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 (medication@orchardhousevets.com 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.

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!


Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month

Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month

May is Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month. This campaign, led by the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), aims to raise awareness of the importance of the role of the veterinary nursing profession to the public.

Veterinary nurses are an integral part of the veterinary team at Orchard House Vets, and are vital for the smooth running of any veterinary practice.  As well as providing expert nursing care for poorly animals, veterinary nurses also play a significant role in supporting pet owners in keeping their pets healthy.  They carry out essential clinical work and are skilled in undertaking a range of diagnostic tests, treatments and minor surgical procedures, with veterinary support.  Registered Veterinary Nurses have the technical knowledge and hands-on expertise to care for animals with skill and empathy.

The title of Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) can be used by nurses who have undergone extensive training and education. Once they’ve passed their final nursing exams, nurses are entered onto the VN register and are regulated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). They follow the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses, which includes requirements to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to keep their skills up to date.

At Orchard House Vets, we are extremely proud of our veterinary nurses. We have an amazing team who are dedicated to supporting our clients and their pets.  Even during this challenging time, some of our nurses are still working in-practice helping to support emergency and urgent cases.

Click here to meet our nursing team at Orchard House Vets.

To find out more about role of RVNs in veterinary practice, or if you are interested in finding out more about a career in veterinary nursing, visit the BVNA website at www.bvna.org.uk/a-career-in-veterinary-nursing/a-career-in-veterinary-nursing.


In response to the UK Government extension of the Coronavirus “lock-down”, vets have had new guidance from The British Veterinary Association and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons regarding the patients we should now see as “urgent”.
We have been told that we can now start new Primary Vaccination courses in Cats, Dogs and Rabbits. We should also carry out the First annual vaccination (i.e. at 15 months old) in Cats, Dogs and Rabbits on time.
It has been recommended that dogs due Leptospirosis vaccination should be vaccinated and can have other core vaccinations (Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis) at the same time. Rabbits should be vaccinated for Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease as these are an immediate seasonal risk. Cats can receive annual booster vaccinations if approaching 15 months since their last vaccination. Rabies
vaccinations can also be given. In accordance with the guidance we will start sending you reminders for due vaccinations.
With most cases we are instructed to assess whether a pet should be seen during a telephone or video consultation. We want to ensure that pets are seen when they should be.
Sometimes we may be able prescribe medicines without a physical examination. Always telephone the practice for advice as to whether your pet should be seen.
There are still a few non-essential things that we are instructed not to do: six monthly healthy pet consultations, weight checks, routine nail clips, kennel cough vaccinations and puppy parties.
We will continue to use telephone and video consulting where we can, take payments over the phone and post out medicines to reduce the need for clients to come to the surgery in Hexham. And we are still offering weekly delivery of prescription foods etc. to clients who cannot get to the surgery.
Orchard House remain committed to maintaining the health and welfare of your pets, but we are working to social distancing guidance for our clients and staff to help protect our
NHS and save lives.
Stay safe.
Tim Pearson
Vet and Clinical Director

Cats and Coronavirus

This morning the President of the British Veterinary Association has recommended that cat owners keep their cats indoors all the time. There is a tiny risk that Covid-19 could be spread on a cat’s fur if an owner had the infection.

The BVA have released a statement since, which you can find here. The article clarifies that cats from an infected household should be kept indoors. The original article has caused much panic among cat owners and media headlines state all cats should be kept indoors. We urge you to read the BVA statement and read Tim’s advice below.

There is the risk that cats forced to stay indoors can get very stressed, leading to urinary tract and other illness.

Whilst the advice could be sensible in city cats which may be more “shared” between households, the risks in this area would be significantly lower.

The best advice is to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any pet, and don’t stroke other people’s cats or dogs.

The risk of catching Covid-19 is much much higher from other people, and from things people touch. Unless you own a bat or a pangolin, please don’t panic!

Stay safe.


COVID-19 update

Hello fellow lock-downers.

The Government have designated veterinary care as an essential service. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and British Veterinary Surgeons have given us some guidance on what patients we should and should not see here.

I thought that it might be useful to share this with our clients.

We are not permitted to see pets for booster vaccinations, Well Pet Club six-monthly health checks, nail clips, weight checks or non-urgent investigations. We have also been told not to start puppy or kitten vaccination courses but we can give second vaccinations where a course has been started.

