. Our repeat medications/prescriptions email address is helping to reduce telephone calls for repeat medications ( or Visit our contact page). During the first days of lockdown our telephone call volume increased 20-fold. Even now we are taking around 5 times the number of calls as BC (before Covid as no one is calling it!).
Almost Normal
Over the lockdown the restrictions have become less strict. We are now permitted to perform our work as normal provided we maintain social distancing and use PPE where appropriate. To maintain staff “bubbles” we are continuing to avoid clients entering our surgeries. Instead we use telephone calls to take history or a conversation in the car park before the pet is admitted using an “airlock” system or is walked or carried into the surgery. We have extended the length of appointments to allow for the extra time the new protocols require. We are minimising any movement of staff between our branches so if staff at one branch have to self isolate because of a Covid case within the practice then we can still maintain our care for your pets. We do not, at present, have the capacity for healthy pet checks but can now see pets for the less major issues such as overgrown claws or impacted anal sacs.
If one thing that Covid-19 has taught us then it is the value and importance of vaccination against fatal diseases. Compare Covid with Canine Parvovirus which has a mortality rate of around 50% even with the best treatment. The parallels with Covid-19 are chilling. I’m old enough to remember when Parvovirus emerged in the 1970s and spread worldwide in 2 years, killing millions of dogs. The vaccine is very effective but boosters should be given to maintain immunity. Despite the vaccine, Parvo remains a fairly common disease because not enough people vaccinate their dogs and herd immunity in some areas is low. A recent outbreak has been reported in north Northumberland and there are frequent cases in urban areas.
We have been vaccinating the young and vulnerable from the beginning of lockdown but we are now also giving booster vaccinations and re-start courses for all pets. If you are unsure of your pet’s vaccination status then please call the surgery. Dogs, cats and rabbits should all have annual vaccinations to maintain immunity to serious diseases with high mortality rates. And vaccinating your pet is also essential to maintain local “herd immunity”. Vaccination in dogs is particularly important as our Leptospirosis vaccination prevents transmission to in-contact people.
…and a Personal Thank You 
We do appreciate your patience during a time when Covid-19 is altering how we provide our service. We are still “Caring for your pets as if they were our pets”. We hope that as Covid infection rates drop further we will be able to start proper face-to-face consultations once again. I’m off to Barnard Castle to check my eyesight…
Stay safe.
Tim Pearson, BVMS, MVM, MRCVS
Clinical Director and Veterinary Surgeon

Bellingham reopening

Our Bellingham practice will be reopening on Monday 6th July!

Initially we will be open on a Monday and a Friday from 8.30am until 6pm. Our consulting times in the morning will be between 8.30am and 11.30am, and our afternoon consulting times will be between 3pm and 5.30pm.

Collections are possible throughout the day, but we will close for lunch as normal between 1pm and 2pm.

Our RVN Nalda will be working from the practice on a Wednesday for collections and any home deliveries that are required. Nalda will be in the practice from 9 until 12.30pm for these requests, please call the surgery on 01434 220330 for any collection or delivery requests. No vet will be in the practice on Wednesday so if you need an appointment please call our Hexham surgery.

We have measures in place for both the safety of our clients and our staff. We ask clients to not enter the building and to call the surgery ahead of your visit when collecting any medication so our staff can have your order ready. When making your appointment, our team will explain the procedure for appointments.

We appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time for all.

Kitten reaching out to a dog.

Pet Stress Post Lockdown

As some owners have now begun to return to work after several weeks of being at home, the likelihood of some of our pets showing separation anxiety may increase.

There are no quick fixes or one specific way to conquer separation anxiety, but we recommend a combination of the below to help your pet!

  • Training and Behavioural Programs
  • Environmental modification
  • Pheromones
  • Diet Management
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Nutraceuticals and pheromone replacements

Training and the environment

This is especially important if you have been home more often than normal over the last few months as this is where your pet has spent most of their time with you! A few simple tips can help your pet stay calmer when you are out of the house and they do not require a lot of effort which is a bonus!

  1. Increase the time away from your pet gradually
  2. Give your pet a toy whilst you are away
  3. Keep relaxed when returning home and greet your pet when they are calm
  4. Leave out recently worn clothes that smell like you
  5. Ensure your pet receives regular exercise when you are home
  6. Create a cosy, calm space for your pet to relax in


Nutraceuticals and pheromone replacements

What are pheromone replacements?

They are synthetic copies of the dog appeasing pheromone naturally released by a mother dog to comfort and reassure her new puppies and in cats this is called the ‘feline facial pheromone’ or ‘happy marker’ that cats leave behind when they rub their face on people, furniture, doorways and other objects in the home.

We recommend the above steps alongside a pheromone such as Adaptil (for dogs) and Feliway (for cats).

Calmex is a Nutraceutical – it is an amino acid, L-tryptophan shown to have calming effects in clinical studies.  It also contains a number of other compounds which may have benefit. It is available as capsules for dogs that can be mixed in food and a tasty liquid for cats.

Zylkene is another alternative, containing casein, a milk protein, in a form which does not get digested in the stomach. This means the protein can cross the intestine in the way it would a newborn. It has been shown to have a calming effect in many dogs and cats.

A combination of gentle training, changes in the pet’s environment plus pheromones and/or nutraceuticals should smooth your pet’s transition from lockdown to the new normal. Maybe owners should be taking some of these too!?

These remedies are available over the counter so unless you have concerns over your pets behaviour, you do not need to see the vet before purchasing these products.


Furthermore, until the end of July we are offering 10% off Calmex cat and dog, Adaptil and Feliway!