The recommendations may change if lock-down is prolonged beyond the initial 3 weeks. We can note on our records to contact you after the restrictions are lifted – please call or email if you would like to be on the list. We will contact owners of pets needing their vaccinations as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

For many cases we are advised to conduct telephone or video telemedicine consultations. We are, temporarily, permitted to prescribe medicines after such a “non-contact” consultation. Examples where this is appropriate include: mild trauma (such as a torn nail), skin and ear problems, post-operative checks, medication checks, small wounds, lameness or lumps. In some cases the vet will recommend that the pet should be seen and we will arrange for an examination at the Hexham surgery.

There are some cases where we will always want to physically examine and treat the pet. These cases include: severe trauma, seizures, significant bleeding, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough, retching, vomiting or diarrhoea associated with being unwell, straining to poo or wee, toxin ingestion, and ongoing treatment for Diabetes or Addison’s disease.

In short, if in doubt then please telephone the practice for advice. We would always prefer a telephone call than to not be asked for advice or not see a pet and have their health deteriorate.

Stay well… and we will help your pets stay well!

Tim Pearson, Vet and Clinical Director, Orchard House Vets

Dog and cat using a laptop.

Video Consultations

Starting 1st April 2020 we will be offering video consultations during COVID-19 for the vulnerable people in our community but also anyone who feels more comfortable having a consultation at home due to COVID-19 fears.

We have a FAQ and step by step guide on how to use this service. At the moment, we are asking clients to call us to arrange this service and to allow at least half an hour to book this appointment. Consulting times are 2pm to 3.15pm and that is Monday to Friday.


Can anyone use this service?

We are still only able to offer appointments for emergency or urgent appointments. A video consultation is a great way to visually examine your pet but of course there are limitations to what the vet can do. That is why we are recommending you call us so we can advise if a video consult is the best option.

Is this service free?

Our ambulance delivery service is completely free but unfortunately we cannot offer this video consulting service for free. We are charging our usual consultation price plus an additional fee to cover the cost of what we are charged. Consultations are 15 minutes and are £37.00.

How long does it take to register and how do I do it?

If we recommend a video consultation, we have steps below which we advise you read through for reference. It takes around 5 minutes in total and it is a combination of a telephone call and then email. In the first instance, you will be sent an email whilst on the phone to us prompting you to make an account. Once you have done this and confirmed, our team will leave you to finish your registration and they can make your appointment. Please see the guide below, it explains everything!

How to:

It couldn’t be simpler to sign up to our video consultations

Step 1 – call the practice to make your video consultation – a consultation time will be arranged between you and our team.

Step 2 – You will be asked your email address and pets name to register

Step 3 – Whilst on the phone to our team, check your email for the email to register

Step 4 – You will need to enter your name, phone number and create a password.

Step 5 – You will be sent a confirmation code via email which you must enter, as prompted.

At this point, please advise our team you have made your account. They will now leave you to it!

Step 6 – Complete your profile, you start by adding your pet!

Step 7 – You will need your pets name, date of birth, their species and their breed. You can even add a lovely photo!

By the time you have done this, our team will have booked your appointment with the vet!

Step 8 – Check your email for the booking confirmation from our vets

Step 9 – Confirm the booking through the link provided, you will then be prompted to pay.

Step 10 – Once payment is confirmed, you will be reminded 5 minutes before your consultation begins. Remember – you must be on a device with a camera and microphone. A smartphone or tablet is best but this can be done on a laptop.

Orchard House Vets van.

Essential medication and food delivery to high risk clients




We will be utilising our ambulance to provide a weekly delivery of essential pet medication and food to the most vulnerable clients in our community. We will be providing this service completely free of charge


Who does this service apply to?

We are ONLY offering this service to clients who are high risk or vulnerable and unable to leave the home. If you have family, friends or neighbours who may be able to collect your medication, please ask them to come to the surgery and call us on 01434 607677 when they arrive, staff will instruct them on what to do.


I am not high risk or vulnerable but am self isolating because I care for some who is, can I use this service?

Yes, following protocol and previously given information.


I am self isolating but not high risk, vulnerable or a key worker, can I use this service?

In short, no. We are reserving this only for those who are at most risk. This service is manned by only one member of staff who has volunteered their free time to do this for us. We recommend those self isolating that are not high risk to use the Royal Mail, as long as the post office remains open we will be able to post your medication. For food items, we would recommend asking family or a friend. If you have no other option, please call us and explain your situation and we will try our very best for you but at this moment in time we have to prioritise emergency appointments, surgeries and the highest risk clients.


I am a key worker, can I use this service?



I am one of the eligible reasons for delivery stated above. How do I organise delivery?

Please email us medication@orchardhousevets.com providing your full name, pets name, full address and a contact number. Please include your requested food or medication. A member of our team will give you a call back and you will be “screened” by our wonderful staff who will ask a few questions to see if we can deliver for you or if posting your items may be more suitable. They will confirm everything for you but please be patient, we have very limited staff who are working non stop. Please ensure you place your order no later than 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon.


I am not eligible for delivery, what are my options and how do I order?

Please email medication@orchardhousevets.com to place your medication or food order. If you wish for this to be posted to you, please include this in your email. You will be charged postage and currently we recommend you allow 7 days for medication to reach you. We aim to post first class within 24 hours of your request. If you are able to collect your items from the surgery, please call us to advise you are coming to collect your medication or food, if you have not paid then at this point you will be asked to. Please then call when you are in our car park. We will bring your item out to you.


Can I thank your “delivery drivers”?

Please do feel free to give a wave at the window, give us an email or if you are on social media, leave a review or message mentioning them, this is the best way to communicate as we can pass your message on! We would strongly advise against any contact for both your safety and our staff.


Who will be delivering my items?

Hexham and Stocksfield clients, your delivery driver is our Assistant Practice Manager – Graham Skelton.
Bellingham clients, your delivery driver is our Registered Veterinary Nurse and Bellingham resident – Nalda Ferguson.
Graham will be using our practice ambulance but Nalda be using a Blue RAV 4 so please be aware this will be Nalda pulling up outside your home!


Do I have to pay before delivery?

Yes. Delivery is free but you must pay for your medication or food before we deliver. You will not be able to pay when placing your order as the vet must dispense your medication, you should be able to pay for food when ordering. A member of the team will call you back for payment or as soon as they possibly can.


What precautions are Orchard House Vets taking and what information should I know?

We are following government guidelines and advise you do the same. Ensure no-one comes to greet our staff, ensure pets are inside your home or secure from our staff. Please do not leave any kind items like chocolates or cards for our staff, as grateful as we are, these could become a health risk to our staff. (Feel free to keep them in reserve for a later date!) Our staff will be wearing appropriate PPE for each delivery. All medications and food will be kept separate and after each delivery, our staff will take the correct precautions before the next delivery.


Can I order in bulk?

Under RCVS guidelines, we have legal limitations on how much we can dispense to one client and this will be explained when you order your medication. Whilst food can be bulk bought, we need to ensure all our clients have access to food so will limit where we feel we must.

Finally – we are so grateful for the overwhelming amount of support we have received in these ever changing, unpredictable times. Whilst we never turn chocolate away please kindly do not try to say thank you this way for the time being. If you would like to show your appreciation, we would ask you leave reviews for others so they know what we have done for you and what we are about. We are on all platforms but Facebook and Google are the most popular choices! Thank you for your understanding and we encourage clients to email us on admin@orchardhousevets.com if you have any non urgent queries or a query regarding delivery.

Covid-19 important statement


Our Hexham and Stocksfield branches are open for emergency appointments and for telephone appointments. Please call us to discuss your pet’s issues and we will advise on an appointment during the call. We are again able to offer vaccinations and it is very important that our pet’s vaccinations do not lapse!

Medication can be collected during our opening hours of 8.30am – 5pm at our Hexham and Stocksfield surgeries but please be aware of very strict measures taking place, instructions can be found on the doors of our surgery. We will be locking the entrance to the practice and ask clients to call us on arrival with your name and medication.

Our out of hours veterinary service is still available but reserved for emergencies only and we will brief any client who do need our out of hours service on how to safely proceed.

We will be following government guidelines and as always do our absolute upmost to care for you and your pets during these extremely difficult times.